X-Men Evolution NEXT

Challanges

Charles removes the interfacing helmet to Cerebro and gently places it on the console. He takes a deep breath as he settles back into his wheel chair. His expression appears concerned, and he begins typing on the console. Information of locations, sightings, and recent activities list themselves down the screen. Charles shakes his head muttering out, "Where are you Eric?"

Hank walks into chamber holding two coffee mugs and slowly approaches Charles. "Take a five minute break, Professor, even a mind as powerful as yours needs to relax from time to time." Hank says placing one coffee mug on the console.

"Indeed Hank," Charles replies, "but I am thinking about the safety of the students. Mastermind's attack on Allan's mind has shown I must be ever vigilant of Magneto's motives."

Hank takes a sip of his coffee, then asks, "Have you been able to locate Magneto?"

Charles answers, "Unfortunately no. And I have cross referenced all relevant information, including his last known whereabouts in the Sahara desert. Yet, Cerebro cannot even locate a slight trace of him, or Acolytes."

Rubbing his chin, Hank says, "So, it is quite obvious, he is on the move again. And it seems his cloaking technology is still effective. Do you think he will attack Allan again?"

"Statistically speaking, I am inclined to say yes," Charles answers, "his recent activities have all been directed towards Allan, not his cause for mutant prosperity."

"No one really knows the mind of an obsessed person." Hank remarks, "What of the others? Have they found Evan?"

Charles replies, "Yes they have, as well as the Morlocks and a crowd of other mutants. It seems this group of mutants have congregated to an isolated farm where they claim a mutant calling himself Sauron, is able to cure their mutant deformities."

"Deformities?" Hank asks with a baffled expression, "How so?"

"That is the mystery," Charles answers, "but I am told that this Sauron cured Evan of his exoskeletal shell. The X-men are investigating this. Logan has a hunch that this may have to do with a meteorite that has crashed in nearby field. He has been in contact every fifteen minutes."

"Well, even if this Sauron turns out to be legitimate, he'll have a mob scene on his hands." Hank remarks.

Charles sighs out, "Let us hope the situation does not turn that direction."

Turning his wheel chair around to face Hank, Charles changes the subject, "So how are the other students?"

"As well as can be, I guess." Hank replies, "They are curious about the action that is supposedly taking place. They are also a tad bit concerned over Allan's show of power. But other than that, things are pretty much normal. The new students are adapting well."

"Speaking of Allan," Charles mentions, "how did he do with the Brotherhood?"

Hank smiles as he puts his coffee mug on the console and says, "Wonderfully Professor. I have no words for his performance with them."

"Where is Allan now, Hank?" Charles asks.

Hank replies, "He is accompanying the Brotherhood, taking them to their old house so they can pick up some personal items."

Charles smiles and relaxes a bit as Hank's expression becomes concerned. "About Allan," Hank adds, "as powerful as he is, can he help Jean?"

"He asked me the same thing, Hank." Charles replies, "We must believe he can. For as unlimited his gifts may seem, his heart is still human. Personally, I believe he can, and will."

Hank nods with a smile saying, "Seeing how he handled the Brotherhood today, without resorting to violence, I must say I believe he is capable of anything."

Sauron stands before the crowd looking to the sky with both of his lanky arms reaching up. His scruffy shoulder length brown hair blows in the light wind as he preaches, "Behold, I bring you salvation. No longer will you suffer at the mercy of your mutant gifts. I give you second life, to the one that was stolen from you. Come, friends, feel the touch of the stars, the touch of the heavens."

One mutant walks up to him. It is apparent to Cyclops, Iceman and Rogue, who stand in the crowd, what this particular person's mutation has made him into. His skin appears thick and a bit scaly. Sharp spines and spikes protrude from his body as they rip through his tattered attire. The color of his skin is a somewhat vomit looking brown. His facial expression is of sadness, but glimmers with hope as he slowly lumbers to Sauron. Placing his hands upon the man's scaly complexion, Sauron closes his eyes preaching again, "Suffer no more, my mutant brother. Let the heavens free you of your pain."

His hands glow in an angelic halo as the light engulfs them both. The scaly man gasps out and falls to his knees as the light fades away. The three X-men are amazed as the crowd gasps at once gazing upon the once scaly man, now appearing normal. His scaly bulky physique is now a trim man of flesh with his tattered clothes flopping over him, the man stumbles back disoriented into the crowd. Cyclops rushes up as he catches him before he falls and holds him up on his feet. The crowd moves up to the man and touch his face one after the other. The man looks at his hands and arms, then touches his face and cheers out, "He did it! I'm cured! Look at me!" as he jumps around in laughter.

The crowd approaches Sauron, each one begging to be next. Holding out his arms over them he says, "Soon my brothers and sisters, now I must rest and my family needs me."

He turns away and walks casually to a farm house across the field. Rogue and Iceman walk up to Cyclops with baffled expressions. "Can that dude be real?" Iceman asks.

Cyclops replies, "It appears that way, but I really don't know."

Evan speaks up, "What's to know, Scott? Look at me, I'm back to normal. Sauron can help all of you." as he gesture to them.

Evan continues, "Just think, you won't have to wear those shades all the time. Rogue, you'll be able to touch anyone without hurting them."

Rogue's expression becomes blank as Iceman says, "Hold it, does he take away your powers?"

A woman from the crown overhearing their conversation darts out, "No, he heals! He healed my son. Do not take this miracle away from us!"

"How do you define heal, ma'am?" Cyclops responds.

Rogue quickly walks up to Cyclops saying, "Its best we back off, Cyclops. They're obviously bought on this Sauron guy."

They turn and watch as Evan walks back to the crowd. They welcome him back into the fold while Storm watches with deep concern. Cyclops notices her expression as he turns to Rogue and Iceman. "So, you two bought on this also?" He asks them.

Iceman replies shaking his head, "I'm not giving up my powers for nothing, dude."

"Ah don't know what to believe, Scott." Rogue adds, "Ah'll be honest, it's temptin', but I think we need to learn more about what's goin' on."

Cyclops nods his head and remarks, "Agreed, let's go find Wolverine and see what he's dug up."

Out in front of the Brotherhood house, Allan walks around his jeep examining the his recent repairs he had conducted. Most of the damage was done by Pyro, who panicked after Allan and Logan started a bar brawl and nearly incinerated the vehicle with a blind shot from his flame throwers. Not an expert in car body repair, Allan does his best fixing the jeep back into it's shiny condition. His remarkable ability to manipulate and rearrange energy came in handy, not to mention it spared his wallet of anymore expenses. He leans back against the front reinforced bumper waiting for the Brotherhood as they bustle about their old house collecting their belongings. Allan glances at his watch then yells out, "Come on people, Burger Joint closes in about two hours."

He stands back up and walks towards the back of his jeep checking his empty tow trailer. He reaches down to check the trailer hitch connection making sure it's secure. As he stands back up, Allan sees a white sports car slowly pulling up next to his jeep. He stares at the vehicle from front to back with a smile. The passenger side tinted window automatically rolls down as a fair skinned blonde woman peeks through saying, "Pardon me, I wonder if you can assist me. I'm rather lost."

Allan raises his eyebrows grinning as he replies, "Well, I'm kind of new here myself. I don't know how much help I can be, but where are you headed?"

The blonde woman steps out of her car and unfolds a map adding, "I am just awful when it comes to reading these bloody things."

Allan walks around his jeep and her car as he approaches her casually. He smiles at her then looks at the map asking, "What are you looking for?"

Leaning against the open driver's side door of her white sports car, the blonde woman quickly reach up and runs her fingers through Allan's jet black hair. He turns his eyes back at her with a baffled expression as she grins and says, "I believe I just found it."

Allan lightly grabs her hand and pushes it away from his head as he remarks, "Whoa, slow it down miss. Look, you have a cool car, and I think you're hot, but I also think you got the wrong idea."

"Really," she replies as she leans in closer, "and what idea would that be?"

Stepping back, Allan says, "It's in your eyes, and as flattered as I am about the thought of it, I'm nobody's cheap thrill. You better ask directions from somebody else, miss."

The blonde woman smiles and sighs out, "How rare, a loyal boyfriend and a gentleman at that. Well, it could've been fun. But it got you close enough for me to this."

Allan expression becomes confused as he states, "What are you talking about? Do I know you…"

He suddenly feels her thoughts push against his mind. Allan grabs his head as visions of his past battles begin to flood his vision. His mind replays every punch and strike he sustained from the battles and his body re-enacts the pain and physical reactions. Allan staggers back away from the blonde woman with his eyes shut tightly as he gasps. Planting his feet firm on the road, Allan focuses his thoughts and begins to push back against the blonde woman's mind. Then he hears her voice yell out, "Now Sean!"

A loud high pitch yell echoes all over Allan forcing him to stagger some more. He covers his ears against the sound, but the blonde woman continues her telepathic assault. Allan's focus is rattled against the combined efforts of the blonde woman's mind assault and the vibrating yell. He glances off to his right while staggering and holding head looking for the source of the high pitch yell. He looks up to see a red headed man wearing what looks like stylized SWAT assault gear. A continuous vibrating high pitch yell emanates from the man's mouth. Allan tries to react to the red headed man, but the blonde woman draws up another violent memory in his head of a large creature punching him. Allan continues to stagger against their assault as the blonde woman telepathically speaks him, 'Too bad, you're awfully cute.'

Allan grits his teeth and focuses his mind intensely. He looks at the blonde with a glare and telepathically replies, 'Yeah, it is too bad, you're extremely hot. You've seemed to have found my violent memories and thoughts. Let's see you handle these memories.'

His mind pushes back against her telepathic assault. The blonde woman struggles but over whelmed by the sudden images and sensations of Allan's love life. A wave of telepathic energy washes over her like a large tsunami in her mind as she relives every intimate and sexual moment he had experienced all brought into a split second thought. She gasps out as she falls back against her sports car, then slides down to the cement. She sits there with her eyes wide open breathing heavily as she starts to sweat. Wiping the perspiration from her forehead, she mutters out, "Bloody hell… that was… good."

Allan turns to the red headed man, who continues his high pitch sonic attack. The cement around Allan's feet starts to crack slightly from the loud yell as he slowly starts stepping his way to the man. Allan's clothes slowly begin to rip against the sonic attack. Then the red headed man halts his attack and stands firm with a glare. Allan stands his ground and looks back at the blonde woman. He sees Mystique helping the young blonde to her feet. Standing near them, holding Allan's jeep over his head, a large brawny man dressed in some kind of maroon armor sneers at him. Mystique says, "Remember, Juggernaut, finish him, and I will give you the means to finish your brother, Charles."

Juggernaut grunts out in a deep voice, "I don't like deals."

Mystique smiles and replies, "Then try dealing with your brother's psychic powers with out your protective helmet."

Juggernaut continues sneering as Allan speaks up, "I don't know what kind of beef you people have with me, but can we leave my jeep out of it?"

Hoisting the jeep up onto one hand, Juggernaut remarks, "Worried about your ride? Then take it!" as he effortlessly throws the jeep at Allan.

Allan stands his ground and braces for impact as the vehicle collides into him, smashing violently and loudly. The force of the throw carries him and his jeep back smashing through some neighboring woods and storages buildings before hitting the ground and sliding some three hundred feet from impact. Juggernaut lumbers after Allan as Mystique tells him, "No mercy, Juggernaut. I want him finished."

He glance over his shoulder towards her and replies, "Mercy ain't my style." and continues toward Allan's position.

Brotherhood rushes out to the front of the house and stop suddenly in surprise. Todd hops behind Fred as Pietro speaks up, "Mystique? What're you doing here? Where's Allan?"

She looks back at them and says, "Allan Paran is no longer your concern, you ungrateful heathens."

Lance steps up and remarks, "Sorry, ma'am, but Allan is our friend. And if you've hurt him…"

Sean approaches and adds, "You'll what kid?"

Gripping his fists, Lance glares at them. The ground begins to lightly rumble around them as Sean gets ready to release another sonic attack. Mystique quickly steps between them saying, "No, we didn't come here to fight them Sean! You, Emma and I will fall back and let Juggernaut take care of Allan." as quickly climb into Emma's sports car.

Lance asks out, "Wait a minute, you brought Juggernaut here?"

Pietro steps up to Lance saying, "Easy Lance, a fight here is not gonna solve anything."

They watch as Emma's white sports car rolls out quickly and turns the corner out of their sight. Echoing in the distance, the sounds of police and emergency vehicle sirens can be heard. Lance nods his head replying, "You're right Pietro. But now what?"

Wanda remarks, "Now, we find Allan."

Todd stands up and says, "Yo, if he's fightin' the Juggernaut, what help what we be?"

"Any help is better than none, Todd. " Lance adds, "But we still have to warn the Professor. Pietro, you head to the institute and tell them what's up. The rest of us are gonna help Allan."

Pietro immediately darts off in a blur of speed heading to the institute as the others start to follow the damage path left behind.

Wolverine crouches down feeling the soil around the forty foot wide crater. He grips a handful and sniffs it lightly, then drops it shuffling to another spot. Shadowcat and Nightcrawler both watch him out of curiosity from a distance. "He's been doing that for like, the last hour. What does he hope to find?" Shadowcat remarks.

Shrugging his shoulders, Nightcrawler replies, "Who knows, Wolverine is weird like that. I mean, it's just a rock from space."

Storm approaches them saying, "He only gets this way when something is really bothering him. I've learned to trust his instincts, as you should."

"But," Nightcrawler adds, "he seems so intent on proving this Sauron guy is a fraud. Ve just saw it vith our eyes, he heals people like us. He even healed Evan. Maybe he can heal me."

"Nightcrawler," Storm adds, "it's not about proving him to be a fraud. Sauron is treating his gifts as though he is some kind of messiah. The mutants here are turning this into a religion of some sort."

"Vell, vhat if he is?" Nightcrawler asks, "It's possible, right?" as his expression saddens.

Shadowcat holds his three fingered hand trying to comfort him as Wolverine's rough voice speaks up, "He ain't no messiah kid."

They all turn to look at him as Storm asks, "What did you find, Wolverine?"

"Well, for starters," Wolverine mentions, "this whole place ain't smellin' right."

Storm adds, "Meaning what?"

He replies, "Meaning, things ain't smellin' right like the first night Allan saved our butts, Storm. The soil all over this place is dead and dry. More so around the crater."

"What about the meteor?" Shadowcat inquires, "Did you get a good look at it?"

Wolverine sneers nodding his head saying, "Yeah, I did. The rock is three feet in diameter. So that crater should've been ten times larger. That thing didn't crash, it landed."

With a confused expression, Nightcrawler asks, "How can you be sure?"

"Because kid, "Wolverine adds, "the dang things' hollow."

Cyclops, Rogue and Iceman approach just as Wolverine briskly walks pass them. Stopping and turning to follow him, Cyclops asks, "What's up Wolverine?"

Wolverine takes a deep breath and looks at Cyclops saying, "I gonna have a little powwow session with Sauron." as he extends his metal claws from both hands, then turns running across the field towards the secluded farm house.

Cyclops's expression becomes stern as he orders, "Alright guys, I guess Wolverines got point, let's move!"

Following Wolverine's lead, the X-men rush across field of tall dry grass. The sounds crunching vegetation beneath their feet fill the air as they try to keep pace with Wolverine's hundred yard dash. They approach the humble farm house as Cyclops signals with his hand ordering them to spread out into their trained positions. Halting their advance, they spot Sauron casually walking out of the front door unto his porch. The wooden floor plank squeak as steps out facing them with serene smile on his face saying, "My mutant brothers and sisters, welcome to my home. How may I be of service?"

Wolverine points at him with his clawed fist demanding, "You can first start fessin' up, bub. What came out of that rock across the field?"

"What ever do you mean, my friend?" Sauron asks with a smile.

Wolverine growls and sneers at Sauron, "Don't make me ask ya twice."

Then Charles's voice echoes through the X-men's minds saying, 'Be cautious, all of you. I cannot lock onto Sauron's mind, there is too much chaos surrounding him. Scott, the first order of business is safety. Kurt, I cannot sense any of his family's thoughts in his house. He may be blocking my reach. I need for you too quickly teleport inside and check."

Nightcrawler focuses his thoughts and replies, 'I'm on it Professor.' as he disappears teleporting into the farm house.

Inside the house, Nightcrawler appears on the open floor of the living room. He quickly looks around the room noticing old fashion furniture resting on carpet covered wooden floors. He coughs a bit as he realizes everything in the house is covered in a thin layer of dust. No lights are on in the house as Nightcrawler carefully walks into the next room. He notices figures sitting around a small dining table as he walks into the kitchen area. Clearing his throat, Nightcrawler says, "Um, excuse me. Don't be afraid, I'm not here to hurt anyone. My name is…." he sudden stops with his eyes wide in horror.

Nightcrawler's eyes slowly looks over the scene before him as he starts to breath heavily. Sitting at the table casually, four partially decomposed human corpse rest in their chairs. One appeared to be a woman on the end of the table, the other four were smaller in size. He can only guess they were the children. Their skins are dry out like old paper as they sit in front of their untouched rotting diners. The putrid smell of decaying flesh and rotting food over whelms Nightcrawler causing him to gag as he turns away quickly. He coughs heavily as he tries to escape the horrific odor. Out of instinct he teleports out of the house appearing next to Rogue. Nightcrawler falls to his hand and knees as he gags and vomits. Rogue kneels down and holds him up as she asks, "What happened?"

Nightcrawler coughs and looks up wiping the side of mouth. With fear in his eyes he mutters out, "They're all dead."

Sauron smiles as Wolverine quickly glances at Nightcrawler asking, "What'd you say?"

Nightcrawler repeats, "They're all dead! They're decaying, dead a long time!" as he coughs heavily again.

Wolverine glares back at Sauron getting ready to charge. Sauron smiles and replies, "Do not weep for them, they felt no pain."

"Too bad I can't say the same for you." Wolverine growls out.

"Logan, Auntie Ororo, what're you guys doing?" Evan cries out as he and the crowd mutants rush over them.

Ororo steps up to Evan saying, "Please listen, Evan. This man is not what you believe his is."

A woman's voice in the crowd cries out, "No! She lies to us! They are attacking Sauron, we must help him!"

A group of people rally to the woman's side and charge after the X-men in mass. Rogue barely gets to her feet as a woman lunges at her. The woman's tanned skin turns to stone right before Rogue's eye as she swings her fist. Rogue quickly side steps the attack and removes her left hand glove. With coordinated ease, Rogue slips her hand over the woman's rocky and touches her cheek. The woman passes out and collapses to the ground reverting back to her flesh form as Rogue absorbs her power. Cyclops quickly steps back and points his optic blast at the ground in front the charging mass headed towards him. With surgical precision, he blasts a trench in front of them causing them to trip and fall face first into long gap. Shadowcat phases through a group of angered gatherers causing confusion among them, they stumble and trip, falling on top of one another. Iceman smiles as he encases the feet of the mob targeting him in blocks ice. Evan cries out again, "Wait, don't attack them, those are my friends!" as he looks at the crowd.

A good portion of the crowd ignores his plea. Evan yells out, "I said stop!" as he uses his mutant ability forming a boney armored shell over his body.

Storm backs away from him as he begins to protrude sharp spikes from his arms. He tries to step in front of the charging crowd, but a feeling exhaustion washes over him as his eyes roll back. He collapses to the ground like dead weight tripping some of the crowd in the process. Storm runs over to him yelling out, "Evan! Oh my God!"

The X-men notices a majority of the crowd passing out in the same manner. Their eyes rolling back, then falling unconscious to the ground. The mood of the crowd quickly changes from anger to confusion as they watch over half their number fall to the ground. Wolverine quickly runs to Evan's side to check him with Ororo, then looks around at the other unconscious mutants as well. Rogue quickly checks on one of the out cold men and says to Wolverine, "They were all the ones who were healed by Sauron."

Glaring back at Sauron, Wolverine remarks, "They weren't healed, kid. They were drained."

Sauron starts to chuckle lightly, then begins to laugh hideously. His voice becomes hauntingly loud and echoes around them as he states, "Thissss could havvvve beennnn painlessssss for all of you. Inssssstead you all ssssseek mmmmisery!"

Sauron's body rattles and spasms feverishly and violently as the sounds of cracking bones and squishing organs startle the crowd. His skin turns a dark green and scaly, skin like wings unfold from underneath his elongating arms. He grows nearly three extra feet as his head morphs into a bird shaped feature. Sauron yells out in pain, his body still cracks and rattles. He grabs his head shaking it feverishly as it seems to bubble up with the sounds of gurgling water beneath the skin. Numerous eye suddenly appear all over his bird shaped head, each glowing different colors. Sauron's body stands before them breathing heavily in hissing manner. His elongated form drips of body fluid that drops to ground and sizzles as it settles in the dirt. Wolverine yells out, "Get everybody outta here now!"

Shadowcat screams out, "What is that?"

"It's one of those 'whatsu' things Allan saved us from before! Now move!" Wolverine says as he picks up Evan.

The crowd begin to run away from Sauron screaming in fear. The X-men slowly back away waiting for an attack as Sauron speaks, "You sssspeak of Allannn Parrran the Vannnnguard. If he is here, thennn sssso is the sssssource. Guide him to mmmeee."

Sauron raises his arms, extending his winged arms out in bat like manner. Light radiates from the scaly wings and flashes over the X-men. One by one they begin to get weak. Iceman groans out as he falls to his knees, "I'm…feeling so …so tired."

Wolverine grunts out fighting to stay on his feet, "I told all of ya….to run!"

All the X-men accept Rogue fall victim to Sauron's power drain. She watches in confusion as the other groan and struggle. Tilting his mutilated head out of curiosity, Sauron says with a grin, "I ssssense the Vanguard's powerrrr throughout yourrrr being, mmmy dear. You are protected against mmmmmy influences by hissss will. Interrrresting."

Rogue feels a warmth of energy radiate from her body as she look down at herself. She repeats to herself, a phrase chanting in her memory, "You can't take what's mine, unless Ah give it to you." she says as she glares back up at Sauron. "It's your move, birdman."


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