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1742X-Men: Special Services #1 of 4

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  • altmarvel-release-owner@yahoogroups.com
    Apr 18, 2010
      X-Men: Special Services #1

      March 2009

      Writer: John Flint
      Webmaster: Liam Gibbs

      "Concentrate, boy. This isn't a game." Wolverine threw Bobby Drake over his back with a swift swing, flinging the founding X-Man against the cold, hard wall of the Danger Room. "This is life and death. If you can't bother to pay attention—"

      "Then maybe I shouldn't be with the X-Men," Bobby said, as he sat there on the floor, limbs loose, shoulders slumped. "Without my powers, I'm pretty much useless around here. Mastin can't even use me as a demonstration anymore."

      "You could learn how to fight," Wolverine said, rolling back his mask with one hand while placing a cigar in his mouth with the other. "I've fought beside you before, Drake. I know you could handle yourself fine, with or without powers. Just have to learn, an' it just so happens that I'm willin' to help you."

      "I appreciate that," Bobby said, as Wolverine lit his cigar, "but according to Moira's analysis, I'm not even technically a mutant anymore. What business do I have throwing myself into battle and becoming a vulnerability to the team? I'm not like you or Storm, I got into the school without ever having to fend for myself and become some badass. Maybe I'm too old to learn now."

      Wolverine snorted. "If you don't think you can hack it, then don't waste my time. Plenty of students here who could use what I can teach, now that Mastin's out of the picture. I'm sure Chuck'll let you stick around if you want, maybe teach some accounting classes or somethin'."

      Bobby closed his eyes as Wolverine walked out of the room, cigar smoke trailing after him.

      `Robert,' Professor X mentally summoned, `a word in my office, please.'

      [Minutes later.]

      "You `rang?'" Bobby asked, stepping inside. He was dressed in casual civilian attire; it seemed wrong, immoral, to walk around in his blue trunks, boots, and X-belt when he was no longer the Iceman.

      "I understand the frustration you feel right now," Charles Xavier said as he stood to greet one of his earliest pupils. "It was not that long ago that I myself was without my telepathy. I questioned my role with the X-Men, with the Institute, with the entire world. My X-Men, my children, began to question me, to doubt me. By the time Proteus restored my mutant power, I had begun to doubt even my own sanity, my very relation to reality."

      "Okay," Bobby said as he relaxed in his chair.

      "We all must take the changes we undergo in our own way," Xavier continued, "When Banshee lost his powers, he retired from the X-Men. When Storm lost hers, she continued to lead the X-Men. Whatever you ultimately decide, Robert, I want you to know that you will always be welcome with us here."

      "`Us,' that's kind of the problem," Bobby said, "I'm not exactly a part of `us,' anymore, am I? What can I do? I can hold my own in a fight, sure, but I was never a Wolverine. I can't even pick locks like Storm. I can balance the books, which I'm sure is gonna come in real handy when Apocalypse comes looking for a fight."

      "Our cause must be fought on many fronts, Robert," Xavier said. "Even if you were to return to everyday life, you would be a firm supporter of mutant rights in a world where those rights are still up for debate. I hope it will not come to that, however. I have a proposition for you.

      "I am putting together something of a team."

      Before Bobby could respond, Xavier put up a hand. "Not a combat team, no. A team whose work would be more in the realm of public relations. You would lead a group of mutants whose powers are not particularly conducive to active combat. You would visit with other pro-mutant organizations, recruit new students, and other public actions that would help to keep a positive face on the mutant movement.

      "This is not an assignment which a dangerous mutant such as Wolverine or Cyclops can be given. It would put you in the public spotlight, though, so I can understand if you would prefer to turn the offer down. You would not have to announce your dual identity; no one needs to know that the human leading the team was once the mutant, Iceman."

      Bobby stared at the back of a photograph standing on Xavier's desk. He had seen the other side often enough to know that it was the one of the original five X-Men standing with Professor X in his wheelchair. They had dreamed of a day when human-mutant relations were as good as they were now. It was up to everyone to keep the momentum going.

      "Okay," Bobby said with a slight shrug, "Who would I be working with?"

      [Two weeks later.]

      A black van with tinted windows inched to a stop next to a curb in Harlem. Four figures in the black-and-yellow uniforms of X-Men sat in the van. The driver was a tall, muscular young man, his uniform modified to contain numerous pouches and pockets, which contained various oddball devices, such as scissors, yarn, a sock filled with pennies, a handheld mirror, a laser-pointer pen, a file, and a lucky rabbit's foot. His name was Deus ex Machina, and he always brought whatever was needed.

      The woman sitting beside him, wearing the same red sunglasses as the rest of the team, utilizing the outdated equipment that the X-Men left behind in favor of specialized contacts, had pale skin and bright blue hair. She was almost thin enough to be called emaciated, though this was in fact a part of her power; she had a trans-spatial wormhole in her intestines, allowing her to digest infinite matter, while her own body drew on an infinitesimally small amount of cosmic energy. Her name was December Holiday and she held hands with Deus ex Machina.

      Bobby Drake sat in the back, reading and rereading the assignment files for the day. They had a dinner meeting with several influential senators and then a press conference with the ambassador of Wakanda concerning trade agreements with the pro-mutant island-state of Genosha.

      The fourth and final member of the quartet sat opposite Bobby, wearing a cowboy hat low over his face and napping, snoring not so gently. He opted to remove the bulletproof vest portion of his uniform, revealing his hairy chest beneath the black jacket. His name was Matthew Renard.

      "You might want to put that vest back on before we go out," Bobby said, setting down the file. "You never know when it might come in handy."

      "Maybe you're worried about that sort of thing," the slumbering mutant said. "I'm not."

      "William Stevens has cryokinetic abilities," Bobby recited, "he can freeze things. If we startle him, he may well make things unpleasant. The costume protects you from intense cold."

      "That must really burn you," Matt said, without looking at Bobby. "To need to wear it, I mean."

      "I… what?" Bobby had specifically asked the professor not to tell his teammates about his power loss. It wasn't something he needed to advertise; he would rather people meeting him thought he was simply a human helping the cause, not a disgraced former superhero.

      "It was kind of obvious, partner," Matt said as he began to stretch out. "A new guy joins the program and immediately is calling the shots? Must've known Xavier for some time now, like possibly a former X-Man. But why would an X-Man join this outfit? Well, maybe he lost his powers and can't hack it against guys like Magneto anymore, but needs to feel useful and wanted. All the other old-timers are accounted for, save the Iceman, who hasn't been on the radar for awhile now.

      "Hence, I presume that you, Robert Drake, are the late, once-great Iceman. Am I wrong?" Everyone in the van knew that Matthew's power was the ability to draw connections and deduce probabilities, even on a seemingly impossible scale, even seemingly random sequences of events. Working out Iceman's past history was a simple deduction for such a mutant.

      "You're not wrong," Bobby said, "but you are an ass."

      "Um, hey, guys," December broke in, "maybe we should, you know, go in and do our job?"

      "December has a point," Deus said, "we've got senators to appeal to. Let's talk to Mr. Stevens, convince him it's in his best interests to check out the Academy to master his powers, and get to the airport."

      "Not a word," Bobby said, staring at Matt.

      "Course," Matt smiled. When he finally made eye contact, Bobby thought he saw a glimmer of something even through the red tint of the sunglasses.

      [To be continued…]
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