The Clan Askani: The Askani Wars part 4

Disclaimer: Everyone but Dawn and Will belong to Marvel, so there.

Author's Note: This is basically a chapter about coping, and that's about it except for the escape, but otherwise it's pretty mild. 'Course, things blow up soon, so...

Legacy of Hatred

"Dawn? Dawn, wake up."

I struggled out of the fortress my terror had created and opened my eyes. Will and Clarice were standing next to me, and Will was shaking my arm. I wanted to talk to him, but my mouth wouldn't work. Most of my mind was telling me to shut up and stay put, to wait for Apocalypse to come back for me and finish what he had started. The other part was screaming, trying to break free of the mental shackles I had been bound with. The two parts were both waging a mini battle inside my head--and the corrupted part was winning.

"dawn, please, wake up," Clarice said, trying to get me to talk to her. "I know you want to leave, you called us both to help you. please, we can't do this on our own. we need your help."

"Come ON, kiddo!" Will urged. "We've GOT to get you out of here before Apocalypse comes back. The restraints are off, but we CAN'T drag you out of here."

:Trying...: I sent weakly, using the unique rapport that I shared with the spirits I summoned. It was different then normal telepathy, which was good since I wouldn't have been able to talk to them otherwise. :Hurts...:

"What are you--" Will started. Then he took a good look at me and went white. "My God, what did he DO to you?"

"oh no oh no," Clarice murmured. "she's really hurt; she can't get up."

:Could... if had... control.: I struggled to push the words through, but the corrupt part of me was making it difficult. :Can't... focus...:

"will, what'll we do?!" Clarice exclaimed. "we can't leave her, and she's not strong enough to keep us here and let us use our powers too."

"Then we'll have to drag her out of here," Will decided. "Come on, you take one arm and I'll take the other. There aren't any restraints on, so we should be able to manage it." He ran a cool finger down my cheek, trying to comfort me. "It'll be all right, kiddo. We'll get you out of here."

:Rach...el...: I sent weakly. :Get... to Rachel...:

"We're going to try," my cousin promised. He and Clarice each grabbed an arm and pulled me off the table. I tried not to wince as I hit the floor, landing on a cracked rib. They managed to pull me a few feet until they noticed guards outside the doors.

"will, what can we do?" Clarice asked. "there're so many guards, and they'll notice if we drag her out."

:Image... inducer,: I sent in a fit of inspiration. :In pocket... use it.:

"Worth a try," Will agreed. He took it out of my pocket and began to fiddle with it. It seemed to have recovered from whatever Apocalypse had done to it and was working again.

"but they'll try to kill anybody who goes out there," Clarice pointed out. "and they's still see us, anyway."

"True," Will said thoughtfully. "Maybe if I push the right buttons, though..." he began to toy with it, pressing strange combinations and changing into all kinds of strange sizes and shapes as he did. Finally he found the color dial and pushed it to transparent and faded from sight. He turned it off and he was back again.

"This thing is cool," he commented as he pushed the dial and put it back in my pocket, turning me invisible. "I wish I had more time to see what it does..."

"but... the field only covers dawn," Clarice observed. "and she can't walk. how're we to move her?"

:Possess... me,: I replied. :Try to... make me move.:

"Are you sure, Dawn?" Will asked.

:Yes... hurry...:

"If you say so. Clarice, I guess I'll do it. you can go back now."

"a-all right. i'll see you later. I hope." She disappeared as Will entered my body and attempted to assume control of it. It was difficult for him, because usually it was *I* who controlled HIM, not vice versa. Finally, however, we managed to stand up, though shakily, and walk to the door.

:Dawny, he really did a number to you,: Will commented, clenching our teeth as he had to step with a fractured femur. :Being dead spoiled me; I had forgotten what pain feels like.:

:Y' get... used t' it... after a while,: I replied. :An' don'... call me Dawny.:

:Har har. Hope you've still got enough strength to psi shield us, or this could get messy.:

Apparently I did, because we walked right past several people without a hitch. We made it outside and continued, step by painful step, to Askani Hold. I didn't tell him about what I had over heard because I didn't know what exactly it was about, but I intended to ask Rachel when I got a chance. I was sure she knew, because she had known enough about me and my situation to pick me up when and where she did. Yes, Rachel had some SERIOUS explaining to do.

When we finally reached Askani Hold I could feel a lot of blood pouring out a number of wounds. The burn mark on my back felt awful even if it HAD only happened in my mind, and the cracked ribs and fractured femur made each step agony, not to mention the fact that my face was so puffy I could barely see a thing. After deactivating the image inducer Will and I collapsed, him because the effort of moving my body had exhausted him, me because I simply couldn't move in the first place.

:Rachel...: I sent weakly, hoping she was listening. My answer was the hidden hatch being telekinetically popped and Shy'ar and Rachel poking their heads out of it.

"Dawn!" Rachel exclaimed. She lifted me up telekinetically and brought me down to Askani Hold while Shy'ar closed the hatch. "Who is with you?" he asked. I released Will and he left my body, panting.

"It's her cousin," Rachel replied, getting bandages from a nearby drawer. "Will, what happened?"

"From what I gathered she got caught by a telepath and sent to Apocalypse," he answered, standing up. "He did something to her mind, but her subconscious managed to get a message through to me and Clarice. It's a good thing the psi inhibitors didn't effect her medium power or there's no tell what could have happened to her."

"Spirits--!" Rachel gasped as she scanned my mind. "Her neural pattern has been altered! No wonder I couldn't find her!"

"Altered how?" Shy'ar inquired, tending to my wounds. "Rachel, she has a fractured femur, can you reset it?"

"A fractured--?" she began, almost wistfully. I suffered a fleeting vision of a younger Rachel standing by while two men, friends of hers, fought one another. By the time I realized it was her memory it was over and she had collected herself again. "Yes, I can reset it," she replied. "Brace yourself, Dawn, this will hurt." I clenched my teeth as I felt a bone in my leg shift over to the side and Shy'ar secured it with a wrap of some sort. "Her mind has been, in effect, reprogrammed," Rachel continued. "Apocalypse has done something to it, but I SHOULD be able to fix it."

"You do that while I fix her up." Shy'ar touched my jaw and I almost screamed, but all that came out was a low moan.

"Her jaw is broken," Will explained.

"All right, Dawn," Rachel said gently as she laid her hands on my head. "Relax, and let me in. This'll only take a moment. Apocalypse hasn't used very much power on this, I'll be able to fix it so you have control again in no time."

I took a deep breath and forced myself to relax. Rachel slipped into my mind and I went with her. In my mind I was just as bloody as real life, and I was chained to a wall. Part of the landscape was dark, the other half light. I suppose it was supposed to represent the war between myself and the corrupted parts of my mind, because it kept fluxuating. Without a word Rachel gently began to repair the damage Apocalypse had caused me and removed the chains that bound me. The corrupt parts grew less and less as she undid the effect of the psionic trauma and finally, after about five minutes, I was fully in control of myself again. I couldn't move because of all the pain, but at least I was me again. But now that I was in control, I wanted to ask her something.

"Ra->hgcck!<" I tried to say, but was unable to because of my broken jaw. So I started again. :Rachel, I need to talk to you. Apocalypse said some disturbing things about me...:

"Dawn, I don't think this is the best time," she replied as Shy'ar careful placed a brace for my jaw on either side of my mouth.

:No, I NEED to talk about this,: I insisted. :Apocalypse's servant... he said I was going to die.:

"We all die," she said. "It's just a matter of when and how."

:Don't get metaphysical on me! I mean SOON, like within the next few months!:

Rachel was silent.

:You know, don't you? Tell me, Rachel! Am I even going to LIVE to complete this mission? I've got a right to know!:

"Askani..." Shy'ar said, touching Rachel's arm, "Tell her, Askani. She deserves to know."

"I..." Rachel faltered, and her glowing aura dimmed and disappeared. The power of the Phoenix was gone, leaving a very human Rachel Summers. I noticed her lower lip was quivering ever so slightly, and she took a shaky breath. "You... have the Legacy Virus," she whispered.

My brain froze up. The Legacy Virus... the virus with a death rate of 100% that had only recently spread to the human population. My mind balked at the thought of what happened to the victims when it reached its final stages. Their powers destroyed them, consuming them, and then were released at the moment of their death. And now I had contracted it.

Dimly, out of the corner of my eyes, I was aware of Will's mouth hanging open and the sorrow in Rachel's eyes. I bit my lip so hard it sent a pang of pain through my broken jaw and closed my eyes, breathing hard. Suddenly Will was behind me, hugging me as best he could without hurting me, but I didn't say a word. Neither did he. None were needed, at the moment. I let the tears come silently, letting her words sink in. I was going to die... and it was going to be very, very soon.

Everybody has a natural defense mechanism. Rachel relied on her unwavering beliefs and the power of the Phoenix, Shy'ar on his warrior training, and Boak on his strength and intelligence.

I relied on my mouth.

"Dawn, I'm sor--" Rachel began.

:SHUT UP!: I screamed mentally, suddenly hysterical. Everyone present jerked back in surprise at my reaction, including Will. :I don't want to hear it! If you were REALLY concerned about me you would have just told me when you first picked me up, not waited for me to find out from some sadistic monster! But that's exactly what you did! You sent me on a suicide mission and that's exactly what happened! I come to the future to save my friend, and find out that I'M really the one that needs to be saved, and neither the future nor my era has a cure for it!:

"Dawn, I--"

:Save it! I KNOW what you're going to say! Now I KNOW what's going on with my powers! This damn virus is boosting them so it can use them to destroy me, THAT'S why I'm so powerful, isn't it? You just needed a powerful, expendable mutant, and if I didn't make it back all you'd have to say is, "Gee Mr. Cassidy, sorry about the kid, but she was gonna die anyway so it doesn't matter.":

"Dawn, she's just try to help--" Will started.

:You stay out of this! I don't need your pity, or your "big brother" attitude! I'm sick of it! I just need you people to leave me alone!: I scrambled to my feet, ignoring the amount of pain it sent through various parts of my body. I ran to my room and fell down on my bed, crying. I realized I shouldn't have lashed out at Rachel and Will, but I was so scared--so angry--at myself more then anyone else, that I had had to lash out. I suddenly felt very much alone, being trapped several thousand years away from my friends, and being with a group of people about a decade older then I made it kind of hard to relate to anyone. The horror of the past week or two suddenly hit me head on. The girl's last, dying words echoing in my mind, my parents' deaths, Apocalypse trying to re-program my brain, and now the Legacy Virus... it was simply too much for me to handle. I was desperate for some peace, so I quietly slipped out of my body and onto the astral plane. It was a little tricky, since I was still getting used to all the things I could do, but having picked up this technique from Rachel's mind I decided it was worth a try.

The astral plane was different from being in someone's mind, though the two are similar in many ways. First of all, someone's mind is kind of like a personalized greeting card; they make it and shape it to what they want and what they are. The astral plane is an amalgam of minds, a constant river of thoughts and images. Everything was generally bright and peaceful, but there were several dark spots, those of which represented the minds of those like Apocalypse. I stayed well away from those areas, knowing better then to pry into THOSE spots. I stayed in the areas of hope and kindness, which were abundant. Not all of the people were kind towards everything, but in the area where I walked it was just a mesh of all the kind, good parts of separate people. It was soothing, walking in a different plane of existence then normal people, as well as interesting. I was so preoccupied with looking at the scenery that I almost walked into another girl.

"Hey, there you are!" she exclaimed. "Will said I might find you here."

I took a careful look at the girl. In the astral plane things are made of mixed hues with no shadows to get in the way, everything is light. I was made up of several different shades of blue and white, while this girl was made up of green and blue. She was about my age, and she acted like she knew me, but I was quite certain I had never seen her before in my life. Then I realized another thing. "Y... you speak Old Englishe," I said.

"So that's what they call English now?" she said. "Well, I haven't had time to learn the modern language like Will or Clarice yet, so I guess I do. You ARE Dawn Embers, right? You look like her."

"Yes," I replied. "But... I don't think I've ever met you before."

"Well, you have, but it was pretty brief, and you wouldn't remember the more "recent" meetings yet. My name's Jenny DeMount, we met a while back in St. Anne's. I was the one who contacted you right before Sinister... killed me."

In a flash of realization I remembered the cryptic warning I had received right before I had departed to find sanctuary with Generation X. It had been weak and badly broken up, but it had warned me to leave quickly before Sinister could get his hands on me. She had also tried to warn me who was after me, but hadn't gotten the message through in time.

"Why did Will contact you?" I inquired.

"Actually, it was YOUR power that brought me here," she replied. "Well, first it brought me to the so called real world, where Will explained to me what was going on. I admit, it is a bit of a shock to be pulled back to earth when you've been deceased for two thousand years, but seeing as you have a good reason I decided to do my best."

"Your best at what?"

"Well, Will says you probably need someone your own age group to talk to, which may be why *I* was pulled here, since you sort of knew me already and we're about the same age. I... you're sick, right? With Legacy?" She looked concerned, and I could feel her concern leaking through my mind.

"Yeah," I replied, feeling depressed again. "I just... I just found out." I sat down, floating because there was no real floor, and stared at my feet.

"It's all right," she told me. "I had HIV, that's why Sinister killed me. He couldn't use my genes without passing the virus on to his other experiments. You learn to accept it, after a while. I knew I was going to die, but I admit, I didn't think it'd be on a lab table."

"Is this conversation going somewhere?"

"Well, the point is, we all get only so long to live. I don't think there's any such thing as "not your time to go," I think we all have allotted span in which to make ourselves useful. If it wasn't our time to go we wouldn't go. I just think our spans were a little shorter then most people's."

I sighed. "Well... I guess you could be right... but I'm still going to die. And the only reason I even came to the future was to save Glenn, but what's the use if I die after I come back? I know his mind, if I die it'll kill him, and I doubt my power will enable ME to come back from dead."

"Touche," Jenny murmured. "I... I'm not really sure what to say about THAT."

"Well, I'm not really sure what to DO about that," I told her. "I mean, this guy probably saved my life a few years back, and we... um, well... I admit we kinda fell for each other just a few nights ago... and..." my voice trailed off into a whisper, "...and I don't want to lose him just when I've finally found him..."

After a moment's hesitation Jenny said, "What are you more afraid of? That you'll die and leave him behind... or that he'll reject you because you're sick?"

"A... a little bit of both, to tell the truth," I confessed. "But not so much about being rejected, really. Like I've said, I've been in his mind before. We have a rapport that we share, so I know he's not that kind of person. He knows about being an outsider ever since his parents died..." I relived the memory I had accidentally picked up from Glenn's mind when I had been first leaning to use my powers. When we had literally dropped in on the Academy we had both been knocked unconscious, or, more accurately, *I* had been unconscious, Glenn had passed out in mid air. I had turned my attention to him for just a moment and had psi linked with him. Ever since then a part of him had become a part of me, a memory I carried and remembered just as vividly as if it was my own. Just now, however, I was glad to have something of his to remember, even if it was intangible.

"I'm glad to hear that," Jenny said, sitting down. "So... are you planning on rejoining your friends anytime soon? Perhaps to apologize?"

"I probably should say I'm sorry for exploding like that," I replied. "Thanks, Jenny. You've been a big help."

"Thank your cousin," Jenny smiled. "He's the one who talked me into this little pep talk." She vanished in a shimmering fog, another interesting fact I hadn't noticed in real life. With a sigh I returned to my body and prepared a lengthy apology to Rachel and Will.

TEASER: Can anyone say Age of Apocalypse, boys and girls..?

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