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Chapter 1
Chapter 2


Written by Karen Bruce
Last updated: 09/18/2008 08:33:11 PM

Chapter 2


Hearing the corridor’s door bolt closed behind her, Jean Grey knew it was too late to change her mind. If she asked to be released now, after telling the guard that she was here to interrogate the prisoner, he would know something was amiss. And, because erratic behaviour from a psion was a cause for worry, he would report her to her superiors. And they would ask questions about why a mindblind woman was conducting an interrogation. And the rumblings of concern would become an avalanche that buried her and her chances of regaining her psionic powers beneath it. No, she had made her choice. Now, she had to live by it.

Straightening her jacket in a futile attempt at gaining some composure, she walked briskly towards the Max Sec cells . . . and paused in shock. That isn’t him, is it? It can’t be. She had heard the prisoner described as charismatic and brilliant; as having charmed his rebels into following him through sheer force of personality. She remembered him as a monster, a psychotic who killed without compunction or remorse. She could not imagine this man possessing any of those qualities. This man was pitiful. He was curled up in a corner, knees drawn up to his chest, chin resting on them. She remembered thinking him beautiful when she had first seen him, but his months of confinement had ruined whatever looks he might have had. His hair was long and unkempt, and a ratty beard covered most of his face. Even his nakedness stirred no lust in her. He was too pathetic for that. His skin seemed to be stretched too tightly across his bones, his ribs and scapulae jutting out in a way that suggested he was dangerously close to starvation, and he was blue-mottled with bruises.

He raised his head a fraction, evidently to see who had come to torment him now, and his eyes were dull and incurious. They took her in without interest. When she had worked as a psionic surgeon on the frontlines of the second Vietnamese War, she had seen similar expressions on the faces of the prisoners being marched into the American concentration camps. Men, women, children, they had all worn the same, numbed expression on their faces. It was the expression of a man who knew he was dead.

"You are leBeau, aren’t you?"

"An’ you’re . . . a ‘path," he rasped, slowly sounding out the words like a man unused to speaking, "Come . . . t’turn m’head . . . inside an’ out . . . cherie?"

Her hand went instinctively to the platinum badge on her lapel. Consisting of three, wavy lines in parallel, it was modelled on another of the Zener Cards. It marked her a member of the psionic corps as surely as the Black Stripes were distinguished by their stark, black uniforms or the Screaming Banshees by their orange jump-suits. He noticed more than I first imagined.

"I was one," she kept her voice level, "You took it away from me."

There was a flicker of puzzlement in his dead eyes. It was just a moment of confusion, but it was enough to cause hot anger to surge up in Jean’s chest again.. He doesn’t even recognise me. He took away everything I was - he mindblinded me - he screwed up my entire life - and he doesn’t even know me when he sees me! It was just another day’s work for him! It was just another hit!

"You don’t remember me, do you? Shit, you probably don’t even remember what you did to me," she spat, "Does the name Carl Irving mean anything to you or have you forgotten him too?"

"He . . . was a . . . doctor. He . . . exposed how ya government . . . was sterilisin’ mutant women who . . . didn’t need it. He reversed de procedure in some . . . cases. When he was exposed . . . hisself, he was sentenced . . . t’be hung. . . f’r treason. I . . . saved him," the words were flat and toneless, as if he were talking about somebody else, "I . . . don’ understand what dat has t’do wit’ you . . . cherie."

"Do I need to refresh your memory about how you ‘saved’ him? Or do you remember that he was on the way to court when you ran in front of the prison transport? The driver pulled up short, thinking to save your life. He even went out to check that you were okay, that he hadn’t hit you. Poor idiot. You killed him for his charity, before putting a bullet in the brain of the psion who was riding with him. My brain. Me."

Again, in her mind, she was sitting in the front seat of the prison transport, waiting impatiently for the guard to check the jaywalker was okay. They did not have time for delays like this. Irving’s trial commenced in half an hour, and, as his reader, she was first on the stands. Her testimony would be all it took to convict him, unless the judge wanted to prolong the proceedings. She glanced up to where the guard was talking to the young man. She could hear him saying something about being more careful and she rolled her eyes. This was not the time to be giving lectures in road safety to a stupid boy. Suddenly, too suddenly for her to prevent it, the sun glinted off something in the jaywalker’s hand, and a shot rang out in the quiet, dawn street. Red exploded onto the windshield and the guard crumpled, an almost comically surprised expression on his face. The young man turned to face her, his eyes blazing red, and her blood turned to ice within her veins as she saw him raise the gun to her. . . .

"Tell me, cherie," his dry whisper brought her back to the present, "When ya MPF . . . be finished wit’ me, when dey’ve . . . juiced m’brain. . . t’squeeze . . . out all its secrets, do ya t’ink dey’ll treat me any differently? Or do ya t’ink . . . dere’ll be a bullet f’r me?"

Jean could not answer him. With those hoarse words, it was as if a door had opened within her. It had been there the entire time, waiting and expectant, needing only the key to swing open and allow her access. Through it was a place where everything was strange and uncomfortable, where she no longer could know herself, where the distinctions by which she had lived her life were blurred. She turned away from him – from it - in silence. Aware as she was of what had happened within her, she still could not say ‘we are alike’.



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