DISCLAIMER: This is an unauthorized
work of fiction using characters that are (c) & TM by
Marvel Comics Group. No profit is being made on this story,
so I'll invoke The Marvel Readers' Bill of Rights (for the
full text see Stan's Soapbox in some of the May 1998
comics, e.g. Generation X #38):
"8. The right to practice scripting and drawing our Marvel
characters for your own pleasure and amusement."
The story and the original characters in it (for a list, see
the end notes) are (c) Tilman Stieve (Menshevik@aol.com).
You can download this and copy it for your entertainment,
but don't sell it for profit, or Marvel will set their lawyers
on you. Please do not archive this on your website without
informing me first.
They Will Always Be Penny and Max to Me belongs to
the continuing series, the Tales of the Twilight Menshevik;
it interconnects with a few other stories, but should be understandable
on its own. It is set in an alternative future, about seven
years after the death of most of the X-Men on 2 September,
You can find the other Tales archived on "Fonts
of Wisdom," "Down-Home Charm," "MissyRedX:
The Average Website," and "Stacy's
They Will Always Be
Penny and Max to Me,
or: The Book-Seller's Tale
When that April with its warming
In fields and gardens awakens the young flowers,
When Zephyrus eke with his gentle hand
Brings forth green buds throughout the land,
When their soil till farmers on their tractors,
Then long to set forth all re-enactors:
'Tis time to put on their newly patched weeds,
To act out again some past valiant deeds,
To shoulder their muskets, to hark the drum's rattle,
To form up again in order of battle --
Black-hatted Thomas was one such man,
A BOOK-SELLER he from the town of San Fran.
The Westchester Tales
The first time I saw your sister was way back in 1993. I
was traveling through Europe with a backpack and a student
ticket. In Britain, I took a train up to Scotland. This was
before Braveheart, but the country already was popular
with American tourists, and at the time I was very much into
folk music and had rather romantic notions of all things Celtic,
so it was only natural that I wanted to see the Highlands.
And as the Inverness Flyer went through Edinburgh, the engineer
suddenly hit the brakes, right in the middle of the tunnel
before Waverly Station. I had just gotten up to take my backpack
from the rack and was almost thrown off my feet. And then
suddenly there was this woman in a torn green and black costume
flying outside the windows and dropping this little blond
fella all in black leather into my carriage before going back
to the head of the train.
They stopped the train from plunging into a big crater caused
by the X-Men's battle with the Juggernaut. He was tearing
up the city as a distraction while his partner robbed a bank,
and he didn't care too much who got hurt in the crossfire.
The boy in the train was Longshot, I don't know if you've
ever met him...
No, actually I did not learn much about the battle when it
happened, your sister later mentioned that she had put him
into the train because he has this funny good-luck power which
she hoped would help protect the passengers from injury. I
only realized in what danger we had been when I saw the TV
news in the lounge at the Bed and Breakfast later that evening,
and when I read the papers the next morning. Most of the pictures
of the X-Men taken at Waverly were terrible, they had the
Dazzler with them, who scrambled everything by generating
light on the appropriate frequencies. But there were a handful
of pictures and video recordings taken earlier during their
battle with the Juggernaut all over Edinburgh, and I cut them
out. And one of them was of the girl I had seen (well, she
was 18 at the time, so I can call her a girl, can't I?), photographed
by one of the staff of a science fiction and fantasy bookstore
as she crawled out of a hole in the street in front of the
The British media did not really know that much about them.
All they said was that they belonged to an outlaw vigilante
group from the New York area called the X-Men, and that the
woman who had stopped the train was called Rogue. I thought
the bleached strain in her hair really suited her, but basically
did not give the matter all that much thought. I mentioned
it to friends as Tom Calani's Second-Greatest Adventure on
that trip, and said that it really was ironic that I should
travel to Europe and come to danger of my life there in a
battle between an American supervillain and American superheroes.
Unfortunately some of my friends are from New York, so they
were not overly impressed. They said they were held hostage
by Doctor Doom and rescued by the Avengers every time they
took the subway. Still, I was young, and the whole episode
struck me as intensely thrilling.
After my return from Europe, a letter from a high school
pal was waiting for me, offering me a job in his book shop
in San Francisco. It was an attractive offer, and within a
few weeks I moved to San Fran and started hunting for an apartment.
When I got there, Rogue and her teammates had already arrived.
It wasn't the first time the X-Men had come to the Bay Area.
They had been there for a couple of weeks before I had set
off for Europe, fighting some hyperpowered nutcase and then
(somewhat unusually) staying to clear up the debris. As they
were practically next door to Monterey, I had seen a bit of
them on the TV news. Now they were back, and one day I saw
Rogue from a distance, doing an aerobatic turn around Coit
But a few days after I moved to San Francisco, the X-Men
were gone again and apparently dead. I was so stunned when
I saw Neal Conan's report of what everyone believed was their
final battle in Dallas. I thought I'd never have a chance
to say thanks to them for saving my life.
But mercifully the report of their death proved an exaggeration,
and within a year the X-Men were making headlines again, although
these were on the negative side, to say the least. Then the
news coverage became more friendly, and then worse again.
It went in cycles.
When I was in Britain, I had met a couple of English Civil
War enthusiast who enjoyed playing at being Roundheads. They
got me interested in learning more about real history and
in historical re-enactment, and after I returned to the States
I joined one of the recreated regiments from our Civil War.
And, as fate would have it, it was because of this that I
first met your sister face to face three years later.
I was at a big re-enactment of the battle of Antietam in
'96. During a break I went over to the Reb camp to visit my
good friends from Mississippi, the Cootes, and there she was.
She was there as a spectator, not wearing spandex, but I recognized
her right off the bat, even if no-one else seems to have.
Everyone in the Cootes' regiment was busy taking pictures
of her wearing a CSA officer's uniform, and very fetching
she looked in it too. She had a friend with her, and from
their behavior I guessed they were lovers, even though they
were oddly reluctant to touch one another.
Hey, are you telling the story or am I? I guessed he was
most likely a colleague. He had white hair, even though he
looked as if he was in his thirties at the most. They introduced
themselves as Max and Penny-Sue, and we had quite a good time
together rapping about the Civil War -- I then liked to establish
my radical credentials in the company of outsiders, and my
vaguely Marxian interpretation of the half-century of crisis
preceding Fort Sumter appeared to please Max and at least
to amuse Penny. Lord, she was so young then, barely a year
older than you, Hope. And so much in love -- you could tell
immediately, even though she did not touch Max a lot for some
We left the camp of the 11th Mississippi together, and when
we were alone, I finally broached the subject of her saving
my butt in Scotland. She kind of admitted who she was and
she smiled a striking smile. I think she had not gotten that
much positive reaction from the citizens she met in her line
of work, so my gushing came as a pleasant surprise to her.
We left on friendly terms, and I felt they were a pleasant
couple of guys, and that it was nice to talk with them like
One question obsessed me for days on end. At first I thought
he was Quicksilver. I knew his real name was Pietro Maximoff,
but I also knew he was married to Crystal, and so I thought
that he was having an affair with Rogue. Using the first syllable
of his family name was not the most imaginative alias, but
apparently they had not expected to be recognized.
Well, it was an easy mistake to make, because of this rejuvenation
thing the resemblance is quite strong, and being from the
West coast I did not see Quicksilver on TV that often. Be
that as it may, when I got home after the Antietam show, there
was a documentary on mutant affairs on PBS, and I obviously
had to see that after meeting 'Penny-Sue'. There was a segment
on the International trial of Magneto in Paris, and then I
realized just who 'Max' really was.
It was some realization. At that time, Magneto had been lying
low for a time, but in spite of his brief first tenure with
the X-Men, he had a long-established rep as an international
terrorist. What the hell was going on? The X-Men had opposed
him the last time he had tried something, and with their accustomed
city-block-leveling violence, and now he was playing love-birds
with one of them? Or had I misread it and they had just relaxed
after some heavy negotiations? Or maybe Rogue was his 'mole'
among his enemies? But if that was the case, why did they
just go into some inconsequential small talk with a bunch
of, how did they call it, flatscans?
It came as a bit of a relief to me when not long afterwards
Magneto reappeared in the public eye as an occasional ally
of the X-Men and later even of the government-sponsored X-Factor.
Seemed like he had turned over a new leaf after all. And there
I thought my brush with spandex-clad fame had finally come
to an end. But it turned out I was wrong.
Two years later, our shop moved to a new location, near Washington
Square, and that kept me very busy during the first half of
the year. This caused me to miss a classy 'do' near Jackson,
a re-enactment of the battle of Champion's Hill, which I had
really meant to attend because it would have enabled me to
follow up on Jed and Sumitra Coote's standing invitation to
visit them at their home.
What I did get was a letter from Jed and Sumitra afterwards,
with a selection of photographs from the show and a short
account of what happened there, how the locals liked it, gossip
about friends and the latest club politics. And there among
the packet of pictures, flyers and other memorabilia was a
somewhat incongruous picture postcard of Natchez town hall,
which came from a part of the Magnolia State not really that
near to the battlefield or the Cootes' home.
It was a short message from her. It said: "Hi Tom, too bad
you couldn't come, I'd have loved to hear you discussing the
Irrepressible Conflict with my friend Sam. Love, 'Penny'."
There was a picture of them standing in the center of a group
from Jed's regiment: 'Penny', 'Max', and a tall blond guy
in an Elvis T-shirt, who I later learned was called Cannonball.
Unfortunately he moved to England later that year, so I never
got around to discussing the ins and outs of ante-bellum,
Civil War and Reconstruction politics with him, at least not
during Rogue's lifetime.
From the card and Sumitra's long letter I gathered that the
three had been traveling in the South that spring, in part
to show Max their respective homes (Penny was from the lower
Mississippi, Sam from a mining town in Kentucky) and had happened
to hear about the Champion's Hill show on the radio, and Penny
had cajoled her companions into making a detour to go there.
Afterwards the Cootes had invited them to their home in Madisonville,
where they spent a day and two nights before continuing their
Maybe it started a little earlier, but from that time on
Rogue and Magneto apparently took more time to be with their
'civilian' friends on their vacations or when it could be
arranged when they were in the neighborhood during a mission.
As they once told me, they believed it helped them keep a
perspective on their own lives as superheroes -- they did
not have another 'normal' life in a civilian identity, as
so many of these costumed types are said to do, so there was
a bit of danger of them getting out of touch with everyday
reality in their secret bases. They met a lot of people, including
a fair share of mutiphobes, so they were all the more appreciative
of the friendliness of those who weren't. They actually made
friends easily, or rather Penny did; Max tended to brood a
bit and took a while to open up.
Anyway, it did not take that long after that letter and postcard
before I saw them in the flesh again. As it happened, Penny
liked to visit San Francisco as often as she could. People
in the Bay Area tend to be more ready than most to accept
a lot of things in people, and that included the so-called
X-factor in human genes, even at a time when organizations
like the Friends of Humanity were booming elsewhere. Rogue
fondly recalled the way in which many San Franciscans had
made the X-Men feel more at home there than in their normal
stomping ground, New York, during their two stints there.
Penny's face always seemed especially bright when she was
on the Bay, except when she was near the Golden Gate Bridge,
but I see I don't have to explain why that was.
Rogue had more than a few friends from the old days, and
I met a few of them on a number of occasions -- they were
a rather eclectic crowd, ranging from the owner of a fitness
studio to a high-ranking police officer. Max also had his
friends in the area, mostly scientists and scholars at Stanford
and Berkeley, plus a few radicals with whom he liked to engage
in political disputations into the small hours. He had first
gotten into contact with most of them in letters or on the
internet. Most of them seemed to be people whom he had approached
for their brilliance (or what he perceived as such) and I
never felt as comfortable with them as I did with Penny's
pals (even though my own political views are fairly radical,
at least in Jed's view).
Maybe it was because of their friends that I continued to
call them Max and Penny, not Magnus and Rogue -- the others
might have known them longer, but the names they had given
to Jed, Sumitra and me in Maryland were something special
that I did not have to share with our mutual acquaintances
in San Fran. Magneto tolerated the Cootes and I calling them
Max and Penny because Rogue rather enjoyed it -- she said
she liked to be reminded of that sojourn in the summer of
1996. Not that I ever heard anyone else calling them that,
and even when they were with us they usually called each other
Rogue and Magnus and used 'Penny' and 'Max' only when they
were joshing with each other.
Max and Penny liked staying with me when they were in town.
Maybe my digs were less classy and did not have as good a
view as Jessica Drew's house on Corona Heights, but as my
guests they were less liable to become involved in the latest
case Jessica was working on as a private eye. No, actually
I think Penny preferred not to stay with Jessica because of
the Ms. Marvel thing -- it had been okay when she was just
one of a whole flock of X-Men, but when it was just her and
Max ... Even though she was grateful to Jessica for saving
Carol Danvers' life...
I think the visit I remember most vividly was back in 2004,
no 2005, just after Andrea had sent me packing. I'd mentioned
that the next time Penny rang me up, and she insisted on coming
over from across the continent to help me move to my new place
on Stockton Street. When she arrived, her left arm was in
a cast. She had been injured in the Meddlers' latest battle
and her teammates had told her not to do any superheroing
before the arm was completely healed, but she couldn't wait
to help carry my belongings across town.
It was typical of her. No, I don't mean her always trying
to be there for her friends, even if that's as true as it
can be for someone as busy as her. What I meant was her restlessness
-- she never could endure passivity for extended periods.
She always had to do something. Even when she came over on
a normal vacation, she had a tendency to fill up her stay
with countless activities, and Max would sometimes feel compelled
to tease her about it, calling her his little action addict.
Anyway, back in '05 she helped lug my stuff here -- even
just using one hand she could lift tons -- and set up the
furniture. We were finished by mid-afternoon, and after saying
bye-bye to most of the other friends who had helped with the
move, we -- that is Penny, me, Joan and Jamahl -- went to
the Café Trentino around the corner to chew the fat. Penny
mentioned how she felt cooped up in the Meddlers' HQ waiting
for her bones to knit, and that set the others wracking their
brains to come up with things to occupy her in the interim.
When I suggested she could take advantage of the situation
by reading a good book or two, Joan quipped: "You only say
that 'cause you sell 'em for a living, sweetie."
But Penny took the situation seriously and began to ponder
about what books she had put off reading in the past. "You're
the SciFi expert, Tommy, ya wouldn't have anything by Kurd
Lasswitz by any chance?"
"Maybe in the used books department," I said, "but how on
Earth did you come up with him?" I knew for a fact that she
wasn't really that much into Science Fiction -- she rarely
went to my shop and, well, people who are seriously interested
in S/F don't go around calling it SciFi! So I was a bit nonplused
she had even heard of that fairly obscure old writer.
"Oh, Magnus, er, Max told me he read him when he was little,
he was one of his favorites, along with Jules Verne and H.G.
Wells. I think there's one or two by him among my dead momma's
books," -- by that she meant Destiny -- , "but since Kurt
got most of her German stuff, it's probably easier to get
a copy here than to go all the way to England..."
We later went over to the shop (it was closed, it being a
Sunday and all) and after a short rummage in the shelves we
found an English translation of On Two Planets. I insisted
on giving it to her as a present, she insisted on paying for
it, and we had one of those exchanges that always happen between
friends the world over. I finally won out that time by threatening
to pay her for her helping me move if she kept insisting on
buying the book. We then went back to my apartment, and on
the way she told me a little more about Max's earliest reading
habits, but mostly we quizzed each other about what we had
read when we were children.
When we arrived at my door, we found Max waiting for us.
Penny had left a note before she left, and he was here to
accompany her to their home. However, she managed to wheedle
a slightly longer stay out of him, and he agreed they'd spend
the night and not set off until the next day. They became
the first ones to use the spare bed in its new surrounding.
But first we ordered in some Chinese food and had a late
dinner together. Penny talked about the day she had and showed
Max the Lasswitz novel, and that got him reminiscing about
his boyhood -- one of the few occasions I heard him mention
the time before the death of his family and his deportation
to Auschwitz. He and Penny were in very good spirits that
night, and we prattled on until past midnight. Penny talked
quite a bit about you two guys -- she was so proud of her
little sisters and always loved bringing her friends up to
date with your latest exploits. Man, she would have been so
excited about becoming an aunt had she lived...
You saw the age difference between Penny and Max then --
when she was talking about her baby sister, it would be about
something cute Hope had done in kindergarten, but when he
was talking about his granddaughter, it might involve Luna's
current boyfriend. Well, his body was younger, but it still
was really weird.
Anyway, when they were half-seriously discussing who to set
me up with now that I was single again, I announced I was
going to bed, and they did the same. They were still on Eastern
time, so they asked me to wake them in the morning (normally
when they stayed with me they brought their own stuff, including
an alarm-clock, but this was an unplanned stay).
When I stepped into their room the next morning, Penny rose
to stretch, yawn, and then she went "Whoops!" and covered
herself. She wasn't wearing anything, and neither was Max
(he was still asleep beside her; at least I didn't stop long
enough to check if he was wearing his underpants). I gaped
and goggled, almost dropping the tray with the morning tea
and coffee I was holding. I backed out through the door as
fast as I could.
Later, after Rogue had been to the bathroom, I went up to
her to apologize.
She said it was no big deal. "I thought you were just going
to knock on the door."
"And I thought you would have put on the pajamas I laid out
for you," I said.
"What? Oh, those," she said, turning quite a bit more serious.
"No, you see, they're striped, and for the past 60 years Magnus
wouldn't have anything to do with broadly striped clothing."
I remembered what the suits of concentration camp prisoners
looked like. "Oh my God, that makes it even worse!" I cried.
She reassured me: "No problem, Tom, I tossed them out of
sight before he got into the room."
It was a relief. I mean, he'd have known I didn't know, that
it was an honest mistake, but it still might have spoiled
an otherwise very pleasant evening for him...
When he got up, Magnus was in a good mood, and when Rogue
told him about the 'waking-up incident', he said: "My word,
I didn't know you were that desperate after you and
Andrea broke up. Luckily for me Penny was here to protect
my honor!" That's one of the few jokes I can remember him
Penny never let me hear the end of it, telling me that after
I got my eyeful of her I should consider myself paid for the
book after all.
It's strange how much you can miss a friend whom you never
saw that much. I mean, the longest I've seen them at a time
was a week -- with interruptions! -- yet Penny and Max are
constantly on my mind. When I heard the news they were dead,
I couldn't believe it at first. Penny always seemed so full
of vibrant life, and with Max you always got this sense that
there were so many things that he needed to do before he was
ready to retire. I mean, even at 86 it was too early for him
to die, to say nothing of her.
Since you so often hear of costumed heroes supposedly dying
and then returning from the dead -- heck, I'd seen both of
them pull that stunt before! -- I clung to the hope that our
paths might still cross again for the longest time. That was
why I went to visit their grave a couple of years afterwards,
while I was in the area for a 'do' at Gettysburg. Which is
how I met your parents, as you know. That was six years ago,
but there are still nights when I dream of Penny and Max turning
up at my doorstep with some far-fetched explanation of how
they eluded the Reaper. And then I wake and have to face the
reality that I'll never see them again, excepting perhaps
after I die.
The narrator of the story, Tom Calani, was introduced in Late
Summer Interlude, where you can see his first meeting
with 'Penny and Max' described from Rogue and Magneto's persepective.
This story belongs to the alternate timeline of the Days
of Future Twilight, which was first shown in The
Survivor Has a Different Kind of Scar. Other stories
from that series include two which focus on the listeners,
Irene Cooper-Marks and Hope Cooper, Getting
to Know You and Fourth
Thursday in November. They Will Always Be Max and
Penny to Me is set in late 2020 or early 2021, during
Kurd Lasswitz (1848-1910), the pioneer
of German science-fiction, is best remembered for his 1000-page
novel, Auf zwei Planeten (1897), which may contain
the first description of a space station in the genre. Like
H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, which appeared in the
same year, it tells the story of a Martian invasion of Earth.
But Lasswitz optimistically propounded the view that technological
progress should be accompanied by advances in ethics and thus
he did not describe the Martians as blood-sucking monsters,
but as an advanced race who lives by the imperatives of a
Neo-Kantian ethos. At one point the Martians succeed in conquering
the Earth, but ultimately the Terrans regain their independence
and an era of cooperation between the two planets is ushered
in. The novel also contains synthetic materials, including
one called Stellit, which is impervious to gravitational waves
(prefiguring the Cavorite of Wells' First Men in the Moon
(1901). Lasswitz in his day was very popular in continental
Europe, but his greatest novel was not translated into English
until 60 years after his death (On Two Planets, a novel. Translated
by Hans H. Rudnick, Carbondale and Edwardsville 1971).
The characters are (c) & TM by Marvel Comics with the
exception of Andrea, Tom Calani, Hope Cooper, Irene Cooper-Marks
aka Overdrive, Jed and Sumitra Coote, Jamahl, Joan, and the
Meddlers, who are mine.
This story was first published in Tales
of the Twilight Menshevik: The Second Collection, which
was produced for the 150th mailing of the MZS-APA in December
2000. The MZS-APA has a website at http://users.ev1.net/~skullduggery/
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