“Cabinet meeting in my office – immediately.” The voice was Charles Xavier’s. The words landed directly in Scott’s brain, with no need for telephones, or ears for that matter. It was the most efficient way to do it. Given that Charles was calling a meeting with no notice at 2:00 a.m., it was clear that he thought efficiency was important. Charles’s tone in Scott’s brain felt slightly apologetic under the urgency, though. Cyclops took the apologetic grace notes to be an acknowledgement of the fact that it had been a full day of classes followed by a mission he had only returned from an hour before. Scott had barely fallen asleep when the voice in his brain woke him again.
“I shouldn’t have bothered to get undressed,” Scott thought to himself, pulling on a uniform and grabbing his visor. Charles hadn’t said what the meeting was about, but he knew chances were better than even that a cabinet meeting called in the middle of the night would lead to a mission before the night was over.
Hank had beat him to the meeting, Scott saw when he’d sprinted to Charles’s office a couple of minutes later. The two men were seated by the fireplace, tea set out on the end table in front of them. Hank was sitting on the couch, blue fur blending into blue upholstery. Charles was in his accustomed place by the end table – the carpet slightly worn on the path where his chair had rolled from behind the desk to that spot over the years.
Hank’s bedroom was nearer to Charles’s suite, so it was no surprise he was the first to arrive. Or maybe Charles and Hank had already been together, drinking tea, when whatever event happened that had prompted the meeting. They were dressed as they had been when he’d last seen them here, when Scott had done a brief post-mortem on the night’s successful mission, before heading off to what he thought would be an uninterrupted night, not that he ever counted on that. “What’s up?” he asked as he sat down on the couch next to Hank.
“Let’s wait a minute so we don’t have to do this twice,” Charles replied.
“Oh, is ‘Ro back from Washington?” Scott asked.
“No, Storm and Nightcrawler are not expected back until Wednesday.”
As Charles said it the door to the office opened again and Jean walked in, in uniform, pulling her long red hair back in a ponytail as she sat down in the armchair facing Charles. “Welcome back to the cabinet, Jean,” he said, smiling at her.
“We were just having tea. Would you like some? Scott?” he turned to Cyclops as he included him in the invitation.
“None for me,” Scott replied, but the china closet opening and a cup and saucer floating over to Jean’s waiting hand indicated her acceptance of the offer.
Xavier’s smile vanished and his face and voice were all business as he turned to the reason he’d called the meeting. “Northstar has activated the homing device,” he said.
“Where are they?” Jean asked it first.
“Vermont. Peru, in fact.”
Scott looked surprised. “Near our house there?”
“In our house, as far as we can tell,” Charles answered. “We can’t pinpoint quite as precisely as that, but it seems most likely.”
“No one’s there now, right?” Scott asked. “I know none of our people are, but not any Alpha Flight operatives, either?”
Hank spoke for the first time. “That is correct. The auxiliary X-Men venue in northern New England has been closed and padlocked since we departed. Given the unfortunate eventualities ensuing as a consequence of the occupation of your corporeal being, my dear,” he inclined his head slightly at Jean in a courtly bow, “and how central the Vermont domicile was to that whole episode, we haven’t been inclined to employ those premises lately.”
”And the whole Mutant Protection Plan has been on hold since then,” Charles added. “So there has been no need for anyone from either the X-Men or Alpha Flight to be there. I’ve already called Mac Hudson to make sure he doesn’t send anyone to Peru until further notice.”
Scott nodded his approval. “So we’re in a good position. We know Magneto’s there, and I think we can presume he doesn’t know we know it. And no one is going to show up unexpectedly. Except us. He has no way to know about the tunnel from the clearing we dug, so we have a way to take him by surprise, too.” He paused. “Good thinking on Jean-Paul’s part to steer Magneto there. Or did you instruct him to do that?” he asked, turning to Xavier.
The professor shook his head. “No, I didn’t, and I’m not sure that it was Jean-Paul’s idea, either.”
“Then how?” Jean asked.
“Erik knows about the Vermont house. It’s a good hideout and a good place to work on rebuilding his mutagenic machine, if that is the plan. I agree that it’s fortunate for us that we know where he is and we have an access point that we can use unannounced. That’s why I called this meeting – so we can figure out how best to use that advantage. I’m sorry to get you out of your beds, but I think we will probably need to act quickly.”
“Of course,” Scott said. “What does Magneto know about the house, and how?”
“Yes, it’s important you have that information to plan and lead the mission. I was remiss in not telling you earlier, but it never occurred to me he’d use the house in Peru. I’d forgotten he knew about it, actually.” The professor took a sip of his tea. “It was a long time ago.” The somewhat faraway look in Xavier’s eyes signaled Scott to let down his mental shields. He assumed the other two had done the same as a picture of a much younger Erik Lehnsherr entered his brain, driving up the dirt road approaching Xavier’s ski house in a convertible looking like it dated from the 1950s.
Scott was seeing the scene from Charles Xavier’s viewpoint. It wasn’t a new experience for him. Charles had often used telepathy to recount some event he wanted his field leader to know about, as it was both a thorough method and an efficient one. This time, though, there was something different about the mental picture and Scott wasn’t sure what. It was nagging at him a little, distracting him from the scene he was experiencing, wondering what felt “off” about it. He couldn’t quite figure out why everything looked so different from the way the world usually looked when he was seeing out of Charles’s eyes. It all became clear to Scott, though, when Lehnsherr parked the car, leapt out of it, and ran up to him/Charles. As he felt young Magneto’s arm clasp him/Charles around the shoulders and heard a greeting in his/Charles’s ear, Scott realized the angle was different. They were both standing.
“Yes,” Charles said, responding to Scott’s realization. “It was before my accident.” He looked down at his legs, then continued. “Erik and I built the first prototype of Cerebro at the Peru house. Here,” he added, and the other three saw through his eyes again.
The young Erik Lehnsherr ran into the house, Charles Xavier following. “Where is it?” Lehnsherr asked excitedly.
Charles showed him a door off of the kitchen and Lehnsherr opened it and ran down the stairs to the basement, Xavier following him. Scott tried not to be distracted by the thought of a mobile Charles Xavier and paid attention to his surroundings. A large room was set up as a workroom – electronic equipment on benches along one wall, building materials in the center, what looked like a chemical lab along another side.
“I had no intelligence about this subterranean laboratory,” Hank said, almost accusingly.
“I didn’t even know there was a basement,” Jean added.
“It’s big,” Scott weighed in. “A whole extra floor downstairs. It’s nothing like that, though,” he added, referring to the image that Charles had just placed in all of their brains. “I’ve only been in the basement a couple of times. We’d considered having the tunnel come up there, but Logan decided against it. He had me blast a small hole in the basement floor as a test, and water seeped in.” Scott felt strange talking about the time he and Logan had been in Vermont together, particularly with Jean there. It felt like an oddly intimate recollection, although he was only talking about the mission they’d accomplished there together. His shields down to let Charles in made Scott feel slightly vulnerable, as if his thoughts and emotions were on display more than he would have wanted in this company.
“What does the basement look like now?” Charles asked. “Is it suitable for Magneto to work there? I haven’t been down there since... well, since I could walk down the stairs,” he added.
“It’s mostly empty. There are some things stacked by the walls – furniture, boxes of stuff. I didn’t open any of them when we were down there. Maybe old equipment. The floor’s dry – it was only when I blasted it that water came in. The lights didn’t work, but we put new bulbs in and they did. Yeah, I’d say he could make a workroom out of it for his mutagenic machine. If that’s indeed what he’s doing. If we don’t stop him first.”
“We will. And I think it very likely that is his plan. Why else would he need a gorilla with Rogue’s powers? I suppose I should applaud his decision to sacrifice an animal rather than a human this time.”
“Given the knowledge we’ve amassed of Magneto’s character,” Hank interjected, “the choice of a non-human primate as subject to expire as a result of the execution of this endeavor was most likely a decision borne of expedience rather than a newly emerging value placed on the lives of mutant humans. An assault upon the zoological gardens was undoubtedly easier to plan and more likely to result in the preferred outcome than one upon our own premises.”
“Yes, Hank’s right, I’m afraid,” Scott said to Charles. “Magneto knows how well defended we are here. Anyway, no point speculating now. We need to get moving on this mission. We can’t know whether we’re right about Magneto’s plan or not, but we need to plan the mission without that information. A good plan executed today is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite point in the future.”
“Right you – and Patton – are. And the difference between a good naval officer and a poor one is about ten seconds,” Charles quoted back at him. “A principle that applies equally to X-Men Field Leaders. Now, whom will you take on this mission?”
“Beast.” Scott turned to Hank. “You’re best able to evaluate how far he’s gotten with the rebuilding of the mutagenic machine.” Hank nodded his agreement and Scott turned to Jean. “Do you feel up to it? I can use your powers. We don’t know who Magneto’s got with him, or even how many. I need a telepath. Unless you want to come, Charles?”
Xavier shook his head. “I think it’s better if I do not. Erik Lehnsherr knows me too well. He has used that knowledge to our disadvantage before.” He turned towards Jean. “Do you feel ready for a combat mission?”
“Definitely.” Her voice was clear and confident. “Any more?”
“Yes, I think one more. Not more than that. We want a small team, since we need to take them by surprise. And we’ve got Jean-Paul on the spot.”
“Pyro, too,” Hank interjected.
“I hope so, but I’m not counting on him. I’m not saying he’s gone over to Magneto again,” he added, seeing Charles’s expression, “although I wouldn’t totally rule that out. Still, he doesn’t have the combat experience or even the experience under my command to leave me feeling like I can count on him. And – like I said – I don’t know how many Magneto’s got there. I want to be sure we can take him, whoever he’s got with him. I’m taking Wolverine, too.”
“Is that wise?” Charles asked. “Maybe you’re better off with someone else. The metal skeleton makes him particularly vulnerable.”
“No, I want Logan with me.” Jean was looking at Scott as he said it, but he didn’t meet her glance. “You’re right, Charles, that he can’t take Magneto, but I’ll handle him myself. I need a team that can take on Magneto’s henchmen. Logan knows that house better than anyone but you – he not only was foreman when we built the tunnel, but supervised all the security enhancements. He’s best able to get us in without setting off alarms, so we can take them by surprise. Besides, Logan’s the best fighter I’ve got. I need him for this one.”
Xavier nodded, closing his eyes briefly. “Wolverine’s in the Danger Room. I’ve told him there’s a mission. He’ll meet you at the Blackbird.”
Jean stood up, saying, “I’ll go now and brief Logan on the mission. Meet you at the hangar in a few minutes.”
Hank stood as well. “I’ll don appropriate clothing for this mission and be prepared to depart in five minutes.”
Scott stood up to leave after them, but Charles stopped him. “Just a minute,” he said.
“I didn’t want to say this in front of the others.” He hesitated a minute. “Scott, I don’t know all that is going on between you and Logan, but... your feelings are strong. That was clear when your shields were down. I know there are unresolved issues. This is a dangerous mission. Are you sure you want him along? You could take Colossus, Iceman...”
Scott shook his head. “I need him for this one. He’s the man for the mission. I don’t let personal feelings interfere with a mission – my feelings or anyone else’s. You know that, Charles. I wouldn’t have stayed alive this long – or kept the rest of them alive – if I did.”
This series begins at http://mofic.livejournal.com/31235.html and is also available here
Summers in a Sea of Glory is a sequel to Returning Spring, which in turn was a sequel to After the Fall.