Solving the riddle of M-Day was the most important task facing any mutant left on Earth. Charles believed this, completely. When Hank McCoy mentioned that he'd gotten a sample of Charles' own DNA from his old body, the one he'd had before a Brood Queen had devoured it, from Sikorsky of the Starjammers' cryo-stored repository, it occurred to Charles that Hank was older, stronger-minded, and had better mental shielding than he'd had when he'd been a young man barely out of his teens. But by now Charles had spent almost ten years in the new body, the more accurate one, and he was finding it hard to care as much about maintaining the definition of his identity as he had when he was younger. So he gave Hank his blessing.
It was important work. M-Day hadn't just stripped most mutants of their powers. For the few that were left, it had removed their ability to breed true. In the past, the children of mutants had had a high chance of being mutants themselves; now, there was no chance. Not unless Hope, sent to the future with Cable, could change things somehow. Or unless Hank or the other researchers working on the problem could isolate what had actually changed, but since the M-Day effect had swept over all the mutants on Earth, and all the genetic samples on Earth, it had proved impossible to identify the variance.
There was reason to believe that M-Day might be localized to Earth, though. No known mutants who'd been in space at the time of the effect had lost their powers. Admittedly, not that many known Earth mutants had been in space, but there'd been some, none of whom had been willing to come back to Earth to have their DNA studied. So the DNA from Charles' old, Brood-ravaged body was potentially extremely valuable. Charles had been one of the few mutants who hadn't lost his powers, so an examination of his old DNA wouldn't solve the loss of powers issue, but it might well solve the breeding true issue. Mutants were only an endangered species because in the past, they'd been able to pass on mutancy when breeding with the five billion humans on Earth, and now they could not. With a gene pool of only 168, or even 227, mutant/mutant couplings couldn't be indefinitely viable even if such couplings could produce mutants; mutantkind needed the ability to pass their powers onto children conceived with humans. If Hank could find a solution to that problem, nothing he might find out about Charles Xavier himself mattered in comparison.
But he didn't want to know about it, because the thought of his secrets coming out made him nervous and the thought of admitting what he'd done to protect those secrets made him feel guilty and his conscience wouldn't let him do it again, not now, not after so many years of learning that just because he had the power to alter minds didn't make it a good idea. And because he still felt angry, even after all these years, that this could potentially even be an issue. He didn't need the stress, not now. So he went for a walk. Utopia wasn't particularly large on the outside, but Magnus had honeycombed the asteroid with tunnels, all capped and protected from vacuum and therefore, ocean pressure - and with the kind of air recirculation and scrubbing you'd need to live on a space station. There were miles and miles of tunnel to walk through within Utopia, and Charles had working legs now. Walking would likely never stop being a joy to him until he was dead.
It didn't change the fact that when the spike of anger and betrayal and disbelief came, from both Scott and Hank, it was powerful enough that even within the bowels of Utopia, he noticed it. He was going to have to deal with this, personally, or possibly lose his friendship with two of his first and most trusted students. So as he walked back the mile or two to Hank's lab, he reviewed Hank's memory of what had just transpired - Scott, with a long history of telepath lovers, was too well shielded to be easily read.
There was something seriously wrong with the DNA. Hank froze in shock as he realized what it was. He ran the cross-check he needed to, observing almost as if he were a dispassionate outsider that his paw was shaking slightly. And then he called Scott and Emma.
"You sound shaky, Hank," Scott said. "What's wrong?"
"Perhaps nothing. Perhaps a very great deal. This DNA sample is supposed to be from Charles Xavier. We received it from the Starjammers; their physician Sikorsky has kept the sample in stasis all these years, after using it as a template to clone Charles a new body when the Brood Queen consumed his own."
"'Supposed to be.' So it's someone else's DNA?" Scott sighed. "Please, Hank. Don't tell me Charles is related to me. Just... don't."
"Would that that were the issue. This DNA is a woman's. Double X chromosome."
"Why is that an issue?" Emma asked.
"Because in all other respects it's identical to Charles'. Which means that it is Cassandra Nova's DNA. Which means that when she took over the Shi'ar, she must have subverted the Starjammers as well-"
"Or it means that it's Charles' DNA, Henry. Really." Emma's expression was impatient at first, but shifted to surprise. "You mean you didn't know?"
That was a surprise. Charles hadn't known that Emma knew. Emma had had some contact with Moira McTaggert, who'd known and had only had the telepathic shielding a human was capable of, so perhaps it wasn't that surprising... but she'd never said or done anything to Charles to indicate that she thought of him as anything other than what he truly was, even when they'd been enemies and she'd been ruthless enough to use any weapon she had.
"Know what?" Scott asked.
"Surely you knew, Scott. Charles must have..." She looked back and forth between the two of them. "He never told either of you, did he."
"Told us what?" Scott asked. "Emma..."
"That he was born a woman, of course," she said.
There was a moment of silence.
"Oh, I can't believe neither of you knew this! Henry, how exactly did you think Cassandra Nova could be Charles Xavier's identical twin unless you knew that Charles was born female? I was sure you must have known."
"Charles was born female?" Scott said, sounding rather like Hank felt - as if a truck had just hit him in the head.
"That's not possible," Hank said. "I did work with Charles' DNA before his new body... I've examined him... surely wouldn't Moira have noticed?"
"Of course she noticed," Emma said. "But she hardly had a motive for telling you if Charles himself hadn't bothered." She sighed. "I forget, you all met him when you were children. "
"How did you know?" Scott asked. "Did he tell you? Or, uh, she?"
That hurt, but it wasn't as if he'd ever specifically given Scott, or any of his students, an education on transsexualism, the difference between mental and physical sex, or any other such thing, and it wasn't as if being raised to accept differences in race, species, or sexual orientation automatically translated into knowing how not to offend people who'd transitioned gender. Scott wasn't trying to be hurtful. Probably. All Charles could get was Hank's memory of the discussion, so he couldn't be sure.
"That's ignorant, Scott. He's quite male."
"Now he is, I guess, but..."
Emma shook her head. "He's always been. The astral self has a gender... not always one of the two common ones, it's far more common to find dual-gendered or null-gendered people on the astral plane than it is in the world of physical bodies. I met Charles first on the Astral Plane, of course. Telepaths tend to. When I met him in the real world... I realized that he was sending out a low-level broadcast of identity information, which contained the fact that he is male, and that made me... curious. Typically speaking, men who feel the need to tell everyone that they're men behave in stereotypically macho fashions, and Charles Xavier, for all of his myriad faults, was one of the least macho men I'd ever met." She shook her head. "He was quite good at passing; it wasn't until I talked to Magneto about it that I learned that my guess was accurate, and he'd been born into a woman's body."
Well. He'd underestimated Emma's level of telepathic skill, when they'd first met in person. Most telepaths had never noticed the low-grade identity carrier Charles hadn't learned to stop doing until years after his body finally completely matched his true self. It was surprising to him that Erik had told her anything, but he knew quite well that Erik had always placed him in a category outside gender - to Erik, there were men, women, and Charles Xavier. The brief attempt they'd had at a relationship had failed because it had put Charles closer to a gendered category in Erik's mind, and it had been the wrong one, and if it had been the right one the fact that Erik was both straight and somewhat misandrist would have made it impossible. Perhaps Erik had thought it was unimportant whether he told Emma or not because by that time Charles's body had matched down to the DNA level, courtesy of Sikorsky's work.
"So Magneto knew about this?" Scott asked, more and more disbelieving.
"But even presuming that he'd had sex reassignment surgery, I've worked on his DNA!" Hank said, agitated. "I don't really care what sex Charles is, or was, but how could I have possibly failed to notice the presence of two X chromosomes in his DNA unless he altered my mind?"
"Well, you couldn't have, Hank. Really. He altered your mind. After everything you know about him, does that actually shock you?"
"So Moira knew. And Magneto knew. And you knew. But he never told any of his students a damn thing," Scott said, his voice growing hard.
"It wasn't really any of your business, dear heart. The man is entitled to be seen as the gender he truly is, if he chooses. The very fact that you called him 'she' suggests that perhaps he had good reasons for not telling you."
"No." Scott shook his head. "Every time Charles keeps secrets, someone gets hurt. Every time. And you just admitted that he altered Hank's mind to hide the actual configuration of his DNA. Repeatedly. During the time period when Hank's mutant research consisted of samples from about twenty mutants, tops, and Charles was one of them."
"I'm not really seeing how anyone got hurt because Charles concealed his birth sex."
"To begin with, we might have understood what Cassandra Nova was rather more rapidly if we'd known," Hank said. "Identical twin sisters of brothers do not, in fact, genetically exist. Not without anomalies, and I wasn't aware of any in either of their DNA. And yet I never wondered... where did Cassandra get her second X chromosome? It wasn't a duplicate of the other one. I should have questioned that; I should have considered the thought that genes on that chromosome, which Charles doesn't share, could have had an influence on the powers she expressed. But I didn't think about it at all." He clenched his paws, trying desperately to contain the broken feeling of betrayal. "Charles lying to me or keeping a secret that was none of my business? Really, I wouldn't be concerned. But I didn't see things that were obvious, that I should have questioned instantly, when dealing with Cassandra Nova, and that means that whatever Charles did, it permanently impaired my thinking in this matter. Could you accept that, Emma? You're hardly a scientist, and yet I'm sure you would find the idea that you have been left with a permanent blind spot in your thinking to be utterly unacceptable. I make my place in this world with my mind! I have nothing else!"
And Charles reached the door, and opened it. "I'm sorry."
He could have said "You're more than your mind, Hank, you've always been." He could have said "It shouldn't have affected you this late in life, this many years after I've stopped." He could have said "It's just this one area, Hank, none of the rest of your scientific prowess is affected." All of those things were true, but they were wrong. He hadn't been in any position, having been more or less dead at the time, to influence Hank's mind when Hank had been doing his research on Cassandra Nova. If Hank had had a blind spot there, after all these years, it meant that the identity carrier wave Charles had always been sending from the time he was a preteen to years after finally having a body that matched his true self had done more damage than Charles had ever thought it would.
Hank just looked at him. Scott said, "Did it ever occur to you to inform us that you'd been altering our minds since we were teenagers?"
Charles sighed. "I didn't alter your minds. Not in the way you're thinking."
"I thought so," Emma said. "It's an interaction with the identity carrier wave, isn't it? Although Charles, you might have stopped with the identity carrier after you'd had bottom surgery. It really wasn't necessary by that point, was it?"
"I didn't know how to stop. I didn't even know I was doing it, for years, until I realized that Magnus could tell much more about my physical nature than anyone I had met since my father died, and the only difference between him and everyone else that I was aware of at the time was that his mind was closed to me."
"Explain this," Hank said. "What is the identity carrier wave?"
His feet hurt. He was glad his feet hurt because it meant he could feel his feet, but it still wasn't pleasant. Charles pulled up a chair and sat down. "Everyone has a sense of themselves that's comprised of... hmm... what they see as their most defining traits. Think of it as an identity synopsis. It's not the idealized self you see on the Astral Plane - that's a visual image. It's more of a character biography, a prcis of what you want people to know about you. It also isn't always accurate - I've met politicians who were astonishing hypocrites, who thought of themselves as honest plain-talking folks and their perception of themselves as such was so strong, it was in their identity synopsis."
"Everyone has this?" Scott asked.
"Everyone does, but only telepaths broadcast it... and people with other powers similar to telepathy, certain types of empathy, animal telepathy, cyberpathy, et cetera. If you have a sensitivity on the psi spectrum, you are probably unconsciously broadcasting your identity synopsis, because telepaths start doing that even before we develop the ability to actively read minds. Before the voices start, we tell the world who we are."
"Which, generally speaking, is usually quite obvious," Emma said. "It's not exactly as if someone goes about broadcasting that she's a stunningly attractive 20-something supermodel when in fact she's a flat-chested fourteen-year-old with braces. Usually, what people send in their identity broadcast is what's immediately obvious when you look at them."
"And the exception would be cases like mine," Charles said. "I knew from a very young age that I shouldn't be a girl. I was something of a bookworm, so I didn't really end up being labeled a tomboy... but in those days, girls were expected to wear frilly dresses, and I didn't want to. Girls were expected to play with girls, and boys with boys, and I didn't see why I should restrict my friendships based on gender. And I wasn't tremendously athletic, but I did like playing sports with the other boys, and I was deeply unhappy with being told I couldn't because I was a girl. For years my conscious belief on the matter was that I just didn't want to conform to the strictures of being female... but when I developed my telepathy, I learned that many, many girls and women didn't want to conform to those strictures, and yet were perfectly happy with being girls and women. They accepted what their bodies looked like; they just didn't think they should be forced to be less than they could be because of those bodies." He shook his head. "It wasn't that way with me. It wasn't that I hated to wear dresses because they were restrictive - I hated them because girls wore dresses, and wearing a dress advertises that you're a girl, and I didn't feel that I was. My parents were never overly interested in policing my gender, and when my father died and I told my mother I'd be the man of the house, she wasn't horrified... just amused."
"You can't get through to Juggernaut's mind," Scott said. "Does that mean he knows?"
"No... I started broadcasting before I even met the Markos. When I first met them, Kurt Marko said to me, 'And you must be Brian's little boy'. I didn't know that I was doing it, or how I was doing it; to me at the time it just made sense. When he agreed with me that I was a little boy, without being asked, I felt vindicated. I didn't like him - I felt he was trying to replace my father, and I was always suspicious of him - but he made me realize the problem. I understood when he said it that I was Brian's little boy, regardless of the fact that my body didn't seem to quite match."
"And Juggernaut has gone through his entire life believing that you were male," Hank said, slowly. "Even after the Helmet of Cytorrak prevented you from telepathically influencing him. Because you influenced him when you had the chance, and it remained with him, imprinted on him. Forever."
"I didn't even know I was doing it then-"
"But you knew when you recruited us," Hank said. "You knew by the time you gathered together your students. And you considered it acceptable to permanently shape our minds with this lie-"
"It's not a lie, Hank. You know better than that! You've seen me on the Astral Plane."
"But it's a lie that you had male chromosomes when I initially began researching mutants and my samples included you. It's a lie that you were born in a male body, with a male identity. The whole time we knew you, you were claiming to be something you were not. I don't care if you're a man or a woman, Charles, I care that you were telepathically influencing us to see something that wasn't there!"
Charles tried to control his anger. He understood why Hank was upset. He sympathized. But how long was he going to be told that his true self was 'something that wasn't there?' "Aside from my DNA, and you know as well as I do that gender doesn't play a significant role in mutation, you never saw anything that wasn't there. By the time you were trained well enough to serve in any kind of medical role in the team, I had had all the surgical interventions I needed to appear, physically, male." He hadn't wanted them. Before access to advanced alien technology, he'd been dealing with the state of the art on Earth, and the state of the art on Earth was that it had been nearly impossible to create a realistic penis, surgically. He'd be damaging the sexual function he did have to create a poor imitation of the one he should have. And it hadn't mattered that much to him - it was very important to him that the world see him as a man, because he was a man and he couldn't bear seeing their minds reflecting a lie back at him, but as long as his partner didn't care - or could be telepathically compelled to not notice, as he'd done with Gabrielle - it didn't matter so much to him what he actually had between his legs.
It was Amelia who'd convinced him to have it done. A disabled man was going to end up in situations, very often, where the private parts of his body would be exposed to people he wouldn't otherwise have exposed them to, and the prejudice against the disabled was bad enough without adding in the prejudice against the transgendered. She'd been his nurse and his cheerleader, and later, his lover - she hadn't cared for her own sake what his genitals looked like, but she hadn't wanted him to suffer the intrusive rudeness and prejudicial attitudes he'd already had to deal with from the medical personnel who'd saved him before he'd wiped their minds of any memory of his female anatomy and started making them think he looked male everywhere. He had preferred the thought of the surgery to constantly mind-wiping and manipulating people; his identity carrier wave had kept people from questioning his gender identity, but if he was unconscious it didn't broadcast, and it was harder to make people not-see a lack of a penis than it was to make them not notice his lack of a brow ridge or the slightness of his Adam's apple or the mastectomy scars on his chest. So by the time he'd formed the X-Men, only a very, very detailed examination could have revealed the truth about his body.
"Charles. Do we actually know DNA plays no role in mutation? Don't you realize you have been the single biggest argument against the theory that telepathy is more common in women?"
"I suppose you've forgotten Gamesmaster. Or Amahl Farouk. Or Cable."
"Cable inherited Jean's powers because he was engineered to, and the female telepaths included Jean, Emma, Psylocke, Danielle Moonstar, Xi'an Coy Manh, possibly Tessa to a certain extent, Malice... must I go on?"
"Does it really matter, Hank?" Emma asked. "If telepathy is more common in women, but does independently appear in men, then what difference does a single data point make?"
"None, realistically," Hank said, sighing, "but that's not the point. The point is, my scientific judgement has been compromised. I looked at DNA scans and saw what I expected to see, rather than what was really there. And I looked at Cassandra Nova's DNA scans, noted that they were identical to Charles', noted that they were female instead of male, and never questioned how that could be possible... where Cassandra could have gotten the extra X chromosome to build herself from. I thought it was because she was metaphysically the opposite of Charles Xavier, but it was the only physical difference between them at all, and metaphysics or no, where did she get it from? For that matter, Charles, where did Sikorsky get your Y chromosome from?"
"I have no idea; I wasn't awake to ask. Corsair's seems to carry some extras that activate in the presence of X-Factor, so I doubt very much it was his. For all I know, Sikorsky built one from scratch; you know as well as I do how little genetic information is actually on them."
"You keep doing this," Scott said. "You keep secrets, Charles, until they blow up in everyone's face. You altered all of our minds against our will-"
"Oh, stop it now," Emma said. "He made you think he was dead. Does making you think he was male really count in the same category?"
"Yes, actually! Charles was trying to save the world by faking his death, during the Z'noxx invasion. He wasn't trying to do anything except avoid inconvenient questions by faking his gender-"
"I'm not faking anything, Scott." Charles stood up. "You keep talking about this as if I maliciously lied to you. I told you the truth about who and what I am - the real truth. I am as much male as the Shadow King is not the bodies he possesses. For a telepath, the identity of the mind, the psyche, is what's important, and it was frankly no more my students' business that my mind didn't match my body in every single respect than my sex life was your business."
"The identity of the mind is all that matters?" Hank asked. "Because you encouraged Kurt, and myself, to be as open about our bodies as we could afford to be. I wasn't born like this; in my identity of the mind, I usually am not animalistically hirsute, and I never appear felinoid. Should I run about with an image inducer to transform my image back to Hank McCoy, the football player who can pass for human, rather than the blue-befurred Beast? If I were a telepath, should I convince all that see me that my skin is smooth and beige with rosy highlights, rather than concealed under this blanket of fur?"
"That depends," Charles said. "Are you trying to avoid the prejudices of the world, and if so, would you be happier if you confronted them instead and simply showed the world what you look like? Or are you trying to make the world see you as you see yourself because it's painful to look into another's mind and see yourself wrong?" Charles shook his head. "For me, the path of least resistance would have been pretending to be the woman I was born as. If I hadn't had my telepathy to smooth the way, I'd have faced less prejudice for being a woman than for being a man who is seen as not a man. You chose to use an image inducer because it was easier to deal with other people that way, until you felt that enough people accepted you for your furred self that you could reveal it to the world. It would have been easier for me to approach the world as a woman than as a trans man."
"Now darling, I think your privilege is showing," Emma said coolly. "Let us not play in the Oppression Olympics here. There is plenty of suffering and prejudice in this world available for women, and you probably avoided more of it than you endured for being trans, given that virtually no one ever knew that you were. If you'd been a trans woman I might have conceded your point, but you've been thought to be male, and given all the privileges our society gives to men, your entire adult life."
Charles sighed. "All right. I'm not going to get into a discussion of that with you, Emma. My point is that my motivations are not the same as Hank's. You don't think of yourself as a normal human being, Hank; you never have. You were willing to be open about your transformation in many respects, without overly relying on the image inducer, because you always saw yourself as different, and this was just a matter of degree. In my case... Our concept of gender, of what's tied into the idea of masculinity and femininity, actually has very little to do with our genitalia. We organize human beings into the categories of 'male' and 'female' before any other criteria, before 'old' and 'young', almost before 'human' and 'not human' given how we treat aliens based on their gender. And those categories carry with them all kinds of assumptions that have nothing to do with genitals, and frequently have nothing to do with reality, but our entire method of relating to others is filtered through gender. Given that it's perfectly legal for a human and a mutant to marry if they're of the opposite sexes, and yet only three states and Canada, on this continent, recognize the rights of same sex couples to marry, it seems that in many ways we filter gender before we concern ourselves whether someone is a mutant or not. So gender identity is much more fundamental than the question of whether or not you have blue fur. People who don't know you have called you monstrous or an animal because of your appearance, but people who do know me have changed the way they behave toward me when they think my gender is different from what they understood it to be."
"Are you claiming that we're changing our attitudes toward you just because you were born female?" Scott asked.
"No, but I'm quite sure that if I'd told you when you were younger, less seasoned, and when my physical body actually was still genetically female, it might have changed your attitudes toward me."
"Because we're both such unreconstructed male chauvinist boors," Hank said sardonically.
"No, because humans just... react differently to others based on gender. And in this case, mutants are just the same as humans. It's not necessarily that we oppress one sex or discount one sex - there's been plenty of that historically and it certainly still happens, but I know you would have respected me as your teacher, whatever you thought my gender to be. You just..." He struggled with the words. It would be easier to just use telepathy, to just show them, but when they were both feeling vulnerable because he had spent their teen years using his telepathy on them, he didn't feel he had that option. "You just would have seen me differently. In your eyes, I'd have been more female than male, and when I saw myself reflected back, in your minds, the image would not have matched my self. Can't you understand?"
He held out his hands. "I never wanted to harm any of you. I never even intended to change your perceptions. I was subconsciously informing people around me that I wanted to be seen as male, my whole life, and so they responded to me as if I was who I really am. When I didn't do it, when I was unconscious or had my powers nullified, they responded as if I were a freak or as if I were... not myself. As if the person I am inside doesn't matter; all that's important is the external packaging. So... I didn't learn to turn it off, because I never saw a reason why I would want to turn it off. I knew that people I actually talked to about my gender identity and my physical shape, such as Moira, could see my body for what it was rather than what I wanted it to be, so how was I to know that the same influence, applied to younger and more impressionable people, would shape your ability to read my DNA or your thoughts about my evil twin sister's gender? How was I even supposed to know that the gender of the evil twin sister I never knew I had would be an issue?"
"I'm sure you didn't mean any harm, Charles," Hank said softly. "You never do."
"You don't see how we might feel just a little bit betrayed by this?" Scott said. "Fine, it's your right not to talk with your students about what you've got in your pants, but when it gets to the point that you're telepathically influencing people..."
"But that's just it, Scott. The identity carrier wave isn't supposed to telepathically influence people. It's just supposed to identify you. I didn't realize the effect that it was actually having - I didn't realize that I was so powerful even my identity broadcast could permanently warp how people saw me-"
"Charles. It is your responsibility to know how powerful you are," Hank snapped. "You have always wanted to shy away from your limits. You reached a level of power and control you were comfortable with the 'world's most powerful telepath' - and you didn't want any more than that. As a result you have chronically underestimated your own power, and what have the results been? The Entity. Onslaught. Cassandra Nova."
"You do realize those are all the same person, right?" Charles said. "I don't actually know if Cassandra has a strong sense of gender; her physical body was female because mine was, and she probably chooses a female identity now to differentiate herself, but even if she was building herself a body somewhere from what was left of her cells, she was always lurking in my head. It's always been her power, not mine. I know my limits."
"Except when you don't."
"Hank, do you honestly think I was born knowing everything I do now about telepathy? I didn't have a teacher. Everything I know, I taught myself. I am sorry if I made mistakes, I'm sorry if I hurt you, but... is it honestly such a terrible crime to telepathically influence you into seeing myself as I am, as my true self?"
"After all, he's done far worse," Emma said in a tone that would have been cheerful had it not been so languid.
That's not helping, Emma, Charles sent.
What will? You've burned them too many times, Charles. This is a trivial issue, but they'll blow it out of proportion because of all the much more serious issues you've inflicted on them.
"This isn't about whether or not we see you as you are," Scott said. "As reasons for manipulating our minds go, this is one of your more selfish ones, but I'm sure you thought you weren't doing any harm. That's the problem, right there. You always think you're not doing any harm. And now that you've learned differently, you still haven't come clean about all the secrets you've concealed over the years or all the times you've manipulated minds-"
"Scott. I am not a young man, and I've been using my powers since I was in my teens. It would be ludicrous to imagine that I'd even remember every time-"
"It's so trivial to you to manipulate minds that you don't even remember when you've done it-"
"This is news, darling?" Emma asked.
Emma... Charles sent.
"Emma, is that supposed to be an excuse?" Scott asked.
"Honestly, yes. Yes, it is. You've known the package said Charles Xavier on it since sometime around the tenth or eleventh time you opened it. Charles has a far less checkered history of manipulating minds than I do, and I certainly haven't gone out of my way to explain every single instance in the past that I might have altered someone's mind."
"Yes, but we all know you used to be-"
"An unrepentant bitch?"
"I was going to say, one of the bad guys. Charles hasn't got that excuse."
"What do you want me to say, Scott? You know I've done things, many things, that I no longer consider acceptable. Should I sit down and try to write an entire list?"
"That would be better than simply hoping that the issue will never be noticed and you'll be able to go to your grave without ever being confronted about it."
Charles sighed. "I'm not sure I even know everything I've done. This isn't an issue I ever thought would be relevant; I didn't even realize the extent to which my identity broadcast was causing an issue."
"You've mentioned that," Hank said. "As our friend Spider-Man is fond of pointing out, with great power comes great responsibility. You have a responsibility to know the extent to which you're altering other people's minds, and to tell your friends and associates, at the very least, what you've done."
"I'll try," Charles said. "I can't promise perfection, but I can promise you that I'll try."
"That's all anyone can ask," Scott said, even as Hank was thinking, Forgive me, Charles, but I'm not sure trying will be enough. As Yoda says, do or do not do. There is no try.
He wasn't interested in being chastised by George Lucas, so he pretended he hadn't heard Hank's thought. "Thank you, Scott. I'll do what I can."