Part 1: Chapter 2
When a child is of school age, four or five, on the occasion that he or she might say something inappropriate about another person, the parent of said child usually tells them that all people are different. They come in many shapes, sizes and colors and that is okay.
When a person enters The Xavier Institute, or The Avengers’ Academy, they are told basically the same thing, except with mutated humans instead of baseline humans. Mutants come in many shapes, sizes and colors and that is okay. The only difference is the colors, shapes and sizes vary much more than with baselines. And not everyone is okay with that, yet. Someday, though, everyone will be, hopes those who are employed by Xavier, or S.H.I.E.L.D.
It was unseasonably cold for mid-November, and that alone made for an inevitable bad day as far as Remy LeBeau was concerned. The weatherman predicted ice today and possibly snow. What was even worse, though, was that he was also pretty certain he was working on a cold. His throat was scratchy and he had a headache. And of course, because lady luck was taking a vacation – maybe she was getting sick, too – he was going to spend the entire damn day in the cold, damp sewers. He sighed heavily as he sat down in the briefing room for the usual nine o’clock meeting. He checked his sporting watch and noted that he technically was not late; because it read 8:59. He knew well enough by now to leave his valuable watches at home when visiting the sewers.
Clay Quartermain, his S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent counterpart, was seated next to him, as per usual, and he said, “Cutting it close, aren’t you, Louisiana?” He didn’t use the nickname often, really only to irritate his Louisiana-born teammate and only because Remy had started it by calling him ‘Texas’ and ‘Tex’.
“What’s Scott gonna do? Fire me?” Remy said sarcastically. Remy knew all too well Scott Summers would never fire him because Remy had the, perhaps unfortunate, position of leading the MCRT, standing for the Mutant Community Research Team, which nobody else in their right mind would want to do. Yes, the employees of S.H.I.E.L.D. hoped prejudice would cease to exist, but not everyone wanted to do the dirty work it required.
Clay smiled at Remy’s sense of job security and his arrogance. Though Clay would admit he was probably the same way when he was in his twenties, he saw it from a completely different light than he did twenty years ago. His oldest boy, Travis, had turned twenty-one in March and now thought he knew everything. And though Remy was older and leagues more mature in many ways than Travis, the parallels between them made working under the arrogant New Orleans Saints fan quite an interesting experience.
“Only if he went crazy,” Clay reassured him needlessly.
Scott entered then and used the PowerPoint presentation he used every day, making changes to the events but leaving the background the exact same boring charcoal. At least he did a good job keeping things quick, and Remy and Clay were able to make good time on their way to mutant district number one in the city, where they would find their quarry.
“Well, your call, boss,” Clay said, strapping an unnecessary amount of ammunition and artillery to his belt. It amused him to call Remy ‘boss’. “You think we’re gonna need the tranqs?”
“You know, I liked you better when you called me ‘sir’,” Remy replied, shaking his head at the amount of guns Clay thought he might need. When they were first introduced, Remy had found the ‘yes, sir, no, sir’ routine odd, if only because Clay was older than he was. “Why the hell bother with tranqs, when you’re bringing enough guns to supply a cartel?”
“It’s my sworn duty to protect you,” Clay said, and then added, “Sir.” He did end up taking the tranquilizers; in fact, he would never leave without them, but just wanted to goad Remy.
“I have no intention of doing anything more but question the Green Clan. If it comes to guns then I haven’t done my job.” The Green Clan, more of a genetic family, really, was suspected of trading their mostly worthless DNA as a crude form of MGH for a much higher grade of MGH that came from, supposedly, a mutant with fire-type abilities.
“What makes you think they’ll just up and tell you they’ve done it? Without the use of scare tactics.”
“Because I can be very convincing,” Remy said, walking down the stairway to the subway on 116th street. To be honest, and Clay knew it, Remy couldn’t stand the thought of guns. He found them unnecessary vessels of violence. Nevertheless, he was a good shot, but had never fired at anything more than paper targets, and that was only because he had to during his Academy days.
Remy knew that the reason for the drug trade was partly, if not mostly, because the Green Clan undoubtedly suspected the MGH they received would better prepare them for the winter months ahead. And it was about to get a helluva lot colder in New York City. It was time to stock up for the winter; except these squirrels didn’t store nuts. Remy didn’t like to know it was their reality, but he had been doing this job for too long now to think it was anything different. What made matters worse was, at the last census, the Green Clan had twenty three children under the age of sixteen.
They continued walking towards the furthest ticket counter, nearest the restrooms, ignoring the looks from the lunch crowd, before turning into a small door that had once been used as an entrance to an aqueduct maintenance shed. Now, it was one of the entrances to the Morlock world, the one closest to where the Green Clan lived.
“Why do they call themselves ‘The Green Clan’ anyways?” Clay asked, his eyes moving about, not missing anything, including the small, but owlish eyes peering at him in the near darkness.
“Green is their surname,” Remy replied, feeling as if the dampness of the old aqueduct line had already penetrated his many layers. He cleared his throat, irritated because of the rampant mold and probably the cold he was getting. His nose was beginning to feel stuffed up, too, but that could be mold-related as well. He would never understand how these people could live like this, which was part of the reason he kept coming back here – to try to change their minds. He continued to Clay, “They don’t refer to themselves as a family, though, for some reason, and chose ‘clan’ instead.”
“Oh, that makes sense," Clay said, sarcastically.
“I think it’s their way of forming a hierarchy amongst themselves. That way, the leadership positions don’t automatically go to the fathers or the elders, but whoever has the best interests of the ‘clan’ in mind.”
Today, that person was Remy. He and Clay found the three chipping slashes of green paint indicating they were in ‘green clan’ territory now. An elder member, whose name escaped Remy at the time, stared with open hatred as they walked towards the half-wood and half-cloth lean to that served as one of the homes. Clay muttered under his breath, “Easy now, old man. Don’t make me aerate your face.”
Remy didn’t do more than glance at him before politely knocking on the wood part of the ‘door’, Remy introduced himself and asked if he could speak with ‘Red’. Yes, the head of the Green Clan’s name was Red.
Red came out, and Remy was always baffled how he fit his large frame into the small lean to. He crossed his arms –all four of them – and looked Remy up and down, as if he were sizing him up for a meal. And Remy wasn’t short; and though Red might have been just two inches taller, he somehow seemed much, much larger. As his namesake might suggest, his skin was a mottled red color, fleshy pink in some areas and a blaring painful red in others. Also, he was covered in moles. As far as Remy knew, Red did not possess any mutant abilities, but it was his appearance that kept him hidden from society. And he was quite happy to continue doing so, no matter what Remy did or said.
Also, Red was not the least hospitable, Remy knew, and so he did not expect to be invited in or offered to sit on the half-rotted wooden benches that were strewn about. No matter, Remy, quite honestly, preferred to stand.
In a blunt tone, not bothering with any pleasantries, Red said, “Heard you wanted to talk to me from one of my kin. I don’t appreciate that.”
“That’s right,” Remy said, ignoring Red’s feelings and feeling Clay bristle behind him as he undoubtedly perceived Red to be a hostile target. Remy continued calmly, “He didn’t mean any harm by it, Red. He was merely concerned about the wellbeing of the clan.” The informant, whose name was Dirk, was one of several younger clan members who were interested in becoming more assimilated. Thus, dealing MGH wasn’t really the direction they hoped their clan would move. They, of course, were also more likely to call their ‘clan’ a family.
“Wellbeing?” Red said, scratching his mole-covered, dirty head. “I am the one who sees to that.” He clenched two of his hands into fists and he set his stance wide, like an animal, ready to attack.
Remy knew better than to show any kind of reaction – fear, overconfidence, anything. So, he didn’t. Instead, he matched moods; blunt deserved blunt. “Then I would hope you would consider another means of doing so, other than lying about the potential of your DNA and selling it. Seeing as that is against the law.” He also did not talk to any of them as if they were stupid.
At the mention of his crimes, Red scratched his head hard enough to break the skin. Perhaps a nervous habit, or more likely a negative reaction to taking the unknown fire-type mutant’s MGH. Remy had seen it countless times; mutants taking MGH to gain better abilities or lessen their own, only to find the MGH they chose was not complimentary to their own systems. The reactions varied from an itching rash to death, so this clan, or Red at least, was very lucky.
Remy cleared his throat, and handed Red a handkerchief. His in-the-trenches trench coat had deep pockets, and he got used to carrying lots of little things that he might need or that he might give away. Then, because he knew he had Red right where he wanted him, he said, “Do you have a watch, Red?”
Red dabbed the blood on his head with one arm and scratched at his neck with another, perhaps trying to break open the skin there as well. “Um, no. But Wallace does.” Wallace was another upper member of the clan.
“Great. Tell him to set it. You have forty eight hours. I’ll be back and then it’s decision time. I would take that time to make sure there isn’t anything I would not want to see when I come back.”
Red looked at Remy’s face, trying to judge the sincerity. In his heart he knew Remy was giving him a saving grace by not turning him in right then and there, and siccing that straight-faced idiot with guns on him and his clan. But in his head, Remy was threatening him and his way of life. Puffing up his chest, he said, “And what if I just don’t?”
When on duty, Clay heard and saw everything. He put one hand on his preferred gun in his hip holster and the other hand on the very visible gun in his shoulder holster. And once he knew Red saw his intent, he continued to let Remy lead.
Remy said, “If you don’t, Red, there won’t be anyone to carry on your legacy, or at least not in these parts. The younger members will be put into foster care and those of you who I think are of age will be put into prison. Your choice, as always.”
The likelihood of Remy finding suitable homes for at least twenty three physically disfigured children, some with mutant abilities was slim to none and that was something Red understood. And whether or not Remy was bluffing, it was enough for the bravado to start to deflate. “Forty eight hours you said? Wanna make it seventy two?” he tried.
“No, I don’t,” Remy said, and turned away, indicating he was quite finished with the conversation. “See you in two days, Red.”