12174/Pieces of Mind: Stalemate

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Pieces of Mind: Stalemate
Date of Scene: 26 July 2022
Location: Astral Plane: Sanctuary
Synopsis: The telepaths discuss how to extract Charles from Shadow King -- while their mage ally offers a dangerous suggestion.
Cast of Characters: Charles Xavier, Emma Frost, Betsy Braddock, Tabitha Smith, Jean Grey

Charles Xavier has posed:
In Emma's possession is a small, magical black wax candle. She'd acquired it quite a while ago now: it was being used as a sentry and magical 'watchdog' of sorts over one of the locations used by the Shadow King. Emma found a friendly ally in the mage that was keeping tabs on the Shadow King, and the candle has been used to communicate a number of times.

The candle has been out, unlit, for weeks, though, and nonresponsive to query.

Suddenly, without any particular warning, magic shudders through the wax, eruptions of a strong yellow and gold flicking out of the substance, and it alights. The small flamelike elemental awakens, as if disoriented or at a low power from long disuse... or perhaps some other expression of status...


Elsewhere, a strange vision thrusts itself into the front of Betsy's mind. Two plants are trying to grow in the same space of a garden, crowding each other, forcing each other, equal pressure.... and then it shifts to these plants, their roots, in a strange tug of war. The vision crawls under the ground to the roots, knotted together, deeply, as they fence for territory, blocking each other again and again.... and abruptly, a spade slices down, cutting all roots, and the plants fall apart from each other, falling as the soil disintegrates, roots twist into nothing.

Emma Frost has posed:
Emma had been paying occasional attention to the candle, mostly rotating in checking it or having one of the others do it. The joy of being a psychic was that it was fairlys imple to monitor from a distance for activity. She had been somewhat worried over at least by the lack of response. Did it mean that their.. Acquaintance had been located by the Shadow King and neutralized? Or just abandoned them and fully gone to ground?

Then she's, wherever she is, caught up in a spasm of it and quickly goes to give it her full attention. Moving to psionically press herself along, responding to it over as she would let herself fade back into mental connection

Betsy Braddock has posed:
It has been increasingly difficult for Betsy to tell what is dream and what is a precognitive vision since the whole body-swap fiasco with Kwannon; Something about being untethered from her body and swapped around back and forth seems to have fractured her precognitive abilities. Although truth be told, she was never a particularly strong and powerful one. She's no Destiny, or Blindfold. Even Marie-Colbert tended to be more on the nose than her.

But the vision is strong enough that when the British psi-ninja gasps herself awake in a cold sweat she *knows* this was something more. Before she can help herself, Betsy is casting her mind in a broad probe of the mansion, attempting to pinpoint any potential trouble even as she cloaks her mind as strongly as she's capable of, obfuscating her from anyone else even as she slowly relaxes and withdraws her probes back behind her defenses.

Charles Xavier has posed:
There's the strange entity of the candle that Betsy's search can brush across. It IS something there, a magical little elemental of fire, but it does have connection through to something else with a magic-tasting mental thread. It's present with Emma, though whatever Emma's emotional reaction to the candle may well be obfuscated from Betsy.

"Ah, this still works. I should not be surprised, I do know what I'm doing," observes the elemental, clearly being used as an avatar for the mage Kels to speak to Emma. Or just to talk in general: that wasn't particularly directed at Emma. It looks for her, though, with a sharpness to the little flame-blob eyes. The elemental itself is squat and small, a blobby flame-creature, without any limbs - just blinky eyes and a downturned, sad mouth shape.

Emma Frost has posed:
Emma Frost would fold her hands together <<Greetings, Kels. We had gotten worried over about you. I'm sorry for the lack of contact, but the few times we attempted to interact with the..>> Her mind would give a soft image of the candle. <<It was inert. We don't have much more to share than that the Thing has fortified itself up and over in the Sanctuary and for nwo not breeched it. It wants something in exchange for letting the.. Professor go, but we rather doubt it will hold up it's end of the deal>>

Emma has made it a strong point to -not- call the thing by a name. Calling it by a name gave it strength adn power. <<Good to have you with us>> She would send ou ta vibe to the ninja englishwoman. <<This is a.. Good friend. And is rather specialized in these sorts of things>>

Betsy Braddock has posed:
The elemental is noted, her mind unable to parse the magic or read anything beyond the emotions and thoughts projected onto more human minds... Namely that of Emma Frost. But she is not the twin sister to the mystical defender of Otherworld for nothing, after all, and while she is unable to effect the elemental she is able to at least identify why.

<< I'm on my way, Emma. >> Betsy projects to the other woman, her telepathic tone concerned but controlled. And in no time, she's at the other psi's door in her pajamas of a crop top and harem pants. Tres chique, all in a soft lavender that makes her british-pale skin glow. "Hello, Luv." She tells Emma, arms crossed and rubbing her bicep as if trying to warm herself, "What exactly are you volunteering me for? Something reckless and dangerous, I hope?"

Charles Xavier has posed:
Something about being termed as a 'good friend' made the elemental avatar seem to pause, or inspect Emma a bit more. Perhaps Kels doesn't often maintain friends, or was surprised she thought that, or some other reaction that is just impossible to read on a little flame elemental's blobby, wispy face-zone!

Still, Kels has a new person to consider as Betsy shows up, and elemental-eyes inspect without a lot of depth. "Well, I am about to shift the balance in here, and I thought you might like to get involved," says the elemental. There's a stress under the tone: like an actor that has been up for a VERY long time and is pretending to not be tired. Skill in that pretending, but at some point things fray even for the skilled. "Hello." To Betsy.

Emma Frost has posed:
Emma Frost would give an inquisitive mental query/thought/emotion over as she would sit, a large goblet of wine over in a hand <<We do have such lovely things in common>> This would be over to the other Englishwoman. Emma might be old money, but Betsy was old -European- money and nobility.

Even she had to acknowledge that.

Emma would give a hand in the direction of Betsy. "Would you care for some?" Pointing at her wine bottle. <<And I do appreciate your alerting of us. Please do elaborate. We've been readying our own little traps as soon as we have to move thing sinto action>>

Betsy Braddock has posed:
When she is given the once-over by the elemental, Betsy is utterly fearless... She straightens up, tucks shoulders back, and spreads her hands as if to say 'Well, here I am'. Depending on how strong he is, he might even be able to sense her Otherworld heritage. But he can definitely tell she is a potent psi, of a different 'feel' than Emma. "Cheers, mate." She tells the fire spirit, and then allows hersefl to be pulled into the Astral.

"Before we do anything, I had what I think was a precognitive vision." She warns the other telepath and the elemental, "Two plants fighting to grow in the same plot. Roots entangled, fighting for dominance. And then a swift sharp blow of a spade, separating them." She shakes her head, purple hair billowing across her face before he tucks it away. "I don't know if it's related to this, my precognition is not a sure thing, but..." She spreads her hands.

And perks up when she's offered wine. "Oh, please. I'm still a little shaken from the dream."

Charles Xavier has posed:
"I'm inside the... what are we calling it? Ex-Sanctuary," determines Kels, deadpan. There's a strange mix of emotions there: self-satisfied but also irritated about it. Confusing bundle of feelings.

The vision description takes the fire elemental (or, Kels) aback, and he states with a sudden amusement, "Well, I'm the spade. Are you ready for this?" he questions, without preamble.

Emma Frost has posed:
Emma Frost would go to pass along the bottle to Betsy over while also doing a goblet over for the other woman. Emma goes to let herself be drawn over into the astral plane herself and then focus her eyes, folding her fingers together. <<So another one of us is playing the seer?>> First Ruth, now Elizabeth. <<Shan't we put it to better use by playing the stock market?>> A light tease before going on to the exchange.

<<Likely interrelated. The Thing is going to make it's move soon enough, we haven't given it what it wants or it's stalling for time. At some point soon it will make the first move or we will. And please do share.>> This would be shared over with Kels as Emma would be quite ready.

Betsy Braddock has posed:
<< My dear Madam Frost, I am an enigma wrapped in a puzzle boxed in a mystery, never to really be understood.>> Betsy teases back, as she pours the wine and takes a generous several glugs from the cup before putting it down and looking for a nice surface to sit on while she projects herself onto the astral.

Her Astral form is unusual, reflecting her mood and the situation they find themselves in: Rather than being an distinct form, Psylocke is like a creature of living swirling shadows that make her hard to even see... But for the butterfly of purple energy masking her face. Even the sword on her back, a katana, is black and shadowy with a hint of purple energy peeking from the scabbard.

<< This isn't the first psychic combat I've faced. >> Betsy tells Emma grimly, flickers of a man that looks like her twin brother but... wrong... projected among the three, his nose bleeding as his brain hemorrhages from a young, scared Betsy's psi-touch. << I'll take point, luv, and if it attacks buy us all time to escape. There's a few tricks I learned in STRIKE you Americans don't know. >>

Emma Frost has posed:
Those hints of things that come through Betsy's mindscape are always fascinating to Emma. The British woman has among the most unique psyches that the Lady Frost has ever come upon. Probably by almost the standards of any psychic over on the planet. Emma takes on a persona of regal diamond and ice as the group would settle in.

<<the trick is removing the thing from Charles' consciousness without setting off any of it's traps. We can potentially isolate it along on the astral plane if we can do so but even with all of us together engaging it in combat is not something I would relish>> By 'all of them' she meant Jean, herself, Betsy, ILlyana.. Anyone else they could throw into the damned thing.

<<And that's what your specialty is. You'll be our trump card>> Between Betsy and Illyana in one of the blonde's 'you have offended me now you die' they should have most cases covered.

Betsy Braddock has posed:
Oh, bless Illyana and her rages. << I'm also a trained assassin. >> Betsy tells the two calmly, as she manifests the wine in the Astral and takes a sip of it. << And I can render myself invisible to even Charles if I push myself; You could always send me in while the Enemy is distracted to ensure he is taken out once he's separated from Charles. >>

The suggestion is made easily, as if contemplating psychic assassination was just another Tuesday night for the British model. Another aspect of what Emma would call her unique psyche: an utter lack of hesitation at throwing herself at a psychic predator capable of stalemating Charles Xavier.

Emma Frost has posed:
Emma Frost would fold her hands together <<Yes, we do have a pair of specialists onhand>> Oh poor wretched hting after Illyana was through with it. <<Hopefully amongst all our talents.. You can hit the thing and disrupt it, our own heavy hitters can go in to help lure it out and engage it.. Then..>> A mental sign would be given indicative over of the ninja present with the pair..

<<Can hopefully eliminate it>>

Charles Xavier has posed:
During the last few minutes of chatter, the flame elemental on the candle started to shrink some, and it looked almost dead-eyed, or distracted -- as if the mage behind the elemental were pulled away from the 'phone'.

But then he's re-orienting, and stares for a moment. "I think I was unclear. I'm inside. I am going to cut them apart /right now/," Kels repeats. "And there will be damage when I do. Are you ready for that."

Betsy Braddock has posed:
"Jean. We need Jean." Betsy tells Emma after staring at the flame elemental and taking a generous sip of her wine. "If we're going to be holding Charles' psyche together Jean is the most familiar with him, and the second best at psychic surgery." The bottle is floated back over to Emma on flickers of purple telekinetic energy suspiciously shaped like butterflies.

She then turns to Kels, "Can you guide one of us into the fortress? If you didn't have to worry about being spotted or seen? I can be prepared to guide Charles 'out', as it were, while the rest hold him together and repair any damage once he's safe."

Emma Frost has posed:
Emma Frost would go to grab the wine bottle and take a very large gulp of it. <<Yes, let's get anyone together that we can.. In the next few minutes>> Oh yes, she definitely was too relaxed for this even as she takes a moment to massage her temples.. And then goes to jolt her brainw ith several bursts of adrenaline, firing off the neurons in her head to get her fully alert and energized.

<<Jean, anyone else we can throw into this on short order. Tabitha, do be a dear, we need you for mental meatshield duties>>

Tabitha Smith has posed:
There's a call in her head and eventually she turned up. In probably what is totally sleep clothes. Oversized XAVIER institute tee and some small clingy cottom shorts that could probably work in the gym, both in gray. The atteempt at consscious psychic defense mostly directed at keeping some old Eighties hair metal sung looping a chorus in her head. There's more going on in her subconsious side thanks to some extra training from Emma via conscious lessons and some under the nugget stuff implanted to be ran through in Tabbt's sleep.

<<So we're doing this?>> she joins the mind link with a sense of anxiety. She has a lot of energy but she's the clumsy muscle in this gig. <<God I hope this really works!>>

Charles Xavier has posed:
The elemental fireblob looks aside at Betsy as she determines Jean is necessary, and forms little flame-arms ... just in order to cross them expressively in a form of grumpiness. "No, I'm not a fortress tour guide yet; I haven't been fully hired." Sarcasm... which is a bit unusual for Kels, and could be a sign of the stress he's concealing, or something else. "I've been working on this for weeks; I just got in here, and I see an opportunity this minute to topple the whole fortress. But that doesn't work as well if you can't remove the king's prize quickly, as he may just kill him as I do this," Kels explains. "...just a minute. He's hunting for me again." There's another moment then, where the flame suddenly drops to nothing, as the mage very clearly has to lower or reduce the connection to a low state, reacting to something the others can't see.

Emma Frost has posed:
Emma Frost would go to rub her temples <<Kels, we're in no way ready for this. We're not ready to even support Charles mentally nor hav we setup an alternate framework over for how to contain the souls>> She's giving a warning on the matter,e ven as she's sending out a series of psychic alerts to get in the others. All they can do now is run with it and do the best they can even as she tries to give a warning. <<Tabitha, Elizabeth, get ready just in case. Kels, please, reconsider>>

Betsy Braddock has posed:
"I think the fire elemental is sassing me." Betsy tells Emma with a raised eyebrow as she takes a deep drink of her wine and finishes the glass off. The bottle is floated back over to Betsy, who checks for backwash from Emma's drinking straight from the bottle before pouring herself a cup. Which is her version of getting ready, apparently, as she settles down in a lotus position.

<< I agree with Emma. There's no guarantee that Charles will survive being severed. >> Betsy tells the group, even as Kels prepares to act, << My dream indicated this could damage both of them. And what if some of the Enemy remains? Like a cancer, destroying him from the inside? If Charles is... hurt... deeply enough we might not be able to sense it. >>

Jean Grey has posed:
One of those things about being such a powerful telepath: you're kind of always 'on call.' Lois can call Superman with a word, but people can nag Jean by THINKING at her.

<<Hmm?>> the immediate response is, well, distracted and a little less than wholly together, indicating that they've caught the Headmistress in the middle of something. <<What is- oh.>> There's enough stray mental activity, from directed discussion to more unconscious, internal contemplation of the problem that, with a moment's concentration, she can pull together the bits and pieces of it. <<Right. Of course I'll help. You're with Betsy? I'll- well, I'll join you this way, and maybe -that- way shortly.>>

Somewhere, in the mansion, she's making herself presentable, but with them, in the astral vision they're all focused on, her familiar figure appears. As usual, the psychic Jean is garbed in her classic green-and-gold bodysuit, with the Phoenix emblem on her chest, while her hair burns like cosmic flame. As for the ongoing argument with Kels? <<Charles is strong, stronger than most would ever imagine at a glance. But less us still not be unecessarily reckless.>>

Tabitha Smith has posed:
"I gotta wonder if the elemental gets all the energy I fed them or if any of it actually goes to Kels?" Tabby ponders and looks nervous and also looks at that whine. Probably not the best for her to get rip roaring drunk.

There's a look back and forth to people in the room and maybe a thought of greeting at Jean when she makes her presence felt as well. <<So umm. I know the plan is I meatshield but I guess I'm the wedge going between Shadow King and the Professor?>> she asks worriedly. <<Unless that's not the plan we're pulling out of our collectively shapely asses?>> she queries in the shared telepathy. At least she's got plenty of energy to work. But physical BOOMs aren't what's needed.

Charles Xavier has posed:
The flame flares again, just to a tiny little birthday-candle like size; this time there's a tone of frustration or anger with it. He clearly heard very little since he disconnected, his speech suggests he had no awareness of their talk. He just reappears and starts venting: "I've lost my good opportunity, they've moved again. This /creature/ is extremely ...aware. Delaying too long puts ME at some risk. I'll watch for another opportunity.... but be ready for the next time." Kels says, through the slightly sputtering flame connection. It's barely being fed any energy at all, and the message is a whisper at best.

"It should drop the defense considerably for all of you to pile on," sighs Kels. "/If/ we get another shot."

Emma Frost has posed:
Emma Frost would take a breath over mentally <<Thank you Kels, I'm aware that there is no perfect moment for things and one has to go in when they're not ready. But if we can't hold up our end of things then this is all for nought. If we'd known a bit more ahead of time we could have gotten ready and prepared. We're sorry for having not been in direct touch. But to best coordinate we need some level o fheads up so we can be prepared>>

Tabitha Smith has posed:
<<I'm guessing I took to long hauling from the student dorms?>> Tabby seems apologetic, even standing there in her PJs. But maybe also a little relieved.

She does at least let a little ball of energy. Small being baseball sized to the elemental for being a good sport being caut between Kels and the X-Ladies. A decent little snack.

"So I guess we probably should just keep geared up for this and ass pull anything else?" she ponders in suggestion.

Tabby's not the master tactician so she's more happy to take directions for now. Booms in the astral plane can come later on.

Jean Grey has posed:
Even if she's been 'summoned' for naught, the astral-Jean doesn't seem troubled by the false alarm, nor by Kels' explanation.

<<There's no doubt that this thing is powerful, capable. So... we certainly don't want to stumble into it. Keep in contact - obviously several of us can do that very easily - and when you have the moment, we'll act from wherever we need be.>> As for piling on? <<It has certainly underestimated us, underestimated Charles. He might have sought to fight it alone, but the man's work has guaranteed he will always have people to help him. And very capable people, at that.>> There's a flicker of a smile on the astral figure's face, slightly more menacing an expression than the Jean-of-Flesh might normally reveal.

Then, less seriously, the construct glances around, expression somewhat more wide-eyed. <<So do you really need me there, or can I get back to my bath?>> The Jacuzzi strikes again!

Charles Xavier has posed:
"It's all some form of improv, isn't it, Tabby?" asks the elemental to Tabitha with a perhaps oddly encouraging shift to be positive to her. Perhaps he's fond of Tabby. While it absorbs the energy, doesn't grow much. It's staying at a low, barely-there connection.

"I look forward to actually meeting this 'Charles'," Kels comments, thoughtful, as Jean describes Charles' edge against the Shadow King.

"...If I don't contact by ... let's say your Friday, assume I've been compromised," Kels adds. With that, the mage terminates the connection, at least to where there isn't anything obviously active. The tiny spiderweb thin magic is still there, but that's all.

Emma Frost has posed:
Emma Frost would go to lean back and give a nod <<That's good. Thank you Kels.>> She would rub over at her temples then and close her eyes, "Do you think that there's anyone else we should try and call in for this then Jean? You're the one with the rolodex full of favors after all and that networks the most." Emma would quip. "I'm relatively sure that Betsy can handle anything directly or indirectly, so I can be onhand for fire support."

Tabitha Smith has posed:
With Kels and the elemental closing the mystical conference call Tabitha smiles and shrugs her shoulders. "Unlike improv, there is a chance there's a 'No'. She points out and lets out a sigh.

<<I swear we should just put a tub on wheels for you Jean. Be just like the Professor. Only naked, wet, hot, and probably pruny.>> she suggests to the redheaded headmistress.

More openly to the rest of the women she chuckles. <<Guess we're really going to need those drinks on Saturday. I was going to be putting up a line volley ball nets up over the pool for the slip and slide ramp I'm setting up. Maybe I should do that down at the lake but you guys are all no powers where people can see us and I bet I could get some good distance with a boom rocket.>> she tangents a little.

Back to the subject at hand Tabby listens or tries too keep her attention at the real stuff. "Don't we have like ninety percent of the telepathic oomph on the planet living here?" she reminds. "We got like an army ready to throw down. Keeping kids out of harms way is one thing but you point out the guy that have a lot of us a home and family needs help. It'll be a stampede of volunteers!"

Jean Grey has posed:
<<There are other telepaths at the school or in our 'extended family,' even one or two as powerful as you or I,>> Jean answers Emma, briefly 'fading' as perhaps her mind focuses less here, and more on these many possibilities. <<Although none are really as well trained, and some have graduated or otherwise moved on, where enlisting them might pose a little trouble. But if all else fails, if we truly need more backup? We can always reach out.>> And with how she says that last it, a process somewhat grander than a simple psychic telephone tree is suggested; a symphony of minds, if they reached out far enough.

<<But I don't know that it's really numbers, or power that is the sole concern. Charles has fought this thing fairly well to a standstill, which gives us a rough benchmark. And I'm not being glib when I say people tend to underestimate him. I have no doubt he can muster some inner reserve for whatever final struggle. Combined even with the three of us?>> She turns to Emma, and to Betsy.... and then to drive home the point, her flaming mane glows brighter. Maybe it's _four_ of them. And Tabitha seems to hit it, too. <<By any sane measure of raw power, that's -overkill-. I'm more concerned with the intangibles, with what it might do that isn't just meeting us head on. Kels said that this foe is crafty, and I sensed the same thing when I briefly contacted it. So we need to be on our top game, be ready to deal with the unforseen.>>

The flames flicker away then, dying down, and then the woman beneath them begins to fade as well. <<Why wheel it around when I can do everything long-distance? I'm going to head back, but in the morning, I'll make some calls and see if there's anyone else who wants to tag in.>>

Emma Frost has posed:
Emma Frost would nod over at Jean <<That's part of my worries myself. That for all the power we can throw at it.. This thing is still an ancient entity ofe xtreme power and skill we know precious little about. In any case, I believe the phrase is 'quantity has a quality all it's own'. I'd rahter we have enough assets to throwa t it to multitask and cover eventualities in case of catastrophe than not.>> She would go to fold her hands together over as the group would consider over.

<<And I'm worried what if we find the thing has merged with Charles to some degree and has the use of his powers and abilities. In which case it's all of us versus them. I'd rather have as much available on call for emergency's sake>> But ultimately this is just her preference. Jean's still the one that knows Charles and what he's capable of by the most.

<<Among all of us I feel that we have the most depth of cunning and experience. And it can't hurt to sometimes recruit outside our own little cadre.>>

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Tabby still keeps her focus on the matter at hand but she does let the image of Jean taking a wheelchair hot tub over a dirt track and getting air and hang time or is it just a jump in slow motion drift into the mind link.

<<I bet the combination of numbers and everyone with their own tricks and talents working in concert could throw most minds for a loop. I mean think of all the ways to get something through a real wall. No one has perfect psychic defenses.>> she points out with a smile. <<Shadow King will have someway we can get at him. And all we need is that one tiny opening cracked then BOOM!>> she puts the mental image of a shadowy and overweight man with a Burger King cardboard crown on his head exploding.