xp_erverse: (Magneto how's he work?)
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To cleanse the astral plane, Amanda calls on Wanda, Illyana, and Stephen to recreate the grand spell she cast nearly a decade ago.

The fate of the world was literally in her hands.

Not because of the spell they were doing - this was to make sure that the Shadow King hadn't taken refuge in the astral plane as he had done previously. No, the world-breaking part was entirely down to Amanda making sure she didn't let slip that she'd done this before, in another world, in another life. With three people who had borne the same names as the three she was with now, but who were forever lost now.

"Right, Boss Lady, you and Steve are in the middle of the circle. You're the anchor - we're going to use you to get there and back again without getting lost. Steve, you're gunna channel the magical energy being sent from the network via the phone and pass it onto me. And Illyana, you're opening the door to the astral plane." She paused. "Any questions?"

Stephen raised his hand, turning the phone in his hand over again and again as his amused eyes settled on Amanda, the barest hints of a smile touching his lips. "Couldn't we have gotten a better phone for the ritual? I mean It's solid and I can set it up," In truth, he'd started tracing the path for the energy out in his mind already the moment he'd touched the phone, "but I mean come on Teach." He grinned unrepentantly at Amanda and nodded, "We got this, no worries, it'll be a piece of cake."

In contrast to this relaxed attitude, Illyana looked ready to bolt at the first sign of trouble, perched lightly on the edge of a table with a clear line to the door and a window (just in case). Nothing about being involved with inter-dimensional fiascos was a good idea, in her opinion, and she was only about 62% sure that she could even open a portal that didn't go directly to hell at all. She kept her eyes on Wanda, trying to be comforted by familiarity, and asked, "What happens if it doesn't work?"

"Then the psis will have to avoid the astral plane until we're sure the Big Bad is gone," Amanda's response was a lot more casual than she felt - the last time she'd done this, they'd broken the Plane and it had taken some kind of esoteric miracle to fix. "But my info is pretty solid about this working."

"And if this does not work," Wanda added, "we will all be fine. Amanda and I have the experience to get us the, as the Americans say, hell out of Dodge. If something goes sideways, look to us, follow our lead but also trust yourselves. We would not be asking this of either of you if we did not believe in your abilities." The last was a bit of a lie - there were a decent amount of magic users and whatnot in the mansion these days but not many with the exact abilities that this needed for this spell.

She was not as relaxed as Stephen - which she chalked up to the exuberance of youth - but she was confident that they'd see this through. "I'll be your anchors," she said to the room at large but with her eyes on Illyana. "And I will not let go, I promise. Especially not in front of an audience, that would be embarrassing."

Their guest smiled faintly from his place safely out of the way from the other four. "Don't worry, I don't know enough about magic to be able to tell if anything goes wrong," Jim said. The telepath briefly met Amanda's gaze. "But I'll keep an eye on the astral side of things while you work, just in case."

"It's appreciated. Your turf more than mine and all," Amanda replied with a brief grin. She leaned over and pressed the conference button on the phone - they were doing this in the Snow Valley boardroom. "We're just about set up here," she announced to the magic users in various locations on the other end of the line. "Stephen is the focal point, yeah? Be gentle on him."

There was a chuckle of a man's deep voice on the phone, and some murmurs of assent. Amanda still wasn't 100% confident in how much she could trust the network these days, what with the Winding Way creating a possible clash of loyalties whenever magic was involved, but beggars couldn't be choosers and even if she'd used her whole class, it wouldn't have been enough. Besides, Topaz, Billy and Megan were too valuable as a second line of defence. Especially if things did go wrong.

"Right, let's get things moving." Amanda dusted off her hands in a business-like manner and sat down on the carpet inside the circle she'd marked out with masking tape. The necessary sigils for focus and concentration had been drawn on the tape in magic marker. So much for esoteric-ness. "Wanda, you and Steve get ready. Calm blue ocean and all that bollocks - we're going to need to be totally focussed on the astral plane. Illyana..." And here Amanda offered her hand to the younger blonde to come and sit beside her. "Just relax and do what comes natural - when I give you the word, open a portal. I'll make sure it's where we want to go."

As she made her way to sit in front of Stephen, Wanda tried to convey a look to Illyana that would say that everything was really going to be alright. She wasn't sure if she was all that successful but she hoped she was. Even after all these years, it still bothered her when they had to call on the students for assistance. They were gifted, true, and the Generation X program gave them tools but...

She sighed quietly to herself as she positioned herself on the floor, sitting in a loose lotus position. She remembered all too well Illyana's past and the time the younger woman had spoken to her of it. Perhaps she was being too naive and sentimental but Wanda simply wished she could protect Illyana, and those like her, from more dangers.

Wanda gave Stephen a smile, hiding the tinge of sadness.

Illyana - who felt a sudden surge of painful memory - nodded at Wanda, and then looked down at her knees, concealing her unease as well as the other, much more uncomfortable emotions. It suddenly occurred to her that if Wanda died again, here, she wasn't sure what she would do; and that was almost more discomforting than the original thought of Wanda's death.

Stephen glanced between the women as Wanda came to settle down in front of him giving her what he hoped was an encouraging smile. They all seemed so sad, so worried about this. The teenager knew that it was serious, that Amanda would never have called him here if she had no other choice but still...he reached out to touch the blonde comfortingly on her shoulder, "Everyone's gonna be fine out of this, you forget I'm here to protect you all and Amanda and Wanda," he flashed the older woman a smile, "the Astral Plane isn't gonna know what hit it."

Illyana - rather ungracefully - slid out from under Stephen's hand and repositioned herself a pointed two feet away, distracted from her anxiety in her efforts to murder him with her glare.

Amanda swallowed a snort of amusement and nodded at Illyana. "Looks like we're all set," she said, offering her hand to the girl to take. "We go onto the astral plane first. Wanda, once we're there, let our helpful donors know it's time for giving." She turned to Illyana. "Close your eyes and focus on me and when you're ready, open a portal."

Illyana looked at Amanda's hand and briefly wondered what was with all the touching, but a moment later she rolled her eyes and put her hand on Amanda's. A few seconds later, a portal flared on the floor, the light almost harsh even in daytime.

Amanda shut her eyes against the light, focussing on their destination. The stepping disk flickered, then stabilised. A breath in, held... and then out. A sense of movement, of dislocation, and then Amanda opened her eyes to a new landscape, a mindscape, a world of roiling shapes and shifting colours. And next to her was Illyana. Or at least Illyana's astral self.

"All right then." Amanda dropped Illyana's hand and looked ahead into the swirling chaos ahead of them. "Here we are."

Back in the conference room, the two blondes lay on the floor where they'd collapsed, still and unmoving. The portal was gone, and all that remained were the grainy after-images in the vision of the three left behind.

Wanda blinked away the after-images and allowed, instead, allowed it to fill instead with the overlaying chaos strings that connected everything around her. But she wasn't interested in most of them right now and quickly zeroed in on the ones that threaded outwards from Amanda and Illyana.

Carefully, so carefully, Wanda separated out the ones that connected to their most important areas - heart and mind. Sitting back, she gathered them close to herself and sighed. "It's done," she said, eyes half closed, voice distracted.

Stephen took a deep breath, letting his mind sink down to the phone in his hand, feeling the energy inlaid through it, the rune coming to life under the touch of his mind as he held a hand out to Wanda. The teenager could feel the phone in his hand as if it were a hot coal burning up in his hand, and yet he remained unscathed, the fire coursing through his body, leaving him feeling as if he were able to fly, as if he could click his fingers and do anything. It was too much, almost too much power for him to handle but it was hopefully what the others needed.

~Don't get too attached,~ came Amanda's 'voice' in their minds as Wanda's connection flared into brightness. In the astral plane, the links were symbolised by long silver strings around the wrist of the young girl and the older woman, stretching away into the distance and thrumming with a music of their own. Amanda's astral body was very similar to her physical one, only the leather jacket she wore was also a form of armour, and yet Illyana could also see underneath to a myriad of psychic 'scars' on the witch's skin. A mark on Amanda's left hand, about an inch long but so deep it showed on both sides, seemed to demand the younger girl's attention.

The younger girl in question could conclude only one thing from the mark on Amanda's hand that she had never noticed until now - and that was, that lady is bad news and I need to leave. Unfortunately, there didn't seem to be anywhere to go in this weird astral plane place and her teleporting was unreliable in the best of circumstances, not to be tested while one was maybe not even on Earth anymore. She settled uneasily back, a sense of unease clawing its way through her sternum.

Wanda felt the weight of Stephen's hand in her own but it seemed less of a physical sensation than that of the strings that bound her to the others in the room. She breathed out, Amanda's voice a vague echo in her mind. What Wanda was doing was stretching the boundaries of what her mutant powers could do but she had enough arcane knowledge to push the limits to their very edges. One day, she thought, as the chains ran through her fingers as the others breathed and moved, she might find that breaking point.

But that was a worry for later. She had more important things to worry about in there here and now.

The collected magic rushed through the connection and hit the witch squarely on the back, the scars of the channelling spell lighting up red-gold and black. Amanda gritted non-existent teeth as she felt the spell trying to accommodate the volume, having done it once before not much of a consolation in terms of the pain. Back in the office, there was a slight smell of charring as the carpet underneath her body began to smolder.

The fire extinguisher flew into Haller's outstretched hand almost instantly. He didn't know how aware they were of their physical bodies, but it was unlikely they could complete the ritual if the building caught fire. Thank god for Snow Valley's fire safety compliance. Amanda might wonder why she was standing in foam, but her power was linked to cities. He was sure she'd stepped in worse.

On the astral plane, Amanda dropped to her knees and spread her left hand onto the 'ground'. "The Soulsword," she grated to Illyana. "I need you to make a connection with the 'plane. Stab me through the hand with it."

"Are you crazy?" Illyana, aghast, actually tried to move back a few inches, before realizing that her body wasn't actually here. "What kind of nutjob are you? I don't even know what that would do to me." She had a moment to think, and then added, ungraciously, "Or you, I guess. Or any of these people." She gestured at Stephen, who she didn't really care about, and at Wanda, who she did. "It's not for people stabbing."

"Trust me, I know what I'm doing," Amanda told her with gritted teeth. The magical energies flowing into her were starting to get part her ability to contain, and wisps of multi-coloured light were seeping from her skin. "I need a connection to the astral plane, one that's both magic and psychic. Your Soulsword is that connection - part of your soul shaped by magic. Now get over here and stab me through the hand before I explode from overload, all right?" Around them, the astral plane was roiling with the disruption they were causing, the 'horizon' twisting this way and that.

Illyana's eyes went flat, seriously considering letting Amanda explode from the overload just on the general principles that being screwed around with was one thing, but being screwed around with when your actual soul was involved was entirely another. She had just enough self-control left behind the unfamiliar, cold rage to remind herself that letting someone die with witnesses was a bad idea - and also probably wrong or something.

It hurt more than usual, pulling the Soulsword up and out of wherever it came from. And it hurt, a lot, when she stepped forward and matter-of-factly slid it through Amanda's hand.

As the Soulsword plunged through her astral self and into the 'ground' beneath her hand, Amanda let go of the accumulated magical energy, pouring it through the weapon and into the astral plane itself. Blinding white light blotted out everything, rushing over the astral plane in an inexorable wave, leaving no corner untouched. It was an explosion of magical energy, with Amanda and Illyana at the epicenter, and it was designed to cleanse the collective unconscious of the world's telepaths.

It wasn't something that could be seen with the eyes, not even something grasped by conventional senses. Nonetheless, Jim's mind struggled for an equivalent. For just an instant the astral plane seemed to go white. In the space of a heartbeat his mind was filled with a sense of infinite emptiness -- and infinite potential.

Then it all rushed back. Colors pulsed into existence as structures and networks that he'd barely perceived before burst into prominence as they rebuilt themselves, only to be quickly hidden as the superficial topography arose to swallow it. The amorphous landscape roiled around them like settling sand, timeless moments where the concept of up and down dissolved into undifferentiated here.

And then, in the blink of an eye, it was over.

In the deafening silence of the plane, Amanda nodded at Illyana to remove the Soulsword, and wearily climbed to her feet. She'd drained herself dry doing this - now it was up to others to get them home. ~Boss Lady?~ she thought as loudly as she could. ~Time to reel us in.~

Wanda didn't really get the words but the intent behind them was loud and clear. Carefully, as she continued to use herself as an anchor, she grasped the strands firmly in hand and pulled. There was no fighting or resistance from anyone so it went as smoothly as it could. One minute, she was reeling them in like the astral plane form of fishing and the next...

Stephen blinked, his eyes drawn to the group that had just reappeared, their drawn pale faces an indication of the struggle, the effort they'd put in. The teen rushed over to Amanda's side, offering his hand to his teacher as his eye ran over them before fastening on her face, fraught with worry. "Hey, you guys ok?"

Amanda took the offered hand and let Stephen help her up. "Just a bit worn out," she told him as she swayed slightly. "Still, we got the job done and that bastard should be gone for good." She watched as Wanda helped Illyana up. "You did good, kid. And I promise, no more messing around with the astral plane, cross my heart."


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