Moving On Up

January 16, 2016:

Peter arrives to look over the Institute.

Xavier's Institute


NPCs: None.



Mood Music: [* None.]

Fade In…

The Institute's a busy place, even in winter. The sprawling acreage is covered in a thin layer of white snow, frosting the building and grounds alike. The road has been plowed quite recently so there's no risk of an accident on the approach.

Inside, Betsy Braddock is sitting in the common room not far removed from the large foyer. A few students are nearby, working on a paper, and she's reviewing a series of notes on her tablet.

"Good lord, Jean," she mutters. "Who color-codes their /emails/? Nerd," she mutters, under her breath.

After he left Betsy's apartment, Peter considered whether he really wanted to take a chance on yet another group of psiots/mutants with an agenda no matter what he found in Scott's mind. But one of the things Harada convinced him with was his desire to be among his own kind and that hasn't changed. And if he could escape from him, he can surely escape from there if he needs to.

Not needing to worry about cabs or public transport, he just flies to Westchester. He goes in low just above the treetops before getting to the school to minimize the risk of being seen then up and over the fence to land in the front yard. There, he just looks around to get a feel for the place and anyone who might happen to be outside.

"Attention," says a stern woman's voice on the house's internal loudspeakers. "Unknown flier detected at west approach." A moment later— "Unknown intruder, front yard."

A few of the students give Betsy an alarmed look as they hear the alert, but she holds a hand up to forestall them. Her thoughts wing out to the yard and locate Peter in moments.

"It's quite safe," she assures them, moving to a wall-mounted panel. She presses her thumb to an intercom. "This is Betsy— suspend the alarm. He's a visitor."

Betsy projects her thoughts at Peter. ~Do come in, Peter,~ she says. ~And nevermind the alarms, they're purely precautionary.~ She moves to the front door and readies herself to open it once he's at the threshhold.

The alarm certainly gets his attention but it's not surprising after the first moment. That the grounds are monitored makes sense; Harada's skyscraper certainly was. He looks toward the house when hears Betsy then nods and heads for the door. She can feel Peter's thoughts searching for minds on the other side as he closes the distance and when it opens, he pauses on the threshold to look around the foyer. "Hey." he says once he's satisfied.

The Institute definitely doens't look like a school. It looks like a sprawling New England mansion. Which, of course, it is. Here and there are signs of modernization, but touch panels and LED lights somehow work in harmony with the dark hardwood floor and wall panels.

"Peter," Betsy says, flashing a quick smile. "I'm glad you were able to make it out here. Welcome to Xavier's Institute for Higher Learning," she says. Stepping back, she invites him in with a wave of her hand. "Do please come in, won't you?" she invites him, considerately.

Higher learning? "What is it, a college?" Peter asks, stepping in and pushing the door closed behind him. "You said something about kids." Hearing the click of the door's latch, he's not sure whether to relax or exactly the reverse.

"It's a bit of both," Betsy says, fingers interlacing loosely at midsection level. She starts moving down the hall at a sedate pace, inviting Peter to follow along. The common room, a few steps away, sports four teenagers, who give the newcomer a wary glance before focusing back on their studies.

"'Kids' is perhaps a misnomer. The average age here is about sixteen," she explains. "We're a boarding school for gifted adolescents, as most mutants manifest their unique talents during puberty. The education is fairly rigorous and most students graduate with the equivalent of an honors citation and their first year of collegiate study completed. The Professor," she says, making it sound more name than title, "has multiple doctorates, as do Drs. Grey and McCoy. It helps our students succeed in the outside world once they're ready to move on from here and start their own lives."

Peter Stanchek glances over at Betsy, getting his attention as she explains now he's done looking over the place. "So I could get a degree here?" He considers that, adding it as a possible yes to the plus column. "Huh. So it really is a school." Getting them young must make things easy and he studies the teenagers, probably not much younger than he is, when they get to them.

"You could," Betsy agrees. "And yes, it is. First and foremost, we are a school. If nothing else, you can achieve a general education certificate— a GED," she amends. "As well as a good deal of a collegiate education. We're certified as a proctor agency, as well, so an ambitious person can do correspondence work from here. That's how Dr. Grey earned one of her degrees, and at least one other teacher is working towards a Master's via correspondence."

"And you do all this why?" Peter asks, turning to face Betsy. Sure, he got the gist from Scott's mind but she's been shielded. And they've never actually put it into words yet. "What do you all get out of it? What's the end goal?"

"The end goal?" Betsy leads Peter to a small but well appointed study, which seems ideally suited for quiet, candid talks. She invites him to be seated and takes a place for herself in a high-backed chair, sitting upright and tucking one ankle behind the other. "The advancement of mutant rights in society," she explains. "Humans are, largely, frightened of us. Those who aren't are still quite wary. Everytime a mutant abuses their talent and ends up on the 6 o'clock criminal newscast, it sets our cause back. We're sustaining the fight for equal mutant rights by producing good citizens and strong contributors to society— showing humans that we are really more like them than we are different. And that we can contribute to society in remarkable ways."

"And that's all you want? Equal rights?" Peter asks, sound skeptical. "Not looking to be in charge or develop some master races?" Who, of course, would end up in charge. "It all ends at equality?"

"A shocking notion," Betsy says, with a positively Saharan tone of voice. "No. We're not looking for special treatment or exception. Just to be allowed to live our lives. Some mutants, of course, think they the /are/ the exception. We've run afoul of them a few times— those who think mutants should rule, or think that mutants should live apart."

Peter Stanchek just nods. It's what he got from Scott's mind. Whether it's true or not, whether the man knows the truth or whether he's just a pawn, that's another matter. But it's the party line. "Gotcha. And the rest of it? The part that's not a school that the other one was talking about?"

"The reality of our talents is that it takes substantial effort from any government agency to deal with rogue mutants," Betsy tells Peter in a perfectly candid tone. "Particularly ones with sinister or violent goals. If a mutant pursues a violent agenda, then it usually requires other mutants to stop them. X-red was formed to show that mutants use their talents not just for personal benefit, but to benefit all of mankind, humans and mutants alike."

"And the non-public group she talked around?" Peter asks. "The too nice ones who feel bad if they have to kill someone? What are they called and what's their purpose?"

Betsy smiles again, a small, tight expression. "Don't worry about it," Betsy suggests to Peter. "In this case, your best defense is plausible deniability. And I don't suggest you go browing through people's thoughts over the matter, either," she says, moving a hand through the air. "We've no small number of talented psychics in residence here, and most of the rest are trained enough to at least know if they're being mentally invaded, and report accordingly."

Peter Stanchek nods, acknowledging the suggestion without agreeing or not. "So what are you going to do about Harada now that you know about him? He's more dangerous than anyone out there. He's not going to try to attack the world governments. He's going to take them over using money and politics and probably controlling their minds. He might already have, who knows."

Betsy steeples her fingers. "Nothing, at the moment," she says. She spreads her fingertips slightly in a shrug. "We don't have any actionable information about him. No objective measure of his talents, his motivations, his personality. We'll investigate him, of course, and if we find he's a threat to the cause of mutant rights, we'll convince him to reconsider his methods."

"Is that your call to make?" Peter asks, giving her an appraising look. "Do you run things around here?" He thinks a moment before continuing. "Scott said you were taking over from someone named Jean as director of the school. Does that include what I shouldn't worry about?"

"It's not quite such a black-and-white arrangement," Betsy explains. "The Professor is the heart of things, of course— this is his private residence, and he's our benefactor, as well as our most public face. Jean Grey— Dr. Grey— normally handles the scholasticism, while Scott, who you met, tends to deal best with the mutants who are threats, or potential threats, outside the school."

"Jean's on sabbatical, so it falls to me as temporary director to interview new residents and students."

"So Scott's the one who leads the fight." Peter notes, cementing the impression he got not just from the man's mind but what he said and how he said it. "I'll tell you what I know about Harada and those with him. I trained there for months before…" The pause is barely noticeable as he changes what he was going to say "…I left."

"In your own time," Betsy says with a small nod. "If I might offer a suggestion, though, from someone who's gone through a similar challenge— take some time," she says. "Find your emotional center. The inclination to resort to violence is a strong and not altogether unjustfiable one. But hot-blooded vengeance tends to make oneself reckless. Better to let it slow to a simmer and be delivered at the most appropriate time."

Peter Stanchek glances away and nods, her words hitting home and proving she does have some idea of what he's feeling. Though any empath would too and he's not shielding well. "I can't beat him on my own anyway." he says after a bit. He tried. And failed. "I'll stick around a while and see what happens. How… do I go about getting a degree? I've never been to high school."

"That is the advantage of being a resident at Xavier's Institute," Betsy tells Peter. "We never stand alone."

"As for your GED, we can enroll you in the program whenever you're ready. Some people just need a minimal amount of extra education and training. Others will take longer. It's wildly varied and dependent entirely on your dedication, intelligence, and ambition."

"How much is this going to cost?" Peter asks. "I can get it in a day or two. If it's a lot, maybe a few days more. It's less noticeable if I spread it out among different places. Less likely to get someone in trouble too."

A suggestion of a frown flickers over Betsy's glacial features. "Firstly, we do have some rules of conduct. High among them is that you shan't use your talents for personal gain," she tells Peter. "Every one of us has, at one point or another, had a realization that we can just take what we want if we're so inclined. We are not better people /because/ we have talents, but because we use our talents to benefit others instead of ourselves. Mutants who use their talents for personal gain tend to start slipping down a very dangerous slope."

"As for the cost," she says, the brittle tone leaving her voice, "there is none. We're not a for-profit institution. Those who can afford to pay tuition are certainly invited to, but it's not a requisite. You'll have your share of chores and tasks, of course— there's endless work needed to mend things that break or need upkeep."

"I use my abilities to survive." Peter counters. "And that's not going to change. I wasn't staying in the penthouse and ordering room service." he points out. "I only take what I need." And if he doesn't need to… "That's fine. I'll do what I can. Fair's fair."

"I'm not asking you to throw yourself under a proverbial bus," Betsy says, in a reassuring tone. "Nor be a victim. There is a vast gulf between /taking/ what you want and /earning/ what you need. This is, hopefully, the difference between you and Harada. If you want to defeat him— truely defeat him— you have to fight his methods, his ideologies. It's in all of us, the potential to be a villain. But fighting those inclinations is what we hope makes us heroes."

"Yeah, sure." Peter's doesn't care about being a hero. He just wants Harada dead for what he did. If he can keep some others like him alive in the process, it's just the right thing to do. Speaking of… "I heard he's got some kids with powers too so you shouldn't wait long. I never saw them though and I don't know where they are if it's true, or whether he activated them or not."

"I'll look into it immediately," Betsy assures Peter. "But for now, we'll get you focused on settling into somewhere safe. Consider this a chance for a fresh start. We'll set you up in the guest wing— it's a bit removed from the general student population, so it tends to be quieter. There are a few parts of the Mansion that are off-limits, but they're kept locked up. This is for everyone's safety," she assures him. "You'll meet with the Professor in a few days, and he can answer more of your questions. Aside from that, the rules are fairly self-explanatory. Meals are served in the common room at seven, noon, and six daily, and you have the run of the Institute and its facilities except in prohibited locations."

"Oh, good." Peter says and sounds a little relieved at the idea of being away from everyone. "Fewer minds to overhear. Well, I've got all my stuff with me so I don't need to go back." All his worldly possessions are in his backpack and it's not stuffed.

"Let's get to it, then, and then I think we're quite near teatime," Betsy suggests, rising from her chair. "I'll give you the tour."

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