Categories > Cartoons > X-Men: Evolution > Sinister Soldiers

Breaking News

by slickboy444 0 Reviews

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...

Category: X-Men: Evolution - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Romance, Sci-fi - Characters: Avalanche, Berzerker, Blob, Boom Boom, Cannonball, Colossus, Cyclops, Gambit, Iceman, Jean, Magma, Magneto, Mr. Sinister, Multiple, Mystique, Nightcrawler, Professor Xavier, Quicksilver, Rogue, Scarlet Witch, Shadowcat, Storm, Sunspot, Toad - Warnings: [?] [V] [X] - Published: 2006/03/28 - Updated: 2006/03/28 - 7263 words

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Sinister Soldiers
Chapter 16: Breaking News


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The days that followed were like any other for Shadow Cell. They woke up, went through security, and began their training like clockwork as easily as most people eat three square meals a day. No matter how many missions they succeeded in or how many enemies they killed, there was always room for them to improve and become stronger, faster, and deadlier on all levels of their being.

Upon waking up and undergoing their daily physical analysis, they did their usual CQC exercise and stretching together, which was a mixture of Tai Chi and Kung Fu maneuvers that Magnum had taught them. Afterwards, Magnum usually took them to one of their many training rooms where they would spar, train, or run obstacle courses with and without firearms. Usually after that it was one of their many sergeants that took them and gave them further advanced level training on all branches from the Army and Marines to Delta Force and Special Ops. Sometimes they would have schooling sessions with Dr. Essex or a few ex-CIA operatives, but it was never clear where each day would lead as rigor after rigor dominated their young lives.

Yet remarkably, Scott Summers, Jean Grey, Vincent Freeman, Wanda Maximoff, and X23 had come to adapt quite well to this intense lifestyle. Being shadow class mutants and garnering superhuman determination through years of struggle both mentally and physically had yielded them the mindset and strength that made them such powerful soldiers. They wore their uniforms and dog tags as if they were holy relics and they believed in many of the things Dr. Essex and the General had preached to them about freedom, liberty, duty, and honor. And every day, they woke up and followed orders without question, working along with their superiors to become stronger and stronger with each passing day.

For Dr. Essex, the days after their mission allowed him to do a thorough progress report, both for the higher ups back in Washington and himself for more...Personal reasons. From time to time, he would take the members of Shadow Cell aside and talk to them not as a superior officer, but as a friend and father figure to help ensure that they remain who they are both on and off the battlefield. He needed for them to keep their individuality and sense of self and person...Otherwise what he had planned for them later would only be more difficult in the long run.

*************************************************

As Shadow Cell trained and Dr. Essex observed, the intelligence that they had brought back was thoroughly deciphered by Shadow Cells advanced team of analysts. Since the organization's inception, Dr. Essex and the General had put together one of the most comprehensive and powerful intelligence gathering teams that ever existed. And since Project Shadow Cell was a black program that theoretically didn't exist, they could operate in ways that regular intelligence agencies couldn't.

Much of the staff that gathered the intelligence for the missions that Shadow Cell went on were the best in their field, some of which had established careers before they ever joined the organization. However, like many of the other officials and staff at Shadow Cell, many of them had shady histories and unclean records for whomever they worked for in the past. Some were ex-NSA, FBI, and CIA officials while others were highly educated computer personnel that used to be convicted hackers, but were allowed to continue their craft, only for more noble reasons now. Data from all branches of the government along with many international sources, both legitimate and illegal, fueled Shadow Cell's ever evolving list of missions that ranged from taking down terrorists to handling powerful crime organizations like Columbian and Russian mafia heavyweights or even the Kingpin. And like everything in Shadow Cell...It was all done in absolute secrecy.

"Keep me posted on what you find out about the disks. Remember, I need at least an overall summery before my trip to Washington," said the General to one of the lead computer cryptographers who were going over the data that the team had brought back from their latest mission, "If so many soldiers were willing to die to protect this data, then there must be something on it worth dying for."

"Yes sir," said the younger official as he saluted his superior officer as was custom in any military organization, "We'll keep you informed and you'll have your data within 24 hours at the most."

"Thank you...As you were," said the General as he left the main intelligence center and met up with the Colonel, who was waiting outside, surrounded by GURSO soldiers like always.

"So what's the word?" asked the Colonel as he and his only real superior began to walk and talk along the long stretch of hallway.

"They're still analyzing it, Colonel," said the General, "Remember, these things take time."

"Time is something that is always working against us, sir," stated the Colonel in response as they neared the main training area where the five mutants of Shadow Cell were undergoing some Navy Seal and Delta Force training, "I'm beginning to think that you may not be motivating our intelligence staff well enough to get the job done."

"They are plenty motivated as it is, Colonel," said the General in response, "Not everybody likes to operate under your guise of hard hitting pressure and outright intimidation."

Such a response earned the General a rather distasteful look from the Colonel, who was never one to take constructive criticism easily even if it was from a superior officer.

"In this line of work...You can't afford to be nice," quipped the Colonel as the two men looked out through a one way mirror down at their unit that had brought them so much success as they went through advanced physical and mental conditioning from their Navy Seal drill sergeants.

"It has nothing to do with being 'nice' Colonel," said the General as he watched the fruit of Shadow Cell's labor with a great deal of pride, "It has everything to do with making a staff efficient and motivated...Driven not by fear, but by duty...Pushed not from the outside, but from within."

The Colonel just rolled his eyes at the General's words, wishing he could just open the man's eyes for once instead of letting him go by these seemingly mundane methods of procedure that made no sense to him.

"Well with all do respect, sir...That's a very nice pipe dream at best, but if Shadow Cell's most recent mission is any indication, we absolutely need to step up our data gathering if we're to have any chance at beating the cock suckers who try to wipe out civilization before they ever get too close as our last opponents did," argued the Colonel as he looked down at the Shadow Cell unit with more distaste since in his mind, they were still mutants.

"Our data gathering has not failed us thus far," quipped the General in response, "I see no need to upset the balance."

"Oh come on, sir! You saw how close those terrorist pricks were to unleashing that virus! You honestly can't say that we did our jobs by letting them get so far before stopping them!" spat the Colonel, getting increasingly frustrated by the General's innate naivety.

The General's good mood was quickly beginning to sour at the onset of the Colonel's tone. For many years now, the Colonel had been one of the most vocal critics of Dr. Essex, but now that Shadow Cell was doing field work, he was facing part of that censure as well. He knew it was in the Colonel's nature to be paranoid...That's why he ended up the way he did. And like it or not, it was he who appointed this man to be one of the highest ranking officials concerning the project. He may have gotten things done, but the near constant barrage of paranoia, suspicion, and ostentatious criticism towards how things worked with the organization was starting to get annoying.

"Colonel...There's only so much of your 'constructive' criticism that I can take," said the General in a calm, yet stern tone, "Now I know that paranoia seems to be etched into your mind...But outside that head of yours, there are policies and protocols that we have to follow if we're to keep this organization at peak performance. And no matter what I tell you, you don't seem to remember that our team was able to stop those terrorists regardless of their progress, and that's what matters most...And since our teams did their jobs, those terrorists are now rotting in the Hindu Kush never to threaten another soul again."

The Colonel knew not to talk back to his superior, given that he was the only one who had the power to reprimand him. And like it or not, the General was a man who he still respected and needed in order to handle the many things he couldn't both within and outside the Shadow Cell organization. There may have been many things he disagreed with him upon, but like it or not, he had to keep with his protocols.

After taking a few deep breaths and keeping his respectful posture to his superior, the Colonel managed to calm down somewhat as the General's rhetoric seemed to dissuade any further slander.

"Sir...You know I don't wish to speak out of line...And you know I respect you greatly in all the work you do..." said the Colonel, keeping his tone more controlled this time around, "But I just wish to point out the areas where this organization is lagging and..."

"This is a constantly changing world, Colonel..." said the General, cutting him off in mid sentence, "Each day brings something new to the table and there's only so much we can prepare for...That's the nature of the world we live in. Shadow Cell has saved civilization God knows how many times and we have become the most successful and prominent espionage and enforcement agency on the planet...That alone says we're doing something right. Now I know you don't like working with mutants and I know you'd do things differently if our positions were reversed...But for the time being, let's just take things as they come and dedicate the resources we have been blessed with towards remaining forever vigilant in the face of every threat we face...Is that understood?"

"Yes sir..." said the Colonel in a low tone, clearly not liking how this conversation had gone for him.

As the Colonel watched the General look down at the five mutant soldiers with a proud smile on his face, the Colonel couldn't help but roll his eyes in disgust. No matter how long he had been at this organization, he could never understand how he could look so kindly upon and think to highly of mutants. The whole reason behind the formation of the GURSO unit was to police and if necessary, eradicate these freaks once and for all so they wouldn't threaten the public. Yet the General just seemed too amicable for his own good in the Colonel's eyes, for no matter how much these mutants had done for this country and this world, he would never stop believing that it would be a whole lot easier if freaks like them didn't exist.

"Look at them, Colonel..." mused the General as he watched a few of the Shadow Cell soldiers perform superhuman feats against each obstacle they faced in the obstacle course, "So driven...So proud...So determined...They're everything a soldier could ever hope to be. We should feel proud...For we have created the most powerful unit ever assembled. And because of their sense of honor and self sacrifice...Countless masses of innocent people can sleep easier at night."

Such words only left a bitter taste within the Colonel's mouth as he let out deep scorn of disapproval in his superior's choice of words.

"Charming...I wish I was one of them," said the Colonel as he frowned upon the mutant soldiers his unit had to contain and made his leave.

*************************************************

Down in the training room Scott, Jean, Vincent, Wanda, and X23 were working on their fourth hour of training on the specially designed obstacle course that was completely customized for Navy Seal and Delta Force training with advanced holographic projectors that made both the danger and the situations indistinguishable from the real thing. Magnum was there like always and she remained more or less stoic as usual as the six drill sergeants yelled and ordered the five mutant soldiers around with each task they underwent.

"MOVE! MOVE! MOVE YOU LITTLE SHITS! YOU AIN'T GOING ANYWHERE UNTIL YOU FINISH EVERY LAST ONE OF THESE COURSES!" yelled one of the drill sergeants as the holograms were reset for yet another run.

The five mutant soldiers were given only a brief moment to catch their breath as they waited for their next simulation to boot up, but like always they never said a word of dissent.

"Okay kiddies, it's the jungle scenario now!" bellowed one of the Delta Force sergeants as the holographic layout began to take shape before their eyes, "You know the deal...Live ammo and live danger! Complete each task or end up in the infirmary! Is that clear?!"

"Sir yes sir!" yelled the five mutants simultaneously in perfect unison.

"Bullshit, I can't hear you! Sound off like you got a pair!"

"SIR YES SIR!" she shouted as a loud signaling siren went off and they stormed the jungle course with every ounce of determination they would garner if this was a real mission.

They all diverted as the clock started. Scott took the central stretch that was laced with gun sentries, Vincent took the path right next to him that was laced with powerful explosives, Jean took the river route that was filled with mockups of dangerous animals and enemy soldiers, Wanda stayed low and stormed the thick brush, and X23 used her claws to take to the trees and use her guns to take down enemy snipers before they picked off her or her teammates.

'Everybody, stay sharp! The sentries have a greater range this time and there are more traps on every path! Mayhem and I will try to clear the way, but keep your guard up!' said Scott as he fired several optic blasts to hit a few turrets while using his handguns to take down the smaller ones hidden in the thick brush.

'We always do, Cyclops...' said X23 as she used her formidable gun slinging skills to take down a few sentries hidden atop the branches while using the claws in her hands and feet to work her way around the trees.

While Cyclops and Mayhem were using their firepower and strength to clear a path through the heaviest of the traps, Phoenix was using her pyrokinetic powers to clear the way while exposing hidden sentries with her telekinesis and smashing them to bits. The Scarlet Witch was also hard at work trying to clear out the hidden surprises that were left near the fringe of the course that sought to obstruct the paths of all her teammates and with her hexing powers and her trust handguns which she affectionately called 'the twins,' she managed to neutralize each trap before it could be activated.

While this melee of explosions, blasts, and gunfire erupted within the large training area, the drill sergeants timed and monitored their progress, not only making sure they completed the task within the allotted time, but kept themselves concealed and efficient as much of their Delta Force and Special Ops training required.

"We seriously have to consider getting a bigger course..." said one of the Navy Seal drill sergeants, "This old high tech playground just isn't cutting it for them anymore."

"Relax, they're always expanding on this place," said the lead Delta Force instructor, "At one point or another, we'll find something to hold these freaks back."

Bursts of fire from Phoenix, blasts from Cyclops, and hex bolts from the Scarlet Witch caused the whole area to erupt in a flow of destruction and precision as the five mutant soldiers made their way from obstacle to obstacle, converging at some points and having to go through teamwork parts of the course together. Most of the time, Cyclops paired with Phoenix and Mayhem paired with the Scarlet Witch, but X23 often remained alone since they discovered long ago that she worked best as forward support, often either clearing the way of sentries or taking down those that missed. On the rare occasions she did pair up with somebody, she usually did so with Mayhem or Phoenix, but during this run she stayed high and took worked as the spearhead to their advance, taking down sentries both up top and below with her claws and guns.

'X23, can you see the target from up there?' sent Phoenix as she stayed close to Cyclops as the protocols dictated for the team portion of the course.

'Yeah...It's a small clearing past a stream of muddy water,' answered X23 as she kept her guns firing constantly down upon the sentries that she could easily smell.

'How much time do we have left?' sent Cyclops as he and Mayhem remained behind the girls, who used their telekinesis and hexing powers to clear a path while they handled the sentries hidden in the brush.

'30 seconds!' replied Mayhem, who was often the timekeeper of the group.

'We only need 15...' said the Scarlet Witch as she stepped up her powers and hexed a small, narrow path for them off the main area where they could make their way to the target area quicker and stealthier than their current route.

They stayed low to avoid detection and followed the telepathic images that Phoenix sent them, which she got mainly from X23 and her bird's eye view. Several surprises popped up along the way, most of which included dynamite booby traps and pits with spiked bottoms, but the Scarlet Witch was easily able to disable the bombs with her hexing powers and Phoenix's telekinetic bursts were able to expose the pits before anybody could fall into them.

Then, ten seconds later, they all converged in a small clearing near the target area, marked by an American flag. As they all leaped over the small stream of muddy water in one last push for completion, a large crocodile shot up from out of the water, but was quickly subdued from a single blast from Cyclops as they all completed yet another course.

"Time!" shouted one of the drill sergeants as a buzzer noise sounded, signaling the end of the session.

As the hologram faded, the officers present went over the final time. Many of those who saw it were quite impressed, but they had to hide this feeling as they now faced the mutant soldiers as they waited dutifully for their next order.

"A minute thirty...A new record," said the Delta Force drill sergeant, "It's good...But it can still be better!"

Normally, most people would have celebrated setting a new record, but for Shadow Cell, there was now show of celebration for them. They all stayed stoic and silent as they caught their breath and prepared for their next order. It had been four hours since they started this one session, but they had gone longer before and after this, there were at least a dozen other rigorous activities they had to go through as a part of their 'normal' day.

"We're done for the day, but we're gonna work on your infiltration skills next time, so don't let yourself get sloppy!" bellowed the lead Navy Seal drill sergeant, "Now fall out and hit the weight room!"

"Sir yes sir!" said the five mutant soldiers in unison as they saluted and followed Magnum and a platoon of GURSO soldiers that converged around them while they made their way out of the room and headed over towards the weight room for their daily two and a half hour weight training routine.

As they made their leave, Magnum pulled them aside for a quick word.

"Those men are fools...You should know by now not to take the bullshit they spit at you night and day too seriously," she said to her pupils.

"Of course Magnum...You taught us better than that," said Vincent as they all stood attentively towards this teacher and mentor that had been somewhat like a mother to them over the years with what she taught and nurtured within them.

"And yet every day, the lot of you are pressured more and more to forget the concepts that I have preached which come into conflict with those that are drilled into your minds by fools who believe soldiers are mere tools," she said in her thick, Russian accent.

"But it's your teaching that lends us the most help in battle," said X23, not knowing what her long time mentor was getting at.

"But my teaching alone could never bring you the victories that you all have so earnestly fought for time and time again..." she went on, intent on getting her point across, "With every skill you learn, be it from me or the multitude of other instructors here from the Army to Delta Force, they all must work in tangent in order for you to become the most powerful soldiers you can be. One path alone can never lead to the most promising end of every challenge you face. Along the way, new things come about and new developments forever shake the world and the foundations for which you build your existence upon. The mission of one day could just as easily become a forgotten moment the next day. And in order to grow to your utmost level of being, you must take everything you have learned both on and off the battlefield and integrate it into your mind, body, and soul..."

"But...How do we use everything if you say one way can never be the right way?" asked Jean, taking in the words of their trusted teacher, knowing each word she said came from a lifetime of experience.

"That I cannot tell you..." said Magnum, "You must all remember...There will come a day where I can teach you no more and it will all be up to you in order to find yourselves both as soldiers and as warriors. When that day comes...No matter how soon or distant it may be...It is up to you to take that which you have ascertained all this time and integrate it into your being. It's not enough to master every skill...You must make it a part of yourselves. Like breathing, walking, and blinking...It must flow through you in your own way. No two soldiers will ever yield the same attributes, and the five of you are no different. And of all the things that have taught you...The one thing that I have given you that no amount of training or rigor from Dr. Essex or your drill instructors were never able to bestow is the ability for you to teach yourselves. What you choose to become with that knowledge is not up to anybody but yourselves...Remember that."

The five mutant soldiers that were in many ways still students all respectfully nodded in response, taking to heart what this strong, stoic woman was saying and committing it to memory in order to help them get through each rigorous day that they faced. Whether it was in the heat of a mission or through the intense rigors of training, there was always something for them to learn and feed upon as they grew into the soldiers that were today. And with each passing day they were continuing to grow and manifest into a force all their own...One of great power and ability the likes of which had never existed before. The lives they saved and the lives they took were all apart of what they did and what they fought for. Many times, their existence seemed ambiguous at best, forever obscured by the orders and routine that they were all subjected to on a daily basis.

However, with help from special guides like Magnum, they had grown into the soldiers they were today. They alone were a unique force...A force that functioned on a level unlike any other before it. Knowledge and power went hand in hand with them and they had learned to fight with their minds just as much as they had with their bodies.

"We'll find our path..." said Scott, "After everything we've learned, I know we'll make you proud."

"It is not I who you should be trying to please with you're growth...It is yourselves that you must do this for," said Magnum stoically, "Being a soldier can be as easy to some as picking a cause and fighting for it...But being a true soldier like that which you all are aspiring to goes beyond merely the presence of a cause...Because in the end, it is more focused on the concept of faith."

"Faith?" said Wanda upon hearing her mentor's ever enigmatic words.

"Yes...Faith," affirmed Magnum in a deep tone, "In a world where lies are ubiquitous, the one source of truth is often faith...And just how much of it you are willing to put into a cause. Right and wrong are only relative...It is faith that is the true constant...And it is faith that is the true drive. A willingness to die for what you believe in is never enough...A willingness to live and see through that which you have faith in is what can mean the difference between coming back alive or dying for nothing. All the training you receive from both myself and the drill instructors who yell at you endlessly have only given you orders, knowledge, and skill to carry out a mission...But it is up to you to have faith in that mission in order to see it through. And what's the one thing I've always told you about the mission?"

"All else is irrelevant...The mission is key," they all answered mechanically at the same time.

"Yes...And as you all grow older, it is up to you to find your faith...Both in yourselves...And in each other."

And with that, Magnum left them as they took a moment to digest her words before once again being hurried along towards the weight room by the GURSO soldiers. As warriors of Shadow Cell, they had always followed orders with obedience and efficiency no matter how rigorous it may be. However, this mechanical response to orders seemed to be exactly what Magnum was preaching against...For no matter how many missions they went on or how many times they saved the world from annihilation, there was never much room to think about anything other than the mission.

Yet the knowledge of what they had come to accept about life and the importance of each mission they faced never did much to lead them towards questioning or taking a good look at that which they have faith in. The ideals, beliefs, and attitudes which they viewed the world had always been merely words with a defined meaning and never anything too personal for them in their own way. Their definition of what they fought for was no different than that of anybody else who chose to become a soldier. It was how they viewed their ideals on an individual and collective basis that they never seemed to be able to grasp no matter how many times they fought and nearly died for what their cause.

As the all walked silently and went about their routine as they always did without question, Magnum's words hung strong for all of them. Scott, Jean, Vincent, Wanda, and X23 had all felt as though they were a part of something far grander as Shadow Cell soldiers, yet until now it had never been truly put into perspective.

'What do you think she wants us to do now?' Jean sent telepathically to her friends and comrades as they all walked silently and stoically with the GURSO soldiers that had weapons pointed at them the whole way.

'Knowing Magnum...I don't think she wants us to do anything at this point...Because in retrospect, we can't,' sent Vincent in response.

'But...She had to have said that too us for a reason,' quipped X23 in response, 'She never tells us anything that we don't use later on.'

'It might not be that kind of knowledge, X,' said Vincent in response, 'Remember...She said we have to learn take what we've been taught to teach ourselves. And I think there's no way to show us how to grow in some ways even after all the training and experience we've been through.'

'But still...Why now?' questioned Wanda, thinking seriously about what her mentor had said about where they were heading both as soldiers and as students.

'I don't think it's a matter of why she told us, Wanda...' said Scott in response, 'It's just another phase in the world we live in. We have to remember that things can change in an instant. With everything we've all experienced...Both before and after coming to Shadow Cell...We know better than most people that it only takes a single moment for everything to change. And I think Magnum along with everybody else here at Shadow Cell wants us to be ready to face changes like that when they come...'

'Change or not...' sent Jean as they all were herded into the weight training room where they were given their rigorous daily routines that always pushed the limits of their bodies and minds, 'It's still up to us to grow with time and find ourselves through each conflict we face. Only then will we probably know the true meaning of what we as both soldiers and individuals fight for every time we struggle with the missions we face both on and off the battlefield.'

*************************************************

As Scott, Jean, Vincent, Wanda, and X23 began their usual weightlifting routine, Dr. Essex took his notes and observations that he had carefully recorded while watching them in the hologram training room and returned to his office to log them. Ever since day one of their recruitment, Dr. Essex had been keeping a highly detailed record of their progress from the traumatized kids they were before to the determined, battle hardened soldiers they were now. Every time he took note of how far they came, he smiled to himself with pride...For this was his project...And these were his children.

The data he recorded had both personal and utilitarian use. He often used it in his progress reports that he gave to the staff and the General for his usual report to the higher ups back in Washington...Yet no matter how detailed they were in the eyes of those who saw them, there were always mountains more that he purposefully omitted for his own personal reasons.

"It's so close now..." he told himself as he looked at his notes and reports that clearly documented each and ever detail of progress the soldiers of Shadow Cell were making with each passing day, "They've grown so much...They've become so strong. Hardened...Driven...Powerful...Such wonder creations...Such strong potential...And it's just building and building...Begging for me to tap it. Soon...Very, very soon...I shall finally be able to finish that which I started all those years ago...And when it's done...It'll be so beautiful...So majestic...So...Perfect."

As he logged in his data, he kept a few of his reports in a hidden compartment of his desk that only opened to his special retinal signature. Nobody else knew about it...Not even Magnum...Yet the contents of this compartment embodied more than anybody could have dared to imagine. Much of what he kept so secret were detailed blueprints and elaborate procedures of processes that resembled the bio-mutagenic accelerator...Only in a much more...Profound manner.

He had been working on them secretly since the project's inception, yet nobody even had a clue that such work even existed...And that's the way he intended to keep it. So far, everything had gone better than he ever could have planned. He had all the resources he needed...He had the machinery, the knowledge, and the specimens. Now, all he needed was time to bring them all together in one glorious swoop that would make the progress of Shadow Cell seem like a mere drop in the bucket compared to what he had planned for the world. As long as things kept going the way they were...Everything would manifest exactly as he planned. He just needed to keep his anonymity and remain vigilant for the challenges that lie ahead.

As he put his things away and sealed the compartment, the door to his office suddenly opened and Magnum stepped in. Upon seeing her, Dr. Essex flashed a rather sinister grin...Clearly hinting that he was in a good mood after all that had come to pass so far.

"You don't like to waste time, do you?" said Magnum as she looked at the computer screen, seeing the report that looked ready for the General's eyes.

"Of course not, Magnum...You should know me better than that by now," said Dr. Essex with a light chuckle, "Time is the only force working against me in preparation for my ultimate goals...Yet given my...Unique advantage, time is nothing more than a nuisance and shall soon give into the one counter that always offsets it...Inevitability."

"I still feel that the Colonel may be getting too suspicious," said Magnum in a stern tone, always feeling a hint of distaste form in her mouth every time she mentioned the Colonel.

"The man is suspicious of everybody, Magnum...Nobody takes him too seriously," scoffed Dr. Essex.

"But like it or not...He still has the capacity to interfere in the long run," said Magnum, sounding all to eager to do a way with the ever critical Colonel that had been such an annoying roadblock in her ever constant drive to fulfill her duty.

"Ah...But that capacity can only affect the time in which my plans will manifest," reasoned Dr. Essex, still full of confidence and certainty, "I have made every last aspect of my ultimate goal with a meticulous level of detail...A level for which someone as simpleminded as the Colonel could never fully ascertain."

"Simpleminded or not, the man has been pestering me about my teaching skills lately," said Magnum bitterly, eager for Dr. Essex to do something about it.

"What you bring to the project is many times different than that which he brings..." said Dr. Essex in a reasonable tone, "He is a simple man who has gone by the standard military textbook his whole life...And look what that yielded him."

"Funny...I always thought it was that annoying personality of his that brought him down," quipped Magnum, knowing full well the Colonel's history.

"It was a dangerous mixture fueled by plenty of things both personally and environmentally," said Dr. Essex, "And given what we have to work with, you need not concern yourself with his pestilence forever. Like all the others...He will pay the price."

"Well whenever you chose to go forth with the next phase, Nathanial...I only hope you do it soon," she said in her stern, heavily accented tone, "Otherwise, I may simply blow that meddlesome man's head off before fate catches up with him."

"Patience Magnum...Patience," assured Dr. Essex in his calm, collected tone, "You've been doing the best job imaginable with our five little recruits regardless of the Colonel's criticisms. You've been every bit the teacher and mentor that I had hoped. Because of you, the soldiers of Shadow Cell have attained a level of skill and effectiveness that would never have been possible with any other mentor. And time and time again, you have assured me of the investment I so earnestly entrusted you with."

"And as long as you keep up with all the rewards that you have given me, then I shall keep making our little specimens the best they can be until the big day comes," assured Magnum.

"That is something you need not worry about my dear..." said Dr. Essex confidently, "If everything I've paid you, both financial and otherwise, is any indication, then rest assured I have no intention of going back on that which I have so honestly upheld all this time. And besides...It's not like I could betray you even if I wanted to."

"That's not the way I operate..." said Magnum in her usual stoic tone, "You know that...I know that...And it's part of the reason why I'm so good at what I do."

"No argument here," said Dr. Essex in a somewhat humored tone, "I just consider myself lucky that I have been able to find such a perfect teacher to train and nurture the next great step in evolution."

"Don't flatter me, Nathanial..." said Magnum in a threatening tone, "You know it annoys me."

"My apologies..." said Dr. Essex as he held up his hands innocently, knowing Magnum had a tendency to be volatile, "You're such an enigma at times that even my great mind has troubles processing it."

"You have your area of specialty...I have mine," said the imposing Russian woman, always aware and always assure.

"Indeed..." said Dr. Essex in agreement, "In addition, considering how knowledgeable you are with tutoring our subjects in the realm of psychology and mentality, I was hoping that you would find some time to..."

Then suddenly, before Dr. Essex could finish his sentence, the door to his office burst open. Acting on instinct, Magnum pulled her trusty 44 caliber on the intruder, surprising and shocking him greatly as the stoic Russian mercenary was only a hair-trigger away from blowing this unfortunate individual's brains out.

"Dr. Essex!" proclaimed a young, yet deeply startled officer as he found himself suddenly staring down the barrel of a 44 caliber magnum.

There was a great sense of urgency in his tone and a look of great distress dominated his face, quickly sparking Dr. Essex's interest since he knew nobody would ever dare to barge into his office like this without a damn good reason.

"Magnum, stand down..." said Dr. Essex in a calm, yet firm tone as he remained focused on the young officer, "What's going on? Why did you barge into my office when you know I dislike any and all intruders?"

"I'm sorry sir," said the young officer, sounding out of breath, hinting that he had made a mad dash over to the area in his fit of urgency, "But something's come up...Something big that you have to see for yourself!"

Growing all the more suspicious, Dr. Essex walked over towards the doorway where the officer and Magnum, who still had the gun pointed at his head, stood. The young officer was noticeably shocked and terrified, but as Dr. Essex took his words to heart, he signaled Magnum to lower her gun.

"Come...Show me," said Dr. Essex intently as the young officer gave him an affirmative nod and led him out of his office.

The young officer moved at near jogging speed as Dr. Essex and Magnum followed from behind, growing all the more curious as to what was causing such a ruckus. As they made their way to their destination, other officers and officials were making their way down the hall as well in a similar distressed manner. Whatever was going on seemed to be resonating all throughout the base, forming somewhat of an ominous aura throughout the area as Dr. Essex and Magnum reached their final destination.

In the main intelligence hub where all incoming data was sent to for processing, a slew of high and low ranking officials crowded around the big screen TV that dominated the front of the room. The Colonel and the General were there as well and both of them had deeply distressed looks on their faces as they watched what was being broadcasted before them.

On the TV screen, it was like a scene right out of a Hollywood movie. A giant robot stomping its way through downtown Manhattan was fighting a group of what looked to be super powered youngsters. There was a young man with wings, a purple haired ninja woman, a white haired African woman who seemed to be conjuring tornadoes and lightning, a young man that had a demonic figure that was teleporting all over the area, and a multitude of other seemingly impossible beings with abnormal powers. However, this was no movie or work of fiction...This was a live news report that was being broadcasted all throughout the country and the world.

The super powered beings were mutants...And their image was being shown all over the world. What was once a deeply kept secret among the highest levels of power in the government was now there for all to see. And while many had looks of great concern etched upon their faces, Dr. Nathanial Essex seemed to be the only one not so deeply affected by this as a slow, sinister grin spread across his face.

"Son of a bitch..." said the Colonel with great anger and bitterness as he and the rest of the officials present watched a world changing event unfold before their eyes, "It's happened...It's finally happened. The shit has officially hit the fan...Mutants have just been revealed to the whole fucking world!"

"I know, Colonel...I know," said the General as he looked upon this report with equal concern.

"So then what do we do now?" said the Colonel, brimming with anger as he watched years of a carefully executed cover up crumble right before his eyes, "How the hell are we going to contend with this new reality?"

"Simple Colonel..." said Dr. Essex, who sounded far less affected in comparison to everybody else present, "We just accept the fact that the world will be very different as a result of this. You said it yourself...It only takes a single moment for everything around us to change. And with change comes new challenges...And from the looks of it, Shadow Cell will have plenty of new tasks ahead of them..."

*************************************************

AN: Well, there you have it! The cat's out of the bag! The mutant phenomenon is official now a la the "Day of Reckoning" episode. I told you the X-men were a part of this universe, and now you all will soon find out just how the presence of Shadow Cell has changed everything. It's a different, unique world now...And there's plenty more to tell, so stay tuned as the X-men make their debut in this fic and exact their influence on the events to come! But before I get to that point, don't forget to REVIEW! Send your comments to me via email or post them on the fanfiction website! I hope you all have enjoyed this story thus far and I wish you all the best!

BOOM! EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT NOW! REVIEW WHILE YOU STILL CAN!
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