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Ashes In The Wind
Prologue An Elseworlds Style X-men Story
J. A. C. Delaney, 1996
Prologue: Xavier My name is Charles Francais Xavier and I am a mutant. I was born in the first half of this century during the Great Depression. It was a time when all hope seemed lost in a nation built on hope and dreams. I spent my adolescence hearing of the slaughter of millions in far off Europe and felt contempt as my government did nothing, pride when finally finally intervened and horror when the final horror was revealed. I think it was at this time that I first realized the problems of ethnic strife; a problem doomed to haunt me all my adult life.
My father had died in an accident at a government research facility and my mother had married his best friend. Unfortunately, Dr. Marko was an abusive man who never forgave my mother for choosing my father over him. My step-brother Cain was my opposite in every way and I learned to withdraw into myself or suffer physical abuse. It was this time of my life that I learned that my mind was not like that of other men but that somehow I could bridge the endless gap between minds and be certain I was not alone in the universe. I wonder how much of the evil that men do could be avoided if we could all see the darkness in each other's souls. Or perhaps it would only bring greater darkness and suffering.
As useful as it was, the power frightened me and I suppressed it for far too long. Perhaps more courage in the beginning would have served me better but I was young and I thought that courage was the ability to deal out violence and not the ability to face it with an open hand. How foolish I was. Perhaps how foolish I still am; for did I not form my X-men to fight against mutant "evil" instead of to provide an example of tolerance.
When I became a man, I went off to serve my country in Korea. I was determined to show that I was willing to fight for my beliefs and against what I saw as evil. A country was attempting to impose it's will by force on a weaker cousin. I had always hated the strong abusing the weak; whether it was Dr. Marko beating my mother or North Korea invading South Korea. I thought I was doing something horribly noble; instead I was doing something awful. I learned what it meant to kill and I learned that the world was a far more complex place than I had imagined. This was one of the most valuable lessons of my life and I learned a small amount of respect for those who had tried a more peaceful path.
Afterwards, I turned to my studies and eventually earned a Ph.D. and the deep respect of my academic peers. I tried to turn to work but, like the youth of the time, I felt hollow and when my fiancee Moira rejected me for another man I decided to wander the Mediterran seeking something; I didn't know what it was but I knew I'd know it when I found it. During my travels I met another telepath and nearly died in a fierce battle over the soul of a young African girl I had barely met. Little Ororo never realized just how close she came to being a slave of a dark and filthy power. Sickened by the depths of evil to which the human mind can sink, I headed to Israel where I sought to help out others. Perhaps, I thought, I could atone for the vile things that others of my kind had done. And maybe, just maybe, I could do something about the existence of tyranny by aiding the survivors.
In Israel I met the only truly enduring friend of my life and my most bitter enemy. A concentration camp survivor by the name of Magnus Lensherr shared my passion for the wonders of evolution and together we learned to lower the barriers life had made us forge towards other people; for a brief time we could be happy. In an endless succession of evenings we talked of politics and science and philosophy until the gray morning twilight told us we had talked the night away. He was a hard man and passionate but I sensed in kindred spirit in his love for his fellow man. Sadly, that love was too strong and in the end he couldn't bear the pain it caused and I fear it drove him insane. One fewer ally and one more enemy against the darkness in all of us.
I had been summoned there to treat a young woman by the name of Gabrielle Haller who was trapped in a coma as a result of trauma suffered at the hands of men I barely consider human. I treated her severe mental trauma and we fell in love. The three of us became inseparable and together we forged a circle of friendship that summer that would never be broken, no matter how bad things got. Even the darkest days of conflict with my old friend, I could still be floored with nostalgia at the thought of our time together. We were young and it seemed we could change the world if only we wished hard enough. It is hard to believe I ever thought this but that innocence bound us together tighter than steel cord. Sadly, it was not to last. But, across an endless chasm of years, I must admit that this is the spirit that sustains me in a world gone utterly mad.
It seems that some wars are never over and that some people never forget the taste of glory once it is on their lips. Baron von Strucker forged a new instrument of terror out of the ashes of the Third Reich and Gabby had something he wanted. His storm troopers attacked the hospital at which both I and Magnus worked; slaughtering everyone in their path. It was that day that I learned my impassioned debating partner and inseparable comrade was one of the most powerful mutants on Earth when he turned back the assault and slaughtered the Hydra soldiers. In that we were always different, Magnus and I, for he never understood the value of human life while I could never bring myself to understand killing; I had done too much of it in my life and the memory of it sickened me.
The Hydra soldiers had captured Gabby and, for one single day, Magnus and I fought together to free her. I thought I loved her and drove myself too hard; only Magnus and his clear thinking prevented disaster. We rescued Gabby and defeated the maniacs who sought to reignite a mad cause. But we paid a price for that victory that I will never quite bring myself to admit to how truly high it was; for Magnus left with the gold, dreams of liberty in his eyes. He thought he could use the power represented by the vast wealth to make this into a better world, a world in which children are never slaughtered in the name of glory and power.
Across the fog of so many years I see the path not taken and mourn it; what could we have done together to make this world a better place. I had the vision to mold a new reality without violence while he had the determination to impose it on an uncaring world. Apart, my inability to wage war crippled my efforts while his lack of compassion hamstrung him. We were the dawn of a new race upon the earth; what a world we could have forged if we had stood together. But all of that is ashes in the wind and the time we might have stood together is past. Instead we both went our separate ways and found our own followers. I learned more of what was right and attained virtue while he sunk into decadence and moral weakness. Yet, the memory of what was gave him some hope of rehabilitation. When he renounced his evil ways and chose to follow my dream, I made him my heir when I went forth into the void to fight for my beloved Lilandra. Sadly, from what Scott tells me, he continued on as evil and manaical as ever. White King of the Hellfire Club? Did his years as a villian teach him nothing fo the fate tyrants and the futility of imposing solutions by force?
In describing myself to you the first thing I told you was that I am mutant. Not that I am a crusader for human rights or that I am a brilliant scholar but that a quirk of genetics has gifted me with the ability to see other minds. A gift beyond measure it has freed me for the prison of my own skull; unlike the headblind I can be certain of the existence of other minds. For people like myself it sometimes seems the choice is either to become a saint or a demon; nobody with my sort of power can be morally neutral when they can bend the wills of others around them with but a thought. I have seen the results of this and the memory sickens me to the core of my being. If there is a reason to stand and fight against the abuse of mutant power it is that dark memory. For all that Magneto is wrong, he has never been evil just utterly misguided. Trust me, there are far darker things in this world than the casual brutality of the Master of Magnetism. I sought to give him a second chance but he squandered it. Does he not realize how precious a second chance really is? Or how rarely they come? Reports from Nick Fury at SHIELD tell me he is as evil as ever and that he has lost his way once again. For just as Zaladane had to have at least 50% of her genetic pattern in common with Lorna Dane to drain her of her magnetic power, she had to have the same relation to Magnus to drain him and for him to drain her. The man has descended to slaughtering his own children in the cause of vengeance and this is beneath contempt. He can no longer be considered a human being but merely a rabid dog; and if in putting him down I can do some good so much the better. If I keep telling myself this I might even come to believe it. Perhaps I am wrong, but so much rests upon my shoulders I have to act, or by my inaction damn our world.
It is this that brings me to today, the day of decision. My children journeyed across the lifeless void to come to my rescue and the first thing I did was to fail them. Should I pursue them to Muir Island or should I rally what forces I can to my cause? I have Colossus by my side and I have decided to try and reunite myself with my original team of X-factor. They are reluctant to heed the call of battle, Scott, almost having lost his infant son to a madman named Apocalypse, feels his mortality too heavily. Strangely I find that this is the key, if the child had been lost the grief stricken X-factor would have responded to my call eagerly; desperate to find a target for their rage and grief. As it is they are questioning their lives at the worst possible time. Despite some indications otherwise it appears that Jean has lost her telepathic powers permanently and cannot be of assistance to me in the way I need her to be. They don't see that this is different. They don't understand that this isn't like all of the other battles but it is something far greater. If we fail... no, I am alone in this. If _I_ fail then there is not going to be a world to raise children in. Are they that blind... or have I squandered their trust already. I could compel them but I made that mistake with Voght and Illyana. I am not ready to walk that path again.
You ask me what I mean by my children and I am forced to speak of a group of mutant misfits who went on to become dear to my heart. I have avoided speaking of them because they are both the greatest success of my life and the greatest failure. Ranging from psychopathic killers to millionaire playboys I gathered an army of my own kind together to fight for what is right. Things seemed so much simpler back then when Magneto refused to harm children and my powers were more than equal to defeating any foe that threatened my students. The simple and naive days before the coming of the dark mutant masterminds and their sick agenda to use mutants as tools in a game of power as old as mankind. I left my students to be with the love of my life and the world went straight to hell in my absence. Now I return and call them but they no longer listen.
Jean Grey and Scott Summers have decided to retire and move in with Jean's parents. There they will pursue careers far divorced from what they would have done in the X-men. I can count on Warren Worthington because he has nowhere else to go and Bobby Drake because his will is soft. But Warren is corrupt due to his hideous transformation and Drake will crack if he is pushed too far. Hank McCoy has refused me and is returning to the Avengers. He seems to feel that these "mutant only" teams are part of the problem and not the solution. I wish I had the strength to tell him how wrong he is.
The New Mutants have been co-opted by a ruthless mercenary by the name of Cable; in his own way as much of a problem as anything else. I cannot trust the man and his actions leave no doubt of his ruthless attitude towards anyone who gets in his way. But this is a problem for another day, the greater problem still looms before me. How do I defeat the Shadow King?
I have sent Peter Rasputin to seek out and find Excalibur at any price; the raw power of Phoenix has never been more sorely needed. The boy is reliable and he will do his best; it will have to be enough. I will take the others with me in a quest for the last man who could yet assist me in this most desperate hour. I know where he is and it is time to confront. Magnus has stood against me too long and has betrayed the sacred trust I placed into his hands; this must end now. He is my best friend but I will kill him if he refuses; the hour is too desperate and his power is too vast for him to remain neutral. I recall seeing the death pit called Auschwitz in his mind and the loathing it generates in him. I am confident he will act before he lets the world slide into this sort of evil. If he doesn't I will be justifed in my actions for the good and ecent man will be dead and only a walking corpse bearing his name will remain. I am tired of killing but this doesn't make me incapable of it.
Too many times in the last few years have I been tested and found wanting. I will not fail now that all hands are raised against me. Killing rips at the core of my soul and I despise it but sometimes there is no choice. The time has come to face what I fear the most; to follow the path of the warrior. I have dedicated my life to a cause but in the end I betrayed it when I failed to return to earth with the New Mutants or to provide sanctuary for Illyana Rasputin. I will not fail again. Magnetic force can interfere with telepathy and block access to the Astral Plane. I will bring to bear the one man who can kill the Shadow King or I will kill him for refusing to help. The stakes are too high to permit any other outcome. But I cannot help but remember the noble dreams that began all of this and I feel my guts curdle as I realize what I have been forced to become. Is it to late for me? Now, at the end, I see that perhaps it was too late that day that Magnus and I parted ways. But I will carry on that my dream will not fade from the Earth...