The Erotic Phoenix Saga: Dark Passions

BY : marvelmaster616
Category: X-men Comics > General
Dragon prints: 3073
Disclaimer: I don’t own X-Men, Avengers, or any Marvel characters. I am making no money off of this. They are the property of Marvel and Disney. Please don’t sue.

The Erotic Phoenix Saga: Dark Passions
Chapter 2: Cautious Cooperation

Wiltshire, England – Sinister’s Lab (The Past)

‘Humans and mutants. So much potential. So much of it…lost.’

Nathanial Essex often marveled at the majesty of life. He looked at maps of DNA the same way others looked at uncut gems. He saw both the beauty on the surface and the potential they offered. Unfortunately, much of that beauty went unrealized.

It was tragic waste. His tireless efforts to draw out that beauty had consumed his life. It ultimately defined him. His methods drew the ire and horror of many, including Charles Darwin himself. It helped earn him his moniker, Mr. Sinister. He came to embrace that title, as well as the methods that evoked such disdain. It changed him physically and mentally, taking him down a dark path that few dared to venture.

He was too far down that path to turn back. With his lord and master, Apocalypse, now guiding him along, failure was no longer an option. He had to unlock the full power of the mutant gene. He had to create the ultimate mutant.

If it was going to happen anywhere, it was going to be in his most well-guarded lab in Witlshire, just under the ruins of Stonehenge. Every last bit of the Celestial technology that his master had lent him was assemble there. Apocalypse had created a base here millennia ago. Sinister had since converted it into the primary hub for his research.

While he’d made great progress recently, the man once known as Nathanial Essex remained frustrated. His ultimate goal was finally within reach, but he faced several intractable obstacles.

“Sinister journal entry 696,” Sinister read into a recording device. “My calculations once again prove what I’ve long feared. It’s just not enough! The mutant population is growing, but the extent of their power is still limited. There’s just too much error and impurity! At the current mutation rate, humans and mutants alike will stagnate.”

Standing in front of a large monitor display, he scolded the data compilations before him. They consisted primarily of calculations and measurements on mutation rates, drawn largely from samples his Marauders had acquired from multiple specimens. Some of those specimens didn’t survive, but their data remained valuable.

It was just the conclusion that frustrated him.

“I cannot let that happen,” said Sinister, slamming his fist on the console. “The master will not allow the unfit to survive. But if too many are unfit, then no one will survive. It’s a paradox…one I doubt the master sees.”

He turned away from the display and focused on one of the samples he’d placed in the scanner. Holding it up, he recalled the task his master had given him. He was ordered to produce the perfect mutant. Decades of science had proved it was possible. The logistics remained challenging and his master was not inclined to wait for his desired results, nor was he inclined to let failure go unpunished.

“Either Lord Apocalypse must change his approach – a most unlikely scenario – or there must be a counter to his wrath,” said Sinister with a hint of dread. “The potential is there. It needs only the right genetics and the necessary environment.”

Tossing aside the sample, the mutant genetics retrieved two important files. He opened them to reveal pictures, profiles, and medical records from two unique specimens.

For years, Sinister had monitored the mutant population. Certain individuals warranted more scrutiny than most. Every mutant had potential, but like their abilities, not all potential was equal from a genetic standpoint. Only a small percentage of mutant had the right genetic makeup to realize the X-gene’s full potential. Even among that tiny cohort, an even smaller number had the necessary chemistry to draw that power out.

Many promising specimens had come along over the years. Most failed or proved flawed after greater scrutiny. To date, only these two mutants contained the perfect genetics he needed.

“Scott Summers and Jean Grey,” Sinister mused as he flipped through the file, “genetic ideals from less-than-ideal environments. My final analysis of their genes has removed all doubt. Their offspring is the key…the link…the cable that will tether mutants to their ultimate survival. Lord Apocalypse may not like it. But when loyalty clashes with data, I’m inclined to side with the data.”

After flipping through the file, he narrowed his gaze on a recent picture. He’d been keeping an eye on them since they were children. Most recently, Sinister confirmed their paths had crossed with Jean’s arrival at the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning. The circumstances were fit for them to connect.

If he had more time, then Sinister would’ve just continued observing them, hoping they’d remain close. If they were to fall in love and produce children, then that would do most of the messy work for him. But he couldn’t assume he would be so fortunate.

“I cannot trust Summers and Grey to produce such offspring on their own,” he said. “With time being a factor, I’ve commenced with Project Legacy. In lieu of letting nature take its course, I must use artificial means.”

Setting the files and picture aside, Sinister approached one of the secure containers that sat next to the scanner. Composed of Celestial biotechnology, it was among his most precious of resources. His hands shook every time he opened it, knowing the contents inside were critical to the completion of his work.

Upon reaching in and pulling out a small vile of silverfish fluid, he held it up and admired the current state of his work. He had the key to his goal literally in his hands. He simply lacked the most critical ingredient.

“The latest tests of the Legacy Virus are in,” Sinister said, still recording into his journal. “The data confirms it. The virus will fully purify the genetic makeup of that offspring. Ideally, I can simply bide my time, manipulating Summers and Grey from afar. But, given my master’s growing impatience, I’ve decided to pursue with a less-than-ideal solution.”

He admired the sample of the virus a moment longer. Then, with the utmost care, he placed it back into the secure container.

The Legacy Virus represented the last step in a much larger process. Refining it had taken decades of work. It was meant to be the great purifying agent to mutant genetics. However, nothing could be purified without that perfectly pure mutant.

With that remaining his greatest challenge, Sinister sighed to himself and turned towards one of the many bio tanks that dotted the lab. They’d been running at full capacity for several months, carrying out delicate processes that were difficult, even with Celestial technology. Within each tanks, clone specimens at various stages were growing.

Most were still in an early stage. A few had already taken on more mature features. Some had already been artificially aged to adolescence. On the surface, they were typical clones, a technology that others less brilliant than him had perfected. Unfortunately, typical simply would not suffice.

“Clones are remarkable creations. They have their uses and their limits,” Sinister mused, “but this will push my expertise considerably. An offspring like this requires more than just a vessel for gestation. To fully realize its potential, it needs a surrogate…a very special surrogate.”

He continued navigating the array of bio-tanks, noting the stage of each specimen. Some looked promising. Others looked ready to discard.

One specimen in particular caught his eye. In the bubbling vat of greenish fluid, the nude figure of a teenage Jean Grey hovered silently. Looking at the vitals, Sinister saw that the figure was still a husk. He needed it to be much more for him to carry out his goal.

“I’ve assembled as much Celestial technology as I could…some of which Lord Apocalypse did not willingly provide,” Sinister said tactfully. “His former base under Stonehenge is the only place in which I can create this surrogate in secret. I’ll need to procure more materials to ensure the purity of the offspring, but that is merely an engineering challenge. It’s the logistical issues that still concern me.”

Placing his hand on the bio tank, he gazed upon the lifeless expression of the female figure. He didn’t need every specimen to be perfect. He needed just one. He’d already prepared a name, an identity, and a package of false memories. Depending on how things played out with Scott Summers and Jean Grey, she might be his best chance at producing this perfect mutant child.

He would have to push the limits of cloning, entering uncharted territory in terms of programming and purpose. That carried greater risks than traditional cloning. Sinister had already decided they were worth taking. Everything else had fallen into place. He just needed this clone to fulfill its purpose.

“This surrogate cannot be an imperfect clone or a mindless husk. It… she must be something more,” Sinister said, as though he were talking directly to the figure inside. “That will require some creative genetic programming. For this effort, I’m transferring this developing specimen to my secondary lab in America. If all goes well, the surrogate will fulfill her purpose. I’ll return to this lab. And the final stage of Project Legacy can commence!”

Wiltshire, England – Sinister’s Lab (The Present)

“My poor, hapless creator,” said a bemused, but excited Goblin Queen. “All did not go well, didn’t it?”

Madelyne Pryor entered her creator’s former lab with a smug grin. It hadn’t changed much since he left, along with her growing body. The hidden entrance under Stonehenge remained undisturbed, accessible only through a piece of Celestial tech that Madelyne secured from one of Sinister’s old labs. He probably expected to return with the ultimate mutant in his arms. At that point, he’d have either discarded her or disposed of her, as he would a clump of medical waste.

It was hilarious how wrong he turned out to be.

“You may have failed, but I still returned,” she said as she made her way to the heart of the lab. “My purpose remains unfulfilled. But that’s merely a scheduling conflict. Project Legacy will still commence. Except, it will be my ultimate triumph! Not yours!”

Still grinning, she used the same Celestial tech to activate the main systems. Throughout the vast, underground complex, the lights turned on and the various machines began running. It was very different from the other labs her creator operated. This had once been a domain of his master, built with equipment far advanced than anything humanity had created. It was so advanced that some machines seemed like magic. Given the magical components of her plans, it seemed fitting.

She led her personnel of pawns and minions into the facility, using portals from Limbo as well as hidden transports, courtesy of the Hand. Ninjas, goblins, and Venom Husks by the hundreds scoured the lab, carrying out various pre-determined tasks to get it running. That meant calibrating every generator, booting every computer, and compiling every byte of data that Sinister had stored. It all had to be working perfectly for the Goblin Queen to fulfill her purpose.

While her return to this lab was a personal triumph, others had a very different reaction. Mystique, Daken, Carnage, Magik, and the Stepford Cuckoos hardly appreciated their new surroundings. They just begrudgingly did as she instructed, their desires still tied firmly to hers. That was to be expected. The Goblin Queen had since come to tolerate their less-than-enthusiastic demeanor.

Dr. Miles Warren, on the other hand, was in awe of their new domain. Even through his disfigured form, he carried himself with uncanny excitement.

This lab…it’s incredible!” Dr. Warren exclaimed.

“Oh stop fawning, Dr. Warren,” Madelyne chided. “You’re a guest. Not a host. Remember?”

“I apologize,” he said, tempering his demeanor as best he could. “It’s just…this technology is beyond anything I’ve ever seen.”

“Considering its origin, that’s to be expected.”

“I’m tempted to ask about that origin. And why I was not allowed to use it in my research,” he asked with a curious glance.

“Resist that temptation,” she demanded. “I can only assure you that every bit of equipment here has a purpose. My creator locked in that purpose before I took my first breath.

“Be that as it may, I’d still like to…”

His words trailed off as he reached towards a piece of Celestial technology that had just been activated. Madelyne stopped him by slapping his hand away. She wasn’t gentle about it, either.

“You’ll touch nothing other than what I deem necessary!” the Goblin Queen said firmly. “That means you’ll turn them on, activate the programs, and let them fulfill their role. Is that clear?”

“Yes, my queen. Very clear!” Dr. Warren said quickly.

The disfigured man clutched his hand and cowered under her commanding tone. The rest of her pawns reacted as well. Daken, Mystique, Magik, and the Stepford Cuckoos trembled at the sight of her showing such force. Only Carnage seemed to appreciate it. He was even turned on by it.

It reminded the Goblin Queen of how much control she wielded over them. They weren’t like her goblins or the Venom husks. She had to bend their desires to align with hers. Such control was difficult to achieve, but powerful when wielded. Few could appreciate it as much as she did. However, her need for control only did so much.

“I spent years in Limbo surrounded by demons and she still scares the bejesus out of me,” Magik commented.

“I know. Sexy as hell, isn’t it?” Carnage remarked with a smirk.

The Goblin Queen chuckled at their remarks, bemused by their limited perspective. While Dr. Warren went about his scientific duties, she turned back towards the central portion of the lab. The systems were still booting up, but she could already see her ultimate goal take a tangible form.

After enough systems were active, she approached the same containment unit that her creator once lorded over with such focus. She then opened it and retrieved the vial of silverfish fluid that was so vital. She remembered what Mr. Sinister had planned for it, but her vision went much further.

“So much potential…too much wasted,” Madelyne said as she admired the vial. “The Legacy Virus was my creator’s way of attacking the waste. That was the easy part. Realizing potential…maximizing every aspect at the cellular level…that proved most difficult. And I was just a means to that end…a tool to refine an uncut gem.”

With the vial still in hand, she turned towards another area of the lab near the container. It was a large table that once contained stacks of equipment and tools. She already had goblins, demons, and Venom Husks clearing it off. As she traced her gloved finger over the smooth service, she felt some of that potential become real.

“I still carry that burden,” she continued, looking down at herself and then back at the table. “Everything about me was defined the moment I drew breath. I cannot change it, but I can shape it. I will…I must make this purpose my own.”

There was a disturbing intensity to her tone. Even the demons and Venom Husks shuddered. These were not the words of someone uncertain of their goal. Madelyne Pryor knew what she wanted. How she went about it was her choice, but it might have been the only choice she could’ve made.

That had driven her since the beginning, affecting everyone whose path she’d crossed. Her purpose was now theirs. No matter what they chose or how they felt about it, their desires had become hers.

“Everything about this concerns me,” Daken said.

“I want to share that concern. I can’t bring myself to care enough,” said Mystique flatly, her demeanor having grown increasingly numb.

“I still hate it. And I hate that I want to do this…more so than I hated being in Limbo,” said Illyana.

“Believe me, Magik. If I could trade this for Hell, I would,” Mystique told her.

“You guys are such downers,” laughed Carnage. “This place reeks of more chaos and destruction. I love it!”

“Of course, you do,” said Daken, rolling his eyes.

The Goblin Queen’s pawns had plenty of opinions about their role in her purpose. None of them mattered. Having warped their will and desire so severely, they could never oppose her. The thought might enter their minds, but their desires kept them from ever acting on such thoughts.

It was the ultimate assurance of loyalty. They did everything she asked of them, regardless of how much they resented it. She’d tested that loyalty quite a bit since she began this endeavor. They were about to face their final test.

“You two,” Madelyne said, pointing to Daken and Carnage, “set the Stepford Sisters up in the security wing. We’ll need ample psychic shielding for what we’re about to do.”

“Boring!” Carnage scoffed. “Tell me this is necessary for more bloodshed.”

“I promise, it is,” she told him with a coy grin. “I’ll also need you provide some personal assistance for some important guests.”

“How personal?” the deranged killer asked curiously.

“The kind meant to limit pained screaming.”

Carnage grinned widely at the prospect. Both he and his symbiote grew excited at the prospect of helping their queen inflict more torment. They might have been the only ones whose desires didn’t need bending to aid the Goblin Queen. They were also the only ones the Goblin Queen trusted to appreciate her methods.

While Carnage entertained the perverse extent of those methods, the devious redhead turned towards her other pawns. They didn’t share Carnage’s eagerness in the slightest. They always feared her next command, but this time inspired a special kind of dread.

“I have a special mission for you too, Mystique,” the Goblin Queen said, addressing the shape-shifter. “It involves some light sabotage, deceit, and murder. Really nothing you aren’t familiar with.”

“I’m so thrilled,” Mystique said dryly.

“You should be. You’re to play a critical role in this effort. To have time to do what I must, we’ll need a distraction…a big distraction. Thankfully, Donald Pierce provided one last present before I relieved him of his duties to the Inner Circle.”

The Goblin Queen snapped her fingers, summoning one of her goblin minions to bring her an item that she’d acquired shortly after disposing of the Hellfire Club. It was a small, unmarked flash drive. It contained files and code that had been part of another plot that had been unfolded before she ever drew breath. She’d spent the past few months modifying it to complement her plans. It just needed the perfect catalyst.

Mystique was that catalyst, but that wasn’t the only role the Goblin Queen intended. Even the shape shifter sensed that.

“Is that all?” the blue skinned mutant said with a raised eyebrow. “That can’t be it.”

“You know me too well,” the devious redhead laughed.

“I sorely wish I didn’t.”

“You’re still right. There is one other task you’ll have to complete. But I’ll fill you in on those details later. For now, our top priority is procuring those special guests I mentioned.”

She turned away from Mystique, leaving her to dread those details. The Goblin Queen hid a sinister grin, knowing she’d rightly abhor the mission awaiting her.

Magik was lucky by comparison. Turning towards her, Madelyne grinned as she admired the teenage girl who had grown into such a formidable horror.

“That’s where you come in, my demonic harlot,” the Goblin Queen said to her.

“Don’t tell me. You want me to abduct them. Just like you abducted me,” the Russian girl said with little enthusiasm.

“Ha! Oh, the foolishness of youth,” Madelyne laughed. “Of course, you won’t abduct them. Haven’t I taught you anything?”

“I try desperately to forget.”

“Save your effort for something less futile, my dear. To draw in these unique guests, we’ll need a some special tactics. It goes like this. Why go to them when we can make them come here? It saves us the trip and the trouble.”

“And how are we going to do that?” Magik asked with morbid curiosity.

The Goblin Queen’s demeanor shifted. It was still somewhat surreal, knowing her purpose was almost within reach. She’d made all these preparations in an effort to achieve that purpose her way. Despite all the planning, torment, and deviance, it was still so basic and crude.

She was to have a child with Scott Summers.

She was to sire the ultimate mutant.

The simplicity of that purpose had tormented her since she first awoke, but there was no escaping it. That was her destiny. She couldn’t keep putting it off, nor did she desire to. With everything finally coming together, she activated one of Sinister’s main computer consoles. On it, she accessed a secure file on a network she’d taken from the Hand. That file contained an image of a large, pink crystal with a fiery aura.

That crystal – the M’Krann Crystal, as the Hand Sorcerers called – was the key to realizing that destiny.

“I’m glad you asked,” Madelyne said as she enlarged the file, “because getting their attention is the easy part. Getting around the power they wield will be far harder, but very rewarding!”

X-Corp Headquarters – Guest Room

There was a popular mantra for those who sought to join the Hellfire Club. Sebastian Shaw told it to Emma Frost the first day she arrived.

“Put a price on your soul, be ready to hate, and learn to be vindictive. The Inner Circle is reserved for those willing to burn their enemies in a pit of hellfire.”

That rhetoric was intended to scare off those who couldn’t handle the rigors of the Hellfire Club. It did nothing of the sort for Emma. It only encouraged her to fight harder for the power and prestige of the White Queen. Along the way, she crossed many lines, acting on hate, greed, and selfishness. She thought she’d hardened her soul to the point where she didn’t have to sell it.

Then, the Goblin Queen arrived. What she did to her upended Emma’s world, from her personal ambitions to her role as the White Queen. She almost broke her, coming dangerously close to turning her into one of her pawns. Emma managed to escape, but paid a high price in the process. As she stood before a mirror in the guest room of X-Corp’s penthouse, she saw a very different woman than the one who’d embraced that mantra.

“That bitch is gonna pay,” Emma said as she stared at her reflection. “For what she did to me…what she made me endure…I will take her down if it’s the last thing I do!”

There was no subtlety in her words, demeanor, and tone. Emma knew what she was. She’d never hidden from her vindictive nature. She was not the kind of person to forgive and forget. She actively sought revenge against those who wronged her and rarely cared if her vengeance was proportional.

After what Madelyne Pryor did to her, there was no chance of underachieving. That woman didn’t break her, but she’d left her inalterably changed. The choice to get back at her was easy. What it meant for her moving forward remained a painfully difficult question.

“Even if I succeed and survive…what then?” she wondered aloud.

The former White Queen groaned as she hunched over the bathroom sink. After giving Scott and Jean Grey-Summers everything she had on the Goblin Queen, including the data compiled by her former associate, Sage, she left to wait. She hated waiting, but they couldn’t rush things with a woman like Madelyne Pryor. She was just too dangerous.

While Scott and Jean went to work, they offered her one of the guest rooms at X-Corp’s headquarters. Having not made hotel reservations, she accepted. The room was no Presidential Suite at the Four Seasons, but it was more than adequate. It had a queen-sized bed, a private bathroom, and a decent view of the New Mexico landscape. It would’ve been a nice place to just collapse on the bed, close her eyes, and rest up for whatever horror waited.

Emma tried that for about five minutes before giving up. Having not even changed out of her clothes, she was left alone with her thoughts, an uncommon and distressing feeling. She was well on her way to driving herself mad, contemplating all the ways she intended to get back at the Goblin Queen. An unexpected knock on her door disrupted that process.

“Ms. Frost? Are you still awake?” asked a concerned Scott Summers.

“Wasn’t going to bother with sleep. Unless it’s important, leave me the hell alone,” Emma responded tersely.

“It is important. I promise,” he replied.

The former White Queen was inclined to tell him off. She reminded herself that she needed him, his wife, and X-Corp to stand a chance against the Goblin Queen. Much to her restless frustration, she rolled her eyes, approached the door, and opened it. She made her displeasure with his presence abundantly clear.

“If you’re here to offer sympathy, then get your goddamn ears checked,” Emma said to him with folded arms. “I already told you how little I care for it.

“I heard you fine. That’s not why I’m here,” Scott told her, undaunted by her attitude.

“Did you find Madelyne already? Because that’s the only excuse I’ll buy right now.”

“We’re working on that. Danger linked Jean with Professor Xavier. They have Cerebro going at full power, as we speak. As soon as there’s a stray thought about the Goblin Queen, we’ll know about it.”

“Then, why the bloody hell are we talking?” she asked with growing annoyance. “If you don’t have her location, then why are you wasting my time?”

“Because, despite your attitude, hostility, and resentment, we’re working with you,” he replied. “You’re asking a lot of us and we’re willingly giving it.”

“Were you expecting me to become a lifelong friend?” Emma asked with a scoff.

“My wife and I expected something reasonable,” Scott quipped. “A certain level of trust being the bare minimum.”

“I’m here. I shared all my intel. I even opened my mind. That’s way more trust than I typically give.”

“I don’t claim to know you very well, Ms. Frost. But if we’re to stand a chance against the Goblin Queen, we’ll all have to be a little atypical.”

It was a valid point – too valid, for her current state. Emma still scolded him for interrupting her brooding. She none-the-less refrained from chastising him any further.

In a fit of defeat, she just rolled her eyes and turned around, gesturing for him to enter the room if he wished. He did so willingly, closing the door behind him as well. He still kept his distance. He respected her hostile demeanor, but not enough to keep his mouth shut.

“I’m not asking you to give more than you’re comfortable giving, Ms. Frost,” Scott said. “You made clear. You want this partnership to be transactional. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

“Is that so unreasonable?” Emma said, now gazing out the window.

“In business, that’s fine. But this isn’t just business,” he retorted. “This is us taking on a dangerous threat…one who’s already done considerable damage.”

“Speak for yourself,” she muttered.

“I speak from experience. I’ve led the X-Men into battle. I’ve planned missions against plenty of dangerous individuals.”

“I doubt any were as bad as Madelyne goddamn Pryor,” Emma scoffed.

“Doubt me all you want. The results speak for themselves. To overcome powerful enemies, teammates have to trust each other.”

“This isn’t a team. I suppose I should’ve made that clear, too.”

“If that’s how we approach this, then we’re doing the Goblin Queen a big favor,” Scott said in stronger tone. “You said it yourself. She’s a devious woman. If she senses we don’t trust each other, then she will exploit that. I know that from my experience in the field with the X-Men. I suspect you know that too…albeit from different experience.”

It was another valid point. Scott was making too many of those for her liking. Cold, hard truth often stung, especially for those who could afford to avoid it. Most men refrained telling her things she didn’t want to hear, if only to preserve any chance they had at getting into bed with her. Scott wasn’t most men. He actually seemed to give a damn.

Emma fumed under his concerned gaze. As a heavy silence fell over them, he cautiously approached. She hugged her shoulders a little harder. Her first instinct was to kick him out of her room. She chose to temper that instinct. She let Scott get close enough to comfort her. After what she’d been through, a little basic decency might help.

“Ms. Frost…” Scott said in a more caring tone.

“Emma,” she corrected with a reserved sigh. “I suppose I can trust you with my first name, darling.”

“It’s a start, but that can’t be the end.”

“Don’t push it, darling,” she scoffed.

He offered her a half-smile. She didn’t turn to face him, but she did see his reflection in the window. She could see he really cared. It might still have been a ploy to get into her pants, but Emma had known enough men like that to see the signs. She sensed something very different in Scott.

“I did a little homework on you before I came here,” Scott said.

“Damn. I thought I purged those SHIELD files,” Emma said half-jokingly.

“They had decent backups,” he replied. “They still told a hell of a story. Where you came from, who your family was, what you went through…it might have been affluent, but it got pretty dark.”

“Trust me. Those files don’t tell the whole story.”

“I don’t need them to,” Scott said. “They revealed enough about who you are and what led you to the Hellfire Club.”

“That, alone, should make you reluctant to trust me.”

“On the contrary. It gives me a very good reason to earn that trust.”

The former White Queen finally relented. Scott Summers had said enough to justify accepting his company. Now curious, and even a bit intrigued, she turned around to face this man.

She barely knew him. She didn’t reach out to him and his wife with the intention of knowing him more than necessary. Her sole focus was striking back against Madelyne Pryor. Anything else would’ve just complicated that effort. However, after all the valid points Scott just made, she might actually benefit from those complications.

“You were so ruthless to get to where you were,” Scott said in a serious, but non-judgmental tone. “Between your family and the Hellfire Club, you had to be. You warped minds and crossed lines…hardening yourself every step of the way.”

“Why does that not seem to bother you?” Emma asked with a curious gaze.

“Because there’s a difference between having to do something and choosing to do it. You strike me as someone who’s done too much of one and not enough of the other.”

“You sense all that through overt hostility, a heartened heart, and layers plastic surgery?” she said dryly.

“Having a psychic wife offers plenty of insights. And in you, I see someone who was toughened by harsh circumstances,” Scott said, taking a step closer as he narrowed his gaze. “Now, those circumstances have been uprooted. You’re in a new situation with us…one where you have more choices. Jean and I aren’t going to make those choices for you, but we’d like to help. We just can’t do that without some level of trust.”

Now, Scott Summers was doing more than just making too much sense. He dared to understand her. Most people stopped at her goals, ambitions, and bra size. It had been a long time since someone tried to understand more.

It put Emma in an unexpected position. It was uncomfortable at first, but after just a little added thought, she realized this was necessary. She readily trusted others with her cooperation. She even trusted them with her body, but only with an assurance that she got something out of it. Scott was asking for something more.

The thought of trusting anyone that much seemed daunting. She shifted under his gaze, diverting her eyes in an effort to hide her reservations.

“What makes you so damn sure I’ll make the right choices?” Emma asked intently.

“I’m not,” Scott answered plainly, “but I’m willing to take a chance on you, Emma Frost.”

“That’s a risky gamble, darling,” she warned him.

“I know. I’m choosing to take it. You may carry yourself as this cold, callous woman. But I think there’s more to you than being the White Queen. And I think that woman will be critical in helping us stop the Goblin Queen.”

He sounded so certain. For a man who barely knew her, that was quite a leap of faith. Emma would’ve laughed at such foolishness if Scott didn’t look so serious.

It put her in another unfamiliar, but not unwelcome position. Someone had seen the cold, callous woman she’d been since she joined the Hellfire Club, but wasn’t put off by it. That same person also saw another woman behind that diamond-hard shell that surrounded her White Queen persona. That woman had been looking back at her in the mirror moments ago, full of flaws and uncertainties. Emma wasn’t eager to trust that woman, but Scott Summers felt differently.

She was genuinely at a loss. For the first time in years, Emma wasn’t entirely sure how to respond to a man. She was so used to controlling every conversation, especially when she was in the presence of a straight man. She could usually rely on his inherent desire to sleep with her as leverage. This man was either immune to those instincts or he’d inspired similar desire within her.

Emma tabled that aspect of their situation for the moment. If Scott was going to be serious about this, then she was going to return the favor. He made his choice. She had to make hers. After wrestling with it for a brief moment, the former White Queen finally offered her response.

“I can’t make any promises. I’ve broken too many to try,” Emma said in as honest a tone she could manage, “but if trust is what we need to defeat the Goblin Queen, then I suppose I can make a concerted effort.”

“Good enough for me,” Scott said with a nod.

“That’s still a risk. Don’t think that changes the odds.”

“I’ll still take it. I think it’ll be worth it…for both of us.”

He cast her a gracious smile. Emma, not one to smile often, returned the gesture. It might have been the first real smile she’d given anyone since before she joined the Hellfire Club. It felt good. It also felt overdue. On top of that, receiving a caring look from Scott Summers gave her a warm feeling.

Initially, it was one of comfort. However, in standing so close to him and realizing he was also a very handsome man, it turned into something else.

‘Oh my God. It’s really happening. A man is actually turning me on and we’re both fully clothed. Just when I thought my life couldn’t get be any more upended.’

It was getting harder to ignore. Emma’s heart started beating faster and certain parts of her body got hotter. Scott must have been content to leave it at that because he turned around to make his leave.

“Get some rest, Emma,” he told her as he neared the door. “Jean and I will let you know as soon as we find something.”

At that moment, Emma made another fateful choice. She didn’t entirely think it through, but she still made it and it felt too right.

“Wait!” she said, catching up with him and grasping his arm.

“What is it?” Scott asked, turning back around with renewed concern.

“It’s nothing serious, I assure you,” Emma told him. “But there’s actually one thing you can do for me…something that will help with that concerted effort.

“Oh? What is it?”

It would’ve been an ideal time to think twice or second guess her choice. That had never been Emma Frost’s style, especially when it came to her desires. Madelyne Pryor tried to use that against her. It was time for her to take it back.

Without another word, the former White Queen threw her arms around an unprepared Scott Summers. While he stood shocked and off-balance, Emma crashed her lips against his in a deep, powerful kiss. It was not soft or ambiguous, either. It sent a clear and obvious message as to what desires she conveyed. For added clarity, she pressed her body up against his in a very intimate way. She also rubbed her thigh against his groin, getting his blood flowing in just the right ways.

Scott seemed to get the message. He accepted her embrace and began kissing back. The natural reflexes of a beautiful woman kissing a man took over. When their lips briefly parted, he was still processing everything. Emma used that as an opportunity to lay out her desires in full.

“Have sex with me, Scott,” she said plainly and succinctly.

“Ms. Frost…” Scott said, still catching his breath.

“Emma, darling. Call me, Emma,” she said to him, smiling back again.

“Right. But I clearly remember you saying…”

She put his finger on her lips to silence him. This was quite an about-face, going from cold hostility to requesting sex. Even a handsome, decent man could be forgiven for feeling confused. She understood it didn’t make sense, but she remained certain of her choice.

“I know what I said, damn it!” Emma said strongly. “I’m choosing to recant it. I’ve read up on you too. I know you and your wife have a very flexible marriage.”

“It’s been called a lot of things,” said Scott.

“I don’t care what you call it. She’s busy. You’re here. I need…no, I want this. I really, really want this.”

Those words came out with little forethought. The way she said them took her by surprise, almost as much as Scott. She’d never gone about seeking sex in such a way. It was usually a means to an end, an itch to scratch, or an indulgence to savor. This didn’t feel like any of that.

She wanted this feeling with Scott. It wasn’t a need, a transaction, or some lurid ploy. This was her choosing to pursue something for no other reason than she wanted to do it. That shouldn’t have been such a radical notion, but at that very moment, it felt like the most important choice she could’ve made.

Scott clearly recognized that choice. He saw it in her. He sensed it in her touch. As she eagerly pressed her body against his, he wrapped his powerful arms around her, feeling up her feminine figure. His touch revealed that he shared that desire. A sudden hardness in his pants revealed that too.

He still hesitated briefly. Emma sensed him communicating something telepathically. She couldn’t pick up on the details, but she surmised it was him notifying his wife. His and Jean’s marriage must have been more flexible than she thought because it didn’t take long for him to finalize his choice.

“Well, if you really think this will help…” Scott said, his words trailing off as he lightly squeezed her hips.

“It will!” Emma said with a mix of certainty and seduction. “But don’t focus on the particulars. Focus on me…and getting me out of these clothes.”

Emma made the first move, as she often did during sex. Standing within his muscular arms, his hands still on her hips, the former White Queen slowly unzipped the top part of her custom white halter top. In doing so, she revealed that she hadn’t been wearing a bra. Her large, surgically enhanced breasts came tumbling out, leaving Scott astonished and his mouth agape in awe.

She smiled at his reaction. As decent a man he might have been, he was still a man. Seeing a beautiful pair of female breasts so closely was bound to trigger a reaction. She could feel his hands tremble with excitement as he reached up to touch them. She gladly encouraged him, guiding his hands to her fleshy mounds and prompting him to squeeze them.

“Such hands,” Emma said with a purr. “That feels good.”

“Yeah…good,” said Scott, already dazed by the feeling.

From there, she guided him towards the bed. Along the way, the hardness in his pants became more noticeable. That encouraged Emma to step up her erotic efforts.

While Scott became more acquainted with her breasts, she skillfully slipped off the white gloves she often wore with her White Queen attire. Then, while he remained engrossed in her upper body, she tactfully undid her pants and slid them down her shapely legs, revealing the white lace thong panties she wore underneath. That was the only thing she kept on after stepping out of her pants and boots.

Scott, still taken by sight of her exposed breasts and the feeling of her exposed skin, quickly realized he was grossly overdressed. Emma helped remedy that. She sat him down at the foot of the bed, their legs already on the verge of giving way. She got onto his lap, straddling his waist where she grinded her covered crotch against his. She proceeded to kiss and paw his upper body while he continued exploring her nearly-exposed. Over the course of such thorough foreplay, she unbuttoned his shirt, undid his belt, and loosened his pants.

“Here. Let me take it off for you,” Emma said.

“If that’s what you want…Emma,” said Scott said through his daze.

His choice of words made her heart skip a beat. They also accelerated her growing arousal. She could already feel the heat between her thighs growing. It only intensified as she helped Scott remove his clothes, revealing to her his well-toned upper body, every inch packed with hard, masculine muscles.

‘Such a good, honorable, handsome man. His arms, his chest, his face, and that dick he’s packing…he’s making me legitimately horny. How long has it been since I’ve felt that?’

Emma stopped short of recalling her last instance of mutual sexual arousal with a man. She remained focused on undressing the man before her. Their kissing and touching grew more urgent. She fumbled somewhat in getting him out of what remained of his clothes, but still got the job done.

By the time she got him out of his boxers, his penis was fully erect. Seeing Scott in all his glory, she affirmed he had the kind of endowment that a good man deserved. Having been with plenty of men who’s dick size did not match their ego or decency, it was so refreshing. It also made Scott Summers more desirable.

“The bed…lay me on it,” Emma said, already breathless with anticipation.

Scott wordlessly complied, giving her an affectionate smile that made her heart skip a beat again. That no longer felt like a fluke. She was already starting to appreciate it. It showed in just how aroused she was.

With strength befitting of his muscular stature, Scott took her by the hips and laid her down atop the bed. He didn’t bother pulling the covers back. He sensed her impatience, nourishing that desire with his intimate touch and masculine presence. It was enough to make her panties unbearably hot.

“My panties…take them off!” Emma said more urgently.

Again, Scott did as she requested. With the utmost care, he grasped the sides of her panties and slid them off her shapely legs, rendering her completely naked. After enduring such a horrendous experience with the Goblin Queen, much of which involved her being nude, this felt very different. It wasn’t necessary, to some extent. This was what she had to do to regain the desire that Madelyne tried to twist.

Scott did plenty to fuel that desire, taking in her nude form. He continued showing both affection and care, kissing and fondling her exposed flesh. She could sense how much he wanted her, his throbbing cock pressing against her thighs. However, he prioritized her wants over his own. Scott might not have been trying to set himself apart from the other men she’d been with, but he was succeeding in so many meaningful ways.

“Emma,” Scott said intently, “Would you like me to…”

His words trailed off. His gaze drifted towards her inner thigh where her pussy was noticeably moist. He let her fill in the blanks, which the former White Queen did without hesitation.

“Yes, damn it!” Emma exclaimed.

Scott, his actions speaking so much more than words, just licked his lips and grinned. He finally shared her urgency, getting down between her legs and pushing her thighs apart, clearing a path to her pussy. Then, like a man on a mission, he buried his face in her womanly heat.

“Oohhh fuck! This is what I want!” Emma gasped.

The former White Queen grabbed the thick sheets under her, arching her body and spreading her legs wider so that Scott could get in deeper. He made good use of that leverage, using his grip on her thighs to lift her hips up. From there, he worked that tongue of his masterfully, tasting her wet folds and skillfully targeting her clitoris. A steady supply of pleasurable sensations followed.

Even though she was no stranger to this pleasure, it took on a very different meaning. Madelyne Pryor had used it against her. She attacked her with a perverse form of desire, sex, and pleasure. She made every want, need, and sensation feel like someone else’s. She tried to take control of her body, mind, and soul. Emma might have escaped her grasp, but it still feel like that woman took something from her.

Now, she was taking it back.

‘This is what I want. This feeling…it’s my pleasure…my desire. No one else’s!’

Emma was already on a clear path to orgasm. Scott clearly knew female anatomy. Those other rumors about him and his wife weren’t just lurid gossip. They really made those connections they spoke of extra satisfying. Emma, having come from more cynical perspectives, was used to making men go down on her. No royal authority was necessary for Scott. He willingly, eagerly gave her oral sex and did a damn good job of it.

It would’ve been easy to just lie there and enjoy your trip to O-town. However, her wants and desires quickly evolved. Doing things the easy way, especially when it came to sex, just wasn’t the White Queen’s style. To get back what the Goblin Queen tried to take, she chose a unique path.

“Enough!” she said abruptly. “Scott…on your back.”

“As you wish, Emma,” Scott replied without question.

He did as she requested, lying on his back near the center of the bed. As he laid down, she rose up and got on top of him. Their bodies seemed to follow one another every step of the way, guided by a similar, shared desire. It felt so effortless and natural. It also felt so right, getting on top of this man and preparing to fuck him.

“Relax, darling,” Emma told him, caressing his face as she straddled his waist. “I’m going to fuck you. I’m going to come. And I’m going to enjoy it on my terms.”

“I’ll do my part. I promise,” Scott said with a confident grin.

“Please, don’t promise me anything.”

“Too late,” he quipped, his grin widening.

Emma instinctively grinned back, inspired by Scott’s dedication. He made her a promise and she believed him. It had been a long time since she could do that with any man, let alone one she slept with.

His dedication motivated Emma to make this the best sex she had in years. Now securely on top, her knees and toes dug into the bed, she aligned her pussy with his rigid cock. With one hand on his abdomen, she reached behind and gripped the base of his shaft. Then, once she felt the tip against her moist folds, she lowered herself onto him.

That familiar feeling of fleshly penetration followed, his hard manly flesh entering her hot womanhood. Her inner muscles stretched and her body writhed at fresh rush of sensual sensations. She knew this feeling so well, having indulged in many sex acts, some more elaborate than other. However, having sex with this man felt different. There was a meaning to it greater than the sex itself.

“I feel it! My God, I feel it!” Emma gasped.

“Me too, Emma. It’s so hot and tight!” Scott gasped as he slipped deeper into a sexual daze.

Following the feeling, as well as the meaning behind it, Emma began riding his cock. She wasn’t overly rough or domineering, as she often was while having sex as the White Queen. She wasn’t too gentle, either. This was her sex. She determined the pace. She quickly found just the right balance, bouncing and gyrating her hips in such a way that perfectly worked her pussy along Scott’s cock.

Along with that pace, Emma unleashed the breadth of her desires. She treated it like a dance of sorts, leaning back to show off her flexibility while she rode him. She even rubbed her breasts and licked her fingers, like the star of her own personal sex show. Scott was the only one in the audience, but appreciated every second of it.

‘I’m really doing this. I’m having sex. That bitch used it against me. I’m taking it back! And I’m doing it with a decent, honorable man.’

As she rode him, he felt up her naked body, giving extra scrutiny to the parts he grew to enjoy over the course of their foreplay. That included her breasts, butt, and neck. He used those strong hands of his to caress and fondle her as their bodies moved. It added to the pleasure while also making her feel desired. It created a sense that she was having sex with a person and not just something that had a functioning penis.

He also complemented her movements with upwards thrusts of his own, adding an extra bit of fervor as she worked her pussy along his dick. He made even more personal at times, rising up somewhat and drawing her into a heated kiss. Tasting her lips while their naked bodies rocked just added more sensuous stimulation to the mix. Emma surprised herself even more by kissing back, daring to show affection to a man during sex.

‘This man…this remarkable man who I tried to tell off earlier. He’s making me feel so wanted…so desired…so loved. That shouldn’t be possible. But my God, I feel it!’

As the intimate feelings flowed alongside the intense sensations, Emma entered uncharted territory with respect to intimacy. She hadn’t expected it. She’d have been plenty content with just a quality fuck, but it was happening and there was no turning back.

From that unknown path, she neared a powerful orgasm. She felt it rush up on her with greater force than usual. In the past, Emma had to work so hard to achieve such a feeling. This time, it came to her. With Scott still doing his part, she grasped his wrists and held them tight as the feeling closed in.

“Scott! I’m so close!” Emma said before guiding his hands to her breasts. “Here…rub my breasts. Squeeze them…while I cum!

“Do it, Emma!” he urged. “I want this for you too.”

As if the man hadn’t raised the bar enough for quality lovers, he found another way. He emphasized her wants over his. Moreover, she believed him. She trusted his word. That made the orgasmic rush that followed even more satisfying.

The feeling hit with such force. The fiery feeling in her core erupted. Her inner muscles throbbed around his hardened manhood. While Scott squeezed her breasts firmly, Emma closed her eyes, threw her head back, and let out a moan worthy of a queen.

“Ohhhhh yes!” Emma exclaimed.

She was louder and more animated than usual. Emma often enjoyed being needlessly elaborate during orgasm. It was her way of relishing the dominance she often enjoyed over the men she welcomed into her bed. However, in this moment with Scott Summers, she didn’t necessarily feel dominant. She just felt amazing, having achieved orgasm with a wonderful man.

Scott, despite not achieving that same ecstasy, still held her closely as he watched her climax. He even rose up and wrapped his arm around her waist, keeping on hand on her breast. It might have been the only thing that kept her upright at that point. Being in his arms, supported by his strength and care, only added to the ecstasy.

‘I did it! I had sex. I climaxed. I did it my way and no one else’s. And I even managed to do it with a damn good man. Fuck you, Madelyne Pryor!’

A blissful, beaming smile formed on her face. Emma, her body still hot with orgasmic feelings, shared that bliss with the man who helped give it to her. She pulled him into an upright position and kissed him hard. Their naked bodies remained entwined, her legs hitched over his waist while he shifted his grip to her hips.

When their lips parted, they each took a moment to catch their breath. Emma was definitely more winded, her mind and body still swimming in that orgasmic afterglow. Scott held her close, her head now pressed against his chest while he stroked her lower back with his finger.

“Did that help?” Scott asked, finally breaking the silence.

“Yes, Scott. It did,” Emma said plainly, but still smiling.

“Did you get everything you want?”

“I did indeed!” she said with a playful laugh.

Scott laughed as well. However, in that moment of lingering bliss, Emma realized something. As much as she’d enjoyed herself, Scott hadn’t gotten his release. She usually didn’t concern herself with that. She could usually rely on the simplicity of male anatomy to take care of that.

With Scott Summers, it couldn’t be that simple. He deserved better.

“Well, almost everything,” she said a playful, yet serious tone.

“Almost?” said Scott with a humored look.

“Don’t worry, darling. This last want is a bonus. I promise.”

Emma never took promises slightly. She’d made that clear by now. It told Scott she was serious.

In that spirit, she cast him a seductive glance before slipping out of his grasp. While he watched on with intrigue and desire, Emma turned over and got on all fours. Then, once propped on her hands and knees, she angled her heart-shaped butt towards him. It was a lurid, but genuine invitation.

“Come, darling. Fuck my pussy,” Emma offered, giving her butt a playful slap. “I trust you to finish the job.”

Scott’s face lit up. After making such an effort to accommodate her, he could indulge in his own wants.

“Thank you, Emma. I promise to reward that trust,” Scott said eagerly.

“I know you will,” she said.

Being able to trust someone was still an unfamiliar feeling, as was offering herself so openly and completely someone. At the same time, it felt so right. Being in such uncharted territory sexually, she decided to see it through.

Scott eagerly went with it, rising up and positioning himself behind her. His dick was still very hard and coated with her feminine juices. Once propped on his knees, now wielding plenty of leverage, he guided his dick back towards her pussy. She was still so wet and aroused. A simple thrust of his hips, following the shared desire between them, he entered her once more. From there, the basics of sex took over.

“My God, Emma! That’s so good!” Scott gasped. “Your pussy…so good!”

Grabbing hold of her hips, Scott began hammering away. He eagerly pumped his cock into her depths, his pelvis smacking against hers as their intimate flesh slithered effortlessly together. Emma’s naked body rocked to each movement, her breasts swaying as she gripped the sheets under her.

He mirrored the same rhythm she’d established earlier, striking just the right balance between gentle and rough. He could’ve just fucked her callously like many other men, but he chose not to. He continued supplementing his sexual movements with affectionate gestures, reaching down to fondle her breasts and kiss up along her back. It kept the sex intimate and personal. That gave it a level of satisfaction beyond any orgasm.

‘This is somewhat new…me being selfless, during sex. Then again, how many good men have I welcomed into my bed? Scott is definitely a cut above the rest…more so than I expected.’

As their sex played out, the sensations escalated. Emma could hear in his labored grunts that Scott was getting close. He’d held back for quite a while. He more than earned his right to blow his load into her waiting pussy.

However, even as he worked his way to that special place of ecstasy, he gave her a reason to keep enjoying it. At one point during his heated humping, he reached around and started rubbing her clit with his fingers. It once again showed he knew how a woman’s body worked. It also revealed a desire to have her share in the fruits of their sex. It further affirmed that this man was special.

‘He’s really doing it. He’s trying to make me come again. That’s rather…pleasant. But is just trying to earn my trust? Or is he…’

Her thoughts tapered as her body gave her the necessary answer. Scott was going to do it. He was going to make her come again.

Even though she’d climaxed so hard earlier, Scott added enough intimate stimulation to guide her back to the brink. He might have been showing off. Emma certainly wouldn’t have stopped him if he were. It just made their sex even more remarkable.

“I’m almost there, Emma! I’m really…really close!” Scott panted as he neared his peak.

“So am I, Scott!” Emma moaned. “I’m going to…come…again!”

The thrusting intensified.

The sound of their flesh colliding grew louder.

At the same time, he added more pressure to her clit while hitting all the right spots inside her depths. That helped send her over the edge once more. This time, he joined her.

“Ohhhhh fuck!” they both exclaimed.

Scott let loose first, grabbing hold of her waist and throwing his head back as he got his release. He pushed his dick in extra deep, his body shuddering as he shot an extra-thick load of his cum into her pussy.

That hot feeling of his juices mixing with hers inside her womb coincided with Emma’s second climax. She couldn’t be as theatrical as before, but that didn’t make the feeling any less blissful. It also didn’t stop her from kissing back when Scott leaned over, turned her head, and captured her lips with his. It was another intimate gesture that gave their sex meaning and that meaning grew with each blissful moment.

“You kept your promise,” Emma said breathlessly.

“Of course. I’m a man of my word,” Scott replied.

She smiled back and kissed him again. They lingered in their intimate entwinement until their bodies settled. Once the rush subsided, Scott withdrew his dick and collapsed onto the bed. Emma willingly joined him, lying next to him on her side while he spooned her from behind.

She remained in his arms, the heat of their naked bodies still complementing one another. Scott seemed as content as any man who just had sex with a beautiful woman. Emma, still facing away from him, felt plenty content as well. However, other overwhelming feelings lingered.

“Satisfied…I actually feel satisfied,” she said distantly.

That feeling carried more weight than usual, even after sex that included multiple orgasms. Part of what made the Goblin Queen’s torment so agonizing was how she flooded her with pleasure, but denied her satisfaction. It didn’t matter how many orgasms she experienced. That devious bitch made sure her desires remained unmet.

Escaping her with her body, mind, and desires intact had been so daunting. It still felt like the Goblin Queen left an indelible stain on her soul, or whatever was left of it. Since escaping Limbo, Emma had been driven primarily by hate and vengeance. Those feelings were still there, but now there were other forces driving her.

“Thank you, Scott. I needed this…almost as much as I wanted this,” said Emma.

“You’re welcome, Emma,” Scott replied.

He kissed her neck, another kind gesture among many others. That only added to that growing mix of feelings.

This man had done more than just give her a good fuck. He showed kindness and understanding, even before their clothes ever came off. It had been a while since she encountered someone like that. The Hellfire Club rarely attracted men of upstanding, honorable character. Everything was so self-centered and transactional. Emma willingly embraced that world, thinking it would get her everything she wanted.

If Madelyne Pryor hadn’t come along, then she might have comfortably stayed in that world. Now, there was no going back. That had become painfully clear. Turning over to face the man who’d just made her feel so amazing, she caressed is face and gazed into his eyes.

“You’re a good man. A real, genuinely good man,” Emma said to him.

“I do what I can,” he replied, as though it were no big deal.

“I’m serious, Scott,” she said in a more serious tone. “Where I come from…I don’t encounter many men like you. I don’t encounter many good women, either.”

“I think you’ll find Jean just as good.”

“And I believe you. The fact I implicitly trust the words you say…and your sincerity in fighting this battle with me…that’s just uncommon for me. I honestly don’t know how to handle it.”

“With us, I’m sure you’ll learn. And I’ll be happy to help you with that every step of the way.”

His kindness was almost nauseating, but Emma didn’t mind. She just smiled at him and kissed his forehead. She also made a silent promise to herself. Whatever happened in the battle against Madelyne Pyror, she would not let her tainted the soul of Scott Summers in the same way she’d tainted hers.

The world needed men like him. Emma might not know where she fit into this world after the destruction of the Hellfire Club, but she knew Scott had a place in it, along with Jean and X-Corp. She couldn’t undo some of the horrible things she’d done, but she could make damn sure it didn’t lose someone like him.

As she made that promise to herself, Scott slipped out of bed and gathered their clothes. Even after sex, he remained a man of action.

“In the meantime, we have priorities,” he said as he retrieved his pants and underwear. “Our primary focus must be the Goblin Queen!

“Keep saying that with such gusto. I’ll welcome you to my bed regularly…and your wife, if she wishes,” Emma teased, still lying naked on the bed. “

“We’ll have plenty of time for that later,” he said. “Right now, someone’s trying to destroy everything we’ve built. Let’s stop her so we can keep on building!”

He sounded ready to go, even before he finished getting dressed. Emma, needing a bit more time to gather herself, just watched on in admiration. Having decided not to run from these new feelings, she now faced another host of choices. Some were likely to be more personal than she ever could’ve imagined.

‘I don’t know what you and that wife of yours are building, Scott Summers. But if I can make it through this with my soul intact, maybe I can be part of it.’

Astral Plane – Central Mindscape Hub

During her time with the X-Men, Jean Grey-Summers learned many important lessons. Professor Xavier’s lessons of peace and understanding in a world of hatred and fear were simple, on paper. However, certain elements ran much deeper.

At one point, Jean questioned why they worked so hard making allies rather than confronting enemies, like the Brotherhood of Mutants. In her youth, she thought that was more pressing. Almost everyone in the team agreed. Much to her chagrin, the Professor explained it in a profound way.

“Making allies is an investment for something greater. Confronting enemies can only aid in survival.”

It might not have been logical to a teenager, but it made perfect sense to someone with a dream. It ultimately became part of her and Scott’s efforts to pursue life, love, and connections with others through X-Corp. Since leaving the X-Men, they’d formed plenty of all three. The initial intent was simple. Having allies grew their organization and created closer ties between mutants and the larger superhero community.

Now, as she and Scott faced their greatest threat to date in Madelyne Pryor, those connections felt more like investments. If she was as dangerous as Emma Frost described, then they needed those investments to pay off. Some of that return was already manifesting before her eyes.

Within the malleable, yet secure environment of the Astral Plane, she organized a meeting with Professor Xavier, Nick Fury of SHIELD, and Tony Stark. She used her psychic talents to create a psychic conference room. Here, they could link their minds and coordinate their efforts in a way that even a tenacious foe couldn’t hack.

However, their meeting had been unproductive thus far.

“I appreciate all your efforts,” Jean said to them after the meeting commenced. “You’ve been deer friends and valued allies of X-Corp. But I’m increasingly distressed by our lack of results.”

“As am I, Jean,” said Professor Xavier, who could stand with everyone else in this domain. “We’ve already run multiple scans at full power. I’ve had Forge amplify Cerebro’s power output. We still can’t find this Goblin Queen.”

“Nor can I through numerous scans of the mystic realms,” said Dr. Strange, hovering above his seat in a meditative pose.

That’s not encouraging,” said an unamused Nick Fury. “I’ve allocated considerable SHIELD resources to that effort. I’m not used to coming up with this much nothing.”

“Same here,” said Tony Stark, wearing his best Armani suit for this psychic meeting. “Even with Vision’s help at Avengers Mansion, I can’t get a single read on this woman. And I’m usually a magnet for crazy psycho women.”

It was not encouraging. Despite all the connections X-Corp had made, it wasn’t enough to locate this powerful threat. She and Scott had seen signs of it. They’d even sensed it. Now, it had a name and a face – her face, no less. Even so, the Goblin Queen remained elusive.

The mood in the conference room was tense. In the Astral Plane, that had a greater effect. As they sat around a construct of a table, psionic images of Madelyne Pryor streamed by. Her appearance and her status as a clone was still so jarring. Jean hid her dismay as best she could, hoping these vital connections could assist in a meaningful way.

“How sure are we about Ms. Frost’s intel?” Fury questioned as he looked over projections of Emma’s data. “I’ve read her file. The company she keeps is hardly reliable.”

“I’m inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt,” said Tony.

“You say that about a lot of women you’ve seen naked, Stark.”

“True, but Frost does set herself apart from those Hellfire stiffs. You can usually trust her to be honest when it suits her.”

“You speaking from experience?” said Fury with a raised eyebrow.

“Sure. If that means you believe me,” Tony quipped with a coy grin.

Fury scolded the billionaire playboy, but Jean took him seriously. Emma Frost was somewhat of an unknown. She’d barged into her and Scott’s life with a selfish, but determined vendetta against the Goblin Queen. She still had trust issues. Scott might have alleviated that, to some extent. There were still plenty of concerns regarding her role in this struggle.

“Having read her mind, I confirmed her interests are aligned with ours,” Jean said to them with a fair amount of confidence. “I just wish we had more to go on. If Madelyne Pryor is a clone…my clone, no less…then we must take an atypical approach. We’ve sensed something like this brewing!”

“Jean, even for a telepath, there’s only so much you can foresee,” said Professor Xavier in an understanding tone.

“Indeed,” said Dr. Strange. “Even the Eye of the Vishanti has limit. We’ve seen the looming shadows, but not the figure casting them. Such is common for agents of great chaos.”

“We’ve also noticed some considerable disruptions in the criminal underworld,” added Nick Fury. “Black Widow and Hawkeye sent me their latest report. Someone has been hording advanced biotech, so much so that AIM is complaining about it.”

“Someone also really messed up the Hand,” said Tony. “The Scarlet Witch met up in Japan with Elektra. She says there’s been a suspicious lack of evil ninja attacks.”

“Normally, that’d be a good thing,” said Fury, “but I’ve been doing this long enough. I know an ominous sign when I see it.”

“We all see it, General Fury,” said Xavier, “but this woman has gone to considerable lengths to hide herself. I now suspect she might have been the source of the incident that left Rogue and Carol Danvers so shaken. She might also be responsible for what happened to Spider-Man around that same time.”

That was not a comforting thought. Jean recalled the torment that both Rogue and Carol had endured. They each mentioned how someone had shown up unexpectedly and twisted their perceptions. Rogue still worried about the fate of her adopted mother, Raven. While there was no clear evidence that event was linked, Jean’s instinct told her it was.

“Let’s assume it does,” Jean said. “Do we have anything to go on?”

“I’m afraid not,” Xavier sighed. “If she’s as unstable as Ms. Frost describes, then she’s must also be as cunning.”

“Her chaotic nature may also be her greatest strength,” said Dr. Strange. “If she sees herself as something that cannot and should not be, then finding her is akin to finding patterns in static.”

“So, she’s cunning and crazy? That’s a hard balance to strike,” Tony commented.

“It need not be balanced to be effective,” the Sorcerer Supreme explained. “The fact that she has remained in the shadows all this time makes that more disturbing. If she can evade detection, then she can strike at any time.”

“But she hasn’t,” Fury pointed out. “Usually, there’s a reason for that…even among sadistic maniacs.”

“Having known my share of crazy women,” Stark said, “she’s either biding her time or waiting for the right moment to strike. Most of the time, it’s both.”

His remarks on crazy women were crude, but they made too much sense. Even Fury didn’t argue. Even if Tony’s experience with such women were questionable, he made a point. Nobody stayed in the shadows if they didn’t have a bolder plan in mind. Even if that plan had no basis in sanity, it was still troubling.

“We can’t wait for that moment. We have to do something!” Jean said strongly.

“We already have the X-Men on high alert, Jean,” Professor Xavier assured her. “As soon as we detect something, rest assured we’ll be ready to strike.”

“That’s not what most concerns me,” Jean said.

“You’ve got the Avengers, SHIELD, the Fantastic Four…hell, probably a few I don’t know about. You and your husband do get around,” Tony added.

“Thanks, Tony,” she muttered with a slight scold.

“I didn’t mean it like that! I’m saying you’ve got the backup, Jean. You can get through this. She’s an evil clone. Not an invading army of Kree.”

Stark’s efforts to console her had mixed results and not just because of his poor choice of words. Jean almost preferred an invading army of Kree. A threat like that wasn’t so personal. She and Scott knew the second they embraced the Phoenix Force that there was bound to be a price. They defied fate. That always came at a price. The Goblin Queen seemed to embody that dread.

Jean, still fixated on the psychic image of her clone, feared this woman’s next move. She and Scott had confronted many dangers, going back to their days with the X-Men. They always found a way to make it. This was a very different kind of danger. Even the Phoenix Force seemed anxious at the chaos this woman might cause. It left Jean both frustrated and desperate.

“It’s the fact she’s my clone that’s so disturbing. Whatever’s driving her – whatever it is she seeks – it’s already led her to commit heinous acts. I want to stop her, but…”

Her words trailed off. Her frustration intensified, causing parts of the Astral Plane to react. The image of Madelyne Pryor grew, making her seem like this titanic presence they couldn’t escape. Jean’s fear fueled that growth, prompting Xavier to console her.

“We will find a way, Jean,” he said, offering a kind gesture. “Trust in the friends and connections you’ve made.”

“He’s right,” said Tony. “You worked so hard, making all these partnerships that have done so much good. You even dared to have a little fun in the process.”

“Tony…” Jean said with a scold.

“I’m serious, Jean,” he went on. “You and your husband love talking about expanded perspectives. Well, you’re still looking at this as though you’re a couple of retired X-men. You’re not. You don’t just have allies, friends, and people who’ve seen you naked. You’ve got resources. Try to use them!”

“Stark, you do a piss poor job of making a point. But every now and then, you make a good one,” said Fury. “That should tell you something, Jean.”

“It already tells me plenty,” said Professor Xavier. “You’re dreading this woman’s next move. We all are. But even if we can’t find her, there are other ways to prepare an effective counter.”

Their shared sincerity helped calm her down. Jean took a few deep breaths. She remained fixated on Madelyne’s image, but she began to shrink as her strength returned to her.

Looking around the table, saw just a small sample of the connections that she and Scott had made. Those connections had yielded so much good for them and for X-Corp. It couldn’t just stop with simple business partnerships. There had to be something else they could do with what they’d built.

“I get what you’re all saying,” Jean said in a more measured tone. “I want to use all these connections we’ve made. I’m just not sure how.”

“Then, get creative. We’re in your psychic headspace, remember?” Tony pointed out. “You definitely have the tools.”

“As well as those who know how to use them,” Dr. Strange added.

“Thanks. I appreciate that,” said Jean with a half-smile.

“I concur,” said Professor Xavier, “and since you’re the one who pursued these tools, you’re in the best position to decide that. This being so personal, I trust you to discern what’s tenable from what’s necessary.”

Jean sighed and shook her head. That idea felt so daunting. Having all these connections gave them options, but there was no way of determining which ones were right. Given the nature of this threat, any wrong decision was bound to make things worse. She and Scott learned long ago how bad decisions compounded one another. She was determined to avoid that.

Turning back towards Madelyne Pryor, Jean found herself scolding her clone. She still resented this being the figure that could once again doom her to such a grim fate. Price or no price, she couldn’t help but be bitter. It was a cruel trick, having to face this dark version of herself, just so she had a chance at building on this she’d forged.

‘I got to do what’s necessary with all the tools I have. I also have to outsmart myself, somehow. Where do I even begin with that?’

Then, before she cursed her own image any further, an idea came to her. Looking back towards Dr. Strange and Tony Stark, it quickly became more than just an idea. Suddenly, she had the workings of a plan.

“Actually, there might be one way we can counter the Goblin Queen…whatever she might throw at us,” Jean said with renewed energy.

“So long as it doesn’t involve nukes, Hulks, or Skrull agents, I’m all ears,” said Fury with folded arms.

Jean removed the image of Madelyne and brought up another of her and Scott. Her mind raced. The constructs she created raced just as quickly to keep up. Before their eyes and thoughts, a set of images and schematics formed to give detail to her plan.

“It’s risky. I don’t want it to be our first resort, but it might be our best chance,” she said. “It just requires both extremely advanced tech and some not-so-simple magic.”

“That, I can help with. Mixing magic and tech is always a fun challenge,” said Stark with growing intrigue.

“And potentially volatile,” said Dr. Strange with more reservation. “What did you have in mind, Jean? Bear in mind that any effort that uses magic will come at a price. And it’s cannot always be measured in terms resources or connections.”

It was an ominous, but unsurprising warning. Jean had already committed to paying that price for a better future, whatever it might entail. She expected it to come with hardship. It always did. She and Scott were already bracing for it. This was their chance to turn all these meaningful connections into meaningful support.

“I know the drill, Doctor. Whatever it is, I’m willing to pay it,” Jean said strongly.

“Famous last words. Hope you don’t regret them,” remarked Fury.

“That makes two of us,” said Jean, still undeterred. “Scott and I will make the arrangements. We’ll meet at a secure X-Corp facility within an hour. And we’ll need to work fast! We can’t assume time is on our side. And we can’t assume we’ll get any additional breaks from here on out.”

Xavier Institute For Higher Learning – Kitty Pryde’s Room

“Hnn…did it work?”

Those drowsy words echoed with a pressing ring as Kate Pryde emerged from what felt like a nightmarish roller coaster. Rachel had projected minds into the past before. She’d warned everyone how unpleasant it was. She did not do justice to it.

Her mind and body were not on the same page. When she opened her eyes, it was so disorienting that she almost threw up. As strenuous as it was, it wore off quickly. Her vision cleared, along with her overall sense of awareness. She realized she was no longer in the M’Krann Chamber. She was in a bedroom, lying atop a bed. Having spent years sleeping in mutant interment camps or war-ravaged pits, that was very jarring, albeit in a good way.

Just feeling soft sheets and a warm pillow under hear was overwhelming. She hadn’t known such comfort in years. When she rose up, she was overwhelmed again by the feeling of morning sunlight beaming in through an intact window. It almost blinded her with such brightness, but she adjusted quickly.

Breathing heavily and still disoriented, she sauntered out of bed and towards the window. In a daze of awe, Kate Pryde took in her surroundings. She also confirmed what she’d hoped.

“Clear skies…no Sentinels…no demon armies…fresh acne…it worked!” she exclaimed.

She smiled, brimming with excitement she hadn’t felt in a lifetime. She’d almost forgotten what a sunny morning looked like. Years of war, devastation, and destruction had rendered her world darkened by nuclear winter and goblin armies. Seeing a world untouched by that horror was incredible. It also reminded her why she was here.

After taking in the sight of the undestroyed world, she glanced towards a nearby mirror. Once again, she was taken aback by what she saw. Her reflection did not reveal the figure of an old woman who’d endured several decades of war. It showed a teenage girl with short curly hair, an undersized frame, and wrinkled sleeping clothes that hadn’t been washed in a week. Kate had to touch the mirror just to make sure it was real.

“Wow!” she said as she looked at herself. “I forgot how scrawny I was as a teen. How did I survive the Danger Room like this?”

Her voice sounded different too. That deep, war-wary tone of an older woman clashed with the somewhat cheery tone of a teenage girl still going through puberty. It was going to be a challenge, being serious in the body of someone so young. Not forgetting the stakes, Kate Pyrde shook off the other jarring effects of time travel and assumed a more serious demeanor.

‘Relive your awkward teen years later. You’ve got a job to do! Find the X-Men. Stop the assassination. Prevent Sentinels and goblin monsters from helping one another…if that timeline is still intact.’

Then, as Kate attempted to recount the events leading up to this moment and the plan she’d hatched with Rachel, a strange feeling hit her. Suddenly, a string of conflicting memories surged through her head, like multiple nightmares playing out in fragments.

She saw a shadowy figure gun down a prominent senator.

She saw shadowy figure hold up a crying baby.

She saw massive protest that coincided with Sentinel attacks.

She saw portals opening in the sky and goblin creatures pouring out.

She the same shadowy figure from early slay someone even larger than her, assuming their power.

There was the Sentinel Wars, the Mutant Containment Act, the Limbo Inferno, and the Age of the Apocalypse Queen all occurring at once. They didn’t all happen at the same time, but they all still happened. It hit her mind like a bolt of lightning hitting her head.

“Augh!” Kate exclaimed. “My head…the time fissures! They fucked up my memory and my brain!”

Clutching her head, she stumbled over to the desk next to her bed. She leaned over to catch her breath, panting anxiously as she collected her thoughts. Her memories remained fragmented. The time fissures continued affecting her, even in the past. That only gave her more urgency to act.

‘Shake it off. Assume you’ll have to stop both. Just need to figure out what day it is. Please tell me Rachel sent me back far enough!’

Despite her throbbing head, she turned towards her computer. It was bulky, outdated, and cumbersome, but it still worked. After turning on the monitor, she noted the date and time. It wasn’t as far back as she’d hoped, but it would have to do.

“Damn! This is cutting it close,” said Kate, already running through the scenarios in her head. “If my memory is still intact, this is the same day that…

Her train of thought was interrupted by the Xavier Institute’s blaring alarm. It had been years since Kate had heard it, but she remembered what it meant. It only sounded when Professor Xavier needed the team on alert, in uniform, and ready to deploy.

Kate remembered how this day had played out. She also recalled how it went right in some ways, but wrong in others. Her window for changing that was very small.

It only got smaller when her bedroom door burst open and Ororo Munroe entered, already in full uniform and ready to lead the X-Men.

“Come, Katherine!” said Storm. “The Professor has put the X-Men on high alert. We must gather in the War Room.”

“Storm…I forgot how nice your hair looked,” Kate said, blinking a few times to adjust to her appearance.

It hit her again, the feeling of being in the past, re-living events from distant memories. Some of those memories faded long ago. Her recollection of Ororo Munroe leading the X-Men with such grace and spirit wasn’t one of them. She was so taken by seeing Storm in the flesh once more that she barley reacted when the former weather goddess grabbed her arm.

“Hurry, child!” Storm said. “This is serious. The Professor says…”

“Wait! Storm, listen to me,” said Kate, taking on a more serious demeanor. “I know what he’s planning. We’re all about to make a huge mistake!”

Storm let go of her arm and looked at her strangely.

“What? How can you possibly know that?” she asked with a look of confusion.

“Because I know what happens,” Kate said in a tone not befitting of a teenage girl. “I’ve already lived through it. You’re going to survive the battle, but lose the war. And you won’t realize until it’s too late!”

Storm’s confusion only grew. She blinked a few times, as if to assure she was addressing the same Katheryn Pryde she’d known to that point. Kate expected a reaction like this. She didn’t have time to explain everything. With time working against them and her memroies still fragmented, Kate retrieved a pen and paper from her desk.

“Kitty, you’re not acting like yourself,” said Storm.

“It’s okay. I’m also the same Katheryn Pryde you’ve always know…to some extent,” Kate said. “And you’re the same Ororo Munroe I remembered from all those years ago.

“Remembered? Years ago? Child, you’re not making any sense!”

“I don’t have time to explain!” Kate said as she wrote frantically. “The long and short of it is this…I’m from the future. Well, my mind is.”

“Your mind? But how?” Ororo said, still in disbelief.

“That’s not important. I just know the timelines are still fractured. I got to write down as much as I can before I forget! Senator Kelly, the Sentinels, the Goblin Queen, the Limbo invasion…I need to remember. I was sent back because today is all when it begins…the X-Men’s toughest battle…X-Corp’s greatest regret…the spark that triggers the apocalypse.”

As her mind raced and she wrote frantically, another surge of broken memories hit her, along with a painful seizure. She dropped the pen and paper, clutched her head, and fell to the floor. Storm quickly caught her, but it didn’t stop the mental onslaught. The past, present, and future were converging around her. She might very well be the only one who could save all three.

“Argh!” Kate cried out as she tried to collect herself.

“Kitty!” Storm gasped as she helped her up. “You’re not well, child. I must…”

“Please, Storm! I need you to trust me,” Kate exclaimed as she looked at her former teacher with desperate eyes. “Take me to the Professor. He needs to read my mind. He needs to see that the X-Men are about to make a grave mistake! The past…the future…multiple futures of death and chaos…it all starts today! This is the day the Goblin Queen became the Apocalypse Queen…the day the Sentinels joined forces with demons. We must stop it!”

Up next: Dark Timing

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