Professor X’s yearbook:
Professor Xavier: Ah, what a class. If I may pat myself on the back for a moment, I did quite well in choosing students. My only regret is that I still had to print a run of 1000 yearbooks, despite having only five students.
Cyclops: Scott. Exceptional field leader. I often wish that he could see the team as people as well as he sees them as weapons. Still, that discipline is what will keep them alive, so I can hardly complain.
Marvel Girl: Jean. Of this first class, she gives me the most pride… and the most trepidation. She is potentially the most powerful mutant alive, by my reckoning, and I’m not sure any human is ready for such power. The school has given her the best that it could however – peers she loves. I hope that will make the difference.
Beast: Henry. It is very hard to look at him and not see myself as a young man. Not that I’ that much older, of course. His mind will be a driving force in the future of mutantkind, I am sure of it.
Angel: Warren. Impetuous, easily distracted and a bit arrogant. Yet if all mutants cold be like him rather than insecure, self-loathing and paranoid, I would be happy indeed.
Iceman: Robert. Somehow seems to grow younger everyday. I doubt I would be much different, if I could make snow though.
The X-Men find themselves in an unusual situation, flying to a mission by passenger jet - at least first class thanks to Warren, after all the old wi – err, back can’t take several hours in coach. A wise choice, Hank remarks, to be as rested as possible, as they don’t know Dr. Xavier’s situation.
Cyclops as usual blames himself. He should have checked on the professor sooner, he moans. He was so determined to show him that they could take care of themselves that he waited too long. And he is not too crazy about putting his trust in some jungle guide. They have very few people they can share their problems with. He thinks he’s worried? Jean asks. This whole hunt could be based on her eating spicy food before bedtime.
24 hours earlier.
Jean Grey awakes in panic, shouting the Professor’s name. When the others come rushing in to ask if she’s ok, she is certain that the professor is in trouble. It felt like one of his mental transmissions, but stranger, like through fog.
Later in the kitchen, Cyclops suggests that she picked up Xavier’s thoughts. Jean reminds him that she is telekinetic, not telepathic. But she’s closer to being a telepath than the rest of them, Bobby points out and Hank agrees. If Xavier’s far away, her mind is the best chance for a receiver he would have. But he wasn’t asking for help, Jean points out.
Scott asks her to sit down and recall it. Jean remembers. Mountains… a jungle… a stone temple… and she heard a name: the Valley of Demons. Then there’s a terrifying face in stone. There are stones everywhere and it’s so dark.
Hank comes with several encyclopedia and maps and asks Jean to describe the mountain range as best she can, as well as any plant life she might have seen.
Later, Hank has it pinned down as being within a six hundred miles radius west of the Congo. Cerebro logged a brief mutant signal two weeks ago around he time the professor left.
Cerebro explains that they registered the presence of an emerging mutant. Charles sensed that she was distressed, but then the signal vanished. This is common as the X-gene first emerges.
That’s when they were on break, Scott reasons. He must not have wanted to lose any time or overwork them. They’ll need to arrange transportation as Xavier took the jet and it would help if they could all turn into Hank once they got there. Perfection is elusive, Hank replies, but still even he doesn’t know how to find this place. There aren’t any good maps of the area.
Warren states he knows who to call. Jean worries and Scott tries to reassure her. A moment later, Warren turns up with a slip of paper. He just talked to his aunt. She gave him a name.
Twelve hours later. The X-Men, in safari gear, are told to follow a trail down through there in the wilderness. How does his aunt know about this part of Africa? Bobby asks. Aunt Mimi’s a world life photographer Warren explains. And she’s always know he’s a mutant. The guide she’s recommended is the best and he won’t spill the beans about them. Scott decides that’s not enough for him but they don’t really have a choice. They’re going to find the professor even if the whole world knows about them.
Well, she’s convinced this Ken Hale guy knows the jungle better than anyone living, Warren adds. Still, his hut might be hard to find. He wants to scout ahead. Hank tells him it won’t be necessary. Before them, there is a huge tree house, which he guesses is their guide’s place.
Bobby and Hank climb up ahead, wondering if their guide is expecting them. Upstairs, Bobby takes a look at the place, exclaiming this is kind of cool. Hank orders him not to move. There is a huge gorilla in the comfortable tree house. Hank tells Bobby to keep his head down and avoid eye contact, suggesting a deferential manner, so they don’t make it mad. Know what makes him madder? the gorilla suddenly states. Walking in without knocking. Hank’s and Bobby’s jaws visibly drop.
Jean and Scott catch up to also see the gorilla, who remarks more kids who act like they’ve never seen a talking gorilla. The U.S must have gotten boring since he left town. He’s Hale.
Cyclops is the first to recover and, addressing the gorilla as Mr. Hale, points out it is a little unusual. But they are not exactly strangers to the unusual themselves.
Warren flies in, exclaiming: hey, Mimi wasn’t kidding. He is a gorilla. Thanks for not telling them, Bobby comment sarcastically.
Hank explains to Hale that they are all a little bit “off” like Warren. They are a crime fighting group. Has he heard of the X-Men? Not very interested, Hale retorts he doesn’t even know who the president is. But he knows about superteams. Used to be in one himself years ago. He walks past a photo showing him in the team of… shaking the hand of the president.
He tells the kids to come in, so the can go over their expedition. Soon he sighs. How did he know they’d want to go into that valley? A lot of people have gone in there and he never saw them come out. Everyone was looking for some treasure.
Do they see that symbol? he asks, pointing to the map. That’s the native term for “water demons.” And this one means “trapped souls.” That’s the part that concerns them, Scott interjects. Whatever, Hale shrugs. It ain’t worth it. Jean interrupts him politely, but forcefully. They don’t want any treasure, they want their friend. Charles Xavier, their teacher, is helpless in there somewhere. They are going after him, whether Hale helps them or not. She wishes he would.
Hale rolls his eyes. They hadda break out a girl in need on him, didn’t they? Fine. There’s some canteens in the front room they can fill from the spring outside. He’ll get his gear.
The X-Men have changed into their uniforms and they begin their trek. Now he doesn’t feel like such an oddball, Hale remarks. Do they wear these things back in New York? Dude, Africa is hot! Warren moans.
Hale critically looks at Hank, who is perambulating like a gorilla. Is he making fun of him? Hank assures him this is his favored way of walking.
Eventually, they reach a river, only to find that Hale’s boat is gone. Stupid monkeys must have chewed the mooring line again, he swears. They’re gonna have to chop down a tree and carve out a canoe. Gonna take a while. Hank suggests a dying tree to Scott, who orders everyone to stand back before he lets loose his optic blast on the tree. Hale remarks that Scott reminds him of someone he used to work with. Can he hollow it out too? Scott can and so a little late they are rowing downriver.
Jean remarks it’s like a paradise. He must love it here. It doesn’t suck, Hale admits. Jean senses they are getting close. Bobby remarks there are a lot of rocks in this part of the river Those ain’t rocks, Hale warns them. This is going to be tricky. The rocks are revealed as hippos.
Cool, Warren remarks, while their guide anxiously orders them to get the oars out of the water. The hippos attack and capsize the boat. Warren carries Jean, who protests that she doesn’t need to be rescued. But he doesn’t like carrying Bobby or Hank, he points out.
Hank, in the meantime, wonders where Scott is and drags him out from underwater the next moment. Hale tries to keep the hippos away from Bobby who shouts Hungry hungry hippos in panic. Recovered, Cyclops tells him he can stop all this. He orders Jean to lift everyone but Drake up.
Bobby protests they forgot him. In panic, he freezes the entire water around him, trapping the surprised hippos. While Bobby protests, they did that on purpose Scott compliments Jean on the safe, and she complains they need to go on a diet. Hale helps Bobby out and laughs. This is one expedition. They’re hoofin’ it from here.
While they continue on foot or in the cases of Beast and Hale climb, Warren wonders how the Professor made it past all those monsters. He could have just made them think he was another hippo or a log, Jean suggests while Scott points out that they still don’t know if the professor is even out here.
Hank tries to scout the way, making Hale protest that’s his job. Hank apologizes he didn’t mean to be presumptuous. Actually, that’s what he likes about them, Hale admits. They’ve been out here all day and none of them have asked why he is a talking gorilla. It did cross his mind, Warren admits. Course it did, Hale retorts. He’s fascinating. He usually gives everyone some spiel about how he is an ape that drank from a pond a meteorite fell in or that a mad scientist made him that way. Truth is his condition is his own fault.
Years ago, he was a happy-go-lucky soldier of fortune. Always risking his back for another big thrill. You’d think he had a deathwish, but really he was scared silly of dying. So much that he bought into a tribal legend. Kill this magical “Gorilla Man” and become immortal. He gave up on the idea at the last minute but the ape forced him to shoot. Then he saw the catch. The magic makes you live forever, but as the new “Gorilla Man”.
So now he is the lovable outcast from society they see today. Perhaps science can find a cure… Hank suggests. His experience is science can’t do squat when magic is involved, Hale replies and adds that this is their temple.
They walk through the ruins and Jean senses something wrong. Cyclops uses his visor to light the scenery. Making everything’ red is much less scary, Bobby complains.
Hank smells Xavier’s scent, but faintly. They find a portal. It says something underneath. Hale translates it as “here is what you seek.” The portal conveniently opens. Even if it is a trap, it’s nothing they can’t break out of, Cyclops points out and they enter.
Inside, surrounded by skulls, they find Xavier’s all-terrain chair. Hale lights the torches while the doorway behind them closes. When there’s light they soon find Xavier lying on the ground.
They put him back into the chair. Was the mutant girl here? Scott asks. No, her signal was hundred of miles away, Xavier replies, but he couldn’t pick her up again. He searched the continent with his mind and kept feeling a pull to this area. He felt sure his goal was here. He thought it was his own mind leading him. He found nothing here except some hieroglyphs. He’s had plenty of time to translate the text based on his dead language notes.
What does this temple hold? Hank asks. What does it hold? The ambitious. The obsessed. Those who long for a goal. Most poor victims are pulled in by proximity to search this temple. Whatever they search for, this becomes the destination. Hale explains it’s a treasure trap, like at Oak Island. You go through deep and tougher sections that cave in. It’s so hard to get to, you’re sure you’re on the right path. But everyone wastes resources and gets hurt just to get to the bottom and there ain’t nothing there.
Xavier admits contritely that he has no business being their teacher. Coming down to something like this without help… foolish.
It’s not his fault, Jean points out. The closer you get, the more right it feels. Until you get inside and then it’s too late, Bobby remarks. Not that they could ever escape, the others agree.
What is up with them? Hale asks. When they came to his place they were the biggest buncha go-getters he’d seen since his old team. Now they are all throwing in the towel… it’s this place!
Hank agrees it’s a pit of despair, it feels hopeless but maybe it’s not real. Course it’s not! Hale shouts. Hank knows that intellectually, but he can’t overcome it. He thinks Hale can because his curse makes him invulnerable to this place.
But he can’t move ton of stones and they can. No they can’t! Cyclops disagrees. He thinks their powers are gone. Hale orders him to look up. Humor the gorilla! It looks like the biggest wall he’s ever seen, Scott remarks. Hale tears off his visor and his optic beam smashes the ceiling. Daylight can be seen. Hale has to move Bobby out of the way when he doesn’t move by himself. He binds a rope around Angel’s waist and tosses him up through the hole in the roof.
Outside, Warren immediately comes to his senses. Yes! Hel-lo, Sky! he shouts. That’s more like it! Hale shouts and tells him to pull this kid, referring to Bobby – out next and hurry, the place is coming down around their ears!
Warren orders him to send Jean out instead. He sees where this is going… Hale agrees and obeys. As Jean gets out, the roof begins to cave in. Hale tells them to have a happy life.
But the rocks never touch him, he finds. Having recovered, Jean keeps the rocks levitated, while Warren focuses as hard as he can not to succumb to the draining effect flies out Xavier and Scott. Hale grabs Hank and Bobby and climbs up on the rocks. They manage only just before Jean has to drop the load.
Xavier praises the X-Men and Hank points out Hale’s good work. He begins to explain to Xavier that he is no mere gorilla. No need to explain, Xavier tells him. He sees Mr. Hale very clearly. He connects with their minds and allows them to see Hale as he does – the man he used to be. Xavier shakes his hand, telling him they own him a great debt.
Warren suggests Hale come back to the States with them. Hale thanks him, but he doesn’t quite blend in like them. But if anyone can pave the ways for oddballs like him, it’s them. They’re the only bunch to ever make it out of this Valley. Taking Xavier’s hand, Jean adds that actually they found their treasure.
Ken Hale’s (Bachelor of Science in Kickin’ Butt) yearbook:
Hey, the kids sent me a yearbook – nice! Always thought about going to college myself but I could barely sit through high school. I guess I learned some stuff while they were here. Does that make me an X-Ape?
Professor X: The professor was pretty wiped out when we met so I didn’t get a real take on him. But he seemed okay for an egghead.
Cyclops: This guy is wound a little right, but for a kid, he’s all business on a mission, and I like that: reminds me of my old boss Jimmy Woo (if Jimmy could knock down trees with his eyes. In that respect he reminds me of that nutty robot.)
Marvel Girl: This girl’s a pistol. When you combine a power like her with being a redhead – Hoowhgg!
Beast: Needs to pipe down some, but he’s a good kid. Got a whole lecture on African flora and fauna while we were out, like I needed it. Least I know the real name for things now.
Angel: See, if I could have picked my curse, it would have been to be more like a bird than a gorilla. Man, it must be great to fly without a plane!
Iceman: A couple of times I was ready to throw this kid to the lions but, I gotta admit, I wasn’t any better when I was his age. Heck, worse.