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Part 5: Hysteria's Poison
There is no hate without fear.
Hate is crystallized fear, fear's dividend, fear objectivized.
We hate what we fear and so where hate is, fear is lurking.
There was something crawling over her eyes. Occasionally
it would stop and rest there on her face, waiting, then moving
on over the high bridge of her nose and rubbing her eyelashes
roughly as it went. At some point she noticed that the feeling
wasn't confined only to her head- it was everywhere, as though
the same smooth skins were curling around her legs, her waist,
her chest, her arms, her shoulders, her neck. It was extremely
It was even more so when at last her eyes were uncovered,
and she saw that she was standing in the center of a pit of
snakes. There were hundreds of them, thousands of them, an
odd array in a myriad of colors: black as char, pink as an
open wound, blue as bruises. None of them had scales. None
of them had eyes. They were doomed to trace endless paths
around each other, and now over her, under her, sliding over
her bare skin, moving as fast or as slow as pleased them.
They did have mouths. They did have fangs. They did have
tongues the same strange shades as their bodies, which they
flicked at each other contemptuously. Occasionally one would
poke its head out from the churning mounds and twist its head
about, never without facing in her direction.
She shivered and called out for help, but one of the serpents
reared up and twisted itself over her mouth, muffling her
Only when she was silent did she hear what the snakes
Listen, they were telling her. Listen.
Listen to what? she cried, but they chanted on and
on like a mantra, none of them opening their jaws to speak,
but speaking all the same:
From somewhere, there was a scream.
"Jean," Scott said, shaking her, "Jean, wake
up- what was that?"
She sat up, trying to clear her head.
"I felt something," he said, "was it through
There was something horribly wrong, and she didn't quite
understand what it was until she'd managed to focus her thoughts,
and then her psionic senses.
"Oh no," she whispered, and jumped out of
bed, throwing open the bedroom door and sprinting out of the
boat house where she and Scott lived.
It had stopped raining, but the grass had been drowned under
puddles hours before which stretched from one end of the estate
to the other, dipping down to fill the lake with brown water
where the grass met the slow waves. She didn't even consider
the brumal splashes which stung her legs as she raced across
the yard, or notice beyond a passing thought her husband's
own trek to the mansion's side door.
"Jean," he hollered after her, "Jean, what's
She shot up several flights of stairs and down a hall until
she'd come to the closed door of Ororo's room, which she battered
down with a hefty telekinetic swing.
Munroe was in bed, her face turned slightly toward the window,
through which the moon could be seen, big and bright orange.
On Storm's neck was a long slit, not much wider than that
made by a knife. The edges of her chocolate skin had been
burnt too much to bleed, as had the flesh, but the wound had
been deep enough to sever the jugular.
"Jesus," Scott said, hoarsely. "Jesus,
Jean leaned over the Windrider's body and picked up Storm's
hand, cradling it in her own. "Scott," she said,
miserably, "This has got to be the beginning of the end."
"So," Logan growled, "that's three down. Wanna
take dibs on who's next?"
"We don't know if Betsy is dead or not," Warren
Scott added, "And we really don't need pessimism right
"Realism. Give me one good reason why we should think
of this lightly."
"Not lightly," Cyclops said. "We here are
alive. Ororo would rejoice at least in that."
"But why her?" Warren cried, beating a fist
on the metallic center table. It clanged loudly. "Ororo
was the best of us!"
Jean placed a hand on his shoulder. "Warren, please,
Regardless, he shouted, "I'm sick of this game!
Why the Hell does this have to happen? Who would be
this sick?! Who would ever want to hurt Hank or Ororo, or
some innocent kids?"
"A better player than any one o' us," Remy sighed.
Worthington clenched his jaw.
"'Angel," Wolverine warned, "back off,"
but Warren grabbed Gambit's shirt and thew him into the wall,
holding him there. Remy's eyes blazed.
"Warren ... " the Professor cautioned.
"BRING HER BACK!" Warren screeched, hysterically.
"BRING BETSY BACK!"
"You've cracked!" LeBeau spat. "Let go a'
He did, after a breathless moment. He stepped back, overwrought.
"If you ever touch me again," Gambit hissed, "I
will kill you." He dusted off his sleeve. "An'
if I was ever t'kill any o' you, it wouldn't o' been my best
friend." His voice choked off, and he turned away.
Worthington paused, and then said, "But you would
kill one of us."
"What is the matter with you, Warren?" Scott said.
"Didn't I say nobody's under suspicion until we've got
some sort of clue? You're not acting like yourself."
Warren only glared back at him.
Cyclops turned to Gambit, who looked him straight in the
eyes, and sighed. "Remy," he asked, "where
were you tonight?"
"The kitchen," he told him.
"He was," Bobby affirmed drearily. "I went
in to get some tea. He was in there watching TV."
"Then that's settled." Scott peered around at everyone
else: pairs of bloodshot eyes and wet cheeks, the occasional
handkerchief. Logan puffed angrily at a cigar, and the Professor
had yet to ask him to snuff it out.
"Bishop," he said, "Where were you?"
"I spent the evening patrolling the grounds," he
answered, as had been expected.
"Did you see anything odd? Anything suspicious?"
"Nothing. Though I had noted that the rain stopped."
"I was in my room," she murmured, looking at her
feet. "Couldn't sleep." She dabbed at her nose with
"Outside. Didn't smell a thing in Ororo's room or outside."
"Jean was with me in the boat house. Bobby was with
"And I," the Professor offered, though unasked,
"was in my study, speaking with Lilandra."
"Did she have any ideas?" Jean asked.
"Warren," Scott asked, "where were you tonight?"
His wings ruffled a bit. "I," he said, "was
in my room."
Jean cleared her throat a bit, and said, "Professor,
I heard her psychic scream the moment before she died. I think
she must have had some sort of warning, or some sort of glimpse
at what was happening before she was killed. Hank didn't react
this way; he may not have seen what was coming."
He said hopefully, "Perhaps our enemy is weakening."
"Even so, whoever or whatever it was got in, got out,
and managed to murder Storm without leaving a trace behind
"Professor," Scott said, "have you called
Emma Frost yet?"
"Yes," he told them, "but there was no answer."
The they looked at each other in silence.
"At the risk of sounding too extreme, I'm going to suggest
something which the team might not be too happy about,"
Scott announced, soberly. "Psi-scans. I think that, at
the rate we're going, we're never going to find any clue as
to who is behind this. And besides that, there are so many
clues -- or clues lacking -- which point inward to the team
that we can't ignore them. This would be the only sure-fire
way to verify team claims, and, God willing, some sort of
unseen hint which we'd not seen before would be revealed through
the combined memories of everyone's ... "
Jean's eyes widened. "A psi-scan?" she repeated.
"That is too extreme, Scott," the Professor
said, horrified. "To trespass in such a way would be
" ... the only safe way," Bishop broke in. "Excuse
me. Though I have always been called the poster child for
extreme measures," he sighed, "it seems to me that
Cyclops' assessment is logical. Even if there isn't any real
danger in any of our teammates, this would be a way to see
different angles of the jigsaw puzzle, if you will."
"Through the minds of others," Scott added.
"So," Rogue asked, "how far back would it
"Only as far as absolutely necessary."
"And what," asked Gambit, "if somebody don't
"What's the matter, Cajun?" said Logan, "Scared?"
"Not at all. Jus' don' like the idea that anyone would
get forced inta it."
Scott told them, "If anyone doesn't want to, they can
choose not to."
"But if someone doesn't participate," Jean said,
matter-of-factly enough to surprise herself, "that would
bring all the more suspicion onto them."
"I'm all for it," Warren said.
Gambit nodded. "Same here."
"Ah guess," Rogue said.
Bobby shrugged. "Whatever."
"Of course," Bishop agreed.
Scott looked at Jean, half apologetically. His own plan was
tearing him up more than anyone else. "Yes," she
told him, "I'll do it."
"Then it's a go," said Cyclops dejectedly. "We
can start tomorrow morning."
Xavier said nothing.
It was very dark. That he didn't mind; he'd spent
enough time without light -- be that literal or elseways --
to feel nearly at home without it. But being in the dark alone
like this bothered him, when he didn't have the faintest idea
where anybody was, or what might have happened to them.
He'd spent the better part of an hour searching the house
for signs of life, but had found none. Frost was gone. Cassidy
was nowhere to be found. He couldn't find Jubilee, he couldn't
find Synch, he couldn't find anybody.
He slid down a stairway, gritting his teeth when the floorboards
creaked. When he'd reached the ground he made his way to a
curtained window, peeking out through the lace and scanning
the grounds for any type of movement, until he saw a limp
form just outside the front door.
He recognized it almost immediately as Monet.
At that, he threw open the door and ran to her side. Monet
lay topside-up in a torn uniform, looking as though she'd
blacked out again. Upon further inspection he found that her
eyes were rolled to the back of her head, and dark-toned blood
was tracing a slow stream from her mouth to the dirt and scattered
black hair below her. By her right shoulder was a blackish
hole in her flesh, which he couldn't see the end to.
"Monet!" he cried, nudging her once, and then again
She moaned and rolled her face away from him, but blinked
in recognition when he moved to her other side and looked
into her eyes.
"Ange ... lo ... "
"Stay still," he ordered.
"I d-do not think ... that ... ooohh ... "
"What happened?" he asked. "Who did this?"
"L-light ... " she told him. "It ... very
painful ... "
He picked up one of her hands despite her mumbled protests
and kept it sealed between his own. "You'll be okay.
Not everybody could be ... gone."
"But they are not here yet ... and I ... I do not believe
... that I will make it ... until help arrives."
"Don't be stupid," he said, shaking his head. "Everything's
going to be alright." Not that he believed that now.
"I never ... feared death," she said, and coughed.
She closed her eyes. "I will not begin ... now."
"Monet?" he whispered. "Monet?"
Her chest had quit rising and falling, and after several
minutes of desperately trying to find or return her breath
or heartbeat, he fell to her side and sobbed helplessly. He
To be continued.
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