Martin Kline hadn’t known a lot of details when he called Scott. He knew that Adam Greenfield had been kidnapped, at gunpoint, during the panel discussion he’d participated in that night at the 92d Street Y. He knew that the militia group Sacred Honor was claiming responsibility, puzzling to law enforcement officials who had thought the group defunt. Kline also knew that he’d been contacted, as FBI liaison to the X-Men, because a package left at the scene by the kidnappers had an envelope attached to it, addressed to “Scott Xavier Summers.”
That was what they’d told him it had said, at least most of what they’d told him, and it’s what he repeated to Scott. Someone else might have just said, “It was addressed to you” but the FBI trains its agents to be precise, so he read off the full name. He left out the epithets that followed, though, not thinking it was necessary to read the rest.
“Is that exactly what it said?” Scott asked.
Something in Cyclops’s voice suggested that the form of address was cause for concern, although Martin Kline didn’t know why it would be. He hadn’t conveyed to Cyclops what else was on the envelope, but it seemed Scott must know, based on his tone. He wondered briefly how he could have guessed, but working with mutants these past few years he’d learned not to be surprised by either unusual powers or unexpected knowledge. He just answered the question.
“Well, there was more,” he acknowledged. “I haven’t seen it – I don’t even know what’s in the envelope, or the package. The kidnappers handed it to one of the hostages and said it had the ransom note in it. NYPD wasn’t going to open it until the bomb squad cleared the package and the whole thing was dusted for fingerprints. But they took pictures and called me right away and sent me the photos. I’m looking at them now. The envelope says ‘To Scott Xavier Summers, Faggot Field Leader of the X-Men.’ Sorry.”
“Hey, nothing to be sorry about. Insults are not much compared to kidnapping.” Kline could almost hear Scott’s shrug over the phone. Clearly it wasn’t the use of “faggot” that had caused the tense sound in Cyclops’s voice when he’d asked about the name on the envelope, so maybe he hadn’t known that after all. So what was bugging him? Of course the kidnapping of a close associate was reason enough to sound concerned. Still, it seemed like there was something about the name on the envelope that seemed to be disturbing him particularly. “How did they get Adam out of there?” Scott continued. “Did they hurt him?”
“No, it seems he wasn’t hurt, at least as far as the witnesses saw. We can’t know what happened after they took him, but leaving a ransom note is a good sign. If they want something from you, they’re more likely to keep him alive and well.”
“What more do you know of what happened?”
“The assailants were in the audience, and nobody noticed anything unusual about them at first. The weapons must have been concealed. They let the panel go on for approximately twenty minutes. Witness accounts vary, but we believe there were seven of them. They had split up and were in place in different positions, all around the room. They pulled out their guns and the leader shot once, into the floor. Then they ordered everyone in the room to lie face down on the floor. The audience and all the panelists complied, but some had a view of Greenfield from where they were lying. The witnesses said one man who seemed to be the leader knew who he was and pointed him out to the others. Two of them ordered him to stand and handcuffed his hands behind his back. Then they surrounded him, and marched him out. Two of the assailants stayed a few minutes after the other five exited with Greenfield. They said no one should call the cops for fifteen minutes after they were gone and then they walked out, too. No other shots were fired.”
“Did they wait the fifteen minutes?”
“No. Miriam Greenfield called 911 when they first forced them to the floor. She’s one feisty grandma.”
“That’s our Miriam. She didn’t get caught calling?”
“No, they had no idea she was doing it. She just dialed and then didn’t say anything. She must have covered the phone with her body so the kidnappers didn’t see it and turned down the sound so they couldn’t hear it. The dispatcher couldn’t hear anything. It’s SOP to send officers right away if someone calls 911 and doesn’t speak. They used the GPS in her phone to locate her.”
“Good for Miriam. That was brave of her, and clear-thinking.”
“Yes, but the perpetrators were gone by the time NYPD arrived. PD called the FBI as soon as they realized it was a federal crime and I got called in because of the X-Men connection. That’s pretty much what I know at this point.”
“Thanks. It helps to have as much knowledge as we can.”
“Can you get there soon? They’ll know more by the time you arrive. They’ll brief you and show you the note.”
Scott, of course, agreed that he and Logan would go there right away and added that he’d have Jean-Paul meet them there. He asked Kline to make sure that the officers at the Y were expecting them. Then he quickly called the Outpost while he and Logan put on uniforms and headed for the garage. Passing on the basic information to Jean-Paul, he somehow managed to straddle the line between Field Leader and Concerned Friend.
En route to Manhattan, there were two topics of conversation: the way Scott had been addressed on the presumed ransom note, and the proposed X-Men mission. Logan drove. Scott’s poor night vision meant he avoided driving after dark whenever possible. Also, being a passenger left him free to make phone calls as needed.
“Who are you going to put on the mission?” Logan asked as they got onto the highway.
“Knowing so little complicates the staffing, but you’re right – I need to decide right away. We’d better assemble a team now.” He thought for a minute. “Okay, we don’t know what we’re doing yet, but it seems likely it’ll be a combat mission. We’ve got you, me, and Northstar. I’d better call Jean.”
“You gonna take her into combat now?” Logan sounded incredulous.
“Three weeks post-partum? No way. But she’s the only pilot I’ve got on site. I know she and Sasha were hoping to stay put for the week, but I’m sure they’ll agree to take the Blackbird to Vermont and relieve Storm and Havok – we need them for the mission. Jean and Sasha can bring the baby with them and chaperone the kids up there. Then Storm can fly the jet back here with Alex on board. Or meet us somewhere, as needed.”
“Makes sense. You, me, Northstar, Storm, Havok. Most of our best fighters. Angel?”
“No, he’s in Tokyo. Too long to get back. It’s probably enough without him. In terms of combat powers, anyway. What we really need is a telepath and a shape shifter. If we can find where they took Adam, it would be good to infiltrate and even better to know what they’re thinking.”
“The only shape shifter I know is on the other side.”
“And impersonating a U.S. Senator. Yeah, no joy there.”
“But you’ve got a telepath – Billy Halverson.”
Scott shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“What’s your beef with him?”
“Nothing. I just don’t think he’s cut out for combat. Too gentle or something.”
“Well, he doesn’t have the killer instinct,” Logan agreed, “but he’s got useful powers and he’s quick on his feet. He’s been doing great in team exercises lately. Ask Storm – she’ll tell you he’s making progress. Hell, you don’t have the killer instinct and you’re some fighter.”
“I just worry about accomplishing the mission and getting us all back alive. I leave the ‘killer instinct’ stuff to you. That’s why you and I make such a good team,” Scott added, garnering a chuckle from Logan. He thought a little more. “Do you think Bill’s ready for a combat mission?”
“I don’t know about hand-to-hand combat, but telepathic support while the rest of us do the fighting? Yeah. And we’re sure gonna need that.”
“I know. I’ve been feeling the lack since Charles died and Jean went hors de combat. I don’t think I ever realized how much we relied on telepathic support during combat until we didn’t have it anymore. Now every mission is like when we were fighting Magneto with that damn helmet of his. Fighting when you don’t know what your adversary is thinking is way harder.”
“In a case like this, knowing what they’re thinking might be the difference between getting Adam out alive or dead. Billy’s got great range – farther than any telepaths she’s tested, Jeannie says. We can keep him at a distance from the fighting and he can still tell us what’s going on in their heads.” Logan paused. “Is he close enough to activate for this one? Or did he go back home for the vacation?”
“No, it’s not vacation for him; Columbia’s on a different schedule. He’s in the city; he’s been staying at Warren’s place while Warren’s overseas. I can call him.” He thought a minute. “But if they really are Sacred Honor – if some of them escaped – they might recognize Bill. He got us in there during the war, remember? Infiltrated when he was driving the truck, brought them supplies.”
“Yeah, and then brought them a bunch of invading X-Men. But he’ll know if they’re the same ones he’d seen during the war.”
“True. He can tell by their ‘brain stamps’ whether he’s met anyone before, he says. He can stay out of sight if he’s concerned they’ll recognize him.”
“He’s one fucking powerful psionic. Use him.”
Scott nodded, then made the phone calls necessary to assemble the team. Sasha volunteered to go on the mission, in spite of his new fatherhood, but Cyclops assured him he’d be more useful with Jean and baby Charlotte at the Vermont ski house, relieving Storm and Havok and taking care of the students. Sasha sounded relieved when he acquiesced but told Scott to call right away if there was anything else he wanted from him.
The mustering of a combat team was complete and they were still on the Bronx River Parkway, giving Logan and Scott time to discuss the puzzling way the ransom note was addressed.
“Did you hear what Kline said it says on the envelope?” Scott asked. Logan nodded, his heightened senses having made it easy to hear both sides of the conversation. “Scott Xavier Summers,” Cyclops repeated. “How do you think they came up with that?”
“I don’t know. Where do you use that middle name?”
“I don’t. I don’t use any middle name. Scott’s really my middle name, but I dropped the first name to make it harder to connect with my origins. Hardly anyone knows my full name. Just the original X-Men – well, those who are left: Jean and Warren. Plus Adam. He knows it from when he was investigating. Maybe Jean-Paul, if Adam told him.”
“But who knows the fake name?”
“I don’t know. Same crowd, I’d say. Xavier’s only my middle name on the fake Vermont birth certificate – that’s all. We put it there to make it more plausible that Charles was my father. The other X-Men knew about that when we did it. They didn’t know what happened to my real father, but they knew we were creating a paper trail so I could apply to college and get a passport and all. Nobody knows about the Vermont birth certificate outside of the X-Men and Adam. At least I thought nobody knew. But where would they get that name?”
“It’s not on your passport? Your driver’s license?”
“No. They didn’t require middle names and I figured it was better to leave it out. I didn’t want questions raised about who my father was, you know?”
Logan nodded. “Do you think they just guessed? ‘Cause of the press release when he died, where you said you were his son? Maybe they thought you’d have his last name in there somewhere.”
“I don’t know. That seems farfetched. It’s not like it’s common to have your father’s last name as a middle name.” He shook his head. “I do wish I hadn’t put that in the press release about him being my father. It felt emotionally satisfying at the time to do it, but it’s caused all manner of trouble. It got that horrid obit in the Washington Times, with the remarks about ‘no record of Xavier having fathered or adopted a child’ or something like that. And then that Kappel character after me, looking into my background.”
“So what did he find out? Did he know the fake middle name?”
“I have no idea what he found out. Nothing ever showed up in his paper. I read that rag compulsively for a while there. Tons of paranoid stuff about the X-Men, about our mission, about our connection to the President. But nothing about my personal life or background. So I assumed he didn’t get anywhere with his investigation.”
“Adam found it all.”
“Yeah, and he started with the Vermont birth certificate and then realized it couldn’t be genuine. He knew stuff that that Rick Kappel didn’t, though.” He thought a minute. “Adam knew to go to Indiana – Kappel wouldn’t have had an inkling, I don’t think. Not unless someone told him I’m from Indiana. Which is possible – I never made a secret of where I grew up. Anybody could have told him that without realizing they were compromising me. Only as far as I know he never got to Indiana, never found out the real deal. But he must have looked for some records. Wouldn’t he have found the Vermont birth certificate?”
“How easy was it to find?”
“Hard to say. If he really did some research before writing that there was no record of Charles having fathered a child, you’d think that would involve checking other places Charles had homes, not just Salem Center. I know he knew about the Vermont house – he listed all of the Xavier homes in some awful article on ‘mutant excess’, and said I’d inherited them all. He made me sound like some godawful jetsetting dilettante, flitting between my various houses, living in luxury.”
“Instead of filling them up with kids and never getting a moment of quiet.”
Scott’s wry smile acknowledged the truth of what Logan had said. “And here we finally got some quiet and some privacy and Adam gets snatched.” He thought a bit more. “Back to Rick Kapell. If he knew to look in Vermont, knew roughly how old I am, he’d find the birth certificate. Adam didn’t have any trouble.”
“So maybe he did find it. But if he believed it, then there wasn’t any story, you know? If he thinks it’s real, then he figures the Professor was your father, so there’s nothing to write about. Then the press release is the truth and he’s got diddly.”
Scott shook his head. “If he believed it, then he believed Charles had a child ‘out of wedlock.’ They’d love that at the Washington Times. I can see the headlines. ‘Billionaire Mutant with Illegitimate Son’ ‘X-Man Leader Love Child of Powerful Mutant’ ‘Tainted Mutant Dynasty Influences President.’ They’d eat that stuff up.”
“So I guess he didn’t find it.”
“Or maybe he did,” Scott said slowly, “but he had some reason not to publish. It wasn’t that hard to find – I wish it had been harder.”
“Okay, so maybe he did. Let’s say he found the birth certificate, didn’t know it was fake. Thought he had a scandal to write about. But he didn’t. What would have stopped him, do you think?”
“I don’t know.” Scott thought about it. “Could Kappel be connected somehow with Sacred Honor? Could he be feeding them info? Could they have told him not to print?”
“Why would they do that?”
“Maybe they wanted to use the info themselves, differently. Maybe they were going to blackmail me.”
“You get any blackmail notes lately?”
Scott shook his head. “Still, I think there’s some connection here. I just don’t know what. How did they know where to find Adam, anyway? How did they get into that building with guns?”
“Good questions, Cyclops. I got no answers.”
“Yeah, me neither. We’ll find out more at the debriefing. At least about the kidnapping. But I want to know who’s been snooping around in Vermont, who besides Adam could have found that birth certificate.” Scott thought for a minute. “I’ll have Jean and Sasha right there in Vermont. Sasha said he wanted to help beyond just babysitting. I think I’ll have him do some investigating while he’s up there.” He picked up his phone again.
Author's Chapter Notes:
The right wing terrorist group Sacred Honor first appears in my series Safe House, and is featured largely in Unexpected Occurrences, during the War on Mutants. See Mofic if you'd like to read them.