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

Hidden Agenda

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: 2006/08/04 - Updated: 2006/08/04 - 8301 words

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Sinister Soldiers
Chapter 34: Hidden Agenda


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

In the cold arctic north, Magneto and his vast, elaborate base known as Asteroid M remained abuzz with fervent activity. The four Brotherhood boys had been practicing several training routines taught to them by Mystique, much of which they had negated up until now. However, after being easily beaten and overwhelmed by the five mysterious soldiers that had attacked them so unexpectedly, the four boys had new incentive to get stronger...Because the chances of facing them again were definitely possible given all the attention Magneto had been giving this issue.

The prospect of fighting those soldiers again was not very appealing to the four Brotherhood boys to say the least, but this was an important fight for Magneto. Whoever they were, they were a key priority now because they took the precious stone that was needed in order for Magneto to proceed with his plans. But unknown to any of them, the master of magnetism already knew who was behind this...For it could only be one person. Yet he kept his silence about this as he worked with his vast computer resources to find what answers he could wherever he find them. And thanks to his knack for high tech machinery run by magnetism, he was able to infiltrate many top secret databases that offered slight clues as to what this was all about. Such computing power was often used simply to cover his trails from international authorities like that of SHIELD, but now he was committing every single byte of processing power to finding this stone and finding the man he knew was responsible.

There was no telling how long his search would take him, but for the Brotherhood boys, they knew it was only a matter of time...For if there was one thing about Magneto that they had come to realize, it's that he let's nothing stand in his way...Nothing.

"Oh man..." groaned Toad as he let out an exhausted sigh after yet another session in the training room, "How much longer are we gonna keep this up, yo? I can't feel my arms no more!"

"Ah quit your bellyaching!" said Freddy, who was working on a supped up weight machine to help hone his already powerful muscles, "We've only been at it for what...Two hours?"

"Four..." said Lance, who had been keeping track, "And we'll work at it for another four hours if we have to..."

"You got to be kiddin' me!" exclaimed Todd, "How's working ourselves to death gonna help us fight those psychos with guns?!"

"Toad...We have to prepare!" stated Lance firmly, who was also beginning to show sings of fatigue, "I don't know about you, but I didn't like being humiliated and beaten around like a rag doll."

"Hey, I'm not sayin' I liked it either, but if I don't get a break from this shit soon, I'm gonna pass out before we even have a chance to get our butts kicked again."

As much as the others disliked Todd's pessimism, they didn't retort as they once again focused back on their workouts. It hadn't been easy keeping up with Magneto's demands to be ready to face these mysterious attackers again, but an order from him was like an order from the angel of death...And there was no way they were going to disobey that.

Yet through all this drama, Pietro had been uncharacteristically quiet. Usually he would make comments here and there about how none of them could keep up with him or something equally egotistical...But in this instance, he found no room for such words. The thought of going up against his own sister was not lost upon him and brought many conflicting feelings within the young speed demon. Magneto may have been completely willing to throw her away and listen to her cry a thousand tears without a second thought...But for him, it was a lot more difficult because Wanda was his only other family in the world...And he didn't want to lose her again.

"Hey Pietro! You still with us man?" said Freddy, not used to hearing Pietro so quiet.

The speed demon acted as though he didn't even hear him as he simply kept running on a super powered treadmill lost in thought. He wasn't in the mood to talk or listen to any snide comments from the others who couldn't even begin to understand what he was going through.

"Pietro? Pietro!" shouted Freddy, finally snapping him out of his daze.

"What?!" he spat, finally getting off the treadmill, looking more irritable than usual.

"Geez man, take it easy! You're freaking us out here," said Freddy, surprised at his reaction.

"Well I've got a lot on my mind, thank you very much!" he said in an annoyed tone, "And if you'll excuse me...I think I'll take a break as well."

And before anybody could make any further comments, the conflicted young man was gone in a blur of speed. Upon seeing this, Freddy just looked back in confusion while Lance just shook his head in annoyance.

"Man, what's his deal? I know he's still all pissed about his sister, but damn!"

"Freddy..." said Lance, his tone growing more serious, "It's probably best you not comment on it. Things are messed up enough...So let's not add to the problem and let Pietro deal with his own shit. I have a feeling that's the way he wants it anyways..."

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

Back in the main computer room not far from his now useless machine, Magneto had been working without tire for quite a while now on the high tech terminals that were linked to practically ever major database both government and private in the world. He wasn't getting much other than a few traces of what looked to be black programs, but it was enough to keep him going.

Mystique helped him out since she was experienced in the art of hacking thanks to her old mercenary days, but she stayed completely silent, not wanting to set the volatile man off any more than she already had. It was clear that he was still very angry with her. He had made it abundantly clear that he still blamed her for breaking on the location of Asteroid M, giving whoever those soldiers were everything they needed to infiltrate his glorious base and steal his precious stone. And even though she felt as though it wasn't entirely her fault since she didn't give them an exact location...She didn't say a word out of fear that it would earn her even more punishment than she had already suffered. Like it or not, she was trapped in this tangled web of secrets and there was no way out...Magneto saw to that. And as much as she hated it...She was powerless to do anything about it.

Magneto, on the other hand, had more pressing things to concern himself about other than Mystique. As mad as he was at her and as suspicious as he had grown of her over the past few months, he still needed her to help fight against this...This force...Or whatever it was. At first he thought it was some sort of strike by the military or SHIELD, but his instincts told him that this was something much more complicated than that. He had already kept himself clear from the military thanks to his careful planning and cunning that helped him stay under their radar both physically and electronically, so it wasn't logical to assume that they had somehow magically gained the approval to go after him. No...There were far darker forces at work here...And he was determined to find out who they were and make them pay for interfering with his plans.

After having been at it for the better part of a few days now, his old body was finally beginning to show signs of fatigue and he was beginning to slouch in his chair as a result. Mystique, who had been smart enough to take a few breaks here and there, noticed this...But stayed silent so as not to try his temper.

"He's out there..." he found himself saying aloud, as if to send a message to the man he knew was responsible for this, "I can feel it...Only he is capable of pulling off something like this..."

Mystique was tempted to ask who it was, but something told her she would probably sleep easier if she didn't know.

"But where is he? Where has he gone after all these years?" he pondered as he looked back at a constantly shifting computer screen as mountains of data streamed through his powerful machines, "He's good...But even he can't disappear completely from my eyes."

Just then, the heavy metal door leading from the computer room to the main hall opened and Pietro stepped in to see his father hunched over his machines in the same way he had been for the past few days now. At first, he didn't even notice Pietro's entry, but as he stepped in, he managed to catch the master of magnetism's attention...Finally diverting it from that which had consumed him for the past several days.

"Da...I mean, Magneto," said Pietro, quickly correcting himself in mid sentence since he knew his father hated to be called anything that made him sound human.

"What is it, Quicksilver?" he asked in a cold, yet tired tone.

"I just wanted to see if you had found anything..." he said, feeling nervous and anxious about where this conflict was leading them.

"No...Nothing yet. But I will find whoever these soldiers are and the man I KNOW is pulling the strings...And I WILL make them pay for interfering with my plans."

The seriousness in the old holocaust survivors tone didn't sit well with Pietro because he knew what his father was capable of better than most people. In the past, he hadn't cared much since this was just how he knew his father...This was just the way he was. But now that it involved Wanda, he wasn't sure if he wanted to see him go through with something like this. Wanda was still his daughter, was she not? And she was still his sister. Was he really willing to exact his usual vengeance upon her after everything he had already put her through?

"But...What about..." he began, however, Magneto seemed to know what he was leading onto...For such a matter was not lost upon him no matter how much he tried to hide it.

"I know...Wanda," he told her, his tone actually showing hints of emotion, "I never would have thought in a thousand lifetimes that I would end up having to face her again after...After that day."

"But...Are you really going to fight her in the way you've fought everybody else who's stood in your way?" asked Pietro, his tone wrought with anxiety over what this could mean for the only other family he had left in the world.

Magneto hesitated for a moment before answering, for this was a matter that he was still struggling with whether he showed it or not. As cold and emotionless a man he was...His daughter still resonated strongly in his mind and he was not taking this lightly no matter what anybody else thought of him. Wanda was in many ways still dead to him...But the path he had taken had long been traversed and in his mind, there was no turning back...Daughter or not.

"The Wanda I knew...The Wanda I threw away all those years ago...Is long dead, Pietro," he told his son in a deep tone, hiding the emotions that still plagued him concerning such a harsh matter, "She may still be alive...But it's clear that she is not the same person. She now stands against us and our cause...She and her comrades have officially made themselves enemies to the Brotherhood."

"But..." he began, still obviously conflicted.

"I know it's hard, my son...Believe me, I know," he told him, actually sounding as though he was an understanding father for the first time in a long while, "But I think Wanda has made it clear that she sees the both of us as enemies. And should we face her and whoever is behind all this, we cannot be afraid to fight back. Do I make myself clear?"

Pietro was silent for a moment as he looked back into his father's cold gaze, not knowing what to think or say in response. He didn't want to fight against his own sister...He didn't want to lose her again. But with the memory of her raging anger towards him when he came face to face with her and her comrades still hung strongly in his mind...He couldn't deny that much of the sister he once knew was long gone. And in her place, there was nothing but rage, pain, and bitterness...All things she deserved to feel after what they had done to her.

Perhaps this was punishment for not doing anything that day. Perhaps this was just fate catching up with the both of them...Punishing them for throwing her away and not helping her when they should have. But fate or not...There was no turning back now...There was no getting through to the little girl that they had destroyed. Magneto knew it...Pietro knew it...And they were pretty sure Wanda knew it as well. And for that, the young speedster knew he didn't have a choice in this matter. Dead or alive...His sister truly was lost.

"Yes..." he finally answered, "I understand."

"Good...Now return to your training. I need you and the others to be ready and prepared at a moment's notice. We have to get that stone back...No matter what the cost."

And without another word, Pietro simply nodded and made his leave...Still anxious about what was going to happen between them and Wanda. Enemy or not...Dead or alive...She was still his sister...She was still family. And in many ways, that's what would make this fight the most difficult he, and Magneto for that matter, had ever faced. It was only a matter of breaking through the veil of lies concealing the truth. And while it was unclear where such mysteries would lead them...One thing remained clear...There was no turning back.

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

Back at Shadow Cell HQ, activity was still going strong as the GURSO unit regrouped and reorganized under the full command of the Colonel. With the General still held up in Washington, his authority was rendered innocuous by the protocols and there seemed to be no stopping the raging Colonel...Who was now bent on one task and one task only...The death of Shadow Cell.

Yet while the Colonel ordered a massive regrouping of his unit and the intelligence teams that worked closely with them, the confusion gave Dr. Essex an ample window to work with for his machine. And so far, everything was going perfectly. His sudden betrayal of Shadow Cell in assisting the GURSO unit had helped keep the Colonel's suspicions of him at bay and his raging temper pretty much kept him off his back along with the rest of his GURSO goons so he could work. While he was now officially quarantined to his lab indefinitely, that didn't mean he couldn't do his work. After all, the Colonel was merely a puppet...He couldn't change what was coming...Nobody could.

With Magnum's help, his machine was now so close to completion that he could practically taste it. The stone was in place and the final pieces were coming together...Leaving only one step left.

"Yes...Yes!" said Dr. Essex in an excited tone as he looked at the readings on the computer screen which showed the electromagnetic harmonic and resonance readings of the stone, "It's perfect! This stone is exactly what we need!"

"Good...Then does that mean this thing is complete?" asked Magnum, thinking this machine had taken up enough time and resources.

"We'll know soon enough..." he said as he frantically typed upon the computer, running program after program to check the integrity of the components, "And with this machine complete...My ultimate dream will finally become a reality."

"I still don't see how this thing is much different from the accelerator though..." commented Magnum as she walked along the duel bio tanks that each of the five mutant soldiers they had so thoroughly trained had been through.

"Ah, but looks can be deceiving. What the bio-mutagenic accelerator enhanced...This glorious device shall evolve. My proud creations may have gained exemplarily power with their mutation and enhanced body function...But as advanced as they are, they are still as human as the rest of the mindless masses. But with this machine...They shall finally break free of their human limitations and become a new species of mutant that shall dominate the planet and wipe out the ravenous, unevolved masses in the process."

"And all because of this little stone?" said Magnum as she looked back at the seemingly insignificant piece of rock.

"I know...Remarkable isn't it?" said Dr. Essex with a touch of humor, "Something so small being capable of affecting so much...Yet even Magneto couldn't possibly understand the power this relic possesses. And it is only through this machine that such power will be unleashed in it's entirety...It is only through this machine that the ultimate fate of mutants and humans alike will finally come to ahead."

"A fate long overdue in my opinion..." said Magnum, who knew the dark side of humanity all too well, "And what of that which you promised me?"

"But of course my dear...See for yourself. You'll find that everything is in place."

Then, as Magnum took a look at the computer screen, a look of satisfaction came over her face...For all her hard work and loyalty was finally paying off. Dr. Essex had kept up with his end of the bargain all throughout the years of her faithful service. From the money he paid her to the protection from the many organizations that wanted her dead, he had delivered...And now, he had finally given that which she craved most. And all that was left was the final step.

Then suddenly, a strange reading appeared on one of the computer screens...One that quickly drew both their attention as a look of annoyance and frustration suddenly came over Dr. Essex's face.

"Blast!" he grunted as he slammed his fists upon the computer terminal, making a slight dent in the process.

"What is it?" asked Magnum in response, not understanding what this error meant.

"Something's missing from the stone..." he said in disgruntled voice as he began feverishly typing on the terminal, "That fool, Magneto, must have chipped it somehow!"

"Will it still work?" asked Magnum, not willing to see that which she worked so hard for simply end as a result of a mistake from some bucket brained fool.

"Hold on..." he said as he ran a couple of diagnostic programs.

The next few seconds that followed were tense, but once the programs finished running, Dr. Essex let out a mild sigh of relief...Although that didn't necessarily mean all was well.

"Yes...It can still function. But it seems that missing piece has hindered it unable to carry out one of the key property...The ability to manipulate, alter, and transfer specific mutagenic forms of life energy."

"In other words...You can't manipulate and transfer mutant powers?" said Magnum, who had somewhat of an understanding of how the nature of Dr. Essex's machines worked since such knowledge was necessary for her to know in order to train her pupils.

"Yes..." he said as he shut down the program and began running through possible solutions in his head, "This stone was supposed to give me the power to use the life energy of a given mutant, alter it, and reshape it in any way I see fit. It would give me the power to change, enhance, or even add a particular mutant ability through the use of life energy to change overall genetic functionality. And without this function, the only thing the stone will be able to do us evolve a single given mutant within the restrictions of their own X-gene...A restriction I cannot have if I'm to create the perfect species."

"So then what's the solution?" asked Magnum, not caring about the science and only concerning herself with the outcome.

Dr. Essex took a moment to consider the possibilities. Right off the top of his head, he thought that maybe he could synthesize an artificial version of that mutagenic life energy transfer, but that would take too much time and given his restricted access to resources under the 666 protocol, it was next to impossible. But given Dr. Essex's resourcefulness, he refused to let that slow him down...Not when he was this close. Then suddenly...An idea came to him.

"Wait a minute..." he said to himself as he quickly made his way back over to the computer terminal and brought up one of Shadow Cell's many databases, "There was a mutant from Xavier's that the unit observed on their first mission to Bayville...One that had mutant powers involving the use and transfer of life energy."

"Which one was she?" asked Magnum, who's memory was sketchy at best with that mission since she hadn't been allowed access thanks to the Colonel.

"The one with the white streak in her hair...The one they call, Rogue," he said as he brought here file and picture up, "According to the report, she absorbs life energy through touch...Temporarily gaining the use of one's mutant powers and sapping them dry of their energy."

"And you think you can use her to finish the job?" she asked as she took a good long look at the picture of the southern born mutant.

"If her powers are as strong as the report states they are...Then yes, it's only a matter of adjusting the secondary bio tube to use her as a conduit to transfer, manipulate, and induce the necessary life energy to make my evolved creations perfect."

That was all Magnum needed to hear as Dr. Essex printed out a copy of the data report. He was noticeably eager about this key part of his machine and with the stakes this high, failure was not an option. He had worked too long and too hard for this...And he wasn't about to let a mere missing piece of stone stand in his way.

"I take it is up to me to bring this so called, Rogue, here so you can use her in the machine," said Magnum, glad she was finally going to get a little action.

"You're a smart woman, Magnum..." said Dr. Essex with a grin as he handed her the printout, "And yes...I'm afraid you're going to have to abduct this vital little specimen from that pesky institute."

"The same institute with a security system on par with most nuclear missile silos and enough super powered mutants to obliterate an army?" quipped Magnum, not sounding too daunted by the prospect, "Sounds like fun..."

"I had a feeling you'd like it..." said Dr. Essex with a grin, "It is your specialty after all."

"That's why I'm one of the best..." said Magnum as she turned to make her leave in preparation to carry out this final little task of his, "But still...The X-men are one thing...But what about Shadow Cell?"

Dr. Nathanial Essex merely laughed at that notion in a way that would have made any rational minded individual's skin crawl. He made it sound as though it were trivial...Almost as if that was a part of the plan from the beginning. And in many ways, that wasn't very far from the truth.

"My dear...You don't think that all those years of earning their trust and gaining their acceptance was for nothing, do you? There were reasons for such actions...Reasons that went beyond merely preserving their individuality for this pivotal moment. They have no idea just what they are a part of...And they have no idea just how important they are to the evolution of their species. And it is for that reason...That trust and ignorance...That unbridled loyalty as soldiers...I know that they'll come back."

"You think they'd risk that now that the Colonel is in charge?" asked Magnum, who knew her pupils weren't stupid.

"Ah, but you forget Magnum...This is still their home...This is still the one thing in their lives which they believe in...This is the one thing in which they have faith in. And in many ways...They still see us as their nurturers...Their mentors...Their teachers. And because of that, they will return. Damn the Colonel and his infernal unit...Because nothing will stop them...Nothing will keep them from us. It's only a matter of waiting for them to make that one choice that I know they will make...For as long as they believe in the lies they are told, they will see only one path...Mine."

It made sense in many ways to Magnum, but still...It was somewhat risky given what their students were capable of. She trained them for years and she knew just how strong they were...She knew just how powerful their drive was. They wanted to create the world's most deadly force...And in many ways, they succeeded. And now that things had gotten a little complicated, the risks went up...Which prompted Magnum to take matters into her own hands.

"But there's always a chance they could find out the truth, Nathanial..." said Magnum as she took out an unmarked cell phone, "And if they ever do...Then all those years of earning their trust will me precisely dick."

"Oh please...I highly doubt such a major infraction will occur, Magnum. And even if it did, I'm well prepared for that."

"But still...I have a feeling we may need backup," she said as she prepared to dial a discrete number that she only used in serious emergencies, "Say what you will, Nathanial...I want this as much as you do. I have worked long and hard for this chance and I will NOT let a little matter such as this stand in the way."

"Yes...I will not argue with your intuition," said Dr. Essex, who knew Magnum well enough to understand that she would take matters into her own hands when something this major was at risk, "But backup or not, we must proceed carefully if we are to succeed in that which we have both worked so hard for."

"And we shall..." assured Magnum as she dialed a series of numbers that would route to a special carrier she often used in her mercenary work, "I have a few friends...Many of whom owe me a number of favors."

"As long as their willing to aid us, then they can only help our progress," said Dr. Essex, thinking Magnum was right in many ways and if she had the resources, then it was only logical that they used them.

"You need not worry about that, Nathanial. You of all people should know that I'm always prepared."

Then, as Magnum finished dialing the rather elaborate collection of numbers, she finally got through to someone on the other side. And once she was connected, she didn't bother wasting any time.

"It's me...Get me Deadpool, Bullseye, Guantlet...And even Omega Red...Yes, I know...Just tell them it's me. Trust me, they'll come...And they'll know exactly what to do..."

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

As the adrenaline of their spectacular escape finally began to wear off, the five mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell who were now officially rogue and enemies of the state finally had a chance to process what had just happened. Everything had gone wrong...Everything had fallen apart. In the end, all their careful planning and execution landed them in this shit. Now the Colonel wanted their heads on a pike, now the government they once so dutifully served was out to get them, and now for the first time in nearly a decade, they once again found themselves alone.

They didn't have any direction or purpose in where they were headed...They simply followed the highway to get as far away from the base as possible. But they knew probably better than anybody else that no amount of distance would keep them from being targets of the organization that made them so strong. There was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide...For it was only a matter of time before they were hunted like dogs and killed like insects. Even though they had dedicated their lives to serving Shadow Cell, the government, and the world at large...They were now targets of execution from the very people they sought to protect. And that alone was very difficult for them to process.

However, renegade or not, that wasn't the biggest shocker for the five mutant soldiers when they made their escape. That isn't even what hurt them the most in the end...Because for all the pain that betrayal brought, nowhere was it more devastating than with their mentor, teacher, and all around father figure...Dr. Nathanial Essex. They could deal with the betrayal of the Colonel, the GURSO unit, and the higher ups back in Washington...But from Dr. Essex...That was another matter altogether.

Dr. Essex had been the one who brought them together...He was the one that took them in and gave them the relief they couldn't have obtained from anybody else. It was because of him they took control of their powers...It was because of him they were their own class of mutant. Yet still...He betrayed them. He turned them into the GURSO unit as if everything he had taught them had meant nothing. Dr. Essex was like a father to them all...The man behind the entire Shadow Cell world. And to be betrayed by him simply hurt in a way that no wound on the battlefield could ever match.

Scott Summers, Jean Grey, Vincent Freeman, Wanda Maximoff, and X23 definitely had a lot to think about...More so then they wanted. Eventually, they found themselves in the place where so many things had changed for them...The place where the world as they knew it was forever turned upside down...Bayville. It seemed fitting for them to end up back here, but that didn't make it any easier for them. Knowing they had to lay low, they found themselves holding up in an old, rusted, abandoned warehouse near the docks. They were forced to ditch their jeep because of the GPS tracking device built within it and if they wanted to go anywhere now, they'd have to hot wire something. But before they got around to that, they had to make sense of all this. They knew it wasn't a good idea to remain stationary given the massive manhunt that the Colonel was probably already instantiating...But they were beyond caring at this point as they simply took a moment to let everything sink in.

"So Shadow Cell is officially rogue..." said X23 as she and her comrades rested their tired bodies on a couple of hard, mottled crates, "The Colonel has abandoned us...Dr. Essex has abandoned us...Everybody has abandoned us."

"So then what do we do now?" wondered Jean, feeling at a loss for the first time in many years, "What the fuck do we do now?"

A heavy silence fell over the five mutant soldiers as tried to put this whole thing into perspective. It had all happened so fast...Everything had changed so quickly. Such things were typical on the field of battle...But this wasn't supposed to be a battle. This was Shadow Cell...Their home. And all the sudden, they had become the enemy. For reasons unknown...They were now the enemy. They could understand why the Colonel would want to betray them since the guy had it in for them since day one...But Dr. Essex? That was what was truly pestering them...That's what truly hurt the most.

"Okay, so let's analyze the situation here..." said Scott, not willing to let doom and gloom overcome the team after they had all overcome so much together, "We went on a mission that was beyond the limits of protocol...We broke with key Shadow Cell operating procedures..."

"At Dr. Essex's request..." reminded Vincent, not wanting to forget who had put them in this position in the first place.

"Right...At his request...To stop a madman from overthrowing humanity. We took on the Brotherhood and the X-men without a hitch and got what we needed information-wise. Then Dr. Essex and Magnum helped us get to Asteroid M without a problem and successfully extracted the stone...And then we returned only to be surrounded by enough GURSO soldiers to occupy Washington."

"Some situation..." commented Wanda, not sounding too optimistic about their prospects.

"I won't argue that, but that's not the end...That's only the beginning. We know why the Colonel did what he did...He made that abundantly clear from day one and is probably having an aneurism back at the base. The real question is...Why? Why would Dr. Essex betray us like that? Why would he simply hand us into the GURSO unit without hesitation?"

Once again, a heavy silence fell over the proud soldiers that had served their country and their honor with such duty and willingness. Their world had truly fallen apart around them...Everything and everyone they once believed in was now in shambles and there was nothing left but each other. They had gone up against entire armies, ruthless dictators, and the most bloodthirsty terrorists in existence...Yet even they couldn't compare to what they were facing now.

No answers came to them as the five soldiers simply sank back into a world of bewilderment and confusion. Scott stayed close to Jean, who never left his side even in grave times such as this...Lending each other what support they could as everything they once believed in came crashing down like North Korean ballistic missiles. Vincent and Wanda stayed close as well, unable to deal with such a monumental collapse of their lives on their own. And as always, X23 kept to herself...Not wanting anybody to be near her as she once again felt the sting of betrayal from someone she had trusted so much.

However, hurt or not...They were still soldiers. And if there's one thing soldiers didn't do in times of crisis...It was keel over and die in the face of adversity.

"Wait...There's still more to it than that," said Vincent, finally breaking the silence, "What about the stone?"

"What, that hunk of rock?" said Wanda, "What's that got to do with anything?"

"I'm not sure..." said Vincent as he sifted through his vast memory banks in order to pick out those exact fateful moments when Dr. Essex betrayed them, "But when we confronted Dr. Essex...It was almost as if he was expecting us to be there...Almost as if he knew exactly what was going to happen."

That definitely got the others to think about this more seriously, setting aside the pain of betrayal for the time being and analyzing the inconsistencies of what had happened during that fateful moment. And the more they thought about it, the more odd it seemed...Hinting that there was definitely something else to this matter that went beyond mere betrayal.

"Yeah...Come to think of it, he seemed pretty focused on that stone back there," said Jean, who had been the one to give it to him, "It was almost as if he wanted it for more than just disposal..."

"But why would he want that thing if only Magneto's machine can tap it's power?" asked X23, who remembered clearly what Dr. Essex had said about the power of the relic.

"Wait...Didn't he say at one point that he was the one who helped Magneto develop the technology to use the stone in the first place?" said Scott, also remembering some of the earlier briefings.

"Yeah, but that doesn't explain why he would want something like that," argued Wanda, "I mean, he said it himself...It's not even on par with the bio-mutagenic accelerator. And if he's got that, why get something that's by all accounts weaker and less efficient than what he's got?"

"Well keep in mind, Wanda...We don't exactly know the full story with that stone...Only what Dr. Essex told us," said Vincent, who began to think about it a bit more inquisitively.

"So you're saying there might be more to that stone than he told us?" concluded Jean.

"Well it would explain why he was so bent on having it that he was willing to betray us to get it..." made Vincent, once again causing prompting serious thought concerning the nature of their mentor's actions.

It was plausible...It was part of an answer. It didn't give them everything they wanted information wise, but it did help make sense of a few things. Now that they thought about it, some of Dr. Essex's actions were hinting at something much more complex...Something they couldn't quite put their finger on, but something that was clearly important given the situation.

"So whatever this is about..." concluded Scott, "I think we can safely say that it has something to do with that stone. But I still get the feeling there's more to it than that..."

"No kidding," said X23 in agreement, "I mean, we should all be dead right now. The GURSO unit should have blown us away back there...That much the Colonel made clear, and..."

However, before she could finish, something came to Scott that seemed to put more pieces of the puzzle together...Something that only made their predicament seem more mysterious than they had once thought. And the more they seemed to dig, the more inconsistencies they seemed to uncover.

"Wait a minute...That's it!" exclaimed Scott as their fight with the GURSO unit once again ran through his head, "The GURSO unit...That's something else that didn't seem right!"

"The GURSO unit?" said Wanda skeptically, "What are you talking about?"

"Think about it...What's the one purpose and function of the GURSO unit?"

"Other than make our lives a living hell?" made Jean, "Watch over us and blow us away if we go rogue."

"Exactly! And who created them in the first place?"

"That's easy, the Colonel," answered Vincent, not seeing where he was going with this.

"Right...And if there's one thing we've learned about the Colonel in all the years we've been at Shadow Cell, it's that he's a man so incredibly paranoid about ever single possible detail that it boarders on illness. And if he knew where we were going to be when we got back from Asteroid M, then I think it's a safe bet that he'd want to box us in every conceivable manner big or small. And yet...What were we able to do?"

Then finally, what Scott was saying was beginning to dawn on the others as well.

"We escaped..." said Jean, now understanding what he was saying, "We found a hole in their battle plan and slipped through it..."

"And if there's one thing the Colonel NEVER does...It's leave holes in a battle plan," finished X23, who knew the Colonel well enough to understand how he thought, "You're right Scott...Something stunk about that ambush! There's no way the Colonel would EVER have left us with a hole to escape through!"

"And given his reaction to the whole deal...I doubt it was his intention to do so," reasoned Vincent as he remembered some of the Colonel's incessant shouting from their escape.

"So that leaves only one plausible explanation..." concluded Scott, "We were set up...Plain and simple."

"You're right!" said Wanda, a new feeling of anger and determination coming over her, "Somebody's using us! And the Colonel for that matter! But who?! Dr. Essex?"

"That's doubtful..." said Vincent, not believing that for a second, "I can't imagine him doing something like that to us...I mean come on, he's practically a father to us. We can't jump to conclusion. The only logical assumption here is that he's some kind of pawn..."

"You're right Vincent..." said Scott in agreement, "We don't know enough about what we're dealing with to make any kind of judgment. But for now, I think we can safely say that something serious is going on...And we're part of it. Somebody must be controlling both the Colonel and Dr. Essex...And now they're using us. It's the only thing that makes sense...We're all being used!"

"Great..." muttered X23, who had been used enough in her life as it is, "So then what do we do?"

Another silence fell over the five mutant soldiers as they pondered the situation at hand. A big part of them still didn't want to believe that Dr. Essex was behind this since he was still their mentor in their minds. So much of their world had been shattered within the span of a moment and they kept trying to hold on to whatever it was about that which they held dear all these years.

But shattered or not, there was more at stake here than the lives they once had as soldiers of Shadow Cell. There was something much bigger and grander going on here...Something that still left so many unanswered questions, yet something that they were all determined to uncover. It was a true mystery of lies...One where the truth itself is written within the fabrications meant to conceal the true meaning of what was happening. But for Scott Summers, Jean Grey, Vincent Freeman, Wanda Maximoff, and X23...They had been used enough in their lives to know when there's something more at hand other than mere betrayal. And this was no exception.

Now all that was left for them was the truth...The truth which they so eagerly wanted to know. In a world surrounded by ubiquitous lies, the truth was often merely an abstract to a principle...Yet now, for the five mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell, it was something much more concrete. And for the first time in their lives, there was something to fight for that went beyond merely saving others...This time, it was for them.

"I guess there's only one thing we can do now..." said Jean, knowing there was no other way, "We fight back..."

"Fight back..." said Vincent as he thought about that course of action, "Against the Colonel...Against the GURSO unit...And against Shadow Cell as a whole. And for what?"

"The truth..." said Scott definitively, "We're being used...That much we can agree upon. But we don't know who's behind it...We don't know why...And we don't even know how long it's been going on. And for that reason...We have to find out."

"But that means going up against the people who made us who we are," said Wanda, not knowing if she could go through with fighting the people who saved her from the insane asylum, "Can we really go through with that?"

"We've gone up against impossible odds before, Wanda," reminded Vincent, who didn't like the idea either, but knew there was no other way, "And if we don't...They'll just hunt us down."

"Vince is right..." said Scott, "We can't start running from them...Because once we start, there's no going back. We'll never find the answers we want by running."

"And rogue or not...We're still Shadow Cell," said X23 with a new hint of determination, "And Shadow Cell DOESN'T run from a fight."

A new sense of resolve finally came over the five mutant soldiers who had been trained for years to fight the battles that nobody else could. Now once again, they were facing a battle for which nobody else had a chance...They were facing a foe for which nobody else could possible overcome. Even as the world they knew fell apart around them, the determination and resolve that bound them together as a unit remained as strong as ever. And even with the prospects of facing the very individuals who made them who they are...They were driven by their duty and honor as soldiers.

"You're right X..." said Jean, "We can't just take this lying down. If we have to fight against the entire organization to get some answers...Then so be it."

"But if we're already pawns in some manipulative prick's game, then how do we know that we won't be doing exactly what they want us to do?" reasoned Wanda.

"Good point Wanda..." said Scott as he thought about that for a moment, "Then I guess that means we'll just have to fight with an edge..."

"An edge?" said Vincent in an intrigued tone, "What kind of edge?"

"Not what...Who. I'm talking about X-men..."

"The X-men?" said X23 skeptically, "You mean the same X-men we beat the living shit out of just a few days ago? What makes you think they'll want to help us?"

"We both fight for the same thing X...We fight for peace. It's the only option we've got. Xavier's kids may not have been able to beat us, but they proved that they're tough enough to beat the odds. They did take down that sentinel after all. With their help, we may just stand a chance against GURSO and the Colonel...It's only a matter of overcoming the impossible."

It wasn't the best plan they could hope for...But it was all they had. They had gone up against plenty of enemies before with few resources and odds that would have made any ordinary soldier back down in an instant. But then again...They were far from ordinary and if this was what they would have to do in order to find the truth...Then so be it.

"Fighting the impossible..." repeated Jean, not sounding at all daunted by the prospects, "Going up against a force that by all accounts was trained specifically to kill us and fighting against a force we don't even have a full grasp of with practically zero chances of help or success...Sounds like the kind of job Shadow Cell was made for."

The five mutant soldiers almost chuckled a bit at the situation they found themselves in, but this was no laughing matter...This was a battle for which the stakes were high and the odds were not in their favor to say the least. But impossible or not...They were still soldiers...They were still Shadow Cell. And nothing would take that away from them.

"Right..." said Scott as he and the others gathered in a circle and placed their hands together, "United we stand...Divided we fall. We may be rogue...But we're still...And always will be...Shadow Cell. Are you guys with me?"

"Do you even have to ask, Scott?" quipped Jean.

"Yeah, no force on the world could keep me from this," said Vincent confidently.

"Yeah, and since when have we ever let the impossible stand in our way?" reminded Wanda, now more determined than ever to see this through.

"Impossible or not...We will never falter...We will never surrender...Such is our duty...And our honor," said X23.

It was a reassuring feeling for all of them...Knowing that they still had each other to hang onto. No matter how complicated the world became or how messed up things got...They would still always had each other. From their darkest hour to their greatest triumph...They fought, they bled, and they died...Together.

"Then I guess...There's only one more thing to do..." said Scott, his comrades knowing just as well as he did what it was.

And with an affirmative nod, the five mutant soldiers were now ready to go on what was sure to be their most dangerous mission yet. The organization that had made them was now out to kill them. They were unwitting puppets in a much larger game, but puppets or not...They would not back down...They would never back down. They would stand and fight...Not for Shadow Cell...But for themselves.

And with that in mind, there was only one thing left to do before the maelstrom began...And with two simple words, their most dangerous mission was officially underway.

"Kuwabara...Kuwabara..."

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

AN: Oh how the tables have turned! They may be ignorant of what is truly happening and what has been building all throughout the years, but that will certainly not stop them as the secrets of their lives and Project Shadow Cell finally begin to unravel! Their biggest mission to date is on...So stay tuned to see where it leads because trust me...The most intense part of the fic has yet to come! So what do you all think? Do you want to read more? Tell me! Send me your reviews via email or post them on the fanfiction website! Thank you all for reading thus far and I wish you all the best!

THE HEAT IS ON! REVIEW BEFORE IT GETS TO BE TOO HOT TO HANDLE!
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