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Fic: Tell Me the Answer (Unexpected Occurrences 4/12)

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  • Mo
    Tell Me the Answer (Unexpected Occurrences 4/12) “Put your hands right here. Firm grip. Yeah, that’s right – just like that. Now don’t move until I
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 14, 2004
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      Tell Me the Answer (Unexpected Occurrences 4/12)

      �Put your hands right here. Firm grip. Yeah, that�s
      right � just like that. Now don�t move until I tell
      you to.� Logan�s instructions to Oliver were loud and
      clear, but followed by a muttered �Fucking water
      heater� under his breath.

      �I know the drill,� Oliver replied, pushing against
      the cylinder as Logan tightened nuts. �I�m not a
      water heater repair virgin, after all.�

      �Yeah, how many times have I fixed the goddamn thing?�

      �I don�t know. But I do know this is my fourth time
      helping you with it.�

      �Well, at least a couple more times with Scott. Once
      with Jean-Paul. Why does the fucking thing break down
      every time I�m here?�

      �Maybe they break it on purpose so you can feel
      useful,� Oliver answered with a smile.

      Logan attempted to scowl, but then laughed in spite of
      himself. He finished what he was doing, then stood
      back. �Okay, you can let go now. I think it�s
      working... Yeah. Alright, fixed. For another week,
      at least. I wish they�d just replace the fucker once
      and for all.�

      �That might be a little hard to do right now, with 100
      mutant refugees hiding out here. I don�t think Arthur
      and Wendy really want to find a new hiding place for
      them all to hang out in while someone comes to install
      the new water heater.� Logan nodded in assent. �I
      guess we should go tell them we�re done and get some
      more work,� Oliver added with a sigh.

      �Nah, not yet.� Logan sat down on the floor, back to
      the wall. �Let�s take a break.�

      �You�re the boss.� Oliver sat down next to him. They
      said nothing for a couple of minutes, enjoying the
      quiet and the relative solitude, far from the crowded
      dorms, dining hall, and other communal areas of the
      Outpost. After a while Oliver said, tentatively, �Can
      I ask you a personal question?�

      �You can ask. If I think it�s too personal I might
      not answer, but I�m not gonna get mad at you for

      �Do you remember your family? Parents? Brothers or

      �Nope. None of them. I�ve really tried, too. Both
      on my own and with the Professor helping me, diving
      into my brain and seeing what he could come up with.
      That helped with a bunch of things I couldn�t
      remember. I got a lot of years back I thought were
      gone forever, but I never got anything from when I was
      a kid. I never remembered anything about my family.
      I can go back to teen years � after I left home. But
      I don�t know anything about before that. Don�t know
      where �home� was, even.�

      �How old were you when you left home? Do you know

      �Fourteen.� Looking at Oliver�s expression, he added,
      �Yeah, same as you. Only I had more choice in the
      matter.� Logan cocked his head to one side and
      thought about what he�d just said. �Least ways I
      think I did. I don�t really know. I always just
      assumed I ran away. Maybe they kicked me out, just
      like you.�

      �Did you leave when you came into your powers? Could
      they have kicked you out for that?�

      �Nah, that much I know. I can remember when I came
      into my powers and it was a couple of years after I
      left. So, if I got kicked out it had to have been for
      some other reason.� He turned to look at Oliver. �Why
      do you want to know? Are you thinking about your

      �Yeah, I guess. I hadn�t been until recently. I
      don�t think about them much at all anymore, really. I
      haven�t for years. Well, maybe a little bit when the
      other kids at school got letters from home, or talked
      about going home for Christmas or something like that.
      But mostly it was just like they were all dead to
      me.� He exhaled loudly. �And then I find out my
      father *is* dead and it�s like I�ve got to think about
      them again. If he had to up and kill himself, I wish
      he�d done it without anyone letting me know. I don�t
      want to think about them. I didn�t want to before; I
      sure don�t with this war going on. Maybe if he�d
      known he�d get his way � get rid of all the mutants �
      he would have decided to live.� He looked Logan
      straight in the eyes. �I hate him, you know. I�m
      glad he�s dead.� It came out in a defiant tone, as if
      he were challenging Logan to argue with him.

      It wasn�t a statement Logan wanted to argue with.
      �Course you do,� he said. �I hate him, too. I hate
      them both for what they did to you.�

      �I think it might have been more him than her. Don�t
      you think it�s possible? He was always the boss in
      that house. Maybe she just did what he said to.�

      �Maybe, but that�s no better. She should�ve shown
      some spine, not just gone along with throwing away her
      own kid. I wouldn�t forgive her.�

      �So you don�t think I should contact her?�

      �I didn�t say that. Hey, it�s your business, but if
      it was me, I�d talk to her. See her, too, as soon as
      I could. As soon as this war�s over and you can
      travel again.�

      �Why? To tell her off?�

      �Maybe. She ought to hear what you think of her. But
      no, that�s not all. I figure there�s things you could
      find out.�

      �What do you mean?�

      �Well, what was going on with him, why he killed
      himself. What�s been happening with them all this
      time. It�s five years. It�s a big chunk of your life
      � of what should�ve been your life. You ought to know
      what was going on.�

      �I don�t care. Maybe it should have been my life, but
      it wasn�t. They did throw me away. I was fourteen
      years old and on my own. High school, track team,
      taking care of my little brothers and sisters � that
      stopped being my life. Being blind was my life.
      Sucking dick for a meal or a few bucks was my life.
      Trying to find somewhere warm to spend the night was
      my life. And then � by some miracle � Xavier�s and
      the X-Men and then college were my life. My parents
      haven�t been anything to me for five years. I don�t
      want to know anything about them.�

      �Maybe you�ll want to know later, though. And maybe
      when you do it�ll be too late. I don�t know, Oliver.
      I�ve found out some really bad shit about my past, and
      I�m still glad I know it. If there�s one thing I�ve
      learned it�s this: knowing�s better than not knowing.
      If I could know about my parents � no matter how
      fucked whatever I found out was � I�d find out.�

      �I�m not like you. I don�t have years missing from my

      �Lucky you. I still think you might want to know this
      stuff some time. Find out what you can when you can,
      that�s what I say.� Neither of them said anything for
      a couple of minutes. Then Logan added, �Besides,
      there�s your brothers and sisters. None of this is
      their fault.�

      Oliver sighed. �No, you�re right, it�s not.�

      �What did they do when you got kicked out?�

      �I don�t know. I never heard from any of them. Well,
      Jessie�s the oldest and she was only 12. So, she�s 17
      now. Probably still at home. Carl was almost three �
      he couldn�t have understood what happened. I don�t
      think any of them could, really. I don�t understand it

      �Me, neither. If I had my way, people like that
      wouldn�t be allowed to have kids.�

      �I don�t even know if Jessie and them know what
      happened to me, if they know I�m a mutant. I bet my
      parents never told the other kids the truth. They
      didn�t want anyone to know about me; they�re not going
      to trust to the discretion of a bunch of kids. I bet
      they didn�t tell them anything. One day I was there
      and the next I�m gone and nothing said.�

      �A hell of a way to grow up, no matter what they said
      or didn�t say.�

      �I know. I mean, I think I had it rough, being on my
      own at fourteen. But not as rough as them.�

      �What do you mean?�

      �I didn�t grow up knowing that if you step out of line
      you could be made to disappear.�


      �Scott? We�ve got it. We know what happened now.�

      �What do you mean?�

      �We know what made all those people sick, what caused
      the deaths they�re blaming on us.� Jean�s voice on
      the telephone sounded somehow both grim and triumphant
      at the same time. Scott reflected that solving this
      puzzle must feel like a major accomplishment, but that
      the solution couldn�t be a positive one for the mutant
      community. Any answer was coming too late, after too
      many deaths.

      �What is it?� he asked.

      �Yersinia pestis.�

      �Bubonic plague?� he replied, incredulously.

      �Very good, Scott. I didn�t think you�d remember

      �Hey, we lived together a long time. I always paid
      attention when you talked medicine.�

      �Yeah, just not when I talked laundry or bed making or
      cleaning the bathroom.� He laughed at that, but
      stopped when she resumed, turning serious now.
      �Actually, it�s not bubonic plague. It�s pneumonic.�

      �What�s the difference? It�s the Black Death right?
      What wiped out a third of Europe in the Middle Ages.�

      �Not exactly. Same bacterium, but the pneumonic form
      affects the lungs. So, you don�t see the buboes, the
      lesions that are characteristic of bubonic plague.
      It�s bubonic plague that was the Black Death. That�s
      why it was called that � the buboes all over the
      victim�s body turned black. Pneumonic is harder to
      diagnose because it has no characteristic lesions. It
      just seems like any other respiratory infection at
      first. And then people start dying.�

      �How did all those people get it? Isn�t it from fleas
      or rats or something?�

      �You�re thinking bubonic plague again. The really
      dangerous thing about pneumonic plague is it�s passed
      person to person, which bubonic is not. It gets into
      the lungs, gets into the air... The original outbreak
      was in Washington.�

      �I remember.�

      �So how did it start there? And start so rapidly, so
      many people getting sick at once? I think someone got
      hold of Yersinia pestis and aerosolized it.�

      �Aerosolized it? So you think the initial outbreak
      was intentional, was an act of bioterrorism?

      �It sure looks like it. It�s easy to see how it
      spread from that first outbreak. I�ve gotten data
      from the CDC.�

      �How did you do that?�

      �It was easy. There are epidemiologists there who
      want to help, who are as outraged by the War on
      Mutants as we are. They�re willing to violate the
      Secrecy Rules. I found out telepathically who was
      likely to help us, so I didn�t ask the wrong person.

      �We�ve looked at the pattern of the outbreaks. The
      first outbreak was shortly after the meeting Rogue and
      Tabitha were at, as you know. Two days after the
      meeting someone on Senator Mullin�s staff � one of the
      staffers who was at that meeting - went to Atlanta.
      His wife said he wasn�t feeling well that day, that he
      didn�t want to fly with a cold, but he had a meeting
      he couldn�t miss. Two days later � it�s spreading
      there. I think the guy from the senator�s office was
      prodromal when he went to Atlanta. Similarly for the
      other cities with outbreaks. They all stem from that
      original outbreak. Fifteen people were all infected at
      once. Every one of them had been at the same meeting
      at the Mutant Rights League office. Every non-mutant
      there got sick. Many of them spread the disease
      before they knew they were sick. This can�t be an
      accident. It would be a different pattern if it were.
      You called it, Scott. We�re talking bioterrorism.�

      �Why aren�t mutants getting it?� Scott asked.

      �We keep asking ourselves that. Nobody knows. Not my
      furtive friends at the CDC, not me. I can�t say how
      or why, but it looks like we�re immune. It�s not just
      that Tabitha and Rogue and the other MRL members there
      didn�t get sick. There were mutants around in several
      of the sites of the later outbreaks and they didn�t
      get sick. And with all the cases we�ve had since
      then, not one mutant has gotten it. I even heard that
      they have tried unsuccessfully to infect mutants in
      the secret government prison.�

      �The bastards!�

      �Yeah, our lives obviously aren�t worth anything to

      �Like flies to wanton boys.�

      �Right. They sure think they�re gods� Anyway they
      couldn�t successfully infect a mutant, not even with
      injecting blood from an infected individual. We have
      no idea why our people don�t get it, but it seems they
      just don�t.�

      �Do you have any guesses?�

      �I�ve always got guesses, hon. You know me. I wish to
      God Hank were here to bounce my ideas off of.�

      �Hey, try me. I know I�m not a scientist...�

      �Well, I think there must be something on the X gene
      that prevents us from getting sick with plague. I
      don�t know what it is, and I don�t know if we�re truly
      immune or if we�re carriers. If we ever have time and
      facilities to do real research on this, maybe we�ll
      find out. But it�s not going to happen while this
      trumped up war is stopping us from doing real work.�

      �Jean, is it possible that a mutant *did* start this?
      We�ve been saying it couldn�t be and I�ve believed
      it, but here it looks like it�s a disease mutants are
      immune to and someone intentionally started it. And
      started it in a setting where there were mutants. Why
      not a follower of Magneto? Someone who knew that it
      would only affect the homo sapiens in the room.�

      �Two reasons. One, we�ve kept pretty good tabs on
      Magneto�s followers, haven�t we? We know who�s left
      of his gang and where they are. None of the gang
      members who remain at large were in Washington at the
      right time, I�m pretty sure of it. But more to the
      point � if it were a mutant plot, wouldn�t the
      plotters be careful not to call attention to mutants?
      Why start with senators and staff who visited the MRL
      offices? Why have them get sick right after that
      meeting? If some mutants were trying to start an
      epidemic among the rest of humanity, they�d do it as
      far away from our kind as possible. Point suspicion

      �Okay, that makes sense. But then who could it be?
      Someone who wasn�t trying to draw attention away from
      mutants, but that covers a lot of ground.�

      �No, Scott, I think we can narrow it down more than
      that. It�s not someone who didn�t care if mutants get
      implicated. It�s someone who *wants* mutants

      �What do you mean, Jean?�

      �Look, we�ll know better when we get Tabitha and Rogue
      out. We�ll find out more about who was around that
      day, what happened that could have been the release of
      the agent. We�ve got to get to them as soon as
      possible and solve this mystery. But I think I know,
      in general, what the solution is. I don�t think it�s
      a coincidence that the first outbreak happened right
      after the MRL meeting with the Senators and their
      staff. I think the person � or people � behind this
      did that on purpose. Just to start this war.�

      Scott didn�t say anything while that sank in. When he
      finally spoke all he said was �Helter Skelter.�

      �Exactly,� she replied.

      �You remember about that?�

      �Sure. I taught you about medicine. You taught me
      literature and True Crime. A weird hobby, you know.
      My mother warned me about boys like you.�

      �Hey, it helped knowing that stuff with all the wacko
      criminals we�ve had to deal with, for all these

      �And it�s helping again now, to know about Charlie
      Manson�s murder spree and what he was trying to do.
      Because yeah, it looks like history is repeating
      itself. I don�t know who�s doing this, but it�s
      someone just as crazy, and just as hateful. Some
      twenty-first century Charlie Manson. Killing a few
      people and pinning the murder on someone else, in an
      attempt to start a race war. Only this time the races
      he�s trying to pit against each other are mutants and
      non-mutants.� She sighed deeply.

      �There�s another big difference this time, Jean.�

      �What�s that?�

      �This time it worked.�

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