In 1953, three young post-graduate students met for the first time in Oxford. Over the course of their lives they would be friends, rivals, and at times enemies, but their relationships would define not only their own lives, but much of the history of the coming century.
The first student was Charles Xavier. Charles, like so many of those who became super-heroes, was an orphan. No one is quite sure where he came from, and he isn’t telling. The image he presented to the world was of an heir to a moderately wealthy American family, come to England to enjoy himself and pursue his studies. The money and social know-how needed to maintain this illusion were never an issue for Charles. Powerful psychics are rarely short of cash, not that they generally need to pay for anything, and find it rather easy to fake their way through most social situations. Xavier was fascinated by his own abilities and what they taught him about the human mind, and even without his telepathy was brilliant enough to be already surpassing his professors in his understanding of the human brain.
The next student to attend this little meeting was Eric Ivo. Charles may have had a troubled youth, but he had nothing on Eric. A Holocaust survivor, Eric had attempted to rebuild his life after the death of his entire family in the Nazi’s attempt at human sacrifice on a massive scale. While in the camps Eric discovered he had a mutant ability – the power to manipulate and control magnetism. His ability helped him survive, but at the cost of being experimented upon for the duration of his stay. After his camp was liberated, Eric had found love in a beautiful Roma girl named Magda – a fellow survivor. They had twin children, named Pietro and Zatanna, and seemed on track to rebuild their lives. Eric was even taking classes at his local university in engineering and the burgeoning field of computer science, at which both his abilities and his native genius allowed him to excel. He even corresponded with Alan Turing, who he would eventually meet in England shortly before Turing’s death (Turing’s treatment at the hands of those for whom he had done so much did little to ameliorate Ivo’s growing disgust with humanity). However it was not to be, and tragedy struck when the locals in their town discovered Eric’s ability, which he was using as part of his job as a mechanic, and attacked the Ivo family. Eric managed to fight them off and save his children, but Magda was killed in the confusion. Fleeing with his infant children to England, Eric managed to enroll in Oxford, and moved forward with the new plans his tragedies had inspired.
The final member of the trio introduced herself as Moira MacTaggert, claiming that her Scottish father and Chinese mother had moved the family to Scotland when the situation in China got too dangerous. Of course this was all a lie. Her father was a man of many names (Zhang Tong, Ra’s Al Ghul, Tem Borjigin, and Fu Manchu being but a few), accumulating them as one does when faking your own death becomes a lifestyle of its own. The one title he kept through the decades, tying his many identities together, was the Mandarin. He was still in China, competing for power in the chaos of the Chinese civil war and what followed. He had sent his daughter, Talia, to England, where she would be safe and where she could gain knowledge that would ultimately benefit her father. Ever the suspicious man, her father had trained her from childhood in not only physical self-defense, but in the creation of a series of mental blocks that would prevent any psychics from sussing out her true identity. They would not hold up to a concerted attack, but any casual glance would reveal her to be nothing but what she claimed. She was a brilliant biologist, and was fascinated by the new advances being made in the west, and how they complemented her father’s ancient knowledge.
The topic that brought these three together was a lecture on the possibilities of technological immortality, and the transcendence of the human condition. The lecture was sparsely attended, and the lecturer something of a quack, but none of these three could keep themselves away. Xavier was fascinated by any attempt to cheat death. His mental abilities had convinced him that the human mind was nothing but a product of the brain, and that there was no soul to be saved, no afterlife to go to. Every death he encountered caused him incredible psychic agony, as the mind was torn apart, leaving nothing in its place. Ivo had a similar fascination, though originating from a more selfish place. He had seen his family die at the hands of fearful, ordinary men. He desperately wanted to preserve himself and his children from that fate, and to separate himself from the pathetic, fearful humanity he so despised. Moira claimed to simply be interested in the topic for its own sake, though in reality she had more personal reasons to investigate the science of longevity.
After the lecture the three talked for hours, and became close friends for the remainder of their time in Oxford. Their three fields, neuroscience, biology, and computer science, dovetailed nicely in their explorations of how to surpass the limits of humanity. After all three had finished their studies, Charles proposed that they continue their research in New York, where an old acquaintance of his, Anthony Wayne, was willing to fund their endeavors. Wayne, who by this point was spending most of his time either at Wayne Industries HQ in Manhattan, or in his nearby apartments and bases, invited the three young scientists, and Eric’s young children, to stay at his Westchester mansion where his adopted son Warren spent most of is time. It was there that Talia and Anthony first met, forming another relationship that would have significant ramifications.
While the group remained fascinated by immortality and technological means of improving themselves, they found themselves increasingly drawn to the pressing issue of the growing mutant populations. Charles and Eric had long since shared their abilities with Moira, Anthony, and each other, and it was becoming clear that Eric’s children possessed mutant abilities as well. Pietro was cable of great speeds, prompting a number of Westchester residents to ask about the mysterious silver flash they sometimes saw zooming down the street. Zatanna was able to manipulate probabilities in a way that verged on the magical. They began to search for others who possessed abilities beyond those of ordinary humans, with a particular focus on young people who might be in need of their guidance. They reached out to the rest of the growing American super-hero community and soon the small community in the house began to grow, adding Garfield McCoy (a brilliant young man able to transform into any animal he chose, but also gradually losing his ability to keep his human form), Scott Kent (a flawed clone of Super-Spider, not as strong as the original, permanently locked in one human form, and unable to control his heat vision) Megan Grey (a young White Martian living on Earth for reasons of her own), and Tim Drake (a young orphan with the power to control ice, who Anthony took a particular liking to).
All was not well however. While Xavier spent most of his time tracking down new mutants and acting as a combination father figure and schoolmaster to his charges, Ivo was concerned that they were abandoning their quest for immortality. Any other objectives, to his way of thinking, come could second, once they had all the time in the world. He believed that the best way to truly ensure immortality was to transfer a human mind into a machine. Not only would this provide an unaging body, but it would in theory also allow the mind to be copied and stored, so that even a disaster that destroyed the invincible mechanical body could be survived. To this end he began constructing a variety of robotic servants, both as helpers, and as potential bodies into which he could escape death. The most impressive of these androids was dubbed Red Tornado, for its ability to create and manipulate gale force winds. While his friends disapproved of Eric’s anti-social new hobby, they did not find it all that worrying, and simply encouraged him to use some of his technical know-how to help with Anthony’s constant upgrading of his equipment, or perhaps with same Wayne Industries research projects.
The next phase of Eric’s plan was not so harmless. Having created the prospective host for an uploaded consciousness, he now needed to test the process, and for that he needed test subjects. After all, performing experiments on yourself is no way to live forever. Using Red Tornado as his assistant, Eric began his experiments. He secured a small lab away from the mansion, and began abducting people who no one would miss, and fleshing out the process of transferring a human mind into a machine. Charles’ psychic abilities would likely have been helpful at this stage, but as much as Eric felt his own actions were justified, something told him Charles wouldn’t see it the same way. Time passed, and while Eric hadn’t yet managed a successful transference, he could tell he was making progress. Most of his test subjects even survived, if not with their minds completely intact.
The catalyst for the discovery of Eric’s extracurricular activities was Talia being called home by her father, who had secured his position in the Chinese Communist regime, and was ready for her to rejoin the family business, so to speak. While Eric had not taken Moira into his confidence, she had suspected he was engaging in some sort of research he didn’t want Charles and Anthony to discover, and did what she could to conceal his activities out of interest in what he might turn up. Once she made her excuses and left the country, Eric’s web of lies began to unravel.
The situation came to a head after Charles heard one too many excuses about Eric constantly disappeared off to, and decided to follow him to his lab. Upon seeing what Eric had been doing, the horrified Charles confronted him, and demanded and explanation. Terrified of being put under his friend’s mental power (effective anti-psychic defenses not yet existing – though that would be Eric’s next project), and knowing he had only moments to act before Charles saw what he was thinking, Eric attacked. Only meaning to incapacitate Charles, in his haste Eric miscalculated and dealt him a fatal blow. Shocked by his own actions, Eric left Red Tornado to pack up his laboratory and rushed to the mansion to collect his children.
Unbeknownst to Eric, Charles was not dead – at least not yet. He was failing fast and knew that he didn’t have long. The one thing that saved him was Eric’s rush to leave. He had been in the middle of an experiment, with the Red Tornado still connected to the uploading machinery. As his body failed him, Xavier desperately reached out to the machine, and began to transfer his mind into the Red Tornado’s waiting systems. The process was delicate, and Xavier was forced to use his abilities to bypass some areas where Eric’s technology was not sufficient, but it was ultimately successful, ironically achieving Eric’s great goal. By the time Eric returned to his lab, Pietro and Zatanna in tow, he found his equipment removed or destroyed, and both Red Tornado and Xavier’s body gone. Not knowing what to think he used his powers to collapse the building and fled, first from the city, then the country. The world had not heard the last of Dr. Eric Ivo.
Xavier, still in shock about Eric’s betrayal and his own near death experience, returned to the mansion with Eric’s equipment and contacted his allies. Over the coming months he would begin to adjust to his new situation, but before he could get too comfortable he found his problems were far from over. The primitive late 1950’s computing technology in the Red Tornado body was simply not enough to contain a human mind for long. With his mind beginning to deteriorate Xavier enlisted his student Garfield McCoy and friend Anthony Wayne in helping him to construct a replacement device within which to store his mind. Without Eric’s singular genius for the subject their replacement was necessarily crude, and could not be made to fit within a single android. Instead, a vast computer mainframe they aptly called Cerebro was built in the bowels of the mansion, and Xavier’s mind transferred into it. In this new environment, which was constantly upgraded and expanded as technology advanced, both Xavier’s intelligence and his telepathic abilities were greatly enhanced, but he was trapped in the mansion. He was still able to use the Red Tornado body as an avatar through which to physically interact with the world, but it could only stray a few dozen miles from the mansion before the connection to Cerebro grew too weak.
Though devastated by his no circumstances, Xavier held up as well as could be expected, and continued the search for new young people (and people-ish things) in need of his help and guidance. For now he not only had something to offer them, but also needed something in return. Eric Ivo was still out there building strength, and while Xavier did not know when his thirst for power would next threaten the rest of humanity, he knew that he would be ready to stand in his old friend’s way when it did.