X-Men Evolution NEXT

Fallen Angel

The hour grows late as the residences of the Xavier mansion give in to sleep. One by one, they each rest their minds and bodies. For Charles Xavier, it is time to reflect. As he shuts his eyes for the night, he relaxes his mind, allowing him to slowly branch out with his thoughts. His consciousness feels as though it pulled into the perpetual stream of thoughts as he begins to hear his young students drift off into their own dreams. It is a form of comfort for him knowing they sleep safely and sound. His mind drifts further into his own dream state, but an unsettling sensation seems to grip at his soul. An absence of thought catches his attention. With a bit of focus, Charles reaches out with his mind, as though taking a step out of his body and allows consciousness to roam free. The void of thought draws him in different directions. Reaching out with his floating mind, Charles tries to trace each void of thought. But as he does, all he hears are faint echoes of trailing thoughts. Fading thoughts of the ones he no longer senses. "Something is wrong, I know it can't be her…" "I can feel their distrust, I have to prove to them that I can handle this…" "She wouldn't have done those things, I know her better than anybody…" "Nobody knows me, they can't understand. And how can they? I am more…"

The lingering yet fading thoughts carry a heavy weight of burden with them, and Charles can sense the doubt and fear. He becomes troubles himself as the thoughts feel so familiar, but just like any individual, he has his doubts. He turns away from the thoughts in denial, trying nit to allow his heart to break. But another voice calls out to him and re-affirms what he had sensed, "She's gone Professor."

Charles gathers his thoughts and focuses on the voice. A greater burden travels with this voice, a burden he had felt before, a burden he had thought had been lifted in the past year. Charles calls out, "Allan?"

"Scott went after her." Allan continues, "I can sense him, but I cannot sense her."

Charles can sense Allan's sadness as he pleads, "Allan wait. Tell me what has happened, I can help."

Allan replies, "Pandora's Box is about to be opened. Be ready to do what is necessary to protect your world. You and I both know what that means."

Speaking out in earnest, Charles states, "You do not have to do this alone, Allan. Please, let me help you."

As Charles reaches out to Allan with his mind, his perception is suddenly overwhelmed by angelic flash of white light. Charles frantically opens his eyes looking up at his bedroom ceiling. His eyes turn towards his window just a similar flash of light illuminates just outside. Shifting his posture in his bed, Charles struggles to sit up. He carefully maneuvers his way towards his wheel chair just as the light out side his window begins to fade back into darkness. Thumbing the controls to his automatic wheelchair, he quickly moves toward his window and looks out. Charles shifts his eyes left to right peering out at his property. Then his eyes are drawn upward to the sky where he spots what would appear to be a distant bright star moving away across the night sky. Charles's eyes fill with sadness as he watches the distant light disappear beyond his vision. Eric suddenly rushes through his door just as he is settling back into his wheelchair. "I was awoken by some kind of light flare from outside. Is everything alright Charles?" Eric inquires.

Charles remains silent for a few seconds, staring blankly at the floor of his room. Logan then comes rushing in as well with concerned expression on his face. Eric stares at Charles and asks, "Charles, are you alright?"

Almost as though he is lost in thought, Charles continues to stare at the floor. He then takes a deep breath and looks at both Logan and Eric. With a look of determination slowly shaping his face, Charles says, "Wake everyone."

Slapping Seth's hand away off her right shoulder, Jean darts out in anger, "What the Hell is this Seth?!"

With a sarcastic grin on his face, Seth steps over to the heaping monstrosity that Nung and replies, "What do you think, Jean. We're justifying a means to an end."

Jean staggers back a bit and rubs her temples. She glances at Nung then back at Seth, "You want me to execute Nung? Is that why I'm here?!"

Seth sneers at Jean and returns, "You seriously need to drop this human thinking. If anything, you need to start thinking above what you once were. You were a mutant, a higher evolved being. Superior to other bags of flesh and bone who can't even save themselves from their own social ignorance. Now look at you, " as he gestures to her, "you're a goddess. You can over rule any creature on this world. The ramifications of your wrath can alter the course of this solar system. The flames from your passion can incinerate the souls you deem unfit to continue existing. Except your roll as the purging fire of this sad over growing forest, and break free of the confines of your humanity."

Jean takes a breath as Seth's words echo in her mind. Her heart sinks as she begins to feel like a helpless little girl, unsure of what to do and trying to seek out permission in her thoughts. It is a feeling she has slowly began to loath, and her face glares at Seth remarking, "And executing Nung is suppose to help me do that."

Seth chuckles and smiles wide as he replies, "Some of us would call it, an act of mercy, from the only being on this sad world who can grant such an act."

"Well, why not you?" Jean inquires, "Why don't you do this?"

With another grin, Seth explains, "It's not my place, not my responsibility. And, I gain nothing from his death." as glances back at the moping humanoid trash heap and continues, "Honestly, he'd be more useful to me alive and miserable. But that's not up for me to decide."

Breathing out, Jean remarks, "So, all of this is for my benefit. Is that what you're trying to say?"

"I'm not trying anything, Jean." Seth answers, "My sole purpose for coming to this world in the first place has been for your benefit."

Smirking at Seth, Jean returns, "You expect me to believe that line of bull, Seth? You're so full of it."

"Believe what you want, Jean," Seth replies calmly, "but you are standing here listening to me. You can leave anytime you want."

"I think will." Jean quickly snaps back

She turns her back to both Seth and Nung and starts to strut away. But as she does, a sudden overwhelming sensation despair and sadness fills her heart. Jean stops in her tracks, clutching her hands over her chest. Her breath becomes short and panting like. Seth speaks out to her, "You feel that, don't you?"

Jean quickly glares back at him with angered yet sad eyes and darts out, "Stop it Seth! I'm not listening to you anymore!"

Staring back at her with a glare of his own, Seth says, "What makes you think it's me?" as he gestures to Nung.

Letting out a pitiful groan, the heaping mass of trash and asphalt that is Nung crouches into a fetal position and huddles like a scared child. Jean looks on with sad eyes as Seth adds, "You see, Jean, I use to be like you, so full of hope for my world, even heroic to the bone. There was time when I would place other's safety before mine. I willingly sacrificed who I was to stay what I was. During that time I realized the truth."

Glaring back at Seth, Jean darts out, "What do you know about truth, Seth?! You've been deceiving everyone up until now."

"Really," Seth remarks, "between you and I, you're the only one living the lie."

His remark silences her as he continues, "How long can you hold this world's hand before it can save itself? Did you ever think for a moment, that this world wasn't meant to be saved? The things you saw the other night are just the small signs of this world's downward spiral to oblivion."

Jean turns away shutting her eyes, trying not to remember the atrocities she had witnessed. The faces of lifeless children piled in a mass grave haunt her mind as well as the overwhelming fear of those caught in the path of murderous soldiers. Seth begins to walk around Jean as speaks to her again, "The truth is, Jean, you can never save this world. Take it from me, I've defeated many would be world conquerors, monsters, tyrannical empires, and countless planet killing comets. You would think, something of that magnitude would unite the world. Instead, there was uncontrolled hysteria. Governments still squabbled over policies and power, fanatical religions saw those as a sign from whatever god they worshipped, and people using the situation as an excuse to loot and pillage. It was then I realized, that true world conquerors don't wear scary metal masks and billowing cloaks, but business suits and practiced smiles. I watched real monsters manifest themselves in the cold hearts of those who would abuse whatever small power they could grab. And I realized real tyrannical empires hide behind flags of false patriotism. So, you see Jean, I wasn't saving my world. I was just prolonging the inevitable."

Leaning down a bit, to stare at Jean face to face, Seth glares at her through the eye holes of his face plated helmet as he adds, "And, that way you are going about all this, I see you making the same mistake I did."

Glaring back at him, Jean asks, "What mistake was that?"

"Not taking the initiative." Seth quickly replies, "Not applying your true self to what you know needs be done."

Glancing over at Nung, Jean returns, "And me killing Nung is a need to be done? I don't think so, Seth."

Seth chuckles with an angered stare stating, "You're limiting yourself, Jean. You're not seeing the big picture." as he points to Nung, "You know what that thing is capable of. You can feel the torment inside it. I know you can, because I can feel it too. It's like someone grinding your heart into pieces. Painful, yes, to us. Now imagine what his torment could do to the populace around him."

Jean looks at Seth with grave concern, but as she is about to speak up a bright narrow beam of red light strikes Seth solidly on his left shoulder, spinning him off to his left and away from Jean. The beam of red light strikes hard sending Seth spinning to the littered pavement. Seth lets out grunt as he lands on his stomach a few feet away from Jean who quickly turns to see where the attack originated from. She almost gasps out as she sees Scott standing in a battle ready stance at the narrow end of the alley way. His stylized yellow visor steams out from the glowing ruby red slit. Jean is almost speechless as Scott takes a few careful steps forward and speaks out, "Keep away from her, Enigma."

Holding out his left hand to her, Scott says, "Come with me, Jean. I'm taking you home."

Jean is overwhelmed with a mixture of emotions as she glances down at Seth, then at Scott. She stutters out, "Sc... Scott... I.. uh.."

"It's ok, Jean." Scott tells her, "Let's go home."

Before Scott or Jean can say another word, Seth starts chuckling loudly as he slowly gets to his feet. "Well, well, the boy friend is here to save the day. How typical."

Rogue buries the left side of her face into her plush pillow as she adjusts her position in bed. Lying on her stomach, she blindly reaches out with her right hand hoping to feel the warmth of someone near her. But her hand touches an empty side of the bed. Rogue slightly opens her eyes and picks up her head. She looks around realizing Allan is missing and she rolls onto her back sitting up. She lets her eyes adjust from her deep sleep and sees Logan standing in the doorway. Rubbing her right eye, Rogue asks out with a raspy voice, "What's up Logan?"

She notices Logan dressed in his dark blue X-man uniform and straightens her posture asking again, "What's goin' on?"

His expression shows of great concern as he replies, "Allan is in trouble. We gotta move."

Rogue quickly looks around the room to see Allan's stylized helmet missing from it's usual resting spot in the corner of the room. She quickly hops off the bed and rushes into the closet grabbing her uniform. Logan steps out in the hall giving Rogue time to change her attire. Within minutes she comes rushing out in full gear with a determined look remarking to him, "When is he not in trouble, Logan? He's the Vanguard, trouble is always lookin' for him."

"Not like this," Logan mutters out as they head down the hall, "look, I'm not all too sure 'bout what's goin' on. But the Professor is gonna brief all of us in the situation room."

In a curious tone, Rogue asks, "All of us?"

As she asks, she notices the other students, new and old, stepping out of their various rooms making adjustments to their uniforms. With little being said between any of them, they each make their ways down to the ground level and towards the main elevator down to the sublevels. Upon reaching the lower command levels, the gathering students notice an air of activity as Hank, Sean, and Forge bustle about. Thick bundles of wires are strung across the walk ways and seem to travel from room to room. The sounds of soldering welders and repetitive hammering echo out only to be muffled by the curious voices coming from the young mutants. As they all slowly make their way into the situation room, they see Professor Xavier on the far side speaking to both Emma and Tessa. The conversation is low toned, but appears to the other students as very serious. Almost in unison, Both Emma and Tessa nod at Charles, who returns their nods with his own. The two women gracefully walk past the students as they exit the situation room. Just before walking out, Logan mutters out to them, "Good luck."

Both Emma and Tessa pause for a quick moment and acknowledge him with a slight smile, then continue out the door towards the Cerebro chamber. Curious whispers chant among the students as Charles situates himself before them. "I apologize to all of you for the late hour." He begins, "Time is no longer a luxury we have on our side."

Raising her hand, Kitty asks, "Why the 911, Professor? What's going on?"

Before saying another word, Charles reluctantly places a partially folded photo out on the table. Kurt reaches out and carefully takes the photo. He looks it over with the other students somewhat huddling over and around him to look also. Their faces show of confusion and concern accompanied by muffled gasps. Evan asks, "Is that... Jean?"

"With Seth, the Enigma." Logan adds.

"Where'd ya get this?" Rogue inquires.

Logan sighs out, "I found it on Jean's floor, when we went to check on her. It has Scott's scent all over it. He must've dropped it there."

Kitty shakes her head out of confusion and says, "I don't get it. Where is Scott?"

"He went after Jean." Charles answers with near saddened tone.

"By himself?!" Lance darts out, "What's he expect to do against her?"

Charles takes a breath and replies, "He is trying to bring her back, Lance. Scott and Jean share a bond very few us will ever understand. But if Seth has come between them, there no telling where this will lead."

Rogue politely interrupts raising her hand, "Allan went after them, didn't he Professor?"

"Yes, he did, Rogue." Charles adds, "Which is why you are all here now. Everything you all have endured has weathered you for what is to come. Allan did everything in his power to avoid the inevitable, he has even tediously prepared each one of you for this day."

Todd nervously raises his hand, "Um... he didum what to us?"

Lance sarcastically but lightly shoves Todd for his question as Charles slightly grins and says, "Allan has trained and worked with each of you. Teaching you different aspects of your abilities, getting each you to reach deep within for that untapped potential he saw."

"You mean, Allan was buttering us up for fight?" Fred asks out.

"No, Fred," Charles says with a content expression, "he wanted to pull the best out of all of you, that is all. But in doing so, he also wanted you all to be prepared. " as he looks at his students around the room, "The bonds you have formed among each other, the level of creativity he instilled within you, and the friendship you have shown him, those are his last line of defense."

Looking over at Rogue, Charles adds with a soft smile, "Allan needs us now, more than ever."

Rubbing the shoulder area where Scott had struck him with his optic blast, Seth nods and adds, "Wow, that actually hurt, Scott. Or should I call you, Cyclops, since you were so formal calling me, Enigma." he says with a grin.

Ignoring Seth's comment, Scott says, "Come on, Jean, let's get out of here." as he continues to hold out his hand to her and keeps his glowing visor trained on Seth's position.

Without a word, Jean starts to shuffle toward Scott. The sight of her brave boyfriend brings a slight smile of comfort to Jean's face. Her mind drifts into an ocean of thought as a voice in her head speaks to her in a sarcastic tone, "You're so pathetic."

Scott notices Jean stopping in her tracks with a blank expression on her face. Her breath starts to become short as the voice in her head speaks sarcastically again, "That's right, be the good little girl as usual and do as you're told. Heaven forbid you do what you've always wanted. Take Scott's hand, and never know for sure if it's all been worth it."

Jean slowly reaches up and starts rubbing her temples. She grits her teeth and mutter out, "Shut up..."

Reaching out to Jean with his left hand, Scott says, "It's alright, Jean. Just focus on me, everything is going to be fine."

Laughing with silent breaths, Seth straightens his posture remarking, "I should've known. Clever, clever Allan." as he looks at Scott and continues, "It seems you're her human anchor, keeping her grounded and humble."

"Back off, Enigma!" Scott demands.

Seth just stares back at Scott with a conniving grin. Jean glances at both Scott and Seth as the voice in her head speaks top her, "Face the truth, you're being held back. You're too afraid because you're weak."

Closing her eyes tightly, Jean grips her red hair and yells out loudly, "I'M NOT WEAK!"

Her outburst catches Scott off guard as he staggers back out of confusion. An ominous halo of pyro-kenetic fire begins to glow around Jean's body. Her breathing begins to get heavier. Seth calls out to her with determined grin behind his face plate, "That's it, prove it Jean! Prove you're not weak. Prove to it us all, prove it to yourself!"

"SHUT UP SETH! LEAVE ME ALONE!" Jean screams out in an echoing tone.

She falls to her knees as Scott rushes to her side and tries to brace her up. Seth takes off his helmet and hold it under his left arm. With a disgusted sneer, he stares at both Jean and Scott remarking, "Perhaps I'm not making myself clear enough."

Scott looks up and watches Seth raise his right hand above. With a quick gesture, Seth snaps his fingers. The sound echoes like shoes tapping through an empty tiled hallway. Immediately following the snapping sound, a pulse wave sudden radiates from Nung's fetal positioned form. The wave of near transparent energy rings washing over everything in sight. As it washes over Scott, he sudden lets go of Jean, staggering back. The overwhelming feeling of despair begins to fill his heart. Harsh memories of his humble yet sad past flash before him. From losing his parents in a plane accident, being shipped from one foster home to the next, his inability to control his mutant power, being shunned by the public for just being born, to his uncertain secretive betrayal. Jean becomes overwhelmed as her mind can now hear the cries of all the restless minds in the surrounding area. The voices almost meld into one eerie sound of woe. She hears and feels the sorrow of daily life, from those struggling with bills, to others dealing with heart ache. It is as though, all their suffering, no matter how small, was augmented and let loose. Jean grabs her head trying to block out the voices, but to no avail. The voices cry out even louder as the pulse wave radiates from Nung once more. Scott drops back holding his head as tears begin to roll down his cheeks. Seth casually walks over to Jean and kneels down to her level. Gritting her teeth, lashes out at him with solid right hook. Seth effortlessly blocks her attack with his right hand and grips her fist in his palm. The titanic impact of Jean's fist slapping into Seth's waiting palm echoes out with a loud whack. Jean pants as she starts to sob uncontrollably. With a glare of disappointment, Seth tells her, "It's only going to get worse. You know this, you're just too high up on your horse to notice."

Jean hears the voices cry out, and begins to pound her head relentlessly. Thoughts of suicide and pain mix into the fray as Jean tries to block them out. She cries out to Seth, "Why are you doing this?!"

"Me?" Seth remarks, "My power was only thing keeping this at bay. This is just a fraction of what Nung is capable of, you've yet to witness the effect when he really radiates."

Glancing back at Scott, Jean watches helplessly as he writhes and staggers with emotional agony. Seth stands back up and casually starts to strut around them, playfully tossing his helmet from hand to hand as he questions, "I wonder what it feels like to them? Must be unbearable, to have a pain you can't soothe or heal. Usually when someone hurts their knee or such, the natural reaction is to grab and cradle it. How does one cradle augmented emotional scarring?" he asks in a boastful sarcastic manner.

"Make him stop, Seth!" Jean cries out.

Staring back at Jean, Seth says, "Why should I? Nung is doing exactly what he's suppose to. He is a living cosmic force of nature. I can hold back his power, but just like an over flowing river, it will find another way to keep going." as he gestures around and continues, "This was going to happen one way or another, Jean. It was only a matter of time, so why not now?"

Jean tries to comfort Scott, who begins to crouch on the ground into a fetal position in the same manner as Nung. Fighting against all the intense radiating emotion she now feels from Scott and other nearby thoughts, Jean loses focus. Various objects begins to float about around them and slowly begin to orbit their positions. Empty beer bottles, loose papers, and other debris ricochet off each other as Jean enhanced telekinetic power reaches out. She feels her mind unconsciously connecting with the crying thoughts of those around her. Feelings of emotional despair are followed by thoughts of inadvertent lies and discreet, failed hopes mixed with broken dreams, and surrendering pleas of mercy echo through out every corner of Jean's mind. Seth leans in closer by her left ear while she tries to comfort Scott and whispers to her, "The one great thing about Nung's power, besides the fact he can meld with any environment, is that when he radiates like this, he accidentally exposes deep dwelling secrets through their emotional weaknesses. Just listen, you can hear little white lies, regrets, and full blown betrayals. The nature of your indigenous powers now augmented by the evolving source within you makes it impossible to ignore those voices. So listen to them, learn the true nature of the 'human' heart."

Try as she may, Jean is unable to ignore the overwhelming voices now crowding her mind. She takes a deep breath and refocuses her attention to Scott, seeking his voice comforting voice of reason. A voice she had relied upon since the formation of the X-men. Jean slightly smiles as she feels her connection with Scott. She begins to relax a bit, feeling almost superior to Seth's influence despite his close proximity to her. But as she settles her thoughts in Scott's mind, Jean suddenly gasps out with her eyes wide in shock. Nung's radiating pulse wave causes Scott to have anxiety as he replays his own memmories. For Jean, it is as though someone had changes the channel on a television set, forcing her to watch Scott's most trying moments in his life. Flashes of imagery play before her eyes as she gasps out in skock. It is as though Scott's whole life plays like fast forwarded video with no control. Although only brief, Jean feels every emotion Scott experienced in his life, however, now augmented a hundred fold by Nung's radiating pulse wave. Gritting her teeth, Jean forces her mind away from Scott's troubled memories. Her perception re-widens as she now looks upon Scott's crying and fetal positioned posture. Jean's expression is of confusion and uncertainty. Seth grins and chuckles, "Something troubling you, Phoenix?"

"Don't call me that." Jean darts back with her eyes still fixed on Scott.

Continuing to grin, Seth casually leans back against a nearby by alley wall and remarks, "Amazing what you'll come across in the deep recesses of someone's mind when they are so emotionally broken, huh?"

Jean shuts her eyes trying to ignore Seth's comment. But truth rings in her ears as her mind drifts back into Scott's emotionally broken memories. Taunting images followed by the torn emotions of denial fill Jean's perception as she sifts through Scott's agonized thoughts. She feels a deep hidden resentment from Scott. Resentment he has held against some of the other students back at the Institute for their ability to control their mutant power unlike him. Jean feels the emotional augmentation increase as another pulse wave from Nung triggers a deeper resentment from Scott's memories. Beginning to feel a sudden sense of denial, Jean realizes her mind is starting to meld with Scott's. Their thoughts begin to think as one as she and Scott share one voice in their minds, "Life dumps on me. No matter what, I'm alone. I hate the fact she can control her power better than me. I hate the fact that the others can look to her because of that aspect. It burns me knowing she'll always be the Professor's favorite."

Images of not so long ago memories flash before Jean's perception, images of stoic expressioned Nick Fury approaching Scott with a surveillance photo of she and Seth after the refugee camp massacre. A great deal of guilt and uncertainty builds up in Scott's mind when faced with this memory followed by a overwhelming feeling of distrust, not for Nick Fury, but for Jean. Both Scott and Jean's voice speak in unison again, "How can I trust her now? She is too dangerous."

Another hidden memory flashes before her, one that Scott feels both guilt and lustful for. The memory plays out just after her outburst in the mall parking deck. Jean watches as Scott drives Taryn home. A quiet ride through residential roads to where Taryn's parents house nests. Scott was unsure of what to say, or how to explain Jean's behavior. Taryn kept quiet, with her eyes facing forward the entire ride. Upon reaching the driveway to her house, Scott shifts his car into park. Without a word, Taryn reaches over and leans over to Scott. In passionate manner, she locks lips with him. Her kiss catches Scott completely of guard, but he finds himself unable or willingly wanting to stop her. Jean feels his wanting to reciprocate, and the emotional lusts begins to fuel her already uneasy anger. With a yell of agony, Jean forcibly rips hers mind from Scott's and shuffles away from him. Scott grunts out feeling the intense pain from their telepathic severing. He looks at her and pleads, "No Jean... wait... it's not what you think..."

Holding her head, Jean pants and breathes heavily. She glares back at Scott and darts out loudly, "Not what I think?! No, it's everything you thought!"

Scott pleads with her again, "Jean, please... listen to me..."

"SHUT UP!" Jean echoes out.

Another pulse wave radiates from Nung as Jean hears his voice beg, "No... more... pain..."

Jean staggers back holding her head, trying to block out his voice. Nung begs out again, "Bring about demise... no more pain..."

"Stop it!" Jean yells back out.

But other voices begin to echo in her mind, the voices of other souls suffering from the emotional pulse wave Nung radiates. Each one sulking in self pity, begging for some kind of relief. Jean grips her red hair out of reflex, trying to force the voices out of her head. She finally screams igniting bright yellow pyro-kenetic flames all over her body. Her eyes run with tears as she turns her emotionally hurt glare at Nung. In an angered echoing tone, she speaks out, "I... SAID... STOP... IT!" as she gestures her hands at the pathetically postured creature.

Scott notices her power build as he tries to get to his feet. His breath is short from his emotional break down he suffered under Nung's pulse wave, but he manages to yell out, "JEAN... NO!"

But his voice goes unheard as Jean envelopes the area in angelic flames. Scott is blasted back against the alley wall along with other loose debris. As though reflecting her anger, the flames careen toward Nung, screeching loudly in a overwhelming arc. The flames strike the creature solidly burning all the material that makes up most of Nung's unique form. The smell of burning trash and melting asphalt fill the air as Nung begins to disintegrate. The moment seems to last forever despite it only taking a matter seconds for Nung's body to disappear from existence. It is a welcoming sensation for the morbid cosmic being who manages to grin thankfully just before fading into burning dust. Scott braces himself against the wall and can only watch in horror as Jean completely destroys Nung. Jean's angelic flames dance around eerily at first, then fades, darkening the alley once more. And dead calm silence follows with only Jean's heavy breathing being the only sound. Her eyes stare over to where Nung lay, in near disbelief of what she had just done. Her hands slightly shake as her eyes slowly begin to gaze out toward Scott, and then to Seth. With a slight grin on his face, Seth slowly places his stylized helmet over his head and calmly says to Jean, "Your freedom... Phoenix."

Her breathing turns to panting as Jean looks down at her hands. Tears run from her eyes uncontrollably. Scott wants to approach her, but various objects throughout the alley begin to float violently about forcing him to stay braced against the wall. The terrain around Jean begins to warp and bend around her as pieces of brick wall and cracked pavement swirl. Closing her eyes tightly, Jean finally gives into the overwhelming session of power as she yells outward. Scott can only watch as her body is consumed by dancing fire. Jean's echoing yell fades into a screeching call. And with an upward explosion, Jean arches back with her arms out stretched to her sides being lifted into the sky. Then in a further fiery flash, Jean's body ignites completely into a ominous bird of fire. With her wings stretched wide into the sky, she lights up the dark sky of Bayville screeching loudly before streaking toward the horizon. Scott struggles to stay on his feet, continuing to stare up at the sky. He suddenly loses his footing, feeling a sharp pain in his rib section. The pain becomes nearly unbearable as Scott realizes he is more injured than he thought. He clutches at his right ribs with his arms and leans back against the wall. But Scott also remembers, he is not alone in the heavily damaged alley way. He looks up and spots Seth casually stepping toward him. Chuckling underneath his helmet, Seth gloats, "Your bond with her is severed, boy scout."

Scott tries to defensively position himself, but the pain from his broken ribs keeps him from making any wide movements. His breath becomes short as his panting lungs push against his injury. Seth steps closer holding our his right yellow glowing hand. Scott can feel the power build up as Seth readies a final fatal blast. Then, Seth backs off and powers down. Scott catches his short breath watching as Seth begins to laugh underneath his helmet. Shaking his head and stepping away, Seth remarks, "You're not even worth it. I'll let you burn with the rest of them."

With Seth's last words echoing in his head, Scott starts to black out. The last thing he sees before succumbing to unconsciousness is the sight of Seth darting up into the night sky in the direction Jean had departed. Then all turns dark. Scott feels a sense of complete relaxation as his mind begins to drift into a near dream state. Events play back from his recent memories. And with the dreams, comes the regrets and the possibilities. He finds himself reaching out to Jean, pleading with her not to leave. But she neither looks back or acknowledges his presence. Scott yell out her name in a last ditch effort to stay in her heart. This time Jean turns to look, but her glare looks down upon him with pity, and Scott can feel her arrogance as she ignites into a bird of fire. The flames burn him and he draws back. Scott's perception is surrounded by swirls of dancing flames, keeping him from moving either forward or backward. Suddenly, a dark gloved hand reaches through the flames and grabs Scott by his neck. Through the fire, Scott sees a pair of yellow glowing eyes peering through a cobalt blue face plated helmet. Seth's voice echoes to him in a arrogant manner, "She's gone, boy scout. Now burn." Scott feels his body burning intensely as she tries to fight against Seth's titanic grip. His thoughts become desperate as he struggles and burns. Scott's perception slowly fades from the chaotic image of dancing fire to a dark littered back alley. All his other senses come back to him as the smell of burnt debris catches his attention. Scott lets his eyes drift from right to left, noticing the extensive damage done to the pavement and the sides of neighboring buildings. His eyes then catches sight of a another figure kneeling next to him. Scott's eyes adjust to the darkness and notices full face covering stylized helmet. In a near panicking manner, Scott flinches and tries to shuffle away. A firm hand holds his right shoulder still keeping him steady. Then a familiar, yet comforting voice speaks to him, "Easy, Scott. I just reset your broken ribs. You also almost had a punctured lung, but you're healing up nicely."

Slightly groaning out, Scott mutters, "Allan?"

"Yeah, it's me." Allan replies calmly.

Scott slowly sits up with Allan's help and says with earnest, "Jean... she just... we... I have to..."

Allan calmly interrupts, "I know, Scott. I saw her, she's not even in the city anymore."

"Wait a minute," Scott remarks, "you saw her? Well... why didn't you do something?"

Standing up and walking to the spot where the creature Nung once lay, Allan replies with sadness in his voice, "I've been trying, Scott. Since the day I met you guys. I was trying my hardest to avoid this day. But it seems that existence is full of irony." as he kneels down to inspect the scorched pavement.

Hold out his left hand over the spot where Nung once lay, Allan takes a breathe and continues, "You see Scott, the more powerful you are in the universe, or universes, the more powerless you are against fate. At least, that's what it seems like." as he closes his left hand into a tight fist over the scorched spot. Allan adds, "Nung's power was never released. His essence still lingers. We don't have much time."

"What does that mean, Allan?" Scott demands, "What's happening to Jean?"

Sighing while removing his blood red helmet, Allan looks back at Scott and says, "I wanted to help her, Scott. I just never counted on someone like Seth to interfere. He seems really good at concealing things from me, that includes Jean and Nung. I felt Nung die, that's how I found you. Jean destroyed Nung, but retained his essence. The primal force that was his power. She retained it because she doesn't know any better." Allan looks down and reluctantly adds, "Do me this favor, Scott. Get to Jean before I do."

Scott stands up and remarks, "I don't like the way that sounds, Allan."

Allan places his left hand on Scott's right shoulder and mentions, "Know this Scott, Nung was the living force of an evolving planet. By destroying him, Jean sentenced 90 billion lives to suffer a slow devolving death. You have to get to her, you have to reach her, get her to hold onto whatever sliver of humanity she has left. Because once she exceeds that threshold, nothing on this world can stop her from what she is about to do, after that, nothing in this universe can stop me from doing what I have to do, to maintain balance."

With that said, both Scott and Allan look up to the sound of the X-jet hovering just over the alley way. The sleek vehicle elegantly hovers and lands on the roof of a neighboring building. Looking back at Scott with straight stern expression, Allan says to him, "You need to lead them, Scott. Remember everything you learned, I'm counting you."

The tone in Allan's voice is different from Scott was use to. Allan sound more serious and dire at the same time. Yet, Scott feels an air of confidence as Allan grins at him just before putting his red helmet back on. Stepping back away from Scott, Allan looks up at the night sky. Scott quickly asks, "Allan, wait, where are you going?"

With his eyes up at the sky, Allan answers calmly, "To settle a score."

Then, in burst of gusting wind, Allan darts into the night sky at blinding speeds and arches toward the direction Seth and Jean had flown off to. The air settles while Scott turns his eyes away from the sky and towards Wolverine and Banshee who come running around the corner. "Scott, you alright kid?!" Wolverine calls out.

Taking a breath, Scott simply nods. Banshee visually inspects Scott's condition and remarks, "Well you look no worse for wear, lad."

Scott looks back up at the night sky taking a few steps back in silence. "Scott?" Wolverine calls out with concern.

Turning his gaze back at the two men, Scott returns with a stern confident reply, "Let's go to work."


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