Professor Charles Xavier, founder of the Xavier Institute and mentor for the X-men, leads the battle for peace and understanding in a world that hates and fears mutants. In their many fights, the X-men have had victories and setbacks. Yet no matter the outcome, the team has held strong in the face of adversity.
However, parts of the team have been ailing. After a tumultuous battle against the reality warping mutant, Proteus, Jean Grey became afflicted with a mysterious psychic ailment that has caused hallucination, migraines, and strange psionic outbursts. Professor Xavier has been unable to discern what is causing these symptoms, but a potential opportunity recently emerged with former X-man, Emma Frost. After saving her from a hostage situation involving the cybernetic terrorists, the Reavers, she has offered them help in the form of an expert in psychic matters, Jason Wyngard.
But Emma’s assistance is not as it seems. Emma has been secretly working with a mysterious man named Sebastian Shaw. He is a man that has already caused the X-men trouble. As head of Shaw Industries, he was responsible for the theft of sentinel parts as well as an ambitious deal with Omega Red which quickly turned volatile. Such shady dealings has Warren Worthington III looking into his affairs. He suspects he’s up to something far more sinister, but it may already be too late to stop him.
Shaw Industries HQ – One Day Ago
Sebastian Shaw stood triumphantly over his latest acquisition. Standing next to him was his eager yet often arrogant son, Shanobi. They were both marveling at the device that Omega Red had so generously provided for them. Despite the unpleasantness of losing the freight complex in Panama, they got what they wanted.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” said Sebastian distantly as he ran his hands over it, “So sleek, yet elegant. It’s almost as if it is not of this Earth.”
“And yet a man like Cameron Hodge was able to construct it,” said Shanobi, “How do you think he managed that?”
“That I’m not concerned with. All that matters is it works,” grinned the elder Shaw, “My people have tested it. As far as my overpaid technicians are concerned, the device is in top working order despite the unfortunate turbulence in Panama.”
“Aren’t you glad you sent me to extract it?” grinned Shanobi, “Name one other operative who could have gotten out of that mess without my unique talents.”
“If you’re looking for unmitigated praise, you’re wasting your time, son. I’ve already acknowledged that you succeeded in doing what was necessary to obtain this device, albeit with significant obstructions.”
“That was not my fault, father!” argued Shanobi, “It was those damn, X-men! I swear they have a spy on us or something!”
“Impossible,” scoffed Sebastian, “You’re just diverting responsibility from your own misdeeds. It is a habit I find quite insufferable.”
Shanobi tensed with anger. He should have expected such callousness. It was often the only kind of affection he received from his father. He never acknowledged it when he did good, whether it involved a business deal or one of his less-than-legitimate missions. HIt was infuriating, but that was the kind of parent he was.
Ignoring his son’s angry gaze, Sebastian continued to marvel at the device. Shanobi had disappointed him on many occasions, but he was glad he came through this time. With careful hands, he put the device back in it’s protective case and took it in his arms. He then led his son out of his office and down the hall of his main corporate office.
“As much as I would like to debate your efficacy in Panama, there is too much work to be done. I have big plans for this glorious device,” said Sebastian intently.
“I’m sure you do. Care to share the details?” said Shanobi with a smug tone as he followed his father closely.
“Now why would I do that? So you can blow up another one of my facilities?” he scoffed.
“Don’t keep me out of the loop on this one, father! You went through a lot of trouble to get this thing. I’m assuming you’re not just going to use it as a paper weight.”
“Hardly,” grinned Sebastian, “As it just so happens, this device will help me obtain something far more valuable…something you cannot buy, steal, or create.”
“And what might that be?”
“That, my son, is something you’re not yet ready to understand.”
“Why am I not surprised?” Shanobi muttered.
“Before you get juvinile with me, take comfort in the knowledge that you will see for yourself soon enough,” said the older Shaw ominously, “In order to get what we desire, we’ll have to go through another obstacle. Ironically enough, that obstacle happens to be the X-men.”
Shanobi immediately tensed. In his limited experience, he had learned just how tenacious the X-men were. Going up against them was a major risk, even for someone like his father.
“The X-men?!” said Shanobi anxiously, “Please tell me you’re joking!”
“Son, I never joke. I understand they left quite an impression on you in Panama. It seems only fitting that they would hold the key to the next step in our ultimate goal.”
“Fitting or not, they are not to be underestimated! Confronting them directly is a mistake!”
“Which is exactly why I will not confront them directly,” said Sebastian, “You should know by now taht I’m always a step ahead of my adversaries. I’ve already put together a plan using an old contact of mine, Emma Frost.”
“Frost? Isn’t she that woman who…”
“Yes, Shanobi, she’s exactly who you think she is. But before you make a remark, remember you’re already on thin ice. If you want to reap the rewards of this plan, you’ll keep that snide mouth of yours shut!”
Shanobi grunted under his breath. There were any number of comments he could make regarding Emma Frost. All of them involved pushing his father’s many buttons and that was something he was in no position to do at the moment. As he continued to follow his father, they entered a secret wing of his building. It was an area that could only be accessed by a secret door built into the end of the hallway. Few people outside Sebastian Shaw’s most trusted associates knew about it. It was here he kept some of the most important secrets of his company and his agenda.
“It’s already coming together,” he said as he opened the door with a retinal scanner, “I’ve set everything up with Jason Wyngarde and Pierces little Reaver clan. Emma will provide us with a way into the X-men. From there, this little device will do the rest. And we will have the final piece for a most important ceremony!”
“And then what?” asked Shanobi intently, “What exactly does this ceremony entail?”
“That is not for me to say. It is up to her majesty, the Black Queen, to determine.”
Following his father through the highly secure hall, the two men arrived in a very special room. It was small, but elaborately decorated. The walls were littered with artwork, engravings, and books. Many of these artifacts were centuries old, encrusted in jewels and gems that would impress even men like the Shaws with their brilliance. In was like an ancient tomb, lifted from every major culture in history. At the center of this mysterious layout was a dark feminine figure. She bore a voluptuous frame, ripe with a stunning yet macabre beauty. She had Raven black hair, pale flawless skin, and eyes as dark as midnight. She was scantily dressed, wearing only a thin black robe that barely covered her shapely body. It was the kind of attire one would expect for a pagan ritual, only this was far darker.
Standing in her presence, Sebastian and Shanobi bowed respectfully. The woman barely acknowledged their presence. She was too busy meditating, hovering just a few feet off the floor while surrounded in a dark purplish aura. Behind her, glowing in a similar radiance, was a large glowing crystal. This crystal was the centerpiece of the chamber and as the woman opened her eyes, they glowed with an ominous power.
“You had better have worthwhile news, Sebastian,” she said in a cold, sinister tone.
“I most certainly do, Selene,” said Sebastian, “I’m here to tell you that the final piece for your grand ceremony will be delivered tomorrow night. As promised, I have obtained the means to deliver that which you ask. You need only make the final preparations.”
“I’ve been preparing a lifetime. One night is nothing to me,” the woman known as Selene said, “As Black King, you’ve mishandled this long enough. You had best deliver this time! I have a destiny to fulfill!”
“As do I, my Queen,” said Shaw, “I’ve already summoned our brethren. They will meet us at the manor tomorrow night.”
“Be sure they come prepared. Power such as this is difficult for feeble minds to process.”
“They’re ready. The Inner Circle has been preparing us for this for decades. Now it’s time we reap our ultimate reward! At last the Inner Circle will reign supreme!”
“Oh it most certainly will, Sebastian...in ways one might deem cosmic!”
Outside Xavier Institute – Present Time
Emma Frost went through a wide-range of emotions as their limousine pulled up to the Xavier Institute. Gazing out the window, she saw that the mansion hadn’t changed much since she left. It still had that distinct, homely feel that she never had anywhere else. Under normal circumstances, it would have been a welcome feeling to return to this place where she escaped the dark path she was on. But these were very unusual circumstances. Turning away from the mansion, she held back her burning feelings of disgust.
Riding in the limousine with him was Jason Wyngarde. He looked a lot less conflicted as they pulled up into the long driveway of the Xavier Institute. Dressed in his finest Italian suit and groomed to look as proper as could be, it appeared as though he was on route to a party instead of a psychic consultation. There was a distinct smugness to his demeanor. It was a smugness Emma found utterly repulsive. This man carried himself as if everyone else around him were ignorant fools. Considering his abilities, it was completely understandable.
“You look so tense, Emma. Why don’t you have a few drinks?” he said, offering her a bottle of his finest wine.
“I’ll pass,” she muttered apprehensively, “There isn’t enough liquor in the world to make me feel better about what I’m doing.”
“Don’t tell me the guilt is too much for you,” said Wyngarde snidely, “From what Mr. Shaw has told me, one of your greatest strengths is your ability to brush off such petty feelings.”
“Mr. Shaw is a jackass! He only knows me from another life! I’m not that same woman!”
“Hogwash,” scoffed Wyngarde, “You’re still that cunning, spiteful, deceitful person he spoke so highly of. I can see it in your eyes. Why else would you have gone along with this?”
“Probably for another chance to look down my dress,” she muttered.
“You speak as though you can escape the truth. If you were truly a different woman, you would have happily paid the price Mr. Shaw was making you pay. But it was too much for you. Clearly, you still put yourself over those you deem friends.”
Emma’s seethed at this sniveling man’s assessment, but there was too much truth to his words. Had she really changed that much? If so, why was she helping the very people the X-men pulled her away from? The sad part was she knew the reasons and they weren’t reasons of the noble kind to say the least. For that, she was worse than Sebastian Shaw could ever strive to be.
Jason Wyngarde took a smug satisfaction in seeing Emma silenced. That pained look in her eyes was fitting. This woman, who had been such a nuisance to Mr. Shaw, was capitulating so completely. In that sense she was nowhere near as strong as she was made out to be.
“It’s an age-old constant. People never change. When you wield powers such as ours, it becomes all the more apparent, does it not?” said Wyngarde.
“With power like ours, it only makes me want to throw up every time I sense a thought from men like you!”
“ before your guilt and your revulsion makes you try something foolish, you should know that Mr. Shaw and I are more than prepared. If you do anything, physical or psychic, I assure you we’ll know about it. And the penalty you and your friends will face will be far more severe.”
“Spare me the sinister threats, Wyngarde. I know full well what you people are capable of,” said Emma grimly.
“For this special task, we are capable of so much more. So for your sake and the sake of your friends, don’t test us! Is that clear?”
Emma cast the snide man a spiteful look. Her fists clenched in a rage, wanting nothing more than to take her anger over Shaw out on this man. Unfortunately, she had to take his threats seriously. It wasn’t just her well-being she had to worry about. The rest of the X-men were part of this as well. She had already hurt them enough. She couldn’t risk making it worse.
“We’re clear,” she said bitterly, “But I swear when this is over…”
“Spare me the vengeance speech. We’ve arrived at our destination,” said Wyngarde as the limousine pulled up to the front door, “You know what to do. Behave yourself, and you just might be allowed to bear witness to the glorious triumph that awaits us!”
Inside Xavier Institute
Night had fallen over the Xavier Institute and many of the X-men were still recovering from their fight against the Reavers. The return to the mansion was without incident and those such as Bobby, Rogue, and Remy underwent treatment for their injuries. While Professor Xavier had been relieved to hear that the hostages had been saved and Emma was okay, he was more elated to hear she had a means to potentially assist them with Jean. While they were gone, he had made little progress with her. All he could do was keep reinforcing her mental blocks every few hours and that was only a temporary solution that would not last much longer.
Scott, Logan, and Hank waited impatiently near the front door for Emma’s arrival. She had called just an hour ago to let them know that she and Jason Wyngarde were on their way. With Jean on the verge of losing control, they were all eager to get her the help she needed. However, that didn’t stop some from remaining suspicious.
“So you really dated this Frost chick?” commented Logan.
“That’s the third time you’ve said that, Logan! What more do you want me to say? Yes, Emma and I dated! Yes, she was my first girlfriend! Is that really so hard to wrap your head around?”
“Sorry, but I just can’t imagine a chick like her being serious with a guy like you.”
“Are you going to make something of this, Logan!” said Scott in a threatening tone.
Scott loomed over Logan, looking poised to blow him into the next county with an optic blast. Luckily, Hank stepped in between the two men.
“That’s enough, you two!” he said forcing them apart, “We’ve endured our share of battle with the Reavers. Let’t not add to it by fighting each other.”
“Tell that to him!” spat Scott, his eyes still locked on Logan, “He’s the one can’t accept that this may actually help Jean!”
“Well excuse me for being a little skeptical of your ex, bub! You may trust her to help Jeannie, but I don’t give that kind of trust so easily! No matter how big her tits are, I need to know about this woman! And you just happen to be in a position to spill!”
It was a very crude way of inquiring about a woman he knew little about. Even though Scott found it annoying as hell, there was a point to be made through Logan’s brutishness and it was a valid point as well. They were placing a lot of trust in Emma Frost. They needed to know who they were dealing with.
“Fine…you want to know about Emma Frost? I’ll tell you!” said Scott begrudgingly, “What Beast told you earlier was completely accurate, but the details are a little more complicated.”
“Oh this I gotta hear,” said Logan dryly as he listened intently.
“The hardest part to get around is…Emma Frost came very close to becoming an enemy of the X-men. We first met her at a human rights conference that Professor was attending. She tried to seduce him to extract certain secrets from his mind.”
“She tried to seduce, Chuck? Excuse me while I try to get that image out of my mind,” muttered Logan.
“I can make it worse. She had run away from her old home in Boston and tried to make it on her as a businesswoman, but as Mr. McCoy explained so earlier she fell in with the wrong crowd.”
“What kind of crowd are we talking about here?”
“The kind that led her to become a stripper at this shady place called Club Hellfire. She later said she was being mentored by this powerful man she got uncomfortably intimate with. She never got his name. She only knew him by his title, the Black King.”
“Black King? What kind of self-absorbed prick calls himself that?” scoffed Logan.
“The kind that tries to mold young women into his own personal pets,” said Scott with a touch of anger, “This Black King is part of the reason why she looks the way she does. He’s the one that had her go through a ton of surgeries to make her beautiful in the way he wanted. She later learned he wanted more and she may have given into him at an uncomfortably high cost.”
“Can only imagine what that shit entails,” said the former living weapon, “As if being a man’s personal barbie doll ain’t enough.”
“But after she failed to seduce the Professor, we reached out to her. It ended up getting pretty messy. We had to rescue her from these people. I led that mission and trust me when I say it wasn’t easy. But we succeeded. That’s how she became part of the X-men. To this day she says if we waited just a little longer, she would have never escaped.”
It sounded like quite a story. It also put a few things into perspective. When he first saw this woman, he did not sense from her the same vibe he got with other former X-men like John Proudstar or Sean Cassidy. In some ways his concerns were eased, but he remained very suspicious.
“Sounds like she got lucky,” he commented, “She ever go after whoever these people were? It sounds like they’re the kind of pricks that need a good ass-kicking.”
“That would be an understatement,” said Scott, “But as bad as they were, we were never able to catch up with them. This Black King, whoever he is, kept his secrets well even from a telepath.”
“That or she just hid the truth,” Logan countered.
“It wouldn’t have mattered if she did. It was always a sore subject for Emma, but we helped her find a new direction in life. Over time, she became an important part of the X-men.”
“I’m sure a girl like her fit right in,” said Logan, still sounding cynical in his assessment, “So how did she end up jumping into bed with you?”
Scott groaned in exasperation. He figured Logan would want the lurid details. It was really wasn’t a good time to get into it, especially with Jean’s condition being so dire. Lucky for him, the limousine outside just pulled up.
“That’s another story…one I don’t have the time or energy to get into,” said Scott as he rushed to the door.
“Sure you don’t. Because it’s just too damn hard for a guy like you to talk about hooking up with a girl like her,” said Logan dryly.
“Spare me the porno lingo, Logan. You have the back story. That should be enough now that Emma’s here to help us.”
“It should be, but that don’t mean it is,” the feral mutant retorted.
“Tough!” replied Scott, “Now in case you’ve forgotten, Jean is suffering! This guy Emma knows may be our best hope!”
As much as Logan would have liked to continue pressing Scott, the mention of Jean silenced him. His ill-mannered criticisms of Emma were already pushing him in ways they didn’t need to be pushed. Even Hank showed his disapproval with his remarks, giving him a look that echoed Scott’s annoyed sentiment as he followed Scott to the front door to let Emma in.
“Behave yourself, Logan,” Hank said in a serious tone.
“Don’t I always?” he scoffed.
Even if this Emma Frost was as trustworthy as they made her out to be, something still didn’t smell right. For now, Logan would have to keep his suspicions to himself. Emma and her equally mysterious guest had arrived.
Scott and Hank were there greet Emma as she and Jason Wyngarde approached the door. Emma was dressed in attire reminiscent of her old X-men uniform, which consisted of tight fitting white pants with matching white heeled boots, an equally tight halter top that hugged her generous cleavage, and a cape that elegantly draped down her back. While she had removed the X-men emblems, it still gave her the same presence with which she once graced the team.
“Welcome back to the institute, Miss Frost,” greeted Hank.
“It’s good to be back, Mr. McCoy,” said Emma as she and Jason entered the foyer.
“You’re not a student anymore, Emma. You may call me Hank now.”
“Sorry darling, old habits die hard I guess. Why else would I feel inclined to wear my old uniform?” she said, doing a brief pose.
“I see you’ve made some adjustment,” said Scott, taking in her form, “It still looks good on you.”
“Given the many attire you’ve seen me in, that means a lot to me, Scott,” grinned Emma.
Scott shifted awkwardly at her comments. Emma clearly hadn’t forgotten the relationship they once shared. It showed in her affectionate glances towards him. While those glances no longer had the substance they once did, they were still reassuring. However, there was little time for nostalgia. A brief glimpse from Wyngarde reminded Emma they were here for a reason and she still had a part to play.
“But where are my manners? I believe introductions are in order,” she said as she turned to her neatly dressed associate, “This is Jason Wyngarde, the man I told you about earlier. If there’s anyone on this planet who can help Jean, it’s him.”
“I wish I could say something modest after such a kind remark, but from what she’s told me it may not be far from the truth,” said Jason.
“You can save the modesty for later, sir,” said Scott as he eagerly shook the man’s hand, “We’re just glad to have someone who can point us in the right direction.”
“Indeed,” said Hank as he greeted the man as well, “Emma says you’re quite the expert in all things psychic related.”
“She speaks the truth. I am a lifelong student of the psychic arts,” he said proudly, “Like Miss Frost here, I am a mutant. I have the ability to use psionic energy to manipulate perceptions and manifest psychic attacks.”
“So you can cast illusions,” Logan surmised, “You wouldn’t happen to be casting one now, would you?”
“Logan…” said Scott, irked by his apprehensive tone.
“Of course not,” said Jason politely, “In a house with the world’s most powerful telepath as well as someone like Miss Frost, those perceptions wouldn’t hold up for a second. It is, as you say, a limited ability...one the X-men need not concern themselves with. Isn’t that right Miss Frost?”
Emma hesitated briefly before answering, trying to hide her disgust with that look Jason was giving her.
“He’s telling the truth,” she assured them, continuing to play her part, “As long as I’m around, he won’t be trying anything funny.”
“Between you and Charles, I’m not concerned,” said Hank.
“Me neither,” said Scott, “But what about Jean? Are you sure you can help her?”
“I’m confident I can,” grinned Jason, “While I may lack the potency of other psychics, I more than make up for it in my vast knowledge. You see, I’ve dedicated my life to the study of psychic phenomena.”
“So I’ve noticed,” said Hank, “I hope you don’t mind, but I did some research on your studies. Near as I can tell, you have more peer reviewed literature on psychic phenomenon than anyone living or dead.”
“Someone has to figure it out,” he shrugged, “As I’m sure Charles Xavier has told you, the world of psychic affairs is mysterious and poorly understood. There are many cases which defy traditional reason. I’ve investigated many, gaining a great deal of insight into the workings of psychic events. When Miss Frost here informed me of poor Miss Grey’s predicament, I just had to investigate.”
“And it’s all just because you’re a curious guy, right?” said Logan dryly, earning him more looks from Hank and Scott.
“Call it whatever you want. But regardless of my reasons, I am very eager to get started with Miss Grey. If her condition is as dire as you say it is, then it is imperative we begin immediately.”
As much as he seemed to love boasting about his knowledge, he seemed serious about working with Jean.
“Of course,” said Hank with equal seriousness, “We’ll take you to her. She’s in the infirmary with the Professor, but she’s in a very fragile state and we had to sedate her. She’s been…volatile to say the very least.”
“That won’t be a problem. I love a good challenge!” grinned Jason as he started following Hank and Scott.
“Not to put too much pressure on you, Mr. Wyngarde, but Jean is my girlfriend and she’s very important to me,” added Scott, “She’s been suffering like this for too long and I can’t stand it anymore!”
“I understand, my boy,” said the mysterious man with a reassuring gesture, “You need not worry. Miss Grey is in the best of hands.”
That seemed to ease some of Scott’s concerns as he and Hank led them all towards the elevators. Logan kept a critical eye on this man. Scott may be too worried for her to care about where that help came from, but he wasn’t. He got the same vibe from this guy as he did with Emma Frost. Something just didn’t smell right. But with nothing else to go on, he could only watch and wait.
Xavier Institute – War Room
The tired groans of Warren Worthington III echoed through the War Room as he stirred from his impromptu nap. Tired and groggy, he slowly rose up to discover he had been hunched over the main computer console. It definitely showed in his stiff neck and sore back. He hadn’t expected to fall asleep, but while obsessing over this mess involving Shaw Industries it easy to negate little things like sleep.
“Ugh…dozed off again,” he said to himself, “Guess I need more coffee.”
As he rose up he realized just how little progress he had made. The whole War Room was a mess, littered with stacks of papers he printed out and various data disks he had been going over. He couldn’t remember which ones were junk and which ones were important. At this point, he barely remembered what he was looking for.
Reaching across the table for his coffee mug, he looked inside to see that it was still half-full. It appeared to have been sitting on the table all afternoon, making it look less than refreshing to say the least. It also reminded him of how distracted he had been.
‘Boy, I am so not cut out for this sort of thing. This is Beast’s expertise, not mine. He’s got the inquisitive mind. I’ve got nothing but hunches and baseless speculation. Maybe he and the Professor were right. I am obsessing too much over this.’
Setting his coffee mug aside, Warren slouched on his chair and roughly rubbed his sore forehead. It hadn’t been lost on him that while he was chasing Shaw’s ghost, Jean was suffering. She needed the support of her friends and everyone else was going out of their way for her but him. Then there was the mission to save Emma Frost and those hostages from the Reavers. Everybody else was able to drop what they were doing and go after them, yet he couldn’t do the same. It had to be a bad sign when his obsession started getting in the way of his duty as an X-man.
‘I’m such a jerk! Why did I ever think this could be a good idea? Testing my wealth against my wings? What’s the point? I’m an X-man! If I’m going to obsess over which is more effective, my wings or my wealth, then maybe I’ve forgotten what Professor Xavier has taught me!’
Looking at the mess before him, Warren Worthington III shook his head and turned away. He had enough of this and it already cost him. If he kept it up then it would only drive a wedge between him and his friends. Right now, the X-men needed him. Jean Grey was ailing and needed all their support.
“Guess I’ll have to clean all this up later,” he sighed.
The winged mutant pushed the stacks of papers aside and prepared to power down the computer. He heard Rogue mention earlier that they had some guy visiting who may be able to help Jean. If he was to start making up for his recent behavior, it should definitely be present for this. But just as he was about to power button on the computer, something caught his attention.
“Hmm? What’s this?” he wondered.
On the screen, he saw something he didn’t expect. It was an email forwarded to him by someone at Worthington Industries. It was encrypted and sent to his personal email account, indicating it was serious. He remembered sending out a number of inquiries to various Worthington associates, but he hadn’t gotten much of a response from them. For a moment he debated whether or not he should answer it. There may be something inside that would only rekindle his obsession, but a part of him was just too curious.
“Someone actually responded?” he said curiously, “From Worthington Electronics?”
It sounded promising. It could be nothing. There was only one way to find out.
“Guess it couldn’t hurt to check it out.”
With the click of the mouse, he opened the email and decrypted it. Within seconds a brief message came up. It seemed bland enough. The subject line read “Requested Specifications.” The content of the email didn’t seem too shocking. Then Warren opened the attachment to the message. What he saw next filled him with dread.
“Holy Hell…Shaw, you despicable bastard! I knew it!” he exclaimed as he sat back down and started typing feverishly.
As he scanned through the attachment, more details became clear. Just when it seemed he was at a dead end, he got the break he was looking for.
“You think you can pull a stunt like this on me and my friends, Shaw? Think again! No more hiding! Time to see what you and your cronies are really up to!”
The entire team had gathered around Jean’s bed during this dire time. The arrival of Emma Frost and Jason Wyngarde offered the first ray of hope for their friend in what seemed like a lifetime. Professor Xavier never left her side, but was visibly drained from having to manage her volatile state. Ororo, Kurt, and Kitty did their best to give him a breather. Having not been too injured in the recent mission, they were more than up for it. Remy, Bobby, and Rogue remained on standby as well. Even though they had some lingering soreness from the earlier fight, they understood how important this was and they needed to face this as a team.
While they were out on their mission to rescue Emma and the hostages, her condition took a turn for the worse. The Professor had reached his limit with placing psychic blocks on her mind. They were no longer enough to contain the growing power inside her. The only other option was to sedate her and keep her contained in the infirmary.
When Scott, Hank, and Logan arrived with Emma and Jason they were all eager to get this underway. As soon as Wyngarde laid eyes on the unconscious Jean Grey, his expression lit up. While he didn’t share the dread of her friends, he seemed to understand the gravity of the situation.
“So this is the famous Jean Grey?” he said as he approached her bedside, “My oh my, you did not do her justice in your description! She’s absolutely incredible! And I’m not even referring to appearance!”
“I’m sorry we were unable to be more descriptive, Mr. Wyngarde,” said a very tired-looking Charles Xavier, “I’m at a loss to describe what is going on here.”
“Do not blame yourself, Professor Xavier. There’s no way you could have known. There’s no way anyone could have known,” said Wyngarde as he softly ran his hands over Jean’s face, “But I can sense it. Not just psychically, but I feel it in my bones! This is something very unique…something that’s never been documented before in a psychic.”
“I don’t care how rare it is! Can you help her or not?” said Scott, who was sitting on the opposite bedside of her lover.
“I cannot answer that just yet,” he said as he continued to gaze over Jean with a mysterious grin, “I must conduct a few preliminary tests with my powers.”
“What kind of tests?” asked Hank curiously.
“How long will they take?” asked Ororo, showing a deep concern for her student.
“Not long,” Wyngarde answered, “I have my suspicions, but as soon as I can confirm them I’ll know the appropriate course of action.”
“You better,” said Logan, under his breath.
The X-men watched as this mysterious Jason Wyngarde did whatever it was these tests were. He placed both hands on her head and closed his eyes. Within seconds, a soft glow started emulating from his hands. It was hard to tell what was going on, even for the Professor. Whatever it was, it left some a bit worried. They didn’t know this guy and they were trusting him to treat Jean Grey’s volatile condition.
“Is it just me or is this guy a little up there on the creepiness scale?” said Kitty.
“It’s definitely not you,” said Bobby, “I was hoping it was the pain killers Beast gave me for my two cracked ribs, but no amount of drugs can make a guy this creepy.”
“I hear you, homme. But Remy don’t think it’s just creepiness with this guy,” said Remy.
“What do you mean?” asked Bobby.
“In Remy’s vast experience as a thief, I be coming across all sorts of unsavory characters. They usually be falling into one of three categories.”
“This is going to be another philosophy rant, isn’t it?” muttered Kitty.
“The first one being outright deviants, which is the easiest to detect,” said Remy, ignoring Kitty’s remarks, “They be bad folks and they don’t apologize for it. The second be the subtle deviants. They the kind of folks that pretend to be all noble and good, but they really be bad to the bone. They be much harder to detect, but it’s pretty obvious if you know how to look.”
“And what’s the third category?” asked Rogue.
“That be the one this homme falls under. He be what Gambit would call a wildcard. He could be one thing or he could be another, but you ain’t gonna figure it out before he lays all his cards on the table.”
“Any chance you could explain zhat vithout using card metaphors?” said Kurt, who had been trying not to think too much into this man’s unusual demeanor.
“Simply put…he could be anything, good or bad,” Remy summarized, “It just be too hard to tell.”
It was an unusual, yet appropriate assessment. Watching him as he held his hands over Jean’s face, he really could be anything. If he turned out to be as bad as he was creepy, they had to be on their guard.
“Well whatever he is, Ah sure hope this guy knows magic or something. Because we’re gonna need a miracle at this point to keep Jean from going nuclear on us,” said Rogue.
“Ja, and I don’t zhink ve could handle another Proteus-level onslaught,” said Kurt.
“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” said Kitty anxiously.
“Guess it’s all up to this Wyngarde fella to decide,” said Rogue.
“Is that supposed to be reassuring, Rogue?” said Kitty.
“It’s the sad but god-awful truth. Ain’t like we got a choice at this point.”
Rogue’s words may have been cynical, but they still held true. The fight with Proteus was still fresh in everyone’s mind. The idea of having to face that kind of power again and in Jean no less was a difficult thought to consider. If trusting a man like Wyngarde could potentially lead to avoiding such a conflict, then it was a chance worth taking.
No one understood this more than Professor Charles Xavier. He lost Kevin because he had been unable to help him when he needed it. He refused to let that happen with Jean. He too had his suspicions about Jason Wyngarde, but if Emma Frost vouched for him that was enough. While Wyngarde worked, he noticed Emma staying close to him. Her mind was closed off. It was to be expected after a year of silence between them. Her departure wasn’t as pleasant as it was with other former X-men. That didn’t mean there had to be lingering animosity.
“Thank you again for doing this, Emma,” he told her, “I can’t tell you how much your assistance means to me.”
“Don’t thank me yet, Charles. Jason still has to come through,” she reminded him.
“Regardless of whether or not he does, your very presence has brought some much needed relief. As I’m sure you’ve noticed the X-men have been quite busy since you left.”
“As if life in the X-men was ever dull,” she quipped.
“But not all of it has been positive. We’ve undergone some significant losses lately and I don’t think the team can afford to suffer anymore. You offering help after all this time really is significant for all of us. I know you’re not one to swallow your pride easily. I also know Jean is not the first person you would choose to help.”
“If you think I’m bitter about her hooking up with my ex, you can rest easy. I’m over Scott. I know he always had an eye for Jean. I would have been more bitter if I found out those two didn’t get together.”
“I would never insinuate as such, but please do not make light of how meaningful this gesture is from you,” said the Professor in the most sincerest of tones, “For a while I worried that your departure would send you back down that dark path from which you escaped. I’m glad to se you still have the heart of an X-man. For that, I am truly proud of you.”
Charles Xavier’s powerful words struck Emma Frost in a profound way, but not in the way he intended. This man, who gave her a place to rebuild her life and her soul, was praising her for holding fast to what the X-men taught her. Yet unbeknownst to him, she was undermining them all in the most egregious of ways. The worst part of it was she could not even drop a hint to make Xavier or anyone suspect otherwise. All she could do was smile and hide her inner disgust. She noticed Wyngarde turn towards her briefly and send him a psychic message of warning.
‘Don’t even think about it, Frost. Just suck it up. It’s almost time.’
Emma begrudgingly complied. The infirmary fell silent as Wyngarde continued to work. Scott, Ororo, and Hank hovered closely over Jean while Emma and the Professor stayed back a bit further, ready to erect psychic defenses if necessary. The rest of the team watched with anticipation, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
Logan, who remained the most skeptical, stayed back near the door. While he was very much worried for Jeannie, he kept much of his attention on Emma Frost and Wyngarde. By keeping his distance, he stood ready to make a move if necessary. Logan was so focused on keeping an eye on Frost and Wyngarde he barely noticed the door to the infirmary opening slightly.
“Psst! Logan, I need to talk to you!” said Warren in a loud whisper.
Slightly startled, Logan growled in annoyance as he turned to see the winged mutant looming just outside the door.
“What is it, wings? Where the heck have you been?” he said.
“Shh! Keep it down! Something really important has come up! Something you need to know!”
“Can it wait?” said Logan in a lower tone, “We’re kind of in the middle of something and I need to keep an eye on Jeannie!”
“I know! But if you’re as worried about her as I think you are, you’re definitely going to want to hear this!”
He sounded pretty serious. The winged mutant was often prone to overreacting, but it was never without a good reason. Despite being reluctant to leave Jeannie in the hands of Wyngarde, Logan’s instinct beckoned him to listen.
“Better make this quick, wings. Ain’t no way I’m leaving Jeannie with this guy more than two minutes,” he said under his breath.
“I understand, Logan…more than you think.”
The feral mutant silently slipped out the door with Warren. Everyone was so focused on Jean they didn’t seem to notice. That was okay with Warren. It was better they discuss this in private anyways.
While Warren and Logan slipped off, Jason Wyngarde’s demeanor shifted. The strange glowing aura in his hands shifted from purple to orange, as if to indicate something important. Through his concentration, his smile widened. For the X-men it was hard to tell if this was a good or bad thing.
“Yes…it’s just as I suspected. The power is brewing inside her!” he said as he cupped Jean’s chin.
“Power? What power?” asked Scott anxiously.
“Is it something that can be treated?” asked Hank, who started to notice some erratic readings on Jean’s vitals.
“That depends. Treatment when it comes to psychic matters is difficult to define.”
“That I certainly wouldn’t argue,” said Professor Xavier, “But would you mind sharing with us what you suspect this may be? We are all eager for answer.”
“And you’ll get them,” grinned Wyngarde as he placed his hands back on Jean’s head, “Right after I do one last test.”
Warren quickly dragged Logan far away from the infirmary so they could talk without anyone overhearing. He was frantic and clumsy, a clear result of having not slept much the past few days and being wired on coffee for too long. Logan was already impatient. He should have been back with the others, watching over Jean and keeping an eye on Emma and Wyngarde. He figured Warren singled him out for a reason and for his sake it had to be a damn good one.
“We have to stop him! Something is very wrong here and for all I know we’re already too late!” said Warren breathlessly, needing a moment to gather himself.
“Suck it up, Warren! Tell me what this is about!” Logan demanded.
“It…it’s about that device Shaw traded for in Panama,” said the winged mutant, “I’ve been looking into that deal for weeks. There was just something about it that didn’t sit right! Now I know why.”
Warren pulled out a slip of folded papers he printed out from his pocket. They were the diagrams he got from the email. They had on them some of the answers they had been so desperately seeking.
“I made a call to someone at Worthington electronics. They managed to pull up some of the specs on this thing.”
“What’s it do? Turn water into booze?” scoffed Logan.
“It’s called a psionic disruptor,” said Warren as he showed him the diagram, “And it’s definitely worth four nuclear reactors. This little gizmo has the power to disrupt psionic energy of any kind! It can hold back telepathy, telekinesis, basically anything psychic! It can also be calibrated to send out a psychic pulse strong enough to disable even the most powerful telepaths!”
“And us with the world’s most powerful telepath in the world...damn!” said the feral mutant.
“To give you an idea of how powerful it is, let’s just say if we had this thing against Proteus it would have been a much shorter fight!”
That was a pretty strong statement, but it got a clear point across and Warren wasn’t finished.
“Cut to the chase, bub! This ain’t giving me a reason to decapitate someone!”
“I was just getting to that,” he said, still short of breath as he cycled through more papers, “Turns out Cameron Hodge originally built this thing, probably using that alien tech you guys discovered in that mine. It was how he was able to keep psychics from chiming in on his operation.”
“Makes sense, but I’m still not pissed enough!” said Logan, starting to get impatient.
“But the real kicker is where he got the designs and who designed them!”
Warren handed the second sheet of paper to Logan so he could see for himself. After a brief scan of the text, he saw what he was talking about.
“The inventor of this device is a guy who calls himself Mastermind. But according to the emails I uncovered, he goes by another name…Jason Wyngarde,” said Warren grimly.
Logan clenched his fist, crumbling the paper up in his hand as he snarled in a violent rage.
“As in the same Jason Wyngarde that’s in that room supposedly helping Jean,” Warren affirmed, “I don’t know what his angle is or where Emma fits into this, but he’s clearly working with Shaw! Add this device into the mix and you’ve got all the reason you need to sink your claws into somebody!”
Logan had heard enough. Just as he suspected, something was up. Whatever Wynegarde and Emma Frost were after, they were using Jeannie for their own ends. For that they had to pay.
“Errrr! I knew it!” roared the former living weapon, “Those dirt bags are playing us!”
“I don’t know how Jean fits into this, but if it involves Sebastian Shaw it can’t be good!” said Warren with his own share of resentment.
“It’ll be even worse when I get through with him!” grunted Logan, clenching his fists and drawing his claws, “Come on! Wyngarde and I are gonna have some serious words and I intend to let my claws do most of the talking!”
Jason Wyngarde was almost done with his last test on Jean Grey. So far everything was going according to plan. The X-men were still oblivious to what he was doing and Emma Frost was wisely keeping her mouth shut. This next part was critical. It was also where he would be his most vulnerable. His hands still glowing, Wyngarde began pushing his psychic abilities to delve further into Jean’s psyche. As he did, he got a reaction from her. In an instant that horrified the X-men, Jean’s eyes shot open to reveal the glowing fiery gaze.
“Hnn…who dares?!”she said in a very un-Jean like tone.
“What do you think you’re doing?!” demanded the Professor, “You’re weakening the blocks on her mind!”
“Be calm, Charles. He knows what he’s doing,” said Emma, holding him back.
As much as Xavier trusted Emma, he was still unconvinced. He may have held back, but Scott did not.
“No! Get away from her!” yelled Scott.
In a swift move, the X-leader fired an optic blast at Jason Wyngarde. It hit him right in the chest, knocking him away from Jean. It left him stunned, but that disturbing grin never left his face.
“Scott! What in God’s name are you doing?!” exclaimed Hank, who had to hold the X-leader back.
“Ungh…you’re too late! It’s already done!” he grinned.
“What’s done? What did you do to her?!” demanded Ororo.
“You’ll see,” said Wyngarde ominously.
Before the X-men could gather around Wyngarde, they were confronted with a far more serious threat. Now it wasn’t just Jean’s eyes that were glowing. Her whole body was glowing, consumed by an ominous halo of energy. The sedatives and the blocks were no match. Within seconds a burst of fiery energy surged through the infirmary, breaking the restraints that had been holding her on the bed.
“Professor! The sedatives!” exclaimed Hank.
“They won’t do us any good, Hank!” said Xavier with dread, “I’ll try and reform the blocks! I just need to…”
But that was as far as he got. Now surrounded in a fiery halo, Jean rose up from her bed and unleashed another psionic blast. This time it was directed right at Professor Xavier, knocking him right out of his wheelchair.
“Try and contain me, will you? You cannot contain the fires of creation!”
“Mien Gott…” gasped Kurt, horrified by Jean’s actions.
“Professor!” exclaimed Kitty as she and Kurt tried to run to their mentor’s aid.
“Jean? What are you doing?!” said Scott desperately as he looked up at her glowing form.
“What I should have done long ago!”
Her tone was dark and full of rage. The only other time they heard her speak like this was during the Proteus fight and that did not turn out well.
“The hell is going on with her?” wondered Remy as he helped Rogue and Bobby up.
“I don’t know, but Ah think Jean’s officially lost it!” said Rogue.
“More like someone pushed her over the edge!” said Ororo, her eyes glowing white as she turned towards Emma and Wyngarde, “What did you do to her?!”
“I only sped up what was inevitable,” grinned Wyngarde, “But fear not. It’s already been taken care of.”
The mysterious man then turned to Emma, who had been hovering protectively over the dazed Professor Xavier.
“Emma, you know what to do,” he told her.
“Emma?! Don’t tell me you’re helping this guy!” exclaimed Bobby.
It was a hard pill to swallow, more so for Emma than her former teammates. Many gazed at her with shock and disgust, but no one was more disgusted than she was.
“I’m sorry, X-men. I really, truly am,” said Emma in a flat tone.
“So Logan was right,” said Ororo distantly, “You were up to no good!”
“Where is he anyways?” wondered Bobby.
“Does it matter?” groaned Kitty.
While the X-men were reeling, Emma and Wyngarde reached into their pockets and put a couple of special ear-plugs into their ears. Wyngarde then took out his cell phone and punched the button on the side.
“We’re ready,” he said, his gaze locked on the still hovering Jean Grey.
“I read you, Mastermind. Stand by.”
It was clear now they had planned this. The team was still in shock, having learned that one of their own had betrayed them. With Professor Xavier still reeling from the blow he took earlier, there was nothing more they could do.
“No…” said Scott, struggling to his feet and fighting back towards Jean.
“Scott wait!” urged Emma.
But he wouldn’t listen.
“Jean! Jean, snap out of it!” he urged.
The glowing form of Jean Grey seemed to barely notice at first, but when she turned to see the desperate figure of Scott Summers reaching out to her something happened.
For a brief moment it sounded as though she was Jean again. But before anything more could come of it, Jean and everyone else in the room besides Emma and Jason were struck by an unexpected psychic surge.
“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!” they all cried out in pain.
It seemed to come from everywhere, as if it had been pumped into the whole mansion. Professor Xavier and his X-men clutched their heads as agony gripped them. It was like the worst headache they ever had amplified tenfold. It was enough to send even the most determined X-men tumbling to the floor in agony. The ones most affected by this blast were Jean Grey and Professor Xavier. Since they were both psychics, this mysterious surge hit them hardest. Charles Xavier was knocked out almost instantly. Jean followed suit. In an instant she clutched her head and the fiery halo that had been surrounding her shot out in a bright flash that consumed the room. When the flash subsided, all that remained wast an unconscious Jean Grey, who roughly collapsed onto the floor with the rest of the X-men.
“Jean…” gasped Scott Summers, trying to fight through the agony and reach out to his ailing lover.
“Save yourself the heartache, Mr. Summers. The woman you knew is no more,” said a cold and snide Jason Wyngarde, “She’s about to become more…so much more.”
Those were the last words Scott Summers and the rest of the team heard before they went under. The same X-men that took on the Reavers and triumphed were no match for a single psychic pulse. For Jason Wyngarde it was a satisfying sight. For Emma Frost, it was a difficult scene to take in.
“And to think, the device wasn’t even at full power,” grinned Wyngarde, “I must remember to commend Cameron Hodge. He certainly did my work justice.”
“Relish in your ego later, Jason. Let’s just get this over with,” said Emma bitterly.
“Relax, we have plenty of time,” said Wyngarde confidently, “With a pulse like that, Xavier and his circus will be out cold for hours.”
But within moments of having uttered those words with such confidence, Emma and Wyngarde’s triumph was interrupted by an angry yet pained growl. Looking up from the unconscious X-men, they saw a very woozy Wolverine stammering into the infirmary.
“Errrrrrrrrr your little stunt is over, Frost!” he roared, pointing his claws at the two figures, “You got three seconds to back the fuck away!”
“One of them is still conscious?” said a surprised and annoyed Jason Wynegarde.
“I guess your little device needs some tweaking after all,” said Emma.
Jason sighed with only minor annoyance. While Logan was enraged, he was also clearly woozy from the pulse. Seeing as how it was concentrated in this room to affect Charles Xavier and Jean Grey, he didn’t get the full force. It was an inconvenient obstacle, but easily resolved.
“I really don’t have time for this,” sighed Wyngarde as he took out his phone again.
“Too bad, bub! Cause I got all the time in the world!” snarled Logan as he stammered forward, pushing through the pain in his head.
Emma grew tense, not wanting to fight one of the X-men like this. Lucky for her, she wouldn’t have to. With the push of a button on his phone, he issued another command.
“Shaw, please fire another round. Apparently some of Xavier’s cronies didn’t get the message,” he said.
“Figures…hold on, I’m turning up the power!”
Even though Logan knew what was coming, he lunged forth to attack Emma and Jason. He didn’t care about the pain that was sure to come. All he cared about was making them pay for tricking Xavier and the X-men.
Emma braced herself while Jason just kept grinning smugly. Before his attack could commence, Logan was abruptly pulled away by two powerful arms. It was Warren, who had also managed to fight through the first pulse. Unlike Logan, though, he was not confident that he could fight through another.
“Errrrrrr! You’re gonna pay, bub! That goes double for your, Frost!” roared Logan.
“Later Logan! We’ll get our chance,” said the winged mutant intently as he flew them out of the infirmary.
This sudden move surprised Emma and Jason. Wyngarde remained unconcerned, but Emma was still anxious. At the same time she was hopeful. If those two could get away, then maybe they could somehow stop this. That may earn her Logan’s wrath, but after what she did it was a wrath she deserved.
“Well that was certainly unexpected,” commented Jason.
“You’re starting to underestimate them,” Emma warned.
“If you’re trying to make me nervous, you’re wasting your time,” said Wyngarde, “Even if they do manage to escape, we have what we came for.”
Kneeling down, Wyngarde took the unconscious Jean Grey in his arms. This beautiful figure was the true prize of this elaborate operation. Not everything went according to plan, but they had what they wanted.
“After the pulse, head back to the surface and start coordinating with our extraction team. Have them restrain the X-men and get them in the transport choppers.”
“Why are we taking them with us? I thought you only wanted Jean?” argued Emma.
“You’re the one who said we were underestimating them. So we’re taking the necessary precautions. Xavier and his X-men are coming with us so we can keep an eye on them. Besides, if Miss Grey is going to take stage in this most glorious of ceremonies, it’s only fair her loved ones bear witness to it.”
As soon as they were out of the infirmary, Warren pushed his flight skills into overdrive. The next pulse would rip through the institute at any minute and they were very vulnerable. However, that didn’t seem to dissuade Logan.
“Errrrr! Let me go, Angel!” he roared as he struggled in Warren’s grip.
“Settle down, Logan! My head is still killing me!” groaned the winged mutant as he tried to coordinate, “I’m as pissed as you, but we can’t take another one of those blasts!”
“Just watch me!” he snarled.
“No! If we’re going to help the others, we need to stay conscious!”
Logan continued struggling in Warren’s arms, but the winged mutant did not let go. He just kept flying full speed, ignoring the pain in his head. f they were to have any chance at resisting the next pulse and being able to help the others, they had to use strategy. Warren was not Scott or the Professor, but thanks to his knowledge on this device he had an idea of how to counter it.
Soaring at breakneck speed through the confined halls, Warren flew Logan right into the Cerebro chamber. The second they were both inside, he dropped the feral mutant near the main console and flew back to the door.
“I hope this works!” the winged mutant grunted.
Through the pain, the winged mutant slammed his fist on the emergency lockdown button. This caused the chamber door to close and lock. Just before it closed completely, the second pulse hit.
“Augh!” they groaned in agony.
Both Logan and Warren felt it, but this time it was mitigated by the powerful psychic shielding of the Cerebro chamber. With their minds already weakened from the first blast, they could not tough their way out of this one. The two X-men fell to the floor in a dazed agony. Eventually, they slipped into the dark world of unconsciousness knowing they had been tricked and the X-men were now in the unsavory grasp of Sebastian Shaw.
20 Minutes Later
There was an old lesson nearly every military grunt learned in boot camp. If they ever passed out in a battle, it was almost guaranteed they would wake up in a far worse situation. Logan learned this lesson the hard way many times before despite his fragmented memory. So when he roughly stirred from his unconscious state after having been hit with another psychic pulse, he was expecting to be somewhere he really didn’t want to be. Yet to his surprise, he woke up in the exact same place he passed out.
“Hnn…” he groaned as he awoke, “Chuck…Jeannie…Storm.”
It all came rushing back to him. Everything from the revelation by Warren to Wyngarde’s little stunt with that fancy device of his. His anger from earlier quickly set in. With his head throbbing, he pulled himself up to see that he and Warren were still locked in the Cerebro chamber. Logan was uncertain of how much time had passed. It couldn’t have been long because he still had the scent of Wyngarde and Emma Frost on his nose.
“Hey wings, wake up!” grunted Wolverine as he roughly shook the winged mutant out of unconsciousness.
“Ugh…my head,” Warren groaned.
“Shake it off, bub! Frost and Mastermind are getting away!”
Leaving Warren to recover, Logan rose to his feet and ran towards the chamber door. After releasing the emergency locks, he stormed out into the halls and started looking for a scent. He picked up a whole host of new smells. They were all similar, indicating they were henchmen of sorts. It was a familiar scent as well. Logan remembered smelling them back in Panama. They were those masked guards that Shanobi Shaw had with him. Something about their scent bugged him from the beginning. Now he had even more reason to rip them to shreds.
He sensed they tried to get into Cerebro, but they couldn’t. Chuck made sure it was the most secure room in the mansion. They found that out quickly and moved on, leaving him and Warren behind. That was bad news for them because now he was hot on their trail. Following these scents, Logan rushed back to the infirmary. He found it empty, but from what he could tell Wyngarde’s henchmen hauled the whole unconscious team out. He picked up the scent of Scott, Bobby, Hank, Ororo, Rogue, Remy, Kurt, Kitty, and the Professor. Then there was Jeannie, who he sensed was being carried by Wyngarde himself. The thought of that sick bastard with his hands on her only made him more enraged.
“You’re a dead man, Wynegarde!” he snarled angrily, “You, Frost, and the rest of Shaw’s thugs!”
Clenching his fists, the feral mutant continued to follow the scents. They led him to the other end of the lower levels and up the elevator. As soon as he got off on the ground floor, he followed them through the foyer and out the front door.
“Still lingering…might not be too late to tear into these dirt bags!” he snarled.
Moving even faster now, Logan stormed out the front door. He arrived just in time to see two large transport helicopters taking off from the front lawn. They were already a good twenty feet in the air. Judging by the scents, Wyngarde and the rest of the X-men were on those aircrafts.
Even though they were already out of his range, he ran after them. Along the way, he detected another familiar scent. It was Shanobi Shaw, the weasel from Panama who swindled the psychic disruptor from Omega Red. He had been standing right on their front lawn, probably with the device in hand. He must have been the one to deliver that pulse. If so, it confirmed what Warren’s earlier revelation about Shaw Industries already hinted at. This wasn’t just Wyngarde and Emma Frost they were dealing with. It was Sebastian Shaw. Now he and his cronies were getting away with Jean, Ororo, and the rest of the X-men.
“ERRRRR! GET BACK HERE WYNGARDE! YOU AND SHAW ARE GONNA PAY! YOU HEAR ME? I’LL FIND YOU AND RIP YOUR FUCKING HEAD OFF!”
His angry threats echoed harmlessly through the night sky, leaving Logan frustrated on a whole new level. These people now had his friends, his girlfriend, and Jeannie. Logan watched angrily as the helicopter flew of. But even though they were getting away, that didn’t mean he was defeated. Since he hadn’t been out long, that meant he could still track them. Those oversized transport helicopters had to leave a vapor trail of some sort. So long as he acted fast, he could trace it to wherever it was they were going.
Grunting to himself, Logan rushed back into the mansion to find Warren. They had to work quickly if they were to catch up and stop these pricks before they made anything worse. As he contemplated what their next move, his thoughts drifted back to Jeannie, Storm, and the others.
‘Hang on, Jeannie. That goes double for you, Ro. I’m coming for all of you! Shaw just made the biggest mistake of his life! I’ve already taken his best shots! Now it’s my turn!’
“Jean…oh Jean? I know you can hear me. You can’t keep shutting me out.”
These deep words echoed through the chaotic mind of Jean Grey as she stirred from what felt like a cross between a coma and a dream.
“Hnn…what’s happened? Where am I?”
Looking around, she found herself in a dark and eerie void. All around her there were swirling colors and odd shapes forming randomly and disappearing in a flash. It felt like some sort of deeper psychic state that manifest in the depths of her own mind. Her memories on how she got to this point were vague. She remembered vaguely being home, casually watching her favorite movie with Scott.Then it all went dark for a while. The next thing she knew she was in the infirmary, watching as this creepy man loom over her. After that it was all a surreal nightmare.
That pressure in her mind that she had been struggling to contain was suddenly unleashed by that man. Somehow, he undid all the protections and safeguards she had been using to stop whatever this power that was brewing inside her from taking over. They had been so thoroughly deconstructed she had another outburst where she attacked not just the man but her friends as well. Fear and dread soon took over. Someone or something was consuming her. It was tearing at her very soul, pushing her away from the people she cared for most.
“Professor…Scott…what’s happening to me?!” she cried out.
Her frantic cries were quickly answered and the mysterious mindscape around her started to shift.
“Shhh…be calm poor little psychic. It’ll all be over soon.”
“You! I…I know that voice! Who are you?!” Jean demanded.
“You really don’t remember me? That’s surprising. Because I remember you so very well. In fact, I’ve known you for much of your life.”
The more she heard that voice, the more familiar it seemed. It was so confusing, yet it seemed as though all the answers were right in front of her.
“What do you want from me? Where are my friends?” she cried out, “Where’s Scott?!”
“They are no longer important, Jean. Your old life…all your loved ones…they no longer matter.”
“No! Stop trying to confuse me!” she yelled as she clutched he head even harder.
“I am only telling you the truth. You must accept it. No one can help you anymore. No one has ever been able to help you. Only I have the power to help you. It is a power which you have already wielded in part.”
“The power…” said Jean distantly, this mysterious revelation striking a chord.
“Yes…it should be coming back to you now. In your darkest hours, you cried out for help. You were lost, helpless, and powerless. Yet nobody came to your aid. But through the vastness of the cosmos, I heard your cries. Ever since then I’ve been drawn to you. We…the two of us…have been drawn to each other.”
It sounded crazy, reminiscent of the twisted thoughts she absorbed back when she was a mental patient. Jean was starting to remember. She recalled that fateful moment after the car accident when she cried out for help. She remembered those lonely nights in the mental ward where she was drugged, bound, and locked away with nothing but her own desperate thoughts. The more she remembered, the more the mysterious flames grew. They were getting to a point where she was seeing fire in all directions. There was power in these fires. It was a great power that she had felt before during the fight with Proteus and it was a power that was beckoning her once again.
“No!” she said, trying to fight off the flames, “This isn’t real! This is all in my head!”
“Indeed it is. What you are experiencing now is all in your mind. Think of it as an unveiling now that those annoying blocks are out of the way. But eventually, everything will become real..”
“You’re lying! This is all a trick!” yelled Jean as the fires closed in on her.
“It’s no trick, I assure you. I’m on my way, Jean. I’ve been on my way since I first heard your cries. You hunger for my power and I hunger for yours. I need you as much as you need me.”
“I need you to leave me alone!” she spat angrily as she thrashed wildly at the flames.
But it was no use. No matter how hard Jean fought, the fires were consuming her.
“You don’t have a choice. Your fate was sealed long ago…as was mine. It won’t be long now. Soon, you and I will be one. And from the ashes, the Phoenix shall rise again!”
Next Issue: The Phoenix Saga Part 4
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