Chapter 2: A Minx in the Hand
Nikki tried to ignore the small group of curious strangers standing around her in the kitchen of the school as she hungrily chomped down her second turkey sandwich. Even Logan, who wasn’t known for his grace or etiquette, was a bit taken aback by her feral attack on the food.
“When’s the last time you ate?” he questioned her.
“Lunch,” she offered around a mouthful of bread and meat. “Two days ago. And the stuff out of the dumpster didn’t taste anywhere near as good as this.”
She attacked the sandwich again with gusto chewing noisily.
“Well, that’s good to know,” Ororo Monroe murmured as she set a glass of milk down in front of the youngster.
Ororo was one of the first of Xavier’s students. The dark-skinned woman was orphaned as a child and found by Professor Xavier during a trip he had made to Egypt. Ororo was capable of manipulating the very forces of nature due to her mutation, hence her nickname of Storm. She was now in her late twenties and a teacher at the school as well as an admired member of the X-team.
Having devoured the entire sandwich in a matter of minutes, Minx reached for the glass of milk and eagerly chugged it down. She set the empty glass on the table, belched and stood up, absently brushing crumbs from her shirtfront.
“So, petite,” Remy ventured carefully, “what exactly do da Minx do?”
Minx smiled icily back at the Cajun. “Anyting she damn well pleases, mon ami.” She imitated his accent perfectly.
Logan reached up and pinched the bridge of his nose. He could feel a headache coming on any minute.
“No, Minx,” a red-headed woman standing next to Ororo said. She gently reached over and put her hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Remy means what special powers do you have?”
Minx looked around at the group, feeling like a two-headed calf at the freak show. All eyes were upon her as she licked her lips then looked directly back at the red-head.
“You first,” the pickpocket dared the woman.
The woman displayed a confident smile and stared for a moment over Minx’s shoulder at the empty milk glass on the table behind her. Slowly, the glass lifted into the air and lazily flew toward the woman’s outstretched hand. She neatly caught it and held the glass up in triumph.
“I’m telekinetic and telepathic,” she announced. “And I’m Jean Grey.”
Minx didn’t appear too impressed. She turned to Kitty and raised her eyebrows.
“Oh,” Kitty stammered, “Well, you sort of saw mine back in the alley when we ran into each other. I can walk through inanimate objects – doors, floors, walls…”
“Uh-huh,” their newest member digested this then muttered, “Kitty cat…walks through walls….”
She indicated Remy next. “And you? Bayou-boy?”
“It’s Gambit, l’il bit,” he dug back at her before producing a Jack of Hearts seemingly from the cuff of his coat. “And I be able to transfer charges of energy to objects. Preferably playin’ cards.”
He held the card aloft and flicked it away from him. The card popped, shooting blue sparks into the air.
“Playing cards,” Minx repeated slowly, “’kay.”
Logan was standing next to Gambit, but Minx skipped over him saying, “I already know what you can do.”
“That’s not all Logan can do, Minx,” Jean remarked. “He has acute olfactory, visual and auditory capabilities as well as phenomenal regenerative powers allowing him to heal hundreds of times faster than a normal human.”
A tall brown-haired fellow wearing sunglasses to the left of Minx snorted under his breath. Minx noted the derisive tone. “So what’s your specialty?” she questioned him.
“I’m Scott Summers,” he replied, “but everyone calls me Cyclops because of my eyes. I can shoot concussive blasts from them.” He tapped his glasses for added measure. Nikki looked around at the group, a few more offering up their names as she glanced at them. Upon further reflection Nikki concluded that ‘names’ wasn’t exactly quite right. Each person she had met so far, not withstanding the redhead, seemed to go by some dorky super-hero type alias.
“Jeez,” Minx exploded under her breath, “What is this, a sci-fi convention?” She quickly surveyed all the faces around her in mild annoyance. “Doesn’t anyone here having a normal real name?”
Scott cleared his throat, catching her attention. He stepped forward with an authoritative air which only annoyed Nikki even further. Authority figures were not on her list of personal favorites, especially ones that swaggered and postured as much as this one.
“There are some, like Jean,” Scott indicated the redhead, “and Professor Xavier that go by their regular names. But the majority of us here at the school do have nicknames….Minx,” he finished making sure to emphasize her new moniker.
“Look,” she saucily shot, “if I wanted a lecture from the Visine poster boy, I’d –“
Storm, ever the diplomat, quickly stepped in and strategically positioned herself between the warring factions to try to ease the building tension in the room.
“It’s your turn now, Minx,” she said. “Show us what you can do.”
Minx took a deep breath, gave one last look over Storm’s shoulder at her most recent opponent, and then dug into one of the pockets of her jeans. All watched as she pulled out a quarter and placed it in the palm of her left hand. She made a fist around the coin and concentrated on the small piece of metal. Kitty and some of the younger students crowded a little closer, fascinated and curious.
Minx focused herself and felt the skin of her palm begin to tingle slightly as she absorbed all the latent warmth from the coin. At the same time, the basal temperature dropped drastically in her outstretched hand, super cooling the coin locked within it. Appreciative gasps were heard when Minx opened her hand to show everyone the ice-rimed quarter sitting on her palm. Tendrils of smoky frost trailed off the coin’s metal surface as one of the students reached out tentatively to touch it. Minx reflexively closed her fist before he could.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” she warned him. “Ever seen someone touch their tongue to a frozen lamp post?”
The boy hastily withdrew his digits.
“Big deal,” a boy named Bobby smugly interjected, pointing at the quarter in her hand “I can do that.”
Minx wasn’t finished though. She opened her hand and tapped the coin once with a fingernail. It shattered as if made of brittle glass. Appreciative oohs and ahs went around the circle. She closed her hand again around the metal bits and focused again, now releasing as much heat from her body into her hand as possible, transferring that heat into the quarter. Thin wisps of steam began to escape from between her clenched fingers. When she, at last, opened her hand, the coin was gone and a molten, bubbling puddle of silver metal rippled on her palm.
“OK, I can’t do that,” Bobby muttered grudgingly.
Minx shut her hand one more time then quickly unclenched her fist to display a misshapen mass of solid metal, which she tossed to Gambit. He easily caught it in one gloved hand and held it up examining the piece appreciatively.
“Dat be a neat trick,” Remy whispered.
Minx shrugged. “It comes in handy sometimes,” she said.
A low voice rumbled from behind the small crowd. “Yeah, I bet it does.”
The girl shot Logan a dirty look. The big burly moose standing in the back of the group glared right back. Scott had been observing the theatrics with quiet caution. He now pushed forward past Storm to stand in front of Minx.
“You’re quite impressive for someone your age,” Scott observed. “With some training, you might be able to improve your skills enough to control your thermodynamics more precisely.”
“Which would what? Make you deliriously happy?” Nikki’s voice was laced with sarcasm.
“As leader of this group, Minx-” Scott began, but she cut him off.
“Oh, really? This your house then, ‘pink-eye’?”
Scott stiffened at the derisive reference to his special ruby-quartz glasses. “No. But, I’m the team leader as well as one of the head residents for the school. You got a problem with that?” he coolly challenged her.
Minx rolled her eyes and turned to Logan, who was now standing protectively beside her.
“He always so uptight?” she asked him.
“He’s a dick sometimes, but he’s not so bad.” Logan replied.
Scott balked at the conversation. He opened his mouth to deliver a scathing reply when Professor Xavier entered the crowded kitchen, his custom wheelchair whirring smoothly over the tiled floor.
“Welcome to my school, Minx,” the professor warmly greeted his new charge as he wheeled up to her side. “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to meet you sooner, but I had a call to attend to.”
He held out his hand to her and she shook it perfunctorily. He held on to her small hand a bit longer than was customary, and Minx felt a strange shiver run through her mind. She jerked her hand free and rubbed it absently on her pant leg.
“I’m Professor Charles Xavier, and this,” he swept his arm to indicate the others standing nearby, “is the X-team.”
“Yeah, we’ve met,” Minx replied.
She carefully studied the bald, well-dressed man in the wheelchair sensing there was more to him than met the eye. He may have crippled legs but he sure as hell wasn’t handicapped, she decided. His expensive suit, carefully manicured nails and fancy digs indicated money – and lots of it, yet he didn’t act boastful about it. His scent was clean and self-assured, but not cocky. There was an underlying air of calm strength and intelligence that surrounded the man like an invisible force field. He made her feel suddenly unsure of herself for some reason and that bothered her.
“Well,” Charles beamed at the girl, breaking her reverie, “I’m sure you’re tired and probably would like to get cleaned up a little.” He swiveled his chair to the right. “Ororo, would you be so kind as to take our newest student to her room?”
“I’d love to, Professor.”
The dark-skinned woman smiled and motioned for Minx to follow her.
“This is all mine?”
Minx wandered slowly around the comfortable space, testing the bed then bouncing up to wander over and run her hand over the small boom box on the dresser. She made her way to the mullioned window and glanced out over the well-manicured acreage that backed up onto a stand of snow-covered pines.
“Okay, I bite,” she said, “what’s the catch?”
Storm looked puzzled. “There is no catch.”
“Bullshit. There’s always a catch.”
“Minx, Professor Xavier does not expect anything from you other than for you to feel safe here. We want to help you.”
The girl remained unconvinced. “Why?”
“What’s in it for you? You help me develop my powers and I help you….what? Rob a bank? Take over a small country? What?”
Storm smiled gently, searching for the best way to explain. “This school is a haven for mutants, like you…and me…who have no place else to go,” the woman tilted her snow-white head at the door. “Scott, Jean, Logan…all of us have been where you stand now. And with the help of Professor Xavier, we were able to understand ourselves better and use our mutant powers for the betterment of society.”
Minx looked down at her shoes, suddenly embarrassed for having mistrusted this woman. She put on a serious face to hide it. “Well…I just wanna make sure, up front, ya know, that everyone understands I’m only here short-term. I got places to go and all...”
Minx met Storm’s soft smile with a timid one of her own. She liked this elegant yet humble woman. Storm broke the moment with a cough, making her way to the door.
“Well,” she stated as she opened the door to the hallway, “I’ll let you get settled in. There’s fresh linen in the bathroom and I’ll go see if I can find some clothes that will fit you. Breakfast is at eight.”
With that, Storm left the newest member of the school to herself and made her way back downstairs to join the others already gathered in the Professor’s study.
Scott was speaking as Storm entered the study. “I don’t care,” he groused, “I’m not taking anymore insults.”
Jean tried to ease her boyfriend’s bruised ego. “Scott,” she said reassuringly, “Minx wasn’t attacking you personally. I sensed a lot of fear and mistrust in her. That tough act of hers is just a defensive gesture.”
“I’ve got another gesture in mind,” he muttered sorely under his breath but calmed down.
“No, Jean is right, Scott,” Xavier continued from behind his polished mahogany desk. “The girl has been through severe trauma, including the murder of her parents. I was able to briefly touch her mind when I shook her hand, and what I saw was not something that should ever be in the head of someone so young.”
“Whaddaya mean, Chuck?” Logan asked.
The professor sighed heavily. Logan stopped pacing the room.
“Minx witnessed the murder of her mother by her father when she was but a small child. She accidentally caused her father’s death and seems to have been on the run ever since.”
Rogue, another former student and current member of the X-men, shivered on the couch and snuggled under her boyfriend Remy’s arm. “Gosh,” she gasped, “Ah can’t imagine bein’ only a kid and havin’ to deal with all that by yerself.”
“Professor,” Jean spoke up, “Minx couldn’t possibly have managed to take care of herself alone all this time. Wouldn’t the authorities have stepped in? Put her in a foster home or tried to find relatives?”
“You’re assuming that the authorities thought the girl was still alive, Jean.” Xavier replied. “The fire probably consumed the entire house. The normal conclusion would be that no one survived, and so they wouldn’t have been looking for a missing child.”
Storm nodded her head in sad agreement. “I survived on my own for many years after my parents’ deaths,” she softly explained to Jean. “It’s surprising how resourceful a child can be when it is a matter of life or death.”
“I agree.” Scott said. “There are orphans out on the streets right now that are pretty much making their own way. My question is what kind of man would turn on his family like that and kill them?”
Murmurs of agreement echoed around the group.
“I don’t know, Scott.” Xavier replied and then paused before going on, not sure whether he wanted the team to know the rest. “I knew Minx’s father... a long time ago. And I cannot imagine him ever being able to harm his family.”
The group looked up at the Professor in stunned silence.
“What? How?” Jean questioned her mentor.
The professor wheeled out from behind his desk, his eyes distant as he explained. “Dr. Stephen Anderson was a prominent geneticist, well respected in the field. I met him and his wife at a conference in Geneva back when I was doing my own research into the mutant gene factor. Although Stephen and I agreed that more research needed to be done on gene mutation, we were at odds with how that research could and should be used. I believe Stephen was working for Eric Lenssher at the time.”
Scott gulped in disbelief. “Her father worked for Magneto?”
Eric Lenssher, going by his mutant name of Magneto, had a long and bitter history with Xavier and his team. Magneto and his group of followers, calling themselves The Brotherhood, had made it their goal to conquer and eliminate all non-mutants in order to put the more evolved Homo Superior race in charge of the world. Magneto’s own family had been subjected to imprisonment and death at the hands of the Nazi’s when he was but a child, and the powerful mutant had never forgiven mankind for its despotic treatment of his kind.
Xavier looked down at his lap then back up at his pupil. “Stephen was a brilliant scientist, but easily swayed by the fame and power that Magneto could offer him. It is likely that Magneto used Stephen for his own gain and then had him and his family terminated when he proved no longer beneficial.”
“Does Minx know?” Ororo quietly asked her mentor.
Xavier shook his head. “No, she is not aware of her parent’s involvement with Magneto or his group. And, I don’t think that’s something we need to reveal to her right now.” Xavier wheeled out from behind his desk to come closer to the team. “She’s been traumatized enough. What Minx needs right now is a stable, loving environment where she can work through her emotions and learn to develop her powers in safety.”
No one spoke for a moment. Scott glanced at the professor who easily read his mind.
[I’ve no doubt, Scott, that had we not intervened, this child could very well have ended up on the wrong side…or worse.]
Ororo tried to lighten the atmosphere in the study.
“I’m confident that with our guidance,” she stated encouragingly, “Minx can become a productive and successful member of the team.”
Everyone nodded silently, but kept their thoughts to themselves.