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CHILDREN OF THE MIDDLE WATERS (5b/12) ensemble [Heyoka II]

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  • Minisinoo
    Continuing direction from part 2a/12.... ... *Logan.* The professor s mind voice. Logan was in the shower, cleaning up after practice with the kids. *When you
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 22, 2001
      Continuing direction from part 2a/12....

      ------

      *Logan.*

      The professor's mind voice. Logan was in the shower, cleaning up
      after practice with the kids.

      *When you are finished, could you please meet me in my office?*

      Logan sent something approximating an affirmative and felt the light
      touch disappear.

      Living with telepaths was definitely something one had to get used
      to.

      When he arrived at the professor's office, the man was on the phone.
      He seemed to spend a godawful amount of time on the phone, but that
      was part of his job -- making and nurturing external contacts,
      whether political, social, or financial. Summers ran the school; the
      professor ran the X-Men franchise, though Logan doubted Xavier would
      give it that term.

      "You want a report on the kids?" Logan asked, taking a seat before it
      was offered.

      "Actually, I wanted your thoughts on EJ Haight."

      Logan's eyes flicked up. "Why? And my thoughts in relation to what? A
      job here? His friendship with the Boy Scout?"

      The professor's lips tipped up at the name. "I meant in terms of his
      fighting ability."

      Logan couldn't say that was entirely unexpected, though he wasn't
      quite sure why. "He's good. Extremely good. Better than anyone else
      at the mansion except me." His smile was wry. "But then, a healing
      factor and a metal skeleton does give me an advantage, eh?" He sat
      forward and cocked his head. "But tell me, what's a dietician who can
      quote Keats doing with a third-degree black belt in Isshin-Ryu?"

      "We all need a hobby, Logan."

      "A *hobby*?" Logan almost burst out laughing. "This ain't quite the
      same as softball or model trains or playing keyboard in that band
      they had that Jeannie told me about."

      "Nonetheless. A hobby. I believe he enjoys the discipline, the same
      as Scott. And EJ's martial arts expertise has granted him the respect
      of the inner city kids with whom he works."

      "Because they know he can beat the crap out of them?"

      "In fact, yes." The professor smiled. "He is dangerous, and they
      respect that because respecting strength is what these young men have
      learned. EJ teaches them to respect other things, as well. Music,
      literature, art -- the health of their own bodies."

      "The guy is starting to sound like Hank McCoy. He got a secret Ph.D
      in biogenetics, too?"

      Smiling faintly, the professor shook his head. "EJ is simply an
      exceptional young man. There are many kinds of gifts, Logan, and not
      all of them require a mutated chromosome."

      "Is that all you wanted to know? How well he fights?"

      "Yes."

      Logan considered the older man for a minute. Unlike the rest, he felt
      no real awe of Xavier. He respected him, and he owed him, but he
      wasn't in awe of him. "You're going to bait the trap real pretty,
      aren't you? You don't just plan to offer him a steady job and a place
      to live, a chance to work with a different set of troubled kids. You
      plan to offer him a spot on the X-Men alongside his best friend. Why?
      He's not a mutant."

      "We need him, Logan. On many levels. First, we need him simply for
      his occupation. Second, the students need to be reminded that not
      every normal person is against them. And third -- and most important
      -- if the goal of the X-Men is to unite mutants and normal humans,
      how can we do that with a team made up exclusively of mutants? He is
      the first non-mutant to whom I have seriously considered offering a
      place -- a full place -- on the team."

      Logan didn't reply for a few minutes, then said, "And Scott needs
      another guy his own age around, too, eh?" Then he got up and walked
      out without further comment.




      Logan overheard a lot of conversations. It wasn't that he tried, but
      that most people pitched their voices for human ears, not his. He
      found this annoying, didn't really have an interest in secrets, and
      had learned long ago how to tune out most of it until it was
      background noise, like a television.

      But occasionally he stumbled over something interesting and wasn't
      above eavesdropping. Like now.

      He'd been on his way to the kitchen after his chat with Xavier, to
      get water. People in this place seemed to think he lived on beer, but
      the truth was, he drank more *water* than anything else. That was how
      he stumbled onto a conversation between Haight and Summers. Haight
      was cooking tonight. Knock Logan around the Danger Room for a while,
      then go wash up and turn out a gourmet meal. There was something
      wrong with that picture. In any case, it seemed that he'd drafted
      Summers to assist in the kitchen, instead of students as Valeria did.

      Logan was halfway across the empty dining room when he heard, "I'm
      not trying to make you feel guilty." Summers' voice. Logan stopped.
      The clink of cooking implements must have masked the sound of his
      feet because Haight answered as if they were alone.

      "Yeah, right. That sounded like a one-way ticket for a guilt trip to
      me, Slim."

      "I said I'd *try* not to. But I'm trying to be honest, too. One of
      the women you had in mind for the job turned us down flat. The other
      looks likely to. Serving mutants changes fucking everything." Very
      bitter. "What in hell are we going to do? I'm in charge of
      seventy-two kids, Eeej. We have to feed them. And you know what I
      cook like."

      Laughter. "Oh, *man*! You're a friggin' menace in a kitchen. Remember
      that barbecue pasta?"

      "Hey! It was red sauce stuff. Sorta. I couldn't find any Ragu. I
      thought it was interesting."

      Helpless laughter now from Haight. "Interesting? Shit, yeah. Edible?
      Shit, no. And who eats *Ragu* except you? Disgusting stuff. And here
      I thought you were a quarter Italian?"

      "I am. But you see my point. You want to inflict *me* in a kitchen on
      these kids?"

      Silence. Logan could hear a steady thud. Probably a knife on a
      cutting board. Then, "Make yourself useful, Slim. Grate this."
      Another long silence, then, "I said I'd think about it. That's all I
      can say."

      "I know."

      "There are kids in San Fran and San Jose who need me, too. What do I
      tell them? You're not important when I get offered a job for a rich
      white man at a prep school that's mostly white?"

      "EJ -- "

      "You're being honest. I'm being honest. Look around you, man. What's
      the minority population in this joint?"

      "You sound like Gracie."

      "Then I think I like Gracie. She got eyes."

      Summers' voice dropped low. "I do have eyes and I know it's a
      problem. We're working on it. What do you think Grace is doing out
      west? But it's harder for us to get through to scared kids of color
      than to scared kids who are white. Even Ro; she's Kenyan, not
      American. I'm probably better than any of them -- because of you.
      Maybe that's another reason for you to come here; you *know* how to
      talk to them. You saw how Jenn latched onto you at supper last night;
      she never connected with Ro that way. It's culture as much as color."

      More silence; the thumping continued. After a minute, Summers asked,
      "The white thing -- where'd that come from, EJ? I didn't think it
      mattered." There was genuine hurt in Summers' voice. "That didn't
      sound like you."

      An audible sigh from Haight. "Sorry. It's not really a color thing. I
      guess --�� I don't know. It's the rarified air, I think. I didn't
      realize, at Berkeley, that you lived like this. I knew you always had
      money and you were pretty free with it, but we were both there on
      scholarship."

      "I grew up as middle class as you are! You know that."

      "Yeah. But it don't change the fact that Westchester will be yours
      someday. You may not've been born to money, but you sure got it now."

      Logan blinked. Summers was going to inherit? Then again, he supposed
      it made sense. Xavier had no children of his own. Somebody would have
      to run the place, and dropping the mantle on Cyclops' shoulders was
      the obvious choice. They all knew how much he gave to the professor's
      vision.

      "What? You're *jealous*?" Summers asked now. Incredulous.

      "Maybe a little. We're being honest, aren't we? But not seriously,
      no. I know you too well to be jealous. Still, coming here has made me
      aware that we're not college students anymore, and we occupy very
      different places in the socio-economic food chain. I make twenty-nine
      a year. What are you worth? A couple million?"

      "Shit." The sound of something being dropped and angry footsteps.
      Logan moved fast, back against a wall in case Summers came blasting
      out of there, but there was a clatter and the shuffle of a brief
      struggle. Logan could smell pheromones indicating anger and upset.

      "Don't storm out of here, Slim. I thought we were being honest?"

      "Okay. We are. And I have no idea what I'm worth. I haven't looked
      lately."

      "You have a financier for that, huh?"

      "More or less. But I don't give a shit about the money!"

      "I *know*." There was frustration in Haight's voice, maybe a tinge of
      sadness. "But you have the luxury not to care. Don't misunderstand --
      !" That was sharp. Logan could imagine Summers trying to interrupt.
      "I'm well aware that it *doesn't* mean much to you. I *know* you,
      man. You got common sense and a big heart, both. And Xavier gives
      away a lot, too. He gives some to me, for my kids, and you had a lot
      to do with that. I'm not sneezing at money, believe me. I guess I'm
      just trying to point out a few things -- namely, the problem inherent
      in *me* being an employee of *your* estate. That I'm black and you're
      white just complicates it. See?"

      "You're *not* my Uncle Tom, Eeej." Summers' voice was furious. "And I
      won't be your boss. When Xavier first brought this up, I told him I
      didn't want to be your boss. He said I wouldn't. He would. I answer
      to him, too, you know."

      "But you're not his employee."

      "Shit. You think that *helps*? It just makes it harder. If something
      went wrong, he wouldn't be firing me. He'd be kicking me out on the
      street with nowhere to go. This place is my *home*. It's all I have.
      It's all a lot of these kids have. It's more like a . . . *commune* .
      . . than a traditional mansion. In case you didn't notice, we don't
      have a butler, Moira the so-called 'maid' chews out the professor on
      a regular basis, and the heir to the estate is grating cheese for the
      kitchen help."

      Laughter. The scent of Summers' anger and Haight's irritation was
      dissipating. "Okay," Haight said. "So's I don' gotta say 'Yes,
      masser.' I know that. Really. I do. But there are still kids in
      California who'd see where I'm going and who's hiring me and assume
      I'm ducking out on them for a bunch of ivy leaguers with money. It's
      the same old story: wealthy whites over poor blacks."

      "But that's not *true*."

      Another sigh from Haight. "Of *course* not. But that's how they'll
      see it because that's the story they know. When all you've heard
      since you was born is that you're not worth an effort because your
      skin's black and you're clothes are cheap and there's no point in
      trying to get anywhere in life because you can't, it's hard to break
      through that conditioning. Most of the kids I work with got no
      father, Scott. Men in and out of the house, in and out of jail, or
      they're being raised by a grandma who's got no *clue* what they're up
      to, or who's flat scared of them. They carry knives and guns in
      *grade school*, man."

      "I know all that."

      "Do you? You know it because I tell you or because you read about it.
      You don't see it. There are good men in the ghetto, make no mistake.
      But too few of 'em. Black men have been under siege in this country
      for decades. We were taught to give up our pride, our hope, our
      dreams. We weren't good for jack shit. Sat in the back of the bus in
      more ways than the literal. I was so fucking lucky, growing up; I had
      a family. I had a *father*, a man who hung on to hope, taught me to
      believe in myself. But I had no idea how lucky till I started working
      with these kids. They look at me and they see a black man who's
      educated, who doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, doesn't do drugs, a black
      man who's got *pride* -- but who can still talk their talk, still
      rap, still groove when he wants to. I'm still *black*, not some
      friggin' oreo. That means a lot."

      "I know it does. But you'd mean something here, too -- a different
      something. You heard what Jubilee said to you. You could tell your
      kids the truth: you're coming to cook for mutants because no one else
      gives a damn about us."

      EJ didn't reply. A long silence ensued. Then Summers' voice again.
      "You're not going to come, are you?"

      "Probably not. But you knew that when you invited me out here. I came
      to see you. I miss you, man. In the end, you're still my best friend,
      Scott. That don't change and it never will."

      "Ditto." The voice was both embarrassed and pained. Then it
      lightened. "We raised some *serious* hell."

      "That we did. Remember putting that little aluminum shed over
      Clarice's Civic?"

      "Oh, man!" Laughter. "How many guys did that take? Five? Anyway, I
      thought she was going to kill us! Kill you, at least. But the look on
      her face when she saw it in there, and no *way* we *drove* it in . .
      . . "

      "Priceless," Haight agreed. "The shed was never the same, though."

      Logan started to duck out; he wasn't especially interested in
      listening to them reminisce about their glory days. But even as he
      was thinking about moving, from down the hall came Kitty Pryde's
      panicked voice. "Mr. Summers! Mr. Summers! Come quick!"

      Luckily Logan was still well away from the kitchen door when Summers
      -- followed by Haight -- came tearing out at a run. They never even
      saw him in the shadows. Logan waited three breaths, then followed.

      ---

      End of Chapter 5, go on to Chapter 6....

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