Scott Summers sat in the kitchen of the Xavier Institute and drank his coffee. It was quiet, no one was around and after a gruelling Danger Room session, peace and quiet was what he needed. His wraparound visor lay next to his coffee cup as he switched it out for his normal glasses and ran his hand through his brown hair. A towel lay round his shoulders as he felt the cool morning Westchester air blow through the patio doors leading to the pool. The top of his X-Men uniform was sitting snugly in the washing machine as he was trying to figure out what the difference was between 'Pre-Wash' and 'Rinsing' . His belt lay on the back of his chair and his leggings and boots had seen better days as he sat there casually drinking his coffee . He had thrown on a plain white t-shirt with the Xavier logo
"Scott! Its 7am what are you doing up?"
Emma Frost trudged into the kitchen rubbing her eyes. Her expensive silk pyjamas covering most, if not all of her modesty. She ran her hand through her blonde hair and tried to wake herself up as she yawned and stretched
"If anyone catches you dressed like that we might have a student rebellion on our hands"
Emma waved away his concerns
"Fffft, I am the headmistress, you are the headmaster, we can order them back to bed, plus, its 7 in the morning, whose going to be up at this time?"
He smiled, more to himself than to her "I can think of a few. Now go and get dressed."
She walked over to him. Wrapped her hands round his waist as she laid her head on his back.
"What's wrong? Seriously"
He shrugged "I dunno, maybe nothing, maybe everything."
She lightly kissed the back of his neck.
"We wont know that until you tell me, now will we?"
He slowly untied her hands from his waist and pulled another bar stool up next to his. Lifting his glasses and opening his eyes a fraction, a small, thin tendril of red energy darted from his eyes to hit the switch of the coffee machine flicking it into the 'on' position
"Hop up...and watch for the coffee boiling"
Emma looked at him "So...?"
Scott sighed"You aren't going to let this go, are you?"
She smiled at him, a little impish smile that always seemed to say 'I'm right and your not'
Scott took another drink of his coffee and looked deep in thought.
"A few years ago, Hank and the Professor worked on a new Danger Room program. It was only to be used by Field Leaders of the X Men. It was codenamed 'End Song' and it was, basically, a no win scenario. It was devised to acclimatise leaders to defeat. There is no winning, no short cut and no logic will work. It takes previous field operations from X-Men, Shi'ar or SHIELD and adds a few variables. You can also start a new scenario where the computer sets up a new scenario based purely on random chance. Each one is the same though. An event happens, you choose a team and get inserted into the danger zone and inevitably at least one of the team dies"
Emma looked at him.
"Scott, death is a part of any team intervention, it happens. Why is this cutting you up so much?"
"Emma, the reason one of the team dies is because they get elected by the field leader to go on a suicidal mission and be it based on logic, or power or strategy, they die. I've seen Wolverine atomized by Sentinels in the future, Storm impaled by javelins and each one was there because I ordered them to go."
Emma walked over to check on the coffee and looked back at Scott as he sat there nursing his. She slowly took the glass jar of coffee and tipped some slowly into her favourite cup.
"Scott, I don't think this is bothering you for the reason you think it is. You are beating yourself up because you believe that ordering your friends to their certain doom somehow invalidates your friendship with them. That, it lessens what you had because you ordered them to die because that was what was demanded of them to save lives"
Scott shook his head, "Emma, I have been leading the X-men for years. I have always known that sometime hard choices must be made and although I haven't liked it, I have done it"
Emma finished making her coffee
"Are you sure that's it?"
He looked at her
She took a small sip from her coffee and added more sugar
"That you are beating yourself over this purely because its a no-win scenario."
Scott shrugged and she allowed herself a small mental smile at seeing how clueless he appeared to be over this. He took the towel from his shoulders and rubbed his hair with it. Emma raised an eyebrow. This was as close to stalling as Scott Summers ever got.
"Emma, I don't believe there is such a thing as a no win scenario. There is ALWAYS a way out, ALWAYS."
Emma pursed her lip and looked thoughtfully at Scott
"It all depends how you define no win. For some no win might mean you cross a silent mental line, for some this could mean a decimation of a team or the loss of one member. For you it might mean you lose one of your team, for Wolverine it might mean losing to Magneto and humans being subjugated. Regardless of team or philosophy or some inner line being crossed, no win is a very personal idiom. How do you define it?"
Scott said nothing and looked at his coffee cup
"Was Jean a no win scenario?"
"That is none of your damn business!"
Emma looked at Scott. Scott sat back down without realizing he had stood up.
She smiled "Hit a nerve did I?"
"Jean's death wasn't a no win scenario, Jean's death was the only scenario. She knew she would die, regardless of what she did or who she helped she had too much on her conscience. Billions of inhabitants of a planet called D'bari on her head. We all call Hitler a monster, or serial killers like the Black Dahlia or Jack the Ripper or the Zodiac killer or Magneto who believes regardless of the deaths that follows him, human or mutant, they all justify his stance. Frankenstein's monster has finally surpassed his creator. There is no win. That is what I don't see. How could the Professor and Hank make a program that focuses on losing, that isn't what we do"
Emma put her hand on Scott's shoulder
"Scott, knowing you only have a finite time to live or facing up to the horrors every day, especially if you are in charge of a team who might die in this 'war', I find it very life affirming. Knowing your life can get snuffed in seconds makes it all the more important to live life to the full every day. The program is called 'no win', it isn't called 'no hope'. Between the two there is a world of difference. When Jean died she sacrificed herself to save the team, to save millions, to save billions and untold trillions. Through it all isn't that what the X-Men do?"
"Would you mind if I was alone for a minute"
Emma ran her hand down his shoulder.
"I am only a thought away."
Scott sat in the kitchen all day. The students came in, made polite conversation, old friends called round, Kitty came to visit, Peter popped round, Logan watched him sit at the breakfast bar and brood. He said nothing and walked away after an hour Bobby Drake hit him with a snowball from the entrance and then ran away. Scott wiped his face and smiled somewhat. Hank came in for a sandwich and asked if he liked the new program. Scott smiled and nodded and came up with some tactic changes Hank could make to give more illusion of choice and to input a few more variables to make it more realistic, character strengths and flaws.
Midnight chimed through the kitchen and Scott sat there soaking up the peace and quiet. He pondered what Emma had said and he thought about his friends and the students they had taken on. This monster the Professor had created had taken on a life of its own and in some ways, he was glad of that, before he had thought about it, he would have carried the X-Men on his shoulders until the end of time, now that had all changed.
In some ways he was being naïve and slightly optimistic. He had always thought that nothing bad would ever happen to them, they would go fighting the good fight and Magneto and Dr. Doom would silently fume and shake his clenched fist at them, but nothing bad would ever really happen. The more he thought about it the more he thought that it was an essential part of the tactics the X-Men used. People live, people die but life trots on regardless.
He walked up the stairs to the room he and Emma shared.
Scott turned round to spot Logan waiting at the top of the stairs. Scott took a deep breath and walked over to Logan. Logan was the one man on the team who always said what was on his mind and damn the consequences. Scott wasn't sure if he liked that kind of viewpoint of whether he preferred the diplomatic stance. Both had their advantages
"What's up, Logan?"
"I was gonna ask you the same"
Logan looked him up and down. Logan was a small man of average build. His baggy chequered shirt and faded blue jeans made him blend in to the background. His hair was dark, wild and untamed and his sideburns, while groomed occasionally, still looked like they belonged on the stereotypical wild man from Borneo. He removed the cigar from his mouth and stubbed it out on the palm of his hand.
"Evidence to the contrary, Slim"
Scott shrugged. Of all the people on the team he could and probably should open up to. Logan was not one of them
"Just had a rough Danger Room session. Hank is still working out the kinks"
"Uh-huh. Word to the wise, Slim. There ain't no such thing as a perfect day...or program. What's made by man...or beast can be beaten. Just letting you know"
Logan walked down the mansion staircase and into the kitchen. Scott heard the fridge door opening and the clank of bottles as Logan helped himself. Scott was pondering Logans words as he walked into his and Emma's room.
Scott looked over to spot Emma in bed reading 'Vogue'
He scratched his head "Yeh, Logan has an annoying habit of knowing exactly what's going on regardless of whether he should know or not. I am not sure if he has helped me or not"
Emma looked up at him and smiled "Scott, at the end of the day, the Danger Room is a 'what if' machine and if you want to sit and count probabilities, I am sure Hank could help you do that, but do not go chasing the perfect no-win scenario. It will drive you insane. Just relax and accept that there are some things you cannot change"
Scott smiled, shrugged and climbed into bed
All good is hard. All evil is easy. Dying, losing, cheating, and mediocrity is easy. Stay away from easy.