an excerpt from


Diary of a False Man


by Keith R.A. DeCandido




[Excerpted from X-Men Legends, on sale from Berkley Boulevard Books. Order the book from the good folks at Amazon.com. This story and everyone in it is copyright © 2000 Marvel Characters Inc. All rights reserved. All lefts, too.]

* * *


Professor Xavier was dead.

That, at least, was what Jean Grey had to pretend was the case.

She couldn't imagine how things had gone so wrong.

The man they buried was not truly Charles Francis Xavier, PhD, world-renowned geneticist, headmaster of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, and, more secretly, powerful telepath and mentor to the team of teenaged super heroes, the X-Men. Xavier was, in fact, presently in a sealed bunker beneath the school grounds, preparing for an invasion by an alien race known as the Z'Nox.

Jean Grey was the only one of the X-Men who knew that he wasn't really dead, but she could not reveal the truth to anyone.

After she and her four teammates--Scott Summers, Hank McCoy, Bobby Drake, and Warren Worthington III--had returned to the mansion that housed the school after the funeral, they played the message that "Xavier" had left for them in the event he was killed. Jean pretended to be surprised by it, even though she knew that the Professor always recorded such messages before any kind of mission. He was always prepared for the eventuality of his own death. The man who took his place felt obligated to do the same.

To Jean's horror, she realized she didn't even know the man's real name.

He had been called the Changeling, and he first encountered the X-Men as the second-in-command of the terrorist organization Factor Three. In the end, though, he had helped the X-Men defeat Factor Three's so-called "Mutant Master." Then, in secret, he had taken the place of Professor Xavier. Just a few days ago, he died fighting Grotesk, a sacrifice that saved billions of lives.

The recording of the Changeling-as-Xavier included a warning that Magneto might return soon--as indeed he had days earlier, facing the Avengers--and then came to an end with the words: "And now, farewell, my X-Men. The torch has been passed, and I know you shall be worthy of it."

The tears that ran down Jean's cheeks and dampened her yellow facemask were genuine as she cried, "No, no! That can't be the end--it can't!" And the words were not lies, though the other X-Men probably took a much different meaning from them. The careful plan that she, the Professor, and the Changeling had worked out had not taken the latter's death into account as a possibility.

"It won't be, Jean," Hank said, tears also staining his mask, "as the Professor himself recognized. We must now carry on, and make a new beginning."

Hank McCoy was right, of course. He usually was. She squeezed her teammate's oversized hand and smiled.

Then she turned to the team leader--and also the man she loved, though she'd never dared to say so. "Scott, if it's okay, I'd--I'd like to be the one to go through the Professor's things and pack them up."

"Of course, Jean," Scott said stoically. "You knew him longer than any of us."

She couldn't read his face--that was nigh impossible at the best of times, especially with the ruby quartz glasses that completely covered his eyes--but she didn't need to. She could feel his grief and pain. And she could feel that he was trying desperately to shut those feelings out, to carry on as leader of the X-Men and not allow the grief to cripple him--especially with Magneto on the loose again. So having someone else do the onerous task of sorting through Xavier's effects would be fine with the X-Men's field leader.

Besides which, Scott spoke the truth. Unlike the boys, who were recruited to the X-Men out of high school, Jean first met Charles Xavier when she was ten years old. Her best friend Annie Richardson had been run over by a car, and Jean had felt Annie die in her mind. The Professor had brought her out of the ensuing depression telepathically and also closed off her psionic abilities until she was ready to deal with them.

That time had come just before Xavier had been replaced by the Changeling.

Removing her mask, she went upstairs to the Professor's study.

His papers and computer files were very well organized. Anything personal, she put in a separate pile, to be placed in storage--perhaps in the attic. The school paperwork would also have to be dealt with, though Jean had no idea by whom.

As she went through a pile of papers, files, and books, she realized that she probably needed to alert the school's lawyer, Michael Ramsey, about the situation. Or maybe, she thought, I can just not say anything. Then she chastised herself. Right, Jean, just hope Mr. Ramsey doesn't notice that his client is dead until he "comes back" from the dead in a few months. That'll work.

Then there was the domestic staff. All the paperwork related to the running of the school that she didn't even pretend to understand. Who was going to deal with all that? Xavier's only family was a half-brother who despised him. Perhaps Mr. Ramsey could deal with it, but how could she explain the situation to him?

Clenching her fist, she resisted an urge to pound on the desk. This wasn't how things were supposed to go. The plan was that the Changeling would pretend to be Xavier for a few months, then Xavier would resurface from the bunker, they'd stop the Z'Nox, and the Changeling would go on with his life having done something to help the world that he, as a member of Factor Three, had almost destroyed. When Jean, the Professor, and the Changeling had discussed and planned this, it all seemed so sensible. And during those first weeks, it went very well.

But then the shapechanger had to go and get himself killed. And Xavier was now in the bunker, completely unreachable, leaving Jean alone. The Professor had made it clear that, until he was ready, he could not leave the bunker. To emphasize the point, he'd coded the lock so that it could only be opened from the inside. Even if she wanted to, Jean could not reach Xavier until he chose to come out.

So she had to maintain the charade and pretend that Charles Xavier was dead.

Suddenly, she felt less like the mature woman, the valued teammate, the person in whom the Professor had placed his trust, and a lot more like the frightened eighteen-year-old girl she really was.

She didn't know what to do, and the one man who could help her couldn't be reached.

At that moment, she hated the Changeling. Hated him for putting her in this position. Hated him for dying when she needed him to be alive.

Maybe I should just tell the boys everything. They'll understand. Maybe we can break into the bunker and get the Professor out. Bobby could freeze the lock, or maybe Scott could blast it down, orů

Suddenly, she broke into tears. I can't handle this. She didn't care that the Professor had been explicit in his instructions. She didn't care that he'd locked the bunker. She didn't care about how important it was that he be prepared for the Z'Nox's eventual arrival.

She just wanted the Professor back to make it all better.

After a minute, she composed herself. She was almost done going through the pile. She'd finished what she started, then go tell Scott and the others the truth. They deserved that. The world could go to hell, for all she cared. She would not carry this burden alone.

The last item in the pile was a book that Jean recognized as the Professor's journal.

She opened it to the back. Although she had no intention of reading it, she was curious as to when he last put in an entry.

To her surprise, the last entry was dated only five days previous--the morning of the day the Changeling died. Flipping through the pages, she realized that he had maintained the journal. His skills as a forger, she realized, were as good as he had boasted weeks earlier. Skimming through it, Jean could not tell where the Professor's handwriting ended and the Changeling's began.

Closing the journal, she placed it in the box she'd labelled PERSONAL. Then she used her telekinesis to lift some of the administrative files into the air, and tried to open one of the file cabinet drawers the same way. But the drawer wouldn't budge. At first Jean thought it was because she was splitting her concentration between the drawer and the files, but she soon realized that the drawer was physically stuck.

Placing the files back on the desk, she concentrated harder on the drawer. She mentally "felt" something physically blocking the tracks. Gently removing the object, she then took the drawer all the way out, and moved the files into it.

Then she pulled out the item itself: it was a small book. The cover had a lovely marble paper design, but no text. After replacing the drawer, she opened the book. The cream-colored pages had text written in very neat handwriting with what seemed to be a simple ballpoint pen. Another journal of the Professor's? she wondered. But no, the handwriting was different.

She read the first page:

I've had many names in my life: Charles Sage, Werner Reiman, Jack Bolton, John Askegren, Francisco Zerrilli, Martina Johanssen--and, most recently, Charles Xavier.

But there's a difference with that last one. The guy who was born with it is still using it. He asked me to take his place, to become him while he went off to do something else.

Part of being Charles Xavier is to keep a journal. Keeping his has made me decide to keep one of my own. I don't have long for this world (the doctor said the cancer would take me in six to nine months) so I figured I should leave some kind of legacy. Especially since, if everything goes the way it's supposed to, only two people are going to know what I did at the end: Xavier himself, and Jean Grey. Hell, only they and the X-Men and a few others are even going to know who I am.

So I figure Xavier or Grey will find this journal after I'm dead, and then people will know just who this guy was.



To find out what happens next, you'll just have to get a copy of X-Men Legends (you can get a copy from Amazon.com right now...).

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