Sunday, December 23, 2012



This week an HIV report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave us some bad news — HIV infections among young gay and bisexual men rose 22 percent between 2008 and 2010.

During that same period, the number of new infections among all gay and bi men rose 12 percent. Now gay and bi guys represent 63 percent of all new HIV infections in the U.S., with 29,925 gay and bi men newly infected in 2010 alone — that's roughly the entire population of Helena, Montana.

Of course, we already knew about our high numbers, which is why we asked your opinion about the cause of our community's high infection rates.

Your top five answers were as follows:
- 21 percent claimed that current medications make living with HIV seem like no big deal.
- 18 percent said "We need a national HIV awareness campaign to remind people of the continuing epidemic."
- 16 percent said that that America's poor sexual education standards were the culprit.
- 10 percent blamed bareback porn encouraging men to have unprotected sex.
- Nine percent said that drugs like meth and alcohol cause regular disregard for safe-sex.
Another 11 percent blamed a general sense of nihilism for the rise in HIV rates.

On World AIDS Day last month, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton laid out a five-point plan to raise an "AIDS-free generation," but she didn't mention too many specifics.

And that's where we come in.

Using your poll feedback, we thought of five ways to counteract the causes and attitudes driving up our HIV rates.

Our suggestions would take a lot of community coordination to implement, but aren't we worth it?


Basically, HIV meds have turned the disease into a manageable illness, giving it the non-lethal allure of something like diabetes.

But even though people with HIV are living longer, the financial and physical costs of HIV meds can still take a toll on HIV-positive people lives over the long haul.

An effective PSA campaign could highlight the cost of living with HIV as a deterrent to those who think that contracting the disease won't really hurt them.


The last high profile person to disclose their HIV status on the national stage was Magic Johnson in 1991. Since then, it seems that we've only heard about having HIV from reality stars and porn actors.

But perhaps it's time to encourage celebrities to come out of the HIV closet and share their stories alongside other HIV-positive people. The goal would be to share stories on how they got the disease and what they're doing to prevent others from doing the same.

Star power could really help kickstart a national HIV awareness campaign that reminds people that the epidemic isn't over and that preventing its spread helps families, friends and the greater community.


Everyone — no matter your HIV status or sexual orientation — can agree that sex education in American schools sucks.

In the U.S., 38 states don't require public school sexual education and many of those states often push "abstinence only" programs that leave students literally holding their dicks when it comes to preventing diseases and finding sexual health resources.

The LGBT community would do well to team up with other HIV organizations to lobby Congress for a national sexual education curriculum with a stress on disease prevention rather than abstinence.

In addition to that, there should also be an easy-to-use government website of sexual health guidelines that provides the basics about STD prevention and local sexual health resources. It should be nationally accessible to students of all ages with information presented in a straightforward, but age-appropriate way.


Since American sex education sucks so much, most of us end up learning about sex by watching porn. Bareback (or condomless) porn is an undeniable money-maker catering to a fantasy of "sex without barriers."

But most guys don't realize that it's much easier to catch HIV through anal rather than vaginal sex. That's partly because the digestive tract is like a sponge, reguarly absorbing nurients from the foods that pass through it.

It also has lots of blood vessels and tissue far more delicate than the vagina, tissue more prone to injury and bleeding.

In short, anal sex yields much higher rates of HIV transmission than any other types of sex.

Some HIV-positive guys think they can bareback without fear of catching infection, when in reality even poz guys can contract different strains of HIV as well as STDs like syphillis, which can really debilitate an already taxed immune system.

But taking the allure out of bareback sex will take a multi-pronged effort in environments with large gay male populations.

First, we should make sure that every citizen knows where to get free condoms (and how to use them). Second, businesses should promote HIV testing with annual discounts or promotions for customers who get tested on National HIV Testing Day (June 27).

Third, personal sites could start a campaign encouraging users to display their HIV-statuses and discuss safe sex preferences before hooking up.

Lastly, HIV organizations could spearhead a viral ad campaign (no pun intended) warning HIV-positive men about the dangers of bareback sex or portraying unsafe sex as uncool and irresponsible.

The real challenge would be figuring out a way fresh intelligent way to discourage unsafe sex without making sex seem scary or shaming HIV-positive men.


While needle sharing between intravenous drug users newly infect thousands of new people every year, so do tweakers who have unprotected sex on meth.

Meth abuse is an epidemic all its own, as its low costs and rural availability keep young and homeless gays hooked on the drug without many ways of getting un-hooked.

Until we can reform U.S. policy to de-criminalize drugs and treat addiction as a health issue rather than a criminal one, the push against meth has to occur in a multi-pronged community-level strategy that prevents use, closes meth labs, discourages selling and help addicts get sober — a tall order, but doable.

As for needle exchange programs: they work. But we'll need to convince skittish voters and anti-drug legislators to support such programs first, seeing them as public health initiatives rather than ways to promote drug use.

Thank you for reading,
Kyle Phoenix
Thanks and enjoy! You can Like Us on Facebook or Follow Us on Twitter! Don't forget to watch The Kyle Phoenix Show on Channel 56 (Time Warner), 83 (RCN), 34 (Verizon) and the Thursday/Friday 12am/midnight simulcast

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Education: The Power of Concentration By Maria Konnikova from The Kyle Phoenix Blog

A drawing of Sherlock Holmes by
Sidney Paget from 1891 in The Strand Magazine.

The Power of Concentration
Published: December 15, 2012

MEDITATION and mindfulness: the words conjure images of yoga retreats and Buddhist monks. But perhaps they should evoke a very different picture: a man in a deerstalker, puffing away at a curved pipe, Mr. Sherlock Holmes himself. The world’s greatest fictional detective is someone who knows the value of concentration, of “throwing his brain out of action,” as Dr. Watson puts it. He is the quintessential unitasker in a multitasking world.

More often than not, when a new case is presented, Holmes does nothing more than sit back in his leather chair, close his eyes and put together his long-fingered hands in an attitude that begs silence. He may be the most inactive active detective out there. His approach to thought captures the very thing that cognitive psychologists mean when they say mindfulness.

Though the concept originates in ancient Buddhist, Hindu and Chinese traditions, when it comes to experimental psychology, mindfulness is less about spirituality and more about concentration: the ability to quiet your mind, focus your attention on the present, and dismiss any distractions that come your way. The formulation dates from the work of the psychologist Ellen Langer, who demonstrated in the 1970s that mindful thought could lead to improvements on measures of cognitive function and even vital functions in older adults.

Now we’re learning that the benefits may reach further still, and be more attainable, than Professor Langer could have then imagined. Even in small doses, mindfulness can effect impressive changes in how we feel and think — and it does so at a basic neural level.

In 2011, researchers from the University of Wisconsin demonstrated that daily meditation-like thought could shift frontal brain activity toward a pattern that is associated with what cognitive scientists call positive, approach-oriented emotional states — states that make us more likely to engage the world rather than to withdraw from it.

Participants were instructed to relax with their eyes closed, focus on their breathing, and acknowledge and release any random thoughts that might arise. Then they had the option of receiving nine 30-minute meditation training sessions over the next five weeks. When they were tested a second time, their neural activation patterns had undergone a striking leftward shift in frontal asymmetry — even when their practice and training averaged only 5 to 16 minutes a day.

As little as five minutes a day of intense Holmes-like inactivity, and a happier outlook is yours for the taking — though this particular benefit seems to have been lost on Holmes himself, what with his bouts of melancholy and his flirtations with a certain 7 percent solution. A quick survey will show that the paradox is illusory: Holmes is depressed when there is no target for his mental faculties. Give him a project, and balance is restored.

But mindfulness goes beyond improving emotion regulation. An exercise in mindfulness can also help with that plague of modern existence: multitasking. Of course, we would like to believe that our attention is infinite, but it isn’t. Multitasking is a persistent myth. What we really do is shift our attention rapidly from task to task. Two bad things happen as a result. We don’t devote as much attention to any one thing, and we sacrifice the quality of our attention. When we are mindful, some of that attentional flightiness disappears as if of its own accord.

In 2012, researchers led by a team from the University of Washington examined the effects of meditation training on multitasking in a real-world setting. They asked a group of human resources professionals to engage in the type of simultaneous planning they did habitually. Each participant was placed in a one-person office, with a laptop and a phone, and asked to complete several typical tasks: schedule meetings for multiple attendees, locate free conference rooms, write a memo that proposed a creative agenda item and the like. The information necessary to complete those tasks? Delivered as it otherwise would be: by e-mail, through instant messages, over the phone and in person. The list was supposed to be completed in 20 minutes or less.

After the multitasking free-for-all, participants were divided into three groups: one was assigned to an eight-week meditation course (two hours of instruction, weekly); another group didn’t take the course at first, but took it later; and the last group took an eight-week course in body relaxation. Everyone was put through a second round of frenzy.

The only participants to show improvement were those who had received the mindfulness training. Not only did they report fewer negative emotions at the end of the assignment, but their ability to concentrate improved significantly. They could stay on task longer and they switched between tasks less frequently. While the overall time they devoted to the assignment didn’t differ much from that of other groups, they spent it more efficiently. They engaged, on average, in just over 40 discreet “tasks” — test-related behaviors that had a definable start and end time — spending approximately 36 seconds on each, in contrast to the 48 to 50 average tasks attempted by the other groups — with an average of only 30 seconds spent per activity. They also remembered what they did better than the other participants in the study.

The concentration benefits of mindfulness training aren’t just behavioral; they’re physical. In recent years, mindfulness has been shown to improve connectivity inside our brain’s attentional networks, as well as between attentional and medial frontal regions — changes that save us from distraction. Mindfulness, in other words, helps our attention networks communicate better and with fewer interruptions than they otherwise would.

In a 2012 study at Emory University, increased meditation practice was associated with enhanced connectivity between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain involved in attention monitoring and working memory, and the right insula, an area that is associated with how well we can monitor our own feelings and thoughts and that is considered a key waypoint between our two major attention networks, the default and the executive.

Not only could this increased connectivity make us better able to switch between tasks and monitor our own attention, but it is indicative of more effective overall management of our finite attentional resources.

Mindfulness training has even been shown to affect the brain’s default network — the network of connections that remains active when we are in a so-called resting state — with regular meditators exhibiting increased resting-state functional connectivity and increased connectivity generally. After a dose of mindfulness, the default network has greater consistent access to information about our internal states and an enhanced ability to monitor the surrounding environment.

These effects make sense: the core of mindfulness is the ability to pay attention. That’s exactly what Holmes does when he taps together the tips of his fingers, or exhales a fine cloud of smoke. He is centering his attention on a single element. And somehow, despite the seeming pause in activity, he emerges, time and time again, far ahead of his energetic colleagues. In the time it takes old detective Mac to traipse around all those country towns in search of a missing bicyclist in “The Valley of Fear,” Holmes solves the entire crime without leaving the room where the murder occurred. That’s the thing about mindfulness. It seems to slow you down, but it actually gives you the resources you need to speed up your thinking.

The difference between a Holmes and a Watson is, essentially, one of practice. Attention is finite, it’s true — but it is also trainable. Through modifying our practices of thought toward a more Holmes-like concentration, we can build up neural real estate that is better able to deal with the variegated demands of the endlessly multitasking, infinitely connected modern world. And even if we’ve never attempted mindfulness in the past, we might be surprised at how quickly the benefits become noticeable.

Until recently, our 20s were considered the point when our brain’s wiring was basically complete. But new evidence suggests that not only can we learn into old age, but the structure of our brains can continue to change and develop. In 2006, a team of psychologists demonstrated that the neural activation patterns of older adults (specifically, activation in the prefrontal cortex), began to resemble those of much younger subjects after just five one-hour training sessions on a task of attentional control. Their brains became more efficient at coordinating multiple tasks — and the benefit transferred to untrained activities, suggesting that it was symptomatic of general improvement.

Similar changes have been observed in the default network (the brain’s resting-state activity). In 2012, researchers from Ohio State University demonstrated that older adults who scored higher on mindfulness scales had increased connectivity in their default networks, specifically in two of the brain’s major information processing hubs. And while we already know that this kind of increased connectivity is a very good thing, there’s more to these particular results. The precise areas that show increased connectivity with mindfulness are also known to be pathophysiological sites of Alzheimer’s disease.

The implications are tantalizing. Mindfulness may have a prophylactic effect: it can strengthen the areas that are most susceptible to cognitive decline. When we learn to unitask, to think more in line with Holmes’s detached approach, we may be doing more than increasing our observational prowess. We may be investing in a sounder mental future — no matter how old we are.

Thank you for reading,
Kyle Phoenix
Thanks and enjoy! You can Like Us on Facebook or Follow Us on Twitter! Don't forget to watch The Kyle Phoenix Show on Channel 56 (Time Warner), 83 (RCN), 34 (Verizon) and the Thursday/Friday 12am/midnight simulcast

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Relationships: What A Good Man Is Not and the Book on Getting One by Kyle Phoenix

Generally the way the production process works is I produce and host the televised, The Kyle Phoenix Show at the studio late in the week and then review all of the emails and such over the weekend to scan for ideas and reply to people.  It's amazing and wonderful how many people (men and women) who've sent me emails on Facebook and to relating to the concept of a Good Man.  I created it as a riff and as an emblem because it answered what a man was and was relatable 

It kept coming up so much that eventually I just designed a whole book around it.  Good Men for Men, the paperback and E book pulls together all of the questions, information and solutions for how to find, date, keep and love (and receive love) from a Good Man.  I was even able to get the permission of some of my counseling clients, individuals and couples to relate their experiences in detail about sex, money, divergent goals, etc..  There is particular interest from emails in not only what is a Good Man but now asking what does a Good Man  not want? Specifically there are some positions in your life that a Good Man  does not want to occupy.  I've been on dates and lead workshops and read your emails and I've narrowed it down to categories that are verboten

Your Girlfriend
Good Man  is not your besty.  He's not your BFF.  He's not interested in all the latest gossip, television shows, office drama, family politics and shopping dilemmas you might have.  Now yes, of course, a Good Man n is interested in you, perhaps even fascinated but every man or woman needs a best friend, a pack even that they can hang and chatter with.  Often MSM try to turn a man into their new besty, he resists and that's seen as not caring or disloyalty when in fact, he's not interested in being your girlfriend.  In fact you might want to make it a line that's held closer to you that he has to pursue crossing.  That will tell you how much of your romantic relationship can include your normal way of relating to a friend.  You're trying to develop a relationship, based in friendship but with a romantic direction/outcome.

Your Parent
He will like you, he might even love you but he's not interested in raising you.  You must arrive with maturity intact or be working on it.  Managing the vagaries of your life (cell phone, school, work, clothing, manners, etc.) are not a mate's responsibility.  There might be some overlap or assistance but you don't want to be in the position where your immaturity gives a partner so much power that control and love are deeply mixed.  You want instead to be maturing together, to be assisting each other, to be advancing each other whether that be socially, financially, emotionally but you don't want to be identified as the one who shouldn't be left alone at home because you're helpless.  Now a Good Man  might be helpful and protective to you but that's something you allow or let him do, you could do it if he dropped dead in ten minutes.  MSM not having experience in how to verbally negotiate and therefore balance out control, power and responsibility in romantic relationships often allow or encourage their unmet childhood needs to become the predominant issue.  Overspending, staying out/partying without regard or agreement to a partner, pushing all mature responsibility onto a partner because "he's a/the man", doesn't work.

Your Woman or A Woman
Just because you're a homosexual and might truly feel some deep feminine elements around your identity (and scientific research into estrogen in males, the effects upon the brain and sexuality supports those feelings) your "feminine heart" might not be what he was fully expecting or signing up for.  Femininity and feminine men are fantastic, in fact most MSM who subscribe to perfect or the idea of hyper-masculinity, are alone perpetually.  Good Man  accept that you're feminine, they find it amusing, delightful, sexy and something to allow them to care for and protect.  But he didn't sign up to be with your mother, or your auntie or your girlfriend and their female to male drama.  You won't have the same conflicts because of sex/gender, accept it.  There are certain attitudes and thoughts men have that your mother's advice will conflict with---because she's not a man.  MSM make the huge error or trying to be the woman they idolize in a relationship or effeminize a Good Man  who's comfortable with not being emasculated.

Here's a secret, your female friends and relatives who are alone, don't know how to be with a man.  Never trust someone who's dry spell involves the words "years" and is an entirely different sexuality than the relationship you're in.

Your Therapist
He likes you, he might even love you and everyone has issues.  Here is the best advice you will ever receive that will make your relationship viable.  Don't.  Tell.  Him.  Everything.  Biggest mistake ever. Let's do a fun list.  We'll call it, the Issues List.

1. Bad Credit/Money Management Issues
2. Overbearing Mother/Father/Family Issues
3. HIV+/Herpes/STD Issues or You Like To Bareback
4. Violent Ex/Abuse Issues
5. Unemployed/Under-educated Insecurities in Comparison to him
6. Intimacy, Sexual Fears or You've Been a SuperSlut
7. You've been hurt and have Trust Issues
8. Parental Non-Acceptance Issues
9. You did porn years ago
10. You're rich and have trust issues

The fantastic thing about 1 through 10 is you can work all of that in therapy.  The truthful thing is you can't work that out with just a Good Man .  You need a time frame in order to know when to bring things up.  This is where the concept of not being immediately sexual with someone on the first date comes in and limiting the time of a date so that you don't start emotionally vomiting.  You want time to be liked for your wonderful self not seen as someone cute with a lot of problems.
 Think in terms of: 1 Date, 3rd Date, Before You Have Sex, 5th Date, 3 Months, Before You Move in Together, Never, After 1 Year, He Already Knew That.

Love isn't accepting someone for all their faults---it's falling in love with someone and having time to see the incorporation of issues to the one you love.  Love and time buffer the harsh truths of other human beings.  Absolute disclosure destroy intimacy.  Tell your therapist 1 through 10.  Write down on a piece of paper what to talk about and what not to.  There's stuff about a Good Man  you don't know and you might also want to consider that telling him everything upfront and then not dating after a week or two means that there's someone walking around with your dossier...who will tell his friends and family, post it to Facebook, mention it to co-workers, etc.  Give time time.

Your Plaything
Good Man  is generally looking for that someone special,someone who can appreciate all the work he's done on himself and is ready to talk about long term plans and hopes and dreams.  Wanting to hit a bar or two and maybe mess around with him is looking for a plaything, not a real connection.    When you meet a Good Man , he will probably be focused on not only his own life goals but in making a meaningful connection so you have to be ready as well to deal with a good man arriving in your life.  Lots of MSM complain about the lack of Good Man but aren't doing anything to better themselves for when one arrives   It's a way of internalizing shame and homophobia: "I'll complain about discrimination but I don't truly act like I'm worth what I say I deserve.  Thereby a Good Man  will never show up, one proving my misguided point and two, letting me off the hook to actualizing myself/identity."

The point that this all brings together is that one wants to be conscious of one's self and actions when you meet a man.  Not that you're expected to walk on eggshells but you should put your best foot forward and slowly reveal your club foot.  Your interests, hobbies, sparkling personality should be put forward, not your problems or misconceptions.  What makes a Good Man  attracted to you is YOU not all of the other extraneous things around you.  Give him time to enjoy you, to know you, to think you're wonderful and special then slowly talk about your childhood, your life errors, your crazy friends, your messy parents----he's much more likely to want to hang in there.  Ironically true intimacy is the reverse of what we normally do in life---you have to reveal your inner, true self, not the external dramatic stuff first.

Take a look at the book and after you read it, let me know what you think or any additional questions you might have!

Thank you for reading,
Kyle Phoenix
Thanks and enjoy! You can Like Us on Facebook or Follow Us on Twitter! Don't forget to watch The Kyle Phoenix Show on Channel 56 (Time Warner), 83 (RCN), 34 (Verizon) and the Thursday/Friday 12am/midnight simulcast

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Education: A Tyler Perry academic conference applies highbrow criticism to a lowbrow empire

By Nathan Rabin December 10, 2012

Sometimes the secret purpose of academic conferences, roundtables, and symposia seems to be to make whatever subject they’re covering more substantive than it actually is. That particularly applies to academic conferences devoted to seeming pop ephemera, like last year’s University Of Chicago academic conference concerning The Jersey Shore. Part of my attraction to Northwestern University’s Madea’s Big Scholarly Roundtable (subtitle: “Perspectives On The Media Of Tyler Perry”) lies in the seeming incongruity of devoting sober academic analysis to films about a weed-smoking, sass-talking, whupping-delivering old woman played by a man in drag. But it would be a mistake to assume that just because Tyler Perry traffics in lowbrow entertainment that his oeuvre is not worthy of serious criticism or scholarship.

Perry, after all, isn’t just the dominant black commercial filmmaker of our time; he’s the dominant black commercial filmmaker of all time, a one-man industry whose uncanny gift for discerning the emotional needs of his audience has made him a billionaire. Perry has cracked the code of commercial filmmaking like no filmmaker before him, black or white. In 2011, Forbes listed Perry as the highest-paid man in entertainment, having made $130 million in a single year. Perry has figured out a way to crank out modestly budgeted, almost invariably successful films, television shows, and plays at a pace no one else can match. Perry matters. His films matter. His aesthetic matters. His work has radically changed the landscape of black film. But is that a positive or negative development?

By virtue of being an academic conference, Madea’s Big Scholarly Roundtable featured the liberal use of thousand-dollar terms like “hetero-normative,” but the word that reappeared the most was “ambivalence.” The passionate, invested black academics of the conference approached Perry’s fame, work, and cultural significance with profound ambivalence, particularly regarding his extraordinarily problematic treatment of gender. The women in Perry’s films read like a who’s-who of leading black actresses and cultural icons: Maya Angelou, Cicely Tyson, Angela Bassett, Taraji P. Henson, Jill Scott, Sanaa Lathan, Alfre Woodard, and Gabrielle Union. He regularly gives meaty roles to gifted black actresses, but it comes at a steep cost. While it’s great that a popular and prolific filmmaker casts strong black women in lead roles, it’s also unfortunate, many at the conference held, that those high-profile roles invariably center films whose sexual politics remain stuck in the distant past.

Madea’s Big Scholarly Roundtable began with a screening of Madea’s Family Reunion, followed by a spirited group discussion and lunch. Then there was an afternoon screening of The Family That Preys, followed by an even more spirited discussion. The symposium concluded with an epic two-and-a-half-hour panel discussion where the formidable brain trust took dead aim at the toxic gender dynamics at the core of Perry’s oeuvre.

The roundtable put Perry’s meteoric ascent in a specific cultural context, positing Perry as an explicitly Southern phenomenon (Atlanta, specifically) rooted equally in the black church and an urban theater circuit. The massive commercial success of Perry’s 2005 film, Diary Of A Mad Black Woman, shocked white audiences, to whom Perry was a complete unknown, and a questionably talented one at that. But Miriam Petty, an assistant professor of radio/TV/film and African-American studies who put together the roundtable, pointed out that the massive mansion where Diary takes place actually belonged to Perry, who was already a huge name in historically black spaces: the church, the barbershop, beauty shops, and an urban theater circuit far off the radar of white America.

Before he took his shtick to the big screen, Perry diligently cultivated these bases. Stories abound of churches that would send multiple buses to transport parishioners to Perry’s wildly successful, genre-mashing plays. Perry continues to cater to these bases. According to the academics at the symposium, the mogul sent commercials to churches explicitly promoting Why Did I Get Married? as a form of ministry. But what exactly is Perry preaching to his vast and devoted audience? Perry is a true auteur whose obsessions and preoccupations recur from film to film, the most persistent and maddening being a profound fear and distrust of strong, educated, ambitious black women. Perry demonizes black businesswomen just as blatantly and unapologetically as he deifies older matriarchs like Madea or the saintly characters played by Alfre Woodard in The Family That Preys and Maya Angelou and Cicely Tyson in Madea’s Family Reunion.

There is a moment in The Family That Preys so telling that it was brought up repeatedly as the apogee of Perry’s need to humiliate women with the gall to flaunt their education and ambition. The film casts Sanaa Lathan as an ambitious married businesswoman wholly devoid of redeeming qualities and the faintest semblance of humanity. She’s pure evil, a heartless corporate striver who verbally emasculates and cuckolds her salt-of-the-earth construction-worker husband Rockmond Dunbar, all while squirreling away a small fortune in financial gifts from evil boss Cole Hauser, who is both her longtime lover and the secret father of a child Dunbar is dim-witted enough to assume his own. To add to the humiliation, Dunbar works for Hauser, and Lathan is so evil that she encourages Hauser to fire Dunbar so that she’ll have one more reason to leave him. (Though it’s never particularly clear why she hasn’t left him already, given her raging contempt for him and his basic decency.)

Dunbar proves staggeringly oblivious to his wife’s infidelity until she comes right out and proudly boasts that Hauser is her man and the father of her child. At this point, the otherwise kindly and meek Dunbar backhands his wife with such force that she topples over the counter of the diner her mother (Woodard) runs. The entire film has been building to this moment, when the evil, castrating Lathan pushes her husband so far that he has no option but to explode with violence. In the packed theaters where the panelists first saw The Family That Preys Together, this climactic moment of domestic violence inspired responses ranging from enthusiastic applause to standing ovations. In Lathan, Perry created a character so transparently, unambiguously loathsome that audiences didn’t just welcome any comeuppance; they literally applauded a man smacking the shit out of a woman. This defining moment represents a core dynamic of Perry’s films taken to its ugly, violent extreme.

One of the feminist critics on the panel pointed out that in a book credited to Madea, Perry writes that women can get away with saying things that men simply can’t, including statements that reinforce the patriarchy. If Madea’s speeches were delivered by a man not in drag, they’d easily come off as arrogant and chauvinistic, but put them in the mouth of a sassy old woman and they suddenly register as homespun, commonsense wisdom with an unmistakable Christian bent that further serves as cover for the regressive, sexist messages at the heart of Perry’s films. Part of what makes Perry’s work so fascinatingly messy is that it uses a weed-smoking, ex-con smartass to reinforce retrograde notions of conventional morality and gender roles. The panelists strongly believed that, behind her faux-outrageousness, Madea is a shill for the patriarchy, an unlikely social conservative whose prescription for every problem is a nuclear family that’s led by a strong man, supported by a woman who knows her place, with kids who better behave lest they end up on the receiving end of one of Madea’s liberally distributed ass-whuppings.

For Daniel O. Black, a novelist and professor of English, the heart of Perry’s appeal lies in his work’s aspirational aspect. For him, working-class black audiences flock to Perry’s movies to experience “two hours of what they know they won’t actually have.” It’s wish-fulfillment writ large, an opportunity for audiences to lose themselves in a world where everyone is beautiful (especially the men; Perry objectifies the men in his movies much more aggressively than the women), no problem is so severe it can’t be solved by a few sage words from Madea, and clearly defined good invariably triumphs over clearly defined evil.

No scene better epitomizes that wish-fulfillment than the preposterously over-the-top climax toMadea’s Family Reunion: a gaudy wedding fantasia involving beautiful people dressed as cherubs suspended dramatically from the ceiling, a seemingly life-sized re-creation of the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop, a poetry recitation from supporting player Maya Angelou, a song from Johnny Gill, and, most hilariously, a pair of muscular, well-oiled hunks dressed as angels. As quipped by E. Patrick Johnson, a professor of Performance and African-American Studies at Northwestern, the scene represents a “Pandora’s Box of queerness” from which not even the most hetero-normative of institutions—the straight Christian marriage, complete with vows in which the bride reveres her groom as “breathtaking reflection of God’s heart”—can escape intact.

There’s nothing wrong with selling seductive fantasies of beauty, wealth, and triumph over adversity to audiences that have historically been ignored or ridiculed by Hollywood, but why do these fantasies have to be so sexist and regressive? The panelists at the final panel viewed Perry as a figure stuck in the past, a fundamentally conservative pop icon still holding on to outdated ideas about strong women, family structures, and gender roles.

So while Perry has taken some intriguing chances over the past few years, from Alex Cross to For Colored Girls to Good Deeds, his attitudes toward women stubbornly refuse to evolve or change. One of the panelists volunteered to serve as a consultant on Perry’s films, but the mogul has become a massive commercial force specifically because his morality remains rooted in a conservative black church that’s stubbornly resistant to change. There are hundreds of millions of dollars and millions of loyal fans implicitly telling Perry that he’s right and should keep on playing Madea until he’s an actual senior citizen; why should he listen to highbrow critics and feminist and queer academics telling him he’s wrong? Madea’s Big Scholarly Roundtable began dry and academic, but grew in intensity and outrage until a glorious crescendo of the closing panel, where the academics’ visceral and intellectual criticism bordered on righteous rage. Will Perry ever change or evolve? Will his fans allow him to? Will a market he has mastered allow him to? The relatively modest grosses of his more challenging projects are not encouraging.

Perry has an unparalleled gift for crafting narratives that resonate with his core audience. That extends to his own story, a Horatio Alger-like tale that catapulted him from a sexually abused, homeless high-school dropout to the pinnacle of wealth, fame, and achievement. Perry attributes his success to God’s intervention. By walking in faith, Perry went from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high. That faith is the cornerstone of both his films and his massive commercial success, but the interpretation of faith his films have offered again and again keep him attached to a regressive take on gender, sexuality, and family—and suspended in a state of seemingly permanent creative stasis.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Culture: Total Three Martin Luther King Projects: Now HBO & Oprah Developing Miniseries from Deadline

Total Three Martin Luther King Projects: Now HBO & Oprah Developing Miniseries

EXCLUSIVE: In their first substantial project since moving from ABC to HBO, Harpo Films’ Oprah Winfrey and Kate Forte are teaming with HBO to mountAmerica: In the King Years, a 7-hour miniseries about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr based on Taylor Branch’s celebrated book trilogy.

Robert Schenkkan, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of The Kentucky Cyclewho most recently wrote four episodes of HBO’s 10-part mini The Pacific, will write seven hour-long episodes. HBO acquired rights to Branch’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Parting The Waters, as well as Pillar of Fire and At Canaan’s Edge.

The HBO-Harpo mini means that, 42 years after his 1968 assassination, King isnow the focal point of three ambitious projects.

Precious director Lee Daniels is gaining traction on the drama Selma. The film has struggled with budget, but I hear it’s gaining steam for a fall production start on a $22 million budget, with Harvey Weinstein circling as the missing piece of the financing puzzle. The Weinstein Co. would join Pathe as financier on a film Plan B and Christian Colson are producing. David Oyelowo (MLK), Liam Neeson (Lyndon Baines Johnson), Hugh Jackman (playing Jim Clark, one of the sheriffs who arrested the civil rights leaders) and others are setting aside time for the fall shoot. (Given Oprah’s ferocious support of Precious, it is interesting to see she and Daniels in rival MLK projects).

The third MLK project is a DreamWorks biopic that Ronald Harwood is writing, with Steven Spielberg among the producers. DreamWorks made a deal with the King estate that reportedly gives it access to exclusive papers and speeches but I’m told that HBO will be using many of the same resources for its mini.

Harpo’s Forte said that the prospect of turning all three Branch books into a mini was a key reason that Harpo left its exclusive deal with ABC in late 2008 to make minis and films for HBO.

“People have tried telling this story using Parting the Waters, but nobody had all three books until now and that was incredibly enticing for us,” she said. “This really is America in the King years, from 1954-68. Dr. King is the most dominant character, but there are so many other players who figure prominently. That includes his relationships with two presidents, JFK and Lyndon Johnson, his relationship with Coretta Scott King and his family, Bobby Kennedy, Stokely Carmichael and SNCC. This will cover the freedom rides, the Birmingham campaign, Selma, and the poor people’s march on Washington that he was organizing when he was killed. It will be the seminal Civil Rights era film. We thought Robert’s work on The Pacific was incredible and he can hit the ground running.”

He will have to, as the intention is to begin shooting next year.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Education: GEDs, the New Street Epidemic, Part 1 by Kyle Phoenix

I've worked for several GED programs over the years as a volunteer and as an employee; my role being everything from teacher to program director and I've watched an educational game being played over and over.  On one hand the intention is to help teenagers/adults complete their high school education who may've been interrupted or come from a foreign land and need equivalency school work to meet our school standards.  On the other hand a program has to be paid for, teachers and materials----operating expenses.  Unfortunately such expenses tend to undermine the commitment to the first educational intention.

What unfortunately allows a level of disconnect from a funding point of view is that the student body, about fifty percent, are disconnected from education.  The art and interest in learning is something that isn't easy to do when you've separated yourself from school.  People from the outside, believe school is rote, books, lessons but in fact it is a direct skill set that is reinforced over a decade.  We then use that skill set, those tools to focus our attention to manage and absorb information on deeper and deeper levels.  If however you've stopped at some point and your parents aren't educated beyond a certain level, it's near impossible to progress.

The demands of work, parole officers, children, Welfare, co-dependent family and relationships makes the sudden demands of 10 to 20 hours of school a week overwhelming.  Top all of this off with intellectual capabilities of the students which fall into three categories: so little formal educational that they're functioning as low as at a 3rd grade level---I've had students in their 20s to 70s who fall into this criteria; then there are adults who were interrupted for a variety of reasons and with some application and dedication can generally get through---learning that application and dedication takes time; then there's a huge number of those who are gifted but the two previous interrupting dimensions has occurred and the measurement of giftedness in poverty, especially educational poverty, doesn't exist as a formalized training so most teachers can't recognize it.  In many ways the education of the Interrupted looks like a level of social work because the issues that prevent them from completing school or learning the skill set are generally not school program related.  This need for a more comprehensive learning program is what leads to programs being more obsessed with it's own funding than progressing students.

I've been at the programs that have really extended themselves to try and fill the holes in people's lives.  To provide social events, graduation ceremonies, trips, tutorial services and the like to try and recreate the high school experience.  I've watched this both work and not work.  To recreate the high school experience for people whom high school didn't work out for is often encouraging the students to regress emotionally to where they failed and start having emotional issues.  Fist fights, students using drugs in classrooms, thefts, it's not a good thing.  At the same time there are some adults who genuinely need and can benefit immensely from a congenial atmosphere.

On the other end of the spectrum are programs that make about $2500 a head per student of State/private funding by the 2nd week of a semester.  So they look at how to retain students for at least 4 weeks of a 10 week semester.  Two weeks are spent on "orientation", which is really the compulsory filling out of forms to proof to the State that people exist to insure payment.  The educational classes generally try and run 2 to 4 nights, at 2-3 hours a class.  Compare that with standard public school (I generally give my students ths full below breakdown to help them understand why we need them to read/study/do homework away from the program):
  • GED Program is at max 10 hours a week.
  • Public school is 40 hours per week.
  • GED Program is about 520 if it went 52 weeks; most go about 20 weeks a year--making it about 200 hours.
  • Public school goes 9 months or 36 weeks x 40 hours=1400+ hours a year

That means most GED program are 7 times less time in school than the schooling you may have gotten K thru 12.

Which is why GED programs fail (especially when you incorporate in the concern/greed from the staff over the funding and the students social problems---poverty being the predominant issue with GED students---education follows money or lack thereof.)  In the current design of standard educations it's TIME not the resource of money to materials to teachers that is the first factor in creating successful youth and adult students.

I've been wrestling with this work as part of my Adult Education capstone/thesis, trying new strategies out.  Perfecting old ones.   Over the past 7 years I've taught about 50 individual GED classes at all levels with all racial populations really perfecting what works and doesn't work. I recently started a program/school over now two boroughs really applying some new radical ideas and applications to the work.  We have to solve this problem because it is the racial imbalancer.  Lack of education effects employment and advancement.  Following along with children becoming what their parents are, less educated parents create future drop outs with less education.

NEXT TIME:  Education: GED/Adult Education Epidemic: What Is Education?, Part 2

Thank you for reading,
Kyle Phoenix
Thanks and enjoy! You can Like Us on Facebook or Follow Us on Twitter! Don't forget to watch The Kyle Phoenix Show on Channel 56 (Time Warner), 83 (RCN), 34 (Verizon) and the Thursday/Friday 12am/midnight simulcast

Relationships Are Not 50/50, They're About Manhood by Kyle Phoenix

In response to emails about other TV shows and blogs that ask about relationships and how to balance them.  They'll never be exactly balanced and the desire to have it be 50/50 has more to do with a capitalistic box being forced onto individuals.  You and a partner will not always be comparable in the same areas. One person will make more money, perhaps even doubly so and can't expect the partner making less money to chip in 50% to the rent/mortgage.  A work around to that might be that if someone makes drastically more than the other party is responsible for utilities, cable, food.  Or there might be a time frame where one is in  school or unemployed and that is taken into account for their contribution.  That should mean though that maybe the house is sparkling clean, meals prepared, dry cleaning and laundry done for the other and social obligations managed.

Men tend to assume all men are like them rather than learn how men and women do to evaluate individuals based upon that individual.  Men with men also tend to ignore that a relationship isn't a service being met but a blending of lives to help support and enhance each other.  One of the things I've come to consider in relationships is that my employment must include domestic partner health insurance at only a minor bump in premiums, as well as making provisions for life insurance to be distributed to a partner and other family members without an issue and that requires a level of outness.  Using your money and resources with a  partner means that you can't play closest games any longer because there might have to be a joint bank account where both men (or women) have part of their pay deposited into or making sure that their partner is directly named in a will, as well as their control over a partner in terms of life ending health care.

MSM are able to negate dealing with the complexity of being a true relationship by assuming it's just sex, having dinner together and 50/50 when in fact real relationships in the 21st century demand a realistic eye at blending one's life and resources.  Honestly part of the joy of being a man, a real man is sharing one's resources.  And if you've got a partner who's been there through thick and thin then they too deserve some of the accolades for helping you maintain stability (physically and mentally/emotionally) during all your trials and tribulations.

Not having constant examples for what it looks like to be same gender partnerships/couplehood leaves MSM with more fantasy than reality when it comes to love.  I had to accept that specifically as a Black man I was gradually moving into a salary range that not all Black and Latino men enjoyed and that meant that if I wanted to go with a special someone to shows or restaurants I had to be conscious of offering to treat them and being clear that I was extending a gift to them and there was no quid pro quo involved.  For instance Plataforma Churrascaria is one of my favorite restaurants in Manhattan but it's no fun going there alone (though I have---its THAT good) so when the Plataforma mood hits me every month or so I might invite a new date there; a current paramour; friends or recently I took and adult son for his birthday.

Plataforma is based on the Brazilian delight of multiple kinds of cooked meats (pork, chicken, sausages, steaks, lamb, veal) and fishes/shellfish being brought table side on large skewers.  It's all you can eat based on a card that face up green means more, turned over red side means no more.  Then in the center of the restaurant is an island buffet about a hundred feet in circumference that has all kinds of veggies for salads  soups, sushi, shellfish, antipasto, etc..  While you're handling the buffet you get a checklist card for what hot sides you want for the table---steamed veggies, plantains, mashed potatoes and at the end they come along with a dessert cart that's six feet tall.  It's an experience to go there.  I personally love the variety, that there's a price fixe and that no matter what kinds of people I bring there, there's something to satisfy everyone.  But such variety is expensive, with drinks it can be as much as $100 to $150 per person.  I've been there on average once a month since I found out about it about 10 years ago but not every date/partner I've been with has been able to afford it on their budget.

I, though as a man, think that part of manhood is sharing my bounty with friends, lovers, children and animals lovingly, graciously without expectation of being "paid back" in anyway.  And I do mean anyway.  I've been there on first dates that I've never seen again.  I also like to send people flowers, huge arrangements and plants, cookie platters, cheese baskets and books and music and scarves and candy cane full Xmas cards.  A couple of years ago having moved into a new building I lost my damn mind and made 30 packets of sugar cookies for the every apartment in the building---I got one thank you card back but everyone was always in person nice and pleasant to me.  If I see a sweater or shirt or pair of slacks or coat for a lover or friend or student, I'm cool with picking it up. (I was once talked out of having a BMW on a lover's curb for his birthday with a big red bow on it.)  But I don't expect reciprocation for any of my gifts and I'm in no way thinking that I'm trying to buy someone's affections.  But my education and work history ad skills allow me to have these things to share but should I not share them with people because they can't afford it or have the same level of resources/access that I might?  Would that be loving?

Conversely I will tell you that I've been fortunate enough to have just by accident found myself dating a Broadway producer, a franchise hardware store owner who offered me a house and even a royal prince of the Ottoman Empire (no, really.)  And in those situations I learned to be comfortable with two words: thank you.  With accepting that someone else had more tangible resources and one Christmas I actually had an argument with someone because he was hurt that I hadn't chosen all of the options he'd given me for gifts.  I've only demurred twice, the house offer---it was for me to go to Bard College and I was looking at going elsewhere so it was a great offer but moot; and when the Prince who moved in with me wanted us to get a bigger place....on Park Avenue.  I said no then because we were just starting out and he wasn't sure if he was going to ultimately stay here in America and a $3000 to $5000 a month apartment is only cute when the Prince is on lock down for his share! lol

What I'm trying to convey is that in true manhood sharing is natural, it's one of the ways you can really see a real man.  You can see it in his generosity  his willingness to share what he has and give without reservation.  There are of course boundaries and there are of course people who will try and take advantage of your generosity in even a relationship.  But here's what I can tell you about parasites, they're extremely obvious.  They think you can't see them but you can and parasites never realize that the little thing they've gotten, a nice dinner, some clothing, a nice home to stay in----it's always the tip of the iceberg of what can truly be given to permanently transform a life.  Parasites tend to be consumed with the getting in the short term so most times you don't have to worry about being taken advantage of.  And parasites are only maybe 1 or 2 out of 10 or 100. When a man tells you how much he's concerned about getting hurt and used, he doesn't know how to set boundaries AND be generous.  He can hold it tight to his vest but some of what everyone is looking for in love in generosity.  You might be rocking Scrooge with twenties in your pocket but no one to dance to Silent Night with.  Also I've been on a few different budgets in my lifetime and what I've learned is that $10 today or $100 or even $1000 never broke me for the rest of my life.

Love, or better yet love being a verb, being loving, is about actions and patience and understanding that I might by virtue of my abilities be 70% of the financial in a relationship but you might be 65% of the emotional, the teacher for me to learn how to feel and be intimate in some ways.  Or maybe I'm the 75% brain of what to do with you who instead has 80% of the financial power.  You might be more of an extrovert so you'll have more of the social calender managed than I do and maybe I make sure that those hundred or so Christmas cards I send out a year (I eventually had to slow it down, I was literally spending a weeks pulling it all together! lol) get to your friends and family too.

If we only see a relationship as 50/50 we only get 100.  If we see it instead as multiplying my skills and resources with yours then you have healthcare (worth about $10,000 to $500,000 a year) or I have a nest egg when you pass away or maybe the way I'm shown love is by coming in to your newest food creation every night.  Men quantify resources and 50/50 as unfortunately a commodity or money based system when there are so many other wonderful and larger things that go into a relationship----and those elements can rapidly multiply your joint financial picture faster than two fisting a dollar.

Thank you for reading,
Kyle Phoenix
Thanks and enjoy! You can Like Us on Facebook or Follow Us on Twitter! Don't forget to watch The Kyle Phoenix Show on Channel 56 (Time Warner), 83 (RCN), 34 (Verizon) and the Thursday/Friday 12am/midnight simulcast

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Relationships: Good Enough To Screw But Not Care For, by Kyle Phoenix

Awhile ago I was dating someone, the back and forth of when to meet, how to meet, meeting, common interests, etc. all occurring though we hadn't spent a lot of time together.  I accepted that it had more a sexual life than a relationship possibility but he had enough positive check marks that I was content with that.  Finally after a month or so we got to him inviting me over, I went and there came the moment of the decision of the moment, if you know what I mean.  I'd suspected this is what the invite was for so I came prepared with my Sex Kit-----wait, you don't have a portable Sex Kit?

Having been a teacher for lots of LGBTQQ men and women, particularly of those under 30 I teach (and practice) having a portable Sex Kit.  You can generally find a small leather or plastic pouch, maybe as big as a wallet where you can put in some fun contents.

Sex Kit:

  • Condoms
    • You should have your size of condoms no matter your sexual position preference (hopefully you know your size)
    • You should have a few condoms that are regular and large (because you might not know his size until the moment)
    • I purchase my own brand of condoms for comfort and quality.  People and agencies assert that the free mass produced condoms are just as good.  There's a difference between Gruyere cheese and government processed.  Mass produced generally lacks quality.  In a pinch, free.  In life, you should take the time and money to outfit yourself properly.
    • Dental Dams (you might be a woman or a man, so this is good for cunnilingus or analingus and if you want to use this as a larger condom  so that there isn't as much constriction on the penis but it's designed to stay in place in the anus/sphincter muscles (they're also made out of polyurethane.)  They're expensive, about $5 for one but this is a product that you should seek out and take a few at your local health and sexuality agencies for free.
  • Handi Wipe Packets and napkins, travel lotion, travel mouthwash, toothpaste latex gloves--whatever little personal stuff you might need
  • Lubricant
    • Do you prefer silicone based, oil based, water based, a specially scented or tasting lube?
    • Polyurethane condoms and (female condoms) can be used with water, oil and silicone based lube.  Polyurethane condoms that aren't over sized like the free ones though don't have the elasticity of latex so you really have to buy the right size because it's essential Tupperware but that toughness makes it non-liquid or infection soluble. 
    • Regular latex condoms work with water based but not oil based.  You should assume responsibility for your own safety and comfort.
  • If packed properly it can fit into your jacket pocket, lube comes in flat packets so you can be ready with half a dozen condoms and half a dozen lube packets.

Ok, back to my fine booty call.  There was enough attraction to retire from the living room to the bedroom and some chatting and then the disrobing began.  
Oooh la la.  
Now he was fine.  
I'm going to say this picture isn't him but he was close to this kind of fine.>>>>>>>>  
I was happy and eager  to find out how much more happy I could get with him. 

The price of doing safe sex teaching and work is two fold---one, counselors and testers are one of the highest HIV infected professionals because the reasoning is that they now see so many clients in good health who are HIV+ that they lapse their own safe sex practices and are more sexual from burn out.  Secondly, more positively, is that all the information and strategies are always playing in your head.  When with someone, in order to not make it a clinical moment I try to use language and questions artfully to get answers.  So far he'd been Mr. Safe Sex in presentation so I said to him well I use Magnum condoms, did he happen to have any.  He said no.  I asked what kind he had.  He looked at me like I was a little spacey....and said maybe he had some mass produced NYC condoms in his closet.  There was nudity there was touching, we were on the bed---I realized he didn't intend to have safe sex----just generally speaking

Safe sex in someone's house looks like stuff on the nightstand, under the pillow, within arms reach.  (I once had a stuffed toy with a zipper that I kept on the bed.) If someone tells you, while you're undressed with them, they keep cheap condoms somewhere in a closet---they're not into safe sex.  For me, safe sex isn't simply me protecting myself, it's also a measure of the denial and hypocrisy another man may be going through about his belief about protecting himself from me and taking care of me from him.

When someone cares about you, they remember that you're a separate person than them and it may not be marriage/LTR but they still want to be extensive in their caring of you while with them. 

Now I had my sex kit with me in pocket but that understanding that he was cool with lack of protection also suggested to me not just what he thought of me by implication but also what he thought of himself.  Bluntly, he wasn't a virgin, so he knew the routine, around protection. Honestly, we kind of all do at this point.  And not everyone did what I did.  I got up, undressed, and got dressed explaining that next time we should plan this better so that he have condoms on hand.  Now yes, I had mine and never disclosed that I had mine, but one, he never asked when I asked and two, he shrugged as if some men did this.  There was a little surprise and I think even a little bit of guilt but I got that either he knew his STD status or didn't and didn't care.

So now I was now with a Black man willing to see ill of me, a sexual assaulter if you will, perhaps even I dare say, a cancer, and he was willing to give me one of many STDs, a murderer!!!

Woah, yeah, my concern for my health is that deep.

So I bounced.  Walking up the block thinking maybe I could give myself a little ice cream treat instead but also feeling satisfied, I'm not sure swelling with pride, but satisfied that I'd taken care of myself.  And that I'd walked my talk when I've told people in workshops that you have to be conscious and self-caring enough to get up and walk away when you realize who you're in bed with.

Because some men, even the really, really, really attractive ones, think you're good enough to screw but not good enough for them to, even just basically, take care of.

Thank you for reading,
Kyle Phoenix
Thanks and enjoy! You can Like Us on Facebook or Follow Us on Twitter! Don't forget to watch The Kyle Phoenix Show on Channel 56 (Time Warner), 83 (RCN), 34 (Verizon) and the Thursday/Friday 12am/midnight simulcast

Fan Fiction: X-Men: Sanctuary #4 by Kyle Phoenix

X-Men: Sanctuary Issue # 4 By Kyle Phoenix

San Madre, Argentina, South America:

"We can't get any closer?" Nightcrawler asked incredulously, trying to look at a town from five miles away even through advanced binoculars wasn't easy.
Hunter pointed to the valley that bordered the town on three sides. "They chose this town because there is only one avenue of land entrance. They also have monitoring sensors throughout the valley ridges."
"Ok, so how do we get in and what do we do once we're there?' Spike asked, her and the rest of the X-Men crouched in the under brush on the side of a cliff.
"Yes, how do we separate out the infected from the non-infected?" Karma asked.
"There is no separation. All of them are Brood infected. The entirety of the town," Hunter replied.
"All of them?!" Frenzy asked in shock. "There have got to be about five thousand people there. We're no match for that!"
"We have to find a way to contain them and then destroy them all," Talisman offered. "They've stayed together obviously to build a strong enough base of power to leave here and attack the Shi'ar Empire. Or what's left of it. But their presence here maintains the constant threat of simply their split off into a thousand different directions and infecting the whole planet. The world would be overrun, conquered before we could even marshal a defense."
"Maybe we should call in the Avengers? I mean just as consultants, I'm not saying we can't do this, just consultants?" Spike suggested.
They could take the continent before we or any other heroes could get here in force. Also it would be noticeable if suddenly the Avengers came here.. Which brings us back to how we stop them without a nuclear warhead? Chamber asked telepathically.
"My plan is risky. Within my ship is a cryogenically frozen Brood, the one that you saw, Karma," Hunter nodded at Karma who grimaced at the memory of Tran phasing through the ship and coming face to face with the monster. "We cover ourselves in its' secretions, a resin, so as not to "smell" different than the other residents. Infiltrate the town and get to the reactor core of the star ship they must be building at this point, under the town and set it to self-destruct. Destroying the town and all of it's residents before they can achieve flight," Hunter explained.
"The Defenders? I've heard good things about them. Ok, not good things but doesn't the Hulk work with them? The Hulk would be good here. Hulk smash, Hulk kill, Hulk stand in the middle of a town going nuclear. You know, that kind of stuff, Spike offered.
"Again, the same problem, Spike, contacting them in time without alerting the Brood. Hunter, are you sure this resin will safeguard us within that nest? If it doesn't we're as good as dead. They will impregnate us for sure," Nightcrawler shivered. "It's happened to me before. I do not wish that upon my darkest enemy and I'm not sure I have the right to ask any of you to risk that, even as X-Men." "I concur. Whoever is insane enough to do this has to be prepared for that eventuality," Spike pointed out. "I've studied the X-Men's files on them, it's not an easy process to remove the eggs once they're in." Bloody hell! When you put it that way, how about Thor? He's a tough one. The hammer, the whole God thing going on. Cecelia might have a point, a God in spirit and one in form might help, Chamber said somberly.
"Should anyone be infected we have my ship to go into space. There is still an operational Stargate on the border of the star system next to this one. We simply take my ship through it and back and the eggs are purged from our systems," Hunter said.
"Ok, is it just me or are there about fourteen thousand different ways we can all see this plan going afoul?" Frenzy laughed.
"For one, I can't have a Brood egg implanted within me, it's an evil species. I am a-----------nun is the best approximate term for why my body can't be compromised in such a fashion but I will back you up to the end," Talisman explained. "I have several very dangerous spells that I would be reticent to use against humans but that I can cause a lot of damage with to that town."
Nightcrawler nodded. "It might actually work best if only some of us are infiltrators but which ones? If there's a Brood Queen at the center of this mess, she'll know me. Hunter would set off their suspicions immediately. We need to get in, ascertain the threat level and at the same time leave a rear guard to either aid in escape or go for help. I doubt that the rest of our squad will get back from Tokyo to Australia in time to rocket over here."
Karma cleared her throat and they all turned to her, she'd been silent for quite some time. "My brother Tran suggests myself and Frenzy. Her mutant enhanced strength makes her the most able to resist them in a close quarter's fight and that would leave Nightcrawler here to teleport us out. And I can approach with the knowledge that Tran will be able to dissipate this body, even if I'm rendered unconscious."
"Thank you for voting me in," Frenzy muttered. "I'm not saying I'm not willing to do it, I just want to make sure I don't turn into one of those slugs."
"Chamber can act as a telepathic relay to the two of them," Talisman nodded and I can teleport into the town should they be close to being overwhelmed and wreck havoc like they can't imagine to cover the escape."
"Hey, what about Heroes for Hire? I've got a little bit saved up, we could all chip in and you know get Powerman down here," Spike grinned
Nightcrawler agreed wondering if Archangels portion of the team was working out so well in strategic terms. There seemed to be fluidity to their grouping. He wondered if there was relevance to Talismans assertion that Xavier had a deep influence over the one's who became X-men. Quasi-X- Men comprised this squad and those who had never been members before. He pushed it out of his mind. Something to ponder another day. If they survived this battle. "Spike, Talisman, work on a way to contain the town itself. Hunter, Chamber, wait for the signal of where I am to teleport into to activate the reactor's destruction and pull everyone out."
"This all sounds too simple out loud," Spike said in a worried tone.
"Oh, I'm sure it will fall apart three ways from Sunday but we'll pull it out of the bag!" Nightcrawler answered with a dark mirth. "That's what X-Men do!"


The scrying pool swirled in the center of the cavern. Small insects darted around the stone floor next to the ornate wooden chair, runes carved into the dark marble floor. A thin green hand grasped the arm rest then raised a single finger and the Sanctuary base appeared, next to it, slowly another image produced of Amara dressed as the Red Queen.
"Very interesting," Wraith chuckled, "I hadn't expected her to move so fast."
"No one did," Selene said as she sauntered over to the scrying pool, her heels clicking delicately on the floor. "It seems we may have to step up our operations faster than anticipated."
"Ah. War. Always a median option though this will claim quite a bit. Are you prepared?" Wraith asked her.
"This incarnation of the X-Men has far more possibilities than the others. More power over a greater span of disciplines. They are also not of such a puritanical bent as some of the others. They are..disenfranchised in a sense. "
"Yes, my hand is within them already. I am both pleased and troubled by how easily they've been co-opted on so many levels," Wraith replied. "Again, dear Selene, are you prepared?"
"Yes, yes, I am," Selene promised then drew her cloak around her and vanished.

Four Seasons Hotel, Tokyo, Japan:

A battered copy of Louise Erdrich's Tracks in her hand, Danielle Moonstar sat by the window of the enormous master suite reading by the two hour old sunlight. Or at least that's what it looked like. Warren Worthington sat on the edge of his bed in pajama bottoms, having recovered from being held prisoner by a serial killer the night before, his wings occasionally expanding and contracting the way one would stretch their arms. He stared out of the glass terrace doors at the horizon. To the casual observer it would look like two lovers, quietly in each other's presence before breakfast. In truth, there was a fierce argument going on through their psionic rapport.
Listen to me, Warren, I'm right!
That Amara set us all up? Every one of us? The X-Men? Channel? The Hellfire Club? That's ridiculous! No offense but she's not that bright.
What's that suppose to mean? I saw that flash! For her age? Like me?!
Get out of my head if you don't want my honest opinion!
Warren, she knew the Black Bishop's name---Carlos---Carlos Allegra but only myself, Paulie and, Bobby had been introduced to him. She'd never met him before but she knew his name!
Maybe they've met before. She has been bumming around Europe. He's a Spaniard, very big in oil and textiles in Europe. I've known of him and his family for years, in passing.
So how come she's the only one out of the whole scenario who wins, huh?
Why would she do this, Danielle?
To avenge her mother, to gain status in one stroke, to become a better bitch, I don't know! She can kill Selene with Shaw's help and be a Red Queen in the friggin' Hellfire Club----a position last held by Phoenix!
The Phoenix entity. Not the real Jean Grey.
Whatever! Are you listening to me?
Yes, you're like a goddamn boom box in my head. Tone it down.
Sorry. I just can't talk to anyone else about this. Not yet. I don't even want it verbalized out loud.
I understand that but what are we suppose to do? Confront her? Stop her? From doing what? How? She averted a war in the Hellfire Club by placating both sides.
She doesn't know the whole story.
What story, Dani, what else are you holding back?
She blames Selene for her mother's death but she's never faced up to the fact that Selene may be her mother. Selene went out of her way to fight Channel not to kill her. He said Selene was inside of her body desperately negotiating for Amara's life. She's had a thousand opportunities to off her and hasn't. And in Nova Roma, things happened, I got a feeling.... Warren, it may look like a solution, like a better way but this has got time bomb written all over it.
Ok, calm, down, chief, we're ok. I'll keep my eagle eyes open. I'm not saying I'm convinced and we can't know without a telepath scanning Amara but it does add a new angle to things.
Dani took a deep breath and put down her book as he walked over to the chair in front of the terrace doors, his feet sinking into the plush carpeting. He leaned down so that they were facing each other, his eyes twinkling with thrill.
Yeah, it is, she whispered in his head.
What? Oh. You caught that feeling? It does feel like it. Being married. Yes, it does feel like that sometimes. I'm sorry that we're locked into this rapport. We didn't have a chance to get to know each other, to get comfortable with each other first. Scott and Jean did. We all did with the professor. That jaunt to finding you? Into your head, into your soul? That was too much, too fast. I remember pieces, Warren admitted. Not everything. What did you see? "Too much," Dani said aloud then got up and walked out, shutting down her end of the rapport.

The entire fourteen foot high by twenty long bedroom wall was mirrored. A single piece of glass. And Amara studied herself very carefully. A red bustier with matching bottom briefs, thigh high boots and the heavy red velvet, silk lined cloak. She'd added her X-men uniform under the boots and briefs, her choker with the monogrammed X on it. One of the team but also meshed with something else. The Red Queen of the Hellfire Club Inner Circle. The last person to bear that title had destroyed a sun, killed 5 billion people. Her fair-haired tresses hanging below her shoulder was a beautiful effect upon the deep blood red of her cloak. She smiled and her eyes flashed for a moment and her hair turned to flickering, dripping flames, a corona of ever changing energy that said much more than simple locks of hair. But to display her power would be ostentatious. Something a commoner would do. She pulled her power in ever so slightly so that there was a gentle glow radiating from her skin, her face, as if she were glistening constantly and she knew that her temperature was at least fifteen to twenty degrees higher than a normal persons. Yes, that was a delicious effect. She focused and set her skins temperature at closer to 120 degrees, along with the glisten.
Yes, yes, that was it. Amara laughed heartily then twirled around. 
Dani was standing in the doorway watching her. "Danielle, you didn't knock," Amara playfully chided. Dani's face was sour and her voice hard. "
No, I didn't. I'll cut to the chase, Amara, what kind of damn game are you playing at?" 
"Oh, I am not playing. I am a Red Queen in heart and soul," she beamed. 
"You don't even know what the hell that means. You're, excuse the pun, playing with fire. Why would you do this? You've been to the future, I've been to the future! Selene got Roberto to join and now you. It corrupts you two!" Dani hissed, trying to keep her voice down from the others in the suite hearing. 
"Then stay closer, my friend. Don't judge me, but be my counsel," Amara walked closer and stumbled, falling to one knee from the hip high boots narrow heel. "Now these are going to take some getting used too!" 
"Shaw and Selene will eat you alive!' Dani said helping her stand. "Cute trick with the warm flesh. Is that for the men there?" 
"Or women," Amara said with a wicked grin. "Dani, I have my reasons and we averted a massacre between Shaw and Selene. A strong third party will keep them focused if not on peace then at least hesitant before war. I represent the X-Men and the future." 
"The X-Men?" Dani snorted. "This is so far from Xavier's dream, so far." 
"Dani, don't tell me you've bought into his prattle all of these years. The answer lies somewhere between Charles and Magneto, a third option. Personally, I want my children to live, to live a good life whether they be born powerful mutants or humans. Throughout history position and privilege have provided that kind of security." 
"I don't----." 
You don't know what it's like to be alone, Dani! I am alone and lost in this world. Part future, part thousands of years old. I may be too many things to be simply a fool or an X-Man or even a woman but I will be a survivor, you of all people, your people know that! I'm tired, Dani of not having people, a place, family, a heritage! This is my chance to start my own line, my own tribe," Amara said desperately, tears welling in her eyes. 
"Amara, I'm worried that they will eat you alive and spit you out as something twisted and evil," Dani said holding the trembling woman's arms. 
"Be my friend, Dani. Don't judge me, be my conscience, please but trust that I am wise beyond my years and it is time for allegiances. Hellfire members in the X-Men and now X-Men in their Inner Circle. I will make myself a vanguard, a stalwart but even I know I cannot do it alone. Stand with me as my friend, Dani." 
Dani wavered, the raw emotional distraught of her friend needed grounding. "Ok, Amara, we'll play your hand for now. I am with you. We X-Men will back you up." She still wasn't any closer to answering her suspicion that Amara had planned all of this. There were times when raw telepathy would've answered so many questions. If she could just pluck a yes or no from her friend's mind, but she couldn't. Instead she was relegated to simply watching Amara Aquilla, the new Red Queen of the Inner Circle and hoping that when the time came to tell her no to a decision, she was still listening to her counsel. 
"Thank you, Danielle. Thank you."

Dani awoke with a start and she was in a luxurious parlor full of Roman busts and single thrown that Selene languished on. 
"Child," Selene grinned, clad in a silk black shrift, watching Dani the way a cat watched prey. "
I take it you cast this mental spell for a reason? Not to kill me or I'd be dead. If you could kill me," Dani said calmly, clad in a white dress like a servant. "If you're looking for fear, you won't get it. Say your bit or let me go." Selene tilted her head in curiosity. 
"Not frightened. My have you grown, child! But I assume it has to do with the time you spent in Asgaard, hmmm? Yes, the scent of your work as a Valkyrie sits squarely on your shoulders like a cloak, for those of us who can see such things. Not even Xavier has an idea of exactly how long you spent there, does he?" 
"No," Dani admitted honestly, it had been one of her fears at being in his presence again, the look he'd given her. "He still conceives of me as a mortal." "And in all the ways that concern you I'm sure you think you are. But you aren't, you understand?" 
"I do. My sister Valkyries made that clear. Anyway, you know my dirty little secret and I guess the fact that I'm here is not about me but Amara?" 
"Yes, our Red Queen. I say our because she won't break her allegiance to the X-Men, in fact she'll surely now strengthen it. She needs soldiers, fodder." 
"I figured as much. It would be interesting if you or Shaw admitted that you were using to Channel to kill the other and she outfoxed you both. She turned you both to her advantage," Dani said smugly, thought about in the middle of their power games, Amara had pulled off quite the feat. 
"She's her mother's daughter," Selene smiled coyly. Dani didn't think she'd be so blunt with that possibility. 
"I take it that's a question you intend to play as a card one day?" 
"Perhaps. Anyway, I come to you while asleep, brought you to the astral plane to remind you to stand by her, to temper her fiery nature with your shrewdness; the maturity born of age." 
"Worried for her or about her?" 
"Both and neither. She was born and bred for this kind of game but she's entered it too rashly, too viciously. She's desperate for the status she possessed in Nova Roma, her new enemies will use that against her." 
"New enemies?" 
"Count, child, Black, White, Red and Grey. You've seen glimpses of some of the pieces on the Hellfire Inner Circle Board. But not all. Some positions are filled, others have thousands within their ranks. Learn chess. It's a fabulous game. Caesar enjoyed it." 
"You played with Caesar?" 
"Child, I taught it to him. You count your age by number, I by empires gone and buried that don't even have names on your wizened people's lips. Make sure that Amara stands strong as the Red Queen but temper her, this game isn't even in the opening salvos of the war it's to become. Xavier has no idea what the Inner Circle is truly after," Selene chuckled. "
And you're telling me this because....?' 
"I care." 
"A great many things seen and unseen. But Xavier also underestimates you, the Valkyrie part of you. Because he can't for all of his self-proclaimed psi powers see you clearly, see it clearly, he doesn't understand what it will see in a person, in a room," Selene whispered and then Dani's eyes opened and she was back in her room in the hotel in Tokyo.

Hellfire Club Inner Circle Coronation:

"Tell me why we're dressed like this again?" Jean Paul sighed as the X-Men entered the formal ballroom of the Hellfire Club, he was referring to the waistcoats and ruffled shirts that all the male X-Men were wearing. Amara was decked out in her bustier and cloak queen ensemble while Dani was in a Victorian white dress that billowed to make her look like an oval. But around her throat was a red choker. Same on the men, though all of their outfits were black velvet. It seemed that the chokers denoted allegiance to those who weren't pieces. Which Warren had explained was even lower than it sounded. They were simply the Red Queen's squires at this point. Danielle had to admit that the sumptuous banquet and dozens of people in the room in similar attire was truly amazing. She almost gasped out loud as a blonde haired woman passed by her with her much younger husband. She had one of her cd's! She was one of the most famous women in the world and she was a member of the Inner Circle! 
"Blessed Madonna! Holy shit!" Paulie muttered, gaping with Dani. 
"She's only a Rook," Warren informed them. 
"And you?" Bobby asked knowing that Warren's father had passed on his membership to his son. Warren's wings out and resplendent but in no way being gawked at by the gathering, shrugged. 
"I could push to be an Inner Circle member but I'm---- reticent. For obvious reasons." 
Sebastian Shaw lifted his goblet and the room hushed. "Come forth." 
The Red Queen walked to the center of the room confidently. 
"Kneel," he commanded. Amara looked him square in the eye and spoke calmly.
"I will fulfill anything my liege asks of me. But a Queen worth the title, never kneels." There was an almost physical silence in the ballroom and Dani felt Warren trying to soothe her through their rapport. She thought that Amara had made a tremendous mistake but slowly hands went up, goblets raised. They were acknowledging the Red Queen's strength. 
"Very good, Lady Amara, you'll lead your pieces well when your King isn't present," Shaw smiled. "And strike when my King orders or to protect my pieces interest and the good of the Inner Circle," she replied. And then with great flourish opened her cloak and kneeled before Shaw. 
"Why didn't she do it the first time he ordered her to?" Bobby asked in a whisper.
"Submission is choice but not command to a Queen worth following, Warren answered. 
"Of course," Bobby said as if it were the most natural answer in the world. Shaw brought the goblet down to his lips, sipped it then handed it to Amara. 
"Welcome to the Inner Circle, Lady Amara, you are it's new Red Queen. Drink of us." 
"I don't want to know what's in that cup, do I?" Dani muttered. 
"No, you don't," Warren answered. Dani closed her eyes, wondering what kind of unholy covenant her friend was making and how much of this world Warren knew. It was then she felt a whisper, almost a scent and she glanced up. Her psi powers dampened by the baffles in the room but there were some that couldn't be hidden. Sure enough, Emma Frost, the White Queen was at the farthest end of the ballroom, amidst a crowded of people in gleaming white clothing. Pieces and their "servants" but she had felt him. Hiding and then slipping away, his presence mandatory she was sure. And Dani understood why there were so many people and why for that one instance Shaw had drawn everyone's attention to the center of the room, other pieces wore masks s if at a costume ball. None of the others noticed it, couldn't have but she'd had Selene's dream chat about her being a Valkyrie to enhance her senses. Senses psi baffles could do nothing too. A Valkyrie could spot power. Charles Francis Xavier, the White King slipped away believing one of his most closely guarded secrets kept.

"You must be very proud of your friend," Carlos Allegra said to Warren, the coronation officially having segued into a party of mingling and networking. 
"I'm not sure if proud is the right word. I wanted to thank you though for helping to rescue us from Channel's clutches. Speaking of which, what happened to him?" Warren asked, slowly sipping his champagne and watching the calm eyes of the Black Bishop. 
"I'm afraid, Warren that I serve the Black King and Queen, I do not question them," he said evasively. 
"He's a serial killer. Quite a few people died at his hands just to attack Shaw. I can't leave here without knowing that he's been dealt with. Perhaps you should convey that to your King and Queen. My commitment to seeing this through." 
"I will do just that," the Black Bishop nodded then walked away.

"Is this what you've always wanted, Amara?" Sebastian Shaw asked her as they danced a waltz in the midst of dozen of other couples.
"I was tricked by Selene into believing I was born into royalty. When her spell wore off I realized I had become accustomed to the illusion. To the gifts of strength of character," Amara answered with a shy smile.
"As the leader of the Inner Circle I must make sure that the other members do not fight without just cause. Let me make myself clear, my dear Red Queen, I know of your history with our Black Queen. These are not times to cripple our power with old vengeance's.  As your first act of fealty to me, I ask you to renounce the vendetta you have for the Black Queen," he said in a low tone, holding her tightly against his body in spite of the higher temperature her body was giving off. He watched as she fought an inner battle, her eyes glaring at him for long moments then going calm again. She held his stare until she realized that this would one of her true tests, acknowledging this man as her superior.
Amara nodded. "She is as safe as my teammates, as any of my allies."
Shaw's eyes went from deadly to twinkling in an instant. "Excellent! When the moment comes for you to unsheathe that vendetta, I will tell you."
For a moment she was confused then she saw his meaning in his smile and smiled broadly herself. He wasn't protecting the witch as much as he was aligning pieces against her one day. "Yes, my King." 

She laid her head onto his shoulder and allowed her glance to take in all of the guests who were dancing and milling about, every few seconds their eyes flickering to her, to the new Red Queen in the arms of the Black King. She heard a soft laughter from the other side of the room and saw Selene staring at her boldly. The ebony dressed woman, half in shadows raised a flute of champagne in toast to Amara who beamed back until Shaw's dance lead turned her away.

The Xavier Institute:

"Did you enjoy the coronation of your new Red Queen?" Charles Xavier asked Emma Frost as she strolled into the garden, the night sky was full of the moon and several clouds casting shadows on them both.
Emma smiled and stood closer to Charles, she in a simple white dress and him in a white tuxedo. "The question is did you enjoy it?"
"We've had glimpses of the future, we knew that we somewhat certainty, Amara would one day join the Hellfire Club," he said neutrally.
"And yet it still unnerves you?" she chuckled and trailed her finger along his chin. "Don't worry, Charles, your shields are as formidable as ever. It's simply my feminine instinct that sees you so clearly."
Charles kept his face to the night sky, ignoring her touch though intrigued by her line of questioning. Out of so many confidants, she had become if not valued....then preferred for some of his darker thoughts. "We such little time. We seek to change a world with but a handful of mutants. I often doubt my own machinations. And then sometimes I concerned that in the writing of this history, no one will understand the choices I made. The alliances."
"The greater good and all of that?" Emma chuckled. "I played the darker side of this chess game for years to cull the best mutants, to guide them and they still end up dead. Even Magneto for all of his bluster created more in Genosha than we ever have."
"Cassandra, another facet of me. She destroyed that. Amazing how we tend to be the weapons to destroy our own dreams, eh? The Sanctuary team, they have so many mysteries wrapped within enigmas to undo."
"I advised against creating such a team. They are a wildcard. We won't even touch on how Storm's team should be dealt with."
"I should mentally coerce them to stay?" he shook his head ruefully, this was an old argument with them.
"You say it would be but I suspect that someone like Cyclops or say Jean or even Wolverine are tied tighter to your mind than you want any of us to know."
"Emma, please, speak your mind. Don't concern yourself with insulting everything I stand for and against," he snapped sarcastically.
"I'm White King," she whispered then walked away, laughing to herself.

"I could feel your upset in my sleep, Warren, you're going to learn how to tone it down or I'm going to knock you out every night," Dani chuckled as she walked into the living room. He sat on the edge of an end table watching the plasma screen tv on the wall.
"Aliens tried to invade Madripoor, Storm's team rebuffed them. The island is in shambles," he sipped a tumbler of scotch then offered it to her. She shook her head. "We should go help."
"Why is that?" he was feeling a swirl of dark emotions from him, anger, despair, terror.
"It will be a good cover. My company helping them, backing up the other X-Men team with help."
"Lie to someone who hasn't got a line into your head. What is this really about?"
"The Marauders. They're raiding Lowtown. The New Mutants missed them during the Mutant Massacre, they destroyed my wings. I owe Apocalypse more than a man ever should. In order to get them back he twisted me. I'll start with his cloned monsters. I can't allow them to do what they did to me to others," he downed the last of the scotch as Dani came over to him and gently touched his wings. They felt like silk under her fingertips, so much like her beloved Brightwind's wings.
Warren turned to her and the rapport was so intense for a moment that her vision blurred and she saw his pink skin shimmer blue, his feathers felt like hard metal and then he became human again. He moved her waist length hair away from her face and brought her close enough so that she could feel his breath on her cheek.
"Is the attraction because of the rapport?" he whispered.
She shrugged. "It must intensify it."
"But it's real?" he opened up his lips and touched hers. For moment they simply touched lips, not moving further, enjoying the sensation of the psychic rapport tingling through their flesh.
"You're drunk and going through a lot," she shook her head and pulled away. "I agree with stopping the Marauders and I'll back you up with the others in the morning but we're not going to kill them, Warren."

Madripoor, High Town:

Dani stood in the shower, enjoying the fact that six different nozzles were trained on her. She had to admit that traveling with the X-Men, particularly Warren was like being a celebrity. They'd gone from Tokyo on his private jet to Madripoor in a couple of hours, there being no checking at customs or anything. In fact, Dani couldn't remember if anyone had even questioned them. Some of it was mutant hysteria, it was clear who they were, traveling with Warren, one of the most public mutants on the planet. But also it was the clout that his wealth bought. It was almost decadent. A triplex penthouse suite, again at Madripoor's premiere hotel ready to accommodate eight, each with a separate bedroom and full bath as soon as they'd arrived. And after this quick mopping up of the Marauders they would be in Australia, a place more to her liking. She could bring Brightwind from Asgard and ride him on the ground or the skies.
Yes, she enjoyed the luxuries but there were certain things she did miss deeply. Thoughts of Brightwind though brought up worries about her enemies there in Asgard. As a Valkyrie she'd made a few, particularly one who she knew was hunting for her now.
She should've explained all of this to the others, trusted them but there hadn't been time and she wasn't sure that Sarat would come for her as he'd sworn. He was a mercurial man. There had been many levels to their relationship in all the time she'd spent in Asgard. But explaining her relationship to Sarat would involve her explaining exactly how long she had been in that dimension, aging in ways they couldn't see. She wasn't ready for that conversation.
"Why so worried?" Warren said, his face suddenly appearing on the other side of the glass enclosure.
"I worry, it's what I do," Dani shrugged. The fact that she was nude didn't bother her, she felt so comfortable with Warren. And it had only been a couple of weeks with the rapport. What would happen after a year?
"Want some company?" he asked and Dani smoothed back her hair to answer. He knew that she was full of conflict about their relationship, about what level to take it to or not. It said a lot about his character and restraint that he asked her verbally, able to read her emotions clearer and clearer the more time they spent together. She did want him. She did. That they both knew. When and how.......? That was the only question.
"Yes," she whispered. She would risk it. She would risk her heart again even though she'd sworn several times in Asgard that she never would again.
He stepped into the enclosure, already nude but she hadn't seen that because of the condensation on the glass and the steam. He touched her hair first, his wings suddenly making the shower smaller and smaller as he fit them inside. Then they wrapped around them both , gentle feathers along her back and legs bringing her closer.
"Thank you for being there for me when Channel had me prisoner. It was really great to know I wasn't alone," he smiled with perfect teeth and crystal blue eyes, hair becoming wet from one of the water streams.
"Would you be here if we didn't have a rapport?" she asked and purposefully closed off their connection. She wanted to know from him, from his lips not his mind. It was amazing how people craved such an intimacy and she was content to dim it to truly listen to this man.
"When you came into the mansion, I was watching you and thinking how beautiful you were, how much you'd changed since you'd been away. How confident you always seem as well as simply being yourself without apology. That's very attractive, Danielle. Intoxicating. And to know it's standing with me, as my comrade makes you even sexier," he said honestly. 
They stepped closer and Dani let him kiss her, a slow kiss of just getting closer. Then it became more intense as she allowed the connection to open up with their minds. It became deeper, more intense, freer. Suddenly all the restrictions and restraint was lost to the psi rapport. Dani felt as if she were flying, as if she had wings and conversely she could feel him feeling his own touch on her body, what it was doing to her. It was beyond intoxicating, beyond even what they'd both experienced of telepathy, it was a symbiosis of consciousness.  What normal people tried to achieve with words, with physical actions was manifested in the flesh between them.
Bracing his wings against the glass walls, he lifted them both, cradling her in his arms, using the crowded space to increase their intimacy, to bring her closer to him. She reached down, her figures touching his rippled muscles, his mind explaining in a second that it was part of his mutation---no body fat. Her instantly knew how sensitive her throat was, how someone else had kissed her there once, someone in shadows, someone she both loved and was afraid of. With a batting away, the way one would knock aside pillows on a bed, Dani knocked aside her past and focused on Warren, on her future on consummating the mental to physical, on unification.

"I really do hate to break this up but we have a meeting downstairs. Charles and Emma are here," Amara said with a dry chuckle tapping on the glass. Dani shrieked and Warren backpedaled, slipping on the tiles and landing solidly on his rear.
"AMARA!" Dani roared red-faced, embarrassed, flustered and more embarrassingly still tingling and dazed from the erotic rapport.
"I came in here as the only other female member to tell you to hurry up with your shower, Danielle. How did I know you'd be in here---jockeying for position," Amara grinned then turned on her heel and walked out, her leather red X-Men/Hellfire Uniform looking like a blood stain seeping through the steamy mist.
Dani looked down and Warren was laughing.
"It's not funny, Warren, you have to command respect on this team. And as your back-up so do I! This was one of the reasons why I was reluctant to get involved!" she said and suddenly felt the giggle rumbling through her too. It really was hilarious and Amara being so blasé about it was indicative of how silly it was to pretend it wouldn't happen.
Warren stood up carefully, he didn't want to explain his wings and shatter the glass encasement. "It could have been worse, Emma or the Professor could have come a knocking in our heads and been in for quite a treat."
"Y-yes, that would've been worse," Dani said, suddenly feeling self- conscious standing in a shower naked with Warren.
"After this mission we'll have plenty of time to explore our rapport. We go right to Sanctuary from here, no detours," Warren kissed her and this time she let herself feel safe with him.
"The rapport makes it so easy to mistake it and an attraction for love, we have to be careful," Dani smiled, water dribbling between her face and his chest.
"Let's not be careful, let's be reckless!" Warren laughed. "Let's just call it Deep Like with Potential."
"I like that!" Dani exclaimed and they stepped out of the shower. "Now go downstairs, I'm not exactly ready to go down to them swinging hands, making goo goo eyes."
"Yes, ma'am!" Warren mock saluted then hurried out of the shower, grabbing a towel to wrap around his waist. Even though the door shut behind her, they were still connected with their minds----almost akin to kissing and they did so the entire time it took them to get dressed.

Emma Frost and Charles Xavier stood in astral form in the middle of the living, the X-Men all assembled, along with Carlos Allegra.
"I want to compliment you all on your first mission and preventing the death of Sebastian Shaw from the entity/mutant Channel," Prof. Xavier said calmly.
"The Hellfire Club is holding him in custody, we haven't told the IRC yet that we didn't officially get our man," Northstar explained. "It seems that we're here to try and catch another pack of mass murderers to make up for that snafu."
"I've spoken with Shaw and we've designed a way to keep Channel prisoner for sometime. Something that the IRC wouldn't be capable of yet in its infancy, as it is now."
"Professor, we should at least give them a chance. Channel killed seven people-----which we know of! What about the justice there? Or do we only look out for mutants now?" Dani sneered.
"Danielle, there will be certain extreme times when we have to mitigate laws ourselves, this is one of them. Channel, like the Shadow King is an entity, not a corporeal being. It seems that Camus is his brother and therefore a symbiotic "grounding", to this reality, as well as a mental slave to him, if you will. Camus has agreed to work with X-Corp and Shaw Industries in exchange he will no longer be a slave to his brother," Xavier calmly explained.
"And Channel? Last we saw he was a green globe," Paulie pointed out. "What happens to him now that Camus isn't his to manipulate anymore?"
"I understand that Selene is using him as a nite light," Emma said impassively and the room went silent.
"She is joking, right? Dani asked and Xavier had nothing but a slow smile. "We asked and encouraged Selene to turn her entrapment of Channel over to us but she insisted she was better equipped to contain him within her spell. I must take my leave now, there are other matters that need my attention. Warren, all of you, you are doing excellent work, I'm especially proud of you, Bobby for making sure there was no loss of life when Yashida Tower was nearly destroyed. You have all proven my trust in you to be X-Men was in no way remiss. Thank you," Xavier said calmly then turned to Carlos. "It is good to see you have finally aligned yourself with the X-Men. My invitation to join has been open to you for many years." Carlos nodded politely. 
"It is good to see you again, Charles. And yes, I am to be Lady Amara's personal guard and as she is a member of the X-Men then I humbly ask to accompany them. However, let the distinction be understood, that I have my reasons now and in the past for not accepting your offer to be an X-Man. I will stand with this group and give my life if necessary but only out of loyalty and service to Lady Amara." Charles visibly stiffened. 
"There are great many things I could teach you." 
"No, Charles, there are not. I am someone for whom your tutelage is both unnecessary and too late for," Carlos said, with an air of slight sadness. 
"Then hopefully you will find our camaraderie and friendship helpful to you," Charles said. "If you will all excuse me, I must take my leave, matters call for my attention. Good luck, my X-Men, Carlos." With that his astral self vanished.

Emma stood patiently smiling, her hair in a bun, glasses tilted on the end of her nose as she floated several feet above the ground in her astral body so that she could look down on them all. "However from what we've been able to glean from your report, there were some areas that could've been dealt with much more efficiently..............," and with that pronouncement she flipped open a pad and began her criticisms.

Sanctuary Base, Australia

"Hello," a bright red digitized head said as IT appeared next to Alex.
"What the heck is that?" Kitty asked.
"IT," Alex answered calmly.
"Yes, it," Peter smiled and pointed. "Can't you see it? Or is this some sort of telepathic thing?"
"No, I can see IT. Of course I can see IT, I designed IT," Alex said.
"Then what do you call it?" Peter asked.
"IT," Kitty replied.
"Yes, that's what I mean. It. The head."
"IT," IT said in a pleasant, slightly British accented tone with a smile.
"Aha, it doesn't have a name yet," Peter nodded knowing.
"Dear God....," Alex groaned.
"If you'll pardon me, Mr. Rasputin, I appeared to alert Alex to the presence of the X-Men Sanctuary team on an Asian television station," IT said, his head expanding into a holographic viewer screen.
"Tokyo? Saw that, IT," Alex said glancing at the screen. This was new, it was a vicious battle between the squad that had gone to Tokyo and the Marauders.
"The Marauders," Kitty said with gritted teeth. "That's not Tokyo either. Where is it?"
"It's right there," Peter offered helpfully tapping her and pointing at the floating head.
"They are in Madripoor. The section known as High Town," IT reported.
"Who are these Marauders?" Peter asked.
"A team of mutant assassins that killed hundreds of Morlocks some time back. They also gravely wounded, Kitty, Angel, Nightcrawler and your father, I believe," Alex answered.
"Then we have to help!" Peter exclaimed. "They can't be allowed to kill our teammates or more mutants."
"You're right, Peter but we're a good ten hours away. They're in the thick of battle, we'd never get there in time," Kitty said, then noticed she'd been digging her fingernails into her palms to the point of nearly drawing blood. She could see Harpoon hurls the energy javelins that had so seriously injured her before. She wanted him, wanted to hurt him for the torture of thinking she was going to die for months after his attack on her. And she'd had friends amongst the Morlocks, friends that had been killed or died as a result of the Marauder's attack.
"Well, I am essentially the manager here. I managed to arrange some transportation," Alex said with a smug grin and nodded up at an outcropping that overlooked the town like a natural perch. Atop it sat Gateway, bola already in hand spinning to open a direct gateway to Madripoor. "He, Xavier and I came to an understanding. Quite the nice chap actually. Amazing gin rummy player."
Kitty looked up at Gateway, she didn't have to go. If she did, she was back into the game. The one she'd left abruptly because it had claimed so many of her friends and loved ones, including Peter's father. Could she endanger him too? Could she join another incarnation of the X-Men and watch them die too? Like a recovering alcoholic, could she only have one "drink"?

Madripoor, High Town

Scattered throughout the rubble of High Town Madripoor the X-Men found that the Marauders had in no way tired of savagery. Each blow was met with the deadliest of responses and still the battle was inconclusive. Both groups were worn out by the melee and it still wasn't clear who the victor would be. Paulie was proud of himself. He hadn't screamed or cried out once and Blockbuster was smashing yet another massive fist into his body, sending him through a storefront. In came the big monster, bald and thick browed, his fingers flexing as he made another fist to strike Paulie with. They'd been trading punches for a few minutes now, unfortunately Paulie didn't have the muscle mass to back up his invulnerability. He could take it but he couldn't dish it out. So all he had was his wits and next to someone like Blockbuster, only a minuscule amount of comparable super strength. Mainly since his body wouldn't break or muscles snap, he could lift a car if he got the right leverage and his strength did seem to be a dozen times more than a man his size would normal be. Xavier had theorized that psychologically Paulie had developed his invulnerability from anxiety and fear about being hurt so that he was to some unconscious degree limiting a large increase in strength as well. Or he could simply be a mutant who would always lack super strength. Not every power set was complimentary. 
"Ok, you freak, I'm gonna have to take you down hard!" Paulie snapped, steadying his body for his next move. He would use leverage not strength to do this right the first time. Paulie stood up and took the next blows, then grabbed Blockbuster's wrists, yanked hard until the massive Marauder was tumbling head first down a flight of stairs. Paulie snatched up a metal rod and leaped down the stairs, standing on Piledriver's back, then with all of his might, drove the pipe into the man's spine. Though the skin didn't break, Piledriver howled in agony and swatted Paulie through several walls. 
"You will die slowly for that!" Piledriver roared, thrashing his way through the walls until he came upon Paulie who was laying curled up on the floor. 
"Guess what?" Paulie coughed. 
"What?!" Piledriver demanded. 
"Your inner probably ain't as tough as your outer!" Paulie screamed and drove the pipe into the mutant's open mouth, up through the roof of his mouth and into his brain, killing him instantly. Piledriver fell back, dumfounded and dead in an instant. 
"Surprised ain't you, motherfucker! Huh?! HUH? Yeah, thought I was gonna go all Cyclops on your beefy ass and play fair, right? Nope, I read. Not only are you guys the official mad dogs of the mutant world, you're also a bunch of clones. And I'm pro- choice, baby! You ain't nothing but something that ain't even covered by the goddamn Constitution!" Paulie spit on him, his own blood from the inside of his mouth, coming it, the inspiration for his final blow. "That's the problem with these X jokers, you gotta leave a few bodies around every once in awhile so people know not to fuck with you. Hey, maybe 'Constitution'? That's a good code name." He gave it a moment of thought then shook his head as he hurried back outside. 
Nah, it sounded like he had the ability to not vomit.

Arclight slammed her fists on the ground sending a violent shock wave that caused windows to blow apart, cars to tumble, and Psyche, Carlos and Iceman to fall to the ground. "Looks like I get to burn some X-Men too! Could this gig be any better?" Arclight chuckled. 
"Have a care, cow, those are my teammates!" Northstar said, slamming into Arclight from behind, then snapping back into the air, slamming into her again, then repeating several times, until she had been smashed through the pavement. Psyche, on her knees, didn't hesitate as she reached into Arclight's mind and brutally ripped out her worst fear for all to see. The hazy image seemed to be the incubation tanks these clones were held in and then it was opened and the face of Sinister appeared. Arclight crouched screaming in dread at the thought of being awakened once again from what she hoped would be death to fight again for a master she couldn't get away from. 
"Nicely done," Allegra complimented as Iceman froze Arclight from head to toe. 
"We try to get the job done," Psyche shrugged as they got to their feet. "Watch out for that arrogance, red skin," Scalphunter said from the other end of the street opening fire with a heavy artillery gun of his own creation. 
"Rabbit!" Psyche shouted as Allegra pulled her behind a car and Northstar scooped up Iceman who had thrown up a hasty ice shield to cover their dispersal. It had been ripped to shreds by the bullets. 
"My hero! Whatever would I do without you?" Iceman cooed mockingly. 
"End up the way of your pathetic shield attempt," Northstar said circling back. Scalphunter had continued to fire until the ice encasing Arclight was weakened enough for her to rip it apart angrily. 
"Bitch! I will kill you for that!" Arclight screamed charging towards Psyche. Psyche easily ducked under Arclight's first blow and came up with a mean upper cut that had barely any effect upon the woman. 
"Allow me," Allegra stand, his hands pressing on Psyche's body for a brief moment so that he could get airborne enough to kick Arclight back. "Not good enough, spic!" Arclight said, grabbing Allegra's foot before he had landed and swatting him at Psyche like a club. Psyche leaped over Allegra, used Arclight's shoulders as balance to flip over, grabbing the woman's hair at the last second. Before her feet were even on the ground she had Arclight bending backwards and then on her back being flipped into a car before the woman was quite sure what had happened. 
"Excellent," Allegra said, having fallen to the ground. He shoved Psyche to the side as Arclight charged like a mad bull between them and they both slammed their elbows down onto her neck. Psyche's hand came around with her psi bow and arrow ready, a quick flick and the arrow was lodged in Arclight's back, the woman writhing in pain. "Allow me for her slurring of us both," Allegra said. "By all means," Psyche laughed. Allegra grabbed the back of Arclight's neck and closed his eyes. A moment later she had stopped fighting the still embedded and glow psi arrow and was unconscious.
"You want to explain how you did that?" Psyche asked him.
"When we have more time, I promise."

Iceman kept up the return volley of ice spears at Scalphunter, who was running through a shopping center, firing indiscriminately over his should at the sliding Iceman and the airborne Northstar. The speedster concerned himself with yanking and dropping to safety people who were in the line of fire from the Marauder's wild shots.
"We have to end this, Iceman," Northstar said to his teammate.
"Ok, switch!" Iceman said and Northstar dove down in pursuit of Scalphunter on foot as Iceman's slide rose up, ice walls freezing up behind him to protect the bystanders.
Northstar zipped through people, cursing the fact that it seemed to be a popular mall and that they had to watch out from hitting the people but that Scalphunter could use them as targets.
Northstar increased his speed dramatically then stopped short suddenly, the air pressure lashing through the crowd and slamming them all to the ground, including Scalphunter. Ice blocks appeared on the villains arms and instant later but before they could secure him properly the sky light above shattered and Archangel and Harpoon came tumbled through, locked in a vicious fist fight.
"The glass, Northstar!" Iceman shouted.
"Yes, yes, I see it and I'm dealing with it, Drake. Don't get your shorts in a bunch," Northstar sighed and began soaring back and forth in a circular formation around the ground floor until an updraft as created. His only concern was that his teammate might find it disconcerting.
Sabine watched them closely, the X-Men engaging the Marauders and she held her breath because other than Meridian, herself, none of them knew which X- Man was their first target. Her employer was a shrewd, one to not let all of her secrets out at once. Now? She asked her mistress mentally. Not yet, soon.
"This madness ends now, you hear me, butcher! You killed children, you even destroyed my wings before but I won't allow it again!" Archangel roared as he smashed through the mall skylight with Harpoon. He'd spotted the man covering his teammates from the room and dive-bombed into him. Harpoon though surprised was far from stunned as he gave Archangel blow for blow , not a care to his fate as he fell through the air.
Suddenly Northstar's updraft stilled them both in mid-air for an instant and then shot them back up through the roof. Archangel used to the surprise of up air currents, twisted his wings so that they took full advantage of the push and yanked Harpoon almost a thousand feet into the air.
"You may be tough, Harpoon but I've learned not to hesitate," Archangel said to the Inuit man as he spun around and threw Harpoon towards the ground. Harpoons screams could be heard for almost two blocks and then they ended as he crashed like a small meteor into a storefront.
"Fool! You would think that you would tire of this!" Magma shouted at Riptide as he spun his body like a blur, razor sharp resin stars firing at her. "I enjoy a good kill, woman!" He said advancing towards her slowly as she kept blasting in front of herself, destroying the stars. 
"I am not an easy kill, little man! I am both an X-Man and a Lord Cardinal and I tire of this sullying of my hands with a monster low enough to both slaughter innocents and then rape a war torn country of the few coins it has left!" 
"Eh, it's a living, what can I say?" he pressed closer to her, forcing her to generate even greater body temperatures to destroy the resin stars. Suddenly he was close enough to grab her throat, his hands seemingly unfazed by the heat radiating from her. 
"Start with: Our Father who art in Heaven?" Magma suggested grinning evilly and two columns of molten earth shot out of the soil, did a sharp ninety degree turn and compacted Riptide between them.
Now, Meridian ordered. Sabine rejoiced and ran from the lobby of the bank the Marauders had been robbing and where she'd been standing off to the side in a trench coat towards the X-Men. The trench coat was flung away revealing the silk bodysuit with leather straps across the chest to hold the back sheaths. Pulling her swords from the sheaths, arms and blades blurring as she streaked at Paulie who was coming out of a store he and Piledriver had crashed into. 
"Stupid idiot," he said, her blades the least of what he was afraid of from this group. He arrogantly reached out to catch the blades in mid-flight only to have Sabine swipe her blades away from him at what would've been the moment of contact and kick her leg into his, swiping him to the ground. Before he could move, she dug her sword into the ground below, pulled up an electrical cable and flicked it at him, the other sword, cut the causing open. The ensuing shock caused Paulie to shriek before he could weakly roll away from the live wire. Sabine was still moving, charging towards the other X-Men at the end of the street. 
"I've got her!" Psyche yelled, manifesting and firing psi arrows with her bow shaft but Sabine leapt suddenly, almost twenty feet directly up then dropped to the ground in a tumble. She came up completely having hopped over the arrows and slashed at her adversary. Psyche backpedaled, finally forced to use her bow shaft to block one of the blades as it slammed at her. Sabine smiled as the katana split open and metal needles flew out. 
"Aiiiiiieeeeeee!" Psyche screamed as the needles dug deeply into her forearms that she'd brought up to protect her face. Allegra slammed into Sabine from behind, having moved faster and quieter than anyone would've expected. Sabine rolled with the blow and came back up in a crouching stance, blades extended. 
Carlos Allegra? He's with them now? Meridian whispered in genuine surprise. Sabine, you're no match for him. They probably don't know the full extent of his abilities. He won't allow you to kill him but he will restrain himself. Use that advantage
Sabine grunted an acknowledgement then thrust herself at Allegra who used the flats of his hands to block the slashes, his accuracy remarkably as fast as her hyper kinetic attacks until Sabine somersaulted over his head landing her swords pointing forward. He turned to her back and Sabine clicked two buttons on her sword hilts, the blades collapsed from facing forward and shot out of the hilts in the opposite direction. He expertly twisted but was still impaled by one blade in the mid-section and grazed in the leg by the other. Sabine retracted the blades and somersaulted over him again, tossing her blades up in the air as she slammed her leg into his kidney and then several sharp nerve pinches into his back. She spun around, caught the dropping blades, flicked a switch and electrical arcs burst from the blades lifting him agonizingly off of the ground. 
Very good, Sabine, keep him off balance! He's worth the electrical charge and not that idiot Provenzano! Meridian laughed then warned calmly. Behind you. Sabine twisted as Archangel swooped down, hands clasped in a fist and slammed into her side, his original intent having been more impactful but he'd stopped the attack on Carlos Allegra who was stumbling away, bleeding profusely from his side. Psyche was also crouched down, pulling what looked like thin knives from her forearms. Their psi rapport was leaking her distress and he purposefully focused calming thoughts at her. He wouldn't let this go any further. 
"We've taken out nearly all of your team, give it up, lady," Archangel said, having flown back a few feet to avoid the length of her blades. Sabine grinned as she turned to the aloft Archangel, spinning her blades and the ground trembled as Magma burst up from a fissure, between them, covered in lava and tossed a clearly broken Riptide, questionably alive, at her feet. 
"The ass never had a chance," Magma spat in disgust. "He may twist the wind but I am one with the earth." 
"Careful, she's a tough one!" Paulie yelled as the three X-Men circled Sabine. Have a care, Sabine. They are going to be much more vicious having dealt with the other Marauders and you've yet to acquire the target. Yes, mistress. Sabine leaped up into the air, almost forty feet then dropped down spinning and contorting wildly, her swords slashing the air violently in every which direction until her target was uncertain. She flicked another button on the hilt of her sword and three inches from the tip of the blade rocketed off and impaled itself into Magma's arm, the carbotanium not melting at the searing temperatures the X-Men's body was giving off. Magma shrieked in pain and shock and fired a blast of flame at Sabine who was already back flipping away from it. 
Magma reverted to her human form, the poison secreted from the opening blade tip. Archangel went to help Amara, who waved him away. "I can use the earth to help me!" with that the earth enveloped her body, a flare of flames and lava erupting from where she lay, expunging the poison and the blade tip. The earthen cocoon opened to reveal a healed but unconscious Amara. .
"Form on me! Keep out of her reach!" Archangel yelled to Iceman and Northstar as they rushed over to aid the others in taking down the last Marauder. 
"We lost Scalphunter when you came through the roof!" Iceman yelled at Archangel. Sabine merely grinned and pirouetted into the air, defying gravity as if it were a choice and not a definite, landing in front of a startled Iceman. 
"She's moving at super speed, that's why you're all so useless!" Northstar realized, ascertaining that the single woman had caused so much damage to his teammates. He missiled towards her but she was already in elegant, eerily silent motion. Sabine turned and swiped at Iceman, cutting deeply into his iced up body, then she plunged the blade deep into his chest and pressed a button. Small pores opened within the blade delivering a potent acid explosion within him. "AHHHHHHHH!" Iceman screamed as Sabine turned to Northstar as the speedster snatched her up into the air. 
"Someone helped Bobby!" Northstar yelled into his comm link as he rapidly ascended higher and higher, the friction, air pressure change and lack of oxygen intended to knock the woman unconscious. Or kill her. At this point in the battle that had ravaged the financial district he wasn't sure if the X-men were eager to make discernment on what was too far with wanton murderers. 
Mistress? Sabine questioned. 
No, don't kill him. He has potential. More than even he knows. He won't kill you, Meridian promised. Achieve his desired results.. 
Northstar felt Sabine struggle for a few minutes and then finally lose consciousness, he casually arced back down towards Madripoor island, thousands of feet below them, the extreme shifts having no effect upon his body physiology which granted him superior protection to high speed. 
"Ohmigod! Ohmigod! Ohmigod! Help me!" Bobby shrieked as his ice body began crumbling in on itself, the acid eating away his insides. Archangel looked desperately at Psyche. 
"What can we do?" Psyche shook her head, her arms still bleeding from the needles she'd pulled out. "Actually, I don't think we have to do anything. I'm not seeing the specter of death on him, he's not dying. He just thinks he is. Bobby, focus! In ice form you control your every molecule!" she shouted at him, reluctant to touch him as the acid was bubbling through the surface of his ice "skin". Carlos Allegra limped over, obviously badly wounded but still able to function. He grabbed Bobby's ice hand and closed his eyes, focusing. 
"Be calm, Robert. Steady your mind as the Professor taught you. Close your eyes. You are envisioning pain, there is no true pain. I feel no pain from you." Archangel looked warily at Carlos, he was still a Lord Cardinal of the Hellfire Club, he didn't trust him, no matter his pledge to protect Amara. Psyche spoke up, getting vague psionic impressions of what was occurring. 
"Relax, Warren, its some sort of shared empathic wave. He's focusing his psi self at Bobby's core, to get Bobby to stop articulating himself emotionally to a body that he relates to his other form. He's just ice now. By choice. By panicking, he's forgotten that." 
"I've dealt with her," Northstar said landing and tossing Sabine to the ground as he rushed to Bobby's side. "Do not die on me, Drake, there is still a plethora of embarrassing and humiliating situations I have to put you into." 
"I-I'm trying!" Bobby groaned. "Carlos is helping but it's hard to stop thinking of this as my body. To repair it. I'm not sure where to start. Carlos is weak too, in pain, don't let him do this too far," Iceman moaned, seeing the strain on Carlos' face, his eyes shut tightly as he focused his self into him to affirm his core self. Northstar grabbed Carlos' other hand and simply pictured in his mind Iceman as completely whole in a pristine ice form and then a picture of Bobby as human and healed. 
"That is what you look like, you fool!" Northstar said, immediately feeling part of the psi link. "Carlos, can only sympathize not heal you. It's why he's such a good Bishop and will never be a Lord Cardinal King." 
"Jean-Paul, are you still mad about Madrid?" Carlos teased, chuckling, even as blood came to his lips. 
"I know both of you. Better than you know yourselves. You both whimper and jest and capitulate to have identities. Well now it's time to, by force of will alone, live! When this is over, genuflecting will be payment enough. Now focus, Bobby, we can't send Carlos back to Spain in a body bag because you drained him too far. Though there would be an uproar of applause, it is rude," A deep white glow extended from Northstar to the link between Carlos and Bobby and both men seemed to draw strength from it. 
"O-ok," Bobby said and slowly the acid seemed to stop bubbling so rapidly and instead ice bandages appeared and then the acid was forced out of Iceman's body until there were crackling puddles on the ground. 
"Not bad, Jean-Paul, were you going to tell us about that healing light of yours?" Psyche asked sarcastically. 
"I've only been able to do this with my sister, top help her at times with her fractured identities, but I reasoned that Carlos's empathy could tap into my strength of will that they both obviously lack," Northstar said snidely breaking contact. 
Bobby and Carlos both gasped as if an oxygen line had been taken away and then Bobby was able to shift to a fully human form. Carlos merely dropped to his haunches, holding his wound, but not looking as ragged anymore. 
"We need to get that tended to," Archangel said helping Carlos to his feet. "And thanks, Carlos,. Between the Professor's nod and you unhesitantly helping us twice I'm willing to offer you a hand of at the very least amicability." 
"Why thank you, Mr. Worthington," Carlos rasped, "you'll find that our motives and morals are not as far apart as my associations may've originally brought you to believe." 
"Touching," Sabine sneered then leapt at the group of them. She kicked Bobby and Psyche to one side then hurled steel pins at Archangel, nicking his wings in several places. Archangel tried to flap his way airborne but a thick resin was spreading like fire over his wings secreted from the pins until they were completely encased in a dark gelatinous goo as firm, dense and heavy as amber. Never having been without the balance of his wings but still saddled with their considerable weight he tumbled backgrounds, taking Carlos down to the ground with him. 
"Enough!" Psyche said, standing up an energy staff in her bloodied hands. "This ends here and now!" 
"Allow me!" Northstar said, dashing into Sabine with half a dozen blows that seemed to be moving in slow motion as she back flipped away from them, throwing equally vicious jabs and punches at him. Northstar maintained a heightened speed, increasing it in increments to dodge her blows but at best they were both evenly matched, they were at a stalemate of blocking blows rather than truly landing them. To the others it looked like the ultimate martial arts exchange with no headway being made by either. 
"Danielle!" Carlos groaned and Psyche helped him to stand, using her shoulder to brace him. We can't defeat her because of the thread. Can you see the thread?" 
"Thread? What are you talking--------?" but the very mentioned of it suddenly seemed to make it visible. Or better yet, apparent, apparent to her. There was a thread, no wider than a piece of cloth thread that seemed to be in Sabine's back and extending up into the air. 
"I see it! So we cut it?" 
"She is literally on the strings of someone else. And if it's the Marauders she leads then I would suggest Mr. Sinister. I doubt that either you or I have the power to cut his string to his puppet, but we might be able to disrupt it," Carlos said weakly to her. 
"Ok, how?" Psyche mumbled, she preferred direct action and the range of Carlos' psi abilities seemed to not be amazingly powerful but incredibly keen. She wasn't sure if she trusted him more or less for them now being revealed. 
"Psionics is not my power base.merely an offshoot. But I can perceive on different planes. I can show you how to attack the thread itself if you'll link with me. It doesn't exist in this plane of reality," he whispered. The flurry of Northstar and Sabine's violent dance to Carlos' eyes an obvious standoff. 
"You're always so polite, Carlos, so cautious with your words. Say what it is or what you mean, man, we don't have a lot of time here!" Psyche barked. Carlos laughed, choking again then turned her face to his with his free hand. 
"For one so powerful and ripened with the Valkyrie essence, you are such a tempestuous one. Look at me, Danielle and see what I hold within my essence!" Psyche felt her mind being first poked at, almost cautiously, or rather politely. And that polite touching could only be the ever-courteous Allegra. Finally she felt his essence spreading over hers, touching her being without trying to pierce into her sense of Self, merely becoming like a drape over her mind. He leaned in and kissed her, long and deep and at first she was enraptured, amazed at the gentleness she sensed in him and then she realized it was an ulterior motive as his salty blood was forced down her throat by his tongue. 
Don't resist, Danielle, the Beast is strong but there shall be no harm, Carlos projected into her mind and Psyche hesitated wondering what he was talking about then she saw the Death image in his face, crawling up her flesh, seeping into her. Death was in his blood! But not like a biological disease, this Death was an Entity. So old that she got whispers of it in words, in names she knew were older than anything she could ever hope to speak. But she knew that it hungered. It hungered for light, for flesh, for breath, and when it saw all three in Psyche it instinctively grabbed at her. She screamed and tried to refuse him, to put up her psi shields but Carlos, weakened by a wound, held her in an iron grip, body and mind. 
Get out of me! You are one of Death's champions, 
Danielle, do not insult one of it's relatives, Carlos smiled and she felt him grip her in the comfort of his own essence as a barrier against the darkness, a shield from that which he gave her. He was allowing her to share in it but not be possessed by it, infected by it, as he was. Her first instinct had been to panic but now she understood that Carlos was both gleeful to share this secret and deeply concerned that she not be infected by it. She also caught the wisp of a secret of his, he had manipulated Amara into liking him, into wanting him as her second, as her bodyguard, but Danielle fascinated him. Something akin to infatuation, as if he had so many things he wanted to share with her, talk to her about that only she would understand. That they were akin to the other. 
Danielle shrieked again and tumbled to the ground, Carlos landing on top of her, their mouths still locked, clutching each other until he slipped unconscious. But she could feel that his mind was strong, glowing with power even and his body was healing, somehow the transfer had boosted his ability to heal rapidly. She could sense that the wound was almost completely healed. Similar to her rapport with Warren she could feel deeply into Carlos's mental state but unlike Warren, Carlos had experience in keeping his mind private, segmented. She could sense him, his presence, his healing but his thoughts were his own. There was something in the blood which had locked them into a rapport, some kind of animal----hadn't he called it a Beast? 
"Paulie, help her!" Archangel ordered, trying to crawl over to Dani. "It felt like she was drowning in something. Something in his mind!" He clawed his way across the ground trying to get closer to her, his wings like huge stone weights, not sure what Carlos had done to her though her could feel her calming through their rapport. 
"Dani? You ok? What happened?" Paulie asked as he lifted Carlos off of her and gently rolled him onto his back. "That did not look like a fight. In fact it looked like humping. Which if that's his super power, I will not be practicing with him in the Danger Room. Though if it's a new power of yours, I'm willing to be your test case when you need it." 
"It wasn't a fight. I'm fine. He's a psi but not like we understand, he was trying to show me something Help me see what he can see on Sabine," Psyche said, letting her teammate help her to her feet as she took a good look at Sabine and Northstar who looked like vague impressions striking at each other. But with a bit of focus, almost like holding Carlos's mental hand she could see them moving much slower, closer to human speed which explained how he'd been able to fight her. But the thread was a fully intact cord now, wrapped firmly around the hand of a woman, an astral figure that was a deep cerulean. 
"Who are you?" Psyche demanded of the woman. "Yes, you!" 
Meridian turned, mildly surprised at their battlefield improvisation but not afraid. I am the one who holds Sabine's conduit, Meridian answered as if it was simply the most obvious answer on the planet. 
"Who are you talking to, Moonstar? Don't go bonkers on me now!" Paulie asked nervously. 

"You're not Sinister!" Psyche yelled. Meridian considered her answer then psi spoke so only Psyche could hear her. 
As a noun, no, but as an adjective, I'd have to say, yes
"I take it you're seeing something I can't?" Paulie nodded. "Or that a battlefield hump drives you crazy?" 
"Yes, Paulie, a woman. She's all blue and she has Sabine on a leash. I don't think we're dealing with Sinister at all." 
Sabine, if you're done exercising, you may leave with our prize now, Meridian said calmly. First, Iceman, he presents the most threat should he be accidentally harmed to my long term plans. 
Yes, mistress. Sabine tripled her speed, easily knocking Northstar out with several well placed blows, his shocked expression priceless then she held open her hands and shuriken appeared, flying into Bobby who was barely conscious, disabling him. 
"Behind me, chief, I think I know what to do," Paulie said as he ran towards Sabine. Sabine flipped backwards, landing with the grace of a falling feather, opened her hands and beckoned him. 
"Sabine has no use for you, Paulie. You I have been given as a kill." 
"Is that right?" Paulie grinned as Sabine charged into him with a flurry of kicks and jabs that had no effect upon his invulnerable flesh. 
"How about this!" he laughed then savagely kicked her in the crotch. 
"Works on women too." Sabine fell into a crouch then looked up, gasping in pain and grinning. 
"Yes, it does, however everything is fluid." With those words, Sabine's flesh flowed like water until she was a man and came up with a blow that sent Paulie hurtling hundreds of feet, his exclamation heard across the battlefield until he landed nearly half a mile away. 
"I do not need to keep any part of my body that is in pain." Magma stood up, flames flickering from her body. 
"Psyche, I take it that Sabine is a metamorphic as well." 
"Amara, I'm not sure what the hell Sabine is! But he, is very good." Sabine's swords were sheathed and he laid his palms out flat, energy cascading outwards like a wave that knocked the two X-Men to the ground. Sabine rose into the air, his body surrounded by flares of plasma energy and he fired another cascade at them, this time though it was stopped by an ice wall. 
"Once I remember what frog legs told me, I realized that my body, like yours, is a choice. And right now I choose the form that is gonna kick your ass!" Iceman roared, rising on a sled of ice, his body grotesquely over- proportioned and spiked. Sabine was startled by the speed which Iceman traveled the ramp, not so much carrying him as extending his body up so that the slamming blow to the ground could be achieved. 
Psyche took the chance at lashing out with her psi power at both Sabine and the blue woman, reasoning that the invisible woman could reach her with telepathy so she could be struck down mentally. Thousands of images came sprouting forth from both minds and Sabine curled into a ball then spasmed out, plasma again tidal waving into them all. Meridian, miles away, slammed back into her chair. She had to retreat from Sabine, from the battlefield so that her mind wouldn't be so violently rendered as her servant's was. She felt for the mental connection again, and wordlessly encouraged Sabine to look beyond all of the manifested fears. They were not real. There was only one true fear that Sabine need concern himself with. Failing Meridian. Paulie and Carlos ran over to the two X-Women who were keeping their distance from Sabine but ready to strike at a moment's notice. If the mutant metamorph was wise, he wouldn't get up. But Sabine turned a feral look on his face and smiled. 
"For that, I will take pleasure in this." 

Thank you for reading,
Kyle Phoenix

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