Logs:In Which a Family Meeting Does Not Go As Planned and Evolve's Patrons Get Far More Than They Ordered

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In Which a Family Meeting Does Not Go As Planned and Evolve's Patrons Get Far More Than They Ordered

some chaos, minor injuries, brief references to the shoah/child death during genocide.

Dramatis Personae

Hive, Hive, Hive, Hive, Hive, Hive, Hive, Hive, Hive, Hive, Hive, Hive, Hive, Hive


<< (are that kind of telepath now) >> (semi-concurrent with Daniel's Chaos)


<NYC> Evolve Cafe - Lower East Side

Spacious and open, this coffeeshop has a somewhat industrial feel to it, grey resin floors below and exposed-beam ceilings that have been painted up in a dancing swirl of abstract whorls and starbursts, a riot of colour splashed against a white background. The walls alternate between brick and cheerfully lime-green painted wood that extends to the paneling beneath the brushed-steel countertops. There's an abundance of light, though rather than windows (which are scarce) it comes from plentiful hanging steel lamps. The walls here are home to artwork available for sale; though the roster of prints and paintings and drawings and photographs changes on a regular basis it has one thing in common -- all the artists displayed are mutants.

The seating spaced around the room is spread out enough to keep the room from feeling cluttered. Black chairs, square black tables that mostly seat two or four though they're frequently pushed around and rearranged to make space for larger parties. In the back corner of the room is more comfortable seating, a few large black-corduroy sofas and armchairs with wide tables between them. There's a shelf of card and board games back here available for customers to sit and play.

The chalkboard menus hanging behind the counter change frequently, always home to a wide variety of drinks (with an impressive roster of fair-trade coffees and teas largely featured) though their sandwiches and wraps and soups and snacks of the day change often. An often-changing variety of baked goods sit behind the display case at the counter halfway back in the room, and the opposite side of the counter holds a small selection of homemade ice creams. A pair of single-user bathrooms flanks the stairway in back of the cafe; at night, the thump of music can be heard from above, coming from the adjoining nightclub of the same name that sits up the stairs above the coffeehouse.

It's a rare bit of peace in between the sandwiched weekend chaos -- the packed brunch crowd has started to taper off, the Saturday Night dance party crowd not yet arriving. Peace -- kind of relative, of course; there's still a growing line, the tables still half occupied, the customers still unfortunately very much customers -- behind the counter Taylor has just about all of his arms full. Three different coffee orders going, plating a croissant, grabbing a rag to deal with a spill someone has toppled all over their table and the floor and then simply tried to sneak away from as if not letting the staff know would improve the situation. Amid the writhing mess of limbs that look like they should be working themselves into a tangle but never actually do, Taylor has his very best customer-service blank and doggedly pleasant expression on. His nearest and slenderest arms are occupied attempting to hold the napkins and drink-stirrers down onto the counter -- they've been slowly starting to float upward as a reedy young woman in increased throes of agitation demands that he remake her cappuccino the correct way, why is there foam in this drink?

With a superhuman patience that might, in fact, be the real true mutation of all baristas everywhere, he does not correct her -- to her face, though he does write 'latte' on the new drink order. One of his longest arms is snaking across the room to deposit a fresh coffee down at a comfortable back table; the drink comes with a wry and exasperated mental gripe to Hive: << I wouldn't ask you to just fucking mind control everyone into not being an asshole but if you could just. Kind of Matrix a basic fucking knowledge of what coffee is when people walk through the door --? >>

Polaris is, per her habit when off-duty at Evolve, ensconced at Hive's table. Less usual is the tension plainly visible in her body even to those who cannot sense the muted ripples of her anxiety. She's wearing a black shirt with a bold red anarchy symbol whose circle has been replaced with a heart, fairly conservative dark wash bootleg jeans, and ancient Doc Martens reinforced with steel accents to match her plethora of metallic accessories, the most striking of which are the woven wire cords snaking through her leaf-green updo and the wide link cuffs circling each wrist, perfectly fitted absent anything even remotely resembling a latch.

Despite her palpable unease, she's kept a decent lid on her thoughts until just now. At the very edge of her magnetic sense is a dynamic knot of field lines converging on and nearly obscuring a bright bioelectric signature that grows brighter as it approaches. << Heavenly Parents, please inspire him to have at least one whole chill. Or if not please give me the chill to handle him. Like maybe three chills. Amen. >> She leans on Hive's mental presence and, though her cocoa is delicious and still quite warm, swipes his coffee for a sip before returning it to him. << I'm sorry in advance if he gets all racist, but I think he's trying to be on his best behavior. >>

At the center of that knot of field-lines, walking in the door to Evolve now is -- some old guy. Erik is dressed to deliberately not impress -- under a grey chore coat, a cheap light blue dress shirt is tucked into grey slacks and a belt, sensible black leather derby shoes, a pair of glasses perched on the bridge of his nose, and a herringbone driving cap covering much of his stark white hair. Twin bands of steel links are tucked under the cuffs, matching the ones adorning Polaris's wrists.

His displeasure at existing in this << cheap -- tasteless -- mundane >> outfit is sensible to the telepaths, one among many cantankerous Old Man Thoughts (<< -- what is this menu why would you put that in your coffee ({what the hell is pea milk?}) -- are the intelligent telephones getting smaller again (there is so much blasted noise) -- >>) crowding the surface of his mind. Just underneath, there are duelling senses of protectiveness and anxiety -- The Boyfriend has known his daughter longer than he has ( << {--should probably attempt to make a good impression--} >>), but he is still her father (<< {--he should be trying to impress me--} >>). Softer still, a sense of wonder that a place like Evolve should exist at all. His eyes set briefly upon the Tentacle Barista at the counter (<< ?!? >>), briefly ponders how helpful a man with that many arms could be, then shunts the rest of that train of thought away for later.

Under all of that, Erik's mind is still -- a mental barricade has been carefully constructed to discourage telepathic prying. It is hardly enough without Erik's helmet to truly stop anyone from digging, but the memories lying in wait behind those defenses would be a horrific surprise for those foolish enough to do so.

A brief consideration of the line-up and the woman holding it up, then Erik walks to the back to join Polaris and her beau. In a warm, west German accent: "You must be Hive, yes?" Erik glances at his daughter for confirmation, only now realizing that he had not thought through What To Say To His Long Lost Daughter's Boyfriend at All. "Delighted --" << {nu, delighted?? (he would know what to say) I am not delighted} >> "--to meet you at last." He reaches one hand across the table to shake.

Hive is not hidden away behind his computer, as is his usual habit at this table. Instead he's slouched low in his seat, semi-glowering down at the empty table in front of him. His thoughts are an edgy jumble -- << basically the same person >> << should've been DJ he gives good parent >> << two birds one stone -- >> This last thought calls up a rolling rattle of birdcall in his mind, accompanied by a flash of yellow underwing flitting through the thick-hanging forest of his mindscape. The wash of grief -- familiar, if less unmanageably acute than it used to be -- that comes here is pushed back by the arrival of Coffee, which goes a long way towards distracting him from his internal fretting. His thanks to Taylor is wordless, but fervent. "Maybe you shouldn't have made them a cappuccino with foam." Does it matter to Polaris that she is only hearing this half of the conversation? No doubt that's all the context she needs.

"-- Is his best behavior," he's starting to ask Polaris, but this transitions seamlessly from word to (kind of bludgeon-y) thought when the man in question enters, << racist? >> This comes with more amusement than offense; he's kind of taking it as read that an eleventy-billion-year-old European dude is probably at least a little bit racist.

He snags Polaris's cocoa when she swipes his coffee, taking a sip and then dabbing his mouth clean. He sits up straighter as Erik approaches, actually making an effort to pull out of his slouch and idly straighten his shirt -- actually a button down today, a light gray oxford shirt with the top button undone, that he's paired with navy chinos and a a gray flannel blazer with emerald green paisley lining currently folded neatly and draped over the arm of his chair.

There's a flicker in his mind of amusement and exasperation at overhearing Erik's he should be trying to impress me. << should ask this motherfucker if getting him out of PRISON is impressive enough -- >> butts up against, << he's not WRONG though. >> Not wrong, in Hive's mind, maps more to a deep-ingrained sense of Elders Should Be Respected than to any particular sense of awe or fear around Very Powerful Men. His glower has eased itself into a politely neutral expression and he's standing, briefly, hands folded and head bowing to touch forehead to fingertips before a mental stumble -- flustered -- as he instead almost bops into Erik's outstretched << white people WHITE PEOPLE >> hand. There's a faint blush in his cheeks as he straightens, hands lowering as he reaches to clasp Erik's firm in his own knobbly-calloused one.

"I've heard -- so much about you from Polaris, sir," << ... and Dusk and B and the fucking news -- >> The small twitch at one side of his mouth -- is it a grimace? A an aborted smile? It's something, anyway, when Erik professes (out loud) his delight. "I can hear your thoughts. It's not something I can control, so I think people around -- well. You have a right to know."

Where it sits on the table, face up, his phone has somewhat rudely started vibrating, rattling hard against the table as the ringtone blares: Somebody save me let your warm hands break right through somebody save me --" Visible, brief, on the screen, is a familiar X shaped logo before Hive (double flustered, now) (<< hold your fucking emergency >>) hastily reaches to bap it off. Not before he's caught a glimpse of the screen, his irritation morphing to a starker worry: << Daiki -- >> the undercurrent, now, << ... must be real fucking dire. >>

Taylor's loooong arm baps Hive lightly on the back of the head, his ripple of mental amusement fluttering through Polaris and Hive both. << Boy! And don't even get me started on the motherfuckers who think a macchiato's gotta come with caramel. >> This time, both of them hear this comment. His limbs are snaking back away as he continues to whittle away at the seemingly endless series of drink orders, only glancing back over towards their table with a mental << ! >> as snatches of Hive's thoughts and their visitor actually sink in.

<< Shiiiiit, > equal parts impressed and nervous and suddenly, acutely, about ten times more vigilant than his usual background level. << is that for real for real -- shiiit >> << shit last thing we need's a Sentinel raid >> << Oh shit he's meeting the fucking dad >> An image comes to mind, here, of Erik with a protective and entirely unnecessary shotgun in hand.

All these thoughts tumble away as Hive checks the panic button flash. << (shit shit shit) >> is colder and hollower this time. << Hive what part he is? wuh fuh the alarm? >> / << (can you find him) >>

<< Probably, >> Polaris's admission is a little sheepish. << Cuz. Yeah. Besides, he seems like the kinda dude who would insist X or Y is Not Racist because They're Really Like That. >> Nerves notwithstanding, Taylor's comment coaxes a smile out of her. << Starbucks has like wrecked an entire generation's ideas about coffee. We need like a "days since last frappuchino order" board. >>

She tries not to get more nervous when Erik comes into sight but fails. Tries to stop broadcasting it, and also fails. << (maybe this was a bad idea)(Hive can handle it)(is he gonna order a frappuchino) >> There's a faintly hysterical edge to her racing thoughts that actually quiets at the awkward clash of greetings, if only out of vicarious embarrassment for Hive. << Who the fuck shakes hands in a casual social meeting really old guys I guess >>

Feeling faintly superfluous, she ventures a tentative, "Hey." And then, surprisingly much smoother, "Gut shabbos." Though fully expecting Hive to out himself at some point during the interaction, she didn't quite expect it just yet. Perhaps she might have fretted about it, if she'd had a chance to process it before Hive's phone goes off. << (didn't he silence that)(oh wait it's that X-Men thing)(oh wait it's Daiki) >> She glances over over at Taylor almost in the same moment that she realizes it's nonsense to expect he might know what was going on. << Does it tell you if someone is responding is someone responding. >>

Whatever background ethnic calculus Erik might have been doing, it did not get as far as to anticipate the bow Hive is performing. A slight lift of white eyebrows betrays his surprise, but when the handshake ends Erik dips his head in a responding bow. A young white man who, save for the effects of time and the full head of hair, looks just like Charles Xavier, bows in a similar way as Hive began to in Erik's memory -- there's a sense of fondness in how Erik tucks the recollection away, fondness that is beginning to include Hive as Erik motions for him to sit. He turns to Polaris << {--should have greeted her first (with what? a hug? Tch) --} >> to return a warm-but-surprised "gut shabbos" of his own (tinged with a number of complicated emotions he Does Not Have Energy For Right Now) before sitting down himself.

Erik almost feels like he has control of this encounter when Hive discloses. << {What.} >> Another memory (of nearly drowning in churning waves, a man so young he might as well be a boy, yelling "You have your tricks, I have mine," over the pounding surf) rises up briefly. This comparison to a long ago Charles is not nearly as comforting << {-- is this genetic what in the --} >> as the first association. Erik is baffled, but manages to keep it out of his tone when he replies, "I appreciate your honesty." << -- should have brought the blasted helmet -- >>

Not that the helmet would have done much for this next sequence of thoughts, flitting as they do across his face -- annoyance (at the unpleasant noise emitting from the phone) then confusion (at the logo briefly displayed: << Charles' school? No, his soldiers -- he's one of them? >>) turning into a distrustful, paranoid internal alarm. << {A trap? Surely he wouldn't (but yet I did) not through her} >> Erik looks up sharply to Polaris, brow furrowed. Follows her gaze to Taylor, from Taylor back to Hive. "Dare I ask," he asks, voice carefully mild, "what is happening?"

Hive's fluster is continuing, mingled heavily now with worry as he looks down at the phone. "I did silence it," is the first (kind of defensive) objection that comes out of his mouth, as though this is the most pressing concern, here. "I'm sorry, I didn't -- yes, Kitty is responding, I don't know what --" Taylor, at least, can feel the sudden and rapid expansion of his mental presence, unfurling long roots out past the cafe and through the blocks beyond. Many more minds around them, now, that are Hive as well, Hive's own psionic signature suddenly at once far more vast and far less readable than it was before. His eyes have narrowed sharply as he looks up, a deep-etched frown in his face. "I am not one of -- it was my --" His teeth have clenched in a hard grind as he stumbles equally on the twined difficulties of << what the fuck WERE we >> and << not fucking RELEVANT not the fucking TIME. >> Instead he shifts tack, a little clipped now: "I'm here to meet my girlfriend's dad. I wouldn't fuck her over. I wouldn't fuck you over. A friend's --"

It's about here that Taylor can feel the shift -- still a small ways out but growing and, regrettably, acutely tangible now through the several-different-Hives scattered around the cafe and the network they form between them. A sharp and agonizing flare of pain localized around the leg (several legs); a growing panic, anger mingling with agony into a frenzied energy. Some mental gates in Hive's mind are shuttering swift, though not swift enough to stop a sharp yelp of pain across the cafe, and another, not crying out but beginning to freeze their coffee and the table around it as well.

Hive's teeth have gritted hard, his fingers clamped tight on the edge of the table. "-- friend's in trouble," he finally answers Erik, and -- to Polaris or Taylor both, "-- someone's fucking hurting him."

"I ain dat --" Taylor stops, breathes, corrects himself, "... not that kind of fucking telepath." << wish we that kind telepath >> He's abandoning his post behind the counter, much to the chagrin of his line of customers and the other barista. His long arms shift in uneasy writhe as he makes his way to the others' table. "I'm -- sorry to -- interrupt, sir," he's saying, a little awkward, a little hesitant, to Erik << shit >> "just -- where is he, can you stop it?" On his inky-black features, there's only concern; in his mind, stressed and increasingly gruesome images of exactly what might be happening if Daiki's powers have spiraled --

-- and then there's only pain, clamping his teeth hard, scrunching his eyes, pulling his mass of sinuous limbs in tight-coiled against him. It's Polaris he looks to, now, uneasy << if he loses it we are fucked >> and anxious.

If only for a moment. In the next, that same ripple of pain is cascading, bright and blinding, throughout the cafe. << Hive stop STOP -- >> is his very first shrill thought, before some dim awareness hits him that this is not the feel of Hive, not the encompassing-unifying-expansiveness of him. << STOP >> segues into << stop him STOP him >>

as around the cafe, chaos is breaking out.

The frosted center table is expanding its reach, bone-deep freeze crawling outward to coat the other surfaces, to claw uncomfortably at the other patrons. In one corner a table has simply liquefied itself, spilling all its contents down into a mass of oozing murky-looking goo. Gravity has gone a little upended, tables and drinks and people alike just enough lighter than they should be to make for very surreal and disorienting movement. A distressingly copious geyser of coffee is blowing straight out of one boy's cup without showing any signs of running out. The panic in the air is tangible, even for the non-telepaths there.

Polaris's eyes are wide and frantic, but when Hive replies to Erik's unspoken doubts she narrows them, anger wedging itself into her helpless worry. "Dude!" she snaps at Erik, "What the fuck? Why the fuck would we--" She wants to keep ranting but stuffs her indignity firmly away when Taylor comes over. << Okay. Focus. Deescalate. >> "Look, I'm sorry, but I swear this is like a literal actual emergency."

Though she can't feel the pain that reaches Hive first, she sees the change in his posture and touches his arm, suddenly and wordlessly fearful. When the pain does reach the rest of them she claps a hand over her mouth and wilts against Hive where she had meant to offer support. << --shit shit shit-- >> The metallic rattle around them is barely audible above the chaos at first, but it's hard to ignore when the cutlery starts flying. And then falling, and then flying and just drifting mid-air as Polaris savagely tamps her power back down, and her panic along with it when she meets Taylor's eyes. She needs no telepathy here, visions of the building collapsing with everyone inside lurid in her mind.

She sets her jaw and focuses, feels for where Erik's power is warping the field lines around them, not just the myriad smaller ones she's trying not to tug, but the ones running through the wires and rebar in the walls, even the immense geomagnetic arteries threading the earth below. "Hey. Hey hey Eeeeer--Max. I don't know if I can help but..." Through her pain and fear she tries to stabilize the tightening web of fields by sheer inelegant force. Her eyes cut past Taylor, past Erik to the spreading chaos. She grips Hive's arm tighter. "You're alright, you can--you can do this."

The panic starts to struggle free of her control as the temperature drops sharp enough to bite and a wave of nauseating agony surges through her leg. She muffles her scream against Hive's shoulder, but her terror now has nothing to do with pain and everything to do with the flex of Erik's field that wrenches the lines effortlessly from her grasp. Metallic objects start dragging, flying, or just straining toward them, but far more concerning to her senses is the slow ominous shift of the planetary field, its lines pulled taut and trembling. She does not have time to appreciate the absurdity of worrying what name to call Erik in the moment, but what spills from her unthinking is a terrified "D-dad!"

Hive's fragmented sentences are not doing much to soothe Erik's paranoia, nor does Polaris's indignant outburst, but things are moving too fast to dwell on the possible threat of X-Men much longer. It takes a moment for Kitty is responding to translate from a literal cat << {no, a person, then who -- no } >> to the image of a sixteen year old with frizzy hair and a tendency to fall through things, and for a brief moment there is rage. It turns into a cold determination when Taylor approaches, any concerns about this one also being a damn telepath quickly dismissed with the plea (never mind who it might actually be directed at). Erik stands up without any conscious decision, turning to his daughter to borrow her steel, to Hive again to ask "Where --"

-- and then pain erupts in his leg. Polaris can see the tightening of his bioelectric field into a sudden coil around Erik, yanking everything loose and even slightly electromagnetically charged within the cafe towards him. Laptops and phones by their batteries, stainless steel kitchen equipment, water bottles, cooking prep tables, everything -- it all jerks towards him, the distance they travel before stopping perhaps assisted by the reduction in local gravity. He sucks in a sharp breath through his nostrils, focusing through the pain not on these trivial loose objects but on not forcibly dislodging piercings, not pulling at the medical metal inside those around them, not pulling out the rebar, not pulling the power wires out of the walls, not pulling the metal scaffolding of the building the way his power desperately wants to.

His hands grip tight to the edge of the table, unhearing when Polaris tries to speak to him, struggling to see the threads of electromagnetic field that need to be pushed back into place amidst all the interference. Polaris's attempts at to help sharpen those local lines into visible relief -- but underneath, the planet trembles.

It's ultimately not the phantom pain in his leg, nor the biting numbness of the ice, that fully betrays Erik - it's the wave of all-encompassing fear that comes next, radiating out from the epicenter of this disaster and knocking the wind out of his chest. The fear does not come with context, so Erik's mind invents its own --

-- his mother long long ago staring down the barrel of a gun (<< {"Just move the coin, Maxi, I know you can --"} >>) -- a skinny girl almost a corpse herself buried underneath a hundred other bodies -- a flare of unimaginable pain before a voice in his head goes horrifically silent -- a different girl screeching from a fourth-story window (<< {"-- Papa!--"} >>) as the building burns --

When Polaris calls for him, Erik’s focus breaks. He pull his daughter into his arms with the enormous force of his power. Pulls other things to him, too -- the rebar in the walls, the metal in floor, the pipes underneath, the earth itself, all reaching to join the sudden storm of steel filling the café.

For a brief but horrifying moment, the pain and fear in all those around the cafe are amplified -- absorbed by Taylor, broadcast back out into the minds around them in exquisitely debilitating stereo that dumps the compounded agony of everyone in range into each mind.

In some very minor way, there's a small silver lining, here -- the kid at the center of the room threatening to give everyone around deep and painful frostbite passes out from this overload of pain, his wintry aura receding with his consciousness.

Taylor's arms are a kraken-like whirl, reaching out to smack -- or simply shield -- several of the flying metal objects in midair. It doesn't stop their pull towards Erik, but it does save several people likely bruises or injuries. There is probably still a couple well-smacked skulls in the chaos, but even he can't reach everywhere. There's a spattering now, here and there, of pale bluish liquid dripping onto the floor -- probably not immediately identifiable as blood without connecting it with the ragged gashes scraped in several of his rubbery arms.

Most of his focus, though, after he's reeled in his panicked mental blast, is on Hive -- his mind stretching out, pressing invitingly up against the other man's in a still-agonized but well-practiced bolstering. << (steady) >> he is pleading silently, underneath this his demand more urgent and desperate as he tries to shield folks nearest the walls from the worst of the rubble starting to tumble down onto them: << get it together >> / << someone is gonna get real hurt. >> << (you can help) >>

Hive does not look much like he can help, truth be told. His gaze has gone a little glassy and vacant, as if the combined pain and fear and tumult around him simply does not register. When a stray fork slices a thin line across his cheek, when one of the sink fixtures slams heavily into his shoulder, he barely seems to acknowledge the pain.

Where Taylor's mind presses encouragingly up against his, though, he can feel the vast and hungry expansion of Hive's selves -- sliding deep into Taylor's mind, filling it with a broad and jumbled -- but rapidly gaining equilibrium -- new identity. And it's growing, and growing, and growing -- clawing greedy roots into thousands of unknowing bystanders from here all the way down to Gowanus, up through Chelsea, the agony concentrated in the Lower East Side simply fading away from relevance, one small tributary letting out into the immense ocean that is now Hive.

His careful compartmentalization is shifting -- tucking Taylor away in a quieter corner of their minds, bringing Polaris in to join him. When his mind slips out, curls itself around Erik's, into Erik's, it's a firm and possessive grip. The shifting of identity, of feeling, of perspective, that takes over is at once a tempest and a shelter -- both angry squall through a forest and a firm and ancient tree standing fast at its center.

Erik can feel the terror starting to grow around the room -- mutants stressed and scared, first at the empathic intrusion but now just at the danger, limping with their phantom pains to try and find shelter from the growing storm. << oh god are we dying >> << is this an attack are we under attack >> << building's gonna collapse no no NO >> << ... holy fucking SHIT is that MAGNETO is MAGNETO going to kill me (what the fuck) (that's awesome) (oh GOD HELP) >>, his people -- their people -- frightened and hurt and in a growing danger that they are now aggravating.

<< (You/'we' don't want this) >> is the insistence, quiet but unyielding, that rises in their shared awareness. It's Polaris their mind highlights last, bright and prominent among the storm of panicking mutants and terrified as well. He lets the trauma-memories and the fear and the pain wash over and through them into the broader depths of their selves, freeing up their awareness enough to clear his mind (their mind) (but inescapably still Hive's deep-rooted control guiding them).

The metal storm around them is quieting, control reasserted with a touch that now feels effortlessly powerful. Where the psionic limbs of his mind had been emotion-whipped and flailing now there is only quiet; a thick canopy of branches expanded to pull Polaris and Erik into the steadying calm.

Hive himself has not moved; has not wiped the slender trickle of blood from his cheek, has not spoken or cried out. His eyes are fixed on the now-cracked and coffee-covered table in front of them, unblinking.

Polaris unfurls her power once more with a desperate will, no longer trying to stabilize Erik's field but just doggedly shoving outward against the incipient magnetic implosion. When Erik pulls her to him the snarl of field lines around him is so bright it overwhelms her senses. Their bioelectric fields clash and and twist and all at once snap into alignment. For an instant Polaris loses all control of her own power and Erik's grows impossibly stronger.

But only for an instant. She falls into Hive with a flush of relief, and though unable to orient her(them)self the way that Taylor does she regains her focus and strains back against the runaway magnetic storm from the inside. << (how is he that strong)(how is anyone that strong)('we' are) >> A moment later, that we is Erik, as well. The horrors of his past flow through her(them), singing with the same fury as the astounding force of his magnetokinesis streaming through hers(theirs), both subsiding under Hive's(their) guidance.

She cannot tell how long it takes for her to remember where her particular body is, or how to use any sense other than the psionic and magnetic ones. There are tears in her eyes and on Erik's shirt where her face is pressed to his chest. She disentangles herself from her father(?!) and puts weight experimentally on the leg she had been favoring. No pain. It was some other leg that broke, somewhere else. Her mind is clear and serene, her body incongruously shaky, but within the preternatural calm that incongruity is simply a curious fact. Later, she's sure, this is going to be traumatic, but right now they must see to the wounded.

<< Daiki? >> Though she doesn't have the skill to look for him within them, she knows that Taylor does. << (are that kind of telepath now) >> That kind of telepath. She squeezes Hive's shoulder. << Come back (he's not gone) We're safe (nope) Please come back (we love you) >> While some part of her is whispering to Hive, the rest is already moving away, scanning the aftermath of the chaos and telling her(them)self what they needed to do about it. << Find first aid kits (triage) Call for medics (did any phones survive) Get Erik the fuck out of here (dad?!) Deal with that later >>

For a moment, with Polaris in his embrace and their fields aligned, there’s a sense of relief trying to cut through everything else, that whatever else happens here, he will not lose another daughter. Erik squeezes her tight against his chest, the sudden increase in his power palpable in the barrage of metal around them.

Then he is within and without his body all at once, he is Erik and Max and Magneto and Hive and Taylor and the café patrons and a student in Washington Square park and a construction worker in Brooklyn and so many thousand others, suddenly so large and so small. The forest focuses him here, this patch of minds that are their people, the people he has sworn to fight for long before many of them were born. Focuses him on the bright guiding light of Polaris’s mind, letting the rest of Erik’s trauma-fears bleed away while retaining and expanding his('their') dedication to her to everyone in Evolve.

<< we don’t want this >> The message Hive imparts lies heavy on Erik’s power. As the storm clears Erik can take in the devastation — perhaps not with all the clarity that this was, moreso than others, his doing, yet.

In the calm, the part of them that is Erik is -- well. They feel cold, not from the ice melting on the floor but in the expanse of forest-that-is-Hive, perturbed by an ingrained sense that everything should be warmer. With knowledge that is Not Just Hive’s, Erik wanders the forest. Taking a peek at his young fan cowering by a wall and gently suggesting they move before the thing that kills them is not Magneto at all, but the light fixture struggling to remain ceiling bound above him. Pointing out to Polaris-them the other places to move people from most urgently, showing her with their joint eyes how to spot where the inner walls are most likely to fail. Underneath, attempting to search their network (with a growing sense of awe) for his Brothers — for the sake of their people he must abandon them here.

The relief and gratitude that fill them when Hive quiets the storm is short-lived. << Dai >> is the thought that fills their minds, urgent and worried. << (that kind of telepath) >> comes with a distinct outward push. Psionic feelers unfurl like long tentacles, questing both through their mindscape and beyond it , in a determined search that only ends in an antiseptic-smelling clinic bathroom, arms curling around and into one quietly hyperventilating very different kind of magnetic figure.

It's then, only, that Taylor eases back into the feel of them, the them of them, the << what the fuck >> << (we're Magneto now) >> sheer unbridled power of them. Polaris's mental checklist is starting to resolve itself, around the room; un- or less- hurt patrons beginning, with a calm that was not there just moments before, to take stock of the people around them, help identify the injured and move those who can move to a relative safety. None of them, at least, seem to be bothered by or even notice the deft telepathic nudges guiding their newly clear-headed conduct.

In his part of their mind he is trying (unsuccessfully, in a shared mind) to pretend he did not notice the outpouring of trauma that had just recently come from Erik, some awkward respect for privacy butting up against an even more awkward impulse to give the Master of Magnetism a hug. << Cops won't fuck with us for a hot minute, >> is what comes up instead of hug; in their wide-cast mental awareness, now, the wail of many police sirens is highlit, en route to the many calls for aid from around the sphere of chaos but all, for Mystery Reasons, choosing to give this block a berth.

He is slipping away, now, wounded arms held close to his body as he disappears to retrieve Evolve's (well stocked) first aid kits. << Don't call for him, >> he advises Polaris, << he already think he here. Just -- >> The part of them that is Taylor is slipping, with this explanation -- not away but simply not pronounced as he leans in, instead, to the sharp-minded sharp-tongued feel of Hive, into his rock-steady reliability, into the myriad trusts he holds and does not betray, always-cranky but always unselfish, into his grief and his anger, << (into Flicker, etched forever into their identity, too) >>, into taking refuge and giving refuge and the solace/stress of understanding anattā with such an intimately fluid existence. << (be him) >>

Harmonizing with Taylor's compassion but unbound by his hesitation, Polaris completes their impulse and wraps Erik in a (voluntary) hug. There's no clash of fields this time, no loss of control, just a pulse of raw power through briefly meshed lines of force. They're also not going to deal with that just yet, though wary enough of unpredictable powers that she physically goes to fetch a kit from Taylor when he reemerges. Her impulse to hug him is stayed by the wounds covering his arms, and she returns to their triaging instead.

<< (be him) >> She doesn't feel as clumsy as she expects, following Taylor's instruction and example, and then that isn't surprising anymore. The fear of losing Hive isn't gone, exactly, but it's blossoming into an awareness of them beyond the wrecked cafe, not just glimpses of thoughts but of selves. They do not find Hive, are no longer looking for him, and there's a distant sense they're doing something correctly when they find DJ, already them as well. Her breath catches in sheer ineffable awe at who they are, but her hands remain steady and gentle as she helps another one of them up off the debris-strewn floor.


There's a determined pushing forward at the periphery of their awareness, focused psionic feelers like tentacles stretched and writhing through the Saturday afternoon panic in intent quest. One more quietly-panicking mind among the myriad would probably not be so very noticeable if not for the groundswell of concern, relief, love, that accompanies finding it, wrapping it tight, pulling it in to be them and be sheltered by them. << motherfucker >> tumbles over, fierce and worried enough to briefly eclipse the background pain and fear and chaos still buried somewhere within them, << Who we need to smack down? >>

The mental forest-scape that is them is growing at once darker and so, so, so much brighter, trees blooming in too-vivid technicolor even as they twist more surreal, odd fae shadows lurking in the underbrush, unearthly flowers that snap hungry petals. Through their farflung aerial roots a light is piercing: sunny, bright, but not lending much warmth at this exact just-woke-up-in-a-panic moment. The questions that brim over, in bright imagery rather than words (-- Hive!Prime, his permanently too-skinny form withering away as a host of discordant plant life grows itself violently up through his body -- Evolve starting to collapsing in on the screaming crowd within but not succeeding, walls held up by shimmering translucent shielding -- thick crowds of police scattered through the neighborhood and Erik slipping invisibly by them --) do not bear that panic, but only a steadily assessing info-gathering: << (we're too big/can we prune before we are lost) >> << (still danger? need backup?) >> << (need an escape?) >>

The risk, there, if the situation is dire enough to need in-the-flesh assistance from this particular corner goes unstated -- they all, of course, already know it.

There's another moment of terror suspended in oddly desolate tranquility from a mind that, however briefly, feels them coming and braces dully for the worst. "Ostie--" hissed aloud and silently << --Hive! (Dai) >> In the next moment the terror is gone, surrendered to irrelevance in their vastness. In its place the air pressure drops sharp and ominous, a soft rustle of leaves as they get ready to head out.

A different (same, now) moment of panic is gone in the sure knowledge of immediate safety (again), no more others near or strong enough to tear them apart. Somewhere else in them, there all along, some other them stirs awake, fierce and protective. << {No one. It was an accident.} >> They don't need to think it in words but for the habit of doing so for a different (same, now) kind of telepath. The memory of the crash and the ensuing riot unfurls through them in a flash. << {A kid. He's hurt bad. Kitty's with him. At Mendel.} >>

In response to the image-questions (or maybe just on top of each inquiry, the logic of call and answer muddy in the expanse of them) there is a flash of what-is: the calm triaging occurring in the café now, the wide berth the police are giving the block for the moment (one of them still mapping escape routes — a little less urgent, now, than they had a moment before), the warmth of Polaris’s hand on one of their shoulders. This answering part of them is new to them yet ancient, feeling around their forest with curiosity and caution. << {Will the boy live?} >> Did they know Yiddish, before? Now they do, and always have. They turn over the crash memory once, twice, aligning it with another of a meeting interrupted.

The music swelling through the trees starts out discordant, a terrified jangling of high strings and tense nerves that spills (rattly) (anxious) across the mental link. Bracing for the worst, searching for the worst, when answers begin to come through with no body count attached the tune changes on a dime, an almost whiplash-quick shift into a symphony equally agitating in its own way, powerful and insistent in its almost-frenetic outpouring of energy into all of them.

Somewhere — across the city and yet immediately here — they are laughing, an almost hysterical edge in the relief.

And here, now, hands full of soap suds and attention lifting from the plate they’ve been scrubbing off, just an idly curious flex of a muscle that should be there and yet is just out of reach: << magnet powers? 🤯 😈 >> slides into: << 🚫 magnet powers 😞 >> The disappointment is short-lived. They'd have had to do dishes by hand anyway.

The lightning-quick processing happening over here would be too quick and disjointed to easily follow if they were some other kind of telepath, but now they are them and process the deluge of identity-thought-feel-info as if it were second nature, as if it were barely a strain. They’ve searched for the answer and found it almost the moment the question is asked — << broken leg, will live >> and are reflexively already beginning to pare the chaff away from their network (although not before, almost unconsciously, urging several cops just that much farther away; almost unconsciously highlighting in clear knowledge-feel a quiet path through and away from the chaos zone.)

These things happen with barely an effort, something familiar here, intimately, about the vastness of them: this is a sea they are used to swimming. Brighter than this, more intent than this, a rush of concern and love and fury (this last turned over, acknowledged, then shelved away as Not Currently Useful). In their minds Polaris registers dissonantly as girlfriend, as wife, as home and a devastating reminder of some other home all at once; Hive!Prime as partner, as lover, as a shared half of their soul, and they are fighting the protective-possessive urge to leave their current prayer meeting and be there. Instead, the conscious thought that resolves is wry, amused: << so it went well, then? >>

<< {oh my fucking god} >> this rises from two different parts of their selves in a unison that transcends the hive; there is a distinct feeling that these mindvoices might well echo each other even if they weren't currently psionically bound. Then splitting into overlapping curiousities, one skeptical-amused, one with a deep concern underlying sharp incredulity: << {you(we??) all are fucking?} >> << (upgrade-model-Flicker?) >> << {that is a terrible idea} >> << {is Magneto your(our) dad now} >> << (always been our dad dumbass) >>

There is a part of them that is humming like struck metal even without 'magnet powers', the knowing-feeling-map of escape tucked away in a box made with/for/by a different kind of telepath << {what kind of telepath are we} >> quiet under everything else and quickly distracted by the blur of girlfriend-wife-partner-lover. A pair of aged, callused hands sets down an injured teen with a little less care than they intended on the sidewalk, interrupted as they are by a sense of << ?!?!?! >>

They start awake to the most beautiful symphony, but can't quite decide whether they're still dreaming. Physical space seems to have been replaced with information. Or people. Or both. << Drugs? Could definitely be drugs. Drugs, or Hive is having a really weird hookup. Or still dreaming. Duh. >> They start to blink their eyes open, straining to listen for -- is that listening? No, that's a...pillow? So drugs, probably. << (my housemate, his polycule, and Magneto comma the Master of Motherfucking Magnetism walk into a café and the walls come tumbling down) >> Yeah no. Definitely dreaming. They turn over, curl tighter into their pile of fleece blankets, drifting back to much- needed sleep to the most beautiful symphony...

There's been a slow unfurling of aurorae through the fairytale foliage, not only visible but brighter in the wan sunlight. They're feeling out their far-flung borders. A part of them curls around DJ in bright elegant lines of force, protective and possessive, aching for a home they lost and aching, too, for a home they've found. << could've gone worse >> comes just slightly gruff. They do not pull away from their own startled non-question. << (it's complicated) (טאטע) (dad) >> Their voice is a thousand overlapping whispers of the same words. << maybe we should have done that the other way around, though >>

They're not quite sure what's going on, but pretty sure Hive is involved. Their pen stops, hovering above the page where a stately old church(?) is taking shape. Slips their tiny computer from a pocket. Switches it from one hand to the other. Settles on the left. Swipes out a text startlingly fast: Hey. {Do we need help? If so we're here. Anytime.} Their thumb hesitates. Signs the message one uncertain painstaking letter at a time. Sends and returns to their drawing. Doesn't put away the intelligent telephone yet. Just in case.

More << !?!?! >> now, muted and less distracting to the parts of them still finishing evacuating the last passed-out folks from the cafe. They turn over their (now breathtakingly expansive) vocabulary for a definition of << polycule >> on one thread of thought, another reshaping << ba/טאטע/dad >> into <<con gái/טאָכטער/daughter >> into << con cái/ קינדער/children >> into << משפחה/family >>, the reminder-ache-longing of home resonating as a deep thrum under the music of the forest-that-is-them. Reaches for their pen briefly before recognizing it as belonging to the wrong set of their hands, the urge to capture this fleeting moment of family before its ripped away strong but restrained. A faint sense that this-them couldn't draw this, either, that charcoal and pen would fail to capture this (self?)-portrait -- the tree of life is the forest-that-is-them, faces arising from budding flowers at the nodes, the them-that-is-DJ-Hive-Polaris tucked firmly among the roots of the them-that-is-parent. The image shifts away, and their mind-voice says, instead, faintly amused: << we didn't get very far, did we? >>