“I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“Mr Xavier, you have to come with us. You’ve been identified as a powerful mutant and will need to undergo testing to determine your power level to ensure that you are not a threat to the general public.”
“It’s Doctor Xavier. And I’m required to wear… that?”
“I’m afraid it’s protocol, sir. The power-dampening bracelet is compulsory.”
“And if I refuse to be tested? Or to wear that thing?"
“This isn’t a request or a social visit, sir. I may not have made myself clear before, but if you do not come with us or comply with our regulations, we will use force.”
“… All right. But give me time to make a call first.”
“I’m afraid that’s not possible, sir. We don’t have the time. Speed is imperative.”
“Not even time for a two-minute phone call?”
“I’m afraid not, sir. We’re already wasting time as it is.”
“All right, all right. But approximately how long will this take? Let me at least scribble down a note so that no one will be worried that I’m gone.”
The men before him paused in contemplation. Charles tried to make his smile as genial and innocent as possible. He wished that they weren’t wearing telepathy dampening helmets, or he would have sent them away when they had first knocked on his door.
“… All right. But make it quick, Dr Xavier.”
Charles’ mind was racing, trying to find the best way to send a hidden message to Erik or Raven. Both were across the world in Sydney attending a conference on mutant rights, and were thousands of miles outside of his telepathic range. A note, obviously, but what could he write that would arouse their suspicion yet pass the inspection the agents would undoubtedly carry out? He strolled back into his apartment, one of the three agents following behind him without his invitation. As he turned a corner to find a notepad, a flash of movement from the corner of his eye caught his attention – the agent behind him was raising an arm – and it was only the quick reflexes that were a product of his childhood that caused him to act, throwing as much power and strength as he could behind a telepathic scream before the world went black.
* * *
Voices. Darkness. A deep ache at the base of his skull. A pounding headache, relentless in the pressure it exerts. He winces in pain. Where is he? The floor below him vibrates. What’s he doing here? Instinctively, he tries to reach out with his telepathy, feel its soothing presence, but jerks back when he realises that it’s not there. What’s going on? The voices in the background get louder, angrier, aggravating his headache. Who are they?
“… you do that?! Idiot! You should have let him write a note before clocking him on the head! Now there’ll be people looking for him! I know that this only your first time, but you couldn’t even have done something simple like that right? You had one job! One job! I trusted you to do that one job, and now you’ve failed!”
“At least we got the telepath…”
“We were supposed to get him without raising suspicion! Plain getting him is not enough! Can you get that in your thick skull? Now I’ll never get that promotion…. I’ll probably be stuck picking up mutie freaks for the rest of my career…”
“You’re in deep shit, brother. The Colonel won’t be pleased.”
“Don’t remind me, Norton. I’ll be lucky if I don’t get fired…”
“You’ll be lucky if I don’t kill you!”
“Shhh… I think the telepath’s waking up.”
“So soon? Quick, give him a sedative.”
Charles is confused. Is he “the telepath”? Who are these men? One of them sound familiar, somehow, as if he’s heard the voice before. Does he know them? A quick, sharp, jabbing pain in his left arm, and darkness consumes him again.
* * *
When he next awakens, he finds that he’s lying on a hard surface, gagged and bound by leather cuffs. The place smells sharp and clinical, overly clean. He can hear people milling around, feet shuffling, muted voices. When he tries to reach out with his telepathy, however, he feels as if he’s slammed into a brick wall – there’s absolutely nothing, just a dead end, and the force of it sends him reeling in his head, aching from a massive headache. On top of the pain, the feeling is absolutely disconcerting – he can hear people close by, but where minds will usually be calling out to him, there’s nothing there, a blank void. It’s not even the void that comes from wearing a suppressant cuff or people wearing telepathy blocking helmets either. Those feel unnerving, but no too bad – he can still feel where minds are, but he can’t read anything off them, as if the people in question have mutations that render them immune to telepathy. This, on the other hand, is vastly different. He doesn’t even have a vague sense of where the minds are.
It takes a moment for that horrifying reality to sink in, and when it does, he feels fear bubbling in his throat. He’s had his telepathy for almost all his life – its sudden absence absolutely terrifies him. What if never gets it back? But no – he remembers the brick wall from earlier, and nearly faints from relief at the knowledge that his telepathy is only blocked, not removed somehow.
There’s a loud crash from somewhere nearby, a jarring noise that only worsens his headache and reminds him of the situation he’s in. Where is he? Who are these people? How do they have the technology to give him such a strong suppressant? Why is he here? What do they want with him?
He coughs, suddenly, and realises that he had been so cold with fear from his lack of telepathy that he hadn’t even tried to make a sound before then. His throat is parched and dry, and it feels almost painful to cough. He tries to sit up, thump his chest, but the leather binds restrain him. As his head starts to feel lightheaded, however, a cool hand tilts his head up and he feels a cup of cold water brought to his lips. Greedily, he gulps it down, gasping when he finishes the water.
He blinks his eyes open blearily, taking in his surroundings – white, clean, and impersonal, reminiscent of a hospital – before noticing the middle-aged man sitting in a chair beside him.
“Hello, Mr Xavier. How do you like my facility so far?”