AoA: Meet the New Boss

October 04, 2017:

Jean Grey does some astral recon, looking for Nate. She meets someone else (emits by Nate)

The Astral Plane around Washington


NPCs: AoA Ms. Sinister

Mentions: Nate Grey

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

There is the theory the Astral Plane is the unconscious collective mind of humankind. Unproven, likely impossible to prove. Nevertheless it is pretty sure thing the Astral Plane affects the physical plane and vice versa. The Astral Plane of this Apocalyptic Earth is dark, gloomy and loaded with sadness and loss.

4 billion humans have died in the last 30 years, and most of the survivors are emotionally scarred and traumatized. It shows here.

Still, for a telepath as powerful as Jean, navigation is easy, and the nightmares that lurks at the edges of consciousness give her wide berth. She is like a goddess here, and what passes for reality will bend to her will.

Getting to Washington takes mere seconds, but still tens of miles from the city she can see the psychic field surrounded the area. Impressive in its size, mysterious in its purpose. And… it does not feel like the Shadow King.

Jean had been spent some time recovering from the encounter with the golden-eyed man, the rest having done wonders for not only her physical health but her mental health as well. For the first time since arriving in this world, she felt like she had full control of her powers; no longer diminished.

She had spoken to few since she had awakened, but knew things were getting worse in this world; it was a palpable aura in the air around her; one that was only echoed by the nightmarish version of the Age of Apocalypse's Astral Plane.

She was not hiding as she travelled through the shadows of the world, her presence glowing with ethereal fire like that of the Phoenix she was so tied to. She had to find Nate, reaching out she tried to find some beacon, a flickering echo of the young man's telepathic presence.

Still almost a hundred miles from Washington, prying closer would mean entering the psychic bubble that surrounds the city. Yet Magneto was sure Nate was there, and hiding him is very difficult.

Jean scan-presence enters the bubble. It feels strange, familiar and yet mechanical and the scan pings something. Shielded. But whatever technology or psychic ability they are using it is not enough. Nate is there for sure. But he is not responding.

The technology was unfamiliar to Jean, and in other situations she might have erred on the side of caution but she wasn't sure there was time for science and analysis. Whatever this was, it was unlike anything she had encountered.

Any doubts were vanquished as she managed to pickup something with her senses, the faint echo that Nate was indeed in Washington. She tried to reach out to him despite the lack of the response, trying to penetrate that psychic field if need be.

Ready to face whatever may have been waiting for. She had already lost Nate in Genosha, she wasn't going to lose her 'son' again.

And Jean is caught, of course. And released right away like a hot iron.

This time it was the Shadow King. Slimy and strong, unpleasant and disturbing, his touch always bringing the worst of anyone. But the contact was fleeting. He was afraid!

Seconds later there is a second contact, and it is not the Shadow King. « My goodness. Gabriel was not hallucination, you are Jean Grey. Did Stryker dare to clone Marvel Girl? That man is almost admirable in his ruthlessness. »

That was a woman’s telepathic voice. Amused in a wary, clinic way. And maybe even more powerful than the Shadow King.

The contact revolted Jean to her core and left her feeling almost mentally violated but then it was gone and replaced by the unfamiliar female presence.

Doing her best to strengthen her own psionic shields, she pushed against the presence to test its strength to see what she could glean about it while trying to engage in conversation.

« If you want to know who I am. Tell me, who, or what are you? » She had hoped that the curiousity of whatever she was dealing with would be piqued enough to engage her in conversation and maybe even be distracted.

« But of course. No need to be rude, » the other woman ‘yields’ some, but also sends her own astral form into the plane. Around Jean a landscape forms, a spacious room. English and very Victorian, rich and elegant. There is a woman sitting on a huge armchair. Attractive despite the chalk white skin, the red eyes and the diamond tattoo in her forehead. She dresses in red and black. « I am Claudine Essex. And who are you? »

Jean is quite disturbed by what she sees. The appearance of the woman, namely the diamond tattoo and the name Essex sent shivers down her spine. « Jean Grey. I'm not a clone either. » She kept herself prepared, diverting a bit of her efforts that she had been using to probe Miss Sinister towards trying to reach Nate somehow. « What do you want with the people of New York? Haven't they suffered enough? »

« I find hard to believe that, dear, » replies the pale woman, tilting her head as she blocks Jean to from reaching far, into Washington. « I know of Jean Grey's fate. You… you are a good copy! » She seems delighted at this, and gestures Jean to take the seat in front of her. « Please, stop struggling against me. We can have a civilized conversation and I promise I won't try to restrain you or let the Shadow Thief try any trick. »

« Hopefully you'll understand if I find standing more comfortable. » Jean was weary of this individual but she wasn't about to take orders, « What do you want? » She echoed her prior question, allowing Miss Sinister to believe her a clone.

Claudine shrugs lightly. « A good deal of things. Although I have to state beforehand harming the people of New York is not really necessary. Unfortunately there are many powerful mutants around me that want nothing less than the total domination of the world. And a few advocate for nothing less genocide on humankind. Although, unsurprisingly, not as many as five years ago. »

« If you don't want the same things as they do, stand against them. Unless you do, want the same things they do. Genocide. Murder. Death. How much more do you think this world can sustain? It's dying. Can't you see that? Every little thing that you continue to do to pollute and defile this world is destroying it, moment by moment. Domination, means nothing if you have nothing to rule over. » Jean stared towards the figure across from her, trying to see if Sinister had even a shred of humanity left.

« Ah, don’t get me wrong. Although I don’t want it, I am not terribly concerned about it either. And trying to prevent it would annoy a good number of my allies. » The woman stands up gracefully, moving closer to Jean. Whatever there is behind those red eyes, it is well hidden. « The damages on the world can all be repaired. But it is not a priority. The casualties among the human population are more of a problem. The loss has been extensive and there might have been permanent loss of genetic diversity already. So… do you want to talk about peace? Can you? »

« If there is a chance for peace, I'm willing to hear and relay your terms. Given who I am, I think you know that anything I bring back to Magneto and Stryker, will have weight and gravity added to it. » Jean wasn't truly sure if they would listen to her, but if Sinister believed she was the Jean of this world and everyone did indeed hold her in such high regard…

Sinister called Jean a copy, so it seems unlikely she believes the redhead is the real deal. Nevertheless, she looks willing to talk with her. « If they wish to avoid bloodshed, they need to surrender, or leave America. I’d recommend the X-Men to leave, too much bad blood between them and those who followed Apocalypse, even if begrudgingly in many cases. »

«..and if they leave America? What then? Will you leave them alone? That simple. They relocate to Europe? Africa? Asia? Then this all ends. No more violence? » Jean didn't seem to buy it but she wanted to know more, « Why? What purpose does it serve when there is more land here then you could ever need. »

« Anywhere. By the time we have the ability to wage war in other continents I am quite sure the warmongers would have lost most of their power. Out of sight, out of mind. » Replies the woman. « And the humans… well, I doubt there will be more pointless massacres. Those who survived have outlived Apocalypse himself. So a strong argument can be made about them deserving to live. »

« I will relay that. » Jean was positive that Magneto and Stryker would not be willing to surrender all of America even if it meant saving millions, but her real concern, her primary concern was saving the lives of those she had came here with, « What do you intend to do with Nate Grey? Why are you keeping him prisoner? »

« Because he was Nathaniel Essex’ greatest creation, » replies the pale woman. « Because in most regards he is my brother and I wanted to know him. I was -so- surprised when he returned, alive. He was made so he would die at twenty one, did you know? » She sighs. « Well, he is still alive. But tainted and crippled by that alien virus in his head. Poor boy, he could have been the greatest of us. Also, he is being difficult. And rude. »

« He's not a thing or a slave or a toy. » Jean was rapidly losing her patience for this woman, « Even if Magneto and Stryker agree to your terms? I'll be coming for Nate. I suggest you free him before that happens. Those are my terms. You can relay them to your partners. »

Claudine hmm, taking a step back, « very well, if the X-Men leave America I will let him go. Before you go, however, I do want to know who you are? You are too perfect to be a clone. I bet if I had a chance to see the Lorna Dane that was with you she would also be too perfect. So… tell me, and I will tell you a secret in exchange. »

« I'm Jean Grey. Just not the Jean Grey of this world. » Jean replied, answering the question truthfully. She looked to Essex awaiting the 'secret' she was to be given in exchange.

« I am Jean Grey’s daughter, created at the same time as Nathaniel,» the dark-haired woman smiles, and Jean can see it is -her- smile. « It was nice to meet you, Jean. I hope we have peace, fighting you would feel very strange, I think. » The room fades into nothing, Claudine has left the Astral Plane.

Jean felt a shiver run through her very core at the revelation that Claudine was her 'daughter'. She couldn't help but wonder what she had been gifted or cursed with that caused her to meet her inter-dimensional progeny wherever she went. It certainly wasn't normal, but it had become almost everyday for her. Knowing that she would not be able to reach Nate in the Astral Plane she found her way back to her own body, eyes snapping open.

She would need to see Magneto and Stryker as soon as possible.

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