Disclaimer: Nearly all these fascinating characters,
plus the general universe, belong to Marvel. I'm using them for entertainment
purpose only and so on so don't sue me and so forth. Yamoto is mine, and
for those who missed Part I, he's a senior PhD student at the same lab
as the main character. Which is a sort of me, hence belongs to me, too...
Author's Note for Part V: Sorry this took me so long to write. And sorry, Hank McCoy won't appear until the very end of Part VI, he's busy somewhere being a Beast, but of course I (the 'I' in the story) doesn't know that ... so poor me has got to wait a bit longer, and hence, so does the reader - I'm a big fan of the immortal slogan of the French revolution. You know, the part that comes right after "Liberté-Freedom". You might skip this part if you want to step into McCoy's lab right away, and skip Part VI, too, if you are absolutely starved for Hank's physical presence ... but remember, I'm a seize-the-journey person, and the process is often more important than the end result, at least to me.
This story takes place in a strongly movieverse-contaminated comicverse, or maybe the other way round. Sorry, I made a terrible mistake and assumed the Westchester Mansion was the actual seat of the school in the comic too, and now it's too late to change the story's outline in my head. So just pretend the Massachusetts School hasn't yet opened, or else that it had to be painted or fumigated or exorcised or something and the kids went a-visiting state of NY for a while. And Jubes is still adjusting to the fact that she doesn't belong to the X-men anymore. And no, Emma isn't around because I can't stand her, and that might prove fatal for my character who can so easily be 'read', for as you know Ol'Icicle has about as much sense of humor as a frozen trout. And if you miss another of the X-men (Bobby, Rogue, Gambit...), please forgive me, just pretend they are at the Bahamas. As you see, I'm completely messing up the 'true facts'. But I'm not sorry, I'm having too good a time writing this.
That said ... here we go, it's a beautiful Saturday morning in spring, and I just woke up in the Westchester mansion, and I'm gonna visit Hank's lab today, and life has hardly ever looked this bright...
It must have been that mattress. If I ever get to stay over at Xavier's Institute again in my life, I swear I'll sleep on the floor. Or on a chair. Or I'll bring one of those outdated mechanical alarm clocks that can raise the dead, even from devilishly comfortable mattresses like the one I had the misfortune to spend that night on. Instead of taking my obligatory shower at seven as I usually do, by the time I finally rolled myself out of the bed my wristwatch marked an ungodly half past nine, and I swear that friggin' mattress squeaked in triumph. All in all I was lucky: if it had been a clouded day, I might have slept until noon. Nine-thirty is late enough to get up, though, especially since there was a pretty good chance Dr. McCoy might have forgotten last night's promise to let me watch as he repeated his analysis of Professor J's samples. I showered in a record time, but then I got lost in those corridors. As was to be expected. The day I don't get lost someplace new I'll suffer an identity crisis. So by the time I stumbled into the kitchen, rubbing my rumbling stomach and my still sticky eyes, it was almost ten o'clock.
I shouldn't have worried. McCoy had left on some urgent business over an hour ago. He would return soon, I was told by a gloomy, coat-less, but still colorfully clad Jubilee who had apparently been charged with the task of the hostess, for she hopped from the table were she had been brooding and set out to make breakfast. I asked about the others I had met so far, but she answered, in a funeral voice, that "they all" had gone. She didn't say who "all" or where to or why, and I didn't ask, as she obviously felt she should have been included in the "all", and I didn't want to upset her any further. So I cautiously inquired whether there had been an accident. I was fairly sure that a few hours ago, McCoy had not known about this urgent business, whatever it was, and I feared some cosmic tragedy. The ensuing diatribe against grown-ups in general and one "Wolvie" in particular calmed my worries on that behalf, although I understood very little else. But then, who but a teen can really understand a teen. I was almost a decade late for it.
As I had nothing to do but wait, and in an attempt to win back her grace as a representative of the adult fraction of the species, I got her started in the noble art of German Cursing. PG-13, of course, I wouldn't want any trouble with Jean. Then we made a few experiments with coffee beans and Jubilee's mutant abilities. The result tasted a bit burned, but absolutely drinkable provided you added enough milk and sugar. Afterwards, though, we had to remove coffee-powder from every crack and corner in the kitchen, a welcome chance for Jubilee to practice her German pronunciation.
We were hardly done cleaning up when I was summoned to the Professor. Jubilee immediately offered to lead me to his office. Maybe she just wanted to skip classes for a few more minutes. Anyway, I was grateful, for that house was huge. By the time we reached the Professor's office, Jubilee had learned half a dozen new words, it was past eleven, and I was more than ready for some real work. Hence I had a hard time swallowing my disappointment when the Professor told me that McCoy would take a while longer, and offered to show me around.
One advantage of communicating with a telepath is that you don't need to waste your time with pleasantries like "Oh, that isn't necessary" or "I don't want to cause any trouble", you can just think in the general direction and the message gets along. Most of my feminine ancestors on both sides of the family always come up with a miraculously exact phrase for every such situation, but they somehow failed to pass that gift on to me, which is a pity for I could really use it sometimes. I always feel slightly stupid trying to find what to say, and even more stupid after I say it. But the Professor just smiled and answered, "My pleasure" before I could even stutter the first word, and that was it. Of course he knew what I really wanted to do, and why. That's another advantage of communicating with a telepath. Correction: for a frequently incomprehensible weirdo like me, it is the very queen of advantages.
...most people have never listened to single cells. Their voices, cracks in cracking noise, their peculiar firing patterns... Most people have never played deaf for the narrow- minded colleague whose radio speaker they might just have confiscated for this sole purpose, for how can Jazz concerts be more important, more wonderful to listen to, than microscopic cells calling out to you... And anyway, it wasn't like I didn't leave him without speakers, he still had the other one...
...most people would never get so obsessed with their most recent project they'd stumble over the same cable for weeks, without picking it up ... And they'd never lose their concentration because a well-meaning soul lined that very cable against the wall, and there was that irritating, unknown little something missing in their everyday environment and they just couldn't figure out what it was...
...most people know how to play the solitaire, or handle a photo editor, or listen to Internet Radio ... but would never spend their weekends learning how to access the interruption that allows the CPU to read the keyboard or the friggin' serial port, and for no particular reason, but just because...
...most people have never even touched an instrument rack, and if they have, they don't indulge in the peculiar custom of brushing their thumb across the smooth black heads of sleeping LEDs, before reaching for the main power switch that marks the beginning and the end of the day ... and have you ever smiled in knowing anticipation as the LEDs stir like lidless eyes, drawing an intricate code of primary colors on smooth, clean, hard silver and black surfaces?
And that familiar shiver, almost like a long-time lover's caress, every time I brush against the pulse generator; would you know it? That small current-leak of the power source that has slipped undetected through every tech support and raises the fine, translucent hairs on my forearm...
So how could you possibly understand that I would spend most of my waking time surrounded by a chaos of blinking panels and wires and connectors and computer screens and printouts and reprints and data disks, and still crave for yet more of all that pandemonium of biomedical data acquisition and signal analysis in my spare time? How could I make you understand that an a- few-hours-visit at another lab would constitute my all-time favorite weekend entertainment? And how could I explain that spending those hours in the lab of a scientist of Dr. H. McCoy's caliber would be like all my past, present and future birthday and Christmas presents all packed together into one giant parcel, and that even a tour around the world's probably only boarding school for teen mutants, however fascinating, couldn't quite distract me from wanting to dig into that parcel, right there and right then?
I have long since given up explaining my motivations, I don't even try anymore. Xavier, though, could surely read them in my mind. And he knew McCoy quite well, who must be even worse than me, because he's a friggin' all-round genius on top of all his passion for research, as I had confirmed the night before. And finally, after decades reading people's minds, the Professor is probably one of the world's greatest connoisseurs of human nature. So I hope he didn't take it too hard if my mind was cringing in expectation of the rooms he most assuredly wasn't going to show me on this tour, so that most of his words just lingered in my short- time memory for a coffee-break before vanishing into oblivion.
Yes, I do confess: I forgot most of what he told me as we walked around that huge building. That is, I walked, he rolled. I do recall a bit of family history. I recall a bit of how he first got the idea that mutants could be taught to handle their powers and be at ease about them, and with themselves. I recall the name of some Erik or Erich Lehnsherr, maybe because the Professor pronounced it like he knew German, maybe because I sensed a deep sorrow associated with it, like for a very dear friend, forever beloved, and forever lost.
But then, I do also remember the basketball field and the echo of the player's laughter, hitting me from behind after reflecting at the mansion's walls. I remember the dark pines that summoned long- forgotten childhood memories, when all trees had seemed so incredibly tall little me feared they could accidentally brush the stars from the sky on a windy night. I remember the classrooms, quite deserted as it was noon and the students were having their lunch in a diner we both agreed would not be wise to visit. I remember the small number of desks, and I remember touching one table's dripping corner, and wondering what could cause dry wood to freeze on a spring morning inside a closed room. A student's prank, of course. What else?
I remember a thick carpet that swallowed my footsteps, imperceptibly worn in the middle by countless young feet and the wheels of this one man's chair. And half a dozen girls and boys, chasing along the corridors and slowing down abruptly as they spotted the Professor, greeting him as best suited their personality, solemnly, or respectfully, or with a half guilty, half mischievous grin, and resuming their race scarcely ten feet passed us, their suppressed laughter lingering behind like a scent around us old-timers, left to smile indulgently after them. I remember the Professor's calm, quiet voice vibrating from the walls and the ceiling and from behind me, making the hair in my neck stand in an unconscious, animal reaction; and then again welling up within my brain, like hearing it inside out, words and sentences I would be so quick to forget. And yet they must have stayed in my brain at least long enough to understand, not with my intellect but with some sixth or seventh sense, that the Professor was the source of the life that pulsed through this school, just as this school was the heart of his own. He seemed ancient to me, this man, older than his years, and yet, like the building, he seemed strangely ageless. And I remember marveling at the depth of their relationship, anchored and thriving on a secret they both shared and I wouldn't learn, not that day and maybe not ever. I don't think I wanted to know it either. I didn't feel ready for all of it.
Maybe I remember enough, after all. Maybe all that matters.
And then, finally, we stopped in an empty corridor at a nondescript white door somewhere on the lower floors and the Professor had fallen silent, and was just watching my face, a hint of a smile on his thin lips, a hint of amusement in his clear eyes. I looked around, disoriented, then embarrassed, wondering whether I had missed something crucial he might have said, and eventually understanding. And I stared at that door and surely it didn't take a telepath to read my mind, it must have been written all over my face.
"You can wait inside, if you wish. He shouldn't be long now."
Continued in Chapter Six.