And now it's back to my universe for Ch. 4! I played the Excalibur kids and Tammy made a lot of very excellent suggestions about where to take them as well as playing her original characters. Please let me know what you think!
“Ow! Drat it all; that was my face!”
“Sorry, Suzie,” Edmund said, only to cry out with an ‘ow’ of his own when his older sister thwaped him upside the head.
“Hey!” he exclaimed, rubbing the sore spot with a powder-blue hand as he spun around to scowl at the pale girl with the fuming yellow eyes. “I said I was sorry!”
“What’s going on back there?” an exasperated voice snapped from the narrow, forest trail up ahead. Edmund froze, but Suzie’s golden glare only deepened.
“Edmund hit me in the face with a tree branch,” she accused, angrily picking a leaf out of her waist-length, azure ponytail.
“I did not!” Edmund protested indignantly, drawing himself up with a sharp, hazel glare of his own. “Marti, I swear it! The branch snapped back on its own!”
“You knew that branch was going to snap back and you didn’t warn me,” Suzie retorted. “That makes it a deliberate act. Look at this, Marta,” she said, walking up to her older sister and pointing to a barely visible red scratch just below her eye. “The little twit nearly poked my eye out!”
Edmund’s mouth dropped open, but before he could say anything, Marta stepped in.
“All right, that’s enough,” the fourteen-year-old snapped, her solid, night-goggle green eyes flashing as she placed her fuzzy, tridactal hands on her hips. “If you two want to fight, do it at home. You’re a liability to the team.”
Edmund crinkled his face at the unfamiliar word. “Liability?” he questioned.
“Oh, don’t be thick,” Suzie scolded the eight-year-old.
“It means a danger, or a burden,” Samuel Braddock spoke up from where he’d been watching the three Wagner children spat. “And if what Marta overheard Uncle Kurt telling your mum in the Control Room this morning is true, you two are going to have to call a truce.”
The blond teenager shared a look with Marti, a sly gleam glittering in his blue eyes. “After all,” he said. “It’s common knowledge that aliens always pick off the loudest ones first.”
Edmund’s hazel eyes got wide, but Suzie just looked scornful.
“It’s not certain there are even any aliens out here,” she said. “For all we know, Dad could have been using a code-word when he spoke to Mum. Or, Marti could have heard him wrong.”
Marta frowned. “I know what I heard,” she stated. “And it wasn’t any code.”
Suzie glared. “If you ask me, this whole alien-hunt is nothing more than a wild goose chase,” she scowled. “I mean, we’ve been out here for two hours already! One more, and we’re going to miss our tea.”
“Hey,” Marta glowered at her sister. “If you’d rather go to tea than meet a real, live extra-terrestrial, why don’t you just go ahead and—“
“YYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!” Eliza Braddock, Samuel’s twin sister, suddenly squealed from the back of the group. The children jumped in alarm.
“What is it?” Marta asked, teleporting to the hysterical sixteen-year-old in a BAMF of smoke. “Did you see the alien?”
“It was so horrible!” Eliza sniffed, hovering on the brink of hyperventilation. “Oh, Samuel, it was awful!”
“What did you see?” Samuel asked, eagerness warring with concern in his eyes. “Did it have green skin?”
“Aliens are always gray on the X-Files,” Edmund spoke up, squeezing in between Marta and Samuel as he scanned the forest ahead.
“No, no it wasn’t the alien,” Eliza gasped, to the crushing disappointment of her companions. “It was—“ Her voice hitched slightly, but she bravely soldiered on, forcing her mouth to form the words. “It was a SPIDER!”
“Oh, Eliza,” Samuel groaned in disgust—and not at the thought of the spider.
“I saw it!” Eliza ranted, gesturing to the underbrush at the side of the trail. “It was huge and black and hairy, and it crawled under that twig!”
“Why did we have to bring her?” Suzie demanded, shooting the girl her deadliest glare from beneath her azure fringe. “She’s such a bloody—“
”Suzie, don’t even go there,” Samuel glared down at the contemptuous twelve-year-old. “Now come on, everyone. We’re wasting time with all this nonsense.”
“Too true,” Marta agreed. “At the rate this expedition is going, we’re going to run into our parents before we sniff out any aliens! And that’s a sight that will be truly frightening.”
Mumbling their agreement, the Excalibur kids began retracing their steps up the winding, dirt path, keeping their eyes peeled for any sign of the unusual or out of place. They walked in single-file with Edmund bringing up the rear—which was why no one noticed when he started to lag behind….
Suzie smirked wickedly to herself as she carefully lifted the moldering stick from the ground. The little black spider at its end froze in place at the sudden movement, its tiny jaws opening and closing as it stared up at her with its eight, round eyes.
“Perfect,” she chortled softly, creeping up behind Eliza to coax the hairy arachnid off the stick and onto the back her pale-pink sundress….
Only to jump in alarm as a sudden shout rang out from among the trees ahead. Eliza gave a brief shriek of her own, spinning around and clutching onto Suzie’s arm. The blue-haired girl was forced to drop the stick so she could use both hands to push the taller girl away.
“Get off me, you ninny!” she snapped.
“But that was Samuel shouting!” Eliza said anxiously, wringing her hands. “What if--“
But the young empath’s musings were cut short as a bright gale of laughter filled the forest, followed closely by Samuel’s distinctly annoyed voice. Suzie ran ahead to see what was going on, trailed by Eliza.
“Crikey, Marta!” the blond boy was saying as they approached, a startled hand clapped over his heart. “I thought you were—“ He trailed off, an embarrassed flush creeping all the way to his hairline. “Never mind.”
Marta’s indigo face broke out in a toothy, up-side down grin from where she was hanging directly over the path by her fuzzy tail, her springy, red curls bouncing as she swung.
”Go on,” she teased, “say it! You thought I was the alien, didn’t you?”
Samuel straightened, summoning as much dignity as his blushing face would allow. “I will admit to the fact that your unorthodox method of—“
“Marti! Marti! It’s DEAD!!!!!”
It was Edmund’s voice calling, and he sounded really panicked. Marta flipped down from her tree branch in alarm, sharing startled glances with the others.
“But wasn’t he…” she started.
“I thought he was up with you!” Suzie said, her golden eyes wide.
“We thought he was back with you!” Samuel retorted. Marta clutched her short curls in anxious frustration, praying her little brother wasn’t as far away as he sounded.
“Edmund!” she called out, her spaded tail lashing in agitation. “Eddie, where are you?”
“I—I’m over here!” the boy’s trembling voice responded. “Marti, you have to come! It isn’t moving!”
“What isn’t moving?” Samuel shouted, following after Marta as she surged down the path the way they’d come, tracking her brother’s voice with her sensitive, pointed ears. “What did you find?”
“It’s the alien,” the boy replied, his voice noticeably closer this time. His distraught words were interspersed with loud sniffles. Marta and Suzie shared a look of concern. It was clear that Edmund was crying.
“I found the alien, and it isn’t moving! Please, Marti…!”
“Just hang on, Eddie, all right?” Marta called out, her own voice breaking slightly with worry.
“OK,” he sniffled. Cocking her head at the sound, Marta turned off the well-marked path to push her way through the underbrush, the others following close at her heels.
“We’re almost there,” she said, jumping up to grab a low-hanging branch and swing herself over a clump of brambles. The others were forced to take the long way around, arriving at the small, marshy clearing beyond a few seconds behind her.
Edmund looked up from his anxious vigil at the sound of their approach through the thick nest of ferns, his pale-blue face flushed and streaked with dirt and tears. The instant he laid eyes on Marta, he rushed into her arms, burying his face in her shirt as he sobbed.
"Shhh, Eddie." She stroked his straight, black hair, her tail wrapping itself comfortingly around his waist. "Shhh, it’s OK."
"Where is it?" asked Suzie from behind them, sounding as though she was trying to cover concern with impatience. Edmund pointed back over his shoulder into the tall ferns, and the others cautiously stepped forward to peer over the feathery fronds.
"It's not some kind of sticky alien pod, is it?" asked Eliza, looking pale.
"No...." Marti let go of Edmund and stepped cautiously toward the strange gray thing. "It's a body wrapped up in a pair of gigantic bat's wings."
"Ewww!" said Eliza, gripping her brother's arm tightly.
Marti ignored her, cocking her head as a slight, barely audible sound reached her ears. "And it's not dead, either! I just heard a little squeak."
“Is it a mutant?” Samuel frowned, coming up beside her.
“I don’t know,” Marta said softly, crouching down and gingerly reaching out a cautious hand to touch the creature. When it didn’t move, she gently pushed the upper edge of the closer wing down, exposing a beautiful face that looked as though it had been sculpted from dove-gray marble. Eyes widening slightly, she delicately brushed away the hair that had fallen over the woman’s neck—it was the same pale gray as her wings—and checked for a pulse.
"Yes, she is alive,” Marta confirmed in satisfaction. “Her pulse is strong, but it's very slow."
Just then, the squeak came again, this time loud enough for the others to hear. Marta gave a start, then narrowed her eyes, pushing the wing down further to expose soft manes of hair growing down the back of the stranger's arms. Cuddled to the winged woman's chest was a tiny creature with dark fur. At first Marti thought it was a cat, but then the little thing opened it’s large, baby blue eyes and made another unhappy cry, its tiny face scrunched up in distress. Marta blinked in surprise.
“It’s a baby!” she exclaimed, reaching down to lift the fluffy creature into her arms. “I can’t believe how small it is. And look! It has a little tail, like a kitten!”
“Maybe it’s premature?” Eliza suggested from the edge of the ferns. “Not that I know anything about alien babies!”
“If it really is an alien,” Samuel pointed out. “You know what Dr. MacTaggert always says about mutant traits. They’re nothing if not unpredictable.”
Marta grimaced, looking around at the others. “So, what are we going to do?” she asked. “We’ve got to get them some medical attention, that’s for sure. Just look at that gaping cut on her wing.”
“Ouch,” Samuel winced in sympathy. “That thing looks painful.”
“Can’t you ‘port them home with us?” Edmund asked. Marta looked thoughtful.
“Maybe the mother,” she said, looking down into the infant’s curious eyes. “She seems pretty stable. But I wouldn’t want to risk such a strenuous trip with the baby. It’s far too tiny.”
“But if you take the alien thing, how will the rest of us get home?” Eliza asked anxiously, twisting her long, blonde hair into knots between her fingers. Samuel shot her a look.
“You can fly, can’t you?” he said. “Why don’t you take the baby to the manor? Suzie, Edmund, and I can wait to be picked up, or maybe take a bus.”
“Hey, wait a moment,” Suzie glared. “Who died and made you king? Marta, you ‘ported all of us out here. Why can’t you take us along too?”
Marta stared. “Are you daft?” she asked bluntly. “This lady is hurt! I want to save her, not kill her!”
“Look,” the teleporter explained, working hard to keep her voice calm. “This isn’t going to be an ordinary ‘port. I’m going have to work really hard just to make sure the bulk of the strain falls on me instead of her. And that’s to say nothing of the distance! It’s going to take me three five-mile ‘ports in a row to get her home—though I’ll probably have to stop more often than that to catch my breath. Do you understand?”
Suzie sighed. “Yeah, I suppose. Looks like we wait.”
“Hmm,” Marta said. “Well, now that that’s settled, Eliza come over here and take this baby.”
Eliza bit her lip, shooting the fuzzy infant a dubious look. “Erm,” she started, “how do I…um?”
“Oh, just take it!” Marta frowned, placing the child gently in the older girl’s arms. “There. You do know how to get to the manor from here, don’t you?”
“Of course I do!” Eliza stated indignantly. “It’s about fifteen miles south. All I have to do is follow the highway.”
Suzie raised her eyebrows. “Hey, maybe that thick skull’s not as empty as I thought,” she said.
Eliza glared, then straightened with a huff, refusing to dignify such a comment with a retort. Suzie just smirked.
“All right, that’s enough,” Samuel said. “Get going Eliza. Oh, wait a second.”
Shrugging off his light jacket, he jogged over to his sister and placed it gently over the baby. “Here, I’ll wrap the kid in this,” he said. “We don’t want it to catch a cold.”
“Right ho,” the young empath nodded. Once the jacket was secure, she shot up into the air, her long, golden hair streaming out behind her like a ray of sunlight.
Once she was gone, Marta turned back to the unconscious creature in her charge, wondering how she was going to manage the necessary teleport. There was no way she’d be able to lift her. Maybe if she lay on her side and wrapped the creature in her arms and tail…?
Just then, the alien woman moved. Marta jumped, watching warily as she turned her head slightly, apparently searching for something with the long, abnormally slender fingers of one hand.
"Wo..." she moaned faintly, "wo ist mein zuigeling? Bitte...." Eyes the color of wings and hair showed for a moment before the lids closed again and she fell silent, cocooning herself up once more.
Marta blinked in surprise, sharing a startled glance with her sister.
“Did she just speak…” Suzie started.
“In German,” Marta nodded. “Or something very close to it. Let me try something.”
Leaning closer to the winged woman, she said politely, “Entschuldigen Sie bitte… Woher kommen Sie?”
There was no reply, only the breeze stirring a couple strands of hair that stuck out over the top of the sheltering wings.
“Kommen Sie aus ein Raumschiff?”
Still, there was no answer. Marta sighed.
“Oh well, it was worth a shot. Are you three certain you’ll be OK out here?”
“Yeah, sure,” Samuel assured her. “Don’t worry about us. The important thing is to get that lady to the infirmiry.”
Marta nodded. “Right then. Sit tight, and we’ll be back for you as soon as we can.”
“Marti,” Edmund spoke up, just as she was preparing to ‘port.
“Yes, Eddie?” she asked.
He looked down at her, his hazel eyes deep with worry. “Please be careful,” he said. “If she really is an alien…”
Marta smiled. “Don’t worry, Edmund,” she told him. “I doubt she’ll wake up. In fact, by the time I get her back to the manor I’ll be lucky if we’re not both unconscious!”
And on that not-quite-reassuring note, Marti carefully wrapped her arms around the comatose woman and teleported away.
Marta arrived at the manor with her cumbersome charge just in time to see her parents come bursting out the front door. Both of them were in uniform, and from the expressions on their faces, Marta could tell they were less than happy.
“What the devil…” Kurt frowned, stopping short as his pointed ears caught the sound of her teleport. “Marta!”
Marta winced at the anger in his tone, leaving the unconscious woman on the ground and climbing woozily to her feet.
“Erm, hello, Dad,” she said, trying a weak smile. “We found the aliens for you.”
“So Eliza said,” Kurt glared, causing Marta to shrink. “I thought you had more sense than this, Marti. I thought you were old enough now to be trusted with certain responsibilities. But then you go and pull a stunt like this--“
“But we thought…” Marta tried.
“You didn’t think, Marta!” Alice exclaimed, just as furious as her husband. “That’s the point! When you children decided to go to off on your own, you didn’t just put yourselves in danger. You interfered with an ongoing government investigation!”
“What if this woman had not been unconscious when you found her,” Kurt added. “What if she had attacked you? If she thought you were endangering the safety of her child--“
“But we didn’t!” Marta protested defensively. “We saved the alien and her baby!”
“At the risk of all of your lives!” Kurt exploded. Marta froze, staring up at him with wide, intimidated eyes. She had never seen her father so upset. Kurt pursed his lips, taking a few deep breaths before saying, “We’ll talk more about this later. Right now, your mother and I have to go find Suzie, Edmund, and Samuel before they run into anything else.”
“What do you mean?” Marta asked in a small voice.
“We don’t know what was in that spacecraft!” Alice snapped, her brown eyes sharp with anger and worry. “That’s why we set up surveillance and cordoned off the wood! For all we know, there could be dozens of these entities prowling around that forest!”
“Oh…” Marta paled, her heart starting to pound as she thought of the others alone on the trail. Alice noticed the change in her expression, and sighed.
“Go call Moira and Brian and get this poor woman inside,” she said, only slightly less sharply than before. “We’ll be back soon.”
“Yes, Mum,” Marta nodded, her gaze fixed on the grass at her feet as her parents dashed off to the garage. Once they were out of sight, though, she clenched her fists in frustration, glaring up at the afternoon sky with tear-brightened eyes. It was so hard being the daughter of two superheroes. So many exciting adventures were going on around her all the time, but any time she tried to help out or get involved, she was always shoved off to the sidelines. It just wasn’t fair! She knew for a fact that her Auntie Kitty had been allowed on missions when she was fourteen. Back then, the X-Men had been made up almost entirely of teenagers. Scott Summers, Jean Grey, Rogue, Evan Daniels, Kurt Wagner!!!
But it was useless fuming about such injustice, at least at the moment. Marta had a responsibility to bring help to the woman she had rescued. Pulling her holophone out of her pocket, she clicked on Dr. MacTaggert’s number and waited. Several moments later, the doctor’s spectacled face appeared above the screen. She looked harried and at least as upset as her parents had been. Marta could hear the infant they’d found crying in the background.
“So, you’ve arrived with the mother, I gather,” the Scotswoman said brusquely. “I’ll get Brian and be out there in a minute. Stay right where you are.”
“Yes, Dr. MacTag--“
But the doctor had already hung up. Marta slid the phone back in her pocket with a deep sigh, running her thick fingers through her bright, red curls as she crouched down beside the alien.
“You think they’d be grateful,” she muttered. “We did find what they’d been looking for, after all.” She sighed again, then reached out to gently stroke the unconscious woman’s wing with the backs of her fuzzy fingers.
“But don’t worry,” she assured her. “They’re not always like this. We just gave them a bit of a scare. You and your baby are going to get the best of care here, I promise.”
Barely had she finished speaking when Captain Britain landed beside her, kneeling down to take the woman’s pulse.
“She’s alive,” Marta told him. “But she’s pretty badly hurt. Her wing’s scratched and--“
“I can see that,” Brian cut her off, barely even glancing at her as he hefted the winged creature into his powerful arms. Marta ground her teeth in annoyance.
“I just thought you should know--“ she started, only to break off when Brian spun around to face her, his blue eyes as hard and cold as sapphires.
“Eliza told me it was you who put her up to this,” he said angrily.
“Look, I only wanted to help--“
“We don’t require the help of an arrogant, inexperienced child!” Brian snarled, turning around and stomping back to the mansion with his burden. “We had everything under control.”
“But Uncle Brian, we were just trying to--“
”I don’t care what you were trying to do,” he snarled. “Now get out of my sight, Marta, before I do something I’ll regret.”
Marta froze in place, her spine stiffening all the way to the tip of her spaded tail.
“Fine!” she shouted back, her green eyes blazing as Brian jogged into the manor and slammed the heavy door behind him. Then, before the burning in her eyes could burst into tears, the fuzzy, blue teenager teleported to the manor’s roof. It was only there, hidden among the shadows of the sculpted stone, that she allowed herself to cry.