15410/Talk of the Future

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Talk of the Future
Date of Scene: 01 August 2023
Location: War Room - X-Men Base
Synopsis: Betsy corners Illyana and talks to her about X-Force, and shows her the unsettling vision of the future. The two come to an agreement.
Cast of Characters: Psylocke, Magik
Tinyplot: Shadow Prophecy

Psylocke has posed:
It's been a wild couple of weeks since Betsy Braddock returned to both the X-Men -- and teaching at the Mansion. Twice in as many weeks, she's woken with one hell of a hangover that has very little to do with alcohol and very much to do with utilizing her powers in ways and in excesses that aren't that good for her.

Not that that's ever stopped her.

Tonight, though, she's nothing but elegant grace, the long flowing dress that clings to her figure embroidered with silver thread, matching the two inch silver heels she wears. Her hair is left long and flowing, making her look soft. Not like someone who belongs in the X-Man base at all.

But appearances are often deceiving.

She's been trying to locate Illyana -- find her at a time when she's alone -- without directly reaching out to her. Communication would be much more simple, but that's not Betsy's style. She prefers to surprise people, which is why she's stepping through into the war room at this particular time.

Looking for the Queen of Limbo.
Magik has posed:
Besides the obvious - her uncanny ability to be anywhere at any time with just a few steps through hell - Illyana's a particularly challenging woman to find when she wants to be. Her mind is nigh-invulnerable to psionics, save for the pinholes she willingly makes to facilitate communication; she spends significant portions of time absent from the Earthly plane, thanks to the responsibilities of Queendom; she is a very sporadic texter and DM-checker.

However: she's also an X-Man, and X-Men have their own tools for keeping in touch with one another-- including robust location tracking for moments when it's important for the team to know where one of its members is. Illyana's comm device isn't always active - and the GPS tech is even less common than that - but today, for the past hour or so, it has obediently reported her presence in the X-Men's War Room. Practically any other signal would stop dead when it hit the walls of this room, much less those surrounding this hidden piece of Xavier's dream; this one beats strong and bright for the right observer, though-- and thanks to a quantum link with Cerebro, its many psychically sensitive members are able to lock onto the signal with nothing but their mind, providing a faint but steady sense of location even without the aid of technology.

When Betsy arrives, the blonde woman has her fingertips immersed in the glowing surface of the holographic field floating above the center table. With brisk, precise swipes, she moves a cornucopia of colorful polygons around a realistically rendered cityscape, carefully positioning them relative to the dozen bright red skull symbols littered around the field. Slowly, she draws lines from symbols to skulls, or even to other symbols; her left hand glides around a stream of multimedia data - staticky cries, blurry video, satellite imagery, and more - and her eyes dart all over the holographic interface, tracking it all as best as she can. Despite occupying the War Room, she's in tight black jeans and a deep scarlet, cropped, off-shoulder tee with a group of saccharine-cute animals sacrificing another animal on a bloody altar.

A couple seconds after the door opens, she casts a glance over her shoulder; an eyebrow slowly arches and amusement briefly flickers over her lips.

"Were you planning on doing a little formal strategizing," she wonders, "or are you on your way to a ball of some kind?"
Psylocke has posed:
"This was the first thing I grabbed from my closet this morning," Betsy answers Illyana, and despite the smile she gives it is a truth. Whether through her upbringing as an English aristocrat or her time as a model, the woman just breathes an effortless elegance that allows for any given outfit to let her step into high society event and fit right in -- no pre-planning needed.

"I'm rather enjoying the warm weather here. I didn't much miss winters in New York. Seems only fitting to take advantage of it while it lingers." But the purple-haired telepath didn't come to talk of weather, it's clear.

Not when she deliberately locks the room against outsiders.

It has the side benefit of cutting off all electronic signals when she does so, and prevents electronic intrusions, though perhaps that's not why the tall woman does so. She strides closer to the table, violet eyes ticking from lllyana herself to the data the woman's flicking through.

"As for formal strategizing: that depends." Betsy's smile brightens into something that's full of anticipation. There's no artifice: it transforms her features and the warmth Betsy exudes is genuine. "How do you feel about off the books black operations?"
Magik has posed:
"It suits you," the Queen of Limbo states with a small nod before turning back to the holofield. "But most things do, don't they? I imagine it comes with the territory."

Both hands splay above the projection and sweep down, pushing the entire wargame down into the projector. The standard, slowly rotating globe pops up in its place a beat later--

Illyana turns back to Betsy after the room is locked, head canted ever so slightly. "Privacy?"

She lifts her left wrist and pinches the 'X' charm dangling from a fine metal bracelet. Basic security procedures mean the room is already closed off from the outside; disabling the GPS herself is just Illyana's way of assenting to-- this.

Whatever this is, that makes the newly returned X-Woman beam in a room built for saving lives in the worst of times.

Whatever it is, Illyana's eyes slowly, but surely begin narrowing in the presence of it-- until:

'... books black operations?'

Blonde brows snap high. Illyana lifts her shoulders and stands up straighter; after a moment, widened eyes begin shrinking back down, while slightly parted lips curl together into a restrained mirror of Betsy's smile.

Back to the holodisplay--

The globe drops out; the field she was playing on flies back up, still paused. Dipping her fingertips into the light, she spreads her hands apart; the chaotic datastream slows to a crawl and spreads out across the entire projection space, translating a compressed flood of information designed to simulate real-time tactical intel into clean, easily consumed media.

"I recruited the Juggernaut with the intention of performing off the books black operations with his help," she evenly says. A black nail taps the bright red circle positioned beneath a cluster of skulls, just visible through gaps in the data panels; a concise version of the Juggernaut's file pops up.

"I'm very much 'pro-'."

The scenario's designed to simulate a surprise attack on an urban area primarily governed by hostiles and populated by civilians; the skulls represent power armored defense forces dug into reinforced buildings scattered around the block, while the symbols represent Illyana herself, the Juggernaut, and what seems to be a random collection of X-Men and assorted other heroes.
Psylocke has posed:
"It ought to," Betsy says with a quietly amused laugh. "It was handmade by the- nevermind." Not important. And not details people usually feel comfortable hearing. The display of wealth and aristocracy is as intrinsically a part of Betsy Braddock as Kwannon is, now.

The telepath doesn't bother putting up a telepathic shield, too. Not when both herself and Illyana are shielded by default. "Two years ago, before I left-" disappeared, more realistically, but history rewrites itself if you describe it elseways enough. "-Scott and I agreed on the necessity of a group that was more... flexible. Partly an outlet for those of us willing to do more, and also an outlet for those of us frustrated by the more strict rules the X-Men sometimes have to adhere to because of their high visibility. We named it X-Force."

She walks towards the table, her manicured fingers resting on the back of a chair. But it's not the holodisplay she watches. It's the other woman.

"I had a base planned out. Members recruited. And then I was struck by a recurring vision." Illyana undoubtedly is aware that Betsy is prone to these, on occasion: prophetic visions that in the past have spared them calamity. But they aren't always clear until after the fact, frustratingly, so haven't always been the most helpful.

"To say it was insidious and... disturbing is to put it mildy. But you know how difficult they can be to interpret. And I didn't want to alarm anyone unless it was serious. I spent a lot of time researching it. Speaking to experts. Seeking guidance. All agreed that they believed it to be genuine, and believed it to herald an end of the world scenario." Betsy's smile is faint, carrying no humor. "All the while, the vision has unrelenting. This is more than just an outlet," she says, as she pauses to take in the simulated battle on screen. "This is dangerous, dirty work. I know you're up for it. But it's more than that. This could take your life, risk everything you've built. I don't want anyone to go into this blind. It could destroy all of us in the process."
Magik has posed:
"An outlet...?"

The question hangs in silence as Illyana studies the other woman, eyes roving over towering will and honed violence wrapped in unthinkable wealth. Any trace of warmth, of anything beyond calculation's been eradicated from her features.

"You put your ambitions on hold because this vision shook you," she hazards rather than dwell any longer on the matter of outlets. "Was it before, or after your vanishing?"

Despite a lack of warmth - of verbally seeking to wield the story Psylocke's told her as a scalpel to peel back the violet-haired woman's perfect skin to see the grim, gory truth beating underneath - there's no judgement in it; no unspoken suggestion that leaving or changing courses were wrong, per se; they simply happened.

Whatever Illyana might or might not feel about the facts, they're true.

"What did you see?" she lowly wonders, drifting slowly, steadily closer to the other X-Man.

"You didn't lock us and tell me about it -- all of it -- because you thought it might scare me off," she notes with a thin smile.
Psylocke has posed:
Betsy gives a quick smile at that hanging question. "Scott's smart. He knows what some of us like -- that some of the X-Men struggle with their... tendencies. It was always his intention that X-Force have some measure of independence to allow for that to happen. It won't be funded by Xavier, even if there's some overlap in membership."

"Before," the purple-haired woman confirms. Nothing in her manner hints at any doubt or deception. "X-Force needs to happen. Just who was in it before, and the reasons for its formation has to change. I don't think it's a coincidence that I had the visions then, right as we were forming."

"No," Betsy agrees, "I would not have come to you at all if I thought you'd turn away. But I want to make sure you're clear what you're stepping into, so that if -- when -- things go bad later, you can't blame me for not warning you," and Betsy smiles. Except it's not just Betsy, there's too much coolness over Betsy's normal warmth.

Kwannon, then. Laying out the cold, hard facts.

"If you want to see?" There's no hesitation. She's aware Illyana's probably seen -- experienced -- similar or worse. Psylocke extends a hand to the other woman in offer. Touch is not needed, of course. But it allows for tacit permission to be granted, and it makes that connection easier, particularly when both of them guard their minds so well.
Magik has posed:
Touch helps. Illyana's mind is a gauntlet; contact makes it that much easier to give a foreign mind passage beyond its outermost layers without a risk of accidental (p)scrapes with with pointed borders.

"I appreciate you dressing up to give me my warning," she deadpans, laying her palm atop Betsy's as a winding road between the burning thorns caging her mind opens before the other woman's higher senses.

"But I would never be so delicate as to blame you for my decision to throw myself into mortal danger."
Psylocke has posed:
"That is good to know. I will always dress up if it brings you happiness," Betsy says, and while it could be taken as some kind of facetious answer, it's not. It's little effort for her to do beyond her default.

The physical contact is made. Betsy's hand is warm, and her fingers curl over Illyana's. It's the latter that makes her laugh, a genuine warmth that is Betsy at her default, naturally friendly self. "It may sound strange to hear it, but that is distinctly reassuring," the purple-haired telepath tells her.

And then, slowly, the war room fades around them...

They are standing on a street in New York, and Illyana can still feel Betsy's hand clasping hers, and will even see the purple-haired telepath besides her if she looks. Illyana probably recognizes it as Manhattan. One moment they are standing in daylight, and the next -- clouds boil into place overhead and plunge the space into darkness, only the lonely lights of shop windows and the occasional headlight to breach the darkness. The cloud overhead seems to pulse, like something within it is pushing for a moment. It happens again, and again, and every time it does, everything feels tighter and darker until that darkness feels like it's crawling into their very limbs.

It's not the clouds that are the concern, if they seem to be the cause. It's the effect it has on the inhabitants of New York around them. It's like they're watching a show that has already played out, unable to intervene. A couple eating outside at a cafe suddenly begin weeping and wailing, grabbing at each other, slapping and pulling with frenetic despair. A group of businessman walking out of an office building suddenly drop to the ground, writhing and pulling their own hair out. Other pedestrians start screaming in terror, staring at nothing that can be seen, leaping out in front of traffic in what seems to be a deliberate act. While they stand there, frozen, a dozen more horrific such scenes play out, a frenzy of violence and fear.

Everything goes silent, as if humanity itself has been extinguished. And in the wake of that silence, a presence is felt, pushing down from those impossibly dark clouds. It doesn't feel familiar to Illyana, only in the sense that it feels primal, and unrelentingly evil.
Magik has posed:
Betsy's hand is warm; Illyana's begins warming beneath encroaching darkness. The heat rises from within her, synced with the violent dread and chaos spreading its tendrils through the city -- and perhaps beyond. By the time the clouds have settled into place, her every breath is a labor -- a slow, deep effort to bear a burden that wants nothing more than to crush her beneath itself.

If Betsy looks, she'll see the blonde sorceress beside her, eyes widened into yawning black pits; if she doesn't, there's still the unmistakable sensation of Illyana's palm sliding, allowing her fingers to thread between Betsy's, curl, and squeeze the other woman's hand with strength far beyond her stature as her will hardens into adamantine. A single tremor rolls through her arm, into Betsy's hand; the Queen of Limbo only tightens her grasp in its wake.

If Betsy's looking now, she'll see the shimmering spectral outline of vast, curling horns; leathery wings like smeared ink stretching towards the poisoned sky; and the hunched figure of a young, blonde woman with a mouth full of fangs superimposed over the girl who fell through time, a head taller than her at a minimum. She --

-- they --

-- study the carnage until there's nobody left to destroy themselves.

One of them smiles, wide and hungry as her empty gaze scours over Betsy.

The other lets go, collapsing the corridor into her thoughts in an instant-- and driving Betsy out of them.

Back in the War Room, a wide-eyed Illyana staggers back from the violet haired woman until her spine hits one of the chairs arranged around the central projector, prompting a stumble followed by a swift pivot in place or two while she collects herself, hand bracing against the seat back. For a long while, she just stares at Betsy, lips ever so slightly parted. Even if the telepath speaks to her, she just stares; if she's approached, she'll back away, still staring.

As if some part of her's rebooting.

But, eventually--

Finally, that long silence breaks:

"I will help you."

if only for a lowly voiced, deliberately spoken moment.
Psylocke has posed:
Betsy Braddock has seen this, multiple times. It's etched into her memory, and so she doesn't look at their surroundings, but at Illyana's reaction to it all. The black pits of Illyana's eyes might startle her for a moment, but the tight squeeze of her hand is welcome, and the breath that rattles out is even. "Every time I have this vision, it's a little different. Overall the same, but I see different people, in different places. It always starts here in New York, though. And it always ends with everyone dead, by others' hands or their own."

Her violet eyes take in Illyana's bearing, that spectral vision of her in perhaps her true form. It catches her, not off guard, but because this true vision of her, whether intentional or not, is the sharing of something of herself, and Betsy treats its presence with due respect, fingers squeezing.

And then she turns back to watch the tail end of despair, death and destruction.

She feels it, without looking. Feels that look, the hungry gaze. She bears under it, because it is a gift, this moment of openness, even though there's a fluttering of her heartbeat and fear in the pit of her stomach that urges her to /run/-

-and then Illyana breaks the contact, and they are back in the real world.

The purple haired woman gives the other a moment. She doesn't stare, doesn't try to speak. Instead she walks towards the sideboard and pours a glass of water. Betsy would, truthfully, have preferred it be alcohol, but one must make do. She drinks, slowly, as her own heartbeat thuds back into something of a normal beat.

Betsy is silent until Illyana speaks. Silence, for her, is comfortable, and she has no fear of waiting it out as she sips at the water. Her own voice is rough, as her eyes finally come back to meet that of the Queen of Limbo. "Good," she says. "These are real people. Their faces are seared into my mind. I have met with many of them, seen into their heads." Something she regrets now in hindsight, if the faint thinning of her lips is any indicator. She needed to be certain, however. "I'll do /whatever/ it takes to stop those visions from becoming a reality." She takes a breath. "Warren and Logan are on board already. Logan's bringing in someone else, also. Someone to... hold us back if need be." The faint tension in her expression suggests that wasn't an idea she was thrilled about, however necessary.

Finally: "Thank you."
Magik has posed:
Illyana's eyes are set on the projector by the time she speaks. Her expression's been reined in, compressed back to its usual neutrality; her fingers are still tight around the chair back. She listens, still working to keep her breaths corralled in a precise rhythm.

"They were on my list as well," she murmurs, low and flat, "but being held back--"

One more long breath, then Illyana gently pushes away from the chair and looks Betsy in the eye.

"That is not a part of any plan of mine," she states. Walking towards the sidetable, she lets her eyes lid slightly and holds her right hand up near her head, fingers slowly splaying out. "I'm not driven by prophecy-- I don't say that to belittle what you've shown me, but because it's true: just like you've had your ambitions shaped by a need to stop the nightmare you see ahead of us... I've seen statistics. And pictures, and videos-- I have smelled burned, liquefied, and pulverized flesh alike, and can distinguish between them; heard cries for mercy drowned out in ignorant jeers..."

Stepping up to the table, Illyana snaps her hand forward, clawing at the air for a split-second before the extremity sinks into a bone white disc of light suspended over refreshments. She withdraws a couple seconds later, clutching a bottle of vodka; turning, she meets Betsy's gaze.

Holds it, pointedly letting her see the bottle held up in one hand.

And then throws, trusting her teammate to catch it so it's there when Illyana walks over with her own empty glass.

"I respect the urgency of your vision, Betsy, but I'm not willing to compromise mine for it," she lays out, still looking squarely at Psylocke. "The humans don't all hate us -- they don't mostly hate us -- but the ones who do will end us, on a long enough timeline-- unless they're stopped. Help me watch them, contain them - suffocate them beneath the rocks they persist under--"

Illyana stops just a couple feet from Betsy, free arm crossed over her chest and glass-clutching arm semi-expectantly dangling over it.

"-- and we can scratch a couple extinction vectors from the list," she concludes, lower now that she's close.
Psylocke has posed:
There isn't the faintest hint of what she saw -- and sensed. Betsy, being a skilled and experienced telepath, knows better than to allude to anything that draws discomfort from her skills.

"Nor mine," Betsy admits, readily. "But Logan insisted. He said whomever he was picking was green, so I'm not sure what he expects them to do to stop all of the rest of us if we're determined." Her expression changes, into something understanding, watching Illyana steadily. "I don't expect others to be driven by what I've seen. But you asked, and I want to be honest about what I'm doing -- and why. What the big picture is that I'll always push us towards."

Betsy swallows down another mouthful of water. It's a distraction. She doesn't really want it. And somehow Illyana knows this, as she pulls a bottle of vodka from the air.

The laugh Betsy gives is delighted, and unfettered. This is Betsy at her her truest moment, a genuine, unhindered warmth that comes without any prompting. Catches the thrown bottle out of mid air, unscrews it and downs a gulp -- all very uncultured, for the normally manners-minded aristocrat. Her nod of thanks accompanies her weighing of purple gaze as Illyana continues.

"I have no problem with that. I mean for us to live, and if it means taking out threats that have put themselves against us? I'll not hesitate. That's not to say some others won't. I think it will trouble Warren," Betsy guesses. "But let me deal with him." As Illyana comes closer, she offers the now-opened bottle. "A drink to seal it?" with another of those easy smiles.
Magik has posed:
Even though she's carrying a glass, Illyana puts the bottle right to her lips after it's offered. One long drink later, she hands it back to the psychic with a firm nod.

"There are some logistical matters that I've been considering," she says, refolding her arm across her chest, "but they can wait; for now, a moment to forget."
Psylocke has posed:
"We have a base," Betsy says, with a smile. "Warren's working on refurbishing it. I'm sure we can accommodate." Between her and Warren, it's not like they won't have the funds. She claims the bottle back, but there's a long pause before she takes a smaller sip.

"To forgetting," she murmurs, taking a deeper draught, offering it back to Illyana to finalize that toast.