Categories > Cartoons > X-Men: Evolution > Extermination

Know Thy Enemy

by slickboy444 0 Reviews

Takes place 2 years after Apocalypse, 1 year after the Phoenix. The mutant problem has grown and a obscure general named William Stryker thinks he has a solution. Has Scott/Jean, Wanda/Kurt, Kitty/...

Category: X-Men: Evolution - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama - Characters: Cyclops - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2006/04/18 - Updated: 2006/04/18 - 6577 words

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Extermination
Chapter 27: Know Thy Enemy


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Everybody gathered in the large computer room on the lower third level of the old SHIELD base that they had been living in for over a week now. The long dormant computers had been brought back to life thanks to some creative ingenuity on Scott and Jean's part. When Logan had arrived, he had told them to find information on William Stryker...The man he knew was behind all the carnage of the past few weeks. He had been the one to organize the attacks on their homes, he had been the one to kill all their friends, and he had the capability of killing every last mutant on the face of the planet. Logan had actually met with this man and it was a meeting he wouldn't soon forget. He had boasted, taunted, and flaunted his triumph over them and relished in the deaths he had caused. And because of this, Logan and everybody else for that matter was eager to know more about this madman in hopes that they would find a way to fight back.

"Okay, Cyke...Tell me everything about Stryker," said Logan as every occupant in the base now stood before a large computer screen while Scott and Jean remained seated behind two computers with a dizzying array of data before them.

"Where do we begin?" said Scott as he recalled everything he and Jean had uncovered over the past 36 hours, "This guy's life reads like a Hollywood movie. There's so much about him, yet at the same time he's got to be one of the most mysterious guys on the face of the Earth."

"Well start from the beginning," grunted Logan, who was still intent on finding everything he possibly could about the murderous of his family.

"Okay..." said Jean as she brought up a few pictures and news clips, "William Stryker...Born in Berlin, Germany 1959 to one of the richest and most powerful families since the days of Louis XIV. He's the third generation to his family's business and soul heir to a massive multinational conglomerate of corporations. He has businesses that range from oil, to cars, to planes, to computers, and even weapons manufacture. In fact, one of his main divisions is the chief supplier of arms to practically every country in Western Europe. In other words, he's a billionaire...One that makes Bill Gates look like he's on welfare."

"But if he's so big and rich, how come we haven't heard of him before? Surly somebody like that would have been in the news or something," said Kitty as she heard Jean's cryptic depiction of this strange man.

"Well, unlike Bill Gates," continued Jean, "This guy knows how to keep a low profile. Even with all his wealth he lives under the radar from public scrutiny. And for a guy of his power, you don't want to mess with him. From what we've gathered on him...He likes money, he likes power, and he's not afraid to use both."

Already, the information about this man wasn't very uplifting. Knowing that this man had such resources and power, that would make him all the more difficult to fight. But Scott and Jean were just getting started.

"It took a while for us to get this data. Stryker has a way of keeping his hands clean and leaving few traces of what he's done, which is why the public doesn't really know about him that much. But even though these SHIELD computers were wiped clean of any data, we managed to salvage the root passwords and access codes so we could get into the most secure databases in the world. But it was disturbing how much security this guy put around his name. However, we still managed to get the data we needed..."

Then, Scott brought up a picture on the screen. It was a black and white photo of William Stryker. He bore a military uniform, many distinguished metals, and an eerie grin that made everybody's skin craw. Logan immediately snarled upon seeing the face of the man that had done so much to them. He remembered what had happened back in that hotel room...How he had flaunted the deaths of innocent people as if they were cockroaches. Seeing that picture had brought out a lot of angry memories for the Wolverine...Memories that were still fresh in his mind.

"That's him..." growled Logan, "That's the son of a bitch I met in Washington."

"HE'S the one behind all this death?" said Raven as she looked intently at the man in the picture.

"Yeah..." replied Logan, his voice still brimming with resentment towards him and his sinister deeds.

"But...How? Why?" asked Kurt, who couldn't understand how this mysterious man could be behind so much death.

"That Kurt, is where the story begins," said Scott ominously as he brought up more photos on the computer screen, "As we've said, William Stryker was born into a very rich family. He grew up with the best of everything. His family had homes and citizenships in practically every country in Western Europe and a visa for the United States. He was groomed since birth by his parents to one day inherit their company and continue their legacy. He was sent to some of the most elite schools in the world. He went to elementary school at the most prestigious private school in Switzerland...A school reserved for the cream of the crop. There, he was one of the star students and received some of the highest marks of his class. He received a secondary education in Germany at the number one private secondary school in Europe at the time and graduated with honors."

"So this guy is pretty smart..." commented Alex.

"The guy seemed to excel at everything he tried. Business, math, science, you name it. This guy is as smart as he his mysterious. He later studied in several universities all throughout Europe including Oxford and Cambridge. He holds masters degrees in history, business, and engineering. And it was around his college years that his life took a turn for the more dramatic when his father died of a stroke shortly after his mother succumbed to a heart attack. So at 25, he inherited every last share of his family conglomerate and wielded all the power that came with it."

More pictures and graphs appeared on the screen. Many of them showed school photos of a young, handsome looking William Stryker and others showed charts of just how much wealth this man had. All the companies under his name...Every last one of them seemed to yield more money than some countries made as a whole.

"Good God..." said Piotr as he looked at the images on the screen, "I never even knew wealth like that even existed."

"I'm afraid it does Peter," said Jean as she shook her head at the sheer volume of money that Stryker dealt with day by day, "When he took control...He ruled with an iron fist. Every stockholder, every rival, every possible limitation was purged and eradicated and profits on all fronts soared for every division under his thumb. He had more influence over the economy of Europe than all of the governments put together. And his reach extended practically everywhere on every continent form South America, to the Middle East, to Asia. He even has a lot of influence here in the states because so many European services are indirectly or directly linked to him."

"But...How can one man be allowed to get so much money and power?" asked Kitty, "Wouldn't governments step in or pass laws to limit that?"

Scott let out a sigh as he brought up clips of several old news articles to answer Kitty's question.

"Unfortunately Kitty," began Scott, "Stryker has practically half the politicians in Europe in his back pocket. Any anti-trust law or business regulation act that is passed...Stryker steps in and makes it so the laws don't apply to him. He has friends and political allies in nearly every country he does business with. If they wanted to pass a law to limit his power...They had to go through him."

"And that was not always a good idea," added Jean as she brought up more old news clips, "William Stryker is as ruthless as he is intelligent. It's been rumored that he has many ties with the Russian and Colombian mafia. In exchange for policies favoring whatever illegal trade they may be a part of, they offer their services of intimidation, bribery, and even assassination to whomever stands in his way. This man yields to nobody...No government could control him, no rivals could compete with him, and nobody could stop him. But even with all this power...Stryker had one more love that would end up leading him to where he is today...War."

"War?" said Alex wearily.

"Yes war," replied Jean, "Throughout all his schooling, Stryker never did hide his fondness for military history. We know this because he holds the Guinness world record for largest collection of military memorabilia. He has everything from ancient Egyptian spears and chariots, to Greek and Roman armor, to medieval and modern military uniforms. Make no mistake about it...This guy loves war. He loves reading about it, talking about it, and learning about it. He took more classes on history and warfare than any other throughout his extensive education. And after successfully running his family's company for five years, William Stryker expressed a desire to learn more. So he decided to pursue his love of war and turn it into a full time passion."

"And how in the hell did he do that?" grunted Logan.

Scott then brought up a picture of a young 31-year-old William Stryker in a military uniform standing in front of an old, stone building.

"He used his money and influence to practically buy himself citizenship in the United States and he moved to this country with the sole ambition to attend the West Point military academy. Even though he was born in Europe, they still let him in because they just didn't have the power to stop him. And it is here where he is taught and trained in all the facets of modern warfare. He quickly earned a reputation for his steadfast dedication among his officers...But he also earned another reputation later on, one that would make him an infamous name throughout the academy for years to come."

"And what reputation might that be?" asked Mystique, not liking where this was going one bit.

"During war games and training..." continued Scott, "William Stryker showed a kind of ruthlessness and bloodlust that often won him a lot of criticism. He earned nicknames like General Blood and Red Wave. Several times, they threatened to kick him out or fail him because of his tactics...But Stryker's influence was just too great. In addition to this, Stryker also was catching heat because he was getting more and more involved with an up and coming group of radicals...The Friends of Humanity."

"Friends of Humanity?!" exclaimed Kitty.

"I'm afraid so Kitty," said Jean as she brought up old classified photos that showed Stryker meeting up with the founding members of the Friends of Humanity including a young, boisterous Bolivar Trask, "Since Stryker likes to know what's going on in his world, he knew about mutants long before even the X-men were formed. He seemed to share the views with the Friends of Humanity and quickly gained ranks in the organization because of his insurmountable power. However, this didn't go over well with West Point. They considered his association with the FOH as nothing short of being in a band of radicals and they moved several times to expel him. But every time they tried...They failed. Stryker was just too good a student and had too much influence because of his wealth and resources."

A new photo then showed up on the screen showing a large ceremony in front of the old, historic building at West Point with many well dressed officers standing in a group picture. And within that group...William Stryker was present.

"William Stryker graduated West Point in the top ten of his class despite all the controversy surrounding his tactics and associations," said Jean as everybody took in the ominous photo, "He left that place with the best knowledge in war and combat that this world could provide. To make matters worse, he was still gaining status within the Friends of Humanity. But all the rules he walked through in order to graduate earned him a referral to the Justice Department and the Defense Department. But they had nothing on him and couldn't move to prosecute him. And even if they did, it really wouldn't have done much good because after he graduated West Point...William Stryker just seemed to disappear into the shadows."

"Disappeared? A guy like that? How?" said Mystique, who kept growing more and more intrigued along with the others as they heard this remarkable story.

Scott and Jean then typed several commands on the computer terminals and a small collection of documents appeared on the screen.

"We don't know how...But given this man's shady history I can't say it was too shocking," said Scott, "While we know for a fact that his company was still being effectively run by a group of trusted shareholders, from what we've found in very secure document scans, we know that Stryker remained in the United States for the most part. Over the course of the next decade or so, he pretty much stays out of sight, but we know that's probably because he was building up the Friends of Humanity along with Trask. In fact, we only have one picture of him nine years after he left West Point."

Scott then brought up the photo, but as soon as Logan saw it...The expression on his face turned to one of great anger. Not only did this somewhat grainy photo have a picture of Stryker on it...It also had in the background the unmistakable image of a tall, blond woman in dark sunglasses and a black trench coat. Immediately, Logan recognized this woman as the one that was always next to Stryker when he encountered him back in DC. She was also the one to administer all those painful taser shocks to his system as well as a very painful shot to the chest from a small but immensely powerful gun.

"That woman..." grunted Logan, "The blonde in the background...I know her! I saw her back in Washington with Stryker! Who is she?!"

Jean then brought up a series of other photos as she prepared to explain her findings on yet another disturbing part of William Stryker's history.

"Yeah, we've both come across her a lot while learning about Stryker," said Jean as she looked at some of the text on her computer screen, "After West Point, pretty much every photo of Stryker afterwards has her in the background."

"But who is she?" repeated Logan sternly, wanting to know about this menacing looking woman that had put him in a world of pain back in Washington.

Scott then answered that question as he brought up a close up image of her on the computer screen.

"That woman is Olivia Noriscovitch...But she's better known by both her friends and enemies as Magnum."

More photos of her, some in Russian, others in German, French, and English came up. Everybody present took in her intimidating appearance as it sent shivers all throughout the group.

"Magnum..." repeated Mystique as she grew fixated on the oversized woman's gaze, "How'd she get that nickname?"

Jean then brought up her file...Which was by no means easy to get. Dealing with Stryker seemed problematic enough...But from the looks of it, they would have to deal with this mysterious woman as well, for she was always around Stryker.

"Make no mistake...She has that name for a reason. This woman is pure Russian Mob royalty. She speaks five languages, she's mastered every form of hand to hand combat in existence, and she's been on Russia and Interpol's most wanted list 13 years running. She has more blood on her hands than most serial killers out there. Rumor has it she learned to fire her first gun when she was only two years old. Since then she's used many guns...Practically every kind of gun made within the past 50 years. But her favorite gun is a silver 44 caliber magnum that she always has with her in an open holster. According to the data, she made it herself with adamantium parts. It is, according to these documents, the most powerful handgun ever made. It fires adamantium bullets and has a range and power that makes all other guns look like pea shooters. And if these reports from Interpol are any indication...She's rightfully earned that nickname.

Then, Jean brought up nearly a dozen photos of bloody crime scenes. Some cringed at the sight because it reminded them of what they had seen back at their homes, but nobody once considered leaving as they grew more and more enticed by this story.

"Magnum has hundreds of kills to her credit. She was the Russian mafia's go-to girl for surefire assassination. Her price is very high...But she's never failed. In fact, she is so confident in her abilities and so deadly efficient that she actually sends her targets invitations to their own funerals shortly before she kills them. And any amount of protection that they try to muster only gets gunned down in the process. She's a real cold blooded killer and has been that way for most of her life."

"But...What's a foreign contract killer from the Russian mob doing with Stryker?" asked Colossus, not understanding the connection just yet.

Jean then decided to pick up on that as she showed more photos of her and Stryker.

"Remember what we said earlier about Stryker having connections to the Russian mafia?" said Jean as everybody took in the intimidating woman's appearance, "Well from what we've surmised, that's how they met. I found a report from Interpol on how she was paid to take down a prominent business leader in London. She succeeded in that, of course, but in the process trapped herself amongst a team of British commandos and Interpol officers. The report says they were very close to capturing her and sending her to the Gulags for the rest of her life, but apparently...Stryker was the one that paid for the hit. And he was so impressed with her abilities and efficiency, he extracted her with some bribes and took her under his wing. From that point on, every justice authority had to go through Stryker if they wanted to so much as talk to her. Because of that...They kept their distance. It's a bit sketchy afterwards, but ever since then...It's almost impossible to find a time when that woman isn't near Stryker."

Scott then brought up more recent pictures, and sure enough...Magnum was alongside Stryker in every one of them looking as strong and as menacing as ever.

"But why him?" grunted Logan, not forgetting his animosity towards that woman after she easily fought him back in Washington, "I saw this woman and she had the chance to off me easily...But Stryker just waved his hand and she backed off. Why?"

"I'm afraid we can't answer that Logan," said Scott shaking his head, "There's speculation that those two are lovers or married even...But those are just rumors. We hit nothing but dead ends when we looked into that. However, that's not the important thing here. What's important is what happened after those two hooked up, because that's when this whole ordeal was set into motion."

"What do you mean? Are you saying that all these attacks were planned that far back?" asked Alex, not used to having to deal with such things since he wasn't a full time X-men.

"In some ways, yes...But in other ways, no," answered Scott, "You see, during this time Stryker got more and more involved with the Friends of Humanity and stayed in the shadows as he and Trask helped the organization grow. And with Stryker's money and connections, grow they did."

Scott and Jean then both brought up numerous Friends of Humanity photos and images that looked to be about 10 or 15 years old. These were most likely the early days of the organization. They were dominated by a military like atmosphere and all looked more like soldiers than an interest group. They all bore unique uniforms, some of what they recognized on the soldiers back at their homes.

"Those uniforms...I recognize them!" said Wanda as she looked at the photo, "I saw some of the soldiers wearing them back at the boarding house!"

"So they weren't just the military..." mused Mystique as she took in this new data.

"No...Far from it," said Scott, "From what I remember, many of the elite soldiers and officers wore those uniforms. I know what a traditional military uniform looks like and now it makes sense why they were dressed differently. And from everything Jean and I have gathered, it's probably a lot more complicated than that."

"Wait, wait..." said Kitty, "I thought we shut the Friend's of Humanity down a long time ago! I mean...Weren't they disbanded after Trask went to jail?"

"That's what I thought too...That's what we all thought," said Scott with a sigh, "But I think Trask going to jail only provoked this whole thing to happen a lot sooner than it would have otherwise."

"What do you mean?" asked Pietro, now feeling his gunshot wounds fester upon learning about everything that had led up to his near death experience.

"You see...After Trask went to jail, that left the Friends of Humanity disorganized," replied Scott as he brought up some of the news articles associated with the story, "And since William Stryker was second in command and the chief source of money for the sentinel project, he was the most natural candidate for the position. In retrospect, I think it played more into Stryker's hands to gain that position rather than work his way up. And as soon as he took control, things got pretty ugly."

Then several grainy, incoherent images appeared on the screen. They depicted shadowy figures standing outside dark buildings, unloading mysterious cargo at docks, and meeting up with politicians.

"Under Stryker's leadership," continued Jean, "They had even more access to his corporate connections. Weapons from his companies that included everything from explosives and bombs, to advanced assault rifles and computer hardware not even in use fell into the hands of the Friend's of Humanity. This technology is what fueled the initial Sentinel program, but after Trask went to jail things got a bit more low key. And it is around here, right after Apocalypse, where it seems that Stryker began planning his attacks with the military."

"But how did he do it?" said Logan sternly, for he had been pondering this question since he had been stuck in Washington with the Professor, "How did he manage to get access to the entire fucking army of the United States without us or anybody for that matter knowing?!"

Scott and Jean then looked at each other, as if they were concerned with how they were going to answer Logan's question, which they knew also bewildered everybody else's mind at this point. With a defeated sigh, Scott brought up several documents that would help explain how one man managed to gain access to so much power.

"Officially...The Friends of Humanity was outlawed as a result of the sentinel incident in New York...But unofficially, it was a bit more complicated than that," began Jean ominously, "While every public figure distanced themselves from the group, the incident with Apocalypse made the whole world weary about mutants and all the growing tension and violence that has been escalating these past two years made the issue too unavoidable for most politicians. Because of the growing animosity, some politicians favored reinstating the Friend's of Humanity and vindicating them as a government organization responsible for controlling mutants. But luckily...Most lawmakers disagreed with this and were very weary of the potential backlash since most people only associated them with the sentinels and not mutants. But still, weary or not, it was all the opportunity that Stryker needed to make his move."

Then, images of Stryker and Magnum flashed as they stood alongside several prominent politicians. However, this was still only the beginning.

"Like we've both said before...Stryker is a rich and powerful man," continued Jean, "While on paper all activities of the Friend's of Humanity were ceased...In reality, they only grew because of Stryker's influence. It was clear at this point that Stryker's plan was an all out military strike against all mutants and the secret assassination of every possible mutant without the public knowing. He just needed to gain the military power so that he would have access and control over the strongest military in the world."

"But how can some rich European businessman get access to the United States military?" asked Kitty, not understanding how such a feat was accomplish in what was supposed to be a responsible democracy.

Scott and Jean then brought up several suspicious documents on the computer screen. They didn't look like anything they had seen up to this point, but it wasn't long before it dawned on them what these were.

"It's an unfortunate fact of simple greed...Money talks," said Scott as he brought up more images of similar looking documents, "We uncovered these bank statements from a prominent bank in Switzerland that has a long history of doing business with Stryker's companies. They're all under the name Alexander Sergiovitch...A Russian businessman that doesn't even exist."

"Wait...Alexander Seriovitch? How do you know that's really Stryker?" asked Colossus, not seeing the connection.

"It's like we said before Peter," replied Scott, "Stryker is a military man at heart. We knew it was him because of the bank and because of the name. Alexander...Named after Alexander the Great. And Sergiovitch...The middle name of famous Russian Colonel turned premier, Nikita Kruschev."

Everybody looked back at Scott with undue surprise at his perceptions. Scott could probably guess what they were thinking, so he went ahead and answered.

"History channel..."

"Go figure..." muttered Pietro.

"Anyway," continued Scott, "From this name and all connecting accounts, shady wire payments of over 100 million dollars were funded to a huge list of people."

Scott then brought up a list of names on the computer screen.

"Recognize any of the names?" said Scott.

As the others looked over at the names, it didn't dawn on them their meaning until soon...Something suspicious stuck out about them.

"Hey...These are all politicians!" said Kitty as she recognized some of the names from newspapers, "Congressmen even!"

"It doesn't stop there Kitty..." said Jean much to her dismay, "It's not just congress that this guy bribed...He practically bought his way through every branch of the government and every high powered media mogul to benefit his cause. Some of these payments go to members of the Ways and Means committees of each house, the highest ranking officials of the Defense Department, news reporters of every major news source, and even judges of the Supreme Court so that they would look the other way while he went about his business within Congress."

"Business? What kind of business would he want with Congress?" asked Raven.

"It goes back to simple government knowledge taught in most high schools," answered Jean, "In order for any military action to get the go ahead, it has to be approved by Congress."

"But I thought only the President has the power to do that," argued Kurt.

"He does..." said Scott, "But remember...Stryker has a habit of not playing by the rules."

"Wait! Wait!" said Piotr, "How could a man, even with his kind of influence, manage to ordain something that only the President could do?"

"Simple...He had help," answered Scott ominously as he began typing on the computer terminal once again.

"Help? What do you mean help?" said Logan, getting increasingly distasteful of this man the more he learned about him.

"I mean," answered Scott, "That Stryker had an ally within Congress that helped him get the legislation he needed to get the power he so sorely desired. You see, we both knew that there had to be some kind of record of orders given by Congress to the Department of Defense...So we used the access codes from these computers and 'coaxed' their servers into displaying for us a record of all bills passed within the time shortly before the attacks."

Scott and Jean then proceeded to bring up more images of Congressional bills on the screen. There was a dizzying array of seeming incoherent text, but they knew that somewhere the answers as to how all this bloodshed came to pass lied within.

"In order for Stryker to get the approval he needs to control the military, he couldn't avoid the need for Congressional approval. Not only would this allow him to fully assimilate his Friends of Humanity resources with that of the military, but it would make him a full fledged general in the process."

"But...Wouldn't they have caught such a conspicuous order?!" said Mystique, "Is Congress really THAT stupid?"

"You'd...Be only half right in that respect Raven," said Scott, "I mean...They did pass the Patriot Act after all. But for this, Stryker would need to be more subtle without being too ruthless. So he used an age old tactic that has long been a favorite of lawmakers."

Scott then brought up a recent newspaper article that everybody had remembered seeing. It didn't look like anything too conspicuous, but after what they had learned, they were willing to expect the unexpected.

"The big health care bill that had been working its way through Congress unimpeded was a perfect way to hide something small and unnoticeable to both the House and the Senate, not to mention the President as well. And while the public was eager to see it pass, there was something attached to it that nobody bothered to read...A rider bill to be precise."

"A rider bill?" asked Wanda.

"But...Don't they read those out loud before ever voting on them?" asked Kitty, not wanting to believe that the government she and everybody else trusted had done something so negligent.

"Kitty...Do you have any idea how long some of these bills are?" said Jean in response, "If they read every word of every bill, then the government would run many times slower than it already does. They only read what they find important...And unfortunately, they didn't read that attached rider bill."

"But how could somebody NOT catch something like that?!" said Pietro with disgust over how something so corrupt could happen in America, supposedly the greatest country in the world.

"That's what the bribes were for Pietro..." answered Scott, "Every politician that saw that bill was paid to look the other way and most didn't even know that part was in there to begin with. Even the President probably didn't know what he was signing when they brought it to him. We know that Stryker was involved...The writing is on the walls."

"How so?" asked Kitty suspiciously.

"Simple...The name of the man who wrote that bill and who's name is on the rider section," said Scott as he brought up an image of the bill, "Senator Edward Kelly."

A large, collective gasp filled the room and only the hum of the computers could be heard now. Edward Kelly...Their former principal...Was the man that helped Stryker make this possible. Now because of this man...A man who had preached his dedication towards public service and protection of the children...Was responsible for the wrongful murder of many innocent mutant kids and teachers. Ever since he won a seat in the Senate, the X-men and Brotherhood had been weary of him. But never in a million years would they have thought that he would stoop this low and bring forth all out murder of innocent people.

"That son of a bitch!" bellowed Raven, "I knew he was slime!"

"I can't believe it...Our own principal," said Kitty in a mixture of disbelief and anger.

"I know..." said Jean solemnly, still finding it hard to handle that somebody they were supposed to trust as kids had assisted in their wrongful murder, "But it's the truth. We don't know how long Senator Kelly had been in league with Stryker, but we know for a fact that he is. There's no other way he could have incorporated such specific orders. Hell, I'm willing to bet that he probably drafted some of the bill himself and just gave the finished product to Kelly to go through the Senate."

"So now we've gotta take down three assholes," grunted Logan, "Stryker, Magnum, and Kelly."

"It appears so..." replied Jean, "Kelly would have a lot to gain with the success of this operation. Because it's his name on the bill, he'll probably get a lot of the praise. We've even uncovered news articles about him that state he has ambitions to run for President one day. And because the public has approved so greatly of what the military and the Friends of Humanity has done, I can say that it's fairly certain that he has a good chance at doing so."

It was a disturbing thought, a man like Edward Kelly as President...A man who assisted in the murder of many innocent people. And everybody was PRAISING him because of it.

"But how could the public approve of such a monster?" asked Kitty, "How come everything we hear from the news now is just a bunch of anti-mutant lies?"

Scott then brought up some front page clips of major newspapers and pictures of media empire owners from every news source from CNN to NBC.

"Remember that list of names we showed you...The one with all the bribes?" asked Scott, "Well we also mentioned that news reporters and media outlets were another source of power that Stryker pawned into his power. Everything the media has said...Every report that they have fed to the public has been shaped and molded by Stryker and the Friends of Humanity. His money and bribes keeps people from opening their mouths and investigating anything they shouldn't. And the organization itself gives bogus stories for the public to consume. It's basically been one huge campaign to pump the public full of fear so they'll blindly trust their government and not question anything they do. Fear of mutants, fear of their own safety, fear of anything that would make them submissive...It all works to Stryker's advantage because he fears nothing. There's no question that he's manipulated the media, in some ways illegally. And the proof is in the lies."

It was a story that sounded almost too fantastic to be true, but it finally brought everything into perspective. It made sense now...How such devastating attacks could be carried out and masked from the public by a veil of deception. And it all came back to William Stryker...The mastermind behind the plan.

"So even if we do somehow managed to find Stryker, Magnum, and Kelly...The public will still hate and fear us," said Pietro as everybody took in the grim situation, "Even if we find and kill them...We've still lost."

"It's just a game to him at this point," said Jean, "It's a game were he makes the rules and he pulls the strings. If the operation succeeds he wins...And if we attack and kill him he still wins."

"All of this has been many years in the making...Not just these last two," added Scott, "Stryker is not like Trask or the mobs of people that picket outside our homes...This man is NOT afraid of us. He is very smart, very ambitious, and very dangerous. He managed to formulate a masterful attack on all of us without anybody knowing."

Then, Scott and Jean brought up one last big picture of the man that had caused so much death and destruction. It was one of the most recent and like all the others since, it had Magnum in the background. In the picture, a snide, almost sinister grin dominated his expression. He was dressed in a full military issue Friend's of Humanity officers uniform. The look on his face, the stature of his pose...It resembled that of a man confident and in control of every conceivable facet of his and everybody else's life. He walked in the way only great men of history walked. His posture emulated that of men like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan. He was trying to wipe out all mutants...And he had every bit of determination and drive to succeed.

Scott, Jean, Kurt, Kitty, Alex, Piotr, Logan, X23, Wanda, Pietro, and Raven all looked into the eyes of their tormenter...The man who killed their friends and family and destroyed their home. But no amount of anger or animosity could wipe that sinister smile of the man's face...For he had already succeeded in so many ways.

"He controls it all," said Jean, "He is holding all the cards. He has every conceivable advantage over us. Every bit of our government, the media, the military...It's all in the palm of his hand now."

The outlook seemed grim, if not impossible at this point. So much power rested within the hand of one man. So much power was at William Stryker's fingertips and he wasn't even a mutant. Power and strength were not something that was restricted to muscle and mutant powers...They were also symbolic, covering the one thing that all power seeks...Control.

"This...Is the man we have to beat," said Scott as an eerie silence soon fell upon them under the penetrating gaze of the image, "William Stryker...Leader of the Friends of Humanity, owner of the largest fortune in history, and supreme general of the United States military."

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

AN: Well I hope this chapter clears a few things up for everybody! This was mainly a chapter to explain how Stryker managed to do what he did. I know it took a while because of the mystery aspect involved up to this point, but at least you all know now! So what do you think? Is Stryker beatable at this point? And what did you think of my OC villain, Magnum? She doesn't have many words in this story thus far, but she is an important character. So do you all like this story thus far? Has it kept you on the edge of your seat? Please tell me! I'd love to know! Send me your feedback via email or post it on the fanfiction website! I always enjoy getting reviews, so PLEASE send them! And don't worry, there's still plenty to come! Thank you all for reading and I wish everybody the best!

HEY YOU! STOP HERE! REVIEW!!!
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