Twin Poles One: Journeyman of Magnetism Part 1
Rotating Disclaimer: Marvel owns everyone but Margaret Santoro (and some random walkons, like Senator Lightman.) But Marvel can't be trusted not to screw these people up, so I have to write about them instead. This is a story about Magneto, so if you can't stand Magneto, bail now. No actual mutants were harmed in the creation of this story.
Imperfect soundproofing let the sound of loud classical music escape the sub-basement laboratory and waft upward into the Xavier manse. One could only hear it from the ground floor, though, and it was generally considered worth the mild annoyance it caused, as it enabled the residents to be sure that the occupant of the laboratory was in there and not out making some sort of trouble. This was a Good Thing.
In the midst of the laboratory, surrounded by blaring speakers, three networked computers, two giant monitors, six CD-ROMs and reams and reams of printer paper, an apparently young man with waist-length white hair sat in a swivel chair, reading printouts. Every so often he would glance up at one of the computers, and without him physically touching it in any way, the mouse or keyboard would respond, bringing him into a new view of his data or opening up more files. It would have been an eerie sight for anyone not used to it, but none of the household's residents would have blinked an eye.
For the first time in quite a while, Joseph was happy. He was making good progress, which was more than could be said for the rest of his life. There was a lot he didn't remember, and he kept having to refer to Xavier, McCoy or McTaggert's notes, on CD-ROM or off the school's network. But overall he was amazed at how much of this stuff he retained. Since he couldn't remember learning any of it, it was as if he'd sprung full-blown into the world with a working knowledge of genetics, psionics, and mutant physiology. Unlike his mutant powers, where he was constantly being informed how far short he was falling of the potential he'd realized once, no one critiqued his scientific knowledge. Hell, no one but Hank McCoy could follow what he was doing, a fact that filled him with an illicit thrill of pride. He wasn't supposed to take pride in being superior to his fellow man, or his fellow mutants for that matter, but, well, he did. And there was so little he had to feel superior about, or even to feel good about, he insisted to himself that it was harmless. It wasn't as if pride in his scientific prowess was going to make him forget he was a murderous terrorist, after all.
Perhaps, he thought, he would give up the superheroics entirely and go into research full-time. Certainly he'd made more progress with this project in a month than Charles Xavier had in years-- which probably reflected only that Xavier had had other responsibilities and Joseph, for the most part, didn't, so he shouldn't get too happy about it, but it did imply that he was good at this. And while obviously the scientific knowledge was a skill Magneto had had, otherwise Joseph couldn't have it, it wasn't what Magneto was known for. It was rather hard to want to train his abilities to their fullest extent when those abilities had made him world-famous as a madman. On the other hand, if Joseph gave up using his powers entirely except in small-scale ways and plunged into research of some kind, couldn't he do more good for mutantkind in the long run? Every time he went out and tried to use his powers to help people he practically caused a riot.
The door opened behind him. Quickly Joseph activated the screen saver to hide his work, under the suspicion of who had just entered the room. He spun in the chair and confirmed his suspicions. It was Rogue, looking quite beautiful today with her hair artfully tousled, tight jeans and a T-shirt. For some reason he always thought she looked much nicer in civilian clothes than skin-tight spandex. Maybe he just wasn't used to this whole superhero thing yet. He still hadn't gotten over the fact that he used to wear a pot on his head.
"All work and no play, sugar," she said cheerily. "Come on out. It's a beautiful day."
Inwardly he sighed. Rogue was always trying to get him to socialize, and it was never anything other than painful. His lack of knowledge of American culture would have been awkward, but overcomeable, were it not for the fact that everyone but Rogue hated him. "I'd rather not. I have a lot to do."
"Like what?" She attempted to tug him out of his swivel chair. Feeling obstinate, Joseph locked himself into the chair and the chair to the metal pipes underneath the floor. "Come on. It's such a nice day, you can't possibly want to spend the whole day in here reading about-- what are you reading about?" She picked up a printout.
"Just some things," Joseph said hastily. "Nothing to be worried about."
Rogue scowled at him. "You trying to hide stuff from me, sugar?"
"Don't be silly, Rogue. Everything I do is logged, and Hank accesses the log frequently to make sure I'm not doing anything illicit. No, I'm trying to keep my research secret because it's a surprise."
"A surprise? What kind of surprise?"
"If I told you, it wouldn't be awfully surprising, now would it?"
She laughed. "This isn't like Spring Surprise, is it?"
"It was a Monty Python sketch. It's a chocolate, and when you bite down on it, springs jump out and pop through your cheeks. Now that would be surprising."
"Isn't it? I love Monty Python." She set the paperwork down. "If Hank says your surprise is okay, then I guess I'll wait for it. But it better be a good surprise, now you've gone and got my hopes up."
"I would hope so. Now, may I please return to my work?"
"You may not. Come on, lazy buns." She tried to tug him out of the chair again. "No fair using magnetism."
"Would you rather I used Krazy Glue?"
"Hon, you get out of this chair right now or I'm gonna tug so hard I'll dislocate your shoulder."
"When you put it that way." Joseph stood. "What am I being roped into this time?"
"We're trying to get together a softball game-- what're you making that face for?"
"I hate softball." They started up the stairs outside Joseph's lab.
"You never played it, how do you know you hate it?"
"I hate it because I've never played it. I cannot possibly look anything other than a fool trying to play a game I don't know with a handful of people who've been playing it all their lives, and the X-Men are already too eager to make me look a fool. Besides, no one wants someone who tried to kill them muscling in on their sport, and besides that--"
"And besides that, you're stuffy and you hate all sports."
"Not true at all. I'm a big fan of football."
Her eyes goggled. "Football?"
"Yes, the sport that involves using your feet to kick a ball? I'm told it's popular here in the States? Why are you looking at me like that?"
"I never imagined you for the football type. I mean, slamming into people, trying to dislocate their shoulders so you can grab the ball-- you never struck me as someone to get that down and physical."
"What are you talking about? You can't grab the ball in football. That's why it's called 'foot' ball. Because you use your feet. Logical, no?"
"That ain't any kind of football I ever heard of--"
By now they had reached the outside, where a number of X-Men were milling about. "He means soccer," Psylocke said. For once, she was dressed sensibly, in a royal blue running suit instead of the painful-looking and miniscule costume she generally wore.
"Is that what you're talking about?"
"I don't know. Is soccer a game that involves kicking a ball or striking it with your head, but never touching it with your hands?"
"Then what's football?"
"A very confusing game that only Americans truly understand," Psylocke said. "Sensibly, you'd think a game that involves feet would be called football, and one that involves hands would not be. However, in America football involves picking up the ball and running with it, and soccer doesn't."
"Ah." Joseph nodded. "Now I know what Sister Maria meant when she forbade the boys to play 'American football.' I always thought it was just some slightly more violent variant of the sport."
"Why are we discussing soccer? Or football, for that matter?" Psylocke asked.
"Joseph wants to play that instead of softball."
"I didn't say that. All I said was that I do like some sports, and soccer is the one I like." It was also the only organized sport he knew how to play, but he wasn't going to say so in front of Psylocke.
"I think that's an excellent idea, actually. I've gotten terribly tired of softball." She laughed. "There are times when I truly miss England, and the fact that there's no real soccer here is one of the things that annoys me. I was a girls' school champion soccer player in middle school."
"So why don't we all play soccer instead?" Rogue asked.
"Hey, are you people trying to sneak a game change past us?" Bobby Drake asked. "I want to play softball."
"Then do so, by all means. Rogue is simply trying to get me to play, and I don't like softball."
"I want to play soccer," Psylocke said. "Softball has gotten very old."
By now there were several X-Men paying attention to the conversation, making Joseph uncomfortable. He truly hadn't intended to start a fight over what game to play when he hadn't actually intended on playing at all. "I wouldn't mind either way," Sam Guthrie said shyly. "I mean, me and Berto used to play soccer all the time. I wouldn't know as I'd say I was ever any good at it, but I wouldn't mind it for a change, if that's what Miss Betsy wants to play."
"Oh, come on, Sam old boy. Soccer? You want to play boring old soccer when we could be playing the greatest game on Earth?"
"Actually," Scott said, "that isn't a bad idea." Joseph's eyes widened in surprise. Clearly Scott must have no idea the original soccer discussion came from him-- if he'd known it was Joseph's idea, he'd never support it. "We do play softball a lot, and it's bound to get a little stale. No, I have an idea. Who's playing?"
"What are we playing?" Warren asked.
"Soccer. Betsy suggested it, and I think it's a good idea. Here's my plan. The ball must be touched by feet or head, no hands, no powers. However, anyone who wants can use their powers to get into range to contact the ball. So flying is allowed, acrobatics are allowed--" he looked at Hank-- "ice barriers in front of the goal are not allowed--" Bobby had the grace to look sheepish. "And no blowing up the ball." This was directed at Gambit.
"That was an accident," Gambit protested.
Scott ignored that. "So. Who's playing?"
"Ideally, everyone should. Soccer takes larger teams than softball," Psylocke said.
"Yes, but if there are people who don't want to play--"
"I will not," Bishop announced. "Someone needs to remain on guard."
"How about real football?" Logan suggested, grinning. "Ain't played that in a while."
"No, too violent. We wouldn't dare allow powers at all."
"I have never played this soccer," Ororo said. "It seems strange, after all the years I've been in America, that I would not have experienced such a thing. I'm willing to play, if I can be shown the rules."
"Simple, Stormy. There's a goal, and there's a goal--" Gambit pointed at either end of the playing field-- "and one team, they try to get the ball in the other team's goal. Only the goalie allowed to touch the ball with his hands. And Gambit not allowed to blow up the ball, fearless leader say so."
"Those are all the rules? They seem simple enough."
"Vastly oversimplified, but it'll do," Psylocke said.
"Well, I'm in," Jean said.
Within rapid succession, the rest of the X-Men agreed to join the game, with the exception of Bishop, who was reluctantly shanghaied into being referee.
"All right, we've got twelve players," Scott said. "First of all, for the duration of this exercise I'm going to assign team captains. I haven't played soccer since I was a kid and Storm's never played, so I need people who know their soccer to be team leaders here. Psylocke, you're one. Who's up for two? Logan?"
"Count me out. I ain't played in twenty years."
Rogue nudged Joseph. "Go on."
"Are you insane? They'll never accept--"
"Rogue?" Scott interrupted.
"Just wanted to say that Joseph here's a big fan of the game. The whole thing was actually his idea in the first place."
"That will surely win people over," Joseph muttered.
"Oh, really?" Angel asked frostily. "Betsy, I thought it was yours."
"It was. Joseph said he preferred soccer to softball; I'm the one that argued we should actually play it instead," Betsy replied coolly.
"I don't wish to impose--"
"How recently have you played?" Scott asked.
"About-- mm, eight months ago, at the orphanage."
"Longer ago than that."
Scott paused a moment. "Well. That makes Joseph our second team leader, then." His expression under the glasses was unreadable.
"Scott, are you out of your mind?" Bobby asked.
"There's a big difference between a friendly game of soccer, and trying to take over the world. Isn't there, Joseph?"
Joseph read Scott's tone as challenging. Not one to back down from a challenge, he replied evenly, "As I recall nothing about the latter, I couldn't say. But common sense would argue in your favor."
"This isn't one of your better ideas, Scott," Warren said. Of course, it was the original X-Men that raised the most objections. The ones that hated him most. Joseph still wasn't sure why Scott had picked him.
"Oh, I don't know. If he's half as good at tactics as he used to be, I think he'll give Psylocke's team a serious run for their money."
"That isn't what I meant--"
"Warren, either we're all X-Men or we aren't. I have the same issues you do, but I'm going to give a job to the best qualified X-Man, whoever he is, otherwise there isn't much point to having him on the team." Warren looked like he wanted to take exception to that, too, but Scott overrode him. "It's settled. Psylocke, your Blue Team will have you, Jean, Rogue, Beast, Iceman and Cannonball. Am I overstepping to say Beast's probably your best choice for goalie?"
"Not at all. Given the rules about flying-- and ice barriers--" she smiled at Bobby-- "Hank was my first choice."
"Good. Gold Team is Joseph, Storm, Angel, Gambit, Wolverine and me."
Joseph did the math. Team leader with Angel, Gambit, Wolverine and Scott himself on the team? Either Scott was setting him up, or this was supposed to prove something. And then he noticed the rest of the roster's ramifications.
"No fair," Gambit protested. "This roster, it sounds like girls against the boys, and we all know they defeat us with their charm. All we got is Stormy-- all the other lovely ladies over there."
"I'm breaking the teams based on who can fly, and other factors," Scott said blandly. He didn't fool Joseph for a second. It was cleverly done-- breaking up every couple, ensuring every team had an equal number of high-powered fliers, lower-powered fliers and agile goalie candidates. The fact that it also left Joseph in charge of four people who hated him-- Angel and Scott himself because they were first-generation X-Men and seemed to have been specifically trained to hate him, Gambit who resented his friendship with Rogue, and Wolverine, who seemed to have more personal reasons that Joseph had never quite figured out-- was probably gravy. Well. He'd just have to see how professional the X-Men really were when it came to the crunch. At least he had Storm on his side-- if he couldn't have Rogue, she was the next best thing.
"Really, Gambit, from your talk one would think you'd consider the roster an advantage," Joseph said, matching Scott's blandness. Time to nip this childishness in the bud. Gambit couldn't be on the same side as Rogue? Too damn bad. "Isn't it true that all women are supposed to swoon at your feet?"
Gambit scowled. "Better than running away from me in terror, non?"
That one stung, though Joseph really couldn't say why. Sister Maria hadn't run from him in terror. Nor had Rogue. "You're goalie," he said, ignoring the gibe. "I don't think Scott will allow the use of your quarterstaff--"
"No. Powers, not weapons."
"--so we're dependent on your agility." He hesitated for a moment, then grinned. "Try not to blow up the ball."
"Harp a lot on a man's mistakes for someone with your past, don't you?" Gambit said sourly.
So Gambit could joke with Scott about it, but not with Joseph. Useful to know. "Very well, I'll make a pact with you. I won't go insane and try to kill you, and you don't blow up the ball, all right?"
Several people, including Rogue, snickered, while Storm looked disapproving. "That is hardly in the best of taste, Joseph."
She was right, of course; it was wrong to joke about his past. "Sorry. I'm sure you'll do well, anyway, Remy." He turned away before he could put his foot in his mouth again. "What are we using for goals, anyway?"
It turned out that there were no soccer goals in storage, so it fell to Joseph and Jean to make them-- Joseph doing the metal skeleton of the goal baskets, using the supply of abandoned cars he kept in a large shed on the property as raw material, and Jean weaving some rope from storage into the netting around the baskets. When Jean was done, the two of them each picked up a goal and took it to their end of the field. "And I warn you," Beast said jovially, though with a slight edge under it, "that if I detect any outside forces influencing the goal basket, I will call foul."
"I don't cheat, Hank," Joseph said, and grinned. "My team hardly needs to cheat for us to defeat you."
"I've heard such boastful words from you before," Psylocke said. Though the words themselves might well be something she'd said to Magneto in battle, her tone indicated she was joking with him.
"Yeah, but this time he's got me on his side," Logan said, apparently willing to let bygones be bygones temporarily for the sake of winning the game. "Watch yourself, Betts."
"Watch yourself, Wolvie," Rogue said cheerily. "Blue Team's going to kick your butt so hard it ends up pointing backwards."
Bishop spoke impatiently. "If you'd all quit insulting each other, I can call the game to begin."
"By all means. Gold Team, let us stand ready."
"Blue Team is ready."
"Very well-- go!"
Logan had the ball before the syllable finished.
What ensued was the most stressful, as well as the most entertaining, game Joseph had ever played. In the orphanage it had taken some doing to get him to play at all-- he kept having nightmares in which he played soccer against slavering beasts, and if he ever faltered they'd fall on him and fling him into a pit of flame-- but once the kids had talked him into it, of course he was still playing with children. So it was his job to keep the game fair and make sure all the kids had a fair shot as much as it was to win. He couldn't unleash his natural competitive instincts on children. Or adult humans, for that matter, though he'd never played them.
This was entirely different. He had to keep track of his teammates, of the ball-- which was reinforced for super strength, but still had no magnetic parts-- and the opposition, in a game where six out of twelve players could fly and dirty tricks were par for the course. One such dirty trick was the time he landed rapidly to try to intercept the ball and found himself skidding on an ice slick that hadn't been there a second before he landed. As Bobby Drake grinned maliciously and skated toward the ball, a strong and very localized wind blew him backward onto his butt-- as well as blowing Joseph over, who hadn't quite caught his balance yet from the skid-- and Ororo landed gracefully and kicked the ball to Scott. After that Joseph simply didn't land, levitating a quarter inch off the ground whenever he needed to be there to get the ball. Though other fliers, such as Jean and Rogue, were less well braced when levitating and were therefore subject to being knocked over by gusts of wind or a short aggressive Canadian, when Betsy attempted to use her ninja skills to knock Joseph away from the ball it became obvious that his ability to lock himself into place in relation to the Earth's magnetic field made him better braced when levitating than when on foot.
It was fun, and confusing, and exhilarating, and occasionally downright silly-- at one point when he attempted to make a goal, Beast simply grabbed his floating legs as he descended and held them so he couldn't pull free or kick the ball. Of course Joseph could have freed himself by shocking Hank, but he considered that out of bounds for a friendly game. He couldn't touch the ball with his magnetism without violating the rules, and while he could actually reach it with his hands, he couldn't use them either, and couldn't quite twist enough to get his head into position to use. Before he could extricate his legs from Beast's bear hug, Cannonball slammed headfirst into the ball, knocking it all the way across the playing field and plowing into the ground next to them, covering Hank and Joseph with dirt. Later, when Hank tried the same trick on Ororo, she simply rained on him hard enough that he couldn't keep hold, and he smelled of wet fur for the rest of the game. Despite her inexperience at soccer, clearly Ororo played to win. Nevertheless, Joseph pointed out that this was a tactical error, as the rain on top of the dirt Sam had kicked up left the enemy goal enmired in mud, and required anyone making a goal from the ground to slog through it.
His players were not nearly as difficult to manage as he'd originally feared. All of them were good at working in teams, all of them had worked with each other and the opponents frequently, and while most weren't that familiar with soccer, they knew the game well enough not to make fouls. Joseph had to give directions very rarely-- which was good, since he was up in the air most of the time and even his voice didn't carry that well (not even when he did the Magneto voice and he didn't think that would go over well, so if he could avoid it he would.) And when he did, they listened to him. By the time they'd been playing almost forty minutes, Gold Team had a three-goal lead over Blue.
When a kick from Rogue sent the ball nearly into orbit, Joseph chased after it, easily outracing Jean and Rogue herself, and pulled a silly stunt of his own. A massive static electricity charge to his hair utterly wrecked his neat ponytail, but inclined the ball to stick to his head. Technically he was not using his magnetic powers on the ball per se, merely taking advantage of the laws of physics rather than bending them. He began a rapid descent with the ball balanced on his head, nestled into his hair, which had poofed in a rather alarming fashion from the static electricity. Rogue appeared, kicked the ball off his head, and the chase was on all the way down.
By the time he was 200 feet above the playing field, he had the ball, removed from Rogue, pinned securely between his knees-- or at least securely until one of Rogue's strafing runs actually connected. He scanned the field below by instinct-- and detected something startling. Joseph sent a more detailed probe against the thing he detected--
--and electromagnetic static fed back at him through his probe, drowning his senses and disrupting his own field, and his powers with it. He dropped like a rock, ball and all.
Next: Joseph discovers that a mental probe is no fun at all.
I love feedback. Love it love it. Good, bad, indifferent, let me know what you think! This series is a lot more flexible than some of my work, so feedback will have a bigger influence on its direction than on my other stories. Thanks, Alara
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Part Two of "Journeyman of Magnetism"
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