AN ACCIDENTAL INTERCEPTION OF FATE 3:
Note: The 'Berkeley chapters' owe a great deal to Judy Hsu, without
whose patience in answering many, many detail questions and helping
me to find Berkeley campus images, I couldn't have written them. All
errors are my own. Details about Christopher Summers come from the
comic -� modified, of course. A Bethany Black American Baptist
Church of Los Angeles does not actually exist, but the Quetzal Caf�
in San Francisco does. And David gave me the UFO. "Gamma-gaze" is
Warren's old nickname for Scott from way back in the Stan Lee days.
Scott had not been back to California since he'd left with three
suitcases of clothes, three boxes of personal items, and a thick
white bandage around his eyes. At the time, he'd fully expected to
spend the rest of his life sightless. Two months later, he'd had his
sight back -� if reduced to dual tones of red and black -� but not
his confidence. He was a freak, a genetic aberration, and he'd
wallowed in self-pity for twice as long as he'd suffered real
blindness. Since he'd had his needs met -� food, shelter, clothing
on his back �- he'd had the luxury of self-involvement, and good
looks and high school popularity had rendered him mildly spoiled.
All of his life, things had come easily to him. It wasn't until the
arrival of Francesco Placido, curled tight in fetal catatonia, that
the truth of his situation had struck him forcefully, and he'd
bounced back to his usually cheerful self almost overnight.
Perspective was a wonderful thing.
Yet when his mother had asked -� even begged -� him to come home for
Christmas last year, he'd refused, driven by stubbornness, a
lingering uncertainty as to his welcome, and a half-guilty gratitude
to be free at last of what he considered (at eighteen) the
embarrassment of his family. Even before the San Diego Uni High
School Prom incident, relations at home had been strained. If he
still chatted with his mother once a week by phone, his brother had
yet to forgive him for mutating into something out of an episode of
the X-FILES, and he'd failed completely to turn out as his father had
In fact, his perceptions of family attitudes were only half-right.
Alex did resent him, but his father didn't. Chris Summers suffered
from a wrenching grief that he didn't know how to express beyond
chilly silence. He still carried in his wallet -� folded, faded and
worn soft with years of handling -� a special father's day card that
Scott had made, at age five. On it was a child's impressionistic
picture of Chris standing beside his jet, and Scott himself in the
pilot seat. For years, Chris had dreamed of seeing that drawing come
to life. Now, it never would. He had chalked up Scott's teen
rebelliousness to the growing pains of all fledgling young men.
Chris himself had been far worse, and more inclined to real trouble,
and when he'd become so frustrated that he'd wanted to strangle his
son, he'd reminded himself that he'd never felt a need to search
Scott's room, nor had to bail the boy out of jail. Scott was
basically a good boy. But the manifestation of his mutant powers had
ended any chance Scott had of becoming an air force pilot in his own
turn. Chris didn't blame Scott for that. But it was some time
before he stopped resenting God.
In any case, there had been no reason for Scott to return to the
Golden State until fall registration for his freshman year at
Berkeley. He'd forgotten how bright it was in the full California
sun, and how much he'd missed that. He felt like a glass filled to
the brim with all the light. "Until your body adjusts, you will have
to find a way to release it," Xavier warned him. The professor had
come out with him, to settle him in for Welcome Week, just like the
parents of other freshmen. Except Xavier wasn't Scott's parent, and
Scott was very conscious of that, very self-conscious, in fact, when
the professor paid the whole of his semester bill with one check.
Scott had a scholarship, true, and received in-state tuition because
he could claim a home address in Linda Vista, California -� but no
one living at that address had wanted to see him at this university.
His father had hoped he'd choose the USAF Academy in Colorado
Springs, and his mother had prayed for Loyola Marymount in Los
But Scott had applied in secret to Berkeley, and won a scholarship
based on near-perfect SAT math scores. When he'd finally admitted
what he'd done to his parents -� and where he planned to go -� his
father had told him flatly that a scholarship was the only way he'd
attend UC-Berkeley, because Chris Summers would die and go to hell
before he paid a dime to 'that school.' The Vietnam vet had too many
foul memories of the violent Berkeley anti-war demonstrations,
fire-bombed buildings, draft dodgers, "Free Huey" movement, and being
spat on by those who claimed to support peace. Now, he and Scott
fought an old battle in an era when no one under twenty could
remember the conflict that had split families and wounded a nation.
Scott had accused his father of living in the past and not caring
what Scott himself wanted in the present, and Chris had accused Scott
of going behind his back to apply to the one school in the entire
state that Chris detested with real passion. They hadn't spoken
fifty words to each other since, and most of the words they had
exchanged had been said on the night of Scott's mutant manifestation.
They hadn't been the words many other young mutants had heard.
Although he sometimes felt resentful of his father, he would never
forget that when Christopher Summers had come to pick him up at the
prom and found the police manhandling him, he had barked orders in
the voice of a USAF officer for the men to get their hands off his
son until and unless they could prove that Scott had broken the law.
Later, Chris had taken Scott's hand and led him to the car, then
said, "It'll be all right," as he'd buckled Scott's seatbelt, because
Scott was shaking too badly to do it himself. His hands had been
gentle on Scott's face, and the man who'd survived a Viet Cong POW
war camp hadn't been afraid to run his thumbs over the thin lids
covering his son's deadly eyes.
So Chris carried a thirteen-year-old father's day card in his wallet,
and Scott carried the memory of his father's hands on his face. Both
were a tender secret they couldn't quite admit to the other, and
because they couldn't, the chasm remained between them. They were
stubborn in their pride.
Now, Scott and Xavier left Sproul Hall -� the administration building
�- by the rear handicapped access, and Scott wheeled the professor
around the long way before heading south towards Bancroft Avenue and
Scott's new dorm. Off to their right was a line of trees shading
special interest tables ranging from BAMN for Affirmative Action to
omnipresent Greek organizations, all leading up in the distance to
the famous Sather Gate -� focal point of so many protests and
demonstrations during the 60s. The professor found the whole
experience amusing and nostalgic, new and oddly mournful, at once.
How many times had he seen a semester begin on a college campus? But
always as the professor, never the father, even if his parenthood
here were merely by proxy. Scott had still wormed his way into
Xavier's heart, arriving in Westchester frightened and proud and
desolate, certain he'd had no future, just as he'd had no sight.
Xavier had taught him to hope again, to spread his wings, and now he
was leaving the nest. He was hardly the first to attend college
under Xavier's patronage, but he was the first to fly so far away.
Scott's own thoughts were less coherent, edged with excitement, but
also shame. Although he had a scholarship here, he couldn't forget
on whose charity he lived. If Xavier thought of Scott Summers as the
son he'd never had, Scott didn't yet think of Xavier as his father.
None of it was his money, and he was uncomfortably conscious of that.
But at least out here in the bright California sun, no one looked
twice at the guy in red shades.
From campus, they headed two blocks south to the Unit Three dorms on
Durant Avenue. Norton Hall. Warren drove the rental car they'd
taken from the airport, where Warren's private jet waited; idly,
Scott wondered how many other students had been ferried cross-country
in first class style. Along with a hundred others, he went through
the process of checking in, then Warren helped him haul his
belongings upstairs to the fourth floor and his double room. He
hesitated as he unlocked the door for the first time, but was
relieved to find it empty. He really wasn't ready yet to deal with a
roommate; he needed time to establish his boundaries. "Hey," Warren
said, behind him, still standing in the hall. "You okay?"
"Okay enough," Summers replied, then snorted. "I can always run home
again if I can't hack it."
Warren shook his head. "You'll get over it. Everybody is freaked
the first week or two."
"Yeah, but 'everybody' can't level their entire building by
blinking." It was hissed out harsh and low.
"And 'everybody' doesn't have sixteen-fucking-feet of wings, either,
to strap down *every goddamn* morning. It felt like shit for four
years. Don't whine, Summers."
Almost, Scott snapped back, but bit down on his retort. Pity wasn't
what he needed, and Warren had never been inclined to give it to him.
Instead, he smiled and raised his middle finger, and Warren boxed
his ears -� lightly, so as not to displace the glasses. The
professor had arrived, in any case, from the elevator access, and the
two boys finished carrying up Scott's things. There really hadn't
been that much, when it had come down to it. Clothes in suitcases,
his acoustic guitar, his favorite books in two boxes, a laptop that
the professor had presented him with as a going-away present, a
coffeemaker, a small fridge the professor had insisted on buying for
him once they'd arrived in the town, and assorted miscellany that had
been dumped haphazardly in a pair of laundry baskets. Compared to
his room at the mansion, the dorm felt horribly cramped, but the
lightwood furniture and the wide window made it less claustrophobic.
Scott claimed a bed, a dresser and the desk under the window (first
come, first serve), and set up a framed picture on the latter. He'd
taken it just the week before at Westchester � everyone crowded onto
the mansion stairwell, the professor in his chair at the bottom. But
it was just an excuse to have a picture of Jean on display without
explaining to all and sundry that she wasn't really his girlfriend.
And that, to Scott Summers, was the most wrenching thing about
leaving New York. He needed a picture of her where he could see it,
but she didn't need one of him.
Of course, what he didn't know was that Jean had tacked up in her
locker at Columbia's teaching hospital a picture of the two of them
feeding squirrels on the rear mansion grounds, side-by-side and
shoulders touching. And she had no qualms about explaining who the
boy was in the picture. Everyone agreed that her adopted little
brother was quite good looking. A few also noted that she talked
about him rather a lot, for an adopted brother, but politely
refrained from commenting on the fact.
When everything was in the room, the professor sent Warren off to
find a suitable restaurant for dinner and then had Scott sit down on
his new bed. "Getting rid of him?" Scott asked.
Xavier smiled faintly. "You might say that."
"I don't think he was fooled."
"I wasn't trying to fool him."
Silence fell, and stretched, and tore slightly. "Being afraid is
normal, you realize," Xavier said.
"Why are you upset?"
Scott stared down at his hands. Even with the blinds shut, the room
seemed preternaturally bright, compared to dim New York winter days
and the dark wood halls of Xavier's mansion. He could feel it even
now, buzzing in his head, with the first press of a headache behind
his brows. Reaching beneath his glasses, he rubbed his eyes
carefully. "Can't you read my mind?" he asked at last.
"I could. I'd rather not. I'd rather you told me."
Scott opened his mouth, then shut it. How to begin, without sounding
inappreciative? "I wouldn't be here without you. You have . . . no
idea . . . how grateful I am. Well, maybe you do." He paused,
feeling foolish. "I don't like being a burden."
"I am. You don't have to do this."
"Exactly. I don't *have* to do it. I want to do it. You are no
burden to me, Scott. You never were."
Turning his face sideways, Scott blinked rapidly and was relieved
that, when his eyes were open, he couldn't cry. The beams destroyed
everything in their path, including tears.
"Now," the professor said, "the part no one ever wants to talk about
�- money." He watched the boy flinch visibly, and wished there was
some way to make this easier. He knew better than to give Scott
unlimited access, or the boy wouldn't touch a thing, counting pennies
like a miser -� the very opposite of what most parents feared. "Your
housing, meal plan, and tuition have been taken care of. Your books
are to go on this." He handed over a credit card. "As are any
clothing needs. This" -� he handed over an ATM card -� "is for your
personal use . . . however you wish to spend it. We'll start with
two hundred dollars a month. Incidentals." Scott was gaping and
trying not to. That includes food outside your meal plan, books for
entertainment, movies, and videogames." That last, Xavier said with
raised eyebrows, teasing just a little to make the gift easier to
Blushing, Scott reached forward to accept the card. "I won't use it
all," he said, as if taking a solemn vow.
"Perhaps not, perhaps so. In any case, two hundred dollars will be
deposited in the account once a month. I won't be checking to see
what the balance is." Leaning back in his chair, he winked. "Going
to college without spending money isn't much fun." The boy had
flushed a deep red almost as bright as his glasses.
"I'll pay it back," he whispered.
"No, you won't," Xavier snapped. "I have no children. I never will.
Allow me to spend my money how and where I see fit."
"Why are you doing this?" Scott raised his burning face. "I've
never really understood that -� why you do this? Why you took us all
"Because I can. And because I want to."
"I owe you so much �- "
"You *owe* me nothing at all. A gift that expects repayment is not a
gift. All I ask is this: pass it on. Help others, as you have been
helped. If you do that, then you will have repaid me in the best way
Scott nodded. "I can do that."
"I know you can."
It wasn't much later that Warren returned with a short list of
premier San Francisco restaurants and they took Scott to dinner, fed
him well, then left him to settle into his new home in privacy. He
spent a long time that night, staring at the picture on his desk.
God, he missed them -� all of them, not just Jean. In the past year,
he'd grown used to communal living. The dorm room was too quiet.
Outside the door it was loud enough, with people coming and going and
calling out to each other, exchanging names, interests, places of
origin -� building the foundations of potential future friendships.
He might have gone out, too. Even two years ago, he would have.
Popular, good-looking, and easy-going, he'd been confident of making
friends because he always had. But that had been before May of 1996,
before his senior prom �- before rose-quartz glasses. What would the
people outside the door think, if they knew what his eyes could do?
Would they flee him? Would they condemn him as the freak he'd once
thought himself? He didn't know. So he locked his door, curled up
on his bed, took some aspirin for the sun-induced ache in his skull,
and tried to pretend that he enjoyed his vaunted isolation.
His dorm was co-ed in all respects. He'd known the floor was co-ed,
but his first night there, he'd spent ten minutes looking for the
men's room and had finally given up and asked, then been pointed
towards a door. Finding another guy at the sinks (urinals or no),
he'd assumed he was in the right place. But the next morning, as he
exited his shower stall, only to find a *girl* entering the one
beside his, he dropped shampoo, comb, and towel in shock, right there
on the wet floor. Amused, she winked at him as she shut her stall.
"Co-ed everything"drifted out to him, along with her laughter.
"Jesus H. Christ," he muttered, "Welcome to Berkeley," and wondered
why none of the Housing-packet literature had mentioned 'co-ed
bathrooms' -� or had he just missed that part? In any case, the
event caused him to rethink his liberality, as he found it rather
disconcerting to be sharing a john with members of the opposite sex
with whom he wasn't also sharing a bed.
Not that sharing a bed with a girl was likely any time in the near
future. He hadn't thought much about that since high school. Or
rather, he'd thought about it quite a lot, but as thinking about it
tended to sink him in a miasma of self-pity, he tried to avoid
dwelling on it. Instead, he collected a campus map, a town map, his
wallet, and set out on his own by foot. He'd slept too late to join
the Welcome Week tour schedule, even if he'd wanted to, but he
preferred to find his way around on his own. He started with the
blocks around his dorm, then branched out onto campus, spending most
of the day in exploration, from the Hearst theater and the stadium on
the east, past the Memorial Glade with it's rich greenery, towards
the campanile and the MLK student union. He enjoyed the opportunity
to wander, and crisscrossed the campus via concrete sidewalks in the
shadow of pine trees and mix-and-match university buildings, some of
them being renovated by construction workers with loud radios.
Students zipped to and fro on bicycles, and he narrowly avoided being
hit once or twice. He spent a few hours wandering the huge library,
dwarfed by its vaulted ceilings, and then spent a few hours more in
the student store, and the union arcade. The whole time, no one
spoke to him unless the situation demanded it. He was just another
By sunset, he had a better lay of the campus, but he was also
beginning to feel the effects of a surplus of sunlight, and made his
way up a path towards 'The Big C' -� a steep clearing that overlooked
the San Francisco Bay. He didn't go all the way to the drop off,
veering from the path into the woody concealment of trees. No one
was around, and at first, he tried opening his eyes towards the
forest floor, but it just gauged up great chunks of loam and dirt.
Not a bright idea. Reluctantly, but at a loss, he turned his face up
to let the beams shoot skyward in a few short, intense bursts.
Although he could not shut off his power completely, he could
control the strength of it. If anyone noticed, perhaps they would
take it for a peculiar skylight or a scientific experiment. He only
dared five blasts, but felt better, and made his way back to the main
path, then to campus, and then back to his dorm. Still no sign of
his roommate -� but he didn't much mind. He grabbed a solitary meal
in the dining hall, reading a book while he ate at a table in the
corner. At first, he found the white noise of people coming and
going to be distracting, but within half an hour, he'd remembered the
essential art of tuning it all out and was completely absorbed by the
meteorological descriptions of John Barnes' SF thriller, MOTHER OF
Maybe Ororo needed a nickname, he thought, grinning to himself. But
when his supper was over, he trudged back to Norton Hall and his
The next several days passed in much the same fashion. The only
people he had cause to speak to outside of random cashiers,
university staff, and the residence hall assistant (a mumbled excuse
about why he wasn't getting involved in Welcome Week activities),
were at the end of a phone line over two thousand miles away. In New
"You gotta get out more, Gamma-Gaze," was Warren's advice. "Quit
holing up in your room."
"I'm not holing up. I get out everyday."
"I mean get out and do something with *other* people, idiot. You
won't meet anybody playing the hermit."
And from Hank: "Your roommate still has not arrived?"
"No, and it's *Thursday*! I'm starting to wonder if he's going to."
As per Berkeley's Housing policies, Scott had been sent his
roommate's name, address and phone number months ago, and had meant
to contact Elijah Haight, but had never quite gotten around to it.
So now, he knew nothing about the other boy that might explain the
"Hmm. Well. Haven't you introduced yourself to your dorm
"Uh -� not exactly. I mean, I've met the RA, and all."
A sigh on the other end of the phone line. "You should talk to your
neighbors, Scott -� an exchange of names and phone numbers is hardly
out of order."
Frank had given similar advice, although the intricacies of the
American college experience were beyond him. "What do you mean you
have not met anyone? Where are the girls? You are in California,
*cretino*! *Adossi il cafonismo come il mantello!*" You wear
stupidity like a cloak. Like Warren, Frank had never been inclined
to pity him, and Scott had been forced to laugh -� but at least Frank
wasn't being evasive or sounding ominous, which was a relief.
Of all the people at the mansion, though, only Jean hadn't talked to
Scott since he'd left the East Coast -� almost as if she were
Continued directly in Chapter 3b....
Do You Yahoo!?
Yahoo! Games - play chess, backgammon, pool and more