The human race is undergoing an uncanny transformation. Humans are being born with extraordinary powers. Professor Charles Xavier and his X-men use those powers to contribute to a world that hates and fears them. Now those contributions may be lost at the hand of an ancient creature.
Decades ago, Erik Lensherr discovered a powerful organism called the Cambrian. He was convinced that over 500 million years ago, this being spurred a vast array of mutation and diversity that led to the Cambrian Explosion. Years later, he was equally convinced that the Cambrian was still out there. Using a modified version of Xavier’s mutant tracking computer, Cerebro, he finally found it and hoped to use it to empower mutants. What happened instead led to a terrifying transformation.
The Cambrian awoke and overtook Magneto, turning him into a monstrous manifestation of the being’s image. He then returned to Genosha and used his new power to bring other mutants under the Cambrian’s influence, thus changing them into monstrous minions. It promises to unite the mutant race and evolve them above all other life forms on Earth. Now with elements of both the X-men and the Brotherhood crippled by the Cambrian, the ancient entity is seeking mutants all over the world.
New York City – District X
“EVERYBODY GET INSIDE NOW!” exclaimed a desperate Sage through a bullhorn in the streets of District X.
“LOCK EVERY DOOR! SEAL EVERY WINDOW! YOU BEST BE BARRICADING YOUR ASS ON EVERY SIDE!” yelled Bishop as he directed traffic, blowing holes into buildings to give people a place to hide.
It was pure chaos. New York City was erupting in citywide panic and District X was ground zero. Out of nowhere, a strange cloud formed overhead and a rain of mysterious brown globs started falling like hail stones. As soon as these globs hit a mutant, that mutant turned into a monstrous manifestation that sought to induce that transformation in others. They kept babbling this crazy rhetoric about evolving and anyone that tried to get close to them was attacked. To make matters worse, over three quarters of District X had been affected.
“Ahhhhhh! Augghhhh! Get it off!” yelled a young mutant boy who was hit in the head with a glob.
“Ungh! I feel…strange!” groaned an older mutant male as he was transformed.
“Damn it, pick your jaw up off the floor and move it!” yelled a team of Multiple duplicates who were trying to shelter what little remained of their community.
The situation was getting worse. Sage, Bishop, Jubilee, and Multiple tried to initiate emergency protocols. Those quickly fell apart as numerous District X residents were turned. Now they were just trying to save whoever was left. They barricaded themselves on the top floor of the central building. Jubilee and Bishop fought off the incoming globs while Sage issued orders. Down below, Multiple was using his clones to shield those who hadn’t been affected yet. It was an uphill battle and one they were losing fast.
“I see a dozen or so heading towards Harper Drive!” said Sage as she worked on her computer, “I’m directing them to an old bank! They can use the vault to barricade themselves!”
“How long do you think our crew is gonna last in a damn vault? There ain’t no telling how long this shit will go down!” grunted Bishop as he kept shooting at the globs with Jubilee.
“How about we stick to the minute-by-minute approach? Whatever the hell this is, I’m sure someone is dealing with it!” groaned Jubilee as she fried a huge glob of goo trying to get in through the window.
“You talkin’ about the X-men?” scoffed Bishop.
“Can you think of anyone more equipped? I’ll bet my custom sunglasses collection they’re already on the case!”
“You’re just saying that because you’re dating one of them,” said an obviously strained Multiple.
“Don’t waste your energy talking, Madrox! We need your duplicates to shelter anyone we have left!” urged Sage.
“I’ve already broken my record for duplicates and duration!” he said, sweat pouring down his face, “Then again, records are made to be broken!”
Gazing outside, Sage saw the swarm of brown globs intensifying. She could already see hoards of mindless mutants having been transformed into monsters walking the streets below. They were working as a single unit and adhering mindlessly to an unknown collective force. If this was what District X looked like, she shuttered at how this was affecting the rest of the world.
Chicago – South End Luxury Lofts
“Warpath? Where in the hell are you?!” exclaimed a panicked yet irritated Emma Frost.
“Keep your G-string on, Frost! I’m okay!” yelled Warpath from the other room.
“I know you’re okay! I’m yelling at you because I need your help! These damn windows aren’t holding up!”
“Sorry, but I’m a little busy here!” he retorted dryly, “I can’t turn my skin to diamond so I’m not immune to these things! Cut me some slack even if that’s completely against your nature!”
Emma Frost was in no mood for sympathy. What was supposed to be a brief visit to Chicago quickly turned into a struggle for survival. She and Warpath met to discuss some important plans for the future. Then this mysterious storm hit and their sole concern shifted to the present.
The luxury pent house of this upscale hotel was not an ideal fortress, but it allowed her and Warpath plenty of space to guard against these swarming brown globs that were falling from the sky. She could already sense the panic they were causing outside. She also sensed that nearby mutants were being transformed into mindless monstrosities. These globs were looking to do the same to her and Warpath, but lucky for her these things couldn’t affect her when she was in her diamond form.
‘Luxurious tastes can account for many petty discomforts, but it can’t account for THIS!’
Emma did her best to reinforce the windows with duct tape and furniture. By now huge hunks of the brown globs had smothered every window. Several windows had already broken, forcing her to use a nearby fire extinguisher to fight them off. She was also had Warpath warp the vents so they couldn’t get in through the air ducts. It was all meant to seal them off from these creatures so they could at least attempt to process what was going on.
In the other room Warpath had to fight back a huge, car-sized hunk of goo that formed out on the luxury patio. He used the dining room table to try and force it back outside, but this stuff just kept coming.
“Errrrr! Get back…you ugly piece of shit!” he grunted, “For all I know that’s exactly what you are!”
He managed to give the table a hard kick to send a good chunk of the goo back out into the rooftop pool. He had only a moment to catch his breath because the goo quickly reorganized itself and started slithering back towards him.
“We have to get out of here, Frost!” Warpath urged, “We’re not going to fight these mud balls off up here!”
“Yes, I’m capable of reaching that conclusion myself!” replied Frost, “Seal the back door with the heaviest thing you can find and we’ll find a better place to fight off these disgusting blobs!”
“I hope you have a place in mind because I’m flat out of…”
Warpath was suddenly cut off by a nearby window shattering. This was a window on the ceiling that was supposed to let sunlight in through the roof. Instead it let a small, softball sized glob into the pent house and it fell right on the Apache mutant’s head.
“Augh! Son of a…”
“Warpath?” said Emma curiously from the other room, “Please tell me you just stubbed your toe!”
The former X-man rushed into the other room to see exactly what she didn’t want to see. Warpath had been overtaken by this mysterious goo and transformed into a hulking monstrosity.
“Figures,” said Emma Frost flatly.
Warpath immediately lunged towards her and tried to restrain her. His new oversized body made him too slow, allowing Emma to nimbly duck out of the way and flee toward the door to the pent house. Still in her diamond form, she ran as fast as she could. She could already hear Warpath chasing her.
‘Sorry James. Your thick-headed buffoonery is your own damn fault. I’ll try to come back and help you, though I know you’ll be less than grateful. But right now, I have three very important souls who need my protection.’
Mutant Security Agency – Holding Area
While chaos was erupting all over the world, it remained eerily calm within the Mutant Security Agency headquarters. Since this was a government building, it was heavily reinforced. But since this was an older building there was some wear and tear on the structure, forcing all MSA operatives out into the messy war zone unfolding in the streets.
While the MSA worked with the authorities to fight off transformed mutants and get the humans to safety, a small contingent of guards stayed behind to look after Toad. He remained in his holding cell with Captain Jack Freeman. He was still officially a prisoner and he still might have valuable information. At this point, however, that value was seriously in question.
“Daaaaamn, it must be crazy out there!” grinned Toad as he casually lofted about, “Humans running in terror while mutants finally ban together and kick ass! It’s the zombie apocalypse with superpowers! How cool is that?”
“Toad, I’m going to say this as politely as I possibly can…SHUT THE HELL UP!” barked Captain Freeman as he kept an eye on the activity outside the cell.
“You just can’t look at the funny side, can you?” the amphibious mutant teased, “You thought arresting me was going to stop this? Dude, you just wasted your time and now you’re stuck in a cell with me! Ain’t that a riot?”
The Green Beret was seriously rethinking his stance on the Geneva Convention’s torture policy. Toad had been pushing his buttons since he arrived. Once this brown goo started falling from the sky, there was no more policy to follow. Every branch of the government was in emergency mode. The General ordered him to stay with Toad. Since these globs were affecting mutants, there was nothing he could do.
Toad couldn’t stop laughing, but at the same time it was disappointing. From what he heard, it sounded like Magneto’s plan took an unexpected twist. He probably didn’t intend mutants being turned into mindless monsters. Even so, he would have loved to be part of it. This was the kind of thing a guy like him could embrace. Everybody already thought he was a monster. This was his chance to embrace it with every other mutant in the world.
The halls outside were clear since most of the MSA agents were out in the thick of the action. Only three MPs remained outside the cell standing watch. Yet even with these simple orders, they looked very anxious.
“Has there been a report from the General yet?” asked Jack from inside the cell.
“Not yet, Captain,” said the MP, “Far as I know, his orders are still in place. You and Toad have to stay in that cell. Trust me, you don’t want to be outside.”
“Don’t tell me where I shouldn’t be!” grunted the Green Beret, “Magneto’s behind this! I know it!”
“If he is, there’s nothing you can do. These globs only affect mutants so that makes every mutant including you a target,” said the other MP.
The Green Beret scowled the MP’s harsh reminder. He always hated when his mutant status affected his ability to be a soldier. Usually, his powers were an advantage. They helped him conduct missions that no normal human was equipped to handle. Now the tables had turned. It was because he was a mutant that he could do nothing.
As Jack seethed with frustration, a figure emerged from down the hall. A uniformed officer armed with a broken M-16 came running towards the cell at full speed, looking as though he just escaped the bowls of an overflowing sewer.
“Jeez, it’s like a Tim Burton movie out there!” he said breathlessly, “Humans are going crazy and the mutants are going crazier! We haven’t even begun to train for this sort of thing!”
“Skip the dire assessment and tell me you’re here for a reason!” said Captain Freeman.
“I am! The General says he needs you back at the Pentagon! We can’t go topside, but he says we should be able to get you there via SWAT van!”
“You don’t seem to share his confidence.”
“Let’s just say I doubt the General has been outside,” replied the officer, “Now hurry up and follow me! We’ve got a transport set up in the downstairs garage!”
Captain Freeman didn’t agree with this move, but an order was an order. The General must be getting desperate. He better have a plan because everyone seemed to be losing hope.
The officer quickly unlocked the cell to let Jack out while the MPs kept their guns pointed at Toad to keep him in. Captain Freeman was about to follow the officer when he noticed something on his shoe.
“Wait…you said you just came from outside?” said Captain Freeman.
“No, I’ve been napping in my office! Of course I’ve been outside!” spat the officer, “Now let’s go!”
“Hold on! If you came from outside then please tell me you went through some kind of decontamination procedure!”
The officer paled. He was in such a rush he didn’t even stop to check to see if he unwittingly brought in any of the brown globs from outside. He did a quick check of his shoes, but as soon as he lifted his left foot a small hunk of brownish mud shot up.
“GET BACK!” yelled Captain Freeman, literally shoving the officer across the room.
“Seal the chamber! Lock this whole area down!” yelled one of the MPs.
But it was too late. The goo was flying through the air. It was heading straight for Captain Freeman. Using the reflexes of a Green Beret, he ducked out of the way. It ended up hitting the ceiling before flying back down, still swarming as if it was attracted to Captain Freeman.
While he was avoiding the glob, the MPs tried to keep Toad inside his cell. In their momentary confusion, Toad shot up from his seat used his powerful legs to kick open the door. He then saw the flying goo heading for Captain Freeman again. He looked ready to dodge it, but this time he wouldn’t have to.
“Come to Uncle Toad!” he grinned.
Using his elongated tongue, he caught the glob of the Cambrian right on the sticky tip. It tasted surprisingly good as Toad instinctively pulled it in. Surprised and disgusted on a whole new level, Captain Freeman looked on horror.
“You sick little shit! What the hell did you just do?!” yelled Captain Freeman.
“What does it look like? I’m joining the party!” Toad grinned.
Jack, the officer, and the MPs watched the once lanky and underwhelming mutant shifted into a terrifying new version of Toad. His amphibious skin became scaly and muscular while the veins in his face and arms thickened and throbbed with newfound strength. Within seconds he was nearly three times his previous size, his hair was longer, and his body looked like a powerhouse of muscle. In addition he had some mysterious yellow goo dripping from his mouth.
“Oh hell no…” groaned Captain Freeman.
“Oh yeah! I’m LOVING this!”
Flexing his new muscle, the hulking Toad let out a monstrous roar as he attacked. The MPs and the officer didn’t stand a chance. Two of the MPs were maimed by some powerful punches and the officer was choked to death by his longer, stronger tongue. If the choking didn’t kill him, that yellow goo sure did. It proved to be deadly poison, literally burning his flesh off his body. This left Captain Freeman as the only one left standing against this powerful new Toad.
“Evolving kicks ass! Wanna join in, Captain?”
“You sound way too proud of yourself, Toad! If you’re going to eat that shit, you’re going to have to take it as well!” grunted Captain Freeman.
“Go ahead and try! You’ll keep me amused until the final act!’
“What final act?!”
“You’ll find out! Every mutant in the planet will be part of it! Including you!”
Captain Freeman ignored this ominous warning launched his attack on Toad. He thought these creatures were supposed to be mindless. Maybe he was giving Toad too much credit. He wanted this and he wanted whatever this final act entailed. Whatever it was, the Green Beret was determined not to be a part of it.
Sewers – Morlock Lair
“Will you mindless cronies shut the hell up?!” spat an angry Callisto as she fought off several monstrous Morlocks.
“Careful Callisto! These are still our people!” warned Healer.
“If you’re trying to win sympathy from them, do yourself a favor and stop trying!” spat Marrow, “They clearly aren’t listening!”
“That doesn’t mean we should be overly rough with them.”
“Says you!” scoffed Callisto.
The inner sanctum of the Morlocks had become a battleground. Marrow, Callisto, and Healer were doing their best to protect their people from this sudden plague that overtook them. An hour ago this strange brown goo started seeping in through the sewer lines. When a few Morlocks got close, the goo literally jumped up at them and overtook them. Now over half of the Morlocks had transformed into monstrous manifestations even more inhuman than before.
In wake of this attack, Marrow led what was left of her people into an isolated area that she and Callisto had sealed on every side for just such an occasion. They were trying to get as many Morlocks inside before this brown sludge overtook them too. It seemed to be coming through every sewer opening and the mindless minions it took over were helping it along.
“You cannot escape!”
“Join in the next great leap in evolution!”
“I heard you the first time and it still sounds crazy!” spat Callisto as she drop kicked the mind-controlled Sunder into a sewer pipe.
“Keep moving everybody! Don’t look back! We’ll protect you!” urged Marrow as she and Healer guided dozens of scared Morlocks into the chamber.
Marrow used a barrage of bony spikes to form bars at a couple of entry paths, which she hoped would slow these monstrous creatures down. It did so only briefly and a monstrous Caliban broke through, allowing more brown goo inside.
Caliban lunged forward, allowing the slithering goo to follow alongside. It latched onto a young Morlock’s foot who was just getting near the chamber.
“Ahhh! Get it off!” the young girl cried.
“Hold on!” urged Healer, “I’ll see if I can…”
But before Healer could even try to help, Callisto stepped in and literally threw the young girl across the corridor. Her terrified cries ripped into all those that heard it and Healer had to watch as she was mutated into another hulking beast.
“Noooo!” he yelled out.
“Damn it, Callisto! We could have helped her!” yelled Marrow as she fought off Caliban.
“It’s either her or all of us!” she retorted, “You can either bitch about it or focus on saving what’s left of our people!”
Marrow scolded Callisto for her callous actions. Even if she was right to want to save their people, her heartless attitude towards a terrified little girl was disturbing. She was forced to swallow her disgust and keep fighting, using her boney spikes to line the end of the hall so the last round of refugees could get to safety.
Among the few not affected were Leech and Ray Crisp. Because of his tender age, Leech was urged to keep his eyes closed so that he wouldn’t see the horrors unfolding before him. Ray did his best to help the young boy. He rushed him inside while Callisto and Marrow fought off the last hoard of minions.
“Keep moving, Leech! You’re almost home!” urged Ray as he used his powers to zap stray blobs that shot out at them
“Is it over yet? Can I open my eyes?” he said with a tremble in his tone.
“No Leech…you can’t,” he said sadly, “You don’t want to see what’s happening. Trust me.”
“What about my friends? Are they okay?”
“Don’t ask questions, my boy. It’ll all work out. I promise,” said Ray.
It was a bold lie. Ray had no idea what was going on, let alone how it was going to be resolved. Leech, being so young, believed him and showed a rare hope in his tone.
“Will the X-men save us?” he asked.
Ray offered the boy a false smile as he ushered him to safety.
“Yes Leech…the X-men will save us. They’re probably confronting the source of this madness as we speak.”
In a burst of yellow light, the remnants of the X-men and the Brotherhood appeared in the institute courtesy of Illyana Rasputin. It turned into a rough ride to say the least. When Professor Xavier, Ororo, Jean, Kitty, Kurt, Remy, Psylocke, Wanda, Lorna, Havok, and Piotr were enveloped in Illyana’s portal, it was comparable to riding a dangerously unstable roller coaster with no restraints. When they landed on the floor with a thud, the feelings of nausea and dizziness were the only assurances that they made it through.
“Ugh…the bloody hell was that?” groaned Betsy.
“I don’t know, but I think I left my stomach back on Genosha,” said an equally pained Kitty Pryde.
“Are we…home?” wondered Kurt in a daze.
“Looks like it, homme,” said Remy, “But for all we know, we be trapped in some freaky nightmare.”
“That would make this only the second most vivid nightmare I’ve ever had,” muttered Jean, “Third if you want to get technical.”
Nobody seemed too clear on their surroundings. The Brotherhood was a bit more lucid as they emerged from their daze.
“Ungh…that was the power your sister needed help with?” groaned Alex.
“It certainly would have been useful if she used it a bit sooner!” said Wanda, still visibly upset about what happened to her brother and her father.
“I’m sorry. But take comfort in the knowledge that Illyana’s powers have been a lot messier in past attempts,” said Piotr, who was the only one who didn’t look dazed.
“I’m not even going to contemplate what that entails!” groaned Kitty from across the room.
“Please, big brother. You’re not helping!” said Illyana, whose eyes were still glowing yellow, “Do I not deserve a little credit? I was able to transport us away from that Cambrian monster!”
“I’m not making light of it, Snowflake. You did save us,” he said with an approving gesture, “But your powers have been known to have surprises. Let’s not push our luck, yes?”
Illyana scolded her brother’s critical tone. Despite her frustration, she calmed down under his embrace. Her eyes stopped glowing and she took a deep breath, ensuring those surprises he mentioned didn’t manifest. Like everyone else, she needed a moment to take everything in.
While everyone seemed to be recovering, Professor Xavier remained struggled much harder to pull himself up. It wasn’t just because of his legs either. His whole body seemed weaker from the trip. Jean and Ororo struggled to their feet so they could help him.
“Charles? Are you okay?” asked Ororo.
“You look like you just woke up from a ten year coma,” commented Jean as she helped him into a sitting position.
“I…I’ll be fine,” he said weakly, “Since I don’t have youth on my side like you do, it takes longer to recover from these hardships.”
“Speaking of which, what exactly was this so-called hardship?” asked Jean, “How did it get us back to the mansion so fast?”
“You can thank Miss Illyana Rasputin,” said Professor Xavier, offering Illyana a look of approval, “If you’ll recall, her brother Piotr is someone we’ve encountered before. Unique mutant abilities appear to run in the family to say the least.”
“Unique…an American word I’ve never been fond of,” said Illyana, “I remember hearing your voice in my mind, Mr. Professor.”
“Yes, I used my telepathy help Illyana use her advanced teleportation powers. With some guidance, she was able to get us back home in one piece.”
“Teleportation? So she has the same powers as me?” asked Kurt.
“Not exactly, Kurt. It would seem Illyana’s abilities have a very unusual element to them. Teleportation isn’t so much her power as it is a side-effect.”
That only further confounded the two teams. Not only was the trip very disorienting, the defeat they suffered was not lost on them. The threat of the Cambrian had escalated to a whole new level. For those like Lorna and Wanda, whose family had been taken over by this thing, the desire to stop this monstrosity was even greater.
“Not to sound ungrateful, but we left Genosha without stopping that…that thing!” cried Lorna, “It took my father! It took my brother! It took everything!”
“I don’t blame you for being upset, Lorna. But there’s no way we could have stopped it,” said Alex.
“You don’t know that! I’m surprised you’re not more upset! That thing has your brother for crying out loud!”
Alex’s gaze hardened. As bitter as things were between him and Scott, he would never wish something like the Cambrian on him. It hit him hard, but he hid the impact in ways Lorna couldn’t hide hers. It was an impact everybody felt with friends and loved ones now in the clutches of this ancient creature.
“We’re all pissed off, Lorna. But Havok is right,” said Wanda, her gaze more hardened despite being equally upset, “We had no chance against the Cambrian. Father took it too far.”
“Don’t he always?” muttered Remy under his breath.
“But we escaped and we’re still in one piece! That means it’s not too late!” she said strongly.
“Are you about to ask that the Brotherhood team up with the X-men to stop Magneto’s grade-A blundering yet again?” asked Kitty, still irked by nausea.
“Do we have a choice?” questioned Wanda bitterly.
“As much as I hate to say it, she’s right,” said Alex, “The Cambrian is fighting as a collective. That means we must do so as well.”
Nobody on either side seemed to like the idea. Alex, Lorna, and Wanda continued to scorn the X-men while Kitty, Remy, Betsy, Kurt, and Jean continued to scorn them back. Ororo and Professor Xavier stood between them to help mitigate the tension. They wouldn’t be able to work together if past resentment got the better of them.
“Please…if we must fight together, then let’s avoid fighting each other along the way,” said Ororo as she stepped between the two teams, “We have too many immediate concerns.”
“Lucky for you guys,” muttered Betsy.
“You’re a newbie so spare us the tough talk,” scoffed Wanda,
“I may be new, but I know it takes a special kind of luck to work around minor details like your father being the bloke that triggered this mess,” she quipped, earning a harsh scold from the Scarlet Witch.
“Curse my father all you want. But if we’re going to work together, we need to avoid holding petty grudges,” said Lorna as she turned to the Professor, “With that in mind, the Brotherhood is willing to help address those concerns, Professor.”
“That’s all vell and good, but vhere do we even begin?” wondered Kurt.
Before Xavier could answer, the foyer was rocked by a series of loud thuds on the outer walls. All eyes quickly turned towards the door and the windows where they saw globs of the Cambrian falling outside and gathering around the perimeter of the mansion. While they were recovering, heavy mounds of brown globs had gathered and were trying to slither inside.
“I vote we find a way to keep those living mud balls out first!” said Jean.
“I second that!” said Kitty, “It’s already creeping through!”
“It won’t get far,” assured Professor Xavier as Ororo helped him up, “Everybody get to the elevators! We should be safe in the lower levels!”
“That’s your solution? Just keep running?” scoffed Alex.
“Not necessarily,” said Xavier, “Jean, lead the way! Ororo, take me to the security panel!”
Having already figured out what he was planning, Ororo helped the Professor limp towards a small panel in the wall near the door. Jean was already guiding the Brotherhood, the Rasputins, and the rest of the X-men down the hall and towards the elevator. As he and Ororo lingered behind, the windows started to crack and small slivers were making their way through the door. The Cambrian was relentless in seeking mutants to join the collective. Luckily, the institute defenses were just as relentless.
“Voice recognition password, Charles Xavier,” said the Professor as he entered a few commands onto the panel, “Initiate full institute lockdown. Seal off all doors and exists!”
“Lockdown confirmed. Initiating defense protocol omega.”
Almost immediately, an alarm sounded throughout the mansion. At every window and around every door, heavy metal barriers clamped down to seal the entire structure from the outside. In less than five seconds the entire institute was walled off in a thick defensive shell, one that even the determined Cambrian could not penetrate. Only a tiny glob managed to make it through a window, but it was too small for Xavier or Ororo to notice.
With the institute now sealed, Ororo led the exhausted Professor Xavier down the hall to catch up with the others. They could finally slow down a bit now that the Cambrian had been stopped. They met up in the elevator where the lockdown continued and they were quickly taken to the lower levels.
“How long do you zhink zhose barriers hold, Herr Professor?” asked Kurt.
“They’re made out of a reinforced titanium alloy. They’ll hold long enough,” said Professor Xavier confidently, “Even if they fail, the lockdown seals the elevators. There’s no way it will be able to get through hundreds of feet of earth and reinforced steel.”
“Impressive,” said Piotr as he took in these high tech surroundings, “Even the men I used to work for were not this well-equipped.”
“You’re with the X-men, Mr. Rasputin. We have plenty of hardware to back up our software, so-to-speak,” grinned Kitty.
“Please…call me, Peter,” he said, “I am not an X-men or a Brotherhood. This is all very new to me.”
“You’re not the only one, luv,” said Betsy as the elevator stopped, “But during times like this, you don’t have time to be impressed.”
As soon as the elevator opened, Piotr and Illyana found it a bit hard to take Betsy’s advice. The lower levels of the institute were pretty amazing. They looked so high tech and polished. It was almost like stepping a few decades into the future. Wanda, Alex, and Lorna weren’t nearly as impressed since they saw this sort of thing back on Genosha all the time. They kept Piotr and his sister moving as they followed Jean and the Professor down the main corridors.
At one point they were too tired to go anywhere specific. Professor Xavier needed to stop and rest as he still showed signs of severe exhaustion. The rest of the team followed suit, eventually taking a seat in the hall on the hard metal floors. They had escaped the Cambrian yet were still trapped by it. The world outside was in chaos and some of their friends and loved ones were caught up in it.
“So…what we gonna do now?” asked Remy, “We got a plan or something?”
“That’s what we’re here to work on,” said Xavier, clutching his temples, “We…we have to destroy the Cambrian and free everyone under its influence.”
“Any one of us could have told you that, Professor,” said Alex, “I thought you were supposed to be brilliant in a crisis like this. You sound like Toad when he tries to do a crossword puzzle.”
“Hey! We saved you guys and we’re letting you shack up in our home! If you’re not going to show the Professor any respect, we can always kick you out!” threatened Kitty.
“I’d like to see you try,” muttered the younger Summers brother.
Alex and Kitty exchanged heated glances. Jean held back Kitty while Lorna held back Alex. There was still plenty of animosity between the X-men and the Brotherhood. Having to work together didn’t change that.
“I’m starting to understand why he and Scott don’t get along,” commented Jean.
“Makes me wish he was still here to yell at him!”
“Yeah…me too,” said Jean sadly, her thoughts drifting to her trapped lover.
“If it makes you feel better, I’ll help compensate for him,” said Kitty, still glaring at Alex.
“Take it easy, petite. We don’t need that kind of voodoo at a time like this,” said Remy, helping to hold Kitty back as well.
Kitty’s frustration was easily understandable and she wasn’t shy about expressing it. For someone of her stature, it was surprising to some and intriguing to others.
“She’s a tough one,” commented Illyana.
“That she is,” Piotr agreed.
“I like her!” she added.
“Careful who you admire, Snowflake. We don’t you embracing American teenage attitudes with powers such as yours.”
Illyana gave her brother a bemused look. Her powers helped save them all and he was still worried. She may be young, but she had already proven herself to some degree. She had just as big a stake in this crisis as the rest of mutant kind, especially since she was responsible to some degree. Her brother agreed to help Magneto and the Omega family because of her. She had to find a way to make up for it.
That still assumed they would have a plan. Charles Xavier was still trying to come up with something, but showed increasing strain as he tried to think. Sweat was starting to form on his face and he wouldn’t stop clutching his temple. While everyone else seemed to recover from Illyana’s little trip, he still looked very sick.
“You sure you’re alright, Charles? Maybe you should lie down in the infirmary,” suggested Ororo.
“I’m fine, Ororo. Rest is simply not an option. I need…I need to think of something,” said Xavier, still sounding short of breath, “I worked with Erik for years. He told me so much about his research on the Cambrian. I should be more than able to surmise a way to stop it!”
“My father was always good at keeping secrets, Professor,” sighed Wanda, “I wouldn’t put all the blame on your shoulders. I was in a better position to stop him from the beginning.”
“So was I,” said Lorna sadly, “If I had known the Cambrian was capable of this, I never would have…”
“I don’t zhink anybody knew zhe Cambrian was capable of zhis,” made Kurt, “From zhe looks of it, Magneto may not have known himself. Perhaps his research on zhe subject was wrong to begin with. Maybe zhere is something he missed.”
“Yes…yes, that’s possible,” said Xavier, “But if that’s the case, we’ll need to find a way of obtaining those answers. Erik had samples of the Cambrian to work with.”
“That ain’t too much a problem now. You got all the samples you be needing right outside your door,” said Remy.
“That may not be enough,” he said anxiously, “It’s not enough to understand this creature. We must understand what it’s doing to mutants!”
“How are we going to do that, Professor?” asked Jean.
Xavier fell silent as he tried to think of a way. His mind used to work so quickly. His condition seemed to be affecting him more than he expected. Everybody was counting on him. If he couldn’t deliver then all would be lost. It was not the kind of burden a man in his current state was equipped to handle.
While Xavier pondered, a strange noise from the end of the hall interrupted his thoughts. It was quickly followed by a series of louder noises, each echoing through the lower levels with greater intensity. It sounded like an enraged animal of sorts, prompting the X-men and the Brotherhood to take a defensive position.
“Uh…you happen to have any rabid pets down here, Professor?” asked Alex.
“None that be makin’ noises like that,” answered Remy, “You don’t think…”
Remy was quickly cut off when Jean came to a realization.
“Professor…Beast is still in the infirmary, right?” she asked.
“As far as I know,” said Xavier grimly.
“And you’re certain none of those Cambrian globs got through before we went into lockdown, right?”
Xavier didn’t answer. He didn’t have to. At that moment, the lower levels were rocked by another deafening roar. It was quickly followed by the sound of the metal door at the end of the hallway being forced open. From this door, a hulking figure emerged.
It was Hank McCoy, but in a terrifying new form. Somehow the Cambrian got to him. He had been transformed into an even more monstrous version of himself. His hair grew and became darker, his teeth had grown into shark-like fangs, his nails became full-fledged claws, and his already powerful muscle structure had grown by a factor of three. He was so big now he almost took up the whole hallway and when he saw Xavier and the others, his glowing red eyes locked in on them.
“Looks like Mr. McCoy isn’t injured anymore!” commented Betsy.
“We can fix that!” said Alex, his hands now glowing as he took aim at the creature.
“No Alex! Don’t!” urged Jean, “You’ll only make it…”
Just as Alex didn’t listen to his brother, he didn’t listen to his brother’s girlfriend either. He fired a concentrated energy blast right at the hulking Beast. He saw it coming and guarded himself with his oversized arms, only stopping for a moment before erupting in another round of feral roars.
“I think Jean was about to say you were just going to make him angrier,” said Lorna.
“You think?!” exclaimed Kitty.
Cambrian Beast launched his attack. Charging down the hall, he clenched is fists and lashed at anyone in his way. Ororo and Jean got the Professor out of the way, using wind and telekinesis to drive him back. Cambrian Beast e turned his sights to Remy, Betsy, and Kurt. Clenching both fists he slammed them towards the ground and tried to crush them. They were all able to avoid it. Remy tried to counter by taking out some charged cards and throwing them so that they exploded right in his face, blinding him for a moment and sending him into a rage.
“Don’t be fightin’ us, teach! Fight this muck that be messin’ everybody up!” shouted Remy.
“You are so going to get detention for that,” commented Betsy.
While blinded, Cambrian Beast kept thrashing and set his sights on Piotr and Illyana. When Piotr saw his fist coming towards them he turned into his metal form and covered his sister with his body.
“Get down, Illyana!” he shouted as he braced for impact.
But the impact never came. Instead, Cambrian Beast’s oversized fists went right through them. They barely felt the air pass by them. It confused them and Cambrian Beast for that matter, who looked even more frustrated as he tried to attack them. When Piotr looked around, he saw that Kitty Pryde had grabbed onto his shoulder and was phasing them through the attacks.
“Don’t be a glutton for punishment, big guy. There are easier ways to protect yourself,” she said with a smirk.
“Uh…thank you, miss,” said Piotr with an awkward smile.
“You can show your gratitude by following me and ignoring Beast’s unusually bad breath!”
Piotr and Illyana did as she instructed, allowing Kitty to keep a firm grip on them as they literally walked right through the Cambrian Beast and away to safety. This surprised the hulking creature. While the Cambrian overtook Hank McCoy’s body, it didn’t seem to make use of his brilliant mind. With Kitty and the Rasputins out of the way, he attacked the only other targets nearby.
“For a creature so advanced, this thing has a lousy vocabulary,” commented Alex, preparing for another shot.
“Hold on, Havok! Let’s do something radical and learn from our mistakes!” said Wanda as they started backing away from the Cambrian Beast.
“If you have a better way of taking this thing down, I would love to hear it!”
“As a matter of fact I do!” she stated as she turned to her half-sister, “Lorna, this whole hall is metal! Put it to good use!”
“Got it, sis!” said Lorna with a determined grunt.
Cambrian Beast roared as he raised his oversized fists for another blow. As he did, Lorna used her magnetic powers to manipulate the metal around him. The metal in the floor became liquid-like and engulfed his feet. The metal in the roof did the same thing, grabbing him by the wrists and restraining him where he stood. The Cambrian Beast didn’t appreciate this new confinement. He let out more roars and started thrashing angrily.
“Okay Alex…now we can blast him!” said Wanda, her eyes glowing with hex bolts.
“About time!” he grunted.
“Be careful!” urged Ororo, watching with worry as they took aim at her ex-lover.
“Relax…we’ll be gentle,” said Alex dryly.
Wanda struck first, using her hex bolts to surround the Cambrian Beast in a hex field. This drained him of his power and his energy. He stopped thrashing so hard and started groaning in pain. Alex then took aim with his blasts and fired a small but concentrated beam right at his head. The idea was to knock him out and not kill him. Because of this thing’s build, he had to estimate just how much force that entailed.
“I…I think he’s weakening,” said Lorna.
Cambrian Beast looked like he was going to pass out, but he didn’t. He let out another burst of strength, ripping one arm away from the metal shackles keeping him in place. He tried to swipe for Lorna, but narrowly missed as Alex pulled her out of the way.
“Think again!” said Alex, “I’ll shoot it again! This time I’ll make sure it hurts!”
“Oh no you won’t!” spat Jean as she flew over from across the hall, “Now that he’s weakened, I should be able to put him under!”
“You sure a psychic probe will work on him in this state?” asked Betsy.
“A mind is still a mind. Whether it’s being controlled or not, you can still do all the wonders of telepathy.”
Jean was able to prove her point as she placed her hands on Cambrian Beast’s head from behind and went to work. The flames of the Phoenix briefly emerged, showing that she was tapping some extra power to get through the Cambrian. Within a few seconds, the hulking creature finally settled and slipped into unconsciousness.
“Okay…I’ve given him the psychic equivalent of elephant tranquilizer. He should be out for the six hours at the very least,” said Jean.
“Plenty of time to build a cage and lock him in it,” said Alex.
“No, this is just what we needed!” said Xavier as he limped over with Ororo, “If we can keep Hank unconscious, we can study him and the Cambrian.”
“A fella his size, that’s a pretty big if,” commented Remy, “Is he even gonna fit in the lab?”
“We’ll just have to improvise,” said Kitty, “Don’t you always say improvising was the mark of a master thief?”
“Thieving be a hell a lot different than this, petite,” quipped the Cajun.
“Whatever you have to do, we’ll help!” said Wanda strongly, “I was never one for Western science, but if it helps free my father and our people I’ll do what I must. Right, Alex?”
“Right,” muttered Alex with a touch of bitterness.
The Brotherhood wasn’t the only one to lend a hand.
“I will help too, Professor,” said Piotr, “I’ve thrust myself into this matter. It is only fair I see it through.”
“Thank you, Peter. Thank you, Brotherhood,” said Xavier gratefully, “I’ll find a way to stop the Cambrian and put a stop to this madness. You have my word.”
Pentagon – Mutant Security Agency Hub
The entire federal government was on lockdown. Ever since the situation on Genosha took a turn for the bizarre, the Department of Defense acting as if rogue insurgents took over the government. The Capitol was sealed off and Congress was taken to an underground bunker. The Supreme Court joined them. The entire executive branch was barricaded in the White House as well. The entire government had shut down and only the military remained active.
From the Pentagon, General Grimshaw was hard at work trying to contain the situation. He thought the attack on Worthington Industries was the Mutant Security Agency’s first big test. This was much bigger by far. He and various officers scrambled to make sense of the situation.
“Stop trembling, people! I need you to focus!” he said strongly as he rushed through the control hub, “Give me updates! What’s the status on President Kelly?”
“According to the Secret Service, they got him and his family to Edwards Air Force Base and he’s being secured in a bunker as we speak,” said one of the lieutenants, “His son caused a bit of a ruckus though. Those globs derailed half the motorcade.”
“Was he affected?” asked the General.
“Not that I’ve heard, but it sure didn’t make things easier.”
General Grimshaw muttered a slight curse. It seemed wherever there was a mutant, this brown goo made a bad situation worse. Reports were coming in all over the world. As soon as this stuff touched a mutant, they turned into a mindless hulking brute. They weren’t going on a rampage or anything, but they were causing plenty of panic and drawing other mutants into the fold.
“Where the hell is Captain Freeman? Has he called in yet?” asked General Grimshaw.
“He was supposed to check in twenty minutes ago,” said a female corporal, “I haven’t even heard from the MPs. A friend of mine down at the base is already assuming the worst.”
“Tell your friend to pull his head of his ass and get to Captain Freeman!” said General Grimshaw sternly, “If anyone can avoid this shit storm, it’s him He may have finally gotten something from Toad. I need to know what he knows!”
It seemed like a long shot. The corporal didn’t have a lot of faith in Captain Freeman. None of the analyst seemed to believe in him either. Every mutant was being turned into a mindless drone and since Captain Freeman was a mutant, they assumed the worst.
However, General Grimshaw refused to accept that. Captain Freeman was too good a soldier. He would find a way to avoid this mess. He just better find it soon and get back to him because he was running out of time.
“General Grimshaw, sir!” said a frantic Colonel as he stormed across the room, “I just got a message from the USS Eisenhower! They’re saying this sludge is paralyzing the whole naval fleet!”
“I was afraid of this,” groaned General Grimshaw, “How bad is it?”
“See for yourself,” said the Colonel.
General Grimshaw directed his attention to the array of screens at the front of the room. They had been broadcasting news feeds and real-time images of the browns sludge from all over the world. The image on the screens shifted to real-time images to their naval force around Genosha, which had escalated in wake of the theft at Worthington Industries. Those reinforcements might end up being for nothing if this gunk was overwhelming them.
“This sludge has clogged our cannons, our anti-submersible defenses, and our missile launchers,” the Colonel said as the scanners zoomed in on the fleet, “Half the ships are completely immobile and pretty much every aircraft carrier is incapable of launching any planes. We can’t even launch a drone to see what the hell is going on over that island!”
“What about the submarines? Do we still have launch capability undersea?”
“I’ve been in touch with our admirals. They say they can still launch, but they only have two weapons to choose from. There are precision cruise missiles, which are practically useless without drones or troops on the ground. Then there are nukes. I don’t think I need to tell you the risks of unloading that kind of firepower.”
“No need to be subtle, Colonel. I know what nukes entail,” he said flatly.
“Have you been in touch with the President, sir? He hasn’t given the order, has he?” said one of the navy officers from a nearby console.
“As far as we’re both concerned, all options are still on the table. If this thing keeps getting worse and nobody gives us any answers, we may not have a choice.”
The idea of using nuclear weapons was something every soldier and officer dreaded. They were weapons of last resort, capable of damaging more than just the enemy. It was a risk no one wanted to take and one General Grimshaw was determined to avoid.
“At least tell me our satellites are still working,” said the General, “Can we get an overhead image of Genosha?”
“Um…yes, we’ve been working on that, sir,” said a nearby analyst at a console, “We’ve directed three spy satellites to analyze the Genosha landscape.”
“So what’s keeping you from giving me some data?” he asked sternly.
“The same shit that has kept us from keeping tabs on Genosha in the past,” the young man replied as he brought up some new images on the screen, “Since Magneto took over the island, he’s kept it shrouded using these electromagnetic distortions and high-altitude mists. We think he’s got some mutant on the island that can make gas clouds or something because all our traditional methods for getting around it haven’t worked.”
“What about non-traditional? Don’t tell me we’re that ill-equipped!”
“We’re not, sir,” said a female analyst strongly, “One of our satellites is equipped with a special high-altitude radar. Think of it like a supped up version of the stuff the Weather Channel uses to measure storm clouds. We can’t get a clear picture, but we have been able to make out some formations below the clouds.”
“Put them on the screen,” he ordered.
The analyst did as the General requested. He entered the necessary commands and brought up what looked like a night vision image on the map. It soon came to dominate the whole screen, putting up a 3D version of the island of Genosha. The strange brown cloud hovering over the capital city still caused some static at the top, but the formations below were still visible.
“Near as we can tell, Genosha is being hit hardest by whatever this glob is. We’re getting all sorts of erratic mutant activity.”
“Based on what we saw with the mutants here in America, that’s not difficult to imagine,” said General Grimshaw.
“But most of the activity is coming from the capital city. Specifically, Magneto’s citadel,” the analyst said as he zoomed in on the radar image of the structure, “It’s hard to make out with these instruments, but something seems to have overtaken the structure. At first we thought it was just some scrambled readings. Now it seems those readings were actually accurate.”
Looking at the image, the citadel was about the size of a fist on the screen. What really made it stand out from the rest of the landscape was how this globular mass had encompassed it. The once elegant structure looked like it had a rotten tomato covering it. Given how vast the building was to begin with, he could only imagine what kind of force could have taken it over. Whatever it was, General Grimshaw had a feeling it was central to what was going on.
“Have we been able to get any further data on this anomaly?” asked General Grimshaw.
“Not much, sir,” said another analyst sitting next to the Colonel, “We’ve been getting a lot of strange energy readings. It’s an odd mix of psychic, biochemical, and radiation. Our bio team is trying to make sense of it as we speak.”
“Can we trace a point of origin? Is it coming from a central location?”
“It seems to be radiating from every afflicted mutant, but the strongest signal is coming from the citadel,” said the other analyst, “As we speak it’s getting stronger. All the other mutant signals appear to be helping it.”
“Helping it how? We’re talking about a pretty diverse array of mutants here,” said the General.
“We’re not exactly sure, sir. All we know is that whatever this thing is, it’s consolidating for lack of a better word. Our most recent readings indicate that the globs have stopped falling on Genosha. This thing is drawing everything else together and I have no idea why.”
Taking in this new information, General Grimshaw worked on a strategy. He was bound to hear from the President soon. If he didn’t tell him he was doing something about this, he may do something foolish. All evidence seemed to indicate that the heart of this anomaly was at Magneto’s citadel. His first instinct was to focus more resources on identifying this thing and then seeing if they could destroy it. Given these grim assessments, he may have to skip a step.
“Don’t worry too much about the why, soldier. If that mass on Magneto’s citadel is the heart of this crisis, that’s all I need to know,” he said as he turned away.
“Does this mean what I think it means?” asked the Colonel.
“Connect the dots, Colonel. We all do,” said the General as he started making his way to the other side of the room, “I want to prepare a coordinated assault on Genosha immediately! Contact all our subs in the area and tell them to prepare their mid-range T-827 cruise missiles!”
“The T-827?” questioned a uniformed lieutenant, “Not that I’m against hitting hard, but those things are duds if you don’t have someone painting the target from the ground!”
“I’m aware of that, Lieutenant. That’s why I’m going to send someone onto Genosha to get field intel. That way we know what to hit, where to hit it, and how to minimize collateral damage.”
“And just who do you expect to send onto this island?” said the Colonel skeptically, “As far as we know, that place is a no-man’s land!”
“Stop giving me that look, Colonel. You think I would pitch an idea without having the tools to execute it?” said General Grimshaw as he took out his cell phone, “When we beefed up the naval blockade, I added more than just extra ships. I made some calls and did a few favors to make sure we have certain specialized assets at our disposal.”
“That’s for me to know and you to completely forget about the moment I finish this sentence,” said the General sternly, “Right now, I want our fleet ready to launch those missiles the nanosecond I give the command. Do I make myself abundantly clear?”
“Um…yes sir,” said the Colonel timidly.
The officer swallowed his curiosity, figuring it was one of those things that wasn’t wise to pursue. At least they had a plan now. Their faith rested on the General’s ability to deliver.
While his subordinates went to work, General Grimshaw slipped away into a corner so he could make a very important phone call. This was one of those instances where he made a contingency plan he hoped he would never have to use. He never liked to place his faith in a plan he didn’t fully trust. Sometimes that kind of faith was a luxury and he had to take a chance. Once he placed the call, he got a quick response.
“I had a feeling you would call.”
“I take it you know what’s going on.”
“Even in a submarine it’s pretty damn hard not to notice. You would be surprised what kind of TV reception we get down here.”
“Then I won’t waste my time telling you how grim the situation is,” said the General, “Right now, we’re working on an attack plan that can’t succeed without someone in the line of fire.”
“Let me guess. I’m the one that’s going to be taking that chance?”
“Don’t tell me you’re not up to the challenge.”
“Oh I’m up to it. But based on what I’ve learned from your people, the odds are stacked against me.”
“I’d rather not speculate. I’ll just say it’ll be a struggle,” affirmed the General, “Now I’m not going to ask you to do anything unreasonable. This is essentially a reconnaissance mission. We’ll get you on the island through a submarine launch tube. The rest is simple.”
“I’ll be the judge of that, Grimshaw! You just better make damn sure I’m compensated for this!”
“I’ve already given you access to classified records on the Azazel for this personal mission of yours. That should give you plenty of reasons to trust me, Mystique. Help me take down this thing and I promise I’ll give you plenty more.”
Xavier Institute – Lab
The next few hours were tense as Professor Xavier went to work studying the Cambrian-influenced, Hank McCoy. It was certainly a challenge, studying someone who was under the influence of a 530 million year old creature. Just getting him on a bed was tricky. Remy and Piotr had to push two together in order to hold his large frame. Jean stayed on stand-by, using her telepathy to make sure he stayed unconscious. Lorna used her powers to make some metal shackles just in case. By all accounts, he was resting peacefully. Despite this, his veins were still throbbing with parts of the Cambrian flowing through his system.
Professor Xavier, now in one of his spare wheelchairs, worked intently as he looked over blood samples, body scans, and brain activity. Betsy and Ororo helped him, their college educated aptitude coming in handy. Kitty helped as well, working on the computers mostly. Remy and Piotr did most of the dangerous tasks such as drawing blood and handling pieces of the Cambrian. Alex offered to help as well, but received little trust because of his earlier outbursts. Wanda and Lorna kept a constant watch over Xavier’s shoulder while also remaining on standby in case Beast woke up. Kurt stayed with Illyana while Piotr worked, helping to keep her calm.
“Does it always take this long?” sighed Illyana anxiously.
“All heroics takes patience, Frauline Rasputin,” said Kurt, “Ve have worked under pressure before and zhe Professor has always come through. Have faith zhat he can do it again.”
Illyana only nodded and maintained a strong demeanor. She was tough for someone her age. She definitely had some of the same qualities her stronger big brother possessed. They would all need such qualities if they were to get through this.
Professor Xavier was trying his best to not let his X-men down, setting aside his lingering illness and all the discomfort it caused him. He gazed through a microscope for what felt like the hundredth time while recording streams of data into a computer. This Cambrian didn’t behave like anything he had ever studied before. Understanding was proving to be just as difficult as stopping it.
“Fascinating…the Cambrian appears to be integrating itself into all main cellular systems without severely damaging DNA,” he said as he jotted down a few notes, “It functions as a true collective, using a mix of telepathy and chemical signals to coordinate with the central matrix. This must be how the Cambrian is able to coordinate.”
“In other words it has a brain,” Betsy summarized, “Guess that’s good news. It gives us just one target to attack.”
“It’s not that simple, Betsy,” said the Professor as he looked closer.
“When is it ever?” she sighed.
“Based on Erik’s old papers, the Cambrian itself is a multi-cellular matrix. Essentially, all its organs are built into each cell. So there would be no one area to attack per se.”
“So how can we attack it?” asked Wanda anxiously, “This thing is literally all over the world! We can’t just go piece by piece.”
“I don’t think we’ll have to,” assured the Professor, “Your father’s understanding of the Cambrian was extensive, but there was no way he could have known how this creature reacts with other life. This may be the key to stopping it.”
Professor Xavier wheeled away from the microscope and turned his attention to Kitty, who was still collecting the data. He instructed her to bring up a brief image of Hank’s body scan. It showed digital rendering of his physiology and that of the Cambrian.
“The effect the Cambrian has on other organisms is vast, but it’s not as extensive as it looks,” he explained.
“Could’ve fooled me,” scoffed Remy, “Must have a pretty messed up scale of doin’ things.”
“Scale for the Cambrian is part of its problem,” the Professor elaborated, “I suspect this creature emerged early on by integrating other unicellular organisms into its being. The bigger it got, the more difficult it was to sustain itself in terms of food and safety. So with its collective power, it reached out to other organisms besides the unicellular Protista it started with.”
“I remember my father saying something about it reaching out to the most advanced life forms. Is that what it did?” asked Lorna.
“It would explain why this thing is only seeking mutants and having no effect on human tissue,” said Ororo as she looked over some test data.
“That’s where it gets tricky,” said Xavier cryptically, “For this is one aspect of the Cambrian that Magneto got wrong.”
“Bet that put a hell of a damper on his master plan,” said Kitty dryly.
“Insulting my father will not make this partnership easier for either of us, Pryde!” scolded Wanda.
Professor Xavier didn’t allow another argument to erupt so he went on, bringing up closer scans of the Cambrian Beast.
“It wasn’t advanced life it was seeking. The Cambrian Explosion this creature caused had a different motivation…survival.”
“Survival? I thought zhis thing vas supposed to have a mind of its own,” said Kurt.
“It does. By that same nature, it is not immune to poor judgment,” the Professor clarified, “Just as it used to integrate individual cells into its collective, it sought out more advanced life to keep up with its needs.”
“You mean like a parasite?” said Alex.
“I would classify it as an aggressive symbiotic relationship. Just as it’s doing now, it released large portions of itself to as many life forms as possible. By doing so it altered their physiology, much like it has altered Beast.”
“Sounds like a clunky way to form relationships,” said Jean.
“You would know. You dated Wolverine,” commented Betsy, earning her a scold from Jean and Ororo as well.
“Bear in mind this life is of the primitive variety,” he went on, “Evolution and natural selection often require trial and error. Based on these readings, I suspect the Cambrian overextended itself. When it reached all those life forms, it was simply too much. Its mind couldn’t handle the vast collective and burned itself out. In doing so all those pieces of itself withered within the organisms it controlled. By this time some of those changes it made to their physiology became permanent, causing the organisms to rework their DNA to accommodate their new diversity.”
“So the whole Cambrian Explosion was an effect of the Cambrian? It wasn’t the cause?” Ororo surmised.
“Precisely!” said Professor Xavier.
It was a potentially vital discovery. A mystery that had been plaguing scientists for decades had just been solved. It was a testament to the fickle nature of life. Now they had an understanding of the forces they were up against. The next important step was to figure out a way to stop it.
“So we’ve got the science part down. How are we going to use it?” asked Alex impatiently, “And you better not tell me you need to do more research because we’ve got the whole fucking world falling apart around us!”
“Alex don’t!” said Lorna, trying to stop him from getting worked up.
“You best be watching your tone, homme. Otherwise Remy gonna be watching it for you,” said Remy menacingly.
“So will I,” said Betsy with equal intent.
“I’d like to see you try,” scoffed Alex, despite Lorna’s urgings.
It was getting heated again. Xavier turned to Jean, who stood up and used her telekinesis to literally force Alex back.
“Knock it off! We’re stuck in this mess together! We could stand to do a better job getting along!” she said, her eyes glowing with the fires of the Phoenix.
The two teams fell silent. Lorna kept a comforting gesture on Alex while Wanda just scolded him. He remained as stern as he was impatient. The other X-men were beginning to see why Scott didn’t like talking about his brother. If he had to grow up with a kid this hot-headed, then it was understandable that he would be so uptight.
As things eventually settled, Jean turned to Alex and sent him a private telepathic message.
‘I’m not going to scold you any more than I already have, Alex. But you should know I understand what’s really making you so upset.’
‘Get out of my head, Jean! I don’t need your psychic therapy!’
‘You may not want me in your thoughts, but you’re projecting them on a loudspeaker. You’re angry at yourself. You feel responsible for Magneto being in the state he’s in. You also feel responsible for Scott’s condition as well. For so many years you resented him for trying to protect you. You’re so convinced you can fend for yourself, but when the chance comes along to protect Scott for a change…you failed.’
Alex was tempted to yell at her again. For once he didn’t bother hiding the truth. It was pointless to do so with a telepath, especially one like Jean Grey.
‘You didn’t fail him, Alex. You’ll have a chance to save him. I want that chance too. I love your brother more than anything. He’s a very important part of my life, just as he is yours. Like him, you put so much of the burden on yourself. You don’t have to bear it alone.’
The younger Summers let out a sigh and settled. This came as a relief to Lorna, who offered a brief smile that further eased his nerves. The subject of his brother was never easy. On some levels he didn’t dare contemplate that he wanted to protect Scott just as much as Scott wanted to protect him. It wasn’t something they got around to discussing. Hopefully they would still have that chance.
Now that the hostilities had waned, Professor Xavier could continue. He sensed how many shared Alex’s concerns. It wasn’t enough to understand the Cambrian. They needed a way to stop it.
“Your concerns are understandable, Alex. I assure you I’ve kept that in mind through every second of this research,” said Professor Xavier, “And there may indeed be a way to stop the Cambrian with this knowledge.”
“We’re all ears, Professor,” said Wanda, “What do we have to do to save my father and our people?”
“Once again, that may be a bit of a concern because this is where your father plays a central role.”
“What do you mean?” she asked warily.
Lorna and Wanda shifted. They had a feeling they were not going to like this.
“You said he sought to awake the Cambrian, correct?”
“Those were his exact words,” Wanda affirmed.
“Well there was a reason why the Cambrian was in such a state. You see, after it burned itself out, it only managed to save a small piece of itself. Like any organism it sought to protect its most vital components, the mind and the critical life-support systems. I suspect that with its remaining strength, it formed a shell to preserve itself. When Erik forcibly broke that shell, it reacted in the most basic way it knew how.”
“You mean…” Lorna began.
“Yes,” affirmed Xavier before she could finish, “It integrated Erik into its being just as it did eons ago. Suddenly, it had the power to extend itself again. Only now its goal has changed under Magneto’s influence.”
“Wait a minute…I thought the Cambrian was the one doing the influencing,” said Betsy, “Are you saying it’s the other way around?”
“It’s not a one-way street, Betsy,” said the Professor, “Erik believes the Cambrian is the key to unifying mutants and evolving them to the next level. I doubt the Cambrian knows that. It is operating under the whim of the being that allowed it to grow again. I would say this effort to unite only mutants and render all inferior life extinct is one half Magneto and one half Cambrian.”
“So then wouldn’t the solution be to separate the two? That way they could stop influencing each other,” Ororo reasoned.
“At this point I’m not sure that’s a viable option,” said Xavier, “If Beast’s scans are any indication, removing the Cambrian from an organism by force is not just dangerous. It’s most likely fatal.”
“Damn it! I had a feeling it would be something like that,” groaned Wanda.
“It’s definitely something we want to avoid if we’re going to save our friends,” said Jean.
“But there is another way, yes?” said Piotr.
“There is always a way, Peter. It merely requires we understand how the Cambrian sustains itself,” said Professor Xavier as he wheeled himself back to the microscope where he had been observing a sample of the Cambrian.
The X-men and the Brotherhood eagerly crowded around him. Piotr and Illyana moved in closer as well so they could get a look. Kurt, who had been watching over Illyana, was about to do so as well. But while everyone’s attention was focused on the Professor, his cell phone rang. Luckily, he had it on vibrate so he didn’t rouse too much suspicion.
“Who could be calling at a time like zhis?” Kurt checked his phone.
He was fully prepared to just hang up and take a message. Then he saw who it was and his eyes widened with shock.
“Mien Gott…” he gasped.
Kurt quietly slipped away into the corner so he could take the call. All the while, the others hovered around Professor Xavier as he prepared a little demonstration.
“If you’ll recall, I said earlier that the Cambrian burned itself out when it was stretched too thin,” Xavier began, “What it’s doing with Erik as a guide is causing tremendous strain. At the rate it’s going, it may only be a matter of time before it burns out again.”
“So what do we do? Just wait for it to get tired?” said Polaris.
“Standing pat ain’t much of a plan in a game like this,” added Remy.
“You’re right. It isn’t,” affirmed the Professor, “Which is why we’ll have to speed it up. Based on analysis of these samples, the Cambrian sustains itself by remaining in constant communication through a complex array of psychic and biochemical systems. Cut off that line of communication and the Cambrian is forced to overcompensate. The result is a mild whimper rather than a destructive bang.”
To demonstrate his point, Professor Xavier closed his eyes and placed his hands over the sample under the microscope. Using his telepathy, he put up heavy psychic barrier around the small sample. It was not unlike the barriers he used to put on Jean’s mind when she was struggling with the Phoenix. As soon as they were up, all psychic signals were cut off. Within the span of three seconds, the brownish glob withered into a gray sliver of dust. To everybody watching, it was the first ray of hope in this crisis.
“Whoa…talk about pulling the plug,” commented Alex.
“You did it!” said Lorna with newfound excitement.
“Is that all there is to it, Professor? A quick psychic probe and the whole thing turns to ash?” asked Betsy.
“This is on a very small scale, mind you,” said Xavier, maintaining a serious demeanor, “Because of the Cambrian’s size, it is impossible to cut off every cell from every other cell. Like I said before, there is no brain or primary structure within the Cambrian.”
“But you did say it was centralized,” said Kitty, “Doesn’t that mean there’s a source?”
“Indeed there is,” he said strongly, “Unfortunately, that source is stemming from Magneto. It is his whim that is leading the Cambrian. Therefore, it is his mind we must attack in order to thwart the Cambrian.”
It was so simple, yet so daunting. With the confrontation of the Cambrian Magneto still fresh in their minds, the prospect of facing him again was overwhelming. By now he probably had all of Genosha under the control of the Cambrian. Getting to him seemed next to impossible.
“So to stop the Cambrian, we have to attack my father,” said Wanda.
“Don’t tell me you’re not up to it,” said Kitty.
“Oh I’m up to it. Fighting my father is nothing new,” she sighed, “It just pains me to realize how underwhelming it is.”
“I know the feeling,” said Lorna in a flat tone, “But…we can save him, right?”
“Of course we can, Lorna,” said Professor Xavier, “If my calculations are correct, shutting off the Cambrian signals will not only cause the creature to wither away from Magneto…it’ll free every other mutant it has taken under its control. That includes our friends.”
“So…they’ll be okay?” asked Ororo with some added concern for Logan and her students.
“They’ll be fine,” Xavier assured her, “The physiological affects should reverse themselves as soon as the Cambrian is cut off.”
“Does that mean we can free Beast?” Kitty suggested, “We could use all the help we can get and all this bio-jargon would probably make him giddy.”
“Among other things,” said Remy under his breath.
“Tempted I may be to enlist Hank’s services, but as we speak shards of the Cambrian are coursing through his body. Since they’re receiving signals from the central creature, they’re much too resilient,” said Xavier as he turned his attention to his unconscious friend, “Trying to shut them all out would cause undue strain on Hank. The only way we can be sure every shred of the Cambrian withers is to cut it off at the source.”
Everyone looked back at Hank. His monstrous appearance didn’t bode well for the plan they would have to formulate. One way or another it would require a trip back into the hell on Genosha that the Cambrian had created.
“I take it this will require a return trip to Genosha,” surmised Ororo.
“That appears to be the case, my dear,” sighed Xavier.
“You can’t attack it using Cerebrum?” complained Jean.
“Cerebrum was calibrated to track human minds, of which the Cambrian certainly is not,” said the Professor, “To recalibrate it without Hank’s assistance would take far too long. Our only option is to fight our way through the Cambrian and confront Magneto!”
“On an island that’s probably completely overrun with Cambrian zombies?” said Remy, “That be a mighty tall order, Professor.”
“I thought you X-men were all about impossible missions,” chided Wanda.
“Impossible is one thing. Foolhardy be a completely different story,” said the Cajun.
“There’s nothing foolish about it!” said Alex firmly, “We have a target! We know the Cambrian is running the show from Magneto’s Citadel! What are we waiting for? And don’t tell me it’s not that simple! I’ve heard that bullshit enough for one day.”
Alex had a renewed determination and he wasn’t the only one. Lorna, Jean, and Ororo all showed more drive with the knowledge they could save their friends, family, and loved ones. It was difficult not to get worked up.
“I understand your eagerness, but we cannot attack the Cambrian without a plan,” said Professor Xavier, “We don’t know how the Cambrian has altered the landscape of Genosha. We don’t even have a means of returning to the island.”
“So we’ll just use the Rasputin girl again!” said Alex, “She got us out! She can get us back in!”
“You really want to go through that dimensional trip again?” questioned Kitty.
“You’re also assuming I’ll allow you put my sister in such danger!” said Piotr firmly.
“If there’s no other way what are you going to do? Be selfish and force us to swim the whole way?” barked Alex.
“I don’t see how it is selfish to worry about how my sister is being used!”
Alex was getting under Piotr’s skin. For a guy like him, that was no small feat. Kitty had to step in front of Piotr while Ororo tried to hold him back. Lorna did the same for Alex while the Professor tried to keep the peace.
“Peter, please calm down,” urged Professor Xavier, “No one is asking you to put your sister in harm’s way.”
“Tell that to Magneto’s comrade here!” he spat, “You know in Russia we have words for men like you!”
“Does it look like I care for a language lesson?” retorted Alex.
“You’re setting yourself up for some kind of lesson!” said a very irked Wanda Maximoff.
“Excuse me! Does anyone here not think I can speak for myself?” said Illyana, trying to fight her way through the crowd.
“Stay out of this, Illyana,” Piotr urged.
“No, big brother! I won’t! I can’t!” she said, her eyes starting to glow again.
“Whoa there, kid. No need for the crazy eyes again!” said Kitty.
The situation was getting out of hand. Professor Xavier exchanged glances with Jean and Ororo. Working together as a team was not going as smoothly as they needed it to go. If they were getting into heated arguments just on how to get to Genosha, then that didn’t bode well for how they were going to coordinate when the time came to confront the Cambrian.
Professor Xavier was about to silence everyone in the room. Then Kurt Wagner emerged from the corner and beat him to it.
“Professor! Something has come up!” he shouted, quickly drawing the attention of the others.
“Wonderful…more good news,” groaned Betsy.
“What is it, Kurt? You look like you just saw the devil himself…figuratively speaking,” said Kitty.
Kurt tensed as he looked down at his phone and then back at his friends and enemies. The threat posed by the Cambrian was bad enough. Now that threat was set to become even more personal than it already was while forcing him to confront something he had been avoiding long enough.
“I just got a call from Amanda,” he said distantly, “She and her mother know vhat’s going on.”
“Considering how we’ve got globs of primordial goo falling from the sky, that’s not saying much,” said Psylocke.
“Zhat’s not all. She also says she can help us stop zhe Cambrian and ve have even less time than ve zhink to act.”
Next Issue: Cambrian Explosion Part 4
Read Comments ( 0 )