Title:Ladies and Gentlemen
Disclaimer:None of the characters and properties of X1: X-Men movie and X2: X-Men United belong to me. Some of the things Magneto says in this fic are taken directly from the novelization of the first movie, although tweaked a bit.
A.N:Although I never considered Magneto in the X-Men comics as more than a villain, the Magneto of the movie really did strike something in me, because here was an old man who had experienced some of the worst things mankind did to each other, and would do anything to ensure something like it didn't happen again. Not that I agree with his actions, but I do understand them, because of his past.
They were full of hostility – he didn't need Charles' power to know that. Admittedly, Ms. Grey had given a marvelous effort; her presentation had been full of clear facts that had peaked the interest of all those who had seen it, and she had spoken clearly and confidently until the end. Unfortunately, Senator Kelly had more experience playing the crowd, and had stolen the show and the crowd's sentiments from right underneath her feet.
They glared down at him, all of them – the lights, the camera lenses, the senators, the crowd. He didn't mind; he had received much worse in his lifetime, and simply stared right back, his expression carefully controlled. He had learned long ago that if he could control his body language, no normal person could tell what he was thinking, how he was feeling, and he could survive anything and everything.
If there was one thing he was good at, it was surviving.
And that was one of the reasons he was here today.
Senator Kelly spoke up, "Why are you here today, Mr.…?"
"Eric Lehnsherr," he replied in a pleasant voice, though his eyes were sharp, giving his original name in place of his mutant alias. "My name is Eric Lehnsherr, Senator Kelly, and like Ms. Grey, I am here to speak out against the Mutant Registration Act."
Whispered mutters ran through the crowd, and some of the blatantly uninterested Senators even sighed aloud.
Senator Kelly smiled blandly at him, his tone deceptively polite, "And what could you possibly say to us that Ms. Grey already did not address? Her presentation was quite…interesting."
The corners of Eric's mouth tightened imperceptibly, and he looked no longer like a frail old man, but like a strong man who had seen more than any of them dreamed of. The change was startling, and the crowd responded silently, sitting up straighter, paying more attention, unable to deny the sheer gravity inside the aged man's gaze.
"Ms. Grey has thoroughly explained the cause of mutation, yes," Eric replied, his eyes frigid, though his voice remained warm and grandfatherly. The stark contrast made a few people shift uncertainly. "But I am here to protest the passing of the Mutant Registration Act."
"And why is that, Mr. Lehnsherr?" the Senator asked, looking bored.
Eric fought the urge to upend the man from his chair – which he could easily do, as the chairs were all metal.
"You see, Senator, I have a very good reason," he replied, smiling benignly. "I am, in fact, a mutant, myself."
Shock coursed through the crowd, and there were less-than-hushed whispering that echoed through the room. Senator Kelly himself looked shocked, though he controlled himself better than most of the others.
"My powers lie in manipulating magnetic fields," he went on, smiling inwardly when the voiced silenced themselves in horror and fascination. "Which means, of course, that I can manipulate all types of metal freely."
To demonstrate, he raised his hand slightly, and his mike floated obediently into the air, metal stand and all.
There were unrestrained gasps from the crowd.
"My purpose for telling you all this is very simple," he continued. "To gauge your reactions. I saw it from the very beginning – the fear. Fear of me and my kind, the brotherhood of mutants."
Senator Kelly was quick to interrupt; "Brotherhood of mutants? Now why would mutants need to – "
Eric silenced the senator with a small smile, though it was not in amusement, "The Brotherhood of mutants is what I call all mutant kind, because we are a brotherhood. Only a select few join us; we are gods among insects."
It didn't take long for people to become offended.
"Surprised? Why? It's the truth. You know it. It's why you fear us – you don't have our gifts, you can't have them, and so you fear them," he stated bluntly. "It's not that surprising to me; humans have always feared what they cannot understand – true?"
He paused, glancing around as if asking someone to answer, but everyone knew he did not expect anyone to interrupt him – that he would be displeased, indeed, if they did.
"And mankind has always made laws to protect itself from what it doesn't understand, laws, like this Mutant Registration Act."
Here, Senator Kelly stood up to protest, "The intention of the Mutant Registration Act – "
"Intention?" Eric's voice had gotten sharper, to match the gaze he turned on the senator. "Senator, you and I both know all about the road to hell and what it is paved with."
Kelly slowly sat back down, silenced by the knife's edge that was in the older man's eyes.
"We are not talking about intentions, Senator," Eric said, not taking his eyes off the outspoken senator, though he faced the television cameras as he spoke. "We are talking about mankind, human fear." He paused. "And trust me when I tell you, it is only a matter of time before mutants are herded into camps, studied for weakness, and eventually wiped off the face of the earth."
Senator Kelly stood, about to protest.
Holding up a hand, Eric cut him off, saying, "Trust me, Senator, Ladies and Gentlemen. I know."
Slowly, purposefully, he rolled up his sleeve and pointed to the inside of his arm, turning it outward so that the closest senators could see. He could almost feel the cameras zooming in, the people in their homes recoiling from shock at the row of numbers tattooed there. Nazi prison camp tattoos.
A stunned silence swept through the crowd as those nearest to him whispered what they saw to the people towards the back.
"I've seen it happen in my lifetime," Eric finished darkly.
There was a beat.
He then continued, "It was when my powers first surfaced – Poland, 1944. I was only a child, and my people were being herded into the camps like cattle, my parents and I among them. Once we reached a certain point, I was separated from my parents; all the children were. Some cried, others were strangely quiet."
Quiet, as his audience was now quiet. Dead silence.
"I remember watching my mother scream, wanting to go to her," he said in a soft voice, although the mike amplified it so that it echoed. "My father was with her, trying to get to me, but the guards were holding them back, like they were holding me back. But I was determined to get to them, and in my determination, I only knew one thing: I had to be strong, like the metal gates that separated us. In this way, I first used my power, though unknowingly. The barbed wire began to uncurl, the gates bent at my command, and four guards were trying to drag me away – and failing. It took a blow to the head to stop me, and as I sank into unconsciousness, the last thing I saw was the image of my parents. I took that image into the darkness with me, and it was the last time I saw them."
There was some nervous shuffling, but the eerie quiet continued, extended. No one knew what to say, no one had the words.
Eric sighed, unconsciously rubbing the inside of his arm, remembering his first glimpse of the tattoos that would later be forced on him. It had been on a boy, a little older than he, who was being put to work by the soldiers. He remembered every detail, even now, so many years later. Every detail…
But now was not the time for that.
Clearing his throat purposefully, he began to speak once more. "Have any of you ever been to Liberty Island? Seen the great Lady Liberty?"
There were slight murmurs of assent, along with confusion. The jump in topics had caught them all off guard.
"Magnificent, isn't she?" he smiled, kindly. "I first saw her in 1949. It was glorious, after years of seeing women and children, whole families, destroyed simply because they were born different from those in power."
There were uncertain coughs from the people who caught the hint. And suddenly, his smile was not so kind anymore, and his face stony, his eyes glaring at the crowd, at the senators, the people watching in their homes by way of television.
"America was supposed to be a land of tolerance," he sneered, a bitter taste in his mouth, contempt dripping like acid from his tone. "Of peace," he spat out viciously.
Uncomfortable looks were spread through the crowd, along with frowns and even some guilty faces.
Drawing himself up, Eric purposefully let his voice ring clearly and loudly. "This proposal of the Mutant Registration Act is simply showing me what I already know. Ladies and gentlemen, there is no land of tolerance, there is no land of peace. Not anywhere else, and especially not here."
Shrugging on his coat, Eric Lehnsherr moved easily through the crowd, his hat covering his face well enough so that they didn't recognize him as the speaker from only minutes ago.
He was just leaving the building when he heard a familiar voice, "What are you doing here?"
"Why do you ask questions when you already know the answers?" he asked, smiling faintly.
Charles Xavier regarded his old friend solemnly. "I heard your speech," the man said finally.
"Of course you did," Eric replied. "And what did you think of it?"
"I think," the other man answered carefully, slowly, "that you shouldn't give up on them."
"What would you have me do, Charles?" he demanded. "This situation is nothing new to me; I have heard it before. Used very well, if I remember correctly, and there is nothing about that I have forgotten."
"That was a long time ago," Xavier responded. "Mankind has evolved since then."
"Yes, into us," Eric finished. "We are the future, Charles, not them. They no longer matter."
Charles Xavier smiled slightly, knowingly. "If you believed that, you wouldn't have done what you just did."
"There is a war coming," Eric answered calmly "And I will fight it by any means necessary, starting with this. Talking always comes first. Then, when words no longer matter, I will fight in another way. My way."
Xavier was silent, and Eric knew he did not agree. He didn't very much care as of now.
"I don't expect you to help me, or even to agree with me, old friend," Lehnsherr said, his eyes narrowing. "But when the time comes…don't get in my way."
With that, he turned and walked away.