Down the Dark Path– by Victor Moore

DISCLAIMER: Marvel owns everyone, except Sakura, Agent Li, and the old woman, they're mine. No money will be made from this. This is for enjoyment purposes only. Yada, Yada, Yada.

CHAPTER V:

In the late afternoon, Jubilation Lee threw her fourth rock and watched it skip across the lake. When it stopped, she took another from the ground she was sitting on and began the process again. Sighing as the stone stopped and sank, she took in her surroundings. The lake was at the edge of a small forest. Dark gray clouds owned the sky and threatened to rain. It was cold, as she could see her own breath catch in a gentle breeze. Footfalls crunched on the ground behind her.

"Hello Jubilee." Kitty said cheerfully. Like the young girl, she too was also dressed in warm clothes, though not quite as bright. "I hope you don't mind some company."

"No, of course I don't mind. I like being out here all alone. It's a riot. Now leave me alone, I'm trying to think." Jubilee stated a little more strongly then she felt.

"I also brought you something to eat." She handed a bag to her.

"Well in that case, pull up some ground. What is it?"

"Some scones."

"Oh, goody. Hey what's in the thermos?"

"Hot chocolate. I figured it would help in this cold weather."

Pouring herself a cup, she asked, "Is it always this cold in England?"

"No, most times it's much colder." Kitty answered with a laugh.

After a slow drink of the warm liquid, Jubilee looked at the lake. The stillness of the water did not calm her troubled soul. "Did that ninja-mind-slut send you out here?"

"No. Elisabeth didn't send me." Kitty grabbed a rock, tossed it, and watched it skip across the surface of the lake. "Jubilee, can I ask you a personal question."

Stopping in the middle of a bite, she answered, "sure. Doesn't mean I'll answer you. If I don't like it, that is."

"Fair enough." Kitty looked at her roommate and asked, "Why do keep wearing that yellow jacket all the time?"

"It's… it's a reminder of Wolvie. He gave me this jacket. I cherish it. 'A loud jacket for my loud partner' he said. I'll never give it up. Never."

"I see. He was important to you then?"

"I suppose so. I only knew the guy for a couple of weeks, and most of the time I was tending to his wounds. Through his ramblings, the running, and me playing doctor, I began to… care for him. I think." Drinking some more hot cocoa, Jubilee thought back to those days.

Amidst all the stubborn traits Logan displayed, he always took time to look after her needs. He listened to her, when she was not raving, and did not judge her. That was something her parents hardly ever did, when they were alive. They just sat around and ignored her or sent her away without listening to her problems. With him, even on the run, she felt like she belonged.

Clearing her mind, she looked at Kitty. The other girl was not much older than she was physically, but something in her eyes hinted at a level of maturity well beyond that of a teenager. Changing the subject, she stated, "I've seen you practice you martial arts every morning, Kat. It's similar to the ones done by busybody, yet slightly different. Why?"

"Hmm… I don't know why per say, but Betsy was trained and conditioned by the Hand, who had the knowledge of the art for years. Logan and his mentor on the other hand, taught me in a small amount of time. Where she has a fluidity and grace to her movements, mine are sharper, more rigid." She emphasized the point with some gestures with her hands.

"Makes sense. Wolvie taught you? He seemed more like a brawler to me."

Laughing lightly, Kitty saw a smile on her companion's face. She returned it. "Yep. He touched many people's lives, mine included. He is my mentor, my friend, and at times my 'father figure'." Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Jubilee nod her head slightly. "He even helped out Elisabeth, and has a soft spot for Jean."

"I noticed. For an old ugly little man, he sure has a lot of 'lady' friends. You ever notice how incredibly well built they are?"

"Yep."

"Kinda depressing if you think about it."

"Not really."

"How so?"

"It's only genetics. Of course none of that mattered where he was concerned."

"Why?"

"Of all 'Logan's girls' you've met, didn't you notice that they share another trait?"

"Besides the fact, that they're all so drop dead gorgeous and have bodies that would entice God himself? Nope been wallowing in self-pity too much to notice." Jubilee stated with a small grin.

"Inner-strength." Seeing the puzzled look on her face, Kitty decided to elaborate. "Each one of them have a lot of willpower. Jean has it, so does Ororo. They are two strongest women I know. Elisabeth has it, current crisis of the body withstanding. I have it, though nowhere near the others. I also see it in you."

"C'mon, you've got to be kidding. Willpower!? Me!? I can't even avoid a pint of mint cookies-n-cream ice cream when it starts calling me."

"For me it double fudge chocolate. Seriously though, Elisabeth told me about when she first encountered you. She said you were a fighter."

"I bet! She zapped by brain and used me to get to Wolvie." Jubilee snorted.

"Actually, you were being sucked in by a machine and she grabbed your arm to save you."

"That was her!? It can't be!? She looks so… so different."

"She tries not to show it, but that sudden change has really hurt her. I remember her being so gentle and yet strong. If it wasn't for her, I might have died over a year ago." Kitty absentmindedly started to curl a strand of hair around her finger.

"In Australia, Betts always kept more to herself. You should've seen her room. It was all variations of pink, the sheets, the walls, drapes, everything. She did have some good romance novels though. Very steamy."

"How did you know that?"

"I hitched a ride with them. The only person who knew I was there was this old, and I mean old, geezer who just sat on top of a hill. I spied on them all, until the toasters came."

"Sounds like you have some stories to tell."

"You too." Jubilee was a little disappointed that the drink and scones were gone, but nothing compared to the fraction of the emptiness in her heart. Grabbing a stone, she threw it into the lake. It did not skip like the others, but made a small splash then sank. "Why couldn't he have been saved, like she was? Why?"

Kitty had no answer. After a few minutes, she stated, "I miss him too. It would be better if I never found out that he was alive, just to lose him like that. We will rescue him, we must."

"If we can't, then what?"

"We never give up hope. To do so, would lose all of the faith that he has in us."

Jubilee rolled that statement around in her mind for a while. It was strange that this man meant so much to them both, although she barely knew him. "How's Betts doing? Is she still mad?"

"No. She's a little distraught, though. I think she worries that she may never get her original body back. Also, it seems that she blames herself for Logan's situation. Plus to add the fact that she just found out her old love died a year ago, hasn't helped either. There are other things too, but she doesn't go into them with me."

"I feel bad. I yelled at her, blamed her for losing Wolvie. I never knew she blamed herself for it. Guess I should apologize, right?"

"That's something I can't help you with. That you have to decide for your self."

"Gee, thanks a lot." Looking at the sky, she noticed for the first time how dark it had gotten. "I guess we better head back."

As they started through the small forest, towards the large cottage at the edge of the Braddock estate, Jubilee was glad she talked with Kitty. Somehow, it made her feel better. "Kat? Can you tell me more about Wolvie?"

"Sure, how about over dinner?"

"I'd like that."

Elisabeth watched the two girls talk about Logan over dinner. Not wanting to interfere, she cleared the table while they continued. She overheard about the time Kitty tried one of his cigars and chuckled at the image it created in her mind. As she washed the delicate white dishes, her thoughts drifted back in time.

It had been a month since Dr. Richards and his medical consultant allowed Elisabeth to leave. They gave her strict instructions not to partake in strenuous activities for at least six weeks. She surprised everyone by stating that she was going back to England. They did not realize it, but she needed to find herself, to sort out what happened to her. Jean offered to help, but this was something she had to do on her own. Besides, she could not go back to the Xavier's Mansion just yet. There were too many ghosts.

Doug was gone. The kindest soul she ever met and cared deeply for, taken away. In a blink of an eye, he was gone. All she could do was mourn him. Then, there were the X-Men. She forced them into Siege against their will with her powers. Her reasons were sound. It saved them from certain death from the Reavers, but she felt ashamed about deceiving them like that. Finally, there was Logan, himself. The burden of not being able to save him after his tortured mind freed her. The man she admired for his strength of character destroyed.

Strength. At one time Elisabeth thought that she was infallible in her psychic defenses and willpower. Sending away the X-Men through trickery showed her that her spirit was not as strong as she believed. As if that was not enough, the Hand revealed her mind was also feeble, because they almost controlled her completely. Ever since that last time she saw Brian over a year ago at the mansion, she had committed herself to be a protector, a pillar of strength for the others that she cared for. She failed.

She failed the X-Men. She failed Logan. She failed herself, and that hurt her most of all.

Elisabeth stared into the now cold dishwater and saw a stranger gazing back. Sighing, she tidied up the kitchen and made herself some hot tea. Suddenly, she was aware of some new thoughts. Non-hostile but guarded. They were familiar to her.

As she entered the dining room, the doorbell chimed. Katherine got up and disappeared down the hall to answer the door. A minute later she came back with Reed Richards, his wife Susan, and Ben Grimm.

"Hullo. What can we do for you this fine evening?" Elisabeth smiled as she warmly shook Ben and Reed's hands, then kissed Sue on the cheek. All of them were dressed casually. They asked how she was, and she answered by stating that she was much better.

Jubilee lit up when she saw Ben. "Hey Rocky, grab a chair."

"We wuz in the neighborhood, and I thought that maybe Kit and ya would like to go get some ice cream or whatever the hell they have for desert around here." Ben stated, then added, "my treat."

"It's quite a drive Rocky, when you're stuck in the middle of nowhere."

"Why drive, when ya can fly?"

"Now that's a plan. I'll be right back." Then Jubilee disappeared upstairs.

While Susan hugged Kitty, Elisabeth quietly whispered to Reed, "I gather this is not a social call?"

"You're right of course. All of the scans from your tests came back, and I have some answers for you. There is also some bad news as well." He stated with sad eyes.

"That is our lot in life, Reed, for the type of work we do." Elisabeth answered.

"Possibly, but I felt in this case, I should tell you in person, and not over the phone."

"Would you like some tea?"

"I would love some. Thank you." Reed said as he took a chair. Elisabeth then asked Susan and Ben if they wanted any. Both declined stating they were going to borrow Kitty and Jubilee for a while.

Jubilee came back down in a yellow trenchcoat and tossed Kitty her leather jacket. Susan kissed Reed goodbye then looked at Elisabeth with concern in her eyes. Then she left with Ben and the girls.

After handing him his tea, she sat down across from him. "She knows."

"Yes. Sue knows all of what I'm about to tell you. She is the only one, besides myself, that does." As he took a sip, he examined her. "How do you feel in your 'new' body?"

"Alright, I suppose. It still is somewhat of a shock to see a stranger's face in the mirror. Does this mean that I am trapped in this?"

"For the time being. After Forge developed a device that would allow my machines to 'see' you, I went on the hypothesis that the Hand had transplanted your mind into a new body. At the time it seemed a feasible one, because of the amount of gene-splicing it would take to do so would be enormous and almost impossible."

"Something happened then, that caused you to change your mind?" Elisabeth asked intently.

"Yes. I remembered the data I had when the X-Men came to ask my help with Katherine's condition. My security system scanned all of you. Minor scans, I assure you. Height, weight, body fat percentage, prosthetics or implants, etc., just the basics. I compared that data with your current statistics. The readings stated that your height is exactly the same as it was over a year ago. I am afraid to note however that you have gained about fifteen pounds, all of it muscle, but your body fat has dropped by approximately twenty-two percent.

"However the most astonishing fact is your eyes."

Elisabeth was shocked and stated softly, "they are still bionic."

"That's correct. The readings told me it was the same implants, and the cellular scan that I ran showed minute scar tissue. Whoever designed these eyes was brilliant."

"Or insane." Elisabeth muttered under her breath. "I always wondered about that. Somehow, I believed that they were replaced with new ones from the Siege."

"They're real. Fascinating thing about them though was they have the ability to send audio-visual data through a hyper-dimensional relay. I have never in my life seen one built so small.

"Sending audio-visual data? Do you mean that everything I witnessed was sent to that madman!?"

"Madman?" he thought to himself. Curious as he was, Reed Richards knew he had a duty to perform. Aloud, he asked, "You didn't know? No matter, the device has shorted out. My assumption is the relay couldn't withstand the fluctuation of dimensional energies that this 'Siege Perilous' outputs. Also, there is a microscopic computer in them, which has a specific set of instructions. It survived, or else you would be blind.

"In essence, you are still the body you were born with."

"Then how am I look so different?"

"Genetic manipulation was used to change skin color, texture, and hair color."

"Hair colour?"

"Yes, your hair is a dark purple now, instead of it's original color. Your eyes turned themselves brown, the Hand had nothing to do with that. According to Forge, and also confirmed by Doctor Steven Strange, the Asian looks and the rest of the changes that can't be explained by science, were performed with magic."

"Magic?"

"For some reason, your body is more readily receptive to magical energies than the average human or mutant. That's what I was told anyway, and your DNA apparently confirms it. One of your parents was from another world, correct?"

Elisabeth sighed, "my father. He was from Otherworld, and one of Merlin's chosen guards. I am afraid that I know no more about it."

"Fascinating. So, the tests prove that you, Elisabeth Braddock, inhabit your original body." He let her absorb that statement for a little while as he finished his drink.

The knowledge that she was truly herself brought relief. It was as if a huge knot had been massaged away by expert hands. She knew she could get used to the change, but the fear she had of her original body being used by someone else while she was in this new one, vanished. A comment from Reed brought her mind back to her current situation. "I terribly sorry, but could you please repeat that?"

"Can I get some more tea please?" As she went into the kitchen, Reed yelled after her. "By the way, apparently, you are not the only one changed."

"How so?"

"Storm is alive, and in the body of a child."

"She is alive!? But I saw her die."

"Apparently, she was captured by a villain named 'Nanny'. Nanny replaced her during the melee with a S.H.E.I.L.D. LMD modified to look like her. It was the LMD you saw 'die'."

"Astounding," Elisabeth said carrying a teapot. She refilled their cups, then sat back down in her wooden chair. After taking a sip of the hot tea, she stated, "What is the bad news that you have to tell me?"

Reed lowered his eyes and let out a deep breath. This was something he wished he did not have to do. But during her stay with the Fantastic Four to recover from the severity of her wounds, they began to see her as part of the family. It would have been wrong not to tell her in person. "The tests also showed something else. Something horrible."

"What?" She asked with trepidation.

"I'm afraid it is impossible for you to have children, Elisabeth."

She stared at him blankly. Her hands weakly covered her mouth. Since she was a child, all she ever wanted was to partake in some form of grand adventure. But even then, she knew that one day, that adventure would include children of her own. Now that dream was stolen from her. "How? Why?"

"I don't know why, but how… according to the physical evidence, about two weeks before Ben and Sue rescued you in Japan, you were surgically altered so you could not bear children. The procedure is irreversible. I'm sorry." He stretched his arm so he could gently squeeze her shoulder.

As he took his hand back, she asked weakly, "Dr. Richards, can I have a baby through artificial means?"

"Like in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination?" Elisabeth nodded her head. He sighed, then continued, "The perpetrators who did this to you, made sure that your ova could not go through the process of meiosis correctly. Again, I'm sorry." He got up, squeezed her shoulder, than quietly left the room.

Just as her small hope of having a child faded, so did her composure. She began to cry. Tears ran down her cheeks as the sobbing overcame her.


Author's note: This is how I always thought Psylocke's body change happened. Claremont didn't fully explain it, but he implied that magic was involved and he assumed that the readers would except it. After all, the Mandrain was the top of his field in his area of expertise, and the Hand had reaised Elektra back from the Dead, then changing Psylocke's body would be feasible. It makes sense to me, and in some ways more exciting and mysterious than a simple 'body swap'.

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