A Chance
Roleplaying Log: A Chance
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Jean seeks the alternate Scott for answers to some of her questions, and finds that the alternate world's past looks much like her present.

Other Characters Referenced:
IC Date: November 18, 2019
IC Location: ????
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 22 Nov 2019 16:36
Rating & Warnings:
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits: Cyclops by Warren
Associated Plots

The modified Blackbird has been expanded until it is, in truth, a mobile command center for this dying world and this brutal war. By the hand of Magneto and his unique set of powers, by the expertise of Forge, by the dying protective hex of the Scarlet Witch, and by the efforts of many others, it has been made the one truly safe place for those straggling mutants who oppose Genesis's campaign to exterminate the weak — starting with humanity.

Of course, not everyone calls him by his self-chosen mutant name. Among the humans, among many mutants who oppose him the most bitterly, he is called only what he is: Apocalypse.

Nonetheless, it's still just a command center, and it carries chiefly officers and other combat-critical personnel. There are scattered enclaves where many other mutants live, between which the Blackbird makes stops in order to coordinate efforts. The vessel has just stopped off at one such place, and now it has resumed its typical cruising altitude tens of thousands of feet in the air, not far outside the city limits of what was once New York.

In the distance, the Celestial ship can be seen, hanging like a vast alien cloud over the ruins.

Cyclops is not difficult to find, because the viewing window that affords the best view of the enemy's ship is where he typically is, where there isn't some more pressing matter commanding his attention. Though he is an older iteration than the man remembered from their own universe — looking in his late thirties, perhaps even early forties — he has kept the same exact bearing he has had throughout his life, in every version of himself: the straight-backed, militant bearing of a man who lives half his life standing at parade rest, and the other half in active combat.

The dimensional team has been given relatively free rein of the ship, for the duration of their stay. Perhaps it is because Scott trusts them for who they are. More likely, it is because Cyclops has eyes on them which are not readily apparent.


"'You're not supposed to be here'."

As she speaks her way out of the margins just beyond normal perception, Jean wonders, dimly, whether this is new for him. Did — 'she' — wherever, whoever 'she' is now develop the same knack for hiding from (judging/sympathetic/patronizing) eyes and assorted other senses, before leaving?

(… Disappearing? Fleeing…? Turning…?)

Were there ever cozy days in Westchester where plasma-spewing drones, errant pranks, and criminal circuses could comfortably sit near the top of their priorities, before the world was twisted into a tyrant's brutal image…?

"I missed the debriefing," she continues. "I got the broad strokes, but I just— I needed to close my eyes; something about this…"

Those eyes - drifting distantly towards the window - snap back to Scott and refocus.

"Where am I supposed to be," she quietly wonders, "if not here? Because it's not 'dead': you wouldn't— … didn't sugarcoat that at all. And it— doesn't— feel like 'I' turned: not enough thorns for that, so— what? What happened?"


Scott turns even slightly before Jean starts to speak. Perhaps he heard her coming. Perhaps there's just something subliminal between all Scotts and all Jeans, between worlds. Whatever it is, Scott still keeps his poker face in place, even looking on her familiar features. The visor certainly helps with that, but it was never the main reason Cyclops had a reputation for lack of emotiveness.

"You're also — too young," is his initial reply. So young, connotes the tone of his voice. "That was the other thing that was off. I didn't quite have time to say that one."

Her mention of missing the debriefing averts his gaze. Or at least, it turns his head away — it never was quite possible to tell where exactly he was looking. "You went through more than most, crossing over. Or so I was given to understand. If there's any holes in your understanding of the situation, I'll bring you up to speed now."

But of course, a natural inquiry she has is about the holes in her understanding of her own situation. Where is she? If she's not dead, or turned? The first hint of a sentiment crosses his features. Perhaps those of a man missing his wife.

"You didn't turn," he says, his voice marginally more gentle. "You didn't die, either. You bonded with the Phoenix — after a long time. It showed you a threat beyond this planet, before Apocalypse ever woke here. You had bigger priorities. You're fighting somewhere out there, as the White Phoenix."

His gaze turns back to the viewing window. "For it's not just terrestrial threats which we're facing… though we expect Apocalypse to spread beyond simply a terrestrial threat if he's not checked here and now."


SOME TIME AGO

When her eyes open, everything is white. Forms ripple all around her, foreign and evershifting figures cast in stark, bracing relief against all-consuming fire and endless life.

She neither starts nor screams: each unfamiliar face flickering in and out of her perception sparks recognition beyond human memory. No matter how bright, how hot it is, 'here' may as well be a reunion, wherever it is.

Whatever she is, now.

WELCOME HOME, booms through the corridors of her spirit like thunder on a warm summer night.

WELCOME BACK

NOW

Two words drag a distant dream into the light of day and Jean's eyes fall to the Blackbird's floor with a sharp intake of air.

"Yeah," she exhales a beat later. "I—

"— that sounds…"

Her eyes close for the second or two she needs to ensure her voice is as even as it should be, instead of vibrating with loss.

"… fair, but I lost my connection to— "

Another beat, because— how, exactly, can one 'own' a primal force of creation? She's still quiet and tentative when she goes with, "What else is there?" because while this is clearly bigger than what she's lost— well.

There's still a hole that she's yet to reckon with, having lived more lives with Her than without Her.

"And for the record," she looks his way through the corner of an eye, "you're supposed to be 29, 30-going-on-45, not…"

That one eye scans down, then back up before she turns her gaze towards the window.

"… whatever, going on 60," she quietly deadpans. "But I'll persevere."


I lost my connection.

Scott regards Jean quietly. She keeps the loss out of her voice, but he can hear it nonetheless — connote it from what she says.

"There was a time my Jean would have paid anything to have lost her connection," he says eventually. "Anything. Several times she paid her life, trying to lose it. It frightened her. It made her feel… less human. Less bonded with the people around her. She looked into people's faces, and she saw their eyes looking back at her — staring at the Phoenix, not her. Everything changed when she accepted it. Everything changed when she aligned her desires and its power, in one accord."

He looks away. There is a certain melancholy to his tone when he says, "That didn't take away the cost of it. She was no longer just a human the day she became the White Phoenix… with all that entails."

He's silent, for a time. "It's been a few months since her last communication with me," he continues eventually. "Conflict out there doesn't flow on our timescale. She talks to me about multiversal threats, about world-devourers, about mending the fabric of reality…" He lifts one shoulder. "I focus on my people, here. If I had to venture a guess… you lost your connection because she's pulling the Phoenix so hard here there's — interference. When you go home, that's liable to change. You're the only you, there."

He speaks with familiarity, perhaps even a degree of authority. Why wouldn't he? He has lived with a Jean Grey, and all her Phoenix matters, for decades of his life. "Your connection will return. And you'll learn to live it with, as she did… or not."

He frowns distinctly, however, at the sass. The expression is colored with a certain amount of nostalgia. "30-going-on-45?" he says. "I always got 30-going-on-70. Your universe is more generous."

Before he can be accused of making a joke, he says, "I'm forty-two, Jean, not a corpse."


Anything.

"I have— "

Beat.

"There've been days when, yes — She terrifies me. What She could, would do sometimes, given the chance, it's— She doesn't think the way we do, on the same scale we do. She isn't heartless, but…

"… but," follows after a moment of weighted silence, "sometimes, there're moments when I feel like She's just— with me, instead of occupying me, you know? And I remember that I— She chose me, I chose Her back, and She hasn't let me go, since."

Her teeth catch against her lip for a second.

"'Hadn't'," she quietly corrects with a taut half-smile.

"I felt like— until I came here, I wondered how much of me was still me, and now…"

She's silent, for a time, melancholy lingering in the air. It lasts through continued explanations and — jokes.

And it lasts a little while longer still, even as she offers a wan smile for his effort(s).

"You were — married?" she finally wonders, tentative and soft. Her eyes slowly tilt his ways as she swallows. "Together— close, minimum.

"I'm sorry, this must be — well, strange, for you. Challenging… right?"


"My Jean said similar things," is Scott's simple reply. "There were days she hated it, feared it more than anything. And… there were other days."

There is a telling catch in his sentence, as if he had meant to say something more, and caught himself at the last moment. Perhaps he meant to say that there were other days — when he felt like an outsider, looking in at something unfathomable, even in his marriage bed. Maybe he would have to his own Jean — maybe he would have simply let her see it, in the alleys of his thoughts — and the familiar features in front of him almost caused him to slip.

It's the youth in the features before him which causes him to remember himself, and to make him retreat into that militant distance again.

"My Jean," he says in closing, "always wanted to know she was still her. It was knowing that she was still her, that gave her the strength to withstand letting the Phoenix in without losing herself."

Her following question causes a further receding of Scott's emotional tides. It's not obvious — most things about Scott that are not his presence are understated — but how he pulls in on himself is the same as the Scott she remembers, albeit written on an old face. "Years ago," he says, his tone treading years of strife and sorrow and brief blinding happinesses, and leaves it at that.

As for — it being strange? His head shakes slowly. "There are greater challenges I've been through than to be faced with the faces of the dead and absent," he says. "And there are greater challenges that face you and your friends, ahead. They will need to know you're ready for them."

There is a brief silence. "You have a chance to save someone I could not."


The sympathetic twist of Jean's lips and the wrinkles that only briefly crease her brow suggest that she just might've caught him anyway.

"We're going to save him," she gently corrects. "I'm…"

Lying to Scott never quite feels right, no matter how gentle, how benevolent the lie. It's the glasses, the visor — the inability to tell how they reach him without thumbing through his mind.

It's way he carries his own wounds without rest or comment, demanding better than merely hiding hers without having to say it.

It's knowing that the lie's unlikely to truly spare a man whose life has demanded that he know his teammates utterly, lest he fail to utilize them fully.

"… it's been a shitty couple of months," she murmurs, "but I'm ready for them to be over, so I can move on to— God, whatever you even call…"

She can't see the ruins below, but they're seared into her memory, deeply enough for grousing about racist legislature to fall from her tongue, for now.

"We're going to bring him home, and we're going to make sure the monster that did that to him remembers us," comes out instead, sharp and seething as arms fold across her ribs. "He tried to steal our friends— our family…" Her head quickly shakes as she trails off and her eyes lift towards him.

"What happened here, Scott? I— so much of this makes so little sense to me — why they wound up here, what was done to Warren, but that— I've seen some things, Scott, but nothing like this. Nothing this… this is the kind of thing I dream about, then sit up wondering what's wrong with me."


Something almost like a smile haunts the corner of Scott's mouth at Jean's correction that they WILL save him. Perhaps it reminds him of — her, really. Jean's basic, inherent nature, echoing from all her realized selves. Her optimism and conviction, in that way, was always such a balance for the inherent doubts which sat beneath his confident surface. Those doubts that made him qualify and question everything…

"I'll do all I can to see it happen," he says. Whether it is a promise that carries any sentiment, or whether it's simply the most practical thing he can do — facilitate the removal of a lieutenant of the enemy — is not quite clear. Especially when he continues, "I… won't stand for that perversion of him out there. What I've seen flying out there, the past week… that isn't Warren. My best friend died shielding people from a Horseman with nothing but his wings and his empty hands."

It is another rare moment of candidness from Scott. The change of topic seems like a relief. Here are matters he can discuss quickly, and clinically. Sitreps are his first language.

"Apocalypse needs mutant-power here. Our numbers are… we're down to the thousands, worldwide, and only a fraction of those combat-capable. He can't breed them fast enough, he can't create them by other means — that we know of — but he did have the technology to start raiding other worlds. I can't say why your Angel and Dazzler in specific were chosen, but I can guess. The data your people have suggests that Apocalypse was interfering with your Warren long before he came to this particular universe. His creed is survival and strength: those things, above everything else. He broke them as a test… and they passed when they did not die."

His mouth thins. "Not at first. Not until it suited Apocalypse that they do so, in order to be pulled over."

As for how the world came to be this way? Scott is briefly and uncharacteristically hesitant. "The reason there are so few of us is because of the X-Gene virus. What led up to that… I suppose it started with registration. At first it seemed like we could keep it in check. Then the wrong people got in power. Sentinels were being used in the streets, willy-nilly. They were used at every new mutant manifestation. Eventually there was a casualty. A mutant kid, shot to death by Sentinels who didn't wait to see what his powers were doing. The extremists among us shot back. They killed every human firstborn in an Iowa town."

His voice is distant with memory. "That was all the excuse they needed to use the lists to start and intern us. For safety. A 'temporary' measure until they could get some order restored. That's when the hate groups showed up. They'd developed a virus based off Terrigen research. It spread like crazy, in the camps. And those who escaped carried it even further."


"He lost them protecting someone," Jean quietly reminisces, drifting back to the window. "I was— God, I was keeping Her in line, and I was filtering out negative emotional energy, and trying to flirt with this— " Her lips purse, she waves off whatever else would've come if not for that hitch, and then she just concludes, "… and the next thing I knew, he was just… … there was so much blood— it was this, like a bear, but a shadow demon that HYDRA thought it could control."

The topic changes — mercifully — but Jean takes an opportunity to lay her hand over his forearm. Her gloved hand — since arriving, she has yet to be seen outside of her uniform, clean as it is. Unlike his Jean, or her norm, it looks like nothing more than spandex that shines a little if it catches the light right, rather than shimmering fabric woven from starstuff. It certainly doesn't have the everpresent warmth of the Phoenix's raiments, but she tries to make up the gap with a firm squeeze.

A very firm squeeze, as the story continues— as it loops back towards a starkly familiar beginning. Emerald eyes widen once they're in familiar territory and don't stop until they have to. She isn't breathing by then; she doesn't, until the story finishes and she remembers that she probably should.

"I have access," she whispers after gasping and shivering, "to files on— statistically, it's probably not your Terrigen virus, but someone in our timeline was working on a way to weaponize Terrigen against us. Someone either in SHIELD, or really invested in making it look like… … God."

This is exactly the kind of thing she'd dream about after long days spent reckoning with what's wrong with the world.

"… thank you," she whispers several seconds later, wide eyes now glued to the window while she shallowly breathes. "For sharing, it— that wasn't easy for you, and this— it can't happen again, Scott. This was, what— ten, fifteen years? Twenty…? They're already experimenting with registration in New York. A child was already injured during a protest; we aren't at the point where people'll just— just accept Sentinels, but God— we've just been trying to live with it, so far. We've been on our best behavior, trying to do what the Professor taught us to, and show the world that there's no reason to be afraid of all of us, and all it's gotten us is— GOD, Warren and Alison were targeted by anti-mutant bigots before they were pulled here, and it isn't even the first time, because they dared to be in the public eye…"

Jean's eyes slide shut and she slowly breathes out.

"I won't let this happen again. — We won't."


"I'm… not surprised," is Scott's slow reply, as Jean tells the story of her own Warren. "He was — he was always an idiot. He always had to fly ahead of my orders if he saw anyone in trouble. He never waited — never gave me a chance to help him, either, before he was…"

He stops. The visor makes it impossible to see the look in his eyes, but the way he controls himself is evident enough in the rest of his body language. The arm she lays her hand on is taut, his hands closed into fists.

It's — more than just Warren, too. which has him so on edge. There is a distinct tightness to his jaw — a twitch in the muscle of his forearm — when Jean speaks of a great Demonic Bear. He never did say how this world's Danielle Moonstar met her end.

Not likely to, either, unless Moonstar herself asks — and she has not been inclined. And there is the matter of Jean's question to answer, now, instead. The matter of Jean's reaction, and the things which she says of her own world which make it sound so much like this one — albeit simply ten, twenty years in the past. A Terrigen-based weapon in the making. Registration. A wounded child. Sentinels. Warren and Alison being targeted for their public showings.

His gaze turns on her — presumably. His visor fixes on her, at the least, the ruby quartz gleaming. It might occur to her, suddenly, that she's never seen this Cyclops without his full visor, never seen him in simply glasses or anything more natural. "It isn't easy," he says, "because it represents my failure. But it's necessary, because it may prevent yours. You are where we were fifteen years ago. You have time; you have a chance. It took fifteen years for us to come to this."

His gaze turns away, Scott staring out the wide window at the hanging Celestial ship. "I don't know if I have advice for you. We didn't use force, and it got us here. We used force, and it got us here." For the first time, since their arrival in this dimension, he looks tired. "The Professor…" It pains Scott audibly to say what he does next, "…his way, it didn't work. Magneto's way, it didn't quite work." He speaks of Magneto with familiarity now, and with no apparent dissonance. "Maybe you'll find the middle road."

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