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Black Panther and Storm
Mistress of War and Sickness
Chapter 1: Weakened State of Mind
San Francisco, X-Men's Infirmary
"How is she Hank?" T'Challa asked nervously. Before Beast had a chance to answer T'Challa pressed his lips to Ororo's forehead and could feel the heat rising from her body.
"Her heart rate is elevated and steadily rising and her temperature is 110 degrees. The antibiotics I have administered have had little effect on her immune system," answered Dr. McCoy. "She has an unknown parasite that has invaded her body and I am having the most trying time attempting to identify the parasite. All I can ascertain at this moment T'Challa is that in all of my years working with the human body and viruses, I have never come across anything the likes of this." Beast scratched his head in confusion and frustration. There weren't many things in nature or science that could challenge the keen mind of Dr. McCoy but this unknown parasite had bested him, at least for the present.
Keeping his eyes on Ororo T'Challa said, "Send all of your findings to Dr. Umbeke. I have an entire team of the best doctors and researchers at your disposal Hank. Whatever or whoever you need to help you help her is only a phone call away. You only have to ask and I will make it happen."
Beast looked at Ororo and knew that if she wasn't a weather manipulating mutant that she would surely die soon from her elevated temperature. Ororo's body reacted differently to extremes of heat and cold. Temperatures that would harm or kill others, even mutants, didn't have the same deleterious affect on her. It was this constitution he knew that was keeping her alive. He didn't however know how high her temperature would rise before it would impact her brain and body functions and ultimately kill her. He decided to keep this from T'Challa. Beast had to admit that T'Challa probably already came to the same conclusion which is why he summoned Wakanda's best physicians to work in concert with him. Beast also knew that while T'Challa trusted and respected him because he was his wife's dear friend that he felt more comfortable knowing that his own physicians and healers would be intimately involved in Ororo's care. Honestly, if T'Challa could have taken her home he would have done so. But T'Challa knew that in Ororo's condition she may very well not survive the plane ride to Wakanda.
T'Challa sat in the chair next to his wife's bed and gently laced his fingers between hers. He could hear her heart race at an abnormally quick pace as well as her labored breathing. When she breathed now he could hear a slight wheeze as if she was suffering from a small asthma attack. Of course Ororo didn't have asthma or any other common or uncommon illness. Outside of claustrophobia Ororo was a picture of perfect health. That is until today T'Challa thought solemnly.
To look at her now barely able to breath and hooked up to so many machines unable to even control the rising temperature in her own body was enough to make T'Challa drop to the floor in a silent prayer to the Panther God.
Beast quietly slipped out of the room to give the prideful king and loving husband a moment of needed privacy.
"Any updates on Storm's condition?" asked Cyclops as he rounded the corner heading for her room.
Beast held up his massive and hairy arms in front of Cyclops; thus, preventing him from passing and intruding in on the couple. Beast took Cyclops by the shoulders, led him away from the room, and down the dimly lit corridor. Once they were far enough away Beast finally spoke, "I have done everything I can do for Ororo right now Scott and my best isn't enough. I don't know what is wrong with her but I fear the worse." As he spoke the words he was afraid to say to T'Challa he realized that no matter how far he traveled away from Ororo's room that the Black Panther could still hear him if he choose to. He shook his head hoping that T'Challa was too deep in prayer to have heard his despair.
"You're giving up on her?" asked Scott angrily. He continued voice slightly below a yell. "I can't believe what I am hearing here Hank. Ororo is our friend and teammate and we don't give up on our friends. You hear me Hank? I will not lose another friend and I will not allow T'Challa to lose his wife." Running his hands through his hair and shaking his head as if to clear his mind of his own painful past Scott spoke gently and said, "I will not allow another man to lose his wife senselessly if there is anything I can do about it."
Beast understood perfectly and remained silent for a few extra minutes allowing his friend to compose himself and push back long dead demons. "I never give up Scott. I was simply expressing my frustration. Next time I will venture to keep such pessimistic thoughts to myself. I am sorry if I upset you and bid you patience and understanding. When friends and family are involved it is most difficult to remain detached and objective. I must do a better job of containing my emotions before T'Challa's physicians and healers get here."
Scott nodded and asked "How long before they arrive?"
"Seven hours," answered Hank.
"Can we keep her with us until they get here? Is there anything we can do to help her in the interim?" inquired Scott.
"Yes, we can find the person who poisoned her."
Scott turned to his left to see T'Challa only a few feet away. As keen as Scott's senses and combat skills were he never even heard T'Challa approach. That small gesture reminded Scott what a truly dangerous foe the Black Panther could be. While Cyclops would never run from a fight and had defeated more enemies than he could ever remember he gulped and briefly admitted to himself that he was glad T'Challa was on his side.
Beast turned to T'Challa and said, "I agree with your analysis. I thought she may have been poisoned as well but didn't want to state such unfounded suppositions. I have no evidence to support this theory and it would be difficult to move forward with a diagnosis without tangible forensic proof."
Scott looked at the two geniuses and realized he was way out of his league and that he was in for a torturous medical conversation between the two. The only thing that would make this situation more of a geek fest was if Reed Richards was present. Scott walked down the hall towards Ororo's room leaving the men to their all too technical conversation. Scott shook his head and laughed silently. "Leave it to Ororo to marry a guy with brains and brawn."
His mood changed as he entered her room. She seemed so weak and helpless, the opposite of how he knew her to be. He wanted to move closer but his legs wouldn't allow it or was it his fear that wouldn't allow it.
Ororo suddenly sat up and screamed for T'Challa. Her body rose from the sweat stained bed and if not for the quick movement of the Black Panther she would have floated up to the vaulted ceiling pulling the respirator and oxygen machine with her. He grabbed her shaking form and pent her to the bed. He was straddling his wife who was now speaking in an unknown tongue. For all the languages that T'Challa knew both ancient and modern he could not decipher what Ororo was trying to say to him. Her eyes were rolled up in her head and she thrashed about under her husband's strong hands and legs.
She was uncharacteristically strong and started to buck T'Challa off of her. He wanted to hold her firmly but at the same time was afraid of hurting her. Before he had to make the decision to truly restrain his wife, Beast and Cyclops intervened by placing straps from the bed around her ankles and wrists. It was only then that T'Challa felt it safe to release her. He didn't fear for himself but for what she might do to herself.
A strange earth toned voice could be heard from behind the men saying, "She is possessed."
The three men turned around to see Emma standing with a tall dark skinned woman who appeared to be in her mid to late sixties, long white hair pulled back into a braid and a gold and black tunic that hid the rest of her. T'Challa walked to the woman whose dark eyes had seen more years than her body would lead one to believe. She spoke again, "The queen is possessed."
Scott looked at Emma and spoke to her telepathically. "Is this true? Can you look in Storm's mind to tell if what the woman speaks is the truth?"
Before Emma could answer the old woman spoke again. Her voice sounded like nothing Scott or Hank had ever heard. It held a depth and age to it that was beyond her years. "Your telepath will be of no use here mutant."
Emma and Scott winced at the way she said mutant and was taken aback by the fact that she heard him. "How on earth had she heard what I said?" Scott asked himself, realizing too late that she had probably heard that as well.
More concerned with his wife's well being than whether Zuna had offended the trio T'Challa led her to Ororo's bedside and the others followed.
Zuna first looked at Ororo carefully, placed her hand on her forehead and the other on Ororo's heart. She took a deep breath and started what seemed like a chant to the onlookers. Again a foreign language was being spoken and no one knew what was being said, not even T'Challa. Beast started to speak but T'Challa raised his fingers to his lips motioning for him to hold his tongue until Zuna finished with her examination.
T'Challa gestured for Scott, Hank, and Emma to follow him out of the room and into the hallway. Once clear of the room Scott asked angrily, "Who in the hell is she?" T'Challa raised his eyebrows at Scott not liking his tone in the least. Hank sensing the tension between the two men stepped in between them and asked calmly, "Is she a Wakandan witch or priestess T'Challa?"
A long pause and finally T'Challa answered "That is a very simple way of describing her but it will have to suffice."
Having calmed himself from the fright that Zuna's mere presence had raised in him Cyclops spoke. "How old is she and how can she read our minds? What is she doing to Ororo? Can we trust her?" His questions were coming fast and furious now and he didn't know how to stop.
T'Challa turned away from him and looked through the two way glass into Ororo's room. Zuna was still standing beside Ororo with her hands in the same spots, eyes closed, mouth moving rhythmically. Scott tentatively placed his hand on T'Challa's left shoulder and said humbly, "I apologize for my outburst. I don't know what it is about her", pointing to Zuna, "but she doesn't feel quite…. human. There is a coldness or otherworldliness to her. I don't know, I can't explain it," Scott confessed. "She simply feels wrong."
T'Challa rubbed his neck trying to release the tension that had steadily formed there ever since Ororo fell faint with fever five hours ago. "I know the feeling of which you speak Scott. I have known Zuna since I was a child and she hasn't aged a day. I don't know where she lives or where she came from. She simply appears in times of great need and disappears like a mist. She carries darkness within her, I know, but she herself is not dark. She can speak in every language known to man and in languages that man have long since forgotten. I have seen her raise the dead like the Christian's Jesus brought make Lazarus or the Egyptian's Isis bring back Osiris."
Scott started to interrupt but realized that it was more T'Challa had to say about this Zuna.
"She has powers beyond my understanding and the fact that she can read minds is a small feat for her. Almost like breathing for us, second nature." Focusing again on the two women in the room T'Challa noted, "I didn't call for her. I don't even know how to even if I wanted. Someone or something else called for her."
The hallway was silent no one quite knowing what to say or do. Emma finally broke the unbearable silence. "The witch wishes us to rejoin her and commanded me not to try to open Ororo's mind or I would suffer dearly."
"Is she threatening you Emma?" asked Scott.
"Honestly, I believe she is warning me for my own good. Ordinarily I would ignore such unsolicited advice but there was something in her tone that I dare not question. Even the white queen knows when to back down," Emma stated trying to look and sound unfazed by the obvious power of Zuna.
Emma stayed in the hallway as T'Challa, Hank, and Scott walked back into Ororo's room. Zuna turned to them and spoke softly but very clear. "The queen has been possessed by a great and ancient life force. This force is seeking to control the queen and would have done so completely if the queen didn't have such a strong will and mutant abilities. But more importantly Queen Ororo has mystical powers. She comes from a long line of powerful priestesses. She will need all of these powers if she wishes to maintain her mind and body."
"Who is doing this to her?" asked T'Challa still a bit taken aback by Zuna's revelation.
"Her name is of no worth to you but know this-your wife is fighting her. It is because of this fight of wills that Ororo's body is reacting the way that it is. Both of them cannot occupy the same space unless Ororo submits and she will not submit your highness. The question is can Ororo defeat her and if so can she do it before her body rejects them both?"
Hank stepped up and asked, "Is there anything we can do to help her?"
T'Challa already knew the answer and walked away and to his wife's side. She was still strapped to her bed like a caged animal twisting her hands, mouth agape struggling to breathe.
"No, this is her fight and hers alone," echoed Zuna as she disappeared into the light that started to flood the room from the now open bay window.
After Zuna disappeared into the glow of the light Emma entered the room, walked to the window, and started to close it but T'Challa stopped her with his words.
"Leave the window open Emma. In fact open all the windows." He gestured toward Hank and Scott to help. They understood without need of an explanation and simply followed his orders. Emma frowned feeling quite slow and out of the loop. Sensing her unasked question Scott said, "We are giving Storm a fighting chance. Her connection to nature and the electromagnetic force of the earth is her biggest strength. We can't do much for her now but we can do this. We can fill this room with the power of her Bright Lady and then hope."
Emma finally nodded in understanding or at least a better understanding than she had a minute ago and walked briskly from the room in search of all the flowers and plants they had in the building. She remembered Ororo's special connection to them and thought she too could help Storm fight whatever bitch had invaded her body. These thoughts made her stop suddenly in her tracks and relive the moment when she sought to take over Storm's body the same way that the unnamed force was doing now. She shuddered at the person she use to be and how far she and Storm had come over the years. They weren't exactly friends but she knew that Storm would stand by her in her time of need and she would do no less in hers.
The room was now open and bright. A cool autumn breeze filled the room along with the smell of a variety of flowers and plants placed strategically around Ororo's bed. The X-Men stood on the other side of the room looking in through the two way mirror. Only T'Challa remained in the room with Storm. He wished he could fight this battle for her but knew that she had to find her own way back to him. He held her hand and could feel her temperature rising. The monitor blinked 130 degrees. Her body jerked violently, she gasped for air, opened her white glowing eyes and said in Egyptian, "You will not claim me this day Sekhmet."