I've voted for the least problematic option to my mind. (Past the Cold War, worried about politics, kind of cool to divine origins in general.) I actually liked the "Team Mutant" option in your last poll, Hermit, even if it didn't quite scratch my itch for "secret history" stories, which is the way I wish that particular subgenre had gone to start with.
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"Oh, good. You're awake. I've never actually had to tase someone before. I didn't think it was supposed to knock someone unconscious!"
Dylan tested his bonds. Not too bad. Easy enough to slip. When he'd learned whatever this guy was going to tell him. Which, according to movies that had nothing to do with real life, would be pretty much everything. "I don't think . . . I. I'm sorry. Who are you again?"
"Henry McCoy. Dr. McCoy, but I prefer being called Hank. I'm the Director here at the Sunshine Valley Private Hospital. And you . . I hope you don't mind a bit of invasion of privacy, are Dylan Lee, aged 21. You graduated from Wisconsin Journalism, last year, which doesn't seem like the world's best career choice in this year of our Lord 2015, but I notice you didn't ask me before you registered your major. You're are an intern at the New York Daily Bugle and you have a Master Card and a Visa, which is great, because you can use one to pay off the other and stave off bankruptcy twice as long!"
"So you Googled me. Dr. McCoy?"
"And searched our wallet. Yes. I was trying to figure out why you were sneaking around the wards in my hospital in a very cool black tactical outfit."
"We heard at the News that . . . Britney Spears . . . was an inpatient here."
"Baloney. We are an obscure little psychiatric hospital. In the 52 years this place has been open, under the previous director and myself, we have dealt with exactly one kind of patient: Young people who develop psychiatric issues around puberty. We are specialists, and I like to think that our results speak for themselves. While I like to think that we have something to offer celebrity patients, the fact is that our supporting foundation funds a diverse clientele ranging from the lower middle class to upper middle class. The wildest we get is some non-citizens. Two Russians! A Kenyan! One Japanese kid? Oh, wait, two starting next year."
Dr. McCoy hesitated, sighed. "Okay, and one celebrity. Allison was B-list back in the day. Still gets enough in residuals to drive a Lexus. Maybe we should advertise?"
Dr. McCoy shook his head, unconvincingly pretending to regret something. "Maybe not. Frankly, a solid career at an obscure little hospital in a Catskills resort town has done very well for me. I made a lot of money, I have a nice house and a private plane. The children and grandchildren of former patients cut my grass. Hope is the cutest little thing. Laura is not. Life has been pretty sweet."
Crap. McCoy was just going to stick with the cover story. Like a sane person would. The movies did lie! Dylan slipped his restraints and hit that mental turboboost that sped up his reflexes until everyone around him was standing still. This place. Could it be? When Director Lang explained the mission, all he'd been thinking about was his student loans. No way was this lead, the latest in sixty years of bad leads going to pan out. But then they took him down, and he knew that wasn't something they could do with a taser. Well, they weren't going to blindside him again!
Until they did. A solid thump, and he was down, wind knocked out, a solid looking man in a jumpsuit above him, the restraints back around his wrist. He'd never been hit like this. Was this what superheroes felt like all the time? Well, let him catch his breath and this donnybrook was back on!
"Looks like he's going to be back up in a second, Hank," the second man said. Where had he even come from?
"Put this on him, Tom."
"Is that what I think it is?" Tom asked.
"Don't get all high and mighty, Tom. These things work on 80% of us, detectors 80%. Dylan doesn't show up on our detectors. If the collar doesn't work, odds are he's not, you know. But if it does . . ."
And just like that, a smooth metal something was going around Dylan's throat, followed by a click and the worst headrush Dylan ever had. Or more than that, because suddenly his hands and feet were asleep and his stomach was trying to jump through his mouth. He tried to open his mouth, like you do when you're about to throw up, and somehow even that didn't work.
Dr. McCoy fished his phone out of his pocket, answered it. Apparently. Dylan's eyes weren't focussing very well, either. "Crap," Dr. McCoy said. "Nate's getting a headache. Get that thing off him before Chuck picks it up. The Old Man is fragile enough as it is."
The barest blur, and the collar was gone.
Dr. McCoy knelt down, held out his hand. "Here. I'll help you into that chair if we can agree that you're not going to fight your way out of here, Dylan. Agent Lee."
"I'm not a real agent," Lee said. "CIA does interns, too. At least they pay, unlike The Bugle."
"SENTINEL, Dylan, not CIA."
"Dr. McCoy means that you're an agent --an intern-- for a shadow agency within the CIA. SENTINEL. It is tasked with hunting people like us." Tom talked very fast.
"Us? I'm nothing like you, Speedy Gonzalez. You're the X-Men, a bunch of super-terrorists going back 60 years. I'm a vaguely patriotic Millennial who really needs a safe civil service job to have any hope of paying off his student loans." But inside, Dylan's stomach was going out again. They knew what he was. And in that moment he understood just how much he had always wanted to know the same.
Dr. McCoy sighed again. "How much do you know about speciation theory in evolution?"
"I thought you were a psychiatrist?" Crap. For a moment, Dylan had thought he might belong. But this sounded like gibberish.
"I'm a supergenius. Just like you have totipotent reflexes. Because you were born that way. Because you are a mutant. Which means that if your employers ever figure out how you got your powers, you're going to find out what the inside of an extermination camp looks like."
"I . . . what? The government isn't running some secret Holocaust for movie monsters! That's crazy!" Although Dylan was willing to believe a lot of things about Director Lang. It had always been hard to believe that a man with so much hate inside him could be running his own division.
"The government isn't doing anything. There are 416 mutants on this entire planet, and a good third of them were picked up by us long before SENTINEL noticed them. Which means that your agency thinks that it is quietly dealing with a problem on a scale of one to two people born a year. All antisocial and dangerous, incidentally. The CIA has kept bigger secrets. But you know what isn't a secret that they could keep? An enclave of 99 mutants, all living in commuting distance of New York and staffing their own superteam. We really need to keep it that way for a very, very long time. Like, say, 800 years at the current rate of natural increase. We also really don't want them finding out that detectors and inhibitors aren't 100% reliable. It's shocking enough to find out that CEREBRO isn't."
"If you're thinking what I think you're thinking, I'm out," Tom said. "I think Laura has her Dad's number if you need it. Or Emma?"
Dr. McCoy shook his head. "No, I'm not. Dylan's a mutant and he's stable. The community can't lose him. Demographically speaking. In fact, I'm tempted to drag this boy down to the Guthries right now. There's a lot of girls there who really don't want to marry a cousin. And boys, too, pardon your brother's patience with an old-fashioned Boomer. And we need to find out how CEREBRO missed him, and who else it might have missed."
Dr. McCoy hesitated for a second. "Dylan, would you like a job? Because I could really use a secret agent man on my action team."