Athena's Self Tour
Location: Townsend Tower
The sterile environment of the technologically advanced danger room, and it’s control room, immediately gave way into a long hallway that was comfortably decorated. Dark gray carpeting lined the floors, the walls were white with wood trim, with each end of the hallway ending in large, floor to ceiling windows that looked out on Atlanta, far below. The walls displayed various, framed artwork, ranging from what looked like nothing more than childish crayon drawings, to beautifully rendered portraits and landscapes, each piece signed and dated.
The guards that were standing at the door simply nodded to Athena as she stalked out, having already received their stand-down orders. One of them said, “The elevators are to your left. You’ll have to take it down to the cafeteria level on the fifteenth floor, then walk around the cafeteria to the one that will take you down to the third. Then there are a couple of glass elevators and some escalators that will take you to the ground floor, but there are a lot of people there right now, so there could be some lines. Just fair warning.”
Athena gave the man a wary look. If anything, leaving the room made her feel even less sure of herself, cautious and scared and like the world was against her. “People? Why?”
The guard gave her a curious look, then said, “It’s the four thousand refugees that Headmistress Drake and her team brought back from China a few days ago. Gotta get them through security and medical, so they’re being housed in the lower levels temporarily.”
Athena frowned. She supposed it made sense that she and Dom weren’t the only ones rescued from Lorde, but she didn’t really know what the deal was with that. Had others been as disillusioned with Lorde as she, Dom and Bethany were, or were these ‘refugees’ prisoners, taken from Lorde’s Spire against their will? She wondered if she would recognize any of them. Probably not, she figured. She hadn’t associated with many people while she was at the Spire, except for Beth and Dom of course. She wasn’t sure if she found their presence reassuring or unnerving.
She gave the guard a quick nod before turning to her left and summoning the elevator. It came quickly, as though eagerly awaiting her arrival, and Athena cast another quick look at the guards before going inside. She pressed the button for the 15th floor and waited until the doors had slid shut before she leaned against the back wall and closed her eyes with a pained sigh. “I want to go home.” She whispered to herself. “I just want to go home.” She tried to visualize Halifax’s harbour from the window of her apartment, the scent of the ocean breeze on the air, the sound of the seagulls and the waves crashing against the docks below faint but audible through her open windows. She even pictured her home in Sackville, a town that she’d always considered quaint and boring but was home all the same. A tear rolled down her cheek. She imagined walking in the front door of her house, seeing her mother’s smiling face as she embraced her newly mutant daughter and told her everything would be okay if she stayed strong. She imagined her father standing just behind her, a tear rolling down his brown cheek and into his thick beard as he welcomed her home and reassured her that she would always be welcome, always be treasured, as the daughter they’d chosen to love with all their hearts.
Her own ached for them. Running off with Dom to stay ahead of the cops chasing them for glimmering had been one thing. This... this was far too real. Too much. Running with Dom, a handsome stranger, to some remote island was like one of the fantasy romances her mother taught her to be critical of, but were exciting all the same. That fantasy turned in to a nightmare when Lorde kidnapped them, and she was terrified that the nightmare was far from over. This Tower, for all she’d heard about Townsend Academy and the Townsend Tower Mall from her father, was strange and scary and reminded her far too much of Lorde’s Spire for her comfort. She didn’t trust Syn, especially not after she revealed that the room was nothing more than an illusion. That had been just as creepy as Lorde reanimating her own vomit - well... perhaps not JUST as creepy...
For as large as the building was, the trip to the fifteenth floor didn’t take too long. Only a few other people climbed onto the elevator with Athena in that span of time, and no one seemed to give her too many strange looks. Normally they just smiled, nodded, and pressed the button to their floor. When it finally reached the bottom of it’s journey, she was the only one that was stepping off.
The scene around what the guard had told her was the cafeteria level was bustling with people of all ages and description. Some seemed worn out, holding the hands of small children as they waited to get into the common eatery. A few eyed her curiously, and some of the kids did some gawking. Still others were just as odd, if not more so, in appearance as the new mutant was. Some had wings, some had scales, one even had the legs and cloven hooves of the satyrs of legend.
The level seemed to be decorated in much the same way as most of the others, only there were benches and a few tables set up in nooks along the outer part of the hallway that led around to the elevators that went to the lower into the building. All of the tables were taken up, some eating and and reading, or using laptops that all seemed to be of the same make and design.
A group of what looked to be teens pushed their way out of a set of large, wooden doors from the expansive cafeteria, laughing and joking with one another, heading for the elevators that Athena had just exited. One broke off from the group and headed in the other direction, around the curving hallway, waving at his friends. “I’ve got to get downstairs. I told Miss Syn I’d help with the daycare!” The others waved and walked by Athena with nothing more than a smile and a nod, as they headed up instead.
A hi-tech looking wheelchair came zipping through, just in front of her path and moving towards her. A small teen was sitting in the chair, his hands working on something and he wasn’t controlling the chair at all. As people stepped in his way, the chair would dodge them, but never stopped. As it dodged, a small horn sounded.
“Stop.” she heard him say as he was about fifteen feet from her. The chair stopped immediately. Then he held up the thing he was working on, which was a toy. “Here.”
A small head, which had cat-like ears popped up behind the chair and then a girl of about five of six climbed over and almost onto his lap. As she came over the top of the chair, Athena could see the cat like tail and paws of the little girl. “Thanks Doctor Sean!”
“Be gentle with your toy this time.” The kid in the wheelchair said as the girl jumped off and ran towards Athena. The boy in the wheelchair pressed a few buttons and the chair turned and went towards the line where people were grabbing food.
The little girl began running up to people and hugging their legs. “Happy hug!” She’d exclaim as she hugged them. Then she hugged another person. Then her gaze fell upon Athena. She ran over and stopped in front of Athena. “Are you sad?”
“Uh...” Athena blinked, unsure of what to make of the kid.
“Happy hug!” The girl launched herself into Athena’s leg and hugged tightly.
“Uh... thanks...” Athena pet the girl’s head uneasily. “Uh, shouldn’t you find your parents somewhere...?”
But the girl didn’t wait to hear anything else. Instead she took off and kept hugging others in the room.
Susan had been watching Athena come into the cafeteria. She already had heard to let her pass. “You don’t have to worry about her. Her dad’s over across the room, watching her as she goes.”
“Oh... kay.” Athena gave a slow nod. “This place is just... weird. Look... I’m glad I ran into you. I wanted to say thanks for before.”
Susan wanted to make a comment on how weird it could be. But she didn’t want to overwhelm Athena. “You’re welcome.”
“I’m going back home.” Athena announced. “Back to New Brunswick. This... all of this...” She shook her head. “Plus, your leader, that Asian chick, is a total freak.”
“I can agree, she is a bit different. And home is important to you.” Susan said to her. “How are you getting there?”
Athena paused. That was a good question. “I dunno. I’ll figure something out.”
“Well, there are a couple of options. Rail and bus. Bus is longer, but it can cross the border. Rail stops in New York. Then you’d have to cross the border on your own. Either way, you’d have to cross that border.”
“Right.” Athena nodded with a sigh. “I can sneak over in a boat, or maybe some rural part of Quebec. I could see if many parents could pick me up, I guess. I guess I can't really hide too well on a bus or train.”
“I have some money to give you. We also have some places that can help hide you, along your route. But getting from place A to place B is up to you.” Susan told her. “But we have information we could give you to help out.”
Crap. Money. Athena hadn't even thought about that. “What kind of information?”
“Places to go. Code words to use. Places to avoid. Stuff like that. Without it, I doubt you’re leaving Atlanta Proper.” Susan replied. She knew the code words would currently work. But each location would change them as soon as she passed through, or within enough time for her to pass through.
“What about after I’ve left Atlanta?” Athena frowned.
“Athena, what if we called your parents and had them come here?” Susan asked. “It would be safer for you, cause NEXUS is watching our front door. But it also keeps you from making a thousand mile trip on your own and in your current state of mind.” Susan pasued for a moment. “I’m not saying we can’t get you out of the tower, I’m just looking out for your safety.”
Athena thought about that for a moment before nodding. “Where can I find a phone?”
“I can get you a cell, or we can take you to an office and you can call from there. Or we can get you on a computer, blackout the screen and have you speak to them. I know a person with a lab who would give you a lot of privacy.” Susan said with a warm smile. “Which would you like?
Athena bit her lip gently. “Maybe an office wouldn’t be bad. I-I... I haven’t talked to them in a few months, not since we went on the run. They’re probably going to be really upset...”
“Let’s find a good office. I’ll block it off for you, so no kids come and bug you.”
“Thanks, Susan. Thanks again, I guess.”
“You’re more than welcome.” Susan said as she gestured to a doorway that they could use to get to an office. Susan led her to a hallway that seemed devoid of foot traffic. “This is for the staff. Most of the kids know better then to loiter around here. So Let’s find an open office...”
Susan tired a couple of door. It was the fourth one that opened. “Ah ha!” She leaned in and the automatic lights came on. The desk was mostly empty and a telephone sat on the corner of the desk. “This is one of the science teacher’s offices. He has one of the most comfortable chairs in this place.” She gestured to the door. “I’ll wait a bit down the hall, incase you need some help when you’re done. And this is for you.” Susan dug out a card for her. “It’s the listing of country codes and how to dial out.”
“Thanks, Susan. Canada’s the same country code as the US, but, thanks. Hopefully this shouldn’t take too long.” Athena didn’t take the card as she headed into the room, closing the door after her.
Susan went a few doors down and leaned against the wall. There she waited. For twenty minutes she leaned against the wall. She didn’t want to get too close. Either way she knew she had the chance of seeing this all play out in her dreams. Athena needed privacy. She needed to relax. Susan had kicked around having her daughter brought to her, but decided against it, so things wouldn’t get awkward.
It would have surprised some who saw Athena that she could get any paler, her alabaster skin about as white as it could already be. Still, the mutant who emerged from the office looked paler than the one who entered it, her brown eyes uncertain and uneasy.
“Athena? Are you alright?” Susan asked her. She wasn’t sure how close to get, so she only moved part of the way to her and stopped.
The tall, white mutant gave a slow nod, her hair-tentacles twitching around her neck. “I, yeah... I’m okay. That was just... rough.” She sighed, leaning her head back against the wall as she came to stand beside Susan. “Have you ever fucked up really bad, scared the shit out of everyone who cares about you, and have had, like, zero idea how to fix any of it?”
“I’ve done some stupid things. Some of it finally caught up with me about a week ago.” Susan replied. “But to fix it, you have to take things one day at a time. One step at a time.”
“What’d you do?” Athena asked softly.
“A friend couldn't get pregnant so I gave her one of my eggs. She had Melody then died in the mall attack. My parents were not happy that I had never talked to them about any of this. I also angered my great great grandmother. But that's because she keeps close tabs on all females of the family. Magic reasons.”
“Magic.” Athena said with a sigh as she brought a hand up to her face. “Right. Of course there’s magic.”
“My sister is actually the next in line for the family magic. It’s spanned for more than a couple of centuries now. But with the egg coming from me, she could have been in line for the magic, and no one knew.”
“Still better than running off with some guy you’d just met, fleeing the law because you’ve just done something sketchily meta and were sleeping with an eco-terrorist, going off the grid and not sending word to your parents except through your sort-of girlfriend... who they’d never met.” Athena sighed, leaning her head against the wall. “Apparently, that went well...”
“Had you contacted your parents, there was a chance that NEXUS would have been listening in. The could have gotten to your parents and...” Susan broke off her comment for a moment. “Do I have to say what could have happened?”
“No.” Athena said quietly. “They shot and I’m guessing killed our neighbours at the place we were hiding out. Older couple. Frank and Mary.” A tear rolled out of the corner of Athena’s eye. “She taught me to knit and cook and shit. Lorde took us out of there just as the gun fired. We didn’t see what happened. He talked about how he saved us, how we were his guests, how he wanted to help us... and you know what?” She opened her eyes and looked at Susan, red and bloodshot and filled with pain. “When we were escaping, we heard their voices. Lorde took them and brought them back to life so he could fuck with our heads. And then I’m here, and I have no idea who you people are any more than I did Lorde, and you’ll just have to forgive my having trust issues, because all of this? Every single bit of my life since I ran off back in October? It’s all seriously fucked up. Like, seriously. The most fucked up thing I’ve ever even thought I’d hear about, and it’s my damn life. And all my parents could do was freak out about how hurt they were by how reckless I was.”
“Parents do that.” Susan said as she stifled a chuckle. “I got a brother who decided to run away after being hurt on New Years. Scared my parents and worried a bunch of the younger kids he helps out. Then there is my other brother. Some call him Doctor Trouble. Think of a person as smart as Tony Stark, with as much restraint as Stark, in the body of a fourteen year old. The damn fool attached something that could have blown up in his face to the Tower’s power supply. He did this without telling anyone he was doing it.”
Athena frowned, opening up her eyes and looking at Susan. “Your brother isn’t that kid genius Sean Edwin, is he?”
Susan nodded. “Yep. That would be him.” She smiled. “Try having that in your family. I was in grade school when he passed High school. I was in middle school and he was getting ready for college. And I’m four years older.”
“My dad used to ‘joke’ that he wished I was like that. My mother just insisted I needed to apply myself more if I wanted to achieve greatness - Asian culture’s like that, I guess. Gotta be the best.” She shrugged. “Nothing like having two university professors as your parents, and being adopted so you can’t just lay claim to being that brilliant.”
“Well, my parents did push the don’t slack in the school work thing. Once he got his PhD, they only had my sister to go after. My twin and I had graduated. But they are expecting college now.”
“Yeah.” Athena sighed. “Our universities are like college for you guys. Hell of a lot of pressure. I had no idea what I was doing there, but you can’t let them down, y’know?”
“Yeah. I do know that feeling.” Susan said with a sad little smile. “But contact has been made. They know you’re alive. They know you’re safe. We can offer for them to come down. We can put out that olive branch for them.”
Athena grimaced. “My father is going to come down... but, not right away. He said he’d come next weekend, and see if the university might give him leave to lecture here for a few days. He said he was going to contact the headmistress here and see if arrangements could be made for that. He... well... he’s always been an advocate for metahuman rights. I’m not sure if Mother would come or not.”
Susan smiled at her. She was sure Syn would do her best to see if the man could come down. “Just keep hope alive that your father can speak to your mother. And should you need, I’ll be here, just in case you need a shoulder to lean on.”
Athena nodded with a sigh. “You’re the only person here right now that I trust. Maybe Beth, wherever the hell she is, but that’s a big maybe. Even Dom’s gone all... weird.” She sighed again. “Please don’t wind up being some fucking nutcase who’s going to betray me in the end, okay? I’ve had enough of that shit for a while.”
Susan nodded to her. “Athena, I have no intentions of becoming a nutcase. Nor will I betray you. I’ll grant you the same thing I give the others. A shoulder to lean on, an ear to talk to and if you need, I’ll even buy the ice cream and I’ll let you rant as long as you need.”
“Ice cream sounds good.” Athena took a deep breath. “I don’t want to face that creepy little Asian woman again, not yet. Know anyone around here who’d be up for some casual sex with a big, white mutant, just to blow off steam? I seriously need to relax...”
Susan gave a shrug. “That depends. Male or female? I know of a few of both sexes who are up for sex”
“Either.” Athena shrugged. “I’m not picky, as long as they know what they’re doing and aren’t diseased or something.”
“Well, diseased would be hard to come by here. With the healers we have, STD’s are rare.” Susan said with a nod. “The hard part is experienced and of age. But I’ve got a few we can look up. On both sides of the fence.” Susan thought of putting her own name into this little pool of people she was thinking of. But a part of her wondered if it was a good idea. This woman was trusting her and sex could possibly destroy the trust she was giving Susan.
“Sounds good.” Athena sighed with relief. “Thanks, Susan. I promise, I’ll always think of you as more than my pimp.” She gave the young woman a smirk. “And yeah, totally have to be of age. I’m not in to pedo shit.”
“Well, I’m not ready to wear my purple suit and big frilly hat yet.” Susan said with a grin. “But I’ll admit, I know more single women, looking for women, than I know men. But I’m sure I can find a few sausages for you.”
“Either way... or a little of both.” Athena smirked. “And I so need to get you that hat.”