Night of the Phoenix

February 19, 2016:

Nate and Laura run into a woman who looks very familiar to Nate and Rose.


NPCs: None.



Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

The last light is leaving the sky over New York City, the shadows being swallowed up in the night, only to reappear as electric lights come on to keep the darkness at bay a little longer. At least, in the more well-traveled areas of the city. In the poorer, more run-down areas, it's a different story. In one particular back alley, there's just a single, caged light that blinks on, doing more to enhance the shadows than banish them.

The light starts to flicker as an unusual heaviness builds in the air, together with the tang of ozone, almost as if a thunderstorm is about to break, but the sky is clear.

For a moment, everything's unnaturally still, and then an impossible ball of fire appears, hanging in mid-air in the centre of the alleyway, several feet off the ground. There was nothing to ignite, and nothing to keep the fire burning, but it's there, red-gold flames sending shadows skittering across the walls around it. The fireball roils and flares, and then starts to revolve, flattening into a disc, and then a rapidly spinning ring around a hole leading to nowhere.

A hole that a redhead falls out of, falling the several feet to the dirty floor of the alley. There's nothing graceful about her landing, she hits the floor in a heap and remains there for a few seconds, her head spinning, while she tries to recover the breath that was just knocked out of her. "That was a bad one." She whispers hoarsely to herself when she's able, and rolls over, pushing herself up to her knees. She gives herself another couple of seconds to deal with the head-rush, and then she's on her feet, moving cautiously toward the mouth of the alley.

Many Fridays, after the magic show, Nate stays around to socialize with the local crowd, which usually includes several friends from the theater company he belongs, a variable roster of young mutants from the nearby Mutant Town, and an even more variable roster of college students.

In fact, if he doesn't stay, it is because Rose is at the cottage in Westchester, which is not common as the young woman is often away in mercenary business.

Otherwise Nate stays until past midnight. Spending in drinks and snacks the meager pay he gets from the show (even more meager now he gives Laura half of it). He could charge much more considering how popular 'Nate the Great' is getting, but apparently he has little use for money.

Today he stayed, and he was listening his buddies talk some obscure French play that for some weird reason was applicable to the current political situation (likely the abundant rum and coke drinks had something to do with it) when he winces, steps back, and then the glass explodes in his hand.

Before anyone has enough time to ask, he is heading towards the back door on long strides, kicking it open and gasping for breath.

A ghost. A wraith. That's what X-23 is currently. Oh yes, she came to Nate's second magic show and was once again his assistance, but these after parties. They're difficult for the young woman to parse and so, she mainly stays as invisible as possible.

Only 'appearing' when Nate pulls her out of her shadowed corner, or draws her out from her self imposed silence.

Unlike Nate or the others, X-23 doesn't drink or eat. Drinking does nothing for her, thanks to her healing factor and eating? Well, she can deal with that later. Instead her green eyed gaze sweeps the bar at regularly intervals for any signs of trouble. And trouble does actually show.

The first inkling she gets is that heaviness in the air. No, she's not a telepath but all of her other senses are strong enough that she feels something. /Something/. It's enough to cause a small frown to tug her lips downward, even as her nostrils flare ever so slightly. She's looking for what's pinging her senses as 'dangerous', but so far she can't quite pinpoint on anything. Not until the sound of a shattering glass is heard.

Immediately X-23's gaze turns back towards that sound and easily now, she sees Nate striding out of the bar. That causes her frown to deepen ever so slightly. Quickly now, X-23 detaches herself from her wall and strides through the crowd, following Nate out that back door. That gasp of breath is heard thanks to her sensitive hearing and Laura says, "Nate." And while it doesn't sound like it, that is a question. Is he okay.

Rachel reaches the mouth of the alley without incident, but remains in the cover of its shadows for a few minutes, trying to get a handle on the world she's found herself in. In her tumble through the timestream she's fetched up in a variety of times and places, and the transition is always wrenching. At least this world isn't as immediately hostile as some others… including the one she started in.

There isn't much foot traffic in Rachel's immediate area, but what there is gets scrutinised, both with her eyes and, lightly, with her telepathic senses. What she finds, or rather doesn't find, keeps her in the shadows for a few minutes more. Fear. It was a constant in her world. The remaining mutants feared the Sentinels and the humans, the humans feared the mutants, the Sentinels, and often eachother. The Sentinels… who knows if they felt anything. But here? As she casts her mental net further, she encounters all manner of minds. Happy, sad, angry, calm, driven, bored. But it's all so mundane. No crushing weight of fear smothering everything. Finally, Rachel lets her eyes rise to the skyline. It's not broken like in her time, the buildings stand strong, intact, and illuminated. Almost unwillingly, Rachel takes a sniff of the air. Polluted, but not the smell of destruction that she's used to.

Rachel stands absolutely still for another minute, and then finally, reluctantly, she starts to smile. She still doesn't really understand how or why she's here, but it's possible - just possible - that she's finally safe. Leaving the shelter of the alleyway, Rachel begins making her cautious way towards the bright lights.

Nate is in fact not very okay, there is blood in his hand and in his ears, and when he looks up, for a second, Laura can't see brick walls and the starless city sky, but an infinite double spiral of worlds reaching up and up for as far as her eyes can follow.

"Someone fell through the Spiral and crashed not far from here," states the young man. "And it feels very familiar… like burning and hunger, and it brings fear and loss. Come, we have some hunting to do," he grunts and gets running. He is not a great hunter or tracker like Rachel, but to his senses the Phoenix left a large hole in reality and the psychic plane.

Mesmerized. That's what Laura is when Nate meets her eyes. That seemingly endless loop of worlds stills whatever words or actions she was about to do. Instead, she stands like a statue until their gaze is broken. Then she's giving herself an internal shake, green eyes blinking, as Nate's words finally penetrate that slight dazed feeling of her brain.

"You are bleeding." She states matter-of-factly, in that flats pragmatic tone of hers.

It's only at the mention of hunting that X-23's gaze sharpens. Almost she deploys her claws, but for now, she simply keeps them sheathed as she follows after Nate. "Who?" Is her question now, as her bright-eyed gaze scans the area about themselves.

"Happens," says Nate, looking at his hand briefly. The glass shards are pulled out telekinetically, but bandages are going to have to wait because he doesn't want to lose the psychic signature he can almost see floating in front of him. "Something that is new, or doesn't belong… or smells like a firebird from space," he grunts. Turns left. Jumps over a couple moving vehicles, provoking indignant New Yorker screams and car horn shrieks.

Then he reaches Rachel's arrival alley and stops suddenly. There are burn marks, and other burns Laura can't see, but he can. "It was here," he notes looking around cautiously. Two ways out. "We better split, I am not sure which way it went."

She started slowly. Keeping to the shadows. Angling away from other people. At one point a helicopter flew overhead, and she ducked into the meagre cover of a doorway, breath coming fast and shallow, as she waited for the sound of its rotors to fade. But the further she gets from her arrival point without hearing the bark of gunfire, the crackle of flames, or the shouts of the hunters, the more she begins to relax. Her strides become longer, her shoulders less hunched under the slightly ragged jacket she wears, her eyes come off the pavement in front of her and rise to scan her surroundings. She's still cautious, still waiting for something to happen, but there's so much to SEE.

And she's invisible. Not because she's pushing people's perceptions away from her, making them ignore her, but because no-one cares that she's walking down the street with them. No-one cares who she is. When people glance in her direction, the telepathic impression she receives isn't that they're wondering if she's a mutant. When she feels some anxiety, she looks deeper, and stifles a laugh when she learns that the man she scanned was afraid she would ask him for money.

Laughing at nothing gets a couple of odd looks, and Rachel steps to one side, out of everyone's way. She catches a glimpse of herself in the dark windows of a passing SUV, and begins to understand the man's concern. Her jacket is scuffed and ripped, but the rest of her clothes aren't much better. She looks around sharply as she hears car horns sound from the direction she made her arrival.

The mention of splitting up simply earns a nod. She'll even watch Nate go the other way, while she turns her attention back to the alleyway. In the alleyway, X-23 will look around, seeing what she can see. Then she's scenting the air to see what she can smell. Acrid. Burning. That's definitely the first thing she smells, but as she works past that sharp smell, she finally hones in a scent. A woman. She can tell that. And she's afraid? Wary? Something that smells likewise sharp, but not so sharp as the burnt stone and pavement around her.

Either way, X-23 has something she can use now. Instead of calling Nate back, the dark-haired woman steps out of the alleyway, perhaps just in time for Ray to see her, when the red-head looks back towards her arrival point.

She'll see the young dark-haired woman scanning the crowd around her, before she unerringly turns in the same direction as Ray. Her gaze intent, her face devoid of expression, as she starts the stalk.

Laughing to herself was just the start. The longer this goes on, the more Rachel is getting drunk on the wonders of an intact city full of people who she has no reason to fear. From her point of view, it's pretty much utopia. She's almost annoyed with herself for jumping at the sound of the car horns and the angry shouting, but then she sees her.

The small, dark-haired young woman. The only one who's paying more attention to her surroundings than her cellphone, or an advertising billboard, or the conversation they're having with someone else. The only one who looks right at Rachel and doesn't look right /through/ her.

Rachel is suddenly, achingly, sober. This isn't her world, but that doesn't mean there isn't danger in it, and Rachel knows she's looking right at it, watching it as it walks towards her. Rachel's been a hunter, and she's been prey. She barely hesitates.

Where a moment before there was a redhead, with green eyes, now there's a blonde, with blue eyes. Where Rachel had been avoiding knots of people, now she steers herself toward them. Her steps quicken. Her surroundings, previously so reassuring, now seem so alien. Too many people. Too much noise. And she still doesn't blend in. She needs to blend in.

Rachel's eyes lock with a young woman walking towards her. About her age, about her size. She needs to take a risk. If there are Hounds here, or something similar, using this much power might draw their attention. But she needs to disappear.

As Rachel passes the other woman, Rachel's telekinetic powers flare. And suddenly her ragged clothes are replaced with an exact duplicate of what the other woman was wearing.

Target acquired. Or so she would think to herself, if she thought like that. Instead, X-23 simply narrows her eyes as she efficiently memorizes just what Ray looks like.

Red hair. Ragged clothing. Slightly odd expression? Odd, at least in X-23's mind.

While she's short and Ray's taller, that doesn't stop X-23 from increasing the speed of her steps. She's not running, or even jogging, but her pace is quick. She neatly winds her way through the various groups of people. She's making waves, but they're quiet waves. She's not pushing through people, or jostling them, as she tries to keep her prey unaware that she's been found.

It's only when the red-head seemingly disappears, that X-23 will pause. Her vibrant green eyes will scan the area about herself, even as her nostrils flare. The scent is still here and like a bloodhound, X-23 continues to follow it. The trail leads her to a blonde woman, with that same ragged clothing. No, she's not quite close enough to do anything, but a frown now blossoms upon her features. Is this odd woman a shape-shifter?

Another knot of people blocks her gaze once again and when the group clears, the raggedly dressed woman isn't seen. Still, that doesn't deter X-23. Her gaze looks for the blonde hair and when she spies a handful of blonde woman, X-23 strategizes. She'll move towards the closest group and when none of their scents are familiar, X-23 goes to the next. She's narrowing down just where her prey might be.

Rachel's doing her own tactical evaluation, from the other side. Her initial reaction was instinctive. Run. But now she's thinking, considering her options. She can run, but she doesn't know anywhere to run to. Losing her pursuer amongst people is her play. The press of minds around her as she moves with the people on the street is unfamiliar and unsettling, but she fights the urge to avoid the larger groups. She needs their anonymity.

She knows she's made a dangerous choice. If she can't lose the woman following her, and she gets close enough to engage, Rachel's powers will draw far more attention than she wants if she has to defend herself. The better option might have been to turn away from the bright lights and the people, and accept a confrontation away from witnesses. But Rachel doesn't want to fight. She wants to preserve the illusion that this world is different for a little longer yet.

Rachel doesn't turn, and keeps moving, but she scans for her pursuer. It's not particularly easy, all the minds around her present a considerable amount of white noise, but there's one, one that's unusually focused. That has to be her. But she's not closing all that quickly. Rachel dares to hope that her camouflage has done the trick, and slows her pace, drifting away from the group she'd been following. She can't walk the streets all night, she needs to figure out her next move.

No. No. And no again. X-23 knows she's close. The scent is all around her, there's just so many people disrupting the path of the scent that she can't quite locate where her prey is. This causes her claws to peek out ever so slightly, the slight pain of her skin splitting helping to focus the young woman.

Stopping now, rather rudely to the traffic around her, X-23 pauses in her pursuit. Her eyes will close and Laura will focus on her other senses. Hearing to be specific and that's when she hears it.


The sound of a faster heartbeat than those cheerful, drunken people around her. X-23's green eyes snap open and again, like a missile locked onto its target, X-23's gaze easily searches out the red-head masquerading as the blonde. And now with clothing that isn't ripped. Again, the vague thought of shapeshifter drifts through X-23's mind, before the dark-haired assassin steps forward now. She's like a compass needle that always points North.

Rachel senses a disturbance in the flow of the minds around her, an annoyed sharpening of otherwise random thoughts as they eddy around the disciplined mind hunting her, rather like water flowing around a rock in the middle of a stream. Rachel smiles to herself. Despite the anxiety of being hunted, there's still room for a little professional pride. She despised being a Hound - but she was the best. Whoever's hunting her doesn't measure up.

Until they do. Until that disciplined, focused mind zeros right in on her again.

Rachel almost stumbles as she feels the intensity of the scrutiny that she's suddenly under. Her telepathic disguise hasn't slipped, and it's taking so little of her mutant talent that SHE would have trouble detecting it. And yet, something's betrayed her.

Rachel feels her pursuer closing, quickly now, and her heartbeat accelerates. She picks up her own pace, dodging through the crowds. She picked wrong, the confrontation is coming whether she wants it or not, and this is her only chance to choose her ground…

She sees a shuttered building, derelict among the brightly-lit buildings around it, and makes a snap decision. Melting into the doorway, a ripple of telepathic power pushes any curiosity firmly away from her as the door seems to unlock and unbar itself. She's through in an instant, and the door closes and re-secures itself behind her.

Meanwhile Nate has been unable to find anything interesting, so after a few minutes he checked Laura's mind and found her deep into hunting mode. Convinced she was in the right track, he comes flying over the building, his psychic aura very clearly visible to Rachel. She should have seen him miles away if she was paying attention to the mental planes.

"What did you got, Laura?" He asks, not bothering to use telepathy since the young brunette should be able to hear him perfectly even a hundred yards away. He scans the streets visually and telepathically. But there are too many people. It is downtown New York and not yet midnight, after all.

When Ray's heartbeat ratchets even higher X-23 knows she's been spotted, as well. Or at least, she realizes that Rachel has figured out just /who/ is following her. As Rachel breaks out into a half run-half walk, X-23 does as well. In fact, the dark-haired woman drops any pretense of being part of the crowd and bolts for Ray now.

Too late, however. The door is opened by the telepathic telekinetic and X-23 comes face to face with that locked doorway.

Unlike Ray, however, X-23 has no way of suggesting people ignore her. Not that she cares. Claws pop with a *SNIKT* and while the crowd doesn't necessarily react to her, those closest to see what just popped out of her hands do. A few muffled gasps of *woah*, *dude*, *whatthehell* can be heard by X-23 before those metallic claws are /easily/ sinking into the wooden door and cutting through it.

And that's just when Nate makes his appearance again. The door is all but ripped apart, as she answers in one word. "Prey."

Then she's ducking into the shattered hole she's made, eyes already scanning for the woman that ducked inside.

Rachel almost ducks instinctively as a powerful psionic presence passes overhead. Whoever's chasing her has backup. Serious backup. Rachel's under no illusions about how strong she is, and up until that moment she was confident that if she had to fight, she'd win. But outside of the inhuman entity that brought her here, she's never encountered a psychic of such power. She has the sick feeling that she's not going to make it out of this one.

All it takes is one word to make her forget her momentary despair. One word to ignite her temper and blot out fear with anger. Prey.

« I don't think so. »

The words aren't spoken, they arrive directly inside X-23's head, and they're filled with grim resolve. Unlikely the old, rusty filing cabinet that follows them, which is filled with mouldering paper and aimed to knock X-23 back through that door.

Rachel doesn't stick around to see how effective her improvised missile is, however, she's heading for the stairs. Panicked people foolishly run upstairs in an emergency - but most of them can't fly.

Nate grunts. Laura is always so loquacious! "Well, yeah… give me a description, will you?" As Laura goes inside the derelict building, Nate sighs. His hand is starting to hurt, which is distracting. Still, someone likely dangerous slipped through realities and it takes priority.

Instead of following Laura, he flies into the building through the wall of the third floor, phasing through without breaking anything. It is dark inside, but his psionic aura works as a weak flashlight, and he is now scanning telepathically for minds inside the building while heading for the staircase.

Description? Sure, X-23 can give a description. Here it is.

"Telepath." Comes X-23's short, truncated words and while in other times she might have a tiny bit of inflection to her voice, currently, she has no. She is in total hunt to kill mode. Completely.

So, not a shapeshifter, but a telepath. At least that answers how the other woman changed her appearance so easily.

While others might stumble or fall, or even be pushed back by the impromptu missile, X-23 does not. The faint squeak of it rushing through the air was easily heard and the assassin nimbly brings her claws upward.



The cabinet splits in half and each half falls to the floor on their respective sides. Stepping past the not so effective attack, X-23's gaze swings to Rachel who's disappearing up those stairs. A faint growl comes from X-23 now, even as she spares a glance over her shoulder when Nate flies off. While others might shout a question to him, X-23 doesn't. She assumes he's going for another angle of attack. Which is fine with X-23. That leaves her open to doing her own thing.

Swiftly now, X-23 moves. With no more prying eyes upon them, X-23 is employing all of her speed into her movements now. While her feet are silent upon the steps, as she runs, Rachel should still be able to sense the other woman not far behind her.

It would have been nice if the filing cabinet had taken down her pursuer, but Rachel didn't expect to get that lucky. She had expected it to slow the smaller woman down a bit, but she's disappointed there as well. Even worse, her opponent is FAST. But Rachel's not just in headlong flight, she has something approximating a plan.

She needs to know what she's facing, and she doesn't want to be outnumbered when she faces whatever's descending from the skies toward her. As soon as she judges she's out of sight of her pursuer, Rachel puts up a complete telepathic cloak. She's not just altering perceptions now, she's aiming to completely vanish from the other woman's visual field. She knows that her pursuer has other talents, but she's hoping it'll give her just enough time…

…to reach out and grab her with her telekinesis and lift her off the floor. « Who the hell are you and why the hell are you chasing me? » The words are 'spoken' quickly, and there's a hint of desperation behind the obvious anger.

Up. Up and up some more and it's only when her keen ears no longer detect the other woman's foot steps that she'll slow. Oh, yes, she does come into view of the cloaked Rachel, but there's a weariness to her movements, her mind and her gaze. Her claws are still out as she brushes so close to Ray, but for that split-second, X-23 is unaware of the other woman. That split-second of confusion, uncertainty of just where Rachel is, is enough for the telekinetic to reach out and grab a hold of X-23.

While others may gasp, or lash out, or struggle, X-23 doesn't. She literally goes limp as she hangs there in that TK hold, much like a kitten does in its mother's mouth.

The telepathic question does earn a response from X-23, as she says in that deaden voice of hers, "Laura." A heartbeat and then further clarification comes from the dark-haired woman. "My mission - " Because, yes, this is a mission for Laura, "- Is to find you. I have found you." And as soon as that last word is out of her mouth, X-23 will bring her legs upward and lash out. She's trying to land a two-footed kick upon Ray's chest and if it connects, there is quite a bit of strength behind that attack of hers.

Nate plan coming into the third floor was to surround the intruder if she was going up. It almost worked, as Rachel turns to confront Laura and Nate jumps down just in time to see her receiving a kick to the chest.

"Rachel!" He shouts in surprise. "Laura, don't…" of course, too late. With a curse, he runs to grab the woman… either of them, to pull them apart before they kill each other. In his experience, they are both ruthless enough they are both in serious danger!

Rachel decloaks in front of Laura. She's dropped her blonde haired and blue eyed disguise, but her Hound tattoos are still hidden. Force of habit. She's still tense, after all that other presence is still closing, but Laura's limp posture has her thinking she's got the upper hand. At Laura's entirely factual and entirely useless non-answers, Rachel's expression turns irritated and she starts to move forward, drawing breath to speak.

And getting Laura's boots in her chest. Hard.

However, for every action there is a reaction, and although Rachel's taken by surprise and sent crashing back to the floor, the breath knocked out of her, she has the presence of mind to do one thing: Send X-23 flying backwards in the opposite direction. It's an instinctive move, trying to buy her time to recover.

But then she's completely out of time. The other presence is revealed as Nate arrives, and although Rachel's not in the best of shape, he yells… her name? Rachel scrambles backwards using her feet and elbows until her back hits the wall. She looks at Nate wildly, the green of her eyes starting to bleed into white heat.

Well, it is not hard to find them. They are not very quiet, and when Nate called out before his pained momemt Ravager was already moving.

Cell phone snapped out of pocket, her job of one hunt cancelled with a click and a throw. The disposable cell hone launched in front of her, run over by the Tomahawks tires and then in a small spark and sudden burst it burns and blows to pieces. The motorcycle is jerked into a 180, traffic honking, people cursing and her response is blurring and weaving between still city traffic in noon rush.

Bike parked and hidden a few blocks away Ravager arrives within the building silently, in fact even her mental walls of sheer will locked tightly in place. No mental feels, no mental pokes as she moves through the bulding and follows the noise of the scuffle not showing herself until it seemed opportune.

The white heated eyes seemed that time.

Coming around the corner, Rose reaches back to the crossed sword holsters at her back, releasing them with a click and press of thumb. "Rachel? You mean the one the government arrested and held for war crimes?"


"Pleasure." Ravager says after settling the swords back and brazenly is walking towards Rachel with her hand extended like she'd shake. "Been a bit. Only met you once," Though while she speaks she is placing herself away from Nate and X.

Nate's appearance barely garners a glance from X-23, as she keeps her attention focused completely upon Rachel. When she reveals her true colors, as it were, and drops the disguise X-23 can't help but really give her a once over again.

And while more /likely/ could have been said between the two woman, that kick and the toss hits home.

X-23 easily goes flying through the air and while the impact into the wall is /hard/, it only takes a second for X-23 to gain her feet again. There might be a momentary wobble to her steps, but that quickly fades, as X-23's healing factor begins to heal whatever wounds she acquired from Rachel's telekinetic toss. With claws still out, X-23 advances yet again, even with Nate's warning of 'Laura don't'. Clearly it's heard, as she doesn't take that final hop, skip and jump at Rachel, but X-23's stance is definitely aggressive.

"Her eyes." Are the only words she now speaks, when those formally green eyes turn white hot. X-23's own green-eyed gaze will then drift over to Ravager, as she makes her appearance upon the scene. This makes her feel better. The odds are now much more favorably on their side.

Nate frowns at Rachel aspect. "What happened to you? I thought you were in Muir." She also looks too young, and definitely too skinny. But when her eyes turn white, Nate's left one shifts to gold and she braces for the telekinetic hit.

Rose arrival gives him a second pause. "It wasn't war crimes," he grunts. "Calm down, Ray. No one is going to hurt you… what the hell, don't you recognize me? I am your brother."

It's not just her eyes. As the hunters close in, red-gold telekinetic fire begins to crawl across Rachel's body. She's metaphorically and literally been backed into a corner and she's about to try to fight her way out.

And then three things happen. First, with a wrenching sense of sudden familiarity, that blank, white-hot gaze finally takes in the claws protruding from the backs of Laura's hands. Rachel stares at them fixedly, as if the sight of them has frozen her in place, right in the moment before she cuts loose.

Second, Rose makes her presence known, and the odds tilt even further against Rachel, from 'unlikely' to 'suicidal'. Rachel's head snaps around as the menacing click cuts through the moment of silence. Again, her name. Rachel shakes her head, stubbornly. "I don't know you."

And the third thing? That's just absurd. Rachel hasn't really been listening to Nate's words, assuming he's trying to distract her, get close enough to strike, but then he says… that. "You're my WHAT?!"

Rachel blinks, and her eyes go green again. Bracing her hands against the wall, she scrambles to her feet, trying to look at all three of the others at once. "Who the hell are you people and why do you think you know me?"

"What is with you and semantics, Nate? Swiss cheese is cheese. I don't care about /aged perfection/. Still tastes good with my ham." A small tick of a smirk at one corner of her lips at the remark and the denial from Rachel comes in loud and clear.

"I cut my hair." But the word has the extended hand rising to flick the razor shorn ends and in that quick moment an empty palm is reflecting the arrival of metal handle of a gun, a twitch of finger triggering the release of the gun in her arm rig of revolving weapon holster that kept the guns hidden up her sleeve.

Magic! -Jazz hands-?

"But swiss has holes in it. And I still don't like her." No matter how you slice this interaction it likely was going to end bad the moment Rose saw Rachel. Since the handshakes was (rudely!!) ignored/avoided this put more distance between them and when the pistol lowers to aim upon Rachel and squeeze the trigger in response to the telekinetic fire.

Nate studies Rachel a little more, stepping down a couple stairs, and then is dawns on him, "crap… you don't know us, this means you must have come from earlier in the timeline. Time travel is messy. "Look, we are friends we are X-Me… Rose, wait!" But of course, Rose is too quick. Nate can only try to raise a telekinetic shield on the way of the bullets.

Rachel's still trying to keep all three of the others in her field of view, but her eyes keep sliding back toward Nate. It's insane. She doesn't have a brother. She would know. And yet, there's something there. Something that keeps drawing her attention back toward him.

And not toward the young woman who's armed to the teeth. As a result, Rachel should be dead. As Rose's finger squeezes the trigger, Rachel throws up a desperate telekinetic shield, but she's far too slow.

The bullets ricochet off Nate's shield. If he'd been a hair slower, Rachel would be bleeding out. She doesn't take the time to thank him. "The feeling's mutual." Rachel swings around, her eyes flash white again, and she reaches out telepathically, trying to shut down Rose's mind.

It's far harder than she's expecting. Whoever this gun-happy lunatic is, she has some formidable mental defences. Rachel grits her teeth and lashes out with a hammer-blow of a telepathic bolt. It'll have to be enough. She twists back to face the others, and for a moment she sees two Nates as the world tilts alarmingly for her. The pain in her head puts her on notice that she may just have done a very stupid thing.

It doesn't help Nate also reaches telepathically to try to shield Rose. Unfortunately he is not very good at shielding others and Rachel hits the white-haired girl hard enough to knock her out. "What the hell? What is wrong with you all?" He reaches with a hand to pull Rachel back, to him, while catching Rose so she doesn't hit the floor head first.

"Don't you dare to faint now, Ray," he growls, shaking the redhead. "You are coming with me so we can short this out. And…" he glances to Laura. "Please, take Rose home. She is going to wake up with a hell of a headache after that." And she shot Rachel! That is… something he doesn't want to deal with right now.

Rachel pulls away from Nate's hand on reflex, and has to catch herself against the nearest wall before she does a header into the floor. Her balance is shaky, her focus is shot, and she's having serious trouble keeping hold of her powers, at least in any way that would be meaningfully useful for self defence. But despite the splitting pain in her skull she's oddly focused on making one thing absolutely clear.

The arm that's not being used to help keep her upright reaches out and an accusing finger is pointed towards Rose. "She shot me!"

Rachel slumps against the wall, just about managing to remain upright. "Not going anywhere with you. Don't know you. Didn't do… what she said I did." Rachel's eyes are narrowed to slits, but not from anger or hostility. Just pain. And there's more confusion than warning in her voice.

"No. Trumped up charges by mutant-hating politicians and feds," says Nate angrily. "She was a month in jail and released without charges. Another day more and I would have bust you… her out. But it was all for nothing. Now come with he, you can barely stand and your arrival might have been detected by less friendly types. I am with the X-Men, as I said. And we are three blocks out Mutant Town. We can talk there… hmm, I have painkillers for psychic backlashes, too."

Rachel would barely know what Nate was talking about even without the headache. Where she's from, you don't need trumped up charges to incarcerate mutants. You just… do it. Or kill them. One thing is finally getting through, however. There's another her, in this world. And it doesn't sound like she's popular. Rachel shakes her head defiantly. "I'm not going…" Anywhere, she was about to say, but shaking her head was a big mistake.

Rachel can barely hear Nate over the suddenly increased pounding in her head, but she hears 'X-Men', and takes the only realistic option left to her. "You're the friendly types?" She asks, skeptically, but then gives in. If Nate decided to just pick her up and take her with him, she doubts she could stop him. "All right."

"We come in all flavors," admits Nate. He is not always considered the friendliest one. "You met Laura, she had a bad upbringing, even worse than ours. She is still kinda rough around the edges, you saw the claws." She helps Rachel back to the street, covering them with a minor illusion so no one pays attention. "And Rose is my girlfriend, but she is quick with the guns too. Her father is quite the killing machine, I hear, goes by Deathstroke. Hmm… but Xavier is still behind the whole thing. And Jean leads the main team. You'll see."

If Rachel keeps her head very, very still the pounding ebbs to a dull roar, and she's able to walk without feeling like she's about to throw up. "I saw the claws." Rachel agrees, an unasked question in her tone. She's still wary. Absolutely nothing makes sense. A few minutes ago they were hunting her, and now that she's vulnerable, Nate wants to help her? But then he says something that causes her to stop dead in her tracks. "The Professor's alive? Mom - Jean - she's alive?" Rachel doesn't believe it - but she clearly wants to.

"Yeah," replies Nate, walking slowly, heading towards Mutant Town. "You travelled through the Spiral of Worlds. What eggheads call alternative timelines. And I saw you coming. Usually things coming from other timelines are dangerous, which is why Laura and I went hunting. But we… the children of Scott and Jean, we can travel up and down the Spiral. So when I say I am your brother what I mean is I am probably your alternative in other timeline. There are a few of us, you'll see."

Rachel resists Nate's pull to keep walking. His matter-of-fact tone isn't enough. "No, they're… you don't understand, they're… where I come from they're dead. They're all dead. All of them. All the X-Men. Dead." Rachel only stops talking when she hears the hysterical edge in her own voice. She wants Nate to say it again. And again. And as many times as it takes until she believes it. But that's slightly insane and Rachel knows it. Unwillingly, she lets him get her moving again.

"I don't know anything about a Spiral of Worlds." Rachel says, stubborn and still suspicious. "I was… I was going to die, and there was a bird made of flame and… it spoke to me, and…" Rachel frowns, thinking of the stops she made on her way here, wherever here turns out to be. "Spiral of Worlds. OK." It makes as much sense as what she said. Probably more.

"I want to see them." Rachel looks at Nate, her eyes a bit clearer now the pain in her brain is ebbing slightly. "So I know it's true. Show me."

"This is the year 2016," notes Nate. Which might mean nothing to Rachel, after all Nate came from 1995. "I am not going to let you peek in my head until you are more focused because it is very likely our powers will synch too well and that is usually painful as hell. Look, Mutant Town," he notes, as the neighborhood becomes crappier and full of colorful people. The streets still bear the scars of the Purifiers terrorism, but it looking much better than a couple months ago. "Good place to hide for muties, cheap motels too. Ill contact Jean and Xavier to let them know you are here."

"It hasn't happened yet." The words come before Rachel can stop them, before reality can crush her sudden hope. This isn't her world. It doesn't matter how far back she's come, she can't save her world. "Never mind." She says, quickly, and shakes her head. It's still a mistake, but the pain is substantially less this time. She's feeling more herself - which means she acts like it, too. A stubborn light comes into her eyes, and she looks ready to argue when Nate refuses her request - well, more demand, really. "I'm fine…" She begins, in flagrant denial of the truth, but she looks aside when Nate introduces Mutant Town.

Rachel doesn't see the scarred streets. They're still better than what she's used to. She sees mutants, walking openly on the streets. No 'M' markings. No inhibitor collars. She wants to look everywhere at once, but Nate's still talking.

"Wait." Rachel interrupts him urgently. "You said there's another 'me' in this world. And the one who shot me, she said… war crimes?" There's a look that's close to fear in Rachel's eyes, though she's trying to hide it. "What did I… what will I… what did SHE do?"

"She tried to stop the Sentinel program," replies Nate. "She tried to warn some politicians of what was coming. I guess it was a bad plan; she was accused of revealing national security issues to foreign agents or some bullshit. Eventually some dirty laundry was revealed in Washington and the assholes behind the accusation had to back down, she walked out free. Scott too." He steps back and gives the younger redhead a cautious look. "She is older than you, ruthless too."

Rachel goes cold. "Sentinels? Here? Already?" Rachel looks up, reflexively, as if she expects to see them in the sky after all. Politicians, national security issues… she's not really taking it in. She focuses on two things. The Sentinels, and… "Scott? I dragged him down with me? Or… I will?" Rachel shakes her head again, taking a step back from Nate. "I'm not her. Not yet, anyway." This sounds so surreal, Rachel almost wonders if she did more damage to her brain than she realised, taking down Rose. Or maybe none of this is even real. "Maybe you shouldn't tell anyone I'm here." Saying that is like tearing her own heart out. "I don't want them put in danger.".

Nate snorts, "that comes with the x-factor, sister. You can't do much about it." Yet he is not taking her to Xavier's either. The situation is a bit exceptional in Rachel's case due to, well, two of them in the same timeline. They better check with McCoy in the case space-time is in danger of exploding or something if both women meet. "Anyway. Sentinels seem one of those unavoidable bad ideas. And anti-mutant prejudice is pretty high. M-town has seen a good deal of terrorism, but so far the genetic war has been averted, and there is much to do for the X-folks."

Rachel can't be as casually accepting of that as Nate. But then, she's still grappling with the idea that the X-Men are /alive/ in this world. The rest of what Nate's got to say doesn't sound all that encouraging, either. "Everything that happened… it's going to happen again, isn't it?" Rachel looks around her, and this time she sees the damage to the streets for what it is. "And you say I've already tried to stop it once?" Rachel finds that darkly amusing, for some reason. To have tried and failed seems like the story of her life. "Just… don't let me make it worse. OK?" She senses there's more he's not telling her, but somehow she knows pushing him isn't going to work. For now, she'll follow where he leads.

Nate smirks, shaking his head. "I don't know. I know I got to try. I know also even worse things that your Sentinel world are possible. Mine was -worse-. But right now you aren't making much sense. Let me get you some warm food and then you can sleep. Things will look better in the morning, hmm?"

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