Before Evolution

Written by Darkstorm5000

Disclaimer: X-Men Evolution, the X-Men, and other related characters in their various incarnations are the property of Marvel Entertainment Group and Film Roman Productions, are used without permission and not for profit.

xxx

Chapter 8- Helter Skelter

Finding themselves having returned back home at this fairly late hour from what had turned out to be a fun-filled evening, the students' of the Xavier Institute were hardly concerned with this fact for two reasons. First, since tonight also happened to be a Saturday night, their usual nightly curfew was relaxed and pushed back a few additional hours from the normal time that the Professor Xavier had set for them.

But, the second and overriding reason for their lax attitudes on the subject could be attributed to their Headmaster currently being away and out of town, having left his four young charges for the most part to their own devices for the weekend.

"...because, I still don't buy it." John Proudstar said, as he opened one of the mansion's front doors and was the first to come in through it.

"What do you mean, you don't buy it?" Mariko Yashida asked next, and was also the next to come inside behind him.

"The whole idea of some high-school cheerleader running around killing vampires in her spare time." John skeptically remarked, referring to the new movie they had just gone to see tonight.

"Yet, you have no problem with the stuff that goes on around here?" Mariko in turn sarcastically pointed out to him, "Besides, it was just a movie."

"Yeah, I know. But, I think alotta sci-fi movie plots would probably seem downright normal compared to some of the things that we've had to deal with here." John stopped in the foyer and replied.

"I rather enjoyed it. Even though, I am generally not a fan of vampire movies." Ororo commented, as the other two members of their small group now came inside, the both of them having arrived just in time to hear the last part of John and Mariko's conversation.

"You know, I'm surprised you and John even managed to notice that there was a movie playing at all. Especially, with the way you two were gettin' busy back there behind us, suckin' each other's kiss and all." Morph whimsically remarked to Ororo, closing the front door behind him while she made her way over to her boyfriend.

To which, the happy couple's only response were a pair of subtlely-guilty grins and glances.

Ororo had also come inside holding a set of keys in her hand, having recently been the first in their group to get her driver's license. Which, granted her and her classmates' a greater degree of independence to leave the Institute. And while she had just driven the van around back so that she could park it in the garage, Morph had also remained in the vehicle to accompany her on this brief and final leg of their journey tonight. All, so that he could receive one last little bit of self-gratification, by hanging his head out of the passenger-side window like a dog with its tongue wagging in the breeze.

Literally.

"Still, it was nice to see Paul Reubens finally starting to get work again." Morph now commented, as the gang moved from the foyer down the adjoining corridor into the living room, "If I'd known he was going to be in it, I would've automatically given it my first vote when we were trying to decide what to see tonight."

"Aannnd, we wouldn't have had to start a ballot-system for movie night at all, if it hadn't been for the choice a 'certain someone' made last year." Mariko now sarcastically rolled her eyes and chimed in, her reminder aimed right back at Morph.

"Hey, I still say Cool As Ice wasn't that bad." Morph replied as he took a seat on the sofa with Mariko, picking up the remote from the coffee table in front of them and turning the TV on, "It was actually one of the funniest movies I've seen in a long time."

"Only problem is that it wasn't even supposed to be a comedy." Mariko now told Morph, and drew an extremely confused reaction from him in the process.

"No way." Morph giggled and disbelievingly replied, then looked over at Mariko.

"Way." Mariko responded to him, doing so with a confirmative nod.

"No! Way!" Morph once again said, this time with greater emphasis on each word and in a 'not yet ready for prime-time' perfect imitation to further illustrate his disbelief.

"Way!" Mariko replied in kind, adding in her own Madonna-esque vocal inflection, along with emulative facial and body gestures to match her exclamation.

"But...like most of the theatre was rolling in the aisles?" Morph proceeded to remind Mariko.

"Well, yeah." Mariko responded with a smile and a simple shrug of her shoulders, doing so in a manner that indicated to Morph that in spite of how true his last observation was, it was also pretty much beside the point.

But instead of responding with an almost requisite 'Excellent!' quip to round out this exchange, Morph appeared to be thoroughly disturbed by this revelation judging by the genuinely stunned expression on his face.

"Um, I think I'm going to need a minute." Morph now said, leaning forward a bit as he put both hands up to massage his temples and just sat there silently for awhile.

In the meantime, John had gone and taken a seat in a nearby armchair with Ororo also sitting down there with him, positioning herself comfortably up on one of the chair's cushioned armrests with her legs resting across his lap. With hands interlaced and the both of them now all smiles, it was a clear indication of just how close John and Ororo had become over the last several months.

But, now coming onto the television was a news report that had to do with a very different kind of coming together.

It was about the rebuilding process in Los Angeles that had barely gotten underway, following the disturbing chain of events that had unfolded a few months ago after the Rodney King trial-verdict was announced and had resulted in widespread rioting and violence across the South Central section of the city. It was an incident that catapulted a number of issues into the national spotlight, including the way in which opinions' about what had happened before and after the trial were split along racial, cultural, and social lines more than had been anticipated.

And, it served to remind the four teens in the room of the extensive discussion that had sprung up between them back when all of this happened, which revealed to them how that even within their small group they could each hold such widely varying outlooks on the subject.

But it was Morph who, surprisingly, best put things in perspective for them all. He poignantly pointed out that with his mutant ability to make himself look like anyone, how it had quickly taught him just how unimportant outward features like skin color really were, when you got down to it.

"So, what've you been up to cowboy?" Mariko now playfully asked as the news report continued on across the television screen, turning back around to greet Logan who was now standing in the living room's entryway.

"Just out for a drink. Or six." Logan replied, standing there with a six-pack ring of beer in his hand, which currently only had two cans remaining on it, "I was outside when I heard you guys pull up, and just came in to check on you like I promised the Prof. I'll be back out there doin' what I do best, if any of ya need me."

And with that, Logan was gone just as quickly as he had arrived, turning to head back outside into his own private solitude while carrying what remained of his second six-pack of the night. It was a personal space that his younger teammates had come to respect and generally tried not intrude upon, unless absolutely necessary.

But, it still didn't keep them from wondering and occasionally speculating amongst themselves as to the nature of the inner-demons that seemed to haunt their elder teammate, driving him to act in the ways that he sometimes did.

xxx

Later that night, much later...

So far, this summer had turned out to be a long hot one, and tonight would be no exception. And while some of the Institute's residents were experiencing varying degrees of trouble sleeping due to this unusually localized heat and humidity, what had managed to uniformly catch their attentions' was the sound of someone, or something, clumsily making their way around and through the mansion.

"Um, did you hear that?" Mariko semi-groggily asked, as she came out of her room and was met out in this darkened hallway by one of her teammates, who had also come from out of his bedroom just a few doors down.

"Yeah, how couldn't I." John replied as he and Mariko stood there together in their informal nightwear, referring to the loud thuds that sounded like were coming from down at the other end of the hallway where Professor Xavier's room was.

Which, was where they heard another resounding thump come from just now.

"I swear, this better not be Morph playing another one of his practical jokes!" Mariko surmised, as she and John started walking down towards the sounds in this virtual pitch darkness. She figured that it was their other, more comically-natured friend and teammate who was behind these strange noises, and who was having a bit of fun at their expense while the Professor was away.

As they neared their Headmaster's bedroom, they both saw that the bedroom door was ajar and then heard yet another peculiar emanation from within.

"Alright, Morph! You can cut it out now!" John now shouted through the door, hoping that Morph would get the hint that they were rapidly growing weary of his antics.

"Cut out, what?" Morph himself now asked, as he seemed to suddenly come up from out of nowhere but from behind John and Mariko, completely surprising the pair.

"Whoa!" Mariko exclaimed, as she turned around and was face-to-face with Morph, "John and I...we heard some noises coming from the Professor's room, and we thought you were in there doing it. You know, trying to scare us with one of your pranks."

To which, Morph simply stood there and looked at her for a moment.

"I, for one, am deeply offended by that. If I were the one behind pulling this gag off, it would have all the obvious markings of a 'Morph Practical-Joke Production'. I mean, where's the girl with her head spinning around, spewin' out chunks like a water-sprinkler?" Morph replied in his own defense, since he had heard the same unusual noises and had come to curiously investigate them just as John and Mariko had.

But, Morph also went so far as to twist his own head around in a 360-degree circular motion to serve as an example of what he was talking about before continuing. Although, he was courteous enough to spare his friends' a full-demonstration.

"Heck, there'd at least be some kid sitting in front of a TV telling you 'Theyre heeerre...'. But this, its got no sense of style. No sense of style at all. And I, for one, say that this is exactly the reason why the modern horror-film genre is all but dead, because--" Morph was saying, when a timely interruption ceased what was quickly turning into an off-topic rant.

"Okay, we believe you." Mariko said with a small laugh, as she had put her hand up to Morph's mouth to cover it, finding this the only way that she could get a word in edgewise once he had gotten started.

"Yeah, that's all well and good. But it still doesn't answer what's going on behind door number-three?" John now reminded them, as he pointed and turned their attention back towards the Professor's room.

And feeling that it was well past time for them to find out, the trio moved forward. Once they had reached Professor Xavier's room, the group paused momentarily before John went and pushed on the ajar door, opening it up completely.

"So, uh, who called us with a report that they'd just seen a ghost?" Morph said, as he stepped into Professor Xavier's room first and was now dressed in a brown jumpsuit with an instantly recognizable ghost-busting patch up on the shoulder. He had even gone so far as to have a fully lit-up proton pack strapped onto his back, and was holding a signature wand discharge-gun in his hand.

After John and Mariko had come in to join him, they took a quick look around the bedroom. It appeared to be in a heavily disheveled state of disarray, with the bed and hardwood dresser drawers broken and turned over. Morph, John, and Mariko all knew how highly unlikely it was that their teacher would've done this before leaving, and were wondering what was going on.

But just as they were visually assessing all of this damage, they suddenly saw it.

Off to the far-side of the bedroom was a figure in the shadows that looked unlike anything that any of them had ever seen. Despite standing in at well over seven-feet tall, height was its least intimidating feature. With scaly, leather-like skin of a blood-red hue and possessing a gangly skeletal-structure, it accurately resembled a demonic creature of some sort.

But unshaken by its appearance, Mariko amazingly began to make her way over towards it. For her, the lessons that she and her classmates' had been taught from Professor Xavier about mutations was the thing sticking out foremost in her mind. That, he had been preparing them for the eventuality of encountering a mutant whose very physical appearance was an affected byproduct of their powers manifesting. And Mariko didn't want to make the mistake of jumping to conclusions or casting aspersions based solely on looks alone.

"Um, I'm Mariko. If you're looking for Professor Xavier, he's not here right now." Mariko said, as she slowly took step after step towards the creature, staring up into its sunken and glowing orange eyes, "But, we're friends of his."

To prove her point, Mariko then proceeded to extend her hand out in an amicable gesture.

"We know."

Would be the creature's lone utterance, right before it would offer a response to Mariko's earnest attempt at building camaraderie. Although, it would be a response hardly reciprocal in its nature.

"Mariko, lookout!"

Mariko barely had a chance to fully process and then react to this warning that had been shouted out to her, recoiling her hand back just in the nick of time to avoid completely losing her entire arm as the creature's own razor-sharp claws came down at her in a slashing motion. But the creature's movement was blinding fast, so much so that it still managed to draw first blood by grazing Mariko's upper-arm with its claw. In spite of only landing a glancing blow, it still hit her with more than enough force to knock Mariko off of her feet and send her flying backwards through the air.

Waiting back there for Mariko though was a huge helping hand ready to lend itself, as Morph shape-shifted himself into a giant cushioned-glove and made the save by catching this human fastball that been sent his way.

"Bub, you don't know how bad you just messed up!" Wolverine now said to the creature, as he stepped into the room and popped all six of the adamantium claws from his hands. He had rushed back inside when his enhanced-hearing detected a commotion upstairs in the Professor's room, and had arrived just in time to deliver his warning to Mariko from out in the hallway.

Assessing their current situation Wolverine had to now make a few command, split-second decisions. Even though he considered this area of expertise neither his forte, nor was it a favored preference of his.

"Morph, keep an eye on her." Wolverine said, as he looked down at Morph, who was kneeling and cradling an injured and semi-conscious Mariko in his arms.

Wolverine then quickly turned his attention over to Thunderbird.

"Go check on Ororo, make sure she's okay." Wolverine instructed his teammate, pointing with one set of claws down towards Ororo's room, "Let her know what's goin' down, and that there might be more of these things runnin' around in here."

As Thunderbird took off in a sprint down the dark hallway, Wolverine then turned his attention and claws back towards the creature with an almost sickening smile on his face. Without any further words being exchanged or the slightest hint of hesitation on either of their parts, they both did what came instinctually when confronted with a foe.

The sheer savagery and viciousness that was about to be unleashed between these two in the next few minutes, would be something that neither of their young onlookers present would ever forget.

xxx

Dashing down this second-floor corridor as swiftly as his powerful legs would carry him, Thunderbird made it down to Ororo's room with such a miniscule amount of time elapsed that it would definitely have had most pro-sports scouts' salivating. Luckily, he managed to get there just in time prevent to another one of these creatures, who had also mysteriously crept in, from hurting his girlfriend.

Whom, Thunderbird noticed was still fast-asleep in her bed, and whom the creature was silently skulking across the bedroom towards. With the amount of noise that other one had been keeping up in contrast, it now made T-Bird wonder if the commotion that he had just left down at the opposite end of the corridor hadn't been part of some kind of elaborately thought-out and coordinated strategy? To keep them occupied in the Professor's room, while this monster snuck in and quietly took out perhaps the most powerful member of their team.

But it would be to no avail, as Thunderbird didn't even bother with yelling out any kind of warning and simply ran towards the creature. With his own strength and momentum propelling him through the air, Thunderbird tackled the creature from behind hard enough that it sent the both of them hurtling right over Ororo's bed and crashing into the wall on the other side.

"By the goddess!" Were the only words that Storm could conjure to describe the nightmarish scene unfolding before her. Having been startled from what was a peaceful slumber, she now saw her boyfriend locked in a life-and-death struggle with a demon-like creature on the floor just a few feet away from her.

And, with the same lack of hesitation that Thunderbird had shown in leaping to her defense, Storm responded in kind. Immediately jumping to her feet on top of her bed, Storm used her near-absolute control over the elements to generate a small and tightly concentrated hurricane magnitude wind-burst, which she aimed at the creature with the purpose of separating it and its death-grip from Thunderbird.

Once that had been quickly and efficiently accomplished with T-Bird now safely out of harm's way, Storm proceeded to cut loose with an intense blast of electricity that was sent from her and now coursed through the creature's body. Although, Thunderbird had no way of gauging how truly powerful that energy bolt was in terms of kilowatt measurement, he knew that it must've been more than enough for Storm to clearly get her point across. Judging by the way that the creature didn't stick around for seconds, and quickly scampered out of the room.

"You okay?" Thunderbird asked, as he collected himself from off of the floor and stood up.

"I would think that a question more appropriate of me to be asking you?" Storm replied, as she hopped down from her bed and rushed over to Thunderbird, where she slowly ran her hand over a few bruised areas on his shirtless upper-body.

"I'm fine, now that I know you're fine." Thunderbird told Storm, with his hands now embracingly up around her shoulders before he gave her a quick kiss on her forehead.

"Which, is more than can be said for our uninvited houseguest." Storm added, while looking up at T-Bird, "Would you mind telling me now what in the world is going on, and what that creature was doing in here?"

But instead of answering her, Thunderbird suddenly remembered that they had teammates' who were still in danger from this most unnatural home invasion.

"C'mon, I'll explain it all in a minute." Thunderbird said, as he grabbed Storm by the hand and started off with her, the both of them heading back towards the Professor's room.

One very short run later, Ororo and John had arrived just outside of their headmaster's quarters. But, John grew increasingly concerned when he didn't hear any sounds coming from inside.

There was only complete and total silence.

And once he and Ororo looked inside, they would easily understand why.

"Is everyone alright in here?" John asked, as he cautiously poked his head in through the doorway.

"Why don't you ask Hannibal Lector over there?" Morph replied, in what for him, was an uncharacteristically terse tone. He was still seated the same position on the floor with Mariko, who now conscious and sitting up on her own beside him.

Morph was pointing across the now even more trashed bedroom at Logan, who himself appeared to be quietly crouched over in some kind of meditative position. It was then that John and Ororo saw what Morph was referring to.

All around Logan were the decapitated and completely eviscerated remains of the demon-creature that they had first encountered earlier, giving an indisputable and disturbing indication of who had won their fight. So obviously frightened by what they had seen, witnessing for the first time what Logan was actually like when he lost control and slipped into one of his 'beserker rages', that neither Morph nor Mariko had said a single word until Ororo and John made their entrance.

And Mariko still hadn't said anything to anyone, appearing to be as emotionally overwhelmed at the carnage that had just unfolded before, as she was at seeing the almost primal pleasure that Logan had taken in ripping the creature apart. Instead, she sat there looking down and silently tended to the makeshift tourniquet wrapped around her injured and now numbed arm, which Morph had torn off for her from one of the Professor's ripped up bed sheets.

"Say, we ran into another one of those things down in Ororo's room. She zapped it pretty good, but it still got away." John informed Logan, and then waited through a noticeable pause for a response. Which, he eventually got.

"Then, we go 'n find 'em." Logan finally said, as he stood up from his crouched position covered in splatterings from the creature's blood, "Suit up and let's get to it."

Logan then turned and walked past his young teammates' out of the room, without looking at any of them or saying anything else. And for the first time since making Logan's acquaintance, his fellow X-Men sensed a new emotion being relayed from him through his current demeanor.

Shame.

xxx

After expeditiously changing into their team uniforms in only a matter of a couple of minutes, the X-Men emerged from their rooms ready for action and to face the task at hand.

"It went down this way." Logan said to the rest of the group as they followed him down this corridor into one of Institute's unoccupied wings, his hyper-tracking abilities leading them down the path left behind by the creature that Ororo and John had tangled with earlier.

Stealthily making their way further downstairs via a rarely-used side staircase, the X-Men did so in hopes of keeping their approach undetected, as well as in an attempt to keep up with their uninvited houseguest.

Once they had made it out into this first-floor corridor, Wolverine's nose continued leading the way until it brought the X-Men to just outside of Professor Xavier's study. After a brief moment of internal preparation for whatever awaited them on the other side of this door, a non-verbal gesture from Storm instructed Wolverine to go ahead and turn the doorknob, and told the rest of the X-Men to be ready.

Inside of their mentor's personal sanctum, the gang saw the creature that they had following, and that it was no longer alone. Standing around a stone marker off to one side of the room were three more of the creatures, who were identical in appearance to the first ones.

The broken stone marker itself, which had been brought into the mansion after it had been unexpectedly discovered by Thunderbird and Wolverine out on the grounds of the estate, and was being kept in here until an old archaeologist friend of the Professor's could come and properly examine it to determine its origin, was now aglow with a bizarre mystical energy. It was apparently a power designed to assist the creatures in invading this new world, which in actuality wasn't so new to them, as the one that Storm had injured was now using the marker's netherwordly properties to heal itself. And as evident by its rapidly growing group of cohorts, all of whose attention by now was focused on the X-Men, the marker also served as an arcane method of transportation for them.

"Okay, I'm going to ahead and officially ask it. When did the Institute all of a sudden turn into Hell House?" Morph semi-sarcastically inquired of his teammates', all of them watching as yet another one of the demon-creatures struggled to finish pulling itself through the trans-dimensional rift surrounding the stone cairn.

"More like, we've got the weirdest party-crashers ever." Sunfire observantly added.

"Whatever their reason for being here, if we do not do something and do it rather quickly, I fear that the mansion will be overrun by these monsters." Storm reminded her team, refocusing their attention onto the task at hand as she began formulating a strategy to most effectively deal with their unwanted houseguests.

But before she had the opportunity to verbalize her plan to the rest of the X-Men, the member of their team with the reputation of allowing his fists and temper to at times override his better judgment, took matters into his own hands. Without saying a word, other than a few uninterpretable grunts, Wolverine flung himself into this rapidly-expanding demon horde.

From the moment when he had confronted the first of these creatures upstairs earlier, Wolverine knew that there was something different about the enemy that they were facing tonight. It was what he detected from them and what seemed to permeate around their very presence and essence.

It was the stink of pure, unadulterated evil.

And while he was ashamed at having let the animal inside of him take over before, Wolverine also knew that he had nonetheless responded correctly. That in his experience in having dealt with creatures such as these before, the only way to stop their relentless assault would be to stop them. Permanently.

Even if that meant taking this fight to places that his young teammates were not yet ready to follow.

But to prove that they were more than prepared for just such an escalation, while Wolverine violently clawed his way through the creatures and dropped them with what appeared to be the barest of efforts, the stone cairn that seemed to be their anchor-hold in this world suddenly came to life in a manner that the X-Men had not been expecting.

With its surrounding, almost aural-like energies flashing to a brilliant shade of red in only an instant, a bright and powerful blast was unleashed from the small and broken stone structure aimed right at Wolverine.

Meant to be a protective defense mechanism to eradicate any who dared oppose them, the concentrated blast hit Logan so hard that it took him off of his feet and left ungodly singe marks on his body around its impact point. If the X-Men hadn't been aware of it before, then this should have certainly driven home to them the fact that they were now in a fight for their lives.

But, rather than allowing herself to become shaken or rattled by a situation that was only getting worse by the minute, Storm instead managed to keep her full composure. Realizing that with the Professor away and Logan currently unconscious while his body healed from the injuries that he had received just moments ago, the responsibility now fell onto her shoulders as the X-Men's leader to watch out for their welfare and find a way to bring them all through this in one piece.

"Morph, Thunderbird, do what you can to draw the fire of that stone column, while Sunfire and I prepare to hit it with all that we have." Storm quickly explained to her team, finding for the first-time that this leadership role seemed to have a natural and comfortable fit for her, "We may only have one chance at this, so I suggest that we make it count."

And with that, Thunderbird and Morph did as instructed. Both ran towards the other-wordly stone cairn, which seemed to have an uncanny level of sentience by being able to instantly detect their approach and respond with several malefic energy discharges aimed at the pair.

They each easily managed to avoid these mystical bursts, Thunderbird with his mutant-enhanced speed and agility, and Morph by using his own abilities to take the form of a sleek jungle cat to dart to-and-fro in front of the cairn's path of fire.

Meanwhile, Storm and Sunfire hung back and waited for the right opportunity to strike. And Storm was beyond satisfied to see that her plan was working to maximum perfection. By Morph and Thunderbird keeping the cairn occupied, it had the secondary effect of preventing any further of these creatures from emerging forth through it. And it bought her and Sunfire enough time to do what they did next.

To build up enough raw power within themselves to unleash their own massive and devastating thunderbolt/atomic flame combination blast into the heart of the cairn, shattering it wholly into a thousand tiny fragments and effectively sealing it for good!

With victory achieved and this still enigmatic threat seemingly vanquished, the X-Men took a moment to relax and catch their breaths for the first time since this entire episode began.

Then, it hit them.

The recognition of the fact that they had fought and beaten this enemy on their own! That, they were able to triumph and persevere without their teacher's assistance, although it was thanks to the training that they had received from Professor Xavier that they had been able to successfully do so.

"Well, I'm glad that's over." Morph said, while looking at a watch now on his wrist that had an abnormally large smiley face.

"Yeah, and I hope that's the last we've seen of weird creatures turning up here in the Institute." Mariko optimistically added, as she took a seat in a nearby chair and clutched her injured arm that was now throbbing with pain.

"Perhaps we should call the Professor and inform him of what has happened?" Ororo openly considered.

"Wake him up and tell him what? This is the kind of thing you have to see to believe." John stood with both arms folded over in front and remarked, "Hell, even after seeing it for myself I still don't half believe it."

To which, a now conscious and still trying to heal Logan offered up a rarely-heard chuckle from his seated position over on the floor.

"Welcome to the world of the strange, kid." Logan then said to John, as he went to stand back up.

"What's that supposed to mean, 'Pops'?" John curiously asked Logan, but received no answer.

Instead, Logan simply offered him a wry smirk in response, before turning to leave the Professor's now battle-scarred study. Almost as if he were saying to all of them through his non-verbalization:

"Kid, you'll be findin' out soon enough..."

xxx

The End.

(For now...)