From Berlin to New York

Last month marked the 15th anniversary of events that came to be known as The Exodus; when Scarlet Witch and Doctor Strange saved their world by destroying ours. Not our physical world, but the world in which brave ‘superheroes’ fought threats to the earth, and more importantly to us. We had parents. Some of us never met them. Some of us still hold onto the hope that someday they’ll return.

We understand why, or at least most of us try to. They tell us there was a threat named Thanos, who with the snap of his fingers would decimate half the population on earth; some say across the universe. He was virtually unstoppable, but they found a way. The spell was just supposed to de-power everyone, take away the gene, the DNA that made some of them exceptional. It worked, but it didn’t. It took them away, all away, no one knows how or where they are, if they are anywhere anymore.

We were left behind, their children, growing up in a world which no longer really needed us or people like us, but someday it would. That’s where our story begins.

~~~~~

“Theo!” Niko called up the stairs, “I saw their car in town! You are slower than usual, Miskja Brat! Do you need me to come and carry you down?”

It was true. Theodosia Maximoff was indeed taking her time. The large house in Berlin, New Hampshire was the only home she’d ever known. Nikolai Maximoff, her cousin, had faint memories of a previous home in Sokovia, though he didn’t like to talk much about them. He did like his culture though and hung onto Sokovian terms once used by his father, Pietro.

Theo ran a hand over the now empty cherry-wood dresser in her room, smiling as she remembered the many times she hid in the large drawers playing hide-and-seek with Niko growing up. In a blink, Niko was up the stairs and standing beside her.

“It’s not too late, little cousin, we don’t have to leave.” Niko said, softening his tone, and putting a hand on her shoulder. They were safe in Berlin. It was important to him that Theodosia stay that way. He was having a hard time understanding why it was she wanted to leave their home for New York, a city filled with dirt, crime and people. Millions of people, who had forgotten their parents and likely wouldn’t understand the Maximoff cousins, or what they could do.

She laid her head against his shoulder in an entirely appropriate familial manner. “We’ve put this off long enough, Niko. I remember I wanted to do this when I was only thirteen. Couldn’t even string two spells together without needing a nap, but I was convinced we were ready to take on the world. You probably were ready. You’ve been ready for anything since before I can recall.” She thumped him hard on the chest and darted for the door. “That’s why you get to carry all the heavy stuff!”

Niko laughed, flexing a muscle in the mirror to himself then beat her downstairs and having time to spare, ran out the open front door and to the edge of the long drive to see the Sedan turn onto their dirt road.

“They’re here.” His heart raced faster; fight or flight. All of his instincts told him to pick up Theo and run, he could have them probably to Manchester before the doctors got out of the car. But he also knew if Theo had her head set on something, she was going to follow through with it, with him, or without him. He balled his hands into tight fists and watched as the car pulled up to the house.
Three doctors got out of the car. One, he recognized, Dr. Lollis, the doctor he and Theo would see when they were smaller. He wasn’t Berlin’s doctor, he was from the larger City of Manchester. He was aware of the special circumstances which surrounded the Maximoff cousins. He brought with him two doctors Niko didn’t recognize, but one carried a case embossed with the CDC Logo. The third was a woman who looked official in her gray pantsuit.

“Theodosia!” The doctor called out jovially.

“Doctor Lollipop!” Theo stood in the doorway of the old house, paint flaking worse each year. Structurally it was an odd mix of American Craftsman Bungalow with high steepled Mansard style roof and still standing, but the Maximoff Cousins hadn’t put much work into keeping her up. And this old house had been through the ringer; a Speedster and witch growing up with unchecked powers was hard on the infrastructure. They were aspiring heroes in training, not carpenters. And Niko was better with a hatchet than a hammer.

Dr. Lollis laughed and handed Theo a red cherry lollipop from his pocket. “How’s my favorite little patient today?” He asked. Having been her doctor since she first arrived in the states as a scared three year old little girl, she would always hold a soft spot in the good doctor’s heart. “Are we ready to get some inoculations? Make sure you are good and healthy for the big city?” Being a pediatric specialist, Dr. Lollis had the unique quirk about him that made him speak to all patients as if they were eight years or younger. “Nikolai! You are looking well, son.” He reached up to pat Niko’s shoulder. “Let’s go inside, shall we? It’s been a long ride since Manchester. Niko eyed them all warily as they entered the house. His house.

“This is Doctor Benjamin Copeland from the CDC,” he explained. “Dr. Copeland specializes in inoculations for those with remarkable DNA alterations. And this… is Dr Mariah Sharpe. She specializes in…”

“Genetic Abnormalities.” She explained indelicately. “You two have been sequestered in this quaint little town for quite some time, I understand. We want to make sure you’re in tip top condition before your move to the big city. She had an accent Niko couldn’t place and a face he didn’t trust, though that much could be said for most people he first met. “So…” she continued. “Who is going first?”

“I am,” Theo said around a mouthful of lollipop.

“I am.” Niko said protectively. If anything was going to happen, it would happen to him first. If Theo changed her mind, he’d still be able to speed her out of there before any of these doctors touched her. Niko swung his blue eyes Theo’s way. She was slipping off her red full-length lambskin leather coat and didn’t seem the least bit concerned which put Niko somewhat at ease.

“Right. Do you have anywhere… clean we can conduct our work?” She asked, crinkling her nose. Niko gritted his teeth, but a moment later had the dining table cleared of any debris, and the room smelled suddenly like bleach and disinfectant.”

“Can I get you a Coke, in a clean glass?” He asked with disdain.

“Pepsi, if you have it.” Dr. Sharpe didn’t seem to pick up on his tone. If anything he had more firmly placed himself at her service if the look on her face was any judge.

“Why don’t we just sit down at the table and get started?” Theo offered as she led them all to the well-lived in dining room. “CDC? Don’t they make zombies and such?” As a child Theo had believed in those sort of things and growing up hadn’t presented her with sufficient reason to discount the existence of zombies all together. If anything, the world was proving to be entirely strange enough for such things to exist.

Dr. Copeland laughed at Theo’s question. “No, ma’am, we don’t ‘make’ zombies.” He winked at the young girl. “But we’re the first line of defense against them should there be an uprising.” He lowered his voice to a whisper and added in a convincing tone, “We have a whole wing dedicated to doing just that.” Niko rolled his eyes and sat down at the table, rolling up one of his sleeves while flexing his biceps at the same time. He slammed his arm down on the table, loudly to show his impatience.

“Let’s just get this over with.” He groused.

Theo laid a hand atop his, “Relax Niko. They are moving as fast as they can, red tape and social exchanges take time. Try to remember, we’re all hurtling around the planet’s axis at one thousand miles per hour even while we sit still. You’re moving plenty fast enough.” Niko grumbled, but his cousin’s words did soothe him, and he relaxed as best he could.

“I’ll go first, if you don’t mind…” Dr. Sharpe offered. Niko kept his eyes on her as she first skillfully drew several vials of blood, then prepared something that looked like a small caliber medical handgun, complete with a test tube magazine and compressed Co2 cartridge.. Niko instinctively grabbed her wrist as she did.

“What is that?” He questioned. “I’d like to know what I’m being ‘protected’ against.”

“A subdermal biometric radio transponder.” She replied. “Remove your arm from mine, please. This may sting a bit.” Niko swung his eyes towards Theo who again squeezed his hand, then looked to their doctor.

“All routine.” He promised. Niko released the doctor’s wrist and let her proceed. She tilted his silver haired head slightly to the side, placed the muzzle flush against the fleshy part of his neck just above the shoulder and pulled the trigger. *THUNK* Niko made a face indicating that it wasn’t a very pleasant or comfortable experience. “All yours, Dr. Copeland,” she said, patting Niko’s shoulder.

“Gimme the juice, Doc. I want the full cocktail spread; no little buggers getting me bedridden on my first….outing.” Theo was also flexing a muscle, considerably smaller than Niko’s, but it was there. Shut up, it was there dammit.

Doctor Lollis interjected, “I should warn you, there may be some mild symptoms, but these are quite brief and not indicative of the actual pathogen these inoculations are designed to ward against.”

“Ward...nice word choice. Don’t worry, I read up on inoculations; low-grade fever, headache and muscles aches.”

“...Soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling,” Niko offered in a not so helpful tone.

“Well, it can’t be worse than four hours of judo.” Theo looked back and forth between her exposed arm and her cousin’s, both flexing their biceps. “If we’re getting shots in the neck why are we making a muscle?”

“Shut up, Miskja Brat.” Niko replied playfully, embarrassed over being called out for his antics. He relaxed his arms to make injecting them easier while Dr. Sharpe drew blood from Theo.

“Make a fist, please, and hold it,” she requested. Theo clinched her fist like she was delivering a punch and asked, “What do you do with the blood drawn?”

“Examine it.” Dr. Sharpe explained while drawing several vials. Niko noticed it was almost twice the number of vials drawn from him. “We make sure that there are no current pathogens and we run a series of routine tests to get a baseline while you’re healthy. Red blood cell count, white blood cell count, platelet count, all will be recorded in a registry. It’s important that we study it and notate a baseline. People with abilities such as yours don’t register the same as a typical humans, so if you have a higher than average cell count at your baseline, if in the off chance you do contract something, we’ll better know how to treat it. Now… I’m going to need you to tilt your head and remain still. As I told Nikolai, this tends to be painful.” She brushed Theo’s long brown hair aside and readied the ‘gun’ for injection.

“Talk us through these tag ‘em chips. Who’s on the other end actually looking at our biometrics? Is that a real time location lock?” *THUNK* Theo dug her nails into Niko’s hand when the microchipper went off. Shit that stings.

All of Niko’s muscles tensed as he saw Theo hurt, internally he pictured lunging at the Doctor and ripping her lungs through her chest, but instead he turned his head to not witness her pain. The whole process was taking forever.

“This is an integrated circuit device, an RFID transponder encased in silicate glass. We can ping you for occasional remote location updates, but that’s not its primary purpose. It’ll record spikes in your blood workup during use of your powers. That information will help us better understand what’s happening when you do that as yet undiscovered scientific rarity of yours.”

“It’s called magic, Dr. Sharpe. If you’re still hoping to explain all this with your science, I’m worried you’ll never get your head around it. So you never answered, who’s on the other end actually looking at our stats?” Theo reached up to rub her neck.

“You called me, Miss Maximoff, I didn’t reach out to you. Who did you think I represent?’ Dr. Sharpe was scanning the injection site with a medical wand, recording or tuning the frequencies for later recall. Niko watched the Dr. with the same intensity a starving dog would watch a bone, waiting for Theo to say the word and he’d attack. He didn’t like this. Any of it. He especially didn’t like the fact that they could locate him now, near anywhere, especially after what his father told him the last time they spoke. If things went sideways, the last thing he wanted was to be followed.

Dr. Lollis chimed in again, looking up from the plethora of vials he was preparing for vaccine injections. “Theodosia contacted myself, actually and I reached out to you and Dr. Copeland. Only after discussing it with Theo first, of course."

“So now we’re to be tracked, like dolphins on National Geographic?" Niko accused. “No. No, Theo, this isn’t good. This isn’t what they would have wanted for us.”

“Actually,” Dr. Lollis explained. “It is, Nikolai. I spoke extensively with both Wanda and your father when you were first brought to the states and then for the following years, all the way up to… well, up to the disappearance. Your parents went through the same procedure. Dr. Sharpe’s organization, they believed in it, your parents. This…. Niko, is exactly what they would have been proud to see."

“Who DO you represent, Dr. Sharpe?”

“Don’t worry, Cousin, I can fry the implants or remove them if we find them becoming an interference.” Her eyes flashed an ominous red as tendrils of scarlet miasma formed around her eyes and just as quickly were gone. Dr. Sharpe’s scanner went nuts and she checked the readings.

“Fascinating, Miss Maximoff. This is the exact set of biometrics we are eager to study.” She packed up her equipment with much less care than she’d used in the unpacking and pushed her chair back. “Gentlemen, my work here is concluded. About that Pepsi.”

“We have Coke.” Niko replied in a disgusted tone.

“You are super fast. There are stores, nearby, yes?” She replied, mimicking running by using two fingers in a rapid motion against her palm. Niko swung ice blue eyes in her direction.

“Sure. Carbonated bottle. High speeds. You can open it when I return.”

This was probably a good time to move the visit along. Niko’s temper was easily stoked by Sharpe and it was clear she was trying to get a rise out of him. Niko probably knew that, but he liked to give people a rise. “Let’s just finish what we’re doing here, people. Niko, cool your boots. Dr. Sharpe, won’t you please go sit on the couch or the backseat of that sedan. I’d offer you the front porch swing, but racoons have done their amusements on that. Your call.” Theo pointed at Lollis, “You’re up Doctor. Skip anything you don’t think we need. We’re not going to another planet, it’s just New York.” But it was clear by her dreamy tone of voice when she said New York that she was quite looking forward to it.

“Fuckin’ New York, Niko!” She almost squealed. Niko smiled and tried to share in her enthusiasm.

“You, Miskja Brat are going to love New York.” He promised.

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