The Uncanny X-Men: Children of the Atom
The stars burn like white-hot embers in the empty blackness of space. On a lifeless piece of rock below the awe-inspiring vista, there stands a man. He looks right at you.
But this man is no ordinary man! His bald head is too large for his body and he walks about in this airless place dressed only in a white toga and a dark blue cape. A golden infinity symbol serves as clasp at his neck, matching the golden bracers on his wrist. Pupil-less eyes glare down at you from his massive height.
"I am Uatu the Watcher!" he said, his voice booming like a foghorn in the mist. "I always watch, but must never interfere!"
He guides your gaze to a blue-green planet that fills the night sky. "Behold the Earth!" he exclaims. "A jewel among worlds, and as yet insignificant among them. But that has changed! The Age of Marvels, of Ultimate Evil versus Infinite Good has begun! The Kryptonian has arrived at last!" And indeed, you see a small glint of light travelling towards Earth, far faster than the burning distant stars.
"The Kryptonian is only the beginning!" Uatu says. "In all the universes, when the Kryptonian arrives so begins the Age of Marvels! But his is a different story, for another time! For now, we must turn to yet another change among the Earth's population! We must turn our attention to the mutants!"
Again this strange man directs your attention to blue-green emerald that hangs in space. Now you see that the world is full of billions upon billions of glittering lights. Some lights are red, and pulse with dark power. Others are the colour of lapis lazuli, bluer than Earth's waters. And yet others are plain, white and dull. And they outnumber the coloured lights a thousand to one.
"Are the coloured lights the mutants?" you ask.
"Indeed!" thunders the Watcher. "You are wise for a mortal! The red lights are the mutants who have chosen violence for their path! The blue lights represent a different path, those who have chosen peace! It is their destiny to replace ordinary mortals, to become the dominant strain of humanity in the decades to come! Ever shall these two sides battle for the fate of humanity and mutantkind! Which side is in the right, do you wonder?"
You shrug. "If mutants will replace humanity, then I don't see how it matters. Besides, sometimes you have to be peaceful and sometimes you have to be violent. I mean look," you point to Earth, "there are lights turning purple."
This seems to amuse the giant, for he almost cracks a smile. "Indeed! You are wise for a mortal," he says. "Those purple lights are the Uncanny X-Men! Disciples of Xavier, they fight for a world that hates and despises them! This is their story! Prepare to meet, the Strangest Heroes of Them All!"
It was a quiet afternoon in Westchester County. The sun shone down on the peaceful county roads like a farmer watching their crops grow with pride while cars zipped along the roads out of White Plains going hither and yon. In one car in particular, a blue four-door sedan, sat a young woman with red hair, a round face with smooth cheekbones and startling green eyes by the name of Jean Grey. She stared moodily out of the car window, picking idly at her blue overcoat, torn between excitement and resentment at being sent off to a boarding school at seventeen. She didn't understand why her parents were carting her off to some boarding school in the suburbs of New York City now, taking her away from all of her friends to some place she didn't know. It was all because of those accidents, she thought resentfully. But those weren't her fault! She didn't know why objects just flew around her sometimes; she didn't throw them or anything. But they had gotten her in trouble and kicked out of every school near the Grey estate over in Putnam County. But that wasn't her fault! On the other hand, this was supposed to be a very exclusive boarding school, one for only the most gifted of students. And Jean was young enough for that to fuel her ego. And, if she were entirely honest, she didn't have friends. Not really. Not since Annie…
"Everything all right there, Jeannie?" her father asked from the driver's seat.
"Yes. No," Jean answered. "Why do I have to go to this strange school with all these strange people? Why couldn't I have stayed home?"
"Because you've been kicked out of every school in Putnam County. Twice over, in some cases," her mother answered as she twisted around in the front passenger seat to get a good look at her daughter. Jean greatly resembled her mother, from the fire-truck hair to the emerald eyes. They were even the same height. If it weren't for the subtle markers of age around the elder Grey's face such as crow's feet and laugh lines, the two women could have passed as sisters.
Ordinarily, Jean loved her mother's blunt and straightforward manner. Her father treated her as if she were still twelve. Her mother at least pretended Jean was an equal. Today, however, it just fuelled Jean's resentment.
"We couldn't have hired a tutor? Or maybe a public school?" Jean demanded.
"Well, about the public schools…" her father began.
"They pre-emptively kicked you out," her mother interrupted. "After you destroyed that gym."
"That wasn't my fault!" Jean protested. Jean had been trying out for the girl's basketball team. Several of the more popular girls had objected for reasons Jean would never understand and had taunted her. At first, Jean had been hurt and tried to leave the gym, but the girls wouldn't let up. They finally cornered her and started hitting and kicking her. That hadn't been the worst of it though. They had taunted her about Annie. Jean remembered nothing after that. When she came to, the girls had been blasted backwards all the way to the other end of the gym and the wall they had cornered her against had collapsed. Along with the washroom on the other side. And a few other walls besides. Fortunately, nobody had been seriously hurt, but it had been a close thing. The school had also been shut down pending an investigation. "The school should be blamed for such shoddy construction! And those girls started that fight! Why do I get blamed for something that clearly wasn't have been my fault?"
Her mother and father exchanged glances that Jean couldn't decipher. Then her mother said: "Actually, Jeannie honey, it kind of was your fault."
"What!?" Jean couldn't believe her ears. Had her mother lost her mind?
"Professor Xavier will explain everything, sweetie," her father said. "Ah, here we are."
Jean leaned over so she could see past her mother. In front of the car was a massive wrought iron fence that stretched over an equally impressive driveway before becoming a stone wall that went on for ever. Jean marveled at the length of the wall. She had no idea there was an estate that large in Salem Center of all places! On the fence gate there was a sign that read: '1407 Greymalkin Lane' and underneath the address: 'Mutatis Mutandis.' Past the gate rose a three-story mansion done in the Neoclassical style. Jean was familiar with the design; all the upper-class families in Putnam County had one. Most, though, were not as large and their lands were not as extensive. Jean's father pulled up to the gate which swung slowly to admit them. The Greys were expected; Jean opted to take this as ominous. Jean's father drove the car around the circular driveway until he reached the mansion's patio. Standing at the apex of the mansion's circular driveway were four men, one of whom was in a wheelchair.
Jean's father pulled up to the four men, and the Greys got out.
"Mister and Misses Grey, it's a pleasure to see you again," the man in the wheelchair said. He was bald, with thin eyebrows, arched eyebrows, pointed ears and light brown skin. He wore a navy blue three-piece suit over a pair of tan pleated pants. The man rolled his wheelchair ever-so-slightly closer to the Greys' car, presumably to make it easier to shake hands with Jean's parents, which he then did.
"It's good to see you again, too, Professor," Jean's father said, as he shook the other man's hand. "This is our daughter, Jean. Jean, this is Professor Xavier," her father added as he gestured between them.
"Ah yes, Ms. Grey. It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance at last. I've heard much about you," Professor Xavier said as he rolled his chair toward her. One of the other men, a tall, lanky sort in a tan suit and with strange dark red sunglasses reached out and helped the Professor pivot slightly so he could face Jean better. The professor for his part simply held out his hand.
Jean stood there for a second, torn between her parent's training to always be polite and her resentment at being sent here. Eventually, her parent's training won out, and she shook the professor's proffered hand. "Thank you, sir, but I'm not really sure why I'm here," she replied. "I was doing just fine in my old school."
"Um, didn't you blow up your school's gym?" one of the boys asked. He was even lankier than the one in sunglasses, with spiked hair he had dyed a translucent blue. He wore a black t-shirt with a band logo on it that Jean didn't recognize and a pair of jeans so ragged that Jean expected them to fall apart right in front of her eyes. "Not that I'm criticizing," he hastened to add. "Blowing up a gym is awesome! But I don't think I'd call it as 'doing just fine,' personally. I dunno, maybe that's just me. You think that's just me, Hank? he asked the third member of their group, a giant of a man who looked exactly like someone had shaved a gorilla, and stuffed him into a t-shirt that read "Einstein is Awesome-stein." His cargo pants, at least, were in better shape than his friend's jeans.
"I was not paying attention, but I am pretty sure that's just you, Bobby," Hank answered as he ran his gorilla-fingers through his odd blue-black hair. "That always seems to be the most accurate deduction whenever you open your mouth, is it not Warren?" he asked the fifth and final member of the group.
"Pretty much," Warren answered. Jean looked glanced at him and fought the urge to swoon. He was beautiful, gorgeous even. He was the tallest of the lot, and it was evident that he was built like a male supermodel underneath that exquisitely tailored vest, shirt and pants of his. He had shaggy blond hair that hung in front of his large soulful eyes that Jean felt she could get lost in for days. Jean couldn't imagine what he was doing in this place, filled with obvious delinquents. A charity outreach, perhaps? Or perhaps he had angered his parents somehow? Jean couldn't imagine how anybody could get angry at such a beautiful creature, but then she couldn't imagine what such an angel was doing here, either.
"That wasn't my fault," Jean answered indignantly. "It was the school's fault for such shoddy construction in the first place! Besides, those girls started it."
"I think perhaps we should continue this inside," Professor Xavier said firmly. "Scott, if you'd be so kind?"
"Certainly, Professor," said the first of the delinquents. He reached out and grabbed the handles of the professor's chair and rotated the chair towards the mansion doors. Bobby rushed ahead to open the doors, and the others filed in. As Jean passed, Bobby made an elegant bow. Jean shot him a dirty look. Bobby laughed at her. Once they were all in, Bobby closed the door and hurried to catch up with the rest of the group. Jean looked around at the mansion. It was tasteful enough, she decided grudgingly. Once inside, the mansion had opened into a large foyer, with a set of stairs complete with a ramp in the middle of the staircase opposite the entrance. The whole room had been decorated to continue the Neoclassical theme of the mansion, lending a very old world elegance to the place. Jean wondered why on earth a man of clearly some means and power would bother with a group of such obvious delinquents? And she was quite sure that she wanted nothing to do with them.
"Jean, perhaps you could describe for me the 'accidents' that you've been having? In your words, the professor said as they walked past the stairs and a pair of elevators into a formal sitting room. The sitting room had been decorated in much the same way as had the previous room.
Jean scowled. "Those. Aren't. My. Fault," she ground out. "I don't know why sometimes things fly away from me, but I didn't throw anything! I'm done with getting blamed for things that can't be my fault, and I'm not going to school with a bunch of-of delinquents!" she shouted the last as she glared at her parents. Her mother and father looked stricken.
"The only delinquent here is Bobby," Scott said as pushed the professor's wheelchair through the sitting room and to the left, down a long gallery filled with Neoclassical paintings and the occasional bronze bust of what Jean assumed where the professors' ancestors in niches along the sides.
"Darn tootin," Bobby said. "And don't you forget it, honey," he added, jabbing his finger at Jean.
"Really? What about him, mister sun-glasses-in-a-building?" Jean demanded, jabbing her own finger at Scott, who sighed in long-suffering defeat.
"Scott? Scott couldn't break a rule if the world depended on it," Bobby answered. "He just has, you know, an eye condition."
"And while my appearance is most fearsome indeed, I assure you madam I am simply another scientist, eager to explore to reality in all its myriad forms," Hank piped in from where he walked beside the group, his knuckles dragging on the ground. Jean arched an eyebrow at the gorilla's declaration.
"It is true, though I fear the fair lady doubts me," Hank said. "Alas, you are not the first hominid to misconstrue my gentle soul on account of my physical form."
"You do look like a shaved gorilla," Bobby agreed.
"Yes thank you Robert," Hank replied with a long-suffering sigh. "Once again your grasp of the obvious remains unparalleled across the entire breadth of anthropoid experience." Despite herself, Jean couldn't help but giggle.
"There we go," said the angel. "I was wondering if you could only scowl. My name's Warren, by the way. Warren Worthington III." At the mention of the angel's full name, Scott scowled. Jean decided instantly that she didn't like it when Scott scowled; it distorted his face way too much.
She looked back at Warren, turned the colour of a rose bush and scowled again. Jean couldn't believe this was the real Warren Worthington III; the Worthington's were among the richest families in Boston, rivalling only the Wayne-Kane clan in Gotham for money and influence among the interconnected web of Northeastern elites. What would the heir of such a powerful family being doing in a place like this?
"And we're back to scowling again," Warren sighed.
"It's because she looked at you," Scott said as he wheeled the professor out of the gallery and into a library. Jean looked around and whistled appreciatively. The library was filled with books, organized onto at least a dozen shelves that reached up to the ceiling.
"If you think this is impressive my dear, then you should know this but a sampling. There are many more books located in our basement," Hank said.
"Yeah, this place is a regular booklover's paradise," Bobby agreed.
"Um, not to be rude," Jean said, "but how does the professor get the books from the top shelf?"
"Scott," the other three boys answered. Scott cleared his throat.
"There's, um, also an automatic chair lift," he said, pointing towards a boxy yellow contraption with wheels that sat on the floor. "In case one of us isn't here to help."
"Right," Jean said, eyeing Scott appreciatively. It was telling, very telling, that the other boys had singled him out as the one that always aided their wheelchair-bound professor, though it didn't help her opinion of them very much. Maybe this wasn't a school for delinquents after all? But what else could it be? It sure as hell wasn't a school for normal people! The group made a final left turn into a private office. Warren held the door open this time, allowing everybody in before closing it. Scott wheeled the professor over to a desk in the middle of the room and then stayed there like a mother hen watching her chicks. The others for their part arranged themselves on the various couches and chairs scattered around the room. Jean made sure she got the seat directly in front of the professor. She wanted to know just what this guy's story was.
"What is this place?" Jean demanded. "And why am I here?"
"I think perhaps we should start at the beginning," Professor Xavier said. "When I was nine years old, I thought I had gone insane. I began hearing voices."
"Voices that told you to do what? Convert the family home into a school for delinquents?" Jean said. She wasn't sure where this sudden fire was coming from, only that she was angry at her parent's betrayal for dropping her off at this school for delinquents. Or worse, at a mental institute.
"Jean!" her father said, shocked, but the professor chuckled.
"No," he said. "In fact, the voices didn't tell me anything. That's because they couldn't. The voices were other people's thoughts."
"What?" Jean said.
"It took me a while to figure it out, of course," the professor said. "A significant clue was the fact that the voices in my head sounded just like the voices those people used when they were speaking. But even once I had discovered what was going on, it time for me to learn how to control my powers. It wasn't until I was twelve that I gained sufficient control of my abilities that I could function in regular society."
"What?" Jean repeated. She couldn't believe what she had heard. Telepathy? Just how crazy was this guy?
"At first, I thought that I was unique, or that my powers came from nuclear radiation," the professor continued as though he hadn't heard Jean at all. "My parents worked on the Manhattan Project, you see. It was not until much later in life, when I discovered others like me, that I learned what I was. I am a mutant. And so are you, Jean." Jean leaned forward in her chair. She was eager now to hear the rest of the story. A mutant, her? No way. She couldn't possibly be.
"Where was I? Oh yes. As I say, I did eventually discover other mutants whose powers were as fantastic as mine. Most of these mutants were already adults when we found each other, and with different ideas on how to handle their powers, and we did not stay together long. At the time, I still thought we were largely the result of nuclear radiation and thus did not require any significant organization. And then I discovered Scott, on the run from a foster home due to the uncontrollable nature of his powers. It was then I decided that mutants, however we came to be, needed a home. A school, where they could learn to control their powers."
"Xavier's School For Gifted Youngsters," Jean breathed. Then she looked around at the four young men who were with the professor and asked: "Okay, so the professor is telepathic. What can the rest of you do?"
"Just call me the 'Iceman'," Bobby said and transformed his body into a snowman. Jean and her parents gasped.
"Once again, Robert, you have managed to get a precipitous amount of precipitation upon the carpet," Hank said. "If it gets mildew, I'm sure the professor will see fit to make sure it is you who replace it." Turning to Jean, he said: "As you can see, my mutation gives me the outward appearance of a hairless gorilla. In addition, I have far greater agility, speed and strength compared to the average human being, along with a nifty little healing factor that allows me to survive far more significant injuries than most anybody else. Oh, and for reasons that will forever be beyond my comprehension, blue hair. I ask you, madam, have you ever seen a gorilla with blue hair?"
"Nope," Jean answered. Bobby had reverted to his human form, and his wet t-shirt clung to his young body in ways that made it hard for Jean to not stare. Instead, she turned to the other two and asked: "And what about you two?"
Warren answered: "Well, I'm not ripping another vest just to show off, but my mutation gave me wings and a body built for flight."
"You can fly?" Jean asked, her eyes bugging out of her head. When Warren nodded in confirmation, Jean muttered: "definitely an angel."
"What?" Warren asked.
"What?" Jean repeated as she turned a few hundred shades redder than her hair. She couldn't believe she said that out loud. The knowing smiles of her parents, the professor and Bobby and Hank, combined with the sudden scowl of Scott didn't help. Determined to fix their attention elsewhere, Jean stared at Scott and said: "And what about you, slim? What's your power? Bobby spoke of an eye condition…?"
"More like brain damage," Scott said grimly. "My body converts solar energy into concussive blasts through my eyes. But I was injured in the accident that killed my parents. Now I can't turn the beams off. Only these ruby-quartz visors can keep my powers in check and keep me from, you know, obliterating a build or killing my friends."
"Oh," Jean said. She wasn't sure how to respond to that. Then she said: "What's my power? Is it telekinesis? Because that would explain why sometimes things fly away from me. And the gym."
"We believe so, yes," Professor Xavier said. "Jean, we can teach you how to control your powers. But the choice is yours. Would you like to be a part of this school?"
"Yes sir," Jean said, as she stared the professor straight in the eye. "I think I would."
Greetings, True Believers! Here is my greatly revised version of the first chapter of The Uncanny X-Men! Actually there wasn't a whole lot to change this chapter; I added some details and a little bit of dialogue to the chapter, plus a prologue with Uatu the Watcher that hopefully ties this whole universe that I'm building together a little bit better. Keep your eyes out for further updates! I will see you all soon.
The Uncanny X-Men created by Stan "The Man" Lee and Jack "The King" Kirby. Uatu The Watcher created by Stan "The Man" Lee and Jack "The King" Kirby.