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

Under other circumstances, Kitty might have enjoyed spending a night at the Orpheus. No, scratch that, she was enjoying herself. The music was great, Lila and her band giving a performance that more than lived up to their reputation, and the crowd was friendly, though not too friendly. But best of all was the dancing. Kitty loved to dance. She was grateful to the professor for enrolling her at Stevie Hunter's dance studio, but while the grace and precision of ballet was one thing, there was something liberating in being able to just let herself go. It was less like she was dancing and more that she was letting the music ride her.

She had briefly persuaded the Doctor to hit the dance-floor with her. He had looked distinctly uncomfortable to begin with, but had soon loosened up. However, after three dances, he had told Kitty that he could not keep up with her and had retreated to the sidelines. Kitty did not mind too much though. So long as she had the rhythm and the music, she could pretend to forget, for a while at least, why there were really there.

* * *

Mina's eyes snapped open. There was a moment of dizziness as the blue-grey room swam into focus and she placed a hand on the tabletop to steady herself.

'You okay?' Rachel asked.

'Honestly, no,' Mina replied. She stood up.

'Want to talk about it?'

'Not really.' Mina crossed to the door.

'Where are you going?' Rachel asked.

Mina turned.

'Rachel, I need something to turn my mind away from what I have just witnessed until I'm ready to think about it,' she said, 'if I ever am. I need to do something.'

'All right,' Rachel said, rising from her chair, 'like what?'

'I'm going to help the Doctor rescue those students.'

Mina stepped out into the corridor and Rachel hurried to keep up.

'Mina, wait,' she called. 'The professor told us not to. If you interfere you'll only make things worse.'

'How does this thing work?' Mina muttered to herself as she stabbed at the lift's call button. Then she glanced over her shoulder at Rachel.

'Worse how?' she demanded. 'What's worse than leaving a child to die?'

'You saw the future I come from,' Rachel said. 'Do you really want to be responsible for making that happen?'

'So you would rather do nothing?'

'Mina, I…' Rachel hung her head and looked down at her boots. 'I was sent back in time to save my life. It was a time before Sentinels, before camps. Mutants were only just starting to emerge and they weren't yet seen as a menace. There was a chance I could live a quiet, safe, normal life.'

There was a ping and the lift doors slid open. Mina stepped inside and the turned around so that her back was against the far wall.

'What went wrong?' she asked quietly.

'Look around you,' Rachel said. 'What didn't? The whole world's spiralling down to hell. Again.'

Rachel joined Mina in the lift and pressed the button for the ground floor of the school. The doors closed and Mina felt a slight increase in pressure on the soles of her feet as the lift rose.

'I am a stranger here, Rachel,' Mina said. 'I'm not familiar with current events.'

'Doesn't matter,' Rachel replied. 'The point is that things seemed to set on course for my future.'

'So what did you do about it?'

'What makes you think I did anything?'

'We wouldn't be having this conversation if you hadn't,' Mina pointed out.

'Fair enough,' Rachel agreed. 'I went looking for the professor. He's a hero in my time. I felt sure that if anyone could help me then he could. I told him everything. He was sceptical at first - who wouldn't be - but he's a telepath so he knew I was telling the truth. We began to plan how we could prevent my future from happening.'

The lift stopped and the doors slid open again. Mina and Rachel stepped out into a wood-panelled hallway.

'Go on,' Mina prompted.

'Everything we did just seemed to make matters worse,' Rachel said. 'I was living through events that I had only read about before. At best, what we were doing made no difference. At worse, we seemed to be triggering the disasters. Take this election, for example. We thought that having a pro-mutant candidate in office could only be a good thing, but it's polarised the debate. If anything, people are more afraid of mutants than they were before. Would Sentinels and camps be on the agenda if we hadn't interfered?'

'But you had to try,' Mina said. 'You know better than anyone how bad the future could be. You had to try and change that, even if it wasn't possible.'

'You don't understand,' Rachel complained.

A girl with bat-like wings sprouting from being her shoulders flew between them. A fur-coloured child ran down the corridor behind her, a basketball in its hands.

'Excuse us,' it said as it ran by.

Mina waited until they had rounded the corner before saying to Rachel, 'Explain it to me then.'

'I'm the daughter of Scott Summers and Jean Grey,' Rachel replied.

Mina was thoughtful.

'Scott I know,' she said. 'I don't believe that I've met Jean.'

'You won't,' Rachel said. 'She's dead. She died before I got here. She died before I was even born.'

'I don't understand.'

'Told you.' Rachel experimented with a wry smile, but it vanished as soon as it appeared. 'In my history, Scott and Jean are married at this point in time. They've had their first child, a girl they name Rachel. In the here and now, Scott married Madelyne Prior and they've got a son called Nathan. This isn't history as I remember it.'

'But isn't that what you wanted?' Mina asked.

'Are you saying I wanted my mom to die? That I secretly didn't want to be born?'

'No, of course I'm not,' Mina replied, 'and I am really sorry about your mother, but think about it Rachel. This means that history can be changed. The future doesn't have to turn out the way you can remember.'

'I thought that too, for a while,' Rachel said. 'If history can be changed then that must be a good thing right. But it doesn't track, Mina. I used to think that it didn't matter what I did because at least the future couldn't get any worse than what I'd already experienced, but what if it can. By travelling back in time, I killed my mom. What if, by interfering, I've only made things worse?'

* * *

The band had finished their first set so Kitty had joined the Doctor for a drink. He smiled when he saw her, then went back to brooding.

'Want to talk about it?' Kitty asked.

The Doctor shook his head and sipped at his lemonade.

'Ohhh-kay,' Kitty said. 'So, what's our next move?'

The Doctor raised an eyebrow.

'We're supposed to be looking for Doug and the others, remember?' Kitty pressed.

'Doug, yes,' the Doctor said. 'You know, it's interesting. When talking about your kidnapped friends, most people put Sam and Dani first.

'Well, they are the oldest.'

'But for you it's Doug. Why is that?'

Kitty blushed.

'No reason,' she muttered into her glass.

'Tell me about him.'

'Doug?'

'I'm curious.'

'Okay,' Kitty drained her glass, 'but it'll cost you.'

'Don't go anywhere,' the Doctor said before heading for the bar. He must have had a gift for charming bar staff because he seemed to be gone hardly any time at all before returning, a full glass in each hand.

'So, Douglas Ramsey,' he said, putting a glass down in front of Kitty.

'Doug,' Kitty corrected. 'He hates Douglas.'

'You see, I've already learned something.' He leaned forward resting his elbows on the table. 'Tell me more.'

'Doug's a computer geek,' Kitty continued. 'I guess that's why we get on so well. We can be bonded by our geekdom.'

'The geek will inherit the Earth,; the Doctor said. 'Isn't that what they say.'

'Maybe, but not at Xavier's,' Kitty told him. We're just like any other school and that doesn't exactly mean good things for geeks.'

'I know,' the Doctor agreed.

Kitty studied him for a moment.

'You're not going to tell me you were a geek at school too, are you?'

'I think we might all have been considered 'geeks' in my class,' the Doctor told her. 'Well, maybe not Drax…'

'I can't see it, Doctor,' Kitty admitted.

'Well, it's fair to say I'm not the man I was,' the Doctor replied. 'So is that how you see Doug? As a geek rather than a mutant?'

'I see Doug as a friend,' Kitty replied. 'Labels shouldn't enter into it.'

'But they do, don't they?' the Doctor said. 'We need labels to define our environment. You're a scientist, Kitty.'

'Maybe one day,' she said.

'Close enough for the sake of analogy. Tell me, as a scientist, where would you be if things weren't labelled?'

'That's not a fair comparison,' Kitty said. 'You can't apply the same kind of logic to people.'

'Can't you? We can spend hours describing a person in detail or we can some them up in a few choice words, labelling and filing them into neat little sub-sections.'

'But you can't pigeon-hole people,' Kitty insisted. 'There's too much variety.'

'I agree with you,' the Doctor says, 'but that doesn't stop people doing it. Tell me, do you have cliques at Xavier's? And, when a new student arrive, do you spend the first few days working out which clique he or she should belong to?'

'That doesn't make it right.'

'It's human nature' the Doctor said, 'and, as you humans say, deal with it. It's what's being done with mutants and humans.'

'At least that's scientifically accurate,' Kitty said.

'I'd argue that point,' the Doctor replied, 'but now is not the time. It's not the label that's the issue, it's the baggage it brings with it. When someone talks about mutants they aren't simply talking about one genetic trait. Instead, they're ascribing a whole host of social traits to the label as well. A 'mutant' is a monster, a criminal, someone not to be trusted, someone violent, someone to be afraid of.'

'None of which is true.'

'Actually,' the Doctor says, 'it is.'

'Whose side are you on?'

'The description is true for a small subset of the total mutant population. There is diversity between mutants just as there is between humans, but once we start applying labels we assume, consciously or otherwise, that everything beneath that label is the same.'

'I guess we need better labels,' Kitty said.

The Doctor smiled.

'I call them names.'

* * *

'So you're not going to try, is that it?' Mina demanded, walking backwards down the corridor. 'You're simply going to give up.'

'You saw what I am,' Rachel shot back. 'I'm a monster.'

'No, Rachel, you're not,' Mina insisted. 'You were a frightened girl trapped in an impossible situation.'

'A girl who turned on her friends,' Rachel replied. 'A girl who helped execute them. That's what you really think, isn't it? Don't bother denying it. I'm a telepath, remember? I can see into your head.'

'Then perhaps you should look deeper,' Mina said. 'Go on, I won't stop you. Yes, it's true I have trouble understanding what you did. Yes, I think it's horrible and frightening and yes, there is a part of me that thinks only a monster could have done what you did. But that's in the past. There are dark times in my own history as well, Rachel. You only scratched the surface of my memories. Neither of us are the same people we were and, even if you were a monster once - and I certainly don't have enough information to make that kind of judgement - that does not mean that you are one now. You've changed, Rachel.'

'Have I?' Rachel asked. 'Have I really? I killed my own mother, Mina.'

'That's ridiculous,' Mina replied. 'From what you've told me, she died before you even arrived in this time.'

'But my act of travelling back must be what changed history,' Rachel said. 'If I had stayed where I was then, no matter what else happened, at least my mom would have survived.'

'You didn't kill her Rachel,' Mina said.

'How can you be so sure?' Rachel wiped her nose with the back of her hand.

'I've been travelling in time a lot longer than you have,' Mina pointed out. 'Here.'

She handed Rachel a handkerchief.

'Do you know why I first started travelling with the Doctor?' Mina asked, putting an arm around Rachel. 'I was alone. I had lost my husband and my son. I was in Whitby to visit the grave of my best friend. And then the Doctor came along and he seemed to understand what I had seen, what I had been through.'

'So you hooked up with him because your kindred spirits?'

'No,' Mina replied, 'I went with him because I was running away. I was haunted by my past, even if I couldn't remember it. The Doctor offered me a chance to travel in space and time, as far away from my demons as I could possibly get. All I wanted to do, Rachel, was run and hide.'

'What changed?' Rachel asked.

'Nothing changed,' Mina said. 'That's the point. My past is always going to be there. So, as I see it, I have a choice: I can let it weight me down, like a great chain about my throat, or I can try and go forward and live.'

'And the point of this story is that I have the same choice?'

'You've seen the future, Rachel. You can let that glimpse dominate your life, forcing you to inaction brought on by fear, or…'

'Or?'

'You can act.'

Rachel dried her eyes on the handkerchief and then pulled herself upright.

'Okay then, so what do we do?'

Mina stopped. She had latched on to the idea of rescuing the students, but, now that it had been brought to her attention, she realised that she had no idea of how to go about it.

'Well, the first thing we need to do is find out where Douglas and the others are,' she said. 'I don't suppose that you can read their minds, can you?'

'You mean can I locate them telepathically?'

Mina nodded.

'I wish,' Rachel said, 'but I don't have that kind of range. If they were still in the school grounds I'd be fine, but as it is…'

'I understand.'

'The professor should be able to do it,' Rachel suggested.

'But your professor doesn't want us to go looking for them,' Mina said.

'Point. You could always try giving him the same pep talk you gave me.'

'I could, but I doubt he would be as receptive,' Mina said. 'Shall we see if your friends have any ideas?'

She stepped into the common-room. There were several students in there, but the room was not what Mina would consider crowded. She wondered where the majority of the students were since they had been forbidden from leaving the school grounds. Somehow, she doubted they were all studying. Spotting Ororo, Kurt, Madelyne and Marie sitting over by the television, Mina began weaving her way between the chairs and over the discarded drink's cans and pizza boxes to join them.

'Hey guys,' Rachel called out to them.

'Rachel,' Ororo said, inclining her head.

'And Mrs Harker,' Kurt added, grinning wickedly. 'What have you two been up to?'

'Rachel was kind enough to help me out with a problem,' Mina replied. She looked around for somewhere to sit, but, seeing the state of the seats, decided to remain standing instead.

'Well, now that you're here, Ray,' Marie said, 'maybe you can help us out with our problem.'

'Marie wants to put a DVD on,' Madelyne interjected.

'You agreed,' Marie replied.

'Only because it's not like there's anything better to do,' Madelyne said. 'If Charles is going to insist we stay put, you'd think he could at least provide us with something to do.'

'The problem is,' Kurt said, 'that these young ladies, while remarkable in so many respects, have absolutely no taste when it comes to films.'

'And you do?'

'Well, that's what Rachel's here to decide, isn't it?' Kurt said.

'You want me to pick a film for you?' Rachel asked. 'With everything else that's going on, that's your priority?'

Four heads bobbed in agreement.

'What about your students,' Mina said. 'Aren't you concerned about what's happened to them?'

'I'm sure they will be fine,' Ororo said.

'They've been kidnapped by people who think mutants are better off dead,' Rachel replied, her voice rising as she spoke. 'How exactly is that fine?'

'There's no need to get worked up, sugar,' Marie said. 'They're going to be okay. Trust us on this.'

'How do you know that?' Rachel asked.

Kurt looked to Ororo for the answer, but, when none was forthcoming, he turned back to Rachel and said, 'We just know, that's all.'

'You. Just. Know.' Rachel repeated. She put a hand to her head. 'This is insane.'

'Madelyne,' Mina interjected suddenly, 'where's Nathan?'

'He's upstairs, sleeping,' Madelyne replied.

'Are you certain?' Mina pressed. 'When was the last time you checked on him?'

Madelyne opened her mouth to reply and then closed it again.

'I…I can't remember,' she said. Then she rushed from the room.

'Had the rest of you all forgotten about her son as well?' Mina demanded of the others.

'You worry too much,' Kurt said. 'It's not like anything bad's going to happen.'

'It's like they've all be brainwashed,' Rachel said.

'Do you think it could be telepathy?' Mina suggested.

'You think someone's controlling their minds? Well, it would explain a few things. Let me take a quick peak.'

Rachel closed her eyes and concentrated.

'You were right,' Rachel said when she opened her eyes again. 'Someone has definitely been switching things about in there

'Are you saying that someone's been messing with our heads?' Marie asked. 'That's ridiculous. Why would anyone want to do something like that?'

Mina ignored her.

'Can you fix it?' she asked Rachel.

'Why would I want to,' Rachel replied.

Mina took a step backwards.

'Rachel, you know why,' she said. 'We need their help to find Douglas and his friends.'

'Yes, of course. I know that.' The blood drained from Rachel's face.

'Rachel, what is it? What's wrong?'

'I can't fix them,' she said.

'That's all right,' Mina said. 'At least you tried.'

'No,' Rachel said, 'you don't understand. I didn't. I'm pretty sure I could fix the damage, but there's a part of me that doesn't want to. I can't even bring myself to attempt it.'

'Why not?'

'I think whoever altered their minds has done something to me too, to prevent me undoing their handiwork.'

'But who,' Mina asked, 'and why?'

'I've no idea,' Rachel admitted.

'I do,' Madelyne said.

She was standing in the doorway holding Nathan in her arms. The boy was quiet now, but Mina could tell that he had been crying not very long before.

'Is he going to be all right?' she asked.

'He is now,' Madelyne replied, 'thanks to you. I can't believe he did this to me.'

'Did what to you?'

'He brainwashed me into thinking everything was okay,' Madelyne replied, 'and by doing so he put my child in danger.'

'You remember what happened?' Rachel asked.

'The shock of seeing Nathan…it must have broken through whatever did.'

'But who was it?' Rachel persisted.

Madelyne started to reply, but Mina got there first.

'It was Charles Xavier, wasn't it?'

Madelyne nodded.

'That's not possible,' Rachel said.

'Is that what you really think,' Mina asked her, 'or what he's programmed you to think?'

'I…I don't know,' Rachel admitted. 'How can I know?'

'I think,' Mina said, 'that it's past time that we got some answers.'

* * *

The band had done their second set and Kitty had exhausted herself on the dance-floor once again. She slumped down in her chair to find that the Doctor already had a fresh drink ready and waiting.

'So, how was I?' Kitty asked.

'Energetic,' the Doctor replied.

Kitty scowled at him.

'You were as fantastic as I remember, Kitty,' Allison said as she joined them at their table.

'That's what I said,' the Doctor said. Allison and Kitty stared at him. 'More or less.'

Allison sat down.

'People are staring,' Kitty said embarrassed.

'It's not everyone who gets to sit with a member of Lila's band, kiddo,' Allison said.

'You sure that's all it is?' Kitty asked.

'I hope so,' Allison replied.

'Allison Blaire, Allison Blaire,' the Doctor was saying. 'Now where have I heard that name before?'

Kitty was about to help him out, but the Doctor shushed her.

'No, don't tell me,' the Doctor insisted. 'It's on the tip of my mind. I think one of my travelling companions had a poster of you on her wall. Weren't you blonde once?'

'A lifetime ago,' Allison said.

'I know what that's like,' the Doctor agreed.

'Allison used to be a pop star,' Kitty said. 'She used to be called…'

'The Dazzler,' Allison said. 'If we must talk about that, could you please keep your voice down?'

'What happened?' the Doctor asked softly.

'Yeah,' Kitty said, 'when I last saw you, you were set to be a huge megastar?

'I remember,' Allison said. 'I got megastardom, but all too briefly. I guess it was never meant to be.'

'Why not?' the Doctor said. 'I won't pretend your music was to my taste, but you definitely had talent.'

'Thank you, Doctor,' Allison said, smiling. 'Problem was, I was born a mutant. I can turn sound into light. I used to do it as part of my act. I never let on that it was me, though. The audience just thought we had a genius special effects guy. Then someone found out I was a mutant. My record company dropped me in a heartbeat. My CD sales plummeted. Even the most desperate clubs wouldn't hire me to perform.'

'So you dyed your hair?'

'So I dyed my hair and hooked up with Lila as one of her backing singers. Lila's been great about everything and, at least while she's about, nobody's paying any attention to little old me, which is just the way I want it right now. I still get to perform and that's something, right?'

'I'm sorry,' the Doctor said. 'You didn't ask to be born different. You shouldn't have lost your dream because of it.'

'I'm reconciled to it, Doc,' Allison replied. 'It's part and parcel of being a mutant.'

'No, I won't accept that.' The Doctor slammed his palm down on to the table. 'What is it about your race that insists you judge people by what they are rather than who they are? Are you all born blind to the wonderful diversity around you? Maybe prejudice and hatred are species specific traits?'

'Doctor,' Kitty began.

'I have spent most of my life fighting to save your race from alien invasion, from threats from before the dawn of time, from monsters you've created yourself. Why? Answer me that. Why do I bother? You are petty and small-minded and bigoted and cruel and you seem to enjoy nothing so much as inflicting pain on one another.'

'I don't think we enjoy it, Doctor,' Allison said.

'Then why do you insist on doing it all the time?' the Doctor snapped.

There was silence. For a moment it seemed as if everything within the Orpheus had stopped.

'Maybe I'd better go and get us some fresh drinks,' Allison said, starting to rise.

The Doctor put a hand on her arm.

'I'll go,' he said. 'I'm sure you two have a lot of catching up to do.'

The Doctor stood up and sauntered over to the bar. There was a crush of people pressed around it, all fighting to be served. The Doctor did not have the energy to try to force his way to the front so he took up a position at the side, waiting for the crush to abate or, at the very least, thin a little. He had not meant to rant like that, especially not at Kitty who, as far as he could judge, seemed to be a perfectly pleasant example of humanity, but something about this whole mutant business gnawed at him. It was not just the mutants, though. He had been on edge since they had landed on Staten Island, maybe even before that. Maybe back as far as that boy and Tori…

'Hey, handsome, something on your mind?'

The glanced up to see a dark-haired woman beaming at him.

'Yes, you could say that, Miss…?'

'You know, I could take offence at that. I'd like to think my performance up there had made some kind of impression.' She extended a hand. 'I'm Lila Cheney.'

'Miss Cheney, of course,' the Doctor said. 'I'm so terribly sorry. It's like you said, I've got a lot on my mind.'

'It's Lila,' Lila told him, 'and your Kitty's friend, right?'

'The Doctor.'

Lila nodded thoughtfully.

'So, Doctor,' she said, 'do you want to talk about it?'

* * *

Mina knocked on the door of the professor's office. Rachel and Madelyne waited behind her. She fought to remain calm, but inside she was bubbling with fury. She remembered what that ginger-haired child had done to her at the TARDIS's last stop. How could she forget the devil's bargain she had made to save the Doctor's life and the consequences of it? This professor was doing the same thing to his students and colleagues, people who trusted him. He might claim to be manipulating them for the best of motives, but the ends could not justify the means, not when the means where so invasive.

'Could you come back later, please,' Xavier called out. 'I'm very busy at the moment.'

'This is important, professor,' Mina replied.

'I'm sure it can wait.'

'No, professor, it can't.' Mina placed her hand on the door handle.

She froze. Something was happening inside her head, like cold fingers dancing across the surface of her brain. Rachel put a hand on her shoulder.

'Maybe we should come back later,' she said.

'No,' Mina spat, using her anger to fight off the intrusion in her own mind. 'He's making you think that, Rachel. Remember why we're here. Remember what he's done to your friends.'

'I don't know,' Madelyne said.

'What about Nathan?' Mina asked her. 'If the professor controls you again, what's going to happen to him?'

Mina opened the door. Silhouetted by the light streaming in though the window behind him, Xavier faced her from the other side of the office.

'I didn't want it to come to this,' he said.

'Mina?' There was a new figure in the room, a man who had not been there a moment before.

'Jonathan?' Mina whispered. He was exactly as she remembered him from their wedding day, frail, but held aloft by courage and pride.

'You don't want to do this, Mina,' Jonathan was saying. 'It's all been a big mistake. Come with me and we can be happy again.'

Mina wanted to go to him, but something held her in place, some tiny voice whispering doubt at the back of her mind.

'Jonathan,' she said, 'what they're doing here is wrong. We have to do try and something about it.'

'No, Mina, we don't.' Jonathan walked towards her and too her hands in his. 'We fought our battle. We've earned our right to some happiness. We were separated too soon, Mina, but we never have to be parted ever again.'

Mina too a step backwards, pushing her husband away. What was wrong with her? She loved this man, so why did his touch fill her with dread? She looked to her companions for help. They were both staring into empty space.

'Daddy?' Madelyne was saying.

Tears were running down Rachel's face. 'Mom? Oh, Mom, you came back for me.'

Mina glared at Xavier.

'Mina, my love,' Jonathan said, but Mina ignored him.

'He's not real, is he?' she said. 'You are inside my head.'

'Mina, please, come with me.'

Back in Whitby, when she had first met the Doctor, Mina had been immune to this kind of thing. Everyone else, even the Doctor, was being plagued by memories of deceased loved ones, but not Mina. Her memories had been locked away so tightly that even she could not get at them. Rachel had helped her get at them again, however, and now that Mina had them back, they were freely available for a telepath like Xavier to play with.

'Get out of my mind,' Mina yelled at him.

'I can't,' Xavier snarled back. Sweat beaded on his bald pate and his face was contorted with the strain. 'I can't allow you to stop me.'

'You don't get a choice.' Mina reached up and tore her silk scarf from her neck. 'You want my memories so much, you can have them.'

She fingered the wounds in her throat and allowed the painful recollections to rise up, allowed the darkness to overwhelm her.

Xavier screamed.

* * *

'I hope you don't think I'm in the habit of inviting strange men back here,' Lila said as she led the Doctor into her dressing-room.

'The thought never crossed my mind,' the Doctor replied.

'We'll be able to hear ourselves think in here,' Lila continued, 'and we're less likely to be bothered by my adoring public. Guido'll see to that.'

'Yes, he is rather enthusiastic, isn't he?' the Doctor said.

'See if you can find yourself a seat amid the clutter,' Lila said, turning her back to him as she searched for something in the corner of the room. 'Yes, Guido's a brick. He's been with me since day one.'

'Loyalty in a travelling companion can be hard to come by,' the Doctor said. 'Sooner or later, they all leave you.'

'No Guido,' Lila insisted. 'Not yet, anyway. I think he's got a bit of a crush on me.'

'Is this the part at which I say 'I can see why'?' the Doctor asked.

'Not if you don't want me to call Guido and have him throw you out the building.' Lila turned to face him. She was holding a bottle of wine and two glasses in her hands. 'And you just know he'd enjoy it.'

The Doctor grinned. 'Yes, I suppose he would.'

'I didn't bring you here to flirt.'

'That's a relief,' the Doctor said. 'Not that you're not an attractive woman, I expect, but I'm never entirely sure what I'm supposed to say in these circumstances. But, it does beg the question, why did you bring me here?'

'I watch the news, Doctor whatever-your-name-is,' Lila said, sitting down. 'Here, hold these for me.'

'It's just Doctor,' the Doctor replied as he took the glasses from her.

'I don't suppose you happen to have a corkscrew on you, do you?' Lila asked as she unwrapped the foil from the neck of the wine bottle.

'As it happens, I think I do.' The Doctor produced a corkscrew from his jacket pocket and handed it to Lila.

'You are a man of many surprises, Doctor,' Lila said as she uncorked the bottle. 'Now, as I was saying, I watch the news. I saw what happened to Sam.'

'Yes,' the Doctor said. 'What's your connection to Sam, may I ask?'

'He's my boyfriend,' Lila replied.

'Really?'

'Yes, really,' Lila snapped.

The Doctor held up the glasses defensively.

'I'm sorry,' he said. 'I wasn't judging.'

'No, I'm sorry,' Lila sighed. 'I'm so used to people making comments that I guess I kinda expect it all the time. Sam's worth it, though.'

'I'm sure he thinks the same of you,' the Doctor assured her.

'He better.' Lila filled the glasses then placed the bottle on the floor before taking a glass from the Doctor.

'But now he's in trouble,' the Doctor said.

'Yeah.' Lila sipped at her wine. 'I saw you on the news too, you know?'

'Yes, I expect you did,' the Doctor replied. 'That wasn't intentional.'

'You and Kitty, you're trying to find Sam and the others, aren't you? I want to help.'

'Feel free to take over,' the Doctor suggested.

'You're not thinking of giving up, are you?'

The Doctor drained his glass.

'Yes, that's exactly what I'm thinking,' he said. 'I'm tired of fighting and fighting to save your race only to see it turn out like…like this. The human race is such an indomitable, indefatigable species and yet you never seem to grow past the same basic flaws, the hatred, the bigotry - why can't you all just try being nice to one another for a change. You might like it. All I want is for you to reach a more enlightened frame of mind, but 'here, you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place'.'

'Through the Looking Glass,' Lila said. 'It's what the Red Queen said to Alice.'

'Charles always did have a much better grasp on reality than the majority of those around him,' the Doctor mused.

'It's a nice speech,' Lila said. 'Do you really mean it?'

'Sometimes,' the Doctor said. 'Sometimes I look around and I marvel at how wonderful and diverse and just plain weird you all are.'

'I think that was meant to be a compliment,' Lila said.

'But sometimes I just look at all the pain and the suffering that you cause to yourselves and I despair.'

'Is that why you were ranting at Kitty earlier?' Lila asked.

'You heard that?'

'I think half the club heard it.'

'I should go and apologise,' the Doctor said. 'I really didn't mean to snap like that.'

'I think she knows,' Lila said. 'What I want to know is why you did it?'

'I've just…'

'Got something on your mind? You said.' She refilled his glass. 'So, do you want to talk about it.'

The Doctor shook his head. 'You're persistent, I'll give you that.'

'It's one of my best features,' Lila replied. 'So spill already.'

'It's a long story,' the Doctor warned her.

Lila laughed. 'That's okay. There's another bottle where this one came from.'

'Okay,' the Doctor conceded, 'I give in. I suppose it all goes back to some time I spent not so long ago in the north of England and a girl I met there named Victoria Gallagher…'

* * *

Mina must have blacked out for a moment because when she recovered her senses she was on her knees. Rachel was curled into a ball, sobbing gently.

'She went away,' she cried. 'They took my mom away again.'

Mina crawled over to her, lifting Rachel's head so that she could look her in the eye.

'She wasn't real, Rachel,' she said. 'I'm sorry, but the professor was putting pictures in your mind.'

'Bastard,' Rachel spat.

She began to rise, to go and tackle the professor, but Mina held her back. The professor was sitting limply in his chair, his head in his hands. He looked, to Mina's eyes, like a puppet whose strings had been cut.

'Leave him,' Mina said. 'He won't hurt you anymore.'

'I saw my parents,' Madelyne said, joining Rachel and Mina. 'They hadn't died and they wanted me to join them.'

'He gave us what we wanted to stop us from interfering with his plans,' Mina replied.

'How were you able to fight back when we couldn't?' Madelyne asked.

'I don't know,' Mina said. It was a lie. Mina had a very good idea of what made her different, but she did not want to admit it, not even to herself.

Xavier groaned and began to stir.

'Madelyne, take Rachel and get out of here,' Mina said. 'I don't want him trying any more mind tricks on you.'

'What about you?' Madelyne asked.

'I'll be all right,' Mina replied. 'He can't control me.'

Madelyne nodded and led Rachel from the office. Mina waited until she heard the door click closed before going to stand in front of Xavier. He raised his head to look at her. His eyes were bloodshot and their sockets were hollower than Mina remembered. His skin seemed taut and stretched across his skull and he appeared to have aged considerably in the past few minutes.

'I'm just trying to do what's best for everybody,' he said quietly. 'You understand that, don't you?'

Mina slapped him across the face.

'You should be ashamed of yourself. Those people trusted you and you betrayed that trust. Do you have any idea of the damage you've done to Rachel?'

'I didn't want to,' Xavier said. 'You must believe me. I never wanted to hurt anyone, but I couldn't let you stop me.'

'Why not?' Mina asked. 'What could be more important than the people in your care?'

'You don't understand,' Xavier said. 'The students at my school aren't the only people in my care. I have the whole mutant species to worry about.'

'The whole species?' Mina repeated. 'When did you become responsible for everyone?'

'It's a long story,' Xavier replied.

'I think that you had better start, then,' Mina said, 'because, from where I stand, it seems that you are jeopardising people's lives just so that you can play at being god.'

'It's not like that,' Xavier insisted. 'You've spoken to Rachel. You know what the future holds for mutants if somebody doesn't do something.'

'And you're saying that a few lives here and there don't matter when weighed against that?' Mina said.

'Yes. I know it's an appalling thing to say, but it's true. What's at stake here is too big.'

'And who gave you the right to decide who lives and who dies?' Mina asked.

'Someone has to,' Xavier said. 'I never asked for it to be, but I couldn't just stand by and do nothing, not after…'

'After what?'

Xavier buried his head in his hands again and, despite herself, Mina could not help but feel pity for him. She sat down on one of the free chairs.

'Tell me what happened, Charles,' she prompted. 'Help me to understand why you did what you did.'

Xavier looked up, hope putting light in his eyes.

'You believe me? You agree that I was acting for the greater good?'

'No,' Mina replied. 'No, I don't. But I am willing to listen and to give you the chance to prove otherwise.'

'I suppose that it is more than I deserve.'

'Yes, it is.' The comment was harsh, but Xavier had tried to use Jonathan's memory against her. There were far more painful things Mina wanted to do to him because of that, but she would hold herself in check.

Xavier cleared his throat.

'I guess it began some time ago, before I lost the use of my legs,' he said, 'back when I was young and in love with a woman named Amelia Voght…'

 

 
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