"It's beautiful," the recently revived Professor Xavier stated quietly, still adjusting to the unfamiliar voice of the formerly lifeless body he had
assumed. Any guilt he harbored at taking over the conscious-less man's mind had faded at multiple reassurances, both from doctors and the
patient's family, as to the hopelessness of the case. The man would never have woken up otherwise.
"I thought so," Storm murmured in reply from her position beside him, a small smile gracing her face. "We always talked about adding a new
wing. Now it's finally finished, and it sure gives the old place a nice new touch."
"Yes," the Professor nodded, smiling himself as he watched a couple of his students gambol across the massive front lawn. "I think it's high time
we expanded our program, don't you?" He glanced back to catch a twinkle in her eyes as she grinned broadly at the prospect of expanding their
student body. Suddenly, however, her expression altered, a look of sorrow creasing the corners of her mouth.
"Storm? What is it?" Xavier questioned concernedly. "What's wrong?"
The elegant dark skinned woman shook her head. "It's nothing, Charles. I was just . . . the thought just occurred to me that we're going to have
to hire some . . . some new staff . . . on account of . . . what happened with Jean and Scott."
Xavier frowned faintly, turning his eyes back to the graceful architecture of the mansion's recent renovations, a thoughtful expression contorting
his face. "Yes, I know," he stated at last with a heavy sigh. "But we do owe it to them, to both of them," he added, noting the strange look which
flitted across the woman's face at the memory of what one of those people had done, "to continue with our mission. The Jean and Scott we both
knew and loved, they would have wanted the X Men to continue to thrive. I know they would, Storm."
Ororo grimaced, turning her face toward the distant black clouds hovering menacingly toward them. "You're right," she admitted reluctantly, a
short bitter laugh escaping her lips. She shut her eyes, letting the fleeing rays of sunlight warm her skin before the storm hit. "I want to help other
mutants, for both of them," she declared, turning an intense, steely gaze on her friend. "I mean that," she finished.
Xavier nodded, flashing her one of his understanding smiles. "Glad, as always, to have you on board, Ororo."
Their conversation was cut short as a shaggy blue monster of a man bounded across the lawn, still managing to somehow retain an air of
regality. "Ah, Charles, Miss Munroe, I'm delighted to have found you so quickly," Beast said.
"Hello, Hank," Storm grinned at her old friend.
"Yes, hello, Hank," Xavier agreed, inclining his head to the man. "Storm and I were just admiring the new wing. What do you think? Will we be
able to start recruiting more students soon?"
"I dearly hope so, Professor," Beast replied, although a worried expression tugged at his face. "However, I'm afraid I have some troubling news."
"What is it?" Xavier demanded, instantly businesslike.
"If you'll accompany me inside," he extended his arm toward the front door, leading the party inside. Once the trio had entered the mansion,
Beast guided them into the main living room. "Bobby," he called to the brown haired boy lounging on the couch, switch to the local news station and
turn up the volume."
"Roger, Hank," the teen replied, doing as instructed before flopping back into his former position.
The evening announcer was already speaking, "Reports at the scene of the tragedy are so far limited as fire fighters attempt to regain control of
the building. Several senators who were sitting in on a meeting were harmed in the blast, but so far no reports of any fatalities."
"Hank," Xavier began slowly, "is this where I think it is?"
The blue mutant nodded. "Headquarters of a very vigorous Anti-Mutant campaign," he responded. "Most of the senators present at the time of
the explosion appear to have been tossing around a new bill to enforce stricter mutant registration laws."
"Oh my," Storm muttered, feeling as if the wind had been knocked out of her, "Who could have done this, Charles?"
Angry, vengeful flames roiled out of the shattered windows of the already drooping building on the screen, rearing up above a sea of oily black
smoke pouring like sable blood into the gaping sky. Reporters and civilians fought with a band of police and firefighters to try to gain a closer view of
the disaster. The building itself was only the epicenter of the chaos, a fact revealed as news cameras slowly roved the space to unveil a scene of
destruction, broken cars with shattered glass windshields, twisted and mangled street signs, and fractured pavement yawning up in jagged ruins.
"Hank, I need you to start up the Blackbird," Xavier spoke out in sudden briskness. "Storm, assemble the team."
"But there's no way . . . I mean . . . not him," Storm began.
"I don't know," Xavier muttered, a disturbed note in his eyes, "But we have to investigate regardless."
Storm hesitated, scrutinizing Xavier for a moment, trying to discern his thought process, but a practiced mask of calm had almost instantly
descended on his visage once he ceased speaking. After a moment, she nodded, turning on her heel to carry out the task as instructed by the
Professor. "You had better know what you're doing, Charles," she called over her shoulder, disappearing down the hallway.
"Naturally," he murmured. "As always . . . I pray I do."