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 23: Secret Plans
Upon leaving the war room where Dr. Nathanial Essex had kept a close eye on the new information that Shadow Cell was bringing in throughout the course of their mission, he sequestered himself in his office and began to pour over mountains of blueprints that he had stashed in a secret compartment in his desk. It had taken the team three days, but they had found exactly what Dr. Essex had been hoping for...They had found the insight necessary to aid in turning his plans from a lifelong dream into a reality.
Some of the blueprints he had safely stored away in his desk were over 20 years old and he had not laid eyes upon them for quite some time. Yet now they would be key resources in the next pivotal steps of his ultimate plan for accomplishing what he had started so many years ago. Nobody other than Magnum knew about his plans...Not the Colonel...Not the General...Nobody. And Dr. Essex planned to keep it that way until the big moment came when his dreams finally became reality...But in order to do that, he was going to have to carry out a few discrete, high risk tasks that only the five soldiers he had so watched grow so much over the past eight years could accomplish.
As he went over blueprint after blueprint, letting the hours tick by as if they were nothing, Dr. Essex quickly lost himself in his work as he considered his next course of action. Then suddenly, he was brought out of his daze as Magnum entered his office with a concerned look on her usual stoic face.
"I heard you pulled the plug on the mission early, Nathanial," said Magnum in her thick Russian accent as she shut the door behind her and approached his desk, "I just got word that the unit has returned to base four days ahead of schedule."
"All for a good reason Magnum," said Dr. Essex, not looking up from the blueprints, "You know very well I never do anything without a good reason."
"It is not your reason that concerns me," quipped Magnum in response, "It's the impact your decision that I'm worried about."
"At this stage in the game...Such an impact will have little effect on what I have planned," said Dr. Essex in a casual tone, not sounding at all too threatened by the backlash that seemed to so deeply concern Magnum, "I've already prepared a cover story and list of reports that should shut any pestilent voices up for the time being."
"I know...But cover stories and reports on their own aren't going to silence voices like the Colonel," reminded Magnum, her tone immediately growing bitter at the mention of the man who had been nothing short of a nuisance since the project began, "The man is already suspicious. He's made that painfully clear."
"He's always suspicious and that's why nobody takes him seriously," said Dr. Essex in response, "As long as I have the faith of the rest of the organization, we have nothing to fear."
The confidence in Dr. Essex's tone was far from reassuring in the eyes of the Russian born mercenary. She knew that Dr. Essex had always been a very poised, prepared man since the early days of the project. However, the more he seemed to negate certain issues, namely the Colonel, the more concerned Magnum became. Sometimes she believed that Dr. Essex was too self assured for his own good and such a trait could be his undoing if not handled properly. Yet no matter how much she voiced her concerns, he always had a way of working around each difficulty. It was just the sheer magnitude of the plans to come that gave this situation a far more worrisome precedence.
"The more time that goes on...The greater the risk, Nathanial," said Magnum, never one to assume the faith of anybody, "If we give anybody a mere shadow of a chance...Then everything we've worked for could become undone."
"Then I guess we'll just have to work faster..." said Dr. Essex as a sinister grin spread across his face, "And as fate would have it, we have just the means to do so...Courtesy of Magneto."
"What are you talking about?" said Magnum as she looked over some of the blueprints on his desk.
"See for yourself, Magnum..." said Dr. Essex as he turned several blueprints around so she could get a clear, unabated view, "And then you'll know why I pulled the plug on the mission early."
Magnum, even thought she didn't have the most adept mechanical mind in the world, knew she was looking at something significant as she removed the sunglasses that always covered her eyes and looked at the oversized blueprint of what looked to be a giant, floating Asteroid with a city perched atop it. Drawn in the margins of the large document were elaborate sketches of components and machinery that anybody would have probably considered to be nothing short of alien.
There were images of large, magnetically driven levitators designed to make the whole structure float in mid air and sketches of defense mechanisms that included energy shielding and a powerful cloaking mechanism not unlike the one Shadow Cell used. Every component of this vast structure seemed more advanced than anything Magnum had ever seen, which was saying a lot because she had used some very advanced technology as an internationally wanted mercenary and a key component of Shadow Cell. It seemed like a structure boarding on the realm of impossibility...But Magnum knew very well that impossible was a word that Dr. Essex never used lightly.
"What is this place?" asked Magnum as she looked at image after image of the fantastic technology that was crammed in this one elaborate structure.
"He calls it many things...But it's main title is Asteroid M," proclaimed Dr. Essex, the sinister smile not fading from his face in the slightest, "It is Magneto's pride and joy...The fruit of his labor."
"You mean THIS is Magneto's base?" said Magnum, finding it somewhat hard to believe that one man would work so hard to create something like this.
"Oh it's more than just a base, Magnum...Believe me, I know," said Dr. Essex ominously, "While nobody here knows it, Magneto and I actually go back quite a ways. Not long after his falling out with Xavier, he came to me for knowledge on the most cutting edge technology."
"You mean for mutants?" she asked as she looked over several more blueprints of the facility known as Asteroid M.
"Oh it was much more than that," said Dr. Essex, remembering his time with Magneto all too clearly, "His dream was to lead mutant kind on the path to war with humanity, overtaking them in the process and establishing mutants as the undisputed masters of the Earth. And at the center of it all was this magnificent palace of sorts where he wanted to carry out his goals."
"In a giant floating Asteroid?" said Magnum, thinking this definitely said a thing or two about the man's sanity, "Not exactly one for subtlety, is he?"
"That would be quite an understatement," said Dr. Essex with a slight chuckle, "The man is a poor, deluded fool. On the outside he's a raving mutant tyrant out to destroy humanity and fight the injustice he feels has been done to him and his kind. On the inside, however, he's still a scared little boy cowering in fear and hatred like he did in that concentration camp all those years ago."
"But what does he have to do with all this? And what does this base have to do with your plans?" asked Magnum, not seeing the connection.
"Simple, Magnum...He finally managed to build this facility," stated Dr. Essex as if it were a mundane fact.
"He built this place?" said Magnum, looking back at the blueprints and wondering how one man had managed to construct such an extraordinary structure, "But how?"
"Easy...Because I helped him," he said, sounding quite proud.
"You helped him?" said Magnum upon hearing this staggering revelation.
"Indeed...Where else do you think he got that technology?" he said as if it wasn't that big a deal, "During those years we worked together, I helped design the main components that would drive this facility. In exchange, he helped me with my research and provided the building blocks of what I would later use in the Prodigy Project. I knew he had every intention of building it...But I had no idea he would complete it so soon."
"So we're to assume that it's fully operational..." stated Magnum, her tone becoming stoic once again.
"Yes...But there are still some parts I know he hasn't completed," said Dr. Essex as he pulled out a smaller blueprint of one of the key machines that he helped Magneto design, "During their reconnaissance, Shadow Cell managed to tap a phone call between him and one of his subordinates. And in that call...He mentioned two things...Avalon and a stone."
"Avalon?" said Magnum, not seeing the connection, "What's Avalon?"
"That was the key that hinted to me that he had completed Asteroid M," explained Dr. Essex, "It was one of the many pet names he gave his creation as he envisioned it as a paradise for all mutants. However, that is not what has sparked my interest...It's the stone that's the key."
"The stone?" asked Magnum as she took a closer look at the blueprints.
"Yes...But not just any stone...It is THE stone for which Asteroid M's most important machine was designed around," explained Dr. Essex, his tone becoming more enthusiastic as he and his associate looked over the blueprint, "Before the bio-mutagenic accelerator...I designed another machine along with Magneto that would accelerate the growth and manifestation of all mutants. It operated under similar principles, but only focused on the powers and not the overall physiology. However, what it lacked in some aspects...It more than made up for in others."
"Such as..." said Magnum, wanting to know where this was going.
"That stone has the power to not just accelerate mutant abilities...But the power to manipulate and change them as well," continued Dr. Essex, his voice brimming with excitement as he considered the potential such a power could have if used in the right manner, "I searched for, but never found the stone. But now, it seems as though Magneto has done all the searching for me. He now has the one component that I need in order to make my dream manifest even sooner than I had envisioned."
"But I thought you said that for your final plans, you needed more than just the genetic structure of their powers," reminded Magnum.
"Ah, but that is where the bio-mutagenic accelerator comes in," said Dr. Essex, his excited tone not waning in the slightest, "While the stone only has the power to enhance the X-gene...The bio-mutagenic accelerator enhances both that and the overall being itself. But what makes my machine different is that it doesn't change the X-gene...It merely completes it. This stone, on the other hand, could do so much more..."
"How much more, exactly?" asked Magnum.
Dr. Essex was silent for a moment as he simply grinned at the image of the machine that he had helped the master of magnetism build all those years ago. He couldn't believe that Magneto had found it, but that arrogant fool had no idea the power he truly possessed with that sacred relic. Dr. Essex knew the potential of the stone and only in his hands would it manifest its true power.
"That...I cannot tell you at the moment, Magnum," said Dr. Essex, choosing to keep some aspects of his ultimate plan to himself even from his most trusted associate, "All I can say is that in order to carry out my plan before anybody could ever do anything stop it...I'll need that stone."
"And you'll have it..." said Magnum in her deep, accented tone.
"No...Not this time, Magnum," said Dr. Essex, "I'll need you for other tasks. And besides, we don't know where Asteroid M is or Magneto's exact location. I want Shadow Cell to carry out this job...I want them to be the ones to retrieve the stone."
"And how do you plan to do that under the noses of the Colonel, the General, and everybody else within these walls?" asked Magnum, knowing he had to have had some kind of plan for carrying out a task like this.
Dr. Essex merely gave his astute associate a sinister grin, his eyes flashing an ominous red. For so long now, he had been waiting for this time to come and now it was finally within his grasp. He was so close...Yet still so far as all the pieces were there, but they just had to be put in their place in order to complete that which he started so long ago.
"You need not worry about that Magnum..." he assured her, "We'll both have enough to concern ourselves with soon enough. But for now...Shadow Cell has many difficult tasks ahead of them...And when it's all over, the world will be in for a very sinister awakening."
After Dr. Essex's abrupt order to end the mission early, the five soldiers of Shadow Cell promptly gathered all their things and equipment and made their way back to the base. Nobody questioned his orders or even so much as commented on them. As soldiers, they were trained to follow orders completely and dutifully without hesitation and this one was no exception.
However, there still remained a hint of curiosity in the back of their minds as they drove back towards the base in the black sports car they had been issued back at the base. There were still objectives left in the mission, but for some reason they had been dropped in the span of a decision.
Scott and Vincent had been the ones to relay the data onto Dr. Essex which somehow evoked his fateful decision and since then, they had been thinking about the words in that phone conversation that they had listened in on. They told Jean, Wanda, and X23 about it, but they were just as lost as they were on why it would cause such a dramatic shift in the mission. If it was dangerous or threatening, protocols dictated that they were to stay in the field and learn more about it, and if necessary, they would neutralize it. But to be pulled out of a mission when it was still ongoing was just an action they the found perplexing to say the least...But they trusted Dr. Essex and his decisions and knew there had to be a good reason for it.
The ride back was utterly silent between the five mutant soldiers, for nobody seemed to want to talk about the lingering curiosity over what had transpired over the mission. Usually, they weren't afraid to talk with each other since they had all grown up together and fought together both on and off the battlefield. But this mission had left a strange impact on them...An impact that seemed more profound than they were able to process.
This mission had been the first glimpse of the world outside the war zone for them in a long time. Many of them who had long since pushed aside the memories of their painful pasts had since forgotten what it was like to be in the normal world where everybody lived without the slightest clue as to the lies which dominated their reality. While they knew many truths that few people outside the upper echelons of power knew, seeing how everybody lived in their own little world was...Strange to say the least.
They had seen things they had not known existed...They had watched as people experienced things that they had never experienced. Their lives were so centered around the rigors of Shadow Cell and being soldiers that it was almost as if there was no other life out there to them. It gave them a lot to think about, for this was the world they had sworn to protect to the death and only now had they actually caught a glimpse of it.
"So what do you think is going to happen now?" asked Wanda, breaking the silence as they rode down the highway, acting as just another speck in the vast sea of ambiguity.
"With what? The world or the mission?" said Vincent, who was sitting right next to her as he so often did.
"Both, actually..." said Wanda as she remembered back to all the things she had seen throughout the course of the team's observations, "We found out a lot of things about our targets...Most of which is only questionably significant at best. But what do you think Shadow Cell will do with the information we found?"
"That's not exactly up to us, Wanda," said Jean, speaking only from what she knew about how Shadow Cell functioned, "They'll take what the need from that information back at the base and decided what to do with it on their own. We don't take sides in any conflict whether it involves mutants or not. We're just the messengers."
"Hey, messengers or not, they still have to do something with that data," made Vincent, "It's only a matter if what they decide to do includes us."
"Well this is a mutant situation...And we're all mutants, aren't we?" said X23, "So wouldn't we be the first ones they turn to in having to deal with them?"
"True...But that could also make us the last," said Scott in response, "We've just gotten a first hand look at the way mutants are being perceived out there. There's hate, fear, and uncertainty dominating over logic and rationality. And we know of people like that back at the base..."
"You must mean the Colonel," said Wanda, her tone immediately becoming distasteful upon his mention.
"Is there anybody else who could fit that description?" made Scott.
"But still..." said Wanda, thinking her point hadn't been made yet, "What we saw out there...It was way more than just unabashed fear and anxiety. We saw people out there...Regular, ordinary people living their lives in wake of such great shock and terror who have no idea just how complicated the world is. They didn't have to fear, worry, or even think about a fraction of the shit we have to stay sharp on 24/7."
"Makes you kind of wonder what it's like out there, doesn't it?" said Vincent, knowing where Wanda was going as he saw that distant look in her eye.
They all fell silent once again, trying not to think so much about something that should have been trivial, but it continued to stick with them even as they tried to push it aside. Some of them like Scott and Jean who had been lucky enough to have a childhood before it was all taken away from them in a span of a single moment had long since forgotten what it was like to live in such a world. Memories of the times before their powers manifested had faded over the years because of all the rigorous training that helped pound out the weakness that they caused as a result. Yet now upon seeing the world outside of pain, suffering, and duty...It had given them a taste of what they could never have because of what they were.
"Do you ever think about what our lives would be like if we hadn't been recruited by Shadow Cell?" said Wanda, finally breaking the silence.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't..." said Vincent in response as he felt Wanda take his hand and give it a gentle squeeze, a sight which X23 couldn't help but take note of after the conversations he had with Jean over the mission about love.
"We all would..." said Scott, speaking from experience, "But every time I think about how things would be if Dr. Essex hadn't came to me that day...I always think about the suffering that would have pervaded."
"Yeah...Me too," said X23, shifting uncomfortably at the thought of being in Hydra any longer than she already had been, "I don't even have memories of a time before Shadow Cell where I wasn't suffering."
"It seems like a paradox in some ways..." mused Jean as she found herself looking out the window and watching the world outside speed by, "On this mission, we saw the kind of lives that we never had the chance to live...Yet even if we hadn't been taken in by Shadow Cell, we would still be stuck in another more painful existence where that kind of comfort and carefree mentality is completely denied to us."
"Yeah...It does seem like a no-win situation when you think about it," said Scott, who had long since tried to shut aside memories of all the suffering he had endured up until Dr. Essex found him, "I guess one could say that the boundary between living a life of strife and a life of ease is a one way gate...Because once you cross that threshold, there's no going back."
"We're definitely proof of that," said Vincent, unable to even think about a life that wasn't driven by pain and struggle, "But then again, in some ways that strife makes us stronger. I doubt I ever would have survived even half the things we've been through if I didn't have parts of my past to go upon."
"No kidding..." said Wanda, still holding is hand as she gave it a firm squeeze, "Sometimes I think that I was partially driven by memories of my father and the asylum he threw me in to fight harder and push myself further."
"I could probably say the same for me with Hydra," said X23, her voice brimming with hatred as she said that word.
"But in the end...It helped us to become who we are today," made Scott, "We may have lived painful lives and there's no doubt they're always going to stick with us no matter how must we fight them...But the key thing to remember is that the things we've lived through and things we've suffered along the way have taught us to be strong and given us the drive that gets us out of a tight spot time and time again. We may have to live with our memories, but we sure as hell don't have to let them weaken us."
That seemed to lift their spirits somewhat as they thought about what was going to happen next as a result of this mission. It had gone differently compared to the many other missions they had experienced in the past. This one showed them things they had never seen before and made them think about things they had never thought about before. Watching the X-men, the Brotherhood, and the countless masses around them live their lives in the tumultuous world they had swore to defend had been a unique experience for all of them...And as soldiers, they hoped to make it so that such an experience would help to make them stronger for whatever tasks lay ahead of them.
As Shadow Cell returned to base, they went through the usual routine of extensive security checks and strict GURSO oversight. As always they stayed silent and obedient as they changed out of their loose fitting casual attire to their more familiar and comfortable base uniforms. Upon completing their usual post-mission protocol, the five mutant soldiers reported to the debriefing area where the General and Dr. Essex were waiting for them.
"Another job well done as always Shadow Cell," said the General as they all respectfully saluted their superior, "I apologize for you being pulled out so abruptly, but such actions were necessary given the circumstances."
"Thank you sir, but Dr. Essex seemed somewhat urgent when he ordered us to pull out," said Scott, speaking what he knew the rest of them had been pondering ever since they received the order to end the mission early, "We weren't given a reason for the order, but we..."
"It's okay Cyclops, I know your concern," said the Dr. Essex, cutting him off before he could finish, "I did what I did for a reason and the General here knows it. And with the data you found was more than enough to establish a solid database on the X-men and the Brotherhood."
"Sir, but there were still objectives left for us to carry out..." argued Jean.
"You obtained everything you needed," assured Dr. Essex, "That alone equates to a successful mission."
"Dr. Essex is right," said the General in agreement, going off the report he had been given not long after the order, "We had to pull you out because some of the data you retrieved hinted that the leader of the Brotherhood, Magneto, may be close to initiating some sort of plan with the Brotherhood. Now we don't know where he is or what he's planning, but rest assured, we will find out."
It wasn't a full explanation, but it was good enough for the five mutant soldiers and the General to believe and that's all Dr. Essex needed as he suppressed a slight grin. The tension among the five soldiers concerning the abrupt abortion of the mission eased slightly, but there were still lingering questions as to what exactly he was planning. But for some, it wasn't just the plan that was worrisome...For some, that name itself, Magneto, triggered something...Particularly in Wanda.
Jean immediately sensed a surge of weariness in her mind that she could not ignore and Vincent saw her tense slightly. But as she had on so many other occasions in the past, Wanda locked it all away and did not show her anxiety in the presence of her superiors and her teammates.
"Sir...Just what exactly do you suspect?" asked Wanda, feeling as though she had to say something, "And exactly who is this Magneto character?"
"I'm afraid we cannot say for certain yet my dear. That's part of the reason why I pulled you all out sooner than planned," answered Dr. Essex in a reassuring tone, "As for Magneto...That is another matter that you should best leave to us. Is that clear?"
Although Wanda had a lingering feeling in the back of her mind, she stayed dutiful to her superiors as she and the others had ever since their recruitment. But the tumultuous thoughts that Jean was still sensing and the sudden state of tension that seemed to take hold of her earned her a concerned look from her friends...Especially Vincent. However, now was neither the time nor the place to dwell on it as she simply answered as any good soldier would have.
"Don't try to worry too much about it," assured the General as he took over, "Just stay alert and ready like you always have and we'll let you know when we understand the nature of this threat. Now the Colonel and I have to leave for Washington to discuss this data with the higher ups. I don't know how long we'll be gone, but Dr. Essex here will relay any course of action we decide. Until then, your training sessions will be stepped up to level eight just in case a decision comes. Again, good work as always. At ease, Shadow Cell."
The General then left under the escort of several lieutenants who would accompany him and the Colonel to Washington on the unmarked private jet they used to get around the country when they needed. Their schedule was tight, so they needed to leave immediately...However, unknown to them, such actions were playing perfectly into Dr. Essex's hands as he led the five mutants back to their quarters.
Along the way, they passed Magnum, who had been watching the whole debriefing as she so often tended to do. She was casually doing a few gun slinging tricks as she watched her loyal pupils pass her by surrounded by armed GURSO soldiers. She looked as stoic as she always did...But as they passed her, Dr. Essex gave her a slight nod, almost smiling somewhat as he continued down the hall with his five proud creations as he had many times before...Only with this simple action, he had done so much more. Unknown to anybody other then him and Magnum, he had just signaled her to begin what they had planned, for the time was finally upon them.
The five mutant soldiers proceeded to shower after having been debriefed and checked through the last couple of security barriers. Dr. Essex had plenty of other things to take care of while Shadow Cell took some time to recuperate, for he knew they would need their strength for what was to come. As always, they had to shower under the watchful eye of an armed GURSO soldier, but that was the last thing on their mind as they took the time to simply let their minds and bodies ease in spite of the rigors and complications that seemed to always pile up for them.
For Scott and Vincent, one of the most dominating things still festering in their minds was the explanation Dr. Essex had given them in the debriefing for pulling them out. While it seemed valid in many ways...The way in which he seemed to react to that data they sent him just didn't sit right. As soldiers, they were trained to be experts in the arts of perception and from what they so vividly remembered, there seemed to be more than they were willing to tell them.
"Hey Scott..." said Vincent in a tone quiet enough so that the GURSO soldier watching them wouldn't hear, "Do you believe that excuse Dr. Essex told us?"
Scott took a moment to think about that, for he had been going over the incident in his head many times as well. While neither of them ever thought of Dr. Essex being one to keep big secrets from them, a part of him couldn't deny the uneasiness he felt upon that fateful moment.
"Does it matter what we think?" said Scott in response.
"Probably not..." said Vincent, knowing he had a point, "But off the record...I don't think he gave us the whole story."
"Neither do I..." said Scott under his breath.
They both fell silent once again as they finished their shower, but their minds still dwelled upon their lingering feelings of uncertainty...Not knowing where it would lead them or what would come next.
Over in the girls' shower, Jean, Wanda, and X23 had similar feelings of anxiety concerning the mission. But for Wanda, there were other reasons for her feeling such tension...All of which centered around that name the General had said...Magneto. Part of her couldn't help but wonder...Could it really be him? Could the big threat that Dr. Essex and the General had told them about be the man whom she loathed more than anything in the world?
She kept telling herself that it couldn't be him...It couldn't be her father. But that name...Magneto...She vaguely remembered him using that name around her before he threw here away into that horrid asylum. She knew he had the power to control magnetism...For he had shown her from an early age that he was different...Or 'superior' as he often called it. But she didn't want to believe that he had somehow worked his way back into her life...She kept telling herself it wasn't possible.
Her tension did not go unnoticed by Jean and X23. Jean kept picking up stray thoughts, which was unusual in of itself given how much they all guarded their minds. X23 also noticed breathing irregularities and heart rate abnormalities at times, mainly when she thought back to the few memories she did have of her father. But Wanda hid it well and only those who truly knew her could tell and they wouldn't let it go ignored.
'Wanda...Are you sure you're alright?' sent Jean via telepathy in an attempt to give her something to focus on other than her own thoughts.
'I'm fine...' she answered in a predictable fashion.
'Then why are you so tense?' asked X23, showing that Jean wasn't the only one who had noticed something.
'I'm not tense...' she told them sternly.
'Bullshit,' sent Jean in response, 'Come on Wanda...We know you.'
'I don't want to talk about it...' she sent, still trying to tune out her lingering anxiety.
'Does it have to do with Vincent?' asked X23, remembering back to how she was acting with him during the ride back.
Both Jean and Wanda cast a glance upon the younger girl. While Jean knew about what they had discussed back at the Xavier Institute during the mission, Wanda had no clue where that idea had come from.
'What are you talking about? Why would it be about him?' she sent her with a certain level of rancor that she normally never used when she wasn't on a mission.
'Well...' began X23, ignoring the warnings Jean seemed to be giving her with the expression on her face, 'You were holding his hand the whole way back on the drive and well...I kind of saw a few things during the mission that made me think about how you two have always interacted with each other. I just...'
'Nothing's wrong between me and Vincent...' she sent, cutting her off.
'She never said there was, Wanda,' sent Jean, feeling as though she probably just gave herself away with what she had just told them.
Wanda fell silent and didn't say anything in response. This was the first time in a long while either of them had ever mentioned the way she acted around Vincent. In the past, they had made comments about how she seemed closer to him than anybody else, but they had never insinuated that it was anything more than mere interaction. And for the most part, that's what Wanda wanted to think as well...Only, that wasn't what it truly was and she knew it at heart.
She and Vincent had long been close...But never did either one of them ever allow it to go any further then the unspoken closeness that existed so strongly between them. It wasn't like Scott and Jean...But then again, she didn't fully understand that either because her capacity to experience such emotion had been so sharply tainted by her past. Wanda had long believed that her father and the insane asylum had robbed her of the ability to feel affection for another. Yet as a member of Shadow Cell, she had learned to feel such things as companionship, friendship, trust, and comfort with her fellow soldiers. Only with Vincent...It extended somewhat further.
'Wanda...' began Jean, who was starting to get a little concerned for the young woman who had been like a sister to her both on and off the battlefield.
'I'm okay...Really,' she assured them, 'I just...I don't want to talk about it right now...I can't.'
'Okay...' sent X23, now feeling somewhat bad because it looked as though she hadn't done much to help her, 'I'm sorry I brought it up. I had no right to...'
'No X...It's okay, really,' she sent her in response, 'I just...Need some time to think...'
After they all finished their shower, Shadow Cell was given a few hours to rest and recuperate from their mission. They would return to their rigorous training schedule soon enough, but until then, they needed time to rest.
Scott and Jean did not waste any time as they once again snuck into each other's room where they promptly enveloped each other in a tight embrace in a way they had not been able to do since the chaos of the sentinel incident. With what little time they had, they both made love in their usual, thorough, passionate manner...Enrapturing themselves through their link and whispering words of love to one another. There was no telling where any of this turmoil that the mission had brought would go and there was always the possibility that the next mission would be their last. But through the power of such a passionate moment, Scott Summers and Jean Grey managed to reaffirm to one another that no matter how complicated the world got, they had every ounce of clarity they needed with each other.
For X23, she decided to pass the time in her bedroom meditating, not feeling in the mood for sleep. Yet even as she did this, her thoughts drifted back to what she had seen with Wolverine back at the institute on the mission. She never expected to have to deal with his presence, but now that she knew he was out there...She couldn't get him out of her head. Dizzying thoughts of confusion and conflict still lingered within her every time she thought back to the moment when she first saw him. He was the man whose blood created her...He was the one whom she had been trained to succeed where he had failed. She felt as though by looking at him...She was looking at a part of herself. It was uncertain if she would ever encounter him again on a future mission, but he had already left an impact on her...And it was an impact that X23 had yet to fully ascertain.
While the others rested and recuperated in their own way, Wanda found herself stuck in a daze as she simply sat upon her bed hugging her knees. She was tired to say the least, for the whole unit hadn't been allowed to because of the mission for the past three days straight. Now she finally had a chance to get at least some kind of rest, but with her mind going a mile a minute, that was all but impossible.
She couldn't stop thinking about Magneto and the possibility that it could very well be her father...A man she had been trying so desperately to forget ever since that fateful day when he threw her into the asylum. While nobody had directly said it was her father...Her instincts told her that it had to be him...She didn't know how, but it just had to be.
The prospect of dealing with her father again was bad enough, but then there were also those cryptic words that X23 had said to her earlier about her and Vincent. As much as she would have liked to forget it at a time like this, it continued to hang strongly over her mind. Even though she probably would have denied it even to her closest comrades, she had long accepted the fact that she had deep feelings for Vincent. She remembered how strange, yet profound it felt the first time saw those enchanting blue eyes staring back at her on that fateful day when she was taken out of the asylum...She remembered how he reached out to her in a way no one else ever had. He held her hand when she felt so hollow and alone...He gave her a unique sense of comfort whenever she was in his presence. Nobody else had affected her in such a way before and a part of her was scared of that. Even though she had lived through abandonment from her father, the nightmare that was the insane asylum, the rigors of Shadow Cell training, and countless missions of unparalleled danger...The only thing that had ever truly scared her was how she felt about Vincent.
As Wanda Maximoff struggled to cope with her seemingly unending problems, she suddenly heard a knock at the door that jolted her out of her daze, followed by an all too familiar voice.
"Wanda...Wanda it's me," said Vincent from the other side in a soft voice.
"Vincent?" she said, not expecting to a visit from him at a time like this, "Is that you?"
"Yeah, it's me," he answered in response, "Is it alright if I come in?"
Wanda briefly debated that for a moment, not knowing if letting him in would only compound to her problems. While sneaking into one another's room was nothing new since they did that with a great deal of regularity especially when she first arrived with the asylum still so fresh in her mind, they had never done so when she was dealing with something like this before. Part of her didn't want to let him in and allow those haunting blue eyes of his to only add to her conflicted state...But the thought of pushing him away was simply inconceivable to her and too much of her needed his comfort now more than ever.
Finally, without saying another word, she got up and opened the door to see Vincent Freeman standing there before her with a concerned look in his eyes. Not wasting any time, she let him in and shut the door so that the prying eyes of the GURSO soldiers couldn't tare them apart when she so clearly needed him.
"It's been a while since we've been able to have a moment like this..." said Wanda as she sat on her bed with her long time friend and fellow soldier.
"I know...But I was worried about you, Wanda," said Vincent as she sat next to her, watching as she once again became enveloped in that distant daze she was in during the debriefing, "You looked so troubled during the debriefing."
"Well...We all were to some extent with this mission," said Wanda in response, still not willing to openly admit what was truly bothering her.
"Not as much as you..." said Vincent, not skipping a beat, "Come on Wanda...I know you...I know you better than anybody. Something's bothering you...I can tell. Please...I just want to know."
"It doesn't matter..." she said, still holding back as she was so used to doing when it came to her past.
"It does to me, Wanda..." Vincent responded in a strong tone.
He then moved in closer to her and took her hand as he so often did whenever she felt as though she didn't have the strength to go on. Even before she had become the strong, deadly soldier she was now, his touch had always been a way for her to find strength that she otherwise never would have had. Looking back into his concerned eyes, Wanda felt a lump forming in her throat. She didn't want to talk about it, but under the penetrating gaze of Vincent Freeman's eyes...She knew very well that she didn't have the strength to push him away.
"It's my father..." she told him, finally letting the truth out.
"Your father?" said Vincent with a surprised look on his face, not expecting that of all explanations.
"Yes...My father," she said, the look on her face growing more bitter as a multitude of the painful memories associated with him once again flashed across her mind, "I think...I think he may be Magneto."
Vincent needed a moment to digest that, for he knew that when it came to Wanda, nothing was more difficult for her than dealing with her father. She could handle herself on the battlefield with ease, doing the impossible and making it look easy in the process. But when it came to her father...It had always been a struggle for her. He clearly remembered how difficult it was during her early days at Shadow Cell when she suffered vivid nightmares of that fateful day when he threw her away. He remembered how sometimes she would sneak over to his room or he would sneak over to hers to be there for her when they became too much for her.
Such memories were among the few peaceful moments in their otherwise tumultuous lives. For Vincent, the nights he spent with her were among the few nights he didn't have to cry himself to sleep or deal with the vivid nightmares of his past from the Prodigy Project to the image of the destroyed orphanage that still resonated with him. But as they got older and became increasingly hardened by Shadow Cell, such visits to one another's rooms had become less frequent. In many ways, the both of them still harbored a fear that such actions would later have consequences they were not prepared for...But at the moment, neither of them cared too much about that as Vincent snaked an arm around her waist and held her closer to his warm body.
"Wanda...You don't know that for certain," said Vincent, trying to ease the tension he could so clearly feel within her.
"I know...But I just have this feeling," she told him, going back to some of the memories that were now so fuzzy from all the years of intense training that had helped shut them out, "I remember...He used to use that name. He used to call himself that sometimes whenever he talked to me and my brother about how we were...Superior. I...I just...I don't want to believe that it's him, but...I can feel it...I can almost feel it in my bones that Magneto is my father."
Vincent gave Wanda a moment to calm down as her words seem to get the better of her as her voice strained under what she had just said. Wanda was never one to ever talk about her fears or her past with anybody and only her teammates knew of the full story. Yet for Vincent, he had been the only one to ever see just how truly devastating the affect such memories had on her...And he could relate, for she was probably the only person he had been willing to share the darkness that his past had left on him. And in the end, it was that understanding that seemed to make them so close to one another...It was that connection that seemed to draw them to a level of closeness that they did not share with anybody else.
"And now you think that we may go up against him, don't you?" said Vincent in a soft voice as Wanda rested her head against his strong shoulder, "You're afraid of facing him again, aren't you?"
"No...I'm not afraid," she told him in a stronger tone, "I just...Whenever I think about him and what he did to me, I get so angry inside...I feel this cold, hard rage that just makes me want to cause him all the pain he caused me."
"Wanda...That's just anger...And it's something I know you have a right to feel after what happened, but...No matter what you say, it's clear that a part of you still knows he's your father," said Vincent, trying hard to give her something to help ease her pain.
"Father or not...He took so many things away from me without even the slightest hint of remorse that he has to pay...After everything he did, I want to make him pay..." she said, her words now brimming with hatred towards the man she once called father.
"Wanda...You know vengeance never does anything to make it go away in the end," Vincent told her, feeling her relax a bit as she rested against him, "One of the first things we were taught here was the futility of vengeance...How it just makes things worse in the long run because it doesn't make those inner wounds go away. If anything, it makes them worse."
"But every time I think about it...I get so..." she began, but she was unable to finish as she pretty much collapsed in Vincent's arms.
"I know...I know," he told her as he began to gently stroke the side of her face, "It hurts...Believe me, I know how much it hurts. But we have to stay strong...We can't let memories consume us."
"I know...But what if..." she began again, but this time Vincent cut her off, not willing to let her go down that road she had been so many times before that had only brought her more pain.
"It'll be okay, Wanda...I promise you...It'll be okay," said Vincent as he looked back into her weary eyes, "I know there's no way of telling what the future holds for us...But I know that whatever it may be, you're strong enough to handle it. I know you are...You've shown that to me more times than I can count. I know it's hard dealing with the bad memories...But you must never forget the ones that make you stronger."
His words resonated deeply with the troubled young woman he had grown so close to since that fateful day he first saw her huddled in a dark corner of an insane asylum. He continued to look at her with his powerful gaze...The same gaze that Wanda had found herself drawn to that fateful day when she first met him on the day of her recruitment. Then, Wanda proceeded to wrap her arms around his neck and hug him close for the comfort that only he could provide her. Even though she had scoffed at X23's earlier words, she knew what she felt when she let herself once again grow enraptured in this man's embrace.
"Promise me you'll never forget..." said Vincent as he relished in the feeling of having this woman's arms around him in such a profound gesture of closeness, "Promise me Wanda..."
"I promise..." she told him with every intension of keeping it as her duty as a soldier...And as something much more.
Both Vincent and Wanda continued to huddle close together, helping to ease and alleviate the tension that had so strongly consumed them. There was no telling where things with their most recent mission would lead...There was no telling what the future held for them in general. But they had long since grown used to that feeling since becoming a part of Shadow Cell...And with moments such as this where they had something solid and true to hold onto, none of it truly mattered to them as they held all the hope and strength they right there with each other.
Neither Vincent nor Wanda know how long they stayed together in the darkened room, simply holding onto each other and helping to ease the ever present tension that came with being a part of Shadow Cell. They felt as though they finally had the strength to get a little sleep. Even though it wouldn't be long before their drill sergeants came along and started bellowing orders at them for another round of intense training, they wanted to get whatever rest they could to give them the strength they would surely need.
Then suddenly, just as both Vincent and Wanda found themselves finally starting to nod off, they were abruptly awakened by the sound of their door being flung open. Immediately, they grabbed their guns that they had stashed under Wanda's pillow, but when they saw that it was Magnum, they simply froze under her penetrating gaze as she delivered one cryptic message to them.
"Get up...Dr. Essex has a little something to discuss with the lot of you."
AN: That's it for now folks! Things have definitely taken a sudden turn for Shadow Cell whether they know it or not and in the coming chapters, you'll see just how great a turn they will take with the events that have already been set into motion! And what did you think about the Vincent/Wanda parts? I know it's not a regular pairing, but I want to make it every bit as meaningful as this story progresses. Thanks again Agent-G for letting me use it! So what do you all think so far? Do you like where this story is heading? Do you want to see the thrilling twists and turns that are sure to come? Please tell me! Send me your reviews via email or post them on the fanfiction website! I don't care which one you do, as long as your review! Thanks a lot for reading everybody and I wish you all the best!
EMAIL! POST! DOESN'T MATTER WHICH ONE! JUST PLEASE REVIEW!