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  Book One of the Annwn Ryu Cycle
Chapter XII
  "Mind Games"

 Cayanne was one of the few members of the student body who enjoyed homework. One factor was the interest level - Hank had taken a special interest in her fascination with genetics and biotechnology, and happily assigned her a variety of projects she all but bulldozed through in her enthusiasm.
  She also discovered a love of "tinkering", involving her spending hours one evening writing her own operating system, since Microsoft Windows bored her. Computer graphics, three-dimensional modelling, programming - and a few sideline hacking self-assignments more out of curiosity than anything had Scott put her in charge of securing the mansion's computer systems. It was rather like putting the fox in the henhouse, but Cayanne proved an innovative sort, and soon was happily patching several holes she found in the main systems. Of course, she wasn't above keeping a few "back doors" to herself, but then, that was the challenge.
  Gym class became less interesting after a few sparring matches with Logan, who soon learned - after once getting whacked on the head by a spinning quarterstaff - that if there was one affront his young protege wouldn't tolerate, it was going easy on her. After that, battles between them had strict time-limits, and a certain series of signals that ended a bout when he could tell she was on the verge of physical collapse.
  In all, she enjoyed the idea of stretching her mental muscles along with her physical ones, and almost literally ran circles around Scott, who was beginning to wonder if one of her abilities was to never run out of enthusiastic energy.
  Even so, in computer class, she found herself trying to forget her appointment with Professor Burke. Running her fingers swiftly over the touchpad, the teen-ager accessed his public file - multiple degrees (in psychiatry, neurosurgery, pediatrics, and emergency medicine, along with two oddities - one in archeology and another in astronomy - along with a long list of published articles - so he was pro-mutant, interesting note there - and several thesis.
  Well, least he not total loss. she thought half-hopefully to herself as Miss Munroe - it was still hard to think of her as Ororo while class was in session - dismissed the students for Literature.
 "Have you picked your Classics Project, Cayanne?" the dark-skinned woman asked, smiling at the youngster.
 The teen grinned back impishly. "Picked? Already done, Miss Munroe." she replied, tucking her sketchbook under her arm absently. "Did it on Shakespeare."
 Her gentle blue eyes lit with interest. "Which play?" she asked, as she cleared her desk.
 "No play, did't on him."
 "I doubt Scott will consider him a "classic"...." the storm goddess began. "
 "Classic," quoted Cayanne, her expression mischievous. "De etymology from de French classique - which from de Latin classicus, highest class o' Roman citizizens. Bein' a standard o' excellence. Oui? Historically mem'ble. Noted fer special lit'rary or histor'cal associ'tion." She grinned again. "Describe de Bard pretty well, pas vous parole?"
 Ororo couldn't resist a smile in reply. "That is rather a - unique answer." she commented, closing the desk drawer.
 The girl paused in the doorway, expression one of complete innocence. "Juste élargissant mon esprit, ma'am." Then she was gone, leaving the weather mutant chuckling despite herself.

  Cayanne leaned against the wall, counting mentally to one thousand. The way she saw it, if the shrink didn't show up in two more minutes, she was finding another place to be. Fast. He was late.
  She glared at the oaken door, then leaned back into the shadows, watching the shadows.
  Neuf mille des, neuf mille deux...
The door opened.
  Damnez-le! the girl cursed silently, unfolding herself from the wall.
  A tall man with surprisingly young features stepped through the door, and smiled a greeting.
  "Hello. You must be Cayanne." he said, in a pleasant baritone.
  "Oui." She glared past him into the room, noting the neatly arranged books, the wide window - the leather couch.
  Stretching, this Professor commented, "Well, I've been cooped up all morning writing more boring articles for stuffy old gentlemen who'll probably never read them, what would you say to having our chat outside?"
  The teen-ager watched him warily, then shrugged.
  He opened the outer door for her, and they proceeded down the back hallway and out into the sunlight.
 "Well," he said, smiling again as they walked, "my name is Byron. I absolutely loathe Professor, it makes me feel ancient. A pleasure to meet you."
  Cayanne's expression was mildly bemused.
  "Charles tells me you have no great fondness for us shrinks."
  The teen-ager grinned suddenly. "Shrink?"
  He smiled. "Well, it sounds much better than "professor laureate", which is simply preposterously arrogant, don't you think? Besides, I am a shrink." His expression was warm. "And just to be fair, yes, I am a mutant. My abilities are empathic, deductive, and gravitonic."
  "'Least you up-front." said Cayanne, cautiously. Though she tended to stand by her decisions, it was obvious the man was trying his best to make her feel at ease. Though wary, the girl was amused to feel some of the hostility drain away.
  Byron chuckled. "Growing up with a younger sister, I was forced to be a bit on the diplomatic side." he said, with an air of inner amusement.
  "Yer sister here, isn't she?" Cayanne's eyes narrowed suddenly behind her glasses. Burke. "You Althea's brother."
  "Yes, Cayanne. I am." He regarded her with warm, bright blue eyes.
  The teen tensed. "You an empath, but don' t'ink you c'n tinker wit my head." she growled, hands balling into fists.
  Byron held up his hands, his voice soft but earnest. "I would not - and honestly could not - manipulate you, Cayanne. I've used my gift to soothe, never to harm. I take my Hippocratic Oath quite seriously."
  Cayanne's sharp, almost feral features were taut for several seconds before she seemed to uncoil.
  "You got question. Ask. Den we go from dere."

  "She is extraordinary." said Byron, sipping his hot spiced tea as he leaned back in his chair. "And normally I could identify her abilities..."
  "But?" Xavier encouraged, taking a cautious sip of his own steaming coffee.
  The younger man sighed. "I detect a natural shield. A massive one, and I think I know why you are having so much difficulty narrowing down her abilities."
  Xavier waited, watching as Byron absently began to tinker with the small Lego set he always had on his person.
  "I think she is effectively immune to any mutant - or any effect - she is exposed to" He closed his eyes, long fingers spinning the tiny pieces through his hands. "An evolved immune system."
  The telepath was silent for a long moment. "Yet I can still sense her." he said, quietly.
  "Because she's not aware of the abilities she's beginning - yes, I said beginning - to manifest. On a deep, subconscious level, that girl is afraid of losing her father's approval more than death itself. That is acting as a - call it a buffer. Something happened to her in her past, something so horrible she can't face it, or even bring it to conscious thought. Something she's perfectly willing to die before letting her father discover."
  "You have a theory." It wasn't exactly a question. Byron had a tendency to go off on tangents, and Xavier had become accustomed to reeling him back in.
  "Yes, and it isn't pretty." Byron's eyes, an unusual shade of blue that was closer to violet, stared into Xavier's. "Abuse. Definitely physical and psychological. But to cause this much secrecy in someone of her nature - it would have to be monstrous."
Cayanne came into the kitchen in a t-shirt and jeans, opened the cabinet above the counter, found a plastic glass near the back, and filled it with ice-cold water from the dispenser.
  It was then she noticed her hands were shaking - and aching.
  She scowled, glared at the offending appendages, closed her eyes, gulped down the icy drink.
  Opened them to see Justin padding into the room, wings lock-folded across his chest.
  His demon-reptilian head rose slightly on the arch of his neck, horns glinting in the light.
  "Yhooou dhooo nhooot lhooook whelll." he commented, sibilant voice sliding over the vowels.
  "It nothin'." she replied. "How yer wing, flyboy?"
  In a sparring match, Althea had stomped on his wing and Justin had promptly bit her. Considering the needle-sharp, serrated teeth his long jaws boasted, it was lucky he had not used the full force of it or she would have lost an arm. As it was, listening to the older mutant shriek over such a tiny amount of blood had grated on Cayanne's nerves.
  Justin's prismatic eyes blinked once, nicitating membrane sliding almost invisibly over the flickers of colors. "Zzhaane iss dissspleaasssed." He emphasized the last word enough that heard the rumble in the words.
  "She not worth it. You tell him behave." she chided, giving the taller mutant a friendly swat on the shoulder.
  His tail did an unconscious dance on the tiles as he crouched, digigrade legs making him lean forward slightly. "Zzhaane whilll sssay thhee saaahm ffooor hhheeer." he observed, humor in his tone.
  For the last week, Althea had all but driven the younger members of the student body to distraction in attempts to rouse a fight. Zane was held back only by Liam's pleas. The other three were not as familiar with the older girl, and thus managed to avoid the worst, while Justin simply would grin, showing all his fangs, enough to disconcert any sensible soul.
  Cayanne's eyes tipped up to sparkle into her friend's."Tell Zane, Liam, Fabian, Graham an' Brendan t' meet me t'night at de midnight hour in de forest near de school."
  Justin's jewel-sparkling eyes flickered with inner light.  "Wwhhhat sssshaaall Ihi teehlll thhhem iiis thhee whhyy?"
  Silver glinted in her eyes as she grinned. "Tell dem we get ready t' do some funky poachin'."

  The six young mutants gathered around the old oak, just as Cayanne slid down from her perch, her battered backpack bouncing loosely on her shoulder.
  "Tell me you have a plan." groaned Zane, shifting against the limb poking his shoulderblade.
  "Oh, I got plan." Cayanne's grin was pure mischief. "Now, we need work all as team. Here, Zane - you an' Liam take dis." She passed them two cans of paint and a pot of glue "liberated" from the art department. "Fab, you an' Gray take de feathers. Justin, you gonna be our eye in de sky." She rubbed her hands together in glee. "We got one hour in and out."
  "The security..." began Graham, his tall, muscular form crouched next to Fabian's thinner one.
  Cayanne grinned. "De fox in de henhouse, an' I know where all de chickens sleep."

  Scott nearly rolled over Jean when he heard the scream.
  Charging from his room, he saw Stryfe and Nathan seated serenely, one reading the newspaper while the other turned a page in his novel, completely unaffected.
  Scott and Jean were met half-way by Ororo and Marie, with Remy bringing up the rear, yawning hugely.
  The leader of the X-Men stood there in his pajama bottoms, gawking in complete disbelief.
  Althea Burke stood in the hallway, dripping feathers, makeshift tar, and pink paint on the carpet while screaming, "I'll get you for this, Cayanne! I don't know how you did it, but I'll get you for this!"
  Cayanne was leaning against the wall, eyes wide and innocent. "An' you got proof, Blondie? Heaven," and she placed a gloved hand over her heart, "how could ya t'ink such a t'ing o' me."
  "You...you..." The shriek was unintelligible.
  "Chicken in de henhouse...." hummed the Cajun teen, snapping her fingers as she passed her grinning father, tossing a jaunty little salute at the disbelieving Cyclops. She threw a companionable arm around Zane and Liam's shoulders, guiding them down the stairs, the rest of the old folk song drifting after them.
  Logan fought down laughter. "Tarred and feathered." he said, carefully lifting a piece of sashimi to his mouth. "Sounds like she's gettin' serious." His voice was amused.
  "I'm hoping Cayanne will let this go." said Scott, chewing absently on his pan-fried hamburger. "It's getting out of hand."
  The other mutant snorted.
  "Someone could get hurt." added Jean, her expression worried. "Althea is fully aware of her powers, she could use them against Cayanne...."
  "If she does, it's her funeral." growled Logan, his eyes flickering dangerously gold.

  Cayanne, reluctant as ever, made her way from class to Dorian's office.
  Deuxième rendez-vous, un plus à aller. she thought to herself, giving the door a brisk knock.  
  "Come in, Cayanne." called Byron, doubtless from his desk.
  Grumbling inwardly, the teen-ager entered, closing the door silently behind her.
  Sure enough, Byron was seated at the huge monstrosity he called a desk, finishing a Lego model of the Golden Gate Bridge. He smiled winningly at the young Cajun, waving his hand toward a chair. "Ever used them?"
  "De Legos or de bridge?" She watched him with a guarded gaze.
  Byron smiled. "Legos, of course." was his reply.
  Cayanne shrugged. "Few times." she evaded.
  "Would you like to try?"
  Even hidden behind aviator's glasses, the teen-ager's gaze was piercing. "Why?" she demanded.
  "For a bit of fun."
  Cayanne snorted, but eyed the many pieces. Her head ached suddenly, a shockingly strong pain-that-wasn't-pain lancing through her. It was a major effort to not fall, not cling to the desk for support.
  "Cayanne!" Byron's alarmed voice, his hands on her shoulders, trying to support her as the world wobbled dangerously around her. Something hit her cheek, a drilling pain, drawing blood. She was being pelted with many small, flying objects.
  The world went black.

  Pale and silent, Cayanne lay on one of the MedBay examination tables, Hank carefully taking a small quantity of blood for analysis. The girl didn't show any reaction to the tiny pinch of the needle, her features drawn and achingly vulnerable.
  Professor Xavier was gently trying to calm Remy, who was seated in a chair, eyes never leaving his daughter.
  Logan stood nearby, a solid, if hidden, presence.
  Scott was speaking quietly to Nathan and Stryfe, who both looked over occasionally at the suddenly fragile young Cajun.
  They could do nothing but be there, and there they remained, watching over the quixotic youngster who had come to mean so much to each of them, for both the same and different reasons.
  Jean was standing next to Cayanne's bed, eyes closed, trying to "read" whatever telepathic "residue" was left over from the incident. It required extremes of concentration and control, since any attempt to actually enter the girl's mind would likely trigger withdrawal.
 Something tugged on the edge of her awareness, something burrowed deep under Cayanne's consciousness.
 Careful not to in any way cause distress, she examined it...
 Begone, little Phoenix. The mental voice was deep and somehow silky, ancient and yet new.
 She "looked" up, seeing nothing, only....
 Dim outline. Flickering, silver - the Phoenix in her shrieked in - terror.
 It knew. It...
 There was a blast of silent light, and Jean was flung from Cayanne's mind.

 Scott leapt to catch Jean as she was flung violently from the bedside. He was knocked off his feet, and Logan managed to twist and catch them both, easing them down.
 "She's telekinetic." gasped out the red-haired mutant. "Something - something is inside her." She was shaking, and suddenly tremendously grateful for Scott's protective embrace.
 "Ce qui?!" demanded Remy, moving to his daughter's side, gathering her to him.
 "Jean, what did you sense?" Xavier's voice was gentle.
 "I don't know. Something - " She shook her head. "Something. It didn't strike me as evil, not really, just - just so old." She shivered. "It's waiting for something. Cayanne, maybe."
  Remy turned his head to shoot a gaze somewhere between a glare and a question at her.
  "I think it's waiting for her to finish maturing."

  Cayanne was beginning to wonder if she should start living in MedBay . Hank and Xavier had insisted she remain there "until they were sure she was all right". So she played chess with her Papa, Go with Logan, and Monopoly with Zane, Liam, Justin, and Fabian. Graham refused to play games, seeing them as an "irrational waste of time", but Fabian had him being the banker.
  She read a great deal - not that she minded that, and Hank brought her some books on philosophy and poetry she'd never seen before.
  And the teen put a great deal of effort into not thinking about what happened. She wasn't avoiding it, per say, after all, she did acknowledge it happened, but she couldn't really do anything about it, so she worked at understanding what she could.
  Marie came and often played checkers or chess with her, and they would talk about all manner of things. Sometimes the state of the school, many times Remy's state of mind.
  Logan taught her more Japanese.
  She taught him some of the more - inventive - words in Cajun.
  No-one treated her as an invalid.
  She felt - safe. Which almost caused a panic attack in itself. Only with her Papa had she ever felt safe before. Admittedly, the feeling now was a little different, but she was not accustomed to it. Not at all.
  Part of her wanted to bolt.
  The larger part refused to run.
  So she stayed.
  And wondered.

Translations from the Cajun (French)

pas vous parole?                                     -             don't you think?
Juste élargissant mon esprit                    -           Just broadening my mind
Neuf mille des, neuf mille deux...            -           Nine thousand one, nine thousand two...
Damnez-le!                                              -               Damn it!
Deuxième rendez-vous, un plus à aller.  -           Second appointment, one more to go.
Ce qui?!                                                       -            What?!


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