Mind's Eye

June 29, 2015:

After Fire and Ice when Rachel and Emma meet, they go to visit Betsy Braddock and attempt to cure her mind.

Xavier Institute


NPCs: None.


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

"~Betsy is a strong person, I have a lot of respect for her not only as an individual but in her skills. If not for her actions, I'm not sure any of us would be awake right now, I owe her my life more than once and love her like my own family.~" Which meant a lot coming from Rachel.

"~I'll make sure of it and see to it that you're allowed access but, she may be in her quarters actually. We could go check if you like?~" Rachel keeps the conversation silent as she heads towards Betsy's room for the library.

Betsy's room is in a bit of disarray. They've moved a full-sized hospital bed into the room, the dents in the carpet indicated where a double-sized twin bed was at one point in time. A mobile medical scanning setup is attached to her- pulse, respiration, REM sensors, and the like. Oxygen flows into her nose. The woman is far from the haughty, regal individual who'd swept into the Hellfire Club only a few days prior. Sunken blackened eyes, burns on her face and chest- her hands and forearms are taped into white clubs, and an IV drips into her arm. Bruises and cuts are visible under her medical gown. She breathes with a slow rasp, as if she's suffered smoke inhalation recently.

The girl supervising the room- a slender waif of a thing- has wide eyes and pale, straight brown hair, and barely comes up to five feet tall. She gestures at Betsy. "Professor Grey said you can come say hi. I don't know if she'll wake up, though." She looks at Emma, her voice an odd, high-pitched squeak. "Professor Grey said I'm here to look after Miss Betsy. I'm not really tough," she admits calmly, "but if you hurt Betsy, I can hurt you enough that the grownups will ice me again." She flops on her butt and sits, apparently willing to sit and watch from the floor. And apparently she's not big on explaining her unsettlingly ominous threats.

Emma nods firmly at Rachel's response, accepting the other woman's feelings and opinions, even if she is not fully capable of emulating or truly understanding them. She accepts, nolo contendere, that Rachel believes them and will act accordingly. So too, she notices the telepathic contact between Summers and another mind - another she does not know - and she waits, if a tad impatiently, to see the results.

Given an answer, Emma follows Rachel up the stairs and down one of the residence hallways from the library. She is of course witnessing everything, recording it all in that steel trap of a mind of hers, but she is laser-intent on something else. Something she does not describe or explain … or dare allow to show on her features. She expected to be made to wait. To have to prove her word. Or force her way in. She had no doubt - none - of her ability tod o so if she felt it necessary. But to simply be allowed like this? It beggars her mind.

The prim, proper businesswoman in white enters Elizabeth's room with that same cool, arctic demeanor and not a whit of any sense of emotion to her presence. But there is a well of determination within her that is as resolute as time itself. Her pale blue gaze sweeps the room with a surgeon's precision at dissection, and then focuses on Elizabeth to the exclusion of everything and everyone else. She never even looks at the girl standing up so resolutely in staunch defense of 'Betsy'. She simply nods. What more is there to say?

Emma's mental voice is broadcast to both Rachel and the girl with the same emotionless quality Rachel as already experienced. Care has been taken, this time, to pare away the blisteringly ice cold edge, to leave it truly devoid of emotion but make it no longer almost an assault. ~I have already promised to do everything in my power to assist in Elizabeth's recovery. One may say many things about me, and be utterly and absolutely correct. But I keep my promises. So help me.~

The truth is, though Emma would deny it with her last breath, she isn't sure she can do this. She isn't sure she can survive it. Because she is honestly afraid the only way to succeed may be to expose her true emotional core. And that's something Emma considers herself incapable of doing for anyone, or any reason. Nevertheless, impassive but determined, she approaches the bed and stops, one hand reaching out to gently rest on Elizabeth's forearm, above the clubs covering her hands. With infinitely delicate care, her mind reaches out a tendril of thought to probe lightly at Elizabeth's mind, looking for the activity of thought, however deeply buried.

~Elizabeth? It is Emma. Are you there?~ On the Astral Plane, a lone White Queen stands upon the silvery plain in front of the pristinely white towering walls of the great fortress she commands. She removes her helm, crown upon it, leaving only the tiny silvery circlet in her platinum blonde hair. Her sword remains in her scabbard at her hip as she steps forward, the helm now tucked beneath one arm. A flag appears at the top of the citadel, a single snowflake pattern in pale blue, a silver circlet resting on its spires, fluttering in a non-existent breeze.

Rachel smiles at the girl, "Give Professor Grey my thanks. We should be alright but you're welcome to stay if that's your job." She wasn't about to scold the girl or send her off.

Her gaze rests upon the bed and Betsy's unconscious form with a bit of a frown, remembering the night before all too clearly, "It's a shame you weren't awake Betsy, I could have used your help with a trip. Oh well.." She realizes she's speaking outloud and sort of stops near the entrance to the room.

Rachel waits a moment, reaching out to see what is happening on the Astral Plane from above; a set of ethereal flames surrounding her body.

Betsy doesn't move. Doesn't even change her breathing pattern. She seems quite asleep to the world. And, perhaps quite oddly, there's no 'sense' of the woman. Betsy's mind is working under the bruises but she's not knocking on doors.

So when Emma makes that telepathic contact, on the Astral plane that connects all dreamers, the response from Betsy's mind is immediate. Like a military installation screaming in response to a threat of war. The dark morass of her thoughts and emotions, an ever-present, ever-grinding swirl, quickens by a noticeable factor. There's a sense of eyes- many eyes- moving to Emma, to the White Queen on the open plain, and then; a crack in the wall, opening as smoothly as if it were a gate. Betsy steps out, looking… fractured. As battered mentally as she is physically. Behind her the two shadows she casts are scarred by a band of white light in the shape of a Phoenix, one that lashes in faint surprise at Rachel's presence.

Betsy cups her hands to her mouth and screams. And screams. She waves, beckoning the two women closer, her motions frantic and almost scared. It's quite unlike her. And for some reason, she won't take a single step outside of her mental fortress.

When Rachel and Emma get close enough, Betsy lifts a struggling hand towards them both- recognizing Emma, relieved to see Rachel. "I'm dead, aren't I? Oh God, I'm dead, or in a coma, or something. Where's Jean?!" she demands, voice cracking a bit. "I've been trying to get out and find something, but I can't leave, I'm- I'm stuck," she says, panicked frustration tingeing her words. "What's happened? Are you okay?" she begs of Rachel. "Your mom? Scott? Is anyone hurt?"

"Please just promise my I'm not all scarred, or something." Well her vanity is working just fine, apparently.

Beckoned, Emma advances swiftly, stopping only at the Astral equivalent of arm's length. Her first words, then, finally, are … swift. Almost brutal in their simplicity, and their force. ~YOU ARE NOT DEAD!~ She reaches out one armored hand, offering to Elizabeth. Beckoning her to dare the connection she has not been able to make until now. To do so here, inside her own defenses, inside her own mind.

~I cannot speak to everything that happened. But you are lying in a bed in Charles' Institute. A medical bed, in what I presume by its color scheme and other decorations to be your room, your quarters. You are being watched over. And I believe you would be considered in a coma, currently.~ Brutal honesty, Emma offers, because in spite of their care, precision, and inborn politeness, razor sharp honesty has been the hallmark of whatever uneasy alliance they have been forging. Emma offers it unstintingly, and yet remains. Because she intends to keep her word. So help her.

~I am here to help.~

Rachel reaches out to touch Betsy's Astral-Self, relieved to see that she is there and fully coherent. Emma's appearance does give her some pause, but perhaps that was why she was called 'The White Queen'; the imagery was fitting.

~You're fine. Unscarred and as beautiful as ever. Everyone else is alright thanks to you but you're unconscious, sort of like you know who was.~

Rachel wasn't comfortable enough to use codenames or give away her familial relations around this Emma yet; she hardly knew her even if Emma in the future would have known it all.

Betsy absorbs all that. She glances at Rachel, but more for reassurance than confirmation- it's difficult to tell a lie to a psychic, but more particularly, it's 'easy' to tell the truth. Still, she squeezes Rachel's hand, then embraces the woman without any self-consciousness.
"Bloody hell," Betsy snarls, finally. Unlike Emma and Rachel, she 'speaks', using her natural voice and inflections. She looks around, then gestures at the women and vanishes. So does the gate.

"Over here," Betsy says, from 'a ways' away. The 'entrance' is proven out to be a well-concealed illusion that Emma and Rachel would have found quite challenging to go through if they missed it. "Don't… go wandering," she says, with a flickering sidelong glance. A pair of ninja appear from the shadows and vanish into another set, like suggestions of memories. "I've some traps that I had to set up when a certain redheaded strompet used to go traipising through here," she admits, a flickering image of a young, slender Jean appearing over her shoulder. "Bloody hell, your mum could be pushy," she mutters.

Once inside Betsy's mind, it becomes apparent that the swirling morass isn't just a veil- Betsy's mind is an impenetrable mass. Pathways move and shift. Unlike a regimented, well-ordered mind such as Jean's or even Emma's, Betsy seems to have neither walls nor center nor guardians. Merely shadows and traps, everywhere.

Seating the three of them in a clean and spartan aesthetic, Betsy rubs her face tiredly, an expression that carries more and less weight in the Astral. Clad in a simple pair of jeans and qipao tunic, she looks like a Japanese woman travelling abroad. "The last thing I remember is… standing in the medical bay," she admits, struggling. "Your mum was in danger. Your dad-" she rolls her eyes- "was being a great, flapping useless wanker. I… then it gets kind of bright and burning," she admits, wincing, and not noticing the phoenix-shaped scar of white shadow following her around. "I don't remember much after that."

Emma - in that Queenly guise - follows Elizabeth's guidance. She does not seem the slightest bit surprised by what she perceives here in the other woman's mind. Then again, they have been here before, these two. It was the beginning of whatever they are building together. Emma sits, and she listens, without interrupting. Only time will tell how much she is able to put together from the disparate pieces she is gathering from Elizabeth and Rachel. But she says nothing and does not interrupt, until Elizabeth is done.

"I am here, Elizabeth, intending to help you. I am quite skilled at telepathic healing and psychic surgery. I believe that I can help. But I must ask: Are you willing to allow this?" Emma leaves it to Betsy to decide. After all, something like this could be incredibly intimate, in a telepathic sense. It should never be forced, if there is any option.

Rachel looks around, allowing Elizabeth to speak and hoping the girl in the room tending to Betsy wasn't too weirded out by the full on trance-mode they had slipped into, "I believe she can help you Betsy, she means well. She came to the institute looking for you."

Rachel moves up beside Emma and asks, "Is there anything I can do to aid you? My powers are at your disposal Ms. Frost."

Betsy makes a bit of a flip gesture, looking around her. "Well, I certainly don't intend to while away my days living in my own brain," she says wryly. "I

Betsy makes a bit of a flip gesture, looking around her. "Well, I certainly don't intend to while away my days living in my own brain," she says wryly. "I've read all these books a time or two. If you have any suggestions, that'd be helpful. I'm… not terribly well versed at this sort of thing," she admits. "Particularly not as a patient." She looks from Rachel to Emma. "But if you can help me- if /I/ can help you, help me; then I'd be a fool to decline your aid. Where do we begin?" she says, gesturing. "I've never treated a coma patient before. I can't even see beyond my own mindscape at the moment. I don't know what happened," she confesses, as if unable to see the scars twisting through her mental fortress.

Emma - the White Queen Emma, armed and armored - extends her gauntleted hands towards Elizabeth. "We start by taking a very close, careful look around us, and through us. Which includes determining what you can and cannot see of your condition." Emma answers. Curiously, perhaps, her tone - though not in the least bit 'warm' or 'welcoming' or even really 'friendly', has a measured, directed quality to it, very like a good teacher dealing with a student in a frustrating circumstance.

Once Elizabeth lays her hands on Emma's, Emma glances over her shoulder. "I do not normally work with an audience. But you know Elizabeth, perhaps in ways better than I. And you know the circumstances of her injury and I do not. I suggest, Ms. Summers, you lay your hands on my shoulders and 'ride along' as best you can. I will endeavor not to shut you out or 'lose you.' But do be patient with me: as I have said, welcoming another into something like this is something I have never done." And it runs rather antithetical to Emma's incredibly protective, defensive stance. Trust No One is a core mantra of this woman.

Once everyone is ready, Emma leads the way. For now, she does not go looking at Elizabeth's memory, either as a whole or in specific as relates to her condition and injury. Instead, she starts going rather methodically, carefully and precisely through every inch of her mind's function, cataloguing every anomaly and problem. In each case, she makes a point of asking Elizabeth if she can perceive anything unusual here or there. The answers help further define the problem, but she never describes the nature of the damage she encounters. That will have to wait until the end.

Rachel was not skilled in the art of psychic surgery, most of the time she used her powers for offense or defense; but not for healing and so she was just as much of a learner as Betsy in this case.

Her hands rest gently on Emma's shoulders, psionic energy focussing and even in the astral plane the ethereal flames surround her.

"I'll do my best to aid you while being as unobtrusive as possible Ms. Frost." It wasn't exactly a promise, but it was as close as she could give in the circumstances.

For now, she would watch Emma work and help how she could.

It takes some time to walk the circuit of Betsy's brain. Flashing images of memories vanish into shadows as the trio approaches, or are slammed behind doors.

The damage is severe, and complex. Betsy seems wholly unaware of the damaged parts of her own mind. Some of it is subtle, barely more than a discoloration of that shadow. Elsewhere, a blasted heath has severed pathways to nodes of thought and motor control. In places the damage is quite obvious to Emma, but in others it's barely discernable against the background of shadow that wraps around Betsy's mindscape. Complicating things are portions of memory that are absolutely adamant against intrusion, as if protected by something greater than mere force of will.

Healing Betsy will require patience and deliberation, and effort. The light of the Phoenix leaves a scar in unready flesh and soul, and Betsy has clearly been seared by that heat.

Patience, deliberation and effort Emma has in spades. She is slow, careful, precise and unyielding in her determination and striving for perfection. She just won't accept anything less. Noting that Elizabeth herelf is unable to see any of these damages, she does not explain what she thinks that means. Instead, she continues her effort, while splitting off enough thought to create a private link to Rachel Summers' mind.

~Ms. Summers, the damage here is significant, and particularly dangerous. I would daresay that unless I can find a way past these blocks, even once I restore Elizabeth to consciousness, she will have lost her psionic gifts. She would no longer /be/ a telepath.~ Emma does not demand that she be trusted. But she lays out the cold, bare facts and leaves it up to the other woman to decide what to do, how far to trust Emma's skill, and her integrity.

~If that's what it takes to wake her up, it must be better than remaining catatonic. Of course, that's up to her if she wishes it, not us.~ Rachel responded to Emma silently even in the astral plane as they walked through Betsy's mind.

Betsy seems unaware of the conversation between the two women, even though it takes place in her own mind. "Well?" she asks Emma uneasily, as if unconsciously sensing something amiss. "I'm feeling very antsy," she admits. "If you can help me wake up, I… I'd be very grateful," she assures the White Queen, a bit too hurridly.

Emma nods to her … acquaintance. "I believe I can wake you up, Elizabeth. I believe I can repair most of the damage, and that when I do, you will awaken." She has already repaired much of it, and she will remain for as long as is required to fix it all. She gave her word, after all.

"You need to understand that … there is some damage being hidden. Right now, there are scars here, in your memory and along certain pathways of your mind, which show a distinctive pattern. A firebird emblem, if you will." Emma may have heard of legends of the Phoenix, but she does not know the Force itself, nor either Rachel's connection to it, or Jean's.

"If I complete all of the repairs not behind those emblems, I believe you will awaken." Emma answers. "But if I do that, you will awaken … broken. Your talent, your gift, would be gone. You would be forever trapped in your own mind." Emma's tone, cold as it is, holds one of the first hints of any emotion: to Emma, such a thing would be a fate worse than dying. She clearly expects Elizabeth's own reaction to be similar, but holds herself prepared to weather the storm.

"I am prepared to break through those seals, and continue the work. But only you can decide if that is what you want me to do." Emma admonishes. "If I do, I cannot guarantee I'll be able to fix it all, or that breaking those seals won't make matters worse. What I can promise is that I will do everything in my power. The choice to proceed is yours."

Rachel seems to have very little to say, except to add, "It's better to wake up and figure out how to recover your powers and repair the damage, than it is to remain in a prison of your own mind. As Ms. Frost said, the choice is yours."

Betsy goes quite still, looking a bit horrified at both options. She hides her fear well when Emma mentions the flamebird, but is unable to stop herself from looking at Rachel with a frightened air.

"Miss Frost… Emma," she says, swallowing. "I think you already know my answer, though I respect your kindness in inquiring first. Please- anything you can or are willing to do, I would accept most gratefully." She gestures with one hand. "Do what you think you can, and I will help as best I am able."

A wry, bitter humor twists Emma's lips from their perpetual straight line into a mockery of a smile of grim humor. "I think you misunderstand politeness and respect for kindness. But nevertheless, I accept your answer as given. I will do all I can, Elizabeth." She will do for Elizabeth all she can, even though she knows no one would do something like this for her if she were the one so afflicted. Indeed, the heroes like Elizabeth's allies would give grateful thanks if something were to rob the White Queen of her power. And they would be right to do so, in Emma's eyes.

Emma's efforts are calm, methodical, careful and precise. She knows the landscape of injuries, now, and she misses not a one. It is a long, laborious process, and it takes its toll. Elizabeth is receiving intravenous fluids, minerals and sustenance. Not so the White Queen, or the young Ms. Summers. And as hours stretch almost beyond counting, Emma continues. She can feel the fatigue setting into her body, and she does not relent. She can feel her energy levels flagging. And still she continues.

Rachel Summers couldn't help it, while Emma Frost was working on repairing; she was letting her curiosity get the better of her.

She arguably had the strongest connection with the Phoenix out of anyone, she was living proof that it could be tamed and partnered with and not go full on dark side.

That was why she was so interested to see what those seals were.

Reaching out with her own powers she began to probe the seals while Emma did her thing.

Betsy can do little but watch. Unable to see the injuries to her own mind, she seems unable to process what Emma does while Rachel lends strength. The patient can't heal herself in this instance. All she can do is wait and watch, as Emma systematically starts rebuilding Betsy's mind. The damage is largely spiritual, not physical- the paths around Betsy's mind rebuilt or worked around entirely.

The seals, however, are a different matter entirely. It's difficult to say what they are. But there is a bright and furious force behind them, one that flares in warning as Rachel brushes against it. A sense of foreboding accompanies that caress of light and fury. Betsy was not the Phoenix. She was never meant to brush against that font of power, and for her temerity, it's clear that the psionic embodiment of life has severed her ties to her psychic gifts, locking them behind wards that threaten to sear the mind of any psychic who approaches them. …any psychic unprepared to encounter a sliver of the power of the Phoenix, at any rate.

Rachel recognizes that force, some echo of it from when Jean had gone berserk more than likely, "I know what the seals are or I believe I do. Her mind was never meant to come into contact with the forces it did, it's scarred her; left her blocking out her own powers for fear of what she might become if she was actually touched with that power."

Rachel might be wrong but still, she began to focus further with her powers to try and draw out the light behind those seals as the blue-gold phoenix symbol over her left eye flared to life brilliantly.

~You have nothing to fear~ Whether she was assuaging Betsy or the seals was anyone's guess.

Emma sags a bit in place as she finishes the last of the rest of the mental healing she has been doing. It is untold hours since she began, and still she is not done. The seals yet remain. Emma doesn't understand what this power is that Rachel speaks of, but this is what is left. "If she is to be truly healed, I have no choice but to break those seals. Elizabeth, the decision is yours. I believe if I stop where I am, you will awaken shortly. But I believe you will be without your telepathy. What do you want me to do?"

Betsy reaches out, touching Emma and Rachel, joining that communion more closely. The repair work is done- she seems more whole, more alert, a faculty of consciousness returning to her.

"This is a power beyond us," she tells Emma coolly, with no remonstration or insult intended- stating simple fact. "I brushed against a force that defies comprehension. There is a price to be paid for that. I pay it willingly, bu I cannot invite you to risk yourself attempting to repair the damage. It's just as possible that what has sealed my mind away will do the same to you," she tells the blonde telepath. "While I could endure the loss of my extra senses, I do not know if you could. I have an entire lifetime lived without those gifts to fall back on. You do not," Betsy says, bluntly.

"Rachel." She looks to Jean's daughter. "You know this power better than anyone. What can we do? What /should/ we do?" she asks the woman, the hand on Emma's forearm squeezing unconsciously with more worry than she'd care to admit, even in the privacy of her mind's eye.

"I can't know what will happen. If Ms. Frost breaks the seals, I am willing to deal with whatever is behind them for your sake." Rachel pauses and looks between the women, "Or you can let time takes its course and deal with it yourself down the road, it's ultimately up to you. This is your head and your powers."

"Elizabeth, I gave my word. I keep my word." Emma responds, gently but firmly. This woman is the closest thing she has in her screwed up world to a friend. She'll be damned if she'll fail to keep her word to her. "I promised to break those seals and set you free. To heal you." But Emma's armored gauntlet trembles at the thought of losing her own powers. These people know what Betsy faced that did this to her. They know, and they fear. She is not stupid: she knows fear, and she listens to it. But she is a woman of her word.

She is a Queen, damn it all.

Betsy nods at Emma, gratitude on her features. She looks at Rachel, and nods at her, too, steadying herself. Bridging the gap between Rachel and Emma, she settles herself and lends what focus she can to the endeavour, as Emma breaches that flamebird-sealed scar and Rachel catches the burning fury of life incarnate.

It's long, long hours until they're done. Betsy's face is still burned and beaten, but she breathes more steadily on her own, the color returned to her face and her features less slack, more like herself. The work is done- the conflagration that injured Betsy so badly is purged. Now, it calls for rest… and time. When her body is ready to wake, the real test will begin.

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