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" Ladies and Gentlemen..." he started, and was interrupted by the mutterings of the crowd. " Ladies and Gentlemen..." he attempted to restart, but their talking drowned him out.

He decided to say what he had to say, and force them to listen to him.

" Ladies and Gentlemen. Today we are gathered here so that we may discuss, peacefully," he emphasised, " the nature of the so-called mutant problem."

Some people understood, and were shamed into silence. But there were still those who were out to create trouble.

" Get off the stage, you mutie- lover!"

" Mutie- lover!"

" Get out of here!"

Charles took a deep breath before he continued.

" I understand that, for many of you here, the issue of mutants is a painful one. I too, remember what happened in New York. Like many of you, I saw the millions being evacuated from the island, the rich and the poor alike, thrown out of their homes; I saw those who were killed, when they resisted the force of Magneto..."

He thought of his friend. Magneto... what have you become, my old friend...?

" But for all that, I also know that there were mutants working to deliver New York from his hands."

Some believed him, most did not. Meanwhile, the troublemakers were still yelling and shouting anti-mutant slogans, attempting to distract the audience from Charles' words. But he had their attention... for the moment.

" There are mutants who are not militant, who are not here to take away what you have. Mutants like Magneto are few, as are his followers. The majority of mutants..." the agitators in the audience protested louder, and many of those who had listened joined in, carried away by the agitators' vigor.

"... The majority of mutants..." The protests grew louder and louder. He could not be heard over the chanting of their slogans.

"... The majority of mutant..." he raised his voice a little, but was still unheard.

He began to feel angry too, angry towards the filthy mutants who had run them out of their homes, taken their jobs...

... No!

" The majority of mutants..." he screamed, to assert his own thoughts over theirs, " are peaceful!" And he collapsed back in his wheelchair, one hand to his head.

The crowd was stunned by his outburst. There was a shocked silence immediately after his words, before the agitators distracted them again with their chanting and raving. No one really cared how he looked then. How pale his cheeks were, or how he trembled slightly in his chair.

And all the better too, that they did not ponder over his uncharacteristic outburst. He had been under considerable stress as of late. He should have anticipated a breakdown in his control. It was not the first time it had happened. He should have prepared himself, and others.

He sighed deeply. What was done, was done...

The crowd was turning nasty.

They shouted, screamed, chanted... and he thought he saw the glint of light off a firearm here and there...

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Cooper reaching for her walkie-talkie. He read the words forming in her mind: Crowd control.

*No, Valerie.*

She was slightly startled by his ' words'. Communication by telepathy did somewhat unnerve those who were not used to it. It resembled speaking, but there was no sound involved. Telepathic communication was not ' heard'. You just somehow sensed it.

* Crowd control is my line, Charles. I'm doing my job here* The attitude of her mind turned wry. * And nobody's going to hear you if they keep at this volume.*

* I must try, Val. It is imperative that I get to them myself.*

She sighed. And moved her hand away from the walkie-talkie.

* Thank you.*

He was glad to have gained some time. Now, he had to give it his best. Or else, he would lose not only the crowd's respect, but Valerie's confidence as well.


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