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CHILDREN OF THE MIDDLE WATERS (8b/12 - NEW) ensemble [Heyoka II]

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  • Minisinoo
    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,
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 23, 2001
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      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
      personalities."

      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
      understand.'"

      "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,
      Xavier?"

      "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
      insubordination?"

      Jean bit her tongue to keep from laughing. This man was so like
      Scott.

      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
      basement?"

      "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
      flying.

      --

      End, Chapter 8. Chapter 9 should go up tomorrow, but probably not
      Chapter 10 until the next day (Christmas).



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