Theophany
Roleplaying Log: Theophany
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

The team makes their escape from the alternate universe and brings Warren and Ali home. Conclusion of the Descension plot.

Other Characters Referenced:
IC Date: December 14, 2019
IC Location: ????
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 15 Dec 2019 23:49
Rating & Warnings:
Scene Soundtrack: None
NPC & GM Credits: Apocalypse and Elixir by Warren
Wolverine and Magneto by Alison
Associated Plots

* OOC Time: Tue Dec 03 20:50:36 2019 *

Getting back into the Celestial ship, compared to the last time, is almost too easy. With Warren there, it is a simple matter of those able to fly carrying those who cannot, and following in his wake as he bids the shield to part for them.

The area of the ship he chooses for their ingress point is not the same one as they entered when searching for Alison; not the west wing, which was primarily a habitation area for those who lived closest to Genesis' grace. Neither is it the north wing, navigation and engine command, where most of the life signs aboard the ship concentrate. The place he chooses is somewhere only Tony has been before, and that only passingly: the east wing of the ship.

Engineering. Medical. Science. The place where all Apocalypse's strange, bio-technological work — and innovation — is done.

For now their entry is quiet, the group funneled in through a port in the ship's side which is open for the intake of air. It lands them in a darkened vault of a room, a little too exposed-feeling for comfort, its ribbed walls arching up to meet in a point much like the ceiling of some morbid cathedral. Adding to the impression of a cathedral are the collecting basins lining one of the walls, carved in ritualistic shapes… though unlike in a true church, those basins exist to collect the slow, steady drip of a milk-white, alien substance, as it weeps down from grotesque slitted stations higher up on the walls.

The ship is quiescent around them, though in autonomic response to their appearance, dim green light flickers to life along the ribs of the wall, breathing slowly in time to some unseen, unheard heartbeat.

"This is the closest entry point we can use that wouldn't require punching a hole through the ship," Warren says, his voice low. "It's not actually far from here, but we'll have to go through the labs to get to the dimensional gate. If we can shut down the ship's consciousness, we can delay Apocalypse. But his Horsemen are likely already here."

There is a pause. "Pestilence in particular spends his time around here." It is not hard to imagine why.

The ship is… actually fairly responsive to psionic contact, and interestingly it is not just responsive to Jean, but also to Dani. Possibly because there is not much higher intelligence to it; it is a primal thing, animal in its mental patterns, and most of its thoughts read like whispered psalms and simple, primordial impulses.

Its thoughts are still wearing residual happiness to feel Death return to it, almost like a mother enjoying the returned close presence of a wayward child.

"We should keep moving, as you do that," Warren says. Perhaps he is oblivious to how the ship regards him; or maybe, even worse, he is not. "I can't guarantee any one place in this ship will stay empty for long."

* * *

"Don't touch that," Tony Stark's warning is perhaps uneccessary as he looks towards the milk-white nastyness that fills the bowls. Or he might be reminding himself not to do it. It is kind of hard one way or the other.

He's back in his armor of course, because when going at something this hostile even his bravado has its limits. Not /many/ mind you, but going unarmored would be /really/ stupid.

And Tony Stark is only stupid on occasion.

The hot rod red and gold suit is back to his usual colors, but the stealth systems seem to be working just the same as he hardly makes a sound when he touches down on the deck. Metal hands flex as he glances around the place again.

"Yeah, remember. Put it to sleep. Distract it. Whatever you like and then we can see what we can do about taking away some of its more annoying organic tendencies."

He would totally be making fun of Warren if he knew the ships feelings on the matter. However it might be better that he doesn't.

"Also. Once again. This place is super creepy and weird and I don't like it." He adds as an afterthought as he starts to move, seemingly not carrying any other gadgets…but with how his armor is lately well. Maybe he doesn't need a box of them anymore.

* * *

There had been planning, there had been thoughts, but now it simply comes down to the fact that they have to do this. Kitty cannot fly and Lockheed is too small to carry her, so she is one of the people who needs to be carried into the ship. She is not quite like a limp cat as this happens, but she certainly is not pleased with the fact that she has to be lugged in like a sack of potatoes.

"You're saying not to touch something?" Kitty can't help but raise an eyebrow at Tony Stark as he provides a warning to not touch the milk-white substance. Not that she is going to do it just to spite him, but she feels the need to comment on this departure from his usual character.

Warren's warning is met with a nod. Kitty unsheathes her sword and Lockheed lifts right above the group, using that height to scout ahead as best he can. The thought of Pestilence being nearby is rewarded with a shiver. War may be nearby, too.

* * *

"Verily, is that Wall Milk?"

Atli squints at the stuff dripping down the alien walls, but almost sounds excited, even whimsical. "I haven't had Wall Milk since I visited A'skavaarii!" The Goddess of Thunder walks with an almost casual gait, spear leaning against one shoulder, eyes feasting on the new and interesting sights all around. Well, at least until the mention of her preferred target draws her gaze to Warren.

"Hmm, yes, once more, tell me what this Pest fellow looks like so that I might visit great vengeance and furious retribution upon him for the very many, horrible itchy spots he has given the people of this world."

She begins digging around in her pouch, one might wonder if she's looking for Brett's gift. The jury is out, even as she comments on her general impression of this place, in sharp contrast to Tony Stark. "Perhaps once we have reclaimed and cleansed this place of evil influence we might use it for weekend parties. Or, you know. Any-day parties. So much free Wall Milk! Rocket and Groot would love this!"

* * *

There were no dramatic entrances from Impulse, contrary to Atli's hopes. In the end the speedster had to nearly be peeled off of Toothbender, having either gotten bored of dimensional travel or passed out because of it, if not nearly smothered by the goat's decision to nap upon arrival. There was no time for happy reunions, especially when the mood dictated that things were far from happy and although Bart had many questions, he kept them to himself, content for the time being to simply be with those here.

At Tony's warning he jerks back a hand, because he absolutely was not going to poke a finger at the dripping stuff, nosirree!! At least there's a lot to see that will keep him from wondering about it. Maybe too much too see. His eyes dart everywhere, his mouth open in a big 'o' when he forgets not to gawk.

If there's no objection, and even if there would be- because oops, he's already gone to ahead to do so (speedsters gotta speed), Impulse has a look around and ahead as far as he can get away with before coming back by the rest of the group like he'd never shifted two steps.

* * *

Back in the ship where she lost an eye, but where they regained a friend, family.

It's a bittersweet sort of thing, but also when Moonstar spies those basins upon the walls she can't quite stop the disgust that wells up inside her.

Or the hatred. It's enough that the Cheyenne woman mutters, "I really hate this place."

The warnings from both Warren and Tony causes the woman to offer a grim-sort-of-nod, before she turns a slightly amused side-eye to Kitty. She too can appreciate that irony here.

That beat of humor doesn't last long and soon enough Dani turns her attention back to the room at large. After a moment, the woman's good eye narrows as she stretches out her psychic senses. While she doesn't actively try to engage the ship Moonstar definitely listens to the ship and what she hears causes a frown to tug her lips downward.

"Jean, what if we try to lull it to sleep with a dream. A dream of its own heart's desire?" Moonstar asks, but her questions pause for a moment when Atli speaks upon the milkiness of the walls. Moonstar can only grimace at that description, even as she continues to move with the team.

The sight of Bart disappearing and reappearing in blips of speed automatically brings Dani's gaze over to the young man. "What did you see?"

* * *

"Reason is out of the question," Jean murmurs, "but friendship…"

In their native time, portable Cerebros effectively function as extensions to the main unit, allowing the team to bring its mutant-tracking capabilities into the field rather than rely on the constant presence of a telepath in the hot seat. Upload a psychic signature; walk and/or fly around until the beeping gets really loud; do not let it get destroyed, because even on Xavier's budget, they aren't cheap to manufacture. Their form's evolved over the years from bulky, handled affairs to something closer to a thick tablet; a large, clear display for managing mapping and related telemetric data's been the one constant.

At some point in the intervening fifteen years between home and here, there was a design fork.

"… Dani," she murmurs, distracted while something akin to a metal egg turned sideways completes the process of unfurling itself around her while she floats in lotus posture. The shape was the same when they departed the Blackbird, but it was a much smaller package.

"I'm syncing…"

It didn't seem particularly flightworthy, either, but here it hangs in the air a a final few plates lock into place.

"… okay…" Her eyes — barely — open as her rapidly expanding consciousness begins to slip beneath the ship's surface. "… I'd like for sedation to be our Plan B, here, but trying to get a feel for what it wants is a good idea: if we can make it like us — more than it likes him, even — then we won't need to knock it out, right? And it'll continue being a problem for him after we're gone…"

* * *

Despite being the resident strategist for the Guardians of the Galaxy, Atli has little to offer by way of real consequence. Except that she very specifically left the goat outside somewhere. And also, keeps eyeing Jean while she does her lotus posture, as if expecting to see a fiery bird spring into being at any moment. Still, Jean's plan gets Atli thinking.

A most dangerous proposition indeed.

"Hmm. Do you think is is aware of ice cream? One taste and my loyalty to the Midgardian cause was secure. Verily, Lady Firemind… tell it about ice cream. Or perhaps if we can't get it to like us with the promise of the wounders of Baskin Robins, you can fill it's mind with images of you and Odin grappling so fiercly that you knocked whole moons out of orbit!"

Atli reaches out to give Bart a squeeze on the shoulder, and then asides. "I have a good feeling about all of this."

* * *

Rhyming with her wraith-like way back on the Blackbird, Alison Blaire is deathly silent since first step back on the Celestial ship.

Being back here snuffs any recent, gentling gains to her mood over the last day; too much, undoubtedly too soon, that she must draw herself emotionally in, lock it up tight, to be in thinking, fighting shape. In that way, there is little room for extraneous things: actions, expressions, worried glances, persistent moods.

Perhaps for that same reason — being on edge — Alison has not strayed farther than a couple steps from Warren's side, always well-within the reach of his wings. Though where he looks one way, her eyes chase the opposite direction, covering his blind spots with a nervous hyper-awareness of what this place means — what this place does.

Every now and then, there is a pin-point blur of a shape around her, no larger than insects: Tony Stark's HIVE is alive on Alison, its mechanical bees hiding in the pleats of her collar and hems of her sleeves, wings twitching as they wait in stasis.

Not even Atli's nearby chatter is enough to break her calm. She remains this way, watching, listening, ready to act on a twitch-quick trigger.

And all around them, the ship hums with undeniable life.

To Jean Grey's mental reach, it neither shies away or persists to push her out. There is no resistance; there is no need for resistance.

It operates on one, functional truth: it never needed to evolve the concept of fear.

It is old. Older than death, forged of a place where the concept is not known, or ever made to matter; to her psychic eye, it is less a mind, a consciousness, but an orrery. Its many foundations circle each other in a dance of orbitals: bodies transiting past other bodies, scooped from one tidal force to the next. It pours out a planetary nebula of brilliant green and orange. The scarlet pinlight of a quasar shoot from the center of it; a distant cluster of irregular galaxies arrange themselves in its likeness.

It feels Jean. It knows she is there. It does not think, but it has a desire.

Humans call uncontrollable want an addiction. An obsession. Destructive impulses, negative attributes. Dependency and compulsion — concepts as alien to the ship as they are. It does not understand want, but it understands becoming. It would like to make her another moon, basking in the warmth of its spinning planetoids. It is the end for all things.

She is incomplete, and it pities her for it.

* * *

"Definitely don't touch it," agrees Warren on the topic of the milky substance, which, well, when both Tony and Warren are advising against doing something, it's probably EXTRA stupid to go and do it.

This caution is probably mostly for Atli and Bart's benefit; the latter who Warren greeted with equal parts warmth and a measure of shame… perhaps worried about such an innocent as Bart seeing him this ruined way, in this horrible world. But there has fortunately(?) not been too much time to dwell on it all, yet.

As for Atli's question? "He's hard to miss," Warren says, even as he takes point and starts to lead the group along out of the vaulted room, deeper into the reaches of the east wing of the ship. Keeping Alison close, within the span of a wing, he also takes Jean's floating Cerebro-egg with him, pulling it along, seeming decided on being her physical guard while her consciousness delves into the ship. "He looks human, except for his skin, which is completely gold — or completely black, depending on whether he's healing or killing."

Impulse, of course, runs ahead of the group. His quick scout can take in the entire west wing of the ship, and portions of the north and east wing. There are many doors, to the north and east, which he can't pass unless he physically breaks them open… and they look like the force required would be counter-intuitive to the concept of stealth.

A quick glance yields that the west wing, Habitation, is empty — neither Horseman is there.

To the north, there appears to be activity, which makes his movements harder. The north houses navigation and the bridge. There is a skeleton crew left behind to tend the ship, and they tend it with a slavish sort of devotion that does not seem natural. The few topics of conversation they discuss which Bart can overhear, that aren't about care of the ship, seem to involve the upcoming plan to move the ship to Washington DC in preparation for Apocalypse's strike on the city. None of them talk as if a Horseman might be around them.

Which leaves the east wing. Their destination. It makes sense; the Horsemen would naturally be near the dimensional gate, to guard it. Bart can report that their progress towards the gate, however, will be blocked by a great door… and if he stood at the door to listen, he could hear the whispers of many voices beyond it, though it is impossible to make out what they are saying.

* * *

Kitty has no plans on touching the…Wall Milk. That seems rather a bad idea as Alison vomited some of that up when she broke free from Famine. However, she grins at Atli's enthusiasm. It's infectious and something she is quite glad of as they move through this ship that already has brought so much despair. "I like that. We can add it to the Guardian Fleet."

As Bart runs off, she reaches out to try and stop him, but it's already too late. Far too late. That boy runs fast. Moving forward, she keeps her sword pointed forward. Jean starts to sync with the ship and she doesn't take point, but she's purposefully keeping close to everyone, ready to phase people as necessary, should anyone attempt to attack them.

As they move forward, she rolls her shoulders. Under her breath, she hisses, "Why don't we ever go to the alternate universes where everything is chocolate and wine? I would kill for a trip to a universe like that. Magneto would be Choconeto and would have the power to summon us more chocolate."

The east wing looms closer and the grip on her katana gets that much tighter. "Anything?" she asks to their forward scout, Bart.

* * *

The look Bart gives Atli is more blank than dubious. He's still getting the hang of Atli-speak. Every now and then he's glancing at Warren and Alison, very much worried but refusing to or simply not thinking to show it, because the important part is that they're there with them all. That's more than it had been.

At Dani's prompt and Kitty's, he's quick to unload with his findings. Doors and walls really don't pose much of a barrier for him since he can vibrate through them much like Kitty can phase, but the urgency of the mission seems to have translated enough through the others and their surroundings that he hasn't ventured that far.

Yet.

"On that end it's empty, but up ahead there's people. They were talking about some attack on Washington DC. They seemed pretty laid back about it though." The former of which sounded like a bad thing, no doubts there. "And on that side," he gestures vaguely in the east wing's direction, "-there's a really big door. I heard a lot of voices coming from behind it, but I'm not sure what they were saying." Which in itself is saying a lot, given his speed of perception.

* * *

Stark grins as Bart reappears, not that anyone can see it behind his helmet though. That faceplate swivels in Impulse's direction as he takes the information in and slowly nods. "So the bridge is undefended, or at least board defenders. And there is a big door with possibily a lot of people behind it."

A pause.

"Well. I mean. If we want to make a lot of noise to give the redhead and Mooney a bit of time to. I don't know. Make friends that's where we should go. Though I still think making this thing more metal like would be hillarious, if nothing else to see the look on the guys face when he was getting beaten by his own ship."

Stark has very strange ideas of funny sometimes.

* * *

"I think the Lord of Stars would one day like a fleet. Perhaps it would be a good start." This she remarks to Kitty, and nods to Moonstar, not at all keen to remark on how the Valkyrie is in good company now, what with her sharing the whole one-eyed thing with Odin and King Thor. Will it be Queen Dani some day? Probably. But they have to live that long first.

On the subject of Pestilance, she is quite confident. "Yes, good. I shall hope to force him to be as golden as the Titanogoose's last egg. Mosly by hitting him quite a lot." Atli furrows her brow as she tries to parse their progress, and nods along as Bart relays what he's found so far, nodding again. And again. As if she understands everything. "Yes, yes, of course. It all makes sense. They have a rather large washing pond in Washington Deecee. Toothbender and I have used it many times. They must covet it's power.

As they begin to close in on said door that is blocking their progress, Atli narrows her eyes, and then leans towards Ali and Warren, while shift-eyeing Tony, who she also believes is full of good ideas.

"Should I run up there and shove my speer in the door, and then do that thing where I work it back and forth until it gives up and opens? Or perhaps I could hit it with a lightning blast. Verily, doors often hate my lightning blasts."

Atli is eager, but her mood does not change. She is jovial, despite it all. For this is battle most glorious, or will be. She's certain of it.

* * *

"Okay, or maybe we don't do that," Kitty looks to Stark and Atli, alarmed. "And maybe I phase my face in a place where they can't see to see me and then pull it back out to to report what's going on?"

* * *

While Moonstar's attention was split between the team and the Ship, once Jean (and herself) begin to connect with the ship, the Cheyenne's attention shifts more inward.

"If we can change its mind." Murmurs Dani to the red-head, "I'm all for it." Unspoken there that Moonstar isn't quite sure they can change the ship's 'mind'. The sense of 'self' within that shift is different.

So different.

They may definitely need a plan B. Or C. Possibly up to Z.

Some portion of the conversation around can be heard and Moonstar pulls herself away from the sense of the ship to say, "Stealth first. Lightning second. I'd rather not kick the hive until we really have to."

* * *

"I can go with," Bart volunteers at Kitty's offer. He's speedy and can run through solid objects. Best combination. Stealthy? Eeeeh… well if you're fast enough that no one can see then it's stealthy, right?

* * *

"Just remember. If they are unconscious or otherwise face down. They totally didn't see you." Stark gives his helpful ideas on stealth.

* * *

It's not long before that door Bart mentioned looms up before them. Like the rest of the ship, it seems ostensibly made of metal, but with a distinctly organic aspect to it as well. Its design resembles nothing so much as a shut sphincter, or perhaps the closed lens of a camera.

There doesn't seem to be a detour around it.

Warren approaches it, touching the slick wall beside it. Nothing happens.

"Someone has overridden my access to this," Warren admits. His wings open restlessly with a sound like unsheathing steel, as if he's thinking about just cutting it open, but soon enough the bladed feathers fold back into place again.

* * *

"I think it's…"

Jean's lips curl into a tight and distant smile. The slivers of emerald peeking through her eyelids grow glassier by the moment. There is no firebird, but there are flames a sort: flaring magenta licks along her limbs like a loyal hound. Wherever it touches the Cerebro unit's walls, it leaves reddish-blue beads clinging, creeping down curved metal in slow, spindly rivulets.

"… bigger," she whispers, "than ice cream…"

To a psychic's eye, the beads reflect hazy memories of soaring through endless night, drunk on an empire's worth of fear; of surrendering to the gravity of passions powerful enough to scream through the void, pulling her from world to world; of a pasodoble amidst the stars.

To non-psychic eyes, they're just colorful liquid sparkling with starlight. And to non-psychic ears within a few feet of Cerebro, they're crackling hearthflame mixed with a sustained, crystalline pitch; they're a warm star melting on tongues, treating all five zones to a symphony of flavors.

"… and moons— "

Incomplete. A woman with wing-shaped holes in her soul. A friendly ghost haunting mobile command Blackbirds and decommissioned Sentinel bases, rather than face the friends she traded those pieces of self to see again. A soldier hesitant to muster her weapon even as the war she's enlisted in claims her friends, her people.

Pitiful.

"dani," barely escapes the pod, "i need you to think about the parts of a cell, i— there's the nucleus… there's the membrane… there's…"

Whether Dani joins her in recalling middle school biology, she whispers until the image is clear in her mind— until she's rooted in her body, her self, and not careening madly through the Ship's inner universe. Until she remembers that negative space is part of the whole—

«If we try to just— give it what it wants,» softly rings between Dani's ears, «it could alert his forces. It could try to detain us… … figuring out how to think in its terms, and…»

It welcomed Death with loving arms; with their time as limited as it is, letting an outpouring of her love for the man in Death's armor thread magenta stars through the vessel's consciousness is her best shot at connecting two wildly differing scales of being.

«… be ready to let it believe we're giving in to it,» she warns. «If this doesn't work fast, we're gonna have to go for sedation…"

"…"

"… we're not dying out there, right?"

Jean's eyes are still - slightly - open, but upscaling her psyche and then cramming it into an ancient, sentient ship's is attention intensive work.

* * *

"…so this is normally where I'd saunter up to the front, pull out some really wicked looking devices and say something like 'let me handle this door' in my most pompous voice." Stark drawls as the looks at the slightly slick bit of wall that Warren touched. "But I'm pretty sure if I try my usual techy stuff I'm going just to get some goo all over my tools." A glance at Warren for a moment.

"Genecode lock I'm guessing. And I don't think I have a bit of any of the Horsemen on me to fool it. Only way we're getting in is the hard and/or fun way." Stark smirks at that, if anyone can hear smirking.

"If you want to phase be my guest, but look for a way to get the door open. Also don't die. That would be the more important one." That glance is given towards Bart and Kitty both. Because he knows if one phases the other will too.

"In the meantime I guess while we wait to see what the mind witches, I like that one Atli I'm totally using it, are doing…I'm going to see if I can get round a genelock."

* * *

"If I find any sort of electronics, I can try to short circuit them." Kitty looks back. "I can also just phase everyone through? As a surprise attack?" Though, she looks about them. "Though, if this ship is sentient and talks to the people here, they already know we're here. So, you know, any surprise is moot."

Pause. "So, that's a cheery thought." She looks to Jean where she is still interfacing with the ship and then to Dani and the others. "Alright, I'm going to phase me and Bart through quickly and try and keep us stealthed. Anyone else who wants to come, grab on. It'll be like dipping our feet into the water and then pulling them back out when it's too cold."

* * *

For a long moment, Atli simply watches the light show around Jean crawls across her form, eyes almost glassy as the light is reflected, well. Until Jean announces that it is 'bigger than ice cream'.

"Fool of a ship. You do not yet know the road most rocky, and how it doth melt upon the tongue. Pure byjapery."

As everyone talks about ways to get past the door, and many of them are quite good, Atli looks as tempted to cut into it as Warren. But it is here that she distracts herself from her anxious need to slay the door by moving alongside Alison, by planting the butt of her spear on the floor and leaning on it as better minds figure out how best to either pass by the door or get some recon through it.

"You know, I was not completely honest before, when I mentioned not believing that you had died. I did not believe the story surrounding how it had happened. But I did…I did think you and Glorywing gone."

She cannot lok at Alison here, a bit of a sigh slipping free.

"I have watched my own grandfather perish into the abyss of a thousand thousand shadows. My sisters consigned to the oblivion of a bygone eternity. Even my chances with a Firebird evaporate into nothing, for the longer I spend around just about anyone, they are wise to my having no game at all. But none of those things bring me sorrow like the thought of your light and song no longer bringing the galaxy the hope it needs."

Atli finally summons her courage, and looks to Warren, and then to Ali. "Verily, please never do that to me again? Like the Phoenix, or the Odinforce, or the Honorable Rick Astley, the Laserwings must live on into eternity."

* * *

High school biology? It sure has been a long time, but Dani digs deep within her memory to help Jean.

"Is it plant or animal?" Questions the Cheyenne woman and while that question is asked Moonstar dutifully recalls whe she can of both animal and plant cells. Much of it is the same, albeit with the plant cells there are a few additions like choloroplast. That thought about choloroplast prompts Moonstar to glance at those creepily dripping walls for a moment.

But only a moment and then Moonstar re-focuses alongside Jean Grey. « I'm ready. » She agrees and while she follows Jean's lead in the background Moonstar also begins to pull upon her own specialized power-set. Readying a psionic spike, or shiv, as Plan B - if needed.

She's ready to employ both greatest desire and greatest fear, even if in the back of her mind Dani has to wonder if this creature has any type of real fears.

* * *

'I can push buttons?' is what Bart Allen does not say, even though it's at the tip of his tongue. He looks around at the others, curiously at Jean because he's not sure what that was just now but it'd make for some pretty awesome AR. … Thankfully no one's tapping into his mind directly- that'd be a Trip in its own right. … Right, mission.

"I can phase myself," he tells Kitty, grinning. "I can probably take at least one more person too, but if it's easier for us to have a quick look and try to figure out the door…" He looks from Tony to Kitty to everyone else. Usually Red Robin's the one who sets out the plans. Things usually don't turn out well when he does his own thing, which he tends to do anyway, but at least Red Robin knows how to tactically direct him.

As it is now, the speedster is practically bouncing on his toes in an effort to wait for Kitty or some say before they'll go on through.

* * *

"Impulse," Stark now messing with the wall pannel. And by messing he means more just peering at it with the sensors on his armor. "Go scout, try to be quiet, if you find a button that opens the door hit it so hard but try to not engage. I don't know what Pestilence could do to you."

A pause from Stark again. "And here." He flicks a wrist in Bart's direction and a tiny little drone detaches itself. It looks like some kind of mecha dragonfly. "Take him will you. He can punch though interference and might give us a visual on the inside so Atli can figure out just where to put the spear though the wall for maximum supriseness."

A smirk again.

"Try to find a quiet place to leave him then come back if there isn't a way to open the door. That work for ya, kid?"

* * *

Oop, dad's speaking. And he's using the codename. Attention, got.

Impulse nods, hanging on Tony's every word before he salutes. He peers at the little drone buddy, unable to keep from grinning before he gives another nod. "Scout, keep quiet, look for open-door buttons, hide drone buddy- got it," he rattles off at just barely intelligible speed levels, because immediately after, he's off.

* * *

Tony is quietly happy that he gets JARVIS to record Bart's voice when he's excited and then plays it back at slightly manageable speeds at times like this.

* * *

The orrery spins around Jean Grey; her love is a dust field alleying the dance of those heavenly bodies. But it does not form rings around those planets; its step remains stuttered, and its debris catches light among a million grains. It moves with the system without rejection, but it is also not integrated.

Neither the triple suns nor the pale gas giant give her any immediate answer, or neither does its seven chartreuse moons that orbit themselves into a familiar pattern.

Then something happens. It flashes not as lightning, but swells as a lambent glow against the chaos of Jean's thoughts. Its image wavers, then multiples itself over a million times — mitotic parasites cloning themselves into one rippling, amorphous image — seeking to force her to acknowledge its presence, its promise of peace.

No, not peace. Understanding. The entirety of herself and her place in the universe. But how far would she go to get her answers? What would she sacrifice? Not anything and everything, of course.

It shows the two psychics what happened before.

They are all like Warren, like Alison, like Jean — alone, limited, incomplete. It pities them. Apocalypse is the message, but it is the vector, and those chosen went into the embrace of the ship. One vivid memory, a nameless mutant, or perhaps all mutants, imprints into both Jean and Dani: the sensation of being in a pod, pearl-white and mollusced, its scalloped sides folding in. He stood there too. Then his insides imploded. His blood caught fire. His flesh fused like glass. His muscles crawled away from his bones. Multiple failures. The other whisper told him everything was fine ?- then it said to prepare for imminent shutdown.

Then the sensation of REVERSING. His flesh and bone — no — his systems normalized. His hydraulics leveled out. Ease of movement returned. His eyes opened and his mind… expanded. He saw through the walls and into every chamber, corner, and secret place on the ship. He knew where to go, what he had to do, and how long he had to do it. Actions, not words.

He DREAMED and he IMAGINED. He existed in multiple dimensions. He was on this ship and he was on the Earth below. He was in the husked-out cities, the seas, in the desert — and then he became the desert, the sand skimming over dunes, the sudden rainstorm, the wind churning, the sky seared by lighting. His mind tipped over and his thoughts scattered across the stars. Memories and experiences he never knew existed ?- or had existed. This perfect existence within the integration.

Apocalypse's glory unites them: he has promised the ship its advent into a total communion: a higher order of mutation, their miracles fused with celestial metal.

Fused with a Seed—

The image ends, but the ship has already been reaching. It knows the holes in Jean Grey, and it pities her for it. It pities her imperfect design, as it seeks to draw her deepen down. Dani is free for now, not yet brushed close enough to its awareness, and her pushing finds some yield. The ship has no fears. But it has desires. It wants its totality. It wants this final ascendency.

That diluted milk begins to weep more viscously free from the openings in the walls, over-filling those bowls, dripping to pool on the ground. A substance that is probably best not to be touched at all — creeping perilously closer. Where they are currently is drastically becoming dangerous. The ship stirs around them.

* * *

Warren looks up as Atli approaches him and Alison. He looks at once so different from the Warren she would remember — his skin corpse-dark, his body closed up in harsh armor, every line of him made brutally lethal… but on closer inspection, in form and feature he is the same. His beauty, under what was done to him, is still there. There's probably a metaphor somewhere in that.

"We were gone, in a sense," is his answer. "I don't blame you for thinking that we were. But I really don't want to go through that again myself, so — we'll do our best not to."

-

As for what Kitty and Bart see, when they phase through?

The room beyond the door is a charnel house.

It is a smaller room than the one from which they came, claustrophobic — though possibly because the breathing walls are covered in filmy, organic pods that grow out from the body of the ship. More pods hang from the ceiling, too, like human-sized spider victims wrapped and waiting to be drained. Many of the pods are mostly-full of that milky white substance, and all of them contain one dead mutant body each.

In between the pods, consoles smithed of that rigid black steel grow up from out of the floor, their hard sharp lines and futuristic air clashing with the smooth, slick, fleshy pods that surround them. They appear to display vital data on the occupants of the pods… as well as containing the controls for the pods themselves.

There is a work table, near the middle of the room. Its purpose is likely not very hard to parse. Most work tables of a benign purpose do not have blood channels running along their rim.

At the center of this tableau stands Pestilence, his skin a shining gold, absorbed in one of the pods and its occupant. He has not immediately noticed Kitty or Bart, phased as they are, but judging from Warren's explanation of his abilities, the moment they become corporeal in any fashion he will detect their living presences.

-

Back on the other side of the door…

As far as Tony can see, the door IS controlled by a gene-lock, and while it might not be responsive to being forced by his normal hardware — too much extra organic matter — well… a gene-lock is, at its base, just a very complex form of pattern recognition. A mind like his could easily unravel a way to trick such a mechanism or brute force through the possibilities, given the parameters of a genetic sequence as the passcode.

Warren stirs from where he stands as the ship animates around them, and the milk begins to bleed more assiduously. "Better hurry," he says, eyeing the encroaching substance. "If it comes to it, we will just have to force a way through, whatever's on the other side. If that touches us — "

* * *

Little cuts through Alison's distracte, steel-edged calm —

— but Atli does.

Her blue eyes turn, and the first expression on her face is undressed surprise — like a struggle to remember feelings that are now, literally, a lifetime away from her recent memory. It feels like a thousand years since she, held to Odin's spear, had to break a million Asgardian hearts with her music to keep her very life. She is now quiet through those earnest words, listening.

She hates some bitter part of her wants to say, here and now, that she can't truly promise such a thing: how can any mutant, in any world, promise they won't be cut down by another hateful human? But this is neither the time nor the place for her pessimism — closed on Apocalypse's ship, all of them facing death to stop something far worse.

"Thank you, Atli," Alison says instead. "We… plan to stick around. Every…"

And the that liquid begins to seep from the ship. "This is bad," she speaks suddenly, urgently, unable to squeeze the panic from her voice as she backs away. "Don't let it touch your skin! It will — oh God — we need to get out of this room!"

* * *

"Working on it, Laserwings." Stark mutters as he raises a hand towards the gooey part of the wall. "I'm going to try something." The suit itself shifts slightly, metalic tendrils snaking out from the nanomachines to plug themelves into the wall. His own nanites in his blood can shift genestrands so all it'll need to do is shift it a little bit. Not enough to actually match on the Horsemen, but enough to confuse the hell out of the ship itself. Espically when it is distracted with the mental things that it happens to be doing. "Whatever is happening with Jean over there, it looks like the ship isn't likeing it at all…" Stark adds as he works quickly, scrambling the genecode locks, running though billions of sequences at speeds that he doesn't even want to contemplate.

Thats why he has JARVIS helping.

"I think I got it, and when I do you all need to /move/ and not step in any puddles." He's already hovering off the floor. "I think that would be for the best. If anyone can put this thing to sleep…"

Over the coms then.

"Oh Impulse, change of plans." This happens a lot. "Looks like we are about to go loud."

Bart should totally be used to this by now.

* * *

A smirk again as he adds. Just because he /is/ a jerk. "Open says me."

And the camera iris starts to shutter into motion…

…this'll be fine.

* * *

Tears begin to well in the Girl of Thunder's eyes, taken by Ali's reassurance. In that fleeting moment, between Warren telling her he doesn't plan on dying again, and Ali saying she plans to stick around, she has her hope back.

She also has Wall Milk making a quick run at them all, and it's Alison's panic that sends her looking all about for the source of this sudden surge of activity. For to long she had let the others take lead. Not that she did not trust them, but she had a sense of things the moment she stepped into this place. A sense from her spear, which seemed to hum with an ever-present desire to cut deep into something.

Now she understood.

Jarnbjorn, forged first as an axe that was steeped in Thor's blood and enchanted to cut through just about anything was made for a singular purpose. Once reforged, it retained that calling: To cut through the armor of Celestials. Eyes narrow. Nostrils flare. The Girl of Thunder must take action.

Breaking from the others, Atli takes two steps and then LEAPS, her spear held high and suddenly crackling with blue-white energy drawn from the same Force that gave Bor and Odin and Thor and Woden their many powers, intend on stabbing into - and through - that door with all her Asgardian might.

You know, that door Tony is already opening.

The Celestial sphincter door beigns to open, and red hair and cape flutter behind her as she sails through the air, right past hanging sacks of flesh and worse, right past her shimmering, phased friends, right past it all, and towards a golden skinned Pest that is the sudden target of her cleaving vengeance.

"BYJAPERY!!!"

* * *

Impulse phases through solid objects by vibrating his molecules at ultra speeds. Some speedsters even cause things to explode in their passing. Thankfully this does not apply with Impulse. Or maybe it's unfortunate. Blowing up stubborn doors in this case would be ideal, yes?

The long and short of it is that once Bart vibrates through the door, he no longer does so once on the other side. It's mostly because he's stopped to gawk at the horrors on the other side. And the super-shiny guy standing by the pods. What he's doing really doesn't help to keep Impulse from staring.

Tony's voice in his earpiece snaps him back to attention, and he blinks before looking back towards the door, and then around. Looks like we are about to go loud. Welp. Time to push buttons then. And if there are any buttons in here? They are getting pushed. Unless Goldenrod somehow notices magical speed-button pushing.

…anyway123GO…!

* * *

KItty and Bart aren't given very long to contemplate what they see, because the changing circumstances on the other side of the door?

Means Tony has to get it open fast.

This has several consequences:

Everyone gets a good look at what, heretofore, only Kitty and Bart had seen.

Pestilence, suddenly sensing the presence of several other life forms as the door irises open… turns around. He looks up at the Atli descending towards him. His eyes glow a strong, sickly white.

And two of the closest pods explode open as the corpses within reanimate. The bodies lurch upwards and then towards one another, smashing into each other — and fusing, their flesh knitting together at high speed under Pestilence's control, until a twisted double-golem stands between the Horseman and Atli Wodendottir.

Its second life doesn't last long. It smashes headlong towards Atli and her spear, exploding pretty much — right ON her in an impact detonation of gore.

"You're interesting…" Pestilence says, his powers already reaching out to FEEL out the shape of Atli's unique Asgardian biology. He is not gentle; his biologic probing reaches to fish through her insides with a diseased, burning touch. His skin starts to blacken, and an aura of decay unfolds from around him, starting to saturate the area.

* * *

* OOC Time: Thu Dec 05 20:37:06 2019 *

* * *

Things are, perhaps, not exactly going according to plan. Some portion of the team had wished to phase about, an act of recon mean to she light on the horrors behind the door. Then, the Wall Milk came for them all. So of course, Lord Stark did the only sensible thing and interfaced with the iris door to open it, making way for the leaping, slashing Atli Wodendottir and her dance of Asgardian death.

The gleaming blade of Jarnbjorn cleaves through the air, and it's mark is not met as bodies twist and pile upon each other to form a literlal shield of meat. The explosion of gore is impressive, scattering brains and bone and fetid, old blood across the ground with a palpable sploosh. Atli hits the ground too, her attack interrupted, and she slides on one knee until her foot catches against a rise in the floor.

The Girl of Thunder does not really think all that much in battle. It is a dance of feeling. And she feels like making another leap towards this creature and ending it before it might harm her dearest of friends. Instead, she feels something else. Black lines race her veins, filled with pain and the poison of mutation, the hold of Pestilence reaching out to tangle with her godly physiology and twist at it's very core.

But it does not want to be twisted. It resists. Black lines receeding, and Atli takes two menacing steps, her face a twisted mess of pain as those line surge again, her skin tightening and turning red in splotches that grow and receed as the struggle unfolds, not by sword or shield or spear, but by her very blood.

"Hngg!!" She tries to speak, but is driven to her knees, a reanimated form piling on her from one side, then another, seeking to restrain her as the creature does it's foul work. "Your f..foul magic will not…" Blood wells in Atli's mouth, and then sprays across the ground before her. "…rule this day…" A hand goes to her chest, for she can almost feel her heart begin to shrivel. "…because you're forgetting one…" Coughhack. "one…thing."

As Atli's eyes roll back in her head, whatever punchline she had is put on hold as more meaty beasts pile upon her. Is this it? Is this the end of the Girl of Thunder?

* * *

"Right so door's opening so we should get movin—-"

And then Stark just blinks as the opening door saves itself from being smashed by a spear. And into the room flies an enraged Atli. Only to be met by a truly disgusting sight of a meat statue that then quickly becomes a speedbump.

"Oh," Stark almost drawls. "That's what he can do."

Since. You know. No one really told him and everyone else just seemed to know. He figured he would figure it out eventually after all. "Yeah, well…I guess that is that for subtlety." He adds as the suit of his shifts. It piviots with the grace of a dancer, much more than any normal suit of power armor could hope to acomplish. A few quick calculations to make sure Bart is out of the line of fire before his hands snap up towards the figure of Pestilance. He can heal. He can heal enough to raise the dead it seems, but how fast can he heal himself is the true question.

Because paired repulsor systems scream to life in that moment as solid beams of energy leap from his outstretched palms towards the figure, scything though the air above where Atli went down. Partly to relieve pressure on the Asgardian. Partly because it'll look cool, and Stark just can't pass up an opportunity for that.

"Everyone inside! Don't let the wall milk hit you!" Oh god why did he just call it wall milk it is just wrong.

The ominous whine from the center of his chestpiece seems to to indicate that he's gearing up for something else even as the armor of his shifts. The plates become thicker, the stealthy systems shifting into a more heavy combat version.

…because. You know. Why make 23948732984 suits when you can just make one that does /everything/.

* * *

The ship stirs.

The orrery turns.

A red river forks at Jean Grey's philtrum and dribbles along, over, beyond previously unpainted lips.

A universe of primal drives refracted a million times over seeks to overwhelm her with understanding, perhaps knowing - just as it knows the white hot emptiness in her being - that she'll have little choice but to hear it out. Maybe not; maybe this is just how it says 'hi'. Maybe she's triggered an arcane defense system—

Maybe. Possibly. Perhaps. This universe is full of mystery, but it's not without it's certainties:

A shiver wracks Jean's body as milky walls close in. Her tongue's a fat and slimy lump in the desert of her mouth, held firm against clenched teeth. Oil, and—

something

— prickles her nostrils while ancient engineering hums evolutionary melodies.

What follows is brutal, cruel, violent— but when has evolution ever been anything but?

Transformation flows from suffering, and she's learned by now not to question it. Fusing and unraveling, burning and crumbling lead to new life and expanding vision— to a promise

It knows the holes in Jean Grey.
It shows her a hole in itself.

It seeks to pull her deeper; red waves spiral through its inner cosmos when she chooses to dive.

To melt away into nothing while desperate hopes of survival light the last corners of her dying thoughts, to be reborn to wildly expanded perceptions and powers— the images resonate with more familiarity than she'd like, but moreover: she knows what it is to bask in the glory of another, yearning for completion— for a true union between mortal and divine.

The orrery turns, and emeralds brimming with starlight lid in concentration. The orrery turns, and Jean tries to tune into its rhythm; tries to remember how it felt to glimpse the order churning in the background of the universe. The orrery turns, and a falling tear freezes into a translucent pearl glittering with the light of three suns. The orrery turns,

and Jean remembers who it was that kept her grounded for as long as they did, before her yearning took a dark and scourging turn: teammates, friends, family, students; the 'alone', the 'limited', the 'incomplete'.

The orrery turns; a web of golden light threads through a magenta dust field, strobing in and out of being. Flocking comets streak through astral space, bold and icy; determined and calculated. Red and gold lightning streaks between celestial bodies at impossible speeds.

Stardust winds towards the hunter, the agent, the warrior stalking the void of its consciousness with her, stretching up from its depths to the shallows in the hopes of providing a bright target for the inevitable shot loosed into the ship's desires.

A crackling quasar, a system of bonds both old and new grows while the orrery turns. It is dwarfed by the sheer size of the ship's mind; its glow is dim next to an array of suns, a sea of stars…

… but Jean's desire isn't to overwhelm the ship; she just wants to give it something new to consider, something just bright enough to hold its attention. Something just weighty enough to clip an orbiting planet, nudge a moon out of place— soften the needful song its many bodies sing into a lullaby, however she can. There's more to Being than waiting for someone else to help you Become. More to existence than teetering forever on the edge a distant promise; there is more than endless devotion who uses hope and faith as bindings.

There could be more than Genesis. More than Apocalypse. More than serving death and destruction.

There could be other ways to Be. Other ways to Become

— so Jean seeks to thread whatever Dani's able to pull from, and around the caged universe of its mind with possibilities as the two mutants try to lull the Celestial marvel to sleep.

* * *

Dani's last words are a quick murmur to Jean of, "If we can change its mind I'm all for it." Then comes the a connection between ship and Jean and ship and Dani, and as soon as that connection is forged Moonstar's forward moment ceases completely.

Her eye goes vacant for several seconds, or minutes, or is it lifetimes, and that milk-like-substance is simply ignored as her mind experiences that re-birth.

It's terrible. Horrible. But also not.

There's order and purpose. There's a plan and goals. The vastness of it stretches before the mutant and for a moment Moonstar can see everything. It's only a moment, however, and then it's gone as the ship reaches for Jean Grey and leaves Moonstar relatively alone.

It causes the Cheyenne to blink her good eye momentarily as she refocuses and for a moment, something in the real world grabs her attention. Death is nearby. Multiple deaths, if you will. It prickles at the Valkyrie andthe Bear within her and Moonstar has a moment to murmur, "Atli -"

But only a second and then her attention shifts off Atli and Tony, Ali and Warren and Kitty and Bart.

It returns to Jean Grey and the ship.

There may not be fear sensed in the creature's mind but there's something else she can work with.

On the psychic plane energy wreathes Moonstar as she pulls upon every ounce of her powers to tease out all the ship wants. To play those images before it in an endless loop, to lull it into thinking it's got everything it wants, and when Moonstar pushes those movie-like images at the ship, she likewise reaches for Jean. To feed Jean a thread of power to allow her to shape and mold as needed.

* * *

As the team jumps through the busted door into Pestilence's lab proper, avoiding the crawling tide of the ship's milky blood(?), a clamor suddenly kicks up in the hallways behind them. Reinforcements from navigation, no doubt, who heard — or were otherwise alerted — the altercation and are coming to help.

Warren exchanges a look with Alison. "We'll take care of this. Keep pushing ahead," he tells the rest of the team, as his wings unsheathe with a whisper-keen hiss of bladed feathers against one another.

Picking up Alison as if he were picking up a laser cannon — which, to be fair, he is — he opens his wings fully and arrows down the hall, back towards the incoming adds. He turns a corner and is lost to sight.

The sounds that emanate from back there, after a few minutes pass, are probably best not described.

In the meantime, Pestilence's lab soon becomes a storm of confused chaos. Impulse's dash around the room yields rather a lot of buttons and panels to push, though not all of them are a help. One of them DOES open the door at the other end of the lab, through which they'll presumably have to go to get closer to the dimensional gate; others of them open the pods before the corpses in them are fully 'cooked,' so to speak, meaning that they crumble into ash when they hit the ground.

Others, however, just dump the bodies out on the ground, and those bodies do not disappear. In fact, as Pestilence's creeping aura touches them, they twitch and start to move, rising on shaky legs.

One of them, far towards the left, looks very familiar. It is a corpse that has been long dead, though the beautiful moth wings trailing from its back are still mostly intact…

This universe's Carolus Sinclair tackles his living counterpart, off into the shadows of the laboratory.

The rest of the bodies seethe under Pestilence's biologic command. His eyes burn a hot-white in his gold-skinned face as his powers flow through the room, twisting through the sea of dead flesh around him. They pile relentlessly onto Atli's godly form, weighing her by sheer mass of dead meat, and their bodies start to stitch together around her as if to entomb her in a gross encasing of flesh…

But he IS forgetting one thing.

Tony's repulsor beams disintegrate the mass of flesh directly atop Atli, keep going, and hit Pestilence dead-on. The Horseman screams as the torrent of energy sears him in passing, burning flesh down to the bone — and further.

Then, as the wave of energy passes, the mutant starts to regenerate, his own powers folding inwards on himself. They recreate ashed bone, and wrap it in muscle, and dress the muscle in skin. His melted eyes flow back up his face and into his head. His features reconstruct in a rictus snarl of fury.

This process does mean that he's forced to relinquish the grip of his powers upon Atli, whose godly constitution resists his rearrangement to begin with. Unfortunately, his next target seems to be Stark himself. His hand lifts, clawed, as Pestilence commands cancerous growth through every part of Stark's human-seeming form. "Much easier," he says. "You're nothing but a human."

Except —

His powers suddenly feel something else in Stark. He hesitates, before his white eyes fly wide. "What kind of monsters are you?" he asks of Atli and Tony both, his powers reaching out instead to the corpses all around him. They stagger towards one another, climbing atop each other like a flesh tower, melding and melting together into some greater fleshy construct. A single, towering golem…

…which seems to command the powers of all its constituent mutants, judging by the way it swings an arm — composed of three and a half mutant bodies — and shoots a column of fire and telekinetic force at both goddess and inventor.

* * *

'What kind of monsters are you?'

Lord Stark's firey destruction washes over her, flattening her to the floor with it's power and dislodging the creatures that sought to pin her there. It relieves her of the Horseman's grip, and as her gaze shifts upward to watch him regenerate, a plan forms in her mind. No really, a real plan. "Verily, we are no monsters. But don't worry, I brought one along."

Atli's spear crackles, and somewhere outside clouds stir and crackle in unison, drawing the attention of a very particular, very onory being. One that had been left in reserve until needed. At that very moment, the gestalt form of dead flesh wielding mutant powers lavishes destruction upon her, blasting the Asgardian backwards until she's forced to dig her spear into the deck plating of the ship to hold purchase against whirling fire and telekinetics. But this is no longer her fight to win.

Rainbow light flickers somewhere behind the horseman, and in an explosion of power washes over the room as the massive form of the cross-eyed goatlord known as Toothbender rockets towards Pestilence's regenerating frame with brutal, horn-ish intent.

"Toothbender! Show him Muspelheim!"

And Toothbender will certainly try, rainbow power licking around him as he seeks to charge Pestilence into a realm of unimaginable fire and cackling demons who really know only one word.

BURN.

Of course, this may not solve the more immediate problem of THIS GIANT FUCKING FLESH GOLEM. But don't worry. Atli has a plan for that too.

"Lord Stark! I'll distract it by letting it burn and bludgeon me all over the floor a whole lot while you for all twenty five of it's eyes, it's six necks, and it's one very, very large dongle!!"

Atli squints against the flames and brutal power crushing her into the deck plating.

"No, wait. That might be a tail!"

* * *

"Yup, definitely can heal himself." Stark's voice is almost conversational as he notes the power that binds the mutants wounds back together. He can also do both at once, attack and regenerate. That /is/ good to know. Hovering there, Stark gets to get the first hand experience of just what that means though and from the start he is pretty sure he doesn't like it.

Heart sizing up, lungs starting to clog, vision starting to blur the Iron Man suit staggers left in the air to slam one shoulder into a wall. It wobbles there for a moment and it seems that for a moment in time even Stark has found something he can't beat.

/You're nothing but a human./

Then there is a chuckle from the armor as something starts to buzz against the edges of the psychics there. A hive mind of interconnected proto-consciousnesses. Billions of infentismilly small things all buzzing suddenly, invisibly, in the form of one Tony Stark.

"Yeah. You see," Stark's voice already strengthening the golden glow from the nanites living inside him lights the inside of his helmet. "I'm not quite that anymore." The nanites, quietly becoming more and more bored inside his body suddenly burst into action.

There is something to do again! Something to fix again!! IT IS THE BEST DAY EVERY!!!

He is so going to need a power bar after this but man he isn't going to tell Elixir just how long he can keep this up.

As the mutant recoils there is a smirk again behind that metal faceplate. "The /best/ kind of monsters." He says slowly as the suit hovers there in the air. But then, of course, Elixir goes with a different track and…creates a giant flesh monster. "Oh yeah. That's original." He's judging. "They /always/ go with giant monsters! WHY IS IT ALWAYS GIANT MONSTERS!"

Any further judging is cut off by a torrent of energy. Stark's arm's come together, the armor flowing into a massive powered shield as he plants one foot against the bulkhead behind him to brace against that crushing force. Still it smashes him backward, sending him tumbling before he can recover, Iron Man's head snapping towards the giant for just a moment.

"Atli, I am not touching it's dongle." Comes the snapped reply before pieces seem to detach from the back of the armor, hovering away into a series of splitting lenses. Targeting reticles pop up across his HUD as he paints the hit locations across the heads and necks of the creature in front of him. "The rest though…"

Beams lance from the back of the armor into the charge and splitter systems, energy beams shrieking though the air in a webwork of light and energy. Aiming to sever limbs go for…yet…its twenty five eyes, six necks, and just for good measure its arms too. Because he can.

Meanwhile the chest beam seems to have powered up. If the humming indication is any indication. But still, he doesn't fire yet. Well. Not the chest beam.

There are plenty of laser energy to go around at the moment.

* * *

Words seem to pass within psychic space, even if they are never spoken. Perhaps memory triggered by the ceilinged play of old things, perhaps the collective unconscious, millions of years deep, laying the earth to astral space:

When the universe was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.

The orrery's planetoids and moons do not orbit suns. It never required the comprehension of light. Whatever its beginnings, the dendrite points of its consciousness yield to a nebulous Before —

— and there, in many ways, it chooses to exist. It knows no other way. It wants no other way. It does not possess cognizance that professes curiousity to life and death, of cycling, of learning, of growth. There are only two states:

Perfection and pity.

And it pities Jean Grey, reaching close and so VACANT. As she dares press her own psychic imprint, it comes to pity Danielle Moonstar as well, so FALSE. Isolated, closed systems, gifted enough to reach into this aether and feel the BEYOND, and yet inhibited by the discohesion of their making. As that watery, milky resin weeps from its chitinous, organic hulls, so does that orrery weep for them both.

Images of them both itch in the wells between thoughts.

Jean Grey and Danielle Moonstar, with resin in their veins, and a filiform ring of silver fire shining from their eyes. Elevated with the techno-organic virus. Mutant, but not. Flesh, but not. Better, united, loved, whole. Finished, with no last step to take.

The system pulls at them, its astral lines bearing indescribable chill. No light, no warmth, never were. And it —

— holds, that advance ceased, as Danielle writes the message and Jean forms the medium, the two psychics whispering a desire that runs like the first, oxidizing fire through the orrery's dark space.

For a beat, it flutters like a butterfly with nowhere to go. The orrery rocks as if the Celestial ship sails the ocean instead of the sky. The bands of psychic energy dazzle with the brilliant spectrum of revolving prisms. Its black center opens like a flower, and it is an oculus, planets and galaxies and cosmic dust passing through the eye, and each tasting for themselves the concept of this light. This… happiness.

A prickling returns in force, rising in both temperature and intensity. The idea smoulders in the systems, gnawing at its circuitry. It burns.

The pulling ceases around both Jean and Dani's minds. The orrery is no longer moving. The ship is not here, not with them, and though it is not of any perceived mind, it feels as if it's… distracted.

Enthralled by this concept, this communion that involves no grace of Apocalypse. It takes its time, passing each heavenly body close to the light, intent to integrate.

The pooling of resin stops. From the walls. From its now-drying walls. It pulls even from the pods of Elixir's creations, drying the insides in a flash-freeze, bodies wilting before their reanimation. Finally, the psychic orrery dims, and the ship dulls its whispers.

It feels like it has gone dormant.

* * *

Impulse is everywhere he needs to be, and on occasion everywhere he's not. He glances over his shoulders at the results of some of his button-pushing barrage, wincing a little at the deposited bodies that begin to twitch to life like out of a movie.

"Oops."

But hey, he got the other door open at least?

Casually dodges and darts between blasts and beams as he circles the room to see if there's anything buttons he's missed, pausing just shy of some rainbow-colored backwash of power as he looks down at the little drone that had hitched a ride with him earlier. He supposes it's pointless to find somewhere quiet for it right now when all hell's broken loose, but he still wonders about a good place to put it. Eyes drift towards Pestilence.

Maybe he'll be too preoccupied to notice a little tap on his back as the speedster moves to plant the buglike drone between his shoulderblades.

* * *

Pestilence delves deeply into all that comprises Tony Stark. Where his powers tread, cancer blooms, metastasizing horribly through healthy flesh and tunneling through so many different organs. At first, he is confident, so confident, manipulating this familiar pitiful human biology…

…and then his powers encounter something else buried in Iron Man's constitution. Something not… human.

I'm not quite that anymore.

"What — " is all the Horseman manages, before those nanites spring into action, working almost as fast as his own powers in direct opposition to them. Atli, Tony — their bodies are aberrant to him, outside of his experience, and to him such a thing as a biology he does not know, cannot control, is monstrous.

We are no monsters. But don't worry, I brought one along…

Pestilence has enough time to look up, to register the space goat bearing down upon him. His head lifts, powers flaring, perhaps intent on blocking that rainbow charge in some way, or simply disintegrating Toothbender mid-run…

…and then there is a TAP on his back as a drone is slapped onto it. He is not too preoccupied to notice it, but that turns out to be a good thing. It breaks his concentration long enough that he does not have time to counter before the goat rams him, full-force, into the blazing fires of Muspelheim, where all must eternally BURN.

The flames consume him. Hot as they are, virulent as they are, they may be the one thing which can burn him to nothing too fast for his mutation to overcome. But as the fires purge him, searing him down into ash, there are a few brief moments before death when the corruption of Apocalypse is burnt away. Joshua Foley, for the first time in months, struggles free enough to die as himself rather than as a slave.

The golem, left behind, remains animated… but not for long. The quieting of the ship has an adverse effect on Pestilence's creations, suffused as they are with its milky ichor. Its furious battering of Atli lessens, its hits losing force… and Tony's slashing energy beams do the rest, slashing the construct apart again at its grim seams.

The corpses fall into a disarrayed pile, shudder, and grow still.

It is at this timely moment that Warren makes his reappearance, walking slowly into the room. His half-open wings drip with blood, and other things of an unmentionable nature. "Clear here?" he says, though a glance around confirms. "Good. Let's keep pushing up. We'll be right behind you. We've got eyes on Carolus. He's… okay." The brief words encapsulate a great deal.

The door, up ahead, opens further into the darkened depths of the grim research wing. Far in the distance, down the quiescent halls, can be seen winking lights. Perhaps the dimensional gate itself…?

* * *

Tears creep down Jean's cheeks for a being of such vast complexities trapped in binary simplicity.

A rose-hot glare flashes across the ship's walls when her eyes snap open. Her spine instantly straightens, then arches further towards agony as the chill of an existence that never needed warmth stretches icicle-sharp fingers through her body. Bright coruscations race along the mini-Cerebro's walls; steam curls from the boiling residue they leave behind and visions of a dozen different deaths in space flicker in its heart. It only stops when she lunges from the machine with a scream, leaving dangling leads behind. Her telekinetic vividly flares as her lunge becomes a hurtling escape from—

— the walls aren't actually leaking anymore, but she is dimly aware that they were. Aware that touching the wall milk is bad; aware that Dani can't fly—

She's got her arms wrapped tight around Moonstar when she crashes into Pestilence's lab, having snatched the Valkyrie in passing while hurtling away from the memory of danger. A shade paler than she was a few minutes ago, she keeps herself and her fellow psychic safely ensconced in psionic light while she tumbles along the ground.

For about a dozen feet around her, broken equipment and dead flesh snaps into the air, wobbly even as it angles towards—

Towards—

Panting, blood streaming from her nostrils and painting the lower third of her face, Jean darts her eyes around the lab and finds— — a lot— of dead bodies, an alarming amount of blood, and—

"… the ship's asleep," she exhales, sagging.

* * *

The last thing Joshua Foley will see as fire consumes him is a bright, brilliant rainbow that snaps through the sky, the same one that deposited him here, to finally be himself one last time. On the ship, the goat re-materializes a moment later, trailing smoke and ash where his fur was singed before slamming into a bulkhead and flopping over. Toothbender makes a disgruntled sound.

"Yes, goat. I know that feeling. Also, good job, Speed, Son of Stark." This, Atli says, as she rises, wincing and wiping blood from her mouth, she surprisingly looks mostly intact, that wonderful physiology that kept fighting back against the onslaught of Pestilence doing well to restore her. Well, saved for her singed over clothing. Her cape is nearly a lost cause.

"Glorywing, this… this…" Atli says, almost breathlessly. "Has been a most wonderous battle! Verily, we should do this more often! And look at your wings! It is if they are made of victory!"

Her gaze shifts to the goat. "Get up goat."

And then she's beside Dani and Jean, reaching down to haul them up to their feet, one in each hand. "Come now, sweet Dread Pirate Valkyrie," Yes, Atli noticed the eye. "come now beautiful Firebird, this is no place to die. On your feet, and prepare for untold glory!"

In case that isn't enough incentive, she continues.

"And Waffle House after, don't forget."

These words stir the goat, who wobbles to his feet and snorts, ready for more.

* * *

Half-disguised by the sails of one of those wings, Alison reappears into view an instant after Warren. It is easy to lose her among those leagues upon leagues of blades —

— possibly, for that reason, while they shimmer with wept blood, not a drop of it dresses her. Clean, head to toe, from it all.

She follows at his heels, directing careful plumes of microwaves towards residual puddles of that liquid, burning it away, ensuring a clean path remains among the group's feet. She glances back from her work, and sees —

Everything. Her eyes move over those reanimate, grotesque bodies, many of them wearing familiar faces, and more than one of them her own —

Alison's mouth thins. She shuts it down, along with the rest.

"Everyone's OK?" she asks, voice a little thick, doing a mental count of the group. One less, and her shoulders prickle, though when Warren remarks on Carolus, she holsters the panic. For now.

Her eyes lift, an instant later, on the unfamiliar sea change of the ship around them, feeling… different than how she remembers. Breathing, containing, alive all around her. "Good," she says. "It's an edge. He probably hasn't felt Pestilence… go. He would have sensed it already. We — we need to keep going, deeper to the engines —"

Her eyes are lingering on Joshua Foley, what's left of him. Trauma, definitely, for another day. "Though I remember them looking more like… organs. It lets him cross dimensions."

* * *

Everything went better than it actually looks, now that Impulse is standing still long enough to take in the aftermath. He glances over at Atli and tosses a thumbs-up in her direction as he wanders by Toothbender to give the spacegoat a hug. Who's a good boy? Good goat?

Jean's announcement is just a little puzzling to him, if only because he hadn't been paying much attention to what she was doing on her side of things, his gaze drifting to the floor as he takes her words as a warning to tread lightly. Niiice sleepy ship. With Warren and Alison's return, he looks up, his grin freezing on his face at the sight of Archangel in all his bloody glory. Erm. It's fine. It's …probably fine. Bart pats Toothbender absently as the goat gets to its feet at the promise of waffles, trying not to stare too much at Warren as they talk of continuing onward.

* * *

Warren himself does not seem to have noticed the state of his wings. The change that has been wrought on him by this world did not end with Apocalypse's brainwashing, and it no longer feels unnatural for his pinions to be heavy with blood. Besides, his focus has been most single-minded ever since his recovery, and the thoughts on which his mind have circulated all this time have all been ones of anger, bitterness, and deep violence.

Bloody wings seem only natural, in conjunction with such thoughts.

It takes multiple people remarking on his wings, noticing them, for him to 'snap' out of it, so to speak. Atli's admiration draws his eyes, and a flicker of discomfort finally shows in them as he realizes part of what she means by 'made of victory.' "They're… effective," he says, in the understatement of the century, pulling them in — especially when he notices Bart staring at them, his expression frozen.

And why wouldn't he be? It is a trip to see your 'Uncle Warren,' previously such a gentle creature, now looking more like the angel of death after Passover night.

Distinct shame crosses his expression, and he avoids Bart's gaze. He reaches to tug at Alison's hand, a brief subtle gesture that asks for those microwaves to burn the incriminating blood off his steel feathers.

Perhaps wanting to remember more of his old self, his attention turns to Jean and focuses on her. Here is something familiar — his best friend, from the earliest of days. He makes himself remember that fact; hold onto it, in his mind.

Her report that the ship is asleep shines his eyes with relief. "That should buy us some time," he agrees with Alison. "Not a lot — he will realize what's happpened to Pestilence soon enough — but some. It'll also keep him distracted when he arrives."

He steps forward, clearly not wanting to waste any of that limited time. "This way."

* * *

"…I am getting way to used to sudden rainbow goats." Is Stark's only comment as Toothbender makes his multicolored appearance. As things quiet down though the Iron Man suit shifts form again, its extra pieces reintegrating with the armor as a whole as he touches down on the deck, his helmet flowing down to disappear as he looks about the gore covered room with a wrinkled nose. "…yeah. This is digusting."

There. Judgement made.

Alison and Warren return, even as Atli picks the others up again. Seems everyone survived. Though Warren is covered with…

"You got a bit of red on ya…just…" A pause. "You know what. It'll be fine. Its fine. I mean there is a bit of that everywhere." And there totally is.

Gingerly stepping towards where Bart and the goat are, Stark flashes the speedster a grin. "See, kid. Told ya they were alive." Stark himself never doubted it for a moment. Because if he did then the breakdown he would have had would have been epic and no one wants to see that.

There is a pat on Bart's shoulder before the inventor looks around again, deeper into the ship. "Right. Well. This way then? Towards the ominously flashing lights right? That's always the way."

No one pay attention to his glowing golden eyes, its just a side effect of nearly dying. Its fine.

* * *

* OOC Time: Tue Dec 10 20:03:15 2019 *

* * *

Beyond the lab of Pestilence, the engineering wing forks in several different confusing directions, hallways meandering off like the twists and turns of something's living innards. There's no indication of which way might be the correct way… but Warren seems to know, judging by the way he veers unerringly towards the left and heads down one particular winding corridor.

It presses in, close, claustrophobic… but then eventually opens back up into a cavernous chamber. Perhaps a hundred feet from end to end, and another hundred from floor to ceiling.

The ribbed walls seem to breathe ponderously, and the ceiling glistens as if with sweat. There is an air of exertion to this place, to the way it labors around them, and the reason why sits towards the rear of this place, flush against the far wall.

Great structures — like oversized organelles in the cell of the room — grow out of the walls. Some are intricate, like endoplasmic reticulum writ large, and glow pulsing green light from their many folds; others are cylindrical and smooth, humming like vast biological engines outputting a constant stream of energy.

The thing which these structures power sits at the heart of these growths: a gate smithed out of that by-now familiar techno-organic metal, shaped roughly like a great ring.

The hum of the gate is, for now, quite faint. Not a lot of energy is actually going into it. Perhaps it has to do with the dormancy of the ship.

"This is it," Warren says. He turns back to the team. "You said you had ways back to our own dimension on hand? Then we could skip straight to figuring out a way to take this down."

* * *

As they recover from their previous ordeal and begin making their ways down the halls, it appears Atli has mostly recovered from the touch of Pestilence. She's still covered in a bit of gore and grime, all the telltale signs of battle that, frankly, put a smile on her face. And she is smiling, despite how dire this should all be, looking between Valkyrie and Lady Firemind with wide, oh-so-pleased eyes.

"Verily, did you see how I threw my goat at that Pest fellow with such might that it sent him into a fire dimension?"

Atli practically beams. Mostly at Lady Firemind, But as they come to the strange chamber with all those odd, moving wallbits, Atli's disposition changes a little. It's clear by her furrowed brow she's concentraiting on a response to the problem at hand that Warren offered up.

"Hmm. I know! I could throw the goat at the portal, and send the portal into a fire dimension."

Her face lights up, even as she draws her spear from her back. You know, the one that can cut through Celestial things. Unfortunately, no further plans come to the mind of the Guardians of the Galaxy's resident strategist.

* * *

Helping Jean push the ship into some form of slumber, or fanciful daydream, was hard.

It's taking Moonstar a few minutes to stagger back to her feet, but thankfully Jean and Atli help.

That nickname of Atli's prompts the Cheyenne woman to re-focus on her surroundings and specifically upon Atli. She could be mad - what with the wound being so fresh - but there's just something about Atli that you just can't be mad at.

So, with a twitch to one side of her mouth Moonstar's gaze turns to Jean, "Are you ok?" She asks quietly and with that question comes a shoulder to lean on if needed. After all, Jean took the brunt of that particular psychic attack.

It's only as the group begins to move that Moonstar falls into step and with each step, Dani turns her gaze momentarily towards Tony. They are definitely *going* to talk about some things. Some magical based *things*.

Just not now. Instead, it's now definitely the time to mutter, "I hate this ship." IT's those breathing walls, or rather it's the whole damn creepy ship. It's. Just. Creepy.

Atli's conversational piece brings Moonstar's attention back to the other woman. "It was a good throw." She agrees, because what else do you say? She truly can't deny that throw wasn't good! However, that question of Warren's brings Moonstar's attention over to the gateway. She was just about to open her mouth to say something, but Atli beats her to it. Hearing what the Asgardian has to say Moonstar nods briefly, "I was going to say blow it up, but I'm fine with it burning to a cinder as well."

"And yes, we have a way home."

* * *

There has been quite a few things that have disturbed Kitty about all of this. Luckily for her, the others have managed to deal with those with flying - if possibly totally scarred - colors.

The Ship and Pestilence have been dealt with and by Kitty's reckoning, with Ali and Warren on their side that only really leaves one more Horseman that they may run into as they attempt to make their way back home: War. Logan. Her mentor.

With Lockheed flying behind them, Kitty is amongst the group, still completely ready to phase them should it be necessary. She is also looking about, waiting for this world's version of someone she would have trusted implicitly on her world. It certainly does seem as if this place is intent on twisting the emotional knife in.

* * *

"Hh— !"

"— thanks, Atli," Jean exhales, smiling just long enough to bare a red stain down the center of her teeth. "Is everyone…?"

Her consciousness branches between those around her, opening channels for dialogue and just a bit more to flow readily, if not freely. Gently, she queries the minds around her to get a digest on what she missed, and—

It's a good thing that Warren is last, because how could she look away, save for the occasional, inquisitive glance towards Alison?

"I'm fine," she murmurs back to Moonstar, still pale(r) as she drags herself from the Asgardian and the Valkyrie.

There's a lingering pause, and then,

«The network is online,»

while they trek through meandering hallways, towards a breathing chamber—

"Is— " she murmurs after several seconds spent silently turning her way into the room, "— is the gate part of its…?" She's facing the ring when she stops and her brow's furrowing.

"Just ripping a piece of its body, its systems out and shoving it into a fire dimension would — probably — set off some kind of domino effect, right?" she briskly wonders, eyes sliding further and further towards Tony as she goes. "Can we just— shut it down? Reprogram it? Sabotage it, maybe…?"

Her eyes drift towards Impulse at 'sabotage', of course.

"You threw the hell out of that goat," she then offers, even as she turns her attention back to the problem.

«Just like hacking the Room to run Kordtendo games,» she ruefully deadpans between Kitty's ears, «right? I should've gone with 'teleport whoever goes through the gate into a volcano dimension' dreams…»

* * *

The golden glow fades from around Stark as he smirks slightly at the mess. Then there is a deep breath and he follows Warren and peers towards the odd pulsing ring. Hands clap together. "Our own dimension, buddy." He reminds the one only recently known as Death as he steps forwards towards the portal.

A tilt of his head this way and that.

"I think I can shut it down, or at least sabotage it. Either one would work." The technowizard replies as he cracks his knuckles. "I mean it might take a bit of time."

* * *

Warren nods slowly to the commentary from the others, though his gaze remains fixed on that gate. Our own dimension, buddy, Tony says, and Warren glances at him, his gaze softening briefly from that raptor focus. "Yeah… home," he says, though he sounds both happy and unhappy about the thought.

Jean would have a bit more insight, as her telepathic touch crosses his mind. She would be used to his thoughts being familiar to her, the shape of them like an old glove she has worn many times, but now there is a dissonance to his mind. There are hard, sharp edges there that were not there before, and the anger she has always felt buried within him is now prickling just beneath the surface…

It intensifies as his gaze tracks, inevitably, back to the gate. "Fast or slow, I don't care," he says. "As long as this thing is — "

He stops. He looks up.

The ceiling of this place suddenly parts, like flesh parting under a knife. Through the opened wound drops a single figure, which lands in the center of the room with an uncanny lightness for its great size.

It is a size that becomes more apparent as the figure rises back to a straight-backed stand, rearing up ten feet tall — at least — and with a broadness to match. Grey-skinned, grave, clad in the same blue and black armor as sheathes Warren now, he regards his former Death and Famine…

…and spreads his hands. "Strength of body, and mind," he declares. In response, Archangel's wings unsheathe in a crack of organic steel, bladed feathers bared, and Apocalypse merely smiles. "My children, I am proud."

His head turns, taking in the entire team. "I felt Pestilence die," he relates, his voice untroubled by the fact. "Here… in the heart of my own ship. And such a death! Strong… all of you."

Apocalypse folds his hands before himself, ostensibly unarmed. "Now I return to find you have given my ship some interesting ideas. It will be days before it wakes. An inconvenience for my timetable."

A pause. "But no more than an inconvenience. You fight to no purpose, in dedication to an illogical cause…"

His silver eyes turn from person to person. "The crutching of the weak and unfit."

A hand lifts, palm upturned. "Is it truly your decision to return to the defense of a world which will inevitably destroy you? I have seen your home. It looks much as this world did, years ago. Are you content to lay amongst the anthills, and allow the insects to pick away your flesh? I submit instead that you stay, and become the gods of a new world."

His features are placid. "…After a trial."

* * *

As everyone agrees that Atli's dispatching of Pestilence was excellent she looks oh so pleased, smacking the haft of her spear into her other hand and nodding as they consider her plan. "And don't worry, Warren, when we do get home I have the best of celebrations planned! The mead will flow unitl we aren't certain if we're drinking it or just dreaming of drinking it because we've all passed out. The goat will do that dance he does.. goat! Where are you? I-"

But then the ceiling opens, and in descends a massive, powerful being, one who likely has amazing abs, but now is no time to focus on that. Instead, she checks her awe, and steps up to counter the haunting, soothing tones of Apocalypse with a few words of her own.

A hand reaches into the pouch at her side.

From it, she draws her secret weapon.

"Verily, the League of Ivy sends it's regards!!"

And Atli lets it fly.

Traveling end over end, those watching might catch the words inscribed upon it, clear as day: Have a Coke with Warren. Small and plastic, and yet still as ice cold as when she stuck it in her pouch, the bottle of coke will no doubt shatter upon the armor of Apocalypse with little notice.

So little notice that not even Atli waits to see what this mystical Coke that Brett had told her about does when used as a weapon, instead two quick steps takes her leaping towards Apocalypse, that Celestial slaying spear brought high and cloak trailing through the air!

"BYJAPERY!!"

Her battle cry echoes through the air, and so does the bleat of her goat, who charges low and for this would-be Grey God's legs.

* * *

Moonstar listens to the chatter of those around her. Even as they speak she keeps her eyes on that gateyway, portal, whatever you want to call it.

There's consideration in her gaze, but before she voices any further ideas Warren's pause pulls her attention over to the metallic-winged man. When he looks up so too does Moonstar and the sight that greets isn't not welcomed.

Apocalypse.

His size is surprising, so too is his voice, and his words. That sound from Warren's wings brings Moonstar's attention back to the group. She looks at each person a moment before she turns back to Apocalypse.

// Jean, do you think we can potentially do similar to him as we did to the ship? I'm sure he has some sort of shields, but if you give my powers a boost and we can punch through we can possibly punt his consciousness into a nightmare of his own making. //

Clearly, he doesn't deserve greatest desire.

But he seemingly deserves a coke! and while that causes Moonstar's eyebrows to rise upward, that doesn't stop the woman from manifesting a bow of psychic energy and several arrows. She nocks an arrow, but she doesn't yet release that psychic energy.

* * *

They can sabotage it, can shut it down. But they don't know how long it will take.

Apocolypse arrives and Kitty points her sword. What good will that do?? Nothing, but at least it is a stand.

Apocalypse speaks and Kitty narrows her eyes. "I've heard a lot of people in my life decide who is weak and who is unfit. They're the ones who are in the wrong."

Atli brings forth her secret weapon and…! It is a can of Coke? Kitty blinks for a few moments. Oh dear that's not…

The surprise of it quickly is superseded by the fact that Atli is facing Apocalypse. "For the Milano!" Kitty quickly utters in what she hopes is a very disorienting cry for the being that is in front of them. Otherwise, she phases forward, intent on attacking him at his vulnerable point when he least expects it, especially while she is phasing.

* * *

It happens so fast.

So fast.

A new psychic imprint pulses at the peripheries of Dani and Jean's senses. To Jean, this one comes as familiar as breathing; this psychic signature has lingered at the wings of her consciousness more steadily than most —

There is no time to warn, but there is time to know.

A shadow unhinges itself from amorphous nothingness, and streaks an immediate, intercepting line on Atli's charge. There is the split-second glint of blades.

The charge of the goat continues, unnimpeded, for one more lope — until the great animal trembles, and falls apart, literally split in threes as it skids, bleeding out over the alien ship's chitinous floor.

The Goddess of Thunder, for her part —

— is held aloft, skewered through the chest and abdomen on six familiar blades.

Beneath her, stands the solid, armored shape of War, covered head-to-toe in some twisted alien karuta armour — kusari weave that glows as sinister as the techno-organic metal infected into shining adamantium.

Silvery eyes shine from that helmeted darkness. There are no words; only the wet sound of one of his hands ripping free from her body, to lacerate Atli's arm and cleave the foul weapon from her hand. Adamantium strikes the immortal spear and severs it.

With an obscene strength, he pitches the rest off his claws, tossing Atli aside as if she were nothing — a heavy, bloody projectile straight at Tony Stark.

In that wake, War widens his stance, assuming an offensive position before Apocalypse, his claws dripping the blood of gods.

* * *

Bart Allen arrives from the FRP Room Hub.

* * *

Why. WHY. WHY DO THEY ALWAYS MAKE SPEACHES.

Tony Stark does jump back as the giant mutant just leaps down though the roof and lands. Then, instead of doing anything sensible, he starts….speaching.

Stark squints a moment. Then just shrugs slightly. "Yup. Keep talking big guy." He mutters even as Kitty and Atli fling themselves forwards and towards the fry. He knows Pocky will realize he's there and doing a thing before long, but…before that…

Well before that, Stark is going to do just what he can to quickly sabotage this portal system. Looking for a weak point to wound the construct.

He finds something. A joint near the bottom, a nod just as a sword forms on the wrist of the armor. He cocks the arm back and….

And suddenly there is a wet ripping sound as War appears. His head snaps up just in time to get hit by a flung Asgardian and send them both tumbling across the deck. "Oh. Great. Logan." He groans as he hurridly sits up, though is arms are already moving to grab Atli as healing sprays jet from the gauntlet, nanohealing tech trying to mend the wounds in the Asgardian.

…she'll prolly be fine.

* * *

"It isn't your ship," is what Jean has to say to his offer, complete with burning, emerald slashes.

"It's a living being in its own right,"
«I had a Cerebro unit— without that, with a mind that wants to protect itself…»

Magenta threads blaze into existence around her as she holds her palms out at her sides. A beat later, limp tresses begin to dance on invisible currents. A bottle flies—

(a bottle?)

(a bottle??)

— and Jean's eyes snap towards Brett's gift. Rose light blooms with an addendum:

Have a Coke with Warren, Kinetically Doubled.

"It's enormous— it's primitive, but it wants, just the same. It feels…"
«… we'd have to do it all at once, because the minute we break in… even if we can figure out a way to beat his defenses on the spot, it's going to cost. We need to hit him before he gets the chance— so that if he still hits us back, it'll have been worth it…»

Jean draws a slow, shuddering breath. The threads surrounding her, pooling together into a field that clings jealously to her seem to lengthen for a moment, a dendrite web of radiance grazing the chamber's surfaces from dozens of angles. A particularly thick strand loops around the bottle, pulsing as it seeks to make an already frighteningly fast missile impossibly moreso.

"… but you know that. You wouldn't have a way to use it, if you didn't have something to dangle over it until you're finished using it," she coldly concludes as the air thrums with psionic energy.

«… so I'm gonna make this fascist asshole think that the shiny lights are me trying to punch him, while I try to gather the energy we're gonna»

«SHIT!!!! Atli— Kitty! Cover her!» erupts across the network.

One terrible, bloody, wide-eyed moment later, several of the shiny lights brushing her surroundings spiral together into shiny drills, which then undulate towards the final Horseman's shoulders in a shiny attempt at pinning him to the ground before he can steal more limbs or lives.

Any resultant blood might or might not be shiny. It's not up to her.

«Warren! Is he immune to you?!»

* * *

The sole answer for Apocalypse's invitation comes in the form of…

…a Coke. Kinetically doubled.

It explodes on his chestpiece. It explodes THROUGH his chestpiece. The First One glances down briefly at the stained hole punched through his chest, and then back up. He does nothing else about Atli's subsequent, goatly charge.

One reason why becomes gorily evident a moment later. The other reason comes when that hole mends itself immediately, ripped flesh and armor mending back up with molecular precision.

Apocalypse does not even blink an eye to the mess. He merely imposes upon War one booming imperative: "Go forth."

His attention turns afterwards, briefly, to Jean Grey. "It is a living being," he allows, of her commentary upon the ship. "And long ago, we made a pact."

Kitty's charge does not go unnoticed, either. "You are known to me, child," he says. "You, and all that you are." And her phased molecules encounter something bizarre — Apocalypse's own molecular structure rearranging to slip between her own phased molecules, passing harmlessly through…

Meanwhile…

Warren! Is he immune to you?!

«No more than usual,» is Warren's grim answer, as he moves in on War in an attempt to follow up on Jean's pinning maneuver. He does so even a moment before she finishes 'speaking,' accustomed to fighting alongside her. His pinions already drip, ready, with deadly paralytic. «I'll — »

«I'll — »

"Death," Apocalypse's voice hums in the background. "I commend your tenacity. It validates the station which I gave to you. Nonetheless…"

His eyes shine a brighter silver. "…You stray."

There is time for one short, sharp spike from Warren's mind, perceptible across the psychic network — and then he is severed from the link. This close to Apocalypse, this close to the heart of his power and influence, Warren cannot fight him off.

Death turns sharply a moment later, and one razor-sharp feather whispers across Alison's throat. It leaves a hairline cut, no more than a mere break of the skin… but that is more than enough for the paralytic to take hold.

A violent clap of his wings later, and he is in the air, diving towards Tony Stark with violent intent.

"Fight," Apocalypse intones in the background. "And those of you who live will serve."

* * *

Watching Warren and Alison get ripped out of Atli's life had put made her understand, in some small way, what her grandfather had felt every time he came to the blasted landscape that was Midgard of the future. The sudden realization that mortals were, you know, mortal, struck her in a way that nothing really had up until that point. It was all chasing Magnet people, and imagining what she might do if she were ever faced with a chance to woo The Phoenix as her forebears had. It was drunken trips to the Unspeakable Lands of Vegas, or the Dying Lands of Boston, the latter she took only by accident.

It was an utterly irresponsible life, and for the second time in just a few short weeks, she is struck by another sharp reminder that everything ends. This time, that reminder comes in the form of adamantium fury.

"Hrk!!!"

There are no more words, only the sudden shock as claws rip sideways, lashing her arm and striking her spear. In a few brief moments the last vestage of her time, her only gift from King Thor, is gone, spiraling away in two halves that clatter, shimmer with brilliant bright-gold electricity, and then explode in a terrible shockwave at both ends of the room.

A halo of ashen gold drifts through the air like terrible rain, and Atli barely notices, tossed bodily end over end, gore trailing out her side and from her middle, blood pinwheeling like some modern artist's attempt at being edgy and using a whole room as a canvas. They will all get a taste of it, the worst sort of rainfall, but most of the very heavy spray will scatter across the floor at Kitty's feet, her former mentor's work of art cast there for her judgement.

The Goddess of Thunder guards her middle. Somewhere, the goat dies, as the goat does, it's head still trying to gnash at Apocalypse's knee as it goes spiraling by, other peices of it scattering even more gore across the floor to make it an absurdly slippery and now furry mess.

The goat's tail slides into Atli's hip.

One trembling hand curls around it as Stark cradles her.

"V-verily, Lord Stark? I…I… don't. I.. I didn't…I fear I may not survive this."

Blood wells up in her mouth, and real fear creeps in, even as his nanites do their very best to somehow try to keep her alive from a wound that would have ended a mortal instantly. "…build a statue of me on top of your old tower?" Blood coughs up again. Her eyes wet and glassy, tears cutting through the blood spray on her cheeks. "O..one just like Odin's on Asgard, b-but instead of the Firebird sitting on my arm like that o-old fool Odin, have it.. have..it sitting…sitting on my f-"

Those eyes roll back and consciousness leaves her. Is this the end for the Girl of Thunder?!

* * *

Kitty swings forward, coming to Atli's defense with Apocalypse. And then War appears, cutting Atli apart with his claws. "Atli!" she is quick to yell. The body rolls at her feet. The woman is not only an Asgardian, but a Guardian. That means something. They are survivors. They look at these alternate universes and talk about who are the assholes. This man in front of her? This man is the asshole. And yet. He is still Logan.

This is an alternate universe, this is another place, and yet this is still Logan. A Logan that just skewered her friend. Tony is there to do triage and Kitty steps in front of Atli and the others, eyes narrowing at War. Jean's warning is, unfortunately, too late.

"You want to dance, Logan? Come on. Let's see if what you taught the original Pestilence squares up with what my Logan taught me."

And then Apocalypse phases through her as he moves forward. He phases. He knows everything about her. As he passes through, a distinct shiver rises up her spine and she nearly falls over. This is power and it it has seen ages. She has not.

'Fight. Let us see who will serve.'

"No." Kitty takes a deep breath. She was all form and fury to fight War - he is, after all War - but she suddenly takes a defensive stance. "Logan, no. Please."

* * *

Everything seems to happen too fast, too suddenly, and yet at the same time be incredibly slow for how impossible the results may be. For Impulse, it's even slower as every tick between breaths and blinks and heartbeats is measured out in a time of its own through the Speed Force's workings. Sometimes, most of the time, it's practically a blessing. In this case, it's very much the opposite.

Blood — more blood, as though not enough of it has been doled out during this mission — tinges the air with that familiar sharpness. There's so much of it, and the most distressing thing is that it's all from one person. It's enough of a sight that it practially rips Bart Allen out of his distracted run in that he comes to a complete halt, utterly stunned. Yet, even so, despite no longer moving, he still processes everything happening as though it goes by in slow motion, his speed-enhanced perceptions unhindered and allowing him to see as he turns his wide-eyed gaze here, looks to his friends there, the enemy, the results…

Tony with Atli, Toothbender in pieces, Warren turning his attack towards their own… Couldn't he have done something? Be everywhere at once, go back through time, something? He only vaguely sees Kitty as she moves to confront War, and yet he feels like his feet are stone as he still stands there, stunned.

* * *

"Don't finish that sentence," Stark mutters. "Please." He adds as finishes the dose of nanites to keep the Asgardian from fading away. JARVIS' readings say that she'll live, but she won't be much more help. He starts to stand, focusing still on Atli. "Warren! We need to figure out how to keep these guys busy."

This is when there is a startled exclamation from Jarvis. Snapping his head up Stark hardly has time to register an angry angel of death slamming into his side at near supersonic speeds. Oh. Now he knows how that feels. It doesn't feel good. For the record.

"Aaaannd he's reverted." Stark growls as his armor shifts, shields growing thick as Archangel's blades stab towards him, twisting just seconds before he is impaled, shards of nanoarmor cracking away.

Twisting though the air Stark swictches to coms. "I have an idea to get Warren back. Need something to slow him down with, Impulse!" He can see that figure standing wide eyed there. Maybe he can shock him out of it. "Think you can find something to tie Warren up with, like…a blanket or something I don't know! Something to distract him!"

Kitty is dealing with War, the mind witches with Pocky, he might need some help with Warren. "JARVIS! Upload program Alisonfrown to some of the nanites and get ready to inject him!" Oh god armor hold together.

And then to Warren. "This is totally retaliation for that crack about the salmon shorts isn't it?"

* * *

The presence at the edge of her mind causes Moonstar to cant her head just enough to look in that general direction. So, while she isn't surprised by Logan's arrival, she still isn't very pleased.

Her expression only worsens as the poor goat dies and Atli finds herself skewered.

And then it just becomes worse as so many things happen in seemingly one moment.

Toothbender dies, blood splatters everywhere, Warren reverts, Ali is sliced, Atli gasps her (possibly!!) last breath and the room lights up with the golden light from her her spear and Kitty pleads with War.

So many things to keep track of, but Moonstar looks to the immediate threats first. « Kitty! » Moonstar says over the Phoenix Neural Network, « I don't think that's going to work. They're too close to Apocalypse - he has too much sway over them! »

And with that warning given, Moonstar raises her psychic bow and releases an arrow. She aimed for Logan, dead center and as soon as that arrow is released the Cheyenne turns a quick look to Bart, thinking along the same lines as Tony. « Bart! You need to move! »

Then it's back to Apocalypse when he commands them to fight and in that moment Moonstar's expression twists into such rage. Enough so that winter suddenly surrounds her and a sword of hoarfrost appears within her hands. « Jean, I'm going to pull a Tony, but maybe it'll distract him. » She means Apocalypse, « Let's see if that helps break his hold on Logan and Warren. » And with those last words telepathically sent Danielle Moonstar opens herself up to the icy-bite of the Demon Bear.

A familiar cloak of a snarling bear covers her form and shadows her face and in a heart-beat her form shifts again. It changes and morphs into a large brown grizzly Bear and while it's not skyscraper large, it's as tall and large as Apocalypse's current form.

With a roar that exposes blighted teeth, Dani-Bear lunges toward Apocalyse. Blackened talons reach for the god-like being's chest, intending to plunge into armor and skin and hopefully the organs within.

* * *

One of Alison's last acts, before the chaos, was answering Jean's quick glance with a pained one of her own:

'It's OK,' communicated that look, not without some askance. 'I think.'

In fact, even in the wake of light-burning the blood from Warren's wings, and joining the group in the chamber — the ex-Dazzler comes to the closest to feeling hopeful in weeks. Maybe the direct hit will serve them well. Maybe with this immediacy, they can do something and —

And —

And it's gone, extinguished, much like the blood from beneath her skin, as she pales immediately under the first glimpse of Genesis. Of Apocalypse. She stands there, almost passive, unwilling first to act — as if she knows, down to the marrow in her bones, there is nothing she can possibly do here. Nothing she can do to him, save plead in vain for the lives of her friends —

His twisted compliment deepens her look of bloodless panic. Hearing his voice again brings back too-raw memories of the whispers in her head. Her hand tightens on Warren's closest arm.

«We have to strike him. Everyone. We don't get to run from this one. It's the only way we survive—» comes her murmurs through the link. Never to finish, not as Alison hopes, because Atli —

Jean's thought strikes firest. Alison animates, chasing it with an out-loud, "Wai—"

And the Goddess of Thunder is punctured through many, many times.

"ATLI!" Alison screams, composure lost at first swath of that blood. Her field lights up, and she halos with sudden, seething light, ready to direct it —

When something, instead, barbs at her peripherals. Something needles into her mind. She can feel it, that oppressive pressure, though she can conceptualize it, fight it — she knows. She knows something is wrong, her head turned up on Warren. Her lips part as if to speak.

And that metal feather, snakebite-quick, stings her throat. Her face twists with realiation — and then gentles, muscles slackening, as the paralytic hits. Her light goes out. She collapses on the spot, awake, aware, but left unmoving.

With a timeless, frozen-soil patience, War waits. Any memory of Logan's famous rage is gone, husked out of his cold, empty body, whose very shape is the only last, familiar trace of him —

The rest is gated in plate amor. His face helmed in shadow. The flesh around his dripping claws twists in a way that is not natural, not healthy, scoured black like flyblown meat. The glimpse of standing veins pulse against the corruption infecting all his bones, lanced out into the glowing points of his blades.

A broken body, barely holding itself together.

Slowly, coldly, with the memory of Atli behind him, and the severed spear kicked away — his silvery eyes hold Jean. Silent.

His next breath rakes. Something seems to drip from his face — milk-white — before his twitching expression grits down.

She turns on him violently, no hesitation in the way she turns her ability on his body, spearing War through the shoulders, punching through his armor and flesh — even if his bones cannot be broken — and braiding him physically into the ground.

"Jeannie," comes Logan's old, smoky voice from all that steel, though now it's gutted of any memory of affection. "We know how this usually goes, and it ain't with me dyin'."

With that, he grits his teeth and pulls. And he's stronger now, impossibly stronger than he was ever before, pulled by puppeteer's strings to impale himself deeper on those theads of light, boring himself through bloodily in a closer advance on her. His body heals as fast as it ever did, wounds closing as quickly as he reopens them, ripping himself open a dozen ways and just not caring.

"Hear your jaw movin', Kitty," he hisses betwen steps, each word steeped with tired disapproval. "I'd've taught mine to HIT by now!"

He pushes forward, no last thought for pain, no inclination to stop. His last words to Kitty may well be a tempt, or a dare, because Logan rushes Jean Grey, claws drawn, with no less than the desire to try to puncture them through her stomach.

* * *

There's two words that usually don't go in the same sentence: Slow and Impulse. And there's something that usually no one needs to tell him to do, to move. Things don't change their speed around him, but both Tony and Dani's combined efforts manage to catch his attention as though popping an invisible bubble that had briefly separated him from the rest.

He twists about to find Tony in his sights again as the Iron Man engages the metal-winged angel. He catches sight of Dani as she transforms and attacks the figure of Apocalypse. There's still an odd stiffness that he feels, as though he's fighting the flow of regular time around him, but he Impulse forces himself to move, putting one foot in front of the other, leaning into the motion.

Do something, do something, do something dosomethingdosomething

And he does. He's not sure what, even as he runs through the options suggested by Tony- seriously, where's he going to find a blanket in this place?!? —it's a thought only briefly entertained as the speedster keeps moving, keeps tracking the two. He can see where they are, where they're going, and while he can't fly, he can defy gravity with enough speed. Also, it works in video games.

Reckless? Most definitely? But he hasn't been given such a codename for nothing, and he's definitely putting his all into it as he hurtles towards Archangel like the smallest linebacker, except he's going in for a hug and not a tackle. Or a tackle hug. Same thing in the end.

* * *

Like an old glove lined with broken glass.

A favorite shawl woven from barbed wire.

A wine-stained couch upholstered in steel wool.

Jean is gentler than she would've been in letting her mind brush his, mindful of the strange new growths lining familiar crevices; tentative, not for the fear of being cut but for what the cuts might do to him— how it might affect his path towards relearning how to be him.

Gentle until his wings twitched in rhythm with her drills, anyway. Then she flickers through astral space to seize him, to move in formation while plans evolve at the speed of thought.

… and then she feels his mind slip from hers— she feels herself stretching, stretching, stretching to reach across the chasm that's grown between them—

"ALI— Warren, STOP— !"

— she feels ice roll down her spine and smoke choke her ears, her memories of a wounded soul desperate to better himself—

The situation evolves at the speed of Apocalypse.

"— stop— " shivers from her lips. Sheer survival instinct keeps the psychokinetic drills — skewers, at this point — between she and the hollowed Wolverine real enough to give him something to struggle against on his advance. Her mind's racing — reeling, to shift from marshalling for a psychic alpha strike on a self-styled god towards keeping any more of her friends from being maimed or worse— to accommodate the Bear rising up to challenge said tyrant, the boy who almost seems frozen for a beat before bursting into action, the empty body and claws hauling themselves towards her…

"— god," she exhales, arms shuddering with the strain of bearing his weight, his uncanny strength as he tears his way towards her, "with the— you sold your soul, Logan— you threw everything you've made of yourself, all— hh— all the progress, you threw that away," she spits, sagging as her muscles clench and a few tears burn fresh trails down her cheeks.

Magenta flares an inch away from the desperate forward thrust of her palms, just in time to catch those claws.

"And you've got the nerve to posture like you're some— some badass," she shudders, "and not— not his tool— Logan…"

A grimace fixes itself to her features as she slides slowly but surely towards her knees, the claws working closer and closer as she goes.

"… L— you— how could you give UP, Logan? How— how could YOU— ?!"

The sob that twists those lasts few words spikes into a violent shriek when she hits the ground and several inches of adamantium meet her neck and shoulder. What's left of her protective field explodes outwards, intent on hurling him backwards— and tearing long slashes into gaping, gushing trauma in the process. The rest of her hits the ground immediately afterwards. Gloved hands crossing to clamp her neck are the only parts of her that aren't thrashing. Blood swiftly seeps into the material— slowly recedes— soaks a little farther… Magenta wildly pulses between her palms and skin all the while, until a hot, airy rush and awful stench proclaim that while she's down some blood, at least she won't be losing any more.

For the moment.

* * *

This is totally retaliation for that crack about the salmon shorts, isn't it?

Only Tony Stark would quip while being descended on by an angel of death.

Death has no quip in reply. Only the guillotine lift of one of his wings. Its slash rips through the air fast and keen enough to create an audible shriek, shearing through nanoarmor and shields even as they attempt to form. Undeterred by his miss of Tony's actual flesh, Death presses the attack while the inventor remains unbalanced. It brings him a little too close for him to bring his wings back around to strike, but that just means he brings his talons to bear instead.

Long, hooked, and lethally sharp, they clamp onto Stark's thickening, shifting armor. 'Oh god armor hold together' is certainly the thought of the moment as — like an oversized bird of prey — Death starts to rip at Stark's nanoarmor, tearing at it as fast as it can construct itself. His vast wingspan beats furiously on either side of Stark as he tries to lift them both higher into the air…

…and then, faster than he can even perceive, something is threading between the deadly razor-sharp beats of his wings, and cannoning straight into him.

Death loses his hold on Tony as Impulse tackles him. He loses air, too, the force of Bart's SUPER HUG disrupting his aerial balance and killing his lift. Crashing to the floor, still be-hugged, he's temporarily stunned. Probably a good time for Alifrown.exe.

Apocalypse turns towards his felled Horseman, though whether he might have done anything is a question left to the ages as Something Else draws his attention. Something unexpected.

A cold such as he has not felt since…

He turns in time to CLASH with Dani-Bear as she roars towards him. One set of her claws sinks into his chest, spreading hoarfrost across his body from point of impact; the other set finds itself caught in one of his hands, held at bay. The impact sends him skidding back several feet, his heels digging into the organic-metal ground for purchase. His chest weeps a thick black blood where her claws pierce deeply into him, though the eyes staring back into hers are still calm as a millpond, expressing no pain at all. Millennia ago, Apocalypse mastered his own emotions.

Slowly, he begins to push back against Danielle Moonstar.

"Ka'eskone," he says, his voice low, "here, the Bear mastered you. You went into the forest, and you faced It, and It devoured you whole. It interests me to see a world where you have mastered It."

His free hand reaches to shut in her fur, as with pure brute strength he begins to attempt to lift her from the very ground. To rob her of her leverage. "Or have you?"

And yet… his focus, while it is turned upon Moonstar, is less able to maintain its grip upon other things. There is a brief flicker in his control over War and Death.

And…

There is a flicker of something else. Something completely unrelated to Apocalypse.

As Jean Grey bleeds, as she lays there, still reaching across the chasm towards lost friends…
(didn't this happen before? or something like this?)
…there is a voice only she hears.

WELCOME HOME.

A familiar everlasting flame rekindles behind Jean's eyes, white-hot. A broken connection, fluttering in the astral wind, draws taut again.

WELCOME BACK.

* * *

Somewhere, deep in the recesses of the mind of a wounded Goddess, there is a beach. There's sun, and sunglasses. Really, that's all there is, because she's naked. "Verily, is it not odd that mortals take off all of their clothes, just to put on smaller, more revealing clothing clothing to go swimming Toothbender?" Atli looks down to Toothbender. She sees only a bit of bloody tail. And she isn't actually as naked as she thought. She's covered in wonderous clothing of so, so much blood.

"Hmm. That doesn't seem right. Glorying? Dazzler? Lord Stark? Lady Firemind?"

«Lady Firemind?»

It bleeds through, from the dream. Communication in a link that Atli almost didn't realize was happening while she was awake. In her dream, the moon hangs behind her as a Bear. In her dream, the sun burns in the sky as a Phoenix. Atli isn't sure who to lodge her blood-clothing protest with, and so she takes off her glasses and stares into the sun.

«Hello? Firebird? Whatever it is you're doing up there, mayhaps you might finish it on the quickmarch so that we might have some time down here, doing…"

She glances to the beachfront, out over the ocean, where Warren and Ali are sailing on the back of a giant Tony Stark. Just a giant, sleeping Tony Stark. Atli frowns.

«Yes indeed, if you could use a whole lot of FIRE to burn away whatever is keeping you up there, things have gone a bit strange here. Oh, yes, right, Firebirds communicate with the mind. Here, let me send you some of my mind power to help you out!!»

Atli does not have much actual mind power. But she does have an active imagination, and it is, despite everything else, a godly one laced with the same spark of power that will one day blossom into the Atliforce like the Odinforce and the Thorforce before it. And Atli thinks of fire, of the Phoenix consuming whole worlds, whole universes, in the hope this might encourage the Phoenix to quickly dispatch whatever she is dealing with to come down here and party, trying her best to send all her energy towards a Firebird she hopes to rile up.

It just goes to show, even near death, even barely hanging on, Atli can manage to be perhaps the worst strategist to ever have existed.

* * *

* OOC Time: Sat Dec 14 20:06:59 2019 *

* * *

Moonstar pushes him back and buries one set of claws into the monster's chest and she feels a sense of satisifaction.

Of triumph.

Even if she knows it'll be short lived.

Her other set of claws finds themselves captured and her forward moment stilled. It causes the muzzle of the bear to crinkle backward in irritation and frustration, and even as that hoarfrost covers Apocalypse's chest Dani-Bear pushes onward. She digs her own feet into the floor of the ship and leans forward, pushing all her mighty-strength against the strength of Apocalypse.

She pushes but she finds the weight of a mountain stopping her.

Then comes his words. Ka'eskone. That singular word in Cheyenne brings Dani-Bear's gaze upward and as he speaks the rest of those words, the woman can't help the rage that blooms in her eye. It's enough to cause her gaze to flare with a yellow light as she pulls more power from the spark of the Demon Bear that resides within herself. Then the Cheyenne reaches for even more -

It doesn't matter where the Demon Bear of this particular realm is - whether on the physical or the magical - Danielle Moonstar reaches for its power and pulls upon the filaments found. She leaches that dark power into herself and the blighted claws that find themselves buried within Apocalypse's chest turn sub-artic as they curl within his chest.

The cold turns to burn and whether he feels it or not, that newer sensation heralds something more. It's not just the cold that seeps from her claws to him, it now tries to devour the spirit of Apocalypse.

His soul.

With her concentration focused as such she can't stop Apocalypse's free hand that scruffs her so. She can only try to subsume his soul before he takes her down, so that they have a chance to win this battle.

* * *

SO MUCH IS HAPPENING!!

If it was anyone but Tony Stark it might just be overwhelming, but if there is any benefit of having a brain that never stops running it is the ability to keep pace with everything. Part of his mind takes in the fact that Bart is /moving/, even if the blanket suggestion was dumb it at least got him moving. He's aware that Warren is /still/ trying to kill him.

VERY AWARE OF THIS.

In fact one might say its the focus of most of his attention. Since the warning lights start to scream at him at the rate of his armor loss is not /super/ sustainable.

…and there is also part of him that realizes that Dani just turned into a FREEKING DEMON BEAR. Also hard to miss.

And Jean got stabbed. Oh my god why is everything happening at once.

Well. First thing's first. He needs to distract Warren just enough for the nan—

And in a flash of speed, lightning, and FEELINGS Impulse is there. With a tacklehug.

"Yeah that'll work too, kid." Stark murmurs as he curls the fingers of his right hand into a fist. "JARVIS. Activite program now!!" He shouts and swings that fist towards Warren, nanite tendrils snaking out of the sides and the wrist as they try to sink into his neck and wrap parts of his head. Injecting modified nanites of his own in order to captalize on the distraction that Bart provides. "You're not done yet, you damn seagull! Get back here! No more trips to murder your friends land."

His other hand though spins out towards…of all people…Dani. Its a risk, if this doesn't work on Warren he'll be wide open with only a traumatized Bart between him and possible impalement. He trusts Bart though, and he trusts in his tech.

Most days.

Which is why a quartet of darts shoot from his other fist towards the bear that is Dani Moonstar. Glowing gold nanites shine in the light of the sleeping organic ship, light that dies as half-way to the target Stark reverses whatever process he used to cleanse them in the first place. That miniscule essence of the original Demon Bear aiming to strike into that bear's side and hopefully, if everything works properly, give the current incarnation the strength to tip the balance that the two titans seem to have.

It won't last long, but Stark doesn't need it to last long. Just needs it to last long enough.

* * *

It's not in Carolus Sinclair's nature to wander off and have a solo adventure within the scope of a major crossover comic. Two things had thrown him off and urged him on:

Firstly, he's still bouncing back from having certain elements of himself overlapped with certain elements of Warren. It's just much easier for him to go off half-cocked right now. Not enough so, though, that he would say that he'd act on it if he really didn't want to. Which leads to…

Two, he started smelling himself, which was all sorts of bad news. The decision to go after himself had more than a little to do with the possible difficulties that could arise as a consequence of somebody with his own sense of smell being able to track movements in this part of the ship.

When you meet yourself on the side of the road in a major crossover comic, you kill that son of a bitch. Unless you're a Spider.

The nature of his local self was more than a little grotesque. Near as Carolus had been able to tell, he was one of several experiments with scientific necromancy a step removed from Apocalypse's own, with much of his nervous system and brain replaced by some sort of fungal growth. Truly, if he had known these details in advance he might've hesitated to pursue himself.

Its crowning separation from him is that it wasn't very smart.

That battle, though, is over.

The moth man stands over his own still and empty body, the lump of fungal tissue that had served as its brain stem cast aside to the opposite side of the room. Quietly, he begins to account to his own injuries, spooling silk out to wrap them.

Left eye, swollen and aggravated along with a good quarter of that side of his face. Right wing, torn. A multitude of neither shallow or deep, bloody finger holes where his other self had the presence of mind to try to grasp at his internal plating and pull it free, to crack his "shell".

Despondently Carolus experiments with his wing patched-by-silk, but the instant it moves in earnest the silk begins to stain and the inch or so he managed to lift off of the ground is lost with an abrupt tumble-and-fall.

Grumbling, he pushes himself to a stand and begins to walk.

What he arrives to witness is a mess. Dazzler is on the floor and Warren has apparently been flipped again. A Logan that smells diseased jousts verbally and otherwise with Jean and Shadowcat, Atli is on the ground, and Moonstar is struggling with a terrifying giant he can only assume is Apocalypse.

What a time to not be able to fly.

Wearily he increases his pace. There isn't an ideal opponent here for him, or really even for anyone. The fact that he's arriving last-minute, though… perhaps it will offer /some/ element of unexpected edge.

As the hand of a grave enemy seizes Moonstar from the front— another four come from behind to support her, pausing momentarily to find the appropriate angle of force and then simply attempting to keep her from being manhandled quite as readily as Apocalypse /should/ be able to accomplish if no one had interfered.

Atlas gasps at the force that he's struggling against, grunts of exertion rapidly giving way to noises of escalating pain.

"Dani." Carolus greets her, with as much geniality as he can manage given the situation.

* * *

Hugs usually aren't nearly so painful, but Impulse supposes that that's due to them usually being conducted at more normal speeds, and not resulting in falling more than from a standing height. Still, the speedster hangs on, as though he could physically grab ahold of whatever bit of Warren's mind isn't being overridden by Apocalypse and keep it grounded. He's pretty sure he wouldn't be able to literally keep them grounded for very long, surprise being about the only thing in his favor at the moment, but nevertheless he clings like a limpet to a rock.

He hears Tony shouting and assumes something's being done, assumes because he'd forgotten he'd had his eyes squeezed shut upon hug-impact, but he opens them as he hears the sound of movement and sees the familiar armor swinging into position, and even if it isn't aimed at him, he winces in anticipation.

Around them, others fall, others fight, but they haven't given up, they're not giving up. He won't give up either. He doesn't let go, not yet, but his head's back in the game, as much as can be, and he can't let it slip again.

* * *

Everything is going wrong. Kitty has been focused most on War, on Logan. The blood pounds in her ears, her eyes narrow focused. However, she slips in the blood at her feet and that brings other things back into focus for her.

Logan lunges straight for Jean and the young mutant takes everything back in.

She hoped that peace may be the way to put down War, but peace doesn't always mean that she should be passive. The blast of energy passes through her, though even as she's phased it seems to blow her hair backward. Eyes narrowing, she lunges at Logan, intent on keeping him contained. The gashes will heal and he'll be after them again. The sword remains out, but she attempts to shove at the burly man to push part of him into the floor. His arm if she can get it, a leg if not. Nothing that will kill him, but it will hopefully be like catching a bear in a trap. "Snap out of it Logan, I know you're in there somewhere and we need you. Come on. I never knew you to be that kind of person to ever be someone else's servant."

Even contained, he'll be dangerous, so she stumbles backward toward Atli and Ali, but she still tries to get through to him.

* * *

«I never got a chance to ask, and— I mean, I'm— kinda running outta…"

To Atli, the beach is strange. Jean, on the other hand—

~*~*~

Lying in a pool of her own blood, Jean Grey's got red and gold fingers locked around her throat. Smoking, hissing flesh bubbles up from the gaping rents War carved from her body. The thrashing's stopped, but her breathing's paced as if conducted by lightning stroke. Living walls tilt and swim; darkness creeps in from the margins while wide-open emeralds jitter.

*~*~*

"… what is it that draws you to Her?"

Seated on the sand with her arms around her knees, she peers up from watching her friends sail and praying that the ferry's late. From one woman with a complicated relationship with the Phoenix Force to another, it's a question with no agenda beyond understanding the incandescent wish that drew her and the boiling spirit she only barely got to know before they wound up on a beach together. She's garbed in a rippling, knee-length green dress with a Phoenix symbol neckline, an everflowing river of golden sash looped around her waist, and shimmering opera gloves. Since it is a beach, she's wearing golden sandals on her feet and big, gold-rimmed sunglasses.

"I felt this— this dream, this yearning for death and destruction screaming from your mind," she whispers, "but ever since you barreled in here, you've been — I mean, yes— "

Jean's standing a few feet in front of Atli with a sad smile, now.

"— still pretty keyed in on destroying stuff, but — for them, for Alison and Warren. It's been heartening, it's— you seem like you've got so much love in you, Atli, enough to cross dimensions and challenge ancient tyrants for the people you care for, and— " Gloved hands extend, seeking the Goddess of Thunder's shoulders. Here, it doesn't matter how much blood she's lost; she can still squeeze tight, because the gesture's just a symbol meant to communicate gratitude and affection.

"Thank you for coming, and— " Jean abruptly casts a bemused glance over her shoulder, towards the horizon.

"— thank you," she slowly murmurs as the hairs on her neck begin standing on end, "and I wish I'd gotten a chance to get to— "

There's a hitch this time, before Jean looks back and sees how much larger — how much closer — the sun is.

How the burning embers of its eyes seem fixed upon the beach and the souls upon it.

"— … oh," she exhales with a flickering smile as her attention returns to Atli. The tears that were already forming at the corners of her eyes begin to overflow, leaving faint, glittering trails down her cheeks. "Maybe I spoke too— "

~*~*~

WELCOME BACK.

Jean goes from crumpled on the ground to floating several feet above it, upright, between blinks. Ancient flames gush from the angry red wounds wrapped around her upper body like a burning collar. Distortions ripple in the wake of unfurling wings as the world boils around her. An opera glove soaked with blood and shimmering in spite of it stretches towards towards the tyrant grappling with the Bear and the moth—

*~*~*

Despite the blood, Jean draws the Asgardian into a brisk hug, squeezing her eyes shut. She promises, "She isn't going to forget about you," in a brisk whisper as the ocean boils away at the encroaching sun's touch, revealing the blood-slick ground underneath. As the beach bubbles and fuses, a great Bear wrestling with a tyrant while a wounded moth staggers to her aid; a man of lordly intelligence and a boy of surpassing courage trying to survive the glorious onslaught of Death rekindled; and a Guardian entangled with War stretch into view, reflected and reversed.

"Just promise us that you'll kick his ass hard so hard that he remembers it for the next few millennia."

~*~*~

— and a column of fire explodes around the Asgardian's savaged body. Invisible hands bear her from the ground while invisible threads knit divine flesh until all is where it should be. Fragments of superlative craftmanship caught in the searing funnel drift snap into orbit around Atli, and burning tendrils stretch between each piece, drawing them together into a semblance of cohesion made temporarily real through the injection of several CC(cosmic centimeter)s of everburning fire through its form until it's visibly laced — bursting — with the Phoenix's power.

"Apocalypse," reverberates through the room, doubled and distorted with cosmic feedback as burning green eyes roll to focus upon the self-styled god wrestling with Moonstar and Atlas. "'Genesis'. 'Genesis'," she repeats, lip curling distastefully around the syllables, "like you're capable of creating anything but misery and corpses."

A burning wave of disgust crashing against his psyche is her bid for access, a brazen play to further divide his attention while Dani, Tony, Carolus — and hopefully, Atli — work to overcome the enormity of his physical presence. As it resolves into a great, burning raptor with a woman nestled somewhere near its heart, its wings stretch in a bid to flood his mind with the blistering radiance pouring from their depths.

«The MAN who stumbled into godhood and built an EMPIRE of lies and brutality to protect it!" thunders through the ship and the shores of his psyche.

«You WILL release the lives you've corrupted with your fantasies before you're reduced your rightful place!"

* * *

And where that feather touched her… Alison remains, fixed with rigor mortis patience. It takes her away from the fray, but at the same time, the woman remains unmoving, the only tell-tale signs of animation through her sleep-slow breathing, and occasional, laboured blink. The paralytic commands the rest of her, its toxic control final.

Though, she can still blink.

«No, Warren, no— Can't move… he's so close… I can feel him too… concentrate on Apocalypse, he's the only way you can— Jean!!»

It happens within her periphery, though there is no widening of the Dazzler's frozen stare. She cannot miss those claws sheathing into her friend's body.

Even before he was broken and reshaped into War, Logan was the immovable object, battered a billion times over by a million unstoppable forces. Ripped and ravaged and broken, but always healing. Always getting back up.

And now, the twisted remnants of him mantle with irrepressible ire, which lets no part of Jean's telekinetic drills and flails stop his tired, forward path. Is there any hurt left that his old body does not know?

"Always been a tool, Red," he answers in his too-familiar, gravelly voice. Under the shadow of is helmet, his eyes shine sick silver. "Always been a weapon. I thought you understood that. You more than most."

Both killers, them. He, the blade. She, the forge.

He bleeds and he heals a dozen times over. And he murmurs, when he's nice and close: "My soul's been on loan for longer than you know."

His claws bleed her. The Horseman animates to the sight of it, his nostrils flaring to scent its appearance like a wild animal; he takes in the violence, even though the corresponding sob out of Jean shocks him a heartbeat too long, frozen before he can proceed with a follow-up —

Her power slams him backward. The normal Logan would have been rocked, even with his weight, off his feet. This one skids backwards, augmented with mass off his celestial refinements, and driving down claws to nail him in place. That moment's hesitation appears gone, bled out of him, attention focused to a pinpoint.

"You think — you know what loss is?!" War suddenly snarls, with a familiar twist of temper, unsheathing all six of his claws, and barrelling forward where Jean Grey lies prone—

—Only to be stopped, sidestepping from Kitty Pryde's sudden interjection. Sneering to the tips of his teeth — his gums are rotting, like the other exposed parts of him — War rakes the air in a strike that could sever Kitty's torso from her hips. But she's phased through, and worse, pulling him with, pinning his leg straight into the chintinous flesh-and-steel of the ship.

Slowly, he fixes Kitty with a long, cold stare. The corruption guts the humanity from his eyes. His expression, however, twitches. Fighting it.

Jean lights up across the room, and though War — though Logan — looks, he shows no fear. Was never afraid of her, woman or fire. His mouth thins, lip curled, and his gaze lances dead back on Kitty. "Knew… the person you were, kid. Always did. Someone who knows what to do. Someone who… has to do it."

* * *

Bart's tacklehug puts Death flat on the floor on his back, which is perhaps the one saving grace for him and Tony right now; his wings are temporarily pinned beneath him in such a manner that makes it very difficult for him to bring them to bear against them. It also prevents him from moving long enough for Tony to get that nanite upload going. Of course, though, if the nanites don't work, that'll be more than enough time for Death to get his wings free and do some very ugly work.

Today, though, Stark's tech works flawlessly. Death spasms in what looks like a painful way — but it breaks Apocalypse's control. His eyes, when they turn back to Tony and Bart, are clear. "Sorry," he gasps. "I'm — let me up. I'm — is Ali — " A glance tells him she's okay. He shudders, and his wings twitch.

His attention turns back to Tony and Bart. "The gate — if you can overload it, it'll cascade through the ship. Massive failure. Probably take the whole thing out. There's shielding, but — I'll make the opening."

With that he swings back into the air, and with a sharp turn cleaves across the front of the gate and its associated supporting infrastructure. His serrated wings slice across what seems to be thin air. Then there is a sharp crack, and the smell of sickly ozone radiates outwards from the bursting of some invisible force field.

Opening made for Tony and Bart to reach the gate, Warren turns again in the air afterwards, arrowing back towards Ali to settle protectively over her. "Once the gate's down," he yells, because he's not linked back into the network yet, "we need to portal straight out, unless we want to go down with this ship!"

Apocalypse should have stopped him. Apocalypse probably could have stopped him. But Apocalypse currently has an issue of his own right now. That issue is the towering Bear with whom he currently clashes, whose ferocious holding keeps him temporarily pinned down. Her attempt to reach for his spirit, to rip it from his body, tilts his head, as hoarfrost spreads across his chest from her buried claws. The grey of his skin grows momentarily duller, as her powers leech at his vitality.

Then a hand clamps about her throat, attempting to lift and asphyxiate her all at once. He might have done so easily, too, if not for the sudden and timely appearance of Atlas with all his added strength, holding the grip of Apocalypse open long enough to save Dani's life.

"Ah," he says to Atlas, as if recognizing a child. "You met yourself, did you not? I see in you the will to survive, unfettered by useless sentiment. You would do well, with me. I urge you to consider it…"

With a sudden surge of strength, Apocalypse breaks through the resistance pitted against him. Not to crush either Dani or Carolus fatally; though being thrown across the breadth of the room to potentailly hit a far wall is probably only marginally better.

"…For the alternative is death," he concludes.

And to speak of that?

His gaze turns to Jean, now, where she hovers suffused again with the fire of the Phoenix. Where she condemns him for creating nothing but corpses…

"Is that so bad a thing?" he wonders. "Corpses must be made to make way, for new life. No species has ever arisen except from the ashes of another. You should know."

Her psyche clashes with his. And where the Phoenix meets Apocalypse, there is a damning sameness — the great churn of death and rebirth. It is in him as much as it is in her.

He stands resistant — but neither is he moving. He CANNOT move. The strain starts to show on his features.

"You ALL know," he repeats, voice ringing from wall to wall, "that the only way for your kind to be saved, is to turn all its competition to cinders."

* * *

In that moment, Jean may come to understand that Atli cannot distinguish between the Phoenix Force or it's hosts. They are one and the same to her, cosmic forces of nature that sing a siren's song across the cosmos. What is it that draws her so?

"Well, I don't.. I just… " Atli's smile is almost as big and bright as the growing energy of the sun. She has nothing but the truth. "Your strength, of course. Always there, burning bright."

As the whole of the dreamworld becomes one bright light, and the dream-sun threatens to consume them all, Atli never looks away from the Firebird. You see, she's waited for this moment for some time, and certainly never imagined the Firebird would come to this, such a wonderful beach that… how did she get here again? While some might let such confusion interrupt the moment, Atli Wodendottir is so used to being confused that it barely lifts a brow. Blood peels back from her skin in the dream scape, burned away by a warmth that melts sand and sends a miasma of glass and blood burnt black skyward like leaves in a wildfire.

And Atli wouldn't notice if she were dying for the second time. She wouldn't notice anything, anywhere, in the warm embrace of a being that had enamored her so. "No no, that's all just lightning. You see it also begins with L, which is why I can understand confusing it with love! You see, it is the heroes of Midgard that have love. It is the heroes of Midgard that remind me of what it is to be just and kind, like my Grandfather is. I make so very many mistakes." The pain of Atli's dying mind crashes like a wave against the fire that would burn her through. "But they never mind. Not ever. Not Warren or Alison, or the Rocket or Groot. Well, mostly they don't mind. Never enough to tell me to leave. But now I think I have to. I think I have to leave, and verily, I do not wish to go…"

She tries to return the hug in full, and all of it turns to white-hot ash.

Lightning crackles outside the ship, striking all around and conducting through, and as fire whirls around her and lifts her from the ground to knit her body back together, the power of her forebears leaps up from the deck to infuse her. Eyes snap open, and her cloak and duster burn away from the combined power and motes of energy floating all about.

Motes that she reaches out to take hold of as if to claw her way back from the edge of oblivion, motes that curl and shift and solidify, fire and lightning churning to take a form she so desperately needs right now.

A hammer.

"Verily, good advice, grey giant. Time to burn!"

Fire and lightning crackle all around her as the power of the Phoenix and Atli's spark of divinity combine in that hammer made of energy, until finally she hurls it at his grey face with all the speed and power of lightning, and all the destruction of cosmic fire.

* * *

Dani-Bear has the upper hand, but it won't be for much longer. Not with Apocalypse's strength far outnumbering her own. In fact, it's only seconds later that she finds Apocalypse's hand around her throat, readying to crush the breath from her body. Ready to finish her completely.

And while Moonstar struggles against Apocalypse's grip she also prepares for that particular fact that she may lose. This may be her last fight, but before that can necessarily happen Moonstar finds her load suddenly lightened.

It comes in two forms.

'Dani.'. Her name, said in such a courteous tone, is heard and upon hearing Carolus' simple greeting the Demonic Bear can't help but feel a surge of gratitude and relief.

All is not lost!

Then comes the second form - or rather four forms - as Tony's darts of demon infused nanites hit their mark and thud heavily into the hide of Dani-Bear. There's a moment of shock from the Bear but soon comes that rush of added power as portions of itself return home. That's infusion of power is what allows Moonstar to pull upon the lifeforce that resides in Apocalypse. To actually cause his skin to turn darker, duller, ashen. Perhaps it'll be enough perhaps -

Or not, as Dani-Bear finds herself literally tossed aside with ease. There's enough force to send her across the room and while she can't necessarily stop herself from being thrown, she can at least do one thing. She can return the favor Carolus did for her just moments before - in those few seconds before she goes splat, Moonstar in that Demonic Bear form reaches out for the Moth to bring him close, so that she can curl around his form to protect and cushion.

After all, her hide is far thicker than the thin skin of humans and mutants alike.

* * *

Cables snake from around the head of that which once was Death as Stark draws back. There is a smirk as he seems to relax for just a moment as he hovers there in mid-air. "Weclome back." He replies before he draws a deep breath and nods. "Hey people, outbound flight is happening in a few minutes. Everyone be ready, with tray tables and seat backs in the upright position!"

And Stark launches towards the massive organic ring. "Impulse! Grab this drone, needs speed and power to activate! Think you can manage it?" A smirk. And a little boxy drone launces from the back of Stark's armor towards the speedster.

More cables slither out of the gauntlets of the armor as he plunges them into the base of the portal. Nanites, not the ones from his blood but new ones, pour into the base of the system. These are for one purpose. Power. Energy. Feeding the portal itself in a brute force wager to cascade the nervous system of the ship and fry the ship along with the portal.

He's wide open right now, but its this or die to a crazy mutant who thinks he's a god…or at least die in the fight between him and a Asgardian powered by cosmic force.

He's rather be leaving!

* * *

"Genesis." Atlas greets Apocalypse, politely but not as genially as he had managed for Moonstar, "That is how you wish to be addressed, yes? I prefer to establish these things ahead of time, but circumstances understandably do not permit tha—" His voice trails off to an astonished shout as he is dislodged from his support of Danielle, wings fluttering with unwise reflex to stop him from hitting the wall without success.

The silk covering his right wing grows a deeper shade of red, and a louder cry of pain is not forthcoming only because his alarm had been sufficient to elicit as powerful a shout as he can muster.

It's only Danielle's effort to stop him from hitting the wall directly that cushions him from a /much/ more thoroughly injured wing— and back, probably. He has the opportunity to answer only because he's too worn out to move all that quickly in recovering after their mutual impact.

"Thank you." He says to her, his voice weary and strained.

His eyes rise towards the figure of Archangel, opening a barrier, giving them instructions. Should he answer Apocalypse? Should he not?

No, he decides. His answer would not be for Apocalypse's benefit anyway.

He struggles to his feet, helping Danielle back to steady footing if she happens to need it after that, and merely lingering close at hand if not.

* * *

There's an immense amount of relief that floods Impulse's face then as Warren speaks, and one brief squeeze of an actual hug before he lets up and they're off to work. They're not done here, not yet, not until they're all home and safe and the big guy is put out of business.

The speedster doesn't blink nor question as he quick as a blink grabs the drone Tony fires off in his direction. "On it!" he says, snapping off a salute to both Archangel and Iron Man before he's off and gone, a blur to practically unregisterable as he's given direction. And as he runs, he sees it all.

Fire, rebirth. Return and renewal. Friends who were down now back up on their feet, and while he can't understand the scope of what's just happened, he's simply glad that they're alive. They're doing their part. He will be, too. There's a ship to overload.

* * *

Kitty's eyes snap shut, the brightness of the fire blinding her for a few moments. She looks to Logan, perhaps seeing that something may be getting through. "Logan, I can do it. I will if I have to, but the people here…they need you. You know they do. What you taught me is to never give up."

However, she leaves him sunk into the ship, trapped there. If he doesn't snap out of it, he'll gone down with this ship. She keeps backing up, looking around. It's all crashing down, however Atli stands with Jean, Warren crouches over Ali, Tony and Bart are starting to power up the portal and Carolus and Dani are facing off against Apocalyse.

Her breathing starts to steady again. While she still wishes to return Logan, the anger and desperation has started to edge out of her demeanor. Atli is alive, Warren has returned. Now she's more focused on just trying to break through to Logan. "Do you want to let Cyclops and Magneto run everything unchecked and without someone to counter them?"

* * *

When Apocalypse freezes, locked into place —

— War shudders, trapped where he is. The last stand of his body fights the corruption, the programming, in an already-losing battle. "Kid…" he gravels to Kitty, "you don't know what he took. What I had…" He hitches. "There ain't much of me left…"

All around them, the ship… groans. All at once, and all over.

Silence hangs like a guillotine, and then, in a psychic whisper, brushes across Jean Grey and Danielle Moonstar's psychic periphery. A familiar presence, once asleep, now rousing back to wakefulness from a beautiful dream.

The Celestial Ship prickles in the spaces between their thoughts.

It has never felt this before.

Then, all at once, the ship violently RIPS APART.

This room is spared, though the floor slopes dangerously, space and open sky whistling up in an icy torrent where there was once a confined cage. It fissures open, chitin splitting apart like an opened crab shell, hollow and bleeding out milky liquid that pours down, lost, into the air —

And gathered, the liquid moving on its own, racing through the sky to encircle a familiar, levitating body.

A whipping cape. A razor-cornered helm. Magneto, here and now, his black armor shining with silvery augmentation as he —

— wields ever bit the technological breakthrough, bestowed on him by Tony Stark.

It is a success, as the white liquid orbits his body in a moving sphere, enslaved to the man's magnetic call — a call that can now speak straight into the marrow of living, techno-organic metal.

Psychically, the ship is screaming. It has never known pain. It has never felt how it is to be sundered, rendered in one stroke — incomplete.

He opens both gloved hands, and the ship begins to disintegrate, pulling apart, piece by piece, corridor by corridor, flung apart in all directions. The standing group and the manufactured portal are all granted the peaceful, untouched eye in a deadly storm — Erik Lehnsherr offers them that much — but the rest is not destined to survive under his power.

His shadowed eyes fix on War. On what was Wolverine. In an instant, the Master of Magnetism passes his judgment.

War begins to rip apart, piece by piece, without hesitation, without mercy, without any signs of stopping. The metal — adamantium, techno-organic — cracks him apart, bone by bone pulled free.

And the Horseman — no, Logan, with some clarity dawning back into his eyes, does not scream, does not cry out. He just shudders, and asks Pryde, on a bleeding, broken-voiced whisper: "Do it."

* * *

«are you alive??» blows through Alison's mind, a distant whisper on astral winds. «i'm— i think i feel warren again, but logan— !!»

His defenses hit her like a billion screams in unison, leaving every atom of her being vibrating with their resonance. The tenuous link between Jean and Alison snaps beneath the pressure; static blossoms in the cooling space her voice occupied.

Perched atop a tower of obsidian and brass, she gazes into the vast mirror cut with still, untouched skyscrapers that was once Metropolis and considers the dark spot that is her reflection. Flickering tears slide from her cheeks now and again, leaving tiny, smoking pits in the glass.

Once upon a time, she had a dream that the world could be changed if she asked nicely enough, but the world kept telling her to fuck herself. Now, she knows better: progress cannot be begged for; it cannot be baited or borrowed; it must be seized from the jaws of stagnanation. Progress is neither a right nor an inevitability: it's a privilege earned by those who come out of the crucible of existence willing to fight for it. She offered the people of Metropolis an opportunity to join her union and know the deep, abiding love of a goddess willing to sacrifice EVERYTHING to build a finer world for them; all they'd have to do is promise to do their part to fight for her vision.

All they'd have to do is survive the searing gaze of her judgment as she pored over their minds and souls to winnow out the impure.

Metropolis made its choice, and it hangs over the silent City of Tomorrow like a shroud. If there's any solace, it's that maybe — maybe — the rest of the state will be more receptive to her emissaries, now—

«NO!!!!»

The two letters ring through astral space with the clarity of a bell. A plume of smoke and fire jetting from her avatar's beak forms them for a lingering moment before guttering out. The woman within the raptor's got her knees drawn up and her arms wrapped tightly around herself; the intermittent shudders rolling through her become flares curling off of the raptor's wings.

«The Phoenix cuts away what doesn't work, so that new life can flourish in its place,» she hisses as burning talons splay wide. The twisting, rippling demarcation between his mind and hers is a nightmare of death and suffering that melts into nothingness, which in turn bursts into new life, evolving at lightning speeds until it is consumed by fire, and famine, and…

Those talons sink right in to try and use that point of sympathy like a seam, to pull up the image he's built of himself so that she might see what lurks beneath it.

So that it might burn.

«'Flourish'. 'FLOURISH'. 'FLOURISH', however it will— however it's meant to. The Phoenix destroys because it has to, to give new life a foundation to develop over, but you don't want to SAVE us— you don't want to make way for ANYTHING to flourish but your own divinity! You want to RULE whoever's left— you want a foundation to build an em— »

A scream like nothing that anyone's ever heard before darts through the black skies above dueling psyches. Process of elimination tells Jean what it must mean— too late to keep condemnation from erupting into wrath as a rare, precious lifeform is subjected to masterful torment. As the woman sinks into the raptor's seething breast and vanishes, astral fire sprals madly from its beak, lashing across psychic terrain,

and cutting black trails across dying surfaces while Jean clutches her skull at the center of what is increasingly becoming a blinding, bird-shaped conflagaration.

A nigh-on spectral, «go,» spikes through the psychic network, «go, go, go go go go go we need to go if we're done please say we're done,» getting fainter by the moment.

* * *

Nanites pour into the portal, and the energy that floods into them from the drone which Bart charges soon empower them to do their work. The gate and its associated energy drives hum to life — then scream to life. Then shriek, glowing with vibrant green energy, as a Speed Force-enabled power surge rips through them. The entire array shudders, shaking… and smoking…

…and then erupts in hot and evanescent flame, slagging in a grotesque molten display of techno-organic material. The smell is like fried circuitry and charred flesh combined.

Apocalypse's silver eyes widen in rage.

«DO NOT EVER QUESTION,» his mind intones back, hitting Jean's mental chords and resonating out across her network until his voice reverberates in all their minds like a struck bell, «THAT I HAVE WORKED FOR OUR KIND TO FLOURISH. FIVE THOUSAND YEARS BEFORE ANY OF YOU DREW BREATH, I TENDED OUR YOUNG SPECIES…»

His psionic shields redouble, his presence rolling against hers like a tide, slamming back against Jean's attempted intrusion. The barrier between them writhes in a chaotic twist of opposing yet mirrored forces. His will feels like a vast sheet of steel spearing immovably up, unassailable, impenetrable…

…and then Ship starts to scream.

And then, in Apocalypse's moment of distraction — of distress for his craft — Jean Grey finds a seam in that faceless wall. She rips away the god, the warlord, the Apocalypse, and beneath there is a single image of a child, left to die in the dunes.

A child, who survived instead.

The image burns.

Apocalypse sinks to one knee. "You," he fumes upwards, as Magneto tears his ship to pieces —

But he isn't given time to oppose the Master of Magnetism, because there are other forces at play. Asgardian level forces.

Fire and lighting strike Apocalypse full on. Weakened by that attempted soul drain, by his clash with the Phoenix, by everything else he has faced from the team before him, he takes the total force of it. It blasts him clean out from the dying, rending Ship. Within moments, his form is lost to sight amidst the clouds.

Archangel spares no glance for his erstwhile master. Alison gathered in one of his arms, he rises, his organic-steel wings spread.

"We need to GO!" is his sole command regarding this entire situation, as the dying ship's fragmented body spins around them all. "Some kind of portal! NOW! Grab everyone and get through it!"

Leaping into the air, he wings his way across the deteriorating corridor, still holding Alison — and reaching out for someone else.

He couldn't save Jean Grey the last time she was like this. This time…

«Jean! We're done, we're done, come on, let's GO!»

* * *

"Goodbye forever stupid giant!" The Asgardian screams afte her departed foe, her voice a booming wave. Fire swirls around Atli in a nebulous orbit, small meteors of cosmic power that fall into the gravity of the divine power rooted in her veins. Her hair billows upward and her eyes glow with crackling power in orange and white and gold, all flickering around her as she calls that power back to her hand in the form of her hammer, not a real thing but a projection fo Fire and Lightning that she sends streaking back at the visage of…

And then it happens. The whole of the floor tilts. There is no goat to leap upon, but her feet do not move. Hanging in the air she looks bewildered at the power Jean has coaxed from her, and even more bewildered when she sees the much enhanced Magneto peeling the ship apart bit by terrible bit.

Somewhere behind her, the Phoenix screams now. Eyes wide, fist to the sky, Atli retorts.

"YAUS!!! Verily, The Magfather has come to save us! Hello there! Have you ever considered a group cuddling situation with a Firebird? Verily, I am asking for a friend!"

Perhaps Atli's new lease on life has left her somewhat embracing all of it's worse tendancies. But some of this fades as her renewed power simmers and shimmers away under Jean's duress. As much as she might have been a herald of the Phoenix in those moments, she was and always will be herself, and as she drops to the tilting floor and it forces her to dig her fingers in and finally look upon the stunning brilliance of a Firebird unleashed. Destructive light reflects in her eyes, and if it were simply her foolish life on the line she might simply stare until Jean lost all control and consumed her whole. Instead, she realizes the cries of the woman in the center, and knows exactly what to do.

"Don't worry Firebird, I'll get you out."

Feet slam deck plating and she takes two steps before leaping, planning on tackling Jean right out of the sky, and hoping to act as a very brief lightning rod - fire rod? - to distract the Phoenix as Atli tries to power her toward the portal drone that Tony had given Bart.

* * *

The slam into the wall isn't necessarily fun, but it could have been worse. Much worse.

Still, by the time Carolus offers Moonstar a hand up, the form of the bear begins to shrink before it eventually coalesces into the more familiar and human figure of Danielle Moonstar.

There's a quiet tink-tink-tink-tink of the darts falling to the ground and as Moonstar gains her feet (with Carolus' help!) she grabs those darts.

There's definitely going to have to *have* a talk with Tony, but right this second there are other things to worry about.

Like their group.

Jean Grey and Atli. Warren, Tony and Alison. Kitty and Bart.

The chaos of lightning, flame and battle doesn't stop Moonstar from saying, "We need to -" Go and help destroy the gate, but something stops her. The presence of the ship awakening. It's enough to cause the psychic to pause and turn her head slightly sideways. "The ship!", but again her words pause as something unexpected happens. Instead of the ship awakening to protect Apocalypse and his horsemen, it instead screams as its ripped apart.

That's enough to cause the Cheyenne woman to drop to her knees. Her hands raise up to her face and press hard into flesh and bone as that terrible pain echoes within her mind.

A portal would be good, yes. She should remind them of Strange's portal, but her brain currently feels like it's melting and words are beyond her at this time.

* * *

It takes concentration. It takes moments of precious time to direct those nanites so very carefully. Routing energy around failsafe systems, brute forcing though others. Bouncing that pure power directly to the heart of the ship to give it some kind of heart attack. Not enough to blow it up but enough to make sure it wasn't going to stop the—-

—the ship shutters. Screams. /SHREADS/ apart.

"OH MY GOD REALLY?! I JUST-wow that worked a lot better than I thought it would." This towards Magneto and his sudden new power set. "I mean." Because Stark babbles when things freak him out. "It wasn't really that he couldn't do it. It was more that he didn't think he could do it. I just you know, pointed out that the metal was still there. Kinda like how it is in Beerbrea" And Logan starts to rip apart too. "—right. Not the greatest time for that little explanation I'm getting, TIME TO GO!"

Just at that moment the drone in Bart's hands begins to glow, the streaking speedster begins to leave a train go golden energy behind him, lines etching themselves though the air, solidifying into something that hovers there. Vaguely circular, vaguely opaque and very gold. With a ripping sound that can be felt more than heart the portal thrums to life, connecting dimensions in a flicker of Speed Force power and technologist knowhow. He couldn't do it without Bart. At least not this fast.

See what I did there.

Out of the portal though leaps…a tiny Iron Man suit. Only about or 3 feet high, it looks like an older model. Brisling with weapons, arms extended in combat mode. Ready to unleash hell.

"FEAR NOT! IRON BUG IS HERE TO As..s…is…t…" As the great insectoid hero IRON BUG takes in the scene. "…I…well…maybe we should leave instead. Yes. Leaving would be good."

"YUP! WAY AHEAD OF YOU IB!" Iron Man himself says as jets ignite and he launches himself forward, towards home. "We need to go!" A glance at the gathered X-men. "Get them though the portal! Go! Pryde!" There is a surprising amount of sympathy, in that voice. "Come on, you have to let him go." A pause. "Unless you want to be the ex-cat lady!" And there. No more sympathy.

Iron Bug just wonders back though the portal at this point, one can almost hear the stars in his eyes. "He called me IB…"

* * *

For a nanosecond Impulse wonders if he'd run so fast that he'd made the ship explode. At the back of his mind he can't help but entertain the thought and how cool that would have been. If it wasn't also, you know, really dangerous. The true culprit of the splitting ship makes himself known, and even then the who is lost upon the young speedster, who only judges by how awesome that helmet looks.

He's running out of space to run, but that's never really stopped him, and it seems like he's already built enough power as he feels the drone thrumming in his grip. And he's making some really awesome laser-light trails. He turns his eyes away from the figure who was called War as the helmeted one deals with him, he mops the back of a gloved hand futilely across his goggles as he turns directions, running towards the others in their private space as the ship around them is gone, forcing his feet to keep moving even under the thundering voice that echoes through their heads as Apocalypse lashes out mentally. Or at least he tries.

He can feel his steps falter, but he forces himself to keep moving until the portal fully coalesces, and he finally slows his pace, gasping as he looks around, making sure everyone's heading through, Tony and Jean and Warren's urging unnecesary, but he'll see about grabbing anyone who's lingering or lagging with what bit of strength he has left to barrel them on through and away from this crazy upside-down place.

* * *

There are benefits to not being psychic, and one of those benefits is not dealing with acute sympathetic pain. When Moonstar returns to her own form and drops to the ground, Carolus takes a deep breath to steel himself and simply picks her up. The dangerous shifting of the floor beneath them momentarily unbalances him, but he manages to steady himself with what is /very/ obviously an uncomfortable flutter of his wings. Might not be useful for flight just now, but apparently they're not totally useless.

Then there's a portal— even as he's making his way towards it, Atlas is counting scents.

"This might be rough." He warns Danielle, uncertainly. Truth is, he doesn't have good braking power right now.

It is with a certain amount of amazement he registers exactly how improbably this all went, and how much more dire his own predictions were. He accelerates by beginning to make extended leaps, using his strength to build momentum and then hurtling through the portal.

* * *

Even as she rebels against the unrelenting bass ringing in the wake of Apocalypse's decree, Jean feels its sheer rage settling into her bones. Even as a part of her sneers at his seniority, the rest of her shudders at the certainty of it and considers what horrors those thousands of years could've contained. She sees the hopeless child who'd become a man with no choice but to submit himself to rebirth at the highest level—

Still—

Still, Phoenix sees him as Atli rips her from the air. Blazing green eyes dart from the tangled mess that was Logan, the Wolverine; towards the man who tore him asunder without giving a thought to saving him just like the Ship that was torn from its dreams of new possibilities by his steel grip of reality.

— towards Atli who is dubiously blessed with the incandescent glare of a Phoenix this close to her face.

Jean! We're done, we're done, come on, let's GO!

She seizes Warren's forearm with all her might, then sags in the angel and goddess' grasps with a long breath that falls into shallow panting while her eyes slide shut.

* * *

There's not much of Logan left and what there is? It is being ripped apart by Magneto - super powered by Tony Stark. It has to be painful, excruciating and horrible. And yet Logan doesn't scream. Instead, he asks for mercy. The answer to whether she would give it or not is all but already answered. She appealed to the mutant beneath War and she got him.

The ship is falling apart all around them and Magneto has an untold power. What they have done here has perhaps not left it a better place, but at least it will be one without the Horsemen. Kitty dashes…not toward the portal but to Logan, heedless of the orders of those around her to go through. There are no tears in her eyes but she reaches forward to put a quick hand on Logan's cheek. I'm sorry." And then, she does what he taught her best: make a clean kill. It's a cut of precision with which swings her katana, passing through the meat of his head and phasing the blade only through the adamantium and keeping it solid otherwise.

And then, she stumbles back, eyes looking up toward that Magneto in the sky. Her eyes narrow and neither Jean's psychic call, nor the ones even from Warren and Tony are heard as the fury builds. It is only through the tug of small purple alien dragon, tugging at her uniform away from the fight and this place that she is spurred back toward the open portal to their dimension.

It's now that the tears start to come as she flicks her blade clean of blood…Logan's blood…and she does not so much leap through as fall backwards through it.

* * *

No change flickers across Alison's frozen face, blank and unmoving even as —

— Jean's psychic link violently severs, and she twists with anxiety, unable to see her in her frozen range of vision to know —

— she can't see Dani, she can't see Atli, she can't see Kitty or Tony, did Carolus even find them —

— Warren alights down over her, no longer with Death's coldness in his face, and under the fan of his wings, she thinks a heartbreaking relief —

— the Celestial ship around them begins to //rip apart around them.

For the reckless flight out, Alison only seems to resurrect from that toxic paralysis, until she's no longer boneless in Warren's arms, but able to hold onto him, trying to find her strength against the hurtling speed. When his hand hooks on Jean's, and she goes still — a second hand follows. Alison's, reaching down next to Warren, to try to help bear her along.

Apocalypse is violently shunted from the broken hulls of his fortress. And in the broken would-be-god's wake, War finds himself through the fog.

Logan returns when there is little time left. Magneto does not stop, does not wish to stop — he tears apart the Horseman without hesitation, all his loss and three dead children imbued into every magnetic twist, breaking more of the mutant's bones. The armor gives way and flies apart, revealing the broken creature Wolverine has been remade: the living dead, with blackened, twisted, rotting tissue, of a aggressive healing factor in an equally aggressive fight against the organic metal virus.

Every minute looks like a function of pain.

But Magneto can make it worse, as he does — and Logan looks up at Kitty, his low-lidded eyes asking someone he has never before burdened another. Perhaps, in some world, he would find a way to spare her this, save her like the child she always was to him—

Here, she is a child no more. He trained her, and they are both ready.

The katana phases through his brain, and Logan droops into blissful silence moments before Magneto pulps the rest.

The helmed man, in question, holds the dying Celestial ship in a harrowing orbit around the departing group, and turning his head, fixes them in one last gasp.

The look in Kitty Pryde's eyes does not move him.

"Your actions have saved our kind," declares Magneto, in the last moments of this world. "No longer we hasten to the end."

A pause. And his farewell: "Do not repeat our mistakes."

* * *

The portal whiplashes though space and time. It isn't a stable thing, it was quick and dirty. The essence of Stark's ability to throw something together and hope it works at least once. Up and down like a wild rollercoster it sends the little party with Magneto's last words ringing in their ears.

One end of the portal opens as their wild ride slows and the other opens, tearing apart the very air in a wellspring of golden energy. Bright light floods in moments before they are all shot out, some of their speed lessened at least, over a blue rectangle of…water?

Thats right.

The silence in the back of the Mansion is torn asunder as a portal to a realm of horrors opens right…over the X-man Pool.

Flinging them all though the air and towards the blue expance.

"Oh," Stark's voice comes as his powersuit's repulsors flickers out due to portal sheninagans. "Missed the front door by /that/ much."

And then. Well. SPLASHDOWN.

…it'll be fine.

* * *

There is a certain, unquenchable obliviousness to Atli Wodendottir that not even an irate Phoenix Force can dissolve away. No really, she'd never realize why it was mad even if it were to burn the flesh from her bones. And so her smile persists in the face of that flaming ire, and as the portal takes them to a place most familiar, Atli looks upon the quickly closing waters, wind in her hair, eyes squeezing shut.

Of course when she hits the water she'll let go of Jean because Atli weighs three times as much as a human and absolutely, positively, craters into the bottom of the pool, shattering concrete and allowing it to slowly drain, well, long after everyone's safetly landed.

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