(The Jean Grey School For Higher Learning)
The Stepford Cuckoos stand outside Cerebra, peering into the room through the circular window on the door. One of them says it’s infuriating as it’s supposed to be their turn. One of the others chips in and says it isn’t. They are just pissy because they have been using it all day and the little sparrow snuck in unsupervised right before they did. Still, they had best let her have a go as she has been in a mood all week. One of them wonders if it’s boy trouble but the other joke and ask what weirdo would go for that.
On the center platform in Cerebra, Blindfold is sat at the consol with the headset on. She is using the device to watch David as he sleeps. Her astral form floats next to David as he lies in bed. Even though he is asleep, she tells him that she is using Cerebra to mask herself so he couldn’t see or hear her even if he weren’t asleep. She had to come to him because no matter what differences are between them she couldn’t stop thinking about him.
All of a sudden, she strays off her thought as she realizes that David is completely naked. She puts her hand on her mouth, shocked that he sleeps in the nude. She then spins her head away, puts her hand over her eyes and apologizes profusely. She says she doesn’t see things in the conventional sense but for what it’s worth she’s sorry. She then chastises herself and says she knew she shouldn’t have come and she is such a stupid little psy-stalker. She trails off again as she can’t help but take a peek at David. Unfortunately, something else catches her eye… her brother’s diary, which David has been reading.
Inside David’s mindscape, things are chaotic. All his personalities are on the loose and they are attacking each other in feral rages. David explains that dreams are a bit of a bastard when your subconscious is a hostile ~%&*# landscape. As long as he can remember, the insides of his head have been infested, which is why folks say he is crazy. It’s also why unitarded pillocks call him Legion. There was a time recently though where he had it all under control. He was winning and he was beating the cranial tosspots. He had focus for the first time but then something changed. Something new arrived that scared the monsters as much as him. A crawling, crouching, devil that grew up as quickly as he shrank away from it. It wore the face of a dead man he never thought he would see again. David has been hiding from it ever since.
Inside David’s mindscape, the monsters battle on. The David Haller personality has been hiding in the shadows undetected even though his every thought is broadcast through the prison-like structure of his mind. Still wearing the telepathic personality of Tyrannix the Abominoid on his back, David goes out into the open and declares he wants to talk. A voice comes from behind him and mocks David by telling him he’s grown some balls. It’s almost enough to make a father proud.
Standing in front of David is a golden-skinned version of his father, Charles Xavier. David asks him if he is going to tell him what he is but Xavier points out he already knows. David asks if he is going to say what he is doing there but Xavier just laughs and says no. David begins to ask another question but Xavier interrupts and tells him to cut the crap. He smiles and tells David he read the notebook like he knew he would. The predictions of Luca Aldine… a disembodied pair of eyeballs, who stole the gifts of telekinesis and foresight from his sister. Whom David has fallen in love with just like he knew he would.
The predictions are vague and full of religious waffle but the gist is as David feared and Xavier already knew. David is fated to perform and act of unrivalled annihilation and his lady-love is fated to try and stop him. David picks up on what Xavier said about him already knowing and goes to ask a question, but Xavier cuts him off again. From behind him, Xavier leans up close and tells him to stop asking questions that he can already answer. David tells him he has been killing his personalities and swallowing their powers. Xavier can now control his precognition. David starts to say something else but Xavier speaks first and says David is about to say “so prove it.” He is about to say “tell me why I came to talk to you.” Xavier smiles as he says it and tells David he would reply that he came here to make a deal.
David tells Xavier he needs to see the future and he needs to know if Luca was right. David needs to use Xavier. Xavier leans over David again and agrees with him. He says that in exchange all he wants is one little minute. Sixty second with full control over David’s body without resistance or restraint at any time of his choosing. David nervously holds out his hand and accepts the deal.
Instead of shaking his hand, though, Xavier leans forward and lets David use his glove to inject him in the neck. As he takes Xavier’s powers, David thinks that the truth is there is no such thing as the future. No tidy predication or script to sit back and read before the cameras roll. The future is a fractal fern or monstrous coral sprouting a billion temporal tendrils from every option taken, decision made or razor blade millisecond passed. Time is not an arrow; it’s a cluster bomb of realities being born. Except where threads bunch together and chance returns the sapling sprouts back to the mother trunk again and again like a knot in time. Like the universe wants something to happen. Those moments are called destiny. As it turns out, his wretched excuse for a life converges, like an appalling astral anemone, into a single bloody moment.
As David thinks this he views a bright glowing, branching structure in front of him. All the branches reach upwards and spawn smaller branches from themselves. However, at the top of the structure, the branches on the sides die out and the rest converge into a single bright orb. David stares into the orb to see what it depicts. He sees a huge twisted creature with tentacles writhing around. It towers over a city as the skyscrapers crumple under its mass. Its flesh contains numerous faces that look like they are screaming in pain.
David says that something has eaten the sun and it shrugs off the Avengers and A-bombs like confetti. A world worm; a psychic horror made from the minds of every mutant there is, stitched together like a patchwork of pain. David knows that it is him, or a future him anyway. He built and fused the hideous gestalt but he cannot hold it together. It weighs on its own existence like a black hole made of thought. It slashes at the worlds both mental and physical; a skinless abomination concerned with only escaping from itself. So it collapses and as it panics all mutantkind perishes inside it. And he knows without a doubt that he would swallow the world if permitted to live. Just as David knows that only Ruth has any hope of stopping him. Amongst the carnage that David sees in his vision, he spots a future Blindfold, who tells him it’s time.
David stares at the glowing structure of possibilities in front of him and looks at two branches sprouting from the knot. In the first, he sees himself die in an agony he can’t even imagine and in the second he sees himself killing Ruth, which is infinitely worse. David has had enough at looking at the future and wants to leave. He starts travelling back down the timelines but he is so shocked by what he has seen that he nearly forgets to pay closer attention to the nearer future. To all the threads that destiny missed. He stares closely at some of the outlying strands that manage to avoid that awful vision.
As David removes the injection needles from Xavier, the shade of his father tells him it was nice doing business with him. In the real world, David wakes up with a start and sits bolt upright in bed. Blindfold is still watching over him. Inside David’s mindscape, Xavier slinks off into the shadows to wait for his time to come. In his motel room, David starts to get dressed as Blindfold turns away from his naked body in embarrassment. As Xavier fades away, David feels like a great weight has been lifted off his shoulders and his brain can get some fresh air. It’s just for now until the time he calls in his debt. But the creepy $~%*& is truly gone and at last he can get back to fighting for what’s his.
Inside his mindscape, David tracks down Protozoan Porter, a green monster that looks like a swamp creature with deadly fangs. He thrusts his injection needles in the creature as the other personalities look on in fear. He tells Protozoan Porter his powers belong to him now and for the first time in a long time he knows precisely what to do.
In the real world, David starts to disintegrate away, much to the confusion of Blindfold, who has trouble finding him again. David rematerializes in San Francisco at the Institute for Bio-Social Studies. It’s night time when he appears in the courtyard. Blindfold manages to get a track on him again but is surprised as to where she has found him. David walks into the lobby and is greeted by the receptionist who welcomes him to the I.B.S.S. He tells him it’s home to the Center for Ecocultural Studies and the Darwin’s Martyr’s charity.
David looks around him and notes the whole area is bright and breezy; it’s not inside a volcano or shaped like a skull. He may be out of his depth here. It’s a cheery and friendly temple to hipster science and good looking geeks. You would never suspect it’s actually a nest of bigoted zealots waiting to reveal their violent hatred towards mutants if you hadn’t seen it for yourself.
As David walks forward, he sets off a device that triggers an alarm and a screen shows that he has been identified as a mutant. The receptionist says he couldn’t help notice that David is a gene carrier and then opens a door to usher his through it. He is being incredibly polite and friendly and all the other people in the reception congratulate David and tell him he is amongst friends. As he follows the man, he tries to reassure himself they are bigoted zealots just waiting to reveal themselves… any minute now.
David enters a clean, white room with a couch and table in the middle of it. There is only a single plant and fruit bowl on the table, the rest of the room is minimalist and sterile-looking. The man indicates for David to sit down but he stands in the doorway and asks if it’s so they can gas him or shoot radiation beams out of the light fittings. He knows what they think of mutants. David remembers Santi Sardina watching a video that was produced by the I.B.S.S in class. In it, Dr. Nina Ambrose introduces herself and says she would like to show some things they can learn about their society by studying nature. Nowadays many ecologies face sudden change due to artificially introduced species that they call “invasive exotics.” The systems cannot adapt quickly enough so they collapse. Just as it is in their society with the cane toad, kudzu vine and killer bees so it is with Homo superior.
One receptionist tells David is in kind of paranoid but it will keep him company till the boss arrives. The radiation beams will have to get them both. The receptionist tires to reassure David it’s just a welcome suite and the boss likes to greet mutant guests in person. David picks up on the words “mutant guest” and asks why they would come here by choice. The receptionist points out that David was the one who walked in here. David asks who the boss is but he gets his answer when a voice gets his attention. He looks to see a severely disabled man who introduces himself as “the boss.” The man is confined to a wheelchair and is missing both his arms at the shoulders. His legs are covered by a blanket by they appear to be damage too. His face is covered with scar tissue and he wears an eye patch over one eye and the right side of his mouth is contorted due to the facial scarring. He is bald, with wisps of hair poking through the scars. Strapped to his wheelchair is an oxygen tank and a drip.
David recognizes him as Dr. Marcus Glove, the founder of the Darwin’s Martyrs. The charity is a program of outreach education, not-for-profit scientific research, cultural enrichment and disability health care. He is a man who smiles through scar tissue and whose brain tastes of nothing more than friendly earnestness. He is a man who has been through more horrible #%*$ than you can imagine but he won’t let it get him down. He is a good, inspirational man. A genuinely nice guy and quite possibly the most dangerous enemy mutantkind has ever faced.
David reaches out and shakes Marcus’ prosthetic hand. The man tells him to forgive all the side room stuff as the truth is there is a gentle subsonic playing in there. Some of the mutants arrive in an agitated state and he has found it dampens their powers and calms them down a bit. Marcus orders the receptionist, Matteo, to give him a push and invites David to walk with him. David is curious as Marcus seems to know who he is. Marcus replies that he would be a pretty crappy enemy of mutantkind if he didn’t recognize one of the most powerful ones out there. He continues and says he doesn’t have David at a disadvantage so he can go ahead and get to know him. He bets David is itching to have a psychic rummage through his brain. David stutters as he realizes that it is awkward. He tells Marcus he has already been doing that and Marcus just laughs.
David thinks about Marcus Glove and how pretty much everyone in the world has reblogged this guy’s story a dozen times. But reading it is no preparation for seeing it in his head. He was a nobody when he got caught on the sidelines the first time, the day Hell came to New York, but it wasn’t to last. David looks in Marcus’ mind and sees the time when Magik and the demons of Limbo took over New York. As the sky turned red and fire rained down, Marcus was caught in the crossfire.
Marcus continues and says he is going to assume David knows what they are all about. They have the science, the hospital and the outreach stuff anyone would expect from an organization with good intentions and public donations. But they both know it’s the mutant thing that gets the headlines.
David continues his mind probe and sees the time that Marcus lost a leg and his wife when a crazed mutant entity tried to fire up a second sun in Central Park. He refused to despair even then. When he was convalescing in Alaska and two tons of optically blasted Mastermold shrapnel took an eye and an arm he still wouldn’t let it beat him. He picked himself up and moved west… there wasn’t any mutant violence in San Francisco right? He arrived just in time to wave goodbye to the rest of his limbs. Marcus Glove was in the wring place at the wrong time over and over again. He has more reason to detest mutants than anyone else and if it came to it David doesn’t think he could blame him if he did. There isn’t any hate or bitterness in his head. There isn’t a man alive that could hide an ulterior motive from David but this guy is nothing but sadness and truth.
David, Matteo and Marcus travel through the complex until they finally arrive outside. As they head towards a glass elevator on the side of the building, Marcus explains that they have brainiacs from dozens of disciplines working on this all the time and they are looking at it from every angle. It’s not as if they are hiding their records, David is welcome to have a look. Maybe he’ll figure they skipped a step or missed a zero, which Marcus would secretly be pleased at if they did. Because what they come back to again and again is that there is a really, really, really, really, really, really high chance that mutants are going to kill the world.
They take the elevator and travel to the roof. Marcus explains that there is an idea, in the truest of Darwinist terms, that mutants are the next stage of human evolution. He tells David that the biologists there have a problem with that theory and most of them will laugh if you mention it. As far as he is concerned it doesn’t matter if the x-gene guys are natural or… “Invasive exotics,” David chips in. Marcus laughs and continues, saying that what it comes down to is mutants are tougher, stronger, faster, they fly, breathe fire and &#$* out rainbows. They are out competing humans.
David looks out from the roof and wonders if he can see Utopia. Marcus says they can sometimes, or at least what’s left of it. He says that it isn’t just humanity’s neck which is on the line. The mutants are fixing to wipe themselves out as quickly as the rest of them. He has seen the stats and the record and their track record is not good. By every standard of probability, the mutants should have expunged all life on Earth a dozen times over by now. His legendary good looks are just the tip of the iceberg.
David peers inside Marcus’ mind some more and learns that the day Xavier died Marcus was burnt alive by a single cinder of errant Phoenix-fire. Wrong place and wrong time again. By anyone else’s standards, he would be cramming his carcass into a red and black costume and thinking up his villainous codename. Instead, Marcus Glove says he doesn’t want anger, or a war, or hate. If they are all reasonable and if they put their trust in science and common sense, then they can all agree that something has to be done.
David recalls that this is the message that made Marcus a superstar. This has what has gotten him a dozen book deals, a cable channel, questions in the senate and hobnobbing in the U.N. He’s a reasonable man. A quiet, sensible and caring bloke who may not be beautiful, classy, fiery, crazy, patriotic, jingoistic, militant, hectoring, fear-mongering, rabble-rousing or sly. He just tells the world the truth, which is something has to be done. As Marcus says his slogan, David turns to him and asks if he means something like the Happy Host. Marcus is taken aback and then asks if David knows about that.
David explains that the previous month he met a bunch of religious sanity-dodgers out in North Carolina. They claimed to have a cure to mutantism which came from a little lab out in San Francisco. They claimed the stuff exploded in the presence of the X-gene. Marcus tells him they were exaggerating but it is an unpleasant procedure. The truth is it doesn’t act on a genetic level. Instead it’s a neuro-blocker, plain and crude and simple. It burns out the thought centers. The mutant powers are still in there, they just can’t use them. Marcus says he won’t sweeten it and tells him the treatment they have developed constitutes as brain damage. He swears to David that they have only ever used it on willing, fully-informed volunteers.
The place David found was an oversight set up by one of their more over-enthusiastic pharmacists who had set up a mail-order. There is always one idiot who wants to take matters into his own hands. For what it’s worth, they retrieved every dose lost, except for the place he is talking about. The Church of the Happy Host appears to have been wiped off the face of the Earth. This brings up the obvious point. Marcus says he sees mutantism as the problem and so far a couple of hundred million people appear to agree, reluctantly, that somehow they have to solve it. And here he is now with the son of the most famous problem-denier who smiled when he mentioned the annihilation of some of the associated problem solvers. Marcus says he is entitled to ask: did David come there to kill him? David calmly looks down at him and says he isn’t. He wants Marcus to break his brain because he wants the #*%&$ cure.
From her seat in Cerebra, Blindfold can only watch in shock at what David is saying.