Cairo, Egypt: February 11, 1974

He traveled unnoticed through the narrow alleyways, even when his wheels trod on slippered feet and fallen dates. He wrinkled his nose at the briny stench of the Nile in silent camaraderie with the shore-men, and was answered only by the glazed stare of men who were ruled by their work, and who did not stop to contemplate the ragged edges of their horizons' mirage. And when Charles Xavier reached the imposing beige stone of Tora Prison's outer wall, punctured only by an equally impassable wrought-iron gate, he was equally unimportant to the toothless keeper, who did not even bother to ask for paperwork from the unidentified white man in the wheelchair as he shouldered his machine gun and unlocked his keep.

"Good day, Ananshi," intoned nominal Omnipotence.

"Good day," the husk parroted back, because Charles was a man who insisted upon politeness, even under the most dire of circumstances.

"You picked up a man illegally four months ago, and are detaining him here. He has not told you his name, but you know the number etched on his arm." The facts took their form in tightly controlled British rage, spoken in perfect Arabic to the man now pushing him docilely through the grounds' labyrinthine avenues. Physically, they were carved out by the prison sectors. But all Charles felt were the solid, leaden blocks of grief-pain-fear,sickness-hunger-want,and the pulse of the Other's frenetic mind; his lodestar.

"Yes...yes 782-ah...214782." Ananshi faltered as the invisible noose tightened around his frontal lobe, and forced the Other's full designation out. " Whole prison know of him. He is by himself. The Captain...he says he is Mossad, but the filthy Israelites take no responsibility for him. He's uncooperative...dangerous."

Charles's smile, as Ananshi led him through a side door in the correct building marked "Restricted," was so terrifying it might have alerted his escort through the glamor, if he had been able to see it in the darkness. It was a smile carved by the shards of memory he examined as the guard took him down, down down. Down dim hallways and through too-small doors, past barred common cells of unspeakable filth and even more unspeakable misery.

He saw white Velcro against pale temples, and dubious mixtures in unmarked bottles.
He saw nothing, and felt vermin crawl along his flesh in the terrifying opaqueness of nothingness.
He felt echoing shame at being forced to relieve himself on the floor-
And then grim longing for the same floor after a day of the lash, or the shocks, or the water-board.

"The asp."


He kept Ananshi in suspense until he had led them down the last corridor, and tightened the naked bulb in it's socket before stopping the chair in front of a narrow door of grated iron-the door.'smetal.Hecouldwalkrightoutandthefactthathehasn't...thathecan't-

"You and your friends upstairs spend so much time worrying over the golems. The giants, the tanks, the bombs."
And then Charles pulled the noose a little tighter inside the man's mind, not tight enough to throttle, or even bruise...just enough to wrench nightmares to the forefront of his consciousness and keep them there-


For the rest of his natural life.


"But no one ever sees the asp curled up in the sand, until it's far too late."

He spit it, mirthless with hollow victory to the man's retreating back, and then turned his attention to Magneto, who lay prostrate and raving on the stained dirt floor beyond the grate.