FAQ       Archive      Extras       Gallery
       Links       Subscribe


Minisinoo


 

CLIMB THE WIND 8

Please Read the Warning and Notes at the beginning of Part 1

Part 8 Notes:
Notes:
  Black preaching is an oral art form which imperfectly transfers to the page. I've struggled to convey some of the rhythmic nuances and beauty which drives it, but as with music, it's something to be heard, not read. Thanks to the Red Shades list for a useful discussion of Scott's metabolism. And his natural gift for strategy and tactics (like his gift for geometry and space) is well-established in comic canon; I didn't invent it.

Both the Latin American death squads and the Sanctuary Movement were quite real. If people want to know what was going on in Central America in the 80s, I cannot recommend highly enough the film RomeroThe Praxis of Suffering: an Interpretation of Liberation and Political Theologies is the name of a book by Rebecca Chopp published in 1986.  The allusion to the X-Files movie is deliberate. Thanks to Leila for our talk about Scott, Logan, and God, and thanks to Shannon because she wanted to be thanked since I got her hooked on a work-in-progress. :-) Thanks as always to Naomi for checking my grammar and consistency, et al.

Regarding Warren Worthington III:   As I did earlier with Hank McCoy, I thought it might be useful to provide a few images of Warren from the comics.  Both of these come from the book  X-Men: the Hidden Years.  If I'm not keen on the artwork for Cyclops and Jean in that title, I do like the art for Warren (and Hank).  As with the image of Hank in chapter three, I won't include these in the body of the text because comic art next to real photographs is jarring, but I do provide links.  The first is a profile of Warren, with wings concealed (and a 'pre-blue' Hank behind him), and the second is of Warren in flight.


Logan
"What, my brothers and sisters, is the praxis of suffering? Can understanding of misery be conveyed by talking about it? By trotting out the facts and figures that objectify it, make it into a knowledge of the head? Can statistics reveal agony? No! We must feel it in our hearts, in our guts. Then we must act on that gut knowledge! We must struggle against the horror of suffering among our fellow men and women. What good is our life, if we are not engaged in this struggle for human dignity and freedom?"
The words shivered down our spines and thundered out into the darkness beyond the floodlit haven of manicured mansion lawn. They chased away the encroaching demons of bigotry and oppression. Here, for a little while, almost four hundred people from six different countries and all walks of life, whether possessed of an X-gene or not, were united by the solidarity of grief, and the liquid-gold voice of the Reverend Jeremiah Haight. Almost four hundred people, all gathered to honor one red-haired woman.

Jeannie, you'd get a kick out of this. Even Jubilee is listening.

But beside me in our seats at the back, Summers fidgeted. He hadn't wanted anything like this, just a quiet ceremony for those who'd known her best. And yet his hatred for the public display was playing push-me-pull-you with genuine gratitude for the meaning behind the crowd: concrete evidence of the impact of Jean's life on so many others. They'd loved his girl. That moved him. When he'd first come out of the mansion after the sun had safely set, and seen just how many people were here, he'd turned right around and gone back inside. I'd found him weeping in his office. "They all came for Jean," he'd said.

And for him, too, but I didn't add that. The outpouring of communal grief for Jean had both broken him, and gone a long way towards healing him, at once.

"I don't think I can do this," he'd told me and the younger Haight.

"Yeah, you can," EJ had replied.

"I can't sit down there, in front of all those people, like this." He'd indicated his red eyes. Eyes red for normal reasons and still visible. No glasses to shield his emotion. Xavier had told Elaine Grey that the memorial would be at night, and brooked no dissent. If the kid wasn't ready yet to deal with his full power, Xavier wasn't going to push him into it. Summers had said again, "I don't think I can do this."

"So don't," I'd told him. "Sit in the back row."

"What?" The two of them had looked around at me. Clearly, it had never occurred to them that sitting under the watchful eye of four-hundred assembled mourners wasn't required. So much for thinking outside the lines. Usually Summers was better than that.

"Stay here until everybody's seated," I explained to him, "then we'll take you out there and you can sit in the back. If you need to get up and leave in the middle, you can, and return when you're good and ready. We'll get you out of there before it's over, too, so you don't get mobbed."

The younger Haight had grinned wide. "I like the way you think, Mister Wolverine." Then he'd turned back to Summers. "It's a plan, man. If the guests have a problem with it, Logan and I'll toss 'em in the lake. And Dad'll help."

Summers had laughed even while crying, and agreed.

So that was what we'd done. The kid had stayed in the mansion until the service was about to begin, and I'd taken perverse joy in planting myself between Elaine Grey and the entrance to his office. She'd gotten her grand sprawling epic of a funeral. He was going to get the privacy he needed. Besides, Elaine-control gave me something on which to focus, so I didn't have to think about what we were all there to do.

Bury Jean.

Figuratively, perhaps, but 'figuratively' didn't make it hurt less.

Now five of us sat in our private back row: EJ Haight, Summers, me, McCoy, and the professor. Ro and her Italian Boy had chosen to sit with Warren down front. I might have considered that disloyalty to Scott, but he'd shaken his head. "Somebody needs to be seen and Ro always was the strong one." Thus far, though, the kid was doing okay himself, his fidgeting notwithstanding. On his other side, the younger Haight sat with a hand laid casually on his shoulder for comfort and subtle support, as we all listened to a black man talk to mutants about life and death, suffering and hope. The elder Haight's hypnotic, urgent rhythm reached right into the gut and gave a good squeeze.

"I assure you, my brothers and sisters, that the praxis of suffering brings together both action and reflection, commitment and hope, our words and deeds. It is in our praxis that we show ourselves for the men and women who we truly are."
"Words are like the wind, they can shake us, they can shatterus, or they can propel us forward. But until we take that first step, until we unite our reflection to our action, then nothing can ever be accomplished! This, my brothers and sisters, is the necessity of praxis. This, my brothers and sisters, is what Jean Grey knew to the very core of her generous soul. This, my brothers and sisters, is what she stood for. She didn't just hope for a day when mutants could be accepted as equals, but she believed that the Day of Liberation was at hand, and she acted! Like Moses, she didn't live to see the Promised Land. But like Moses, Jean Grey spoke to those ol' pharoahs down in Washington: 'Let my people go!' Jean Grey walked at the vanguard leading her people out of Egypt! And Jean Grey died for what she believed."
Not that most of the people sitting here had any idea how or why she'd died - including the Reverend Haight - but it sounded good. It was even ttrue, in a once-removed kind of way.
"So this, my brothers and sisters, is the praxis of suffering. This is our human struggle for dignity and freedom, all of us together, whatever the color of our skin, whatever the texture of our hair, whatever the makeup of our DNA. We come here today to honor Jean Grey, and we do it as one. And that, my brothers and sisters, is how she would have wanted it. Look at us! The many children of one Father God. Thus we bid farewell to our sister who has gone back to join her Creator.
"The soul, like hope, is eternal, death but a passage. Jean may be gone from among us, but she is not gone. Not so long as we remember the praxis of her life and the hope for which she stood.

"On the night before his own death, Jesus said unto his disciples, 'Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: were it not so, I would not have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again to receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. . . . Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.'"

It wasn't Summers who got up and left at that point.

It was me.

Not because of the Bible references. The man was a preacher, after all. It would've been weirder if he hadn't quoted Scripture. But my heart, at least, remained troubled. With the kid to look after, I'd thought myself insulated and prepared. But Summers was the one who still sat there, and I was the one who ran away.

I went to lose myself in the hedge maze at the rear of the property's gardens. We occasionally used it for student training exercises, and the students used it for romantic trysts, or to scare the shit out of each other for fun. Now, I sat in the gazebo at its heart and rolled a cigar round and round in shaking fingers.

Jeannie, Jeannie . . . .

I loved you, y'know, woman.

I could pick out Summers' footfall a long time before he found me. He was alone, and he started a little when he emerged from the final line of hedges to find me already sitting there in the gazebo's shadow. He didn't say anything, just came to join me. Even in the near-darkness, I could see that his eyes were swollen again. He'd been crying - hard - and hadn't completely stopped. His nose still ran and tears leaked.

After a long stretch, I asked, "It over?"

"Probably by now. People were still talking when I left, but it was winding down."

I grunted. The part that I'd skipped had been the open mic floor show, as Summers had unkindly dubbed it: the chance for people to stand up and offer some memory of Jean for public consumption. In a small gathering, it would've been meaningful, but -- "It wound up being a game of 'I knew Jean better than you did,'" Summers added - which was pretty much exactly what I'd expected. "For God's sake, Logan, why do people have to show each other up even at something like this?"

"I dunno, kid. Human nature. We're pack animals, edging for dominance."

He leaned over and put his forehead in his hands, muttering, "Leave me out of the pack, then."

I laughed. "So says the alpha-male X-Man."

I didn't ask to be leader"I didn't ask to be leader. The professor appointed me."

"Maybe so. Don't change the fact."

He didn't reply to that, just lifted his face again to look off outside the gazebo, spoke after a minute. "The maze seemed like a good place to stay out of the way."

"I thought so."

He snorted. "Sorry."

I just shook my head. It wasn't his presence I minded.

"I didn't expect you to leave me," he said then, tone faintly bitter.

And now it was my turn to tell him, "Sorry," and, "I lost her, too, y'know."

He didn't reply to that, though even in the dark, I could see how his jaw tensed at my words. It was the one thing we'd never really gotten past, just overlooked because circumstances had demanded it - circumstances that were now over, although they had complicated the old tension because I couldn't see him as the uptight-Frat-Boy-asshole anymore. He'd become the son I couldn't remember if I had, and I guess that made this whole little love triangle weirdly Oedipal in reverse.

Finally, he ventured, "Logan - "

"Don't, kid. You really want to fight about it tonight?"

He shook his head. Some things are too complex for words to navigate without slicing ourselves to pieces on the rocks of conflicted feelings.

We stayed there - not talking, just sitting - until the echo of voices in the yard and garden beyond had disappeared. I'd broken the silence once to say, "People might think you went to drown yourself in the lake."

"Nah," he'd replied. "I told EJ and Hank where I was going."

At last, we rose to head back to the mansion. On the way, our footsteps fell into unintentional synch and somewhere out of the blue, he asked, "Do you believe in ghosts, Logan?"

Where had that come from? "I don't know. Never met one. Have you?"

He didn't reply directly. Instead, he said, "I'm not sure I believe in God because I don't think God ever believed in me. But I don't know about ghosts. I think I believe in ghosts."

"You want to elaborate on that?"

"No," he replied. I opened my mouth once more, but then shut it. I didn't want to know. If Jeannie was haunting him, I just didn't want to know.

God, woman, won't you come haunt me?

Most of the mourners were gone by now - it was almost midnight - but the mansion was still full of light. Students and a few guests milled about, making an impromptu wake. As Summers and I passed through the gardens towards the atrium door, we came upon Ororo, Placido, and the younger Haight sitting outside on a shale-stone wall edging a flower bed. They had a bottle of rum and some kind of disgusting pink juice to mix with it, and they were already three sheets to the wind.

Ro motioned Summers over to hand him her glass. "Drink, Scott."

He didn't argue with her, downed what was left of the mix and let her fill it again for him - generous on the rum. Placido laid down his cigarette on the wall while he went inside to fetch another pair of glasses. When he returned, I took my rum straight, and his lighter for my cigar. "Where's Warren?" Summers asked.

"Inside."

"Doing what? Playing 'good son'?" Vicious, vicious.

"Don't, Scott," she scolded. "He knows that you cannot do it, so he is keeping her away from you."

"Yeah, right," Summers said.

"Chill, man." Haight leaned back on the stone ledge. "The dude's okay."

"Fuck you," Summers told him cheerfully, finishing a second glass of rum and letting Ro pour him more. At that rate, he was going to be smashed fast. The kid couldn't hold his liquor worth shit. I'd heard Jean say once that it had to do with his unique metabolism. He had a similar problem with sugar: three cookies was his limit, though I'd seen him wolf down a whole bag of Oreos with chocolate milk. That was a sight - Cyclops on a sugar high. Hyper for half an hour, then crash and burn.

Now, Haight ignored Summers to pour himself another drink. "I thought Baptists didn't drink, dance, or play cards?" I said to Haight, to change the subject.

He laughed. "Yeah, well, I was a PK - "

"Preacher's kid," Summers interrupted to define.

" - hell on two legs," Haight finished. "And it's only Southern Baptists who don't dance or play cards. 'Course, most of 'em do anyway."

"EJ dances," Summers added, his words already slurring. "Not much of a card shark, though."

"Cards are your ball of wax, Slim," Haight agreed. "Give me basketball any day."

"The basketball's in the shed." Summers nodded towards the small shed on the far side of the ball court, and fished in his pocket to toss Haight his keys.

Haight missed the keys and had to pick them up off the flagstones, then studied Summers for a minute. "You wanna go one-on-one, Slim Boy?"

"Dressed like this?" Summers indicated his suit and Haight's.

Standing, Haight pulled off his jacket to fold it carefully, inside out, then undo his tie, remove his shirt, step out of his dress shoes and doff his socks. The chill spring air goose-pimpled his smooth dark skin. Summers just watched a moment, then laughed and shook his head. Finishing his third glass and handing it empty to Placido, he did the same thing. And the two of them picked their way barefoot over flagstones towards the shed beside the ball court.

God knew what the guests would think of the grieving widower playing basketball after the funeral, still in his suit pants. Well, if they didn't get it, they could take a flying leap. Having retrieved the ball, Haight and Summers were taunting each other across the asphalt - loud - and the ball made a staccato punch in the night air. I could see that some of the kids had come out to watch them play. Even drunk, Summers was making hoops. Those eyes.

Marie, Bobby Drake, and Jubilee had wandered over to join us. Drake helped himself to some of the rum behind Ro's back and Placido didn't stop him, handed him Summers' glass instead. "Since when is basketball a contact sport?" Marie asked me.

"Since One Eye needs somebody to beat about the court for an evening."

"God, they're really bad," Jubilee said.

"They're really drunk," Ro corrected.

At that point, a third figure came winging down on the court from above. Worthington, shirtless like the other two. "Summers, you need help," he called as he landed.

"No powers," Haight called back, and looked around to where I still stood in the garden. "Hey, Logan! Two-on-two?"

I waved a hand and shook my head in denial. Behind me, Placido stood, crushed out his second cigarette and prepared to join them. "Frank," Ro said, "They will kill you."

"This is new?" he asked, smiling. "They always did, no?" And he jogged off.

It wound up being more than two-on-two. Drake and some of the older kids got in on the game, along with ex-football star McCoy and the Right Reverend Haight - who proved to be a good ball player despite his age. The professor had come out to join us. "Jeannie would have loved it," I said to him. I could almost feel her there watching with us. Xavier nodded.

They played until three in the morning, then Haight put Summers to bed exhausted enough to sleep. I sat in the garden with Xavier, Ororo, and Marie long after they had gone, a bottle of rum and the ghost of Jean with us until sunrise.
 
 
 
 

The next morning, life went on. The elder Haight returned to LA the day after the memorial, and the younger Haight returned to San Jose a few days after that. The night before he left, he pulled me aside to give me one of his cards and his cell-phone number. "You call me any time if you think Slim needs me. I'm seriously worried about the shithead." He studied me a minute, then added, "Look, I don't know what went down in Baltimore. Slim ain't saying and Xavier did one of his 'need to know' snow jobs. I'm not going behind their backs, to ask you," he added before I could scold him. "But I have seen enough to know there's some serious shit involved here, more than the usual mutant hate-crimes stuff. So I'm telling you the same thing I told Slim and Xavier.

"You guys get in trouble and need a safe house, you let me know. Or really, you let my dad know. Way back in the '80s, he did some people smuggling for the Sanctuary movement. You heard of it?" I nodded. I'd spent time in Mexico and Central America. The Sanctuary movement had been involved getting refugees out of El Salvador, Guatemala, and other countries with death squads. Most of the movement had been run by renegade priests cast in the mold of Bishop Romero, or by left-wing missionaries. They'd snuck a number of people into the US, to save their lives, against official US policy and in the face of FBI investigation. A Latino underground railroad. I'd seen the work of those death squads; a few had even tried to recruit me. But I don't kill like that. It didn't surprise me to learn that Reverend Haight had been involved in it. Seemed like the sort of thing that family would do.

"He's still got contacts," the younger Haight said now, "even a safe-house if you need it. Safe houses are useful, for a church." He smiled wryly.

I shook my head. "You don't know what you're getting into, kid. Xavier's right. Stay clear of this. No need to involve you."

"I am involved. I don't know what the hell happened, but somebody hurt my brother and killed the woman who was going to be his wife. I'm involved, man. And I can take care of myself better than you think."

So I said, "Okay," and started to walk away before spinning to throw him an unexpected punch. I'd meant to prove my point. I wound up on my ass.

"See?" Haight said. I chuckled and picked myself up, shook my head. "I got a third degree black belt," he explained. "Slim and I used to spar together."

"I suspect it was less sparring and more you kicking him around the mat."

Haight just grinned whitely.
 
 
 
 

If EJ Haight returned to his job in California, both Frank Placido and Warren Worthington continued to hang around Westchester. Placido seemed to have given up, at least for the moment, his political aspirations in Italy. He lived out of Ro's room and spent his time cloistered in Cerebro, cloistered with Xavier, or cloistered with Ro. And the expression he wore became increasingly anxious. Warren made a triangle between Westchester, his offices in Manhattan, and his home on Long Island. I found out that he'd also been scoping out locations to move the school. Or at least, to move the younger kids. Space wasn't the problem. Between his fortune and Xavier's, they turned up a brownstone in Boston fairly quickly. The problem was staffing it. Xavier ran a real school that taught real classes, and kids walked out with a diploma. Some of them even went on to college if they were able to pass in the real world. The instructors all had teaching certificates and taught standard high school courses in addition to the odd elective.

But this meant that if the student body was divided in half, someone had to teach the new group, and teachers willing to take on classes of mutant students weren't crawling out of the woodwork. Xavier had called a meeting in the Situation Room myself, Summers, Worthington, McCoy, Ororo and her Italian Boy, and Xavier himself to let Warren lay out his preliminary plans for a new location in Boston. Worthington went over the building and what could be done to it, some other housekeeping details and then concluded, "The professor called in some favors; Moira MacTaggert and Sean Cassidy have agreed to come direct it for a while, as interim headmasters." I didn't know much about either, but had met both at the funeral. Cassidy was a mutant; MacTaggert wasn't. She was a doctor, in fact, a colleague of McCoy and Jean's. "They returned to Scotland to close up their house and prepare for a longer stretch here. Bobby Drake and Kitty Pryde have also volunteered to assist come summer. He's transferring to Harvard in the fall, and she was accepted to MIT, so they'll be in Boston anyway."

"Bobby at Harvard?" Ororo asked, trying not to laugh.

"Robert is smarter than you credit him, Ro. Smarter than he credits himself," McCoy put in. "I wrote him a letter of recommendation."

"And thus doth Harvard perpetuate itself," Worthington muttered, with humor. I knew he'd been a Yale boy. "In any case, Bobby and Kitty will be in charge of the residence halls starting in June but we'd like to move at least the youngest kids out there as soon as possible, and then follow them with the older students at the end of May. That would end the school year somewhat early, but there are extenuating circumstances."

Summers, who'd been staring fixedly at the tabletop, started shaking his head. "What?" Worthington asked with a bit more belligerence than he needed to.

"Somebody tell me again why we're doing this?" Summers looked up.

McCoy took his rhetorical question at face-value and started to reply, "We must transfer the children to a safer - "

Summers held up a hand. "Safer? The mansion is a fucking fortress, Hank. I've been thinking about this. There's no way to make a city brownstone as defensible as we are here. The more I've thought, the more I've realized that this move is a very bad idea."

"Scott," Xavier said, "we would be depending on secrecy - "

"Secrecy! Our 'secrecy' is blown all to bloody hell! These people may not know the names and mutations of our students, but they've got to goddamn guess they are mutants! Why else would they be here? 'Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters.' It doesn't take rocket science to figure that one out: if the teachers - who also just happen to be the X-MMen - are mutants, the students are also probably mutants."

"But the mansion could be attacked, and how would we hold out against that kind of force?" Ro asked. "We can't put the students at risk that way."

"I know!" Summers snapped, distressed. He didn't continue for a minute, just clicked a ballpoint pen open and closed. Then he said, "Sending them to Boston will make them sitting ducks. If these people can't get to us, and they want mutant test subjects, what makes you think they won't take our kids? You don't attack the fort if you can catch an army in the field."

It's not safe for 'em to be here"I agree," I said before anyone else could speak. "It's not safe for 'em to be here. But it's safer than sending 'em to Boston - at least until we find out what this consortium is going to do next, what their ultimate objectives really are." I turned to stare pointedly at Frank Placido. "That's your job 'Nostradamus.'"

He spread his palms flat on the tabletop and didn't reply for a long time. No one interrupted his thoughts. Finally, he looked up at us and said simply, "I am not sure. It seems more certain every day that a war is coming and we shall be caught in the middle.

"Everything is changing, the futures are changing." Placido paused to look up at the ceiling, as if he might find his answers written on it. "Scott may be right, that for now, this school is safest. But Warren's project is important, too, for we must have a new place to send the childrens when the school is safe no longer. I think that we must be very quiet, in what we do. That would mean no big translocations yet, to warn our enemies."

"So when do we move the kids?" Worthington asked him. He seemed annoyed, though I wasn't sure if it was because Summers had opposed him and been backed by both myself and Placido, or because he'd put work into finding this place and making arrangements, and now was being told to cool his heels. Xavier appeared to have decided to sit back and watch his first students hash it out among themselves.

"You will know when the time has come," Placido told Worthington.

"Dammit! Could you manage to be just a little more vague, Frank?" Worthington slapped down the folder full of notes that he'd brought. "I'm trying to make some plans, here!"

"Make your plans, as I said." Placido met Worthington's eyes. "Take the youngest childrens. But make no big translocations yet."

Ro's Italian Boy had gone transcendent on us, his face a cool mask like a Roman marble. Leaning over the table a bit, I ran a finger over the holes that my claws had left in the top a few weeks ago. "Look, kid. If you know something, spit it out. In detail." I glanced sideways at Summers, who sat on my left. "The more we know, the better we can prepare."

"That's not how Frank sees things," Summers and Ro said, almost in unison, but it was Placido who explained, "I see flashes, Logan - like a dream. They may be very specific, but so much specific that I cannot place them in time or space. I may know that a car will hit a child, see the details of the event, see the pattern of blood on the child's body after. But what day will it occur? What time? What street? What city? These things I may not know. That is why it is so difficult for me, to look into the futures of individuals. It is easier when I look to peoples and places that are well-known, to me, or to the world, so that I might guess some things I do not see. But even so, it is not like to watch a movie. It is as if someone brought me a box full of photographs and poured them out at my feet. I must put them together and try to understand them."

He rubbed at his forehead, then went on. "There is a pattern to the future and some futures are more probable than others. Once certain choices are made, the present may race towards any given possibility like a car slides on a wet road. But nothing in the future is certain. A single choice or a single accident may change all."

"For want of a nail a shoe was lost, for want of a shoe a horse was lost - " I began, and Summers took it up, "for want of a horse a message was lost, for want of a message a battle was lost, for want of a battle a war was lost. Yes, exactly. But we can fight the future," he added.

Placido had glanced to Xavier, who nodded and said, "You may as well tell them, Frank."

Placido took a deep breath. "We can fight the future, yes but by the fall time, it may be that this school will not exist, even this house will not exist. No one will live here but raccoons and rabbits and foxes."

Our little company erupted in astonished chatter which all boiled down to variations on, "When?"

When would we lose our home?

"I do not know!" Placido shouted, appearing upset for the first time. "And it is still but one of the futures that I see. It may not come to pass."

Everyone quieted. Summers went back to clicking the ballpoint furiously. Out. In. Out. In. I put a hand over his to stop him, and he drew in breath sharply, slipped the pen back in his pocket. "Tell us what you do know. As Logan said, the more you foresee, the better we can prepare. Even if you don't know the time, tell us what you see happening."

"I have seen only the result, not the cause. I cannot say what might destroy this place. Perhaps it will burn. I have seen glass melted and brick cracked by heat, buried under the fall leaves."

"What will be left? The underground? The underground is hidden from "

"Nothing will be left, Scott. Nothing."

No one replied to that. After ten breaths, Placido continued, "Mutants will be forced to register ourselves. Many will be disappeared. It will not happen only here, in the States. It will happen all over the world. For the obvious of us, there will be few places to hide. For the less obvious, to hide in plain sight will be best. But no place will be safe for our people."

"That's different from now?" Summers asked, voice sarcastic.

"Yes. If this is the future which comes to pass, we shall not be fighting the small groups, like the Friends of Humanity here, or Le Puriste in Italy. We shall be fighting governments and shadows of governments, on the run like i partigiani in Italy after the Second World War - the partisans - living outside the law."

"And if that does come to pass, we must be prepared," Xavier finished, nodding to Worthington. "You must have a new school ready."
 
 
 
 

One of the tasks to which I'd set myself each evening after dark was walking the mansion perimeter, checking our defenses, since I, as often as not, couldn't sleep much anyway. Security of the normal sort had been in place here for a long time, designed primarily to prevent burglary, but also to stop any attacks from small groups of non-mutants bent on mischief. After Mystique had infiltrated the grounds, however, to pose as Bobby and poison Cerebro, Summers had devised a whole new level of defense. And when I'd come back from Canada, I'd improved upon it. But in truth, I hadn't had much to offer. What the kid lacked in actual combat experience, he made up for in aptitude for strategy and tactics. He'd invented things that would never have occurred to me, and he hadn't been kidding when he'd told McCoy that the mansion (namely the underground) could be locked down like a fortress. It had been after reviewing his mansion defense plans that I had, finally, quit bucking his command. I still might not have liked him much, but I could recognize real ingenuity when I saw it.

Now, a few nights after the staff meeting about the Boston school, I found Summers outside around nine in the evening with flood-lamps and some of the older boys, digging holes beside and under the paved drive leading up to the mansion. He was working as hard as the rest of them, sweating heavily in the cool night air. Pacing up to him, I asked, "What in hell are you doing?"

"Setting a few surprises if anyone invades." And he pointed off to his left.

Mines.

"Goddamn. Mines are fucking dangerous, One Eye."

"I know. But they're asleep right now. Hank and I rigged a way to wake them remotely if we need to. I have a few more surprises planted around the mansion and grounds."

"Like?" I was curious.

"The lake dock is set to blow, and there are more mines along the bank, to prevent beaching. Hank is setting up concealed anti-aircraft turrets on the roof and some grenade launchers. I'm adding an electrical fence on top of the walls, and I've even set up the stalls in the barn to release and then spook the horses, so they'll stampede."

"Stampeding horses?"

Element of surprise..."Element of surprise. Something they won't expect. And I wouldn't want the horses stuck in the barn anyway."

"Why not? They'd be safer there than running down a special ops unit." He didn't reply to that, just returned to digging while I watched his back. Abruptly, his shovel hit a large rock and he bent down to remove it. I squatted, too, whispered, "What in hell did you do to the mansion, that the horses would be safer charging men with sub-machine guns, than staying locked in the barn?"

He shook his head. "I'm setting up what I hope I won't need to use." He got hold of one edge of the dirty-grey stone and tugged at it, raising it a bit.

"All this" - I gestured to take in the mines along the road and the hulking shadow of the mansion itself in the distance - "is more than a defense, kid."

Summers dropped the rock and turned his head slightly, spoke even lower. "I talked with Frank after the meeting. He's been putting a good face on it, for the professor's sake. This is Charles' family home, but it's not going to be here six months from now. Frank seems as certain of that as I've ever heard him about anything, and I've known him ten years. I'm planning a way to reduce an invading force enough for us to get the hell out. They caught me unprepared before." In the subway tunnels. "It won't happen twice, dammit."

"How do you know there will be an invasion? I thought the wop said he didn't have a fucking clue. The mansion could burn down for all we know."

"We'd just rebuild from that, and a fire in the mansion would never get into the underground. Something's going to happen from which we can't rebuild. And don't call Frank a wop."

I snorted. "So why not move the kids to Boston and get them out before the shit hits the fan?"

"Because I can't protect them there. Here, I can. Until it's past the point of protecting. Do you know about Masada, Logan?"

"Heard the name, that's about it."

"Last stand of the Zealots in the First Jewish War against Rome. Rather than be taken, they all committed suicide."

I stared. "You're not - "

"Not literally, no. But I want them to think so. You don't go after what you don't think exists. That's my plan. That's why I don't want the kids moved yet."

"Fuck," I muttered.

Before we could speak further, a car exited the garage and headed up the road, slowing to a crawl as it approached Summers' impromptu work detail. The Mercedes. One of the windows rolled down to reveal Marie's face. She waved. I could see through the open window that Kitty Pryde was driving and Jubilee occupied the backseat along with Jenn Saunders.

Where in hell were they going?

"Hey!" I called. The car stopped and I stalked over, jerked open the door and hauled out Marie. "What're you doing?"

"Going to a movie," she said, perplexed. "Matrix III."

"Like hell you're going to a movie." Still gripping her by the upper arm, I leaned over to glare through the open door. "None of you is going anywhere off grounds. Get back to the mansion."

"Who authorized this?" Summers asked, behind me. He sounded no more pleased than I was.

"The professor," Marie told him.

"Godfuckingdammit!" I snapped and, still gripping Marie, headed for the mansion, dragging her protesting in my wake. "Finish the mines, One Eye. I'll take care of this."

Behind me, I could hear Summers speak to Kitty. "Do as Logan says. He's right; it's not safe."

"Chuck!" I yelled as soon as I was in the mansion door, still holding onto an angry Marie.

I'm in my office, Logan, came Xavier's voice in my head.

Letting go of Marie, I turned to glare at her, cut off her current reproach with, "You're not going anywhere, unless you want to wind up like Jeannie." Her espresso eyes went wide and she didn't reply to that. Relenting a little, I kissed her brow. "You girls can catch something on pay-per-view later." And I stalked off down the main hall towards the professor's office, slammed the door open.

"What in hell were you thinking?" I asked before he even had a chance to open his mouth. "Four girls alone after dark not one of whom can hold off even Ro in the danger room. Four alpha mutant girls, with healthy ova. Why don't you just hand them over to this consortium, Chuck?"

Xavier had folded his hands on his desk, his face gone hard. "Logan, there is no reason to assume that they are in any danger at the present time. Nothing has happened, and we cannot pin up the children here indefinitely. Tension is leading to fights. They need - "

"They need to stay where we can keep an eye on them!" I rested fists on the desk top and leaned over it. "Our enemies are waiting for us to get complacent. Old trick. If you can't attack immediately before the opposition can mobilize, you wait until they stop looking for it. They're waiting. We can't lose our edge. Got that? And I don't give a rat's ass if there's tension. I'd rather a few fights than a few dead bodies. Or hostages. Wouldn't you?"

Behind me, the door opened and Ro slipped in. I glanced around, then turned back to Xavier, "Sending for the cavalry won't change my mind. And I don't even like her" - I pointed blindly behind me - "going off grounds, either. By your own report, they know about her."

"I wondered what this was about," Ro said calmly, ignoring my distemper. "The girls came back very upset. Frank is down in the garage now, trying to reason with them." She gave me an amused glance. "I would stay out of Jubilee's way for a few days, Logan. She was looking forward to seeing this movie."

"I'd rather have a pissed off firecracker than have to bury another little girl."

Xavier studied me for a long moment. "That is what this is about, isn't it? You failed to protect Jean. You blame yourself for her death as surely as Scott does."

"Don't psychoanalyze me, prof. I'm not your patient or your student. Your asked me to stay here and help protect these kids, among other things. All right. I stayed." I leaned further over the desk. "But that means you listen to me. If I say it's not safe, they don't go out. End of discussion. Or if you think it is so safe out there, why're you letting One Eye bury mines under your driveway?"

"There is a difference between precautionary preparations and reactionary paranoia."

"Not in war."

"We are not at war yet."

"Then what the hell do you believe happened to Scott and me? A Sunday stroll? We were prisoners of war, mister. POWs. Summers is so freakin' messed up I can't begin to guess how many years it'll be before he stops twitching every time someone walks up behind him or touches his back. Or didn't you notice that?   And he still won't sleep in his own bedroom."

"Neither do you. When you sleep at all."

"This isn't about me, Chuck. It's about the kids - "

"It is about you, Logan. It's about the guilt you still carry. You did what you could. Scott did what he could. Both he and Jean knew full well the consequences of their involvement with the X-Men."

"They didn't know shit."

"We knew more than you think," Ro said before Xavier could answer. "I lived on the streets for years. I have seen many things. I have done many things. Only a few children in this school are true innocents."

I spun on her. "Fine. You've seen things, you've done things. But have you ever gutted a man, Ororo? Felt his intestines slide out all over your hands? Or put a gun up to his head and pulled the trigger, watched his brains hit the far wall? Go ask Summers how that feels. He still hasn't dealt with it. He's just made himself forget about it."

Her face didn't change at all. "I have killed, Logan. I simply see no point in bragging about it. Neither, I think, does Scott."

"Neither do I."

Do not patronize us, Logan."Really? Then why do you so constantly advertize how dangerous you are? Here, we are all dangerous. Even the children. Scott, Jean, Hank, and I knew full well to what we had committed ourselves. Even Warren and Frank know. And while none of us wishes to die, we each realize it is a possibility. Why do you think that Jean had her funeral planned? Do not patronize us, Logan. Help us with your experience. But do not patronize us."

"Listen to Storm," the professor said behind me. I snapped my head around to glare at him. Have you forgotten that I am a telepath? Had I thought them truly ignorant of the possible consequences, I would never have accepted their service. Aloud, he went on, "Yes, Scott is still deeply wounded. I would have traded places with him without hesitation, to spare him this."

He stopped and stared out the darkened window, his jaw clenching while he contained strong emotion. Then he went on, "He needs room to heal and I will give him as much as I can. But the world beyond these grounds is not so merciful. He knows this. It was his decision to involve himself in these new preparations for the mansion defenses. It was his idea, in fact."

"Cyclops is back," Storm said, a smile in her voice.

"Not quite," Xavier replied. "But he is, at least, thinking about returning."

Part 9

<Other Stories By Minisinoo>


Return To The Archive