2010-05-21: Nothing To Fear But


Magneto_icon.jpg Theo_icon.jpg

Summary: Theo decides he wants to learn a little more about what makes Magneto tick. He gets more than he bargained for.

Date: May 21, 2010.

Log Title Nothing to fear but…

Rating: PG

Over the Phone

Theo sits, staring at the magnetic cell in his hand. He's used it once to provide Magneto with information about Bruce, but other than that, it's been very quiet. He opens it. "Okay, Mr. Magnet," he says to himself as he opens it. "Let's see what your hand is." His finger presses to contact the Master of Magnetism.

Magneto is having a late, light supper, wine and a couture salad in a very upscale restaurant at the height of one of New York's high rises. The view of the city unfolds like spangled velvet to one side, and the dark waters of the Atlantic stretch wide on the other. He doesn't twitch at the touch of the phone, but merely picks up his wine glass and stares out over the water. "Speak."

"So," Theo says, "This is Theo," he says, assuming that he's the only Theo Magneto knows. "I've been thinking about the stuff you said when you and I first met at the school. Was wondering if you'd want to meet. I have a few questions about you and the way you do so well at getting what you want."

Magneto lifts an eyebrow at his reflection in the glass he is watching the water through. "I see, Mr. Fegenbush. Is there anything in particular that you wish to know, and why do you need to ask in person? The phone works." Obviously, since the two of you are speaking over it.

From the top of the school, Theo watches the students around, heading between the dorms and the kitchen. "I like talking face to face, it makes it easier to figure out if I can trust people," he says straight out. "I want to know a little more about why you seemed so interested in me when we talked that day. I'm not sure this school is the right place for me, but right now I don't have a lot of options. I figure you to be a guy who knows about options."

"For the purposes of what you can and should learn, Theodore, you are in the best possible place. The staff of the Institute are experienced and learned, and will give you a very good academic education and, more importantly, an excellent physical education. I might agree with you on certain of their policies and politics, but on the whole, I believe youand Iare better served with you being exactly where you are."

He pauses to sip his wine. "If you are in need of reassurance, believe me when I say that I have been examining certain recent events, and that youand what you can dofigure into the plans I have for answering those events."

"Well, that is a lot of what I want to talk about. You don't really know me," Theo answers. "But you play like you do. I want to know why I should be interested in helping you at all. What do I get out of it?" He's to the chase. "I was going to head down to South Central Park in a little bit, maybe you'd want to meet up there and we can talk about it." Not a good place for a mutant, if the recent flyers for a Friends of Humanity rally can be believed.

Magneto takes another long, slow sip of his wine. "South Central Park. An interesting choice. Tell me, young Theodore. What do you hope to do there? What do you hope that I will do there?" He leaves aside, for the moment, Theo's questions about how Magneto sees him and what he knows about him, and why Theo should help him in his crusade against the bigots of humanity. An FoH rally? Far more interesting all around.

"Good fresh air, I guess," Theo says. "I always did like nature, was a boy scout and everything," he says with a sarcastic edge. "I don't really expect either of us to do anything there, unless you really want to. Well, maybe watch. But I don't think they'd be able to throw anything at us that wouldn't be easily dealt with, do you?"

Magneto smiles at his reflection. "Indeed. When, young Theodore, do you want to be there? I can be there in minutes, of course."

"I can't fly, so I gotta take the bus, maybe forty-five minutes," Theo says. He stands to his feet, walking across the roof to the hatch that he came up from.

Magneto is amused. "Whereas I can fly. I'll be in Central Park in forty minutes—in case your bus driver is a good driver." Not helpful, is he? "The rally will have security around it, and the security will have a headquarters, likely near the main stage for the speakers. I will be within one hundred feet of that headquarters."

"Sounds good," Theo says. He didn't expect a ride. "See you there." And with that, he closes the phone.

Magneto grins and turns back to his meal. Forty minutes? He has time to finish his wine, at least.

Central Park - Friends of Humanity Rally

Here in Central park, a large rally is underway. The Friends of Humanity have geared up with their anti-mutant speakers, T-Shirts, and concessions.

And… forty minutes later, he is in the park, within one hundred feet of the security station. One hundred feet straight up. It gives him a marvelous view of the whole rally, and a means of tracking Theo, too. The boy is carrying the phone, yes? Makes things much easier.

Theo is there shortly afterward. A little more. He stopped at a concession stand to grab a large soda. He looks around, sipping on his drink. He wanders back and forth around the area. He doesn't look around much for Magneto, rather, he looks straight ahead. He's trying to sense Magneto's phone, expecting it to be of the same unique build as the one he received. However, he doesn't sense it, given that it's out of range overhead. He seems to keep a buffer of about fifty feet from the actual headquarters, not going any closer as he circles, even though it increases his walking distance significantly.

After a few laps, he stops, and lets out a sigh. He pulls out the phone, and calls to Magneto's own, if it's still on him of course.

Magneto's range is larger than Theo's; he noted Theo's arrival and has been tracking him ever since. When the phone buzzes, he smiles and answers. "How is your soda, young Theodore? I think you'll find that the view of the main stage will be better if you move to the other side of the trees you are standing beside."

Theo rolls his eyes, but answers, now looking around him to try to locate Magneto. "Cute," he says, "So, where are you?" He asks, and suddenly it dawns on him. "You're right above me, aren't you?" he asks. He doesn't look up though to check, choosing not to draw attention upward by other people if they should see him suddenly staring into the sky.

"Excellent." Magneto sounds pleased. "So, would you like to join me? If so, and in the interests of maintaining the entertainment value of this gathering of people, I would suggest that you take yourself somewhere private. The trees behind the Port-a-Potties don't have anyone in them."

Theo doesn't sound amused at being toyed with. "Sure," he agrees. He doesn't close the phone yet, but he walks rather casually back into the trees, trying to pretend that he isn't watching the security as he takes another sip of his soda. When he's convinced, he ducks into the trees. Out of sight, now, he looks up to spot the older mutant.

Magneto casually levitates the young man up to join him. "There are ways to watch these things, Mr. Federbush," he remarks, once Theo is close enough to talk to. "Here is best, I've found. So few baselines actually think to look up, but when they do? Very amusing." He gestures toward the stage, where the speaker is warming up the crowd with a pile of cliches about Mom, apple pie, and baseball. "Thus far, no one has said anything beyond the trite. Were you expecting something in particular?"

Theo flails ever so slightly as Magneto lifts him up. "Jeez," he emits quietly, "I gotta hand it to you, this is pretty cool, just don't sneeze and drop me," he remarks. The coolness of levitating into the air seems to have cut the annoyed attitude. After all, he's fifteen years old and he's flying without an airplane, who could ask for more?

"Looking for something?" he asks, taking another sip. "Well, there's fourteen guns in the crowd that security missed which I've counted, but I'm sure there's more I haven't noticed yet. I like to watch these, though," he says. "Usually I stay a little farther back and on the ground, admittedly. He takes another drink. He makes a lazy gesture toward the speaker. "That," he announces, "is what I was expecting. Could set your watch to it. I bet you I can tell you everything he's gonna say."

"Are you sure Security missed those guns? And I count twenty-seven guns, including the little two-shot that man on the stage has in his waistband." Magneto provides what feels like a comfortable couch to the touch, but which is entirely invisible to the eye. He steeples his fingers and leans back in it. "No need. It's merely a variation on the sorts of treasured 'truths' these people think rule everyone—or which they think should rule everyone. Apparently, the common garden-variety American middle-class is the answer to all things."

Theo shrugs. "That's just it," he says. "People listen to these crackpots because it's familiar and simple, it appeals to what is a common teaching, so they keep recycling it. Hell, it was common to me until just a few months ago," he admits. "It's what keeps them calm. But the real question is, what are they so afraid of?" He jiggles his soda a little, the ice rattling around as he continues to study the speaker.

"Don't be naive, Theodore. They fear their own powerlessness, and they deny that powerlessness with every breath they take." He leans forward and sweeps a hand out, indicating the whole crowd. "Most of these people are neither mutants nor have they ever met a mutant, at least not knowingly. Depending on which numbers you believe, there might be 5000 mutants in the world, or 5 million, or 50 million… but that's the whole world. There are 6 billion people alive on the planet, at a conservative estimate, and that means that there is one mutant per 120 baselines at the high end, and one per 1.2 million at the low end. In other words, mutants are a vast unknown… and humans are allergic to the unknown. Particularly if it is powerful."

"You were on the right track at the beginning," Theo says, as if the question itself wasn't really a question he didn't have the answer to. "They are afraid of their powerlessness. But it's not the difference between humans and mutants that really scares them at the core," he concludes. "It's what is the same that scares them."

The speaker on the stage has finished his warm-up and now has the crowd chanting in unison. Magneto ignores this. "Indeed? This is interesting. Tell me your theory on this, Theodore."

Theo squints a little, pointing at the speaker with a pinched thumb and forefinger. "You see, I pay attention in class," he starts. "If you look at the great crimes in history, you see it over and over again. You compare the mutants to the Jews in World War II. The Nazis hated the Jews because Hitler convinced the country that the Jews were a threat. 'If we don't kill them, they'll kill us'. See, people are rotten at the core. Every last soul."
Theo turns back to look at Magneto. "The Romans thought the same thing about the Christians, so they fed them to lions," he lists his next example. "The Christians thought it about the Muslims. The Muslims think it about the Americans. See, they all attacked and persecuted because they knew, somewhere deep down, that they were twisted."
"Everyone hides their deepest thoughts. It might be lust, or hate, or greed, but it's so intense, that they never tell a soul, because they knew if anyone ever found out, they wouldn't be loved. They'd be exposed as the monster that lurks in the back of their mind, and hated. And I think people know somewhere deep down, that the monster lives in everyone. So when they are faced with a group they believe poses a threat, they want to crush it before the tables can be turned. Because they know that they may only get one shot. And that, is why you are afraid of the humans." The last is a direct accusation of Magneto's deep thoughts. "I know it sure as hell is why I am."

Magneto watches Theo speak, one eyebrow raised. He doesn't appear too put out at being accused. "First," he says, holding up a finger, "Hitler didn't convince the Germans that the Jews were a threat. What he did was exploit a millenias-old bigotry which started in the Roman Empire, long before the birth of Christ. The Romans didn't like the Jews because the Jews didn't give the Romans the respect the Romans wished to become accustomed to, and the Romans passed that dislike on to the early Christian church, which preserved it to the current day. Ignore history at your peril, young Theodore. There is much to learn about our situation in studying the hatreds of the past."
He glances aside at the main stage, where men in white robes and other men in business suits are lining up along the back. "Second, I compare the mutants to the Jews because superficially, they bear a strong resemblance: a disliked minority is oppressed by a dominant majority to the point of genocide. However, the similarity stops there." He turns his icy blue gaze on the boy. "Mutants are not human… or not only human. They are a rich, varied expression of the human, but they are not *just* human. The average human has no more idea of what more each mutant is than he is aware of how much more a Great Dane is to a Chihuahua… indeed, he has no concept that there is a 'more' involved.
"But he does know that anything that is not just like him isn't just human… and only 'humans' deserve unrestricted life, in the common garden-variety human mind. All others are animals, and the Bible itself gives all animals into the care of Adam, to do with as he wishes. And Adam is very good at killing when he wishes… particularly if he sees no use in the creature, or if it scares him." He tips his head to indicate the crowd. "Or if he does see a use, he will use it up, and damn the consequences to the creature so used." He looks back to Theo. "Fear humanity? Of course: they are at least 120 to 1, boy. They may be 1.2 million to 1. If you don't fear those odds, respect them… you're a complete idiot."

Theo shakes his head, staring at the proceeding below. "You have no idea how afraid I am," he says. "I've seen what evil they are capable of, and while we may be very different," he says quietly. "I think we haven't been so lucky as to evolve past the evil that rots us all." He looks back at Magneto. "Because I want to do the same to them." He studies Magneto's face, as if looking for something, approval, or perhaps insight, or perhaps something else entirely. It's not a study that suggests much hope, though.

Magneto studies Theo in return. "Those who live by the sword should have no expectation of dying in their beds, surrounded by grandchildren," he says. "They should know that an attack can and will be met in kind. It's the sort of thing children learn on the playground: you shove me, I shove you back. But these… people." A flick of his hand, angry, at the crowd. "They think their numbers protect them. That the malice of the majority is sufficient to justify the abuse of the minority. I say NO."

"Every kid on a playground learns pretty early that you don't try to pick a fight with the biggest kid in class, either," he says. "They will try to kill us. At some point, something will trigger a mass panic, and there will be concentration camps, and executions, and we will all die. Sometimes those who don't live by the sword live even shorter lives, because when the sword comes to them they can't fight back."

"Yes." Magneto's eyes half-lid. "But they don't get everyone, young Theodore. Mutants crop up in the baseline populace. If they want to be rid of us… they will have to rid themselves of themselves."

"Won't do us much good," Theo retorts. "We'll be dead. So I guess this comes to another chapter of people just killing each other like it's always been. Only now we have nukes, so maybe we'll get lucky and blow everyone away, right? Then the flatscans will be happy because they destroyed all the mutants, and we can be happy because we took them with us," comes his sarcastic evaluation. "Everyone wins."

Magneto shakes his head. "So pessimistic, so young." He casts one last dismissive glance at the crowd in Central Park. They're chanting, "Muties no more!" and cheering each other. "Come with me." He flies east, leaving the rally behind, and towing Theo with him, unless Theo objects… which would have its own entertainment value.

Theo's gaze returns to the crowd, there's a certain burning look in his eyes. Perhaps it was to his own folly that he came, he's gotten himself worked up pretty well. He doesn't object to Magneto dragging him along. He doesn't figure he has much control in the situation. Still, his eyes remain fixed on the rally as long as it's visible.

They are out over the Atlantic shortly, and they fly together for some time. The night is cold, this high above the water.

Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean - Abandoned Oil Platform

An old and rusted oil platform. Several pieces of the structure are missing, the metal is twisted and ripped.

Ten minutes, fifteen… twenty-five. A structure can be seen in the distance, steel posts raising it above the waves. An oil platform? It appears to be the Master of Magnetism's destination, for he alters course and a few minutes later, man and teen are dropping toward it. It appears to be derelict; the superstructure is twisted and there are multiple rips in the plating all round, showing the drop to the sea below, dozens of yards away. Far enough to kill, if one fell and landed badly.

Theo waits patiently for a while, but he clearly is rather confused. "What is this?" he asks as they arrive at the platform. "Exxon's next publicity stunt?" He steadies his feet before him, preparing to try to land on his feet when they reach the surface.

"A training ground." Magneto rips up a deck panel and flings it in Theo's direction.

Theo's eyes go wide at Magneto's statement before his action. He drops to the ground, narrowly dodging the panel. His heart begins racing. He knows he's outclassed by the older mutant, but he doesn't intend to go down without a fight. Magneto's phone rings. He hopes that it provides enough of a distraction for his next move. A nearby crane suddenly begins to spin, the metal hook heading toward the Master of Magnetism's head. But that's just the problem, it's metal. As is everything else on the platform. And so he follows that with a third move, which is to attack with the one thing on the platform that isn't made of metal. Himself. He pounces into the air with little grace, but enough accuracy as he tries to perform a leap tackle to take the old man to the ground. Fighting prowess? Not much, but he does seem to think strategy fairly well on his feet, even if it isn't enough.

Magneto tilts his head at the ringing phone: who… oh. Theo. He smiles; not bad. The crane is mostly ignored; the chain the hook is one is shortening so that the device swings past far over the man's head. The tackle, on the other hand… "Oof!" Damn it. Both Magneto and Theo go down.

This doesn't help Theo, mind; Magneto's next action is to use the deck plates as cables whipping up to wrap the teenager in their coils.

Theo doesn't let go of Magneto, knowing that if he loses grip he loses any hope of anything other than a quick surrender. He manages to keep his left arm free long enough to try to wrap it around Magneto's head. He's going for the throat, but he is hardly skilled in choke holds, and only has one arm, so he tries to headbutt while the rest of his body struggles furiously for freedom.

Magneto is using the cables to pry Theo off him; it is safe to say that they're stronger than the boy is. Which doesn't mean Theo doesn't get his licks in; the head butt gives Magneto a bloody nose. He gets up as the cables carry Theo back from him.

He dabs his nose and looks at his own blood. "Well. And what did you learn here tonight, Mr. Federbush?"

Theo continues to struggle futiley against the cables. "Besides that you can't pronounce my name? I learned not to trust you," he spits through clenched teeth.

Magneto chuckles. "I apologize about the name." He crosses his arms and looks at the boy. "Theodore. You are a mutant. Consider this a demonstration of what a single mutant can do to humanity as a whole, right now. You could fight as well as you know how, and you could bloody their nose—and you would lose. They would heal. Is that what you want?"

"You say that like it's something I don't know already," he protests, still not relenting in his struggle against the deck plating. It's a good thing he's current on his tetanus shots, because they are hardly a cozy restraint. All the same, he keeps struggling.

"You didn't answer my question, Theodore." Magneto waves a finger.

The technopath studies Magneto, and briefly stops his struggle. He pants a little, "I'm not answering until you let me go," he decides.

Magneto lifts an eyebrow. "Do you think your answer is worth that much to me?"

"I dunno," he says, "You're the one who asked," he answers. "You tell me. You're the one who says you have some plan that involves me. So you tell me, old man, do you want my answer?" Hard willed even when he knows he doesn't have anything left to fight with.

Magneto crosses his arms and tilts his head. "Why have you given up fighting, Theodore?"

"I haven't, I've just changed strategies. And I don't like getting these sharp metal cuts in my skin. Call it a quirk," the boy answers.

The cables shift tighter. "Of course you don't. Why does that matter?" Magneto continues to stare up at the boy. "Theodore, you are typical for your age: you know everything and believe nothing. In what way are you worthy of my attention, let alone a place at my side? You say you do not trust me… very well. I don't trust you, either, and, unlike you, I have the ability to do something about it. My choice can take many forms—I could strand you, or injure you, or even kill you." His eyes glitter. "Or I could help you, but I need more than nihilism and boyish bargains to base my decision on."

Theo winces, coughing a little at the pressure. He forces a deep breath against the cables. "What do you have that I want, other than letting me go?" he asks. "I didn't ask for some place at your side. I'm nobody's lackey," he says. "I just asked what you wanted with me." Pure opportunism. He takes another strained breath, and holds it for a moment, as if he's processing his situation. "You'll have to pardon me if I don't believe in anything, everything I had to believe in is gone, okay? You looking for somebody with great power? You're barking up the wrong tree. I don't think I know everything. My power requires a remarkable amount of information that I DON'T have. So if you think I'm of some use, then you're gonna have to help me out, cuz I got nothin'." His tone is exasperated, and his voice cracks, but he restrains his tears.

Magneto taps a finger to his lips. A moment later, the cables relax and set Theo onto an undamaged portion of the deck. Whether he can stand is his look-out. "You're a fool, young Theodore. You can control machines. You can talk to them, and make them give up information to you. And you say you have nothing?" He shakes his head. "Go back to the Institute. Pay attention in your Danger Room sessions. I want to make an answer to your Cleansers, and I will require your help to do it. —Is that clear enough for you?"

Theo drops to the deck, only scarcely catching himself from complete collapse, landing on his hands and knees. He takes a deep breath of air a few times, and looks up at Magneto. "I know that," he says, "But you don—" he stops in mid sentence, and just stares as he comprehends what Magneto just said. He is truly lost for words. His expression is an odd blend of terror and curiosity, as if he's not certain that he heard correctly.

Magneto raises an eyebrow. He asked a question, and he's not in the mood to repeat it. He'll let Theo fill the silence between them.

Slowly, Theo changes position to be sitting on the deck, a slightly bewildered look on his face. He knits his brow. "You looked it up. When I said I was from Manassass. You knew something was up then. That's what this is about?" He stands back to his feet. He's covered with scratches and scrapes. "I think it is clear," he answers, a much more subdued tone. Magneto found the right button.

"Yes. I had you researched. Information is a tool." Magneto tips his head down to stare at the boy before him. "I believe you need to think about that. I will bring you back to the Institute. I suggest you rest." A flick of his fingers and the deck plate Theo is sitting on forms into a sort of sled. "Unless, of course, you would prefer to stay here." Deep irony in his tone as he waves at the rest of the oil platform.

"I don't need to think about it," he answers, plopping down onto the sled unceremoniously. "If you can find them, I'll make every one of them suffer. Information is power, more than any power any of us mutants have," he agrees. "Let me know, and I'll be ready."

The sled is there because towing it is easier for Magneto than lifting Theo without it — and Magneto is tiring, though he isn't showing it. "Good," he says, and the two lift off, headed west back toward the shore. The flight is about forty minutes — Magneto isn't minded to converse. Theo will have to carry the conversation, if talk is what he wants.

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