(the past / inside Xavier’s mind)
‘This isn’t about you and me. It’s about mutants. Homo Sapiens Superior’ Charles Xavier tells Moira MacTaggert. Holding a glass of wine in her hand, Moira asks Charles if he not here in Scotland to - ‘Win you back?’ Charles asks, interrupting. ‘Moira, your letter left me no hope of that’ Charles assures Moira, who asks ‘Then what?’. Xavier announces that there are other people like him, mutants, offshoots from the baseline human stock. ‘More - far more - than we ever suspected’. Moira replies that she knows, remarking that she has catalogued at least thirty positive gene samples from Edinburgh hospitals alone.
Xavier declares that he has actually met them - not here, but in Egypt, Berlin and Tel Aviv. ‘I want us to share information. Will you give me access to your files?’ Xavier asks. Moira replies that her files are confidential, ‘They have to be!’ she exclaims. ‘Not from fellow researchers’ Xavier remarks. ‘Research? Is that what you have in mind?’ Moira asks. Xavier replies that this is the birth of a new species. ‘And birth is a painful process. ‘They’ll need our help’ he exclaims.
Moira stands up from where she is seated at a table outside a restaurant, street lights glowing in the darkness. ”The good shepherd” Moira quotes, reminding Charles that is what he was called in Korea, and declares that if she is right, this mutant race will not need a shepherd, ‘They’ll be like gods. Gods in human form’. Moira exclaims. Charles asks Moira if she thinks that it is easy, to deal with powers and responsibilities that others do not have. Xavier declares that they will need protecting - not just from the world, but from themselves. ‘From the temptations that come with absolute power’.
Moira begins to walk away from Charles, ‘You, of course, being immune to temptation’ she snaps at Charles, who grabs her by the arm as she passes him. ‘I make no claims about my own incorruptibility. But I believe that - wait’ Charles replies, until he senses something else. ‘That man’ Charles tells Moira, motioning across the restaurant, where someone is standing in the shadows. ‘He shouldn’t be here. He hasn’t even been born yet!’ Charles exclaims.
The man not-yet born is of course known Bishop, stern faced and holding a powerful weapon, ‘Xavier - you’ve - killed - us!’ Bishop exclaims as he fires his weapon, which strikes Xavier in the head. ‘All’ Bishop utters as Xavier falls backwards knocking plates and cutlery to the ground, he continues to fall - and as he falls, images of dozens of mutants flash through his mind….
(present / reality)
‘This - this is impossible! And infuriating beyond measure!’ exclaims the powerful leader of the Acolytes known as Exodus. Exodus, healed of his wounds recently inflicted by the White Queen, stands at the side of a stone slab where the motionless body of Professor Charles Xavier, founder of the Uncanny X-Men, lies. Surrounding the table are three associates of Exodus - Amelia Voght, founding member of the original Acolytes, and former lover of Xavier, Karima Shapandar a.k.a. Omega Sentinel a former X-Woman, and finally Joanna “Frenzy” Cargill, a long-time follower of Exodus.
The quartet are residing in a rather bland facility, nothing spectacular except perhaps for the coldness, the steel and concrete and the dim lights. Exodus tells his companions that the bullet fired by Lucas Bishop ploughed right through Xavier’s cerebellum, that most of his brain mass has been reduced to ruined pulp, and yet Xavier is still resisting him!
‘Maybe you should just let him die, Exodus. It’s not like he ever saw things our way’ Frenzy points out. ‘Cargill, I did not seek your advice’ Exodus replies, remarking that Xavier’s mind is an asset worth saving. ‘The mutant race needs its champions and protectors - now more than ever’ Exodus declares, before remarking that he could repair Xavier’s brain - its physical structures - atom by atom, but that he needs to assess the damage to Charles’ mind, and Charles won’t let him, as he blocks Exodus’ psychic probes, as though he was already resigned to death.
‘It’s not that. It’s because of the war’ Amelia announces. ‘What war, Voght?’ Exodus asks ‘He fought in Korea. And it almost destroyed him’ Amelia explains. ‘Can you imagine it?’ she asks. ‘The world’s most receptive telepath, in a place where fear, suffering and death were the only shows in town? Where every psychic wavelength was jammed solid with the screams of the dying?’. Amelia explains that Xavier learned to put those shields up because the only alternative was to go mad. ‘It was his own personal Danger Room. The anvil on which he forged himself’.
Exodus replies that his course is clear then, if the shields are an automatic reflex, a function of Xavier’s will, he must simply extinguish that will. Exodus places a hand over Xavier’s face, and unleashes some power, until Amelia grabs him, and calling him by his true name - Bennet du Paris - urgently asks him what he is doing. ‘Finishing what Bishop’s bullet started’ Exodus replies. He then states that Xavier’s mind must be thoroughly and comprehensively shattered. ‘Then I can begin to rebuild it’.
Inside Xavier’s mind, certain phrases said by various mutants over the years: I will not allow the world to destroy us! exclaimed Storm at some point.
I am fire...and life! Phoenix is quoted for saying.
What happens when you can’t forgive me? Nightcrawler asked at one point.
Take the one thing I hate the most and kill me with it! Rogue once said.
Why does everyone say my name like it means shut up? asked Jubilee at one point.
There’s very little written about you, Destiny once cryptically remarked.
Frenzy suddenly declares that Xavier is a collaborator and therefore he deserves to die. Amelia quickly tells Cargill that the decision is not hers to make, and Omega Sentinel exclaims that she wouldn’t allow them to make that, as it is not why she came here. Amelia turns to Omega Sentinel and asks her why she did come here. ‘You’ll find no friends here’ she tells the short-lived X-Woman. ‘The Professor was dying’ Omega Sentinel replies. ‘I didn’t feel I could just sit and watch that after all he did for me back when I first changed’.
Karima explains that her memories of the past few weeks are clouded, that her files are corrupt and riddled with a viral code. ‘I don’t even know who you people are’ she adds. ‘We’re the Acolytes, flatscan. The vanguard of the mutant race!’ Frenzy snarls. Amelia informs Karima that her code processing units were invaded by a digital entity named Malice, a sort of electronic possession, until one of the X-Men’s students freed her. Amelia informs Omega Sentinel that the other man is Exodus, explaining that once, many centuries ago, he was a crusader. ‘He is a crusader still. But now he follows a different banner. And we follow him’.
(Flashback illustrations to “Messiah Complex” as narrated by Amelia Voght)
‘You see, there was - I suppose you might call it a war. A baby was the cause and the prize. The first mutant birth since the Decimation. A spark of hope for our kind’. Referring to Cable, Amelia remarks that there were other points of view on that score, and then the baby was taken out of the equation at last, into the future - or possible the past. Amelia explains that when it seemed that the battle must be at an end, a final casualty fell - Xavier, at the hands of Bishop.
Amelia reveals that Charles was lying on the floor of the cavern, bleeding out, and the Marauders were down, the Acolytes were about to flee, when suddenly Exodus spoken inside her head: ‘So you still love him, Amelia? I wouldn’t have guessed. Have no fear. I don’t intend to let him die’. With that, Amelia teleported to Charles’ body and took him. Amelia explains that one of their team has the ability to adjust the passage of time, so they took the body and were gone before the X-Men had time to react.
‘Presumably, Exodus spoke to you, too’ Amelia suggests, ‘And enlisted your help in keeping Charles alive’. Frenzy asks ‘Why? What’s to be gained from all this?’. Suddenly, Exodus appears hovering over the trio of women, ’Not much, perhaps. But there’s always what the serpent gave Eve, Joanna Cargill’ Exodus remarks. ’Knowledge’ he then declares, explaining what the serpent gave the biblical Eve. Arms folded, Amelia asks Exodus if it is done. Her voice trails off when she begins to ask if Xavier is alive. ’Strictly speaking, yes. He fulfils that definition’ Exodus assures Amelia, who was perhaps the favorite of Magneto - leader of the original Acolytes. ‘But of the man himself. I suspect there’s little left’ Exodus announces.
Lying alone on the cold slab, Xavier’s body lies motionless, but thoughts tumble through his powerful mind: X…My…X…My X-Men…Welcome! Suddenly, his eyes flash open!
(Flashback, years ago / In Xavier‘s mind)
‘All? You mean Jean - Marvel Girl - is the last of us, Professor? Five is the whole Freshman Class?’ asked a young Bobby “Iceman” Drake many years ago. ‘For a moment, Iceman, yes’ Xavier replied, while Jean, Scott “Cyclops” Summers, Hank “Beast” McCoy and Warren “Angel” Worthington III stand together. Xavier announces that there were to have been others, ‘Indeed there are others, who you’ll meet in due course. But you are the core team’ he announces, adding that they are the first year’s intake at the Xavier Academy and he knows they will make him proud.
Xavier informs the kids that they will begin today’s lesson with a combat work-out in the Danger Room, explaining that it is a team scenario to gauge how well they can play off each other’s powers. ‘Cyclops will lead’ Xavier adds. While the young X-Men go about their training in the stunning facility, each demonstrating the best of their abilities at such a young and inexperienced age, Xavier has a visitor in the monitoring area: Dr. Moira MacTaggert. ‘”The Danger Room”?’ Moira asks as she examines some blueprints Xavier has on a desk. ‘For the love of God, Charles. What are you about here?’ Moira snaps.
Xavier admits that the name is a little melodramatic, but that the concept is clear enough, surely. ‘This will be a training room, where my X-Men can -’ he is interrupted by Moira, who is wearing a fitting yellow and pink outfit as she exclaims ‘Oh, it’s clear as daylight. But it’s a long way from “helping young mutants come to terms with their powers”!’ she points out, quoting Xavier. ‘This is - you’re training a private army, Charles!’. Calmly, Xavier replies ‘Not at all’ and remarks that it would be foolish to ignore the possibility that the X-Men will have to fight.
‘Nobody has to fight!’ Moira replies. ‘True’ Xavier retorts, but pointing out that sometimes, the other options are even less attractive. Xavier informs Moira that most of the children have been in fights of one sort or another already, and that he is just giving them the skills they need to survive - and perhaps to protect others of their kind. Flicking through some files that Xavier has, Moira replies ‘So it’s a humanitarian mission you’re on? Not a power trip?’. ‘Not at all’ Xavier replies. ‘Even though you’ve named these scraggy wee urchins after yourself?’ Moira asks.
Xavier begins to explain that the term “X-Men” refers to the x-gene that his students share, not to his name, but Moira interrupts as he explains that, asking what the annotations in the files mean. ‘What?’ Xavier replies. “Scott Summers, P.P.C. follow up soonest” Moira reads out, asking what P.P.C. stands for. “Possible Prior Contact” Xavier replies, revealing that he thinks Cyclops may have met another mutant before he found him. ‘I’m aware of someone working against me. Or at cross-purposes to me’ Xavier reveals.
Moira asks Xavier if what makes him think this someone found Cyclops first, to which Xavier replies that in the supposedly ordinary state orphanage where Scott was brought up, someone had fitted him with ruby quartz spectacles to control his eye beams. Motioning to Scott who is blasting some tech-opponent away with an optic blast, Xavier tells Moira that Scott is the best of them, untried still, and scarred by some of the things he has seen. ‘But I can heal those scars and mold him into -’ Moira interrupts once more, ‘Is it like finding another man’s boots by your fire, Charlie?’ she asks. ‘Or another man’s hat on the rack?’.
‘What are you implying?’ Xavier asks. ‘You talk about making and shaping and molding these bairns - and you’re jealous as Hell to find that someone else is up to the same game. Daring to lay his hands on what’s yours’. Moira storms away as Xavier calls after her, ‘Moira, this is bigger than my ego!’ he exclaims. ‘Is it? That’s bloody big then!’ Moira snaps back. ‘My intentions are entirely - entirely…’.
‘Brain-dead? Charles?’ Amelia exclaims. ‘I didn’t use that word, Voght’ Exodus replies. ‘Then what? What is he?’ Amelia demands. ‘Catatonic. Amnesiac. Damaged on a level deeper than mere flesh’ Exodus replies, revealing that he took Xavier’s memories from him for safe-keeping because his damaged brain couldn’t contain them. ‘Now - he won’t accept them back. His mind is inert beyond a few random memory traces, there’s no brain activity at all’ Exodus reveals. Amelia asks Exodus what he will do, pointing out that it is terrible for Xavier to have to live on like that. ‘Perhaps Cargill was right. Perhaps death would be kinder’ Amelia remarks. ‘Aye. Perhaps’ Exodus replies, rubbing his forehead. ‘Or perhaps it’s merely a question of finding the right stimulus’.
Xavier lies motionless still, until suddenly, blood begins to drip from his wound, then also from his mouth as his mind stirs….
(Flashback / In Xavier’s Mind)
‘Honored, Professor, but there’s no way I’m ready for it’ a young Cyclops told the Professor. ‘A lack of self-control, that is…isn’t there sometimes a temptation…how do you resist the urge to play God?…’ the words spin in Xavier’s mind, then shift, to sometime later, when Scott asked the Professor where he was going, and why he wasn’t taking the X-Men with him. ‘It’s a private matter. And it’s not what I wanted to discuss with you’ the Professor replies, before explaining that he wants Scott to lead the X-Men in his absence, ‘To take over as teacher, just as you lead the team in combat’.
‘What? I’m honored, Professor, but there’s no way I’m ready for that yet. I don’t have your experience or power’ Cyclops replies. But Xavier tells Scott that what he has is a combination of analytical intelligence and tactical brilliance. ‘Undercut by a lack of self-control that’s occasionally disastrous. Your words from my first semester report’ Cyclops retorts. Xavier shrugs it off, replying that he has tried to suppress those tendencies in Scott, ‘To steer you away from indulging your emotions too rapidly’. Scott is taken aback, ‘You -? Wait. Steer me how, exactly?’. ‘Through my teaching, of course. What else would I have meant?’ Xavier replies.
Scott adjusts his glasses, ‘I’m not sure. It’s just - with power like yours, isn’t there sometimes a temptation, you know? How do you resist the urge to play God?’ he asks. ‘Respect is fundamental’ Xavier replies. ‘You must know that I don’t use my powers unless there’s real need’. Scott reminds Xavier that he made Hank’s family forget he’d ever existed, to which the Professor replies that there was a good reason - to spare both Hank and his parents unnecessary pain. ‘Right. Professor, don’t take this the wrong way. But can you promise me you’ve never looked inside my head? Never moved the furniture around?’….
‘And so on. Again and again. Like a rat turning in a wheel, and thinking the wheel is the world’ Exodus remarks as he leans over Xavier’s body. ‘Perhaps you think this project is chimerical. Pointless’. Exodus remarks, glaring at someone standing at the opposite side of the slab Xavier lies on. ‘I wonder myself how much more effort I should expend on it’ Exodus adds, before remarking ‘And obviously, to come to you, of all people - given what you were, and what you are now - is painful. Distasteful even’.
‘I can only imagine your distress’ the new arrival, wearing a trench coat, replies. ‘Sarcasm?’ Exodus exclaims. ‘I’ll let it pass this once, Id rather you helped me of your own free will’. Exodus warns his “guest” though that he can force him if he needs to. ‘Force me?’ the newcomer remarks, grinning, he tells Exodus that in all honestly, he’d advise against it - after all, he is Magneto!