The coffee was delicious, even if a bit hot. I glanced at the coffeepot on the table and wondered whether I could have some more.
"Of course," said the Professor. "But it will interfere with your night's rest."That's one of the advantages of coffee, I thought, pouring myself another cup. I had to make the most out of my time here.
"You are welcome to stay for the weekend," said the Professor.
I had thought of visiting New York City, which I didn't know yet. But of course, this mansion was infinitely more appealing.
"Dr. McCoy will be glad to hear it. He misses the academic environment."
Cautiously blowing on the brown, fragrant liquid and watching the ripples before I took another sip, I thought that the Professor probably knew more of Dr. McCoy's research than I ever would. He seemed to know an awful lot about everything.
"Not everything, I'm afraid. Not even half as much as I would wish to."
Sophocles. 'I only know...'
"Socrates," he corrected.
He laughed. "I admit, my interests are quite widespread. But in this I am afraid I am not a satisfying interlocutor for Dr. McCoy. I lack his passion for the details of his research activities, which you share. I am more interested in the results."
My mother was like that. Always in a hurry to solve problems, and no time to cherish the process that led her to the solution. I was more of a seize-the-journey person.
"The world needs both," smiled the Professor.
I completely agreed.
There was a moment of silence. One advantage of this kind of communication was that I didn't even need to modulate the words, hence could use my mouth just to cool and sip coffee. Still, I decided myself against a fourth cup. My stomach wouldn't take that too kind.
"You seem very accepting about me reading your mind, even if it is new to you. Can you tell me why?"
Can't you read it in my mind?
"I sense no nervousness in you. To find out more I have to dig deeper, and I would rather not. And your own perception might be more revealing."
Now he sounded like a shrink. ...sorry. I meant no... He smiled and shook his head.
"None taken," he said.
I thought about it for a while, chewing on my knuckles and rummaging around in my own messy mind. I only found a question: why should I be afraid? It was new, sure, and took a while to get used to, but it was exciting, and useful -I could enjoy my coffee-, it saved time -Professor J's victims would really profit from it-, and didn't hurt. Why should I feel threatened by someone picking the words from my mind before I could modulate them? He was bound to hear them anyway. But I was looking for answers, not questions.
"I think you found quite a few," said the Professor.
Then again, I thought on, if I didn't want to talk to someone, and he could just wretch the information out of me? In the hands of the wrong person, such a power... Have you ever...?
The Professor rested his chin on his folded hands. His expression was grave, but his clear eyes looked straight into mine.
"Hurt someone? Yes. Invaded someone's mind without his or her permission? At times, I have done that, too."
"Every time. But in general, I think the harm I prevent is greater than the harm I do. It still gives me no right to do it, of course."
"Very much so."
"That comes with age."
I laughed. His dry humor reminded me of my brother. Of course, I thought, it had to be harder for younger people, whose blood runs hotter. Jean popped into my mind. Although I guessed she wasn't as powerful as the Professor.
"Oh, Jean. She is very gifted. Psionic powers often emerge very slowly, and require years of training to enhance them. She will become very powerful in time. Maybe more than me."
She seemed so serious. All that responsibility, perhaps... It made her seem older.
"She is about your own age."
I guessed. I rather liked her.
"She was very surprised to sense your thoughts so near to the surface. She thought you might be a mutant yourself."
"I'm afraid you are not. Just a trusting person. An even rarer sort of human, in these troubled times."
May I ask a question?
When I entered the mansion...
_I am sorry..._
_I didn't mean to startle you._
Are you kidding? Be my guest! This is cool! Must come in handy... save you a lot of money in cell-phone bills...
Does it work with everyone?
_It is very easy with you._
_It seems to be a factor. I have never considered it before. I knew it was easier with people who are close to me._
You were surprised I could hear you ... back at the door.
_Indeed. How could you tell?_
I can tell now, looking back. I was startled. No, I was startled, because I felt startled without being startled ... does that make any sense?
_I think I understand._
You got curious.
_It must be the coffee ... You are both very excited and very exhausted. It has been a long week for you. Please be honest with yourself. He is a very kind person, and will understand. Otherwise, he might keep you up all night. When Dr. McCoy gets carried away with his research, he looses track of time._
I grinned. Don't we all. No, I won't go to sleep, unless you mesmerize me and walk me to my room like a zombie. And you wouldn't do that, would you?
He smiled and raised his hands.
_Of course not._
Of course, I didn't get to fabled Dr. McCoy's lab that night. I had been naive to think I could checkmate an old fox like Professor Xavier. He made me promise I would eat something before plunging into science, which was fine with me, since my stomach was quite irritated with that much caffeine and desperately needed solids to sponge it up. I wasn't at all surprised to see Jean turning around the corner just as I stepped out of the Professor's office. I thought a bright "Hi" for her, and she smirked. We used normal speech, though, on our way to the kitchen. She did most of the talking. And at the kitchen, a small, but cozy room with a solid wooden table in the center, the first thing I got was a white pill and a glass of water.
"Aspirin," she answered to my unspoken question, and that was when I noticed I had a splitting headache. She smiled knowingly. "I still remember my first telepathic conversations. Yours was long for being your first." It had to be involuntary muscle contractions, I thought, tension from the unaccustomed mental exercise. The other explanation would have been dilation of minute blood vessels in my brain, and I didn't think the Professor would have put me through that.
Aspirin in hand, I kneaded my brows trying to decide which would kill me first, my head or my stomach.
"It actually works better when you swallow it," I heard Jean say.
That settled it. The ensuing attack of hilarity threatened to crack my head in two, so I washed the blasted thing down and hoped there would be food soon enough to calm the volcano in my belly.
I needn't worry. In her own efficient way, Jean prepared an entire meal in a few minutes, warming up leftovers from the fridge and apologizing for it. I was only allowed to help set the table, and only because I refused to sit down and watch her work. I was folding the napkins and putting them under the knives, when a blue mountain filled the doorframe.
I looked up...
He was blue. He was big. He was furry. He was dressed in a very... hum... unconventional way. He didn't walk, he hopped on strong legs that ended in clawed feet, one arm on the floor, like a gorilla. He had very sharp, very white teeth, canines a good three inches long, and pointed ears like a German shepherd. His brows were thick and long and danced when he frowned. And he was frowning. Through broad-brimmed spectacles. At a printout. I didn't need Jean to tell me who it was. That frown is universal. Almost a professional trademark.
"... please meet Dr. McCoy. Hank, this is your guest."
Continued in Chapter Four.
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