White Rabbit

by Domenika Marzione

21/October 2010

"I don't give a flying fuck what else Sagerstein has to do today," Lily growled at the man standing before her. "You tell him that he runs the filters I asked for now. Not later today, not after he finishes the dailies, but now. Do you understand me?"

This was the first time the Chronography group was actively trying to intercept a major event rather than just sit helplessly and passively as it unfolded around them, waiting for the dust to settle so they could pick through the rubble. Lily was not going to make it a failure because of the bureaucratic fetishes of people who, whether they liked it or not, reported to her.

"Yes, ma'am." Chris Provenzano, a graduate student from Milwaukee who was currently interning with the group's data sorting subsection, nodded quickly.

"Good," Lily barked. "Now make Sagerstein understand. Go!"

Provenzano fairly sprinted out of the large room, the stunned-silent audience rendering audible his sneakers squeaking on the hallway tile as he banked right to head for the Historical Data Analysis office.

Chris was a good kid, Lily knew. And he probably would understand later when she'd feel guilty enough to explain that he had simply been caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. But right now, Lily really didn't have the time to worry about anyone's feelings. Janne Kallio had called her at home at six fifteen in the morning to report that the overnight readings had been alarmingly high. High enough so that Nathan had called her cell phone while she was dropping Dane off at daycare (an hour early) to ask what was going on. Five hours later, Lily still wasn't sure.

Historical Data Analysis, HisDAs, was a world unto itself, one that Lily did not care to visit often. Chock full of the arrogant elitists who had driven her crazy at Akkaba, HisDAs was charged with categorizing every world event on a sliding scale of influence, from floods to assassination attempts to stock market dips to airbag recalls. They were creating a catalog of calamity, cross-referenced by time, place, event, and effect and then rated in units (that Lily really wished to call 'Nathans').

The grand plan of the chronography group, after they figured out how to successfully derive a function that would map all of time itself, was to turn that book of disaster into a something that could be concretely applied to fluid dynamics. A one-to-one mapping of real-life event to specific flow-control aspect. Chronography's official aim was to create a mathematically precise prescience, one unhindered by human subjectivity and limitations. But what they had now was at best imprecise and at worst outright guessing and it all came from hindsight and not foresight. Which meant it was useless as a predictive tool. What had worked at Akkaba had done so in a large part because of the localized nature of the battle; everything was happening right there. The rest of the universe was not so obliging.

Right now, even if they could successfully map a particular distortion effect to, say, an earthquake, it wouldn't do anyone much good because the 'what' -- earthquake -- was all they could reasonably predict, not the where or when or even the magnitude. That was why everyone was so on edge - any sort of large ripple was just a vague harbinger of a doom that might or might not be coming, depending on how well that particular model was extrapolating the flow of time. This was their daily frustration, today magnified because this morning's ripple had been more like a small tsunami.

"Show's over folks," Lily announced as she sat back down at her desk.

The silence lasted for a moment longer before a muted version of office noise - conversations continued at a whisper, furniture moved gently instead of casually - took over. The tension was almost tangible, but everyone also knew that they had work to do. For all of the progress made, chronography was still much more a theoretical mathematical construct than an applied science and today's numbers were just a reminder that they were rapidly running out of time in which to bridge the gap.

On hundred models running for sixteen months and subject to hourly corrections had gotten the group astonishingly close to being able to map the time stream... As a discontinuous function. With a very small range. And mostly unable to accommodate for extreme variation. And with a tendency to be proven non-convergent.

"Well, it's good to know that you aren't afraid to pull rank," Amy commented cheerfully as she wheeled into Lily's space and rolled over to the mini conference table. "You've been here more than a year; we were getting worried."

"I pull rank all the time," Lily replied humorlessly as she grabbed the sheaf of papers from her desk and moved over to the table. "It's just usually less theatrical."

Ideally, Lily would have liked to say that she ran the Chronography group as a constitutional monarchy. But that would be misleading. Somewhere between that and enlightened absolutism would probably be closer. Depending on how much crap was hitting the fan at any given moment, of course.

"First results from the AA: we have sixteen models running at higher than 98%," Miri Ahearn called out from across the room, the din quieting down. "Ten higher than 99%."

Actuality Alignment, the measuring up of mathematically derived projections with what had actually happened, had become ever more precise. When Lily had arrived, anything over eighty percent alignment had been considered a boon. Seven months ago, when she had presented her findings in Lafayette, ninety percent had been the standard. By the time she had taken Dane back to New York for vacation in August, they were discounting any result lower than ninety-five. It was rougher going now and ninety-seven was really the boundary, but if they could find a big enough sample at a higher AA...

"Time frame?" Ubong Wadkins, the chief mathematician of the group hollered back. He had returned from a family wedding in Nigeria two days ago and Lily knew that the jet lag must have been killing him. He was supposed to have been off today.


Ubi made a displeased face and looked at Lily for input.

"That's halfway between something and nothing," she replied, then raised her voice enough for Miri to hear across the room. "Did you run histories on those models?"

"They're going now," Miri replied, leaning down so that she could hear her partner, Eddie Kim, before standing up again. "Ten minutes for a complete six-month workup."

"I want your best ideas for a workable sample on Santivaldi's screen in half an hour," Lily told her, gesturing with her hand for the runner from HisDAs to give his package to Amy. "Santivaldi, that means I want Wadkins' people to have at least an update within the hour. Ubi, I don't want to hear that you don't know what's going on, okay?"

Lily sat down heavily as everyone's attention shifted to their tasks and the voices of the subgroup leaders' started to be heard.

"It finally feels like work," Roger Marlowe fairly chirped with grim humor as he entered Lily's cubicle space from the other side that Amy had come in from. He, too, had a tablet computer and a notepad. While their daily dealings were usually too brief to merit Roger either sitting or bringing a pad, today was an exception. "All these mathematicians and theoretical physicists and theoretical fluids people - present company excluded, of course - and I was starting to feel like my engineering skills were withering away and atrophying... Radek's on his way. He was waiting for a call from Dov Himmelman."

Another holdover from Nathan's private army, Roger was the field agent administrator. An electrical engineer by training, he had held a commission with the Royal Marines before entering into the service of the Askani'Son and he used all of those skills to deploy the manpower necessary to gather the sorts of information that a roomful of Crays couldn't. If HisDAs could turn the world into a two-dimensional construct, Roger was the one who worked in 3-D, collecting nuances, rumors, and other sorts of subjective data that often meant as much as the stuff pulled off the newswire. HUMINT and RUMINT, as he liked to call it. It was the more dynamic - and less hidebound - half of the social sciences aspect of chronography. Lily wasn't quite sure how many people Roger supervised - the remnants of the cloak-and-dagger operations that had been par for the course before Akkaba were mostly beyond her ken and she was happy to focus on the results and not on how they were acquired. Nathan trusted Roger and, separately and on her own terms, so did she.

"Who is Himmelman?" Lily asked. It was probably one of the field chiefs; she could never keep their names straight.

"South America," Roger answered as he flipped pages on his tablet with finger flicks. "Radek had a hunch about something in Argentina."

Radek Droppa, the very proud elder brother of the Czech Elite League's best goalie, often had hunches. He was a mutant, although his powers were nebulous the way Domino's were - sometimes they worked, sometimes it was hard to tell. His 'hunches' had served him well as a spy first for the Czech government and then for Nathan and now for Roger, whose deputy he was. Lily called them Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, Amy preferred Yin and Yang. They were a well-matched set, Roger and Radek. Roger's skills focused on data flow and his passion lay in finding the latest gadgets that would improve such; Radek had the uncanny ability to assign the operatives armed with those toys to just the right place at just the right time. Roger was Eton and Oxford, Radek was pilsner and the Scorpions, but they worked in perfect harmony.

Amy snorted. "Watch, he's going to solve this mess before we can get the rest of the results back from Sagerstein." She held up the tablet that the page had brought her to show its screen. Lily couldn't see the numbers from where she was. "We are so going to have to refine how Meteorology assesses things after this is over. I grew up in Baltimore and I have a better handle on how to weigh a snowstorm than they do. It's in effing Oslo, not Los Angeles. The Norwegians can handle a meter of snow."

"They are Norwegians," Radek sniffed as he sat down, dropping a pile of flash drives on the desk. "They have nothing to do but play in the snow."

"How is Argentina?" Lily asked, pulling her chair closer to the table. With her favorite unholy trio assembled, they could now set down to work.

"Dead end," Radek frowned, his bangs falling into his eyes. "I still think it's going to be political, but... General Locatelli has a firmer grip on the Parliament than it looks, so..."

"But why Argentina in the first place?" Amy asked, not unkindly. Amy, like Lily, did not have the appreciation for the subtlety of international politics that Radek did. "With the numbers we've been getting, I'd think it would be a first-world country, not..." she trailed off, waving the pencil in her hand vaguely.

"Think keystones," Roger explained, steepling his fingers and then tapping his index fingers together. "You take out the right little rock and everything else comes crashing down."

The quartet started working in earnest then, running through folders of past events and parsing through the reports generated by the group members. A half-hour later, the computer on Lily's desk started beeping.

Lily got up and went over to the monitor. She skimmed the contents of her screen before bouncing the file over to the monitor screen by the table. The graphs were plotted on very few points - it was an early version - but Lily felt a little surge of... not pride, but at least confidence that she had chosen the right filters. The Concussed Cassandra, they had taken to calling themselves here. Mindful of their search to predict the truth, the Chronography group hadn't lost its sense of humor. The annual picnic had come complete with t-shirts that had 'Next Stop: Delphi' on the backs.

She rejoined the trio as Amy traced one of the graphs with the eraser end of her pencil.

"Take a look at this," Lily told the trio. "It's the rough version of the last thirty-six hours corrected for incidence by Sagerstein. Roger, I think keystones are exactly what we're looking at."

"The amplitude and frequency are all wrong for a major disaster," Amy mused just loud enough to be heard. Squinting to see the numbers, Amy jotted down an equation and started working through it, turning her notepad around to show Lily and Roger. Radek, cheerfully unmathematical in nature, just watched. "If we ran this all the way through, the increase is going to be geometrical. We're not looking at a Class Five hurricane or a nuclear attack. We're looking at a relatively small event with big consequences."

"And we're going to have to wait a little bit to see what sort of consequences and what sort of event we have," Lily agreed with a sigh. "Not to mention a better clue as to when this is going to happen."

Roger checked his watch. "I have a video conference scheduled in ten minutes. If we've graduated to the stage where we are waiting for new information before plotting our next move, then perhaps I might beg permission to run off for a bit?"

Lily nodded. "Go ahead. We'll reconvene later, once some more of the grunt work has been done and processed. I should call Nathan and give him an update anyway. I'm surprised he hasn't teleported here yet to ask questions in person."

Roger stood and bowed slightly before departing, Radek trailing behind. Lily turned to Amy. "We should take a look at the run-of-the-mill stuff that's been otherwise ignored today."

"And you need to call your parents," Amy reminded her as she wheeled herself back towards her cubicle. "I'll come back in a few with the rundown on the non-emergency stuff."

Lily sighed. The timing couldn't be worse. Her parents were due in for their first visit to the New Lands and she was tied up at work. She looked at her watch, figuring out what time it would be in California. Her father would already be en route to Los Angeles, but her mother would probably still be in San Francisco.

"Hey, Mom?... Just checking to make sure everything's okay... He did? Good...A little hectic, actually, but I'm hoping things will be done by the time you get here... No, I'll try and explain once I see you... Don't forget your immunization papers... No, they'll have them in the computer, but it will make getting through Customs twice as long... Remember when you went to Hawaii? Same thing... He's excited... Yeah... All right, let me get back to work. I'll see you in two days... Yeah. Love you, too."

A long time ago, during one of the many bouts of 'if I don't get out of here, there's going to be a homicide' that had plagued her teenaged years, Lily had gotten fed up and fled. She hadn't run that far - from San Francisco up to Portland - and it had only been to her Aunt Eleanor's. Eleanor had spent hours explaining to a bitter fifteen-year-old that Star wasn't trying to make her miserable, that she was in fact trying her hardest to make her happy. Lily, of course, had been unmoved. But one thing from that long talk had stayed in her skull seventeen years later: 'you'll understand when you have kids.' At the time, Lily had sworn on her honor that that would never happen and she would never bring a child into the world if she could help it. But now, as she watched her normally quiet son prattle on nonstop to his grandmother about anything and everything that was going on in his life, Lily knew that Eleanor had been right.

Things were not great between her and her mother, but Lily would readily admit that they were a far cry from how they had been. Becoming a parent in her own right had given Lily an embarrassingly fresh perspective on her own upbringing. And while there was still plenty that Lily just couldn't bring herself to accept - say, the commune - Lily was a lot more... forgiving than she had been. Certainly much more willing to let grudges lie when it came to dealing with the future, namely Dane.

"This is some place you got here," her father mused, looking around as they walked through the park.

"Just wait until we get to some of the other bubbles this weekend," Lily replied with a smile. She had picked them up at the airport around noon, picked up Dane from daycare, and brought everyone home for lunch and naps before heading back to work. She had originally planned on taking the afternoon off - and a couple of days if she could swing it. But even after two days of nearly constant effort, Lily couldn't abandon her team. She had even felt guilty about leaving work only two hours later than normal.

The upcoming 'event' had been amazingly difficult to pin down, even within the normal boundaries of unknowns. There had been a persistent anomaly; five of the twenty-eight models culled as being the most accurate were showing the same divergence. The other twenty-three were showing similar results, all of them ranging from bad to worse in terms of how they affected the flow. It had been incredibly frustrating to watch twenty-eight versions of the future and not be able to shake the strong sense of foreboding and helplessness.

"Your head is elsewhere," Daniel noted even as he smiled. Dane was dragging Star towards a flower garden because he wanted her to see the bugs. "Is work that bad?"

Lily sighed. "Yes and no. In general, it's great. It's still a dream job. But right now... We are on the cusp of opening up a tremendous... power, I guess. An awesome ability. But it's just out of reach, no matter what we do. And we know enough right now to appreciate just how powerful it is and how helpless we are... Is this making any sense?"

Daniel nodded as they headed off the path to follow Dane and Star. Star was identifying flowers for her grandson.

"We have two clairvoyants on the team," Lily went on, digging a tissue out of her bag. Dane was still on the tail end of a cold and his nose was running. "They understand the frustration. The rest of us are just going slowly mad... Hey, Junior, come here for a second."

Dane, of course, knew what was up and hid behind his grandmother.

"Don't wipe your nose on Grandma's skirt," Daniel called with a laugh. Star looked surprised for a second, then turned around and looked down. Dane looked up at her innocently and sniffled. And then he started to run.

"Let me," Daniel offered, taking the tissue out of Lily's hand and jogging after his grandson. Dane hadn't even made it as far as the path before he was scooped up. "Freeze, Buster. This is the snot patrol!"

"He's getting so big," Star said as she walked over to where Dane was losing the battle to his grandfather. Lily nodded, comfortable but wary because her mom had the look of someone about to start a real conversation. She hadn't really gotten a chance to talk to her parents since they had gotten in - the novelty of the New Lands had been overwhelming, as it was prone to be, and she had mostly been explaining and pointing out. "And he really looks happy."

"He's free here," Lily replied with a shrug that wasn't nearly as casual as it looked. "His friends are similarly powered, or at least complementary in powers, and the public facilities are built with a whole host of mutant abilities in mind. He doesn't have to be so cautious. Exploding toilets notwithstanding."

Star nodded, then looked thoughtful. "And you? I never ask because I don't want you snapping at me that it's none of my business..."

"I'm okay," Lily answered, accepting the guilt that went with that statement.

"Are you seeing anyone?"

Lily closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She had really hoped that her mother wouldn't head in this direction so quickly upon arriving. "I'm still married, Mom. Alex's presence or absence doesn't change that."

"It's been almost four years..."

Her hands were in her pockets, so Lily knew that Star couldn't see them stretch and ball into tight fists.

"Mom, please. I don't want to get into this. Not here, not now." And not with you, she added silently. If there was one issue between herself and her mother that parenthood had not smoothed the jagged edges of, it was her parents' divorce.

"I just want you to be happy..."

It took all of Lily's willpower not to tell her mother that just because Star didn't have the personal fortitude to stick it out didn't mean that Lily thought it was okay to follow suit. "I have my son, my work, and my friends and family. That's good enough to make do."

"Mommy!" Dane came running up to her, shattering the tension like a hammer on glass. "I read the sign to Grampa!"

"That's great, kiddo," she told him. Dane could handle small words, although he was getting remarkably adept at sounding out the longer ones. They read together daily, be it one of his books or one of hers.

"All of it? All by yourself?" Star asked, her attention focused solely on her grandson.

Dane looked mildly embarrassed. "I needed help on the big word. But I got everything else."

"My little genius," Lily said, crouching down and kissing his forehead. She looked up at her father, who had rejoined them. "You think you can read Grandma and Grandpa your bedtime story?"

Dane looked excited by the prospect for a moment before realization set in. "It's bedtime?"

He was a dangerous pouter. Three and a half and he could make his lower lip quiver like a pro, his blue eyes mournful and hopeful all at once. Fortunately, Lily had proven as immune to this ability as she had to his mutant one.

"Close enough, kiddo. You have to take a bath, too."


"But Grandma and Grandpa aren't going anywhere for a while. You'll see them tomorrow and the day after and the day after."

Dane didn't look mollified, but he didn't look like he was going to throw a temper tantrum either, so Lily stood up. She held out her hand for him to take, but so did Star and Dane went with her instead.

"Fickle child," she told him without rancor.

Lily answered questions from her father about local politics and geography on the walk home and it took a good fifteen minutes of dithering to finally get Dane into the bath. Once there, he was his usual happy self. He had a new bath toy, a lovingly detailed plastic miniature of the *USS Sanford**, which just happened to be the destroyer his grandfather had commanded for two years. And said grandfather was more than happy to exchange information on the ship in return for Dane's cooperation in getting clean.

Lily was making tea when a pajamaed Dane padded in to the kitchen to say goodnight. He was going to read his story with Grandma, if that was okay with her. Lily assured him that her feelings weren't hurt and he kissed her and ran off.

"I was kind of hoping that my role as peacemaker had been gracefully retired," Daniel began quietly as he came into the kitchen. Lily looked up from where she was refilling the sugar bowl. She didn't take sugar in her tea, but her mother did.

She sighed audibly. "Can we just skip quietly past the part where you remind me that she only wants what's best for me and go straight into where I promise to be on my best behavior?"

"I know you don't want to talk about it," Daniel replied, sitting down. "And neither does your mother. But being as I'm going to be the one stuck in the middle, I should think I get a vote in the matter."

"Majority rules?" Lily asked hopefully, pouring tea for the both of them. "It's... We're getting better. We really are. And I know Mom knows we have to do it step-by-step. But she chooses the most *irritating** steps sometimes."

"Irritating being anything that doesn't have to do with Dane, you mean?"

Lily frowned at her father, who looked back mildly.

"I'm still working on her being my mother," she finally said. "I'm not ready for her to be my friend."


"Dad, she asked me if I was dating anyone," she interrupted, setting down her teacup. "Even in some weird universe where I would talk to my mother about my love life, considering she knows how I feel about her own choices, I can't imagine why she would think that was appropriate."

It was her father's turn to sigh. He leaned back in his chair and picked up his teacup.

"She's not the only person in my life who thinks I shouldn't be waiting for Alex anymore. But I don't listen to them and I'm not going to listen to her. It's my decision. And if I ever choose to change my mind on the matter, it won't be because she or anyone else thinks it's a good idea."

Daniel took a sip of tea and put down his cup. "I'll talk to her. But I'm also going to remind you for the millionth time that it's not your place to feel resentful towards her for what happened between her and me. I appreciate your loyalty, but I haven't spent all this time in the Navy to have my daughter fight my battles for me. Especially when there is no battle to fight."

Lily nodded, chastened but at the same time unrepentant. And not at all under the impression that her father missed her reaction.

From the other end of the house, they could hear Dane's laughter.

"Your mother and I are both sorry that we weren't able to provide a more stable environment for you to grow up in," he went on. "But you're a mother yourself now and you're in your own situation. How would you feel if in twenty years, Dane had a grudge against Alex for not being here now?"

"But it's different..."

"No it isn't. As a parent, we all make choices based on what's best for our child. Alex did it, your mother did it, I did it. Don't be angry with her for the choices she made just and don't make your own choices just to spite her. You're a better person than that."

The phone rang at four-twenty in the morning. Normally, Lily would have left the machine to screen the call, but with her parents sleeping and the mess at work...

Fifteen minutes later, Lily was surprised to see her father leaning against the wall, watching her put on her shoes.

"What happened?"

"A bomb went off in Genosha," she replied, standing up. She hadn't bothered to shower, just thrown on jeans and a shirt and pull her hair into a ponytail. "Right in the middle of a joint parliamentary session. Two hundred dead so far. The Minister for the Exterior was on a state visit to India at the time. He's seeking asylum in Great Britain."

"Terrorists?" Her father had shifted posture at the word 'bomb' and he tilted his head thoughtfully. "There's supposed to be a UN conference there next month..."


"Jesus," Daniel hissed and Lily was reminded yet again that her father had spent significant time there cleaning things up after the last bout of political unrest. He followed her to the front closet and leaned against the opposite wall. "Is this what you were trying to prevent at work?"

"Prevent? That won't happen for a while," Lily laughed humorlessly as she reached for her coat. "We had a dim hope of *predicting** it. We did, almost. We knew it was political and we were pretty sure it was going to be a big thing in a small country rather than a small thing in a big country. Wiping out the Genoshan government by itself shouldn't have been enough to set off the alarms that it did. There's got to be something more going on. I'm hoping to be back in time to take Dane to daycare..."

"We can watch him. He doesn't have to go."

"He likes it. I was going to put him there in the mornings while you guys were here, give you two a break and let you do your own exploring. I'll call you once I get a clue what's going on."

"Okay." Daniel kissed her cheek and let her leave.

Scott called her cell phone as she was driving to the lab and she had him call her back on her work line. The 'something else' was that the coup had been undertaken by a group led by the former Magistrates. The first act of the revolutionary government was to require that all mutants register at the local police stations within twenty-four hours or risk being shot on sight.

It was sort of like Akkaba, Lily idly noted as she cornered Miri Ahearn and Eddie Kim to find out what sort of resampling was being done because the mesh they had generated was now utterly useless. Localized warfare. The simple moves of battle had been 'viewable' in the time stream for years. Half of the group in the room now had been with her at Akkaba as well, albeit mostly in different roles, and they were familiar with the speed and the means this sort of task required.

Nathan appeared around eight-thirty New Lands time, looking haggard. He had brought Sam Guthrie, leaving Bishop and Scott to run things in Westchester. The two of them set up shop at Lily's conference table, staying out of the way for the most part as Lily ran the show. Their very presence, dressed in the dark uniform of the XSE and hunched over the table deep in concentration, was probably slightly daunting to the less experienced of the lab group, but Lily did not find them disruptive.

By eleven, she was confident in telling Nathan that unless the Magistrates were taken out of power quickly, things would devolve out of control. Even the early-stage projections were looking bleak. She knew he knew this already, being tied so intimately to the time stream as he was, but she also knew that he needed some more solid evidence than simply his own migraine. This was going to be the XSE's first time out taking on a sovereign nation, even if the governing powers themselves were illegal, and they needed all of the evidentiary support that could be mustered. Nathan cursed quietly and bitterly about the need to justify actions that were self-evident to anyone with the common sense of a five-year-old, but Lily knew he had already come to terms with the politics of the XSE. The UN was terrified of the XSE even as they sanctioned their activities and several nations were nothing short of outspoken in their posturing. Chronographic evidence was not nearly on the level as, say, a signed manifesto by the illegal government of Genosha, but it was less nebulous than still-distrusted mutant foreboding.

By noon, Magnus Lehnsherr had joined Sam and Nathan at Lily's table. While the presence of the XSE was almost expected, many staffers had turned and stared as the President of the New Lands had walked purposely through the large office and sat down as if he were just another part of the team, standing up and moving aside as Amy Dominguez wheeled into the area to discuss the latest filter results appearing on the conference monitor. Magnus looked both haunted and defiant, Lily thought. Haunted by his past both with Genosha and in the Holocaust and by the what-ifs that came along with this sort of situation. But he was also defiant in his determination to fight back. The New Lands had no national airline, but a large passenger jet had been chartered to fly to Genosha and bring back anyone who wanted to escape. The New Lands had automatic citizenship for mutants and there would be a special session of the Council in the later afternoon to discuss handling refugees. It had been only a few years since Magnus had reintroduced himself to the world not as a terrorist but instead as a concerned leader of a nation, but it was already hard to see Magneto in the face of the man at her desk and Lily honestly empathized with his pain.

By three, most of the commotion had died down. Sam and Nathan had gone back to the government offices with Magnus and most of the grunt work that had to be done had been done. Exhausted herself, Lily released any staffers who were not actively working on anything. She finally headed home herself around six after first stopping by the Presidential Residence to personally deliver a rough draft of the report on the group's findings. She'd redraft it tomorrow, even though Magnus had told her that he doubted it would be needed before Friday.

Once home, she took a shower and tried to shift her focus from work to her family. But she couldn't. The Genosha her father had helped clean up and the Genosha that had undone all of that work were not the same and neither was she. Lily had been in her teens when the mutates had been freed. Now she was the mother and wife of mutants. Alex had never wanted to talk about Genosha, even more than he had avoided talking about Dallas. Lily was partly curious what Alex would have thought about this moment in history, but she was mostly glad that he didn't know about it. She could see him calling in favors of all sorts to get down there and help out with a resistance movement.

Her parents seemed to be feeling the weight of events as well and dinner was a subdued affair. Lily wanted to talk to them - she was used to mutants in the family, but this was really the first time that they had had such a personal fear of the persecution of someone they loved. Alex was Alex, but Dane was their grandson and Lily was sure that the news had been showing footage of pre-Liberation Genosha with the branded mutates in their bodysuits. But she wasn't sure what to tell them, what to say that wouldn't seem preachy or false.

Dane, blissful in his ignorance, tried his best to cheer everyone up by demonstrating his alphabet skills. Lily was too tired to stay up much past his bedtime - she had to go into work early the following day as well.

Lily started when the phone rang. Even in the cacophony of the office, she had been deep enough into her own work that the noise had startled her.

"Summers," she answered.

It had been two weeks since the bomb had gone off in Genosha's Parliament. Two hundred forty-three dead and eighty-nine wounded in the blast. At least fourteen dead and unknown (meaning too many to count) wounded and missing in the aftermath of the Magistrates' takeover.

"You know, considering that this is an XSE op, that has to be the least specific identifier you could have chosen."

The negotiations had been sharp and short. Fifty-three hours into talks, the Magistrates had carried out the public execution of Jennifer Ransom, heroine of the Liberation and current Minister for the Interior. Thirty-two minutes later, transport planes carrying two hundred XSE troops took off from an airfield in Dar es Salaam. The first four days of fighting had been complicated by the Magistrates using a telepath to incite civilians to battle the XSE troops; the surrender had taken place on the sixth day, yesterday.

"Hey, David," Lily greeted him warmly. "What's the word?"

David Robitaille, amateur chronographer and professional civil engineer, had had his retirement from Nathan's network abruptly ended four hours after the explosion in Genosha, when a phone call from his sister's home in Hammer Bay had informed him that Nathalie Robitaille Goneau had not returned home from her job at the Canadian Embassy. He had been working intelligence since then, which in turn had brought him into daily phone contact with Lily.

"The word is that my sister is back home with her husband and children, suffering from no more than a bad hair day and torn stockings," he replied, sounding relieved. "We found the Canadians locked up with the Russians and the French. Take that as you will."

"That's great," she enthused, dropping the smile so that she could stand up and glare at Eddie Kim, who had been parked on the edge of Annie 'the Body' Herskovitz's desk for the last fifteen minutes in his latest attempt to chat up the stunning physicist. Eddie didn't notice, but Annie did and she put a gentle hand on his knee, obviously saying something as Eddie suddenly stood up and looked at Lily contritely. She gestured furiously in the direction of Eddie's desk and he scurried back. "Thanks for letting me know."

"Well, I was letting you know with ulterior motives in mind," David said. "I'm going to be in the New Lands in about a week to help process the refugee return and wanted to know if you were up for a celebratory dinner."

"Celebratory dinner? Shouldn't you be having that with your sister?" Lily asked, amused. Were this someone who didn't know who her husband was, she'd think this was a proposition for a date. But David had kept in contact with her since the AIAA conference in Lafayette, mostly by email, and had never seemed interested in anything more than friendship.

"She's got a week to feed me," David answered cheerfully. "There's only so much poutine and sugar pie you can eat before you explode. Besides, I'm going to be stuck in Aliyah with all of the XSE types. There's a reason I quit this gig and they're it. I'm really, really going to need to talk to a sane human being for a few hours. Please?"

"My parents are still here," Lily warned, nodding and holding up a finger to indicate 'wait one minute' to Roger and Radek, who were hovering outside of her cubicle space. "And I haven't been able to spend any time with them because of this mess. They love their grandson, but they didn't travel here from the States to be my emergency babysitters. Why don't I agree to at least catch up with you in person when you're here, but I can't commit to anything more grandiose than coffee right now."

"It shall have to do," David sighed dramatically.

"All right then. I've got a couple of your former cohorts hovering around me like wraiths, so I gotta run. I'll see you in a week or so."

"Count on it."

Lily hung up the phone and waved to Roger and Radek, the latter of whom was distracted by Annie Herskovitz leaning over her desk to fiddle with her printer cartridge. Lily allowed herself to feel mildly relieved that Annie had been on vacation in the States for the entire Genosha crisis; the spring was turning out to be quite mild and she wasn't sure how much work would have gotten done with Annie in short sleeves.

A week later, the celebratory dinner turned into a celebratory coffee and cookie in the park across the street from Midnight Sun Laboratories. David had turned out busier than he thought he'd be - three Magistrates had escaped detention in Genosha and much of the XSE force had stayed there to make sure nothing endangered the Cable-brokered peace accord, leaving a skeleton crew to organize and process the return of the five hundred refugees. Lily herself was just barely emerging from a haze of work in her own right - the Chronography group had the two-pronged task of both assimilating the data acquired through the entire Genosha crisis as well as preparing documentation for the UN Mutant Interests Task Force. If she had ever harbored the delusion that she was a scientist and not a bureaucrat, the past week had forever banished that idea.

But Lily had to admit that she enjoyed herself, even just across the street from the labs. David was a dramatic storyteller, waving his hands and arms expressively to describe the action in Genosha and had Lily in stitches with the tale of the gamma-level empath, a recent recruit to the XSE, who had led a unit of soldiers through town in pursuit of what he thought was a hungry child but was in fact a hungry Airedale.

When all was said and done, by the time Absolom Vedras, the former Minister for the Exterior, was inaugurated as the new President of Genosha, Lily was ready to sleep for a year. Ji-Won and Kyung had volunteered to show her parents around the New Lands a couple of times and Lily was finally able to join their explorations in time for the great family expedition to the Ninth Biosphere. Scott and Jean had stopped by the New Lands en route back to New York and Lily took them and her parents to the Ninth Biosphere, which was maintained as a nature conserve. Scott offered to fly her parents back to the States in the Blackbird and they agreed to cut their vacation short two days (in return for the much shorter, much more comfortable ride home) after Jean successfully wrangled a promise out of Lily to spend Christmas in New York.

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