President Robert Kelly’s Reflections (AN: Takes place after issue 71)
It was a day every politician dreamed of experiencing. It was a moment children from a young age fantasize about. In one moment a name becomes permanently etched in the annuls of history. One person enters a realm only a handful of uniquely qualified individuals have ventured. It all came together in a simple message that blared all throughout the world.
“The next president of the United States has been elected. The votes are in and Senator Robert Kelly has won.”
It sparked cheers from some and dread from others. For everybody in Robert Kelly’s inner circle, it should have been all cheers. He had done it. He completed what he set out to do. He went from an obscure senator whose only claim to fame were a string of sound bytes regarding the dangers of the growing mutant menace to being the leader of the free world. It was a historic ascension in the political history of the Western world. Now he had the power to carry out all the plans he never had the authority to implement. With the stroke of a pen, he could exert immediate change on the current state of mutant affairs. A mere 24 hours ago he would have been ready to do so. Then something unexpected happened…something that would change all those plans he was once so passionate about.
When you are in any contest you should work as if there were a chance to lose it. The late Dwight D. Eisenhower said those words at a time when he had the popularity of being a war hero and a two-term presidency going for him. He also has been quoted as saying any man who want to be president is either an egomaniac or crazy. He may have been right on both counts. It’s that kind of twisted logic that makes Eisenhower my favorite president.
Now I’ll have to come up with a whole new list of idioms to compete with that. In a mere two months I’ll be sitting in the same chair the likes of Eisenhower, Roosevelt, and Lincoln sat in. I’ll be expected to lead a country that’s in desperate need of leadership. I’ve got the weight of the world and the weight of history bearing down on me. I thought I was ready for it. I was literally foaming at the mouth for this opportunity. Then this happened. My world has been turned upside down in a ways where I can’t even partake in the celebrations downstairs.
It was a less than triumphant feeling. He knew full well that down below in the ballroom of his hotel his entire team was still celebrating, drinking champagne and cheering as the news spread of his big win. In a much saner world we would have been down there with them shaking hands and smiling for the cameras. Instead, he was upstairs in his hotel suite watching over his son as he slept after a very difficult and very traumatic day.
He hadn’t left his side all night. Even after the news of his victory was confirmed, the president elect needed to stay with his son. What happened to him had seriously complicated his world. On the eve of the election, he and his family were taken captive by the ruler of Genosha, Magneto. He planned on using this machine of his to turn him, his wife, and two children into mutants. This way he would have to live with the burden he had spent years labeling a menace. He was lucky in that the X-men were able to come in and rescue him. His son, however, did not share in that luck.
“I’m so sorry, son,” said the president elect through the silence of his historic night.
His son was fast asleep, having been utterly drained from the events of the past few days. Only it wasn’t just the election that left him so tired. Unlike the rest of the family, he was unable to escape Magneto’s clutches in time. That madman succeeded in turning him into a mutant. Now he wasn’t the same beaming boy with such a sunny smile and lively eyes. Now he was a scared, confused young child with spongy gray skin and a cold watery complexion.
It was hard to wrap his head around even for a man who hadn’t just been elected president. His son was a mutant. As such he would never have a normal life. On top of that, every decision he made on mutant related issues from here on out was going to affect him and his family directly. He could no longer attack mutants without attacking his son. It was a cruel twist of fate, not to mention a harsh slap in the face by Magneto. As if he didn’t have enough reasons to despite that man, now he had essentially ruined his son’s life and made his much more difficult as a father and a president.
Damn you, Magneto. Damn you for striking me where it hurts the most…my family. It wasn’t enough that you tried to wipe the entire human race out with your own brand of mass extinction. You had to make it personal. You had to make my son another pawn in your agenda. Now here I am worrying endlessly while my wife and daughter are downstairs managing the festivities. I should be with them, smiling for the cameras and being part of all sorts of pictures that will one day be part of history books. But I can’t. So much has changed and much more will have to change.
No matter how much I hate Magneto, what’s done is done. He wanted to give me a taste of empathy and he succeeded. My son is a mutant. He now embodies the very menace I’ve spent so many years fighting against. Because of this, I can’t think and reason as I once did. I can’t walk the same path anymore. Not without hurting my own family. The mutant issue is not so clear anymore and that could prove costly to all the promises I’ve made.
It’s always easier when the lines are clear and the choice is simple. Even if those lines are difficult to confront and those choices are hard to make, I prefer a world of clarity and not ambiguity. That’s how I’ve conducted myself all my life, even before my political career. I’ll take on the issues nobody wants to touch and I’ll confront them in a way that resonates rather than alienates. That’s what every great leader does and that’s what I hope to keep doing.
It’s sure to be a lot of work, but I’ve never shied away from work. I wasn’t born into a political class. I didn’t have a last name like Kennedy, Roosevelt, or Bush. My parents were both hard-working, blue-collar people. We weren’t poor, but the comfortable middle-class life we had was a result of hard work. My dad worked as a shipping manager and my mom was a skilled chef for this upscale restaurant in Albany. They both worked themselves hard to get their share of the American dream and they certainly got it. They also made sure me and my siblings could appreciate it.
My parents made it so we always had to work for something we wanted. If we wanted a toy, a book, or some candy we had to earn it. Sometimes it was a small thing like helping with the groceries or doing the dishes. Other times it was more elaborate. When I wanted this fancy new watch, my dad made me get a paper route and if I stuck to it for more than three months he would get it for me. Except by then I managed to save enough money to get the watch myself and I found that a lot more satisfying.
I kept on working through school and college. I had the misfortune of going to a public school that had just come into a nasty gang problem. In the span of a few years the dropout rate and discipline issues soared. We even made the local news as being part of the most dramatic downturn in academic achievement in 40 years. I watched many of my peers get caught up with the wrong crowd, letting their grades slip and crossing all the wrong lines. I later learned that some of these gangs had mutants running the show, which was rare because mutants weren’t very well-known at the time. I’m not exactly sure what powers they had, but for many reasons that never sat well with me. If anything, it only motivated me to work harder.
Like my parents, the work paid off. I graduated near the top of my class with an advanced diploma. I also got accepted on a limited scholarship to CornellUniversity. I never slowed down. I kept plunging ahead, ready to make something of myself. In a ways I’m glad my scholarship was limited because it meant I had to work my way through college. I told my parents early on that I didn’t want them to give me financial support. They had the money, but I wanted to make my own way. They respected my decision. I’m pretty sure my dad almost cried tears of pride. Most kids that age will look for any loophole to get their parents to give them money. I had plenty in front of me, but that required me crossing certain lines that I refused to cross. I stuck to my guns. I worked hard and studied harder. It made me a better man.
While I was working, I got my first lesson in politics. It happened at this rough job I had in a hardware store off campus. I pulled double duty as a stock boy and an overall grunt who could do plenty of heavy lifting. It was a pretty rough job, but the worst part by far was the heat. The manager of the store for whatever reason refused to fix the air conditioning or set up fans. He was always busy scrutinizing other things…small things that didn’t affect us or the customers. By the end of one shift I would be sweating so much I looked like I just ran through a hurricane. My co-workers and I always complained about it, but we never to him. They were too scared. They didn’t want to rock the boat.
I was different. I wasn’t going to keep ignoring it. So at our next team meeting, we went through the same routine. The manager lectured and everybody gave their reports. But at the end when we were just about to break, I rose my hand and asked the manager one simple question.
“How come nobody wants to talk about the heat?”
I swear that manager looked at me like I had bats crawling out of my ear. I could see all my co-workers slowly backing away, not wanting to get caught in the crossfire. They just watched as the manager came up to me, looked me in the eye, and said something I’ll never forget.
“Kid…you’re new to this world called reality so let me give you a quick lesson they probably don’t teach at your fancy school. There’s a lot of complicated shit out there and only so many hours in the day. When you’re smart enough to sift through that shit or powerful enough to add a few more hours to the day, call me! Otherwise, don’t be a smartass and let me do my job!”
A lesser man would have cowered. This was someone who signed my checks and managed my role in this job. How could I oppose him? Well I didn’t flinch. I didn’t show any weakness. I just kept staring down my manager until he turned away and stormed back towards his office. My co-workers were too stunned to say anything. Some looked at me with admiration. Others looked at me as if I just shot my own hand off. I probably should have dropped it. Lord knows, most rational people would. But in this case, it pays to be a little brazen if not a little foolish.
While my manager was off managing, I took some time from my schedule to see what the fuss was about regarding the air conditioning. The system was in bad shape and it looked like it needed some serious repairs. Lucky for me, I worked in a hardware store. I had all the parts I needed. So over the course of the week, I fixed it. My dad was a real handyman so his teachings really paid off. Eventually, I got it working. I even took a few old fans that had been gathering dust in the storage room, fixed them as well, and set them up throughout the store in a ways to generate a cooling cross breeze.
All this came as a pleasant surprise to my co-workers. I remember them walking into work and seeing their faces literally freeze when they felt that the air wasn’t as stale as a swamp in the tropics. Even the customers took note and they actually thanked us for making the place a more bearable. It seemed like everybody had benefited. Then I heard that voice again.
That’s what my manager called me. As soon as he came walking in that morning, he ran up to me and literally cornered me at the front end of the store. He spent the next twenty minutes chewing me out for going behind his back and fixing something that he couldn’t. He went off on all these rants about how the air conditioning was a complicated system that needed a certified technician and special parts to repair. He yelled at me even more for using parts within the store. For all he knew, I just pieced it together with duct tape and chewing gum. The man looked ready to have a heart attack. Finally he got to the point where he asked me how we were going to deal with this now and in the future. I had two words for him that rendered everything he just said meaningless.
I’ve never seen a man shut up so quickly before or ever since. The man’s eyes hung wide open for a full minute as I handed over my uniform and badge, gave him a smile, and walked out. The way I saw it, if he wasn’t going to address the heat then why follow his example? Every one of my co-workers looked at me like I was Spartacus. Two of the girls who worked there ended up asking me out. That alone was worth the next few months I spent falling into debt. But that was the moment I got a taste of dealing with authority and immediately I was hooked.
The very next day I changed majors from business and marketing to political science. I completely immersed myself in the world of politics. I even got myself elected to the student government. I found that there was an unspoken plague among all those in authority. There were some issues that people just avoided. It wasn’t necessarily out of fear. It was sheer apathy or an utter lack of understanding. I found my niche in being able to confront those issues and resolve them. It got me started on the path I am now.
The president elect sighed and shifted his gaze away from his son. For a moment, this path he had chosen seemed costly. If he had not gotten into politics, perhaps his son wouldn’t be dealing with the notion of being a mutant. Perhaps his wife wouldn’t be crying herself to sleep lamenting on how her little boy was going to suffer. Perhaps the whole mutant issue would not dominate his life.
All those possibilities seemed pretty outlandish. Robert Kelly simply knew no other path. This wasn’t just what he did. This was who he was. Because of this, his son was paying the price. He could not protect him as a father, a politician, or a president. Now his son would be the face of a menace that he had been trying to confront for years. It was a face that defined his cause and his principles.
When I graduated Cornell with Suma Cum Laude honors, I had my pick of opportunities. I was shouldering some hefty school debt so I couldn’t invest myself in the political process too much. The best option for me at the time was from my old home town in Albany. A position for school superintendent just opened up after the last one died unexpectedly. They needed someone to fill the void and a recent college graduate was cheaper on the city so I went with it.
This job was my first taste of real politics. I had to deal with teachers, parents, student groups, and politicians on a regular basis. They didn’t always take me seriously because of my youth. They thought I was just a fill in until the next election. But I showed them I could get the job done. I cracked down on the lingering gang problem and stood up to a number of city officials who were trying to cut the budget. But my biggest challenge came when the mutant issue entered my life in a profound way.
There was this 17-year-old girl who went to my old high school that was secretly a mutant. She didn’t have any physical abnormalities besides an unusual shade of blue for an eye-color. She knew she was a mutant and she knew what her powers entailed, but she didn’t tell anybody. She probably should have because her powers involved secreting this noxious cocktail of gases from her skin. She didn’t understand how it worked and knew it was dangerous. A few of her classmates learned just how dangerous she was on one fateful afternoon.
She was in the middle of a test when out of nowhere, she starts feeling sick. While everyone else is none the wiser, she tries to get up and leave. But the teacher doesn’t know what’s going on so she stops her. That proved costly because the girl started erupting in these noxious bursts. Pretty soon the whole room was filled with this bluish/green gas that had everybody choking and gagging. It was so bad a biohazard team had to rush to the campus to get everyone out. The girl was fine, but fifteen of her classmates had to be hospitalized. Two were critical, ten suffered serious lung damage, and three more went temporarily blind. Nobody died, but it was a real mess that struck me personally because this was my home school and this is where my own children may end up going one day.
For any other superintendent, this is a public nightmare. It was happening at a time when mutant incidents were gaining much more media coverage, but at that point there weren’t many authority figures doing much about it. I bucked the trend. I came out that very day and confronted the media. I even confronted the girl as well. I placed the responsibility on her, not the school or the officials. She knew she was a mutant. She knew that her powers were dangerous. And she did nothing. What happened was a result of apathy and an unwillingness to be proactive. I implemented changes on the spot.
First, I brought the girl up on charges for juvenile negligence. Now since there weren’t too many laws on mutant crimes, I had to work extra. But I did get a judge to rule in my favor and the girl was punished for what she did. It was probably the first time a mutant was publicly punished for using their powers in such a way. I also enacted reforms throughout the schools, dictating that every mutant had to come forward and document what their powers were. It would then be up to myself and the board to determine if they were a danger to themselves or the school. This didn’t earn me much support from the few mutants there were and the parents of those mutants, but when the district saw this they were enamored with my efforts. It put my political career on a rocket and launched it straight up.
The first thing that happened was the superintendent who was supposed to take my spot was defeated in an election. I became the youngest man to ever hold the office of a superintendent. The second thing that happened was that during the media coverage, I came across a stunning young public relations officer who would later become my wife. Sharon and I became a team and I could tell she was deeply affected by the incident with the mutant. She and I had a common cause and our relationship blossomed from there.
Over the next fifteen years I worked my way up through the political ranks. After serving as superintendent successfully, I ran for mayor of Albany and won quite easily. A few years later I moved up to the state level, earning myself a spot as lieutenant governor. At each level I used the mutant issue as my primary concern. I saw this as the number one issue going into the new millennium and with each passing day, I was vindicated. Fear of mutants was growing and so was the mutant population. Every news medium was blaring all these stories about mutants manifesting strange new powers and how authorities were powerless to stop them. I practically took that as a personal challenge.
It helped that I got a lucky break at that point. Shortly after my wife and I got married, one of the senators for New York was caught up in this ridiculous scandal that involved a prostitute, a family member, three associates from some unpopular lobbying groups, and fifty million dollars in taxpayer money. The details were the stuff of Hollywood movies. In fact I think they may have already made one about it. Whatever the case, that senator had to resign and suddenly there was an open spot in the United States Senate.
At first I wasn’t sure it was a good idea. A few party officials talked me into it because they saw my mutant stance as being a good rallying cry. I wasn’t stupid though. I knew those officials just wanted me to use that stance to get elected to they didn’t lose the seat to another party. It’s that unspoken rule in politics. Principles take a back seat to maintaining power. I didn’t like that so few shared my passion for my cause, but it was too great an opportunity to pass up. So I took it. I ran for the Senate as this up and coming name. The race turned out to be a lot closer than I thought. Even parts of the public weren’t too keen on confronting the mutant issue at this point. But again, I worked through it and won my seat in power. If only my struggle had ended there.
The president elect turned back towards his sleeping son. Sitting at the edge of his bed, he gently stroked his clammy face. He no longer had the warmth that a boy his age was supposed to have. His skin was clammy and wet, like that of a sponge. It was difficult to feel, but this was still the flesh of his little boy. This feeling really struck him because it was the birth of his children that really made him push harder. His whole political career was centered around protecting those most vulnerable, like his children, from the volatile nature of mutants. It was impossible to understate how much this issue meant to him.
My first few years in the senate were unproductive to say the least. I became a pariah because I did something you’re not supposed to do in Congress…confront the truth. To me that meant acting on the mutant issue sooner rather than later. Many politicians weren’t willing to do that. Fear, a lack of understanding, and other priorities once again took precedent. My only option was to keep working and making sure I made good use of every opportunity that came my way.
It’s here where the sheer inefficiency of government becomes apparent. There is so much bureaucracy at this level you need five different forms just to scratch yourself. Mutants probably weren’t even in the top 50 in terms of priority. I was the only one really pushing and I was essentially a pariah within Congress. I wasn’t taken seriously and was somewhat a running joke among my peers. It would take more influence from the outside world to make those same critics stand up and listen.
It started when mutants began organizing and outwardly flaunting their powers. There would be these public spectacles of mutants opposing any level of authority that tried to stop them from doing whatever they wanted to do. There was the formation of the Morlocks and the rise of powerful mutant communities. It suddenly became necessary for them to assert themselves as being better than humanity and somehow deserving of special treatment. Nobody was naïve enough to say they had a point, but nobody was valiant enough to confront them. That’s where I came in.
As the issue escalated, my voice was heard by more people. I suddenly wasn’t a pariah anymore and many leaders were starting to take my message seriously. There are at least two hundred youtube clips of me on CSPAN giving speeches about the dangers of mutants. I argued it was the government and the people’s right to confront those dangers…to force mutants to reveal their powers and let society judge if they’re too dangerous to leave them to their own accord. This was the core of my now infamous Mutant Registration Act.
I must have introduced this bill eight times in my career and I never once got it on the floor of the senate for a vote. In it there were all sorts of new laws and procedures that would process mutants the same way we process dangerous weapons. Each mutant had to be determined by the authorities whether or not they were a threat to anybody. If they were, we could determine a means by which to separate or contain them. Some called it a logistical nightmare. I called it a tough job that needed to be done.
Nobody was willing to do the work. Nobody was willing to give it a chance. Even though my influence was growing, I wasn’t getting the influence of those that mattered. Then the uprising on Genosha happened. Suddenly, mutants were no longer this festering social issue. They were an international force looking to impose themselves on the rest of the world. For a time I wanted to get behind Cameron Hodge and whatever this radical means of confronting mutants entailed. That was a mistake because I didn’t take into account what an arrogant tool he was. I might have been able to get the Mutant Registration Act passed if I didn’t have to constantly defend myself from that madman. However, the growing fear of mutants more than made up for it.
Once mutants had their own country, their threat became unavoidable. Now it wasn’t enough just to confront them on the local level. They had to be dealt with on an international scale. Suddenly, the president and the top generals of the military were seeking my counsel. It was a few decades too late in my opinion because it was the unwillingness to confront mutants early on that made the uprising on Genosha necessary. I still believe that at some point, this will be the stage for a war between humans and mutants. That war almost happened when Magneto unleashed his extinction plot. Even though that conflict was resolved, the threat was never addressed.
This is what prompted me to throw my hat into the ring. The previous president took a massive hit when he capitulated to Magneto’s request for peace. The man nearly brought the world to an end and at the last minute he has a change of heart, thus somehow absolving him and his kind from all responsibility. The way I see it, he took the easy way out. It would have been far too much work to keep fighting Magneto than to just stop the bloodshed and rebuild on the home front. History will remember this as the weakest moment in the history of the presidency…in the history of human politics. I was determined to change that. It ended up being much harder than I ever could have imagined.
For a time, I was practically unopposed in my campaign. I could have read from the phone book on a few of my speeches and still got an applause. I was foolish to think it would be that easy. The public outcry from the extinction plot was severe, but there were other elements to oppose that sentiment. The one that plagued me most was Charles Xavier and his X-men.
The newly elected president struggled with conflicting feelings. Looking over his son, he could not escape the fact that the X-men had impacted his struggle for better and for worse. They were the ones that opposed him at every turn when he fought to confront mutants with his Mutant Registration Act. They were also the ones that put a stop to madmen like Magneto and saved his son.
Robert Kelly badly wanted to curse Charles Xavier, but how could he? Still stroking the face of his sleeping son, he was bitterly indebted to this man in more ways than he cared to admit.
I never was all that fond of Xavier’s agenda. He always came off as some bleeding heart, claiming that society should not judge mutants for being who they are. That argument may work for other minorities, but other minorities don’t have the power to read minds and influence thoughts at will. There was never any chance that we were going to see eye-to-eye. I saw him as an obstacle, but he and his X-men just had to play the hero card.
I remember when they first came onto the scene, they were just a bunch of masked heroes. They certainly made my job difficult because whenever I said mutants were a threat, someone would cite the X-men. When they took off the masks and started playing a larger role in mutant affairs, my job got even harder. There were too many who thought the X-men were heroes and they were giving mutants a better name than they deserved. The election only made that more apparent.
It was the X-men that guided my fortunes. That incident in Philadelphia destroyed the momentum I had been carrying since Magneto’s extinction plot. I never had that kind of support again. Then Xavier went on his media campaign and the polls shifted accordingly. There were a few times when it looked like my campaign was going to collapse under it’s own weight. When I brought Reverend Stryker aboard, my fortunes got a little bit better. It was only after the Proteus incident in England that I gained a solid enough footing to make my election possible.
I thought my victory would be the crowning achievement of all my hard work. I thought that overcoming all those detractors who avoided the issues I was so passionate about would be a defining moment. It was, but for all the wrong reasons. That victory still came at a price. My son was turned into a mutant. So even though I won the presidency, my passion for the mutant issue is shaken.
The newly elected president rose up from his son’s bed and turned towards the window where the city was still bustling with activity on this historic night. This should have been the next step in his lifelong crusade. Robert Kelly was a man who never lost focus when he set his mind to something. He kept working hard, never questioning his cause or casting doubt on his merits. It would take something earth-shattering to shake him from his unflappable demeanor.
But something of that magnitude did happen. Magneto turned his son into a mutant. In addition, the X-men saved him and his family. He owed his very livelihood to the man he once saw as his enemy. Even for a man of his conviction, that struck him in a profound way.
In any issue on the state of human affairs, it’s important for the people in power to remain objective. That’s why we have impartial juries and dispassionate judges who are expected to be swayed by evidence and not emotional appeals. That’s how I once confronted the mutant issue. It was cold hard logic. Mutants had dangerous powers and it was the obligations of the state to protect innocent humans from those powers. Now I can’t afford the luxury of cold logic. I now have an emotional stake in this struggle.
It’s a struggle none of my supporters understand. Reverend Stryker has been a real pain so far. He’s intent on staying the course as if what happened to my son doesn’t matter. He’s not a father so he doesn’t see how impossible that is for me. I can no longer see mutants in such a callous light. How can I when my own son is a mutant? All those plans I had for dealing with mutants…I can’t be so brazen about it anymore. Not when my son could be deeply affected.
That’s what’s been bothering me most. I thought I knew what had to be done with mutants. I thought the time for being careful and calculating was over. The world needed action. Now I have to be careful. I have to consider every angle no matter how much it frustrates me. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. All those promises I made in the campaign hinge on my ability to work through this. It may hinder me or it may help me. Whatever it does, I still despise Magneto with every fiber of my being. He may have succeeded on some levels, but I’m not going to let that stop me.
I’ve been lucky so far. Professor Charles Xavier, a man who I still have mixed feelings about, actually went out of his way to help my son. He was kind enough to give him a quick check-up, explain his mutation, and even offer a few lessons on how to manage it. My people are still taking care of the public fallout. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, my son was born a mutant and his powers just started manifesting. It’s a lie, I know. But that’s how politics works. You need lies in order to preserve society. It’s only a matter of limiting those lies for the sake of strengthening the truth.
In a few months I’ll have to wrestle with many decisions. I’ll have to deal with all these conflicting emotions while working to keep my promises on mutant affairs. I don’t know what form they’ll take. I don’t know how they’ll change as a result of my son. All I know is that I’m going to work as hard as I’ve always worked. If I have to keep struggling, so be it. If I have to rub people the wrong way, so be it. The people elected me and as Harry Truman once said, the buck stops here and that’s how it’s going to be for the next four years. The call of history has reached me and I accept the responsibilities. For every human out there and mutants like my son, I will do what needs to be done.
The soon-to-be president, Robert Kelly, took a deep breath before tucking his son back in for the night. He then quietly slipped out of the room, leaving him in the care of his body guards who were waiting outside. Before leaving the suite, he fixed his suit and tie. It was late, but there was still time for him to join the festivities. He had to if he was going to come off as being truly presidential. It was going to be hard, but now he had factors to account for that he never imagined. That was the burden of this most rare of opportunities and he was going to bear it. When he left the room, he left with only one fitting prayer.
‘God bless America…please.’
Next Issue: Alex Summers
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