7455/Shi'ar: The White Hot Room

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Shi'ar: The White Hot Room
Date of Scene: 20 August 2021
Location: M'Kraan Crystal
Synopsis: Having overcome the nightmare barrier, the X-men and their Green Lantern ally explore the tower in the center of the crystal's city, encountering the mysterious builder, before facing D'Ken and Davan Shakari. The battle seems to fracture the crystal around then (and perhaps all of reality with it), while the version of Jean they have found appears a corpse. Yet James makes contact with the Phoenix, who sweeps them into the center of its domain. It shows them a multitude of Phoenix hosts across time as they ask for their friend's return. The Phoenix agrees, although the process means they will be bonded again - and it demonstrates anger toward Lilandra for the Shi'ar's meddling. Soon after that, they are all ejected from the crystal, returned to the surface of M'Kraan for Illyana to transport home.
Cast of Characters: Jean Grey, John Stewart, Tabitha Smith, Xi'An Coy Manh, Illyana Rasputina, Rogue, James Proudstar

Jean Grey has posed:
Last Issue

After overcoming the defenses of the alien research center, the team approached the strange crystal at its center. Sensing a psychic threat within, Xi'an approached it first and was quickly drawn inside the crystal. Others soon followed, with the crystal's power shattering John's ring defenses.

Within the crystal, they discovered a strange city of white towers, with a powerful light at its center. Yet before they could reach it, the streets were plunged into darkness. Alone, each faced the dark terrors of their own souls:

Tabitha struggled with rejection and belonging, facing and ultimately overcoming the manipulations of a false benefactor from her past to choose the X-Men as her new family.

James Proudstar confronted the ghosts of his past and family, the specter of his brother -- one made flesh in recent days when his clones appeared during the attack on the school. Rejecting the nostalgia of an illusionary life among his people, he likewise rallied their memories to fight an army of his brother's shadows.

Illyana battled inner demons of a more literal sort amidst her ever-present struggle to maintain her humanity while the crystal provided a new kind of temptation.

Kitty was hunted and harried by shadows from the many dark chapters that already form her short history, courtesy of her unusual life. Ninjas, demons? It's a lot.

Rogue saw the new-found control over her powers upended while her sense of self disovled, her body hijacked by the personalities of the many villainous psyches she has absorbed. Fighting her own worst selves, she struggled to remember the life she has independent of those memories, her own, true life with her own friends and loved ones.

John Stewart faced alien horrors with only his human strength, only to be confronted by the catacylsmic nature of the power of the crystal -- and through whatever connection, his own ring -- flinging himself into armaggedon to carry out his mission.

All while Xi'an sought out the psychic presence at the heart of this torment, only to be confronted with numerous terrors of her own. Tormented by the many traumas of her life and tempted by one of her greatest foes, she shattered the illusion and faced the entity responsible, an alien intelligence in D'Ken's service. In doing so, she re-established the psychic link she had forged with the others, aiding them in their own trials.

In the end, each found their own light before finding each other, an experience which returns them to the 'normal' reality of the crystal interior as it plays out: they re-emerge from the darkness only to step into the light at the center of the city, before reappearing somewhere else entirely. Together.



They're together, but that doesn't mean anything makes sense yet.

The space they've arrived in has the appearance of a single floor, perhaps a kind of observation deck, near the top of one of the high towers that stand within the endless city. A room, atop a tower, within a city, within a crystal, within an alien city on a planet in a distant galaxy... but who is keeping track? Looking outward, the exotic nature of the location is quickly reinforced: they do not overlook the city itself, but a grand vista of darkness dotted with light, the infinite blackness of space.

There is a staircase at the center, extending in both directions.

And strangely, there is a man -- human, at least in their perception (does Lilandra see him so?) -- silently working on what seems a structural column, part of the skeleton of the building. He does not pause in his work to greet the new arrivals.

John Stewart has posed:
"I do not like this place. At all." John mutters, bringing his right hand up to his forehead and rubbing it. A reinforcement of what he said 'outside'. Mentally checking his ring, John brings it up to his eyes to visibly check it's still there, before he looks around... takes in his surroundings, then aims the ring at the man, "Ring, identify."

His intent on the 'man' on that column. Then, he mutters, "best to find out if the sensors work in here.... if this is a 'here'..."

Jean Grey has posed:
As usual, the ring happily chirps back a reply. As 'usual' in John's recent experience, it gives some pretty useless answers here. << Human male. Weight: 80 kilograms. Height: 2 meters. Identity: not appearing in any Oan or Earth database. >>

Also, perhaps par for the course, is the fact that the ring is happy to offer up some contextual extras rather than waiting on its user. The scan field widens, after a moment, scanning across the 'window' space and slowly panning around the whole tower. << Identifying position. >> As it scans each dot of light, it begins displaying identifiers, some with names, other simply numbers assigned in databases. However, it is not listing stars, but galaxies. And there are hundreds. The situation quickly becomes apparent: from this strange, perhaps omniscient vantage point, they are essentially looking out on the entire universe.

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Tabitha Smith walks out into the space with all the others breathing hard. She looks around to count all the others and make sure they're there before she looks around for something useful to do and realizes the hold situation is still a little bit above her pay grade. And the information the ring gives does not help with that impression in the slightest.

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
It was, in a word, horrifying.
In another word, traumatic.
Another? Painful.
Another one? Over.

Xi'an does not feel much triumph now that the enigmatic Thing which she was able to seize and, perhaps, destroy, is gone. She had dreamed of it, a little, but she has certainly learned her lesson. The fact that she was able to come through it despite the sudden heart-stopping thought that *THAT MAN* - Amahl Farouk - was in back of all of THIS... that HE might achieve cosmic power...

But it wasn't him. It was only her memory of him.


Xi'an appears. She is keeping up the network, but she seems weary. She has been crying, although not very recently. She presses a hand to her forehead as if to help herself validate the fact that seeing the others is not merely another layer of illusion. "Merci merci," she mumbles to herself when the Green Lantern addresses his ring.

The Ring does not identify the man.

Xi'an says to John, "This isn't typical, is it? Because that thing is like the djinni of the ring. I mean you even have a lamp. Ugh." She wordlessly attempts to feel for the mind of the man, but she does not do more than 'scan the ports' briefly - confirm the presence of Mind.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
What do you see when you look in the mirror? What if that mirror is the plane of the ego, where competing selves jostle for control and would happily slit the throats of the others to eradicate all traces of their presence? The M'Kraan Crystal possesses plenty to work with in tempting Illyana. What it shows her will ever be the most private of visions. What can you offer a girl who lost everything to gain tenuous control over the between-times, might-have-beens and possibly-thens?

Her trials cost her. They cost blood and mental cuts over deep, thick scar tissue raised in proud welts. Maybe the Rasputina psychic resistance comes from so much damage done far too early in life. Bet the Oan ring has plenty to say about that. Not where she can hear, of course.


For now, they are living souls far away from anywhere occupied. None of the creature comforts or rules of home apply, which probably has something to do with why Magik casts a sidelong look at John. Her eyes narrow slightly, waiting to see the ring's response. Some vague symmetry of surprise remains beyond the jaded facade. The whole universe. A map of everything, expanding further than it is old, and forgive her for looking out a little more. Before she is the demon queen, sorcerer, or Grigori Rasputin's get, she is the lady bound to Limbo. Limbo is all places and none. Galaxies, superclusters, strings of light in the Stelliferous Era embody everywhere it touches in tangible form. <<Old friends.>>

The New Mutants? Not so much. Galaxies? Maybe. The busy gentleman probably has something going on with his building project, but she calls to him, "Would you like a cup of tea?"

Rogue has posed:
The ordeal with meeting her own inner villains was n ot something Rogue would care to ever speak of to anyone. Once she steps out of the gateway to this room overlooking space, the Belle just roams her emerald eyes around the chamber they are all residing in now and she just exhales quietly. Her black hood is up again, her suit is in good shape still other than the right sleeve torn off from the fight outside the crystal room.

She watches the Green Lantern doing his thing and just quietly observes for the time being, her cape flowing around at her thighs as it settles in this new environment after she arrived.

"This is a mad funhouse.... only its forgotten what 'fun' means." She does mutter, mostly to herself.

Jean Grey has posed:
The mind scan is not revealing. If there is a presence there, it is beyond what Shan can interface with.

But it does get an answer. "Now now, if you have a question, just ask, young lady," the man suddenly speaks up, looking over at Xi'an. "Though I'd be appreciative if you were quick about it, I have work to do." He gestures at the column, where he is... well, doing his vague construction work. No hammering, just now, but he seems to be checking it for measurements of some kind, using rather simple devices like a level tool.

In this way, his answer to Illyana is probably also somewhat expected: "That's mighty kind of you to offer, but no. Work to do, as you can see."

John Stewart has posed:
"So, we're in a metaphysical... universal core?" John speaks, as if sounding out the phrase. "Well, I did sign up for some cosmic exploration." John quips as the ring keeps scanning. His green glowing eyes take in each galaxy in turn, before he looks to Illyana, "Are you still able to portal us out of here if we need it?" John asks of the Limbo Mistress.

Then, he looks back to the man, waiting to see if he responds to the requests and questions. "If that's a human, I'll eat my rifle...." He mutters under his breath, before he asks, "Who are you? What are you doing?"

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
Shan blanches when the man addresses her. "Um," she says. "My apologies, sir. Simply... being, er. Cautious."

("If you actually have tea I desperately need it," she says to Illyana, folding her hands loosely.)

John asks the clear question. Xi'an takes a moment to look round - Tabitha, Rogue - she sends them quick thoughts. <<You're alright?>>

James Proudstar has posed:
James Proudstar stands at the edge of the darkness. John's voice calls from shadow, "Not going anywhere little bird. Be waiting right here." Jim turns and looks into the darkness, styggian blackness but he can see John's outline, or maybe it's his imagination. "Not going anywhere." Clearly, not over.

     Jim emerges into the room and the wall of Smells and senses. He smiles and nods, "Back together, mind your fingers, toes and egos. He reaches out steady Shan, and place a comforting arm around Tabs. He eyes focus on Kitty and Yana before the rest. Checking in on them.

     He notes the man and takes a deep breath, "He's real, human or masking really well. not anyone we know or related to anyone- Guys, heads up, Jean's been here... is here in an esoteric sense. He nods to John, "I'm with the lantern. This place no bueno."

Jean Grey has posed:
"No harm done," he reassures Shan, quite amiably.

"Kind of a complicated answer to that first one," he then continues as John presents his questions. "And I don't have the time. Neither do you, I reckon." Still, he's not totally stubborn: "It's my job to prepare and maintain all of this. For you. Well, for all of you." He makes an exasperated sound. "Though I can't say you're making it easy, right now. Quite a mess you're making, all kinds of code violations."

Despite whatever aspersions James and John (J&J?) cast his way, the man doesn't seem to take insult. But he does speak up as a certain name is mentioned. "Oh, you're friends of the little lady?"

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
"Yes," Illyana states simply, a moment of standing apart from reality they occupy to check places far and wide. It may not be exactly the confirmation or comfort they hope for, but anyone who wants comfort of a girl naturally wrapped in spiky armour is looking up the wrong tree. Go get the hugs from Jean, their absent redheaded firebird. Try Tabitha, she's generally much friendlier.

"You want help?" Asking this about the building project, perhaps, she seems to be channeling her big brother's vibes. Or at least finding the right words.

<I always have tea.> An asided whisper falls to Xi'an to confirm not all is uncivilized. Her measured response for what the gentleman is up to building and the various dangers is a rarity, but credit to try. "Where is the little lady?"

Rogue has posed:
Its not exactly like its a given that Jean would be HERE, but still, the southern girl does look around when its mentioned that she WAS here. She even turns to start to walk a bit to get a better look at their surroundings. She moves behind Xian and comes out on the other side of her before nodding once to her.

"Yeah, Jean is a friend of ours." Rogue says to this man when he asks about the little lady...

"Got a coupon for a free meal at Mootan Town Milkshakes if ya point us in her direction too, Mistah." The Belle offers in a glum tone of her voice.

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Friendlier? Well that is both true and relative. Lots of odd things might seem friendlier when compared to Illyana the demon queen. Of course Tabby goes and proves it by accepting the one-armed hug James offers. She's not ready to return it though. This has been a bit much for the explosive one. She almost leans against the big Apache then the talk about Jean starts and she straightens to look across at the man.

"We'd really like to take her home now." is added to Rogue's comments.

Jean Grey has posed:
"Always appreciate a hand, and I'm sure you'd be a good worker." It is a curious evaluation of Illyana; presumably most of her friends would indeed attribute this description more to her brother than to her. "But I expect you've got other things to do first. 'Sides, kind like you.... well, suspect you'll be by again sooner or later. I'll take you up on it then."

It is not surprising that most react more strongly to the fact that he seems to know Jean. Pressed, he gives a gesture up and down to answer everyone, and as if to indicate the tower. "Here. She keeps me company. Nice thing, that, it'd be lonely work otherwise." Of course, it isn't a very precise answer in the face of what might be an infinite structure looking out over the entire cosmos.

However, its Tabitha's statement that causes a more clarifying response. "Well, that's tricky. She's here to work, just like I am." He looks thoughtful. "'Course, she's here for other reasons, too. Her being here with herself when she's not supposed to be, that's part of the trouble, y'see. Everyone waits to meet themselves, but there's a time." He smirks. "Even if she's not one to keep a schedule."

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
"What do you mean, by, all of this," Shan finally brings herself to say after another dizzying period.

She breathes steadily. They're being given a statement. Shan makes her focus. Her, Xi'an thinks --

Ah, she realizes.

"Yes, that makes sense," Shan mutters. To Illyana, she says, "I... don't suppose it is relevant, exactly, but... hm." She is thinking of what happened to her, the less gross parts (maybe). Perhaps estimating something. She is not quite willing to look at the man, even as he speaks of what, exactly, 'she' is doing.

John Stewart has posed:
There's a brief moment as John watches the man, then looks around at the galaxies... then back at the man again. "Are you maintaining the stability of the infinity stones, or are you another facet of the multiverse altogether?" John asks. The ring wouldn't lie, but if the man can manipulate reality on the level implied, infinity stones wouldn't be out of the picture.

Then, John floats up a bit and starts to 'fly' over to the column and aims the ring at it, "Ring, analysis. Is this corporeal, or is it only here in a metaphysical sense and we shouldn't touch it?"

James Proudstar has posed:
James Proudstar slips a juice box and a protein bar out of his knapsack and places them on his counsel with a nod, "When you have time. You can let the Apache go, though your re-creations were excellent, far better than others. They've earned their rest." The smile is sad but accepting, that gaze is firm. It's not a request however polite the language.

     Jim offers the group juice boxes and snacks one more time.

Rogue has posed:
Rogue glances toward Tabi and then back at the man. She narrows her eyes at him and starts to walk again. "Jean already has a job... she's gotta get home t'deal with it too. Lotsa people waitin' on her t'do things, like make my truck payment go through before its late...." She mutters before looking at what James is offering.

She snatches one of the snackbars that she loudly starts to open with lots of crinkly paper noises.

She raises it up to bite the end off as her eyes go to Jon to watch what he's doing. "What are Infinfity Stonfes?" She asks quietly with a full mouth now.

What? Fighting your own head villains works up an appetite.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
"Time and I are passing acquaintances. I do not follow its rules so well." Dictates, a more appropriate term, but the nuances might not be appropriate. A Primarch doesn't just announce she holds the particular rank in front of a builder of unknown means, especially should that builder be someone considerably more and less than he seems. "This has logic. You show up early for your interview, things happen. Late to the party, also happens."

Illyana leans back on her heels, definite consideration carved through her expression. James' offer of drinks and food is passed up, but then hardly surprising. Sustenance is plenty nice, but having her hands free is pelnty important too.

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Tabitha Smith firmly shakes her head at the offer from Jimmy. Food is definitely not desired right now. She honestly isn't sure she ever wants to see food again. She finally steps away from him but places a hand on his arm like she doesn't want to lose the contact between them. Probably an inappropriate instinct given the circumstances, but screw appropriate. Tabby makes her own rules. She looks over to Illyana as well.

Jean Grey has posed:
John's question gets a good hearty laugh. "I'm not the type to worry a collection of pretty rocks, though I've known some folks who did. Everyone needs a hobby, I suppose."

John's scanning, on the other hand, well: << Object is a multidimensional hyperstructure visible to you compressed into the 3-dimensional space. >>

As for Shan's question, he looks... well, a bit regretful. "'All of this' would take a while, and like I said, I don't really have it to spare." He looks from her, and on toward Rogue, as she speaks of Jean having a job elsewhere -- this is more important than an offer of a milkshake, anyway. "Tell you what, since you seem like nice folks. If you're looking for your friend, well, you just need to decide who it is you're looking to find. There's the friend you know, and there's the friend I know, and there's the trouble."

He jerks a thumb up the stairs. "Trouble's that way." Does he just assume that's what they'll choose? "'Spose I'd be obliged if you sorted it out."

Other than that, he glances at James and shakes his head. "Can't say I know what you're talking about. Go, stay, that's not my department, it's hers."

And for Illyana, another grin. "Yeah, you and I'd get on, I suspect. But there's time and there's time. For at least the current now, I think you've got other things to do."

James Proudstar has posed:
James Proudstar frowns, annoyed but something clicks and he turns to smile at Tabby, "Middle management." He turns back to the man and smiles with shrug, "That's fine, you can't help me just let me talk to your manager."

John Stewart has posed:
As he's asked the question, "The infinity stones are... for lack of a better phrase, concentrations of cosmic power. I don't know too much about them." He replies, before he looks to the stairs as they're mentioned. Then, John looks back to the man, "What's the difference between your friend and 'our' friend?"

Then, he asks the ring, "Clarify purpose of hyperstructure."

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Tabitha Smith frowns as the man speaks though James' comment makes it a little less severe. Maybe she doesn't have room to do any talking but she spouts of her opinion anyway, "We want all of her."

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
Illyana really doesn't do the hesitation and wait thing well. She looks over her shoulder at Tabitha and James, then gestures. New Mutants unite in the headlong bounce into trouble. "We go to the friend who /needs/ us. Which one that is, Rogue, you have ideas?"

Going for the sword isn't a bright idea. Easier to just will herself upward, flight an alternative for boring old walking. A quick and dirty spell works out the details fairly simply, and she bobs a foot from the ground. Following after the Belle is an easy task.

Rogue has posed:
Rogue takes another bite out of the snack bar she took from James and her eyes go to the stairs as the man talks of someone by the name of 'Trouble'? She narrows her eyes at these stairs and chews on the snack food in her mouth.

The candy bar is left sticking out of her mouth now as she needs both of her hands to remove her left glove with a snap of black leather off of her palm and fingers. She tucks the glove away and rises up off the ground to fly past Jon as he explains a bit about the Infinity Stones.

She's headed for the stairs now, reaching for the candy bar from her lips to pluck it from them again....

Apparently she's gonna go find Trouble, whether anyone joins her not.

She floats past Illyana and speaks back at her. "yeah, I got an idea." She says on the way. "I'm gonna beat the hell outta whatever is up those stairs, unless it gives our Jean back." She says it calmly, with confidence, even if whatever is up there may be more than a small challenge for her!

Jean Grey has posed:
"No reason to be ornery," the figure tells James, before turning back to the column. At least he's your non-vengeful variety of mysterious cosmic entity!

"Well, I know one and you know the other," the figure replies to John, as if this answer should be fairly obvious. "She works with me, while she works you with you. That's how it always works, although she is a bit special, never quite making up her mind." As they're talking, the ring chirps in the background: << Purpose unknown. >>

And while this discussion plays out, Illyana and Rogue have already set a course upward.

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
They need to decide who they're going to find.

Xi'an takes a moment to breathe. What should she do? Her arms fold loosely. The question of the Infinity Stones enters her perspective and then crosses forwards, out of the way of things. Her posture shifts, as she says, "I think I am understanding some of this now. There are... components, aren't there?"

"Perhaps some are more literal than others, but we all have many faces and many names," Xi'an says, gazing at the man for a lingering moment. "There is overlap, but it is not total."

A moment later, she turns to walk after Illyana and Rogue. Decisive. (SHe doesn't run ahead. That went badly last time!)

James Proudstar has posed:
James Proudstar moves obliquely to the man, keeping between him and the stairs, providing cover for the rest, as the entity of unknown power continues to play with the cosmos or maybe it's all minesweeper, who can tell.

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Trouble to be sorted. Tabby is quite certain she's not the one able to sort out trouble on this level and yet getting it sorted sound like the quickest way to get home. She slowly pulls her hand back from James and turns to follow Rogue and Illyana since she feels useless where she is.

Jean Grey has posed:
Those who blaze upward seek 'trouble.' It is a familiar mode for them, and if one recounted their lives, no doubt the heroic epic would be an apt form.

What they find serves this purpose.

D'Ken, in full Imperial regalia, sits upon a throne, elaborate and in Shi'ar style, which now predominates the room. Otherwise it is similar to the one below, in how it seems to overlook the cosmos. Except that outside these windows the whole thing depicted as some kind of political map, charting galaxies as territory in the grasp of the Imperium -- or territory yet planned to become as much. Already, they command many galaxies, far more than was the case when the group departed. Has this all happened, has the power allowed D'Ken so quick a conquest? Or perhaps, does Illyana's observation hold: what is time, exactly?

In his hand, he holds a staff, somewhat like Lilandra's, though shorter, and topped with an orb that contains a reddish-orange glow. The Majestor has two attendants. The first is the villainous Shi'ar diplomat Davan Shakari, who led the Shi'ar fleet on its arrival and attack against Earth, dressed in ceremonial red armor. The latter is the unknown young man who was present for the attack on the Grey family home in Annandale. As in that encounter, his look is distant, his eyes vacant. He kneels beside the throne like a pet.

And Jean, fittingly to the genre the scene seems to evoke, hangs bound from the wall behind the throne, attached to some obscure machinery.

John Stewart has posed:
When John gets the vague answer from the being, John just... stares at him. "Yeah, I've got enough about this place to get 'don't screw with anything'." John quips, dryly, before he looks to the others, lands, and brings up his ring, emitting a flying field once again, "Hop in. I don't trust this place anymore than I trusted that mental crap. I can at least trust my ring to mitigate potential threats." John offers to anyone walking.

Then, he's going up the stairs towards 'trouble', flying along just fast enough to keep a cautious eye out.

Once he's flown up, John floats there, checking out the area... before he aims his ring at the machine, "Ring, Analysis."

James Proudstar has posed:
James Proudstar frowns watching his teammates charge heedless into trouble. He looks back to the man then to the green lantern, then to the Empress so far forgotten. Then back to the stairs the Warpath is clear but is that still who he is? He frowns, "Empress, you've been quiet, you are the expert in all things crystal what are we missing?"

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Bombs do not work well against philosophical problems. This is a thing Tabby has been forced to learn oh so recently, but as far as she can tell, THIS is not a philosophical problem. Really only one way to tell if bombs will work on this problem. Right?

In deference to the potential for collateral damage with Jean hanging behind the throne, Tabby starts with bombs of the smaller variety. Golf ball sized time bombs appear in each of her hands and then are thrown immediately at the man in the throne and the man in the red armor.

Can you say impulsive boys and girls? I KNEW you could.

Rogue has posed:
Rogue arrives on the scene with the others and her eyes roam around at what she sees, the Shi'ar from the fight before and the... utter strangeness that is this place as a whole. But ultimately her eyes land on her friend, chained up to a machine...

She takes one last bite of the snack bar that James had provided and then just sighs and shakes her head.

"If this were a pirate simulation in the Danger Room, then Jean would be pretty much where she always is. But this isn't that, I don't think, and now its time t'let her go." She puts her eyes on the 'man' who she assumes is 'Trouble' and she sighs tiredly at him.

"Release my friend." She motions to Jean. "You can keep that one." She motions to the Shi'ar."

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
There it is. There HE is.

Xi'an Coy Manh thought she was worn out but she finds she can rally up even so. Why did the crystal seem to cover for him? she thinks, but -

Anger wins out, momentarily. Perhaps she's picking up from Boom-Boom's infallible life decisions. She clenches her fists and-- --

She doesn't have her gun! She gave it to James. (Hopefully James has used it productively, for instance to add value at model kitbashing.)

And thus, she cries out, "Tyrant!" even as the bombardment begins! Her head is limned by a halo as she lingers back, turning her attention towards--

That feeling again.

Shan does not immediately execute her plan to possess D'Ken. The psychic waveform is pulled back. Instead of pouring herself into the madman, she reaches towards the human man. To read him; to understand him. Watching as she does - ever alert for a possible lethal blow into which she can hurl her mind and stop, or at least throw astray.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
Blue eyes flash a dangerously bright shade. Illyana otherwise is silent and still in the volley of explosives being hucked at D'Ken. How the Shi'ar pretender opts to take the response from Tabitha is entirely up to him. One option may be closed, but several others sure aren't.

The sword hasn't been called up because it might not actually prove unnecessary. Not with the other effects to call on. Xi'an has her telepathy, James his sheer size, Rogue eating everyone's faces, and she can mostly smirk. It's very effective.

She arches an eyebrow at John. The words formed behind the barriers of her mind light up the dark like a solarscape, and they probably hurt a little to even pull on. In that respect, Magik isn't an idle codename. It's the very essence of what she is, and pulling together a ritual to support the Green Lantern ring is only fair. It shouldn't have to do all the work!

Jean Grey has posed:
"I am hardly an expert. No Shi'ar has been able to enter the crystal like this. Nor am I yet an Empress until we deal with my brother's treachery," Lilandra puts plainly to James. "To my eyes? This is a place of the gods, or of someone powerful enough to act in their place." And perhaps, on account of this last note in particular, she offers a polite bow to the man fiddling with the column still. Then she begins walking after the others.


As Rogue and Illyana take the vanguard, the Shi'ar princess soon joins them as well, soon to face her brother, who answers the Belle with a laugh. "I think not. With her, I have accessed this place, and the ultimate power in the univers."

"You are a fool to trifle with things beyond your comprehension," calls back Lilandra, "and a traitor for the unecessary wars and loss of lives you have caused our people. I name you a traitor and claim the throne by Arin'nn Haelar."

Which if anyone needs a translation, likely means some kind of trial by combat. Seeing that she immediately levels her staff at him and fires. It seems she and Tabitha have about the same degree of interest in peaceful diplomacy.

The bombs, however, are met by Shakari, who steps in front. They explode across his armor, but do not seem to do him any harm. He smirks at her, and stalks forward. Meanwhile, D'Ken lifts his scepter to fire a similar blast back at his sister. The two energy forces meet, contesting in a roiling lightshow, before his own gains the upper hand. Powering through the other blast, it strikes Lilandra in her armor, casting her backward against the the wall. As she hits, the imapct loosens a Shi'ar banner, that falls from the wall as its support is shaken. Poor craftsmanship?

Xi'an initiates contact, and the human, though he has apparently resisted Jean in the past, seems quite out of it in all of this, and does not resist the contact. In a moment, a flood of images fill her mind, some as recent as the conflict that brought them here. But others are older, much older.

And finally, the ring. << Complex multiversal structure compressed into 3-D space. External area is multi-phase crystaline lattice conjoining brane structure. Lattice has multiple irregularities. Stability uncertain. >> Then, the people. << Two Shi'ar, one human variant with significant mutative factors. Recursion error. Weapon energy source receptical is co-locative with exterior structure. >>

John Stewart has posed:
"How do we disconnect the woman from the structure without harming her? Blasting anything in this place doesn't seem like a good idea, with all the dimensional connections." John continues.

For now, he seems to trust his allies to keep the Shi'ar busy. They're here to rescue Jean, after all.

James Proudstar has posed:
James Proudstar looks up and looks down, then he looks back at the man and finds his own way. James chooses the path less travelled and heads down the stairs.

Tabitha Smith has posed:
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Tabby has absolutely no desire to make physical contact with Shakari. So she backs off as she pulls a bomb more like the size of his head as she does so then lobs it at his face to keep him back and hopefully do him a little damage along the way though he seems to have shrugged off the first one. "Don't suppose you've got anything to help me get past this armor Yana?"

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:

Xi'an's eyes widen. Her initial plan had been: This man has some kind of secret power. Maybe he's not actually human, just modified - maybe something else. What she sees...

Shi'ar military training. The details are somewhat opaque but Xi'an knows soldiers, and Shi'ar are not so different from the soldiers of genus Homo, wherever situated upon Earth. The members of the Imperial Guard, glimpsed in passing. (O, what I could have done, Xi'an thinks at a memory of a distant glimpse of Gladiator.)

But beyond that... he is an open book. He's looking at D'ken...

There's some kind of... No, this is from within some kind of container. A clear wall. Glass? Something like glass. Fluid. D'Ken is looking at him with triumph, and further back - almost abruptly - there is a sudden set of impressions. Terror. Arrogance. Fury...

It's so deep set, but so clear, Xi'an thinks. But how could he have felt something so complex as a child? Unless...

"... My God," Xi'an says, with a sort of awe even as laser fire bursts through the air, the destiny of empires writ in battle around them here at the axis of the cosmos! "How did he ever..."

She swallows then. Having come round the path, she is back where she began, but the feeling is far different. And then the contact with the man's mind turns into the in-pouring, with a murmured apology to his awareness, dimmed as it is.

Ah, she thinks, as she curls the toes in her(?) right leg.

There we go.

The kneeling man rises up to his feet, with a gradual, leisurely flow. Almost balletic. His attention turns down to gaze upon his hands, curling the fingers, flexing them outwards, as if he has never seen them before.

"... it feels different," the man says to himself, "but it always does, doesn't it." The man then looks up, and winks towards the X-Men, before declaring aloud, "My liege! What are your commands?"

Rogue has posed:
Rogue looks over to those with her, Tabitha and her bombs, Illyana and her... everything. She exhales sharply when the fighting starts and just makes her move. Not to engage the 'Trouble', not yet anyway, but to instead get to Jean. She doesn't want her friend hanging there any longer if she can do anything about it.

Unfortunately when Rogue arrives at the machine that Jean is attached to, she's not entirely sure how to get her off of it.... "Shit." Rogue says as she tries to put one of her gloves back on, she's angry and emotional so her ability to stop her touch power is likely inept at this point. With her gloves back on, though her right arm still exposed, Rogue tries to find ways to break the machine to free Jean....

All the while glancing over her shoulder at the fighting as it starts to heat up!

"Where'd James go!" Rogue grumbles!

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
"Have your friend come over here, we find out." Aw, Tabitha's making great life choices and life partners! Everyone should entirely enjoy this. The Shi'ar princess-nee-empress who needs to defeat D'Ken in some manner of combat by honourable challenge, a thing she knows very well as a Russian and demon queen, won't be without a bit of help.

"Somewhere nearby. Maybe pulling out other redheads from trouble, he is rather good at that." Her English spot-on is never a particularly telling sign. Seeing Xi'an-not-human walk past with a call of commands to be undertaken, she snaps her attention sidelong back to the man battling at the heart of the fracas.

Someone so close, but not close enough. Oh well.

Brilliant lines form around her hands, forging a rather delicate little pentagram. At each point dances a set of blue stars, almost pretty twinkling little things, though upclose their energy weaves them like rings. Which is the point, Raggadorr's spells maintain that particularly round or flexible shape. The Rings of Raggadorr twist and dance, giving a heck of a runaround for protection. Must be nice, as opposed to openly blasting a man with extra armour. First, suit up. Then, apply sword when he's dancing around trying to avoid Lilandra, Tabitha, an irate Rogue tossing machine parts or the like.

All it takes is a turn, and who knows, that incandescent blade might be usefully applied.

Jean Grey has posed:
The heroes clash, although true to the fears that brought them here, whatever power D'Ken has taken, it seems to serve him well. With the scepter, he summons blasts of energy that can stun even the most durable of them, or damage the shields that the Green Lantern summons amidst the combat, while he in turn conjures defenses of a similar nature, raising a shell of energy to fend any stray blasts.

But the brute combat isn't the center of the story. John querries the ring again, which reports: << Unknown. Subject registers as residual particles only. >>

Rogue circumvents the commbat, while quiet and unseen in the rest of the struggle, Kitty Pryde has snuck around the edge of the room. The two meet where Jean is restrained, and Kitty quickly reaches to touch the mechanisms, scrambling them and releasing the body into Rogue's arms.

Except... she really does feel like a body. Cool. Still. 'Residual' components, as the ring may have suggested.

Meanwhile, Xi'an has found herself a puppet, a shell of a young man who had proved a powerful tool for the Emperor. The experience had clearly cost him, scarred him. But Shan's psyche proves a secondary animating force. And perhaps, she helps him access a few long burried memories along the way.

"Kill them!" D'Ken commands, as one might expect.


Elsewhere, Warpath has chosen the other path.

He steps off stair, and suddenly finds himself in... It is hard for his mind to grasp the meaning of the space, as it seems to shift by the moment. For an instant, it is his own home, recently summoned in his nightmare memories, yet here without any of that pain and doubt. Or it is Jean's office at Xaviers? She is seated at her desk, wearing one of her usual green dresses. "What's the matter, James?"


While D'Ken fights with his scepter, Shakari leaps forward to meet whatever opposition, and encounters most of them directly. The second bomb from Tabitha staggers him, but only just, and the armor still seems to hold. By now, he's reached her, and clutches her by the throat with one gauntleted hand. Illyana is a little slower to join with her conjured defenses, but comes soon, with Lilandra likewise dragging herself to her feet to do the same. Both will have to contend with blasts from D'Ken in the background, but the two prove good distractions around Shakari, the Princess striking him with her staff (now glowing to deliver its energy directly), causing him to strike at her with the hand not holding Tabitha. But that's both hands! And while Illyana will find that here, the Soulsword functions about as a normal sword (neither dispelling anything nor passing through his armor)... a normal sword is still a dangerous thing.

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Tabitha Smith needs to breathe just like anyone else but she's not easy prey despite being weak compared to her comrades. His armor is good but he ALSO has to breathe which means it has holes. So while one hand instinctively lifts to the hand on her throat trying to work its way between his hand and her neck and give her breathing space, the other one comes up and a golf time bomb is shoved through one of those holes. It does a good job at keeping the explosions out... It's pretty likely to keep it IN too. That smarts right? Oh gods Tabby hopes that smarts enough to get her ability to breathe back.

Rogue has posed:
Rogue is tearing bits of machine apart and tossing them aside trying to pull Jean out of the creation and getting progressively more frustrated the harder it seems to be. The pressure of the fighting behind her wasn't helping either! With teeth gritted she's about to pull another piece off when Kitty just appears out of no where and swipes Jean out of the machine!

"Shit!" Rogue says, and actually falls backward on to her butt! No flight power to save her grace! She just drops down on to the ground before Jean is loose and free-falling!

Rogue uses her flight power to raise back up off the ground though where she catches the redhead, only to feel the lifeless sensations coming from touching her friend like this. "Jean!" Rogue shouts (In lieu of no Scott, right?)

The southerner in the black and green lowers Jean down to the floor, then looks up to the others fighting. She looks over to Kitty for answers, but... who even here would have any? Rogue leans down to listen for breathing from Jean, anything. "I can't do compressions, I'll snap her ribs!" Rogue shouts to Kitty, but is it far too late? She has NO idea.... The others, if they look over, will see something is wrong, undoubtedly.

John Stewart has posed:
As it's clear that something weird is going on with the body and that the others are taking care of it... John finally Wills into existence a sniper rifle and starts firing it at the gem powering the weapon.

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
"Kill them?" the man says.

"I suppose that this would remove an obstacle from your ambitions," the man continues, and at this point people can tell he has a French access for some reason.

"And yet! Is it not appropriate that at the last ditch, on the threshold of glory, your crimes and cruelties should catch up with you? There is a word for such things among the great cultures of the planet Earth. Do you know it?"

When one of D'ken's blasts fires, perhaps to take a telling shot -- it instead undulates in the air, before snapping forwards towards the man's upheld right hand, where it forms a tight, angry bee-buzzing figure-eight!

Some of Tabitha's bombs seem to fizzle -- but not really! The gathering figure-eight intensifies and begins to crackle.

"Now suffer! Call for mercy --" The gathering circulation-sparkle turns into a sudden bellowing thunder-crack-BLAST towards D'ken's right leg, forced down to near-monomolecular compression in an effort to rupture the Imperial armor. "And hope it is not denied to you!"

("Heh heh," says Xi'an, who is sweating again. She looks upwards after the blast, muzzily. <<Is she well? What's wrong?>> she thinks, rather weakly, towards Rogue.)

James Proudstar has posed:
James Proudstar frowns with the whiplash of the crystal, but he's growing used to it, he does wonder st the way the smells and bacground noises only he hears adjust. "Oh, Jean, D'ken is on M'krann, in the crystal. He brought you here, we followed with Lilandra, everyone else is upstairs, so... come with me if you want to live?" I mean how many time do you get to say that?

Jean Grey has posed:
Eventually, the many heroes arrive collectively at a singular result. Shakari gives a rather undignified scream as Tabitha, struggling for breath, slips an explosive into that intricate (but in some places more stylish than pragmatic) armor of his, detonating inside of it. As he staggers in pain, @emit Illyana finds a moment and a similar gap in the armor to drive the blade home, where he drops Tabitha, staggers back a few steps, and falls.

But worst still is what happens when D'Ken's enslaved mutant is turned against him: Those who were in Annandale to witness Jean's destruction were also witness to his power, which is now seemingly at Xi'an's command by proxy. Exercising his powers for him, she gathers that energy, indeed, all kinds of energy from around the chamber and fires it back into him. The result is immediate as with another howl of pain, D'Ken falls to one knee.

And then John fires.

The gem atop D'Ken's scepter makes a sound like slowly cracking glass, of little fractures growing into larger ones. The amount of energy he has been pouring through the device seem to exacerbate the process, as it stards to bleed energy into the room.

And as this happens, the windows of the room around them start to slowly crack as well, as if in sympathy.


In Jean's office, or wherever the hell they are:

Jean tilts her head, as if she doesn't entirely grasp what James is telling her. "What do you mean? This is where I've always lived, I'm not supposed to-" But she seems to pause a moment, and consider things. Time is strange, as Yana told them. There is a cracking sound in the background. "No, this isn't-" Her eyebrows furrow. Her dress is red.

I will bring them, and they will answer.


THere is a flash of white light, and all of them are gone, and then all together again, somewhere else. There are no architectural flourishes here. It is a plain white room. It is a rock floating in the void of space. The walls are crytal, with a billion facets reflecting back at them.

D'Ken and Shakari lay on the ground, perhaps trying to rise. The young man is still with the rest of them, and Rogue still cradles Jean.

Even as another Jean hovers in the air above them. She wears a costume only a handful of them have seen, and never in these colors: a red jumpsuit with gold gloves, boots, sash, and a bird-like symbol on her chest. Her eyes burn, and behind her, a halo of fire begins to take the shape of a great bird.

INTERLOPERS! I am the End of All that Is. I am fire and life Incarnate. I am Phal'kon. Tiphareth. Zharptitsa. Chu Tuoc. THE PHOENIX.

Tabitha Smith has posed:
Dropped, Tabitha falls and clutches at her throat as she struggles for a moment. And then everything shifts and Jean's floating in the air being all scary-bird like. She eyes Jean warily for a second then resigns herself to to concept of This is WAAAAY the Hell Above Her Paygrade. She coughs again at the lingering sensation of having been choked then simply leans forward to rest her arms against her knees and stays down, leaning against said arms for support.

James Proudstar has posed:
James Proudstar looks at everyone battle worn and raises his eyebrows, "Found Jean." He says unnecessarily, then she speaks, "Umm, should I put her back?" He backs away, putting himself between them and Jean, "Dr. Gray, this is hardly acceptable behavior, think of the students, classes start in like a week. We all need to get back."

John Stewart has posed:
For his part, John looks over the outfit... and "Nice outfit." He compliments, before he simultanously turns on his shield defenses to max, and scans Jean herself. "Is this the source of the original white light, Ring?"

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:

Somewhere else.

Maybe everywhere at once.

Xi'an looks at herself for a moment through the eyes of others. She suppresses the three reflexive points of self-critique. The control is withdrawn -

- and it comes with a telepathic statement for the man. <<I am sorry to have used you. The need was dire. I shall do what I can to make up for it.>>

She's said it a number of times, so it comes very, very easily.

Her head tilts upwards to gaze upon a red-litten, red-clad Jean, feeling a subtle cramp of her muscles. James makes a joke, Xi'an lets out a weak little "heh" as some of the tension dissipates.

Staring upwards, she swallows, and makes herself straighten up. "... Perhaps; but that is not who we are here to find. We, do not seek power, only to prevent horror, to recover one we love!"

(She goggles momentarily at John -- he, too, seems to be taking it well.)

Rogue has posed:
Xian's mental question reaches Rogue who looks up across the chaos of the fighting to the other. Rogue doesn't /have/ to reply verbally- or otherwise -for the answer to be seen on her face.

But its then that the skillful fighting of her companions seem to take down the enemies, but also trigger a change in scenery. Rogue's eyes had gone back down to her friend she's holding on to, one gloved hand adorned with that skeleton imagery strokes over Jean's brow, brushing aside some of her red hair, just as the white backdrop takes over.

Rogue looks up to Kitty first, then over to the others... but its the voice that makes her look up....

Well. What. Do you. Even say. In a situation like this...

Rogue's arms go under the body of Jean before her and she lifts her up. She puts her metal boots under herself and moves to stand up holding the deceased form of the Phoenixes former vessel in her arms, the body limp and quite lifeless!

The Belle glances to her companions before she starts to walk forward and lifts up off the ground to float up in to the air, carrying Jean's form with her until she's nearly at the same level as the Phoenix is hovering in her fancy outfit.

Rogue flaots there now, her black cape flowing around her as she stares at the woman who looks like her friend, but most assuredly isn't! The white bangs framing the Belle's face flowing in the winds coming off of the Phoenix's presence.

"You can be, whatever the hell you wanna be." Rogue says to the Phoenix, more than a LITTLE nervous here! "WE just want our friend back."

Jean Grey has posed:
As she speaks, the bird's blazing eyes stare into them, and that voice is more than words, more than psychic communication. It is universal, reverberating through the total essence of their being. Her names echo in many languages, those most familiar springing to the mind of each of them.

While the tower has vanished, or at least the Shi'ar trappings, to leave them in the plain white room, the floating rock, the whatever-it-is, one thing that remains constant is the spread of stars beyond them. It has not changed, and while the details are far too small for them to make out at a distance, it remains the universe of D'Ken's making. And as firebird looks upon them, she looks displeased.

FLAWED. Broken. We will begin again.

The sound of the cracking intensifies. Which can't be good for anyone.

James is the first to speak. As with the mysterious construction worker, he shows no fear, even a little irreverence. Unfortunately, this cosmic being IS vengeful. Very quickly, its ire turns toward him, a a fiery talon reaching out as if to silence-

He says her name.

Dr. Grey? I am the Phoenix (/Phal'kon/Tiphareth/Zharptitsa/Chu Tuoc/et al, the voice echoes). No. I am Jean Grey? I am Firehair. I am Wu Fongji. I am Rook'shir. I am Jean Grey. I am Rachel Summers I am Jean Grey I am...

Around them, the crystal walls shift, revealing a countless number of other images r across the many facets of the surface. Many are unfamiliar, yet some are not. Rachel Grey and Hope Summers. Quentin Quire. Some cluster together: An even half-dozen identical copis of Jean in elaborate black gowns. Emma and her clone 'children.' Namor. Even one of their own, as Illyana stands beside her brother Piotr in a single image.

Scott Summers, in the center of the other four, yet clearly alone, the background of his reflection a plain of utter desolation.

The bird tilts its head toward Xi'an. Momentarily, she feels its touch, more intently, not just her mind, but the whole of her being ripped bare for... examination. The same burning gaze moves toward Rogue next, as she bodly approaches baring the body. The costume is the same, but green.

We know her. You know us. She can be returned. But not as before. Whole, or not at all.

And finally, it stares at Lilandra. Who looks unnerved, now, and looks desperately around. "We cannot just let it /come back/. It is too dangerous. Charles and I, we helped her-"


Needless to say, the costume is red again.

The Ring answers: << Energy level consistent. EES spectrum unstable. >>

John Stewart has posed:
"If anything, that's an essence of something. I'm getting the impression your friends soul is bound up in the force that-" John points to the Phoenix, "-structure represents. The signal that drew me to your position isn't there, so she might be hidden or absorbed inside of it." John floats about the group, his right hand aimed in front... ready to shield anyone who might come under attack with his own shield.

This is what Green Lanterns do, protect people.

"We do not know what we're doing, Phoenix. Your friends and I came into this place to rescue a human. Are you capable of giving her back her body with it's soul intact?" John asks, politely.

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
Shan's teeth tighten for a moment.

The bird-person-presence reveals -- something. Glittering, like the cathedral window at Notre Dame that Xi'an has only seen in pictures but going on forever and she recognizes face upon face and upon face and - no, not all of them, there are Rachel, someone else Xi'an hasn't met. (Quire??) Others - Illyana -- Scott? He's in some sort of pain --

The Presence looks towards her.

AND EVERYTHING IS REVEALED: Every doubt, every hope, every fear, every hatred, every love, every fantasy, every dream, every despair. Every moment where she triumphed, every moment where she failed (and there are more of the latter, by far -- though, does anyone else know?) Every aspect of her body is spread outwards, like a frozen mutant subjected to in-depth slice disassembly and examination --

-- Reassembly -- examination in another angle --

I'm being judged by God, Xi'an thinks, before a moment later she slumps forwards, half-swoons, flopping onto the floor and gasping again in shock. Horror. She looks at herself, staring at the indifferent and as yet undamaged metal of her leg. She puts a hand on it, as if to use it as an anchor.

Did I pass? she wonders.

"The entity," Shan forces out, to answer Lilandra, "the... crystal, or the Phoenix, if they are different. It tried to persuade me... to accept... a version of Jean back." Jean, here, too, not Dr. Grey or any other polite name! "I did not trust the offer, but..."

God, I'm terrified, Shan thinks. IS this God? The true face of God, a red and fiery bird? Is this blasphemy to even think? Well, she continues, I'll offer it up, as she makes herself look upwards.

"What does SHE want? Do you know? I -- that is what I want, what we want. But we are afraid of this power! Even if it is forbidden... forbidden things will draw fascination. Power, from the act of taboo! Please, if she is part of you - you must know these things! Have mercy on us! We are but starting to reach for, for..."

<<I'm running out of English to speak here,>> Shan says to the others, mentally, where the language barrier doesn't matter. <<I... don't think it is possible to fight it. Even this mutant D'ken... grew, tortured, I do not think even he...>>

Rogue has posed:
The response from the Phoenix has Rogue feeling some sense of hope for her friend, but Lilandra's argument makes some ... measur eof a point. That being said, Rogue still glares at Lilandra, whether she's being logical or not.

When the Lantern sweeps in to view, Rogue looks to him and his protective shield, while still floating there in mid 'air' herself holding Jean's body. AT what Jon says, Rogue dips her chin once in a faint nod of acknowledgement to what he's asking for.

Rogue spares a look back and down to the others with them before she hears Xi'an's words spoken up to the Phoenix. She waits before she can chime in. "Jean Grey means the world, to so many of us where we come from. It may seem insignificant to someone like you, but it isn't to us. We need her back."

This while, everything, is not making Rogue like space any better either....

Tabitha Smith has posed:
One last cough finds Tabby's throat clear and she looks up again. She's felt this before, this worry in the presence of a cosmic entity with enough power to end everything, maybe. She's not eloquent or anything but Tabby says quietly, "She didn't ask for any of this. Haven't we all suffered enough? Can't you find it in you to help us? To help her?"

James Proudstar has posed:
James Proudstar stands his ground, even as Phienix grabs for him. He doesn't honestly think he can win but he has no fear of death. Whether that is born of his time with his tribe or he thinks that if they lose, this wiil reboot and he'll wind up back in book 1 but this time he will make sure to grab that horn and not let it be lost! Blame Shan, she gave him the books.

    Then it stops and shows so many facets or itself, hosts, "Like a parasite." He says without thinking. "If you have so many hosts can you not just take another?" it may be noticable for all his bravado, he doesn't offer himself, "Or do you really need them? Can't you just leave us alone?"

Jean Grey has posed:
The Green Lantern's analysis draws the bird's attention briefly, the fiery eyes looking upon him.

Lightbearer. Flesh is easy. A soul is not. We are all here waiting to meet ourselves, to be created again. But I am-she is-we are Jean Grey-Phoenix. We are here and we are there. Our soul will be one.

And there is a pointedness to that last, directed at Lilandra, who while she looks disquieted, also looks terrified. Shan may debate it, but to her there is no question that she is face to face with one of the chief beings of her pantheon. And not a particularly kind one, in their theology. "It's too dangerous. We can try and repair the crystal-"

The Phoenix is ignoring her now, but watches Shan. As if to answer her question, the crystal reflections shift. They show a scene that some here witnessed first hand, and which initially registered on John's ring: Jean's death at her parents home. Even as the unknown mutant (who now watches this all with mildly childlike curiousity) tore away at her essence, she manifested the same flaming bird-aura that this version of her does here, except pure white, channeling its power to revive her father. From her, it looks to James as well.

The Jean Grey who comes before will always return to us, always call to us, ultimately accept us. Because she is us and we are her. Death and life. Sacrifice. Rebirth. We have had many hosts. We will have others. But we are always Jean Grey.

And the firebird begins to descend toward them, toward Rogue. The burning wings retract, fade away. By the time she has stopped to hover in the air before Rogue, Jean-not-Jean's costume is now white beneath the golden accessories. Hanging there, she reaches out, her glove burning away to reveal the hand beneath, which touches the other woman's cheek. "We miss you."

And simultaneously, to Xi'an telepathically (and truly telepathically, in the more limited sense, not the burning, terrifying, direct-to-soul speech of earlier): << And we miss you. >>

There is a melancholy in it, as if this Jean has gone an eon without them, and yet remembers them every bit as well as the version Rogue has brought forward. Again, Illyana's comments about time prove themselves.

"We will offer. But we must also accept. The choice will still be hers. As it has been, and will be."

From its place on Rogue's cheek, the White Phoenix's fingertips trace down, and then slip to reach toward her mortal counterpart. The motion is slow, offering that chance for intervention, yet showing confidence that ultimately, Rogue will not pull away. She knows, because she, too, is Jean Grey.

John Stewart has posed:
For once, John says nothing. This is an obviously personal and subjective experience to those around him. To get involved would be akin to intruding on a moment between friends, despite being a friendly ally.

He sits there, silent as the Phoenix Force addresses him.

"Gonna need a drink after this..." He mutters to himself as he floats there, scanning the cracks in reality.

Xi'An Coy Manh has posed:
The voice touches her mind.

Is it the dead? No.

Shan's response is a gibberish outpouring, the psychic equivalent of a huge, wet sob into someone's chest. Pure, honest, and perhaps a little raw, with the weird tension corners that she often has. An unrefined burst of joy and deferred pain and a thousand more subtle hues, before she draws it in...

And moves to get to her feet. It is a minor operation. "... the crystal... yes, perhaps it needs repair... D'ken damaged it, did he not? But the... figure, he seemed to be working on it... if there is something we can do, then perhaps we..."

"... I don't know," she concludes, perhaps lamely, but at least she's back on her feet again. Dear God, Shan thinks, I have soaked this uniform through with sweat. (It's not blood, is it?) Wiping off her forehead, she says, "All of this... I suppose at least we did not have to fight our way through... no, I won't finish that sentence."

"James, I think I am about to fall over," Shan then says, aloud, which is probably its own message. "Should we... God, are we even in the same space? Oh..."

<<I think that she's... reaching for you,>> Shan says to Rogue (and this one, only to Rogue.) <<It is the best I can think. If you are afraid, I... can't blame you; but I do not think you should be.>>

"Is it like this for the Justice League?" she concludes, this one towards John.

Rogue has posed:
Rogue watches the Phoenix come closer, seeing the colors across their form shift from one extreme to another. She watches the bright finger rise up to touch at her face, and before it can reach her, Rogue's black hood is blown off her head in the wind coming toward her, sending her brown and white hair flowing out on either sides of her head. She flutters her eyelids rapidly before she feels the touch to her skin.

She's pale in the face of the Phoenix's light like this, but she's also not afraid. She feels some measure of comfort in fact, a sense of her friend behind the touch. The corners of her lips even flicker upward before resting again.

She can hear Xian's voice and it breaks Rogue's stare. She looks down to her and begins to float in that direction, with Jean's form still in her arms. She floats down to touch her metal booted feet to the ground where Xian stands,looking from Xian, then back to the others, James, Tabitha, Kitty... Illyana and Jon, then back up to the Phoenix.

"We want t'take our friend home now." The Belle says softly then.

Jean Grey has posed:
Jean touches hers-

Er, ok, let's try that again...

The Phoenix-entity represented as Jean reaches out to lay her hand upon the forehead of her mortal counterpart. For all the cosmic grandeur of it, the moment itself is subdued. A soft glow of light encasing both her and... her.

Lilandra continues to be unhappy, though as she steps forward, as if to possibly interfere, against all that divine terror, the White Phoenix simply lifts her other hand, holding the woman in place.

"You must come to terms with this as well, Majestrix Shi'ar. See the folly in four hundred years of bloodshed, in the madness that took your brother. You hunted the line of Rook'shir, and we were born in another. Do you think tormenting those called 'Grey' or 'Summers' will serve you better?"

It is a gentle plea for sanity.

Face us together, if you dare. But harm our helpless children, attempt to tamper with our powers as you and your brother have done, and you will know our wrath a thousand times over.

Or not.

And then Lilandra is released from whatever grip, staggering as she stumbles forward with pent-up muscular action, and stands there.

The White Phoenix smiles back at Rogue. "Yes, of course. Your home. We... we will miss you. Goodybe. But we know we will see you again."

With those parting words, the White Phoenix is gone. The strange space is gone. They are in a floor of the tower, perhaps, but all the Shi'ar accoutrements are gone. Rogue is still holding Jean, who is garbed in the costume of the other Jean, albeit the green version.

The builder is standing there, smiling, albeit with some exasperation. "Bit of a mess you left, but reckon I can fix things. Easier than starting all over again. Well, better get along then. Be seein' you." They both say that a lot, don't they?

Jean, the mortal form in Rogue's arms, begins to stir. And then, once again, they are somewhere else.