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Volume 4 -- Issue 87 -- Cambrian Explosion Part 4

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Cambrian Explosion Part 4
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Having been born with extraordinary powers, Professor Charles Xavier his X-men seek to use their powers for the good of mankind. Such good has never come easy in a world that hates and fears them. Often, they find themselves struggling to save both mutants and humans alike and once again a new threat has emerged in the Cambrian.

After awakening the ancient creature, Magneto has been driven mad with its power and seeks to integrate all mutant kind into a single collective. The entire human race is threatened as mutants everywhere are brought under the Cambrian’s control. Shards of the Cambrian fall all over the world, affecting any mutant it touches. Only a small contingent of the X-men and the Brotherhood remain free to stop this monstrosity.

They escaped to the Xavier Institute thanks to the teleportation powers of Illyana Rasputin, sister to the overprotective Piotr Rasputin. They were then able to study the Cambrian through Beast, who had been affected while recovering in the infirmary. They learned they would have to confront the Cambrian back on Genosha. How they will accomplish this was still in question. Now they may have another insight that may or not add another major complication.


Sefton Home – Three Weeks Ago

‘I am a monster.’

It was unavoidable. Every time Amanda Sefton looked in the mirror, this is what she saw. She was not just some 18-year-old girl who was cursed with the burden of unlocking an ancient and powerful evil. She was a monster, plain and simple.

Amanda had just stepped out of the shower and started drying her hair. As the fog cleared on the mirror, the full extent of her monstrosity became clear. After Selene’s ritual, a part of the power inside her had been unlocked. This power was marked by a series of tattoo-like symbols that started on her torso and extended around her sides. At first it was easy to hide. Now it was becoming much more difficult.

In the weeks following the ritual, the symbols had spread all over her body. Much of her skin was now covered in bluish-black marks that went up around her neck, along her arms, and down her legs. She looked like one of those ridiculously tattooed rock stars, but these weren’t mere tattoos. Looking in the mirror at her fully nude form, Amanda started sobbing uncontrollably. It got so bad that her mother eventually noticed.

“Amanda? Sweetie, are you okay in there?” said Margali while softly knocking on the door.

“I…I’m fine, mom,” she replied through labored sobs.

Her mother didn’t buy it for a second. Amanda didn’t expect her to. So she wasn’t too surprised when her mother skipped the argument and opened the door.

“Oh Amanda…this kind of moping is becoming too routine,” she said sadly, grabbing a nearby towel and draping it over her daughter’s body.

“I know. Sorry if it requires you to baby me more than you’re used to,” said Amanda, swallowing the hard lump in her throat, “Most 18-year-olds are more mature than this.”

“Most 18-year-olds aren’t dealing with an ancient prophecy that’s literally written into their blood,” Margali retorted, “I don’t blame you for being upset. Neither does Kurt.”

Amanda sobbed again at the mention of her lover. Her mother helped wipe away some of her tears as she dried her off with the towel and directed her away from the mirror. She didn’t need any more harsh reminders of her fate.

“He wants to come over this afternoon,” said Amanda distantly, “After our checkup with Shaman, he wants to spend the day together. He set aside an entire afternoon for me.”

“That was nice of him,” said Margali, trying to sound positive.

“You don’t get it, mother. I…I don’t want him to see me like this! It’s becoming too painful!”

“Amanda, if Kurt hasn’t made it abundantly clear your condition doesn’t bother him, what more must he do? He loves you,” her mother stated.

“I know he does! And I love him too, damn it!” she said with more tears forming in her eyes, “It’s just…getting harder to share that love. It doesn’t help that Shaman gave me a pretty grim prognosis and wasn’t too nice about it either.”

“Mr. Twoyoungmen can just be a bit callous at times. Professor Xavier told me that’s normal. You shouldn’t take it personally.”

“Just because he’s callous doesn’t mean he’s wrong,” Amanda retorted, “He says the power dwelling inside me is nearing the next stage. He’s done everything he can to try and stop it or at least slow it down. Nothing has worked! It just keeps getting worse!”

“These things take time, Amanda,” Margali said strongly, “This prophecy was thousands of years in the making. It’s not going to be stopped overnight.”

“And just how much time can we afford to give, mother?! I study just as much as you! I know the elements of prophecy! When they get to a certain point, the clock starts and it doesn’t go by years or centuries either! For all I know, tomorrow could be the day it all comes crashing down! I could be in bed with Kurt, holding him in my arms, and feeling so good about us and the future! All it takes is one tiny moment and everyone around me will suffer…including Kurt.”

Margali attempted to console her daughter by gently caressing her face. It used to work when Amanda was young and she was just learning about her destiny. This time it wasn’t enough. With her towel in hand Amanda broke from her mother’s embrace and stormed off.

“If Kurt calls…don’t answer,” said Amanda, “I don’t think I should see him like this.”

“Amanda, you’re just going to make things harder on yourself!” her mother urged as she went after her, “Please, you have people who love you dearly.”

“Which is exactly why I need to be alone,” she replied.

Before Margali could catch up with her daughter, Amanda slammed the door to her room and locked it. This was more than just a usual teenage tantrum. Her daughter was starting to lose hope. Margali was at a loss. Amanda was so stubborn at times. She already knew how this was going to play out. Only the most extreme of measures could break her out of her shell.


Sefton Home – Present Time

“Mien Gott…” gasped Kurt Wagner as he, the X-men, and the Brotherhood stood outside Amanda’s front door.

“Hi Kurt,” was all Amanda could say in response.

Kurt was in shock and so was everyone else. They just arrived at the Sefton home a moment ago. After a brief conversation with Amanda and her mother over the phone, Professor Xavier agreed to meet up with her to discuss the Cambrian. Getting there was not easy. Globs of the Cambrian were still falling from the sky like hailstones, but the Sefton house was protected by a mystical green barrier. The only way they could get there was via teleportation. Since it was so close, it wasn’t nearly as difficult for Illyana to transport them. The after-effects were still unpleasant, but nowhere near as serious.

The teleportation trip was by far the least surprising part of this revelation. Even the Brotherhood, who didn’t know the history of Amanda and the Sefton family, were taken aback by what they saw. While Amanda and Kurt endured a very awkward moment, Professor Xavier was greeted by Margali and Shaman.

“This is quite a setup you have here, Shaman. I wish we had these kinds of defenses at the institute,” commented Jean as she watched the Cambrian globs fall around the mystical dome.

“You must be quite the mystic,” said Wanda, who had studied the arcane before, “A spell like this would take enough energy to sink a small island.”

“I like to think I’ve kept up,” said Shaman, “If only they offered me more foresight. I had enough on my plate with Miss Sefton here before this monstrosity came into the picture.”

“For which I am grateful you’ve taken the time to offer your assistance,” said Professor Xavier, “I understand we’ve asked much of you in the past.”

“The sad thing is I still haven’t made up for it. You have a talent for indebting people for your kindness, Charles,” he sighed, “I would love to bring you up to speed on my work with Amanda, but time is short. We need to discuss the Cambrian. It has done more than just cause physical damage.”

“You mean there could be some mystical elements to it as well?” asked Ororo.

“Follow me and I’ll explain.”

“I’ll help as well,” said Margali, “It was our combined talents that prompted us to call you. What we’ve discovered will definitely help, that I promise you.”

“At this point, we’ll take anything we can get,” said Betsy.

“Oui, good voodoo is the best weapon for bad voodoo,” added Remy.

The two teams eagerly followed Shaman and the Seftons inside. However, not everyone was so ready to trust Shaman and the Seftons. Alex, Lorna, Wanda, Piotr, and Illyana did not know this man. He had some credibility for being able to block out the Cambrian, but there were still plenty of reasons to be suspicious.

“You sure we can trust this guy?” said Alex, “I’ve seen faith healers who look more honest.”

“Shaman isn’t a faith healer and he isn’t a fraud!” said Jean strongly, “I know this man. He happens to be a good friend of my ex-boyfriend, John Proudstar.”

“A friend of an ex? Excuse me if I find that a little troubling,” said Wanda dryly.

“I won’t comment on your own history with ex-lovers. I’ll just say outright that Shaman has been a valuable ally,” said Jean, giving Wanda a harsh scold, “Years ago he was a doctor that specialized in experimental treatments. Then he found out his father was terminally ill and rushed back home to treat him. He thought there was nothing that could be done. That’s when his grandfather stepped in and introduced him to the world of magic.”

“I’ll bet that was quite a family moment,” said Lorna empathetically, “Must have put a damper on all his medical training too.”

“That’s putting it lightly. Shaman watched his grandfather do what modern science could not. His father was healed and lived another ten years. After this Shaman gave up his medical career and started training with his grandfather full time. His family has some special relic that has been passed down through the ages. I’m not sure what it is, but he says it’s some kind of key to a gateway that can unlock mystical energy.”

“Sounds quite potent,” commented Piotr in his thick accent.

“Potent being relative in mystical terms,” said Wanda skeptically, “Is he also a mutant? Father once told me some mutants have been known to have a connection to magic.”

“For that you’ll have to ask him,” said Jean, “Good luck getting him to open up though. Since his grandfather died, he hasn’t exactly been Mr. Sunshine. But between his medical background and his mystical talents, he’s more equipped than most to help.”

This knowledge lent Shaman some credibility. If this man could improve their chances at saving their country, the Brotherhood could care less about his mystical and mutant potential. For Piotr Rasputin, however, there were conflicts besides the Cambrian on his mind.

Looking over at his sister, whose eyes were still glowing after having teleported them again, he contemplated what this could mean for them. Ever since Illyana’s powers manifested, he had been looking for a way to help her. It was what led him into the Russian Mob and into the Brotherhood. None seemed to provide the resources he needed. This could be an opportunity where he wouldn’t have to make such shady deals.

“Big brother, I know that look,” said Illyana.

“You’re smart, Snowflake. Surely it has crossed your mind as well,” said Piotr, “If this man knows both mutation and magic, he would be best equipped to aid you.”

“I…wish he weren’t,” she said warily, “Back in Russia, the doctors you sent me to say my mutation was too volatile as they called it. If there is magic involved, it would be even worse.”

“But it would explain why they were not able to help you,” reasoned Piotr, “This volatility as they call it has been getting worse. We must be open to all possibilities. After this is over, we may have our answers.”

“I’m not sure I even want to know,” said the young girl anxiously.

“Oh trust me, it helps to know,” said Kitty Pryde, who overheard their conversation, “Take it from someone who had to confront being a mutant in the span of a day. Ignorance is not bliss.”

Illyana smiled awkwardly at Kitty’s words. She was not up to speed on American teenage girls, but something in her voice sounded reassuring. She took comfort in that and so did Piotr.

“Thank you,” said Piotr quietly to Kitty.

“Don’t mention it,” said Kitty with a friendly grin, “With the mess the Cambrian is causing, it helps to have one less thing to worry about.”

Piotr and Illyana proceeded to follow the others into the Sefton house. The only ones who lingered were Kurt and Amanda. Much of the conversation with Shaman had been lost on them. Kurt, who hadn’t heard from Amanda in a while, was still at a loss. He didn’t embrace her like he usually did when they met up. He just stood before her, stuck between shock and relief.

“So zhis is vhy you vouldn’t return my calls?” he told her, “Because zhis explosion in body art vas too much?”

“This isn’t just body art, Kurt. What you’re looking at is me getting that much closer to the fate I’ve been trying to avoid,” she said sadly.

“I don’t care about zhat. You know I don’t. Don’t tell me zhat’s all zhere is to it, Amanda,” said Kurt intently.

“Kurt…let’s not do this,” she sighed, “This isn’t the time. There are other forces besides me looking to turn the world inside out.”

“You know I von’t leave you until ve have vorked zhis out.”

“I wouldn’t expect you to. I’m just warning you though. It’s not going to be pleasant.”

“I’ll take zhat risk.”

Amanda didn’t look too reassured. He used to be able to console her. Since Selene’s ritual, her faith wasn’t just shaken. It was collapsing. It got Kurt to think back to his own shaken faith about their love. Should they get through this crisis with the Cambrian, he would have to make some important decisions.


Secret Underground Bunker

“Daddy…please don’t let that monster get me!” cried the terrified son of President Robert Kelly.

“It’ll be okay, son. I won’t let anything happen to you. I promise,” his father replied.

These were the words Robert Kelly had been using to comfort his son since they were rushed underground. As soon as the activity on Genosha was detected, he and his family were rushed to a secure location. Soon after, the brown globs started falling and all the reports he was getting read like horror movies wrapped in nightmares. Mutants were being turned into monsters and humans were getting caught in the crossfire.

“The whole world is being consumed by a plague of biblical proportions. And this time that’s not a metaphor!” said Reverend Stryker, who was in the bunker with him along with a number of advisers, “Fire and brimstone may not be falling from the sky, but whatever is falling is every bit as destructive!”

“Not to interrupt a preacher when he’s on a roll, but God may not be alone in all this,” said the President’s Secretary of State, “General Grimshaw’s latest reports says this glob coincided with some recent activity from Magneto. For all we know, this could be some weapon of his.”

“What kind of weapon turns mutants into a cross between Frankenstein and zombies?” said the Secretary of Defense, “Some of our people are speculating it was one of Magneto’s little projects gone horribly wrong.”

“All that concentrated wickedness is bound to attract misfortune,” scoffed Stryker.

“Enough Reverend!” barked one of the Joint Chiefs, “This isn’t a theological discussion! This is a real-world global crisis. If you’re not going to offer something concrete then you might as well leave!”

Their voices were heated and the President felt his son tremble. He was too young to understand the meaning behind such words, but he was smart enough to know that mutants were involved. Since he was a mutant, it filled him with fear. No father wanted to see his son like this. He had to keep reassuring him while maintaining a strong demeanor in the face of a crisis.

“What options are we looking at here?” asked President Kelly while trying to console his son.

“I’ve been on the phone with the MSA. They’re saying that General Grimshaw has a plan to launch a precision strike,” said the Secretary of Defense, “The source of this anomaly originated on Genosha at Magneto’s Citadel. It stands to reason that attacking this would attack the heart of the problem.”

“But we don’t know for certain, do we?” Reverend Stryker pointed out.

“My people at the Pentagon have expressed doubts,” said one of the Joint Chiefs, “The prevailing belief is that this mess constitutes an attack by Genosha. As such, we’re entitled to respond and a precision strike just isn’t going to cut it.”

“Are you implying what I think you are?” asked the Secretary of State.

“I’m not trying to be subtle here,” he said sternly, “I think we should actively consider a tactical nuclear strike.”

That was a string of words no President wanted to hear. Even President Kelly’s son seemed to tremble at those words. In most cases the mention of nuclear weapons was met with outrage. This wasn’t one of those times.

“A strike into the heart of the wicked…consuming them with the fires of Hell in an instant,” said Reverend Stryker, “It would put an end not just to this conflict, but potentially the mutant conflict as a whole.”

“I know you’re probably all for it, Reverend. But we can’t take this lightly!” said the Secretary of Defense, “If we use the nuclear option, we could open up a whole new can of worms.”

“We don’t know all the facts,” said the Secretary of State, “If when the smoke clears we see we’ve made a mistake, there will be no recovering from it. Every bit of progress we’ve made to this point will come crashing down!”

“We have the facts that matter most. This thing is affecting mutants and not humans,” said another Joint Chief, “Based on our field reports, this glob is actually attracted to mutants and seems to be integrating them into some sort of collective. They aren’t going on rampages or anything, but they seem to be mindless drones now. That doesn’t leave much room to negotiate.”

“On top of that, we keep getting these strange energy readings from Genosha. We’re not exactly sure what this anomaly is trying to do, but based on the numbers alone there are plenty of reasons to be proactive,” said the Secretary of Defense.

“Are you saying this thing could be building up towards an even greater attack?” asked President Kelly.

“Common sense dictates you don’t gather all this power for kicks. This mud ball is trying to do something and if we wait too long, then all the nukes in the world won’t stop it. That’s exactly why the Pentagon believes a strike now is the best option.”

President Kelly had to weigh this decision carefully. If he decided to launch a nuclear strike, it would be a turning point both for his presidency and for the history of this planet. He could put a stop to this madness or trigger an even worse cataclysm. It was not a pleasant position to be in.

Reverend Stryker watched as President Kelly wrestled with his decision. He noticed his eyes drifting to his son constantly. Had this come up a year ago, he would be pounding his fists on the table and demanding those nuclear missiles to launch right this instant. Now he was hesitating and that was something no man should do when God was beckoning them.

“Robert, God has placed you in a venerable position,” he told him, “We cannot hesitate to act when Armageddon is at the door.”

“I’m not hesitating, William. This is too important a decision to go on gut instinct,” said President Kelly as he gazed down at his son.

“So what should I tell our forces in the field? A lot of them are getting itchy trigger fingers,” said the Secretary of Defense.

“If they’re getting impatient, I officially give the order to prep and load a full complement of tactical nukes,” the President replied, “Target all strategic locations on Genosha, placing special emphasis on Magneto’s citadel. But do not launch them until I give the order.”

It wasn’t the most aggressive decision he could have made, but it did offer some assurance.

“What of General Grimshaw’s plan to launch cruise missiles?” asked one of the Joint Chiefs.

“Let him continue. Give him a chance to show his worth,” said President Kelly, “In the meantime, get me the nuclear launch codes. If he can’t come through…I will.”

“Yes sir.”

His advisers and staff went to work, getting up from their seats so they could get in touch with the necessary people. Only President Kelly and Reverend Stryker remained. The President kept offering reassuring gestures to his son. He even managed to smile despite the dire situation. Normally he never would have had his family, especially his kids, sit in on a meeting like this. His son was a special case. As a mutant, he deserved to be here.

Reverend Stryker remained skeptical yet hopeful. This was Robert’s final test in his eyes. This was an opportunity to strike at the mutant menace once and for all. It was an opportunity so ripe that God himself could only have willed it.

‘I pray you make the right decision, Robert. God rarely gives his children a chance to be this righteous. Do not make light of it. One way or another, the will of God shall come to pass. I will see to it.’


Sefton Home – Basement

Since moving into this house, Amanda and Margali converted the basement into a full blown mystic study. It had everything an aspiring mystic could want. There were candles, incense, spell-books, reference books, and various mystical tools that helped them study magic. Some were brought over from Germany while others were brought over by Shaman. It was here where they did most of their research into Amanda’s condition and it was here where they gathered the X-men and the Brotherhood so they could discuss the Cambrian.

Like Professor Xavier, Shaman had been doing research of his own. He also had a glob of the Cambrian he gathered from outside and contained it in a mystical shell on top of a table. Using his mystic talents, he demonstrated some of his findings. By waving his hand over the contained glob, he could cause it to settle down or become very agitated. It left some wary, but impressed.

“Wow…I may actually start liking magic,” said Kitty, “This is definitely a step up from Juggernaut!”

“If that’s your only experience with magic, then you don’t get out enough,” scoffed Wanda.

“Whatever the case, it appears there are some mystical elements to the Cambrian,” said Ororo, “Could this be part of its power?”

“It would be so much simpler if it was, but that doesn’t appear to be the case,” said Shaman as he clenched his fist over the blob, causing it to contort, “Most mystical creatures radiate spiritual energy when they exert themselves. This Cambrian creature does not do that on a meaningful scale.”

“So…it ain’t magical? It just be bluffing like it is?” said Remy.

“Just because something doesn’t radiate magic doesn’t mean it isn’t affected,” said Margali, “It happens all the time. Magic will provide a spark to kick start something, but other non-mystical forces will take over.”

“But at the same time, they still retain a mystical signature,” added Shaman, “That is part of why I summoned you here. You understand the biological aspect of this creature. I’ve only uncovered the mystical aspect. Together, they provide the key to stopping it.”

Shaman’s hand glowed briefly as he did a brief gesture over the glob, causing it to flatten and liquefy. It remained active, but was noticeably weaker. It looked like a promising development in their fight against the Cambrian.

“Not bad,” said a very impressed Betsy, “My father dealt with a few magic-wielding criminals back in the day. It would have been handy to have that trick in his arsenal.”

“More importantly, it sheds light on another mystery of the Cambrian,” said Professor Xavier as he observed closer, “Erik surmised that the Cambrian formed when a collection of single-celled organisms started functioning as a whole. He proved that it was possible, but he never could determine how the creature’s intelligence emerged.”

“That’s where the magic comes in,” Shaman continued, “I suspect that the Cambrian first emerged in an area of high mystic activity. As it grew, the spiritual energy reacted with it and provided the spark that made it into the uncontrollable mass it is now.”

“In other words it was one of those unfortunate cases of being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Lorna.

“You would be surprised how often that happens,” retorted the Native American, “Magic is chaotic by nature. All the gateways and sources that emit spiritual energy have a wide range of effects on the physical world. Often those effects are unpredictable and in some cases destructive.”

“Between Juggernaut and the Cambrian, I’ll say that’s the norm rather than the exception,” made Jean.

“At the same time it evokes certain abnormalities that are free for exploitation.”

Shaman turned to Margali and nodded. She walked across the room and retrieved a small case that had been sitting on a workbench. Shaman moved Cambrian sample aside so he could make room. Margali then reached into the bag and took out a series of stones. They looked like exotic minerals, similar to those found in nature stores. They didn’t seem all that mystical, but that was about to change.

“What I just demonstrated is a little trick exploiting that mystical signature I told you about,” said Shaman, “Now you said you guys were planning to attack Magneto’s citadel. That’s all well and good, but if you go more than a hundred feet of the place it’ll attack. Since one touch from this thing is all it takes to become part of the collective, it stacks the odds against you.”

“We heard reports that the spores stopped falling on Genosha after every mutant was turned,” said Ororo, “Are you saying that could start again if we’re present?”

“It might or the Cambrian might just kill you,” he said grimly, “Which is why I’m going to make it so you guys will be immune to being turned into minions. You’ll not only be able to walk up to this thing roping you into its little club, the Cambrian will hurt itself if it tries.”

“That would be a hell of an advantage,” said Alex.

“It’s also possible to take it a step further,” said Margali as she turned towards her daughter, “Amanda, why don’t you go ahead and show them?”

Amanda, who had been standing off to the side with Kurt, was silent for most of the demonstration. In order for this to work, she needed to tap some of that dark power that was brewing inside her. So with a deep breath, she waved her hands over the stones. The symbols on her body flashed ominously. A reddish aura overtook her and concentrated itself within her hands. It was quite a sight, causing a few to step back. Kurt watched with particular fascination. He had seen Amanda perform mystical feats before, but something about this act made him sick to his stomach.

Before their eyes, the stones on the table started glowing in the same ominous red color as Amanda’s hands. When she backed off, the stones remained radiant. At the same time it was a little unnerving as if something good had come from something bad.

“Wow…that is so neat!” cooed Illyana.

“Do not get any ideas, Snowflake,” warned Piotr.

“Careful, big fella,” warned Jean, “You never want to stand between a teenage girl and her interests.”

“I vould argue zhese particular interests are an exception,” said Kurt in a low tone.

“You almost sound bitter, luv. Is that some major bias talking?” asked Betsy.

“Among other zhings,” said the German mutant.

It appeared to be a taboo subject for Kurt and a bit for Piotr as well so the team dropped the subject. They remained fixated on the stones as Shaman took one and placed it near the sample of the Cambrian they had isolated.

“What you are looking at is a product of carefully crafted magic that is destructive, yet potent,” he explained, “In many ways it’s similar to the magic that sparked the Cambrian into existence. It’s not a very friendly kind of magic, but Amanda has access to such magic in abundance.”

“Yeah…lucky me,” said Amanda dryly.

“These stones now have a healthy dose of that magic, except it’s the polar opposite of the mystical signature that resides in the Cambrian. That means that for anyone carrying the stones, the Cambrian will be forcibly repelled. It is akin to two poles of a magnet repelling one another.”

Shaman demonstrated this function by holding one of the stones closer to the Cambrian sample. Sure enough, it reacted strongly. The glob throbbed and tried to slither away. After a few seconds it became watery as if it were ill. It didn’t whither the same way the other sample did with Professor Xavier. It just became inert.

“Impressive,” said Ororo, “This gives us exactly what we need to attack the Cambrian and free our friends!”

“What about my father?” asked Wanda, turning to Professor Xavier, “Didn’t you say that harming the Cambrian would harm everyone it’s infected?”

“It’s a collective, Wanda. Such effects may be unavoidable,” Xavier conceded, “But at its current strength, it may be necessary to weaken it before I attack it.”

“Wait…you’re going to attack it?” said Jean, “Professor, I know you like to think of yourself as handicapable, but wouldn’t it be safer if me and Betsy take care of it?”

“We can’t afford to hold back, Jean. Even with these stones, Genosha will be treacherous. With so many mutants being part of the Cambrian’s collective, we need to throw everything we can into this attack.”

“For a guy in a wheelchair, that’s pretty bold,” commented Lorna.

“And foolish,” said Alex more critically, “Do you really think you can get close enough to the citadel to do your little mind trick?”

“Not to sound insensitive, Professor. But you’re not exactly in peak condition,” added Wanda.

It was an unavoidable concern. Even under the more abnormal circumstances they were used to, Professor Xavier knew when to stay back and let his X-men do what he trained them to do. But that was before he got the grim news about his health. Even if it was foolish, he refused to stand by while his students put themselves in harm’s way. He needed to make what precious time he had left mean something.

“I appreciate and understand your concerns. But handicap or not, my telepathy is still the most powerful in the world,” he said strongly, “I know you’ve caught up with the Phoenix, Jean. I wish I could delegate such a dangerous mission to someone more capable. With the Cambrian, however, we cannot take that chance.”

“Wouldn’t it be taking an even greater chance by putting yourself at risk like this?” argued Jean, “I can do this if you give me a chance!”

“The Phoenix Force can help as well.”

“Yeah, we don’t want anything to happen to you either, Professor,” said Kitty with pleading eyes.

“I’m sorry, but there is no time to debate this. My decision is final,” said the Professor.

His tone left no room for argument. Even if he didn’t look healthy, no one could deny his determination. Even Alex and Wanda were impressed. Piotr Rasputin also couldn’t help but admire his will to fight. Looking over at Illyana and thinking back to all the mistakes he made, the Russian mutant made a decision as well.

“I will go too,” said Piotr, “I am also somewhat responsible for this destruction as well. It is only fitting that I clean it up.”

“Now you’re ready to play hero, Big Brother?” said Illyana.

“Please do not argue with me about this, Snowflake.”

“Who said I was arguing? I just want you to know I’m proud.”

That brought a smile to Piotr Rasputin’s face. He had made so many compromises with villainous figures like Omega Red and Magneto. It felt good to just do the right thing for once. No one else objected since his size and strength were sure to come in handy.

“We’ll be happy to have you with us, luv,” said Betsy.

“Oui, we can always use the extra muscle,” said Remy.

“Then it’s settled,” said Alex, “Let’s get moving before the Cambrian gets any stronger!”

“That would be wise,” said Shaman, “Please take a stone and make sure it is secure on your person at all times.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll protect this thing like a family heirloom,” said Kitty as she grabbed a stone.

The rest of the team followed suit. Jean, Ororo, Remy, Betsy, Kurt, Alex, Lorna, Wanda, Piotr, and the Professor each grabbed a stone and made sure it was secure. Illyana Rasputin also reached for a stone, believing she could participate as well. She was quickly stopped by her brother.

“No Illyana…you know you cannot come with us,” said Piotr, “Do not even try to give me that pleading look this time. Even you have to admit this is too dangerous.”

“I know it is,” she sighed bitterly, “You can’t blame me for trying, yes?”

“She’ll need to stay behind for another reasons,” said Shaman, “I can help her utilize her teleportation powers properly in order to transport you right where you need to be.”

“You…can do that?” said the Russian mutant warily.

“Yes, I suspect Illyana’s mutant powers have a strong mystical element,” he explained, “If one is utilized without the other, it can cause all sorts of problems.”

“But that won’t happen with us,” assured Margali, “I taught Amanda and she was quite the challenge. I can surely teach Miss Rasputin here as well.”

“I’m standing right here, mom,” muttered Amanda.

“Sorry dear. Just trying to get my point across.”

Piotr may have been reassured, but Amanda couldn’t help but roll her eyes in annoyance. She couldn’t help it if she was difficult. She slipped off to the corner, content to leave the Cambrian in the X-men and Brotherhood’s capable hands. Kurt placed a hand on her shoulder to stop her briefly so that he could have a final word with her.

“Amanda wait…” he began.

“Listen to the others, Kurt. You need to get going,” said Amanda in a low tone, “Your sister is in trouble if memory serves me right. We’ll be here for hours if we start talking about you-know-what.”

“I have every intention of having zhat conversation…after ve stop the Cambrian,” Kurt told her, giving her shoulder a tight squeeze, “I just vant you to promise me you von’t shut me out vhen zhat time comes.”

Amanda hesitated before answering. She pushed him away these past few weeks for a reason. It was painful beyond measure. It was hard to imagine doing it again. Letting out a deep sigh, she turned around to face her lover.

“Okay…I promise,” she said.

“Danke, my love,” said Kurt with a smile, “I’ll see you soon.”

“Hurry up, babe. The world isn’t the only thing that will need mending after this.”

The couple shared an embrace and a soft kiss. It gave strength to the both of them. They would need it for the Cambrian and for the aftermath that was sure to follow.

Watching Kurt and Amanda kiss left some a bit distant while they waited to leave for Genosha. Jean and Ororo thought back to their respective lovers, each of whom was at the mercy of the Cambrian.

“Talk about extra incentive,” said Jean distantly, “I hate the idea of fighting something that has Scott in its slimy clutches.”

“Me too, Jean,” said Ororo, “I’m worried for Logan as well. We’ve had our share of problems lately, but I love him enough to forget every one of them. They all seem so petty when our lives are on the line.”

“That’s for sure,” sighed Jean, “It’s also a hell of a role reversal. For once they’re the damsels in distress and we’re the ones who have to rescue them. I hope that doesn’t threaten their manhood.”

“In situations like these, I think they’ll understand.”

Jean and Ororo shared a brief smile as they prepared to join the others. Their minds were never far from their respective lovers and that left them extra determined to stop the Cambrian and save them. But they weren’t the only ones carrying these burdens.

Remy also mused over Jean and Ororo’s words. While his girlfriend wasn’t overtaken by the Cambrian, Rogue was. It was hard for her not to weigh heavily on his mind. That probably wouldn’t sit well with Betsy, who was already apprehensive about his friendship with Rogue.

“I know what you’re thinking about, luv. Or maybe I should say I know who,” said Betsy, breaking Remy from his daze.

“Cherè, let’s not be doing this,” said the Cajun.

“I don’t want to either. I also don’t want to avoid it. Rogue means a lot to you. I get it. Your thoughts are painfully clear.”

“You want Remy to stop thinking?” he quipped.

“I want you to confront this. When we’re through, we can sit down and have a nice chat. It needs to happen sooner rather than later. So let’s make the effort.”

Betsy latched onto Remy’s arm, offering whatever comfort a conflicted girlfriend could bear. The Cajun mutant had to push Rogue to the back of his mind less it become a distraction. They all needed to be focused. It wasn’t just Rogue that was at stake. It was the entire world.

The team assembled in a clearing near the center of the basement. Margali, Amanda, Shaman, and Illyana stepped back while Jean, Ororo, Remy, Betsy, Kitty, Kurt, Alex, Lorna, Wanda, Piotr, and Professor Xavier prepared themselves for the mission. This was going to be a tough one. They were fighting as two conflicted teams, parts of which didn’t get along. If they were to stop the Cambrian and save mutant-kind they had to work together.

Shaman and Margali took a few minutes to prepare Illyana. Using his mystical talents, he guided her through the complicated process of using her powers to teleport the team. Her eyes soon began to glow in a familiar bright yellow hue. She took deep breaths and was much calmer compared to the last two times she used her powers. The young Russian girl was more than ready to make three a charm.

“Just relax, child. Let us help you and it won’t be nearly as strenuous,” said Margali softly as she used her own talents to stabilize Illyana.

“I hope so,” she said nervously.

“This trip should be a lot easier on you,” Shaman told the team, “I’ll make sure you’ll be in peak form as soon as you arrive.”

“Our stomachs thank you, Shaman,” said Jean as the yellow light began to overtake them.

“I would tell you to be careful, but when you’re dealing with forces like the Cambrian it may pay to be a little reckless. Don’t hold back. Don’t falter. And above all do not be afraid. Fear is every creature’s greatest weakness.”

Shaman’s profound words echoed strongly as the yellow light completely consumed the X-men and the Brotherhood. In a brief flash they were gone and on their way to Genosha for the final confrontation with the Cambrian.


Genosha Capital City – Downtown Rooftops

Mystique had been in her share of war zones over the years. She had seen so many it was hard at times to recall which part of her life they stemmed from. But the charred landscape of Genosha was a new kind of living hell.

‘Why do I keep making deals like this? I must be getting gullible in my old age. The things I do to prevent Irene’s visions are damn near criminal sometimes. To stop one apocalypse I have to stop another. It would be redundant if it wasn’t so frustrating.’

The war ravaged island was very different than she remembered. Whatever stunt Magneto pulled, it turned the entire country into a nightmare. The sky was still smothered by a thick, brownish cloud. Not much sunlight got through even though it was still the afternoon. The brown globs that were falling all over the world were no longer falling here. There was still a lot of residue on the buildings, in the streets, and over the fields. It was pretty disgusting and this is what Mystique had to thrust herself into.

As soon as she got the order from General Grimshaw, she entered a special launch tube in one of the submarines stationed off the coast. The General had her sneak aboard disguised as a regular crewman so she was able to slip in without causing a stir. Grimshaw had some of his trusted officers fit her with some scuba gear and launch her up onto the island. From there, she shape-shifted into a large bird and flew towards the Genoshan capital city. Even though the globs stopped falling, it was not a pleasant experience.

In addition to the cloudy skies the whole island was ominously silent. All the towns and cities that once teamed with mutants had been deserted. Everyone was gathering outside Magneto’s citadel. This also happened to be where the so-called anomaly was centered. When she first saw it, she was shocked. That shock quickly turned to disgust when she saw what it was doing to mutants.

‘Damn you, Magneto. I thought you couldn’t top yourself when you tried to destroy the world with an asteroid. I don’t know this shit glob’s story, but I’m pretty sure you did something to screw it up! If it weren’t for General Grimshaw’s exceedingly generous forms of compensation, I would leave you to rot. Sadly, I can’t afford to be callous. I have my mission and you’re zombie mutant army will NOT get in my way.’

Using a pair of binoculars, the shape shifter scoped out the enormous brown blob that had overtaken the citadel. It looked like a cross between a deformed potato and a beating human heart. It had veins running all over it, pulsing with ominous silvery streaks. At the base were hundreds of brown tentacle-like extensions going into the countless mutant victims that had been afflicted by this creature. They all stood in perfect circular formations, the extensions latched onto their chests as if it was sucking something out of their bodies. It was really disturbing and only one word was ever uttered.

“Evolve.”

It was hard to tell what was going on with this thing. If the growing mass and constant throbbing were any indication, this glob was a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. Mystique was going to make sure it would explode, except it would be under her terms.

‘This shouldn’t be too difficult. I just have to paint the target with a signal and let the cruise missiles do the rest. Should be the easiest mission I’ve had in a long time.’

The shape shifter traveled light for this job. Having to shape shift into a bird left her with little room to carry heavy gear like guns. All she had with her was a small sash given to her by General Grimshaw that was specifically designed to be held on the back of a large bird. Inside was a special long-range target scanner. It was no bigger than a paintball gun and not much heavier either. This was what would guide the cruise missiles through the clouds and towards their target.

The shape shifter cleared some dust and rocks from the top of the roof to set up the target scanner. She was a good mile or so away from the base of the citadel. It was painfully close to the mindless hoards below, but it allowed her to get a solid fix on the glob. Using the ledge of the roof, she set up the targeting device and looked through the scope to make sure it was in line.

“Perfect. Time to signal General Grimshaw,” she said.

Reaching back into her sash, she pulled out a small one-way communicator. This went to the General and only the General. It acted as a beacon that would signal the submarines. All she had to do at this point was keep the target in sight and watch the fireworks. But while she was checking the targeting laser, something caught her eye in the distance. A brief yellow light flashed not far from the base of the citadel. Curious, Mystique took out her binoculars and scanned the area. It didn’t take long for her to locate the source and make out a few familiar figures.

“No! It can’t be…Kurt?!” she exclaimed.

The sentiment that this would be one of her easier missions quickly went out the door. Through her binoculars she could clearly see her son along with parts of the X-men and Brotherhood. Even Professor Xavier was with him, wheelchair and all. They were all in their uniforms, indicating they were preparing for an attack. They probably had no idea they were in the crossfire of at an incoming hoard of cruise missiles.

“Damn you, Xavier! I swear you put my son in the crossfire just to annoy me!” spat Mystique as she shot up from her vantage point, “Sorry General, but my son comes before your country!”

Kicking the targeting scanner over, she grabbed the beacon and ran towards the other side of the building.

“General, I know you can hear me so I’ll only say this once! Do not launch those missiles! The X-men have just entered the picture! I’ve turned off the beacon and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll stand down!”


Magneto’s Citadel – Base

As soon as the X-men and the Brotherhood appeared on Genosha, they were confronted with a daunting sight. Professor Xavier along with Phoenix, Storm, Gambit, Psylocke, Shadowcat, Nightcrawler, Havok, Polaris, Colossus and the Scarlet Witch were within a mere fifty feet from the now enormous Cambrian. While the trip via Illyana’s teleportation powers were nowhere near as chaotic, they still had a sickened feeling as they looked up at this massive creature.

“Ugh…just when I though this thing couldn’t get any uglier,” said Betsy.

“It smells even worse!” groaned Phoenix.

“How do you think we feel? That’s our home it’s taken over!” exclaimed Polaris.

“I think it’s safe to say it won’t pass any building codes,” commented Shadowcat.

The Cambrian seemed to notice their presence. The mysterious veins that covered the structure from top to bottom throbbed ominously. In addition to the Cambrian itself, they noticed hundreds of transformed mutants standing around them in concentric circles. They were all as still as statues, the slimy tentacles from the Cambrian latched onto their bodies. It was hard to tell if it was sucking the life out of them or if they were actively helping it. To their relief they did not attack. They remained silent and didn’t even seem to notice their presence.

“At least these stones are working properly,” said Storm, “I think we’re safe from being turned.”

“So what are we waiting for?! Let’s hit this thing already!” grunted Havok.

“Not so fast, Havok. Remember, an attack on one part of the Cambrian will affect everyone that’s part of the collective,” said Professor Xavier.

“That includes my father. Not to mention your brother,” said Polaris.

“As if that would bother you, homme,” made Gambit.

Havok scolded Gambit, having struck a nerve with his brother. Even though they didn’t get along, Scott’s safety was a concern. An extra look from Phoenix reinforced that point and he held back.

“Let’s get this over with, Professor,” said Phoenix, “Go ahead and do exactly what you did in the lab. Shut this thing off telepathically and let it whither!”

“We’ll back you up just in case,” said Betsy.

“I’m already trying. It’s a bit more difficult at this scale to say the least,” said Professor Xavier, his hands on his temples as he concentrated hard.

“So vhat do ve do? Just vait until you get through?” said Nightcrawler.

“I don’t think this thing will give us that kind of leeway,” said the Scarlet Witch.

Almost immediately, Wanda Maximoff’s words were vindicated. The ground around them started shaking and silvery contours of the Cambrian flashed with an ominous glow. It didn’t appear this creature was going to stand ideally while they tried to destroy it.

“It appears you’ve just been proven right, Wanda!” said Colossus.

“I’m so sick of being right!” she groaned.

As the ground shook, a familiar figure emerged from the mass. The distinct body outline of Magneto appeared about seventy feet above them in a rough outline of his figure. He was hanging from a series of Cambrian tentacles, his skin looking even paler than before. For Polaris and the Scarlet Witch, it was disturbing to see him in such a dark state.

“Father…what’s happening to you?” gasped Polaris.

“I don’t think you should bother asking. He’s probably going to show us,” commented Colossus grimly.

From the slithering tendrils, Magneto’s Cambrian controlled form drifted lower from the main mass and gazed over the X-men and the Brotherhood.

“You poor unfortunate souls. Have you returned to take your rightful place by your brethren?”

“Spare us the fake pity, Magneto! We’re here to knock some sense into you and your new BFF!” said Phoenix.

“I don’t think it’s Magneto that’s listening anymore,” said the Scarlet Witch, “This is the Cambrian all the way.”

“Doesn’t matter whose listening! It’s about to get whatever it calls an ass kicked!” said Havok.

The Cambrian Magneto was undaunted as his eyes flashed bright red. Professor Xavier kept trying to attack with his telepathy, working to cut off the psychic communication that was holding this creature together.

“I don’t know if you’re still there, Erik! But I’ve come to save you!” exclaimed Professor Xavier.

“Why do you continue to delude yourself, Charles? I do not want to be saved from this wondrous creature. The Cambrian has given me insight beyond my wildest dreams! It is like a missing part of my soul that has finally found its way home. My mind couldn’t be more clear on what must be done.”

“You can’t believe that, Father! Not after everything we’ve been through!” cried Polaris, “The father I know…the father I promised to love when no one else would…is better than this!”

“Listen to her! Listen to us!” said the Scarlet Witch desperately, “It doesn’t have to be like this!”

The Cambrian Magneto paused briefly as he stared down his daughters. His glowing eyes flickered, hinting that the man they knew was still within this creature. The man that loved his children had not been completely overtaken, but was not going to overpower this ancient creature.

“You’re wrong, my children. The fate of our kind is already sealed.”

“Father don’t…” cried Polaris, who had to be held up by Havok and her sister.

“In mere moments the Cambrian will fulfill its destiny. As we speak our brethren are being integrated into our family all over the world. On every continent in every land, a mutant touched by this creature stands waiting for the next step. They are psychically linking to us here at what will be ground zero for the next Cambrian Explosion! When the moment is right, the Cambrian will permanently unite our brethren!”

“Permanent? So they’ll be stuck in Frankenstein mode forever?!” exclaimed Shadowcat.

“It will be more than that! As a true collective, we will expand the cloud that has bathed this island in its glory to every corner of the planet! The sun will be blocked out. Winds and rain will inundate the land. Every ecosystem will be destroyed and we, the children of the Cambrian, will use our collective power to organize it from the bottom up. A new era of life, rich in diversity and dominated by mutant kind shall emerge!”

“Right…and just how many people is this likely to kill?” said Psylocke.

“The process of natural selection is imperfect and unavoidable. All life that fails to adapt will go extinct. It is a necessary sacrifice.”

It was hard to tell if this was Magneto’s madness or just the ramblings of a 500 million year old creature. It sounded like a blend, just as Professor Xavier described when he analyzed the Cambrian. The stakes were even higher now. The Cambrian was willing to rein destruction for the sake of its own twisted notion of life. It had to be stopped.

“A necessary sacrifice…Magneto’s favorite phrase,” said Phoenix.

“Zhis sacrifice vill not be made!” said Nightcrawler, “Professor, keep trying to reach it! It looks as though ve vill have to weaken it!”

“I was wondering when I was going to get a shot at this thing,” said Havok, charging his powers and taking aim at Magneto.

There was no way around it. They had to attack the Cambrian even if it would hurt others affected by it. The Cambrian must be made vulnerable so they could make their move.

“Such a pity. I did not expect you to understand. Please do not take my actions as hostile. I am merely fulfilling my purpose.”

Havok let out a concentrated burst from his hands, but Magneto’s form moved out of the way just in time to avoid it. He merged back into the main mass, causing the silvery veins to pulsate more in the process.

“Get back here you slimy freak! Don’t hide from me!” barked Havok.

“I do not think it is hiding, comrade,” said Colossus as they shifted their attention back to the base.

The ground shook again and the massive creature erupted in a new round of activity. From the slimy walls just ahead, several new figures emerged from within the Cambrian. They were the figures of their captured friends. Cyclops, Wolverine, Iceman, Rogue, Blob, Avalanche, Quicksilver, and Pyro moved in unison to confront the bewildered X-men and Brotherhood. Like Magneto, they were completely consumed by the creature, their bodies laced with blackened veins and grotesque formations.

It was the worst weapon the Cambrian could have thrown at them. The two teams stood face-to-face with the friends they were trying to save. In order to stop the Cambrian, they would have to go through them.

“I was afraid of this,” lamented Storm as she watched Wolverine approach.

“As if Cambrian Beast wasn’t hard enough!” groaned Gambit who was similarly distressed to see Rogue.

“We can take them!” said Havok as he stared down his brother, “We just have to subdue and evade! Give the Professor a chance to do his thing!”

“I’m pretty sure they know that too, Havok!” said the Scarlet Witch as she and Polaris faced Quicksilver.

“Doesn’t mean it’s a bad plan!” said the Brotherhood leader, “Colossus, you and Shadowcat stay with the Professor! Protecting him at all cost! The rest of you, try and lure them away! Buy as much time as possible!”

“Wow, he does have something in common with Scott,” commented a bewildered Shadowcat.

“He’s still an asshole!” said Psylocke as she formed a couple of psionic blades.

Havok’s plan went into effect as the fight against the Cambrian began. They instinctively targeted those they were close to in hopes of getting through to them through the ancient creature’s control. Havok, Polaris, and Phoenix went for Cyclops and Iceman. Storm went after Wolverine. Gambit and Nightcrawler went after Rogue. The Scarlet Witch took on Quicksilver. Psylocke tried to back up Gambit, but ended up confronting Avalanche and Pyro. This left Blob free to go after Professor Xavier, where only Shadowcat and Colossus stood in his way.

The biggest enemy besides the Cambrian was time. They had to give Professor Xavier enough time to use his telepathy to shatter the Cambrian’s control over the mutants of the world. The ancient creature seemed to know what they were up to and the Cambrian Blob didn’t waste time.

“WE…MUST…EVOLVE!” Blob roared as he charged towards Professor Xavier.

“Stand back, Shadowcat! I’ve got this!” said Colossus.

Blob moved in to crush them with his oversized form. Colossus was able to counter and grasp him by the arms. Even with his strength, he was driven back a good fifteen feet. He was driven so hard he created some deep groves in the hard rock. He only stopped within several feet of the Professor, too close for comfort as Cambrian Blob seethed with intent.

“Errrrrrrr! He’s…strong!” grunted the Russian mutant.

“You know, just because I’m not as big as you doesn’t mean I can’t hit just as hard!” said Shadowcat with a determined grin.

With boldness characteristic of all X-men, Shadowcat ducked under Colossus and grabbed onto Blob’s oversized form. The special gem from Shaman protected her and she was able to phase. With her powers, she sunk Blob right into the hard ground so that he could no longer keep pushing. She managed to get him down so far that only his head wasn’t covered. For good measure, Shadowcat slugged him across the face and caused his glowing eyes to falter.

“Augh!”

“Big things come in small packages, Blob! And small packages can still kick ass!” said Shadowcat.

“I’m not sure if that’s an American saying, but I like it!” said Colossus, looking very impressed with Shadowcat’s display.

Shadowcat couldn’t help but grin at Colossus’s reaction. He didn’t expect her to have that kind of impact. He must not have been used to women of her stature being so tough. Something about that was pretty rewarding.

But there was no time to impress super strong Russian boy. Blob was still fighting and already causing the rock around him to crack. He wasn’t going to stop just like the Cambrian wasn’t going to stop. Shadowcat turned to the Professor and urged him on.

“What’s the word, Professor? How long is this psychic attack of yours going to take?” shouted Shadowcat.

“I…I’m not sure,” grunted Professor Xavier, his face already covered with sweat as he pushed his mind harder, “The Cambrian’s defenses are more formidable than I expected. I should still be able to break them. I just need…”

“Time?” Colossus finished for him, “In Russia, time is only as good as the way we use it! If what we’re doing is not enough, we need to know so we can do something else!”

Charles Xavier took a deep breath and stepped up his attack. Colossus was right. With so little time, he couldn’t keep trying if it was yielding no results. He anticipated the Cambrian’s resistance, but he did not anticipate these kinds of defenses. He should have been able to get through quicker. Something was holding him back and his students would only suffer if he couldn’t break through.

Not far from where Blob was stuck in the ground, Psylocke was trying to keep Avalanche and Pyro from lending their oversized friend a hand. They were trying to get to the Professor as well and in their monstrous states, they were a lot more formidable than she had trained for in the Danger Room.

“Bloody hell,” she muttered as she gripped her psionic blades firmly, “My luck must be bullocks for this to be my first mission as an X-man!”

“Evolve!” yelled Avalanche and Pyro in perfect unison.

Avalanche unleashed a tremor that ripped through the rocky ground and Pyro unleashed a barrage of fireballs. With supreme agility, Psylocke leaped back and forth between the cracks in the ground while using her flexible body to avoid the fireballs. A few singed her uniform and her exposed skin, making her regret briefly that her uniform was so revealing. She ignored the pain and kept going, having to move faster as the tremors grew more violent. When she got within ten feet of the two Cambrian drones, Avalanche used his powers to cause a massive uplift of rock that nearly cost Psylocke her balance.

“Whoa! You blokes are smarter than you were before the Cambrian!” she grunted.

Upon regaining her composure, Psylocke narrowly avoided another fireball and drove her psionic blade into the side of the rock. Using this as a stabilizing force, she descended down the rock towards the two Brotherhood minions. As she descended, Pyro formed a large fireball and shot it right at her.

“BURN!”

“I already miss evolve,” groaned Psylocke.

The purple haired mutant pulled off another death defying feat of acrobatics, leaping away from rock just as the fireball hit. While it did miss her, it certainly didn’t miss the rock. The impact was so strong it broke a healthy shard off the top and caused several heavy chunks of rock to fall to the ground. Unfortunately, they fell right were Pyro and Avalanche were standing. One especially heavy rock hit Pyro right in the head and knocked him out cold.

“Ungh!”

Avalanche narrowly dodged to the side to avoid the other rocks, not saying a word in his Cambrian controlled daze. However, he did not notice that Psylocke had landed right behind him. From there she drove her psionic blade right into the back of his head, causing Avalanche to tense and pass out.

“That thing about you blokes being smarter than you look,” she said as she watched Avalanche fall, “I take it back! You’re just lucky I can make my blades non-lethal.”

Psylocke had only a brief moment to catch her breath. She wasn’t doing too bad for her first mission as an X-man. She took on Avalanche and Blob single-handedly and defeated them. But before she could celebrate, the ground below her shook again. This time it wasn’t from Avalanche.

“Cherè, we could use some help over here!” grunted a very desperate Gambit, “I be thinking Rogue’s a little angry with Remy!”

“Zhat’s quite zhe understatement, mien friend!” said an equally desperate Nightcrawler.

Psylocke got a quick taste of what they were talking about when she saw the Cambrian controlled Rogue fly up into the air a good fifty feet and plunge back down, slamming her firsts into the ground to cause more tremors. Rogue’s Cambrian form was almost twice the size and twice the muscle mass of her previous form. Armed with the strength she already had from her powers and she was a force they were not equipped to handle.

“YOU…WILL…EVOLVE!” she roared with anger in her tone as she set her sights on Gambit.

“I be guessing evolve and die be interchangeable, non?” said Gambit as he warily wielded his bow staff.

“Try not to make it personal, Gambit! She’s not in control!” urged Nightcrawler.

“Maybe,” the Cajun conceded, “That don’t mean something personal ain’t driving her.”

Gambit’s words seemed prophetic as Rogue took to the air and flew right at him like a battering ram. The Cajun looked to avoid her, but hesitated as he stared into the eyes of the woman he was so close to. He would have been pulverized on the spot. Lucky for him, Psylocke jumped him and pushed him out of the way.

“Better get your head in the game, luv! She’s not going to go easy on your because of your history!” said Psylocke.

“Going easy is the last thing Gambit’s worried about,” he lamented.

As Psylocke helped him up, Rogue flew around for another attack. She still had the same murderous intent with her glowing eyes. She came flying in at high speeds, yelling with rage as she drew close to Psylocke and Gambit.

EVOLVE!”

She was just about to reach them when Nightcrawler appeared right on her back and grabbed onto her.

“Forgive me, mien sister,” he said sadly.

In a puff of sulfurous smoke he teleported, taking Rogue with him in the process. They reappeared about a hundred feet away from where Gambit and Betsy were standing. It was right near the base of the citadel. When they emerged, Rogue was still had a lot of momentum going. She did not have enough time to change her direction and crashed head first into the hard outer shell of the Cambrian. Nightcrawler was able to leap away mere seconds before impact.

A pained expression never left his face as he watched his sister lie motionless for a moment. Gambit and Psylocke caught up with him and watched nervously as well, not sure if Rogue was out of the fight.

“Thanks homme. Remy owes ya,” said the Cajun.

“This is not something I vish to be thanked for, Gambit. That’s my sister,” said Nightcrawler sadly.

“You did what you had to do, luv,” said Psylocke, “She’ll understand when this is over.”

“Knowing Rogue, zhat may be pushing it.”

Her words offered little comfort. Nightcrawler was still not proud of what he just did. His guilt would be short lived though. With almost no recovery time, the Cambrian Rogue shot up from unconsciousness and set her sights back on her three targets. She took to the air again and prepared to attack.

“AHHHHHHHHHHH!” she exclaimed.

“Rogue don’t!” yelled Gambit desperately as he and the others braced themselves.

But the impact would never come. Just as Rogue was about halfway towards them, another figure descended from above. It came in the form of a falcon, but quickly shape shifted into a much more familiar figure.

“Enough of this, Marie!” said Mystique, now in her full bodied form, “As your mother, you’ve earned yourself a timeout!”

From her falcon form, she descended right on top of Rogue and landed a heavy blow to the back of her head. This along with the lingering impact from earlier helped take Rogue out of the picture in this fight. Like Nightcrawler, her expression was solemn. However, Mystique was more hardened. She knew how to lock away the guilt in ways few others could ever hope.

When she stepped away from Rogue, Nightcrawler and the others were shocked. They were under the impression that nearly every mutant in the planet had been turned by the Cambrian. Mystique certainly had the skill to avoid it, but for her to show up in the thick of this battle was nothing short of shocking.

“Mother…vhat in God’s name are you doing here?!” exclaimed Nightcrawler.

“Nice to see you too, son,” she said flatly, “You think I would stand by while my children are throwing themselves into this mayhem?”

“Somehow I doubt that be all,” said Gambit skeptically.

“I also meant to ask vhat are you doing here vithout some kind of protection!” exclaimed Nightcrawler as he quickly grabbed his mother, “If zhe Cambrian senses you, it vill try to turn you into another one of its minions!”

“The Cambrian? That’s what this thing is called?” scoffed Mystique.

“Yes, and we have special protection from it,” said Psylocke, showing her the glowing stones they got from Shaman, “You being here is putting us all in danger!”

“You act as though I’m not equipped. I could care less if I’m threatening your precious teamwork,” said the shape shifter, “All that matters is this monstrosity is going to be destroyed at any minute! I was sent here by General Grimshaw to target this thing for a missile attack!”

“Wait…Grimshaw sent you?!” exclaimed Nightcrawler.

“And he be sending missiles?!” said Gambit with equal disdain, “That’s crazy! You’ll kill us all!”

“They’re targeted! They’ll work fine so long as we’re not here to be caught in the blast!” said the shape shifter, “That is why we must get out of here!”

“No! You don’t understand!” exclaimed Nightcrawler, “If zhey attack zhe Cambrian vith missiles it’ll…”

That was where Nightcrawler was abruptly cut off. Before he could explain the situation to his mother, a familiar feral roar interrupted them.

“HRRRRRRRAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!”

The Cambrian Wolverine came storming towards their position, his adamantium claws drawn along with his new hulking form. He was driving back a reluctant Storm, who had been attacking with wind bursts and lightning. However, she clearly was holding back, not wanting to hurt her lover. This hesitation worked against her as the feral mutant charged in what had to be a Cambrian enhanced version of his berserker rage.

“Everybody stay back! He’s coming! I can’t…” yelled Storm desperately.

“EVOOOLLVVEEE!” the enraged Wolverine roared.

With a threatening snarl the feral figure leaped through Storm’s wind shear and grabbed her by the neck. This took away Storm’s concentration and her powers faltered, causing her to fall out of the air and crash into the ground with a raging Cambrian Wolverine on top of her. She struggled intently, trying to fight off the grip of the snarling beast above her. She could still use her powers, but she resisted having to strike her transformed lover. He was still inside that hulking monster. She just had to reach him.

“Please Logan…it’s me!” she cried desperately.

“Errrrrr! Evolve!”

She got no response. It was like the Cambrian Wolverine never heard her. Snarling intently, the feral figure raised his claws and prepared to drive them right into her. He was stopped halfway by an incoming barrage of charged playing cards that knocked him off her.

“Stormy! Get away from him now!” yelled Gambit.

Storm still hesitated, not taking her eyes off her lover. Gambit and Psylocke showed up to help her back to her feet. She was pretty bruised and sore, that blow from Wolverine having hit her harder than expected. She struggled to shut out the pain as the Cambrian Wolverine got up and prepared for another attack. His claws drawn, he looked even angrier than before and let out a feral roar.

“HRRRAAAAAHHHHHH!”

Gambit, Psylocke, and Storm prepared to counter the incoming attack. Then to their surprise, Mystique stepped in front of them.

“Mother, vhat are you doing?!” exclaimed Nightcrawler.

“Taking care of unfinished business!” the shape shifter replied, “Now stay back!”

This was the first time since Election Day that she confronted Wolverine. That strange moment where they kissed still hung strongly in her mind. She would prove to herself that it was nothing more than some fluke. She could do just that by taking him down.

Nightcrawler watched along with Storm, Gambit, and Psylocke as Wolverine closed in. With Mystique in his path, he set his sights on her. Snarling in a rage, he raised his claws and prepared to attack. The shape shifter stood ready to counter, but to her astonishment and that of everyone else watching the attack never came.

Just as the Cambrian Wolverine’s claws were about to strike, he froze. There was nothing stopping him. Mystique hadn’t done anything to tip him off. He just flat out stopped in mid-stride, his claws mere inches from the shape shifter.

“Whoa…what the heck kind of voodoo did she just pull?” said Gambit.

“I have no idea,” said Nightcrawler in bewilderment.

It was tense, especially for Mystique. A part of her wasn’t surprised by this. She remained defensive as she stared into the glowing eyes of the Cambrian Wolverine. He was still snarling in a rage, but something was keeping him from attacking her. His arms were shaking, almost as if he was fighting off the Cambrian. Eventfully, Mystique found herself gazing into the eyes of this creature more carefully.

“You’re…not going to attack, are you?” she said softly, “You want to, but you can’t.”

“Errrrrr!”

“Something is holding you back,” Mystique went on as she moved in closer, “Just as something held me back. What is it? I must know!”

In a daze, Mystique slowly reached out to Wolverine with a caring gesture. He still wouldn’t attack. It was as if her presence was keeping the Cambrian at bay. His red eyes started to falter and his grunts became more labored. Something was happening inside his confused mind.

For Storm, it was more than just a bizarre sight. She tried to reach out to Wolverine from the beginning and she failed at every turn. Yet Mystique was able to just stand there and somehow get him to stop. Powerful forces were clearly at work here and it wasn’t just the Cambrian.

“He was wrong. We were both wrong,” said Storm softly with tears forming in her eyes.

“Wrong about what?” asked a very confused Psylocke.

Before this mystery could unfold any further, the frantic cries of the Scarlet Witch broke Mystique and the rest of the X-men from their daze.

“Look out!” she shouted.

A blurry outline flew right by the Cambrian Wolverine, forcing him away from Mystique as a strong gust of wind flew by in its wake. Nightcrawler caught his mother while the Cambrian Wolverine stammered, his eyes flashing bright red again as the rage overtook him once more.

While this was unfolding, the blur ran by again. It was Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. The fight between them had been chaotic from the beginning. The Scarlet Witch tried to use her hex powers to paralyze her brother or at least hold back his powers. She ended up hesitating to attack her family and that hesitation cost her. Quicksilver grabbed her and tried to pin her, forcing the Scarlet Witch to cover herself in a hex shield and push back. This counter was short lived because the Cambrian Quicksilver just started running hard, forcing her off the ground and carrying her along for the ride. The only thing that kept Quicksilver from unwittingly crushing his sister was her hex field. This field was forcibly shattered when he ended up crashing into the Cambrian Wolverine.

“Auugghhh!” cried the Scarlet Witch as her hex field broke.

“Time…to…EVOLVE!” seethed the Cambrian Quicksilver.

With no time to reflect on what was going on with Mystique, the X-men acted.

“Storm! Hit Quicksilver vith a tornado! He can’t run if he can’t touch the ground!” yelled Nightcrawler.

“Good thinking,” said Storm flatly, still injured and disoriented.

Storm’s eyes glowed as she formed a tornado that quickly enveloped Quicksilver and lifted him off the ground. The hulking figure was disoriented and started thrashing wildly. Before he could get his legs moving again, Nightcrawler teleported right up in front of him within the eye of the storm and drop kicked him in the face. This sent him falling to the ground where Psylocke stepped in and rendered him unconscious with a psionic blade.

“Take five, speedy!” grinned Psylocke.

That took care of Cambrian Quicksilver, but Cambrian Wolverine was still conscious and very irritated. In his state he grabbed the nearest target he could find, which happened to be a dazed Wanda Maximoff who was still reeling from having her hex field shattered.

“Hnnn…” she groaned.

“HRRRRRRRR EVOLVE!”

He drove his claws right towards her face. The Scarlet Witch braced herself, but the impact never came. Nightcrawler appeared again, this time on top of Wolverine’s hand and grabbed the Scarlet Witch. Before he could slash her, he teleported her out of the way. They landed just ten feet away from Wolverine. The Scarlet Witch was now safe in Nightcrawler’s arms. Wolverine still had his sights set on them, but now that she was free the Scarlet Witch could attack again.

“Oh no you don’t!” she seethed.

Clenching her fist, the Scarlet Witch formed a powerful hex bolt and fired a blast right at the Cambrian Wolverine. He let out a feral roar and was paralyzed where he stood. The Scarlet Witch then clenched her other fist and fired another hex bolt that hit the Cambrian Wolverine with the force of a speeding truck. This knocked him back a good 150 feet and effectively took him out of the fight, at least for now. It allowed her to finally breathe a sigh of relief, despite still being sore and supported within Nightcrawler’s arms.

“Are you going to be okay?” he asked her.

“I’ll be fine,” she said with a slight smile, “Um…thanks for the save.”

“It vas nothing,” replied Nightcrawler, “I still drop kicked your brother so I vouldn’t say a thank-you is necessary.”

“I’ve done way worse to him over the years. Heaven’s knows he’s earned it.”

Nightcrawler smiled somewhat. They were both in the same boat, fighting against family they didn’t want to fight. That made helping one another easier even though they were on different teams.

Over with Mystique, Gambit, Psylocke, and Storm there was still plenty of confusion. The fight wasn’t over and if the Cambrian’s appearance was any indication they were going down to the wire.

“Remy ain’t even gonna comment on what just happened,” said Gambit, who was still helping Storm stay upright, “Remy just gonna ask what we do now.”

“That whole bit about missiles changes things!” said Psylocke, “We have to warn the Professor.”

“We may already be too late,” said Mystique grimly, “If the missiles don’t come in, then a nuclear attack will follow.”

“A nuclear attack?!” exclaimed the Scarlet Witch.

“This day just keeps getting better and better,” Gambit groaned.

“We must warn the Professor!” said Storm, “This plan of his can’t work like this!”

“Let’s hope he has a backup,” said Psylocke, “I don’t want my first mission as an X-men to be my last.”

With the injured Storm and Scarlet Witch in hand, Gambit led Nightcrawler and Psylocke across the chaotic battlefield of the Cambrian. The fighting was still intense and Cambrian’s forces weren’t vanquished just yet.

Not far from where the Professor was holding up with Colossus and Shadowcat, the fight against the Cambrian Cyclops and Iceman was still going strong. Phoenix was busy deflecting incoming optic blasts from the Cambrian Cyclops with her telekinesis. She tried to draw the blasts away from Havok and Polaris by flying into the sky and keeping his attention, giving them the opportunity they needed to focus on Iceman. While she could deflect the blasts, Phoenix was reluctant to attack her lover.

“Come on, Scott…fight this!” she urged him.

“Must…evolve!” was all he said, sounding as though he was struggling with each word.

Phoenix wasn’t the only one reluctant. Havok and Polaris focused on Iceman, trying to take him out while they weren’t in Cyclops’s line of sight. It was not easy for Polaris, who still harbored mixed feelings about her former lover. She used some metal ripped from some nearby buildings to surround and restrain him, but the Cambrian Iceman was able to freeze them all into solid blocks of ice and shatter them like glass with his new strength.

“You have to stop holding back, Polaris! Hit him harder!” urged Havok, who used his own blasts to keep Iceman from zeroing in on them.

“I…I’m trying!” she said.

“Don’t try! First forget that this guy is your ex! Then do it!”

Havok gave Polaris time to think this over. He ran towards Iceman, drawing his attention. The hulking figure roared as he formed an ice ball in his hands and unleashed a punishing beam of cold. Havok ducked off to the side and shot a concentrated blast of energy right into Iceman’s face. It hit him head on, causing him to grasp his face in agony. At the same time, Havok’s legs got caught in the ice beam and a heavy block formed around his legs up to his shin. Havok fell to the ground, unable to get up and move. He also landed pretty hard, knocking the wind out of him and leaving him dazed while the enraged Cambrian Iceman gathered himself.

“YOU!” the Cambrian Iceman seethed as he formed another ice beam in his hands.

“Come on….I can take it!” grunted Havok, his teeth chattering as he prepared another blast, “Legs or no legs…you’re still just a brute!”

His hands were shaking from the cold so he couldn’t aim properly. He braced himself for another one of Iceman’s blast. As he hoped, Polaris came through and attacked.

“No Bobby!” she exclaimed.

Clenching her fists, Polaris ascended into the air and gathered more metal from nearby buildings. With it, she formed a heavy sphere shape reminiscent of a wrecking ball and used it to slam Iceman hard from the side just as he was about to fire. It completely blindsided him, sending him crashing into some nearby concrete columns and knocking him out cold. It was not the most satisfying move she ever made. A part of her resented having to hurt her former love. She would have to apologize afterward. Right now, there was still plenty of battle left to be won.

She flew down to meet up with Havok, who managed to free his legs from the ice with a quick blast.

“Not bad…not bad at all,” he said with a smile.

“Somehow I don’t think that’ll make our breakup any less bitter,” said Polaris as she helped him up.

“He’ll get over it. If he’s moved on, then so should you.”

Polaris smiled and even blushed a little. Havok was a tough guy. While he may be a bit arrogant and reckless, there was always heart behind every action. She was beginning to see that.

“Now we just have to handle Cyclops,” said Havok, his feet still shaky, “Think you can whip up another blow like that?”

Before Polaris could answer, a powerful optic blast shot out and narrowly missed the two of them. They were forced to duck down and take cover. As they did, Phoenix flew by with her telekinetic shields still going strong. Cyclops’s blasts were getting more powerful. She was having greater difficulty holding him off and he was closing in on Polaris and Havok.

“Sorry about that, guys! The Cambrian is amping Cyclops’s blasts up to 11!” grunted Phoenix.

“So stop holding back!” said Polaris, relying the same advice Havok gave her, “He’s your boyfriend, Phoenix! Stop playing defense!”

Phoenix gritted her teeth as she stared down the man she loved, who was at the mercy of this ancient creature. He kept firing away, sending increasingly larger optic blasts towards her that she kept deflecting with her telekinesis. She couldn’t keep it up forever. She had to put an end to this.

‘Scott, if you can hear me…I’m sorry. I’ll definitely be sleeping on the couch for this one.’

Upon deflecting another optic blast, Phoenix’s eyes flashed bright yellow to show she was tapping the power of the Phoenix Force and expanded her bubble with newfound energy. When this bubble reached the Cambrian Cyclops, it was like being driven back by a bulldozer. A healthy chunk of the ground went with him. He wasn’t knocked out, but he was left dazed. Phoenix used this as a chance to land in front of him just as he was getting up.

“Please Scott…it’s me!” said Phoenix desperately.

The Cambrian Cyclops snarled as he arose and took aim at the figure before him. He was still shaky after the impact of the telekinesis, but he had a clear shot. He stood ready to fire at Phoenix once more. Only this time, he hesitated. His oversized arm started shaking and he seemed paralyzed, unable to go through with it.

Phoenix sensed his inner conflict. She smiled as she boldly moved in closer, using her mind to reach out to her lover even more.

“Hnn…evolve?”

“You’re doing it, Scott! Please…come back to me!” urged Phoenix.

Phoenix slowly reached for his monstrously deformed face. Even though he was laced with Cambrian shards, she still saw the handsome face of the man she loved. The Cambrian couldn’t keep her from him. She was about to touch him when suddenly, a heavy blast from the side came in and hit the Cambrian Cyclops right in the head. It came from Havok and it knocked the Cambrian Cyclops out cold.

“Hey!” Phoenix exclaimed, “Damn it, Alex! I was getting through to him!”

“The Cambrian still has him, Phoenix. It wouldn’t have made a difference,” said Havok as he approached with Polaris helping him, “He’ll be okay. My blasts don’t affect him as much as others. That hit just knocked him out.”

“That doesn’t mean it was necessary!” she barked.

“Maybe not, but we don’t have time to test your boyfriend’s will power,” said Polaris, “The Cambrian looks like it’s going to blow it’s top any second!”

As upset as Phoenix was about Havok’s tactics, Polaris was right. Looking back towards the Cambrian, it looked like it was on the verge of erupting. It was throbbing mercilessly now, causing the ground to shake. They were almost out of time.

Phoenix, Havok, and Polaris linked up with Storm, Gambit, Psylocke, Nightcrawler, Mystique, and the Scarlet Witch. With the Cambrian minions down for the count, their only obstacle now was the Cambrian itself. Looking back towards Professor Xavier, he didn’t look like he was making much progress.

“Professor, please tell us you’re getting close!” said Storm.

“I…I wish I was, Storm! There’s just too much interference!” said a visibly exhausted Charles Xavier.

“Well you better hurry it up, Charles! If you don’t take this thing down, Grimshaw and his missiles will!” barked Mystique.

“Missiles?! When did that become a factor?!” exclaimed Shadowcat.

“Since the folks who be policing mutants figured they should do something,” said Gambit dryly.

This information was a bombshell for Charles Xavier. Looking up at the Cambrian, he could not see a way for him to break through like this. Something had to change.

He tried to think fast. His body and mind was so weak. He felt like he was going to give out at any moment. So much was riding on his shoulders. He couldn’t let his students and the rest of mutant kind down. Professor Xavier looked back towards his X-men and then back up at the Cambrian. A new idea entered his mind, one that was so utterly foolish it seemed like something only Wolverine would contemplate.

“I have a plan,” said the Professor, “If I cannot break the psychic shield from the outside, then maybe it can be done on the inside!”

“The inside?” questioned Colossus, “You don’t mean…”

“Yes Peter…I mean I actually need to get inside the Cambrian and seek out Magneto! That may be the only way to break through this psychic clutter! It’s dangerous and I don’t know if Shaman’s stones will protect me inside!”

“But let me guess…there’s no other way?” made Psylocke.

“If you can think of something, I would be more than open to it! If not, this is what must be done!”

The X-men and Brotherhood exchanged glances. No new ideas came to them. The idea of the Professor going inside the Cambrian in this state was sickening to say the least. Considering how close this thing was to going off, there was no time to argue.

“If that’s what you need, we’ll make an opening for you!” said Havok strongly.

“And I’ll fly you in!” said Phoenix, “There’s no way you’re going in there without a little psychic backup!”

“I didn’t expect to,” said Professor Xavier breathlessly.

“What about the missiles?” asked Polaris.

“I’ll see if I can contact Grimshaw,” said Mystique, “I’ll try and fill him in on this batshit plan of yours, but I can’t guarantee he’ll listen!”

“Do what you can, Mystique! If this works, then tell him to fire his missiles! It may be the only way to end this once and for all!”

“How will I know if it works?” said the shape shifter skeptically.

“Thrust me…you’ll know.”

Mystique was still skeptical, but had to take his word for it. Too much was at stake to question his tactics. Nobody else questioned him either. This was the only plan they had so they went with it.

“Let’s get moving!” said Phoenix as she grabbed onto the Professor and turned to the others, “Guys, give us an opening!”

“You’ve got one, cherè!” said Gambit as he took out two decks of cards.

“Be careful in there,” said Shadowcat anxiously.

Xavier offered only a nod of assurance to his students as Phoenix used her telekinesis to fly him out of his chair and into the sky. As they levitated Havok, Gambit, Psylocke, Polaris, and the Scarlet Witch unleashed a concentrated burst of energy blasts, charged cards, psionic blades, magnetic waves, and hex bolts into a small area on the side of the Cambrian. It took a good thirty seconds of steady blasting or so to crack the outer shell and open a hole big enough to enter. Once it was visible Phoenix flew into it with Professor Xavier at full speed. Now on their way towards the heart of the Cambrian, Charles Xavier was ready to put a stop to this ancient creature once and for all.

‘So weak...so much pain. But if given the choice to be bested by a monster than by my own body, I’ll gladly confront the monster. My X-men...I’m sorry. I hope that when this is over, you’ll understand.’

Next Issue: Cambrian Explosion Part 5

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