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

Key Objective

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: 2006/07/21 - Updated: 2006/07/21 - 8811 words

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Sinister Soldiers
Chapter 32: Key Objective


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With their target destination now in full view, the five mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell were now ready to proceed with the last and most critical part of their mission. His cover was gone and now Magneto, the man behind this very discrete conflict, was all that stood in their way now. He was an enemy the likes of which they had never faced before, but that had never stopped Shadow Cell before and it sure as hell wasn't going to hold them back now.

As the team flew along in a super high tech F-32 Super Raptor, they began making their final approach to the base. It was hard to tell how they were going to enter this monster of a facility since it was truly unlike any other place they had ever encountered before. But entrance or not, they were determined to get in one way or another, for there was a lot at stake here. And for Wanda in particular...It was also very personal.

"Looks like this place doesn't have any online air defenses yet," said X23 as she did a quick scan with the weapons system, "They're there...But they're not active. They must not be complete."

"And near as I can tell, nobody's home either," said Jean as she did a quick psychic scan with her telepathy.

"Well if Magneto can shield his mind from Professor Xavier, then assume he can shield it from anybody," said Scott as he did a close pass of the top part of the base, which seemed to house the main citadel of the facility.

"But what about other hostiles?" inquired X23.

"Unfortunately, we don't know," said Jean as she finished her scan and began punching in a few commands on the control panel, "But hopefully, we'll find out soon enough."

"I sure as hell hope so..." said Wanda in an eager tone, "I've waited over ten years to look my father in the eye again for what he did to me...And I'm not going to let his crimes go unanswered."

Vince, who had been constantly worrying about Wanda ever since he found out that Magneto was her father, tried to ease her tension as best he could...But it was clear that the longstanding scars that remained from what Magneto had done to her still festered. Despite how hardened she had become from years of training and near endless combat, the fateful actions of her so called father still hung strong over her soul after all these years. Vincent could see the raw hatred brewing in her eyes, but there was also just so much pain...So much sorrow...And so many unresolved feelings that still haunted her to this day. But hopefully, with this mission, she would get her chance to avenge what had been done to her...She would get her chance to make Magneto pay. But it was this commanding drive that worried Vincent so much, for he didn't want it to consume her...He didn't want it to overwhelm the girl he had grown so close to over the years.

"We had better call Dr. Essex..." said Vincent, breaking the tense silence that had formed after Wanda spoke her words of hatred and determination, "We'll probably need all the help we can get with this place."

"Right..." said Jean as she brought up the radio, "I hope we can get through to him through all this interference..."

"The frequency we're using is based on ultra low level harmonics which should get around the magnetic shielding," said Scott as he prepared to make another pass over the citadel, "Let's just hope Dr. Essex can keep this covered because I doubt a cell phone would get service up here."

Jean struggled to tune the radio link through all the static and interference, but thanks to the advanced digital controls of the F-32, she managed to hone in on the right frequency and then hit the speaker control so everybody could hear.

"Dr. Essex?" she said, making a few more adjustments on one of the antenna readouts to help filter out the static, "Dr. Essex, can you hear us?"

Back at Shadow Cell HQ, Dr. Nathanial Essex was going on his fourth day of nonstop work on his bio-mutagenic accelerator. He worked without rest or fatigue, feeling as though each moment was bringing him closer and closer to his grand dream. Magnum had come and gone, dividing her duties between allocating the necessary parts and keeping the rest of the base off his back...But such things were far from the eccentric scientist's mind as his glorious machine finally began to take shape before his eyes. However, it still needed a few more vital parts...And Shadow Cell would be the perfect medium for him to obtain that which was so critical to the final step.

"I read you, Shadow Cell," answered Dr. Essex on a com-link that Magnum had set up for him as the hour of the next crucial step drew near, "Bear with me, I was only able to establish a link through my laptop. The main switchboard was off limits, I'm afraid."

"That's okay sir...It still works," said Jean through the static, "I'm going to try to filter some of it out."

"Don't bother...As long as you can hear me, that's all you need," assured Dr. Essex as he continued making a few adjustments to the bio tanks on his accelerator, "Are you at the base?"

"Yes sir," affirmed Scott, "We just passed through the cloaking barrier and the main magnetic shielding. We're just flying over what looks to be the main citadel at the top."

"Perfect," said Dr. Essex as his tone grew more eager, "And that's exactly where you'll have to go. Pretty much everything throughout the base is run through one magnetically controlled core located at the top of the structure. According to the plans I showed you earlier, it was specifically designed to work off of Magneto's powers to control the base."

"So I take it that will be our main target?" concluded Vincent.

"No..." said Dr. Essex, "This is not a demolition task, Shadow Cell. Destroying something as big as Asteroid M is sure to get noticed in some form or another."

"Then I guess it's just Magneto then," said Wanda, for that's all she wanted to face, "We take him down and then this whole thing is nothing more than a hunk of scrap metal."

"I know that's definitely what you want my dear, and I certainly don't blame you...But that isn't the main objective either," said Dr. Essex much to the team's surprise.

"What?" said Scott, not knowing what he was getting at, "Then what do you want us to do?"

Dr. Essex then finished up the last adjustment on the tube and turned his attention to the main core of his device...The core which needed the stone in order to become fully functional. It was by far the most vital part of his machine and if he could obtain it...Then there would be no stopping him. His dream would finally become a reality...And it was only a matter of implementing the trust he had so earnestly acquired from the five mutant soldiers over the years.

"While I know you probably want to take down Magneto...I'm afraid the nature of this very secretive situation makes that all but impossible," explained Dr. Essex, "You see...If Magneto, the most powerful mutant on the face of the planet, were to all of the sudden disappear, so to speak...Then that would entail that something, or someone, got involved. And since this mission is so off the record..."

"Then that would implement us in a major breach of protocol..." finished Scott, now understanding what he was getting at.

"Precisely..." said Dr. Essex with pride in his voice upon hearing the innate sharpness that his creations wielded, "And for that reason...It is preferable that we avoid direct confrontation with him."

Wanda let out an immediate grunt of distaste, for she so wanted to confront her father and make him pay for everything he had done. Vincent could tell that she so desperately wanted to...If for anything, for a sense of closure. And for that, he placed a comforting hand on her shoulder, which helped somewhat, but didn't make her forget just how badly she wanted this.

"So what do you want us to do?" asked Jean, knowing there had to be something they could do to neutralize this madman.

Over the line, Dr. Essex's eyes suddenly began to glow an ominous red color as he looked back at his nearly completed machine.

"In the core of Magneto's citadel...There is a key device for which this structure is built around," he explained as he looked at the blueprints of Asteroid M that he had kept close by for this very moment, "You see...One of the primary objectives of his plan to overthrow humans is to enhance each and every mutant to their full potential. And thanks to some of the technical expertise I so thoughtfully provided him...He has all the necessary means to do so."

"You mean he's got a version of the bio-mutagenic accelerator?" exclaimed Wanda, not liking the idea of her father having a device that powerful in his possession.

"Yes...But it isn't necessarily the same as the machine you all went through," said Dr. Essex, "My machine was a bit more direct and precise...His is a bit crude and forceful. And it only enhances mutant powers...Not physical or mental capacity. In fact...Near as I can gather, it actually hinders mental capacity so those that go through it come out with a minimal capacity for emotion. Add to that...There is also a possibility that such affects are not exactly permanent. Then again, that's only assuming he hasn't managed to complete it."

"So in retrospect, we're talking about a machine that has the power to turn all mutants into super powered drones?" said Vincent as he managed to piece together the puzzle.

"You are correct my child," affirmed Dr. Essex, "And this is the machine that you must hinder if Magneto's plans are to be put on permanent hold."

"Sounds like a plan," said X23 with confidence, "So how exactly do we destroy this bio-mutagenic accelerator wannabe?"

"That's the beauty of it my children...You don't have to," said Dr. Essex with an odd mixture of excitement in his tone.

"What do you mean?" asked Wanda, who as the chief expert on demolition, knew there had to be something else to this device.

"It's simple really..." said Dr. Essex in an almost casual tone, "You see...The machine works off the power of an ancient stone said to have very powerful mystical properties not unlike some of the relics you encountered during that mission the Himalayas with the monolith. And like the monolith, this stone resonates at a unique frequency that when properly powered with electromagnetic radiation...It can restructure and rework DNA."

"Electromagnetic radiation..." said Jean, now beginning to understand along with the others just how this madman worked, "The same kind of power Magneto manipulates."

"Precisely my dear...Which is why he chose to use such a relic in the first place. When I used to work with him, I remember him talking about it on a few occasions. I didn't know if he was serious or not...But something tells me that he was being serious when he talked about tapping its power. And if he's this close to implementing his master plan...Then it's logical to assume that the machine is up and running, ready to accept any and all mutants."

"Then I guess that makes us the only ones capable of stopping him before he gets too far along..." said Scott, his voice growing more determined as they looked back at the imposing image of Asteroid M, "If what this guy did during the sentinel incident is any indication, then I doubt his next act will be far from subtle."

"Well said Scott," said Dr. Essex in agreement, "Which is why you must get in there and get that stone. Avoid any and all confrontations and that includes Magneto. He must not know of us...And with any luck, his anger will cause him to turn on is own allies and he'll be paralyzed for a good long while."

"Yeah...That definitely sounds like Magneto alright," said Wanda with a distasteful grunt.

"And it is for that reason why you can't make any mistakes with this one my children," said Dr. Essex, making sure his creations knew just how vital this task was...Even if they didn't know the full story, "That stone is the key...Without it, Magneto's plans cannot proceed. Once again...You are the only ones capable of averting a catastrophe that could spell the end for the human race. I know you've all been in this position plenty of times before...And no matter how many times you face such overwhelming odds, I know that there is no other force on the face of the planet capable of overcoming such adversity as you my children. I can't tell you how proud I am of everything you've accomplished...Not just for your country...Not just for your world...But for yourselves. You are all true marvels...Don't ever let yourselves think otherwise."

"Thank you sir..." said Scott as everybody smiled at their mentor's praise, which always helped guide them through the seemingly endless challenges that they faced as a unit and a team, "I promise you...We won't let you down."

"I have every bit of confidence that you won't my children..." he responded with a grin as he looked back at his machine, which was so close to completion that he could practically taste it, "Good luck Shadow Cell...And Godspeed."

The com link then went dead as Shadow Cell was now left to carry out the daunting task before them. They had their final objective...They had the final part of their mission. The stone that held so much importance to Magneto's plan would be his ultimate downfall...For without it, he would be stopped dead in his tracks. There was no telling what they would encounter as they looked back at the huge base before them...But as they made one final pass over the citadel in preparation for their infiltration, they were all confident that they could take whatever the master of magnetism threw at them...Because in the world of Shadow Cell, failure was not an option.

"Okay guys...We know our task...We know the odds," said Scott as he set the aircraft on autopilot and turned back towards his comrades, "That leaves only one part left..."

"Right..." said Wanda, glad to have any chance to get back at her father, "Let's make it happen."

Then, the five mutant soldiers all placed their hands in the center and proceeded with the ritual that would always bind them no matter what the mission was or the odds stacked against them.

"Kuwabara...Kuwabara," they all chantend.

As soon as they broke, the mission was on and they were finally ready to begin.

"Okay, so how do you propose we get in?" asked Phoenix as they all unfastened their restraints and made their way through the cramped confines to an empty bomb bay in the back.

"Well since there's no door or vent to sneak through...I guess we'll just have to make our own entrance," said Cyclops, who had already worked out a plan in his head, "Mayhem...You up for a rampaging ram style maneuver?"

"I'm up for anything, Cyclops," affirmed Mayhem with a grin, for this was a tactic he often enjoyed, "And since I memorized those plans Dr. Essex showed us, I have a pretty good idea of where we should make our entry point. The only thing you guys will have to do is keep up..."

"Sounds like a plan to me!" said the Scarlet Witch as she smiled back at her comrade, who loved it when he showed off his strength for reasons the others knew were blatantly obvious, "Phoenix...You think you can manage it?"

"Only one way to find out," said Phoenix, never one to give odds during situations like this.

With no more time for preparations, X23 opened up the small bomb bay which they had left empty specifically for a task like this. The blistering cold of the arctic air quickly filled the cockpit, but it didn't seem to affect Shadow Cell in the slightest as they prepared to make their fateful jump. Finally, with one last look at the vast image that was Asteroid M, the five mutant soldiers were ready to make their move.

"Okay Mayhem...Lead the way," said Cyclops as they all prepared for the turbulent descent through the cold arctic air towards the vast, elaborate base.

"You got it..." said Mayhem as he fearlessly leapt into the blistering cold and began flying at high speeds towards the huge floating structure.

Following close behind, Phoenix leapt into the air after her comrade with Cyclops, the Scarlet Witch, and X23 following close behind. She kept them close and guided them with her telekinesis while also keeping them warm with the help of her pyrokinesis. Mayhem was exceptionally fast and hard to keep up with under any circumstances, but thanks to the redheaded soldier's exceptional powers, she managed to stay at least 50 feet, give or take, from the high speed human ram that was Mayhem.

Thanks to his invulnerability, flight, and super speed capabilities, Mayhem quickly built up a great deal of speed and momentum as the he used what he knew from images of the base's blueprints that resonated clearly in his mind thanks to his photographic memory. As he drew closer and closer, a red haze of energy formed in his hands as he plowed through the air with the force of a falling meteor.

Mayhem grunted in determination as the fast approaching citadel, most of which was covered in a thick layer of metal, drew nearer and nearer. The sheer power that he would have to apply in order to punch a hole through the high tech facility would be nothing short of monumental...But then again, that's why he was known as Mayhem. Closer and closer, the ceiling of the citadel came and Phoenix struggled to keep up at times because of the sheer speed he was managing, but she managed to keep him in sight as they increased their following distance to avoid the shockwave that was sure to ensue after impact.

Finally, with the top of the citadel only seconds away, it was now or never. They would be treading into the unknown once again...As was the case of so many other instances in their lives as soldiers.

"Open sesame bucket butt..." grunted Mayhem as he prepared to plow through the thick outer shell that protected Magneto's impressive fortress.

Then, with a deafening bang that pierced the howling arctic air, Mayhem broke through the thick metal shell like hot knife through butter, leaving an entrance about the size of a small car in it's wake. After the shockwave passed, Phoenix entered with her three comrades close by, quickly slowing their speed and entering the vast and elaborate facility.

Once they were in, they touched ground on what appeared to be some sort of maintenance deck around the core. It was on the upper levels so it was logical to assume that they were a ways from the primary components of the machine, leaving plenty of ground to cover in attaining their main objective.

"Mayhem! Are you okay?" shouted the Scarlet Witch as they all landed and drew their guns in knives in standard CQC readiness.

"Yeah...I'm fine," said Mayhem, who was rubbing his head a little from the force he had exerted, "Punching through all that metal was tough...But it worked."

"You can make anything work if you apply enough force," made Cyclops as he scanned the area for any signs of security forces, "Now come on...We have to get to the core. Mayhem, lead the way."

"Right..." he said as he took out his gun and knife and held it in standard CQC style readiness as always, "And don't worry, the layout of this place is pretty straightforward. I doubt Magneto had any intentions of having to deal with break ins, so it shouldn't take us long..."

"Let's hope so..." said Phoenix, who kept her psychic powers alert in case any sudden presence came about.

Having only the sketchy images of the blueprints in Mayhem's photographic memory to guide them, the five mutant soldiers carefully, yet quickly made their way through the elaborate facility. At some points, they couldn't help but look at the layout of the vast structure with awe, for it had a level of sophisticated technology that even they hadn't come across before. Add to that, Magneto seemed to be a man of strict aesthetics, for there was a clear hint of style apparent within the architecture of the structure, as if it was meant to be both a palace and a base. And everything was big...Everything had a great deal of size and majesty to it the likes of which they had never seen before. The whole structure seemed big enough to fit a small civilization inside...Which was probably not that far from the truth given the scale in which Magneto went about his plans.

However, size and sophistication aside, the whole structure had a very straightforward layout, as if it was meant to be easy to navigate. Everything seemed so close at hand and accessible and it wasn't the kind of place that one would easily be lost in. And much to their surprise, there weren't any deadly security systems to deal with in this sector...Probably because the structure wasn't finished yet. They could tell that many of the systems weren't online because there were a lot of darkened areas that hadn't been powered yet, hinting that there was still some work to be done before this structure was to be complete. But given what they had seen so far, it looked way too close to completion for comfort.

All around them, there was so much emphasis on order...Which seemed to speak volumes about the man they were dealing with. It gave the five astute soldiers some hints as to the kind of man Magneto was as they descended into the depths of core via an access corridor that circulated about the main components, which were the size of a small building.

"Magneto sure has a taste for all things big..." commented Cyclops as he looked at some of the advanced components that powered this vast facility.

"You think he's compensating for something?" made Phoenix with a slight smirk.

"Can't say it would surprise me," said the Scarlet Witch, who knew more than anyone just the kind of man they were dealing with.

"Pretty much all psycho tyrants seem to have an inferiority complex in some regards," said X23 as they passed through to what looked like the main computer room, "Whether it's physical or psychological...It's all just a matter of some offbeat psycho trying to balance something out in their lives."

"And you think that could be the case with Magneto?" asked Phoenix, thinking that something had to be driving this man to go to such lengths with a place like this.

"Knowing him...It could be anything," said the Scarlet Witch, her tone shifting to one of more anger and resentment as was often the case anytime someone mentioned Magneto.

The team once again fell silent as they descended further into the core, having to access several computer terminals to open some of the more secured levels, but easily managing to do so thanks to their hacking skills. As elaborate as Magneto's base was...It was more style than substance. And because of this, it didn't take long for the five mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell to arrive at a large, heavily reinforced metal door. By far, it had to be the most heavily reinforced section of the base they had seen thus far...And because it was so secure, it was logical to assume that this is where their key objective resided.

"Man, for a mutant tyrant, Magneto sure has some lousy security," said Mayhem as he put his gun and knife away along with the others, "I was expecting some sort of guardsmen or defense mechanisms at the very least."

"It's overconfidence Mayhem..." said the Scarlet Witch, who seemed to be the only one not surprised, "He probably has a security system...One that's way deadlier than Xavier's. But remember what Dr. Essex said...He's probably not finished with this place yet. So it's probably not online. Magneto thinks his base is impenetrable with all the cloaking and outside security so he doesn't spend a whole lot of time on the inside. And since he's been so secretive about this place, I doubt he would trust anybody to stay here and guard it."

"And given what we had to go through just to find this place, I can't say I blame him," said Phoenix, "But security or not, we have to get that stone out. Mayhem, do you think you can pry it open?"

"Let me see..." said Mayhem as he stepped forth.

However, as soon as his hands neared the highly polished metal, he was hit with a powerful electric shock from a defense mechanism and immediately fell back, not wanting to trigger any other possible mechanisms.

"Damn...Looks like we spoke too soon about the security of this place," commented Mayhem as he rubbed his hands a bit, "There's enough juice going through that thing to power a city."

"Then we'll just have to work around it..." said Cyclops as he took in some of the mechanisms, "I don't see any computer terminals so Magneto must use his powers for this so only he can open it. In any case...This thing isn't opening without a little force."

"Hold on..." said the Scarlet Witch a she stepped forward and began focusing her powers, "Maybe I can hold back the electric defense field with my powers."

"That still might not be enough," said Cyclops, "This thing looks pretty thick and heavy so it's going to take a combined effort to wedge it open."

"We can manage it..." said X23, knowing that if there was one thing Shadow Cell was good at...It was applying raw force.

"I never said we couldn't," made Scott as they all stepped forward and stood before the imposing chamber, "We'll just have to work together. If the Scarlet Witch can keep the electric field down long enough, then maybe I can focus my powers into a concentrated blast to get a small crack open...From there, you'll have to wedge it open by hand Mayhem. And you'll probably have to assist him, Phoenix. And once we got a dent, X23 can slice the hinges and we should be able to gain access."

It not exactly the most subtle plan they could have thought of for this situation, but it was the best they had to go off of at this point.

"Sounds like a plan to me," said X23 as she unsheathed her claws.

"Yeah, breaking open a thick, heavy, reinforced steel door containing the single most important piece of this whole base with brute force...That doesn't sound too hard," said Mayhem as he cracked his neck in preparation.

"Then let's not linger..." said the Scarlet Witch, whose eyes were already glowing in a purple haze as she built up her hexing powers, "Let's bust this piece of shit apart!"

The whole wall making up the vast security system was then consumed by a purplish light as the Scarlet Witch used her powers with unbridled force to hold back the massive amount of electricity that Magneto had employed to guard his precious stone. And with the field down, Cyclops quickly went to work, focusing a highly concentrated optic blast into a thin, forceful burst of photoconcussive energy that began to warp the very hard, very thick metal door. And once he had a puncture to work with, Mayhem dug his hands into it and began applying an unparalleled amount of brute force in an effort to wedge the massive chamber open. It was a lot heavier than anything else he had punched through, so the super strong mutant struggled as he grunted with determination at the powerful resistance this heavy metal barrier presented him. And knowing he couldn't do it on his own, Phoenix aided him with a massive amount of telekinetic force that helped slowly wedge an opening...But with much greater difficulty than either of them had expected.

Cyclops stepped up the intensity of the blast, for it didn't seem to be as much as he had hoped and Mayhem and Phoenix seemed to be struggling. The Scarlet Witch kept containing the electric field even if it did take quite a bit of effort on her part, but she did not falter even as the strain began to build. In seeing how her comrades were struggling, X23 decided to play her part and began slicing at the hinges along the edge and puncturing the heavy mechanisms that held it into place. It was definitely a barrier designed not to let anybody except Magneto through...But under the tremendous assault, it wasn't enough to hold Shadow Cell back.

"Can't...Keep this...Up...Forever!" grunted the Scarlet Witch as sweat began to trickle down her face under the strain of using so much power.

"Just a little bit longer!" urged Mayhem as he pushed with all his strength, "We're almost there!"

"I...Can't..."

"Yes you can!" urged Mayhem, not letting her finish, "You're doing good...Just a little...Bit...More!"

Then, as X23 sliced the last hinge, Mayhem finally managed get through. And with a loud, creaking noise that closely resembled that of nails on a chalkboard, the heavily reinforced door finally fell under the strain...Leaving the stone open for them to take.

Knowing the Scarlet Witch couldn't keep it up much longer, Phoenix used her telekinesis to quickly retrieve the stone so as not to upset any possible sensors and she along with her three other comrades scrambled back from the now warped chamber door as the Scarlet Witch finally gave in to the strain.

"Ugh..." she moaned as she nearly lost her balance, but thankfully, Mayhem was there to catch her.

"Hey...It's okay," he told her with a warm smile, "You did good...You did real good."

Upon hearing his words, the Scarlet Witch actually managed to smile for the first time since this mission began...But she was forced to quickly shake it off as Mayhem helped her regain her balance. They now had what they came for and Magneto's plans were officially on permanent hold without his precious stone...And all that was left now was to simply get out before he got back.

"Are you going to be okay, Scarlet Witch?" asked Phoenix as she came to her friend's aid along with the others.

"Yeah...I'll be fine," she said, her body still reeling from the strain, "Let's just get the hell out of here before dear old dad gets back and find out his precious stone is missing."

"Agreed...I doubt we'll want to be around for that," said Cyclops as they all filed out of the main chamber and ran back up the path they had come.

There were still no alarms or any hint of sensors, but little did Shadow Cell know that upon infiltrating the area with the stone, a maze of hidden cameras Magneto had designed to identify intruders and alert him at a moment's notice of anybody who wasn't where they should be went off and recorded their every move. There was also supposed to be a lockdown mechanism designed to trap and exterminate the intruders...But unfortunately, his commitment to his machine had caused him to lapse on his security and now Shadow Cell had the most important piece of his plans in their possession. And thanks to the hole they punched in the ceiling earlier, there was nothing standing in their way as they swiftly made their way back to the upper levels and prepared to ascend back into the cold arctic air.

Suddenly, just as they were about to leave, Phoenix sensed something with her telepathy.

"Oh shit..." she cursed as she touched her temple and zeroed in on the signature.

"What is it?" asked Cyclops, concerned that they could have missed something.

"He's back...Magneto's back," she said with a grave sound in her tone.

"What?! He's here?!" exclaimed the Scarlet Witch, quickly feeling her powers starting to brew as a result of her sudden shift in emotions.

"But...I thought you couldn't sense him?" said X23, remembering what she had said earlier about Magneto's psychic shielding.

"I can't...But I know he's here," said Phoenix, "I know because I can sense the Brotherhood with him. He must have found out about the attack and brought them here to regroup."

"Then we had better leave before they know we're here..." urged Cyclops as he hit the control on the F-32 to run it's pre-programmed retrieval path.

"Right!" said Phoenix as she levitated him and X23 and began their ascension.

However, while her comrades wasted no time in leaving...The Scarlet Witch hesitated somewhat. Knowing that her father was so close brought out so many long dormant emotions within her. So much of her wanted to stay behind and fight him for everything he had done to her...But her duty as a soldier held her back along with Mayhem who stayed with her and could clearly see the conflicted look on her face.

"Wanda..." he said to her as he placed a hand upon her shoulder, "Come on...We have to get out of here."

"But...My father...He's here," she said in a distant tone, "That monster who threw me away...He's here. He's so close...I can feel it."

"I know..." said Mayhem softly as she turned her attention towards him, "I know you want revenge for what he did to you and I can't say I blame you...But you can't let yourself be driven solely by vengeance. You know that it doesn't lead to anything...You know it won't make things any better."

"I know...And I keep trying to tell myself that, but..." she went on...However, she found herself unable to continue.

"Hey, it's okay..." he told her, as he protectively held her in a way not like that of a soldier or friend...But that of something much more, "I know it's hard having to deal with these things...I know it rages within you like a festering scar that just won't heal. But you can rise above it, Wanda...I know you can. You're one of the strongest fighters I know...You've shown me that time and time again. And you can beat it! I just...I don't want to see it consume you."

His words seemed to help as she took a few deep breaths. Even though there was so little standing in her way, she made her choice...She would not let this affect her as a person and a soldier. She knew she was stronger than this...She knew she could overcome this. For so long now, her father had been a dark side of her being that she had long since shut aside. But now that they were involved with him and his plans, so much of that side was reemerging with a vengeance. Already, it had threatened to overwhelm her...But thanks to Mayhem, she managed to remember just who she was and what was truly important.

"You're right..." she said as she took his hand and followed him to the open duct, "And I promise...I will never let it consume me. Sometimes I just have to be reminded..."

"Hey...What are friends for?" said Mayhem, managing a smile as she held on tightly to him for the rough flight back.

"Yes...Friends," she said, finding herself musing somewhat on just what their friendship was turning into whenever she was reminded of it.

However, such thoughts would have to be pushed aside for now as they followed the others up to the waiting F-32 and quickly made their escape with the stone in hand...Taking with them Magneto's most vital component and hopefully returning it to the more secure hands of Dr. Nathanial Essex...Or so they hoped.

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As Shadow Cell sped off through the perpetual night of the arctic north, Magneto and the five metallic orbs carrying the Brotherhood landed on the main deck at the base of the citadel. With his magnetic powers, he opened his facility, giving his curious pupils a glance of Asteroid M for the first time. They would now have the honor of being the only other person besides Mystique to see the inside of his most proud creation. Even Pietro hadn't been allowed to see it...And he was his son.

Immediately, the Brotherhood boys, used to living in a messy boarding house, were taken aback by what they saw.

"Wow..." said Todd as he hopped out of his sphere and looked around at the vast facility, "Sweet digs boss!"

"Man...You mean to tell me we had to live in a crappy boarding house for all this time when we could have been staying in a place like this?" said Lance as he took in the sheer size of entrance area alone.

"Yeah, the Xavier geeks ain't got nothing on this place!" exclaimed Freddy, who, like the others, was clearly enticed at what he saw.

"No kiddin' yo," said Todd as the lights came on and the rest of the facility became visible, "It's like a mini death star or somethin'!"

Magneto rolled his eyes at the Brotherhood's mundane reactions, for they seemed to forget the seriousness of the situation at hand. His thoughts were still primarily on the reemergence of his daughter and the attacks that she had been a part of. And if they knew about Asteroid M, he saw it better to have at least some back up on hand...Even if he still considered them unfit for such roles at this point.

"So what's the plan?" asked Pietro as he followed his father through the deck and into the main lower level of the citadel which almost resembled a public square that one would find in a city, "If Wanda and whoever the rest of those guys were know of this place, then should we prepare for an attack or something?"

"No...It's too early to say," said Magneto in his regular cold tone as he led them through the elaborate center area of the base floor and onto a metallic platform that he levitated them all up to a master control deck that he used to monitor and manage the entire area, "We have the defense of the arctic north and a cloaking device on our side. In addition, I'll also activate the external defenses I was working on before you called me, which yield enough firepower to obliterate a city. So rest assured...We will make preparations for any further action that threatens to impede my plans. I don't know who's behind this, but whoever it is...They shall surely pay for their pestilence."

"Sounds good to me," said Lance, who had been left somewhat embittered along with the others by the humiliating ordeal they had undergone under the hand of those mysterious soldiers, "But how do you expect us to fight against guys like that after they pretty much mopped the floor with us last time?"

"Simple, Avalanche...We prepare," said Magneto confidently as he used his powers to bring up many high tech monitors and computer terminals, "They caught you by surprise with such attacks, so it was only natural that they overwhelmed you."

"No kiddin' yo...More like humiliation really," said Todd, who knew he would probably never live down having pissed himself in the presence of the five mutant soldiers.

"Which is why I brought you all here..." said Magneto as he powered up the primary components to the base, some of which weren't even completed yet, "I must have the lot of you ready and willing to aid in the safeguarding of my glorious base. My plans are now threatened by this new force...And I cannot have that...Not in this most critical stage."

"Hey, you can count on us Mags!" said Freddy in a confident tone, now feeling a bit more ready and energized after seeing where they would be staying now.

"See to it that I can..." said Magneto menacingly, "In the meantime, we must..."

Then suddenly...Magneto froze in mid sentence as the expression on his face suddenly turned to one of grave shock and unabated rage. It caused Todd, Lance, and Pietro to take a step back while Mystique and Freddy just watched on with a new sense of dread, for it took a lot to get Magneto worked up and to see him this enraged could only mean that something truly extreme had happened.

"Uh...Magneto?" said Pietro wearily as he saw the raging look in his eyes, "Dad?"

"No..." he said a low, raging tone as he looked at one of the monitors that fed into the elaborate surveillance system, "They took it..."

"What?" said Mystique, growing just as curious as the rest of the Brotherhood, for even she hadn't seen Magneto this angry before despite all the previous times she had faced his temper, "What are you talking about? Were they here? Were the same soldiers that attacked us actually here?"

"Yes...They were here. And they took it...They took the stone..." he said as he clenched his fists in a rage of fury, "Those bastards took the stone!"

"The stone?" said Lance in confusion, "What stone?"

"The stone that this whole damned base was built around!" exclaimed Magneto as he shoved the monitor off to the side, shattering it unintentionally in a blind rage.

"Wait...You don't mean the..." began Mystique, who knew what he was talking about, but didn't even get a chance to finish her sentence.

"Of course I mean THE stone!" bellowed Magneto, "They took it! It's gone! Now my mutant enhancement machine is useless!"

Everything metal throughout the area began to shake violently and the members of the Brotherhood actually struggled to maintain their balance at some points, for Magneto was in just too great a rage to contain his anger.

"Wow, take it easy boss man," said Todd as he nearly fell over from the intense shaking.

"SILENCE!" he shouted at the young mutant, "You have no idea how important that stone is! You have no idea the kind of power that it possesses! In fact...The only other person who has even the fainted idea of just what that relic can do is..."

Suddenly, Magneto's demeanor changed once again...But this time, it was not rage that consumed him...It was something entirely different. A look of pure disbelief soon fell upon his face as a name entered his mind that he never thought he'd have to deal with again. He couldn't believe it...He wouldn't. But there was no other soul on the face of this planet who was even remotely capable of coordinating something like this...There was no other person on the face of the planet that knew of Asteroid M or the stone that it could be. He thought he was gone...Gone forever. And as much as he kept trying to tell himself otherwise...He knew he was back.

"No..." he said, shaking his head in disbelief, "It can't be...It couldn't! He wouldn't!"

"Wait! Who are you talking about?" said Pietro, just as eager to know as the others who was behind all this.

"It can only be him..." said Magneto, his tone growing darker and more enraged once more, "He's the only one who knew...He's the only one crazy enough to do this!"

"Who?!" exclaimed Mystique, eager for some answers.

Magneto was still brimming with rage, but this time it didn't erupt into a scene...This time, he simply sank back into his cold, emotionless state. As much as he hated to admit it...He knew that only one man was capable of pulling this off...Only one man could possibly have the resources and the nerve to do something like this to him. It was all finally starting to make more sense now...The attacks, the interrogations, the assault on his base...He knew it could only mean one thing.

"Report to your quarters..." he commanded coldly as he turned to head down another corridor, "I want you all training at every possible moment...No exceptions."

"What?!" exclaimed Pietro.

"I mean it..." he said in a manner that left no room for argument as he stepped out, "Because if the force behind this is who I think it is...You're all going to need to be prepared to face a truly sinister foe."

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

Back in Washington, the big meeting was finally beginning to draw to a close. And as was expected by many, the bitter feud over the mutant issue remained a stalemate despite passionate arguments by each side. It was so deadlocked that nobody seemed to notice Nick Fury's prolonged absence or the Colonel's constant breaks when he slipped out to shout into his cell phone. But now as things finally began to come to a close on the forth day, all that was left were the mere formalities to close things out. However, that didn't seem soon enough for the ever anxious and paranoid Colonel, who kept his eye on his cell phone the whole time.

And while he didn't show it, Fury began issuing some 'discrete' orders to look over the Colonel and begin moving on Shadow Cell. He was tempted at times to confront the Colonel or the General, but he knew that would only lead to further chaos within the upper ranks of the government and at a time like this, that was the last thing they needed. Attack or not, those two still held a great deal of influence over them and if he were to come out too directly, the inevitable backlash could destroy him and SHIELD.

But so far, the Colonel's enigmatic actions indicated that neither of them knew anything about these attacks. The Colonel seemed suspicious, but the General remained oblivious. The options were quite limited and unless he wanted an all out power struggle, he would have to handle this discretely. But as long as they were ignorant, he had a window to work with and he wanted to use it to his full benefit. However, since this was an organization he couldn't touch, his options were limited at best.

Over the course of the last few days, Fury's actions had proved somewhat futile because off all the red tape he had to go through. He managed to organize a few 'unofficial' meetings with SHIELD heads and Department of Defense officials that he trusted, but their progress was minimal because of the vast influence and power of the foe they were up against. He couldn't get to the higher ups, he couldn't risk setting off a powder keg of political volatility, and he couldn't pin down Shadow Cell with his limited resources. He was a fly trying to down a rhino. Shadow Cell was just too big and had too many supporters. He tried issuing what orders he could, but he knew that in the end, he didn't have the power to stop them. And if he wanted to keep his hands clean from this, he had no choice other than to let Shadow Cell collapse on it's own and be ready to handle the aftermath.

Right now, Nick Fury was hoping that the X-men would be able to do what he couldn't. They weren't under the thumb of government and political strife and they could go the distance. Under normal circumstances, he wouldn't have relied on such outside forces to take care of a situation like this...But given that this was Shadow Cell, an organization he couldn't touch, he was flat out of options. All he could do was stay in the background and prepare for SHIELD to make their move. He just hoped that the X-men were strong enough to handle this...Because if they weren't, there was no telling how bad things could get.

The General took care of most of the closing arguments and some would even say that his words actually helped tip the balance of the issue in his favor given his strong speaking skills and hefty influence. The anti-mutant hawks still argued passionately, but the General seemed to provide the most balanced, intelligent, and logical points to the issue. It was a true testament to his political, interpersonal, and group skills that even impressed his most critical opponents. Yet despite his success, the Colonel's unusual inactivity did not go unnoticed in his astute mind.

Usually, it was the Colonel who often gave the most damaging arguments for his side, but for some reason, he stayed silent...As if his mind was on other things besides the debate. The General wanted to inquire about it, but he often found himself too busy moving things along with the meeting and was unable to look into it further. But even if he could...The Colonel's suspicious and paranoid character would have made him the last person he would confide any secrets to.

With the final arguments now underway, the Colonel was partially relieved that it was finally coming to a close. He was growing increasingly anxious about what he was hearing from some of his agents back at Shadow Cell and was eager to return in order to see for himself just what was going on. Each report he got made it clear that something was amiss...And his usual paranoid instincts told him that it was something major.

Then, as the General finished his arguments and the moderators of the meeting began going through the usual formalities, the Colonel's cell phone went off once again. Looking back at the focused crowd, he once again slipped out with ease...Only his movements were noted by both Nick Fury and the General. But that didn't seem to cross his mind as he found a quiet spot and flipped open his phone.

"Yes?" he said intently, "Did you find out?"

Then, over the other line, one of his GURSO agents proceeded to give him a report of what they had uncovered...And what he heard made the expression on his face turn to one of great anger and frustration...For it seemed as though his paranoia had actually proven right after all.

"Son of a bitch!" he spat into the phone, "I knew it! I knew those freaks were up to no good! Initiate emergency protocol 666...Gather each and every GURSO soldier in the base and converge on my order! I'm coming back to the base...And I'm going to see to it personally that those freaks answer for their indiscretions!"

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

AN: Things just go a little more complicated, wouldn't you say so? Now, not only is Magneto in the loop, but so is the Colonel! And now that Shadow Cell has the stone, Dr. Essex now has the piece he needs to make his machine complete! Oh, and just so you know, that monolith that was mentioned earlier was a direct reference to the video game "Psi Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy." They own it, I don't, please don't sue! The tangled web of lies is beginning to unravel, but some parts continue to hold strong! Stay tuned to see just how messed up things are going to get with Shadow Cell's secret mission now no longer such a big secret anymore! Trust me, it's only going to heat up even more as time goes on and there's still plenty to come! In the meantime, please tell me what you think of this fic! Send me your reviews via email or post them on the website! Thanks a ton for reading everybody and I wish you all the best!

THE HEAT IS ON FOLKS! REVIEW!!!
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