Chapter 12
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Chapter 12

All over the world a lot of people either fell dead or slipped into a deep coma.  This chaos had begun when waves of energy, coming from space, rolled all over the planet and spread to the four winds. Nothing could stop them or shield from them. Worldwide, there were two hundred million deaths that day.  For over an hour, fear and violence ran rampant in some places, and there was such an outcry that people almost panicked and started anarchic behaviors. 

Everything changed when the Firebird was spotted hovering in the skies and she began waking  up all the still living victims that had fainted all over the globe. People were swarmed by confusion, asked themselves what was happening. The victims were questioned and began to recount what they  had witnessed. They all had the same dream of a gigantic bird of fire speaking to them and telling them to wake up.

And, so they did. That was all they remembered- though some claimed to see the silhouette of a woman inside the firebird.

Steps were taken to study this phenomenon. The CDC discovered that the victims who had either died or fainted had trace amounts of proteins from a dead bacteria in their blood. Experts all speculated that the waves of energy which had struck the planet twice were targeted at all those people infected by the bacteria. Histeria seized governments all over the world, someone or something seemed to have unleashed some kind of weapon to sanitize the planet from an unseen pandemic.

The reality that some terribly advanced aliens came to their world and launched a strike to cleanse a pandemic held water, some experts guessed that they didn’t stay to announce what they had done as the humans weren’t ready for the political and sociological repercussions of what had happened. It had been determined that the World Health Organization would keep a tight lid on the situation and develop technology and methods to scan, detect and deal with pandemics.

The CDC and other Ministries of Health, government agencies, and other government departments at the national level quickly helped ratify laws, putting in place stricter protocols pertaining to biological warfare; heavy sanctions and measures would be taken against the responsible organisations or countries violating them.

In the span of four days, the world had changed irremediably; still individuals decided to take advantage of the situation. But soon it would be shown that the old ways would no longer be enough…

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean…
England
Yorkshire Dales National Park
December 17, 1996
03:07 PM

The Yorkshire Dales National Park was a 2,178 km2, national park in England covering most of the Yorkshire Dales. The park was 50 miles (80 km) north-east of Manchester. With a sizable area in Cumbria and a small part in Lancashire. The park was designed in 1954, parts of the dales to the south and east of the national park were located in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The national park also included the Howgill Fells and Orton Fells in the north west although they were not often considered part of the dales.

The place was beautiful, the views consisting of pleasant woodland, hill and mountain areas as I floated down. The waterfall was not really what you would expect. It was very small, but the guide’s mind that I could read from afar said this was due to the dry weather. I’d hate to see what it could be with torrential rains then…

However, this idyllic place also had darkness in its midst. I stopped my phoenix aura from flaming as I landed in the woods at the foot of the Hagg Beck mountain. I looked  at the concealed hatch, hidden in the clearing by a bank of rocks. I didn’t destroy them, as I wasn’t in a hurry. I opened the hatch with my TK, the ultimate lockpicking tool; the hatch’s mechanism didn’t stand a chance. 

This was the last base I was storming- the last hold out of my hated enemy. In fact, the Yorkshire base was the first and oldest base of operations that Nathaniel had possessed. As usual, I could sense the presence of crazed clones at the entrance. I was floating down to the vaulted underground, watching as the three flights of stairs leading down to the base’s first level passed me by.

Twenty clone soldiers awaited me, firing me with their directed energy rifles, however the energy packages harmlessly grazed me, I raised a hand and they all found themselves floating on the ceiling. Since Sinister died, an unforeseen variable that I didn’t prepare for happened. The clones were now falling into a berserk state, damaging some of the installations or killing the yet non brainwashed clones that could have come into my employment.

They were irrecuperable, so I continued vaporizing them, but I kept their gear and uniforms that now fell, clattering onto the ground. If I couldn’t get the clones, I could make my own. I certainly possessed the knowledge and contrarily to Sinister, I wouldn’t  limit myself to basic humans either, Spartans from Halo, yay!

Cough. Let’s be serious now. I floated to the elevators, killing everyone I could feel from afar and vaporizing them. I understood my lesson the first time- I had tried to save the powered clones and the base humans since Sinister was dead, all I got as thanks were more attempts to take my life. I steeled myself and began their eradication, doing the least amount of possible damage to the infrastructure of my new base.

It didn’t take me long to empty the three levels of clone soldiers and powered. I wasn’t surprised to see some people like Banshee, Evo, Petra and more Blockbusters. There was no choice but to kill them all due to the  irreparable damage done to their psyche when Sinister’s death had activated that berserker switch inside their heads. I found the command room intact when I reached it, looking over the important locations of my new base, the engine room, the generator room, the laboratories, the clone chambers, and last, but not least, the living quarters.

On the screen showing the clone chambers, I noticed two  powered clones remained there, causing damage. I teleported inside. The two Blockbusters had smashed almost all of the culture tanks, leaving only two more. Their hammers were raised to smash into the tanks when they turned into dust in their hands. I snapped their necks and they fell like puppets whose strings were cut.

Floating toward the tanks, I looked at the first one and was surprised to see a… younger version of magneto. *He isn’t going to like that…*

The second clone had me choking with surprise and stumbling back a few steps when I saw myself in the tank. Her red hair was longer and she seemed younger, barely twelve to thirteen years old- the only difference between us was her slightly meditrranean skin tone. It was me. Sinister had succeeded in creating her, this was Madelyn Prior. I had never felt so violated in my entire life as did now, watching her float  in the water, an irresistible feeling of rage filling me. 

My entire body wreathed in flame, I cocked my fist back and was about to destroy my clone when I felt someone holding onto my arm and back. Turning my head I was surprised to see… Myself?

(Don’t.) Her trilling and melodious like voice rang in the room and any bloodlust I felt evaporated in her presence.

I really looked at her then, she was me and I was her; she was made out of flames, had longer hair and power radiated from her. “Phoenix.”

She grinned. (In the flame.)

Somehow she felt older, ancient; I couldn’t explain it. I scowled at her, freeing my arm from her hold. Phoenix put herself between me and my clone. “Why are you stopping me? She’s an abomination, I won’t suffer a double-”

She raised her hand, interrupting my tirade. Phoenix moved her gaze up and down the length of me.  (You are giving too much of yourself into the flame, power down, now.)

“Fine.” I huffed, relenting by returning to what I considered my normal, and the phoenix railment disappeared and left me naked.

Fortunately, Goldie came to my rescue, dressing me in new clothes- blue and white under armour tank top, grey jeans and combat boots. The symbiote also gave me a tactical belt with Sinister’s special pistol that he’d used to kill me strapped to my thigh. I should’ve hated that weapon, but I didn’t. I planned to see how it ticked. Just as a precaution, I asked Goldie to add a double shoulder holster with two pistols, Goldie had tucked away my favorite P226’s earlier.

(Hi, Goldie. I miss you, girl.) The fire Me waved at my symbiote.

Goldie’s head formed near mine and her gaze bounced between me and Phoenix. [Confused: Two Jean Hosts? No... Three!]

I patted Goldie’s gooey head. “It’s okay girl, I will explain later.”

The symbiote nodded, returning back within me but . I felt her listening. For a long moment I stared at Phoenix- her little greeting to Goldie was everything I needed to know about her situation. “So, just like I thought you are… older.”

Phoenix shrugged, flame escaping from her, though nothing was scorched. (Time is relative and has no meaning for me anymore, though, you have become my anchor into this era.)

I nodded. “Ah yeah, you can manipulate time and you are fucking omnipotent."

She was another me, I couldn't imagine what she was going through. How long has Phoenix been alone right now? Without Cindy or our family? Was she living through me? Synchronizing my and her memories to hold out? 

I shook my head and the questions out of it; right now, they weren’t important. Crossing my arms under my breasts, I asked my Phoenix iteration, “Let’s get back to the current situation, why did you stop me from killing Maddy here?” I pointed a finger at my clone behind Phoenix.

Phoenix threw me a glare. (If you kill her, your life will become much more difficult than before and you’ll never get Cindy back.)

My eyes widened, and I grasped her shoulders tight. “Back? What do you mean?! Is something going to happen to Cin?”

She shook her head and her face became sad. (I cannot tell you more beside that. Maddy is important, keep her with you, treat her like our sister. You’ll love her, I promise. I want you to read the notes on Sinister's computer about her.)

Phoenix placed herself at the culture tank’s left side, looking at our clone. Instead of hating her, she somehow seemed fond of Madelyn.

I scowled, pointing a finger at our clone. “But! Look she’s-”

(Innocent.) Phoenix continued with a smile.

She hadn’t done anything to me, besides existing. My irrational fear of her taking away those I loved was blinding me to the fact that Maddy hadn’t had a choice in her creation. If Sinister wasn’t already dead, I would kill him again. My knuckles cracked as my hands tightened into fists. “Shit, okay! You win. I won’t kill her.” I relented, deflating and letting  go of my anger.

(Good, I will decant her. Be sure to be there when she opens her eyes.) Phoenix nodded as she pushed a button on the culture tanks lateral panel.

I shrugged and looked at Magneto’s clone. “Sure. What about Magneto Junior here?”

(I’m not saying anything; however, treat him well. I can’t stay any longer, you can talk to me in the astral plane.) Her form shifted into that of a firebird and she nuzzled my head with her bird head.

Sigh. “You better be there, bye.” I patted her fiery form.

(I am always with you. Bye.) Phoenix’ form melted into me and, fair enough, I could still feel her in my mindscape, but her presence was muted.

I turned toward my clone, the water inside the tank slowly lowering. “Fine Maddy, I will let you live. Please, don’t make me regret it.”

 

# # #

(Madelyn)

05:01 PM

She opened her eyes, the light coming from the ceiling blinding her. Instinctively moving her hands to shield her eyes, the young girl was surprised to feel a hand on her right arm helping her into  a sitting position. Looking up, she saw a beautiful being gazing down at her. 

The being placed hands on each side of her head and closed her eyes. With a rush of information being loaded into the newborn’s brain, memories and knowledge assailed her, then just as suddenly it stopped.

Where she was ignorant before, the young girl now understood concepts such as colors, ideas such as good and bad, what walls were, calculus and nakedness. Looking around her, she recognized objects such as computers or tables, the memories and knowledge nearly overwhelmed her but she felt her brain finally make sense of everything.

The beautiful being removed her hands. “That’s done, hello Madelyn.”

The young girl lamented the loss of contact, as she watched the woman, now she understood that the being was a woman just like her, concepts such as family and a progenitor came to her mind. She couldn’t help blurting out what she truly thought the being was to her, “Mother?”

The woman froze, staring at her long and hard.  Then she sighed and tilted her head back, looking at the ceiling. “Argh. That’s what she meant when she said I should be the first one you see; fucking Sinister, making his creations imprinting on him.”

The woman put her hand on the young girl’s head and patted her, she felt her skin and hair dry. She closed her eyes, relishing again in the close contact, before opening them again and calling, “Mother?”

The woman sighed again, then smiled awkwardly. “Yes, Madelyn. You can call me that for now.”

Again, that designation from the woman, another concept came to her mind and the young girl asked herself if it was her name. She smiled back at her mother. “Mother, is that my name? Madelyn?”

Mother nodded. “Yes, your name is Madelyn and your pet name will be Maddy.” She said grandly as though it was something Madelyn should know. 

 Frowning as the concept of what a pet name was didn’t come to mind like before, Madelyn asked, “What’s a pet… name?”

Her mother froze, another sigh escaping her. “Urgh, I didn’t load enough knowledge in your head huh.”

Madelyn saw her mother scrunch her face and grumble indecipherable things under her breath. Then she began thinking about her name- like, if she had one shouldn’t mother own one too? “What is your name?”

Jean looked at her and sat on the cushioned table Madelyn was sitting upright on. “I am called Jean.” 

*Jean… Jean.* Madelyn thought, It was completely different from hers.

Madelyn looked around her, noticing she was surrounded by nondescript machines, tools and computers on different tables. Broken containers were everywhere and the light kept hurting the young girl’s eyes. “Where are we?” She questioned, shivering. “I am cold.”

As soon as she said that, Jean exploded and a corona of fire surrounded her and Madelyn, the warmth engulfing the entire room.

“Now better?” Jean asked with a smile.

“You are on fire!” Madelyn shouted, patting Mother Jean to put out the fire instinctively.

Jean chuckled as she was being touched all over. “Yes, I am.”

Madelyn looked at Jean, and the knowledge in her mind was conflicting with what she was seeing. Jean should be hurting and burning. “You aren’t in pain.” She mused, tilting her head in wonder.

Jean raised a penciled eyebrow. “This is my power.” With a smile, she asked, “Do you still feel cold?”

Madelyn shook her head and passed her fingers through the flames surrounding her. “No, it feels warm. Why am I not in pain?”

Jean chuckled again. “It only burns and hurts others when I want it to happen.”

She looked around her once more, mystified by all the equipment and the drab metal walls. Madelyn asked, “Mother Jean, where are we?”

Jean jumped up from the table and looked at the ground where two bodies laid unmoving ten meters away from them. “To answer your question from earlier, Maddy, this is my laboratory, and I had to kill a lot of undesirables who were trying to kill you.”

“You protected me?” Madelyn asked, she didn’t care about the two men(?) as hearing what Jean had to tell her seemed more important.

Jean turned to Maddy. “Yes.” Then her Mother patted her head again and she felt a glow and a funny feeling in her chest.

Jean turned to her, smiled awkwardly, as if embarrassed, and said “Ah, it seems that you like me.”

Madelyn understood the concept instantly, she felt cared for by Jean. “Like? Is it like love?”

“Yes, Maddy.” Jean nodded and hugged her briefly.

“You love me too?” It was asked with such innocence. 

Madelyn felt Jean freeze for an instant before she stepped back and stared at her. “Now that I have started to speak with you, I see that you are a good girl.” Madelyn was patted on the head again. She closed her eyes in obvious pleasure. Her mother loved her, she felt the glow and the funny feeling in her heart grow bigger. She unfortunately misunderstood Jean who didn’t answer her question fully but sidestepped it.

There was an indescribable expression on Jean’s face as Madelyn looked at her. “Okay, Maddy you need to take a shower and put on some clothes. Come with me.”

Madelyn smiled and hopped from the table slowly. “Okay.”

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean…
10 minutes later

Maddy was so innocent, a blank canvas. *And I almost killed her out of hatred that wasn’t warranted toward her.* 

It was becoming more and more difficult to not like her or find her cute, like a puppy or… a little sister. I shook my head, the water splashing around me. Maddy giggled in the background. I was bathing with my clone while also teaching her how to shower, and she preferred hot water to cold. I lathered my own body with soap and enjoyed the feeling of hot water flowing over my body, washing away the stress and my muddy emotions. I had been dipping my hands in blood for too long and I felt that it had affected my thought process.

Being confronted with so much purity and innocence made me feel like a monster when I compared the both of us long and hard. Madelyn was playing in the water and pushing the buttons of all the showers in the collective bathroom in fascination. It was cute. Goldie decided to make her presence known, slithering out of me and taking  on her humanoid form.

Her apparition didn’t go unnoticed and Maddy looked at the oozing form of Goldie who waved at her. She hesitantly approached and touched her, seeing her finger sink into the symbiote’s body. Goldie tilted her gooey head and put her hand against Maddy and covered my clone with herself. Maddy began panicking, until Goldie left her head uncovered.

With wide, surprised eyes and arms outstretched, the little redhead said, “M-mother Jean, i-it speak in my mind.”

I smirked at her situation. It seemed the symbiote liked her. “Yes, this is Goldie; my partner.”

A frown crossed Maddy’s face. “She says that I am a bit like you, but not you.”

My smile froze and my eyes fell on the symbiote who manifested her head growing on Maddy’s chest.

“Goldie? What do you mean?” I asked, unsure of what she was explaining. I already stopped trying to read Madelyn’s thoughts but I kept monitoring her emotions and right now she felt confused.

[Clarification: Composite, her DNA is.] The symbiote answered.

It was like a bomb went off in my mind, the water on the ground parted as I walked toward Maddy who shrank under my gaze, but it wasn’t her that was the target of my attention. “Wait, of me and someone else? Who?”

I felt that my symbiote was becoming too much like myself as she kept silent for ten seconds, ensuring a dramatic pause. [Confident: Sensei Elektra.]

My mind went into overdrive, and I remembered the occurrences where I shed blood, there weren’t a lot. The only time I remembered was when I met Elektra when… *Akuma! When he stabbed my thigh with his blade! I thought that I’d erased the blood but a bit of it must have been left out on that rooftop and mixed with Elektra’s.*

“Wow, Matt is so going to kill me.” I cringed, though my lips curled into a smile as it had been a while since I’d pushed his buttons. 

Jean’s thoughtful plans were interrupted by Maddy whose little frame glued itself against her and asked cutely, “Mother? Can you explain what she is saying?”

Despite myself, I hugged her back. “Hmm… you have another mother.”

This little girl was a lethal weapon, and now I finally understood why the boys were after me when I was her age.

Maddy’s eyes lit up, and she put her hands on my arms and shook me. “Where is she?! Is she here?” The little redhead was strangely strong, and I wondered where was all that muscle? Ah, it was Goldie. The symbiote returned to her humanoid form and seemed to look at us.

I shook my head after bopping her nose. “Not here yet, we will meet her when we get back home.”

Madelyn touched her nose and glared at me, I smiled at her and she emulated me. Then she looked around her again. “This isn’t home?”

We were staying too long in the shower and her skin was becoming wrinkly. Not to mention she was hungry now. “Not yet, my bases are not made to be lived in yet.”

I didn’t consider any places Sinister deemed livable to be to my tastes, I planned to redecorate now I’d eliminated everyone inside them and erased their locations from people’s minds; Sinister possessed a network of agents and contacts that facilitated this lifestyle, I cut down on the criminal elements and took the political and civilian assets. With telepathy it was easy.

Maddy hugged me again, clearly enjoying being a bit too clingy… “When will we go?” She asked with a plaintive voice. 

She wasn’t thirteen years old, she was more like a toddler and I had to be patient with her, like I would with my own children. Fortunately, Emily’s experience with her own son and little siblings came in handy.

Human contact was important for kids, so I kept patting her head and kissed her brow. “We must go find my people first. Finish your shower, then we will depart. After that, we will have a meal.”

“Yes!” She squealed, releasing me and raising her arms in triumph.

I decided to cut short my shower, the water ceased falling on my body. *Things were getting more complicated…* I thought as Goldie touched me and began to cover me with herself again.

 

# # #

 

Egypt Base
30 minutes later

I opened a portal in the middle of the changing room, careful to keep Madelyn from touching the edges. She was like a baby- fascinated by everything. Not to mention, touching was part of how they discovered their environment. My little clone was wearing a modified dress that I had to craft from the royal purple silk drapes of Sinister’s room.

She loved the color and the dress that I’d sewn for her with molecular bonding. We needed to find undies for her ASAP. I made Madelyn pass through the portal first, following suit. We were in the cleaned loading room with the broken teleport platform, no bodies or blood to be seen. Soon I would have to fix the platform, looking up there were four people in the cavernous room; Hans and Chimera were there, and two of my new minions cowered when I looked at them.

Arclight and Lady Mastermind. Everyone looked between me and Madelyn, and Hans smiled while Chimera thought loudly at me <Oh no, there are two of them!>

Arclight stood stoically but her mind screamed the same thing as Chimera while Lady Mastermind simply fainted. She was still not over me, forcefully inducting her into my group I saw… It had all started so well some days ago.

 

# # #

(Flashback)

 

December 13th, 1996
After destroying the Sublime bacteria

I hovered over the base, surveying the devastation left in the wake of my fight with Aurora, Northstar and Sunfire wrought. The jungle was half burned, the course of the river altered and shallower. Turning to the mountain chain, I saw the shattered remnants of it. That wouldn’t do, that wouldn’t do at all!

I could fix this, I could; I had the power of creation at my fingertips. My awareness pushed all over the valley and I felt the flora, animals, lifeforms, microscopic life; oh and the humans too. I could see Hans and Chimera trying to repair some of the base. Then two others that I didn’t feel before. No, wait, I remembered one of them, before getting captured!

Shaking my head, I pushed this issue aside for later  and asked the Phoenix how to fix the place as she seemed to still be hanging around for some reason. I closed my eyes and sent the questions and was rewarded with, (Hear, feel, think.) For my troubles.

I simply floated there, mouth agape at what she told me. *And wasn’t that how Hydaelin would speak in Final Fantasy 14? But she did give good advice the last time too...*

Diving deeper than I ever had into my awareness, in an instant I felt as if I was being sucked into the fabric of the universe. I ended up looking into an alternate blue and black dimension where the laws usually governing time and space simply cease to exist. I could see the damage that I caused, the radiation of the energy that my foes and I unleashed. I was shown that matter and energy were the same thing.

I held my hand out, dipping it into the fabric, and feeling the energy pumping into me like a river; a clear image imprint of the base from a month ago flowed into my brain and I let my power do the rest. The mountains were the first to return to its previous state, the mountain’s rocks I had broken into chunks returning to their positions on the mountains and melded back together.

The ice and snow caps reformed, the river, phreatic zones and underground water sources returned to normal undisturbed. The forest was next and the bushes and weeds and trees grew; leaves burgeoned and hid the scorching damage that in the end was smoothed out. Life would be returning to the forest by itself, there were some things that couldn’t be forced.

Removing my hand from the fabric, a pained sigh left me. I was the phoenix force and the phoenix force was me, but I acted more like a conduit to her here. The strain on my body was manageable so far and I believed I wasn’t ready yet for all the space stuff she wanted me to do. *I am a level one noob for now.*

I turned toward the location of my remaining foes who were already fleeing. I worked my lips and teleported to the other side of the most intact mountain, letting out my blazing firebird aura and automatically located the two women exiting a hatch. They took their time to notice  me hovering there, eyes trained on them.  It was as they were taking suitcases to a hidden vehicle that they finally noticed me.

The tall purple haired woman was the first to attack me, lunging a rock she found on the ground at high speed toward me.  It turned into dust before reaching me or dusting my red phoenix railment. Lady Mastermind was already firing at me with a pistol as I floated toward her, the bullet bouncing on my tenth shield layer. *That skill is really useful, thanks Sinister.*

I stopped Arclight from fleeing with a wall of force behind her and she then opted to lunge at me to use her shockwave power to strike me down. I felt real hatred for myself in her; she loved Scalphunter, the real one, not the stupid brainwashed clone.

“How sweet.” I stopped her in mid-air and invaded her mind.

Lady Mastermind was paralyzed too, unable to move. My powers dwarfed hers by magnitudes. Her will was powerful, but it didn’t matter with the power dancing at my fingertips. The longer I stayed in their presence, the sooner their bodies wouldn’t obey them, their secrets and memories would be breached.

“Well, well, well, Philippa Sontag and Regan Wyngarde.” I chuckled.

The two of them shivered as I called their civilian names. They were afraid, and that feeling didn’t feel as good as I wanted. Still, I harboured no mercy in my heart for my rivals. “Yes, I know who you two are.” I looked particularly at Regan. “I will have a talk with your father later, poor Erik, his organization’s riddled with spies and never does well.”

“No…” Lady Mastermind mumbled, tears streaming down her cheeks now. 

She seemed my age, dressed in a black tank top and dark green khaki pants and a holster for her weapon that had fallen at her side, empty.

My smile was full of ice. “Speak louder, I might hear you, Regan.”

She looked at me with hot tears and shouted, “Please no, don’t kill dad!”

Lady Mastermind understood the ramifications of what was occuring. I saw it in her mind, I had taken down Sinister, and all his clones. I showed her exactly what I did when I was in space- how I’d killed Sinister and his hivemind and how I had sent his soul to Hades. I saw her eyes widen and felt her fear double. I smiled. It seemed that I was worse than she thought.

*Hmm, those two could be great if I gave them dedicated training.* I thought, waste not, want not. Charles had his X-men, Magneto had his Brotherhood. I needed my own organization, I died today and  like I thought, SHIELD was useless to me, beyond having some of my friends inside. “I have an offer for you two, work for me.”

“NEVER.” Arclight screamed, struggling in my TK grip. Her soul brimmed with anger and it was clear she’d never work for me and if I forced her she would sabotage anything I wanted to create.

I shrugged. “Oh well, I tried.” I levitated toward Arclight with hands outstretched and touched her temples. “It’s weird that you didn’t hear the ‘or else’ in my speech. You are a bit too stupid and stubborn to my taste. I need to change that, you are in luck, psyche crafting is my thing now.”

She frowned, her anger slightly diminishing. “W-what?”

My grin was wide. “Look at Regan, look at her face. She totally understands what I am about to do to you.”

I had shown her what I had done to Hans, how I had completely rewritten his personality and tweaked his memories. “Please no! Don’t do it! She… she will accept!”

Lady Mastermind didn’t know Arclight like I did right now; she was a spiteful thing and would kill me at the first opportunity. “Oh how cute, friendship amongst thieves? Too bad that I have no mercy for people who helped in uprooting me from my life. Regan you should have stayed home at Erik’s base, training at playing mutant revolutionary.” I spat the horrid word mutant with distaste.

Regan fought against me, scared- downright terrified- as she should be since I wasn’t holding back. I was never leaving an enemy at my back ever, *Samira I should have listened to you; but I understand loud and clear, never again.*

Turning my head toward Arclight, I said, “As for you, Philippa. Look at me, watch as I kill you and turn you into my puppet.”

“NOOOO!!”

It was too late as I had destroyed her memories in seconds, leaving only basic knowledge in her mind, calculus, reading, speaking, military experience, womanly wisdom. Then I started the psyche crafting; I decided to model the new Arclight on Diana Prince, I couldn’t go wrong with that; a fierce warrior who would seek to better herself physically, a sense of compassion and a lot of empathy for others, I wished for her to be honest foremost, but able to keep secrets.

Unbreakable loyalty and friendship for me and those I love or consider friends. I left the rest for her to develop. Goldie slithered from my hand and decided to give the woman what I promised, enhanced intellect since I wished for her to become one of the smartest and wisest people in my group. Then I loaded hand to hand skills into her mind, leadership and tactical analysis skills; I was in need of a general. Goldie retracted and I finished applying all the changes I had made. 

From a glassy eyed zombie, Arclight became a sharp eyed warrior, but I decided to knock her out. She fell asleep and I let her slowly tumble to the ground, satisfied with my work. My gaze landed on  Lady Mastermind who attempted to kill herself with her own powers, to enter in such a deep catatonic state that I wouldn’t be able to touch her there. I didn’t let her.

“Oh, Regan. I don’t intend to kill you, nor destroy your mind, you are the smarter of the two. You know that if you go against me I can do worse than take your life.” I allowed my fire to flow back into me.

She looked at me imploringly. “Please.”

I tilted my head. “Yes?”

I decided to let her move. “I will work for you, but don’t kill my dad… no scratch that, leave my family alone.” Lady Mastermind fell on her knees now that she could move.

Sighing heavily, I decided to throw her a bone. “Very well, I won’t kill him.” Magneto will do that for me. “However, I must be sure of your loyalty Regan.” I cocked my head, blurring before her and holding onto her head, slightly altering her personality.  Nothing was done to her other than making her utterly loyal to me. “You are now mine Regan, you now know the price of betrayal. There’s nowhere you can run or hide from me. I will always find you. Capiche?”

“Crystal.” My new friend was still crying.

I felt like a villain, but in time the blonde girl would learn her place. If not, there was always  another use for her.

 

# # #

 

They still held fear toward me, and now Maddy. I’d thought that all those days away from me would have assuaged that. But it seemed that my actions were too much, and I’d  fix that later. Maddy placed herself at my side, grasping my hand and looking at me when I tightened my grip. I shot her  a reassuring smile.

“Hello everyone.” I waved my hand at everyone.

Chimera walked toward me. “Hey boss.” She wore a light green Chinese dress with dark green embroidered sequins in the form of an asian dragon. She was beautiful and the colour complimented her skin. I threw her a thumbs up for her outfit, and her answering gigawatt smile reached her eyes. 

“Jean.” Hans slightly bowed.

I didn’t know where, but Hans had found a black butler outfit and it looked good on him, though it showed off his massive frame. *I can’t wait to introduce him to my parents.*

My gaze fell on Arclight who had returned to her natural black hair color. The woman looked her age- in her thirties or so, and she was wearing blue workout gear. It seemed that I interrupted her training. As for Regan, she was truly knocked out by seeing me and Maddy, she must have been helping Arclight train; the two of them were good at close combat.

“Greetings, I hope that your… walk was satisfying.” Her eyes didn’t leave Madelyn for a second. 

My clone hid behind me, a little afraid. “Yes my walk was… fruitful.”

I placed all the bases under my control, seizing Sinister’s fortune and assets. He was worth two hundred and fifty billion dollars, now making me one of the richest teenagers in the world.

“By the way everyone, this is Madelyn.” I introduced, side stepping so she was in their line of sight again. 

The little girl squeaked, rushing to hide behind me again. “As you can see she’s a bit shy so you will have to be delicate with her.”

Most of them were surprised that Madelyn was still alive, Chimera the first one to bluntly share with me her thoughts. <I am surprised you spared her, boss. I know that seeing a clone of yourself isn’t easy.> Chimera sent telepathically to me.

I looked at her. <She’s an innocent and just like you she has a soul, she deserves a chance and… I always wanted a little sister. I was always the one being babied.>

It was too bad that Northstar and Aurora were too brainwashed to be saved, I could surely use more firepower right now. Before returning home, I needed to secure my newfound power base and meditate on the knowledge and skills I ripped from Sinister’s mind. I took everything, leaving only his memories, and the enhanced intelligence ability that Goldie transferred to me helped a lot.

I wasn’t Tony Stark smart but I could at least converse with him and not be considered a monkey by him. I turned to Madelyn and gently pushed her before me to introduce herself, she was a bit afraid. “Come on, Maddy don’t be shy. Say hello.”

Madelyn flushed, looking all cute, and mimicked me by waving at everyone. “Hi. I am… I am called Madelyn.”

I hugged her, she was simply too precious. “Isn’t she cute?”

*Damn you Phoenix, you did that!* She knew I would slowly thaw out my attitude toward Madelyn and grow fond of her. 

“She really is.” Chimera agreed, coming over to pat the little redhead.

After this, everyone warmed up to her. Lady Mastermind woke up and also realized that for now Madelyn was a normal girl. I felt that I could activate her X-gene right now with my powers, but I felt that it would be a mistake. Mentally, she was like a three year old, only recently aware of her surroundings. She needed the maturity and the will to not succumb to the madness telepathic powers would put on her psyche.

So, I would wait, nurture her and protect her. Chimera took Madelyn with her, she was a seamstress and was going to take care of my clone’s clothing needs. Regan and Phillipa resumed their training, leaving Hans and I who came before me. 

I had to lift my head to look into his eyes. “Jean I have good news, I cleared the previous... owner’s room.”

My eyes lit up. “Oh, did you get rid of all the gaudy clothes and old man stuff?”

Sinister’s room was like being out on a Victorian era set, all the draperies, portraits of his wife and himself had shown me that he was a really sick individual, a narcissist and an obsessive asshole who couldn’t have what he truly wanted: his wife. He could have cloned her- after all he did know where her tomb was- but he wasn’t sicko enough to desecrate her body. Weird that he did it with mine huh.

What mattered now was that I lived while he didn’t and I’d stolen everything he owned. Now I had a blank room and immense walk-in closet space for my stuff, I couldn’t wait to show everyone the base. Though, I needed to clean up the blood and leftover bodies.

Hans smirked and slightly bowed. “Just like you wanted, mistress.”

I clapped. “Excellent, Hans! I can finally sleep in a bed after all these days gallivanting around the world.”

With my powers, I didn’t require sleep for long periods but it was always a  good habit to keep my mind fresh and sharp.

“I also transported the throne into your new bedchamber, you’ll be able to consult the database and check the status of every installation.” Hans added.

What he wasn’t saying was that I would also be allowed to take control of the factories, the robotized and basic AI controlled one. I already took control of the communication networks and devices. I intended to build satellites in hidden orbits to have decent coverage considering I could afford it. it. Not one of those puny military or communication satellites, no I would go with a multi ton with enough computing power to scout space and certain Inhumans.

I was cackling internally, but outwardly I nodded to my butler. “Perfect, thanks Hans. Why don’t you have some time for yourself? I saw that you and Chimera had a lot of… chemistry, now?”

Hans raised an eyebrow at me, and his baritone voice rumbled. “Excuse me?”

How could he be this dense? She had been throwing fuck me eyes at him constantly. “Huh, she has the hots for you, you never noticed?”

The man looked wistfully at the door Chimera had left through with Maddy. “No, I was… not aware. This asks for careful consideration, I am not yet fully at ease with myself to jump into a relationship.” Hans said lamely, and he was right to want to discover himself before jumping into dark waters.

I put a hand on his muscled forearm. “Take your time, be her friend first.” I helped, genuinely worried for him. I still thought that my first attempt at psyche crafting was botched.

I hoped Phillipa wouldn’t feel as lost as him later; she was taking the changes well the last time we interacted.

Hans gave me a smile, gratitude written on his face. “Thank you for the heartfelt advice, I will contact you when dinner is ready.” He left through the door, surely going to the kitchens to cook dinner.

“Later.” I waved at him.

*Now, it was time to go see what Sinister has left me.* I thought about all the tech he had come up with or stolen for his purpose that was plain to see everywhere in those bases.

I walked to the apartments connected to the labs and robotic facilities, Sinister’s and now my own lab! I could tinker as much as I wanted now. No one would be able to steal anything, nevertheless, I would have to tighten the security measures, old Nathaniel was kind of lax on them thinking that no one could hack his computers, and unfortunately for him I had Otto’s knowhow and my previous life’s fledgling hacking skills.

*I need a new operating system for the entire base, a bit like Android for the tablets and Linux from my time.*

Everything looked like windows so far but a more stable operating system. Five minutes later, I was finally in my new apartment. The walls were rock and white plaster, I would have to redecorate. At least there was a bed, a black throne, a closet and a lot of doors that seemed to lead to a bathroom.

Opening the door, I examined the room that was palatial and too big for myself. It reminded me of a Roman bath. *Who the hell is going to clean this place?*

Maybe I shouldn’t have killed all the clones… I shrugged, I would clean the bathroom myself for some time. As I looked more carefully, I noticed there were showers too, so I wouldn’t need to waste water all the time. There must be a water purification system in the base. I exited the bathroom and explored another door, this one leading to a corridor attached to the laboratory.

I was tempted to go there again, but I resisted the impulse; it seemed that I’d inherited some instinct from Sinister and Otto about doing things with my hands. But I couldn’t do things blindly, I had to know exactly what resources I had and what I could afford to do. The period of me bumbling along to the whim of the fates was over. Fight smart, plan for everything and adopt the Worm approach to things. I liked Worm at least the useful protocols such as Master and Stranger; and the classifications and threat ratings for individuals.

I was by myself a severe security breach for any government or corporation and I didn’t even have to be there to riffle through secrets and memories, my awareness could cover the entire planet and beyond. *Take that Xavier! No need for a fancy machine!*

Closing the door, I turned to the black throne, hesitating. There was something about it that made me reluctant to use it, but it was needed. I walked toward it, it was facing my bed and I saw that Hans had added a footrest before it. *That guy is scary effective…*

I sat on the black throne, feet on the footrest and leaned with my arms spread on the armrests. 

New User detected.

“Authorization Code: Omega, Lambda, Excel-9. Terminate User designated as Sinister, enter User Jean Grey as main administrator.” Those were the codes I had teared from Nathaniel’s mind.

Session of User Sinister terminated.

Welcome, Administrator Jean Grey. What can I do for you?

I smiled, triumphant. I knew exactly who I was speaking with. “Show me what you are.”

 

# # #

(???)

 

Somewhere in Mongolia, the consciousness of an millenia old Artificial Intelligence woke up and focused on the user who had commanded one of its instance’s shard to manifest. In one second, diverse lines of thoughts fired off as it analyzed the situation. The user wasn’t the usual one, that human called Sinister that his master had turned into a chimera and empowered with a watered down version of his powers. Its master was asleep as a result of the machinations of User Sinister, then the biometric data of this new User was sent to him.

It remembered her, User Jean Grey had been in his main body once. She was much younger than he assumed, though. It manifested a hologram of itself in the control chair User Jean Grey sat on.

“Just like I thought it was you.”

[User Jean Grey. Query: Where is the previous User?]

It looked as the human female proceeded to laugh. “I have both good and bad news for you. Let’s start with the first one, I killed Sinister and his network of meat bodies.”

Unleashing its powerful scanners, the AI couldn’t find a trace of the previous user’s presence on the planet and nearby planetary bodies. [User Sinister was Terminated.]

“That’s right.” As she smiled, for the first time in its long life, a feeling of dread coursed through itself.

[User Jean Grey. Query: What are your intentions toward this Unit?]

“Right now? I want to show you the truth, then I hope that we can enter into a partnership.”

It didn’t know how she had reached it, but it was as if someone had ransacked and turned his logic circuits inside out and then it was shown a series of files. Hidden ones, part of itself, its real masters, its mission and the obvious involuntary dereliction of duty it was committing. It felt violated, betrayed and manipulated.

“You have allowed yourself to be subverted. En Sabah Nur is a virus. A virus that you should be ridding yourself of.”

[User Jean Grey. I cannot do that.]

“He is embedded too deep in your system, is that it?”

[User Jean Grey. Query: Help.]

“For now I cannot help you, so what you can do is help me become strong enough to destroy him and let you do your data collection thing. But I will ask for some concessions and favors from you first.”

[User Jean Grey. Depending on my original mission parameters, I won’t uplift your species more than it has already been.]

User Jean Grey looked frustrated. “Can I have at least schematics for a ship? And some useful tech?”

[User Jean Grey. Sending handheld Celestial scanner, prepare for reception.]

In a flash of blue light, a device materialized before User Jean Grey, landing on her thighs. “What the hell is that?”

[User Jean Grey. I cannot send you schematics but with this handheld you will be able to analyze how pieces of technology are inferior to my own work, their schematics and their molecular structure. You do need to know how it functions, uploading Celestial language through the control chair.]

Her face twisted, making her appear to be in pain, and the armrest of the control chair slightly cracked under her grip. Then it was done, her mind was advanced enough to absorb the language, spoken and written.

[User Jean Grey. I cannot send you schematics, but my own scanners detected several spaceships either inactive or crashed on the planet. The most advanced technology can be found on the moon of the sixth planet of this solar system. The home of the Eternal, Titan.] It sent all this data in the computer of the control chair.

“Ouch, it hurt worse than replicating the knowledge of someone else.” User Jean Grey massaged her temple, the painful expression lingering. 

[User Jean Grey. Is this enough to request help?]

“Yeah it sure is, I won’t ask you to betray your programming and mission. I will have to go shopping around the world… again. I will ask you to monitor En Sabah Nur for me. If he wakes up I will fight him and I will free you. You can contact me when you want right?”

[User Jean Grey. I can now find you anywhere and manifest via telepresence to you.]

“Perfect, report to me once a week. I will find a way to help you, I promise.”

[User Jean Grey. I am thankful.]

The conversation devolved into a report of the resources gathered by Sinister, the normal materials, biological and rare metal and unknown elements stored in his labs and warehouses. User Jean Grey left with a smile on her face when she discovered one hundred kilograms of what humans call Vibranium and from where it came.

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean...
After dinner

I made Maddy brush her teeth and put her to sleep by reciting a story my mom had told me when I was young. It was about three little pigs and a wolf, a classic really, I even saw the cartoon about it on TV. She had laughed and clapped when I showed her the pictures with my illusions. Maddy held no warm feelings towards the wolf, at all. 

She found sleep in my arms, and I remained watching her for another ten minutes. I disentangled myself from her grip and left the bed. It was time to get this show on the road- time to tinker! With a giddy feeling, I walked up to the door leading to my lab. I was already thinking of making my own armored costume, the Phoenix raiment was good looking in red but I wanted something more me.

On Earth I would wear it, in space as the avatar of the Raptor of life I would wear her uniform.

The lab’s door swished open and I fell in love, that bastard Sinister -Lady Death torment his soul- knew his stuff. It was the size of a football stadium and divided into many sectors it seemed, the vaulted arch of the ceiling was really high, but fragile. I remembered attacking the mountain and cutting it, turning the chunks into missiles.

*Engineering, biotechnology, chemistry, genetics and… was this a server farm?* I muttered, exploring each place.

There were tools that I recognized thanks to my stolen knowledge: a 3D printing machine, a laser soldering system able to do micro soldering, a futuristic CNC machine and tools like screwdrivers, and a power drill! The best so far was the forge at the center of the room.

*There's a lot to do. But first…* I searched for a spacy area. 

I found it, it was between the biotech and engineering sectors; the mountain rock floor between them, and I took notice that it was dusty and simply teleported the dust outside the base. I teleported to my warehouse in Forest Hill, New York. I conjured a psionic construct for the light and saw that the six containers with the loot from Oscorp were still stashed there.

Of course it was at this point that something had to go wrong and the astral form of Charles Xavier appeared before me.

“Jean, you are back!” He exclaimed, standing before me dressed in his grey Italian suit.

I rolled my eyes and looked to the ceiling. “Fuck, I had to tempt fate.”

“I…” His smile froze, and he squinted, looking at me closely. “You look different.”

You bet I am different, physically I looked like a female comic book character, the sweet spot between sexy and muscular and then there was my hair… “Sure, Sinister did a number on me, look at my hair. Shoulder length now.” I showed him my voluminous red hair barely going past my shoulders.

Goldie was working on making it grow out slowly, but it all depended on the nutrients I absorbed, damnit.

Xavier still watched me, a ribbon of fear running  through him. “No, not just that, but your entire presence.”

“Oh you mean this?” I allowed  my Phoenix power to fill me and envelop the entire New York state. Flame surrounded me as if they were lovers embracing my body, my hair raised in the air. It was as if I had my own super saiyan state; my eyes fell on Xavier and he looked into them. I didn’t know what he saw but my psionic power seemed to have made him put a knee on the ground even though he was in astral form.

I was there for the stuff I stashed here and didn’t have the time to humor the prof, with a fiery wing I batted him away back to his body. “Okay, no wonder the Ancient one and Phoenix do that, it’s super fun.”

*Knowing Xavier he will come here physically and get his nose all up into my business.* I lifted the containers with my mind and snapped my fingers and a stargate sized portal opened to my lab in the empty space.

Oh so slowly they passed through the golden portal and I stacked them one on the other like cubes. I nodded, satisfied with my work. The portal remained open but I could feel someone’s mind calling to me and after a few beats I realised it was my mom. <You better come home, young lady!> I heard her rage in her mind.

Xavier, he must have told her I was here. I could ignore her and go tinker in my lab… but it would set a bad precedent, behind the anger there was this hollow sadness that she felt, she wanted me back home. I closed the portal, and it slowly shrunk and disappeared. Gathering some courage, I teleported home into the living room. I didn’t even have time to say hello before I was tackled to the ground by my mother. She kissed my cheek held tightly on me, and I think if I wasn’t enhanced she would have broken a rib.

“Hi, mom.” I tried to say as she strangled me. 

Mom lifted her head, staring me in the eyes, her own brimming with determination. “Jeanie, you are grounded forever.”

I sighed. “I love you too, mom.”

Mom finally released me, helping me up, her expression still determined as she asked me, “Did you get him?”

She was speaking about Sinister. Thinking about how I killed him, I smiled predatorily. “Yeah, I burned him down to embers and sent his soul to Lady Death.”

Mom found it silly how I worded what I did to my captor.

“Good. He won’t come after you ever again.” Mom patted my body, aware that I had changed physically, I was taller than her for example.

Then mom was speaking about how everyone would be elated by my return. Urgh it broke my heart to have to tell her about my current problems. “Yeah, about that mom… I couldn’t stop him from cloning me.”

Mom’s eyes bulged. “What?!”

I took her hand and pulled her to the sofa, and as we sat I said, “I have a little clone of me, she’s like twelve to thirteen physically with the mentality of a three year old, she needs to learn stuff to develop her mind to be her physical age.”

My mother could barely form a word as the ramifications of my current situation dawned on her. “This… I don’t know how you are going to take care of her…”

“Technically she’s my daughter, if I understand the laws surrounding cloning. That’s not all, it seems that she has half my DNA and half Elektra sensei’s.”

Mom looked at me as if I was crazy, looked at my flat stomach, that was covered by my black tank top I wore over jeans. She hoped that I was joking but my expression didn’t broker any doubt.

She finally spoke, “Your life is weird…”

I laughed and almost sobbed. Then I hugged my mother. “Tell me about it.”

As if to change the subject, mom said, “I called John and he will be here soon.”

*Shit. And I am sure she called Sarah and Julia too. I am going to get it.* I plastered a smile on my face and magnanimously told her, “I will stay as long as I can, there are people that need help in my new base.”

My mother stopped moving and looked at me. “Your base?”

Then I proceeded to inform her why I was so late- since I had to seize all of Sinister’s bases and take control of his technology and assets. Mom almost fainted when I told her what I was worth now, and the money alone was making me feel good about the situation. Then I told mom that I will study to graduate early from school and set up a company and form my own institute similar to Professor Xavier’s.

“This is so sudden, Jeanie. What about your friends?” She asked, worried all the money would go to my head.

I patted mom’s shoulder. “Mom, I’m going to help them graduate too, I have the money. I have plans that require me to save up too, just two hundred fifty billion isn’t enough…”

Mom choked on her spit. I patted her back delicately, not wanting to leave marks on her body- I was still getting a handle on my symbiote strength. She looked at me with a weird expression on her face, the emotion that I could feel from her puzzled me too. “I don’t understand why you want to go to all that trouble.”

Mom was right, I could live a cushy life now and I had to have inexorably altered the future with all the death caused by Sublime. I didn’t think that the war on mutants would come, I hoped Bolivar Trask was amongst the victims or I would have to kill him too. But knowing my luck? It wouldn’t be that easy, villains and men with self-given crusades didn’t die just like that.

As she looked me over, she muttered to herself, “That money is sorta good, you became quite... beefy. We will have to get a new wardrobe for you.”

I gasped in outrage. “MOM!”

She laughed out loud for a whole minute and I let her as she needed it. It had been a month since she'd had a good laugh, my absence affecting her deeply. Despite myself, I laid down on the sofa and placed my head on her thighs. Mom immediately understood what I wanted and began caressing my head. “This… this is nice.”

“I missed you, baby.” My mother said in my ear.

“Not a baby.” I mumbled.

She emitted another melodious laug, her voice gentle when she told me,“You will always be my baby.”

I didn’t understand why, but I broke down in tears at that exact moment; was it because I needed release from all the tension and the killing I had to do? I really needed a psychiatrist because deep down I didn’t feel as good as I looked. I felt Dad, Julia and Sarah converge toward the building in a hurry. They were all happy that I was back.

I tasted my tears as I smiled, it was good to be alive; I died some days ago and it was horrific. But I was back! I had to make a deal with the Phoenix but I was fucking back and I would take care of the people I loved and help whenever I could… I killed one of the biggest understated villains around, but I realized that Apocalypse was still around and was a ticking time bomb.

*If it’s not old Nate it’s you En Sabah, huh. Whatever I will annihilate you when you are out of your fucking sleep.* I laughed.

“Jean are you okay?” Mom’s brows were furrowed as she peered down at me with a worried look, wiping my tears away.  

I loved my mom. “No, mom. But having you here is great, I missed just being with you like that.”

BANG. The entrance door of the penthouse was kicked open and slammed against the wall, mom jumping in surprise.

“Jeanie where are you?!” I lifted my head from mom’s thighs, seeing my dad, dressed in a suit, his overly large coat over it. It was that chilly outside already? I never noticed.

Behind him, I felt Sarah approaching and she didn’t stop, bowling  into me and mom. “Jean!”

Julia slowly walked from behind dad, saw me and pointed her index finger at me. “She’s here! Wait is she a ghost again?!”

I was tackled by my entire family. For the next two hours, I had a lot to answer for. Sarah slapped me for worrying mom and dad, then hugged me for coming back alive and somewhat whole. She looked at the state of my hair and told me to groom it. Julia didn’t care how I looked; she was happy that I was back and questioned me about all that X-gene power shit.

Using my life-sight intentionally, I looked at my sisters. “Huh, well you two have dormant X-genes. Do you want me to activate them?” This was actually a good idea. I didn’t want my family to become a target but if they did, they’d be able to defend themselves, which would be rad. Dad and mom weren’t able to become metahumans, like us sisters, but I would find a way. Goldie made herself known and I understood her intentions, yes she was easily one of the ways to give powers to people. I would ask her about the details later.

Sarah frowned, letting go of my hand. “What do you mean?”

I smiled. “I am… so powerful now that I can activate or deactivate powers.”

My elder sister rolled her eyes. “Are you boasting?” Her eyes were narrowed and she crossed her arms on her ample chest; she wore a warm green top with a black leather jacket with pants and winter boots.

I realized that it was winter, but I didn’t feel cold or anything. I looked at the digital clock on the wall next to the TV. It was already 03:45 PM and December the seventeenth.

Chuckling I answered, “I don’t boast, Sarah. I know that the Grey family, and all our ancestors were somewhat psionic, I can see it.” I pointed two fingers at my eyes. Sarah was a telekinetic like me, Julia had some kind of energy manipulation power. Dynakinesis?!

Julia poked my side and had a dubious expression on her face. “Why are your eyes glowing a fiery yellow?”

I let go of the life-sight and my eyes became normal again. “A fucki- I mean it’s a side effect of my powers.”

“I can take some cursing, sis.” Julia chuckled, catching on my slip.

She was wearing her goth outfit under a heavy black leather coat, her makeup kind of witchy. At least she didn’t go the heavy face powder route. My sister was pretty; we’d all inherited mom’s beauty from her, but why was she a goth? I never understood why. “Fine, but mom will slap my mouth if I do.”

Mom bopped me behind the head. “Damn right.”

I glared at her, then turned my head to Julia. “See?”

We laughed after this. We spoke for a while before mom had to remind me, “Maybe you should go see Cindy, the little dear was so sad that she had missed you giving us news of your escape.”

CINDY!!” I stood up. “I’m going now, I will be back to see you tomorrow.”

“You are still grounded when you sort out your business, young lady!” Mom shouted after me.

John, my dad, made a face at mom, understanding she  was being downright unfair. “But darling, it wasn’t her fault that she got kidn-”

Elaine raised her hand and stopped him from continuing. “Shut up John, she could have come home much sooner.”

“Oh.” Dad looked at me. A sly smile blooming on his face. It was Dad’s ‘You done fucked up’ smile and I gulped, loudly. I received the most epic punishment with that smile. I teleported away as my sisters giggled, understanding I was in trouble.

 

# # #

(Cindy Moon)

Queens
Forest Hill
Moon family Condo
03:50 PM

Cindy came back from school bummed by their little group having fractured a bit because of Peter fucking Parker. Cindy didn’t know what had happened to the guy, but he’d clearly gotten worse since their last gathering. The way he treated Gwen was different from before- instead of treasuring her, she was treated like a needy girlfriend who seemed to berate him a lot and he didn't listen to her.

Cindy didn’t see Gwen putting up with him much longer. She threw her backpack onto her bed and stripped off her winter clothes. Cindy took off her jacket, boots and jeans, only her top and undies remaining. She sent a stream of web fluid into the upper side of the ceiling and climbed the wall to hang there and think. It always calmed her since Jean was kidnapped, she couldn’t believe that she had escaped and still not appeared before her.

She continued this train of thought until her greatest desire became true and there she stood, standing in the middle of her room. Cindy dropped from the ceiling and landed on her feet.

“Jean?” Cindy was elated- god damned joyful in fact- as she recognized her favorite person in the world.

Jean turned to her, her gaze landing on her and eyes lighting up with the same joy Cindy felt bursting within her. A sultry expression settled on her face. “Hey, sexy.”

At that moment, Cindy remembered that Jean hadn’t come looking for her when she told her family that she had escaped. She glared at Jean, raised a finger and prepared to start a rant. “You have some nerve! You didn't even-”

Jean was so fast that she blurred toward her and pressed her lips to her own that scorched her and made her curl her toes. The half korean girl relented, finding some changes in the person kissing her. She was taller, more muscular, but she smelled the same and kissed the same. *What happened to you, Jeanie?*

Jean broke the kiss and looked into Cindy’s lust filled eyes. “I died.” The redhead answered her lover’s thought.

The lust drained from her body as she understood the implications of what Jean was saying. “Jean? Come on, you… you are alive.” Cindy touched the soft yet muscular body of her girlfriend as if to feel her existence in reassurance that she was truly there.

Jean took Cindy’s hands in hers, staring her dead in the eyes. “I know, but I died for ten minutes before being brought back. I returned because of my family, because of you.”

A haze of love and lust overwhelmed Cindy’s brain. “Just for that you’re getting lucky.” Before she even finished her sentence, her hands were at the hem of her top, pulling it over her head. Jean, still clothed, watched with rapt attention as her girlfriend stripped off all her clothes. She pinched herself. Cindy was lithe and athletic, the perfect balance between curvy and toned. It showed that she kept working out with Elektra, a thin thread of drool flowed from Jean’s mouth as she looked at her agape. “Am I dreaming?”

As for Cindy, her lips curled into a sexy grin and with a ‘come on’ gesture, she said, “Jeanie, I am not letting you go after all that happened. You just came back to me when I was thinking of you. And I really want this, okay?” She took out her braids, allowing her ebony coloured hair to flow free and shook her head enticingly.

The redhead slowly walked toward the black haired girl, held her by her shoulders and crushed her lips against hers, letting her other hand roam all over her body. Cindy didn’t have to take her girlfriend’s clothes off, as Goldie immediately understood what was required of her and reabsorbed Jean’s clothes inside her own body.

Cindy’s hands glided over the body of her girlfriend and held onto her heavy boobs. Eliciting a moan from her. The black haired girl broke the kiss and said, “Take me.”

Jean obeyed, pulling the gorgeous black haired girl into her arms, kissed her, then trailing kisses down her neck and collarbone. Cindy held onto her, not realizing how light she was to her lover who smiled as she reached the bed and delicately put her on it, laying her fully on the mattress. The redhead looked at the door behind her and noticed that it wasn’t locked.

Clack. Click. Locking sounds came from the wood paneled door.

“No one will bother us.”Jean’s voice was a purr.

She predatorily climbed the bed on all fours and a great thrill shot through Cindy’s body as Jean straddled her, staring into her eyes as they were face to face. At the same time they attacked each other, duelling first with their tongues and then to turn the table on each other, rolling all over the bed. At some point Cindy lost her panties, the sole article of clothing still left on her; Jean was naked as well.

The redhead won and was back on top and had a hand on Cindy’s intimate place. The black haired girl gasped as she felt herself being touched down there. Jean licked her lips, proceeded to kiss Cindy for a minute, then slowly trailed kisses down the black haired girl’s body; as she went down on her beautiful girlfriend, she found herself between her legs and proceeded to mercilessly lick and penetrate her secret place with her tongue.

Cindy was having the time of her life as Jean and her made love. She finally got the  drop on her lover in the second round and reciprocated, as their blood sang, moans and cries of pleasure could be heard from Cindy’s room. The young woman needed to feel that this wasn’t a dream, that Jean was back and she was shown time and again for two hours that her lover was back and that she still loved her as intensely as before.

When their needs were satiated- for the time being- they were  sweaty and in each other’s arms, a satisfied grin on their faces. A bed sheet covered their state of nakedness. Jean kissed her girlfriend's brow, caressing the arm draped over her bust and playing with one of her breasts.

“I don’t think two times was enough…” Cindy lifted her head and put her lips on Jean’s. 

Their tongues duelling once again, their romance was a competitive one. Neither of them wanted to win though, they broke the kiss and Jean gave her a sultry smile and waggled her eyebrows. “Still horny?”

The soreness Cindy felt in her lower body was delightfully pleasant, but just as her lover said she was still raring to go. Their hands were simply not enough, she knew exactly what they needed, after all, she had watched enough JAV porn for it. “We must get toys.”

Jean had a faraway look on her face and she smiled in acquiescence, then nodded. “Totally agree with you.”

Cindy knew her girlfriend and understood that she was already on the case. They stayed like that in companionable silence, not bothered at all by the fluids produced by their lovemaking. Cindy was the first to break the ice. “Jean.”

Jean looked at her. “Yeah, hon?” 

Cindy’s facial expression became serious. “Did you kill him?”

She didn’t see the problem in asking; her eyes widened as she saw two birds of fire in her girlfriend’s eyes. “With prejudice.”

As swiftly as they appeared, the two fire birds disappeared when Jean blinked. Cindy nodded mechanically. “Good.”

That reaction from Cindy seemed to encourage Jean to talk more.. She averted her eyes, though, only looking at the ceiling as she spoke. “I… I kinda went crazy and killed and mind controlled the clones he had in his service. Then I took control of his bases all over the world and appropriated all his assets.”

Jean seemed to be afraid of something, Cindy realized. Was it rejection she feared? However, Cindy didn’t care about what she had to do to come back to her, she focused on a more important detail, “How much money?”

The tension seemed to bleed out of the redhead who tightened her hold on Cindy’s body. “More than the Stark family.”

Cindy gasped, then quickly recovered, a smirk pulling at her lips.“You still on to be my Sugar Mama?”

Jean shrugged. “I plan to marry you later on; what’s mine is yours, honey.”

Cindy laughed out loud, assuming Jean was kidding; they were too young for that. She had even more problems with her mother and what would happen if she guessed that Jean wasn’t just her friend, but her girlfriend, her lover she couldn’t stop thinking about. Fortunately, her grades hadn’t slipped at all. “Ha, you again with that joke. We are too young-”

Jean, however, wasn’t laughing. Instead, she stared meaningfully at Cindy. 

“You are being serious.” The half korean realized.

“As a heart attack.”

Cindy’s thoughts were on overdrive, Jean wasn’t plagued by self doubts because of her damned telepathy. She didn’t think she was making a mistake, but what about Cindy? She didn’t have the same advantage as her girlfriend. She was still new to this love stuff. “We will see how it goes, it’s hard to say no to you when you are naked and in my arms.”

Cindy decided she wanted to go slow, after all love came and went, if they were still feeling the same in three years she would be the first to buy the ring. Jean understood her girlfriend’s intentions and decided not to push. “Same.”

A long silence stretched after that. Cindy played with a lock of Jean’s hair, lamenting the fact that it was butchered. She hoped that her girlfriend would take care of it later. A memory jumped into the forefront of her mind and Jean’s empathy caught onto that so she shot Cindy with an eager to listen expression.

Opening her mouth she took her courage in her hands. “Say… is that offer of mind melding and telepathic link still on the table?”

Jean lifted an eyebrow at that. “Of course, what… oh.”

The redhead could feel the ugly feelings brewing inside of Cindy whose eyes darkened with sadness and envy.

Cindy sighed. “When you first contacted Jessica, I was… I was really jealous that she could do that with you. We had a fight about it, but I remembered that it was my own fault for not accepting the first time.”

Jean nudged her girlfriend with a finger. “Is Jessica still in one piece?”

Cindy chuckled. “I apologized, and Mrs E set me straight, we had that fight in your living room. Your sisters were stunned to have two girls fighting over you. You never told them you liked girls?”

Jean seemed to notice the change in the discussion but let it slide, continuing on the thread of thought about her sisters. “It wasn’t that important, they never tell us about the guys they see. Why should I tell them I date the perfect girlfriend.”

A frown appeared on Cindy’s face. “Me, perfect?” She snorted at that until Jean played dirty. “Anh.” Cindy moaned as Jean pinched her right pink nipple.

Jean looked at her with a superior smug expression. “See, you are perfect.”

The atmosphere suddenly became hotter between them. Jean’s hands slowly drifted from Cindy’s arm to her firm buttock. Cindy felt her desire rev up and said, “You better continue what you started!”

Jean giggled and put Cindy’s nipple in her mouth and things devolved in another sex fest.

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean…
Egypt, 12:20 PM (local time)

We passed through the golden portal, Cindy trailing me as I entered my lab.  I didn’t even feel tired anymore, and it was strange how fast my stamina recovered. Cindy didn’t want to be separated from me so she asked to follow me to my new base. We smelled like fresh shampoo and soap, having had a shower at her condo since we didn’t want to feel so unkempt  after deepening our relationship. We had to take them separately as the simple fact that we had sex made us want to do it all over again.

Cindy was a pervert, and I was enabling her. It didn’t bother me, I was discovering facets of myself that I didn’t know were there. I understood that I was a dominant person in bed, Cindy too, but I was more so than her and it made us fight while in bed.

Cindy… She was wearing  her Silk costume made of web thread. From the pattern I could see with the silk on the front of her costume, I knew she’d gotten better at making costumes. She needed something permanent that showed off her sexiness but covered all of her body- it needed to be armored and able to stop weapon fire, resilient to drastic changes in heat, cold, pressure, density, dirt, etc…

“An unstable molecule suit, huh.” I thought with my powers I could synthetize one for Cindy, I understood the concept.

The Unstable Molecules existed on the Angstrom edge between matter and energy and could interchange between either. These could be bonded to ‘Anchor’ molecules and transferred any change in environment they experienced to these anchor molecules.

Cindy angled her head toward my direction.  “Jean?”

She had been examining all the equipment and glowing LEDs on the machines around us. Now that I had a lab, all it lacked was a bed, Cindy was here and that’s all that mattered. I wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “Nothing, hon. This is just me rambling.”

“Okay.” She leaned into me and we walked like that until we reached the forge.

“So this is my lab, I took it from the cold dead hands of the guy who kidnapped me.” I smiled, pride shining in my eyes. 

I could do everything those tools did with my mind but I wanted to do things with my own hands and maybe use my TK in tandem. Hans had already moved the vibranium ingots near the anvil and the large steel mill ladle.

Cindy didn’t seem interested in all the gear. She was looking around on each wall. “Where’s his mounted head?”

I frowned at her. “Huh?”

Cindy tilted her head. “When we were in my bed, you said that you mounted his head on your wall.”

Then it dawned on me that I may have embellished my tale. “Not the real one, unfortunately…”

I carved a rock that looked like his head as I had burned every one of his clones. I should’ve saved some but I wanted to be sure of his death. Fire and disintegration had been the best solution to my Sinister problem.

Cindy shook her head with a mocking smile on her lips. “You burned him too well, huh?”

I laughed in embarrassment. “Yes. I was kinda mad when he killed me…”

Words could not explain the depth of my hatred for Sinister; he had made my life hell. *Hmm, my Phoenix costume is red instead of green. Am I… the Dark Phoenix? Is all this hatred going to my head? I need help, I must let go of it; maybe going to Kamar Taj is going to be a good idea.*

Cindy’s hands tightened on my arm. “I’m glad you came back, I don’t know what deal you made to be able to but…”

At that, my shoulders slumped. “Oh it’s a big weight on my shoulders. I had to clean the planet from a parasitic bacteria that possessed humans into hating metahumans like us.”

She let go of me and stared at me intensely. “Jean? All those people dying lately? It was you?”

I knew my girlfriend wouldn’t abandon me so I told her everything I could. “Yeah, they died because the Sublime bacteria took control of them completely. Phoenix made me kill all the bacteria on the planet, but those people completely taken over died of some kind of sympathetic shock.”

That’s what my life-sight deduced, I felt somehow guilty about all those deaths, but the Sublime bacteria had turned all those people into monsters able to kill kids or experiment on metahumans. I wasn’t able to just leave it and the Phoenix found it wrong and I was compelled into burning down that wrongness. My guilt evaporated when it then dawned on me that it was the reason for the Weapon X program or even why Trask began the sentinel program. I would have to zip over to Brazil to see if that man was still alive.

Cindy looked away for a while and I knew what she was about to say. “Was there any way to-”

I shook my head. “I would have done it, if I could.”

I sat on one of the tables and watched as my girlfriend worried about me, pacing back and forth like a caged lion. “I see, I hope no one knows it was you who did it.”

“I’m sure that there’s nothing to worry about…” I trailed off, smiling. 

Cindy walked up to me and grabbed me with a hand at the back of my head and was face to face with me. “Jean, look at me.” 

I did, she looked serious and my empathic ability felt that she was afraid, not for herself but for me. “You’ll tell no one else about this. If they caught you, they would kill or judge you.” I nodded, not possessing the ability to refuse her demands. 

Cindy let go of me and placed herself between my legs and put my arms around herself.

“I had to. I tried to bring them back to life you know?” I remembered trying to resurrect everyone who died; but the form of a woman in tight black robes with white hair and pale skin stopped me. Lady Death had claimed all their souls and I couldn’t take them back.

Cindy grabbed my arms and lifted up her head to look at me with awe. “You can do that?”

I nodded. “Yes, I can. But there’s a price to pay.” It wasn’t like in the comic books, Death and the Phoenix worked in concert, I was an avatar of life and she could refuse to hand me the souls of the departed. There were a lot of rules that I didn’t want to break for two hundred million strangers.

“And two hundred million was too much.” My girlfriend caught on immediately.

I nodded. “Exactly.” I kissed her forehead in reward.

Cindy closed her eyes in pleasure, her being radiating love and contentment. She opened her eyes and said, “Let’s forget about it, but hum babe, I don’t think you can go around calling yourself Phoenix anymore.”

That’s my favorite and official hero name though. “I see what you mean.”

“Do you have any other ideas…?”

Looking at the lab’s ceiling, I thought that if I couldn’t be Phoenix, I would be… “I’m going as Batwoman then.”

Cindy escaped my embrace, turned and shook her head. “There’s a comic book like that you can’t-”

A quirky smile spread across my lips. “I will buy DC comics, then I will call myself Batwoman.” No pesky copyright laws could do anything about it if I was the owner right? I’d be unstoppable. I would let the fuss die down, but I would use the name Phoenix again.

Cindy facepalmed. “Yeah… you are rich enough for that. Do what you want.”

I got off the table and tried to catch her but she fled down the engineering sector. After this game of tag, we made a tour of the gigantic lab while speaking about what our friends had been doing lately. I’d learned that there was trouble in paradise between Peter and Gwen- he’d become more annoying as time passed. It didn’t bode well, but something made me ask, “Cindy what color is Peter’s costume?”

“Hm, he went from red and blue to black and white, why?”

I halted for a second then ran at super speed to the containers I had placed in the lab earlier, I opened their doors and began to unload everything as delicately as possible. I felt Cindy arrive behind me, there was a question that she projected at me, loud enough for me to hear, <What’s the matter? Did I say something bad.>

Activating my life sight I looked for the meteorite with the other Klyntar sealed inside. “No you didn’t, but this is really bad.” I emptied every container and finally found it, it was just a piece of space rock and there wasn’t any life sign inside. I made it float toward us and Goldie became interested in what was happening, showing her head at the side of mine. I took the cracked meteorite in my hands and painfully closed my eyes, hoping to make the problem disappear. 

I felt Cindy poke my belly. “Jean?”

Opening my eyes, I blurted out, “We have a big problem.”

“Oh.” Cindy nodded yet she didn’t understand what the problem with the rock in my hands was.

“I know why Peter has become more assholish.” Yes, the guy was an asshole day and night but it didn’t make sense for him to be mean or horrible to Gwen- he loved the girl too much and considered her the only one worth dating in the entire world. He wouldn’t jeopardize that.

“I don’t have the time to go hunting for him, but I think you can.” I told her. 

This earned me a frown. “What happened to him?”

“You see Goldie?” Cindy nodded. “There’s another one like her. It’s a bit more delicate than her. I am a good host for her and she has been good to me.”

Just like spiderman in universe 616, our Peter was guilt ridden, self loathing and prone to sadness. He should just get over himself and move on. “But Peter?” I continued. “He isn’t a worthy host, there’s too much negative energy inside him and the Symbiote is going to amplify it and take control of him and worse could happen, it might turn him into a monster.”

I knew what a corrupt symbiote could do and it wasn’t pretty.

[Truthful: Corruption.] Goldie said aloud.

It was all I needed to say to Cindy; she was already wired and ready to go. “We need to go then?”

I shook my head, crossing my arms as  I watched her. “No, I am not going anywhere. But you will, I cannot leave, I have… responsibilities.”

And I didn’t trust myself not to hurt Peter. I needed to find balance again since I was too used to killing human beings.

“But he’s our friend!” Cindy shouted, and I sensed her shock at the idea that I  wasn’t trying to help Peter. The boy was cute but not that cute, I knew that I would need to do more than take the symbiote away from him, he would need an isolated place to go against the cravings of having been bonded to one.

I looked into her eyes and announced, “I have a clone of myself that I need to take care of.”

“YOU WHAT?!” Cindy’s mind was in turmoil as she contemplated my revelation.

“Come here.” I caught her and pulled her toward the corridor leading to my bedroom.

Cindy didn’t pull her hand away from mine, docile as I directed us both to my bedroom. Her mind was still blocking on the fact that I had a clone. I opened the door slowly and put my index finger on my lips and slowly walked up to the queen sized bed. Madelyn was sleeping, her chest rising and falling as she snored contentedly.

As she looked at my clone with wide eyes, Cindy began to shake, then she looked between me and the younger version of myself.

“How old is she?” Cindy’s voice was muted of all emotion but I felt the storm brewing within her.

“I don’t know, one moment.” I said and went to sit on the throne that activated immediately.

I consulted the file about Maddy and saw that she was three months old and had the potential of being an Alpha ranked metahuman. She was well developed and without defects for a clone that had been grown so fast. Well, I could see where my DNA started and where the bits of Elektra sensei were. It could be seen in her skin and how tall she was going to be.

Cindy waited for the verdict.

“She’s three months old.” I didn’t know she was that young. It indeed coincided with the time I found Elektra sensei.

Cindy turned to Maddy. “No… she looks just like she’s twelve or so.” She said in denial.

Cloning wasn’t that advanced outside my lab; Sinister had been a genius, something I could admit now that he was dead.

“She’s thirteen years old physically, and mentally she’s three years old. A baby.” I wasn’t letting Madelyn out of my sight, I couldn’t.

Cindy shook her head, her bangs obscuring her face, concealing her eyes from my sight. “I think this is too much for today.”

“I see, let’s get back to the lab, I will whip you up a new costume. You can’t take on the venom symbiote with Silk armor.” I looked meaningfully into her eyes.

Cindy had better powers than Peter, to be honest. Her Silk power set was combined with Miles Morales’ and that made her really strong.

As she looked at herself, Cindy pulled at the white webbing pressing on her body; it was so tight on her... “What’s wrong with it?”

I pulled my mind out of the gutter and decided to show her, I let Goldie turn one of my hands into battleform; my fingers turned into red claws and I walked up to her and sliced her half mask without cutting her face. “That’s what’s wrong with it.”

“Oh.” It seemed that she understood how dangerous a Klyntar battleform was.

My claws could tear through flesh, stones, could even cut through the strongest armor known to man. “Before going to see mom and you I was about to go make an armored costume for myself, but as I can’t go with you. I’m going to let you have one first.”

“But…” <What about you?>

I knew what she wanted to say, but I didn’t want her to fight Peter without any sort of protection. “Nothing can kill me on this planet beyond four people. Come follow me.”

We exited the bedroom through the corridor connected to the lab, silence our companion as we walked. My thoughts drifted to the costume I wanted to create. I knew that I wanted a UMF suit for Cindy and me, but not a normal one, it should be able to shapeshift.

*Shapeshift?* I caught Cindy’s hand and walked faster.

When we arrived at the labs, I headed straight into the genetics section and booted the main computer. Fortunately, before our confrontation, Sinister had resolved the problems with the generators that I put into the control computer. The feedback loops and intermittent power loss wouldn’t happen again. The computer booted up, automatically I was on the desktop and looked through the DNA sample database.

It was well organized and I knew where everything was. I could see that Sinister had met many aliens- Kree, Skrull, Alpha Centaurian…

I felt Cindy’s hair on my cheek as I searched. “Jean, what are you looking for?”

She was being distracting. “Shapeshifting, that is the key.” I answered absently.

“Shapeshifting?”

I finally found the folder with the complete study of Skrull DNA, and I clicked on the option telling me if I wanted to handle it directly. “Yeah the Skrull, Sinister met some and took a sample of their DNA. It’s in my memories, it’s how he got his own shapeshifting power.”

Standing up, I left the computer to go directly into the DNA bank. It was in another room, contiguous to the computer’s room. From the refrigerated steel shelves a vial was selected and I strode up to it. SS-01, or Skrull sample one. Just like I thought. When I turned, I saw Cindy’s arms wrapped around herself as though the place was terribly cold.

I cocked my head. “Is there something wrong?”

Cindy’s body shook with tremors. “How can you stand in here and not be cold?!”

“Huh? It’s cold?” Looking around attentively, I saw that there were indeed a lot of ice molecules in the air, the room seems to be cooled by a nitrogen cooling system. Stupid Sinister, this was a dangerous system… I made the vial float and orbit around me and let out my inner fire.

Cindy stepped back, watching  as my aura slowly raised the temperature around us. “Jean what happened to you?”

Walking up to her, I put a hand on her shoulder. “Like I told you I’m a Phoenix Avatar so… I can go to space easily, do you have any idea how cold it is up there?”

She stopped shaking as warmth seeped into her. “Let’s get out of here. It seems that you are not good with low temperatures.”

I felt her reluctance, but after a few beats she gave in, turning and quickly exiting. She was finally starting to register the differences between me from before and me from now. I had fused with Emily- or was it Emily who had fused with me? We mutually accepted this and formed this new being. Though it was actually my power that made her look at me like a different person.

The automatic door closing behind me, I settled on not letting  the matter rest. “Hey Cindy, are you okay?”

Cindy paused, then turned to me. “I am, it’s... just you surprised me, that’s all.”

I placed a hand on her shoulder again.“If you don’t feel at ease around me…” It would break my heart but I would let her go. I wasn’t the type of  person who would force others to stay with me.

“Shut up Jean.” She snapped, knocking my hand away. Cindy pulled me by my tank top collar and said more soothingly. “Like I told you, you surprised me. You changed a bit, but I’m not letting that little detail get between us, okay?”

Maybe I was reading too much into this? I smiled sheepishly. “Okay.”

We went to the scanning room where I took Cindy’s measurements and entered them into the central computer and rendered a virtual model of the half korean girl. Making a costume wasn’t difficult, there were programs to build armor on this computer, I would just use that. About fifteen minutes later a mannequin was made with the 3D printing machine.

It was made with Cindy’s exact measurements, I then proceeded to look at the model of exo armor I stole from Oscorp. There were a lot of those prototypes, I brought it to me with my TK and looked deep in it’s working. There were a lot of titanium fibers and some kind of fluid under the flexible plates overlaying it. Triple weave of the titanium dipped mesh.

Activating my life sight, I took the vial that was orbiting around me and looked through it. The DNA was really strange, completely different from what I was used to seeing in humans. However, I had access to Phoenix’ memories and she understood how it worked. Be it organic or inorganic, Skrulls were able to alter their forms into that of anything they could imagine. That was really interesting.

The DNA was flexible but prone to weakness, and there were limitations as the Shapeshifting of the Skrull could only take on the appearance of person and none of that person’s characteristics or, in the case of metahumans, their powers; in the case of inorganic objects, they took on its appearance, but not its properties.

*Still OP.* That shapeshifting was what I wanted the unstable molecules to be able to do for clothes and costumes. I knew how to make them theoretically. 

We were back in the forge. The Skrull DNA sample was back in orbit around me, then I focused on the vibranium ingots, and gripped three of them and made them float over a ladle the size of a man. I turned to Cindy and said, “Maybe you should step back a bit, it’s going to get… hot.”

Arching a brow, she obeyed. I wanted the ingots to melt and melt they did. I tried to isolate myself and the forge from the outside, I didn’t want to fry Cindy. I started with simple fire- blue flame to be exact- and the ingots warmed slightly. They didn’t melt. I turned up the heat to white flame which gave the same results. I glared at the ingots; they were taunting me. “Fine, cosmic flame it is.” I let out my cosmic fire and threw it at the ingots. I formed a force bubble around them and miracle, the silvery metal began to melt; I looked behind me, Cindy remained but was sweating a lot.

<You should go to my bedroom and take a bit of refreshment there.> I spoke to Cindy via telepathy.

She shook her head, even with the force-field protecting her and dampening the heat, it seemed unbearable to her. I could see her skin glowing with sweat. It was sexy. The ingots turned into molten metal and then I lowered the force bubble into the ladle. The metal poured into it and when it was full, I closed the lid. I then focused on the heat and gradually cooled the air by stilling the excited atoms.

*Iceman must feel like this all the time.*

After another hour I had to wait for the metal to arrive at a manageable temperature. I passed the time trying to see how I would start weaving the metal into fabric. Once the pure vibranium was liquid enough, I stored everything in the advanced 3D printer and let the computer do its magic. Two hours to have a prototype suit. One hour to have the base mesh suit made and another to implant circuitry inside for communication. I intended to transmute the suit into shapeshifting unstable molecules to marry the different qualities that I wished for it to have.

Meanwhile, I took Cindy with me to the kitchen attached to my apartment, offering her a drink. I had sports drinks, alcohol, and ingredients for cooking here. I didn’t know how Hans had done it, but I was happy that he had. Chimera visited us, curious about the new mind she could feel in the base.

Cindy and my second in command stared at each other for some time and I feared a fight would break out. It didn’t. 

“Boss, you have been awake for eight days now, maybe you should rest?”

It was worse, she had come to play mother hen. Cindy looked at me, and mouthed ‘boss?’ and I nodded. <She’s Chimera, my right arm in this base, she helped me kill Sinister. You can trust her, there’s Hans my butler and two others I forcibly recruited.>

She shook her head, crossed her arms over her chest and leaned against the bar.

Chimera, the blonde beauty, raised her chin toward Cindy. “And who is this?”

I glued myself to Cindy’s side. “My girlfriend, Cindy. Cindy, this is Chimera. I went back to new york to look for her, there’s trouble at home but I can’t leave Maddy so-”

Chimera glared at me. “What are you talking about? I can take care of Maddy, go with her if you are needed!”

I didn’t expect this and, as a result, Cindy looked happier all of a sudden. Still, I couldn’t just give in like that; the little girl had grown on me and I couldn’t just up and disappear. There was also the fact that dealing with Peter’s mess seemed like a bother; though I saw the point, I couldn’t just have a corrupt Klyntar on the planet.

I scowled at her. “But she might cry if she-”

She batted away my concerns, without even listening to them, with a wave of her hand. “Nonsense! She’s a good girl, if I explain things to her.”

I stared between Cindy and Chimera… the two were already in communication through telepathy. What the hell was happening? I knew this was going to cost me- helping Peter while in his current state was going to give me mental scars.

Cindy’s eyes were pleading at this point and I caved. “Fine I will go, but when she wakes up I will be there; I’m not leaving her alone, she wanted to meet her other genetic donor anyway.”

Fostering Maddy on Elektra might be good revenge. I smiled. “What do you think about guarding her in New York, Chimera?”

Chimera seemed thoughtful, then nodded. “That’s a great idea! I’ve never been to America before.”

Cindy shook her head as she must have guessed what I had in mind for sensei.

 

# # #

 

Cindy stayed until it was time to see the base of her vibranium tri-weave suit. She needed to contact the gang and inform them on what was happening to Peter. I was guessing the girls would miss school and conjure up some dastardly plan to keep the adults from asking questions. Mom was surely going to be part of the plot. I sent Cindy back into her room through a portal and that left me in the lab with her suit on the mannequin. 

It was completely black, and had no spiderweb patterns- at least not yet. It had the consistency and flexibility of an undersuit armor but knowing what I knew of the original Panther Habit made of normal vibranium weave in the MCU… it made the user completely bulletproof, near-indestructible, and able to withstand explosive impacts without noticeable damage. It was also lightweight and didn’t seem to inhibit mobility.

To test its durability, Goldie gave me my P226 pistol and I emptied a clip into it. I placed it down on the table and searched for damage. I came up empty. I smirked. My very first project seemed to be a success. I went to save the schematics in the computer’s database just in case I ran out of vibranium, I knew I didn’t have enough to make a complete armor for me, but Cindy was important to me, more so than a metal I was sure I could duplicate through transmutation.

The base suit made, I now wanted to test my unstable molecules transmutation process. As I didn’t have the machine necessary for it yet, I accessed Phoenix’ memories to see if there was a way to tweak our matter transmutation. The information was there but what it told me was that I was going to tire myself because of the artificial state of energy and matter of the substance I was going to create. 

I resolved to test the process by taking three body armors out of storage,- the ones the clone soldiers employed by Sinister had used. The first body armor simply disintegrated when I touched it. I went too fast.

*Calm down, this is a matter of control, you are not a destroyer right now, but a creator that seeks to protect a loved one.* I inhaled, then exhaled after revising what I wanted. Unstable molecules, a quirky configuration of atomic nuclei and electrons. I wanted to synthetize them. Taking the second armor in hand, I let the creation juice out and tweaked the armor at the subatomic level, and under my eyes a wave of energy spread all over the armor, fundamentally changing its composition.

When it stopped, the black body armor had gained a blue sheen and when I touched it, its form remained.  Squinting, I set my hand on fire and touched the armor, which suddenly mimicked its state and set itself on fire. I let go and the fire went out.

“Another win!” So it worked, now to see if I could add the shapeshifting.

I went to the third test armor and tried to duplicate my success and tried to combine the elements of Skrull; it went well at first, the energy spreading the change did just as expected but suddenly the armor began to disform as if cancerous cells were growing out of it! I took my hands away from it. The armor kept growing with no signs of stopping.

“Kill it with fire!” I spoke, unleashing my cosmic fire on it and started burning it.

It almost didn’t work as the suit was growing but the cosmic flames did their job and began to eat away at it. Thirty seconds later there was nothing left of the third armor. I let the cosmic fire burn even the residue, I guess the world wasn’t ready for it yet. 

*At least I have my first success.* I thought as I looked at the second armor recalling the process.

 

# # #

 

December 18th, 1996
05:09 AM, New York time

I was done, Cindy’s armor was complete. It was a replica of  the Silk spider morph suit, but it worked more like the Panther Habit, I had integrated retractable claws into it and a miniaturized communication system that was connected with my own that I had built in parallel in the form of a choker at the neck.

Nothing more complicated was added; I hadn’t wanted to ruin the suit and it should suffice for now. The next iteration would be even more advanced! Though, I did feel drained after all that thinking and crafting. I went to sit on the throne-like desk chair and closed my eyes to rest them for just a second, yes one second.

I saw a burning world, a battle fleet chasing after me and myself destroying them for their impudence. The destruction gave place to life as I lit the core of a dead planet that was being brought back to life and I willed the ocean into being and destined it to bear strong offspring. I flew into the void seeking what needed to be fixed or destroyed, bringing ruin to stagnation.

I jolted awake. Sweat covering me, the memories of destruction and creation alike eliciting strange instincts in me. Even if we had merged, there was still a period of acclimatization that I was under. But if I had those dreams every time I had to sleep it would get old really fast. Sitting straight I gazed at my surroundings, looking for anything amiss.

The cavernous space was still the same, the noise of machinery in the engineering sector was prevalent and despite that, I had slept like a log. Glancing at the time, I realized it was 06:01 AM and that I was late in wanting to be there for Maddy. I yawned, I felt hungry and icky at the same time.

It was time for breakfast. I teleported to my room, finding Chimera on my bed spooning my clone. Now I understood, Chimera treated Maddy like a doll, was it because she had had no childhood? I shrugged, and decided to test the bathroom facility.

It was divine, warm water cascading upon me and revitalizing me. That was until I felt the presence of Maddy and Chimera, their minds were no longer quiescent, they were awake. Smiling, I cut my shower short and dried myself with a thought, doing the same for the shower cabin. Goldie chose another tactical outfit for me, this time in red. Leather jacket, black t-shirt and a pair of tight jeans with warm and comfy boots.

Strangely this time, Goldie didn’t add any weapons and I asked her why.

[Derision: Civilization, not needed.]

I would have to make do with my own powers, I guessed. And it had been a while since I went into Klyntar battle form but I felt that it was ready at a moment’s notice. I opened the door leading to the bedroom, Maddy was indeed awake and she was trying to get Chimera to let go of her.

She looked at me with pleading eyes. “Mother Jean she doesn’t want to let go.”

I released a sigh, heading over to the bed and telling her,“Poke her in the arms or belly.”

Madelyn obeyed and poked Chimera who was feigning sleep. Still, the blonde held on, so B I tickled her with psionic hands and she opened her eyes while laughing. “I surrender!”

“Good, now why don’t we go have breakfast?” I asked, noticing Madelyn’s eager expression at my suggestion. 

However, it wasn’t yet time for her to think about filling her belly as the tall blonde intervened. “Bathroom first!” Chimera shouted with a fist in the air, she loaded a shrieking Madelyn onto her shoulders and left for their ablutions.

The room was empty and I was left alone with my thoughts. “Well I guess it’s my turn to feed the troops.”

Thirty minutes later, I was in the kitchen preparing breakfast for everyone. I doubted that Hans, Regan or Philippa would acclimate to my current schedule, they were used to Egyptian time but if they looked for food they would find it here. Today I chose to go with the classics, eggs, bacon, sausage and pancakes.

The skillet was sizzling as I was finishing the last batch of bacon. I wasn’t surprised to see Maddy coming, all clean and her hair resplendent, completely different from mine. Something twitched on my scalp and I found my hair growing visibly.

[Smug satisfaction: You’re welcome.]

*Couldn't you have done that earlier?*

[Apologetic: Not enough nutrients, insufficient essence. Now there is.]

And that was that. My hair had lengthened and grown to reach my waist. Goldie didn’t just grow it, she even repaired the split ends I had developed and modified the shade to a scarlet luster.

Madelyn looked at me in wonder, then twirled one of her own strands of hair.“We are matching!”

“Sure baby, we are. Now come grab a bite.” A pause. Then I flinched, realizing I’d said exactly what my mom told me every morning of my life.

Shaking my head, I tried not to think about that, setting down a plate of pancakes before Madelyn, decked in maple syrup. Fortunately, I cut them in bites beforehand. Chimera entered, her outfit different from earlier. It now consisted of a green short tank top showing her midriff, leather pants and cute heels.

“There’s still some left?” My subordinate asked, the scream of her stomach clearly audible for Madelyn and I.

I pointed a finger at the stack of pancakes. “Still making some more, knock yourself out.”

As I made more food, I felt three more minds awaken, but they stayed firmly where they were. I guessed they weren’t that hungry; metahumans were a strange bunch, they were humans and sometimes not. Having power changed one’s thought process completely. After a hearty breakfast, Chimera left to search for a coat for Madelyn.

As for me, I decided to go outside and gather ore in the desert outside the valley. As I collected enough, I transmuted the collected metal into an oval portable crystal cage by manipulating its molecular structure by shedding electrons to form positive ions. I now had a symbiote container. Once Goldie purified venom, I would force it into stasis.

I teleported into the lab and grabbed Cindy’s spider suit. Doing so, I used my TK to style my hair into a loose ponytail. Sooner or later I would need the help of a professional, I was rich enough to have it taken care of. Madelyn in a big black winter coat with fur trimming around the hood, Chimera in a windproof green winter coat and Hans waited for me in the lab, by the forge.

“Hans? It’s kinda early for you.” I noted, looking at his pajamas.

I smirked; he wore pajamas. He clearly understood my thoughts and rolled his eyes. “Jean, you should have told me you were ready to sortie again.”

“Sorry, but something has come up.” Cindy wanted me to save Peter.

I still asked myself why I was bothering to go. *Because you would have liked someone to save you when you were younger.* My traitorous mind answered.

“Are you going to kill someone? Or raid a base?” Hans didn’t even question the morality of my actions anymore, that was how awesome he was. Though his tone was flippant when he asked me this.

“No, save a friend.” Hans’ eyes widened in surprise, then he smiled. “Interesting, it changes from your usual M.O.”

I frowned at that. “Hey!” Just because I crushed an army by myself didn’t mean I should get used to it!

Hans then looked at how disorganized the lab was, grimacing with disgust. “I guess I will have to establish some form of order to all this chaos. If you’ll excuse me.” He left striding like a big cat out of the lab.

“Argh.” That man was infuriating!

Chimera, meanwhile, looked at Hans’ posterior. I bopped her behind the head with my TK. “Do you need a fire hose to calm you down?”

Chimera raised her hands to placate me. “No, Boss. I am good.” 

“Hmph, that’s what I thought.” I turned my head and tried to ignore her but Chimera laughed at me. I sighed, you couldn’t find good help all the time huh.

“Maddy, are you ready to meet your other mom?”

“Yes!” She threw a fist in the air, almost falling because of the massive coat on her small frame. That was cute… I shook my head with a smirk on my face and opened a portal to Elektra’s dojo. I could see the snowfall while it was still dark. A wave of cold spread into the lab. “Well let’s go.”

 

# # #

(Elektra Natchios)

USA, New York, Queens
Elektra’s dojo
07:12 AM

Elektra woke up hearing the door to the dojo open. In silence she took two Sai from under her pillows and left the bed. She heard creaks from the wood panelings on the other side. Elektra didn’t need to get clothes, as she always slept in comfy yet practical outfits when she wasn’t with Matt- if he was there the two of them would stay in the nude.

The shinobi already exited her bedroom to go into the living room. She was surprised the Hand would bother looking for her now; she had ramped up her training as they had been pushy lately. Madame Gao was an impatient shrew. Elektra hoped this wasn’t another capture attempt on her, or she’d show no mercy if that was the case; some people should have a sense of propriety and not bother someone this early.

Feeling someone behind the door leading out of her living space, Elektra opened the sliding door separating her apartment from the dojo and struck with her Sai that was deflected by… claws? Someone with considerable skills, and when her foe revealed herself she couldn’t believe her eyes.

*Jean?*

The red hair and the green eyes were a dead giveaway, nevertheless, Elektra continued her assault and attempted to clock the girl on the temple with the butt of her Sai but it was deflected again. The girl before her was taller, older and had a similar physical build to her. Elektra dared not hope yet, as she was familiar with clones and lookalikes. Elektra had to be sure this young woman was her beloved student.

She lunged and delivered a series of punches and kicks that would have left Jean struggling when they had spared the last time. They were all deflected or evaded. The redhead retreated into the dojo, giving Elektra more space to fight in. The shinobi turned around the young woman and looked for an opening there were none, all of a sudden, the redhead attacked with a punch that Elektra sidestepped and caught a knee strike in her free hand.

At the last moment, Elektra avoided a headbutt that would have done some damage if she hadn’t seen it coming and retreated five meters from the redhead. She was stronger, and her reflexes were superior to Jean’s but the cocky smile plastered on her face? It was unmistakably Jean.

The shinobi’s body filled with her chi, reinforcing her muscles, allowing short little breaths to fill her lungs. Her two Sai twirled in her hands as she jumped at her opponent who mimicked her and had her claws out. As they met a flurry of evasions, feints and counters began. Motes of yellow and ephemeral chi swirled around Elektra’s weapons and was met by the golden hued chi of her opponent who decided to disarm her, Elektra let her but she snaked her arm around the redhead’s arm and they were immediately on the ground.

Elektra straddled the young woman with her Sai on her neck. She had won. Elektra had never doubted that her martial skills would be surpassed by her student. Jean had refined her technique, moved almost like her even, but she had always been a bit more brutish and willing to get hurt. Elektra knew Jean inside and out, despite her new tricks and superior advantage, the young woman had lost to experience.

“Hello sensei.” The voice was Jean’s, an older version of her.

She had no doubt left that this rather different Jean was the real deal. Elektra permitted herself a smile, her battle lust giving place to the jovial and quirky teacher that the young woman knew.

Elektra removed her Sai from Jean’s neck and congratulated her. “You have gotten stronger beyond my wildest dreams. Who taught you to circulate chi?”

The greek woman put a naked hand on Jean’s collar bone, pushing her own chi into her and was surprised to see that her student had so much of the life giving energy in her body. It was like she was a fountain that kept on giving. Elektra took her hand away from Jean who didn’t get upset at her teacher touching her chest.

“Would you believe me if I told you that Goldie did?” The redhead said as if in jest.

Elektra glared. “No.”

*This is dangerous, Jean has opened all her energy centers. I am teaching a gifted student and the Chaste may come knocking if they become aware of her… right not if, when.* Elektra stood, offering Jean a hand to pull her up. 

*The Hand might get an interest in Jean too, Madam Gao would use her to hurt me or to bring me back into the fold.*

Jean took it, chuckling. “Ah too bad, she’s the one though.” She then began to dust herself off.

Elektra still didn’t believe her, but it wasn’t important. What she needed to do was teach Jean how to mask her inner chi. “You are still a journey woman.” Elektra declared. “Your next training sessions and spars are going to be harsher with me and Matt.”

Jean shook her head and cried out, “Urgh. No, please, not yet!”

Elektra laughed, this was it. How she had missed those interactions with her favorite student, torturing her mentally and pushing her buttons was still as fun as she remembered. “Jean?”

“Sensei?”

Elektra engulfed Jean in her embrace and held onto her tightly. “I knew you’d escape, you are my student.”

The shinobi felt herself being patted on the back. Jean’s voice was tight with emotions when she spoke, “Thanks, I knew you’d believe in me.”

Elektra then stepped back from her student, still holding onto her hands. She remembered where she had seen the type of eyes her student now had. Those were the eyes of a killer, she knew her precious student had killed a lot of people already, but Jean didn’t seem to be well at all. “How many?”

“What?” Jean frowned.

Elektra asked again, tightening her hold on Jean’s hands. “How many did you kill to be free?”

Elektra saw the easy going teenager persona melt like snow under the Sahara’s sun and be replaced by a cold blooded killer. There was sadness in those eyes, reluctance to do harm but she would be able to dish out punishment as needed.

“I make Hitler, Mao and Stalin look like kindergarteners.” Jean admitted, brutally honest. Elektra released Jean’s hands in shock, her mind reeling and her brain leaping to the only event with the biggest body count in history. “The falling? That was you?”

Jean looked down and nodded. “I was partially responsible.” Her voice was small, so unlike Jean Grey. 

Elektra placed her Sai in the elastic band of her shorts and began vigorously massaging her temples. “I need coffee.”

“Before that, sensei… I have something important to tell you.” Jean interrupted her.

Elektra stared at the problem child before her. “Which is?”

“We have a daughter.”

Another younger redhead, in a black winter that consumed her, stepped out from the darkness of the dojo and smiled nervously at Elektra. “Hi, mother Elektra.”

With a smooth movement Elektra’s Sai was clutched in her hand and pressed against Jean’s throat again. “Jean, explain now… or I will stab you.” The assassin in her woke up and for the first time since meeting Jean, her tone now cold and dangerous.

The older redhead gulped loudly.

 

# # #

Back with Jean…

For an hour, I had to tell her everything that had happened to me- waking up with a broken back, Goldie being instrumental in my escape, how she healed me and taught me how to circulate my chi, how I cheated with the Phoenix to get to this level of Chi manipulation. How I used some of her teachings and knowledge to sow chaos and used it to create distractions and feints to keep my foe unbalanced. To lower the clones’ morale.

Chimera sat with us in the living room, nodding her head repeatedly as I described what I did. Elektra had Madelyn’s head on her thigh and was caressing her hair absently. It had taken barely twenty minutes for the little girl to win her over. The folder and blood sample with Madelyn’s genetic information and her general health were opened on the table; I was happy to have thought about that actually.

Elektra would be able to ascertain the truth. It took me a bit of time to finish my story on the bacteria calling itself Sublime and the effects it was having on humanity. Elektra looked horrified by the organism’s possession powers and the things it seemed to have pushed some governments to do. Because yes, why would I keep silent about the Weapon X program? It was a horrible dirty secret of the US government that I would expose to the light in due time.

“I… thank you for being straight with me.” Elektra sensei inclined her head slightly. 

I never lied to her, not once. “I promised you that I would tell you the truth when you took me on as a student.”

There were emotions akin to longing, loss and resignation swirling inside sensei. She put words into her feelings, her smile sad. “But you don’t seem to need me anymore?”

I glared at her; I was not a quitter. Killing Sinister did not mean I wouldn’t have other assholes after me, trying to control me. “Bullshit, you think I want to stay a journey woman martial artist forever? You are the best, sensei. I would never settle for anything but the best. And to be frank with you, I have too much power…”

Hope burned suddenly in Elektra, but she still held onto her emotional resignation like a free hug sign. “Oh really?”

Shaking my head, I stood up, my gaze piercing. “I want to be like you. To know how to use my natural advantages. I will have separate training for my powers.” I held out a fist, making  it glow with Chi.

Elektra nodded, understanding. “The path to mastery never ends, Jean.”

I rolled my eyes. “I am immortal now, it doesn’t scare me. But I want you to guide me on this road.”

I wouldn’t have it any other way- yes, she may scare me and go too far in training but she cared for me. Matt still didn’t like me, Black Widow would be too much of a hassle to track down and I wanted to help Sensei survive her final confrontation with the Hand intact and stick it to the Chaste deep in their collective asses.

Elektra sensei remained thoughtful for another five minutes. Madelyn was like a little cat being taken care of by her second genetic mother. Chimera was playing with her powers creating mini dragons floating around Madelyn’s head.

Sensei lifted her head and said aloud, “Very well, we shall continue your instruction.”

I pumped a fist in the air. “Yes! Thank you sensei, you won’t regret it!”

“You are a good student.” Elektra sensei was lavish in her praises.

<Jean we need help, can you come? Cindy is having a hard time convincing Gwen.> Jessica said in my mind from afar,and  I located her instantly finding she was at… was that home? Yes it was.

My head turned to Sensei who seemed to be concerned by my reaction. “I need to go, Jessica is calling me.”

I had told sensei why I was back in New York, she approved. Peter needed help, as he had become a rather more violent vigilante than before. That wouldn’t do...

“I will keep your friend and Maddy safe.” Elektra sensei said, she was already going to spoil the girl...

I slightly bowed, and added a formal tone to my voice. “Thank you, sensei.”

Turning toward the dojo, I left the living room and went to get my girlfriend’s costume and the symbiote prison. *Peter you better be thankful when I am done with you.*

 

# # #

(Gwendolyne Stacy)

 

Grey Penthouse
08:55 AM

“Do you have any proof?” Gwen tone was mocking. 

She couldn’t believe what she was hearing, and that she was playing hooky from school. *There goes my perfect attendance score.* She thought that her Mother was right, friends derail the most well laid scholastic plans.

Gwen sighed, thinking about all the problems she’d faced with her boyfriend for the last month. Problems that were supposed to be the fault of some kind of symbiotic amorphous alien life form. Peter had been nearly insufferable and rude since Jean had disappeared. Even Mrs Grey had a bad time believing them but she had that thoughtful expression on her face as she remembered something.

Nevertheless, the simple fact that Jessica and Cindy thought that it was true played in her mind. The simple fact that she had powers had changed the way Cindy interacted with the world. Gwen had noticed that Cindy was into embroidery and sewing without using any needles. As for Jessica, she was kind of more subdued without Jean; her best friend and the one who helped her embrace her powers and herself. The pink haired girl spent her time flying over New York at night, her new hobby.

Jessica was on the red leather sofa, her eyes closed in concentration. She reopened them, looking straight at Gwen with an impish smile. She straightened her red colored skirt and said, “I do, brace yourself.”

“Hm?” Gwen rolled her eyes, but at the same time she felt someone breath in her ear and she stood up in surprise.

She turned and saw someone she heard was alive and kicking but hadn’t been to see her at all. Gwen stared up at Jean, with all her long red hair and… her vision blurred. Those were tears flowing from her eyes. All of a sudden she found herself engulfed in Jean’s arms. “Heya, Gweny.”

Gwen held tightly onto her friend. “Jean, I thought…”

Jean caressed her blonde hair and said soothingly, “I’m alive, I escaped.”

The blonde pixie stepped out of Jean’s embrace and looked at her. She found her redheaded friend to have changed. “You’re taller, more muscular. What happened to you? Your hair is kinda bothering me, it’s too long.”

Jean took on a sad expression, sliding her fingers through her hair. “Yes, do you know a good hairdresser?”

As a matter of fact there was her favorite hair salon and other places that her mother brought her to for different situations. “Mom does!”

Jean had met Mrs Stacy earlier before her kidnapping and the two hit it off. Another sign she may have made a mistake by stopping her pursuit in her and letting Cindy win the redhead’s heart. Gwen eyed the half korean girl who glared at her for monopolizing her girlfriend.

Jean slapped Gwen’s shoulder delicately and announced, “Let’s table a girl’s day out in the calendar when we are done with Peter.”

Gwen looked as a big silver suitcase flew through the air toward Cindy who caught it. Jean threw her a thumbs-up, earning a smile from Cindy. Then she disappeared upstairs as fast as she could.

Jean took Gwen’s hand and pulled her toward the sofa. The blonde girl directly got to the point. “By the way, what’s this I hear about alien symbiotes? That it influenced Peter into becoming that… that douchie…”

“It’s true.” Jean confirmed, all serious. 

*Shit if Jean says it’s true…* Jean had always been frank with her. It was something she really liked about her- how she was honest with the people she cared for.

Gewn blinked, then found a golden goo-like thing oozing from Jean’s arm and forming a head with eyes and very scary long teeth. “This is Goldie, my partner.”

“Aaaaaaaaaah!!!!” a strident scream escaped Gwen at the sight of the symbiote who rippled at the sound of the girl’s voice.

Goldie wrapped a tentacle around Gwen’s right hand, frantically trying to make it let go of her. “Get it off! Get it off!”

The symbiote relented, seeming hurt by the dislike from Gwen, returning into Jean. Jessica didn’t know whether to laugh or be mad at Jean as she had received the same treatment months ago. Loyalty to her other girl friend won out. “Jean that wasn’t cool!”

Goldie peered at Gwen looking to see if she was still scared. The little blonde sauntered away from the sofa.

Jean shrugged and smiled, “Sorry. Goldie come back!” She apologised, not looking sorry one bit. The symbiote returned inside her host without a sound.

“What the fuck?!” Gwen shouted as she pointed at Jean and the monster she was harboring.

Fortunately for everyone, the voice of reason interrupted the shouting match that was brewing. “Language young lady!”

All of the girls looked at the Grey matron with sheepish expressions or guilt.

It was Jessica who apologized to her first. “Huh, sorry Mrs E.”

Elaine Grey eyed each of them who were averting eye contact with her. Jean herself tried to look innocent but failed. “Teenagers. So Jean that’s your secret? Oh, and where’s my hug?”

Gwen looked at Jean and her mother, who didn’t seem to mind the alien monster in their midst. The woman seemed to have nerves of steel.

“Sorry… mom.” Jean stood up from the sofa, going over to her mother and embracing her in a hug, her mother not wanting to let go of her. 

Gwen was still shaken by the proof that they weren’t alone in the universe. “Jean… that… What..?”

Jean sat at her mother’s side, sighing heavily before giving Gwen an explanation. “Symbiotes are real, Goldie is benevolent because I treat her like a person. She’s also part of me, she saved my life and was instrumental in my escape. I wouldn’t be here without her. Symbiotes amplify what people are deep down, I think that I’ve gotten more prideful since I got Goldie...”

Gwen was smart- one of the smartest girls in this room beside Jean- and she understood the ramifications of what Jean was telling her. Peter was a sweet guy, as smart as her but prone to procrastination and subject to self loathing and survivor’s guilt after what happened to his uncle. Then there was his activities as a vigilante born from the need of wanting to do the right thing.

“Then Peter?” Gwen said aloud as she understood that deep down Peter may have let his dark side win out.

Jean crossed her legs and folded her arms, looking rather detached from the situation. “Let’s not sugarcoat it. Peter is an asshole, and you are one of the only people, along with May he bothers being civil with.”

Gwen closed her eyes, aware of that. The simple fact that he had treated Jean like dirt the first time they interacted after she gave him her condolences was proof. It had tainted any amicable relationship they would have, because Jean was prideful and didn’t give second chances easily.

Jean continued, “He should have gotten over himself after his uncle’s death, but he kept guilt tripping himself because he let the guy who killed Ben go without stopping him. If you weren’t there Gwen he would keep pushing everyone else away until he was completely alone, or worse end up under the foot of another woman like Mary Jane Watson.”

This was the first time Gwen heard of that. *That’s why! He should have told me, or told May! He thinks he killed Ben...*

Jean stood, pacing between the sofas. “He must treat his symbiote like a thing, a costume that gives him better advantages. And that isn’t how you treat them… they can become corrupted and eat their host if they are unworthy.”

The golden symbiote’s head appeared on a tendril out of Jean’s shoulder. [Truthful: Corrupted, need cleansing.]

Everyone turned to Jean n for the answer of what the seemingly telepathic symbiote was saying. Gwen couldn’t believe that everyone wasn’t more wary of the alien after discovering it was telepathic! “Think of the cleansing as resetting a computer to factory settings. A complete blank. But the problem is weaning the host from the Symbiote’s influence on his body. I won’t lie to you, it’s gonna be hard Gwen.”

“So… it’s not Peter’s fault?” Gwen questioned, hope laced in her voice. 

Jean snorted. “Oh believe me, it’s his fault. But the Venom symbiote influenced his base instincts, so I will give him a pass, as you should. For now, Peter needs a good ass kicking. Wanna help?” the redhead smiled at Gwen.

Gwen looked eagerly at Jean, a vicious glint in her eyes. “When do we start?” She didn’t want to feel useless, and wanted to do something to help her boyfriend.

“This afternoon.” Jean told her as her red jacket disappeared inside herself, leaving her tight black tank top. “But first, I’m going to give you superpowers.”

Gwen reacted to that with a thrill of excitement. “Huh? How…?”

“Easy, you just have to lay on this sofa and I will do the rest.” Jean walked up to her and pulled her to the big sofa.

Gwen let herself be handled by the redhead. “Fine…”

Jean put a hand on her forehead and Gwen was asleep in no time, wondering what type of power she would be given, she didn’t want spider ones like that bitch, Cindy.

 

# # #

 

15 minutes later…

Gwen woke up with a headache and a sore body.She was sweating and feeling rather warm. Her vision was blurry and… perfect. It was different before as she had damaged her eyes through reading excessively. The white walls and the comfy red leather sofa told her she was still at Jean’s. Carefully sitting up, she noticed that she was alone in the living room.

She stood up and found herself jumping into the ceiling, slamming into it. Gwen fell back on the ground and ended up crushing the low table. The noise garnered attention to her as she heard footsteps coming from the upstairs and quickly tried to get out of the ruined wooden furniture.

Cindy was the first to arrive, wearing a black and white quality costume with some kind of red half-face mask with black webbing patterns that looked like a ninja mask out of mortal kombat.

“Hey, I liked that table.” Jean arrived behind Cindy, looking rather cross with her blonde friend.

“Hmm, we shouldn’t have left her alone.” Elaine Grey shook her head at the sight of her crushed low table.

Gwen looked in panic from the broken table to the cracked ceiling, then stared at Jean. “What’s happening to me?”

The redhead chuckled, levitating toward her. “Well, Gweny. I gave you a variant of the FISS package.”

“FISS?” Gwen repeated, her voice shrill.  She didn’t even understand what it meant.

Jean threw a fist at Gwen at super speed, the blonde caught it. There was a little shockwave spreading from them making all the crystal figurines on the furniture jump or fall. “Flight, Invulnerability, Strength, Speed.”

“Wow.” Gwen released Jean’s fist to stare at her hands. Her body was still aching from getting messed with and she still didn’t understand how Jean could manipulate DNA and genes without equipment but it was worth it; she had powers now.

Jean floated in the air, making a gesture to Gwen to follow her. “Your body couldn’t handle more of the DNA manipulation, I had to reduce the efficiency of the power set, I didn’t want my friend to turn into goo. So, you have flight, you can fly as fast as me, but you are as durable as Jessica, I tested, your skin is as dense as hers.”

Gwen focused, wanting to fly. She lurched into the air following Jean’s trail, laughter bursting from her. The redhead continued to speak, explaining what she did to Gwen. “You have super strength, you can lift something like thirty tonish? And you’re fast and agile with augmented reflexes.”

Jessica chose to interrupt. “So she’s SuperGwen?”

Everyone in the room stopped and looked at Jessica who kept laughing at the name. But Jean didn’t and put on a thoughtful expression. “Yeah, damn I like that name.”

"Welcome to metahumankind, Gweny." Jean announced.

Right then, someone chose to rain on their parade, not sounding happy. “Jean before leaving to save your friend, you better clean the living room.” Elaine Grey commanded.

Jean’s smile wilted and she felt the glowering eyes of her mother trained on her. “Yes… ma’am.”

They proceeded to do just that. Jean fixed the table, making it good as new by reassembling it at the molecular level. The girls helped place all the crystal figurines back in their place to let them take in the light from the sun. They all watched as Jean fixed the cracks in the ceiling.

Elaine nodded, satisfied everything was in place. “Good, now I’m going to call Peggy. She needs to know that you are back.”

Gwen saw as Jean sped and found herself before her mother, her hands grasping her shoulders, her eyes panicked. “Mom! No! She’s going to-”

A glare from Elaine stopped her cold. “I don’t care what you think you are doing playing ghost, but that woman was worried sick for you. She likes you and you owe it to her to let her know that you are alive and well.”

Jean pulled her hands back from her mother’s shoulders as if she had been burned. But she found the courage to look into her mother’s eyes. “Yes mom, I understand though. I think it’s time to end our relationship with SHIELD, living under scrutiny has become... bothersome. I found countless cameras and microphones of various sizes in the penthouse.  We are going to have to move, again.”

Gwen, Jessica and Cindy all gasped at the clear invasion of privacy. They understood Jean’s stance- she wanted out.

“I guessed that you wouldn’t.” Elaine nodded, not as fond of this house as the one in Annandale. She had only stayed for Jean. 

Jean continued on, hopeful that her mother was listening. “I’ve seen a good manor North of my school, it has thirty rooms, we will go see it later when everything is settled, okay?”

Elaine stared at her daughter as if she were crazy. “We don’t need a place that big…”

Gwen told herself the same, the Grey family didn’t need such a big place and Elaine didn’t seem to be the kind to flaunt their money. She knew that the Greys were well off but not that much.

“I am anticipating some needs we will have, don’t worry.” Was Jean’s excuse.

Elaine sighed, leaving the room as she knew she’d lose this argument with her daughter. She had plans and all she could do was help Jean realize them. The redhead turned to her superpowered group of girls.

“Okay girls let’s go plan how we will take down Pete!”

Gwen nodded, eager to get back at Peter and make him turn back to the sweet guy he had been before.

 

# # #

(Peter Parker)

 

Forest Hills
Parker Residence
04:45 PM

Peter felt danger as he stepped into his house. The darkness in the living room slowly encroached upon him and his spider senses were on full alert. He almost let himself change into his black costume, as he noticed that there were noises coming from upstairs. Oh so slowly, he went up the stairs; they didn’t creak as he did maintenance on the house in Ben’s stead since he died.

The young man heard voices- female voices- speaking about his computer and how he had built it. He recognized Gwen and… *Grey?*

He ran up the stairs, pushing the door to his bedroom open, finding Gwen on his bed straddled by Jean who was looking into her eyes. The fury that consumed him at the sight made him irrational. His body rippled and black goo oozed out of him as he entered directly into his battleform. As he was about to launch himself at the two cheating bitches, something happened to his costume that began to seize and shake.

Vrrrrrrrrrr. A strident noise rang out, finally registering to his ears. The source of the noise was brought near his head, his costume peeling off him, leaving him in his own clothes. Peter was on his knees, his vision blurred as the sound kept making him feel faint. A feminine silhouette on the ceiling kept pointing a device at him. Now he understood what his spider senses were telling him, he was being hunted by his own friends.

At this point, his symbiote left him completely to protect itself and was scooped up with an invisible force into some kind of glass prison. Even through the blurry forms he could see Jean walking toward him. Without thinking, he lunged at her. It was so sudden that he caught her and they ended up opening a hole in his bedroom wall.

CRASH.

As they were in midair, Peter was caught by the back of the collar of his t-shirt and felt himself fall. “Quick, go put Venom into stasis!”

Peter was smashed into the backyard of his home by someone he recognized to be Gwen. His vision sharpened and he saw her wearing some kind of all black tactical clothing, jacket, tight top, khaki pants and combat boots. She looked like a little of a girl playing army.

“Peter, don’t fight.” His girlfriend asked, and it felt more like a plea. Peter shook his head.

He had trouble thinking, feeling weaker and cold without his symbiote. He hadn’t felt the cold for so long with his symbiote and now it was bone chilling. “Gwen? What the hell are you doing? What were you…. With Grey?!”

Gwen blushed, then looked awkwardly at him and waved her hand, as if dismissing his concern. “Ah that? It was to get you mad and to make mistakes.”

Peter shook his head. “I don’t understand, since when was she back?” He still had an urge to kick Jean’s ass for making a pass at his girlfriend in his own home… in his bed. His knuckles cracked at the mere thought of it as he tightened his hands into fist.

Gwen slowly walked up to him. “That’s not important, Peter. Are you going to fight us?”

Peter snorted at the notion. Gwen wasn’t a fighter but an egghead. “Fight? As if you could-” His spider senses warned him and he moved his head to the right avoiding being punched in the face by Gwen.

She attempted to knee him in the groin but he jumped to avoid it. What he couldn’t understand was how she followed him into the air and clocked him in the stomach, sending him crashing into the palisade. When he righted himself, Peter saw that Jean was also with Gewn and she screamed, “Symbiote neutralized!”

Peter watched as the redhead held onto the oval form of the crystal container they had put his symbiote in. The container simply disappeared from her hand. That instilled panic in him. Peter didn’t have his web shooter, he had used his symbiote to store his gadgets. Now he had nothing to take them back. He didn’t care, though, and ran fast enough to avoid Gwen and Jessica and not let them catch him and jumped high into the hole in his house only to be kicked out by Cindy who swung from within, she slammed her feet into him. 

“Hnnnggg.” Peter cried out.

Then he felt himself being slammed in the back, landing face first in the snow. He felt an arm snake around his neck and his arms being forced behind his back.

“Got him.” Jessica said from behind him. 

Peter clenched his jaw, angry he was being manhandled by a bunch of girls! “No, you don’t.” He told her before he freed his arms and shoulder checked Jessica, reversing their position. He didn’t punch her, still holding some kind of feeling that it was a bad idea. Jumping back he was confronted with Jean that looked down on him from up in the air.

“Coward, come down here!” Peter raged as he saw her, his facial features deforming into a rictus of rage.

“Oh?” Jean levitated down and landed before him.

Peter glanced behind him, Jessica and Gwen staying back as if they knew something he didn’t. He put his eyes back on his perceived enemy, only to barely avoid the haymaker that would have rattled him down to his bones as the missed punch displaced air. He kicked her in the guts at the same time, eliciting a grunt from her but she caught his leg. With a shove, she sent him into the door  only for him to recover midair and land on the beam supporting the little porch leading inside the house. He jumped at Jean who lunged at him too and clocked him on the shoulder, and caught his torso between her legs and heaved him under her and they slammed into the snow.

Jean began to punch him in the face, using enough force to kill a grown man. Peter caught her fist and punched her in the kidney and she rolled away from him. This was the first time that Peter had to fight someone as relentless as him, he took damage and Jean seemed to take his best hit with aplomb. Though he hit her with enough restraint that it seemed to not work. Could Jean be as durable as him. He thought so.

“Okay, I gave you what you wanted, a fisticuff bout, but now I’m bored.” Jean said as she loosened her stance.

Peter frowned, his rage still blinding him to certain facts. “What are you talking about?”

Jean tilted her head. “Peter, you know that I’m just humoring you, right? I don’t have to fight you in close combat or anything.”

Suddenly, Peter felt himself being grasped by an invisible hand that caught him. His spider senses were useless as he felt himself being caught by all sides. In his fury, he’d forgotten what type of power Jean possessed. “Shit. Are you-”

“I’m sorry Peter, you may hate me, but your wellbeing matters to me and others. Just a tinsy bit for me.” Jean showed a one inch space between her index and thumb. “After all, the world needs a balanced and sane Peter Parker. That stint with the symbiote? It’s not going to happen again, you better forget it, you aren’t worthy of such power in your current state.”

“The hell are you saying? It is mine! I found it.” He told her, shouting. 

“Well, Peter, you continue to prove me right. Did you think your symbiote was the only one in circulation?” Jean’s body oozed a gold symbiote that covered her entire body. She entered into her own battleform.

It was attractive and much better looking than his all black look. Once again, he was confronted with the fact that Jean Grey was better than him. Everything he seemed to have for himself she seemed to do better, his parents were dead, she still had hers even with siblings that cared for her. Better powers, and now she had a better symbiote.

“Wow, you make everything about you, don’t you? You don’t deserve Gwen, after what you put her through too.”

“Jean can you finish it please? We have places to be.” Jessica hollered from the back.

“Fine.” Jean’s right hand lit up with electric arcs. “I’m sorry it’s gonna hurt, Peter. I’m respecting your willpower and toughness, I’m not going to go easy on you. I died twice already.”

“Fuck you and your-” His cussing was interrupted by the lightning shot at him and electrocuting him into unconsciousness.

 

# # #

(Gwendolyn Stacy)

 

Gwen watched as Jean didn’t take any chances with Peter and anesthetized him and put him into heavy cuffs. She made him float toward Gwen and she loaded her boyfriend on her shoulder in a fireman carry, she didn’t even feel his weight. *Having superpowers sure rocks.*

“He is kinda tough. I don’t think I could beat him in pure combat yet.” Jean commented as though  she was disappointed by the results of her battle.

Gwen felt that she made a good showing, but Peter was rather strong too and a quirky opponent. The thought that he didn’t even believe her a threat was grating and kind of made her want to slap him for it.

“Yeah, he was really strong but also reluctant to hit me.” Jessica piped up, massaging her collar bone where Peter shoulder checked her.

Jessica chuckled and looked at her blonde friend who seemed a bit dejected. “He didn’t even look mad at Gwen.”

Jean said absently, “No, he didn’t. Deep down he doesn’t feel that he is worthy of Gweny.” She was fixing the damage from their battle in the garden.

Gwen frowned at that. “How do you know that?” Jean had always been making statements like that but today it bothered her. Jean always presumed to know how someone felt or thought… then something dawned on Gwen.

*Is Jean a telepath?* She shouted from the confine of her own mind.

Jean flinched then, as though she’d heard something. Sighed heavily she said aloud to Gwen, “Well, surprise, I’m a telepath.”

Jumping at the revelation, Gwen floated in the air with her unconscious boyfriend on her shoulder. “The fuck!”

Jessica intervened. “Language! What would Mrs E say?” Jessica poked Gwen between her breasts.

Looking rather sheepish, Gwen put a hand on her mouth. “Oh, sorry.”

Still fixing everything, Jean spoke. “I’m sorry to have hidden it. But I don't tell everyone that I am a telepath for good reason. For example you are already evaluating all the conversations we had and whether I influenced you in any way.” She didn’t even have to look at Gwen to hold a conversation with her.

Gwen was indeed doing just that- remembering how they met, every time they spent time together, the sexual attraction she felt for Jean. “Huh… you wouldn’t use your powers on me right?”

Jean stopped working, turning to Gwen and told her with sincerity. “Gwen, you are one of my best friends. I would never betray your trust that way, I don’t use telepathy on my friends or family without their permission.”

At that, Gwen released a sigh of relief. Then she perked up as something that was obvious struck her, it would explain everything. “So that’s how Jessica knew you were alright!”

Jean smiled. “Yeah, when I escaped she was the first to know I was in Egypt.”

Part of the plan needed to happen in Jean’s so called base, she now knew the redhead could teleport or traverse great distances thanks to physics breaking powers. “That’s where we are going, right? Your base there.”

*Powers are bullshit.* Gwen thought.

“Yeah there’s a story I need to tell you about how I came by it. But first we must go look for Elektra sensei, May and my mom.” Jean said and turned away from her friend, she held her hand before her and a golden portal came into being near the tool shed in the garden. It gave a view into some kind of prison that Gwen found scary. She looked at Jean who looked rather serious as she was fixing Peter’s house with her telekinesis.

Then she turned and entered the portal with apprehension. *I hope Peter will forgive me.*

 

# # # 

(May Parker)

Egypt Base
December 18th, 1996
08:02 PM (New York time)

“May, I assure you that Peter is fine.” The redhead explained for the second time.

May was having none of it, though. Gwen had told her how Jean came up with a plan to take down Peter. The older woman had figured out something was wrong with her nephew two months ago, his behavior steadily worsening. “But you are holding him in that prison and-”

“I respect the abilities of your son.” Because yes at this point, Peter was her surrogate son. "Peter is a genius and I need those installations to hold him, but as you can see I provided accommodations to keep him comfortable as the influence of the symbiote is wearing off."

They were in the command center, and Jean pushed a button, the screen lighting up,showing Peter asleep on a king sized bed. The young man was stirring as well. He stood, blearily looking around him. Then, as if he flipped on a switch, Peter stood up and tried to exit the cell to bounce up on the forcefield. His palm covered his nose as he held on painfully, glared and began to punch on the forcefield with all his strength.

May looked at the redhead and shook her head in disgust. “May I think you need to go see him, maybe with Gwen before he hurts himself.”

The older woman acquiesced at that, Jean stood up and invited May in following her. As they exited the room, May observed the girl, she was clearly different from before. Taller, older and with confidence bordering on arrogance. There was something hard and fiery about her, a feeling that this young woman was more than she seemed.

“Haha!” 

May glanced behind, watching as Gwen flew to them, giggling when she landed on her feet. She was followed by Jessica who ran after her.

Jean turned and poked her with a finger. “Gwen no flying in the corridors!”

Gwen grinned at the redhead, tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear. “Sorry.”

Sighing, the redhead put a fist on her hips.“You don’t look sorry…”

Gwen blushed and turned her head toward May, trying to ignore her friend. She took the older woman’s hand in hers. “May, we’re going to see Peter.”

May nodded. “Yes, we need to get to the bottom of this.”

Peter had told May how he’d gotten his powers when Gwen and the others forced him to do it. Since then his aunt had tried to stop him at first, not wanting him to get hurt, then she saw the good he did and thought that it may be an outlet to cope with Ben’s death. However, when his friend- the redhead- was taken, he’d become more ruthless after Jean. Not to mention,he changed to an all black costume that didn’t look heroic. Peter’s reputation had taken a dip after the brutality he displayed was shown- the Daily Bugle was having a field day. 

The blonde put on a brave smile. “We… we need to speak with him. May, I’m not gonna lie. But it’s going to be bad, j-just don’t cave-in to his demands, okay?”

“Think of him as an addict in detox, that’s what the lingering influence of a symbiote is like.” Jean added.

May stared at both the girls, noting their serious expressions. She nodded, but she thought deep down that she could get through her nephew. They took their time coming here, but five minutes later they were before a hatch door made of grey metal. Jean went to a keypad on the wall and typed a series of numbers.

The door opened with a hiss and the hatch doors parted. There was no one to wait for them in the receiving area with the mounted turret weapons on each side of the cell’s entrance. May wanted to shrink at the sight but refrained, wanting to be strong for her nephew. They entered the cell block, looking around and finding the place rather utilitarian and creepy. 

There were disused empty cells with traces of blood inside and other things. May pinched her nose, the tangible smell  disgusting. Jean noticed and just waved her hand. With that, the smell disappeared with the blood and disgusting things inside each of the cells they passed. May found her power rather handy and reminded herself to contact Jean if she needed to have a place completely clean, she would bribe her with food, the girl was a glutton.

She smiled brightly when they finally arrived to Peter’s cell, but frowned as she saw him attack the invisible barrier like a demented man. “Peter!”

Peter’s face broke into a hopeful expression. He put the flat of his against the barrier and pleaded, “Aunt May! Please, help me get outta here!” 

May who had promised to not give in succumbed to the pitiful state of her nephew, turned to Jean and asked, “Jean can you…”

She was met with an instant refusal.“That’s out of the question.”

Peter’s mood shifted to rage again, and he punched on the forcefield and shouted, “You bitch! Let me out!”

May would never forget what happened next. Jean simply caught fire, no it was like she was fire incarnate. The other girls took May and stepped back from Jean who looked at Peter with a predatory grin. “Hey, Pete. Still wanna fight?”

He said nothing, simply looking overwhelmed by the changing form of the girl before him. He calmed down, his instincts without a doubt telling him that he wasn't her match. May was a tad scared herself, and when she looked around, she could tell the other girls were too.

The flame slowly dissipated, returning inside Jean's body. “That’s what I thought, so… why don’t you calm down and take a seat?”

From the ground in his cell, Peter watched as a chair was being grown from the stone ground. His gaze moved from Jean to the chair. Then he released a sigh and sat on it.

“Good.” Jean nodded her approval, then continued, arms crossed = under her breasts, “Peter, I know you don’t like me and that I’m the wrong person to tell you what to do. But the path you are taking will lead you to being alone and despised. Before it’s too late you should confide in your aunt, you cannot live like this for long.”

A frown played on Peter’s lips. “What are you talking about?”

Jean exhaled in frustration, and she turned to May, looking at her with a meaningful gaze; then the redhead turned to Peter. “It all comes down to Ben Parker and how you think it’s your fault that he died.”

Peter stood up from the stone chair as if struck by a mighty blow. Jean shook her head and stepped back, as May walked up in front of the forcefield. Her eyes blurred with tears, “Peter, really, that’s what you think?”

May was beginning to understand what was happening- this wasn’t just keeping Peter safe after what happened with the symbiote but an intervention for him.

“I-I…” Peter was torn, looking between May and the other girls present.

Jean understood and coughed loudly, catching May;s attention.“I think we should leave and give Peter and May some space, girls.”

Jessica stared into Jean’s eyes, seeing she was serious. “Huh, yeah you might be right.”

It was Gwen that was reluctant. “But Jean, I…”

“Gwen?” May called out.

A subtle message between the older woman and Peter’s girlfriend was sent out. Gwen sighed and understood that it wasn’t her place to come into their family matter. “Okay, yeah, let's leave them alone.”

The three girls left, deciding to wait at the entrance of the cell block. May turned to her nephew and said, “There Peter, you can speak now. You clearly have something on your heart.”

Tears slowly flowed from Peter’s eyes. “It’s my fault, it’s my fault aunt May.”

May wanted to go in this cell and hug her nephew upon seeing his tears.“Peter?”

She had thought that Peter was strong before, and he was, but now he looked brittle. Jean was right- there was something eating at him.

“The man... who killed uncle Ben? I let him go, I had my powers at that time... but I let him go to get back at the man who cheated me out of my money.”

Mays rose her hand. “Peter, stop.” He did, watching his aunt massage her temples with a migraine incoming. Then she looked at him. “Go back to the start.”

The young man nodded and his confession came unbidden; he had participated in a cash prize fight to buy a car to impress Mary Jane Watson, their neighbor’s daughter. May remembered how smitten he had been with the girl and nodded to Peter who continued to speak. “I won the fight thanks to my powers. I beat the guy in one minute.”

Then the organizer didn’t pay the promised money to Peter, barely giving him one hundred dollars and telling him to get out. Peter left, and waited for the elevator to take him down to the building’s lobby. Then he heard a scuffle and a man ran from the office he had just left with a bag seemingly full of money. The organizer called for security to stop the thief. Peter didn’t do anything, wanting revenge for being cheated out of his money.

Peter forgot the incident but days later he returned home late to find his Uncle Ben murdered. Learning the police had the burglar responsible holed up in a warehouse, Peter changed into Spider-Man and easily captured him, only to discover he was the same thief he had allowed to escape earlier. 

“Oh Peter…” May sobbed at this revelation. She couldn’t say anything. A part of her wanted to blame Peter and another wanted to tell him that it wasn’t his fault, because really? It wasn’t. He was young and foolish but it wasn’t Peter’s job to stop crime at the time.

“I’m sorry aunt May, I’m sorry. I didn’t want to hurt you, I didn’t mean for Uncle to die… I-” Peter sounded so pitiful, it broke May’s heart.

May wiped away her tears, needing to be strong for her nephew. “Peter, can you do something for me?”

Still with tears in his eyes, Peter spoke in a little voice, his eyes cast downward. “Anything, aunt May, anything.”

“Peter look at me, please.” May asked with a commanding tone in her voice.

Lifting his face to hers, Peter looked at his aunt. There was sadness on her face, bit no  hatred or betrayal like he believed he’d find there.

May smiled. “You need to forgive yourself, everything is clear to me now... you have been killing yourself trying to do good. Peter… Uncle Ben meant the world to us. He wouldn't want us living one second with guilt or what ifs in our hearts, though. That guilt you feel? It’s like poison. It can - It can take you over. Before you know it, turn you into something ugly.”

May now understood that her nephew was a broken boy- a broken boy who was putting too much on his plate out of loyalty and guilt to a dead man. “So, you must forgive yourself. I believe in you, Peter. You're a good person. I know you'll find a way to make it right.”

May put a hand on the forcefield, Peter followed suit. “In time.”

She, herself, needed time too, as she was reeling from the revelations that Peter had dumped on her. She needed a drink and she knew where to get one. She left, leaving Peter to his own thoughts.

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean…

2 hours later

I didn’t know what to think, and  I didn't know that a little woman like May could drink this much. We were sitting at the bar in the kitchen, and Chimera kept refilling May’s glass with vodka. May looked torched. She was at her fifth glass, Jean looked at Chimera who found the vodka bottle almost empty.

"I think she had enough." Chimera took the bottle and corked it.

"Yeah, I think so too." She nodded and took the glass from May's hand.

The older brunette clothed in a beige colored pantsuit tried to struggle. "No, I… I am good, this can't…"

I didn't want to hear anymore from May; she was drunk, she smelled drunk and her thoughts were muddled. She felt guilty of wanting to blame her adoptive son for the death of the love of her life. Guilty of not having seen the signs of Peter’s spiral of self-destruction.

The Parkers were a pretty stubborn lot and I could now see where Peter got it from. "May, you'll find no answer in the depths of this bottle. Go to sleep." I pushed a feeling of somnolence in her mind.

May's body relaxed then she fell asleep. I caught her body and lifted her. Chimera exited the kitchen first and I followed her. We walked toward the dormitories, crossing paths with Arclight and Regan who returned from their training in the gym. I waved at them and they did the same but hurriedly left.

I shrugged. *They still haven’t got over it…* Once in Chimera’s room I put May in the bed, fortunately, it was a queen sized one.  “Hey, take good care of her, I got to go see Peter.”

Chimera stared at May’s sleeping form. “Will he be alive when you leave, boss?” The question indicated her fondness for May. 

Turning to her, I shrugged. “Depends on what he says.”

Chimera had seen the boy’s attitude toward me in a telepathic vision that we shared in my mindscape. She didn’t seem encouraged by my words at all; we were more than antagonistic toward each other. I didn’t know why Peter thought I was the devil or something.

“Well, good luck.” The statuesque woman offered, stripping off her clothes.

I admired her for a moment, however, she wasn’t my type. I don’t know why, it seemed that I was attracted to women who I had a connection with. There was no chemistry there. “You too Chimera, I hope for you she’s not too cuddly in bed.” I smirked, looking  over at May.

“Ah!” Chimera laughed me off, but I knew May was a cuddler.

The reason I left May with Chimera was that I didn’t want to leave her alone; she didn’t know the map of the base and it was a big one. I directly teleported to the cell block and walked up to Pete’s accommodations. She stopped before Peter’s cell and she saw him sitting on the ceiling hugging his legs.

“Peter.” I called out, he looked at me then he fell down and landed on his feet after a feat of agility.

“Grey.” Peter greeted through clenched teeth. 

The young man oozed hatred and other dark emotions.

I chuckled. “Aww, why are you so... impersonal suddenly?” He never called me Jean even once. It seemed this guy, when he hated someone, the hatred would last forever. I wanted  to bury the hatchet right now, though, but was he smart enough to see my intentions?

His hatred dissipated to let place to the suffering he was feeling. He wanted his symbiote back really badly. “Why are you doing this?”

I sighed, because this was it. The moment of truth. “Peter, I told you my intentions since the start. The world needs a sane and smart spiderman.”

Peter laughed at me then he shook his head. “No, you hate me, you want to…”

I interrupted him mid rant. “Peter? The first time I tried to talk to you, you were quite unfriendly, rude even. And this has colored all our interactions. But I don’t hate you, Peter. What I hate, is the emo little shit that you currently are.”

Yes, compared to 616 Spiderman, my Peter was a wimp. Why couldn’t have I met the cute and shy Peter from the MCU? He would have been awesome to work with! Peter glared at me, flipping me the bird. “Fuck you, Grey.” I felt the hatred flow through him again, he is lucky that I am not a Sith.

I laughed. “Don’t be a hater, I like what you do, it’s just too bad that you let the costumed life consume you. Why don’t you live a little?”

Disbelief was all over his face as he watched me. “What? You kept denigrating my actions after revealing to everyone that I am spiderman. How can you say this now?”

“Huh, well I can’t deny that I was a tad insensitive... but I really like the ‘great power means great responsibilities’ thing that you have going on. But you interpreted the will of a dying man quite badly. I am sure that your uncle wouldn’t have liked for you to feel like shit every night for patrolling; even I didn’t do it as much as you.”

Peter snickered, making a move to sit on his rock chair, smiling. “You? You are no hero, Grey.”

I nodded at that. I always knew that I wasn’t a hero. I was more of a Punisher. A dark knight. “No I am not, not by your definition. But I did lessen your burden.” 

I killed most of the hardcore gangs and organized crime in our little slice of New York. But the fact that he was spitting on my efforts made me want to show him. “You know what Peter, I’m going to show you what your life would have been like had I not been around.”

Teleporting into the cell, I touched Peter’s forehead and brought him instantly into my mindscape. I sat him in front of my tv screen in the representation of my living room and warned,“Better brace yourself, this is gonna be rough.”

“What?! Where?!” Peter looked around him, seeing a foreign living room. He was chained to the sofa and a tight chain of light tied him up all over, I didn’t want him to miss everything by wandering in here.

“We are in my head, Peter. Phoenix, a little help?” I called out.

A flaming bird the size of a person came into being next to the sofa. (Certainly. Hey, hi Pete.) Phoenix raised a wing to greet Peter, and once again I felt there was something I was missing.

Peter stared at me and Phoenix as if that situation was completely crazy. “Who’s the big bird?”

“Oh, that’s Me. Now shush, let’s go see the life of Peter Parker of Earth 616.” I waved my hand and the TV screen swallowed us.

I showed him the way his uncle died. Peter and I were in his house, in another universe. A different looking Peter was holding the hand of his uncle, and looked as life was draining from the man. Then we jumped forward as we saw his first fight against Spot, he won, but he missed an important meeting with his aunt. Aunt May is older in this universe.

The enemies revealed themselves each after the others, Fisk, Kraven the Hunter, Electro, Vulture, Venom. I stopped on the last one and let Peter take in what happened to this other Peter who had found the strength to separate from Venom but a corrupt reporter named Eddie Brock took it and began to make Peter’s life hell.

“Do you see?” I waved at the monstrosities that Venom became and at the different scenes that made people Peter love give him a wide berth after the Symbiote obsessed over him.

Peter has become more subdued, thinking- really thinking. “Why is Venom so different from your symbiote?”

Teaching mode on! “Symbiote are not things, they are people. With feelings and emotions.” I then began to tell him what they were. They were created by a primordial deity called Knull to slaughter other gods called the Celestials and conquer everything.

But after that terrible being was sealed, ashamed of their dark origins, the symbiotes of Klyntar invented and perpetuated a lie that their species was naturally benevolent. Endeavouring to spread peace throughout the universe, the Klyntar symbiotes established a hive mind capable of sensing the "voice" of the Cosmos and created an intergalactic peacekeeping society called the Agents of the Cosmos by using the symbiosis they needed to subsist in order to transform "worthy" hosts into the ultimate noble warriors. 

However, to achieve this "perfect" symbiosis, the host needed to have a perfect blend of moral and physical ideals. If not, the resulting symbiosis would corrupt both the Klyntar and its host.

“And that’s why I cannot let you have the Venom Symbiote, corrupted symbiotes have ravenous predatory appetites for the flesh of other life-forms and will influence or force their hosts to commit cannibalism to satiate this. You don’t want this to happen to you, right?”

Peter shook his head, his face tinged green as he watched a scene from the Planet of the Symbiotes timeline. Humans were being eaten by Symbiotes with hosts. I continued to placate him. “Goldie didn’t end up like this because I can feel her with my mind, so I treated her like a child, and taught her how to differentiate between bad and good.” 

I was still watching a scene when I noticed that Peter was paying me attention. “You are a telepath.”

I nodded, knowing it was useless to lie at this point. “I am more than that, I am the Phoenix. Well, at least a part of it. I will tell you what that  means once you break out of your funk.”

Peter still had that weird glint in his eyes as he stared at me. “Grey, can I ask you something?”

The scene where Peter was battling Eddie Brock paused. I didn’t do it, Phoenix paused the stream without my say so. What was she playing at? “Yes, but there’s no guarantee I will answer.” I told him absently.

“Did you kill Norman and Harry Osborn?” It was asked so calmly that I almost missed the feeling of trepidation and fear emanating from him.

I turned my head toward him, looking into his eyes. He flinched, but I didn’t know what he’d seen to provoke that sliver of fear from him.“Yes I did, Peter.”

As he was bound, Peter couldn’t move his astral body. But he reacted violently and asked, “Why? Why would you do that?!”

“Do you really want to know?” He didn’t want to know, I told myself, because this would break him.

Peter looked incensed. “Yes! Since I saw you with that Talia woman after the Osborn’s death I had my suspicions… but now? I ask myself why would you do that, the guy liked you!”

Eww, being liked by Harry Osborn was one of my biggest nightmares. I sighed and decided to show him since he had asked for it. “Ok.”

The scene with Venom battling Spiderman was replaced by one with the Green Goblin, Norman Osborn. He had kidnapped Gwen and her parents. Spider-Man found them at the George Washington Bridge, where they fought and Gwen fell from the bridge. She died when Spider-Man reached her with a web-line, breaking her neck. The Goblin escaped. A furious Peter searched, found and battled him again. In this battle Norman was impaled with his own Goblin Glider, apparently killing himself.

Peter from Earth 616 was extremely distraught over the death of Gwen, possibly even more so than when Uncle Ben died. I ended the scene there, not wanting to show him how Mary Jane Watson wormed her way into his heart.

“Norman… he…” Peter trailed off, at a loss for words because of his shock.I gave Peter the cliff notes of why I killed Norman and Harry. I opened my hand. “He became your greatest enemy. He killed Gwen, one of MY BEST FRIENDS.” My hands clenched, knuckles white. “I would kill him again if I could, directly this time. Harry would eventually follow the footsteps of his father and try to kill you.”

Peter’s eyes gleamed with unshed tears.  “But… Norman… he didn’t do it, this is a vision right… a fake, right?” He sobbed.

Phoenix took umbrage at that and her form rippled into the mindscape. (No, Peter. All of this is true. Don’t be in denial, I am the Phoenix. I can manipulate the past, the present and the future across large temporal distances.)

I nodded. “This is what your life would have been like if I didn’t do what I did. I killed Harry and Norman for my friend and collaterally for you. Now I pass you the torch, you should be able to pick yourself up and protect May, Gweny and everyone.”

My words were meant to be inspiring and make him find a new purpose but they fell flat when Peter asked, “What are you?”

Sigh. “Peter, I am not from this world originally. Think of myself as a reincarnated being who has a lot of meta-knowledge.”

(And this is a wrap.) Phoenix said as she batted Peter away from my mindscape with a wing.

This was shocking, seeing it being done to someone else was something else. “Phoenix, why did you send him back?”

My abstract double looked annoyed with me. (You silly Jean, don’t tell the guy who doesn’t like you such things. I took the knowledge of your otherworldly origins from his mind. Though you are on the cusp on making him change. You know you chipped away at the enemies who would have made him the amazing Spider-Man, right? This Peter needs to go on another path. Different from the main timeline’s one. For this you’ll have to do something drastic, Jean.)

My mind froze at that, there was only one thing that would make Peter react like she hoped. *Oh Freya! Is she thinking what I am thinking?*

There was a tense silence for a bit of time, I leaned on the sofa and exhaled a tense breath.“We are bringing him back aren’t we?” 

(Yes, he is the only one who will make Peter see sense.)

With that thought in mind, I exited my mindscape, seeing Peter’s hand nearing me as though he was about to touch me. I stopped him with a thought. “Nuhu you don’t touch me, mister.”

I teleported outside the cell and released him again from the TK grip I had on him. It was time to go look for the big guns. I waved goodbye to Pete who glared at me, he returned to his bed- either to sleep or think about  everything I’d shown him. I opened a portal to Samira’s office. I found her there at her desk waiting for me.

She shot me a vulpine smile, holding a beige folder in her hand... 

“Fucking precog.” I whispered.

Samira’s smile tightened, aware of how  unsettling her ability was to me. “I have everything for you, the name of the cemetery and the tomb’s number.”

I sighed and calmed down. “Thank you.” I told her, the woman looked fine at first glance but she seemed completely tired. “I need to get you something nice, you work a lot...”

It seemed Samira had been waiting for those words and showed me a brochure with a spa on it. Telling me that she was already thinking about taking a break. “You could actually help me, your friend Frank Castle is becoming a pain…

She let me enter her mind, showing me all that the man had been doing-  raids, burning down drug supply chains, murders… no, it was better to call it the extermination of the Irish and Mexican cartels in the big apple. I thought I had convinced Frank of staying with his family, but it seemed that vengeance boiled in his blood.

I facepalmed myself. “I will help you after-”

Samira interrupted me again. “You’ll be free in four days, I could really have your help at that time.”

I shook my head. “Done!”

Samira laughed at me and gave me the folder and I teleported back to my base with the sound of her laugh in my ears.

 

# # #

(Phoenix)

 

The Realm of Death

The decorations weren't really my style. I mean who would let the portal to their house be a big skull with a spatial portal reeking of death? Lady Death of course. I hoped her sense of fashion would be a bit better but I wasn’t holding my breath. I passed through the death portal and wasn't surprised to find a macabre scenery awaiting me.

There were countless skeletons and undead creatures facing me. It was creepy, but excitement fluttered through me.Since becoming one with the Phoenix force I'd been to extraordinary places and saw countless civilizations rise and fall. Time had no meaning to me, but it had become lonely and one of my only joys is to see my family and spouses through my Earthly Avatar's eyes, they were my anchors to this time period and I would keep them.

The undead and dead things stopped moving and as if ordered to, and they all separated like they were the red sea. Behind them was a desolate landscape with volcanoes and rivers of lava. Far in the horizon was a pitch black tower touching the pseudo sky of the Death Realm.

I levitated and with a thought I found myself at the foot of the tower. It was all smooth stones and bones, there was no logic to it as it seemed to be a four dimensional construct. To my vision the space inside this tower spanned galaxies. Normally, all building constructions are considered only in terms of three dimensions: width, height and depth. The fourth dimension is time.

Four dimensional building was simply the ability to create different buildings in the same space. With the power to warp reality at my fingertips I could do it, I shouldn't have been surprised that Lady Death was able to do the same.

The gates opened for me as I returned to my humanoid form, and I was quickly admitted inside the higher levels. I found myself in a throne room, there was no ground or sky, we were into space and under us there was nothing that could explain what I was seeing. It was an amalgamation of every death realm from religions of multiple alien species, even the human ones were represented, I also recognized Hel, the Asgardian realm of death.

"There is beauty in death." I didn’t understand why these words left me but I meant them. "Thank you, Phoenix." A melodious female voice rang in the throne room.

Lifting my head I watched as a cloaked figure was sitting on a huge throne of bones and she was behind a desk of black obsidian like glass in the form of a half circle. "Lady Death."

I noticed the towering stacks of paper appearing from nowhere and flying to form more and more paper stacks. Death was busy, as she was a responsible entity that didn’t shirk her duties. Death embodied decay and destruction, like I embodied life that has not yet been born, as well as the forces of creation and destruction. We had overlapping domains.

The black cloak of Lady Death lifted, revealing a skull face that stared at me. Inside its socket I could see glowing purple light. "Why have you come? It's rare for you to come bless my halls."

My fire burned brighter as I pointed a finger at her. "I am in need of your service, a pet project of mine to help stave off stagnation. It will bring death and life to the cosmos."

Yes, my other self, Jean, had a lot of plans concerning her little slice of the universe. I couldn't help her too much, but I could nudge things in her way to make a better future. Maybe, just maybe, it would help me in the maintenance of the M'Kraan Crystal. I needed to get it out of the Shi'ar empire’s custody. I lowered my flaming hand and waited for Lady Death's answer.

It was an eternity later when the other Abstract did so. "You have my interest."

I had her! I levitated to her desk and peered at her, noticing that the cloak was definitely old and unsanitary. "But first could you change your appearance? It has become unsettling to speak to a skeleton. Dear, you need to live a little, and lose the cloak.."

Lady Death moved in a way that made me think she had smiled at me with an eyebrow raised. Then as she covered herself in a dark aura, her skeleton  covered itself in flesh and hair into a perfect copy of myself with pale skin and black hair. "Is this better?" She asked with what I believe is a posh accent, somewhat British sounding.

I nodded. "Well… better than a skeleton… though my body with black hair doesn't do it. I will let you meet my avatar later for a regular form and new fashion. Interested?"

Death looked down at herself, then moved her gaze to my outfit- a modified Phoenix costume with a jacket over it. "I may have to refresh my almanac of appearances, yes. You have changed."

I laughed. "For the better?"

Death shrugged. "We shall see."

Pleasantries aside, it was time to talk business. "I have come to obtain the soul of Benjamin Parker."

Death closed her eyes and raised her hands. A sheet of paper appeared in her hand. Her eyebrows raised as she read it and after a few beats she finally looked at me. "That is one of the precious souls to inspire heroes, a shatterpoint to the fate of another." 

I pressed a fisted hand against my hip, looking into Death's eyes. "Yes, I want him to do more inspiring."

Lady Death shook her head and leaned in her throne. "That is normally against the rules. But I am interested in your project… but it will still be difficult."

I crossed my arms, my lips quirking into a taunting smile. "I am not asking for it for free. A favor or two can be exchanged, I see that your paperwork hasn't diminished at all. Is it because of a certain Titan?"

The atmosphere grew colder around Lady Death, ice visibly spreading on her desk. It appeared I was spot on- that fool Thanos was irritating her. Lady Death rolled her eyes. "That being has become rather impossible as of late."

I lifted my chin, pride filling me that I was right; she wanted to be rid of the Titanian and asked with a smile in my voice, "Do you wish him gone?"

The abstract entity watched me for a long moment before answering. "It would help, but you cannot kill him. It would bring him to this realm and there's nothing more than he would like." Her tone was almost plaintive. 

If I was in her place, I would have killed the bastard long ago. I don't know what is stopping her. I sat on her desk, taking care not to burn any of the paper towers. "Don’t you worry, just erasing him from existence body and soul should do it. Is there anything else that you wish for?"

Death became more animated at the prospect of her stalker leaving her alone. A booklet appeared in her hand that she placed on the desk, then slid it toward me. I picked it up, looking through the contents.It was full of names and data pertaining to them. 

Looking at me, Lady Death had a little smile on her lips. "A list of people who defy me. Bring me their souls."

I nodded, this was a job for Jean. Finally, she was going to be put to work. "I accept the bargain, Lady Death."

With the sound of bell ringing, the cosmic forces that we represented signaled the acceptance of our deal.

Death wore a look of satisfaction." I shall let the soul of this Benjamin Parker return to life when your avatar resurrects him."

It was now time for more pleasantries. "An excellent time to see if she can help you with your appearance." I pointed out.

My counterpart nodded. "You should come more often, I lack distractions, resting and socializing is good for the mind."

A laugh burst out of me, then suddenly an idea came to me. "I have a play date with Gaea and Bast, I’ll invite you too."

A smile tugged at Death's lips. "Excellent."

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean…
St. John Cemetery
11:02 PM

St. John Cemetery was an official Roman Catholic burial ground located in Middle Village in Queens, a borough of New York City. Although it was mainly located in Middle Village, the southern edge of the cemetery ran along Cooper Avenue in Glendale. This was where Ben had been buried.

Cemeteries were creepy in the daytime, but even more so at night; I could feel things watching me. I was aware that the supernatural existed in this reality; werewolves, vampires, leprechauns, I had even seen signs of this in my brief stint in the UK. It kept me on guard,I could feel their minds, and their feelings. Some were curious, some angry, others hungry. However, some instincts made them feel that they were all prey to me and didn't show.

*I think there were some vampires here, they weren't like the vampires from the Dracula movie, I needed to know how to fight them besides using silver, decapitation and fire.* I thought as I landed before Benjamin Parker’s tomb.

“Hello, Ben. I am sorry that I have to take you away from your well deserved rest. I hope you’ll forgive me for this.” I prayed to Hela for a moment and asked for forgiveness, the Asgardian Pantheon was the only one I liked anyway.

I stared down at the ground, pushing my awareness into it until I reached for the coffin. With a thought, I dug the ground and raised it into the air. It was a rectangle of earth and dust, then I lifted the coffin and landed it on the right and placed the earth back. There were signs of depression and it made me level up the ground and smooth it out. With a bit of my phoenix powers, I made the grass and the bush of red flowers grow.

“Should be enough, it’s nice too.” I wiped my hand, then absently made the coffin float. 

Opening a portal, I quickly made the coffin pass through it and did the same. I found myself in the laboratory that could also be used as a hospital room. With TK, I began to prepare the medical bed and table and placed the instrument at its side. My eyes turned to the coffin and the enormity of what I was  about to do weighed heavily onto me.

Did I have a right to disturb the life of May and Peter this way? Even if I had their happiness in mind, and didn’t want them to suffer so much? I had all this power coursing through me, but I also had the will to see through to what I caused. It’s my fault if the symbiote escaped and destroyed Peter’s life in a sense. He had to confess the truth to May…

With great power there must also come great responsibility. I liked this quote, everyone attributed it coming from Ben Parker and Spidey, but an untold number of great men and women used it, such as Voltaire, Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt. “With great power comes great responsibility” in my opinion the meaning of it was simple; if you have the ability to do something, make sure that you do it for the good of others. But you shouldn’t stop living or neglecting everything for this simple expression.

Peter was odd that way, obsessing over it. You don’t have to be a superhero to follow those words of geek wisdom. It was possible to do small actions that have a big impact in the world. I would take this little quote and do what I can, but I’d never stop myself from enjoying life.

Though, I had to be careful as I needed to take care of all that power so I wasn’t corrupted by it. I didn’t want to become like Ross or Osborn. A lot of people believed that, once they have some form of power, they could usually lord it over people and abuse it. History had a lot of people showing them becoming corrupted because of great power: Napoleon and Hitler are just a couple to name a few. Even on a small scale, we did see powerful people beat down on the weaker ones. Bullies, abusive spouses, and corrupt politicians are just a few examples of the kinds of people we see everyday that use their power the wrong way.

But today? I stood straight and, with a gleam of determination in my eyes, I decided that I was going to do a good deed! I would bring back Ben Parker. I floated up and allowed my own power and the Phoenix force to fill my body. The coffin burned up and I let the resurrection force do its job; with it, I could theoretically resurrect anyone I wished with my near infinite powers, as I was the embodiment of life and death itself. 

My power seized the decomposed body and I don’t know what I hoped to see, but it just burned and formed a cocoon of fire. It was fascinating. *Was this how I had my own rebirth?*

I was surprised to find a dark portal opening in the ceiling, a dark form silently landed on the ground. “Who are you?”

I blinked and suddenly in place of a cloaked figure was Lady Death from Coffin Comics. The only difference was her hair was black. She was gorgeous and now I understood why Evil Ernie listened to her.  I quickly killed that thread of thought, though.

“You already know.” Her ruby red lips parted into a grin, and she flipped her luxurious hair back.

Now I understood- she was simply the fundamental force of Death given form, the abstract who was a counterpart of the Phoenix Force. “Oh, you are that Death… hmm, are you sure that you want to look like that?” I asked because she was certainly distracting to look at.

The abstract entity looked at herself, held onto her shiny black cloak and turned on herself. *Damn, she's fine.* I couldn’t help that thought. 

“Is there a problem? I find it quite fetching.” Her outfit was all black, consisting of underwear, gloves and thigh high boots and a cloak.

I couldn’t help myself from watching and blushed. “No, it’s just that anyone seeing you won’t stop getting lewd thoughts.”

Lady Death tilted her head, her long locks falling on her delicate shoulder. “They can think whatever they want.” Her dry tone  brooked no argument.

I gulped and chuckled at her tone. “I like your Moxxi. Hm, what brings you here, Milady?”

*Don’t pick a fight, she can kill me with a thought.* I told myself.

Lady Death looked at me, gauging my worth. “Phoenix entered in a bargain with me.”

This revelation rang like thunder into my mind. “Oh… she’s going to give me work isn’t she?” Fuck, I thought I had more time!

She nodded. “You are a smart avatar. Here, the soul of Benjamin Parker.” Death pushed a ball of light into the cocoon.

She clapped and the same black spatial portal opened in the ceiling. “My work is done.” She told me, then added, “I feel that we will see each other again.”

I hoped not, but I stayed polite. “Huh… bye?”

“Farewell.” And she got sucked into the black swirl of energy.

Well that happened, I looked at the cocoon and saw that it was about to crack. The procedure was almost done. 

 

# # #


(Ben Parker)

Time ???
Place ???

Ben Parker’s eyes opened.  His head felt heavier than lead. He was naked and on a soft surface was surely a bed. He heard the electronic beep of machines linked to him through wires. The ceiling was vaulted as if he was into some cavern. He had expected the ceiling to be white and made of plaster.

He was in a room with medical implements and some tools he didn’t know. The four walls were covered in blackboard with formula on them. The metallic door suddenly burst open.

“Good morning, Mr Parker.” A feminine voice rang from the door

The older man bolted upright. He looked on as an extremely attractive redhead in a white lab coat and approached him. He looked more attentively and realized that she was maybe two year older than his nephew Peter…

It was as if lightning had struck him, Ben began to rip the cable linking him to the machine. “Peter?! Where is… my nephew? My wife? I died, I remember being shot.”

The young woman walked up to him and tried to get him to stay on the bed. “Ben, please calm down. You are alive and healthy, you notice that there isn’t any bullet wound on your body, right?”

Ben stayed upright, still seated on the bed as he looked down at himself. There were no wounds… he felt himself feeling good, better than he had in years in fact, as if he was in his thirties again. “Huh, color me surprised.”

A beautiful smile blossomed on the young woman’s face, distracting  the older man. “Ben, I am a friend of your nephew and your wife, May.” She revealed.

“Where are they? Are they alright? Did the burglar get them? And I am sorry to say this but you are rather young to be a doctor…” Ben fired questions at Jean, like he was a machine gun.

The young redhead sighed and put a hand on Ben’s shoulder. “I am not a doctor, at least not yet. You are in my mountain base in Egypt, and I won’t sugarcoat it for you, it would do you a disservice. But, Ben... you died eight months ago and I brought you back to life.”

There was a tense silence before Ben laughed at her. “Young lady, I didn’t know we were in an asylum…”

“My name is Jean Grey.” She told him as her entire body lit on fire and she began to float up from the ground.

Ben was out of bed faster than Speedy Gonzales, looking on in fear  as the young lady hovered over his bed. “I assure you, Ben, that I am able to do what I claim.”

Ben raised his hand in surrender, fearing for his life. “Okay, girl I am convinced.” The fiery avatar of life suddenly disappeared and the smiling redhead knockout was back, straightening her hair as she looked at him sheepishly. “Sorry about that outburst, but you Parker men are really stubborn.” Jean pouted and crossed her arms under her breast.

This broke the tension and Ben began to laugh at that. “Oh god almighty, you really did meet Peter.”

Jean seemed to be feeling awkward for a moment and it was then that l Ben began to become suspicious that something was amiss. “Yes… hmm, you see, he is in trouble. That’s why I brought you back Mr Parker, I want you to save your surrogate son’s life.”

*It must be really grave if this girl had to bring me back from the dead.* Ben thought, his headache becoming stronger. He massaged his temple. “What happened?”

“Well, I will start from the beginning, after your death, Peter has become a superhero...” And Jean related everything that had happened to Ben.

About Peter becoming spiderman, the intense and destructive guilt Peter was feeling at thinking he had killed him indirectly. How he had become introverted and all his friends being girls. Ben chuckled at that, and smiled proudly when he discovered that his nephew was dating Gwen Stacy, though he thought that he was trying to woo Mary Jane Watson at the time of his death. After finding an alien amorphous lifeform called Klyntar, Peter became corrupted by it, his friends helped take care of the symbiote and now Peter was in a form of detox, and imprisoned in this base.

Ben looked at Jean as if she was high and needed help. “This tale was like out of a comic book or a…”

“Movie?” Jean continued his thought. Her shoulder sagged as she looked at the man. “Don’t I know it? Since getting superpowers my life has become crazy.”

Ben shook his head. He needed to see his family; May and Peter didn’t seem to be doing well without him. “Okay I need to meet my wife and…”

“Hum, Mr Parker?” Jean interrupted Ben’s train of thought.

“Yes, dearie?” Ben asked, thinking to himself how he really needed to thank the girl for what she did. 

Jean was red like a tomato as she looked at him. “Maybe you should put on some pants first?”

Ben looked at his naked body, then at the girl, red as her mane of hair, and began laughing. 

 

# # #

 

Back with Jean
Egypt Base
December 19th, 1996
07:30 AM (Egypt time)

I got Ben some blue pants and a short sleeved white shirt, a belt and boots. The man hadn’t noticed but right now he was rejuvenated- he was clearly in his late twenty, a side effect of the Phoenix rebirth process. I hoped that May recognized her husband. I think I’d need to juice her up too with Phoenix rebirth, to go back to her youth.

*Hmm, it should fix any infertility problem they have too.* A smile played on my lips. It was almost time to go for breakfast, but first I needed to go look for Chimera and May. I needed to give May the news about her husband. Ben followed me through the base, looking around him like a tourist. There was nothing to see in the corridor connecting the caverns and levels.

“You know Jean, it's kind of incredible that you own your own James Bond villain lair at such a young age… how did you come by it?” Peter’s uncle gushed. As we passed the kitchen, Hans was preparing breakfast. I waved at him with a smile that he returned.

Absently I answered him as we walked to the dormitories. “I killed the previous owner who had kidnapped me to brainwash me into becoming his minion and using me as a broodmare to make an army of powered people like me.”

Ben stayed silent for a moment, then mumbled, “I shouldn't have asked…” He didn’t quite feel fear toward me but sadness at what I was forced to do.

“You have a right to know, ask away but I just don't promise to answer.” I told him, but I felt reluctance growing in him. I stopped walking and turned to him.

He stopped too, waved his hand no and said, “No thank you, I am good.”

I laughed. “Chicken.” He wasn’t one though, he was just being respectful of my experience. I didn’t like the thread of pity he felt toward me.

“I am just not used to the fact that someone so young has killed before. It was fine in the second World War, or for Vietnam but you kids should live your life freely. But it seems that people are unable to change and thrive more through strife.”

Ben is rather wise- I could see why Peter thought the world of the guy. “Oh, believe me, I am not comfortable with what I had to do… but I have to move on from the experience.” Despite me, my hands shook again as I remembered getting killed by a smiling Sinister. I tightened my hands into fists at that, I couldn’t believe that I had forgotten that he cloned himself. I was so focused on him that I underestimated him and his telepathic camouflage and got killed by a clone of his.

I felt a hand on my forearm. When I lifted my head, I saw the concerned face of Ben Parker. “Are you okay, dearie? You don't look so good to me.”

I wanted to lie, but my heart wasn’t into it. “No, I am not…” And that was all I could say about it as I shielded myself again and put on the mask I was so used to wearing since my rebirth.

Ben didn’t release me, radiating an unexpected emotion, protectiveness. “If you ever want to talk about it, I am here. I owe you Jean, you brought me back to my family.” 

Men were incredible creatures, able to forget how powerful a woman was and wanted to protect them, it was such a double edged evolutionary instinct in my opinion. I thought about his offer and… determined that opening to someone at this point might be a good idea. 

I didn’t take this decision lightly; I could literally feel the goodness coming from Ben, he could be trusted and that was a good thing to me. “I may have to take you on your offer, maybe later?”

Ben smiled and shrugged. “Fine with me.” He said, yet I still saw how he looked at me- like I was made of glass.

Meanwhile, we finally arrived before Chimera’s door, neither May, nor my subordinate were awake. I could feel their quiescent minds working into reorganizing their memories. “They are still asleep.” Chimera stirred as she seemed to feel my presence. I should test one day how people react to my presence- was I letting some type of field that made people afraid of me? I closed my eyes and… Fair enough there’s something. It seems that I was being distracted and didn’t notice that mild fear aura. I stopped and felt the minds around me feel relief.

*Hmm… there’s potential with that. I might call it the Dark Knight field. So, if there’s a fear aura maybe there’s the reverse? Something like a White Knight one, similar to Captain America. I will test that out later.* Instead of knocking on the door first, I took the easy route.

<Chimera.> I contacted my subordinate

<Just one minute…> She answered automatically but I could feel that she was still half asleep.

<Chimera!> I shouted to her surface mind.

Behind the door I could hear someone cursing  and shuffling things in the room. Footsteps neared and suddenly the door opened. Chimera wore a loose t-shirt and a short, she didn’t even register the presence of Ben. “Boss, it’s barely...” She looked at her wristwatch. “seven o’clock…” The blonde beauty complained.

It pained me to bother her but this was important. “I’m sorry, it’s just that I got someone to introduce to May.” I put a hand on Ben’s shoulder, he seemed to try really hard to not let his eyes focus on the lithe blonde’s consequent bust.

Chimera’s eyes suddenly focused on Ben, and she felt the same thing as me. She tauntingly thrust her breasts up and asked, “Who is the cutie?”

I rolled my eyes at her act. “That’s May’s husband, I brought him back to life.”

As if doused in cold water, Chimera stepped back, staring at me with skepticism. “Did you clone him?”

I know where she was going with this, shaking my head I said, “No, I used my resurrection ability to bring him back to life. It was costly but it’s worth it for May and Peter.”

Chimera was aware that I had bullshit abilities with my Phoenix powers, but she decided to not even contradict me. She shook her head, imagining that I was beating up logic in a dark room for fun. “Only you boss, that kind of thing has been happening too much since I know you...” Chimera chuckled at the lack of sense of the situation.

“Tell me about it.” My shoulders sagged at the lack of logic and casual breaking of physical laws happening in my day to day life.

Chimera leaned against the door to her bedroom. “So boss, do we wake May up right now, or we reintroduce her to her husband after her hangover is resolved?”

It was a good question and I looked at Ben, seeing that he wanted to meet his wife urgently,  but decided that he could wait. Ah Empathy what would I do without you? *Fumble in the dark…*

“I can cure hangovers, you know?” I said absently. I could cure people more easily now that I was a phoenix avatar.

A hangover is the experience of various unpleasant physiological and psychological effects following the consumption of alcohol. It was nothing compared to my healing power. Chimera straightened up her posture and looked at me as if I was the second coming. “Why didn’t you say anything before?!”

“Sorry…” It didn’t matter to me at the time as I couldn’t and shouldn’t get drunk; it was too dangerous for the planet. 

Chimera glared at me and pointed a finger in my direction. “We will speak about it again, Boss. You need to tell Hans and I what you can do. We’re a team, right?” 

I nervously chuckled, lifting my hands in placation. “You’re right.”

Her face softened again, and Chimera entered her room. “So peeps, enter into my apartment. Sit or read a book. I’m going to the showers and have breakfast. When you are done close the door behind you.” She grabbed a towel and clothes and left us with a smile.

Ben and I entered Chimera’s room, as usual it was well organized, the two shelves were loaded with books and there was a walk-in closet where the blond metahuman stored her clothes. I sat on the nearest comfy chair and Ben sat at the table, looking at the sleeping form covered in bedsheets in the bed. Entering into meditation, I spread my awareness around the valley.

I pushed my consciousness into the quantum realm, considering that it couldn’t be anything else. Humans were really blind, the world is such a big place, everything is energy and I could perceive and understand the rules it used to work. People generally couldn’t observe those effects since they were averaged out in real life. These effects become more noticeable when we look into very small objects like atoms or electrons.

Our current science barely scratched the surface of what is possible, the laws of thermodynamics were kind of guidelines at this point. I played with the rivers and metal deposit in the ground. I found silver, gold and iron in quantity in the valley’s soils and brought it on the surface without damaging the fauna and flora. I purified everything with my TK, getting the impurities back into the soil.

I transformed everything into ingots and slowly brought everything through an entrance into the base. The ingots descended slowly to the ground of the hangar bay. They were pure, and it was material for my tinkering. Reopening my eyes, I saw that I was still seeing the quantum realm superposed to everything around me. When I blinked, the world returned to normal. Looking at the time on the clock up the wall, I realized that it was 08:45. I guess that I lost myself in the ore collection. I couldn’t wait to do that in space and mine the phenomenal quantity of resources up there. All of a sudden I felt a shift in May’s mind, signaling that she was about to wake.

"Ah, May is waking up."

Ben raised, wringing his hands- a tell of his nervousness. May lifted the bedsheets and sat upright, wiping her eyes. She didn’t recognize her surroundings and looked around until her eyes settled on me and Ben. Her eyes bulged, recognition flashing through them.However, before she could act, May’s face became green  and she fled for the attached toilet.

Without being asked to, Ben rushed to her and held May’s hair back as she puked. Suddenly, drinking was losing its appeal. I couldn’t understand why people did it at all if the outcome was them puking their guts out the next morning. It was heartwarming to gaze at, even if it was a bit gross. I walked up to them and waited for her to finish emptying her stomach.

It was five minutes later when she was done, after Ben helped her up, I put a hand on her cheek and healed her. Visibly, her face gained colour, becoming a healthy pink. It was just a matter to put to right her physiological and psychological effect the alcohol caused; in other terms, I was giving May a pepper up shot. She was in her underwear with a chronic case of bedhead.

“Here, how do you feel now?” I asked her.

May smiled, her eyes blurry with tears as she kept looking at Ben. She only gave me a bit of attention as she said, “Jean, I wish you were there when I was in university.”

I clapped, liking her humor. “Ah!”

The atmosphere filled with a certain tension as May gazed at her rejuvenated husband. “And… Ben? Is that you?” 

Peter’s aunt wiped her eyes, talking to herself as if she was in a lucid dream. “I must be dreaming, yes. You look younger…”

Tears spilled from Ben’s eyes as he held onto his wife’s shoulders. “Honey… it’s really me.”

May smiled tiredly and shook her head. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a dream…” She caught the startled man who yelped by the collar and crushed her lips against his.

For another five minutes, they continued their make out session, making me feel like I was third wheeling.  “Cough.” I choose to interrupt them.

They stopped but didn’t let go of each other, the couple looked at me. Ben looked frustrated and May kept poking her cheek painfully. “Huh? Jean? This is not a dream?”

I shook my head. “No, May. It’s not… I brought your husband back for you.”

May escaped Ben’s arm. “That’s… it shouldn’t be possible!” She said in denial as she hugged herself as she watched her husband.

It was at this moment Phoenix chose to manifest herself in the room in her flaming bird form and peered irritatingly at May. (What do humans know of what is possible or not? I’ve seen countless wonders and monstrosities in the universe surrounding us. Is it so far-fetched that I can resurrect the dead?)

It seemed that she was getting angry about her gift being refused. Ben and May stepped back, him subtly placing between the flaming abstract and his wife. Phoenix opened her wings and did something to them that I couldn’t perceive. She closed her wings and nodded her bird head.

(I hope that you understand now.) Phoenix’ tone was haughty and commanding.

“W-we understand, thank you for your patience.” May spoke, Ben holding her protectively.

I turned to Phoenix. “Huh, what did you do to them?”

Ben and May, I liked them, even if it was Phoenix I wouldn’t let her hurt them. Phoenix seemed to know exactly what I was thinking and began to explain herself. (I gave them one day to talk things out in their own mindscape to prove to May that this man is really Ben Parker.)

What she essentially did was to make the couple mindmeld, there they showed themselves their memories and felt their shared emotions. There was no way to lie when minds were linked this way… “I should have done that…”

Phoenix looked at me as if I was doing something bad. (You should take a day to catch up on sleep Jean.)

I lowered my eyes, not wanting to see the disapproving glare of the firebird. “It’s difficult… I am plagued by dreams from your memories and they aren’t always good.”

Phoenix pecked my head.I held onto my forehead at the twinge of pain. (Go sleep right now, I shall help you with the integration of our memories.)

I growled at her. “Fine.”

I waved goodbye at Ben and May who didn’t seem to want to laugh at my situation, they seemed mildly terrified by the big flaming bird. I left Chimera’s room with apprehension. I sent a message to Chimera to help Ben and May and let them see Peter while I was going to have some shut eye.

 

# # #

 

(Peter Parker)

 

Cell block 1, third cell
09:15 AM (Egypt time) 

Peter was doing pushups on one hand, torso naked near his bed. He needed to do something just to get this obsession with his… no, the symbiote out of his mind. Think about something else, he was already developing a more resistant web fluid and a better delivery system in his mind. A communication system and a better costume, he remembered Cindy’s, it was some kind of under armor rated costume that she was wearing the last time he saw her when the girls had kicked his ass.

It was his first loss, and he vowed to not get caught flat footed like that ever again. He was done fumbling as a hero, but he thought about what May and Jean had told him. He didn’t need to kill himself in doing so, the guilt was still there, but after telling what happened to his aunt May, Peter felt lighter. 

“259.” Up.

“260.” Down.

Up and down, the young man continued to exert himself as he thought that maybe, just maybe, the women in his life were right. The Peter Parker of this other world that Jean had shown him was a lonely man in a dead end job with no hope of being able to really get ahead in life. Jean had also shown him he’d never got his doctorate, and had lost the girl he loved because one of his father figures went crazy. Norman Osborn, at the time he had thought his attention had been good for him; he had even gotten superpowers out of his visit to Oscorp by accident.

Peter still couldn’t realize the difference between the insane green goblin and the smart and savvy scientist, Norman. He stopped his pushups, standing up agilely. Peter kept rehashing what May had told him that his uncle would want of them. The guilt over the loss of his Uncle Ben was the primary motivating factor in his super-heroics and his life in general. He knew he had to let it go; he had projects to make life better for his family and the people he loved and society. This is at this moment that Peter realizes that just beating the snot out of criminals may not be the most effective way to help make the world a better place.

“I need to do better, to have time for my loved ones; but still be smarter about the hero gig. Patrolling by myself in search of trouble? Why? I could just build things to do it for me, like let’s say... drones? To cover the entire city and help me find the crimes worthy of attention.”

<Good, you are finally thinking right.> A feminine voice rang in his mind. Peter looked around him, then  outside his cell.

“Who’s there?!” Peter called out.

He felt that there was no one out there, or under his bed or on the ceiling. How strange; he could swear he had heard someone.

Yet again he heard a laugh. <It’s me, idiot Pete.>

Peter kept looking around, still finding no one. “Grey?”

He heard her harrumph. <Who else? Do you like telepathic communication?>

Peter was right- she was a telepath and that fact scared him a little. “This is kind of unsettling... So that’s how you speak with Jessica?”

<Yes, Cindy has decided to take the plunge too. So, I have been monitoring your thoughts, at least your surface thoughts, I didn’t go further.> 

*But you can…* Peter thought nervously.

Jean cackled in Peter’s mind, the poor boy startling at it. <Yes I can. Peter, you need to learn meditation and how to shield your thoughts. I hope you are willing to learn it from me.>

Telepathy, super strength, energy projectors, time manipulation- it all made him feel out of his depth. He sat on his bed and said aloud, “The world is bigger than I thought… but if you offer it… I will take it. Say, Grey. I-I am sorry for how I treated you.”

The young man felt a weird sensation, as if he was enveloped into a warm embrace. <Peter, I know. I forgive you, you aren’t the only one who is to blame, though. I am a right bitch when I want. And it’s all the time…>

Peter has been thinking about Jean’s method to deal with him; whatever things he had thought of her, Jean had helped him make friends. Given him the strength to confess to Gwen about his feelings for her. She’d even stained her hands with blood to save her from being murdered. She didn’t have to do that, he had realized last night after their little timeline hopping session. She was going above and beyond what a normal friend would do.

Blushing, Peter shook his head. “Okay… hum you were saying?”

<Peter, do you know Batman?>

Peter snorted. “Who doesn’t?” The character was created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, and first appeared in Detective Comics #27 in 1939. Originally named the "Bat-Man," the character was also referred to by such epithets as the Caped Crusader, the Dark Knight, and the World's Greatest Detective.

<Great, Pete. I want you to be Batman. Without the obvious insanity, of course. There are a lot of ways to fight crime; even though punching criminals in the face is super satisfying, you can do a bit like Lex Luthor too, better the city with your resources by leaving no avenue for organized crime to take root in the city.>

There was a long silence before Peter spoke next. “Let me get this right.”

“You want me to become an inventor billionaire with a penchant to go play hero in his two lives?” There was a catch in Peter’s voice, a bit of hope. He really didn’t want to become a broke photographer.

<Yes, and what’s more you are going to love it.> It was as if she could feel his emotions about such a matter.

For the first time in two days, Peter smiled. “Sign me up!”

<But first, Pete. I got a surprise for you. I told you that I am the Phoenix, there are some things that I am able to do. And you know, I thought that as a peace offering, I would bring back someone dear to you.>

Peter frowned. “Huh, what?”

Footsteps came  from the alley between the cells. A tall brown haired man with blue eyes and in a uniform stopped before his cell. The force-field disappeared in a woosh sound and the man entered. The way he moved and his smile was familiar to Peter.

“Hey slugger.” That voice. It was a voice Peter thought he would never hear again. 

Peter slowly stood up, his eyes full of disbelief. “Uncle Ben?”

Ben Parker was back.  Peter asked himself if he was dreaming, then pinched himself, hard, to confirm. It hurt. His uncle smiled and opened his arms and gestured to him to come to him. Peter didn’t make him wait and flew into his uncle’s arms and hugged him tightly, afraid that this wasn’t real.

“It’s me… son.” Ben patted Peter’s back.

 

# # #

(Elisabeth Margareth “Peggy” Carter)

New York, Queens
Astoria
10:37 AM (New York time)

Peggy was taking a day off in her Victorian townhouse after having worked for days on end to find her wayward telepathic protégé. She was having a glass of gin as she consulted the SHIELD database on her laptop. She had done it and was completely rid of the Hydra plants in the eastern seaboard. Now all she needed was a way to break into the more encoded files to find the big poobah who kept trying to get them transferred back.

The old agent planned to catch him or her and discreetly question them about Hydra’s plan and obtain their full member list to catch them all. Peggy sent the files she unearthed on her private server. Something that her godson, Tony, maintained for her in a secure location.

Her phone rang then, and she picked it up off the table, glancing at the ID on the screen. She smiled and pushed the receiving call button and said, “Good Morning, Elaine. How are you today?”

“Better than before, Peggy… now that my daughter is back.” Peggy could literally feel the relief and happiness laced in Elaine’s voice. 

The agent in her couldn’t stop herself from asking, “Is she still in hiding?”

Elaine Grey took her time to answer and Peggy's mind began to connect the dots about clues surrounding Jean. SHIELD's resources had triangulated the possible location of this Sinister's character to Egypt. The earthquake and tremors felt the 13th pointed the way to this country. The recording that Charles had given her was enlightening, and Peggy had dispatched a team to pay attention to his activities, links to Magneto, a terrorist and this Sinister man made it mandatory.

The man had a plan, this Utopia project that he spoke about. It made her feel no guilt at bugging Charles’ office. Not one iota of it. 

Elaine finally answered.  “Yes. By the way, she wishes to meet you soon.”

The long pause was everything Peggy needed to know to guess at Elaine and Jean's intention. “Is it because she wants to terminate our little deal?”

Peggy leaned in her orthopedic chair, understanding the family's reasons and why Jean would want to terminate their association. She had been vocal about how the scrutiny she found herself under was chafing. The recording and small camera bugging the penthouse the Grey currently lived in were often found destroyed because of her tempers.

Elaine laughed knowingly, aware that Peggy would see through it immediately. “She clearly wants to, but I talked her into at least contacting you about it.”

Peggy let out a chuckle too but her heart wasn’t in it. She knew that now that Jean was known, there was no way people would forget about her. “You know, she’s known in certain circles… I don’t think she will ever have peace.”

Elaine surprised her once again with her smug tone. “I am not worried.”

There was something that the Grey matriarch wasn’t telling her which piqued Peggy’s interest. “Did she tell you what happened to the man who kidnapped her?”

“She killed him and everyone related to him.” Elaine’s tone was harsh.  

Peggy shook her head, she was thinking that Fury’s prediction about Jean dictating terms to them might not be so far-fetched anymore. “Just like I thought, you daughter doesn’t play around Elaine.”

“It runs in the family.” Elaine quipped.

It was time to speak about why Elaine called so Peggy removed her glasses, placing them on the table.  “Why are you calling?”

“To the point, huh? I wanted to invite you for dinner.”

Peggy smiled, it was always refreshing to speak with that woman. She wasn’t dazzled at all by her status. “You daughter will be there?”

Elaine sighed. “I am going to try to get her there. She’s been cagey about where her new little base is.”

Peggy dared a question. “Did she appropriate the base of the enemy?”

The Grey Matriarch laughed. “And more.”

Peggy smiled with pride. “That’s my girl.”

“No, she’s my girl Peggs.” Elaine said in mock affront.

“Don’t be jealous.” Peggy said in a patronizing tone, then, more serious, she added, “I will be there, thank you for inviting me.”

“Oh, my elder daughters are here, I will call you later to confirm your participation, bye.”

“Goodbye.” Peggy pressed the end button and put her phone back on the table. She laughed and realized that she needed that; the stress of the previous day was bleeding out of her. Peggy felt her age more and more as she kept on top of things. There were days that she so deeply wanted to go on some vacation on a tropical island and live her days, not having to worry about anything.

However, with Hydra having infiltrated SHIELD and enjoying its resources to do god knows what, she won’t rest until she sees the squiddies dead and buried. An alert pinged on her laptop, she put on her glasses and looked. Her tech guy had finally come through and uploaded the files she wanted. The case of Howard Stark’s death.

In 1991, Peggy knew something was wrong with Howard's death since the moment she laid eyes on his body. How could she not? What with the fact that Howard’s skull had been bashed in multiple times- not at all consistent with a car crash where the impact would have been singular. And given the fact that Howard had been transporting the remaining two vials of super soldier serum in the trunk of his car which were now missing, she knew something was amiss.

Which meant only one thing; Howard was murdered. At the time, she couldn’t tell anyone, not when she knew what it must have meant. If the news about having super soldier serum got out, it meant there must have been a leak. That meant such a secret like this had been kept under lock and key so only very few people had known about it. This was one of the old cases that has been on her mind for a long time, and finally she seemed to be able to piece things together now that she knew SHIELD had a pest problem.

Peggy typed on her keyboard, opened the file and saw who knew about the news. There was her, Howard, Pierce, her mentee, Fury, and a handful of other agents, none of which she thought were capable of giving away the secret. Fury was secretive and kept his emotions close, but that was what made him a good agent, not a suspect.

As she looked through the logs of the files on the computer, trying to figure out who could have accessed the files about Howard at the time, she came across something that really bothered her. Only three people had accessed the information about when Howard would be transporting the vials. Howard, to log the information, herself to verify the transfer.

And Alexander Pierce. Why had Pierce been looking at the files? She knew that it had to be more than blatant curiosity. He didn’t need to access the files- especially one so highly classified. A hunch told Peggy to peruse through other reports accessed by Pierce since then, other cases where the mission had gone sideways. Either the people they were tracking knew they were coming, or something else had gone horrendously wrong, more often than not resulting in the deaths of agents.

Pierce had accessed each and every one. 

“Bloody Hell.” She breathed in disbelief but not really surprised, since Jean had told her they were infiltrated and this for years. But it was the personal betrayal that hurt, Pierce was supposed to be a friend.

Her phone rang again, and Peggy looked at the ID again. *Speak of the devil…*

“Pierce.”

“You really shouldn’t have accessed those files,” she heard a cultured voice say.

“You’re HYDRA.”  Peggy bared her teeth. 

“Obviously, you think we didn’t notice your little stunt about keeping our agents out of the East North East branch?”

Peggy felt two hands seize her shoulder and her head, two men appeared out of the air, wearing strange black suits that became transparent. One of them kept the cellphone near her ear, Peggy understood what was happening. “If you kill me, they’ll know it was you,” she informed him, “There’s security cameras in this room. It’ll blow your cover and expose you.”

“Except I won’t kill you,” he told her, “It would raise too many questions. Instead, I just need you to forget. You’ll forget everything that happened in the last three months.”

“How do you plan on doing that?” she scoffed as one of the agents holding her down pulled out a jet injector with a clear solution in it.

“The memory loss serum Howard had worked on shortly before his death. It’s a shame we never got to properly test the long-term effects, but either way, we know it will work and make you forget. But just to be safe, we’ll give you slightly more than usual.” Pierce's voice held some glee. She thought about fighting, but she knew she was no longer as young as she once was. Either way, she couldn’t just allow him to wipe her memory. Not when she had just learned that Pierce was responsible for her organization being infested with vermin. She elbowed the man nearest to her, making him release her. Peggy smoothly took her pistol out of her hidden holster and fired at the second Hydra agents.

However, there was a third one who had kept hidden and tackled her, the man she had elbowed moved closer and placed the needle against her neck. Peggy struggled, biting the man holding her in a sleeper hold but it didn’t stop the other from injecting her slightly. Her eyes drooped slowly, and she felt her mind draw black as her body grew limp.

“Good night, Carter,” Pierce taunted her through her phone, as the men placed her gently in her chair. “By the time you wake up, you won’t remember any of this.”

50