The Verdict of the Phoenix
Thanks to Maggie, for giving me permission to include the Spectre. And thanks for Lilith for editing, and for letting me play in the Ret-Con sandbox. But especially thanks to those who read my stuff and keep encouraging me to write anyway.
Jean Grey sat cross-legged in the middle of a room, surrounded by the people she loved and trusted most, searching for the wrongness. On her right was her adopted mother, Sara, who gave her hand a squeeze. Beside her was Sara’s boyfriend Arnold “Iron” Munroe, recently promoted to Brigadier General, and place in charge of the facility that they were using at that moment. But most importantly, on her right was the love of her life, Scott Summers.
Jean looked at Scott, who smiled at her, and then got ready to broaden her search. As she prepared, she recalled how she had felt the wrongness the night before, so strongly she set this session up to find its source.
She closed her eyes, and began calling on the full power of her telepathy.
“St. Louis,” She murmured aloud, and then focused her search.
“Oh, no. Not that. Not again. Wasn’t Dolores enough?” Tears began to run down her cheeks.
“Delores?” asked the Brigadier, “The woman with the chip in her head?”
“Yes,” Jean said, “It has happened again. A human being is being turned into …. a toy. Oh God I can’t ….” Then Jean passed out.
A little later, she sat in the Brigadier’s office with Scott holding her hand, sipping on a cup of tea, trying to articulate what she had seen.
“I … saw a man. He had been turned into a woman, not surgically, but with some kind of injection. Then they put the chip in her head and …. Please. We have to stop them!”
Sara rubbed her back, “We will find a way, Jean. Somehow.”
“I - I have to try again. Find out where they are doing this. That poor man...”
“Not today, Jean. Tomorrow.” the Brigadier said.
“I mean it. Go home, rest, and come back tomorrow.”
That night, Jean dreamt as she slept.
Jean found herself in what looked like an ancient Greek temple. Great stone columns rose to a marble ceiling. To the one side there was an altar with a flame below it, and Jean could smell incense rising from it. She was floating, being held up by the Phoenix, in the form of a bright predatory bird made out of flame. In front of her was something that seemed very much like another Phoenix. She got the sense that it was old, and powerful. It seemed to be a combination of both bird and woman, with wings where the arns should be. But that wasn’t the only similarity. Like the Phoenix, Jean could tell it was fierce, and passionate, and dangerous.
She was paying no attention to Jean, but was focused on some kind of portal. Jean drew close, and saw that it was like a window on the Earth. Jean found herself watching as a creature approached the tormented soul she had seen being transformed. The creature was wearing a green cloak that went down to just above its feet, and when it threw the hood back, it had the face of a beautiful woman. Jean recognised her from news reports as the vigilante called the Spectre.
Jean watched as the Spectre gave the poor transformed man the only peace possible, and then she screamed and cried at the loss of the innocent.
“They must pay!” Jean shouted and then woke.
The next day, Jean recounted her dream to Scott, Sara, and the Brigadier. She sounded cold and formal, as if she was reciting facts from a dictionary. “The Spectre is an agent of an ancient creature. The Greeks called her Tisiphone. She was one of the Furies, the Blood Avenger, who punished those who committed the worst of crimes.”
Jean paused, and the mask broke, and she began to cry. “I’m seeing what happened to that man, over and over again. And I know he’s not the only one. I... I have to go see the Spectre. I have to find out more about the people doing this and how to stop them.”
“She’s dangerous, Jean. you need to stay away from her.” General Munroe said.
Her eyes were blazing and a ring of fire surrounded her. “I wasn’t asking permission, sir.” Jean said, and left.
Scott ran after her, “Jean, wait. Please, don’t do this. We need to stay on the good side of the government here.”
“You can stay on their good side if you want to. I... I thought you’d be on my side.”
With a blast from her mind, she knocked him down, and then flew off, with tears in her eyes. “Spectre, you’re getting help, whether you want it or not.”
As Jean flew, she reached out with her mind, and felt the Spectre. She staggered, and landed, and concentrated on the information her telepathy was giving her. She could see the Spectre meeting out some justice on the husband of the poor tortured man the Spectre had been able to release. Jean silently cheered his fate, and flung herself back into to sky.
She saw the Spectre sitting on the Arch, and floated down until she was in front of the woman.
“Hello, Phoenix.” the Spectre said, “I seem to be attracting all kinds of visitors lately. Guess I'll need to change where I hang out to think. Are you here to take me in to face justice, too?”
“Hardly.” Jean said, and reduced her access to the Phoenix, until her true form was visible. “I don't know if even the Phoenix could take you, but I won't try. I don't think the city would fare well if you and I went at it full out, do you?”
“Probably not.” the Spectre agreed. “So why are you here, then?”
“I want to help you.”
“Help me with what?”
“What you're doing and have been doing recently.”
“Playing the airhead isn't your style, Spectre.” Jean chuckled. “You know what I'm talking about. I watched what you did to that bastard. At first, I wanted you to kill him, painfully.”
Jean went on with a sigh that sent sparks flying through the air. “But when I saw what you were doing I changed my mind, and cheered you on. Even though I was ashamed of myself for that, I relished what you did to that bastard. Even if it was something I would find repellent most of the time. He deserved that, and more.”
“That's about how I felt, too. But that one is going to be living with his 'dream' for a long time to come. Even if I'm ashamed of myself for doing that.” The Spectre admitted.
“Don't be, death was too good for him.”
“I even denied that to him.” The Spectre told Jean, “He won't die unless I let him, or her, as it will soon be. Worse, the woman he's going to become will look young and fresh until I release her.”
“You'll relent in time.” Jean shrugged, and then gave an evil grin. “But that one needs to suffer, for a long time.”
“Wow, someone who actually doesn't condemn me for things, I've done. I don't always like what I do, you know. I'm guided, and have to follow that at times.”
“It's what you are.” Jean shrugged again. “You can't fight that, Spectre.”
My name is Diana.”.
“Appropriate.” Jean nodded. “The Huntress. And my name is Jean.”
“Jean.” Diana nodded back, “I seem to be the modern day incarnation of one of the Greek Furies.”
“Tisiphone, I know.”
“You know her? You've seen her?”
“I know her, yes.” Jean answered. “From legends and myths.” ”And dreams” she thought to her self. “But I knew that she was behind what you do from the start. She was the one who went after murderers, after all. I haven't been able to talk with her, though.”
“Probably just as well.” Diana grinned. “With your powers and her bloodthirsty leanings that could really get messy, on a large scale.”
“No arguments there.” Jean laughed. “She was the most violent of the Erinyes, after all.”
“Tell me about it.” Diana grumbled.
“Don't you want to know why I want to help you?” Jean asked.
“Figured that you'd get around to telling me in time.” Diana told her
“True.” Jean paused, and then looked Diana in the eyes. “I had a chance to help once before, I might have been able to save Dolores, but I was afraid to do that.”
“Lots of thoughts, good, bad, indifferent, and emotions to sort through for you to have been able to find her.” Diana pointed out. “That would have been really painful for you.”
“Not an excuse.” Jean shot back, and the flames around her flared again. “I should have helped and I didn't because I didn't want the pain that looking would have caused me. The pain that resulted from my not doing that was worse.”
“Superman, or Supergirl, is a myth.” Diana told her and moved forward to hug the still flaming figure. “No one can ignore pain, Jean. I can't, you can't. I could have found Dolores, too. If I had when things were starting with what happened to her, I might have been able to at least stop the programming that made her into a less than human toy for someone. But I didn't step in then either.”
Diana sighed heavily. “I could have, if I'd been paying attention. I could have stopped it. But I didn't.”
A vision of what Diana had been doing at the time entered Jean’s mind. “You were busy hunting down that Necromancer at the time. At least you were doing something that would help people. I wasn't. I just … sat there, too afraid to find her because of the nasty things I would find while I was searching.”
Jean started crying, but the tears vanished. She realized Diana was sending them somewhere. The ghostly woman then hugged her tightly. “We all made mistakes when that happened, bad ones. I wish at least one of us hadn't, but we had no idea about what the real evil that took Dolores was. We all just thought she'd been kidnapped and nothing else. You aren't the only one who made that assumption, believe me.”
“But I just stepped aside!” Jean almost screamed. “I wouldn't even try!”
“Like I said.” Diana said in a soothing voice while stroking Jean’s back. “None of us really knew what was happening to Dolores. Now we do. And I'm going stop it, root out the cause, and destroy it.”
“These people are a lot further along than the ones who did that to Dolores.”
“I know, and one of them has paid for that already.” Diana said without emotion. “Others will, trust me on that. I am Justice, and vengeance. When it comes time to hand those out, I’ll have no conception of mercy.”
“I want to help you make them pay.” Jean whispered.
“You will.” Diana told her. “You can find me wherever I am, I can find you wherever you are. But if you need to talk with me in our human forms just email [email protected]”
“Sexy Deena?” Jean giggled despite herself.
“Yeah.” Diana nodded. “My human form is a prostitute. But she's a good person.”
“Can I ask you something here? Were you a guy before whatever happened to make you like you are now?”
“Oh, yeah.” Diana grinned. “All guy, but being a girl isn't all that bad, especially when the girl you are is one guys drool about, though that part was kind of hard to accept at first. Tisiphone has a really twisted sense of humor.”
“You're not fighting that part of you now, though, are you?”
“Nah, it wouldn't do any good if I did and the sex is really, really good.” Diana grinned. “You should try it.”
“I'll keep that in mind.” Jean answered a bit weakly. “But not right now.”
“When you're ready.” Diana said with a happy sigh. “But trust me, you'll wonder why you waited so long once you do.”
Jean blushed, thinking about Scott. “If that happens, you'll be the first to know.”
“Nah, I'll be the third. First is you, second is the lucky damned guy.”
“Jean, you're gorgeous.” Diana said, flatly “Teenager or otherwise, you are simply beautiful and you're going to have guys chasing you all the time in your mortal life. You've shown the Phoenix human grief and pain. Show her human joy, too. It's only fair, after all.”
“No buts. You'll do it when you're ready, and you'll know when you're ready. Just let it happen, don't force it, or fight it. It will come and you aren't going to be able to stop it.”
“But I know what people are thinking!”
“And?” Diana said, “When that one special guy comes along, that just means that you'll know it.”
“That has nothing to do with what we were talking about.”
“Nope.” Diana said and hugged Jean again. “That we will do, but what I just told you has everything to do with getting really comfortable and happy in your new self. You need to let the girl have fun and get satisfaction, you know. After all, she is you.”
“Like your own girl self would know that!”
“Oh, she does, I do.” Diana answered quite seriously. “I know what my human self does to make a living and oddly, I'm not ashamed of it. But I have one special person who has never paid a cent for being with me and trust me, that means a lot. In time, you'll find someone, too. And when it happens, you'll know it.”
“How could someone love me?” Jean cried, remembering the rejection she had just felt with Scott.
“Someone will. Just give it time.”
“With what I am?”
“Look at me, Jean.” Diana ordered. “Look at me.”
“My special person sees beyond what I show the world. Yours will to when he comes. Mine loves me in both personas even if one of them is really dangerous to know. And you know what? He isn't worried about the extraneous stuff. He loves me for me, whichever form I show him.”
“That is off the subject.” Jean pulled back
“I'll take your help.” Diana told Jean,
“And thank you for it. We'll make these people pay for what they've done, Jean. That is something that I'll never let up on until it's finished. My word on that.”
“With what you are now, that's more than enough.” She nodded then gave Diana a smile. “The other stuff, I'll think about and work on.”
“Good enough on both counts.” I nodded.
“Bye for now.” Jean touched Diana’s cheek and smiled. “But we'll be seeing a lot of each other in the future, I know it.”
“Oh, yeah. Don't stay a stranger and all that.”
“Good enough for me.” Diana answered. Jean manifested the power of the Phoenix, and left St. Louis. She headed back west.
Her conversation with Diana had started a chain of thoughts in her mind. She thought of Scott, and despite his not understanding why she had to do this, she loved him more than life. An ache to have him hold her came over her I need him. If I haven’t blown it already.
She landed in front of his house, and rang the bell. Scott answered the door, and swept Jean up in a massive hug.
“Oh thank God Jean!”
“Scott, I’m sorry.”
“Me too, I can’t really imagine what it must be like to feel someone else’s pain like you do.”
“I - I don’t want to talk about it right now. I just want you to hold me. I need to feel something good.”
Scott led Jean to his room, and he simply held her until she fell asleep.
In the morning, Jean woke with a start, and realized she was alone in the bed. She was just about to call out, when Scott came back in, and said, “Morning, beautiful.”
She smiled at him, and said, “Scott … we didn’t …”
“We didn’t, Jean.”
“Why not? You do want to, right?”
“You even have to ask? But I made a promise to wait until the time was right, and last night was more about you needing comfort, not sex.”
“Thanks. What about your mom? And Beth?”
“Mom will be getting up soon. I think she will understand. And Beth will be by later.”
“Okay. I guess I better call Sara and tell her I’m okay.”
Jean phoned, and then told Scott “I should go home. I’m sure I deserve a chewing out for running away like that.”
“It’ll be okay, Jean. Promise.”
Jean went home, and apologised to Sara, and at her insistence, called General Munroe and did the same.
The next day was Sunday, and they all went to church together. After service, she again apologised to all of them, and they each forgave her.
The next week was a busy one, as Scott and Jean were wrapping up classes before the Christmas break. The last day of class, Scott said to Jean, “You’ll never guess what happened, Jean. My mom’s brother would like me to bring her to Los Angeles, California for Christmas!”
“That’s great Scott. I’ll … I’ll miss you, though.”
Scott grinned. “That depends. I talked it over with Sara and General Munroe, and you can come too, if you want.”
Jean hugged him fiercely, and he said with a strangled voice, “I take that as a yes?”
“That’s great, can you maybe let me breathe now?”
“Oh. Sorry.” Jean said, and let go of Scott.
That night, Jean said to Sara, “Thank you for this. I really needed to get away for a bit, but what about you? As my mom, shouldn’t you be going with us?”
“Maybe, but Beth has agreed to be your chaperon for the trip. I have plans of my own.”
“Do they involve a certain General?”
“I’m sure he will have a very good Christmas with you, Sara.”
“Thanks, Jean. You and Scott have fun, and stay out of trouble.”
“We’re teens, can we even do both?” Jean asked with a smile.
Sara just shook her head.
The next day, Jean, Beth, Scott, and Shannon were climbing onto a plane to go to California. On the plane, Jean asked Scott, “One thing I’m confused about. You’ve never mentioned any family outside of your mom before. And what are they going to think about the fact that your mom’s daughter is now her son?”
“Well, for your first question, I had never heard of them until I got the invite and since it was addressed to the whole family, I assume we’ll just have to say my sister couldn’t come.”
“I guess that’ll work. I’m still a little on edge, cause of those chips.”
“I understand, Jean. But hopefully, you can relax for the holiday. When we get back, we’ll work together to find a way to stop them.”
Sara and General Munroe drove Jean, Scott, Beth, and Sharon to the airport. Soon, the flight was called, and Sara hugged each of them in turn. Beth loaded Sharon onto the plane, and Jean and Scott followed suit. As they boarded the plane, Scott asked Jean, “You don’t find it strange they aren’t sending a babysitter with us? I mean, you are a super powerful Meta.”
“You’re right, Scott. Hmm... Let me do a scan …” She paused for a moment, and held a hand to her head. “We aren’t alone. The Air Marshal on this flight is actually one of the General’s men.”
“I guess that’s a comfort, but they could have told us he was on our side.”
“I think they wanted us to relax, and try to just be a couple of regular teens for once.”
“I guess that’s okay,” Scott said, and then led her to their seats.
It was a quiet flight, and Scott breathed a sigh of relief when they landed.
“You okay?” Jean asked.
“Much better now that I’m on the ground. I didn’t realize how much flying would make me nervous.”
“Maybe it will be better if I was the one flying you.”
“I’m not sure about that idea.”
“Your call, hon.”
They got out of the plane, and worked their way to the checkout. After picking up their bags, they went toward the exit, and then Scott saw a woman holding a sign reading “Summers”.
The group moved toward the woman, who had a man beside her. When she saw them coming, she waved.
“Sharon?” She asked. “I’m Rachael Summers. This is my husband Franklin.”
“Nice to meet you. But I don’t recall having a brother, you know.” Sharon said.
“Technically, I’m a half-brother. Your dad and my mom had a little fling, I guess.”
“Well, regardless, I’m glad to meet you. This is Beth, who keeps me out of trouble.” Sharon said.
“Nice to meet you.” Franklin said.
“Likewise.” Beth said.
“And this is my son, Scott.” Sharon said.
They shook hands.
“Who is this lovely woman with you?” Franklin said.
“This is my girlfriend, Jean.” Scott said.
“Hi.” Jean managed.
“Oh, you are so beautiful !” Rachael exclaimed, and gave Jean a hug.
Jean heard a voice in her mind, saying “Jean? Can you hear me? Just think it if you can.”
“Hello?” Jean thought back.
“Thank God, this works. We’ll have to talk when we get to the house, okay?”
The woman let go of Jean, and Franklin led the group to a large van.
“I think we can fit everyone and everything.” He said, and everyone got in.
As they traveled, Frank said, “I’m sorry to tell you about your dad, Sharon.”
“Don’t be. I’m not really surprised. My parents divorced just after I left home at eighteen.”
“That was probably over me, from what I learned.”
“And what about your mother?” Sharon asked.
“Died in July from cancer. That’s how I found out about our father.”
“I’m so sorry.” Sharon said.
“Thanks. Anyway, I’m glad you found us. It was going to be rather lonely at Christmas.”
“So am I.”
“So where are we going?” Scott asked.
“We live near Topanga State Park”
They rode along in silence for a while, and then Rachael said, “Have any of you been to California before?”
“I haven’t” Sharon said.
Jean bit her lip. She had been, but it had been when she was John. “And that life is long gone,” she thought to herself.
“Are you going to be able to put us all up?” Beth asked.
“We have a couple of suites in our basement that we built to rent out, and they aren’t in use right now. So you and Sharon can be upstairs if you don’t mind sharing, and Scott and Jean can have the suites downstairs.”
“Sounds okay to me, Mom.” Scott said.
“It’ll be a lovely Christmas.” Sharon said.
“I hope so.” Rachael said, and looked at Jean significantly.
Eventually, they got to Toponga State Park, and pulled into the driveway of a huge house.
“This is your place?” Beth said with awe.
“I’ve done alright for myself.” Frank said.
Frank and Scott took the bags in, while Rachael showed Sharon, Beth, and Jean around the house. Then they all met in the living room, and sat down. After a few minutes of talking about Christmas, Rachel stood up and said, “I’ll make us some snacks. Jean, would you like to help?”
Jean got up, and said, “Sure.” The two of them moved into the kitchen, where Rachel took Jean’s hand, and Jean could hear her in her mind.
“Jean? Can you find out if we are bugged?”
Jean pulled out her pink ring, and focused. “Usually, this ring only allows me to communicate with the others, but between it and my own power I can check.” She was silent for a moment, and then thought, “We’re clean.”
Rachel sighed, and then said, “Thank God.”
“Okay,” Jean said, “Whats going on?”
“I’m sorry for the cloak-and dagger, Jean, but we are in trouble, and Brigadier General Munroe said you could help.”
“I should have guessed this wasn’t really just a Christmas holiday. Tell me whats going on.”
“It started a couple of months ago. I was down at City Hall, checking into some strange zoning situations. I got a chance to talk to the Zoning Commissioner. He … is actually a friend of mine, but when I shook his hand., I felt something. I’m a touch-telepath, I can only read thoughts if I’m in contact with a person. What I felt was horrible. Somehow, his will had been taken from him.
I called the Brigadier, who is just about the only one who knows I have the meta-gene, and well, he arranged this little holiday.”
“Did you feel a chip in his head?” Jean asked.
“Yes. Do you know about this?”
“I’ve touched with my mind some others who have been given this chip. It gives them pain when they even THINK about disobeying, and gives unbelievable pleasure when they do as they’re told.”
“It scared the hell out of me, Jean. I could tell the Commissioner isnt the only one, and I think whoever is doing this doesn’t plan to stop with just Sacramento.”
“I know they don’t They’re worldwide, I think. Do you have any ideas where they are located?”
“Well, like I said, there’ve been some zoning irregularities. Based on what I was able to pick up, I can find the building where the Commissioner was changed.”
“Does Franklin know?”
“Yes. I met him a while ago, and well , I fell in love. The story he told Scott’s mother is true, as bizarre as that must seem. Once we realized the possibility that he was related to Scott, the idea of using that to bring you here seemed obvious. But he’s one reason why I’m scared. He’s a big enough player locally to attract their attention.” Rachel said, and shivered.
“Okay. If I can get close, I can confirm that’s the spot. I.. I don't know how though.” Jean said.
“Well, its not far from City Hall. Tomorrow, you and Scott can play tourists, and I’ll take you to visit the area. Franklin should stay here with Sharon and Beth and catch up on old times.”
The two of them made some snacks, and came out and visited with the others. Eventually, Jean said, “Scott, Rachel has graciously offered to show us the sites tomorrow. We should make it an early night, though, I’d like to go early, if I can.”
He looked at Jean questioningly, but seeing her expression, he said, “Okay with me, Jean.”
“Franklin, show Sharon and Beth where they will be sleeping. I’ll take the kids downstairs.”
“Alright, hon.” he said, and kissed her. “Come with me, ladies.”
He led Sharon and Beth out of the room, and then Rachel said, “Come on, I’ll take you downstairs.”
Scott and Jean followed her, and she led them down the stairs to two rooms that were side-by-side, with a small common room opposite.
“We had at one point planned to completely separate the downstairs, so we could rent it out, but never finished. Still, you two should be comfy enough down here.”
“I’m sure it will be fine. Good night.” Jean said.
“Good night. See you in the morning.” Rachel said, and went back up the stairs.
After she left, Scott whispered, “Okay, Jean, what the heck is going on?”
Jean filled him in, and he frowned. “I didn’t realize it was this bad. I’m .. starting to see why you thought we might need help with this. I’ll help anyway I can.”
“Thanks, Scott. I love you.”
“I love you too. But we better try and get some sleep.”
Jean went to her room, pulled out a nightgown out of her suitcase, and crawled into the bed. “I … I hope I’m up to this.” she thought, and eventually, drifted off to sleep.
In the morning, she dressed in a simple t-shirt and capri pants, with gladiator style sandals. She tied her hair into a simple pony tail, and put a sun-hat on, and went out. Stopping at the bathroom, she looked at herself.
“A year and a half ago, I became a girl, and sometimes, I still find it amazing I’m not even trying to look feminine, I just ...do.” She thought.
Scott came up behind her, and said, “Penny for your thoughts?”
“I’m just marveling on how much of a girl I am.”
“I know what you mean. I see a guy looking back at me in the mirror, and I’m still surprised. But all things considered, I’m glad. If I wasn’t a guy, I wouldn’t have you.”
“And I’m glad about that too, Scott.” Jean said, and kissed him.
The two of them went upstairs, and met the others at the breakfast table. After breakfast, Scot said, “Mom, Rachel has offered to show us around the town, is that okay with you?”
“That sounds good to me, Scott. But what about me?”
“I’ll be with you, Sharon. We can do whatever you like.” Franklin said.
“Well, Beth, how do you feel about staying closer to here?”
“I’m okay with that.” Beth said.
“Okay. You and Jean have a good time, Scott. I.. I’m proud of the man you’re becoming.”
Scott looked sheepish, and said, “Thanks mom.” He hugged her.
Soon, Rachel had loaded up a car, and they took off. They got to the City Hall, and looked around, taking pictures like normal tourists. At lunchtime, Rachel said, “Lets go to Vista Hermosa Park and eat our lunch there.”
So they got in the car and drove a short distance, coming to the park with some picnic tables. They ate lunch, and then Rachel said, “The building is just south of here. What can we do now?”
Jean said, “You two cover me, I’m going to rest by that tree over there. I’ll check it out using my power.”
“Okay Jean. I’ll be right here.”
A few moments later, she was relaxed, and then let herself drift into the mental plane. She looked asleep, but Scott watched her worriedly. A couple of minutes later, she opened her eyes, and said, “Its true, Rachel …. they .. .they … take me home, please.”
Scott helped her up, and they went back to the car, and Rachel drove her home.
“What was it, Jean? Was it those chips?”
“Yes. Look, I know how you feel about the Spectre, but the fact is, we need help. We have to stop this, or they will control everything.”
“I understand, Jean. What can we do?”
“I’m going to St. Louis to tell her what I found. Then we’ll see what we can do.”
Shortly after Jean snuck out and took off, changing into her Phoenix form as she flew. Arriving in St. Louis, she found the Specter sitting on the top of the Arch.
“Diana.” Jean said.
“Hi Jean.” She said, “What can I do for you tonight?”
“I just wanted to check in with you.” Jean settled into her human shape, but still wreathed if fire, on the top of the arch. “And to let you know I think I found another place those bastards do this kind of thing.”
“Where?” Diana asked.
“Los Angeles.” Jean answered. “But the people they work on there leave looking the same as they did when they went in. I can sense the chips in them, but they don't act any differently than they did before those damned things were put into them.”
“Politicians, media people, business and tech leaders?” Diana asked.
“Slaves don't always look like slaves to people who don't know what to look for.” Diana sighed, then told Jean about a group calling itself 'New Earth'.
“Show me.” Diana said, and the two of them went back to Los Angeles. Jean showed her the building, with the Spectre’s power shielding them from being seen.
“Jean, this is going to go down, but we have no real evidence, the physical kind, the
paperwork or records. When we do this,” Diana looked at Jean, and frowned, “People are going to believe that we're monsters who are just getting rid of a tech we don't like.”
“Let them think what they want.” Jean shot back, thinking of Rachel, and what this was costing her, . “I'll put up with being branded as villain if we can stop this.”
“That's all I needed to know.” Diana said, and moved up to give Jean a tight hug. “The general public and authorities already think I'm way too close to being a villain. But I do what I have been charged to do. Once the Phoenix learns more about how humans work through you let her see the good things first or you'll probably have a hard time holding her back. Just tell her that humanity also does some good points, too.”
“She knows that.” Jean answered. “I don't think she understands what is good, bad, evil, or what so far, though.”
“Got one I'm showing that to, myself right now.” Diana sighed. “You have to show The Phoenix the good and bad about being human, and that most of the time, the bad doesn't really warrant a lot of punishment. I discovered that I'm showing Tisiphone just that recently.”
“Shes' still pretty distant.” Jean nodded. “But she's interested.”
“Tisiphone is anything but distant.” Diana chuckled. “But she still wants to learn more about humanity. I halfway think I became what I am now just so she could do that.”
“She had other reasons, Diana.” Jean smiled. “You have a strong sense of justice, the difference between right and wrong. But you also know what love is, what it is to actually care for others. The only things Tisiphone ever cared for before you were her sisters, and they died or just went away, because they weren't able to grasp the idea that to really punish someone, you have to care for them”
“You know how it was when you were a child.” She went on. “If your parents punished you with nothing more than words, it hurt a lot worse than if a teacher spanked you.
After the spanking from the teacher, you were careful not to get into trouble again right away. “
“But if your parent's spanked you?” She grinned. “You knew, you JUST knew, that what you'd done to get that was really, really wrong.”
“I'm not the world's damned mommy.” Diana shot back. “I never cared in my human life. If I had to get rid of someone, or hurt them, I just did it. Part of the job.”
“Liar.” Jean grinned. “You got yourself killed because you cared about someone, something, and you know it.”
Diana lowered her head head, nodded, and then looked Jean in the eyes. “Yeah, I guess I do, and did, at that.”
“So don't be ashamed of caring, Diana.” Jean hugged the ghostly figure.
“I better go.” Jean said.
“Me too.” Diana said, and faded.
Jean flew back to Rachel and Franklin’s home, and slipped inside.
“Spectre knows now. She’s gathering others to help. Miss Mars, Green Lantern, maybe more.” She told Scott.
“Good. I wish I could help.” Scott said.
“You will, Scott. Your power is incredible. We’ll find a use for it, trust me.”
“Glad to hear that.”
“Why haven’t we made love yet?”
Scott blushed, and said, “What brings this subject up?”
“I’ve been thinking about it a lot, especially lately. I mean, we are as committed to each other as any two people could be, so why wait?”
“No reason, maybe, but also no reason to rush either.”
“Scott tell me honestly, do you want me?”
“More than I can say, Jean, you know how I feel about you.”
“But you’ve been holding back, why?”
“Its complicated Jean.”
“Scott. you know me. Please tell me.”
“Its two things, Jean. The first is being male is still hard for me, sometimes, especially when it comes to that part of me. I still struggle with the whole idea of this weight between my legs, and how sometimes, its like it has a mind of its own. I’m getting better, but there is still some work to do.”
“I’m sorry. Scott. But you said two things, whats the other?”
“Its my power. I have to exercise such self-control, what would happen if I let go while we were making love? I’m afraid I’d kill you.”
“Scott, you know I carry the Phoenix. She can protect me from your power, even if you did let go. Heck, she might consider it a snack.”
“Just a thought on how your power works. I think you act like a solar battery, taking the radiation from the sun, and converting it into the force blast you throw out.”
“Cool, I guess.”
“But you aren't distracting me, Mr. Summers. What would you say to going to bed together, right now?”
Scott blushed, and said, “Usually its the guy talking the girl into bed.”
“Some girls do take the lead, you know. But you can be assured I will take ‘no’ as an answer, if you dont want to.”
“Oh, I want to Jean. But can we take it slow? I might need more time to ‘warm up’ than other guys.”
“I think that can be arranged.” Jean pulled her t-shirt off, revealing the red lace bra.
“On the other hand, maybe I wont need more time to warm up after all.” …..
In the morning, the two teens came back upstairs, and saw Rachel smiling at them.
“Busy night?” She asked.
Both Jean and Scott turned red. Franklin, Beth, and Sharon joined them for breakfast. All of the adults smiled at the teens, neither of whom could stop blushing.
“So, Jean, whats the plan?” Scott said, trying to divert the attention of the adults.
“I think we need to lay as low as possible until everything is in place to take them out. No reason to risk anything before that.” Jean replied.
“Yeh, but its Christmas, we should at least get presents.” Scott said.
“It sounds good to me, Rachel said.
The two teens went back to their rooms to get ready, and Scott asked Jean, “Not that I’m complaining, Jean, but why did we decide to make love last night?”
Jean looked at him thoughtfully and said, “Scott, a while back I read a book where a woman asked a man to make love to her, because they were alive, and life was so sweet. I - I wanted that moment, before we face this ‘new Earth’ group, in case we didn’t win.”
“We’ll win. Nothing can stand up to the power of the Phoenix, and the others you mentioned can hold their own.” He kissed her.
They went back upstairs, and joined the others who were piling into the large van, and made their way to the closest mall. Soon, Franklin and Scott were left with the job of carrying parcels while the women shopped to their hearts content.
After they got back and put the gifts under a Christmas tree, Scott took Jean aside and said, “Today was nice. It felt good to do something so normal, I guess. Just Jean and Scott, two normal teens. And not the Phoenix and, well me.”
“We are definitely going to have to come up with a super hero name for you Scott.”
“No way. Next you’ll want me in black leather or yellow spandex.”
“Hmmmm” Jean said, “Either would look good on you...”
“Its a good thing I love you, Jean Grey.”
“A very good thing. But I think its a good thing I love you too, Scott Summers.”
They kissed until Franklin coughed, and said, “Supper’s ready.”
That night, as they lay together in bed, Scott said, “That was even better than last night. I never even dreamed you could let me feel what you feel.”
“So did you like having a female orgasm again?”
“It was nice, as I’m still not used to the male kind. But I’ll have either, as long as they’re with you.”
“Scott Summers, that was just the right thing to say. Comere.”
For a couple of days Scott and Jean enjoyed the normal routine of Christmas, and both tried to put the coming crisis out of their minds. Christmas day, they had a huge meal after tearing through presents.
The last day of the year, the group was sitting around the breakfast table when the phone rang. Franklin answered, and after a few moments said, “I have to go in to the office for a bit.”
Rachel said, “This close to New Years?”
“I’m sure its nothing, hon.”
“Okay. But please be careful. Even if they have no idea we are on to them, you’d be a target anyway.”
“I will.” Franklin said, and kissed her.
“What about the rest of us, more Christmas shopping”
Scott groaned, and said, “We don’t have enough yet? Women and shopping, I tell ya.”
“Men!” Rachel said. “Just for that, you get to help me finish decorating this place.”
That evening, Rachel started pacing.
“Franklin should’ve been back by now.” she said.
“Do you want me to do a scan? See if he’s alright?” Jean asked.
“Would you?” Rachel said, worriedly.
“Just a moment.” Jean said, and took a breath and closed her eyes.
“He’s okay.” She said, and just then Franklin came in the door. “See?” Jean added.
“Franklin!” Rachel said, and went to him.
“I’m okay Rach. But it was a near thing. Luckily, I had help.” He guestured behind him, and into the room came Brigadier General Munroe, with Sara beside him.
“Brigadier Munroe? Sara?” Scott and Jean said simultaneously.
“Hi Scott, Jean. You enjoying your vacation?”
“You set this up, didn’t you?”
“With a little help from others, yes. Jean, we agree with you. We have to stop these people, and now.”
“I want that more than anything, but we need to get them all, or they will just start over.”
“Well, I have some good news on that front. We have some allies in the FBI, and they have contacted the Spectre. As soon as she gives the signal, we go in.”
“That reminds me, Spectre gave me an email address. I wonder if she has any news.”
She went down to her room, and came back up with a laptop. She opened it up and a few minutes later, she gasped.
“She emailed me. We are taking them out, tonight. She wants me at the main headquarters to disable their communication.”
“What about the bunch here?” Scott said.
“I have my troops ready. We’ll go in as soon as we get your signal.” General Munroe said.
“General Munroe?” Scott asked.
“I want to help here, if that’s okay with you.”
“You don’t want to be with Jean?”
“I’m not fond of flying cross-country.” Scott said.
“We’ll have to work on that. but, I’ll be proud to have you with us.” Brigadier General Munroe says.
“Count me in too.” Rachel said.
“No problem with that, Rachel. Right, Brigadier? ” Sara said
Soon, they had Beth put Sharon to bed, and made their way carefully to the site.
“Take care, Scott. I’ll be back.” Jean said, and kissed him hard.
“Whew. For a kiss like that, we should say goodbye more often.” He said.
Jean just smiled, and then took off into the sky.
“Now, the hard part. Waiting.” Brigadier General Munroe said.
“True.” Sara said, “Wanna play cards?”
“Don’t play with her, Rachel. She’s a shark.”
“Only when its strip poker.”
Everyone in the van laughed.
Jean flew to St. Louis, and flew into a unremarkable warehouse.
“Hello, Phoenix.” Spectre greeted her
“And I thought you were awe inspiring.” a woman beside Spectre said. Jean recognised her as Lena Luthor.
“It is close to time, isn't it?” Jean asked.
“Yeah.” Spectre nodded then smirked. “By the way, how's your love life going?”
“Good.” Jean giggled. “Thanks for the advice.”
Jean then toned down her appearance to her human form.
“Show off.” Spectre smirked at her, and faded into her own human self.
“Look who's talking.” Jean chuckled.
“Oh, yeah.” Spectre turned into human girl, and laughed, coming over to give Jean a hug. “Glad you got my message.” She said.
“As if I could ignore FIVE emails from an obviously supernatural source.” Jean snorted.
“Just wanted to make sure you got it.” the Spectre grumbled. “Sometimes my – umm – ISP gets cranky about passing things along. Case in point, I sent it fifteen times.”
Lena cleared her throat, and said, . “Umm, Deena, could you go back to being Diana right now?”
“Sure.”“But why now? The Spectre asked.
“Because someone is here who actually wants to see you as Diana, The Spectre.” Lena replied, then opened a door that led back into the real living quarters of the warehouse. “She knows you that way is all.”
The woman who came in looked weak and tired, but determined as she slowly walked out into the warehouse proper.
Spectre smiled, moved toward the new arrival, and with one hand lightly touched her cheek, and then the two women hugged each other hard.
“Thank you.” The woman, who Jean recognised as Megan, also known as Miss Mars, whispered to the Spectre as they hugged. “You made me see that I have strengths that aren't involved with my change. That my mind, my intelligence is my true strength.”
“Are you up to this right now?” Spectre softly questioned with real concern.
“I may not be up to my usual standards physically just now,”Megan smiled then got a very determined look on her beautiful face and tapped her head while giving the Spectre girlish grin.
“But I have other options, and you know I wouldn't be out of this if I could barely get enough breath to survive. I can contribute.”
“You already have.” Spectre said “And you need to be in on this, I know.”
“You did it all yourself, dear.” Spectre told her seriously. “I just showed you a path that might work. You're the one who walked it.”
“Let's get these bastards.” She breathed.
“We will.” Spectre promised.
An hour later, they were ready. Jean took out the place's communications with a burst of sun-fire that lit up the whole city for a few seconds.
Green Lantern shattered the security doors separating the main facility from it's disguising shell.
Miss Mars was inside before he could do anything else, coldly eliminating anyone that tried to resist.
Spectre went inside, raging in full fury. She had transformed into a red eyed, ghostly, ghastly demon that hunted down and destroyed anyone, anything, in her path.
FBI strike teams swarmed the place and they weren't taking prisoners either.
Across the country, General Munroe gave the signal, and his team swarmed the building housing the L.A. branch of “New Earth”.
“Scott, could you take down that door?” He asked.
“With pleasure.” Scott said, and lifted his glasses, and let his power loose. A second later the door was obliterated, a smoking hole about ten feet in diameter in its place.
“Let us do this. Scott, just keep an eye on this entrance.” Brigadier General said.
Scott sighed. “I can take care of myself, you know.” he said.
“Its not that. I dont want you to be part of this. People in this building are going to die.”
“Alright. I’ll hang back. But we’re going to talk about my role afterward.” Scott said, and the General went inside after his troops.
In St. Louis, it was a slaughter as no one could stand before the Spectre, and the others were also holding their own. Jean let her anger rise, and the power of the Phoenix was able to take apart the slavers with a wave of her hand. At one point, she was about to burn another group when the Spectre killed them first, and even in her rage, Jean gasped at the bloody ghost as it took terrible vengeance on the slavers.
The Spectre had cornered the last of the bad guys, and was about to kill them when the Green Lantern touched her shoulder and said in a gentle voice, “Its over.”
“It will never be over!” The Spectre turned to snarl at him and he just gave her a quiet, mournful look.
“No, not completely, but we did what we planned, what we set out to do here. It's time to stop now.” He persisted. “It's time to let this go for the time being. We have other things to see to now. You know that.”
Jean watched the Spectre struggle to control the rage, and finally succeed. Then she gave the cowering survivors a contemptuous look before turning and leaving the room without a word to anyone.
Once outside, amid the destruction, the dead and wounded, Jean watched her sink to her knees and start crying. Jean signaled the others, and they made their way to where the Spectre was crying, and each of them held on to the shaking figure.
“Are you all right now?” Green Lantern softly asked as she wound down to an occasional hiccoughing sob.
“Yeah.” the Spectre nodded then managed a smile. “I think so.”
Doris nodded and was soon speaking to someone on a phone.
She nodded and closed the connection. “It's done. The place in California, another in New York state, places in Argentina, Germany and Japan have all been taken. The warehouse where the chips were stored, and a factory that was turning out new ones are radioactive slag. It's over.”
The Spectre said, “Mostly, yes. But there is still more to be done. But that will be in other hands than ours.”
Jean said, I’d better get back to Scott. I can tell from here he’s not happy about what happened in Los Angeles.”
She waved at the others, and took off.
When she arrived in Los Angeles, she found a horror scene there as well. Brigadier General Munroe was herding a small group of freed slaves into a waiting ambulance. Nearby, Sara was directing the troops as they prepared to leave, loading body bags into a waiting vehicle.
Scott was sitting on the ground, obviously fighting tears while near him Rachel was being comforted by Franklin. A soldier was picking up a fat man who was laying on the ground beside Rachel.
“What happened, Scott?”
“They fought to the death, Jean. Most refused to surrender, even when wounded. Worse, they made some of the slaves fight and not all of them made it.”
“Who’s that guy?” Jean said, pointing to the fat man being bundled into an ambulance.
“He was the head here. Rachel wanted to know if there was anything we could do for the slaves, especially her friend the Zoning Commissioner.”
Rachel looked at Jean, and said, “He just laughed at me, Jean. So I touched him.”
“What did you do, Rachel?”
“Well, see, I can do more than just read thoughts with a touch. I can push my own thoughts in as well. I - I gave him my grief and anger, all of it. It knocked him out.”
“What will happen to him?”
“I don’t know, Jean. I’ve never pushed anyone that hard before. But he deserves whatever happens to him now.”
“Jean, I want to go home. I’m not cut out for this. I - I just want to be a high school student again.” Scott said.
Jean broke down and cried, holding Scott as she did “Me too, Scott. I - I did things I don’t even want to think about.”
“When the Brigadier comes back, I’m telling him we want out.” Scott said.
“He’ll understand.” Sara said.
“Come on. Its a new year. Lets go home.” Scott said.
They had a quiet night, watching the ball drop to signify the beginning of the new year, and then went to bed shortly after midnight. The next morning everyone was still very quiet, until the phone rang. Rachel answered, and said, “Its the Brigadier. He’d like to see us, Jean.”
“Okay.” Jean said.
They drove to the temporary headquarters the brigadier had set up, and found him and Sara waiting.
“Whats up?” Jean asked him.
“We have a problem, Jean. Its about the prisoner Rachel touched.”
“What about him?”
“Just come see him. Rachel, I want you to watch from outside.”
The two women went with him, and Jean went into a room while Rachel was directed to a room beside it.
When she came in, the man was laying in bed in restraints, and as soon as he saw her, he said, “Jean?”
“How do you know my name?” Jean asked.
“Because I’m Rachel, sort of.”
“When I … she touched him …. me, I .. got everything. Her … my whole life.”
Jean looked at him, and focused her telepathy. “What about your own memories, you own life?”
“Gone, I think.”
She probed him deeply, and said, “Brigadier, He ... she’s telling the truth.”
The brigadier came in with Rachel, and said, I thought so, but I wanted a telepathic check.”
Rachel looked down at the man, and said, “What do we do now?”
“I honestly don’t know, Rachel. I was hoping you’d have an idea. He … she is not the person who committed the crimes, can we hold him.... her prisoner?” the brigadier said.
Rachel looked hard at the man, who was looking back at her.
“I’d like to take care of her, since its my fault she exists.” Rachel said.
“Rachel, are you sure?” Jean asked. “What he did...”
“The brigadier’s right. She’s innocent, now. And I think we’ve all had enough of death and revenge, haven’t we?”
“I was thinking the same last night with Scott.” She said. “And speaking of Scott and I, well, I think we should go home.”
“I understand, Jean.” Rachel said. “Let me see if I can switch the time on your tickets.”
“Don’t worry, Rachel. I’ll take them home.” the brigadier.
Rachel turned to the person in the bed and said, “I’ll be right back, I promise.”
The man/woman smiled, and said, “I know your word is good.”
They left the room, and the brigadier said, “Let’s go get Beth and Sharon, and take us all home.”
“Sara has a pilot’s licence, didn’t you know Jean?” He said.
“Speaking of Sara ..” Jean said.
“Yes?” he replied.
“Well, since she’s become my mom, does that mean I’ll soon be calling you ‘Dad’?”
He turned red.
They got back to the house, collected Beth and Sharon, and soon were headed to a private airport, and were headed home.
During the flight, Scott was agitated, until the brigadier said, “Why not go up to the cockpit, Sara can show you how she flies.”
“Really?” Scott said.
“Go on.” the brigadier said.
Scott stood up, and made his way to the cockpit, and said, “Sara? The Brigadier said I could come up, if I’m not disturbing you...”
“Sure, Scott. Come in, and I’ll show you how this plane flies.”
That evening, after unloading their bags at their respective homes, Scott and Jean walked to the park where they first met and sat on the swings, looking at the stars.
“How are you doing, Jean?” Scott said.
“I can’t talk about it, Scott, I’m sorry.”
“Okay, Jean. Just know I’m here for you.”
Jean didn’t answer, and for a while, they just sat there, looking up, hand in hand.
A couple of days went by, and school started up again. The first morning, Scott met Jean at the doors of the school, and said, “You look horrible, Jean.”
“Just what every woman wants to hear.”
“I’m serious. Have you slept since we came home?”
“I’ve found I’ve missed having you beside me. Sara is helping, but she’s not you.”
His voice broke, and he said, “What can I do, Jean?”
“I don’t know, Scott. I - I just don’t know.”
That afternoon, after school got out, Scott called the brigadier.
“Brigadier, I just don’t know how to help her. Please, can you try?”
“I will. Let me call Sara, and get her to bring Jean in for a visit.”
The next evening, Scott, Sara, and Jean met the brigadier at his office.
“Jean, I’m a soldier. I think I know whats on your mind, but please, let us help.”
“Please, Jean, we’re all here for you.” Sara said.
“I killed people, Brigadier Munroe. I don't know what I’m supposed to do about that.”
“Jean I killed people that night. And they aren’t the first I’ve had to kill. I think the fact you are feeling what you’re feeling is a good sign.”
“But what do I do? I can’t sleep. Every time I fall asleep I see what I did.”
“Talking about it is a good first step. We’ll get through this, together.” He turned to Scott, and said, “And how are you coping?”
“I’m doing okay.”
“Don’t try and kid me, Scott. Most of the soldiers who were part of the L.A. raid are struggling, and they were trained, seasoned veterans.”
Scott looked at the floor and said nothing.
“You haven’t said anything to me, Scott, how come?” Jean said.
Scott looked at Jean, and said, “I didn’t want to add to your burdens, Jean. And I was ashamed I wasn’t stronger. I’m a guy now and ..”
“Scott, don’t try and be macho about this. You went through a traumatic experience, and whether you were male or female, you still have to get through it.” The brigadier said.
“Okay.” Scott whispered.
“Okay?” the Brigadier said.
“I’ll talk to the therapist. But only if you will too, Jean. ”
“Okay Scott. We’ll both go.” Jean said, and they held each other tight.
Both Jean and Scott slowly got better. The circles under Jean’s faded, and she began to smile and laugh more, while Scott also showed signs of recovery.
Then two weeks after the take-down, she came to Scott and said, “I got an email from the Spectre. She wants me to come to St. Louis, and listen to Lena, she has an update on the victims.”
“Are you going to go?”
“I should. I would like to know how the victims are doing, and there is the leader of the ‘New Earth’ group to deal with still.”
“Okay, Jean. Take care. Come home safe, and come home soon.”
Jean flew to the warehouse that Lena used as a headquarters. Doris waited until all the people involved in the take-down were present, and then began to speak.
“I'm afraid that half of the girls we rescued just couldn't deal with what they'd become.” She said, “fifty percent of them just curled up, ignored everything, and starved themselves to death, or are in the process of doing that. Nothing anyone tries brings them out of it, either and we have some of the best minds in psychology working on this.”
“As abused, psychologically, and physically as they are,” The Spectre sighed. “I think that fifty percent on the survival rate is good. I saved others before we got the lot of them loose, and that rate is about what I managed even with what mind manipulation I'm capable of.”
“We can't get the chips out of them.” Doris nodded. “Or change what happened to them. Those damned chips are just too intrusive, they took over too much of the victim's nervous systems. Even trying to alter that would be fatal for them.”
“The nano procedure that made them into females isn't reversible, either.” Green Lantern put in. “I've had survivors, and dead ones scanned aboard The Jordan, and there is just no way to reverse the physical changes.
Adding an extra leg to a Y chromosome to make it an X is a lot easier than pulling one of the legs off an existing X chromosome. Jade's people have confirmed that. The girls we saved are stuck as they are. Trying to change that would only result in a nasty, painful death for them.”
“The good news here is,” Doris smiled a little hesitantly, “is that the remotes to control the chips worked on a very rare frequency that couldn't be duplicated without knowing what you wanted to do. So TV remotes or garage door openers won't affect the girls.”
“And,” Michael Harris added. “The ones who survive are being given new identities, even new faces if they want that. So no one will ever know that they were chip slaves.”
“Unless that someone has access to your data base.” Lena pointed out.
“Covered.” Harris grinned. “I'm hiring you to purge all that information from government systems once we get the girls placed.”
“Really?” Lena asked then grinned. “I get to play in government computers without the risk of being arrested?”
“Just to purge the information we've been talking about.” Harris chuckled. “And don't even think of back doors or saving stuff you shouldn't have. We have computer people that are just as good as you are, Ms. Luthor.”
She pouted for a few seconds, then laughed. “Okay. You know I love a challenge.”
“Me, too.” Harris chuckled wryly. “Otherwise I wouldn't have been involved in this mess in the first place.”
Megan turned to the Spectre, and realized she was standing still with her eyes closed.
“Diana?” Megan prodded the Spectre with a finger. “Are you still with us here?”
“Oh, yeah.” She shook herself “Just having a talk with Mama there. Sorry if I spaced out on all of you. What did I miss?”
“Nothing at all.” Jean grinned. “We just wanted to poke you and see if you reacted. Without trying to kill everything in sight.”
“That little 'eeek' you let out was kinda cute.” Kyle grinned.
“Oh, you guys are sooo funny.” Diana grimaced then had to laugh.
“We try, Diana.” Jean smirked.
“Don't quit your day jobs.”Diana snorted.
“So whats left to take care of?” Jean asked.
“The leader. But he is going to get a visit from one of his victims first.” The Spectre said.
Shortly, she brought in a very pregnant Asian woman to the confinement facility he was being held in.
“Mitsuko” Jean thought, finding the woman’s name in her mind.
“Are you sure you really want to do this?” The Spectre said.
“We've been over this before, Diana.” She smiled at the Spectre, and gave her an encouraging pat on the arm. “I have to do this. You know that as well as I do.”
“Yeah.” Diana nodded.
“Then stop fussing at me and let me do this.” Mitsuko told Diana. “I won't be free, really free, until I do what must be done. You know that.”
“I'll wait out here.” Diana nodded. “And won't hover over you in there. You do what you need to do.”
“Thank you, Ghost girl.” Mitsuko smiled and touched Diana’s cheek. “You have done so much for me, and others, but there are some things that one must do themselves.”
“Yes, there are.” Diana nodded and took the woman into a hug. “You've helped teach me that in case you didn't know.”
“Then my life hasn't been a waste, has it?” The woman returned the hug and smiled at Diana.
“Never has been, never will be.” Diana assured her then set a hand to the plate by the door to open it. “So go do this. I'll be in later to handle the rest.”
Diana joined Jean and the others in watching a monitor.
* * * *
“Hello, Clark.” She greeted the prisoner once the door had closed behind her.
The man, her former 'husband' looked at her and nodded but said nothing in response.
“What?” She questioned softly. “You have nothing to say to the mother of your child? The woman who was your wife?”
“Why are you even here?” He asked bitterly. “You're free now. I'm not. Did you come to gloat?”
“Oh, no.” Mitsuko shrugged. “Oh I wanted to make you feel pain like I have, wanted to let you experience the futility of being a thing that is fit for nothing but contempt. But when the time came for that, I just couldn't do it. Not even to you.”
“So why are you here?”
“To see you one last time.” She answered slowly. “To show you that in spite of all you and others did, that I am still a person of worth, someone who can live a real life. Someone who will not do to others what was done to her.”
“So you're here to tell me that you're better than I am, is that it, Mitsuko?”
“That.” She nodded with a smile though her eyes were hard and unforgiving. “And to let you know that your child will never know a thing about you. You'll just be the donor of the sperm that caused her to be. I won't ever tell her who you were, or what you did. That is all the mercy I will show you.”
“I was good to you, Mitsuko.” He answered. “Probably better than I should have been. But I did come to love you.”
“Love?” She snorted. “What do you know of that beyond your own twisted idea of possession being love? I am not a thing to be owned, Clark. No one is. So your professions of love are just a little late, don't you think?”
“I took care of you, I protected you, kept you from the worst of things, you know.”
“At what cost?” She questioned. “To you? I know what the cost was to me. You did nothing to help me. Nothing.”
He didn't respond and she moved to stand in front of him. Then gently took one of his hands and set it to her belly. “Say hello and goodbye to your daughter, Clark. She will never be what you meant for me to be, or face the future you planned for her. Good bye, Clark.”
She moved away from him and touched the door plate to let those outside know that she was finished. “Though I doubt any god would countenance what you've done. There are others who have things to say to you, do to you. They'll be here in a few minutes. You really aren't much of a demon after all.”
Mitsuko came out, and went to Diana who held her as she cried.
Jean thought “Like Rachel, she found such strength. Do I have so much? And If I do, what will I do with it?”
After releasing Mitsuko, Diana entered the cell, carrying two syringes and a small box.
“Clark Fortuna.” She greeted him while holding the syringes so he could see them. “You know what these are, don't you? And this, I'm sure you're familiar with.” I added opening the box to show him the chip nestled in a bed of foam. “I can insert the chip without all that messy surgery you know.”
He paled, and actually looked terrified.
“This one, as you know,” Diana held up the syringe filled with a cloudy reddish fluid, “is the prep for having the chip inserted, the way that lets part of someone's nervous system be removed and replaced with something foreign to the body.”
“This one.” She showed him the other syringe with it's sapphire blue contents. “Is the nanos that will cause the physical changes, to make you into the slave, the female slave, that the chip is going to program you to be.”
He just watched the Spectre, sweating, in terror.
“What, nothing to say about it just now?” She asked. “I'm sure some of your victims at least tried to fight things before you had them changed. Are they stronger than you are?”
“You can't do that, you won't do that.”
“Oh, I can and I will.” The Spectre answered then glared at him in my full fury form. “I am vengeance incarnate mortal. The only ones I answer to are the gods. I can do anything I please with you. But I'm giving you a choice.”
At this, she favored him with an evil smile.
“Which is more than you allowed your victims. I'm not going to force you to take these things.” she told him. “I'll leave them here and see what you do. Inject yourself and spend the rest of your life as a helpless, abused slave, or not and die. How badly do you want to live? What would you do just to stay alive? Because you're looking at a death sentence. Without trial, without appeal. Either use these things on yourself or die.”
She paused, and then said, “I'll let you think about that for awhile.” She grinned at him as she was leaving. “But don't think too long. The offer has a time limit.”
* * * *
“You know,” Special Agent Michael Harris told Diana once she left the prisoner, “you're scarier when you're calm.”
“Part of my charm, Mike.” She shrugged.
“What do you think he'll do?”
“I don't really care.” Diana answered simply. “He's already going through the Hell I wanted him to feel. The rest is, as they say, the luck of the draw.”
Jean joined the others in looking at the Spectre, and then she and all the others nodded, almost in unison.
A moment later, Jean stepped away from the rest and phoned Scott.
“It’s done. I’ll be back soon, I hope. I miss you.” She said.
“I miss you too.” she heard him say.
Jean came back in, and said goodbye to all the others. She hugged the Spectre, and said, “I don’t regret asking you to let me be part of this. They were an evil that needed to be stopped, no matter what the cost. But I think I’m done with vengeance. I became something I don’t want to be, ever again.”
“Jean, I can see that this cost you a lot, and I’m sorry. You’ve now seen both sides of what I do, and its not a path I would want you to have to walk down. You have a different road, and I think I know what it should be. The Phoenix can be a symbol of life, of light and hope.” The Spectre said.
“After what I did?” Jean replied, the memory stinging her.
“Yes, Jean. You can do it, in part because you’ve seen the alternative. Be a beacon to the rest of us, Jean. And love your man, you deserve to have that part as well.”
“I’ll try. Thanks.” Jean said. She gave the Spectre a hug, and then waved to the others. “Goodbye.”
Jean flew off, and soon was back home. When she got there, she gave Sara a big hug, and then went to see Scott. They cuddled on the couch at Scott’s house until Scott’s mother went to bed.
Day, and then weeks went by, and the two of them were back into the usual routine of school and time together. Then, one day, Jean got a call from Brigadier General Munroe, and she and Scott went to his office.
“What did you want to see us about, Brigadier?” Scott said.
“I just wanted all of us together when I talk with Rachel. She should be calling right away.”
A few minutes later, the video conference buzzed, and after a moment, they could see Rachel’s smiling face.
“Hi guys, I just wanted to introduce you all to someone. May I present miss Maddie Pryor,”
She waved off the screen, and stepped to the side, allowing a large figure to be seen. It was the former head of the L.A. branch of “New Earth”, but transformed. He was now in a large dress, with a wig and expertly applied makeup.
“Hi” she said, in a surprisingly soft voice.
“Hi.” Jean said, tentatively. “You look good. So, you chose Maddie?”
“Maddie is my middle name.” Rachel said. “And Pryor was my maiden name.”
“How - how do you feel?” Jean asked.
“Better, now that I’m properly done up. It was the hardest part of having Rachel’s memories, being stuck in this ugly body.”
“I’m not. That person was an evil man, I’m glad he’s gone. And with Rachel’s help, I’ll muddle through.”
“She’s a stubborn one when she gets an idea in her head.” Rachel said.
“Well, I come by it honestly enough.” Maddie said, with a laugh.
“I’m glad you’re both okay.” Sara said.
“Me too.” Rachel said, “Its been interesting getting this far.”
“I bet.” Jean said.
“Well, we better go.” Maddie said.
“Nice to meet you.” Scott said.
“Nice to see you all as well.” Maddie said, and then the connection closed.
“Did you know this was in the works Brigadier?” Jean asked.
“Rachel has been keeping me in the loop. I thought you might need some cheering up by seeing some positives come out of that mess.”
“Thank you.” Scott said.
“From me too.” Jean added.
“You’re both welcome.” Brigadier General Munroe said.
“Brigadier, I’ve been thinking about what the Spectre said to me. About me being a beacon.”
“I think you certainly could be. But I don’t see how unless you come forward publicly. Not just as Phoenix, but as Jean Grey, too. It would be the only way to gain the trust of people.”
“That’s how I saw it too.”
“Jean? Are you seriously considering this?” Scott asked.
“Yes, Scott. Metahumans need all the positive role models they can get, and we also need better relations with non-metas. I think the Phoenix could provide that, in the right circumstances.”
“But I thought you were enjoying a normal life.” he said.
“I am. That’s why I don’t want to do this right away. I want to wait until we graduate.”
“That’s good. Give me a while to get used to be in the public eye.”
“You don’t have to come out, Scott.”
“If you do, I do. I’m not letting you do this alone.”
“Bless you, Scott Summers.” Jean said, and kissed him.
The kiss went on until the brigadier coughed loudly enough to get their attention.
“All right. We got a couple of months to figure out how to make this work. And plenty of time for you to change your mind, if you want to, Jean.” He said.
“I wont. “ Jean said.
“Its not going to be easy, Jean.” The brigadier cautioned.
“I know it wont. But I think it needs to happen, and as long I got all of you with me. Especially you, Scott.”
“Sara and I are behind you all the way, Jean” the brigadier said.
“And if you don’t know already, I’m in this for the long haul, Jean.” Scott said, “If this is what you want, I’m going to be by you side through it.
We’ll take the leap, together.”
“Together.” Jean said, and held him tight.
St. Louis ....
The Spectre was sitting on her usual spot on top of the St. Louis Arch when Jean approached her.
"Jean!" she said, and jumped into the arms of the flaming girl.
They hugged and then she said, "Jean, you okay? is there something wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong, Diana. I just wanted to give you this," Jean handed her a small MP3 player.
"Its the song of the Phoenix. I use it when I need cheering up."
Diana took the player, and said, "Thanks Jean."
The two women hugged, and then Jean said, "I have to get back, but I'll be here if you need me, okay?"
"The same goes for me, Jean. You need me, I'm there."
They hugged again, and then Jean took off.
Maddie Pryor paused. looked in the mirror, and sighed. She tended to avoid them when she could, since she "woke up" in the body of man. The first couple of days had been horrible, being stuck in custody, and trapped in the body of a criminal. But Jean Grey had believed she really was no longer that person, and to her great surprise, Rachel Summers had taken her home. It was Rachel's memories that she now possessed, thanks to her "pushing" them into her in a moment of grief and anger. But Rachel brought her home, and gave her one of the basement suites in her house, and she and her husband Franklin had made sure she felt welcome.
Even so, for a while, Maddie had felt so depressed she wondered about ending her life. She would catch a glimpse of her reflection, and shudder, and then break down and cry. Then one day, she decided to live, to fight for a real life. She told Rachel to call her Maddie Pryor, using Rachel's middle name and her maiden name, and said she wanted to make this body she was stuck in to be as feminine as possible.
It hadn't been easy, but with a lot of help from the local Transgender community, she was finally starting to feel like she'd turned the corner. Rachel had been so impressed with her progress she arranged a video conference with Jean and her friends in Huston, and Maddie Pryor slowly was introduced to the world at large.
"Now, the fun part starts." she said to herself, and then gathered her purse, and went out to face the world.
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