In a world that hates and fears them, Professor Charles Xavier and the X-men fight for peace and understanding between humans and mutants. Their fight has taken many turns. Some for the better. Many for the worst. But after a string of setbacks, the X-men finally turned the tide against anti-mutant sentiment.
It started with a partnership between the Xavier Institute and Aerie Global, a well-known human-rights organization. Their leader, Lilandra Neramani, has taken a keen interest in Charles Xavier’s cause. That interest has only grown, extending to matters outside the professional realm. Together, they have pooled their resources in an effort to oppose public sentiment against mutants. Recently, they claimed their first major success.
When a radical anti-mutant group, Friends of Humanity, staged a daring attack against the all-mutant community, District X, they got their first break. They not only thwarted the attack by their advanced human/sentinel prototype, Bastion. They exposed the nefarious plot using Aerie Global’s media contacts. In addition to information provided by Worthington Industries through Angel, the man behind this anti-mutant crusade, Graydon Creed, was arrested in a very public spectacle. This affair has left the anti-mutant crowd, including presidential hopeful Senator Robert Kelly, in a precarious position.
Now that media sentiment is on their side, Professor Charles Xavier is poised to make the most of it. All the while, his X-men continue their struggle amidst these changing conditions with renewed hope that their exploits will make an even greater difference.
Senator Kelly Presidential HQ - Washington DC
Senator Robert Kelly loosened his tie as he downed two more extra strength aspirin tablets. It had been over a week since the District X debacle and his campaign was still recovering. It seemed like he had been dealing with a new headache every other hour. Between coordinating with his supporters, talking to the media, and managing the day-to-day operations of a presidential campaign the stress was really getting to him. He usually prided himself on being able to handle tough situations, but this latest setback was pushing his limits.
The most difficult part of his campaign was trying to distance himself from the Friends of Humanity. He made one of the most egregious errors any politician could make. He put too many eggs in one basket with a particular supporter. While he and Graydon Creed took precautions to make sure that his failure wouldn’t sink the campaign, it turned out those precautions were extremely flawed. Apparently, a number of internal documents from the Friends of Humanity were leaked. Now he had the unfortunate distinction of being tied to an incident that left a path of destruction in New York. It was not the kind of associations a presidential hopeful could afford to have.
It certainly didn’t help that this incident painted the X-men as heroes and mutants as victims. Having helped authorities contain the situation in District X, Charles Xavier and his allies at Aerie Global were going on a media blitz. At the moment, he was watching a talk-show where Charles Xavier was the main guest.
“Thank you for joining us today on a very special addition of Daytime Rundown, America’s fastest growing afternoon talk show. Today, we have a very special guest. The public has made him a villain in the past, but now he’s trying to prove himself a hero. Please welcome Professor Charles Xavier!”
Applause rang out in the studio. There were some hecklers, but for once they were muted by supporters. Just the sight of that man being applauded made him cringe. It was amazing how fickle the American public was. One day they were completely behind him. Now they were rallying behind Xavier as if he were a celebrity. It was an utterly asinine shift, but that was often the nature of modern politics.
As he watched, the door to his office opened and an equally disheartened Reverend William Stryker walked in.
“So this is what a presidential hopeful does when the pressure gets to him? He locks himself in his office and watches daytime talk shows?” he scolded.
“Spare me your scolds, William. In another reality I would be watching re-runs of MASH on Netflix tight now. But after a week of cleaning up Graydon Creed’s mess, I need to catch up. We can’t let men like Charles Xavier gain too much momentum!”
“He already has, Robert. And dwelling on it isn’t going to help your poll numbers.”
The reverend walked over to his desk and turned off the TV. The last thing they needed was to be reminded of their recent failure. No campaign had ever succeeded by spending all its time and resources cleaning up mistakes.
“Forget about Charles Xavier for a moment,” he told him, “Let’s focus on our strategy post-Graydon Creed.”
“That fool was a mistake,” said Senator Kelly bitterly, “Why did you ever bring him in?”
“I admit I was overly enamored with his Wide Awake Initiative, but we had other forces working against us. I had no idea the Friends of Humanity would be breached by outside forces. And I had no idea the incident in District X was going to get so out of hand. We can take comfort in the fact that you did not directly endorse his actions or his organizations.”
“But I did speak with them. I was planning on giving the Friends of Humanity a role in my administration. That much has been made public,” Kelly reminded him.
“I know. And we’re still looking into that. My people suspect Charles Xavier or Lilandra Neramani were responsible for the leaks. Some of these media folk who are jumping on Xavier’s bandwagon are pretty cozy with Aerie Global, but we have no solid proof to call them out on. They’re too smart for that.”
“And how do you propose we become smarter?”
Reverend Stryker paused for a moment. Thinking back to all the reports that came out regarding their campaign and the Friends of Humanity, it was clear they had a long road ahead of them. The election was looming closer with each passing day. Yet there was still plenty of time to seize this election.
“We’ll have to adapt our message again. This time, we need a more subtle approach,” the reverend explained, “Right now, Charles Xavier is turning things around by playing the hero. He’s become the voice of reason while the Friends of Humanity are the agents of bigotry. District X made a compelling case that these men are the true threats to humanity.”
“So how do we make mutants the threats again?”
“By shifting the focus of the debate,” said William, “We have to play up your humanity and play down Charles Xavier’s heroics. Even though he and the X-men helped resolve the incident in District X, they still put the public in danger. They are an unsanctioned, unlicensed, and unregulated militia that takes it upon themselves to act in the interests for humans and mutants. There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding their role. It’s that very uncertainty you must emphasize. Part of that process involves denouncing Graydon Creed and his organization.”
Senator Kelly groaned at the prospect of addressing the Friends of Humanity in every speech and debate. He understood now that Graydon Creed was a loose cannon, but he did understand on some levels what he was trying to do. He just needed to favor a less extreme and less destructive approach.
“You can’t expect me to twist my message into knots. The Friends of Humanity made their share of mistakes, but I’m not going to let my stance on the mutant agenda be subject to political correctness.”
“I’m not saying you should, but you will have to adjust your wording or the public is just going to associate it with Creed’s extremism. We’ve already made some strides. We’ve changed your Mutant Containment Act to the more appropriate Mutant Registration Act. We’ve also drawn up plans create a new military branch with specific powers to contain mutants. We’re still working on a name. Some want to call it the Mutant Response Division and others are leaning towards something like the Genetic Law Divisions.”
“Let’s worry about policy names after I’m elected,” muttered the Senator, “But how do you expect me to be subtle when I’ve already spoken at length how dangerous I believe mutants to be?”
“You’re the politician, Senator. That’s outside my expertise. But if you want to win this election, you have to be willing to take it step-by-step. I know how badly you want to fight the mutant agenda, but in this political climate you have to be willing to bend without breaking.”
“With mutants like Magneto and Charles Xavier, such compromise could be a risky move,” retorted the senator.
“It’s a move you’ll have to take,” said Stryker strongly, “Think of it as a process. You get a little here and there. Then you set it all into motion once everything falls into place. You have humanity and God on your side, Senator. But you have to be patient.”
It was a frustrating dilemma. Senator Kelly entered this campaign not having to fudge his remarks. It was one of his strengths. He made his positions clear and people latched onto it. Now he had to be careful with his rhetoric. Men like Charles Xavier and Graydon Creed were making this whole affair more complicated. It hardly seemed fair when he knew in his heart that he was doing the right thing for the human race.
“It’s times like this I envy men like Cameron Hodge,” sighed Senator Kelly, “If this were a dictatorship, it would be a whole lot easier.”
“God never led men to greatness by making it easy for them,” said Reverend Stryker, “You have to have faith and work with the situations we’re stuck in. If we keep making the wrong moves then rest assured, Charles Xavier will take advantage of it.”
Paramount Studio – Daytime Rundown Stage
Charles Xavier was not used to the Hollywood spotlight. Even though he and his X-men were well-known throughout the world, they were never celebrities in the classic sense. But in wake of the District X incident and the added resources of Aerie Global’s media contacts, he and his X-men found themselves thrust into the role. It was not the most natural fit, but if it helped them in ways that no mutant power could match.
The Professor was already getting his share of the limelight. Lilandra called up a friend of a friend to get him on this highly rated daytime talk show. She even made sure it was an extended special so they could get the biggest possible audience. It wasn’t Oprah level exposure, but it was a good start to this new pro-mutant media campaign.
The show was just beginning. The female host of Daytime Rundown had just finished with the introductions and the opening theme. The applause was dying down and she was on her way down to the set where he was waiting for her. The cameras were rolling and the broadcast was going out live to millions of viewers.
“Welcome to the show Professor Xavier,” said the host as she sat down next to him on the stage, “It’s an honor to have you here.”
“Thank you. It’s an honor to be here,” said Xavier respectfully, “I’m glad I have to chance to be on a show like this.”
“So am I. And I have to say it’s a surprise to many that we’re doing a show like this. I think if we tried this a mere two months ago, we would have a riot worse than the one in District X.”
“I’m unfortunately inclined to agree. There has been quite a shift in sentiment, but for the sake of your studio, your audience, and our lawyers I maintain say it is a pleasant shift.”
That earned him a few laughs. Lilandra told him that it was important to throw a few jokes in here and there. The public would be more receptive if he showed a little humor. Humor was the mark of humanity and humanity was their best weapon against bigotry.
“I would have to agree. But staying on topic here, let’s discuss that shift. Because it wasn’t long ago that the mere mention of mutants was striking fear in everybody. We heard men like Senator Kelly speaking passionately about the dangers of allowing mutation to go unregulated. District X made it painfully apparent that these dangers are more complex, wouldn’t you say so?”
“I wouldn’t necessarily call them dangers,” Xavier explained, “Mutants are human beings, just like anyone else. The only thing that sets them apart is the X-gene in their DNA, which gives them their abilities.”
“I understand that. But skipping the science for a moment, even you have to agree with Senator Kelly on some points. Mutants do have the potential to do grave harm. I see some mutants with abilities that I wouldn’t want to be around.”
“There is some truth to this concern, but the same concern could be held for any group of people that feels pressured. With or without mutant powers, they can create just as much danger. Just look at what the Friends of Humanity were capable of through sheer bigotry. These people, who pride themselves on their hatred of mutants, were able to create the kind of destruction that New York City is still cleaning up. All in the name of opposing what they see as a threat. I’m here to say on behalf of all mutants that this kind of hatred is more dangerous than any mutant.”
“That’s a bold statement, Professor,” said the host critically.
“I know it is. And I know many will disagree with it. But I’m willing to go beyond the hatred and bigotry so we can work through these disagreements. If we don’t, they’ll end up destroying us both.”
“Then what do you say to those who single out mutants powers we can all agree have dangerous powers? We pulled some clip from past mutant incidents. The danger posed by mutants is as unavoidable as it is unique.”
She was getting to the harder hitting questions. Up on a monitor that was visible to the whole audience, a few clips played of mutants displaying vast but uncontrolled power. Some of those images included his own X-men. There were images of Cyclops without his visor unleashing a dazzling burst of destructive blasts. There were images of Iceman during their vigilante days where he ended up freezing half a city block. There were other images depicting mutants who weren’t involved in X-men level activities. One was a young girl, who he remembered as a Morlock, stumbling around randomly knocking people unconscious whenever she touched them. There was another clip of a seemingly normal-looking school boy with purple hair laughing as he used psychic abilities to control his teacher and classmates, causing them great discomfort in the process. It painted a pretty grim scenario for mutants, but Charles Xavier remained calm and ready to respond.
“It’s true. There are mutants out there that struggle with control. But I would argue that these are the people who need the most help. Nobody in those clips chose to be a mutant. They didn’t choose their powers either. It is something they were born with. It can be a burden if not treated properly. But it can also be a gift once they learn to control it and I believe these gifts can serve humanity in many positive ways.”
“And you feel you and your X-men are equipped to handle it?”
“We do our best with the resources we have,” smiled Xavier.
“And you have quite a few,” said the host as more images of the X-men came up, “Your own mansion, your own private jet, and some very interesting uniforms to say the least. Yet you say this is a school?”
“It’s true. The Xavier Institute is indeed a legitimate school. We are certified by the New York Department of Education. My X-men attend classes and take tests like any other students,” said Charles, “I’ve always felt that education is the key towards a greater understanding for anyone, mutant or otherwise.”
“So where do the heroics come in?”
“The heroics are a secondary aspect that emerged out of necessity. While I am a staunch believer in education, I understand the sensitive nature of human/mutant conflict. Normal authorities are not always equipped to handle it and I believe that part of gaining acceptance from humanity involves demonstrating that we can police ourselves. That is where my X-men come in. It is through these acts that we hope to show the world that mutants can not only co-exist in a society, but they can do a great deal of good for the world as a whole.”
“That’s quite an ambitious curriculum for a school,” joked the host, “Tell me, where do you get the money to run an operation like this? Some accuse you of using your psychic abilities to manipulate the stock market.”
“And I can say without hesitation that those accusations are false,” said Xavier confidently, “All my money and resources are legitimate. Most of it comes from family inheritance. Old money if you will.”
“Yes, your family has been subject to a great deal of speculation as well. Your father, Brian Xavier, was quite a Renaissance Man. For his time, his research and the breakthroughs he inspired are rivaled only by the likes of Howard Stark.”
“I don’t think I need to glorify my father any more than he already has. He and my mother made sure the fruits of such labor were protected. I believe that if he and my mother had lived longer, my father would be on the same level as Reed Richards is today.”
“We can only speculate, but let’s talk about some of these fruits. For instance, this jet you and the X-men fly around in seems to many as out of this world.”
“Well as some may already know, my father was a brilliant engineer in addition to being a brilliant scientist. He was ahead of his time in many ways. Many of the components that go into resources like the X-jet as we call it come directly from his patents. I’ve added my share of personal touches as well. His philosophy was always that of an enlightened man who understood the complicated nature of society. That is why I use these resources very carefully.”
“Careful being a relative term, I assume. You and your X-men have left quite a mark in a very literal sense,” joked the host, earning her another round of laughs.
“Like I said, we do our best with the resources we have,” laughed Xavier in good humor.
The host played a little montage of some of the more destructive exploits of his time. District X, Philadelphia, and Genosha were among them. Some even showed the X-men during their masked vigilante days where they engaged in smaller yet equally spectacular feats. There was plenty of destruction to go along with their struggles. They were all serious events, but people seemed to have a greater understanding of these exploits. It was a positive sign if ever there was one.
“Not to make light of such destruction, but let’s get political here,” said the host, earning a few jeers from the audience.
“I’d much rather discuss advanced jets and skin-tight uniforms, but I can talk politics if need be,” quipped Xavier, trying to keep some sense of humor.
“Let’s get right to the main event. I don’t need to tell you the kind of issues Senator Robert Kelly has been raising, but let me play the role of concerned authorities for a moment. These mutants, which you concede struggle with their powers at times, are a unique threat. Say there’s a mutant out there who doesn’t know they’re a mutant. And the day their powers manifest, they can’t control it and as a result people are injured or worse.”
“You’re making an awful lot of assumptions, but I see where you’re going,” said Xavier.
“Right, so then why oppose something like the Mutant Registration Act? Wouldn’t it be reasonable in this particular instance for the government to keep track of mutants for the sake of our nation’s security at large?”
Xavier had a feeling this would come up. In wake of the District X debacle, Senator Kelly had changed the name of his program from the Mutant Containment Act to the Mutant Registration Act. While it sounded less menacing, it still had the same nefarious undertones. Now that he was on live TV and not under duress, he could address this issue truthfully and honestly. This was something every human and every mutant had to confront. It was his responsibility to present it the way it should be.
“To answer that, let me first reference a famous civil rights advocate, Harvey Milk. Most people don’t know of him, but he was the first openly gay man to serve in a public office. And when asked a similar question about the civil rights between heterosexuals and homosexuals, his reasoning was simple. If you can infringe on the rights of one group or even a single individual, then you can infringe on the rights of everyone.”
“But this is very different. The mutant agenda and civil rights involve a unique set of circumstances.”
“I disagree. I believe the circumstances are more similar than we think. Men like Harvey Milk understand that when power is exerted on any one minority, regardless of how good the intentions may be, there is an inevitable push for abuse. What the Mutant Registration Act is proposing involves placing in the hands of the government, a collection of individuals with the same human flaws as everyone else, the power to judge the fate of thousands of mutants. By setting them apart from the rights of other humans, it opens the door to abuse. And abuse only leads to conflict. Conflict leads to violence. That is something we cannot have if there is to be peace and civility between humans and mutants.”
“So mutants like Magneto, who many know you have a history with, are subject to the same conditions as humans? None of whom have the power to end the world like him?”
The Professor shifted uncomfortably at the mention of his old friend. It was never an easy subject to discuss, regardless of whether or not he was on live TV. But he sensed a lot of anxious people in the audience, many of whom were truly afraid of Magneto. They didn’t understand the circumstances of what made him who he was. Even if they did, it may not make them fear him any less. Yet it was that very understanding that was vital to his position.
“With respect to Magneto, I think he offers the strongest proof of all that our current policy towards mutants is wrong.”
“How do you figure?”
“It’s a bit difficult to explain since I know Erik so well, but try and ignore for a moment the egregious acts he committed and understand why wanted to do them in the first place. Erik, like so many other mutants, was born human like everyone else. It was the horrors he experienced, many of which are too personal for me to even hint at, that drew him away from his humanity. And the further he strayed and the further he was pushed by human bigotry, the worse it got.”
The Professor’s expression grew solemn as he reflected on his friend. It was a look the cameras were quick to focus in on. It added a very human face to a very complex issue.
“It has gotten to the point where Magneto has little semblance of humanity left. That’s why he calls himself Magneto and not Erik Lensherr. Because of how the world has rejected him, he is left only with anger and hatred. The same can happen to anyone who endures such hardship. Rip away their humanity and they will commit the most heinous of deeds. It doesn’t matter if they’re a criminal, a despot, or even a politician. Anyone is capable of crossing that line. Erik just happened to be a mutant.”
Xavier paused for a moment to gather himself. He was now speaking to the camera and the millions watching. He wanted everyone to hear his message.
“It is for that reason that we as a civilization must seek peace between humans and mutants. Because as soon as you start separating them, either by government registration or by forcing them onto their own island, you separate them from their humanity. The same applies to mutant powers as it does to political power. It is our humanity, that light inside us all compels us to value our lives and the lives of others, that we must all defend. In a ways my X-men have nothing to do with mutants. We are all about humanity and defending it from those who would destroy it. Because without humanity, there can be no hope for either side.”
Those powerful words earned Charles Xavier a round of applause from the audience. They were heartfelt and sincere. He didn’t speak to a political agenda. He simply stated his goal and why he believed it was right. Even for the ardent anti-mutant bigots in the crowd, it was a belief worthy of admiration.
Professor Xavier smiled as the crowd cheered. The host remained silent, giving time for the commotion to die down. He didn’t expect to get so personal, but was glad he did. This was just what his cause needed. The public had to know that his X-men truly were a force for good. If they could better understand why they did what they did, then they would have fewer reasons to fear them and more reasons to support their cause.
“On that note, we’ll take a quick break,” said the host, signaling the cameras to pan out and the audience to applaud again, “And when we come back, we’ll go a little further into the lives of the X-men. I’m sure you have plenty of stories to tell us!”
“I’m looking forward to it,” smiled Professor Xavier, “I’m sure you’ll find my X-men are not as different from the rest of the world as they’re made out to be.”
“Guess we’ll find out after a quick word from our sponsors. Stay tuned for more Daytime Rundown!”
Baltimore Maryland – Downtown
“ERRRRRRRRR! BACK OFF, X-MEN! COME ONE STEP CLOSER AND I’LL SKIN YOU ALIVE!” roared an enraged Feral.
“Take it easy, Feral! Save the bloodlust for Wolverine! He’s better at it!” replied Cyclops as he, and Wolverine chased after the wayward mutant.
“You know, I’m standin’ right next to you, bub!” snarled Wolverine.
“I know. Just trying to keep her from stealing your bit. I know how sentimental you are about your routine.”
“Shut up, one-eye. I liked you better when you were moping about your brother!”
As annoyed as Wolverine was by Cyclops’s comments, he had a few too many distractions to yell at him over it. It was the middle of the afternoon and they were hot on the trail of Feral, the former Morlock who played a major role in the Philadelphia incident. She had been on the run ever since the Morlocks kicked her out of their lair. While Berserker and Callisto showed remorse for going along with Random, Feral did not and decided she wasn’t done causing trouble.
Now she no longer had the support of the Morlocks. To make matters worse, she was still wanted for her involvement in that affair. And since Professor Xavier was pushing them to get cozier with the authorities, they decided to help out. However, Feral wouldn’t go down without a fight.
“You’ll never take me! I won’t let you throw me in a cell like my father did!”
“Great, now she’s throwing her Daddy issues at us!” groaned Wolverine, “Just shoot her already, Cyke!”
“I’m trying! She’s a nimble little beast!” said the X-leader as he fired a series of concentrated bursts that all went astray.
Dashing across a series of rooftops, Cyclops and Wolverine kept pace with the determined mutant. They naively thought they could get the jump on Feral. After calling in a favor from the Morlocks, they tracked her to an old apartment building in Baltimore. They tried to corner her and take care of this before she could make a scene, but she sensed them coming and took off. Now they had to stop her before she hurt someone.
The two X-men watched as she skillfully leapt across a wide gap between two apartment buildings. She landed perfectly on her feet and kept on going, slashing through various clothes that were hanging on clotheslines in the process. They tried jumping after her. Wolverine just barely made it across, landing right near the edge of the roof. Cyclops came up short and landed right on the fire escape that ran along the side of the building. His lack of animal agility was quickly catching up with him.
“Damn it! Keep going, Wolverine!” the X-leader ordered, “I’ll catch up!”
“You always were slow, Cyke! I feel bad for Jeannie!” snarled Wolverine as he continued the chase.
Before Cyclops could yell out a quip, Wolverine tore through the hanging clotheslines and drew closer to Feral. She was trying to ditch him around a few air-conditioning units and utility ducts. But Wolverine stayed on her. He could sense she was running out of stamina and escape routes. Even though she had animal-like agility, it was no match for enhanced senses and a healing factor. It was only a matter of time before he wore her down.
Panting heavily and growling with intent, Feral leapt over another air conditioning unit and ran towards the next ledge. This one was even wider than before. She knew she could make it. She was pretty sure Wolverine would come up short. This could be her best chance to escape.
“Stick to daytime talk shows, X-men!” she spat as she neared the ledge, “You’re not going to catch me! So take one last look at my ass before kissing it goodbye!”
She was about to make her acrobatic leap, but before she could reach the ledge she came across an unexpected obstacle. A figure appeared in a puff of sulfurous smoke. It was Nightcrawler and he timed his appearance perfectly.
“Not zhis time, Feral!” he called out.
Using his own agility, Nightcrawler pulled off a skillful jump kick and hit Feral right in the chest. She was moving so fast she couldn’t stop herself soon enough to move out of the way. She took the blow right to the chest and was knocked back into the air conditioning unit.
“Errrrrrrr, get out of my way!” she roared.
“Do you Americans ever say please?” chided Nightcrawler.
Feral lunged forth to attack Nightcrawler, but then Wolverine caught up with her. He leapt up on top of the unit and pounced, letting out his own predatory howl as he tackled her onto the hard pavement and pinned her into submission.
“That’s far enough, lady!” he snarled as he held her down, “You don’t want this to go on any longer! You’ll only end up pissing me off!”
“Listen to him, Feral,” urged Nightcralwer, “Zhe last zhing you vant to do is piss Wolverine off more than he usual.”
“A little late for that,” muttered the feral mutant.
“Is zhere any chance you’re willing to be reasonable? Ve can help you if you cooperate.”
“Errrrrrrr never!” she roared.
In a sudden burst of strength, Feral slipped out of Wolverine’s grip and slashed her cat-like claws right across his face. She dug deep into his flesh, getting one of his eyes in the process. It caught the former living weapon off guard and forced him off her.
“Rrrrahhhh!” he roared.
“Logan!” exclaimed Nightcrawler.
“Back off!” Feral growled.
Using her nimble form, she struck Nightcrawler with a drop kick of her own. He was only able to partially dodge it, but still had to get out of the way. It gave Feral the brief window she needed to get back to the ledge.
“I should have known the Morlocks would betray me! But you X-men are worse! You betrayed mutants everywhere!” she growled, “You’re just whores to the human masses! You’ll put a smile on their face, but you’ll never win them over!”
Growling with intent, she leapt for the other ledge. If the X-men were smart, they would not follow. But while she was in mid-air, she was met with another surprise. Just as she was about halfway between buildings, she was latterly plucked out of the sky by a winged figure.
It was Angel and he had been tracking her movements the whole time from above. As soon as he saw her attack Wolverine and Nightcrawler, he flew in to make his move. He made it just in time too because now Feral had nowhere to go.
“Errrrr! Let go of me!” she demanded as she struggled in Angel’s gasp.
“At this height, you don’t want that,” he taunted, “Just because cat’s land on their feet don’t mean they land in once piece.”
“I’LL TAKE MY CHANCES! LET GO!”
She started swiping at him, showing little regard for the dangers of falling. Shaking his head, Angel decided to end it.
“Well…I tried,” he sighed.
While secure in his arms he delivered the knock-out blow in the form of a head-butt. This effectively knocked Feral into a submissive daze, finally leaving her docile. It was a good thing too because the winged mutant got a few nicks and scratches while she was struggling. She probably would have done much worse if he gave her the chance.
Now that the chase was over, Angel flew back down to the rooftops. Nightcrawler had recovered and Wolverine was still clutching his eye. It was nothing his healing factor couldn’t handle, but that didn’t make it any less painful. Cyclops had also caught up with them, his hand cautiously on his visor in case Feral awakened.
“Is she out?” he asked as Angel set her down.
“It’s okay. She’s not getting up anytime soon. I made sure of it,” assured the winged mutant, rubbing his head a bit.
“Lucky girl,” snarled Wolverine, “I don’t get over swipes to the eye that quickly.”
“Considering you didn’t go into a berserker rage the second you pounced her, I’d say that’s still a positive,” grinned Cyclops, “I actually thought you were going to make this another big mess.”
“You would, one-eye,” growled the feral mutant, “You and the kitten here are just lucky I’m in a decent mood.”
“If this is what you call decent, I’d say the bar pretty low,” commented Angel, “But I’ll take it. If Wolverine is in a decent mood after a fight like this, I think that shows real progress.”
“Definitely!” said Nightcrawler, “But I have to wonder how much of it is because of your recent dealings vith a certain white-haired voman.”
That earned the German mutant a slight scorn from Wolverine, but it quickly turned into a light grin (at least as much of a grin that Wolverine could muster). Word spread fast about his recent hook-up with Storm. If the noises they made their first night together didn’t tip them off, their disheveled state the next morning sure did. The look on Gambit’s face alone was enough to make him forget about how much his eye stung.
It was an exciting new development for the former living weapon. It was coming in wake of many other dramatic changes. In the week since the District X incident they had gone from public enemies to heroes. It was a dramatic shift. Graydon Creed’s hate-filled rant had been playing nonstop on the news and the internet, making the anti-mutant crowd the bad guys they deserved to be. It was nice to be respected again. Only this time, they were intent on keeping that title.
“Don’t get cute with me, elf. I’ll spill the details on what Ro and I do behind closed doors when you start tellin’ us what kind of underwear Amanda wears,” said Wolverine.
“Fair enough,” shrugged the German mutant.
“Could we not get into a discussion about relationships?” groaned Angel, “I am the only single guy here, you know?”
“And who’s fault is that?” chided Wolverine.
“Enough Wolverine,” said Cyclops seriously, “Angel’s right. We’ll have plenty of time for panty talk after we turn Feral over to the authorities. I already called them before we went in. They should be waiting below.”
“Better make sure they have heavy duty cuffs,” commented Angel, “I don’t think Feral’s going to go quietly even after she wakes up in jail.”
“You’re probably right, mien friend. I almost feel sorry for her,” said Nightcrawler.
There was a brief silence over the X-men as they looked at the unconscious mutant. She proved to be a tenacious fighter, not just here but back in Philadelphia. Not much was known about her, but if her ramblings about her family and betrayal were any indication she did not have a pleasant back story. But it wasn’t just her history that struck them. There were other ramblings that got them thinking as well.
“I don’t know. She doesn’t strike me as worthy of much sympathy,” said Wolverine, “But I think she had a point.”
“About what?” asked Cyclops.
“About us being whores,” said the former living weapon, “Since Chuck began the whole media blitz, we’re basically dancing for the cameras.”
“That doesn’t necessary make us whores, Herr Logan. If zhat is even zhe appropriate term,” said Nightcrawler.
“He’s right,” said Cyclops, “We’re not selling ourselves. We’re not pandering to the media for the sake of celebrity either. We’re doing it to further our cause. Someone has to put themselves out there to oppose men like Senator Kelly.”
“And besides, it’s not like we’re being chased by paparazzi or anything,” said Angel.
But as soon as the winged mutant uttered these words, the X-men noticed another commotion gathering down below. Across the streets, the police Cyclops had called earlier caught up with them. But they weren’t alone. Following close behind were a number of news crews and photographers. It was an unusual sight for the X-men because they were so used to authorities heckling them. Now they faced a different kind of heckling.
”There they are! It’s the X-men!”
“Get me a bigger camera! I want to get some close ups!”
“Which ones are there? Is that hot redhead with them? She always makes a good cover!”
As a crowd gathered below Angel shifted uncomfortably.
“You were saying, bird boy?” said Wolverine.
“I’ll start biting my tongue now,” he muttered.
“I’ll still take it. It’s a step in the right direction,” said Cyclops as he took the unconscious body of Feral in his arms, “Professor Xavier said it himself. We’re going to face a new level of scrutiny under this new plan of his.”
“Zhen I vote ve put together some new scenarios in zhe Danger Room,” said Nightcrawler as he gazed anxiously at the paparazzi, “Not all of us are camera friendly.”
“Speak for yourself, bub,” muttered Wolverine, “All this exposure can’t be good for a guy with a past as fucked up as mine. For all I know these assholes just reminded someone how much they want to kill me.”
Nobody seemed very enthused anymore. Even after successfully subduing a mutant, they had another challenge to deal with. It seemed daunting in its own right, but Cyclops wouldn’t have it.
“Enough you guys! I get it! It’s a new challenge, but new challenges are part of the X-men gig last I checked,” said the X-leader as he started making his way down the fire escape, “We have to do what we can with the opportunities we’re given. We’re in a unique position here. So let’s make the best of the chances we get.”
“Chances…right,” said Angel.
The team fell silent as they followed Cyclops down the fire escape towards the ground below. But Angel lingered a bit. Looking down at the crowd of cops and photographers, he couldn’t help but feel a little anxious. He already had a public face, but unlike the others he had his family business to worry about and that’s why he still wore a mask. It didn’t used to bother him, but ever since his father opened the doors for him to join Worthington Industries again he had been looking at it in a new light. He hadn’t told the others about it. Only the Professor knew the details. He was still wrestling with it and this new scrutiny from the media wasn’t making it easier.
Even if their job was more difficult now, Cyclops had a point. They were in a unique situation with a unique opportunity. The more they saw this new status quo unfold, the more they would have to adapt their methods.
“Are you coming, mien friend?” asked Nightcrawler with friendly concern.
“I’ll catch up,” said Angel as he took to the air, “Just…give me a moment. I have some thinking to do.”
Xavier Institute – Backyard Pool
With Professor Xavier doing talk shows and a few others out looking for Feral, the Xavier Institute was quieter than usual. For Jean Grey, it was a welcome shift. Quiet was good when she was dealing with migraines. They continued to plague her despite their sudden upturn in luck. They were no longer getting worse with each passing day. They still hurt, but she learned to manage.
It had been a while since her experience in Magneto’s machine. Yet the effects continued to linger. It didn’t make sense. Why were they plaguing her? Why weren’t they waning? The only other time they had been this bad was during her darkest days at the mental asylum. She shuttered at the memories, but she had survived that ordeal. What she was experiencing now was different. She thought these migraines were the product of stress and a fragile mental state. Now she was beginning to wonder if they weren’t a sign of something more.
‘To hell with, migraines. Why didn’t Magneto get these oh so pleasant side-effects from using that machine? How is that fair? At least they’ve stopped getting worse. Now how do I make them go away?’
Jean contemplated these issues as she lay on her stomach in her bikini, trying to soak up some sun. It was such a beautiful day out and a little fresh air usually did wonders for more than just migraines. She was going to need a clear head for classes later on. Everyone was falling behind once again. Despite the Professor’s new media campaign, the Xavier Institute was still a school last she checked.
Sighing to herself, Jean turned over so she was lying on her back now. As she got comfortable again, she sensed a presence approach her.
“Hello Jean. I see you’re taking advantage of the nice weather,” greeted Ororo Munroe, who was also in a bikini.
“I can’t help it, Miss Munroe. There’s only so many hours I can spend staring at a textbook before my sanity catches up with me,” said Jean as she stretched her limbs, “Oh how I miss recess.”
“It’s perfectly understandable. The same could be said for grading papers and organizing the Professor’s media calendar,” said Ororo as she sat down on the chair next to her and started applying some sunscreen.
“You’re the one handling that? You have my sympathies,” said Jean with a slight laugh, “How’s that going by the way?”
“As well as can be expected,” she said, “Talk shows, newspapers, and radio programs all want to weigh in on the X-men now.”
“Almost makes you feel like we’re the latest iphone, doesn’t it?”
“Except what we’re selling isn’t nearly as marketable,” Ororo sighed, “With so many people vying for input, I’m not sure if Charles has the strength to handle them all.”
“He’ll be fine. He’s tougher than his wheelchair would have you believe. If we can handle Magneto, Sinister, and the Friends of Humanity we can handle a little celebrity.”
“I hope you’re right, Jean.”
The African woman said as she relaxed back onto the chair. Like Jean, she had a strong affinity for pleasant days like this. It also helped she could use her powers to make sure it stayed that way. Normally she didn’t change conditions unless it was necessary, but given how busy they had been lately she was willing to make exceptions.
It wasn’t just duties as a media secretary that left her in need of relaxation either. Since that fateful night with Logan she had been very busy in her personal life as well, but in a good way. Her blossoming relationship was surreal in many ways. She went above and beyond for that man, pushing him in just the right ways when he was prepared to leave the X-men behind. After the revelations from Sinister, he was only now getting past that unpleasant stage where he shut everybody out. He was actually reaching out to her so he could pull himself together. It really brought them closer and now they were building an exciting new relationship from it. Others were already taking notice and Jean was no exception.
“So are you going to start splurging about Logan or am I going to have to read your mind for the juicy details?” said Jean coyly.
“I had a feeling you would bring that up,” smirked the African woman.
“You’re lucky I’ve been dealing with migraines because I would have been the first to call you out. I know Logan is my ex and all, but we’re still close and I like to keep up with his sordid affairs.”
“Well I wouldn’t go so far as to call it sordid, Jean. What happened between us was…profound for lack of a better word.”
“I’m not making light of that, but I think you’re ignoring some of the lesser details. You two have been projecting some racy thoughts and I have noticed you walking with that oh so telling stride that cries ‘Logan and I are having sex!’”
Ororo blushed at Jean’s lurid assessment. For someone who was so mature, her youthful spirit was still apparent. It was awkward discussing such matters with someone who was still technically her student, but she also happened to be Logan’s ex-girlfriend and a powerful psychic. So hiding such details from her was unrealistic at best.
“It’s okay. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” said Jean with a friendly smile, “I’ve had that glowing look too. And really, I’m happy to see you with him. Logan deserves someone like you.”
“Coming from his ex-lover I appreciate that,” said Ororo, “But seeing as how you’re so familiar with the more intimate aspects of dating Logan, I don’t think I need to go into too much detail about how detailed our liaisons have become.”
“Touché,” said Jean, now blushing a bit as well.
“But I meant what I said. The way we came together was very different compared to my previous relationship with Hank. It was…unexpected with Logan. When he first joined, I wasn’t sure what to make of him. He was a mystery and not very social for that matter. I never got how you managed to reach him. I didn’t understand how anyone could reach him.”
“It’s not easy, that’s for sure,” said Jean, “But for all his brutish nature, Logan does have a big heart. It’s just a matter of coaxing it out of him.”
“I’ll say. And it helps to get a few beers in him,” smirked Ororo.
“That too,” laughed Jean.
“But mystery aside, the more time I spent with him the more I started to admire him. It only got deeper as I was going through my breakup with Hank and he was dealing with the Sinister incident. I suppose the timing was right for us. We supported each other when we needed it and now it’s led to something more.”
“Yeah, I know what that’s like. Sometimes when you start seeing someone in a new light, it’s hard not feel all sorts of crazy emotions,” said Jean distantly, thinking back to how she and Scott got closer after the Savage Land.
Ororo was silent for a moment as she reflected on where they stood. Her relationship with Logan was still new. There were a whole host of issues they hadn’t addressed. Unlike Hank, she didn’t know Logan on as many personal levels. It was made all the more challenging because even he didn’t know some of those detaisl. It was something they were going to have to work through if this was to be serious, but it was a challenge she was more than up to.
“I should probably give you fair warning though. Dating Logan is not easy,” said Jean, “He’s not the most charming boyfriend to say the least and he does have a tendency to be a jerk sometimes.”
“Yes, I understand Logan has his share of faults, but I’m willing to accept them. I do have some experience in dating deviants. Remy did his share of drinking back in New Orleans and his background isn’t squeaky clean to say the least.”
“As if his incessant urge to cheat at poker wasn’t proof enough,” said Jean, “Although I would argue Logan tells dirtier jokes.”
“If you knew Remy as well as me, you wouldn’t say that with nearly as much humor,” said Ororo, “In addition, I also have experience dating those with more primal tendencies. Hank may not show it as much, but I can tell you with certainty that he does have a feral side…one that’s just as intense as Logan’s at times.”
“Say no more. I’d rather have those images in my mind when I’m taking notes on his lectures,” said Jean, blushing again.
“As you wish,” she laughed, “But generally speaking, if the past week is any indication, I see true potential with me and Logan. We can relate to one another. We can understand each other. And we don’t have the kind of uncertainty that plagued us in our previous relationships…no offence, Jean.”
“None taken,” said Jean, “We’ve long since gotten over that.”
“At the same time it does feel different with him. I honestly believe there’s something deeper between us…something that’s worth exploring.”
Jean looked over and studied her teacher’s demeanor. Ororo appeared to be taking this very seriously. This wasn’t just some fling. There was no getting lost in the emotions or losing herself in the moment. It was a lot different than how she and Logan got together and she didn’t have complications like her feelings for Scott. Ororo really had something going with Logan. She may not understand all the circumstances surrounding it, but it seemed honest and sincere.
“Well I’ve heard all I need to hear,” said Jean with a smile, “From Logan’s ex-girlfriend to Logan’s new girlfriend, I wish you luck.”
“Thank you, Jean. I appreciate that,” said Ororo, smiling back, “Any other advice you care to give me? I suppose it never hurts to have some extra insight.”
“Just be calm, be patient, and be there when he needs you,” replied Jean, “Logan is a complicated man. Sometimes you have to push him. He does have a tendency to lose himself in his anger.”
“Yes, I’m beginning to learn that as well.”
“Be sure that you keep learning. And one more thing,” said Jean, her becoming serious, “Logan’s past…it’s messed up to say the least. Expect it to remain an issue no matter what. But be ready for a few particularly difficult revelations. I know the past is supposed to be past, but it may end up effecting the two of you whether you like it or not.”
It was probably the most serious advice she could offer. Jean still remembered that fateful discovery about Rose. That woman may have been in the past, but her memory deeply affected now their relationship ended. She knew first hand just how many gaps there were in Logan’s memory. There was no telling what they may reveal.
Ororo may not have understood the darker details, but she sensed in Jean’s tone just how serious she was.
“I’ll keep that in mind, Jean,” said Ororo as she laid back on the chair, “It’s good to know that if I ever need help with my relationship with Logan, I have someone to turn to.”
“Sure thing, Miss Munroe,” laughed Jean, “And so long as the student is assisting the teacher with such a juicy affair, any chance I can get some homework waived?”
“Don’t push it,” laughed the African woman.
“Couldn’t hurt to try,” sighed Jean.
The two women shared a round of laughter as they continued soaking up the sun. They were lucky in many ways. They each had their own blossoming relationship to help them through these difficult times. With the stakes constantly changing in the human/mutant conflict, it was nice to have something special and personal to hold onto.
Xavier Institute – Library
Up in the library, it was study hall for a number of X-men. Bobby and Kitty had a few tests to catch up on and Remy and Rogue were working on a few reports. Hank was there supervising and helping as needed. But nobody was in a very scholarly mood.
It hardly seemed fair that some of them were drudging along with schoolwork and classes while others were out on missions smiling for the cameras. They even had the talk-show where Xavier was a guest playing on the TV. Hank, who was supervising their studies, had turned it off twice already. But even he was curious about it so he ended up keeping it on.
“Wow, the Professor isn’t half bad on the talk circuit,” commented Kitty, who was sitting at a table with her laptop with Rogue and Remy, “He’s actually putting images on TV that give us a good name.”
“As long as mutants don’t end up on Jerry Springer, Ah guess it’s a good thing,” said Rogue as she thumbed through her textbook, paying little attention to the TV, “Beats the hell of tryin’ to win people over by stoppin’ doomsday every other week.”
“I’m surprised we didn’t think of this sooner! We’re getting our message across, we’re proving to people we’re not monsters, and we’re showing up Senator Kelly! What could be better?”
“As long as he doesn’t go too overboard, Ah’ll tolerate it. But we got former thieves, living weapons, and guys with blue fur runnin’ around. That ain’t the kind of thing you wanna throw on TV every other day.”
“My ears are burning,” snickered Hank from across the library, who buried himself in a pile of books like always.
“No offence, Mr. McCoy,” Rogue called out, “Ah’m just saying we ain’t primed for the celebrity gig.”
“I don’t know about that. We do live pretty exciting lives here,” argued Kitty, “The rate he’s going we could probably make a series of our heroics!”
“Yeah right, Kitty. A series about the X-men? Who the heck would watch that?” scoffed Rogue.
“Hey, there are stranger things on TV these days,” shrugged Kitty, “What do you think, Remy?”
The Cajun mutant, who was sitting next to Rogue, didn’t respond at first. He was a bit distracted at the moment. His eyes were focused outside where Jean and Ororo were sunbathing in bikinis. Such a sight along with daytime talk show drabble made it hard to focus.
“Remy? Hey Remy!” Kitty shouted.
“Huh?! Oh uh…what were you saying, petite?” said the Cajun incredulously.
“You know what? Never mind,” said Kitty, rolling her eyes.
Remy shifted sheepishly. Rogue gave him a quick elbow to the shoulder, letting him know she was aware of what he was looking at. And she didn’t exactly approve.
“Do you have to act so dang immature?” chided Rogue, “Does everything that even remotely resembles legs and breasts have to distract you?”
“Take it easy, cherè. Ain’t like Remy’s flirting with two femmes who be taken, one of which happens to be Wolverine,” argued the Cajun, rubbing his sore shoulder, “Even Remy ain’t that bold.”
“If only you sounded more convincing,” she muttered.
Rogue’s expression grew bitter as she turned back to her books. Now Remy felt like a heel. He hoped by now Rogue would be over the novelty of him enjoying the sight of attractive women. Even though they maintained a strict friendship policy, it still bothered her every time he flirted with women or looked around. She claimed it didn’t bother her as much as it used to. She claimed she was used to not being able to touch again. But she was hardly convincing to say the least.
Sighing to himself, Remy closed his philosophy book and turned towards Rogue. Their history may be complicated, but he cared when she looked hurt.
“Aw, don’t be giving Remy the cold shoulder, cherè,” he coaxed.
“If you think that puppy-dog look is gonna win meh over, you’re wastin’ your time,” said Rogue as she stayed focused on her textbook.
“Don’t be actin’ like Remy the most obnoxious homme in the world. Heck, he ain’t the most insensitive homme in the room.”
To prove his point, Remy directed Rogue’s gaze to the couch that ran adjacent to the table. There, Bobby was supposed to catching up on a reading assignment. Instead, he was fast asleep in a comically disheveled position with his book messily folded up on his chest. He was lightly snoring and there was a small trail of drool trailing down the side of his mouth. It was not the most foolish position they had seen one of their teammates in, but it was right up there.
“Ah stand corrected,” said Rogue, unable to keep herself from laughing.
“Don’t start you guys. How do you think I feel?” said an all too aware Kitty Pryde.
“You have our sympathies, petite,” snickered Remy, “He always such a heavy sleeper?”
“Why are you asking me?”
“Well with all the personal time you be spendin’ with him Remy figures you would know best,” said the Cajun.
Kitty blushed profusely at such an insinuation. She should have expected as such from the Cajun. But it still left her mortified.
“You know what? Rogue was right! You are immature!” she spat.
The younger mutant then slammed her books shut and got up to sit at another table. She was pretty loud, but it still didn’t wake Bobby up. It did cause him to stir though and a few incoherent words did come out.
“Hnn…five more minutes, mommy,” the Iceman grumbled.
Rogue could only laugh some more. She had to admit, Remy had a way of getting his point across. Between Bobby’s napping and Kitty’s outburst, immaturity wasn’t exclusive to cocky Cajun thieves.
“Okay, that’s two Ah owe you,” Rogue conceded.
“Glad we got that over with,” grinned Remy, “Now you gonna tell me what else be wrong? Remy knows the difference between that charming personality of yours and a full on outburst.”
“If Ah said Ah don’t wanna talk about it, would you leave meh alone?” she replied.
“Depends on how much you underestimate Remy’s patience,” said the Cajun coyly.
Rogue gave him another look. But he kept on grinning. Few people could get under her skin more than this man. It made it near impossible to keep her deeper frustrations to herself. It didn’t help that Remy also knew how to pester her. He would not give anything a rest until he found some way to make her cave. For something like this, she might as well save herself the trouble.
Letting out an exasperated sigh, Rogue turned back to the TV where Xavier was still doing his thing. He was talking articulately and smiling, earning his share of laughs and applause. He really was working hard to put the X-men in a new light and that was part of what troubled her.
“It just seems like everyone’s been dang busy lately,” Rogue began, “This new media blitz the Professor is pushin’ is already cuttin’ into our time here. Now we don’t just got class and missions to worry about. We gotta find time to smile for the cameras.”
“And why does that be a bad thing?” asked Remy.
“It’s just like Kitty said. Some of us ain’t too camera friendly. God only knows how many enemies you got out there. And Ah got a psycho-killer mother runnin’ around. The last thing Ah need is the dang press on mah back.”
“That can’t be everything, cherè. It ain’t like the Professor is draggin’ us in front of the cameras with him. You know how big he be on privacy.”
“Maybe so. But that doesn’t mean it ain’t affecting us,” said Rogue as she kept her eyes on the TV screen, “Now that the Professor, Beast, and the rest of the crew is caught up in TV spots, Ah get the feelin’ that helpin’ meh with mah powers ain’t a major priority anymore.”
“Ah…yeah, Remy can see that,” said the Cajun, his tone becoming serious as well.
Rogue fell silent for a moment as she grew fixated on the TV screen. Remy reached over and placed a hand on top of her covered arm. It was easy to forget after aliens, politicians, and the Friends of Humanity that she was still struggling with her powers. She was still unable to touch and they heard little from Beast or the Professor in terms of progress. Remy could see why their latest endeavor might be a little disheartening for her.
“It still bothers meh. With each day that passes, it seems less and less likely Ah’ll ever be able to touch again,” she said distantly, “Ah’m startin’ to forget what it feels like. Ah ain’t so much felt a warm hand on mah face since Sinister made meh his guinea pig. Now Ah’m startin’ to wonder if Ah should start preparing mah self for the worst.”
“What qualifies as worst?” asked Remy anxiously.
“That Ah might never touch again,” she said, having to conceal a touch of sadness in her tone, “You remember better than anyone how bad it was when Ah lost control the second time. If Ah get the word there ain’t no going back, Ah don’t know how Ah’m gonna react. Ah just know it won’t be pretty.”
“Remy don’t even wanna think about that,” said Remy, giving her arm a firm squeeze, “But you shouldn’t either, cherè. You know the folks here ain’t gonna let you go through that.”
“Yeah, Ah know the Professor promised to help meh gain control again. And Ah believe him. But when it comes down to savin’ the world or helpin’ some messed up gal with her powers, savin’ the world comes first.”
“The world ain’t worth savin’ if the people you care about be suffering. He’ll be gettin’ around to helping you. He be too honorable a homme not to.”
“Maybe so, but at the rate we’re goin’ Ah’ll be old and gray and nobody will wanna touch meh then.”
“Remy will still be there. You can be sure of that,” he assured her, squeezing her arm a little harder.
“Lucky meh,” she said dryly.
“Hey, it be something,” the Cajun retorted, “Just keep hangin’ in there, cherè. Your time will come. And when that day comes, it’ll be all worthwhile.”
His kind words and gentle touch helped Rogue smile again. She turned away from the TV and looked back towards Remy, who seemed as sincere and cocky as ever. He may be overconfident to a fault, but he did know how to make a girl feel better. She still wasn’t sure why he hung around a girl he could never touch. But she was glad he did.
“Ah’m trying to cling to as much hope as Ah can reasonable grasp, which ain’t much to begin with mind you,,” she sighed, “Ah just can’t help but get a little impatient at times.”
“That be unavoidable,” Remy shrugged, “Best you can do is try and appreciate the little moments in the meantime.”
Instead of answering with words, the Cajun responded with actions. With a sneaky grin he took his thick philosophy book and carefully held it over the head of the sleeping Bobby Drake, who was still fast asleep and snoring lightly. Then in a mischievous gesture, he slammed the book shut so it made a loud noise. As soon as it rang out, Bobby shot up.
“Whoa-ahhhhh!” he exclaimed.
He literally stumbled right off the couch. As a result of his shock, his powers kicked in and he unleashed an unexpected ice blast across the room. The blast hit one of the book stacks Hank had next to him. Oddly enough, he was only mildly startled. Having endured plenty of antics from students past and present, there was little that shocked him.
The look on Bobby’s face and the outburst that followed was too much. Rogue had to cover her mouth to keep herself from erupting in laughter. Even Kitty, who was sitting at a table on the other side of the room now, found it funny. The only one who wasn’t laughing was Bobby.
“Ungh! Damn it, Remy? What gives?” he groaned as he struggled up from his disheveled state.
“Sorry there, Drake. Just makin’ a point for the cherè,” grinned the Cajun.
“And Ah would call it a point well-proven!” said Rogue, now allowing herself to smile.
“Anythin’ to make you smile,” Remy added, “This mean now you won’t get on Remy’s back so much for lookin’ at pretty femmes?”
“Don’t push it, Cajun.”
Remy shrugged innocently while Rogue continued to laugh. Bobby still looked confused and groggy. He seemed to know he had been the victim of a joke. Usually he was on the other end of those kinds of stunts. It seemed appropriate though. Rogue needed a good laugh and reason to smile.
Looking at Bobby and back at Remy, she found fewer reasons to be so bitter. It still bothered her that there had been no progress made on her powers and she still worried that she may not touch again for a long time. It didn’t help that she wasn’t the most upbeat person in the world either. Her cynical nature, part of the very reason she called herself Rogue, often clashed with her need to be hopeful. But with close friends like Remy and easy targets like Bobby, she could still keep her spirits up.
Times were tough even if they were getting better. It could be worse though. She could be dealing with her mother. At least she was staying out of the picture. The last thing she needed at a time like this was for family issues to emerge again.
It was the dead of night over the vast cityscape of Cairo. The hot daytime air had ceded to the brisk desert night. It was the paradox of all deserts. In the day the sun burned and at night the cold air blew. It was the perfect environment for all sorts of mysteries. For a line figure standing on a rooftop, one of those mysteries was ready to unfold.
In the heart of a Cairo slum stood a run-down six story building. On the surface, it looked like any other building in a crowded city. The walls were black, the windows were dirty, and the lower entrances were boarded up. For the people walking by below, it was just another structure in a bleak urban landscape. But to the trained eye it was so much more.
Across the street on the roof of another building, a cloaked figure scoped it out using binoculars. The figure was entirely shrouded by a cloak and turban. It concealed a rugged face, an unkempt beard, and an arched disposition. To any casual observer he was just another shadowy figure in an area run by crime and thugs, but there was much more to this figure than anyone could ever know.
‘Midnight in Cairo. Another crime wave sweeping through the city. And several prominent political figures dying in the span of a month. Could these fools be more obvious?’
Carefully perched on the rooftop, the male figure gazed out over the building. As he looked closer he saw a number of figures walk by a window. At first they seemed like normal residents, but upon closer inspection they were revealed to be much more. They were certainly not run-of-the-mill thugs. They wore special outfits that resembled that of a paramilitary force. They were all black, laced with armaments such as knives, pistols, and various tools associated with thieving. But the most defining feature of all was the ominous black cloak with an ominous symbol etched in the back.
“Shadow Kings…” the figure whispered under his breath.
It was a group most were smart enough never to say out loud. In the world of thieving, they were one of the best. They were a small group, tightly lit and loosely organized. They were not thugs like Black Tom or mercenaries like Deadpool. They were a band of thieves, bound by special codes of conduct. They were unique in how they brought people in. They were subtle, efficient, and non-discriminate. Their leaders were the stuff of legend. Some weren’t even sure if they were still alive. Even if they weren’t, their presence was definitely felt by all those who crossed them.
But their mysterious reputation did little to dissuade the lone figure. With a determined grunt, he put away his binoculars and slipped off into the shadows. Once out of sight, he took out a cell phone and made a call to a secure number.
“I was expecting your call.”
“Don’t tell me you’re surprised, Destiny. Your vision was correct once again,” said the cloaked man, “I’ve located a Shadow Kings den. It’s small, but well protected.”
“If it’s protected then that means they’re hiding something.”
“Could it be the lost diary? The one from your vision?”
“Doubtful. A building that small wouldn’t hide something that valuable. But if you ask around a bit, you may find someone who knows where to look.’
“You mean I’ll have to beat the answers out of someone? Sounds simple enough,” the man scoffed.
“It’s never that easy. These are the Shadow Kings. They operate in cells. Only a select few know the location and contents of the larger cells. You’ll have to be careful. If you want to find that diary, you have to find the primary cell that’s guarding it.”
“Don’t worry. You know better than anyone how ‘persuasive’ I can be. Just tell me this is the last lead. I’ve been tracking this diary for months and I’m getting sick of all these loose ends!”
“Patience Raven. It’ll all be worth it. And if my visions are correct, that diary holds the key to stopping a very dark future…a future Azazel gave his life to prevent.”
“Then it’s only fitting I finished what he failed to complete. I’ll call you when I’m done. I shouldn’t be more than fifteen minutes.”
The shadowy figure closed the phone and tossed it aside. Then he slipped further into the shadows where his form changed while he gathered his materials. When he emerged he was no longer the cloaked old man that had been gazing out across the street. He was now Raven Darkholme, or Mystique as those in the criminal underworld knew her.
Now bearing her distinct black outfit, the shape shifter emerged wielding a fully loaded M60 machine gun. Armed to the teeth and determined to complete this task, she prepared for battle. For months since she left Magneto’s team, she had been carrying out her own personal missions. They had since led her down many dark alleys and dead ends. Now with the visions of her friend Destiny guiding her, she felt close to reaching her main goal.
“Thieves, assassins, and dark futures…this lost diary better be worth it!”
Next Issue: Dairy of the Fallen
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