David Alleyne aka Prodigy sits at the desk, bored, when the phone rings. Technical support. They are speaking to David Alleyne. What’s their problem? He listens. What kind of bomb? he asks. Extraterrestrial? Any idea of what kind of extra-terrestrial? Does it have a design like – Ah yeah, that’s good. That’s Skrull surplus. Do they have a Richards’ general modulator? Anything past a 2.74? Yeah, that’ll do. Try that. Watch out for sub-frequencies in the infrascope. Good luck.
Another call. What’s their probl--? Elektra? Can they run? They should run. Seriously, they want to run. Okay, what do they have? No, lose the swords. Sai trump swords. Flock tactics. She attacks, you back off. Don’t engage until someone can lock down the sai with a chain, then go in en masse. ‘En masse’ means everyone at once, he sighs. Yeah, he knows they’re ninja, but just do it! They have a choice… strictly following the ancient code of ninjutsu and being a dead ninja or going in like he says and maybe being a live ninja. Good luck.
Ninjas, David sighs. You just can’t help ninjas. And the next call comes in.
Late, David’s boss tells him he is beneath his quota of calls. He’s one guy doing the job of five, David replies belligerently. The man tells him he can always quit.
A thin white-haired boy, Tommy Sheperd, tells him he looks at least ten years less boring than everyone else. Let’s grab some noodles. David agrees. Give him five minutes, Tommy says. He needs to go to work.
Following him, David realizes he’s that Speed guy. Tommy explains they have him assembling the tech gizmos. Some kind of crazy contract. They want it fast. He hands David his cup of coffee to hold.
Five minutes work in the morning, David states. Technicians do some quality control, and five minutes in the evening. Nice work if you can get it. You don’t get it, Tommy snaps. Snails never get it.
He assembles the gizmos at superspeed, then grabs the coffee and explains that from his perspective this was a week. He continues work. Another week. It’s hell. But hell that pays! He does a few minutes of this. Saves some money, goes travelling for a few months, does a little hero-time, and repeat. Let’s get the hell out of here, he suggests.
Over noodles, Tommy tells his story. He tried settling down for a while but they just drove him crazy. Nice kids, but so sheltered. His whole team was, and even before. And so serious. Patriot always gave the impression of having an Adamantium stick up his ass. But after it went bad? Worse! Everyone just quit and he didn’t want to quit. Billy’s a reality-warping mage and he thinks he should just sit in his room. Tommy felt for him but it drove him bananas. And he had a problem with the law. Kept on expecting them to catch up with him. Better to keep moving.
So how did David get so smart? He used to be a mutant. He absorbed knowledge, skills and a bunch of other crap from everyone he met. When his X-gene got fried, he kept it all. So he can fly and stuff? Tommy asks. No powers, David clarifies, but pretty much everything else but powers. He knows what the Beast knows about science. He knows what Wolverine knows about where limbs snap. Even stuff he can’t use. He’s a black belt in psychic warfare. And there’s the rest. Oh, the rest, he shudders. He knows how Emma Frost and Scott Summers like to kiss each other. He knows how all the major X-Men like to wipe themselves. He knows lots of stuff.
Tommy calls him crazy and suggests they hit a club. David wants to crash. Coffee before work? Tommy agrees. With any luck he’s going to need it.
At home, David chats with Transonicaka Laurie Tromette at the Jean Grey School, who suggests he should join them there He’s not a mutant anymore, David writes. Laurie retorts that doesn’t matter. He’s still got powers. And he knows that isn’t the reason. It’s not like it was on the island, she assures him. And it’s better than what he’s doing now. Do it for her. No one else in school writes in full sentence in chat. They are driving her mad. Please!
BBL, David writes. Imagine her sending a gif of something being fed into a cow-shredder, Laurie replies. David grins.
The next morning, they meet for coffee. Tommy states last night he was on a podium, waving his shirt around his head and a sudden thought came to him: David’s a genius multiplied by an enormous number! What the hell is he working a crappy job like this for?
He was kinda part of the type of mutant separatist organization that tends to get described as terrorist, David calmly replies. He was kinda head of their youth division. With a résumé like that, there’s not many open doors.
Doesn’t he have some kind of X-options? Tommy asks. None he’d take. They used them, David explains bitterly. They used them all. It was never about them. It was about them being what the X-Men wanted them to be. He works this job, he gets enough money and retires soon as he can. He’s not going to be anybody’s pawn. Tommy tells him to lighten up.
When they got to work, the place is swarming with cops. Tommy asks what’s going on and is told there was a break-in last night. All the components were stolen. Just seeing if the cameras caught anything. And they did indeed. Someone who looks a lot like Tommy’s old teammate, Patriot.
Tommy makes a phone call, then tells David, unless he brainwashed his family, it’s not the guy he knows in the suit. Patriot’s been in bed for the last two weeks.
This sucks hard, he complains. He hates it when heroes go all legacy. As if it matters, what you want to call yourself. Find your own style, don’t bite anybody else’s. The people he ran with did it all the time. Once Wiccan tried to get him to call himself Quickersilver. Ugh!
Tommy asks his boss if they can stake out the place. They’d do it for free. They? David asks. C’mon, Tommy urges him. They are friends! They had noodles once and coffee once, David points out. See, friends, Tommy replies. Now stop whining! He’s reminding him of Wiccan.
In the evening, they stake out the place and indeed the Patriot lookalike comes back.
Speed runs towards the stranger, shouting that that’s his friend’s outfit he’s wearing. He wants him naked – now! Not in a sexy way! The stranger just stands there. And Speed loses his trail of thought, then sinks down in front of him. Then he tries to run away but it’s like he moves in slow motion. The stranger touches his shoulder and Tommy disappears.
Who is he? David asks. What they can’t outrun, he replies. What did he do to him? He’ll never know. Want him back? What is he talking about? David demands.
The stranger takes off one of his gloves. There is no hand beneath it. He offers it to David and says, accept.
He’s not wearing that, David replies. He’s insane! The stranger puts on the glove again. Denial, he states, then disappears, leaving behind a shook up David.