Preludes to HeartbreakChapter 1: Where discoveries are made in a most unusual manner.
James Oliver was excited. This was it, the day he’d been working towards for months.
Finally, the elders of the outpost had agreed to let him video their stories.
He was setting up in the middle of the open center of the outpost when it happened. Something felt…wrong. Looking around, Oliver saw a new arrival to the outpost, someone he had never seen before. An old man with gray hair, walking in from the open desert, but something about him…
There was an itching on the back of his left hand, the one holding the camera, and as he looked to make sure he hadn’t been bitten by anything, he saw the battery indicator flashing, marking that he only had about an hour left.
“Bloody hell,” he thought to himself, “It was fully charged when I left.”
That’s when he noticed something under his skin was moving. Like a bug, a small lump was maneuvering its way from his hand into his arm.
He screamed out in horror, dropping the camera to the ground. The itching intensified, and rapidly became a burning sensation. More lumps could now be seen moving around under his skin. All strength left him, and he fell to his knees, the burning now becoming intense pain. His head was pounding. He clasped his hands to his ears, trying in vain to block out the pressure.
All around the outpost, people had seen what was happening, and were backing away in fear. All save the old man from the desert. He alone came closer.
Oliver’s head suddenly jerked up, as all over his body patches of skin erupted, spewing forth a black metallic substance.
James Oliver heard the last words he would ever utter as a human being, and had no idea why he said them.
“Mutant presence detected…” ********
“You’re not going to believe this.” Nicholas Graydon spoke into his cell phone, “But there’s been a major pile up on I-81. I had to get off the highway just past Hartford.”
He listened to his employer’s response while comparing his odometer to what he’d been told when he exited the interstate.
“No,” he replied, “But I’m just going to be a little later than planned. I’ve already called and let them know. Definitely going to miss dinner at the mansion. Funny, I was just there a couple weeks ago helping them with setting up that security system, I think Remy’s using every excuse he can to let loose a bit in the kitchen.” He pulled his cigarette case from his shirt pocket. Opening it one handed, he placed one in his mouth.
“I will,” he said around the butt, tossing the case into the seat beside him. He lit the cigarette and exhaled. “There’s a small town just up the road here. Guy at the QT told me there’s a great little diner there. Said it’s disguised as a hardware store.” He took another drag, and switched the phone to his other ear. “How should I know?” he asked, “I’ve only been in this part of New England once. I’m sure the food won’t live up to what I’m missing; I mean, Remy is an excellent cook. And Scott and Ororo are away on another errand, so you know what he’s up to. On the other hand, I could really use a cup of coffee right about now.”
In the headlights, he saw that he was approaching a reduced speed zone, and therefore the edge of a town. He dropped the Opal GT down into third to match the speed reduction.
“Lex,” he said, “I’ll give you another call when I get done with dinner, I’m pulling into Star’s Hollow now. Yeah, let me know what you find on that…okay, you too. Bye.”
Graydon slowed even further as he drove through the small town. Pretty typical, in a Norman Rockwell sort of way, he mused to himself.
“Course, Gacy came from a good neighborhood too…” he muttered aloud.
He looked over to his left and saw what had to be his destination. Pulling into the first parking spot he could find, he wondered what the Deity of Close to your Destination Parking had against him. As he shut down the GT’s engine and closed the headlamps, he briefly wondered if he should take his jacket to cover up his holster.
“Graydon, you are so bloody paranoid,” he told himself, choosing instead to leave his weapons locked up in the glove box. He did however grab the file folder that was sitting next to him. Exiting the car, he walked the five blocks to the diner in a casual stroll. The place was almost completely full. Obviously, several other detoured travelers had decided to stop for a bite.
Opening the door, he noticed that there were two choices for seating, either a single stool at the counter, or a small table off in one corner. He decided to grab the table and was on his way over when someone shouted at him.
“Hey, pony-tail! Heads up!” he heard.
Turning towards the voice, he was just able to grab the menu that was flying towards him from behind the counter. A fairly large man in a flannel shirt and a…backwards ball cap looked at him, obviously more than a bit frustrated at the unexpected crowd. It looked to Graydon like he was the only one working.
“Grab a seat, I’ll be with you in a minute,” the man said.
Graydon saluted the menu at his host, and made his way over to the table. There wasn’t a large variety of food available, but the smell of the burgers from the grill managed to kick his appetite up a notch. He made his decision, closed the menu, and then picked up the folder he’d been carrying and started to thumb through its contents. He’d been reading about five minutes when he heard them.
“Luke, where are we supposed to sit?” came a plaintive, and definitely female voice. It carried over the crowd noise very easily. Despite himself, Graydon looked towards the sound. A very attractive brunette stood at the counter, putting on her best pouting face. She was dressed as though she’d been out for the evening somewhere. At her side stood a teenage girl, also brunette, and with a similar enough pout that Graydon figured it must be her daughter. He also decided that very few men could possibly be strong enough to survive a pouting like that.
“I mean, come on! We’ve been coming in here every Friday night after suffering through dinner with my mother so that we can get some desperately needed relaxing time.”
“Don’t forget the coffee…” the younger woman spoke up.
“And coffee!” her companion added quickly. Her pout turned accusatory. “You can’t deny us that!”
“Look around you, Lorelei,” the man in the cap was replying, “That wreck on 81 has everyone detoured through here. First come first served, you know that. There’s a seat at the counter.” He turned and started towards Graydon’s table. His accuser, however, was not so easily swayed.
“Uh, Luke,” she started, “Last time I checked there were two of us. Let’s see, me – that’s one, and Rory, yup, definitely two.” She crossed her arms and looked stoic, “And Rory is way too big to be sitting on my lap.”
“Way too big,” the younger one agreed, “And I don’t think that your insurance covers the potential injury involved…”
Graydon decided to take pity on the innkeeper.
“Ladies,” he spoke up, “Please, take this table. I’ll grab the seat at the counter.” He stood up, collecting his folder and preparing to move to the vacant counter seat.
The two brunettes turned towards him, the elder gracing him with a smile that Graydon judged to be at least twice as deadly as the previous pout.
“Thank you!” she said, “See, Luke, there’s still a few gentlemen left in this world. C’mon Rory…” she grabbed the younger ladies arm and guided her around Graydon to the table.
“Anytime,” Graydon told them as he moved to the counter.
“You just saved me from the worlds biggest headache,” the innkeeper, now identified as ‘Luke’ told him quietly, “Coffee’s on the house.” He proceeded to fill a very large cup in front of Graydon.
“Watch it,” Graydon whispered back, “I drink a lot of coffee.”
“Not as much as those two,” Luke replied, gesturing to the two now seated ladies with his thumb, “Trust me, I won’t lose any money.”
“In that case I accept,” Graydon told him, “And when you get a chance, cheeseburger with everything? Take your time, I’m not in a hurry.”
“I’ll be damned,” Luke responded, “You really are a gentleman…” At that point, Graydon’s cell phone started to chirp. “…who’s going to take that outside.” he finished.
“Sorry…?” Graydon started.
Luke turned and pointed at a sign up on the back wall, indicating that no cell phones were allowed.
“Take the coffee,” he said, “I’ll save the seat…” and he returned to his work.
Graydon grinned and grabbed the oversized mug, making his way to the front door.
“Hey,” he heard the brunette identified as Lorelei shout out, “How about some service over here?” As Graydon looked over, she smiled at him again. “Thank you, oh wonderful mysterious gentleman, for sacrificing your precious table seat for two fair damsels in distress.”
“I think that might be a bit much,” the younger, Rory, commented.
“Nonsense, when you get to be my age, you’ll understand better.”
“When I get to be your age, I’ll be dead from coffee deprivation.”
“Oh, yeah, definitely deadly,” Graydon muttered as he closed the door behind him. As he pulled out the phone, he recognized the number as Xavier’s Institute.
“Hallo?” he answered.
“Nick,” came a strongly accented voice, “Wha’s this I hear from le professeur ‘bout you not bein’ here for my feast, eh?”
“Hey Remy,” he replied, “Nothing personal, believe me. Traffic’s detoured off of I-80.”
“You want me to hol’ some up?” the Cajun asked.
“Nah, it’s going to be a couple hours. I want to let the rest of these lemmings get out of my way before I head out again. Besides, there’s this really cute woman here…”
Laughter greeted his remark.
“Okay, camarade, but me an’ Logan goin’ to be playin’ poker tonight, best not be too late,” he commented.
“Save me a beer or six,” Graydon replied, “Later.”
Graydon pressed the end button and re-entered the diner. As he took his seat he once again glanced over at the table he’d vacated. Lorelei smiled at him again.
“Definitely worth the scenery,” he thought.********
“Aw, crap…” Graydon said to himself a couple hours later.
“Everything okay?” Luke asked from behind the counter. Graydon had finished his meal some time ago, but true to his word had waited for the road to clear out before heading on to his final destination. Luke had been refilling his coffee cup on a regular basis.
Graydon looked up from the file he had been reading.
“Huh? Oh, yeah, everything’s fine,” he replied, “Just some unexpected information.”
“You want another?” Luke asked, raising the pot in his direction.
Graydon checked his watch. It was just past nine o’clock. Time to be moving.
“No thanks,” he said, tossing a twenty on the counter. “Keep the change, Luke, consider it a seat warming fee.”
Luke grinned at him and bid him a good night. As Graydon left the diner, he realized he was the last one out. The streets of the small town were now completely empty. He lit up a cigarette and walked quickly back to his car. Tossing the file back into the passenger seat, he started the car and flipped the headlamps on. He sat there, letting the engine warm up for a few moments, and thought about the piece of news he’d just discovered.
Less than two years ago, the Friends of Humanity had been little more than a bunch of noisemakers. They’d show up at political functions, waving signs and chanting their diatribe, and then would disappear again. Once the Mutant Registration Act was killed off in the Senate vote, they just kind of vanished. Or so it seemed. What really happened was that the leaders of the group realized the true nature of political power, and started restructuring their organization accordingly. Now they stood in the background, gathering wealth that could then be applied to the politicians whom they wanted to get into office. So it was only natural that when Graydon began to look into the background of the Initiative project, a failed attempt at creating a super-powered anti-mutant taskforce, the trail of money would lead to the FOH.
He put the car into gear and took off down the darkened stretch of highway leading back to Interstate 81.
It was also no surprise to find that the ambition of the new project that the FOH was putting their money in would put the Initiative to shame, and that took some. Unfortunately, he still had not found any information as to what exactly was planned. He’d found exactly two leads on that before he went through his newest batch of information over dinner. One, it involved some sort of Nano-Cybernetic technology the likes of which had never before been seen. And two, the man behind it all was called “Bastion.” Probably a code name of some form, but so far he had found no other evidence of the man’s existence.
Then tonight he discovered that he was familiar with one of the main movers and shakers behind the new FOH.
Now all he had to do was figure out a way to tell Scott. And that just plain sucked.
As he drove further from the town, it was dark enough that the overhanging trees created the illusion of driving through a tunnel. Desperately needing something to keep his mind occupied for a little while, Graydon reached down and turned the CD player on. Hey kids! It’s the Captain Happy show, starring me, Captain Happy!
Let me get out my magic mirror,
I see Bobby, I see Suzy, I see Billy!
As the first part of Sykotic Synfony’s Manic Deppresso
kicked over the speakers, Graydon settled back into his seat and turned up the volume. Filled with joy this time of season,
I’m always happy for no reason,
The big red sun shining down on me,
The sweet little verse of a melody,
I love to run up to the hills,
And tippy-toe through the daffodils,
Mr. Butterfly, won’t you be my pet,
Let me capture you in my little net!
I’m so happy, I’m so happy, I’m so happy, I’m so happy… I’m so happy, they’re so happy, we’re so happy, are you happy too?
I’m so happy, they’re so happy, wouldn’t you like to be happy too?
He’s so happy, she’s so happy, he’s so happy are you happy too?
I’m so happy, they’re so happy, wouldn’t you like to be happy too?
That’s when he saw the Aborigine standing in the road.
“FUCK!” he shouted in time to the music, turning the wheel as hard to the left as he could and standing on both the brake and the clutch. He knew already that it was too late. The man had suddenly appeared in front of him. It didn’t even occur to him to wonder what an Australian Aborigine was doing standing in the middle of the road in Connecticut, twirling his bull-roarer in front of him as though he was in the middle of the damned outback, all he knew is that this man was about to become a greasy spot on the highway.
Then the lights came in through the passenger window, and Graydon figured that he was about to get smashed into by a very large truck, judging by how bright it was. The car came to a stop and he closed his eyes waiting for impact, wondering why he never felt the thump of the car striking the hapless Australian.
Sixty seconds later, the light had gotten no brighter, there had been no impact, and it felt…different. For one thing, it was cold. Much colder than it had been a moment earlier. There was also a smell in the air that hadn’t been there before, one that Graydon recognized easily. Opening his eyes, he immediately wished he hadn’t.
Before him stood a massive expanse of desert, and the sun was just about in the middle of the sky.
“What. The. HELL?” he asked no one in particular. He was pretty sure that he hadn’t lost his mind, but this was a little out of the norm, even for someone who had seen some of the things he had. He reached over and turned on the GPS unit mounted next to the stereo. After it went through it’s warm up procedure, it pulled the relevant data from the first navigation satellite it found, and returned his location.
He was in the middle of Australia. That explained the cold. It was winter in this part of the world. It would be about noon, since there was a fifteen-hour difference between here and New England.
He was also very thirsty all of a sudden.
He looked out the driver side window and saw the aborigine standing in front of the remains of an outpost. It looked like it had been pretty small when it was still alive. Smoke drifting in the air indicated that this had happened not long ago. As he opened the car door, the smell got stronger. Burning flesh. Nothing else in the world smelled exactly like that. Graydon unlocked the glove box and retrieved his weapons. As he exited the car, he strapped the two nine millimeter pistols down in their double shoulder holster. Something told him that he was not brought here with any malicious intent, but the remains of the outpost unnerved him. He also grabbed his jacket, although it wasn’t great relief, it would keep some of the cold out.
“Okay, now what?” he asked the Aborigine. He was old, almost impossibly so, and yet he stood perfectly straight. The old man said nothing, simply turning and looking into the shell of the outpost.
Graydon took that to mean that the old man wanted him to go see what had happened here. He started walking towards the outpost. Deep in his mind, a small piece of him shut down. It had started when he worked for the Bureau, and had to study the results of serial killers in order to get a grasp on their minds. Until this was finished, his emotions would be kept bottled up deep inside, and the only thing his mind would allow was the cold and analytical study of the evidence before him.
Good thing too, because the sight inside the outpost looked like a Bosch painting brought to life. The outpost had held perhaps sixty people total. Maybe less, maybe more. It was hard to tell with the body parts strewn around the way they were. Graydon turned back towards the car.
“I need my kit…” he muttered. In truth, he desperately needed to get away from the smell, which was much stronger here.
Once at the car, he reached behind the drivers seat and pulled out a small aluminum briefcase. Opening the case, he first opened a small bottle of menthol rub, and ran a small strip under his nose. He then pulled the digital camera and a pair of latex gloves. After he had pulled the gloves on, he pulled a few plastic bags from another section of the case, and tucked them in his pocket, just in case there was something needing further analysis later.
He took a deep breath, and returned to the inside of the compound. It hadn’t changed. Graydon allowed himself to truly study the sight now. Whatever had happened here, it happened to all involved. Men, women and children were all among the bodies. Most of them had huge gaping holes in their chests, singed on the edges. Others, however, seemed to have been killed almost accidentally, there was one, for instance, impaled on a piece of the fence surrounding the outpost. Graydon walked over to the first body he saw, a young woman, perhaps sixteen. Her chest was almost non-existent, and the area surrounding the wound was burnt clean, as though a very intense heat had been applied.
He took a few pictures, and then moved on to the next victim. Once again, the wound was cauterized. This time however, it was to the skull. As he finished taking the pictures of that corpse, something caught his attention. A few yards away, there were the remains of another body. This one, however, was not dressed in the clothing of the others. It almost looked like some form of plastic coated the leg structure. And the boots were definitely combat style. He made his way over to the remains.
He knelt to get a closer inspection, and realized that what he had at first thought to be some sort of armor was in fact the skin structure. The remains were clean, there was no cauterizing of the wound. What ever had separated the torso from the arms and head had been different than what had killed everyone else in the outpost. Graydon looked closely at the area where the upper chest would have been. The outer layer of skin was hard, almost metallic. Then he noticed the heart, quite visible in the chest cavity.
It was still beating. Lungs pumped in and out, drawing air even though the passage they would normally use was nowhere to be seen. Slight movement on the edges of the open wound caught his attention. It almost looked as though the skin were trying to replace the missing parts.
Graydon pieced the evidence into a theory. He turned to the Aborigine and asked, “Where’s the rest of him?”
The native said nothing. He simply turned again and looked at a large rock on the edge of the compound. Graydon walked over and began to examine the rock. As he moved his hand down the side of the stone, he felt something irregular. Looking closely, he realized that there was the shape of a hand in the rock. He walked around so that he could see the other side. Sticking out of the stone was a hand. It was covered in the same material as the remains he had just left.
And it was still moving. Fingers flexed slowly, back and forth. Whatever this was, it wasn’t human. He looked at the other part of the body, with the organs still struggling for life. Not human any more.
Graydon stood and looked again at the man who had brought him here, pieces falling into place.
“You?” he asked.
The Aborigine simply looked at him. And then there was a brief, almost imperceptible nod.
“Effective,” Graydon commented, raising his camera again, “Teleport half of him into a rock. Disturbing, but effective.” He took several shots of the hand, and the impression in the reverse side of the boulder. Then he moved over and photographed the rest of the corpse. He switched over to video mode in order to get live documentation of the organ activity. Then came the more difficult part. Pulling a small knife from his pocket, he started cutting a small section of the reforming tissue. It took quite a while; the cut would attempt to close as soon as he’d made it, but finally he got a two-inch section of the “skin” loose, and tucked it into one of the plastic bags. As he closed the bag and tucked it into his belt, he noticed something else. A small video camera lay about twenty feet away, tucked under the leg of an unfortunate Aborigine.
Retrieving the camera, he noticed that the batteries had died. Hopefully there would be something on this tape that could explain what had happened here.
As he stood, he noticed the Aborigine looking into the distance. Following the old man’s gaze, he saw a small cloud of dust just visible on the horizon. Somehow, he doubted that it was Federal Express.
“Time to go,” he commented. Walking back towards the car, he turned again to the old man.
“Can you get me back to Xavier’s?” he asked.
The Aborigine remained silent, simply walking to a spot about fifty feet in front of Graydon’s Opal. Once there, he began twirling his bull-roarer again.
Graydon returned the items - as well as the bagged sample - to his briefcase, tossed the camera into the passenger seat, and got into his car. As he started the engine, he noticed a slight waiver in the air in front of the old man. As he watched, the affected area grew, until it was large enough for his car to enter.
“Here goes nothing,” he said, putting the car into first and releasing the clutch. As he shifted into second, he desperately hoped that this was going to work, pointing the nose of his car directly towards the waiver he had seen. Then it was dark. Very dark. Graydon slammed on the brake and shifted into neutral, hoping that he wouldn’t hit anything before he came to a stop.
It seemed the Gods were with him. Once his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he realized he was parked directly in front of the main entrance to Xavier’s Institute.
It was only after he noticed the red light flashing over the porch that he realized his entrance had set off the new alarm system. He immediately jumped out of the car and placed his hands in the air, waiting to see who would check on the disturbance.
“All right, sugar, you just hold it right there,” came a voice from above him.
“It’s Nick,” he shouted. “Sorry about the alarm.”
“Nick!” came the voice again, much softer now. Directly in front of him, a lovely young woman gently dropped from the sky, twin streaks of white accenting her auburn hair.
“Hey, Rogue,” he answered, “You’re not gonna believe what I’ve just been through.”
About that time, the front door to the mansion opened up, and two more figures came running out. Graydon recognized them as Logan and Remy, two more of the faculty.
“Nick,” growled Logan, “How the hell’d you get in without usin’ th’ gate?”
“I’ll explain in a bit,” Graydon said, suddenly feeling light headed, “But first, if you don’t mind…”
He ran around behind his car, barely getting out of sight before his system let loose with the shock of what he’d seen earlier. Suddenly, he realized that the burger didn’t taste so good coming back up. For that matter, neither did the coffee. Nor yesterday’s donuts. Nor the pizza from last week. His stomach finally took pity on him when the only thing left it could get rid of was his kidneys.
Unfortunately, at that point he had already collapsed on the ground. He realized that the coolness he felt on his face was the concrete and asphalt of the driveway.
…at least I missed the puke…he thought.
His mind decided right then that staying conscious was just entirely too much effort.
“Nick,” he heard a worried voice, female, familiar, but damned if he could identify it, “What…are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” he muttered, “jus need to pass out f’r a while….”
And he did.
The convoy halted in front of the burned out compound.
From the front vehicles, several men emerged, all wearing similar combat gear. There were rank piping on the sleeves, but no insignia patches or other identifying marks on the uniforms. Black combat fatigues, with black caps and sunglasses. Most carried automatic rifles of some form.
Several of them stopped at the entry to the outpost, fanning out into a guards positioning. The remainder went inside. After a few minutes, one came back out and walked to one of the vehicles in the rear of the convoy. The smoked glass window in the back door lowered at his approach.
“Report,” came a steel hard voice from inside the car.
“It appears the unit went berserk, sir,” he answered. “Instead of simply eliminating the mutant presence, it destroyed all life in the outpost.”
Silence from within the vehicle was his only reply.
“Sir?” the soldier started, “There’s more. There’s also a set of tire tracks directly in front of the outpost. They only run about 50 or 60 feet, and then vanish.”
“The mutant,” came the voice from within. The window rolled back up again, and the soldier stepped back, waiting.
The door opened and the steel voices’ owner stepped into the light. He was a tall man, dressed in a black jumpsuit. Piping on the sleeves of the suit indicated his ranking above the other soldiers, but again there was no identification as to which militia he might belong. He had gray hair on top of a rugged face, and a small, tight trimmed beard covering only his chin.
“We thought there might be an issue once the Prime Unit was fully activated, Sergeant,” the man stated. “Hence the test in this isolated area. I want this outpost eliminated, no evidence whatsoever is to remain that it ever existed. Is that clear?”
“Yes sir!” the Sergeant replied, “What about the tire tracks, sir?”
“No importance,” the tall man told him, “We will continue development of the Sentinel program as planned. We have much to do before we can begin testing in more…urban environments.” ********
It was the incessant beeping that finally forced him awake. He could tell by the smell that he was in the infirmary. There was also a minor discomfort on the inside of his elbow, telltale sign of an IV unit. The beeping was obviously the stat monitor in action.
Graydon opened his eyes slowly, thankful that the lights were dim. He could tell someone was sitting near the bed. He turned his head over and looked to the side. There was an oversized easy chair not far from him, and filling it completely up was the blue-furred genius known as Henry McCoy.
“Hank…” Graydon whispered.
McCoy looked up from the book he was reading, a smile tugging his features.
”Nicholas!” he exclaimed, “The prodigal detective awakens.” He crossed the distance to the bed in two steps. “And how are we feeling?”
“I have no idea about you, McCoy,” Graydon answered, his voice coming back, “But I feel like shit.”
“To be expected, your electrolyte balance was far lower than it should be, almost as though you had been through a major case of dehydration lately,” McCoy told him, examining the readings on the monitor. “You’ve been out for a couple of hours.”
“I need to call Lex,” Graydon started.
”Not to worry, my injured colleague,” McCoy told him, “Jean took care of that right after they brought you down here. Your erstwhile employer is fully aware of the situation.”
He turned his gaze back to Graydon, “At least, as aware of it as we are. What happened, Nick? And how on earth did you get that car into the yard without opening the gate? Do you perhaps have some mutant ability you’ve been hiding from us?” he teased.
“Not me,” Graydon replied, “The Aborigine.”
McCoy just looked at him, the question clear in his eyes.
“I’ll explain everything, Hank,” Graydon said, “Get everyone together, and let me get my stuff out of the car.” He started standing, pulling the IV from his arm.
“Nicholas,” McCoy started.
”Hank, I’m fine,” Graydon assured him, “I heal fast. Not as fast as Logan, granted, but quick enough. Grab me a bottle of Gatorade, and let’s get moving. This is big.” ********
The chamber had been dubbed the “War Room.” In here, the X-Men would gather, with full access to all data relevant, to plan their activities in time of need.
Right now, however, they were not sure what to do next. Graydon had downloaded the photos and video clips that he had taken into their main computer, but the videotape he’d recovered needed some restorative work. Sand had apparently gotten into it during the incident. Various images from the compound were on the large screens surrounding the room.
“…and you have no idea why this Aborigine took you?” Professor Charles Xavier was asking. He had remained completely silent while Graydon filled them in on what had happened.
“None whatsoever, Charles,” Graydon replied, “It’s almost as if he knew what I was looking for…” he hesitated a moment, and finished the Gatorade McCoy had handed him earlier, “I don’t understand why he didn’t take someone earlier though,” he continued, “It might have saved some lives.”
“Could be that it was already too late,” Logan ventured, “All he wanted now was ta make sure somebody knew about it.” He scratched the stubble under his chin. “Fer that, I s’pect he made the right choice.”
“Professor,” Jean Grey interjected, “Could this be related to the files we were given in Sunnydale? Some sort of Nano-Cybernetics?”
“I can’t be entirely sure, but it seems quite likely.” Xavier answered. Graydon nodded his agreement. “Henry has taken the sample Nicholas brought back, as well as the videotape. Hopefully he will be able to provide some light on this.”
“T’ink I should call Cyke and Stormy back?” asked Remy.
“No, Remy, not yet,” Xavier told him. “Call them in the morning, they just arrived at Muir Island a few hours ago, they could probably use the rest. I doubt that we will have anything to move on before then.”
With that, the Professor dismissed the group. Graydon apologized to Logan and Remy for missing the poker game, and then asked to speak with the Professor alone.
“Certainly, Nicholas, I was going to have some tea in my study while waiting for the results from Henry’s work. Join me?”
“That sounds pretty good,” Graydon admitted.
“You boys go on and talk,” Jean told them, “I’ll bring the tea in when it’s ready.”
“I’m not used to being waited on, Jean,” Graydon told her.
”Cope,” the redhead replied, walking towards the kitchen. Graydon followed her with his eyes.
“She’s spoken for, right?” he asked the Professor as they entered the study.
Xavier smiled at him, sensing the teasing in his voice,
“Quite,” he told Graydon. “But I’m certain she would appreciate the complement.”
Xavier settled himself next to an easy chair on one side of the room and bid Graydon to sit.
“Now then, Nicholas, what can I help you with?” he asked.
“I found some stuff on the Friends of Humanity, before my little trip to the Outback,” Graydon started. “You realize that they’ve started working more behind the scenes in the political game?”
“I knew that they were heading in that direction,” Xavier admitted.
“Lot’s of semi-big business men funneling cash their way, no Bill Gates or David Nabbits, but lots of successful small business owners.” He hesitated, “One in particular caught my attention.”
“And why is that?” Xavier asked.
“You have to understand, Charles, this was a lot of shuffling though years worth of dummy accounts and financial ‘accidents.’ I wasn’t really looking for who was sending money to these guys. But one chain led to another lead to another, and suddenly I was realizing who the real heads of the new FOH are.”
Xavier just looked at him, not pressing.
“Charles, one of the main guys is Scott’s uncle Hank.”
Xavier paled at the news. He had frequently looked at Scott Summers as his own flesh and blood, and this was not the sort of thing he looked forward to telling him.
“I…see,” was all he said.
“Yeah,” Graydon responded, “Me too.”
“Let’s keep this to ourselves for the moment, could we?” the Professor asked.
“I was so hoping you’d say that,” Graydon agreed.
There was a soft knock at the door, and Jean stuck her head into the study.
“I have tea, gentlemen, if I’m not intruding,” she said.
Xavier glanced briefly at Graydon, who smiled and nodded.
“Not at all, Jean,” he answered her, “We were just finished. Please join us…”
The ringing of the telephone interrupted him. Moving to the desk, he realized that this was a call on his direct line, and not to the school’s main number. It was most likely Scott, he mused, answering the phone.
“This is Professor Charles Xavier,” he spoke. “Yes, Mr. Giles. Is it safe to assume that Buffy is getting ready to…I see. What happened?”
Jean dropped the tea service she’d been carrying in, and the porcelain bounced off the thick carpeting. One cup landed on the hardwood entryway and shattered as it struck. She raised her hand to her mouth, her eyes filling with tears as she picked up on the Professor’s thoughts.
“…Oh, Scott…” she whispered, collapsing onto the sofa.
Graydon returned his attention to Xavier, watching the man as his face turned ashen.
“I understand,” he was saying. “Yes Rupert, I’ll inform Scott immediately. We will be there tomorrow, first thing.” Xavier looked over at Graydon, who nodded and took out his cell phone. “All of us.” Xavier added.
As the Professor finished his conversation, Graydon punched the autodial, and squeezed Jean’s shoulder. When the line was answered, he spoke into the phone.
“Lex, sorry to wake you. Grab the first flight to Sunnydale,” he looked at Xavier, who now sat with his head in his hands, wondering, Graydon assumed, how he would tell Scott the news. Graydon felt Jean’s quiet sobbing through her shoulder as he spoke again.