The Karma Downs
He peered over the heads of the students swarming around him. A
single dark hand was raised and he made his way toward it, slipping
between the bodies streaming from the lecture room.
Angela was leaning against the wall beside a fountain, books clasped
in her arms. Fancy meeting you here, she said as he stuffed
his books into his back pack.
You were just in the neighbourhood? he asked.
She shrugged. Not really. The med buildings are on the other
side of the campus.
You wanted to come and look at the freak?
She sighed and shook her head. Sam, we dont care. I
wanted to wish you a merry Christmas, because we only just realized
that we dont even know what your phone number is. And think
about what you just said. Youre proving Kyles point for
Kyle is being a horses rear end.
Youre both being a horses rear end.
He shrugged. Ahm willing to talk to him, but Ah dont
think he wants to talk to me.
Even if he did, he wouldnt have a chance because this
is the first time one of us has seen you in more than two weeks, since
you flew off of his balcony.
Sam rubbed the back of his neck That may have been rubbing
it in his face a tad.
Just a tad. Its not every day that someone flies off
Sam grimaced. Hows Eddie doing? he asked instead.
Hes coming along remarkably well. We took him in to
the hospital and gave them some song and dance about a bar fight.
They splinted his hand and kept him over night for observation. Youve
got free drinks at The Cuppa for as long as he works there, you know.
He had suspected as much. Part of the reason he hadnt gone
back there. Accepting free drinks would have made him feel even worse.
What happened to Grace? Angela asked him. The students
in the hall had thinned out quickly. Last day of classes before Christmas
break and everyone was off home.
Ah would have thought youd have heard the story. Everyone
else has, he said, letting his eyes roam down the empty corridor.
It still hurt. It hurt, and that surprised him. He kept thinking he
had it closed off, but the closing didnt work because things
were still open, the possibilities telling him something he couldnt
Ive heard the story. What I want to know is what really
He snapped his eyes back to her. She was just looking at him, and
her gaze reminded him of someone elses. He blinked, trying to
place it. Then he remembered Angela bursting into Kyles apartment,
Sascha and Kyle following behind in confusion. She hadnt been
surprised to see Eddie lying there on the couch. Youre
a telepath, he said. It reminded him painfully of another conversation
that had started with that particular phrase.
She shrugged. Gamma class, at best. I dont even know
if I qualify. My Grandma was a bruja. Thats all. I just...
I just have something from her. Sometimes I know when my friends are
in trouble, but not always. Once and a while I get a flash of something,
something about a person or a hunch, but theyre so clouded by
my perceptions that theyre usually useless.
She paused, looking at him deeply. Her eyes seemed to look right
through him but his mental shields were untouched. There was
something about Grace that wasnt right. She wasnt... She
wasnt quite *real*, if you know what I mean.
He thought of Graces eyes, how sometimes it had seemed to
him that there was a part of her that wasnt quite there. Yeah,
was all he said.
It wasnt anything menacing, not then. She was just slightly
Shed cut herself off from who she used to be,
Sam said. She told me that shed needed to be someone else
so badly that she had, shed become someone different.
Angelas eyes rested coolly on him. She didnt ask him
why Grace had remembered, or if the timing of her doing so and her
disappearing were related. He supposed she could read it on her face.
Ah should be going, he said.
Merry Christmas, Sam, she said, kissing him on the cheek.
Her words were light but her eyes were troubled. If you feel
like it, stop by Kyles on New Years. Were having
a bit of a party.
Ahll try, he said, but they both knew that he
wouldnt, not that hard. Happy Holidays, Angela.
He turned and headed towards the door.
Sam? She called from behind him.
He turned back. Yeah?
Be careful, okay? Ive had a bad feeling lately. Nothing
specific or anything. Its been building for awhile, and Ive
never had anything stay with me for this long. Just... Look out for
Her eyes were troubled and he tried to smile. Ah will. Ah
promise, he said. Ahve got lots of practice.
Try to drop by some time, okay?
He nodded and smiled again, but it wasnt anything he could
promise. Look after yourself, Angela. And look after the horses
rear, too. Eddie and Sascha can look after themselves.
I will, she said and tried to smile.
He waved at her and turned back to the hall. She may have whispered
something, but it was lost as his steps echoed hollowly down the empty
The tile was white even when they were gone, the light fracturing
it into a thousand colours, and it kept the memory of Angelas
words. Shed left them behind because she didnt understand
them, left them for the tiles and the light and the colours from white.
I think this might be the last chance for all of us.
Computer, end simulation.
Bobby swung around as the Danger Room faded back in around him.
Scott was standing in the doorway, arms crossed. He didnt look
I was kind of in the middle of something, Bobby said.
Scott frowned. You dont have authorisation to be running
that level of program by yourself. Youre not even supposed to
be in here.
Aww. Cmon. I was just letting off a bit of steam.
Bobby, you know the rules. When the safeties are off, you
have a spotter. You could have been hurt.
But I wasnt. I can look after myself.
Just because you were lucky this time...
If it was Logan in here, or Cable, would you be standing right
there, telling them this?
The thing is, Scott, you dont think that I can handle
it, Bobby said, reaching out with the unfairness of it, his
Logan has a healing factor. Both he and Cable are much more
experienced fighters. Scott didnt seem to notice the change
in Bobbys voice. It didnt register on him.
[But how are you supposed to get the experience if he wont
let you try and improve in your spare time?] Emma asked.
But how am I supposed to get the experience if you dont
let me train?
Scotts face was drawn. He didnt see Emma, only it wasnt
Emma, it was the ghost in the hall, and the white that held her together
was breaking and cracking, showing everything underneath and the wall
behind her. She trailed her hand down Scotts arm and he shivered.
We can work something out, Bobby. You just cant take
the risk of being here by yourself.
You do it all the time, Bobby spat. Emma passed between
them, kissed him with phantom lips. She circled them, wrapped her
arms around Bobby from behind. All he could feel was a slight coldness.
You do it all the time, Scott. You do it when Jean kicks you
out of the boat house. You come here and you take off the safeties
and you beat the shit out of holograms. He didnt know
what he was saying, but the second it left his lips he knew it was
right. He knew it by Emmas laugh and the way Scotts face
Ive been meaning to talk to you, Bobby, and now seems
as good a time as any. Scotts body was tense but his words
were even and Bobby wanted to laugh. Fearless leader, stretched to
breaking. Not so perfect after all. Something inside of him screamed
that this wasnt right, that this wasnt him, but it was
buried beneath the ghost of lips on his neck. You have issues
with the way youre being treated, fine. But this isnt
the way to do it.
Well, the other way wasnt working either, Bobby
[Make him see,] Emma whispered into his ear. Her words were a chill
breeze against his skin.
Bobby, I have never thought of you as anything less. Never.
But the way youve been acting lately is starting to change my
mind. Youve been immature and out of control.
[Hes jealous. He can see now what you are, what you could
The something that had been telling him that this wasnt like
him was back again and it had a desperate quality to it. Shes
just telling you what you want to hear. THINK!
We joined at the same time, didnt we, Scott?
Emmas hair fell around him, shimmering. It was a cocoon, a
cloud, a shield. Im as capable as you are, Scott. Weve
been doing this for the same amount of time and you think better of
yourself than you do of me.
That is not true, Bobby.
But it is.
[There you go.] Reassurance flooding his mind. [Show him everything
Fearless leader. You think youre better than I am. You
dont think of me as an equal or you wouldnt be down here
chewing me out for something you do almost every night.
Scott snapped. Bobby, would you just listen to me for one
goddamned second? Bobby wanted to laugh. Hed make him
break that layer, that thin veneer that held him separate, held him
higher. I just dont want you to get hurt.
For doing something you do. For doing something you do so
many damn nights of the week. You have your distance, so you can talk
down to me, even though Ive been around for as long as you have.
You think you can out fight me.
Silence. There are some things...
[Hes trying to talk you down. Talk you down so he doesnt
have to see any more. See what you are, what you could be, because
you make him less.]
You do. It was a flat statement, despite all the anger
running through his veins. His blood was singing with it. He was on
fire and no one would be able to put him out.
Silence again. Thin smile. [Smile from knowing hes better.
Dont you want to knock that smile off of his face? He thinks
hes better. You know. You know otherwise. If he knows, then
everyone else will know, too, because hes the leader. He knows
youre less so they all know that.]
Red Planet program, Bobby snapped.
The world dissolved around them. Steel grid into red stone, antiseptic
air into flying dust. Scotts voice, commanding. Bobby,
I am not going to fight you.
[Doesnt want you to get hurt. He thinks its a
given hell hurt you. Show him. Show him what he doesnt
want to see.]
Bobby launched himself at Scott. Didnt ice up. Just coiled
his legs and leapt. Scott wasnt expecting it and Bobbys
weight bore him to the ground. His hand took him across the jaw, pain
exploding up his arm. It was a good pain, honest. It anchored him
here. Scott grabbed his leg and rolled. They hit a wall of rock and
sprang apart, coming up. There was blood trickling from Scotts
mouth and he wiped it away in wonder, staring at his fingers.
[Hes starting to see.]
Cmon, Scott. Scotty-boy. You know you want to.
Stared at the blood on his fingers. Emma traced a finger down the
line bright on his face, leaving a trail of anger behind on the places
Come on, fearless leader. Show the boy what youre made
Scott came at him then, face pale and thin, hands clenched. He hit
him low, knocking them both to the ground. He was on top this time.
He was heavier and he kept Bobby pinned to the ground. He hit him
once, then again, and again, and again. Bobbys head felt like
it was hit by a train each time. Help, he wanted to say, but couldnt.
Emma was there again, eyes fractured beyond where he could see.
[A gift,] she said, wrapping her hands across Scotts visor.
She pulled them through, wiped down, and he stopped. Stopped hitting
Bobby, lost awareness. [A short reprieve.] Emma leaned down, traced
a finger still slick with Scotts blood across Bobbys lips
and kissed him hard. [Just so this is fair.]
Her lips were on his and there was blood moving between them. He
could feel the ice in his veins flowing out of him, away. His blood
and Scotts cancelling out. Cant pull ice against Scott,
couldnt get blasted by his ruby eyes, not until this fight was
won. It was a hard, dark kiss, feeding off the blood and feeding into
it, until the darkness was moving in him again and his anger was back,
it was all he could feel, never mind the injuries his body was taking.
He growled and rolled, Scott flying from on top of them, skidding
in the red dirt. He was on his feet in an instant, the paralysis gone.
Hed left half the skin of his face and his glasses on the ground
but he didnt seem to notice.
Never hit a man with glasses, Bobby thought, only Scott had lost
his glass so Bobby hit him as hard as he could. Scott moved with the
blow, head down, catching Bobby at the side and throwing him back
against the stone wall. His head snapped back and his vision swam.
He slid down the wall out of instinct. Scotts fist crashed into
the wall where his head had been only seconds before. He realised
what had happened when his hand hit stone and he kicked as hard as
he could, catching Bobby in the ribs.
The air exploded from Bobbys body in one gasping breath. He
couldnt breathe, he couldnt, but he had to keep moving.
He grabbed Scotts foot when it came at him again and he pushed
the other man backwards. Scott careened backwards, losing his footing
on the uneven ground. Bobby was on him them, pinning him to the ground,
pummelling. He hit him, hit him, drew back to hit him again but Scotts
arm came around from beside his body and he had only a second to see
that in his hand was clasped a rock, because as Bobbys fist
hit the side of Scotts head with all the anger in him everything
exploded around him.
And he was sinking into a black that was really white only even
the white wasnt white.
Sam wandered the streets. The Christmas lights strung along the avenue
did little to cheer him up. He didnt want to go back to Westchester
but he no longer had somewhere else to be.
Somewhere else to be.
His feet moved as his thoughts wandered and it was only then that
he looked around to see that the buildings were familiar. It took
him awhile to place them, because everything every where he looked
was covered in a curious haze. Everything was dark and shadows seemed
solid. Snow beneath his feet made no noise and the wind plucking at
his coat was silent. A car passed by on the street, flinging spray
into the air as he turned to look, but even the engine pulling it
steadily along was mute.
He turned back to the street and it was as if his every movement
was caught in amber. The lights in Kyles building were dim and
yellow. Their warmth didnt reach his skin. The elevator door
slid open even as he cross the lobby and he stepped inside. He was
the only one inside but the reflective surface was playing tricks
with his mind because the ghost in the hall stood beside him and he
didnt recognize his own face.
It stopped at the correct floor and he stepped out into the hall.
It seemed to span to infinity on either side of him. The dark carpet
gave beneath his feet and the white walls seemed cloaked in grey.
The door to Kyles apartment seemed to glow. He went to turn
the knob but the door swung open at his touch. Light was strange in
here as well, but there was something seductive about it, threatening
and seducing. He had an instant and an eternity to notice Kyle as
he stepped over his still body, spot Sascha lying half in, half out
of the kitchenette. Her black hair hung over half of her golden skin,
giving the look of something painted with sun and shadows.
White on the couch, only the white wasnt true any more. Wasnt
true in her clothes or her hair or the whites of her eyes. It was
shattered and changed because white was every colour in equal proportions
and as soon as one got out of control, gained more influence it wasnt
white anymore and it wasnt camouflage.
Sam, she said. Ive been waiting for you.
She rose from the couch in a controlled, graceful movement, floating
towards him. She ran a hand up his shoulder to play with the hair
at the back of his neck and he couldnt move. He didnt
want to move, only something inside of him was screaming. She wasnt
Emma any more, not with the coolness of her skin and her fractured
eyes as she leaned in to slide a kiss across his mouth. She was the
ghost in the hall and she was the Queen. She wasnt his teammate
and she wasnt his sisters teacher, she was the White Queen
again, except she was only the Queen because the white was shattering.
Shhh, she said, whispering against his skin. Your
thoughts are loud. I have too many thoughts already.
Everything, every movement was still molasses, still caught in amber
and her touch was cool and expert. He found himself responding even
though that part of him was still screaming. As she kissed him all
he could think of was Grace and he couldnt move. Sometime when
he wasnt paying attention theyd fallen to the floor and
she was now pressed against him. Shhhh, she said again
as she drew back from his face and moved her attentions lower.
Her face blurred and multiplied as she moved, catching in the amber
and one of them stayed, looked up at him. Blue eyes, he saw. Sad blue
eyes. [She needs you to submit] it said. Its voice was low and weak,
as if from lack of use. [She needs you to want this. She]
/I had a little bird and her name was Enza/
[wont rip up your mind and control your body. This is still
you.] The face turned, shook and shattered, leaving him alone with
the Queen and the singing voice.
Lips on his stomach and nails resting against his back.
Lips and tongue knew what they were doing. Nails promised. He couldnt...
The world was amber and he was caught.
He thought of nursery rhymes. Little Miss Muffett, she sat on her
tuffett... Nothing echoed back.
Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb.
Something there. Nothing much. Sam tried with the last of his will
to think of another, something, something to bring the voice back
because he was loosing this battle fast and her lips were warm, so
warm, like jungle air. Jungle air. Simulation in the jungle. Hed
heard the voice then. Hed heard it singing a nursery rhyme,
singing a lullaby. Rock-a- Rock-a- Rock-a
Rock-a-bye baby, in the tree top.
The Queen stopped, shook her head.
Shut up, she whispered, hands to head. Shut up.
Shut up. Shutupupupup. Her hair flew wildly as she shook her
head back and forth, back and forth.
Sam felt the hold on his body loosen somewhat and he tried to call
out. He tried to yell for help but all that came out was a muffled
croak as his mind screamed. Jean would hear. Jean would know something
Nuh huh, the Queen said, shaking her head. You
cant get away. Jeans busy. She giggled and the sound
raised the hair all over his body. Busy busy busy. I wonder
if she likes the present I left for her to deal with.
Sam tried to scramble backwards, scramble upright, but the Queen
placed a hand on his chest. It was barely any pressure at all but
it paralysed him. I cant have you, she whispered
in his ear. But there are lots of other ways to get even with
the bitch. You wont enjoy them as much, though. I could make
you, she said as the thought struck her. I could make
you enjoy them. Would you like that, Sam, would you? She caught
his chin with iron fingers and turned his eyes to hers. Would
you? He was falling in her eyes as they fractured and spun.
Worlds were in them, seducing, promising, and was about to say yes,
agree to anything with pleasure when the door crashed open with a
It sounded like a shot and broke him out of her eyes, shattered
the amber that held him still. She hissed, her attention no longer
on him. Grace was standing in the door, her eyes burning and whirling
and her skin glowing white and he wanted to scream at her, tell her
to go, to run, to get out of here but the sudden snap back to normal
had left him depleted and barely able to remember how to breath. The
Queens hand was still on his chest and it was burning hot now,
not cool and impersonal.
Grace moved into the room, the door clicking shut behind her. Run,
he tried to scream. Oh, God, Grace. Kyle and Sascha and now
Grace. Get out of here, he managed to say. This isnt
her fight, he tried to add, but the Queens attention was no
longer on him and Grace was moving predatorily around the room. There
was something in their eyes, something in their faces and bearing
that was screaming at him and he felt his mind fall numb as he recognized
it, recognized what about Grace had always been so familiar.
The Queen smiled, and it was a beautiful, mad smile that shattered
the resemblance between them. Emma, she said. How
nice of you to join us.
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