The usual disclaimer. I do not own the X-Men and do not make any money off of my attempts at ficcing. The Altheim family and Father Akwenye are my original creations. And I am hopelessly driven to improve, so feedback, please. The Zeitgeist AwakensPrologue Dear Professor Xavier: I write to you today out of desperate need for your reputed expertise on raising children who, shall we say, possess extraordinary genetic traits. My wife Adimu has just given birth to our fourth child, a daughter. She is a perfectly healthy child, and appears normal. But blood work confirmed the abnormal amniocentesis my wife had. We have treated people before with unusual genetic traits, but our Kassandra carries a mutation of a like weve never seen before. We have no idea how or even if it will manifest itself. But we do know this: we love our child regardless, and wish to give her all the benefits of a happy and healthy childhood. My wife has ordered all Kassandras medical records, as well as all of her own records from her pregnancy, sealed, sharing all the pertinent information only with you. She said that while we have no problem welcoming a mutant in our family, the rest of the world just is not ready. Any and all advice from you would be greatly appreciated. Regards, Fridrich Altheim, President St. Lukes Relief Medical Foundation Keetmanshoop, Namibia Dear Dr. and Mr. Altheim, First may I congratulate you on the birth of your daughter, and also for your unconditional willingness to love and care for her. If only all the children at my school had parents such as you. Sealing the medical records as well as your lips is wise, for her safety. Yes, as if the world werent hostile enough in general to people who simply do not fit the norm, it fears people who, as you said, possess extraordinary genetic traits. (By the way, I do like how you referred to them that way. It reflects a refreshingly positive attitude. My first suggestion would be to not be afraid to use the word mutant in an equally positive context. But I digress.) I must admit that, to my unending sadness, not all their fears are ill founded. Keeping her mutation a secret will protect her not only from the world in general, but from certain fellow mutants who might be interested in using her for their agenda. If there are any other ways to protect her, that will depend on if and how her traits manifest. Expect that to start in adolescence. I expect, based on what youve shared with me, that whatever traits manifest will indeed be quite unusual. Let me know right away of anything that happens, and I should be better able to help. Also, before this happens, it may help to prepare. Most of the children at my school were brought up believing that they werent mutants and that mutants were to be feared. Naturally, the discovery of the truth proved quite traumatic for them. The fact that you know ahead of time can help make the discovery of her abilities a bit less shocking. As soon as she is old enough to understand the necessity of keeping her mutation secret, let her know and her siblings know. Emphasize the importance of keeping quiet. Dont stress the mutation itself. Encourage her to regard all people, regardless of mutation or lack thereof, as equal. Do keep in touch. And you are welcome to come visit me anytime. Meeting people such as you is a pleasure I do not experience often enough. Best wishes, Professor Charles Xavier And so began a very long friendship between the Altheim family, Professor Xavier, and the few other people they gradually let into their confidence, Dr. Jean Grey, Dr. Hank McCoy, and Father Akwenye, the Altheims parish priest, known for his toughness tempered by an eerie cognizance of other peoples thoughts. Kassandra grew into a happy and well-adjusted teenager with a shock of wild brown curls, smooth mocha skin, wide eyes the color of black coffee, and the slender build of an avid athlete. She seemed to have everything. Good looks, plenty of money from her grandfathers mining interests, and a delightful tendency to not care about the wealth and looks. Indeed, possibly due to having carried her secret around for years now, and also possibly due to growing up an ethnic, economic, and religious minority, she did not like drawing attention to herself. So she cultivated flair for drama and a bit of mischief to hide her secrets. Or she would divert attention to the significant accomplishments of her parents or siblings. Her father, the philanthropist. Her mother, the doctor. Her sister, Lucy, and brothers Michael and Vincent, who, respectively, grew up to work at Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, to become a doctor, and to give up professional soccer stardom for the religious life and a teaching career. Kassandra herself tried her hand at a variety of activities as most girls do, but distance running, music, dance, and martial arts captured her interests more than anything else. She excelled at traditional stick fighting as well as fencing. She and her family also visited Xaviers school whenever possible and made a few friends there. In fact, it was under the tutelage of her closest friend, Kurt Wagner, that she honed her fencing skills. But besides the Professor, Dr. Grey, and Dr. McCoy, none of her friends there knew she was a mutant until .