Flight Exam

November 28, 2017:

After a long time training in simulators Nate has been allowed to pilot the Blackbird to Muir Island under Jean's attentive gaze. Lorna is on board too, and snakes. (There might be a part 2 with more snakes we care about)

Blackbird over the Atlantic

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Magneto, Moonstar

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

When Nate was given limited access to the Danger Room three years ago he mostly used it for simple combat simulations for Rose and himself. Usually very late at night, when no one else was around. But when he learned about the Blackbird, he started to play with flight simulations too.

There were a lot of crashes, he did not bother asking for flight lessons; involving the Blackbird in the simulation was just for fun.

But that was three years ago. And he actually ended up with an impressive number of simulated flight hours. He eventually took it seriously and went through real training, and he even volunteered to co-pilot a few times the last year. No one wanted him as pilot, of course. It is Nate we are talking about.

But when he heard Jean was flying the Blackbird to Muir Island, he volunteered to go with her and in exchange have her evaluate his pilot ability. Besides, he wanted to talk with his not-mom, it has been a while.


Jean was sitting comfortably in the co-pilot's seat but vigilant to take the controls if need be since it was one Nate Grey at the controls. She had reviewed the simulations Nate had done prior, some of them anyways and while she had confidence in the young man; she was still a little nervous.

Flying the Blackbird was no small task, and her own qualifications largely came from unforseen circumstances, "Well, you haven't crashed us into the ocean so you're doing really good so far Nate."


Fortunately there is little danger for Jean and Nate right now since they are both strong enough to keep the Blackbird in the air with their powers. Taking off went smoothly, he activated the stealth mode and accelerated slowly. He is not using the autopilot now they are flying over the Atlantic, but usually it would be done since there is little on the way, they would fly over the storms.

But he wants to show Jean he can do as well as the auto-pilot.

"There is no challenge now," he notes with a smirk. "Only possible problem will be the landing at Muir. Weather is foul, high winds and blizzard, and it has to be a vertical landing. I have done it plenty of times in the simulations, though. But if I lose control I will grab the Blackbird telekinetically and cheat."


"Cheat?" Jean replied with surprise at the notion, not so much from Nate, "This is a test, if you expect Scott to ever let you fly on missions, you're going to need to show that you can handle the heavy lifting without your powers."

Jean smiled, clearly at home in the role of teacher and instructor, "If we're in real danger, I'll take the training wheels off and handle it. You just focus on piloting."

Changing the subject, she asked, "How have you been since we got back from your world? I guess we should call it. Any feeling of closure? Anything?"


Nate hehs. "Well, I will cheat only to avoid a crash. I rather 'fail' than lose the Blackbird," he protests. "The Blackbird is to moving groups quickly, I can actually fly faster when alone." But he feels comfortable piloting the airplane. It is one of the few ways he has found he can stay still seated for long. Maybe it is a Summer family thing.

Jean question makes him tense. Closure? Oh, hell.

"I don't know," he admits. "For five years I had given up… them. I thought they died. I mourned, I raged and then I accepted it and moved on. Now I am aware some of my friends are still alive and I am torn. I want to help them. But if I go, I might never find them. And I am tied here, am I?" After Genosha, he is not sure. "But my memories are in tatters, Jean. I think I have forgotten more than I can still remember. And I lost my anchor, my heart."


"The Blackbird will be fine, I'm here.", Jean reached over to give Nate a reassuring squeeze on his shoulder, "We'll help you find it again, and if not the old anchor, a new one." She had a vague idea perhaps of what or who Nate might be referring to but she didn't want to press, "We could try to fix your memories to, some psychic surgery, there are others out there who might be better at it, but maybe our connection might help in finding what's been lost and bringing it back."


Jean knows who Nate is talking about, although probably not what happened to her, them. But the story is complex and has forgotten some parts. "The Omega Event really wrecked my life, y'know? Almost everyone was different afterwards. It was as if I had slipped into a slightly warped reality. It messed up minds and relationships and my memories didn't match with those of others anymore."

A pause, "home is where your heart is, isn't it? I seem to have misplaced mine. It hurts too much to stop to seek it, so I keep going and going. Dani thinks I am world-weary, she thought it out loud, but it is not that. I have plenty energy. It has just been a craptastic year."

"Hmm, look those thermals," he points out to one of the screen displays. "I think we are about to hit some turbulence. Hold on," he grips the controls more firmly and turns right, to try to cut through the jet stream turbulence as fast as possible.


Jean did hold on because she wasn't fully confident in simulated hours, but she didn't mother or take control, just letting Nate handle it, "We're all world weary to a point Nate. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't consider how much simpler life would be, if I wasn't who I am."

"For some of us, it's harder, that some being you." She seemed worried about Nate, "There are going to be more and more craptastic years, we just have to keep hoping they will one day get better."

She continued to grip her chair, not quite white-knuckled, "Those craptastic years are like this turbulence, we just have to weather it and make our way through."


Nate smirks again, "cutting through at high speed? Sounds about right," he sounds almost cheerful as the plane starts trembling, they start losing attitude, but they have miles to spare, so he keeps thrust steady and rides the stream without flinching.

"How did you learn to fly this thing, Jean? Did Scott teach you?" He asks, curious. Maybe he should ask directly what is going on between Scott and her, but Nate, who is blunt like a hammer and fearless to the foolhardy point, finds talking about Scott and Jean relationship all flavors of uncomfortable. Still, he is curious.


"I had some training in the early days, but most of it came from, well." Jean smiled and looked between Nate and the controls, "Let's just say necessity. It's not a situation I'd like to repeat but it's stuck with me since."

"Scott and I learned at the same time though, he's just better at it. Know what I mean?" Jean checked over a few of the gauges, satisfied with Nate's performance, "He's protective of the Blackbird to, just like his bike, and his car. See a pattern?"


"I have noticed, no one else touches the controls if he is onboard," admits Nate, amused. "He likes machines, they are simpler, more logical than people, uh?" A pattern easy to recognize for a telepath. Poor Jean.

"And we are out," the Blackbird stops shaking, and Nate steers it upwards, to recover the lost attitude. At this speed it doesn't matter much, but it is the best height to avoid detection and minimize energy consumption. The manual said so.

He can follow the rules. Sometimes.


"You're doing great Nate, I wonder how Lorna is doing.." Jean had asked Lorna to check on the live cargo they were carrying for Muir Island.

The cargo were some snakes from the Savage Land that had valuable medical properties and Moira MacTaggart had needed them for her research so they had been very cautiously put in with the supplies.

<Hey Lorna> Jean's voice was inside of the Green haired girls head, <How are the snakes doing>


Lorna came out of the back, her expression pinched with a vague sense of irritation. "When you said, 'hey Lorna, come on the plane ride, it'll be fun. It'll be good for you to get out. I can totally help you with your case of crazies on the way. No problem!'" She scowled shooting the redhead a look as she waved her hand the door shut behind her.

"I am tired of watching these mother fucking snakes on this mother fucking plane! It's not like they'd ever get loose by damn it, who's—" Her gaze landed on Nate and she scowled, "You're piloting!? Well that explains so much." She grumped. And grumped some more, leaning back against the door frame.


"Hey Lorna," greets Nate, not looking back because he wants to be sure they are out of the turbulences. Listening. And ouch. "I can pilot the damn plane fine, okay? Hell, there are not Hydra fighters or alien spaceships chasing us," like in the last few Danger Room simulations he ran - Nate likes to make them interesting. "I could set the auto-pilot until we get to Muir." And he does that right now. "There. No worries until the landing. That is going to be fun. There is a polar blizzard hitting the island. Those snakes are going into hibernation if they get a peek through the windows."


"Sorry, Lorna." Jean looked over her shoulder at her friend, "If I had asked you to be the Snake Guard on a flight to Scotland, I didn't need to be a telepath to know you wouldn't have agreed."

With Nate's action-packed nature, she wasn't sure how well the cargo would have stayed secure if there was trouble.

Maybe Colossus would have been a better choice since the snake venom couldn't instantly kill him and turn him into a zombie. This is why Scott handled Tactics!

"We should be fine now, you can go ahead and set the auto-pilot Nate." She undid her buckles on her seat and stood up to stretch, "Having more qualified pilots will be good, you should start learning Lorna. In two or three years, Scott might let you take a flight exam."


Lorna snorted and made to plop down in a seat, rummaging around for something to drink before realizing that there wasn't likely anything stocked besides energy drinks and water. She huffed, and crossed her arms instead. "Yeah, I know there's no aliens or fights or anything chasing us. Why do you think I was questioning the piloting?" She snarked back, arching a green eyebrow upwards.

But then her look of snarkiness and annoyance faded to glance back at Jean. Her eyebrow lofting upwards. "Woah, woah, no. I am not learning to fly any plane. Okay? I'm not an X-man anymore. I'm more like the army reserves. Unless shit goes down, I'm not going to be around. Also, I can fly why would I want to fly a plane?" She shook her head and wrinkled her nose up.


Nate smirks back. "I got this reputation…" which he mostly deserves. But still… "Would you believe piloting an airplane is actually pretty relaxing? I mean, you have to pay attention to a lot of details, it keeps the mind busy. And the view is great. We all can fly under our own power here, it is not much different. So the question is: Why would you miss the chance to learn to fly a plane?"


"Sorry, I almost forgot." Jean replied to Lorna (She must have missed that bit at some point), "It is fun to pilot the blackbird though, it's probably why Nate wants to so badly. Too bad he won't be taking it out for any joyrides."

"So how have you two been holding up after recent events? If you need to take some time to talk, I'm always free. Just a knock on the door to my office." It's not like she was going to do group therapy in the plane.


Lorna scowled, "I hate planes. That's why Nate. Okay? Shove off." She looked down at her lap, her hands curling into fists, even crossed as they were. Jean would pick up on the why of course, it was more or less screaming in her mind. 'Maybe it has something to do with the fact that my mother died in a plane crash!' The thought was heated and anger spiked sharp in her before she stifled it.

She swallowed a hard lump in her throat and she exhaled a breath. "Oh, I'm fine you know. My father is calling mutants to serve in Genosha. Mutant Registration shit has hit the fan again, and my sister drove through my head like a freight train. Oh and also Dani turned to the dark side and has preyed on my fears.. But yeah, besides that I'm just peachy." She huffed.


Lorna hates planes? Weird. Then again Nate intensely dislikes Christmas. Logic has nothing to do with phobias. “My girlfriend got recruited by the DEO’s worst scumbag and had a bomb put in her head, again. Now she is missing, probably dead. Then I died, for real. And I got back with my memory full of holes. Have I mentioned the Omega Shift really wrecked my world by altering most of my friends or making them vanish? Oh, and lets not talk about that visit to my homeworld and what the Shadow King and Sinister did to me. And Dani’s Bear… visions, those are bad, yeah. Worse.”

Yes, Jean. They both need psychiatric assistance for the next century.

“Hah, but I am still alive. I am going back to the cabin so you can have a private chat,” decides Nate. “But we will get to Muir in an hour. And… watch the snakes.”


Jean watched Nate depart before nodding to Lorna, "It's been a rough few weeks, lots all in a short span of time. I can see how it might be a lot to deal with." She was sympathetic but had been preoccupied with handling things at the school for the most part.

"I don't think it's a good idea for any of us to be going back to Genosha, but it's not up to me." She didn't need telepathy to realize Lorna might intend to head there for good, or ill.


Lorna waved with a flap of her hand as Nate departed and her gaze swung back to Jean. Her friend. She pursed her lips together, and leaned forward, her forearms settling against her lap. "I have to go. I talked to Scott.. Nate.." She closed her eyes briefly.

"Someone has to find out about Pietro and Wanda. And who else will Magneto speak to about them? It certainly won't be anyone else alive on this planet. I have to go Jean. It'll be easy for him to accept me there. He wants mutants to help him take control of the island." Her jaw tightened, and there was fear there. Honest fear that something more might happen. Her chest tightened and she shivered though it wasn't cold.

"Pietro and Wanda are trying to kill people Jean. I .. It's my responsibility. I can't avoid it. I can't keep my head down and ignore it anymore.."


"Lorna, you should know, I never agreed with what we did in Genosha. I don't think the X-Men should be overthrowing governments or creating foreign policy. We need to set an example, and the one we've set? It's not been the one we should be." Jean didn't seem at all pleased with Lorna's announcements, "We need to help guide humanity and other mutants towards co-operation, not fight amongst each other."


Lorna arched a brow upwards as she looked at her friend and sighed, her lips pursing together. It was clear that she didn't entirely believe that what was done in Genosha was wrong, but she didn't argue that point. "Pietro and Wanda are attacking people. I have to stop them. They're my half-siblings, Jean. And I need to talk to my father about it. How else can I get more about them? They're attacking innocent people and my father hasn't done shit with the Brotherhood in years. But there they are. Starting it up. I need to find out if he's pulling the strings or not." She exhaled a breath, her hands folding together as she closed her eyes briefly.

"If someone doesn't stop them Jean, they'll hurt more people. It was lucky that I was there at the last riot. They focused on me.. not the innocent bystanders."


"Have you considered that this is what Magneto wants? To gather his children to him in Genosha and use them for his plans? He never stops plotting, Lorna. There are few people in the world who deserve to be behind bars more then your father." Jean hated to have the conversation with Lorna like this, but it had been inevitable one way or the other.


Lorna's scowl deepened. "I'm not stupid Jean, of course I thought of it. But I'm pretty sure Pietro and Wanda didn't know that he was their father. The shock.. Pietro slammed me into an alley wall over it. He clearly didn't know. Didn't know who his father was, didn't want to know. Until I told him. And then Wanda went running through my head and fucked everything up. I had a horrible migraine." She reached up to drag her fingers through her hair and she hung her head, rubbing her temples.

"It's not like he has mind control. He can't force me to work for him. I'm bringing Marcos and Nate wants to come too. I'll have people to watch my back."


"He is charismatic." Jean reminded Lorna, "People don't follow him because he isn't." There were few people she disliked, Magneto was pretty damn high on that list, "I can sense there's nothing I can do to stop you, so I can only wish you luck." She hoped she wouldn't be having the 'I told you so' talk in a year..


Jean would most definitely be having that 'told you so' talk, and in likely less time than a year, one way or another. Lorna sighed heavily, dragging her hands through her hair. "He couldn't be bothered to show up for a single day in my life Jean, couldn't be bothered after he revealed that whole 'No, I am your father' bullshit. Even after he abandoned the Brotherhood. He's an asshole. And if he abandoned Pietro and Wanda too? If he knew about them as well? And I'm pretty sure he is well aware by now.." Her lips twisted and she scowled.

"He's not going to convince me to join his side as some family bonding experience." She muttered, and crossed her arms.

"I don't.. want to go to Genosha. I want to be here. But Scott agreed that I'm our best bet to figure out Magneto's plans, and how Pietro and Wanda fit into it."


"I have faith you'll do what you can, Lorna." Jean seemed saddened that the X-Men would be fracturing and seperating once again, not so long after they had all fought to return home.

She moved over into the pilot's seat and took the controls even though the autopilot was on, "Just, be careful."


Lorna got up as Jean moved away, a sigh dragging from her lips as she made to slide her arms around Jean as the woman took up the controls. She gave her friend a hug, pressing her cheek against Jean's shoulder briefly before she let go. "I'm too scared to ever become like him, Jean. I swear. It's what Dani projected to get to me." She whispered.

"If I slip, Marcos knows what to do to try to drag me back. We've talked about it." Her voice was still soft. "If something goes wrong…" And then she was stepping back, letting Jean fly.

"Nothing will go wrong." Jean tried to reassure Lorna, "You're strong enough to resist." She had to hope Lorna was because if she joined Magneto, they would have an apocalyptic scenario on their hands.


The vision of a destroyed world, one without life, without metal in a ruined city hummed in Lorna's mind. One where she commanded all that remained and drove it through Marcos' heart along with that of the other X-men. She looked down at the floor of the plane, her throat tight. Dani had played on all of her deepest fears and it sat ill with her still. Perhaps it always would.

"I hope so."

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