5755/Nights of Presents Past

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Nights of Presents Past
Date of Scene: 27 March 2021
Location: Kassandra's Room
Synopsis: Karma infiltrates the dream-space of the lightly napping Kassandra, meeting her mental guardians and placing her at ease, as well as guiding her to untroubled sleep. Nobody dies - this time!
Cast of Characters: Kassandra Pagonis, Xi'An Coy Manh

Kassandra Pagonis has posed:
     Saturday after the first week of school for Kassandra was spent doing the things that she hadn't been able to do during the week, like sleep late, take showers that lasted more than ten minutes, and snack throughout the day on things that might not be considered entirely healthy. Some time was spent in the kitchen, too, making shrimp and oyster po'boys and a vinegar slaw from various things found around the kitchen and a quick trip to the local market for fresh stuff that happened to be swimming around that morning. And, instead of staying up late and going out, or watching movies in the Rec room, or doing her brisket (that's next week!), she decided to head up to bed early, slipping into her solitary room a little after seven, closing the door, and climbing into bed where, for a time, she slept dreamlessly. After a bit, though, that muscle relaxed and her power started to slowly blossom, the field of past centered on her bed slowly drifting past the door of her room where a passerby suddenly walked into it.

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
Shan had travelled through the kitchen earlier in the day and had sampled a sliver of po-boy and some of the slaw. There had been brief and cheerful conversation, and then she had gone up to nap and do other things. Because...

It is around eight-thirty when the word gets to her. Striatrixie, two doors down from where Kassandra is bunking down, had passed word to Tripod, and Tripod is on the library crew and so she went down the hall to alert Shan--

-- or perhaps more accurately, Karma.

"So it's just past the light here?" Karma asks the others.

"Yeah," says Striatrixie, scratching at her neck's seam lines. "Yeah, I... uh..."

"It doesn't look like anything," says Tripod, sitting improbably on her invisible third leg in the middle of the hallway. "Are you sure you didn't-"

"Hush," Karma says. "I'm going to go inside. If I disappear or if anything strange happens, I will try to signal you. And that is when you will need to go to the Headmistress."

"But I really think it's going to be okay," Karma concludes, before stepping into the indicated zone -- pressing her back against the wall and sitting down into a lotus position, squirming herself with a glance to Trixie, who gives her a thumbs up once she reaches the right space on the carpeting.

She gives the two students a thumbs up, leans back, and closes her eyes. Closes her eyes and listens, for this is a subtle thing - reaching to locate a dreamer without disturbing the dream.

Kassandra Pagonis has posed:
     Helpfully, at some point, someone put a shoe in the middle of the hall, right about where the phenomenon begins in order to keep people from accidentally wandering into it. There's actually enough space to get past in single file without hitting the edge, which is helpful if you happen to live in one of the rooms past Kassandra's. The students are taking this fairly well, to be truthful, a couple of the younger ones peering around the corner to see what's going on as Xi'an settles down in front of the door, right in the outside radius of the phenomenon.

From outside, it appears that Karma is simply sitting in her lotus position with her back against the door, immobile, but inside that diameter, vision and sound begin to fade, replaced by a void that stretches on infinitely into the distance. There is light but only enough to illuminate the self. Clothes remain where they are, but the world around? invisible. Undetectable. It might as well not even be there. And then, from the distance, a sound. A glimmer of light as something rushes towards the seated Karma, streaks of light coalescing around her until she's sitting...in the hall except now? Now the sun is bright and high in the sky. Students pass in cheerful conversation, dressed in the styles of the 70's, with bell bottoms and one guy in a leisure suit that, at the time, was super groovy. They move as if nothing is amiss, actually passing /through/ Karma in an unsettling way. It's almost as if they are being projected into reality as ghosts.

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
Hello darkness, my old friend.

Shan lets herself shift. Her T-shirt and gym shorts remain where they are. She feels a brief pulse of pain in her leg but that happens in moments like this a lot. It's gotten better. She reviews herself inwardly. If she is trapped -- yes; Chevonne should grab me. Her 'third arm' is a telekinetic shape. She could make it quick.

She drifts... and then there is sound. Light. It's coming upon her with a screaming flurry and then--

-- Groovy.

Someone walks through/over Karma and her lips purse for a moment. 'Ah, yes,' Karma thinks to herself. 'This power... it's more like a hologram or a recording than the real thing. Still, I should get up carefully...'

She does not rise with her body but with her mind, but the shape still resembles her own. She turns her head to look towards the room that, in ordinary time, should hold Kassandra; if needs be, she opens the door, or even slides her head through, a la Shadowcat.

'I wonder if she is reacting to the building itself,' Karma thinks. 'Was this a school then? None of us were alive there, were we? Even the Professor would have been a child... I suppose Wolverine?' She still does not project her thoughts outside of her own mind, observing the ghosts without intervention.

Kassandra Pagonis has posed:
     The scene repeats, occasionally, like it's on a record that's skipping back to the place it was. A boy moves around the corner to talk to a super swingin' girl in a rainbow-dyed halter top and short shorts, with knee-high boots, a few pass through Karma, and then suddenly, a boy moves around a corner again to talk to a super swingin' girl. About ten seconds of 'tape,' give or take, is broadcast before it repeats. Disconcerning if you're not expecting it, but once you realize what's happening, it gets a little easier to adjust ones perception to match.

The choice of using a spiritual version of herself to explore is a wise one. In the event she decided to stand and enter the room, she'd simply be stuck in place, trying to move through a door that existed in reality but didn't exist in a way she could perceive. The students watching would also see her standing and walking, bashing into the door, getting no closer to her goal. Slipping through the door reveals a fairly standard dorm room, decorated with posters of Led Zepplin and Rush. Apparently the girl that called this place home in the 70's was /really/ into Prog Rock. And there, on the bedspread, still asleep, is Kassandra, thankfully dressed in pajamas that are more modern than the ones heaped in a pile near the door, with a sleep mask around her eyes.

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
Karma slides through the door, and she brings herself upright. (If Kassandra should look, this spiritual image of Karma is simple: recognizably her, with a hairband of silver and a body-covering mantle, suggesting a nun's habit without committing.)

(But of course, one rarely looks when asleep.)

She takes a moment to drink in the room. The 1970s are not a historical period dear to her heart; but she does recognize the posters, and perhaps the music. And she also recognizes-- Kassandra!

The first thing Karma does is-- no; the first thing she does is think, long enough for a full loop of the strange snippet of memory outside to happen. In a conversation this would be twice as long as it takes for a pause to become awkward, or segue into the comforting silence of companionability. She has nobody here to talk to, though.

And so... The *second* thing Karma does is carefully walk round the bed, into the zone of effect, and crouch down to see if Kassandra is overlapping 'someone'.

And after that, the *third* thing she does is move back over to set down in a different-facing comfortable lotus-seat near the foot of the bed. The psychic shadow of Karma reaches up to place a hand on top of one of Kassandra's, as she reaches deeper - past the memory and towards the dream.

'I hope my body isn't drooling or anything,' Karma thinks. 'Chevonne wouldn't take such a photo, but I am not sure about Patricia.'

Kassandra Pagonis has posed:
The room does have another person in it. A girl, probably sixteen, sitting at the desk reading her homework. A page turns, something is scribbled down, and then it happens again. Her ten seconds are study which, to be fair, is a good example that should be shared with the rest of the school but probably won't be. An image of commitment that Kassandra drew from the ether in the room. The sleeping form isn't overlapping anyone, or even making a dent in the sheets, the corners hospital-tight, immobile when the sleeper shifts to lay on her back, a soft smacking of her lips happening before she slips into sleep again.

The spirit contacting the physical doesn't cause Kassandra to move, or startle, or wake, or shift, but instead, does exactly as intended which, to be fair, is probably not how either of them might have guessed this evening would have ended up. Karma is drawn into a dream. A dream of fields and bright sunshine and wind through the trees on the border. A dream of peace, and home, and of before. Before all of the mutant ability. Before running. Before everything.

     "It's beautiful, isn't it?" a voice can be heard from the base of one of the trees, Kassandra's dreaming Avatar sitting there, just overlooking the scene, letting it play out as if nothing were out of place having a visitor.

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
Sunny fields. Trees. Wind through a vast open space. Karma can all but smell the sun on earth she does not know; but the memory is vivid.

"It is," she says, as the wind tugs at the hem of her mantle.

Karma is silent for two full rotations of the vision outside. Respect, perhaps; or maybe she simply reads the room.

"I'm sorry to intrude," Karma says. "Nothing is wrong - there is no danger. But it has happened, and so I thought that I should take a look."

"Is this where you grew up?"

Kassandra Pagonis has posed:
     Here, in the dream, time moves at a sedate pace, with no repeats that can easily be ascertained. Sure, sometimes a leaf may pop back into place where it had once moved on the breeze, but this? This is a peaceful place that Kassandra had kept close to herself. A sanctuary, of sorts, where she retreated when things got a little too interesting. A happy memory that she could cling to, build upon, and refuge in when necessary.

     The Kassandra sitting at the base of the tree is dressed simply in shorts and a light t-shirt, her feet bare. She's a few years younger, too, her hair long, blowing in the breeze from the south. "It is where she grew up, yes." The Avatar says softly. "If you look there..." One slim arm extends to point in the distance to a white pier and beam house where a small girl runs out of the back door, chased by an older brother. "You'll see her relaxing. Remembering."

The avatar's head turns to look towards Karma for a good minute before she speaks again. "She's projecting again, isn't she."

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
Where *SHE* grew up.

'Now we are getting somewhere,' Karma thinks to herself. Her eyes flick towards the Avatar, and then towards the Kassandra in the distance, chased. Karma smiles, memories of a similar chord stirring within her.

But they do not leave her mind. This is the discipline she has had to learn.

"Yes," Karma says. "It went into the hallway a little bit; Patricia stumbled into it. She is well enough; she went to pieces, but she pulled herself back together in nothing flat."

"You protect her?" Karma asks the Avatar, still watching the younger Kassandra.

Kassandra Pagonis has posed:
"Mmm." the Avatar says, her mouth twisting into a small frown. "Please let...Patricia, was it?" She glances up to clarify before continuing. "Please give her our deepest apologies. It's something we're trying to work on as best we can, but it's difficult in the best of times." the Avatar watches Kassandra for a moment, squealing as her brother pushes her on a tire swing made of chain and brackets in the entrance of a barn. "Even now, she's still so young. So unrefined. She's got ability, and willpower, but she's so unsure of herself, so...I let her play when she comes here. She needs it, even now."

"I protect her, yes. When she sleeps. Some of the memories that she sees are quite challenging. Frightening. Some are even horrifying. I try to give her an escape and keep people from disturbing her." A glance to Karma. "It's why we met here, instead of at the house."

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
"I will do so," Karma says, with a dip of her head.


"Is she dead?" Striatrixie, aka Patricia, says.

"She's meditating, or something," Chevonne answers, looking at her phone. "It's been like five minutes, you just bored or what?"


"I understand," Karma says, with another grave nod of her head. The southern sunshine glints on her implausible hairband as she turns her head to watch the tire swing. "It is good to know your boundaries, and to keep them, too."

'I sound like a self-help video,' Shan thinks. 'And yet it isn't certain who this is. I doubt it is some exterior force like HIM. But is this an alternate self? A dream-guardian alone? If it is a facet of her powers, this could be perilous. But... in for a penny, in for a pound, that's how it goes.'

"Memories are hard to escape," Karma says. "In time, she shall have to confront them - on her terms or on the terms of Reality, which is an uncaring mistress. That time need not be now, of course. Nor even soon. She already faced so much, and has moved to a place of generosity and provision! I know the feeling."

"Is this where she made the brisket for the first time?" Karma asks the Avatar. "I would like to see it. It took all my will not to seize all of the meat and devour it there, like Cronus of old."

Kassandra Pagonis has posed:
     "She has a way to suppress them entirely, if she can discover how it works." The Avatar says softly, Kassandra on the swing disappearing into the barn and then back out as she lept from the hayloft with the swing between her legs, sailing out in an arc that almost looks like she's going to fly into the horizon. "Her life could be very interesting were she able to do everything she's capable of. Perhaps in this place, with generosity and provision and, most importantly, training, she'll be able to grasp a tenth of her capability." She shrugs. "Then I won't be needed anymore."

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
"A tenth?" Karma says.

"You share her fears," Karma continues. "I can tell, for you are restraining your dreams of scope."

Karma watches the swing rise up and fly out forever. "I cannot speak of what depths of potentials rest within her. You know that better than I; but there may be depths that you yourself cannot see. Breadth, reach, scope, power... and of course, underlying them all, control... this is what this school teaches, more than the mere facts of history and science and French grammar. Such things are important to be a person of culture, but they are not what it means to be a mutant."

"At a mere glance - coming only from what I see here, what I have read - Kassandra could crack open the nut of history itself. The hidden face of the past, the things that we glimpse only from their echoes and their remnants. Mysteries that have sat like fish-hooks in the heart of victims, crimes that have screamed for justice. She could pluck them from a tree like so much ripe fruit."

"This is the vista that it is within her grasp to open. I can only hope - for my honor and those of my peers, my brothers and sisters - that we will teach her to stand and to walk, and to know which way to go, for in time there will come a space where we could not guide her. But even if that day should come, I hope we will be there to support her if she should ever be in need."

Karma breathes out, despite being a dream-projection of a telepathic talent. Her hands clap together in front of her once, and she laughs. "But... this is a question for ten years from now. You say that there is a way, for her power to rest easily when she herself rests, but that she must discover it?"

Kassandra Pagonis has posed:
"Given enough time, Kassandra could discover how the universe was born." is all the Avatar says, rising to her feet and turning to face Karma, studying the woman impassively, her eyes black with no whites, the pupils expanded to fill her field of vision. "I do share her fears, for I am the one who defends her from them. I also restrain her. Hold her back. Were she to sleep without my hand on the rudder,  her ability would easily reach for kilometers. Across oceans. She could grow entangled in the past and never wake. She could ensnare others in the vision and make it where they could not understand which reality they came from. She could excise memories. Overwrite personalities with those from the past. Given enough time...." The Avatar takes a step back, towards the tree, its heel and back leg vanishing into the oak. "A beginning is a very delicate thing. It sets the tone for so much that is built upon it." Another step back and the Avatar's waist and hips merge with the tree.

"There is a way for her to learn this. There. In the house. Perhaps with your guidance, dream walker, she will be able to sleep soundly for the first time in years."

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
The Avatar speaks the truth - the vision of potential. She is not a barrier or a clinging terror, but a governor; a restrainer.

Karma is okay with that. She gazes at the Avatar as it begins to lose its human seeming, or perhaps its disguise. ('Poop,' Shan thinks. 'I thought maybe the pep talk would work on its own. Should I call for...? No, not when it is so near.')

"Then... I shall do what I can. I thank you for your courtesy. I bid you a good night."

With this, Karma turns to walk towards the house. Along the way, her seeming's attire changes, the vaguely cryptic and ghostlike attire turning into a gray T-shirt and a pair of loose-cut jeans. The silver headband stays, resting neatly, shining in the light of memory.

At the house, she tries the door; and if it is locked, then she tries the bell.

Kassandra Pagonis has posed:
"I will be watching." The Avatar says simply as it merges with the tree, the wood flowing like water to integrate the Avatar with itself, the world shivering S she vanishes as if a stone were thrown in to splash through the thin veneer of reality, leaving Karma alone. "With time, I will be less needed, but until that day, you only have to come here and call." and with that, the Avatar is gone.

     The trip to the house across well-manicured pasture takes little time, the grass calf high and lush from the rainstorms that frequent Texas at this time of year. The door to the house is unlocked, opening on one squeaky hinge that acts almost like a doorbell itself, and upstairs, footsteps can be heard running around, pounding down the stairs. A little brunette peers through the stretchers of the staircase at Karma, crouched down on the upstairs landing. "I don't know you." She says softly. "I've never seen you here before."

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
creak - step - scamper -

Karma looks at the child.

The true self? she wonders.

"Hello, ma petit," Shan says. "Please excuse me for coming in. I'm one of your neighbors; I thought I would say hello." She turns herself, making her spiritual-face relax, to seem nonthreatening. She smiles.

"My name is Shan," she continues. "Is everything alright?"

Kassandra Pagonis has posed:
     "Me an' Billy Ray were playin' with the swing in the barn, but he had to go to the gym and work out. So I came up to play the Nintendo. Super Mario Brothers 2 is my favorite, 'cause you get to play as Princess Peach." The little girl stands up a little, peeking over the railing, dressed in, well, a dress. Yellow as the sun in the morning, a tooth missing in the front. Probably eight or so judging from her height and the tooth.

Her innocence, or the way she pictured it, before it was taken from her at the point of a needle.


Kassandra turns in the bed, rolling to her side, the bubble contracting a little, Xi'an's feet and knees out of it right now.

"Yes, I'm bored. How could you tell? She's just sitting there. This is boring." Patricia says, leaning against the wall. "Should we go tell someone?"

"Nah, don't worry. It's been like six minutes now. You're good." Chevonne replies, looking up from her phone. "We'll give them a few more minutes to see if anything shakes loose."


"I'm Kass." the little girl stands fully now, peering down from her vantage point. "Everything's okay. It's always nice, the refrigerator always has my favorites, and it's summer. It's a beautiful day."

Except for the rumble of thunder in the distance.

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
"Oh really! Is it the one with the go-karts?" asks Shan, eyes going wide. (This is only somewhat mendacious. She did not play video games until she was at Xavier's, although Nga managed to keep a battered Game Boy Advance for a full two weeks before losing it.)

She feels a twinge in her feet. Weird.

Aloud, though, she says: "That's good. I can tell you're keeping things in order, just looking around... it's beautiful here." Karma folds her arms, loosely, nodding once.

Thunder is rumbling.

'This is a memory of safety and shelter,' Karma muses inwardly. 'That sound can be nothing good. Perhaps it is only part of the set - in which case it is neutral. But the guardian said that there is a secret here. What was it?'

"Oh -- it sounds like it might rain. Is there anything out in the yard?" Karma asks, eyes turning back up to the high-perched princess-aspirant. "I would be glad to sit up with you until Billy Ray returns, if you would like."

('I think this is the longest conversation I have ever had with an eight year old that did not involve shouting about the bathroom,' Karma thinks to herself. 'This training has had many effects...')

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
(Children, have you considered eating Hostess Pies? This is a filler pose entirely to keep the log nicely open.)

Kassandra Pagonis has posed:
"Nah, we ain't got that one yet. We'll go into town and visit the store and see if they got one used or somethin'." Conversational English in Texas is a thing, but with a lot more contractions and euphamisms than might be provided in proper company. The little girl comes down to the landing, sitting on the stairs, the large picture window in front of her, giving her a vantage point where she can see, but can't be seen exactly. A spot she's occupied many times before, judging from the way the carpet's been worn down around that step.

A flash of lightning flickers, and a few seconds later, the thunder outside shakes the house with a resounding boom. The little girl takes a soft breath and draws her feet up to her chest, staring at the door. "Ain't nothin' in the yard. Jus' the yard. Jus' the limits she gives me. Jus' the boat." And with that, she melts into the home, vanishing into nothingness.

Dreams are rather odd, it seems. And a boat?

If Karma were to look outside, the tall grass parts around the prow of a approaching three-masted sailing ship that appears to be composed of splashes of oil paint and graffiti - a little girl's image of a sailing ship. Of freedom.

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
It is a peculiar experience. The telepathic connection typically overcomes the barrier of languages - and Shan has the privilege of knowing three languages (or four, if you count Madripoor argot as its own language) without the benefit of telepathy. But this is coming to her, as it were, through her ears, not through her mind.

Shan claps her knees -- and then there's a BOOM.

And revelatory words.

Karma tightens her jaw as the small girl disappears. It is a representation, she knows; a manifestation of part of Kassandra's mentality, made of Kassandra's memories and imaginations seasoned, perhaps, with her own -- how could she know? Karma's head turns and she sees--

A ship.

For Karma, ships are not happy things, but she can recognize the beauty of the thing; and the sails make it lack portent, too. A retro-memory, a vision of memories and hopes that once were and might one day be again. She steps up, to set herself in the seat the child had held, and watches the ship. Some of her deliberately gentle mien fades, though it just gives her that vaguely nunly mantle atop her jeans and shirt. A warding against the prospect of rain.

"I wonder," Karma muses aloud, and experimentally, "where it is that She can be found."

Kassandra Pagonis has posed:
The ship's anchor drops into...through the ground with a splash, the chain going taut, the grass flying hither and yon, blowing away on the wind, the ship dragging to a stop in front of the porch as if it were meant to be there and, really, it is. Every coin has two sides, and from the peaceful home that's in the plain of Texas it changes to...this.

The rain starts, slowly at first, then faster, falling in sheets that melt the house around Xi'an as if it were made of sugar and dreams, leaving her sitting on the end of a well-maintained dock on the shore of a stormy sea, sitting in the one dry spot sheilded from the weather, the carpet still there, a memory of what came before. The ship bobs there on the unmown lawn of grass - that part apparently unchanging - while a face peers out from the deck, down at the woman sitting there. "You're not her!" the voice calls out. "I was hoping she finally decided to come with me."

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
The world melts, and changes. The scent of the sea. The scent of the rain. Ah, are they so different? Was Texas itself not once a sea? Shan remembers something like that from the geology courses. Her eyes close for a moment, at least in imagination, and then they reopen. Her hands fold on her knee.

It feels hard beneath her grasp. Oh, she thinks. I suppose I accepted it.

"Sorry to disappoint," Karma replies, her tone sunny enough for everything. "I am a new neighbor; I wondered what was happening out here, and so I thought that I would come, and take a look." (And perhaps, Shan thinks, heal what may be wounded.)

"Your ship is lovely," Karma continues, rising from her seat. (Should I ask to board? ... No; perhaps that would be breaching a boundary. That is such an obvious one, isn't it? From ship to shore?)

Kassandra Pagonis has posed:
"If you can get the girl to come along, you're more than welcome." The voice calls. "She's being held back. Her guardian is preventing her from gaining her purpose. To get revenge on those who drove her from this place. I..." A face becomes visible on the bow of the ship, peering down at Xi'an on her covered seat. "I can provide her with what she needs."

Thunder crashes, the gangplank tumbling down, thudding to the dock, a pirate - A Kassandra pirate - stepping down halfway, with a sword, a pistol, and a hat. The whole nine yards.

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
Karma raises a hand. "If I may," she says, "I would ask you to hold, for a moment."

"I wish to take issue with something that you have said," Karma continues, clasping her hands even as her wimple-like hood rustles in the breeze of the storm. "You say that the guardian keeps her from gaining her purpose. To, to get revenge. Yes? That is what you feel that her purpose should be?"

"I wish only to understand," Karma says, "for you could say that she is my sister, if soi-distant; and revenge is not an easy or a simple thing. What is it that you would give her, in lieu of games and dreams and studies?"

Kassandra Pagonis has posed:
The Pirate pauses at the base of the gangplank, unable, or unwilling, to step off the worn wooden step to the grassy land below. It's hard for The Pirate to say where the land begins and the water stops, the woman swaying, holding on to a rope with one hand, the other hand on her well-worn scimitar, gazing at Karma with a baleful expression.

"What other reason would she have than Revenge? She was forced from her home. She was captured and stripped like an animal. Drugged. Forced to perform, her gift used to spread sickness to those unable to fight against it. She was made a thing to fear." The Pirate straightens, then peers closely at Karma. "Why wouldn't she want revenge for that?"

"I would give her power." The pirate says simply. "Give her a place to stand where she could look down on those who thought her lesser and show her that, no, you are wrong!"

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
(God in Heaven, Shan thinks. What sort of misery...?)

Karma's head tilts forwards. Her eyes, veiled by a lidding downcast gaze, are filled with sorrow and with thought for a moment. She does not voice the reflex in her stomach, because that reflex is hard - cruel - crushing. It reminds her of the polychrome vice-grip of her power when she exercises it in its full measure. The strange and curious satisfaction it brings.

And yet:

"To want it? Of course. That is as natural as breathing."

"To pursue it?"

"When you pursue revenge," Karma says, "there is a point that you cross and beyond that point you have simply become a creature of your tormenters. Where before they defined you by the hurts they inflicted, now they define you by the hurts of the past. Where once they commanded you, now you seek them. It is a place where it is all too easy to destroy yourself - to become other than yourself, to become less than you could have been, to choose paths that take you far away from all else that you crave for - in order to seek that revenge."

"If you mean, though, that the best revenge is 'living well' -- that she should take her revenge by proof of her own life, not by seeking to avenge them and nothing else -- then perhaps, madame, our opinions do not stand so far apart."

"But these are decisions that Kassandra must make," Karma continues. "All that I can do is seek to understand what is happening, and perhaps, to help her to find control. So that if she should choose to wreak her revenge... it shall be her choice, and her choice alone."

"Now that I have given my sermon," Karma says, with a trace of humor, "May I ask - to where does your ship sail?"

Kassandra Pagonis has posed:
Kassandra's arrival was sudden, and the stories shared were simple. 'Found on the streets' was a common explanation, as was 'runaway from a bad situation' with nothing further given. If Xi'an were to dig deeper, they'd find the story of Kassandra's rescue from a drug-induced stupor, where her ability was used to entertain, to distribute a drug formed from her tears, to addict those lost in the memory by fooling them into trying items laced with that substance. Addicting them to her, even though she had no part in it. Taking her sorrow. Taking her pain for their pleasure, leaving her unsure of what, if anything was going into her veins.

The world wavers, the sea shivering around the ship, falling away into a black void beneath that stretches into infinity, the Pirate standing there, staring at Karma. "She was not given a choice. They took from her. An eye for an eye. They nearly killed her. Twice! Putting that stuff into her! She...she..." The Pirate woman starts to plead, almost, leaning towards Karma. "Give her to me. Just...just for a moment. WE would be complete and we could simply become what we were supposed to become. A whole, not this shattered image in her mind."

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
The sea sways and threatens to dissipate. It is a beautiful thing and it is threatening to collapse. Part of Shan feels guilt - it feels hateful to harm beauty, and it is a beautiful vision here, even in the storm.

More of her thinks of children, and she answers the pirate:

"I will not."

"I do not say this to be cruel... for I think that you are right, that you must come together, and be as one, or at least in communication."

"But it is not mine to give anyone to anyone else, for people are not things. If I were to 'give' her to you, or to 'compel' some portion of you... I would do the same as those who used you. I might as well ask my friend to throw me to Hell direct and save God the trouble."

Karma breathes out. (That felt weird, Karma thinks. It was like I was really preaching.) She raises her head to meet the pirate woman's eyes. "But I will call to her. In the end you must reconcile, one to another. I think that she fears you. Or perhaps it I who does."

And with this, Shan --

-- how do I do this, Shan thinks to herself. It is a telepathic calling but -- though she speaks to the girl who she frames already with a staircase and dreams of a pink-dressed princess of a mushroom kingdom -- Shan cannot help but wonder: I am *here* - I am already en rapport with her. And perhaps we are close to an edge of something, beyond which is...

... nothing good, no doubt.

What Shan calls out is gentle, though, sisterly. 'She wishes to speak to you. I can protect you if you wish it. But if you do not wish it, then that is also alright.'

Kassandra Pagonis has posed:
A thick oak tree appears suddenly. One second, it is not there, the next, the meadow grows, the tree appears, leaves shivering, and the young protector steps forth from the trunk, watching the darkness of her soul warily, watching Karma standing there. And then, a door - specifically, the front door of the house, appears, opening on badly oiled hinges, squeaking, the younger Kassandra peering out at the gathered trio. Karma, the Pirate, and The Avatar.


"Come on, man. It's been like a minute. She's just sitting there...hey, hey. Go get your camera. I think she's starting to drool!" Kassandra's ability surges slightly, the bubble encompassing Xi'an fully now, coalescing around her, around them both, in the darkness of the room.


The three selves stare at each other, looking back and forth. The Fighter, the Avatar, and the Child and then, the smallest speaks up, The Avatar moving smoothly between her and the Pirate as she does. "What do you want?"

"To give you power. To get you free from this place." The Pirate says. "To sail the seas of freedom. To take you home to your family."

The Avatar looks to Karma for a moment, then to the Pirate. This isn't something she wanted to have happen just yet but, alas, it is here and there's no stopping it. "She has a home now, in this place, with her people. It may not be here..." She extends a hand the image of Kassandra's home fading into existence. "She has a new set of friends. A new family, of those who know her pain. Who experienced what she experienced. WHo saved her and can help her."

Seems Karma has an advocate.

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:

Karma turns her eyes towards the tree. Then the door. And then she straightens, and there is a faint tingle around her -- and a shimmering ghost of a halo, stochastically trembling like the living lights of a soundboard, appears around her head.

It is, here, only a proof of power -


Striatrixie pauses, and then lowers her phone and begins to efficiently go through the motions of changing her access code. She speaks with a voice not her own - the liquid dusting of a French accent clear in crisp language. "It's going alright, and I see that you waited. Please, do not be afraid. I'm going to be a little while longer."

Inside of the shadowed area, there is that self-same halo - normally faint, the kind of thing you see only if you're looking intently or know what you want, a kirlian manifestation of psionic might.

Then it fades. (This is important because Shan actually is kind of drooling a little.)



Karma remains still, listening.

But it is not that this pirate soul is wrong, Karma thinks. Her motivations are understandable. I know only the half of it, but have I not drunk my share of bitterness? Have I not seen death and suffering, by others and by cruel fate? And yet, even so.

"Yes," Karma says. "We know this pain; in its kind, if not in every moment. In the end, we all walk or sail alone, but there is company here, and guidance, and protection." She addresses the Child, in specific, and the collection, in general. "If you seek others - or to find the justice that your heart cries for - you will also find aid, here, with that. In the shelter of one dream, a thousand-fold more bloom. There is no reason to not seek to be free; or to journey the world."

"But I know that this is difficult to swallow on faith," Karma says. "If you would ask me questions -- anything -- speak and I will answer with honesty."

Kassandra Pagonis has posed:
"You are here, speaking to us. That is more than anyone has done so far." The Avatar says from her spot by the tree, standing tall and straight on the shore, the waves washing over her bare feet while the Girl watches from her spot behind the door. "It's the first time here, in the dream." The Girl speaks up, stepping from behind the door. "Everybody talks to me. Everybody's super friendly out there in the real world. I mea, maybe we could give them..."

"NO!" The Pirate stomps her foot, a rumbling echo, a crash of thunder, a GIANT wave swelling in the background, ready to crash down on the others, threatening to wash them away into the infinite blackness surrounding them. "We've trusted before. OUr friends shunned us when we were shown to have powers. They burned down the building we were in as a warning. And when we ran, the man stole our backpack and all our clothes! The woman stole our phone! Then when we found that couple who were going to take us somewhere safe, they gave us the needle. We could hear them..." The Pirate steps off the gangplank to the shore, teh ship behind her bursting like a bubble. "Plotting to sell us. Five thousand dollars. Pity she isn't blonde, they said. Wonder if she's a virgin, we get a premium for that. And then she slept and they discovered she could show the past and used her again and again, like a toy." The Pirate looms, the wave boiling behind her, slick and black as night. "Why should we trust you, when we've been failed so many times.?

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
The brave, the pirate, she refuses. The seas rise. The darkness. Chaos, perhaps rage.

Karma's hands clasp together.

"I do not know," she says. "Perhaps you have no reason to do so. I am, myself, but a reed, swaying in the wind."

"If you would like, I will show you why it is that I trust them, however. And why it is that I am coming all this way to bother you, and to say that they have been worthy of my trust. Will you allow me a space, to show you such things? It is alright if you would prefer that I speak aloud, but, ehn," Karma spreads one hand to the side, "there are limits to what can be said."

Kassandra Pagonis has posed:
"Let her talk." The Avatar says to the Pirate, taking another step closer towards the opposite side of the coin, the water surrounding her ankles still, like a mountain pool unburdened by wind or falling leaves. "She may give us the answer we seek. She may allow us to gain a semblance of peace. This is all your doing, you know....these promises of freedom and power."

The Pirate grumbles and glowers, but stands down, straightening, and the Girl steps forth to listen. The Avatar turns to face Karma, her hands clasped lightly in front of her waist. "YOu have the floor. Do what you must."

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
Karma reaches up and seems to take off the halo of violet around her head. "Thank you," Karma says.

She stretches the halo out, to form a mirror, or a screen. She says to the Girl, "If you wish to close your eyes, I will explain. It may be disturbing, but I promise you the ending is not bad."

Having made her 'magic mirror', Karma lets it hover despite the wind, because it is a vision - a symbol to contain other symbols, not a real thing. She keeps a hand behind it -- and to gaze inside of its black surface is to see, hear, and feel.

"I came to this country a refugee." Shan there, younger, underweight, haggard. There are two children with her. Names come out, with filial love: Nga, Leong. The background suggests a Catholic church. "I fled Madripoor as my mother and I had fled Vietnam. My uncle is an evil man who sought the use of my ability. He had already convinced my brother."

"Two would serve better than one," Shan continues. Another person appears, obviously Shan's brother. Same age. Very comfortable. His eyes are cold, his mouth smirks. "So, Tran came for me. We struggled." The halo-visualizer appears over both of their heads.

Tran disappears.

"The Professor took me in. It was some time ago... He was kind." Shan again, less battered. Nga and Leong are significantly taller. Nga has a Game Boy, which she immediately throws off 'screen' with a faint splash.

"And then another person came for me." Shan alone. A shadow. There is a twisting of the image; a bloating. Gazing at it suggests the feeling of eating too much, and a certain capering cruelty of joy. "In time... I was freed. I am not proud of what I had done. I would like to say that I was compelled. It is at least somewhat true."

"That ended. They knew everything, and -"

The Professor again. More people. Jean Grey. Kitty Pryde. Ororo Munroe. Sam Guthrie, Illyana and Piotr Rasputin, Roberto da Costa, more and more.

"- they saved me and then they helped me."

"It was not all joy and laughter." Illyana disappears with a wrenching pain. There is a sudden suggestion of a sharp prickling numbness in the left leg.

"But they were there. I was part of them. They saw every horror within me and they did not flinch. And I think that if another came for me... I think that they would fight for me. As I would for them."

The mirror/screen fades.

"And, even if you sought to leave us tomorrow morning -- for you."

Kassandra Pagonis has posed:
     The Girl approaches the circular mirrored display, lifting up on her toes to try and peer into it better, stepping back when the show begins. The Avatar watches, true, but studies Xi'an more, remaining silent as she tells her tale of coming to this place, considering what may be potential half-truths, ommissions, and the like, and finding none. Dreams are surprisingly prescient when it comes to such things and The Avatar might have been wary of attempts to trick, boondoggle, or browbeat Kassandra's body into obeying. Into choosing bondage instead of fighting against it. And The Pirate? The pirate walks back and forth on the shore, boots leaving muddy divots in the grass as she turns, pacing like a tiger in a cage.

     When the faces of people that Kassandra has met start appearing, though? The pirate slows and finally stops, opposite the Avatar who is standing to the east, Xi'an to the north, and the girl, the self, standing to the south. "So...you did things you were not proud of and they accepted you nontheless?

     "I think that is what she is telling us, yes." The Avatar says to the Pirate, looking to the girl after a moment, offering a hand, palm up, for the girl to take. "I feel we can trust her."

     The little girl takes the Avatar's hand, then looks to the Pirate, who's starting to look less fierce, less like she's wanting to spit black powder and flames at the slightest provocation. The rage built up in her seeping into the ground, blacks turning to grays now, the towering wave starting to slowly dwindle. "If we sleep." The pirate says, looking to the Avatar. "She will be on her own again. We will sleep and if we wake again, I do not know the form I will take. Or if you could bind me." This is said to Karma, ominously.

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
There is no mendacity in the revelation, save, perhaps, that there are details not set forth. But to share the entirety of Shan's life would be rather invasive - and besides the point. Like a film, one omits the irrelevant parts.

Please work, Shan prays to herself. Please. I don't want to have to beg Jean. I have to be able to do this side of things too.

Karma remains calm. She watches the others. The waves recede, the void seems to grow more luminous -- or at least, less black.

"Yes," Karma says. "When I could not forgive myself, they accepted me even so. With all of the difficulties and the challenges and obstacles, they did so nonetheless." Her lips quirk up in a smile. "Even when I had caused them harm -"

"I hope that you may sleep the sleep of the just, with your burdens discharged," Karma says. "And if you should rise again, I hope that Kassandra will astound you with how far she has grown. But I would not wish to bind you. For I look upon you, and I see guardians, not monsters, not agents of torment or guilt. You did not ask to be formed, did you? But then, none of us ask to be born."

Karma smiles despite that last line being a wee little bit morbid. "I would bid you, then -- sweet dreams?"

Kassandra Pagonis has posed:
The pirate's clothes shift and fade, the colors lessening until they're simple bleached white clothes with none of the pirate accoutrements that were there prior. They've fallen away, into the grass, into the sea, lost, melted away, the armor the SuperEgo formed for itself being disassembled into dreamstuff. She reaches for the girl, taking her hand, looking at Karma, then to the girl and finally to her alter ego, the Guardian, the Avatar, the Ego that protects the self. Three parts of the same whole, fractured. "We will be watching." she finally says, taking a shuffling step closer to the Self, so they're not stretched out so far around the round display.

"She will need your help." The Ego says finally, looking to the Superego, then to the Self. "She will need the help of the one with the white hair. the one with the red hair. To learn control. S...we are a torrent held back by willpower." The three begin to speak in the same voice, with the same tone, a strange sound coming from three sides. "The first is to get us to sleep without our powers working. We have tried, but when we sleep deeply, we lose control. It is embarrasing." Each one moves at the same time, shifting, a very Kassandra motion. "We have not slept well in months. It would be nice to dream something different again."

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
Karma thinks, for a moment, of the -- how many?-in-One; and she twists her display into the aura crown again, and holds it, as if it were jewels.

"If I exert my power upon her," Karma says, "then I can make her body sleep. And though I will be unfamiliar, I can also restrain *her* power. This is my own ability, and I do not use it lightly."

"I think that once she has found that path once, it will be easier to find again and again," Karma concludes. "May I have your permission?"

Kassandra Pagonis has posed:
Three. There are three in one, split apart by trauma and now slowly seeming to come back together, hesitantly. When each has tasted freedom, of a sort, it's perhaps difficult to want to give it back but, thankfully, the Avatar and the Pirate seem to understand that the Self needs them. They step closer, shoulder to shoulder to shoulder now, looking at Xi'an, the edges of their forms starting to blur and coalesce in rainbow patterns, little sparks of dream fading as they start to merge.

"You will help us sleep. Without binding us?" They look to each other, then back to Xi'an, clear worry on their expressions. For someone to have come here, in the dream, through the admittedly minor wards an untrained mind can build, is frightening to her but, like the protector she is, the Avatar speaks alone for just a moment. "You have my our permission." A slip of the tounge there as they merge in a burst of light, the void encompassing them, a star made of Kassandra curled in a fetal position, floating...

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
"Yes," Karma says. "My power is like grasping a ball - when the grasp is removed, the ball is unfettered."

(What exactly does Unfettered mean, anyway, Shan thinks to herself. I guess she's not going to call me out for my Word Power.)

"I will guide you to a deep, deep rest-- and then let go."

And then Shan--



Her brow knits. Then, as if realizing, steps forwards within the dream, and rests that aura like a gentle tiara atop the curled Kassandra's head.

THERE we go, Shan thinks.

The experience is itself like falling asleep. There is no memory of what happens when Karma possesses someone - though perhaps one day there will be. In either case, Karma does what she has done to no small number of wild animals, Purifier goons, and other riff-raff-- guide Kassandra's body into the state of deep, deep sleep, the restorative rest below the level of dreams itself, to let her rise naturally, when the natural cycles of brain should speak.

And with her other hand-- this one is simple. She is not going to be here for long, and so Shan does not worry about the parameters or the influences of Kassandra's mutant power. She simply--

/doesn't/ use it.

Inside of the dream, Karma adds one last little touch: To let the stars, or her memory of them seen from a place far from any natural light on a mission or other, come out at last. And then she lets herself draw backwards.

Kassandra Pagonis has posed:
     There's a soft sigh as Kassandra turns, stretching a little before collapsing back into deep, dream-filled sleep. Her power pulses once...twice...and then is gone, melting away like a dream made of ice and fog on a hot day.


Kassandra uncurls from her fetal position, the three becoming one, and then she speaks, somehow, before Xi'an's power takes control completely. "I will remember this. Thank you." And then, a soft murmur, a nod of her head. "You should go."

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
"Good night," says Karma, as she *really* goes backwards, and -

There is no real pit stop in the 70s this time and so it is more like she is drawing herself back into her body and

There she is again! There is the momentary scream of lingering involuntary hunger but it settles soon enough.

She breathes out with relief. Peace, she thinks, and she's not in the seventies any more.

"Did one of you push me over?" Shan asks, as she realizes she has come down leaning on her side in the middle of the hallway.