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
Jean placed a cautious hand to the crystal face, which was still very much intact despite the destruction of the world Shadow King had created within it. She squinted in concentration.
“Only an empty shell.”
“The gate has been closed. Properly, this time,” Storm added.
Almost, Professor Xavier agreed, but not completely.
“Not yet.” It was Candra, her psychic projection again appearing to them in hologram form. “I owe you all a debt of great gratitude.” Her gaze fell to Storm, whom was still holding both Candra’s headdress and the ancestral ruby. “But all I can offer is my apology.
“This may be my last act as a free woman but, on my word of honor, I will return to the Immortal Council to face judgement for all that I have done. Once I leave you, someone must see that the gate remains closed behind me.” Her gaze fell next to Cyclops. “I think an optic blast would serve.”
“What about other stones?” Storm asked.
“I cannot speak for those. They have other purposes, other destinations.”
“There is another, that we know of,” Jean offered warily.
Sadly, that gate cannot be closed, Xavier confessed. There must always be evil in the world.
“You need not worry though. Demons are cunning creatures, but not powerful ones, nor numerous. Without Shadow King to lead their so-called revolt, the demons are greatly weakened. And our warriors will continue to hunt them, to bring them to judgement.”
Storm stepped forward. “This is rightfully yours.” She held out the headdress. “I don’t know how I brought it out of Shadow King’s illusion with me.”
Candra smiled. “You bring all of your experiences with you in life: mind, heart, soul, spirit; they cannot be truly separated. The headdress is yours now, Ororo. It belongs with the Heart Stone, and the Heart Stone belongs with its proper guardian.”
Storm nodded. She remembered seeing the headdress in Farouk’s stronghold – long ago – but at the time Ororo had ignored it, stealing only the sacred stone. And before that, she had seen the headdress pictured in the Cairo Museum’s display. It was beautiful. The interlocking rings of infinity were etched upon it: silver and gold upon black. A symbol of the Immortals, and a warning that Heart Stone could be used as a gateway.
The Mind Stone had done the same for the demon realm, making Xavier vulnerable to D’Spayre, and endangering them all to Shadow King.... Maybe they couldn’t close that door, but Storm could close this one. She could see that the Heart Stone would never again become corrupted.
“Cyclops, if you would do the honors,” Storm prompted, setting the stone down on the cave floor.
“Are you sure? I can’t promise you the force of the blast won’t completely disintegrate the stone.”
“Never more certain.”
Cyclops nodded. “Then, stand back, everyone.” Concentrated ruby quartz-focused optic blasts met sacred ruby Heart Stone for a handful of heartbeats before Cyclops closed down his visor. “It didn’t shatter,” Cyclops noted with a tone of obvious surprise.
“No,” Beast agreed curiously. “The ruby quartz blast cut through the stone cleanly.”
Cyclops asked, “What does that mean?”
“That this is no ordinary stone,” Storm whispered.
“But the gate is closed behind Candra?” Angel assumed.
Storm nodded. She retrieved the stone and carefully fit the ruby into its place in the headdress. “As it should be.”
“Storm possesses the Heart Stone. Xavier possesses the Mind Stone. Even if we accept that those two gateways are secure, how do we know some – entity – won’t try to use this place again?” Angel asked, studying the crystal bed within the cavern with some suspicion.
“It is a fascinating development,” Beast conceded. “What was it about this place, this crystal cavern, which allowed Shadow King to gain strength here over time?” he wondered aloud.
“Caught in the middle of a fight between demons and immortals. You call that fascinating?” Angel countered incredulously. “And I’d still like to know how, precisely, we ended up trapped inside some psychic storage crystal.”
I owe you all an explanation for that. Please, join me in my study, and I will attempt to answer your questions.
The five X-Men made their way back up to the Xavier Estate and seated themselves in Professor Xavier’s study.
“First, let me assure you all that the Mind Stone remains secure.”
“And is there a link between it and the crystal caverns?” Warren asked.
“No. The crystal in those caverns have no supernatural properties; they were simply a convenient vessel. The use of the caverns was nothing more than a desperate last attempt by Shadow King to avoid the crushing blow I dealt him many years ago,” Xavier explained, “and that circumstance was made possible only through a cascade of events which were extraordinarily fortuitous to Shadow King.
“Initially, Shadow King was able to store enough of his life force within the Mind Stone to avoid his ultimate demise. And as a final act of vengeance in his defeat, a mangled piece of Shadow King’s wounded consciousness also latched on to me, seeking to retain his ties to the mortal world (even after being forcibly removed from his incapacitated host). Shadow King thus sought to position himself so that he could later enact his plan for ultimate revenge.
“When we first crossed paths, I did not understand his true nature. I thought him no more than a mutant. I misjudged Shadow King then, nearly to my own peril. I saw a formidable psychic entity where, in fact, there was something not just superhuman but supernatural, especially when he joined his powers with those of D’Spayre. With his life force housed in the Mind Stone, Shadow King was also connected to the demon realm, so he was able to direct D’Spayre to do his bidding. Shadow King is a supernatural creature, feeding on the darkness of the souls of mankind. He possesses great power but has no physical resources without the benefit of a host, a human mind which can focus his powers against other human minds.
“So long as Shadow King’s ultimate goal was to gain possession of my body, he dared not alert me to his presence prematurely. So, as it grew stronger, that mangled piece of Shadow King’s wounded consciousness took up residence within the crystal caverns. Shadow King still remained linked to the Mind Stone through D’Spayre, and D’Spayre was able to siphon strength from the suffering of those around him in order to strengthen Shadow King. Over time Shadow King’s life force expanded deeper and deeper into the caverns. And eventually he became strong enough to pull your minds into the crystal alongside his, intending to draw enough strength – from torturing the five of you – to finally resurrect himself in human form. Thanks to your bravery and resourcefulness, Shadow King’s plan failed. Now, D’Spayre is exiled and Shadow King poses little threat to the world.”
“How little?” Ororo questioned.
Xavier smiled. “According to Candra, he is neutralized, indefinitely.”
“Yes,” Ororo agreed. “Somehow I still doubt we have seen the last of Farouk.”
“So, before,” Scott asked, “when we thought something was off, starting with our experience in the Danger Room?”
“D’Spayre was attacking us,” Ororo realized. “First, in the Danger Room, causing us to feel overwhelming fear, and to relive our worst experiences....”
“And afterward as well,” Jean agreed, “when we couldn’t sleep without being haunted by bad dreams and bad memories.”
“And your erratic behavior, Charles,” Hank prompted.
Xavier nodded. “I certainly felt as though I was starting to unravel.”
“Jean said she could sense a difference in your mind,” Scott added.
“I don’t doubt that. I felt less and less myself, as D’Spayre gained more influence over me. I believe his end goal was to slowly gain complete possession of me. Then he could deliver what was left of me to Shadow King.”
“Then all of it was the work of D’Spayre,” Warren stated.
“Yes. It began that day in the Danger Room. Not only was D’Spayre using our fears against us to strengthen Shadow King, I believe Ororo became a target of particular interest to Shadow King on that day, perhaps accelerating his plans for revenge upon me.”
Ororo sat forward in her chair. “Because of the Heart Stone.”
Xavier nodded. “I believe D’Spayre saw the Heart Stone in your mind, in your memories. Furthermore, I believe D’Spayre used your existing claustrophobia as a means to cover up his search – and possibly even alteration – of your memories regarding the Heart Stone. At that point in his plans, Shadow King could not risk having you remember that you had witnessed his battle with Candra, or Candra’s use of the Heart Stone. Shadow King also could not risk my learning about those things before he could enact his plan for revenge against me.”
Storm nodded stiffly. “That would explain the discrepancies between my own recollection of that terrible day, and Candra’s memories of the same events.”
“It also explains why your experience in Shadow King’s reality was, perhaps, more real than anyone else’s. It was not entirely an illusion. You were accessing your own repressed memories, in addition to the knowledge Candra shared with you.”
Ororo shook her head. “So Farouk – may he rot – had my memories altered. Professor–?”
“I don’t need to read your mind to confirm that there are no more altered memories. D’Spayre’s powers were very limited, relying primarily on your own fears to do his dirty work for him. Any blocks he placed upon your mind would have ceased to affect you when he was defeated and thus removed from your presence.”
Xavier spoke further mentally. You and I have been given a trust unique to us, Ororo. It may be better, for now, if we keep those things – legends of Guardians, and Immortal realms, and the existence of other Life Stones – quiet, for the safety of all involved.
Ororo nodded hesitantly. You are probably right, Professor.
“You’ve all been through a great deal,” the professor concluded. “We can speak more later, but for tonight, let’s all get some rest,” Xavier dismissed them.
Jean Grey remained behind, lingering in Xavier’s study after the others had gone.
“There’s one thing I still don’t understand. How is it that you needed me to use the Mind Stone, Professor? Your mind, your psychic abilities, are so much more powerful than mine.”
Xavier smiled. “I can’t say I entirely understand that either, Jean.”
“But you predicted it.” Jean spared him a knowing smile. “Like Merlin.”
Xavier nodded. “When Shadow King killed the Mind Stone’s previous guardian, he thought he would inherit that power by right of succession. Instead the chain was broken. He reset the process.”
“But Ororo can wield the Heart Stone to the degree she can because her family line had many generations of preparation. Do you think, one day, Storm will be an immortal warrior, like Candra?”
Xavier smiled. “That would not surprise me at all. As for my own future, well, from what I was shown, it can take many generations for a guardian to come into full possession of the stone. I cannot wield the stone’s power but, one day, my successors may have that ability. It’s my job to keep it safe, to give them that opportunity.”
“I saw some of Ororo’s memories when I was trying to rescue her from Shadow King’s illusion.” Jean shook her head. “I thought guardianship was all about bloodlines.”
“In some cases, it is. But we well know there are stronger bonds than those of blood.”
Jean nodded, smiling.
“Based on everything I have learned about the Mind Stone, I knew certain properties and certain strengths were needed in order to wield it. Some of those were qualities that I lacked. It needed far more than a powerful mind, Jean, and that was what Shadow King never understood. I was betting you had those qualities... but I’ve been betting on that all along. Betting on the many extraordinary strengths and talents unique to each of you. It’s why you all are here.”
Jean’s smile faded just slightly. “So, what happens next?”
“Perhaps, one day, you’ll take full possession of the Mind Stone, as Storm has taken possession of the Heart Stone. But, for now, I’ll continue to hold it for you... until you are ready to go forth and do great deeds.”
Jean left Xavier’s study, feet on autopilot, her mind still turning over the events of the last few hours. A short time later she had showered and changed, out of her X-gear and into casual dress. By then the team had gone their separate ways. Angel, flying to clear his head; he was taking off now from the rooftop where Ororo was tending her garden. Hank and Xavier were in Xavier’s office.
Jean hardly considered the mental head check as she walked through the mansion toward the first floor. It truly had become second nature... and that was not so bad at all. She felt at peace, knowing all was well here, with her family. It seemed strange that not so long ago she had despaired of such a thing ever becoming normal, of herself becoming so... practical.
Once she reached the first floor her steps carried her toward the game room, where she found Scott. He was still dressed in his team gear, where else but at the pool table. Jean paused to let him finish his shot before she interrupted. But she laughed when (after trying several angles to set up the shot and still not finding the one he wanted) he set his pool cue aside and made a spectacularly difficult shot using his optic blasts instead.
He turned to see her standing there. “You’re getting better at sneaking up on me. You still sure you don’t want to go with Marvel Girl as your code name?”
“Mighty. Mighty Marvel Girl... or maybe Miraculous.... Miraculous Marvel Girl.” Jean shook her head as she tried the new version out loud. “Nope. Still feels like I should be wearing a miniskirt, somehow.”
“Right.” Scott laughed along with her. “Jean, it is.”
“Besides,” Jean changed the subject, “it wasn’t my marvelous stealth this time. When there’s a difficult shot in front of you on the pool table, that’s one of the few times your attention is not on the rest of the room.”
“I guess that’s why I like pool so much. I can turn off the rest of my brain and just–”
“Do what comes naturally,” Jean filled in when he paused.
Scott nodded. “Yeah.”
At the moment there was a lot to turn off. Shadow King. D’Spayre. Demons, immortals, mystical stones, gateways to otherworldly realms.... But at the forefront of it all there was D’Spayre. Scott had heard the things D’Spayre had said about him to Xavier when D’Spayre had been trying to convince Xavier that he hadn’t helped Scott, or any of the rest of them. Scott had heard it, perhaps the others had too. Scott didn’t know the answer to that question, nor did he want to know.
He trusted his teammates. He trusted Xavier. Plus, D’Spayre hadn’t said anything Scott didn’t already know. He knew he was damaged, and he knew whatever treatment he had undergone at the Home had done nothing but cause him more pain, perhaps even done him additional damage in the process. This was nothing new to Scott, except he now understood: that knowledge weighed heavily on Xavier, and on Hank too. As far as Scott was concerned, that only showed that they cared about him very much. Scott wanted to leave it at that. He chose to leave the past in the past, just like he had urged Xavier to do. Just like Xavier had done. It was the only way to put the demons to rest.
Scott was still watching her; Jean gradually realized she was the one who was staring. She dropped her gaze, only to realize that she still felt that little window of insight, curiosity, understanding. Like there was a little piece of Scott’s mind that she was still attuned to... and after everything they had been through together, actually both of them were okay with that.
“I guess pool is simpler than strategy,” Jean teased him, pulling his thoughts back to the present. But her teasing laughter was light and playful, only managing to put him further at ease.
Though Cyclops readily embraced (and naturally excelled at) matters of strategy, pool was something that Scott had always simply loved. It was one of the few times his mutation wasn’t a danger, or a tool, or even a talent. It was simply a part of him, and one that made perfect sense. Here, for the space of a round of pool, he could let down his guard and honestly enjoy his gift.
“These pieces go where I want them to go,” Scott admitted, “no second thoughts to slow them down, no conflicting emotions driving them off course.” He gave a shrug. “The only limitations here are my own skill and concentration.”
Jean shook her head at him. “Maybe that’s why you like pool so much.”
It was Scott’s turn to laugh.
Just as surprisingly, Jean was beginning to realize that she felt the same way about her own gifts. At the moment she felt oddly at peace: with herself, with everything. She had struggled to figure out her place on the team, her place in the world, and she still struggled with not knowing the full limits of her abilities... but they were hers. They were her gift. When she could easily reach out to the people she loved most in the world and know they were alright, when her thoughts could keep them connected, keep them safe... then her mutation wasn’t a danger, or a test, or even a talent. It was just a part of her that made perfect sense.
“Don’t mind me. I like seeing the fearless leader play pool,” she admitted with another smile. For once she didn’t use the moniker bitingly but teasingly. What she said was honest truth. It felt good to see Scott use his gifts openly and freely, without fear or trepidation.
“But not as much as you enjoy throwing things at Cyclops,” Scott challenged her playfully in return.
“No,” Jean confessed, laughing again, “that is a special joy onto itself.”
Scott shook his head, fighting off a smile of his own. “Well, pool’s not meant to be a spectator sport. Come on,” he challenged her. “Let’s see what you got, Miss Grey.”
“You’re on, Mr. Summers,” she said, because she wasn’t about to turn down his challenge, but Jean shook her head as she went to get a pool cue. “But I think this contest is going to get messy,” she conceded.
“That won’t be necessary.”
“It took her a second to realize he meant the pool cue in her hand.”
“Scott grinned. “If I can use my visor then you can use your telekinesis.”
She grinned back. “Really?”
“Why not?” he countered.
In answer, all the balls started racing across the table and piling into the pockets.
“I win,” Jean declared happily.
Scott laughed. “Hmm. I guess we need to establish a few house rules first.”
“If you say so, Fearless Leader.” Jean shrugged and pretended to occupy herself with studying her fingernails. “But no do overs; I’m still up one game to zip, mister.”
Scott conceded with a cocky grin. “I’ll take those odds.”
Jean still had the feeling she was in over her head, but he didn’t have to know that. If Scott could let down his guard enough to use his optic blasts without worry, then maybe she could make peace with herself enough to do the same with her telekinesis... at least long enough to make for a few very interesting rounds of pool.
House rules. Xavier Institute.
“This makes me long for the good old days when there were only mutants.”
“If it makes you feel any better, Immortals and Externals are mutants, just very long-lived mutants,” Hank was attempting to reassure Duncan, though he did so tongue-in-cheek.
“Strangely, that doesn’t make me feel any better,” Duncan responded.
“Candra spoke to Storm of Immortal realms, and gates between worlds,” Xavier tactfully redirected the conversation.
“As best I can tell,” Hank explained, “these realms are more like dimensions, and the gates are inter-dimensional links to ancient, long-dead cultures, lost cities that have since become myths: Atlantis, Lemuria, Shambhala, Aztlan, and the like.”
Duncan looked exhausted, and not just from the lateness of the hour. “Just tell me these,” he waved a hand, “gates, are all closed now.”
“They are,” Xavier confirmed.
“Good. What happened to the Immortal, Candra?”
“She went through another gate.”
“Can she return?”
“I think not,” Xavier concluded. “She spoke of facing judgement on the other side.”
“I would guess hibernation,” Hank offered. “According to legend, Immortal Externals can live for millennia, occasionally needing to hibernate in order to continue their long lives at full strength.”
“I remember,” Duncan confirmed. “Hibernation is also used as ultimate punishment.”
“The death of an Immortal is considered an unforgivable crime; hibernation is their society’s version of a death penalty. Length of sentence would vary, of course, depending on the offense.”
Duncan rubbed his temple wearily.
“Much of what Candra said to Storm confirms what we already knew, or strongly suspected,” Hank continued. “She said there were four realms and four stones. And of course her presence, itself, confirms the existence of Immortals.”
“Definitely missing the world of earlier today,” Duncan lamented. “We think three of the stones are accounted for. Is there another stone out there?”
“Erik believes that there is,” Xavier stated.
“Of course he does. And he’s still trying to secure it before the other side can.”
Xavier nodded. “That has been his agenda for some time now.”
Duncan gave a tense nod, evidently not wishing to know any more about Erik or his agenda.
“Here’s what we know for sure,” Duncan concluded. “The Immortals you encountered were subdued. The stones we possess are secure. We communicated with the disembodied spirit of an Immortal, Candra, but there was no sign of other known Immortal mutants.”
“No,” Xavier confirmed. “Still no sign of Essex. And as for the other....”
“With any luck, he is still trapped in hibernation,” Hank confirmed.
“Never again to be released,” Duncan finished.
Hank nodded warily. “And no one else knows the story of his existence.”
All three men silently agreed.
“It must stay that way,” Xavier reiterated. “Dissemination of such knowledge would be nothing short of devastating for humankind. And it could easily doom mutantkind.”
So Let it Be Written Publishing © 2004