DISCLAIMER: This is an unauthorized
work of fiction using characters that are (c) & TM by
Marvel Comics Group. No profit is being made on this story,
which is (c) Tilman Stieve.
You can copy it for your entertainment, but don't sell it
for profit, or Marvel will set their lawyers on you. Please
do not archive this on your website without informing me first.
According to some people's rules this story might be labeled
The following story is yet another one of my continuing series,
the Tales of the Twilight Menshevik.
Specifically, it is set in the alternate future of The
Survivor Has a Different Kind of Scar. As I'm planning
to write more, I guess I'll best give that timeline a name
-- The Days of Future Twilight. The Iceman's Tale is
set ten years before Survivor.
You can find the Tales archived on "Fonts
of Wisdom," on "Down-Home
Charm," on "Queen
of Hearts" and on "X-Men
This story is for Shane Hutchison.
By Tilman Stieve,
aka the Menshevik
An ACCOUNTANT entered and sat
on the stool
Beside me, a graduate of Xavier's School
Who'd been in many a desperate fight
Trying to set the world aright.
His glass he held in a prosthetic hand
But on his own deeds he would not expand.
He rued not the battles, but he mourned this cost:
Too many friends and his dear wife he'd lost.
--- The Westchester Tales
Hello, Chris. This is an unexpected pleasure. Come on in.
Care for a cup of coffee or tea? No, it's no trouble at all.
So you're Leslie. No, I'm glad to meet you!
How are things with Factor X? Now where's that filter...
So, you want me to tell you something. What
do you want to hear about?
The X-Men. Of course. Yes, Chris, I expect what your parents
tell you about them is a bit limited, seeing they were active
members only for a limited time.
Well, sit down in an easy chair and make yourself comfortable.
This may take some time.
I'm not proud of being the only one of the original five
to survive, but there's no denying I'm proud to have been
one of them. We were a special group, the Five Musketeers
you might say. In many ways we remained a clique of our own
within the X-Men right until the end. Even Christopher's father
never really became one of us, and he is Scott's brother!
It ultimately was because Professor Xavier gathered us together
when we were so young. None of us really had yet learned to
fend for ourselves. It was different for the Professor's later
classes -- they either were older than we had been when we
started, or at least some of them had been forced to look
after themselves or their siblings, and thus were less impressionable.
And the Prof had become more experienced by the time the new
recruits arrived in Westchester.
But we were The First. The Originals. Most of us came to
Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters from the bosom of our
families, as it were. Only Hank had already started his college
freshman year elsewhere and Scott had been taken under the
wing of a villain called the Living Diamond.
Maybe it was inevitable that we became a surrogate family
with Charles Xavier as the ersatz father, with me as the bratty
kid brother. Or to use another comparison, Jean was Ginger
X, Hank: Sporty, Warren: Posh, Scott: Scary, and yours truly:
You don't remember that there used to be five Spice Girls?
You really ought to listen to the oldies channels more often.
Ah well. We were too young and too small a group for this
not to happen. We kept living in each other's pockets through
most of the early years. And we dedicated ourselves to the
Professor's Dream of a world in which mutant and non-mutant
would live together in peace. Rather ironic, what happened
The Professor trained us to use our powers, to function as
a team in a fight, to become superheroes. And that is what
we became, heart and soul. Ultimately, it was the only job
we became good at -- except for Hank, obviously. He had a
Nobel Prize to prove it. But whenever one of the other four
tried to actually live the Dream, to do a job that
did not involve spandex suits and busting villains' heads,
we grew uneasy and itchy within weeks and drifted back to
what we knew best. Even after most of us left the X-Men, we
kind of gravitated to each other in other groups -- first
it was Warren and me in the Champions, then the two of us
plus Hank in the Defenders, and finally all five of us in
It's hard to say how much of our personalities and that aspect
in particular was shaped by the Professor. We didn't blame
him. He did what he thought was right, and it was a dangerous
time to be a mutant.
We would not always listen to him, even when we still were
fairly young. Or was it that we became jealous because he
devoted an increasing part of his attentions to others besides
No, that probably would be exaggerating things.
But after Professor X assembled his second class -- Storm,
Wolverine, Colossus and the rest -- Warren, Hank and I left
almost precipitately and for a while we were totally out of
touch with Xavier and the others, even Scott and Jean. We'd
sometimes meet the new guys in action, but that happened little
more often than I would meet, say, Spider-Man or the Human
We occasionally would come together with the others for 'family
occasions', like the funeral service for the original Phoenix
(we thought she was Jean) or later for your uncle Scott's
first wedding. But with some of the new ones we simply could
not (and did not want to) get along, especially with someone
like Logan, whom most of us considered little better than
the killers we fought as enemies. When Scott went off on his
own after we thought Jean had died, Warren tried to help out
at the Mansion, but he found it impossible to live with Wolverine,
and after a few weeks he left.
We were dismayed by some of the later rookies the Professor
took into the team. Rogue, a former Evil Mutant. We did not
trust her, which in retrospect was a little funny because
her life story was not without parallels to Scott's, only
she had found it harder to disassociate herself from her past
and her surrogate parent than Scott from his. But that was
because Aunt Raven cared for Rogue more deeply and more genuinely
than Jack O'Diamonds ever did for Scott. But you know that,
you see for yourself every week how Mystique is about as obsessed
with Rogue's memory as I am with...
Anyway, what was even worse from our point of view was that
not long after that, the Professor even let Magneto join.
We vividly remembered him as our worst enemy. It was then
that Scott left the X-Men, shortly after Professor X had once
And then Jean Grey reappeared.
The original five could get together again to do what we
thought was the right thing. But we soon slid into wrongness.
We were desperate to have Scott with us, Scott was desperate
to be with us. He deeply felt that he was the only one who
could lead us, he really wanted to help Jean, and maybe subconsciously
he was dreaming of getting together with her again.
Madelyne, Scott's first wife, got trodden underfoot in the
process. True, she later turned out to be Jean's clone and
to have been conditioned to some extent by Sinister, but that
does not mean that she wasn't a person in her own right, that
she did not have a soul. Had we considered her more, she might
have been saved, who can tell? Instead, she felt abandoned,
and when she discovered the truth, something in her snapped.
She fell into despair and lived the rest of her short life
for nothing but revenge. It sounds odd when I say that she
sold her soul and her humanity to a demon in her bid to get
her own back, but it's the honest truth. Ultimately, it also
cost her her life.
Another thing we did not properly face was that we had begun
to look on the "New X-Men" as enemies without trying
to understand their point of view, but also without confronting
them, without telling them what we thought they had done wrong.
We did not bother to try to make them change their mind about
their alliance with Magneto or to try to save the junior team
-- the New Mutants -- from his influence. We simply cut ourselves
off and decided the five of us were sufficient unto ourselves.
We did not even invite your parents to join us, which ironically
meant that not long afterwards he joined the ones we had banished
from our presence.
As X-Factor, Incorporated, we became obsessed with secrecy
and a complicated MO. To the outside world, we pretended to
be mutant hunters, hoping to get mutant haters to call us,
and then we'd go, pretend to capture the mutants in question
but actually save them and give them a chance to learn to
deal with their powers. We'd also operate as a bogus group
of mutant terrorists -- staging battles against ourselves
-- on whom we could blame the destruction in the wake of the
battles that made X-Factor the darlings of mutiphobe media
across the States. We finally reached a point where we became
annoyed with a young television reporter -- Trish Tilby --
, who began to investigate X-Factor, Inc. instead of praising
them for their efforts to combat the 'Mutant Menace'.
Sooner than we expected, everything began to unravel. Sinister
and his Marauders appeared and started to slaughter the Morlocks.
The X-Men and X-Factor tried to stop them, but we acted separately
and took heavy losses. Warren was so badly wounded that they
had to amputate his wings. The emotional pain he went through
then was enough to drive him to let Apocalypse recruit him
for a time. His friend Cameron Hodge, who as our public relations
guy ran most of our daily operations, was revealed as a snake
in the grass. He had used our resources, our efforts, our
ads to stir up anti-mutant hysteria for his own ends, and
now he crowned his achievement by getting his claws into Warren's
Things got worse and worse -- our cover was shot, thanks
to Mystique. The new X-Men were believed to be dead. Seeing
Scott and Jean together on TV sent Madelyne off the rails
and ultimately into self-destruction. One of the few gleams
of hope was that we began to overcome our misunderstandings
with Trish (her reports helped to limit the damage of the
Well, I won't bother with the further details of the first
X-Factor. In the end we were reunited with the X-Men after
the Prof returned from outer space. Alex and Lorna then got
together with Val Cooper started the new X-Factor, the one
that later became Factor X.
In our private lives, things became fairly stable for a while.
Scott and Jean were a couple again, got married and raised
Madelyne's son Nathan together. Unfortunately the boy was
prone to be struck by temporal anomalies -- he got infected
with a techno-organic virus, disappeared into the future,
sent back into our past, that sort of thing. For a while there
were two grown-up versions of him -- Cable and Stryfe -- fighting
it out in our present, and then one day there was none. And
that's when Jean and Scott really went through a crisis.
But I'm getting ahead of myself, aren't I? I'd better say
something about the others first. Hank and Trish had fallen
in love while we were still calling ourselves X-Factor. They
had their problems and misunderstandings, but it really was
inevitable that they got married. Once they got through the
sticky patches, it became what was probably the most uncomplicated
relationship of any X-Man.
That same year Warren met Charlotte; they quickly became
an item, but later drifted apart. Myself, I had raised mismanaged
romances to a fine art. Opal Tanaka was only the latest in
a series of women with whom I fell in love but with whom I
badly fumbled the follow-up. Somehow, until Em...
After we returned to the Mansion, the chemistry between the
old and new X-Men changed. For a while, the team was reorganized
into two sections, and the original five were split up among
them. I'm not sure how much sense it made from a tactical
point of view, but it did force us 'old-timers' to interact
more with the 'juniors'. It seems to have worked -- after
a while we even grew closer to some of the newer X-Men on
the squad we weren't in. Warren and Betsy Braddock -- Psylocke
-- became lovers for a couple of years, Hank liked to pal
around with Jubilee, Scott and Jean both grew close to Ororo,
and to my surprise I discovered that Rogue and I really could
relate to one another as friends.
Emma... at that time was still running with the Hellfire
Club, until Trevor Fitzroy slaughtered her first set of students,
the Hellions. She wound up in a coma and in our medlab, and
then one day she woke and ... possessed my body ... well,
I think I remember telling you about Emma's story. Anyway,
a few years after she reformed and became the headmistress
of Xavier's high school, she and I fell in love...
But to get back to the others -- I guess it is your aunt
and uncle you really want to know about, Chris. Things went
smoothly, maybe too idyllic even, until the disaster in Connecticut,
when Cable and Stryfe fused and disappeared into a parallel
universe because of some magical accident I never really figured
out. Scott was devastated, and it now emerged that he had
a lot of bad feelings bottled up inside him that he had not
dealt with properly. Especially the way he had treated Nathan's
mother, Madelyne. For a time, he became estranged from Jean
and obsessed about everything he had done wrong (or thought
he had done wrong) in the past. Although Jean, although we
all tried to bring him out of his depression, he became filled
with self-loathing, and then he surprised everybody (but confirmed
to his own mind his low opinion of himself) by having an affair
Why did they do it? God knows. We had endless discussions
about it, both behind their backs and with them. Personally,
I think it had something to do with Scott's special attraction
to the opposite sex -- women always seemed to find him most
irresistible when he was at his most vulnerable. Betsy originally
must just have flirted with him -- possibly felt neglected
by Warren -- but before she knew it, things went out of hand
and she and Scott started to go to bed together in secret.
When they were found out, the ... um, manure really hit the
fan. Warren dumped Betsy like a hot potato and Jean ran out
on Scott for a while and fled into the waiting arms of Logan.
Some of us never had warmed up to him at all, but it was hard
for us to blame him for that. After all, most of us had had
a crush on Jean ourselves at one time or other, and we weren't
sure how we would have reacted had we been unattached... In
fact, Hank and I rather suspected that had Warren not gotten
back together with Charlotte on the rebound, he might well
have tried something with Jean himself. It would have made
for some kind of symmetry had the cheated man and woman gotten
their own back in that fashion, but it did not happen. Some
of us only began to suspect what really happened when we jestingly
suggested to place bets about Jean and Warren, and Logan offered
suspiciously high odds against.
After this had gone on for a while, Jean and Scott came to
their senses, decided they still loved each other, and determined
to get their marriage off the rocks. And then they discovered
that with someone with Logan's healing factor, "safe
sex" might require more elaborate precautions than for
the average Joe: Jean found out she was pregnant. But they
dealt with it surprisingly quickly, and even before Abby was
born Scott loved her as if she was his own. Four years later,
he and Jean at last had a child together, Daniel.
Jean and Scott always were closest to the team. Unlike Warren,
Hank and me, they never took part in the exchange program
with the Avengers. Well, it really would not have worked most
of the time, what with Scott usually being team leader or
They did not move away from the Xavier estate and happily
settled down in their home in the converted boathouse. That
was far enough from the Mansion for them, it provided enough
privacy most of the time. The Professor had got them into
the habit of seeing themselves as his heirs-apparent, and
that was something most everybody accepted.
For us other three, it was different. Warren had his own
places where he lived between missions. He set up house with
Charlotte, and finally made it official by marrying her and
adopting Timmy. They tried to have children together, but
some of the stuff Apocalypse had done to him must have made
him infertile. Since Charlotte continued to work in her job
at the NYPD, they lived in their Manhattan penthouse most
of the time, so Warren was in easy reach, usually, and did
not have live at the Mansion.
Hank probably had the most detached life of the five of us.
Although there never was any doubt that he was first and foremost
an X-Man, he also had strong personal ties to the Avengers.
Also, his scientific research occupied a lot of his time.
We never found out how he and Trish managed to squeeze a family
life into their schedules and have three children. Maybe it
was because they were so busy that they'd decided they did
not have time enough for quarrels and marital crises.
Myself... I did not stay at the Mansion as much as I used
to either. Emma lived in Massachusetts, and I spent more and
more of my time with her there. At first it was a clandestine
relationship because I was a high-profile mutant and Emma
did her best to hide her powers -- it's always hardest for
telepaths to find acceptance -- and also the true purpose
of the School for Gifted Youngsters from public knowledge.
She feared these secrets would be jeopardized if our liaison
became known. For years we did not go to social events together.
Or at any rate not physically; we sometimes linked up telepathically
when only one of us attended.
Only when Emma became pregnant with Imogen she relented,
and we made our relationship known to the world, and some
time after her birth we finally tied the knot. Those years
were the happiest in my life. I began to spend years at the
Academy in Snow Valley, helping with the training sessions
and administrative matters. This would alternate with 'tours
of duty' with the X-Men. Emma and I were happily living together,
raising Imogen, and she had finally worked up the courage
to tell Cordelia that she was her mother. And then, ten years
ago, I was assigned to the Avengers in the annual exchange.
We got into one of their periodic battles against Kang, and
as usual, time travel was involved. We went to various points
in the past and future, and when we finally returned, Immortus
dropped us off two years after we left. When we arrived, Jarvis
told us the news: The X-Men were dead, and Emma with them.
Well, you know what happened -- how the Shadow King came
to possess Apocalypse and how these two beings coalesced into
a threat that made Onslaught look shabby, both on the physical
and psi level.
The Professor was no longer there -- he had died shortly
before I joined the Avengers -- and so the three telepaths
at hand, Jean, Betsy, and Emma had to link up against him
in the final battle. It wasn't enough, and when Excalibur
arrived at the last moment to finally destroy King Apocalypse,
Rachel could only save one of them -- Jean.
When I saw her, Jean was in a terrible state. Her powers
were gone, her life was a lingering death that consisted of
long periods of pain or catatonia interrupted by lucid episodes.
It took over a year for her sufferings to end. Logan had taken
it upon himself to care for her until she died.
Apart from Logan and Dani Moonstar, every X-Man who had been
active on September 2nd, 2013 was now dead. The survivors
-- including many of those who had been on pregnancy leave
or in other teams on the Day the X-Men Died -- joined up with
X-Factor, which reorganized under a new charter as Factor
I was teetering on the brink of despair, or maybe I had taken
the step over the line. My closest friends and the woman who
had been the center of my life were dead. I was totally determined
not to accept this, determined to undo what happened. I decided
to commandeer the Fantastic Four's time machine to travel
back and prevent the X-Men's death.
Yes, I knew Reed Richard's theories of time-travel before
Well, Leslie, I know a little bit about mathematics, and
I think he overlooked a couple of angles. But who's going
to listen to an accountant over the world's greatest
scientific genius? It is not impossible to travel in time
without ending up in a parallel universe, it is just very
improbable. When I first worked out the figures, I was so
excited that it could be done that I unfortunately was off
by two decimal places for the odds against, but if you want
it, I've written a little treatise on the matter, I can download
it for you. Anyway, there have been some time-traveling events
that to me indicated that you do not always wind up in a different
timeline. Consider Cable -- he is from our reality, grew up
for years in the far future, and then returned to his original
timeline years before the point from which he left. According
to Richards' Theorem that should have been impossible. So
I figured I'd do something similar, travel to the future first,
and back from there to a point in time before September 2nd,
2013. If I didn't make it to our reality, I'd repeat the process
until I did and saved Emma and the others.
So I catapulted myself 20 years into the future, into a parallel
timeline, where I only had to wait until the FF were off on
a mission. I could walk into Four Freedoms Plaza using my
Avengers priority card. I had figured it would be more complicated...
But then things got very hectic. I had to put in as many
jumps as I could squeeze into the time before the Fantastic
Four returned home.
The first attempt was to go back to 2011. I knew that a day
after my arrival, there would be a battle between X-Factor
and the Shadow King near Savannah, the last sighting of Amahl
Farouk before he merged with Apocalypse. In my past, this
battle had been a surprise encounter, from which the Shadow
King managed to escape. But if I cold bring in some of the
X-Men's heavyweight psis to that battle in time, maybe it
would be possible to capture or disperse his psychic essence
and thus prevent his fusion with Apocalypse. I was fairly
optimistic, because this was still two years before the Professor's
death, and he was the most powerful telepath ever.
Time was pressing, but it worked quite well, all things considered.
Professor X heard my story and immediately called together
the telepaths. I got on the first plane, along with my alter
ego and this reality's Emma. Yup, it was the same me all right,
the other Bobby Drake could not resist quipping about me being
beside myself with anxiety. At least as far as he and Em were
concerned, there were no notable differences, they showed
me photographs of Imogen which I thought I remembered taking
myself in my reality. Had I been lucky at the first attempt?
Well, to cut a long story short -- we won. The plan worked,
and the Shadow King's essence was scattered, I hope to kingdom
come. I felt lucky and more than a little pleased with myself.
But then I felt as if someone was walking over my grave.
When the two teams gathered after the battle to congratulate
each other and to compare notes, I noticed an unfamiliar young
man among the ranks of X-Factor, a teenager with a striking
white streak among his brown hair. With a sinking feeling
I asked who he was, and my reawakened fears were immediately
confirmed. He was Nathan Summers.
He had not been infected with the techno-organic virus and
been raised normally (or as normally as could be expected)
by Scott... and Madelyne. After graduating from Xavier's School,
he had joined his uncle's team under the code name Myrmidon.
I had wound up in a different reality after all.
After I recovered from my shocked disappointment, I was able
to talk with the others and find out more about this timeline.
It seems to have diverged from ours shortly after Jean's
return from the bottom of Jamaica Bay. After Scott left Maddy
to join the other original X-Men, Madelyne had taken a few
days to make up her mind to follow him. In our reality, the
flight she was going to take was booked up, and before she
could board the next one, the Marauders attacked. Over there,
there still were seats available, and so she suddenly appeared
on Warren's doorstep with Nathan in her arm. Which meant that
things became clear to Jean a heckuva lot earlier than in
the reality I remembered.
It really was astonishing how differently things had evolved
from that. In our world, Madelyne took the breakup of her
marriage so hard that she flipped out into a murderous madness
that she tried to kill her own son and ultimately killed herself.
There, Jean stood back as soon as she found out that Scott
was married. Scott was a good man, in that reality as well
as ours, and Jean's unselfish forbearance enabled him to get
through his deep crisis, to rediscover his feelings for his
wife. The funny thing was that, over there, when Hank discovered
that Maddy was Jean's imperfect clone, they actually began
to look at each other as sisters, and grew kinda close, and
Jean became a beloved aunt to Nathan and his younger siblings,
Ruth, Naomi and David. After Cameron Hodge killed Candy Southern,
she married Warren, but that ended in divorce after a few
years. She later married Logan; they lived in the Boathouse
with Warren IV and Mary.
I don't know if Scott became as happy with Madelyne there
as he was with Jean in our world, but near as I could tell
they all were content. Scott took a greater part in the running
of the School, starting when he was called in after it became
too much for Magneto.
Yes, I suppose Logan was happier there than he was
Anyway, they had done pretty well over there, all things
considered. I only hope none of the telepaths pulled the story
of what had happened to Madelyne in our reality from my mind.
When my time was up, I bade good-bye to my counterpart and
to his wife, and was pulled back to the future. With so many
more powerful psis available, I could not even be sure that
my intervention had been essential.
I immediately got started on my second jump into the past.
The time machine was set for Snow Valley, a month earlier
than for the first one. As I walked up to the Academy's front
door, I thought I could hear my heartbeat, so anxious was
I about which reality I found myself in.
When the door was opened by a teenage boy who looked like
Irene Cooper's brother, I knew I had missed the mark once
again. There was no way of knowing if my warning about King
Apocalypse would be needed here. But I wanted to see Emma
again, and asked to see her.
There was no problem and the blue-skinned student led me
to her office. But I got another shock when he addressed her
as 'mom'. It hit me like a punch to my gut. That boy could
not be my son, so Emma must have...
This world's Emma Frost looked at me with wonder when she
caught my unguarded thoughts. "Who are you?" she
asked. She immediately saw I was not the Bobby Drake she remembered,
something the electronic defenses of the School had failed
to do. Seconds later, Mystique stepped into the room, ready
for a fight (Emma had telepathically called her, just in case)
and bundled the kid out of the room.
I... kinda broke down, or at any rate I sank into a chair.
We talked, but they wound up asking me more questions than
I did them.
As far as warning them about the Shadow King was concerned,
my journey was a bust. It turned out that he had tangled with
Doctor Strange and ended up imprisoned in the dimension inside
a purple crystal ball, safely stored in the Doctor's Sanctum.
What Emma and Raven really grilled me about was my own life
story. My counterpart in this timeline had evolved rather
differently. He had not dared to unfreeze when he was wounded
-- the confrontation with Emma did not help, and in the end
Jean had to possess him to make him do it.
Physically that had saved him, but the way it happened made
him spin further down into my old inferiority complex instead
of overcoming it. He became convinced of his own worthlessness
as a superhero and not long after retired from the business
to become a full-time accountant.
Emma had been sorry to see him end up that way, but had not
hesitated to write him off as a whittle either. And not long
after that, she fell in love with Mystique, they had a son
together, and Raven became the head of school security.
Seeing me, listening to what I told her of my life with Emma
and Imogen came as a visible shock to her. But her amazed
reaction was nothing compared to Mystique's when I got around
to asking what had split her and Val Cooper up in this timeline.
When you say a person's face turns ash-gray, that normally
is a figure of speech. For Raven at that moment, it was a
literal description. Her knees actually buckled, and Emma
rushed to throw her arms around her and comfort her.
The explanation was cruelly simple: Valerie was dead. Her
throat had been slashed by the last swipe of Sabretooth's
claws in the moment when she saved the lives of X-Factor in
'95. Raven had taken a long time to get over Val's death,
and hearing me tell of our Valerie and Raven, of Irene and
Hope, did not just reopen old wounds, it was as if I was rubbing
salt into them as well. Yet she insisted I tell her everything
once she had calmed down.
I still had almost a day until the time machine would take
me back. But there was nothing urgent for me to do, so we
just sat down together the three of us and talked the rest
of the afternoon. After we got past the upsetting revelations,
we quickly warmed up to each other. They showed me around
the school. Watched the beginners' class in a training session.
Had supper together with their son, Valentine. And then found
out that Emma and Raven together led rather a different kind
of marriage from those they led with their partners in our
When it was time to go to bed, Emma asked me if I wanted
her to share mine with me. I was speechless and goggle-eyed.
Raven was totally unfazed by her partner's proposition, just
grinned evilly and asked if I wanted her to join in. At that
moment I thought they were joshing me, but they weren't. Emma
really had taken a shine to me, and they were surprised when
I told them that my Emma and I had not led that kind of an
I had to think for a long time when it finally sank in. In
the end I thought the opportunity was too good to miss. It
had been so long since I had last made love to my Emma, and
I was having my first doubts that my self-imposed mission
would actually succeed. I accepted Emma's offer. We went to
their bedroom, Raven kissed us both impartially and withdrew
(she knew I would be gone for good within a day, so she could
afford to be generous.). We were left alone.
It really was astonishingly like making love to my
Emma, her body was almost exactly as I remembered it. This
Emma too had given birth, and the stretch-marks were virtually
identical. She even had given her breasts the same names as
in our universe. Sorry, should I have mentioned this with
you around, Leslie...?
Geez, I didn't know you two...
Man, when I was your age, I was only having wet dreams about
stuff like that, but then I was the late bloomer of the team...
Ernie and Bert? You have a warped mind... Oh, I get it. Well,
if you must know, Emma called the left one Charlie and the
other Samantha. And both Emmas had this trick that drove me
wild. She'd bite down on the tip of Charlie and pulled upwards
as far as she dared...
It was wonderful while it lasted, so much like being with
... her. Not just physically... uh, making love with
a telepath is not an experience that you can easily describe
in words. But the 'shape' of this Emma was exactly as I remembered
it, for those few hours I felt it was not like being
with the love of my like, I felt I was with her. My
bedmate felt a real affection for me, as well as no little
curiosity, a desire to get to know me completely, and she
wanted to comfort me. It was easy for me to concentrate on
the similarities between the feelings she was conveying to
me telepathically and physically, and the memory of my Emma's
love for me. And to sorta ignore the differences, to edit
out the bass note of her deeply-felt love for Raven...
When the time for my return came, she said: "Pity I'm
on the pill. It would have been a great adventure to have
an Imogen with you here as well."
She said it to make me feel better, but as I was transported
back into the future I came from, it actually did the reverse.
In bed I thought I pretended I was making love to Emma, but
that remark reminded that she was not her, and I hated myself
for betraying the woman I was still trying to save.
But I did not have much time to think about it, to wallow
in my guilt or to rationalize what I had done. I had to make
haste with my third attempt before the owners of the time
machine returned. I again aimed for the Massachusetts Academy
building, a couple of weeks after the point I just came from.
I immediately ran into a group of blue-clad goons with facemasks,
big guns and an attitude. Tried to get away. Took out half
a dozen. And then was knocked out by a stun-gun.
When I came to, I found myself in a dungeon.
No really. If I hadn't already recognized the uniforms, I
would have known from the décor of my prison that I had been
captured by the Hellfire Club.
I was shackled and chained to the wall. Some device neutralized
my powers. As I slowly got acquainted with my surroundings,
I saw there was another prisoner in the room. The costume
she wore -- a claret and white number with the obligatory
'X' on it -- was unfamiliar, but the face was not.
"Irene?" I asked.
"Whatever," was the teenager's curt reply.
It was not an easy conversation. I was certain the room was
bugged, so I had to be careful what I said. I did not want
to give away too much. So I phrased my questions very cautiously
and tried to keep to myself that I was not 'of that world'.
Which made my fellow prisoner sense that there was something
odd about me and led to her keeping her answers down to about
a sentence each.
She was a member of the New Mutants, and she was certain
that Sebastian Shaw intended to have her brainwashed her into
joining the Hellions. Who had not been murdered in this reality.
Which was why Emma Frost was still the Hellfire Club's White
Queen here, and why she still ran the Massachusetts Academy
I did not have to wait long to see for myself what kind of
a woman she was in this reality. She and Shaw came into the
dungeon to question us. She turned to Irene's counterpart
first, saying: "Ah, young Rowan. I've been looking forward
Rowan (as I later learned, Irene was her middle name here)
certainly had spunk. She hurled her defiance at the Queen,
finally shouting: "My parents defeated the Shadow King,
mind-lady, so don't think you can make me your thrall!"
"Maybe so, child, but your 'father' is still dead and
I'm still here," the White Queen retorted with a smile
I wish I could forget.
"And who have we here?" asked the Black King. "Aren't
you supposed to be dead, Mr. Drake? You had such a grandiose
funeral, we saw it on television..."
"I got better," I said. Okay, not original, but
the best I could come up with under the circumstance. I had
been killed in this timeline???
The White Queen looked at me really intently. I could feel
the her telepathic probes looking for cracks in my psychic
defense, but I had trained resisting that comparatively low-level
stuff with Emma in my world. She raised her eyebrows and raised
the intensity of her assault.
I hated this. Hated having to weather her massive frontal
assault and at the same time guard against sneak attacks on
figurative back doors to my mind and soul. Hated being locked
in a battle with this world's version of the woman I loved
more than my life.
It got so that I actually tried to reason with her on the
telepathic level, to talk this woman out of doing what she
was doing. I tried to appeal to her better nature that I knew
was there beneath it all, asked her if she wanted Cordelia
to remember her mother like this, as the cruel Queen of the
Hellfire Club, unloved and unloving. A pretty quixotic thing
to do. But it got a reaction. She froze.
"How do you know...?" she asked. Telepathically,
because not even Seb Shaw knew that Cordelia was her daughter
and not her sister. I seized on her confusion, told her things
about the Emma I knew that I hoped would have the kind of
effect on this Emma that I was aiming for. Told her about
our life with Cordelia and Imogen. Sebastian Shaw was growing
restless as our silent conversation drew on, this was not
what he had expected to happen.
For a few moments I thought I was making headway with the
White Queen, but then an alarm sounded and she was all business
again. Her companion was almost relieved that the Academy
was under attack, seeing how it made her quickly get over
her 'moment of weakness'. The two quickly left to conduct
the defense, leaving Rowan and me behind in the detention
Rowan certainly was a lot more hopeful now. And not long
after the two monarchs of the Hellfire Club had left, there
was a familiar 'bamf' sound outside, and then the door was
blown open. One of the guards in the room swung his gun on
us to use us as hostages, but within a split-second Nightcrawler
had teleported behind him and knocked him out.
A few seconds later, Valerie Cooper entered the room, followed
by Rogue, who was carrying three or four unconscious Hellfire
Club goons. No, they had been Kurt's 'passengers' when he
'ported inside the building. Val carried the assault weapons
for blowing open doors and all that. Evidently in this world
she had become even more of a fighter than in ours, probably
as a consequence of the death of Rowan's father, Mystique.
Rowan, meanwhile, beamed at me, bursting with pride at the
handiwork of her siblings and mother. Kurt teleported us all
out in two jumps. After hearing her daughter's breathless
account, Val was itching to question me; I could tell. But
the battle was far from over, we could see it raging near
the Academy building in the distance.
Once an X-Man, always an X-Man, no matter where in time and
space you find yourself. Nothing could have stopped me from
joining the assault (I silently prayed that maybe if we succeeded
in subduing the White Queen, we might help her in finding
her road to...)
We were up against at least half the Inner Circle, but we
were slowly making headway, pushing them back yard by yard.
One group retreated into the building; Emma and Cordelia were
among them. I was among those who cautiously followed. The
Hellfire Club's hired muscle was firing at anything that moved,
so the ones who weren't invulnerable had to keep their heads
down. I felt I was doing all right though, when I suddenly
found myself face to face with Emma, and I choked. When it
came to the crunch, I hesitated. She didn't, and knocked me
out with a psi-bolt.
This was getting monotonous! Somehow I was fated to spend
most of this time-trip unconscious.
Regaining consciousness was a lot worse than the time before.
The whole room was a mass of wreckage and debris (Shaw had
tried to cover his escape by bringing the roof down). I was
covered in dust and felt an excruciating pain in my right
arm, it was pinned under a concrete beam and, as far as I
could tell, badly smashed. Every movement seemed to send a
spasm all the way down to my toes.
The battle had moved on, only Rowan was kneeling beside me,
tightening a tourniquet. Fortunately, we did not have to wait
too long until it was all over and for Rogue to come, lift
the beam off me and fly me to a nearby hospital.
No, she had been with the other group, she hadn't been there
when ... it happened.
Well, you know my right arm comes off now.. Doctor Reyes
could only tell me that it was beyond saving, and then she
immediately put me under for the surgery.
I did not even have a chance to find out what had happened
to Em-, er the White Queen. All I knew was what Rogue had
told me on the way to the hospital: that they had lost sight
of her after the wing I was in collapsed.
When I woke the third time, I found myself with a cleanly
bandaged stump below my right shoulder. Lying on a cold floor.
In Four Freedoms Plaza. As I groggily got to my feet, a vaguely
familiar sound was throbbing in my ears. My mind was still
in an anesthetic haze, so it took a while for me to realize
that I was hearing the hangar doors opening to prepare for
the FF's return.
I was in no condition for another attempt to prevent the
death of the X-Men. All I could think of was that I did not
want to be caught. I went to the controls of the time machine
as quickly as I could manage, to set it for my return home.
Luckily I had not lost my left arm, so I still had my watch
and knew how much time had elapsed since I first arrived in
the year 2034 (I had that to the time of my departure in 2014
so I would not miss my timeline).
I escaped having to confront the Fantastic Four in the future,
but not in the present of 2014. They were angry at me for
hijacking their time machine, but seeing I had lost my arm,
they swallowed it down. Mostly -- Reed Richards still gave
me a lecture about not interfering with the fabric of time
and the laws of causality after they hauled me to their medical
lab. And, as was to be expected, the part of Four Freedoms
Plaza where the time machine is housed was off-limits for
me ever since.
Well, then came the dark days. Physically, I was all right
soon -- Forge constructed some prosthetic arms for me, including
one that is up to handling the temperatures near absolute
zero I can generate when I freeze up. But added to the grief
over losing Emma and my friends I now acutely felt the disappointment
over my failure to change the history of my reality. What
I had seen and done in the realities I visited did nothing
to raise my self-esteem. I felt like a big fat failure. I
beat myself up over having slept with the Emma I met on my
second attempt (interpreting my loss of an arm as some kind
of instant karma for a while, and not for the bad luck it
was). That I had failed to save the Emma of my last trip aggravated
Even at home I sometimes felt superfluous. Imogen was going
through puberty, but not unnaturally she turned to her elder
sister for counsel, not to me. Cordelia had been her semi-official
guardian anyway since Emma's death.
Cordelia really had thrown herself into her work. You know
she had a miscarriage when she saw Synch (they had become
lovers while I was away) and her mother die with the X-Men;
her way of dealing with her grief had been work, work, work
-- taking charge of the School and looking after Imogen. Helping
her sister deal with her bereavement helped her to overcome
the triple agony she experienced herself. By the time I returned
with the Avengers, she had already settled into a routine
that was as comfortable as could be expected. I did not fit
in easily then.
I don't know if she subconsciously resented me for not having
been there when she needed me, but in my state of mind I felt
she had every right to be. She also had inherited (or learned)
from Emma her pronounced dislike of showing feelings that
could be interpreted as weakness. She would rather have bitten
off her own tongue than ask me for help. Only years later,
after we had grown closer again, did she once admit that she
would have liked me to...
Also, there was less for me to do as a superhero. The next
generation was taking over, and after the X-Men's sacrifice
the problems about acceptance had lessened appreciably.
Anyway, I slid into my drinking problem. I won't bore you
with the details. Suffice it to say that I eventually licked
it. I think Trish's support helped. Shortly afterwards we
married, and my life returned to a semblance of normality,
as did that of the family as a whole. Cordelia found a new
love in Alex Power, and we loosened up with each other. She
even insisted I gave her away at the wedding, even though
I'm just eleven years older than her and no one gives away
their daughters these days. Sometimes you do get another chance.
Why the marriage with Trish didn't work out? Good question,
I keep asking myself that all the time. Maybe you best come
back in another ten, twenty years, maybe I'll be able to tell
Sorry that I rambled on about myself so much when you wanted
to know about the others. Well, it's gotten late. Tell you
what: I'll see if the spare bedroom is usable, and then we
can take a look at some of the scrapbooks without you having
to worry about when you start for home. And I'll try to answer
any question you have.
= Finis =
Shane Hutchison drew illustrations for the Tales of the Twilight
Menshevik; please take a look at them at Luba Kmetyk's "Speculum
In spite of the obvious nod to Geoffrey Chaucer, the main
inspiration for The Iceman's Tale is once again Rudyard
Kipling. In particular the narrative technique he used in
Dray Wara Yow Dee and In Flood Time (both from
In Black and White).
This story was first published in Hamburgischer Menschewik
56 for the May 1999 mailing of MZS-APA.
Most of the characters in this story are TM & (c) by Marvel
Comics. Hope, Irene and Rowan Irene Cooper, Imogen and Valentine
Frost, Mary Grey, King Apocalypse, Leslie, Abigail Summers,
Chris, Daniel, David, Naomi and Ruth Summers, and Warren Worthington
IV are (c) Tilman Stieve.
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