Continuing DIRECTLY from part 6a....
Francesco was already in Cerebro when I arrived, Hank
and the professor waiting outside the closed steel
doors. They looked around at me, tried to conceal
their surprise at my arrival, did so badly. "How long
has he been in there?" I asked.
Hank glanced at his watch. "Twenty-two minutes."
"Goddamn," I muttered. That was a long time to
control and direct the immense power of Cerebro, and I
glanced sideways at the bowl, towels and bottle of
water waiting for him to finish. Using Cerebro always
made Frank violently ill. Just one of many reasons
why he detested the machine.
If Cerebro magnifies the professor's telepathic
talent, allows him to sense minds more easily, it
magnifies and organizes Francesco's precognitive
ability. Time is a strange thing. What Frank sees
are branching threads running in either direction �-
back and fore -� all drawn together in one place as if
pulled through a hoop which is the present moment.
Each second forward involves decisions which cause the
thread to branch, until there are so many
possibilities, one can't possibly track them all. The
past is the same. Not a single rope of
"accomplished," but millions of past possibilities
that stem from decisions made instead of decisions to
make. On his own, Frank can follow only a thread or
two at a time �- usually that of the most likely
future. And it is a vision more suited to
macrohistory than the personal. He foresees the
tomorrows of nations and public figures, those who
determine our collective destiny. He'd seen the
assassination of Yitzak Rabin, and almost a decade
later, of Castro. He'd anticipated declaration of war
by Israel on Palestine, and the attack by Pakistan on
an Indian nuclear testing facility. He'd watched as a
young boy had walked up to Slobodon Milosovich and
triggered an explosive device hidden in his own body,
killing himself and seven other men, including the
ex-dictator. He'd known the Albanian rebel National
Liberation Army of Macedonia would firebomb seven
apartment buildings in Tetovo, and that civil war
would break out in Peru between the factions of
Fujimori and Toledo.
The hell of it is that there's not much he can do
about most of these things. He'd sent an anonymous
tip to police in Tetovo, but none had taken it
seriously until a lot of people were dead. Like
Cassandra, he foretells the fall of Troy and no one
listens. Perhaps it's just as well. If people really
knew what he was capable of, his life would be hell.
We try not to take advantage of him, but we also know
his limitations. And we see what his gift does to
him. Others wouldn't care.
The door seal cracked and metal hissed apart. Inside,
Francesco was on his knees by Cerebro, shaking and
gagging, the helm dropped beside him. Hank hurried
in, ceramic bowl and towels already in hand. I
grabbed the water. Frank managed to keep down the
nausea until the pot was in front of him, then let out
what was left of his lunch. In between retching, he
said, "*Niente da fare*." Nothing of use.
The rest of us exchanged a look. Almost twenty-five
minutes and the answer was nothing of use?
Hank got Francesco up on his feet and I handed over
the water. "Shall we adjourn to the lab?" Hank asked.
"Francesco can sit down and I can replace Scott's
dressings." He glanced at my arm. "You seem to have
lost some of them." I knew better than to argue. It
wouldn't get me anywhere.
Francesco leaned on Hank and I followed, resting part
of my weight on the back of Xavier's chair. I was
exhausted, both physically and emotionally. This was
the longest I'd spent on my feet since I'd gotten
back. I doubt that I'd have been able to stay up at
all, had I not eaten some solid food at lunch. Just
oatmeal with syrup -� Hank hadn't wanted to shock my
system � but it had made me feel better, at least
until it came out the other end. Hank had warned me
that the first time would hurt like hell, even with a
laxative. Pleasant thought to look forward to.
Logan was pacing about the lab when we arrived.
Seeing me, he approached. "Where've you been?"
"Upstairs." I didn't feel like giving an account of
myself. "I thought you were watching football with
He shrugged. "I did for a while. When Ro said they
were modifying Cerebro for Nostradamus there" �- he
nodded to where Frank had collapsed in a chair, head
back, bottle of water in hand -� "I figured I'd come
see what he found out. Where is Ro anyway? I thought
those two were joined at the hip? And Bird-boy. He
disappeared after the meeting."
I started to reply when the door swished open and
Ororo entered, took a seat beside Frank. I just
gestured with a hand. It was my left; overhead lights
winked off gold. Snagging my wrist, Logan stared at
the ring, then up to my face a moment, let me go even
as Hank called me over to change my dressings. I
didn't feel like defending myself to Logan anyway. If
he thought the ring was inappropriate, he could go to
Hank noticed it, too. My left arm was the burned one.
He frowned as he disinfected the burns and might have
spoken, but the professor had turned to Frank. "What
can you tell us?"
Francesco sighed and sat up. "Not much. That is why
it took so long. I had to stop finally."
"I meant no critique," the professor said as Ro rubbed
Francesco's back. "Please tell us what you did see."
"Mostly confusion," Frank replied. "There are -� "
He cut off and, eyes shut, rubbed at the bridge of his
prominent nose. "We stand at a cross-roads, my
friends. There are always many futures. You know
this. Now, the roads are more tangled, and shifted
away from what was. Down one thread, there is the war
between mutant and non-mutant that I have always
feared, with the X-Men caught in the middle. Yet now
the colors are . . . faded. I cannot explain better.
That future no longer shouts to me as the story of
what will be.
"Down another thread �- I do not know. I do not
understand what I saw. A kind of anarchy, a collapse
of governments into small ethnic divisions and
isolation. I see little of mutants, either to our
good or ill. We seem to be only one of many, living
on a country called Genosha. I cannot say much to
that future. It seems like a kind of dark age when
none gain the upper hand. It is new. I have not seen
that future before.
"On the third thread, our kind rules under Magneto and
the normal humans are slaves. The X-Men do not exist.
This is not likely, but it is more likely than it
was, just a few weeks ago. And on the last thread �-
also new -� our kind are fugitives, but I cannot see
from whom, or what." He stopped and looked right at
me. "You lead a resistance, Scott. It is the only
future in which I saw any of us clearly. Scott leads.
Logan is there with him, and also Ro, and Warren, and
Bobby. That is all I saw. This school does no longer
exist." He was holding something back, I could sense
it. He shook his head and continued, "But in no
future did I see this shadow government of which
Charles spoke, or these 'aliens.' And" �- he looked
up, swept all of us with a glance -� "in none did I
Momentary silence. Until now, there had always been
at least one future in which there had been peace.
Xavier recovered first. "Could the shadow government
be what Scott and Logan and the others were running
"It is possible. But I did not see that. I saw only
that we are fugitives." He sighed again, rubbed his
face. "What I did see that disturbs me �- in all of
these futures but one, this school has ceased to be.
I think we must begin to consider where we can take
the children, that is safe."
"If any place is safe," Hank muttered as he finished
up the dressing on my side.
"If any place is safe," Frank agreed.
"How soon?" Xavier asked.
"I don't know. Not immediate. There was no urgency.
It will not happen tomorrow, or the day after, or even
next week. But something will happen." He sighed and
leaned back, ran a hand through his hair. "I will
look again in the morning."
"No," Ro said. "You need to rest a day."
Shaking his head, he pushed her arm away.
"*Tomorrow*. The threads of the future change, baby.
I must follow the new ones. I must see if there is
any way to regain peace."
Frank was the only person alive who could call Ro
"baby" and live to tell about it. As for the rest of
what he'd said, I wasn't sure what I thought. I knew
better than to laugh. But the idea that I might lead
an underground mutant resistance movement seemed
almost as absurd as aliens and shadow governments. I
could barely get out of bed in the morning, and half
the time, I didn't want to. Pulling my shirt back on
over my head, I dropped down to my feet and headed for
Jean's office off the main lab. "Where are you
going?" Hank called.
"To sleep," I replied, and slammed the door shut
behind me. Picking up the book I'd started that
morning, THE SECRET HISTORY, I switched on the light
beside the couch, turned off the overhead and laid
down. Chapter Five. "*When the lights came on, and
the circle of darkness leaps back into the mundane and
familiar boundaries . . . .*"
There were no familiar boundaries for me any more. I
was living a modern secret history in a world as mad
and labyrinthine and paranoid as anything Procopius
could have dreamed up at Justinian's court. Wheels
within wheels. And all I wanted was Jean. I could
sense her presence here in her office, as I had in our
room. That's why I could sleep only in this place.
She watched over me. The next morning, early, I woke
imagining her body lying against mine, so real I could
stroke her skin, smell her shampoo, feel her chest
rise and fall with her breath. Maybe I was going
insane, but the ghost in my bed comforted me and I
went back to sleep
Whatever history-altering events loomed on the
international horizon, it was the mundane that
interested me. Small matters. Like a funeral. It
took another week, however, before I was ready to
think about that. A week of keeping to myself in
Jean's office, reading or playing guitar, while Frank
sought some guidance for the future in Cerebro, with
few results. Warren had disappeared back to New York
for a few days, and I was content to see the back of
him. Logan continued to hang out in the lab like he
always did. I found it both familiar and annoying.
We'd loved the same woman, we'd shared the same
captivity, and now he seemed to have appointed himself
as my personal watchdog.
I think I'd have been mad at him if he'd disappeared.
"Morning," he said when I came out that Wednesday. He
was reading the newspaper. It's part of his morning
ritual: coffee, cigar �- unlit down here -� and THE
NEW YORK TIMES which he reads front to back, even the
obituaries. God knew why; it's not as if he's
familiar with anyone in the city. But Logan doesn't
like to be caught off-guard, so he reads the newspaper
obits, listens in on conversations which people forget
his ears can hear, and knows more about what
transpires at Westchester than most people credit �-
including me, once.
"What time is it?" I asked as I crossed to the
bathroom with a change of clothes.
"Almost noon." He didn't make any of the cracks he
I shut the door behind me, used the toilet, brushed my
teeth, and took some Tylenol. I still ached in places
I didn't want to think about and couldn't do even
twenty pushups, but I no longer felt so weak, nor did
I wear bandages. Peeling out of my clothes, I
showered, redressed in something clean, and prepared
to shave. The bruises beneath the beard were mostly
faded, and the damn thing had started to itch from
dandruff. I hadn't realized one could get dandruff in
a beard, but it had no doubt been helped along by
recycled air in the basement that dried out my skin.
The beard was a different shade from the hair on my
head, too, a chestnut auburn in places as if I'd dyed
parts of it. Piebald. Marie might like it, but Jean
Abruptly, I grabbed the shaving cream and lathered my
face, then methodically took off the whole thing.
Twenty minutes and two razors. When I came out again,
Logan stared a moment. "I wondered what took you so
long," he said by way of comment.
"It itched," I replied. "My skin was getting dry."
He shrugged and went back to his paper. "Beard's not
for everyone." It wasn't an insult, just an
observation. "Made you look older, though." A smile
tugged at his mouth.
"Fuck you." I held out a hand for some of the paper.
He passed it over. After a minute, I added, "Jean
wouldn't have liked it."
His answer was a grunt, but I felt his eyes on me. I
didn't look up.
I couldn't read for long. These past few days, I
could do nothing for long and leaving the paper and
Logan behind, I spent the afternoon prowling the lower
levels. Instead of feeling dead as I had for the past
two weeks since we'd returned, I felt jittery, like
I'd drunk two pots of coffee, or like a pressure
cooker about to blow. Something was building up in
me, the need to act, to get some kind of closure. It
had been a month, for god's sake, and Jean still
hadn't had a funeral. But then, if our lives weren't
normal, why should I expect that our deaths would be?
We had no goddamn body. When do you stop waiting,
though? It was time to stop waiting.
I wandered at loose ends from room to room and thought
about funerals. I might have gone above ground, but
then I'd be condemned to the glasses again as soon as
the energy built up enough in my body. I didn't want
that, so I stayed below.
At one point, I turned a corner to find the professor
sitting there. No chance encounter. He was clearly
looking for me. Backing up the chair, he said, *Come
Scott*, inside my head, and motored away. Perforce, I
followed. I'd known this would come eventually; I
couldn't avoid him forever. He'd let me for a while,
or maybe he'd been avoiding me. I don't know. I'd
hurt him, two weeks ago. I'd said words that couldn't
be unsaid. I wasn't sure that I wanted to unsay them,
however. Not because I wanted to hurt him �- though
if I were honest, a part of me did want that -� but
because I'd spoken the truth. He wasn't my father.
Teacher, mentor, and once, hero. Maybe he still was
my hero. But he wasn't my father. I had a father,
much as we might not get along, and I didn't feel like
playing games of nomenclature any more. Jean's death
had imploded the fairy-tale we'd all constructed here.
I wasn't Cyclops and I wasn't his son. I was Scott
Summers, math teacher, mutant vigilante, apparent
government target, and now, widower. Let's call
things what they were.
We wound up in the Situation Room and I smiled with
taxed irony. I suppose we had a situation here to
sort out. He turned the chair to face me across the
length of the room and gestured to a seat. I took it.
He waited. He knows I have no patience for silence
but anger was replacing restlessness, a feeling of
being cornered, so I just stared stubbornly at a metal
wall, as intransigent as I'd been at our very first
interview, ten years ago. I'd been bitter with loss,
then, too, but it seemed laughable compared to now.
What had I lost at seventeen? My popularity and
shallow high school life? Pity for poor Scott. This
time around, I'd lost my wife and my innocence, and my
hope in the bargain.
He must have realized finally that he'd have to nudge
me. "Nothing to say, Scott?"
"What do you want to hear?"
"Whatever is on your mind."
I just laughed �- a strained sound. I still wouldn't
look at him. "There's nothing to say, Professor. Or
so much to say, I haven't got a clue where to start.
Why not read my thoughts? It'd save us both some
"I'd prefer it if you'd talk to me. Your anger might
be one place to begin."
I finally did turn, glared hard. "Don't fuck with my
head, dammit! I'm not your patient!"
He sighed and put up a hand to his forehead, rubbed
it. The gesture made me feel guilty, which made me
even angrier because he knew that would make me feel
guilty. Suddenly, everything inside me just exploded.
Hate, rage, guilt, grief. I couldn't hold it back.
I hurt too much.
"You pull my strings like I'm Pinnocchio," I said.
"You call me son, but I'm just your wooden puppet.
I've always done exactly what you asked me to,
believed in your dream more than you do. Jean used to
say I was your favorite. She'd tease me, call me
Teacher's Pet. But I wasn't, was I? She's the one
you loved best, trusted most, the one you understood
and who understood you. I was merely your stand in.
You couldn't *fuck* her, so you let me do it."
A million emotions were flitting over his face, but I
just kept going. "At first, you didn't want us
together. I remember. You talked about the age
difference, about 'inequality of life experience.'
But that wasn't it, was it? You were *jealous*. Then
it changed. Did you decide that you liked reading my
mind when Jean and I were in bed together, Charles?
Did you get off feeling me come inside her body?
Feeling me do what you couldn't? Maybe she liked it,
too. Maybe I was just a stand in for you both."
I cut off abruptly. If I thought I'd said the
unforgivable before . . . . He could kill me if he
wanted to, kill me with a single thought. Stop my
heart, stop my breath. I almost hoped he would.
I've lived with telepaths too long. I may not be able
to read thoughts, but I've learned about the dark
things that hide in the mud of our minds, the things
we don't say in polite company �- or even dare to
think. Wishes, desires, secret perversions. I've
learned how much they motivate us.
I watched him pull back from the edge, watched him
regain control of himself. He even smiled. "You want
me to punish you, Scott, so you can stop trying to
figure out how to punish yourself."
"Don't tell me what I want."
But he ignored me. "You want me to hate you as much
as you hate yourself, blame you as much as you blame
yourself. You doubt that you were good enough or
strong enough, because you couldn't save her."
"You've always felt that way, feared that you didn't
deserve her. She was older, a doctor �- *That* was
what worried me when the two of you began dating, and
it never stopped worrying me. I didn't want you to
feel inadequate, unequal, feel that she was somehow
doing you a favor."
"You never understood what she saw in you, spent four
years waiting for her to leave you. You saw yourself
still as an eighteen-year-old boy head over heels for
the beautiful med student in her twenties �-
impossibly out of his reach."
"I said shut up!" I jerked to my feet. "You don't
know �- "
"But I do know." He tapped his head.
That enraged me past any attempt at cold logic. "You
said you weren't reading my mind!"
"Nor am I right now. But I don't need to read your
mind. I only needed to watch you whenever the two of
you were out together for the past four years. The
tension in you, the banked hostility as soon as any
other man looked her way with more than passing
interest. You said you didn't own her even while
trying to put her inside a fence to be admired at a
distance �- "
Rising, I stormed out. I should have known better
than to instigate mind games with a telepath. But he
doesn't have to be in the same room with you to keep
*Scott, she adored you with all her soul, even when
you exasperated her because she didn't know how to
make you see yourself as she did: a good man, a born
leader, strong enough for her to lean on when the
voices in her mind become too overwhelming. She would
never have gone to anyone else. Not even to me. Her
death was not your fault.*
"Would you just shut up!" I screamed to the empty
hallway. It echoed off steel and I started running to
get away from his voice in my head.
*This conversation isn't over. You can't make me hate
you, Scott. I don't throw away my children.*
I found a storage room door and flung it open, fled
inside. Then I sat sobbing on the floor in the dark,
pressing my burned arm and hitting my head against a
Anything to make it hurt somewhere other than my
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