X-Men fan fiction
part 1: Gifted Students
Chapter 1: Homecoming
Chapter 2: Recharge
Chapter 3: Regenerate
Chapter4: Xavier's Decision
Chapter 5: X-Men in Training
Chapter6: Mission Fatigue
Chapter 7: New and Improved
Chapter 8: Fear Itself
Chapter 9: Through the Glass
Chapter 10: Mourning Glories
Chapter 11: Ghost Stories
Chapter 12: The Devil and Despair
Chapter 13: Spuytin Dyvil Falls
Chapter 14: Evil Spirits
Chapter 15: Heart Stone
Chapter 16: The Rubble O'r Our Sins
Chapter 17: Shadow Boxing
Chapter 18: House Rules
part 1: Gifted Students
Spuytin Dyvil Falls
Scott was walking through the caverns underlying the grounds of the Xavier Institute, accompanied today by Jean and by Hank, who was currently studying a hand-held topographic map he had created to guide them. Even without the map, Scott knew for a fact that the path they were on currently would lead them to the deepest point below Breakstone Lake. Thanks to Scott’s and Warren’s efforts throughout the summer, the caverns had been fully mapped out and Hank had been given the opportunity to analyze practically every twist and turn, along with the composition of every rock, mineral, or crystal installation Scott could sample. Hank had then recreated it all to life-size scale in the Danger Room (and transferred that program in miniature onto his hand-held topographic display). Just yesterday they had gone through these very steps in the Danger Room. And, like yesterday, today’s expedition was considered an official team outing. To that end, they were dressed in full X-Men gear instead of the standard spelunking gear.
“As you can see,” Hank continued, studying his miniature version of the cavern around them as they walked toward a massive rock pile, “this convergence marks the place where the largest series of caverns collapsed in on themselves when the harbor of Breakstone Lake was blasted.”
“That’s when the lake was reshaped and Spuytin Dyvil Cove was formed,” Jean offered the supposition.
“Yes. In the early 1800's several local businesses petitioned the Xaviers to dredge the lake in order to allow cargo ships from down river to dock alongside the carriage house pier, thereby allowing the city of Salem to receive supplies by boat–”
“And not get sucked over the waterfall.”
Hank chuckled. “Well, yes, that adjustment was essential. But by the early 1900's, improved roads and railways lessened the need to move goods by water. So the carriage house was re-purposed for non-commercial uses and the lake was returned to purely recreational pursuits.”
“And now we want to restore the waterfall,” Scott offered, throwing Jean a furtive smile as he brought Hank back to the point of their current expedition.
“Yes, through by only a small fraction of its original volume.”
“So, not enough to sweep a boat away,” Jean clarified, smiling back at Scott.
“No. From this position, we will bore a small opening through the bottom of the lake, like unplugging a bath tub. The deficit created will be inconsequential upon the lake’s volume, presenting no danger to nearby boaters or swimmers.”
“And by ‘we’ you mean....”
“Me.” Scott finished Jean’s thought.
“Precisely. Scott’s optic blasts, trained down to a small but highly powerful blast radius will bore through the rock more neatly and cleanly than any drill bit. The instantaneous nature of the blast will preserve the surrounding rock intact. And my cistern,” Hank motioned to a newly installed tank and several adjoining reservoirs (which ran almost the entire length of one cave wall), “will gauge and carefully control the water flow after that, reducing pressure on the surrounding rock and preventing erosion.”
“I hope you’re right, Hank.” Scott was still a little worried.
“I am.” Hank gave Scott a pat on the shoulder. “I guarantee it.”
“Now, Jean, if I could have your assistance with the finishing touches,” Hank prompted, handing her a section of tubing before he deftly scaled up the side of the cavern and dangled upside down from the ceiling.
Jean levitated the tubing and the tools he needed up to him, watching as Hank made the final connections to link the cistern he had designed into an elaborate water storage reservoir. Its series of successive storage compartments would then feed into a network of piping that led back to the cavern’s main exit.
When Hank’s work was accomplished Scott and Jean moved out of the way, and Hank dropped back down to the floor with a somersault. Feet back on the ground, Hank checked the readings on a small console positioned next to the cistern.
“All set. Ready when you are, Scott.”
Scott nodded. Hank had done the math. Scott trusted his analysis that this was the proper location in which to blast, and that the rock was strong enough to withstand drilling.
“Well. Now or never. Stand back.” He took a deep breath, placed his hand to his visor, and focused on the target position. One clean punch through the rock, just like they’d practiced it yesterday in the Danger Room. Scott activated his visor. The optic blasts drilled into the cave wall for several seconds before Scott closed the visor down. A few seconds later water began to stream through a small hole, about the size of a baseball.
“You did it, Scott,” Jean squeezed his shoulder.
A couple of seconds after water appeared Hank punched in a command and the catch tubing moved into place, sealing itself around the hole Scott had drilled. Then the cistern was beginning to fill with water. Scott didn’t breathe easy until all that was done and the surrounding rock wall still showed no signs of strain.
“Excellent.” Hank jumped up to the top of the reservoir to inspect it, watching as each successive compartment filled, and water then began moving through the labyrinth of piping along the cavern ceilings. “Now, let’s see the end result!”
Scott and Jean had to move at a fast clip to keep up with Hank, who was climbing along the ceiling above their heads, headed back toward the cave’s entrance. By the time they got there, water was already starting to flow from one of about two dozen pipes that lined the ceiling, each pipe connected to a separate reservoir chamber. Only “flow” wasn’t the correct word. The water was being released as a highly pressurized stream.
“Voila! Instant waterfall.”
Scott and Jean watched the waterfall expand as each successive reservoir was filled and began pumping water out. After a minute or two the waterfall had covered the entire entrance of the cave, while still leaving the cavern behind it dry and passable.
“Very impressive, Hank,” Scott conceded.
“And that, my friends, is how we create the illusion of a full-force waterfall, effectively covering our cave entrance from outside view.”
“And that’s how Spuytin Dyvil Cove becomes Spuytin Dyvil Falls,” Jean added cheerfully.
“Now, if we want to cease the flow, we just seal the cistern, like so.”
Hank punched in another command on his console. The water stopped, leaving only a misty rainbow in its wake... which Warren and Ororo dropped through, gliding out of the bright daylight outside to land comfortably inside the cave.
“Bravo. Quite an entrance,” Hank greeted them exuberantly.
“We were waiting for your signal. Optic blast through the lake,” Warren noted. “Nice.”
“I hope you also remembered to keep watch so no one else saw it,” Scott reminded him.
“You’re all clear,” Ororo reassured him. “No planes overhead, hardly even a bird in the sky.”
“Present company excluded,” Warren corrected. “You really didn’t have to turn on the waterworks just for us, Hank,” he joked.
“It was quite lovely though, Hank,” Ororo added.
“Ro!” Jean hugged Ororo enthusiastically. “I’m really glad you came down here.”
Ororo had been working on her immersion therapy in the Danger Room under Hank’s and Jean’s supervision. After yesterday’s simulation, a trip to the caverns had seemed like the next logical step. Scott had agreed, it would be a good team-building exercise. Now that the waterfall had been established and tested, the team gathered around Ororo and they began to walk through the caverns shoulder-to-shoulder.
“No need to worry about a thing,” Warren reassured her. “I can have you back out in the open air quicker than you can say ‘spelunking’.”
Charles Xavier closed his eyes, the book he had been reading forgotten.
He was a small child, grieving the death of his father, living in a house that was no longer a home. Bullied by his new step-brother, who was himself bullied and brow-beaten by his own father, Xavier’s new step-father.
Xavier’s mother had withdrawn, locked herself away. She knew, too late, the remarriage was a mistake. Marko feigned concern for her mental and emotional well-being, but that too was a lie. Sharon Xavier felt only fear and loathing for her new husband.
Marko slammed the door, but his thoughts were an open book for young Charles. She can rot in there for all I care. Her estate is mine in the eyes of the law. The boy will never see a penny. His mother is already convinced boarding school is the best place for him. I’ll send Cain along too, be rid of them both. With any luck, Cain cripples the little heir before he comes of age.
No. Xavier willed the memories to shift. He would escape the torments of the Markos, junior and senior. He remembered Oxford. He remembered Moira.
“He’s brilliant, Charles, you simply must meet my advisor. His research into evolutionary genetics, it’s absolute light-years ahead of anything out there today.”
The setting shifted again, several years later.
“Research,” Erik scoffed, “the man is an abomination. If I believed either of you were complicit in his real work, I’d kill the both of you on the spot and without an instant’s hesitation.”
Xavier shuddered. “Leave Moira out of this, Erik, please. She doesn’t realize what he really is.”
“That all depends on her,” Erik insisted. “Her research cannot continue.”
“But her work–”
“Even if her work is uncorrupted, it would eventually lead people back to Windsor – and that is unacceptable. All record of his existence, and especially his research, must be wiped from history. No one must ever follow in his footsteps.”
“I can convince her....”
You lied to her.
“I told her it was too dangerous to continue, given the current political climate. It was the safest truth I could give her.”
It was a lie of omission.
“A lie meant to spare her. She was inspired by him, believed in him, idolized him. And she was so dedicated to her work; I didn’t have the heart to shatter her reality.”
You didn’t trust her with the truth. And, when she finally learned that, she hated you for it.
Again, the setting shifted, years later.
“How can I ever trust ya, Charles? Na. You didn’t respect me nor my work, not enough to let me hear the facts and decide what best to do for meself.”
Your deception drove her into Joseph MacTaggert’s arms. And she hated you for what happened after that. Just like your mother. You abandoned her to her own private hell.
“I was still a child; she sent me away, to spare me.”
And she didn’t live out the year, just as he intended. Alone in that house of horrors, he made her life unlivable. He might as well have pulled the trigger, while you were looking the other way.
No. Xavier understood this focus on his childhood. Childhood was inherently more vulnerable, more uncertain, more helpless than adulthood. Again his thoughts shifted. Xavier focused on a time in his life that had empowered him. He remembered Erik, Gabrielle, and the relief work the three of them had dedicated years of their lives to, the good their work did, the countless refugees of war, people whose lives they had changed for the better.
Until they left you. You drive them all away with your manipulation and your lies.
Moira and Erik were walking away from his school, his dream.
“A war is coming, Charles. And in that war it is either us or them. You must choose one or the other.”
“It’s not righ’, Charles.” Moira told him.
“Will you stand with your own people or with those who would exterminate us?”
“The choice is not that simple, Erik. It never has been.”
“You’re not the man I thought you were, Charles Xavier, if you can even consider such a choice.” Moira was appalled at the very idea of mutants using their gifts to fight humans.
“Moira–” He could only watch her walk away.
“I don’ know who you are, Charles. I won’ be a part of these twisted schemes.”
“I told you once before, old friend, if you won’t help yourself, then I cannot help you either... the same holds true again now,” Erik declared.
“The answer is, no, Erik. I don’t believe that war is coming, inevitably, and I will not help you to start one.”
You were going to change the world.
Xavier looked around himself, seeing only empty halls. A deserted mansion that once more felt like a prison.
“Is this the spot you were telling me about, Hank?”
“It is, indeed.” Hank produced a fragment of crystal, one Scott had earlier recovered from the caverns. Right now we are standing beneath the very site where we brought a crystal similar to this one down from the mountain several months ago, as one of our first team exercises. According to my analysis, fragments of this same crystal occur in rock beds throughout the caverns, but they are most concentrated here. I suspect we will find a very large bed underlying these rock walls. If we can uncover it, I believe it will be of some use to us.”
“Well, I’ll know more after we uncover it.” Hank shone a flashlight on the crystal fragment he held, letting the light rest on the crystal for a few seconds. “I have been studying this crystal’s properties, and they are most curious.” When he turned the light off a reflective glow from the crystal filled the cavern. “The crystal seems to function as an energy reservoir. If we could uncover several such beds and expose them to even a small amount of light reflected in from outside the cave, they could serve as a free light source.”
Hank turned his attention to Scott. “Scott, I think this would be a good time to test out those new gradient settings.”
Scott nodded at Hank, flexing his fingers inside the special gloves that would allow him to control his optic blasts through precise hand pressure, manipulated incrementally. In this case he needed just enough force to break through the top layer of rock without disturbing the underlying crystal.
Scott cast Ororo a wary look. So far she was reacting calmly to their surroundings, but walking through the caverns was very different from watching even a controlled partial collapse.
“Ro, you might not want to be here for this part.”
She took a breath, steeling her resolve, her ancestral ruby in hand for courage. “I will stay.”
Scott gave her a curt nod, just a hint of a smile. “Jean,” he prompted next.
Jean stood by his side. “Everyone gather around.” She threw up a telekinetic shield to protect them from any flying debris. “Got you covered, Fearless Leader.”
“Thanks.” Scott applied slight pressure with his right hand, keeping the beam to low intensity, while he applied greater pressure with his left hand, opening the visor’s aperture to a wide stream. The rock wall crumbled in front of him as he panned across it carefully, from top to bottom. A collection of fine rock debris piled up against Jean’s shield at their feet.
Scott relaxed his grip, deactivating the beam.
There was a solid crystal face underlying the rock, just as Hank had hypothesized. Once the dust cleared they could see their own images staring back at them, reflected in the crystal.
Hank shone a flashlight onto the crystal and a soft glow briefly filled the room.
Ororo was the first to take a step forward. Reflected light caught the ruby she carried. With a glint of red light off the ruby, the crystal wall darkened, and the room around them was reflected in an eerie red glow. Ororo shook her head.
“Something is not right here.”
Back at the mansion, in Xavier’s private study, the book he had been reading fell to the floor. Xavier felt a mental signature he had not felt in years.
Before he could form a warning thought he was confronted by a terrible vision: a hulking figure, all muscle and sinew beneath a wispy black cloak pinned tight at the collar. For a moment Xavier’s attention focused on the symbol at the creature’s throat, certain he had seen it somewhere before.
“Who– What are you?”
The creature in question was humanoid in form but far from human. With a skull-like face, wrapped in shadow, and a glint of blood-red light in its recessed eye sockets... as if it contained the fires of hell within its very being.
You know me well, Charles Xavier. I have walked beside you for many years.
Claw-like hands reached for him.
Xavier reached his own hand to block the attack, but the creature’s attack was a mental one. It shredded through Xavier’s defenses with ease, delving into a familiar sea of worst memories and draining Xavier of his strength to resist.
I am the demon, D'Spayre.
Scott edged forward. “Did something just– move, behind that crystal?”
“That’s... not possible,” Ororo whispered.
“Oh. My. Stars.” Hank breathed.
A deep, rumbling, menacing laughter echoed throughout the cave.
Warren’s wings fluttered. “It sounds possible to me.”
Jean blinked. “It’s– sentient.”
“I know that laugh.”
“Ororo Monroe. So kind of you to bring me what I seek.”
Images began to stir behind the crystal face. Ororo recognized a museum display in Cairo. And she remembered the sound of her mother’s voice: “According to legend, there are four sacred stones... each one said to possess a different immortal element....”
“Twice, you have taken that precious stone from me.”
Behind the crystal face, an image could be seen of a young Ororo, in Cairo, running through the narrow streets, her fingers curling around the stone in safekeeping. She did the same now, instinctively holding the stone tight in her grasp.
“This time I will take back what is rightly mine.”
“Rightfully yours.” Ororo shook her head, deeply resenting everything he stood for, and determined to refuse him. “That stone was never rightfully yours.”
“Come, now, Ororo. Don’t forget that I know your very mind. Like me, you have been worshiped as a god.”
Behind the crystal face, Kenyan tribal leaders were kneeling. They had come from many miles to present Ororo with gifts, to seek her favor.
“Power over nature, power over man.” That image faded into another display, a memory of the power Amahl Farouk had once wielded from the shadows over the criminal forces of Cairo. “You want that power, just as I do.”
Jean took a half step closer to Scott. “It’s not the ruby he wants,” she explained quietly, “but the power he thinks it wields.” Jean shook her head in confusion. “Power over life, power over death... power to somehow restore himself to bodily life.”
“It was never power I sought, and what you seek is an abomination. Abuse. Not the benevolent power of a wise ruler, nor even the indiscriminate power of nature over life and death. You are nothing but a vile bringer of death, Amahl Farouk – and you will cheat your own death no longer.”
“Farouk.” The voice behind the crystal considered that name as if it was something unfamiliar, or perhaps insignificant. “You speak the name of a lowly Cairo slum lord. Once more than man. Now less than human. But I – I will again be your mutant overlord.”
The red tint faded from the crystal face, replaced by a smoky fog that somehow seemed to coalesce into the face of a man, looming larger than life above them as it looked out from the crystal with an ominous smile. This face was terrible to behold. The five X-Men instinctively drew closer to one another, facing this figure risen out of the darkness like something fresh from a nightmare, a hulking shadowy creature, a primitive predator with too many teeth and a voice that grated like crushed glass.
“Call me – Shadow King.”
“Jean, can you reach the Professor?” Scott asked.
“I’ve been trying but–”
“He’ll be no help to you, child. He is lost in his own despair.
“Jean, what is happening to Xavier?” Ororo asked, worried.
“He’s– under attack by–” her face twisted in confusion and concentration as Jean tried to understand what she was sensing, “an evil embodiment of his own fears, causing him to revisit his worst experiences. It’s– sapping him of his will to fight, to resist.”
“And as Xavier’s strength weakens, D’Spayre draws sustenance, gains power from his fear, his anguish, his utter hopelessness.”
Professor Xavier, Jean called to him. Can you hear me, Professor?
Jean. Xavier heard her voice, he turned his chair to face her.
How much longer, Charles, until your history repeats itself, yet again?
Xavier found himself facing all of his students, his X-Men, now gathered around Ororo’s bedside in the mansion’s infirmary.
“She didn’t have to suffer like this,” Scott insisted passionately. “Not for a training exercise! You knew what she was going through. You chose to let it go on until she was reduced to this.”
“You were in charge in there, Scott. Not me! Ororo and the rest of the team are your responsibility in that room. If you can’t handle that responsibility–”
“I can handle it.” Scott’s reply was icy calm, his voice as hard and cold as Xavier had ever heard Scott Summers’ voice sound.
How long do you think blind loyalty will last?
Xavier looked around himself, once more seeing only empty halls. Trapped. Alone, in the house he hated.
In a sudden fit of desperation, Xavier tried to stand. The sudden motion only caused him to fall from his wheelchair. Then he was no longer in the mansion.
In the distance a terrified voice yelled: “Rockslide!” Xavier instinctively covered his head and neck as falling rocks began to bombard him. He was in the Himalayas. The mountain was falling. He was being buried alive. The pain was excruciating.
“Stop!” Jean demanded. Through the crystal they saw images of Xavier. He was trapped, crushed under the debris of a massive rockslide, buried alive... and yet the mansion stood undisturbed around him. Xavier was buried in his own mind. “What are you doing to him?!”
“Me? Nothing at all. I exist only here, pitiful and powerless behind a pretty piece of glass.”
“You are far from powerless, Farouk!” Storm accused. “It is you who have done this to us. Manipulating our minds. You seek to use our fears as weapons against us.”
“The Shadow King is a creature of eternal darkness, made strong by the nightmares of all mankind. One by one they are no more significant than is a drop of rain to an ocean. It is the work of D’Spayre to sift the pitiful detritus which clutters the human mind: to mold pain, and grind suffering, into something suitable for greatness. I am truly sorry to sink to such depths. But it does seem an appropriate path to victory. Appropriate, for the demon to take his final bow here. The Devil’s Cove will give rise to the demon, D’Spayre, and his overlord, the Shadow King. I will have my revenge on Xavier first; he will witness the demise of all he holds most dear. And then, I will deal with the true master of that stone.”
“What is attacking Professor Xavier?!”
“D’Spayre is only incapacitating your precious Professor, on my command. That is a more merciful fate than I can afford the five of you, I am afraid. The demon, D’Spayre, will torture each of you to insanity within your own minds. Your suffering in D’Spayre will bring me strength, while it torments the very man who reduced me to this sorry state. It will be that convergence of ultimate suffering which frees me from this pretty glass prison. Once more I will hold the Heart Stone. And then will I finish Xavier myself. Once his mind is banished, just as he once tried to banish me, then his body will host my new reign.”
Cyclops, Jean reached out to Scott psychically. I can read his thoughts. He’s afraid. He’s morphed this crystal to house his mental presence and he cannot survive outside of it. If you shatter it–
Cyclops lifted a hand to his visor, but before he could fire–
So Let it Be Written Publishing © 2004