Chapter 4: Rebel
Lorna Dane’s mutant powers reawaken through a painful device at Mesmero’s behest. When she comes out of it, she has a choice: remain a meek girl or save her heroes.
Author’s Note: This chapter is one I’m both most proud of and most worried about how it’ll be perceived given imagery and allusions used. It’s based primarily on X-Men #49, 50 and 51; her introductory issues. Here’s pics from my re-read to prep this chapter: https://imgur.com/a/xBTxGJO.
Crucifixion. Resurrection. A cross. The sight of this green teen girl splayed out on a techno-slab conjured images and themes long-admired by the majority of this country. The rulers. The humans. The bigots. It represented a tiny package of convenient morals to assuage hurt feelings in themselves while denying them in anyone they considered ‘the other’.
It did not represent Lorna Dane.
She screamed. Hair floating. Arms twitching. Magnetism fastened her wrists to the circles of her cross-beam, harder than any pair of handcuffs. For three seconds – three loooooooong seconds – she endured. Writhing, shaking, gnashing her teeth, clenching her eyes shut, she endured. Her heart thumped wildly to keep up with her ever-growing limits.
100 volts. 200 volts. 350. 450. 500. 1000. As the voltage climbed, it cleansed all traces of her old self. Her meek self. Her naive self. Her sheltered self, twelve hundred miles from home. Alone. All this power devoured her innocence as swiftly as remnants of her brown hair dye fizzled in puffs of dark smoke. Through it all, she uselessly tossed in her bonds for any give she could take.
Crackle! Crzzzz! The machines spit electric fire up and down a metal stake holding their captive. Even those who built this travesty mistook the machines themselves for this visual spectacle, but no. It came from the flesh and blood bound within. Every cell of Lorna Dane’s body hummed as the tech agitated their genetic cores. Microscale pokes and prods made the cells lash out. Their violence erupted in the shape of raw energy blasting all about her. Her whole world blossomed in emerald shades… and through that miasma, she saw her abductor.
Mesmero. With a giant M on his belt, a long cape and absurd helmet, it puzzled Lorna how this man in a joke of a costume could inflict such suffering on her for his so-called noble cause. How he could claim to be superior while watching her struggle with a joyous smirk.
“The genius that was bequeathed us by the magnificent Magneto shall bring forth from this feeble shell – a being powerful beyond all others! And our invincible leader!”
This ‘feeble shell’ glowered through her pain at the monster. That’s what he was. Not man. Not mutant. His lack of respect for a girl he claimed to prize second only to Magneto himself came through clear in his words. He did not see her for her. He saw her for what he wanted her to be. Another thing he could control. Another puppet to dance on his whims. An object he could use as he desired, under a righteous guise.
The genetic stimulator buzzed with its first signs of salvation. Its whining, crackling chorale built to a deafening crescendo, and finally… silence. Lorna breathed deep and heavy. Her sweat sizzled into clean vapor off her tired limbs. At last, freedom. Freedom to use these new powers for a bit of revenge.
Or so she thought. Then she saw them.
“Behold! She stands before us now – the omnipotent empress of all evil mutants! For within her runs the blood of he whose name is sacred unto us!”
The X-Men had failed. Her heroes, the team of rebellious youths who righted wrongs with their tremendous mutant gifts, fell before Mesmero and his men. They stood as slumped, pale imitations of themselves. Angel’s glorious feathery wings hung low. Cyclops cast his ruby red visor downward. The hulking Beast hardly seemed able to move much less fling cars.
But the worst of what Lorna saw? Jean Grey. The fiery redhead who so often showed how women could fight just fine among the boys, now stood quietly behind their leader.
Witnessing their defeat, Lorna had a choice. One playing in her mind as she listened to the villain of this moment spout off another trite line to massage his own ego.
“Yes – now may I reveal that she is – daughter of Magneto – and Queen of Mutants! Hail, glorious queen!”
Play the part. Be the queen. Or step aside, be her old naive self and watch her heroes die right in front of her. Perhaps before her time through gadget hell, she might have left it to the X-Men to save her. Not anymore. Mustering some courage, she stepped forward with her arms high. She took on a dark, menacing mien – an easy task for her after suffering through eternal seconds of agony. It burned fresh in muscle memory, so hot that when she gazed on her allies and looked into their dreadful eyes, she did her best to assuage their fears by contorting her fingers into a pair of devil horns.
The devil horns. So simple. So misunderstood. Like them. Like mutants everywhere. What the old guard mistook as some perverse allegiance to the devil, up and coming teens knew its true meaning: a ward against the evil eye. Resistance to toxic authority, to a tin man with an M on his belt and a big head who sought to possess her and failed.
It was a minor gesture. One she hoped the X-Men would notice. Even if they didn’t, she needed to keep up her act. Absorbing the ludicrous despot’s manner of speech, she concocted a few lines and rattled them off as best she could.
“Now I understand the strange stirrings within me that tortured my soul almost from my first conscious moment! For, my father’s blood, though unknown to me, could not be silenced! Yes – I know my calling now! I am your – queen!”
The X-Men trembled. Mesmero’s followers kneeled. They bought it. Every one of them believed every word. That moment, right then, she knew she had it. Her opening.
Power coursed through her veins. Electric might sparked over her arms, slammed into her chest, danced through her light minty hair – its color drained to a paler shade than when her ordeal began. Mere feet away, Beast’s Mini-Cerebro fumed. Overloaded wires. It couldn’t take her energy. Hotter, brighter, it only took seconds – three seconds – before the brand new device exploded. Blue shards flew everywhere.
Ever since they took her, Mesmero’s men described her in many different ways. An M-II weapon. A living goddess. Empress. Queen. From a simple girl living a simple life, to some kind of evil master unto herself, her captors clearly had high ambitions for how they could purge her innocence and use her for themselves.
Too bad she had other ideas, and it all came down to one thing: that damned cross. Her captors may have seen it as a symbol of rebirth, but Lorna felt something different. She felt her ancestors. She felt good Jewish men and women who lived, and loved, and suffered and died because they dared to defy Roman law. Because they sought to be more than what people told them to be. Because they were special, and they showed it.
For all their bluster, Mesmero and his men were no different. They simply thought they could keep the body and kill her soul.
They failed. She still lived, whole, and she would make them pay for what they did. As she unleashed waves of force on those who claimed to worship her, she took on a mantle all her own. One that belonged to her by birthright.