Dragon stepped out onto the porch of Homestead and held his sword in front of him. He tilted it from side to side, letting the light from the rising sun catch the blade and reflect off. He whistled in appreciation and slid it into the oversized sheath that Defender had provided him. The blade was a depleted uranium katana, made with Japanese folding techniques and forged in mystical hellfire. Along the edge there was a strand of monomolecular wire. The whole thing weighed about 80 pounds. It was the product of Bruce Xavier, James Harmond, and Elaine King, three experts at what they did.
Hearing a rustling from the bushes, Dragon spun and looked. He was on edge, expecting an attack from the Cult of the Wyrm at any minute. What he saw was his teacher stepping from the bushes and sheathing his own twin scimitars, sliding them behind his back. The man was old, Dragon guessed in his seventies, but he walked with the grace of a panther and had the body of a man half his age. His eyes held all the fire of wisdom that age brings, but none of the arrogance of youth.
"Good morning, champion," the old man said quietly, "are we prepared to leave?"
"No," Dragon said, "my wife and child are still asleep. We'll leave in a few hours."
"And where are we going?" the old man asked.
Dragon looked up into the sunset and answered, "To see an old friend."
Kim woke up to find, as usual, that Dragon was up and gone already. She lifted herself off the bed and started her exercise routines. Someday, she thought, I'm going to teach him to wake me up when he wakes up. She heard Mary hissing loudly from the next room and thought, or else take the baby with him when he goes.
Kim walked into the adjoining room, decorated in pink wallpaper and adorned with various toys, including a six-foot stuffed bear that Dave had donated, and looked into the crib in the middle of the room.
Mary was lying in her bed, hissing furiously. She never cried, and Kim had been told she never would. The doctors, including the mutant specialist who had been in Homestead recently, told her that she couldn't make human noises. But as she looked at her, Kim knew that her thought processes were human. Behind the slitted yellow reptilian eyes there was the spark of human intelligence.
Kim lifted the baby gently out of the crib and pulled down her robe, letting the baby bite at her breast until she got milk. She winced as the baby found her way. Mary was a mutant, and she already had teeth even at her young age. Sharp teeth.
Mary's angry hissing slowed until she was breathing in and out as she sucked the milk from her mother. Kim put the child over her shoulder and heard her burp. She laughed as she realized that that was the most human sound the baby had made.
"You take after your father," Kim said to her.
"Nah," came the answer from the doorway, "she's always with you."
Kim turned to see Dragon walking in, dressed in his traveling clothes, a brown suit with a black leather trench coat over it. He had skipped the fedora today, and his short cropped black hair was neatly combed.
She walked over and got up on her toes to kiss his cheek. "And you're there when I need you," she said.
He knew that wasn't always true, but he let it go. So far, it was a beautiful morning. He looked around and saw the variety of different suitcases parked all around the room.
"I'm not sure I can lift all that," he said jokingly.
She slapped his butt and handed Mary to him in one fluid motion. "I'm going to take a shower," she said.
Dragon sat down and let his baby girl gnaw on his finger as he looked at her. To most normal humans, she was hideous. She had been born with normal features and a serpentine tongue and eyes, but every day she was growing more green scales and becoming more reptilian. To Dragon, she was still his little girl and she was beautiful.
The breakfast table was full by the time Dragon and Kim got there. James and Elaine sat next to each other, and she picked at his plate as he absentmindedly read the newest issue of "Super-Tech," a magazine for gadgeteers. The picture on the front was a vintage shot of the golden age hero Sunwarrior, with a caption, "Where is he now?"
Dragon looked over to James' right and there he was. Bruce Xavier, former and hopefully future head of Xavier Enterprises, and father to Dragon's best friend and worst enemy, Shivite. He was looking at James' magazine with concern, and he seemed to be thinking about something. Next to him sat Burnout, and she smiled at Dragon and Kim as they came in. Centurion was next to her, dressed in a Champions t-shirt, jeans, and thick white bandages wrapped around his eyes.
"Hey," Dragon said, sitting down opposite them, "Where's Rose? And Dave?"
"You don't know?" James said, looking up from his magazine, "We hadn't seen her."
Everyone exchanged a knowing glance that ended when Dave walked in alone. All eyes were on him, and he reacted in his typical fashion.
"What? I didn't do it! It was broken when I got there! Besides, it was dark!"
James sighed, then got up to go fix whatever Dave had broken. Dave took his place and looked over at Dragon.
Dragon was about to respond when he realized that Rose was probably with Black Dragon.
"She said she had some errands to run," Dragon said.
"Oh," Dave said, looking a little disappointed. He got over it fast, picking up a piece of toast from the center of the table and buttering it until it was buried.
"Dave, could you give me a lift somewhere?" Dragon asked.
Dave looked up and said, through the toast, "Sure...where?"
"I'll tell you when we're on the plane."
"Oh, I gotcha, it's a secret. I can keep a secret. Hey everybody, Dragon's got a secret!"
Everyone looked at Dave as he stood and made this announcement. Dragon put his head in his hands and the rest of the people in the room stared expectantly at Dave.
"But I won't tell, because it's a secret. So there." Dave stuck his tongue out and swallowed the rest of the toast.
Dragon finished off a few strips of bacon and some pancakes and then proceeded to haul Kim's bags aboard the Vagabond. Dave joined in to supervise, and he asked, "So where did Rose say she was going?"
Dragon looked back, thought about it, and decided that if anyone deserved to know, Dave did.
"Okay, Dave," he said, "this is a secret. Really. Rose is training with my brother."
Dave gave Dragon a disgusted look for a few seconds and then walked back towards the kitchen. "Well, if you don't want to tell me, don't tell me."
Dragon was ready to protest, but he gave up. It probably wasn't important, anyway. Rose knew what she was doing.
When Kim got on board with Mary, Dragon had just finished stowing away all of her luggage. She sat down in one of the chairs and began to rock Mary gently to sleep. She shivered a little as Dragon's teacher walked on board the plane. He didn't say a word, he just sat down in one of the seats and stared straight forward, breathing slowly.
Dave stepped up the plank and pulled it shut. He settled into the pilot's seat and the engines roared to life. He glanced back to Dragon, who was strapping in, and said, "So where are we going?"
Dragon gave Dave a street address in the middle of San Diego. Within five minutes they were there, hovering invisibly over a suburban neighborhood in the Vagabond.
"What's down there?" Dave asked.
Dragon walked over to the ladder leading up to the teleportation chamber and climbed up. "Just beam me down," he said.
Dave shrugged and beamed Dragon down to the ground outside the house.
Dragon shimmered into existence on the lawn. He walked up the stone path to the white door and knocked lightly. There was no answer. A little nervous, he tried the door, and it creaked open.
"Hello?" Dragon called, "John?"
Too quiet, Dragon thought as he entered the house, it's way too quiet in here. He looked all around the top two levels, finding nothing out of the ordinary. Hoping this was something innocent, he pulled a lever inside the fire place and watched as it slid up, revealing a secret staircase down.
Dragon cautiously stepped down, switching to infrared in his helmet as he realized that the lights were off. The fire place slid back into place, leaving Dragon trapped in the dark. He could see one heat source in the center of the room below, but couldn't make anything out at this distance.
When he got to the bottom of the stairs, the fluorescent lights in the ceiling flashed on, giving Dragon a full view of the ransacked room. Art supplies and criminology chemicals were strewn together everywhere, and there was a broken wheel chair in the corner. In the center of the room, on the one table left upright, was a black metal package. On it were red LCD numbers reading :04, and they changed to :03 as Dragon watched.
As he flew up the stairs, Dragon heard a low-pitched voice saying "We knew you were coming, Dragon, so we prepared for you. Forget your friend. He belongs to us now."
Dragon was almost to the fireplace when the entire house went up, throwing fire and smoke everywhere. Inside the Vagabond, Kim screamed and even the teacher rose from his seat, looking apprehensive.
When the smoke had cleared a little, they saw something moving in the rubble. Dragon pushed his way free of the rubble and waved his hand up at the Vagabond. Over the radio, they heard, "Dave, beam me up. We've got a problem."
As Dave was keying in the commands, he heard Dragon say, "Cancel that, Dave! I've got movement down here!"
Dragon watched the rubble shift again and boards slid to the side. The fire crackled as its fuel shifted. Dragon went over and began lifting boards away from that area, digging and looking for a person to pull free. Finally, after almost a minute of digging, he saw a faint bluish light below him. Sliding the rubble out of the way, he looked down and saw what was giving off the light.
In the middle of what had been the kitchen a minute ago there was a humanoid figure, curled in a fetal position. He was blue, with white streaks through him, and he looked like nothing more than a blue sky in the shape of a human. His eyes glowed bright red. Dragon had only known him briefly before, but it wasn't hard to recognize him.
"Schizo?" Dragon said tentatively, "Is that you?"
The being raised its eyes and they flared bright red. Dragon realized that something was wrong seconds before the creature yelled something inarticulate and Dragon felt a stab of pain in his mind. He staggered back out of the creature's line of sight.
Dragon was confused. Schizo was nothing more than a mental projection of John Dormer, an old friend of his. He had learned that a while back. Since then, he hadn't visited him much, but there was no reason that his friend should be so violent towards him. But this creature seemed nothing like the mysterious, quiet figure that Schizo had been before.
As if to emphasize the difference, the creature floated up to the surface with its telekinesis and growled at Dragon. It fired another mental blast, and Dragon gritted his teeth against the pain.
"At least he's not using his more powerful mental powers," Dragon thought, "he's acting like some wild beast."
Another mental bolt struck Dragon and he realized that eventually the creature would subdue him. He reluctantly moved in and punched Schizo lightly.
The creature didn't even seem to feel it, and he retaliated with a mental blast that felt even more powerful. Dragon reeled this time, feeling a sense of vertigo as the power of the blast overcame him.
When he recovered, Dragon saw that Schizo seemed to be in immense pain. His every step was followed by a flaring of his eyes and a slight wavering of his form. It was as if he wasn't sure he existed.
Dragon grabbed Schizo by the shoulders and locked eyes with him. He started screaming, "Use your mind! Use your mind! Read my thoughts!"
Schizo let out an inhuman scream and Dragon felt his mind flooded with images. Suddenly, he was looking around the kitchen. He has just come into existence next to John, who was sitting in his wheel chair. His frail body looked even weaker than when Dragon had last seen it. John was literally wasting away.
Through Schizo's eyes, he saw four men dressed in black and silver armor with "PSI" written on the sleeves. They lobbed a couple of grenades at John and the vision went hazy, almost formless. John responded by letting loose a visible bolt of energy from his mind, and Dragon felt strength course through Schizo. A force field sprung to life around John's chair, tinting the air around him a light orange. The four men fired their blaster pistols, but they had no effect on the field.
One of the men twisted a knob on his pistol and aimed again, but another knocked his hand away and yelled, "No! Darke wants him alive!"
Dragon was seeing himself in motion, letting loose with a telekinetic fist at one of the other men, knocking him into the far wall. He shook it off and stood up, twisting the knob on his own pistol and aiming it at Schizo.
"Darke didn't say we couldn't kill you," he said, firing a different burst of energy at Schizo. Dragon felt pain as the bolt struck him in the chest, then even more as the other three joined in, ignoring John. John screamed, "No!" and more energy flowed from him to Schizo. Schizo suddenly saw all the colors of the rainbow and heard every sound in the house, amplified a hundredfold. The last thing he saw was John passing out.
Dragon came back to reality and looked at Schizo, who was now staring at his own hands and twisting them from side to side. He seemed calmer now, so Dragon said, "Schizo? John, is that you in there?"
Schizo looked up and said, in a throaty voice, "Not John. Schizo."
"Wait a second," Dragon said, "John told me that Schizo was just a mental projection. You're standing here, you're John somehow, right? Where's your physical body?"
"Not John!" the creature yelled, "Schizo! John...gone. Darke."
Dragon grabbed the creature's arm. "Darke? What does that mean? Those guys from PSI, they mentioned Darke! Is he the boss?"
"Not know," Schizo answered, "Darke evil, want powers. Try to steal Schizo away. Take John. Need to find...Memoir."
"Well,I think all your memoirs just went up in smoke, John...I mean Schizo. I mean John! What the hell is going on?"
"Not memoirs," the creature said slowly, looking at Dragon, "Memoir. Man. We help him fight PSI. He help us find John."
"Okay," Dragon said, "Dave, can you send me down an extra comm?"
A Wildside communicator flashed into existence on the ground next to Dragon and Dragon put it in Schizo's hand. "Two to beam up."
The teleporter on the Vagabond hummed to life as Dragon and Schizo appeared on the plane. They climbed down into the body of the plane and Dave said, "Hey, Schizo, how's it going? Too bad about your house."
"Not my house. John's house."
"Right," Dave said, "me smokum peace pipe, sell wampum."
"Dave, knock it off," Kim said, "he's obviously nervous."
Dragon sat down next to Kim and absentmindedly held his hand out for Mary to chew on. Dave looked at him expectantly.
"Oh, sorry, Dave. Schizo? Where are we going?"
Schizo tried to concentrate, as he had before when his telepathy worked, and then grunted in frustration. He shrugged, mist rising from his palms as he did so. "Can't find Memoir."
"Did he say Memoir?" Dave asked.
"Yeah, Dave," Dragon said, "but its a person, not like his memoirs."
"Well, duh," Dave responded, "he's a rich mutant, lives in upstate New York. His real name's Garrison Unshac."
Dragon looked stunned, as did Kim. Even the Teacher smirked a little. When he recovered, Dragon went over to the pilot's chair and said, "Dave, do you mind telling me how the hell you happen to know this?"
"I got bored while you were down there so I started skimming our files. Memoir was a name that came up. Want his address?"
"Just take us there, Dave," Dragon answered. He'd long since given up on figuring out Dave's luck, but he'd take it whenever it came.