X-Men fan fiction
part 1: Gifted Students
Chapter 1: Homecoming
Chapter 2: Recharge
Chapter 3: Regenerate
Chapter4: Xavier's Decision
Chapter 5: X-Men in Training
Chapter6: Mission Fatigue
Chapter 7: New and Improved
Chapter 8: Fear Itself
Chapter 9: Through the Glass
Chapter 10: Mourning Glories
Chapter 11: Ghost Stories
Chapter 12: The Devil and Despair
Chapter 13: Spuytin Dyvil Falls
Chapter 14: Evil Spirits
Chapter 15: Heart Stone
Chapter 16: The Rubble O'r Our Sins
Chapter 17: Shadow Boxing
Chapter 18: House Rules
part 1: Gifted Students
Professor Xavier, Jean called insistently. Can you hear me, Professor?
Jean was met with a flash of memories, of herself, of the school. Those things gave Xavier a glimmer of hope... which was quickly crushed. Jean closed her eyes and pressed the palm of her hand to her forehead, repressing a curse. She could almost get through to him.
Scott was looking out from the shop window. He placed a hand to the glass as he saw their teammates disappear from sight, but his worry for them faded into a burst of admiration and pride as he followed their progress through Jean’s mental link. Beast and Angel radiated confidence and determination. Storm, who had every right to be angry and afraid at having been returned to the place where her childhood had effectively ended, instead chose to stare down this threat from her past and face it as a challenge.
Mind over matter, right? And with that proclamation, Storm morphed her appearance to match that of the little street urchin she had been when last she was in Cairo.
Jean couldn’t help but smile as Kid Ororo ran away, happily, her own version of the ruby gripped tightly in one hand, not the least bit afraid.
“Any luck reaching Xavier?” Scott asked Jean.
“Reaching him, yes. I can do it, briefly. But holding his attention– that’s far more difficult. He’s under constant attack. It’s incredibly difficult to break through to him, and whenever I do reach him he’s almost immediately overcome by a new attack.”
Everything was dark and it was hard to breathe. The life was being pressed out of him.
It’s all right. Don’t be afraid.
Charles Xavier opened his eyes.
He was no longer buried alive in the Himalayas. Instead he was in his hospital bed in India.
“Nothing is wrong with you,” a familiar voice insisted determinedly. But it wasn’t Amelia Voght who was staring back at him, challenging him to fight, inspiring him to recover, urging him to live. It was Jean Grey, the ten-year-old Jean Grey whom Xavier had woken from a coma nearly eight years ago. She spoke familiar words to him now.
You have a gift. A very special, very important gift... and you have used it to help us all. Professor. We need you to help us again now.
Storm was dancing through hordes of street criminals with all the fearless joy of a seven-year-old child, matched with all the cunning of an adult warrior possessing full mastery over her environment. That sight made Xavier smile with pride.
Then Xavier remembered a different scene. His momentary outrage had turned to surprise in reaction to the child thief who had just picked Xavier’s pocket.
That was when Shadow King attacked.
Jean was momentarily staggered by the psychic attack.
“Jean!” Scott placed a worried hand to her shoulder, steadying her.
Jean shook him off. “I’m alright. It was just a memory.”
“And all of this is just an illusion. That doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous.”
“I’m alright,” she repeated stubbornly.
She was mad at herself for letting down her own mental guard. Scott knew that even without the mental link to tell him. Jean frowned, refocusing her attention away from Xavier for a moment. Storm was still holding her own, but Beast and Angel were having greater trouble now. It was difficult multitasking between the two sides while maintaining open mental communication for the team, but Jean wasn’t willing to let go of her link to Storm and the others. Besides, it had worked. For just a moment, Xavier had been aware of what was happening to them here. He had seen Storm through Jean’s mind.
That gave Cyclops an idea. “Jean– if we can’t break through to Xavier, then maybe we should help him break through to us.
Jean nodded. “That could work.” She was hopeful that if she could engage his mind here, with them, apart from D’Spayre, then maybe she could begin to break D’Spayre’s hold over Xavier. Jean focused her attention largely on Ororo, maintaining her mental contact with both Ororo and Xavier. She concentrated on trying to redirect Xavier’s thoughts, introducing him to their surroundings, showing him the sights and sounds of Cairo, trying to pull him into their reality.
Scott fell silent again, letting her work. He deeply disliked inaction but he could be patient when patience was called for. He understood that this fight was primarily Xavier’s and Ororo’s. The rest of them were playing support roles. The most important thing he could do right now was to let the others do what they needed to do.
As Kid Storm made her way closer to Farouk’s stronghold, Farouk’s people were trying to stop her, and Beast and Angel too. Jean frowned. Beast and Angel were fighting hard, but Shadow King kept attacking, kept changing the rules of reality around them. Taking away Warren’s flight, taking away Hank’s agility. Attacking their strengths and exposing their weaknesses.
Don’t buy into his reality, Jean encouraged them. Fight back with your own thoughts!
“I’ve got this front covered, Jean. You stick with Xavier.”
Take it one challenge at a time. Cyclops began marshaling their efforts. Just like the Danger Room, people, he reminded them.
“You could help them more on the ground,” Jean noted.
Scott raised an eyebrow. “Technically, there is no ground.”
Jean mirrored the expression back at him. “Technically, you know what I mean.”
“I can help them just as easily from here.”
“While still guarding me.”
Scott smirked. “Technically, you’re not here either.”
“Neither are you, Cyke,” Jean retorted, falling comfortably into their familiar banter. “Don’t press your luck,” she warned. But Jean began redirecting her thoughts toward Xavier while Cyclops took over mentally directing Beast’s and Angel’s offensive. And she smiled, noting that Scott hadn’t moved so much as a footstep from his previous position. His unspoken message was as clear as his body language, as reassuring as his presence, standing deliberately tall at her shoulder: I’m still not leaving you behind.
Technically speaking, Beast interjected, that logic holds true only if one assumes the body to be more ‘real’ than the mind.
We don’t have time to debate the collective works of Descartes, right now, Hank, Warren quipped.
I think, therefore... Beast landed barely a touch, disarming multiple attackers and putting them over a nearby wall for good measure... you are not a threat to me.
Good work, Beast, Cyclops coached. Angel, watch your left flank; you’ve still got incoming.
Got it covered, Cyke. Angel took to the air. With a flap of his wings he unleashed a violent wind storm, clearing the street of attackers. We should upgrade the Danger Room to psychic control! I could really get used to this mind over matter stuff.
Farouk’s Cairo stronghold was always heavily guarded but Ororo knew the weak spots in his security; she had taken advantage of them before. Storm left Angel and Beast to deal with the extra guards posted out front while she snuck around back. Kid Storm laughed at the open first floor window, surely left that way for her benefit. Instead she quickly scaled a balcony wall and picked the lock on a second story door.
But once that door opened she was in for a surprise. She wasn’t in Farouk’s stronghold at all. Now she found herself in the Cairo Museum. She felt her first twinge of real fear, realizing what Shadow King had just done. He’d taken her out of her comfort zone – no longer the skilled and self-sufficient street thief – to place her at the mercy of more unkind memories. And yet....
“Ororo.” Her mother’s voice called her from the next room.
Ororo knew it was only an illusion. She knew she should ignore it and force her surroundings to conform back to her memories of Farouk’s stronghold, where she wanted to be. But she could not. She did not want to. It took every ounce of willpower she possessed not to run into the next room and hug her mother. Instead Ororo walked slowly around the corner, reminding herself with every footfall, this was not real. Shadow King needed her to forget that, needed her to want his false reality enough to give up her own control over her environment. Ororo had to remain just as determined to make this reality a thing of her own choosing.
She walked into the room, not as a child but as her adult self, and she saw the scene as it had been all those years ago. Ororo saw her mother standing beside her child-self, heard her mother’s voice telling legends of the Heart Stone. It’s not real, Adult Ororo reminded herself. Despite the mental reminder, everything in her wanted to run to them, to warn them, to protect them. Instead Ororo listened as N’Dare told the full legend of the Heart Stone.
“The Heart Stone is a ruby, native to Kenya, guarded by priestesses of our tribe for generations. According to legend there are four sacred stones, each one containing the power of the gods, each one said to possess a different immortal element.”
Adult Ororo blinked, hearing the discrepancy between this story and the one she remembered from her childhood.
“Legend tells us the four stones were scattered across the four corners of the Earth to prevent any one mortal from holding too much power.”
“But Daddy says that’s a magic story, meant to explain how rubies and diamonds and sapphires and emeralds all got here before people understood they were made in the Earth.”
N’Dare smiled at her daughter. “He is right, science has its own explanations for the way of things. But in every legend there is at least a little truth, child, if you have the eyes to see it and the bravery to believe in things beyond human understanding.”
“Eternal things. Like the battle between good and evil. In every human being there is good and evil, in addition to the four immortal properties which transcend human mortality: heart, mind, soul, and spirit. Each of these elements can be exaggerated by possession of the corresponding Life Stone – in the hands of a rightful holder – or by the influence of Immortals or Externals acting upon the stones.”
“What are Immortals and Externals?”
“God-like creatures who walk among humans. But immortal beings also have their own Earthly realms.”
“And normal people don’t ever notice them?”
“They notice. Immortals are embraced more easily by humans, who see and intuitively understand their expression of the immortal properties in us all. As for places... the Immortal realms are places of isolation and superstition, surrounded by legends of mystery and monsters. Fear and superstition are often used to blind the weak-minded to the truth of their existence. And the Immortal realms are further guarded with the technology of thousands of millennia, supported by the vast knowledge of long-dead civilizations.
“The realms were long ago divided between two separate factions of warring Immortals: one group mostly worked for the good of humanity, and another group wanted only to rule humanity. The good Immortals defeated the evil ones. The worst of them were severely punished. Many others were banished, sentenced to walk among humanity as mortal creatures. The Immortals call them Externals. But the humans know them as demons, because the Externals learned to prey upon humans in order to extend their mortal lives. For this they have become cursed creatures.”
Adult Storm stepped forward. “Which is Shadow King? ”
N’Dare turned to face her. Ororo noted the split second for which her gaze rested on the ruby in Ororo’s hand rather than on Ororo’s face.
“Neither human nor Immortal. The Shadow King is a parasite, an abomination, a lower form of life than even the foulest demon, hated by Immortals because he draws his own existence from the suffering of humans – who already bear disproportionate suffering over the course of such brief Earthly existence.”
“But what is he then? How do we destroy a creature that is not mortal?”
“He is a corporal being of darkness. A purely psychic entity, born of the first human nightmare. Shadow King wishes to lead the demons in battle against the Immortals; he has promised to restore the Immortal realms to them in return for their service to him. He thinks he can accomplish this by gathering to himself and uniting all four Life Stones.”
“How would he know to do this unless–”
“He was never one of us. Never an Immortal.”
Ororo blinked in confusion, sensing that something had just changed, like a picture slipping out of focus. For an instant she no longer saw N’Dare. Instead she saw a pale woman dressed in red – dressed as a warrior – wearing a headdress which proudly displayed the ruby Storm’s ancestors were sworn to protect.
“You are not N’Dare. Neither are you born of my mind. Who are you, really?”
The image standing before her shifted away from N’Dare’s Kenyan features, very much like Ororo’s own, to Scandinavian features. White hair shifted to blonde, blue eyes to green. But if she still wore battle armor, Storm could not be certain; the woman’s head and body remained covered by a flowing red cloak. What Storm was seeing now was the woman’s mental projection, her chosen self-image.
“I am the Immortal, Candra. Known across the realms as Candra the Huntress. My mission is to hunt demons and to destroy the Shadow King. I have told you all of this because I need your help, Ororo Monroe.”
With Cyclops mentally directing Beast’s and Angel’s offensive, Jean doubled down, refocusing her own efforts on Xavier. She had been momentarily staggered by Shadow King’s earlier psychic attack but she’d quickly realized two things in the aftermath. First, what she felt was only Xavier’s memory of Shadow King’s attack on him, from years earlier. And secondly, that specific memory had been used as an offensive weapon against them both.
Her efforts had drawn D’Spayre’s attention. She was getting to him. Jean had guided Xavier away from where D’Spayre wanted him and into a place of strength, remembering a battle that Xavier had been able to win.
Jean turned to face an image of Shadow King.
I’m still here. At the moment ‘here’ looked like the back room of a Cairo bar or nightclub.
Jean shook her head. Shadow King is still here, but you are not him. You’re an illusion created by D’Spayre, to distract me. Jean looked around. Professor? Jean suspected this place was a memory of Xavier’s. A moment later he came into view.
Xavier sat facing Farouk over a table. They could have been having drinks, or perhaps a heated conversation, the way both men were leaning across the table, nearly head to head. But Jean knew she was seeing only the memory of their bodies while their minds were engaged elsewhere, fighting a pitch psychic battle. That battle had been won years ago by Xavier.
Jean turned again, looking for the real Charles Xavier– and she gasped in utter shock and fear, confronted by a bleak, barren landscape of open space and time. She was staring into the abyss where Annie had disappeared from her view, leaving Jean to wander alone.
No! This is not real! Jean yelled into the abyss at the top of her lungs, trying to drown out her own fear.
That’s when she felt Scott’s hand in hers, pulling her back, his mind a familiar mixture of calm and determination. I’ve got you, Jean.
She focused herself on Scott’s nearby physical and mental presence. Her feet dropped back to the floor. For just an instant she was standing in the mansion – where she wanted to be, where the real Charles Xavier was – then she was back in D’Spayre’s illusion, his manipulation of Xavier’s memory. Jean could feel Xavier’s torment. Loneliness. Dejection.
Your students are losing their fight, D’Spayre taunted Xavier.
But this taunt didn’t have the desired effect. Again Jean was standing in the mansion. This time she could make out Xavier’s private study. Everything around her was sharper, brighter than before, like someone had turned on a light. She smiled at the misstep. Xavier’s reaction was immediate and instinctive: he refused to let his students be harmed.
Jean had fought hard to open the door, but D’Spayre’s threat had effectively pulled Xavier through it, out of the past, out of his fears, newly awakened to Shadow King’s reality.
You will be of no help to them. You will still run like the coward you always were, D’Spayre taunted. He was circling Xavier as Xavier faced Shadow King in that dark back room in Cairo. We both know where this ends. He was circling Xavier in his study in the mansion.
Xavier was fighting the visions.
D’Spayre leaned down to whisper in his ear. Trapped under a pile of rubble, with no one to hear your cries for help... no voice even to cry for help.
Jean gasped as the landscape around her changed violently. This time Xavier’s memory was not of his own trauma, but of Ororo’s: this time it was Ororo, buried in the Danger Room collapse, trapped by her own fears.
D’Spayre whispered to Xavier, You will lose it all, everything.
A second later it was no longer the Danger Room surrounding them, but Cairo. Jean frowned, feeling that something was very wrong.
Ororo was in trouble. Through the mental link she kept open to her teammates, Jean felt Shadow King’s Cairo landscape collapsing around Storm. In the next instant Jean felt the Shadow King shift his focus from Ororo to Xavier. Jean heard Shadow King’s thought projected through Xavier’s mind.
“Now where should we begin?” Shadow King prompted, sounding very pleased with himself. “The rubble. Or your sins.”
Jean had finally broken through to Xavier... but was it too late to save any of them from the Shadow King?
So Let it Be Written Publishing © 2004