Roleplaying Log: Megalopsychia
IC Details

With Alison saved from her transformation into Famine, the team turns to finally recover Warren from his corruption into Death.

Other Characters Referenced:
IC Date: November 24, 2019
IC Location: The Maryland of a Terrible Universe
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 25 Nov 2019 15:59
Rating & Warnings:
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

The Team has saved Alison Blaire and now comes the time to save another one of theirs.

Warren Worthington.

It's time to bring him back to the side of light. To pull him away from Death's cold skeletal hold. To bring him home before it's too late.

Danielle Moonstar has called everyone into the mission room for one last run through even as the Blackbird speeds onward to their destination. One last overview of where they're going, what they're attempting to do, and to answer any last questions. Or concerns. Or fears.

This is their last chance to voice all of that.

Instead of the white bandage around her face Moonstar now sports a snazzy black eyepatch. It's rather roguish even for the seriousness it hides. Currently the Cheyenne woman stands in front of a holographic map showing a rather large amount of forested area.

"This is where we're going." She states, "And this is where we're setting up the ambush." A portion of the map highlights an area of trees that's incredibly dense, "The canopy is thick enough that it should provide us with an edge. We'll use it for cover and protection. A bird's abilities are best suited for the air. I've seen many a hawk and eagle find themselves snarled by a wayward branch. We'll do the same and use the trees and foliage to our advantage. Once he's on the ground we subdue as quick as possible."

With each word Moonstar looks at every person in the room, meeting their eyes and holding their gaze if allowed. It's only when she turns her gaze to Alison and Carolus that she pauses.

"Alison, Carolus, you'll be the lure to bring him to us. A beacon for him to follow."

"The rest of us will play both offensive and defensive as required. No heroics. No going off on your own. No last stands. We fight him together and we'll win."


"Is there a particular time at which you would like me to attempt to discard the spiritual fragment?" Carolus asks, seated in the very same corner he's been using every time he's visited the ready room.

Gwen hovers around (above, on the cieling, because she's a weirdo in enclosed spaces and has gotten used to treating surfaces that are not the floor as 'more, better floor') the edge of the briefing, squat-sitting on her heels. "What's the plan if he doesn't come? Just bail in every direction, or what?"

Jean's eyes briefly slide towards Carolus, but she leaves the question for someone else to answer. One gloved hand's braced against her chair from the last meeting while the other slowly clenches and reopens. Unseen currents stir the ends of her hair and sash; as their tempo gradually rises, they begin to intermittently ripple beyond the psychic, set against hands, arms, or shoulders, and grip tightly, only to weave away moments later.

«The network is online,» blooms between every set of ears present.

It's been years since her last time running a mission as, just — her, and that one didn't go all that well for her. That everyone else made it out alive does, in a sense, bode well for today, though; it's all a matter of perspective, right?

One more question, concern, fear for the pile…

«Warren's maneuverability is excellent; his feathers secrete a poison that can shut down our powers with a touch, and they're basically made of swords, on top of that. He can break the speed of sound several times over, now… but under all that, he's still Warren Worthington. Despite everything that's been done to him, he's a proud man with a loving heart who would be - maybe is, somewhere - livid if he knew what was done to him. This isn't him— this isn't who he wants to be; whatever it takes from us, it's our job to reach in and give him something to hang onto, so we can pull him out of this nightmare.» rings like drawn steel.

"He'll come," she then assures, glowing eyes set squarely on Gwen. "We're going to offer him two of the things he loves most in the world — he'll be there."

Ghost Spider nods firmly at Jean's assurance. "Alright. If you're sure."

There isn't much else to say to certainty like that. And when someone specifically uses their voice to speak, rather than the weird psychic voice they absolutely already have in your head…

Well, that just underlines it, doesn't it? "I really hope nobody has to figure out how long that toxin works." She adds.

"As soon as you can." Dani answers Carolus' question evenly enough, "We need you in top form and perhaps when that bit of soul is returned it will help him regain some of .. himself." Those words of Dani's cause her to cut a slightly awkward sidelong look to Alison, "Which would help us in the long run."

Then it's over to Gwen and Jean, "He'll come." She agrees with Jean, her tone grim.

When Jean 'connects' each of them to the telepathic network there's a quiet, « Thanks. », from Dani and then it's back to the room at large.

"The fact that it's night will also help us. It'll hamper some of his eagle-eyed vision." She says that completely free of any emotion, "As such, Scott's provided us some gear." Night vision gear to be specific, "Anyone that needs it grab it.", which Dani does herself, though she leaves the eyegear resting atop her head until they're on site.

Less a woman, less a teammate, and more some transient ghost unsure where to make her home, Alison Blaire lingers at the wings of the meeting. Arms folded, head tipped down, eyes hooded, she listens without complaint.

Even now, she can barely look Dani Moonstar in the face. In the eye. But even as lingering guilt keeps her reticent, keeps her quiet, her game face is on. There is no option for her but to free Warren from the similar hell that had her.

She doesn't react to the established psi-link with much more than a tic at the corner of her mouth. Truth be told, it makes Alison feel uncomfortable to hear a voice that is not her own inside her head — so soon after Genesis — that even anything of superficial similarity makes her stomach turn, but she knows it's necessary. Anything to give them the edge in a life-or-death battle.

Her gaze tics up at Gwen's question, but Jean answers it first, and fiercely so. Alison remains silent, but her expression shows no disagreement. She believes the same thing: he will be there.

There is a pause, and the ex-Dazzler, ex-Famine adds, soft: "Everyone be careful. Don't engage him in close range unless you absolutely have to. I can't… emphasize this enough. As long as he's Death, he won't hesitate to hurt you."

Eventually, the Blackbird lands them with a hushed, gliding stop to the ground — where, through the windows, pits them in the small clearing of a forest, whose twining trees surround them in a reaching bowl.

Tbe air tastes of the approaching winter.

The night feels mild, but the woods is met sharp and crisp, the shadowy ground glossed with frost — or perhaps ash. It is hard to tell the difference in the dusk. The great trees stand sentry against the cold, an endless tide of aspens knotting branches with its brothers to hold in the darkness, the silence.

But not to Alison Blaire, whom departs the Blackbird, one of H.I.V.E's mechanical bees — Tony Stark's gift to her — hidden under the pleat of her collar. It hums with a sonic frequency, barely heard — consumed by her field, always hungry to transduce.

«Please look away,» implores her voice over the psi-link, as Alison looks up into the sky, breath misting into the air. Her eyes white over, and she focuses her charge forward, extending both hands to direct a pillar of light into the sky. Its colour is a burning gold.

Another thing Scott has provided, along with some gear, is the services of one of his mutants, who has the ability to scry for distant targets, and the ability to "store" charges of his own remote-sensing capabilities onto other objects. He has given the team one use of his ability, which will be more than enough to verify for certain whether Death will answer — and the circumstances under which he does.

"I'm certain he will come alone, under the conditions you set," Scott had said. "But if you use this and see him bringing additional forces… I would reconsider the mission."

Before long, the team drops in the forests of Seneca Creek, chosen for the staging grounds of this conflict. It is cold with the chill of approaching winter, and colder still in the deep shadows thrown by the thick canopies overhead, but the darkness should be an advantage, and the cold — likely won't be a problem, very soon.

The beacon sends up. And the scrying-view opens to show the response.

The window opens on a razed area of Joint Base Andrews. The place is destroyed, and not in ways that resemble anything that would result from conventional warfare. There is a certain… organic nature to the damage done, immediately implicating the unchecked use of biological mutant power. There are parts of buildings that are simply missing, whether shorn by a great aerial blade or bitten through by something with too many massive fangs; there are areas which are simply molten, as if doused in magma or acid.

In the distance echoes the sounds of continuing combat. Here, however, it is silent. The forces of Genesis largely moved on from this particular area to secure the next — except for one. Amidst the ruins waits a single familiar-not-familiar figure, silver wings sheathed in a flow of organic-steel feathers down his back.

Presently, another mutant, with the head and hooves of an ox, drags a human officer before him. The man's insignia is a silver eagle, wings spread. Full bird colonel. Death smiles passingly at the image, apparently still possessed of enough humor to find it very apropos.

"You are the base commander," Death identifies.

"I am," says the man, spitting at Death's feet, "and you can use those wings on me before I'll surrender this base to you."

Death reaches forward. "You do not use a sword to slaughter sheep," he replies. His hand closes on the man's face, fingertips pressed over the eyes, and in a sudden flow of black organic steel, his talons extend with a wet shnk.

He turns to the ox-headed mutant, after. He seems about to speak… but then his gaze tracks past, up towards the sky, where his keen eyes pick out a familiar beacon miles distant.

"Famine," breathes Death. His silver irises turn to the other mutant. "Take command here," he says. "I'm going to get her."

His wings flow open, and he takes immediately to the sky. The scrying-connection breaks, unable to track him at speed. Even miles distant, the team can hear the crack of that approach. From the sound of it, he is closing extremely quickly. Minutes before engagement, at the most.

Dani knows that she and Ali will have to talk, but this moment is definitely not the time.

Afterwards. When they're all home. Then the two can talk.

For now the focus is surviving whatever Death throws their way.

Scott's warning earns a nod from Dani and then to the team, "Let's move out."

And now comes the part that some view as the worst. The wait. Not that Dani thinks it'll be long. Not when Ali advises to look away, which Dani does. She turns her back on the songstress and keeps her eye upon the canopy above. Along with that gaze of hers raised upward comes her more empathic senses. They stretch beyond their grove, outward and beyond. Those empathic tendrils reach for all the nocturnal animals that are out and about.

Dani listens through their ears, sees with their senses, and feels all of their emotions. Her head cocks slightly as she stays attentative to what the forest life tells her, but also to what the scry portal and the team at large does.

It starts with an opussum in a tree and specifically when a shadow falls upon it. That shadow strikes fear into it and internally it screams 'danger! danger! run, hide, run hide!'. Then a raccoon, and another, and the creatures begin to run. To scatter. To hide in trees and under foliage, to hide in burrows and behind fallen logs. To escape the predator as quick and silently as they can.

Even those creatures that are at the top of the food chain sense the disturbance. An owl swivels its head around and then upward as it looks toward the canopy. There's the softest of ho-oots from it before it takes wing, its specialized feathers carrying it away silently.

// He's close! Be ready! // Comes Dani's immediate warning.

"As soon as I can." Atlas repeats, dully. His overall reaction to the impending mission is about what one would expect of anybody. He's a bit jittery but disciplined enough not to show it too much, but it does inform a relatively low-energy state that he's operating in leading up to it all. His own assessments of probable outcomes probably plays into things at least a little, though.

He nods towards Danielle, and then glances towards Ghost Spider.

As it is a part of the plan, he descends with Alison— and at her request he shuts his eyes. It's a good thing, too, because the light that she produces is /definitely/ the sort that can force his brain to hard reboot at an inopportune time. Like /precisely/ right now. He puts his back to her, because he's about to have to do something /pretty/ revolting anyway.

Before he gets to that, he brings his two auxiliary hands together and separates them quickly, producing a length of fresh silk between them. With his primary right hand he— goes about the business of forcing himself to vomit.

More /blood/ than bile and stomach fluid comes up a moment later, the heart-like object emerging onto the produced silk and rapidly being wrapped within it. The silk is a part of him and, he thinks, will probably keep it alive outside of him longer than simply dropping it on the ground. Wrapping it several times over, he meanders a little ways from Alison, lifts one of a collection of stray rocks, and deposits the silk bundle underneath it.

The mothman returns to Alison's side, wiping blood from his face. It's starting to come out of his eyes and ears in a manner similar to how it had with Strange, now— he blinks furiously, trying to get rid of it.

Fortunately, the flow doesn't seem to be increasing.

At least this set of voices is less concerned with worship. One of those everflowing currents coils around Alison's forearm and clings fast as lingering guilt and reticence melt along the back of Jean's psyche, bitter and familiar.

The world around the redhead's as still as most graves by the time they arrive: while the dance of her hair and sash has reached a caesura, raw force worms and weaves through the air to form a dense lattice of psychokinetic protection. The extension looped around Alison is ironclad by then, and the sight of Death only hardens it; she doesn't let go until the thunder of his approach and the storm shadow spreading across astral space tell her that minutes at most have become seconds, at best.

(The sound of tumblers falling into place distantly echoes through the network. Jean breathes approximately eleven percent easier afterwards.)

Magenta's flared around the edges of her seething web since landing, and now those flares streak through the darkness. One by one, Phoenix splits a portion of harnessed psychic force between the rest of the team. They're fields that could run a squad out of bullets or stop a runaway car cold, but the X-Man's still learning the rules of combatting Death; stopping the alpha strike she expects is her goal, but even blunting it would be a blessing.

There's not much Gwen has to do to get ready. She's back to wearing her mint green jansport, though it's far deflated from its snack-filled start. It's deflated, like Ghost Spider is.

She moves out of the blackbird with an empty set of flat-footed steps, lacking her normal spring and sprightliness. It's depressing -

- And with Carolus barfing out the soul-bit, quite a bit gross!

"Webs, what have I gotten myself into? Dani, this is real far from normal." She jabs at the Cheyanne, a cocky squint of her lenses before she aims her wrist skyward.

With a fsssssssss-plut of web line out into the tall trees surrounding them, Ghost Spider swings up and away to wait in the canopy for the Archangel of Death.

Alison's eyes shutter against that ghost of a touch haunting her forearm. Her fingers curl slightly, acknowledging — even seeking. It's the first, real ounce of contact she's felt in the starved denouement since her own retrieval, and it makes her heart twist.

For someone who currently doesn't trust her own hands around her teammates, her rescuers, her friends — it means a lot. A safer way to receive touch, without inciting the fear of someone coming too close to her light, and being burned —

Her frayed thoughts gentle slightly against Jean's ministrations, and the ex-Horseman gets to work, lighting the sky — the clearing — with a flash-strike of light so bright it almost confuses night for day. There is something strangely peaceful about her doing this, no immediate unconscious fear of death — not from this twisted echo of Warren Worthington. Maybe a death for her in other ways, but not by him.

Distantly, her acute ears can pick up a familiar sound — painfully familiar in these last weeks to her —

— as Alison's eyes turn, drawn to another source of sound, less expected, and far more close. She lingers, shocked and concerned, to Carolus' quiet retching, though she makes no attempt to disturb the painful process until it is over.

Even if it doesn't look over. Her expression pales, even in the little light, at the blood running from his eyes. There is not much time for conversation, they have handfuls of seconds before Death finds them —

"Carolus. You're… are you —" she still has to ask, hands half-lifted to him in some half-aborted motion to hover, wanting to help, but very afraid to touch. Then, more determined: "I can cover you."

Somewhere between minutes and seconds, the metal-winged scream of Death's approach dwindles and silences to nothing. The change comes in tandem with Carolus relinquishing his piece of soul.

Death clearly senses something amiss.

The eerie silence spools on. There is no more feedback on where he is save for the nervous chatter of the animal life in Dani's mind, the constant pressure on Gwen's spider-sense, and the approaching malignance Jean can taste off the psychic airwaves.

Then, from above, a hail of blades rains through the tangled branches. Feathers, all of them razor-edged, ranging in size from small daggers to things which could easily be used as shortswords. None of them are aimed at Alison, but they strike all around her with pinpoint accuracy towards those gathered around her, hitting with the sort of force that could punch through a tank's armor plates.

Except they encounter Jean's shields first. The force transfers into her telekinetic barriers, and the blades deflect into the earth with so much remaining momentum that they bury almost completely into the dirt. What little is visible of them glistens with — probably the toxin Alison was talking about.

Death himself appears a heartbeat after his flung feathers, descending through the canopy in a rush of beating wings. The narrow spaces between the trees seem to be working to keep his speed something more manageable to track — his wide wings, twenty feet in span, are hampering him — but his path is very direct.

He dives straight towards Alison, with full intent to grab her. "So you WERE captured. Well — I'll fix it," he surmises. His fury about that fact pinpoints on the closest individual who can be held responsible — Carolus. Who happens to also be dripping an enticing amount of blood.

He pivots in the air and plunges straight down, twisting in the air such that one razor-edged wing will rip the moth-man in half unless stopped.

The sound of poor Carolus' retching is heard, but Moonstar doesn't dare take her attention from what she's doing.

It's now too easy for her to miss something with only a single eye, and combine that with keeping empathic tabs upon Warren via animals, Moonstar's attention is quite fixed.

Thankfully, Alison is there to help Carolus.

And then comes Gwen's casual enough jab about the normalcy of this night and the Cheyenne woman's expression tightens.

However, there's little time to dwell on Moth, Alison, or Gwen, when the night erupts in a fan of toxin-edged metallic feathers.

Those feathers strike up against Jean's telekinetic barriers and Moonstar can't help but be grateful for those shields. That gratefulness dies away when Death finally makes his appearance closer to the ground and immediately attacks.

A steel-head already-nocked arrow immediately rises upward and Moonstar takes half a second to aim, then she lets it loose. She's aimed specifically for that wing that's trying to slice Carolus in half, as she herself attempts to tries to knock it off path with the force from the arrow.

This might be the time where Dani would have shouted something logical, tried to reason, but for Dani she's beyond reasoning with Warren right this moment. Perhaps when he's more subdued, but for now she strikes out quickly.

"Okay? Only for practical purposes in the moment." Carolus replies to Alison, genially. His uniform is smeared with blood along the right arm, though it blends well into the colors. As for his face though, he sniffs loudly and shakes his head, "It's… uncomfortable. Like a heavy nosebleed. Magic, I suppose. I'll keep, from that at least."

"Thank you for your concern, Alison. How are you holding up?"

Atlas takes note of Death as quickly as the others do. It's not by danger sense or from the connection he just severed— no, his sense of the atmospherics around him makes attacking him from the air without his awareness /painfully/ difficult.

« "Lightshow at my back, Dazzler. Try to make it hard to look at me until he zeroes in on somebody else." » He requests over Jean's networking, beating his wings furiously to retreat from the swipe of Warren's wing. As agile and maneuverable as he is, it's still barely enough to get him clear on its own, and Atlas struggles for a moment to not go careening into a tree behind him.

"I wouldn't hold Alison against her will, Warren. But I will cede that I did tell you to go get her, so I won't hold that against you. I'd appreciate it if you'd be gentler, though." Carolus tilts his head to one side, wiping lightly at his face to try to clear away more blood.

He doesn't have the concentration and energy to attempt to counter-attack.

Everything's happening much faster than it should be.

Tucked just past the tree line, Jean clutches her skull when a militia's worth of blades crash against her shields. A searing echo of cacophonous force roars through her nervous system and the fields flare to full, blaring visibility for a beat, then crumble into radiant shards.

Wordless apology echoes through Carolus' branch of the link as Jean staggers through the ragged rift where her portion of neurotoxic murder shredded the foliage. Vomiting up a piece of soul is awful enough; adding yet more light pollution certainly can't help

Jean sees metal and misshapen affection descending with an executioner's certainty as she crashes against a tree and slumps so it can do the work of holding her up; she's got more important things to do just now, like twitching and writhing while a hail of razor-sharp feedback continues to rip through her, and—

"Atlas— Warren, NO!"

The network offers a variety of tactical advantages. The half-second between Dani's aiming and loosing highlights one in particular: psychic communication being what it is, words are just one (clumsy, imperfect) level among many. While skilled fingers hold the string tight, one woman's protective instincts meet another's calculated desire, and half a second later, Jean knows exactly which way to angle the battering wave of force bursting free of her psychokinetic aura. It strobes brilliantly, here or there, as it streaks towards Death, intent on slamming into his other side hard enough to send his wing scything towards anything but Carolus— and the rest of him twisting towards that arrow, still.

If they can just slow him down— !

A spray of toxic feathers? The danger crashes down over Ghost Spider even as the awful, poisoned tips strike and twang off of Jean's telekinetic barriers, the less kinetically lethal tips buring in the ground before.

"Hey! That's probably cheating! You can't shoot feathers at us, that's-!" Gwen protests, eyes popping as she swings from branch to branch, sweeping her legs around as she flips through the air, away from the danger - the heartbeats of room she has between swooping high-speed death and merely having to find more trees to stick to.

Because the ones that are gone are very gone - cracking and falling to the late-November ground.

"Hold on!"

Springing into freefall, Gwen spreads her arms and just drops out of the air, spiralling down and firing out wide lines of webbing, sending fans of sticky fibres around the trees and gripping the lead-line as it seperates from her webshooters, creating a carried carpet of extending, bowing, sticky ropes that terminate in her clenched fist.

Like drawing down a zipper or carrying a mass of balloons, Ghost Spider is three-quarters through the motion of doing exactly what Jean Grey calls for - slowing him down.

"Welcome to my parlor, you blue jerk!"

"But you're right! Someone's gonna get fixed!"

They said let Warren get engaged first. They said that it would be better if he got invested first before Stark himself showed up. So Stark…totally took their word for it. For once in his life. Besides he was working on that whole distraction thing. Which included a giant robot(NOT SELF AWARE THANK YOU ITS FINE) and helping Magneto with his metal problem.

Which gained faction with Magneto.

And introducing him to AC/DC.

Which lost faction again.

And helping fight Genesis.

Which gained faction.

And mentioning how hot Polaris was.

Which lost it again.

…you see how that went. At least Stark didn't end up crushed in his own suit.

Instead he's just a touch late to the party. But Stark being Stark he can get there. Fast. Hypersonic speeds are not quite out of reach for his armor anymore and he does like to show off.

Over the coms there is an almost lazy call of. "So. I see you got his attention."

"Magic," repeats back Alison to Carolus, a little lamely. Her expression is an origami fold between sympathy and askance — some future mental aside never to touch the stuff, if she has to. "As long as you can still see."

How are you holding up?

In the few, precious moments before the fight, she looks on, speechless. Probably the first time she's been asked that since she was murdered, resurrected, world-warped, mind controlled, deprogrammed, everything else. "Ah, yeah…" she stammers. She has no idea.

But the shriek of air, cut by bladed wings at a speed not meant for flesh and bone, soon eclipses all her attention. Alison turns, stance squaring, just in time to watch that torriential rain of bladed feathers ricochet off Jean's telekinetic shielding. None aimed for her in particular, but still terrifying to witness from the other side of it.

It knots up her insides just to see him again. It's only been — hours? how long? — but it feels far longer.

"Stop, Warren!" she barely has time to urge. "It's not —" But he's already diving for her. Carolus asks for her ability at his back, and Alison —

She hesitates. Her will falters at thought of turning her light against one more being, potentially harming more eyes, more flesh, more bodies, and even worse, it being Warren. Hurting him is logically and tactically reasonable compared to the reality of him murdering their friends, but she just can't do it.

But Alison can do something else: she concentrates on her charge, and rather than pluming it outward, she tries to shape it: she copies an image and clone stamps it a half-foot to the left: just enough added space to allow Carolus room to dodge, and herself opportunity to evade back, while Warren's talons will find empty air — the hologram rippling, disturbed, before dissipating away.

Still on the ground, moving to try to keep close to Carolus — Warren may be less likely to harm him with her in friendly fire range — her eyes turn on the concentrated effort of the team. Still, Alison does not aggress, but she does have her words: "Warren! Genesis lied to us! He used you!"

Something familiar slams into Death's side. The force of it throws him off, his wing slashing clean through a standing boulder instead of through Carolus's waist. The loosed arrow winds up hitting his shoulder and sticking in a seam of the armor, with a ring of steel off — whatever makes up those shifting plates.

The net result, combined with Carolus's backwards dodge, is enough to spare the moth from becoming two moths.

Death turns sharply in the air, furious eyes flaring a sick red that overtakes the neutral silver of before. Ripping the arrow out of his shoulder, he flips it and flings it straight back at Dani in a gesture of pure contempt. "Enjoying my job yet? You have nothing to look forward to in it. You will not be thanked. You will make no difference. You will fail, and you will die. Why bring them here to die with you? I do not even want to go back."

He whirls a moment later, to sling another violent array of toxic blades straight towards Jean. All of them are aimed to impale her against the tree against which she slumps. "It's just like old times, Jean," her old friend mocks from his twisted form. "No Phoenix. No nothing. Just you. Just the way you break when the world hits you too hard."

Wings flaring, Death pivots in the air and resumes hunting pursuit of Carolus. That vague flutter of the moth's wings, it seems, is far too enticing to the predatory instincts written even into Warren Worthington's base mutation. At one point, his talons DO rip into the moth — only for the seeming flesh to wisp away into nothing in his claws. Tricked by a light image…

The main thing that stymies his speed, however, is the sudden appearance of countless web-lines, knotting stickily in his path. He flips in the air to cut his speed, darting around what of the webs he can, but they quickly cut off his path. Up until —

He reroutes entirely, his targets now the trees to which Gwen has attached her lines. He slashes through them each in turn, destabilizing the anchors for her webs — and creating some hazardous conditions for those on the ground as the vast, old-growth trees start to fall in every-which direction.

I wouldn't hold Alison against her will, Warren… Carolus says.

"Stop using those names!" Death snarls, screaming around in a tight turn — and aiming for the free-falling Gwen. Perhaps he's discerned what she means to the moth. With her weblines still making his flight path a bit difficult, he can't position to bring the edge of his wing to bear, but the flat of it — as it slams towards her — is guaranteed to sting pretty bad anyway should it connect.

…it's also shining with toxin. Any contact with it probably won't paralyze for longer than a few minutes, but even a few minutes is pretty dangerous in such conditions.

It's about that time, too, that Alison is shouting up at him. Shouting about the lies they were told by Genesis —

"You're confused," is his flat response. "They've led you astray. I will take you back. You will be made right again."

'So I see you got his attention.'

Hearing Tony's voice across the comm brings Moonstar's head up slightly, "Yes, I'd advise getting down her ASAP."

And before she can say anything more over the comms her arrow strikes right into Death's shoulder. There's a moment where Moonstar silently curses at hurting her friend, again, but those thoughts are fleeting at best as Death focuses upon her and those red eyes of his meet her one. When he flings that arrow back at her Moonstar easily dodges it - those words, however, aren't so easily avoided. They sting and bite, speaking truths that she'd rather not hear. Words that try to pull her down and cause her to lose faith in what they're doing here, what they're trying to accomplish tonight.

Which she must resist. Has to resist. "Action always leads to change. Even if we can't see the differences we make ourselves. We will succeed. You *are* coming home with us, Warren."

A second arrow nocks against bow and string and while she brings it up to once more shoot at Warren, her target suddenly changes. Now Moonstar rapid fires at those wing blades that fly at Jean. She may not be able to get all of them, but she can get possibly some.

Over the shared link Moonstar immediately sends, « If we can't wake him up we knock him out and take him with us. We'll figure out how best ot break the brainwashing at home if need be. »

There's more to be said, or thought, but Moonstar's concentration turns to the now falling trees.

It's a mad scramble to zig and zag away from branches and more, but even as she tries to not be squished, Moonstar keeps an eye on the action and more importantly, on her team as best she can. Especially Carolus and Ali, as they're most central to all of this.

Moonstar does what she can, but she's one woman with two hands and a limited quiver, and there are so many feathers.

Luckily, the Professor's blade budget always tended towards the exorbitant. Luckily, the only difference between she and Scott when it came to the Danger Room was that she tended to be less insistent about dragging everyone else into her rote-building rituals. Luckily—


"… once, just ONCE," a trembling Marvel Girl whispers, "i-if— if I get distracted, even a little, we'll burn on the way down, and the rest of the team'll be STUCK down there, and…!

"And…" she gasps, flicking her eyes towards Warren.

"… and it'll be my fault, and they'll know, and…"


— she's been here before, even if she hardly recognizes the man she's here with.

"No— hh— !

"I bend, Warren— !"

The closest among them are an inch from disaster — less, even — but near or far, every blade still airborne shares two things: clinging faerie fire the same brilliant magenta as her eyes, and an utter lack of motion.

"I survive— for you, and the rest of our friends— our family. You were lied to— you've been turned into something you never would've wanted to be— Warren, JESUS, YOU are letting someone— a MONSTER— define who you ARE!" she pleads as sweat beads along her brow.

Atlas ceases his flight immediately after he manages to get free of Warren's swing range, staggering lightly and coughing into his primary left hand. His wings flutter and twitch, not bringing him off of the ground but certainly going a little of the way towards expressing his own discomfort. He glances towards Alison, and then towards the spot where he left the guttering, bloody fragment wrapped in silk.

« His healing factor's probably jacked up. If we need to disable, we need to swing hard. »

He continues to cough into his fist as he strides off into the trees, circling 'round the edge of the active fight as Ghost Spider captures Warren's attention— or at the very least, Warren's attempt to incense Atlas does so. Carolus's eyes flick towards Warren's head — attempting a moment of eye contact that isn't really physically possible given their differing bearings — before he vanishes into the brush, and…

Diverging influences stagger him simultaneous with trees strung with webs beginning to fall in numbers. Though he is now freed of the fragment of Warren, the entanglement has left a bit of a mark. An unnatural spike of white-hot anger races through him, magnifying a moment's cool-but-controlled aggravation to a catharis-demanding fury. A bloody handprint is left behind when he pushes away from the tree he'd braced himself against momentarily.

His wings twitch back to life, his form buzzing forward through the falling trees. It's unwise in the extreme and on more than one occasion he finds himself weathering a hail of thick, painful branches that bludgeon, batter, and scrape him with the force of their fall. But he doesn't re-engage, at least not at first. It takes him locating a tree — not too large and inflexible, not too small or light as to carry no weight — to bring his actions into clarity.

The mothman loops thick ropes of silk around the top of the tree, each extending from one hand, and then draws back with all his might, his other senses zeroing in on the position among the adjacent falling trees that represents Warren Worthington. After bending it back into a satisfactory arc he releases it, causing it to snap back and towards the metal-winged angel.

"He" Atlas pauses, clears his throat, and spits blood into the air, " he let Hodge take your wings away just so he could give them back, Warren! That metal you're hurling around is the same substance we found was rotting you from the inside out. It's no wonder that he got you up and running in such a short amount of time. A batch—"

His flight pattern turns into an uncharacteristically incomprehensible sequence of erratic fluttering as he devolves into a worse coughing fit. It's a far cry from /standard/ moth incomprehensible fluttering, in that it's not intended to ward off bats. Or birds.

There is a streak of gold and red though the sky, trailing blue contrails of repulsor power. Most people would go around the falling trees. Tony Stark doesn't go /around/ anything. Instead there is a series of shattering trees, splitting some in two, knocking them tumbling out of the way in a manner that looks compleatly random.

…and which isn't at all.

Knocking them out of the way of those on the ground, shattering those that he couldn't knock away, trying to provide as much cover as he could to those on the ground.

"Sorry buddy, hi by the way, they happen to be right in this case. You got played by someone from a different dimension, he took your wings to turn you, not anyone from where you live." Stark calls out as his hands snap up towards Warren, repulsor beams lance out, not to hit the winged one hard, but to distract at the very least from any possible Spidermurder that he might have in mind.

Gwen had a lot of very good plans while slinging her webs around. She had a natural confidence when she flew through the air, a sense of release that she rode like air currents - a highway hypnosis of body and mind that 'just worked'.

It let her focus on the sheer pleasure of whatever was blasting in her headphones, the gentle burn of her arms and upper chest, the blur of wall and window and billboard. It was restive.

As she plummeted in the air, holding on lines of surity, her eyes tracked the steel blue point of sharp, spined danger in pulsing probabilities. The lynchpins of her safety-net - literally, and figuratively - are torn apart and sent tumbling to the ground, and like a host of spears, the potent probability of 'Death' filled the air.

No time to tuck, no leverage to spin out of the way, and too far to the ground to land and then evade.

Archangel darts low, at Ghost Spider, and in a desperate rotation, she snaps out a leg through the seabreak of potent death that flowed forth towards her at Archangel's head.

He brings up a wing, coated with toxin, to bash her away.

Jean's fire across the pinions, a telekinetic sheath, slows the swing from a laceratingly lethal and poisonous experience, and the timely intervention of repulsor fire bleed yet more momentum off-

-so instead of a lethal, meat-liquifying crash, Ghost Spider takes a loud 'th-WHACK' and careens off into a falling tree, splitting the trunk clean into half and spraying wood flinders everywhere, before exploding into a crater of dirt, leaves, and misting frost from disturbed ground-ice.

No voice comes from the crater, no fist of triumphant unharmed white.

But you don't have to HEAR her.
« Ow. I'm going with 'ow'. Is that Mister Stark? I don't know what the fire was, but I think I still have feeling in my fingers because of it. »

You are coming home with us, Warren.

"Home killed me," hisses Death. "What is there for me? To suffer more and die again? Do you understand how much I poured into it? Nearly half my life. My money, against the wishes and interests of my own family. My faith that if we worked hard enough and reached out kindly enough, we would be heard, and someone would reach back."

He turns his winged back on Dani. "Someone did reach back — to put a bullet through Alison's FACE."

You are letting a MONSTER define who you ARE.

"He isn't the real monster, Jean," says Death. The reverence in that one pronoun echoes the reverence with which Alison spoke the name of Genesis, when she herself was brainwashed. He can't affect those wingblades once they're detached from him, and soon enough the force behind them dissipates enough Jean can fling them easily aside. For now, there is no physical follow-up. "The real monster called himself my friend for eight years. The real monster was standing next to me at my parents' funeral. The real monster lived unchecked 'back home,' because we were all fools enough to trust humans could have some better nature in the face of their own extinction."

He hangs briefly motionless in the air, wings fully spread, looking in that one moment like a biomechanical interpretation of some classical angel of death, steeped in judgment. The fallen trees clear some of the denseness of the canopy, and the wan starlight that makes it through pours through his bladed pinions. "They don't. They never will. They are afraid of us. More than that, they envy us. They'll never stop killing us. The only solution is to kill all of them first."

Apparently starting with Gwen… though the intervention of the others prevents his hit on her from being worse than it is. Death spins in the air as Tony comes plunging in, his wings shielding in front of himself to deflect the repulsor fire. It does mean he's too distracted to dodge the tree being snapped at him; if he'd had a wing free, he could have bisected it.

As it is, it hits him hard, killing his aerial advantage briefly and sending him dangerously close to plowing into the dirt before he corrects.

But now Jean isn't the only one telling him he's been lied to. The others echo the sentiment, and Carolus provides a little more explicit context, and for half a moment Death — hesitates, his red eyes turning towards the moth-man at that familiar name. Hodge. Genesis let Hodge take his wings with that techno-organic strain.

…they never did understand why his wings would not heal.
…and Genesis always did want to test his servants.

"No," Death mumbles. He turns and plunges away abruptly, towards the place where his soul was left. His talons tear away the rock, slitting the silk to expose the mote of bloody, heart-like light. One has to wonder how someone — puts a piece of their soul back, exactly.

Death seems to know, as if by instinct. He turns his own talons and punctures them into his heart, or near enough to it. The bit of light wavers, wisping up into apparent smoke, drawn into those deep wounds even as they start to seal up.

"How could He have?" he says, almost more to himself than anyone else. "I — won't believe it — "

For now, the passive figure on the battlefield is Alison Blaire, held in place, trying to use her words instead of her light. Just fifteen minutes ago, she had steeled herself to the idea of wielding her ability against Death — against Warren — but now it's an impossibility.

She can't do it. Not now, not after what she already did to Dani's face, even if it wasn't her mind behind the wheel — it repulses her to do it again. Nearly all of Warren's flight is his eyesight, and even to impair Death… what if she did irreparable damage again?

Hands curled, wrestling indecision and still hating herself as she watches Death turn decisively on everyone else, hurting them, what can she do?

Hearing Cameron Hodge's name — doesn't help. Alison's expression flickers, something vulnerable folding over immediately into a safe blankness. As Death sneers down on them all the particulars of her murder, the ex-Dazzler remains silent, her eyes shining too-bright.

"Warren," she pleads, adding her voice into the chorus of reason with Jean and Carolus, "listen to them! They showed me everything. It's not the way, and you know it. You fought for your entire life believing that this isn't the way."

Her jaw sets as she watches the tree connect with Death, head turned to the point he seeks — reclaiming that lost relic that Carolus had violently rejected, minutes ago, from his own body. Her original positioning has her close by, as she pivots to insinuate herself bodily into the fray, back on her teammates, fiercely hoping her presence will be enough of a barricade.

Alison spent all her life afraid. A coward, she has accused herself over and over again, always choosing to hide — live her life — rather than fight. A great many things in this world, like the one before it, make her afraid, but Warren Worthington in his every iteration isn't one of them.

Her face twists against the violent way he inserts that soul shard; concerned even for Death, she steps closer, doing the very thing she warned the others against attempting — getting within reach of those bladed wings, and the man between them.

"Warren," Alison calls. Her eyes stray down to his chest, over his heart, daring one hand forward, fingers aglow. If he's still bleeding, she trusts herself enough to cauterize. "Genesis is a monster. He put that into you, to make you suffer as he has everyone else. It's what he does. Push his voice out. I know you can. We're not letting you go. I'm not letting you go."

Jean stops those wing blades from skewering her.

Carolus tries to refute Death's rage with logic.

Tony drops in for a well-timed distraction and Ghost Spider manages to survive Death's onslaught.

For all of this Dani is grateful.

And while Warren's hissed words about himself, about Alison, are a slap to the face Dani straightens away from behind a half fallen tree trunk. An arrow sits nocked and ready to be fired, but she pauses upon seeing Death stab himself with those razor-sharp talons to take that bit of soul back into himself.

And then when Alison steps forward and begins to speak, Moonstar stays motionless again. Wary and watchful, waiting to see just how Death takes those words of the songstress'.

"Listen to Ali." Moonstar states and pleads, "She speaks the truth. All of us do."

"That creature is no savior. He only seeks to enslave those that he can use. He cares little if they live or die and when they die all he does is replace them. Over and over again."

"That isn't what a savior would do. He would care for his people whether at war or peace. He would mourn his loses, he would grieve. He does none of that."

"But we grieved. We cried."

"And now we can rejoice." Is the last that Dani adds, "Because you two are back with us."

« How ow? I'm going to get up in a second ow? I need a ride ow? Ow and also I'm paralyzed? » Atlas rapid-fires through the mental network towards Gwen, steadily decreasing the beat of his wings to descend back to the ground in fits and starts. He sags against a fallen tree, breathing in and out unsteadily and raising his gaze towards Death. He doesn't have the energy for this fight. Any little bit of time he has to sit at "effective rest", he's going to take it.

His antennae droop a little as he speaks, "Humans probably aren't ever going to stop killing humans. But I think that maybe… you're selling short how many /humans/ dropped everything to give us an opportunity to come find you again. Things are pretty terrible, and you and I… we pretty much signed up to be at the front of the line for the firing squad, didn't we? Even so, I wouldn't have thought that this outcome is the sort of thing you wanted."

"If you gave me a pick of all the worlds there are," he says, "I wouldn't pick one such a dramatic step worse than our own. If I had no attachments whatever, though, I wouldn't pick ours either."

Tiredly, he answers Death's disbelief, "Same way he knew where and when to come to get you. From the sounds of things, this is probably his standard M.O. It's not the first time that somebody who is definitely dead in this universe turned up here as one of his lieutenants."

"You're right, Warren."

A chorus of blades clatters to the ground. Jean lets the soft sentiment hang for a spell as the rest of the team lay their emotional cards on the table. Alison and Dean speak to his heart; Carolus, to his sense of reason.

"We were naive, thinking it'd be as simple as doing the right thing and waiting for the entire rest of the world to see us, and forget how to hate us," she says to the man's ego. "You gave them EVERYTHING, and it wasn't enough — registration's still on the books; there are still people who'd rather see us locked away, sterilized, enslaved, dead, but— Warren—

"They don't all hate us. Carolus is right: we wouldn't even BE here if it wasn't for Dr. Strange, and he's not one of us. Captain Marvel— for all her flaws, she worked to try and do right by the girl she hurt— she listened when I tried to tell her that something was wrong in SHIELD— not to MENTION Thirteen, and Thirteen's bosses, and Thirteen's mentor. There were always people who saw what you and Alison represented and respected it, FOUGHT for it— what about THEM? What do they deserve…?"

Pushing herself away from her tree, Jan staggers towards Death and tries not to grimace the whole way. Radiant energy flickers protectively around her but its magnitude is noticably less than before as she recovers her breath, physically and psychically speaking.

"They killed me too, Warren— we tried to stop them from building Sentinels in space, and I died for it… but we don't have to give in and punish them all. We don't have to quit, just because we were wrong, once; you have a second chance, and — letting yourself just, BE this— this," comes with frantic gestures all along his body, "this MOCKERY that someone's made of the man I grew up with is WASTING it, Warren. We can find a better way— better than what we tried before; better than what the Brotherhood's BEEN trying; better than THIS— we can DO that— we can figure out what that //means/— "

She isn't close enough to dare his wings, but she reaches out for him anyway. Even with her energies rebuilding, it doesn't take much to telekinetically brush a blue cheek.

"— but we need you to let us reach you…"

The first thing that emerges out of the crater Ghost Spider had been buried under projectilely is not a white hand, but a tattered mint-green jansport backpack, ribboned along one strap and stuck with toothpick-sized bits of wood stuck in it like it had a poor encounter with an arboreal porcupine.

« Wish I didn't get up this morning. » Gwen clarifies, shimmying out of her hole with her arms, struggling briefly to get her legs unburdened from dirt and underneath her. She half-rests on the ground, remaining on that back foot as voices call out for Warren. Her's is not the loudest - and certainly not the one with the weight of backstory behind it. Not history. Just an idiot who came along to help.

"Look, man, this Genesis - Apocalypse, whatever - seems like bad news. But even if he doesn't, this can't sit right, can it? All your friends come, move heaven and earth, travel through dimensions, and pull this whole elaborate ruse to get you back and… we're the bad guys? You're not even stopping those people responsible. You're just killing a whole lot of people, people you swore you'd protect not months ago. People who you took responsibility for."

For all that 'responsibility' isn't a proper noun, Ghost Spider heaves it with a hard, meaningful R.

"All your friends come for you, go to right what happened, and you're trying to tear them apart."

Rising a bit, Ghost Spider leans in and fishes around in the shredded backpack for the last item in it: behind all the bottled water and fruit snacks and meat sticks, a single posh looking box. There's a little ribbon on it that she discards with a pinch and whisk of white-gloved fingers. There's a whole piece of old-growth wood speared right through the center of it.

"Went to some fancy chocolate place, because I bet you could taste the difference. They had these boubon liquor things, that sounded like something Warren would like."

With an overhand toss, she throws the chocolate in its little container at Warren. Enough force to get it across the intervening forest and not much more.

"But man, you really can't decide which is which, is it? Are you here for your friends, the X-Men, and your girlfriend, or are you some blue jerk's tool? Because they really, really don't sound anything the same!"

The last wisp of that wayward fragment of soul vanishes. There is a brief moment, after it's gone, where Death looks at Alison as she speaks, and his eyes flicker a friendlier blue.

Then it's gone, seeped back into that distrustful red. He hangs there in the air, hunched, his wings beating slowly in a whisper-sharp cadence.

"I fought my entire life believing this wasn't the way," he says. "And it's why we died. Why — " he rounds on Dani, " — should I go back?! What joy is there in watching this happen again?! Don't you know how this world began? It began like ours in registration. Its people were weak, like we were. And this extinction is where it brought them." His eyes bleed a darker red. "My — job — my task — I have to see the right species survive. I cannot chance giving the world over to these — termites… I — cannot — "

His head rolls back. His eyes flicker blue, silver, red. A voice in his blood whispers.

Look at them, it seethes. They talk when they should fight. They will die in fear and pain when true hardship comes. Mercy is killing them now…

His gaze lowers again, fixes on Carolus. "You followed my lead, didn't you? Registering? And you asked, once, if it just made us the first targets. This world has answered that for me. It did. Your name was one of the first on the lists of the dead."

But what do the good people deserve? they ask. All the humans she and Carolus mention, who've helped along the way without hesitation. Do they deserve death too?

Does Gwen? He does not recognize her. And yet, from what she says, it isn't hard to piece together why she is here. She came across the dimensions for her friends. And that word she says, responsibility — it stops him as dead as if it had been capitalized.

The box she throws skitters to the ground beneath him. A startling bit of mundanity amidst the chaos.

He stares down at it. His programming struggles against the very concepts being thrown at him. Against being told his new master was, after all, the instrument of his initial ruin.

Jean reaches forward, a familiar telekinetic touch laden with memories stroking down his face. Alison reaches forward from much closer, hand glowing, desperate to help him even now: seeking to cauterize those ugly puncture wounds even as they slowly seal on their own. She steps between his framing wings.

Death's talons close around Alison's throat. His maddened eyes flicker a faltering red.

"Do you trust me?" he asks. Of Alison. Of everyone who gathers in this ruined forest.

"Come on, Red. You list all those and forget me? I'm right here." Stark calls out as he pulls out from his dive and hovers there, arms forwards and towards the twisted form of his old friend. He doesn't fire though, not yet at least. Ali and Jean are both in the way.

He shifts over, hovering though the air towards the crater that was Gwen's landing place. "…you alright there kid?" The man asks as he glaces to the side.

/I wish I didn't get up in the morning./

"Yeah, you're fine." Stark adds with a smirk that no one can really see behind his suit's helmet. "Anyway, yeah buddy. What they said. I mean, I just defied all laws of time and space to come just have a chat with you again. It's not just because I can't stand not having someone tell me that I need to put wings on everything. Though that is a big part of it."

Still though, the inventor is aware that just how dangerous this whole situation is. A thought that solidifies as Warren reaches forwards to wrap those deadly claws around Alison's throat. Those glowing hands come back up, snapping towards Archangel as the repulsor's glow. Vents in the back slide open as the suit half-deploys the extra weapon systems that he brought.

"Someone want to call this?" Comes the question as he calculates angles and powers in order to fire and /not/ rip Alison's head off when he shoots. When. Not if. Because its Warren.

He's too Warren to not shoot.

"Kinda hard to trust ya buddy when you're threatening to rip your girl's head off. Bart's gonna be really sad if he doesn't have both aunt and uncle. So why don't you just put her down and we can talk this out."

« I understand completely. »

As things have calmed down, Atlas risks seating himself on an overturned tree. He clears his throat several times, meeting Death's gaze and listening to his answer long before he feels comfortable enough speaking again. The guttering bits of Warren that had been imprinted on him — that might have overtaken him, had they remained long — flickers with anger that isn't quite his own. Of course he can't help but be disappointed at the ultimate consequences of his decision, but he doesn't approach things like Warren.

He's a moth, not a bird.

"I'm okay with that." He says, lips curling into a grim smile.

"That's the meaning of my codename. I'm a hyalophora cecropia moth, not an atlas moth. It's easy to listen to that codename and think, 'Ah, well, he must think he's very strong.' And I /am/ strong. But that isn't the meaning of it— the meaning of Atlas is one who must bear a burden."

"Which isn't to say that I am content to do nothing to course-correct. It's been my biggest worry, thinking that /your/ murder would be used as a springboard to… this." He gestures into the surroundings with his auxiliary left hand.

Carolus's expression simply falls at what's going on with Alison.

« I can probably get his hand open, but he'll definitely tag me once I'm in close. I'm already running on fumes— I doubt I'd get up as quick as I usually would if that paralytic gets me. » He thinks into the network, but he doesn't move to actually /do/ anything.

« I don't think he'd do anything he can't undo, but in this specific case we've been lead to believe that's rather a lot. »

It is a fatal decision — possibly a final one — to place herself within the reach of those living metal wings. But Alison makes it, nonetheless.

She faces forward, giving Death, and the hopeful sliver of Warren still left within, her full attention. The voices of her team, her friends, however, are not ignored; her own tongue holds when they speak, wanting to give every last word its chance to connect. What they are all putting on the line, for the sake of Warren's soul, deserves to be heard.

Her eyes hold steady, trying to hold his — she did not miss the way their colour flickered blue, before, just for an instant. It is the first hope for anything Alison feels in what might be weeks, a small thread of light within so much shadow.

"Everything already took so much from us," she urges, voice soft. Her right hand moves to lay carefully over his heart, imparting warmth to thse closing wounds. Her fingers splay. "Don't let him take the rest."

The struggle is palpable on Death's face. Emboldened, Alison's lips part to speak —

— as that hand, curved with killing talons so long they could enter her throat and sever her spine, collars her throat. Not tight enough to cut off her air, or even to hurt, but sure enough that she is not going anywhere. She goes very still. Her eyes still do not leave Death.

Alison remains still, unmoving, even as Carolus' words move through the psi-link. Her answer is brief, but it is certain:

«It's fine. Trust him.» He wants to believe he's more than that monster.

Her free hand, still at her side, opens in an equally-brief, placating gesture — palm out like a holding 'stop', as she distantly hears Tony.

"You've asked me this already," finally answers Alison, her eyes on his face. "My answer will never change."

« Okay. » Carolus answers Alison immediately, relaxing a little on his seat.

"History isn't set in stone." Dani says when Warren rounds upon her with his sharp words. "We can fight against this outcome - just not like this."

Definitely not like this.

And then one by one they all speak. Alison, Carolus, Jean, Gwen and Tony. All of what they say Dani silently agrees with, and while she could verbalize that agreement she doesn't. She just watches the scene play out, only to tense when Warren reaches for Alison.

Her expression turns even more grim when his hand encircles the songstress' throat. At the same time the psi-link blooms with chatter, « Glad you're relatively okay, Spider. »

And then, to both Carolus' assessment and finally Alison's, Dani adds, « We'll trust your lead, Ali. Be careful. »

And while her arrow sits nocked against bow and string ready to be fired, for now the Cheyenne woman keeps it pointed downward.

Though it wouldn't take long to bring it up if needed.

"You're right here, Tony!" Jean immediately calls back. "He can see you and he knows you're his human friend— "

Jean's eyes widen as soon as she's looking forward again. A sharp breath brightens the magenta flickering around her—

Do you trust me?

The air rushes from her lungs as if those talons were around her throat. Do I scare you? she'd once asked him, when he came to visit her in the Adirondacks and nudge her, gently but firmly, out of isolating herself away from the Institute to avoid legal complications— to keep difficult questions from making dark times moreso.

(Like, 'Do you trust me?')
(Like, 'Do I scare you?')
(Like, 'Do you still love me?')

And he didn't, of course, because he's Warren Worthington, who never forgot to love others even when it was difficult to embrace himself. Only one thing scared him:

"We don't want to lose you again, Warren," she echoes, spreading her hands then lowering them to her sides. "We trust you— "

It helps, of course, to have Alison's confirmation over the link. Her shoulders visibly sag after that.

"— of course we trust you, you're our friend— you're Warren Worthington the Third," she insists as her eyes shrink and set on his.

"He can't kill her." Gwen grunts. "Not Death. Not Warren. Neither can do it."

Of course, she can't be sure, but she has faith. If all these people - Jean, Tony, Dani, Carolus, Kitty, Scott, … Magneto (Gwen didn't know his real name!), and Doctor Strange on the other side of the portal could all chip in and work for this, it had to be worth it.

Warren had to be worth having faith in - and Alison confirms shortly after that she trusts him.

Looking up at Iron Man, Ghost Spider gives a wavering thumbs up as she drops to her bottom and flops out on a pile of splinters and leans into the shattered trunk that had fallen near her. "Not really my call, guy." She announces to Archangel even as she sprawls out. "I'm here for them - and they're here for you. You're worth it."

Over the mind-link, she's punch drunk but verging on bashful. « Sorry. I really should shut up, I know this is an X-Men thing. »

The Spider's lenses wince at Jean's outpouring of genuine emotion. « Yeah, I'm gonna take a sit. I think my entire body is transforming into a bruise. An unlocalized Spider-Bruise. »

«You came to rescue two of us from a horrible, fucked up dimension wounded by tribalism and anti-mutant discrimination,» warmly radiates through the psi-link.

«You're at least a little bit an X-Man, now.»

At Gwen's apology there's a swift response from Dani, « There's no need to apologize. You're part of the team - », but her words still as Jean similarly states what she was just about to.

It is a close thing.

Stark's weapon systems slowly power down, the glow and whirr of the deadly things slowly as the arms slowly drop by fractions. "Alright, buddy." Mutters. "You're worth it. I mean I wouldn't tell anyone that." A pause. "Or maybe I just /really/ want you there when I fly a yacht with stupid wings on it. I mean no one else is going to approve of that."

«Oh god, GS. You're a little bit of X-man now. You'll never scrape that off.» Stark adds to the mental chat. «Trust me. Impossible to remove.»

« But I just got another team, I can't be cheating on them, we just committed to an… intimate… super-relationship. Or something. »

« Let's go with X-cessory for now. » Gwen's mind-voice comes back after a few moments of processing.

«Puns. I'm just going to throw myself on his wings now.»

« Tony, you joined us on an extradimensional trip to rescue Warren and Alison from being resurrected and mindjacked by interdimensional racists after he was killed by regular racists as a part of a complicated plot by the interdimensional racists who, ironically, are who the regular racists are racist against. Sorry, but you've earned an honorary dusting of X-Man too. » Carolus interjects, his thoughts aglow with weary amusement.

«I know! That's why I'm trying to warn her!» Stark just can't stop Starking.

«D'you remember that time we almost got turned into Brood?» bounces through the link thanks to a weary reflex from Jean. «They weren't racist against anyone, right? That was nice…»

« Wait, hold up, is 'our enemies weren't racist that one time, that was nice' a real thing? »

Strong, Young Adult Incredulity ripples through the mindlink in waves, as Gwen tries to wrap her head around that.

« How are there so many racists in your dimension? Is it like, a mist? An evil mist? »

Death waits. Tony's immediate response to his movement tenses his wings, the metal flaring with a hiss of sharpened organic steel, but he doesn't speak.

He simply — waits. For people to attack him. For people to open fire. But one by one, though tension flares in each and every person in the clearing… no one moves on him.

No one shows that level of distrust, even now.

All they do is reaffirm who they know he is.

"The person you knew," he finally says. "The person you said I am. I wanted to know you really still saw him."

He lets Alison go, and the next place those claws go is into his own throat, nicking open a narrow gash. His wings fold and he crumples to the ground, hunched over, and… the stream of blood that issues forth from the small wound is mixed heavily with that same milk-white substance which Alison rejected from her own body, when her brainwashing broke.

He pulls in on himself afterwards, lethal wings folding in as if to hide. There is a distinct shame to the way he attempts to cover himself; perhaps for the first time, he realizes his own ruined, warped self, much like Adam and Eve realizing — all of a sudden — their undress. "I'm sorry," he pants. "I'm — "

His wings droop until the organic steel drapes the earth. His head lifts suddenly, alert. "…Hide," he says. "You all have to hide." His eyes swing towards Kitty. "Grab onto her and go into phase. Pestilence is coming to check on me."

He rises, his wings sheathing at his back. "We're not in the condition to fight — to fight him. I will tell him to go."

Warren turns, his back to the group. He faces towards the edge of the clearing, which is already blackening with a creeping, encroaching rot. The vegetation withers into black dust in an approaching tide of decay, even down to the felled bodies of the great trees…

A young man, skin a pure obsidian black, comes walking through the ruin, and where he goes life rots into nothing. "Death," he says. "Did you find trouble?"

"An inconvenience," says Warren. The creeping rot spreads outwards from Pestilence, a biologic decay that flows around Warren — but starts to chew at the boundaries of the group's personal space. "I was lured here under the pretense Famine was here. I handled it. Return to the ship. We're going to move soon."

Pestilence tilts his head. His hair shines dully, hints of gold struggling through the rotten black. "…Understood."

He turns and walks away, both hands slightly lifted to brush at a height where there were once nodding branches and leaves. As he departs, in his wake, the forest rejuvenates, the decay reversing until the forest springs anew as if the fight had never occurred.

Kitty is wary of all this, has been keeping herself behind with Lockheed as a guard. The best way to show Warren that they trust him, that they care about him, is not use her as a phasing shield. And the best way to keep her from doing that or even putting that in his head is to keep her off the battlefield.

At the command, though, Kitty straightens. It's like the Warren from before, the one who used to give orders on the battlefield all the time. It doesn't sound like Death. Either way, though, she is here to protect her team.

Reaching out she is quick to grab a hold of those closest to her and tells them the drill they may know by now. "Everyone hold hands, let's back up. I'm going to try and bend the light around us, but Ali may be able to help that better." Giving everyone a moment to grab on, she phases who she gets and attempts to hide them.

"Awww, holding hands isn't that sweet." Stark calls as he jets backwards. "Ali, channel the light though these." He adds as his armor spins out a quartet of drones that should amplify the holographic powers of Kitty and Alison.

Yeah. This'll be fun.

With her closest set of hands to link being Tony in his DARK NANO-SCIENCE suit that can spin off drones, Gwen has to hustle to join with the others, scrambling through the forest for a few moments before catching her stride.

"Hey, you can spin off little things from your armor? Webs, that's actually pretty cool."

She shuts up quick as the rotting avatar of Pestilence makes himself known with the waves of degeneration.

"Let me guess… Don't let him touch you, ever?"

All the chatter upon the psychic link almost causes a corner of Moonstar's mouth to twitch upward.

Though that momentary flash of amusement vanishes when Warren reaches for his own throat and then slices it open.

Seconds later, however, the reasoning of just why Warren did what he did is seen, as he rejects that substance from his body.

There's only a moment to feel that relief before a new threat materializes The arrival of another horsement. When Kitty offers her hands Moonstar steps over and reaches for whomever might be closest.

Then, because she's been phased quite a bit these last few days, she draws in a deep breath.

Then she watches the arrival of Pestilence alongside the others.

«— what— »

Jean's done it enough times: she grabs the nearest hand and thinks still thoughts.

mostly still thoughts, now that the forest is beginning to simply— rot. Still enough to silence her breathing and keep errant twitches at bay; excited enough to set the air around them thrumming with concern while she watches Pestilence draw closer—

— and closer—

— and closer. She doesn't breathe at all once the conversation begins— not until he's gone, and the forest returns.

In the end, trust brings him home.

Those talons release her throat; within that same breath, Alison moves, not to back away or insert space, but to follow the returning Warren as he collapses. She drops to a deep kneebend, insistent to help support his head, curled briefly around him as she murmurs low, barely-heard words to his closest ear. Soothes, perhaps, or simply words meant only for him, to help guide him through. She did this. She knows how it feels.

"You're back," Alison only says, in answer to Warren's first, anguished apologies. She also knows how this feels. Her heart is a knot. "It's all right. You're back. You're back—"

And then his bearing changes like a turned light switch, and she tenses. The name alone of 'Pestilence' brings Alison to pale bloodless on the spot. She's been acquainted.

"Be careful," she urges, but obeys, standing to quickly retreat back to the others. Alison, even know, seems reticent to offer any one of them her bare hand, but there's no time for her cowardice: they have moments.

Her eyes pull to Kitty. It's one of her more difficult tricks, to bend light, and she's never attempted to cloak more than one or two people at one time —

"I can do it," she says, and glances to Tony, visibly appreciative of his tech assistance.

She holds her breath for the phase. Her eyes white over, fixed with concentration. It is not a telepathic trick, Alison's bending: beyond the phasing, the affected can look down and see their bodies gone, the eye tricked even as they feel themselves complete and whole. She strains painfully against her rapidly-draining charge, holding it on the last fuel ounce of her field.

Then Pestilence is gone, and only when sure, Alison lets it go.


Atlas doesn't hesitate at the command. His wings flutter back to activity, carrying him rapidly over to Kitty. His auxiliary left hand settles against her shoulder, moving according to the needs of the group. If she should need to be moved to anyone in particular, he'll assist— but with all the thick brush, it's probably not much more practical than letting people collapse to her position.

"Take care." He says to Warren, flashing a muted smile.

"I like the new wings." He adds hastily, perhaps distantly aware that the sentiment might actually matter. Then he falls silent, holding his breath as they — effectively — duck and cover.

Carolus is mentally quiet as well, but as Pestilence comes into view, there is a distinct ring of familiarity that /rapidly/ spins out into a different type of alarm. He's not quite communicating thoughts directly, but his feelings are sort of leaking out as he takes in a familiar sight. It's been a while, but they did have overlapping attendance at the Institute. Rising apprehension becomes real fear at the sound of Pestilence's actual voice.

« That's putting it lightly, » He answers Gwen, his own expression downcast and deeply disturbed, « I don't even know how to assess him in this context. If you think Warren's twisted, what we just saw was… »

Out in the open, Carolus shakes his head.

Warren watches, wearing the commander's mask of Death, until he is certain Pestilence is gone.

Then he turns, wings drooping until his steel primaries drag along the earth, and returns at a slow pace. There is no bloodlusted red left to his eyes; only the now-familiar mingling of neutral silver and familiar blue.

Whatever color his eyes are, they cannot seem to meet anyone else's. Not even after Alison's reassurances. Not even after Carolus's hasty addition about his — ah — new wings.

"Thank you," he says. "For coming for us both."

His head lifts, and anger starts to leak into his eyes. It's not the maddened, homicidal anger of Death, however. It's the very familiar anger oF Warren Worthington — the anger that has always been core to him.

"We'll go somewhere safe. Tell me everything about his lies."

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