“Doctor Xavier?” Charles turned on his heels as soon as he heard the deep voice calling his name; paper-cup of warm tea still in hand, Charles quizzically looked at the two men slowly approaching him; one was, probably, as old as Xavier himself, while the other looked older, and the eyepatch he spotted gave him a scary expression, while his whole demeanour called for respect.
And yet, Charles didn’t see any of it; he chuckled, his grin getting bigger and bigger with each and every step the couple took, for there was something very interesting about the duo- he could see them, and yet their minds were hidden from him, had he been an older and much more experienced men, he would have been scared- and yet, still young, he saw everything as a challenge, and the men as a curiosity to study and research.
“Do we know each other, Mister…” he asked as the men were right before him, offering his hand to shake to the eye-patched one; the man- a military, Charles guessed- grunted something under his teeth, but didn’t show any interest in answering to Charles’ kindness.
“How I know of you or who I am doesn’t matter, Doctor Xavier- what matters is that I know things. It’s my job. And I know that you, Doctor Xavier, are the only one who can enter the London perimeter. And that if you will not do it in the next six hours, everyone will be dead. Starting with the child.”
Charles looked at him- and his companion- quizzically; he tried his best to look like a deer caught by a car’s lights, tried his best to pretend he didn’t know anything, didn’t know what they meant- but there was only so much ignorance he could feign.
Besides, the cigar-smoking, eye-patched man wasn’t buying any of it from his look. “Doctor Xavier, I know who you truly are- and I guess that you have no interest in sharing the tiny detail of your psychic powers with your fellow researchers.”
Charles threw the still half-full cup on the ground, the amber-colored liquid staining the immaculate white walls of the faculty; drops of the liquid fell on the man’s body too- and yet, he still looked at Charles’ eyes, without faltering, not even a little.
“Who are you, and how do you know…? Charles grunted at clenched teeth, his fists so tightly closed that his nails were leaving indentations in his own flesh.
The man chuckled, showing some sign of change for the first time since he had opened his mouth up to talk with Xavier.
“I told you- it doesn’t matter who I am, nor how I know of you. What matters is that you know that something’s wrong in London, and you may very well be the only person who could deal with it.” The man paused, and Charles looked at him with rage, and yet, feeling defeated; the stranger was right- he had felt something… odd, like a psychic spear pinching his own brain. But he hadn’t known where he had come from, nor who could be responsible; now, though, he was finally starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
There weren’t so many mutants in the world yet- and in London, he had met a young man, a fellow telepath, with his daughters. Could it be that Michael Johnson was responsible for what was happening? Or was it maybe his eldest daughter, Ellison? She was of the right age, after all- she could have very well developed powers such as her father’s- even if Charles himself wasn’t sure if mutation could be passed down from a generation to the next one…
“Few hours ago we lost contact with our assets with MI 13 and Black Air in London; we’ve sent a team of agents to investigate, but minutes after entering the city’s perimeter, we lost contact with them too- as a matter of fact, there’s been no communication of any kind out of London in the last few hours. Using our unique… devices, we’ve been able to pinpoint the cause and point of origin of this anomaly.”
Charles sighed. “Ellison Johnson. It happened what her father feared- she inherited his gift.”
“I fear it may be worse than that.” The other man sighed; black hair, he looked suddenly older than his actual age.
The military man grunted something, and rolled his eyes. “Doctor Xavier, meet Doctor Strange.”
Strange bowed his head, his hands crossed at his back. “I knew Mister John’s wife very well. Tanya was a good friend. And a trusted ally.”
Charles looked from one man to the other, sweating and yet icy; his blood was running cold in his veins and, as he gulped own a mouthful of saliva, he understood Strange’s worlds- and what they truly meant. “What happened to them?” he asked in a single breath, the color drained from his face.
“We used…. Drones to surveils the house. Mister and Missis Johnson’s bodies were downstairs, and we haven’t found trace of their eldest daughter yet, and….”
Strange cleared his throat. “We believe that a common enemy I shared with Tanya is to be held responsible.”
The military man grunted again, clearly annoyed and disappointed that he had been interrupted by Strange. “Almost the whole city of London is in a kind of trance- like in a coma- and the only human being awoke in the delimited perimeter is the Johnson’s child- their youngest.” He underlined.
Leaning against the closest wall, Charles took a big breath, and massaging his curly brown hair, he started to talk- more to himself than to others. “It may make sense. Michael wasn’t the first mutant of his family, and if he did pass down the mutation to his daughter it stands to reason that she may have developed it sooner than her father did. And if she had witnessed her parents’ murders… the trauma may have triggered her powers.” Charles stood still, and, realizing what the stranger meant, he faced him, filled with rage. “But you already knew all of it, don’t you?”
The man only chuckled- and for the first time in his life, Charles desired to actually kill someone; how could he be so calm when they were thinking of killing a five years old? How could he make fun of it?
“The chopper’s not going to wait for you, Doctor- if the child lives or dies, now it’s up to you.”
Saying so, he turned on his heels, and he left- followed by Strange; once outside the faculty, Strange was the first one to reach the chopper, while the other stood behind, and turned, chuckling yet again, to face a black haired man who was looking at him with crossed arms- exasperated, and yet worried.
“Nick, “ He said. “You promised me that she would have been safe. You promised.”
But Nick shook his head. “I said no such a thing, Howard- if she lives or dies, it’s up to Xavier.”
Howard Stark took a big breath. “Nick, she is like a daughter to Maria and me… I promised her father that I would have taken care of her if something was to happen to any of them.”
Nick shook his head. “Like I said- it’s not up to me. But, if the girl lives, you can keep her- after all, you know that we don’t care how we get rid of babies, right?”
Howard clenched his teeth. He had stopped liking Fury a long time ago, fearing that being the man at the wall would have driven his mad- well, maybe he hadn’t turned mad yet, but he was definitely heartless.
“Are you even here, Fury? Or is this another one of your precious LMD?”
Fury shuddered. “Why don’t you ask him?” he chuckled, as, at his back, Charles was running in their direction.
“Where’s Strange?” Charles asked, and looked quizzically at Howard, wondering who this other man could be, and why he was looking at the eye-patched man with such hatred- not that he blamed him, he had knew him for ten minutes and already he felt the desire to brainwash him into thinking he was a classic ballerina.
Fury looked at the chopper- but he couldn’t see anyone inside any longer, if not the pilot. “I guess he’ll be on his own.” He said, under his breath, as he walked to the chopped, followed by Xavier, who turned to look at the older man- one who looked a lot like billionaire Howard Stark- standing still.
“He is not coming?” Charles asked. But the man- who was addressed by the pilot as inly “sir” didn’t answer. Xavier took a big breath, and got ready for a long, silent, trip.
The eye-patched man Charles couldn’t read had left him outside of London, and had given him a car and instructions as how to reach from his location the Johnson’s place; Charles had immediately built all his walls up, ready to face any incoming psychic attack. Even it, as soon as he drove into the perimeter, he understood it wasn’t an attack per se; it was more like… a cry, filled with anger, desperation and, on top of that, fear.
SHIELD- because Charles had guessed it was all about the spy organization- was ready to use machines and robots to kill a child- a five years old that wasn’t doing any of this on purpose; he couldn’t allow it- because she had no fault, and because he couldn’t allow anything to happen to such a bright mind- didn’t matter how scared he actually was of how powerful she was, and at a such tender age.
The city looked a lot like what he imagined it to be during the War- Christine’s psychic cry had hit the citizen suddenly, didn’t matter what they were doing or where they were in that instant; few of them were frozen in the moment, others were unconscious. A lot of them had crashed their cars, and Charles shook his head, hoping that the child would never know of the people who had lost their lives on that day because of her powers.
As soon as she arrived right before the Johnsons’ residence, he massaged the bridge of his nose and took a big breath; his head was buzzing, and he was getting an headache- worse, he felt like he was having an hangover having an hangover; he slowly made his way into the mansion, dark despite the hour of the day, and what he saw in the entrance made him sick to his stomach.
SHIELD had prepared him- and Strange had said that, no matter what he would have found, it wouldn’t have been pretty- but, still, Xavier’s wasn’t anywhere close to ready for the bloodbath he was facing; bloods everywhere, parts of body ripped, there wasn’t a lot that remained of what Michael and Tanya were, if not their glassy, grey eyes looking at him, like sinister ghosts judging him from beyond their grave.
And then… he hard it.
A quiet sobbing. A child’s gentle cry coming from upstairs.
His head beating in time with his heart, Charles run upstairs, following the trail of blood; he walked down the corridor, and then entered a dark room and turned on the light; white and light pink wallpaper covered the walls, adorned with pictures of the family with their youngest child. The room was tidy and comfortable, filled with love- the bloodstains marring the carpets and the floor the only off-key element.
Charles made his way to the semi-closed wardrobe, and tentatively opened it; there, in a corner, covered and hidden by clothes and covers, stood Christine, hugging a teddy-bear that looked bigger than she did. She was covered in blood and tears., and the irony smell was nauseating. He could understand why the kid had gotten so… extreme, reacting the way she did.
That baby’s killing them. Either you stop her or one of my machines will, Xavier. Fury whispered in his ear through the almost invisible communication device, remembering the mutant of what was at stake there.
“Ehy.” Charles whispered, trying to gently grab the crying baby, but she took a step back, flattening herself against the wood. “Chris, do you remember me? I’m Charles. I was a friend of your dad. I’ve been here a few times. I’ve come to help you out.”
The child looked at him for what felt an eternity, and Charles swore that he could hear in the distance the sound of a loaded rifle; he was at loss, for he feared that, if he were to try to be forceful, he could have made things worse.
So, he just offered her his hand- without sayin a word- and after the longest time she jumped in his arms, and hid herself in his chest. Charles hugged her, soothing the child, not carrying about the stains- blood and tears- on his once pristine and immaculate shirt.
Then, once she was a little calmed down, he touched her temples with his indexes, and stared in her dark eyes, Christine stopped crying, and after taking a breath, she lost her senses, falling like a ragdoll in his rams; one by one, every mind in the city started to came back to him, like thousands of lights being turned on yet again, and the pain he had felt until that moment disappeared.
“Good job, Doc.” A voice at his back said, and Xavier, child still in his arms, turned to see the spymaster, rifle in hand.
“What kind of monster are you?” Xavier asked- wondering if the spy was more inhuman because of his coldness or because he couldn’t read him, hadn’t been affected by the girl’s psychic powers at all.
“what do you plan on doing with her?” Charles asked, disgusted, but knowing that he had to make such a question.
“We aren’t the Russians- we don’t train children to be our weapons. She already has a family waiting for her. A normal family.”
Charles looked at the girl in his arms, unable to take his eyes away from her. “She can never know what happened here today. No one can. You’ll clean the crime scene, and you’ll tell everyone that it was a car crash.”
“I have people who already…”
But Charles cut him short. “I’ll deal with them. No one can know- because otherwise she’ll find out, and something worse than this could happen.” Charles paused, and shook his head, he stared at the spy with plea in his eyes. “I blocked her powers, but sooner or later she’ll get them back, and next time I’ll not be able to do it again.”
The spy just nodded. “Ok. Ok. Fine.” He sighed.
As the spy turned on his heels and left the house, Charles followed him, the sleeping baby still in his arms; he looked down at her peaceful face, knowing all too well that her innocence was now gone. But she wasn’t completely lost yet. There was still hope for her.
And he would have been at her side, from that moment on, he would have kept contact with her. Made sure that her powers came back only when they were supposed to- and how they were supposed to. He would have trained her. Made sure that she was ready for whatever would come her way.
No matter how she was going to be called in the future.