X-Men Evolution NEXT

Chess Board

Lunch period at Bayville High School usually marks the middle of the day for most of the students, all accept for the students of the Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters. Lunch means they better eat up and conserve whatever energy they can for their next training session after school. For Evan however, he holds being a high school student and being an X-man equally to being the guardian of the Morlocks. So he sits silently at the lunch table, sifting a plastic spoon through a mound of chocolate pudding. Since his return to the Institute, Evan has been using a lot of his spare time to ask Allan to teach him a little bit more on self defense. Although Allan has been teaching all the students different forms of martial arts, Evan has been paying extra attention and has even decided to study the discipline of meditation to further enhance his control over his spike armored power. All important techniques he believes will help protect his extended family beneath the streets of Bayville, a responsibility that has weighed heavily on the youth. And though he hasn't had much of presence with them recently, he still tries to stay in contact with the lot. Evan's mood is sullen even as Kurt and Ray come over to sit by him for lunch. Just as a joke, Kurt reaches over into Evan's lunch tray and grabs his bread roll chuckling out, "Hey man, you vant this?"

Much to Kurt and Ray's surprise, Evan doesn't react and just sits there staring blankly at his pudding mound. Kurt gently places the roll back onto Evan's tray saying, "Um, I vas just joking dude."

Looking up with a slight surprised expression, as though snapping out of a trance, Evan asks, "Hmm? I'm sorry, you said something?"

Ray grins and asks him, "Whoa man, you alright? You 're like, all spaced out."

"No I'm cool," Evan responds with a smile, "I've been… it was a long night, you know?"

"Tell me about it," Kurt says in agreement, "the girls vere quiet on the vay to school this morning."

Laughing at Kurt's comment, Ray adds, "Maybe they all should've called in 'love' sick today."

Evan and Kurt share in the laughter as they begin eating their lunches. Gulping back his orange soda, Kurt lets out a light burp then asks, "So Evan, vhat are you doing after school. You heading to the skate park or are going vith Mr. McCoy to airport to pick up Ororo?"

Shrugging his shoulders while sipping his soda, Evan catches his breath and replies, "I'd like to do either one, but I can't. I'm doing a grocery run for the Morlocks this evening. And it's a big list. Since that Sauron thing happened, they've been more reluctant to come out than usual."

Ray remarks, "That's a bummer, you want company?"

"Ja," Kurt exclaims, "it's been a vhile since ve hung out."

Evan smiles and replies, "Sure, if you guys don't mind the smell of down town sewers."

All three smile while eating. Just then Kurt spots his girlfriend Amanda waving to him. Grinning to his two table mates, Kurt stands up dashingly and says, "Vell fellas, duty calls. I'll meet you guys out front after school."

He turns with enthusiasm and starts to strut over to her table carrying his tray of half eaten lunch. So enthralled by Amanda's smile, Kurt fails to notice the sneakered foot of one of the football players purposely out stretched to trip him. Kurt right foot snags the jocks ankle and he falls forward onto his stomach. The food on his tray scatters all over the floor as he smacks nearly face first onto the tile floor. The impact is so sudden his image inducer, that conveniently conceals his true blue velvet like fur under a hologram of human flesh, goes on the fritz and flickers off. Several students laugh at the sight of what they pass off as a clumsy student, but then gasp at the sight of blue humanoid mutant looking back at them in embarrassment. The lunch room almost falls silent as Amanda quickly rushes to Kurt's side helping him to his feet. She glares at the upper classman football player and darts out, "You stupid jerk! Why'd you do that!"

The brawny football player stands up in a broad stance as though claiming victory over the prank and remarks, "What're you doing, helping this side show freak?"

Evan sneers and speaks out to the football player, "Wanna re-phrase that remark muscle head?" as he and Ray stand up from their table.

Taking a quick deep breath, Evan flexes his right arm and slowly protrudes his boney spike like armor. The football player tries to act calm as he gets nervous watching Evan cover his arm in a thick spiked shell. "The way I see it," Evan adds, "the only freaks around here are you and the rest of the steroid pumpin' offensive line sitting at that table."

Evan's comment angers the other football players sitting at the table and they stand up as well. Ray steps up next to Evan as the instigating jock replies, "So you freaks think you're tough with those wussy powers. Dude, without those freakish spikes, you'd nothing but another punk skate boarder."

Ray folds his arms and smirks at the brawny jock saying, "And this is coming from guy who's barely passing Home Economics?"

Amanda and Kurt slowly back away, but just before another insult can be uttered out, Elizabeth steps in casually remarking, "Boys, boys, please the testosterone level is becoming unbearable."

She steps in front and stands between them with a sarcastic smile. The jock grins at her and says, "So, what's up new girl, you with the freaks too?"

Elizabeth stares at the brawny teen with sarcastic smirk and replies, "As a matter of fact, yes, I am."

"That'd explain the stupid purple hair. You gonna use your wimp powers on me also?" The jock chuckles along with his team mates.

Holding her composure, Elizabeth simply responds, "Ahem, for your information, it is hair dye, and it is quite popular where I am from. Also, we 'freaks', as you call us, do not have to use our 'wimp' powers to get the better of dumb simpletons like yourself." as she quickly swings her right leg up kicking the jock solidly in the crotch.

Her attack is sudden and unexpected by everyone in the cafeteria as they all watch the brawny teen jock fold up like a book grabbing his crotch while grunting out loudly. Elizabeth doesn't miss a beat as she takes advantage of the jock's heaved over posture grabbing his head and pushing him into his teammates against the lunch table. She causes him to collide into his friends knocking three of them to the floor and pushing another two back from the weight of the bent over jock. Their lunch trays full of food get shuffles and knock to the floor as well splattering a mixture mashed potatoes and milk under their feet. The two jocks that remain standing try to regain their footing and charge Elizabeth, but the splattered mix of school food causes their feet to slip out from under them and they flop to the messy floor and on top of each other. Elizabeth sarcastically yawns while watching the jocks slip and fall clumsy like in front of her. The sight is both humorous and concerning for all in the lunch room as laughter echoes out. Stepping back next to Amanda and Kurt, Elizabeth glances over at Evan and winks saying, "You weren't the only one paying extra attention in Allan's self defense classes."

Kurt smiles and breathes out, "I guess ve better jet before they finish their lunches."

Amanda, Elizabeth, Evan and Ray each place their hands on Kurt's shoulder as he teleports himself and all of them away from the scene in a poof of vanishing smoke. The lunch room suddenly gasps almost at once before falling silent, then grows noisy once more with giggles and laughter as the now messy jocks finally pick themselves up.

Pushing Allan's blue jeep into the garage, Hank locks the standard gears putting the vehicle park. He opens the hood to check the engine while Forge marvels at Allan's sleek street bike. "Look at this thing!" he says excitingly, "It's like something out of a comic book."

Hank glance over at he and the motorcycle with a grin and replies, "It certainly looks it. Then again it is from the 22nd century."

Forge smiles while shaking his head as he steps up to the jeep with Hank. They both start to tinker with the specialized engine to help find out how to fix it. As they begin to busy themselves, Logan and Piotr pull up into the driveway in the X-van and park just outside the garage entrance. Hank looks up straightening his posture from the jeep's engine and asks, "Still no luck?"

Logan sighs as he steps out of the van, "No. Can't fine Remy anywhere. His trail goes cold after hitting down town."

Hank nods and adds, "Well, not that it is related, but Emma is missing as well."

Piotr steps up to Logan and asks, "What do think?"

Hank looks at both of them curiously as Logan finally explains to him, "I sent Remy out to keep an eye on her movements."

Hanks curious expression turns into a look of near disappointment as he sighs out, "Logan, honestly, you must respect her privacy."

"I learn to trust my instincts before I ever do that, Hank." Logan replies, "Besides, their disappearances just confirms that woman is up to something."

Hank nods saying, "Ok, assuming you are correct, what is your next move?"

Logan glance up at Piotr then at Hank remarking, "If Remy's in trouble, we gotta to find him. We need to use Cerebro."

"I agree," Hank says, "but the Professor won't be back for another few weeks."

Sighing out, Logan asks, "What about Jean?"

Hank nods but replies, "She is capable, but I do not recommend it. Her mind may still be at a fragile state, especially since her powers are still evolving beyond recorded levels."

"We ain't got much choice here, Hank." Logan adds, "I mean Betsy ain't trained to use her mind like that yet, the Prof's out of town, and Allan is locked up in the Danger Room. Jean is the only one who knows how to use Cerebro."

Hank sighs out again, "Very well, I will discuss it with her when she arrives home. But until then, let's not accuse Emma of any wrong doings yet. You and Piotr should continue to broaden your search for Remy none the less."

Both Logan and Piotr move inside to the kitchen for a quick lunch while Hank heads to the sub-basement levels to check on Allan, leaving Forge alone to tinker with the jeep's engine. Passing through a series newly installed sanitation sensors and air filtered archways that Forge had built, Hank finally approaches the Danger Room Command center main door. This is the only safe room where others can visit Allan without being affected by his uncontrollable pheromones. Thumbing the rigged up intercom system, Hank calls out, "Allan, may I come in?"

Replying through his end of the intercom, Allan replies, "Sure, come in."

The door slides open and Hank walks his way to the observation window. He smiles at the sight of Allan floating in the air out on the other side of the window, pacing back and forth. The Danger Room chamber seems to glow with an angelic light as floats about the room holding the phone receiver to his ear. Allan looks over at Hank with a smile and signals him one minute as he speaks to the cordless phone, "No, everything is alright Dad… No… no, no dad I don't need money, I'm just letting you know I'm ok… Yah it was just that one time, no big deal… Well I'd feel a lot better if I was paid to be the Vanguard, but that's what sucks to be me… Hmm? No they still use hard printed currency here… Yup… the food here still has cholesterol in it, and its gooood… yah, French fries that are fried in an actual vat of grease, isn't that cool?"

Hank smiles and shakes his head listening to the conversation while he double checks the automated console and monitors. Allan continues his conversation, "Well look Dad, I have to get going here… Yah you know, save the world, universe and existence stuff… no, no I'll call you if something comes up… because you can't call me, your phone doesn't have an extra-dimensional long distance plan… I don't know, its complicated Dad… I'll figure it out the next time I visit you… ok…ok I love you too Dad, bye."

Clicking the phone off , Allan sighs out with a content smile and floats over to the observation window. The danger Room chamber slowly dims from the halo of light as Hank inquires, "Talking to your father?"

"Yup," Allan replies, "he just got back from his vacation. I just wanted to call him and touch base."

Staring at Allan with a curious grin, Hank asks, "Isn't your father on a parallel existing world? How is that possible."

Allan shrugs his shoulders and thinks for a second. He then answers, "It's a bit complicated. Technically, it's just a long distance phone call to southern Oregon. Honestly, it helps to be the Vanguard. All I do is dial his 'comm' number, direct the signal, manipulate the dimensional barriers, and he accepts the charges. Simple."

Hank laughs lightly, "You actually get charged for those phone calls?"

"Well, nothing in life is ever truly free, Hank." Allan says with a smile, "Even extra dimensional long distant phone calls don't come cheap. Those minute do add up, and the bill can sky rocket. That's why my Dad and I try to keep our conversations to a minimum whenever I'm 'off world'."

Continuing to smile, Hank chuckles out, "It is certainly nice to see someone comfortable with the uniqueness of their gifts."

"Not entirely," Allan replies with a smile, "my Dad is more comfortable with me being the Vanguard than I am. But I've learned to live with the weirdness."

Hank laughs silently as he adjusts some settings on the console. Allan takes a breath and asks, "So, how're we looking."

Raising his eyebrows while glancing at the monitors in the command room, Hank nods and replies, "Everything looks stable. I'll have to compare the information here on the computers in the lab, but it seems the rate of your pheromones have leveled off. They are still present, but no abnormal spikes off the charts."

"I guess everything upstairs is back to normal then?" Allan asks.

Slightly nodding, Hank replies, "For the most part, as far as our household is concerned. But of course, there is always something. Remy and Emma have disappeared."

Allan's expression becomes baffled as he asks, "Both, together?"

"It's not what you think," Hank adds, "at least, we're not sure yet. But Logan and Piotr are looking for them."

"The excitement never ends huh." Allan playfully remarks as Hank chuckles.

While in between classes, Jean takes a break sitting out in the sun in one of the nearby bistros by her college campus. The day is quite clear and the activity outside bustles with all sorts of people. She sits relaxed reading one of the feminine magazines she had just picked up occasionally looking up to watch the busy late lunch hour traffic pass her by. A few years ago, Jean would have been afraid to place herself among a crowd seeing she could barely control her telepathy. Now, by sheer will, she silences their thoughts from hers giving her a piece of mind. Even as she turns the pages of her magazine with her telekinesis, she blocks their thoughts despite the looks she gets from passer by's. Jean just smiles at them, and keeps to her own. Whether anyone of them is in awe or appalled by her presence, she simply ignores the attention and enjoys the sun just like all the rest. Taking a deep breath, Jean smiles and enjoys this moment of normalcy. But just she is beginning to feel content with her day, a slight echoing voice begins to speak out from the back of her mind, followed by another voice, and another. She tries to focus on the voices, trying to understand where they are originating from. Jean even begins to glance around slowly, to see if her telepathy is picking the minds of the people passing by, but the thoughts and speech patterns do not match anyone she sees. "Speak thy name." "Primitives." "Be recognized." "Teems with life, this world." "Reveal thy purpose." "Bring demise." "In due time." "Hunger grows." the voices speak out in her mind.

Jean concentrates trying not to look disturbed by the voices in her head. She looks up again slowly glancing around trying to find the origin of the thoughts. As her eyes slowly gaze around the crowds of passing people, she begins to notice several individuals that seem to stand out among the crowd. How ever, the crowd does not seem to notice them as they pass these strange figures, almost as though they are invisible or even just ignorant of their existence among them. Jean's expression becomes baffles as well as disturbed as she tries to understand what she is looking at. A few faces in the passing crowds look back at her with somewhat annoyed looks wondering if she is staring at them. Jean looks away for a moment, down at her bistro table, and closes her eyes taking deep breaths to clear her mind. But the thoughts once again echo throughout her mind, "Wasted space." "I envy them." "Such ambitions." "Speak thy name." "They suffer even now." "Must end this now."

Jean sits up right sudden and gasps out slapping her magazine down onto the table. Her eyes open wide as she looks out over to where she had spotted the strange individuals. Some of them seem interact with the crowd, all the time not being noticed for what Jean sees them as. All unique in some manner or another, the beings do seem to share a few physical traits. Some a large and tower over the passing people, others don elaborate outfits that make them look like over zealous science fiction fans. Jean quickly stands up and begins to walk away from the bistro she was sitting at. She steps into the crowd making her way up the side walk heading back to her campus, but then notices one of the hulking beings just ahead waiting to cross the street with the rest of the crowd. The sight makes Jean nervous and she veers off to her right strutting into a nearby empty alley way. Her heart beats faster, her breathing becomes heavier as fear begins to settle in her stomach. Closing her eyes tightly while rubbing her face with both hands, Jean takes a deep breath once more, trying to clear her mind and calm down. But her moment of clarity is disturbed by stern and stoic male voice, "Your name, child."

Jean opens her eyes and looks up quickly. Standing in the middle of the alley way, she sees what she thinks is a man engulfed in goldish flames. Flames dance off the top of his head giving him the image of having forever burning hair. His face is ominous with no noticeable orifices and only a pair of glowing glaring eyes staring at her. Standing with his arms behind his back in a somewhat attention stance, he speaks out again, "Your name, child."

"How… who are you?" Jean asks instead as she stumbles back.

Remaining still, the burning man remarks, "You needn't fear me, child. Unless your intent in this life time is truly malicious."

Slowly stepping away, Jean replies, "I don't… I don't understand."

"Perhaps not," the man states, "but ignorance in your case is not bliss. Prepare yourself for the inevitable."

Jean stumbles back as the man's already flame engulfed body flashes brightly before her causing her to shut her eyes tightly and cover her face with her arms. She braces herself, expecting an attack, but nothing happens. The alley way she stands in fall silent and empty. Jean quickly looks ahead for the burning man, but he is nowhere to be found. Her heart beats fast but steadily as she catches her breath. Suddenly, Scott's voice calls out from behind her, "Jean? Is everything alright?"

His voice catches her off guard and she quickly spins around to look at him. Her stumbling turn nearly causes her to trip, but she quickly regains her balance and remains on her feet. Scott remarks, "I didn't mean to startle you, I saw you walking into this alley. I thought you might have seen some trouble or something."

Jean clears her throat and cracks a grin trying to hide her concerned expression as she says, "I fine, Scott. I was just… trying to step out of the crowd for a bit, and I took a wrong turn."

Scott takes a quick glance over her shoulder looking down the empty alley. Turning his glance back to Jean, he says, "As long as you're ok, I guess." as he holds out his hand out and continues, "Come on, I'll walk with you to our next class."

Jean smiles taking his hand letting Scott lead the way. Walking out of the alley just behind Scott, Jean takes a quick glance back into the empty area with a fearful expression.

Excruciating pain is all that can be described. Several broken bones, bleeding lacerations, and possibility of a ruptured organ are what is left of Gambit's beaten body. His face has swelled up mainly over his right eye and around his jaw. His breathing is followed by the sound of gurgling as a bit of drool drips from his severely cracked and puffed out lower lip. He tries to remain still as he hangs from shackles that keep him suspended in an empty dungeon like room. Gambit groans out as the pain from his broken arms tug against the shackles that clamp firmly around his wrists. He has tried to stand to relieve the pain, but both of his knees are shattered, and from the sharp throbbing pain in his right thigh he believes his right femur maybe snapped in half. A small trickle of water flows beneath his broken knees and feet, catching whatever blood, sweat or tear that falls from him and carries it into a small drain just behind him. The dampness of the water soothes the pain he feels a bit s it moistens the lower part of his uniform slacks. Occasionally, he would feel numbness run down his back to his legs. It is somewhat relieving in many ways as he would not feel pain for those few seconds, but the terrifying thought of his injuries being so severe, it may be the signs of paralyses. A single tear runs down his left blood shot eye as he hangs helplessly. Looking through the slit on the dungeon door, Emma peeks in to check on Gambit. She holds he composure trying not to appear saddened at the sight. But she somewhat flinches as she hears his painful groans. Her eyes widen out of surprise as the Enigma's voice speaks up from behind her, "There is a kind of sadness about that, isn't there Ms. Frost."

She steps forward a bit and turns to face him. Emma tries not to act shocked at the face she has come to respect on another, but on this person, she only sees the face of evil. He continues, "I use to be bothered at the sight of an emotional as well as physically broken man. Nothing worse than seeing a grown man cry like a little girl."

"Then why keep him alive?" Emma coldly asks.

"As I said," he replies, "it use to bother me. But I've learned in my experience, torture is necessary strategic means for victory. His broken spirit will brings the others to his rescue. Right now, he's trying to fight it, keep his spirits up. But the constant pain, and the grim reminder of his weaknesses will break him, and he'll cry, giving up. A pathetic truth about being human I'm afraid."

Emma takes a breath and inquires, "No offense, but are you not human as well?"

Chuckling, the Enigma answers, "Of course I am, I can be pathetic just like everyone else. I'm just not as weak as everyone else."

Reluctantly nodding with a cold expression in response to his comment, Emma says, "So, Gambit is to be used as bait. To what end may I ask? Despite the Hellfire Society's private little army, the X-men still out numbers us as well as out gun us. And with Allan fighting by their side…"

"One thing at a time, Ms. Frost," he interrupts, "I must confess, I am shocked at your beauty." as he begins to walk around her slowly. He continues, "I have to insist you have dinner with me tonight."

Emma's cold expression gives way to surprise as he starts to walk away. "If I were to refuse?" she boldly asks.

Stopping just up the dimly light dungeon like corridor, the Enigma keeps his back to her and slightly glances back at her replying, "Then I'll just keep asking until you agree. And believe me, it will get annoying." then continues to walk away.

Just before turning the corner out of her sight he speaks out, "You and I, the penthouse suite dinning hall, 8 o'clock pm sharp. Be there or be square."

Emma lightly breathes out with frustration as her face shows a hint of fear. For once, she is with out words. But as she begins to contemplate her predicament, Gambit's gurgling grunts of pain echo out to her, and she stands divided in silence.

Walking his way to the next upper level, the Enigma casually begins to pass Tessa, who is on the way down. He glances at her with slight grin as she does the same. But she stops just behind him and asks, "May we speak?"

The Enigma stops a few steps above her and down at her saying nothing. Tessa clears her throat and asks, "What are your intentions with Emma? It is very clear her loyalties are severely divided."

Chuckling lightly, the Enigma replies, "I like to keep my enemies close if I can. And I intend to keep her very, very close to me." He says with a grin.

"If she is to be bait as well, then hang her as you did Gambit." Tessa tells him and adds, "But if she is more to you, then I need to know."

With a sneering glare at her, the Enigma's expression sours and in a blurring speed he darts down to her grabbing her throat with his left hand and grips firmly. His eyes glow an eerie yellow as he glares into her eyes closely. His voice seems to slightly echo around her as he states, "Do not dictate to me what you want, woman. You are told things when I wish things to be told to you. What ever you may be thinking, do not mistaken our moments of pleasure together as sign of weakness within me. If I see fit to end your existence on this pathetic world, I will do so with no regrets. Do we understand one another?"

Tessa struggles for moment in his hard grip around her throat. But then she lightly grunts out, "Please… forgive me. I spoke out of… tongue."

The Enigma's angered expression softens as she begins to caress his face. The fear and hurt in her eyes brings him to a slight smile and he gently releases his grip. He returns her affection, gently caressing her right cheek as he tells her, "I understand your impatience, Tessa. But you must understand, there are regrettable actions that must be taken to ensure victory."

He turns and continues to walk up the stairs as Tessa tries to maintain her composure. She rubs her neck and throat as she slowly sits on the steps quietly and mutters lightly to herself, "Regrettable."

Walking into a wide room, the Enigma asks out, "Mr. Pierce, how is our guest handling his new arrangement?"

Standing by an array of computer consoles and screens, Donald turns and smiles saying, "The fusion is nearly complete, my lord. Mr. Creed will ready on schedule."

Smiling with satisfaction, the Enigma walks over to a nearby table and picks up his newly fused cobalt blue helmet and puts it on. He slips on his gloves and locks the thick straps firmly around his forearms. Looking back at Donald through his face plated helmet, he remarks, "Excellent. When the fusion is complete, just open the back doors and let him run loose. I'm sure he must be hungry after his ordeal. I will be back shortly, I have an appointment to keep and phone calls to make."

Donald bows his head as the Enigma nods and glances at the screens just before walking out. The images are of what sounds like torture and roaring. Blurry silhouettes of a struggling beast bring a grin to the Enigma under his helmet as he leaves the room.

Late afternoon slowly comes over the Xavier Institute as some of the students have made their way home and begun to wind down. It is quiet afternoon with the sun slowly setting behind the trees. Outside, Sean has joined a handful of the boys tossing a football around, while a couple of the girls sit nearby gazing at a new entertainment magazine they purchased on the way home. Inside, the living areas are already full of activity as more students huddle around the large screen television playing video games, cheering and laughing all at once it seems. Below in the chambers beneath the estate, a more somber atmosphere is being dealt with. Sitting on a chair in the Danger Room command room, Jean looks out through the observation window at Allan, who floats at her level sitting in a Indian style manner. Their expressions seem calm as Allan asks her, "Are you sure you saw what you saw? How many were there?"

Jean swallows first, then takes a deep breath before saying, "I'm positive I saw them. I couldn't tell how many, they were all in the crowd."

Allan nods and says, "Describe the one who spoke to you."

She sits silently at first, unsure how to begin. But then she sighs out, "Fire, all over him. Very bright with only eyes and no other facial features. Kind of tall too."

"Did he have a glowing staff with balls of flame on both ends?" Allan inquires.

Jean shrugs her shoulders, "I didn't see one. But…"

"But what?" Allan asks.

Stalling her answer at first, Jean finally adds, "I think… well I felt as though… he was afraid… of me. It was a mixture of concern, fear and being unsure, I guess."

Nodding again, Allan says, "That's pretty typical. Manifestations always attract others. And it's coming down to that time."

"Do you know when or how it will happen?" Jean asks with concern.

Allan gives her a friendly smile and answers, "There's no telling, Jean. It could be a matter of weeks, months or years. How powers manifest is completely random. Some of us theorize the powers emerge according to the beings imagination. That it will reflect who you are inside. I'll give you this, at least you're given a heads up. Not all of us are that lucky."

Jean grins and asks Allan, "So, how did your powers fully manifest?"

Clearing his throat, Allan grins in embarrassment replying, "Let's just say, if that theory is true about the powers reflecting who you are inside, then I'm probably the biggest joke in all existence."

Allan's comment brings Jean to laughter he adds, "I don't think you have anything to worry about, Jean. If the others wanted to hurt you, they would've done so already. If anything, they're probably here to witness your manifestation. So may be you should be flattered."

Jean continues to smile even as she says, "I'm not going to lie to you, Allan. I'm scared."

"Well," Allan remarks, "I'd think there was something seriously wrong with you if you weren't."

Chuckling, Jean stands up and says, "I have to catch up with Scott. Thanks, Allan."

Allan smiles at her as he floats just out the observation window and replies with confidence, "Anytime."

Watching Jean exit the command room, Allan's smile slowly turns into a plain expression. He slowly descends to the Danger Room chamber floor and gently touches down to his bare feet. Allan takes a deep breath as he slides his hands deep into his jean pockets and stands silently. But just as he starting to get lost in thought, Rogue's voice speaks up from behind, "Is everythin' alright, babe? Ya seem a bit quiet over there."

Allan turns to glance at her. She lay on her stomach sprawled across his bed reading one of his design magazines. Allan casually walks over to the bed and seats himself just in front of her still remaining silent. Rogue asks again, "Allan, what's up?"

Looking over at her, Allan just smiles contently and says, "Just thinking, nothing you should worry about." and leans in closer kissing her fore head.

Rogue watches as Allan quietly stands back up walking over to his guitar and amp set up. He slips on a pair of head phones, picks his stylized flying 'V' guitar up and starts to play some cords. Rogue has grown accustomed to Allan's thinking patterns and habits. She knows he only plays his guitar so intensely when he is lost in thought.

Following Evan down the street, Kurt and Ray stumble a bit as they help carry groceries. They each carry three paper bags filled with all sorts of foods and toiletries. Ray shifts the bags in his arms while peeking inside and asks, "Hey Evan, who eats this much ravioli anyway?"

Glancing back at his friend, Evan chuckle and answers, "Dude, a little ravioli can go a long way."

Kurt catches up holding two bag in his arms and one bag with his prehensile tail. He mentions, "This is a lot of stuff, Evan. Vhere did get the money to buy all this?"

Evan smiles as he continues to walk and says, "I've been helping Allan with a project. He was building something for Rogue, 'nuff said."

"Vhat vas he building for her?" Kurt asks.

"I promised to keep it a secret, Kurt. There are too many telepaths at the house." Evan chuckles out as the three of them approach a large sewer top off the side of the sidewalk. Evan extends a long boney staff from his right arm and wedges it into the sewer top carefully removing the metal lid. With his secondary mutation, Evan ignite the tip of the boney staff in a ball of flames. He then harpoons the staff into the open sewer impaling it into the dark and dank ground beneath. The flame lights up the tunnel as Evan says, "Alright guys, here we are. Just stay to the right and don't drop the groceries."

Kurt slightly flinches to the odor from the open sewer as he watches Evan climb down slowly carrying one bag. One by one, the boys carefully hand down the bags of goods and continue their walk into the tunnel. Evan lights another boney staff illuminating their path ahead as Kurt slightly coughs saying, "Man, vhat's that smell."

Evan laughs stating, "Dude, sometimes, you just don't wanna know."

Ray laughs along remarking, "Relax Kurt, you get use to it after a while."

Continuing to laugh, Evan shuffles the bag cradled in his arms but then stops. The other two suddenly stop, just behind him. Ray asks, "What gives, Evan?"

Evan's expression slowly turns serious as he gently sniffs the odor filled air. "Something's not right, guys." he mutters out.

Kurt's face again winces at the odor of the sewer and says, "You're starting to act like, Logan, man."

"Guys," Evan remarks, "living down here, we learned to identify certain smells. You'd be amazed what gets tossed in the sewer without anyone knowing."

Ray shrugs his shoulders and asks, "What're you smellin' Evan?"

With his face now looking a bit confused, Evan answers, "I'm not sure, bro. But at first it smelled like a… dead body."

"If it is," Kurt mentions, "I'm gonna puke."

"Let's keep moving, guys." Evan says as he picks up the pace heading down the tunnel with his friend close behind him.

The tunnel begins to slowly open up into a storm like drainage with multiple smaller pipes lining the walls left and right. The sound of trickling water echo all around them. As he briskly walks with his bags in his arms, Evan says with a low tone, "They usually have the part of the sewer lit up. No one's watching the entrance."

Hearing his comment, both Kurt and Ray's expression go from concern to serious. But before anyone them can say another word, a echoing deep roar sounds from the depths of the far tunnels, followed by the sounds of splashing water. Kurt's expression changes to fear with his eyes widening as he asks innocently, "Alligator?"

Ray coughs out a laugh saying, "Kurt, that's just a myth."

Evan drops his bags of groceries and begins to extend his spiked armored shell around his body. His button up shirt tears and rips as his thick armored shell protrudes out. Without a word, Evan darts off into a full run towards the sounds. Both Ray and Kurt drop their bags and chase after him. Following Evan's lit up bone like torch, Kurt and Ray hop over heaps of junk and sewer sludge trying to keep pace with his frantic run. Kurt leaps and vault effortlessly over debris while Ray finds himself stumbling over the piles of gathered sewer trash in the tunnel. Ray calls out, "Evan, slow it down, man! We don't know what's ahead!"

The tunnel opens into another large storm drain cavity. Make shift lanterns barely light up the dank chamber. All along the walls several dripping pipes sticking out of both sides of the dark gray brick walls drain into a main reservoir that flow through the center of the chamber and into a larger pip at the end. Kurt and Ray can see where the Morlocks have tried to make living areas off in the corners using whatever materials were available. Despite the fact they are in a sewer, the area now looks ransacked. Scattered new papers and food riddle the living area with traces of blood either smeared or dropped in random spots. The boys take care steps as they glance around the area, trying not to step on the bloody spots. "Vhere is everyone?" Kurt asks in a low tone.

Almost out of nowhere, Ray feels something grip his left ankle and he panics screaming out, "WHOA! HEY!"

Using his bioelectrical mutant power, Ray charges up his hands and point down at what ever has his ankle. His electrically sparking hands light up the area some more and all he sees is a somewhat light refracting invisible human figure sprawled across the floor next to his feet. Evan immediately yell out, "Wait! Hold it Ray! It's Façade!"

Slowly, the figure seems to visually materialize before them and they can now see Façade's limp body. Evan quickly kneels to him to check and finds Façade has suffered many severe injuries. Blood flows from deep slashing wounds on his back. Four distinct claw marks scar his entire body as he is barely able to look at Evan with painful eyes. Evan asks in desperation, "What happened, who did this?"

Kurt and Ray move quickly to dress Façade's wounds with old shirts they find in the living area. They tear strips and bundles and start to cover up the deep lacerations, putting pressure on the wounds to keep them from bleeding any further. The expressions on their faces look hopeless as Façade finally speaks up. His voice cracks and slightly gurgles as he mutters out, "Too… late… we tried… tried to stop it… t… tore through… us."

Evan expression saddens watching his friend suffer painfully, but he asks in earnest, "Where're the others, are they hurt too?"

Struggling against his pain, Façade manages to answer, "Don't … know…"

He sudden goes limp as he lets out his last breath. Evan expression almost becomes horrified, as he looks up at Ray and Kurt. They both fall silent as Ray lightly shakes his head, acknowledging that Façade is dead. Kurt slowly backs away covering his mouth, trying not to vomit. Evan stares at Façade's dead body with saddened yet plain expression, as though the shock has stunned him. But their moment off saddened silence is broken by another Echoing roar. Evan quickly gets to his feet extending sharp claws like spikes from his heavily armored left forearm. His right hand still hold the lit up sharp boney staff as he stands in a defensive stance. Ray and Kurt move up readying themselves as well. Ray glares into the darkness and says, "Let's shed some light on this."

He points his ands up and charges them brightly illuminating the chamber some more. The sight is horrifying even further as Ray's sparkling light reveals the fate of other Morlocks. Strewn across various spots of the large drainage chamber, bodies lay every where, mangled, dismembered and nearly unidentifiable. It almost brings the boys to a panic state, but hold their composure, despite the nausea they begin to feel. Evan mutters out as he glances over at some of the bodies, "Cybelle, Lucid, Scaleface…"

A mixture of sadness and anger begins to overwhelm Evan. The smell of dead bodies fill the air and Kurt begins to gag lightly, reminded of his morbid discovery of Karl Lykos's unfortunate family. Suddenly, a roar echoes out getting their shock attention. Ray preps his power for attack along with Evan who looks prepared to charge. Rising out of the blood reddened reservoir sewer water, a hulking creature, slowly trudges over the dead bodies that lay before it. The three boys stagger back as the creature seems to growl lowly and lumber out. Ray looks anxious and confused as he asks out, "The heck is that?"
Evan yells out in anger, "Just freakin' kill it!" as he throws his lit up boney staff at the creature like harpoon.

The boney weapon strikes hard and true, but shatters like a twig again the creature sludge covered torso. Ray steps up next to Evan pointing both hands at the monster and releases bright barrage of electrical streams at the hulking beast. The attack broadsides into the monsters midsection sending spark of electricity all over it. The creature staggers back from the attack grunting out and seemingly covering it's eyes from the brightness. Evan extends two more harpoon like boney spikes and tosses one to Kurt. Teleporting over the creatures head, Kurt allow gravity to pull him down as he tries to spear the monster with the sharp weapon. But just before, the boney spear shatters at the tip. Kurt lands and balances on the creature muscled brawny shoulders and continues to jab with the weapon at the back on the monster's neck. Each time, pieces of his spear flake off. With near lightning like reflexes, the creature turns and swats at Kurt. However, Kurt is just as quick as he manages to teleport just before the monster could make contact. Evan and Ray draw back a few feet as Kurt materializes next to them. Ray continues to bombard the monster furiously with his bioelectrical blasts causing it to grunt out and stagger a bit. But much to their dismay, the creature starts to laugh. An echoing scruffy voice speaks out to them, "That all you rrrrug ratsssss got!"

Ray seizes his attack letting the smoke and debris settle. Stepping through the smoke, the monster lumbers into their sight. It's limbs appear elongated as well as it's hands. Long sharp claws protrude from the finger tips with a thick mane like hair lining it's back and fore arms. Long hair nearly covers it's thick torso as it hunches over breathing heavily. Despite the monsters contorted face and long fanged teeth, Kurt staggers back in shock remarking with a bit of fear in his voice, "Sabertooth."

Jean sits quietly in the Cerebro chamber taking deep slow breaths. She stares up at the console where the interface helmet sits and lets out a soft sigh. Scott walks up behind her with Logan and says, "Jean, if you don't feel up to it, you don't have to do this."

She looks back him with a smile and replies, "It'll be fine, Scott. If Logan can't track Remy, then this is the only way to find him."

She faces the main console and gently picks up the helmet, placing it firmly over her head. She mentions, "Um, give me a minute or two guys."

Logan taps Scott on the shoulder and silently signals him to step out of the chamber together. Both Scott and Logan step letting the door close behind them. The sounds of powering up generators hum near by as Cerebro powers up. In the chamber, Jean shuts her eyes and concentrates, allow her mind to link with the unique enhancements Cerebro gives it's wearer. Her mind is thrust into the waves of countless thoughts. She finds herself feeling like a wave washing over Bayville absorbing all astral voices as she passes. Her perception is brought deep with in the sewers where she sees a desperate fight involving three close friends of hers. She feels the anger and fear as they run and fight for their lives. Her mind cries out for them, 'Kurt, Evan, Ray!'

She is suddenly cast aside by the presence of feral monster pursuing them, and her cries go ignored. Just as she is about to break contact to warn Logan and Scott of what she saw, Jean begins to feel a hint of emotional despair. It feels as though her heart had sunk so low, that she could never feel happy again. So she looks up, letting her mind be drawn to these sad emotions. It pulls her mind across town into the main downtown district, into a shadowy high rise, through it's many turning corridors, down countless shafts and doorways, then finally to a dank lonely chamber. Unlike her other psychic visuals, this one seems tangible. Jean can nearly taste the mustiness of the stagnant air mixed with sweat. A light groan and grunt followed by a whimper gets her attention, and she turns to look. Hanging from chains on his bleeding wrists that connect to the ceiling of the dungeon like room, Remy slumps over like a dead hanging plant. From the way his arms and legs bend or hang, she can tell they are all broken in some manner. His mouth is swollen as it drips of blood and drool. Jean begins to feel unsteady as her mind approaches him and calls out, 'Remy?'

It's a struggle for him, but Remy slowly manages to lift his hanging head up. Sweat and dirty moisten down his hair that barely covers the severely swollen eye. He squints with a slight grin, but then begins to cry. Jean feels his despair as she tells him, 'You're going to be ok Remy. The other X-men are coming.'

Tears run down the side of his batter face as he drops his head groaning out, "Nnnooo… nnooo… pl… please…"

His despair almost feels unbearable to her, but she tries to comfort him none the less. Then an echoing voice surprises her, "Such is the fate of all who call themselves heroes. Embrace your true nature."

Jean turns quickly bringing her mind perception to look at the voice, but the sudden sight of a bright red star flashes before her nearly blinding her. As the red star light flashes around her, Jean feels excruciating pain from Remy as well as unbearable screams. She cries out, "STOP IT!" and yanks the Cerebro interface helmet off her red head.

Scott and Logan force their way into the room and run to her side. "Jean, you alright!" Scott asks in earnest.

She hadn't realized her feel to her knees as she looks up at him. Logan looks around at the console and at her asking, "What happened?"

Scott immediately says, "She wasn't ready for this, Logan."

Taking a deep breath, Jean remarks, "I'm ok Scott. I was taken by surprise."

"Well, what did you see?" Scott inquires.

Standing up with Scott's help, Jean replies with a steady voice, "Evan, Kurt, and Ray are in trouble, in the Morlock's tunnels across town. Remy is pain, so much pain. I think he is being tortured. We have to help them." as she looks at both Scott and Logan.

Logan steps back and starts to slowly pace while Scott and Jean watch. "We're getting' spread thin here."

Scott speaks up, "Two teams then. One team goes out to find and support Evan, Kurt and Ray. The other team will track down Remy for rescue retrieval."

Logan immediately speaks up, "We can't split up that way and leave the students undefended. I'll take Pete with me, and go after Remy. Tell Sean and the Brotherhood to get suited up, they're goin' to help Evan and the others. Scott I need you Jean to hold down the fort here. With Allan in the Danger Room and Hank off at the airport to pick up Ororo, we're gonna need back waitin' here if we need it."

Scott reluctantly nods along with Jean as Logan quickly leaves the chamber. Scott lets out a frustrated breath saying, "They're going to need our help. Why doesn't Logan trust me?"

"He does, Scott." Jean assures him, "He knows you'll do what it takes to protect this school. You've proved it before." as she smiles.

Scott returns her smile and says, "We better go tell Allan what's going on."

They both quickly walk out of the Cerebro room and head to the Danger Room command center.

Standing silently in an opened dinning hall, Emma stares through the large triple pane window up at the night sky. She looks back at the elegant table decorated with white orchids and tall candles that light up the room. As she steps lightly, the tapping of her white stiletto heels echo about her. Her ravishing backless white gown compliments her figure as well as enhance her image. Emma tries not to be impressed by her surroundings, but the high vault decorated ceilings of the penthouse suite gives her a sense of being small. But just as she is becoming comfortable with her solitude, the large main door opens up and the Enigma casually walk through, grinning at her with a sense of over confidence. "Forgive my tardiness, Ms. Frost." he mentions.

Emma slightly returns his grin saying, "Well, I noticed you were gone for most of the evening."

The Enigma smiles as he approaches her. Emma looks him up and down with a plain and cold expression. Despite the scar down the left side of his face and over his eye, he is spitting image of Allan. And she can't help but admire how dashing he looks in a mostly black tuxedo. Emma crack a slight smile as he takes her hand leads her to her dinning room chair. Being a gentleman, he pulls her seat out for her. Emma nods and sets herself while he pours her a glass of champagne. The Enigma explains, "Indeed, I was running a few errands of my own. Necessary errands, mind you."

"Anything that should interest me?" Emma asks kindly.

Pouring his own glass of champagne, the Enigma answers, "Only in the outcome will we both find interest, Ms. Frost."

Gently taking her glass with her finger tips, Emma tells him, "Please, call me Emma."

The Enigma grins and nods. She then asks, "So what may I call you? Surely the 'Enigma' is merely a title."

His grin somewhat softens as he chuckles. Taking sip of his drink, the Enigma says, "You may call me, Seth. Now shall we eat?" as he smoothly turns to walk to his side of the long dinner table.

A few servants walk out with exquisite meals on silver serving platers. Each offer Emma minor appetizers before the main course, while Seth sits back in his chair grinning at her confidently. Emma notices his stares and asks coldly, "Do you hope to gain something from this?"

"I don't know," he replies, "it really depends on what we both want."

Emma looks over at Seth and inquires with a sarcastic yet relaxed stare, "And, what is it do you think I want."

Seth sits back chuckling and sipping his champagne. He then silently signals the servants to leave saying, "Emma, you maybe one of the most interesting persons I have ever met. You seek rightiousness, and yet you are willing to take questionable paths to get there. You don't trust anyone, but you keep tight alliances. Even now, you're looking for answers because you are unsure of what you see. I know you don't trust any of the other members of the Society, a wise course of action I will say. You especially do not trust me."

"You have not given me any reason to trust you." Emma adds just before sipping her glass.

"Very true," Seth replies, "and I probably won't. And I'm sure you know, the other do not trust you either."

Emma glance down for a moment before saying, "It has been a suspicion of mine long before the Society met you."

Seth lightly laughs as he adjusts his seating posture and adds, "Emma, let's cut the bull here. I know your loyalties are with the Xavier Institute. That you are merely here to scope out our operation, perhaps to find a weakness or any possible means to defeat us. And you will most like find one, that is what you hero types do."

Looking a bit uncomfortable, Emma lightly clears her throat as Seth continues, "It's alright, Emma. I've known your intentions the moment I set eyes on you. And why not, right? I mean, the Hellfire Society has done nothing but ruin your reputation. But at that school, you found something that you never thought you'd find, redemption."

"So," Emma remarks, "you seem to know plenty about me. Why the charade?"

Seth grins again saying, "Conflict, no matter how large or small, makes life more interesting. Wouldn't you say?"

Emma remains quiet as Seth raises his right gestureto the air. A bright orb materializes just above the long dinning table and enlarges. It glows brightly but not too much as Emma begins to see images with the sphere. Seth tells her, "I've set things in motion, as you can see."

She sees an image of Kurt, Even and Ray running and diving for cover in the murky depths of the sewers. "I have to give Mr. Creed some credit. His thirst for violence and his remarkable healing makes him a great host for a Kligroxu. Mr. Creed's healing ability will keep rejuvenating the Kligroxu there fore satisfying it's thirst of life energy. And the Kligroxu will grant Mr. Creed a cosmically enhanced physiology and absolute insanity. His massacre of those useless Morlocks was a great test of his newly acquired gifts, do you agree?"

Emma stays silent as she watches the images with a concerned cold glare. The image fades into another current situation showing Logan and Piotr approaching downtown Bayville. "Perhaps I spoke too soon about Remy being good live bait." Seth adds, "I was expecting more X-men to show up for his attempted rescue."

"I believe I did mention how much the X-men outguns the Society?" Emma remarks with a grin, "Even with the combine efforts the Society's private security and the blessed talents of the Society themselves, the X-men will overpower them. Then, you will have to deal with Allan eventually."

Seth casually stands up and lightly steps over her side of the table. He smiles and states, "Emma, I already know the weakness of the Society and it's poor attempt at a private army. But as you can see, I have already brought one of my own." as he gesture all around the open dinning room.

One by one, as though stepping out of the shadows of the evening, countless ominous creatures and individuals stand staring at Emma with cold expressions of their own. The dinning room lightly echoes with the sounds of many stepping feet, boots and claws as Seth and Emma are now surrounded by a crowd. Many of the beings glow with angelic light, others shake the floor with just one mere step. Emma's face goes from cold to near fearful as she realizes she sits in the presence of cosmic 'gods'. Seth leans down to her with a smirking smile and tells her, "I'm very prepared to face the Vanguard."


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