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The Iceman Goeth
by DarkMark

The whole thing had come down too soon. Too fast.

Dad had said life was like that. Just when you got yourself into a comfortable routine, something you could live with, Life threw you a big Sandy Koufax fastball, and it was never aimed at your bat. It was headed for your gut, or your head.

The old man had had to go through the Big One. Four years in the Navy. Then Ordinary Seaman Robert N. Drake had come home, met Bea Collins, and married her. In due time, Robert L. Drake, whom everyone called Bobby, came along, and Dad settled for being called Bob.

That was fourteen years ago.

Two nights past, young Bobby Drake's life had exploded in terror and violence and full-color hell. That was when he had been coming back from West Side Story with Judy Harmon, possibly the prettiest girl in all Eighth Grade at Nassau County High School. It had been their third time out together, and he was darned well going to tell her he loved her on the way home, and that was all there was to it.

Except he never quite got there.

Rocky Beasley and his gang of punks had jumped him, held him, separated Judy from him, and made him watch as Rocky, who had designs of a certain sort on her, carried her away.

Rocky didn't get very far, either.

A secret Bobby had kept for seven years was revealed in one second that night. He had shot a burst of icy moisture from his hand and frozen Rocky stiff. The punks holding Bobby took one look at the Rockysicle, released him, and beat it. Rocky himself would thaw within an hour and not even suffer frostbite, though God knew what his mind was like after that.

Judy had run from Bobby like he was the devil.

Then came the run home, the revelation of his deed to his parents, the mob that took him to jail, and the adventure in which he met a strange kid in a black-and-gold uniform named Cyclops, fought him, almost gotten lynched beside him, and been saved with him through the intervention of a bald guy in a wheelchair.

The bald guy was called Xavier. Professor Xavier. He could read minds, and he had a lot of other powers besides. He used some of those powers to wipe the whole incident out of the townspeople's memories. The only ones who remembered it now were Bobby, his parents, Cyclops, and the Professor himself.

The Prof and Cyclops had come down there to give Bobby an offer. He had agreed to it. That was the night before, and things had seemed very, very clear then.

But it was the night afterwards now. And Bobby Drake was sitting alone on a merry-go-round wheel in a kiddie park a few blocks from the house. Pitching pebbles at a patch of bare ground among the grass, in the night, which was broken only by a couple of streetlights.

It was 1:30. Not too many people out that late in their burg. A police car came by a couple of times, one of the cops waving to him. He waved back. A few nutcase hotrodders had exercised their carburetors about 40 minutes ago. They hadn't waved and he hadn't waved back.

It was about as close to country as a little town in New York State ever got.

Bobby yawned.

He didn't know when he planned on going home. If ever.

But it was easy to hear somebody approaching, even with sneakers on. It was that late and that quiet, and he was a lot louder than the crickets.

"Hey, Bobby," said Scott. "Want a push?"

"Holy cow, it's you," said Bobby. "You ain't been to bed yet, either?"

"Nope." Scott sat down beside him, imbalancing the wood-and-metal wheel for a few seconds. It swung back and forth till they put their feet down to steady it. "Prof told me to go see what you were doing."

"How'd you know where I was?"

"Prof told me."

Bobby plinked another pebble at the clearing. He looked at Scott. The guy was a few years older, on the slim side but pretty well-built, brown-haired, decent-looking, dressed in grey pants and a blue plaid shirt and sneakers. Plus those thick sunglasses he wore all the time. Bobby knew why he wore ‘em. He hoped the cops wouldn't come by again, and ask Scott why he wore sunglasses at 1:30 a.m.

"How'd the Prof know?" asked Bobby. He plinked another pebble.

Scott leaned back against the bar of the wheel. "He reads minds. That, and your mom said that you'd probably be down here."


"So what's the problem, Bob?"

"Who said I had a problem, Scott?"

"You're out here at 1:30 in the morning. Don't think your mom's meat loaf had anything to do with it. It was mighty good."

Bobby snickered. "You ought to try it when Mom's really on. Roast beef, chicken fried steak, black-eyed peas, all that stuff. She was on short notice tonight."

Scott said, "I'm sure she was, Bob. But I don't think dinner's what got you down here."

Bobby looked at him. "Bob's my dad, Scott. Call me Bobby, okay?"

"Okay, Bobby. Now, Bobby, y'wanna tell me why you're sittin' on a merry-go-round in the middle of the night, throwin' rocks at the ground?"

"Thought you were swift enough to know," said Bobby, and threw his third-from-the-last pebble.

Scott spread his legs and put his hands on the wood of the merry-go-round wheel between them. "I don't read minds, Bobby. Just do the thing with my eyes."

"Yeah," Bobby said. "Man, you sure did that thing all right. Scared the life outta me when I saw it."

"I've never seen anybody do what you did, either," said Scott. "Kinda like a Human Torch in reverse gear." He chuckled. Bobby didn't think Scott knew how to chuckle. "Can I ask you a question?"

Bobby shrugged. "Free country."

"I know how cold you can make your whole body, Bobby. But are you gettin' cold feet on us? Me and the Prof?"

Bobby didn't answer.

"Talk to me, Bobby."

"What the heck you think you are, Scott? Priest? I ain't no Catholic."

"Didn't say I was, didn't say you were. Bobby?"


"You afraid of leaving home?"

Bobby gave Scott a look. "It ain't bein' afraid. It's not knowin'. An' it's leavin.'"

Scott gave him a look back, which was a lot softer than the one Bobby had given him. "I've been there, Bobby. But it was a lot easier for me than it was for you, I've gotta admit." He stood up and stretched, turned to face Bobby. "You don't know a lot about where I came from."

"Reckon I don't, Scott." Bobby pitched his next-to-last pebble.

Scott said, "To start with, I'm an orphan. At least I think I am. I don't remember a lot about my early years, don't know a thing about my parents. The Prof tried unblocking some memories, but he said I screamed when I did it, so he stopped. Maybe I'll know someday.  Anyway. What happened to me was kinda like what happened to you. I busted up some falling steel with my eye-beams. That's a joke, I-beams and eye-beams, I guess. This was in plain daylight, and a whole mob of people saw it. Thought I was a monster from outer space. I got chased a good ten blocks before I shook ‘em. I didn't even think of using my eyes on them. I never would have, I guess.

"I'd been in an orphanage as long as I could remember. Now, I found myself a hobo jungle, and I found myself some hobos, and they tried to rob me. They took my glasses off. Shouldn't've done that." He smiled. "I found ‘em again. The ‘boes were all gone by then. After that, I fell in with what you might call a bad companion for awhile, but the Prof got me out. He was the one who told me I wasn't a monster. Told me I was a mutant. And he told me that we were going to show people just what mutants could do, so maybe they wouldn't fear us anymore."

Bobby put his chin in his hands. "Only way they wouldn't fear us is if we was in a freak show somewhere."

"You really think that, Bobby?"

"I dunno. I dunno about anything, since two nights ago. Dammit, Scott, what was I s'posed to do? Let Beasley take her off an', an' maybe rape her or something? You tell me."

Scott said, quietly, "I think you were supposed to do just what you did, Bobby. I think you did the right thing."

Bobby sighed. "Oh, yeah, right. I did the right thing. It got me thrown in jail, almost got us both lynched, but I did the right thing, all right."

"What do you want me to tell you, Bobby? That you should have let her get raped?" Scott was looking at him, serious as Joe Friday on Dragnet. "Well?"

Bobby doubled his fist and pounded the wooden seat of the merry-go-round once. "No!"

"Well, why not? After all, it wasn't you that was gonna get raped. And if you hadn't done anything, your secret'd still be safe. Wouldn't it?"

"That ain't so! I mean, yeah, but I...you couldn't expect me to just, just do nothing when I could do something. I..."

A bit of silence.

"Yeah," said Scott. "You had to do something. Even with some big punk hanging onto you, and one of his friends playing backup. Even when you were going to show people what you'd been hiding for seven years. You had to help her. Didn't you?"

Bobby said, "Yeah," quietly.

Scott sat down beside him again.

"You know what we're going to do for you, don't you?"

"Take me away from my folks, put me in some fancy prep school, and make me into a reg'lar New York superhero, I guess," said Bobby. "Ain't that it?"

"A lot of it," Scott replied.

Bobby said, "I'm scared."

"Tell me why you're scared."

Bobby stood up and shoved his hands in his pockets. "I ain't never lived anyplace but this town. I been to N'York on trips, but I ain't never lived there."

"We don't live in New York, Bobby. The Prof has a mansion out in Westchester County. That's where you'll live. It's a mighty fine place."

"Yeah, but it ain't the same. Don'tcha see, Scott, it ain't the same!"

"Bobby, how old are you?"

"You know how old. I'm fourteen."

"Four years and things'll change, whether you want ‘em to or not. You don't stay in school forever."

"Seems like it." Bobby paced in front of the wheel, not looking at Scott.

"Seems like isn't what it is. You've gotta leave the nest sometime, Bobby."

"Don't want to." He looked at Scott. "I don't want to, Scott."

"All right, then, Bobby."


"All right. If you don't want to leave, fine. We'll go back and play like this little thing never happened. If that's what you want."

"I don't know that's what I want."

"Well, you darn well better decide what you want, because the Prof and I are leaving in the morning. And I've gotta drive. That means I'm gonna get some shuteye real quick. See you, Bobby." Scott got up to go.


The taller youth paused. "What?"

"I don't wanna go, but I do wanna go. Does that make sense?"

Folding his arms, Scott said, "Sure it does. Tell me why you do and you don't. But make it fast, ‘cause I wanna go back to bed."

"Can I tell you how I found out about the ice?"

"Sure. Go ahead."

"Okay. It was summer, July 12th, right in the middle between first grade and second grade. I was watchin' Mom make iced tea. It was in that big ol' metal pitcher she used for dinner last night. You've seen it, right?"


"I asked her what would tea taste like if it were all frozen, not just the cubes. She said, ‘Like frozen lemonade before you thawed it, only not so sweet. And you'd have to lick it like a popsicle.' I asked her if anybody'd ever made an iced tea popsicle, and she said she didn't think so. Then she handed me a big glassful of tea.

"And I wondered if I could maybe stir up the cubes somehow, and slosh things around so maybe it'd freeze all over in there, and I could like lick it and see what a tea popsicle tasted like. So I stuck my finger in there, and thought about making it colder. I ran my finger up and down and all around in there. I just thought about making it into a popsicle, just as hard as I could.

"That's when I noticed something. I noticed that my finger was getting stuck.

"I looked, and sure as you're born, there was my whole finger, stuck right inside of an iced-tea popsicle. That thing was frozen so hard, Scott, you could'a skated on it. The tea glass was kinda cracked, ‘cause the water'd expanded and all. And I was thinkin', ‘Far out, man!' I showed Mom the tea glass. It was just hangin' off my finger. She was goin', ‘What? What did you put in that glass?' I think she thought I musta put some Jello in there when she wasn't lookin'. I just told her, ‘No, it's me. I made the popsicle.'

"So she asked me how I did it, and I told her I didn't know, I was just stirring things around and trying to make it freeze. And she ran hot water from the faucet all over my hand and got the teasicle off me. She asked me if my hand was hurt and I said, No, I feel fine. And she said, ‘Don't do anything until your father gets home.' I asked her ‘Anything?' So she said, ‘Anything like freezing anything!'"

"Must've been very handy if your Frigidaire broke down," said Scott.

"Oh, yeah! Dad couldn't believe it when Mom told him. So he had me try it again. He ran some cold water over my hand, and I froze it solid. Busted the faucet. He ran some water in the bathtub and let it sit, and I froze that, too. Anything that wasn't frozen, I could freeze.

"Well, the upshot of it was, Dad took me aside and told me, ‘Listen here, son. Don't you ever, ever dare use this freeze business in public. Not even around the relatives. Not even in front of the kids at school. I know you're thinkin' it'll make you seem like somethin', but you can't do it. And you've gotta promise me. You know why?'

"And I asked him why.

"He said, ‘Because they'll kill you. That's why.' He wasn't smilin' when he said it, either. I believed him. Don't ask me why, but I did believe him. He was right, too. We found that out."

"We sure did," said Scott.

"So I did things for Mom like ice cubes and such, and I thought that was okay. But they didn't ever want me to do any more than that, and they hoped it was something that I'd, y'know, kind of grow out of. No such luck."

"No such luck for any of us, I don't think," Scott added.

Bobby said, "It was...weird. I could've showed off that power to the kids, and maybe they'd've thought it was neat-o, you know? I mean, I could'a been a human snowman. I'd've gotten the part of Frosty in the Christmas play, in a walk! But...I don't know. The kids might have taken it okay. I wasn't too sure how the grownups would. I might get my tail hauled down to the principal's office. Might get busted.  Might get thrown outta school. And I didn't want that."

Scott said, "Why didn't you want it, Bobby?"

Bobby looked up. "My Dad never finished school. So there was one thing he'd get the belt out about, in front of all the other reasons.   That's whenever I told him I was gonna quit school. I mean, all kids prob'bly say it, one time or another...'I'm gonna quit school. Gonna quit school.' But whenever I said that, he'd have me grab my ankles and give me a couple of good whacks ‘cross the backside, and I tell you, I was scholastically motivated!"

Scott laughed.

"So I never thought of dropping out, not really. I don't know what I'm gonna be. But I'm stayin' in school all the way."

Scott said, "Ever think about going to college, Bobby?"

Bobby said, "Yeah, sure. I want to go. Don't know how, though. Mom and Dad don't have a lot of cash left for it. Maybe I can get a loan."

"The Prof can finance your college education," said Scott. "Like he's gonna do for me."

"He can?"

Scott nodded. "Yeah. But we've gotta graduate first. From his school, that is. He knows just about everything, I guess, and he can teach it. I've learned a helluva lot more in two months with the Prof than I did from two years in school. But he made me work at it. Just like he's makin' me work at being a..."

"A what, Scott?"

"A superhero."

"Oh." Bobby shook his head. "Holy crap. How do you study for something like that?"

"We're putting something together in a big, spare room that's supposed to teach you how to do all of that. I can't say a lot about it until you get there. Trust me, you're gonna learn from it."

Bobby stepped closer to him. "You're talkin' like you know I'm gonna go."

"Think I do. Don't you?"

"I--ah, hell," said Bobby. "What if I said yes? I didn't say I was sayin' yes, but what if I said yes?"

"You tell me."

"I'm leavin' behind everybody I know at school."


"I'm leavin' Mom and Dad behind, for cryin' out loud."

"They can come visit. You can call ‘em on the phone."

"Won't be the same, Scott."

"No, it won't, Bobby. But you've got an advantage over me, already."

"What's that?"

"You've got parents to go to."

"Oh." Bobby said, "Jeez, I'm sorry, Scott--"

"Skip it. Got anything more you want to talk about?"

Bobby hesitated. "I'm leaving Judy Harmon. I'm leavin' this whole town. B.W. Somerset Rexall, Ben Franklin's, an' all. It's a nice town, Scott."

"I don't doubt it is, Bobby."

"But I don't think Judy'd be with me very long anyway," said Bobby.  "When I said goodbye to her today, she looked a little scared of me.  Like she didn't know why, but she was just scared."

Scott said nothing.

"‘Course, I'm also gonna leave Rocky Beasley," joked Bobby.

Scott smiled.

"Here I go again," sighed Bobby, sitting down on the grass. "‘I'm gonna leave. I'm gonna leave.' Scott, what's it like up in the Professor's place?"

"Like nothing you've ever seen before, Bobby."

Nobody said anything for a few seconds.

Then Bobby said, "It must be past 2:30, Scott."

"Must be," said Scott, not looking at his radium dial watch.

"We need to get some sleep," said Bobby, getting up off the ground.

"Are you sure it's ‘we', and not me, has to get some sleep?" asked Scott.

"Yeah," said Bobby. He stood, quietly. "Yeah, we both got a ways to go tomorrow."

"I'm glad, Bobby." Scott held out his hand.

Bobby shook it. "Scott?"

"Yes, Bobby?"

"Who does the cooking for you?"

"He used to have a cook, till I moved in. Now we have it catered. I'm trying to learn how, and so's the Prof. Cooking ain't exactly his strong point. We're prayin' for a girl to sign up."

"Well, there's one thing for sure. If you need any ice trays filled up, I'm your man."

"That's what I was countin' on, Bobby," said Scott, throwing an arm around Drake's shoulders. "That's what I was really countin' on."

The two walked back to Bobby's house.

Xavier let them sleep late before they left.

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