New day was rising above the campus belonging to the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning which was the school for young mutants, the place where they could live, learn and train how to use their abilities safely from the entire world. The sun rays were penetrating through the windows’ blinds in one of the rooms of the female dormitory falling down on the young sleeping girl’s face. Her red hair were scattered over the soft pillow and only her small feet stuck out from under the duvet. Young mutant girl felt touch of the morning on her whole body, she opened her eyes. After a while she closed them again and covered her head with the duvet, she didn’t feel like waking up. In the silence hanging inside the room it was possible to hear quiet creaking of the door and a sound of footsteps right after it. Megan - it was the name of the sleeping girl, felt that somebody had entered her room, but she decided to pretend that she didn’t wake up. Young boy with a short, black hair dressed in the green-red uniform with the letter “x” on the belt was her guest. He was holding a walkman in one hand and headphones in the second. He smiled maliciously and uncovered sleeping girl with a fast move putting headphones on her ears. He turned very loud music on. The effect was immediate. Megan opened her eyes in a flash; she sat down on the bed and knocked the “gift” off her head. She stretched her arms and colorful butterfly wings spread on her back. They were one of the special abilities of the girl. Mutant tried to comb the messy hair out with her hands.
“What are you doing? How could you! I could become deaf!” She screamed irritated at the boy.
“I had to wake you up. You would have overslept for the training in the Danger Room; don’t you remember that today is our turn?”
Megan calmed down just a little. She spread her wings again like she was trying to do morning exercises. Her cold eyesight showed that she still hadn’t forgiven her friend that silly joke.
“And by the way, what are you doing here? It is girls’ dormitory! Perhaps we’re not pleased that the boy comes here so early in the morning.” The girl got up preparing to throw the boy out of the room. He was amused by her behavior. Megan was curious what pleased him this time. After a moment she realized that she was having only shorts and a pink bra on herself. She turned red.
“Go away! Now!”
Mark, whose codename in the team was DJ decided to leave Megan’s room.
“Can you both be quiet? You aren’t alone, somebody wants to sleep here.”
Eyes of the friends turned in the direction of the second bed. Megan’s room-mate Andrea – Rubbermaid was woken up by their conversation. Mutant girl with a bright, short hair and blue eyes was irritated.
“Are you not supposed to go to the training session with us? DJ asked.
“Since Mr Baubier... died we all have one instructor.”
“Exactly and because of that we cannot have exercises together, you jerk! There isn’t enough space in the Danger Room for two teams!” Andrea replied. Mark left the girl’s room.
Megan corrected her hair and after a few minutes she went to the corridor. A lot of young mutant girls were wandering around there which was an indication that the school day had begun. The girl went to the bathroom. In the door a friend with purple skin wearing panties and a T-shirt with the inscription “Katmatui” passed by her. When Megan found herself in the showers’ dressing room it turned out that her companions from the Paragons team were already there. One of them, Hope - the girl with straight, brown hair and green eyes finished changing into the uniform for training. She was taller than Megan, slender and neat.
“Hello, Hope... you got up early today”.
“You overslept again. Everyone is already awake. I can see that the DJ visited you.” Hope said with a smile and winked at her. It was probably she who planned the entire thing with waking Megan up. Megan’s face became cloudy, the girl spread her wings.
“You knew about it! It was your idea.” Hope shook her head.
“No, no, no... I met him on the corridor when I was going to the toilet. It was obvious where he had gone.”
“Yes?” Pixie didn’t believe her friend.
“Hi, both of you girls...”
Both mutants heard sound of a calm, quiet voice and turned their eyes in the direction of the entrance to the showers. The girl with a pale complexion and raven-black hair was standing there. She was dressed in the black bathrobe and had a few earrings stuck in the ears. Her brown pupils were staring at the girls.
“Hello, Jessie!” Megan welcomed her with a smile. Black-haired girl came up to the bench on which her underwear and uniform for training in the Danger Moon were put down. She looked at her friend.
“You’ll be late today...” After hearing these words Megan ran to take a shower.
“She sometimes horrifies me. She’s my friend, but I’m afraid of her. These glimmers of the future events which she is having, I’m afraid to ask her about anything, she often knows what I’ll be doing in a few hours, even before I think about it.”
Girl was standing in the shower cabin thinking about Jessie. Drops of water were flowing on her hair, the body and wings and the entire cabin was filled up with a steam.
Jessica put the Paragons costume on and left the bathroom with Hope.
“Won’t we wait for her? Jessica asked Hope.
“She overslept not for the first time; do you remember how we got a reprimand from Emma Frost when all three of us came half an hour late, because Megan overslept?”
Black-haired girl smiled lightly.
“I remember, I predicted every word of Frost then.” She said recalling the past event.
“So... we could have listened to you and not turn up at the Institute at all...” Hope enjoyed herself.
“But you know what would have happened? She would have summoned us using one of her telepathic projections. How I hate when she is screaming in my head, how I hate these astral projections... No offence...” said Jessie seeing the eyes of her friend.
The girls busy with the conversation did not realize when they vacated the hall of the residence and reached the main building of Xavier’s Institute in which the Danger Room was located. Morning air and the sunny weather affected everyone; good humor was seen in the eyes of people passing through corridors of the building. Mutant girls found themselves in the waiting room at the front of the steel door of the Danger Room. It wasn’t a surprise for them when they saw that the male part of their group had already come there and were waiting for the training. Mark, the young mutant which in the morning woke Megan up and his two friends – Nicholas: Wolf Cub - young man covered with hair all over the body with sharpened senses (and teeth) and Ben - whose face was on the fire all the time. He had simple but adequate codename - Match. Mark saw the approaching girls and smiled widely. Hope ran to him.
“Your plan failed. She ’ll be late again; she most probably still didn’t come out of the shower.”
She announced to everyone assembled.
“Next time I’ll come to her before the dawn” The boy replied.
“You would have to be a teleporter.” Hope said to him.
“Our dorm is closed in the night. It’s opened at seven…”
“Do you think that the closed door will be a problem for me?” He fell into a pensive mood.
“And by the way if I was a teleporter...”
“I know well how you would use these abilities.” Ben butted in. Nicholas affirmatively nodded his head. Jessie smiled lightly.
“I don’t know whether you would have a very good chance. We all can defend ourselves and deal with voyeurs.” Shan Coy Mahn commented the conversation. She was the mentor of the Paragons group. She had entered into the room a moment ago and listened to her students for a brief moment. Entry of the young Vietnamese was predicted by Jessie, but the girl knew her group wouldn’t fall into trouble, if their teacher eavesdropped on such an innocent chat, so she didn’t react.
“I can see that you are ready for your session.” Shan announced. Her eyes were looking for somebody missing.
“Where is Pixie?” She asked.
“Megan should appear right away” Jessie quietly informed. And indeed, mutant girl popped into the room breathless half a minute later.
“I apologize for being late, it won’t repeat in the future.” Megan said to the teacher. Shan opened the door of the Danger Room using the panel and together with her group went inside.
The six of young mutants were waiting impatiently for tasks which their mentor was going to give them. They were inside a huge room, which was almost completely empty apart from the metal of the floor, walls and the ceiling and a small control panel attached near the door which had the privilege to be the only element of the decor. Shan put her hand on it and tapped something using the keyboard and then said some numerical access code. At that very moment the room started changing. A hologram of the huge, starry sky with the beautiful Moon appeared on the ceiling slowly, walls were transformed into images of distant mountains covered with forests, the floor became ground with virtual grass and the empty space started filling up with image of stone ruins hidden in a thick, dark forest. Metallic silence was replaced by sounds of animals lurking in the darkness and coolness of the air-conditioning by stinking, humid air of the sultry night. Everyone from the group admired new scenery.
“Not only the night, also such a damp and staleness.” complained Hope.
“Forest, ruins, many hiding places, so many smells. Finally something for me.” Nicholas was glad. Mark came up to Megan. The girl looked all around with an anxiety. She covered herself with her wings.
“You don’t like darkness, right?” The boy asked touching her shoulder.
“No, it gives me the creeps.
Ben came up to everyone.
“I’ll do something with this darkness. Don’t worry.” He blinked at friends. After a moment the flame on his head died down lightly, and his entire face brightened up with a faint glitter. Forest in the closest neighborhood of the team became brighter and because of that friendlier for people and particularly for Megan.
“Thanks Ben, a ginger girl replied. Her face expressed immense relief. She spread her wings out and turned away from Mark coming closer to Jessie and Hope.
“Listen carefully. You must cooperate with yourselves and reach to the stone building standing on the hill. You must get inside and find some object”.
“What kind of object?” Megan asked.
“You’ll learn when you go inside…” Shan replied her.
“You’d better start moving.” She added after a moment. Wolf Cub smiled. He got to the big rock covered with a moss with a few jumps. He raised the hand toward the large face of the moon.
“Nothing is simpler. I’ll bring this stone alone.” He jumped on the branch of a big tree and then on the rock looking like made by the human hand for some kind of ritual.
“You dope! We’re supposed to act as a group.” Match shouted at him.
“Oh...” Jessica moaned quietly and sat down on the rotten trunk saying nothing.
“What happened, Jessie? Did you have the flash of the future events? What could you see? Hope tried to learn something from her.
“We’ll screw this exercise up entirely.” The girl replied. Nicholas sitting on the obelisk looked gladly at Ben.
“Why the hell we must act as a team? Forest is a paradise for me.” Something started buzzing strangely. Savages dressed in skins of animals emerged from behind nearby trees. In reality they were robots looking like wild people. One of them came up to Wolf Cub and hit his back with a mace. The boy fell from the stone on the ground beside Ben’s legs. Opponents followed him. The DJ assumed a defensive position. Pixie gripped his hand and then she covered herself with wings again. Trance put her hand on Preview’s shoulder.
“Jessie, we must do something! Boys are in danger!”
“I said we would screw this exercise up.” Black-haired girl replied with an anger present in her voice. Ben prepared two flames in his hands.
“Jessie! Come here! You must predict their attacks! Together we’ll win!”
“We won’t win! I already said... ”
“If not you feel like moving your ass, we’ll cope without you!” After these words Match launched two columns of the fire from his fists using which he burnt assailants attacking him. Mark turned on some hard rhythms in his Discman and using the ability to convert sound waves into other kind of the energy he destroyed a few next enemies. Megan cringed trying to avoid any fight. Hope looked at her friends not knowing how to behave. Her abilities to leave the body in the astral form were not helpful in the case of physical fight. She looked at Jessie with sadness in her eyes. Her friend seemed absent, not interested in what was happening around her. Hope sat down close to her.
“It’ll end now”. Preview whispered quietly. Robots stopped and slowly started withdrawing deep into the illusory forest.
“I’m stopping the exercise. You screwed it up completely; I’m angry and very disappointed with you.” Shan voice sounded from loudspeakers hidden in the virtual clump.
“Does it mean that the exercise is over?” Megan asked.
“No, you must stay in the room with unchanged scenery... Only Match must report to me immediately”. The door of the room in which Shan waited opened with a creaking sound. It looked strange, there was a hologram in the room and the door opened in the middle of the wall of the forest. Ben without hesitation headed in its direction.
Wolf Cub shook off dust and sand. He ran up to Jessie and directed his finger with a claw at her face.
“It’s your fault! If you had warned me in time the fight would not have started and the exercise would have been finished.” The girl pushed his hand away. She got up from the stump.
“My fault? Was I jumping like an idiot on the stones?”
“You knew what would happen when I was on this stone and yet you didn’t say a word!”
“You didn’t listen to Ben! I’m supposed to think that you would have listened to me!”
“It doesn’t change the fact that you are standing apart from all of us all the time! What are you doing in our team” You are completely useless to us!” After his last sentence Jessie became sad. Hope cut the conversation.
“Leave her alone! You know well that what happened is your own fault because you first stopped listening to Ben! And who isn’t suitable for a team?”
“You’re defending her?” Nicholas was very irritated.
“Wolf Cub... stop this. Leave them alone.” Mark tried to calm the friend also. Wolf boy looked at him with a great anger in his eyes.
“Ok. Do what you want.” He ran next to DJ and Megan quickly, and then jumped in the virtual forest. “Nicholas…”
“Why cannot we all be friends? Why it is so difficult?” Pixie said with a sadness in her voice. Hope grasped Jessica’s hand. She smiled to her.
“Come on Jessie; let us take a walk somewhere together.” Both girls slowly walked away a few meters, where they disappeared behind the obelisk crushed by the time.
Megan wanted to run after them. She wanted to talk with Jessie. Mark grasped her shoulder not letting her to move.
“Why...?” She asked.
“Hope knows her better. She will know how to reach to her and help her”.
Ben was sitting on the sofa in a little room lightened only by the brilliance of his body and the flame surrounding his head. Shan was standing opposite to him. She was looking straight at his eyes. The clock hanging on the wall was ticking annoyingly.
“Today you disappointed me as a team’s leader, Ben.”
“Did I disappoint you, really? I tried my best, but with such people in the team... they dissatisfied me first.” Match didn’t let her complete her sentence. Karma sat down by him.
“You were chosen as the leader of the team because of your abilities to influence people, to lead them. Rahne after spending some time with you reached to a conclusion that you were suitable for this role. She said a lot of times to me that she hadn’t regretted her choice. After what I could see today, somehow it is hard for me to believe in her words! You had no contact with the team!”
“Contact with them? Shan, did you observe the entire fight? Wolf Cub behaved like a complete idiot and it’s a waste of time to talk about girls from our group. Megan didn’t move a finger out of a fear and Jessie from the beginning didn’t give a shit about us and the entire exercise. How is it possible to command somebody who isn’t fit to work in the team?”
Shan became irritated with the response of the boy.
“Really do you think this way? They aren’t suitable for being in the group? In that case Rahne made a terrible mistake giving you the leader position.” The girl got up. She pointed her finger at the mutant.
“If you frankly think this way, it’s you alone who aren’t suitable for commanding the group.” Ben was silent. The girl continued.
“When I and the other original New Mutants came to Xavier’s school we were a mixture of completely different characters. At the beginning there was a lot of quarrel, we could not trust each other. But years later, after spending a lot of time with each other beneath one roof we became good friends. And don’t think that it was easy. It could not be, if your friend from the group was a witch who spent the half of her life brought up by demons, and other one was alien being composed of living circuits from other galaxy. But we managed. Thanks to the fact that Dani and Sam were able to bring us closer to each other and we helped them having a desire to become a family. Don’t excuse yourself with the fact that somebody isn’t listening to your orders. Talk to them, be with them all the time and get to know them so that you know how to reach each of them. If you know how each of them will behave in every situation, commanding the group will be no problem for you.”
Match didn’t say a word. At last he raised from the couch and came up to the door leading to the virtual ruins bathed in the night, the glitter of the stars and the jungle.
“I’ll try to talk with them and repeat the exercise.” He turned around, but she stopped him for a moment.
“Give Jessica a chance, I ask you. She went through a lot in her life but she is a good girl.” Shan smiled. The boy didn’t answer her and disappeared behind the door.
Hope leaned against obelisk covered with a humid moss. Jessie squatted by her, she embraced her legs with hands and put her head on the knees. Girls spent time in the silence surrounded by hooting and squawks of animals difficult to identify. Hope took a piece of the moss from the obelisk and gripped it firmly in the fist. She showed her friend the remains of the plant.
“It’s amazing, right? How real is the illusion created by the Danger Room technology? How it is cheating our senses. We’re here several times during the week and I still cannot distinguish these virtual projections from reality”. She squatted beside black-haired girl.
“A vastness of the space is enslaving me; mixed smells are coming into my nose. I can hear sounds of animals, the noise of the waterfall flowing somewhere. I feel the moistness of the air, the heat and the stuffiness of the jungle on my face. I’m feeling it everything as if I was somewhere on the equator rather than in the metal, air-conditioned room. It’s so amazing and at the same time horrifying, because I don’t know where the truth begins and an illusion ends.” Hope turned in the direction of Jessie. She observed her, because she knew that her friend had been in the nasty mood after the quarrel with Wolf Cub. Jessica got up, stretched her arms, and then she walked away from the rock a few meters.
“Stars...” she said looking at the illusory sky. Trance came up to her quickly. She also raised the eyes up.
“Stars and the Moon.” Jessie continued.
“The night sky lets us find the border between the truth and the illusion. Although it seems to spread away up to infinity here, to last from time immemorial, in reality it isn’t. Were you on the highway somewhere in the West at night, far away from the lights of large cities?” Hope shook her head.
“In such a place it is possible to see the real night sky, real stars and the real Moon. Standing in the middle of the wilderness under the night sky you have a feeling being a unity with the entire universe. The sky here is artificial and flat, just as flat as under the sky over the large city.”
“We’ll go on a trip into wildernesses. Ok Jessie?” Black-haired girl was silent. Hope bit her tongue, because she realized that she had associated the question with Jessica’s abilities to experience flashes from the future. And she knew that it was topic difficult for her. She changed the thread of the conversation.
“Oh well, maybe the sky here isn’t natural and everything is artificial, but it can easily cheat our bodies. I’m poured with a sweat because of this heat.” Girls laughed. Trance began other topic.
“Listen Jessie, you’re very powerful. Your help really would be useful during the exercises of the team. If you informed us each time of what is supposed to take place we would win every scenario...” Raven-haired girl lowered her eyes.
“The conversation had to go with this way, right?”
Hope became nervous. Jessica’s brown eyes were penetrating her soul, creating fear and the uncertainty of what will happen in the next moment. This way Preview looked at the others when she was dissatisfied with something.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to irritate you. But I really think you are standing aside from all events unnecessarily. After all you could shape the future on the basis of its fragments which are reaching you. Because you distanced yourself from everything, everybody gained prejudice to you, and...” Jessie cut her off in mid-sentence.
“My power isn’t working this way! I cannot influence the future; I can only see images of it...” She corrected her hair. Hope thought that her face looked beautiful soaked in the moonlight, even the artificial one.
“How can you know if you didn’t try...?” Trance asked sadly.
“And how do you know that I didn’t try?” After last Jessica’s sentence Hope was terrified. She could not reply her.
“But I don’t want to talk about it. Let us walk away because Match will appear.” Black-haired went in the direction of the rest of her companions. Hope after a short moment ran after her quickly.
Megan sat down on big, flat stone sticking out in tall grass. Darkness hanging around and ruins sticking above trees caused that the girl was feeling uncomfortable. She didn’t like darkness or strange desolated places in which danger lurked. Even the awareness that the entire scenery was an illusion didn’t comfort her. Mark was standing closely to her listening to the music coming from headphones of his walkman. He noticed that his friend wasn’t feeling good. He sat down by her and put one of headphones in her ear.
He turned some calm instrumental music on and then concentrated in order to use the abilities to convert the music into other forms of an energy. A golden halo appeared around his hand and Megan’s body. It lightened up the darkness in the nearest neighborhood and soothed the girl’s feeling.
“I’m sorry for what happened in the morning.” He said. Hearing the words of the boy, Pixie took the earpiece out of her ear.
“I’m not angry. Thanks to you I woke up on time, didn’t I? It’s I who should thank you. But you shouldn’t walk into the girls dorm at the night, not all of the girls are as understanding as I... you’ll cause yourself trouble...”
“Hmm...” DJ replied listening to the music from his walkman. Megan got angry. She took the device away from him and turned it off.
“Listen to me when I’m talking to you!”
“I like your behavior now!” Boy stroke the hair of the mutant girl.
“Don’t do it. I’m nervous. I can unwittingly produce dust which triggers hallucinations...” Mark seemed not to be upset by what the girl wanted to announce.
“I can take the risk.” Megan turned away from him.
“Let us look for Wolf Cub or Jessie and Hope...” She proposed. The DJ touched the cheek of the girl.
“If they came here, they would make an unnecessary crowd. It’s so beautiful here, right?” The girl was very uneasy. She was looking at the starry sky. The moonlight was mirrored in her big eyes. Mark moved closer to her. He touched her fragile shoulder and slowly moved his face close to her. Mutant girl closed her eyes. She knew that the boy wanted to kiss her, but she could not or didn’t want to stop him. Sound of the opening door shook the surroundings. Pixie and the DJ moved away from each other immediately. Match turned up in the holographic jungle.
“Mark, Megan... Where is the rest of the team? We must immediately discuss the plan of correcting this exercise.”
“Jessie and Nicholas quarreled and then they went somewhere.” DJ enquired.
“We’re here!” Preview firm voice caused that everyone looked around.
“Always ready!” Added Hope and holding the hand on Jessica’s shoulder she winked at Ben.
“Everyone is here except... where is Wolf Cub?” Match asked.
“When I’m trying to think about him, I see nothing. Only the temporal noise like Dr McCoy once said.” Jessie announced.
“What is it determining?”
“It means that if we do nothing Wolf Cub will not appear soon.” Ben became nervous.
“Bad. It ’s necessary to get him here.”
“I can look for him. I should spot him from above.” Megan wanted to help very much.
“No. The risk of the physical attack is too great. Something can shoot you down.” After these words Ben turned to Hope.
“Your astral projection is a solution. Try to look for him, ok?”
“I’ll give my all!” Hope shouted pleased.
The girl closed her eyes and concentrated. After a moment her body surrounded itself by the white glow and transparent women’s silhouette appeared. It was an astral projection, spirit containing Hope’s awareness, but not limited by her bodily coating. Specter of the mutant girl raised high above the trees. Hope could see surroundings with eyes of her projection but thanks to the fact that it was immaterial, she could search the area with the speed of the thought. She looked at nearby forest and obelisks standing inside it. She moved along two traps, remembering that she had to tell the team about them. In the end she spotted the hairy figure of Nicholas. The boy was sitting hunched on the peak of the huge, stone head grinning in the blackness of the forest clearing. Hope’s ghost appeared before him. The girl was able to telepathically communicate with persons in the vicinity of where that ghost was standing.
“Hi! End of hiding. We’re coming back to the work.”
Wolf Cub at the beginning was disorientated with the voice in his head, but quickly guessed who wanted to talk to him.
“You finished taking care of the witch?”
“I don’t care whether you’ll be reconciled with Jessica or not, but Match gathers the entire team, so you must appear there also. I don’t think that you want fail the exercises one more time?” Nicholas answered after short thought.
“OK. But don’t even try to bring me closer to this gloomy slut.” Hope came back to her body a bit dissatisfied with the conversation. She opened her eyes and after a few seconds of waking up after the trance, she informed Match about the meeting with Wolf Cub.
“He should appear here right away”.
Nicholas joined team after short time. He turned away his head ostentatiously seeing Jessica standing nearby. Ben ordered everyone to go up closer with a move of the hand.
“Listen, we still have one chance. We can start our exercise anew. Do you remember what we were supposed to do last time?”
“Yeah.” Said Mark.
“Ben, during looking for Wolf Cub I noticed places looking suspicious. I’m almost sure that they contained traps.” Hope butted in. She continued.
“It looks like they are somehow connected with statues.”
“Excellent, Trance. Now we know that we must keep away from these grinning heads.” Match started giving orders.
“DJ, turn on some hard music. It looks like that we’re going to be heavy artillery if trouble appears. Hope, you’re going along with us. You’ll show us how these traps look. Preview, be close to us, if you have some vision remember that you’re supposed to tell us about it.”
“You know that my...” Black-haired girl replied with irritated voice.
“Jessica, do what I’m saying, please...” Ben smiled to her.
The girl gave him the look speaking distinctly that this time she will grant his request and she will try to give her all.
“Wolf Cub and Pixie, observe the area and our back.” ”
“Of course” It wasn’t necessary to repeat twice to Megan; Nicholas didn’t share her enthusiasm.
Trio of mutants disappeared in thickets; Preview and Megan with Wolf Cub followed into their tracks. They found themselves on a wide path. Forest surrounded them from both sides, as well as from above and because of that the path was bathed in total darkness. Megan felt uncomfortable again as the sounds of animals terrified her. She looked at DJ, his smile caused that she picked the greater self-confidence up.
“It’s only an illusion, don’t be afraid”
Stone head statues of different shapes and sizes with a bizarre and disturbing facial expressions protruded among the trees. They were covered by mushrooms and creepers and were the only silent witnesses of the young people’s group expedition. Hope stopped Match and DJ by the gesture of the hand.
“Do you see these jewels which are attached to some of the heads? They don’t fit completely, don’t you think?” Small pebbles put on foreheads of statues were almost unnoticeable in the darkness ruling around. Because of that Ben looked at his friend in a surprise.
“When I travel in the astral form I notice world differently. I perceive objects more as symbols, as what they are representing. All here is one big theatre scene representing obstacles created for us by the computer, also the statues. Therefore I see pebbles as...”
“Traps...” Mark guessed.
“Precisely! If we cross the invisible ray joining pebbles on the opposite sides of the road, most probably some unpleasant company will turn up.”
“Yeah what are we waiting for...? It looks like that destroying them will be inevitable.” After these words Ben and DJ prepared to dispose of all the traps. Match melted jewels with streams of the fire avoiding hitting the trees and DJ listening to the loud rock music, smashed them with crashes of the destructive energy. Self-satisfied and sure about the victory they ran up to the last sculpture. This time it was standing on the very middle of the road, it was carved as bearded man with two colorful pebbles green and red sitting down in its eyes. The DJ pointed his hand at it. The same did Match.
“One... - Two... Both shouted out looking at themselves. At that very moment Jessica had the vision.
* Stream of the fire and wave of the energy hit the stone guardian simultaneously. Its eyes lightened in the darkness and then ball of the fire and destructive sound wave emerged from its mouth. The huge explosion threw Ben, Mark and Hope into the mud. Jessie pushed by the column of an air hit Megan and Nicholas. *
Jessica weakened and dark spots appeared before her eyes. She was thirsty, she could not swallow. She closed her eyes.
“Ben! Mark! Don’t do it!” She shouted. Mutants dispersed prepared energies and looked at each other. They gazed at the black-haired girl. Jessica’s heart was beating quickly and her breath became irregular. She expected the vision to come true and prepared for the crash of the sound wave.
“What...?” She whispered. Hope looked at her and then at the sculpture. She guessed what had frightened her friend. She picked the big stick up from sand and hit the “bearded man” firmly in the face. She smashed jewels from his eyes. Devices familiar to the young mutants appeared in the orbits of stone heads. “Mirrors” were able to deflect the blow of energy of every kind.
“Did you see the future in which they were used against us?” Hope announced gladly pointing at empty eye sockets of the sculpture. She approached her friend.
“Thanks to the fact that you decided to act, your revelation didn’t come out true. I’m proud of you, you finally believed in yourself.”
Jessica smiled. She was still disorientated by what had happened. Hope cuddled up to her tightly.
“Good work...” She whispered into her ear. Preview fell into a pensive mood and her face turned sad. Neither Hope nor other members of the team noticed it through the darkness which ruled around. Ben became impatient with a sudden stop.
“Finish it. We have the task to do.”
Companions forced their way through the thicket to the other end of the forest. A vast wood clearing covered with tall grass appeared before their eyes. Monumental pyramid, built from the yellow stone was the central point of this place. The stone temple was located on its roof. The huge Moon and thousands of stars reigned on the sky, which was clearly visible from the clearing. Everyone noticed that the air in this place was humid and it stank of the mustiness. The croak of frogs was heard around. Ben thought that there was a lake somewhere nearby.
“We’re going in.” He announced to the team and took a step forward. Wolf Cub came up to him. Nicholas was in a bad mood all the day particularly from the moment when Jessica rescued everyone. He wanted to show the team that he could also do something useful. Now he had the chance. He stretched his hairy arms, drew air into the nose. He eyed Match up and down.
“Ben, don’t go farther or else our journey will end.”
“Huh?” Ben and Mark said after the statement of their friend.
“Don’t you understand it? Do you feel the damp? Can you hear frogs? Do you think that there is a lake somewhere here? You’re wrong; this entire forest clearing is a great lake or rather the swamp. Its smell says me everything about it. Too thick to swim in it, but can’t be crossed on feet also. One move and game is finished.”
The boy was proud of himself and waited for Ben’s response.
“Hmm...” Match fell into a pensive mood. Mark patted him on the shoulder.
“I believe in Nicholas’ senses”. Ben sighed.
“And we must get inside. Nice.” He looked at the girls.
“It’s necessary to get there by the air. Trance! Sorry, but we must count on your help again.”
Mutant girl shrugged her shoulders.
“Ehm!” Megan stared at the boy.
“Trance isn’t the only one who is able to fly!” She said through clenched teeth. Ben shook his head.
“I already said that the risk of the physical attack is too big. I disagree.” The girl with wings of a butterfly lowered her head. Mark rested his hands on her shoulder.
“It seems to me that our fearless leader forgot about the objective of the mission. We’re supposed to take something out from the inside of this pyramid, right? And Hope’s astral projection cannot pick up anything. We won’t make it without Megan’s help, only she can finish this exercise.” Pixie looked at the pyramid with fear in the eyes. When she realized that she had to go the building alone while her friends would remain far away, separated from her by the barrier of the bog, she regretted that she had suggested her help. The DJ unfastened the walkman from his belt; then he put the headphones on Megan’s head and attached the device to her uniform.
“Remember, when you’ll feel uncertain, turn on the music which we listened earlier. It’ll work.”
He stroked her head. Hope decided to help her also.
“I’ll come with you there as the “ghost”. You won’t be alone.” Megan spread her colorful wings; she rose up into the air and headed toward the stone building. The Trance apparition kept her company during the entire travel. Her eyes revealed that stairs had held a lot of traps in themselves. If the team somehow sailed across the swamp, they would have poor chances of getting to the inside of the temple.
“Stand on that stone! Pay attention to the wall on the left.” Hope warned her companion. Megan settled on the ceiling of the building gently like tafeather pushed by a slight wind. Her eyes turned in the direction of the gate to the temple. Emptiness panted from it, blackness which she disliked so much.
“Yes!” She didn’t think long. She entered the interior of the pyramid. Hope tried to go after her, but some invisible barrier pushed her away. The girl quickly came back to her body. She goggled and inhaled the air.
“What happened?” Mark asked.
“Oh well, it looks like Megan will have to deal with it alone.” She turned her head in the direction of Jessica. She could see that the girl was thinking about something.
“Can you see a vision? Will we manage?” She wanted to help her come back from the maze of thoughts. Jessica was silent for a moment, and then she announced:
“Nothing will happen which could sadden us.” She smiled. Megan having crossed the threshold of the pyramid realized that the Hope’s astral projection disappeared somewhere.
“Hope! Hope? Are you here? Hope?”
Only silence answered her. Heart of the young mutant girl started beating more quickly. Her breath became uneven. She looked at the forward direction. Stairs leading into the interior of the temple were flooded with portentous darkness Drops of dirty water was dripping from the ceiling. The girl covered herself with wings. She didn’t manage to do the next step.
“I can’t do it... I cannot enter this darkness. I won’t overcome my feelings...” She was standing motionless for a few minutes. Finally she touched the damp wall with the hand and started the slow walk into the bottom of the stairs. Sounds from the outside distorted by walls of the building filled the dark corridor. Shouts of animals and the sound of the wind seemed to pursue the pyramid from deep inside, they were inhuman, kind of from other world. Megan stood up again. She turned around and looked at the entry to the temple from which the moonlight emerged with a fear.
“I’ll come back. We’ll lose this exercise, so what? I won’t withstand longer in this horrible place.” In the same moment she remembered deep eyes of DJ and his words that the peace of mind can help her. She turned the discman on. She listened to some slow, calming song and felt more confident. She closed her eyes imagining that she is in the other, nice and bright place. She followed the stairs into the stone temple.
“Thank you Mark.” She thought and the smile appeared on her face again. Discman started playing the other, more energetic melody. The Pixie’s steps became faster. After a dozen seconds the girl stepped into something soft. She immediately stopped . Fear appeared again. She squatted and touched her shoe with the finger. There was a disgusting, black cylindrical worm with the mouth from which sticky spit was dipping. Mutant girl jumped away a few steps. It turned out that there were far more worms inside the temple. The entire floor was swarming with them. The light beating from the chamber close by assured the girl that worms were a sole obstacle to finish the exercise. Looking at them Megan felt the disgust, she thought that she would vomit. However she knew that she could not stop then. She closed her eyes, and quickly ran into the lighted room, paying attention to worms crawling on the floor. She finally opened her eyes and was stunned.
“Beautiful...” She whispered looking at the jewel lying on the stone plinth. It had the shape of a star and was glowing with faint glitter of the pink color. The girl picked it up cautiously. It seemed even more beautiful to her. She looked at its perfectly cut surface as hypnotized. At that very moment she picked the huge self-confidence up. She felt that nothing would stand on her way to finish the exercise. Holding the jewel she started the walk towards the exit. Worms covering the corridor disappeared like dissolving from the glitter of the jewel. The corridor wasn’t terrible and unpleasant anymore; Megan thought that she knew it forever. Mutant girl ran out to the roof of the pyramid, she spread her wings and glided towards the other lakeside. She descended near her colleagues.
“I managed! I managed to enter there! Look! She showed the crystal glass star kept in the hand. Paragons quickly gathered around her.
“Good work.” said Match
“Beautiful...” Jessica stated.
“You think?” Hope added looking at the jewel through her shoulders. Megan came up to the DJ. She opened his hand and put the gleaming stone into it.
“Thank you, Mark. I only made a success because of you.”
“End of exercises.” The Shan voice finished the conversation of the team. The holographic projection of the jungle slowly disappeared into the nothingness leaving only sterile, metal Danger Room’s walls. The entrance door opened.
“You can go to refresh yourselves. You’re free for the rest of the day. Tomorrow we’ll talk about your today’s performance.” Shan informed her team.
“Trance, I must talk with you. Come into my room.” Hope was surprised. She didn’t know why she had been chosen from the entire group.
She went into Shan’s room with hesitant steps. The woman greeted her with a smile and she ordered her to sit down on the chair standing near her desk. The girl looked at her with interest.
“You were great in the exercise today. But I didn’t call you here in order to talk about you. I want to talk about Jessica...” Hope interrupted her.
“Jessie was great also today! She finally overcame her passivity and thanks to that she rescued us from a few bruises.” Shan grew more serious.
“That’s the problem. Jessie isn’t in the best mental state and today’s event can cause the return of the sense of the guilt for the event which she survived in the past.”
Hope remained silent.
“You’re her closest friend in the school. I ask you to be with her and keep an eye on her all the time...”
“I’m always with her; she can always count on me...” Hope didn’t understand what her mentor had meant. Suddenly she heard the telepathic voice in the head.
“Jessica Vale, briefly before she found her way to this school...” Girl turned around her head. The woman with a white cape was standing in the corner of the room. She had long blonde hair and strong make-up.
“Miss Frost?” Mutant girl was surprised. Frost continued.
“Before Jessica found her way to our school, she attempted to commit suicide.”
Hope Eyes widened with anxiety and surprise.
Hope came back to her room not wanting to have a fun after what she had heard from the mouth of her teacher. Frost’s words about the fact that Jessica attempted suicide in the past sounded in her head all the time. The room was immersed in semi-darkness because somebody had tightly slid shutters over the windows. The girl came up to the desk, sat down on the chair and looked at the bed on which her friend was resting. Jessica had changed into black jeans and T-shirt, she was laying on her back looking at the ceiling and intensively thinking about something.
“Jessica... don’t you want to take a walk somewhere with me?” Trance asked.
“No”. Black-haired girl replied quietly.
“Are you sure?” Hope insisted. She wanted to talk with her friend.
“No. Leave me alone Hope. Please. I have a headache and I want to rest.” Jessica turned to the wall. Trance knew that in that moment she wasn’t able to establish contact with her.
“Ok. If you wish rest I’m not going to disturb you. We’ll see ourselves in the evening, bye.” She announced and left the room. Jessica didn’t answer her. In her eyes tears appeared.