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Ashes In The Wind
An Elseworld's style X-men Story
J. A. C. Delaney, 1996
Aletys Forrester (Lee to her friends) gazed out across the vast expanse of deep blue ocean that surrounded the good ship Arcadia. This was what she loved the most about owning her own fishing vessel. Sure, the pay might suck, the crew might be surly and her profession might be slandered but all that was secondary. Out here, with just the wind and the waves, she could be almost alone with nature. Here she was the master of her own destiny and that of her crew, facing the indomitable will of nature. Here she could almost be happy.
It was on a day like this not so long ago that she had seen a man drifting in the water. He had been covered in some form of mail which was all that had kept him alive in the face of a hungry shark. At the time she had been on the rebound from the X-men's charismatic leader Scott Summers. The last thing she was looking for was another man to break her heart. And yet she had found him. Magneto, the master of magnetism and mutant overlord had been the man drifting helpless in the warm ocean currents.
It had not been an easy relationship. She had encountered him as an enemy when he had held the world hostage with his magnetic powers. He considered all humans to be suspect at best and mortal enemies at worst. But they had grown beyond that and learned to love each other by stressing what they had in common. Sure he might be the most powerful mutant on Earth, but his heart had called him to the same things that hers did. They were both natural leaders by necessity rather than inclination and they both loved the wild and untamed areas of the Earth.
She smiled for a moment, wondering if things had worked out differently if she might have fulfilled a girlhood dream and gotten him to take her in to space. Yes, it might have been wonderful between them, but life had intervened and made things impossible. He had made a promise to an old friend and become headmaster of a school for gifted youngsters. She had neglected her boat too long and had to return to the high seas. She had waited for him to offer to bring her with him to Westchester county where they could have lived together. She wouldn't have minded retiring the Arcadia and sailing a yacht out of Boston when she missed the sea. But he never offered. After that time and distance had drove them apart. They both had responsibilites they were loathe to abandon and so their life together had ended. Not so much with a bag as with a whimper.
She continued to watch the gentle rocking of the waves and inhaled the sweet smell of salt on the ocean. It seemed that all of the relationships I her life were jinxed. She sighed and got up; time enough for wool-gathering when the catch was in. She turned around and was confronted with a horrifying sight.
The very man she had been thinking of was hovering there about a foot above the deck of the Arcadia. He was dressed in the blood red armour he had worn during his days as a villian. His face was cloaked in shadow but his eyes glowed red inside his helmet even in the bright sun of an Atlantic afternoon.
"Hello, Lee, it has been some time since we last spoke."
"Magnus? What are you doing here?"
"I came to speak to you. It seemed the . . . right thing to do under the circumstances." Magneto said in a voice like rocks grinding.
"Do you have to hover like that? You're making me nervous."
"I'm sorry. That wasn't my intention." Magneto lowered himself to the deck. As he did so, a man stepped out of the cabin with a shotgun.
"Manuel!" Lee shouted. "He's a friend." From the pale look on Manuel's face it was obvious he recognized the costume of the Master of Magnetism. Magneto turned and faced Manual and the blood drained from Manuel's face. Nobody was ever prepared for the sheer force of magneto's personality or for the raw elemental power that he wielded. With a single gesture the shotgun was torn from Manuel's grip and flung out across the ocean. The man fled back into the cabin with a gasp of terror.
"This isn't the way I wanted it to be." Magneto lamented. He gestured and a ball of magnetic force enveloped the two of them and began to carry them away from the Arcadia.
"What is this all about, Magneto? I don't appreciate being manhandled like this. If you have come to talk then talk." Lee realized her tone was more bitter than she had intended.
"So, even to you, I am now the villian. Perhaps it is no more than I deserve after what I have done and what I have become."
"What are you talking about, Magnus?"
"Listen to me, Lee, and listen carefully. There is a great evil abroad in the world and if it finds you it might try to use you against me. I still bear some vestige of good will towards you and it would be unfortunate if something were to happen to you."
"Unfortunate if something were to happen to _me_? What are you talking about, Magnus? And what is this about a 'vestige of good will'? In case you forgot, buster, I'm the woman you are screwing. I hope you bear me a damn sight more than a vestige of good will!" Lee fumed at Magneto.
"Perhaps I chose my words poorly . . . "
"Poorly? That is the understand of the month! What has happened to you to make you so cold and distant? This isn't like you at all, Magnus!" Lee felt emotion twisting in her; it was amazing how much she still cared for this man and how much his seeming indifference was hurting her.
"Perhaps no more than what was inevitable. The villian reverting to type. Charles was wrong to trust me and I was wrong to think I could change. It is a stronger Magneto that my people need, not the follower of some idealistic dreamer!"
"Don't give me that BS! I know you a lot better than that!"
"Do you? Do you really?" Magneto began to glow with power. "I grew up in a concentration camp and I have fought a war against genocide my whole life. What can you know about what it is to be _me_."
"Don't pretend you are the only one who has ever suffered, Magnus. We all have our crosses to bear."
"DO YOU UNDERSTAND NOTHING! Don't you see, it is coming back again . . . it is all coming back again." Magneto went from a terrifying rage to tears in mere moments.
"What's coming back again? For heaven's sake, Magnus, haven't we been through enough together for you to be straight with me instead of playing games." Lee embraced the sobbing Magneto.
"Back in New York . . . at the Hellfire Club . . . I met him. He was returning to his old haunts. From what I could find in Charles' records about him, this is a power base of old for him. He was always the puppet master . . . the Shadow King. The others gave in quickly. He fed on their lusts and their greed and they became his slaves. Even Frost who might have fought him was seduced by him."
"So a villian has captured the Inner Circle of the Hellfire club. Listen to me, Magnus, we can find a way to overcome this. Together."
"You don't understand. I'm not strong enough to beat him. I haven't felt this helpless since Anya died or the flames of Auschwitz. And you know what? He is going to bring it all back and I can't stop him from doing so. I paid a price to escape with my life and will free that still causes me to shudder."
"Listen to me, Magneto, and listen good. It doesn't matter what it is that we are going to be facing we are going to find a way to bear it. Together, you hear me, together!" Lee looked him in the eyes and her sheer force of personality quieted him down.
"There is something else you need to know."
"I have been . . . unfaithful to you." For a second Lee gaped in confusion and then felt a fist of ice squeezing her heart.
"That doesn't matter." she lied, "What matters is dealing with the crisis at hand." She firmly embraced the Master of Magnetism even though she was screaming inside at his revelation. She would deal with it at a better time. "Come on, Magnus, let's go home."
<An Island in the Bermuda Triangle>
Lee hated to leave her ship behind but both Manuel and Jeff were competent sailors who would get her home safely. Magneto had fallen asleep almost as soon as they had arrived. She watched him as he tossed and turned, looks of horror appearing on his face. She had thought that he was over these nightmare episodes. What exactly had happened to change that?
She wandered over to the computer he had insisted be installed her. For once she was grateful for this technological marring of the natural beauty of the island. She turned the computer on and went to the personal files search routine. She typed in the words he had given her. Shadow King. With dawning horros she read the sick, awful story of Amhal Farouk and his twisted half-life. He had been killed by Charles Xavier (imagine Charles killing someone!) back in Cairo but he had survived to become some sort of Astral entity. He had possessed Karma of the New Mutants but driven forth. After that there were no records of him. A masterclass telepath in at least Xavier's league and one who wouldn't hold back, no wonder Magneto was nervous. And if he had taken the time to psionically control a large number of followers . . . or even worse come up with a way to enhance the rudimentary emotional parasitism he had shown in the second encounter woth Xavier. There he had run a gladitor school to feed off of the pain and suffering of the fighters as well as the sick lusts of the crowd. She shuddered at the implications.
It was a war she was facing. Nothing made Magneto that scared without good cause. She stared into the darkness and wondered who was the woman who had taken her place in Magneto's bed. Was she a mutant or a human. Young or old. Rich or poor. Whoever she was, Lee hated her.
"You're getting old, Lee." she muttered to herself. To stand by this man after all that had happened between them was something Lee would never have done in her headstrong youth. But something about this man compelled her, and she had to admit she loved him.
The question was, did he still love her?