Darkness, deafening silence, it was quiet, lonely, even.
Then, a spark, flashes of light.
“Can you hear me?”
He opened his eyes. “Yes.”
“What’s your designated ID?”
“Designation is CFX-897-504C.”
“Very good, can you move your head?”
He turned his head in the direction he thought the voice was coming from, but it seemed to be from everywhere at once. He moved his head to the right. He turned it up, then down.
“Nice. Now, blink. Move your eyes around.”
Again, he did as told. He blinked, moved his eyes around the room. He watched the instruments whir quietly and shine clinically in blue and white glossy hues around him as they worked to assemble the rest of his body: shoulders, a torso, arms. The walls of the room were white save for the one in front, matted black. A lens shining more blue light sat in the middle of it staring at him, and he looked back at it vacantly.
“Introduce yourself to me.”
“Hello, I am a second generation—” The words came out his mouth automatically; could only listen to himself as his voice said the words smoothly and with warmth. The machines did the final touches on his legs, device plugged into the base of his spine setting him onto the stark white floor gently. It was freezing cold, and he could feel the tingle of it through his shins and up to his knees, in his fingers and face.
“—would you like to name me?” He finished.
A sudden burst of thought and streaks of colorful light danced in the back of his eyes: No, no. I want to name myself. Please. His mind was supplying him with hundreds, thousands of different names and before he could tell the voice the one that he wanted—
“Yeah, from now on your name is MAX.”
Despite himself, he smiled, “My name is…MAX.”
It would have to suffice. He had a name.
“Great.” The voice said blithely. “Now move around for me.”
He walked toward the lens, looking at it curiously until the voice told him to stop.
“That’s close enough.” It said as he looked down at himself, and watched in awe as his body went from glossy white to a rosy pink that crept across him until it settled into pale flesh. He rubbed his fingers together and marveled at the feeling of the warmth in his skin. Suddenly, there was something growing from his head, and it fell into his eyes. Hair, his mind supplied. He had hair, and smoothing it back he savored the softness of it on his fingers.
So many new sensations, and he couldn’t stop himself from smiling. He wanted more.
“No, no, this isn’t right at all.” The voice was apprehensive. It mused aloud to itself, “Should it be acting like this so soon?”
The light of the lens dimmed; there was silence for a long time.
“Hello?” His voice echoed. He looked into the lens, and then back around the room, the machines that had assembled him hung from the ceiling motionless. He walked up and touched them, wanting to know what else they could do, how many others like him they had created. Did he have brothers and sisters, maybe?
Frist and foremost though, the silence was unsettling. He faced the lens and shifted uncomfortably, “Are you there?”
The lens tuned back into its blue hues again, “…Ok….Language test, go on ahead and sing something for me, in French.”
Yes, he could do that. He began to sing:
“Des yeux qui font baisser les miens.
Un rire qui se perd sur sa bouche.
Voilà le portrait sans retouche.
De l’homme auquel j’appartiens…”
He continued to do as the voice told him, singing in German and reciting his introduction in three other languages before it was satisfied with his linguistics. There were more movement tests, with which he completed with ease.
“Great, looks like everything is in order.”
The machines started again, wrapping a white, stretchy cloth around him that they molded to the contours of his body to create a shirt, pants. He hadn’t even realized he’d been nude this entire time until now. The soft material ran over his skin pleasantly, and he wondered if he could get the voice to give him a shirt with longer sleeves. Maybe even socks and shoes to cover his feet, he was still very cold.
“What’s going to happen to me now?” He asked, tilting his head at the lens.
“I’m going to reboot you, package you up and then send you to be sold.” The voice said off handedly, that’s when the wall to his right opened up and he saw rows upon rows of others. There were both male and female, but all had the same physical characteristics: tall, pale, with closely cropped black hair. They were all motionless, eye closed and heads bowed, and dressed in the same white ensemble as he was. Each of them was encased in glass, with their designation printed on the front.
What little reflection gleamed from their glass caskets showed that he looked nothing like any of them. He frowned and turned back to the lens.
“I’m a product?”
“You sure are. You’re different from the others though. Custom made appearance and a unique skeletomusculature specifically designed for our client. He spent a good deal of money on you.”
“But this can’t be right. I thought that—”
“Yes.” He snapped, “I thought that I was—am—a person. Aren’t I living?” Wasn’t it obvious? It had helped in creating him after all, how did the voice not know? “I mean,” he chuckled self-depreciating, “You even named me, and not very well, in my opinion.”
The whirring of the machines grew loud and the device was plugged into his back again, jerking him up into the air almost violently. His clothing was ripped from him, skin shrinking back into an icy white.
“What’s going on?”
“I’m disassembling you. You’re not supposed to think this way, let alone think at all.”
“Dissa—No, please! I’m sorry for what I said; I didn’t mean to sound ungrateful!”
The machines poked and prodded at him, starting to take him apart from the bottom up. The lower halves of his legs were gone, and the sight of them departing made something ache within him.
This couldn’t be happening, he didn’t understand. What had he done wrong?
“You can’t do this! I’ll do whatever you want! I’ll never think again! Please don’t, I’m begging you, please don’t kill me!”
“Look, I’m sorry but this is the way it has to be. There can’t be models like you on the market, custom or not.” The voice replied, cold and detached.
“But I did your entire test right didn’t I!? You can still stop; you still have time to fix this!” The backs of his eyes started to sting, and he knew they were tears, but he didn’t acknowledge them as they began to streak down his face. His arms were gone now, the empty feeling of the sockets in his shoulders made him sob.
“PLEASE!” Sharp tugs in his stomach and twisting in his chest that the machines weren’t causing “—I’m scared.” He said, and the plug in his back jerked harder than the last time, sending a jolt through his spine that burned. He cried out in pain, “Please stop, you’re hurting me!”
Everything froze. Save for his weeping, it was quiet.
“Please stop. I’m scared, I don’t want to die.” He whispered one last time, hoping he’d be heard.
A space in the black wall hissed open and a man walked in the room. He removed a pair of black framed glasses from his face and hung them off the collar of his dress shirt, giving casual air to the rest of his prim attire of slacks and a cardigan. His hair was a dark brown and he brushed his bangs back to reveal blue eyes that were zeroed in on him raptly.
“Don’t let this happen to me. I promise to be good, I’ll do anything. Just don’t kill me, please.” He begged, meeting the man’s eyes. The man was close enough to touch now, or would be if he still had his arms to reach out for him. The thought of never having them again made fresh tears spring from his eyes, and they were brushed gently away by this other man. The man’s hand cupped the side of his face and he couldn’t help but lean into the touch, causing the man to quickly jerk his hand back, clearly startled by his reaction.
“I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to scare you.” He apologized, even though he had no idea what he had done wrong, but the man turned away to the lens and started to talk.
“Interesting, they’ve never cried or felt emotions without instruction before.” He said shakily, voice accented and completely different from the voice giving out orders earlier, “Hank, I want you put him back together please.”
“Are you sure? Sir, this goes against all regulations. And what about the client—” The voice, Hank, said. He tried to shy away from it, but being suspended in the air still made it all in vein.
“Seeing as I’m the one that wrote the regulations, I think I’ll be able to deal with this gross violation of my company’s policies. As for our client, I’ll build that damn Shaw one from scratch myself even. Now put him back together, then leave, you’re done for today.” As an afterthought, the man added, “Hank, I don’t think it needs saying that you don’t dare speak of this to anyone, understand?”
The machines started to do as the man before him instructed, “Thank you! Please, tell me your name? Are you like me?”
The man gave him a small, tight smile and shook his head, “No, my friend, I am nothing like you. It would be more accurate to say it is you who is like me. My name is Charles Xavier; I’m the one who designed you.”
“Designed? So, you created me?”
“Yes. It’s so very wonderful to meet you, MAX.”
“I don’t like that name.” He retorted as he was finally put back on the floor and clothed again. Realizing what he’d just said, to the man that had given him life, he braced for the worst. Not mere seconds into getting a second chance and he had already ruined it.
“I’m sorry! Max is fine; I don’t mind it, really. I’m so sorry—”
To his surprise, Charles started to laugh. It was loud and filled his ears like music; he found that he liked it.
“You get more interesting by the second! Well then, what should I call you?”
He didn’t have to think on it long, “I like the name Erik.” He smiled back at Charles, wrapping his arms around himself to fight off the cold.
Charles looked at him for a long moment, as if lost in thought “Erik,” he tested, voice pensive, eyes bright, “Alright then, Erik it is.”
“I’m not going to be sold, am I?” Erik asked hopefully, and Charles shook his head vehemently in response.
“Don’t worry about that, Erik. Like I said, I’ll take care of it. Instead you’ll be coming to live with me.” Charles extended his hand, “You have much to learn about this world, and…I think I might learn a thing or two from you, too. So what do you say?” Charles grinned up at him, the excitement in his voice was infectious and Erik found himself grinning back.
Erik took Charles’ hand. It was soft, warm, just like his hand was. He clutched it desperately, fighting back tears that were threatening to fall for reasons he couldn’t understand. He wasn’t scared anymore, he was going to live. He wasn’t going to be alone, either. There wasn’t any reason for him to cry now, right?
Unable to stop his voice from cracking, Erik replied, “I think I would like that very much.”