The Evolution of Jubilee

by Mara Greengrass


AUTHOR'S E-MAIL: [email protected] Feedback is better than chocolate.

PERMISSION TO ARCHIVE: Yes, just let me know.

CATEGORY: Gen, drama

RATINGS/WARNINGS: PG, for occasional cursing

SUMMARY: A school field trip to a museum turns into a crusade for Jubilee.

DISCLAIMER: The X-Men and the X-Men movieverse belong to Marvel and Twentieth-Century Fox and other entities with expensive lawyers. I am making no profit from this story. The Westchester Museum of Natural History and the Westchester News-Journal do not exist and in no way represent any actual museum or local newspaper. Barney's and the New York Times exist but I don't own the names or anything about them. NOTES: This story is the result of a splendid session on museums, science, and society at the 100th annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in November 2001. I should also admit that my husband and I (as well as my best friend and my grad school advisor) have brief cameos in this story, because I simply couldn't resist. In case anyone doesn't realize, Jubilee's background and personality are taken from the comics. Oh, and I can't forget to send the gift of a naked X-Woman of his choice to Wyzeguy for the beta, praise, guidance, and helpful suggestions when I got stuck.

//thoughts//

***************************

Later, when the teachers talked about it, they agreed that nobody could have expected Jubilee to start the whole thing. Paige definitely, Kitty maybe, and Rogue if pressed, but Jubilee? Never.

It all started on a quiet Friday afternoon--it's *always* a Friday afternoon when these things start--during the science class field trip to the Westchester Museum of Natural History. It seemed like a good idea at the time, get the kids out of the classroom, let them see the exhibits, then take them out for ice cream and ruin their dinners. Generally, a relaxing end to the week.

The young mutants swarmed up the marble steps past the columns like a horde of grasshoppers, buzzing their way into the cool and quiet museum, and separating instantly to devour their topic of interest. Their enthusiasm was dampened slightly by the pervasive hush of the museum, but not enough to completely ruin the "out of class for the day" mood.

Jubilee slipped away as soon as she could and found a quiet bench to sit on, in a dimly lit corner just outside the new exhibit entitled "Evolution: From Darwin On."

She leaned her head against the wall, humming a new No Doubt song she'd just heard on the radio, when her reverie was broken by a couple of fellow visitors settling on the bench next to her. Crossing her arms, she examined them out of the corner of her eye. They were old, at *least* 30 or even older, but they were being touchy feely, holding hands and snuggling. They were both short, and the guy was muscular and hairy, almost as hairy as Logan, but a little rounder. The woman had a ton of frizzy brown hair and a big nose, and was apparently annoyed by something.

"Good grief, can you believe it?" she asked.

The man grinned at her. "Yes, dear."

"Oh, shut up. Seriously, this has to be the worst exhibit I've seen in years. Who the frell thought it was a good idea to do an exhibit on evolution that practically ignores recent *human* evolution?" Her voice rose with every syllable, almost ending on a shriek. Now, she had Jubilee's attention.

"Are you sure your blood sugar isn't low? Anyway, you're the one who wanted to see it." He patted her on the head and she batted his hand away with a growl.

"Yeah, yeah, rub it in, why don't you. Well, the damn thing has been in the works for years, I had to see how it turned out." The woman took a deep breath. "It just irks me to see a lost educational opportunity. Think of the chance they had to educate people about mutants. About how human mutation happens, and the results in people's lives. And they wasted all this space talking about fish, fruit flies, and Neanderthals. And as for the section they *do* have on humans...Arg!"

"And the science explanations suck." The man sounded pretty disgusted too.

//Huh, I didn't think about evolution relating to mutants,// Jubilee thought. She might not care all that much about science, but she had an extremely personal interest in mutants.

The couple's conversation moved on to dinner plans, but Jubilee's interest was piqued. //Well,// she thought, //maybe it's time to go see what's got her panties in a twist.// She looked up at the brightly colored exhibit in front of her.

*****************************

The exhibit's gigantic strand of DNA, with its neon colors and flashing lights, Jubilee scorned as a waste of her time. She blinked as she surveyed the rest of the exhibit, which seemed to be composed entirely of transparent display cases filled with various animals.

Lacking an obvious starting point, she wandered over to a case full of bugs.

One of the captions read: "In the middle of the 19th century, pale-colored 'peppered moths' around English industrial cities began appearing in darker colors, possibly due to the increase in soot and air pollution. Birds could more easily find and eat light-colored moths. This is known as industrial melanism. However, recent investigations have found that the original studies looked at moths resting on tree bark, where they are not normally found."

Jubilee read that one twice, then gave up on finding its point in disgust. At the end of the room, she saw John and Angelo wander by, and she considered giving up and joining them, but she decided to persevere. Next, she tried a case that contained pictures of different kinds of eyes.

"Many proponents of creationism argue that it is impossible that something so complex as the compound eye--many small simple eyes, each with its own lens and nerve receptors, closely packed together--could have come into existence on its own. Even Darwin himself said 'To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, and admitting different amounts of light... could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree.'"

//Is this exhibit supposed to *explain* anything? Geez, I hope not.//

Skulls at the far end of the room caught her attention, and she hurried over. Confronting her was a case full of bones with labels like "Radius and Ulna--A. afarensis," "Mandible--A. africanus," and "Metacarpals--A. robustus." The wall behind the bones was covered by a long timeline with entries such as "1974: Lucy discovered in Ethiopia" and "1953: Piltdown forgery uncovered."

//Huh,// she thought, //I wonder what forgery they're talking about, that sounds more interesting than the rest of this crap.// Dismissing distraction, she shook her head and kept going. If these human-looking things were here, mutants couldn't be too far.

Finally, against the far wall, she found what she'd been looking for. The final case in the exhibit contained more bones, and some photographs and text.

The first section contained pictures of a bunch of monkeys and people, all walking around, and it seemed to be all about how monkeys walked hunched over and humans walked upright. //So what, big deal,// she thought.

The next panel said it was about the origins of human speech, and showed a row of skulls with various bits highlighted. //What is a hypoglossal canal,// she wondered, //and why the hell should I care?//

The last section, finally, was labeled "Mutation Today." She stared in disbelief at the sum total of human wisdom on mutants, as seen by the creators of this exhibit.

A picture of Magneto next to one of the damaged Statue of Liberty. A complicated diagram that seemed to have something to do with which chromosome controls hair color. And a sample tract from the Friends of Humanity.

//Well, geez, that's lame,// she thought, turning around in hopes she'd missed something. //I mean, mutants popping up all over, riots, babies thrown out to die, and *that's* what they think is important?//

"Hey, Jubes, whatcha doin'?" Bobby asked, as he and Kitty came around a corner and found her staring at an exhibit case. He didn't wait for a response. "Come on, Peter found a video with animals having sex, and we were going to-"

"I don't get it," Jubilee said, not listening to her friend.

"Huh?" Bobby asked.

"This exhibit. I don't get it. It's supposed to be about evolution, right?"

"Um, yes?" Bobby said as he and Kitty looked at each other.

"Well, I slept through most of biology, but," Jubilee shook her head sharply, "evolution is all about mutation, right?"

"Yeeees," Kitty said.

Jubilee put her hands on her hips, finding herself unreasonably irked. "Then where are the mutants?"

Dead silence as they looked at her and then looked around them.

*****************************

Jubilee was annoyed, so she decided to take her concerns right to the top. She left her classmates wandering around the exhibit in confusion and marched up to the nearest bored security guard. "I'd like to speak to the guy in charge of this place."

The guard had her sign into a little book and pointed toward double doors marked "Staff Only." He said, "Through there, up the steps, make a right, the director's at the end of the hall."

She marched through the doors, and stopped dead in her tracks. Harsh fluorescents had replaced the warm, incandescent lighting, the neutral carpeting was now faded gray linoleum, and the paneled exhibit walls abruptly changed to greenish paint and a few bulletin boards. She blinked a few times, then marched up the worn stairs.

She saw as she approached the end of the hall that the battered door was ajar, and a light was on. She didn't hear any sounds, so when she reached the door, she pushed it open, calling out, "Hello? Anyone home?"

The room was empty of life, but full of just about everything else. Wall to wall, floor to ceiling, shelves were filled with books, toys, and a variety of objects she couldn't begin to describe. The books had titles like "The Tourist" and "Europe and the People Without History" and the other objects included, from Jubilee's vantage point, a Power Puff Girl, a plastic shovel and bucket, and a miniature skull with a sign labeling it "Lucy's Younger Sister."

"Excuse me," a deep voice said behind her.

Jubilee jumped and nearly knocked the man (who looked rather like a rotund elf) over. He stepped back and smiled politely, stroking a short gray beard. "Geez," she said, "give a girl some warning before you scare the hell out of her."

"That's what I thought I was doing," he said. He stopped playing with his beard, and stuck his hands into the pockets of his jeans.

Jubilee looked him over dubiously, from the plaid shirt to the sneakers. "Have you seen the director? The guard said he'd be here, but there's nobody in the office."

"Ah, that would be me." The man flashed a quick grin, and meandered into the office to settle down at the desk with a sigh. He swiveled the chair around to face the door and said, "Won't you come in?"

She shook her head and followed the man into the office, settling down in the only chair not covered in books, which creaked a little. "So, I'm here to complain."

"Complain?" His eyebrows shot up, and he leaned back, resting his hands across his ample stomach.

"Yeah, I'm a student at the Xavier School, and we came here to see the evolution exhibit, but it's really stupid."

"Ah." The temperature in the room seemed to drop with one syllable.

"It hasn't got any people in it, it's all about animals, the captions don't make any sense, and it totally ignores mutants," Jubilee persisted, expecting to annoy the guy even further.

His eyes widened and he looked at her more closely. She held her ground. She'd come here to complain, and damn it, she was going to complain. She was shocked when he broke into a wide grin and held out his hand. "Congratulations, that may very well be the first useful and intelligent comment I've received on that exhibit. Please, let me shake your hand. My name is Joe Dent. You can call me Joe."

"Jubilee," she said, shaking his hand in a slight daze.

He continued, "I agree with you, the exhibit misses the point entirely. Evolution isn't just an abstract scientific concept anymore, it is the lived experience of mutants around the world, and it is irresponsible of us to ignore that."

"But then why-"

"Why did we do this exhibit?" He sighed. "I'm afraid the company that designed it was hired before my tenure here began, and I started too late to have any input. To make bad matters worse, some influential members of the Board of Directors love it. Politically and practically, there is little I can do without a public outcry." He looked directly at her.

Did he mean what she thought? "So, if there was a lot of noise about how bad the exhibit is, then you could change it?"

He started to smile. "Yes, we would then be forced to make the exhibit more inclusive."

"Hmm." Jubilee sat and thought for a moment. She certainly knew how to make noise. "It might just happen. I take it you'd have to disavow any knowledge of this conversation?" //Whew, too much _Mission Impossible_ there, babe.//

"Unfortunately, yes. But believe me, if you make the noise, I'll fix the exhibit. Besides updating the exhibit text to be understandable, I was thinking of adding an oral history approach."

"Huh?"

"Interviews. Interviewing mutants in the area, and using their words to describe what it's like to be a mutant. Mixing that in with the hard science. It would make the exhibit more interesting, as well as more realistic."

"But why did mutants get left out in the first place?"

"That's complicated, and requires an introductory course in cultural anthropology to explain properly. But to simplify, it was deemed too politically sensitive a subject to touch. If they explained that mutants are a naturally-occurring phenomenon and it's probably not polite to lynch them, then someone might be offended or upset."

"That's dumb," Jubilee said with the conviction of someone who has never attended a committee meeting.

Lips twitching, the director said, "Just think of the Board as the running dogs of capitalism." When she looked perplexed, he shook his head. "Never mind, I think that joke isn't funny until you reach graduate school, anyway."

They talked about the exhibit for half an hour, the director describing things that were wrong, and Jubilee asking questions, until she realized she should rejoin her classmates.

On her way out, she stopped briefly to look at a small sign posted by the light switch. In ornate script, it read: "Given standard temperature, light, and humidity, the organism will do as it damn well pleases." She turned to look back at the director, who smiled at her beatifically and went back to typing on his computer. Jubilee, in a daze, wandered back down the stairs toward the exhibit hall.

******************************

Ten minutes later, she found Scott frowning at a caption in the evolution exhibit. "I want to write a letter and complain," she said.

She wasn't sure what he was doing behind his dark glasses, but suspected he was rolling his eyes. "No Cheetos in the cafeteria?"

"No, about this exhibit."

That stopped him cold. He turned the glasses on her. "I'm sure I'm going to regret this," he said. "*Why* do you want to complain about this exhibit?"

"Because it's bad."

"I think you'll have to be a little more specific than that. Not enough flashing lights? No music?"

"It ignores mutation as a lived experience," she said, remembering something the museum director had said.

Scott's jaw dropped. //That's pretty cool,// Jubilee thought, //I've never seen anyone actually *do* that.//

"Huh?" he managed after a while.

"That means it doesn't talk about what it's like to be a mutant."

"Yeah, I actually knew that. I just didn't know you did."

"So, I want to write a letter to complain." She paused, having reached the tricky bit. "Will you help me?"

He couldn't have looked more surprised if the parrots in the case in front of him had launched into an a capella version of "Doo Wah Diddy."

Jubilee held her breath. She knew she wasn't his favorite student, and she'd spent a great deal of her time annoying him, but if there was anyone on the staff who could write a killer letter about science, he was the guy. Hank was her buddy, but he didn't seem like a letter-to-the-board type, unless the board knew a lot of eight-syllable words.

"I would be delighted to help you," Scott said after a moment. "In fact, if you think it would do any good, I'll write one of my own."

"Yeah, it'll do some good," she said with satisfaction.

**************************

It started with a letter from Jubilee and one from Scott. But when he gently pointed out to her that two letters might not even make it off a secretary's desk, the great letter-writing frenzy began.

Soon Scott was coercing the other teachers to write as well, and Jubilee started on the students. The halls of the school rang with conversations like this:

"Yo, Johnny!" Jubilee called, gallivanting down the hallway like a runaway freight train. Several students leapt out of her way as she buttonholed the unfortunate St. John outside the Professor's office.

"What's up?" he asked, watching his friends desert him in the face of a determined Jubilee.

"You're gonna write a letter of complaint about the museum exhibit."

"I am? Why would I want to do that? You know, I've got that project due for Mr. Worthington and I haven't even started the research-"

"Puh-leaze, you're not gonna do that until the last minute anyway. Just give me a few minutes and write a letter, then you can do whatever you want." Jubilee grabbed his arm and started dragging him toward the computer lab. "C'mon, just one little letter to the museum board, that's all I need."

"What am I gonna write about?" John whined.

It was an uphill battle the whole way, as her fellow students weren't quite as enthusiastic as Jubilee. But she persevered and not just with her classmates. Jubilee was nothing if not direct and pragmatic. She realized it might look a little funny if the only people complaining were students at the Xavier School.

So, she launched her attack on the venues she knew best: stores at the local mall, talking to shopkeepers she knew, chatting up people in line, stopping by every cafeteria and fast food place where she was known. She had Kitty talk to the local librarian, and even Bobby agreed to talk to a few people he knew in the community. Jubilee was psyched, but her excitement began to wane after a few days of community apathy.

After dinner, about week and a half after the fateful museum visit, Jubilee dropped down onto the couch next to Rogue, who was watching a sitcom.

"It's not working," Jubilee said.

Rogue laughed at something on the television. "Hmm?" She asked, "what's not working?"

"The letter thing. Nobody wants to write a letter and nobody cares." Jubilee gave a heartfelt groan.

"What do ya mean? We've all written." Rogue turned to face her friend.

"Yeah, but trying to get anyone else to do it is like pulling teeth. They nod and nod and agree that it's just a terrible thing, but they're not interested in actually *doing* anything."

Rogue patted her arm carefully. "These things take time. But nobody'd be upset if you, you know, stopped. You've done a lot."

"No!" Jubilee stopped. "It's just...it's important and nobody else is gonna do anything. So it might as well be me."

"But Jubes, you might want to get used to the fact that maybe you can't solve this."

Jubilee crossed her arms and glared at her friend, then leaned back and stared mindlessly at the television. Rogue, satisfied, went back to watching the show.

//Why *do* I care so much about this?// Jubilee wondered silently, as on screen a couple of beautiful people argued with each other about what to have for dinner. Stretching out her legs, she propped them on the coffee table while she pondered. //I've never taken anything this seriously before, why now?//

The television switched to a commercial, and Bobby came by to ask Rogue if he could borrow a CD. //I mean, here I am living at this great school, where the worst thing I have to worry about is getting my homework done, why should I stick my neck out over a stupid museum exhibit?//

She leaned back on the couch and watched the school life drift around her. Pietro flashed by, once again forgetting to slow down to the same pace as everyone else. Bobby and St. John were sitting outside on the steps amusing themselves by alternately freezing and thawing a can of soda. Mr. Worthington wandered into the room, looking for Angelo, his white wings stretched out behind him as naturally as a bride's train.

Jubilee held up her hands and let out a series of tiny colorful fireworks. Rogue yawned and changed stations. Bobby cracked the can, causing chips of icy soda to cascade down the steps, and John laughed at him. Mr. Worthington said to the room at large if anyone saw Angelo, they should send him to the Danger Room.

//This may be the only place in the world right now where who I am is cool, where what I can do is totally normal,// she thought.

She laced her hands in her lap and stared down at them. //I always hated feeling like a freak. That look people got when they realized what I was, like I was a disease that might infect them.//

//I just wanted to feel like I was normal.// A tear rolled down her cheek and she wiped it away before anyone could notice.

Part 2

The tears were gone quickly, but the feeling of hopelessness persisted as the days wore on. Jubilee stopped hectoring people about writing letters, and went back to ignoring her school work in favor of shopping. Everyone assumed she'd just gone back to her pre-crusade self.

But three days later, the museum deigned to notice the letters they had received. When the official-looking mail in a fancy envelope arrived addressed to Jubilee, she wasn't expecting it, and was a little nervous about what it might be.

She didn't calm down much when she realized the return address was the Westchester Museum of Natural History, but she dragged the letter off to read in private.

Five minutes later--and nursing a paper cut from the stiff stationery--she read the short and rather curt letter. Then she took it to Scott for a translation.

He was in his office, head bowed and muttering at his computer, when she found him.

"Mr. Summers?" she asked, leaning her head around the edge of the doorframe and dangling the letter between her fingertips.

He stopped muttering and looked up. "Hmm? Oh, Jubilee, what's up?"

"Well, I've just gotten a response from the museum, but I'm certain I must be reading it wrong." She handed over the paper, and sat down in one of his office chairs.

Scott read it and frowned. "Minus the meaningless pleasantries," he said after pondering the paper for a moment, "the letter says 'We like our exhibit just fine. Now, please go away and take your friends with you.'"

"That's rude!" Jubilee was surprised at how angry it made her.

"Yeah, it is. Not surprising, though. Bureaucracies are not noted for their willingness to change."

"But we're right!"

"I wish that were relevant in this case." Scott looked at the letter one more time and sighed. "I expect the rest of us will start receiving similar letters in the near future."

Jubilee slumped down and fiddled with the fraying fabric on the chair arm. "What do I do now?"

He studied her for a few moments, and she fidgeted slightly under his regard. He looked at the letter again, then looked back at Jubilee.

"What?" she asked.

"How far are you willing to go with this? How much effort are you willing to put into it?"

"Does that mean you have another idea?" Jubilee sat up straight again.

"I don't know. It depends on whether you're willing to see this through. Of course, I'll admit I didn't think you'd put in the amount of work you've done so far. And I was wrong." Scott leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms.

"Yeah, you were," Jubilee said.

Scott leaned forward again. "Far be it from me to discourage activism in one of my students, but you've never really told me why you feel strongly about this."

Jubilee shrugged, looking at the desk in front of her. "The more I thought about it, the more it pissed me off."

She looked up and Scott nodded slowly. "Okay. Well, your next step should probably be letters to the local paper and a petition. If writing letters is too much, you might get more people to sign on to a petition. But it still won't be easy." He started to say something else, but stopped and shook his head. "Let me know how I can help."

"I'm gonna go write a petition now," she said, jumping out of the chair.

Her dander once again up, thanks to the rudeness of the museum's letter, Jubilee blasted out a petition based on her original letter to the museum in less than two hours. Next problem: getting it signed.

*********************************

Scott firmly nixed her creation of a sign that said "Mutant Rights," and they settled on "Petition for a Fairer Exhibit." Rogue painted the sign for her, in a rainbow of colors that they vaguely remembered was meant to represent diversity. The sign hung off a card table Logan found for her in a storage closet, after she gave him puppy dog eyes.

"Someday that 'pitiful me' look's gonna get you in trouble," he grumbled as he dragged aside a beat-up dining room chair and an abandoned steamer trunk to get to the table. He just shook his head when she batted her eyelashes and kissed him on the cheek.

Table, sign, and folding chair in hand, she began to sit outside the mall or the local grocery store during her free time, working on homework when she got *really* bored. Sometimes one of the other students would join her for a while, but mainly she was on her own. The experience was strange for her, she'd seen similar tables set up before, but never stopped to look at what they had to say. Now, *she* was the one trying to catch the eye of a passerby, trying to entice them to look at her petition.

Now and then someone would stop and read the petition, and some even signed it. Some people looked at her funny after they read it and walked away, but she just ignored them.

It was on the third day after the museum's response that Jubilee got a taste of why Scott had been so reluctant to suggest this option.

She was at the mall, right outside the Lord & Taylor entrance since they were having a sale. Most shoppers hurried by her without even looking, and when the stream slowed to a trickle, she retreated into the pages of a magazine.

She looked up when, out of the corner of her eye, she saw someone approaching. Putting on the professional smile she'd developed in recent days, she looked at the group.

//Pretty skanky,// was her instant assessment of the three men, whose greasy hair and self-righteous expressions made her think immediately of a pack of television evangelists.

She stood up as they approached, hands braced on the edge of the table.

The three spread out when they reached her and she took an instinctive step back so she could keep an eye on all of them.

The man in front, his receding hair carefully pasted over the top of his head, didn't even look at Jubilee as he picked up her petition and started to read.

//I'm surprised his lips don't move,// she thought as she crossed her arms and eyed his two buddies dubiously.

Finally, he looked up from the paper at her. "You wrote this?"

"Yes." She resisted the urge to pop her fireworks in his face.

"You want the museum to have an exhibit on mutants?" The final word managed to sound remarkably like "cockroaches." "What would you want this exhibit to say?"

//What does he want?// "It says right there on that paper you're holding."

He looked down at it and his eyebrows went up. "But it says here," and he paused for effect and looked at his two companions, "that you want the museum to tell our children that human mutation is a natural process. That *mutants* are natural."

"That's right."

"A natural process?" His voice went up and the other two shook their heads in phony disbelief. "Are you implying that you want our tax dollars to go toward telling children something that directly contravenes what we're teaching them in Sunday school?"

"Yes," she said, her hands shaking in anger. She clenched her fists.

The man, his jowls wagging, tried to loom over her. "Young lady, I don't know where you got such foolish ideas, but I don't think you-"

"If you got somethin' to say, maybe you'd better say it to me," a voice said with quiet menace from behind her. Jubilee sighed with relief as Logan came and stood just behind her, his hand on her shoulder.

The two silent men started to step forward, but Logan growled deep in his throat, a primal sound that disturbed the hairs on Jubilee's neck. He stepped up to stand beside her, as they started to raise their fists.

"Try it," Logan said. "Honestly, this young lady could kick your asses all by herself if she took a notion, but she's too polite for that. Now, me," and out of the corner of her eye, Jubilee saw him grin, "I'm not polite at all."

The man who had spoken dropped the petition and took an involuntary step back from the feral smile, then tried to cover for it. "How dare you threaten me?"

"Go. Away. Now." Logan took a step forward and the three men looked at each other and voted for retreat. They backed away, and when they were far enough, turned and took off.

Jubilee couldn't look Logan in the eye as she sniffed back tears and gathered up her petition.

"Where ya goin', kid?" he asked.

"Back to the school. I should have known this wouldn't work, that just 'cause the people I know in the community were nice that didn't mean other people would be."

"You thought this was gonna be *easy*?" Sheer disbelief dripped from Logan's voice, and he leaned against the table next to her.

"No," she said. "I don't know. I guess I didn't really think about it. Until now, the worst that's happened is people haven't wanted to help."

Logan took the petition out of her hands and put it back on the table, gently pushing her into her chair. "Look, I'm sorry you had to run into guys like that, but that's why I was here."

Jubilee looked at him in surprise. "Hey, what *are* you doing here?"

"I hoped you wouldn't ever know I was around," he said, "but Scott sent me as your backup."

"You know, I took care of myself for a year before I hooked up with this school." She glared at Logan. "I'm not a baby."

"So don't act like one," he said. "Did I say I was your babysitter? I said backup and I meant it. I wasn't kidding when I said you could kick the shit outta those guys without me. But Scott and I figured it'd be better for community relations if you didn't have to."

She looked down at her hands, surprised by the compliment. "I wanted...never mind."

He rested his hand on her shoulder again. "Kid, you're doing a good thing. That's why I'm here, because I agree with what you're trying to do. But you should realize it might not work."

Her head shot up. "Everybody keeps saying that."

"We're just tryin' to help you accept the fact you can't win every fight. Doesn't mean you shouldn't try."

Jubilee slumped in the chair and stared blankly at the oblivious shoppers walking by. //Could I be doing all this for nothing?//

***************************************

Logan convinced her to stay at her table for the rest of the afternoon, but it was a half-hearted effort at best. When she finally dragged back to the school in time for dinner, she was seriously considering giving up.

She threw herself down on the couch in the rec room and stared at the ceiling, counting tiles in an attempt to distract herself from misery.

"Yo, Jubes?" Angelo called from the other side of the room where he was playing Final Fantasy with Bobby.

"What?"

"Kitty was lookin' for you," Angelo said, pausing the game for a second, "said to meet her in the computer room whenever you got back."

"Was it important? 'Cause I'm kinda wiped at the moment." Jubilee groaned to herself. //She's probably just hacked another DOD website and wants to show off her computer prowess. I'm *so* not in the mood.//

"Just go see what she's up to," Bobby said, tapping his fingers on his game controller.

"Fine," Jubilee said, dragging herself off the couch.

The computer room always seemed cold to Jubilee and she shivered as she passed through the doorway to the sterile room filled with rows of off-white PCs, and one corner of brightly-colored Macs. Kitty was in her element, though, singing an old Beatles song and clicking away at her favorite computer.

She looked up at the sound of Jubilee's footsteps and grinned madly, which caused Jubilee's eyebrows to lift. "Um, what'd you do this time?" Jubilee asked. "Hack into the Professor's college records?"

Kitty looked thoughtful. "Huh, that's-"

"Kitty? Stop. Why am I here? Why am I not waiting outside the dining room for first crack at the meatloaf?"

Kitty blinked. Then grinned again. "For this." She clicked a few keys and then carefully turned the monitor so Jubilee could see it.

It was a website for Jubilee's crusade to change the museum exhibit. It had pictures of the museum and the exhibit, links to the petition and other information about mutant rights and evolution, and a link to sign the petition on-line.

"Kit-Kat," Jubilee said, staring in amazement, "I wouldn't have thought of it."

"No, I didn't think so. Do you like it?"

Jubilee hugged her friend. "I love it."

//I can't give up now.//

**************************************

Unfortunately, reports on what had happened at the mall trickled back to the school, and within 24 hours Jubilee found herself striding down the paneled school hallway past the paintings and vases toward the Professor's office.

She was still a little subdued from the experience, but her typical brashness in the face of being called to the Professor's office was accentuated by the fact that for once, she knew she'd done nothing wrong. //Hell,// she thought, //nobody got hurt at the mall and it's been weeks since I stuck fireworks under Bobby's chair or superglued the pages of someone's books together.//

"You wanted to see me?" she asked the Professor, opening the door and leaning against the dark wooden door frame.

He looked up from the papers on his desk and pointed to a chair. "Yes, please sit down."

She sat, stifling her normal smartass remarks and pretending to study one of the small glass sculptures on his desk.

The Professor steepled his fingers and looked serious. "I wanted to talk to you about your project."

She brightened. "You'll sign the petition?"

"No, I can't. I'm not certain your crusade is a good idea. This school is a haven, and drawing attention to us is not safe, especially when linked with the word mutant. As you have seen, simply using the word attracts the attention of a most unfortunate element of society."

Jubilee frowned. "But Professor-"

"I applaud your efforts," he continued, "and your initiative, but I'm afraid I cannot allow you to jeopardize the school."

Jubilee frowned harder. "That makes no sense. You and Dr. Grey go to Washington and you talk about mutants and mutant rights all the time. Doesn't it make sense that your students might care, too? Why would it be weird for your students to care about the lives of mutants?" She was on her feet and her voice was rising.

The Professor looked startled.

"You go on about living with the humans, and why can't we do something about that in our own backyard? Why can't we, right now, do something to teach humans that mutants aren't demons? Why can't-"

"Jubilation!"

She crossed her arms and held her ground.

"Don't look so angry," the Professor said. "You've convinced me by your passion and by your logic. You may continue unimpeded. Just keep Mr. Summers apprised of your progress."

Jubilee strode proudly out of the office and closed the door carefully behind her. She made it a few steps down the hall before the enormity of what had happened hit her. //I yelled at the Professor. I *yelled* at the Professor. Oh shit.//

She slumped against a wall and concentrated on breathing evenly. //But it worked. I convinced him.// She looked up and down the hallway to make sure nobody was watching, then jumped up and down, pumping her fist in the air. "I *rock*!"

***************************************

Momentum builds slowly, and to Jubilee's inexperienced eye, things seemed to barely move at all. But while her petition was slowly gathering signatures and the website got its first visitors, people in town were talking to each other.

For instance, the manager of the local mall's accessories store described the petition (which she had signed) to her husband, who worked for a local biotech firm. He thought the story was rather cute, and mentioned it to the company's marketing director over a working lunch. Then, the marketing director (who used to do media relations for a local college) ran into a reporter from the Westchester News-Journal in the grocery store, and brought up the story of the teen on a crusade while they stood in the produce aisle.

It was a moderately slow week in Westchester County, so the reporter passed the news on to his editor at the next editorial meeting. She said, "Isn't she the kid who's been writing us letters? Everyone's been clamoring for good news about today's teens, so let's give it to them. Run with it. Oh, and get a picture if she's photogenic."

And that's how Jubilee (with Rogue, Kitty, and Bobby in the background) turned up on page A3 of the Westchester News-Journal under the headline "Xavier Student Asks 'Where Are the Mutants?'"

That was exciting for Jubilee, but the experience was quickly eclipsed by a call from a New York Times reporter who happened to read the News-Journal story. (He read it mainly because his mother clipped the Barney's New York advertisement on the other side describing their suit sale and sent it to him with a note: "Darling, you'll never find a nice Jewish girl dressed like a schlepper.") However, the reporter never did buy that suit because he thought Jubilee sounded spunky and set out to interview her for a filler piece in the Times.

The article wasn't long, but it was complimentary, and the accompanying photograph was flattering. (The New York Times agreed with the Westchester News-Journal that Jubilee was, in fact, quite photogenic.) Signatures for the petition and visitors to the website quadrupled in the next few days, and Jubilee started sending the signatures she'd gathered to the museum.

Part 3

Hank surfaced one afternoon just after the Times article to find Jubilee sitting on the couch in the rec room lecturing a bemused Warren on the politics of museum exhibits. He listened in for a few minutes, got an explanation and a copy of the petition from Jean, and then wandered back to his lab.

Almost immediately, Jubilee found e-mails trickling in from around the world supporting her efforts, many noting that they'd sent a letter to the museum on her behalf. She wandered downstairs in a daze, ending up in her favorite chair in Hank's lab, waiting to catch his attention.

He finally looked up from his microscope when she said, "Hey, Blue."

"Hello, my young and vociferous friend, what can I do for you?"

"Well, all of a sudden, I'm getting mail from these genetics types in Australia and Germany, and I'm thinking I probably didn't run into them at the mall."

Hank bared his teeth at her in a grin, and she grinned back. "It is quite true that eminent foreign scientists spend remarkably little of their free time at the Westchester mall. However, many of them can be located via Genetics-L."

"Huh?"

"It is an e-mail list for those of us engaged in genetics research. Happily, it is moderated, which keeps out much of the riff-raff. We almost never get e-mails explaining how the Roswell aliens caused mutations in order to take over the Earth."

Jubilee laughed. "Almost never?"

"Well," Hank said solemnly, "there was just the one, but somehow he gave up when we started questioning him."

"Back to the letters I'm getting."

"Ah, yes, sorry, I get so few visitors that I am easily distracted. In any case, Jean gave me the petition and I postulated my esteemed colleagues might be interested in some of the local ramifications of lack of comprehension of evolution."

Pause. "So," Jubilee said, wrinkling her brow, "you thought they'd want to know what was up, so you sent 'em what I wrote."

"Yes. I'm pleased the responses from the scientists you've gotten have been positive. At least, I assume they are or you would have informed me."

Jubilee eyed the serious expression now on her teacher's face. "Um, Blue, what aren't you telling me?" He sighed, and pushed his glasses up his nose. "No stalling, you brought it up, so tell me."

"Well, I suppose you should realize that opposition to efforts such as yours do not come only from the uninformed and educated populace."

"Like the losers at the mall."

"Correct. There is also a small but vocal portion of the scientific community that manages to hold remarkably unscientific and irrational views of mutants."

"Like the losers who created the exhibit."

Hank laughed. "Indeed." He sobered again. "Your attempts to make changes may face challenges from within the intelligentsia as well as from without. I just wanted to make certain you were prepared for the possibility."

Jubilee leaned her chin on her hands. "I guess I'm as prepared as I can be. But so far, all the science-types have been pretty nice."

Hank looked at her closely. "But not everyone has?"

"Well, I just delete those messages." She didn't quite look him in the eye.

"What do they say?" he asked gently.

"Just...stuff. Nasty stuff." She fiddled with a pile of paperclips on his desk, hooking them together into a chain. "But it's just a few nutcases."

"Why did you not inform Scott or the Professor?"

She looked up at him. "They'd make me stop. They nearly made me stop when they thought it might be dangerous. But I got this far, I want to see it through."

"This exhibit is not worth risking your safety."

"I'm not in any danger!" Jubilee stopped and took a breath. "I want to finish this, Blue. Everybody keeps telling me to give up, expecting me to fail. Good ol' Jubes, can't take anything seriously, surprised she made it this far."

"Jubilee-"

"It just bothers me, all right? It bothers me that they think we aren't human." Her throat constricted. "Don't tell anyone about the e-mails. Promise me you won't tell anyone, or they'll stop this whole thing."

Hank studied her for a long time, and she held her breath. "I will not inform anyone else, if you promise me that from now on you will forward copies of these messages to me, so I can determine how serious they are. And if I believe there is any danger, I *will* inform the others."

She nodded. "You won't enjoy them, though."

"I don't expect to. But I doubt it will be anything I haven't faced before, and in person."

She blinked and looked at her blue, furry teacher. "Oh, yeah. I forgot."

"I did not."

********************************

Hank allowed her to continue, and didn't balk at any of the messages she passed on. And so the days continued in the same fashion, classes, and meals, and hanging out at the mall. Things came to a head about a week later...

Mail call at the Xavier School tended toward the hectic. Fortunately for the sanity and safety of the US Postal Service, the mail was actually *dropped off* outside the gates, and it was a student's job to go get it--after allowing a suitable getaway time for the postal worker. Professor Xavier decided early on that his students' propensity to pick up the mail by flying, or teleporting, or using telekinesis to carry the mail, might be...disturbing to the outside world.

On this particular afternoon, Kitty was going partially intangible, letting envelopes drop and then turning solid to catch them again, just to annoy Bobby, who was waiting for a letter from his parents.

After Peter threatened to hang her upside down out a window, she finally started handing out mail to the lucky recipients.

"Here ya go, Bobby," she said, tossing the envelope to him, "feels like a five-pager to me."

She dropped a box in front of Paige, "Looks like your latest cookie delivery is here, so everyone remember to skip dessert tonight." Paige stuck her tongue out as Kitty dropped envelopes into the eager hands of several other students, sorted the Professor's and the other teachers' mail into a pile, and looked in surprise at the final letter.

"Jubilee!" she called.

The other young woman had been watching the mail pickup spectacle from the other end of the rec room with all the detached amusement of someone who never got letters. She looked at Kitty in surprise. "Yo, what's up?"

"Letter for you," Kitty said, handing over the envelope. "It's from the museum again."

The students who were still nearby gathered around as Jubilee opened the letter with great trepidation. //The last one wasn't exactly good news. What are they gonna do this time? Threaten a lawsuit?//

"Well," Paige said, trying to look over her shoulder, "what does it say?"

Jubilee's grin got wider as her eyes ran down the page. "It's an invitation to the next meeting of the museum's Board of Directors, to 'describe my grievances to them in an open forum.' Grievances means why I'm pissed, right?"

"Yeah," Paige said, rolling her eyes.

Jubilee grinned at her friends. "I guess I better start getting ready, 'cause the meeting's next Thursday night."

***********************************

Suddenly, it was The Night. All the preparation was done, and it was 4:30 and Jubilee realized that somehow she'd agreed to get up in front of a bunch of grown-ups and *talk*. About *science*. She retreated to her room, trying to take comfort in the familiar, her stack of pop CDs, the bedraggled brown teddy bear she pretended not to need, the posters of actors.

Scott found her lying on the bed, unmoving and staring blankly at the ceiling. "Stage fright?" he asked.

She looked over at him leaning against the door frame, as her panic welled up in her chest. "Ya think?"

Scott smiled and pulled up a chair. "You'll be fine. You know what you want to say, I've heard you say it a dozen times. If you want to read, it's written down. If not, just speak from your heart."

She swallowed. "I'm just a kid. Why would they listen to me?"

"Because you make sense, and because you're speaking for all those people who signed your petition."

She covered her face. "Great. More pressure."

"They trust you. I trust you. The Professor trusts you. Just go out and tell them how you feel, and what's wrong with their exhibit. You'll do great, I promise. You should have seen how nervous Jean was the first time she testified before Congress. Meet you at the van at 5:30."

That got her attention. "The van?"

"Yep. There are few folks here who want to cheer you on." And on that note, he left and Jubilee pulled the blankets over her head.

She didn't manage to hide for long, because a few minutes later, Rogue pulled the covers off. "What's wrong, honey?"

"I can't do it. I can't get up and talk," Jubilee said, moaning.

Rogue sighed, and sat down on the edge of the bed, looking worried. "Oh yes, you can," Rogue said. "Remember when you said you'd never learn to fight and Logan was gonna throw you around the Danger Room for the rest of your life?"

"Uh huh."

"Well, didn't he just compliment you on how far you'd come?" Rogue prodded her friend's arm.

"Yeah, I guess so."

"And did you ever think you'd lecture the Professor and come out on top?"

"No."

"And what about when you said you couldn't do geometry? What grade did you get in the end?"

"B."

"It was hard, but you did it. And you can do this. So there." Rogue stuck her tongue out.

"Well, with logic like that, how could I resist?" Jubilee managed a weak grin at her friends, and slowly got out of bed to get dressed.

"You're gonna knock 'em dead," Rogue said over her shoulder as she left the room. "And I'll be there to see it."

***********************************

The museum's meeting room was a fairly typical representative of the species, although Jubilee didn't know that. A long dark wooden table was surrounded by high-backed leather chairs, and the periphery of the room held less comfortable chairs against the wall.

The museum board was already seated when Jubilee and Scott reached the doorway, followed by Rogue, Kitty, and Hank. Most of the other seats were filled as well, and all eyes turned to look at Jubilee.

She slowed as the weight of their regard hit her. Her fear came rushing back, and she hung on the edge of fleeing back through the doorway, held in place only by her classmates and teachers behind her.

She felt Scott's hand on her should as she sucked in a breath. He leaned over. "We're here, Jubilee, and you're going to do great. I promise."

Rogue's whisper was just behind, "Get in there and kick some ass, girl."

Jubilee took another step forward and began to see other friendly faces: a shopkeeper, a local scientist Hank once brought in as a guest lecturer, and from the end of the table, she got a big grin from the museum director, now dressed in a button-down shirt and slacks.

A few more steps forward, heartened by the support, until she found herself confronted by one of the men who stood up from the table.

A middle-aged man in a conservative suit, his brow was furrowed and he looked at Jubilee as if he'd just been forced to swallow a live frog. "You must be Miss Lee," he said in sepulchral tones. "I am Bolivar Trask, co-chair of the Board of Directors."

Jubilee felt a surge of annoyance at the look on his face, but held out her hand and tried for her best grown-up tones. "Pleased to meet you, Mr. Trask."

He eyed her for a long moment, before finally shaking her hand. "That's *Dr.* Trask," he said, snatching his hand back as quickly as he could.

//Self-important jerk,// Jubilee thought, her anger washing away the last of the stage fright.

"Yes, Bolivar," a female voice snapped, "we're all well aware of your qualifications." The owner of the voice stepped around the table and elbowed the unpleasant Trask aside with considerable skill.

"Ms. Lee, thank you very much for agreeing to join us," she said, smiling politely and holding out her hand. "My name is Catherine Smoll, also a Ph.D., but I'm not quite so strident about it as Dr. Trask here. I'm the other co-chair of the Board."

Jubilee grinned at her. //Oh, I like this one.//

They shook hands, and Dr. Smoll introduced her to Dr. Dent, the museum director, and they exchanged cordial greetings and grinned at each other in a conspiratorial way.

"Please take a seat," Dr. Smoll said, gesturing to an empty seat at the table. "We just have a few other pieces of business to take care of before we discuss your concerns."

She sat at the table and the rest of the Xavier crew took places around the room. The meeting began, but Jubilee never really remembered what they said, just a few phrases stuck in her mind: "NSF grant proposal," "new discoveries in Kenya," and Dr. Dent saying "how very postmodern of you, Dr. Trask."

Finally, Dr. Smoll said, "Well, as I believe you all know, we've invited Ms. Jubilation Lee of the Xavier School here to discuss our exhibit on evolution. Ms. Lee represents," and she glanced down at some notes in front of her, "the 150 or so people who signed a petition, including, I might add, some rather prominent scientists. Ms. Lee?"

Jubilee stood up, remembering from somewhere that it gave you more authority if you stood, and looked down at her notes. They blurred for a second as she started to panic again, but she took a deep breath and looked around the room. Friendly faces, unfriendly faces, and a large number of people in between.

"I came to the museum on a field trip," she said slowly. "I have to admit I didn't care all that much about science when I got here. I mean, what did all this stuff have to do with *my* life?"

Trask was scowling at her, but she did her best to ignore him. "I heard some people talking about the exhibit, and about mutation, and I realized that it *did* have to do with me."

She paused, and took a deep breath. "I'm a mutant."

The corners of Scott's mouth curled up and the others from the school stared in shock: she'd only told Scott and the Professor what she was going to do. Whispers whipped around the room, and she waited a moment before plowing on.

"I'm a mutant," she said again. "I was orphaned real young, and then I ran away from my foster home so they wouldn't send me to China. I lived on the streets until I got the chance to come to the Xavier School. I'm not telling you this so you'll feel sorry for me. I'm telling you because you need to realize that mutants aren't that different from everybody else. Good stuff happens, and bad stuff happens. But more bad stuff happens to mutants, because everybody hates us for something we didn't ask for."

She looked down at her paper for a moment, not wanting to see the faces around her. "So, I came to this school, and for the first time I thought maybe my life was actually worth living. Maybe I was actually worth something. Then I came to your museum, and I saw the lives of every mutant reduced to a few sentences at the bottom of a case.

"The exhibit ignores the everyday lives of mutants like me, just trying to go to school and hang out with friends and maybe learn some algebra, in favor of a terrorist like Magneto, racists like the Friends of Humanity, and a diagram I didn't understand. That just doesn't make sense to me.

"You have a chance here, with this exhibit, to educate people about mutants. Okay, maybe you're not gonna bring world peace all by yourself, but you can make a difference, at least in this community. When kids come to your museum, if they see that mutants are natural, maybe they won't feel quite so alone. Like I did." Some of the people were nodding, some were scowling. She forged ahead.

"Evolution isn't just about why we walk on two legs instead of four. It isn't just about the dozens of kinds of parrots on some island. It's about why I can do this," and she popped a few colorful plasma bursts. Several people gasped. "It's about why there are orphanages full of babies with blue hair and glowing skin and orange eyes.

"Why do mutants like me exist? I don't know, I'm not a scientist, I'm just a kid. But we're here and we're not going anywhere, and I'd like to be represented like the human being I am."

Jubilee looked down at her notes, and took a final deep breath. "We were reading this play last year, and I remember my teacher reading aloud this one bit that didn't really hit me at the time. He helped me look it up before tonight. It's from the Merchant of Venice."

She held up the paper and read, "If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?

"I bleed. I laugh. I could die. I'm a person, not just a mutant. Don't ignore me."

She collapsed back in her chair, her knees no longer able to support her. There was a moment of silence before most of the people in the room began to applaud. The director was grinning like a maniac, Rogue looked like she wanted to jump out of her chair and start screaming, and Dr. Smoll was nodding with great satisfaction.

When the applause died away, Dr. Smoll opened her mouth, but before she could begin to speak, Dr. Trask said, "Thank you, Ms. Lee."

Jubilee could see several of her apparent supporters look sharply around at his tone. He continued, "That was certainly an *emotional* appeal. But we're not a museum of emotions, but a museum of science."

"Actually," the museum director said drolly, leaning back in his chair, "if you check the sign outside, I think you'll find we're a museum of natural history. And this young lady is, I would venture to say, quite natural."

There were a few muffled snickers, and Dr. Trask glared around, knowing he was being made fun of, but not quite getting the joke. The director's bland and inoffensive smile seemed to annoy him. He continued with a barely restrained snarl, "As I was saying, we are trying to teach science, not generate social policy. If we bow to the forces of political correctness, we will be abrogating our responsibility as scientists."

Several board members nodded, and one (a balding fuddy-duddy in a particularly hideous olive-green suit) said, "Exactly, Bolivar. Science and culture should be kept quite separate. Our exhibits should not be used to portray a political agenda."

"Piffle," Dr. Smoll said firmly. "Bolivar, I expected you to know better. Science can never fully divorce itself from the society around it. I'm just a lowly marine biologist, but I thought that was one of the ideas anthropologists are teaching these days. At least, that's what I recall in the article in the American Anthropologist that Joe was so kind to forward me."

She smiled sweetly, and Jubilee laughed internally. //I'm not entirely certain what they're talking about, but with this lady on my side, how can we lose?//

Another older gentlemen, this time with a bit more hair and better taste in clothes (although Jubilee was curious why he was wearing those loafers with those pants), jumped in. "I'm afraid she's right, ladies and gentlemen, there's no way we can avoid being a reflection of Westchester, of New York, and of the current climate in the United States. If we could, then this issue would never have come up."

"This issue," Dr. Trask said, "as you so carefully put it, came up because one young lady still in high school has taken a personal dislike to our exhibit style." He didn't even look at Jubilee this time, as if dismissing her from his thoughts.

She bristled. "I took a *dislike* to Friends of Humanity propaganda disguised as a museum exhibit. Was that your plan, *Dr.* Trask?"

Dr. Dent had a coughing fit, and several other people seemed to be examining the unpleasant Dr. Trask with a new eye (and not finding anything they liked).

One of Dr. Trask's supporters said, "The exhibit is scientifically sound."

"If you insist. However, it's also sterile," Dr. Dent said.

A youngish woman seated near him, who had been listening intently, leaned forward and tapped a perfectly shaped red nail on the table. "It's boring," she said.

Next to her, a man with a blond hair caught back in a ponytail dropped his pen on the table and said, "Quite frankly, it's unintelligible and disorganized."

Dr. Trask narrowed his eyes at the two of them, "Neither of you expressed any disagreement when the exhibit was proposed."

"The proposal didn't mention," the woman said, twitching her nose in distaste, "that the exhibit would be nothing but row after row of animals. By the time the rest of us received a proper report on the planned exhibit, there was not enough time to lodge a complaint. But since you ask-"

The discussion ranged freely around the room for what seemed to Jubilee to be an interminable period. The language became more esoteric, but whatever they were saying, it was obviously cheesing some people off quite severely.

She kept tabs on the progress of the debate by watching Hank's expression, since both Scott and the museum director had too good a poker face for her to tell what they thought. Anyone who caused Hank to wince was obviously saying something scientifically inaccurate, those who Hank beamed at were obviously supporters.

The debate had degenerated into a series of conversations around the room, when Dr. Smoll gathered them up by raising her voice. "I think we have exhausted the possible arguments on this issue. Including," and she sent a quelling glance to one particular board member, "the financial. I think it is time we put to a vote the question: do we wish to authorize Joe to revamp this exhibit to fit within the mainstream of museum theory? Before we vote, Ms. Lee, do you have any final words?"

The director nodded at her, if she had anything else to say, this was her chance.

She looked around the room. "I know some of you think I'm just a kid, and that means I don't know anything about how to put together a museum. Maybe that's true. But I kind of thought that I was the audience for your museum exhibits, and if my friends and I didn't get it, then maybe you did something wrong.

"Besides, it isn't just me. I may have started it, but there are a bunch of other people who agreed with me. They couldn't be here tonight, but I have it on good authority," and she flashed a grin at Scott, "that they trust me. They trust me to tell you that your exhibit doesn't represent the world as they know it. They trust me to beg you to include mutants in the discussion of evolution. We're not some political movement, we're just people who happen to live here."

The moment Jubilee stopped speaking, Dr. Smoll said, "I move we vote on this issue."

"I second," said the pony-tailed man.

"All in favor of changing the exhibit?" she asked.

From around the room, the various board members called out their vote. Jubilee was so scared, she couldn't even keep up the simple count. Moments later, the young man who had been recording the votes looked up and smiled at her.

"The vote is nine in favor, six against."

Dr. Trask looked like he wanted to object. Or explode. But he settled for hustling out of the room in a huff, rather like a small child prepared to go to his room and have a tantrum. His supporters stomped out after him, but nobody missed them.

Jubilee was surrounded by well-wishers, and through the crowd she could see her teachers and classmates hugging each other. Scott made his way through, his normally solemn face split by a huge grin. They faced each other for a moment.

"You didn't think I could do it, did you?" she asked, made daring by her success.

He shook his head slowly. "Jubilee, I always knew you could do whatever you wanted. You just had to care enough to try. I'm proud of you."

She grinned at him just as Rogue and Hank swept her up into a group hug and bore her back to the school in triumph.

***********************************

Four months later...

The exhibit room wasn't as hushed as the first time she'd been there, now it was crowded with visitors, participants in the revamp and people who'd read about it in the newspaper and wanted to see it. Jubilee gulped a couple of times as she looked around the new exhibit, and realized the enormity of what she'd done.

The giant glowing double helix was gone, replaced with photographs suspended on wires. From where she stood, Jubilee could see Darwin looking very dour, a small gray bird with an orange beak (which the sign said was a Darwin's finch), a young girl with green hair and claws reading a book, and a scientist peering at a skeleton on a table. She spent a long moment looking at one picture that hung in the middle of the exhibit, a portrait of her demonstrating her powers to her friends.

She blinked up at it a few times, still not certain she liked how she looked. Her plasma bursts looked neat, though. The photographer had fussed and fumed and cursed impartially at the universe, but he had insisted on sticking with it until he found a way to show them off. The Professor had been unsure about letting her display her powers so openly, but the museum director (who hit it off with the Professor immediately) took him aside.

She wasn't sure what was said, but the Professor smiled and agreed to her participation. The director introduced her to a short-haired woman who looked like a hippie crossed with a butch lesbian, who he said was an anthropologist working on the oral history.

The anthropologist pulled a tape recorder out of a worn denim backpack, scratched the rainbow tattoo on her left shoulder, and asked Jubilee to tell her about the day she discovered she was a mutant.

Jubilee blinked again and looked around the exhibit, this time seeing all of the changes the director had made. Many of the cases filled with animals were gone, and the ones that remained had shorter and clearer labels. Scattered around the room were large signs with her words and those of other mutants.

"When I sprouted wings, my mom screamed for an hour," one said. "But when you fly under your own power, well, there's nothing like it in the world. I wish everyone could fly."

"I'm an empath," said another. "I can't tell what you're thinking, just how you're feeling. And as a psychologist, I can help you understand your emotions, help you control them, help you become more in tune with yourself. That's so rewarding."

Jubilee wandered over to the display of different animal eyes she had seen the first time. The confusing label had been replaced with an explanation of how natural selection had allowed different kinds of eyes and eyesight to evolve, from the compound eye of an insect to the binocular vision of a bird.

In the upper right corner was another piece of oral history: "I have eyes like a hawk. Literally. I can't see very well at night, but during the day I can see many times better than other people. Last summer, I took a job as a lifeguard and then as a fire-watcher during fire season, because it turns out I can see a drowning person or a fire long before anyone else. They tell me I saved lives. I'm proud of that."

"Yeah," Jubilee said as she watched the crowd mingle, "I'm proud, too."

--end--

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