[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] Ongoing...
 
Episode Nine

Today's top story is the accusation that Olympic gold medallist and World Champion skier, Jean-Paul Beaubier, is a mutant. This claim appeared in several of the late editions of both local and national newspapers and is said to have originated with a 'highly reputable source'. Beaubier, who is no stranger to controversy following revelations bout his sexuality last year, has yet to release a statement, though the International Olympic Commission has said that, should these accusations prove true, they will have to look carefully at the validity of Beaubier's previous victories.

* * *

I was distinctly uncomfortable entertaining the idea of allowing Rachel to enter my mind for a second time. The truth of it was that, no matter what I may have said to comfort her, I still had difficulty accepting her actions. She had betrayed those she claimed to love and who loved her in return. She had allowed them to be executed - worse, she had helped to facilitate their deaths. No matter what she had been through, I could not justify her crimes to myself. I told myself that I had not experienced the horrors she had, that I could not truly judge what they might do to a person, how they might erode one's spirit and sense of morality, but it was that same lack of understanding that made me long to recoil from her touch when she tapped her fingers to my temples in order to initiate contact.

However, despite my reservations, I still needed her help and I could not forget that Rachel had offered it willingly. There was a large chunk of my past that was denied to me, a period of several years that, until recently, I had not even realised was missing. I had to know why and Rachel was prepared to help me find out. It troubled me deeply that I was able to forget my own son so completely. What mother could do that to her child? Perhaps, on reflection, Rachel was not the true monster here.

Rachel reached across the table and placed her fingertips gently against my temples. Her hands were cold.

'Just relax,' she said. 'We'll get it right this time.'

I wondered which of us she was trying to reassure the most.

I closed my eyes and I was falling. Images streamed by me, windows into my past through which I could only catch the briefest of glimpses as I fell. There was Lucy and I on the beach at Whitby and, through another window, my first meeting with Jonathan in London. And there I saw our wedding. He was so frail after weeks of sickness, but he stood with a strength that stirred my spirit even at the memory. I saw myself on my first day of school as a student and, next to that, I saw my first day as a teacher. I do not doubt that it was on the latter that I was the more apprehensive. And there was my younger self at a piano lesson, an art I never took to. I recall that the teacher gave up on me after a mere half-dozen visits.

And then the visions ceased and I was in darkness.

The smell hit me first. In my travels with the Doctor, one of the greatest marvels I had encountered was the cleanliness of the cities. Untidy they may seem to the inhabitants of the day, but at least they were spared the rank smell of bodily waste disposed directly into the street. A sewer system did exist in London, but it was new and, in my time in the city, still not adequate for the task. That said, having been raised in the country, it may be that I had an overly sensitive nose.

Warned by the smell, I was cautious about exploring my environment with my hands, but I could feel cobbles beneath my legs as I knelt. I strained my ears and heard laughter somewhere in the distance. Someone had raised their voice in song. And there, echoing all around me was the clip-clop of horses hooves and the rattling of carriage wheels, getting louder and louder and closer and closer. I clambered ungraciously to my feet and looked about me for somewhere to run, but my eyes were still unable to penetrate the gloom and the echoes made it impossible for me to determine where the carriage was coming from. The noise was deafening now and I felt for certain that the carriage was almost upon me. I raised my arms to protect my face, though of what I thought the value of such protection may be now eludes me.

Then the noise began to fade away as the carriage passed me by. I allowed myself to release the breath I had not even realised I had been holding. My breathing sounded loud and raw amid the quiet.

Gradually, my eyes started to adjust. I could make out two gas lamps on either side of the street I wondered if they had just been lit or if they had always been this way and it had merely taken a time for my eyesight to return. I could see no one who might have set the lamps burning, but the fog was thick and yellow and could hide a multitude. As I had surmised, I was standing in the middle of the street, so I hurriedly made my way to one side, away from any potential traffic - though there was none to be seen - and sheltered beneath the sign of a pub. I could here raucous noise from inside and peered in through the window. The glass must have been filthy, however, for I could make out little more than vague grey shadows.

'So this is the nineteenth century?' a voice said from behind my left ear. 'It's like all those black and white horror movies come to life.'

I turned to face Rachel. She was dressed in a morning suit. Once I would have found it scandalous and, not wishing to be dishonest, I must confess that the sight troubled me. It made me think of the outfit I had chosen for myself when leaving the TARDIS and my cheeks burned with shame. Rachel misinterpreted my embarrassment.

'I know this isn't what a girl should be wearing,' she admitted, 'but I really couldn't cope with all those skirts.'

She gestured at me and I realised for the first time that those tight and unladylike garments I had been wearing had been replaced by a dress in the style I had been used to, in dark blue with white lace at the collar and cuffs. A dark coat protected me from the elements and a long red scarf, which trailed down to my feet, completed the ensemble. Instinctively, I checked to make sure that the scarf concealed my scars.

'Besides,' Rachel continued, 'I think I look pretty good in this.'

I did not reply. I was, however, grateful that, with her short hair, Rachel could pass for a young man so her outfit was unlikely to attract too much comment.

'Let's go inside,' Rachel said, opening the door of the public house. I glanced up to see the name on the sign, but the image had blurred. Perhaps rain had washed away the paint.

We stepped inside and Rachel and I found a table near the door.

'I understand that you know little of where I come from,' I said to Rachel as we sat, 'but it isn't exactly seemly for two women to be in such a place, especially unaccompanied.'

'Who's going to complain?' Rachel asked.

I looked around and did not attempt to conceal my shock. Those shadowy figures whom I had assumed were distorted by the glass, were, in reality, little more than beings of smoke gathered into the approximate shapes of men.

'What are they?' I asked. 'Can they see us? They appear to be ignoring us.'

'Just as you ignored them,' Rachel explained. 'We don't pay a lot of attention to the people around us, usually, so it's no surprise that they're just grey figures in our memories as well.'

'Is that why this place seems so…wrong?' I asked. 'It reminds me of London and yet it is not.'

'It's built from your memories of London and coloured by your emotional attachment to the place. Sometimes a person's memories are an accurate representation of the real thing, but that's rare. Our impressions of what we see are almost always distorted by who we are.'

I took a moment to digest this information.

'So what do we do now?' I asked.

Rachel smiled.

'That's up to you,' she said. 'I'm just along for the ride.'

'We're here to find those memories I've lost,' I said slowly, speaking aloud as an aid to ordering my thoughts, 'and to find out what happened to Jonathan and Quincey.'

'Jonathan and Quincey?'

'My husband and our son.'

Rachel folded her hands on the table and frowned.

'We'll only be able to find the things you remember,' she said. 'You might not have known what happened to them even before you lost your memory.'

'I know that I'm a widow,' I replied, 'but I don't remember being told about Jonathan's death. There must be some information about that here.'

Rachel reached across and took my hand.

'I just don't want you to get your hopes up, that's all.'

I appreciated her concern, but for what other reason had I come here if not to entertain my hopes?

'Jonathan and I lived here in London,' I said. 'That's the way I remember it at any rate. We might learn something there.'

I rose to leave, but Rachel shook her head.

'Allow me.'

The room began to spin. At first I thought that I was subject to a momentary dizziness, but then I realised that the room really was spinning. The room expanded and was picked apart by unseen hands. Walls, furniture, even those wraiths representing people, were taken apart and reassembled in a new pattern, I pattern I now recognised as home. Some things were different. I spotted a chair that had, in my mind's eye, been nearer to the fire, but it was undoubtedly the same chain in which I had sat while bouncing Quincey upon my knee.

'How did you do that?'

'We're not in the real world anymore,' Rachel replied. 'We get to bend the rules a little here.'

I nodded, not really understanding. Where I came from, bending the rules meant turning up late for my studies, not travelling across town in a blink of an eye.

'Jonathan will be in the study,' I said, not wishing to dwell on what I could not explain. 'He was forever working late preparing one case or another.'

I led the way. I had trodden this same path more times than I could count, but never before had this short walk along the hallway filled me with such foreboding. I hesitated at the door.

'Well?' Rachel prompted.

'I'm afraid of what I might find,' I confessed. 'Perhaps these memories were suppressed with good reason.'

'You could be right,' Rachel agreed. 'There's no shame in turning back no if that's what you want. I've got memories I'd rather not have.'

'No,' I said, hesitant at first, but then with more force. 'No. I need to know what happened.'

I reached for the handle and eased open the door.

* * *

And we return now to our top story: the assertion that renowned skiing champion Jean-Paul Beaubier may be a mutant. His many fans had this to say about the story.

'It's just not true, is it? I mean, does he look like a mutant? Well, does he?'

'We're devastated. We looked up to him, especially after he told the world he was gay. He was our hero. But this? How could he?'

'I think it's cool. Jean-Paul is the ultimate non-conformist. He's an icon for outsiders everywhere.'

'I don't see what difference it makes. So he's a mutant. He's still Jean-Paul, isn't he? Isn't he?'

'I feel sorry for him. It's not like he can help it.'

* * *

Madelyne Summers closed the lid of her suitcase and, with an effort, hauled the case off of the double bed and onto the floor.

'Yeah, I just bet Mommy looks very funny,' she said as she caught Nathan laughing at her struggles. 'You know, this would be a lot easier if your daddy was here, but…'

She left the sentence unfinished, but her gaze travelled to the wardrobe where she had left Scott's clothes still hanging. He would want them when he came back. If he came back.

'Come along, little guy,' she said to her son, 'let's go home.'

'Home? Have we done something wrong?'

Madelyne jumped. 'Kurt, you startled me.'

'My apologies,' Kurt said. He grinned and his yellow eyes flashed. 'I do got that reaction a lot, though.'

Madelyne returned the smile. Kurt's humour was infectious.

'I just bet you do,' she said.

'But returning to the beautiful woman for a moment,' Kurt continued, 'you're not leaving us, are you?'

'I thought I'd take Nathan back up to Canada,' Madelyne said.

'But what about Christmas?' Kurt mimed mock horror, by Madelyne could tell that at least some of his hurt was genuine. 'You'll miss the party, not to mention the dramatic recitation Kitty has talked me into.'

Madelyne shook her head, her resolve crumbling beneath Kurt's good nature. She sat down on the edge of the bed.

'I told Scott that if he left then I wouldn't be waiting for him when he came back. I'm leaving him, Kurt.'

'Leaving Scott. But I thought…'

'That I loved him?' Madelyne laughed. 'Of course I love him, Kurt. But I asked him to choose, to choose be a father or to play the hero. He walked out on me, Kurt. He walked out on me.'

There was a long, drawn out moment of silence.

'Do you mind if I sit down?' Kurt asked.

'Be my guest,' Madelyne replied. 'Just watch where you put that tail.'

Kurt perched next to her. 'You know, I don't think Scott sees it as playing.'

Madelyne sighed. 'I know that, Kurt. Why do you think I fell in love with him in the first place? Scott has this intrinsic sense of right and wrong coupled with the courage to fight for what he believes in.'

'He's the best of all of us,' Kurt agreed.

'But what about Nathan?'

As if in response to his name, Nathan Summers gurgled.

'Scott has other responsibilities now,' Madelyne continued.

'Scott loves you both very much, Maddy,' Kurt said.

'But he still has to go out and be the hero,' Madelyne replied, 'and one of these days he isn't going to come back. I can cope with that. It's hard, but I went into this marriage with my eyes open. I knew what I as getting into, but I chose Scott anyway. But Nathan didn't make that choice and I don't want him growing up without a father. I would have thought Scott of all people would understand that.'

Scott, like Madelyne herself, was an orphan. Scott's parents had been killed in a plane crash, having sacrificed the last intact parachute to save the life of their son.

'So you're leaving him before…'

Kurt left the sentence hanging in the air, but Madelyne finished it for him.

'Before he makes me a widow, Kurt. That's what you want to say, isn't it? And you're right. When all's said and done, you're exactly right.'

'Scott's already lost one woman he loves,' Kurt began.

'Don't you dare, Kurt,' Madelyne snapped. 'Don't you dare make this about Jean Grey. I'm not her, okay.'

'I never said…'

'No, you never do, do you, but it's what you're all thinking. I'm just a substitute for the real thing. Scott only chose me because I look a bit like the woman he really loves. The only difference is that Jean would be out there fighting the good fight at his side. I'll always be second best to you people, won't I? And I'll always be second best to Scott.'

Disturbed by his mother's shouting, Nathan began to cry. Maddy hurried over to him and scooped her son up in her arms.

'There, there, sweetheart,' she said. 'Mommy's not angry with you. Mommy loves you, and don't you forget that.'

She kissed Nathan on the crown of his head.

'Scott doesn't think you're second best,' Kurt said quietly. 'Neither do I and nor does anyone else here. I loved Jean very much - we all did - and there aren't words to describe how much she's missed. You're not her, but that doesn't make you any less of a person, Maddy. You're different, that's all.'

'That's a nice speech, Kurt.'

'I meant every word.'

Madelyne shook her head, flinging away her tension to the far corners of the room.

'I'm sorry, Kurt,' she said. 'It's just…'

Kurt held up one three-fingered hand.

'You don't have to explain,' he told her. 'Listen, for what it's worth, I think you're wrong about Scott and wrong to leave him like this, but it's not my place to interfere and I'll respect your decision.'

'Thank you.'

'However,' Kurt continued, 'you've got friends here, Maddy, people who care about you a great deal and who will be very hurt if you just walk out on them. Stay for Christmas, at least. You and Nathan deserve to have a good time among friends.'

'Okay, Kurt, you win,' Madelyne replied, conceding defeat. 'I'll stay for Christmas. But after the party, I'm gone.'

Kurt nodded.

'I'll even drive you to the airport myself,' he said, 'assuming that's still what you want.'

* * *

Governor Elisabeth Grayson issued the following statement earlier today:

'While I, of course, sympathise with Mr Beaubier's situation and condemn the unwarranted media intrusion regarding his genetic identity, I do feel that this new revelation only serves to strengthen the position of my own campaign with regard to mutancy. My opponent would have you believe that all mutants are monsters, threats to our health and to our way of life. Jean-Paul Beaubier is a sportsman and a celebrity and a hero for many of our young people. He also happens o be a mutant. He is not a monster and he is not a threat. Nor are the majority of mutant Americans - and yes, I do consider mutants to be Americans - nor are they monsters. They just wish to be left alone to live out their lives the same as the rest of us. Yes, there are mutants who are dangerous, in the same way that there are many non-mutants who are dangerous. Less than two percent of the violent crimes in New York last year were committed in New York in the last twelve months were committed by people who have been established to be mutants. Less than two percent. Mutants do not deserve to be rounded up into camps or pursued by robot Sentinels and my administration will continue to oppose any attempts to introduce legislation to do so.'

* * *

I flung open the door. I had to do so in one rushed movement, for I feared that if I hesitated then I would change my mind about opening the door at all. When my eyes register the state of my husband's study, I find myself wishing that I had.

'Oh Mina, is that…' My face told Rachel all that she needed to know. 'I'm so sorry.'

The study was in disarray. Papers and books were torn and strewn across the floor. The chair and the desk had been overturned and the shelves of one of the bookcases had been smashed. But none of that mattered. What mattered was the figure lying in the centre of the room in a pool of his own blood.

That figure was my husband, Mr Jonathan Harker.

I could see that his throat had been torn open. There were other wounds as well, but I turned away so that I would not have to look at them. Rachel put her arms around me.

'I so sorry,' she repeated.

'It's all right,' I said. My voice seemed to be coming from a long way away. 'I already knew that he was dead.'

Unfortunately, that statement was not quite true. Yes, I knew that my memories told me that I was a widow, but now that I knew that there were gaps in my memory, I had started to entertain the notion that perhaps there were inaccuracies as well. I had almost convinced myself that Jonathan might still be alive, but how could I argue with that…that thing (I could not even bring myself to call it my husband) lying mutilated on the floor.

In spite of my protests to Rachel, I began to cry.

Whatever reservations I might have had about my companion, they now evaporated as I sought comfort in her arms. He enfolded me, rocking me like a child as I released all the grief and sorrow and anger I had not been aware I had been storing up inside. My husband - my lover, best friend and confidant - had been taken from me and there would forever be a Jonathan Harker shaped hole inside of me. Perhaps, when the count of my days is at an end, I may rejoin him in Heaven, and, in the long nights when, alone in my room, I think of him, that small comfort makes my existence more bearable. However, my inability to age may mean that the span of my life will be long indeed and the cursed nature of my being may mean that Heaven will be denied to me. It is those very fears that make the nights so long.

I felt Rachel's body tense up against mine. I began to ask her what was wrong, but Rachel put a finger on my lips before I could utter a word. She gestured towards the ceiling using only her eyes and, turning my head very slowly, I looked up to see what it was that had spooked her so. A figure, half-hidden by the shadows where the ceiling met the wall, clung to the ceiling like a giant spider. The creature's head seemed almost too big to be supported by its shrunken and emaciated frame. Clothes hung loosely from skeletal limbs. Its eyes glowed an angry red in the dim light. Then it barred its fangs.

I could not help myself; I screamed.

The creature dived from the ceiling and landed over the body, its arms and legs spread out in a pose akin to that of some large insect. It titled its head at an odd angle as it appraised us. One of its claw-like hands had come done in the sticky wetness of my husband's blood. It raised its fingers to its lips and licked them clean. Rachel and I remained clinging to one another, too terrified to move. I wanted to swallow, but there was a painful lump in my throat I could not shift.

The creature sprang.

I was certain that it was aiming for us, that it would do to us what it had done to my husband, but instead it launched itself over us and out through the study door. It scampered nimbly along the hallway and then smashed open the front door with inhuman strength before becoming one with the darkness in the street outside. After a moment, I let go of Rachel and collapsed into the chair, all strength having abandoned me. Rachel leant against the doorjamb and drew in a great lung-full of breath.

'What was that thing?' she asked.

I shook my head wearily. 'I do not know.'

'Well, at least it's gone now.' Rachel stood up straight. 'So, what's our next move?'

'Let's go home,' I sighed.

'Home?'

'The school.'

'But what about Quincey?' Rachel asked. 'I thought you wanted to know what happened to your son?'

'You were right,' I replied. 'There are some memories one is better of not possessing.'

My gaze lingered upon the body, but there was more to my reluctance to explore any further than just my husband's death. I had lied to Rachel about the creature. I had recognised it, its clothes at least. I had purchased them for Quincey myself.

* * *

Jean-Paul Beaubier has issued a statement saying that he will not submit to a DNA test to determine whether the allegations concerning his supposed mutancy are correct. He claims that this would be a gross violation of his privacy. However, many have taken his refusal to submit to a test to be confirmation that he is, indeed, a mutant.

In reply to the statement issued by Governor Grayson earlier today, he chief rival in the upcoming elections, Ashley Campbell, had this to say:

'Undoubtedly by now you will all have heard the news that Jean-Paul Beaubier is a mutant. I'm not a skiing fan myself, but I respect talent in any field and would like to say that Beaubier is a man a greatly admired. Until today.

'My opponent would like you to believe that Beaubier is some kind of model citizen, the acceptable face of mutancy. Let me tell you what I think. Beaubier is a liar and a cheat. He used his mutant abilities to gain an unfair advantage over his competitors on an international stage. Every single one of those medals has been won not because he had any real talent, but because he is a mutant. Every single one. Do you want your children to grow up in a world where mutants will be allowed to walk all over them? Do you? I know I don't and, if I get elected, I will do everything in my power to prevent that from happening.'

* * *

'What was that all about?' Madelyne asked. She had entered the common room just as Ororo turned off the television.

'It's all over the news,' Ororo replied. 'Somehow, the press has learned that Jean-Paul is a mutant.'

'Jean-Paul?'

'You know, Beaubier. The skier.' Marie was lounging on a sofa while reading a glossy magazine.

'I know.' Madelyne found a seat for herself. 'I used to have a bit of a crush on him. That was before I met Scott.'

'Hey, just because your married, there's no harm in looking, sugar,' Marie replied. 'And he is kind of cute. Shame he plays for the other team.'

'I didn't know he was a mutant, though,' Madelyne said, 'or, more importantly, that you girls are on first name terms with a superstar.'

'I'm not sure that I would call Jean-Paul a superstar,' Ororo said.

'How many magazine covers was he on last month?' Marie asked her. 'Maddy's got a point.'

'So, how do you know him?'

'He came to the professor for help,' Ororo explained.

'Help?' Madelyne asked. 'How could the Charles help him?'

'Jean-Paul's mutation allows him to move at incredible speeds,' Ororo replied, 'but he couldn't control it. Imagine trying to live a normal life when you do everything at the speed of sound.'

'And she does mean everything,' Marie interjected.

'He became something of a recluse,' Ororo continued.

'You know, I seem to recall reading something about this,' Madelyne said. 'He burst onto the sporting scene as if from nowhere.'

'Not from nowhere,' Ororo said. 'From here. He hid away from the world, knowing he couldn't interact with people in his condition, but too proud to ask for help.'

'But he changed his mind in the end?'

Ororo shook her head.

'The professor sought him out. There are very few of us who came to the professor. In the main, he found us. I was in Africa. I had been adopted by a tribe as their goddess because of my ability to influence the weather.'

'And you gave up being a goddess to come here?' Maddy said. 'Not the choice I would have made…'

'It wasn't real,' Ororo replied. 'Charles showed me that.'

'The professor found me in prison,' Marie said.

'Prison?' Madelyne's eyes widened.

'Didn't Scott tell you?'

'Scott rarely talks about your pasts,' Madelyne said. 'He probably thinks it's invading your privacy or something.'

'That'd be Scott,' Marie agreed, 'but going back to me for a minute, before the professor found me, someone else did.'

'Who?'

Marie shrugged.

'Never did get to meet him. He was some kind of criminal mastermind - or he liked to think he was - and I was just part of one of his cells.'

'Cells? As in terrorists?'

'Got that right, sugar.' Marie hung her head. 'Look, it's not like I'm proud of what I did, okay? But I was young and naive.'

'No one's judging you, Marie,' Ororo said.

'You think that witch Grayson brought up my colourful history just for fun?' Marie asked. 'Look, I just want to try and explain. When I touch someone, I absorb their memories and their strength. If it's a mutant, I get their powers too. Sometimes the transfer is permanent - that's how I got my strength - sometimes it's not. First boy I kissed, Cody…he's still in a coma.'

'I'm sorry,' Madelyne said.

'I was a screwed up kid,' Marie continued. 'I ran away from home because I was frightened of what I could do. But I soon found out that it wasn't just me. Everywhere I turned there were people who hated me for what I was and what I could do. It became easier to turn my anger on them rather than focussing inward. When someone offered me the chance to strike back, to use my powers to fight for the rights of other people like me, I couldn't say no. So I became a terrorist, though I saw myself more as a freedom fighter back then. We all did.'

'And then you got caught,' Madelyne reasoned.

'No, then I gave myself up,' Marie corrected her. 'No way they could have caught me.'

'What caused the change of heart?'

'That's a story for another day,' Marie said. 'Point is, I ended up in prison. And then the professor came and talked me into going with him. Course, first he had to talk the authorities into letting me go. He must have pulled some pretty impressive strings to make that happen.'

'Yeah, I suppose he must.' Madelyne's voice was cold. 'So, you're here out of some sense of gratitude to Charles.'

'No,' Marie insisted. 'Well, yes, but there's more to it than that. I still want to fight for mutant rights. I got it wrong before. This is my chance to make amends.'

'You really think you can 'makes amends'?' Madelyne asked. 'You think that you can somehow make right what you did?'

'Maddy?' The fury coming off Madelyne was palpable and it made Marie nervous.

'Madelyne,' Ororo asked, 'what's wrong?'

'My parents were killed in 9/11,' Madelyne replied.

'That wasn't mutants,' Marie insisted.

'No, it wasn't,' Madelyne said harshly, 'but how is what you did any different? Tell me that, if you can.'

She stood up and strode angrily from the room. Tears brimming in her eyes, she did not see Kurt coming the other way. Kurt, however, saw her, if only at the last moment, and instinctively teleported past her in order to avoid a collision. Stumbling forward, Madelyne started coughing to clear her lungs of the acrid smoke left in her wake.

'I'm sorry,' Kurt said, offering a hand to steady her. 'I should know better than to 'port indoors.'

'And I should know to look where I'm going,' Madelyne replied, 'so I guess that makes us quits.'

'Want to tell me where you were going in such a hurry?' Kurt asked. 'You're not still thinking of leaving us, are you?'

'No. Maybe. Look, I just need to clear my head, okay?'

Madelyne began walking away.

'Would you like some company?' Kurt said, hurrying to keep up. 'For someone who loves the sound of his own voice, I can be a good listener.'

'Suit yourself.' Madelyne crossed the entrance hall and stepped out into the snow-covered grounds of the school.

Kurt looked up at the grey sky.

'Don't go anywhere,' he said, before teleporting away. In a moment he was back, a black woollen scarf coiled around his neck and a coat in his hands that he proceeded to drape over Madelyne's shoulders.

'Thanks, Kurt.'

Madelyne closed her eyes. She was not going to cry, not here, not like this. Dad had raised his little girl to be stronger than that. Besides, she had shed so many tears for her parents already that she was not sure how many she had left.

'I guess now I know why Scott never told me much about Marie,' she said.

Kurt raised a quizzical eyebrow.

'Doesn't it bother you, Kurt, living under the same roof as a known terrorist?'

'Former terrorist,' Kurt corrected.

'You think that makes a difference to the people she's hurt or killed,' Madelyne asked, 'or to the families she's destroyed?'

'You don't know Marie,' Kurt said.

'I know more than I want to.'

'We can't change the past, Maddy, but the future's what we choose to make it. Marie deserves a chance to get it right this time.'

'Does she? I think a lot of people would disagree.'

'May faith teaches me to forgive,' Kurt said.

'Well I guess I don't have that luxury,' Madelyne replied. 'You know, five minutes ago we were talking about how we both used to fancy Jean-Paul Beaubier. Now I can't bear to be in the same room as her.'

'She's not the monster you think she is, Maddy,' Kurt said. 'Trust me on that. It isn't easy being a mutant in a world where everybody hates you.'

'I guess you'd know, huh?' Maddy replied. 'And I guess Jean-Paul is about to find out. How do you think the media found out about it?'

'I suppose that someone must have said something, though I can't imagine who. Jean-Paul would never have told anyone. He even refused to use the word to describe himself when he was here.'

'Then that leaves someone at the school,' Madelyne suggested.

'One of us?' Kurt asked. 'Now you're just being ridiculous. What would we have to gain?'

'I guess…'

'Now, why don't we go back inside,' Kurt suggested. 'You can help me practice my party piece.'

Madelyne sighed.

'You know, Kurt, sometimes I really don't understand you. How can you still be thinking about the party what with everything else that's going on?'

'What do you mean?'

'What do you mean what do I mean? Campbell's going to win the election, there are mutant-hunting robots on the streets, Kitty, Scott and Logan have disappeared, the school is divided because of that doctor's interference - and I can't say I don't agree with him - and, to cap it all, five of your students have been kidnapped. Five of your friends. Isn't that enough for you?'

'Sam and the others will be okay,' Kurt insisted. 'Everything will work out. You'll see.'

'Everything will work out? Is that more of your faith talking?'

'Maybe,' Kurt replied. 'I had a long talk with the professor about it…'

'Your professor,' Maddy interrupted, 'is the one who abandoned Sam, Dani and the others to their fate in the first place.'

'It wasn't like that, Maddy,' Kurt said. 'The professor didn't abandon them. He explained it to me. He chose not to go after them because he didn't want anyone else to get hurt.'

'And because he didn't want to do anything that might spoil Grayson's chances of winning this election any further…' Madelyne trailed off. 'Kurt, how far do you think Charles would go to make sure Grayson wins?'

'You've seen what Campbell's proposing,' Kurt replied, 'and those Sentinel robots of his. I'm sure the professor would do everything he could to make sure he didn't win.'

'Everything?' Madelyne asked. 'Including selling out one of his fellow mutants to give Grayson something she could spin in her favour.'

'I don't like what you're implying, Maddy. The professor wouldn't…'

'Wouldn't he? He's already sacrificed five of his students.'

'The professor's a good man, Madelyne.'

'I'm not saying he isn’t,' Madelyne argued. 'But what if he's become blinded by focussing too much on the greater good? What if he's become so obsessed with saving the mutant species that he's forgotten about individual mutants.'

'I don't know,' Kurt began, shaking his head as if to clear it of these painful thoughts.

'Think about it, Kurt,' Madelyne pressed. 'You said it yourself. Who gains? It makes sense.'

'Yes…No…It can't be the professor. It just can't.'

'Why not, Kurt?'

'I doubted him myself for a while,' Kurt admitted, 'but then I talked to him and he explained everything to me. It was all so clear…'

'Then explain it to me, Kurt,' Madelyne said, 'because it seems clear enough to me. If not Charles, then who?'

'I…I don't know.'

* * *

Police have arrested one Timothy Ordway who threw a petrol bomb through the window of Jean-Paul Beaubier's home earlier today. Ordway's parents insist that their son idolised the skier and cannot understand his actions. They describe him as a quiet boy who would not hurt anyone. According to police, Ordway's own explanation for his actions is that he felt betrayed by his hero.

Beaubier himself was not home at the time of the incident…

* * *

'Do you feel proud of yourself, Charles?' Madelyne asked, nodding in the direction of the television.

Charles turned to face Kurt and Madelyne, who were standing in the doorway to his study.

'It's customary to knock,' he said.

'It's customary not to betray a friend's confidence,' Madelyne retorted. 'Beaubier was your friend, right, Charles?'

'I don't like what you're suggesting, Madelyne,' Xavier said. 'I hope you're not suggesting that I am in any way responsible for this.'

'That's exactly what I'm suggesting, Charles.'

'Madelyne, I realise that Scott's abrupt departure must have been upsetting for you,' Xavier said slowly, 'and I think that that's clouding your judgement. Please consider for a moment what you're saying.'

'Oh, I have considered, Charles. You're so desperate to prevent Campbell from winning this election that you'll do anything, won't you? Was it your idea to betray Jean-Paul or did Grayson put you up to it. He could have been killed today because of you, Charles. Sam, Dani, Rahne, Doug and Illyana may already be dead! How many more are you prepared to sacrifice for your precious dream, Charles? How many?'

Xavier turned to Madelyne's companion. 'And do you agree with this nonsense, Kurt? I should expect better from you.'

'I don't know, professor,' Kurt replied. 'What Madelyne says, it makes sense. I think that maybe you're too close to this and you're not seeing things clearly.'

'I'm not seeing things clearly?'

'Just tell me it isn't true, professor. Tell me and I'll believe you.'

'I shouldn't have to.'

'I notice that's not a denial, Charles,' Madelyne said. 'How do you think your students are going to react when we tell them what we know.'

'You don't know anything,' Xavier replied. 'Besides which, they trust me.'

'Are you so sure of that, Charles. The Doctor got them pretty rattled.'

'If I did anything, and I'm not admitting that I did, then you must believe that I did it for the best of motives.'

'The road to Hell is paved with them,' Madelyne replied. 'That doesn't make it right. It has to stop, Charles.'

Xavier closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose.

'I can't stop,' he muttered. 'There's too much at stake.'

He looked up.

'Hello,' he said cheerfully. 'What can I do for the two of you?'

Madelyne and Kurt looked at each other in puzzlement.

'Um…to be honest, I'm not quite sure, Charles,' Madelyne admitted. 'There was a reason, but I can't seem to remember what it was.'

'I'm sure it will come back to you,' Xavier told her. 'I doubt it was anything important.'

'Sorry for bothering you, professor,' Kurt said.

'Nonsense, Kurt. You know my door is always open.'

Madelyne spotted the television.

'I see you're watching the news about Jean-Paul Beaubier.'

'Yes,' Xavier agreed. 'A terrible business.'

'Who do you think could have done such a thing?

'I've no idea,' Xavier replied. 'None at all.'

 

 
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