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Volume 4 -- Issue 85 -- Cambrian Explosion Part 2

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Cambrian Explosion Part 2
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In a world that hates and fears mutants, Professor Charles Xavier and his X-men fight for peace and understanding. Such goals are constantly under attack from anxious humans and even from other mutants. Their fight has become a hot-button political issue with the mutant crusading Robert Kelly in the White House. In an effort to confront these growing tensions, the X-men and the government have forged a new partnership to better deal with the human/mutant conflict.

Under the leadership of General Nathan Grimshaw, the government has set up an exclusive mutant law enforcement division called the Mutant Security Agency. With this organization, President Kelly hopes to hold mutants accountable to the law and formulate a means to confront mutants who pose a danger. One mutant that has been a major cause for concern is Magneto, the ruler of the island nation of Genosha.

After stealing a rare isotope from Worthington Industries, Magneto conducted an unusual experiment using the same technology developed for Cerebro. With the help of a powerful psychic, Quentin Quire, Magneto located what he believes to be the key to mutant dominance. He calls it the Cambrian and this mysterious force has the potential to literally reshape the world as they know it.


Princeton University Research Labs – 28 Years Ago

“530 million years ago, nearly all the major animal phyla appeared in the geological equivalent of a flash. We know it as the Cambrian Explosion and much of our evolutionary course was set during this fateful era. Yet for all its majesty, we have no idea how it happened. At least we thought we didn’t.”

“Hold on, Erik. Back up for a moment,” said Charles Xavier, cutting off his friend, Erik Lensherr, before he could continue reading the excerpt from his thesis, “You’re making some pretty bold claims here. The Cambrian Explosion is not settled science. Yet you’re claiming you not only know what caused it, but you also testable proof that it can happen again?”

“Try and think outside that dogmatic box you call a mind, Charles,” argued Erik seriously, “Just look at the explosive rate of growth in human mutation. Many new abilities and manifestations are emerging with each new generation. It’s all happening at a rate quicker than traditional evolution. Do you not see a correlation?”

“Correlation doesn’t denote causality. You’re taking this too far into the realm of speculation.”

“There’s nothing speculative about it. When you’ve traveled like I’ve traveled and seen what I’ve seen, it not only makes sense of the past. It holds the key to the future of our kind!”

Charles wasn’t sure what to make of his friend’s claim. Now no longer a grad student, he was an aspiring professor in the field of humanities and advanced science. Since meeting Erik a few years ago, they had many engaging discussions about their respective work. Since they both had a keen interest in mutation, they often helped one another with their research. At times, however, they clashed over certain theories.

This was one issue that seemed to come from out of nowhere. Charles was working on some experiments with rare mutagenic isotopes in the Princeton science labs and Erik was helping him compile data with which to interpret it. He wasn’t sure at which point their discussion of the data led to another debate over the mechanisms of mutant evolution, but this was an area his friend was very passionate about.

Charles started pacing as he looked over the data that he and Erik transcribed on a nearby chalk board. He couldn’t see how this theory his friend was citing from his old thesis made sense of it.

“I’m sorry, Erik. But you’re saying there was some intelligent organism responsible for the Cambrian Explosion. I just don’t see how such intelligence could emerge to even contemplate the effects you’re talking about. This is an era where the spinal cord was the most advanced evolutionary feature.”

“I understand your skepticism, Charles. I wouldn’t believe it either if I were in your position,” Erik conceded, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Lucky for you, I have that evidence.”

“I’m still not seeing it in any of the fossil data we’ve uncovered.”

“Oh it’s not in the fossil data. It’s right here in my coat pocket.”

True to his word, Erik reached into his lab coat and pulled out a small glass container. He casually tossed it to his friend, who caught it despite his surprise. As soon as Charles held it up to the light, he observed what looked like blackened pond scum with metallic-like slivers. It didn’t look like anything he had ever seen or researched before. It didn’t even look alive. Yet Erik was convinced that this proved his theory.

“What exactly am I looking at, Erik?” asked Xavier.

“A little something I picked up on my extensive travels,” replied Erik, “Imagine for a moment that the world is dominated by bacteria and single-celled eukaryotes. Entire colonies of this primitive goo swarms the oceans of a primitive Earth, limited by their lack of diversity and threatened by a changing environment. What can you, a living system whose sole purpose is survival and reproduction, do to survive?”

“I would say the most logical resource is to evolve, but I sense you’re taking it a step further.”

“Try several steps,” grinned Erik, “That goo you’re holding is the remains of a unique entity…one that emerged when a vast colony of diverse protista gathered in an isolated area and started communicating. I estimate the colony grew to sizes that would rival the Great Barrier Reef. From those vast and complex exchanges, a primitive intelligence emerged. It is that intelligence that allowed this entity to manipulate outside living systems, incurring vast mutations that allowed the creatures of the Cambrian Explosion to emerge. Some may call it the primordial creator of higher life. I simply call it the Cambrian.”

“I suppose one could forgive a lack of originality if something so exotic actually existed,” said Xavier as he looked closely at the tube.

Erik scorned his friend for his lack of enthusiasm. He expected more from a man he had come to respect so deeply.

“You still don’t believe me, do you?” he said dryly.

“Erik, it’s impossible to determine whether this sliver of Cambrian as you call it was part of anything,” said Xavier as he handed it back to him, “If I could detect some trace of intelligence within it, then I would be very much intrigued. But this is hardly proof of your theory.”

“Do you have a better way of explaining the Cambrian Explosion?” scoffed Erik as he put the container back in his coat.

“I wish I did. But like all men of reason, I must remain agnostic until your theory can be confirmed. For now, I still favor our current consensus.”

“You mean ignorance,” said Erik strongly, “That’s all the feeble minds in academia seem to have these days on the subject of evolution and mutation.”

“That is the point of doing more research, my friend. It is the only way we can be sure we’re not just speculating.”

Erik Lensherr frowned upon his friend’s narrow-minded approach. He knew he was right. There was nothing to verify. The only thing standing in his way was the willful ignorance of his peers. He thought Charles Xavier of all people would be open to his finding. Like everyone else, Charles preferred to find out the hard way that there were forces on this planet they couldn’t test in a lab.

“If that’s the stance you’re going to take, then I suppose I’m wasting my time with you,” said Erik as he began gathering his papers.

“Don’t let bitterness get in the way of our work, Erik. We still have much to do and I would hate for a simple disagreement to slow us down,” said Charles in a reasonable tone.

“I’m not bitter. I’m disappointed,” said Erik Lensherr as he put his materials in his briefcase, “I was hoping you would help me unlock the secrets to the Cambrian. If we fail to understand the forces behind our own evolution, then we can expect fear of the unknown to trump any research.”

“I think you’re being a tad melodramatic,” Xavier argued.

“And I think you’re being a tad dismissive,” his friend retorted, “The Cambrian is realm, Charles. One day, this entity will re-emerge. Mutants are the greatest sign of this evolutionary milestone. It’s just a matter of who will ride the wave of evolution and who will be left behind.”


X-jet – Present Time

It had been a long time since that fateful debate. That fateful day was the first of many disagreements between Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr. It laid the seeds for the conflict that would later put them on opposing sides of the human/mutant conflict. Now this first bitter debate was coming back to haunt Charles and his X-men. Unlike the many other conflicts between them, this was one where Xavier had to concede that Erik was right.

Less than an hour ago, a psychic wave hit every telepath on the planet. It wasn’t an attack. It was a message…one sent by a powerful intelligence that any unprepared mind would struggle to understand. He certainly felt it. Jean and Betsy felt it as well. Hank’s girlfriend, Tessa, and Emma Frost also called saying they felt it and it was not pleasant. For that reason, Xavier summoned the team, minus Hank, to the X-jet and they took off for Genosha.

“Explain it to me again, Professor. What exactly hit my mind and why did it hurt like hell?” asked a still confused Betsy.

“Not so loud, Betsy! You’re not the only one with a splitting headache,” said Jean Grey, who was sitting right next to her, “Even the Phoenix is a little queasy.”

“Indeed. And it is one mortal sensation I can certainly do without.”

“Assume that every telepath in the world probably feels worse than we do. It may only be a preview of things to come,” said Professor Xavier, “This kind of psychic onslaught is a testament to the power of the Cambrian. I suspect its unique mental makeup gives it telepathic abilities that only those with psionic gifts can pick up on.”

“A heap of pond scum that’s also psychic? Seriously Professor, this Cambrian sounds like something from a B-rated horror movie!” commented Bobby.

“Magneto came up with the idea. Can you honestly say you’re surprised?” made Scott Summers, who was in the cockpit piloting the X-jet.

“He didn’t pull it out of thin air, Cyclops. He discovered it,” Xavier pointed out, “I spent years trying to refute it, but now I know beyond all doubt that the Cambrian is real!”

“Exactly what kind of entity is this Cambrian?” asked Ororo curiously, “Is it some kind of animal? A plant? A parasite maybe?”

“I believe the correct classification would be none of the above. We’re talking about something with no true body or form. Erik once described it as a collection of inter-connected single-celled organisms. I often summed it up as being a jumble of intelligently controlled goo.”

“Blegh! I almost prefer the Sentinels,” groaned Kitty.

Many seemed to share Kitty’s sentiment. The idea of super-intelligent goo was disturbing even by X-men standards. Betsy was especially anxious, this being her first real mission with the X-men.

“Bloody hell, this doesn’t sound like anything I trained for in the Danger Room,” she sighed, “Sounds like a hell of a first mission.”

“It always feels like that. Trust me,” laughed Kitty.

“We’ll also need the extra help with Beast sidelined,” said Scott, “Setting aside the grossness factor, can we assume that this is what Magneto has been up to all this time?”

“Being cooped up on an island looking for intelligently controlled sludge sounds right up his alley,” muttered Logan.

“It appears likely. This is something he’s been researching for decades,” affirmed the Professor, “He always talked about seeking the Cambrian and unlocking its secrets. He saw it as a way to speed up the evolutionary process with mutants. I suspect he believes that by speeding up the evolution of mutants, he’ll hasten the subjugation of humanity.”

“Playing both god and nature in zhe process,” made Kurt, “He couldn’t overpower humanity directly vith an asteroid, so he’s trying a more indirect approach.”

“It would be brilliant if it wasn’t so crazy,” muttered Jean, who was still rubbing her sore head.

“So much for Lorna tempering his madness,” said Kitty, “I can’t believe she would go along with something like this!”

“Don’t start barking up that old tree, Kitty. She probably doesn’t know the full story,” said Bobby, still defensive about his ex-girlfriend.

“Your dedication to your ex is stunning, Drake,” quipped Remy, “Not that it be makin’ much of a difference. Lorna did always strike Remy as a daddy’s girl.”

Bobby scolded Remy and Kitty. As bitter as he was about how his relationship with Lorna unfolded, she still deserved more respect than this. He refused to believe that she was completely complicit in this latest plot by Magneto.

“Regardless of Lorna’s involvement, we must confront Magneto before he tempers with the Cambrian any further,” said Professor Xavier, quickly changing the subject before another argument broke out.

“What exactly could he use it for?” asked Rogue, “What does it matter that he just found the dang thing?”

“Magneto is smart, Rogue. He never seeks anything that he doesn’t know how to exploit,” Jean pointed out, “Which is why I’m not looking forward to seeing what he has in mind.”

“Nor am I,” said the Professor intently, “We have to stop him before he does something unthinkable!”

“Think that train left the station a long time ago, Chuck,” made Logan.

“Which makes me wonder why we’re going to Genosha and not trying to follow Magneto to wherever this Cambrian is,” said Scott, “If you say he’s located it, why not go after him?”

The rest of the X-men seemed equally eager to confront Magneto. It always seemed that every conflict with him only ended once they attacked him head on. Professor Xavier understood that. He also understood the limitations of their situation.

“That’s where we have to take a calculated risk, Cyclops,” said Xavier, “That psychic blast I felt indicated to me that Magneto is probably on his way to retrieve it as we speak.”

“How can you be certain, Charles?” asked Ororo.

“Because the nature of that blast had elements similar to what I sense when I’m using Cerebro,” he clarified with a tough of bitterness in his tone, “It confirms what I suspected from that isotope that the Brotherhood stole from Worthington Industries. He’s using the same Cerebro technology I helped him develop. And if he can use it to locate the Cambrian, then it’s reasonable to assume he can use it to manipulate the Cambrian as well.”

“Not if we trash his gear first!” snarled Logan, drawing his claws in a menacing gesture.

“Somehow I doubt that will be enough to stop him, Logan,” said Scott dryly.

“Maybe not, but it’ll send the right message!”

“Oui, it will say we be lousy guests!” smirked Remy.

“As far as I’m concerned, all options are on the table,” said Professor Xavier in a more serious tone, “At the very least, we need to buy time! Erik often spoke of the Cambrian being to evolution what rocket fuel is to a rocket. I do not care to find out what that entails.”

“None of us do, Professor,” said Jean, “All the more reason to test out the new hypersonic afterburner that Beast installed last month!”

“I hear you, babe!” said Scott as he hit the afterburner, “Everybody hold on! We’ll be right at Magneto’s doorstep before you know it!”

“Just enough time for first-time jitters,” groaned Betsy as she and the rest of the team strapped themselves into their seats extra tightly.

“Welcome to the big leagues, Betsy!” grinned Rogue, “Consider this trial by Magneto! Because trial by fire just ain’t hot enough!”

It was an ominous warning not just to Betsy, but to the whole team. They usually knew what to expect from Magneto and the Brotherhood. The Cambrian, however, was the great unknown. They would all find out soon enough. Hopefully the rest of the world wouldn’t have to find out as well.


South Pacific – A Remote Island

There were certain sections of the Pacific Ocean that few ventured. Far from busy shipping lanes and populated lands, there was a place to which few ventured voluntarily. There were many small islands throughout these vast expanses, some of which weren’t even on standard maps. Some were so small they were easy to miss even by passing boats. It was on one of these islands that Magneto appeared.

He arrived via teleportation, courtesy of a recent Genoshan immigrant named Clarice Ferguson. She also went by the mutant name, Blink. She had the distinct appearance of pink skin and yellow eyes in addition to her ability to teleport to almost any location on the planet, provided she had the coordinates. It was quicker and more discrete than transport orbs, which Magneto was certain the navies surrounding his island were tracking. Armed with the data from Quentin Quire and the psionic tracking device delivered by Piotr Rasputin, Magneto had everything he needed to locate the Cambrian.

“Is this the place?” asked Blink as she looked around at their surroundings.

“This is it. I’m quite certain,” said Magneto as he glanced down at the tracker.

“I don’t doubt you, sir. I guess I was expecting something a bit less mundane.”

“Evolution is rarely so overt. It only makes its grandeur known when the necessary impact is sufficiently great.”

The island sure didn’t look like much. It was basically a hunk of rocky terrain no larger than a dozen or so square miles. There were few signs of animal life and only small patches of plant life. It certainly didn’t look like the home to a primordial entity.

“Wait here,” the master of magnetism instructed, “I’ll contact you should I require a quick extraction.”

“Um…does that mean this is supposed to be dangerous?” said the young woman.

“Danger is a relative term, Miss Ferguson. In every bold undertaking, there is always something threatening our survival. You either deal with it or cower while you wait for extinction.”

Blink hid her anxiety as she watched Magneto ascended over the island. She was taking part in the next great leap for their kind. The least she could do was be brave.

After ascending about a hundred feet into the air, Magneto calibrated the tracking device that was locked in on the psychic signature of the Cambrian. If his theories were correct, this being was hundreds of millions of years old. It wouldn’t be just lying in some shallow cave, waiting for someone to find it. This powerful entity was going to be buried beneath vast layers of rock. So using the tracking device as a guide, he gradually flew over the island at low speeds. Before he started probing the terrain, he had to be sure he was in the right place.

‘The Cambrian wants me to find it. I can feel it! Quentin said it was calling out to him. It must be just as eager to kick start evolution as I am.’

As eager as he was, there was little sign of activity on this barren island. With so little to see, it was easy to understand why it was so deserted. Geologically speaking, these kinds of formations were unusual for this area. To the untrained eye, there was little of interest on this island and few resources for life to seek. It was the perfect place for the Cambrian to reside.

Magneto continued his scanning for about fifteen minutes. He eventually came upon a small rocky valley near the south end of the island. Once he got to a certain point, the device started beeping erratically.

“Ah…at last, someone has heeded your cries,” he said with an ominous grin.

He was hovering right over what appeared to be epicenter for this mysterious power. With a reference point in hand, the easy part could begin.

‘After 500 million years, the second Cambrian explosion begins today!’

Setting the tracking device aside, Magneto flew lower so that he was hovering just above the valley. He took a deep breath as he channeled as much magnetic force as he could muster. The veins on his head and neck bulged and his eyes flashed a silvery light. All around him, the ground started shaking and the rocks were jolted to life by the immense magnetic force. Since this island was so rocky, it had a healthy bit of iron ore. With the proper application of magnetism, this iron would lead him to his prize.

Magneto clenched his fists as he used a powerful magnetic thrust to literally rip the iron out of the rocks. It triggered a small Earthquake, the sound of shattering rock disrupting the once calm island. Through these powerful tremors, the iron gathered in front of Magneto in a ball of jagged ore. Piece-by-piece, it grew from a small collection of dust into something the size of a large bolder. The master of magnetism grunted through the strain, using the iron he gathered and applying more magnetic force to warp it into a new shape. The ore soon became red hot, shimmering with the brightness that rivaled the setting sun. By the time the iron took its final shape, it resembled a large metal spike with a very sharp tip.

“Time to start digging!” he seethed.

Taking another deep breath, Magneto start spinning the metal spike at high speeds. By now blood was starting to seep from his nose. He hadn’t exerted this much magnetic force since the asteroid incident. It was likely the American, Russian, Australian, and Chinese military was going to detect all this activity soon so he had to work fast.

With a determined grunt, the master of magnetism raised the spinning metal spike to a few thousand feet above him. Then with another gesture, he directed it down towards the rocky ground below. The spike quickly accelerated to high speeds, making the tip red-hot. As soon as it struck the ground, it plunged through like a hot knife through butter. It was so hot that some of the rocks around it liquefied briefly. This heat was overshadowed by the deafening noise. It was like a small volcano erupting. A plume of dust and debris shot out through the newly created hole and vast cracks in the rock spread all over the island.

For nearly five minutes he drilled away, probing deeper into the rocky ground. Dust and debris kept flying up, surrounding him and blinding his vision for a time. But he remained focused. Nothing could keep him from his ultimate prize. Charles and many others used to mock him for believing that a being like the Cambrian helped trigger the explosion of life and that was so critical to evolution. Today, he would prove every one of them wrong.

Finally, he felt the metal spike stall. It appeared to reach an opening deep within the rock. This was just what he hoped for.

“This must be it! It has to be!” he grunted through his strain.

Despite growing fatigue, Magneto lifted the metal spike out through the vast hole in the ground. Since it was so deep, it took a few minutes to get it all the way out. Once it was retrieved, he shoved it to the side. The terrain still seemed a bit unstable with cracks still lining the nearby area. Some of the rocks were still red hot from all the friction, but Magneto was ready to take the heat. He made sure his suit had some cooling equipment beforehand and his magnetic shield should also protect him.

Now brimming with anticipation, the master of magnetism plunged into the newly formed hole. Within minutes it was pitch black. In order to see he took out some special flash lanterns he made just for this journey. They were extra bright so he could see ahead of him. For what felt like hours, there was nothing but blackness. Then he reached the end and saw what appeared to be the entrance to a dome-shaped chamber.

‘Hmm…this is a peculiar formation. It almost looks like a cocoon. Perhaps when it was trapped, it created a shell of sorts. It doesn’t look too difficult to pierce.’

For a moment he hovered over the structure. The air was dense, making it hard to breath. He shouldn’t have to stay much longer. Holding the light steady, Magneto ran his hand over the shell. It looked just like the sample of Cambrian he gave Quentin Quire. It had a rough brownish texture with streaks of metal slivers. Under the flash lantern, the rock had the appearance of liquid mercury. He also felt a distinct warmth coming from it. This wasn’t the heat of the surrounding rocks. This was the heat of life. As he touched it, he could almost sense a presence in his mind.

‘hengun-free-anhgh-me.’

“Amazing!” gasped Magneto, “Could the Cambrian be telepathic?”

A fury of questions ran though his mind. He spent a lifetime speculating on the nature of this entity. Now he was about to come face-to-face with it.

“So many possibilities…only one way to know for sure!”

Magneto moved the flash lantern further away so he had room to work. Despite his lingering fatigue, he channeled the surrounding magnetic forces into one more powerful burst. As soon as it hit the shell, the mysterious structure began to crack. However, it didn’t fracture like normal rock. As soon as it was pierced, the silvery slithers of the rock started giving off their own light.

“Yes…awaken Cambrian!” proclaimed Magneto.

In a mysterious display the shell literally slithered away as if it were the skin of a snake, revealing a dark yet perfectly circular entrance into the cocoon. At first there was no sign of activity. Magneto maneuvered the flash lantern so he could get a closer look. From deep within the cavern, he heard a strange hissing sound.

“Are…are you trying to speak?” he said, not sure if he could even communicate with this thing, “Let me help you! I can show you the way out!”

Magneto hovered closer to the opening. The mysterious warmth intensified. He was definitely near something that was alive. This thing may not be human, but it definitely had a presence. Holding the flash lantern steady, he carefully peered into hole.

Suddenly, a mysterious globular mass emerged from the darkness. From this mass, an oversized eye formed and stared him down with a gaze struck even the master of magnetism. Just as the old holocaust survivor was overcome with shock, the globular mass shape shifted and took on a new form. It seemed to mimic his humanoid appearance. From this shape it reached out through the hole with a powerful hand. Magneto instinctively fell back and tried to avoid it, but this globular arm grabbed him and almost immediately a powerful new influence came over him.

“Augh! What the…”

“Evolve…or DIE!”

With a firm grip on the master of magnetism, the blob pulled Magneto and the flash lantern into the hole. There was nothing he could do to escape. Within moments, the globular mass completely consumed him and every fiber of his being was overrun by this mysterious entity.

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

“Life…seeking…destroying…creating. Must…evolve. Must...grow.”


Meanwhile

Clarice Ferguson paced restlessly on the shores of the rocky island while waiting for Magneto. She was unable to admire the beautiful sunset or enjoy the peaceful rocky shores of the island. She was too worried about what would happen if Magneto called upon her.

‘Please let this be over soon! This is so NOT why I came to Genosha! I left home because I turned 17 and my life was going nowhere. I thought I could actually make a decent living on Genosha. Magneto promised me all the comforts of home. Was there fine print that said I had to take part in mission?!’

As Blink anxiously mused, she felt the ground around her shake. It started off as a minor rumble, but quickly grew to a full-fledged earthquake. She then heard a series of loud bursts from across the island. Worried that Magneto was in trouble, she rushed up to the top of a nearby ridge to see what was going on.

‘Oh no, please tell me this is supposed to happen! I’m not ready to play hero!’

When she got to the top of the ridge, she froze. Out in the distance, she saw what looked like a volcanic eruption from the south end of the island. A massive plume of rock and dust shot out in a column of debris that extended thousands of feet into the air. What made it all the more ominous was that this debris didn’t just consist of rock and dust. There was something living in that cloud.

“Whoa…” was all she could say.

She stood frozen as she watched the column expand. From it, Blink saw what she could only describe as a living blob. It looked like one of those grotesque shifting masses from a B-rated horror movie. But this one didn’t suffer from cheap special effects. This blackish, shifting mass was randomly taking on various shapes. It soon formed two large wing-like formations that helped it glide through the air.

Blink stayed completely still even as it flew towards her. As it got close, she could make out the brownish/silver consistency. It seemed to give off its own light and was being guided in a way that hinted at an intelligence. It had to be the size of a jumbo jet. As it cast a large shadow over Blink, she started anxiously backing away.

“To hell with this! Giant living blobs were not part of the deal!” she exclaimed.

She stumbled back, preparing to teleport herself back to Genosha. She stopped abruptly when she saw a familiar figure emerge from the globular mass.

“Blink…” it said through a slurred and jagged voice.

“M-M-Magneto, sir?” Blink gasped, now once again frozen, “Is that you?”

From the heart of the black mass, the figure grinned. When he opened his eyes, an ominous red light emulated from the center of the mass. From the body of Magneto, now completely lodged at the heart of the Cambrian, a clay-like arm extended from his body and grabbed the young mutant by the neck before she could teleport away. As soon as she felt its warm touch, a powerful message echoed through her mind.

‘Evolve…’

“Ahhhhhhhhhhh!” she cried out.

The globular mass from the Cambrian engulfed Blink just as it had Magneto. In the process, her body underwent an extreme change. Her once lean muscle tone exploded into chaotic and oversized shapes. Her pink hair grew, exploding in length so that she was much furrier than before. In addition, her face took on a new appearance. Her teeth grew into fangs, her expression became like that of a bear, and her skull warped into something far from human.

Through these changes, her skin and body was covered in the brownish/black streaks of the Cambrian. Now standing at twice her original height and at least four times her muscle mass, she was in an exotic and terrifying new form. In this form her eyes shifted to the same reddish hue as Magneto’s and when she spoke the same ominous tone of the Cambrian echoed.

“Evolve…or die,” she said distantly, “I understand!”

“Then take me to those who must join us!” said Magneto through the Cambrian, “The Cambrian demands we evolve! And we must obey the whims of nature.”

“Yes…nature,” said Blink through her daze.

As the eruption throughout the island continued, Blink calmly used her powers to teleport herself, Magneto, and the Cambrian away in a bright pinkish flash. There was no more contemplating or doubt. Their only focus was the whims of the Cambrian. It had a purpose. They sought to aid it as they embraced their new destiny and that of all life on this feeble planet.


Pentagon – Mutant Security Agency Hub

“Uh…General? General Grimshaw! I think you need to see this!” exclaimed a bewildered analyst as he looked over his computer monitor.

“Please tell me this is just more overreacting,” groaned the General, who had been on the phone for the last hour.

“I wish it was, sir! But with readings like these, I don’t think that’s possible!”

The General quickly set aside his phone and rushed over to the console. Several other officers and analysts got up as well. Whatever this one analyst was getting, it was showing up on other monitors as well. That indicated that this was big.

When he arrived, General Grimshaw saw a screen full of erratic pictures and jumbled numbers. He wasn’t too tech savvy, but even he could tell something was seriously wrong. The world they policed was supposed to be an ordered place and this was downright chaotic. He watched as the analyst typed feverishly on his console, bringing up maps and charts as the data came in. Despite the erratic numbers, an image was compiled.

“What in God’s name is going on? Did someone drop a rogue nuke or something?” said the General as he looked over the screen.

“That would actually be less chaotic than this!” said the analyst, “What you’re looking at is a small island in the South Pacific not far from Australia. It’s remote, barren, and pretty damn boring. And just five minutes ago, it detected a spike in magnetic activity.”

“Sounds like Magneto,” said General Grimshaw intently.

“That’s what I thought too. I was going through the protocols when out of nowhere this…this thing just erupted!”

“You mind breaking out a thesaurus and being more specific? Thing can mean a whole heck of a lot!”

“I wish I knew a word, sir! But I…I’m honestly at a loss!” said the analyst, who had since stopped typing, “Whatever it is, it just erupted with the force of a volcano! It’s no Mount Saint Helens, but it’s giving off energy readings that are all over the place! It’s like Mother Nature is overdosing on crystal meth!”

“I think we would have gotten a memo if the laws of physics had been suspended,” said General Grimshaw, trying to remain calm, “Whatever this is, it has a hell of a footprint.”

General Grimshaw studied the readings. On the screen, an image of a cloudy plume was simulated by the computers. Within this plume was this dark mass of static. It was hard to make out because the systems couldn’t make sense of it. Since there were no satellites spying on that part of the world, there was no way to get a visual either. All they had was mountains of data that didn’t make sense.

“Sir, we’re detecting something else!” said another female analyst from across the room, “These energy readings are showing immense mutagenic properties!”

Properties is as esoteric as thing, soldier. For the sake of my limited human brain, please be a little more specific!” said the General firmly.

“Well uh…you remember those readings we got way back when Magneto fired up that mutant enhancing gizmo of his?” the analyst said.

“You mean the one he used to pull a whole freakin’ asteroid towards us?” said a nearby lieutenant.

“Well this is just like that, only about ten times stronger and a hundred times more chaotic.”

An ominous silence came over the area. Every analyst and officer present shuttered to think what could be done with that sort of power. But the bad news wasn’t over yet.

“There’s uh…one more thing, sir,” said the female analyst.

“Do I even want to know the specifics of this one?” said the General, already contemplating many grim scenarios.

“This thing for lack of a better word…just disappeared,” she said.

“How does something like that just disappear?!” exclaimed a nearby supervisor.

“That’s actually not the worst of it. As soon as it disappeared, it reappeared somewhere else.”

“Where?” demanded the General, already dreading the answer.

“Where else? Genosha,” the female analyst answered grimly.

That was all General Grimshaw needed to hear. Magneto was making a move and whatever this thing was, he was sure it was something that had to be stopped.

“Contact Captain Freeman and get in touch with the Secretary of Defense!” the General ordered as he stormed off, “Tell them to initiate emergency protocols 1015-616!”

“Yes sir!” said one of the lieutenants.

“What about you, General? Where are you going?” asked one of the analysts.

“To get in touch with the President!” he said as he made his leave, “He’s also going to need to make some very tough decisions! But first, I need to make an important phone call!”


X-jet – Near Genosha

It had been a rough flight for Professor Xavier and the X-men. There was no telling what sort of damage Magneto could do if he found this Cambrian entity the Professor told them about. From what he described, it had the potential to be every bit as destructive as an asteroid.

Scott and Logan were in the cockpit, pushing the X-jet’s afterburners to the limit so they could get to Genosha as soon as possible. Ororo and Jean were in the seats behind them with Jean using her telepathy to keep an eye out for any more psychic surges. Bobby, Kitty, Kurt, and Rogue were behind them in the passenger seats, holding on through the turbulence. Remy and Betsy were sitting near the back. Since this was Betsy’s first mission, she put on a tough demeanor. She drew strength from her ninjitsu skills and the pride of being a policeman’s daughter. It was still a daunting notion and one she was going to have to get used to quickly.

“Is it always this tense?” she asked Remy as she held on tightly to her seat.

“Believe me cherè, this ain’t the worst it’s ever been,” Remy replied, “It still be in the top ten.”

“Wonderful,” she said dryly, “I’ve been hearing about what an insidious bloke Magneto is for years. Now I get to meet him. Sounds like fun!”

Betsy’s attitude was admirable even if there was a hint of uncertainty in her tone. The only one who seemed more anxious than her was Professor Xavier. He chose to come along once again despite the inherent dangers due to his handicap. He refused to confront Erik from afar. Whatever madness he was caught up in, Xavier took it upon himself to confront him face-to-face. He was probably the only other person on the planet who understood the Cambrian and Erik’s obsessions towards it.

“Make no mistake, Charles. There are forces in this world that defy our understanding. Some may appeal to spirits, gods, and demons. I appeal to those of a higher evolutionary order. Whether or not there is a god is irrelevant. What matters is whether or not we can become gods in our own right.”

These words from decades past kept echoing through his mind. He thought Erik was too dogmatically rational a man to appeal to higher powers, but he actually favored a more complex notion of what higher powers actually entailed. The Cambrian may be every bit the complex, evolution-inducing organism he once described. What could make it truly dangerous would be Magneto failing to understand just how complex it was.

All this anxiety was not helping his condition so to speak. Before he left, he took an extra dose of the meds Dr. Riesman prescribed to him. They were supposed to keep him poised through the duration of this conflict. Already, he could feel his body and mind weakening. He tried not to let it show in front of his X-men.

“Are you alright, Professor? You look a little pale,” said Jean, who was sitting in the seat behind him, “Relative to our usual encounters with Magneto, of course.”

“I’m fine, Jean,” he assured her, knowing full well it was a lie.

“Are you sure?” she said curiously, “Maybe you should have stayed behind with Hank.”

“It’s too late now. Hank will be fine. I made sure he was resting comfortably in the infirmary before we left. I had Cerebrum program the life-support fail-safes just in case. Right now, we need to throw everything we can at Magneto.”

“Ve needed zhe entire team last time ve had to stop, Magneto. And even zhat barely sufficed,” said Kurt, who didn’t look to be at full strength himself.

“I still don’t like it,” said Jean, keeping a critical eye on the Professor, “Maybe I’m weird, but I’m not all that enthusiastic about throwing ourselves at Magneto without a plan.”

“We have a plan, Jeannie,” said Logan from the cockpit, “We find Magneto, destroy this Cambrian thing, and beat the Brotherhood to a pulp if we have the time.”

“I’m okay with most of that, but I’m not sure about the Cambrian part of that plan,” said Bobby, “Anybody else here think this could be the proverbial monkey in the wrench?”

“Are you just saying that because any part of that plan could lead to another confrontation with Lorna?” Kitty pointed out.

“Not everything revolves around vindictive ex-girlfriends Kitty!” Bobby retorted, “I’m just saying that when we have an unknown and Magneto in the same mission, it often comes back to bite us.”

It was a valid point. Besides the Professor, nobody really knew what to expect from the Cambrian. Juggernaut and the Phoenix Force gave them all a strong appreciation for the unknown. If the Cambrian was anything like them, they were in for a rough ride.

“Normally Ah don’t take sides, but Ah’m with Iceman. Biology is mah least favorite subject and even Ah’m spooked by this thing,” said Rogue.

“Since when has not knowing what we’re up against ever stopped us?” said Logan dryly.

“Since when has that not made it harder?” quipped Ororo, giving her lover a wry look.

“Ah’m not saying we ain’t up to the challenge. Ah’m just saying we don’t know squat about this thing. Hell, do any of us even know what the Cambrian looks like?”

Before the discussion could continue, Scott slowed the jet down and flew in lower beneath the cloud cover. Genosha was just up ahead and coming into view. But what he saw in the distance would startle even the most hardened X-man.

“Holy God…” he gasped, “Rogue, I think both your questions have just been answered.”

“Ah damn, Ah don’t even wanna think about what that means,” she groaned.

“Don’t think. Just look out the window,” said the X-leader.

Some were tempted to turn away, but nobody could resist the temptation. The X-men quickly undid their restraints and got near a window to see what Scott was talking about. What they saw left them utterly stunned.

A brownish storm cloud had formed over the center of Genosha. It was huge, looking to be the size of a football stadium. Hovered hovering right over the center of Magneto’s citadel and was giving off these strange yellow bolts of lightning. As the jet flew in closer, they could make out more details. Within this cloud was a large hovering glob. It had a similar appearance to the cloud, only it was solid and pulsing in a strange rhythm. It was almost as if it had a heartbeat of sorts. What was even more ominous was that from this glob, dozens of brown tendrils extended from the central mass and extended to the ground below as if to anchor itself. If the rate of the pulse was any indication, it was preparing for something big.

That’s the Cambrian?!” exclaimed Betsy, “A flying brown glob?!”

“Looks like shit! And for once, that ain’t a freakin’ metaphor!” snarled Logan.

“What’s it doing on Genosha?” said Kitty, fixated on this strange mass.

“Ah’m not sure we even wanna know that either,” groaned Rogue, already wishing she hadn’t asked her questions earlier.

“We can’t afford not to know!” said the Professor, quickly brushing aside the shock and placing his hands on his temples, “Cyclops, take into hover a few miles ahead of the storm cloud! But don’t attack it! I must see if I can sense what’s going on!”

Scott nodded and took the X-jet in lower. The team moved away from the windows and strapped themselves back in, already dreading what they were going to uncover.

“Sense it fast, Chuck! Giant globs of shit ain’t usually friendly!” urged Logan as they drew closer to this menacing glob.

“I’ll scan it too! Maybe the Phoenix can help!” said Jean, using her telepathy as well.

“We may need it, Jean. Erik once told me the Cambrian is advanced and therefore it must have a mind! If we can reach it…”

Xavier froze in mid-sentence. His telepathic scan had barely begun when he sensed something horrific. His expression was now very grim and his eyes were wide with shock and sorrow.

“No…Erik, what have you done?!” he gasped.

“Please tell me we’ve got another reasons to put ol’ buckethead down!” growled Logan.

Xavier didn’t respond at first. The shock prompted him to probe deeper. It wasn’t long before Jean picked up on it as well.

“I sense it too, Professor! Could it be?” she asked anxiously.

“I wish it weren’t,” said Xavier grimly, “It appears I might not be able to reach Erik after all. Not like this.”

“Is that just pessimism? Or are we dealing with more than just some primordial entity now?” asked Ororo.

“Hope there be an Option C!” said the Cajun, “It looks like Magneto found a way to tap this Cambrian voodoo and he be taking it for a test drive!”

The Professor exchanged glances with Jean. The others weren’t telepathic. They couldn’t understand what they just sensed. It didn’t bode well for his oldest friend or how this fight was going to unfold.

“It’s worse than that, my X-men,” he said grimly, “Magneto isn’t just utilizing the Cambrian. Magneto is the Cambrian!”


Genosha – Magneto’s Citadel

Few events could cause an entire population of mutants to freeze where they stood and look up in shock. Having already been imbued with extraordinary abilities, it was not easy to impress one mutant let alone a whole island of them. But when a strange globular mass suddenly appeared in a dark cloud over top of Magneto’s citadel, everyone took notice.

It had been hovering in place for nearly twenty minutes. A huge crowd of mutants gathered near the base of the citadel and watched with a mix of fear and awe as the mysterious mass throbbed and grew.

“What in God’s name is it?!” exclaimed one elder mutant.

“It looks alive. Is it a mutant?” asked a young mutant girl.

“Doesn’t look like any mutant I’ve ever seen!” said a teenage mutant boy.

“Could it be part of Lord Magneto’s plans?” asked a middle aged woman.

“If it is, I am officially questioning his planning skills!” said a younger teenage girl.

Nobody knew what to make of it. Some started to flee, but most stayed and watched in anticipation. Up above, however, there were others getting a much closer view of this mysterious phenomenon.

The Brotherhood gathered on the roof of the citadel moments after the mass appeared. Quicksilver, Blob, Avalanche, Pyro, Havok, Polaris, and the Scarlet Witch stood on the main platform where transport orbs usually landed, giving them a clear view of the monstrosity above them. Piotr and Illyana Rasputin were there as well. Illyana clung to Piotr firmly, not liking the looks of this thing.

“I…I don’t like this, Piotr!” she cried, “This thing is going to hurt us!”

“It’ll be okay, Illyana. I promise I won’t let anything hurt you,” said Piotr strongly, who was now in his metal form, “This may be part of the plan Magneto spoke of.”

“I still don’t like it!” Illyana exclaimed.

“Neither do I, Snowflake,” the Russian sighed.

While Piotr and the Brotherhood watched on in a daze, Quentin Quire was the only one looking more fascinated than worried. He actually smiled as he looked up at the globular mass.

“It’s so…beautiful,” he said in a state of awe.

“If that’s what you call beauty, I hate to think what disgusts you, Quire!” groaned Avalanche.

“I sure hope he’s the only one not freaked out by this!” said Havok.

“You’re in good company, mate,” said an unusually quiet Pyro, “I’m officially at brown alert because I need to change my pants.”

“This better be part of the plan because I’m not liking it!” said Blob apprehensively.

“Don’t look at me like I know any better!” retorted Quicksilver.

“You’re Magneto’s demon seed for crying out loud! Are you going to tell me you’re old man didn’t drop a hint that his plan involved a giant brown blob appearing out of nowhere?”

“If he did, I didn’t hear it either. So quit the finger-pointing!” said the Scarlet Witch firmly, “Father only said he would retrieve the Cambrian. He never said it would be like this!”

“That’s not very comforting, Wanda!” said Avalanche anxiously.

“So uh…what do we do?” asked Blob.

For the moment, this hovering brown glob wasn’t attacking. It wasn’t being docile either. Since it appeared, it had been growing. The brown cloud surrounding the mass had been expanding across the sky. In addition, there were these long black tendrils shooting out from the center that latched onto the ground around the base of the citadel. From these tendrils, many smaller tentacle-like extensions branched off and slithered ominously towards the ground.

Polaris remained too stunned to speak while Havok stood close by her, contemplating their next move. Magneto didn’t leave them with much instruction. He just said to be on standby when he returned with the Cambrian. He had a feeling that this wasn’t exactly what he meant.

“We can’t just wait around for this toxic waste dump to attack us! We need to send a message!” said Havok assertively, “And by message, I mean one with force!”

“You think hitting that thing is going to do any good?” said Quicksilver dryly.

“You have a better idea how to talk to a flying hunk of goo?!”

Havok prepared a blast, concentrating extra energy in his hands and taking aim at the brownish mass above him. While Havok was preparing his attack, Polaris remained fixated on the mass above her. It looked like something right out of a nightmare. At the same time, there was something ominous about it. It was like it had a presence. Polaris may not be psychic, but she definitely sensed something. As she looked on, she saw a figure emerging from the center of the globular mass. It had a human shape, but not just any human shape. When she recognized it, she quickly grabbed Havok’s arms and pushed them away.

“Wait! Don’t shoot!” she urged, “I…I think my father may be in there!”

“Uh…you wanna run that by me again?” said Havok.

“You heard me the first time! My father is in that thing!” Polaris exclaimed.

“If he’s in that thing he may want us to kill it!” said Avalanche, “I’m not sure I would want to live trapped in a giant hunk of goo!”

“That’s just it. I don’t think he’s trapped,” said Polaris as she kept looking up.

“Okay, now I’m confused,” said Quicksilver, “Do you mean to say Magneto is somehow driving this thing?”

“I’m not sure what he’s doing,” Polaris dreaded, “But I think we’re about to find out.”

A new round of activity erupted from the growing mass above. Two figures emerged from the heart of the blob and descended to the roof with a dozen or so brownish tendrils guiding them. One looked like a beastly version of Blink. Her appearance was grossly deformed from the wiry, pink-skinned girl from before. As shocking as her appearance was, the second figure was far more intriguing and terrifying.

Polaris’s claim was confirmed. Magneto had been within this strange glob. He still had his human form, but was covered in the brownish mass. His whole body was now laced swirls of brown and silverish slivers. The veins in his head and neck were bulging in accord with the blob’s pulsing and his eyes were glowing bright red. It was hard to tell if he was in pain or struggling, but when he landed on the roof he looked calmer than he had ever been before.

“Father?” said Polaris anxiously.

“Greetings, my brethren. The Cambrian welcomes you.”

“Uh…you okay in there, boss?” asked Havok, standing protectively near Polaris.

“I’m better than okay! This being is more incredible than I ever dreamed! I thought I would simply use the Cambrian to nourish the evolution of our kind! Instead, I have become the Cambrian! It has chosen me!”

“Chosen you for what?!” exclaimed the Scarlet Witch, “I may not know as much about this thing as you, but I don’t like it!”

“Be calm, child. It will all make sense in due time. You see, when this marvelous being triggered the Cambrian Explosion all those eons ago, it burned itself out. It never finished what it originally intended. For millions of years it has been resting, cut off from all life and waiting for a chance to finish what it started! When I freed it, I was blessed with a vision…an insight into the purpose of this being!

“Anyone else think he sounds way too excited?” commented Pyro.

“Coming from you, even I lost my appetite,” grumbled Blob.

“The Cambrian isn’t just meant to spawn life! It is meant to unite it! In order to do this, it must take those from the fittest branch of the evolutionary tree! And like it did millions of years ago, it will guide them into a new evolutionary level! As of this day, the fittest specimens are those of homo superior!”

“You starting to sound like you’re in need of a hug and a healthy dose of thorezine, Father!” said Quicksilver.

“This isn’t you talking, Father! Fight this thing!” urged the Scarlet Witch.

“Fight it? Why would I want to fight my evolutionary destiny? This is what the mutant race is meant for! This is how we will take our rightful place! Mutant kind will become more than human! And all lesser forms that oppose us will succumb to extinction!”

This Cambrian entity had driven Magneto off the deep end once more. He was talking with madness that rivaled the madness that consumed him when he used Forge’s machine to expand his powers. But he didn’t just sound mad this time. He sounded like the Magneto they knew was lost.

For Polaris, it was an agonizing sight. This was a man she worked so hard to connect with. She promised her mother that she would help him retain his humanity. Now the Cambrian had taken it and she wasn’t the only one that sensed it.

“Not this again!” groaned the Scarlet Witch, “Father, stop listening to the Cambrian and listen to us!”

“There is nothing left to say, my dear. What the Cambrian has decided, I have already begun. Blink has already embraced our collective fate as you can see. I look forward to the rest of you following her example.”

“Father wait!” yelled Quicksilver.

“Oh this isn’t going to end badly,” muttered Pyro.

Magneto was completely immersed within the Cambrian. He was now bound to its ominous will. With Blink by his side, he rose back up into the globular mass along with Blink. The brown tendrils guided them and quickly overtook their bodies. Polaris, desperate to get her father back, tried to fly up and catch him.

“Errr let my father go!” she yelled at the glob.

“Lorna, stop!” yelled Havok, grabbing her leg while the Scarlet Witch used her hexing to hold her back.

“No! Let me go! I have to save him!” she urged.

“I don’t think he even wants to be saved,” said the Scarlet Witch grimly.

“You don’t know the half of it,” grinned Quentin, who hadn’t stopped smiling.

“If you’re keeping something from us, you better spill it fast, punk!” spat Quicksilver as he grabbed the teenage psychic by the collar.

“What’s the point in keeping secrets when they’re all about to come out anyways?” he quipped wryly.

Quicksilver and the rest of the Brotherhood looked at Quentin menacingly. He clearly knew something and was keeping it from them as they struggled to process what was happening. Before they could beat the truth out of him, they got the answers in the most terrifying way.

Up in the hovering glob, Magneto and Blink had merged into the main entity of the Cambrian. As soon as they were inside, the entity shifted from a disordered egg-shaped mass to something more resembling a box. On each side of the box, the silvery slithers within the being reorganized themselves to make up a distinct image. It resembled the face of Magneto and from this image he spoke to the entire population of Genosha.

“MY BRETHREN! A SECOND CAMBRIAN EXPLOSION IS UPON US! EVOLUTION HAS TAKEN FORM AND SUBSTANCE AND FROM IT, WE SHALL DOMINATE AS WE ARE MEANT TO DOMINATE! TO DO SO WE MUST DO MORE THAN UNITE! WE MUST MERGE TOGETHER SO THAT THE MANY OF OUR SPECIES BECOME ONE! TO YOU AND EVERY MUTANT ON THIS PLANET, HEED MY CALL! EVOLVE AND ACCEPT OUR COLLECTIVE DESTINY!”

His ominous message that boomed over the entire island. It left the Brotherhood and the mutant inhabitants of Genosha stunned and nervous about what was about to happen.

“Uh…what do you think he means by that?” asked a lone mutant in the vast crowd.

That meaning soon became crystal clear as a new round of activity emerged from the Cambrian. The globular being quickly swelled, expanding its girth to such an extent that some feared it might explode. It never happened. Instead, the dozens of tentacle-like tendrils extending from the creature reverted back into the Cambrian briefly. Then in a terrifying display, the creature began shooting out small globs that were the size of basketballs. Within seconds, they flew out in all directions and fell like rain all over the island and beyond. No one had time to seek cover. The minute the falling globs touched their flesh, they underwent a terrifying and painful transformation.

“AHHHHHHH!” screamed dozens of frightened mutants.

“IT BURNS! IT BURNS!”

“GET IT OFF ME! HURRY!”

These cries were quickly muffled. As the globs of Cambrian forced their way into their bodies, they were turned into disfigured monstrosities. Their bodies erupted in an explosion of muscle and bone growth. Some grew scales. Some grew hair. Others grew completely new appendages like extra arms and legs. Male and female mutants groaned in agony through the process. Through this transformation, they all ended up sharing two key characteristics. Their bodies were covered in the brownish-silver texture of the Cambrian and they all shared the same glowing red eyes. Once their eyes were flashing, they all took on an eerily calm demeanor.

“Evolve…”

As the cries and twisted transformations were going on below, the Brotherhood along with Piotr and Illyana Rasputin rushed for cover at the top of the citadel. The Scarlet Witch instinctively put up a shield of hex bolts to divert the incoming globs.

“Errrr! Everybody move in close! We have to get back inside cover!” grunted the Scarlet Witch, her hands glowing brightly as she pushed her powers.

“Don’t have to tell me twice!” said Blob, watching as the Cambrian shards narrowly avoided him.

“I don’t think that’s a viable strategy, Wanda!” said Havok.

“No shit, Summers! How about pointing out something less obvious?!” exclaimed Quicksilver.

“Well I was going to tell you to look closer at these falling mud balls, but I’ll let you figure out the hard way!”

It didn’t take long for Quicksilver to see what Havok was referring to. As soon as these globs hit the ground, they started moving like a snail or amphibian. This wasn’t just some mindless hailstorm. Each glob was part of the Cambrian. Before they knew it, all the globs that had fallen around them were slithering around them. They were like swarming insects, looking to cut them off and bring them into the Cambrian.

“They’re surrounding us!” cried Illyana.

“Stay back, Snowflake. I will not let them get you!” said Piotr.

“Sorry to burst your bubble, big fella! But I don’t think muscle is gonna push these things back!” said Pyro, preparing his flamethrowers, “But I bet they’re flammable!”

“For once…go ahead and burn, Pyro!” grunted an increasingly strained Scarlet Witch, “Hurry up! I…can’t…keep this…up!”

“No worries, mate! I’ll be the big hero this time!” said the Australian as he formed some fireballs in his hands.

“Wait a sec…where’s Quentin?” said Avalanche.

Just as Pyro was about to unleash a wave of flames, a telekinetic burst literally crushed the ignition sparks on his flame-throwers. It also broke his wrists and forearms, essentially keeping Pyro from using his powers and injuring him in the process.

“Auuuugggghhh! Bloody hell!” he exclaimed.

“You should have known better.”

The entire Brotherhood turned around to see the source of the voice. It answered Avalanche’s question earlier regarding Quentin.

“Oh hell no!” groaned Havok.

“Quentin?” said Polaris in confusion.

“The new and improved, Quentin! And ready to evolve!”

The young psychic had undergone the same transformation as Magneto and Blink. He didn’t even try to avoid the incoming globs. He let them hit and didn’t resist the change it brought. He now stood at least a foot taller than before, his body bulging with oversized and grotesque muscles with blackened veins bulging on his flesh. Now a far cry from the scrawny teenage boy from before, Quentin Quire’s eyes flashed red to signify his new allegiance.

“Quire, you stupid son-of-a…” Havok began.

“Spare me the insults. All will be forgiven when you embrace Cambrian. There will be no need for petty grievances as we become one!”

“Sorry kid, but I don’t swing that way! You can embrace these slime balls if you want, but we’re not buying it!” roared Blob.

“Oh you poor misguided soul. You actually think you have a choice. Here…let me show you what the Cambrian is capable of!”

Quentin’s eyes flashed bright red as he raised his glowing hand. Without breaking a sweat, he unleashed another telekinetic surge. It was so strong that it broke the Scarlet Witch’s hex shield.

“Ungh!” she howled.

“Wanda!” exclaimed Quicksilver as he ran to his sister’s aid.

“Oh shit, that can’t be…” said Avalanche, but was cut off almost immediately.

As soon as the hex shield was down, nothing held back the slithering Cambrian shards. Large chunks of the globs literally leaped off the ground to attack their vulnerable victims. Avalanche, Pyro, and Blob were all struck first. Like Quentin, they underwent a grotesque transformation, their bodies shifting into oversized monstrosities with slivers of the Cambrian laced in their being. Like everyone else they let out pained cries at first, only to have their eyes flash red and echo the same message.

“EVOLVE!”

“Damn…” grunted Havok as he, Polaris, the Maximoff twins, and the Rasputins fell back.

“Curse you, Magneto!” said Piotr, “I never should have trusted you!”

“You’re just figuring that out now, big brother?” said Illyana, watching as the globs of the Cambrian twitched menacingly.

Huge chunk of the Cambrian looked poised to attack the rest of them. There was nowhere to run. It looked like they were poised to join this twisted act of evolution.

“They’re coming for us! Somebody do something!” yelled Quicksilver.

“Stay close! I’m going to try a trick that father taught me!” yelled Polaris, who answered her half-brother’s call.

“Better skip the trying part because we’re out of time here!” urged Havok.

Just as the globs of Cambrian goo were about to leap at them, Polaris used her magnetic powers to manipulate the metal in the citadel. Right up from floor, a silver dome came up and encased her, Havok, Piotr, Illyana, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch. The attacking globs were thwarted, offering some badly needed protection for what was left of the Brotherhood. Polaris continued applying herself, reinforcing the dome so the blobs couldn’t get in. However, she could still feel them pounding on the outside of the dome.

“I…I did it!” said a fatigued Polaris.

“Yeah, but now we’re trapped!” exclaimed Quicksilver, “We’re gonna run out of air or go claustrophobic! We need an escape plan!”

“Hey, if you can think of one I’m all ears! The Cambrian is literally on top of us and every mutant on the island has probably been transformed already! We’re not exactly in a position to get very far even if we do escape!”

Havok’s assessment was grim. A confined feeling from being encased in the dome had already come over them. It was getting hard to breathe. Illyana was starting to tense and Piotr clung to her for support, bracing herself for the worst. Within seconds, they felt a barrage of hearing heavy thuds on the outside of the dome. They sensed Blob was the one applying the force. Quentin and Avalanche got in on it as well, using their powers to try and crack Polaris’s metal dome.

“Do not hide from the Cambrian! Evolve with us or face extinction!” roared Blob from outside the metal shell.

Polaris had to step up her powers to resist Blob’s heavy blows. Sweat was already forming on her face and she was having difficulty breathing. She fell to her knees and Havok had to hold her up. Like the Scarlet Witch, the protection her powers offered had its limits.

“Augh! Can’t…keep this up…for long!” grunted Polaris.

“Enough hiding! We need a plan!” yelled Piotr, “Can you not call for help?”

“Who the hell do you expect us to call?! The freakin’ goo patrol?!” exclaimed Quicksilver.

“What about the X-men?” the Russian suggested.

“What about them?” scoffed the speedster, “I would rather skinny dip in that sludge that call those loser!”

“Damn it, Pietro! We can’t afford to be arrogant jerks right now!” grunted Havok, “With any luck, the X-men already know about this and are on their way!”

“Hnn…then they better hurry,” said a weakened Scarlet Witch, “I doubt we can hide in here much longer!”

Outside the metal dome, the Cambrian’s new minions kept attacking. Blob, Avalanche, Quentin, and Pyro all followed the will of this entity blindly. They could sense the frustration of their unevolved brethren. They were desperate. They knew they were powerless in the face of evolution. From within the Cambrian, Magneto stepped up his efforts.

“Foolish creatures. You think outsiders will come and save you? They’ll only fuel the engine of evolution for which the Cambrian is driving! They may yet try. They are destined to fail!”


X-jet

“We’re going down! Brace yourselves!” exclaimed a dire Cyclops.

“I…hate…bracing!” groaned Iceman.

“We all do, Iceman!” grunted Rogue.

The X-jet was dropping like a stone. In their bold effort to get close enough for Professor Xavier and Phoenix to attack the Cambrian telepathically, they ended up putting themselves in the line of fire. Out of nowhere the Cambrian, started shooting off small globs of itself in every direction. They fell from the sky like hailstones. When they hit the X-jet they caused serious damage, clogging up the engines and destroying the avionics.

They were now on a crash course with the downtown area of the Genoshan capital city. The jet was spinning wildly, forcing the X-men inside to hold down every meal from the past week.

“Come on…don’t go out like this!” Cyclops urged the jet, “You’ve held together before! I need one last miracle!”

“Sorry Cyke, doesn’t look like she’s got any left!” grunted Wolverine.

“She can do it! Just need a little more…”

Cyclops’s faith in the jet was quickly shattered when all the main electronics shorted out. To his shock tiny slivers of the Cambrian globs were forcing their way through the cracks and trying to get inside. In addition, the glass from the windows was starting to break. The Cambrian shards had latched on and were trying to get in.

“It’s official! We’re screwed on an entirely new level!” groaned Shadowcat.

“We have only one chance…eject!” said Professor Xavier.

“And how in the bloody hell do we do that? This thing have ejector seats or something?” exclaimed Psylocke, who was struggling to keep it together more than the others.

“No…it doesn’t,” said Professor Xavier as he then turned to Phoenix, “Jean, are you up for this?”

“Aren’t I always?” she replied, her eyes already glowing a fiery orange, “Phoenix, I’m going to need your help with this one!”

“You’ve got it, Jean.”

“Ooh boy, Remy knows what this mean,” groaned the Cajun.

“What I wouldn’t give to swap places with Beast right about now,” groaned Iceman.

In a fiery flash, the Phoenix flames surrounded Jean Grey. The power of these cosmic flames quickly surrounded everyone on the jet. Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Iceman, Shadowcat, Nightcrawler, Rogue, Gambit, Psylocke, and Professor Xavier closed their eyes and prepared for the inevitable.

In a blinding flash the X-jet crashed nose-first into the ground. The entire structure of the advanced aircraft buckled under the pressure and exploded. But before the destruction could consume the X-men, the power of the Phoenix encased them in a protective telekinetic bubble. It literally ripped them from their seats and flew them out of the ensuing fireball. Within the span of three seconds, it was over. The team was flying over the skies of the Genoshan capital city, protected only by the telekinetic bubble of Phoenix. With globs of the Cambrians still falling, it was not looking good.

“Damn…never thought I’d live to see the day when it’s literally raining shit!” said Wolverine.

“What is happening? Is the Cambrian falling apart?” asked Storm as she looked around at the darkened skies.

“If only it were,” said Xavier grimly, now without his wheelchair, “The Cambrian appears to be extending itself for lack of a better word. It’s actively seeking mutants!”

“Seeking how?!” said Rogue, “Beast ain’t here to explain it so you’ll have to dumb it down, Professor!”

“I don’t zhink zhe how matters, mein sister. Look down and see for yourself!”

Rogue and the rest of the team looked below to see hoards of mutants being transformed by the Cambrian. Some were still trying to fight it off, but all eventually succumbed and took the shape of oversized, grotesque monsters. It was a horrific sight that offered an ominous idea of what they were up against.

“Ooh, that does not look like a pleasant experience,” commented Iceman.

“Talk about a lousy makeover,” added Shadowcat, “Is this the plan? Turn every mutant into a monster?”

“Some plan,” scoffed Psylocke, “I thought this thing was supposed to be intelligent!”

“It is, Psylocke. I fear that intelligence may be more devious than we think,” dreaded Professor Xavier.

“Whatever it’s doing, we have to stop it!” said Cyclops, “That means attacking the source!”

“Take out the core and hope for the best? Works for me!” snarled Wolverine, already drawing his claws.

“Is that all we can do, Professor?” asked Phoenix, who was concentrating hard to protect the team from incoming Cambrian shards.

“We have to try. We may have other reasons for seeking the source as well!”

“Are you going to try to reach it telepathically?” asked Storm.

“That may have to wait!” he said as he clutched his temple, “In addition to the Cambrian, I also sense the Brotherhood! Some of them are trying to fight back as well!”

“And we should help them?” said Rogue dryly.

“Don’t tell me you didn’t see it coming,” said Shadowcat.

Nobody was surprised about having to help the Brotherhood. It wouldn’t be the first time they had to aid them in the face of such destruction. For others, however, it carried more weight than before.

“Alex…” said Cyclops distantly, “Professor, where are they?!”

“On top of Magneto’s citadel! The Cambrian has them trapped!” retorted the Professor.

“I sense them too, Professor!” said Phoenix, “I’ll get us there in a flash!”

“Not too fast! These mud balls be flying mighty close!” said Gambit, “They be like smart bombs!”

“I can keep them away!” said Phoenix confidently, “Just hold on and be ready for bumpy ride!”

“Don’t you mean shitty?” muttered Psylocke, still sickened by the sight of these grotesque blobs.

“That too.”

Guided by telekinesis and the flames of a cosmic entity, Phoenix carried the X-men towards the citadel. It was already in sight, but they could see that it was already covered in Cambrian globs. They could also see the main entity hovering over the roof. If the Brotherhood was there, they couldn’t be in good shape.


Citadel Roof

Time was running out for Polaris, Havok, Piotr, Illyana, and the Maximoff twins. The Cambrian was bearing down on them. Polaris’s metal shell was being dented and pounded like a tin can. In the confined space they were running low on oxygen and hope. Polaris was on the verge of passing out and the Scarlet Witch still hadn’t recovered from the blow she took earlier from Quentin Quire. By now they could see the actual outline of Blob’s fist tearing into the metal. It was threatening to give way at any moment.

“Wanda…we need you to pull yourself up!” grunted Quicksilver, urging his sister along.

“Can’t…head pounding!” she groaned.

“Damn it, Wanda! Lorna can’t keep this up!” yelled Havok, trying desperately to support Polaris.

It was looking increasingly grim. Illyana stayed in Piotr’s protective arms, but was starting to get impatient. None of these Brotherhood mutants could protect them. Even her brother’s strength couldn’t protect them. That left the burden on her shoulders.

“Big brother…maybe I can free us!” she said through the stale air.

“No Illyana! You know your powers…”

“It may be the only way!” Illyana exclaimed, “You can’t protect me this time! At least let me try!”

“Please Snowflake…don’t take that risk!” urged Piotr.

As Illyana and Piotr argued, the dome finally gave way. Blob’s fist finally made it through and Polaris couldn’t stop him. As soon as the oversized mutant had a firm grip, a massive tremor from Avalanche ripped the dome from the floor and allowed Blob to literally yank it away.

“No!” cried Polaris as she went limp in Havok’s arms.

“Enough! Embrace your evolution! It’s a hell of a rush!” grinned the Cambrian Blob.

Havok, Polaris, Quicksilver, Piotr, Illyana, and the Scarlet Witch braced themselves as a fresh round of Cambrian shards fell from above. Now there was nothing to stop the Cambrian from overtaking them.

“Damn you, Magneto,” cursed Piotr.

The globs were about to overtake them when a barrage of optic blasts and lightning struck the area and drove back the Cambrian shards. Then a thick ice shell formed over top of them, keeping further shards from hitting them as well. It was startling turn and one the remnants of the Brotherhood didn’t need to identify.

“X-men…figures,” groaned Quicksilver.

“If you don’t thank them, I’ll hex your spine into a knot,” scorned the Scarlet Witch.

From above the citadel, the X-men descended towards them surrounded in the protective flames of the Phoenix.

“So some of you clowns held out after all!” commented Iceman, “That may be more surprising than the giant blob flying overhead!”

“You still owe me twenty bucks, homme,” Gambit reminded him.

“Bust their chops later, Iceman! We need to clear the roof!” said Cyclops.

“Leave it to me!” said Storm, her eyes now glowing white.

“I’ll lend a psychic hand!” said Phoenix.

Together, the two X-women coordinated their powers. Storm formed a massive whirlwind while Phoenix concentrated on the area around the unaffected Brotherhood, forming a wall of telekinetic force. With perfect timing, they unleashed their attacks simultaneously and literally blew the entire rooftop clean of Cambrian shards. They also managed to knock back the monstrous versions of Blob, Pyro, Avalanche, and Quentin Quire.

With this narrow window, the team landed on the roof. Phoenix and Storm remained hovering, keeping the Cambrian shards away from them. Cyclops, Shadowcat, Iceman, and Nightcrawler landed next to the remaining members of the Brotherhood.  Professor Xavier landed with them with Nightcrawler providing support. Gambit, Rogue, Wolverine, and Psylocke landed just ahead with their sights set on the Cambrian above.

“It…it’s really you! You’re the X-men!” said Illyana with a glint of hope.

“Who are you two?” asked Iceman, gesturing towards Illyana and Piotr, “You part of the Brotherhood’s junior league or something?”

“No Iceman. I know this man,” said Cyclops, eying Piotr, “He’s a special case.”

“Glad to see you remember, comrade,” said Piotr, “But we’ll have to do introductions later! We must escape this monstrosity!”

“Sit tight, Ruskie! We’ll handle this!” snarled Wolverine as he looked up at the Cambrian, “Just keep those globs away and I’ll rip this thing apart piece-by-piece!”

“Bloody hell, is he always this foolish?” remarked Psylocke, who already formed some psionic blades.

“More or less,” shrugged Gambit.

“If you’re feelin’ squeamish, leave the heavy lifting for us, Betsy! This is how X-men get things done!” said Rogue as she took to the air.

The southern mutant was out to show Psylocke that her mutant powers and ninja skills weren’t enough to make her an X-man. Gambit watching added extra incentive. Once air born, she grabbed Wolverine by the waist and prepared to fly him up to the Cambrian. Storm and Phoenix kept the globs off them while the rest of the team offered cover.

“Let’s soften this thing up! Hit it with everything you’ve got, X-men!” ordered Cyclops.

“Always my favorite command!” grinned Iceman.

“Leave the tough talk for Wolverine,” said Shadowcat helped Polaris and the Scarlet Witch back to their feet.

With Rogue and Wolverine well on their way, the rest of the X-men attacked. Cyclops fired his optic blasts, Iceman fired a concentrated ice beam, Psylocke unleashed a barrage of her psionic blades, and Gambit tossed a fury of cards as hard as he could. When they hit the Cambrian, they definitely got a reaction. The globular mass convulsed from the impact, shifting erratically as the surface around the impact tore. Compared to the size of the creature the effect was small, but the creature definitely felt it. Those already taken by the Cambrian seemed to feel it too. Blob, Pyro, Avalanche, and Quentin Quire convulsed in discomfort. When Professor Xavier saw this, he picked up on some unusual psychic activity.

‘My God…they all felt it. The Cambrian…it has telepathically linked its victims!’

The implications were grave. If they hurt the Cambrian, they hurt all its victims. Immediately, Professor Xavier called his X-men off.

“X-men, stop!” he exclaimed, “Don’t attack the Cambrian any further!”

“What?! But sir…” Cyclops argued.

“It’s forming a collective! We cannot fight it like this!” he exclaimed, “We must get as far away from it as possible!”

“What kind of attack is that?!” spat Havok.

“I thought you X-men were supposed to have all the answers!” added Quicksilver.

Professor Xavier was about to explain himself. Before he could, the Cambrian above reacted to the attack. The wound the X-men made was quickly healed and Magneto emerged from within the creature.

“Such annoying little pests. A pity. I expected more from you Charles. Lucky for you, the Cambrian is merciful. You shall serve it well.”

Without minimal effort, Magneto unleashed another attack on behalf of the Cambrian. From the skin of the creature, dozens of tentacle-like threads shot out from it as if they had been fired from a rifle. These threads went straight for the X-men. They hit Rogue and Wolverine just before they were within striking distance. As it touched them, they were overwhelmed by a punishing agony and were transformed in mid-air.

“AUUUGGGGHHHHHH!”

“Logan!” cried Storm.

“Rogue!” exclaimed Gambit and Nightcrawler.

Before their eyes, Rogue and Wolverine transformed into monstrous minions of the Cambrian. It was a horrific sight to their teammates and they tried to help them.

“Iceman, try to blow that gunk off them!” yelled Cyclops.

“Ooh, they’re gonna hate us for this!” groaned Iceman.

But before Iceman could fire his blasts, two more tendrils shot out and latched onto him and Cyclops. The reaction was the same as it was for Wolverine and Rogue. They were turned into monstrous minions of the Cambrian.

“Scott! Noooooooooo!” cried Phoenix.

“Whoa…” gasped Shadowcat, “Not attacking suddenly sounds like a smart move!”

“X-men, fall back!” yelled Professor Xavier.

There was nothing they could do for their friends. They watched helplessly as Cyclops, Iceman, Rogue, and Wolverine turned into inhuman monstrosities like the rest of Genosha. But there was little time to look on in horror. More tentacle threads were shooting out. Gambit and Psylocke used their powers to fight them off and get back to their friends. While Cyclops and Iceman were still transforming, they moved away towards the adjacent edge of the citadel. Storm and Phoenix stayed in the air, deflecting more Cambrian threads with telekinesis and lightning. They found themselves fighting harder upon seeing their lovers taken over.

“Scott…please fight it!” Phoenix cried with tears in her eyes.

“You can do it, Logan! Don’t let yourself become another monster!” urged Storm.

Her words fell on deaf ears. Once Cyclops and Iceman completed their transformation, they were joined by the Cambrian minions of Wolverine and Rogue. Their eyes were all glowing red, showing little sign that they were resisting this onslaught. They only offered their friends a familiar message.

“Evolve…”

Phoenix nearly faltered in her shield upon seeing this. Storm had to use her lightning to protect her from being taken over as well.

“Scott…” said Phoenix solemnly.

“We’ll save them, Phoenix! For now, we must retreat!” she urged her.

“Listen to her, Phoenix! Zhis isn’t a battle we can win!” said Nightcrawler.

As much as it pained her, Phoenix retreated to the others. She reinforced her shields, fighting the urge to unleash the full power of a cosmic being on this monstrosity. Xavier coaxed her back. He was worried for his students as well, but there was nothing they could do.

“We need to get off the island! Is there any way we can use Magneto’s transport orbs to get back to my institute?” said Xavier.

“You want to leave?!” spat Quicksilver, “Some heroes you are! That’s my father in that thing!”

“Pietro, listen to him!” urged the Scarlet Witch.

“No, you listen! We’re not running! The citadel is on lockdown so the transport orbs are locked too! The only way we’re leaving is if we get my father out of that flying ball of sludge! He knows this thing! He can stop it!”

“Since when do you have the authority to give orders, Quicksilver?” spat Havok.

“You guys want to leave? Fine! I’ll take this thing on myself!” said the speedster.

“Pietro…don’t!” urged Polaris.

In a burst of speed Quicksilver ran out from Phoenix’s protective barrier towards the Cambrian’s minions. With his agility he was easily able to dodge the incoming globs. However, his speed only protected him briefly. The Cambrian Iceman saw his chance to serve this powerful creature and used his ice powers to ice up the surface of the roof.

“Join us, brother! Evolving is just too cool!”

Quicksilver immediately slipped on the ice and was sent tumbling forward. In the process one of the Cambrian’s tendrils latched onto him and he was overwhelmed by the creature.

“No-no-no! Make it…AHHHHHHHHHH!”

“Pietro!” cried the Polaris.

She and Polaris had to look away as the Cambrian transformed Quicksilver into another one of the Cambrian’s minion. Within seconds he turned into a hulking monstrosity, his personality and humanity replaced with that of this ancient creature. His arrogant attack made it clear to the remnants of the X-men and the Brotherhood. They could not defeat this creature with their current manpower.

“Boy, who didn’t see that coming?” groaned Shadowcat.

“Pietro…why must you be so damn pig-headed?!” said a very upset Scarlet Witch.

“He’s fighting a losing battle,” said Havok, “We’ll save him! We’ll save all of them!”

“How?!” exclaimed Nightcrawler, “If zhe transport orbs are locked and I can only teleport two miles away, how vill ve escape?”

“I’ll spoil it for you. We’re won’t,” said Shadowcat grimly.

“So much for the X-men being resourceful,” muttered Psylocke.

A grim realization had set in. Storm, Phoenix, Nightcrawler, Gambit, Psylocke, Shadowcat, Havok, Polaris, Professor Xavier, Piotr, Illyana, and the Scarlet Witch were probably the only mutants on the island who hadn’t been transformed yet. If they couldn’t escape, then it would only be a matter of time before the Cambrian took them too.

While the X-men and the Brotherhood were out of ideas, Illyana Rasputin made her choice. Looking up at her worried brother and all those around her who were quickly losing hope, she realized it was up to her. She knew Piotr wouldn’t approve. The rational part of her young mind didn’t approve either. But it was the only way.

“Big brother…I have to do it,” said Illyana.

“Snowflake…” Piotr began.

“Are you still going to try and stop me?!” she exclaimed.

To her surprise, her brother gave her a completely different response.

“Good luck,” he said.

Encouraged by his words, Illyana took a deep breath and summoned the powers she swore not to use. Her eyes started glowing bright yellow. All round them, a yellow circle of light encased those left unaffected by the Cambrian.

“What the hell is she doing?!” exclaimed Havok.

“Saving our lives,” said Professor Xavier, now looking at the young girl with hope, ‘Illyana, this is Charles Xavier. Listen to me with your mind. I sense what you’re trying to do. I can help you through this.’

“Everybody, brace yourselves!” warned Piotr, “This may get messy!”

“I am so sick of bracing myself!” groaned Shadowcat.

“If it works, I’ll take it!” said Gambit.

Even as the Cambrian minions surrounded them, the young girl pushed her mind and body to new limits. In doing so her eyes erupted in a bright yellow flash. Along with this flash came a glowing bubble of light that quickly consumed them. Then in an instant, the light faded and took the remaining X-men and Brotherhood with it.

This display left even the Cambrian surprised. These creatures had just turned their backs on evolutionary dominance. Why they would do such a thing defied the very whims of nature. Up in the core of the Cambrian, Magneto remained stoic. While this loss was disappointing, the Cambrian already had an island of mutants at its disposal. It would be more than enough to proceed with the next step. Next to him, Blink was more concerned.

“Where did they go? Why do they run?”

“It doesn’t matter, child. They can run all they want. They will never escape,” said Magneto in his Cambrian derived voice, “For now, there is work to be done. The Cambrian has united the mutants of Genosha. Now it shall unite every mutant on this world!”

Next Issue: Cambrian Explosion Part 3

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