Summary: Monet receives a visit from her father. (Conceived after GenX #57 but before GenX #58. Typical. Oh well, here it is.)
Standard Disclaimer: All characters belong to Marvel.
A man walked up a gravel path towards the dormitory at Xaviers School for Gifted Youngsters. He was Arabic, in his fifties, and expensively – not ostentatiously – dressed. He had never been here before, but he knew where he was going, and gave the impression of being exactly where he was supposed to be so successfully that none of the students within eyeshot thought his presence strange.
He entered the building and made his way along the corridors and staircases within it. At one point he requested directions from a student he passed. He thanked the student for her assistance and continued on his way. After a few seconds he reached his destination. Outside the door, for the first time, he hesitated.
“Come in,” said a voice through the door. “Father.”
He took one breath, opened the door, and entered the room. He saw his daughter across the room, looking at a PC screen.
She turned to face him. “What are you doing here?” she asked coolly.
Cartier St Croix had dealt with many people before, many of them unpleasant, and in varying degrees of personal danger. In none of those conversations had he felt as uncomfortable as he did now. “Well for one thing, it’s a very long time since we had much of an opportunity for a ‘family reunion’. I thought it as good a time as any to drop by.”
He made this remark in French. Perhaps for that very reason, Monet persisted in replying in English. “Then you should have called ahead. The others are all either asleep or unconscious.”
He switched back to English. “Perhaps we could see them anyway, tonight. And I imagine the twins, at least, will be awake tomorrow.”
As they left Monets room for the infirmary, Cartier made an attempt to restart their conversation. There were few people about, but he was still cautious about referring to the more sensitive aspects of the past. Instead: “I trust you have no financial problems? Your trust fund seems to have been performing adequately of late.”
“It has. You may also be aware that I have been making my own investments. They have been performing well.” She paused, and then added, “Better than your trust fund.”
“I know.” Monet was not shocked, and he was not surprised. She knew he was well informed. “It seems to me you are heavily involved in Internet stocks. It looks like a classic bubble forming…”
“I agree. But I have certain advantages over most investors. I will have advance warning of any downturn.”
He raised one eyebrow, “I thought you didn’t do that sort of thing.”
“But Ms Frost does. All I have to do is observe her actions.”
As he had once remarked ‘It’s easy once you know how.’
Monet had her own questions, and chose to ask them in Arabic. After all, you never know. “Have you had any problems with your partners? After my,” she paused briefly, “departure, and Gayle’s death, I can imagine their being annoyed at least.”
“They were, but, for their line of work, they’re fairly honourable. They didn’t hold me responsible…” I did, he thought but did not say, how could I not, “…and they had no claim on you personally. They’re very curious people. I’ve had to work a bit harder to satisfy their curiosity, but as long as I do that, they’ll be happy.”
“I’ve heard they’re was an attempt on your life.” She spoke flatly.
“They don’t do that sort of thing. Well, not often. If you must know, I think it was a freelance. The Orphan Maker, or some similar nitwit.”
“I wonder why he’d do a thing like that.” Her voice was very dry.
Cartier sensed a dangerous turn in their conversation. He decided to head it off. “Anyway, it’s not their style.” Pause. “ ‘International businessman Cartier St Criox suffered a fatal heart attack this morning’,” he quoted an imaginary news report, “or perhaps ‘The thief seems to have raided his files as well. Unfortunately Monsieur St Criox surprised him…’ A bullet from the trees is a bit blatant.”
They entered the infirmary, and Monet turned the lights on for her fathers’ benefit. Cartier saw the twins across the aisle and crossed over to them. He looked down on their still, small, forms, smiling in their sleep, in spite of everything. Affection rose up within him. He stroked Claudettes’ hair first, then Nicoles’.
He looked up at Monet, and seemed vaguely apologetic about his affection. “I realise it was you I had lost, but at the time I thought it was them.” He paused in thought, “I don’t know whether I should feel gratitude, or pride in their self-sacrifice, or self-contempt.” That was something he had never said before. “What must they have thought of me.” He paused again. “Perhaps I should just feel humility.”
“They are,” said Monet softly, “better than either of us.”
They sat down on opposite sides of the bed, and looked over the sleeping girls for a long time.
After a while, Cartiers’ mood changed. A more dutiful look appeared on his face. He stood, and moved down the hall to the form in its last bed. A mutated, emaciated, half-alive form. Maintained by machine. Out of place in the normal world. His son. Once his pride and joy. Marius. Emplate.
A line from a movie. He’s more machine than man now. Evil and twisted. He grunted. Whoever heard of an accurate movie?
“I am sorry,” he whispered, “for this too, I am responsible.”
“Father,” said Monet harshly, “you do remember what he did. You have heard of time dilation. Do you know how long I fed him…”
Cartiers' head was shaking. “Yes. Yes to all the above. But I was his father. I was responsible. I turned him into what he is.” He looked up. “And half way through that, God help me, I did it to you, too.”
“I am nothing like him.”
Monet paused for a second. Something had seemed wrong this whole evening.
“You did not come here this evening for this,” she accused. “You cannot help any of them at this moment. You cannot even talk to the twins until tomorrow. Why did you visit this evening?”
Cartier seemed to draw strength from her accusation. “You are right,” he said. “And thank you. My sentiment was growing selfish. But I couldn’t resist the opportunity to look in.” His next remark was obviously a cover. “We’re nearer my car than your room. And I have a present for you there. Would you like to visit?”
“ ‘How To Win Friends,’” Monet read the title, “ ‘And Influence People.’” She looked up at him. “I see your sense of humour is still functioning.”
“You must admit, it’s always been your weak point,” said Cartier blandly. He cocked his head slightly. “And it’s something you might need soon. You may recall a rather opaque e-mail a little while ago. Some central Asian acquaintances are looking for you. With revenge in mind.”
She grinned. “So? They couldn’t do anything four years ago – their time, if not mine – when it was just an inexperienced me they had to deal with. So what could they do now? Especially with all this around.” She gestured towards the campus – a difficult move, in the car – and, by implication, the security system, the rest of the GenX team, contacts with the X-men, etc and etc.
“And yet, I went through all that, right to your room, and was never challenged. And if you say ‘Our wonderful high-tech sensors would have detected any weapons’, I will say…”
“They didn’t prove that formidable four years ago.”
“I seem to remember a combat team and a surprise attack. They have the initiative now, and I gather they have ideas about how to use it.”
He told her what they had told him.
“Did they put you up to this? Are they expecting a quid pro quo from me? That’s something they understand.”
“True, but they dealt with me, Monet. It’s me that owes them. Although I’m sure they’re thinking of recruitment. In their position, who wouldn’t?”
“You’re very young for this, Monet. Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Yes. If it will help Papa, I will do anything.”
“It is likely, you know, that people will be killed.”
“It is conceivable that you will be one of them.”
“With my abilities, their arms, and your plan, I think that is very unlikely.”
“Agreed. But we are planning to give them an unpleasant surprise. We could hardly complain if the reverse happened. So. Do you want to take that risk?”
Pause. “I do not want to do it, exactly. But I feel I must do so. I owe it to people.”
“It is possible that you will have to kill one – or more – of them.”
“I know. But they are kidnappers, and terrorists. That’s what Papa says, too.”
“I just need to be sure you won’t have a change of heart.”
“I know. I will not. You should know why not.”
She did not elaborate. They both knew why.
“I did the job that they requested. That you requested. And others, later.” She paused. “They have no requests of me for a long time – but SIS has had nothing to offer that I would accept.” She smiled suddenly. “I remember that demonstration you had me give for service officials – and some associates.” It had been intended mainly to impress said associates. “I enjoyed that. Showing what I could do.”
“I knew. I am proud of you, Monet, and I was then, as well. To tell the truth, I think that’s why I arranged it.”
“Yes.” A thoughtful pause. “I am told someone later compared it to an early Soviet May Day parade. On the one hand, they displayed the beauties of the Soviet Union. On the other, they demonstrated Soviet power. Where I was concerned, he said, you got to do both at once.”
“Well,” he admitted, “as I said, I was proud of you.” He looked directly at her. His expression and tone were ones he had never before used. They were pleading. Willing belief from the girl opposite. “I would never do anything to harm you. Ever. Whatever you say of me, whatever my mistakes and failings, I have always wanted only the best for my children.”
“Then our family history is a textbook case on the Law of Unintended Consequences.”
He nodded. “That is true. It is one reason I did not try to intrude on you here before. I did not wish to intervene, unless I could be sure that this time only good would come of it. No more side-effects or trade-offs.”
“I detect the use of the past tense.”
He shrugged, embarrassed at being so transparent. Although he had always been proud of the difficulties anyone had in getting anything past his daughter. “I still want to do what I can to protect you. And with enemies from the past popping up – enemies I am responsible for…” He removed a box from the glove compartment. “This time, no trade-offs.”
“What is it – and who did it come from.”
“Someone known to SIS, and agents of mine, who wished to remain anonymous from the end user. Someone who was very well paid, considering that all he had to do was provide a blood sample. You must have heard of the polymerase chain reaction.”
“…After Emplate – after what happened to Marius – you suggest that. Do you think I want to return to reason with a pool of blood and a shredded corpse at my feet!?”
“That never happened to you.”
“It happened to Marius.”
“It’s not the same..”
“Not quite. If you came across a recovered alcoholic, you wouldn’t offer him a drink – you’d push crack on him.”
Cartier St Criox took a deep breath. “You know it needn’t be like that. It was you who suggested that less DNA would be needed for superficial changes. Or for a specific organ – like the brain.” Hence the blood transfusions.
“ ‘Superficial changes’,” repeated Monet. “Example: looks. I recall
a certain Hungarian Queen, bathing in the blood of virgins to keep her
“You mentioned that once before. I looked it up. Seems it was made up by enemies at court. Bathing in blood? It clots…”
“Not anymore.” Hence blood transfusions.
“No one was harmed.”
“That’s true. That was the whole point. It was like a methadone treatment. Or nicotine patches, ‘It needn’t be hell / with Nicotinell’.” She paused to add weight to her next remark. “People have become addicted to both of those. And then taken up stronger things. I will not risk that.”
“I see you’re awake, Monet.”
“Uh…yes, Papa, what hap…Oh.”
“Are you all right?”
“Fine but… I’ve just remembered. What I did.” Oh God. “Did I hurt anyone – very much?”
That doesn’t sound very good.
“Yes. But they will recover. Fully.”
“Half good news, at least. Hm. ‘Is the glass half empty or half full?’”
“I always said the best answer was to fill it again. And find out what happened to the first half.”
Pause. “Papa – what exactly was in that sedative?”
“Still curious, I see.” Smile.
“I am trying to fulfil your expectations Papa… I’m sorry.”
“I know how hard you’ve tried, Monet. And that sedative – it’s new. But I got them to give me the formula. Here.”
Pause. Slight sob. “I’m so ashamed, Papa. People were only trying to help and I…” Sob. “You remember Mrs Green. She made me promise and I agreed that… I feel like I’ve betrayed everyone and…”
“Hush. You were not yourself. We just didn’t expect everything to blow up like that..”
“But that’s just it… I did feel an urge inside me. It was growing. But it wasn’t that bad, and I didn’t want to bother everyone. I didn’t want to admit anything…”
“Well… that’s not an uncommon idea. Everyone’s done that you know…”
“Not with the same results.”
Long pause. Thoughts occur.
“Papa – when will the drug wear off?”
“Ohh – you’ve got a day or two yet.”
“But I can’t stay drugged all the time. It can’t be intended for that. And when I come off, and the craving returns… I lost control then… It might happen again…”
“We’ll think of something. That’s us. One can always think of something.”
“I was thinking that – if a power was centred one organ, then I’d need less DNA.”
“So I wouldn’t need so much – material - and the donor could afford to donate a bit of blood – it’d be like weaning someone off drugs…”
“Hmm, I tell you what, I’ll see if I can find anything out…See, Monet, this is why I’m proud of you… thinking so clearly at a time like this…”
“You must admit - it worked.”
“Oh, yes -.” She looked directly into his eyes, and he into hers. Her face was devoid of expression. She spoke formally. “Father, I know what my powers make me capable of. I have always used them to make me the best I could be. But I am afraid that if I use them again, they could make me the worst I could be. Look at Emplate. I would be at least as bad. Probably worse.”
Cartier spoke carefully, trying to consider every word. “Monet, I understand your concerns. But I know you understand what the PCR reaction means.” He spoke a little faster now, more confidently, “Only a few samples were taken from the donor, and the DNA multiplied. The operation is trivial, and harmless. It takes you time to assimilate the transfers – especially if its not something dependent on a single gene. New ones could be provided faster than you could use them.” He paused. “And if there were problems – we know what to look for now. And we know – you know – that you can face them down, because you have before.”
She tried a different tack. “Nothing can go wrong. Did you say that when you first dealt with SIS? To provide Marius’ little meals. And then when he was caught, or rather found, stalking the streets, you were sure – I was sure – it couldn’t happen with me.” And it did.
Cartier tried a different tack too. “I’ve wondered since, if personality was transferred as well, to some extent. We could hardly use an innocent as a donor, especially not for your – more complete – transfers…”
“Have you noticed,” asked Monet sweetly, “that even now you cannot bring yourself to be frank about what happened? Even in private. Even to a relative. Even to me? Say it. You could not use an innocent as a donor because they were killed. By me. By a uniquely intimate method.”
“My point,” said Cartier firmly, “was that with all those transfers from ‘escaped-in-transit’ convicts, one starts to wonder whether character slipped over. You always did say that Green had a great influence over you.”
“She was not a convict. She was an honourable woman. She was the only one I ever really met.” And you never even told me her real name.
Cartier St Croix was not a telepath, but he knew about this complaint of his daughter. It had been mentioned before.
“She wanted anonymity. And probably had good reasons for doing so.”
For a transfer that would involve so many genes – none of them the factor-x gene – it was felt that the donor’s cooperation would be useful. Recruitment must have been difficult. Eventually, someone had been found. None of this was known to Monet at the time. She found out the backstory later, when she was older. And much, much smarter.
Monet had been introduced to Green by her father, earlier. They would certainly meet again, later. But Green had also wanted to talk to her alone, the evening before the deed was done.
“I wanted to see, child, what you thought about things, and what you were like.”
“Oh.” Monet was tongue-tied.
The lady was old, and clearly ill. Even Monet could tell that she would not be long of this world. Even if tomorrow never happened.
“Do you know why your Father wants to do this?”
“Yes. Papa has two reasons. One is that he doesn’t think that only mutant powers can be transferred. Anything genatic – I mean genetic –” she pronounced the word with exaggerated care, “- he thinks I can transfer.”
Green smiled slightly. “Interesting euphemism.”
“What’s a euphemism?”
“Never mind. You said your Papa has two reasons. What was the second?”
“Intelligence.” Another word treated with great respect. “Papa said there is a genetic component to intelligence. He says it’s important to have as much as possible.” She surprised herself with a sudden insight. “I think that if this works, he’ll try it again. He’s already done that for superstrength.”
“Have you done this often before?”
Monet was eager to explain, and reassure. “Many times. I’m very good at it now. Nothing will go wrong, I promise...”
In her enthusiastic reassurance, Monet had exaggerated slightly, although not by much. She was surprised to see Green shudder slightly.
“This was always your Papas idea?”
Monet nodded eagerly. “He says that I’ll be able to do great things.”
Green paused. “You love him, don’t you?”
“Of course. He’s always nice to me. Except when I do something wrong.”
Later Monet had realised that Green had been concerned about her father. It had taken a long time to realise that. It had taken longer still to realise why.
The conversation drifted away to Monet’s toys, and interests, and life, and friends – “I don’t have that many. Papa says I must keep quiet about what I can do. I’d love to show off! Perhaps I can show you, later?”
Monet had always been told to ask people about themselves. Later, too, she realised that this was because people love the sound of their own voice, especially when talking about themselves. So they are deflected from interest in you. But for now, she just did it because Papa had told her it was polite, and that she should do it. So now, she asked Green why she had volunteered for an act that would kill her.
“I have little to lose. And family to worry about. One must do what one can for ones family, after all. And this way I hope a bit of me will live on – will be remembered – afterwards.” She exhaled, exhausted, at the end of her strength. “Perhaps I do understand you and your father, after all.”
Green closed her eyes and seemed to sleep. After a few minutes, Monet
wondered if she should leave, or raise an alarm, or what?
Green’s eyes opened. “Monet.”
“I want you to make me a promise.”
“Don’t say that before you know what it is. I want you to promise me that you will always remember the sacrifices – you do know what a sacrifice is?”
“Yes.” Monet was a good liar, but she was not doing so now. She sensed that whatever this was, it was going to be important.
“That you will remember the sacrifices made on your behalf, and that you will always try to be worthy of them.”
Monet tried to think what her Papa would think about this. She thought he would approve. As a matter of fact, she was right. “Yes.”
“You really agree to swear? You can’t go back you know. If you agree,
you’re bound. For life.” Green paused. “All right – repeat after me. ‘I
“I solemnly swear.”
“By everything I hold dear.”
“By everything I hold dear – especially Papa.”
“That I will always remember.”
“That I will always remember.”
“The sacrifices made on my behalf.”
“The sacrifices made on my behalf.”
“And that I will always try.”
“And that I will always try.”
“To be worthy of them.”
“To be worthy of them.”
“Be the best you can be Monet. That’s all anyone can do. Be the best that they can be.”
She never got the opportunity to ‘show off’ to Green. But she did remember Greens’ last words, said when both of them were in pain. “Remember your promise, Monet.”
“Anyway, I can’t change now. People would notice.”
“Monet, after all that you’ve revealed and been involved in here, you could reveal yourself as the ruler of the lost Martian Sand Ghosts and surprise no one.”
For an instant, she smiled.
Cartier had one last argument to make. “You haven’t asked what power is in this little vial.”
“And I am not going to. I do not want to know.”
“Pity. I’m going to tell you anyway. Healing.”
“What?” I should not have asked that. I might start getting ideas. “I don’t need that.” Relief. And suspicion. “I’m pretty hard to injure anyway.”
“Not impossible – and what about poisons. In any case, that’s not why I was interested.” He fell silent.
“I know you’re going to tell me anyway.”
“We suspect that the man it came from could heal others as well, if he tried.” It seemed to Cartier to be a good moment to fall silent. This statement had obvious implications to do with the rest of the GenX team. After enough time had passed for Monet to consider all this – not long – he added: “I know you feel guilty about the past. You could atone for that directly. Benefit as many people as you liked.”
Monet made the decision she had to. “No. It’s obvious why you started with this. ‘She can’t refuse this, and if she takes one she’ll start thinking and want more.’ I’m not going to fall for that.” She was surprised at her fathers’ lack of subtlety. “You’re not going to have me thinking it would be nice to be able to sync, or useful to have some long-range firepower. Or anything.”
Cartiers’ lips twitched sadly upwards. “You know, once you would have been right. And later I would have thought it foolish: too transparent. But now?” He spoke wistfully. “I have no ulterior motive. This was just an opportunity to make up for the past.”
Monet seemed unmoved. “Well, I’ve checked in at a nearby hotel. I wouldn’t want either of us sleeping on the floor. I’ll come round in the morning, and see if the twins are up.”
Monet nodded once, and then made to get up and out of the car. “Monet.” He saw her look at him. “All I’ve ever done – whatever the circumstances, whatever the results – I have always wanted to do the best I could for you. My motives have never really been ulterior. It’s just – when we realised your powers I thought – well, no one is perfect, but I thought that you could approach more closely than most.” And Marius. “Well, you know all that I’m sure.” He shrugged helplessly. “Think it over, anyway.”
The discussions beforehand must have been interesting: ‘You want us to what!?’ ‘They’d have to be criminals, I suppose’. Probably arguments over the price too. Monet was too young to know any of this. She was too young to understand anything, much. The first she knew was when her Papa tried to explain things to her. She had been horrified. “I’m sorry to do this to you so young, but one day soon you might need it…” She had not really understood. She knew her Papa was in trouble with ‘Bad Men’, but not how much, or what he had to do to get out of it. But she did understand that Papa thought she had to do this, for her sake and his. This was enough for her. She would do anything for her Papa. Anything.
She was very quiet, and very serious, as she was led into the room. She had imagined it would be dark, but it was bright white, and brilliantly lit. There were many people in it, most of them looking at mysterious white machines. Computers, and ‘scanners’ and things. Others carried guns, and looked mainly at a bed in the corner. From her height, she could not see anyone on it. Many of them turned to look at her. It was the most frightening thing to happen to her so far. She clutched Papa’s hand, and looked up at him. He smiled at her, reassuringly, and lifted her up. Now she could see the bad man in the bed. She was less frightened of him than of the other men in the room. He was tied down, and asleep. She wondered if he was one of the bad men who threatened Papa. She tried to ask, but somehow the words would not come. She hoped it was one of those that threatened Papa. One less to worry about.
Her eyes were wide as she was brought up to him. She whispered, “Will it hurt?”
“Who, princess?” asked Papa. “Do you mean will it hurt you, or will it hurt him?”
“Both.” She had asked before, but wanted to hear both answers again.
“It can’t hurt him, he’ll be very, very asleep. And no, I don’t think it will hurt you.”
At least, she thought, it had not hurt before, when she merged. But she would not be doing just that today.
As it turned out, the man did not stay asleep. Apparently the disappearance of a DNA strand from a cell can screw up a cells' molecular machinery quite quickly. If it is a nerve cell, that is not a good thing. Not good at all.
He screamed as she pulled clear. Louder than any human scream. A weird, screeching thing, that sounded like nothing on Earth. His nerves and muscles were already malfunctioning. He jerked frantically, and she was terrified beyond screaming herself. She just tried to get away as fast as possible and when something barred her flight it took her seconds to realise it was the ceiling. She tried to turn around to see what was behind her, and when she succeeded she found herself looking straight down on him. He was spreadeagled out on the bed, thrashing wildly, and his throat and wrists seemed to be disintegrating. One of his hands seemed to slip through the restrains, covered in blood and leaving god-knows-what behind. He clutched out frantically at her and she did scream as he caught her arm. But she couldn’t take her eyes of his face and so she got a perfect view as his head exploded from the impact of a bullet. He collapsed onto the bed, quite clearly dea.
It took them hours to get her to come down, afterwards. Eventually she uncurled and allowed herself to be led down from her ‘hiding place’ in the ceiling corner. She was trembling uncontrollably as they wiped the blood off her.
The next time they used a lot more anaesthetic, and everything was fine.
Monet was back in her room, seated in front of her dressing table. In front of her was the vial. She was not seeing it, but she could not forget it. Her father was in his hotel room, probably. She did not dare take it. She could not throw it away. Something that could never harm, only heal. She had never had that.
Be the best that you can be, Monet.
You’d give crack to a recovering alcoholic.
Remember the sacrifices made for you.