Part 2: State of the Union
Part 2: State of the Union
“With the presidential elections just a few short months away, the one question that polarizes the nation more than any other is, of course, the mutant issue. With mutant birth rates climbing every year and more and more mutants coming out and publicly displaying their powers, the nation is split almost right down the middle over the question of what, if anything, should be done about the growing number of mutants among us.
“The two presidential candidates, Republican nominee Congressman Graydon Greed, and Democratic nominee Governor Donald Duke, have both made it pretty clear where they stand regarding this important issue.
“Congressman Creed is a firm advocate of the proposed Mutant Registration Act, which would make it mandatory for every mutant to register with a Mutant Oversight Committee the moment his or her mutations manifests. Failure to do so would carry a severe penalty, including incarceration.
“Governor Duke, on the other hand, has taken a firm stand against the MRA, calling it a direct violation of a citizen’s right to privacy and the first step towards a mutant witch hunt. While the governor’s direct and no-nonsense approach to the issue has given him a firm backing among the liberal and democratic elements of the nation, the conservative factions have almost unilaterally denounced him and his campaign.
“Yesterday the addition of a new member to the governor’s campaign staff has polarized the nation even more. Dr. Henry McCoy, the renowned geneticist who outed himself as a mutant more than three years ago, has joined the campaign as senior counsel to the candidate on the mutant issue. Rumours that Dr. McCoy would hold a high government office, possibly Secretary of State, in the event of a Duke victory, have so far been met with no comment.
“Five days from now the two candidates will meet for the first and only presidential debate of this campaign. While many issues are on the agenda, viewers can expect the mutant question to soak up a large amount of screen time as polls across the nation have made it clear that this is the number one issue the American public is concerned about.
“We have just been informed that the Duke campaign is holding a press conference at their campaign headquarters in Michigan and Dr. Henry McCoy is available for questions. We are now going live to Michigan.”
The blue-furred mutant Henry McCoy dwarfed the two men standing next to him. His intimidating appearance was disarmed somewhat by the grey suit he wore, as well as the reading glasses perched on his nose. It made the man who looked like a cross between a panther and a gorilla appear almost human.
The horde of press standing outside the glass doors of the Duke campaign headquarters didn’t frighten him, nor did the many cameras or the knowledge that millions of people were watching right now. Being one of the first mutants to take a public stand, he was used to attention of all sorts.
Still, he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t nervous.
Stepping up to the podium, he ignored the questions fired at him for the moment and shuffled the papers in front of him to calm his nerves.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, please,” he began. “I want to make a short statement and then I will take some minutes to answer your questions.”
The reporters grew quiet as he cleared his throat to begin.
“When Governor Duke approached me to join his campaign staff I was at the same time honoured and somewhat hesitant. The so-called mutant issue has polarized this nation more than any other issue since Dr. Martin Luther King’s Civil Rights Movement. And rightfully so, I might add.
“Mutants, as a group, are being regarded with suspicion, fear, and outright hatred because of a simple accident of birth. Fear of the unknown has once again taken ugly root in the hearts of men and it is up to us to prove that we have grown, that we will not allow petty fears to dictate the future of our country.
“Many of those in favour of Mutant Registration have time and again cited the example of Magneto, the mutant terrorist, to argue their case. Unfortunately Mutant Registration will do nothing to stop characters such as Magneto, who consider themselves above the law. He, just like criminals who are not mutants, must be brought to justice. But those mutants who have broken no laws, who just want to live their lives in peace, must not be subjected to this discrimination and debasement that is registration.
“I know that the addition of a known mutant such as myself to Governor Duke’s campaign staff will have repercussions, both positive and negative. For a time I considered rejecting the governor’s offer for fear of the negative impact. But I have come to realize that we can’t take a stand without putting the issue squarely in the limelight.”
Putting his papers aside, he spread his massive arms and displayed his animal paws.
“I am Henry McCoy. I am 34 years old. I have a medical degree and am considered one of the leading experts in the field of human genetics. I am also a mutant. When I was sixteen I started growing blue fur all over my body. I grew claws. I am stronger and faster than most humans. I am also long-sighted, addicted to coffee, and love reading Shakespeare.
“I am a human being. And to quote a very famous man who took a stand for what he believed in, I ask you not to judge me by the colour of my fur, but by the content of my character. I have joined the Duke campaign to remind people that mutants are among us. We are not an outside force that invades your lives. We are not enemy aggressors and we will not, as some anti-mutant propagandists have asked us to, ‘go home’. We are home. Our home is here. We are your brothers and sisters, your sons and daughters. Right now a child born in America has a one in a thousand chance of being born a mutant. That rate will only increase. We need to face that fact, not run away from it.
“There are no easy solutions. Tolerance will need time to grow and there will be people, both mutant and baseline human, who will do their utmost to sabotage that tolerance. We must not listen to them, though. We must not allow ourselves to judge everyone by the poor actions of a few. We must not give in to our base fears and hatreds. We must prove to ourselves that we are better than that, that we are worthy to inherit the future, that we are worthy of the trust put in us by our children, that we can build a better world for them.”
Taking a sip of water from the glass on the podium, he looked at the assembled press.
“I will now answer your questions.”
“Henry is putting on a pretty good show,” Ororo Munroe said, looking at the TV screen where the mutant in question was doing his best to answer the numerous questions thrown at him by the press.
Sitting in his wheelchair beside her, Professor Charles Francis Xavier also watched the news as one of his former students made a stand in the most difficult of arenas.
“Henry was the perfect choice for this job,” Charles said. “Despite his appearance, he may just be the most human of us all.”
Turning away from the screen, Charles and Ororo walked down the corridor towards the Professor’s office.
“Do you think Duke has a chance of winning?” the white-haired woman asked her mentor.
Charles shrugged. “Divining the future is sadly not among my talents. Does Duke have a chance? Yes. A good one? Probably not. Creed’s message is by far the easier and more seductive one. It gives people the illusion of safety from what they fear.
“But I dare say this is not merely about getting a mutant-friendly president into the White House, Ororo. The more important matter is igniting a public debate, to turn what has so far been an emotional matter into one of rationality. Even if Creed wins, even if the MRA is made into law, Duke and his people will make sure that we are not just ‘the mutant menace’ anymore. Of that I am positive.”
Ororo nodded, seeing the Professor’s reasoning.
“Not to dissuade from Henry’s brilliant performance, Professor, but have you spoken to Scott lately?”
Charles’ face darkened as he thought of Scott Summers, the young boy he had taken in who had grown into a man to be proud of. A man who was still broken over what had happened last year at Alkali Lake.
“He keeps to himself, I’m afraid,” Charles said. “Jean’s death... it eats away at him, I know. He loved her so very much. Still does.”
“He is destroying himself, Professor,” Ororo told him. “And his absence is hurting us, both as a teaching staff and as a team. Kurt is doing brilliantly and Kitty, Rogue, Peter, and Bobby are almost ready to join the team, but none of them can replace him.”
She didn’t add that no one could replace Jean Grey, either. By some unspoken agreement her name was seldom mentioned, most certainly never around Scott. The death of the heroic woman who had sacrificed her life to save them all last year was an open wound that refused to heal properly.
“I am not sure what we can do,” Charles admitted. “I have pondered the idea of bringing in a psychiatrist, both for Scott and the rest of the team, but finding one capable of dealing with the... special circumstances of our group is not easy.”
“Can’t you...,” Ororo began, but thought better of it. What was the Professor to do? Use his telepathic powers to erase Scott’s grief? Take away the memory of Jean’s death? Twist his mind until he no longer thought of her? Even if Charles had been the man to abuse his powers that way, Ororo was not the kind of woman to ever ask it of him.
“How is Logan?” Charles asked, changing the topic.
“Better than Scott,” Ororo said. “I guess he is more used to dealing with grief and pain. Not that I envy him that experience. He’s dealing. In his own way.”
Charles managed a smile. “Wrecked the Danger Room again?”
“Thoroughly,” Ororo smiled back. “I wish we could get Scott to blast the room apart. Maybe that would help.”
The two shared a laugh, but it was tinged with frustration and a feeling of helplessness.
Scott! Scott, can you hear me?
Scott Summers, the mutant known as Cyclops, tossed and turned in his sleep as nightmares assaulted his slumbering mind. Images of Alkali Lake, a repeating loop of memories warped by guilt, grief, and anger.
He saw himself, mind-controlled by Stryker’s pet mutant, assaulting the woman he loved. Saw how she fought back against him with a strength she had only recently discovered in herself. Saw how their powers overloaded, causing fatal damage to the dam above them.
His fault! If he had only been strong enough. But he wasn’t. So he attacked her, their battle damaged the dam, and she was forced to sacrifice her life to save them all from the result of his weakness. His fault! All of it!
Scott! Scott, please! It’s so dark!
Suddenly the memories changed. He saw Alkali Lake, the silvery surface of the water beginning to boil. Something rose from the depths, something beautiful and terrifying. A flaming image, almost like a huge bird of prey.
SCOTT! HELP ME!
“JEAN!” Scott Summers sat up in his bed, screaming the name of his dead love. He was soaked with sweat and shivering violently. But for the first time in months the slightest ghost of a smile appeared on his lips.
“She’s alive,” he murmured over and over again. “She’s alive!”
End Part 2