Nightmares of Power
Disclaimer: You know the drill. All characters belong to whoever owns the rights to "Mutant X." The plot, however, is all mine.
Author's Note: Yes! Another chapter finished! Only one more to go. Hang in there, I'm almost done. Also, I'd like to thank all my reviewers for their wonderful comments and encouragement. Every time I got frustrated, I would look at my reviews, take a deep breath, and step back into the ring to wrestle with my plot. I couldn't have finished this chapter without your help! Thanks!
Please, take a second and leave me a review! This chapter was quite difficult to write, and I really, really want to hear what you thought about it! I crave feedback – in any form – so you can write a review or send me a note at email@example.com. PLEASE!!!!!!
The desperate, terrified scream penetrated the observation room wall with only a second of delay, cutting through glass and cement like a hot knife through butter, and then through flesh and bone – straight into Adam Kane's heart.
He stared through the glass, mesmerized, as Jesse collapsed back onto the bed, exhausted and helpless, and Emma moved closer. He couldn't hear the words the young man spoke, but knew instinctively what they would be, and it nearly broke his determination…and his heart. The haunted, cornered look on his pale face and wide eyes left no room for doubt – he was begging and pleading with Emma to stop.
"Adam!" Brennan's voice came over the Commlink, filled with worry and an urgency that he didn't even attempt to hide. "What the hell is going on? Please tell me that wasn't Jesse!"
Adam opened his mouth to reply but was cut off by Brennan, his words slightly muffled. "Shal, wait a second. You can't just – " A sharp voice snapped back something he couldn't make out. "No, Shal! Stop! Think about what you're doing! If you – NO!" It sounded like a war had broken out from all of the noises coming over the comm system: hard thuds, objects being overturned and/or thrown, the distinct sound of fist meeting flesh. The sharp cry of pain echoed loudly through the room, followed closely by a hard thump and a low moan. Adam winced in sympathy.
Silence reigned for a few seconds, only to be replaced with harsh breathing and a gasping voice. "I couldn't…stop her, Adam. She…that scream…brought out…her feral side with…a…vengeance. Better watch it…sure she's comin'…your way."
"Thanks for the warning, Brennan." Another moan filtered through the air, and he couldn't help but ask if the elemental was all right. The answer was not very reassuring.
"I'll live," he groaned weakly. "I think."
"Do you need help?" he asked, concerned by the lack on energy in the young man's voice. I think Shalimar might have done more damage than she meant to, he thought grimly. And if that's true…
Brennan interrupted his train of thought. "No, but you do. Do you think you can…keep her busy for a few minutes…at least until I can get there?"
"Yes. Brennan," he added, "If you're hurt, stay put. Don't push yourself."
"Don't worry," Mulwray replied and then joked feebly. "She already has."
Nodding, Adam broke the connection and allowed a small smirk to show, amused at the young man's wry wit and tenacity. The smile vanished, though, when he realized that he had little time to prepare for Shalimar's imminent "arrival." Exiting the observation room, he came out just a few feet to the left of Med Bay's thick, metal doors and covered the remaining few feet in seconds. Reaching up, he keyed in a seven-digit code that completely locked down the medical bay, denying all access to and from the room until the proper release code was keyed in – a code that only he knew. Sighing, he considered the security system before him. I installed this system to keep dangerous Mutants contained – not keep my own people out! he thought, angry with himself for allowing the situation to get so far out of hand. This is all my fault!
Hearing a faint sound, he glanced up just in time to see Shalimar Fox hurtling around the corner, running at top speed towards Med Bay, her long blond hair streaming behind her. Ignoring him completely, she punched the access panel, her face filled with fear, her wide brown eyes panicked. Nothing happened. She pounded it again, harder this time and with a low growl of frustration. Still, the doors did not open.
Adam stood perfectly still a mere three feet away, waiting to see what her reaction would be, what she would say. Finally, understanding dawned in her eyes, and she whipped her head around, blond hair snapping loudly from the speed of her turn. She glared at him, her eyes flashing a dangerous shade of gold, her slim, athletic build quivering. "What did you do?" she snarled menacingly through clenched teeth.
"I can't let you in, Shalimar. You know that. You'll only make things worse than – "
"No!" she screamed, pounding the metal doors this time with all the strength that she possessed, but it didn't work. The doors remained closed. "JESSE!" The feral went wild, punching and kicking the metal barrier that separated her from her objective, her violent, frantic movements a flurry of action. In desperation, she took a few steps back and then ran forward to slam her entire body against the door, a harsh grunt wrenched from her by the force of the collision, but she did not stop. She repeated it a second time and then a third, to no avail. After the fourth time, she spun on him, eyes blazing with fury.
Adam took a few steps back and tried to remain calm, which was difficult, considering that he was now looking straight into the face of a wild animal in human form. She'd never looked at him like that before, like he was the enemy. I guess in this case, I am, he thought, swallowing hard, trying to think of a way to stall for more time. Okay, Brennan. Now would be a good time to get here.
"Let. Me. In." she panted, taking a couple steps closer, and clenching her fists.
"Why should I? Why do you want in there?"
She blinked, so stunned by the obvious answer to his question that some of the overwhelming anger seemed to drain from her taut body. "Why?! She's hurting him, Adam! Didn't you hear him?! God! He's scared, and he's hurting. Someone needs to help him!"
"Some is helping him – Emma." He ruthlessly pushed on, before she could stop him. "Yes, he is in pain, but remember, Shalimar? Emma told you that this would hurt him. I've been watching them the whole time, monitoring the situation to ensure their safety – both Emma's and Jesse's. He opened up to her to a point, but he's still hiding whatever it is that caused this whole mess. If we don't find out what that is, he won't survive. Emma has to do this. And you know it."
"I should be in there!" she half-snarled, taking a couple of steps to the left towards the metal doors separating her from Jesse. "He needs me, Adam!"
"No, Shal," Brennan's calm, deep voice came out of nowhere. He placed a hand on his friend's rigid shoulder and squeezed slightly. "Jesse needs Emma right now. She's the only one who can really help him." He shot Adam a quick glance. "I'm sure you can go in just as soon as Emma's done. Right, Adam?"
"Of course. In the meantime, you both can join me in the observation room, if you want. You do want to see Jesse, don't you?" Thanks, Brennan. I owe you one, he added mentally, holding his breath and waiting for the young woman's response.
She wavered visibly, looking at the doors, at Adam, and then back to the doors. Adam could see that she was torn between following her heart or her mind, a difficult situation made worse by the fact that ferals were naturally more emotional. "Fine," she snapped and stalked to the nearby door, smacking the panel hard to open it, her slumped posture radiating frustration and concern.
Adam looked over at Brennan, taking in his bloody lip and bruised face with a single, knowing glance. Brennan looked…disheveled, something that rarely happened, even after an all-out fight with the GSA or New Mutants. And the way he kept his left arm cradled close to his body was too suspicious to ignore. He's hurt worse than he wants me to know, he thought, then shook his head. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah. Just great," he muttered, moving towards the doorway of the observation room. He only got four feet before his tall frame began to sway. Adam quickly grabbed him, easing him down to Sanctuary's floor. Brennan struggled and feebly pushed him away, protesting the whole time. "I'm fine, Adam. Okay? Leave me alone."
"Yeah, right. Stay still for a minute…stop it, Brennan," he ordered when the elemental tried to sit up, gently restraining him. He didn't want to accidentally cause him more pain. "Now, where are you hurt?"
"Besides my pride?" Brennan grinned and then winced when the motion pulled at his bloody lip. His sigh of annoyance morphed into a moan of pain as he clutched his side in pain. "God! It feels like she broke some of my ribs!"
Adam carefully reached out and felt Brennan's left side, fingers cautiously probing, ignoring the hiss of pain his touch brought. "Did she punch you or kick you?" he asked. If it was a punch, he's probably just badly bruised, but if it was a kick, he might have some cracked ribs.
"She kicked me and slammed me into the wall. My head doesn't feel so good either – Owww!" he howled, just as Adam felt a rib give slightly beneath the firm pressure of his hand.
"You definitely have one broken rib, if not more. You should've stayed where you were," he added in a low voice. In a way, he was proud of Brennan's self-sacrificing behavior and his thoughtless courage. The trip between Shal's room and Med Bay must have been excruciating, and he was positive that the injured mutant had not walked the long way between. But on the other hand, he was frustrated with him and his penchant for downplaying his own injuries – a dangerous, if not deadly, trait. It was one thing to be tough, and another to be stupid. And this was stupid. "What were you thinking?" he demanded, leaning over the prone man and grabbing his left arm in his hands, anger seeping into his voice.
"I was worried," Mulwray replied, grimacing in pain as Adam touched the sprained wrist he'd been attempting to hide. "She was so worried, so upset…I didn't know what she would do."
Images of Shalimar's blind fury and the blows that she had rained upon the offending doors flashed through his mind, bringing with them the disturbing thought of what might have been if HE had been the target of her rage and not an inanimate object. His anger cooled somewhat. "I appreciate your concern, Brennan, I really do. But you need to be more careful. I would have figured out something if she'd been out of control." I think. "Well, you've got a sprained wrist, too. You didn't make out so well this time."
"I didn't want to hurt her, Adam," he said softly, averting his dark, soulful eyes. "She didn't know what she was doing. When we heard that scream…she knew right away that it was Jesse…you should have seen the look on her face. She was terrified." He swallowed. "I don't ever want to see that look again. Never."
The older man was quiet for a few seconds. "How's your head? You said it hurt."
"No, I said it didn't feel good, not that it hurt."
Adam smiled at the sarcasm in Brennan's voice but refused to be distracted from his examination. "Are you seeing double? Any blurred vision?"
"No and no."
Silence. Ah ha! He thought in triumph, watching with amusement as Mulwray literally squirmed on the floor. He doesn't want to lie to me, but he doesn't want to admit it either. This ought to be interesting. He sat back on his heels, wordlessly watching and waiting.
Finally, the elemental turned his head towards Adam, clearly miserable with the situation, and spoke in a barely audible voice. "A little."
Nodding, he asked, "Can you walk? I'd like to take you to your room – "
"No!" Brennan broke in before he could finish. "I want to stay here…just to make sure everything's okay."
"You'd be more comfortable in bed, Brennan." He stared at the set face of the stubborn young man, knowing that the only way to get him to his own room would be to drug him and carry him there himself. Well, that isn't going to happen. First of all, all the drugs are in Med Bay, so I can't get to them. Second, I don't think I could carry him by myself. And I know Shalimar wouldn't help – I don't think I could pry her away from the observation window with a crowbar. "Fine," he sighed. "Can you make it into the room?" he asked, nodding towards the open doorway.
"Sure. There's nothing wrong with my legs."
After slowly and carefully helping Brennan to his feet, he led the swaying mutant inside the observation room and directly into the nearest chair. Shalimar was sitting in a backwards-facing chair, head resting on her arms that were crossed on the chair's back, but she raised her head warily at their approach. Adam glancing briefly at her and saw her brown eyes flicker with either remorse or guilt. He couldn't say for certain which one it was.
Once Brennan was settled, Adam stepped closer to the window and looked into Med Bay. Emma and Jesse were in the exact same position as when he'd left: Jesse lying on the bed with Emma holding his head with both hands. Shifting over a few feet, he checked the monitor displaying Jesse's vital signs. Hmmm. Heart beat and respiration high. Blood pressure's high, too. He didn't know what was happening inside Jesse's mind, but he hoped it wouldn't last much longer. Jesse's body might have stabilized but he was still weak from the strain he'd endured. He couldn't take those kinds of readings for long.
Emma blasted through Jesse's paper-thin outer walls within seconds, delving deeper and deeper into his mind, ready to search for the dangerous and damaging thoughts still hidden within.
This was totally different from what she'd experienced several hours before with Shalimar. Shal's thoughts had been a strong, steady stream when she had read her, but the feral had been relatively calm, other than being fiercely worried for her best friend's condition. This…there was no comparison. Where Shal's thoughts were a stream, Jess's thoughts were a hurricane, complete with large, tumultuous swells, pounding rain, and violent, frigid winds. He was still fighting her, fighting to keep her confused, to force her to give up and leave empty-handed.
Oh, Jesse. What can be so hideous, so unforgivable, that you'd fight so hard to keep it hidden from me?she thought, treading water to remain afloat as the huge waves crashed all about her with crushing force. At the same time, she sent out her tendrils in every direction, out into the dark storm that was Jesse's mind.
Images assaulted her as she went further inside, some flickering by so quickly that they were but a blur of motion; others floating past so slowly she practically lived them.
Jesse, only seven or eight, alone in a large garden, hiding from the guests at one of his mother's elegant dinner parties, nervous being around so many people.
Jesse, watching the baseball bounce back from the door where he'd tossed it, staring in horror as it sailed through his hand and crashed into a large, crystal vase behind him, shattering the exquisite piece into oblivion. The face of his mother, cold and furious, glaring at him for what he'd done, and then that steely complexion changing to fear and – and shame – at what he was…a freak.
Jesse, now an adult and a member of Mutant X, frozen in place as his father requested the data disk he'd asked for, shredding his heart to ribbons.
Tears ran down her face as she watched the brutal, agonizing moments unfold before her very eyes.
But there were happy moments as well.
A young Jesse, alone and afraid, being introduced for the first time to a young Shalimar and feeling his troubled heart lift at the sight of her sunny smile.
Jesse, a little older, grinning madly at something Shal said, as they snuck out of Sanctuary late at night without Adam's permission.
Jesse, returning after his first mission, confident, blond head held proudly, Shalimar by his side.
The various memories gave an intimate insight into the man that she loved, one that she had not realized before now. So many of these memories revolve around Shal, Emma thought. They're closer than anyone I've ever seen, their lives intertwined completely. But instead of the raging jealously she'd felt earlier that day, she felt relief and joy, thankful that the young man had found such a wonderful friend to help him.
Suddenly, she noticed that the number of waves had increased drastically, and the wind was howling furiously, worse than before. She redoubled her efforts, pushing herself harder than ever, knowing instinctively that she was almost there. The waves battered her, dumping water on her, in her eyes, down her nose and throat, but she refused to back down.
And then she was there, pulling her soaked body up onto the tiny island, examining the fortress that Jesse had built to keep his secret safe. Thick, solid, cement walls barred her from getting in, and she couldn't help but nod her approval at his choice. Brick walls are stronger but more vulnerable. The mortar between the bricks can be chipped away until there's a hole. She paused to stare at the structure before her, searching for any obvious flaw in the workmanship. Her reluctant respect and admiration for him increased with every passing second. I never would have dreamed he'd be this good, she admitted. Finally, her sharp eyes spied a tiny hole at the base of the wall off to her right.
She took a deep breath and call out into the raging winds. "This is your last chance, Jesse! Either you let me in now or I'll brake through on my own!" The only reply she received was the angry howling of the wind, trying its best to blow her off the island.
All right. You want to play hard to get, then I'll play along.She concentrated, staring intently at the hole in the wall, and then sent out her mental tendrils, now morphed into the shape of razor sharp claws. The claws attacked the weak point in Jesse's barrier, picking, scraping, and tearing away little pieces of cement, sending the tiny flakes spiraling down. Without warning, the ground below her feet shook violently, and the wind screamed like a wounded animal. The abrupt motion sent her to her knees.
Everyone in the observation room jumped at the sudden alarm that went off from the computer monitoring Jesse's vitals. Adam bolted out of his chair and was at the computer in seconds, searching the screen to find out the problem. It took only a second. Jesse's heart rate and blood pressure had skyrocketed, while his respiration had dropped drastically. All three vitals now stood at dangerous levels and were flashing in red on the screen.
"Adam!" Shalimar cried out in horror, both hands pressed on the thick glass separating the two rooms.
Adam looked up and at the window just in time to see Jesse arch his back completely off the bed, mouth wide open in agony, as if he'd been frozen while trying to scream. The young mutant dropped back down a few seconds later, but did not have time to relax before strong tremors engulfed his body, leaving him visibly shaking.
"Adam, what's going on?!" Brennan pulled his battered body out of his chair and half-dragged himself over to the window to get a better view.
He ignored the question as turned back to the computer and his mind flew quickly through the facts. High heart rate but low respiration – it's not shock, the symptoms aren't right. Some form of seizure? No, can't be that. What is it?! He ran through the variables, the medicines, everything he could think of, but he could not come up with a logical medical reason for what was happening.
Then it hit him. Emma. This is Emma. She's inside his mind, and he's still fighting her. He's so focused on keeping her out that he's pulling away the energy his body needs to function properly in order to block her. If that's true, then there's nothing I can do to stop this reaction short of physically pulling her away from his body. And I won't do that unless I have no other choice. He raised his eyes from the screen, gazing in at the red-haired telempath, mentally urging her to hurry.
Emma knelt on the hard ground of the island, fingers grasping for purchase as the earth beneath her trembled like a palsied hand. I'm running out of time, she realized, as lightning flashed above her, followed closely thereafter by a deafening clap of thunder. The rain poured down out of the dark sky, trying to pound her into the ground, each drop painfully hard and heavy.
I'm not going to fail!she screamed to herself. Lifting her head, she focused all her energy into the tendrils chipping away at the weakened section of the wall. The hole was increasing in size and depth, but not fast enough. She needed something more. Herself. Her own hands.
She rose shakily to her feet, shoulders stooped from the crushing blows of the raindrops, and stumbled towards the wall, leaning into the driving wind. Each step was a conscious effort and seemed agonizingly slow as she made her way across the heaving ground. Six more feet…five…four…three…….two………….one………………
And then, she was at the wall and dropped once again to her knees. Taking a deep breath, she plunged her hands into the hole and began to tear away chunks of the wall, shoving aside the pain as the sharp, jagged cement cut into her tender hands. She pulled out handful after handful of debris, each one tinged with more red than the one before, the blood coating her fingers making her hands wet and slick. I'm almost there, she kept repeating to herself. Almost there, almost there, almost –
Adam jerked his head up as an unholy, tortured scream pierced the air, sending an icy chill down his spine and making his stomach threaten to loose its meager contents. Jesse was convulsing, his arms and legs flailing in every direction, his eyes rolled back into his head that was still held in Emma's vice-like grip. That's it! This has to stop NOW!
He raced towards the door and out into the hallway, barely noticing that Shalimar was only a step behind him. He keyed in the release code with a shaking hand, and the metal doors snapped open. Stepping into the doorway, he heard the harsh grunts and groans coming from Jesse as he writhed on the bed. He'd only taken two more steps when Jesse's convulsions stopped completely, and he lay still.
Emma pushed in her hand one last time…and then she was through.
An image flooded her mind.
Gaumont. Sophia. Standing in the middle of the road, staring at Jesse/Emma in shock and disbelief. The image unfroze and the memory was played out before her. She couldn't hear what Jesse said, but she saw the faces of the other two people suddenly fill with horror. Then the scene changed – blurred – for a few seconds as a dozen red laser beams connected with Gaumont and Sophia, and they disintegrated before her very eyes.
And then the dark emotions surrounded her, the black formless shapes circling around her hungrily, drawing in closer and closer, until she could reach out and touch them.
And that's exactly what she did.
"I'm not afraid of you. You have no hold over me." She spoke calmly yet forcefully and then reached out and grasped one with both hands. The first one she grabbed was anger. The second, fear. The third, guilt. Each dark shape that she caught allowed her to feel and, more importantly, to understand what was going on in Jesse's chaotic mind. Each shadowy form was a piece of a puzzle that began to take shape. At last, all the pieces came together, and the picture was clear.
She finally understood the reason for the overwhelming guilt that had been plaguing Jesse since that day at the Power Plant, the reason he refused to face what he'd done and felt and had ultimately buried deep in his own mind…the reason he'd nearly died.
It was Gaumont's and Sophia's deaths that haunted him. No, not so much their actual deaths, but the way he felt about them, the emotions surrounding it. When they'd died, Jesse had felt nothing. No revulsion. No pity. No shame. Nothing.
And that was the problem.
It was that lack of feeling that tortured his mind with guilt. Guilt for the way he'd felt, not for what he'd done.
The reality had been too hard for Jesse to face. His naïve, young mind could not accept the way he'd felt about his actions, and he had retreated, blocking – barricading – the memory away.
He feared the memory and the feelings it provoked…but also what his teammates thought about him and the way he'd handled the situation.
"Jesse," she called out into the stormy darkness. "It's okay to feel the way you do. There's nothing wrong with that. Gaumont and Sophia were heartless terrorists. They wouldn't blink at killing millions of people! There was no other way to stop them."
"Do you really believe that, or are you just saying it?"
Emma jumped as the soft voice spoke from behind her and twisted around to see Jesse standing there, his hands folded across his chest, staring at her.
"I mean every word of it, Jesse. I promised you before that I'd always tell you the truth, and I intend to honor that promise. And besides, you can't lie mind to mind. It doesn't work."
Jesse shifted his gaze to the ground, oblivious to the pouring rain that soaked through his white t-shirt and blue jeans and plastered his dark blond hair to his face. He appeared to be deep in thought, mulling over her words, deciding whether or not to believe her. "I didn't feel anything, Emma, when I watched them die. Nothing. It…it was like my body was there, but not my mind or my heart. I felt…numb," he said, his tone lifeless and flat.
"You almost died. You were in shock." She stretched out her hand and tenderly touched his cheek, gently forcing his head up so she could see his eyes. When he finally looked up, her breath caught in her throat at the sight of his blue eyes glistening with tears.
"I keep seeing it – over and over. Emma, please…I just want it to stop," he whispered, a single tear sliding down his left cheek.
Emma couldn't hold back any longer. She wrapped her arms around his wet, shivering body and hugged him tightly, pulling his head down to rest upon her own wet shoulder. He stiffened at her touch at first, but then relaxed and allowed his misery and pain release. She held him close as harsh sobs wracked his body, murmuring words of comfort and rubbing her hand up and down his back to soothe him. "Shhh, it'll be all right…Don't worry, Jesse. I'll help you."
The medical bay was silent and still, the only noise to be heard was the constant beeping of the various monitors situated nearby. Adam stood next to Emma, watching her, ready to break the connection if Jesse went into convulsions a second time. Shalimar was directly across from him at Jesse's side, holding his right hand with both of her own, gazing anxiously down at him, waiting for something – anything – to happen.
And then everything happened at one.
Tears began to stream from beneath Jesse's closed eyelids and down his ashen face, shocking Adam and Shalimar and rendering them speechless. With eyes still closed, he raised both his hands, pressing them against his temples as he rolled over to his left and curled his body up into a shivering, sobbing ball. The abrupt movement snapped Shalimar out of her shock and into motion. She immediately climbed onto the bed and pulled Jesse into her lap, cradling him gently, trying to sooth him.
"Shal…" Emma mumbled, looking over at the blond woman, her wide, glazed, green eyes standing out vividly against her pale skin. "Stay with him." Her mission accomplished, she turned away from the bed with Adam following closely behind, instinctively knowing that she'd pushed herself beyond her limit. She managed to take a few steps away before her shaky legs buckled and she collapsed, too exhausted to go any further, her limp body falling right into Adam's outstretched arms.