November 20, 2017:

Backdated to around September 1st. Finally the return of Nate Grey to life is explained.

G-Core ruins in Hammer Bay



Mentions: Magneto

Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

A couple days ago the Magistrates Citadel fell to the mutant rebels. President Reneau is reported dead, although Nate knows this is not true. Meggan did a good job there. Better he expected.

Something happened to Rogue. It worries him. He should ask her, but he expects he won't be able. Nate is back to the ruins of the G-Core facility, where he died. He can feel the Astral firestorm around him. Still burns and hurts, but not as much as the day his body was destroyed. It is dissipating, and Nate knows he will with it.

Unless he keeps possessing the bodies of others. It is a tempting option. Steal the lives of others to cling to this half-life. He can almost understand how the Shadow King started. Maybe he was just a man that merely loved life too much once, before becoming the corrupt monster he is now.

Nate loves life. But he does not fear death. And the pilot smuggler, dishonest man he is, does not deserve having his life stolen.

So he sits down, and lets him go.

The pilot stands up calmly. Some fake memories in his head allow him to justify everything. He walks out of the ruined building towards the streets, to check up his now fat bank account, to drink a few drinks in the name of revolution and having enough cash to pay off all his debts. Until he gambles again when he shouldn't and gets into trouble yet again. But this is his life, and Nate does not judge too hard.

In the Astral Plane, Nate's astral self, still frayed by death and fire, is again psychically strong and bright, and he is again burning. His mind expands, looking for friends and family.

It doesn't take long for Nate to find a friend, and a family member. She's been waiting on the Astral Plane, waiting and planning. In the real world, Rachel has sequestered herself into a safe area, a safe zone. There her body sits, legs folded 'yoga' style beneath her, hands resting on her knees. Her eyes are closed, and for all appearances - she's meditating. Yet, those with the ability to know, her mind is no longer there in her body it is all upon the Astral Plane. It is there, Rachel has been channeling her powers, plotting, and preparing.

"Nate?" Rachel appears to her 'brother' as she is dressed in her 'X-Man', costume, bomber jacket, boots, everything. She could appear as anything she wants to, but right now, it feels more comfortable to just be 'in costume'.

"You did right in letting him go." She begins, not that Nate /needs/ to hear Rachel's opinion, but perhaps it's good to hear it from someone else. "I… have a crazy idea, and I have no idea if it's going to work, or not, but there might be a way to change everything that's transpired. Maybe." The hope is there, in her voice, a desperate hope, but still - a hope.

"Ray?" Nate is a bit surprised to find his 'sister' here already. Didn't he attack her the last time? Oops. He wasn't rational then. Now he feels better. Not good, it burrrrns. But not out of his mind with pain and confusion. It is not as bad as it was four or five days ago.

Validation from those he loves is not unwelcomed. So he offers the redheaded woman and wan smile. "Yeah. I don't know what Xavier had planned, but I can't…" he tilts his head at Rachel words.

"Crazy ideas are my specialty. Just ask anyone," he replies. "So yeah, what are you talking about?" Hope, she has hope? He can feel strong emotions and Rachel rarely projects anything. Hope feels good.

Eh, Rachel knows about lashing out at those she cares about, especially under extreme situations, and frankly, dying is about as extreme as one can get. She forgives and forgets easily enough. She just wishes she could help with the pain, the burning, the fear - if it's there. Or maybe, it's just Rachel's fear that she can feel, washing over her. Fear that the crazy idea she has isn't going to work, and she's going to lose yet another family member, another friend today.

"You still exist, right now, Nate. You're still here - in some form, on the Astral Plane. And that fire that you're feeling, the might of the Phoenix itself seems to burn within it. An energy that is as powerful as one can get. An energy that is only too familiar, as it is something I've felt, and had before - inside of me. Around me. I've tapped into its strength, and I've become one with the Phoenix before it left me. I think." Rachel pauses then in her speech to lick her lips and take a breath. "I hope." She continues, hands gesturing to each side. "I ..think.. I can channel that, shape it. It's life itself, it's fire, and power, and a cosmic essence that can shape stars. In theory, it should also be able to restore your body." And there, Rachel's voice hangs, gaze intently staring at her brother, wondering what he might have to say.

It is a crazy idea. Yes. One the other hand Rachel maybe knows what she is talking about. Or maybe it is hope talking for her. Nate doesn't have much of that for him.

There is some hesitation. Mostly at the consequences for Rachel of trying to handle so much power. But that has an obvious solution. "I'll do it, just tell me what to do, okay?" It is his anyway. Nate put this 'fireball' here, the power went through his body and mind when the Phoenix released it to obliterate the puny humans that dared to manipulate its host.

So Nate opens a mind-link with Rachel. Inviting her into his mind. Disaster zone it is now. Shards of glass everywhere. Shattered memories. Shattered emotions. He is a ghost, a pale reflection of the man he was.

"Do?" Rachel offers with a wry twist of her lips and ever so dry humor. "If you see a bright light and long deceased friends asking you to join them, here's a hint. Avoid them, and the light." She even lets out a quiet snort, not the most appropriate time to have such a bit of levity, but then again, considering the consequences for both, sometimes it's needed.

With the mind-link established, Rachel's given insight into the fractured remains of Nate's mind. The pieces of shards that are scattered everywhere, bits and pieces of memories, his life, everything that is 'Nate'.

"Next time you invite your sister to your place, maybe clean up a bit, eh?" Rachel offers, trying to put on that confident, cocky, self-assurance that she's holding onto. She has to hold onto. What she's about to do is literally the difference between life - and death.

A deep breath is taken in, and let out, even in the 'real' world, where Rachel's form sits in quiet meditation, Rachel's body takes a deep breath and holds it for a very long time.

There's a hesitance, suddenly from Rachel. She's not sure she's going to have the grounding that is necessary, she's not sure she's going to have the strength to do this, not without someone's help. She needs someone grounded. Someone who's strength of will is beyond power itself, someone who has stood strong against all enemies and never once backed down.

Scott - hopefully - will be in a safe place, because with only the barest of warnings, "Scott, I need your help." Rachel's voice will echo in his mind, and Scott will find himself in the shattered mind of Nate, as Rachel relates her crazy idea to bring Nate's body back, but also the fact. "I.. need someone grounded to help me with this."

No. Nate did never see the bright light with the voices of his dead friends welcoming him. It has been most alike to being in hell, burning endlessly. No Valhalla for this fallen fighter. Maybe because he doesn’t take Thor too seriously.

"Everybody is a critic," replies to Rachel’s comment. He 'picks up' one of the shards. There is a dark-haired young man there, wearing a black shirt with a red S, and a white haired girl Rachel might recognize as a younger, teenage Rose. They are both laughing at something. Something Nate said, for sure. He can’t remember what it was. He is not sure who the dark-haired man was. A friend, surely. Long gone.

He drops the shard. It shatters on the way to the glass floor that is full of blurred memories.

"Lets start before I lose more, please."

"Rachel?" Scotts inquiry answers itself. It is not as though the man is unaccustomed to telepathys toying around in his headspace. He's a beacon for it or so he feels half the time. The red shaded man has been taking down time post Genosha, doing his best to recover and steer clear of it while the wreckage settles and the politicians pick through what is left. It's also an attempt to separate from Magneto's presence, a stance that the X-Men are not /him/ not at all.

The rake that was in his hand being set aside as he looks up, not as though it will help, he knows better but a human habit.

"I will help however I can." Scott replies. No questions asked this is blood after all.

A tilt of Rachel's head is given to the shard and fragment of a memory, a moment of Nate's life that is now shattered upon the ground, like so many others now lost. She feels a momentary bit of doubt and hesitance at bringing her 'father', to the Astral Plane. Then again, if anyone can stand strong in a realm that is not really his, it'd be Scott.

The Astral Plane burns. That much Nate has said, and it is that horrific burning, bright light that Rachel wants to use, wants to utilize. That energy which still contains bits and fragments of the Phoenix Force itself within it. If she can manipulate that energy, she can use the last, fading embers of Phoenix's cosmic power to reform Nate's body in the real world.

Within the remains of Nate's mind is that floor full of broken glass, Rachel turns towards Scott's astral form, offering a wide-eyed expression of almost panic, before it fades. "I'm going to start. Scott - this is the Astral Plane, I don't know if there is anything that is here, if there is anything that would want this energy for itself, while I do this, I can't defend myself. I can't fight anything that might come by, seeking Nate's essence and the energy surrounding him."

And so, Rachel begins, turning her attention towards the bright ball of energy that is slowly fading away. It's still there though, still present, and still contains within its bright center the essence of energy, essence of life, the power of the Phoenix. She begins slowly, molding the energy together, stopping it from leaking further away, further outwards. It's easy enough work, really, to start. "Nate. Focus everything you have on keeping yourself together, and stop breaking glass. It's not helping."

Hey, it was broken already! Maybe he should have made a concerted effort to rebuilt it? But it doesn't feel important, because he can't remember it -was- important. It was a happy moment in a life of constant conflict.

"Scott? Uh… hello," welcome to Nate's shattered mind. Don't mind the glass shards everywhere. "Wait, Rachel… let me help!" The Astral fire responds better to Nate, anyway. It is still like grabbing a tiger by the tail. A beast that pulls, snarls and it is on fire.

'Putting himself together'. Sounds simple, sounds crazy. But he tries. Nate 'steps' out of the Astral Plane bringing with him as much power as he can grab. And back in Hammer Bay the warded by yellow tape remains of G-Core explode in flame and light.

It takes a moment for Scott to 'sync' up, the sensation of being drawn from your material self to an astral one is quite daunting. Standing there motionless as Rachel acknowledges his arrival, eases him in so he can gain a feeling of what is transpiring. It's limited. Scott is by no means as gifted as Jean or their various alternate-to-time tossed offspring.

"I'm with you." No stranger to the Astral Plane he is also not a regular, he understands fully his presence here is tethered to his daughter's power. He can even through her and what 'is' feel the disruption that exists around Nate.

Presence alone for Scott is what he is attempting to offer, a supportive warmth and firm resolve.

"Nate, that you?" A question that doesnt really need answered. He knows the answer already. "Hang in there." No need to say 'do as your sister says' there is no way to say that right now without sounding overly emotional or chiding even. This is a new familiar yet unfamiliar for the X-er.

The more that the burning ball of fire pulls away, the more the firestorm of energy resists, the more determined Rachel becomes. She's not new to this, she's had a give and take relationship with the Phoenix Force, she's molded power to her very will time and again, and this is absolutely no different. It's just on a much bigger and more dynamic scale.

Rachel's astral form shifts its appearance. She's no longer the red-head in a costume. She's no longer a young Summers/Grey alternate world 'daughter'. She's a bright beacon of golden light, with a brilliant plumage of red and gold wings that are extending outwards.

In the Astral Plane, you can become anything you want. Anything. Even if that something is not really within your reach, you can still become it, as a sign of strength.

Scott will feel Rachel's hand reaching outwards, clasping onto his shoulder for a moment, just the briefest of moments. Then it's gone, as Rachel continues to use her own energy, her own might, to lasso that burning bright tiger, or should that be 'tyger, tyger, burning bright'.

"Nate… I need you to absorb everything that is here, your thoughts, your memories. This energy. Use it, consume it." And direct it? That's Rachel's job.

« I am me, » confirms Nate to Scott's question. « I will. I will live. Or I will not -be- anymore. » Then he is not really in the Astral Plane. His ghostly form appears in the middle of the psychic flame that blazes around the G-Core, much to the dismay of the Hammer Bay citizens that fear yet another explosion of violence in the middle of their beautiful capital.

Ghost for a few seconds, then ashes pull together, forming the vague outline of a skeleton. The psychic fire glows brighter as Rachel channels the power, then dims as Nate pushes harder against reality, struggling to force his existence where there is nothing now.

Scott's a rather set individual, the idea of a mutable reality affects him about as much as soft winds over ancient stones, he is Scott. An Astral Projected Scott but none the less just the man they know and are familiar with, no psychic shapeshifting or outer realm morphics.

"I'm glad." He replies to Nate while a hand rises up and clasps on Rachel's forearm, strong, firm yet not crushing. Encouraging and solid. He won't let either of them shake loose in this if he is capable.

In the mortal realm, Rachel's body is no longer still and quiet. She's no longer sitting with her legs folded beneath her. She's now on her side, beginning to spasm ever so slightly. Sweat pools down from her forhead, trickling down her cheeks. The shaking continues and only worsens the more she focuses, the more power and energy she expends outwards - in the Astral Plane.

The image that Rachel is using, pretending to be, utilizing for her own strength of will - the golden aura that not so long ago, left Rachel for someone else. She's a brilliant beacon of light, of hope, of power. Brilliant red and gold plummage continues to reach outwards, forcing the energy that was left behind by Nate's 'death', channeling it to Nate.

The hand upon Scott's shoulder tightens ever so slightly. It is overwhelming, impossible, damn impossible, and yet, perhaps it is working. Rachel can't say anything, fearful if she speaks it'll be a scream, so - instead, she just projects confidence, cockiness, hope, and of course - love, 'you /can/ do it, Nate, I'm right here'.

The column of psychic fire in Hammer Bay rises a hundred yards towards the sky. From his provisional office in the lower, still intact levels of the Magistrates Tower Magneto peers through the window, frowning in disapproval to this reckless display of mutant power.

In the center of the growing inferno, bones solidify, and then tendons fade into view, organs grow and shudder, floating fleshless inside the ribcage.

Nate keeps pushing, working on instinct. The fire sharing him is not physical, he can't feel the heat because there is no nervous system yet. But he is past speaking and past reason. Only the will remains; and the instinct to survive.

More and more energy is collected, channeled, time and again, Rachel pushes everything she has, everything she's ever had. There is absolutely no way that Rachel is giving up now, even when every fibre of her being is screaming. What is energy but life? What is life but energy?

Using every single ounce of power that Rachel can, in a very last ditched effort, she pushes it all towards Nate. Reform. Return. BREATH.

Flesh goes next. Veins and arteries, and then blood. Nate's reforming body floats a few feet from the ground. Brain, nerves.

That is the threshold. That is when pain strikes with the strength of a thousand lightning bolts. The psychic scream of his rebirth is deafening for telepaths, and felt as a sudden, brief headache even by normal people all over Hammer Bay.

That is also when Rachel loses control of the fire, because at activating his complete, unrestricted mutant power, Nate takes control of all that power with near insulting ease. It adds to what his mutation is generating. A mind that is burning in unbearable agony from resurrection and uncontrollable power.

Through the haze of fire and pain, Nate realizes he has seconds to live before his power consumes him as quickly as the Phoenix did.

A final push, then.

Skin forms, with the scars and tattoos and everything else. And then blood explodes from the left side of his head and he falls down hard on a crater of crystalized stone. A technet of alien metal grows over his left temple, threatening his eye. The psychic fire, suddenly dampened, brusquely ceases in a deafening whimper.

The Astral Plane is quiet and dim.

Nate Grey draws breath again, for the first time. Barely conscious. Everything hurts. This is life.

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