Disclaimer: I do not own X-Men or The Hunger Games.
Note: This is another one of those "I've wanted to see someone do one of these, but no one ever seems to finish them, so I finally decided to do one myself" things. I've seen several "superpower" SYOTs get started, most of them with some sort of explanation for how people in Panem ended up with mutant powers. After a little while of trying to come up with a good scientific explanation, I figured, "Why reinvent the wheel?" So, instead, I'm doing a Hunger Games type SYOT story set in the X-Men (movie) universe.
For those of you already familiar with the X-Men movies, this is set after X2: X-Men United, largely because I wanted to bypass and/or obliterate the train wreck that was The Last Stand. I'm picking up pretty much where X2 left off, but taking a different (and very non-canon) direction ... and keeping my grubby little hands off the Phoenix Saga. I may end up drawing on other movies and maybe pulling in a few things from the comics or the tv shows, but, really, all you need to be familiar with in order to understand the story is the basic premise. For anyone wanting a crash course, check out the aptly named "crash course" page on my website. (mistakesofthepast . weebly . com.)
Anyways. Technically, yes, this is a crossover. For the moment, it's listed under Hunger Games because I figure most people don't usually check the "X-Men and Hunger Games" crossover page for SYOTs to submit to. Once I have my tributes ... er, "contestants" ... I'll move it to the crossover page where it belongs.
Check out my profile page for guidelines and the tribute form. But please do read the chapter first... ;)
Mistakes of the Past
The First X-Games
President Jonathan McKenna
"This is a moment."
President McKenna hesitated as the man in the wheelchair continued. "A moment to repeat the mistakes of the past, or to work together for a better future." The man, who had introduced himself as Professor Charles Xavier, smiled a little. "We're here to stay, Mr. President. The next move is yours."
"We'll be watching," added one of the other mutants. Then, in a flash of light, just as suddenly as they had appeared, the group of them vanished.
President McKenna stared blankly for a moment at where they – the mutants – had been. In the White House. In the Oval Office. Despite his best efforts, despite the security measures that had been put in place following the recent assassination attempt, they had simply waltzed in unopposed and…
And done nothing. They hadn't hurt him. Hadn't even threatened him – not really. These ones had been peaceful enough, but what about the others? The one who had attacked him? The ones Professor Xavier claimed had tried to start a war? What happened when they decided it was time to act?
There would be nothing he could do to stop them.
They were watching him. Waiting for him. "Mr. President?" one of the cameramen asked, completely oblivious to everything that had just happened. Had time been frozen? Were these mutants really that powerful?
McKenna shuddered. If they were – if they were really that much of a threat – then it didn't matter how peaceful, how well-intentioned some of them might be. For the good of all mankind, they had to be controlled.
He knew what he had to do.
Secretary Nicholas Wright
He knew what they had to do.
Nicholas took a deep breath as he settled into one of the chairs outside the Oval Office, with his public relations adviser, Representative Mack Urban, alongside. They had come to present their committee's findings … and their recommendation.
"Do you think he'll approve?" Mack asked drumming his fingers on the arm of his chair as he took a seat beside Nicholas. "It's an unusual proposal."
Unusual. It was frightening. Maybe even monstrous. But it had to be done. And if he could convince his own Mutant Affairs Advisory Board to approve the proposal, then he could convince anyone. It had been a close vote, but not as close as he'd expected. Five in favor, two opposed.
Now they just had to convince the president.
Nicholas shook his head. It didn't seem hard to convince Jonathan of anything lately. Nicholas had accepted his position as Secretary of Mutant Affairs mostly as a favor to his old friend, but lately, it seemed, he was really the one calling the shots. The president hadn't glanced twice at a request to disarm a mutant training facility in upstate New York – a request Nicholas had been sure he would have to fight for.
He should have known better. Jonathan was afraid.
It was fear that had driven the president to reintroduce the Mutant Registration Act. It had passed both the House and the Senate with a sweeping majority, obliterating party lines. Republicans had pointed to the terrorist threat that mutants posed, citing the events at Ellis Island as a taste of things to come. Democrats had likened the bill to gun registration; some mutants, after all, had powers more deadly than any man-made weapon.
Since then, security had been tighter, but Jonathan was still afraid. He had been afraid when Vice President Nolan had unexpectedly revealed his status as a mutant. Suddenly, the assassination attempt only a few weeks before began to take on new meaning. A mutant – a mutant he had considered his friend – had been seconds away from becoming the most powerful person in the country. Few people had seen Nolan since, which only fueled the public's questions – questions no one seemed to have the answers to.
The president had been afraid when he had agreed to revitalize the Sentinel Program. He had been afraid when he had agreed to allow the Sentinels to conduct random security sweeps and eliminate threats. And he was still afraid now.
But fear didn't have to be a weakness. Fear could be used as a force for change. Without fear, after all, the human race would have died out long ago. It was fear that had kept them alive through the centuries.
Now maybe one man's fear would save them all.
He had never been so afraid.
Vincent could feel his pulse racing as he, Ian, and Maria checked the last of the storage rooms for any remaining files. Every file had been shredded or burned, every computer completely destroyed. They couldn't take any chances. Not after what had happened the last time the mansion had been raided.
The other teachers were helping the students evacuate, while the more experienced X-Men were outside, buying them time to escape. Part of him wished he was out there with them, but the rest of him knew better. He wouldn't be any help against the Sentinels. Or in any kind of a fight, really.
But he could do this. He, Maria, and Ian had offered to stay behind and help destroy their records. To make sure that no one else would be able to use their resources to locate their fellow mutants.
Finally satisfied that their job was completed, the trio rushed out into the hall, only to find Professor Xavier, on his way back from Cerebro. After what had happened at Alkali Lake, they couldn't take the chance of Cerebro falling into anyone else's hands.
"We have to go – now!" The Professor's voice was grave. From the look on his face, the battle outside was not going well. How long did they have before—
No time to think about that now. As quickly as they could, the four of them headed for the tunnels. But, just as they rounded a corner, a Sentinel came into view, its weapon raised.
Stay behind me, Xavier ordered, but they all knew it was a useless gesture. None of their powers were any use against the Sentinels. Even a mind as strong as Xavier's couldn't seize control of the robots.
The Sentinel reached down to grab the Professor, but Ian threw himself in the way. The Sentinel swatted him away easily, then Maria after him. Vincent stepped forward, only to find himself flying across the room, landing in a heap with Ian and Maria. Still alive…
They weren't the ones the Sentinels wanted.
One swing from the Sentinel's arm knocked Xavier from his wheelchair. "Professor!" Vincent shouted, about to spring to his feet. But, to his surprise, he found he couldn't move. Maria and Ian were similarly frozen. Xavier's last gift to them, Vincent realized. He wasn't going to let any of them die for him.
Just before the Sentinel fired, Vincent felt something else. Heard something else. Two words, whispered in his mind.
Then the Sentinel fired. Once. Twice. Again and again and again…
But the first blast had been enough, Vincent knew, because he could move again. Instinctively, he rushed at the Sentinel, but, instead of batting him away this time, the Sentinel's giant hand closed around him. Another lifted Ian, and a third retrieved Maria. Vincent gasped as the Sentinel's grip tightened. Through blurred vision, he caught a glimpse of the Professor's body, blood still pooling on the floor around him.
Two words. As consciousness slipped from him, Vincent buried those two words deep in his memory. He wouldn't forget. He couldn't. The future of all mutantkind might depend on those two words.
Why were they still alive?
Maria groaned softly as the memories came flooding back. The mansion. The Sentinels. The Professor. Tears came to her eyes, and she didn't even bother wiping them away. It wasn't fair. It made no sense. How could they still be alive, when Professor Xavier was dead? What did the Sentinels want with them?
It wasn't as if any of the three were particularly powerful mutants. She had never been ashamed of her gift, never wanted to hide it as her parents had urged her to, but now it just seemed so … well, so useless. Being able to breathe underwater – What good was that in a fight?
"Are you all right?" Ian asked softly. Even in the pitch black, she knew his voice.
"No." No point in lying. Not now. "No, I'm not all right. He's dead, Ian, and we didn't do anything. We couldn't do anything."
"Neither could he. And if one of the strongest mutants on the planet couldn't stop the Sentinels, then you can't beat yourself up for being just as powerless."
It was true, of course. But that didn't make it any better. It only brought back the image of their professor, lying helplessly on the floor as the Sentinel…
His powers had been almost as useless as their own. Almost. But he had claimed one last victory before the end. He had saved their lives – the three of them.
But saved them for what?
"Where are we?" Maria asked, straining her eyes in the dark.
"I don't know, but they didn't bring us far. We're less than two hours from the mansion. They blindfolded me, tried to knock me out, but, well…"
Of course. "How long was I out?"
"A couple of hours, maybe. Vincent's still unconscious. Wasn't sure if I should try to wake him or just let him be."
"Let him be for now," Maria decided. "No reason to wake him – not yet." She shook her head.
"For now, there's nothing we can do."
Sometimes he wished he could sleep.
Ian paced the room again, almost stumbling over Vincent as he slept. Sometimes he wondered what it was like. Usually, it just seemed like a waste of time – a waste he was grateful he didn't have to deal with – but, right now, it might actually be preferable. Anything would be better than this endless waiting.
Not endless, he knew. It had been a day. Maybe two. In the dark, it was easy to lose track of time – even for him. Ian drummed his fingers along the wall. How long did they plan to leave the three of them down here? He had to stay alert. As soon as someone brought them food, or water, or simply came to check on them, he could make a move. If nothing else, maybe he could at least find out where they were, what their captors wanted.
Footsteps. Ian froze. This was it. Closer. Closer. He could hear the doorknob turning. Just a few more seconds.
The door opened, and Ian bolted. Past the startled man carrying a try of food. Down the hall, as quickly as he could.
But not quickly enough. Ian could hear a weapon firing. Something struck him in the back. Pain shot through his body as he crumpled to the ground.
The man behind him chuckled. "Is that really the best you could—aah!" His taunt was cut short by Maria, who quickly kneed him in the groin before swiping his taser. Vincent was close behind her, a little groggy but very much alive. Together, the two of them helped Ian to his feet.
Before they could get far, however, an alarm sounded. More men appeared – some with tasers, some with guns, and all backed by a dozen Sentinels. Vincent took a step forward, shielding the other two. "What do you want?"
One of the men stepped forward, leaning heavily on his cane as he walked, eyeing the three of them curiously. He was in his sixties or so, thin, and at least a head shorter than Ian. "I was hoping for a better demonstration than that, to be quite honest." He turned to the men behind him, his tone oddly soft and relaxed. "Are you sure they'll do?"
"I don't understand," one of the others, a more military-looking man, admitted. "The others at the mansion fought so well – for a time."
Ian tensed. For a time. Were they dead? All of them? No. No, surely some of them had escaped. The men were only trying to frighten them.
"What do you want with us?" Vincent repeated.
The first man took a few steps forward. "We'll soon have a few … recruits … we'd like you to train."
"Recruits?" Vincent asked skeptically. "For what?"
"That's not important," the man shrugged. "All that matters right now are your qualifications. You three are teachers, yes?"
"At a school for mutants."
There was no point in denying it now. The men obviously knew what the school really was. But, just as clearly, they had made a terrible mistake.
"Excellent," the man concluded. "Then our recruits should be in good hands, as long as—"
"I teach math!" Ian blurted out before he could get any farther, taking a step in front of Vincent.
The man cocked an eyebrow. "Pardon?"
"Math," Ian repeated. "You think just because I'm a mutant, I know how to train other mutants to use their powers? You know what my power is? I don't sleep. How much practice do you think that took?"
"It's true," Maria nodded, stepping up to join him. "I teach literature. I breathe underwater. I don't know what you thought you were looking for, but … it's not us."
The man turned to Vincent. "And you?"
Vincent shook his head. "I teach music. I'm an aeromancer."
"You can create wind?" Maybe that, at least, sounded promising.
"I don't create it. I don't even control it – not really. I can just use it to send messages. Or receive them. Mostly receive them. The other person has to be listening in order for me to send them – and they have to be in a certain range."
The man sighed. "Are you sure we don't have any other options?"
"These are the ones we have, sir," the other man answered. "Either we use them or we simply let the recruits loose without any training, and—"
"We'll train them," Ian interrupted. Maybe they weren't the most experienced teachers, but they were better than nothing. Better than throwing untrained mutants into whatever sort of situation the men had planned.
The man nodded. "Excellent. Come with me, and I'll explain everything."
Secretary Nicholas Wright
They took the news about as well as could be expected.
Nicholas shook his head as one of the guards led the three mutants back to their cell. He couldn't really blame them for being upset by the news. He probably wouldn't be thrilled about it, either, if he was in their place.
But he wasn't in their place. And it was necessary. The Sentinel program had done wonders to combat the mutant problem, but there was a growing dissent, a small but vocal minority of the human population who believed the security measures weren't really necessary. That mutants weren't really a danger.
So the world had to be shown just how dangerous mutants were.
The only thing that bothered him was the fact that they were using children. That hadn't been his idea. He'd fought against it, in fact. Argued that grown mutants would seem more threatening, and would give a better show.
But, in the end, even he had to admit that it made sense. Teenagers were less likely to have full control of their powers. More likely to let their emotions take over.
It had been his idea to give them a little training beforehand, rather than simply dumping them in an arena unprepared and instructing them to kill each other. And, for that, he'd needed instructors. "Coaches" they were calling them, as if this were all some sort of game. And the mutant teenagers who were to be collected soon – they were to be "contestants." Except the only prize they would win would be their own lives.
He'd fought hard for that – allowing the winner to live. Not only in the interest of kindness, but also because it would give them an incentive. It had been suggested that they tell the mutants that one would live, and then make sure the last one died, anyway. And that might have worked, if they had planned for the Games to be a one-time affair.
But that wasn't the plan. And that sort of a trick would only work once. If the contestants didn't believe that one of them was going to live, they would have no reason to fight. No reason to kill.
Because most mutants weren't bloodthirsty enough to kill just for the fun of it. No, most of them were surprisingly … human. Even these three teachers. If he hadn't known they were mutants…
But they were. They all were. Maybe these three weren't dangerous, but some of the others were. Too many to ignore. To simply wait and hope that they wouldn't strike. They had to be prepared. The world had to be prepared. And, in order for that to happen, they had to be informed.
They had to watch these mutants tear each other apart.
"We have to do something."
Vincent nodded silently as the other two let the news sink in. The "recruits" they had been asked to train were contestants. Contestants in a fight to the death. A fight only one of them would survive.
"We can't do this," Maria insisted. "Xavier wouldn't want us to—"
"Xavier would want us to help one of them survive," Ian insisted.
"One of them is going to survive either way – those are the rules."
"And the rest of them are going to die either way. They're doing this with or without us."
"Well, then it can be without us," Maria shot back. "I don't want any part in this."
"None of us do," Ian pointed out. "But what'll they say if we don't? They're trying to make mutants look like monsters. What does it say if three mutant teachers had the opportunity to help these children, but didn't take it?"
"What'll they say if we do? That we helped them kill each other?"
"Maybe it doesn't matter what we do," Vincent said softly.
The others turned. "What do you mean?" Maria asked.
Vincent shook his head. "You're both right. Those kids are going to die, no matter what we do. One of them is going to live, whether we help them or not. There are people who are going to think we're right, and people who are going to think we're monsters, no matter which way we choose. I think the important thing is that we all make the same choice. Either we all help, or none of us do. We can't afford to appear divided."
Maria nodded. "Then I vote no."
"And I vote yes." Ian turned to Vincent. "What about you?"
Vincent hesitated. "I vote yes. Not because it'll make a difference in who lives and who dies, but … because it might make a difference to those kids. I remember when I first discovered my powers. I was scared. I was confused. I wasn't sure what was going on. If we can let these children know that they're not alone – even for a little while – then I think that's what Xavier would want."
Maria nodded reluctantly. "I suppose it is."
"So we're agreed, then?"
Ian nodded. "Sounds like."
"Then there's one more thing you need to know." Vincent leaned in closer. There was no way of knowing who might be listening. He had to be careful.
So he closed his eyes, focused, and breathed. In. Out. Focusing his air in their direction. What he'd told Secretary Wright hadn't been entirely true. He couldn't create wind, but he could send messages on his breath. Not far, but he didn't need to send the message far. Just silently. In case anyone was listening.
Find Erik. Silently, he relayed Professor Xavier's last message. The Professor wanted us to find Erik.
Vincent opened his eyes, waiting as the other two put the pieces together. Erik. There was only one Erik the Professor could have meant. Erik Lehnsherr. Magneto. Professor Xavier wanted them to find Magneto.
It was Ian who asked the logical question. "How?"
"I don't know," Vincent admitted. But there was a better chance of being able to escape if they cooperated. If they helped with this game the secretary had planned. They had to pretend to go along with his plans – at least for a little while.
But they couldn't play along forever. Because Maria was right, too. They couldn't simply sit back and watch while their fellow mutants were forced to kill each other. It wasn't what Xavier would have wanted. It wasn't what they had been trained to do.
But Xavier wouldn't want them to die, either. No one had said it, but whatever Wright had planned for them if they didn't cooperate … it wouldn't be good. And they wouldn't be able to help anyone if they were dead.
They would just have to wait.