He's Not Normally Like This
Roleplaying Log: He's Not Normally Like This
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

The X-Team and Spoder go off to search for Warren and Alison with the aid of Strange's terrifying portal.

Other Characters Referenced:
IC Date: November 10, 2019
IC Location:
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 11 Nov 2019 15:17
Rating & Warnings:
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits: Lyra = Magneto
Altair = Cyclops
Associated Plots

For good or ill the time has has finally arrived to locate Alison Blaire and Warren Worthington.

As such, Danielle Moonstar, current de-facto leader of the X-Men, has reached out to those she trusts to go on this particular mission.

Carolus, Ghost Spider, Kitty, Jean, Roberto and a few others.

The message was short, sweet and to the point -

"Meet at the morgue and be prepared for anything."

Now that time is here and the team can be found within the confines of the cold and (perhaps) eery morgue. The sense of death hangs heavy within the air of the building and for Danielle Moonstar she turns a blind eye to all the spectors that reside within these hallowed and nearly sacred walls. She herself is dressed in her X-Men uniform, a black affair, with only the extra addition of a cuirass of silver metal overtop said uniform. Her weaponry is typically what she always wears, hunting knife, gun, bow and quiver full of arrows.

Now with her team in place she looks at each and everyone of them, "We need to be prepared for anything. You see something odd call it out. We stay alert and watch our backs."

She's not as eloquent as some X-Men, but what Dani says is spoken from the heart.

"And we bring everyone home."

With that last said she finally looks to Dr. Strange and nods to him.


Kitty has also come dressed for the occasion. In her Shadowcat outfit, she has a sword at her hip as well as a sturdy bag that is slung crossbody. It has some field supplies as she is much on the same page as Dani: be prepared for anything. Lockheed is along for this ride, wrapped around her shoulders like a scaly purple shawl, though his head is alert and he looks about with a certain sort of intensity.

Though she cannot see specters or ghosts, the morgue has something of an atmosphere that she attempts to ignore. The people she's interested in are alive and she is keen to ensure the remain that way.

"This probably isn't the time for the, 'I don't see anything odd, yet, but there's definitely something Strange here', right?" she mutters to Dani just loud enough to be heard, but not truly a comment.


Atlas is /also/ suited up, and arrived more-or-less simultaneous with Moonstar. His equipment consists of a satchel probably filled with some supplies to supplement his ludicrous caloric needs in a pinch, some medical necessities, a fixed-blade utility knife, and… a ballistic shield? He's never been much of an 'actual weapon' sort of person, as much as he has been known to improvise with things that people try to use on him in the field. His body can produce enough force that, really, he doesn't actually have much of a need for one most of the time.

He makes a mental note to see whether or not he can get a sturdier defensive option later. The Shi'ar Empire makes some pretty good stuff, and he's certain that he can come up with a shield that's a lot less… normal-person-usage if he spends a little time on it. But this is what he could get on short notice.

Although he made a point of resting up as best he could, he's still a bit out of it. Not because he's tired as such, but because he's currently hosting a piece of somebody else that doesn't really belong. While he's waiting for the others to show up he leans sideways against a doorway, eyes shut.

"I suspect that the majority of what we will be dealing with for the immediate future will be considered odd." He says, opening his eyes.

His attention turns towards Kitty, who he waves his auxiliary left hand at in a gesture of faux-dismissal, "The best time for wordplay is when it's a bad time for wordplay. If we only expressed ourselves in the good times, we'd be in trouble."

"I don't suppose you're carrying a galaxy for us, are you?" He wonders, jokingly.


«You should probably save it for when we're on the other side,» Phoenix 'quietly' suggests.

«The network is online.»

For the first time in months, green and gold cling jealously to the psychic's form. Red waves and a few feet worth of shimmering, golden sash gently flutter on a pseudonatural breeze centered around her. In the immediate aftermath of Warren's injury, Jean made sure to find all the student intake/egress cases she could handle so that the space between visits was too full for dwelling on what went wrong — on what could have been done better.

And then he died. Then they died, and Jean - primarily residing outside of the Institute thanks to legally-motivated paranoia - appeared on the doorstep, bag in hand and ready to — claim a dorm room, and vanish.

«I never had the opportunity to ask: is there a time difference? Do we know how we're getting back

Several days and one visit from Emma Frost later, she's been looking for all the clues to the truth behind Warren and Allison's disappearance she can find, because God help her if she goes back to dwelling on what was done to them — and how, exactly, it could be made right.

«Do we know where they are, there?»


The really weird part is that there's nobody there.

Usually you would expect there to be, it's not like working the morgue is a regular nine to five job. Sooner or later somebody's gotta work the, eh, graveyard shift. But when the X-Men and their associates arrive, there's simply nobody around to see them. Nobody around for them to see.

Except for the Doctor they've come to meet, anyway.

Strange hardly looks like he spent a good chunk of the previous night bleeding from parts of his head that you generally don't want blood to come out of: He looks hale and hearty, which can actually be attributed to a good night's rest, a shower, and a breakfast that would turn a goat's stomach. When they do arrive and gather, the Sorceror Supreme's grey eyes track over the group consideringly, though he doesn't share whatever assessment he's made privately.

"You'll need this," he says instead, offering an amulet towards whichever unlucky mutant is closest; a silvery cage of filigree around a red gemstone. "When you're ready to return, break this. It'll act as a kind of interdimensional signal flare. I'll open up a pathway back as quickly as I'm able."

Which is probably not the most reassuring thing they've ever heard, but that's magic for you. As Moonstar, Atlas and Ghost Spider saw firsthand the previous evening, this sort of thing isn't exactly a walk in the park.

Strange settles himself onto one of the slabs, legs crossed and eyes closed, his hands stretched out in front of him; something starts to… Happen, those present in the room feeling the curious sensation of reality bending slightly, starting to warp and stretch, and the even more curious sensation that they're bending, warping and stretching with it. Tiny sparks gutter to life in the air in one corner of the morgue, the corner Doctor Strange is facing, the wizard muttering under his breath as he invokes by forgotten gods, by devils whose names are best left unheard. The air starts to turn, starts to burn around the edges of a twist in space and time, those sparks dancing like fireflies as something like red fog begins to seep in through the growing portal.

And as it start to open, Carolus would feel something inside of himself yank towards it.

"The Bleed is dangerous, but you have a path," says the Sorceror Supreme, strain evident faintly in his voice. "Stay close to Atlas, and do not stray. I'll hold the pathway open as long as I can, but I'd advise a certain level of haste."

Because on the other side of that portal is… Red. The Bleed, the stuff in which universes float, the primordial quintessence from which they're forged, stretching out and out and out into infinity. And a second circle of light, a second portal, visible beyond. Close enough that it'll be like walking down a hallway. Distant enough that it's an eternity away.


Arriving at the appointed place and appointed time after swinging back to her new hideout for a shower and a curl-up-and-cry-a-lot-and-maybe-eat-corndogs, Ghost Spider is quiet. Perhaps unnatural for those that know her, perhaps entirely understandable for Danielle and Carolus.

She wears the same costume as ever, but added to it is a mint green backpack that appears both 'bought new' - it's still starchy and stiff - and also looks like cheap garbage she got a Dollar General (she got it at a gas station convenience store). It's packed with… sssomething bulky, but Ghost Spider wears it like its weightless. She has larger concerns than the bulk of her crappy bag.

"Woah, uh, is she OK?" Ghost Spider asks, lenses popping at the golden fire lady that is Jean Grey. "Or is that, uh, normal? Sorry, no, that's a stupid question, we're about to jump through a portal to the Suck Dimension, The Dimension That Sucks, and homegirl has been powering up to defeat Lord Suckington, The Sucklord."

She extends a hand, fingers splayed in a 'shake me' orientation, to Jean. "Ghost Spider."

Kitty gets a two finger wave. "Are you also ready for the Big Suck? You look ready. I'm not ready, but let's get it done."

Strange elbows in, weilding a necklace. Sticky fingers reach out to snatch it - perhaps unwisely - and loop her fingers around the amulet's chain. "How hard is it to break? Like, throw it against the ground, crush it like an aluminum can, crack it open…?"

She trails off. Her wavering, nervousness-under-quipping-bravado-she-doesn't-actually-feel gives all the cues one would need to suss out her emotions on this broad subject without need for any psychic powers: She'd rather not be here! But she's here.


"Beside the good doctor?" Dani murmurs back to Kitty's question about the strangeness of the area, "Yup, there is."

Then her gaze strays over to Carolus and the Cheyenne considers the young man for a silent moment. There's worry in that silence of Dani's, but that worry is quickly tucked behind a stoic expression when he opens his eyes and speaks.

Those psychic words of Jean's cause Moonstar to look to the green and gold clad woman, and then it's over to Ghost Spider. Concern once more lurks in Moonstar's brown eyes, but then as the portals open the Cheyenne woman tucks all she currently feels away.

"We'll move as quickly as possible." The black-haired woman promises to Strange, "And hopefully be back before anyone misses us."

"Let's move out." She says to the group at large and while she takes a step towards the doorway towards that field of red, towards The Bleed, Moonstar pauses long enough for Carolus to take co-point with her.


The other mutants are given nods of acknowledgements from Kitty, Gwen - though not a mutant - is given a similarly friendly greeting. Doctor Strange is studied with a curious look up and down much in a similar manner with which he assess them. Her own observations are only met with a double thumbs up on the interdimensional debrief that they are given. "Make sure your tray tables are in their upright and locked position, got it."

Carolus gets a bit of a smirk and a nod. "Plus, it's less fun to quip at appropriate times than inappropriate ones." Patting her bag, she gives a shrug of her shoulders. Lockheed shifts to ensure that he remains perched where he is. "This? This is just a bag filled with treats for Lockheed and breadcrumbs. Also rope, because you never know when a coil of rope comes in handy." Clearly she's played enough D&D to know the vital travel packs.

The question Jean asks of exact location gets a shake of her head. "No," she replies verbally rather than telepathically. "At least I don't. But, they're there and so we're going to go get them."

To Gwen, she raises an eyebrow and grins. "Are we really calling it the Big Suck?" To Dani, she adds, "That's not going in the official X-Men report, right?"

And then, her demeanor shifts, moving into something more fit for the occasion, squaring her shoulders, a hand rests on the sword at her hip and the other on the strap of her bag as she moves in close to Dani and Carolus and then moves toward 'The Big Suck.'


« Doctor Strange didn't warn us about temporal issues, so I assume that it is either completely unavoidable and we shouldn't worry about it, or it isn't a concern. » Atlas thinks back towards Jean, assuming based on her 'network' broadcast that they're currently being looped together anyway.

« 'Where' exactly, no. 'Where' broadly, yes. I can find Warren at least, but we've got an outer time limit of around three weeks. Actually… de-network me if anybody starts feeling anything particularly weird rooted in me, would you? I'm currently sort of direct wired to Warren's presence. »

Atlas observes Strange's actions on the slab— the sounds he's making, the burning in the air. He's transparently fascinated, until the burning rift in reality opens and he loses orientation. He staggers towards it as if the room had been abruptly tilted wholesale, with the portal lying 'downhill' from him. His wings buzz violently and right him again, but the way he situates himself offers the notion that he's resisting something akin to a gravity well.

Is it physically real force, he wonders?

Does it matter?

"What?" He looks towards Ghost Spider, and then towards Jean. He blinks rapidly at her, and then looks away. Can't get pulled in by the lights. He explains, "Some of us have that sort of stuff going on. Tapping into energy fields and stuff. It's… pretty varied."

Moonstar pauses her advancement, and Carolus ceases to resist the strange, potentially imagined gravity of the portal. He probably passes through too fast, but it doesn't seem to be intentional. As he buzzes past, he replies to Kitty, "Only if you get the timing right. Yours was pretty spot-on. She's right, by the way. We got a preview of this. It sucked."


Until the portal opens, it's just (vivid) hair and (shimmery) fabric dancing on psychokinetic waves like they're on the set of an incredibly morbid(/artsy) music video.

But on the other side of that portal is the Bleed—

— the universal Superflow—

— the primal churn cradling the universe—

— the vital stuff of Life itself.

Phoenix's spine goes rigid and she draws a sharp breath through her nostrils until the opening to beyond is fully dilated. Gold opera gloves clench tight while threads of fire—

real fire, warm and channeled from something older than stars—

— weave from her crown and spine, swirling tight against her body and churning vigorously for a several seconds before settling over her head and sagging shoulders like a burning shroud.

«Phoenix,» she 'murmurs' in response, gripping Gwen's hand tightly without quite shaking it. A few slim tendrils of fire graze Ghost Spider's forearm like curious, unburning fingers; green eyes slowly rove over the arachnid while they're bound,

and so do the faintly twinkling points just above Phoenix's skull, set back from the flickering point — beak? — stretching past her brow and shading her face. — maybe. Maybe they rove; the sense of it's there, but those points don't move, exactly.

At least her hand's pleasantly, perpetually warm until they separate.

«What kind of dimension is this?» she wonders, even as her boots lift a foot off the ground and she propels herself forward, through the portal.

As if it matters what kind of dimension it is, anyway, when she already knows who's on the other side.


"There's a lot of people with names you have to stretch for. But you, Phoenix?"

Lenses pop at the flame working up her arm at the not-quite-a-shake. "You really picked one that pops."

This helps Gwen. 'All' she has is every informed power applying the word "Spider" and then a hyphen before it and some other word. A psychic juggernaut on celestial fire talking rather cordially and quietly directly into her head like it is Not One Single 'Thang' is entirely different!

The portal is opened, and Gwen gives one last look to Stephen Strange. "So this isn't going to that other place, this time? Second moth to the right and straight on till morning? Got it."

"And yes!" Ghost Spider declares, to the QUESTIONING HATERS.

"This is offically, put-it-on-your-report, the Big Suck. When discount Lucifer or whatever is asking whose idea it was to name his dimension of carnage 'the big suck', it was definitely Carolus' idea."

The 'lets go' overture is repeated, and Gwen nods firmly. "Ready whenever."


What kind of dimension is it?

The place Moonstar, Carolus and Gwen had gone to the night before was a place of dark nothing, until they became aware of all the terrible dwellers in that darkness. This place, the Bleed, was full of light. The light seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere, and all around them was slowly churning red, like diving through bloody mist. But ahead of them was the way out, even as the way behind them seemed to shrink. As long as they followed Carolus, and did not stray from the path, such as it was.

There were no teeth, no voices here, just a primordial chaos. Not the hungry dark, but forces that could grind them into dust, into paste, if they took a wrong step.

Strange watches them go, which is no mean feat for a man with his eyes closed. But his mystic eye, his third eye, is wide open as he watches those bright lights travel through the Bleed. Perhaps, he thinks, he should've gone with them, though he's not sure they'd have welcomed the assistance after the previous night's escapade. Instead, he'll have to keep watch from this side, and hopefully they don't try to signal him when he's waging a dance battle for the fate of the universe, or something.

The traverse seems to take half an hour, or maybe it was two seconds, or maybe it was a hundred years; it's honestly hard to tell in this place, hard to differentiate time, or distance, or direction, or anything, but that tiny bit of Warren Worthington's soul swallowed by Carolus is a compass, a lodestone drawing him unerringly to the other side of the portal. Drawing him to cross the threshold, once he gets there.

And then…


The team's first virgin step into another world put them ankle-deep in fallen ash. The wind whips through the broken buildings of New York with a cold unnatural for this time of year; the sun is blotted out, after all, and its warmth does not penetrate far through the smoke and clouding debris.

Of first concern, however — the dimensional sickness. This reality knows they do not belong, and there are a few harrowing moments when everyone feels the world itself try to reject them. Some more strongly than others, if they have counterparts in this particular universe. The harsh winter in Dani's soul, in particular, flares briefly, resonating with the sudden existence of an unchecked replica pool of energy.

The impact is worst for Jean Grey. There is a painful moment where her connection to the Phoenix strains, and stretches, and spools out infinitely thin, wavering in a million different directions… and then snaps, untethering from her and whipping away like a rubber band recoiling to some different anchor point.

At the least, they are alone for now, standing in what used to be a park of midtown Manhattan. As luck(?) would have it, the buildings are so leveled that one can look up, get a clear sight line of the sky…

…and see, in the far distance to the north, the glint of wan light off a winged shape in the sky.

The internal compass within Carolus tugs insistently, in exactly that direction.

The destruction of New York City ended hours ago, but the ashes are still falling from the sky. It would have made flying hard, before. Now, the debris merely sheds off the backs of his wings.

Death remembers this flight path. (No… I do.)
Death has flown it before many times, drifting on hot currents of rising air, the wan sun at his back throwing his winged shadow across the cityscape. (…My shadow is all wrong.)
Death is flying it one last time, and this time the thermals rise from red-hot pavement that has been blasted by the equivalent force of a nuclear detonation. (Was I here for this? Me?)

The winds are different from what he remembers, though. They are harsher, more erratic, rising sharply in eddies and swirls from broken skyscrapers which have been shorn neatly in half. As if by a great, aerial blade…

Death dips a silver wing and circles, scribing a vulture's hungry, waiting gyre over the cracked bones of New York City. Far below, mutant forces follow in his wake, looking up to follow the flag of his winged shape.

They are looking for survivors — or resistance. So far, they have found neither.


There's a little side-eye from Dani to Kitty, "We aren't calling it that."

Even if it is true, she thinks. Hopefully that's not picked up via the Phoenix-Force-Network; which we'll just call it PFN for short. As for the naming of that dark realm, it doesn't really matters per se as Carolus and Gwen each individually verify that suckiness of it.

Then Carolus is off like a shot and Moonstar does the next logical thing in this sort of situation, she runs after the winged-man.

« Don't chase anything that isn't Carolus. » Moonstar advises as she runs after the winged man, « There might be things here that we don't want to get tangled up in. »

Then the journey continues and whether it takes a second, a moment, an hour, days, or a lifetime, the group makes their way over to that second portal and across its threshold.

For Dani, as soon as she steps foot into that new realm there's a moment of dissidence within her soul. It causes her steps to turn to staggers, as she seemingly trips through that ankle deep ash. She flings out both her hands for balance, not that there's anything to grab upon, but she still strives not to pitch over, or fall to her knees into said ash.

Over her form the vague outline of a ragged bear-shaped cloak might be seen and while it strives to materalize around the woman's form, it (thankfully) doesn't quite fully manifest.

With her stagger Moonstar likewise can't quite stop the harsh gasp that escapes her, as she mutters, "Spirits."

She needs a moment to re-center herself, to re-focus herself from the feel of that familiar demonic energy, but already the feel of this world begins to push at the edges of her senses.

Of terrible loss, but more importantly of Death.


The group steps forward and for a moment Kitty is awash in a sense of horror and disorientation. It feels as every single piece of her rebels against this action they have taken. Her hands grip tighter on hilt and strap and she takes a deep breath in order to steady herself. This only causes her to cough, painfully as she breathes in ash and cold. It's Lockheed's claws that tighten on the shoulders of her uniform that bring her out of it. All in all, it was moments, but it certainly felt longer. "Everyone okay?"

Straightening, she looks around and upward. It's easy to see the winged form, silver against the darkened sky. She also looks around her. This is Manhattan, but something has clearly gone wrong here.

Frowning, she looks toward Carolus to see where he will start to lead them, though a part of her is quite sure of their destination.

"…where is everyone?" she asks as she takes in the desolation.


« The last place I went was extradimensional bedrock. » Atlas replies to Jean, uncertainly. He doesn't really know what to expect of the Bleed, and she can probably tell even as they pass through into it. He relaxes considerably after arrival there, apparently having expected something /much/ worse. This doesn't take him off-guard, though. He's still keenly aware that he's traveling by magic, and that there are certain rules you have to obey to stay safe there.

For a relative value of safe. Straying from your path is the last thing you want to do in these circumstances. That's how you end up with a Nemesis. Carolus really doesn't need negative xerox Carolus running around out there busily trying to destroy him.

"The second moth to the right, shines in the night for you~" He plays off of Ghost Spider's joke easily, though it's more out of nervousness than anything else.

As they go, he unfurls a line of silk from the palm of his hand, allowing it to trail away and behind him for others to grab onto if they want to be absolutely certain. Atlas does indeed understand the value of a length of rope, and this is why. You can find a lot of uses for it if you can just get it on-demand like this.

The dimensional sickness he experiences isn't the worst. Whether by resistance of what presently transpires or by meeting the fate that Carolus Sinclair suspects he might in his own, he is simply an absence. The thin line that stretches between himself and 'Death' helps stabilize him, albeit in an altogether uncomfortable sort of way in and of itself.

He stops and drops to the ground, ash bursting up around his feet as he lands with some force. The line has some slack in it now, but Atlas is still having a little trouble keeping his feet. He stands as if the ground was slanted in entirely the wrong way, and recoils not merely at the sight of things but at all of the particulate in the air.

Carolus terminates the line of silk being produced at the palm of one of his hands, and reels it in to wrap around the strap of his satchel. After a moment of unsteady swaying, he picks out a stable-looking piece of debris and seats himself on the edge of it, raising a hand to his temple and issuing the sort of sigh-grunt of somebody having issues.

"He's there," His auxiliary left arm points towards the northerly figure in the sky, "and so is everyone else. There's not… there's not that many people here. I can't smell many, and there's so much garbage in the air…"

"Flying conditions are tricky here, but I could handle them. How do you want to play this?" He asks Moonstar.


Going to other dimensions is always a head-trip, but each time she had been guided by something. Once, 'destiny' - or 'need', she wasn't sure - and the certainty of her sixth sense. Once, by the Sorcerer Supreme.

This time, by the soul of a dead man swallowed by a moth.

The throb in her head that had accompanied dimension travel wasn't as overbearing as having gone down to Existential Bedrock, and she was only a LITTLE 'all of the light'-blind when she staggered out into…

Ash.

"This… this is New York, isn't it? Everything's gone."

"Is everyone OK? I really don't think we should split up, so… Can you find him, Carolus?"

With a sigh that turns into a quick hacking cough, Gwen points up. "Don't forget to look up, everyone. It's the most common reason people miss me swinging around."


«It kinda chose me,» the telepath replied with — it's almost a smile. Almost. «But thank you.»

But that was before the crossing, when polite replies and smiles were still in the dialogue tree. Before

(Life abounds;)

all the options were swapped with resonant, distorted notes warbling through narrowly cracked lips, wordless and nostalgic.

(death looms at your back,)

Sanguine mist keeps the flames draped over her shoulders fluttering— flaring, slowly but surely,

(and still,)

until it's billowing out behind her.

(still,)

She doesn't stray from the path, but she never watches it, either; not when there's so much to behold.

(still,)

Not when raw creation and destruction churn so tantalizingly near.

(denial reigns. Shame runs rampant; love…)

Jean finds herself a little more than ankle deep on the other side: half an hour, two seconds, or a hundred years later, the redhead crumples to her hands and knees, casting ash into the air around her. Trembling fingers squeeze handfuls of debris,

(Do you, still?)

while green eyes widen through a swift dawning and and a burning cloak becomes a spiralling galaxy of fire,

(will you…?)

a swirling, throbbing conflagration wholly contained to the space immediately around her — until it implodes inwards, vanishing in a final, bright flare.

Jean's frantically shaking her head while her eyes dart all around the wreckage and a final whisper fades into blackened silence.

"She's gone," the redhead whispers to herself a few seconds later, trembling as her gaze falls into the ashes.

"She's— "

— gone. Jean's gone, leaving a dark gray cloud and magenta haze where she was just crouched.

Gone north, racing towards the only wings shining in the sky. Terror and relief and shock and abandonment briefly swell beyond the bounds of her psyche, scouring the network for a beat until she manages to drop a stiff shutter between herself and the group.


As the team 'settles,' more firmly, into existence in this new dimension…

That distant winged shape stutters visibly in the air, even as they discuss what their play will be. Its graceful flight arrests, and it starts to fall. Soon enough, sight of it is lost even behind the comparatively low, sawn-off tops of the buildings.

There is silence, as the ash falls. And then attuned danger senses, psychic awarenesses… they all start to scream.

In the distance, there is a sound like the shriek of a high wind being forced between ten thousand steel blades.

Half a moment later, one of the few reasonably-intact buildings left, a few miles north of their current position up the avenue, is half-shorn through by something traveling at least at several hundred miles an hour. It's hard to see what it is; both because of its speed, and because of the very immediate problem that it's descending directly towards Carolus with clearly murderous intent.

Death has only one thing on his mind right now, and it's his missing soul-shred.


Where is everyone.

Such an innocent question from Kitty and Moonstar knows the answers.

She feels all those souls that are nearby. So. Many. Of. Them.

It causes Moonstar's gaze to turn unfocused as those souls crowd within the area, their confusion, anger, despair, all of it palpable to the Valkyrie. Nonetheless, Moonstar does turn to Kitty with the answers she has, "Dead. They're dead."

The questions from Carolus and Gwen help to further focus Moonstar, thankfully. It's what allows the Cheyenne to straighten away from those lost souls and begin to issue commands, "Ghost Spider is correct. We aren't splitting up."

"We find cover first." Moonstar continues, even as her gaze rises upward when Carolus points in the general direction of the figure in the sky. It's enough that Moonstar squints at it, her expression grim, "Then once we're secured we approach Warren carefully."

"Jean can you scan the -" And that's when Dani turns her gaze to Jean and realizes that the telepath has fallen. Moonstar begins to step forward to offer help, assistance.

Only that motion never really completes, not when Jean abruptly leaves and likewise shuts down the PFN between the group.

"No, wait!"

But too late, Jean's already gone.

"Fuck." Moonstar can't lament long, not when the Valkyrie within her screams about death approaching.

She hears that scream of wind and metal and sees the destruction of that semi-intact building, "Incoming! /Everyone/ move now."


The decision is simultaneously made for them to /not/ split the party aaaaand Jean Grey abruptly leaves the party. Atlas stares after the retreating psychic woman for a moment before he gets to his feet. The line between himself and Warren continues to gain slack as he approaches, and it doesn't take special senses to detect that he's doing it in a uniquely destructive breakneck way that can't possibly be interpreted as anything except hostile. He wonders if that's a side-effect, or if Warren is simply more than moderately out of his mind.

He glances between the people remaining.

"None of the environment left is sturdy enough to handle somebody barreling through skyscrapers. Getting on cuttable terrain isn't useful. Moonstar, Spooky, get off to the sides, he's beelining for me. Kitty, I need you to phase me with you and let him come to us." Atlas says, moving to Kitty's left side and laying a hand on her shoulder. It takes him a too much effort to get around, and it's more than a little strange he's not using his wings to do it.


Dead. Of course they're all dead. They never go to an alternate universe where everyone is happy and it's Taco Tuesday every day. It's always the universes where everyone is dead or the floors are all blood.

Dani's words bounce off of Kitty like stones. It hurts, but they have other things they have to do. The first pressing problem is Jean, who flies off in a magenta haze. Kitty looks to Lockheed and the little dragon looks as if the pair have the same idea. His wings unfurl until Dani makes the panicked proclamation of 'Incoming!'

Gwen's advise to look up is quickly followed and Kitty does what she does best: defense. Reaching out, she is quick to attempt a grab onto Carolus and Dani nearby. However, she only has so many hands. "Grab on!"

There's a moment of a side smile for Carolus as she tells him, "Great minds and all that!" The command for Gwen and Dani to head for the sides is met with a look to Dani. She'll allow the other woman to decide if she'll stay phased with them or go, but either way, Lockheed is quick to shift from Kitty's shoulders. He'll follow Dani, while trying to ensure he won't get in the way of her bow.


"Right. Ok. Let's just follow Carolus, he'll lead us to Warren, I spike the amulet, and Doctor Badplace pulls us through a third, yet worse dimension on our way back. We'll bond over ice cream and lo-fi hip-hop to unwind." Gwen plans out, as Jean has her…

Moment. "Hey, are you o-" blip.

"I am absolutely, one hundred percent certain that we agreed on the buddy system before she tel-" Time ceases for Gwen, as her perception fills with flashes of chrome and the screaming sound of death-dying-GETOUTOFTHEWAY right down center court of the destroyed New York street. Carolus is halfway to telling Ghost Spider what to do as she's already well clear of the path of the death, casting out a hand to spray a fan of web-line at a nearby shattered streetlight and creating a wide net over the path.

Holding the line with one hand, both feet pointed, having lept all the way from 'on the street, next to Atlas and the party' to 'on the side of a building, on the entire opposite side of the street, shouting back at him'.

"WHAT? Sorry! You should move!!! You should all move!"

Thanks, Ghost Spider. A true hero of the obvious.


That descending figure arcs its path at the last moment, to level off right at Carolus-height. The hastily-constructed web net is shorn through in a gnashing of techno-organic blades. Talons rake forward to attempt to sink into the young mutant's body, to grip and carry him off —

— and instead Death blows straight through Carolus and Kitty alike in a shriek of techno-organic steel and shredded air. The lack of expected impact sends him into a brief few moments of uncontrolled flight, before he spins adroitly in the air to face the assembled group again. That aerial grace is strikingly familiar to anyone who's known Warren Worthington for any length of time, though that familiarity perhaps just makes the dissonance of his current state all the worse. Warren was never able to move with this much speed and force before. Warren was never able to shear through solid steel and concrete before.

Warren never looked the way this creature looks now. Though his figure is sheathed completely in blue-black armor, enough of his features are exposed to be recognized. Little about them changed, after all, other than the fact that his skin now shades the same dead-corpse blue as his armor, and his fixed eyes gleam a furious white-hot silver.

And his wings —

He has wings again, fanned out full-spread to either side of him as he hangs fifty feet in the air in a slow-beating hover. Twenty feet of gleaming, steel blades, shaped and scribed into the form and pattern of feathers.

If there is recognition to be had in him for anyone before him, it's not there in his face now. There isn't anything in those beautiful ruined features, except the cold head-tilted stare of a shrike gauging an insect to be impaled.

"You have something of mine," Death says, using Warren's voice. His talons curl, as he starts a slow aerial circle around the phased Carolus and Kitty. "Give him to me… and I won't kill the ones you can't touch."


Dani is already in the process of moving and she only moves faster at Ghost Spider's warning.

"Get him to safety!" The Cheyenne directs to Kitty and Carolus, "We'll distract."

The addition of Lockheed nearby would typically prompt a smile from Dani, but there are other things taking precedence right this moment.

Dani keeps her attention upon the battle - yes battle - at hand, as the thing rips right through Gwen's web.

Swear words are on the tip of her tongue, but aren't vocalized not when finally she sees the creature that's come upon them. Or rather, the man.

The face is familiar, the voice too, but everything else - the armor, the eyes and those wings are not.

And while there's joy upon seeing Warren actually alive and flying, there's also shock and confusion.

What's happened to their friend? Where did those wings come from? And while all those questions of Moonstar's need to be answered, right now they need to survive this particular meeting first.

So, with gaze focused upon the circling Warren, Moonstar purposely steps forward. "Warren." Yes, she's going to try words first as she speaks his name, "We've come to take you home. Where's Alison?"


Atlas nods towards Kitty, "Thank you, and sorry to impose. I wasn't certain if it was practical for you to phase everyone, and… well, I'll explain later." He actually wanted two people free because he was confident that they could put up a good fight against this guy, and spreading his attention out all over the place would be to their advantage in the short-term at least.

His attention, but not his gaze, turns towards Ghost Spider's scent. It wasn't his instructions that prompted it, but he's perfectly pleased that she goes and does what he says.

It's not until the arrival of Death that he stops focusing on the people around him in one form or another. Was it the right call to spread them out like this? He's not entirely certain. If those mutants beneath Warren earlier were any indication, it probably doesn't matter all that much. He probably has backup.

Probably… probably has back-up.

Brown eyes flick to the figure of Death as he approaches. His expression is reproachful, and even as what is meant to be a terrible — perhaps fatal — attack closes in he makes a point of making eye contact. Atlas doesn't really think he has the strength to fight, but he's confident in Kitty's abilities.

Death circles the pair of them.

"You can't hurt me without hurting yourself," Carolus lies point-blank, though for all he knows it might be true, "that's part of the sympathetic magic we used to come find you. The downside for me is that it's going to drive me crazy in about two weeks, so all you have to do is run down the clock. I assume that I will probably become a little bit too much you."

For some reason, he shuts his eyes and closes both right hands around Kitty's wrist and forearm.


Kitty looks to Carolus and then back at Warren. While the moth keeps a hand on her, she reaches out and places her hand on his add just a little more security to their position. She's not going to let Death take him, not by a longshot.

The armored and knived Warren is met with a deep inhale. While phased, the air doesn't feel quite so filled with ash. Dani's question is met with a firm nod. "We came to help you and Ali, because that's what teams do. This isn't you, Warren. Please, stop this."

The order to take Carolus to safety is met with a slow footstep backward. No sudden movements with birds of prey, that she knows for a fact. She's extremely careful to ensure that Carolus remains in her grasp. Softly, to him, she adds, "Mayyybe don't tell him how to defeat you, hm?" She has no idea if he's lying or not, she has no idea about this part of the rescue mission.


Many here - in fact, everyone here from Xavier's institute - has been touched in some way by Warren Worthington. His smile, his guidance, his leadership, his presence, his comraderie.

Except Gwendolyine Stacy AKA Ghost Spider, who has Literally No Idea the dude with five foot swords for feathers and coming in hot and hard in steel blue (or Grimace Purple, it's hard to tell in this lighting).

Pulling her web-net taught from her position on the side, Ghost Spider yanks a whole mess of sticky high-tensile material into Death's direct path as he crashes towards Kitty and Carolus.

"Hey, tall dark and lethal!" Gwen shouts, leaping off her perch with a mighty leap, bicycle-kicking down right for Definitely-Absolutely-Not-Warren's head and—

Aborting the kick with a tumble and a spray of web to yank herself off course, bouncing on her shoulder and popping up into a crouch.

"THAT'S THE GUY?!??!" Gwen shouts, despite herself, lenses popped out as far as they can go with one hand gesturing at Death with every ounce of 'REALLY?' she can muster one-handed and masked.

"He looks extra killy for an X-Man! Is this the one that goes 'bub'? Atlas told me about the Canadian swords-for-knuckles guy. He didn't say he had wings, too! Is this your Fastball Special? The murder swoop?!"

"Webs, this guy nearly decapitated us all, that's a murderball special at-MINIMUM!"


Aerial grace…

… majestic wings…

… violently stripped features…

… and all Jean sees is something between she and Her— worse still, something between she and Her that would reduce she and everyone around her to a fine, red and gray spray, given an opportunity.

The psychic stops on a dime when Death roars past her, and magenta streaks out behind her, marking the sharp angles of her pursuit vector. Lacking his inborne proclivities, she's always had to rely on practice, practice, and more practice to hone her airborne maneuvering; years of it have made her an adroit flier in her own right, but his sheer fluidity combined with screaming velocity mean that she's firmly in his wake while he threatens Carolus. Practice only goes so far— and anyway, she's distracted.

There's a cold, dark hole at the center of her being; focusing on anything beyond that is nigh-on miraculous.

Death might speak in Warren's voice, but none of what he says is Warren, so the,

«NO,»

she tries to drive into his consciousness is more of a tractor trailer loaded with C4 than a suggestion. More of a booming, nerve-searing imperative etched in magenta that arcs from one crown to another than a plea.

«**ST— **»

But as she booms, others talk, so—

"— warren?" barely passes her lips while psionic energy still sizzles in the air.


Around and around in a slow gyre, Death circles the phased pair in the aerial version of a predator's restless pacing. It was always obvious where his mutations came from, but never has his genetic inheritance from great birds of prey been as blatant until now. His fixed stare stays pinned on them no matter where he is, his laser-focus eyes watchful.

They narrow at Carolus's bluff(?). "Two weeks," he hisses. "That's a long time to wait when I could take you right now. I don't have to hurt you. Just find a way…" His talons twitch. "A way to peel you."

He stops abruptly in the air, wings fanned wide. The feathers bristle visibly as he's called Warren, first by Kitty and then by Dani. What really gets him, though, is the other name they say —

"No," he snarls. "You don't get to — don't say those names."

His wings fold and he makes a sharp turn towards Danielle Moonstar to make good on his threat. The first thing that stops him is that driving kick from Gwen — even if she aborts it at the last moment, it's still enough to make him shear off course a bit, distracted enough by the correction that he doesn't pay much mind to her mistaking him for Wolverine (thankfully). The other thing that stops him —

Something drives into his consciousness — drives far enough that he spasms in the air and crashes into the ash. Yet Jean won't find herself driving far, because before she gets too far into his consciousness, she hits a sort of — shield, a malignant thing embedded in his mind that sends a harsh backlash her way.

She's in there long enough, though, to know that she could not see her friend while she was there. Only hatred, and corruption, and fury, and the grand imperative of Death as far as her mental eye can see —

The fallen ash erupts as Death bolts back into the sky. "Magic always has a loophole, doesn't it?" he wonders, before he swings around in a sharp arc, slashing through the building directly behind them from which Gwen made her descent. The already-unstable structure groans as he slashes through its few remaining supports, and the entire building — all thirty-odd stories of it — starts to collapse downwards onto the assembled.


She was hoping his name and Alison's name would provoke another sort of reaction.

Now instead she has a very angry death-bird snarling at her.

To not say those names. That she doesn't get to say those names.

It causes the Cheyenne's expression to turn flat, grim, but not overtly surprised when he dives at her.

And while she may not necessarily be surprised that he chooses to attack, it's also not exactly a comforting thing to have Death barrelling down upon her.

Not that it stops her next course of action as she raises empty hands, though no longer are they empty. Psychic bow and arrows manifest within her grip and Moonstar sights the metal-winged Warren and readies her shot, only to hold that shot when Gwen successfully causes Warren to veer off course.

At that same time, Jean returns and for a few seconds there seems to be a breather, or possibly a turning point, as Death falls again, though not quite under his own power this time.

There's enough time for Moonstar to look at her team, to check upon them - Carolus, Kitty, Gwen and Jean - before that ash explodes again.

Whatever she was about to say to them dies upon her lips and instead the Cheyenne says, "Time to leave. Now."

And while retreating isn't necessarily a thing Moonstar likes to do, or admit to, in this case they need to retreat. Regroup. Figure things out. Find a better way.

And while all those thoughts jumble in Moonstar's head, the groan of the collapsing building is heard and Moonstar grimaces.

"This isn't how I expected this to go."

Now she moves, because what else can she do?

"Ghost can you lend a web?" Calls out Moonstar, because she's pretty sure she can't out run this particular avalanche.


Atlas squeezes Kitty's wrist lightly in answer to… /one/ of the things that she said. It's hard to tell exactly which one it is, and he's not going to clarify while an exceptionally murderous Death is hanging out right next to them. It's just not good strategy, and every word he just said was nothing /but/ strategy. He's sort of banking on Death not being able to catch it until it's too late.

Then Ghost Spider starts shouting, lands in a really uncomfortable position, and… starts shouting some more as she gets up. His eyes remain shut and he remains planted firmly in place, though he will move according to Kitty's direction, and seems to move fine while "blind", using his setae and other senses to navigate.

"He's not normally like this. I'm not certain what's going on." He explains, quickly.

Speculation can wait. Telling her that Wolverine is 5'3" dark-haired feral man can also wait.

"Make sure Danielle is okay." He murmurs to Kitty, before disengaging from her. Atlas doesn't explain himself, wings buzzing to activity and lifting him up towards the falling building. He skirts 'round the edge of it, his attention focused on the pull of Warren's 'tether' and the relative position that Death must be in.

As he goes, he seizes a piece of falling building from the air, pocketing it.

"There was a manufactured virus. It was eating your wings. Doctor Stuart was complicit." Carolus calls to Warren, circling him in an annoyingly tight pattern. /Most/ natural flyers are more like birds, or perhaps planes. For his part, Atlas is more like a helicopter.

He's a bit irregular at the moment. It's not /just/ the physical conditions. The whole eating-a-piece-of-somebody's-soul is still getting to him, and his whole concept of the space around him is tilted on its axis by it.

"I came here to give this back. I don't want it." He adds, more quietly.

"If," he continues, "you don't want to go home, I understand. I've heard it said that death is the world's way of telling you that you're not wanted anymore. I don't think that I agree, but I think that if what happened to you happened to me, I'd get that impression anyway."

"And trust me, I know what it is to think about what some other world has and go, 'Wow, I'd really like that instead of what I got.' But is this really that for you?" He wonders, a note of disappointment working its way involuntarily into his tone.


The anger of Death as the words sink into him: Warren, Ali. Names he doesn't watn to hear. Why? Guilt? Anger? Or will those call to the pieces of Warren that have to still exist in there. There's a held breath as Death streaks toward Dani in retaliation, as he cannot reach the Shadowcat or Atlas. She's too far away, she can't get to Dani in time to phase her. Luckily, Gwen is there to veer him off course. Lockheed circles along them, harrying where he can to give as much cover as a small purple dragon can.

What she knows is that those names are not well received and there has to be a reason for this. "Warren, please!"

"Carolus!" Kitty hisses as Atlas disengages from her and starts to rise from the ground, wings taking him where she can't follow to protect. "Dammit."

Around them, the building starts to collapse and the brunette mutant is quick to dash to her side. It's easy for Kitty, running straight through falling debris that smashes to the ground on top of her and around her. "Quick, if everyone grabs onto my hand, I can phase us through the rubble. We've got to get to Atlas, though. He got out of reach. Then I can pull us to someplace safe where we can regroup. We can find Jean once everything has settled."


This is a lot. Even guided by a superhuman reaction time and empowered by enough physical oomph to take more than full advantage of it, the actual mental gymnastics of on-the-fly strategy isn't something she's had practice with.

And she's not willing to take too hard of a swing against Warren "Killer Chrome" Worthington for her own, decidedly scalier reasons.

When Dani calls for a retreat and regroup, Ghost Spider can't quite process it. Her mouth resumes moving.

"Look, serously, do we need to go on a double vision quest here? We're out of wizards!"

Dani calls for retreat, and Ghost Spider remains confused. "Do you mean the special Wizard varietal of retreat and regroup? I'm not sure we're in it to leave and come back a bunch-"

The building is cut in a haze of ash, and her entire instinct is to be precisely NOWHERE NEAR this place. But it's quiet around Kitty.

And Carolus was all weirdly phasing when Kitty had grabbed him. It's a way out, perhaps — one she's willing to avail herself to.

"Just, like, shout, Ghost Spider Take Us Home, or something, Dani! Specific language! It's important!!!"

Gwen pumps her legs and slides in to grab grab Kitty and scrunch up both eyes - and both lenses - to visually avoid the impending super smush.

"I'm not sure a thirty foot building is webbable! Please please please work!"


Accustomed to owning the sky — even as Angel, slower and far less lethal, he owned the sky — Death seems transparently aggravated to find Carolus buzzing up towards him in pursuit — and in aerial challenge. He puts on speed, raking his wings back and banking a sharp turn to try to attack the moth mutant…

…only for Carolus to sort of just yaw in the air, hovering back and forth in a tight radius. Death blows wide past him like an F-22 trying to hit a saucy Apache chopper; screaming around in a wide turn, he tries to attack again. Where the same result happens.

One might expect him to try a third time, when Death starts to roll into another sharp turn, but that's about the time what Carolus is saying starts to sink in. He slows visibly, hanging in the air, and for a moment it seems like he's listening. Familiar names. Familiar words. Familiar memories, from a lifetime ago. Does he believe what Carolus is claiming? Does it matter?

"Our world took everything from me," he finally says. For half a moment, the strong malignant silver light in his eyes seems to dim. "Our world gave me the worst kind of suffering that could be imagined for someone like me, and then it killed me. This one gave back everything — and then it gave more. It isn't about liking this place. It's about what can't be gone without…"

I came here to give this back.

The silver glow of his eyes resurges. "Then give it up," snarls Death, as he plunges towards Carolus a final time.

kshrak

The entire street lights up, in a lightning-flash instant of ruby-quartz red. A familiar laser-focused beam of pure crimson energy fires across the empty space in front of the collapsing building, slamming into some of the debris before sweeping upwards in a destructive arc. That blasting red beam aims straight up towards Death… who turns on a dime midair to deflect it off his closing, shielding techno-organic wings.

The beam goes wide. But so does Death, the impact force sending him spinning off in the opposite direction.

A familiar tall, lean figure steps into full view on the street, at the terminus point from whence that beam originated. "Go check on your people," he shouts, up towards Death's circling figure. "You'll find there's not so many of them as you left behind."

His attention turns, then, towards the team on the ground. If he has any reaction in particular to any of them, it's not visible past the visor obscuring his eyes. He doesn't seem concerned about the falling building before him — for some reason. "Come with me," he says, and if he had a sense of humor he'd add 'if you want to live.'

But he doesn't, because the man before them is Scott Summers.


Jean is right here,
on the ground,
skidding,
wreathed in billowing dust.

Screaming,
while she
reels
from the black thicket
of Warren's psyche;
bleeds a fine spatter of confusion,
and horror into astral air,
across friendly minds.

Writhing—

— lifting a hand, barely—

— letting whatever ruby quartz light doesn't pulverize hail violently across the magenta sphere swirling into being around them. Once it's in place, her hand falls.

After that, her head lifts towards the familiar void of humor,

and then it, too, falls, so she can get back to trying to catch her breath.

And trying, ardently, not to wish herself dead, for the release it'd give her from the thorns.


Severed from its very foundation, supports rent through in a hundred ways, the building falls. It, like the rest of battered, dilapidated Manhattan, needs little encouragement past one — small — push.

The structure, tall enough to have blocked the sun on better days, bends and succumbs, mulching as it goes. Unspeakable tonnage rains down all around them, bearing the question: if Kitty can save them from the initial collapse, how long can one woman hold her breath to keep them alive under the rubble?

There is no more sky to see in the last instant as it falls —

— and holds.

The shredded latticework of the tower looms a net for the rest of the stone-and-concrete rubble, holding it all at bay a mere dozen feet up above their heads. The great mass groans, but does not budge.

Instead, it lifts, the rubble tiding upward as if surged on an invisible current. It is a sea of moving, twisting, knotting metal —

Guided by the patient, unhurried curling of two hands. He does not wear his regnal colours in this world — no vivid red and royal purple — but ashen grey and ebon black, rhyming with the scorched, irradiated fade of a familiar helm. Though its shadow obscures his features, one does not need to see his face to recognize him. Magneto levitates farther back, a conductor to his steel symphony, his opening hands parting the falling building like its own sea.

His head lifts on Death among the skies. He twitches two fingers, and sharpened girders cut from the moving mass, seeking to collide with the horseman's back, twist crudely around him, and whip him away on a reckless trajectory far, far away.

His other hand sweeps, and at Cyclops' back, below his own floating figure, uncloaks the familiar-but-not, broken-and-sutured together body of the Blackbird, ready to board.

"We do not have long," advises their old enemy.


Carolus buzzes up into the air and Moonstar can't help but shout, "Carolus, no!"

But it's already too late, he's up in the air and for now all Moonstar can do is turn her attention to those on the ground. To making sure they survive and live for another day.

First to Gwen, "No, not back home." She's quick to say and then add, "Not back with Dr. Strange, just away from here." Here being Warren and those wings of DEATH, "Where we can re-group, figure out our next steps."

And while Gwen voices her concern on whether she can hold back the building to save them, Kitty arrives to help. As soon as Shadowcat extends her hand to Dani, Moonstar grabs it and offers a quick but heartfelt, "Thanks."

"Let's get out of here."

But that's far easier said than done as the debris continue to rain downward upon the group and Dani searches for a way for them to actually survive this. Survive and rescue their friends. Almost she feels despair, but before that feeling spirals a familiar ruby red beam erupts nearby.

It pulverizes some of the chunks of building that falls their way, but more importantly it goes after Death as well.

Upon seeing that familiar optic blast, Moonstar can't help but stare a moment, as hope rises upward. "Scott."

She looks to Kitty now and then to Gwen and for Gwen's sake, Moonstar says, "That's a friend!"

Or so she hopes, but at this point they've no choice but to trust it is.

The broken building continues to fall downward up until it doesn't. It's stopped by a net of metal and automatically Moonstar looks upward and then over to the man who controls it.

There's open shock at seeing Magneto, but those words of his prompt her to shake loose of that terrible terrible surprise.

"To the Blackbird. Quickly."

And while she doesn't openly call Magneto friend there's (once again) no other choice but to trust he is.


Atlas dances, and he knows that his dance has a limited lifespan. It's like a bat trying to eat a moth— the flight pattern is all about frustrating that effort, floating around the sky like a delirious drunkard. Even when he was 'only' Angel, /this/ was the only thing he ever had on Warren's ability in flight. He couldn't achieve the same altitude, at least not without equipment, and he couldn't really dive in quite the same way either. Any minute now, he expects Death to figure out that he can go above him and there won't be anything he can do about it—

But the moment doesn't quite come. Sweat rolls off of Carolus's face onto the ring of white at his neck. For a moment they pause, and words are exchanged. His antennae droop, as does his entire body language.

"I know," he says, "and I can't undo that. I wish that I could."

Carolus tenses. The moment he's anticipating nears, and he prepares to drop out of the sky like a rock. It's the only way he can avoid a dive from above, and truthfully he's not certain that the injury it will cause him will be /less/ than what Warren can do.

A ruby light shears the world in half. Carolus registers it only as kinetic force, like something enormous had thrust an oddly-shaped staff through the middle of the world. For a moment he feels a thrill of fear for Warren, but he might as well not have.

If he'd had an extra moment to speak, Carolus would've amended his thoughts further. He resolves to return the soul fragment later, turning and following the beam towards the figure he knows lies at the end of the punching dimension rainbow.

Slowly, his eyes open. Where was Dazzler? Why didn't she turn up through all of this? The thought disperses in a moment of shocked awe as the falling building /stops/.

Carolus diverts his descent pattern as he catches Jean's scent, a little removed from the others, not moving properly. He stumbles as he touches down next to her, beginning by offering her a hand up— and then, if she doesn't seem able (which she didn't at-a-glance), simply lifting her in his second set of arms and skimming the rest of the way towards the newly-revealed Blackbird.

There's plenty of things that he /could/ say, to Cyclops, to Magneto. Quite a few come to mind. In the end, most of them are set aside for /not right now/.

Once he's helped get Jean situated, Carolus takes a seat of his own and shuts his eyes again, both sets of arms drawn in around himself.

"Don't take us anywhere you want to stay secret, he can find me." He warns, his voice distant and weary.


Gwen had made a split-second decision - Go with the Known Unknown, or try valiantly to arrange the biggest spider-web ever.

Going with the first, she was ready to be crushed (or not-crushed as the case may be) and the have to fight her way out from under the rubble.

There is no rubble. There is, however, a very pleasantly non-dangerous coruscating column of kinetic energy flashing through the air.

"I'm feeling very Dazzled! Hey, awesome, we found-"

It's Scott Summers.

"… I thought Dazzler was a girl."

Saved from further debris via METAL GRANDPA, Ghost Spider is eager and quick to retreat towards their proffered Junk Jet. "You guys came here in this thing? You're braver than I thought!"

She pauses. "It's… it's a really old movie reference. Sorry."

Everyone seems entirely cool with Goth Metal Grandpa and Male Dazzler, so Ghost Spider rolls with these particular punches easily. Leaning over to Kitty as they get in the Blackbird, Ghost Spider starts unlimbering her pack to sit down inside. "Is that Colossus? I heard he has metal powers. Cool costume, too."


As Gwen swings down toward them, Kitty quickly grabs onto Gwen. "It's not webbable, but we can walk through it." Despite everything crashing and falling around them and Death circling above, Kitty takes a moment to square her attention on Gwen. Dani knows exactly what she's about to do as she's done this on the Team multiple times. Gwen, though, has never dealt with her mutation like this yet. She looks to Gwen and very calmly gives her a reassuring smile. "It's going to be fine. I can phase us through the building, we're going to walk through everything like ghosts. Just take a deep breath, you're going to have to hold it for as long as we're inside the rubble, okay? I'm going to keep a very tight grip on you. Don't let go."

As things crash about them with growing intensity, Kitty looks up, searching for Carolus amongst all the chaos and debris. "Okay, take a breath on the count of three. Ready? One…." She thinks she catches the flash of metallic wings, the flutter of white against rock and brick and ash. "Two…" And then the bright scarlet light. Could it….Scott? "Th—"!

The building that starts to collapse twists and bends, holding itself in place. There's only one mutant she knows that has that sort of power, that could twist metal like that…. "That son of a bitch."

The order to get into the Blackbird is met with a very sour look. It doesn't matter what the dimension, she does not trust Magneto. However, there are dire circumstances and she just gives this alternate-Scott something of a 'Really?' look before she follows, last, behind them.


BACK IN TIME, BEFORE GETTING ON THE SHIP:

Kitty Pride: >I'm going to keep a very tight grip on you."

Ghost Spider's lenses squint, and there's almost mischief in her tone. When the ice hits Gwen Stacy's veins, her mouth takes over for her brain. And she is a Spider. "Kitty, I'm the world champ in not letting go."


The metal net sags a ever so slightly - precariously - lower when the magenta flare butted up against its underside flattens, then winks entirely out of existence.

Jean lost a piece of herself, saw one piece of heart ready to murder several others, then shredded the outermost layers of her consciousness against the barbs planted in his mind. Part of her would still rather do something over giving herself even a heartbeat to dwell, on anything, but given a grasp more confident than her own, letting go is a comfort to the rest.

Letting herself be carried while her head rolls limply and invisible, unfocused pressure brushes past Carolus from a dozen haphazard angles is, next to picking herself up and dragging herself to safety, a comfort. A gruding one, but just the same…

"Of course," she mumbles, slumping bonelessly into her seat, against the sutured frame, "it's this kind of…"

"…"

"….."

'Dimension' dies on her tongue as her eyes slide shut. Shortly afterwards, a slow, shallow breath leaves her lungs.

«— Magneto?!»

Even soundless, what erupts when the redhead's eyes snap open and commence darting is loud enough for winces.


"That's Cyclops." Carolus corrects Gwen on who Scott actually is.

He falls silent again for a little while.

Then, "That's not Colossus, that's—"

He was about to say 'complicated', but Jean screams the name into their minds. Carolus squeezes his eyes shut again and issues a heavy, exasperated sigh.

"Anything I can do for you there, Jean, or is this something you just ride out?" He asks, listening for the answer but sinking back into his own mind.

The fragment of Warren that he ate doesn't like the forcible separation. The distance isn't so great so it isn't stretched taut and uncomfortably. But it's like a fishing line that's trying to reel itself back in, and it's not at all pleased with being extended out again. Carolus throws off an unnatural (or perhaps natural, he's not even really certain at this point) urge to stick his fingers down his throat and get rid of it right now.


"For being surprised?"

Jean's eyes linger on Carolus for a long and weary beat, then she forces them shut rather than indulge mounting disquiet and anxiety any further.

"I'll be fine. I'll l— "

She holds 'live' against her teeth for a second, two—

"… I'll be fine, I…"

Her brow twitches when the distant echo of a forbidden urge ghosts pasts her.

"… we just need to find them," she whispers, clutching any available arm rests as tightly as she can, cracking an eye open to peer his way, "and get everyone back in exactly one piece, ASAP."


There is little fanfare from the once-proclaimed Master of Magnetism, whose face remains turned, and shadowed eyes scanning the sky. He knows well his metal, and his control over same — but he has long lost the trust it can do anything long to those twisted creatures, like Death had crowned the sky.

They are buying time, and nothing more.

The fallen building recedes from the group, allowing them a clear path to board; none of them, familiar faces, unfamiliar faces, are spared a glance. The old man holds his position in the sky, letting the debris fall from his command to build a distant, dusting barricade.

Magneto's only look down will be on the last man to ascend the Blackbird, and his pale eyes transmit something unspoken to Scott Summers.

Inside the Blackbird is a black mirror of their own world — familiar seating and controls — though the rest of it seems reforged around them, and far larger than what can be remembered. Less a jet for transport, and now a mobile headquarters to survive a broken world.

The doors close on the cockpit when all are seated; Magneto, for his part, remains standing. The threat of inertia does not seem to trouble him.

"Hold on," advises Magneto, in a tone of voice that does not care whether he is heeded. The Blackbird moves, not forward with the noisy hum of jets, but soundlessly straight up, Manhattan peeling away from them and retreating into a distant skyline.

Beyond the windows, the world reveals itself to them: scorched, shredded, grey.

"You need not worry about being found," finally speaks Magneto, deigning Carolus's remark of merit enough to deserve answer. "At least inside these walls. It was my daughter's parting gift."


The spinning girders hit and tangle Death midair, and the sheer speed of them — coupled with the element of surprise — is enough to stymie the Horseman: for now. He vanishes, among the broken spires of Manhattan's ruined skyscrapers, up until he can get a wing free enough to cut himself loose. When he does, however… he'l have other matters to deal with.

For now, the team's bought themselves a reprieve.

Aboard the modified Blackbird, Cyclops holds a grim vigil by the bay doors until they close. The look he exchanges with his erstwhile enemy, as Magneto passes him, speaks volumes.

When he finally turns, it's to the sudden sharp spike of MAGNETO? from Jean Grey. The telepathic shout might be loud, but he seems accustomed to such things — as one might expect.

"It's all right," he says, with a quelling lift of one hand, though his expression doesn't seem to connote all that much personal conviction in the statement. The reason for that comes in the measured, wary way he looks from Jean, to Kitty, to Carolus, to Dani, to Gwen. "He's all right." Magneto, that is.

A hint as to why comes in the old man's own words. Scott is briefly silent, as the Blackbird ascends.

Eventually, his head lifts. "We have a lot to go over," he begins. "But what I need to know right now is… who the hell are you? You're — not supposed to be here," this, to Jean, "And you — "

That visor turns to Danielle Moonstar and Kitty Pryde. "I watched you both die."


Dani has enough time to strap in before that telepathic shout of Magneto's name echoes within her own mind.

It's enough to cause a wince and a bit of side-eye over to Jean, but then her attention shifts back to the so named man.

There's obvious distrust in Moonstar's gaze, even as Scott informs the group that Magneto is all right. That doesn't seem to help the doubt that Moonstar feels, but it causes her to drop her gaze as she turns a look to her particular group.

Kitty first, then Carolus, Gwen and Jean.

To make certain each and everyone is okay, or as okay as they can be at this point.

Then it's back over to Magneto as he addresses Carolus' concerns and at that mention of his daughter's parting gift, Moonstar frowns.

That frown doesn't leave her features either when Scott speaks again.

In fact, it only gets worse when he mentions her and Kitty's death.

"Like you said." Begins the Cheyenne, "It's a long story, but to put it simply we're from another reality. A different dimension and we've come to yours to bring two of our own home."

"Angel and Dazzler."


Ghost Spider gets shouted at in her own head. Clutching at her temple quickly, she sighs. "Okay, okay, sorry, not Colossus."

She blinks, her lenses working. "Oh. That was a psychic… thing. Sorry. Hey, uh, Cyclops, Magneto. I'm Ghost Spider. Not an X-Anything. Don't mind me."

She unzips the top of her trash Jansport garbage-sack from the Dollar General, pulling out a pair of bottles of water, some 'Sugar in the RAW' cane sugar packets, some blue razzberry flavor packets, and a fistful of off-brand meatsticks. "I brought some snacks and water, becasue I thought 'oh, Ghost Spider, we're going to save people stranded in another dimension, they'll be hungry and thirsty, that's reasonable'."

Her expectations are so absurdly and innocently mundane. She has never been on a real X-Man mission before.

"Does… anyone else want a water? I've got sugar and flavor stuff too."

She unrolls the bottom of her mask to start chewing at the wrapper of her meat-sticks with her teeth. "I only had, like, twenty minutes to pack. Sorry."


"Of all the things that are in doubt," Carolus mumbles without opening his eyes, "Magneto being on our side if things really, truly went to hell shouldn't be one of them. He's an extremist, but he's not inconsistent."

He waves his primary left hand vaguely in Magneto's direction, "Sorry to talk about you like you're not here."

He unsheathes his utility knife with his auxiliary left hand, turns it over, and offers it to Gwen in place of chewing on thin plastic.

"Later," he says, "I'm going to need to plan food things out or I'm going to end up miserable a lot sooner than my actual time limit out here."


Gwen looks at Carolus like he's got his head on backwards. And also IT HAS ANTENNAE AHHHH HE'S A BUGMAN.

"But if you cut it you don't get to suck the savory juices."

Gwen does not consider to Buy More Meatsticks. No, she's the true endgame of value-based purchasing.

Her lips turn up in a weak smile, as she passes her bag over. "Don't touch the, uh, secret in the bottom please. It's my secret weapon. But there's decent sugar and blue stuff and some cheap Mexican candy down lower. Go wild."


Gwen's self-introduction draws Scott's gaze. He considers her a moment, before he nods in acknowledgement. A frown does haunt his features at the hurriedly-packed snax-pack she is sharing with Carolus. "We have food and water," he assures, taciturn. "You won't go without while you're with us."

His attention turns when Moonstar explains their purpose. Scott's expression tightens at mention of a different dimension, at their purpose here being to retrieve their own universe's Angel and Dazzler, but he doesn't necessarily seem… surprised. He's an X-Man, and this version of the X-Men was probably at least broadly similar to their own.

Which means dimensional shenanigans really isn't that new.

What he does say?

"Warren was my best friend," he says, his expression a lock. "He died fighting this war. I don't know what yours was like. Maybe the same… maybe different. But whatever is out there, flying around… it's not Warren Worthington."

He is silent a moment, before he turns away to head up towards the cockpit. "Debrief at 2100. Get rest in the meantime. You'll need it."


For his part, Magneto is already walking away — through opening doors, and out of the cockpit. He is a man of many considerable talents, and many more considerable dangers, but exposition was never one of them.

He leaves such things within the sphere of Scott Summers.

In the interim, the man returns any last, turned remarks with silence, too many long years of too many arched words that he's long lost an ear for them. The last look on this world's Magneto, for today, is his turned back.

His helm remains on, even now.


Carolus re-sheathes his utility knife and buttons it in, cracking an eye to look at Ghost Spider. He replies, "We're going to revisit the topic of /savory juices/ when my mind isn't slowly coming apart under the strain of being both a bird and a moth simultaneously."

He nods towards Scott in answer to his reassurances, but still privately plans to use their own supplies unless this group demonstrates a /really/ deep supply line of their own when they get wherever they're going.

His caloric needs are just too much to impose on some kind of underground movement unless they basically have a factory of their own.

"I'm afraid that the future manager of the blue man group really is Warren Worthington," Carolus says to Scott, "which I can confirm because the farther away I get from him the piece of spiritual debris that Doctor Strange had me ingest to track him down the more uncomfortable I get. He also said some… stuff. I don't know if we can bring him around, but I don't think the probability of success is so low that I shouldn't bother."

"Thanks for the rescue, though. He would've gotten me on that last dive." He admits, shutting his eyes again and lapsing back into silence.

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