Light and Shadow

September 06, 2018:

Illyana and Jean combine forces to learn what they can about Savin's Extremis enhancements, and the whereabouts of Aldrich Killian and his alpha site. Some Renegade choices are made. GMed by Peter Quill.

Demonic Limbo


NPCs: Savin

Mentions: Tony Stark, Rachel Summers, Hope Summers, Pietro Maximoff, Wanda Maximoff

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

There are many ways to describe Illyana Rasputin. Bored, uncaring, unsympathetic and apathetic.

There are, however, several ways to get her attention. Hurt her, hurt those she deems as her own or evoke the word magic.

Tonight seems to check-box all of those and so -

The blonde demoness appears back on Earth, as if summoned. She's intent on seeing just who and what this prisoner is that supposedly smells of magic and psychic power.

And does he. A lot.

It's what has the sorceress supreme reaching to Jean Grey, with Illyana cordially inviting the other woman to an excursion into Limbo.


When all three participants arrive in Limbo it's in a less public room. A room buried deep within the bowels of her Obsidian Keep, far below the earth and the sky. Far enough down that should someone scream the echoes of that sound will never be heard by those above.

The room itself is straightforward and simple. Rough hewn walls, floor and ceiling. Light is given off by four smoking pitch torches, the flames dancing with a flickering madness.

The centerpiece of this particular room is a large rectangular stone slab and upon its scratched and pitted surface sits a certain prisoner of war; Savin. He's bound by chain and manacle at wrists and ankles.

Clearly Illyana isn't taking a chance.

"Shall I just crack him like a nut? It won't take me long. Maybe five minutes, perhaps ten if he puts up any kind of fight." States the Mistress of this realm as she considers Savin and the magic that surrounds him.

Jean Grey is not happy.

It's not easy to read it just from the woman's face, nor from her demanor, nor the way she speaks or acts. Jean learned not to wear her emotions too brazenly, lest they swallow her, a long time ago. But control does not mean the emotions are gone. In fact, control often only means they bottle, building up to an even greater intensity than if they had full rein.

One of the few times Jean's real passions really show their fangs is when she is angry. And she is most generally angry when her people — her children — are hurt.

Hope's battered features haunt her thoughts, as does Rachel's battered heart.

Normally Jean would advocate mercy. Normally she would look even on an enemy with kindness.

Shall I just crack him like a nut?

Jean looks up from where she's been considering the rough obsidian floor, her arms folded. Firelight dances between the shadows on her face. "Yes," she says. "If you do not, I will."

Almost lazily Savin rattles his chains, not /really/ testing them. But still, the strength is impressive. It is a strength that Illyana can feel, pulsing though his veins with just a hint of the demonic. Not even really enough to make him a magic being…

…but she can feel it. The call of what is in his blood reaching for the power of limbo. Just the ambient energy. Just a little taste…

Savin himself doesn't even seem to notice too much.

"Well, I just feel like the most special person here." He drawls. "Got the attention of two pretty ladies and everything. Come on then, ask your questions. I mean I assume that is what I'm here for. Good ol' fashioned interrogation. This seems a bit beyond waterboarding but hey, what kinda guy would I be if I wasn't open to new things."

…yes. Savin /is/ an ass.

Jean's response momentarily pulls Illyana's gaze off of Savin for a contemplative side-eye to the red-head.

Then, hearing that tacit approval for extreme measures to be taken, the demoness smiles.

Smiles should be happy and bright, and while there's a definite note of glee held in her expression, there's absolutely no friendliness found within it.

Only a cold hunger as her blue eyes turn sharply back to the man who reeks of magic and demon.

"Questions." Yana says, "You're cute. No, I'm just going to rip the knowledge from your mind. Easier that way."

With that warning given, Illyana brings her left hand upward, and with a casual curl of her fingers power flares. That power leaps from her hand to the man bound to the table.

Claws of magical might strive to breach the man's body and mind. It intends to cleave through the magical energy that surrounds him and sink sharp serrated knives deep into his soul-self. To rip and shred at any and all protections that enwrap him.

And while Illyana could have made this completely painless, for Savin, she didn't. Instead she wants him to feel every layer she burns through. Every layer she peels and pulls away to get what she and Jean want.

Jean does not always need to fan her powers in a visible way. The brilliant arcs of white and red that serve as visual semaphores of her abilities are quite optional.

That particular visual form is also optional. Ever since she shared bodies with a cosmic firebird, her powers can and have often looked a little different. It's all in the mind, after all. It is not always a conscious choice, either. Sometimes her mood tells her powers how they're going to look today.

Her head lifts. Her telepathy stretches like a vast cat, unsheathing its claws, and a slow white fire starts to lick through her long red hair.

As Illyana makes her move, Jean follows psionically in assistance. What Illyana rips apart, Jean attempts to hold open telepathically, making it easier for the young demoness to take what she wants quickly — and serving as a wary, backup bulwark against any potential traps that might be buried in this man's unnatural body. Where Illyana breaks through defenses, Jean attempts to simply take answers from his skull.

The price? His pain. Jean can feel an echo of whatever agony Illyana inflicts, as she sinks in her telepathic hooks. It is a familiar price, one she has always paid for her telepathic sensitivity… a price Jean pays without complaint and with only the silent gritting of her jaw. She is angry, so angry… but any suffering she outright commands to happen, she will bear a portion of herself in turn.

Her eyes tunnel into Savin, her gaze flat white and searing. There is something about her face that is not quite Jean Grey.

You are made of lies. Let me see the truth.

Bad news for Jean? There is a /lot/ of pain.

Physical damage the nanites can heal, psychic and magical damage? Not so much. Savin /screams/ in shock, he is not a man unused to pain. In fact he enjoys it on some level. However this is something he has never experienced, it intrigues him even as it hurts him.

…he is not entirely a sane man.

The nanites inside him react to the intrusion. The trickle of magic contracts, trying to get away from Illyana's terrible claws. It wriggles this way and that, reaching to cling to its host as the mistress of Limbo /pulls/.

It is no match.

The demonic taint comes away in her psychic claws, the nanotech in Savin's blood deprived of its binding force. Its hivemind gone as each individual piece of tech begins following its own designs.

…this could be bad for Savin.

But they can deal with that later.

Right now though, there is a flow of information that the pair of women can sift though.

The magic? It is almost like a demonic hive mind. Not /her/ brand of demon, but a brand of demon. But heavily modified, almost non-existant. So many controls slapped on it via the nanotech that it has ceased to be a true 'magic' anymore. No spell did this, this is the remains of a mighty ritual. A twisting to the natural order to create a new order. That is the command /behind/ the twisting ball of energy in her claws. Modify the world. Make it make sense. Give it /structure/.

Freed of the controls of the nanotech the command takes over again even though it is no stronger than a bird in her claws. In fact the form shifts, emulating a tiny poofy bird of shadow to try to get away.

But there is no place to go.

Jean gets more information. The whys of it are ultimately simple, at least for Savin. Greed. Base greed. Killian was making a /lot/ of money from this enhancement system. There were groups and governments poised to pay even more if he could refine it further. The explosive nature of the orgional strain was a problem, but the magical tweak, the replicating hive mind code that took over Stark Tower. That offered a path to riches. A few tweaks to neuter it and they could use it as a hive mind. A way the focus the nanites to not overload the body they were modifing. A way to train them to do what /Killian/ wanted.

Savin has his suspicions. Killian has it in for Stark, something in the past. Something that happened a decade ago. He hates the man, but also is grateful for teaching him that no one sees you if you're just a face in the crowd.

And no one knew Killian was the boss until they started truly digging.

The plot against Tony was just that. They have been watching the X-men attacks. They knew the Brotherhood would show up. Every time they did. Like clockwork. Savin's superior smirk and judgement of intelligence leaks echos even though the pain. Once the Brotherhood showed up, it was just a matter of remote triggering the recording and that would be it.

They planned it, put every trigger they could think of in it. Aimed Pietro Maximoff like a missile at Tony Stark. And now? Now the Brotherhood and the X-men would be too busy fighting themselves, or the government, to do anything about Extremis.

…at least that was the plan.

And the thought does rattle loose as she searches. He wasn't lying about the Genoshan scientists. Two of them were tracked down, one was found dead at home do to a theft that looked too clean to be a theft. The other? Wounded and catatonic. Neither were any help to the project.

One leads and one follows.

But both women radiate immense power.

One light and the other darkness.

And both strive to form a partnership to pull the needed secrets from the man's body.

And it works.

In Illyana's wake she leaves a crumb trail of pain, of ripped and ragged edges, something easy to see and hold on to.

The man's screams echo around the room, bouncing from corner to another. The noise doesn't seem to bother Yana, as she stays focused upon Savin, and continues to dig further downward. Following the trail of demonically tainted magic, looking for the source, even as it tries to flee.

To go this way and that, but all for nought. All for nothing, as metaphysical claws capture the magic within Savin.

Those talons tighten around the spark of energy and then ruthlessly Yana pulls. Magic sheers from the man's body and neatly, the demoness pulls that magic to herself. It's only when that mote of magic transforms and tries to flee that Yana clucks her tongue, "None of that my little Nightmaregale. You stay with me."

With those words of hers a cage appears around the newly transformed bird; to hold and bind, to keep prisoner, but to also put on display.

A look now turns to Jean Grey, as Yana shifts her attention from shadowed bird to one far more bright.

Pain fills Jean's entire world. But that's all right. Since she was a child, her world has been pain, and little of it her own.

She endures it, as she has endured all the rest, though sweat stands out on her brow and her hands shake as she picks her way through the torn mental landscape Illyana leaves behind. Charity, mercy, and kindness, Xavier always taught them all… but when there was no other recourse? He taught them all, too, to make the hard choices in order to serve the greater good.

What is this one man, anyway? She has seen a million of him. A thousand billion of him. Here so briefly, then gone —

She shoulders through the man's pain, through his screaming, and her star-fire eyes burn down to the very center of him. Pretense withers into ash before her gaze.

She sees everything.

She sees the motives: greed, and spite, and jealousy. The love-hate you feel for a man who has taught you the worst and best lesson of your life. She sees how that replicating code, spawned from the runaway Bird and Wolf heralds of the Demon Bear, was used to stabilize and refine the raw Extremis to be marketable. Controllable.

She sees how the hatred and fear of the Brotherhood was used against them. How they were meant to dissolve into infighting so the true target would be obscured… A man who wanted Tony Stark dead.

She sees two Genoshan scientists, eliminated before they could be pulled into the project. Her glowing white eyes widen. The trouble with seeing through all pretenses, all self-deceptions, and all lies, is that you also see through your own. She can think about that later.

SHIELD will do the legwork on the legal side — follow the flow of the money. The X-Men…

Last questions. Jean roots mercilessly for the answers. Where is Aldrich Killian? Where is the alpha site of Extremis? Show me the way to him…

Franticly the Nightmaregale flaps around in the cage. Trading one prison for a different one. It dives and dashes, slamming itself against the bars in a frantic, but futile effort to escape. One that doesn't work in the least. So it settles for glowering. It does that very well.

The question burns into Savin. Screaming though his conciousness. Tearing though his mind, a mind that was never ment to deal with a psychic like the one that bends her will against him now. It penetrates down to his very core and…

…and he /laughs/.

Laughs though the pain and the agony. His voice horse from screams. He laughs.

"I don't know." He replies. "He didn't tell me where the ship was. Or where it will be. He said he'd call me."

And the truth of that statement rings in Jean Gray's mind.

The bird flails and dives, flutters and flurries and still finds itself bound within its new cage. It glowers at her and Illyana affords it a look of amusement before she turns her attention over to Jean Grey.

Then back to Savin when the man laughs.

"A ship, but is it in air or water?" Murmurs Illyana thoughtfully, "Not that it matters." She continues, her gaze back to Jean, "We have a name and a name holds power in my world. It's bound to you and is part of you much like blood. I can use this to scry for him and find him; no matter where he might be."

And while she could leave it at that, she doesn't. Her predatory gaze turns back to Savin and conversationally the demoness says, "What shall we do with him now?"

I don't know. He said he'd call me.

Jean can taste the truth of it on the backs of her teeth.

She leans back, and the glaring white light dims from her eyes. She lets go of all her psionic power, though she doesn't quite dismiss it: it fans about her shoulders, through her hair, a silent gust of telepathic force. Illyana regards her, and speaks; Jean is transparently listening, though the woman is still staring straight forward at Savin, the clean lines of her profile unmoving as a sculpture in the flux of her psionic aura.

"If it's his true name," Jean eventually says. Always that preoccupation with truth or lies. "It's still worth scrying for, though."

What shall we do with him now?

Jean regards the man. "Keep him stable, if we can," she says. She leans forward rather suddenly, reaching towards Savin, and the tips of her index and middle fingers — still sheathed in psionic light — drag along his left temple. She leans back after, as if nothing happened. "We do not leave men to die. And I do not think we are quite finished with him yet."

Savin grits his teeth in the face of that psionic touch.

"It must be my lucky day," A beatpause. "And you sure about that. I seem to remember a bunch of my guard buddies that you scattered over half the complex. And Gray sure didn't sound like you all left much of him. You /sure/ you don't just want to finish the job." He flashes a bloody grin. "I can be /really/ annoying I've been told."

"I'll find him." Illyana promises to Jean, whether she has the man's true name or not.

There's a pause when Jean suddenly leans forward, and the demoness watches the red-head reach out with those glowing fingers.

Idly Illyana's head cants to the side as she considers Jean now. Really considers her.

"Perhaps you don't." Yana says, "But if we must then yes, I'll keep him stable for as long as we need him."

"Once he's no longer of use for us then you can let nature take its course. I've a feeling the results will be quite explosive." A smile then for Savin, which is the only response he'll get from Illyana with regards to whether he's annoying or /really/ annoying.

"I said that we do not leave men to die," Jean replies. "Not that we do not defend ourselves — or put a stop to people like you and those you serve — when the need arises. Don't pretend you or any of your companions' hands were clean."

Jean finally lets her psionic power go fully, though that does not dim the intensity of her green-eyed gaze when she says, "I saw the truth of you."

She dismisses him afterwards, and — whatever it was she did, in that brief moment of contact she made with the man's temple. Her gaze settles on Illyana instead. Perhaps she thinks the young demoness is becoming entirely too encouraged by this session, because her tone carries a more familiar gentle chide when she says, "We talked about speaking of human beings as if they were disposable objects, Illyana. Certainly not as grenades we will allow to go off when their 'use' is expended."

Yet sometimes, the lines are all very blurred, aren't they?

Jean folds her arms. "Keep him stable," she reminds. And in a private telepathic remark, more cryptic:

«We may need to release him before all is said and done, if we can find no other way to locate Killian.»

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