X-Men Evolution NEXT

The Hunt

The area is silent with the exception of a few crickets and the wind gently blowing through the tall grass fields. The sky is clear revealing a blanket of stars that stretches over the land providing just enough light to make the area visible in the darkness. Allan drops from the night sky with Rogue in his arms and touches down with out making a sound. He gently lets Rogue down placing her feet to the ground and begins glancing around them. Rogue stretches her back looking around at the same time. She states, "This place sure does feel different from earlier. More alive."

Allan replies, "A kligroxu, or displacer beast, have the ability to drain any kinetic or potential energy within their reach. It's kind of morbid, but that makes it easier to track them. This one seems a little smarter than usual."

Rogue looks over towards the farm house. The old structure sits in darkness on the other side of the field. Allan and Rogue walk their way over to the house but stop by the crater first to look around. The meteor remains untouched as Allan drops into the deep indention and shuffles up to the rock in the center. Rogue crouches down and watches from the edge of the crater as Allan grips the meteor with his left hand and lifts it out of the ground. The sound of cracking rock and shifting sand echoes around them as Allan rips the meteor in half revealing the hollow shell inside. He sighs in relief, "Good, there was only one inside."

"How many more of those things exist, Allan?" Rogue asks, "And where do they come from?"

"Well,' Allan adds, "there's a lot. I mean, we're talking about a population on a galactic level."

Allan climbs out of the crater and holds his left hand out over the large hole. He gesture his hand slowly into a closed fist as the crater swallows itself. Dirt and rock shift and move covering the crater and meteor completely in the earth. Rogue remarks, "So Ah guess you fight these things all the time."

Allan removes his helmet and holds it under his left arm as he reach in his pocket pulling out a stick of mint chewing gum. He tears the stick of gum in half and hands Rogue a piece as he replies, "Actually, I don't deal with them as often as you may think. The Vanguard that came before me dealt with them more on a regular basis. I'm just cleaning up his mess he left behind."

They both chew on their pieces of gum as they look at each other. Rogue looks at Allan up and down with a grin and mentions, "At least we know what to call you know."

Allan returns her grin asking, "What do you mean, call me what?"

She replies, "Your codename."

Shrugging his shoulders, Allan asks again, "What codename?"

Smiling, Rogue says, "Vanguard."

Allan chuckles shaking his head replying, "What… no Rogue… that's … no. It's not a codename or any name. The Vanguard is more like a title, or job position, like a graphic designer or policeman."

"Whatever, Allan." Rogue answers, "Ah'm not gonna call you 'The Vanguard' when Ah can just call you 'Vanguard'. It's just a codename."

Allan droops his head smiling and says, "You know, fine, sure. Vanguard it is then. Those cosmic geezers are gonna love that."

"Geezers?" Rogue smiles and asks, "You talkin' about those 'first being' guys Ah met in your mind? You call them geezers?"

Allan smiles at her and replies, "Sure, they're old, and sometimes cranky."

Rogue laughs as Allan puts his seamless helmet back on winking at her through eye holes. He looks over across the star lit field and says, "Let's check out the farm house before we leave." as they both start walking.

Charles maneuvers his wheel chair into Scott's room. He had decided to check on each member of the X-men personally before heading off to Cerebro. He figures it's going to be a long night ahead, and he might as well get some piece of mind knowing his students will be ok after their ordeal. Turning his head to Charles, Scott lies in his bed giving him a confident smile. Charles smiles back and asks, "How are you feeling Scott?"

Scott takes a deep breath and sighs out, "Probably the same way Logan and Ororo felt that other night."

"Probably so." Charles replies, "I checked on the others, they feel the same way. So you are not alone."

"What ever Sauron did, really did a number on us, Professor." Scott remarks, "If it weren't for Rogue, this would have been a disaster."

Charles nods his head and mentions, "Hopefully, those disasters will further be averted. Right now, Allan and Rogue are out there tracking down Sauron."

Scott gives Charles a concerned expression as he inquires, "When Allan does catch up to Sauron, is he going to kill him?"

Putting his hands together on his lap, Charles glances down and replies, "Allan may have to, Scott. With a creature like Sauron on the loose, Allan may not have many choices. If he does nothing, many more will suffer."

Charles notices Scott's concerned expression deepen as he asks, "Is there something troubling you Scott?"

"I'm not sure, Professor," Scott replies, "its' what Sauron mentioned before he drained us. He said something about, if Allan was here, then so is some kind of... source, or something like that. When I heard that, I felt this deep sinking feeling, like I was helpless to do anything. The same feeling I felt when we faced Apocalypse. I didn't like the way that felt."

Charles places his hand on Scott's resting shoulder and says, "I feel you have many questions to ask Allan. And if you were to ask him the right questions, I know he would freely give you those answers."

"And what are the right questions, Professor?" Scott innocently asks.

Charles answers, "I have learned, when dealing with powers at Allan's level, you must balance your logic with what is in your heart, Scott." as he smiles and turns his wheel chair around and slowly leaves Scott's room.

Charles gently closes the door behind him as he leaves, leaving Scott lying in his bed staring up at the ceiling. Thoughts run through his mind as he tries to relax his exhausted body. Thoughts of earlier years when he was worried about making good grades in high school at the same time hiding his mutant gift. Thoughts of taking responsibility as a group leader and feeling the guilt of team's failures. But one single thought outweighs his near systematic mind, one that originates from his heart. Scott mutters out in a soft tone as he stares up at the ceiling, "Jean."

Hank stares at a canvas tilting his head and nodding at the same time. He smiles and remarks, "Wonderful use of colors, excellent brush stroking coordination and placement of the focal points. I believe talent is too light of a word for this piece."

Charles rolls into the study on his wheel chair as Hank turns around saying, "Allan's influence at the institute has honed many talents here." as he gestures to the canvas.

Looking up at Hank with concern, Charles mentions, "I believe Allan's fears have come to pass, Hank. There are creatures searching for the source."

Hank looks back at the canvas with concerned expression as well and inquires, "Do you think she will be safe, Professor?"

Charles moves next to Hank and looks at the canvas saying, "Time will tell. But right now, this night, her fate lies in the hands of both Rogue and Allan." as he brushes he finger over a signature at the bottom right corner of the canvas.

The image on the canvas is multiple layers of paint of dramatic strokes. Bright colors of reds and yellows give shape to a fiery glowing bird against a starry night sky. The details of bird's features are precise, down to the sharp curved beak, to the emotions in it's green eyes. At the bottom right of the canvas, beneath images of fire and stars, a signature written in calligraphy ink reads as, 'The Source by Jean Grey'.

Mystique paces back and forth on her condo living room floor. The expression on her face matches her irritated yet confused mood. Emma watches her pace with her eyes and sighs out, "What were you expecting, Mystique? Allan was obviously beyond our powers."

"We underestimated him, Emma." Mystique says, "A mistake we won't make the next time."

Emma sits up with a confused expression asking, "Why has our objective changed all of a sudden? Now we are trying to bloody kill him."

Rubbing her forehead, Mystique replies, "Irene's visions are getting more intense, to the point where she is afraid to sleep."

"Yes, yes, these visions of Allan Paran raining destruction upon us all." Emma remarks as she gestures her hands in the air. She continues, "You must ask yourself, Mystique, can you honestly rely on these precognitions of Irene's. They are awfully vague."

Mystique stops her pacing and looks at Emma with a stern glare saying, "She has never been wrong before."

"That may be so," Emma adds, "but consider what we both saw. Allan could have killed Juggernaut, but he didn't. He did not recklessly endanger other lives. In fact, he inspired your former Brotherhood rabble to play hero, thus saving more lives in the process. Now I fail to see this monster Irene makes him out to be."

"What would you have me do!" Mystique demands, "Someone tells me my child is in danger, I must act. I may not be the poster parent, and I know I have not given that girl a reason to trust me, but I will protect her."

Emma sighs out again, "And that you should, I am not questioning that. But my brief encounter in Allan's mind paints a much different picture than what we were led to believe. He is not a monster, Mystique, he fights them. His feelings for Rogue are genuine, and very strong. You may just end up hurting her. But if you feel it is necessary, why not tell her about Irene?"

Mystique looks at Emma with a saddening expression as Emma adds, "I see. Your mind is very much an open book, despite all your little secrets. You really have given Rogue and Kurt no reason to trust you. So you must resort to these drastic measures."

Shaking her head, Mystique says, "Don't ever read my mind again, Emma. That is my last warning to you."

"Relax, Mystique," Emma replies as she sits back with a smile, "those thoughts have regained you my trust. So, now that we are back to square one, how do we proceed?"

"Surveillance," Mystique replies, "I had Sean hide Juggernaut and the prison transport helicopter in an abandoned warehouse outside of town. Cain should be well hidden there as long as he stays put and licks his wounds. Your psychic alterations of our mental signatures seem to be holding, but it is only a matter of time before Xavier figures that out. So we must step up our efforts."

"And what of Irene?" Emma asks.

Mystique sighs out saying, "I'll give her a sedative to keep her calm. That should help her sleep. We have enough facts, Emma, now we need truths."

Rogue stands out on the front rickety porch of the old farm house rubbing her upper arms due to the cool breeze that blows by her. She looks up at the star filled sky and takes a deep breath. Wooden floor panels squeaks as Allan walks out onto the front porch. He flips through a brown book rather tediously and approaches Rogue saying, "I found his wallet in his room. Sauron's real name is Karl Lykos. And according to his journal here, he hid his mutant gift from his family up until the meteorite landed on their farm. After that, he starts to sound weird, all biblical and self righteous like."

Although the light from the star lit sky allows her to see enough in the dark, Rogue is still in utter darkness and inquires, "You can read that stuff in the dark?"

Allan lift his helmet up showing her his slightly red glowing eyes. He grins at her and replies, "With eyes like these, why not?"

Rogue chuckles and asks, "So what else does it say?"

Allan returns his glowing eyes to the journal as he slowly flips through the pages and replies, "Just some stuff about marital problems, over due bills, and the prospect of his kids becoming mutants. He writes a lot about that, saying how he wishes he could spare them the fear and pain of being outcasts."

Rogue's expression becomes saddened as Allan adds, "That would explain why he chose to drain mutants. The displacer beast that's infested him twisted his sense of morality. Karl Lykos believes he is actually doing the mutant community a favor, calling his new found power a blessing. And he started with his family."

They both look into the house as Allan closes the journal. Rogue remarks, "Ah don't approve of his solution, but Ah can understand his fears."

Allan adds, "Yeah, well, I doubt his family in there understood. Looks like they didn't even know what hit them until it was too late."

Walking back inside the farm house, Allan places the journal back in it's secluded spot and walks back out onto the porch with Rogue. She asks, "So what's all the research on this Karl Lykos guy?"

"Just trying to find a human approach to this problem." Allan replies, "Sauron is still Karl Lykos, and if we can reach his human side and convince him to let go of those fears, it might disrupt the displacer beast's influence on him enough to allow me to pull it out with out killing him."

Rogue nods her head and remarks, "Sounds like a plan, Allan. But the guy is probably suicidal by now. Ah mean, he murdered his own family."

"You may be right, Rogue." Allan responds, "But we still have to try."

Looking back into the house, Rogue asks, "What about the family's remains?"

Allan replies, "We make an anonymous phone call to the local sheriff. Let them handle this, it'll probably be filed as a weird homicide."

"So, where to now?" Rogue asks as she steps off the porch.

Allan follows her out into the front field saying, "The journal mentioned a few times the name of a local hotel where he would stay after some heated arguments with his wife. Its' a place to start at least."

Picking her up off her feet, Allan holds Rogue in his arms. She looks at him with a smile and says, "A gal could get use to this."

Allan shakes his head chuckling as they dart off into the night sky once more.

Charles focuses his mind as he interfaces with Cerebro. His mind travels searching of familiar thoughts. He first focuses on Magneto's but to no avail as usual. Magneto's psychic cloaking technology has always kept pace with Cerebro's upgrades. This only fuels Charles's suspicions that his old friend is still on the move. Charles sets aside his thoughts of Magneto on other growing matters, such as Mystique's sudden appearance and the location of Sauron. Ordinarily, he would find it fairly easy to trace the thoughts of other mutants, especially nearby. But Mystique, despite not having cloaking technology, has found a way to hide her mental and mutant signature none the less. He detects no outside source, so an alteration must have been made to them directly. He sets aside that thought as well and focuses on Allan and Rogue's search for Sauron. He senses their thoughts and smiles seeing they are in good spirits despite an inevitable battle with Sauron. Allan's and Rogue's minds race with excitement as they cling on to each other gliding through the night sky. Suddenly an echoing yet familiar voice speaks to him, 'Hi Professor!'

Charles lets his mind drift to search for the voice. Then an apparition of Jean appears to him through Cerebro. The image of her appears nearly transparent, only showing an outline of her true form, but her presence is still recognizable. Charles speaks out, 'Jean, where are you? How are you able to do this?'

Jean answers, 'You know, I'm not really all that sure how, I just know I can for some reason. I think my power is growing, like Allan said. I think my mind is dreaming. I'm staying with my parents at their vacation home in Florida, and I sensed your thoughts. Is there something wrong? I sense you're troubled.'

Charles replies, 'The situations are under control, Jean. Do not worry yourself.'

'I feel… that Scott and the others are hurt.' Jean adds, 'May be I should come back there, Professor.'

Charles can feel Jean's mind, a mind that was once fragile, now intensely focused and a major presence before him, grow concerned. But before he can respond, Jean breaks contact bringing Charles's perception back inside Cerebro's chamber. He removes his interface helmet placing it on the console and ponders the dilemma. His thoughts are of Rogue and Allan's mission, and the possibility of failure that would lead to cataclysmic disaster, starting with his precious school.

Allan removes his helmet and pulls down his cowl looking at the hotel sign that reads 'Fieldview Inn'. He and Rogue casually walk up to the main housing office. They walk in to see an older man watching an old TV program on a black and white screen. Rogue clears her throat getting the man's attention. He looks at both of them with a baffled expression as Rogue says, "We won't bother you for to long sir. We're just lookin' for someone who might be stayin' here. His name is Karl Lykos."

The man is barely ably to take his eyes of the two colorfully couple before him. But he turns his eyes into his guest books and points out, "Yeah, Lykos, right here. Regular tenant. Guess his old lady kicked him out again. Room 22b"

Allan and Rogue both look at each otherand slowly start walking out. The man suddenly spurts out, "So, you two with the other group of mutie wierdos?"

Rogue turns quickly with a glare and replies, "What'd you say?"

"The other mutant passer by's staying at the east wing. They all came here for some kind of religious healing or something like that." the man chuckles.

Allan asks, "And what wing is room 22B at?"

The man smiles and replies, "The east wing, why?"

Allan and Rogue look at each other with grave concern as Allan mentions, "He's here to drain them also, let's go!"

They both race out the office heading to the east wing as the man yells out, "Wait a minute, you two wierdos want a room or what?"

Upon reaching the east wing section of the small motel complex, Rogue and Allan notice light flickering and the sounds of generators failing. They walk a bit closer into the parking lot remaining side by side. Rogue remarks, "We might be too late."

A door opens up and man casually walks out wiping his hands with cloth. Allan steps forward to staring at the man as he walks in the opposite direction to another door. Allan speaks out loudly, "Karl Lykos!"

The man turns slowly and opens his eyes revealing two glowing yellow flashes. Allan tells Rogue quickly as he begins to charge forward, "Check on the people!"

Allan kick off the ground in a loud thumb seemingly leaping towards Karl. He raises his hands just as Allan tackles him to the ground. They both smash partially into the wood shingle wall caving it in as they begin to struggle. Allan picks Karl off the ground quick and throws him away from the building into some parked cars. The vehicles are hit hard as Karl smashes into them pushing them out of place and hitting other cars in the process. Karl's body lies limp on the parking lot pavement as Allan says, "I know you can hear me Karl. You have this one chance to survive if you listen to me. What you did was not your fault. You have to let this go, this power will consume like it's doing to everyone around you."

Karl's body spasms violently on the cement as he morphs into Suaron once more. Allan charge forward again just Sauron gets to his feet. In a loud thundering clap, they collide locking their arms like wrestlers. Allan grunts out fighting against Sauron's newly acquired strength. With a hissing voice, Sauron says, "At llllasst wwwe ffface each otherrr, mmmighty one! Rrrreveal the ssssource to mmmee!"

Rogue kicks in door after door, trying to check on the condition of the other mutants in the east wing of the motel complex. With every room she checks she finds the lifeless bodies of mutants lying either on the floors or resting in bed. She stumbles as the ground shakes from the battle outside. Then she hears a light groan under the one of the hotel beds. Rogue quickly bends down to check and fins a little girl hiding with tears in her eyes. She pulls the little girl out carefully saying, "You're gonna be alright, sweety. Just come with me."

The girl's skin shines a hint of gold and begins to fade slowly as she lightly mutters out, "Am…am I healed now?"

Rogue looks at the girl trying to hide her sadness. She smiles as she replies, "You will be, darlin', soon. Just stay awake."

The little girl groans again as she gently says, "I'm so …so sleepy." and starts to doze off.

Rogue caress her face with her gloved hands saying, "No, no please. You have to stay awake, don't close your eyes!"

The girl gently falls limp in Rogue's arms as her lifeless body lets out it's last breath. Tears fill Rogue's eyes she cradles the young mutant in her arms.

Outside in the now severely cracked parking lot, Allan holds Sauron firm with his left knee against his back and holding his long bird shaped head back. Sauron grunts out, "Reveal the sssource to mmee!"

Allan grunts out as he struggle to hold Sauron, "It's…it's not mine to give Sauron. Now let Karl go!"

As Allan struggle to hold Sauron still, he notices Rogue slowly walking out of a motel room door holding the little girl she just found. Rogue cradles her little body close as she cries. Allan speaks out, "Rogue? Baby, are you alright?"

She looks up at Allan with her crying eyes and gently lays the little girl's body on the ground. Allan lightly grunts out, "No… please God."

Sauron grunts out as he is held by Allan hard grip, "Fffear nnot, she is with him nnnow."

Allan grips him harder as his expression becomes enraged. Sauron grunts out again, "Otherssss willl come, mighty one. You cannot hide the source forever!"

Gripping Sauron violently, Allan replies, "Then you should expect company where I'm about to send you!"

With a quick jolt, Allan twist Sauron's muscled scaly neck hard. A loud cracking sound echoes out of the parking lot as Sauron's neck breaks under the strain. His head limps forward and hangs like a wet noodle. Allan grips his neck tightly and says, "No more fear and pain Karl." as he thrusts his fist through Sauron's back.

Allan's solid fist punctures through Sauron's upper torso and explodes out of his chest in a splattering manner. Sauron's sizzling insides drop to the pavement the rest of his body slumps lifeless to the cracked cement. Allan stands over his body breathing hard, his left arm covered in slimy yellow matter of Sauron's entrails. Rogue watches as Allan quickly removes his helmet taking a step back. She mutters out in a soft voice, "Allan…"

Just then, Sauron's lifeless body begins to glow brightly. Allan holds out his arms to his side as the glowing light travels into his body. He grunts out closing his eyes tightly and gritting his teeth. Then his eyes open wide glowing bright red, the star on his chest shines and glow brightly nearly blinding Rogue as she watches. Then Allan screams out in pain as an angelic column of light imamates from his chest. She column of light thickens and surrounds him as his screams can no longer be heard, overwhelmed by the loud sound of angelic light. The large beam of light stretches into the night sky and lighting up the parking lot. Rogue looks up watching the beam fade into the star filled sky. Then just as the beam appears, it suddenly disappears in a loud washing sound. Allan falls to his knees gasping from his scream. Rogue gets up and quickly runs over to Allan, who stagger away from her groaning out, "NNoo…wait…!"

Allan turns away from on his hands and knees as suddenly vomits. He coughs and gags as he staggers again. Allan struggle to his feet as Rogue grabs hold around his upper body helping up. She asks, "Are you alright, Allan?"

Allan wipes his mouth and replies in a low tone, "Yeah, happens every time I have to do that. It's why I bring gum with me."

They both down at Sauron's remains as it dries up rapidly and turns to ashes right before their eyes. Rogue remarks, "Ah guess we don't have to worry about cleanin' up."

She looks up at Allan and asks, "What was with the light show?"

Allan catches his breath and says, "Redistributing the power back into the cosmos. The same energy that could have destroyed this world."

He looks around at the motel rooms and says, "We were too late, weren't we?"

Rogue inquires, "Isn't there anythin' you can do?"

"Beyond my power, and against the rules." Allan replies.

They both look up hearing the distant sound of sirens horns approaching. Rogue asks Allan, "Can you fly us outta here?"

Blinking his eyes tightly and rapidly, Allan says, "Still feel groggy, I don't think I should." as he leans on Rogue's shoulders.

Rogue braces him up and starts to shuffle them away from the scene as she says, "Then we better find a quiet place to hide out until you can."

Allan leans on Rogue's shoulder as she guides him away. She asks again as she struggle to hold him up, "So, do you like, save the world every night?"

Allan mutters out with a smile, "Pretty much, more like every other night."

"Guess it's somethin' I'm gonna have to get used to." as she smiles up at him while walking him to the west wing of the motel complex.

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