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Arms and the Mutant

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Emma never got through the whole Roman epic in Westchester: M-Day, and the Purifiers, and the bus, intervened, and the Xavier School curriculum turned less academic and more about survival, not for the first time. But she wasn’t done with the idea.

Especially not after she and Scott and X-Club and the rest of their team raised an island from the sea. “Darling,” she had said, not many nights after that, “I need to get back to teaching.” There were, after all, young mutants on the artificial island called Utopia. Young enough to benefit from school. Some remembered it. Some had been kicked out of it, hated and feared, once their mutations appeared. Even the ones who were no longer mutants, after Decimation, had chosen to come here, rather than try to stay home.

And so there were classes, sometimes, with some of the same kids—Pixie, for example, and Armor—and some of the same things to read. Virgil, for example. And at very reasonable hours: noon, for example.

Which, given everything else going on all around the West Coast—especially giving instructions to X-Force—was sometimes when Scott woke back up.

“You who can see the future—I ask for no land except my destiny,” Emma’s version of Aeneas was saying, “let us Trojans settle in Latium with the refugees from Troy. We will make, there, our temple.” Aeneas and-- someone? a prophet of some sort? a sybil?-- are having a conversation about his future. He's seeking a prophecy? trying to make better plans?

Armor speaks for the Sybil. “There will be war. So much war. You will need strange and unlikely alliances with your former enemies over the sea.”

Scott rubs his forehead, makes sure his glasses were back on his head, rubs his head, feels around for an undershirt. Why was he hearing this class now? He didn’t normally hear every lesson that Emma taught; not even every poetry lesson, now. But there was something about this story that triggered their telepathic link—mildly, he wasn’t inside her head, but he was a fly on the wall in her classroom, a presence as they ploughed through the sad scene.

Aeneas is trying to get an ancient prophet, the Sibyl, to tell him what’s coming next, and how to take care of his people, how to bring them to their destined land. He also wants to visit his father in the underworld and get advice. Is he really the man of destiny, the leader who can take his people there? How much blood must he shed?

Who’s reading the lines aloud now? Could it be Laura? She’s not in traditional classes a whole lot, though she’s hardly aged out of them; but she’s here. “It’s easy to go to Hell,” the Sibyl is saying. “The trick is to get back out.”

Scott picks up some floorplans from the nightstand, reminds himself to talk to X-Club this afternoon about stabilizing the island, to San Francisco about the food supply, to Illyana about the possibility of a better on-site kitchen, given the joke she made last night about her unlimited access to charcoal and open flames. (What if she’s in the class? His telepathic link with Emma wouldn't let him see her there, because she doesn't show up on telepathy. She’s probably read it in Latin anyway. Isn’t Latin a language for spells? Scott wouldn’t know.)

When he opens his eyes again, Aeneas is under the earth, looking for somebody called Misenus, in order to give the man a proper burial and ceremony; he’s a casualty of the Trojans’ search for a new home. Scott closes his eyes and sees Quill, and Brian Cruz, and DJ, and Mark Sheppard, and Laurie Collins, and a bus in flames.

“Meanwhile, on the beach, the Trojans were weeping over Misenus, and heaping their gifts on his funeral pyre… They named a mountain after him. The mountain survives.”

You could name a whole mountain range, Scott thinks, after the kids we’ve lost. The mutants we’ve lost. The original Hellions…

Scott’s cut off from the classroom entirely. Emma must have had the same thoughts—of course she did—and shifted to diamond form, so as not to overwhelm the class. She does that sometimes. It’s good pedagogy, too. Use your feelings as teaching tools, but don’t just emote all over a roomful of teens. Especially not if you are an adult and one of the world’s most powerful telepaths.

Scott gets up, throws on his boxer shorts and a towel over his shoulder, and fries an egg on the hot plate in their room.

By the time he’s had egg and toast and bad black coffee (he saves the bad coffee for when he’s alone: Emma gets the imported espresso) he can tune back into the end of the class, the end of the chapter, the end of Aeneas’s stay in the underworld. He’s also made an eighteen-point to-do list for the afternoon: “check structural integrity of Utopia modules” is item 2. Item 12 involves Utopia’s diplomatic relations with Atlantis.

Aeneas is now hearing the ghost of his father, predicting success. The Trojans in exile will build the Roman Empire. Rome will conquer the known world. “Are we still afraid,” Aeneas’s father is asking, “to show our power to the other nations?”

Item 14 on the agenda involves the U.N.; item 15, the United States Department of Defense.

“Now we’re at a place,” Emma Frost is saying, “where scholars disagree. Is Virgil on the side of Aeneas here, who has to use force to take care of his people, hold territory, and conquer the world? What will it do to his soul? Will it even work? The Roman Empire: did that work? Aeneas seems to think it will.” And then a pause. “But he knows that he can’t keep his son. That’s the next thing his dad says. You can’t keep your son.

"Aeneas just goes on hearing all these predictions." (Scott thinks about the debacle of Destiny's Diaries; about blueprints, floor plants, 18-point action plans.) "And Virgil leaves it up to us, maybe, to decide whether all those predictions are true. There are two gates at the edge of the underworld, the gate of horn for true dreams and the gate of ivory for fiction. And when our hero goes back to the world of the living, he passes through the gate of ivory. Maybe it’s great to found a new nation with refugees. Maybe it’s just a recipe for endless war. Maybe it’s all made up.” Emma pauses. “What kind of person would want to found a new nation?”

When Scott switches out his glasses for his visor he can remember himself making speeches, not to a class but on TV. It feels like yesterday. (It was maybe weeks ago.)

“We reject Norman Osborn’s pogroms. We reject the hate crimes. It seemed to us the people of the United States wanted us gone, so we’ve left. But we won’t be purchased, prosecuted, persecuted or punished any further…

“Our children shall not be hunted or harmed. They shall not be prejudiced against, legislated against, or ever go to sleep for a single unsafe moment.”

What kind of person would want to found a new nation? Scott asks himself. And he answers: the kind whose people don’t have an old one.

When Emma comes back to their bedroom he has an espresso for her, and he puts his right hand on her fake mink stole. “What kind of person—“ he starts.

“Sssshhh,” she says. “The whole world isn’t watching.”