X-Book 4 -- Of Politics, Tacos and Other Things that Give You
Chapter Seven: Being Free
Rating: PG-13 (violence, language)
Genre: Crossover (with anything I can squeeze in), SPOILERS FOR X2
Summary: See prologue to book 4
Disclaimer: I own nothing in regards to the Marvel characters or
any character from a previously published source portrayed in this
Reviews: Any feedback would be great and is appreciated!
The small bedroom was dimly lit and Paul winced as he stepped down
on his injured leg to reach a nearby dresser. It had several
drawers, each containing a few sets of basic clothing. He drew out
a fresh, clean shirt and touched the soft fabric thoughtfully. He
took a few limping steps back toward the bed and sat down.
The Lady Deathstrike had insisted he change his bloody pants
immediately after she finished treating his wound and she had shown
him both the dresser and closet where the clothes were in his
Paul had complied without argument and had not said a word to the
woman while she was present. He had very little contact with women
during his life, aside from the few female scientists and soldiers
who had been assigned to him over the years, and they had always
been cold and distant, even when he was a child. Her presence had
made him extremely uncomfortable, though her direct and unemotional
manner had been very similar to those random women who had worked
for Systems Operations or for Stryker.
The boy who called himself Pyro had been much more easygoing. He
reminded Paul of his own brothers; while the boy was friendly
enough, his eyes also looked haunted. Pyro was a mutant, too, after
all, and Paul wondered what kind of traumas free mutants had in
Nothing close to what we did, Paul thought bitterly. He pulled off
his old shirt, the last remaining piece of his Systems Operations
uniform, and drew the new one over his head.
He picked up the old shirt and examined the red stain near the
collar. It was from one of the many nosebleeds he had after he used
his power. He was a Pusher, his gift was mental domination over
another, `pushing' someone to do what he wanted them to do. Using
his power had always given him headaches, but as he grew older, the
other side effects had become more common. Whether it was because
of the innumerable experiments he had been subject to or simply was
a drawback of his mutation, he did not know.
Paul stared at the shirt for a long time, and thought of a woman
named Charlie McGee. She had been a free mutant, at least for most
of her life, but she had been subject to the same experiments Paul
and his brothers had.
Charlie had been the one the other scientists always whispered
about, the one mutant who got away, the one who escaped by fire.
Then, when Paul had been only twelve years old, she had come back.
The little girl they feared had grown up, and she escaped again.
Now, a little less than a quarter century later, she apparently had
two children of her own. Her children had been able to blend into
the mass of free mutants, whose numbers only continued to grow by
Paul clenched his hand around the bloody shirt tightly, suddenly
feeling his anger fully for the first time, and he threw it across
the room. He was breathing heavily, his new emotions fading from
fury to sorrow as he thought again about his brothers, the two who
died, the three who may have escaped.
I'll find them, he thought firmly and stood again from the bed.
Paul walked to the room's adjoining bathroom and stared at his face
in the mirror. He thought the image staring back at him looked very
old, much older than he actually was. He had been twelve when
Charlie came...add about twenty-four years or so and...
"I am thirty-six years old," he said aloud, and touched the stubble
on his unshaven face, "I am thirty-six years old...and this is the
first day I have ever been free."
Paul placed his hands on the sink for support as he leaned forward.
Tears of bitter sorrow, and incredible relief, flowed quickly down
his cheeks, and he repeated his words again and again.
"I'm thirty-six...and I'm free...I'm thirty-six...and I'm free..."
After a few minutes, Paul lifted one shaky hand to his face and took
a few deep breaths. He turned on the water, and splashed it into
his eyes. The water was cold at first, but quickly became warmer.
The cold faded, and he lifted his eyes back to his reflection.
He did not know how much time had passed when the knock sounded on
the bedroom door. Paul inhaled sharply in surprise, and waited.
The rapping was repeated and Paul took a few uneasy steps towards
the closed door.
Over his entire life, the simple courtesy of having someone knock
before entering his private room had been a rarity. Paul moved to
within inches of the wall and listened. He heard someone mumbling
on the other side, a female voice, followed by a much deeper male
vibrato. The sound of knocking came one more time before Paul
turned the knob and opened the door cautiously.
Erik Lensherr gave him a pleased smile and nodded in greeting.
"Good afternoon, Brother," the tall man said calmly. Paul edged out
into the main living area slowly, regarding Erik and the blue woman
behind him known as Mystique with suspicion.
Erik did not blame the weathered mutant for his mistrust, and
motioned toward the simple sofa and chairs.
"May we sit?" he asked Paul, who frowned in confusion at Erik's
polite, though commanding, demeanor.
Paul nodded, and waited for the other two mutants to sit before he
painfully eased himself onto one cushioned chair. Erik stared at
him silently for a moment, a strange mix of pity and understanding
lining his face.
"I hope you've found your accommodations comfortable," Erik said.
Paul nodded again, "Yes...they're fine. Thanks. And," he paused
nervously, searching for the proper words, "thank you
for...attending to my...well, for helping me at the base..."
"Of course," Erik replied, tilting his head forward slightly as if
he was very honored by Paul's appreciation, "For that is what we
do. We help...other mutants. Especially those like yourself, who
have suffered such great injustices at the hands of Homo sapiens."
Paul nodded one last time and looked away from the other man.
"You're Magneto," Paul finally said, and met Erik's gaze
again, "They trained us to capture you, you know. They told
us...you were our enemy..."
"They lied," Erik said, his voice echoing slightly through the
room. Paul averted his eyes again and shifted nervously. Erik
regarded him closely before speaking again.
"I suppose," he began, "After watching two of your brothers die at
Stryker's hand, you are beginning to realize who our true enemy
"But, now Stryker's dead," Paul said quickly.
"Yes," Erik replied, "But many of his followers are not. There are
still many people in this world that would prefer to see all mutants
contained, as you were for so long. To keep us in prisons and study
us until death or madness comes. To force us to work for their
goals, abuse our powers for their own gains. However, their
downfall will be their failure to realize that we are the
powerful...we are the superior race...and despite whatever
technologies their obsolete minds can devise, we, mutants, will
eventually dominate them."
Paul stared at Erik Lensherr as he spoke, and felt a new bitterness
listening to this gilded and learned mutant.
"What do you know about it?" Paul suddenly spat, and Erik frowned
darkly as he continued, "Huh? What the hell do you know about being
a prisoner? About being tortured just because of what you are? My
whole life, I've been a prisoner. The only time I tasted free air,
it was full of smoke and fire from another free mutant¸like you.
Yeah, that's what me and my brothers called you people. Free
mutants. Charlie didn't help us, and she knew what we were...what
the Lotprogram was doing to us! Don't talk to me about being a
Paul's voice grew quieter as he finished his last sentence, and he
ground his teeth and stared at the floor. He did not notice Erik's
motion until he stood within a foot of him. Paul stood quickly and
stumbled backward, hissing as his injured leg burned in protest of
the fast movement.
Erik Lensherr extended one arm toward Paul, but not in a threatening
gesture. Paul stared at him and followed Erik's gaze to the numbers
on his forearm. The Pusher frowned, uncertain at what he was
seeing. History had never been a major part of his education with
Systems Operations, but it was still obvious that the older man was
marked with a kind of serial number...a prison number.
After a moment, Paul glanced up again and met Magneto's intense gaze.
"I do know, Brother," he said firmly, "Never doubt that. I was a
prisoner, as you were...I watched my family die, as you have...and I
will not see it happen to our people again."
Magneto lowered his arm and then extended it toward the Pusher.
"Join us," he said, "We shall find the brothers you lost...and
together, we will all help built a better world for mutants...where
freedom will not be such a luxury."
Paul was still staring with quiet disbelief at Magneto when he took
Behind them, Mystique smiled approvingly. When Magneto turned to
leave, she joined him, and they left Paul behind with thoughts of
As they walked quickly back to the main chambers, Mystique did not
miss the pleased expression on Erik's face.
"He will stay," she said softly, and without question.
Erik glanced over at her...and smiled.
Archived at www.fanfiction.net/~leen713
*work in progress*