A Whateley Academy Vignette
by Phoenix Spiritus
"Peggy! Mom said you have to come home now!" The brat who seemed to exist only to make her life a living hell called from the footpath. Peggy glared at her younger brother sitting on his bike, one leg steadying himself against the ground as he called out loudly to her, before turning back to her companion.
"Thank your mother for letting me come over," Peggy said smiling to the taller red haired girl.
"Any time," Ashley laughed.
Peggy was about to reply, but her brother again trumpeted from the sidewalk. "Mom said now Peggy! You've got to come home for dinner!"
Peggy sighed and looked up at the wincing Ashley. "I wish I had you for a sister, rather than having to have him!" she growled, turning and yelling towards her brother. "Alright, keep your shirt on, I'm coming!" Turning back Peggy waved goodbye to Ashley and set off along the sidewalk, running along behind her brother to her home a few houses down their street. Peggy left so fast that she missed the barely whispered "So do I," from the older girl.
Skipping happily home, Peggy smiled in joy at the simple day she had spent hanging out at Ashley's home, something she had missed most of this year as Ashley had been attending a boarding school in New Hampshire. This weekend Ashley had taken the opportunity to come home for a weekend visit before her finals started, and had invited Peggy to come over for the day. Ashley was a couple of years older than Peggy, but as the closest aged girls to each other in their street, Peggy and Ashley had always spent a lot of time together at the various parties and get-togethers thrown regularly by their neighbours, all very wealthy and influential members of the Boston elite. Before going to her new school, the only friends Peggy had seen or heard Ashley talking about had been Lily and the two boys of Ashley's parents closest friends. On the few occasions Ashley had come home for visits from her school, Peggy heard her mentioning many more friends, so she'd felt especially happy that Ashley had called her over so close to the summer vacation, it meant that when Ashley came home for summer she'd still want to spend time with her.
Opening the front door and going in while her brother wheeled his bike around the back, Peggy made her way through to the kitchen and regarded her mother who was standing in the middle of the kitchen staring at the oven in a vague way.
"You wanted me mom?" Peggy asked perkily.
Looking up, Barbara Lane smiled at her small blond haired, blue eyed bundle of energy as she bounced up and down on her toes watching her. "Dinner's almost ready dear, grab your brother and set the table please," she instructed.
Smiling Peggy ran from the kitchen to the back door. "Mark! Mom says you have to set the table!" She yelled out to her brother, before she slammed the door shut and ran laughing for the sideboard in the dinning room.
Crashing through the back door, her brother came running after her yelling denials and threats about slamming the backdoor in his face, their mother glancing skywards with a shaken head and a sigh before she bent down to the oven to check on dinner.
With a smile to her husband as he sat down, Barbara placed the final few items from the oven on the table before sitting herself, reaching out to grab her children's hands as her husband did the same and lead grace. With a final 'Amen' Barbara reached forward and started dishing the food, turning to her daughter. "So, how does Ashley like her new school?"
"She loves it!" Peggy exclaimed, quickly reaching forward to spoon salad onto her plate, sticking out her tongue to her younger brother as he rolled his eyes at her for 'girl food' while he himself grabbed the potatoes.
"Did she say what she's been studying?" Barbara enquired of her daughter.
"No," Peggy shrugged. "We didn't talk about that."
"What did you talk about?" her father asked curiously.
"We mostly talked about things like their dining hall, her room and her friends, like did you know Lily has a boyfriend? Apparently he's a dreamy guy she meet at the cottage she stays at."
"They have co-ed dorms?" Barbara asked in surprise.
"Sort of," Peggy shrugged again. "Ashley said that some of the 'cottages' are really large, large enough to have multiple wings. In those cottages they have seperate wings for boys and girls, so they are in the same cottage, but not really mixed in together."
"Ah, that makes sense," her father murmured, glancing towards his wife and her concerned expression. "It would allow families to stay together in the same cottage, but still keep the boys and girls seperate," he explained. "If I sent Mark and Peggy here of to boarding school, I'd want them still to be together even so, wouldn't you?"
Barbara nodded, before changing the subject. "Peggy's got her softball game on tomorrow, you working all day?" she asked her husband.
"Not all day," he smiled. "I have a breakfast meeting with some clients, then a morning round of golf with Paul, but we'll be finished in plenty of time for me to get to the second half of the ball game," he smiled at Peggy who replied with a huge grin of delight right back at him as her brother sighed.
"Hey!" Peggy protested. "So you have to come watch my game all morning, big deal! I have to go watch you all afternoon, at least I field! You just sit in the cage most of your games!"
"Children no!" Barbara growled, heading off the imminent fight. "We're a family, and we all support each other." Turning she fixed a glare on her daughter. "Peggy, be a bit more understanding to your brother. It's as boring for him is it is you, he would like to be out on the field more too, but there is nearly twice as many in his team as yours, and they all have to share the time on the field fairly." Peggy slumped under the ire of her mother, glaring at the smug triumph of her brother as soon as her mother's gaze left her.
Looking back and forth between his two children, valiantly trying to hide his amusement, Peggy's father closed the subject by addressing her. "I look forward to watching both you and your brother's game tomorrow, make sure to save some of your stuff for the second half so I can see it when I get there?"
Smiling in promise, Peggy perked back up and immediately started attacking her dinner with relish.
Peggy swayed side to side, shuffling her feet, her eyes staying glued to the ball as Sarah pitched it. Staring fixedly at the ball, Peggy smiled in glee at the sweet sound of bat hitting ball and the softball sailed through the air towards her.
Running forward, eyes fixed on the ball, Peggy's smile turned to a frown as the ball started dropping before her. Diving forward desperately Peggy yelled in delight as she watched the ball fall solidly into her glove, her fingers closing over it Peggy stepping forward to hold the glove up in triumph.
"No fair! Mutants aren't allowed to play sports!" Cried out the girl who had hit the ball, pointing to Peggy in anger. As Peggy stood there bewildered, the coach and many of the parents of the other team swarmed forward towards the umpire and Peggy's own coach, Mr Harrison. Gesturing and pointing towards Peggy and loudly complaining all around until Mr. Harrison got them all quiet.
"Look, I'm sorry, we didn't know she could do that!" He loudly declared, waving Peggy to come in to him, at the same time gesturing Lisa to come out of the dugout. "Lisa," he instructed as Peggy slowly came up to him. "Can I get you to take Peggy's place please?"
Accepting the softball from Peggy, Mr. Harrison knelt down and put his hand on her shoulder. "Peggy? I think your mother would like to talk to you now," he said, pointing towards where Peggy's mother was standing white faced, clutching her brother tightly. Seeing Peggy looking her way she started waving wildly, beckoning Peggy to her. "Go Peggy," Mr. Harrison said with a little push. "Don't worry about your kit, I'll drop it off for you on my way home."
Bewildered, Peggy made her way from the field as her mom bundled Mark down the stairs, urging him to hurry. As Peggy stepped through the gate from the ballpark her mom grabbed her hand and started hurrying her along towards the car.
"What's wrong?" Peggy asked bewildered as she scrambled to keep up with her mother's hurried stride.
"You flew!" The brat drawled in awe.
"What!?" Peggy blurted.
"You flew! You were at least a foot in the air and you flew to catch the ball like Supergirl!" He repeated, staring at Peggy with a look she'd never seen from him before, hero worship. "It was awesome!"
"Quiet! Into the car, quick!" her mother admonished them, unlocking the car and bundling Peggy into the passenger seat, and hurrying her brother into back seat. Quickly running around the car, her mother jumped into the driver's seat, slammed the door and started the car, screeching out of the car park in her haste to leave. "Not a word out of either of you!" She ordered scowling at the road. "I need to think, and I want no distractions." Speeding down the road she chewed on her lip with a worried expression as she fearfully checked her mirrors constantly.
Stepping off the treadmill as her phone started ringing, Lauren Strum, 'Magma' when she was wearing her supersuit like now, paused to take a sip of water and wipe her face before picking up the phone and carefully examining the caller ID. With a smile she pressed to answer and bought it to her ear.
"Barbara! How are you?" She cheerfully greeted the woman living a few doors down the street from her.
"You have a mutant daughter, don't you?" A scared voice demanded.
Completely still, Lauren froze, unable to even breath from the surprise.
"Please, don't lie to me. I need help! Peggy manifested and everyone saw it! I saw her! Ashley manifests a flame sword like the hero Magma does, she must be a mutant!"
"How could you know that!?" Lauren gasped in shock.
"That time, when the boys chased Peggy and Ashley and Peggy called me to come get them, I saw her. She was standing over Peggy after the boy's threw that stone that knocked Peggy out. She was waving the sword, getting between them and Peggy, doing everything she could to protect her!"
"Have you told anyone?" Lauren whispered in horror.
"No! Never! She was protecting my daughter! Why would I out her like that?"
"Oh thank you, thank you," Lauren sobbed in relief.
"Please? I need help. It's Peggy. She's a mutant, and she can fly and everyone saw it!"
"Where are you now?" Lauren demanded. "Are they following you? Are there people threatening you?"
"No, we're at home, and I don't think I was followed, but what do I do? Will the MCO come? Will they take her away?"
Lauren sighed as she heard the fear in the voice of her neighbour and friend. "Barbara, stay put. It'll be alright. I'm in town at the moment, but I'm leaving now and I'm coming straight there. Keep the door locked and the blinds pulled and Peggy out of sight, and I'll come straight there to help you sort it out."
"Thank you!" Barbara cried into the phone. "Oh thank you!"
Lauren thoughtfully looked at the girl standing locked in the arms of her scared mother and frowned. "Can you fly for me please Peggy?" she asked finally.
Peggy glanced at her mother, who gave her a scared little nod. Closing her eyes Peggy tried to think 'up!' Felling no difference she opened them and looked around, she was still standing on the floor. She tried jumping up and down a few times but nothing happened.
"Maybe if she jumped off the roof!" Mark suggested excitedly.
"Mark Wilbert Lane! If I ever catch you encouraging ..." His mother screamed at him, before Lauren gently reached over and touched her arm, gathering the weeping woman to her and patting her back as both Mark and Peggy stared wide-eyed at their distraught mother. Releasing her, Lauren watched as Barbara grabbed Mark and pulled him to her, locking him tight in her arms as she desperately watched Lauren step closer to Peggy and bend down to her.
"What were you thinking when you flew last time?" Lauren asked the subdued girl before her, quite unlike the usual bouncy, perky girl she knew. Her mother's raw fear was affecting the girl, and she stared pleadingly at her mother until Barbara gave her a hesitant nod.
"I just wanted to catch the ball," Peggy sobbed. "I don't mean to do it, I don't even know I was!"
"Shh," Lauren soothed the girl, reaching out to give her a hug. "You did nothing wrong Peggy, we just need to know what is it you can do," she comforted her. As Peggy calmed down, she released the girl, making sure she stayed focused on her face. "Can you remember for me? Close your eyes and remember what you did?"
Smiling slightly Peggy nodded. "Yes Mrs. Strum." Closing her eyes, Peggy remembered the pitch. "Sarah threw a fastball, right over the plate, and it was a sweet hit, sailing straight towards me, so I started running in like Mr. Harrison taught us, eyes on the ball. I wanted to get right under it, and then it started falling so I ran faster and dived and I got it! It landed right in my glove! ..."
"Peggy?" Lauren almost whispered, smiling to the girl when she opened her eyes, nodding down to her feet.
Puzzled, Peggy looked down and gasped in surprise. Her feet were off the floor, she was hovering a foot above it. In wonder she looked back at Lauren who nodded solemnly to her. Glancing over to her mother she saw fear in her eyes, but her brother once again had a look of awe and wonder, and with a huge smile he called out to her. "Way to go sis!"
Banished to their bedrooms as their mother and Mrs. Strum discussed something, Mark stared in awe at his sister floating in the middle of her room, turning over and 'walking' her feet on the ceiling and then down the wall past all the Pegasus flying horse fantasy art posters covering the wall above her bed.
"So you're a superhero now? You're going to go out a fight crime right? What's your super suit going to look like? You gonna get the short skirt and boots like Supergirl? That would be so coool! Do you have them already? Is it the blue shirt and the red skirt? And the gold belt! You got to have the gold belt too! What about strength? Can you lift a car? Can you throw one and crush the villains beneath it? Can you rescue people? Can you soar through the sky with someone in your arms? Can you do it with me? Oh please! Give me a ride! I want to fly too! Please?"
Peggy laughed, glancing at a poster on her wall of a girl riding a flying horse. "I'm not a Pegasus! I'm not a flying horse for you to ride!"
"But you are!" Mark wheedled. "You're Supergirl! You can fly and everything! Please, give me a ride?"
Peggy glanced nervously at the door. "I think Mom would get upset ..."
"Not in here she won't," Mark wheedled. "Nobody can see us, and you can only get as high as the bunk beds we used to have, that's not dangerous. Oh please, let me fly with you?"
Mark stared at Peggy, pleading with his eyes, but it was the awe, almost hero worship in them that worked. Peggy wasn't used to her brother looking at her like that, and she couldn't disappoint him. Settling down onto the floor, she gestured for her brother to climb onto her back.
"What happens now?" Barbara demanded. Lauren watched her friend desperately clutching the cup of tea she had made her, twisting the cup around and around in hands that still shook despite everything Lauren had done to try and clam her.
"Barbara, it's not that bad. She'll need to be tested, both for a MID and also so we can know what she can do and how powerful she is, for training Barbara, nothing nefarious," Lauren quickly clarified at Barbara's horrified expression. "She'll need to be taught how to control herself like Ashley was."
"But you hid Ashley! Nobody knows she's a mutant. Everyone saw Peggy! They're going to come for her!"
"Nobody's going to take Peggy away from you!" Lauren assured her, reaching out to rub her friend's back.
"But if something happened, you'd protect her right? Like you have Ashley?" Barbara begged her. "You'd protect her right?"
"You know I would Barbara. Even if everyone knows, I'd still protect her, I wouldn't abandon you." As her friend breathed a sigh of relief Lauren gave her a quick hug. "Speaking of people knowing, does Ben know?" she asked cautiously.
Barbara turned white and reached desperately for her phone. "No! His playing golf and I didn't think to call him."
Lauren calmly reached out and put her hand on the phone, causing Barbara to look up at her in surprise. "He's with Paul," Lauren murmured. "Why don't I call Paul and ask him to discreetly bring Ben home? Paul and I have a sort of code for things like this so we can discuss Ashley's talents without causing problems."
Nodding slowly Barbara agreed, and with a smile Lauren reached into her purse and retrieved her own phone, dialling it almost before she'd finished removing it. "Darling?" Lauren smiled as she lifted her phone to her ear. "Are you still with Ben? Oh good, can you wrap it up there pronto and get him to come home? Yes, we have a situation, no no, it's with Peggy, yes Peggy, and it was public. No, just get him home, we can tell him when he gets here."
Lauren smiled as she reached the top of the stairs and saw Peggy flying along, barely off the floor in a Supergirl pose with her brother sitting on her back, legs wrapped around her waist and arms in the air, huge smiles coving the faces of both of them as Peggy sailed slowly down the corridor. Lauren leaned against the wall and watched as they went back and forth, getting a little bit faster, a little bit higher each time as Peggy's confidence grew. Their smiles and enthusiasm growing with each successful pass. Finally she stepped into the hall, smiling as the two of them desperately scrambled to stand up, looking down at their feet, hands behind their backs waiting for their chastisement.
Walking up to them Lauren knelt down and reached out to touch Mark's shoulder. "You know that your sister needs to hide her gifts right?" She asked him. "That there are people out there that would hurt your sister badly if they found out about her?"
Mark nodded slowly. "I know about H1! and what they'd do," he admitted.
Lauren smiled. "Good, then you'll help your sister keep it a secret? For her own safety?"
Mark scowled. "I wouldn't hurt my sister!" He exclaimed. "Of course I'll keep her secret!"
"You mustn't tell anyone!" Lauren warned him. "Nobody from your school, not even your best friend?"
Mark stared at her, then reluctantly nodded.
Lauren turned to Peggy. "You too Peggy, not a single soul."
"Not even Ashley?" Peggy whispered.
Lauren sighed. "Maybe later, over the summer you can tell her, we'll see."
Peggy stared at Mrs. Strum for a long time, before swallowing nervously and nodding. Her hand almost unconsciously creeping out to gather her brother's, clutching it tight.
Lauren watched the two kids clutching each other's hands, staring up at her in trepidation and sighed. Standing up she gestured the two to follow her. "Come on, your father will be home soon and you'll need to show him, then we'll need to organise for you to be tested."
"Tested?" Peggy bleated.
"Yes, tested. I've organised to take you to the headquarters of STAR League tomorrow. They'll test you and tell us what type of powers you have."
"I get to see STAR League!? Really!?" Peggy squealed. "Cooool!"
"What does it mean?" Barbara cried desperately staring at the report of her daughter's powers Lauren had given her. While Barbara had stayed home with Mark, Lauren had taken Peggy to be tested at the STAR League 'headquarters' in her everyday persona 'Lauren Strum'. While Peggy was being tested by 'Solder of Fortune', both Lauren and Zander had struggled to remain professional as Peggy chatted excitedly about how much she loved STAR League and wished she could meet 'Magma', her favourite hero.
With her husband distracting Peggy and Mark, Barbara was sitting down with Lauren to go over the testing results. Reaching out, Lauren gently took the report from Barbara's hands, placing it down on the table and gathered Barbara's hands in her own, causing Barbara to stare up at her in surprise. Taking a pantomime deep breath, Lauren got Barbara to do the same, visibly calming herself. Smiling she nodded thankfully to Lauren and put her hands down on the table.
"All this," Lauren waved to the papers. "Tells us Peggy is what is known as a PK Supergirl," Lauren started explaining.
"Supergirl!" Barbara exclaimed.
"Relax! She's not going to be shooting beams from her eyes or anything!" Lauren laughed. "It just means that she surrounds herself in a psychokinetic field that she can manipulate to give herself what seems like Supergirl's powers. Flight, invulnerability, the ability to pick up huge weights. But it's not her body, it's her mind doing all this."
Barbara looked at Lauren desperately. "She's invulnerable? She can't be hurt?"
Lauren examined the desperate mother for a few seconds thinking how to respond, before she smiled. "No she's not totally invulnerable, think of it like the shields on the Enterprise, powerful, but with enough firepower enemies still go through it," she explained with a smirk, openly laughing as her friend blushed.
"How did you know?" Barbara gasped at the knowing smirk of her friend.
"That you are a Trekkie?" Lauren laughed at her friend's discomfort. "There's only so many times you can go to a costume party as 'Captain Janeway' before the excuse 'I'm humouring my husband' wears a little thin. Also Ben told Paul that you meet when planing the yearly trip to ComicCon for the Star Trek club at his alma mater, which I suppose technically makes you and him 'Collage Sweethearts,'" Laura laughed as she quoted the description Barbara had always given her of meeting her husband. "But as always, the devil is in the details," Laura finished with a smirk.
Barbara flustered a bit before with another deep breath she calmed and returned to the topic of her daughter. "So, how 'invulnerable' is Peggy?"
Lauren shrugged. "She's still new to her powers, still working out what she can do, still improving. Let's just say for now that she has nothing to fear from falling down the stairs. Even if she forgets to fly, she'll still not get any bruises," Lauren smiled reassuringly.
"And 'Pegasus'?" Barbara asked, reading the name off the top of the papers.
"All mutants have to have a code name, it's so that their MID can be filed but the MCO don't know the real name and address of the Mutant. Peggy chose it for herself."
"So the MCO ..."
"They know nothing more than appears on her MID," Lauren assured her, picking up the small credit card sized piece of plastic and handing it to Barbara, who studied it minutely, reading everything written on it, both front and back before sighing and relaxing.
"So what now?" She asked.
Lauren shrugged. "For now, it's only a few weeks to summer vacation, we let Peggy finish the year and over the summer see how things go. Once we see how Peggy does getting used to her new skills, and hiding them, we can decide if anything else need's to be done."
Barbara sighed and nodded her head as Lauren stood and came round the table to give her a hug. "It's not the end of the world, just a new beginning," she assured her friend. "You'll need to make a few adjustments, sure, but it'll soon seem normal, routine, nothing to worry about. You'll see." She patted her friend's back and smiled encouragingly.
"Thank you, I don't know what I'd have done if you weren't here."
"Don't mention it, that's what friends are for. Now why don't you call your family together, have a nice family chat. I'll let myself out, don't worry about me." With a final hug, Lauren gathered her purse and smiled at her friend, before making her way out as Barbara went to find her husband and children.
Lauren was distracted as she left her friend's house and walked the few steps up the street to her own house, otherwise she would have noticed the black SUV parked across the road, the same one she'd absently noticed parked across the street from the 'public' offices of STAR League in Providence, the public entrance she'd used today to take Peggy to be tested. If she had been paying attention she'd have also noticed the man sitting inside talking on his phone.
"I've identified the home of the girl," he reported, keeping a careful eye on the woman walking along the sidewalk. "And I can confirm the woman with her today wasn't her mother, she seems to be a neighbour," he reported as he watched Lauren enter a house further up the street. The man listened attentively then nodded. "Understood. I'll continue surveillance until I can get photos of all the family members. OK, I'll be straight in when I've got them."
Putting down his phone, the man crawled from the front of the SUV to the back, retrieving a camera with a telephonic lens and settling himself in the darkened recess of the back seat he put the camera to his eye, training it on the Lane house. In the back seat of the SUV, the heavily tinted windows make it very difficult to see him, let alone the H1! badge pinned to his suit's lapel.
Slowly he spread around the prints taken with a long lens of Peggy and her family, the light glinting off his H1! Pin as he did so, a H1! pin matched by all the others gathered around the table.
"Peggy Lane, codename 'Pegasus', newly emerged 'PK Supergirl' Mutant. Father in banking, mother stay at home mother. One sibling, a little brother, a year younger than her."
"How strong?" The only woman at the table asked, picking up a photo of a woman and scowling at it.
"Unknown, testing was done by STAR League and we haven't broken their security yet."
"And this woman?" she asked throwing the photo back on the table.
"Family friend, seemingly of the mother. It was her who took the target to be tested, and she's been over frequently."
The young woman, well barely more than a girl really, smiled something that was almost a snarl. The dark man barely kept his shiver in check.
"She's the one," the young woman declared, eyes almost glowing. "How soon can we move?" she demanded.
"As soon as you give the go-ahead."
"Good. We'll see if the mother takes the bait." Turning the girl left, taking with her the tension in the room as the men all visibly relaxed at her departure.
Unlike normal, Barbara parked the car. Getting out with Peggy and Mark she walked them in through the school's front door, carefully watching as Peggy and Mark greeted their friends and ran off without so much as a wave. Particularly she watched Peggy and her friends, Barbara breathing a sigh of relief as they excitedly greeted each other and ran off, no different to any other Monday morning.
After staying in place for a few minutes, looking around and seeing nothing out of the ordinary, no glares or reactions at all to Peggy running through the school halls, Barbara let go the breath she'd been holding. Turning she stepped back out through the front doors of the school, pausing next to the front gate to lean on a convenient bench, stretching to relieve the cramp in her neck and breath deeply, a smile of relief coming to her face.
As she dropped her arms and opened her eyes again, she blinked at the perky young woman with the huge smile holding out a pamphlet to her. "Hi! You look like you'd enjoy some exercise," she greeted Barbara. "We're a new gym, just opened across the road. This is a free visit, tour and personal assessment!" She hopefully waved the pamphlet to Barbara. "If you're interested, I'd be happy to do it for you right now?" She suggested hopefully.
"New gym?" Barbara blinked, absently taking the pamphlet and glancing at it.
"Yeah, see we're just there, across the road!" The woman said enthusiastically, pointing to an old warehouse that did indeed now sport the logo of a gym. "All new machines, two group exercise rooms for yoga, pilates, jazzacise and normal fitness and workout routines, classes starting right now especially for moms finishing the morning school run, get an hour or so of 'me time' before the day starts. We even have a cafe serving coffee, healthy smoothies, even little indulgences for a hard workout completed."
"Coffee sounds good," Barbara murmured.
"Really?" The young woman exclaimed. "Oh I'll buy you one, come across and have a look," she encouraged.
Barbara looked undecidedly back and forth between the gym and the hopeful woman before her, finally giving her a smile. "OK," she agreed. "I was planning to spend a bit longer here anyone, just in case."
"Really?" The young woman enthused, eyes widening in delight. "Just wait till I show you what we've got for you!"
Barbara followed the happy woman, who introduced herself as Kylie, across the road and into the gym, absently looking around its clean, bright rooms. Lots of bright paint, glass, chrome and brand new exercise machines in rows. Following Kylie as she gave her the tour, greeting and chatting to practically everyone she meet as they moved from room to room in the complex.
"And this is our quiet room," the perky young woman said waving around. "We use it for free weights, self exercise, sit-ups, push-up and the like, also yoga and Pilates."
Barbara glanced around at the large room, carpeted around the walls with neat stacks of hand weights, large rubber balls, mats and other paraphernalia of exercising, all surrounding a circular wooden floored area, obviously for group classes. She glanced curiously at the only other person in the room, a teenaged girl leaning against the far wall watching them.
"Oh, that's the owner," Kylie explained. "Yeah she's a little young, I think Daddy's giving her the new centre to see if she's good for the family business," Kylie whispered to Barbara with a smirk. "Hey come over and I'll introduce her to you, then I'll take you to get that coffee I promised you!" With a skip in her step, Kylie led Barbara across the circular wood floor.
"So, are you?" Peggy had barely entered school when all her friends from her softball team piled around her.
"Am I what?" Peggy asked confused.
"A mutant?" Megan demanded.
"I'm not allowed to talk about that!" Peggy gasped.
"So yes," Megan confirmed with a smirk as Peggy blushed.
"What type are you?" Amy demanded excitedly. "You can fly, so you've got to be an energiser or something." Peggy just stared at her mutely. "Oh come on! We all saw you! Tell us please!"
"Mom said not to tell anyone ..."
"But we already know! Please!"
As all her friends begged her, Peggy finally cracked, "PK Supergirl, and that's all I'm saying! Mom made me promise not to talk about, even to my friends!"
"Why?" Amy asked confused.
"H1!" Peggy murmured.
"I don't think anyone on the team is H1!" Amy comforted Peggy, giving her a hug. "Everyone, including the parents, was real upset that you're no longer going to be allowed to play with us."
"Yeah, but what about the other team?" Megan asked. "They were real upset that Peggy was playing at all!"
Amy's eyes widened in surprise, before worriedly she glanced back and forth amongst her friends. Sombrely the group of friends gathered their books from their locker and escorted the unhappy Peggy to class.
"How was school today Peggy?" Barbara asked as her daughter climbed into the car.
"Did anybody say anything about ... you know?"
"Being a mutant?" Peggy asked bluntly as her mother nodded worriedly. "Only my softball friends," Peggy answered. "And they stopped when I reminded them about H1!"
Barbara sighed and reached out to hug her daughter close. "I'm sorry dear, I know you'd love to tell your friends all about it, but you need to be watchful. It's not just H1!, it's also the MCO. I don't want you getting hurt dear."
"I know mom, I'll be good." Peggy promised, wiggling free from her mother's hug and putting on her seatbelt.
Sighing, Barbara waited for Mark to strap in too before pulling out and driving home.
"I thought we were going to have lunch together today?" Ben asked his wife puzzled as they settled into the lounge together, the children finally in bed.
"Sorry dear," Barbara replied with a slight blush. "I dropped the kids off at school, and then a young lady convinced me to check out a new gym that opened across the road, and before I knew it I was signed up and it was past lunch time, I just don't know where the time went."
"New gym?" Ben asked eyebrow raised.
"Well, you know how I was going to stay near the school, just in case Peggy ..."
"Yeah, I know,"
"Well when I came out, this lady gave me a pamphlet for a free session, and it was right across the road ..."
"And you thought you'd be less conspicuous waiting there than in the car? Not a bad idea dear."
Barbara smiled and nodded. "And if I start an exercise regime of an hour or so each morning at the gym after I drop of the kids ..."
"You'll be right there in case anything happens to Peggy." Ben leaned over and gave his wife a kiss. "Good thinking dear, but tomorrow? How bout we have lunch together for real?" he pleaded with a smirk.
Smiling delightedly, Barbara cuddled up to her husband and nodded as he turned on the TV and switched to the ScyFy channel.
"The mother signed up for the gym, as hoped."
"I'm aware of that, it's my gym. I meant anything relevant I don't know?"
"All seems normal. Stay at home mom, father who's busy but still there for the kids. Nothing out of the ordinary."
"And the house?"
"Quiet suburb. No dogs or other animals. Alarm system, but nothing fancy. Your standard screamer with a rent-a-cop callout service."
"None that I've seen."
"Good. Keep monitoring them. When we go for the girl, I want no surprises."
Peggy watched her mother finally drive out of the school carpark as her Math teacher droned on. It was nearly lunch time and her mother had spent the whole morning again just across the road from her school after again walking her and Mark into the school instead of dropping them off like she used to. Everyday her Mom now drove them to school, parked and walked them in, before going across to the gym and spending all morning there waiting, like she expected Peggy to run off and start fighting crime or something.
At the sound of the bell, Peggy jumped up and gathered her books, racing for her locker where she shoved them in quickly and ran for the school cafeteria to get her lunch. Surrounded by her friends, Peggy quickly grabbed a tray and lined up, accepting the food dished out for her by the lunch ladies.
As she approached the checkout counter, Peggy opened her purse to get out the money to pay for her lunch when eagle eyed Megan snatched the purse from her. "What's this?" She demanded pointing at the new brightly coloured plastic card inside the purse.
Peggy tried to snatch her purse back, but Megan danced out of reach. "Give it back!" Peggy demanded.
"Not til you tell me what it is!" Megan smirked, holding the purse high out of Peggy's reach.
"Hide it Megan! Don't flash it around like that!" Peggy pleaded, quickly looking around to see who was there. "Look, I'll tell you what it is, just not now, when we're seated, but hide it! Please?" She begged her friend.
Smirking Megan handed the purse back and Peggy grabbed it, got some money out and quickly hide the purse again.
"What is it?" Amy asked as the three girls joined the line for the cashier.
"I'm not supposed to talk about it," Peggy reminded them as she paid and stalked off to a secluded table, where she sat down and retrieved her purse, taking the plastic card out and handing it to Megan. "It's my MID, Mutant identification card," she explained softly. "I need to carry it with me always or the MCO can arrest me for being an unregistered Mutant."
"What? Like the Jews in Germany?" Amy demanded as she sat down opposite them.
"Huh?" Peggy blurted.
Amy rolled her eyes. "We just did it in history, the Nazis in Germany before World War Two, they required all Jews to register and carry papers saying they were Jewish."
"Didn't the Nazis kill all the Jews!?" Peggy bleated.
"Yes Peggy, they did," Megan said handing back the MID card. "And I'm sorry for asking about this," she waved to the card. "I think your mother is right that you should keep it quiet."
"What? You think someone's going to rat her out to H1!?" Amy demanded.
"Them or the MCO," said solemnly. "I looked it up on the internet last night, and there are lots of accusations of both H1! and the MCO 'disappearing' mutants." Peggy and Amy stared at her in disbelief as she took back Peggy's MID card and returned it to Peggy's purse, before closing the purse and handing it back to Peggy. "Peggy, your mom is right, we shouldn't discuss this at all, you need to keep it hidden, and we'll help you do it." Around the table Peggy's friends quickly nodded agreement.
"Do you think they might be after Peggy already?" Amy asked in a whisper.
Megan shrugged. "Possibly," she finally admitted. "You remember that big protest of all the H1! supporters after Roxy Prison was broken into and the prisoners all escaped? There sure was a lot of people who don't like mutants at them."
Worriedly all the friends glanced at the anxious Peggy, Megan and Amy leaning in to give her a hug before they switched to a much less disturbing topic of conversation.
"The school is out, target is surrounded at all times, and it has state-of-the-art, constantly monitored security cameras. Possible to take out, but with the other complications ..."
"Not worth the effort."
"Agreed. So it's go for the home?"
"A night operation has always been my preferred option."
"Shall I prep a team?"
"Yes. Make sure they understand all the parameters. I want no mistakes."
"You have footage of the target?"
"I have a few hours, yes."
"Good. Send it all to me, and continue observing her. Gather as much footage as you can, I want as many hours as you can get."
"Were you able to access the school's security systems?"
"Not realtime, but they have an offsite backup to which they do hourly dumps, we've managed to get access to that."
"Excellent. Retrieve all footage of the target you can from their backups."
"Even from before the first manifestation?"
"That was the first public manifestation. I want to examine the tapes and see if they contain any other events. We cannot assume the softball game was the first event, it's more likely to have been just the first public one.
"Understood. I'll have someone comb the backups and make a tape of all the videos with the target in view."
"Send it to me as soon as you have it."
Barbara watched as a subdued Peggy got into the car, as Mark settled into the back seat and put on his seatbelt, Barbara forced a smile on her face. "How was school today Peggy?" she asked brightly.
Peggy stared out the front windscreen, not seeming to have heard her mother as Barbara carefully pulled the SUV into traffic and started for home. Finally she turned to her mother and asked quietly. "Mom, is it true Hitler had all the Jews in Europe get identification cards before he had them all killed in the holocaust?"
Barbara blinked at the unexpected question. "Yes dear," she finally answered." The Nazi's required all Jews to be registered when they conquered Europe, it made them easier to round up later."
"Just like they're doing for mutants now? Is that why I had to be registered? So that they can round me up? Mom? Are the going to kill me too? Like they did the Jews?"
Barbara slammed on the breaks, pulled over the car and wrapped her daughter in her arms. "Nobody is taking you away Peggy, do you hear? Your father and I will not allow it! Nobody is taking you away from me!"
Crying, Peggy dug herself into her mother's body, shaking in fear. Weeping, she clung tightly to her mother as she cried out all the fear she had been holding in all afternoon since the lunchtime discussing with her friends.
"Nobody is taking any of my children from me," her mother repeated quietly, as she clung just as tight, her own fearful tears falling to mix with those of her daughter's.
Finally, after all the tears had been shed, Barbara bent and kissed her daughter's head, smiling down at her. "Come on, your father said he'd be home early tonight. How about you help me cook dinner tonight and we'll make all your favourites? We can have a midweek dinner party, would that make you feel better?"
Smiling weakly Peggy nodded, giving her mother one last hug before letting go and sitting back in her seat, wiping the tears off her face with her hands. With a chuckle her mother reached into her handbag and passed over a tissue, getting one for herself as well. "Here princess, dry your eyes properly," she instructed, sharing a smile with her daughter as she did the same. Then slowly she merged back into the traffic and drove them home.
The phone rang and with a glance at the number he quickly answered it. "Tonight," the voice on the end ordered. "Gather your team now." Not even waiting for an acknowledgement the the voice hung up.
Grabbing his car keys and jacket he stood up and swept from the room at a jog, already dialling another number of the phone. "We're on," was all he barked before hanging up, smoothly slipping on his jacket with its glinting H1! pin as he stepped through the front door and took the steps down to the black SUV parked in the driveway.
Lauren was home alone, Paul was at a dinner meeting, thankfully one she hadn't been required to attend, and tonight was her night off patrols. She had just sat down, absently flicking through her TiVo shows, when screeching tires and shouts from outside had her running for the window. Quickly glancing out she cursed and reached for her phone, quickly dialling three numbers.
"911, what is your emergency?"
"Can I have the police please?" Lauren asked urgently, staring out the window down the street to the Lane house.
"What is the nature of the emergency?"
"Down the street, there's all these men, and they've just piled out of cars at the home of a girl that just manifested, and they're on the lawn and banging on the doors and yelling!"
"What's your address ma'am?"
"It's Brookfields Road, East Providence, get them to hurry! They've gone back to the cars and they're opening the trunks! They're getting something out and passing them around!"
"Is it guns Ma'am? Can you see?" the woman on the phone demanded urgently.
"I ... I don't know ... it's something long and thin, I guess they could be riffles ... Shotgun! That's defiantly a shotgun! I saw him pump it! Please hurry! They're surrounding the house! No Ben, don't come out!" She moaned as she watched Peggy's father come out the front door and confront them.
"Ma'am, what's happening?" The emergency dispatcher demanded.
"Ben! He's on the front lawn, arguing with ... no! Ben!" Lauren cried out in horror.
"They shot him! He's on the ground, they just shot him!"
Suddenly a huge explosion shook the very earth, and Lauren automatically ducked as the windows blew in, showering glass all over the lounge room. Standing back up, Lauren stared in horror at the raging fire where the Lane house had been.
"Peggy! Barbara! Mark! No!" Lauren cried. Ripping open the front door Lauren set off running for the burning house, completely oblivious to her dropped phone and the 911 dispatch woman desperately calling out to know what had happened.
Falcon glided in to land on the front lawn of the destroyed house with Tabby Cat right behind him using a gravity belt. "Magma!" Tabby Cat gasped. Spinning around Falcon grabbed her arm, halting her.
"Stop, she's not in uniform! Wait here for the others and I'll check what's going on."
Glancing quickly at her husband Tabby Cat nodded, tapping her foot impatiently as he hurried off to where a smartly dressed housewife was kneeling, checking a body she had in the recovery position on the ground before her.
"What's going on here?" Falcon asked softly as he crouched down beside Magma and the girl.
"Falcon!" Lauren cried throwing herself into his arms. "It was H1! I was on the phone to the police to come and deal with it, when there was this big explosion and the house just exploded!"
"Why aren't you in your uniform?" Falcon whispered softly.
Lauren stared at him blankly for a moment, before she quickly glanced over her shoulder. Following her look, Falcon's eyes widened in surprise when he realised they were only a few houses away from Magma's own home.
Falcon nodded and gave Magma a final squeeze before releasing her. He quickly glanced at the exploded house and the bodies and body parts around it. "You stay here, see to the girl …"
"Peggy," Lauren corrected him, raw anguish in her voice.
Reaching out, Falcon laid a hand on her back. "You stay with Peggy," he repeated. "The rest of us will look inside."
Tears in her eyes, Lauren nodded, kneeling back beside the unconscious girl in the recovery position, face resting on her rolled up coat. Slowly Lauren's hand crept out to stroke the girl's hair.
With a final pat and squeeze of her shoulder, Falcon stood and made his way over to his wife and another waiting member of their team, Solder of Fortune having arrived while he talked to Magma. "Its one of Magma's neighbours," he explained softly. "She'll be looking after the girl for us. Soldier, if you can check the roof and walls? See if you can stabilize them for us, we'll see if there is anyone else alive, I'll start co-ordinating with the police and rescue teams …"
"How is she?" Paul asked his wife, putting an arm around her shoulders and hugging her tight as they looked in to the hospital room with it lone occupant.
"She's still unconscious, but as far as they can tell unhurt." Lauren replied softly.
"Do they know what happened?" Paul asked equally as quietly.
"Idiots playing with a device they knew almost nothing about," Lauren moaned. "Some doomsday weapon they got their hands on to 'take down the Mutant menace' that blew up killing of all them and ..." Lauren turned, burying herself into her husband's arms as the tears came loose. "How can I tell her? Her mother, father, brother, all gone like that ..." Lauren wept.
"You don't have to ..." he stopped as his wife froze in his arms and glared up at him. "Darling ..."
"She asked me! Begged me! I promised I'd look after Peggy for her!"
He sighed and hugged her close. "Dear, if Peggy lives with us, there is no way she's not going to find out about you, about Ashley ..."
"It doesn't matter," she hiccuped. "She'll be going to Whateley in the Fall anyway. I'll break it to her slowly over the summer, starting with Whateley and Ashley. There's that final Falcon and Tabby Cat lined up for the kids next week, it'll be a good chance to talk to Ashley about Peggy while we're there, and we can take Peggy with us to Whateley and get her enrolled too."
Giving his wife a comforting hug he nodded his understanding. Together they entered the hospital room and got comfortable for the long night ahead.
Ashley joyfully ran up and hugged her father as he got out of the car, then ran around to hug her mother as she got out the other side. When the short, blond girl got out of the car too and crowded up behind her mother, Ashley silently contemplated her. "Welcome to Whateley Peggy," she finally said, wincing internally as the usually vivacious blond stared blankly at her, before solemnly nodding.
Leaning down, smiling with forced cheer, Ashley's mother wrapped an arm around the girl. "How about you and I go and get settled into the guest cottage?" She asked encouragingly. At the girl's nod, Ashley's mother reached out and took Peggy's hand. With a nod to her husband, she guided Peggy back into the car, got into the driver's seat and carefully set off, leaving Ashley with her father.
Smiling, Ashley's father gave her another hug, then stepping back, looking down seriously to Ashley. "Is there somewhere private you and I can have a chat?" He asked her.
Eyebrows raised, Ashley glanced around, then pointed towards the terrace with its outdoor seating, the usual place for fixers to discretely discuss issues bought to them. "We can have a coffee over there," she suggested.
Her father glanced over where Ashley was pointing, and then back at her with a smile. "Perfect," he murmured as he indicated Ashley should lead the way.
Paying for their coffees and carrying them to an unoccupied, discrete table, Ashley's father put down the coffees and indicated she should sit, holding her chair and waiting for her to settle before he himself sat. Blushing a little at her father's chivalry, Ashley grabbed her cup and nervously took a gulp, before sitting back and cradling it as her father contemplated her.
"Your mother and I aren't just here to watch you and your team in your final today," her father abruptly stated. Freezing, Ashley stared up at him, waiting for the rest. Smiling her father waved a hand. "It's not that bad, just a change of circumstances."
"You haven't lost your job!" Ashley gasped, relieved when her father chuckled easily at her guess.
"No, no.. nothing like that!" He promised her. "It's just, how would you like to be a sister?" He asked her, leaning forward intently.
"Mom's pregnant!" Ashley squealed.
This time her father laughed openly, smiling down at her in good humour. "Much as I'd love that, no, your mother isn't pregnant," he assured her.
Ashley frowned at her father, who stopped laughing, and became solemn again. Reaching forward, it was her father's turn to nervously sip from his coffee and cough. Finally he sighed and turned back to Ashley. "You noticed your mother, the way she was with Peggy?" Ashley nodded cautiously. "She blames herself. A superhero, and she couldn't even stop a bunch of bog standard H1! thugs blowing up a family in her own street."
Ashley watched as her father stared off into the distance, a fierce scowl on his face, before he sighed and turned to her. "It's about Peggy," he admitted. "Well, she's been staying with us since ... since the incident, since she left hospital." He winced. "She has no other family, her parents both being only children, their parents dead ..." Ashley's father paused again.
"Mom wants to adopt Peggy?" Ashley suggested softly when her father didn't continue.
Smiling her father turned to her and nodded. "Yeah, that's about it. Your mother wants to adapt Peggy, and she wanted to make sure you would be OK with it."
Ashley stared at her father stunned, before blurting "Why wouldn't I be fine with it?" in disbelief. "I've wanted a sister since forever!" She exclaimed excitedly. "Really? Your really going to do it?" She demanded of her father that was staring at her, blinking in shock. "I'm going to get a sister? You're really going to adopt Peggy?"
Laughing her father stood up and come round to hug her tight. "How could I not, when both the woman in my life want it so?"
When Ashley was finally settled back in her chair, almost vibrating her happiness, her father sat back down and chuckled. "Might as well get the bad news out with the good," he stated.
"Bad news?" Ashley demanded, stilling instantly.
"Yeah, neither your Mom nor Peggy was really happy about looking down the street and seeing the remains of Peggy's home," Ashley shuddered, staring at her father in horror. "And to be honest, with you and your Mother, and now Peggy, I wasn't too happy living in a street where H1! had already blown up a mutant family. So, for a little more security, we're moving. When you come home for summer, it will be to a new home. This time in a gated community with twenty-four hour security."
Ashley stared at her father conflicted for a moment, before sighing and nodding her understanding. Smiling with relief her father drained his coffee cup and stood, offering her his arm. "Come on then, lets go find your mother and let her give your new sister the good news."
Finishing her coffee in turn Ashley smiled and stood. Accepting her father's arm, she set off down the path to the guest cottages. "So, I guess Peggy will be coming here too next year?" She asked her father curiously, smiling in delight at his rueful nod.
"Well, I can't say much for this year's lot," a girl a bit over a year older than Peggy snarked, stepping in front of her and crossing her arms.
"Yeah, fancy dragging your own suitcase?" A slightly older girl drawled leaning against the wall. "And just one at that! The standards have dropped significantly," she sniffed, nose high in the air.
"Oh Hi!" Peggy smiled brightly as she stopped in front of them. "I'm called Pegasus!" she exclaimed holding out her stuffed toy flying horse. "Or Peggy if you prefer! Pleased to meet you!" she held out a hand to the two girls, who stared at it like it had grown out a crack in the wall.
"Peggy! I told you to wait!" Ashley called jogging down the hall of Melville Cottage, dragging an equally as large suitcase behind her.
"But! Dorm!" Peggy yelped doing a little dance as Ashley finished catching up to her, rolling her eyes.
"Peggy, you shouldn't leave your bag unattended in the foyer like that! Some of the people here have the worst sense of humour! Others," Ashley glared at the two girls in the corridor before her till they slunk away. "Others I don't know why the school doesn't kick them out and save everyone a lot of bother later."
Turning back to the bubbly Peggy, Ashley smiled and pointed to a room a little further down the corridors. "I think that's your's, let's go check." Squealing excitedly, Peggy grabbed her second suitcase from Ashley and rushed down the corridor.
Ashley was standing with Peggy outside the main doors of Melville Cottage waiting for the senior students to finish organising themselves, when she heard her named called. Turning she waved enthusiastically to a girl and two boys making their way up the path. The girl smiled and rushed the last little bit to run up and engulf Ashley in a hug.
"Lily!" Ashley beamed happily at the girl. "Dredz, Mark," Ashley greeted the two boys in almost matching supper suits as they too came up to her. Ashley enthusiastically greeted the trio all dressed in superhero uniforms almost identical to the one she wore. Uniforms that seemed to have been made by the same designer as the one Mrs. Strum had gifted Peggy the previous weekend, that Peggy was now wearing under her street clothes.
Turning to Peggy, Ashley waved her over, putting an arm around her shoulders as she turned back to the three curious newcomers. "Here's Peggy all safe and sound, ready to start her freshmen year!" Just then Peggy's name was called. As Peggy turned towards the girl calling it, Ashley gave her a gentle push. "Go on, hurry up. Have fun on the tour, I'll meet you in Crystal Hall when it's finished for lunch."
As Peggy hurried away, Lily turned to Ashley. "I supposed that's where you have been all morning?" She asked with a smile. "When it became obvious you weren't going to climb down from your ivory tower, we came looking for you."
Ashley laughed and hugged her again. "No such problems Lily, Mom just wanted me to make sure I got Peggy properly settled, and then I decided I'd spread around on the frosh and sophomore floors that Peggy's my little sister, and that I'd take it unkindly if anyone messed with her."
"Phoenixfire the badass!" Dredz drawled, raising his hand for a high-five Ashley laughingly gave him.
"And they'd better all believe it!" Ashley smirked as the four of them turned and started walking off down the path, following the frosh tour groups as they set off.
"So," Mark started, giving Peggy a thoughtful look as she frolicked amongst her group of incoming froshes. "I can't help noticing the leggings your 'sister' is wearing?" he looked enquiringly at Ashley.
Ashley smiled. "Yep, proper suit, just like Lily's and mine. Mom had it all ready for her on Saturday, as a graduating present for all that training she'd been putting Peggy through all summer."
"So, we about to become a team of five?" Mark asked cautiously.
Ashley shook her head. With a slight frown she explained, "Mom took her aside and explained it all on the train. We're all Juniors this year. We'll be in the Sims heavily, not just for fun anymore, but as part of our schooling. Also, there is the whole Junior end-of-term Combat Finals, which are insanely more difficult than the frosh and sophomore ones, and will include team-on-team fighting. Mom explained it wouldn't help Peggy develop to be fighting against kids two years her senior, with all that extra experience and practice using their gifts as well as working together as a team. It wouldn't be fair on her to always be getting pounded like that, and it wouldn't be fair on us to be trying to protect and compensate for her all the time. She seemed to take it pretty well."
"Thank God," Dredz whispered too loudly, and Lily slapped him with a laugh. Wincing, he turned to Ashley and smirked, "So, we'll only have to put up with the brat at food times and the like?"
"Yep!" Ashley confirmed with a huge smile. "She's my sister now, and don't you forget it!"