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Risen: Part 4

Disclaimer:  Marvel characters belong to Marvel and are used without
permission for no monetary gain. 

Well now, everything dies, baby, that's a fact
but maybe everything that dies someday comes back

~Bruce Springsteen

She had been hurt and dirty and tired and more frightened than ever before. She had been scared of the violent men who were chasing her, scared of the cruel, heartless woman who had hired them, scared most of all by the strange ghostly powers that were suddenly a part of her.


Since then she had faced everything from demons to hateful bigots to the Brood with courage, intelligence, and aplomb. She had proven herself time and time again; she had experienced more in the last year and a half than most people could even imagine in a lifetime; and she had handled it with a maturity seldom seen in children her age, all without losing her innocence, her faith in humanity, and her ability to be amazed.


None of this meant she was no longer frightened by anything, because she was, often. It meant that she would never again endure that feeling of inexperienced, solitary terror. She had since known fear that was more intense, more pure, more intimate; but nothing quite like the emotions that had flooded through her as she sat huddled alone on the cold floor of the dark warehouse, trying desperately to keep from being found. And then she was, and miraculously, everything was okay.


'Tell me, what's a nice kid like you doing in a place like this?'


To Kitty Pryde, no words had ever sounded sweeter. She had not been discovered by the horrible people who wanted to use her and keep her against her will; she had been saved by a kind woman who seemed utterly normal, who was clean and soft, who held and comforted her, and who hadn't ever told anyone that she had sobbed with relief and pent-up fear as though she were a small child.


Even though she had soon discovered that Jean wasn't so normal after all; and even though she had found her awesome displays of power to be frightening in an abstract way; she had been intrigued by the older woman and stunned to discover that she was dead when she arrived at Xavier's less than two weeks later.


Kitty had gradually become an equal with the others in every respect but one. She had not known Jean Grey. She felt uncomfortable when they remembered her with sadness; she felt left out when they remembered her with laughter. She wished that she had known the woman that had brought them such happiness; but she was also glad she did not share their pain. Now she had a chance to get to know her, and she wasn't quite sure how she felt about the prospect. While dead, Jean had developed an air of tragic mystique; she had been a phantom that Kitty could never hope to understand. Alive, the redhead was somehow even more enigmatic.


Maybe it was because Kitty was having trouble reconciling the fact that she had apparently risen from the dead. Many wild and amazing things could happen in the universe; but that wasn't one of them. True death was final. You could be believed dead and come back. You could come back from the brink of death. You could even be technically dead for a short period of time and then be resuscitated, no matter how strange the means; but you did not die on the moon and then show up on earth, vibrant and undoubtably alive, over a year later. It was wrong. It shouldn't be. It was...was...


Ashamed, Kitty caught herself before she thought it. The word she had been reaching for was different.


Yes, rising from the dead was different; but maybe it was different in the way that becoming intangible was different. Or the way controlling the weather or opening interdimensional portals was different. And it was even closer to being different in the way that having the physical appearance of a demon was. For all her tolerance, Kitty once again found herself passing judgement for something other than the person within. She remembered with regret and contrition how she had treated Kurt when she had first joined the team. She didn't want to make that mistake again.


A good way of preventing it's occurance would be to understand exactly how Phoenix had managed to literally rise from the ashes, something Moira was preparing to tell them. Ever inquisitive, Kitty turned her full attention to the doctor.


"--not saying that this is exactly the way events transpired," Moira was saying. "We will never know all the details unless Jean recovers her full memory; but this is the most logical and likely hypothesis, reached by combining what she does remember with the results of the tests we've run."


"As we all know," she continued, "Jean's death on the moon was not her first. She had died almost two years previously, aboard the Starcore shuttle; but in that case her rebirth was nearly instantaneous." Across the room Jean stiffened slightly, and Scott tightened his grasp on her hand. Logan glanced at them. He had expected Jean to become upset; but the look in her eyes caught him off guard. She was suddenly distant, detached. She was still listening to what Moira was saying, but she would not be feeling any of it. And that worried him.


"Her memories of what occured on the shuttle are sketchy at best; but we surmise that at the moment of death she was able to break free of the remaining psi barriers Charles had placed around her mind as a child and reach her full potential, briefly becoming an entity of pure thought. That potential was then further boosted by the abnormal solar flares bombarding the shuttle, enabling her to recreate her body and place her entire consciousness, her mind and soul, into it," Moira explained. "However, this new body was energy based, and that presented problems. Besides suddenly having the ability to do almost anything she wished with her powers; most of the time she did not need to eat or breath or sleep. She was self-sufficient; they weren't basic, human necessities any longer. The result of this, along with other factors, was that a part of her began to lose touch with her humanity; and she gradually developed a schism in her psyche. A split personality, if you will. This schism became most severe with her transformation into Dark Phoenix. Jean was her "good" side, and Phoenix the "bad". Eventually, she was driven to take her own life, to prevent hurting anyone else."


Kurt thought of Scott as he lay next to a scorched and smoking patch of moonscape, a broken man.


Running a hand through her short, auburn hair, Moira sighed. "As before, her consciousness did not dissipate with the death of her physical being; but instead remained intact. At least, this is what we assume. When Jean appeared on Muir ten days ago, her last memory was of her suicide on the moon. She has vague impressions and feelings about what happened after; but nothing concrete. She also believed she had been gone for several weeks or months at the most; and began exhibiting behavior inconsistant with the tests I had performed immediately after her arrival. Upon running more, I made some very interesting discoveries; the most fascinating being that this current body was originally energy based, like the last one. However, the DNA was then almost completely transmuted into that of an ordinary human, creating a sort of hybrid, for lack of a better term. I've never seen anything like it."


"Care to clarify, doc?" Logan questioned.


"It's difficult to explain. Jean's telekinesis is so refined and powerful that she is able to use it on a molecular level. She's also able to manipulate her body with scarcely a second thought. We believe that she first recreated her energy based body; and then realizing the danger inherent in that, she transformed it, cell by cell, into that of an ordinary human. However, each individual cell is imbued with cosmic level energy."


"What is the difference then, between before and now?" Ororo asked, looking at Jean who was sitting quietly between Scott and Kurt, her eyes downcast, a hand pressed against one temple as if she had a throbbing headache.


"The main difference is consistency of power supply. Before, her powers were extremely unstable. She would hit a limit when she thought there was a source; at other times she would find herself tapping into greater amounts than she thought possible. What was actually occuring - although she did not know it at the time - was that she had erected her own psionic barriers in the place of Charles', walls designed to keep much of her power at bay, dams that included small apertures through which she could draw the power that she needed. With time, the openings grew larger and larger, until the barriers burst completely, the result being Dark Phoenix. And in order to maintain her power at that level, she found it necessary to feed off of D'Bari. Now, her power is spread evenly throughout her entire body, with only a small reserve in her mind. It appears that as she modified each cell, she permeated them with her power. The upshot of all this is that in order to lose control like that again, she would have to make a concerted effort, or be extremely careless."


Moira paused and Charles stepped forward, clearing his throat. "I do not wish to change the topic; but I feel this must be addressed. While Jean was not technically responsible for her actions as Dark Phoenix, by reason of insanity, she was already held accountable for those crimes before her death and should continue to be, regardless of whether or not it would happen again. Genocide should not be punishable by a slap on the wrist, no matter what the extenuating circumstances."


{Even if you were responsible for most of those extenuating circumstances?}


Charles winced. Like everyone else, Jean's attention was focused on him; but her gaze was cool and neutral, showing no sign that she had intended him to hear her thoughts.


"I think we got different definitions of the phrase, 'a slap on the wrist', Chuck," Logan responded. "She died. She was dead for over a year. I doubt it was a pleasant experience. Besides, it seems the only circumstances you're taking into account are the bad ones, like that bastard Mastermind. What about the good ones? What about when she saved the whole universe? That's got to count for something. We wouldn't be here to pass judgement if she hadn't kept her head and done what she did."


"I agree with Logan; and I'm not just saying that because I love her," Scott added. "And as you said yourself, Charles, she was insane. Are we to judge her the same as we would had she been fully in control of herself and her actions?"


"I don't think that her mental state should absolve her of all responsibility," Kurt said. "Then again, she did take responsibility for her actions by admitting to them and agreeing to be tried under Shi'ar terms."


"Stop. Just stop, please." Jean looked at Moira. "I can't do this."


"That's okay," the older woman responded reassuringly. She turned to the others. "I think it would be best if Jean left now. Does anyone object?"


"Not at all," Ororo responded, speaking for the group.


"Are you all right?" Scott whispered, looking at Jean with concern. "Would you like me to go with you?"


"No. I just need to be alone for a bit." She patted his hand and stood. "I'm fine, really. I just can't breathe in here."


She walked towards the door and then paused, turning to look at each of them in turn. "There is something I'd like to say first. I am not asking for forgiveness for what I have done in the past. I am not asking for understanding, or acceptance. I know I don't deserve any of those things; and if I can't give them to myself, I have no right to ask them of others. The sins I committed were beyond forgiveness, almost beyond comprehension; and I would give anything, do anything, if only I could take them back; but I can't. I can only try to make up for them as best I can; and that is what I'm asking for. A second chance. I know that no amount of good deeds will ever even put a dent in all the pain and suffering and death I have caused; but I would like to at least try. I want to finish school, and have a regular life; but the X-Men have always been about helping people and making a difference, and I want to be a part of that again, if you'll let me. I know that I made mistakes last time. I rejected the help of those of you who offered it until it was too late, and I won't do that again. I want to be a whole person again, I want to live. I've been given another chance at life, a chance I don't really deserve, and I want to make the most of it. That's all. Nothing more."


With a shuddering sigh, Jean slid down to the floor, resting her head on her knees, trying to get ahold of herself.


She had almost lost it in there, listening to them talk, hearing the descriptions of what had happened to her while trying to remain calm and collected. She had wanted to scream and cry and give into her anger and hurt and fear over what had happened; but if she had it would have jeopardized any chance she had of getting back on the team and showing that she was stable and in control. She was okay with all this, she assured herself, this sudden panic was just a result of being back in Westchester with everyone and all her worrying. She smiled. Things certainly had changed if now Scott was the one trying to get her to relax. She took a couple deep breaths and stood. She was fine. She had to be.


She looked behind her at the heavy oaken doors of the common room and fought down the temptation to listen in psychically. They'd be out soon enough. She could use the time to get reaquainted with the mansion. Her home.


Moira and Sean had told her about most of the major events that had occured during her absence, including the destruction and rebuilding of the mansion; but Jean nevertheless found the change jarring. As a telepath, psychic emanations and psi signatures were just as important as what she could see, hear, smell, taste, and touch, if not more so. To find the place emptied of most residual energies before the last six months made her feel hollow and empty, sorrowful. So much had been lost.


However, there were a multitude of fresh impressions, most young and easy and untainted, that reminded her very much of the simple days after the initial founding of the team, when they were children. She wondered if the New Mutants had any idea what could happen to you if you lived in this house.


"That had to be the most disgusting movie I have ever seen in my life." Roberto DaCosta offered his arm to Amara Aquilla as they stepped out into the alley behind the Salem Center Cineplex and headed for the street.


Sam Guthrie feigned astonishment. "C'mon, Bobby, it's an American classic! How could you not appreciate it?"


"Sam, I've seen American classics. Frank Capra movies are American classics. I don't think Evil Dead II, as hilarious as it is, qualifies as one."


"Not in the same catagory maybe; but you have to admit it was good, 'berto." Dani Moonstar pushed her hands into the pockets of her jeans as they wandered out onto the street and into the breezy afternoon. "Besides, there are worse ways to spend an afternoon than sneaking in to see an old Bruce Campbell flick. Hi, Rahne."


The young Scots girl was waiting for them on a bench outside the theater and fell into step between Sam and Dani.


"I agree with Dani," Amara added, her blonde curls shining in the sun. "It was good. While I did not understand much of the humor, all the blood reminded me of the afternoons I spent with my father in our box at the games."


Rahne gave them a look both smug and disapproving. "You're all just terrible and lucky you didn't get caught. You should have come with me to the library instead of watching such an evil, evil thing."


"It wasn't that bad," Dani laughed, tossing her braids behind her. "What book did you get, Rahney?"


"The Romance of Tristan and Iseult. It's lovely."


"Looks good," Sam replied, putting an arm around his younger teammate. "C'mon, let's get home before the X-Men polish off all that ice cream in the freezer."


Once upon a time, not too terribly long ago, Collins, Chamberlain, and Jones had been a thriving law practice, serving hundreds of clients throughout the years in their unassuming but competent Harlem office. Times had changed and Carl Jones, the only surviving partner, was finally achiving his dream of early retirement. It had not been easy. Forty years of scrimping and saving and doing without could wear a man down. The idea of being out of the city, out of the smog and away from the crime and the harsh winters was what had kept him going. By this time next week he would be on the Florida shore, fishing rod in one hand, a beer in the other; his fantasy was almost a reality. But first there were things to be taken care of.


With the help of his secretary, he was sorting through the dozens and dozens of boxes that had accumulated junk over the years. Carl was a packrat. He had saved every single file and scrap of paper that had meant anything to any client or case. He had always had the nagging feeling that if he threw something out he would undoubtably need it. Now that he was beginning an entirely new phase of his life he wouldn't be needing or wanting any of it; but he thought he'd take one last look through the boxes, just to make sure.


After five or six hours of mindless, uneventful paper shuffling, Carl thought he'd take a chance and do something radical. He was about to tell Vanessa just to dump it all in the trash without looking at it when she let out a cry of exclamation and crawled across the mess of papers, an envelope in her hand.


"Look, Mr. Jones, a safe deposit box key."


His interest piqued, he took the envelope from her, and looked at the note inside which read simply, 'David Munroe. First National Bank.' He remembered David fondly, they had been casual aquaintances aside from their professional relationship. By way of mutual friends, he knew that David and his wife had been dead for years; but he also remembered their daughter, whose body had not been found with theirs. Technically, it was still his job to see that she got this key and he wasn't one to let a job go unfinished. On the other hand, Florida was calling, and the girl was most likely dead or untraceable. Still, he had to try.


"Say, Vanessa," he said thoughtfully. "I know you're still interested in going into the P.I. business. How would you like some practice?"


Other Stories By Sequoia


[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15]
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When A Man Loves A Woman


Shadows In A Mirror


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