2010-09-25: Tiger By The Tail


Theo_icon.jpg Magneto_icon.jpg

Summary: Theo seeks Magneto's help to learn how to deal with people.

Date: Saturday, September 25, 2010. 9:23pm

Log Title: Tiger by the Tail

Rating: R (Language)

Xavier Mansion - Woods

Pine, Oak, Birch, and many other trees can be found in these woods. Paths lead all through out them for students to take walks. The occasional bench can be found along the paths. Students shouldn't worry about wandering too deep in these woods as its almost impossible for them to get lost here.

The night lights up in purple flares, actinic arcs skipping over the damp ground. The soil shivers and heaves, pebbles clattering aside as the earth cracks. Something is buried here, something big. And it is rising, coming to the call of Magneto.

The display makes the Master of Magnetism easy to find. The Master of peeving off headmistresses walks casually through the woods. He's rather agile through the thick brush as he watches the ground start to shift. The magnetic fields pulling at the piece of machinery give just enough electrical charge that in this quiet setting, Theo can almost sense it. The boy wears a pair of jeans and a long sleeved shirt for the slightly cooler fall evening, the first time he's needed a long sleeved shirt this season, but it won't be the last.

The earth rips open with a growling roar, accompanied by the snapping of tree limbs. The light increases, spearing outward in a glow so bright one shouldn't look straight at it, if one doesn't want to have to navigate purple spots in one's vision for the rest of the evening.

Energy courses through the ground under Magneto's feet, coiling and cradling, wrapping itself around the machinery he's found and is resurrecting. Circuits wake as power washes through them, self-repairing in places, stuttering in others. Magneto says, without turning around, "Mr. Fegenbush. You wanted to see me?"

Theo seems a bit distracted by the light show as Magneto acknowledges him. As he hears the cracking of the limbs and the heaving continues, he realizes that he isn't outside of the destruction zone. He reverses direction, climbing back over a few branches so that he doesn't endanger himself.

"Yeah," he says. "I've been doing some thinking," His voice is raised to be heard over the sound of the shifting environment. "And I've been realizing something about myself." With that he lets out a heavy sigh, though it might be inaudible given everything around. "I suck at PR."

A torso rises out of the earth, shedding rocks. Most of the left side is missing, blasted away, but the midline is intact. It rises into the air as Magneto says, "You are young, Theo Fegenbush. You are quite good at some of the things you do. But there are a great many things that you could do that you have not practiced at all—and promoting a good image of yourself is one of them." He gestures with one hand and shards of metal separate themselves out of the falling rocks and earth to weld themselves back in place on the torso's chest.

Theo watches the torso rise from the ground, and raises an arm to shield his face from the dust that rises as the rocks fall to the ground. "I'm willing to wager you've heard about the talk between Emma and Tony and I," he says. "I'd say I won the battle, but only by way of making sure we both lost." Very pictish of him. "Now I've dug myself a hole just about as deep as the one you just made, and it'll take a little more tact then I'm known to have to get out of it."

The torso shivers, and more rocks fall away from it. The main gun in the chest is reassembling itself. Magneto gestures, maestro for a metallic orchestra. "You need a plan, young Theo. And to create your plan, you require a goal. What do you want most?"

"What I want most can't be had," Theo answers. "So I'll settle for winning. Frost can't break me unless she decides to use her telepathy. But that's not enough. I want to be able to convince her to listen to me. I want to be able to speak in a way that moves people to listen to me." The boy feels the reassembly start to take place with the gun inside of the chest, and watches it closely in the darkness.

"The way I see it, people will listen to authority as long as they believe that the authority has the power to enforce its will. As soon as somebody thinks they can get away with their disobedience, or wants to disobey more than they want to avoid the punishment, the authority loses. But when people follow you because they want to; because they love you, then you have real power." He's clearly been thinking this through over the last few days. "I want that power. And what are you doing with these things, anyway?" He adds the side comment.

Magneto turns to face Theo and cross his arms. Behind him, the torso continues to reassemble its bits and pieces. "Young Theo. I will say this once. Never, ever say to me that what you want can't be had. This is not true, for such as you and I, but be warned: you have to know if the price of what you want is worth the having, before you go for it."

He tips his chin up. "Your understanding of authority is basic, but also so limited that you cripple yourself with pre-suppositions. Nothing in leadership is black and white. It may benefit you to present it that way, but if you assume it? You lose. Every. Single. Time."

Magneto then flicks fingers at his work. "This? I am building a Sentinel, of course."

"I know you're building a sentinel, what I don't know is what you're going to do with it," Theo clarifies. "I know it's limited," he adds, coming back to the main topic. He wanders back toward one of the trees, and leans up against it.

"That's why I need somebody to teach me," the technopath explains. "I'm grounded this semester, so I figure I have enough time for a couple more classes if I take some directed studies." One thing is certain, the boy loves to learn. "I want to learn how to win people over. How to persuade them. There are two people in this school who I know to be competent in this. You, and Scott. I'd rather learn from you."

"There are three. Myself, Mr. Summers, and Miss Frost." Magneto watches Theo lean against his tree. "I would suggest, at a minimum, that you take her etiquette class, and that you apply yourself to what she is teaching you. Etiquette, in the proper hands, is a social weapon of devastating effectiveness. Think of it as the scaffold for society: you have to have adequate support for the thing you are building, be it building, machine, or reputation, before it will rise to the heights you envision for it."

He considers for a long moment, studying the young man in front of him. "You did not tell me what you want. You say you want to learn how to win people over, but I would guess this is a goal that is on the way to another goal. What do you truly want, Mr. Fegenbush?"

Theo folds his arms across his chest at the question, but not in a defiant manner. "Miss Frost is even worse with people than I am," he counters. "That's pretty bad, I don't want to get worse at dealing with people. Even if she has something valuable to teach? I won't subject myself to her presence any more than is absolutely necessary, there's other people that can teach these types of things. She can't be trusted." His tone on his judgment seems quite convinced.

His eyes leave the floating robotic mass and rest on Magneto, not forgetting the question addressing the heart of the issue, but he appears to be measuring his thoughts before he answers. "I want to get what I want without a fight. If I could speak as well as that bigot back home, I could've been convincing people to burn his house down instead of mine. If I could read Frost well enough during that circus of a meeting the other day, then I might have managed a better outcome for myself." He brings it to a peer level. "I'd have more friends, I'd be looked at as more than just that nerd with an insanely high GPA who constantly pisses people off." In other words, he's lonely, but he doesn't quite understand it on that level.

Magneto narrows his eyes in thought. The chest gun in the torso behind him cycles, spitting sparks. "Indeed." He turns his head and electricity arches around him to the torso and back, in an eye-watering circle of white fire. "I suspect, Theo, that you will need to approach this in phases. Miss Frost is not what you think she is. If she was, she would not be here, in the heart of Charles Xavier's dream for mutantkind. She first met the X-Men by kidnapping them, and by forcibly interrogating several of them mentally. You do not get from that to Scott Summers' bed by being bad with people."

He looks back toward the boy. "Be that as it may, you cannot see that as yet, and so it would not be profitable for me to force you into interacting with her. I will say this, and think carefully on it: she sees far more deeply into you, without using her powers at all, than you do into her, using all of yours."

Theo raises a hand to shield his eyes as the gun starts to blaze to life, and he takes a few steps back so that he isn't so close. "What I've seen of her," Theo contorts, "Is that she betrays trust and violates privacy. She might as well have painted a picture for Tony Stark of what my powers are. That was private! It was the ONE THING I asked that the school not tell Tony. If she sees so deeply into me, then she would've known better than to— Argh!" The frustration at the thought makes him trip over his own tongue, and he doesn't seem able to complete the thought. His nostrils flare, and he takes a few deep breaths.

"I don't want to talk about her anymore," he says after he's collected himself a little. "I just get angry. So are you saying you won't help me?" he asks.

"I've already started." Magneto looks up at the torso, which now disassembles itself. The chest gun floats down to his eye level and he stares at it, examining it with eyes and mind. "You do not see the lesson before you."

He extends a hand and sparks crackle over his glove and around the gun. "Moving on to a simpler thing, when was the last time another student was irritated with you? Can you tell me why they were irritated?"

Theo takes pause at Magneto's declaration that they have already started. He was expecting a textbook, or paper, or something. "Most recently?" he asks. "I don't know, the last one that comes to mind is Robyn, but he's always irritated. I was trying to help him that time, but I could tell that I made him squirm. I called him a fag to make a point, but I don't think he quite followed me."

Magneto continues to examine the gun. The parts are exploding outward in slow motion, and he prods one, then another, with a finger. "I have met young Robyn. He was not irritated. Cautious, yes. Perhaps a bit scared. But not irritated. So one, your initial assessment of him is disproven." He nudges another gun part aside, then frowns at the main power assembly. "But assuming that he is always irritated around you, that implies that your presence irritates him. Here is your first assignment, Theo Fegenbush: find out what about you irritates Robyn, and why."

Theo arches his brow. "He hates me because I don't get all sympathetic with gays. He thinks I'm a homophobe." The boy watches as the gun disassembles, and while it gives Magneto a better picture of the inner workings, Theo feels his grasp on it slip away. "And probably because I hit him in the face with a flower pot a while back."

"Are you a homophobe?" Magneto takes the central power assembly out of the gun and removes a cracked crystal rod from it. He leaves it floating in the air in front of him, while behind him, part of the Sentinel's torso rearranges itself into a micro-assembler. "Be honest with me. And with yourself."

Theo's been challenged before on the issue. "I dunno," he answers. "My best friend was…you know," he says hesitantly. "I don't want any of them looking at my butt or anything. It's nothing personal. I don't think most of them are gonna try to hurt me." His gaze is fixed on the assembly that Magneto is creating. "I guess maybe a little."

Magneto nods. He waves a finger and the cracked rod flies over to the micro-assembler and slips into it. "Do you understand homosexuality? Do you fear it? Do you want to avoid understanding it? Do you want to avoid homosexuals? And, to put this further into perspective for you, do you have problems with all homosexuals, or merely with the male ones?" The assembler hums to life, and the rod within it disintegrates.

A scowl crosses his face as he watches the rod dissapate. "The girls aren't going to try to pull anything on me," he answers. "I've heard all the debates people have over whether it's genetic or environmental, or both, and honestly, I don't care what causes it. I'm okay around Kael, but that's because he still acts like a dude. It's the ones that prance around limp-wristed that weird me out."

Magneto goes back to studying and adjusting parts of the gun. "Are you all right with Kael because he behaves like a young man, or because you know he is not interested in you? As for the 'limp-wristed' ones, do you dislike them for their 'prancing', or because you do not know what they might do—or how they might look at you?" Magneto gives Theo a glance. "Again, be as precise and as honest as you can be."

"You sure are pushy," Theo says. "I don't know. I—" He reaches above him, and grips a lower branch of the tree he stands beneath. "I don't want them to mess with me or look at me. It's gross. If they are looking at me, then they're already probably doing it in their mind. I guess, because the ones that are so obvious, it seems to be the defining part of their personality. Nobody should let themselves be defined by just sex. It's like those jack-offs that run around in leisure suits and chase girls all the time. Normal girls can't stand to be around them, even if they aren't actively trying to get in their pants."

He watches the assembly. "If you were to make the recoil shorter, the gun could be contained in a smaller space within the torso, and retain the same strength by extending the distribution chamber." Nothing like a change of subject for an uncomfortable topic. Something he's familiar with, and can make sound, objective judgments on. Black and white, the way he likes it.

"You cannot control what other people think, young Theo. At all. You cannot control what they do, either, not perfectly, not even when they want to follow your lead. You can control your reaction, however, and you can set boundaries regarding the sorts of behavior you will and will not tolerate around you.

"There are good ways of accomplishing these things, and bad ways, and good ways which look bad, and bad ways which look good. For instance, I will not tolerate anti-mutant bigotry in my presence. I have a number of options to choose from regarding what I will do when faced with such a bigot, ranging from laughing in his face to launching him into orbit." Magneto smiles. "Tell me: which is the good reaction, and which is the bad?"

Theo's eyes narrow, still holding the branch above him, and any response. "Maybe you should laugh in his face and then launch him into orbit," he suggests, but it isn't intended seriously. "If you laugh at him, he keeps it up. If you launch him into space, he's quiet forever, but he's proven right. If you can't control their thoughts, then the only think you can do is control their actions. But then you don't make any progress. Once you aren't forcing their compliance, you'll be right back where you started. If you're lucky." He lets out a huge sigh. "See, that's why I don't get this."

Magneto smiles again. "What is the difference between, say, me laughing in the face of a Friend of Humanity, and you doing the same thing?"

Theo suddenly gets a rather coy grin crossing his face. "When you laugh at them, they know they're in trouble," he says. "If I laugh at them, they don't have a clue what's about to hit them." His smile fades a little. "While I really like the element of surprise, I'd rather be able to just bark and send them packing."

"A good start, young Theo." Magneto turns his smile on his machine. "And yes, shortening the coil would do what you say, but the tensile strength of this alloy is not up to the added stresses on the molecular level, so that is a tweak that will have to wait for another time."

Non-sequitur aside, he turns the smile back on Theo. "I have fifty years of proving myself against anti-mutants, young Theo. That is how they know they are in trouble. You have no reputation at all… and while being able to say, "Jump!" and watch people ask, "How high?" on the way up is satisfying on a gut level, it has its drawbacks." He looks back to the gun. "For one, someone is always out to say, "No, YOU jump!" and enforce it."

"Yeah, well I'm already in that boat without any experience," Theo answers grimly. He releases the branch above him, and places his hands in his pockets.

Magneto nods. The micro-assembler finishes reassembling the broken power crystal and it reorganizes itself back into Sentinel gut as the rod flies back to Magneto's hand. "Then you must find a way to do one of two things: gain a reputation, or find a way to do without one." He slides the rod back into the gun's power assembly, and the floating pieces arrow in to re-form the gun. "I suggest you think on that. And remember: you have an assignment. I will expect a verbal report on your relationship with Robyn sometime in the next week."

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