What Happens in Limbo...

August 20, 2018:

…stays in Limbo. Illyana, having stashed some items/persons of interest in Limbo after the supply base raid of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, summons some help to aid her in unraveling their mysteries.



NPCs: None.


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Limbo. A place where demons and darkness collide. Where the reality itself is malleable and often changes with but a whim or thought.

The dark citadel, a constant in both time and space, sits high atop its hill and likewise sees its own shifts. It all just depends upon the mood of its Mistress and depending upon the emotion of the day rooms appear and disappear in a pattern that most sane minds can't quite understand.

One room is much like the castle itself it stays constant through the alterations of the fabric within this realm. The throne room itself is a large room with high vaulted ceilings, metal spiked chandeliers, flickering torches and massive stone architecture throughout. Within the center of the room sits a raised dais with Illyana's black obsidian throne and beside it floats a faceted white crystal.

While mostly empty today the room is filled with medical tables, a few medical machines, a canister and people upon the gurneys. The vaguest shimmer of silver energy might be seem by the discerning eye as a powerful spell encapsulates all of it. Beside it stands Illyana one hand outstretched and her eyes closed. A frown puckers her brow and her lips as she delves into the mystery of these 'people'.

Only after a few more minutes of that intense scrutiny does Yana's blue eyes finally open. "Jerks." She mutters to the inert bodies and machines, "Hiding your secrets from me. Now I'm going to have to ask for help." Her tone is both conversational but also accusatory and it doesn't stop her from walking away and over to her scrying crystal. Fingertips lightly touch the crystal and with but a thought images begin to flash upon its surface.

It shows the locations of specific people and when all of /her/ people are found circular portals of energy flare to life to scoop up EVERYONE and bring them right here in Limbo, in her throne room.


In his studio apartment down in Mutant Town, Piotr finds himself finally with a quiet night to himself. He has been working through various mission overviews and planning sessions, training as usual, doing his classes and now finally it's time to rest. A large grilled steak, cold beer and the tv remote sit on the coffee table in front of him. He flops down on the beat up leather sofa and is just reaching for the remote when the hair on the back off his neck stands up, ever so slightly.

The Russian cursing, mild, mild exclamations really, precede his appearance in limbo. He is at least fully dressed, in white tee-shirt and tan paint splattered carpenter pants. He appears, holding the steak in one hand, no plate, and the beer. His reaction time was good at least. He sighs and bites into the steak.

"You need to learn to ask permission before summoning people Snowflake. It is quite inconvenient."

Jean was, in fact, in the middle of something at the time of Illyana's portal antics. Fortunately that something was just paperwork, and was not sensitive — and she was not undressing or anything too untoward — but it does mean that she shows up in a state a little more disheveled than usual, her red hair unbound down her back and her blouse untucked from her skirt.

She also is not wearing any shoes, because she was chilling in her room!!

"Illyana," she sighs, trudging up towards Piotr — her apparent company on this random endeavor. "We talked about this consent thing."

She eyes him. "Hey, at least the steak came with you."


"Ouh I could murder a curry," says Meggan, who has been watching Netflix up in her cute little private room in one of the odd corners of the Xavier estate. This room does not have much space and she went for the big bed option, and has already put in cute sheets, cute pillows, a stuffed duck the size of a moderate watermelon, and - this is important - a screen, on which the No Reservations episode visiting Latveria is playing. ("It's so sad," Meggan had said, when the lead figure had cracked a joke - from the studio, later - about Doombots.)

"I guess those aren't here, though," Meggan says, sliding off the bed. "I know, I'm going to scramble an egg or four. D'you want any, Rachel?"


Meggan scrambles eggs.

Her eyes turn towards the sink drain, where the eggs she cracked are sitting.

They flick towards the novelty mug full of a range of markers.


"Youw bettew wook out, Wachel Summuws! Or Hawd Boiled Henwy's gonna - Here, what's -"


Meggan appears in a long T-shirt with the logo of some mid-range rich person's charity from England on it, comfy pajama pants, pink fuzzy slippers, and an extremely surprised expression. In one hand she is holding a platter of bacon and eggs with a couple of slices of tomato and some thick toast. In the other is a rinsed-out egg shell that has had a clock face hastily doodled on it, which was being brandished like a puppet.

Meggan looks around, for about three and a half seconds, before her gaze rests on Illyana. Hopefully, she offers the plate of hangover breakfast, but very slowly. Her expression speaks clearly: 'did you want this?'

Tony Stark has no set schedule. He wakes up when it suits him. He goes to sleep just this side of never. He works on his designs all hours of the night and day. Hardly careing of the actual time.

…which is why it is ironic that Illyana chooses this time specifically to teleport him.

A whoosh of light and sound as the inventor appears. Hair dripping wet having got out of the shower about five minutes ago. Possibly a rushed shower since obviously inspiration struck him at some point and he leapt out, jugging at least from the bent over posture of 'I was working on something' that he straightens from.

Also he seems to have forgotten shoes, and socks, and a shirt. Just a pair of black denim jeans, and a unbuckled belt loosely dangling there.

…at least he keeps himself in shape?

The ARC reactor hums in his chest and some esoteric tool is in his hand, one that he spins over his fingers with surprising manual dexterity.

"Soooo…" A beatpause. "…teleportation wards. Do I need those?" The pause comes again before. "And you know if someone is going to invite me to a party give me at least enough warning to bring a gift basket."

…the shirtless thing he doesn't seem to care about. Possibly because he is Tony Stark and has zero shame.


"I lost my taste for eggs," says Rachel.

Somewhere, beyond space and time, echoes a gentle 'caw, caw.'

Rachel rubs her face. "For some reason."


"Noooo, oh my god," Rachel covers her face. "How do you remember the voice so well?!"


Rachel was sitting on a bed. Now Rachel is sitting in Illyana's impressively gothique… apartment? In Limbo? Is there more of her house or does she just kinda hang out here? Can a throne room be an apartment? Does she ever summon a bed crafted of obsidian and shadow or does she just chill on the throne?

These are the questions that Rachel Summers asks herself to distract herself from the fact that she's now hanging out in front of her not-mom-but-kinda-mom in a sporta bra and gym shorts. She wears this to bed because she was tired of needing to roll out of bed and start fistfighting aliens all the time.

It's okay that Piotr is here. Piotr was in Excalibur. He knows the business.


Rachel politely rearranges her sitting posture.

"Soooo… how's things?"

(Then Tony fuckin' Stark teleports in behind her and Rachel reaches up to cover her eyes even though she already knows exactly what he's wearing because of the unlimited power of telekinetic mapping. Thanks, X-gene.)

"From where I'm standing, things are pretty great." Stark just…can't help himself. I mean really. He can't. LOOK AT HIS DAD HE COMES BY IT HONEST.

There are any number of ways Jean could react to her daughter-not-daughter appearing right now, in bra and shorts. And to Tony appearing also, in 'really not enough clothing.'

What she winds up doing is stepping in between Tony and Rachel, quietly breaking line of sight.

Funnily enough, Kitty was asleep. It's a rare occurrence for the mutant to go to bed so early. When she's around the Guardians, going to sleep before everyone else is a sure way to get something drawn on her face…or to wake up under a pile of random things because Groot was curious. At the mansion, though, she's finished classes, her paperwork is done and she's decided to spend the evening with a book in bed. Immediately, though, she's asleep. Lockheed curled up on her stomach snoozing, as well, the book she meant to get through folded on her chest.

And then she's falling. The portal disk drops her from not an astounding height, but it's probable that Illyana thought Kitty would be standing when she scooped her up. Instead, she crashes right onto the floor. Scrambling, she fights her way upward. She's wearing an oversized, faded shirt that simply says 'meh' in lowercase white letters across her chest. Lockheed scrambles about her, pulling at the shirt and then lifting into the air in confusion and annoyance.

"Who-wha-huh…?" She glances around, rubbing at her eyes, ready to fight in a very sleepy manner as she takes in the gathered party, the ambiance and then Illyana. Pulling down at the hem of her shirt, she frowns and gives her blonde friend something of a look.

"Uh…you know, Illyana, there's such a thing as a text message."

The first arrivals bring Illyana's gaze off of her scrying crystal and around. The state of both Piotr and Jean's dress are given a curiously look by the demoness, before she says. "At least you have your shoes this time, Piotr. Poor Jean is barefoot." A look turns to Jean now, mischievousness within her gaze easily seen, "Shall I magic you up some footwear? Please say yes." Hopefully SOMEONE warns Jean not to say yes.

The mention of consent and the inconvenience of surprise portals is completely ignored by Illyana with an air of 'hear no evil, see no evil - I'm really not doing anything evil' here.

The arrival of Meggan brings Illyana's gaze over to the elfin-eared woman. Immediately the demoness narrows her eyes in calculation and says mostly to herself, "Aren't you /interesting/." The offered plate is then focused upon next and with a flash of a grin, Yana says, "I am hungry, thanks." Which means the plate is *all* hers now. All hers.

Tony's arrival is seen and with that same amused expression the blonde Russian says, "I can help with setting those wards for you." Which also allows her to place a backdoor into the Tower if she ever needed it.

Now to Rachel's arrival, "Rachel, interesting outfit of choice there." And finally Kitty, "Roomie, Lockheed." She greets and then, "Next time I'll send you a demonic 9-1-1 to give you a head's up." Which probably means Kitty will find her cellphone blowing up with 666s at the appropriate (or inappropriate) time.

There's a small pause from Yana before she moves the conversation along to just why she's brought everyone here, "The things I acquired from our last adventure are holding their secrets close to the vest." An accusatory look shifts to the 'people', gurneys and equipment that's housed within the throne room, "I've teased out a few things, but I believe we're going to need everyone here to get to the crux of what they've actually done. There's magic, dark magic and technology intermixed, " Which causes Yana to look at Tony and Kitty, ", and I think we should scan what's left of the minds." Which brings her gaze over to Rachel and Jean, "Carefully though. I've a sense we're walking into a minefield with them. If all goes to pot we'll need quick action to potentially destroy the threat." Which brings her gaze over to her brother and likewise Meggan.

"But first let's get everyone dressed appropriately." And with a snap of her fingers a spell circles invisibly outward, pulling forth black demon-made cloth for all of those that require a little something extra to wear.

Piotr shoots Jean a warning look that doesn't take a telepath to figure out that he is telling her to not accept the offer. He smiles as the others arrive lifting his steak, which he's holding in his hand due to last minute panic grabbing, in greeting. He smiles at everyone showing up half dressed, but not maliciously.

He takes a big bite of his steak, chomping happily if awkwardly while Illyana runs down the 'plan'. He nods, understanding that his role as ever is to smash the things that need smashing when they pop up. Until then he's going to try and finish his interrupted dinner.

But then Illyana is offering to 'dress people' and he objects, loudly, but with a mouthful of food so that 'Nyet', sounds more like "Nyeack!" looking to Rachel or someone to stop the expected bondage gear slash tiny black bikinis for all. He's relieved to see that the clothes are at least a little less outre than he feared.

Please say yes. "That's my cue to say no," Jean says dryly, after a glance at Piotr, before she lifts gently from the ground to a hover, a brief flicker of firelight playing along the ends of her hair. "And no does not mean 'they really want me to do it and are just being shy,' Illyana."

She says it in such a tone as to suggest this has been a recurring problem with Illyana, which it has.

Her attention turns to the items recovered from the raid as Illyana draws their focus there, however. A frown crosses her features as her arms fold across her chest. She drifts lcoser to the people in question as Illyana says 'what's left of their minds,' a pensive sadness crossing her face as she looks down on them.

"Let us see what we can do here," she says, her gaze lifting to Rachel. Perhaps she hopes on some level that these people can be saved, and not merely farmed for information… though she already has a sense that there is not much left in those heads to save.

Meggan does not interfere with the claiming of her breakfast-for-dinner by Illyana. She seems a little frightened, honestly. Perhaps with good cause. Especially when she got called 'interesting' and given a toothsome grin. Then in comes Tony Stark, the cool exec with a heart of steel. Jean moves to intercept, but Meggan can still see most of Tony.

Her expression brightens at the arrival of Kitty. "Well if we're all here," she begins to say, when Illyana speaks up again and Meggan immediately shushes up. She does not seem surprised, merely intimidated. Her brow knits slightly. Magic /and also/ dark magic. The presence of distinctive sub-categories concerns her.

Then a spell snaps forwards. It ripples shiningly over Meggan for a moment, who accidentally crushes her faux-Henwy in the process. When the spell concludes…

Yes, it's high boots, a hip-baring leotard/bustier /thing/ with clasps and black leather, and long fingerless gloves along with a chrome manicure. What makes it all a great deal less silly than it might otherwise be is some kind of rusty-toned barbed-wire mesh which seems to be something in the neighborhood of chain mail. There is also a great roundel behind Meggan's head, through which her hair flows, which resembles a saintly halo seen from the front and has shiny-iridescent bits in it, like butterfly scales.

Meggan pokes at her top. Then she flicks it several times. It makes a resonant 'pok pok' sound. "Hunh," she says.

"I feel like a warhammer," Meggan says, arcing up one leg to look at the wire-mesh guard over completely unneccessary open toes. After this she looks to Piotr and nods firmly, which makes SOMETHING creak in her outfit like a low moan of a tortured soul. (This in turn makes Meggan look over her shoulder in great concern but it's just wire and leather.)

"It's practical in my line of work, okay?!" says Rachel, gesturing broadly with her hands to prove her point through sheer force of will. This usually works. Maybe not here.

Rachel rocks forward onto her knees and then shifts her feet as she settles back so that she's on her heels. From there, standing. She wiggles her fingers at Kitty as Illyana settles into the speech, at which point she puts her hands on her hips and waits for all the exposition to come out.

"Sounds like a real dramatic investigation," she mutters. Then there's demonic magic weaving through the room — she can sometimes get a sense of these things through a combination of her astral senses and unique attunement to time/space distortions.

"Ah —"

There's not much time to do more than that, and give Piotr a hapless 'sorry, big guy' shrug. One magical flash of transformation later, and Rachel is wearing —

"…this is just my Phoenix outfit."

Rachel looks up, raising her hands as she gives Illyana her best apathetic expression. She's a killer at those. Her older-school spike uniform is a lot more red, a lot more spiky, and incorporates ridiculous stiletto heels instead of combat boots. Jean breaks the moment by focusing on work.

"Yeah, um, do you want to split them up or should one of us lead and the other provide power?"

As she should have known, Kitty's chiding has made her own life more complicated as Illyana will be texting her at what will almost certainly be all hours of day and night about demonic SOSes.

Illyana's spell shifts over her and the oversized shirt shrinks against her and then spreads. The laundry faded black turns to true black and something more leathery and strappy. It turns into a bustier with pants, a white belt with pockets around her waist and bracers of the same material.

Immediately, she wraps her arms around herself. "…I look like dark version Emma Frost. How is that even possible. She's already evil." While it's probably better than dealing with whatever they have to deal with in Limbo in only an oversized T-Shirt, she definitely feels more exposed now than she did before.

Sheepishly, she gives a wave to Meggan and Rachel and Piotr now. "Looks like we're getting the band back together." Jean is given a smile and Tony is merely acknowledged. They're going to have to be working together on the technology side. She gives a sigh and move toward teh artifacts to get started. "I'm annoyed that this is actually comfortable. Just so everyone knows."

Tony can't help but just grin towards Jean, he would do it over the tops of a pair of sunglasses if he was wearing any. Technically he should be a bit more worried about all this. I mean he is on a different plane of existence without most of his toys and is the only one without powers in the imeadeate company.

…but he's Tony Stark. He can't look worried. Even when he is.

"Should I be worried?" This towards Piotr as demonic magic washes over him. Though that smirk on his face says he would have let it happen either way.

When the magic flows away from him his outfit is not nearly as elaborate as others. His jeans remain(which is good he liked those jeans) but now there is a black t-shirt over which is a heavy biker style jacket in midnight black leather. Chains wrap their way down the left arm and spikes down the right, with more spikes at the shoulder. Heavy leather combat boots complete things as Stark glances down bemusedly at the new digs.

"Not my usual thing, but I'll go with it. When in Rome right?" A pause. "Any of this going to eat my soul? You know what don't tell me I'll figure it out later. But sure on the ward help, even though I know you'll know how to get past them but as leas I'll know you know."

Somehow he is wearing dark shades now too. It is just a thing. Don't ask.

"So! Science stuff. I'm known to be pretty good on science stuff. Is the computer systems working for this thing or do I need to power it up?"

The subjects themselves though still don't move. Though the demonic energies inside of them seem stronger now. Linking each together. Spreading though the tubes and systems connecting them. It is a remarkably consistent energy, and not one of Limbo. The taste is different.

For those that can feel those things.


"…oh my god where did she go I just went down to get breakfast!" Says one Peter Quill. Who pauses a moment. Frowning slowly. "…goddamit. I have a strange feeling I'm missing something incredibly hot right now."

"I know! I'm surprisingly myself by how easily it's riding," Meggan says, hopping up and down. The suit is noisy but flexes a lot. It gives the impression of a carapace, somehow.

She puts a hand on her hip afterwards and attempts to make a tough face. "Gr," she says, to Piotr. ("Grr," to Rachel.)

That muffled Nyet brings Illyana's focus back to her brother and the demoness just grins. Oh that word wasn't clear, no, but she knows immediately what her brother was trying to say.

Jean's tone garners a carefree roll of Yana's shoulder; what the red-head implies isn't untrue. Illyana often uses that excuse to do whatever she wants. Not that she ever really needs an 'excuse'.

Meggan's attire is given a speculative look, then it's over to Rachel and the demoness says, "The heart wants what the heart wants, Ray." However, at the real question about what the two psychics should do Yana's expression actually sobers. "I would suggest one at a time, but if you two feel confident scanning both then do it."

Tony's monologue brings an amused snort from Yana, but his question does receive an answer. "I could power it with magic, but I'd rather not. There's already too much ambient magic feeding into the bodies and the machinery. Tell me what you need and I can grab it from Earth, easy-peasy."

When Illyana sees Kitty's new outfit, the demoness offers a thumbs-up. "Of course it's comfortable, otherwise who would ever wear get-up like this in real life? No one."

While the majority of the throne room isn't occupied (beyond who's here already) eventually people might notice the population within the room increasing slowly. The demons who arrive are small things, some might even find them 'cute' in an ugly scary sort of way, and with their arrival comes the faint scritch of claws upon stone floor.

Piotr and Meggan will find themselves the initial recipients of the yellow-eyed demonlings attention, as the small little critters cluster behind the two. Clicks and guttural sounds might be heard as the demons speak between each other in their demonic tongue.

'Shiny. I like this shiny one.'
'Look she a princess.'
'Maybe these new pets for Mistress. See how long they last when she angry.'

Demons. What can you do.

Glancing around at the people's new outfits, Piotr just sighs a weary sigh. He goes back to trying to enjoy his steak, and ignoring the fact that it's tasting less and less like a steak should and more … limbo-steak like. By the time the demons have started appearing, he sighs and tosses the steak over his shoulder. Now that he's not eating he armors up. WHich of course brings the usual shiny comments from the demons that gather. He turns to give them a warning look.

Piotr does his best to keep eyes forward so as to not blush about any of his teammates new clothes. Which for whatever reason is much easier to do in his armored form. Of course this also means that he can't enjoy his beer either, which he hands off to a couple of the greedy little imps chattering behind him.

Illyana non-con clothes everyone (except Jean, because no), and the redhead glances around at the effect. A heavy sigh escapes her at the various results. Kitty gets an extra smile because of the dig against Emma Frost. Rachel, though —

"Wait, that was your Phoenix outfit?" Jean's tone of voice skates uncomfortably close to Mom Voice.

Then, as if remembering of the things she herself has worn over the years, she gives a visible 'ah, well, whatever' lift of a shoulder, and awkwardly turns back towards work again. Work is a lot safer to parse than 'how she's supposed to feel about an adult daughter wearing stuff like that around Tony Stark.'

Split them up or work in concert? Jean considers, eyes narrowing. "Let's go in together," she says. "I can lead for now, but we should both be on guard."

She drifts closer, the impression of heat flaring off her skin as she taps her telepathy and reaches out to link psychic hands with Rachel. Her eyes light into solid white tinged with the red of moving flame, and psionic fire licks vaguely along her hair as it moves in an intangible wind. She starts slow, a cautious probe leading their combined presence into those ravaged minds.

Hate. Zealotry, hate, fanaticism. Hate. HATE. Envy. SPITE. Fear. HATE.
when i can fight them on their level ill kill them all
kill them

That last hits strongly enough that Jean's focus cracks slightly, an echo of those emotions flashing briefly in all their minds like the flash from a camera. Jean loses altitude and crashes to her knees.

"Illyana," she rasps, braced on her hands and knees, "they are in agony. Frozen that way!"

"I was voted best dressed in Excalibur by three different sites," Rachel shoots back, crossing her arms and turning slightly away. Mom voice, even if it's not fully realized, cannot help but be answered by petulant child voice.

Rachel takes a shortcut across the room when her first step turns into a breezy telekinetic drift that means her next footfall lands her right next to Jean. She closes her eyes, rolling her shoulders because the little touch of physical looseness helps her get into the mood for some mental agility.

"Going in hard, huh," she murmurs. Even if she can't see the spectral echoes of fire on Jean, she can certain feel them. Rachel lowers her own head, falling silent as she focuses. A shadow passes over her face, the stripes of her hound marks remaining unnaturally lit.

She can feel Jean go in. Despite their agreement, and despite her usual nature, Rachel can't help but hesitate as she senses the wake of Jean's psychic power pass over her. Many kids grow up thinking their parents are superhuman, but even the mansion full of demigods Rachel grew up in treated Jean like she was power incarnate. It was hard not to see why. Jean could calm a riot with a look, turn bullets into dust, make a smile mean the world —


When Jean comes recoiling back from the stirred-up memories, Rachel instinctively pulls back her own probe. Her defenses slam up, armoring her mind with every trick she was forced to develop in the many, many times that people tried to break her will in the most personal of ways.

Even as Jean concerns herself with advocating for the damned to Limbo's queen, Rachel's astral defenses spring up around her as well.


Rachel dropped to her knees a moment after Jean, throwing her arms around the older woman's shoulders to steady her. Her expression is briefly at war with itself, caught between forced stoicism and obvious concern, but eventually she turns to look over her shoulder at Illyana. Jean bore the brunt of the examination because of Rachel's hesitation, so she forces herself to take point here. It's better than lingering on how her first reaction was to shout 'mom.'

"They undertook the process willingly, but it's painful — and they're frozen in the middle of it. If we let them out, they'll probably try to kill us out of zealotry."

Meggan, having made a joke, is able to relax slightly. Slightly. She is feeling an increasing tension in the air but the authoritative nature of what Jean and Tony and Illyana are talking about helps. Besides which, Kitty is here, and Piotr and Rachel, so surely even if they can't come out on top they'll make a good run for it.

The butterfly-scale bits of her halo glitter a bit more than they should.

The imps come around. They remind Meggan that she's in…

Well…: There's something about this place that's creeping around the edge of the small bubble of relative normality created by her old comrades, her old comrade's little-snowflake sister with magic powers, and Tony Stark's treasure trail. It's comfortable to be there, but this is an island in a strange wine-dark sea. Something vast out there. Meggan has a feeling rather like being in a rollercoaster running up a huge, enormous hill.

But Meggan is very good, from long practice, at putting aside such feelings when they aren't overwhelming. "Oh, aren't you a flatterer," she says to Imp 2, and then "hnf" to Imp 3. She takes in a deep breath



Meggan is hit, of course, even harder than most. The overflow from Jean is already powerful enough to reach others without psychic sensitivity. How much more Meggan? Meggan finds herself shrieking in agony and feeling herself ripple inside of the carapace of fetishistic leather that Illyana whistled up. The leather does not move but that creepy barbed-wire mesh is revealed to in fact be quite elastic. It has to be because for a fleeting moment Meggan is seven feet tall and wider across than Piotr.

She pulls herself inwards. There is an aftertrail like moth's scales as she shakes her head violently once, and Rachel would have a brief feeling of being *held* emotionally, as if her psyche was used as a bracing point, which probably doesn't help her drop. Sucking in a deep breath, she answers Rachel: "Let them."

The words come out in a rusty contralto. Meggan slaps a hand over her mouth afterwards, looks at Piotr who she is at eye-ish level with, and contracts further yet. There is a soft 'twang' from somewhere in the outfit, and this moment of the truly classical british emotion of 'embarrassment' grounds her, for a moment. It may be the stability of a bicycle rampaging down a steep hill but it is still stability, dammit! For now.

She rolls her fingers, coughs once, and says in something more like her normal voice, "D'you think a thumping will calm them down then?"

The question is uneasy. The 'or' behind it, sort of like all of the hellish realm outside of their immediate environment, is not a thing Meggan wants to examine.

Of course it's comfortable, this is Limbo. The comment from Illyana is given a raised eyebrow. Kitty attempts to focus on what is around them. Her expression immediately sobers as she moves forward to study the people and what it is that is happening to them. Lockheed flaps about them, hovering closest to Piotr as he does the Limbo equivalent of 'hold my beer, bro' to one of the Imps nearby.

Kitty makes her way methodically through the equipment. "It's an automated system," she says absently, telling the others her findings as she moves. "And it's distributing this liquid suspension and monitoring their vitals." Her eyebrows furrow as she interprets the readouts. She turns, worried and horrified. "They're…"

And that is when Jean rasps out that they are in agony. Yes, exactly that. If they were awake, she is sure these subjects would be shrieking in pain.

As Rachel quickly moves to Jean, she stays where she is, trying to find out more of the medical and technical. She is not emotionally or psychically sensitive at all and therefore, she channels her attention to where it might do the most. "This solution is either keeping them under or it's causing them this pain," she says, making an educated guess from what the others have said. "We need to figure out what it is, what it's doing to them and if it's safe to disconnect them from it." Yanking out the plugs could put them into shock an that's not something she's willing to do.

Stark frowns slightly as he sees the same readings as Kitty. The man's eyes taking in the information in one smooth glance as he looks at the readouts. Those eyes flick up towards Jean and Rachel, Meggan and Piotr, Illyana and Kitty. Taking reactions in at lightning speed before he takes a deep breath.

"It isn't just causing them pain. It is keeping them stable." He says slowly, but the words pick up. "Whatever is happening is changing them but whoever built this didn't think anesthetic was really needed." Again his eyes sweep over everything. "…it is like an infection. A massive infection. Either the host dies or adapts. Or in this case explodes or becomes a superhuman killing machine."

He taps something on the readouts. "These are…power levels? Its something in the liquid that is requiring constant power and monitoring and I have a really ugly theory on…that…"

He pauses a moment to slowly look up towards Illyana. "…so. Just /how/ much demonic energy is ambient in the area?"

On the table one of the subjects /twitches/.

As soon as Piotr tosses the steak aside several little pudgy demons immediately pounce upon it. It's a fight of needle-sized teeth and claws and it's a safe bet that some of the 'steak' that's being eaten is one of the more unfortunate demons that didn't survive that little battle of the best.

The imps that receives the bottle of beer chatter excitedly.


Their argument is going to go on for some time, it seems, as the two imps tug the bottle of beer between each other.

The echoes of heat and fire tug at Illyana's senses and the demoness turns her blue eyes to Jean's form. Illyana's eyes narrow slightly with appraisal. The flash in the pan of pain slides neatly off of Illyana's half-demonic mind. There's something to be said for a well-shielded mind.

"So." Says the demoness to the exclamations from Jean that there's agony to be found within the people's minds, that the 'people' are in pain, that they hurt. "The stasis spell is what's keeping us all safe. If you prefer I can release it and we can all surely have a bad day?" Perhaps thankfully that question is more rhetorical than actual.

What Rachel has to say there, at the end, about zealotry and death earns a look from Yana. "As if they could kill any of us here." And then, when Meggan reacts to the pain the blonde witch shifts her attention to the fae woman. Her rapid growth is watched with a vaguely interested look, but that's about it. What does react to Meggan's size change are the little demons as they yelp and chatter with high-pitched excitement. 'Woah.' 'Yeah she big.' 'How she grow like that.'

Now to Kitty's explanation of what likely needs to be done that allows possibly a brief flash of something to be seen, before it's hidden away behind a cold facade. "Their souls are already lost. Death would be the best thing for them now. A kindness really."

Tony's theories brings an almost impish smile to Yana's face. "This is Hell, so take your guess and then times that by a thousand." And while she was going to add something to what was just said her words pause when one of the figures twitch.

Blue eyes swing to the one that moved and calmly, she says, "I've a feeling it's going to awaken soon."

Frowning with concern as Jean and Rachel both are hit with waves of psychic pain, Piotr remembers just in time that this might impact Meggan. He turns just as she's crying out and he puts a hand out to steady her, or provide at least a calming presence. He's unphased by her shifting in size or shape, a common occurrence in their shared times past.

As the group tries to come to terms with what is happening with the captives, Piotr's eyes keep returning to Illyana. He gives soft sighs of annoyance at her flippant answers to Jean and Tony. But then she's throwing out ominous statements about 'it' awakening and he can't help but ask:

"Illyana. What do you mean /it/?"

Rachel's fashion sense will just have to be an issue tabled for later. There is a delve that needs doing, and with the fluency of long experience, she links up with her 'daughter' to do it. The result…

The people of the future might have treated Jean as if she were power incarnate, but that came with a price: vast sensitivity to the world around her and all its troubled hearts. Peer into a mind and it will often peer back. The blowback of all that frozen agony sends Jean to her knees, though that isn't terribly surprising to her. What is surprising is what she hears a moment later (Mom!) and the sensation of Rachel's arms flung around her.

She doesn't push Rachel away. In fact, her left hand lifts and she briefly hangs onto her daughter's right arm, accepting the steadying gesture.

"I'm all right," she manages after a moment. Her eyes turn to Meggan, feeling her reaction, and she reaches out in apology to soothe the pain with a psychic touch that feels not unlike a blanket being pulled over the brain.

So? is Illyana's response.

"So," Jean grits, "It's important to do what we can to minimize pain, whenever we can. Wherever we can." There is a heavy pause. "But in this situation we might not have much choice." She nods towards Rachel. "They will attack the moment they are released. They took on this transformative process to become more efficient at fighting and killing us." She closes her eyes. "We need to understand the process, this… infection… and what it is."

Rachel squeezes her eyes shut. She knows what Meggan's shrieking means. There's concern for her friend, yes, but being teammates tends to require learning how to stomach the sound of your friends suffering so you can focus on helping them.

Rachel and Meggan have a quirk in their relationship. Mentally, they are very similar. They once investigated it — it was something about how both of their minds are shattered collections of unclear memories, or a similarly depressing explanation. This means that when their guards are down for one reason or another, their minds tend to occupy the same orbit.

Meggan reaches. Rachel makes herself something solid to hold onto. She's fortunate that her instinctive respond to the pain was to armor up, astrally speaking. It's still unpleasant — Rachel curls her fingers across the unyielding stone floor, repeatedly reminding herself who she is while Meggan's emotions try to blend into hers. It's over shortly enough that she doesn't have time to feel any further effects.

Jean's hand on her arm. Rachel forces aside everything swirling around inside her. She looks down to Jean with widened eyes.

Gentle. That's the tone. Rachel slowly pulls herself to her feet, trying to help Jean up at the same time while the other woman speaks.

Meggan sucks on her teeth as she recenters herself and hears Tony say one of the least encouraging things ever - 'whatever's causing them pain is keeping them stable!' "WHo designs these things," she says, more rhetorically than anything.

Her eyes cut to Illyana at Tony's question. How is this even quantified? The backchatter of the demonettes make her shrink down back fully to her proper size - she had been about six percent larger on pure reflex without realizing it. If 'proper' is the right term at all.

It's passed, Meggan thinks. I'm not dwelling. This really does feel like old times again. Despite being in Hell. I thought it was just limbo, Meggan reasons further, but Illyana, I suppose, would know…

"I'll do what I can. Can you, er… Could all of you kind of… stop, them, if I can get them in a hold?" Meggan says, though the uncertainy is coming back. She steps forwards, nearer to Piotr.

"…I have no idea. But when I find out I'd like to punch him /really/ hard." Stark's words are angled towards Meggan as he frowns at the controls. "Its…brutal. Effective but brutal. Hence why all the pain. It doesn't give a damn about the subject…"

His eyes cut towards Rachel and Jean, a moment of worry and hesitation before back towards the science and the pannels.

"I don't know if we can reverse the process but we can at least stop it…Duchess." There are so many cats to choose from when talking to Kitty Pryde it is totally going to be different every time. "See if there is some kind of failsafe, if we can put it all back in the can we might can stop whatever is—"

Then he stops and pauses to look towards Illy. His words echo Piotr's. "…what do you mean waking up…"

Which is of course when the closest one sits up.


There is a careless backhand towards him. Which catches him firmly in the side and sends him flying.

…he'll be fine right?

But now all of them seem to be moving.

As flippant as Illyana's answers might be her tone changes subtly when Piotr asks a question and to both her brother and Tony, she answers, "I suppose you could call it a proto-demon. It's evolving into something intelligent." Her eyes closes momentarily as she delves her senses deep into the bodies held within her cocoon of magic. "It's not quite a full-fledged sort of thing, but it's almost there."

To Jean, Illyana quietly stares at the red-head when she declares the group should help whenever they can. Something could be said to that, but for now Yana moves along with the conversation.

Meggan's uncertainty brings Illyana's sharp gaze back over and while she was just going to say something, the shiver of her stasis spell beginning to unravel pulls her gaze off of everyone and back over to the tables, equipment and would-be people.

"Brother." Illyana says a split-second before Tony Stark is so casually backhanded, "I think you're up."

The small demonlings that were fighting for beer and steak likewise pause with their antics. Their luminous eyes turn unerringly to the tables that the proto-demons sit upon. There's almost something of a hum coming from the little roly-polies as they sense the change within the 'people'.

As for Tony Stark, before he can hit the wall, or even the stone floor, he'll find his fall paused midway in the air. Suspended by an invisible grip.

THe talk of a proto demon only causes Piotr to raise a questioning eyebrow and turn slowly back to the captives. As one pops up and slaps Stark into next week though, that's enough of a cue. He leaps forward, looping his fingers together hoping to bring down both fists in a hammer smash on the now awakened proto demon thing.

"Get Stark out of here Illyana! Or at least bring him a suit!" Piotr is glances back over his shoulder, as if checking who he needs to worry about keeping these beasties away from first. He's pretty sure it's going to be a game of whack-a-mole, but he's relieved to see that for the most part, besides Tony, suitless Tony, everyone should be able to handle themselves just fine.

It doesn't give a damn about the subject, says Tony Stark. Something flints deep in Jean's mind, white-hot anger sparking off sorrow.

She rises. She accepts Rachel's help, to a degree, but soon enough she gently disentangles with a touch to her 'daughter's' shoulder, and lifts a few inches back into the air, re-asserting some sense of control over herself. Illyana's long stare is "You mean to say whatever was placed into them is evolving?! Then we must — "

And that's when one of them sits straight up and clocks Tony in the side. Jean's right hand flashes out, but Illyana has the matter under control with the rapidity only she could have, here. The gesture transforms into something else, her clawed palm-up gesture inverting and cupping downwards. A telekinetic shield slams down around Stark to protect him until he can be extracted or else armored up, and her attention turns immediately thereafter towards the 'people' rising from stasis.

"So much for the 'stasis spell,'" Jean mutters.

Her eyes vanish into the solid white glow that marks her telepathic senses unfolding, as she links everyone up into a psychic communications array. Force of habit. She reaches out telepathically, even despite the pain it caused last time, trying to connect to the mind of the person who struck Tony. What is left within that mind? She searches for anything, anything human, which she might be able to appeal to stand down… or force to do so.

Rachel removes her hands from Jean when she feels the telltale touch. Her cheeks flush red. The weight of the last few seconds is catching up to her. Yet, because she is loved by the cosmic concept of chaos, something terrible happens to take her mind off things.

Tony is caught by the first safety net of many offered by those gathered in the room. Rachel takes a spacing step away from Jean, flexing her hands as she assesses the situation with uncharacteristic caution. There's a lot of people here who she hasn't worked with — some only in awhile, others functionally not at all — and one main target. That makes for potential collision of uncoordinated ideas.

Piotr can feel the warm closeness of Rachel's psi-link creeping upon him. Sorry, it's a mutant-heavy team, psi-links are unavoidable.

«I'm attempting to restrain it — until I figure out how strong it is I might only be slowing it down at first.» The alternative is breaking all its limbs if she overestimates how much force to use, sooooo.

Rachel's face is slightly shadowed as her telekinetic powers reach out to envelop the protodemon in a field of counter-pushes. It tries to move, Rachel pushes back. Someone friendly tries to move it around, Rachel doesn't push back, because she's good like that. It's not an instant checkmate — not until she solves for a few variables, anyway — but for now it might be enough to slow it down and make it easier for the heavy hitters to wrangle.

It will haunt Meggan, 'what did Illyana almost say.' But what will haunt her a lot more is that something has struck Tony Stark, who, she knows editorially, Rachel kind of sort of maybe likes!

Seeing an international corporate superhero get swatted makes Meggan slide into action. What she does probably surprises even her. Not only does she once again get larger - albeit less suddenly and less imperiously - her arm elongates out as her fingernails spike into talons, reaching out from the barb-mesh of the gauntlet as she aims to seize the wrist of the awakening proto-demon!

Which means it looks like a quasi-monstrous figure is grasping a normal human, but there is more here. Fortunately 'more' does not include the paparazzi. "Let him be!" she shouts right in the thing's face!

A moment later, perhaps a moment too late, she ducks her head.

Oh yeah. That'll leave a mark.

Stark knows something broke right there, But really? It is most likely fine. It isn't like he hasn't busted limbs before. Though the lack of a suit is…a problem.

…but it isn't entirely a insurmountable one.

Stark had no shoes. No shirt. Nothing but his pants and his belt.

And now he tears part of the belt off. Only now it becomes evident that is it made of metal plates instead of leather or cloth. Metal plates that suddenly deploy, slipping across each other to cover seemingly impossible surface as armored gauntlets crawl up his arms, halfway to his shoulder. The familiar /fweeee/ of powering up Repulsor systems fill limbo as light cuts from his palms and he manages to right his tumble before he eats too much dirt.

"A little warning next time?!" He calls out even at the TK shield appears around him.

The proto-demons though don't seem to care.

They raise.

And then oh god hammer smash.

Piotr's double fist crashes into the thing. Flattening the metal table its on. Mangling the equipment. Bones snap under the force though they do being to kint together again it is slower here. Different this time. The proto-demon is still confused. Still learning. It staggers away from Piotr.

Others move now though. One snatched up by Meggan. It blinks a moment. "Release us," Hit hisses before trying to headbutt there gaint figure that holds it.

Jean's mental probe? It gets a cacophany of voices. Seemingly thousands of minds hived together. All six of the figures in one strange consciousness. Each learning from the other. Each linked together. Millions of nanomachines all forming one hive mind.

One that is steadily growing more and more intelligent.

"Yes, release us!" Says one. "We have a purpose!" Says another. "Destory…mutants?" Asks a third. "No. Create order." Says a fourth. "Yes. Motherbird said create order."

There is a groan from Tony which causes all of them to look towards him. "Stark. Stark is a danger. Destroy the Stark."

…a beatpause. "I make more friends this way." Says the inventor.

Thankfully, before any of them can make good on this threat, Rachel's TK bonds slam down on them. They slow, one freezes but they still struggle. Moving as if though molasses to stand.

The little demons cluster together as they watch the procession of proto-demons trying to battle against the not-so-demonic.

Well, beyond Illyana at least. For Illyana, she simply walks closer to Tony Stark and his impressive telekinetic bubble/shield. Her walk is slow, unhurried, "On it, brother." Informs the blonde and while she is 'on it', her attention is mostly upon the fight.

She watches Rachel and Meggan, and Jean too. Jean also gets a, "I heard that.", for the muttered accusation about 'stasis spells'.

What the proto-demons have to say about Tony pulls a grin from the blonde, "Sure sounds like BFFs in my book."

Simultaneously Illyana reaches out to evoke a healing spell for Tony, to knit whatever bones might be broken or damaged. The second action causes a flash of light near Piotr. Next to his steel form he'll find a familiar enough sword to be used against the creatures.

The little demonlings continue to watch, wide-eyed and opened mouth, enraptured by the scene before them.

Landing the blow gives Piotr a small sense of satisfaction, the slightest curl of his lip. But it's still not looking so great for the group with the sheer number of these things in here and the fact that Illyana is quantifying them as proto demons. Whatever that is, doesn't sound good. But Piotr is focused, whipping his head around to check on Stark, and tilting his head in confusion at the sudden appearance of gauntlets. That's better. But still too squishy for his taste.

«Rachel. Can you hold them? It feels like they are just waking up. It will be best if we can do something before they are at full strength.» He doesn't think it outloud but he is turning expectantly to his sister. It is her realm after all, and she does so enjoy telling him how complete her control is here, even if he never believes it.

At the appearance of the sword, Piotr's face breaks into a smile. A weapon that only causes disruption of magic and demons. This is the type of weapon that Piotr has come to appreciate. He picks it up and swings it around once.

«Just let me know if they get too fiesty Rachel.»

It is not any more pleasant an experience the second time than it was the first time.

This time, however, Jean is prepared. She goes in with shielding, trusting in the others to handle the more physical aspects of the conflict. Her shield around Stark thins as he semi-armors himself, though Jean leaves enough for a buffer. The better part of her power now pours into prying into the heads of these proto-demons… whatever of their heads is even left to sift.

As it happens, there is a lot. More than there should be. Much more.

Jean's flaring eyes widen as thousands of voice flood her skull. Millions! A gestalt consciousness formed of countless drone units slaved together, becoming slowly self-aware even as she watches. As if a beehive suddenly decided to become a single entity. Their voice lift in an angry clamor, both aloud and in Jean's mind.


«These things,» Jean relates at large, «they are not human any longer. What was put into them has stripped them out and subordinated them to some group entity. An entire network of minds, all linked — and learning fast…»

She reaches forward, adding her telekinetic strength to Rachel's to reinforce those bonds. To hold them still for those on the ground. For her own part?

She presses deeper into those minds. A halo of transparent psionic flame flares off her as she delves harder, trailing from her hair like a shroud. In her experience probing for answers, it's best to start simple:


So far so good. The proto-demons seem clumsy — disoriented. Maybe this is giving her an advantage in keeping them telekinetically restrained. It's reason enough not to get cocky.

«I think so, big guy,» Rachel sends back. She inclines her head forward, the shadows deepening across her face as she closes her eyes. «I don't know what they're capable of. If they suddenly decide to ramp it up, they might break loose for a sec.»

Rachel focuses on maintaining her hold, micro-adjusting her control to keep the proto-demons corralled. The flames rolling off Jean come clearly in her mind's eye. She can feel the other woman dig deep, sensing echoes of what she's prying loose. All of that she's struggling with, and she still has enough spare power to help me? Rachel thinks.

Rachel throws her concentration into her work with redoubled determination. She has to keep up, even if it's only to take the pressure off Jean.

Meggan gets the grip and tries to move to control. For her trouble the head of the protodemon smashes her in the face, drawing some blood. She makes an irate noise, head jerking backwards and neck tensing upwards. She sucks in a deep breath through her teeth.

"Oh so he's a danger, is he?" she says.

Meggan does not abandon her grip on the thing's arm even as blood runs down her nose. What she does is half-step round the creature, twisting the arm around, and then aim to throw herself backwards - leading with the protodemon. Let them fight each other! In the sense that Meggan is going to use one to try to knock down another.

That's the easy part. The physical part. Meggan, busted nose or not, is more piqued than maimed - so far. The mental part, though - Jean in a sense prompts her to reach out on reflex, to try and touch the hearts of these creatures. Creature? Are they a singular? Is it like the Borg, she wonders.

She ends up drinking several things. SOMETHING is there in a hot whirl up her spine that she can't put her finger on, but that is just Limbo being Limbo; the real point is that she touches this cold and alien determination and is, for a moment, utterly aghast. There is no articulate word behind it, but there is a spiritual interrogative: how COULD you?

Is there anything left in these creatures that would hear such a heartfelt plea?

What they are capeable of…that is a hard thing to figure out. After all they are learning. Evolving due to the exposure of demonic energy.

Rewriting their hosts in a horrifing, disturbing manner.

«Jane. It means Jane.» Stark's voice is a low growl. «Friend of mine. Tried to kill me after getting demonically possessed. Which is a hazard of the job I guess. Remember when my tower blew up and New York blacked out. That was this things fault. Though it was different then. Someone modified it.»

One of the creatures starts to strain slowly against Rachel as she holds it. The others are trying quick, jerky motions. Pulling in every diction. Trying to tire the shield out. Trying to get towards Meggan and Stark.

But that one simply looks towards Stark. Slowly its mouth opens as if to shout…

…and instead of sound. Fire comes rolling from its maw.

Stark's eyes widen as he brings up both gauntlets. A round field of energy expands in front of him, deflecting the flame along with Jean's lessoned shield.

Stark seems fine. Except for some slight singing.

"Well. That is new."

Jean's probe gets about what Tony says. Motherbird. An image of one at like. A tiny little puff of a bird, made of the darkest shadow. Interspaced with an intense looking woman with a driven expression on her face.

There is also the image of a wolf also made of dark shadow.

Meggan's strength of will rushes into them. Searching for a core that she can reach. A feeling they can touch. /HOW COULD YOU/ she projects.

/Because it is the most logical solution/ Is the resounding return. Not in the least bothered.

Metaphysical ears ring with Jean's shout of MOTHERBIRD and while it's not enough to cause Illyana to wince, it does prompt her to say, "A little loud there."

The voices from the hive mind doesn't seem to garner much of a reaction from Illyana beyond a tightening her expression.

The demonlings that can still be found within the room scatter as soon as the soulsword is revealed. Their screeches of terror add to the cacophony of sound that rings within the throne room itself.

The revelation that these things started as a byproduct of the Demon Bear prompts Yana to say, "Oh Dani, this is going to make you kick yourself all over again." However, it's the response to Meggan's heart-felt plea that causes Illyana to step forward. "Piotr - slice or stab, whatever you wish, it's time to cut their strings."

With her own powers Illyana reaches out into the energies of Limbo, pulling upon those that scream destruction and death, and with a flick of her wrist she sends that power into the nearest form of the proto-demon.

Piotr eyes the demon struggling with Meggan, but is hesitant to jump in swinging. He is not the best swordsman and he's not confident in knowing how the blade might affect Meggan and her own magical background and ties that he really should have paid more attention to?

The question of Motherbird and it's answer from Stark only draw a narrowing of his eyes. He's not in the mode of gathering information or figuring out a long term plan, those aren't really his strengths anyway. No, he's focused on making sure this situation doesn't spiral out of control.

The blast of flame is not as surprising to Piotr, considering the immense heat that was generated by the last of these things that he fought. Though he's not sure if they are in fact the same things now, what with the proto demon label and the talk of possibly demon source code? Again, not his problem. The fire breathing and breaking free of Rachel's control is more the issue at hand for him.

A leap and long strike down of the sword as if to cut from shoulder to opposite hip and cleave the thing in two. He knows from past experience that the blade doesn't always act like a sword ought, but it should put a stop to this thing and it's conflagrant halitosis.

A little loud there, says Illyana.

«Train your psychic resistance and it will not be so loud,» is the serene reply. Perhaps a little too serene.

Not that she has much attention to spare to quips or sniping. Her attention split three ways, she is an outpouring of psionic energy. If she is aware of the emotions the sight stirs in Rachel, she does not have much time to spare for that either, whether to reassure her or to admit that all she does is certainly 'not as easy as it looks.'

Rachel's redoubled assistance is certainly appreciated, though. In much the way Jean leaned physically on her daughter earlier, she seems to lean psychically upon her support now. Her delve yields some fruit, at the least… which Tony corroborates a moment later. Jane? Dr. Jane Foster? «The one who came to the Institute not long ago?» Jean wonders, even as she sifts the psychic impressions she receives. «Ah. So this is an outgrowth of the Demon Bear incident…»

She is cut off when the things start breathing fire.

Some invisible line gets crossed. Jean switches abruptly off her delve, her telepathic energy concentrating suddenly and densely in a very different way. Rachel in particular will feel it: like a forging, a honing that concentrates white-hot around her right arm. She gains a little air, lifting a few feet higher — and descends, stooping on the firebreather with a downwards cleave of a brief, flaring blade. Psionic energy — formed into a shape capable of physical and psychic trauma.

Much as she wishes she could help these creatures, clearly Jean is not interested in gambling with the safety of her charges.

The sudden transformation of the people she was studying to the creatures now attacking them causes Kitty to go into true defensive mode. For a moment, she steps back. And then, she is through the ground.

Of course, as she should have known, that was a terrible idea. Limbo is filled with magic and demons and none of those things tend to do good things when it comes to her powers. Once into the ground, her movements are like attempting to swim through sticky molasses that squeezes against her body, as if deliberately trying to suffocate her.

When she only has the amount of time to get back to the surface as she has air in her lungs, that's certainly a problem. The messages from the mental link reach her, but her own attention is intensely focused on her own upward movement. Her own thoughts are not panicked, nor are they desperate…merely determined. It takes her quite awhile, but slowly, Kitty's hand emerges onto the ground. Then, she pulls herself up, hair plastered against her face as if coming out of a pool. With a deep breath, she sucks air back into her lungs.

The fire passed over her and she only has a brief glimpse as to what is going on about her. Immediately, she realizes that Meggan is right there, staggered and grappling one of the demon folk. Eyes narrow and she takes another breath. Then, she reaches forward and despite the heat still radiating from the breathed fire, she grabs onto the demon and starts to pull downward with as much strength as she can - intent on pushing him down into the ground with her and giving Meggan some leverage.

«Hey, they're getting kinda rowdy — REALLY??»

Guess which part of that sentence is when one of them breathes fire at Tony.

Rachel lifts her head, reaching out with her hand to anchor her psychic efforts with a physical gesture. Despite her face no longer being downcast, the strange shadowing remains. Her hound marks are bright red slashes of color in contrast. She needs to be strong — strong and present. Jean needs an anchor for her dive, and everyone needs to not be tackled by proto-demons.

Rachel is planning a way to slap molecular-tight shields across all their mouths when Jean shifts from exploration to attack. A burden flies from her shoulders, as Jean being more present means Rachel can throw in some more unexpected contortions of mental agility without accidentally giving the other woman nothing to hold onto.

Rachel opens her eyes. They, like her hound marks, glow a familiar fiery red. The proto-demons are getting more unpredictable in how they're railing against Rachel's telekinetic restrains, but now it's time to make Illyana's demonic little heart flutter and squeeze.

That touch of the cold and implacable will of whatever-these-are sends Meggan into a cold sweat. She shrinks again, contracting. Her grip breaks for her momentary talons retract. "It's horrible," she says even as she staggers back on her heels, swaying.

Also one of the demons is breathing fire now; never a good sign. But Meggan can't really do more than see that, she hardly observes it. For a moment she feels sick and shaken. Evil would be better than this. Evil is something. Evil can reform, evil can have good side effects, evil is a *position* and this -

The rest of them are attacking but some tiny part of Meggan says: it's useless, you can't fight something like this, we should run


Er, descends, really. Kitty pushes the creature down and she is greeted by two things. One is Meggan sending a deep and profound sense of emotional relief right into her, a sort of choral prayer of thanks, and the other is seeing Meggan start kneeing the protodemon in the side of the head repeatedly, probably intent on stunning it.

Him? Her? It feels right, now, to Meggan. Or they. She has little else to say.

It isn't /evil/ that possesses these things.

It is logic. The horrible calculous of numbers. Cold and unfeeling. They have been set a task. The most effective way to do that task is the only way to do that task.

And now they seem to act…

…or…they would. If the X-men didn't act first.

Piotr's sword scythes though the first one in the line and it drops like a puppet with strings cut. The magic linking it to the hive mind removed and shattered, the demonic energies dissipated as the body tumbles forwards.

Rachel starts to crush and the proto-demons don't even panic. They try to get a way, to break free, but the bones snap and twist under the continuous pressure. Another one is suddenly sunk deep into the ground as Meggan leaps forwards to slam knee against its head over and over, the combined assault leaving it near senseless.

Jean's brutal attack cuts in then, and Illyana's mystic bolts dropping the remaining ones like torn puppets.

Stark? Just looks bemusedly at all this, slowly lowering his hands again as he glances around at all of them. "…you totally could have done that at any time couldn't you?" He asks the group as a whole.

A look is sent right on over to Jean Grey - there will be a reckoning, but that's not today.

Probably not tomorrow either, but soon.

Kitty's re-arrival is noted, but much like everyone, Illyana's attention is mostly focused upon the would-be demons. One by one they go down and when all have been taken care of, Illyana waves a hand. Those that are only knocked senseless will find their strings cut just as neatly as the others.

It's Tony's words, however, that brings the demoness' eyes back to him. It's enough that she smiles with amusement, "Yes. Pretty much."

Then to the group at large, "If you want to take samples I'd advise doing that now, otherwise I'll take the trash out now."

Which means she's going to dispose of the bodies.

Slashing the sword through, Piotr awkwardly swings it back up and steps towards another proto demon that then drops before he gets a chance to slash through it. He frowns and glances back at Illyana as she apparently could have just dropped them at any time. He frowns a little and says to Stark, "Apparently yes. Though I am not sure we all knew that."

Hefting the sword back to up his shoulder he looks around, mentally asking «Is everyone alright?» and then aloud "Katya? Are you okay?" Her reappearance and gasping was felt through the link but only now does he have time to worry about it.

A quiet descends, after the last proto-demon falls. Jean breathes in and out, evenly, maintaining a careful hold over her power as it flows through her. Her powers have always been like a river in full flood in her mind, in her veins: even now, after decades of experience, it can still get away from her if she is unwary. She finds herself, in retrospect, appreciating the anchor that Rachel had provided, the tie they had shared as naturally as breath over the course of the short fight. She devotes a few moments of thought to that, before the various implications of that bring her to glance away.

She looks, instead at the proto-demons crumpled on the ground.

You totally could have done that at any time couldn't you? Tony wonders, bemused.

"We could," Jean says, as the psionic energy dissipates off her into nothing. "But we prefer force to be the last resort. It is our entire creed, Mister Stark." If her voice is a little forceful, overriding other conversational currents, she is not explicit as to the reason why.

She folds her arms across her chest, frowning. "Take what information we can," she says. "We have some threads to chase and people to speak to, it seems."

Breathing heavily still, Kitty stops pressing the demon into the ground once it is unable to come after them any more. Now that they are out of danger, she looks over at the rest of their group to make sure that everyone else is okay. Pushing some of her hair out of her face, her shoulders slump a little, but she gives Piotr a tired, but grateful smile at his worry. "I'm fine. I should've known better than to try that here."

Jean's response to Tony is met with a nod of complete conviction and belief in their cause. They shouldn't resort to violence unless they have to do so. And so, she moves to comply with getting what information they can. "Blood samples," she offers as something they should get as evidence before Illyana….cleans up. The thought of that causes a troubled expression to cross her face. "…if that's possible." Pause. "Are we sure we can't…put them in stasis or something? Find some sort of cure? They weren't like this before. Maybe we can help them."

Looking around, she looks toward the canister they were hooked up to and picks it up as part of that evidence. "There might be something in here that could tell us more about it."

Rachel would look away as limbs begin to snap under her psychic bonds, but it wouldn't do her any good. She'd sense it all in several different ways. From shadowed countenance and glowing eyes, Rachel bears witness to the death of bodies whose minds had already perished.

It's over quickly. Only then, when Stark and Jean share a moment of discussion, does Rachel turn her face away. The shadow passes from her, the fiery glow disappearing with it.

Her mind skips across the room through the psi-link, touching briefly on everyone in turn to ensure that they're fine. With everyone accounted for, Rachel draws back into herself.

"Might be a bit late for that," she says to Kitty. Rachel's clothes shimmer a moment later, shifting from the demonic boon of her spiked bodysuit to a far more neutral (and frankly uncharacteristic) set of jeans, high-tops, and a plain gray t-shirt.

Rachel reaches up to brush her hair back, exhaling. She's probably done here.

"Well we thought they were people at the time," Meggan says to Tony, but it sounds hollow. She doesn't look at him as she says it. She breathes out as peace, more or less, rises.

Someone says blood samples.

Meggan swings her arm around, fingers splayed out. "Here," she says. After a pause she says, "I mean, when we get back - unless - you -?" Her eyes flick to Jean for a moment, then Rachel, but finally Kitty.

Either way she holds her hand strangely all the way back to the mansion. Or where-ever.

"I don't know if there's a cure, for something like that," Meggan says to Jean, her voice still hollow.

… And then a little sunlight comes through. "But then again that's exactly what you'd say before you find the answer, isn't it?" And so she smiles, in a rather general way. It takes effort, but there's belief behind it.

Some belief. Among other things. She aims the glow at Rachel, particularly, but that too isn't anything new.

The armor clamshells away from Tony's arms, returning to the quiet and non-threatening belt that it is. The inventor sighs a moment, glancing first at Rachel and Jean as they calm down. There is some concern there, directed more at the younger than at her mom. Though it is covered quickly enough as he looks back towards the mess.

"I'll help salvage what we can. But…if that stuff was modified to take a human host. I don't think there is going to be much left of them. It took over my AI, brainwashed and brainburned them. And you can't really shine holy light on someone's brain that easily."

He slightly shakes his head.

"We'll find out who did this though. Because someone needs to pay for this goddamn mess."

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