The Massachusetts Academy, home of the young mutant heroes, Generation X. Paige “Husk” Guthrie runs on the treadmill, while watching a news report on the television, while monitoring events on the internet at the same time:
In world news, a terrorist bomb ripped through the first four floors of a children’s refugee hospital in Villinkovic early this morning. While no known organization has come forward to claim responsibility, Government officials report that the method and materials used in the attack are consistent with those of the Order of the Fifth Star, a newsreader reports. Paige just runs faster: ‘Time index 0602AM. Index. Print. Save under “Terrorism, Global”!’ she tells her computer. The newsreader announces that the Order of the Fifth Star is an ultra right-wing organization, infamous for its nationalist and racist beliefs.
‘File append: note. Record: Possible ethnic / racist motive here. The Order of the Fifth Star makes no attempt to hide how they feel about many population groups, including mutants. Further research is probably a good idea. Record: stop’. Suddenly, Emma Frost, a.k.a. the White Queen, enters the room: ‘Good Lord, Paige. Don’t you ever sleep in?’ Emma asks, dressed in her robe and carrying a cup off coffee. ‘I could hear you all the way from the kitchen, doing whatever it is you’re doing here’ Emma remarks. Paige glances backwards and apologizes, claiming she didn’t mean to make so much noise.
Emma mumbles, before remarking that, given she probably paid for it, she would like to know what Paige’s new project is. ‘Sure thing, Emma’ Husk replies as she explains that she has developed a process and system to track and file all incidents of terrorist and hate around the world that may or may not be related to mutants. ‘I figure it not only serves our purposes, but could also be adapted to help other global organizations committed to tracking similar incidents, racist and ethnic-related’ Paige explains, adding that it is automatically indexed and at regular intervals is uploaded to the computers at Xavier’s, and to their mobile and cellular systems. ‘Neat, huh?’
‘Uh, yes. It is’ Emma replies as she looks at the tons of equipment in the room, before turning and walking out, ‘Well done, Paige. Keep it up’. Emma stands in the hallway and sees Sean “Banshee” Cassidy, her fellow headmaster, approaching. ‘That girl needs to get out more’ she remarks, before asking Sean if Paige is going with the others today. Sean replies that Husk has offered to stay here and “familiarize herself with the new security protocols and procedures”, and he could do nothing to talk her out of it. ‘I’m hardly surprised’ the White Queen remarks, when Paige suddenly runs past them: ‘Tim index 0605AM. Duplicate file and begin enhancement!’ she exclaims, before telling Emma and Sean that she thinks she is onto something. ‘If I don’t see you all before you leave, have a great day!’ she exclaims. Sean smiles, while Emma mutters ‘Why I allowed myself to be talking into approving a “communications technology and media” budget, I will never know’. ‘Aye, nice one, that. Ye’ve created a monster’ Sean jokes.
Later, Paige sits in the communications room, going about her business. ‘Nice one, Mister Cassidy. Quadruple redundancy in the security systems. Even I wouldn’t be that anal…’ she jokes. Paige is called “Husk” for the unenviable ability to literally shed her skin, revealing a second form underneath. Her other interests include writing code, wireless systems, integration technology, Emmylou Harris, and Buffy. ‘What’re you talking about, Guthrie, ‘course you would!’ Paige tells herself, remarking that the systems are such a work of art, and that Sean really knows what he is doing - most of the time, anyway. ‘He does have this annoying tendency to…’ Paige begins, before noticing something strange. ‘What do we have here?’ she asks.
Tapping away at the keyboard, Paige realizes that it is unauthorized access from Sean’s palm pilot. ‘That’s kinda weird’ she remarks, before wondering if Banshee forgot his password. ‘But I know the rules. And so should you. You made them!’. Paige talks to the computer system: ‘Security user: Guthrie77107. Recognize. Initiate…security level one lockout from…mobile systems Cassidy…’ Husk exclaims, when, suddenly, the mansion is plunged into darkness. ‘Uh…security? What just happened?’ Paige asks.
‘Keep cool, Guthrie’ Paige tells herself as she finds a flashlight, and begins walking through the mansion. ‘For all you know, it’s nothing at all. Maybe you just did something wrong’ she tells herself, before deciding ‘Yeah, I wouldn’t buy that either’. Husk searches a few rooms, while wondering what could cause Banshee’s brand spanking new quadruple redundant million dollar security system to go into ‘total spastic lockdown‘. Husk checks the fuse box and sees that all the fuses are intact, so it is not a power loss, as there is still a current. ‘So this is definitely a security thing’ she exclaims. ‘Wow. Sean. Talk about overdoing it. Cutting all power, heat, communications and sealing the windows and exits?’ Paige supposes after the incident with Adrienne, that Sean is not taking any chances.
‘Whoa, wait. Could be…’ Paige begins, before rushing up into the attic. Peering through a boarded up window, she tells herself to keep cool, as there is nothing out there - no psycho Adrienne-types out to get her, no angry parents storming the school. ‘This is just a security precaution…a really, really stupid security precaution that’s scaring the hell out of me, though!’. Husk sees that there is no one outside, so she slumps over, ‘Well, screw this. Nothing’s going on. I’m gonna get the power back online!’ she tells herself.
Making her way back through the mansion, Paige mutters that she hopes this is worth it, before deciding that she has no idea where she is. ‘It’s like the walls are moving or something!’. Paige jokes that she wouldn’t be surprised if that was part of the security program. ‘The power goes out, the walls rearrange, and a giant metal door slams shut on Mr Cassidy’s beer cellar!’. ‘”What’s that yeh say? Me crates o’ Guinness have fallen prey to some prowling baddies? Bloody hell!”’ Paige exclaims, mocking Banshee, when, suddenly, she sees a light on in one of the rooms down the corridor.
‘What the -?’ Husk wonders as she enters what appears to be a class room - filled with ghost children! Paige looks worried, and one of the ghosts looks at her. Paige steps backwards, and then runs from the room: ‘Oh my God oh my God!’ she exclaims, before tripping over. Husk grabs her mobile phone, which displays a “no signal” message. ‘Damn! If it’s Sean’s security program blocking my signal, I swear I’m gonna kill that man!’. Looking behind her, Paige gasps ‘Oh, no!’ as she sees several of the ghosts flying towards her! By the time the ghosts reach Paige though, all that remains is a pile of skin.
One of the girl ghosts enters the library, where Paige has shifted into a concrete form, and tries to blend into a pillar. The ghost finds her, and a nervous Paige asks ‘What…what do you want?’. The ghost of the young girl looks at Paige and asks ‘Read?’, before turning to one of the bookcases. ‘What did you say? What the…’ Husk exclaims as the girl reaches for a book. ‘Please?’ the girl asks, sitting down on the floor. Husk tells herself to keep cool, pointing out that this is just a little girl, and she can do this. Picking up the book though, a piece of paper drops out of it, with the name Hannah McMurray across the top.
‘Are you Hannah?’ Husk asks. ‘Yes’ the girl replies. ‘My name is Paige. You wrote this?’ Husk asks. ‘Yes’ Hannah replies, to which Paige asks her if she wants her to read it. ‘Yes, please’ Hannah tells her. Sometime later, a shocked Husk finishes reading the letter, and asks Hannah if this story is true. Hannah remains silent. ‘Did this happen to you?’ a worried Paige asks. Hannah looks away from Husk, who asks her if she can look. ‘I won’t hurt you, I promise’ Husk assures Hannah, who replies ‘Okay’. Husk pulls back Hannah’s dress, and sees the lash marks across her back. ‘Oh, my God!’ Paige gasps.
Hannah looks sad, and Husk takes her by the hands, and lifts back Hannah’s sleeves, revealing more cuts and bruises. Paige is horrified, and pulls Hannah in close to hug her. ‘It’s okay, sweetie’ Husk assures Hannah, who starts crying.
Later, Monet St. Croix, Jubilation “Jubilee” Lee and Jonothan “Chamber” Starsmore arrive back at the Massachusetts Academy after their day shopping in New York. ‘What the heck? Everything’s locked! Jubilee complains. ‘Hold on’ the glamorous Monet tells everyone as she types a password into her phone. ‘Simple enough’ Monet remarks as the front door opens for them. Entering the mansion, Jubilee calls out to Paige, while Chamber remarks that he hopes she is okay. ‘I’ll call her’ Monet tells everyone, while Jubilee asks Chamber ‘What’s this I hear about a girl?’ Chamber just tells her to shut up. ‘That’s what I thought’ Jubilee replies, before Monet announces that she thinks something is wrong, as Husk is not answering her phone.
‘I’m right here!’ Husk announces as she enters the foyer, explaining that her phone was turned off, she asks if the driver is still out there. ‘Yes, probably. Are you okay?’ Monet asks. Husk replies that she is fine, but needs to go out for a while, and asks Monet to tell Sean and Emma. ‘Of course’ Monet replies. ‘You sure you’re okay, Paige? The security system…’ Jubilee begins, but Husk has already rushed over to the driver.
Soon, night has fallen as Paige stares out the window of the car, which eventually pulls up outside a farmhouse. The driver stands motionless as Paige, letter in hand, gets out of the car and approaches the house. ‘Yes? May I help you?’ an elderly woman asks. Paige introduces myself, and explains that she attends the Massachusetts Academy, north of here. ‘I believe you also attended there, back when it was a girl’s boarding school’ Paige remarks. The elderly woman replies that she did, along with her sister Hannah. ‘God rest her soul’ the old woman remarks, before asking Paige if there is something she can help her with.
Husk hands the old woman the letter and book and tells her that she thinks she should have it. ‘Hannah wrote that’ she remarks, pointing at the letter. ‘…how did you -’ the old woman begins, before covering her mouth and going wide-eyed as she reads the letter. ‘Oh, dear Lord…Hannah. My poor sister…I remember she wrote that after…’ her voice trails off. Husk tells Mrs McMurray that it is okay. ‘It wasn’t your fault’ Paige assures the old woman, as she comforts her….