see the world now with a sight no longer mortal, and I wonder if this
is how Scott felt, when he first opened his eyes again after his
mutation had manifested, to find that nothing looked the same. And not
just from seeing through the red of ruby quartz, but truly different.
Shifted. Altered in a fundamental way.
I don't see as a mortal does
because I shed that mortal coil. I'm more than a ghost, less than a
woman. Or maybe I'm just something else entirely and I shouldn't try
to apply terms that are imprecise. It's unscientific.
That thought amuses me. You can
take the woman out of the lab, but not the scientist out of the woman.
So what am I? Ironically, I'm
not sure that science offers the best answer. Science is a tool, a key
to understanding the universe, but different keys unlock different
doors and science won't open this one.
I am a spirit, discarnate,
without form or substance unless I choose to give it to myself. I am a
power being who was once a woman. It isn't something my own religious
upbringing prepared me to understand well, and I have found myself
turning to half-remembered conversations I've had with others down the
Dani Elk River once told me
about the spirit world of the Cheyenne. They see reality as
multivalent, full of degrees of power -- a power which is amoral in
nature. We all have it; what matters is how we use it. Like mutations.
Power permeates all Creation, and human beings - mutant or otherwise
- constitute but a small fraction of the complete web - one
strand, not its center. I'd thought that a healthy view. We live in a
multiverse, not a universe. Physics would agree with her, at least in
But in that interrelated
reality, there is room for all manner of beings: both of
flesh-and-blood in the middle world, and of spirit in the sky world -
power beings, spirit guides, and our ancestors. The Sacred Tree digs
roots into the Earth our mother and branches up into the sky world,
uniting everything. The scientist in me had wanted to smile with
patronizing patience at her mystic imagery, but the part of me that
glimpsed the dim - that part had understood. And now, I find her
mystic imagery offers me a better language than science by which to
talk about what I've become.
I am no longer Jean Grey. Death
transformed me. I've evolved again, maybe: a mutant's mutant. Now, I
'They are the eggmen / I am
the walrus / Goo goo g'joob - '
I must keep a sense of humor
about this, you see, or I might start to think I'm a goddess, and we
can't have that. I can kill with a mere thought, and that frightens
me. But I can save a life, too, as I saved Scott and Warren.
Poor Scott. I want to hold and
comfort him, give him strength now that he must carry forward Charles'
dream. God knows, he's holding himself together by will alone right
now, but I have no arms to hold him any more, so I must maintain my
distance. It would be very easy for him to fixate on me, even in this
spirit form, because he's like that, and his soul is so wounded. But
he is mortal still, and I am not. The time we had together as a couple
is past and he must move on. So I will keep my distance, though it
breaks my heart. I gave him what I could, and I have saved for him
what by all rights should have been reduced to ash in that last great
conflagration that he set off.
"Mr. Summers? I found this.
Look. It is not even singed."
I watch Piotr hold out our quilt
to Scott, and stunned, Scott pauses in the frantic pace he's set to
pull out of the mansion's remains before more troops arrive. With
shaking hands, he takes the quilt, then presses his face into it, to
hide his tears. He'd thought it gone. He'd told the other children
weeks ago to put their mementos and valuables - things that couldn't
be replaced- downstairs in the lab, or in boxes to be taken to
special storage off the grounds. Most of them had done as he'd said,
and so they could forgive him - a least a little - for blowing up
their home to save their lives. He'd set aside some things of ours,
too: that little pillbox of my hair, our photo albums, some of my
jewelry that he wasn't ready to part with (the rest he'd given away to
the girls), and my wedding dress. But he's been sleeping with the
quilt every night.
"A part of the helicopter
landed on your bed," Piotr tells him. "I found the quilt
when I was moving wreckage. It was safe underneath."
I'd made sure of that. Just as I
am making sure that reinforcements will not arrive until Scott and the
rest are gone. Only three cars do I let through, and I bless Charles
for the foresight of contacting Mr. Skinner. They will need his help.
Maybe I could have prevented the
black ops from arriving at the mansion in the first place, maybe I
could have prevented all those deaths. But I hadn't realized, hadn't
grasped yet what I could do until I conjured a wind to hasten Warren's
arrival and then merged with the fire - all to save my idiot of a
husband, who would have blown himself sky-high to protect the rest.
I never could abide martyrs, not
when there are other possibilities. And I'm not going to let Scott
take the easy way out; I won't let him die to avoid going through the
pain of healing. They need him too much.
I guess that makes me his
guardian angel. Or his guardian something, anyway.
I will have to explore the
limits of what I can do. And I will also have to explore the limits of
what I should do. I begin to understand Charles' quandary over
the extent of his telepathic abilities. To have this kind of power . .
. . Do I have the wisdom to use it?
Once asked who in all of Greece
was the wisest, the Oracle of Delphi had replied,
"Socrates." And when Socrates was later queried about that
response, he'd said it was because he knew how much he didn't know.
Charles told me that story. He lived by it. So must I, now. I am not
a goddess. I may see with a wider perspective - know and understand
things that, whhen I was human, I didn't. But I still don't see
everything. I'm not omniscient. Frank probably sees more than I do.
And he kept so much to himself. He's known for weeks that
Charles wouldn't survive this. I think Charles knew it, too. I saw it
in his mind, when he made the choice to remain in the hallway, when he
cut his mental ties to all of them.
He isn't here with me. I don't
know if he could have stayed after death like I did, but I felt his
spirit pass over. My children are all grown up, he told me, they
do not need me anymore. My son will protect them now, and
he bade me farewell. I think he'd hoped that I'd accompany him. But I
can't. I can't let go. I can't leave Scott. Perhaps I will be able to
at some future point. But not yet.
So I 'sit' (or whatever it is I
do now) in the lab and watch while Hank speeds through splinting
Warren's broken and torn wings, and students rush around, packing bags
and gathering their valuables under Ororo's direction. And when none
of them are looking, a few bags pack themselves. And when Hank isn't
looking, I move what he needs a little closer so he doesn't have to
hunt for it. They're all too busy to notice, assume someone else did
it. Someone else did. Me.
Nothing of value can be left.
All our records were already duplicated and transferred to Boston, and
Kitty is wiping from the computers anything that remains here. St.
John burns all hardcopies. Frank tears apart Cerebro. Some of it can
be packed, the memory cells, for instance, but most can't be. Logan
will have to shred it into scrap metal. Other children do what they
can. Some, like Piotr, hunt through the wreckage to see if anything is
left worth salvaging. There's not much. The mansion was old and full
of wood and other combustibles. Even the glass has been turned to
slag. They move on autopilot, weeping silently at the scope of the
changes made in their lives in less than an hour. Yet most of them
have been through such devastation at least once before, when their
powers manifested. They survived then. They'll survive again now.
The hardest part, Scott and
Logan reserve for themselves: the gathering of the dead. They have
taken them above ground. Bodies can't be left either, nothing to offer
a DNA sample - even the dried blood must be washedd or burned away.
The bodies will have to be incinerated. Too bad that Neal is among
them; he could do it far better and more rapidly than St. John, who is
already so tired that he can barely stand, deeply in shock over the
loss of Jubilee, and worried sick about Rogue who is being looked
after by Bobby and Dani in order to free up Logan. But Marie will
recover. She's a strong girl, and has John Proudstar inside her to
help drive away the remnants of the alien hybrids. But that is their
battle. I cannot help. He gave himself to her willingly, and she saved
him from a slow death of bleeding agony. John will always be a part of
her now, both his memories and his mutant strength. She came to just
long enough to beg Scott to cut a lock of his hair; she will braid and
tie it to his red-tailed hawk feathers, and wear them for him.
I leave those below to rise up
through the layers of earth as easily as Kitty could, joining Scott
and Logan even as FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner arrives. He is
bringing a handful of his agents, those who work on the X-Files.
X-Men, X-Files . . . Charles was always amused by that. "I
am," he used to say, "the true X-File." His
little pun, though of course he wasn't. Mutants aren't unexplained
phenomena, though I'm sure a few of us were investigated as that
before our existence and the X-gene were widely known.
cars approach slowly up the lane, lights on bright, picking out the
skeleton of the mansion and the burnt destruction all around. I feel
the shock in their minds, the doubt that anyone could be left alive.
Scott and Logan hid at the first sound of cars. Now, the agents get
out of their government rentals to investigate, and Logan prepares to
attack them but Scott calls him back. "That's Charles' FBI
contact," Scott tells him, rising up from where he'd been
crouching behind a brick mansion wall, Charles' body still in his
grip. "Welcome to what's left of Westchester, Mr. Skinner.
Welcome to hell." Yet he sounds more tired than bitter. Weapons
are holstered, claws retracted, and Scott stands with Charles' body as
Skinner approaches. Another bald-headed man, though Skinner is not yet
old. His shoulders are powerful with the strength of one who has led
an active life. Charles told me once that he served as a Marine in
Vietnam, and he knew Scott's father, if not well. It's a small world.
He closes his eyes when he
reaches Scott and lays a hand on Scott's shoulder, says, "I'm
sorry, Cyclops. I know the two of you were very close."
"I'm not Cyclops any
longer. The professor gave me that name, and the professor is
"So what name are you using
"Scott Summers. The one I
was born with."
How ironic. He has discarded his
code name even as I, finally, have found one.
Skinner smiles faintly, and
introduces his agents - a pale-eyed man named John Doggett, who is
the essence of a police detective, and two women, pretty Monica Reyes,
who is a beta mutant herself, though she doesn't realize it, and a
serious red-haired doctor of roughly my own age named Dana Scully.
Scott suppresses his double take. I would laugh if I had breath for
such things. Scott, love, you are so predictable. But he's noted her
wedding ring, and his own is still on his hand. He wouldn't be ready
yet, even if she were available. Yet two weeks ago, he wouldn't have
responded with a second glance, and he wouldn't have looked for a
He'll heal. I could be jealous
of that, but it would be so very petty.
Logan has gone below to finish
bringing up the other bodies. Unexpectedly, Dana Scully helps. When he
asks her about that, she explains that she's a medical examiner.
"Dead bodies are my business." I think he's amused. She
glares at him, unmoved by the memory of nine-inch knives in his hands.
I suspect she's seen worse, and I think I'd have liked her, had we met
in life. She, too, has a temper concealed under ice because men don't
want to take 'emotional' women seriously. When you work in a man's
field, you must learn to act more like a man than the men do.
Their business below complete,
the rest are emerging now, too. Skinner takes charge of the evacuation
and Scott lets him. He's so tired that he staggers a little under the
limp weight of Charles' body. But he's not ready yet to release it, to
lay it beside the others. He clings. That is why I must keep my
distance. He is weeping again, but the visor hides it. He stares down
at the bodies: Neal, Fred, John Proudstar, Pietro, and our once-sassy
Jubilee. Plus Charles. Six gone forever. Seven, I suppose, if they
count me, but I'm not gone. I pass behind Scott and give him a little
of my strength. He is sensitized to me, and I think he's aware of my
presence on some subliminal level, but it's not conscious. That, I can
of the cargo is loaded into the Blackbird, and the children - who
are still anonymous to the consortium - are split up between the
cars of Skinner's agents. They will take them by different routes to
Boston. Scott is not happy about this, but the Blackbird can't carry
them all. Those who - like Kurt and Hank - are obvious mutants
will go with him. Logan and Ororo, too. I watch Ro cling to Frank for
a moment and feel a passing pang of jealousy, but more relief that she
did not lose him, too. He will drive one of the few cars that escaped
destruction - the Mercedes. I always liked that car. It has a few
scratches, but looks remarkably good. He will take Rogue, with Bobby,
Kitty, and St. John to assist. And Dani, too, because Dani was John
Proudstar's friend. Rogue should not be around anyone just now who
isn't familiar with her unique power.
Everything is prepared and it is
time for last things. Scott lays Charles' body amid those of his
students. Five facing east, one facing west at Dani's instruction. The
other students won't leave till they've seen their classmates - and
the professor - consigned to the elements. Dani mutters that John
should have been buried high, but she knows that's not possible.
Overhead, a hawk screams in the dark and everyone looks up in
surprise. "His brother has come to take him home," Dani
explains. Maybe she's right. The hawk's mind is wild, but full of
power. A multivalent universe. The sacred all around us, if we could
only see. Covered carefully and borne in Bobby Drake's arms, Rogue
twitches at the hawk's cry. John has heard. Dani slips John's four
hawk feathers into Rogue's fingers, and sings in Cheyenne. An honor
song, a death song.
The four non-mutants watch all
this curiously as St. John steps forward with his lighter. He looks to
Scott, for permission, for forgiveness. Scott nods and John lights one
corner of the blanket covering the bodies, and then passes his hand
rapidly above them all like a benediction. The fire follows his will
in a flashover. This way, no one must watch it creep, consuming them
one at a time. The children hang on to each other as they cry, and a
few gag at the sweet stink of burning flesh. Mr. Skinner and the other
agents try to herd them away. It is not an easy scene for children,
but they do not wish to go.
St. John is flagging; he cannot
summon the strength to make it burn as hot as it must, hot enough to
reduce bones as well as flesh to utter dust. I speak into his mind. Let
me help you, John. You are too tired; I will give you strength. Don't
He's so startled, he loses
momentary control of the fire and it wavers. Scott shoots him a look. Who
are you?, St. John thinks hard.
I am the woman in the fire.
Not Dr. Grey any longer,
John. Dr. Grey died. Now, I am simply Phoenix. Let me help you. Have
the rest of them move well back. But John, don't tell Scott about
I think he understands why. He's
a smart boy, and he does as I say, orders the rest of them back. When
they are all far enough away, I tell him to raise his arms - we must
make this look good - and then I pour my power through him, twine it
into his until it surges out in a great white burst. If he weren't so
powerful already, this would fry his mental synapses.
The fire rises up and
yellow-gold tongues lick the air like fluttering feathers. They go
white-hot as we approach the necessary temperature. It is my power,
but John's experience and training that contains it, keeps the fire in
an unnatural circle until there is nothing left. It's over in the
space of a minute, a final burst of glory.
They deserved more than this
bedraggled memorial in the dark hours before dawn approaches. But it
is the best that we can do. And funerals are for the living, not the
dead. I should know. "Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust,"
Hank intones quietly as the fires whoosh out. "From earth we were
created, and to the earth, we shall return."
"Amen," Agent Scully
says, and both she and Kurt cross themselves, then glance at each
other, a bit startled. Kurt smiles and automatically, Scully smiles
back. There may be hope for us all yet.
Storm brings down the rain,
washing away ash and blood, soot and tears.
It is at that moment that Piotr
Rasputin returns from his final walk-through of the mansion. He is
carrying something, a large square of oak wood. When he reaches the
small gathering, he turns it so they can see, though darkness and rain
makes that difficult. One of the FBI agents shines a flashlight on it,
and a spear of Storm's lightning streaks the sky overhead.
It is from the main staircase
banister: Piotr's design, carved by Scott's eyes. Fire has blackened
it badly, though it remains mostly intact. A dragon coiling around an
X and the words beneath: Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters.
Reaching out, Scott drags
fingertips over it. "How on earth did this survive?" I know
that he is thinking of our quilt.
But I had nothing to do with
this. Some things are simply an act of fate.
months have passed since the mansion was destroyed in the early
morning hours of a mid-May night. The media spin was predictable:
Xavier's academy was named the base of secret operations for the
mythic 'Mutant Rights Organization' which had been accused of
destroying the bunker in Maryland. The newsreels make much of previous
mass suicide examples, such as Jim Jones or the Branch-Dravidians. The
stain of fanaticism by association is intentional. The public was told
there had been no survivors, yet Scott, Ororo and Logan's names have
all been placed on lists of FBI's Most Wanted - just in case. They
remain on the run, with fake identities secured for them by Mr.
Skinner, and subtle changes in appearance. Scott let his hair go
shaggy and grew back his beard; he has new glasses, too, more round,
which Hank managed to coat with iridescent blue mirror, concealing the
red quartz. Ro dyed her glorious hair to predictable black-brown, oils
it and braids it to conceal the fact that it's straight by nature, not
from chemical assistance. Logan, being Logan, changed nothing.
Xavier's fortune, which was supposed to have gone to Scott as trustee,
devolved on Hank instead. How his name managed to stay off the wanted
lists, I don't know. Warren and Frank - as well as the children -
remain unknown entities, but several have changed their names anyway.
Kitty Pryde's parents even gave her a funeral, and now call their
daughter once a month under the name of Judith Silverstein. She will
have to wait a year to start at MIT.
Yet the passage of time means
little to me. I find it increasingly difficult to recall what
impatience means, and my memories of the flesh are fading. What was
the feel of breath's rise and fall in my chest, the tickle-touch of
dandelion seeds on bare skin, the green smell of thyme in the fields,
or the tart-bright tang of ripe summer strawberries? I am even
forgetting the taste of Scott's mouth. Maybe one day, when the last of
these things fades, I will fade, too, or at least go where I feel no
regrets. But for now, I remain, coming into and going out of their
lives at increasingly long intervals. It hurts too much, to walk
unseen in their world, it becomes too tempting to put on a semblance
of skin and manifest myself. And that would do no one any good in the
long run, least of all Scott. Least of all me.
But this day, I will join them
for a while, even if they are unaware of it.
It's a few minutes after
midnight, and they are headed for the beach, repeating a trek made ten
years ago in the dog days of summer, sneaking out in the early hours
of morning while Xavier slept. Scott, Warren, Frank and Ro. I didn't
go that time. Hank hadn't gone that time, but they include him now.
Standing outside in t-shirt and jeans, Scott throws a rock up at
Hank's window in the third story of the new school's Boston
brownstone. "You're going to break the glass," Warren hisses
"No, I won't."
The window opens and Hank leans
his head out. "What're you doing?" he asks in a normal
"Shhhh!" say the four
below. "You wanna go to the beach?" Warren adds in a stage
I can sense Hank's sleep-muddled
confusion, then a huge grin splits his face and he starts to flip
himself out his window to join them, then pauses. "Can Robert
come?" he asks.
The four exchange glances. Bobby
Drake hadn't gone the last time because he hadn't yet arrived at
Westchester. But then, Hank hadn't gone the last time, either. They
shrug in concert, and Scott replies to Hank, "Why the hell
"Excellent. I shall wake
him, and meet you below."
This is really very silly, but I
think they enjoy it more for that fact. Ro and Scott let themselves be
silly so very rarely, especially these days. As students themselves,
they had snuck out to drive to the beach in the middle of the night,
and now ten years later, they were bound and determined to have a
wacky reunion in celebration of Scott, Ro and Logan's return home for
a brief visit. Scott had news of what they'd learned about our enemies
- human and alien both. If Rogue had gained nothing else from her
absorption of the hybrids, she'd at least been able to confirm what
Walter Skinner had told the professor. Even show-me-Scott and
Warren-the-skeptic had a hard time denying it now. There were aliens
out there who didn't want to Make Nice, and there were people hiding
in the nooks and crannies of our own governments who wanted to use us
to stop them. Big Brother knows best. 1984 for the Twenty-first
But conspiracies could wait.
They would, unfortunately, still be there in the morning.
Tonight, Scott, Ro, Frank and
Warren - and now Hank and Bobby - are ssneaking out to the beach.
Sean, Moira and Logan will be hugely annoyed in the morning when they
find themselves all alone on a Sunday with over fifty teenagers. And
Kitty-Judith will be annoyed because she wasn't asked to go. Next
Hank and Bobby emerge from a
side door and, giggling like twelve-year-olds, pile into Ro's jeep
with the other four. It's a tight squeeze, and it's a good thing I
don't have a body or we wouldn't all fit. Someone painted "Beach
or bust" on the back windshield in white shoe polish. Probably
Ororo. Her quirky sense of humor shows up in unexpected ways. Scott is
driving even though it's Ororo's jeep because he's a control freak,
and he pulls away from the curb squealing tires like a crook escaping
the scene of his crime. "The Getaway Kid," Hank dubbed him a
long time ago. He's an excellent driver if one doesn't account for the
fact that he never goes the speed limit unless he absolutely must. I
used to tell him that he set a bad example for the students; he gave
his mutation as an excuse. Yet he doesn't drive fast because of his
unique sight. He drives fast because he likes to.
We've gone all of three blocks
before we hear the roar of another engine gaining on us, and then a
motorcycle speeds past to pull recklessly in front of the jeep. Logan,
of course. Without a helmet. He and Scott play tag all the way out of
town and it's a good thing Scott has the radar detector on, or they'd
have gotten four traffic tickets inside five minutes. Then they are on
US 6 south to Cape Cod. They'd wanted to go back to New York, to the
same beach they'd gone the first time, but it's a five hour ride, from
Boston. Cape Cod will have to do. We must arrive in the dark hours
before dawn or Warren can't go shirtless. And Hank couldn't show his
face at all.
Most of them doze as Scott
follows Logan, or Logan follows Scott down roads that, in this
congested area of the country, are never empty even at this hour. We
make it to the beach a little before three, jump the curb past a
barrier into a closed parking lot, and all pile out. Even at the
height of summer, in this latitude it's too cold for most to go
without a cover in the night air. But Bobby doesn't feel cold and
tears off his t-shirt with a whoop, tying it around his head like a
neon-watermelon turban. Then he leaps the decorative wood fence and
tears off down the beach access past sea oats to the water. Hank beats
him, even though Bobby got a head start.
"Somebody's going to hear
them and call the cops," Scott mutters. Public beaches are closed
at this hour.
Warren pops him lightly.
"Just call me Mr. Paranoid," he teases, then removes his own
shirt to stretch out wings that have healed at last, though they're
scarred forever. A few feathers grew in askew, a few grew in black,
and some never grew back at all. But now, they are more interesting,
because they're not perfect. "Relax, man," and he leaps into
the air to sail an updraft out towards the ocean. Scott, Frank and
Ororo watch him go as Logan finishes securing Scott's bike and joins
them. Together, the four pace down to the beach more slowly. I am with
them, though they do not know it.
Bobby and Hank are splashing in
the waves as we stake out a piece of sand on the deserted beach. Then
Scott sits down to guard everyone's stuff while Logan takes off to go
jogging and Ororo and Frank wander off arm-in-arm in the opposite
direction. Probably to talk about weddings. She wears a ring these
days and Frank has decided not to return to Italy. We need him here
too badly. He and Hank are rebuilding Cerebro.
But just now, they have all left
Scott. Not intentionally. They just didn't think about it. And Scott
will sit here, their base and anchor, content to do so because that's
his nature. Mostly. Despite his earlier worry about the noise, he
grins to see Hank raise Bobby Drake over his head and toss him twenty
feet further out into the waves. Bobby lands with a huge splash and a
shout. I think part of Scott might like to be out there, too, but then
who would watch the blankets, food, shoes and socks?
You chose well, Charles.
I sit beside him on the blanket,
admiring his profile and his thoughts, both. I was attracted to his
face from the first moment I saw him at eighteen. Such a pretty boy.
But it was his mind that I fell in love with. Even so, I invade it
rarely although I swim through minds these days as easily as a fish
through water. Yet his, I don't. It's not that I fear what I might
find there: -thoughts of other women, or not enough thoughts of me.
There are no other women, and won't be for a long time. He has too
many wounds from which to heal. And I know how often he thinks of me
still. Yet there have been mornings in the past month when he has
woken and I was not the first thing that he thought about. And there
have even been a few where he woke and went a whole hour without
thinking of me once.
And that is a good thing. It is
what keeps me, now, from drawing down the thread-light of stars to
make a body for myself while I keep ethereal company with him on the
blanket. It is enough to know that he sometimes feels my presence and
it comforts him in a vague way. Yet my visible presence would
interfere with his bereavement process. Funny, how we tend to place
stock only in things we can see and touch, and Scott is worse than
most. He still doesn't quite believe that I gave him his wedding
night, but he refuses not to believe it, too. He needs to believe it.
That night is a tender memory for him amid so many that are sharp. He
(and I, too) got what most of us do not - one more chance to say
everything, to close emotional doors. Maybe I was wrong to do it,
wrong to interfere in his life, but I don't think so. He needed
something good to balance everything else he's suffered that has been
so hugely unfair, everything he's lost. Even now, his shoulders sag a
little because no one is watching, and he's tired and depressed.
And I can't resist. I move
behind him to lay spirit hands on his shoulders, press my
body-not-body against his back to hold him up. He closes his eyes and
whispers my name, as he does sometimes when he feels me near. As with
our wedding night, he's not sure he really believes, but he needs to
believe, so he speaks my name and I wrap my arms around his shoulders
and lay my cheek against his as the wind off the ocean whips his hair
into my eyes. I don't feel it in the way I once did, but I still feel
something. And I feel, too, how his body has relaxed a little, because
He is the soul of the X-Men now.
He must be strong for them all. He promised Charles once, that if
anything happened to the professor, he would take care of them. And
Scott always keeps his promises.
And that, I suppose, is the real
reason that I remain, this invisible phoenix, even six months after I
died. He must be strong, but he's so alone, so sad, and if he finds a
little extra strength because he believes I haunt him, then I will
haunt him until he doesn't need me any more. Passion springs from the
flesh, and it's been long enough now that I had no longer crave that.
But love springs from the spirit, and the spirit doesn't die. Kitty
Pryde once told me of a lovely Jewish legend that says when a soul is
born, seven possible mates are named. Six will make one happy, but if
truly blessed, one finds the seventh, the soul mate. And if one finds
the soul mate, then one is bound to him forever, even beyond death.
The first one to die will await the other. That story appeals to the
romantic in me. How else could I explain falling head over heels for a
boy almost nine years my junior, pretty though he may be? In Scott, I
recognized my other half. And I will wait on him.
flat horizon is graying finally with the approach of dawn. Soon, early
beachcombers will arrive and we must be going. Scott sighs and closes
his eyes. I kiss his cheek and release him so that he can gather the
towels, shoes and socks, and attempt to gather our people as well.
Logan has returned, but Frank and Ro are still in absentia, and
like children, Hank and Bobby whine about coming in out of the water.
Scott waves to Warren, still overhead, calling him to land. But Warren
only dips a wing in acknowledgment, then turns to head right back out
to sea. He must make one last pass, because he's Warren. And Scott
must curse about it, because he's Scott.
But Scott halts abruptly in
mid-tirade as Warren climbs the wind towards the eastern horizon,
rapid and fast - the eagle ascending - and moonlight scintillates
opalescent across wide white wings . . . like a vision of
possibilities, like a rite of spring in the shadow of autumn. Like
Hope that Pandora let out of the box. We stand facing into the
direction of the world, the direction of the rising sun.
the Writers Studio" ~Puguita)
To Crys, without whose medical assistance several chapters couldn't
have been written, and to Naomi, for her careful editing, particularly
of later chapters. Good editors are worth their weight in gold.
A few others (Mo, Domenika, Robbi, Jenn, Anne) helped with specific
information, and Kata was my 'test subject' for a couple early
chapters. :-) I'd also like to thank all those who faithfully
sent wonderful feedback after each chapter's posting. Feedback
is what fanfic authors live for, since there are no sales figures to
tell us if people are reading, and no royalty checks. For the
curious, the final word-count would yield a novel of about 220-30
pages in print. Please let me know if you read it and enjoyed it
(or even if you read it and hated it).
Climb the Wind have a sequel? Not immediately,
no. It wasn't originally plotted with a sequel in mind, and I
have several other story commitments to honor first. I honestly
never expected the enthusaism it generated. It was meant to be a
short novella diversion while I wrote Heyoka II. It
ballooned into a novel all on its own because "that middle
stuff" took more space to tell than I'd anticipated.
Writing a sequel would depend
on reader interest in one. This story has a clear ending, and
closure. It doesn't require a sequel although it would allow
one. If I wrote a sequel, I'd probably write it as a deliberate
pair. I used the Iliad for Climb the Wind, and I'd
do the Odyssey as a follow-up, since it would indeed involve a
journey "home." It'd be a chance to look at Scott as
the Odyssean-clever strategist, and also a man separated from his wife
by war. But it would involve a much heavier crossover with the X-Files
universe -- and that might not appeal. Since it would be an X-Men
story, all X-Files information (or any X-Files
characters) would be introduced and explained, as they'd be strangers
to the X-Men, too. Nonetheless, it would be a crossover
and crossovers are automatically problematic. (And yes, I know
that Marvel also plans to do a Scott-as-Odysseus comics mini-series in
September. All I can say is that I thought of mine before I
heard about theirs.)
how) the Iliad?: I said at the outset that
this particular story was based -- very loosely -- on Homer's Iliad.
The parallels are more in theme than specifics. The protagonist
of the Iliad is, of course, the great warrior Achilles.
He is young and talented, forthright, loyal and honorable to the point
of foolishness. He can also be cold, ruthless, and arrogant
(although in that world, humility was not a virtue). He
was regarded as "the best of the Achaeans." (Achaeans
Scott is obviously my
Achilles. And although there are significant differences
between the two, both are young and talented, and known for their
loyalty and honor. Achilles despised lying even though he lived
in a culture which measured a man's cleverness by his skill at deceit.
If there's enough culture-gap between dark age Greece and the modern
world that parts of the Iliad are puzzling for readers today,
what makes it still a masterpiece after almost 3000 years is Homer's
skill at showing the horrible cost of war, and his basic question.
What drives an honorable man to atrocity? Can one's own sense of
honor be as much a flaw as a virtue? (His answer is 'yes.')
This is the age-old tale of
the hero's descent and his redemption. Achilles is the Mortal
Hero. And so is Scott Summers.
Although I made little
attempt to draw specific parallels to the original Iliad, there
are a few. Jean, not Logan, is Patroklos, and her death is what
sends Scott mad. Yet the warrior's comradeship of Achilles and
Patroklos is paralleled by Scott and Logan. In the Iliad,
Achilles is publicly shamed by the taking of Briseis -- that's
why he retires from the war in the first place. He's not being a
spoiled brat. In Climb the Wind, Scott's rape is the
equivalent. But in Climb, his withdrawal comes after
Patroklos' loss, not before. In the Iliad, Achilles'
grief drives him into a descent from honorable hero to (amoral) god to
(unfeeling) animal. He disregards all rules of combat, refuses
to take prisoners for ransom, and kills without mercy. And he
commits abomination on the body of his worthy enemy, Hector. (He
ties it behind his chariot and drags it in the dust around the walls
of Troy, within sight of Hector's family.) In Scott and Logan's
escape from the bunker, Scott is both 'godlike' (one of Achilles'
epithets) in his ability to hit his targets, and an animal in his
treatment of his opponents. He kills without mercy and shows no
remorse for the body count he runs up.
In the Iliad, it is
not until Achilles' rage is exhausted, and Patroklos is mourned, that
Achilles is able to return to the realm of humanity. There is
even a 'ghost scene' on the beach, where Patroklos appears to Achilles
to beg for burial, and bewails their parting. But in the Iliad,
the great friends are not able to touch (much less take a final roll
in the hay).
It is at the end of the Iliad,
in the grief-driven supplication of the Greeks' great enemy -- King
Piram of Troy -- that Achilles reclaims his human compassion.
Priam is sneaked into the Achaean camp and Achilles' tent by the god
Hermes. There, he kneels at Achilles' feet and begs for the body
of his son, Hector, so that he might give him a proper burial.
Priam appeals to Achilles' memory of and love for his own father, in
order to take pity on Priam's grief. In short, Priam finds a
point of human contact beyond the hatred of war. In the end,
Priam and Achilles sit and weep together for their individual losses.
Likewise in Climb, it's an appeal from an enemy who is also a
father -- an appeal about children -- which revives
And although Achilles is
still alive at the end of the Iliad, every ancient (or modern)
reader knows that Achilles died at Troy; his days are numbered by his
choice to kill Hector. In Climb, Scott does try to
sacrifice himself, but is stopped, and it is Xavier who dies instead.
So if you know the Troy story and wondered why Scott got to live, it's
because Xavier took "the arrow of Paris."
If you've never read Homer, do
so (find the Fagels or Fitzgerald translations). And if you
want to know where this story came from, read G. Zanker's The Heart
of Achilles : Characterization of Personal Ethics in the Iliad and
Jonathan Shay’s Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the
Undoing of Character.