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

Abduction

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: 2006/08/11 - Updated: 2006/08/11 - 8998 words

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Sinister Soldiers
Chapter 35: Abduction


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

The turmoil back at Shadow Cell and abroad could not be contained forever amongst the omnipresent ears of the government it served. Like a boiling cauldron, the situation was quickly becoming heated as rumors swirled about amongst the black community. The Colonel's unexpected departure from the meeting certainly did not go unnoticed and his sudden initiation of the infamous and aptly named protocol 666 was cause for only more concern. On numerous occasions, high ranking officials from the department of defense, the pentagon, and even the White House tried to get into contact with the Colonel back at Shadow Cell HQ...But unfortunately, part of the protocol that the paranoid power hungry officer operated under strictly prohibited any and all communications to the base while in crises mode. However...That didn't stop people like the General, who knew all too well the methods of the Colonel.

With the meeting now over, the General wasted no time in returning to an unmarked private military jet in Quantico, Virginia despite a bombardment of questions from numerous officials. Under normal circumstances, he would have stayed in order to at least placate some of their concerns, but given the situation, there was no time. All he could think about now was getting back to the base and stopping the organization that he had run so dutifully for nearly a decade from crumbling. As a General, he had a job to do...And he sure as hell wasn't going to let someone like the Colonel destroy everything they had built.

"Sir...Sir!" said one of the Corporals who served as an aide to the General, "Sir we have to wait for the rest of the cabinet! We can't just..."

"They can take the next flight out..." said the General in a firm tone of voice as he and his subordinates boarded the plane, taking little time to go through the usual checklist, "We have to get back to the base!"

"But sir, the higher ups might..." began the Corporal, but once again, the General cut him off.

"The higher ups aren't my chief concern now..." said the General, much to the surprise of all the officers present, "All that matters now is Shadow Cell...If they want to reprimand me again after this, then by all means...Because right now, my duty and priority is Shadow Cell...Plain and simple."

The General's words left no room for argument as the platoon of soldiers outside sealed the plane up and readied it for takeoff. Usually, there was a multitude of procedures to go through for a usual takeoff, but the General's orders superceded them all...An action that was not looked upon too kindly by the higher ups, but at this point, he could care less.

It took less than five minutes for the high speed, high performance jet to become air born, but even as the engines roared at full throttle, the tension within the aircraft didn't wane as the General continued to do what he could in order to ascertain the situation.

"Lieutenant...Any word from the base?" asked the General, keeping the environment tense among him and his subordinates.

"I'm trying sir..." said the Lieutenant, who had been trying to use his cell phone to contact the Colonel for the last half hour at the General's request, "But the Colonel seems to have shut off all communication channels in the base. He's practically blacked us out."

"That's not acceptable!" said the General in response, "Where did he have the authority to instantiate protocol 666? There were strict rules and guidelines that we personally agreed upon had to be followed in the event of any internal crisis!"

"Well that may be true sir..." said one of the female sergeants who had with her a briefcase full of sensitive documents describing and documenting emergency Shadow Cell protocol, "But if you read the fine print, which the Colonel himself penned mind you, you'll see that in the event of a 'sudden and dangerous turn within the project,' the Colonel is given emergency authority that supercedes even yours."

"What?!" yelled the General as he ripped the paper from her hands and read the print that he had overlooked, "That was NOT one of the points we agreed upon!"

"Sir...This is the Colonel you're talking about here," reminded one of his second Lieutenants, "You of all people should know how he operates!"

"Friends close...Enemies closer..." said the General with a defeated sigh as he read over the dreaded text, "That sly son of a bitch...He played me."

A heavy silence fell over the plane as the General crumbled up the document and tossed it aside...Feeling at a complete and utter loss. He couldn't believe it...The man he had entrusted with the safety and security of Shadow Cell had turned against him. After everything they had accomplished...It was all coming apart because of the whim of a paranoid madman. And worst of all...He had been the one to appoint him to such a position. Now it was coming back to haunt him in the worst way imaginable.

He had dedicated his heart and soul to Shadow Cell...Pushing himself to the limits to make the project a success. It was his chance to make up for that one mistake he made back in the Gulf War...It was his chance to exact a true influence upon the world and stave off disaster for his family and his country. And of course...There were those five brave soldiers he had seen grown from mere children to the most proud and decorated soldiers he had ever had the privilege of working with. As their highest ranking officer, he had a duty to see them through each and every battle...And he was NOT going to abandon them. They had shown him time and time again just how dedicated they were to themselves and their country...And such dedication could not be easily forgotten in his mind.

"Sir..." said one of his Majors, breaking him out of his daze, "I would strongly advise getting the higher ups involved with this. If the Colonel is operating under bogus authority, then we have the jurisdiction to take him down."

"And how long would that take, Major?" asked the General, even though he already had a pretty good idea of the answer.

"Three...Maybe five days tops," her answered.

"And by then, Shadow Cell could be rubble..." said the General, "I will not allow everything we have built to simply fall apart without a fight. Now I have a duty to see Project Shadow Cell through no matter what...And if that means going up against the Colonel, then so be it. This is my responsibility...My duty...And if the rest of you don't wish to be a part of it...So be it."

"Sir..." said the Major, not liking the implications of what the General was saying.

"That's enough..." he said in a tone that caused the whole jet to go silent, "You have your duty...I have mine. And if the higher ups don't like it...They can file a report and throw me into Guantanamo Bay for all I care...But I have a duty to this project...And those soldiers...And I will NOT let them down."

Nobody argued with the bold man, for they knew he wasn't the kind of person to respond to any kind of coaxing. One of the major things that made him such a good General was his dedication and loyalty not to a superior...But to a principle. And even if it spelled disaster for his career, his duty still came first...And he was not going to jeopardize that for an instant.

Then suddenly, while the silence continued to hold strong, the Lieutenant who had been trying to use the General's cell phone to get through to the base finally got a signal and wasted no time in letting his superior know.

"Sir!" said the Lieutenant, "I think I'm finally getting through! I can hear a ring tone!"

"What? Then hand it here! Hurry!" exclaimed the General, "I want to talk to the Colonel personally about this..."

Upon retrieving his cell phone, the whole plane went tense again as the General listened to two more rings. He didn't know who was going to answer or if he would even make it through...But if by chance he did get an answer, he wanted whoever was on the other line to hear his voice. And as luck would have it, after the third ring, a familiar voice finally answered.

"I had a feeling you'd call..." said the Colonel's voice over the other line.

"Colonel!" exclaimed the General, his temper quickly flaring up at the sound of the man who had betrayed him, "God damn it! What have you done?!"

"Easy General...Easy," said the Colonel in an all too calm tone of voice, "In case you haven't heard, protocol 666 is now in affect and no amount of shouting will change that."

"You son of a bitch!" shot the General in response, "You tricked me and everybody else! I saw the fine print on the document! You added that in at the last moment without any authorization!"

"Such an addition was necessary, General...As the current situation should clearly show," answered the Colonel in response, "Shadow Cell has officially gone rogue. They broke with standard operating protocols and are now officially enemies of the state. My GURSO unit was supposed to blow them away the second I found out...And we would have to if they hadn't turned against us and fought their way out. So as a result, all our resources have been dedicated to tracking them down as we speak. And as soon as we find them...They're as good as dead."

Such words did not sit well with the General at all, for he refused to believe that the soldiers he had seen serve with such duty and honor had simply turned against the organization without any reason or provocation. Such was not the act of a soldier and the he damn well knew it.

"Colonel...Your paranoia has gone too far this time!" said the General firmly, still speaking as his commanding officer, "You haven't the slightest shred of evidence that..."

"Enough with the naivety, General!" spat the Colonel in response, "Read the protocols again...I'm officially in charge now. Your authority has been officially liquidated! I don't care how attached you are to those freaks! I don't care how much you think you owe them! I know what I saw...I know what happened! Those freaks went rogue on us and now they're out free doing who knows what! It's my job to see to it that they don't inflict any kind of damage upon the public...It's my job to see to it that they are severely punished for their indiscretions. Because like it or not General, this matter is and always has been black and white...They go rogue, they get blown away. No trial...No investigation...No questions asked. And until those freaks are dead...My power is law."

"Bullshit!" spat the General in response, "You usurped that power through trickery! You'll rot for treason because of this!"

"Maybe...But not before I see to it that those freaks are decommissioned permanently!" yelled the Colonel in response, his voice practically brimming with madness, "I've told you time and time again, General...Mutants can't be trusted. They're a menace...A scourge upon the Earth! And as long as I have the necessary power, I will see to it that they are wiped out before they can bring harm to the innocent!"

"Now you're just being insane!" said the General, horrified at this man's words, "You're going to exact nothing short of genocide!"

"What you call genocide...I call a preventative measure," said the Colonel in a low, somewhat crazed tone, "And I won't let ANYTHING stand in my way!"

"Oh really?" said the General in a warning tone, "What about the whole authority of the United States Government? What about every other official there who would love to see you thrown away? And what about Dr. Essex?"

"Oh please, General..." scoffed the Colonel, "The government are tools...They'll dance to whatever tune they have to as long as they're told exactly what they need to hear. Every last official in the base has been officially quartered and if they value their lives, they won't do a damn thing. As for Dr. Essex...He's under an official quarantine in his lab. In fact, he actually tried to help my GURSO unit find those freaks, so even he believes they've gone rogue."

Such news both shocked and silenced the General as his mind tried to process what was going. He still didn't believe it...How could Shadow Cell go rogue after everything they've done? They served, they fought, and they bled the blood of soldiers with pride and honor...And such an attribute was not something that could be silence or stunted easily...That much he was certain of.

"Face it General...It's over," said the Colonel in a definitive, triumphant tone, "You cannot escape the truth. You cannot stop that which has already been set into motion. Those five freaks are as good as dead...And Shadow Cell is now under my command. You're too much of a coward to get your hands dirty...You made the worst mistake imaginable by allowing yourself to grow attached to those freaks! Now there's nothing left for you or them for that matter. There's nothing more either of you can do. Pack up and go home General...Because you've been officially relieved of your duty."

And with that, the Colonel abruptly hung up the phone and killed the com link with no intention of reopening it. This left the General at a loss for words. The whole jet was now struck with shock and horror at what had just happened. The Colonel had officially wiped them out...He had officially taken them out of the picture. Now, he was holding all the power...He was making all the rules. And there was nothing they could do about it.

"What now, sir?" asked the female sergeant, not knowing what more they could do without any power or authority, "The Colonel has officially gone off the deep end. He's going to bathe New York with blood in order to find Shadow Cell. There's no telling what he'll do...There's no telling how far he'll go. We can't just let this happen..."

The General stayed silent for a moment, his thoughts drifting back to the five mutant soldiers he had seen grow into such skilled warriors of peace. Of all the atrocities the Colonel was sure to commit...None stood out in his mind more than going against those five brave souls who had made Shadow Cell such a resounding success. Even if they had gone rogue...That didn't change the fact that they had saved this world more times than he could count. They had served their country so thoroughly, dutifully, and completely...And despite that, they were going to be hunted down like dogs and killed as if their actions had meant nothing.

As a man of principle and a man of honor...The General could NOT allow that to happen. It went against everything he had vowed to uphold as an officer and a soldier...It went against all that which he had valued as a man. Those five brave kids had put their necks on the line for them time and time again...And in his mind, it was about time they returned the favor.

"Sir..." said the Lieutenant, trying to break him out of his daze, "I strongly advise that we turn back and..."

"We're not going back..." said the General firmly.

"What?!" said the Major, looking back at his superior as if he had a screw loose, "Sir, you can't be serious! The Colonel has gone mad and we..."

"And we have to stop him!" said the General with a determined tone, "He's going to start a war...He's going to exact nothing short of genocide! And we can't let that happen!"

"But how..." began the female sergeant, but the General didn't give her a chance to finish.

"Get in touch with every security branch in the government you possibly can!" he ordered, "Call everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY! Pentagon, FBI, CIA, Department of Defense, even SHIELD...As long as they have security capabilities, call them! I'm going to get on the phone with Nick Fury...As much as we all dislike him, only he can help us with this. We have to stop the Colonel! We owe those five brave souls that much after everything they've done for us...And so we'll stay the course! It's time we do our part...Because I know Shadow Cell will do theirs."

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

Back at the Xavier Mansion, things had been fairly quiet as the affects of Shadow Cell's attacks seemed to effectively wane. Professor Xavier and Beast spent much of their time in the lower levels finishing Cerebro's reprogramming while Ororo and Logan helped those that were still injured recover and leave the infirmary. And for the most part, things were returning to some sense of normalcy...But it wasn't without some significant overhaul.

Since everybody had been managed to recover from the attacks, Danger Room sessions were kicked up a notch with extra long periods of training at more advanced difficulty settings. Such actions bought many complaints from both the regulars and the New Mutants, who weren't used to such rigor, but such preparations were seen as necessary since much of the security system lay in shambles and if Shadow Cell attacked again, they at least wanted to put up more of a fight.

Yet while the X-men, both old and new alike, continued to train vigorously in the event of another Shadow Cell attack, they were unaware of an ominous presence watching over the institute from a ridge not far from the still tattered gate. Only this time...It wasn't Shadow Cell. Instead...It was the one who had helped make Shadow Cell the deadly force they were...Magnum.

She was currently staking out the terrain of the institute through a pair of binoculars, taking note of the security, much of which wouldn't be a problem since her pupils had destroyed it for the most part during their run. That would definitely make things easier for her for this little mission. In a ways, she was almost disappointed that this little task wouldn't be much of a challenge...But there would be plenty of time for that later on. That much she was certain of.

With the institute now firmly in her sights, she took out her black cell phone and dialed a specially allocated number to call Dr. Essex, who was still busy working on he extra adjustments his machine would need in order to accommodate their final component. Communication was still limited, but it was something they could easily work around given the Colonel's deadest focus on finding the five mutant soldiers.

"Nathanial..." she said upon hearing the slight click on the other end, "I'm at the institute. I've just finished scoping the area out."

"Excellent...And do you think it'll be a problem?" he asked, eager to begin the final step as soon as possible.

"Oh please..." she scoffed, "I've handled much worse challenges...These are but mere children. Super powered or not, they haven't got a chance."

"I'll take your word for it in that regard, Magnum," said Dr. Essex in full confidence, "Just remember...Time is of the essence. Just get the girl and get out as quickly as you can. Chances are this may bring the X-men into the conflict, but that'll only make things easier in the long run when I take them prisoner and use them in my machine...Either way, they haven't got a prayer."

"Agreed..." said Magnum as she put away her binoculars and looked back at the imposing structure with sheer determination, "Their security system is still shambles, their confidence has been stunted by the previous attack, and their too naïve to have the faintest idea of what's truly going on. They will fall...They will submit. That much you can be sure of Nathanial..."

"And I would expect nothing less my dear..." said Dr. Essex with an approving tone, "Just remember...Time is of the essence here. We need Rogue in order to proceed. Do what you have to, but DON'T kill any of them...I need every mutant alive in order to make my ultimate plan succeed."

"It shall be done..." she affirmed as she took in the challenge before her, feeling confident and poised to do her part, "But what about the Colonel? Will he be a problem?"

"Oh nonsense my dear..." scoffed Dr. Essex, "That paranoid fool still thinks he has me under control by keeping me quarantined in my lab. Apparently that little double cross earlier worked out exactly as I had planned. He doesn't suspect a thing."

"And for his sake...He better not," said Magnum ominously, "Because if he becomes a problem...I will waste no time in making sure his final moments are as painful as possible."

"One step at a time, Magnum..." said Dr. Essex with a slight chuckle, finding Magnum's eagerness to be a bit overbearing given the situation, "Just focus on your current task and we'll worry about him later."

"Right..." she said, somewhat disappointed, but undaunted none the less, "I understand and am proceeding with the mission...Over and out."

And with that, Magnum put her cell phone away and readied herself for the vital task at hand. Her objective was simple...The obstacles before her were inconsequential...And the stakes couldn't be higher. She was so close to finally getting what she wanted with this...She was so close to obtaining that which she once thought was impossible. With only one piece of the puzzle left, the final countdown to her hour of triumph was finally at hand...And it would be done thanks to a mysterious young girl named, Rogue.

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

While Magnum was making her way into the institute through the already tattered security, much of the X-men along with some of the New Mutants were going on their fourth hour of danger room training. Warren and Logan had been leading an exhaustive crash course of advanced programs meant to quickly and effectively hone the teams strength, skill, and operation...Or wear them down to the point of collapse whichever came first.

The affects of Shadow Cell's attack had been felt by all...But even those who understood the gravity of the situation were beginning to get a little weary at this point. They had done training this intense before and in such short order, but both Logan and the Professor deemed it necessary in order for them to be prepared in the event of another confrontation with Shadow Cell. But at the moment...All they wanted to confront was a nice relaxing shower and few days worth of sleep.

"Okay kiddies, back at the starting line!" ordered Logan from the top of the control room, "We're gonna run this again until we get it right!"

Warren, Betsy, Kurt, Kitty, Rogue, Gambit, Bobby, and Jubilee let out deep groan upon hearing Logan's orders as they literally dragged themselves back to the starting line, working on an empty tank as they wiped the sweat off their faces and took a few deep breaths before once again working the high level, high intensity course.

"Oh man, like, cut us a break Mr. Logan," groaned Kitty, who had to be helped back to the other end by Kurt, "We've been at this for four hours!"

"Yeah, even I have my limits..." said Betsy, who fared better because of her ninja training, but still felt the growing affects of fatigue.

Everybody else seemed to be in agreement, but that didn't stop Warren from trying to encourage everybody. Although he too was beginning to think that this was just too much for them.

"Hey, come on guys..." he said, sounding short of breath, "We have to get this right...And the sooner we beat it, the sooner we can all hit the showers."

"Ugh, if we don't collapse first that is..." groaned Bobby.

"Hey, complainin' ain't gonna win the fight!" said Logan via the microphone back up in the booth, "Tired or not, ya need this training!"

"Vhy? So ve'll be too tired to get our butts kicked again by those soldiers?" made Kurt, who didn't know how much longer he could hold out.

"Oui...Four hours o' killin' ourselves ain't gonna make things any better against dose homme's wit guns who probably been trained way more den we ever have," said Remy in agreement, "Or did ya forget what Fury said?"

"All the more reason to keep with it, Gambit," argued Warren, who, like the others, was still reeling from their last defeat at the hands of the five mutant soldiers.

"But seriously, homme...How's wearin' ourselves out like dis gonna give us a fightin' chance next time?" asked Gambit, "Won't dat just make it easier for dem?"

"Ah can't believe Ah'm sayin' this...But Ah agree with Remy," said Rogue as she wiped a thick layer of sweat off her brow, "We ain't gonna put up much of a fight in our current state."

As much as Warren wanted to argue the point, even he had to admit this was too much for them. No matter how hard they trained, it wasn't going to give them a definitive edge over those five soldiers who had been trained almost every hour of every day for nearly a decade. He just didn't want to see the team that had become so important to him become so vulnerable and exposed in the face of a powerful foe that had already beaten them once before.

Letting out a sigh of defeat, the winged mutant was forced take many deep breaths, prompting Betsy to lend him a hand. She could tell via telepathy what was going through his head and she knew it was hard for him, given that he was the team leader. But as a fellow teammate and his girlfriend, she tried to lend what support she could.

'It's okay luv...' she sent him as she helped him regain his poise, 'I know this has been really hard on you...But we'll get through this. I know we will.'

'Thanks Betsy...' sent Warren in response, his demeanor becoming noticeably better, 'I hope you're right.'

Back in the observation tower, Logan was preparing yet another level 8 simulation. This was well above the level that they usually trained at, but such intensity was necessary given the situation. They had to be prepared...They had to be ready to fight against this force. He knew probably better than anybody else the power and cunning of black programs due to his experience with Weapon X, but given that what they were facing was bolder, stronger, and more powerful than anything they had gone up against before, he wanted the kids to be ready...To be strong. But as their current progress could attest, such a task was easier said than done.

"Alright X-men...Get ready!" he said as he punched in a few commands on the control counsel, "Remember, same objective...Get from one end of the course to the other in less than three minutes! Use teamwork, but use your own wits as well! One alone ain't gonna do ya any good here! At the sound of the buzzer, get goin'...Because the sooner ya finish, the sooner we can all rest."

And with one final command, the buzzer sounded and the team of young mutants went to work on yet another run of this difficult and challenging course. Logan watched with growing anxiety as he saw the affects of their fatigue showing in their execution. Warren wasn't flying as high or as fast, Kurt wasn't teleporting nearly as far, and Jubilee's aim was a bit off to say the least. Betsy and Remy fared a little better given their level of experience and Rogue was an extra tough girl, so she carried herself well.

At first it seemed to be going well with the initial destruction of the hovering laser cannons and paintball guns, but after as soon as the team diverged along two paths, Bobby and Kitty began slowing the others down after getting hit with a couple of paintballs. Kurt tried to port back and help, but he only ended up getting singed by a laser blast. From there, it continued to fall apart. Jubilee's aim ended up doing her in by leaving one of the paintball guns undamaged and Warren's slower flight speed made him a sitting duck for the laser turrets. Betsy tried to cover him, but ended up leaving herself exposed in the process, which caused her to take a paintball to the back. After that, it was pretty much fair game for Rogue and Remy, who were simply overwhelmed in the end before they could even get to the halfway point.

Seeing this only made Logan more frustrated, for it wasn't helping their chances against Shadow Cell. If anything...It was doing the exact opposite. But he hated simply standing by ideally and not doing anything while Shadow Cell was out there planning who knows what. He may not have liked Nick Fury all that much, but he believed him when he said something was up...And like he said, the X-men were probably the only ones capable of fighting back.

"Okay kiddies...Now yer just gettin' sloppy," he groaned into the microphone, "Now get back to the starting line, take a quick breather, and we're gonna do this again!"

Down on the floor, a wide range of groans echoed through the vast room as the tired and battered team once again found themselves drudging back to the starting line.

"Oh dang! Ya gotta be kiddin' me!" exclaimed Rogue, "We couldn't even make it half way this time!"

"And that's vhy ve've got to run it again, mien sister..." groaned Kurt, "Until either ve beat it or die trying...Vhichever comes first."

"I for one choose the latter..." muttered Bobby, stretching out his sore limbs in preparation for yet another run.

Logan simply shook his head in exhaustion, for he was truly at wits end with this. It seemed as though nothing they did would help better their odds against Shadow Cell. The more they trained, the more sluggish they seemed to become. But they just couldn't do nothing...He hated doing nothing. There really seemed to be no way out of it.

"Still at it I see..." came a familiar voice that quickly snapped Logan out of his daze.

"Ro?" said the former living weapon as he turned to see the once revered weather goddess standing before him, "I thought you were still taking care of the others upstairs."

"I was...But they didn't need much other than some aspirin, food, and rest," said Ororo, "They should be up and ready for the danger room again by tomorrow."

"Good..." said Logan, still sounding exasperated, "But so far it ain't doin' the regulars much good. It's been four hours and they still can't seem to beat this thing."

"What level are you running them at?" she asked as she anxiously looked down at the tired team through the observation deck.

"Level 8..." said Logan, "And they've been on the same damn course for two hours now. We need them to get better...But at this rate, they'll never stand a chance against Shadow Cell."

Feeling both tired and frustrated, Logan let out a deep sigh as Ororo continued to watch the other students with a hint of great concern in her gaze. While she had been tending to the still injured Tabitha, Amara, Rhane, Ray, and Roberto with the help of Sam and Jamie...Those that were fit enough were only injuring themselves further with rigorous training.

She didn't like how they had been beaten by Shadow Cell either, but preparation like this seemed almost counter productive in many ways. She knew Logan and the team in general didn't want to just stand by and do nothing...But there had to be a limit and right now, they were flirting with it.

"By the Goddess...They look like they're about to pass out," she said as she took in their exhausted looks.

"Yeah...I know," muttered Logan, "But we can't afford to relax our guard. With the security system down, there ain't much standin' in the way of either Shadow Cell or any wannabe attacker."

"But there's a difference between being vigilant and being foolhardy..." argued Ororo as she turned back to her friend, "I know you want to make sure they're ready...I know this matter is one not to be taken lightly. But pushing them like this isn't going to shift the odds in our favor."

"That may be true, but I'm not gonna just sit by and..." however, Ororo didn't let him finish as she placed a comforting hand upon his shoulder.

"I know, Logan...I know," she said in a soft, understanding tone which always seemed to have a powerful affect on the raging wolverine within, "You're worried about their safety...And believe me, I am too. But we have to remember that they're still just kids...They're still students. We can't start treating them otherwise overnight. They need to stay mentally attuned as well as physically attuned. I know the challenges we're facing are great...But we can't take everything head on. We need to take things as they come...Work through each challenge as it arises. I know it's hard...But it's like I said before...We have to have faith."

Looking back into the pristine blue eyes of Ororo Munroe, Logan could not deny the truth in her words. As hard as it was for him, he knew she was right on many levels. To him, pushing the kids seemed to be the only way to prepare them for the inevitable...But looking back at their exhausted faces, the cost of such actions didn't seem justified. There was a lot at stake here...More so in Logan's case since it involved that girl...X23. Even though she had tried to kill him during their last encounter, a part of him wanted to face her again...To talk to her and get through to her. It was clear that she and her comrades had reasons for doing what they had done...Reasons that they couldn't yet ascertain. And if they were to stand a chance against whatever or whoever it was they were facing that was pulling all the strings...They had to be prepared both mentally as well as physically.

Finally conceding to the point, Logan grabbed the microphone once again and addressed the tired and tattered team.

"Alright kiddies...That's enough for tonight. Hit the showers..."

The others looked back up at the observation deck in shock, wondering of they had just had an auditory hallucination of something because of their exhausted state.

"You heard me!" said Logan, upon seeing their befuddled looks, "Beat it before I change my mind!"

Not wanting to squander their chances, the X-men let out a brief sigh of relief as they scrambled out of the danger room with a renewed burst of energy, eager to get topside again and get some deeply needed rest.

And upon seeing Logan's actions, Ororo couldn't help but laugh and smile a bit at her friend. And although the feral mutant tried not to show it...He actually managed to smile a bit as well.

"You definitely have a way with words, Logan," said Ororo with a smile as she followed her friend back to the elevator as well.

"You know me, darlin'..." said Logan with a wolfish grin, "Sometimes I just like to keep things simple..."

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

As the tired and exhausted X-men returned to the ground floor of the institute, they saw that the sun had set outside and they were already entering into the late hours of the evening. It was past nine on a Friday night and usually this was the time when some of them would stay up late and watch movies or go out and have a little fun in weekend night life of Bayville. But tonight...Nobody had the stomach for any such activities. All they desired now was rest.

"Oh man...I'm beat," said Bobby, as he and the others exited the elevator, "I feel like I could sleep through the whole weekend."

"To hell vith the veekend..." groaned Kurt, "I could sleep through all of next week!"

"If only we could, Kurt..." said Warren as he stretched his wings a bit to get the feeling back in them, "But chances are...This little danger room routine will be a mainstay for a while...At least until this whole Shadow Cell deal passes."

"No kidding..." groaned Betsy, still sore from the pounding she took last time they fought the five mutant soldiers, "In any case, the sooner we take care of this mess...The better."

"Yeah...Like that's gonna be anytime soon," made Rogue as she ran her hands through her sweaty, disheveled hair, "Who knows what those guys are up to now...For all we know, they could be watchin' us at this very moment."

"Yeesh, you sure know how to, like, end the night on a chipper note, Rogue," commented Kitty, not taking too much comfort in her words.

"Hey, they could be watching for all I care...Because for the rest of the night, all they'll see is a bunch of sleeping mutants," said Bobby as they all ascended the stairs and diverged to their rooms.

"Amen to that!" said Jubilee, "Later guys..."

"Later Jubes..." said Bobby as they both sauntered to their rooms.

And with that, the exhausted team of mutants diverged and headed off towards their own rooms. Betsy and Warren lingered by one another, a sight which Rogue rolled her eyes as she made her way to her room where she planned to either collapse or change out of her uniform, whichever came first. Kurt and Kitty retired to their rooms as well, although they stopped along the way to check up with some of the New Mutants who had been out of it the past few days since the attack. Overall, they seemed to be doing a lot better and it was just a matter of getting them on their feet again before sending them back into training. Either way, their presence would be needed, for if they were ever unfortunate enough to face Shadow Cell again...They were going to need all the muscle they could get.

However, unknown to the exhausted team of mutants, that confrontation was closer than they thought, for Magnum had breezed her way through the outer defense barriers of the institute, thanks largely to the damage already done earlier by her pupils. There were a few turrets that had gone undamaged...But they were quick and easy prey for her seemingly super human gun slinging skills. Once she got close enough, she wedged open a window and skillfully, made her way up to the upper levels where the dormitories were. And it was here where she would make her move...And from the looks of it, her timing couldn't have been better.

"Security here is pathetic..." she scoffed to herself as she carefully and skillfully made he way through the halls of the first floor, "It looks like this is going to be easier than I thought..."

Once she made her way past the kitchen, she found herself in the foyer. There were a few security cameras along the way, but that was nothing a quick shot from one of her guns, which she had fitted with a silencer, couldn't handle. Her main concern was to look out for those such as Wolverine, who could probably smell her, Storm, whose weather powers could be difficult to deal with, and Gambit, the young man who harbored quite a flame for Rogue if the reports her pupils gave were accurate. But so far, she had seen neither...And that's all the window she needed to make her move.

Making her way up the stairs, she quickly discerned some chatter from some of the doors, hinting that the regulars were topside once again. It would play out better than she had anticipated because it meant she wouldn't have to sneak down to the lower levels. She had to duck inside a couple of closets on a few occasions to avoid detection from those still up and about, namely Kurt and Kitty. But thankfully, there were no other obstacles in her way and the path lay open to Rogue's room.

Thanks to the layout she had so meticulously memorized before hand, she knew exactly where the southern woman's room was. And as luck would have it...It was completely empty when she got there. Knowing she had to return sooner or later, Magnum simply concealed herself behind the door and waited for her return...And much to her delight, she didn't have to wait long.

Rogue had decided to make a trip to the bathroom before she turned in, wanting to wash some of the sweat and grime that had built up upon her face...Not to mention patching up a couple of sore spots left by a couple of the laser turrets. She was tempted to change out of her uniform next...But as she entered her room, she just wanted to collapse and sleep for the rest of the weekend.

"Ugh...Finally...A little peace and quiet," she moaned as she sauntered into her darkened room.

Such words almost made Magnum laugh, for peace and quiet would be coming sooner than she thought.

Then suddenly, as she closed her door behind her, the Russian born mercenary sprung into action and carefully snuck up on the southern born mutant with a cloth of chloroform in hand. At first Rogue seemed unaware, but her instincts quickly kicked in as she suddenly felt as though she wasn't alone in the room. And the second she turned around...She was only met with grim confirmation as the hard hitting fist of Magnum made contact with her gut.

"Hey! Arggh!" she grunted as she quickly keeled over, only to come face to face with a chemical laden cloth.

"Breathe easy little girl...Peace and quiet await," taunted Magnum as Rogue suddenly found herself in a death grip from the strong Russian Woman.

She managed to struggle a bit at first, trying to get one of her gloves off to drain this woman before she went under. Unfortunately, she seemed to know her reaction all too well and kept her arms and limbs restrained with strength that seemed inhuman. She was a fighter, that much Magnum would concede too...But fighter or not, she soon succumbed to the mind numbing unconsciousness of the chloroform, leaving her body limp and helpless.

"There now...Sleep tight," she said as she removed the cloth, "It'll all be over soon enough..."

Then, just as the strong Russian woman lifted the limp body of the southern born mutant with ease, she was met at the door with a sudden obstacle...One that she had a feeling she was going to face from the get go.

"Hold it right there, lady!" said Remy with a menacing glare in his eyes, holding in his hands several charged cards, "Drop de girl or Gambit drops you!"

Remy had just come by to say goodnight too Rogue as he often did, but upon hearing a muffled gasp, his instincts kicked in and he hurried down to her room to see if something was wrong...And now he knew.

"Remy Lebeau I presume..." said Magnum in her thick Russian accent, "Tempted to snuff me before I snuff your little flame...Aren't you?"

"Back off lady! Remy's warnin' you!" he said as he prepared to unleash a barrage of cards.

"Little man..." said Magnum, not sounding threatened in the slightest, "You have no idea who you're dealing with..."

Then suddenly, in the blink of an eye, Magnum whipped out her beloved 44 caliber magnum and shot the three cards out of Remy's hand with perfect aim and skill. At first Remy was shocked as he stumbled back at the feeling of the high caliber bullet whizzing by his hand, but before he could reach in for another card, Magnum fired a seconds shot directly at his hip where his cards resided, slightly grazing his skin, but completely obliterating his main weapon.

"Augh! Merde!" he swore as he stumbled back.

He was prepared to fight with his bear hands now, but Magnum wasted no time in drop kicking him before he had a chance to recover. And upon feeling the tall, imposing woman's foot against his chest...He was unpleasantly surprised to find that she was a lot stronger than she looked.

"Stay back, Cajun..." she said in a threatening voice as she began making her way back down the hallway with Rogue's unconscious body hitched over her shoulder as if it was as light as a pillow, "I'm taking your girlfriend...Don't make it any harder than it has to be."

Upon hearing that, Gambit simply set aside the bodily pain that still lingered from Magnum's kick and was back on his feet. But thankfully...He wasn't alone this time. For the commotion of her gunshots had not gone unnoticed by the others.

"I'd stop if I were you lady..." said Warren in a threatening tone, who now stood along with Betsy, Kurt, Kitty, and Bobby in the narrow hall, blocking the way she had come and the way she needed to go in order to make her leave, "Or should I say...Magnum!"

Upon hearing her name, Magnum actually grinned somewhat...For now things had just gotten more interesting.

"So...You know my name...And chances are you probably know who I represent," she replied as she set Rogue down and held her limp form by the neck with one hand while she kept her 44 pointed directly at the crowd of mutants before her.

"Give it up, bitch!" said Betsy as she formed a couple of psionic blades, "You're boxed in! And we're NOT letting you leave with our friend!"

"Ja! So let mien sister go!" demanded Kurt, who looked ready to tear into this woman for threatening his only sibling.

"I'm afraid that's not possible..." said Magnum as she put her gun away and took out her hunting knife and held it to Rogue's throat in standard CQC style readiness, "Because I am taking this little bitch with me whether I have to go through you or not...Now you can sick that bald headed prick or that psychotic mother of hers on me...But I'm not leaving here without her. And you can either get out of my way, or you'll be picking up goth girl here with a sponge!"

As they took in the deep, imposing glare of the deadly Russian woman, the powerful team of mutants held their ground, not willing to let this woman take their friend. Remy was still on his feet and slowly making her way over to the strong Russian mercenary from behind...But as soon as he got close, he was it with another lightning fast kick...This time to the neck, which sent him falling back to the ground, nearly choking on the air around him as a result. He continued to struggle to at least try and help Rogue...But with a knife in hand, Magnum was clearly holding all the cards.

"You see...It's futile to fight me," she said menacingly, "And you know there's no possible way to defeat me..."

"Oh yeah, how do you figure that lady?!" spat Bobby in response, who looked ready to put this intruder on ice.

"Because...I'm not afraid to kill," she said with a menacing grin.

That hit everybody harder than any bullet or blow could ever manage and they slowly began to take a step back as they continued looking down the barrel of the powerful Russian mercenary's gun. It was an action that would definitely save further violence and it was all the edge Magnum needed to make her leave.

"That's it...Now you're playing by the rules," she said as she inched her way forward with the unconscious Rogue still before her as the perfect shield, "Now...Out of my way or I'll take an eye out!"

That got them to stumble back as Magnum held her knife directly before Rogue's eye. Upon seeing her opportunity, she scrambled down the stairs and stashed her knife in her holster again and whipped out her gun and pointed back at the team the whole time in a threatening gesture, making it clear that she was not playing games with this. She had what she wanted and now she was going to leave with it no matter what she had to go through...It's why she was the best as her trade.

"You X-men are pathetic..." she taunted as she now stood with only the door behind her as she reached the ground floor of the foyer, "You have no idea the kind of game your playing...But I assure you, you'll know soon enough. And your little friend here will be the key that makes it all possible."

Then, just as she was about to head out the door, a loud, animalistic roar came from one of the corridors leading from the elevator that went to the lower levels. It was a roar Magnum quickly recognized, but in her mind...It was too little too late.

"ERR! Drop the girl, bitch! Or I'll rip you apart!" yelled Logan as he came charging down the hall with both sets of claws drawn.

"Big words from a little man..." quipped Magnum as she wasted no time in making her move.

Then, just as Logan was a mere fifteen feet from Magnum, she blasted him with a single 44 caliber slug from her gun, hitting him directly in the chest and impacting him in a way that sent him flying back in a pained heap.

"Logan!" yelled Ororo from down the hall as she scrambled over to her friend's side with the Professor and Hank not far behind.

The regulars scrambled down the stairs in wake of the confusion and now everybody seemed to converge in the foyer, but they all stopped as Magnum kept her gun at the ready...Making clear that any further resistance would not result in their favor...Especially with Rogue still at her mercy.

"Magnum...Stop!" ordered Xavier as he quickly tried a mental probe, but was only hit with tough mental shielding in response.

"Don't bother, cripple...You're powers won't break me," she said menacingly as she backed closer and closer towards the door, "But thankfully...You won't have to. Now that I have Rogue, I can carry out the second little task of my mission."

"Second task?" said Warren in a confused tone.

"Yes...In addition to extracting this important little specimen...I was also told to give you all a little message, courtesy of Project Shadow Cell," she said with a stoic expression, "You are all pawns in a game...Pawns of a plan bigger than anything you could ever imagine. This is but the first step for you...And the final step for humanity."

With that said, Magnum was ready to make her leave, but from the top of the stairs, Remy Lebeau refused to let her take Rogue and struggled to overcome his physical pain to save the girl that meant so much to him.

"NO!" he yelled as Warren and Betsy were forced to hold him back, "I won't...Let you...Take her!"

"Too late, X-men..." said Magnum as she put her knife away and took out a small black object from her trench coat pocket, "Rogue is mine. And now...The clock starts ticking. The dye is cast...And a very sinister future awaits you all."

Then, Magnum proceeded to throw the small black object to the ground, which quickly exploded in a maze of smoke that quickly consumed the area.

"Rogue! ROGUE!" yelled Remy as he broke free of Betsy and Warren's grasp and tried too fight his way through the smoke.

"Give me back mien sister!" yelled Kurt, who made a similar lunge into the smoke.

However, as Magnum had said...It was too late. Because when the smoke cleared...Both she and Rogue were gone.

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

AN: Now things are heating up a bit! The X-men are now a part of the game and Rogue is now in Shadow Cell's sinister clutches! The turmoil is getting worse and the situation is getting all the more complicated with the Colonel seizing power and Dr. Essex secretly moving ahead. Here is where the big turning points begin to take shape and the seeds of the big conflict have finally been sewn, so stay tuned to see how it pans out! You won't want to miss it and I hope you enjoy the little surprises I have planned! As always, I urge each and every one of you to REVIEW! Send them to me via email or post them on the fanfiction website! I appreciate every last reader of this story and I wish you all the best!

IT'S GETTING HOTTER PEOPLE! REVIEW BEFORE IT CATCHES FIRE!!!
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