Ororo was half-way through the lesson on Appomattox when the door opened and Havok walked in. He was showing the effects of the previous day’s training session, she noticed. Or, more specifically, the results of the “sparring” he and Logan had done before the training. His left eye was swollen shut, the purple lid surrounded by a darker ring. Other wounds on his face and neck were bandaged, but inexpertly. Storm reflected that it was unlikely that Jean had tended to him – he appeared to have done his own wound care. That must be very painful, she thought, looking at his ravaged face.
Havok’s movements were suggestive of pain as well. He was not exactly limping, but was walking slowly and gingerly into the classroom. He stood at the back of the room for a minute, than pulled a chair towards himself and very slowly lowered his body into it. Storm noticed him grimace slightly, but mostly he seemed attentive to the lesson. The students, accustomed to visiting X-Men in their classes, continued the discussion without a break.
When class was over and the students had all filed out, Alex moved to stand up. “No, don’t,” Ororo said. “Stay there.” She walked over towards him, sitting down on a desk nearby, her long legs swinging a bit. “Thanks for coming to see me,” she said. “Was my note unclear? I didn’t expect you until the end of the class.”
“Now you’ll be thinking I show up at everything early. I actually was later than I meant to be. I was going to be here for the beginning of class, but I’m not so quick getting ready with this,” he said, gesturing to the sling.
“And why would you want to attend a high school history lesson?”
“Desperate times call for desperate measures.” She laughed at that. “I’m bored out of my mind on the DL. I just thought I’d see what the class was like. I’ve always been interested in the Civil War, ever since Shelby Foote got me hooked on it.” Looking at her he added, smiling, “Don’t look so surprised. I got a taste for history in prison – the first time, when I was a kid – and it never left me. There’s a lot of time doing nothing. Reading helps the time go by. I’d rather read history than most things. And besides,” he added, “romance novels are kind of frowned upon inside.”
She laughed at that, then turned serious. “How are you feeling? I don’t like how you’re moving. Those injuries are clearly causing you pain.”
“Have you been to the infirmary?”
“No, you haven’t.”
“If you knew, why did you ask?”
“I just wondered if you would tell me the truth, or lie. Just as you lied to me yesterday when you said that Jean had given you permission to participate in the training session.”
Alex smiled at her again, this time a little sheepishly. “I didn’t specifically say she’d given me permission.”
“You implied it and did not correct me when I said that I understood that she had.”
“You got me there.” He raised his hands in a gesture of resignation. “But I need to train. I’ll be no use to the team – and likely to get myself killed, as well – if I don’t keep up with my training.”
“I understand that, and agree. You are not the first X-Man to spend time hors de combat. We have methods to continue training. I would be happy to work out a training plan with you, considering your injuries and working around them. You should not be in the group exercises as of now. Will you work with me individually?”
“I’d like that.”
His tone was enthusiastic, but it occurred to Storm that she would have preferred to have him look her in the eye when he spoke to her. It was hard not to feel that his words were addressed to her breasts. She chose to ignore that and continued. “I will devise a plan for you. I will work with you in individual sessions, and also assign others to do so. Some of the physical training will have to wait on your recovery, but I don’t anticipate that being a problem. What I think you need practice with most is using your powers, your plasma blasts. Your aim was erratic yesterday."
“I know. This fucking shoulder throws off my balance. And then, when I was practicing with Logan – I don’t know. He’s fast; more of his punches landed than I thought would. I think I got a little punch drunk. I couldn’t see clearly, couldn’t think clearly. But yeah, I wasn’t getting the blasts to go where I wanted them to. It was frustrating.”
“That is definitely something I can work on with you. We can immobilize different parts of your body, impede your vision, induce temporary impairments of balance and so forth and give you target practice, so that you can improve the placement of the blasts under a variety of semi-debilitating conditions. We can do all of that with the facilities of the Danger Room, while you are healing, without inducing further injuries.”
“Oh good. I think I like your methods better than Logan’s.”
She laughed. “I also want you to learn to fight while injured. It’s something we all need to know how to do. You are on the disabled list now, due to your... accident, but there will be other times when you are injured in combat and will need to continue to fight. So we can see this as an opportunity for you to learn how to fight with an injury, and learn under carefully controlled conditions. It’s an essential skill – essential to the team and potentially essential to your survival.”
“Thank you. I do want to get better at this,” he said, looking at his hands. “Everyone else on the team seems to have much more control.”
“Everyone else on the team has been in training for years. I’m impressed by how much control you do have, given that you did not have our advantages. We’ll ensure that you get more control.”
“Great! When do we start?”
“Tomorrow. I’ve scheduled the Danger Room for you at 2:00. You’ll be working with Northstar.”
“Oh. I was hoping to work with you.”
“You will, but this session is with Jean-Paul.”
“Yes, that’s what we’ve been talking about, is it not? One-on-one training?”
“Yes, but – well could it be someone else?”
“No. You will work with whomever I assign to work with you. Have you had some sort of difficulty with Northstar?”
“No, it’s just – I’m not comfortable being alone with – ”
“I think it would be a good idea if you do not finish that sentence.” She changed the subject abruptly. “How old were you when you came into your powers, Alex?”
“What opportunities did you have to learn to use them?”
“Not much. I was incarcerated until I was 18 – you know that, right?”
She nodded. “Your privacy has not been violated. We only know what we need to know.”
He shrugged. “That’s not what I meant. I’m just not clear on who knows what here. Anyway, I came into my powers in prison. It was all I could do to not use them. I was terrified of getting caught.”
“Most mutants find it very hard to control their powers during the first few months after manifestation. I’m impressed that you were able to keep your mutant status a secret.”
“It wasn’t easy. I did have one advantage – I knew what was happening, since I’d already figured out what had gone on with Scott.” He shook his head. “Still, I wish I’d had the opportunity to train before this advanced age. I did what I could when I could, but I was on my own. I never met any other mutants, never got the chance to really learn how to use my blasts to fight. I wish I had.”
“We all wish that. It’s unfortunate – but understandable – that Professor Xavier and Cyclops did not know what happened to you.” She paused, and went on. “I need to speak to Cyclops and tell him that you did not have medical clearance to participate in the training session yesterday.”
“You’re going to tell on me?” Alex’s smile was teasing, but perhaps with a layer of hostility underneath. Storm wasn’t sure. “You’ve been teaching high school too long,” he added.
“Perhaps. Or perhaps I’ve just been on a mutant combat team a long time. Discipline is essential to success, even to survival. The Field Leader needs accurate information about team members to maintain discipline.” She looked straight at him. “I wanted to speak to you first. I hoped to be able to tell him that you admitted to the deception, told me the truth now, and have agreed to an appropriate personalized training plan. Now I can do that.”
“There is one other thing I need to speak to you about, and this I would rather not share with anyone else.” He said nothing and she continued. “One of my students came to me very upset. She said that you had been making advances towards her.”
“Which one?” Alex belatedly realized that the question was an admission. “Okay, so I asked some girls here out. I don’t know what the problem is. I know how to take ‘no’ for an answer.”
“I’m quite sure you do know what the problem is. The students are not potential dates for you, or any other adult here.”
“Hey, some of these girls are 17, 18. What’s the age of consent in this state?”
“That’s immaterial. They are under our protection. Romantic or sexual relationships with the students are not permitted.”
“Relationship? Nothing went so far as a relationship! I asked a couple of girls out.”
“I want your word that that will not happen again. No advances, no flirtation. If I can’t get a promise from you I will have to discuss it with Scott. He’s Headmaster of the Academy.”
“Oooh! Don’t tell the principal on me,” he replied, mock horrified. Then turned serious, “Okay. I’m sorry. And I do appreciate you giving me another chance. I’ll keep my hands off of the students, I promise. Scout’s honor.”
“Thank you. I do need to say that if I ever hear that you have broken that promise, I will have to talk to the Headmaster.”
“I’ll look elsewhere for dates.” Eyes twinkling, he added “Do you ever get an evening off? I’d be happy to take you out on the town, or what passes for ‘the town’ around here.”
I’ve found a potential addition to our little household here, by the name of Jean Grey. Close in age to Scott, she is also an Alpha Level mutant. Her gifts are psionic – telekinesis and telepathy. She lives fairly close to here. Her parents are divorced and she lives alone with her mother, who is having a hard time dealing with a psionic daughter. In addition, Jean herself is going through a very difficult period of learning to control and deal with her powers. Telepathy is an extraordinarily difficult gift for an adolescent, particularly an emotionally fragile teenage girl. It may be necessary to suppress her telepathic gift for some time, in order to give her time to assimilate understanding of her mutant status. I could begin by training her on the use of telekinesis.
I’m getting ahead of myself, though. First I must visit the Grey household and see if I can convince Mrs. Grey to entrust her daughter to my care. I hope she will agree. Jean and Scott could well be the nucleus of the combat unit I wish to develop.
Scott’s training continues to proceed on an extremely rapid trajectory. I have him on a program where he engages in very realistic simulated battles using the equipment in my simulation lab, which he has dubbed “The Danger Room.” The ruby quartz glasses have made an enormous difference in his capabilities. He was formidable in combat even without vision, but is much more so now that he can see.
Scott had an excellent idea the other day. If we could develop some sort of head gear with a ruby quartz front piece and an opening that can be manipulated, he wouldn’t have the awkwardness of taking the glasses off any time he needs to use his optic blasts. If the headgear could be made to open partially, it might also give him more control. I’m going to give some thought to design and manufacture.
I have great hopes for him, and remain extremely impressed with his progress. I do have some concerns, though. Now that he can see again, he’s more mobile and leaves the property often. I don’t wish to restrict him too much – I certainly don’t want him to rebel and leave. Yet, I’m concerned about what activities he is engaging in when he leaves, and what dangers he may expose himself to. I had hoped that his time living off of sex work was only due to expediency and not indicative of homosexual tendencies. It seems I was wrong. I worry about exposure to disease and also about unsavory influences. I wonder if I should say something to him, but hardly know how to bring up a subject likely to be embarrassing to us both. Perhaps this is only a phase and if left alone he will outgrow it. After all, he has not had much chance for feminine companionship as yet.
I’m also concerned about the possibility that he could be taken away from me. It is possible that what’s left of his family could seek him, or that he could be arrested in connection with the death of his father. I need to eliminate that risk and regularize and formalize his residence here.
Scott’s previous demimondaine existence did not require any kind of official documentation. Now, I wish him to live here legally, to obtain a driver’s license, and a pilot’s license eventually, as well, as he is learning to fly. He’s very bright and very determined and, although I love teaching him, I know that he can benefit from the broader knowledge and exposure that a college education will bring him. In order to be ready for him to go to college in a couple of years, I will need some sort of official documentation.
My first step is to find out what happened after Scott’s father’s death. Does his mother know that her son is a mutant and accidentally killed her husband? Would she be willing to sign over guardianship to me? I believe a trip to Goodland, Indiana is in order. As Scott himself has told me nothing about his father’s death, saying only that he ran away from home, it’s probably best that I not let him know my plans until I have the information I need to make decisions about his future.
This is the seventh chapter of a ten-part series. The entire series is being archived here .