Professor Charles Xavier is fighting for peace and understanding in a world that hates and fears mutants. Together with his X-men, he is on a media campaign to counter growing anti-mutant sentiment. They face skeptical public on one side and a myriad of opposing forces on the other. Through various setbacks and triumphs, he and his students have held their own.
His campaign recently took another major step. The X-men uncovered a potentially volatile situation on Genosha involving spy operations by rogue military forces. It threatened to upset the fragile peace between Genosha and the world. But despite opposition from Magneto’s Brotherhood, now led by Cyclops’s brother, Havok, they were able to defend the fragile peace. It remains tenuous, but Charles Xavier continues to use this peace to reach out to the human world.
In his recent media campaign, he has opened up to the more personal aspects of his cause. In interviews he spoke of how he came to found his institute. One of those stories involved a woman named Moira MacTaggart and her son. His experiences with them played a major role in his past, but they also continue to affect the present as well.
Moira MacTaggart sat restlessly in her bedroom as she flipped through the channels on TV. She was not an avid TV watcher. It was hard to keep up with these things because she was so busy running the Muir Island Institute for Special Research. This facility was her life’s work, dedicated to the further understanding of mutants. She distanced herself from the politics of mutant affairs, but since Charles Xavier entered the spotlight she was drawn back in.
One of the channels was playing clips from Xavier’s recent prime time interview. In it he actually mentioned their history together.
“There are still many mutants out there just like that boy who struggle with their powers and endure many hardships at the hands of bigotry and intolerance. Through my X-men, I seek to help them as the human race continues down this exciting new path.”
That story about how he helped her son, Kevin MacTaggart, was very personal. It inspired not just his cause, but her research as well. It was after that fateful experience she founded this facility as a means to help mutants like her son. She was limited because she was not a mutant. But what she lacked in mutant powers, she made up for in dedication.
Seeing Xavier again brought back many memories for Moira. Their history together was more complicated than he described in the interview. Even though she had a very special place in her heart for Charles Xavier, there were a number of complications that made this all the more difficult on her.
“Are ye still watching the bloody news, Moira?” came a deep accented voice from her bathroom, “Seriously, lass, if you’re going to become a couch potatoes, try watching something less destructive. Like slasher movies.”
Moira laughed as she watched Sean Cassidy enter the room wearing just a white towel around his waist. His hair was still dripping wet from the shower, his rugged complexion looking a lot less frazzled than usually. Showing a genuine concern for her sanity, the middle-aged man sat down next to her on the bed.
“I’m sorry my choice of programming isn’t healthy,” she said, “But it’s not something we can ignore anymore. Especially with Charles putting himself out there like this.”
“I agree. That lad is mighty brave. I don’t blame ye for having a fling with him back in the day. Although if ye keep giving him this kind of attention, I may start to worry.”
“Oh now don’t ye worry about that. Ye know me eyes are only for you know,” said Moira, giving his bear chest some affectionate teasing.
“Just checking, luv,” he grinned, “But you’ve been obsessing over American politics for weeks. Rahne and Kevin are concerned.”
“Kevin knows why I’m doing this,” said Moira distantly, “I haven’t tried explaining myself to Rahne yet. I was hopeing ye could do that. You are her father last I checked.”
“Adopted father,” he corrected, “But she looks at you as her adoptive mother so I think ye owe her a little reassurance.”
Moira shifted as she scooted in closer to Sean. He did have a point. Rahne Sinclair was another unfortunate mutant like her son. Her powers, which involved shape shifting into a wolf-like figure, left her quite vulnerable. Her birth parents were anything but understanding. Sean got her out of that situation, thanks in large part to his own mutant powers that involved sonic energy blasts and flight. Not long after he came across Rahne, they found their way to Muir Island where their lives had been entwined ever since.
Rahne was like the daughter she never had, but always wanted. She was a great influence on Kevin as well, whose condition made it difficult for him to go out and live a normal life. They were like a family, although there were circumstances that made it very unusual.
“I suppose I have been a bit occupied lately,” she sighed, “I still have me work, but everything seems to have stalled. People are more interested in anti-mutant weapons like sentinels. Nobody seems too keen on research that can actually help them.”
“That doesn’t mean ye should stop. There are a lot of lads out there depending on this research...Kevin being one of them.”
“Aye, I haven’t forgotten,” she said distantly, “But me latest tests shows Kevin’s powers becoming unstable again. I’m not sure how much more we can do. I’m worried we may have to take more drastic measures.”
Her tone shifted, becoming more anxious. Sean tried to reassure her, gently cupping her chin and offering a warm smile.
“It won’t come to that, luv. We’ll figure something out,” he assured her, “I already cashed in a favor from me old friend, John Proudstar, at White Cell. So far he and that Forge fellow he brought in have been hard at work. He says he’s close to finishing something that could help Kevin and every mutant like him.”
“But it still worries me,” she said distantly, “Years ago, Charles Xavier taught him humanity and how to never lose hope. Sometimes I get the feeling he’s forgetting that.”
“Well then we’ll just be having to remind him,” said Sean, “And you know me. I can make my message loud and clear.”
“That ye do. They don’t call ye Banshee for nothing,” said Moira, making a coy remark to his mutant powers.
“I don’t go by that name anymore. But if calling me that helps ye feel better, go right ahead.”
Moira smiled warmly as she sunk into his embrace. Her eyes remained on the TV, which continued to play images of Charles Xavier’s various media reports. He appeared strong to the world at large, standing as a beacon of hope for mutants. While hope may be growing for some, it seemed fleeting for her. Even with the support from her children and lover, she worried about the future of her research and how it would affect her ailing son.
It was happening again. The power was consuming her. Jean Grey felt it in every atom of her body. Her mind was expanding faster than she could keep up with. Her identity, her personality, and her humanity were being burned away.
She was no longer in her home. She wasn’t even on the planet Earth. She was soaring through space, watching as stars and planets passed by her. Her body was consumed by a sea of flames. These flames burned everything around her, but they did not burn her. It was like they were part of her. With every smoldering ember, it gave a feeling beyond anything a mere mortal mind could process. It was terrible and wonderful at the same time.
“I’m coming, Jean. It’s almost time. Embrace me! The destruction…the creation…the darkness…the light…THE POWER!”
It was strange. Those words came from her, but she didn’t recognize the voice. It was as if it was coming from someone else…someone not entirely human. Confusion mixed with exhilaration. Through her celestial voyage, she looked back. Behind her, she saw only destruction and pain. The home she once had, the people she once loved, and the life she once knew was lost. The entire planet Earth had been totally destroyed. She felt nothing for it and yet she felt everything. Through this overwhelming feeling, she wept tears of white hot sorrow.
“My friends…my family…my love! What have I done?!?!?!”
Xavier Institute – Jean’s Bedroom
Jean Grey gasped as she shot up in her bed. Panting heavily and drenched in a cold sweat, the cold sensations of reality washed over her. Confused and overwhelmed, she hugged her shoulders as she fought to collect herself.
Looking around, she saw that she was back home on Earth, lying comfortably under the sheets of her bed. All was quiet. It was pitch black outside. Her alarm clock read three in the mourning. She also realized she was naked and wasn’t the only occupant in her bed. Lying next to her was an equally naked Scott Summers. All around her room, their clothes lay strewn on her floor. It all started coming back to her.
Last night she was dealing with an especially painful migraine. It was so bad she turned in early. Then Scott came to her. He offered to stay with her for the night, which she accepted. He went out of his way to make her feel better. It was his way of repaying her for helping him through his recent troubles with Alex. He held her in his arms, doing his best to sooth away her pain. They went on to make love. It was a passionate, drawn out affair. The heated bliss seemed to wash away her migraine and she fell asleep in his arms.
But the feeling returned and this time it was worse. It felt like more than just a migraine. It was as if her entire being was falling apart. Holding the soft sheets up to her naked body, she closed her eyes and breathed deep. She tried to lock it all away, but the damage had been done.
Her tumultuous state roused Scott from his sleep as well. Feeling a sudden shift in the bed, he groaned softly as he awoke to see his lover in a state of anguish.
“Hnn…Jean?” he said, rising up in the bed, “Are you okay, babe?”
Jean didn’t respond, still trying to gather herself in wake of these tumultuous feelings. She felt Scott’s worried gaze on her. He tenderly slipped his arms around her and pulled her back into his warmth.
“Talk to me, Jean. What’s wrong?” he asked intently.
Jean took a few more deep breaths before leaning into her lover’s embrace.
“It’s nothing, Scott. Just…a bad dream,” she said.
“Are you sure? I’ve never seen a dream bad enough to make you look this tense.”
It was hard to get anything by Scott. Even before they became lovers, he knew her better than anybody. She turned to look into his worried gaze. Even though he was wearing his special sleeping goggles, she could see the concern in his eyes. He wanted to sooth away her anguish. She could feel it in his thoughts, but this wasn’t something he could help her with. Even she wasn’t sure what was going on.
“I…I’ll be okay,” she told him, “Go back to sleep, love.”
“Are you really sure? You don’t sound all that sure,” he said, gently cupping her chin.
“I…I really don’t want to talk about it.”
“Please Scott…just hold me, okay?”
It was a simple request with which he willingly obliged, but Scott remained very concerned. He had seen Jean struggle before, but never like this. She was always so strong, able to handle anything she faced in dreams or real life. This seemed like something far beyond migraines or nightmares.
With his arms still securely around her naked body, they laid back down on the bed together. Scott gently pulled the sheets up over them, allowing her to rest her weary head on his shoulder. Jean continued to breathe deep, clinging to her lover’s body. They eventually nodded off again. Scott fell asleep first, but kept a tight hold on her. Jean’s slowly followed. But even in her peaceful slumber, her mind remained in turmoil.
‘It was just a dream…a terrible dream. Don’t think about it. Don’t even worry about it. It was nothing. Just keep thinking it until it’s true.’
Xavier Institute – The Next Morning
It was breakfast time for the X-men as the team awoke to another day of classes. As usual Remy took on the cooking duties, whipping up a batch of bacon, eggs, and his special Cajun style pancakes. Usually Ororo would be around to help him, but she had a meeting with the Professor. He didn’t mind though. It gave him the opportunity to add a few extra ingredients without being criticized.
Rogue and Kurt were already at the kitchen table helping themselves to the first serving. The smell of simmering bacon alone was enough to rouse Kurt from bed before his alarm went off. Just outside the kitchen, Warren showed up as well. He had been out on his morning flight, but the prospect of a hardy breakfast was enough to make him cut it short. He had to gget his share before Kurt devoured it all.
“Mmm…bacon, eggs, and pancakes,” said Kurt as he devoured his meal, “How did ve ever get along vithout your Cajun cooking, Herr Remy?”
“Mornings were a lot tougher, that’s for sure!” said Rogue as she bit into the pancakes.
“Remy just be doing his part,” said the Cajun casually as he skillfully flipped another patch of pancakes, “As Remy’s merè used to say, no one ever achieved greatness on an empty stomach.”
“I’m all for an extensive morning cuisine, but do you mind easing up on the spice?” said Warren as he cringed somewhat after biting into the pancakes, “I don’t need to test my spice tolerance after a morning flight.”
“Aww, poor little angel,” cooed Rogue, “All that caviar growing up give you a weak stomach?”
“I fly circles around storm clouds at a hundred miles an hour, Rogue. A weak stomach is not a problem for me. It’s the extra spice that sort of takes away from the meal.”
“That spice be what makes it worth eating!” grinned Remy, “If you can’t take the heat, there always be corn flakes. You can handle corn flakes, non?”
Warren shot Rogue and Remy a bemused look. It was times like this he envied Kurt’s appetite. With the way he ate taste was almost an afterthought.
“So where’s everybody else? They get tired of your culinary criticisms too?” asked the winged mutant as he sat down next to Kurt.
“Hell if Ah know,” shrugged Rogue, “Ah know Jean ain’t left her room yet. Scott told me she ain’t up for class today.”
“Another migraine?” asked Warren.
“Probably,” she sighed, “But she’s been milkin’ that excuse for a while now. Ain’t it convenient they’ve come back just in time for mid terms?”
“I don’t know, Rogue. Jean is usually pretty serious vhen it comes to her migraines,” said Kurt with a mouth half-full of food.
“The only thing she’s been serious about lately is havin’ Scott play nurse with her,” quipped Rogue.
“I doubt he minds. It gives him just as many excuses to get extra cozy with her!” grinned Remy.
“That’s for sure. Almost makes meh wish Ah had that excuse when we were dating.”
Warren and Remy laughed while Kurt kept eating. Rogue was still somewhat sensitive to seeing others get intimate. Scott was also a touchy issue. While she didn’t harbor too much ill-will, it was a difficult reminder that she was still cut off because of her powers. Before she could dwell too much on this issue, Warren changed the subject.
“Well excuse or not, they’ll both catch up,” said the winged mutant, “What about Bobby and Kitty? What are they up to?”
Before Rogue, Kurt, or Remy could answer they heard an angry yell echo from the foyer.
“Damn it, Kitty! Will you just drop it already? It’s too early for this sort of thing!” groaned a noticeably exasperated Bobby Drake.
“Don’t walk away from this, Popsicle! There’s nowhere you can hide that I can’t get to! If I have to pester you all day, you know I will!”
The two younger mutants stormed into the kitchen. They were still in their pajamas and were noticeably upset with each other. Bobby looked deadpanned, wanting nothing more than to save this for another day. But Kitty kept lingering a few feet from him, her arms folded in a very disgruntled manner.
“Oh boy, I’m not sure I want to know anymore,” groaned Warren.
Kitty moved into confront Bobby, but Kurt quickly got between them.
“Not zhis again, you two! I thought you vere beyond zhis bickering!” coaxed the German mutant.
“What be wrong anyways? Iceboy here freeze the toilet seat again?” said Remy.
“If only,” muttered Kitty, “Turns out Mr. I’m-So-Cool-I-Can-Get-Away-With-Anything here has been sparking up another online tryst! This time with Jubilee from District X!”
“I told you, Kitty! It’s not some online tryst!” groaned Bobby as he served himself some eggs and pancakes, “Jubilee just sent me a few emails and I’ve been writing back. It’s nothing to get upset about!”
“Oh sure! So I guess she uses all those flirty word emoticons for every guy she writes to!” said Kitty dryly.
“You don’t know that! Maybe she does!”
“Oh please, I saw the way she was looking at you back in District X! It didn’t bother me before, but now you seem to be returning the sentiment!”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about, Kitty!”
“Oh? Then why is it that when she asked if you had a girlfriend you said no?”
Bobby tensed as he stood over the stove, trying to get some eggs on his plate. His expression grew nervous. Under normal circumstances he could coax his way out of this mess, but Kitty was someone who didn’t care for half-answers and excuses. Why did he have to leave his laptop open for her find?
His situation didn’t go unnoticed by the others. Even though they didn’t know the full story, they could tell he was in an awkward position.
“Uh…you might vant to save your appetite for later, mien friend,” said Kurt.
“Oui, take it from Remy. When a femme has you in a tight spot, sometimes you gotta hold up the white flag,” said the Cajun, “Even master thieves got their limits.”
“Will you guys stop taking sides already?” groaned Bobby, “It’s none of your business! It’s just…a misunderstanding.”
“Bobby, I saw the email with my own eyes!” exclaimed Kitty, “Explain to me what I’m not understanding!”
“I’d be happy to if you would just cool down! And for once, that’s not a joke!” said Bobby, “It’s not like we’re that serious or anything! Don’t be blaming me for pursuing the space outside planet Kitty!”
That caught Kitty by surprise and she fell silent. Bobby used the opportunity to storm off, walking right through her with his plate in hand. She was still fuming, but chose not to go after him. If she did she may end up doing or saying something she would regret and she had done enough of that.
Still standing in the center of the kitchen, Kitty continued fuming. Warren, Kurt, Remy, and Rogue waited briefly before approaching her. There was somewhat of a mystery surrounding her relationship with Bobby. They never actually made it official like other couples had done. They didn’t behave as such either. Ever since Lorna broke up with Bobby, Kitty had been close to him. It seemed as though that ambiguity was finally catching up to them.
“Uh…you going to be okay, Kitty?” asked Warren with a concerned look.
“Yeah…just peachy,” she muttered.
“Care to fill us in, sugah?” said Rogue, “What’s been going on with you and Iceman? Far as Ah’ve seen, you two have been gettin’ along just fine.”
“I thought so too. Guess I was wrong,” she said distantly.
Her expression shifted from frustration to sorrow. Now it was starting to sink in that maybe this was a sign of more serious problems.
“Kitty, if you vant to talk about it…” began Kurt, offering a comforting gesture.
“I’d rather have my eyes gouged out,” she said, “Talking about boys is bound to make it worse! It always does! No offence.”
“Remy’s gonna say that just be some morning drowsiness talking,” grinned the Cajun, “But I got the prescription for you, petite! A good helpin’ of pancakes with an extra dash of Remy’s special spices!”
“I don’t see how testing the lining of your stomach is a prescription for anything,” said Warren dryly.
“I’ll try it anyways,” muttered Kitty as she got herself a plate, “If nothing else, it’ll give me a different reason to be angry with myself!”
Nobody said another word as the young mutant got herself a nice helping of breakfast. Things with her and Bobby must have really gone south. It was a shame because so many other things had been going right for the team lately. Professor Xavier’s media campaign with Lilandra was gaining ground. Magneto and the Brotherhood were behaving themselves after their most recent ploy on Genosha. Logan was finally easing up now that he was dating Ororo. Even Mr. McCoy was more upbeat now that he was going out with that Tessa woman. But no matter how things improved, conflict seemed to have a way of finding them in the X-men.
“And here I was hoping we would get a break from relationship dramas,” commented Warren.
“When do we ever?” sighed Rogue, “Then again, if that’s the worst we gotta deal with Ah still say we’re in pretty good shape.”
Charles Xavier was in the middle of a conference call with Lilandra. Logan and Ororo were with him. Hank was supposed to be present as well as he was caught up in other affairs, namely Tessa. They were in the process of surmising public reactions from his recent prime-time interview. With each passing day the election drew nearer. If they were to oppose Senator Kelly’s agenda, they had to get as much public support as possible.
“I just got the Nielson ratings reports and I believe congratulations are in order, Charles. Your interview was the most watched interview in prime-time news history.”
“Yeah, they actually cut into Sunday Night Football,” said Logan, “You have any idea how freakin’ messed up that is in this country?”
“I suppose I should be grateful,” said the Professor, “It’s the first time the networks have given us a chance to tell our side of the story. But do you know it resonated?”
“We’re still compiling some poll numbers, but if the initial findings are any indication we’re in good shape. Your favorability rating is right on par with Senator Kelly’s, so by and large the public is evenly split.”
“Only even, you say?” said Professor Xavier, “I thought it would be higher based on the trends we saw after my first few talk show appearances.”
“I thought so too, but it appears we’ve reached the limits of public sentiment. That other half that continues to condemn mutants are very much entrenched. These are the people that Senator Kelly has been appealing to lately. As we’ve been carrying out our media campaign, he’s been rallying his remaining supporters.”
“Is that enough for him to take the election?” asked Ororo nervously.
“At the moment, no. He’ll still fall short, but he still has a number of strong political connections. His campaign manager, William Stryker, is a prominent figure in the religious rights. It’s likely he’ll take the religious crowd. His hawkish rhetoric has also earned him many friends in the military. He’s a number of friends in former Generals.”
“If he’s that cozy with military types then he’s even a bigger asshole than I thought,” muttered Logan, “Not that he wasn’t a big enough asshole to begin with!”
“Which is why we must keep appealing to the public at large,” said Xavier strongly, “It’s the people who are going to decide this election. Not Kelly’s special interests.”
“I agree, Charles. And if you can maintain these current numbers, then Kelly will lose. I think getting personal in the last interview really helped. People were really able to relate to that story you told about Moira and the boy. You have so much going for you at the moment. Let’s keep making good use of it.”
Professor Xavier couldn’t help but smile. He knew he was taking a risk by going into details about his past. The story of Moira and her son was deeply personal for him. If only he could tell the world the full story.
“Thank you, Lilandra. Rest assured, I’ll continue my efforts,” he said strongly, “We should get together next week to discuss our main strategy for the final weeks leading up to the election.”
“Most definitely. I’ll continue to compile data with Aerie Global. I know we’ve been pushing ourselves lately. This whole endeavor has been taxing on us both.”
“Indeed it has, but it’s almost over. And once we’re done, hopefully we’ll have good reason to celebrate.”
“I’m looking forward to it, Charles. I’m sure you’ve already made plans for us.”
“You’ll just have to wait and see,” said Xavier coyly, “I’ll be in touch, Lilandra.”
The conference call ended and Lilandra’s image on the computer screen went dark. It was encouraging news for the most part. Considering their recent clashes with Magneto and District X, it was better than they could have hoped for. With the public on their side, they could defeat Senator Kelly. It would be an important victory for the X-men and mutants everywhere.
“Did you just get dirty on us, Chuck?” commented Logan with a wolfish grin.
“Let’s try and stay on topic, shall we Logan?” said Xavier with a half-grin, “I’ve got a several other interviews this month. And Lilandra will be getting people more involved on the grassroots level. At any rate, we’re in good shape.”
“That’s assuming nothing serious comes up between now and the election,” Ororo reminded him, “Any number of things can come along to upset the balance.”
“Which is why we’ll be scaling back regular classes for a while and focus more on training,” said the Professor, “The X-men are going to have be on high alert around the clock for the remainder of this election. We cannot allow incidents like Genosha and District X to flare up at this fragile moment.”
“That’s askin’ an awful lot, Chuck,” said Logan, “The team’s already swamped. Even the X-men have their limits.”
“I understand that, Logan. But for this election we must be vigilant. There is too much as stake too little time to work with. I already have Hank and Tessa from District X monitoring mutant activity around the clock.”
“You have him working with Tessa now? With all due respect Charles, now you’re assuming that’s not going to be a distraction,” said Ororo, still reminded of how that woman came between her and Hank.
“Easy darlin’. Leave the whole bitterness attitudet to guys like me,” said Logan with a reassuring gesture, “If McCoy wants to waste his time on a chick that ain’t half as hot as you, let him. It’s his own damn fault.”
His crude but reassuring words helped. The issue of her, Hank, and Tessa should have been over. She had since moved on from the affair surrounding their breakup, but she couldn’t help but be bitter. If Tessa was going to be helping them it would mean constant reminders. It was one additional factor she was going to have to adapt to.
“I understand it is a touchy subject for you, Ororo. But we need all the help we can get,” said the Professor in an understanding tone as he wheeled out from his desk, “If a major incident emerges, the X-men have to be on top of it. We’ve put ourselves in the middle of this controversy. We must deal with the pressure it is sure to bring.”
His tone was serious. The Professor seemed to realize he was asking for a lot. He was intent on overcoming fate and bad luck to make this election work for his cause and not against it. He made it even more personal by opening up to the world at large. Ideally, his sincerity should be enough, but sincerity could only go so far in an unforgiving world with so many unknowns.
Even after he made his leave, Logan and Ororo lingered. Their mentor’s ambition was admirable, but parts of his plan were a significant gamble that could pay off significantly or lead to far greater losses.
“I certainly hope nothing too drastic comes up,” said Ororo, “Charles has invested so much in this. It would be a shame if it all went to waste.”
“Not to be too pessimistic darlin’, but hoping for a lull in the action ain’t gonna do us any good,” said Logan, his hand still on his lover’s shoulder.
“So you think something will go wrong?”
“I think crazy shit will always find a way of springing up. Ain’t a matter of if. It’s just a matter of when. For all we know, it’s already happening.”
Muir Island – One Month Ago
Times had been tough on Forge, the mutant with the gift to build any machine. Ever since the mess on Genosha, he had been tossed around from one prison cell to another. Nobody really knew what to do with him. On one hand, he helped a madman create a machine that nearly destroyed the world. On the other it was his own foresight that helped defeat Magneto. Some wanted him imprisoned for the rest of his days. Others wanted him executed because his gifts were just too much of a threat. Either way, his creative genius was going to be restrained. It seemed all but necessary in a world that wasn’t ready for his machines.
After rotting in a prison cell at NORAD for a while, he came across a new opportunity. White Cell, a private military company that often employed mutants, pulled a few strings to get him out. The only catch was he was going to have to work for a special research facility called Muir Island. They didn’t tell him too much about what he would be tasked with, only that he would have a chance to put his talents to good use. At this point, anything was a step up.
He arrived on the Muir Island landing platform via transport chopper, courtesy of White Cell. He was still in shackles and being carefully watched by John Proudstar. But so long as he was a prisoner, he had to call him Thunderbird. Since he was a former X-men, he had little sympathy for him after helping Magneto.
“We’re here. Get up,” ordered the Native American mutant sternly.
“Seriously, is it so much to ask for a simple please?” groaned Forge, “I get that shit enough back at NORAD.”
“After helping a man like Magneto, you deserve every bit of it,” said John as he shoved him to the rear of the plane.
“In case you forgot, I did help stop him.”
“You wouldn’t have had to if you hadn’t gone along with him in the first place. It would have spared the world a whole lot of anguish and one of my partners wouldn’t be in a coma.”
Forge shifted, muttering some curses under his breath as John led him out the rear entrance. As soon as the hatch was opened, they encountered the dreary Irish weather. It was pouring rain and very windy. But aside from the conditions, the facility before him looked pretty advanced.
“You should feel lucky,” said Thunderbird, “If it were up to me you would stay locked in the darkest cell in Guantanamo Bay, but you still have something to offer the world you almost destroyed. As it just so happens, a few friends of mine have the right leverage.”
“These friends of yours sound generous,” grinned Forge.
“Don’t mistake it for a charity. One of them happens to be an old partner and trust me, he’s not doing this out of the goodness of his heart. He’ll be keeping a close eye on you and so will I. You got yourself a big break, Forge. Don’t blow it.”
“Thank you for the encouragement. No wonder you went so far in the Marines,” said Forge dryly.
Thunderbird ignored his remark and shoved him forward into the rain. A few other White Cell guards followed them, keeping their weapons pointed right at Forge in case he made a break for it. If he knew what was good for him, he would get comfortable here because this was going to be his home for the foreseeable future.
Just outside the landing zone, two figures were waiting. It was Moira MacTaggart and Sean Cassidy. As soon as John Proudstar saw Sean, he nodded and saluted. Sean smiled and saluted back. As old partners, they were still bound by their roles.
“Good to see you again, Banshee,” John greeted.
“Ye too, Thunderbird,” replied Sean, “But I’m not in White Cell anymore. Just call me Sean.”
“I’m more tempted to call you crazy for brokering a deal like this. How you got the higher ups to let Forge work for Muir Island is beyond me,” retorted the Native American mutant as he roughly shoved Forge towards them.
“Ow! Easy there! You’re the super strong one! Not me!” groaned Forge.
“Sorry about that, lad. John tends to hold a grudge longer than most people,” said Sean as he undid his shackles, “It’s a good thing the leaders at White Cell are more forgiving. They just needed a few reminders of all my years of service to them and they made it happen.”
“That still doesn’t make him any less deserving of a prison cell,” muttered John.
“Ever consider giving therapy a shot, Proudstar?” groaned Forge.
“Watch it, Forge! Get used to my attitude because you’ll still be dealing with me! Sean and Moira here may have you in their custody, but there’s no way the big wigs back in the states will let someone like you go unsupervised. That means I’ll be checking in regularly to make sure you’re not constructing another doomsday weapon.”
“I’m sure you’ll be looking forward to it,” groaned Forge.
John Proudstar’s gaze narrowed as Sean shooed away the rest of the White Cell guards. He made it clear he was not letting him off the hook. Forge may be a brilliant inventor, but he was no fighter. He had no desire to test his luck with these people.
Thankfully, Sean and Moira looked a little more welcoming. Moira even held her umbrella over his head so that the pouring rain would stop soaking him. They started leading him inside, ready to show him where he would be putting his inventive skills to good use.
“I be honored to have ye here, Forge. I think ye will find Muir Island to be the perfect place for an inventive mind like yours.”
“Compared to prison, anything would be a step up. Making a cell phone out of a bar of soap just gets old after a while,” said Forge, “So what exactly will I be working on? I’m guessing you don’t call in these kinds of favors just to upgrade your laptop.”
“Oh we have quite a challenge for ye, lad,” said Sean, “And ye be coming in at the right time because we’re all pretty stumped.”
“Sounds right up my ally,” grinned the mutant inventor, “So what’s the problem?”
“Not what…who,” said Moira with a slightly saddened look, “It’s my son, Kevin. He’s a mutant with very dangerous powers.”
“Ah, I see. Issues with control, I’m guessing?”
“It be a bit more complicated than that, lad. Just know that if we don’t find a way to help him soon, we will have far bigger problems on our hands.”
Muir Island – Present
Mortality was a mysterious phenomena. Most people never thought twice about. It was never easy contemplating one’s own natural limits. Whether they were a sickly human or the most powerful mutant in the world, they were still at the mercy of death. They could destroy, reshape, or rebuild their surroundings, but they could never change the rules that govern them. To do so would mean moving beyond one’s mortality and becoming something far greater.
This was the dilemma Kevin MacTaggart faced every waking moment. He was at his core an 18-year-old mutant boy. Like so many others, he was born with an X-gene. It gave him remarkable powers. But unlike others, his were truly unique. His mother called it hyper-advanced psionic energy manipulation. He called reality warping. He could actually take the psionic energy within him and use it to reshape the world around him. He could take a typical wooden table and twist it in a myriad of shapes, altering it’s composition in the process. He could turn it into solid gold if he wanted to. There were few if any limits. His power was, for lack of a better term, godlike.
It was something he had been wrestling with all his life. It started happening when he was eight. He would do simple things like turn his toys into obscure shapes. But the more he did it, the more he wanted to do it. Every time he changed the reality around him, it gave him a rush. It was intoxicating because he could have whatever he wanted with his power. It was also confusing because using such power was taxing on his mind. It was easy to forget that he was still a mortal boy. At times, it was so hard to control it was maddening. It left him in a fragile mental state. Because of this, he could not attend school or interact like normal children. He was essentially trapped at his home in Muir Island where his family and friends tried hard to help him. But lately he was getting the sense that such help was reaching its limits.
‘So precious yet so fragile. I walk on egg-shells every day while fighting the urge to stomp. It doesn’t seem logical or fair. So why do I allow myself to live like this?’
His powers had been expanding recently. Whenever they expanded it meant he was not able to control how his surroundings changed. It had gotten so bad this time that he had to be confined to a special room in the lab. It was a room designed to resist the psionic energy he used to manipulate reality. It was about the size of a normal bedroom and his mother made sure it had all the amenities he needed. But after being stuck in here for months, the walls were starting to close in on him.
“Kevin? Kevin, did ye hear me?” said the concerned voice of his foster sister, Rahne Sinclair.
“Huh? What were you saying, Rahne?” said Kevin in a stoic tone.
“I asked if ye had any threes.”
“Oh…sorry. Go fish,” he said.
Rahne rolled her eyes and drew another card. She and Kevin were working on their third straight hour of playing cards. She hoped it would help cheer Kevin up, but he looked no better now than he did when they started.
“Do ye want to play another game, Kevin. Ye look bored out of your mind,” she offered.
“How can you tell? My eyes haven’t stopped glowing since last April,” he replied dryly.
“I’m your sister. I can tell,” she said showing more concern.
“Adopted sister,” Kevin corrected.
“Does it matter? I still care, ye know? And you’ve been talking in that annoyingly flat tone for weeks now.”
“Sorry I can’t be more cheery for you, but you can only get so excited when you’ve been stuck in this bloody room for five long months.”
“I’m not saying ye should be happy about it. But ye can’t go believing you’ll be stuck here forever. Ye know mom won’t let that happen.”
“You’re talking as though she’s the one with the reality warping powers,” said Kevin dryly.
“And you’re talking like a boy who’s starting to lose hope. I don’t want that. None of us does.”
Rahne reached across the table and placed her hand over Kevin’s. It was a small, but meaningful gesture. It was all she could really offer at this point because just being this close to him was dangerous. But for Kevin, she would risk it.
She couldn’t help but be saddened. It seemed so long ago that she and Kevin were the best of friends. They were about as close as any real brother and sister could be. She arrived on Muir island 10 years ago with her adopted father, Sean Cassidy. She didn’t remember much about her birth parents. She only knew they were part of some freaky cult that knew she was a mutant and tried to sacrifice her in some mystical ritual. Sean rescued her, but the ritual left her mutation a bit messed up. Her powers involved shape shifting into a wolf-like creature. Early on, she would randomly shift from human to wolf just by being shocked. After the ritual, she was stuck in a half-human, half-wolf form. But thanks to Moira, she had gained control. She could go from human to wolf at will now. It was the kind of control Kevin could only dream of.
It was this early struggle with her powers that helped her connect with Kevin. When she first arrived he was struggling with his powers as well. A man named Charles Xavier taught him how to assert control over himself and believe in his humanity. Even after he left, Kevin was so strong. They grew close over the years even when times got tough. Now his powers were tearing them apart once more.
“You might want to scoot back a little, Rahne. I’m in another one of my moods it seems,” said Kevin.
“Kevin, ye know I…”
“Please, Rahne. I mean it!” he said in a sterner tone.
Rahne was still reluctant, but she pulled back anyways. As she did she saw the walls and table become wavy and disfigured, as if it was being melted and reshaped. A strange mirage of colors soon surrounded him. More mysterious shapes and objects swirled about, as if it were part of some surrealistic dream. But this was very real.
Rahne watched anxiously as Kevin took deep, calming breaths. His eyes kept glowing a strange pinkish hue. Rahne could still remember when she could actually see his handsome blue eyes through an innocent exterior, but those days were long over.
“You should go, Rahne,” he told her, “I need a moment to…collect myself.”
“Don’t shut me out, Kevin. You’re me brother,” said Rahne desperately, “I’ve been through this too. So let me help ye like ye helped me.”
Kevin’s gaze narrowed as he got up and took a step back from her.
“Do you know the story of Proteus, Rahne?” he said as the area around him continued to twist and warp, “In Greek mythology, Proteus was a son of Poseidon. He was the first of his kind in the mortal world, a primordial force in a ways. As the first, he had a keen insight that allowed him to foretell the future. But he was unique in his ability to avoid the fate he uncovered. He did this by changing shape and taking on different forms. When his fate wasn’t as he wanted, he would use his power to bend it to his wishes.”
“Are ye trying to make me go away with boring bedtime stories? Because it won’t work!” said Rahne strongly.
“I’m telling you this to prove a point,” said Kevin, the area around him becoming even more distorted, “Like Proteus, the world around me is malleable. But unlike Proteus, I am not a god. I am just a boy who used to watch cartoons every Saturday morning and play football out on the beach. With each passing day, I feel my powers growing. As they grow, I feel less and less like that same boy.”
“It doesn’t matter what you feel, Kevin. You still are that boy!”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Rahne. Because for me, it does matter what I feel. What I feel dictates the reality I create around me. The less I feel like that boy, the more skewed my reality becomes. I don’t need any divine foresight to see where that will take me. I just don’t want you or anybody else to get caught up in it.”
Rahne studied her adopted brother’s expression. His tone remained flat and his face utterly devoid of emotion. But through that growing shell, she saw a touch of sincerity. It wasn’t much, but it got his point across.
With everything around them continuing to warp, Rahne reluctantly backed away. She made her way to the secure entrance. While the psychic isolation chamber could keep Kevin’s powers from getting too volatile, they could still do damage to anyone and anything still inside. She always prided herself on being able to brave it, but one thing she wasn’t able to brave was Kevin acting so immaturely.
“Fine…if that’s what ye want, I’ll go,” she said solemnly, “But remember one thing. Even if you do have the powers of a god, that doesn’t make ye any less of a jerk!”
Rahne stormed out, making sure her frustrations were known with each step. Kevin watched her every step, still not showing a hint of emotion. It used to be he would feel a wave of sadness every time she left. Now he felt nothing. Like the mythological Proteus, it foretold a bleak future.
‘I’m sorry, Rahne. But there are limits to even the power of gods.’
Muir Island – Forge’s Lab
Upon storming out on Kevin, Rahne made her way to research lab on the third level. This was where her mother and Forge had been working for the past month. They claimed to be on the cusp of a major breakthrough that promised to help Kevin once and for all. Whatever it was, this breakthrough couldn’t come fast enough.
“How much longer, Mom?!” she exclaimed as she came barging into the lab, “How many more tweaks does this contraption of your need?!”
“Rahne!” gasped Moira as she looked up to see her adopted daughter storming towards her, “Ye know you’re not supposed to barge in when the testing light is on!”
“I know I’m not! But I can’t take it anymore! You have to finish this thing and help Kevin! I can’t stand him being such a wanker anymore!”
Rahne grabbed the closest chair and sat down in a bitter stupor. She was upset, saddened, and angry all at once. Moira could tell it was bad because her canine teeth showed briefly and her eyes shifted as well. It was one of those involuntary reactions that often accompanied a heightened emotional state.
Worried, Moira looked up from her terminal and approached her. Sitting across from her at a lab table amidst a sea of wires and machine parts was Forge, who had been hard at work assembling his latest creation.
“Uh…want me to give you some privacy?” he asked.
“It’s okay, Forge. Keep working. I’ll handle this,” she assured him.
Forge shrugged and continued his work. He was only here for the challenge. He had no desire to get caught up in family affairs.
Moira pulled up a chair and sat down next to Rahne. She wasn’t usually one to get overly emotional, but when she did she wasn’t very good when it came to subtlety either.
“Tell me what happened,” she said in a kind tone, “It has to be something for a gal as tough as ye to get this upset.”
“It’s Kevin,” she said bitterly, “He’s becoming such an asshole!”
“Rahne, ye know Kevin’s been going through a lot lately. His latest tests show…”
“I know. His powers are escalating. Ye don’t need to give me that speech again. I’ve been hearing it for years.”
“Then ye know it’ll pass,” said Moira, placing a hand on her shoulder, “We’re going to help him like we always do. Pretty soon he’ll be back to his old self.”
“Are ye sure about that, mom?” questioned Rahne, “Because I’ve been spending hours on end with Kevin while ye and Forge are working day and night. I’ve been watching him slip away! If you sat down with him for more than a few minutes ye would see it to. He’s losing his grip on reality! And for a guy who actually warps reality, that’s pretty dangerous!”
Moira was silent for a moment. She wanted to believe Rahne’s emotional state was making it worse than it was, but the young woman was dead serious. It was a scary thought for her, not just as a doctor but as a mother.
“We won’t let him down. I promise ye,” said Moira strongly, “Forge and I are so close to figuring this out. We may even be ready for a test run tonight.”
“Whoa there, tonight?” said Forge from his work bench, “I have sympathy for your son, but I think we should take a little more time to work out the kinks.”
“I know we should, but Kevin is suffering!” she told him, “We have to do something. I don’t want him to start losing hope.”
“Losing hope is one thing. But a failed test could make it a lot worse,” said Forge grimly.
“Isn’t that true for every treatment Kevin’s had?” Rahne’s pointed out.
“Except none of those treatments were like this,” he retorted, “What we’re looking to do here is much more ambitious.”
Forge got up from his work bench and gave Moira and Rahne a closer look at his latest invention. It was still incomplete, but the final form had been finished. It was a long, antenna-shaped device with three metallic extensions that were linked at the tip by an intricate array of wires. These extensions each fed into a complex disk shaped apparatus with a dome covering that contained the various gears and electronics. From the bottom of this disk a series of cables ran out into an array of exotic-looking generators. Parts of it were still exposed, showing that it wasn’t complete. It was still by far one of the most advanced inventions to come out of Muir Island.
“What you’re looking at here is no routine booster shot,” Forge explained, “This is a full blown psoinic channeling mutagentic stabilizer, complete with recombinant DNA compensators and sub-molecular transducers.”
“Do I look like I watch Star Trek, Forge? How about a simpler explanation for non-genius level minds?” said Rahne dryly.
“Okay, if you want the cliff notes, it will finally scale Kevin’s powers back to manageable levels,” he explained, “Every gene suppressor, inhibitor treatment, or mental exercise may slow the growth of his powers, but it won’t stop it. His powers keep advancing beyond his mutation’s capacity to contain it. Hell, I’m not even sure how to classify it!”
“Aye, we’re well aware of that, Forge,” said Moira distantly, “But classification is not important at this point. Control is what we’re seeking.”
“Whatever,” he shrugged, “But this device takes a different approach. Without getting too technical, it takes the reality warping nature of Kevin’s abilities and turns it back on his physiology. So the way he reshapes the reality around him ends up reshaping his own mutation. It can’t permanently suppress his X-gene, but it can reshape it to the point where it’s easier to control.”
“So…he won’t need to stay in that chamber anymore?” said Rahne.
“He’ll be able to control himself as easy as you change forms,” replied Forge, “But bear in mind, this is all still in theory.”
“But you’re confident, right?” the Scottish girl said.
“The numbers add up on paper. We just haven’t put it into practice yet,” said Moira.
“So what’s stopping ye? Kevin’s not getting any better. With each passing day he’s losing touch with his humanity. For all we know, it may already be too late!”
Moira and Forge exchanged looks. Normally, Moira would have been extra cautious for any new procedure involving her son. But after hearing about his deteriorating state, she felt more desperate. For so long, she had been trying to help her son. He overcame so much in his brief life. He never got to know his biological father and he was isolated from the rest of the world. To let him suffer like this, possibly to the point of no return, was too much for her to bear.
Forge knew what she was thinking and kept shaking his head. This was unknown territory for all of them. They were dealing with powerful forces that were at the whims of a disturbed teenage boy.
“No…we’re not ready,” he said.
“We have to at least do a test,” said Moira.
“On Kevin? Moira, that’s risky at best and foolhardy at worse!”
“I know it is! But he’s my son, Forge!” she cried, “If he is starting to lose hope, I have to do something!”
Forge anxiously rubbed his neck. The look of a desperate mother was hard turn down. He also remembered he was technically under her thumb. Looking down at his incomplete device, he let out a defeated sigh.
“Okay, we’ll run a test,” he said.
“Thank you!” said Rahne with great relief, “Ye finally be showing your worth, Forge!”
“Gee thanks,” he said dryly.
“She means that in the best of ways, lad,” said Moira with a relieved smile, “I’ll get Sean and John to help out with the setup. You just finish configuring the device.”
“I’ll do everything I can, but I can’t make any promises,” he said in a serious tone.
“I understand. But I’ll settle for hope over promises at this point.”
Moira and Rahne ran off to get everything ready. They were officially moving up their time-tables. As Forge went to work putting the finishing touches on his device, he couldn’t help but get a sinking feeling. This was a very bad idea with the potential for a very bad outcome.
District X – Sage’s Apartment
Hank McCoy sat comfortably on Sage’s bed. Wearing only his specially made blue briefs, he hummed a few casual tunes as he looked over various stacks of papers. He and Sage had just finished an all-nighter. They were using her vast computer array to track and monitor all potentially mutant-related situations. It took both their brilliant minds to sift through so much data. After hours of tedious work, they came to the conclusion that all was well for the moment. Just as the sun came up they turned in for some much needed rest, but still managed to throw in a little lovemaking beforehand.
Now refreshed and energized after having a naked woman in his arms, Hank was occupying his mind with less serious matters. In addition to her vast computer resources, Sage still had a fondness for good old fashioned books. Somehow she managed to get her hands on some very rare collections, mostly from science journals that were in limited circulation. For him, it was exciting material. One paper in particular was very enlightening.
“I say, Sage have you read this latest report from the Leland Research Institute?” said Hank as he eagerly thumbed through it.
“No, I don’t think I’ve gotten to that on yet,” said Sage, who was in the bathroom rinsing off in the shower.
“You should look it over when you get a chance. These findings on the X-gene are remarkable!”
“How so?” she asked as she turned off the water in her shower.
“Well you know how mutations are classified? Lower levels being of the Beta class and higher levels being of the Alpha class?”
“Each with five levels, I know,” said Sage, “Charles Xavier himself came up with that scale.”
“And a fine scale it is,” said Beast, “But this study seems to indicate there’s a third class that’s just coming into focus. They call it the Omega class.”
“Omega class? Well they don’t get points for originality.”
“Oh make no mistake. The name hardly does justice to the findings!”
Hank gathered a few more materials from the study and laid them out on the bed. The papers depicted various readings from studies of different variations of the X-gene. Even though this lone gene was poorly understood, there was no denying its power.
“Consider the nature of the Alpha class. There are very few level 5 alphas. Charles Xavier and Magneto are among the few documented cases. Their X-gene is advanced to a point where it truly expands the power of their overall genome, almost to the point of evolving into a higher species.”
“Technically mutants are a human sub-species since they can still interbreed, as you and I just demonstrated,” said Sage coyly as she peaked out the bathroom.
“Indeed, but the Omega class takes it a step further! Now granted there have been no documented cases of Omega level mutants, but if this data is correct it may be possible for the X-gene to manifest to a point where it fully integrates into the entire genome! That could mean all the possibilities the X-gene has to offer from my powers, to yours, to everybody’s could expand beyond all traditional limits! It would be, for lack of a better term, divine.”
This mythical description caught Sage’s attention. She stepped out from her bathroom, which still had steam from the shower billowing out of it. She was wearing only a white towel as she sat down on the bed next to her lover. Looking over the data for herself, she saw what he was getting it. The implications were truly profound.
“Hmm…it is an interesting theory,” she said.
“Oh I would say it is more than just theory,” said Hank, “There appears to be no mechanisms keeping the X-gene from expanding to this level and in most cases when there is nothing standing in nature’s way…”
“It moves forward,” Sage finished as she looked more critically at the study, “It seems dangerous though. Powers approaching god-like levels? In human beings? That’s a volatile combination if ever there was one.”
“The quest for divinity is often a reminder of one’s mortal limits,” replied Hank, “But there’s nothing divine about mutation. Its effects must always be processed by a mortal mind.”
“They seem to negate the strain a mortal mind would undergo with such power. As a telepath, I can tell you first hand that all mutations affect the human psyche. I can’t even begin to speculate what this kind of power would do to a normal mind.”
“And that’s what makes it so fascinating!” said Hank, moving in a little closer to his lover, “Just imagine, evolution through mutation may be leading mutants to a higher level of functioning. I’m not saying it would make us gods, but it is exciting to consider that this may be where we’re heading. The only question is are we as fallible human beings ready for it?”
Sage put down the papers and turned back towards her lover. It was remarkable how someone with such primal inclinations could contemplate such amazing scientific and philosophical quandaries. That was one thing her analytical mind always struggled with. She could crunch the numbers, but when it came to pure imagination she was limited. It was part of what drew her to this man so much.
With a sultry grin, she slipped her arms around Hank’s furry neck. He was still looking over the papers, but his focus on the matter was severely compromised.
“You always pose such insightful questions, Hank,” she said, “From brilliant mind to brilliant mind, I find it to be such a turn-on.”
“I’ll be sure to remember that for future visits,” grinned Hank, “But we may have to hold off. Charles wants us to do another sweep in an hour.”
“Mmm…plenty of time to discuss the possibilities of god-like mutations,,” purred Sage.
“Ah…sounds very thought provoking,” said Hank coyly.
“Among other things,” said the half-naked woman.
The two brilliant mutants shared a deep kiss. The meeting of the minds had turned into the meeting of the flesh. They were a good team in that respect. It made for some exciting new developments between them and some equally exciting lovemaking. They could unlock the secrets of mutation and share something special with each other all at the same time.
Muir Island – Test Lab
Against his better judgment, Forge prepared his device for its first major test. Moira and Sean got Kevin ready while Rahne and John Proudstar helped set everything up. All the usual workers on the island were given the rest of the day off with the exception of the security staff. This was a family affair and needed to be treated as such. Plus, if something went wrong, there would be fewer bystanders in the way.
John and Rahne cleared out a large area in the center of the lab and helped lug the heavier components of Forge’s device to the testing area. Forge continued to make sure everything was configured. His psoinic channeling mutagentic stabilizer as he called it was a complicated device. He would have loved to take more time to refine it, but testing was still needed even if he didn’t feel ready for it.
“Everything’s plugged in, Forge. Should I power it up?” asked Rahne anxiously as she set down a couple of box-shaped electronic devices.
“Yes, but only one at a time!” said Forge, not taking his eyes off the machine, “I didn’t have time to install circuit breakers so you have to be careful. These things aren’t like kitchen appliances.”
“Take it easy, Radioshack. We’ll be careful with your toys,” said John as he set down one of the heavier pieces of equipment.
Forge groaned anxiously as he continued to work fast. They were really pushing the limits of his inventive brilliance. He loved a challenge, but not like this. All he could do was trust in his work and hope it turned out better than his experience with Magneto.
As he made the final adjustments, Moira and Sean arrived with Kevin. Since his powers were so volatile, they had to take special precautions in moving him out of his psionic isolation chamber. First, they had to give him a heavy sedative. Because of his unique biology, it only made him drowsy. This way he couldn’t use his powers in full force. To keep his reality warping powers from getting too out of hand, they strapped him to a special gurney made out of psionic dampening materials similar to those used in the collars from Weapon X. All these safeguards were taxing on the young boy. Unfortunately, it was necessary if they were to do this test.
Yet even with all these precautions, Kevin’s powers were affecting his surroundings. As they wheeled him into the lab, the floors and tables near him became wavy and warped. Some of the tools and equipment that had been left behind was levitated and bent into various shapes. When Forge saw this became even more anxious. He had seen this boy’s powers on DNA scans, but seeing them in action was quite a sight.
“Ooh boy…I think you may have to sedate him a little more,” said Forge.
“I’m afraid we’ve given him as much as we can,” said Sean, “There aren’t a whole lot of chemicals that work on the boy anymore. You’ll just be having to work around it.”
“Just what I need. More pressure,” he mumbled.
“Think of it as a challenge. Last time you were building an ambitious doomsday machine. Now you’re building something to help a poor teenage boy. Shouldn’t be too much a stretch for a brilliant inventor like you,” taunted John.
“Ease up on him, John! Let him do his work so we can focus on Kevin!” said Rahne.
It was a strange feeling having to defend someone who once helped Magneto. But for the sake of her brother, she would defend the devil himself if she had to. John still shot Forge an untrusting glare, but for Rahne’s sake and for the sake Sean and Moira to whom he owed a great deal he kept his grudges to himself.
As John and Rahne powered up the various devices, Moira and Sean set Kevin’s gurney up in the center of the lab. They had to be careful so as not to be too affected by his powers. But Moira remained close. She could tell he was in a state of discomfort. She tried to be strong for him, but it pained her to see her son like this.
“It’ll be okay, Kevin. We think we’ve found a way to help ye manage your powers,” she said softly.
“You think mother?” said Kevin in a drowsy but stoic tone, “How many times have I heard that from you? From everybody here who is supposed to help me?”
“This time is different. You won’t have to be at the mercy of your power anymore. You’ll be able to have a normal life again.”
“I’m beginning to wonder if that’s the kind of life I want. My powers are a part of me. They aren’t just some natural ability. They are…god-like. I cannot think of anyone in history or mythology who ever benefited from surrendering such power.”
Moira gazed at her son with greater worry. Those words didn’t sound like the mindless ramblings of a teenage boy. They sounded like the musings of someone losing touch with reality. That flat tone reminded her little of the boy she used to hold in her arms. It tore at her heart seeing so little love in her son’s glowing eyes.
“Forge, are ye ready?” asked Moira, now more anxious than ever.
“A few more minutes,” said the mutant inventor, “Just make sure he’s secure and stable.”
Moira gave her son’s hand one last squeeze. He didn’t seem to notice, but it was important for him to show how much she still cared. She had to do something to remind him that he was still human and he was still her son.
Sean made sure the restraints were secure. John came over to help him, using his enhanced strength to lock the gurney into some heavy duty bolts. Once everything was in place, Sean turned to Moira. She didn’t want to let go of her son’s hand, even if it meant risking injury and disfigurement. His caring touch helped pull her away.
“It’ll be okay,” he assured her.
“I hope you’re right, Sean,” said Moira with a sob, “I want…I need me son back.”
“Ye won’t lose him. Just be looking forward to that first hug,” he told her, “One where ye won’t have to worry about your internal organs being rearranged.”
“You really don’t know when to spare people the details, do you?” commented John.
“Don’t start with me, Tunderbird,” said Sean in a bemused tone, “Just because I’m not your commanding officer anymore doesn’t mean I can’t kick your ass.”
“Always were a sweet talker too,” the Apache mutant grinned.
“Please ye two…save the war stories for after the test,” said Moira, still very emotional, “Let’s just get this over with.”
The two men fell silent, taking on a serious demeanor once more as they followed Moira to other end of the lab. Rahne had just finished turning on the last of Forge’s devices. The array of machines was active now, flashing with lights and humming with energy. The main device was almost ready as well. Forge was closing up the last few panels, checking and rechecking the configurations. He would have liked to test each system independently, but that would take over a week at best and that was too long a wait for Moira and Rahne to bear.
His device was now ready for use. Looking over at the strange figure of Kevin MacTaggart, he couldn’t help but wonder what the final result would be. Everything to this point was purely theoretical. How it would work in the real world was anyone’s guess.
“Okay…it’s ready,” said Forge as he wiped the nervous sweat from his forehead, “Moira, get the scanners online and run the test program I wrote. If we’re going to do this we’re going to start small.”
“Define small in these utterly bizarre conditions,” said John.
“We’re just going to see if the device can do what I designed it to do,” Forge explained, “By starting at a lower power, we can temper Kevin’s powers to a limited extent. He’ll have full control and all, but the effects are only temporary.”
“At this point I’ll take any time we can get for him,” said Moira as she went to work on the console.
“It’ll still be dangerous though,” Forge went on, “So for the rest of you, I would back up at least ten more steps.”
“Famous last words for a mad scientist,” said Thunderbird.
“Shut up, John!” spat Rahne, “If you’re not going to say anything encouraging why don’t you just get out?!”
“And leave you alone in the same room as one of Forge’s inventions? No way,” said John, “I’ll be quiet. But just for the record, I have a very bad feeling about this.”
“For once, we agree,” muttered Forge.
John, Sean, and Rahne each backed away until they were at the back of the lab. There was a secure observation room behind them, but they chose not to make use of it for this test. If Moira and Forge were going to stay in the line of fire, so were the rest of them.
As Moira manned the computers, Forge carefully set up the device on a special stand near the middle of the lab. It stood a mere fifteen feet away from the restrained Kevin, who remained utterly indifferent. As soon as the device was in place, Forge connected the wires from the various devices Rahne and John had turned on earlier. There were over a dozen lines going into it, showing just how intricate a device this was. With each connection the psoinic channeling mutagentic stabilizer came to life. Various blue lights came on and the three antenna tips at the end started glowing.
“Are we ready, Forge?” asked Moira, “The program is up and running.”
“Hold on,” he said as he fumbled with the wires, “I just need to make sure the settings are all correct. We should be good to go in a minute.”
“I’ll start powering it up. Anything else I can do?”
“Yeah…cross your fingers, toes, and everything else. We’re venturing into unknown territory. There’s no telling what we’ll find.”
Those were not very reassuring words, but Moira brushed it off. Taking one last look at her ailing son, she took a deep breath and entered the final commands. She then joined Forge, who was standing behind the glowing machine monitoring the readings. As it charged up, the energy in the antennas intensified. Soon they were glowing with a brilliant blue halo of energy. It was so intense it caused some of the lights to flicker.
“We’re ready to go!” affirmed Forge.
“Good,” said Moira anxiously, “Kevin, are ye ready?”
“Does it matter? Does anything really matter?” replied Kevin, still completely uninterested.
That was all the worried mother needed to hear. Turning towards Sean and Rahne, she nodded intently. They each cast her a reassuring smile, giving her the strength she would need to get through this.
“Please let this work,” mused Sean.
“Hold on, Kevin,” said Rahne anxiously, “Just stay with us for a bit longer.”
John stayed close behind, watching carefully in case something went wrong. Moira and Forge gripped the controls of the device. Everyone in the room besides Kevin tensed with anticipation. The test could finally begin.
“Here we go,” said Forge, “Initiating psionic channeling in 5…4…3…2…1.”
With the flip of a switch, the device went to work. Sparks flew and lights flickered as the glowing antennas flashed in a dazzling display of energy. Slowly, a small ball of energy formed between the three antennas. Then in a narrow yet powerful burst, the blue beam shot out towards Kevin. As soon as it hit him, there was a reaction.
“Ungh! My…my head,” he groaned, “It feels…strange.”
“That’s to be expected!” said Forge over the commotion, “Just sit tight! We’re about to begin the mutagenic stabilizing process!”
Kevin continued to tense on the gurney. His reality warping powers started to flare as well. The shackles, floor, and nearby tables started shaking. A few even started to twist as if they were made of rubber. It was a disturbing sight. The sedatives and the inhibitors weren’t enough. As his powers grew, Kevin finally started to show signs of emotion. His stoic expression was replaced with a look of pain. Tension throughout the room grew. Moira continued to watch through the brilliant light, hoping and praying for her son’s well-being.
“Please Kevin…just a little bit longer,” she said.
Forge entered in the next round of commands. The beam of light pulsed briefly, now becoming a bit larger and more concentrated. The energy began to consume Kevin, bathing him in a soft blue glow. He continued to show signs of discomfort. At the same time, his powers waned slightly. His eyes even stopped glowing for a moment. Moira, Rahne, and Sean watched with anticipation as they moved in for a closer look. For a brief moment, it seemed as though this was going to work.
Then something strange happened. Just as it seemed as though Kevin’s powers were pulling back, the look on his face shifted. Now instead of discomfort, there was anger. His facial muscles tensed and his body contorted. Then he opened his eyes to reveal that they were glowing brighter than ever. Through his maddened gaze he let out an enraged yell.
In a split second the glowing energy around him shifted from blue to pink, matching the glowing of his eyes. Then in a horrifying display of psionic power, he literally disintegrated the gurney he was lying on. Everything within a ten foot radius of him started glowing. It was as if reality itself was being ripped apart around him. This color shift quickly found its way back to the device. As soon as it hit, the whole array erupted in a burst of bright sparks.
“Ahhhhhhh!” exclaimed Forge as a stream of sparks bombarded his face.
“KEVIN NO!” exclaimed Moira as she tried to run towards Kevin.
“Moira stop!” yelled Sean.
Ignoring the danger, Sean used his sonic powers to take to the air and fly over towards his lover. He managed to grab her and pull her away just before another burst of energy surged through the lab. Debris and shrapnel flew everywhere. Forge, still blinded by the sparks, fell to the floor. Upon seeing this, John’s instincts took over and he ran into the chaos to get him out. It wasn’t his proudest rescue, but former X-men didn’t have the luxury of playing off grudges.
The glowing area around Kevin continued to expand. Soon, there was nothing but a bright ball of pink light. It was so intense that Sean, Rahne, Moira, and John had to get behind a nearby desk. Everything they hoped to avoid with this test was manifesting before their eyes.
“What the hell is going on?! What did you do?!” demanded Rahne.
“I…I was afraid this would happen!” said Forge, still rubbing his eyes, “Kevin’s body had an adverse reaction to the process! Now he’s using machine to expand his powers even more!”
“So turn the damn thing off!” yelled John.
“I can’t! It’s overloading!”
“Maybe I can help!” said Sean intently.
Rising up from behind the desk, Sean took aim with his sonic powers. Taking a deep breath, he unleashed a sonic blast that was loud and concentrated enough to shatter any equipment. The whole lab shook from it and the device sparked even more.
“No wait! Don’t destroy the device!” yelled Forge.
“Forget the device! Save my son!” exclaimed Moira.
Another burst of sparks erupted throughout the lab, forcing Sean back behind the desk with the others. Now all the lights were out and most of the lab was in ruin. But at the center of it all, the glowing ball of energy where Kevin once stood was still burning bright. Through this energy, his human figure emerged. Only now there was none of the distinct flesh and blood they knew him by. There was only a figure composed entirely of a pinkish energy with bright glowing eyes.
“Mother…your son is no more! You will NOT take this power from me! It is mine to wield!”
“Kevin, please calm down!” cried Moira, “Try and regain control!”
“I’m through with control! What is the point of having god-like power if I’m not going to use it?! I’m sick of holding back! Now my powers are expanding beyond all comprehension! I am no longer just Kevin MacTaggart! My form is no longer limited to my mortal shell! I am now and shall forever be…Proteus!”
“Kevin…no,” said Rahne sadly.
No longer listening to family or reason, the newly named Proteus ran towards the rear exit to the lab. Along the way, the ground and debris around him was twisted and warped into a myriad of bizarre shapes and substances. Only this time, the warping was far more destructive. The confused mutant no longer cared whether or not he was causing pain and destruction. He no longer cared about anything.
“Kevin stop!” yelled Sean.
“Take it easy, boy! You don’t know what you’re doing!” yelled John.
“I know exactly what I’m doing! AND DON’T CALL ME BOY!”
Sean and John tried to get in Kevin’s path. But before he was even within ten feet of them, they were literally flung across the lab in a burst of psionic energy. They landed awkwardly in a pile of debris, stunned what they just endured. Even with their skills, they were helpless against Kevin’s power.
With no one in his way, Kevin kept running full speed. He literally tore a path through the building, twisting and warping the walls and floors as he went along. By the time he reached the end of the building, he bore a hole through the whole floor about seven feet wide and nine feet tall. Metal, wood, and every other substance was warped beyond recognition. When he finally reached the final wall, he leaped out into the foggy air. It had been so long since he had been outside. Now the world was completely open to him and he could bend it to his whim.
“So many places to go…so much to do…and I have the power to make it whatever I want!”
His glowing form quickly disappeared in the fog. Back in the lab, Rahne ran towards John and Sean to help them up. Forge was still dazed, his vision finally clearing after the sparks he endured. But none were more distraught than Moira.
“Kevin…” she said with tears in her eyes.
“I…I’m sorry, Moira,” said Forge, “I took every precaution I could, but there was know way to know he would react like this! It was just…too much.”
“Don’t blame yourself, Forge,” she said sadly, “This is all my fault! I…I never should have gone through with this!”
“Well it’s done,” said Forge as he took in the destruction, “So what do we do now?”
“What else? We have to stop him!”
“But how? He made it pretty clear he’s lost it!”
Moira held back a sob as she looked at the destruction her son had caused. Forge was right. Something in her son’s psyche had snapped. He was now consumed by his power. Everything that was once Kevin MacTaggart was giving way to a horrifying new form devoid of innocence and humanity. She couldn’t let him give in like this. She had to save her son. Being his mother, there was only so much she could do to reach him. If that wasn’t enough, there was only one man who could get through to him.
Xavier Institute – Hanger
“Yes…of course…thank you, Lilandra. I’ll meet you at the hotel,” said Charles Xavier as he conversed on his cell phone.
The world’s most powerful telepath moved swiftly in his wheelchair. Having just confirmed with Lilandra his next media event, he was set to meet up with her. They had a busy week planned. He was set to go on two major TV shows and conduct several interviews with various media outlets. It was an ambitious schedule, but one he was determined to keep.
Scott, Logan, Rogue, and Ororo helped prepare him. Logan and Rogue carried his bags while Scott and Ororo prepared the X-jet. It was sure to be an extensive trip so he packed extra materials. For the kind of running around he was about to do, he would need it.
“Are we ready to go, Cyclops?” asked the Professor as he wheeled up to the rear ramp.
“I just capped off the tank. You should have enough to get you through the week, sir,” said the X-leader.
“You sure all this crap you’re lugging ain’t gonna slow you down?” commented Logan, “Since when do you need this kind of gear to go on daytime talk shows?”
“I’ll need as many resources as I can spare,” Xavier justified, “I can’t afford to be ill-prepared. A lot is riding on these interviews.”
“Well try not to appear too stressed, Professor. Last thing the world needs to see is the world’s most powerful telepath is losin’ his mind,” said Rogue who lugged the heaviest gear.
“I’ll be fine, Rogue,” he assured his student, “Just see to it that everything remains peaceful on your front. If you need transportation, Warren has arranged to have some private jets ready.”
“You need not worry, Charles. We’ll keep an eye on things,” said Ororo, “But Rogue is right. You have enough stress to deal with. Do not add to it.”
Professor Xavier sensed his students had some genuine concern, but he couldn’t allow concerns over stress to slow him down. Not when there were so many mutants out there depending on him.
“I’ll do my best,” was all he could manage, “I’ll also try and keep in touch, but remember you are only to contact me for a major emergency.”
“Emergency around here can mean any number of things, Chuck,” said Logan, “Technically a mutant getting arrested for drunk driving is an emergency.”
“You know what I mean, Logan,” said Xavier more seriously, “I trust you’ll use your best judgment, X-men. This is an important moment for mutants. Let us pray nothing happens to threaten everything we’ve achieved.”
Having made his intentions clear, Professor Xavier started wheeling himself up the rear ramp into the X-jet. But halfway up his cell phone rang again.
“Start the jet, Scott. It’s probably just Lilandra with some last minute details,” said the Professor.
“If you say so, sir,” said Scott.
Sighing in frustration, he took it out and answered.
“Hello? This is, Xavier,” he said.
At first there was nothing. Then he heard what sounded like sobbing on the other end. At first he was confused, but as soon as he heard the voice his demeanor quickly shifted.
“Charles…I need your help! It’s Kevin! He…he’s in trouble!”
Next Issue: Proteus Part 2
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