X-Men Evolution NEXT

Matters

From her window, Jean watches Scott lead a group of four young Xavier students out for an early morning training session. She then catches sight of Ororo leading another group of four students off into the opposite direction. The day seems to be growing bright and clear with birds chirping in the distance. Jean sighs out at the sight of normalcy and slightly smiles as Scott starts to lecture about the exercise he is about to put the students through. It is a normal scene she had grown use to seeing with her time at the Xavier Institute. But her thoughts draw back to her recent eye opening experience. Jean is careful to contain thoughts in case any of the other telepaths are nearby. Images of the horrors she had witnessed flood her mind and her hands begin to shake. Jean cups up her hands holding them firmly as takes deep breaths trying to calm herself. She begins to think that she should tell Allan that she had a run in with Seth last night. That he baited her into a fight, got her to follow him to witness the atrocities around the world. Jean nods to herself as she glances at the mirror in her room. With another slight smile, she thinks it would lift a great weight off her chest if she would just confess that she snuck out to let off some steam and ran into Seth in the process. Sighing out, Jean straightens her posture, readying to face the music and take responsibility for her actions. But as she is just about to step lively to her door, thoughts of her actions last night begin to also flood her mind. Jean turns her eyes back to her mirror. Images of heartless murdering soldiers and helpless people dying before her trigger the emotions she had tried to deny. Jean remembers her own sadness, which turned to confusion. A confusion that quickly changed to anger. And finally, the anger that lashed out for vengeance. Jean had lain awake all night after discretely returning home, trying to deny anything she had done. But memories of such violence are not that easy to forget. She out right attached the cold hearted soldiers, at first to defend the helpless scared running people. But her sense of justice quickly faded as she became enraged in the moment. She could feel all the animosity from everyone around her, and it sickened her. Jean stares at herself in the mirror with confused sadness. It was as though she was a whole different person last night. She clearly remembers not feeling any remorse as she burned the soldiers alive. Even as she felt and heard their last thoughts for mercy and loved ones before fading off into oblivion, she felt nothing for them. Jean is even doubtful about her emotions at this moment, it is an almost selfish feeling. She is saddened, yet she hardly feels any regret for what she had done. Jean feels a certain justice had been done, but did she do it to protect and avenge those who had suffered, or was she just simply lashing out for the helplessness the soldiers made her feel? These thoughts echo through Jean's mind as she gently sits down at the foot of her bed with blank expression. She chooses to remain silent, feeling both ashamed and yet, justified.

The activity in the lower levels of the mansion is somewhat more busy than usual. The sounds of metal hammering, blow torch soldering, and digital beeps fill the halls. Plenty of voiced direction and early morning yawns are also heard as repairs to the lower level main systems proceed. Most of the activity takes place in the Danger Room chamber. Fumbling through a multitude of twisted and burned wires, Hank scratches his head and mutters out, "Well, at least we now know where the short out is."

Rogue stumble out from behind some disassembled wall sections and marvels at the wire bundles saying, "Dang, Mr. McCoy, that's a lot wires."

"It is indeed, Rogue." Hank replies, "It's a good thing you and Allan volunteered to help us this morning. This would take all day to sift through by myself."

"Yup," Rogue returns with a somewhat reluctant grin, "good thing."

She clears her throat and continues with her tedious task of loosening component panels with a powered Phillips head screwdriver. The grinding wine of her power tool helps drown out embarrassing thoughts. But just as Rogue returns her full attention to her task, Piotr comes lumbering in transmuted into his steel form carrying a fifteen foot titanium beam over his right shoulder. Hank smiles and says, "Excellent timing, Piotr. It looks like Sean and Allan are ready for that new support beam." as he gestures across the room.

Piotr nods silently as he carries the large beam across the room. Rogue glances over across the room to where Piotr walks and sees Sean watching tediously from behind a protective blowtorch face mask as Allan projects a tight narrow beam of light from his eyes. Sparks and light smoke emit from where Allan light beams strike the metal bulkhead, melting two perpendicular support struts together. Allan sighs out slowly carefully shifting his red light projecting eye beams over the heated spots. Sean watches Allan's progress, then lightly taps him on the right shoulder signaling him to stop. Allan quickly blinks his eyes clearing his throat dissipating his controlled eye blast. He steps back as Sean steps in to double check the new connection. He lightly nods, then slips off the protective mask saying, "I'd say that's as good as it can get. We'll let Eric come in later to inspect the connections. What do you think, lads?" as he looks back at Allan and Piotr.

Carefully placing the large metal strut to the floor, Piotr reverts back to his human flesh form and glances at Allan with a blank grin. Allan shares his apparent confusion and looks back at Sean replying while shrugging his shoulders, "You're asking the wrong experts, Sean. Pete and I are just artist, not engineers."

Sean chuckles a bit while stepping over to the next section to repair. With a smile, Sean signals the two young men to bring the new strut to the section. Piotr transmutes into his steel form as Allan reaches down picking up the fifteen foot beam with his left hand. Piotr grabs the other end of the beam lifting of the floor. He and Allan carefully slide the new strut into place and hold it up while Sean steps in to check the placement.

Watching from across the room, Rogue trains her eyes over to Allan. She takes quick glances at her tedious work, using the power drill to unscrew a section of bolts holding a panel assembly together. It is kind of a repetitive task as she would let her eyes drift back over to Allan. Rogue slightly grins watching Allan flex his back and arm muscle holding up his end of the support beam. She moves her eyes to his face and catches him glancing back at her over his shoulder. Allan shifts his posture slightly as he smiles back at her. Catching his smile, Rogue grins at him with coy expression at the same giggling lightly as she blindly repositions her power drill tool then pulls the trigger. Very much to her surprise, she hears a loud yipping grunt. At the same time Allan flinches at the sight of the mishap and loses grip of his side of the metal strut dropping it accidentally. Sean quickly slides away from the falling beam darting out, "Whoa! Hey…" as he drops back onto butt away from the heavy strut.

Allan's end of the beam hits the floor in a loud metal clang. Rogue quickly turns her attention back to her task and realizes her power drill had drilled into Logan's lower leg. Her eyes widen with her shocked expression. Rogue looks up and sees Logan's painful glare as he mutters out with his teeth gritting, "Kid, take… a… break."

Nearly stunned at what she had accidentally done, Rogue nervously says, "Oh my God, Logan, Ah'm really sorry! Ah didn't mean…"

Raising his hand signaling her quiet down, Logan plainly says, "Just pull it out, and take a break."

Gritting her teeth and flinching, Rogue yanks the power drill bit out of Logan's lower leg muscle and drops the tool quickly. Logan sighs out allowing his remarkable healing factor to close the bleeding wound. Standing up with an embarrassed expression, Rogue remarks, "Ah'm so sorry, Logan. Ah just… missed."

Logan sighs out again while nodding, then looks over across the room to where Piotr, Sean and Allan are. He can hear Allan's repetitive apologies to Sean as he helps him onto his feet. Allan scratches his head with an embarrassed expression while Piotr holds back his laughter with a tight lipped grin. Sean pats Allan on the back with a smile signifying everything is well. Logan however, is less then forgiving as he whistles out to Allan. Looking back at Logan, Allan realizes he is being gestured to leave along with Rogue. An embarrassing grin washes over Allan's face as he nods at Logan in acknowledgement. Hank glances up watching Allan follow Rogue out the Danger Room chamber. Lightly laughing, Hank remarks, "Well, well, young love. A pleasant sight, actually."

Logan clears his throat chuckling, "Yeah, pleasant, if not a bit reckless."

"Go easy on them, Logan." Hank adds with smile, "This is new territory for them, especially for Rogue."

Nodding, Logan replies, "I know, and you're right Hank. I just…"

Standing up from his repairing task, Hank steps up to Logan and pats him on the shoulder saying, "Logan, I understand, trust me. You've become somewhat of a father figure to these kids, well, more like a very tough uncle. But my point is, you've grown use to that. And that is okay, it is a typical syndrome all teachers go through. As teachers, you and I must trust in our student's abilities to make their own decisions, no matter how reckless it may seem to us."

Logan smiles at Hank with a near sarcastic expression and remarks, "You've been hangin' 'round Charles too long, but I get it. I'll lay off."

Hank grins as he moves back to his technical task while Logan takes Rogue's spot and continues where she left off.

If he could pace aimlessly, Charles would. His troubled thoughts keeps him from focusing on anything else. Thoughts that have kept him from lending his expertise to the repairs to Cerebro. So he sits in silence, resting in his wheelchair while Eric does all the pacing. Glancing over to Charles, Eric asks with confused yet concerned expression, "Are you sure it was the entity N that was in your dream?"

Charles lightly nods replying, "Without a doubt, Eric. A presence like that does not go unnoticed."

"Should we not tell Allan? This could be a danger." Eric states.

Sighing, Charles mentions, "Allan is already aware of N's presence. He has never kept it a secret, he just chooses to ignore him. Which is why what N had told me in my dream disturbs me."

"The imbalance he spoke of." Eric adds as Charles nods.

Slowing his pacing to a dead halt, Eric takes a breath and asks, "So, what action do we take on this matter, Charles?"

Resting his chin on his folding hands, Charles replies, "I fear, Eric, that this time we must let nature take its' course. When the dust settles, then we will see where we stand."

Eric face turns stern as he folds his arms nodding at Charles's comment.

Casually strolling through the halls of the main floor, Allan follows Rogue to the kitchen walking just a few feet behind her. Taking a quick glance behind her, Rogue notices Allan looking her up and down with a somewhat cocky grin on his face. She turns to face him while still walking ahead and grins back asking in a playful tone, "You checkin' me out, tough guy?"

Answering in his own playful tone, Allan replies a coy grin, "Yeah, is that a problem Miss?"

Rogue stops allowing Allan to casually step up to her and playfully remarks, "Nope, just makin' sure Ah still go your undivided attention."

With a wide grin on his face, Allan looks into Rogue's eyes and says, "You never lost it, babe."

"Oh, you think you're just all kinds of 'slick', don't ya Mr. Hero?" Rogue teases as she returns his grin.

Allan starts to chuckle as Rogue then asks with a smile, "So, do you think we would have still ended up together if we met like this instead?"

"Like what?" Allan asks.

Rogue replies, "With both of us checkin' each other out, starin' at each other like a pieces of meat?"

"I don't know," Allan says, "may be I would've asked you if you liked what you saw."

With coy grin, Rogue then says, "Ah probably would've asked ya the same." as she casually continues to walk to the kitchen door.

Allan follows and adds, "If that was the case then, I would've said, 'I sure do'."

Rogue laughs out, "And you think that would've swooned me?"

Shrugging his shoulders, Allan replies, "I don't know, did it?"

Upon reaching the door that leads to the kitchen, Rogue quickly spins to Allan throwing her arms around his head and breathlessly says, "Yes." as she and Allan lock lips.

Allan slowly guides them through the door while passionately kissing Rogue. They both stumble a bit kissing, but manage to shuffle their way over to a nearby counter where Allan picks Rogue up and sits her down. Holding each other close, they both smile and lightly laugh. Sliding her hand over Allan's shoulders, Rogue remarks with a grin, "Ah guess this makes us both 'easy'."

Allan takes a breath while leaning in close to Rogue and says, "I can live with that."

"Me too." Rogue returns with breathless whisper.

Their moment of near morning passion, however, is interrupted by the sound of a woman clearing her throat. Allan quickly turns toward the sound as Rogue also looks over his shoulder to see both Emma and Tessa sitting by the window in their morning robes holding mugs of fresh coffee and eating toasted bagels. Tessa sips her coffee and grins at them playfully saying, "Please, don't mind us."

Emma gently wipes the sides of her mouth with a napkin as she remains silent with a slight grin. Allan sighs out leaning back against the counter next to Rogue as he stares at the two women with slight embarrassed smile. Rogue slowly slides off the counter and mutters to Allan, "We gotta get our own place."

Allan slightly glances at Rogue and chuckles as he straightens his posture. Rogue shuffles over to the refrigerator while Allan steps up asking Emma and Tessa, "So, any luck locating Seth?"

Tessa sips her coffee as Emma gently wipes the sides of her mouth replying, "Not quite. With power systems down below at a minimum, we are unable to use Cerebro."

Allan nods at her comment as Emma adds, "Jean is becoming unstable, isn't she?"

Falling silent at first to gather his thoughts, Allan sighs out lightly, then answers, "Look, what Jean is going through is a lot deeper than any of you can perceive. It's hard to explain, but just understand, what she went through, what we cosmic folk all went through, is very much a rude awakening. Like being born again, and not all of us take it the same way."

Tessa lightly clears her throat and asks, "So, what happens to those who do not take it the right way?"

Allan drops his eyes looking down, his expression saddens a bit as he says, "A balance has to be maintained, no matter what."

Emma's expression is somewhat cold as she inquires, "What exactly do you mean by balance, Allan?"

Glancing back at Rogue as she fumbles about the kitchen prepping her breakfast, Allan smile contently and says to them, "Balance is being humbled, by what ever means it takes to be successful."

Tessa speaks up in a plain tone, "Seth is after Jean, isn't he? His thoughts were always hidden from me, but his intensions could not be anymore transparent. He used the Hellfire Society's resources to create confusion, then manipulated other cosmic beings to aid his cause. All to force a premature manifestation of Jean's growing power. To what end, Allan?"

Taking a breath while smiling, Allan sighs out, "You two just find him, I'll take care of the rest." as he turns walks over to Rogue.

The two women watch Allan playfully step up to Rogue as she hands him quickly made morning sandwich. Emma notices Tessa's coy grin watching the young couple casually walk out of the kitchen. Tessa then turns her eyes to Emma remarking, "His resemblance to Seth is uncanny. Even his mannerisms are astoundingly similar. Sends chills down my back."

Emma takes another sip of her coffee, then asks, "Were you in love with Seth?"

The question silences Tessa, whose face suddenly becomes a bit cold. Taking a light breath, Tessa straightens her posture in her seat and replies plainly, "Let me just say, Seth managed to exploit a weakness with in me. And I promise you, that weakness will never be exploited again."

"Fair enough." Emma returns and adds, "And in response to your comment about Seth and Allan's similarities, they maybe more alike than you believe."

"How do you mean, Emma?" Tessa inquires.

Emma expression becomes slightly concerned as well as a bit cold saying, "When he looked over at Rogue, he dropped his psychic guard for a split second. I sensed a great deal of deception from him. Allan is hiding something, and hiding it well."

The day proceeds just any other with the younger students off at school. Taking advantage of another administration day, Scott decides to occupy his day with simple drive around town. Riding in his convertible sports roadster, Scott relaxes behind the wheel with the wind flowing through his hair. His thoughts drift back to the last few days, trying to understand what is happening. But as he does, Scott begins to feel that sense of helplessness deep down in his gut. He accelerates his car at high speeds leaving the city limits heading out toward the more rural areas surrounding Bayville. Speeding over a rolling hill, Scott catches site of what looks like a construction zone in the middle of a field. Heavy duty steam shovels, bulldozers and dumb trucks move about the large area. Scott then notices what looks like military personal carriers parked near the rear of the site. Curious, Scott pulls his car to the side and steps out to get a better look. At first he tries to stay next to his car, but cannot get a good view. So he slowly walks ahead, weaving left and right trying to get a better view without getting too close. But as his eyes are fixed ahead at the digging site, he stumbles over a hard rock that almost trips him over. Scott quickly looks down and notices a dark flat colored stone that kind reminds him of the lava rocks used in outdoor gas grills. He bends down and picks up the rock and is taken by surprise on heavy it is. The rock is barely a foot in diameter and yet, it weighs more and a bowling ball. Getting a closer look at the rock, Scott realize is it scorched and burned. He then looks up at the dig site and continues to walk ahead, determined to get a better view on what is going on. Scott clutches the small heavy rock under his right arm as he nears a good vantage point. The zoned off area resembles and wide construction site, with large yellow painted digging and dumping vehicles roaming about. Confusion washes over Scott's face as it appears the trucks and diggers are burying something. Several dump trucks pull in and pour out tons and tons of dirty and gravel into what looks like a deep crater. Just as Scott glares out even further, he hears a clicking sound just behind him followed by a stern voice, "That's close enough, kid. Put your hands where I can see them."

Remaining still, Scott hesitates to answer. The man's voice speaks out again, "I said let me see those hands, kid."

Scott takes a light breath and slowly raises his hands above his head. The man's voice speaks, "I got him covered, you secure him."

Scott continues to face away from them staring out toward the dig site. He then feels a firm grip on his left wrist. Breathing out, Scott lets his training kick in as he quickly snaps back with his left hand twisting out of the man's grip and reverse locking his arm behind his back thus forcing the man into a submission posture. Scott takes the few seconds of surprise to analyze the situation. He notices man a few feet from his position pointing an automatic rifle at him dressed in some kind of dark colored military gear complete with protective armor. Scott then takes a quick glance at the man in his skilled arm lock and realizes he is also wearing the same outfit as the other. With a swift maneuver, Scott pushes his arm locked opponent toward the other trooper, then kicks out with his right leg pushing the trooper even more rapidly at his partner. The two men collide grunting out as they hit the ground hard. Scott wastes no time as he darts away heading back to his car. Behind him he can hear other voices yelling, "Over there!" "Take him down!" "Cut him off!"

Scott has been in enough scuffles to know when he should act, and with the additional training he had received from both Logan and Allan, he allows his training to react more like instinct. He cuts his full run towards his car short as he dives to the ground into tucking roll avoiding several ensnaring bolos and nets he saw coming in the corner of his eyes. In one motion, Scott gets to his feet and turns lifting his ruby quartz sunglasses from his eyes unleashing a barrage of red optic blasts at his pursuers. With each blast he takes notes of all his opponents, being careful not to seriously hurt any of them. His precision pays off with pin point strikes to their armor protected shoulders, and abdomen, either knocking the wind out of them or sending them spinning to the ground. Scott takes other aims at their hand held weapons, smashing the assault rifles to smithereens out of their grips. Then with a wide concussive blast, Scott aims his beam to the ground, blast large chunks of dirt and rock at the troopers forcing them to take cover. Scott then turns to continue to run to his car. But just as he starts to run, a large gust of wind takes him by surprise. He looks up to see a dark military combat helicopter descend aiming its' weapon mounts at him. Scott stands his ground, readying to unleash another barrage of his optic blast. Suddenly a stern voice echoes out from the helicopters' external speakers, "Hold your fire! That means you too, Cyclops."

Hearing his codename, Scott steps back out of surprise. The helicopter slowly turns while hovering just above Scott's position. A side sliding door opens and a man jumps out a few feet in front of Scott. Swallowing out of nervousness, Scott steps back out of his defensive posture realizing the man in front of him is Nick Fury. I nervous tone, Scott asks out, "Colonel Fury?"

Nick straightens his posture staring back at Scott with his good eye. A stern expression from Nick makes Scott feel like he had just upset Logan. Scott watches as Nick orders the helicopter and the pursuing troopers to back down with one hand signal. The combat chopper hovers away as the troopers gather themselves and what is left of their weapons. Turning his attention to Scott, Nick remarks, "You X-men have this bad habit of showing up in the wrong places at the wrong time."

Scott returns, "I was just passing by, Colonel. I saw the dig and I was curious, nothing wrong with that."

"You didn't see the 'keep out danger' signs?" Nick asks.

Scott shrugs his shoulders and glances around asking back, "What signs?"

Nick also glances around with a sneer and darts out, "Damn UFO fanatics. They'll take anything as a souvenir these days."

"UFO?" Scott inquires with a baffled expression, "What's going on here, Colonel?"

Looking back at Scott sarcastically, Nick remarks, "Just one of our standard cover ups, kid. This falls in line with crop circles and Big Foot sightings. Simple plausible deniability for the media's entertainment and letting the rest of the world fill in the gaps with speculations and theories. Meanwhile, we physically cover up the scene. In all honesty, I was hoping you could tell me what happened here."

Scott slightly draws back with baffled expression asking, "Why ask me?"

Sighing out, Nick returns, "Kid, I don't have time to play 'cloak and dagger' with this. A few weeks back we get reports of unidentified objects over the skies of Bayville. SHIELD loses two satellites trying to get imaging in the process Then by the time we get there, all that's left is damaged city property and this big crater."

Scott falls silent, unsure of what to say as Nick continues, "Now, I have several eye witnesses describing things that would make the Sci-Fi channel cry. And they also describe one particular person wearing an outfit bearing a golden star across his chest. Does that sound familiar?"

Clearing his throat nervously, Scott speaks up, "It's complicated, Colonel."

"Then how about giving me the skinny," Nick says, "was your friend Allan involved and is this finished?"

Taking breath, Scott replies, "Allan… was involved. The details are a bit sketchy, but as far as we know, this isn't over."

Nodding silently, Nick expression is that of frustration as he finally remarks, "You just tell Logan, we're watching you guys."

Scott breathes out, "Ok, is that all, Colonel?"

"Actually," Nick brings up, "there is one more thing I'd like to discuss, with you, in particular."

"What now?" Scott inquires with a bit of frustration.

Reaching into his jacket inside pocket, nick pulls out a small hand full of what appears to be photographs. He slowly flips through the card like images and pulls up one, holding in front of Scott asking, "Who is the guy in the blue get up?"

Scott stares at the image with a baffled expression. The image shows a man wearing a uniform similar to Allan's Vanguard uniform standing near a pile of burning rubble that looks like what was left of some kind of tank. Swallowing, Scott answers, "His name is Seth. He's kind of like Allan, even looks like him under that helmet. Or so I'm told. But what's this have to do with me?"

Nick smirks as he pulls up another image saying, "Because your girl was seen with him."

Scott scoots in to get a better look at the second image Nick holds up and stands nearly shocked at the sight. The image shows Jean in her X-man uniform standing a few feet away from Seth gazing upon the smoldering remains of looks like burning tanks. Scott shakes his head in disbelief remarking, "No, this is some kind of mistake, Colonel. Seth is trying to kill us all or something. Where did you get these pictures?"

Nick replies, "That's classified, but I can say these were taken at a refugee camp in Eastern Europe. A paramilitary group rolled in to eradicate them, and this is what's left of those tanks." as he hold up another image showing Scott a more panoramic view of the scene.

Scott's face expresses concern as the image shows a whole brigade of battle tanks burning with the crews burning alive in the hulls. Nick continues, "Eyewitnesses say two people dropped from the sky just before the attack."

Shaking his head and breathing out, "I don't know how you got these pictures, Colonel. But Seth has to be pulling your leg some how."

"Maybe," Nick adds, "but I have agents all over that area, ascertaining threats to US interests. Her identity has been confirmed."

Scott continues to shake his head remarking, "I don't know what's going on, Colonel Fury, but your agents obviously made a mistake. Jean wouldn't or couldn't be involved in this. And according to the date and time, these were taken last night."

"It was day time on that side of the world." Nick mentions.

"Well, last night, Jean was at home, in her room, asleep." Scott states with stern tone.

Nick nods with a plain expression and says, "Confirm that for me, kid, for her sake. Until then, your little school is under surveillance."

Scott steps back with concerned expression on his face. Nick speaks up while tossing the image of Jean standing next to Seth into Scott's hands, "Keep this one, Scott, so that it gets you to think with the right head."

Wanting to ball up the picture in his hand, Scott holds off, glancing at the image in his palm. He then turns heading back to his car. Nick speaks out one time, "Watch the news closely, kid. 'Cause if this starts to go sour, I'll be knocking at you door a lot sooner that you think."

Briskly walking back to his car, Scott takes a quick glance back at Nick with a nervous expression, then turns his gaze back toward his car as he picks up his speed jogging to his parked sports convertible.

Darting across the open field into a multitude of rapid back springs, Vanguard acrobatically avoids Jean's barrage of pyro-kinetic fire bolts. The attack scorches the ground around Vanguard's position as he twists and turns around the assault. Following up his maneuver, Vanguard draws back and sparks his power forming a long red glowing quarter staff in his right hand. Spinning the glowing weapon in a butterfly like pattern left to right, he deflects the oncoming fire bolts away and to the ground. Jean switches her attack pattern arching through the air towards him. She ignites her pyro-kinetic flames around her body forming wing like appendages from her arms. Jean then bears down on Vanguard's position spinning with her flaming wings extending. The heated wings slash out at Vanguard forcing him to roll for cover. Choosing his moves carefully, Vanguard quickly recovers from his defensive maneuver leaping onto his feet and bringing his glowing weapon into a ready position. Jean arches back into the air elegantly with her fiery wings held out. Vanguard shuffles back hold his glowing weapon low. He then starts to drag the red glowing quarter staff on the ground in a circular manner as steps wide from left to right. The weapon kicks up dust and dirt as Vanguard draws a random pattern of circles on the ground. Jean expression becomes baffled to what he is doing, but she dives down towards him nonetheless. Vanguard continues to shuffle back. He swivels his quarter staff away and holds out his left hand palm down at the ground. Much to Jean's surprise, the circles Vanguard had drawn in the ground begin to shift and tremble. Suddenly, from one circle, a column of red hot lava bursts upward at her. Jean effortlessly dodges the burning column. Another circle bursts upward just in front of her releasing this time, a column of rushing water, catching Jean off guard for a moment. She halts her advance as another circle off to her right burst upward pushing a column of solid rock up into air near her. Jean turns her eyes down at Vanguard and focuses her through the rushing column of water. Using her telekinetic power, she pulls up two large masses of earth on Vanguard's right and left sides in attempt to strike him by surprise. Her attack almost pays off but Vanguard is quick on the up take as he hops up kicking out with both legs shattering the solid walls of rock and dirty before they could connect. Continuing his motion, Vanguard thrusts his glowing staff into the ground where Jean had tried to pull up her smashing assault. The weapon digs deep into the hard terrain as Vanguard then pulls back on the staff ripping out a large chuck of solid rock in the air. Still continuing his motion, he spins, swinging his glowing energy staff like a baseball player at the rocky chunk. Vanguard's staff strikes the boulder sized rock hard with an echoing whack, knocking it towards Jean's floating position at supersonic speeds. The careening rock hurdles through the rushing column of water effortlessly and at Jean. Taken by surprise by the flashiness of his maneuver, Jean manages to defend herself at the last second raising a pyro-kinetic force field. The boulder smashes against her protective field but causes her to draw back from the impact as she grunts out. The sudden counter attack from Vanguard made Jean flinch almost losing her bearings. She manages to maintain her concentration long enough to see Vanguard starting his advance. Again using the circles he drawn on the ground, Vanguard calls up more solid rock using them like elevators to reach Jean's air born position. Jean glances around her at the columns of different elements Vanguard had conjured up, being careful not to back herself up into one of them. She then turns her attention back to Vanguard, who acrobatically leaps from one rising rock column to another, with his glowing red weapon still in his hand. Jean raises her focus and unleashes another barrage of pyro-kinetic flames at him. This time she raises the power level creating large fire balls melting the columns just seconds after Vanguard had leaped from them. Twisting, flipping and somersaulting through her Jean's relentless assault at the same time using the erecting rock columns to gain altitude, Vanguard advances his way up. It as though he is literally one step ahead of her. Jean begins to feel frustrated by the second, unable to connect with her attack. Finally, Vanguard reaches her position leaping high from an elegant flip. A quick spark from his hands splits his glowing quarter staff into two smaller kali stick like weapons, one in each hand as he bears down on her. Jean again is caught off guard at Vanguard's no nonsense tactics. A deep feeling of failure and frustration begins to overwhelm her thoughts. And a familiar sense of anger fuels her rage as she yells out in an echoing tone, "ENOUGH!"

Her mind strikes out at Vanguard like a colliding train. Caught by complete surprise, Vanguard yells out in pain dissipating his glowing weapons and grabbing his helmet covered head. The attack is sudden and violent sending Vanguard careening and crashing back into the conjured rock columns. His dense body smashes into the puzzle like rock construct crumbling them as he struggles against her psychic assault. Vanguard's mind burns with his deepest and saddest memories. Images of crumbling walls and collapsing tile floors beneath his feet disorient him. The familiar emotions of failure and fear bring him to tears under his face plated helmet. And the remembrance of watching close friends die right before his eyes force him to call out, "NNOOOOO!"

Vanguard smashes back to the ground with the crumbling remains of the solid rock columns falling on him. It is a dramatic and violent scene that echoes loud thundering ground impacts. Jean gasps out loudly, as though shocked by the result. Her eyes widen at the sight with fear. She mutters out, "Oh my God!"

The columns of lava, water, and earth drop back to the ground succumbing to gravity as Jean also descends to the ground. She rushes through the rubble, calling out, "Allan! Oh God I'm so sorry!"

Using her pyro-kinetic ability to enhance her physical strength, Jean lifts and topples away large chunks of rock trying to dig her way to where Allan had landed. As she frantically tries to dig her way through the rocky rubble, Rogue calls out, "What happened?"

Jean looks up and sees Rogue in her X-man uniform running up. Nearly speechless, Jean hesitates, but says, "I… I don't know. I think… I think I hurt Allan."

Rogue's eyes widen with a mixture of concern and anger as she darts out, "What! This was supposed to be an exercise, Jean!"

Jean looks as though she is a bit of shock as she replies, "I know… I'm… I just…"

Suddenly, in a loud cracking sound, Allan gloved fist thrust outward from the rubble before the two girls. They quickly step back as he slowly pulls his body out halfway sitting up nearly casual like in the rock pile. Rogue rushes down to him asking in earnest, "Allan, babe, you alright?" as she starts to dust the dirt and pebbles off his shoulders.

Sitting waist up in the rubble, Allan nods and slowly slides his blood red helmet off his head. Remnants of small rocks and sand fall out from the inside of his sleek, now dusty head piece. Allan's expression is of slight embarrassment and disorientation as looks up at both Jean and Rogue. His face dirty from the dust and sand that managed to get into his helmet through the eyeholes. Before he speaks, Allan clears his throat and spits out a few rocks he had almost swallowed. "Yeah, I'm fine, Rogue. Just had the wind knocked out of me." Allan answers.

Jean kneels down saying, "I'm so sorry, Allan. I don't know came over me. That wasn't supposed to happen."

Sitting up a bit more with Rogue help, Allan glances at Jean with a slight grin replying, "Well it happened. Kind of a low blow too, Jean, pulling up something so personal in my memory."

Sighing out in shame, Jean looks down in silence. Allan smiles and adds, "But it worked. This is much of a learning curve for me as it is for you. If anything, it'll teach me not to drop my guard, or get fancy during a scuffle. No harm done."

Pulling himself completely out of the rubble, Allan dusts off his stylized uniform while straightening his posture. Rogue helps dust him off, patting dirt off of his butt and back. Jean picks up Allan's helmet and hands it back to him. Allan chuckles with a wide smile as he glances around at the damage and says, "Lucky for us we weren't in the Danger Room this time."

Jean smile a bit from his comment as Rogue expression doesn't change. Allan then remarks, "Well, I'd say that was a good session. Let's… uh… call it today. You two head back to the Institute, I'll clean this up."

With content smile, Jean says, "I'll see you two at home later. I'm going to catch up with Scott." as she streaks into the air heading to Institute.

Rogue takes a glance at Jean as she then turns her attention to Allan. She notices his expression turn from friendly, to almost sad and concern. Rogue decides to speak up, "Hey, are ya sure you're alright? What's wrong?"

Allan looks back at her with a soft smile and replies, "Everything is fine." as he caresses her right cheek.

"What really happened, Allan?" Rogue inquires out of concern.

Smiling while sighing out, Allan says, "I dropped my guard, it happens. That's all."

Rogue begins to appear slightly upset as she adds, "Ya don't have to lie to me."

"Anne, I'm not lying to you. Trust me." Allan assures her with confident smile.

Hearing her name and looking upon his smile puts Rogue at ease as she gives him a sarcastic yet playful grin. Allan tells her, "Go on home, I have to clean up this mess."

Rogue steps up and gives him a light kiss on the lips and starts jogging back home. Allan watches her jog off and breathes out lightly softening his expression, "Everything will be fine, I promise."


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