Author: Coriander Tea PM
Begins after Last Stand, time jumps back to First Class. Erik's death causes a lot of trouble for the disabled girl who befriended him in his old age. An OC for people who hate OCs. Now with potential Wolvertique!Rated: Fiction T - English - Magneto - Chapters: 51 - Words: 111,173 - Reviews: 360 - Favs: 136 - Follows: 132 - Updated: 01-24-12 - Published: 08-04-11 - id: 7254003
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: I own nothing and am not getting paid for this.
Teratogen: An agent which causes non-genetic birth defects in a developing fetus, as opposed to a mutagen, which affects the DNA. A teratogen can be chemical, such as a pesticide or a medication, an infection such as syphilis or rubella, or a nutritional deficiency. Derives from the Greek 'teras', meaning monster or marvel.
Teras is also the root word for terror, terrible, tyrant and terrific.
They are holding me here illegally and in violation of my rights as an American citizen. While I doubt I will be released any time soon, and I doubt even more strongly that this notebook will ever get out of here with or without me, I've little else to do but stare at the walls. Anything to help pass the time.
In this case, 'they' are Homeland Security, and I was effectively kidnapped. I wasn't read my rights, I wasn't allowed to make a phone call, and my requests for a lawyer have gone unanswered. I was tricked into going into the van 'to make my statement', given an injection against my will, passed out, and woke up here. I don't think this is Guantanamo. I wasn't out that long. At least, I don't think I was. Besides, this place is air conditioned and doesn't look like the photos of cells there. Probably it's somewhere in Virginia, like most of those government agencies. Although maybe it's somewhere out west. I found a dead scorpion under the bunk.
Why am I here? The charges against me are quite specific. Aiding and abetting the mutant terrorist Magneto. Well, I didn't know he was Magneto.
Nobody knew he was Magneto until the coroner got back to the morgue with the body and checked his fingerprints and DNA. Meanwhile, I was still pottering around his apartment trying to find an address book so I could contact his next of kin. Despite being there when the paramedic crew broke the door open to find him crumpled in a heap on the kitchen floor, his face blue-white on one side and purplish with lividity on the other, colder than the linoleum and even more dead, I was having trouble processing that my gentlemanly chess partner—more than that, my friend was… dead. When he hadn't returned my calls for a couple of days, I went over to knock on his door. When he didn't answer, I called 911. He was such an old man, after all. He might have had a stroke, or fallen and broken a hip.
Who am I kidding? When I saw him last, around the end of February, he hadn't looked well at all. He said he was getting over a cold. Even then, I knew he lied.
Someone is at the door.
They came to take me to see the body, including the horrible Y shaped autopsy cuts, crudely sutured together. It was terrible. Of course death is always terrible, but he had been so dignified in life. Seeing him there, half- naked, his muscles withered, his skin gone all saggy, age-spotted, was disgusting above and beyond the smell, the scars and the scabs. How is it possible he was ever a vigorous young man?
He had been riddled with oat tumors, the medical examiner said. Small cell carcinomas, I replied. My bachelor's was in biochemistry.
It had metastasized throughout his body, so much so that the cancers outweighed his internal organs. Did you know, they asked me, that he had been experimenting in his apartment? Experimenting with mutagenic chemicals. Trying to get back his powers.
No, of course I didn't know that.
The problem was, mutagenic chemicals were also carcinogenic. They had to evacuate the building and declare it a biohazard site, there was so much ethylmethane sulfonate impregnating the air ducts. Had I been in his apartment often?
No. Never. In the building, yes, but he always met me at the door. I'd never gone inside.
Had I been sleeping with him?
No! He was at least fifty years older than I. Even if I'd found him attractive—seeing him lying there on the slab dead was bad enough—he didn't seem interested in sex anymore. We played chess in the park or in the library once a week and went for coffee or tea afterward. We talked. He was old and frail and lonely.
Had we ever talked about mutants?
Of course. Everybody talks about mutants now and then. Everybody has an opinion.
They seemed surprised that I was willing to admit it. What had he said about mutants?
He hadn't said very much, but let me do most of the talking.
And so the questions went on and on.
I didn't know who he was when I met him. Who was Magneto, after all, but an angry voice issuing from a silly helmet, a caped figure dressed in colors no sane heterosexual man would ever wear? Yes, the trial after the Statue of Liberty incident was televised, his face laid bare to the world, but he looked like such an ordinary old man, his face creased and weathered, his hair silver grey like a dandelion gone to seed.
When I saw him in the park that October day, he looked ordinary then too, only perhaps a bit seedier. Not at all like a mutant, or a sociopath, or a terrorist, let alone a sociopathic mutant terrorist. A tired old man in shabby clothes, sitting at a chess table, that was all he was. It was the only table with a place free, as it happened, and I came to the park that day hoping for a game. Yet I didn't approach him right away, because he might have been waiting for someone, a regular opponent. I don't make friends easily, and I didn't want to intrude and be rebuffed.
As I watched, a single scarlet oak leaf drifted down from the trees around us, landing on his white head, where it looked like nothing so much as splash of blood.
I'm lousy at reading omens, so that resemblance didn't put me off. He reached up, patted his head and found the leaf, which he then shredded into a dozen flakes, scattering them on the ground. Suddenly he turned his head and looked directly at me. "Is there something I can—I can do for you, young lady?" he asked, pausing in the middle when he realized what he was looking at.
Time for the First Inevitable Explanation.
I held my arms up so he could see the prosthetics clearly. "I'm not a mutant," I explained for the seventy thousandth time in my life. "It's a birth defect called bilateral limb deficiency phocomelia, which has no genetic cause. These are artificial limbs made of hard epoxy and steel." I opened and closed the hook pinchers. "They do not shoot fire and they're not razor edged. All they do is allow me to live independently without being a drain on the taxpayers or a burden to my family."
"I see," he replied. "I take it you've had to say as much before."
The ice broken, I stepped closer. "Yes. My parents were explaining it to people before I could talk. I was wondering if you were up for a game. If you're waiting for someone to join you, I'll understand."
"He can only join me in my memories, I'm afraid," the elderly man said, his voice colored with regret. "I'm quite willing to play, my dear—if you care to make it interesting, that is."
He meant money, of course. I had heard about 'chess hustlers' before, but never encountered one until now. "How interesting?"
"Oh, twenty dollars," he shrugged.
I could afford to lose twenty dollars (and if he was playing strangers for money in the park, he had to be so good that I would certainly lose) but that didn't mean I wanted to throw my money away. However, I looked at the shabby clothing, a little too light for this fall day, and at the weary slump of his shoulders. Was this how he was eking out a Social Security check and a retirement fund depleted by the economic downturn? Might my twenty be the difference between a real meal tonight or filling up with toast and tea?
I made up my mind. "Honor system or cash on the table?" I asked, taking a seat.
"I'm quite comfortable with the honor system," he said, settling himself back down. He'd half-risen, gentlemanly, when I sat. "My name is Magnus Magnussen, by the way."
"Joon-Yi Kaplan," I replied.
"Joon-Yi Kaplan?" he asked.
Time for the Second Inevitable Explanation. "I was born in South Korea and adopted by the Kaplans when I was a baby. They let me keep my birth name." I took the white pieces and began arranging them on my side of the board.
He watched me without asking any more questions, placing the black along his side. There were more anthropomorphic prostheses than mine on the market, ones which looked like hands and even some with electronic joints. I'd tried demos, and found them to be clumsy, awkward things, heavy in the wrong areas. The cable-and-hook variety I used were low-tech but were more comfortable and gave me the greatest range of function. I hardly counted as disabled at all with them on, really.
"Yes, I am quite dexterous, considering," I answered his unspoken question. "My move first, I believe."
It's not really possible to play chess and carry on a casual conversation, not if you're playing right. For the next hour and forty-five minutes we made our moves in turn, all in silence, until he backed me into a corner where he could just keep putting me in check over and over again, and I conceded.
"Thank you for the game," I said, pulling out my wallet and finding a couple of fives and a ten. "I would like to play again sometime, if you don't mind."
"On most fine days, you will find me here," he gestured to the corner we occupied, "and when the weather is inclement, I go to the library on Milton."
It was a Friday when we had our first game, and what with one thing and another, I didn't make it back to the park until Sunday over a week later. He beat me again, but again, I did not grudge him the money. He was gaunt, and the skin on the back of his hands nearly transparent over the ropy blue veins, liver spotted. I always notice people's hands and arms. I didn't know about the number he had tattooed on his forearm, though. Not then. It was mid October and he had on long sleeves. That would come later.
For a few weeks, our relationship, such as it was, continued as it began. We played one game of chess, keeping our personal interaction minimal. I felt some degree of compassion for him, and he seemed quite indifferent to me, beyond an old-world gentlemanly politeness. That changed on a Saturday in November when it rained, driving us into the library.
Halfway through the game, a mother with two children passed us on the way to the kids' section. The younger boy pointed at me and blurted out to his mother. "Look, it's the girl from the pharmacy! The one with the Go-Go-Gadget arms!" She shushed him, apologized, and dragged him off.
"Was that young man correct?" Magnussen asked with his first real hint of interest. "Do you work for a pharmacy?"
"Yes," I replied. "I'm a pharmacist. Doctorate, license and everything. I work for Carefirst."
"Ah, one of those HMOs. But—a doctorate? How old are you, if you don't mind my asking?"
"Twenty-six. My bachelor's degree is in biochemistry and then I went to pharmaceutical college for three years in the accelerated program."
"So you are actually Doctor Kaplan," he smiled.
"One of three PhDs in the family," I told him. "My dad is a dentist and my one older sister has a doctorate in early childhood education."
"Really?" he inquired. "How many siblings do you have, if you don't mind my asking?"
"Not at all," My family was the best thing in my life, and we all like to talk about things we love. "I have three, two sisters and one brother, all older. They're not adopted. After three kids and fifteen years of marriage, my folks went to this fundraiser for an orphanage in South Korea, and they watched this video of the children who needed the most help. I was one of them. Instead of just writing out a check, they decided to get a little more involved."
Someone at the next table gave me a dirty look, so I lowered my voice. "But maybe this isn't the best place to talk."
"Hmm," Magnussen frowned, then smiled. "Would you care to go for a cup of coffee after the game? My treat."
"All right," I said. Why not? He wasn't a stranger, not exactly, it would be a public place, and anyhow, he was at least fifty years older than I, perhaps more. What ulterior motive could he possibly have toward me?
Not what anyone might think.
"—so they said they fell in love with me at first sight. God alone knows why, because I had a hare lip, a cleft palate, you know, along with—not having lower arms. Plastic surgery fixed that so no one can even tell." I said later, while he had a café Americano and I had mango Darjeeling tea.
"But what about your genetic parents?" Magnussen asked. "What of them?"
"No idea," I dunked a biscotti into my tea and nibbled on it. "I know nothing about them and very probably never will."
"You sound remarkably nonchalant about them."
"Why shouldn't I be? Did you see the National Geographic special, China's Lost Girls?"
"No," he replied. "However, you were born in South Korea…"
"What's true of China is, or up until recently, was true of South Korea too. They have strict population control laws. One child per family, with heavy fines in some cases or forced abortions in others. The societal bias is in favor, strongly in favor, of male offspring. If they can only have one child, they want a boy. The girls get aborted, abandoned, adopted. Or in my case, a little of all three." I said the last part flippantly.
"Is that what happened to you, a botched abortion?" he asked.
"No, not really," I grimaced. "In my case, it was either exposure to a teratogenic chemical or lack of the right nutrients at the wrong time. They can't tell, and in the long run, it doesn't matter. Mind you, my nonchalance is recent. Ten years ago, I was a very angsty, very angry kid. I got over it eventually."
He smiled wryly. "I wish my old friend Charles' students could have met you. Theirs was a never-ending cycle of angst and self-torment. Your maturity is quite refreshing."
"Thank you," I said. "Of course, the anti-anxiety medication helps a lot too."
He laughed. I believe he thought I was kidding. I was not.
But that was how the friendship began. Only later did I find out he was using me.
A/N: Okay, you're probably thinking, WTF? I hope you'll continue reading anyway.