Charles Xavier sat in the medical ward with Hank McCoy, studying the unconscious form of their guest. It appeared to be a man in his late 40's or early 50's, curly dark hair receding from the hairline and slightly touched with gray, large nose, full lips, ruddy Caucasian skin, and over 6 feet if he'd been standing, which for three days, he hadn't been.
Charles had heard the- manifestation? he'd thought so at the time, but now he wasn't sure- the cry for help, the desperate scream, from LaBarre, in France. He hadn't been using Cerebro at the time and the scream had still resounded in his mental ears, drowning out his telepathy entirely for half an hour afterward. He'd gone with the X-Men on the mission to recover the mutant, and found an energy that moved, a giant amorphous ball like a miniature star sitting in a vineyard, terrifying the ordinary people that worked the land.
He'd attempted to make contact with the- whatever it was; the power he sensed was so extreme he had started to wonder whether in fact this was a mutant, or something else. The thought of angels had crossed his mind, not as they appeared in the public consciousness as winged humans but the Hebrew notion of terrifying entities of light and music that Erik had introduced him to. He'd reached out- and the whatever it was had responded, calling him by a name that wasn't his own and by a telepathic image that was, and then coalesced into the form of a man, and then collapsed. And here he was in the medical ward, where he'd been for three days, and Charles couldn't read his mind at all.
"He's not injured," Hank said. "In fact his physical health seems remarkable. But his brain activity is confounding every piece of equipment I have used to attempt to scan it. He does appear to be a mutant, genetically, but I can't make any sense of his brainwaves; his mind appears to be far, far more active than any mind baselined on Homo sapiens could possibly be, and that is accounting for such possibilities as high-order psi and superhuman intelligence, which are both conditions I have scans with which to compare this."
"And I can't read him," Charles murmured. "I can sense him, but it's as if his mind is... somehow larger than a human's. Or a mutant, for that matter."
The man's eyes opened. "Jean-Luc?"
"My name is Charles Xavier," Charles said gently, reaching out to hold the man's hand. He could sense nothing, no thoughts, no emotions, nothing but an overwhelming sense of presence, but he didn't need his powers to interpret the expression on the man's face as uncertainty and fear. "You're among friends here. No one will harm you."
"Harm me? I don't... You're not Jean-Luc."
"No, I'm afraid not."
"But you look just like him," the man said plaintively. "You feel just like him. Except... except you're a telepath! Jean-Luc isn't a telepath. I didn't know any humans were telepaths. Where'd you get that? And what species is the blue guy? I don't recognize him and I thought I knew all the species. Where am I? Where's the Continuum? I can't... I can't feel them... I can't reach back home!"
"The 'blue guy', as you inelegantly but accurately described me, is named Doctor Henry McCoy, although I go by either Hank or Beast on occasion. And I am a mutant, as is the esteemed Professor Xavier, and as we had assumed you to be."
"Yeah, but a mutant of what? What's your origin species- no. No, you can't be humans. Humans never did this in any of the timelines I have access to..."
"Origin species? Do you mean extraterrestrial species?" Charles asked, frowning.
"No, I mean species of lizard. Of course extraterrestrial- are you sure you're not Jean-Luc? I would really have only expected a question that stupid from him- you even sound like him."
"Well, I confess that I'm somewhat amazed to find that an alien knows a man who looks very much like me, but no, I'm absolutely sure that I'm not Jean-Luc. What species are you, if I might ask?"
"Q. What am I doing here?" He stood up.
"You should rest," Hank said. "You've obviously suffered some kind of trauma-"
"I'm Q! We don't suffer trauma! Where is the Continuum?"
"I'm afraid we don't know the answer to that. Or what you're doing here. Do you remember calling out for help?" Jean-Luc. Yes, that had been the name he'd called Charles then, too. And yet the thought-image he'd sent had been identical to Charles. Could Charles really have a human doppelganger, somewhere? The being had mentioned timelines- alternate timelines? Alternate Earths? He'd read enough science fiction to be familiar with the concept, though it had never struck him as very plausible.
"No... no, of course you don't." The Q began to pace restlessly around the medical ward. "I still have my powers. Mostly. But I can't feel the Continuum. Which means... which means I'm going to run out of energy sooner or later. Gah. We don't do that anymore. I might actually have to eat."
"If you're hungry, we could continue this discussion in the kitchen, since you seem to be recovered enough that you probably don't need to be in the medical ward anymore."
"No, no. I mean, by all means lead the way out of this dreary dungeon, I hate the smell of antiseptic, but I don't eat food. Not like humans. There's nothing you have- oh no. Oh no." The color drained from his expression and he sank down in a chair.
The being looked up at Charles. "You have to help me find my way home. I'm... lost, somehow. I was trying to find another timeline... another Jean-Luc... and somehow I homed in on you instead. Except you're not Jean-Luc, just frighteningly similar if one overlooks the whole you're a telepath thing, and this universe... this isn't connected directly to mine. I can't get the feed from the Continuum, I can't directly go home. I'm going to need your help, you and all these superpowered humans you have running around, or..."
"Well, I don't have the range to teleport to Alpha Centauri or any other star systems without the energy of the Continuum to draw from. And I'll do my best to conserve. But sooner or later... sooner or later I'll start to starve, without a source of energy to draw from. And I don't... we don't do hunger strikes. Eventually I'll lose enough of my reason that I'll just grab the nearest power source, without any consciousness or control of myself. And I'm afraid... that would be your sun."
Charles blinked. The cold terror was seeping slowly, the way it always did, congealing into a fog around his heart like it always did when the stakes were too horrible to imagine at first. "How long is eventually?"
"I don't know. I've never been in this situation before. But at least a few months, certainly, probably more. Maybe a lot more if I can figure out how to drop myself down to a much lower energy state."
"Well." Hank's voice was brightly, falsely cheerful. "A few months or maybe more gives us some time. I'm sure we can figure something out by then."
"We will do anything in our power to help you find your way home," Charles said. "And to help you... reach a lower energy state, if there's anything we can do to assist."
The being smiled wanly. "Well. You're almost Jean-Luc. I suppose if I have to be stuck somewhere it's good to be stuck with someone I can reasonably trust to pull a miracle out of his hat and save the day."
"You think very highly of this Jean-Luc."
"Yeah, well, don't tell him I said that. If you ever meet him. Which you probably won't, as I expect the universe would explode if you did."
"The universe would explode?"
"It's a joke. You're so close to the same, it'd be like having antimatter and matter. I can see the differences, but aside from the powers, it seems they're mostly all about the worlds you live in, not who you fundamentally are. Interesting. Your world is so much crueler than his, and yet you're still so much like him. Didn't you say you were going to get me out of this chamber of horrors?"
"All right. Let's go to my study and discuss this. Do you have a name we could pronounce?"
"I already said. Q."
"I thought that was the name of your species."
"Yes, it's the name of my species."
"Then what's your personal name?"
"Who's on first?" Hank muttered.
"Exactly," the entity said. "And what's on second."
"You know Abbott and Costello?"
"Of course I know Abbott and Costello. Who doesn't?"
"So Q is both your own name and the name of your species?"
"Yes! What's so difficult about this concept?"
An alien named after his species, with powers so enormous they might eventually drive him to eat the sun, but who was otherwise medically indistinguishable from a mutant, who knew Abbott and Costello and thought Charles was a near-identical twin of some man named Jean-Luc, mentally as well as physically. Charles smiled wryly. This was definitely going to be one of their more interesting guests.
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