Alpha Is In The Wind

August 18, 2015:

Using Cerebro, Betsy tracks Jean. Using the collar, Aspect tracks Jean. Scott… meddles

Westchester - New York

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

It's been a few days since the last sighting of Jean Grey, aka Alpha, aka Mackenzie Green.. which ever name it was that she went by at that time. The mental blocks that were instilled within her by her handler through her collar and use of drugs made her pliable during, and easily accepting of the new past and current future that she held on to.

But, for all intent and purposes, Jean was just like any other regular person. She had a house that was given to her so she could stay close to Mutant Town, the main directive of the Purifiers, a house which was bugged and set up with cameras, almost like fort knox when it comes to watching and spying upon a person..

Any regular person who would do grocery shopping or stopping at the liquor store to buy scratch off in hopes of winning big, any regular person who would settle down at the graveyard upon the grave of some unknown whom she just knows is the little girl in the picture, the locket pulled out and stared as as she sits with a bottle of jack, legs crossed, flowers resting within her lap as she reaches up to idly scratch beneath the collar.

Her timer was good, fully charged, she had several hours on a regular day, and the injections had often picked up every other hour along with a swath of pain that would put her down and make her think twice about using her gifts without 'authorization.'

"Alright Jessica.." She murmurs to the gravestone, "I bought the flowers. We're going to play your game again. This time I have enough to last us until the evening."


Cerebro's a tool. A very useful tool, granted, but there are some things that are best done with a bit of hard work and diligence and simply beating feet on the pavement. Finding the burning ember of Jean's psionic energies was so easy, Betsy had marvelled that flatscan humans couldn't sense it miles away. The problem was locating a drug-addled, confused, brainwashed, /programmed/ woman who was convinced she wasn't Betsy's best friend. The search had taken most of two strenuous days, but had born fruit, and with Jean none the wiser that Betsy was hunting her across the swirling Astral void that connects all minds.

And now, proving that hiding doesn't require invisibility, Betsy is watching Jean reach her destination in the graveyard. Betsy's talents for invisibility work thus: she makes no effort to hide. At most, her hair has been slightly changed to temporarily suppress the lavender dye it usually carries, then done up in a loose, low bun that Betsy would never really wear. Her clothing is also fairly non-descript, though even the ninja is hard pressed not to make the thin hoodie and jeans look like some kind of fashion statement.

Her eyes hidden by designer frames, she moves on a course that's parallel to Jean's, a good fifty yards away and ambling along at a pace that doesn't match the redhead. When Jean stops, Betsy takes out a pair of pruning scissors she'd 'borrowed' from a groundskeeper and starts snipping at overgrown grass stalks, her senses crawling towards Jean in a low, stealthy fashion to pick up what she can of the woman's thoughts, as passively as possible.


WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY

Its been a trying time for Scott Summers. In a way, his reason for sitting on the sidelines is directly related to honoring Jean's wishes, before she left. She wanted him to take a break. He couldn't just stop leading… but he could lead from behind the front lines.

Logan and Colossus are slated to visit Jean Grey's family home, but Scott wouldn't be going to Annadale-on-Hudson. He would be staying at home, recovering from his encounter with exgenta-diacetylmorphine.

As the day stretches on, the X-Man paces through one of the Xavier Mansion's libraries. The expansive window provides a wonderful view of the Xavier Institute beyond, lined with evergreens and a sky mottled with purple and blue. On the vacated chair, an old copy of Orwell's 1984, turned over to mark his place.

Why haven't I used the mind-link? Because I'm too frightened of what I'd find… because I don't want to know if it's been damaged, or worse, severed. Jean, she's been… so silent.

Reaching the window, he rests a hand along the woodwork, smooth and polished as it is old and weathered. He can't witness the brilliant colors of dusk, for all he sees are tones of red.

Scott lowers his head and grimaces, fraught with indecision.


Jericho is watching from a distance away. Graveyards have this annoying habit of not having security cameras over the actual graves. More annoyingly this one is in Westchester County which is, er, a touch rural. In the city he could have at least perched on a tall building to overlook. Not that he had much trouble finding a hill.

He's watching through the scope of a rather large rifle, though his finger is resting on the guard and not the trigger. Clearly he's not thinking of shooting anything. Yet.

"Well, there she is." He murmurs to the X-Man he promised he'd pick up. "I guess that line of investigation did work out." It'd been a stroke of luck picking up Jean here, and more because her signal is away from everything else than that he has it isolated. He's a lot closer now and electronically feeling the device out, if he can. Damn these purifiers are good at masking their networks. "You going to talk to her or… do your empath thing?"


Brins in her X-Red uniform - she'd had minutes to change when Jericho had called and thankfully he hadn't just stepping disked her away. Magik's done that in the past, something she's getting used to.

Hunkered down beside Jericho, Brin watches 'Alpha' at the grave… she's already sent a message to Scott - she's waiting to hear back from him. She's also let her communicator on broadcast - Scott can hear all of this.

"I'll go closer, at least. But…" she worries her bottom lip "last time Jean nearly shredded my mind. I'm…" yeah, she's not going there, she's still having nightmares and they're not going to go away soon."At least if she hits me, it won't be to this location."

Moving away from Jericho's location, the shy brunette stands and dusts herself off before heading towards where Alpha is sitting - broadcasting feelings of love and acceptance… and memories of good times she's had with Jean… That went /so/ well before….


A rose was peeled from the bouquet of flowers that she had brought with her, the stems of them pushed aside to roll upon the ground as she presents a flower to the gravestone; held aloft as she holds in a slight breath. "Okay.. one.. two.." She glances up for the briefest of moments, her gaze scanning the expanse of the graveyard, her hand held upright which soon closes into a fist.. "..three.."

Her fingers splay as the petals part, leaving behind only a bud as it was soon tossed aside. "With each petal I present to you, the five ways I shall tell you how I feel about you." The locket lifts with the use of her TK, opening to rest upon the grave, the picture of the unknown (and photoshopped) girl facing Jean. "The first, is my devotion." With a little manipulation, the petal begins to split apart, frayed and falling to the ground in small, red wisps.

"The second, if my love for you. Which is fore-.." She stops, her hand lowering as the petals float towards the ground, her hand lifting to wipe away beneath her eye. Why was she crying? She shakes her head then reaches over to grasp her bottle of jack, hands immediately twisting off the top as she draws herself to a stand. "Terrible, terrible idea, Mack.." She murmurs to herself. She couldn't rekindle the past, no matter how much power lays within her grip.

With a turn, she starts to make her way from the graveyard, giving a slight up-nod towards the woman with the shears, only stopping once she sees Brinley, her brows lowering just a touch as she tries to place where she knows the silhouette. And then she drinks.. two deep swigs, something to burn her chest as she continues on her path to departure a bit more towards the left and away from the two women. She didn't want anyone to see her cry.


There'll be a time for crying later, for Betsy. It hurts her- it hurts her terribly to see Jean crying, even if Jean isn't sure why she's hurting. Every instinct in the woman wants to send her hurrying to Jean's side, to take her arm and tell her everything will be all right.

But Betsy focuses on her pruning. She doesn't even look up when Jean starts to move. Snip, snip, snip. Her face remains a careful, slightly morose mask, as befits a woman tending the grave of a loved one. She's only here to listen- to observe. Every psychic sense gathering every stray thought slipping into the aether, every nuance of motion. Betsy only looks at Jean when she leaves Jean's peripheral vision, taking her in with one gestalt examination.

And then she steps behind some grave markers and vanishes.

"I would very, very strongly recommend you think non-descript thoughts," Betsy murmurs to Brinley a few seconds later, having covered a remarkable distance virtually unseen and unheard- at best a shadow, even in the daylight. She closes the last bit near the woman with an ambivalent stride of a stranger passing another stranger, both wallowing in their grief. "She's disoriented and she's upset, and believe me that getting pissed atop that only makes it worse," she tells Brin, pointedly not even facing Jean's direction. "What are you doing here?"


XAVIER ESTATE

Not many know of Scott's mind-link with Jean. He truly wonders if even the Professor is aware of it; he and Charles have grown distant lately. Scott can't help but wonder if his mentor - no, his adopted father - doesn't approve of the direction he's taken the X-Men.

A direction that has led them here.

Taking a deep breath, Scott decisively moves away from the window and back toward the ornate chair and his unfinished book. Marking his spot with a bookmark, he sets it upon a nearby table, then closes his eyes beneath the glasses.

Jean.

Scott may not be a telepath, but the mind-link Jean formed essentially gives him the ability to reach out to her, as if he had the gift itself. He focuses harder, ignoring the headaches, the nausea that comes with his ongoing withdrawal, until he feels himself leaving his body.

Jean, hear me. Please.

Opening his eyes, he finds himself upon a sheet of white. White everything, as if the Estate had simply disappeared from around him. With a quiet gasp, he looks into the blinding light, reaching up to remove his glasses. I must be in the Astral plane. Jean speaks of it often. This is not reality… only the reality within my mind. Jean, where _are_ you?

Meanwhile, next to the book left behind, Scott's X-Communicator beeps with Mana's incoming message, but the entranced mutant does not hear it.


Jericho keeps watching through the sniper scope, which is kept trained on Jean. He's still not ready to shoot. Not sure there'll be a good chance for it this time out. He certainly hopes there isn't a need for it.

Watching is only part of what he's doing though. That collar Jean's got is hooked up to something and the hacker wants to know where, and what it does. The trace is simple. It takes time and finding out how whomever has Jean's leash is scrambling the signal is tedious, but so long as he can get enough time he'll make progress. Which is to say, if Jean doesn't spook and bolt. He might be able to track her if she does. Might. Far more interesting to him is trying to get into the collar itself and find out how it operates. As he told Brinley, it's possible it's controlling her, or it might just be a tracking device or maybe a discipline tool. If it's not controlling her then they've got a whole separate mess to deal with when it comes to recovering her. And that'd be good to know ahead of time.


Jericho too, can hear the conversations. If there's one thing Brins learned, it's to make sure she has backup.

As Betsy steps out, Brin looks up at her and schools her mind to quiet. "Stopping Jean being shot." A simple statement, and one that Scott would understand. "I came with someone who's tracking her through the collar, I made them promise to bring me … I'm sure you've read the report I lodged a day or so ago." Regarding Jericho's approach, that is. Blowing out a soft sigh, Brin relents a little "People think the collar is controlling, Jean. It might be, but we also think it's being used to track her. My colleague is currently working on that - it might lead us back to her handlers."

"Aspect, any luck with that tracing yet?" The words murmured, but the group will hear all.


Inside of the collar, the two pronged needle-points that attach to her spine releases a small mist of gas into her bloodstream, as well as a quiet beep that allows the sensors within the collar and the piece to her temple to monitor. Every thirty minutes, the collar would flash a series of red, yellows and greens as a message was transmitted from the collar back to the current base; GPS to pinpoint her location and track her movements. It almost acts as a cellular phone signal, pinging off of the nearby towards, and scrambling once that ping-pong effects extends it's fullest reach. But that signal remains still for the moment, and immediately disappears. Tracking it? Easy. But how smart are the people behind the lines?

Jean continues the slow stroll pass the graves, no longer fancying the need to drink.. stopping at an old statue to place the bottle down at it's foot, her one good deed today for the homeless. If one was present, money would also be had. Hair of the dog, it'll get them by another night should it freeze.

She shoves her hands into her pocket then keeps moving, her pace quickening until it slowly.. slowly.. draws her to a stand still.

WHITE ROOM

A hand reaches out to grasp Scott's shoulder to turn him around with a bit of force. It was gentle, of course. Anything she touches would have been. But as she sees him a smile draws across her lips, although it was sad. "You shouldn't have come here.."


Perhaps the most chilling aspect of Betsy's personality is how utterly unemotional she is at anything she does. The expression she wears ripping someone's brain open is fairly close to the one she has when trying to decide what to eat. Elizabeth was never like that- she was emotive and expressive, talking with her hands and wearing her emotions in plain view, no matter how she suppressed them psychically.

'Betsy' might as well be a statue.

So when Brinley mentions snipers, Betsy's eyes flicker left and right, her thoughts instantly casting a net out to find the hidden marksmen. But that begs the question, why is Brinley here, and then, why isn't she attending to the sniper- unless-

And in that flickering moment, because of Betsy's peerless stoicism and endless mental discipline, it's entirely likely that Brinley never gets a hint- if even that- of how close she comes to risking death under one of Betsy's psionic knives, or Jericho, a heartbeat after she finds him.

Stifling her instincts, then her first and /second/ thoughts, Betsy grimaces- the sole expression of discomfort she ever makes- and exhales a whisper of breath. She can almost hear Jean in her mind. ~No, Betsy, you can't murder your way to a solution.~

Of course, Emma pops up on the other shoulder in a reversal of the common scheme. ~No, kill them all! Sort it out later!~

Waving off both mental apparitions, Betsy forces herself into cold logic and works through Brinley's words in the time it takes for Brinley to go from 'Aspect' to 'yet'. All without a hint of her thoughts.

"Keep in mind the damage she does in a brainwashed, addled, and misdirected anger," she tells Brinley, deducing that Aspect is on the other end of the communicator. "And then imagine the havoc that a /survival response/ from her would provoke," she says, gently stressing the words. "If a shot is taken and it is not perfect- /perfect/-" And Betsy knows all too well the hairsbreadth between perfection and ruination- "then this entire city might burn. Possibly the world." She looks sidelong in Jericho's direction, though she can't see him, and holds a hand out, palm down, in a minute gesture to stand down.

All the while, of course, unaware of what hell Scott might be breaking loose.


WHITE ROOM

"Thank God, I found you."

Scott looks into Jean's eyes, studying them. Brown irises focus and dance back and forth, observing the sadness in her eyes with a sadness of his own; but it is a sadness riddled with relief.

"Tell me why?" he asks her. "What are they doing do you, Jean?"

XAVIER ESTATE

Still locked in his trance, Scott's arm reaches out hovers over the communicator, but it stops. If he opens the channel, what his real ears witness might be fed into this place, like feedback through the mind-link. It hovers, but it does not answer Brinley's call.

WHITE ROOM

A mysterious voice fills the white room, clear yet silent.

/:'I am taking trouble with you, Winston,' he said, 'because you are worth trouble.'//

Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.

If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.


How does one measure resolve? Most would hold up, as the yardstick for that, the things a man will die for. Jericho's never found that to be sufficient. Dying is simple. Men die at the drop of a hat, for many causes often without being given a choice in the matter. It's not a hard thing to want to make what must come anyway mean something. Dying is reflex. Dying is easy.

Killing is hard. It's a choice. If you wish to know where a man's heart lies and where he places his resolve, find out what he will kill for. The rifle does not lower, nor the crosshairs move from Jean. The stakes are too high, in Jericho's estimation, for both Jean and them to afford even the smallest delay should the sudden need arise to take that shot. And how good a shot is he? Let's hope no one has to find out today.

I've got the signal. For now. Don't spook her. Or the people holding her leash. He can tell that the signal is interactive. A bit of send and recieve. It may be used to help inhibit her powers. Or at least keep her tractable. Now there's a function Jericho would like to take over. If he can, it'll make bringing her in that much easier. He's seen what happens when it shuts off, so that's probably not a good idea right now.


Brin see's Betsy's gesture and snorts softly. She can't imagine Jericho 'standing down'. Then his words filter through and she simply nods and looks to Betsy "He's got the signal, which means we can track it back to the source." Everything else Betsy says gets a level gaze - Brin had seen and experienced at least some of it. "Shall I return, Aspect?" There's little the brunette empath will achieve here now.


WHITE ROOM

Her hand reaches up to rest against his cheek, her head tilted slightly as her brows furrow, the smile disappearing as she lets him go. "How can I tell you why, when there are a lot of things I don't know?" She didn't truly know how they had gotten to her, but when she did wake up for those few moments, she felt lethargic, ill..

..or maybe it was something she's picking up from him? Could their reach be that far? "I don't know what they're doing, but there are times that I can break through the surface enough to see. To feel? It's all so confusing. Th..there are parts of me that.." She hesitates, taking a slight step back. ".. that.. I question it.."

The voice echoes through the room, her gaze flitting back and forth, even so much that she spins around to see if she could spy the spectre..

GRAVEYARD

Her body begins to move slowly, her hand reaching up to lightly touch at her temple, that shock of pain flowing through her as her brainwaves begin to peak and spike the longer that she speaks to him. It hurt.. so much that a slow trail of smoke begins to roll from her shoulders as she crouches low to the ground, fingers sinking into her head as a lick of flame rolls from her lower spine, splitting into parts of three which soon draws flames from her arms.

ELSEWHERE

'You see that?'
'Yeah, I'm seeing it. Get John on the line and get a crew to her position.'
'What the fuck is going on?'
'I don't know, but she needs contained. Ring her, get her on the fucking line and give her the coordinates. We leave in thirty.'


Betsy suppresses a tic in her jaw when she gets dismissed. As for level gazes, Brinley might as well be getting in a staring contest with a Maori figurehead. It's possible Colossus might come close to Betsy's unflappable expression- possible.

And then a surge- a wild, burning surge of psionic energy- slams into Betsy's awareness and she winces instantly, fighting the overriding, urgent instinct to slam a shield into existence between her and Jean's frightening fury. She swears once, in Japanese, something profound sounding, and settles her hips in a familiar stance of readiness. "You two should probably get clear," Betsy tells Brin, eyes on Jean. Taking a gamble, she hurls her thoughts outwards, trying to find what's antagonzing the previously stable woman. What on earth could be driving through that brainwashing, that conditioning, to stir her into a cataclysmic expression of her powers-

"Scott," Betsy exhales, eyes lidding behind her glasses. Because of course Scott would reach out in desperation to that lifeline of hope. On some level, Betsy honestly envied that connection the two of them had. It was almost transcendent, something she could at best see a glimmer of from the outside, like a fishing line in low evening light.

On another, entirely pragmatic level, Betsy wanted to throttle the man. This was what she feared, what she'd feared more than anything else since the first time Jean had summoned those psionic fires- that Jean would go off the rails in a very serious and apocalyptic sort of way. Those fires could scour creation. Scott couldn't tame them. Xavier couldn't subdue them. It was the most pure expression of Jean's deepest self, so often tamped down and suppressed.

With a chilling certainty, Betsy accepts in that moment that she might have to kill her best friend.

"Go," she whispers to Brin, not daring to look away even as she cloaks herself in the darkest of psychic shadows. "You have to go, now." Glasses are tossed aside, her amethyst eyes glimmering minutely in her psionic penumbra- she looks once at Brin, wordless, and then starts setting herself up to make that explosive sprint towards Jean that can only end one way.


WHITE ROOM

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face?forever.

These are quotes, of course, often repeated in lecture halls, from the very book Scott was reading. He'd become suspicious that something similar to Orwell's victim, Winston, may have been happening to Jean. The poignant passages leak into the mind-link from his subconscious, emulated as familiar words from an unfamiliar voice. A narrator, if you will.

Meanwhile, Scott seems blissfully unaware of the voices that fill the room. He does not hear them, for they exist within him. He cants his head into her hand, sighing with satisfaction. Not at her touch, but at finding the part of her that is real.

"All you need to do is remember yourself," he tells her. "Bury yourself deep down. Stop questioning what's happening, and remember who you are. What is right." A sharp pain floods his astral avatar, as if the flames emerging from Jean are licking at his skin.

Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.

"I have to go, now, Jean." His hand lifts to touch hers, but he can already feel the distance forming. "Remember right from wrong. Do it for me?"

He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.

XAVIER ESTATE

With a gasp, Scott emerges from the astral plane, the fiery pain relenting. Almost on instinct, he opens the communicator, receiving Brinley's transmission. He listens for a moment to the voices coming through, then replies over the comm in a calm, collected manner.

"Wait. Just for a moment. See if she fights it."

He knows that time is precious, but if Jean is able to heed his advice, perhaps she'll be able to still the oncoming tidal wave, despite the odds.


Jericho frowns. This was exactly what he was hoping not to see. Actually comes to that he's never seen Jean do pyrokinesis. Which is not good news he assumnes.

Flick. Safety off. The crosshairs settle as Jericho takes a deep breath, waits for that moment between heartbeats and then…

Hears the radio tranmission come screaming in. Someone wants Jean to back off as much as he does. And while the burst coded transmission might take him a few moments to read, finding it is as simple as following a lighthouse on a dark night. It's over there. Of all the ways to disguise communications the one thing that its nearly impossible to hide even today is the fact that you are making one. In this case, there's only one group of people that could possibly be contacting Jean.

Hang on, they're activating that collar. Contacting her or it, doesn't matter. Give me a few and I'll know where it's coming from. His finger releaxes, ever so slightly, on the trigger. No shot yet.


"Acknowledged, Cyclops." Brin looks to Betsy "Cyclops asks that we wait to see if she fights it." She knows Jericho hears that. Trying to remain calm, suppress her feelings and emotions, the brunette listens as Jericho responds "Aspect is tracking the signal, he'll tell us where it's coming from."

Despite Betsy's instruction, it seems Brin isn't in a hurry to go anywhere.


WHITE ROOM

"Who is that? Scott.. there's…" Oh.. he was projecting. No. He wasn't projecting in the way that normal people would. The connection they shared wasn't normal; for his thoughts bled through without him hearing it.

"Don't.." She starts out, closing in the distance as he touches her hand, her own attempting to grasp at his as she begins to tremble and shake, her other hand reaching out to try to grasp ahold of his arm, his hip, his face.. anything to keep him here. "Don't leave.. please don't go! SCOTT DON'T LE—.."

GRAVEYARD

Teeth are bore through and gritted, her lips peeled back as she tries to fight through the injections, the pain, the collar, all of it. Whether it was her or the alter-ego was anyones guess, but those flames lick and rise and grow, bearing that same form of the raptor phoenix that she tries (unless times were dire) to keep hidden.

The collar beeps and flares wildly, the lights simultaneous with the mechanism upon her temple, her fingers digging into her scalp as her hair bursts into flames, but locks that were torn from her grasp lay limply within the palm of her hand.

Who was that man? Who -is- that man? Who are these people that she sees? The brown haired woman, was there even a blonde in white? Two blue men and… fire.

'I'll never let you go.'

The ground beneath her feet begins to rumble as she finally lets out a piercing scream (without the psychic feedback, however…), a rush of heat billowing through the area as she expends the fire, burning grass and charring wood and nearly denting stone in a radius that would possibly make anyone cringe.

And then.. it stops.. the woman slowly staggering to her feet, one hand pressed against her head to cover the mechanism upon her temple, fingers curling to dig in through flesh to pull.. tear.. clutch..

'Remember right from wrong. Do it for me?'

The mechanism is tossed to the ground as she takes off in a trail of fire.. for once. For once since her time away from the X-Men, her time with the SRD (albeit short), and her time with the Purifiers..

Jean Grey, aka Phoenix, aka Alpha, aka MacKenzie Green..

..is on her own.

NOT TOO FAR AWAY

Three HUMVEES travel through the streets, the last one breaking formation to head west, as two more begin to close in on the location. They were obviously in a rush, cutting through traffic, violating many laws that would make a school girl blush at the way the large vehicles fishtail in and out of traffic.

'Asset is on the move!'
'Where the fuck is she going?'
'She didn't even answer the fucking comms?!'
'Find out what happened! Get Moore out there! I want answers three fucking hours ago! Alpha's gone rogue! Alpha's gone rogue!'

XAVIER ESTATE

The door to the study slowly opens, there was no will nor want to keep it closed, the soft grind of metal that scrapes against the wood alerts attention and eyes in his direction. The Professor's gaze is heavy, falling upon Scott, lips pursed tightly as his mobile crosses the room at an agonizing pace. One hand lifts to halt whatever words that seek to spill from Scott's mouth without need of his own gifts; like father to a son who didn't wish to scold, but to only speak first, and listen forever.

And he does…

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