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z-The Morrigan

Aberrant: Mutant High - Old Friend, New Problem

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Tank lofted the football high into the air, wincing when it cleared Curt’s head by a dozen yards. His mutant powers had increased when he’d hit a second growth spurt, leaving him struggling to get used to his new upper body power. Curt gamely made an attempt, but he couldn’t stretch his arms fast enough to compensate for the unexpected distance.
Both teens turned to see where the ball would land and both shouted a warning when they saw the man on the sidewalk. Tank’s bellow downed out Curt’s shout and echoed against the exterior of the gym; it got the guy’s attention easily. Instead of running away, though, the guy turned into the toss, giving a little hop and stretching out his hands. He placed himself perfectly for the catch and the ball seemed to float into his reaching fingers. Tank was impressed. The dude knew how to catch pretty well for an old human guy. The man was at least thirty, maybe even forty.
The teens watched as he tossed the ball a couple of times; just when Tank was wondering if the guy would ever toss it back, the stranger snapped off a throw. He made it look easy, but the spin was just perfect and Tank had to move all of two feet to catch it. “Nice toss!” he hollered and got a wave from the man before he continued on the sidewalk.
Curt jogged over to him and nervously asked, “Shouldn’t we tell someone that there’s a strange guy walking around on campus?”
“Naw. He’s human.” It was one of Tank’s gifts; he didn’t know what a given mutant could do but he knew if he was mutant. It was a sixth sense or something, and a secret he didn’t share with many. In the wrong hands, he could be very dangerous to other mutants. “What’s one human going to be able to do to us? Go back to where you were, and let’s try again.”
Curt looked unconvinced, but with a stretch and of his legs and a single step, he was back in position. Tank bit his lips, gauged the distance and threw it again. As Curt caught the ball, Tank looked the direction the guy had went, but he wasn’t in sight anymore. The young mutant promptly forgot him.

Ford slipped between two buildings, going over the map in his head again. He hoped that the kids wouldn’t say anything to anyone; the last thing he needed was Gomez getting wind that he was here. She wouldn’t understand; none of them would. He owed the Morrigan for what he’d done to her; he needed to see her, make sure she was safe and deliver the gift he had for her. He didn’t trust what Gomez would do with it, and he knew damned well that she wouldn’t give him any credit. She hadn’t quite told him to go die in a fire in Africa, but it had been close.
In truth, he was just as angry that she used him to free Morri and then left him behind. He’d nearly been killed by Vyse because she’d abandoned him.
Ford stopped suddenly, his eyes widening. There she was. The Morrigan sat on a stone bench, laboriously writing or drawing in a notebook that was perched on her crossed legs. She was wearing jeans and a windbreaker against the spring chill; her hair was long and waving slightly in the wind. He’d always thought her beautiful but now she looked young and innocent. Frowning, he wondered if she had changed too much, if she was the same girl he’d come to love.
With a snarl like shredding paper, Morri slammed both fists into the notebook, then threw it away from her in a tantrum. Ford grinned. That’s my girl. Carefully, he stepped forward, trying not to spook her. “Morri,” he called softly, and the girl twisted to see him. Ford’s heart sank at the rage that filled her eyes.
“Vyse!” she all-but howled, bounding to her feet. Blood flowed down her arm to pool in her hands, a long blade already forming from the liquid.
“He’s not here! Morri, Morri, it’s okay.” Ford quickly crouched, holding his hands well away from his body. “He’s not here, and you know I’m your friend.”
The dangerous mutant peered around before sidling over to him. Ford held himself very still as she smelled him, no doubt seeking Vyse’s scent on his clothing. “See? No Vyse,” he told her when she straightened.
“No…” she agreed, her voice uncertain. “I-lean say you bad man.”
Ford blinked at her vocabulary. She’d known words in Africa but not this many, and she’d never been able to communicate very well. Pride at her accomplishments filled him, and he resisted the urge to try to touch her. He needed to be sure she was all right with being touched before he did it. “Eileen was half-right.” She frowned and he quickly added, “I know that what I helped do was wrong. I’m here to say I’m sorry.”
“Help is-cape.”
“Yes! Yes, I did.” He grinned, hopeful that things were going his way. “Morri, is there somewhere we can talk?”
The girl frowned. “Talk work here. Words work here.”
“No, I mean private.” He didn’t want anyone to interrupt them.
“Pry-vet?”
“Alone.” Ford swallowed, trying not to sound too eager. He didn’t want to work her emotions up, because who knows where they would go. “Just you and me, so no one else can hear us or… stop us.”
Morri nodded and walked away briskly. Ford followed her, watching for spies as they walked. She led him into a building and then into a dance studio. It was a small room and probably doubled as a space for many things, but the mirrors on one wall betrayed what its original purpose had been. Morri sat down gracefully, crossing her legs at her ankle and dropping to the hardwood floor. That maneuver would have left Ford in pain, assuming that he wouldn’t fall on his ass trying it. He opted to sit down before crossing his legs.
For a moment, he watched her, drinking in the sight of her. He hadn’t realized what she’d meant to him until Gomez had stolen her. She waited patiently, her glowing eyes moderately curious. “How have you been, Morri?” Her brow furrowed in confusion and he clarified, “Do you like it here?”
She nodded quickly, her expression lighting up with delight. “Have frends. Good food. No Vyse. No cages. PIE! Can right!”
“You can write now?” Ford latched onto the last thing on the list before her train of thought could keep going. “What can you write?”
She pulled a piece of paper out of her jeans and handed it to him. Ford unfolded it to reveal the lined paper that they used to help kids write. In painstaking letters, she’d written ‘MORRIGAN’. The R’s were backwards, but Ford exclaimed, “Wow, that’s great! I’m so proud of you.”
Morri’s smile faltered. “No drugs?” she asked abruptly.
His own grin was gone as he matched her somber mood. “Never.” Ford met her eyes and let her see that he was being sincere. He held out a hand to her. “I will never hurt you again, or stand by and let anyone else hurt you. I swear.”

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There was the sound of someone laughing from outside the dance hall door, and a girlish voice calling, "Okay, bye!" And then Kia let herself into the dance hall, humming a brisk little tune under her breath as she flicked the light on and dropped her backpack onto the floor by the door and started working her shoes off as she turned and headed across the floor towards the middle of the hall...

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...and stopped, eyes wide in surprise, on seeing Morri and her adult male 'friend' there.

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"Uh," she said, for once at a loss for words. "I...'m sorry, I didn't know anyone was in here." Her eyes went to the Morrigan, scanning her for any signs of trouble or problem...but she seemed fine.

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Reassured, Kia gave Ford a slightly embarrassed smile and popped her heel back into her shoe.

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"I'll come back later. I didn't mean to interrupt anything."

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Curtis had noticed the man wandering on campus, and had to wonder. He didn't seem like a parent, certainly he wasn't not faculty. And for a moment or two, he followed, until he saw the man angle for Morri. Curtis narrowed his eyes, then froze as Morri reacted - and then relaxed. The geek did not - he'd expected a disembowelment.

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Her initial hostile reaction lingered in Curtis' thoughts as he followed them... who was this guy, and Curtis did not want to let him alone with the feral girl...

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Curtis came up and through the door, nearly bumping into Kia, but then recovered, giving Ford a look with eyes worth a painting called, Owls Suspicious. "Who the hell are you?"

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Damned kids. Ford kept his expression serene as he rose to his feet. “Hi. I’m Harry. I was one of the people who helped rescue Morri. I was in the area and thought I’d check up on her.” It was the truth. He let his smile falter as he asked innocently, “Are there rules against visiting the students? Because if so, I wasn’t aware.”
Morri was looking at him quizzically; abruptly she said, “You hair-ry.”
Ford was relieved that she wasn’t making a big deal about his name. Of course, he realized suddenly, she thought he meant ‘covered in hair’. Which, to be fair… Ford reached up and rubbed his chin, hearing the rasp of stubble. “I guess I need to shave closer, huh, Morri?”
She touched his face, rubbing her fingers across his skin. He prayed that he hadn’t shown how disarming the movement had been, or what that soft touch meant. She’d never been this bold or trusting in the Congo, and Ford was happy to see it. “Hurts,” Morri complained.
“Definitely need to shave closer,” Ford laughed.

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Kia blinks. "I...don't know. It's never come up before."

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She breaks into her trademark radiant smile. "But I think that's really sweet. And that's great that you helped her...I don't know the specifics, but I know she had it really bad back then. Thanks so much for bringing her here."

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Her mouth pops open as something occurs to her. "Oh! Does Eileen know you're here? Oh, I bet she'll want to see you herself...she works so hard with Morri, you can have a family reunion, kind of!"

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Ford shrugged, trying to stay casual in the face of the meddling brat. “I haven’t touched base with her, yet. I saw Morri first and wanted to catch up with her. She’s made such amazing progress, I’m astounded by it.

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“So are you two friends of Morri?” Ford asked, trying to move away from the idea of involving Eileen.

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“No.” Morri bluntly said, staring a dark challenge at Curtis. “Ki-ya frie-end. Cur-tis bad touch.”

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“Are you still going on about that?” the young genius asked, quirking an eyebrow.

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“Sounds like there’s a story there.” Ford looked from one to the other. “So you’re Kia and Curtis? Nice to meet both of you.”

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"A line I always expect to be retracted soon." Curtis replied, with a thin grin. Well, maybe he was getting a tad too suspicious now. And clearly Morri objected to his present... so it might be for the better that he beat a retreat then. "Ok, well, I have to get going. Have a good day, Harry. Want me to let Dr. Gomez know you're here?"

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Play it cool, Ford. "You can if you want, but I'll be catching up with her soon. You don't have to bother." Ford gave the kid a charming smile, hoping the little brat bought it. The last thing he wanted to deal with was Gomez poking around him. There were no doubt other mutant teachers around this joint too, and he was sure their powers were more unsubstantial than fucking with his emotions. Ford could recover from a forced bout of self-hatred; getting drop-kicked through a wall would be more difficult.

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He could feel Morri's eyes on him, soaking up the conversation. It made him nervous. "It was nice to meet you, Curtis. Maybe I'll see you around again."

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Kia came over and extended her hand to shake his.

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"Hikialani Mizuki," she chirped to introduce herself. "Just Kia's fine."

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She gave Morri a smile, then turned that expression on Ford. "Maybe sometime you can tell all of Morri's friends about what happened? It sounds like you're a regular hero if you helped bring her here."

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“I’m not a hero.” Ford’s voice was terse; even he realized it was a bit too strident and he forced a smile. “I was someone who was in the right place at the right time, and I was able to make it easy to get Gomez in and get herself and Morri out.” And then that fucking bitch left me behind to die. Spic cunt. “Right place, right time, right guy. Everything you need to have a happy ending. A lot of luck and someone willing to do what was needed.”

Ford tilted his head at Kia and employed the oldest con-man’s tactic. “So Kia, where are you from? How’d you come to the school?” People always loved to talk about themselves.

Jer, please let me know if Curtis didn’t leave. I assumed that he slipped out since he clearly said he was leaving, but if not, I’ll edit to include him.

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"That is so awesome!" Kia gushed. She came up to stand beside Morri, favoring both her friend and the rescuer with her trademark sunny smile.

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"I'm from Hawaii, and my mom knows one of the people who works here, so once they found out I was a mutant they got in touch and...here I am! I was a little scared at first, but it's really great here. Things would have been a lot harder on me if I hadn't come."

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She didn't mention the robot death squads, or the fact that it was pretty likely she'd be dead by now if she hadn't had friends with her, or a chance to exercise and grow her powers.

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"How long are you going to be in town?"

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“I’m not sure,” Ford admitted. He smiled fondly at Morri, reaching out to touch her shoulder. For a moment, it looked as though he might touch her hair, but his hand settled firmly on her shoulder instead. “I did want to be sure that Morri was settled well, that she was making friends and was happy. Are you happy?”

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The last was directed at Morri who quickly nodded. “Morri happy.” She sounded as though she was, too, her voice filled with simple happiness.

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“Good.” Now Ford did touch her hair, his fingers brushing over her hair. He hesitated as he realized that her friend wasn't going to leave, then drew out the picture from his breast pocket. “I found something of yours, something you left behind in Africa.” As Morri frowned, he turned the picture so that she could see it. It was of a middle-aged Asian man, staring unsmiling and in a suit. It looked like a picture taken for a id badge.

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“Bad man!” Morri’s exclamation was immediate.

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Ford felt his eyebrows rise. “Do you know who he is?”

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“No, know he bad!” Morri looked more distraught than afraid or angry, though.

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Kia, torn between feeling a little third-wheelish and being curious, fought a brief one-sided battle within herself and snuck over to get a look at the picture.

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"Who's that?" she asked.

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“I don’t know. I hope Morri knows.” Ford wasn’t looking at the picture; he was watching Morri as she stared at the image. He saw it when her lips curled in a silent snarl and was ready when she blew up.

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Bad man!” The shout made Kia jump, though only because the other girl hadn’t been expecting Morri to scream for no reason.

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“What did he do?” Ford turned the picture, even as Morri backed away, leaving it in clear view of the mutant. “Do you remember who he is?”

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Bad man!” Morri insisted, blood rolling down her arms. Unnerved by the sign of impending violence, Ford tucked the image away. “Morri no know! Man bad!” Morri dropped into a squat and rubbed at her eyes. It wasn’t anger or fear in her gaze, or not just anger and fear. There was also pain in her eyes, and the back of her hands were smeared with tears.

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"Hey!" Kia exclaimed, pushing past Ford to take both of Morri's hands in her own. If the blood, or what it portended, worried her, she didn't show it...and quite possibly it didn't even occur to her, such was her distress at seeing her friend so affected. "It's okay! He's not here. Just your friends are here. Nothing bad's going to happen. It's just a picture. Just a piece of plastic. Everything's fine, okay?"

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“And we wouldn’t let him hurt you if he was,” Ford said quickly. He’d almost claimed that he’d keep Morri safe, but decided that including cute Kia in on that would keep the girl on his side. “We’ll keep you safe.”

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“Yes, you did that so well last time.” Eileen strode through the door with Director Drumm and a handful of the faculty behind her. “I warned you, Ford, to stay the hell away from her.”

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Morri stood, her stance uncertain, as Kai tried to adjust to the sudden change in the room. Ford looked around the room, as if seeking escape. “I-lean?” the red-eyed feral asked hesitantly.

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“Yeah, what’s going on?” Kia echoed, with more words.

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“Ford was the one drugging Morri at Vyse’s commands.” Eileen stopped in front of the man, crossing her arms and glaring. Kia couldn’t remember seeing the normally gentle teacher quite this angry before today. “I left him in Africa for a reason. He’s trespassing on campus and will be removed.”

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Morri watched with her typical implacable stare, impossible to read. Ms. Childs moved to flank Ford, her face hard and icy. Reluntantly, the man moved toward the door, only to stop and say, “Morri, I didn’t want to hurt you. I had to, and the first chance I got, I helped you escape.”

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“You’re a liar and a coward.” Eileen stepped aside as the faculty escorted him away.

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“Here, this is hers.” Ford pulled out the picture and tried to give it to Kia. “Will you keep it for her?”

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Kia, completely confused by the conflict between what she'd experienced before, and what Eileen was saying now, reached out and took the picture out of sheer instinct. She looked at it, then back at Ford. "It upsets her," she says, grasping at something she was sure of. "I...Eileen?"

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She turned away from Ford and went to Morri's caretaker. "He...gave me this. But it really upsets Morri to see it. I think you should hold it for her."

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As she held it out, Kia glanced back at Ford,

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"Did he...hurt Morri, or save her?" she asked Eileen quietly. "She seemed so friendly with him. I thought they were friends."

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