Twin Poles One: Journeyman of Magnetism Part 4
Rotating Disclaimer: This is the chapter that made me feel like I was possessed by the spirit of Peter David, and he's not even dead. Don't you hate that? :-) Marvel owns all these people, and I don't.
The annoying noise woke Joseph out of his fitful sleep. Groggy, he reached first for the alarm clock and then for the telephone before realizing that firstly, the noise didn't come from either location, and secondly, that it wasn't a noise at all, but an electromagnetic signal. Upon realizing this, he decided to ignore it, roll over and go back to sleep.
Unfortunately, by now he was awake. In fact, in a sense he'd been looking for an excuse to wake up for some time. He was still tired, but sleeping didn't seem to be helping matters, not with the nightmares. At this point, he was probably better off showering and getting some coffee than trying to sleep any longer. And when he glanced at the clock, he saw why-- he'd gone to bed around five in the afternoon last night, and it was ten am now. That mindprobe had taken more out of him than even he guessed, to sleep seventeen hours. He still felt like he'd been drugged. Hopefully a shower would help.
Half an hour later, his quest for coffee and breakfast food brought him to the kitchen, where Rogue and Gambit were sharing some godawful burnt and overspiced sausage, or seafood, or whatever it was. Joseph fought down his reflexive annoyance at seeing how close Gambit sat to Rogue. He had vowed he was not going to try to come between her and her friends out of jealousy, and Rogue was a strong-willed, stubborn woman. Nothing would drive her away from him-- and likely straight into Gambit's arms-- faster than being overtly jealous of Gambit. He'd seen how much Gambit being jealous of him irritated Rogue, and remembered well how angry she'd been with the two of them for fighting over her (though, to be utterly fair, what they'd really been fighting over was Gambit attacking him from behind because Gambit had a dirty mind and thought he'd been looking in Rogue's window as she dressed.) Joseph was not about to make that mistake. "Good morning, Rogue, Remy."
"Morning, sugar. You're up late."
He was. Normally he was up at nine or earlier. It was almost ten-thirty now. "Is there any coffee left?"
"Sorry, homme. I didn't figure anyone else would be drinking it, so I finished it off. You want, I can make you some of my famous cinnamon coffee."
Joseph didn't normally drink much coffee-- most of the time he woke up fine without it-- but when he did, he took it black. It was on the tip of his tongue to refuse; then he shrugged mentally. A peace offering from Remy was rare. "I would enjoy that. Thank you."
Remy looked startled that Joseph had taken him up on it. "Ah-- okay, then. I need space on the stove."
All the pots lifted themselves off the stove and into the sink, with the exception of the one that had the burnt whatever-it-was in it, which Joseph set down on the counter. Rogue turned in her chair and picked it up. "You want the last of the catfish, Joseph?"
"No thank you. Is there any sausage left?"
"Someone finished that yesterday. You can have eggs."
"I suppose I must." He knelt down in front of the refrigerator, attempting to locate said eggs.
"Or Honey Smacks," Remy supplied. "We got almost a whole box of them."
Joseph winced. "Whose are those?"
"Bobby's, who else? The man takes immaturity to an art form," Rogue said, grinning. "Though I like to have Frosted Flakes for breakfast sometimes, myself."
"You're an American. I'll make allowances."
"Nothing wrong with cold cereal," Remy said blandly.
"Not at all. It's the idea of having a little cold cereal with my sugar that turns my stomach. If I'm going to transfuse that much sugar directly into my veins, I might as well use a hypodermic needle. And I'm certainly not going to do it on an empty stomach."
"No fun at all," Rogue said. She leaned on the refrigerator door. "Seriously. You okay this morning? You were pretty bad off yesterday."
"Considerably recovered," Joseph said, standing up with eggs and real butter in his grasp-- a small coup, as the X-cooks tended to prefer margarine. "Thank you." The annoying not-noise started again. "Though I think I'd be better recovered if that infernal thing would stop."
"What infernal thing?" Remy asked.
"Sunspots or something. I keep picking up bursts of electromagnetic static." He shook his head. "It's really irritating."
"Is this related to what happened yesterday?"
"I don't know, but I doubt it. Remy, kindly move your elbow." He floated a frying pan containing his eggs and butter over to the stove and flipped the back burner on, setting the pan down on it.
"Could give a man warning, there."
"I did. I told you to move your elbow."
"I meant warning that you were going to start cooking by remote control. Especially if you're going to go turning burners on. A fellow could burn himself."
"Sorry." What kind of person actually prepared coffee on a stove, as opposed to just tossing it into a coffee maker? "What did get decided about what happened yesterday?"
"Not much, after you left," Rogue said. "We figured we'd just all stay alert, is all. And I'm supposed to tell you to keep your eyes open for any other anomalous stuff."
"No other theories?"
"Oh, the usual suspects. Time-travelers, clones, power mirrors, alternate universe stuff. We just don't have enough evidence to say what, yet."
"Me, I love being part of this team," Gambit said. "Before I joined up, all I had to worry about was assassins trying to kill me. Now I get to hang around with people who say stuff like, 'maybe it's an alternate universe version of Magneto', and they mean it seriously. Where else could you get that, mon ami?"
"I'm still trying to absorb Cable's history."
"Don't strain yourself, homme. Better men than us have tried to understand Cable, and failed."
Rogue laughed. "I keep forgetting how new all this superhero stuff is to you, hon. You don't think it's a little weird that you're a 60-year-old guy who looks 20 and has amnesia, used to be a major league supervillain and now's joined up with the side of the angels, used to live on a asteroid in outer space, and now you don't get Cable?"
"Sure he gets cable, chere, same as the rest of us. 112 channels in the living room. Gambit, he like the cooking channel best."
Rogue whapped Gambit with a towel. "That ain't what I meant!"
"Do the two of you practice these routines when I'm not looking?" Joseph asked, removing his eggs from the burner. "And Remy, while I appreciate the gesture, you really don't need to hand-brew every individual coffee bean by yourself."
"Got no taste, homme. This is gourmet cinnamon coffee, not that crap you usually drink."
"I don't care. I would like some caffeine, and soon, else I might find myself actually breaking down and drinking Coca-Cola."
"Damn. Truly a fate worse than death. Hang on un minute, your coffee be ready in a jiff."
The static started again. Irritated, Joseph reached out and scanned for the disturbance. If it was a broken transformer somewhere near the house... it wasn't. "Something wrong?" Rogue asked.
"Just that signal again." He shook his head. "I'm sure Magneto never had to put up with this."
"That is kind of funny," Remy observed, handing him his coffee. "You want to go off on a riff about not being Magneto and all, fine, but you are, technically, the same guy who called himself Master of Magnetism. Funny that some sunspots or something going to drive you up a wall because you can hear them-- or pick them up, anyway-- and no one else can."
"As I said, I'm not the Master of Magnetism. Half the time, I feel like magnetism masters me," Joseph said wryly, digging into his eggs. The food and the coffee did wonders for the lingering remains of the headache. "This is very good coffee, Remy. My compliments."
"Too bad you're wasting it on such boring eggs. You should've had me make them for you, I could've spiced them up."
"That's exactly why I didn't ask you. I can handle Cajun spices for dinner. Not breakfast."
"Put hair on your chest, homme."
"Then perhaps you should stop feeding Wolverine."
Rogue laughed. "Wolverine was always that hairy." She put her hand near his-- even though she was wearing gloves, Rogue was still fairly reticent about actually touching people in casual contexts. "Don't worry, though. You'll get your skills back, I'm sure."
"How? According to Jean, what you see is what you get. I no longer have the memories I can't remember. The only way I'm to get them back is through training and experience." He smiled wryly. "Which, I suppose, makes me the journeyman of magnetism."
Gambit chuckled. "Guess it does at that."
"What's that mean?"
"It's a term we use in the Guild," Gambit said. "A journeyman's the rank under a master."
"Not just your Guild. The term actually comes from the Middle Ages, when the structure of guilds was how all commerce was conducted." Joseph took a quick sip of coffee. "There were three ranks-- apprentice, journeyman and master. An apprentice was typically a child or younger adolescent, sworn to the service of a master in exchange for his teaching. He was bound to obey his master in all things, and the master cared for him, in theory, as a father would a child--"
"Though in practice it don't end up like that, most times," Gambit said.
"I'm sure it didn't. A master was considered the epitome of his craft. He had a full voice in Guild votes, had the right to take apprentices and to add new techniques to the repertoire of the Guild. There was nothing he need learn from anyone else; he was the expert."
"And then there the journeyman."
"Right. Better experienced than an apprentice, he's no longer beholden to a master-- it's his task to go out in the world and increase his knowledge through training and experience, to develop his own clientele, to hone his craft his own way until, eventually, he reaches the rank of master." He finished the coffee. "If Magneto was the master of magnetism, I'm merely the journeyman. I have a long way to go before reaching his level of skill."
"That wouldn't be a bad code name for you," Rogue said slowly.
"I just meant it's a little silly to be calling you Joseph in the middle of a battle, but you won't answer to Magneto."
"It's not just that I won't answer to it. Obviously if someone yells, 'Magneto, duck!' I'll duck. But I have a tendency to panic the people we're trying to rescue, and it doesn't help if people are calling me Magneto, just in case they hadn't noticed. I have tried to change my appearance, but it won't do any good if the X-Men call me that."
"You tried to change your appearance? When?" Remy asked.
"Ha very ha. None of the photographs I've seen show Magneto with waist-length hair. Did you think I affected this merely because it's attractive? I also wear an X-Men uniform-- which, I must confess, looks hideous on me-- rather than my color preferences, which unfortunately would be purple and red. I don't talk like Magneto, I don't move like him, I certainly don't dress like him, and I do look about twenty years younger-- odd, given that I should look about forty years younger, but it seems I've never looked my age."
"And here I'm thinking you wear your hair long because you trying to be a sensitive New Age guy."
"How do you know that you don't talk like Magneto?" Rogue asked. "I mean, when have you heard Magneto?"
Given that he'd been forbidden to access the files on himself, it was a good question, he had to admit. Joseph decided to confess. In the light of yesterday's revelation that he would never revert to being Magneto, it was probably safe enough. "Do you remember when I went on a quest to find my past?"
"Well, I found it."
"When did this happen?" Gambit asked, scowling.
"The weeks I said Joseph went back to South America?"
"Is that what you told everyone?"
"It wasn't a lie. Avalon was in South America," Rogue said.
"Half of it at any rate. I ended up having to impersonate Magneto to prevent Exodus from enacting an unusually stupid plan."
"Sounds like Exodus, all right," Gambit said.
"What do you mean, impersonate Magneto?"
"Exactly what it sounds like. Dress up in his costume, pretend to be him, talk like him-- and use the power that impersonation gave me to try to redirect the Acolytes from their mindless bigotry. I doubt I had much effect, but I did get Exodus to fall for it, and stop the plan."
"Whose brilliant idea was this?" Rogue asked.
"Oh, that's just great! How many times you going to fall for that sleazebag?"
"Anyway, isn't he dead?" Gambit asked.
"Not last time I checked. Unfortunately. You'll keep in mind, Rogue, that I had no idea that he'd tried to kill me before, and by the time I found out, he seemed truly repentant." Joseph shrugged. "I am in little position to castigate a man for the evils he's committed in the past, not if he wants to make amends, and Cortez seemed to."
"So what happened?"
He wasn't going to tell them how close he'd slipped to the edge, how he had for a while convinced himself that he truly was Magneto. That particular bout of temporary insanity wasn't one he was eager to talk about. "So, nothing to tell. New Avalon came under attack, I helped defend it, this convinced Exodus that I was the one true god, and together we attempted to repay Cortez for trying to set us at each other's throats, but he'd escaped. So I disbanded the Acolytes-- I told them the time wasn't right, and I'd let them know when it was-- and left."
"So Cortez is still out there?"
"Presumably. Unless he froze to death in the Arctic, but this seems like unlikely luck."
"Well, you ain't going to fall for him next time, you hear me?"
"Of course not. As convincing as he may be, I know better now."
"I still don't get how you go impersonating yourself," Gambit said. "I figure you just show up and say 'I'm Magneto', and they'd believe you, non?"
"Perhaps, but I didn't test it. Magneto has very different speech patterns and body language than I do."
Rogue shook her head. "I don't think so. You sound like Magneto to me."
"I think you're just fooled by knowing who I am."
"Do it, then," Remy said.
"Your Magneto impression. If you think it's different from the way you act most of the time, show us."
A challenge. He didn't particularly want to impersonate Magneto again, but he wasn't going to back down. "All right, then." Joseph stood up and turned away from the two of them, and took a deep breath. He straightened, drawing presence around himself as if it were the energies he manipulated, and turned back to them with a face like a glowering mask of stone.
"Too long has the destiny of mutantkind been dictated by our genetic inferiors," he declared in a booming voice, pitching it deeper than his normal speaking tone. "Too long have we been trampled under the heels of those we are destined to supplant. No longer!" He gestured with a clenched fist. "From this day forth, humanity will learn to submit to us!"
Remy and Rogue were staring at him, and Joseph wasn't entirely sure he liked their expressions. He broke character with a grin. "So. How was that?"
"Very... um. Very Magneto," Remy said weakly.
"Magneto at his most psycho," Rogue muttered. "You don't believe any of that crap, do you, Joseph?"
"Of course not. I can't very well do a Magneto impression while declaring that fuzzy bunnies are wonderful and we should all be kind to our mothers, no?"
"Might be fun to see you try," Remy said, grinning, his usual insouciance back.
"You had me going for a moment there," Rogue said. "I see what you mean now, about you not sounding like Magneto. Thing is, Magneto didn't always sound like that. I mean, yeah, he did speeches like that, but he talked like a normal person sometimes too. You're doing Magneto at his craziest."
"I rather suspected as much," Joseph said. "Even a maniac can't possibly talk like that all the time. It had to be an act."
"I don't know if I'd call it an act, exactly--"
"I would. It's a mask, as much as that helmet was." He sat down again. "It's actually one of the few things I understand about Magneto, why he did the things he did. I have always done something similar when my object is to be frightening or impressive. I suppose... if that was all I cared about... if there was no place for me to be a 'normal person', as you put it... I would adopt it far more often."
Remy looked at Rogue askance. "Careful, chere, he's revealing his trade secrets. The Supervillains' Guild, they're going to come after him and kill us for knowing too much, now."
"They won't come after me. I know all the tricks-- my momma was a card-carrying member." Rogue stared intently at Remy. "But I guess you were pure as the snow, huh, Remy?"
"Chere. I don't want to go there and neither do you."
"Your mother was a supervillain?"
"Yeah, I never told you? My momma-- Mystique-- she used to head up the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants."
Joseph snorted. "I'm sorry, but that is an unbelievably stupid name. No disrespect to your mother intended, Rogue, but who could come up with a name that idiotic?"
Silence reigned for a moment. Joseph took in their expectant, almost gleeful expressions, and his heart sank. "Oh no. Don't tell me."
"There were two Brotherhoods of Evil Mutants," Rogue said, entirely too cheerfully. "Momma based hers on the first one. Three guesses who founded-- and named-- the first one."
"Please. I've endured enough humiliation for one day."
The static hit again then, much stronger than the previous times. Joseph had ignored four or five pulses while talking to his friends. This one, however, hurt. "It ain't that bad, Joseph. You don't need to make such a face."
"No-- no, it's that pulse again."
"Sure, I believe that. He just don't want us to tell him about the costume with the M on the chest," Remy said.
"Hey, I liked that costume."
"You can't be serious, chere."
"Sure can. Some men got the bods to carry off a sleeveless costume and some don't."
He ignored their banter, as flattering as it might be, and concentrated on the irritating pulse. It wasn't coming from a transformer, or from sunspots, or any such thing. He followed it back to its source, probing--
--and got hit with another pulse. This one was of lesser strength than the last one, but clearly there was some intelligence behind the pulses, something directed.
And then it hit him. The patterns to the static were always the same. He replayed the last one in his mind, translating into Morse code.
Joseph pushed back from the table. "I'm sorry, I have to go."
"What? What's wrong?"
"It's that signal." He considered, rapidly, telling her about it-- that someone was calling him by name, signaling him in a way that surely next to no one else would be able to detect. But it wasn't a good idea. Whoever this was, they most likely thought him to be Magneto-- the fact that they assumed he spelled his name German-style indicated that to him. Either an enemy of Magneto's, and if so he didn't want his friends getting caught in the crossfire of a battle meant for him alone, or a friend of Magneto's, in which case bringing Rogue or Gambit was a great way to start an unnecessary fight. He might no longer be allied with any of Magneto's former friends, but if one of them was coming to him for help he didn't want them to be attacked, either. "Probably just some broken transformer or something, but it's driving me batty. I have to go find out what's causing it, and fix it."
"You want help?"
"For going to fix a broken transformer? I hardly think that's necessary."
"You sure that's what it is?" Gambit asked. "Seems tres suspicious to me-- yesterday you get attacked by some magnetic pulse, today you keep getting irritated by one. Sounds like a connection to me."
And to Joseph. But if he let them know his suspicions, they'd insist on coming. "I'll radio in if it turns out it's anything I'll need help with, all right?"
"I still think we should come with you," Rogue said.
He shook his head. "No, Rogue. It's almost certainly nothing--" hating himself for lying to her, although it was for her own good-- "and if it does prove to be related to the anomaly last night, I want a chance to investigate it for myself before calling in the entire team. Please." He looked into her eyes. "I cannot be running to the X-Men, asking them to hold my hand, any time any small thing happens. You understand, don't you?"
"Not sure..." she sighed. "But all right. If you're hell-bent on going alone, I can't stop you-- but dammit, call if you need anything. And I'll tell Jean to keep an ear out for you if you need to yell for help telepathically."
In minutes he was airborne, heading for upstate New York, where he sensed the pulses originating from. Now that he had the signal, he could follow it back without making it pulse again, apparently, like a single electromagnetic thread to be followed through the tapestry of the fields all around him. It was time to find out what this was all about.
Next: I think we can all tell what's going to happen next...
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 Five of "Journeyman of Magnetism"
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