Disclaimer: The X-Men characters, and all
other recognizable characters are copyright to Marvel Entertainment
Group. This work of FanFiction is not meant to impinge on that copyright
or defame Marvel Comics or the X-Men and related characters in any
Copyright: This work of FanFiction and the original characters
described within are the intellectual property of K-NICE and her IRL
persona. No copying, distributing or editing of this material is permitted
without the express permission of the creator, K-Nice, under United
States copyright law.
NOTE: Continuity diverges after X-Men #71, Uncanny
X-Men #350, and X-Men Unlimited #18
Joseph Summers is an alias - see Part 2 or it won't make sense.
Spring Thaw: 9 to 5
"Two pretzels, please." Bobby pushed himself toward the
vendor's chart through a throng of young businesspeople. Bobby shoved
two dollars at the grimy looking man as he juggled his pretzels. He
backed out of the crowd and began to stroll down the street.
It was late on a Friday afternoon in February. He was not in a very
good mood and it showed. His khakis were wrinkled, his shoes were
a little scuffed and his face was beginning to take on the familiar
despair of a New York job hunter. It had been seven years since Bobby
had experienced such outright rejection. He had felt this dejected,
this worthless, when his mutant powers manifested for the first time.
The desperation of his situation was starting to pull him down. The
results of his job hunt were abysmal.
Though he had his degree, Bobby had no real work experience. He was
beginning to believe that, "We were looking for someone with
more background," was the standard closing line of a job interview.
Well, no duh, but how do you expect me to get a background when
no one will higher me unless I have some experience. How he longed
to shove his diploma down their throats! As if the weeks I spent
prepping for the Exam weren't experience enough! The concentric
logic inherent in Human Resources policies gave him a headache.
It had been a very disappointing three weeks. One would think that
with only six weeks 'til tax time, a city as big as New York would
have thousands of openings for CPAs. And all Bobby wanted was one
of those illusive jobs. He felt like one of those emigrants from the
midwest who migrated to California on the bogus promise of jobs. See,
I didn't have to read the book. The movie version of The Grapes of
Wrath was long enough.
Bobby ambled through downtown, not having the energy to go to his
last interview of the week. They would just blow him off anyway. He
was comfortable in the biting wind and stinging cold that had settled
on the Metro area but even the most hardy of Manhattanites were heavily
bundled. Bobby thought about wearing a coat just to fit in but it
didn't bother. Why should I be uncomfortable to avoid stares. It's
New York, everyone stares and everyone else and keeps on going.
He allowed himself to be distracted from his ruminations by the shouts
of street vendors and performers. He finished his second pretzel as
he watched the Lost Tribe of Israel setting up a display in Times
Square. He wandered away as they began to cry out their Gospel.
Bobby stopped into FAO Schwartz. He left his aimlessness at the door.
He was 21, but he still loved that store. Unfortunately, his good
mood was cut short by the unwelcome news that the piano was closed
until further notice for repairs. He belatedly remembered something
about Cannonball confronting Gladiator right in the store. He thought
about going over to the Lego display, but his mood had already soured.
Bobby rejoined the pre-rush hour bustle on the street with a scowl
on his face.
His head snapped up, jerking him out of his foul temper. The whole
point of his job hunt was to get a real life. I'm moody because
things aren't going the way I expected them to and I go to a toy store
to salve my pain. Then I get all whiny 'cause they don't have my favorite
toy. "God, I am a loser." The last came out as a whisper,
almost a prayer, full of wonder. Bobby's face grew stern, determined.
He still had time to make that last interview if he hurried.
Jean Grey was listless. She was used to action and hustle and noise
of people around her. Now that it was just her a Scott in the quiet
cold of Alaska, she didn't know what to do with herself. Scott spent
most of his time resting and healing when he wasn't trying to retrain
his powers behind her back. But, today, Jean was tired of baby-sitting.
She had a chore that had been left undone for far too long.
She sat on the floor, in front of the empty fireplace, her legs crossed
Indian style. She tapped gently into the power that made her one of
the world's foremost telepathy, and a fire blazed suddenly. Staring
into the flames as they licked at the stone hearth, Jean grew calm
and distant. Her eyes glazed over and her mind ventured out onto the
Astral plane. Wearing the green and gold of her former costume, she
walked, wandering with little purpose. She knew she should be reaching
out for the Professor, trying to find him after all this time, but
she just couldn't motivate herself.
*Professor, what should I do? What's wrong with me? I thought
this was what we wanted, just me and Scott, together, alone, at last.
But I can't shake the feeling that something is wrong.*
She was walking more purposefully now, with some focus. *I mean,
you weren't there, Charles, but things were bad when we left. Bishop's
missing, lost in space and we have no way to find him now that Bastion
has gutted the Mansion. There are three new recruits, none of whom
seem too heroic. Or too stable, for that matter. As a matter of fact,
everyone is on edge, brittle, near the breaking point of their endurance.
Everything has just been too much to deal with all at once. Rogue
especially is in danger. She won't talk about what happened with Gambit,
and I'm worried. She isn't herself lately and I dread what may have
happened to Remy. Yes, he's a traitor, but still, no one seemed willing
to tell me what happened to him after they left Erik the Red's "court."*
As she spoke to the space around her, she began to orient herself,
seeking any link to the Professor's psyche.
Jean began to construct her probes to search out the Professor more
aggressively. While he no longer had his powers, he still possessed
one of the strongest wills Jean had ever encountered. She hoped that
she would be able to find his unique consciousness no matter how far
away it was. *Part of me wants to be back there, to help my fellow
X-Men. But, Professor, Scott really needs me and needs this time to
recover. I feel so selfish, but he is more important to me than anything
else, even you, Charles.* She extended her probes, which shimmering
like red-gold fire on the Astral plane. They ranged out from around
her in all directions.
*But I will do my duty for you, Charles. I am the Phoenix!*
With that proclamation, Jean was surrounded by psionic energy in the
form of the legendary Phoenix. Her probes glowed with psionic energy
as she poured power into her probes. She carefully regulated the flow
of power, fine tuning it to seek the Professor's potent signature.
She was rewarded as she began to sense something. Before she could
react and reach for the "something," her probes were sucked
away from her, and she was knocked unconscious. As her Astral form
fell to the bottom of the metaphysical realm, her physical body slumped
"Sorry I'm late, sir." Bobby sat down quickly in the chair
offered him. He had waited at the reception desk for fifteen minutes
trying to prove he had an appointment. The receptionist was in her
mid-30s and was obviously not happy about that fact or about anything
else, for that matter. When he finally got in, he was flustered but
still determined to do his best to get hired.
John Howe sat behind a plain wood desk, reviewing Bobby's application.
Howe was not in Human Relations. He was actually the owner of the
accounting firm. It was a small firm, which explained why Howe did
his own interviewing. Though, he didn't seem to have a questions for
Bobby. He just read the application and gave Bobby a calculating once-over.
"Well, Mr. Drake, I think I can offer you a position here."
Bobby was in shock. "But, but, I don't have any experience."
Stupid, stupid! What am I saying? Shut up! He was tempted to
cover his mouth or try to snatch the words back from the air.
"Yes, I know, that's the point. This place is small, the hours
are long and the pay is lousy. But with your resume, you don't have
much of a choice." Howe's smile was pure petroleum as he said
this, both softening the blow and deepening it somehow.
"I'm hired!" Bobby knew he was squealing and tried to bring
his voice under control. "I mean, Thank you for the opportunity
to work for Woodard Accounting, Inc., Mr. Howe."
"No problem, Mr. Drake. May I call you, Bobby? Bobby, we here
at Woodard expect good things from you. I'll get Gina to show you
a cubicle and we'll see you bright and early Monday morning."
Howe lead him out and spoke briefly with the receptionist. Bobby found
that Gina was far more pleasant to him this time around.
"This way, Mr. Drake." He was liking this "Mr. Drake"
business. She continued to talk as she lead him around the office.
"You'll be working over here. This is your chair -- don't switch
it with anyone else's. Even one at a vacant cubicle. This is your
computer -- you'll get a login on Monday. Ask one of your neighbors
to show you the database. This is your adding machine -- it doesn't
leave this office, understand? This is the phone -- no personal calls.
Over here is the employee lunchroom. These are the bathrooms. Mr.
Howe will see you on Monday to sign confidentiality papers. Be here
at 9 sharp every morning. Payday is every other Thursday -- hand your
time card in to me on Tuesdays or starve." They had managed to
go through the tour and get back to Gina's desk before she even seemed
to pause to breathe. She left him staring at her back as she packed
up her things and walked out the door.
Bobby watched her scuttle out the door, her polyester Fran Drescher-inspired
ensemble covered by a faux fur. He turned back to the main office
and tried to find is desk again.
"Hey, who are you?" The voice was male and came from the
cubicle he had just passed. Bobby backtracked to face a man who was
bent over a two inch thick pile of computer printouts, one hand making
check marks down the page, the other flying over the adding machine.
"Bobby, Bobby Drake, I work here now, I guess." Bobby shrugged
his shoulders and grinned.
The man grinned back without looking up. "Well, welcome to Woodard.
This your first gig?"
Bobby arched his eyebrows. Gig? What does he thing this is? My
Cousin Vinny? "Yeah, it's my first real job, I guess."
"Don't be nervous, it was my first too. You'll do alright."
The tapping of the keys paused as he flipped the page of computer
"Yeah, I guess so." Bobby began to move away towards his
own desk. He was still in a haze over his surprise hiring. He almost
didn't hear the man speak again.
"Remind me never to bet against you." The man still hadn't
paused in his work.
"Why?" Bobby turned to face the man's back.
He spun in his chair and looked at Bobby. "Because you're one
lucky guesser." The man was a few years older than Bobby with
dark hair and Italian features. His looks seemed to match his accent.
He wasn't wearing a suit, but black jeans and a t-shirt that read
"I grew up in the shadow of greatness" under a picture of
Bobby figured the guy had turned around, so they might as well talk.
"So, you're from Da Bronx."
"So, you're from Long Island. You can always tell where someone's
from if you listen to them yap long enough. And you are definitely
Long Island." The guy seemed to be warming up to the conversation
"Yeah. Hey, I didn't get your name."
"That's probably 'cause I didn't offer it." He paused,
leaving Bobby feeling awkward. "It's Rick DeSantis, okay, but
don't spray paint it on any bathroom walls, I'm in enough trouble
around here already."
Bobby was intrigued. "Really? Why? How?"
Rick turned back to his work and let his fingers fly again. "All
in good time, my man. For now you better try and scrounge some supplies
and get set up. Come Monday, Howe's gonna work you like a pit bull."
Two heads. He had counted twice and the thing still had two heads.
He reached into his trench coat for some cards to charge but, to
his surprise, he discovered that he was naked. Bare naked, from the
part in his brown hair to arches of his calloused feet. Except for
the Genoshan collar around his neck.
This was bad.
As he tried to assess his chances against the . . . thing, he realized
that one head was Sabertooth and the other was his own. Well, almost.
It had his red eyes and her white stripe but the face was a
mess of scratches and bruises, further deformed by rictous snarl.
It towered above him at over seven feet tall, its long, heavily muscled
arms larger around than his whole body.
The beast lunged at him. He ducked and rolled away, trying to figure
out a way to save himself. A voice he almost recognized told him that
looking out for himself was something he was good at. The only thing.
The beast lunged again, attacking at all times. He dodged the thrusts
by instinct. His mind and body grew sluggish as the battle drew on.
A kick grazed his head, then a claw dug into his leg. The beast struck
him suddenly and his arm went numb. The cut on his thigh was a stinging
gash and his head was ringing. He kept retreating, circling, trying
to stay out of the reaching of those powerful arms.
Suddenly, his feet gave out and he was lying flat on his back.
The head that resembled his own slobbered over him, raising its claws
in preparation to gut him. The Sabertooth side raised it's head and
sniffed the air. As one half struck him, the other side turned and
headed in the opposite direction. The killing blow was changed to
a deep slash across his middle.
He grasped his belly, breathing deeply, completely shocked and somewhat
relieved. The beast was gone and he was safe. He lay there, in the
dark, panting, until he could sit up. His stomach was in upheaval
against the motion and he was abruptly throwing up blood. He gasped
several heaving breathes until he heard a noise that stopped him cold.
He knew this noise.
It was the sound of death screams. Coming from the direction of the
beast's departure. He's mouth went dry. He stumbled to his feet and
ran haltingly toward the sound. His head throbbed and his leg burned
like a California wildfire. His left arm was almost non-existent as
far as he could tell and he was in danger of bleeding to death, if
his spleen didn't fall out first. He continued to stagger along until
he caught up with the noise.
The beast was slaughtering hundreds of people, thousands, millions.
The smell of blood and death overwhelmed him as his eyes jerked from
horror to horror. He howled, his scream of terror matching the death
cries of the beast's victims.
Everything became silent. There was no one left to kill. No one but
a small girl who whimpered, cowering against the wall, stroking the
dead body that lay at her feet.
The beast saw her a second after he did. As it charged, he screamed,
"No!" and ran full speed to intercept the attack. He got
there first, snatched the girl up and kept running. He hid beneath
a pile of corpses, his breath ragged, his mouth filled with his own
The beast searched for them but quickly lost interest. The Gambit
head slashed at the Sabertooth side. The Sabertooth half ripped the
other head off and roared at it.
He began vomiting again. The little girl growled at him as he curled
over his stomach, retching. She attacked him with her fingers, prying
at his wounds, poking at his eyes. He didn't scream or even flinch,
not even once. He just murmured words of comfort to her as she slowly
ripped him apart.
Maggie quietly entered the apartment. In three weeks, she had managed
to put together enough money to carry them as far as they wanted to
go. He wouldn't stay in Peru much longer. Physically, he was beginning
to heal and Joseph hated nothing more than being out of the action.
Maggie washed her face in the bathroom sink, slipped out of her work
clothes and threw on an ratty looking t-shirt. She rolled her outfit
into a ball and stashed it in a particularly lumpy cushion on the
couch. She was moving into the kitchen to fix herself a plate of whatever
it was that Joseph had left for her, when she heard him scream "NO!"
The tortured sound of his voice worried her. She shook him, trying
to wake him out of his dream, but to no avail.
She slipped into the bed beside him, hugging him to her. She lay
there, whispering assurances to him, until his trembling stopped and
he seemed to sleep peacefully. Then, she shook him again, waking him
Joseph's eyes fluttered open. Maggie regretted turning the lights
on as he blinked his sensitive eyes against the brightness. Joseph
returned her embrace, patting her back. He was confused. What has
her so upset? She's shaking like a leaf. She looks so worried. Why?
"What's wrong, Mags?" After three weeks, the aliases flowed
"You had a nightmare, a bad one. I can feel it." She shuddered
unconsciously as the strong feelings of pain, fear and guilt overcame
her senses. She didn't need to discuss the dream with him. She already
knew the story by heart, this being the fifth time she had woken him
this way. She decided to take a different tack. "Tell me what
happened in Antarctica."
His eyes were hard, his face clouded. He did not respond. Maggie
shrugged and got out of the bed. She rested on the stool that doubled
as a nightstand. They stared at each other for a little while before
she broke the silence.
"You should get some sleep." Again, he was confused. He
remembered no nightmare, only uninterrupted sleep until she had roused
him. And her tone was strange, oddly deferential. Normally, she was
as bossy as the swamp was wet.
Joseph recognized it as her way of getting the information she wanted
out of him. She wanted details of the events that preceded her rescue
and she wasn't above trying to con them out of him. He couldn't give
her answers when he didn't have them himself.
"So should you." He turned his back to her defensively.
He attempted a misdirection, using a bit of information he had puzzled
out over the dull days of recuperation. "You haven't been getting
much rest lately, since you spend de days hovering around me and de
nights stripping in some tourist trap." His tone was bitter.
He couldn't believe she was selling her body to make money. With all
her skills . . . this was the best she could do?
"I take it that you don't approve." Her voice was terse.
"You're right, as usual. I don't approve. All de training, all
de discipline, all de work you've done to gain d'abilities you have
and now dat you need dem, you ignore 'em and prostitute yourself --"
"I'm just dancing. What is wrong with that? It's money, all
the same, right?" She was half whining, half pleading. Anger
sparked in her dark blue eyes and her accent returned as she continued,
"Besides, what else I am supposed to do? I spent every last penny
I had available on dragging your ugly carcass out of the ice. We're
gonna need money, whedah we stay 'ere or go elsewhere." She gestured
to indicate her body. "Dis be de only equipment I could bring,
'ceptin' dem t'ings ta heal ya. How else am I gonna make enuf money
in dis little bita time?" She threw her hands up beseechingly.
"And don't you go gettin' righteous wit' me, "Joseph".
I know you done dis and worse in your time, and you still 'ere, you
still you. You ain't got no pulpit to preach from." She knew
he couldn't see her but she still tried desperately not to pout.
Joseph kept his back turned and ignored her. As he began to fall
asleep, he noticed she didn't seem to be coming to bed. She was mad
at him, but he knew he was right. That wasn't the kind of work she
should be doing. He knew he was right. He was right.
Maggie watched him fall asleep. Then she went into the living room.
One of the reasons she did the work she did was the contacts it afforded
her. She now had a laptop and an Internet connection. She logged on
to a private network and began to search the daily postings.
There were several people who had gone pretty far afield to cover
their assignments. That was unusual but not alarming. Obviously her
absence was not being felt too deeply. So far, she was not being called
back or called over the carpet for all the rules she broke to locate
and retrieve "Joseph."
She posted her location and status to the network. Then, instead
of logging out, Maggie entered a special clearance code. Now, her
screen displayed the classified information it was her responsibility
to manage. She read the messages, posted several sets of instructions,
and finally shut the computer down.
One message in particular frightened her. The Kingpin knew where
she was. She just hoped he hadn't realized who she was.
Maggie lay away on the couch, thinking. Most things were working
out according to plan. Everything else, she would deal with.
to be continued >>
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