Presuming Competence

Posted on Tue May 11th, 2021 @ 10:48pm by Charles Xavier & Scott Summers & Connor Bruin & Moira MacTaggert
Edited on on Sat May 15th, 2021 @ 9:08pm

Mission: Episode 0: X Lang Syne
Location: Mutant Research Center | Muir Island
Timeline: 1985

Lapping ocean waves crashed against the distant rocks and receded only to gather strength for another volley. On the one hand, the tides were locked in a futile cycle of highs and lows that were unlikely to change for millions of years until the lunar orbit degraded into a collision with Earth or slipped free of the planet's gravity well to begin its own odyssey through the stars. Or still it could suffer a collision of its own, which would prematurely end the celestial body's life. With such ignominious options in store as its only fate, it was little wonder that the moon played the metronome with Earth's seas and oceans.

"Connor..." said a voice with a melodic lilt that almost drowned out the actual meaning of her spoken words like beautiful white noise. "Do you understand what I'm telling you?"

Connor didn't make eye contact, though his attention was ripped away from the sound of the waves and everything they represented and returned to the conversation at hand. The conversation that was happening inside this small, dimly lit room with muted hues and bare walls except for the clock face and thermometer that he insisted on having in his learning center.


The voice repeated his name once more, this time more firmly though not in anger. Connor glanced at the woman, just long enough to make eye contact and signal to her that he was listening, but then he firmly snapped his head back to face his safe corner where he could engage his other senses. The pervasive restlessness within his body took a great deal of focus to control, which is why he was seated and not swinging from the light fixtures. Focusing on ambient noises sometimes helped. Other times they distracted him.

"The friend I mentioned earlier, Professor Xavier, will be arriving very soon. He is excited to meet ye." Moira MacTaggert ran the Mutant Research Center, and so she had many young mutants under her charge as she studied their conditions. "Professor Xavier helps fund this center. He helped bring ye here all those years a-go. Noo he wants to see ye in person."

Meeting strangers sounded incredibly boring to Connor. He let out a snort and pressed his forefingers against the sides of his eyes as he looked away from the corner. Staring out the window was a sign of escape, one that he knew Moira would recognize.

"Oh, Connor!" Moira chuckled at his nonverbal cues. "Charles... Professor Xavier... he is not like the doctors and specialists around here. I cannae describe for ye how, but I promise ye... ye've nary met a man like him."

Connor grunted. No way. Not when he had important sorting to do out by the sandbars at the base of the cliffs. Every day the tide knocked down his rock piles, and every day he had to restore them. They wouldn't stack themselves.

"Don't ye worry. It won't take long. I promise ye." Whatever satisfaction Connor got from his routines was not Moira's concern so much as monitoring how it affected him. The panacea of his preferred routine was a far better treatment for his metacognitive expression than any medication had proved to be. "Can ye spare just a few moments to meet a new friend?"

The groan that Connor let out was unintelligible, but the two thumps against his chest were conciliatory ones. He would try to do as Moira asked. No promises. If the notion took him, then he would flee the room just as soon as he felt he should.

Later that day, the Blackbird dropped from its cruising altitude into a gradual descent over the island. The aircraft swiveled around in the air until it hovered over the landing pad before committing to its vertical landing. Dust kicked up even as the engines whined down to a quiet idle that soon turned still. In a moment, the main hatch opened and a debarkation ramp descended to the landing pad.

"So this is Muir Island." The cocky yet reserved teenager stood at the hatch while deferring to an older, bald man in a motorized wheelchair who disembarked first. "Looks different on the ground."

"Indeed it does, Scott." Turning about at a right angle to the ship, the old man gave his young companion a sidelong stare. "Dr. MacTaggert is... an old friend." Much more, but such things would not be proper to discuss with a young man. "I don't have the opportunities to visit as I once did."

"Well, we're here now, Professor." Scott's tone wasn't exactly rude, but it was a little flippant.

"Mind your manners," the Professor said. "We are guests."

Scott rolled his eyes behind his crimson sunglasses but didn't comment.

~I saw that~

The Professor's voice echoed in Scott's mind. No one would've known, though, because his wheelchair was already speeding toward the main structure where a woman stood waiting.

Connor watched intently from his perch. The oak tree stood near the cliffs a good way from the main center, and it was his overwatch to survey his environment. Though his keen eyes had seen the aircraft from afar, there was but a moment to recognize its arrival before it had already landed. And then two people came out, a bald man and a teenager maybe his own age.

And there was Moira, exiting the wide doors from the lodge to greet the two strangers before they could even make it inside. Words were exchanged, along with an embrace with the wheelchair man and a handshake with the teenager. Connor hoped he wouldn't have to touch either of them.

Pointing. It always made Connor uncomfortable. Moira indicated the tree in whose branches Connor stooped.

"Connor!" she called out with a wave. "Come!"

He could pretend he didn't notice. Sometimes that worked, though not often for long. A feeling came upon him, though, of ... well, he wasn't sure what it was. Curiosity? These strangers could not look stranger. They would probably keep him from his tasks. They might even try to get him to talk. Damn them if they tried!

"Connor..." Moira called out again. "Come inside and I'll get ye a snack!"

Bribery was insulting. The payoff changed nothing. Connor wondered why Moira didn't know that. Even still... Connor turned his head to the side like a bird. These strangers might be worth a minute of his time. Maybe his stones could wait.

Flipping down from the tree, Connor sprinted toward the lodge. He made it inside before Moira and her strange friends were even halfway there.

By the time Moira made entry with Scott and the Professor at her back, Connor was already in the pantry rifling through its contents.

"Connor, please take a seat at the table and I'll get ye what ye like." Moira put her hands on her hips and waited for him to comply.

Reluctantly Connor stepped out of the pantry, but he didn't immediately go to the table. He bounced on the balls of his feet and let out a whine.

"Noo, Connor..." Moira gently chided.

Jumping rather than walking, Connor bolted away from the pantry. He landed in a roll from which he sprang over the nearby table and claimed his favorite chair. It visually resembled all of the others, but the forward leg was half a centimeter off balance from the other three, which made it rock ever so slightly where the others did not.

"What a Neanderthal," Scott muttered under his breath.

The Professor did not react outwardly save to stiffen his jaw. Inwardly he scolded Scott with fierce and righteous indignation. ~Out of all my students, Scott, I would expect you to have the most sympathy for another mutant whose control of his own body is questionable~

Biting his lip, Scott merely nodded. His sunglasses were not for style or even shade. Their ruby-quartz lenses were the only thing that could hold back the optic blasts of energy that would otherwise randomly shoot out from his eyes. Despite his studies with Professor Xavier, he still could not control his powers. ~I'm sorry, Professor~

The Professor merely smiled as he turned his attention to the other young man.

"Hello, Connor," he said with clear enunciation. "We are very pleased to meet you. My name is Charles Xavier, and this is my student, Scott Summers." Xavier indicated Scott with a wave of his hand. ~Go on. Greet him~

"Hi there," Scott said. "Nice place you got here."

Connor had not made eye contact with either one of them, but when he swept his gaze over Scott, his focus was arrested by the sharp red hue of his sunglasses. His eyes narrowed as he studied them, then darted at Moira with suspicion.

"These?" Scott said, picking up the cues. "I have to wear them, even inside. They help me control... myself." He didn't know how much Connor understood of mutants. Even though he lived at the Mutant Research Facility, it didn't seem like he was capable of understanding much.

And that presumption of ignorance was something Connor picked up immediately. He scowled at Scott for a few seconds before looking away, hands pressed together in a tangle of fingers.

"Did I do something wrong?" Scott asked.

Moira bit her lip. "Connor, did Scott do something wrong?" Of course he had. Moira knew that. But she also knew Connor hated being talked about as if he were not present. He needed to be addressed directly even if he was unable to respond clearly. That act of dignity might be enough to smooth over the wrinkle.

"AH!" Connor shouted. He spun out of the chair and onto the floor like a monkey, then darted toward the exit. This was not working out. He knew it wouldn't. Why had he bothered to--

~Connor Bruin~

What? Connor skidded to a halt right by the door. How did he hear a voice inside his head instead of through his ears?

~I am communicating to you telepathically, Connor. I know you know what that means~

He did, indeed. Connor then realized the bald man in the wheelchair was different, similar to how he himself was different. But their differences were not the same. Connor could run, jump, flip, and do all manner of physical activities that Professor Xavier could not, while the Professor could communicate with his mouth and his very thoughts whereas Connor was nonverbal.

~Yes. You're a quick study. I'm glad you understand~

Turning around slowly, Connor avoided Xavier's eyes and stared directly at Scott.

~No, Connor, he cannot know your mind as I do. Scott's gifts are more overt than either of ours. He has come to learn at my estate which hosts a School For Gifted Youngsters~

Connor closed his eyes and formed a thought of his own. ~Good for him. Moira has taught me here as well. I owe her the greatest of debts for the singular kindness she has shown me~

~Moira is a singular individual, I agree~ Xavier smiled at him. ~I am proud to count her as one of my oldest and dearest friends. I would like for us to be friends, Connor~

Friends. That was something that Connor understood but for which he had no reference. ~I do not have time for friends~

~We must make time for friends~ Xavier retorted. ~Otherwise we would have none~

Their entire exchange had taken less than ten seconds. Moira and Scott had stood in silent, knowing awkwardness while the Professor did what the Professor does, hoping that he could ingratiate himself into the volatile young man. Charles held up his hand to tell the two others that all was going well.

Connor was intrigued by the offer of friendship, but he was still suspicious of Scott. ~I would like a friend who can know my thoughts~

~A valuable trait in any friendship~ Xavier agreed. The sentiments against Scott was not lost on him. In Xavier's view, however, the misunderstanding was a two-way street. ~Telepathy is rare even among our kind. We must be brave enough to step outside of our comfort zones in order to build bridges to new frontiers of knowledge and understanding~

~Change is bad~ Connor let out a groan of warning.

~Change is merely a ratio~ Xavier said. ~Consider Feigenbaum's alpha constant~

A smirk slowly spread over Connor's face. ~Sequence A006891~

Then, together, the two of them began to recite the calculated value.

~Alpha equals 2.502907875095892822283902873218...~

Out loud, Charles let out a chuckle and began to clap. "Well done, Connor! I often lose my place past the hundred-thousandths position." Telepathically, Charles made his private conclusion so only Connor could hear. ~Life is a series of mathematical deltas that we experience as we as calculate. Change which is understood need not be feared~

Moira and Scott shared a confused look at first, but then understanding dawned on Moira's face. "Aye, ye always were a math wiz, Connor."

Thumping his chest twice, Connor let out a grin. Not only did this bald professor know his math, he was also a canny debater.

"I brought you a gift, Connor." Charles closed the distance between them and reached into the arm panel of his chair. The object he retrieved was about the size of picture frame. Carefully he unwound the nylon straps that were wrapped around it.

~I don't need a calculator~ Connor said with avid shaking of his head.

~Clearly not~ Xavier was amused, but he suppressed it. This was too important. "Connor, this is a speech generating device." ~You can use it to speak your mind as we are now~

Connor's eyes shot wide open. It was a gadget. He loved gadgets. Instinctively he began counting the number of micro-screws that held the case together.

~Please do not dismantle it, Connor. This is a prototype, and I want you to have it~

The implications raced through Connor's mind. He understood verbal language and hand signing, but he could not express himself well with either. If he had a machine that would speak for him, that would be like the professor's chair that moved him. Maybe these strangers weren't so bad after all...

Snatching the device away from Xavier, Connor found the power button and depressed it. The small LCD screen powered to life. Connor pressed every which button, intuiting their function by the sheer design of the user interface. In a moment's time, he had found a command.

"Hello," the device said. "Thank you."

Moira's hands came up over her mouth as her eyes began to water. "Oh, Charles! I cannae believe it!"

"It was our pleasure," Scott said. Even though he had little to do with it, he felt the awkward adolescent need to say something.

Connor looked over at Scott and buried him in a skeptical look. "O-K."

Everybody shared a laugh over that.

"Scott, why don't you let Connor show you around the grounds," Charles said. "I have some matters to discuss with Moira in private."

"Yes, Professor." He took two steps toward Connor before stopping. "If that's okay with you, Connor?"

A smirk overtook Connor's face. He fiddled with the speech generating device some more, making it say, "O-K. Caveman."

Scott gasped as his cheeks turned as red as his sunglasses. His earlier Neanderthal comment had come back to haunt him. "Hey, I'm sorry. I was way out of line."

"No. Me. You."

The three words from the device befuddled Scott, but their meaning was plain to Xavier. He laughed deeply.

~Scott, he called you the caveman~

Realization came Scott. "Oh..." He laughed off the comment, even though it made him a little uncomfortable. "I guess I deserved that."

Connor nodded and thumped his chest again.

"How about we start with that tree you were in?" Scott suggested. "That looked pretty cool."

It was patronizing. Connor knew that. But this Scott and his professor had shown themselves to be kind. Even if they were not as insightful as Moira, they could not help their stupidity. Connor pressed the button on his device again.


Once the young teenagers were away, Moira turned toward Charles and gave him another embrace, this one a little more demonstrative than the one from before.

"So will ye be taking him to New York?" she asked.

"No, Moira, I believe his place is here for the time being," Charles replied. "You have done wonders with him here, making him ready for the next phase. But I do not believe he is ready to leave."

Moira nodded, slightly relieved. She knew that Charles would take good care of the lad, but she would still hate to see him go. "There is always a risk of regression in his development. I will keep you regularly updated, of course."

"Of course, although there will be no need." Charles looked out the window at the mutants who would become Cyclops and Caveman. "Now that introductions have been made, I intend to maintain regular telepathic correspondence through Cerebro. When Connor is ready, I will let you know."