It was all Hank’s fault. Though it was an accident, everyone including Hank himself still thought that it was Hank’s fault.
It was a terrifying sight when Raven ran into the lab after hearing the explosion, with Alex and Sean followed closely on her heel, to see Hank stood dumbfounded over two small kids who were sitting among the pile of clothes that was too big for them, looking confusedly at each other. The two kids looked strangely like Erik and Charles, the very younger version of Erik and Charles. The Charles-like kid still had Cerebro’s helmet on his head, though it seemed to be too big for him now.
Raven was the one who recovered from the shock first, “Can anyone tell me what the hell happened here?”
Hank winced at the sharp voice while the kids seemed to come out of the trance and looked around for the first time since everyone else had rushed into the lab. It was Hank who answered hesitantly, “I don’t really know what happened. We were running a test on the new prototype of Cerebro as usual. Charles was operating it and Erik was with him in the lab while I went to prepare the computer in the connecting room for the result. Then I heard a small explosion and hurried back here, and saw them sitting there, just like that.”
“Well, Charles? What happened?” Raven turned to the smaller version of Charles. Though they looked like seven or eight years old kids now, but from the outline of their faces and the clothes that were now hanging loosely on their bodies, she was quite certain that they were Erik and her brother.
Charles blinked up at her and spoke in his small voice, “I don’t know. I was trying to start Cerebro when we noticed that the cylinder was emptied. So Erik helped retrieving it from Hank’s cabinet.” Charles turned to face Hank and continued solemnly though still bewildered, “I told him to bring the serum from the same shelf that you used to keep it. After he injected the chemical into the system and I powered up Cerebro, the chemical inside became a weird color and started boiling. And then … then I don’t quite remember anything except the explosion.”
He looked at Erik who was now being more interested in his too big turtleneck than the others who gathered around them, before turning attention to the other pieces of his cloth. “I don’t know what happened to Erik because he was closer to the cylinder when it exploded. He hadn’t spoken anything yet.” Charles said worriedly, which would look quite hilarious in other situation for those words to come out of a child’s mouth.
Nobody knew what to say. When the silence continued, Erik seemed to become aware of the world around him and looked up from his cloth inspection. He looked curiously at Charles and opened his mouth for the first time. “Where are we? And why are we wearing too big clothes like this, Charles? Why is everyone looking at us like that?”
Charles felt both relieved and worried at the same time. He was relieved because Erik recognized him and the others, but was quite worried at his obliviousness of the incident that had just happened to them. He was afraid that there might be something really wrong happened to Erik. Not that Charles himself was normal now, but at least he still remembered what happened. Erik seemed to have no clue of what had just occurred to them. It looked like he became a kid both physically and mentally. Charles looked at Hank and knew that the blue-furred mutant seemed to think along the same line as him.
“What happened, Hank?” Charles locked his gaze with Hank. “Aside from Erik and I became children apparently, why didn’t he remembered anything while I can recall what happened.” Blue fur or not, Hank became obviously pale and he hurried to the cabinet that Charles mentioned earlier. When he reached the shelf, he slapped his own forehead so hard that everyone jumped at the sound. “Oh, no no… Dear god .. no.” Hank wailed.
“What!” Alex asked impatiently.
Hank turned to them and said shakily, “I think I know what might have happened.”
“Will you just tell us already?” Raven snapped.
“Last week, I’d done some experiment about my .. uh .. cosmetic problem. I believed that if I create a de-aged serum, I might be able to revert my cells back to normal. It might not return me completely to my old self but at least the blue fur might be gone.” Hank looked embarrassed. He did not meet anybody’s gaze the whole time. “Not that I’m not proud and all, but sometimes, .. just some of the times, I just feel like going outside like other normal people do.”
Everybody was silent after Hank’s revelation. Raven seemed to cool down a bit, she asked him gentler than her last question. “But what happened Hank, what did the de-aged serum have to do with this?”
“I .. uh .. I might have put my serum on the same shelf as Charles’ serum for Cerebro. In my hurry, I forgot to label it, and I didn’t expect anyone else to come near that shelf except Charles. So, when Erik fetched the serum for him, he certainly didn’t know that it’s the wrong one. As for Charles, I imagined that he couldn’t really tell the difference from where he stood on the platform since both had quite similar shade of color, when you look from a distance that is.”
“Of course, and I had no reason to suspect that it was the wrong one because I didn’t know about your de-aged serum. Great!” Charles stated with a heavy sighed.
Erik looked up at him and eyed the helmet curiously, “That helmet is funny, why did you put that on? Can I have a look?”
Charles took off the helmet and handed it to Erik half-heartedly, “Of course.”
“Thanks,” Erik said and started to pluck at the wires and push the buttons on the helmet interestedly.
“Yes, I’m so sorry. The de-aged serum might have reacted violently to Cerebro’s electrodes. It seemed not only to cause the explosion but also enhance the effect of the de-aged serum in a very different way. And I don’t know, may be because you guys were being in that close proximity, I assumed that it caused both you and Erik to become children physically.” Hank theorized.
“But why did Erik remember nothing!” Charles became more frustrated.
“I think it’s because he got the full blast of the serum, and it might covered him from head to toe. But you had the helmet on. That’s the only reason I believe you still did not forget anything, yet.” Hank replied, trying to look everywhere else except at Erik and Charles.
“Oh, great,” Charles said resignedly.
There was a long silence after that, which was ended when Sean asked, “So, what do we do now.”
Raven came back down to the kitchen to find the others were still in their positions just as they were before she left with Charles and Erik. Alex was sitting at the table looking at his own hands while Sean was leaning against the counter with a soda can in one hand. Hank, however, stopped pacing and looked up suddenly when Raven entered the kitchen.
“They’d gone to sleep now. I couldn’t believe how incredible they are when they became children like this. Charles insisted that they had to take a bath before going to bed. Erik wanted to take a bath too. I let them into the bathroom together because Erik wouldn’t leave Charles’ side while I went in search for some of Charles’ old clothes for them to change. When I came back, they managed to fill the bath tub and mixed in the liquid soap. Bubbles and water were splashed all over the place.” Raven told them with a heavy sigh at the end. She sat down at the table with Alex and turned to address Hank who was still standing behind the counter. “I think after taking off the helmet, Charles started to act as child-like as Erik too. So, what do you think happened to him now?”
Hank started pacing again, wringing his hands in the process. “I had thought it might be like that. Although Charles didn’t get the serum full-forced, eventually it would enter his system. As you said that he started to act weirdly like Erik, I believed it finally got hold of his system. We might have to prepare to deal with two kids for a while.” Hank said thoughtfully, “In fact, I’m quite certain now that they will remember none of their lives as adults. They might just think that they both are children from the start.”
As the weight of the situation sank in, each of them reacted differently. Hank started mumbling something suspiciously sounded like a very complex chemical formula while pacing incessantly. Sean and Alex looked at each other for a moment before their expressions became devilish. Huge grins spread across their faces. Raven swore that she almost heard the mischievous plan going on in their silent communication.
Raven looked like she wanted to be sick at the thought of having to babysit Erik and her older brother. She was never good at taking care of others before, let alone a little kid. That was Charles’ job and he had always done it superbly. But she did not see any way out of this. She certainly would not let Charles and Erik anywhere near Hank’s lab again until Hank could fix them. So apparently she could not entrust them to Hank’s care because she was certain that Hank would not emerge from his lab until he found a way to revert his serum’s effect. And while Alex and Sean could be useful in playing with the children, she would not be stupid enough to totally leave them in their care, seeing the manic glints in their eyes and all. Great at taking care or not, she was still quite protective over her brother.
Raven felt migraine started to develop in her head, and decided that she need to sleep as well, before having to deal with anything tomorrow might bring. But before leaving, she turned around to the others and said quite sternly, “Hank, I believe you know the seriousness of what had happened and will try to find the remedy as fast as you can.” Hank gulped.
“As for you two,” she turned to look at Sean and Alex, “Don’t even think for any destructive activities you might try to lead them into. They are merely kids now, and I doubt that they have any abilities at this age, any devil you might have thought of, just try to keep it inside your own heads. You know what I could do to you guys when I’m really upset, right.” With that, she departed, feeling rather satisfy with her threat and the looks of horror on the other boys’ faces.