The Evo world is forever turned upside down when a man named Dr. Nathanial Essex begins a project known as Shadow Cell from which the lives of Scott, Jean, Vincent, Wanda, and X23 are changed forev...
Chapter 15: The Life Of A Soldier
Upon the successful completion of their mission to once again thwart a plot that threatened to wipe out millions of lives, the five mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell found a remote, flat part of terrain in the rugged Hindu Kush mountains where they activated the advanced homing beacon that would signal their secret transport. However, given how slow and cumbersome it often was to operate aircraft in secret in this very militarily active part of the world, they knew they were going to have to spend a little time surviving in the cold, mountainous nights.
After having ridden their bikes on what little fuel they had left and ditching them over a cliff, they settled on an area near a forest that few people would ever dare to venture both terrorist and soldier...But it was all just another casual facet of life in Shadow Cell. In fact, they had all been forced to survive in much worse conditions than this. From Siberia in the winter to the Congo and Colombian jungles during the rainy season, survival was just one of the many skills Scott, Jean, Vincent, Wanda, and X23 were trained to be experts at and this situation was no exception. Despite the rugged terrain, there were still a collection of flora and fauna in the area for them to survive on, mainly small mammals and reptiles like rats, snakes, lizards, and a few birds. While most people would have cringed at the notion of eating such animals, for Shadow Cell it was like fast food for them and it helped them survive. And because of this appetite and willingness to eat such unusual dishes, some of the officials back at Shadow Cell affectionately called them the snake eaters.
After having settled on an area and after having killed a few snakes for sustenance, the five mutant soldiers were forced to camp out for the night until their transport arrived. Jean had used her pyrokinetic powers to start a small fire for them to gather around so they could stay warm in the bone chilling mountain nights. This also allowed them to cook some of the snakes they caught so they wouldn't have to eat them raw like they so often were forced to do. They never had blankets, so they used leaves, shrubs, and bark for makeshift beds. And for every instance when the chilly winds of the Hindu Kush mountains descended upon the area, they would all huddle close together and allow their bodies to provide the necessary warmth.
While the cold, rugged, inhospitable area was not an ideal place for camping, the remote area gave Scott, Jean, Vincent, Wanda, and X23 a rare moment of serenity and peace that they often had so little of both on and off the battlefield. Without a mission to worry about or training sessions back at headquarters, it was one of the few times when the five mutant soldiers were ever able to be their own person and reflect on their rigorous world.
In addition, it was also a time to let out pent up feelings that they were always forced to suppress in the Shadow Cell base. It was one of the few times Scott and Jean got a chance to be truly close without having to worry about being reprimanded by the GURSO unit or other officials. Ever since day one of their recruitment, they had found a great deal of peace and comfort with each other whether it centered on their tragic pasts or the simple stress of living a life of complete and utter duty as a soldier. Since that fateful day when a link between them formed in their darkest hour, their emotions towards one another grew and grew until it got to the point where they willingly admitted to themselves that they were in love...But to them, it was way more than just love. They were so deeply linked and shared such a profound bond that they would have shot the first person who called it mere puppy love. They were soldiers...They were comrades...They were best friends...They were lovers...They were so much more than anybody could ever have contemplated and it was times like this when were simply left to relish in it's splendor as they leaned close to one another, sharing each other's warmth and love while staying true to their poise as soldiers.
While it was clear that Scott and Jean shared a truly special bond, they weren't the only ones who had grown closer than mere teammates. Vincent and Wanda had also developed somewhat of a special bond since they day they first met. While they were not keen on admitting that what they have was something as profound as love, they knew they had something special. They had both lost so much in their lives and were forced to contend with so much inner pain that they used to cry themselves to sleep at night. However, since becoming soldiers, tears were not acceptable under the guise of being strong. So instead, they often found brief moments to simply be in one another's presence, taking in the warmth and comfort they felt together and allowing themselves to grow close in a way few people, soldiers or not, ever were.
For X23, she remained the loner of the group, keeping to herself more often than not, but staying true to her dedication to the only four people she considered to be her friends. While Dr. Essex and Magnum were like parental figures and guides, only Scott, Jean, Vincent, and Wanda ever gave her the feeling of belonging, for they were the ones to teach her how to feel and be an individual. They taught her things no drill instructor ever could and they looked out for her in a way nobody else did. For that reason, she trusted them and only them...Seeing them as close to being family...The one thing that she had often made her so angry and full of rage whenever she thought of it and how alone she used to be in the world.
Now, as they all sat in silence around the fire, staring into its chaotic flames, exhaustion began to set in for all of them, but they were determined not to fall asleep. Sleep often brought nightmares and nightmares often brought weakness...And if there's one thing Shadow Cell frowned upon, it was weakness. Instead, they just stayed close, watching the flames and letting their minds drift in the peace and serenity of the night.
"So what was our spread this time?" said Scott, who was huddled close to Jean as they all absorbed the warmth of the flames.
"If I recall...I think it was seven minutes," answered X23, who was simply hugging her knees and resting her head as she watched the yellow and orange flames dance in the frigid night.
"And what was our time?" he asked, knowing that this was just a tidbit they all liked to gauge themselves on with each mission.
"5:57 by my count," answered Vincent, "Give or take a few seconds."
This caused some of them to chuckle somewhat at the mention of the time people gave them in comparison to the time they were actually capable of.
"Damn...You think those GURSO assholes will ever get tired of betting on us?" pondered Jean as she used her pyrokinetic powers to stoke the fire.
"Until the day we run out of enemies to cap and hell freezes over...I doubt it," said Wanda, knowing the GURSO unit well enough to know that they would never quit fucking around with them as long as they were still breathing.
"I thought the General forbade that shit months ago after that incident where that guy blew a hole in the wall with his gun in a fit of rage because he lost 500 bucks," said Scott, wondering how and why they continued to put up with shit like this.
"He forbids it...But the Colonel doesn't," said Vincent, "Hell, he's probably bet a few dollars here and there as well for all I know."
"I wouldn't be surprised...The guy's a total jerk off," said Jean bitterly.
"So what else is new?" quipped Wanda, her voice dripping with sarcasm, "I swear, that asshole gets a perverse pleasure exploiting us behind our back. And yet they still allow him to head the security force that's ready to blow us away at a moments notice."
"Meh," scoffed Scott, "What are you gonna do? Once an asshole, always an asshole. The Colonel is just in a class all his own."
"That's for sure," said X23 in agreement, "But I swear, there are just some days when I just want to disembowel his ass for some of his shit."
"Trust me X...We all do," said Wanda in full agreement.
Another round of silence soon descended upon the group as they all once again soaked up the silence of the night that was so rare for them. The adrenaline of combat had long since faded and their exhaustion had caught up with them as the hour passed midnight on the cold, rugged terrain of the Hindu Kush plateau. It was a rare moment to rest their bodies and minds, for they were certain that once they got back, a new mission every bit as dangerous, if not more so, would come up for them to take care of in some forbidden, god forsaken part of the world that nobody in their right mind would dare to travel. Yet, that's exactly the kind of work they were trained for and equipped to handle and after three years of endless missions and training on the side, it had become more or less a redundant task for all of them since it's all they had ever known.
The air was cold, but the sky was crystal clear, shining brilliantly without any obstruction from nearby lights or population centers. It was a calm, serine setting...One that the five mutants of Shadow Cell seldom ever found time to enjoy as the celestial majesty of the night allowed their minds to drift as they huddled close to the fire and took in the overall atmosphere of their surroundings.
"Guys..." said Vincent, breaking the silence as he took in the sight of the stars in the sky above, "Do you ever stop and think about the people whose lives we fight for...The people who are spared every time we stop some nut from unleashing this or that into the world?"
"In this line of work...It's better not to think," answered Scott, "It's easier to focus that way."
"But at times like this when we're not killing or training to kill...Do you ever wonder?" said Vincent in tone mixed with both exhaustion and wonder, fighting off the urge to sleep through his inner musings, "I mean...What do you think would happen if the public knew a fraction of what we know about how the world operates?"
"Well in an immediate sense...They'd probably shit their pants," said Wanda, not thinking too much of it, "Besides, there's a reason why they're all kept in the dark about certain...Aspects of the world. Hell, they all still think mutants are just a farce."
"But what if they did know?" wondered Vincent, "What if one day, everybody just turned in their TVs and they saw images of mutants blaring across every news station, doing things they always considered impossible?"
"Well I guess that's where we come in," said Jean, "People like us...People who dedicate our lives, yet who nobody knows even exist that allow them to live on in a fantasy world of safety and security."
"But you know as well as I do just how big a lie that safety is," quipped Vincent as he kept his eyes on the stars, letting his thoughts wander as he so often did to stave off sleep.
"It's a lie by definition...But it's truth in their minds, and that's all that matters," said Scott, "If there's one thing Shadow Cell has made clear in all the years we've been a part of it, it's that truth is relative...People believe what they are led to believe, and that's what holds society together."
"Be that as it may, sometimes you have to ask yourself...Does one honest truth that brings insecurity and fear offset one thousand lies that bring forth a false reality?"
The five mutants of Shadow Cell took a moment to think about that notion. Vincent, who was always the more philosophical and spiritual one of the group, largely from the influence of Father Michaels and Mr. Kansuke, always had a knack for giving them all something to consider when they thought about the dark, secretive world they lived in. In a sense, they were in the business of preserving the lies fed to the public about the safety and security of their world...Yet at the same time, they saved countless lives time and time again from annihilation.
With missions and training pretty much dominating their lives, they were left with little time to think about the world they knew the inner workings of so well. They knew things about the government and the people who ran it that would cause riots to break out in the streets of every major city in the world, but never once did they ever question it. They had come to embrace the ideals that had been instilled upon them by people like Dr. Essex, Magnum, and the General. Serving their country and performing their duty was never done without a doubt in their mind, yet sometimes during rare moments like this it made them wonder about just how much the imbalance of truth and lies governed both their lives and the lives of those they saved.
"How long do you think it will be?" mused Vincent, once again breaking the silence, "How long do you think it will take for the public to uncover just one lie that'll offset society in a way that could change the course of history?"
"Hopefully not within our lifetime...However the hell long that may be," answered Scott, "Our line of work doesn't exactly leave a lot of people left to grow to a ripe old age."
"And some of us can't even grow ripe in this fucked up world," added X23, knowing that even if they all did grow old doing this, she'd never age beyond a certain point.
"As fucked up as it may be, it's still possible," said Vincent, "And it definitely couldn't hurt to think about it, just in case it happens and ends up leaving a mess that we'll have to clean up."
"I can't say it that would be a shocker," said Scott, "But then again...I guess we don't know, and probably can't know. On the battlefield and in life, you can think ahead, but you can only live from moment to moment...Working to overcome anything that stands in your way."
"Well said my friend," said Vincent, managing somewhat of a grin, which was very rare for him.
"Hey...It helps us to survive to fight another day," said Jean, looking up at the stars, then deciding to shift her focus back on the fire, letting the chaotic flames keep her alert and awake, "And in a life where there really is no future and only present, I guess that's all we can do at least for the sake of ourselves and each other...That much we know is truth."
Jean snuggled in closer to Scott as he held her tightly as another chilly wind swept across the area. Vincent and Wanda unknowingly took one another's hand, holding onto each other tightly as they continued to work past each moment that came. Seeing scenes like this always gave X23 something to think about, for she was still not all that knowledgeable on certain aspects of human emotion, for there was only so much her friends could explain. Nevertheless, she kept herself warm as Jean once again stoked the fire to keep it going on through the night as they simply waited for their transport to arrive so they could return to the base and prepare for yet another mission that was sure to come.
The five mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell drifted in and out of sleep over the next few hours, but it never last long. Over the years, they had learned to function on minimal, and sometimes downright scarce, amounts of rest. While their bodies were advanced, they still needed rest...But their minds often hindered even that remote need because of nightmares.
In order to stay awake, the five mutant teenagers that had grown up and fought together so cohesively both on and off the battlefield lightly conversed about this and that, commenting on everything from their skills to life in general. They kept close to the fire as the mountain cold refused to let up for them, but thanks to Jean's pyrokinetic abilities, it stayed strong even despite the occasional burst of wind. They passed each hour as it came, working from moment to moment as they so often did. Yet at the same time, they wanted to absorb this brief time of tranquility, for it was only a matter of time before they were once again on route to another death defying mission in some remote part of the world.
It was nearing the hour of sunrise as the five mutant soldiers found themselves nodding off once again for what was always just a brief amount of time before nightmares or restlessness set in...But then, just as they were nearing that point of sleep and consciousness, a distinct noise caught X23's keen senses as her eyes shot open and she began listening in and sniffing the air.
This action seemed to alert Scott, Jean, Vincent, and Wanda, for they knew and trusted X23's senses as they all were now on their feet and trying to sense what she seemed to be clearly sensing.
"X, what is it?" asked Wanda, seeing the familiar look of heightened aware on her face.
"A helicopter coming this way...Duel counter-rotating blades, deep vibrations, high speeds..." she said in an almost mechanical tone, which she mainly spoke in out of pure habit from her training.
"Duel counter-rotating blades and high speeds?" said Scott, "That can only be the AT-152 Wolfpack transport chopper...An aircraft only on the drawing board to some, but flying regularly to others."
Knowing Scott had an acute knowledge of everything that flew, which was probably something that stemmed from his father's love of planes, nobody questioned his suspicion as they too began to hear the distinctive sound of the blades get louder and louder as a small black speck in the sky quickly grew as it descended upon the area.
"Looks like our ride's here," said Wanda as they all stood up in preparation for the landing.
They kept the electronic beacon on, allowing the helicopter to move in as close as possible as dust and wind picked up from the helicopter blades as it neared the ground. The five mutant teens remained still despite the wind and dust blasting their faces as the landing gear was deployed and the large aircraft landed and the oversized doorways in the side that looked big enough to fit a tank through opened up before them, revealing a fully equipped platoon of GURSO soldiers with their weapons at the ready as they exited the craft and swarmed over the five mutant soldiers.
"Shadow Cell...Lower all weapons and keep your hands visible!" ordered one of the GURSO soldiers, "You know the drill!"
Having been through this routine many times before, the five mutant soldiers kept their guns and knives securely tucked away and held up their hands as the GURSO soldiers surrounded them in a semi-threatening fashion, ready to blow them away at the slightest hint of resistance or difficulty. Yet in the three years that Shadow Cell had been actively carrying out missions, they never did anything to even so much as hint that they weren't cooperating, but still...The GURSO unit insisted on being ready to blow them away without a second thought.
"That's it you little freak shows..." said one of the soldiers standing behind them, "Now come on, on the chopper! We've got a long trip!"
With advanced energy guns pointed at their backs and numerous other weapons surrounding them on all sides, Scott Summers, Jean Grey, Vincent Freeman, Wanda Maximoff, and X23 slowly made their way onto the helicopter as the callous soldiers kept their watchful eye on them the whole time. They kept their hands up and the expressions on their faces remained stoic as they were herded into the oversized aircraft like cattle and secured in a specified area that was made solely to contain them under the watchful eye of the GURSO unit for the whole trip back to Shadow Cell HQ in New York.
The flight back was like pretty much any other the five mutant soldiers had experienced. After a brief stop in a secret base in Pakistan, the five soldiers of Shadow Cell, under the watchful eye of the GURSO unit, boarded a long range B4 stealth air-carrier...Another plane that wasn't supposed to exist, but was used regularly by Shadow Cell because of it's super long range, sub-space flight capabilities. It was the only plane that could get from one side of the planet to the other without refueling and if they wanted to keep Shadow Cell as secret as possible, they had to make sure they encountered as few unnecessary bystanders, both civilian and military, as possible.
Like all their flights on the B4, a special confined area was set up for the five soldiers in the back where a dozen armed GURSO soldiers stood with their weapons aimed and at the ready, not leaving them unwatched for a fraction of a second. The area where Scott, Jean, Vincent, Wanda, and X23 occupied was no bigger than the size of one of their bedrooms and during the course of the whole flight, they had to keep their hands visible and stay completely silent. It was a punishable offence to converse with each other or one of the GURSO soldiers, but it was something the five members of Shadow Cell had grown used to over the years.
While they couldn't talk or speak vocally, that didn't keep them from talking psychically, which was something none of the soldiers could ever hope to stop or even detect since they all kept the looks on their faces stoic and unreadable. Psychic communication was the only way that they could ever talk at times when in the confines of Shadow Cell operating areas and it helped to keep them from becoming too isolated on a personal and mental level.
The flight back to Shadow Cell's New York based HQ where they had spent the better part of their lives growing up and learning to become the deadliest soldiers the secret world of peacekeeping had ever seen lasted seven hours thanks to the speed of the high flying, supersonic B4. It was still an uncomfortable flight, but they had suffered far longer hauls in the past, so it didn't bother them too much.
"End of the line...Get up!" bellowed one of the GURSO soldiers as the large aircraft landed on the main strip of the Shadow Cell base.
Without question, Scott, Jean, Vincent, Wanda, and X23 raised their hands and got up from their position and were led out the main compartment that was converted from a bomb bay. Because of the time zone difference, it was late at night and much of the regular staff had gone home for the evening...But the base was still brimming with activity as the five mutant soldiers were led from the airstrip, past the many security checkpoints, and into the most highly secured area of the facility where the Dr. Essex, the Colonel, and the General were waiting.
"Good work on your success Shadow Cell," said the General as he gave them proper salute.
"Thank you sir," said Scott as he and the others all respectfully saluted back.
"You all did a most admirable job," continued the General, showing a rare smile, "That facility has been pestering a multitude of nations for years now. And now that it's gone, we all can sleep easier."
"Enough with the formalities, General," said the Colonel as he rolled his eyes, "Did you get the data?"
"Yes sir," said Wanda as she pulled out the disk she had downloaded from the terrorist computers, "This information was heavily guarded and highly encrypted. Several guards were willing to die for it and did...It should be of great importance."
"I don't care how secure it was...As long as the data is valid," retorted the Colonel in his usual grumpy tone as he tucked the disk away safely in his pocket.
No matter how much Shadow Cell succeeded or how many missions they accomplished, they could never seem to get the Colonel to think any better of them. He hated mutants and he was always a deeply suspicious and paranoid man...But no matter how much shit he gave them, he was still their superior and they had to salute him as any subordinate should.
"We'll get our data teams working on it immediately," said the General, "I'm sure this will be invaluable for my trip to Washington next week."
"You're going again sir?" asked Vincent, for the General had just gotten back from Washington a month ago.
"Yes, my presence is required there for a few extra meetings the higher ups at the Department of Defense want Shadow Cell to be a part of," he explained, "It's just for three days this time and with the data we have now, I'm confident it will end in Shadow Cell's favor like always."
"That's good to hear sir," said Scott respectfully, although inwardly disappointed because every time the General left, the Colonel would get especially grumpy and have no one there to reprimand him since his rank was succeeded only by the General.
"I'll be sure to keep you all updated," said the General as he prepared to make his leave, "Again, a most admirable job my friends...You truly are the Captain Americas of your generation. Keep up the good work...Your country and your world thanks you. At ease."
As he left, the Colonel planned to follow him, but before that, he turned back towards the five mutant soldiers with a harsh scold on his face that could melt steel.
"Don't let his words go to your head..." he warned as he looked back into the stoic eyes of the soldiers he had been watching over for over eight years now, "The General may be kind and amicable in overlooking certain things in the 'tasks' you're assigned...But trust me, you won't always get away with shit like that. I've told you freaks time and time again to watch the pyrotechnics! And with this latest display, you blew up a building that could've just as easily been allowed to collapse on its own!"
"With all due respect sir...It was necessary given what we were up against and we successfully covered our tracks," justified Scott, since he was the one to blow the place up with his powers.
"Successful or not, such brutish procedure will not always be tolerated in future missions!" shot the Colonel in response, "Now you're lucky that the General is equipped to handle any of the political implications should you five fuck up in the field with future missions..."
"That WON'T happen sir," said Jean firmly and confidently.
"You're wrong...It can and it will!" shot the Colonel in response, "As long as you five insist on acting like hotshots in the field, it's only a matter of time. Now do this organization a favor and shape up before you bury us all!"
And with the slam of a door, the Colonel was gone, leaving the five mutant stoic soldiers of Shadow Cell behind to take in his words. Of all the people they had ever been forced to deal with, both allies and enemies, none got under their skin more than the Colonel. No matter how much they succeeded or how many lives they saved, he always seemed to find something to yell at them for.
"Well...That actually went better than I thought," said Dr. Essex, who had stayed silent during most of the de-briefing like he always did.
"Dr. Essex...You know what he says isn't true," said Scott, still wanting to justify Shadow Cell's actions, "We all did what..."
However, Dr. Essex didn't let him finish, for he knew that the Colonel had overly exaggerated as he so often did.
"Please my boy...Don't listen to what the Colonel said," he coaxed with a light hearted smile, "He's just been somewhat grumpier than usual lately."
"So what else is new?" said X23 as she rolled her eyes.
"Honestly Doctor...Does he LOOK for ways to tear us apart on purpose just so he can yell at us?" said Vincent, who always had to fight the urge to punch the Colonel in the face just like everybody else.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he did..." said Dr. Essex with a chuckle, "But try not to let him get under your skin. The General is right...You all did an admirable job. You accomplished every single part of the mission and obtained everything necessary in the end. Because of you, that VX influenza virus will never be used and millions of innocent lives have been saved because of that. What the Colonel says should never take away from that which you have accomplished. Hell, I've lost count how many times you five have saved civilization these past three years...And I can't tell you how proud I am of all of you."
Hearing that from Dr. Essex, the man who had become almost like a father figure for all of them, helped ease the bitterness left by the Colonel. Both he and the General, along with Magnum to a lesser extent, were the only ones who truly praised and exonerated them for their deeds. And while it was always a given that nobody would ever know just how much they sacrificed or how hard they fought for their ideals, they still got the praise from those that mattered most.
"Thank you sir..." said Scott gratefully, evoking somewhat of a smile from Dr. Essex.
"Think nothing of it my children," he said as he gathered up his papers and prepared to leave as well, "I know that once the General's gone, the Colonel will have an excuse to be more of an asshole than usual. But don't worry...I promise that I'll try to find some way of preoccupying him so that he has more to do other than to yell unscrupulously. For now...Just try and get whatever rest you can. You all have a long day of training tomorrow..."
"Yes...We know," said Vincent, so used to the notion after all these years that it was almost like a side activity for him and his comrades, "Goodnight Dr. Essex."
"Goodnight my children...And once again, great job."
After their debriefing, the mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell went on with their usual post-mission procedures. After every mission, they were required to strip off their advanced uniform and present it to inspectors who checked it for any unauthorized agents or tools. Then, they all showered in the main stalls not far from their rooms. The units were standard military style, meaning there were no dividers between faucets. However, there were two separate areas for men and woman...Although they did have to shower in plain sight of each other.
Scott and Vincent washed up in one while Jean, Wanda, and X23 washed up in another. Yet even during times like this, there were still GURSO soldiers present. Sometimes they would actually be watching them the whole time, leering at the women and snickering at the men. For some reason, the Colonel insisted on not having any female GURSO soldiers and because of that, the three girls were forced to contend with rather uncomfortable gazes as they washed their naked bodies thoroughly with soap and water.
'Jean...Is that guy actually growling at us?' sent Wanda somewhat suspiciously as she stood right next to Jean, who was simply letting the hot water cascade down her short, shoulder length red hair to get all the grim out, 'I swear, he's actually making noises.'
'He is...' sent X23 in response, who was still soaping her body and ringing out her long dark hair, 'I can hear it...'
'Ignore him...' Jean told them both in response as she let some of her sore muscles relax under the hot, steamy water of the spigot, 'He's no worse than that guy who tried to grab my ass that one time.'
'Yeah, the Colonel loved that...' scoffed Wanda as she set aside the soap and just let the water rinse her body clean, 'I swear, those guys could rape, shoot, and beat us and he'll still yell at us for breaking the one protocol he loves the most...No harming GURSO soldiers.'
'I know...But damn is it tempting,' said Jean, 'Right now...This guy is fantasizing us all making out with each other.'
'Fuck...I should just castrate him for that,' said X23, feeling her usual temperamental side starting to brim as she restrained herself from making eye contact.
'They're men X...' said Jean with bitter distaste as she closed her eyes and just allowed the warm water to flow all over her body, 'Men are pigs...Pigs who'd leer at anything they think is worth fucking.'
'Yeah, it's times like this I'm glad Magnum trained me to hate all men outside the unit...It makes blowing their brains out so much easier,' said Wanda, running her hands through her short, black hair, simply entertaining thoughts along with the other girls of watching this perverted pig who was allowed to watch them shower naked die a slow painful death.
Over with Scott and Vincent in their shower stalls, they too were forced to contend with being watched by an armed GURSO soldier while they washed themselves clean of all the dirt and grim that had accumulated during the mission. Bathing like this was far from comfortable, but after having contended with this unfortunate fact their collective lives for many years now, they had grown somewhat used to it. They knew they had somewhat of an advantage over the girls, who had to contend with other leering men watching them shower in plain sight of their naked bodies, but it didn't make it any less uncomfortable.
With no dividers, Scott and Vincent grew to ignore the sometimes disgusting remarks made by some of the soldiers that they muttered under their breath and pretty much took this time to relax under the hot water of the faucet after another rough mission. They soaped their hair and washed themselves clean, not making eye contact with the guard and simply letting the warm water offset the feeling after having contended with the harsh cold of the Hindu Kush mountains. While this mission was by no means as rough as some of the other ones they had been through, that didn't make it any less important to them as they let the water wash away some of their exhaustion.
As they washed and rinsed their bodies, their acute senses that had been honed from all the years of training and battlefield experience picked up some muffled comments from the guard that had been tasked with watching over them while they showered. While they couldn't make out exactly what it was he was saying, they heard enough to know that it wasn't very pleasant.
"Hey Vince..." said Scott somewhat under his breath, who could tell that he heard it as well, "You think that guy enjoys this job?"
"Probably..." muttered Vincent as he let the water cascade over his head, rinsing out the last bit of soap in his short dark hair, "You'd think a guy with a gun like that was compensating for something anyways..."
"Hey! Freaks!" yelled the guard as he held up his gun and pointed it at the two young men before him, "No talking! Just shut up and shower! It's bad enough I have to look at you, but I don't want have to smell you too!"
Scott and Vincent fell silent once again as they shot the guard a threatening look that would have struck fear in the hearts of any enemy they faced, but the GURSO soldier watching them knew they couldn't do anything about what he said because of the protocols that protected him and all GURSO soldiers. More often than not, they would use this as a free ticket to haze the five mutant soldiers that would otherwise have blown their heads off long ago without a second thought if they didn't follow every protocol so obediently and dutifully.
With an exasperated sigh, Scott and Vincent once again returned to finishing their shower, not saying another word as the exhaustion and tiredness of their strong, enhanced bodies was somewhat alleviated by the warm water, which they hoped would help them get what little rest they could before they woke up tomorrow for yet another day of intense training that would only work to further refine their skills as soldiers and as warriors.
After having showered and dried off Scott, Jean, Vincent, Wanda, and X23 all dressed in similar sleeping attire, which really only consisted of long black cotton pants for the guys and an additional tight fitting tank top for the girls since they were all used to tight clothing. Each one of them had a separate room to sleep in, all of which resembled college dorm rooms in a ways. No one room was very different from the others since they were only allowed to have so much in terms of clothing and accessories, all of which were pretty much the same for each of them.
It was around two in the morning and they would have be up again for yet another rigorous day of training and preparation for their next mission by four thirty, so that left little time for sleep. However, given that sleep was always difficult for the five mutant soldiers, it was more than enough for all of them. Between nightmares and constant vigilance, they were all very light sleepers to say the least. The mentality of being a soldier stuck with them and they even slept with one guns under their pillows as a precaution for any sudden action that they may be required to handle. But this was more habit than anything else since it wasn't uncommon for them to go several days without sleep at a time, but no matter how advanced their bodies were or how much training they did, they still needed at least some rest to ensure their optimum health for the battlefield.
They all had their ways of attaining rest and avoiding nightmares. Sometimes instead of sleep, they would meditate in a way that Magnum had taught them that helped focus their minds and relax their bodies. Other times, they would simply time their sleep and wake themselves up when they got too drowsy so they didn't have a chance to experience the nightmares that still plagued them. Scott had to deal with the death of his family and the streets, Jean had to deal with the death of her family and the asylum, Vincent had to deal with his memories of the Prodigy Project and losing his home, Wanda had to deal with abandonment and the insane asylum she spent her childhood in, and X23 had to deal with being tortured and dehumanized by Hydra her whole life. Such dark memories took their toll on them in the past, but the rigors of training, constant missions, and overall support from each other had helped them cope with it to some extent...But that didn't mean it ever far from their minds.
Upon settling in their rooms, Vincent began to meditate for his rest before succumbing to a light sleep, Wanda simply lay in her bed still awake for a while before she gave in, and X23 kept repeating sayings that she had learned over the years in Shadow Cell like "Semper fi, do or die" or the chant she and the others always said before a mission, "Kuwabara, kuwabara" before she finally fell asleep herself. For Scott and Jean, however, it was quite different.
As a couple of GURSO soldiers did routine checks of the halls and passed by their rooms in a fairly predicable pattern, Jean kept track of their minds...Waiting for her window. With many of the regular officials home or asleep at this hour, the staff within the base was minimal. And because of this, it gave her and Scott a rare opportunity that they often had so few chances to enjoy.
As soon as the two patrolling GURSO soldiers were looking away, Jean quietly and stealthily opened her door and quickly snuck over to the room beside hers and slipped in before either of them could see anything. There, Scott had been waiting for her and as soon as he saw her enter and shut the door behind her, he quickly got up off his bed and threw his arms around her. Jean quickly did the same as she quickly laced her arms around his neck and captured his lips with hers in a deep, passionate kiss.
"Jean..." gasped Scott through the darkness in a tone laced with a deep sense of feeling, "It's been a while...Since we've had a chance."
"I know, Scott..." she said softly to him as she relished the feeling of being in the arms of fellow soldier, best friend, and soul mate, "But every instance...No matter how rare...It's all worth it in the end."
Not wasting any time with this one chance, many of which were becoming rarer and rarer as the years went on and they had to go on more missions, Scott Summers and Jean Grey began to kiss passionately once again. Whenever they were together like this, they could let out all their pent up emotions with one another. Over the years, they had developed deep feelings for one another...Feelings that grew through a powerful link between them that gave them both a gentle, warm feeling in the back of their minds. This feeling offered comfort and solitude during the many dark times they faced both past and present and it after over time, it had manifested into something so much more profound and meaningful than anybody could have ever hoped to understand.
As Scott and Jean lay upon the simple, standard military bed in a passionate embrace, they removed their clothes and began to make love. Such actions were highly forbidden within Shadow Cell protocols, but they couldn't care less. This was a moment and a feeling between them...This was a way for each of them to be close on all levels...Mentally, physically, psychically, emotionally, and spiritually. In the darkness of their lives, the warmth and love they gave each other helped them work through each challenge that was thrust upon them, and with each challenge they managed to overcome the many obstacles they faced and only grew closer as a result.
Their enhanced bodies and deeply linked minds allowed them to make love ardently into the night, full of passion, pleasure, and euphoria. Whenever they did this, they did it with love, heart, and tenderness...Yet they still managed to fill it with the rigor and strength that they had developed through the many years of their training and battle experience. It only helped to heighten their experience together as they dragged it out for as long as they could, soaking up every wondrous sensation that flooded their minds until they finally collapsed upon one another, their bodies still entwined as they began to finally nod off into a world of sleep.
"I love you..." whispered Scott softly as he lay back upon his bed with his beautiful, redheaded lover, "Don't ever forget it...Don't ever question it..."
"I know...I love you too," said Jean softly in response as she rested her head on his strong chest, listening to his heart beat, relishing in it's soothing rhythm as it gently lulled her to sleep, "We fight...We bleed...We die...We triumph...Together."
"Together..." said Scott as he planted one last kiss upon her forehead before giving into exhaustion and drifting off into a deep, comforting sleep with his lover securely in his arms.
The lives they lived and the world they fought were never easy on either of them. Yet whenever Scott Summers and Jean Grey had a moment to be together like this and whenever they had a chance to make love despite all the rigors and complications of their chaotic lives, it gave them a deep sense of comfort and assurance. While the world may have been full of lies and abstract meaning...They would always have something strong and concrete during moments like this...Moments where they could be together in the closest way imaginable for two lost souls. In a constantly changing world, it was often hard to find things truly worth fighting for...Yet whenever they held each other and relished in the deep bond they had with each other, it gave them something to hold onto...Something that was always worth fighting for. And to Scott Summers and Jean Grey...It was something worth dying for.
Whether they were with each other or together as a unit, the five mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell were always close. They lived, worked, and functioned together as more than just a team. The friendship and comradery that bounded them on so many levels was solid and true...And in a violent world where deception is the norm, it would always give them one thing to be sure of...Each other. They had saved the world from destruction more times than they cared to remember and they had taken down countless determined enemies...Yet it was all in a days work for Scott Summers, Jean Grey, Vincent Freeman, Wanda Maximoff, and X23...For they lived the lives of soldiers in Shadow Cell...The only lives they knew and the only lives they wanted to live.
AN: Well, that's it for now! This is the life that Shadow Cell lives and this is how different the characters we know and love have become as a result of what has happened in this world because of the presence of this shady organization. You've just seen with the last few chapters how Scott, Jean, Vincent, Wanda, and X23 live in this world and he things they have to go through on a regular basis. Now, with such profound difference, how will this affect the rest of the X-men: Evolution universe? Professor Xavier, the X-men, the Brotherhood, and Magneto are all still a part of this world and the impact of Shadow Cell's presence could change things forever! So what do you all think so far? Do you like this unique universe I've created? Please tell me! Send me your feedback via email or post your thoughts on the fanfiction website! Either way is fine as long as you REVIEW! Thanks a bunch for reading everybody and I wish you all the best!
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