The week that followed was one that none of the Institute was prepared for. A unanimous decision has led the Congress to pass the Mutant Registration Act (due to the recent Phoenix demonstration). There was nothing much Charles Xavier could have done, even though he spent the whole week in a currently-being-rebuilt Washington D.C. trying to persuade the Senate to vote against the Mutant Registration Act. Returning with a heavy heart, he broke the life-changing news to the entire Institute. Needless to say, everyone was distraught. Initially, government officials pressed to sentence Jean Grey to life imprisonment in the secret compound alongside Juggernaut, but that was one small victory Charles Xavier managed to secure. And after hired professionals came to the Institute to examine the "lifeless" form of Jean Grey, and seeing she could technically inflict no harm on others, they reluctantly agreed to the professor's requests.
The following day after the Mutant Registration Act was passed, it was declared nationwide that all mutants were expected to report to the Department of Justice, Office of ParaHuman Affairs (Mutant Task Force), within the following month, to be registered. The Institute left in two batches; the professor and Scott with the older students, and Ororo and Logan with the younger/new students.
The procedure was fairly straightforward. They were each issued a simple form to fill in with their personal particulars (and obviously description of mutant powers). A blood sample would then be taken and they would be given a code to identify with. Thankfully, compassionate ruling did not require them to be locked up in padded rooms and drugged to death. Instead, they would be issued with power inhibitors (in a form of wrist bands) complete with their individual codes and a (mutant) identification card. It would be a law to be wearing them at all times, with the exception of one's own home and legalized Institutes like Xavier's where sensible-minded people recognized the need for training institutes (the upside to this is external funding will be sponsored). Inspectors will be carrying routine checkups though to ensure that they are not training mutant terrorists. Civilians were on the lookout for mutants on the streets without their inhibitors. Even if their mutations were purely physical and could not be dampened by the inhibitors, they were still required to wear their inhibitors. Though, there was one group of mutants who were exempted from this rule. The special mutant police force (a division working under S.H.I.E.L.D.) called on to tackle mutants who were flouting the law outright and harming civilians in turn.
"Who'd have known that the Brotherhood would be playing the good guys?" Scott threw that into the conversation as he sat in a room filling in his registration form. To his knowledge, the X-Men would effectively be retired from the scene. And the Brotherhood will be taking over their job. How ironic.
"Ja, who'd have guessed zhey vould end up vorking for S.H.I.E.L.D.," Kurt responded. "Vait, what class exactly am I again?"
Kitty scrutinized the classification again. "I think we are all, like, in class one. Extra-physical, although it doesn't like list teleportation or phasing."
"Or even suckin' ta lahfe outta somebody," Rogue added. "How am ah gonna explain mah flyin' abilities?"
Despite the gloom, there was still good natured bantering amongst friends while they waited for their individual physical checkups to verify the accuracy of their written bio-data and stats. The group watched on as Scott was one of the first to be called upon for his checkup.
"So, concussive force blasts, from the eyes," the doctor read off his documents. "Equivalent to10 kilotonnes of TNT at full power. Your body absorbs and converts solar energy into your mutation."
Scott effectively nodded. "I suffered a minor brain damage due to an accident as a child," he cringed slightly at that statement, "so I can't control my powers without any external aid." He gestured to his visor.
The doctor approached closer, wanting to examine this peculiar eyewear. Scott produced a spare pair of shades from his breast pocket of his shirt and handed them to the curious doctor. "These, are what I normally wear, to contain my blasts. But it's not as effective as the visor, which allows me to control the output of the blasts."
Turning the shades with his fingers, the doctor inquired. "What material is this made of?"
"Ruby Quartz. Chemically modified Rose Quartz, a sorta denser structure."
"Interesting. Now, would you kindly proceed with a demonstration of your powers, Mr Summers?"
Scott proceeded to punch a hole through a solid mock brick wall, and then a steel wall, to test the extent of his powers. His accuracy and delicacy were also tested, as well as his so called "bouncing". After that, a blood sample was drawn, and an inhibitor configured for his own use. This technology was in the works over the past year, developed by well-known inventor Reed Richards. For the past couple of weeks, Henry McCoy's expertise on mutants and genetics was called upon to help with the final modifications of the inhibitor.
Scott weighed the light-weight inhibitor in his hand. "So how does this gadget work?"
"It is supposed to suppress your powers. It sends a nerve signal to the portion of the brain we identified as responsible for your mutant powers and shuts it down temporarily or in other words, disrupts the nerve signals. Your individual inhibitor is hot-wired to your genetic code, and only the identified mutant wearing the correct inhibitor is able to remove it at appropriate locations. Other mutants can wear it and still have their powers inhibited, but they will not be able to take them off. And, if wearing the inhibitor, willing your powers to work will result in an electromagnetic shock through your body, and at the same time, a force-field will be formed around your body. Intensity of such defence mechanism will increase with the magnitude of your powers. Using your powers at full blast will render you unconscious, in theory. It will have to depend on your level of tolerance towards it."
Scott was halfway lost through the whole explanation thing. "Wait, so this thing effectively stops your powers from working?"
"Aside from permanent physical mutations, yes."
Scott put the inhibitor on to give it a test. With shaking hands, he took off his visor, eyes still tightly shut. Opening his eyes slowly, he found his vision still a hazy red, but he was not damaging anything. There was a slight tinge of bitter-sweetness; this was what he had secretly hoped for. To be one day able to see without the aid of his shades or visor, and without destroying anything that stood in his path. He was beginning to actually feel good about this whole Mutant Registration Act. As long as they were not going to lock them up in padded rooms.
Even with his new (and delightful) discovery, for good measure, he still wore his shades. He was not fully confident in this inhibitor yet, and would not want to risk it in public. Back in the mansion, he spent some time in front of the mirror in his room. He found his appearance weird without the shades or the visor, because he grew accustomed to them over the years. But nonetheless, he was still excited and trotted down to the subbasement to speak to Jean about this 'miracle'. In tears of joy and pain, he wished greatly that she would awaken and be able to look into his eyes, and describe the exact shade of his pupils to him.
No matter how long he wished he could keep on wearing this inhibitor, his optic blasts threatened to be released. With the constant build up of solar energy absorbed by his body and storage of energy, it aggravated his migraines. Reluctantly, he still had to allow for his powers to be released. Some others like Kitty and Kurt however, found the inhibitors extremely exasperating, and found every chance available to take them off. Scott figured it was due to the fact that they were able to fully control their powers, and their powers were actually useful in everyday life, unlike his.
Thus, apart from Danger Room sessions, Scott would be seen walking around with his inhibitor. When he was not down in the subbasement with Jean, he would be out on the boat dock, admiring the beauty of the lake, undeterred by the light snowfall. As the days passed, Scott discovered, that with the less frequent he wore ruby quartz, the red haze that clouded his vision seemed to lighten, even if a little. He had spent the past few days out there considering the professor's words. Was his life worth wasting over a stupid mistake? He still had a Masters degree to complete in the two years he had left in his course. But there was this part in him that could not bear to part with Jean. Somehow or other, he knew she needed him; to guide her back. Except he did not know how to reach out to her. Dozens of times he fell asleep at night (this time with his inhibitor instead of his goggles), with visions of a little girl trapped in a burning house.
At dawn, he would sneak out to the boathouse to watch the sun rise, even though it was winter and obviously freezing. One such morning, he was sitting on the dock staring out across the frozen lake when he heard footsteps upon the crunched snow.
Scott turned abruptly. It was Rogue.
"Am ah interruptin' anythin'?"
"No, I was just startled." He smiled faintly. She returned his smile as she sat on the dock beside him.
"So, whatcha doin' out 'ere? Ah was up early and trailed ya out ta 'ere."
"Nothing much...I...when we were younger, Jean and I loved to come out to the boatdock, anytime, any day, any season. Jean loved winter the most. We used to come out here and do kid stuff, snow angels, sticking our tongues out to catch snowflakes, freeze to death," he snorted and painfully swallowed. "I missed those days, I miss her..." He blinked and the tears started falling.
"Ah'm sorry, ah didn't mean ta..."
"It's okay, I've never been able to cry like this ever since I had my powers and the brain damage. I kinda feel good..." He wiped a stray tear from his cheek.
Rogue looked down at her gloved hands. (Well, it is winter.) "When ah first came 'ere and went to Bayville High, ah had this crush on ya. But ya only had eyes fer Jean, and ah was envious. Ah mean how can anyone love me if they couldn't even touch me. Sometimes, ah wished ah could trade mah powers to be able ta touch someone without hurtin' 'em. Kinda like now." There was silence for awhile. "How does it feel like ta be touched?"
"I can't really explain it, you'll feel safe and loved I guess."
"Could you, touch me? Ah wanna know how it feels like ta be touched, ta be loved."
Scott brought his hand up to cup one side of her face. Rogue flinched slightly; it was a normal reaction for her, living with her kind of powers for so long. When she conquered her nerves, she closed her eyes and revelled in his touch. As he withdrew, she opened her eyes and looked into his hazel ones. She knew he was not able to tell the colour of her eyes, but she could see his.
"Ya have beautiful brown eyes, Scott."
"And you're a beautiful girl, Rogue. Someday, you'll meet someone who will appreciate you."
"Thanks, Scott. Yer a good friend ta have."
"You too, Rogue."
"So," Rogue said, trying to lighten the mood by changing the subject. "We're da only two weirdos in ta Institute now? Everyone is always dying ta get this things off when they get the chance ta." She held out her wrist, on which was the inhibitor.
Scott shrugged. "I like to keep mine on just because."
Rogue nodded lightly. Control had always been a struggle for them. Now they could see and feel, what most people took for granted.
Jean? Jean, can you hear me? Charles Xavier brought his fingers to his temples and probed deeper into the depths of her mind. It was so bleak, like a dark bottomless pit; you just kept falling into it.
He pressed on. Her mind was still alive in there somewhere. Intuition told him so, and Jean was not an individual who would give up without a fight. He refused to give up hope either. He had salvaged her from such a situation before when her telepathy first manifested. He will do it again. He had lost his son, David; he will not lose Jean as well.
Xavier delved deeper where it got colder and darker. Sadly, he felt his way further in; he remembered when Jean's mind was full of warmth and a myriad of bright and vibrant flares, like the Aurora Borealis. Right now, she had locked herself in her inner most thoughts, and he was merely scratching futilely at the surface.
Jean? The silence in her mind was deafening. He let out a mental sigh.
Suddenly, out of the darkness, a bubbly giggle drifted towards him. He turned abruptly, but saw nothing. Jean? Where are you?
Then, there it was again as his ears picked up another bout of giggles. It hung lightly in the still atmosphere like a ghostly tune. Just as the laughter started, the surroundings began to lighten and brighten, like heavy dark curtains being raised. He saw white walls of a house, and polished wooden floors. There was furniture. Wait, he recognized this place. This was Jean's house, as it appeared when he first met her in person. He heard the pitter-patter of footsteps. He turned, and there was a flash of red hair and a white nightgown.
Jean? Xavier found himself at the bottom of the flight of stairs, one hand firmly gripping the banister. He strained his ears to listen, but this time around, he heard sobs coming from upstairs. Slowly, he climbed the steps, a feat which was impossible in reality, but this is the astral plane and all in the mind. Jean? He walked down the corridor to the room on the left at the end where the cries seemed to have originated, which he deduced was her room. He had never "stepped" into her room before as all the previous house-call lessons were always carried out in the dining room under the watchful eye of Elaine Grey. Xavier dismissed such memories as he approached the door. It was ajar, and he pushed it open lightly.
And there she was, curled up in the far corner, knees drawn to her chest and her head buried in them as she rocked back and forth. Her room was stark empty with faded wallpaper and furious scribbles and scrawls (quite indecipherable) in the handwriting of that of a typical child. In contrast, the rest of the house was fully furnished and the walls were fresh.
Xavier moved forward cautiously and wordlessly. The floors creaked with every step, and he tried to approach as quietly as possible as not to startle her. But the noises that came from the floorboards still gave him away. She perked up, with swollen red eyes, tousled hair, and stared straight into his eyes with her piercing green irises. Jean?
You're coming to take me away?
No, no I...
They're coming, you must be one of them.
Who's coming Jean?
Them. They took everything. They said I'd be next.
No one is taking you away. I've come to help you. Xavier voiced as gently as he could, trying to coax her out of her shell.
She looked at him with the docile doe eyes, and he expected her to come running to him as she stood up. But the next moment, she started throwing a hysterical fit. Get away from me! You're coming to get me! I knew it! She retreated into another corner and pressed her back against the wall.
Jean? Don't you recognise me?
NO! Stop it! I don't wanna hear anymore! She screamed louder each time, in a glass-shattering pitch.
Just then, the room started spinning violently. Coupled with her screams, it was making him slightly nauseous. And when the room finally stopped spinning, the inertia threw him off balance and into the wall. Into a padded wall. The room was now tinier, with clinical white padded walls and a locked reinforced door with a plastic see-through window. Jean was still in her corner, unconscious and fitted with a straightjacket.
Everything faded to white.
"Charles? Professor," Hank placed a hand on the professor's shoulder.
It took Xavier a moment before his psyche returned to his physical body. "Hmm..."
"Are you alright, Charles? You look dazed." Hank did a quick survey.
"I'm fine, Henry." Xavier blinked continually for a few seconds. "I spoke to Jean...briefly...on the Astral Plane..."
Hank's eyes opened wider and his body gesture suggestively prodded the professor on. "I was...trying to draw her out...until you interrupted me."
"I'm sorry, I didn't know..."
"It's alright Hank, I wasn't halfway near success anyway." The professor spoke reassuringly. "Did you want anything?"
"Mag...er...Erik has awoken."
"Really?" Charles Xavier's mood seemed to have lightened a little at that bit of good news. "How is he?"
"Physically, he is fine and recovering. His broken leg has set and might take a couple of months. Regarding his mental state, you might want to carry out an analysis yourself. For the record, he doesn't seem to have any memory of the...Phoenix" -- Hank swallowed -- "incident, or any recent past events."
Xavier steepled his fingers. "Alright, take me to him Hank."
Hank got behind the professor's wheelchair and proceeded to wheel him next door.
Erik Lensherr was sitting up in his bed, albeit awkwardly with his broken leg suspended in a cast. Seeing visitors approach, Erik put away the newspapers. "Good morning Professor."
"Good morning Erik. How are you?" Xavier inquired.
"Fine overall, or that's what Henry told me." Erik gave the blue Beast a gentle smile, which was very unlike the Magneto they knew.
"I'll leave you two to engage in a little chit-chat while I go check on Jean's condition." With that, Hank padded out of the room.