"Why is there a teenage girl in my office?" Nick Fury burst out of his office, slamming the double doors behind him. The imposing S.H.I.E.L.D. director looked part annoyed and part terrified. "Anyone?"
"Summer program," Natasha Romanoff looked up from her briefing report on Stark Industries. "Professor Xavier arranged internships for all of his older students, including your new assistant, Jubilation Lee."
"I don't need a new assistant," Fury scowled. "Why didn't he send her to McCoy in Mutant Affairs?" Fury didn't like surprises in his day. A teenage girl popping bubblegum in his office definitely rated as surprises in his book. "Why me? Why couldn't they match her with Coulson or you?"
"Coulson has his hands full with the incident in New Mexico," Natasha closed her file. "As for me, maybe I didn't strike them as overly maternal?"
"Considering your chosen code name, I suppose that's true," Fury offered a sigh. "I suppose I can find something for her to do here." He continued. "What's the latest development on Stark?"
"As bad we thought," Natasha said. "Before he left for New Mexico, Agent Coulson recommended setting up a full time shadow to monitor Stark. He's become more erratic than predicted."
"Already?" Fury frowned. "That's worrying." His lone eye closed long enough for him to make a quick decision. "If anyone's going to get close to Stark, it'll have to be someone he doesn't know already, someone that can catch his eye... how do you feel about office work, Agent Romanoff?"
"Is this going to be one of those learning experiences, sir?" Natasha asked dubiously.
"They can't all be glamorous high flying missions, Romanoff," Fury said. "You knew that when you switched sides."
"Remember that when you're talking to the girl," Natasha offered. "We could use a few mutant contacts at S.H.I.E.L.D. We can't always count on the Xavier's good graces. Good luck."
"Same to you, Agent Romanoff," Fury watched her leave. Then he turned back in the direction of his office, contemplating the prospect of bonding with a teenage mutant. What could he learn from a girl that played Rock Band and read vampire novels?
Retreating inside his office, Nick Fury found Jubilation Lee still waiting in his office. The Chinese-American teenager hadn't moved from her seat at all, popping bubblegum at irregular intervals and looking less than thrilled with the whole ordeal. At first, Fury thought she was simply a bored teenager, forced into this internship by a well-meaning teacher, but Fury was used to reading people. Her attitude changed the minute Fury entered the room, alert and attentive. She was used to taking instruction and orders. Her eyes were wary at the sidearm he dropped into his desk drawer, like she'd seen the wrong end of gun before, too. Her fingers crackled twice before she reined herself in. Fury had always thought mutants were wild and untamed, but this one had been taught control. She looked and acted like a normal teenager, until she wasn't one. She might make a decent spy. No one would ever look past her casual demeanor.
"I apologize for keeping you waiting, Miss Lee," Fury began, "but no one informed me you'd be starting today."
"No bother," she grinned. "So where do you want me to start? Do you need coffee?"
"I do have a secretary for that," Fury said mildly.
"She must not do a very good job," Jubilee wrinkled her nose at the dust accumulated on the top of his file cabinets. "Those file folders don't look like they've been touched in years."
"I've meant to have them organized," Fury looked contrite, "but if you're really determined to be useful around here..."
"That's what I'm here for," Jubilee said. "Do you want them filed by their last name? Or maybe by their code name?" Suddenly she looked nervous. "Is that stuff classified? Should I be seeing this?"
"None of this material, no," Fury was surprised she knew to ask that question. "Most of that material has been digitized already. They're just archival copies I haven't had put away. They go in that series of file cabinets." He pointed to a set of beaten up steel file cabinets. "Last name is fine, Jubilation."
"Jubilee," she said. "Everyone calls me that at school, even the teachers."
Watching her work, Fury asked mildly. "How is Charles?"
"He's good, he..." Jubilee stopped sorting files to stare in awe at Fury. Her wide-eyed expression reminded him that she was indeed just a teenager under all that confidence and bravado. "You know Dr. Xavier?"
Fury laughed, "You'll find I know a lot of people, Jubilee."
"I guess you would," Jubilee said. "It's just... I've never met anyone outside that knew him, someone that wasn't a mutant or..."
"Someone that didn't wanted to hurt mutants?" Fury asked. Jubilee nodded. "I wish I had known about Stryker's attack beforehand. If I could have stopped that..."
"No one could have prevented that," Jubilee said. "That's what Mr. Summers told us. If they want to get to us, they will."
"You kids grow up fast, don't you?" Fury observed.
"You have to," Jubilee snapped. "That's the way it works for most of us. The lucky ones are found early. Dr. Xavier would come into their homes and convince the parents they had this gifted student only he could teach. The rest of us… get by somehow."
Fury leaned back in his chair, absorbing this new information. He knew about Xavier's school in theory. He'd even followed all the reports after the Stryker attack. But he hadn't considered what it meant. These mutants were used to living in fear, wondering who was going to attack them next. Fury punched up his file on the attack on his computer. His intelligence team had gone over what remained of Stryker's data. The descriptions of the attack on the school had turned his battle hardened stomach.
"Does S.H.I.E.L.D. have a file on me?" Jubilee asked suddenly. "The Professor said there was a list of known mutants..."
"Senator Kelly didn't get his intelligence from us," Fury said. Even if they maintained such a list, he would have fought releasing it to someone like Senator Kelly.
"But you're government," Jubilee said. "You spooks know everything."
"I was never even able to confirm that list existed, Jubilee. For all we know, Kelly had a dummy file and a few scraps of information. He wouldn't be the first one in Washington to try that trick."
"But Stryker knew where to find us," Jubilee said.
"You think I'd give Stryker information I wouldn't give a US Senator?" Fury asked mildly. "We're S.H.I.E.L.D., Jubilee, we don't follow the same rules everyone else does." He explained patiently. "Technically, yes, we're a government agency, but let's just say we work under own mandates." He added. "And no, we don't know everything. That's why I have agents all over the place gathering information for me." He frowned. "Surely you knew this when you knew this when you asked for this internship?"
Jubilee shook her head. "Not really." All of the files were now completely arranged in a set of three piles. "The natural history museum was only taking college kids..." She rolled her eyes. "And Mr. McCoy's pretty popular so he had a waiting list. And Mr. Summers didn't like the idea of me interning with Mr. Logan..."
"Don't you have a family to go home to?" Fury asked. Jubilee shook her head. "What did you want out of this internship?"
Jubilee shrugged. "I don't know. I... I didn't give it much thought."
"Why'd you choose the museum?" Fury asked.
"Professor Xavier said the best way to combat fear is through education," Jubilee said. "If humans knew what mutants were really like, they wouldn't be so quick to hunt us." She explained. "We went on stupid field trip to the museum before the attack. They had this totally bogus exhibit on evolution and mutation, filled with misshapen heads and bodies, all the horror stories people tell about mutants." Her hands started crackling, causing some of the dust from the file cabinets to scurry away in fright. She closed her fists in frustration. "Sorry about that, I can usually control them better..."
Jubilee clenched her fists, "I've seen the kids come in every year, y'know, escaping from everything. Some of them have no idea what's wrong with them. Some of them are in complete denial about being mutants. They didn't really have a mutant social worker or crisis center..."
Fury started laughing.
"What's so funny?" Jubilee demanded.
"I'm sorry, Jubilee, I didn't mean to laugh at you," Fury smiled, "but you really didn't realize what you were doing, did you?" Jubilee shook her head. "You thought you were picking those places at random?" She nodded. "You picked all of them because you wanted to help, Jubilee. You wanted to do the same thing we're trying to here at S.H.I.E.L.D – save the world."
"Really?" Jubilee grinned.
"I know it doesn't seem that way in this grungy old office of mine," Fury shrugged, "but S.H.I.E.L.D. does try to make a difference for everyone. Yes, we do track people with extraordinary powers, but not just mutants." Jubilee looked properly wide-eyed at this idea. "I'll make you a deal," Fury said. "You finish your internship here and if you're interested, I'll see if there's a place for you here." Jubilee seemed pleased by this prospect.
Then Fury turned, seeing his computer screen. His lone eye caught an old file photo showing several young mutants thought taken hostage during the Stryker attack, including Jubilee. No wonder she was wary of anyone working for the government. Jubilee had a tough fight on her hands. People trusted Iron Man because Tony Stark was normal, no special super powers. But they feared a cheerful girl like Jubilee because of a few sparklers coming out of her hands. There was something wrong with that equation.
Fortunately Jubilee hadn't noticed his sudden lack of conversation. She was babbling as she put away the files. "Do I have to wear one of those uniforms? 'Cause black is not my color..."