|Xmen: The Gathering Storm
Author: Renavatio PM
The Cure has been released. Magneto is on the rise with no one to stop him. What can the X-men and some new faces do to fight the gathering storm. Previously Blind Prophets. Logan/OC. Set at the beginning of X3Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Romance - Wolverine - Chapters: 12 - Words: 26,157 - Reviews: 58 - Favs: 25 - Follows: 33 - Updated: 03-14-09 - Published: 12-29-07 - id: 3975904
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: I don't own anything related to the X-men comics and/or movies. You think if I did I'd be writing here?
Jean was reading up in her room when she heard them talking.
Nice ride, she thought, seeing it through the mind's eye of some neighbors, pulling a memory from one of them to more properly identify it as a Mercedes-Benz Maybach salon car, evidently some kind of classic. She didn't much care for cars. But she caught a resonance from one of the occupants that made her quirk an eyebrow in fascination, a surprisingly adult gesture for a girl of such ostensibly tender years. Given his history and the emotional memories held on a very tight leash, she wondered why he'd possess a German-made car. Spitting in the face of the past, perhaps? She considered probing further but even that cursory stroke of his thoughts had left her with a skull-splitting headache. Neither of the men, she realized, much liked psychic intruders. They were expected. She picked that up from her parents right away, bothered a little that she hadn't noticed earlier. It was second nature to pry; minds for her had quickly become so transparent that it was like walking through a world made of glass. Almost nothing could be hidden from her, and so much of it was stuff that was so banal, so beyond boring- occasionally so disgusting- that she'd had to remind herself, then force herself, more and more often lately, to mind her own damn business.
She heard a voice, in her thoughts, not her ears, although the man in the car spoke aloud. "I still don't know why we're here, Charles. Couldn't you just make them say yes?"
She didn't much like that, and stepped to her window to see for herself who'd come to meet her parents.
She saw as man, thirty-something and prematurely bald, eminently respectable in a bespoke suit. Hawk like with the features, piercing eyes, a born hunter. He carried himself with the easy grace of an athlete, comfortable in his strength, confident of his abilities. There was a twist of sorrow to what little of his inner self she could divine, a sense around the edges that he had been places and done things substantially at odds with his upright demeanor. He'd been to war, she realized, when he was very young; he'd needed to prove something to himself, and it had left its mark. First impression, she liked him.
His words cemented the feeling. "Of all people," he said to his companion, "I would expect you to understand my feelings about misuse of power."
The second man emerged and the contrast couldn't have been more pronounced. Dress and manner, as well as accent, suggested a European background. The color of his suit made Jean smile. Not many men would dare to wear royal purple, but he made it work.
"Power corrupts, and all that," said the taller man, the European, with the air of someone who'd had this discussion too many times. "Yes, Charles, I know. When will you stop lecturing me?"
"when you start listening?" Charles replied easily, using a very slight smile to take the edge off words that he meant seriously.
"We're not going to meet ever one of them in person are we?"
"No, Erik. This one is special."
Jean didn't much like the sound of that. Ghosting her perceptions over the periphery of her parents', she caught all the appropriate introductions: the bald man was Charles Xavier; the other, his friend and colleague, Erik Lensherr. Mom ushered them into Dad's study, where she'd already set out a fully laden tea tray.
"Your school looks wonderful," she said, once everyone was settled, gesturing towards the pile of brochures that had arrived much earlier. "What a beautiful campus. And Salem Center's only an hour and change down the Taconic; it's not like Jean's going very far away."
"The brochure is great," her husband agreed. He was standing behind his desk, so that their guests couldn't help seeing the wall of diplomas and awards that went with being a tenured professor at a major independent college. "But I'm concerned about Jean. What about her… illness?"
"Illness?" Lensherr said, so quietly that both John and Xavier got the message. The one bridled while the other raised an eyebrow in what he hoped was a subtle but unmistakable warning.
Sensing the spike in tension, Elaine Hurriedly intervened: "Now, John!"
"You think your daughter is sick, Mr. Grey?" Lensherr asked in that same silken tone, choosing to ignore Xavier's caution. On cue, as if to complement his undertone, the tea tray shifted ever so slightly.
"Erik," Xavier said, speaking both aloud and with his thoughts, "please."
"Call it what you like," John Grey continued, refusing to be cowed. "What's been happening to Jean is not normal. No one can explain it- not medical doctors, nor psychiatrists- and none of them have been able to help. All we know for sure is that she is getting worse."
"Are you afraid of her?" Lensherr asked, almost as if he assumed they were.
"She's my daughter," John flared, "I want to help her."
"As do we," Xavier interjected, playing his usual role as peacemaker, biting back the flash of irritation he felt whenever Erik let his growing antipathy towards baseline humans get the better of him. "The whole point of our school is to help people like your daughter. Perhaps, it might be better for us to talk to her. Alone."
"Of course." Elaine Grey said, stepping into the hallway, "Jean," she called, "can you come down a moment, dear?"
Jean was fairly tall for her age, but lean and rangy despite the first curves of womanhood. Her hair was a dark red, like a fire seen in the heart of the deepest forest, where the flames are mostly hidden by trees and shadow. Her beauty was self-evident; by the time she was full-grown, it would be breathtaking, with the foundation of bone structure that guaranteed it would only improve with age.
"We'll leave you, then," John Grey told them.
Jean sat on the couch opposite the two men, her demeanor as polite as it was guarded. She'd decided on the way down to let them make the first move.
Xavier obliged her.
"It's very rude, you know…," he said-but his lips didn't move.
Her breath went out of her all in a huff. It never occurred to her that he could do what she did.
"…to read my thoughts, or Mr. Lensherr's without our permission."
He was sending her more than words; there was a vast and complex texture to their communication that told her she'd been busted from the first fleeting telepathic contact as they drove down the street. While she'd been spying on them, Xavier was taking her full measure as a psi, without her being the slightest bit aware of it.
Lensherr picked up the conversation from there- only he spoke aloud, suggesting to Jean that his abilities differed markedly from Xavier's. "Did you think you were the only one of your kind, girl?"
She intended to keep her response to herself, and bridled ever so slightly when Xavier "heard" it anyway. What kind is that? She thought.
"We are mutants, Jean," Xavier said. "We are like you."
She felt a flicker of irritation, like the striking of a match within her soul, heralding a flash of temper that was coming more and more often lately, more and more intense, no matter how hard she tried to keep it under control.
She smiled in a way that promised trouble, a warning.
"Really?" The thoughts and emotions that accompanied that single word were raw and rude. "I doubt that."
Xavier reacted first, to a volley of psychic alarms, Lensherr, following his gaze to look out the study window towards the street.
The next door neighbor, Mr. Pash, was running headlong down the length of his front yard, partly dragged by his lawn mower, partly chasing frantically after it, as the old machine launched itself skyward as if it was wearing blue tights and a cape and was bent on leaping tall buildings in a single bound.
At the same time, the stream of water from Mr. Lee's hose decided to rebel against the reign of gravity and see what it was like to pour up instead of down. From him, Xavier and Jean heard a muttered expletive, while Pash's initial frisson of startlement gave way to a bark of incredulous laughter.
Then the laughter faded as he caught sight of what else was floating. All along the street, every car in view had suddenly levitated more than ten feet into the air. Nothing else had changed; it was as though they'd been lifted on invisible platforms.
All told, better than ten tons of metal hung suspended, yet Jean wasn't even straining.
Lensherr couldn't help a smile, or a comment. "Oh, Charles, I like this one."
Xavier wasn't amused. "You have more power than you can imagine, Jean."
Her thought, instinctive, defiant. I dunno, I can imagine quite a lot.
She met his gaze.
"The question is, "he continued, refusing to rise to her unspoken challenge, "will you control that power…"
She lost focus, just like that, and the cars crashed at once to the street. She kept her eyes locked on his, realizing that somehow he'd slipped into her mind and blocked the connections between desire and response. She understood immediately how this had happened; with no one but herself possessing psychic powers, how would she have developed any defenses against another with those same abilities? She didn't like that, hated the thought of being vulnerable; she liked even less the peremptory way he'd acted. He could have asked; sure, she was showing off, but if he'd treated her with respect she'd have listened.
"…or let it control you?" he finished.
She didn't give him an answer because deep down inside, where the answer really mattered, she didn't have one to offer, not which had any value. She suspected it was a question- a challenge- she'd hear often in the days to come.
She knew she'd attend his school. She'd learn from him all that he was prepared to teach- if only to be able to stand on her own two feet, free from anyone's control.
Father was at the bathroom door, knocking politely. Warren refused to listen.
"Warren?" called Worthington Jr. Top tier of the Forbes 100, one of the few American billionaires who wasn't head of a computer giant or a dot-com, one of those rarer still who'd taken the modest inheritance of his own father and built it into something of tangible and lasting value. "Son?" Pause, another knock. "Everything okay?" Another pause, another knock, voice creeping up a notch in the anxiety index. "What's going on in there?"
"Nothing, Dad," called Worthington III, railing inside at the tremor in his voice. "Be right out!"
He was twelve and had the features of an angel. Blond hair, face to die for and a body of whipcord muscle, without a spare ounce; he was far stronger than you'd expect of a boy his age. He stood bare to the waist before the big mirror in his bathroom. In his left hand he held a boning knife, swiped from the kitchen just the other day, right after the cook had done the weekly sharpening. The blade was tungsten steel and sharper than a scalpel. There was blood on the blade, blood on the sink, blood on the floor. Warren knew he should have done this in the tub, where he could wash away all the evidence, but there was no view of the mirror from there and he had to be able to see what he was doing.
Sweat coated his face, and he had to force himself to take deep, slow breaths in a vain attempt to calm his racing heart. His metabolism had always been hyper as far back as he could remember; he ate more at meals than most sumo wrestlers and had to struggle not to lose weight. Reactions were the same; that's why he couldn't play baseball anymore. Every at bat was an intentional walk, for his skill at making contact with the ball, if it was even marginally near the strike zone, was uncanny. Likewise his fielding. No matter how fast the play, for Warren everything happened in slow motion. And magnificent as his reflexes were, his eyesight eclipsed them. He drove his optometrist to distraction, because there wasn't a test that could accurately measure his vision. He never told anyone of the test he'd tried on his own, slipping onto the open air observation deck of the World Trade Center and looking out towards Kennedy Airport, a dozen miles away. With the tourist binoculars, you could make out the planes taking off. Warren, with his naked eyes, could read the serial numbers on their fuselage. Looking across the East River towards the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, he could see the details of people's faces and clothing as they strolled- he could even read the banner headlines on their newspapers.
But, that wasn't why he kept the visit secret. While there, he had heard a high rising screech a little below and to the side, and looked down to see a red-tailed hawk soaring effortlessly on the thermals generated by the giant HVAC fans atop the Wall Street skyscrapers, cooling the offices within while creating a perpetual heat sink a thousand feet above Manhattan's streets. It was the most wondrous sight he'd ever seen and, without thinking, his head and upper body began to move in tandem with the hawk, as though Warren could also feel the swirls and eddies of the atmosphere. He imagined what it must be like to feel the rush of air across its wings, to plunge headlong towards oblivion, only to snap the wings wide at precisely the right second to save itself and bag the prey. To Warren Worthington III that seemed like Heaven.
And Heaven was likely where he'd have ended up had a young woman's strong hands not caught him by the shoulders and pulled him back from the railing.
With a start that left him speechless and trembling, he realized that he'd had one foot and both hands on the rail, and his next move would have been to climb over. Yes, it was only a modest fall to the roof below-thank God the observation platform had been set well back from the edge of the building itself-but for Warren it was the thought that counted most. Or rather, the lack of it, because he couldn't remember much except wanting more than anything to soar with that hawk.
"Are you all right?" the woman asked, quite calmly, as if this sort of thing happened to her all the time. She was taller than he was, more beautiful than any of the myriad faces that stared out from the newsstand walls of fashion magazines, but the most striking thing about her were her eyes, so golden that they were almost glowing, and the way she didn't quite look at him, almost as if she were looking right through him. She didn't look too much older than him, but she had the look of an old soul, one who had seen and done far too much. She wore a long strapless white dressed that billowed around her with the winds that accompanied the high altitudes.
"I…I…" was the best he could stammer.
"It's all right to envy them," she said, with a smile that washed over him like the sun after a spring rain, just as a cry from the access door heralded the arrival of his parents. She gave him a wink and a gentle squeeze on his arm that let him know this was their secret. "We just have to remember we don't have wings." She looked past him and reached out to pluck a feather out of the air that was streaming past. Offering the pristine feather out to him, she smiled slightly, taking care to not let her hand touch his.
Her words made perfect sense- and yet, there was something to the way she said them, the way she looked out across the sky towards that spiraling bird that told him she knew far more than she was saying.
Except-when he and the family had reached the doorway, and he'd turned back to wave good-bye, she was gone. Quickly, he swung his eyes across the entirety of the outdoor deck, but she was nowhere to be found; as if she'd never been.
Warren winced with pain, knew there'd be more blood, the memory banished by the tears that started unbidden from his eyes. He was crying like a baby. But he steeled himself against the tears, against the pain, against the fear. This had to be done.
He scraped the blade across his back, so intent on his purpose that completely missed the latest round of knocks on the door and the call of his father's voice.
"Come on, Warren," his father said, close to the end of his patience, "it's been an hour. Open his door." He still wasn't angry, although that would be soon in coming. At the moment he simply seemed concerned by his only son's increasingly strange behavior.
"One second," Warren Cried, trying to buy as much time as he could, unaware of how clearly his pain and tears and terror radiated through those two simple words. He moved without thinking, grabbing for his tools to stuff them into the lockbox he'd secreted in the drawer.
The door burst open and in came Warren Worthington Jr., tall as his son would someday be, the fulfilled promise in maturity of the boy's crisp beauty, yes broadly muscular in a way that Warren would never reach. Whatever emotions the father felt going in the door vanished the moment he beheld his son, standing before the mirror where Warren could see reflected what this father saw directly- a pair of ridged protrusions, as though the boy's shoulder blades had burst upwards through the skin. Only it wasn't those ridges that had torn the boy's flesh. That culprit was the length of gleaming steel in his hand.
None of that was what made Worthington Jr. gasp and gape, in shame and horror and disbelief, his mind suddenly flooded with rage at the hand God had dealt him, not directly but through this child he loved more than his life. The objects of those emotions were scattered on the sink and floor, and some still protruded from Warren's back, where the blade had missed them, or the boy hadn't quite been able to reach.
Worthington Jr. took a step forward. Without his glasses, the scene wasn't quite as crisp as he wanted it, the objects on the sink and floor just out of focus enough to require a closer look. Warren misinterpreted the action-small wonder given the expression of horror and disgust on his father's face- and tumbled himself into the corner, hands held up before him as though he expected to be hit. That alone was enough to break the father's heart…
….but he couldn't bring himself to touch his boy, even though his pain and misery were palpable.
Instead, he reached for the objects and had been cut from Warren's back, refusing to accept what his eyes reported until he had them in his hand.
"No," the father breathed, in denial.
His son was sprouting feathers.
"Please God, no!"
His son, God help him, was growing wings!
"Not you, Warren. Not…this."
And there were tears on Worthington's face now, to match those on his son's. One in a corner, the other on his knees, both in desperate need of comfort, neither with any to offer.
Five years hadn't changed the father much. He wasn't quite as rich as he'd been before, but that was because he'd divested a fairly significant portion of his holdings and personal fortune to endow a number of rather esoteric research establishments across the world. He was still handsome, he was still charming-but that day in his son's bathroom had left its mark in more ways than one. There was a haunted quality to his eyes that told of a commitment to a cause.
"You asked me to come to Bangalore, Dr. Rao. I'm here. What do you have to show me?"
In terms of size, this was a modest lab, a small part of an industrial estate that was accommodating India's burgeoning software industry. The reason for placing it here was mainly to have access to dependable power and state-of-the-art computing facilities, not to mention the geeks to tweak the systems. Kavita Rao was both an MD and a geneticist, rated on a par with Moira Mactaggart of Edinburgh University and considered just as likely to someday claim a Nobel for medicine. The team she'd gathered in Worthington's name was nearly on a par with her, and the clinic she'd built with his money was worthy of them all.
One wall consisted of nothing but a giant flat-screen display, which would have cost a decent fortune in and of itself but for the fact that another company in the park specialized in making them. One meeting between Kavita and their managing director, the promise of medical care for their employees, and with that quid pro quo goods and services were speedily and regularly exchanged.
What Worthington Jr. saw on the display was a succession of double helices, which he knew were representations of someone's DNA, the genetic building blocks of life. He hadn't a clue what they meant, despite voluminous reading over the past half decade.
Kavita indicated a rail-thin boy, far younger than Worthington expected, lying in an isolation room. The room had been decorated with an eye to the boy's comfort and peace of mind-it was as much a boy's space as it could be given the circumstances, with games and stuffed animals sharing the venue with monitors and IV stands. He was reading a stack of comics; sensing Dr. Rao's attention on him, he offered up a wave.
"His name is Jimmy," she told Worthington. "It will take some considerable time to explain, and even more to bring matters to fruition, but the initial tests look quite promising. I the fates are kind, all our work may not have been in vain."
"Time is of no consequence," Worthington Jr. said, pulling up a chair beside her. "Tell me everything."
The not so distant future
Dark blue water crushing down on her,
A faint light coming from above,
The need to be free, intolerable,
A downward spiral down into the darkening abyss.
"No," the woman whispered in her sleep as she tossed back and forth under the thin sheet covering her. Darkness shrouded her room, contrasting with the lights and noises of the revelries of Mardi gras outside her window. Her long dark hair sprawled out over the pillows as she thrashed in her bed, whimpering in her sleep.
A man, riding astride a motorcycle, evergreens flying past as he raced down the long and
twisting road, his face grim and determined. He is haunted, haunted by visions of a love long
lost. He somberly rides, anxious to get to his destination.
Still unconscious, the woman arched her back, her hands clutching the sheets on either side.
All around her, the furniture began to shake and lights started flicker on and off, causing even
the drunken revelers outside to give pause.
The same man, now on the banks of a lake. A decrepit dam just past him. He is
Crying. Sobbing. So despairing, so desperate. He hears voices. No, just
One voice... A woman's voice... Jean's voice!
Her body flailed in short quick spasms. Sweat soaked through the black wife beater that she had been wearing, her normally tan skin, pale under the stress of the vision. The room trembling more violently about her, her golden eyes flew open, sightless except for thralls of the vision holding her.
The man yells, a sound so anguished it tears the heart. He rips off his ruby quartz glasses; the
only thing holding his power in check; a burst of red energy shoots out of his eyes and into the
lake. He cries in sorrow as he collapses to his
knees, his face buried in his hands. The lake bubbles and gushes, marking the
path of the laser.
A red-haired woman, wearing power like a cloak, stands in front of the man
She smiles, takes his ruby cortex glasses off... He hesitantly opens his eyes,
Not believing what he sees... He embraces her passionately, shocked and relieved
To have her in his arms again.
The tide turns, she turns... Her eyes, they grow different...black...
Her face, distorting, veins of obsidian shooting through it...
The man feels the relief and love only for an instant before opening his eyes
Wide, in shock and pain, as he feels his life being ripped from
Everything in the scantily clad room- desk, bureau, bed, everything was
violently shaking now. The woman herself was practically levitating off her bed, still thrashing
and Crying...murmuring, "NO...DON'T...SCOTT, NO!".
The man's veins start to change, as if they were running with black ink instead of blood.
Wherever he and the woman were touching, his veins grew dark, as she was sucking the life
from him . His face... hands... the marks of obsidian leached through him, hungrily.
"NO!" the girl yelled fiercely. Her upper body pushed off the bed by the sheer strain of her vision. The loft she'd rented for the month practically shook along with her, as she convulsed repeatedly.
Then suddenly, everything stopped. The young woman fell to the ground, twisting into a crouched position on the floor. In her hand, she grasped the curved blade that she always kept under her pillow. Her piercing golden eyes, almost obscured by the tears clouding them, scanned the room as she struggled to keep her heart rate down. Music pumped into her high-rise as the Mardi Gras revelers partied on, even though it was 5 o'clock in the morning. Sensing no undo threat in the room she slowly rose from her defensive position and walked over to her cell phone on the desk beside her. She took a deep breath, and tried to clear her mind for the task ahead. Picking the phone up, she dialed one of the few numbers that she had on speed dial.
"Charles", she said after he picked up his phone, 600 miles away.
"We have a problem".
Okay guys, that's it for the prologue, of course, unless I decide to change it yet again! any who, If you review mine, I'll review yours!
Thanks very much