Ties Never Binding, part 15

Disclaimer: Gen X and Excalibur belong to Marvel Comics, other characters are exclusive property of yours truly.

Author's Note: Yeah, this chapter is bizarre. So what? They all are. And y'know, I'm enjoying it, too. I know, I haven't put one of these out on the net for a while, but I've been preoccupied with... other projects. Hopefully people still remember this thing...

Hope And Puzzlement

I turned on the hot water and stepped in the shower, faintly annoyed that I could barely feel the water. I had always liked showers, but not being able to feel it tended to make me irritated. Focusing my concentration on my arm, I tried to center my awareness on just that section, ignoring everything else. I was actually surprised when I began to feels the warmth of the water again, because I had rather doubted my little experiment would work. After weeks of feeling just vague impressions of things I touched, I could actually FEEL something! (Bear in mind it was about seven in the morning and I had nothing better to do anyway, so it sure FELT like a pretty good accomplishment.)

I opened my eyes and discovered that, while my arm looked as solid as ever, the rest of me seemed to be...well, absent. If anyone had come in I'm sure they would have seen something like a floating arm and nothing else in the stall, which probably would have made a picture eligible for those 'famous ghosts of the US' books that come out every so often.

"Hunh. Cool," I said, pulling myself together. I hadn't been invisible, I just wasn't there. From my shoulder on down it had just been a random (if slightly condensed) grouping of psionic energy, which, when you think about it, is a little less impressive. I thought about the benefits a power like that would have as a prank, but there was really no one I could try it out on so I dropped the idea. Pity, too. It REALLY would have freaked my old teacher out!

I sighed and looked at my left arm, which still bore the silver band. It wasn't uncomfortable or anything, but it felt kind of stupid to be wearing it in the shower. I flicked it with my finger--it seemed pretty solid.. I tried to push it off, but it was actually a part of my skin, which I found only mildly surprising considering how much weirdness in general I had had to put up with lately. I began to wonder if the psionic energy I was made of was...oh, I don't know, crystallizing or something. It seemed kind of stupid, but considering how strange things were already I figured it was plausible.

"This is IT for me," I muttered as I stepped out of the shower and took a towel and started to dry myself off, walking through the showers as I did to pick up my clothes. "Next time I die, I'm STAYING dead. It just isn't worth having to deal with all this new power crap." The shower room was smaller then the one at the academy, but it was all right (and the water heater was more reliable too. I was about to put on my shirt when an image shimmered in front of me.

"HEY!" I exclaimed, quickly picking up my towel and wrapping it around me. "What are you doing in h--CABLE?!"

The psionic projection was definitely Cable's, which made me even more embarrassed. He blinked when he noticed my current state of undress and had the grace to redden.

:Ahem,: he coughed, looking slightly abashed. :Er, sorry. I didn't think to check where you were.:

I frowned, but sighed. :'S okay, I guess,: I muttered psionically, trying to squelch my blush. :But what did you want?:

:Wolverine wants to talk to you,: he told me, though I could feel a slight stirring of distaste at the name. Apparently he and Logan didn't get along too well.

:All right, but can you...ah...: I gestured to indicate him leaving the room so I could get dressed.

With a nod the image dissipated and I could feel a bit of relief from him. He obviously hadn't been completely at ease in barging in on me, which proved that, even if most super types dressed in uniforms that might as well have been nothing they did have SOME modesty. I donned my clothing quickly and cast about for Logan. He was in one of the main computer rooms, which sort of surprised me because he hadn't seemed like a very technologically-oriented person. I picked my way through the corridors and finally found it. Jean, Sean, and Emma were there as well, which of course made me even more curious.

"Hi," I said brightly, blinking. "What's up?"

"We think we may have some answers in regards to your powers," Jean replied, smiling. My interest was piqued immediately.

"Yeah?" I asked, trying to keep the tremor of hope out of my voice.

"Yeah," Logan answered, reclining in his chair.

Jean pointed to the screen. It was my file from before my so-called resurrection. "As you probably know, most of our files were deleted to keep Onslaught from getting to them," she said. "We have, however, managed to pull up yours. These were your power stats then." I glanced at the screen and noticed three graphs labelled empathy, telepathy, and temporary ambient psionic energy matrix (TAPEM), which I suppose stood for my 'medium' ability. The levels were more then halfway up the chart--about three fourths.

"Ooookay..." I said, looking back at her. "So?"

Sean clicked a button. "These were yuirs when Moira tested ye on Muir," he put in. The stats came up again, and this time the telepathy and empathy were much higher, nearly reaching the top of the chart. The TAPEM readings, however, were almost nonexistent.


"And these are yers from yesterday at the trainin' session," Logan said, indicating another screen. My eyes widened. The empathy and telepathy columns hadn't changed, but the TAPEM signature had increased noticeably. They were nowhere near as high as they had originally been, but it had climbed to one seventh of the chart, which, considering it had been nonexistent in the Muir reading, was a significant improvement.

"How?" I blurted out.

"Who knows?" Logan shrugged, lighting a cigar. "All I know is that you were hittin' faster an' harder then any kid had a right to the other day, especially one who didn't know anything about that kind o' fightin'."

I shook my head in confusion. "But... it only worked that once," I protested. "Dr. MacTaggert said that it wouldn't heal." I tried to stop myself from feeling hopeful that I was wrong--it would only make the disappointment more intense.

"Nae, she only said it was doubtful," Sean corrected me.

My mind reeled. "Uh... but... where did... I mean, these things don't just happen..."

"We do have a theory, actually," Jean told me. "When you, Nate, and Franklin were inside Onslaught you mentioned you felt something in the back of your mind, correct?"

"Well, yeah."

"And you said you sensed your cousin?"

"Only for a moment. And when I tried to get a better hold on him he disappeared. But where's this going?"

Emma looked at me. "As we have learned--rather painfully, might I add--your current state depends on the amount of psionic energy around you. In Onslaught there was virtually limitless energy at your disposal, had you known how to access it. In my experience with the human mind I've discovered that there are many base instincts that operate well below the conscious level, and as of the moment it looks like those are the instincts controlling your power. Now, I admit I've been tempted to look inside your mind for myself, but since A: It's 'against the rules' to do it without permission and B: I'm still not entirely certain you don't have any more little 'surprises' in store--" she was no doubt remembering her first unauthorized visit to my mind, "--no matter how unlikely it seems. I was GOING to ask before that little toad Mountjoy attacked, but obviously neither one of us is in condition for another psionic run-about after your little identity crisis a few days ago."

"Wait, I think I'm losing perspective here," I said, spreading my hands. "Where is this going?"

"We're saying there's a good chance that, given time, your powers will reassert themselves on their own," Jean smiled.

"So long as ye dinna think about it, anyway," Sean added.

"Easier said than done," I muttered wryly. "It's like... well, all I've been able to think about lately was how much I lost, and how I'm going to get it back--if I can." I was clearly thinking about Glenn, but the assorted X-people pretended not to notice, which relieved me since I really didn't want to talk about my feelings at the moment. I pushed my train of thought out of the way and said, "Well, what would you suggest I do in the meantime?"

Jean smiled. "Stick with your friends, kiddo," she advised. "Things'll work out in the end, just give them a fair chance."

:Karry, please!: Shrive shouted, banging against Karen's mental wall. :Let me in or I can't help you!:

::Access denied.::


::Access denied. You may not enter, designate: Shrive.::

:WHAT?! Karen, why are you talking like this?!:

He got no further answer. Depressed, worried, and thoroughly exhausted, he dropped out of her mind and flicked open an eyelid to watch Moira and Rahne.

"Well, I pulled up her FBI dossier," Moira was saying, indicating the computer screen. "The lass has quite the record, I must say. Seems she an' her twin brother, Jason, ran away a few years back. Became freelance hackers or something like tha', an' they built up quite the reputation. Real experts, too. They charged top price fer quality work, an' according tae this she an' her brother ran a totally legitimate business--or at least, as legitimate as it gets. They could PICK who they wanted tae work fer, that's how good they were."

"But where's her brother?" Rahne inquired.

"'Tis a good question, lass," Moira nodded. "Let me check the personal files." She pressed a few keys--and suddenly the system went dead. Moira uttered a few more creative oaths and glared at the screen.

"Lady Moira, what happened?" Rahne asked.

"I dinnae know, Rahne," Moira said, attempting to reboot. "It's like something keeps jamming the transfer. I couldnae even get her parents' names, let alone the whereabouts of her brother! Something funny's going on here, an' I believe 'tis centered 'round Karen here."

Shrive looked over towards Karen, who was now sleeping. The pain seemed gone from her face, but the metal was inching its way up her cheek and beginning to attack her right eye. Shrive shut his eyes slowly and exhaled. His precognition was useless on her, but he could tell where this was going. His scan had confirmed it, though he couldn't even see her surface thoughts. The metal had permeated her brain, establishing its own rules, and was beginning to effect her psyche with something similar to a disease of some sort. She was, in short, becoming a machine in mind as well as form.

God only knows how she'll react when she wakes up, he thought. But then, if this IS affecting her mind the way it seems to be, she might not even care...

Shrive shuddered. How was he supposed to help her if she didn't want it?

"Dawn?" came a quiet whisper. I looked around--all was dark. I was vaguely reminded of the time when my parents and I had visited some caverns and the guide had decided to turn off the lights for a few minutes. A light appeared ahead of me--radiant, but not blinding. I stared into it, curious but not alarmed. This scene felt strangely familiar to me...

"Dawn..." came the murmur again--definitely female. I squinted, a gentle breeze ruffling my hair, and tried to determine the source of the voice. It seemed to be coming from the light.

"Are you ready?" another voice, male this time, asked. My mind reeled. Who could be--

No, that would be impossible... and yet...

"D-dad?" I called, voice trembling. "Dad, is that you? And Mom, too?"

"Yes," my mother replied, finally coming into view. She and my father looked a great deal younger in death than in life, but it was unmistakably them.

"Are you ready?" my dad repeated.

"For... what?" I frowned.

"Death. Life. To complete the cycle a second time." Mom was looking unusually sober as she answered.

I considered. Believe me, having already died once, I was NOT going to dismiss this casually. Death can be as wonderful as life--perhaps even moreso, if you're in the right company. Painless, beautiful... death was nothing to be feared.

Unless you left the people who feared it for you behind...

With real regret, I shook my head. "No," I told them, straightening my shoulders and lifting my chin so I could look them in the eyes. "I can't leave. Not yet. Not with my friends still living and worrying about me--and not until I've found Glenn and he's ready to go himself. I'm sorry, but I just can't take the easy way out."

They both smiled proudly, much to my surprise. "Dawn," my father said, all seriousness vanishing, "we want you to know we're very proud of you. WE think you're making the right choice. Will is working on keeping you safe, even though he can't interact that much yet, but he--and we--are watching over you, never doubt that for a second."

"I never did," I smiled. "Not for a moment. But what about you two?"

"We'll be waiting for you," Mom assured me with a lopsided grin. She and Dad both looked like a couple of college students.

"Now go find your friend, dearheart," Dad told me. "He's out there somewhere, waiting for you. You'll find him again somehow."

"Thanks, Dad." I was crying now, though not with despair. They turned to leave-- "And Mom? Dad?" I murmured, "I miss you."

"We miss you too, honey," Mom assured me, a small, glistening tear of her own tracing a path down her illuminated cheek. "We love you. Forever and always."

"Roma, are you sure this is wise?" Saturnyne pressed, frowning. "You swore to Captain Britain to stay your hand, no matter what the circumstances. Why act now?"

"Saturnyne, this child is not Brian," Roma replied calmly. "Furthermore, I am doing nothing that will influence her actions or thoughts in any way. I do not play Merlin's game of manipulation."

"But why?"

A valid question, she had to admit. Was it because she felt she owed the child something somehow? Or, more likely, was it because the girl impressed her so? The meeting with her parents had not been Roma's doing, but she had witnessed it anyway. Who was this mortal, who could intrigue the Omniversal Guardian enough to encourage her to follow her every move? The visitation had given Roma better insight into the mind of this human, and the child had proven even more interesting then she had first thought. What she had discovered was, that for all her bravado, the heart and soul of Dawn Embers clung to the thinnest and most tremulous of threads: true and pure love. The love for her friends and teammates, to whom she owed her life even as they owed theirs to her. The love for those she had never met, and yet felt an all consuming responsibility to help and protect despite their fear and hatred. And, most importantly, for a single boy, whom she could only pray she would find one day.

All this was why she was weaving a connection of shared life energy between the two--a deeper (but perhaps not more significant) connection then the spiritual one. They shared a tenuous such bond already, but Roma was broadening and tuning it until their lives were so closely entwined that one would not be able to survive without the other. She knew, even if they themselves didn't even suspect, that if one of them died a second time and the other somehow survived, the survivor would become a shattered, empty husk of their former self, and no one would be able to end their suffering. Their soul-bond was unbelievably potent, and the only reason that she had been able to return Dawn at all was because Glenn was already there. To separate a second time would shatter them both irreparably, and in either case, neither would have wished to live without the other by their side. The bond was designed to activate when the two touched...

IF she can find him, and I shall not assist her, Roma thought firmly. Then she shook her head, smiling a little as she completed the spell. From what she had seen, this child was capable of handling virtually anything that was thrown at her. Dawn could and would move Heaven and Earth to find her soulmate, and when she did, the stars themselves would tremble.

Continue To Chapter Sixteen

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