The next day while Wolverine and Storm ran the recovering X-Men through their paces in the Danger Room, Cecilia reclined on a couch in the rec room, leafing through the pages of a molecular biology textbook borrowed from Hank. After the incident with Bobby, she became aware that she needed a serious refresher course on mutant physiology. While she had a good grasp of the basics from her medical training, cellular physics and mutant DNA were hardly a part of her daily repertoire in the Operating Room. And who was better than Dr. Hank McCoy himself to lend a little light on the subject?
Just as she found herself actually understanding a rather complex protein module, Maggott flopped down on the couch next to her, jarring the book from her grasp and sending it crashing to the floor. She looked over her glasses at him and said blankly, "I was reading that."
"Adrenergic Receptor Protocols? You sure know a blooming good time, doll."
Cecilia rolled her eyes and retrieved her book from the floor as Maggott picked up the remote control and started flipping through morning infomercials at breakneck speed. After trying to get back to her reading, only to be barraged with get-rich-quick schemes and diatribes on buckwheat pillows, Cecilia breathed a deep sigh. "Aren't you X-types all supposed to be busting your asses in the Danger Room or something?"
Maggott merely grinned as one of his girls slithered up his ankle to rest on his knee. "Ag, me bladdy shoulder was tuning me grief. The battle-axe let me go early, hey. Sawright, they should be finished just now."
Cecilia raised an eyebrow, understanding that Maggott's "just now" could mean five minutes or five years. He finally stopped clicking the remote, settling on a rerun of an English Premier League match, and propped his feet on the ottoman which currently served as the coffee table for this area of the large room. After a few moments, Cecilia shifted in her seat and tried her best to get back to her reading when Maggott asked, "So you gonna ask how it went down yesterday?"
Marking her page and closing her book, she decided to humor him and asked with a pleasant but mocking tone, "So how did it go yesterday? Win any medals?"
Sloughing off the sarcasm, he picked up the second of his slugs from the floor and kissed what passed as her forehead. "The girls and I donnered those skollies like they weren't even there. Struesbob, I did alright."
Grinning at his bravado, she found herself saying sincerely. "Good for you, Maggott. From the whispering I heard over breakfast, I believe you're not just blowing hot air this time."
Maggott beamed. "Jawelnofine. Always tell it like it is, doll."
Cecilia shook her head. "Si, whatever. You know I know better by now."
"We picked up some loot, though. Databases. Records. Fixed up."
Cecilia's mind wandered back to the thought of her profile. Surely he was curious about his files as well, if he had any. She let the matter drop as Maggott folded his hands over his girls as they rested on his lap and turned his attention back to the game. "Man U. Do those rooneks ever lose? Makes me bladdy sick. Boring as hell."
She looked at him, rather clueless on the whole subject of English football when he suddenly interjected, "Jislaaik, I almost forgot. I brought you some mail."
He handed her a thin envelope, retrieved from somewhere inside the interior of his poncho, with the return address of St. Francis Regional Medical in the corner. The residency at St. Francis was the only position she hadn't heard back from. Westchester County which had rejected her only the day before was supposed to be her back up in case she didn't get in anywhere else while St. Francis was rather high up her list of preferred employers. As the envelope shook in her hands, she took a deep breath and handed it back to him as she said quickly, "You open it. I can't."
His expression growing serious in reaction to Cecilia's anxiety, Maggott asked, "You sure, hey?"
She simply nodded and he opened the envelope hastily, knowing during the time they spent together over the last few months what this probably meant to her. While she didn't speak to many people about her failing search for employment, Maggott had become a witness to all the angry phone calls and too thin envelopes arriving in the mail. Out of everyone, he knew how bad off she really was. She watched his eyes as he scanned the single sheet of paper and then folded it, placing it back into the envelope as he said quietly, "Sorry, doll."
Releasing a deep sigh, Cecilia pulled her book close to her chest and said, "Then that's it, then."
"Ag, that's what?"
She shook her head as she felt all the muscles in her back tighten, reacting to the anxiety she was trying so hard to internalize. "That's the last one. That's it. Cecilia Reyes, MD is officially an outcast. Scrub out, chica. You're finished."
He looked at her in disbelief. "You mean not one on the whole list?"
Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, she said flatly, "Not a one."
She could have sworn she heard one of the girls hiss as Maggott said in a half-growl, "Just wait until I find those stoepkakkers and skop them up their guavas."
He then reached out to touch her shoulder but then hesitated and retreated back to his side of the couch as he said, "Don't worry, doll. We'll make a plan. This thing is vrot, you know? You don't deserve it."
Just as she was about to tell him not to worry and pull herself back into the hard-as-nails persona he was surely more comfortable with, Storm entered the room, managing to look as dignified as royalty even though her arm was in a sling. As she stood in front of the television and tilted her head, no doubt somewhat curious as to what the two were discussing but doing her best to pay it no heed, she said in her lilting alto, "We have found the... information you wanted, Cecilia. Please follow me if you would like to see it."
Cecilia nodded and placed her book on the ottoman as she stood and said, the exotic name feeling odd in her mouth, "Gracias, Ororo."
She then looked back at Maggott as he resumed his channel surfing and his girls moved to occupy her half of the couch. He smiled at her weakly and asked as he let his gaze rest on the envelope, "So what do you want with this?"
Turning on her heel to follow Storm to the sub-basement, Cecilia said quietly, her words sounding bitter in her ears, "Throw it out... with the rest of the garbage."
The door swished shut behind Cecilia and Ororo as they entered the X-Men's Comm Room and Cecilia saw Hank and Wolverine hovering over a series of black boxes, wires and circuits spanning a makeshift connection between them and the large view screen on the room's prominent wall. As the two seemed completely engrossed in their work, Storm cleared her throat quietly and then said, "Cecilia is here. I believe she wants to see what you have recovered."
Dusting himself off as he got to his feet, Hank pulled up a chair for Cecilia as he nodded to her once with a slight smile on his face and fumbled with a pencil he had tucked behind his ear before he silently excused himself. She breathed a quiet sigh. At least someone in the mansion had tact. Or at least some of the time, she mused to herself. Next to her on the floor, Wolverine shifted and adjusted a few knobs, inserted an odd looking cassette that looked almost as archaic as audio recording tape and then began explaining to her how to operate the machinery. He didn't even give her a glance as he pointed at the buttons with a small screwdriver, "Now this one is play. This one's rewind. Fast forward. Here's yer stop button. Most likely the feed'll start up with some static. It's the best we can do at the moment."
She examined the piece-meal control panel as Wolverine continued, "But it's cued up to start right at the beginning of the record and stop at the end. Won't play anything but. Ya understand, security and all. Ya have any problems, let me know."
Cecilia nodded and looked up at Storm expectantly while he kept tinkering with the instruments, obviously oblivious to the two women's presence. Storm's mouth then curled into the tiniest hint of a smirk and she said, "Logan. I do believe Cecilia wants some privacy."
Finally glancing up from his work, Logan said apologetically as he stood and dusted off his worn blue jeans, "Sorry. Didn't mean to forget myself like that."
He then turned his attention to Storm as he said more mirthfully than Cecilia had heard him speak in weeks, "Come on 'Ro. Lunch is on me. I'll get cleaned up and we can head to Harry's."
"I cannot believe it. Logan is actually going to pay for a meal? And Harry's Hideaway? Whatever shall I wear?"
"Well, if my tux wasn't swiped by Bastion's goons..."
Cecilia shook her head as Ororo laughed heartily and the two exchanged an idle play of wits on the way out of the room. So even the high and mighty leaders of the current rag-tag team of X-Men had senses of humor. If she wasn't so curious about the contents of her file, she might have actually been amused. As soon as the doors shut behind them and she made sure the lock was engaged, she pressed the play button. The large screen blipped to life and then as the static cleared, there he was... Charles Francis Xavier. Bigger than life and just as she remembered from ten years earlier.
"... subject was identified at the age of fourteen and interviewed at the age of sixteen. She had little to no mastery of her the bio-plasmic force field she wields and was not capable of giving me a demonstration of her powers. She did inform me it had only been activated during periods of direct threat to her person and while I wished to test her powers in order to witness them for myself, due to the nature of our encounter it did not seem appropriate..."
Cecilia winced as she recalled their meeting. He had arranged to see her at a conference room in the public library with the premise that he was interviewing her for an academic scholarship to an institution of higher learning with the possibility of a college scholarship to follow. Her mother had agreed, happily bragging to all her neighbors about her smart little "gatita," and was the happiest she had seen her since before Enrique died. So Cecilia found herself dressed in her finest church clothes sitting awkwardly across a table from Professor Xavier. As he looked over the transcripts and test scores she brought for him, he finally revealed the nature of his visit and the unique education his school offered. She was dumbfounded and in a panic insulted him, setting the tone for the rest of their meeting. The words rang in her ears as if she had just spoken them. "I'm not a freak, senor. I'm a real person and real people don't hide in ivory towers."
"..only with a display of my own telepathic powers was I able to glean from her that she was indeed a mutant. After then, she admitted somewhat reluctantly that none of her family members or anyone besides myself knew that she was a mutant. She even made mention that for the first year after her power surfaced, she did not know what she was until she read a series of articles in recent newspapers..."
She remembers Xavier's voice in her head, telling her that he knew the truth about her. That he would like to test her powers. She smiled sweetly at him, her thoughts dripping with sarcasm, wondering if he had the audacity to try and harm a young girl with a projectile weapon. Luckily for her, she didn't get the chance to find out.
"... the hostility I encountered from the subject is understandable considering what she experienced the first time her powers manifested. It is evident from her defensiveness that she still carries a large amount of guilt for her brother's passing. Most likely this guilt compounded with the earlier death of her father will haunt her and even drive her for many years..."
Xavier had known about Enrique and told her that he had ascertained the truth of his injury from police reports and Esteban's testimony during his juvenile court arraignment. He had said it was an easy picture to paste together if you knew what to look for. In retrospect, she realized he was trying to give her an opportunity to release some of the burden she had shouldered and get on with her life. But at the time, all she felt was bitterness and a deep fear of exposure. Enrique's passing was too fresh and her wounds had not yet healed. As she continued to watch the log entry, she swallowed hard, wondering if they would ever heal.
"...I had hoped to include her in my second class of new mutants but my offer was hastily and thoroughly rejected from the beginning of the interview. It is of my opinion that she would have made a fine student had I contacted her closer to the time of her initial manifestation. Sadly, without any guidance after the many tragedies in her young life, she has slipped into a shell of bitterness and even self-hatred, in effect aging herself beyond her years and completely isolating herself emotionally from her environment. I believe that she is now beyond hope of training, that perhaps her scars are too deep. She would only be a risk to herself and those around her if placed on an active team of adolescent mutants. I have taken steps to respect her wishes and keep her identity and mutant status a secret, even from those closest to her. At this moment, her phony rejection letter is in the mail to her mother. And while I have made steps to make sure she is cared for in the event of any agendas against mutant-kind, my only hope is that she will be allowed to follow her own apprehensive heart and stay undiscovered among the rest of humanity. It is my judgment that she will never allow herself to be a hero, whether it be fighting for my dream or her own..."
As the playback faded into static and then clicked to a stop, the words cut through her like a knife. In the years following the interview with Xavier she had always assumed that she had the upper hand, that she had rejected him and not the other way around. Little did she realize that while she was judging him, he was assessing her. He had seen into her mind and in a matter of minutes judged her soul fractured beyond repair. She pursed her lips as she squinted her eyes at the fading image on the view screen. Perhaps he was right. Perhaps she would never find peace. But that was her decision to make, not his.
Releasing a deep sigh, she rewound the file and studied the buttons on the console. There was one that Wolverine hadn't pointed out to her, but she was pretty sure how it worked. She pressed the button without hesitation and watched in satisfaction as two simple words formed on the viewer: "Record Deleted."
Concluded in Part 5.