CHILDREN OF THE MIDDLE WATERS (8b/12 - NEW) ensemble [Heyoka II]
- Continuing direction from part 8a/12....
"This, colonel, is our research lab and medical bay."
Chris Summers entered the lab ahead of Xavier and Jean, looked around
with a suspicious interest, then back at the two of them. "Do I want
to know the total dollar figure for all the equipment in here, not to
mention the construction of this little futuristic underground?"
Xavier just smiled. "Now you see why we are anxious to have Scott
healed enough that we can bring him home."
"Maybe. But it doesn't explain what he was doing in that building,
negotiating with a dangerous police suspect, in the first place."
"It wasn't the boy who shot him," Jean pointed out. "And the boy had
a mutation much like Scott's own."
"I don't care if they were born in the same town on the same day and
shared the same damn hospital crib. Scott didn't have any business
being in that building."
Jean sighed. She really, really wasn't sure of the wisdom of this,
but Xavier had been adamant. "It's time that Scott's father knew
what his son has been doing, Jean," he'd said earlier that afternoon,
before taking Lieutenant Colonel Summers back to the mansion. Scott
had been stable enough for Jean to leave the hospital for a while and
this, Xavier felt, was a critical moment.
"And what if he reacts badly?" Jean had asked. "Scott never told him
for a reason, professor."
Xavier had shaken his head. "I trust Scott's opinion on many things
Jean, but when it comes to his father, I'm afraid that his judgment
is rather clouded by the classic father-son conflict." He'd smiled
faintly. "Both Scott and Chris Summers are rather . . . powerful
Which had made Jean laugh, then she'd sobered enough to say, "But
they didn't want anything to do with him after he became a mutant."
"Not quite. They didn't know what they could do with him, and for
him. That's why they were willing to release him into my care. But
the reason that Scott and his father spoke so rarely had a great deal
more to do with a certain college application sent secretly to
Berkeley without his father's permission, than with the manifestation
of any mutant gene in Scott."
Jean had chewed on that. Scott had never told her that he'd applied
to Berkeley in secret, though she had wondered a time or two why his
conservative parents had consented to their son's attending
*Berkeley*, of all places.
"In any case," Xavier had gone on, "and back to your original
question, 'What if he reacts badly?' That, my dear, is why I'm
taking you along. If absolutely necessary, we together can ensure
that he remembers nothing critical. I detest such measures, and
would be loathe to use them. But I don't think we shall have to."
So here they were, in the belly of the X-Men's secret bunker with
Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Summers, gambling on one of the
professor's famous hunches. Jean hoped Xavier had called this one
right. Summers was waiting for the professor to explain why his son
had been involved in dangerous negotiations. Xavier turned back
towards the lab door. "Please follow me and you'll have your
answer." Jean watched the colonel's mouth purse in irritation, but
he followed. Xavier began to speak, his voice falling into what she
fondly teased him was his 'lecture cadence.'
"Many years ago, when I first realized that I was possessed of
certain inborn gifts, it became apparent to me that with such power
came a proportional degree of responsibility �- a responsibility that
I knew would not be understood, or acquiesced to, by all others like
myself. Wisdom is not related to intelligence or talent, but to
compassion and humility. As a telepath, one learns both quickly, and
a certain sense of humor about one's self, or one goes insane. There
seems to be little middle ground." Xavier's voice was wry. "As a
very young man, I thought I was a god. As an old man, I realize that
I am a child."
"Like Socrates," Summers said.
Xavier turned to look at him. "Yes, precisely. 'I am the wisest man
in Greece,' he quoted, 'because I realize how little I truly
"That's why I let you take Scott ten years ago, y'know."
"Because I knew Socrates?"
Summers chuckled. "No, because you couldn't answer all my questions.
You admitted to what you didn't know, which in my experience is a
rare kind of honesty. And I think most pilots could give telepaths a
run for their money, on delusions of godhood."
Smiling, Xavier led them into the hall where the X-Men uniforms were
kept. He didn't say anything immediately, just sat back in his chair
with his hands clasped in his lap, and let the colonel walk up and
down the length of the hall, studying the glass-enclosed lockers
carefully. There were more of them these days, with the student
trainees. He halted in front of the one that read "Summers" on the
door, with its black uniforms and one of Scott's visors inside.
Opening the locker, he removed the visor and turned it in his hands.
Then he looked up sideways at Xavier. "What the hell is this place,
"As I said, colonel, I realized some time ago that not everyone who
possessed the X-gene would be responsible in its use. Some mutations
are mild and relatively harmless; in fact, *most* would fall into
that category. But a rare few �- like your son -� are what we call
'alpha class' mutants. Their powers are dangerous, even deadly. In
my experience, most are alarmed by the dangers they present and want
to learn how *not* to hurt people. That's what this school is about.
We teach young mutants how to control their powers so that they may
use them as responsible members of society. That's what your son has
committed himself to. It is our primary job, what I consider to be
our most *important* job. But beneath the school . . . . " He
gestured around himself.
"There are still dangerous mutants out there, mutants who are not
frightened children, and who, for one reason or another, feel no
sense of belonging to the larger human community, no responsibility
in the use of their powers. Perhaps they can be re-educated. I
continue to hope for that. But in the meantime, they must be
prevented from hurting others, and regular law enforcement is not
trained to deal with such individuals."
Colonel Summers had swung to look at Xavier full-on, and held up the
visor. "What? You're telling me that my son does double-duty as . .
. some kind of mutant *policeman*?"
Xavier smiled. "Yes, colonel. That is more or less correct,
although the students -� as something of a joke -� call them my
'X-Men.' And *that* is why Scott was in the building talking to that
boy, last evening. Yes, it was because he shared the same power, but
he was there because he is the field leader of the X-Men. He went in
to try and prevent exactly what happened: the needless death of a
frightened child, a child much like he once was. It's what he's
dedicated his life to."
Jean watched Colonel Summers process that revelation. Emotions
chased their way across his face: shock, amazement, a growing mix of
anger and pride. Xavier merely waited. This was the pivotal moment.
Chris Summers was finally realizing that his son had followed in his
footsteps after all, albeit down an unusual path. Jean wished Scott
were here to see this. It had been his private grief for a long time
-� that his father didn't respect what he thought Scott did, and
couldn't know what Scott's real job was. Jean herself, daughter of a
professor, had been raised to think that educating the next
generation was a high calling indeed, but not everyone thought that
way. To Christopher Summers, Scott was 'just' a math teacher when he
could have been an officer of the U.S. Air Force, had fate been
different, a man committed to the defense of his country like his
father and many of his ancestors. Scott came from a long line of
career military, and despite verbal assertions to the contrary, Jean
knew that in his heart, he believed much the same as his father did.
Being 'just' a math teacher wasn't enough; the crazy nut wanted to
save the world.
Speaking of delusions of godhood.
"And who trained him to do this?" Summers was asking. "By what
authority is he out there chasing around other mutants who might want
to kill him? And how *do* you stop them, anyway? Slap on the cuffs
and hope they don't have eyes like Scott to blast free?"
"Ah, there's the rub. I'm afraid we're mostly self-trained here,"
Xavier said. "With my assistance, Scott has used the knowledge he
gained from listening to you as a boy, combined with much personal
research of his own, in order to develop a training regimen for
himself and the rest of the X-Men. As for the containment of
dangerous mutants, we've had to . . . wing it."
That won a brief grin from Summers, but it passed quickly. "You
can't learn everything out of a goddamn book," he muttered. "What
possessed my idiot son to think he could?"
"We had few other options, colonel. The local police academy wasn't
accepting mutant applicants. In any case, and just recently, we have
acquired the assistance of a man who does have some formal military
training. The Logan to whom you were introduced at the hospital."
"That character? What'd they do? Drum him out of the service for
Jean bit her tongue to keep from laughing. This man was so like
Smiling faintly, Xavier shook his head. "In fact, even Logan could
not tell you why he left. Due to his mutant healing capabilities, he
has been the victim of government research experimentation. He was
turned into a living weapon, colonel, and his memories of his past
have been destroyed."
"You're telling me our government did that?" He didn't look happy,
but he also didn't look particularly doubtful.
"Actually, no, not in this case. Logan is Canadian."
Summers snorted. "Figures." Jean was very glad that Logan wasn't
around just now. "And your little X-Men force �- do they have any
kind of legitimate legal authority? Or are you turning out
vigilantes here, professor?"
"The FBI is aware of our existence, yes. We sometimes work under
their auspices and with their covert assistance. But the general
public does not know about the X-Men, no. Given current attitudes
towards mutants, that is probably for the best."
"You don't think the average person might like to know that there are
mutants out there who uphold the law?"
"I think," Xavier replied carefully, "that the media are rather too
inclined to whip up the average person into a frenzy of fear and
paranoia. We do our best to educate them, but we must move slowly in
terms of what we reveal. As a military officer, I'm sure that you
can appreciate why it would be best to withhold some information in
order to prevent a general panic. What would the reaction be, do you
think, if non-mutants realized that it took a special force of mutant
police to apprehend renegade mutants because traditional law
enforcement was helpless? The very nature of mutancy, and the lack
of good information available to the general public, as well as the
human tendency towards exaggeration, would cause widespread anxiety.
Do you recall when news of the AIDS virus first began to spread, in
the mid-80s? Public ignorance led to varying degrees of absurdity in
the name of self-protection, not to mention an epidemic of hate
crimes against the gay population. There would be similar lynch mobs
who believed that 'power corrupts' and *all* mutants needed to be
contained �- or killed -� regardless. We are narrowly skirting that
reaction as it is. I would rather not feed the fire."
Summers frowned and crossed his arms, but he couldn't argue with
that. Finally, he said, "But people do learn, professor. And not
everyone's an alarmist."
"Indeed. It is my hope that one day, the X-Men can work in the
public eye, and with public assistance. And it is my experience, my
*belief*, that people -� both mutant and non-mutant alike �- do want
to be 'good.' They would prefer to help rather than to harm. And if
they are rarely willing to inconvenience or endanger themselves,
human beings are also rarely 'evil.' Yet we can be *capable* of
great evil if mislead through false information and clever rhetoric.
"At the Senate hearings last spring, Senator Kelly mentioned a young
woman who is, in fact, a student here. Her name is Kitty Pryde." He
had motored over to Kitty's locker and was touching the glass case
that held her uniform. "I'll introduce you to her later, if you
like; she thinks the sun rises and sets with Scott. In any case, her
mutant ability is 'phasing,' altering the molecular structure of her
own body, so that she can pass through solid objects. At the
hearings, Senator Kelly asked -� rhetorically �- what was to prevent
her from walking into a bank vault, or into the homes of those
listening? What *does* prevent her? Her own sense of right and
wrong, a grasp of ethics that her parents taught her as a child. You
yourself said earlier that teaching such is part of your job as a
parent." He smiled faintly. "Rabbi and Mrs. Pryde would agree with
you, and Kitty has grown up into a most remarkable young woman -� one
who, like your son, is willing to lay her life on the line to help
others. She is one of our new X-Men trainees.
The professor turned his chair back towards the colonel. "The
question I would have asked those listeners at that hearing is what
*good* could Kitty do with a gift like hers? Imagine a collapsed
building with people trapped beneath. Kitty could locate those
people and save hours of digging randomly through rubble. It is
*Kitty* who chooses whether to become a thief or a life-saver, and
that choice stands apart from her X-gene. She would hardly require
powers to turn to a life of crime, were that her predisposition. For
every negative application of a power, there is an equal application
for the positive, and if we expect only ill from people, that is what
we shall find. But if we expect the best from them, they can and
will rise to the occasion."
"You're an optimist, Xavier." But it wasn't said with heat.
"I am. And proud of it. So is your son. I think he learned that
trait from you, did he not, colonel?"
Scott's father didn't reply to that; he just studied the professor
for a moment. Jean leaned up against the wall and waited. She could
sense a number of reactions flowing through him, but not fear or
rejection. He was doubtful of their competence, but not suspicious
of their motives. However much he and Scott might disagree on their
politics, he trusted his son at a fundamental level, trusted him not
to get involved in something that was morally wrong. "You didn't
bring me out here to show me all this fancy equipment and leather
uniforms just because I asked why Scott was in that building. You
could've come up with another answer for that. What do you really
want from me, Xavier?"
"Your expertise, colonel." The professor smiled widely and motored
back towards the doors, motioning with his free hand for them to
follow. "As you noted yourself, not everything can be learned from
books. And while Logan has been extremely helpful on a number of
levels, two heads are better than one. I think there are things
that you could teach us."
Chris Summers had stopped in the doorway. "There probably is. But
Scott has no idea you're asking me, does he?"
Xavier halted as well and turned the chair to face Scott's father.
"I believe the old saying goes, 'It is easier to gain forgiveness
than permission.' No, colonel, he doesn't. But he would have
refused even to tell you out of fear that you would reject him. You
and I both know that isn't the case." It was said with a sly smile.
But the colonel crossed his arms over his chest. "I'll agree to help
only when *my son* asks me."
The two men stared at one another for a good long time, then Xavier
smiled faintly. "You fear that I am undercutting Scott's authority."
It wasn't a question.
"I don't fear it. That's what this is. Maybe you didn't mean to do
it, but bringing me in without telling him first, then asking me to
train him -� you've gone over his head."
Xavier's expression had hardened slightly. "Colonel Summers, this is
the Xavier Institute, not the Summers Institute. How can I go over
Scott's head, when executive decisions are my choice in the first
place?" He wasn't, Jean knew, used to having his decisions
questioned. And while he was accustomed to handling sass from
suspicious mutant children, being rebuked by an air force officer was
another matter entirely.
"You wanted my advice," the colonel said. "I'm giving it. You may
be in charge of the institute, but do you lead your little special
ops police force in the field? No? I didn't think so. You don't go
over your field commander's head, Xavier. It throws his authority
into doubt. I'm glad you told me what he's really doing out here,
but there's no way in hell I'm going to accept an advisory position
over him until and unless he agrees to it." His arms were still
crossed and he'd pulled in his chin. It was so identical to Scott at
his most stubborn that Jean sucked in an involuntary breath, and for
just a moment, she got a glimpse of what the battles between these
two must have been like. Irresistible force meets immovable object.
But then a touch of humor undid Summers' obstinacy. "For one thing,"
he said, "Scott wouldn't listen to a damn thing I said. Or he'd do
just the opposite, to spite me."
The same humor quirked up the professor's lips. Unlike Scott, both
men had lived long enough to know when to give a little. Jean
breathed a sigh of relief. "All right. We'll speak with him when he
is awake and feeling stronger."
"Agreed. Now what else are you hiding down here in your little
"Ah. I thought you'd never ask." And Xavier turned the chair again
to motor down the hall towards the hanger. No, he wasn't . . . .
Yes, he was. As his chair approached the door, it swished open to
reveal the Blackbird, nestled down on wheels, the ever-present pans
placed around to catch the dripping engine fluids. No one had
changed them in days, Jean noticed, and some were overflowing. She'd
have to send down Bobby or Kitty to take care of it. "Perhaps,"
Xavier was saying, "when Scott is feeling better, he'll take you for
a ride, colonel. I believe you've flown the original, unmodified
version of this plane, have you not?"
Jean turned her head just in time to see Christopher Summer's mouth
drop open. She smiled a little. Maybe Scott was going to get one of
his most cherished secret wishes, after all -� to take his father
End, Chapter 8. Chapter 9 should go up tomorrow, but probably not
Chapter 10 until the next day (Christmas).
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