xp_erverse: (Magneto how's he work?)
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Three pivotal scenes from Quentin's life. He has to reclaim them before the Shadow King corrupts them and steals them from him.


The linoleum hallway gave way to the pavement of a busy city sidewalk. An impossibly large sun hung in the sky. It bore a cartoonish face that laughed softly at them, as if they were a walking joke. Quentin aimed his psi-gun at it, but refrained from firing. How insane would it have been to shoot the sun?

Footsteps rapidly approached from behind, and Quentin had just a second to avoid being plowed into by a terrified figure, who ran past him as he twisted out of the way. A moment later, a trio of Mounties in full decorative gear charged past, chasing their prey. Quentin's jaw dropped.

"Daniella."

The mutant girl who absorbed him, Gabriel, Jean-Paul, and Wanda two years ago. Stuck in her brain, the four of them had to free her from religious fanatic parents who wanted to lobotomize her, and an uncaring civil service that would have let that happen. They'd had to fight their way to freedom, and then journey deep into the girl's buried psyche to revive her. And now here was her echo in Quentin's brain, once again fleeing the authorities who would have her killed.

He did not wait for his compatriots, and gave chase.

Jim swore after the younger man. It wasn't just the shadowy authority figures: the buildings around them buckled and bowed with Quentin's footsteps, watching him with window-eyes like a hyper-urbanized Toon Town. This was not welcoming territory.

"Quentin!" Jim called after the retreating figure's completely indifferent back. He cursed under his breath. "What the hell is he doing?"

Jean seemed momentarily distracted, and increasingly annoyed. She rubbed her temple.

"He helped her on a mission. Or at least, the real her. I think he's wrapped up in the memory," she said. She glanced ahead as a long carpet runner appeared underneath the Mounties and Quentin. Reaching down, she grabbed a tuft of fabric, and yanked it backward, to try to knock them off their feet.

They all fell comically. Dust clouds even sprang up when they collided with the ground. The Mounties shook their heads when they got up and, seeing only Quentin and not Daniella, turned and charged him. They were a mass of flailing limbs — this was becoming a recurring theme. He raised his gun but his hands shook with indecision. "What the hell do I do?"

"Slow down and think," Jim said, and an enormous barred cage dropped out of nowhere and entrapped the Mounties. "What are you doing?"

He was leery about replicating his earlier events in the distorted high school; something about this part of the astral plane felt . . . solid, as if infused by something of Quentin himself. There was no telling what an outsider's casual destruction might do.

The cage rattled but the shouting prisoners remained trapped in there for now. Quentin picked himself up and did not lower his trembling gun. "We had to make sure no one noticed us. The hospital told the police we were dangerous. So they hunted us down like animals." His demeanor changed as he spoke. He stood up straighter, his hands steadied, and his words came out harsher, more deliberate. He pulled back the hammer of the gun. "They were gonna cut out our brain, because being a vegetable is so much more preferable to being a mutant. That's what you were gonna do, huh?"

The sun laughed more loudly, fixing its eyes directly onto Quentin. Though it grew brighter, the rest of the sky dimmed, as if it were absorbing the light around it. Buildings shuddered when Quentin stepped forward. "Just a girl, doing what her parents wanted to make them happy. That's all the law cares about. There's no justice. Only order." He snorted. "I can do better than that."

All went silent after the gun fired. The sun instantly shut up, and with one of the Mounties now missing his head, the others were also quiet.

"You wanted to do that the whole time," a lightly accented voice said. Quentin turned to the side and saw Daniella standing right next to him, her head shaved and wearing a hospital gown just as she had when he first got into her head. "Your friends just wanted to get away, but you wanted them to suffer."

Had the world been kinder, easier, and uncomplicated Jean would've had the perfect thing to say to calm the storm that was brewing. But she found herself grasping and silent, dumbstruck and exhausted. She studied the two figures, her attention lingering on Daniella for a few moments.

"I imagine you're right," she said finally. "But what we need to do now is move on and not dwell on the past, but figure out how we'll address the present."

Jim looked at the figures in the cage, depersonalized into nothing more than bodies in the street. It reminded him of the ragdoll corpses left behind in the aftermath of an FPS and its thinly-veiled excuses to shoot the nearest brown person or hoodie-clad looter.

Emma had made the slightest of moues at Jean's words. Everything about this situation reeked of the past coming back again: Parker, the Shadow King, Quentin's past reforming and resolving around them. But it was not, as Jean said, to be dwelled on; not even to be spoken of, in fact. Emma gave a small shudder as a follow up to initial reaction. She knew she was walking in someone else's psyche, someone else's version of the Astral Plane, but it still scraped against her consciousness like a fingernail on a blackboard, a low-key wrongness.

Quentin and Daniella took one another's hands, and in a flash of light, the girl was gone. Quentin stood alone, some color returned to his less-blemished skin and some of his tattered clothes mended. The sun retreated higher into the sky, as if to escape Quentin's wrath. "The past is the past," he said, agreeing with Jean. "Let's move."

~*~

Turning at the next intersection led them to what was best described as an airbrushed dayglo hell. The grass was impossibly green, the sky a kaleidoscope of vibrant blues and purples. Bird-shaped marshmallow Peeps flew by, and a trio of gray squirrels chittered excitedly under a tree.

Quentin shuddered.

One of the Peeps landed on Jean's shoulder. You all nearly died here last time, the Shadow King cooed in her ear. You could have burned them all to cinders. You'll do it again. This trial is for naught.

"Oh, I'll burn something. But it's not going to be them," Jean said, momentarily forgetting she had "spoken" aloud as the Peep was shot backward, smacking into a dancing tree.

She rubbed her forehead.

"Sorry. He's very chatty," she muttered before glancing around.

"So this is what I would imagine getting trapped in a Lisa Frank painting would be like. I'm kind of glad we got the Library." Mostly.

"Same." Jim couldn't help but notice Emma appeared to have attracted literal bluebirds. She'd been in this setting too, he recalled. The contrast made his head hurt almost as much as the neon rainbows. He turned his attention back to the younger man to save his brain from the tonal dissonance. "Okay, Quentin, walk us through this. Where are we going?"

Quentin surveyed the area but tried not to look at anything for too long. There was no telling how this would affect his mind. He had actually laughed last time he was here. "I guess . . . to meet with the other group. You guys." He gestured at Haller and Jean. "Where Abbott found the tear. That was . . . I think over that hill that's actually maybe just a giant gumdrop?"

"I think you're right," replied Emma. "I wasn't going to admit it at the time, but that unicorn was quite useful. Less walking." Here, in a world re-made, but one where she knew more about the scenario unfolding around her, Emma was willing to deal with the indescribable twee far more effectively. Her hands were suddenly filled with a miniature blowtorch, the kind used in kitchens to put a crust on a creme brulee. Here, wielded with consummate skill and a certain vengeful glee, it quickly made those bluebirds that survived its initial assault keep a far more sensible distance from Emma.

Jean reflexively blinked, her lips curled into a bewildered smirk. She said nothing, pausing a moment as they began to trudge up the hill. Her feet started to stick, so she telekinetically lifted herself off the ground to float over it, rather than walk.

"So we're...going to meet ourselves?"

"Who even knows what's going to happen. But . . . I wouldn't think so," Quentin said after a moment's thought. "We weren't the enemies there. It was those things, those astral dust bunnies that almost ate Haller and you. How apropos for one parasite to defend itself in the guise of another."

They reached the gash in the psiscape after a short hike. There was no one else around save the chocolate Easter bunnies hopping around a ways away. Quentin cautiously approached the portal, but did not dare touch it. Who knew what would be triggered?

Jim stopped shortly behind Quentin, examining the tear. He'd been there, but so depersonalized the incident seemed more like a film he'd watched than something he'd experienced.

Nonetheless, through the tear he recognized the counterpoint to the day-glo nightmare: a flooded library, sapped of color and crumbling into disrepair. A nexus of negative emotions, just as this place had been a nexus of positive.

Then the edges of the tear began to bubble. Dark, ugly pustules of orphaned emotion, drawn to the psis like planets to a sun. The ground darkened, the infection spreading towards them like spilled wine.

Staring at the other side, Jean felt a twitch of unease at the memory of what happened in the library and the long fall into a bottomless lake of water. The twitch was enough to draw some of the emotions toward her more quickly, and Jean found herself zigzagging in the air, trying to outfly them.

"Not again...!"

The gun construct came to Quentin's hand easily, though this time it took the form of a hunting rifle instead of a pistol. "Dammit, stop moving!" he shouted, trying to aim without hitting Jean, too. The globules of psychic malfeasance reached out blistery tentacles to engulf her.

Don't fight it. The voice hissed in Jean's mind again. Give in and you can leave. Keep struggling and you will only know pain . . .

Bird-shaped Peeps flew out of the trees at the loud BANG! from Quentin's gun. One of the pieces of debris exploded and plummeted to the ground, now no more than a pile of dull grey pudding. Quentin smirked and raised his gun again. The instant Jean veered to the side, his fired rapidly, downing another three of the pustules. A snap of his fingers and the last one exploded in a cloud of pink astral fire.

"This place was terrifying," he said calmly as if he had not just manifested expert marksmanship. "But I saved your asses last time, too. While you all were losing your minds, so to speak."

"I guess you did." One of the few moments Jim could feel rather than simply recollect was Quentin saving him from the parasitic debris, but that hadn't been what made an impression on him. The young man had demonstrated a degree of implicit understanding and anticipation that had surprised him at the time. At a time where cooperation had counted, he'd had their backs.

Not that he'd been exceptionally gracious about it, of course, but this was Quentin they were talking about.

Jim looked at the twitching debris. Even perforated and dying it was still trying to inch towards the group. As he watched Quentin casually stomped on a piece, reducing it to nothing more than a dark smear in the neon green grass. The rest of the pile stilled.

"I wonder what decided these scenarios," the counselor mused, half to himself.

"The subconscious is a weird place, so who the fuck knows?" Quentin picked up a handful of squirming astral jelly, sniffed it, and then slurped it whole. As if caught in a time-lapse photoplay, his skin healed and unblemished, his frame filled out, and the bags under his eyes lightened. Another missing piece of himself reassembled.

Emma watched Quentin eat a part of himself (so to speak) with a certain disgusted disdain - it might be part of the healing of a disintegrated psyche, but it still didn't excuse poor table manners (though Emma was the first to admit that she wouldn't let a nuclear holocaust excuse poor table manners - she was reasonably certain she would be the only zombie that would use appropriate silverware to eat brains.). "It could be anything." She confirmed Jim's words. "Between spells, scattered psyches, the subconscious and loomy, loomy, scary Shadow King playing around, we can be somewhat grateful we're in scenarios we recognise. There are quite a few options more concerning that would be available to us." She raised an eyebrow at the one they'd all come here for. "Considering how imaginative you are. And how very unimaginative the Shadow King is."

"It's a veritable 'This Is Your Life' for me here," Quentin said wryly, rolling his eyes before stepping through the portal and to the next living memory.

~*~

The police officers slammed the silver-skinned mutant onto the sidewalk with such force people could hear his teeth chip. One cop bodily held him down, so he could barely breathe to voice his protests of innocence. The crowd of market-goers just passed by, seemingly oblivious to the criminal act happening right now.

Unlike two years ago when there was a whole contingent of mansion residents arguing over what to do, now it was only the four psis. Quentin watched the scene impassionately.

"Can you believe Qadir just ran away from this?"

Jean studied the officers as she listened to Quentin speak. She expected fire, and anger, and frustration. Instead, his words were detached and unfeeling. But she remembered his reaction on the journals to the event as being anything but detached.

"What would you have her do?"

"She could have skinned the pigs alive, started us a cookout." Quentin smirked and casually strolled across the street until he was only a few feet away from the cops. Their featureless faces turned from their victim to him, and one raised his baton. "Fuck you, too, bro."

There was something off about the victim. The silver skin was obvious, but Jim realized it had no face - just a vague impression of features. It was possible Quentin just hadn't gotten a good enough look for his memories to replicate it properly, but he doubted it. They weren't looking at a person. They were looking at a symbol.

"Sooraya had the rest of you to worry about," Jim pointed out. "How would you have handled it?"

"Pretty sure I made that clear." The baton-wielding cop stood to his full height, towering several feet about Quentin, who just looked unamused at the threat. "My mistake was not pushing myself beyond what Xavier taught. He wanted to keep things basic, to protect myself. And to protect him from me, I wager. I think he's afraid of me."

The officer swung its baton, but Quentin neatly sidestepped it. He grinned, flashing his ivory-white teeth at it. His psychic gun appeared in his hand again, this time the Glock model preferred by the NYPD. "This is what I wanted to do, what I should have done, but I was too weak. Not anymore. How do you like me now?" he asked no one in particular, stepping up into the cop's space and shooting him clear through the throat. The cop popped like a water balloon, spraying its companions, its victim, and Quentin with black, inky blood. Quentin licked his lips. "As far as revenge fantasies go, this is pretty good."

Jean's eyes widened, and she reflexively lifted her hand to cover her face from the blood. A horrified expression crossed her face, and she found herself lingering on the body for a moment, stunned, before looking back to Quentin.

"Quentin, what the hell? You're better than this," she said.

"Are you sure about that?" asked Emma. She shrugged at the look Jean flashed her. "Someone once told me that no-one's a monster inside their own head. I just told them they didn't know me well enough." Her grin was somewhere between sickly and wicked. "Does this little fantasy have much longer to run, Quentin? As much fun as it is, I've got things to do."

"Sounds like a good philosophy. And no, I'm just about done." Quentin took out the other officers in quick succession before helping the the featureless victim to his feet. Just like the echo of Daniella, he vanished in a bright light, and once it dimmed, Quentin looked clean and healthy. All of the pedestrians disappeared, too, leaving the four of them alone on the street, which started to shake as if an earthquake we're striking.

"He's mad," Quentin said gleefully. "I don't think he has much left. Now's the Time to finish what I started."
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