Chapter 1: More Than Meets the Eye
Nikki Anderson scanned the crowded noisy downtown street with an expert glance, her dark brown eyes easily adjusting to the shadowy darkness of the frosty night around her. She slowly inhaled letting the crisp December air carry the smells of grilling hotdogs, car exhaust, and human sweat to her nostrils. Below those more mundane scents was the faint whiff of snow in the air. It promised another wet, cold night for the young girl if she stood around debating for much longer. Her stomach growled and Nikki frowned in irritation. Food would just have to wait. She needed to find the right mark tonight and make a good score - one that would last for more than a day or two, so she could endure the coming storm in relative comfort. She’d only been in the Big Apple a week but the local law enforcement had already chased her off for loitering twice, so she now kept her eyes attuned for any blue uniforms and shiny badges among the people passing by. It wouldn’t be prudent to get caught and hauled to juvie. They’d ask too many questions, and would sooner or later realize what she was. No. Better to stay low and be smart about whom to “pick” tonight.
It should be pretty easy actually, she surmised. With Christmas only a couple weeks away, most everyone was loaded down with cash and presents. Yeah, tonight should prove profitable, she thought to herself as she silently eased into the darkened doorway of a closed florist shop. Yep, she might even be able to get a room tonight…with heat…and a nice hot bath. Nikki smiled to herself and blew on her freezing hands. That would certainly be a nice present in her stocking. Living in alleys, abandoned warehouses and empty refrigerator boxes in the middle of winter was getting old really fast. Not to mention the fact that she had to leave most of her meager belongings back at the last rat-hole when that skank gang-banger and his bunch had tried to use her for target practice after they found out she was a mutie. It was hard enough surviving on the streets without people trying to kill you because you were ‘different’. No money, no food, and no prospects…until now. She was sure of it. Tonight would be the night she hit it big.
It was early December and New York was quite busy with the Holiday shopping scene. And, not unlike most towns in America, it was gaily decorated for the season. Stoplights and lampposts were garlanded and tinseled to within an inch of their lives, tiny twinkle lights blinked erratically in the windows of almost every shop and somewhere, a few blocks down, Hark the Herald Angels Sing was blaring on a tinny loudspeaker. Couples and families all bundled up against the chill East Coast weather hustled by the fifteen-year-old, not even taking notice of her. They passed by the unlit doorway where the young orphan swayed in the shadows from one foot to the other to stay warm without even a glance in her direction. She grinned at that. That was the great thing about big cities – anonymity. It wasn’t just allowed – it was expected and even encouraged. She was just another faceless human in the crowd. Except, Nikki thought with a tiny bit of remorse, she wasn’t exactly human...
“Quit rushin’ me!” Remy LeBeau irritably remarked to his friend as he stood in front of the long expanse of a glass enclosed jewelry case.
The handsome sandy-haired man swept his eyes back and forth once again over the sparkling items on display, unsure of which would make the best gift for his feisty girlfriend, known only as Rogue. Besides sharing drawls, both Remy and Rogue were longstanding members of the X-men, a secret team of hero mutants that made their home in Salem Center, New York. The couple had met when Remy, a reformed thief, had been brought to meet Charles Xavier, the leader of the X-men, by Ororo Monroe, herself a former pickpocket. It had been almost inevitable from the start that the charming Cajun man from Louisiana and the independent southern belle would fall in love. And now, Remy was about to go crazy trying to decide which piece of jewelry to choose for the girl of his heart. It had to be just right for Rogue, and he hadn’t seen the perfect bracelet yet. As he continued to stare down at the velvet lined cases in the busy department store, Remy began to wonder if it wouldn’t just be easier to break into the Smithsonian and steal the Hope diamond for Rogue.
“C’mon, Rem,” his surly friend growled.
Logan hated all the noise and riotous display of decorations everywhere. It was like being trapped in the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disneyland. “Just pick something, she’ll love it,” he snapped, and shoved his hands even deeper into the pockets of his leather jacket.
Kitty Pryde, the third person of the group, ignored Logan’s scowl as she skipped up to the two men, her arms loaded down with shopping bags. Even Logan’s sour mood couldn’t dampen her spirits. Kitty had always been a vivacious girl and that quality had never disappeared even into her adulthood.
“I’m done,” Kitty announced, hoisting up her bags of goodies. “How about you guys?”
Logan nodded toward the Cajun still poring over the jewelry display in earnest. “Talk to Mr. Indecisive,” he sarcastically grumbled. “I need a smoke. I’ll wait for you two outside.”
He turned and began to make his way through the jumble of shoppers without much trouble. Even though Logan barely stood at five feet, most folks needed only one glance at the burly, tough-looking Canadian, and gladly stepped aside for him.
“He obviously never been in love, chere,” Remy told Kitty as he pointed out a gold filigreed bangle to the store clerk. “Dat one, s’il vous plait.”
Logan sighed in agitation as he watched the curl of blue smoke lazily drifting from the end of his cigar. He took a deep puff, the tip glowing bright orange, and then expelled a cloud of smoke to mix with the frost of his breath. Little Scotty Summers was going to pay big for this one, that’s for damn sure, Logan thought. It was that anal-retentive geek who suggested to Xavier that he take the kids Christmas shopping tonight. What Jean saw in him anyway… He drew deeply on the cigar again to calm down. No sense getting worked up over this, Logan thought. I’ll give that Louisiana redneck ten more minutes inside and then I’m going in and dragging him out of that store – gift or no gift. With that in mind, Logan started back toward the busy store entrance, but didn’t get far when he saw his two charges come sidling through the glass revolving doors chattering excitedly. He smiled to himself. It looked like Rogue would be getting something from the guy after all.
Kitty and Remy were discussing the gag gift they had thought to get for Logan, when Kitty suddenly tottered into her friend, a look of stunned surprise on her face. The strap on one of her large shopping bags suddenly snapped, and the bag and its contents went crashing to the sidewalk. Kitty turned as the young girl who had run into her looked up in total embarrassment.
“What de hell just happened?” Remy asked her.
“Oh wow,” Nikki blurted as she stooped to help pick up the fallen packages, “I’m real sorry. I wasn’t payin’ attention I guess. Gosh, I hope nothing broke.”
Remy reached down to help Kitty and the girl who seemed completely mortified by her clumsiness.
“No trouble,” Kitty managed, a little annoyed but with a smile on her pert face. “It was an accident., I’m sure.”
Nikki smiled back although hers was less genuine. She eyed both of her marks as they continued to concentrate on the packages and then leaned forward, putting a hand on Kitty’s shoulder and leveraging herself up from the sidewalk.
“Well, I’m real sorry again. Really.”
Logan started toward the little group and then stopped dead, watching the scene before him in amazement. The young kid who had run into Kitty had managed to reach into the young woman’s open purse and remove her wallet while she was making to stand. Her moves were so fluid that neither Kitty nor “gumbo” was even aware of the robbery going on under their noses, Logan noted with no small amount of irritation. Both Remy and Kitty were too busy trying to fit the gifts from the broken bag into some of the other, less full ones on her arm. Kitty’s leather wallet now in her possession, Nikki quickly stood up and started off down the street picking up her pace as Remy and Kitty continued piling stuff into the other bags on Kitty’s arm.
Logan watched the kid cut around the corner of the store as he made his way over to his comrades. His eyes narrowed as he inhaled deeply, sniffing, searching for a scent using his animal-keen mutant abilities…. There! Something not quite human, but not quite otherwise – and this one had a touch of…he sniffed again, letting his heightened sensory powers kick in...cherry vanilla?
Remy frowned, inspecting the end of the strap that had broken on the shopping bag with growing suspicion.
“Dis don’t look right, chere,” he murmured and then noticed Logan stalking determinedly in their direction.
“What do mean?” she said.
Kitty had managed to cram everything into her remaining bags and glanced over at her Cajun friend. He held up the strap for her. The broken ends appeared to be singed as if they had been burned.
“But, how-“ Kitty didn’t get to finish as Logan swept past her almost knocking her over again.
“Check your purse,” he motioned to her handbag as he passed by the two. “I think you’re missing something.”
“What –“ Remy started, but Logan was already around the corner. “Sometimes he don’t make no sense.”
“Not this time, Remy,” Kitty moaned. “My wallet’s gone! That girl must have picked my pocket and I didn’t even see her do it!”
“Some X-men we are,” Remy said. “Well, look like Logan saw where she be going and is chasing her down,” he offered hopefully.
Kitty angrily shut the latch on her purse and shoved the bags into her friend’s arms.
“Well, throw this stuff in the car while I go see if the big guy needs some help.”
Logan followed the artificial cherry vanilla scent easily down the street and around the corner of the department store, his nose involuntarily twitching at the cloying sweet odor permeating his nostrils. What kinda grubby street urchin takes the time to slather on fashionably hip lip gloss he wondered? His meaty fists clenched in anticipation. Whoever she was, she had picked the wrong pocket this time. As he rounded the corner between buildings, Logan found himself in a trash-strewn vacant alley whose other end was blocked by a large dented metal dumpster and a rusted 6-foot chain link fence. Dead end. He stopped, raised his head slightly and sniffed again giving the alley the once over. The vanilla scent was quite strong now and close. He smiled coldly. Underneath that sweetness, was the more familiar pungent odor of fear that Logan knew so well from his quarry. Kid was probably sweating bullets right now.
“C’mon out, kid,” Logan called out to his invisible prey.
He scanned the silent alley way, eyes narrowed and focused until his vision caught subtle movement behind the dumpster. It wasn’t much, but it was enough.
“Ya know, that dumpster ain’t gonna hide ya for long.”
The voice, barely above a whisper, was young and female. Although most others wouldn’t have been able to even detect it, Logan, with his keen hearing, had picked it up quite easily. Without any hurry, Logan ambled over to the front of the dumpster and waited a moment, hands in his jacket pockets.
“Last chance, kid,” he warned.
No answer came. Logan hadn’t really expected one. Without much thought, the muscular man kicked hard at the side of the metal box with a booted foot. The dull echoing thud from the impact was overtaken by the harsh sound of metal screeching across pavement as the dumpster slid a couple feet over from the side of the brick building where it had sat to reveal a shabbily dressed girl hunkered down, her back pressed against the chain links of the fence behind her.
She blinked, vexation slowly being replaced with a sort of stunned awe as she glanced at the big metal dumpster and then back to Logan, whose short stocky stature belied his true strength. Yeah, they were always surprised, Logan mused to himself as he studied the now exposed thief.
The girl before him was about his height, barely, with a cascade of unruly golden brown hair pulled back into a messy braid. Strands of her hair poked up from an obvious cowlick at her temple, making her look like she had little horns. She was dressed in faded torn blue jeans, dirty tennis shoes and a well-worn leather jacket not unlike his own coat, he dryly observed.
He smirked at the girl’s apparent cockiness insomuch as she had managed to rise from her crouched position and was now balling her little fists in preparation for a fight. Her eyes met his, noted the steely glare of a fellow street tough, and decided, quite wisely, not to attempt a frontal assault. She took a wary step backwards, one hand reaching out to grasp the fence behind her.
“I wouldn’t take another step if I were you,” he growled.
The young girl’s back stiffened slightly and her little jaw jutted out as if offended by his callous threat but she remained where she was. Whoever the hell she was, Logan observed, she at least was smart enough to take him seriously. He squinted at her in the shadows and was struck by her youth. Hell, the kid couldn’t be more than fourteen, maybe fifteen at best. He thought of Jubilee and his face softened somewhat.
“Hey, kid, I’m not gonna hurt ya,” he put his open hands up. “Take it easy, all right? I just want that wallet you lifted.”
The girl stood motionless, mentally gauging the distance between Logan and the alley’s opening. Short in height, but broad, he pretty much filled the space directly in front of her. She listened a moment but heard no tell-tale sirens or sounds of reinforcements. They were alone in the alley. If she could just distract him, she might be able to slip by and get lost in the crowded streets again. Nikki drew in a slow breath, her nostrils flaring and filling with the man’s animal-like pheromone scent. No fear or hesitation, she noted, not even a hint of it. This guy was prepared and he knew it. It would definitely make things a little more tricky.
“The wallet?” Logan reminded her impatiently and held out his hand for it.
Yeah, right, she thought, like she was going to give up her meal ticket for the night so easily. Nikki took a shuddered breath, then put on her best “I’m scared, please don’t hurt me look” and began to sniffle. “Please don’t hurt me,” she whimpered forcing tears to fill her widened eyes, “I was just hungry, you know?”
“Look, kid, just hand over the wallet and you can take off, okay?”
Logan was growing uncomfortable. He hated when dames got all teary and emotional. The girl snuffled some more and reached into her jacket reluctantly pulling out Kitty’s suede wallet.
“You mean this one, mister?”
“Yeah. That one.”
The girl’s tone and manner abruptly changed, a vicious sneer appearing on her delicate face.
“Oh, well, then by all means – take it!” she snarled and her brown eyes hardened as the wallet in her hand began to smoke and then quickly burst into flames.
The hairs on the back of Logan’s neck stood up as he began to realize this wasn’t just a common every day petty thief he was dealing with. The girl flung the fireball as hard as she could toward Logan’s face then dove to the right, rolled and came up fast on the balls of her feet. Logan’s hand flew up instinctively to protect his face. He angrily batted the flaming missile away, grimacing as it temporarily scorched the unprotected skin of his hands. The smoldering debris of Kitty’s wallet fell to his feet, as the girl made a wild dash towards the front of the alley and freedom. Logan cursed under his breath and turned to pursue her, his battle skills now coming into play.
Nikki’s coltish legs sped her down the slippery snow-covered asphalt of the alley with quick assurance. The kid was fast, Logan observed as he sprinted after her, slipping and sliding on the patches of ice. Unnaturally fast in fact – like a gazelle – her bounding movements graceful and efficient. But her obvious ‘extra’ surge soon became her downfall as the girl couldn’t stop in time to avoid colliding with Kitty who suddenly materialized through the solid bricks of the alley wall. To the casual city observer, it would have been rather difficult to rationalize how another human could seemingly walk through a wall, but then, the little thief was no normal human being herself. The two girls hit with the impact of a runaway train and both went flying pell-mell in opposite directions to land on their backs in the cold hard-packed snow. The pickpocket did a rather athletic flip landing back onto her feet while Kitty was still on the ground. Logan made a grab for the thief’s collar but only got air.
“Missed me,” she taunted back at him.
She bent down, still running, and scooped up a handful of dirty, crusty snow from the ground by her feet, quickly packing it into a tight ball. Logan stopped, eyeing the little punk with amusement as she turned to face him, her new weapon held aloft. He chuckled. Did she really think a snowball would stop or even hurt him?
“Batter up, big boy,” Nikki purred at the man as she reached back her arm and wound up like a pitcher on the mound.
The snow in her hand glowed briefly before forming into a solid dense sphere of ice which the pickpocket let fly. Kitty had managed to catch up to the two by then and inadvertently stepped directly into the line of fire. Logan was moving, blades out and ready, before he realized it to intercept the little missile before Kitty was stoned by it. But to Logan’s great dismay, his foot slipped on a bit of ice and he skidded fumbling to stay upright. He lunged in front of his team mate, cursing as the ice ball flew past his outstretched claws. At the same moment, a small sparking object whizzed by Logan’s head to connect with the ice ball causing a mild explosion and shattering the missile only inches from its destination. The ice shards spattered Kitty’s coat front harmlessly as she jumped back a bit in surprise.
“Whoa,” the young thief gasped looking in admiration over to where Remy, known by his codename of Gambit, stood just inside the alleyway, another charged playing card held between his fingers at the ready.
“That was way cool,” she murmured, before a solid hand fastened itself onto her shoulder and spun her around.
Logan glared down at Nikki, all feelings of pity for the waif vanished. She made a face at him and he almost lifted her off the ground by her jacket collar.
“One more trick, and I’m gonna make you real sorry we ever met,” he snarled
Kitty had recovered and came up to the two, clutching a handful of burnt leather and ashes to her chest. She angrily eyed Logan’s captive as she thrust the charred bits out in front of her accusingly.
“My wallet!” Kitty protested. “Just great! Now I’m going to have to stand in line all day for another driver’s license!”
Remy laughed and shook his auburn head as he joined Logan in the alley. “Yeah,” he chuckled, “never mind about de lost money or credit cards, chere.”
Logan fixed him with a glare. “You’re not helping,” he said.
Gambit sauntered up to the thief in Logan’s grip and raised his eyebrows, inspecting her from head to toe. “She a bitty thing, mais non?”
“She may be small, gumbo, but she’s got alotta brass to make up for it.” Logan replied.
None of them were paying attention to the girl’s right hand, which was slowly making its way toward the pocket of her jeans.
“Hey, li’l minx, what you doin’ out here all ‘lone?” Gambit asked her.
“Just picking off hicks like you,” the girl shot back and choked as Logan gave her a shake.
“Keep your hands where I can see ‘em, kid,” he warned her.
She dropped her hands, not willing to take the chance with this one. He didn’t seem to be the easy-going type. Logan was growing angrier by the minute. This was all really Scott’s fault, Logan decided. He should be sitting in some warm bar right now, having a cold beer and a nice smoke. But, no, instead he had been forced to play baby-sitter tonight and now had to play policeman. The girl dangling from his fist crossed her arms and shot him a dirty look.
“You mind easing up a little there, King Kong? You’re cutting off the circulation.”
He eyed here warily, and she sighed.
“I’m not gonna run.”
“Smart move, ma petite,” the other one drawled, “Ole Logan ain’t de forgivin’ type.”
Kitty finally gave up on the possibility of salvaging anything from her now defunct wallet and came up closer to examine the other girl. Some of the anger went out of her when she saw how dirty and cold the youngster was.
“Hey, guys,” she said, “no big deal, huh? Let’s just let her go.”
The young girl blinked in surprise. This was new. In all the years she had been roaming the streets since her parents’ deaths, no one had ever wanted to “just let her go”. “This some kind of joke?” she cautiously asked.
Logan still had her by the collar as he glanced over to Kitty. “You sure, Kitty?” he asked.
Kitty nodded. “Yeah, hey, it’s the holidays. No big whoop. Besides, look at her Logan, she obviously doesn’t have a home –“
“How would you know?” the girl spat at Kitty.
She jerked free of Logan and glared at the three of them. “How the hell would you know anything about me?” she continued. “You know, I don’t need your stinking pity – “
“All right, everybody calm down,” Remy stated.
“Fuck you!” the girl snarled.
Logan instinctively popped the kid in the back of head.
“Watch your mouth, kid,” he warned her.
“Aw, Logan, don’t -” Kitty began.
“Or what?” the thief shot.
Kitty tried again. “You know you don’t have to-“
“You stay out of this!” Nikki pointed a finger at Kitty, who then lost her cool too.
“Hey, I was just trying to be –“
Logan cut Kitty off as he made to grab the girl again. “C’mere.” He growled, but she dodged out of his reach, sticking her tongue out and Logan’s temper flared. “Kid, you’re about two seconds away from-“
Kitty butted in, her voice now huffy. “You, know, I don’t like getting cut off in mid-sent-“
“Like I care.” The pickpocket snorted in contempt. “Go blow yourself.”
Kitty’s eyes flew wide. “Oh, well that’s just -“
“I’m warning you,” Logan growled at the thief.
“Bite me,” she snipped, “no wait, you might have rabies.”
“I’m talking here-“ Kitty interjected, her voice rising in frustrated anger.
“You don’t know when to quit, do you?” Logan snarled at Nikki, his fist flexing.
“You can kiss my –“
“ENOUGH!” Remy shouted, his voice echoing down the vacant alley.
The three bickering mutants slowly turned from each other to look over at Gambit who was shaking his head in disgust.
“Mes amies,” he calmly started, “there be no point in standing here in de cold and arguin’ all night ‘bout who can piss da farthest.”
He walked over and put his arms around the three while smiling charmingly. “We can CALMLY discuss anyt’ing and ever’ting back at the school, mais non? Where it be nice and warm? And dere be food? And some sane people?” the last part was muttered under his breath.
“School?” Nikki’s eyes narrowed in suspicion, “I ain’t going to no reform school.”
It proved to be a rather uneventful ride back to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters once the threesome could convince their new find that she wasn’t being turned over to the local authorities. Kitty shared the roomy back seat of the Jeep Cherokee with Nikki and kept up a steady stream of banter meant to draw the newcomer out and put her at ease. It had the opposite effect though on Remy who was sitting in the front passenger seat. Kitty’s incessant chatter tended to annoy him. The handsome southerner grabbed the tiny earphones draped around his neck and stuck them into his ears and then reached into the pocket of his leather duster and fingered the sound way up on his iPod to drown out Kitty’s voice.
Logan remained impassive, as usual, keeping his eyes on the road and his hands on the steering wheel of the SUV. He occasionally risked a furtive glance into the rearview mirror just to make sure the new kid wasn’t incinerating or flash-freezing anything ...or anyone he corrected himself. It made him somewhat edgy not knowing exactly what she could be capable of – he was pretty sure they hadn’t seen the full extent of her mutant powers and that gnawed at him. Who knew what other nasty little talents might be hiding from them in the back seat? None of them had really been able to get much out of her other than the fact that she was by herself, had been for some time and basically lived on the streets off the meager income gained from her pick-pocketing and shoplifting. She wouldn’t offer up a name though no matter how much they pressed her. He scowled and focused on the road again.
Kitty half-turned in the back seat to study the girl. She was definitely younger than Kitty, who had turned nineteen the past summer. The girl’s long, auburn hair which had been caught up by an old rubber band into a straggly French braid had come loose during her flight. Strands now stuck out in a halo about her nape and temples. The girl slouched indifferently in her seat, adolescent knees drawn up and pressed against the back of Logan’s seat. Her arms were crossed defensively across her chest as she sullenly stared out the window at the passing terrain.
Remy pulled the earphones down now that Kitty had stopped talking and called out to their guest.
“So, cherie,” he smiled.
Nikki ignored him choosing to concentrate on the scenery outside of the car instead. Remy wasn’t about to be dismissed so easily. The Cajun popped his handsome head up over the headrest to grin devilishly at the new girl. “Hey, l’il minx.”
She shot him a wary look then returned to staring out the window.
“What we should call you?” he questioned her.
She snorted, still gazing out the window although her focus was more inward now. “I’ve been called a lot of things. What do you care?”
“But what name do you want us to call you by?” Kitty tried. “We can’t keep going around saying ‘hey you, kid’.”
The girl thought a moment. Giving her real name or even one of her usual aliases was not an option. That would lead to a background check which might lead to a missing persons report And that, she concluded, inevitably led back to her being hauled off by CPS or some other charitable arm of the law to be processed and stuck in some hellhole of a juvenile facility or worse, farmed out to some foster home. She casually shrugged and nodded at Remy.
“Well, cornpone there seems to like calling me ‘Minx’. That’s as good a name as any.”
Kitty smiled. “All right, Minx it is.”
Remy offered his hand over the back of the seat to Minx in the form of an introduction, but Minx didn’t take it. It didn’t faze the Cajun a bit. Remy withdrew his hand and gave her a little salute instead. “Remy LeBeau, at your service, petite. I also go by Gambit.” He gestured to Kitty. “Dis here fine beauty be Shadowcat.”
“Just Kitty,” the brunette blushed.
“And what about short, dark and brooding, here?” Minx indicated Logan by kicking the back of his seat with one dirty tennis shoe. She was rewarded with a low growl of displeasure.
“Him be Logan,” Gambit said, “also called Wolverine.”
“Not much of a talker is he?” Minx nudged the seat in front of her once more, not able to resist.
Logan’s hands clenched up on the steering wheel in irritation.
“Uh, dat be a no,” Gambit ventured mildly.
The girl thought for a minute, her eyes narrowing in suspicion. “So, what’s with all the aliases?” she cautiously probed. “You a thieves guild or something?”
Remy and Kitty burst out laughing at this. “Not exactly,” Kitty giggled.
Minx’s brows furrowed. “So what, then, exactly?”
“You’ll see.” Logan muttered under his breath.
Minx raised her eyebrows waiting for him to elaborate, but no further explanation came. She was beginning to wonder about all this as Logan swung the vehicle onto the familiar tree-lined road known as Graymalkin Lane. Minx stared in unsuppressed awe out the car window at the acres of snow-covered forest leading up to the massive brick and wrought iron gates of the school. A brass plaque on the wall of the gated entrance bore the words: Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. The school was actually a stately three-story manse dating back to the 1700’s. The land and original building had been in Charles Xavier’s family for generations and had only been turned into a school over the past decade or so. Professor Charles Xavier, an authority on genetics and mutation, had given up a successful academic career to bring life to his dream of creating a private school and safe haven for young mutants. Xavier, himself a mutant with incredible telepathic abilities, had spent considerable time and money refurbishing the family estate to accommodate a student body and also act as a hidden base for his X-men, a group of highly trained and talented former students fighting for justice and peace between man and mutant.
Logan pressed a special button on the dashboard of the Cherokee and the tall metal gate slowly swung open. Beyond the gates, Minx could see a long paved road that wound through more acreage; this mostly stands of pine interspersed with an open meadow here and there. The estate was approximately 3 miles outside of the town of Salem Center and sat comfortably on several acres between Graymalkin Lane and Breakstone Lake. It included the main building housing the school and dorms for the students as well as stables, tennis and basketball courts, an Olympic size swimming pool, a cove with boathouse and docks and even an ornate Japanese Garden. Unavailable to the casual observer, the grounds also were home to several sub-basements below the mansion that were used by the X-men. These restricted areas contained a training area called the Danger Room, a strategic command center, ready-room, med-lab, computer array and even a subterranean hangar for the team’s Blackbird jet.
As the Cherokee sped along the private road, the girl caught site of the enormous stone mansion in the distance. They passed by some formal gardens before the vehicle slowed and made a left turn into a u-shaped drive that took them to the front entrance of the building. It was impressive, indicative of old money and New England ancestry. The mansion, built in an elongated H shape, had wings to the North and South of the perpendicular central area. Huge dormers jutted out from the three slate roofs along with two large stone chimneys on either side of the central roof. Neatly trimmed box hedges surrounded the perimeter of the building ending at either side of the pillared front entrance.
“End of the road, folks,” Logan said as he put the car in park and killed the engine.
Minx just stared up at the mansion, not fully able to take in all that had happened to her within the last hour. This was like a fairytale to the girl. One minute stealing for food and the next whisked off to a grand castle in a motorized coach by three friendly mutants. What’s next, she wondered to herself before slowly sliding out of the car to follow her hosts into Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.