Cascade Effect

July 31, 2018:

Jean and Hope feel one another out through a conversation about life, the future, the ease with which things can all go bad, and fruit.

Hell's Kitchen, New York


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Cable


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Jean Grey has been troubled ever since Tony Stark's visit.

Well — in truth, she has been troubled for a long time even before that, ever since she felt the seismic shift that was human attitude turning against mutantkind. It feels like a tide in Jean's thoughts, often — in and out, there and gone — and to try to shut it out is almost as exhausting as just letting the flood in. Not for the first time in her life, Jean Grey wishes for an off switch.

It feels… wrong, somehow, to be off active duty at a time like this, but in times like this arguably the care of the children is as important as fighting on the front lines. There has been uncertainty, especially among the younger ones, and especially among those who are visibly different. What will happen to them when they leave the Institute, they wonder?

Jean has no answer for them except comforting platitudes.

Restlessness soon gets to be too much for her, and she travels down to the city to see to the people of Mutant Town — and, though she does not fix it in her mind as a purpose, to see the scarred ruin of Hell's Kitchen herself. She feels guilty not to have come earlier, but the psychic pain was so great she could feel it even from the Institute, and she did not know if she had the strength to face it head-on in its earliest days. These days, the noise is already great in her head — too many crowded pains and fears in her head, and many of them her own.

By this time the neighborhood — resilient as ever — is well into recovery and repairs. The rubble has been cleared, the worst of the damage patched, and there are signs of rebuilding everywhere… but it is still a shell of its former self, and the pain is still deep in the ruins. Lost in thought, Jean finds a little solace in a small park that escaped much of the devastation. No more than a tiny patch of green spanning a block, with a few worse-for-wear pieces of playground equipment ringing a sandbox, it still bears the mark of what has happened all around it: there is debris buried in the sand that has not yet been cleaned up.

Jean regards the detritus, arms folded, head bowed.


A cascade effect. That's what Nathan once told her something like this is called. You interrupt something within the system and it leads to an unforeseen chain of events that ripple out to aspects that seem tangentially related at best.

There are very few things in life that are completely unrelated. That's why it's a system.

And it's why that lesson rings that much more clearly in Hope Summers' thoughts as she stares at a fire-gutted building crumbling in its comfortable new status quo of ruin in Hell's Kitchen. She can already see the little push in the system, that sends everything in disarray. The fear and paranoia that needs an outlet and a justification for its existence. She sees what the target will be, because it's already in the news enough already.

The little cascade effect that has lead Hope Summers to always walk around with clothes that make it easier to conceal weapons.

To be honest, she's not sure why she's here. She could say it would be to assess the damage herself, but she's seen this portrait painted time and again well enough to know it without even actually seeing it firsthand. It's not even the volunteer work she found herself throwing herself into when she arrived like a compulsion, because it's only a drop in a bucket as far as she's concerned, and doesn't address that looming problem on the horizon.

So why is she here? …

Hope's clothes are a mild mess by the time she arrives at that tiny patch of peace surrounded by a testament of violence. Smudging dirt onto her jeans with a few, careful swipes, she seems not to even notice the sliver of untouched land as she passes by on her way… until she sees a bit of red in the peripheries of her vision. Something familiar without her knowing how or why.

Hope blinks. She pauses. And her head tilts, to stare at the other redhead, sitting across the way from her. Jean Grey. She remembers her, from the barbecue.

"Oh," is the first thing she says, eloquently. A long second of silence passes, before she lifts a tentative hand in an almost haphazardly casual greeting to someone who has been framed like a legend of childhood stories for her for most of her life.

"… heya."


Jean Grey does not look like a legend.

Dressed simply, unassuming in height and build, her long hair is the only thing about her that is immediately arresting: an unbound red semaphore down the line of her back. Then again, her red hair is perhaps the most distinctive trait about her that has been perennially noted, over the years. Her back to Hope Summers, she does not immediately seem aware of the young woman's approach.

That is, up until her head lifts tellingly, half a second before Hope forms her thought to raise a hand and greet her.

She half-turns where she sits. The bench is a simple stone affair, backless, with no barrier between Jean and Hope. Her expression warms, though her eyes are searching. "Hello yourself," she answers. "Come sit. Or stand, if you prefer. These days, this is a grim place to take in without some form of reprieve."

Jean studies Hope, whether she chooses to sit or stand. "I remember you," she says presently. "I was told of you. You're Nathan's, aren't you?"


Hope Summers really isn't sure what she expected. All these years living with Nathan, she's been told story after story about the X-Men. And while he was always the type to frame these sorts of things grounded in a healthy dose of realism, these people always seemed larger than life. Especially his (technical) mother.

And now she finds herself spending most of her time just staring in mild wonder at the fact that Jean Grey looks like she's the same height as her.

But Hope is nothing if not one to dive in to most things in her life head-first. And so the second Jean makes her offer, Hope just takes a second to assess the redhead with the faintest of green-eyed squints before a simple shrug overtakes her. "Sure," she decides, hands sticking into her jean pockets comfortably as she makes her way over to that backless bench. She sits, facing the opposite direction from Jean. It might make direct communication a bit harder — but it helps to keep her focus elsewhere.

Even Hope can get nervous about things, sometimes.

"I wish I felt like I needed a reprieve. It's weird, the kind of things that help ground you, right?" Not that it stops her from speaking her mind. "I don't know what it says about me, that I feel more focused in situations like this than something… I dunno. Better." Her brows furrow inward. "I'd like to change that."

She feels eyes on her. And it's really more instinct than anything cynically-routed that has her adopting the powers of the redhead next to her to forge telepathic walls in her thoughts the way Nathan taught her, just as Jean brings the man up. "He raised me," is her answer. "But it's… complicated. He told me a lot about you, though. A lot of people told me a lot about you. All sorts of different things." A second passes. She looks Jean's way. "They always kept telling me I look like you." She scratches fingers in her red mane of hair.

"I don't see it."


Jean typically stays out of other people's minds. As much as she can, anyway.

It is the first rule of the telepath: the privacy of others is sacred, even more so to those who can so easily violate it. Yet staying out is harder for Jean than most. Her raw potential has been stopped up for most of her due to her inability to control it. Even now, with age and experience behind her, it is a struggle for Jean to keep herself reined in, and her reception still picks up sips from the world around her. She can feel Hope's impetuousness, mixed all together with her nervousness.

At the least, it is not anything she could not have discerned with her own eyes and ears; or what Jean thinks she would have discerned, anyway. She can no longer clearly remember what it was like to be confined to her five senses, alone in her head.

She has no remark, positive or negative, for the way Hope chooses to sit — or the fact that she chooses to sit at all. She merely shifts over just a bit to allow Hope room, and listens gravely to the young woman speak. She feels more focused, places like this, situations like this, Hope says. Never felt much like she needed a reprieve. But she'd like to change that…

"You're in a good time period for it," Jean says. "There is enough of what is familiar to you… but not all of it has come to pass." A smile crinkles the corners of her eyes, just a little. "I've seen your time. There are many joys here which you can experience, which did not exist then. Have you been able to see much of them? I will help you as I can."

If she feels Hope adopting her powers, she has nothing to say aloud of it. She does not even reinforce her own telepathic walls. She only listens, left permeable, as Hope speaks of Nathan — and of what was said about her. By Nathan, and by others. All sorts of different things. A certain darkness finally crosses the serenity of Jean Grey's features. She's been told things. All sorts of different things. "I have done all sorts of different things," she admits, and does not speak more in specific yet.

Above all, however, people all say Hope looks like Jean. And she does not see it.

Jean turns a frank look on Hope. Her green eyes seem to peel past external layers, piercing straight to the heart. "Neither do I," she says. "For what it's worth." She tempers the remark by graduating her half-smile into a true one. "Most who have said that to you can no doubt only look at the flesh. The shape of your mind is a different thing entirely. Your soul, I suppose."

She glances away. "I am glad Nathan found you," she says, and it sounds like she views it equally for Cable's sake as for Hope's.


Fingers fidget mildly in Hope Summers' lap, less of a gesture of discomfort and almost more as if out of a compulsive need to be active. It's this city, really. She's been all over the time stream with Cable, through various iterations of the future, almost by necessity, but nothing has ever felt so alive as this place does. Even here, scarred though it is.

It's excitement, tempered with a long-learned expectation for when the other shoe will drop.

Expectation is probably what prompts those barriers like someone going through rote. It certainly doesn't seem to affect how sociable Hope is anymore than her bringing a gun to a barbecue might. She takes to the conversation with a sort of open honesty of someone who hasn't ever seen much value in holding their thoughts and opinions back, her smile surprisingly bright as Jean speaks about the many wonders one might find during this time. Has she seen much?

"Oh yeah," she enthuses, like someone sharing a little known secret.


Hope Summers, fresh arrival in the world of the present, spends a solid half hour bouncing on a bed.


This lasts exactly five minutes past Cable yelling at her.


"There are springs in the beds here!"

… This seems to be her greatest discovery yet. Give her some time, she's still exploring.

"I appreciate it though," she offers, after a second passes by. "Really. It's exhausting being out there. Don't get me wrong, this place is very… alive. I like that. But it feels suffocating sometimes."

But just as Jean does not mention whether or not she notices that echo of her gifts freshly manifested in Hope, Hope does not seem to comment on the shadow that passes over Jean's expression. She leans forward just slightly, knees resting on elbows as she looks upon a scorched sign in the distance. I have done all sorts of different things. She mulls over that for a moment, even as Jean speaks to the quality of her soul; green eyes flash towards Jean's direction, a thoughtful look given for the genuine warmth of Jean's smile.

"Mm," Hope murmurs, faintly. Eventually, that smile is reflected on her own lips. "I've heard about that. The good and the bad. You weren't there, in my time. Or in the time Nathan took me to, to raise me. But everyone still remembered you. And everyone thought the world was a darker place without you in it, not the other way around."

I am glad Nathan found you, she says. Hope considers.

"Yeah," she says, after a moment. "Me too." For her sake, and for his. "When Nathan found me, everyone in my town was dead. Just to find me. I don't get why, not really. But I want to have made it out for a reason." She hesitates, for a rare moment. And then offers seven damning words:

"… So does this make you my grandma?"


Hope's bright enthusiasm as she expounds on the virtues of beds with springs in them brings a smile to Jean's face. "Springs," she says, leaning towards her 'granddaughter' as if to confide a secret. "And that's just the beginning. Some of them are actually filled with water, too. And some are filled with natural latex and coconut fibers." Pause. "There's one of those on the corner of 32nd and Lex."

She leans back afterwards, some of that mischievousness moderating back down. "I get it, though," she says. "From there to New York is a big leap. But you'll acclimate. If there is one thing the human race excels at, it is adapation." She purses her lips thoughtfully. "I'll connect you to some people, they can show you around too. Some of them will be learning, just as you are."

Her gaze is resting on that same scorched, blackened sign. "The future will arrive, sooner or later," she says. "That much is certain. Here is proof enough of it. I want you all to have had a little joy, in between the fighting to keep it at bay. It is a good reminder of what it is we all fight for."

She goes a little quiet, however, as Hope speaks of how people still remembered her… even after she was no longer there. How everyone thought the world a darker place without her in it. A brief flicker of emotion crosses Jean's eyes, perhaps hope and perhaps wistful desire, and her hands twine in her lap. "That is all any of us can ever aspire to," she says. "To be a light rather than an added darkness. I… appreciate hearing that, Hope." More than you can know. "You're named well. I have faith you will live up to it."

Hope speaks of how Nathan found her, then. How everyone in her town had been killed just to find her. Jean's head bows a little, thinking about that, the enormity of it. She can feel the edges of the memory in Hope's presence: the sips of guilt, the draughts of determination. "Remember that to make it worth it, does not always mean suffering," she says quietly. "It is a poor trade when so many lives lost leads only to misery. Remember you can be happy, as well."

It does not sound as if Jean is solely talking about Hope Summers.

Of course, then the critical question. Seven damning words. Jean smiles, the question apparently a relief compared to other topics.

"If you like," Jean says. "But I warn I'm no great hand at making cookies."


And some are filed with natural latex and coconut fibers.

It's a wonder all its own, how Hope Summers' eyes go big as dinner plates at these mind-blowing mattress-related revelations. Water? Coconut fiber??

"No way. Really? Shut up. Why?? Like from the trees?? The green ones, with the big seeds in the middle??"

… Hope has probably never seen an actual coconut before.

… … But maybe it's comforting to know avocados managed to survive into the future??

The dystopian soldier is still momentarily besmitten with the concept of avocado coconut beds when Jean settles back into the reality of the moment. Sobering slowly, Hope tilts her head up, staring at a sky that, even here, looks nicer than the brown-choked expanse she grew up under. "… Yeah," she says, after a moment. "We're great at surviving." Though her tone suggests that maybe she's not satisfied with just that.

Which might be why she doesn't even remotely hesitate to say, "I'd like that," to Jean's offer. It's an opportunity. And besides, even her inborn suspicion has problems rearing its head right now.

Something about all this just feels familiar.

"Things are going to get worse," she points out, after a moment — a fact probably obvious to both of them, but one that might as well be said aloud. "Nathan calls these things a cascade. You know? All it takes is one little push to send a system completely out of control. I don't want that future to come to pass. I think that's why I'm here now. But I'm not satisfied with a future where we have to constantly fight to avoid the worst outcome, either." She looks Jean's way again, that expression a far cry from that excited wonder of before.

"I'll do what I have to in order to get us there, so, if you X-Men people ever need help…"

She's there, is the unspoken sentiment.

Expectation, however, is something else entirely. Hope's brows furrow slightly, lips pursing as Jean talks about her name, and all the meaning attached with it. She can't quite find the words to muster up a response to that, for once. "Mm," is all she really manages, at first — until Jean speaks about the importance of balance. The words are meant for more than her, and a part of her knows that well enough.

But rather than answer immediately, Hope just gets up, and stretches. You can be happy, as well.

"It's okay," Hope says, casting a smile back down at Jean. "I've never even had a cookie."

And with that, one hand finding the comfort of her pants pocket, the other lifts up as she speaks. "I think I'm gonna take your advice. 32nd and Lex, right?"

She jerks a thumb.

In completely the opposite direction.

Maybe she really doesn't know where to go. It's likely. Or maybe she thinks Jean's words apply to Jean as much as they do her, and this is her clever way of roping her adoptive her-past-but-also-the-present-grandma into taking her mind off things by subtly implying she needs a guide.

"That's around Clinton way, right?"

… or maybe it's both.

it's probably both


Jean can't help but laugh at Hope's zealous enthusiasm about the idea of coconuts. Except her idea of coconuts is —

"Oh," Jean says. Oh. "Because it's eco-friendly and hypoallergenic, I suppose," she muses, rather than immediately correct Hope on her avocado-coconut mishap. They'll stop by a Whole Foods on the way, and Hope can receive her fruit education there. "Which leads in your point, I suppose. It's nice to live in a world where people can… care about those kinds of things, rather than just about the bare minimum to survive. It's what we're all fighting to preserve." She casts a last look around them, at the devastation surrounding them. "This is a stark reminder we have a long way to go, in many ways."

She reaches towards Hope, after. Her first traumatic experience with her powers could have soured her on physical contact forever, but Jean worked for years to overcome any aversion to it. She turned it into a sense of connection instead. It's easier to focus on a person, to cut out all the extra white noise, when she's touching them.

She doesn't know Hope well yet, however, for all the younger woman is technically her granddaughter. So for now, she contents herself with the brush of a lock of hair back behind Hope's ear. "I know," she says, of Hope's determination to help in whatever way she can to prevent the futures she's seen from coming to pass. "And you will always be welcome."

Jean leans back again, and smiles. "I'll even practice my cookie-making technique."

Her head tips back slightly as Hope makes to rise and take her advice, however. 32nd and Lex, she says. It's definitely that way. Jean's smile freezes on her face.

Whatever Hope's motive here, Jean does in fact seem to take this as her cue to guide her granddaughter before she gets lost and winds up in Queens. It is probably something Jean does need… a distraction from the psychic pain she has been soaking in all the time, as if in penance for not being here — for not doing more to help…

"Clinton?" Jean asks, puzzled right out of her dark thoughts. "No, we want Murray Hill. East of here. It's perfectly walkable." She rises, and nods to Hope to follow. "Come on." Her smile turns conspiratorial. "I'll show you a coconut on the way."

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