Professor, help me...I think I almost killed him.
For a brief moment, he was drawn from the bleak depth of his dreams into a back alley in New York City. He saw her quivering, flame-shrouded figure calling out to him. As Jean Grey passed out, Charles Xavier abruptly shot up upright in his bed.
Ororo, Logan, I apologize at having to wake you at this hour, but I do need to see you in my quarters now. He reached out with his mind to telepathically call for the institute's two instructors. They replied with haste and arrived at his door within minutes.
"You called, Charles?" Ororo entered first, the corridor, though dimly lit illuminated her white mane, as she wrapped her robe around her.
"Yeah, what's up Charles?" The shorter man followed.
"Jean's in trouble. She's hurt."
"What happened ta Red?"
"I'm not fully sure myself."
"You'd like us to fetch her back Charles?"
"Please do Ororo. It's not safe for her out there, and I'd like her to be back sooner, so I can have Hank examine her."
"So where's she?" Logan crossed his arms and tapped his toes.
"I could not get an exact pin point on her location, but I could show you the place." The professor closed his eyes and projected the same image Jean did so earlier.
Logan and Ororo hurried off while the professor went in search for Hank to prep the medbay.
"This is crazy 'Ro. He expects us ta search the 'hole of New York?"
"I doubt she could have gotten out of Manhattan. You might want to try the vicinity of Columbia's campus first?" Ororo explained pointedly.
"Right. Manhattan ain't that small 'ither. And the Cerebro tracker ain't helpin if she don't use 'er powers."
"We'll just have to do it the traditional way then -- look." Ororo tried to lighten the mood a little, but Logan responded with only a snort. There were more important matters at hand.
It is exasperating when you did not know what to look for, or to be precise, where to look for. As clichéd as it seems, it was truly a needle in a haystack situation.
They were cruising past the downtown area, when a certain parking area caught their eye. It looked as if a tornado had hit it, with cars crushed and strewn over the roads.
"Looks like we've come ta the right neighbourhood 'Ro."
"Steady the jet Logan, I'm going down for a closer look." Storm got out of her pilot's seat and flew out of the jet.
Searching a few blocks down, Storm came across a bare-skinned figure, hidden in the shadows. As she flew over, her line of sight shifted, and so did the shadows slightly. The tangled mane of red was unmistakable.
"Goddess." Storm lowered herself to investigate. She was sprawled on the filthy alley.
"Wolverine, I've found her." Storm spoke into her communicator.
Storm undid her cape and wrapped Jean in it. With the girl safely in her arms, she lifted herself up into the night aloft the breezes to the X-Jet waiting above her.
"What's wrong 'ith 'er?" Truth be told, Logan was the slightest appalled by Jean's condition, and appearance.
"I don't know. The poor child. We'd better hurry back."
Into the intercom, Storm spoke, "We've found her Charles. We're heading back."
Loud footsteps on the hard metal floor came in the direction of the hanger.
"Hank, we've got 'er!"
Logan barged into the medbay with Jean's limp and shivering body.
"Set her down on this table," Hank gestured with his hands as he prepped for her examination. He then retrieved a hospital gown for Jean to put on temporarily.
Logan left him and waited outside with Ororo and the professor.
It was not long before Hank emerged. "Apart from some bruises, she's physically fine, just unconscious."
Charles Xavier listened on with a grim expression on his face, nodding every now and then.
"Would you like me to prepare a bed in the medbay?"
"I would much rather have her recuperate in her room. I fear there is much more than just superficial wounds. Ororo, would you kindly assist Hank?"
The midday sun was high up in the air when Jean came to.
"Professor?" Her hand immediately went to her head. She had another massive migraine piercing the back of her mind.
"Jean, are you alright my dear?"
"I don't know. I don't know anymore." She shivered spontaneously. What was happening to her? And it frightened her, and she just felt like crying.
"Would you like to talk about what happened last night?"
"I...nearly killed him." She brought her knees up to her chest and hugged them. "I nearly killed Ted. I didn't mean it, but she wanted me to do it."
Charles Xavier leant forward to cradle her head in his hands.
"He...he was all over me. Touching me. I didn't want it, didn't like it. I was angry, and she just lashed out at him." Jean shuddered inward recalling the events of the night.
"She?" The professor inquired.
"She. The girl from my dreams. She calls herself Phoenix."
"Yes, the legendary firebird. Her flames assume the shape of it. And last night...for a moment...I became Phoenix."
There was a pause, before Jean continued. "Usually, when I get really angry, I see her in my dreams."
"When did these dreams start?"
"I've been having them for over two years, on and off. I don't exactly remember when, but it..." Jean started to break down. "I'm scared Professor."
"Don't worry child. We're all here for you. Perhaps you are evolving beyond my comprehension; you haven't yet realised your full potential."
Jean chewed on her knuckles a bit. She had not been so frightened since she was a little girl discovering her telekinesis.
Dinnertime was approaching, and Jean started to feel hungry. Besides, it was boring being in your room all by yourself, and still visibly upset, she craved for anything chocolate. Huddled in a robe and slippers, she put her hair up in a pony tail and padded downstairs. It was noisier, even mentally, but it was welcome as the silence of her psi-shielded room was beginning to frustrate her.
Despite the protests of the institute's cook that it will ruin her appetite for dinner, Jean still got her hot chocolate in the end. She held the warmth in her palms and inhaled the rich sweet scent, sipping it sparingly and padded towards the rec room. She had been informed of the second batch of new recruits and a little self-introductory might be in order. She did not want to feel like a total stranger in her own home.
Jean poked her head into the rec room. All the students in there were new, she supposed, not recognizing every one of the girls. The old new recruits were probably engaging in a Danger Room session, since she had not seen the mansion's pranksters, especially Bobby, running about the institute.
"Hi." There was a nervous tingle to that.
Four pairs of eyes turned to look at her from the couch. There was a little redhead sandwiched between another girl of roughly the same build with lavender skin and pointy elf ears like Kurt's, and a taller fair blonde. On the fair right sat an American Indian girl with her hair in two thick plaits. Jean thought she had seen her some time ago.
"Who are ye?" The redhead spoke with a heavy Irish accent.
"Oh, I'm Jean."
"A new student?" The lavender-skinned girl inquired.
"Oh no, I sorta live here, from time to time." Jean flashed a tired smile. "I was one of the professor's first students. I grew up here."
"Oh. I'm Theresa." The other redhead beamed.
"Paige. Sam's sister." Came the blonde.
"Clarice." The lavender-skinned girl voiced perkily.
When it came to the Indian girl, Jean noticed she was staring at her funny, appearing almost apprehensive. Jean's hand immediately went to her side of her face where her bruises were. Her appearance must have been appalling.
"That's Danielle." The Indian girl managed a sheepish smile as Theresa pointed her out. "What happened to ye?"
"Oh, a skirmish of sorts, but I can't really remember." Jean winced at that.
Theresa still looked a tad puzzled.
"It's a small fight," Paige whispered.
"Oh! They hurt ye."
Jean did not think she wanted to involve the (little) details that were still vivid in her memory. She settled for a simple "yeah". The girls would assume "they" were humans.
The end credits of the TV programme they had watched had finished some time earlier and a news programme came on. Jean stood silently in the doorway.
"...There has been a report of a mutant attack in downtown Manhattan last night..." The news camera panned across a devastated parking area. "...Witnesses claimed that the mutant, an unidentified female, is able to generate and control fire, and was apparently assaulting a young man. The victim is identified as Ted Roberts, an undergraduate from Barnard College. Doctors deduce that the trauma of the attack has left him in a vegetative state and in critical condition. The whereabouts of this dangerous mutant is unknown and the police are currently investigating the matter."
They are coming. They know. She knows.
That voice. Jean's eyes widened, and in a split second her mug slipped from her hands and crashed onto the floor.
"Stop it!" She clutched her head, staggering backwards as she screamed hysterically.
But together we are powerful, unstoppable and unbeatable. We will not succumb. They will fall, we shall rise, and rule them!
The furniture in the rec room lifted themselves up into the air, frightening the other girls. Danielle let out a gasp. Theresa's first instinct was to scream, shattering an empty water glass before Paige put a hand over her mouth while Clarice covered her ears. Danielle just stared.
"Someone get Ms Munroe!" Paige instructed and Clarice immediately blinked away.
Suddenly, Jean keeled over, and the furniture landed abruptly on the floor, startling the girls yet again. Jean lay on the wood floor, a little dazed. Her hair fanned out, and the tips soaked in the mess of liquid split on the floor.
"What happened?" Ororo came running into the rec room.
Paige gestured to Jean on the floor. "One moment she was fine, then she suddenly went crazy."
"And the chairs, aye, they started floatin!" Theresa added in a fearful tone.
"Jean, what are you doing down here. You should be up resting in your room." Ororo approached Jean and knelt down beside her. She helped Jean sit up, and bent over to pick up the broken pieces of the mug. "Paige, would you get me some cloths to clean this mess?"
"Right away Ms Munroe."
Theresa peered meekly from over the couch. "Is she gonna be alright?"
"I do hope so," Jean managed a weak reply.
"Come, we'd better get you back to your room. What were you doing down here anyway?" Ororo's voice trailed off as she held Jean steady out of the rec room.
Theresa followed Ororo out of the door and met Clarice in the hallway, leaving Danielle standing in the rec room. "It's all happening like in the dream..." Danielle mouthed, eyes wide in shock at what she had just witnessed.
"Jean, what happened?" The professor wheeled into her bedroom as Ororo had Jean tucked in her bed.
"I saw the news, and it just...I'm sorry professor. I shouldn't have been out there." Jean looked out the window and grabed fistfuls of her blanket.
"I'm well aware of the news, and what happened to...the victim." Charles Xavier leaned forward and steepled his fingers.
"But now everyone is going to know...there's this really bad feeling inside of me, and it won't go away." Jean sank back into her pillow and closed her eyes.
"Don't worry Jean, I'll deal with the situation. Just try to relax." The professor voiced soothingly, trying to calm her.
"I can't. I can't let the Phoenix take control. I'm worried about what she'll make me do..."
"What will she make you do Jean?"
"Burn. She makes me burn people. In my dreams, that time in Cerebro..." Jean shifts her head to stare at the ceiling above her.
Cerebro. "Jean, that day, what were you doing in Cerebro?" The professor's brows were knitted, and his eyes intense.
"I...I don't know. She made me go there. Made me use Cerebro. And it gave me power, more power to burn them."
"You should rest Jean, and this time, please stay in your room." Charles Xavier pats her hand and she nods in response.
After putting Jean to sleep, Charles Xavier exited her room quietly.
"Charles, how is she? She's starting to worry me greatly." Ororo walked up to him.
"I don't know. She was talking about a mind and power struggle between her and a...being...known to her as Phoenix. She said it made her use Cerebro. But Jean isn't strong enough, and trained for that matter to handle Cerebro without my guidance and she knows that. She expressed herself as being possessed by this Phoenix character."
"But Jean had used Cerebro against you and defeated you when you were possessed by Apocalypse."
"We were on the Astral Plane yes, and the battle ended in this flash of bright white light. Such raw energy I had never felt before; such energy being released from her." The professor chewed on this thought as he rolled down the hallway, accompanied by Ororo.
"Perhaps Charles, Cerebro did something to her?"
"I can't say Ororo, and her change is puzzling me."
"You once mentioned that Cerebro could affect separate telepaths differently."
"Yes, Cerebro was built with my telepathy in mind. It was designed to enhance my powers. Unlike Jean's I have to work at reading people's minds. With her, she has to work at keeping them out." He had suppressed her telepathy when she was a child, and there had been an instance when her powers expanded without notice and her old shields could not hold. Did Cerebro manage to up the level of her powers? He pondered deeply, his expression grim.
Nightfall heralds the realm of dreams.
But somewhere in New York City, a certain young man is wide awake. He has not slept since the nightmare he had the previous night. He dreamt of a little girl. She was trapped in a small white house. The house was burning. And she was crying. She had tousled red hair, green eyes, and light freckles sprayed across her cheeks. He had tried to get to her, but the fire raged and burned him. When he awoke he knocked a picture frame onto the floor. It was a picture of him with the little redheaded girl, and the glass piece of the frame cracked and shattered a little on impact, strategically over the face of the girl. Vary of the tiny glass splinters, he cradles the frame gently and pulls the photograph out. The girl in the picture smiles back at him. He can still hear the crashing waves and feel the soft caress of the evening breeze sitting by the lake. In his memory was etched the endless depths of her (emerald) eyes. So there he lay staring up into the night sky while his thoughts drifted to Bayville.
Stars on a cloudless night were a rare phenomenon in Bayville, and this night was no exception. The night sky was blanketed with a layer of white from the view of the redhead where she sat by the window still. She could not sleep, or rather, she did not want to. Her dreams scared her. In her arms, she hugged an old teddy. This was a special teddy. Her best friend had won the bear in a carnival for her. And she now wished her best friend did not have to leave her when she was feeling so alone at this moment. She wanted to cry into his arms, and be comforted by his words. He always knew how to make her laugh, where she was most ticklish, and what chocolates she liked. She missed him greatly; his touch, his voice, his presence. He will wake her from this dreadful nightmare. The emptiness and bitterness is too great for her to bear. But for now, she weeps silent tears in this heart-wrenching solitude. Even the stars do not hear her sobs.
The rest of the mansion sleeps on, but five doors down, another girl sleeps fitfully, for her mutation plagues her with dreams.
There is a crowd in Washington D.C. They are holding up huge signboards and parading the streets, demonstrating against mutants. Mutants are a threat, they have to be destroyed, they chant as the Senate engages in a hearing. The Senate intends to pass the Mutant Registration Act, and their supporters cheer them on.
In the broad daylight, the crowd sees a gigantic glowing figure approaching them. It burns as brightly as the sun itself, the firebird, as it descends upon them. But this firebird is angry, and perched atop a building, a young woman commands its wings. Some grow frightened and flee, others hurl insults and objects, which the firebird deflects with ease and has it raining back down on the crowd. It has fire raining back down on the crowd, like fire bombs from an active volcano. Their clothes and hair catch fire, as so do the buildings. The people are burning, and the air carries the acrid scent of scorched bodies lying about in the streets. Those who have tried to oppose it -- men and robots -- have fallen, dispersed among the countless who have perished.
Is there no one who dares oppose this menacing being?
"NO!" Danielle awakes, breaking out in cold sweat. Her room is dark, barely illuminated by the faint moonlight. The drapes over the windows flutter as the cool night breeze stirs them.
"That face...it's her...she brings death upon us..." She rubs her face with both palms and pushes stray strands of hair out of her eyes. "She is among us...she must be stopped..."
In her dreams, Danielle sees a death aura cast upon the demonstrators. The future has many alternate possibilities but certain death is imminent. She had dreamt death upon her parents. She saw a man burn in her dreams and he will soon die. She has always feared what her dreams may come.