Part 1: How Charles Met Jean
X-Men 3: Power Corrupts
By Philip S.
Author’s Note: After the atrocity that was X-Men 3: Last Stand, I decided to write my own version of how the brilliant first two parts of the X-Men Movie Franchise should have continued. I will strive to write a story that gets by without opening up 20 different plot threads and then letting them fizzle and die, without killing or discarding all the main characters built up in the first two movies, and without resorting to endless action scenes to disguise the complete lack of plot and character development.
Summary: Jean Grey is dead. The Mutant population is growing. The public fear is on the rise. And presidential elections are due, with the Mutant ‘Problem’ one of the primary topics that polarises the nation.
Disclaimer: Needless to say, all X-Men characters belong to Marvel Comics and whomever holds the movie rights.
Part 1: How Charles Met Jean
Twenty-five years ago:
“You do realize you will not be able to visit each and every mutant personally, right?”
Charles Xavier looked over at Eric Lehnsherr, his best friend and comrade-in-arms, as they walked toward the home of the Grey family. Charles had long ago learned to take his friend’s sometimes strange sense of humour and sarcasm in stride.
“Of course not,” he agreed. “With more and more mutants being born every day, that is a given. But this one is special. Very special.”
They were let inside by a quiet and subdued pair of parents. Dr. John Grey and his wife Elaine had, quite literally, gone through hell these past few weeks. Conventional methods of dealing with their family crisis had failed them, so they grew desperate. Through a number of contacts they reached the two experts on the growing mutant question.
“Can you help her?” Dr. Grey asked, looking tired and desperate. “Is there anything you can do for her?”
“We will certainly do our best,” Charles said, Eric nodding in agreement. “Where is Jean?”
The two men walked up onto the first floor of the family house. The door to the child’s room was closed, but not locked. Inside the deceptively normal-looking room was a single bed, currently occupied. A red-headed girl, about six years old, was lying still. Her breathing was shallow, barely there, and her pale skin stood in stark contrast to her flaming-red hair.
“How long has she been like this?” Charles asked, walking closer to the girl.
“Ever since the accident, “Dr. Grey said, sighing deeply. “Six months now.”
Charles nodded, sitting down besides the bed. Erik took up position at his flank, looking at the two parents.
“Charles works better when we’re alone,” he told them. “Please?”
The two parents hesitated a moment, but then left and pulled the door close behind them. What else was there to do but trust these two strangers? All other options had long ago been exhausted. If these two couldn’t help there was nothing left for them to do but pray.
When they were gone Erik briefly leaned forward, his hand hovering a hair’s breath over the girl’s body as he reached out with his mutant senses.
“You are right about her being special,” Erik said a moment later, withdrawing his trembling hand. “Her very presence disrupts the electromagnetic fields in this house. There is no telling how powerful she might become.”
“Which is why we must help her,” Charles agreed. “Power on that level will need a strong and healthy mind in control, otherwise the consequences could be disastrous.”
Without further ado Charles Xavier activated his own mutant talents. He was a telepath of the highest order and even as his body remained sitting beside the bed, his mind reached out to the girl in the bed, entering the world of her psyche.
For six months now Jean Grey had been in a coma. He read the file on how it began. Her best friend was killed right before her eyes. The various psychiatrists her parents had consulted agreed that the shock of seeing death at so young an age was what drove her mind into a coma. After but a few seconds of contact, though, Charles knew better.
“The girl is a telepath,” he muttered, keeping Erik apprised of his progress. “Powerful, but latent for now. She has no conscious control over her talent.”
Memories took shape before him, the last conscious recollections burned into this slumbering mind. The street outside the house. A girl, blonde, playing with Jean. The two of them laughing together. The sun was shining. A perfect day.
Then suddenly there was a screeching in the air, a demon’s howl as a monster of blue steel roared down the road directly toward the blonde girl. Jean screamed a warning, but it is already too late. The car hit the girl and her small body was thrown through the air. It landed in the Grey’s front garden with a sickening thud and did not move.
Jean hurried to her friend’s side, screaming for her. There was no response. The girl wasn’t moving, wasn’t breathing. Jean touched her, but there was no heartbeat. Charles felt her desperation, her urgent need to somehow help her friend, to keep her here.
Then Charles saw what happened to Jean.
“She reached out,” he whispered, horrified. “Her friend was dying right in front of her and she unconsciously reached out with her telepathy and linked their minds. She entered her friend’s thoughts just as she died.”
Erik was not a telepath, but even he could understand what kind of horrific experience this must have been for young Jean. To link with another mind just as it died? Sucked away into the darkness of death, along for the ride? He was actually surprised that her mind wasn’t completely shattered by the strain of this experience.
“It is a testament to her strength that she survived at all,” Charles mumbled, mirroring Erik’s thoughts. “She has retreated deep into her own self to escape the horror she has seen.”
“Can you reach her, Charles?” Erik asked.
“Just one way to find out, isn’t there?”
Charles concentrated, focusing all his power and strength of will on the faint spark he saw before his mind’s eye. This was dangerous, he knew. To immerse himself so deeply into another’s mind, a mind that already hovered on the edge of fading into nothingness, could leave him a vegetable as well. He was more than willing to take this risk, though. That was the kind of man he was.
Deeper and deeper he probed, his centre of conscience shooting through the layers of the slumbering mind before him at the speed of thought. There! The faintest of lights. Jean’s consciousness, buried so very deep, huddled into the darkest, most remote corner of her mind she could find. A child hiding from the terrors of death. No child should have experienced what she did, he thought. He must help her.
“Jean?” he sent out his thoughts. “Can you hear me?”
“Go away,” a faint voice answered him. “Leave me alone!”
“Your parents are worried about you, child,” he kept sending. “Please come back with me.”
“NO,” she screamed, the force of her thoughts tearing at his very being. Her power, raw and untrained as it was, came at him in white-hot waves of pain. Back in the real world Erik started as he saw a faint trickle of blood coming from Charles’ nose.
“I know that something terrible happened to you, Jean,” Charles tried to soothe her. “But hiding here in the darkness is not the answer.”
“Can’t go back,” she whimpered, her mental voice laced with pure, mind-numbing terror. “The blackness... it was so... so empty. I don’t want to go into the emptiness.”
“You won’t,” Charles assured her. “I will guide you through it and back out into the light. I promise you.”
“You promise?” she asked, the first stirring of trust in her voice. “I won’t be alone anymore?”
“You’ll never be alone again, child. I will always be with you to help. Please trust me!”
It took an eternity, yet less than a second. Two minds briefly merged as Charles opened his very being to the frightened child to prove that she could trust him. Everything he was he laid open before her and vice versa.
“Okay,” she finally said. “You promise I won’t be alone?”
“Yes, child. I promise!”
Somewhere on the mental plane Jean took Charles’ hand and allowed him to guide her out of the darkness and back into the light of the conscious world. The man she had come to trust in that short yet infinite moment hesitated but for a second as they touched, his thoughts briefly darkening, before they went on and out into the light.
In a moment Jean would wake and she would be okay again. Her parents would rejoice and shower Charles and Erik with gratitude. Later they would agree for Jean to visit Charles’ school for gifted youngsters, so that she could learn to better control her growing abilities.
All that was still in the future, though. Right now, immersed in the girl’s mind, their mental hands touching, Charles had a heartbeat to see something that scared him right down to the core of his being:
His mind interpreted it as a giant image of fire, a bird of flame with wings so large they could encircle the entire world. It slept inside Jean’s mind, the flames barely more than a glimmer at this moment, but with the potential to grow into a ferocious firestorm that could devour all that stood in its path. His mind recoiled, primal fear leaking into his thoughts, as he faced a power so potentially vast and all-encompassing that it could bring the world to a halt. A power manifest in this little girl he has just saved.
Charles Xavier was a man with a mission. As such he had taken it upon himself to make the tough decisions if necessary. To do things that might be considered evil by some in order to further his goal of peaceful coexistence between man and mutant. Right now he stood at the brink of such a terrible choice.
He made it. That was the kind of man he was. And as he brought Jean out of her coma and into the loving arms of her overjoyed parents, he allowed himself a smile. For he had no idea what kind of terror he unleashed this day.
TO BE CONTINUED