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" Xavier?... Charles!"

Startled out of his reverie by the loud, urgent whispers of Cooper, he winced inwardly a little, sensing her annoyance.

* Yes, Val,* he asked, as he established a connection to her.

* Time's up, Charles. I get to go in.*

He sighed deeply. That he could not get them to listen to him, that he had failed, hurt him deeply. He knew when to acknowledge defeat. Yet, it shamed him, to give up so easily. It spoke of cowardice; something that Charles had often been accused of, when he was unwilling to join the mutant uprisings.

And yet, he had always, in those times, clung to his belief that courage lay, not in your willingness to fight, but in your determination to carry on with your beliefs in the face of adversity.

If he gave up now, it would truly be cowardice that he would be guilty of.

There was much that he was guilty of already. He did not wish cowardice to be added to the list.

But it seemed that, it was not to be his choice after all:

" Okay, Cliff, I want full crowd control now... and get those guys in the front right. I think they're the ringleaders..."

He sensed something wrong. Val seemed hesitant... worried...

... Something was wrong.

* Val: what is it?*

* It's the guards, they're not getting my buzz!* He was not looking at her face, but he could picture it, judging from the state of her mind. * I don't know what those jerks are up to, but they're going to get it from me as soon as I get to them...*

* Perhaps you might need my assistance...,* At that, he sent his mind out to search for the guards.

Searching for minds was not an easy task, even for a trained psychic. The minds of other people were mostly the same on the surface, if one did not probe any deeper.

For some, however, it was possible to identify them even on the surface. A soldier's mind ( most of the guards were ex-soldiers) was disciplined and controlled far more than the ordinary mind. Such discipline would not be difficult to identify.

Charles sifted through the many minds in the audience, careful not to probe too deep.

Privacy laws might not apply to telepathy as of yet, but Charles was not eager to set any precedence unnecessarily.

He found one.

It was possible that he might be mistaken, and this was not a guard. He had to be sure.

Even on the surface, this man's mind struck him as... somewhat unusual.

He hesitated a little. He was reluctant to delve any deeper into the man's mind. Invasion of privacy was not all that had to be considered. There were other reasons as well...

Something in the mood of the audience changed. Charles sensed a sudden dampening of their anti-mutant mood. Replacing it, was the feeling of surprise.

He withdrew his probe, distracted by the audience's change of mind.

He was too distracted, to fully grasp the implications of what he had read in the military man's mind. As he had withdrawn, there had been one word in that man's mind: Finally...

Turn the page...