Scott Summers frowned as he listened to the deliberations of the newly formed governing body of Krakoa. As the leader of the fledgling nation's military forces he was consulted, but he did not have an actual say in the Quiet Council's decisions.
The Quiet Council was anything but quiet. With such paragons of virtue as Apocalypse, Minister Sinister, Mystique, Exodus, Sebastian Shaw, and Magneto among its members, how could it be?
The subject of their discussion this time was the formation of Krakoa's military structure. Xavier and Magneto had called for the appointment of four generals to oversee the defense of the new nation, one to be nominated from each section of the council.
Scott was naturally the first to be nominated by the Autumn section, which consisted of Xavier, Magneto, and Apocalypse. He was Xavier's star pupil and had led mutantkind through some of its darkest periods such as the decimation. Even Magneto had submitted to Cyclops' authority for an extended period. Despite the misgivings some had over his actions over the years, Scott was approved unanimously by the council to be not only the first Great Captain of Krakoa, but to be the Captain Commander, the one to whom the other captains would answer to.
The debates for the other candidates were actual debates. There was some surprise when the Spring section nominated Bishop for a captaincy position. Spring's position on the council was weaker than the others, as it currently consisted of only two members, Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw. The primary cause for concern was Bishop's relationship with Hope, the young mutant who was so important to Krakoa's resurrection protocols. He had attempted to kill her when she was just a baby and chased her across time. While all past crimes would be forgiven on Krakoa, assurances were still needed that he would not interfere with one of Krakoa's most valuable assets.
It was Mystique who ultimately swung the vote in Bishop's favor. She was amused by the fact that he had once shot Xavier in the head and voted to approve him despite the opposition of her fellow members of the Winter section, which had sought to further weaken Frost and Shaw's position.
The Winter section's pick was not much of a shock given the pedigree of its members. Mystique was joined by Mister Sinister and Exodus, forming a trio of the most untrustworthy beings imaginable, beings who would turn on each other for the flimsiest of reasons despite their position in the same section. They selected the mutant criminal Gorgon as their pick.
This choice horrified the final section of the council, Summer. This section consisted of Storm, Nightcrawler, and Jean Grey, three of the noblest mutants to have ever lived. It was already hard for them to agree to sit together with such villains, which they had little choice in. Now they were being asked to sanction the granting of great authority to a man who had done nothing but evil his entire life, who had served Hydra, a fact which gave even Magneto pause.
The debate had gotten heated indeed, with Xavier intervening to point out that in Krakoa people's pasts would not be held against them and that if the candidate could be considered trustworthy now, then the only other consideration was ability. That largely settled the argument, as Gorgon was one of the five smartest beings in the entire nation of Krakoa and his combat skills were legendary. And so, over the objections of Storm, Gorgon was confirmed and became Krakoa's third captain.
Finally came the Summer section's turn to nominate a candidate. The other sections all expected them to nominate someone safe, someone like them.
Jean spoke for the Summer section. "Before we announce our candidate, we would like to hear from our Captain Commander his thoughts on the matter."
Scott stepped forward and addressed the council. "Thank you, Jean."
"Until now you've asked for my input on the candidate's abilities or trustworthiness. But I have not been asked, and I do not believe this has been considered, how these candidates will function alongside myself and each other and how we will all operate as a unit.
"If I am to serve in this position, I need people I know I can work with, people who know how I think. Captains need lieutenants who can anticipate their orders in order to function quickly and efficiently during a crisis."
Scott stepped back, and Jean resumed speaking. "Thank you, Cyclops. We share the Captain Commander's concerns about the ability of the Four Great Captains to function as a unit. We therefore nominate Illyana Rasputin, the mutant known as Magik, to be the final captain."
An air of bewilderment descended upon the council, which had by and large expected a candidate with a purer reputation similar to the reputation of the members of the Summer section. Even Storm and Nightcrawler were surprised. They had agreed to allow him to pick their nominee after he had given them the same argument, trusting in his judgement, but only Jean, who could read his mind, knew who he had chosen.
It was Shaw who spoke first in response to this unexpected choice. "You would put the responsibility of defending this nation in the hands of a child? How old is she, anyway?"
"I doubt even Gorgon could come up with an equation which could answer that question," Sinister said, "and he was able to prove the existence of god with math!"
"Still," he continued, "I share Shaw's concerns. And magic is a volatile ability which I have never liked."
"While she is young, we can all agree that she is no ordinary child," Emma said. "And as the ruler of an entire dimension, great responsibility is hardly new to her."
Scott thanked Emma in his mind. As another telepath and someone who knew Scott as well as Jean, if not moreso, she understood his reasons for this request better than anyone. Moreover, she had seen how Cyclops and Magik worked together in the field many times.
"And how did that go when she lost control of her realm and caused the Inferno?" Shaw asked.
"That was the result of many people's mistakes," Storm said. "She stopped it herself and has grown considerably since then."
"She is your candidate, Ororo," Xavier said. "What do you have to say?"
"I have found Illyana to be extraordinarily reliable," Storm said. "During the terrigen crisis, she was responsible for rescuing mutants across the globe and bringing them to X-Haven. She had to convince each and every one of them herself to take sanctuary with us."
"Kurt?" Xavier asked.
"You know, I pride myself on my versatility," Nightcrawler said. "But I don't even begin to compare to Illyana in that department. In terms of distance, speed, and number of people she can teleport at once she's by far the most versatile teleporter on Krakoa, and that's before we get to all the things she can do with her magic."
"It's true that her ability to transport entire armies instantaneously would be a major asset," Magneto said.
"We know that she's more powerful than most of the people gathered here, maybe more powerful than all of us," Xavier said. "Power is not everything, which is why we have not selected any omega mutants to serve as captains so far. Does she have the leadership qualities we are searching for? I must admit, Scott, that I had expected you to choose Danielle Moonstar for that reason alone."
"Dani is a capable leader," Scott admitted, "but I have much more experience working with Illyana. And Illyana is better at making the tough calls, which is essential in a time of war."
"She has shown considerable skill at both long-term strategizing and at making quick decisions in the heat of battle," Emma pointed out, remembering how Illyana had succeeded in destroying the Elder Gods through careful planning and how she was the only one who seemed to have a clue what to do when they were attacked by a future version of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
Exodus motioned that he wished to speak. "This is all well and good, but what is she first, sorceress or mutant? Where do her loyalties lay?"
Scott smiled. "While her ties to the mystic community are an asset, she has never wavered from her commitment to the mutant cause, whether under my leadership or Storm's."
"Indeed," Storm said. "If there is one thing she has never given us any reason to question it is her devotion to mutantkind."
Exodus smiled. "Very well."
"We seem to have covered everything," Apocalypse said. "The girl is powerful, able, and loyal. I see no reason not to vote on her candidacy now."
Xavier held up his hand. "Wait. I would like to hear from Douglas."
Doug Ramsay, the mutant known as Cypher, who had been sitting in the back on one of Krakoa's branches, almost fell out of his tree. He was an adjunct to the council, there to serve as the voice of the sentient island which was now their home. His own opinion was not given or sought during the council's deliberations.
"Me, professor?" Doug asked.
"You are Illyana's friend and teammate and know her better than most of the council. What do you think of this nomination?"
Doug frowned. "I don't know what to say. I mean, Illyana was always looking out for me when I was with the New Mutants. I guess she thought since she was the strongest person on the team and I was the weakest it was her job to try to protect me. That's all I can really say."
"Thank you, Douglas."
Shaw huffed. "I still say this position should be given to someone older, with more experience."
"What experience can compare with emerging from hell itself?" Apocalypse asked.
"If we are repeating our talking points, then the time has indeed come for a vote," Xavier said. "All in favor of approving Magik's candidacy as the last of our Great Captains?"
Jean and Emma's hands were up before Xavier had finished asking. As the two who understood Scott's reasons the best, they were naturally the most in favor.
Storm and Nightcrawler raised their hands quickly as well. While they were surprised by Scott's choice, they had agreed to support it beforehand and had grown more convinced of its merits as they had defended their section's nominee.
Exodus was the only member of the Winter section to raise his hand after his main concern had been addressed. Sinister's vote was determined by his dislike for sorcery, while Mystique was simply being a contrarian.
With Shaw voting no the motion stood at five votes in favor to three against and fell to the elder statesmen of the Quiet Council.
Magneto and Apocalypse raised their hands, securing Magik's place among the captains. Xavier was slower to raise his hand, but raise it he did.
"The ayes have it," he declared. "We now have our four Great Captains. I congratulate you all on this step towards ensuring that our nation remains secure."
The council dispersed. Apocalypse and Shaw left immediately, the latter in a fit of anger. Scott knew that the real reason he had opposed Illyana's candidacy was because it would strengthen Scott's position both among the other captains and with the council. However he felt about the nation of Krakoa, Shaw would always be concerned first and foremost about himself and his own base of power. Putting Illyana in a position of power would also provide another natural ally for Emma as Shaw attempted to wrest control of the Hellfire Club from her.
Tasks were being delegated at the Autumn section, with Magneto telling Apocalypse to inform Gorgon of his new position.
"I will go find Bishop to inform him of this matter. And you, Charles, can you inform Illyana?"
Xavier nodded. Even with his cerebro helmet hiding his eyes, it was apparent that he was troubled. "While I think it unlikely, we should be prepared for the event one or more of them refuses this responsibility."
Scott approached Xavier, who remained behind as Magneto and Apocalypse left.
"Even now, you still find new ways to surprise me, Scott."
"Professor, you seem … much more troubled than I expected," Scott observed.
"Yes, I suppose I am always troubled when it comes to Illyana."
Scott studied what he could see of his mentor's face. Despite her youth, Illyana was from a time when there were only two relatively small teams at the mansion, the adult X-Men and the trainee team the New Mutants. That was a time when Xavier had been able to develop a close bond with each and every one of his students.
Xavier tried to stay close to the students from those simpler times when he was headmaster and the school did not have so many pupils. While he did not speak to Danielle Moonstar, Sam Guthrie, Roberto Da Costa, Rahne Sinclair, Xi'an Coy Manh, or Amara Aquila often, when he did there were usually many smiles and hugs to be had.
With Illyana Xavier did not seem to make the effort at all, and Scott could only wonder why the prospect of going to her now seemed so difficult for him.
"If you want, I can go talk to Illyana myself. You don't have to do anything you're not comfortable with," he offered.
"Thank you, Scott," Xavier said, "but this is something I should have done a long time ago."
They found Illyana sitting on a small hill in the Sextant, overlooking a game being played between several mutant children. She seemed strangely sad and seemed to be whispering to her soul sword, which was lying on the ground in front of her.
The young sorceress flinched in surprise, having been lost in her one-sided conversation. She turned her head to see the two of them approaching from behind.
"Scott, Professor. What brings you to the sextant?"
"You, actually," Xavier said.
"The council has assigned a job to you."
"And what does the council want from me?"
Xavier looked down. "I am … uncomfortable with asking anything of you, Illyana."
Illyana grimaced as she prepared to hear a lecture about her behavior and how she needed to change.
Xavier sat down next to her. "The truth is, for years now, I have considered you to be my greatest failure."
Illyana winced in anticipation of what she was sure would be Xavier's explanation of how disappointed he was in her.
"I don't think I have ever had a student who I have failed as consistently as I failed you," Xavier said, making Illyana gape at him in surprise.
"I failed to protect you when you were a child, and you were kidnapped twice, the second time to Limbo. When you returned, I did nothing to help you. When you lost so much and had to sacrifice yourself to stop the Inferno, I was off in space. And when you were restored to childhood, I once again failed you, this time resulting in your death.
Illyana and Scott gave each other a sad expression as Xavier continued. "With my other students, be it Scott, Peter, Sam, or Dani, I can look at them and see where I succeeded, where I helped them to realize their potential. With you, all I see is where I didn't help. You got out of Limbo on your own. You ended the Inferno on your own. You decided on your own to seek Dr. Strange's help in controlling your power. When I see your triumphs, I see them not as something I helped you achieve, but as something you achieved in spite of me."
He gave a sad sigh. "And so, I don't feel that I have the right to ask anything of you, not after you suffered so much, and gained so little, because of me."
Illyana looked to the side in thought. This was only the second time they had spoken since Belasco resurrected her as an abomination against god and nature, and was already a significantly longer conversation than their first one.
"There have been times when I resented you for coming to my family's farm and taking Piotr away," she admitted. "That was the start of everything. But it's not true that you never gave me anything."
She smiled at him. "You gave me a purpose. Your dream was something for me to believe in other than myself. It gave me something to fight for and something to live for. Without it, I'd have been even more lost than I already was."
"Maybe you weren't there yourself as much as you should have been, but the ideal of you was always with me," she assured him.
Xavier smiled back at her. "Thank you, Illyana."
Illyana looked down at her sword. "Actually, there is something you can do for me now. Then I'll gladly help with whatever the council wants."
"What do you need?"
Illyana picked up her soul sword and stood up.
"I need help fixing one of my biggest failures."
The five got to work. Goldballs created the egg, while Proteus made it a viable embryo. Hope injected the genetic material while Elixir jump-started the maturation process, which was sped up by Tempus.
The resurrection protocols were what truly separated Krakoa from other nations. No longer would mutants have to fear death. The problem was that so many mutants had been massacred over the years that everyone had loved ones that they wanted to bring back, and the five could only resurrect so many mutants in a single day. Illyana's request had been towards the bottom of the list until now.
Soon the egg was ready to hatch. A hand burst forth from the membrane, and the body of a child emerged.
This young girl, no more than ten years old, was but a husk, a shell with no memories or personality. That part was to be supplied by Xavier himself.
He stood there, holding his hands to the side of his cerebro helmet with an increasingly distraught expression.
"I'm sorry," he told Illyana. "Try as I might, I can't find her backup in cerebro. Perhaps it's because she died in Limbo."
"Don't worry," Illyana assured him. "I've got that part covered,"
Illyana drew her sword and held it over the newly hatched mutant body. She closed her eyes and began chanting words in an ancient, dead language. The soul sword's glow brightened for a moment, as did the husk lying on the ground.
The new mutant blinked and looked up.
Illyana choked back tears as she held her hand out.
"Welcome home, Sapna."
Sapna took Illyana's hand and rose to her feet before embracing Illyana in a big hug.
"Oh thank you, thank you, Illyana! I just knew you'd find a way to bring me back!"
"I couldn't have done it alone," Illyana told her. "It's the five and the professor you should really be thanking."
Sapna was a young mutant Illyana had taken under her wing during the terrigen crisis. Haunted by nightmares, Sapna had run away, becoming ensnared and possessed by an entity called the World Eater which threatened to destroy the planet. Illyana had been forced to slay Sapna in order to save the world, and had been haunted by the girl's phantom ever since.
Scott approached Xavier and they shared a smile at this happy reunion.
"It seems the girl has been living in the soul sword this whole time, waiting to be brought back," Scott observed. "I can't believe Illyana's been carrying that burden all this time."
"Are you sure you want to replace it with yet another burden?" Xavier asked him.
Scott looked at Illyana, who was conjuring a set of clothes for Sapna.
"Don't worry. She'll be fine."
"Krakoa is much better than X-Haven ever was," Illyana explained when they returned to the Sextant. "You can go almost anywhere you want, and there are many other kids for you to play with."
"What about you?" Sapna asked. "You'll come to see me, won't you?"
Illyana smiled. "It looks like I'm going to be very busy, since the old people can't get much done without me. But I'll be living here in the Sextant and I'll come by whenever I can."
"I've got a friend whose powers are very similar to yours. I'll ask him to come help you out when he can as well. Oh, I almost forgot …"
Illyana gestured and summoned a stepping disk, from which emerged a crimson red demon with bat-wings on its back, long horns on top of its head, and yet a surprisingly adorable face.
"Boogers!" Sapna yelled, embracing her pet demon, which was just as happy to see her.
Illyana wiped her eyes as she returned to Scott and Xavier.
"Tell anyone I was crying, and I'll gut you both," she warned.
Both men grinned. "There's the Magik we all know and love," Scott said.
Illyana took a deep breath and slipped into a more serious tone.
"So, what does a Great Captain do, anyway?"