7386/Shi'ar: Into the Crystal

From Heroes Assemble MUSH
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Shi'ar: Into the Crystal
Date of Scene: 15 August 2021
Location: M'Kraan
Synopsis: The X-Men break some perfectly good space quarantine gear and finally make contact with the M'kraan crystal, sensing a disturbance caused by D'Ken's meddling. Once inside its impossible space, they feel as though they can almost reach the center of everything, only to be cast into a void filled with the greatest horrors of their own souls.
Cast of Characters: Jean Grey, John Stewart, Rogue, Xi'An Coy Manh, Tabitha Smith, Kitty Pryde, Illyana Rasputina, James Proudstar

Jean Grey has posed:
Last Issue...
Hersfter the attack on the Grey residence and Jean's apparent disappearance or destruction, the X-Men were left with few recourses. According to Lilandra, the only way they could stop whatever her brother was trying to do it in person, to travel to the planet M'Kraan and foil his plan to use the ancient artifact housed there.

Joined by the Green Lantern John Stewart, who had detected a flash of the Phoenix's power from space, and with Lilandra's instructions, Illyana Rasputina transported the X-Men across the vastness of space, to the Shi'ar's home galaxy over a billion light years distant. An unprecedented journey...

...to what turned out to be a most mysterious world.

M'Kraan was once the home of some ancient alien yet advanced alien race, the world testament to the progress of their civilization... and it's folly. The whole planet proved to be encased in some kind of powerful shield, quarantined from the rest of space, while the surface was covered by a vast high-tech ghost city, well-preserved yet utterly empty. Stranger still, the Green Lantern's ring outright refused to offer information on the people who once lived there.

Exploring this strange metropolis of dead technology, tracking the psychic imprint of what they believed to be the Shi'ar and using Illyana's magic to make sense of the signs around them, the X-Men group finally reached the center of the city, passing a warning obelisk that seemed more recent than the other constructions.

Finally they reached the 'Primary EES Research Facility,' a vast clear dome surrounding a tiered observation theater filled with experimental devices, and with a large crystal held in a high-tech cradle at its center.

At the entrance of this facility, they found a small squad of Shi'ar soldiers -- all dead. And as they tried to enter, the reason became clear enough:


<< Quarantine violation. Beginning primary decontamination. >> translates John Stewart's ring from an announcement in an unknown language, as two of the towers nearest to the entrance of the building come to life with white glowing circuitry and panels, and bathe the area in radiation.

A lethal protection, if not for his ring's protective field and Illyana's wards. But even those...

<< Battery level: 99...98...97...96% >> reports the ring.

John Stewart has posed:
And there it was, the first real opposition they had... and it was something-

Wait, quarantine protocols?

That's all the warning John has before he lifts his right hand and suddenly a massive green field surrounds the group, halfway to the towers themselves. John visibly buckles to one knee from the strain of erecting the field, but gets up as he starts to maintain it with his will.

"Ring, Analysis and countermeasures." John orders of it, his tone serious and strained. "I don't know how long I can hold this. If you need me to move to destroy those things, tell me."

The inside of the green field has an otherworldly aspect to it as people stand or walk within. Almost like looking through a lens as the energy flows outwards.

Rogue has posed:
Rogue is in the air, no surprise there.

Wearing a black and green uniform with metal boots and a black hooded cloak, she floats through the sky keeping an overwatch on the situation below. She's not far from where Kitty is though and always keeping her team mates on the rear guard in sight. She's on coms regularly throughout their search, making little comments about the strange alien city and also keeping a good look up on the horizon past the buildings, to make sure she sees if anything is flying their way too. In fact, she lifts up her right hand, covered in a black bicep-length glove that is adorned with the art of a white skeletal hand, Rogue raises some fancy binoculars up to stare off in the horizon.

<"Whats goin' on down there?"> Rogue asks over coms.

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
There was going to be something, but when they had gotten this far and the most they had found was the subtle psychic traces of what might have been D'ken and some kind of chaotic person (a mercenary perhaps? Lilandra didn't recognize the description), Karma had dared to hope that it might just be, like, a trap or something. Like a giant gap in the floor or lasers, in which case she could snicker with Illyana "Teleportation, Jim, But Not As We Know It" Rasputina about such things and they could win through to the end.

But that is not to be.

PRIMARY DECONTAMINATION. The Green Lantern can hold it off... but it seems his ring is burning power. Hearing it talk is a thing she's already gotten used to. Karma answers Rogue, and by extension, 'everyone but Illyana': <<Some kind of old decontamination thing -- this is the same route the previous visitors took. Be careful, it's -- it's overwhelmingly powerful!>>

Karma brought a Shi'ar energy pistol, which she had been holding onto, and she gets it ready. "I suppose you can't make a firing port," she says to John Stewart. "From this aurora, I suppose if your shield goes down... well, that is that."

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Tabitha Smith has been mostly quiet through the opening part of this trip since she's neither a scientist nor an investigator. She was fine with bringing up the rear to protect the team's backside as more competent (and fully trained) X-men took the lead. Okay so X-men were with her too. She stays in sight of Kitty and Rogue and keeps her hand up ready to summon and deliver plasma as needed.

Her plasma bombs aren't going to save anyone from an alien decontamination though is her immediate thought upon hearing the ring's warning so she frowns. Or maybe they will. She immediately begins to look for a way to help those inside the danger zone. "Tell me what I have to destroy to help. Is there something I can destroy to help?"

Kitty Pryde has posed:
Kitty Pryde is following the main group with Tabitha, and with Rogue flying overhead. She's keeping an eye on the road behind them as much as she is what is going on ahead.

She stops in front of an alien building of some sort. "You know, I know little about their culture, yet this place has 'convenience store' written all over it, doesn't it? Maybe that's a kind of universal construct?" she says, looking at things hanging in the window that she suspects are for sale.

They continue on towards the area that the main team has moved into, when suddenly those towers ahead light up. And Kitty feels a buzzing from a pocket of her X-man uniform. She digs into it, quickly pulling out the phone of her own design. While it doesn't get a cell signal, it does pick up -something-.

"Radiation," Kitty says, glancing up in alarm. "It's not lethal here, but if those towers are the source, to register this strongly it probably is up where they are." Kitty motions towards the towers. "They lit up at the same time, probably the source."

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
"What does ESS stand for? Have you seen this?" Illyana gestures to the facility with its observation theatre, the crystal buried in the centre. Inquiries on acronyms left by ancient civilizations focus entirely on Lilandra, who stands the best chance to know. She does not exclude the others from offering suggestions.

The arcane shield remains an invisible presence, whereas the Green Lantern ring's displays may be more flashy. Sharply reversing her grip on the Soulsword brings the luminous blade to a guarded position when the towers come to life. "A possibly terrible alternative is disrupting the systems controlling security over there. Warpath, Tabby: a good second to last resort?"

Her eyes glow an unnatural blue, almost bordering on white. Without leaping straight into battle, her survey comes from afar. "The crystal exists in other planes. Any radiation from it might travel there." She doesn't turn back to Xi'an, but what she can hear earns a response. "Evacuation to Limbo when radiation is critical. We do not play games, da?"

She runs her fingers lightly across the hilt of the sword, Kitty's ideas rolled over. "We break them, we probably cannot fix them. Might send a useful message, though."

Jean Grey has posed:
As evidenced before, John has his ring in public mode, where not only are its informative reports audible to everyone in the vicinity... on occasion, it 'speaks up' of its own free will to answer questions not directly posed to it. A handy little doodad, that thing. In this case, it answer Illyana: << Emotional Electromagnetic Spectrum. A range of energy existing parallel to typical EM frequencies and corresponding to sentient emotional output. According to Oan Unification theory, equivalence equations exist to convert between... >>

It will actually keep going for a while, perhaps until John asks it something else or until it reaches the limit of what Oan bureaucracy considers as nonclassified for non-Lanterns. But overall, the gist is that these kind of energies somewhat 'bridge' typical energy types visible to familiar Earth science, and the more esoteric capability of sentient emotion, drive, will, and so forth.

The mind and the heart, in a way.

Meanwhile, with nothing changed, the radiation field remains in place. The two nearby towers continue to glow. The ring, too, whenever it has stopped reciting Lantern lore, resumes listing off a constant decline of battery power, at a fairly rapid rate.

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
Shan smiles, not much, at Illyana's statement. The others are coming. She breathes in through her nose, out through her mouth.

She speaks aloud: "Can it tell you if it will destroy us if we disable it with explosives?"

<<Boom-Boom, once more the future of the X-Men rests in your hands. I am looking at one of these objects. I am confirming with the Green Lantern, but it may be necessary for you to completely **** it up,>> Shan psi-nets.

John Stewart has posed:
"Ring, Analysis of the lethal energy around us. Can we destroy those towers without killing ourselves in the process?" John interrupts it.

Sometimes, the artificial intelligence in the ring can be a bit literal.

Jean Grey has posed:
And the ring answers: << Unknown. Partial exposure likely if power diverted to hostile constructs. Lifeforms are capable of tolerating limited radiation doses, but can incur cell damage, increasing over time and by degree of exposure... >> Again, the ring is happy to give a very detailed description of what happens to people who aren't Bruce Banner when they soak up this stuff.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
"I can call a demon in to look. No one will be offended?" The demons of Limbo can do a great many things, like fry a good breakfast and torment little blonde girls. Nothing like celebrating your birthday by returning the trouble. "They may be able to move through faster with limited concern."

Illyana shakes her head to the question of destruction. "Will the Crystal see it as an attack? Is it able to communicate with any sentience?" Xi'an and Lilandra are given that football to mess with.

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Tabitha Smith looks at the tower when Kitty speaks but James' question about how bad it would be stops her from just acting to take them out. She doesn't summon plasma just yet since she hasn't entirely figured out how to get rid of it once she summons it other than letting it blow up.

She looks up at Rogue then over to Kitty and finally back to the towers, "So do I blast them or not?" There's a long pause at Xi'an's message which quite frankly is briefly good for Tabby's ego. Despite the danger it puts a smile on her face but she waits for confirmation before actually pulling up the plasma.

Kitty Pryde has posed:
Kitty edges forward slowly towards the nearest tower, phone held in front of her. "Still ok," she says, as she keeps moving forward, getting closer. But long before she makes it all the way up to the tower, she stops. "Ok, it's getting dicey going any closer than this," she says, turning to look towards Tabby, and up at Rogue.

"Think you can take them out from a distance? If we get enough of them, the team might be able to act more safely against the rest," Kitty Pryde suggests. "I can try phasing if need be, but if you two can handle it from range... I'm just remembering that gun that was able to hit me phased. Don't know exactly what this radiation is."

Rogue has posed:
Rogue pauses her forward flight momentum and just hovers there in the air with one metal booted foot extended down and the other bent at the knee. "Uh. See. This is why I hate space. Everything is either oxygenless voids, time compressin' strangeness, or literal baths of radiation. Why the /hell/ does the universe have t'be this god damned weird." She doesn't say that in to the coms, but others may be able to hear her anyway.

She looks down at the others then and floats a bit lower to be more visible to them. <"Just gimme a target and tell me when."> The southern girl says back to Kitty and the others.

John Stewart has posed:
"It's focused radiation." John interjects, "The ring didn't say the towers would explode if destroyed, so get them. Anyone who can handle a bit of radiation, get out there and ruin them. If I drop this field, the rest of us die." John starts walking towards one of the towers then, to give people cover. "You can fire your weapons out. The ring would have scanned it, and I can adjust to allow energy of that sort out."

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
"I will not tell Father Brown," Shan answers Illyana. She is sweating, a little. Not from radiation, she hopes.

There is a question of very great importance. Karma glances at Lilandra for a moment for guidance.

Then she sets her teeth, holsters her weapon and straightens up. One hand comes up as if to adjust her hairband and stays there. <<The towers are valid. You may fire when ready. Hurry, his battery is draining.>> And then:

The psi-link loses metaphorical volume (though it does not disappear) as she presses forwards to see if there is something with which to make contact.

Tabitha Smith has posed:
When the decision to attack the towers is confirmed, Tabby calls up, "Rogue, you're much stronger. I'm going to set these for five seconds and toss them up to you. That way you can put them where they need to be before they go off."

Tabby has practiced with normal balls of just about every size and shape in preparation for such things. She wants a decent sized blast so she pulls up a ball of yellow plasma the size of a volleyball and tosses it up at the flying southern girl. As soon as she tosses the first one, she summons another and tosses it up as well. She keeps going until someone tells her to stop. Plasma bomb barrage!

Jean Grey has posed:
Lildanra, who has her armor and her basic alien physiology to call on, but not much else, has remained in the center of John's protective area, evidently far from keen to risk exposure. It clearly did kill a whole squadron of Shi'ar just before they arrived, which is good cause to think it would not go any better for her. However, she has her staff weapon, which, somewhat like Xi'an, she hefts in preparation of a possible attack, if John intends to lower or otherwise attenuate his shielding for their benefit. "If we must risk it to destroy these, so be it."

She also has an answer, again for Illyana's frequent inquisitiveness:

"I am doubtful that the crystal has any... kind of mental connection to the defenses. Or any connection, other than perhaps as a power source. All of this," and she gestures toward the large dome and the whole scientific 'theater' built around it, "was created for its study. It predates and confounds even these ancients, as it has our archeologists."

And now, it seems like the plan is to attack from many angles, and hopefully overwhelm the towers before they die from their energy, she lifts the staff, aiming at Xi'an's target with her, ready on whatever mark....

James Proudstar has posed:
James Proudstar considers and turns to John, "How close can you get me close to that nearest tower? Just by moving us and the bubble?" He nods and walks with John, getting as close to the tower as possible. "He looks to Lilandra and Shan, "Hit it high." He darts out and grabs the nearest tower wrenching at it with 75 tons of force, not holding back.

Rogue has posed:
The first BoomBoom comes up to Rogue and she is already in forward flight motion. She daps it with her right gloved 'skeletal' hand, then bobbles it between her right and left before finally catching it and dropping it right where she assumes the load-bearing section if the first tower is. "Five seconds? I'm gonna---" Boom? She's flying away as quickly as she can to swoop back toward Tabitha and get the next one. She's flying fast, her hooded cape fluttering rapidly around her form as she goes, the synth-leather shining in the ambient light as she delivers yet another bomb. <"Tabi, these things are way too much fun!"> The Belle calls back over coms to her team mate and partner in this destructive 'crime'.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
When in doubt... summon help.

The Russian blonde discards any nuanced ritualism meant to impress a tower or her peers. Obliterating any notion she is simply a nice girl from eastern Siberia, she uses the Soulsword to indicate a tower not currently under assault by Tabitha's bomb-runs with Rogue's help or Jimmy likely to be hurled that way by some fortunate force. Like his own two feet, for example.

A tongue old when the world was young clashes on her lips, its translation unutterable but for a command. Human throats shouldn't produce such sounds, but they do. A Hell-Lord by definition possesses legions of denizens. Some more, some less. Space rends to permit something through on sleek feathered wings slanted back like a harrier, the better to achieve colossal speed and maneuverability.

<<Dread Majesty Mumsykins! For me! The best presents!>> Its unironic trilling grates up the spinal column as four taloned appendages tuck tight to the demon sweeps up to get altitude, the better to smash violently into one of the towers and rip it to bits. Rogue's sentiment is not lost on the Demon Queen's kith.

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
They built this entire facility around the crystal, Shan thinks, in order to study it. And they are not filled with discoveries of the crystal's secrets, either. As far as she can tell.


Is that really there?

There is a feeling of a Presence that Karma does not want to clearly put her words upon. It is not like they are, or like the people who they met. It is not even like people such as Superman. It reminds her, perhaps, of a strange and implike being she touched once - and not with the telepathic talent, exactly.

<<There is something... there. I will try to see if it is an interface, or...>>

She trails off. A thought comes to her, and she almost presses back in horror. Could she SEIZE CONTROL of this... mindlike sensation? It feels horrid, terrifying, in a way that even Illyana's skittering demoniac minion is not. Is it just because she knows the one? Impossible to say.

Her thoughts go then towards the Crystal. The mental equivalent of reaching out with one hand. <<We come in peace. Our strikes are only to defend ourselves against the cleansing.>>

Kitty Pryde has posed:
Kitty stays back by Tabitha, monitoring the situation with her phone. "Really need to get me one of those rings," she mumbles, looking over to where the green energy dome is protecting the rest of the team.

Kitty holds up a hand against the light of the blast as the first of Tabitha's bombs is delivered, taking a chunk out of one of the towers in a crucial spot. The X-man looks down to her phone again, tapping it. "Radiation level has dropped. That's the right spot to aim for, Rogue!"

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Tabitha Smith definitely agrees with Rogue which is why nobody can get her to stop throwing the things at inappropriate times. "Right?! How many more do we need?"

Jean Grey has posed:
As might not be a surprise, the towers are very durable. Whatever alloy or compound they are constructed of is something beyond Shi'ar craftsmanship, let alone Earth material science. And they're essentially small buildings! None of these attacks could instantly breach one, and it might take minutes of concerted effort to tear one down for even the strongest of their efforts. Minutes they do not have, in the lethal radiation field.

Fortunately... it's a lot more than one of them attacking!

Even as James he starts to charge, Lilandra readies to assist him, no keen to minimize how long any of them must be exposed to any amount of this. She levels her staff parallel to the ground and fires a lance of energy at the tower base. The bright energy hits and then dissipates over the blue-gray surface of the strange material, but she doesn't immediately let up, holding the staff on full blast, either until it reaches its overcharge point, or until James reaches the spot.

By then, the surface is glowing.

Which means it is somewhat softer when he impacts it with all that force. This helps. The material, while possessing a combination of both high tensile and shear strength impossible in any Earth alloy, doesn't retain its full properties at this higher temperature, and there is a sort of groan as it starts to bend. And usually, complicated high tech devices aren't meant to bend. At first, nothing happens, but then the emitters start to flicker erratically, as whatever internal components are compressed, bent and twisted.


Meanwhile, BoomBoom and Rogue have combined in a new X-Men sports metaphor. Wolverine and Colossus have the fastball special, and now they've completed the explosive alley-oop. Tossing the bombs skyward, Rogue reliably tosses each one to the target. This improves their distance and accuracy alike, and while there's not much in the way of a clear structural different in the largely cylindrical tower, she can pick out the more... glow-y bits? Which might well be the parts causing all the problems. And those, it seems, prove to be a little less durable than the structural material. There are multiple emitters, but multiple bombs, and as each explodes, one of the panels sparks, sputters, and then seems to die.

There are downsides to all of this. Whatever trick John has to pull to let them shoot through the field, the ring beeps a warning to indicate that some radiation is penetrating. Likewise, James can't really hug the thing safely, and feels the searing sensation of every cell in his body under simultaneous assault. Lucky that those cells have some X-genes in them. The tower Rogue attacks proves that these things have some additional programming, registering her aerial presence and firing a targeted radiation beam in her direction.

<< Decontamination interference will not be toler- *CRHRKHK* >> A bomb shuts that one up, although like with James, not before she feels the pain of a radiation burn.

This attends the nearest of the towers, one now a bit less 'strange alien' and more 'Pisa' in construction, while the second nearest stands, yet has the majority of its emitters destroyed. Meanwhile, Illyana's newly-called friend circles wider, and there does prove value in this as well: as the first two towers struggle, the ring reports << Hostile field strength diminished. Levels still dangerous to prolonged exposure. >> All of them, it seems, share in a collective task, even if those nearest are the most dangerous. But soon, a third is under assault from the flying demon, and as it takes damage, the countdown on John's ring slows, and slows...

And then finally stabilizes. << Ambient radiation below critical levels. >>

Rogue has posed:
Rogue's hood flutters in the wind but somehow manages to stay on her head while her white bangs flow around the sides of her face. She turns her head this way and that way to watch the towers exploding and unfortunately the overloaded 'danger sense' on her seventh sense power is so heightened right now that she doesn't see the blast of focused radiation coming her way. It strikes the side of the X-Men flyer and she goes tumbling down out of the sky, a fluttering ball of black cape and flailing limbs. She crash lands on the roof of one of the abandoned buildings where she winces as she rises up to her armored knees.

Her eyes go down to her right arm wearing that skeletal glove which is now burned through to her skin making her cringe. "Of course it was the fancy glove. Of course it was..." With her arm partially exposed now, Rogue jumps back up in to the air and flies back toward Kitty and Tabi's location.

<"looks like we have explosive personalities, ya'll. Whats next?"> She asks the group.

John Stewart has posed:
As the radiation diminishes, the gritted teeth he was holding suddenly calms down. "This is much easier to maintain." John remarks, before he starts looking around, "Just take them down. If you start feeling it, get inside. My ring can handle this trivially."

Jean Grey has posed:
Elsewhere, both Illyana and Xi'an have taken glimpses toward the crystal in the center of the chamber. Glimpses of a different kind, viewing it from a realm of existence invisible to most.

The crystal exists there. Perhaps it exists everywhere, in every adjacent dimension and reality.

In the center of all this it is uniquely removed from the proceedings. There is no malice in it, nor, as Lilandra suggested, no outward sense of hostile will. The towers operate according to the programming of long-dead aliens, with no more intention to their acts than a microwave warming one's burrito. They function, until they do not. The crystal has no say whatsoever.

Yet, the crystal is a presence. It does not communicate, but Xi'an's attempt to speak to it is met with a feeling an immense sense of being. In its facets exist a multitude, and for an instant, perhaps, she has some sense of them all. And in all of that, briefly, perhaps something familiar.

Simultaneously, she has the sense of something else, a malefic lingering, hostile and unwelcoming. At the edges of her thoughts it slithers, more coherently a discrete presence, yet more slippery for it.

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Tabitha Smith calls up to Rogue, "Am I making more or is enough good enough for you?"

James Proudstar has posed:
James Proudstar hears an audible crack as he wrenches on the already deformed structure and the glyphs go dim, he pulls his arms away and... leaves a decimation of skin on the structure, "Bad day... " he looks at his forearms and hands covered in blisters and charred tissue, "... OW." He sighs and pulls his shirt off gingerly, ripping it into strips, wrapping his forearms and hands as he walks back towards the glowing forcefield, "Well the good news is, I'll keep my tan through the winter." He nods to the Lantern, "Thanks."

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
The demon on the wing performs its task as required, and Illyana does not subject her flying vassal to unnecessary risks beyond. <<Do you feel that?>> she calls out to it, the more common infernal tongue less arduous to shape than her spellcraft. <<Go around the crystal. Do not get close to it. Confirm if the corruption exists.>>

The temptation for one of those towers brightens her wide eyes with great interest, black lips curling into something of a dark smirk that cannot bode too well. Through the comms, she replies, <"I am thinking to throw another tower into orbit. May be useful if it gets ideas."> The thing is at least ten times James' height, but that apparently does not stop her from warning Rogue and Tabitha of the possibility of something being turned into a makeshift rocket and shot airborne.

The Soulsword is sheathed on her back, pauldron and gauntlet a continuous rainbow of midnight black shot with a sapphire sheen. Stare too deeply and the reflections bear a few peculiar textures, including a feather. Bowing with her hands together in the Crystal's direction, she says, "Something has tainted it. Maybe part, maybe separate. I would not trust it, and be on your guard." Having Limbo's dread energies so fully integrated with her might leave no choice but to sense like to like, and the soulshard tipping the spiritual balance to positive on her side proves another complication. She doesn't just decide to wave at it. She studies it from afar, head tilted.

Rogue has posed:
Rogue is about 10 feet above Tabi's head and adjusting her hood before she just reaches over and rips the rest of her sleeve off of her right arm, but leaves the glove on the hand around her wrist. She sighs and shakes her head. "Gimme a few more. I'm gonna take some more out, as 'manageable' doesn't sound like 'good' t'me, Sugah." Rogue says before waiting for the lobbed-up Boomers. She'll soon fly off again on her way to attack another tower with them held in either hand.

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
The dome was built by the Shi'ar.

The radiation obelisks were built by -- someone, Karma thinks. Their name doesn't matter. Call them the Precursors, for lack of a better name.

The crystal...

Was here to begin with.

Karma's head tilts backwards. Her hand stays where it is, against the headband, a handy resting point. Around her head is the halo of her power, fidgeting gently. It brightens, the psionic ionization growing as she reports, "It... It's like a world in there."

Something darts through the psychic underbrush. A brief, familiar glimpse. Who?

As well as -- "Ah, good; you see it too," she answers Illyana, lowering her hand, gradually.

"I do not think it is corruption, as such; I think that it is a corrupter." Karma turns her head to address Lilandra. "My lady, I can sense a being inside of there. It is elusive. Wicked - hostile - it does not want us here. I am trying to follow it..."

And mentally, she does just that-- like the hunter, in the woods, she moves a little deeper. She rests and she waits; she tries to track the thing, to see it from the corner of the mind's eye. Don't read HIM into it, Karma tells herself, not for the first time. Her leg cramps, the one that isn't there, but it's just for a moment.

"The crystal is... there are things *within* it. People, beings, I don't know how to put it. I think that I saw them... But this one, there is only one."

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Tabitha Smith is happy to provide more of the plasma bombs as requested and starts lobbing them up to Rogue as fast as she can make them again. Destruction is her game and she is good at it.

Kitty Pryde has posed:
Seeing that what the others are doing is working, Kitty continues to monitor the radiation levels. She calls out the readings to let them know how much it has dropped, so they'll know when it is still unsafe, and when it might eventually cross the threshold that humans can withstand safely.

She glances around. "Worried if these are meant to defend it, what might happen after. But, first we need to get to 'after'," she mutters quietly to herself, but loud enough that Tabitha probably hears it.

Rogue has posed:
Rogue flies at tremendous speeds with the glowing bombs in her hands. She darts past one tower and jams the bomb in to what she believes is the key structural weakness then zips on ahead to another one where she sweeps around it to get at the same, or similar, spot then sweeps up in to the sky and keeps her knees together, her arms held outward as she does a full high-arching flight pattern that leads her around in a circle only to come out on the other end headed downward again with her fists together in front of her!

Boom and Boom the towers are exploded in sequence and the Belle is on her way back toward the others now. She's definitely more aware of those defenses too, and is doing her best to avoid them with more care!

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
"How many do you think there to be? You have telepathic gifts, I am no good to you there." The Demon Queen versus a crystal isn't a measured response to send after the poor, incredibly mysterious crystal. "Are they prisoners? Echoes of those who touched it?" Kitty's guidance is lost on her given the woman's quieter tone.

The undamaged towers nonetheless remain intact, the demon swooping around on the wing, gleefully banking in expectation of crashing into another after Rogue rips her way through the one tower. It gives it another scratch of those wide claws, since the construct is probably doomed anyway.

Jean Grey has posed:
Tower bombardment continues, largely without incident compared to the initial effort. While attacks from the sky provoke some more retaliatory radiation lances in Rogue's direction as she circles out to the other towers, ultimately, they do not prove difficult to damage nor do they exhibit any new surprising functionality. The system, as dangerous as it has proved, doesn't really have the sense of aggressive military design, lacking the complicated routines and complex tactical functions one might expect of a proper murderbot. Maybe this is just a really advanced and very aggressive kind of 'No Trespassing' sign.

As Rogue circles and bombs with Tabitha's aid, Illyana's demon creature also does the same. Along with whatever physical chaos, both can mark the perimeter, that the opposite side of the dome, even the city beyond, is all constructed with a certain central symmetry. All roads lead to the center.

Where the crystal lurks. The presence, whatever it is, that Xi'an senses soon vanishes, as if retreating deeper. And Lilandra, when the radiation dangers seem to be well in hand, begins forward toward the central object.

"It's more than a prison," she declares, although perhaps her scholarly certainty may seem shaky. She's admitted that her people's understanding is limited. "It holds a great power. If you sense something dark inside," she tells Xi'an, "that is my brother's doing."

Tabitha Smith has posed:
As long as Rogue is coming back for more bombs, Tabby is there to provide them, but as the attack continues, she stops producing indiscriminately. She glances up to make sure Rogue seems to be looking for another bomb before providing them as things seem to wind down. No sense accidentally making one too many. Also Kitty's mutter worries her just a little.

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
"I could not even begin to guess. A myriad. Like the sand grains on a beach," Karma answers Illyana, swivelling her hips for a moment because she is taking off her tactical gunbelt, complete with its supply of /pouches/ and the weapon.

"Can someone please hold onto this for me?" Karma asks, with a sort of general politeness. "I do not want to have a weapon on me in case I do not have its measure."

James Proudstar has posed:
James Proudstar frowns and looks at the ladies, "So, there's like a plane of existence inside the crystal and some ancient society used it as a way to keep their ne'er do wells separated from the proper upright citizens? That seems like a lot." Jim takes the gunbelt from Karma with a nod.

Rogue has posed:
Rogue sweeps back around and comes up behind Tabitha and Kitty, she lands on the ground with her metal booted feet bouncing off of the ground. Her hands swing at her sides up until a few moments after she stops jogging and she just places them on her hips. Her eyes go right to Kitty and then left to Tabitha. "Now I see wh you're tossin' those things around al the time." She says softly with a sly grin. She looks forward then toward the others.

John Stewart has posed:
With the radiation gone, John finally drops the field, though he keeps a personal shield up. "Only one way to find out. If he's gone in there and is playing with it, we have no time to lose." John tells the others as he walks right into the facility. His goal: the crystal itself for a close up scan.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
Illyana's gaze darkens, a feat when the colour mustered there barely constitutes the faintest blue. Her eyes narrow in speculation at the rosy gem held there, and she carefully picks a path after Xi'an so the psychic will not need to walk alone should things turn abundantly pear-shaped to the point the pear inversion begins. "The Princess' brother has broken it, in some way, then. Can we fix it? Heal it from that darkness inside it?"

The question may not be one they can answer. She runs her hand up her unarmoured arm, fingers curling around her bicep barely above the elbow. "Da, James. It contains a vastness, multitudes. Maybe not all bad."

James Proudstar has posed:
James Proudstar nods to Illyana, "Oh, good." He takes his backpack and opens it, folding up the gun belt and placing it inside. He pulls out protein bars and tosses a couple to Yana for her and Shan. He holds up a juice box shaking it questioningly. He moves to the doorway so ge can keep eyes on both groups. Jim waves for the rear guard to join them.

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Tabitha Smith flashes Rogue a grin and moves to follow her in toward the others. No good standing around outside if the radiation danger is gone. She shows up just in time to hear the words broken it. Whoops. Not her fault. Beyond her pay grade?

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
"Thank you," Karma tells James, quietly. She takes a moment to fasten a leather strap over the grip of the weapon, and then walks a little to the side, looking towards the crystal for the rest of what she says.

"I don't know about everyone in there. With so many... entities, some will surely be bad. Like on Earth, we have Kelly, Doom... but they are not typical. But there is only this one that is plain, distinct, pure evil. I can feel where it is, and I do not feel like going on a merry chase."

She does several brisk, deep breaths, and strides towards the crystal. Her hands form fists. "When this Thing comes forth, it will be upon all of you to deal with it, I think," she says, before the violet halo around her head flares to sudden, cast-a-slight-secondary-shadow light --

come here you little shit and take your medicine you think you can serve a man who kills my teacher i'll show you--

"Merde," Karma says, at which point she just starts running towards the crystal. "It's moving away from me but--!!"

She thrusts out one hand, as if to reach for an inscrutable Presence.

Jean Grey has posed:
It is not difficult to approach the crystal. Beyond the protections they've encountered, the room around it does seem to be designed /around/ it, built for its study and observation with all those many devices aimed toward it. So the aisles lead to it, and there is a circular well around it. Space aplenty.

John does not need any of the provided equipment, of course, having brought his own. Although even before the ring chirps its analysis, his eyes tell him plenty: when one gets close enough to gaze into one of the reflective facets of the crystal, past that sheen, something resembling a city is visible within. In a way, it somewhat resembles this one, in its strange and otherworldly architecture and many great spires. But it is even more fantastic, and in a way, unreal.

The ring reports: << Energy level: 123% of prior reading. Surface is a multi-phase crystaline lattice conjoining multidimensional brane structure. Lattice irregularity indicates M-space permeability. Transition possible. Interior structure: error. Reading exceeds defined parameters. >>

All of this may be a lot of fancy way of describing what Xi'an's more impulsive course of action soon makes clear. As she reaches out, calling to, even taunting some sort of being within, those looking at the crystal may, for brief moments, see a single facet darken and then clarify, as if something was moving within. And when the woman's hand reaches for the crystal surface, it provides a visual translation for all that mumbo jumbo: her hand touches, and for a moment, there is a perfect, clear reflection of Shan in the same surface. And then there is a crackle of strange energy, a little darker than the crystal's pink color.

And she is gone.

John Stewart has posed:
"I do not like this thing. At all." John chimes in. Then, without hestitation, a shielded hand touches the crystal. "But we need to deal with your brother." He continues.

Rogue has posed:
Rogue advances with Tabi and Kitty to catch up with the others. She sees the mysterious crystaline faceted object and it makes her curl up a lip in distaste. "Nothin' about that thing is gonna be good for anyone..." The southerner quietly says just before Xian steps 'too close'(?) and vanishes.

Rogue takes a step forward then, but stops herself. She looks over at Kitty. "What the hell. Is it a prison or somethin?" She asks, assuming that Katherine always has all the answers....

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Tabitha Smith grimaces when Xi'an vanishes. That's not cool. She instinctively takes a step toward where the other woman was when she vanished before the more rational part of her brain backs her off into staying where she is and staring at the crystal, "Okay. How do we get her back out?" She doesn't particularly care who answers as long as someone does.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
When the resident psychic vanishes, that leaves the blonde sorceress staring at the rose-pink gem up to absolutely no good. She stares at it for a long, hard moment.

Illyana is not smiling anymore. The lack of a smile rarely implies a good thing. "She's inside. The marker comes through, distorted and offset, but right somewhere over there. Opening a portal into that space is possible, though what else comes through?" Her shoulders stiffen back as she glances through the facets, searching for a sign of their friend, Shi'ar warriors, possibly ancient celestials who might know where the hell Belasco is. Focus, Illyana!

"Or I can call her out by summons." The cold arc of a smirk is back.

Jean Grey has posed:
John's interaction may prove a litlte more exciting... or more ominous for the observers. Because when that green-glowing hand touches the crystal, the reaction is a little more elaborate. The facet of the crystal that he touches first turns green itself, mirroring the the energy as much as the man. His ring chirps: << Connection established, charging... >> That sounds promising.

Then the surface of the crystal turns pure white in the same place. << Error. Error. Error. Battery level 807978767471686460555040302010- >>

When the counter hits zero, John vanishes in an identical fashion to Xi'an.

At which point, Lilandra turns toward those of the assembled group that seem more worried for their comrades. "Whatever it is... We are fortunate that it is still open. This is where my brother has gone. And so I follow." And with a lack of caution similar to the Green Lantern's, she steps forward to touch one of the surfaces, enjoying the same, slightly less 'fun' version of disappearing that Shan did. No ring funtimes.

James Proudstar has posed:
When Shan disapears Jim charges heedless across the room juice box forgotten. There is no conscious thought. He follows the others into the crystal, trusting the rest to pull them out while he kept them alive.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
Well, great. "And they say I am reckless." Illyana shrugs and sketches a glowing, complex glyph in the air that resonates with an odd amount of white energy, attesting to the blood sheen on her tongue. It hurts to do, but leave a mark, when in doubt. Her palm comes down, gauntleted and firm, on the crystal. Calgone, take them awa---

On second thought, don't.

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Xi'an was bad, but Jimmy and Yana? Tabby cries out, "JIMMY!" in what sounds like actual pain and dashes forward as if she can stop them before they touch the crystal, but she's not that fast. She also can't stop that fast and her hand goes right into the side of the crystal.

Jean Grey has posed:
When they approach, Tabitha, and eventually Kitty and Rogue merely vanish in typical crackles of energy.

Illyana, like John, provokes something else. A white light burns against the gauntlet, and it hurts. At least at first. That is often how things work, isn't it? One must suffer for their art, be it the paintbrush kind or the darker variety. But there is something inside the pain. A familiarity. Even a... sense of welcome.

Regardless of how they enter, each discovers the same as they stand inside the crystal realm. As from without, there is a city around them, one of sprawling dimensions and sky-touching towers. It is idyllic, in a way, simultaneously old and new, mixing the technological brutalism of the external city they have just explored with far more pleasing artistic lines.

Regardless of how they enter, each appears alone, although to those that have made some effort of tracking their comrades, it is clear they have all come to the same place. Illyana can feel the other markers, but their positions are indistinct, or point in nonsensical directions along unseen dimensions. Xi'an will feel the psychic presence of the others, but likewise, only in the sense that she knows they are not absent.

In the center of city, there is a glowing light, much as the crystal stood in the center of the physical world beyond. However, it's draw is not one of mere city planning: like the crystal did, it seems to pulse, to beat along with the rhythm of creation outside it. It calls to each, as if a part of them, the missing piece of a perfect whole.

Rogue has posed:
Kitty encourages Rogue to go further toward the crystal, by doing it herself and thusly Rogue can't let her approach on their own. She looks over in time to see Tabitha vanishing followed by Kitty and then herself. Once they're inside, Rogue looks around the new city scape and just narrows her eyes. "This is gettin' a bit above my paygrade, ya'll." The Belle observes as she steps forward only to see Kitty venturing further onward. "Hey, why are you so eager t'see how many more Russian dolls we can go inside'a." She glances toward Illyana. "No offense, a'course, Sugh." She says to the Blonde Swordswoman.

She scurries after Kitty though, following her lead on this one until its time to smash something again...

John Stewart has posed:
As John gets his bearings, he his up the ring in front of himself, "Ring, scan immediate vicinity, general scan."

As it begins to work, John starts floating a bit, testing his flight as he starts heading for the pulsing light in the center, slowly.

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
Through the crystal, into--

That aesthetic sense, that feeling of dizzying cosmic WONDER has eclipsed itself in Xi'an Coy Manh. Maybe it was the near and threatening death of an agonized demise to radiation. Maybe it was growing and accumulated tension. Maybe it was just finally having something that she could grab hold of.

Because it was an elegant and alluring plan. If that was D'ken's minion, bring it back: they could ask it, they, what D'ken had done. The New Mutants can be persuasive in their way, and so too could a Green Lantern, she could tell. And if all else failed, why-- Rogue is there, isn't she? (It's a cruel and utilitarian way of thinking, but this is why she hasn't really sought out to command others. Shan can see that in herself.)

And now-- at least she did not pay for foolishness with her life, or another mutilating injury. As she emerges, Shan skids to a halt, looking left, right. Up. Her thoughts billow outwards. The others--

-- are there?

Where? She can't tell.

And so she takes a moment to *grind her teeth and yank on her own hair*, hunching forwards and cursing herself aloud for an idiot for long, shoulder-racking moments. The empty city, modish and aesthetic, does not seem to judge her for it.

It lasts about twenty seconds. Afterwards, her leg whirrs faintly - it's so quiet here she can hear it - as she crouches down to pick up her hairband. Deep sniffling breaths, an improvised use of her fingers as a comb to sweep her hair back. I probably look like shit, Shan thinks to herself, but who will judge me? The Lantern? Lilandra?

She walks steadily towards the center. After a while she breaks into a loping skip-jog, since the terrain is, it must be said, very suitable for that kind of thing, even if it does hurt her hip a little.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
Note to self: M'kraan Crystal does not like a girl with sufficient ties to her own dimension to be that dimension. Pain is an old companion, older than any other except her metallic big brohther and her persistent hatred for tractors.

Illyana doesn't scream, hardened into a silent facade, her expression set to define no truth to any curious presence of vast strength and purpose inside. Until the wall breaks, and her physical form passes through the lattice structure, spitting her out in a place that very clearly doesn't align to anything she has seen.

"Hello." English is as good as anything. Her native Russian might be better, but the sorceress keeps it simple. "Thank you for letting me in." The glimmering light is the first thing to orient on, and she springs to move that way, avoiding the convenience of portals for a swifter gait.

"I do not know if you understand loneliness. Maybe you have all you want. Friends are here. People important to me." A slow, dangerous thought turns. "It would be a good idea to let us come together unharmed. They may be uncomfortable, triggered by a sense of separation and loss." The conversation is probably ridiculous. Who talks to inanimate glowing orbs of energy?

The Demon Queen is steadfastly not screaming inside. She is not. Her thumb rolls a ring on her finger in endless circles, the heavier black guard band protecting her thumb unattended.

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Tabitha Smith cannot track her companions by scent. She cannot sense them mystically or psychically. Thus Tabby has no way of knowing whether or not any of them are anywhere nearby or indeed anywhere. She looks around in a bit of a panic, breathing quickly spiralling upward as she calls out again, "Jimmy! Yana! Xi'an! Are you out there?"

Tabby spins in a circle for a moment unhappily. It's not that she needs anyone. She needs no one right? Never has... never will. Never... This time it's a whimper, "Jimmy..." She begins to walk as if she can find her friends if she just looks hard enough. Wanting's not needing. It's not. And she's not really so alone as she feels. She can't be.

James Proudstar has posed:
James Proudstar sniffs the air and frowns looking about, going through in his head, yes, they're all here, even her. That was good. They were stronger together even if that together was in the abstract, he smelled the pain, he smelled the fear. He had a starting place. He was apache and this was a hunt. Once started he would not cease. He opened the backpack and pulled out a juice box. He nodded and picked a direction, not one that logical sense but the one that felt right.

Jean Grey has posed:
The X-Men and their ally have a few moments (if one can judge a moment, in a timeless place) to explore the area they have entered (if one can map an impossible space). The rules to it are strange, and depending on one's personality, perhaps a thing worthy of infinite curiousity and wonder... or intense frustration.

Take John's ring, for instance. On the outside, it refused to reveal certain pieces of information about this place. But within? None of its diagnostics can make sense of what it is seeing. << Error. Reading exceeds dimensional parameters. Recalibrating. >>

Illyana, so used to having free reign on time and space, now knows what it is to be truly somewhere else. There are no doors that lead from here, no paths away. If she is Limbo, then perhaps Limbo, too, now resides within the crystal.

What is one more dimension?

She does not receive a verbal answer, in the way she speaks one. What is it to a woman normally cut from psychic contact to experience a voice in her head? Or maybe her heart? "You, too, have a place here. Come."

Xi'an's journey is unique.

The first to enter the crystal, she did so with a different sort of lodestone, in pursuit of... an entity? A feeling? Out there, it was hard to know.

Here, she can feel it's presence more fully, and more distinctly. She picks up speed out of urgency, yet as she steps from one street corner to the next, suddenly, that glow is not ahead of her. The broad avenue ahead (and when by instinct she glances back, behind) now feels a claustrophobic alley, and the shadows fall long and looming, out of place in a world that was once so bright. They start to chase her.

And as they do, the whole realm changes around each and every one of them. The light ahead vanishes. There is no shining city, only a pure and unimaginable void, closing in on every side.