The Evo world is forever turned upside down when a man named Dr. Nathanial Essex begins a project known as Shadow Cell from which the lives of Scott, Jean, Vincent, Wanda, and X23 are changed forev...
Chapter 36: Confusion And Revelation
With Rogue's abduction and disappearance at the hands of the skilled Russian mercenary, Magnum, all hell once again broke loose at the institute. It had been bad enough when they were attacked and overwhelmed earlier by the five soldiers of Shadow Cell...But now one of them was actually missing and now under the control of the organization Nick Fury had told them was wrought with unsavory characters. They had no idea where they were, what they wanted with their friend, or even who was pulling all the strings with this ordeal. But now that the stakes had just been heightened with Rogue's kidnapping...The X-men were determined to fight in whatever way they could against this mysterious foe.
In wake of Magnum's sudden departure with Rogue, a widespread search was quickly scattered throughout the institute grounds to see if there was any trace at all of Russian woman and their friend...But being the good mercenary she was, Magnum had covered her tracks well and left no clues behind as to her whereabouts. Meanwhile, Beast, Kitty, and Bobby tried to sift through the security system, hoping that the cameras had caught anything that might help...But once again, the sheer efficiency of Magnum's methods were clear for all to see as each and every camera along the way was either blown apart by a single, well placed bullet or completely avoided altogether.
While the rest of the team was desperately searching for any sort of sign for their friend, Professor Charles Xavier did what he could with the newly reprogrammed Cerebro. He tried an exhaustive psychic scan at nearly full power...But wherever Rogue was now, it was so heavily shielded that not even he could sense any hint or trace of her or Magnum. He tried working every angle he could, but the captors they were dealing with this time around were just too skilled...Too cunning.
With a defeated sigh, Professor Charles Xavier took off the high tech, telepathy enhancing helmet and set it aside...For if he couldn't find a trace at this point, then it was already too late for now. Whoever had Rogue now had her in a secured place...One where even his psychic eye couldn't penetrate. It was a hard, frustrating notion to accept...But at the moment, there seemed to be nothing more he could do.
"Well?! Did ya find anythin'?!" asked Remy, who had been waiting anxiously outside along with Kurt as the Professor exited the Cerebro control room.
"I'm sorry..." said the wheel chair bound man with a great deal of remorse, "But I couldn't find anything...Whoever has her now has made certain to leave no trace of their presence."
"But how can that be?!" exclaimed Kurt, not wanting to accept the fact that his sister was in the hands of some shady organization and there was nothing he could do about it, "Vhy do they even vant Rogue? Vhat does she have to do vith any of this?"
"Please Kurt..." coaxed the Professor, hoping to ease the young man's obvious anger and concern over Rogue's safety, "I know this is hard for you...And I wish I had the answers you deserved, but..."
"I don't care about answers!" spat Kurt in response, "I just vant my sister back!"
And with that, he simply stormed off back down the hall, leaving both the Professor and Gambit behind to contemplate their next move. Kurt's reaction had shocked the both of them, but given that Rogue was his only family other than their estranged mother...They could understand his feelings.
"So what now, Professor?" asked Gambit, desperate for any hope at this point of getting Rogue back, "What do we do against an enemy dat doesn't technically exist?"
"I wish I knew, Remy..." said the Professor with an exasperated sigh, "But at this point, all we can do now is keep searching."
"Keep searching?" said Remy, not sounding too enthusiastic about that plan, "Searchin' for what? We don't even know were to start!"
"I know..." conceded the Professor, wishing he could do more, but feeling so much at a loss, "But rest assured my boy...We will find Rogue. We will find out who's behind all this...And we will stop them."
"I hopes you're right, homme..." said the Cajun mutant as he walked off, his thoughts lingering on Rogue and how he failed to save her from that strong Russian merc, "For Rogue's sake...I really hope you're right."
After having stormed away from the Professor in a fit of rage, Kurt found himself in his room once again, wallowing in his own fit of anger and sorrow. It was bad enough that somebody now had his sister...But even worse that he had allowed himself to lash out against the people who were trying to help her. He knew he was out of line for yelling at the Professor...But when it came to Rogue, it was too hard for him to hold himself back.
Only a short while ago, he and Rogue had discovered that they were siblings...Bound together thanks to the one woman they both held a pretty hefty distaste for. It wasn't by blood...But it was more than enough in his eyes. Even though it had taken them awhile to get used to the idea of them being siblings, Kurt had truly come to see Rogue as his sister in every way that mattered. And while she had been a bit more reluctant...She eventually came around as well. Things were still rocky between them at times, but they were still family...Something Kurt deeply valued and wanted to hold onto in every possible way after having been born into a world of isolation.
It was somewhat conflicting to him since he was already blessed with a wonderful foster family that he loved as if they were his own. And having Rogue as his sister was just so unexpected, but the mere fact that they were still linked together was enough in his eyes to make her family. Maybe it was because growing up in Germany, he had come to really value family as an emotional anchor in dealing with his appearance since his adopted family had accepted him. And having Rogue as his sister just seemed to add to that anchor because it made him feel less isolated and alone...Which just made the knowledge that she was gone even worse to deal with.
Kurt wasn't sure how long he had let himself sink into his stupor, only feeling worse now that he had lashed out at the Professor as a result...But it wasn't like he kept track. The commotion amongst the others was still clear as he heard Warren and Betsy barking out orders to the others as they often did in emergency situations, and this time nobody seemed to question or oppose such actions given that they had been attacked again and one of them was missing. Thankfully, they left him alone...And for good reason, because in his current state, he didn't feel as though he would be much of a help anyways.
With a heavy sigh, Kurt found himself simply staring at the midnight sky, letting each second tick by as if to further separate him and Rogue. There was truly nothing he could do about it...There was truly no way to undo any of this. His sister was now in the clutches of some shady group that didn't even exist and there was no telling what they were going to do to her. He tried not to think about that as he focused his attention on the starts...Then suddenly, his door opened and he was shaken out of his state by a new presence.
"Kurt?" said Kitty Pryde as she anxiously made her way over to her friend with a worried look on her face, "Kurt, are you okay? I knocked, like, eight times and you didn't answer."
Such news surprised Kurt, for he hadn't heard a thing. Thanks to his current state of mind, such things hardly registered in his mind since he was so focused on his sister. But that only made him feel worse because it showed just how greatly this was affecting him.
"Sorry Kitty..." he said to her with a deep sigh, "I just...I have a lot on my mind."
"Yeah...I know," said Kitty as she walked up next to him and stood close by her friend.
Kurt once again fell silent, unable to think of anything else to say at this point. But Kitty didn't want him to stay like this...Not in a time like this when they all needed to be strong.
"Remy told me about what happened with the Professor," said Kitty, breaking the silence.
"Ja...I had a feeling," said Kurt, once again feeling bad about what he had done in his distraught state.
"Want to talk about it?" said Kitty in response, not wanting to just leave it at that since it was obviously bothering him.
Kurt simply took a deep breath as he bowed his head in remorse for the situation he now found himself in.
"It's just that...Rogue is my family," said Kurt, shifting his gaze away from the stars and towards the young woman that so often gave him solstice in this crazy world they were apart of, "Even if it's not by blood, she's every bit as important to me as my foster parents. She's a part of something that really does keep me strong because I just...It really means a lot."
"Family...Yeah, I know," finished Kitty as she saw him struggle with the words, "I can tell it really means a lot to you."
"It does...And I guess...I guess it's just really hard because Rogue and I vere finally beginning to develop a decent brother/sister relationship. You know she vas a bit stubborn about it at first, but...I think she vas really coming around...I think she vas really starting to accept me as family."
"That's because she is family..." said Kitty, seeing that he was thinking about this in a somewhat skewed way, "Kurt...You can't keep beating yourself up about this. I know it was a big deal when Rogue found out the truth...And I know you two kind of, like, clashed at first."
"That's putting it mildly..." commented Kurt, almost chuckling a bit at such choice words.
"Very true...But be that as it may, it didn't change anything," she said in an affirmative tone, "You two are still family whether she accepted it or not...And don't think that because of this, that'll change."
"I know...I know," said Kurt as he found himself looking back at the stars, his thoughts once again dwelling on Rogue's current state, "I just...I vish I could have done more..."
"Hey, we'll get her back, Kurt...I know we will," said Kitty, managing a warm smile as she snaked her arms around her friend and pulled him into a comforting hug, "We're going to get your sister back...You just have to be strong...We all do."
And with her gentle words and comforting gesture, Kurt actually felt himself ease up a bit. The warm feeling of Kitty Pryde's arms around him was nothing short of therapeutic as he felt the tension in body and mind ease ever so slightly as he sunk into her embrace. Kitty had always been his best friend and she always had a knack for making him feel better when he was down. And even in this gravest of times...She managed ease his concerns and remind him that all hope was not lost. He had to be strong...Not just for his own well being, but for Rogue as well. He was still deeply concerned about the safety of his sister...But thanks to Kitty, he felt he would have all the strength he needed to bring her back safe and sound.
Back down in the foyer, the search party once again converged after yet another unsuccessful sweep of the area. Logan and Warren had made exhaustive searches both high and low all over the surrounding area and Betsy had been searching for any psychic hints of either Rogue or Magnum. They hadn't found much other than the faint scent of a van, but thanks to the gentle winds of vast area around them it had quickly dispersed into nothingness and they found themselves right back at square one.
"Any luck?" asked Remy, who had chosen to wait up in the foyer since the Professor and Beast didn't seem to be having much luck on his end.
"Nope...Nothing," said Warren in a frustrated tone, "Magnum was every bit as good as Fury said she was...No trails, no scent, not even a single hint of an escape route. It was as if she just disappeared off the face of the planet."
Remy's hopes once again sank as he anxiously ran his hands through his messy, Cajun hair, growing all the more worried for Rogue's safety. She had always held a special place in his heart...But even he couldn't have imagined how much she meant to him now that this had happened.
"Great...So where in the bloody hell does that leave us now?" said a very tired and very frustrated Betsy Braddock.
"Square fuckin' one," grunted Logan, "The scent from that van she used faded and given how easy it is to get around the back roads, she could be anywhere in New York by now...And that's assumin' she's still on the ground."
"You mean she could have gotten on a plane or something?" asked Warren, thinking that would only worsen their chances.
"They're the government bub...There ain't much they can't do," said Logan, which wasn't helping their confidence to say the least.
A heavy silence fell over the team of mutants as they took a good look at their current situation. One of them was missing...Taken by some super secret project that wasn't even supposed to exist. They had no idea who was pulling all the strings here. And there was no hint or trace of where they were now. Such a scenario was not very uplifting to say the least.
"What about the Professor?" asked Ororo, "Did he find anything?"
"Non..." said Remy in a grim tone, "Nothin' at all."
"Terrific..." said Betsy, her words dripping with sarcasm, "So what do we do now?"
"I don't think there's much we can do, Betsy..." said Warren, feeling at wits end with this situation, "For now, we're just going to have to regroup and reorganize ourselves in case something comes up."
"You mean wait?!" exclaimed Remy, finding that idea to be nothing short of stupid, "You mean, we're just gonna sit around here while Rogue is out dere with those psychos doing who knows what with her?!"
"Remy please...Try and calm yourself," said Ororo, who could tell he was getting a bit hysterical.
"Yeah, take it easy Gumbo," added Logan, "I know it ain't the best plan, but it's all we got now. And we ain't gonna be doin' Rogue any good just running around here scrambling for answers."
"But we gotta do something!" he yelled back, never one to just sit by and let a situation get worse by the second.
"Remy...There's nothing we can do!" said Warren in a strong tone, "I know you're worried about Rogue...We all are. But we can't help her in our current state. We have to regroup...We have to gather our strength."
Remy still didn't like it, but there seemed to be no way around it. The mere thought of Rogue being in the hands of such a dangerous organization was enough to shake even his confidence, for these people had beat them not once, but on two occasions. They had failed...Plain and simple. And on the second time...It cost them dearly. It was difficult for his mind to process...But knowing he had to be strong for Rogue, he managed to calm himself.
"Fine den..." he said, no controlling his voice this time around, "So what's next oh fearless leader?"
"First thing's first...What about the others?" asked Warren as he turned to Ororo.
"I checked with Sam and Jamie and they seem to be handling them okay," she answered, "Jubilee's eyes are better, so she's up and about helping Bobby and Hank in the lower levels."
"Yeah, like that won't be a distraction for the ice cube..." muttered Betsy under her breath, but nobody chose to comment on it.
"Do you think they'll be able to handle it?" asked Warren, who always harbored doubts about the New Mutants given their lack of experience.
"They seemed to be carrying themselves quite well last I checked," said Ororo, "And as long as Ray, Roberto, Rahne, Tabitha, and Amara are still recovering, I think their services should be sufficient."
"Good...That means we can focus more on finding Rogue," said Warren, "And something tells me we're going to need all the manpower we can muster for this search."
"Well can't we call in dat Fury guy again?" asked Remy as he turned to Logan, "De homme helped us earlier...Why not again?"
"Hey, in case ya forgot Cajun...He wasn't here, remember?" said Logan, thinking Remy seriously needed a refresher course on the nature of super secret government programs.
"Oh...Right," grumbled Gambit in an increasingly frustrated tone, "So I guess dis means we're on our own."
"That's the way it's gotta be, bub..." affirmed Logan, "But secret or not, no stinkin' program is gonna use Rogue as a guinea pig on my watch. I don't care how far we have to go or how much we have to search, but we WILL find her! We WILL find the lousy prick behind all this and..."
Then suddenly, Logan stopped in mid sentence as he began sniffing the air.
"Logan...Logan, what is it?" asked Ororo, who knew that look on his face all too well.
It took a moment for his mind to process it...But what he smelled at that very moment was unmistakable...For this was a scent that couldn't be easily forgotten. At first he didn't believe it...Because logic told him it was impossible. It couldn't be...It was impossible, wasn't it? That's what he thought...But that's not what he smelled.
"Logan..." said Ororo, growing increasingly concerned.
Then suddenly, the recently reactivated alarm went off and everybody was sprung back into a state of readiness. They had already faced two major intrusions and they were not about to let a third one take them by surprise again.
"Team...I think we've got company," he grunted, unsheathing his claws as he turned towards the front door.
"Then let's go greet dem, non?" grunted Remy, taking out a deck of cards and charging them in preparation for anybody who dared to intrude again.
Instinctively, they all followed Logan right out the door, only to be met with a most unexpected sight out by the gates. They were neither moving nor poised for fighting of any kind, but they were standing right there in full combat gear...The five mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell. They had intentionally tripped the alarm to get their attention...And apparently, it had worked.
"X-men..." said Cyclops as he and his unit stood before the super powered team of mutants without any trace of fear or concern, "We need to talk..."
With the mutant known as Rogue now in their possession, Dr. Nathanial Essex had the final piece he needed to make his enhanced bio-mutagenic accelerator complete. As always, Magnum had delivered...Returning on time and without alerting the still raging Colonel, who was busy organizing massive search teams of GURSO soldiers in conjunction with the intelligence team. To any outside observer, they would have thought that the Colonel had truly gone off the deep end with this...But to anybody who even remotely knew him, his actions and demeanor came to no surprise. And as long as he didn't interfere with his work, Dr. Essex was content with just letting the paranoid fool be.
Once Magnum had returned with Rogue in hand, Dr. Essex quickly used a powerful sedative to keep her completely unconscious through the whole process. First, he did a few tests to make sure that her X-gene had the capabilities of handling the heavy load of stress that his enhanced machine would put on her. Once he was satisfied that her powers would be able to handle the task at hand, he loaded her into one of the bio tanks and submerged her in an oxygen rich, catalyst solution. Her vitals were closely monitored and her physiology was thoroughly scanned in preparation for the final steps.
Dr. Essex could barely contain his excitement as he watched with great euphoria at all the final pieces that now made up his ultimate machine. 100,000 years of human evolution and barely a fraction of mankind's potential had been tapped. What his last machine enhanced...This machine would take a step further. The time for life's greatest evolutionary leap was at hand...And so far, the plan was going every bit as flawlessly as Dr. Essex had hoped.
"Yes...It's working! Everything is finally in place!" said Dr. Essex as he eagerly looked over the readings from the machine now that Rogue was wired into it, "We've done it Magnum...All those years of planning and hard work have finally come together! The time for the greatest step in the history of mankind is finally at hand!"
"So I take it Rogue's powers shall suffice?" said Magnum as she casually walked before the floating, unconscious young woman in the secondary bio tank.
"Indeed they will..." said Dr. Essex as he brought up a scan of her X-gene, "However, in order to expedite the process, I may need to make a few adjustments."
"Adjustments?" asked Magnum curiously, "What kind of adjustments?"
"Oh it's simple really..." said Dr. Essex in an almost casual tone, "According to the scan, young Rogue's powers are not complete and only partially coded...Meaning they aren't anywhere near their full potential. And in order to ensure the best possible transfer and manipulation of life energy, her powers must be a peak performance. So that means I'll just have to complete her X-gene and make certain that she'll be able to perform the necessary tasks that this machine requires of her."
"After that, I take it that the rest is up to our most coveted students," concluded Magnum as Dr. Essex began to run a few programs.
"Indeed...But I am not concerned," scoffed Dr. Essex, "Shadow Cell will play their part...That much I am sure of. Years of training, discipline, and experience will not be in vain in this instance...Not after all my meticulous and careful planning."
"It is not Shadow Cell that I am worried about, Nathanial..." made Magnum, always one to consider every possible point, "What concerns me most is the involvement of the X-men. Now that we have one of their own, there's no question they'll fight to get her back."
"Ah, but that is the mere icing on the cake my dear..." said Dr. Essex with a sinister grin, "For you see...This machine was not just meant to fully evolve our five proud pupils...It is meant for all mutants. And as soon as my creations are endowed with all of evolution's most precious gifts...Then I shall move on to creating an army of fully evolved mutants, namely from the X-men and the Brotherhood should they also be foolish enough to get involved. And with this fateful step...Mankind will be at it's knees as natural selection does the rest."
Dr. Essex could see it now...For it was so close he could practically reach out and touch it. Mankind's poisoning of this planet was finally near it's end. The barbaric, self destructive mannerisms of homo sapiens was finally going to be replaced by a new, more capable species that would attain a level of peace, progress, and accomplishment that mankind couldn't even begin to fathom...And he was going to make it happen.
Nobody was going to stand in his way...Nobody. He was holding all the cards and pulling all the strings. The X-men couldn't stop him, Magneto couldn't stop him, not even his own creations could stop him at this point. It was all a matter of letting each pawn carry out it's role...And he would do the rest.
"So you're not worried that the X-men could cause any such changes in the plan?" said Magnum, still a bit skeptical that a group as well organized as them wouldn't at least pose some kind of complication.
"Oh please..." he scoffed, "They're still stumbling around in the dark. They truly have no idea the kind of forces they're dealing with. And even if by some miracle they gain the slightest hint of understanding...It won't make a bit of difference. For I'm confident that you and your 'friends' will be able to handle them."
"That much I'm not worried about," said Magnum, ever confident in her skills, "It's only a matter of expecting the unexpected. Remember, we've taught our pupils a lot about being soldiers...And we of all people should certainly not underestimate their aptitude."
"And it is for that reason why we must proceed with the utmost of care..." made Dr. Essex in response, "That means that you and the help you've brought in must ensure that the Colonel stays off my back, no revealing messages are leaked, and that every last official plays their part."
"Da...It will be done, Nathanial," said Magnum with an affirmative gesture, "I know what's at stake here for you...And for me as well."
"And that is why this next vital step must proceed without hindrance," stipulated Dr. Essex, "Because from these next vital tasks...We will finally achieve what we both want. You'll get your just reward...And I'll have mine. After that, the rest is simple...Nature, both environmental and human alike, will take it's course..."
"And I'll see to it that it does not deviate..." said Magnum in a determined tone as she exited the lab.
"Which is more than enough for me..." said Dr. Essex as he went back to preparing Rogue for her role in the final step, "It's all a matter of management now. The hard part is over...Now the fun part can finally begin!"
In the highly secured upper levels of Shadow Cell HQ, the Colonel continued scrambling with every single resource at his disposal to seek out and eliminate the five mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell before they could bring any further harm to the world. Now more than ever, his simmering hatred of mutants and all things concerning them drove his insane rage towards finding the five soldiers that had actually helped him rebuild his career and influence over their many years of success. But now that they had gone rogue, he finally had an excuse to see their kind wiped out.
And even though he hadn't told anybody, he had no intention of stopping with these five little freaks. He saw this as the defining proof that mutants could not be trusted. With word of this massive turn in the project, he was confident that the higher ups would see the cold hard truth that he had been trying to drill into their minds for years now. And with this, his GURSO unit could be expanded and brought to neutralize mutants everywhere that presented a threat...And once again, humanity would be safe.
However, in order for him to carry out such goals, he would have to work on the current task that was dogging both his unit and his resources. It had been bad enough that there had been holes in his meticulously crafted containment plan that he had practically drilled in each and every GURSO soldier from day one and he was still trying to wrap his head around such a phenomenon...Wondering what could have caused such a massive failure that would allow the five mutant soldiers to escape. His usual paranoia told him there had to be some sort of snitch or informant...And he had his suspicions about many. But he at the moment...He had only one goal...Take down those five soldiers. He would worry about everything else after he had their charred remains collected in body bags.
"You! Check with local CCTV scans of every city you can find in an atlas! And you! Cross reference any and ALL video feed with a description of every vehicle they could have taken!" bellowed the Colonel as he continued barking out orders to the already overstressed and overworked intelligence team, "I want these freaks found, you here?! No excuses! I want them found!"
"Sir..." said one of the head intelligence chiefs who was scrambling to organize his people despite the Colonel's seemingly unending demands, "You have to give us time...At any rate, those five could be anywhere in New York by now. And if they hop a plane, there's no telling where they could go."
"Then you best get your people moving Mr. Director..." said the Colonel in a stern, forceful tone that made his subordinate stammer somewhat in his demeanor, "You! Has there been any sighting at all in ANY of the airports in the greater New York area?"
"So far, sir...None," answered one of the female analysts, "We're already monitoring any and all air traffic both civilian and military. If they take to the air...Trust me, we'll know."
"For your sake, you better be right..." he said in a menacing tone that left no room for response or arguments, "I also want that confirmation from the Pentagon to mobilize an invisible web all around the state both ground and air...And I want it five minutes ago!"
"Sir, such a request takes time..." said one of the chief communication experts who was responsible for coordinating any and all transmissions between teams of the organization and the superiors back in Washington, "Even with your authority, the Pentagon has to go through the red tape in order to mobilize effectively."
"I didn't ask for excuses, chief! I asked for results!" shot the Colonel in response, "Now if those Pentagon cock suckers don't deliver as they are required to do under emergency situation protocol, then not only will those five freaks be halfway to Brazil by the time the deliver...But they'll also be facing me and an injunction! Now I don't care what they have to do, just do it and get that web up before those five slip decide to take advantage of our little qualms!"
Nobody had ever seen the Colonel this angry or demanding before...But given the situation, it wasn't much of a surprise. He had always been a harsh, commanding person who liked to be in complete control. And even when the tasks they were given were nothing short of impossible, they could not argue or question his orders...Because they knew he was capable of carrying out every single threat he issued no matter how extreme.
It had been nearly eight hours since Shadow Cell escaped and none of the staff, both primary and secondary alike, had been allowed to have even a second of rest. However, nobody dared to speak or even request any such necessities...For it could be a permanent detriment to them and their being if they even so much as inquired. The Colonel made it clear that he wasn't going to rest until those five mutant soldiers were dead...But given what the team knew about Shadow Cell's effectiveness as a unit, such a feat was easier said than done.
The Colonel continued barking out orders, wanting to have the authority for this and that, demanding that he see records or closed circuit camera footage, or just plain being forceful to get them working harder. It wasn't necessarily the most effective way to get what he wanted, but he didn't seem to care. Anybody who showed any signs of dissent knew the consequences and the Colonel seemed hell bent on reminding them almost every chance he got.
Then suddenly...Something came up on the screen of one of the base chief's monitors that quickly caught her attention. And even though the Colonel was in the process of unloading his rage into his cell phone, the female officer was quick to inform him.
"Sir...Sir!" she exclaimed as the Colonel let out an angry grunt, spat a few more obscenities into the phone, and turned towards his subordinate.
"What is it?! This better be important..." he said in a threatening tone.
"It is..." she affirmed as she directed his attention to the monitor, "It's the General...He's back. I just got footage of his private jet landing on runway 8B."
"What?!" he said as he took a closer look at the footage, "That son of a bitch...How could he be this stupid?"
The Colonel shook his head in distain as he looked at his one time superior officer as he stepped out of his plane with a platoon of marines and high ranking subordinates surrounding him. He knew that the General wasn't pleased with his methods, but he had no idea he'd do something this dumb when it was clear that he was now in control and his authority was officially overridden by protocol 666. With an exasperated sigh, the Colonel signaled a couple of his GURSO soldiers to converge around him as he turned to exit the intelligence center.
"I'm taking care of this matter personally..." he told the team, "Until then, keep searching and coordinating with each division. And I want to see some results by the time I get back, so be ready!"
Outside on the runway where one of Shadow Cell's many transport jets had just landed with the General and his entourage in hand, tensions were running high as everybody exited the plane at the far end of the runway away from the usual loading area. The General and the officers still loyal to him remained close as they walked under the strict guidance of a dozen fully armed marines. He knew that what he was doing was probably not the smartest thing in the world...But for his country and his duty, he was fully willing to make that sacrifice.
The General's subordinates were all noticeably nervous as they stuck close to the marines, knowing full well what the Colonel was capable of. Each one of them harbored a great deal of skepticism that the General's actions would make much of a difference...But as officers and subordinates, they did not question his orders. Some did choose to stay behind...But many of the die hards who had followed the General without question for many years remained, hoping that his actions would do something to placate this power hungry madman who had taken over this project that had come to mean so much to them.
"Sir...Do you really think the Colonel will listen?" asked one of his sergeants as they made their way to the base by foot, not wanting to put those who had chosen to stay behind on the plane at risk.
"If he's got a brain in his head, he damn well better..." said the General, "I'm not about to let this guy destroy everything we've built. And if that means going into the lion's den and getting a few scratches...Then so be it."
"I wish I had your guts, sir..." said one of his female lieutenants, not sounding too optimistic about their current prospects.
"Believe me lieutenant...Guts is the only thing you need against a guy like this," said the General, who thought he knew the Colonel well enough to understand how he operates, "Let's just hope he hasn't gone too far off the deep end yet...Otherwise we may just be wasting our time."
As if on cue, the moment they approached the main loading area, they were all swarmed by a rather large contingent of fully armed GURSO soldiers. Everyone but the General seemed to be surprised at this, for such a great show of force was just a powder keg ready to explode. And given the volatile nature of the man they were dealing with, anything was likely to happen at this point.
"Request sir?!" said one of the marines protecting the General as he and his squad held their M-16s at the ready.
"Stand down..." ordered the General, "Lower your weapons...Just stand down."
Just then, a familiar figure emerged from the shroud of heavily armed soldiers...One that seemed almost too calm for a situation like this. And for all those present...They knew this could only be one man...
"Typical commands from a typical man..." taunted the Colonel as he approached the General and his now surrounded entourage, "I'd like to say I was surprised, but...For some reason, my instincts are telling me I should have expected this."
"Colonel..." said the General in a tone showing that he was not afraid, "Is this really necessary?"
"Oh come now, General...You of all people should know that I'm a very careful man when it comes to security," said the Colonel in a somewhat casual tone.
"Careful wouldn't be the best word to use in my opinion...Paranoid would definitely be more appropriate," quipped the General in response.
Such words irked the ever volatile officer, but he managed to restrain himself...For once. The General may no longer be the head authority at Shadow Cell, but the Colonel knew him well enough to know that he had plenty of influence and tricks. Luckily...He had been prepared for this. He just didn't think that the General would be stupid enough to try something this direct.
"Oh, so that's it? You just came here to mock me and my methods?" scoffed the Colonel.
"Colonel, I don't need to mock your methods...You do that enough on your own," quipped the General, "Just look around! Look at what you've done! We've both worked so hard on this project for the past eight years and now you're in the process of completely destroying it! And for who? For what? Because you want an excuse to fight mutants?! Because you want an excuse to start a war?!"
"This is NOT a war, General!" shot the Colonel in response, growing increasingly irritated by the General's superior wit, "This is a necessary measure to protect the innocent masses that you have so often used as an excuse to keep those freak shows breathing when they should have been blown away with the rest of their kind long ago!"
"Those 'freak shows' as you call them...Are more than just mutants," said the General in a stern tone, willing to take personal insults, but NOT willing to hear them directed at those who didn't deserve it, "Those five brave souls are soldiers...Fighters...Warriors. They have saved this planet more times than either of us can count! They're more soldier than any man or woman could ever hope to be...Mutant and non mutant alike! It's because of them you got your career back...It's because of them we all got our lives back...And it's because of them we're all still alive! Doesn't that mean anything to you?"
That was enough for the Colonel as many of the GURSO unit soldiers and subordinates of the General began to tense under the sheer volatility of the situation they were currently facing. However, neither man skipped a beat...Their expressions remaining stern and their words staying every bit as harsh as the both of them could muster.
But tension or not, the Colonel was through playing around. The General, for all his influence and power, was still too much of a boy scout and a fool to see the truth of what was going on. And if he couldn't get him to realize it...Then he was left with no other choice.
"You really are a fool, General..." said the Colonel with complete and utter distaste, "A fool too deluded to see the big picture in this grand scheme of life we call conflict."
"You're the only fool here, Colonel!" spat the General in response as he took one of the folders from his lieutenant and took out a single sheet of paper, "And I'm not about to let your madness start a war that'll consume the entire country! One way or another...I'm NOT going to let it happen!"
"What is this..." said the Colonel in an irked tone as he took a closer look at the paper the General was showing him.
"It's a memo..." replied the General, "One that's going to put a stop to your insanity once and for all..."
As the Colonel read the paper...The expression on his face turned to one of great rage...One that even took the GURSO soldiers aback, for even they had never seen the man this enraged before.
"You son of a..."
"Call me what you will, Colonel...That's not going to stop it," said the General confidently, "As much as I hated doing this...SHIELD was the only place I could turn to in order to make this happen. You've weaseled your way out of more shit than anybody in the history of this government...But as Harry Truman once said...The buck stops here. If you don't stop this right here and now...SHIELD is going to blow you and your entire unit away. You still have a chance to salvage yourself Colonel...But you have absolutely no shot at any kind of redemption if you continue this madness."
The Colonel was so angry right now that he couldn't even get any words out. He couldn't believe it...The General had turned to SHIELD of all people to take him down. SHIELD...The organization that Shadow Cell was supposed to stick it to the most...Would be the means for which it would all come apart. The General was willing to make what sacrifices were necessary to stop the Colonel and save those soldiers and the fruits of their labor...But the Colonel definitely wasn't the kind of man to give up even in the face of certain doom.
"Face it Colonel...It's over," said the General, "I talked to the President...And he's willing to go easy if you just..."
However, the Colonel wasn't willing to let him finish.
"NO!" he yelled as he ripped the memo apart, "I WILL NOT LET YOU OR THE FUCKING GOVERNMENT STAND IN MY WAY!"
"Colonel..." said one of the General's lieutenants.
But the damage had been done...The stakes had been changed now...And in order to carry out that which he so sorely desired, he would have to truly go further than anybody ever could have anticipated.
"Shoot them..." he ordered his GURSO unit, "For the love of God...Shoot them now."
The horror of his words barely processed as the General and his subordinates stammered back, but such shock was all the time the GURSO soldiers needed to shower the marines and officers with a hail of high powered rounds from the supped up guns designed to take down mutants.
"DOWN!" ordered the General as he acted on instinct and hit the pavement in an effort to avoid the initial shots.
However, much of his subordinates and guardians weren't so lucky. They didn't even get a chance to react as the contents of their bodies were splattered over the pavement in a cold, heartless hail of firepower that shocked and horrified the General to no end, for even he never would have thought that the Colonel would react with such madness and cruelty.
The twelve marines...The Lieutenants...The Sergeants...And every other officer that had stayed loyally beside the General didn't even have a chance. There was no avoiding the wave of gunfire...There was no avoiding the overwhelming firepower of GURSO's guns. Everybody was dead in the span of a few seconds...Everybody except one horrified soul.
"Now who's the fool, General?" said the Colonel in an ice cold tone, as he stood over the shocked and bewildered officer, who was now covered in the blood of his subordinate.
The General couldn't even begin to formulate a response. This man...This...This monster...Had truly gone mad. This was the man he had entrusted with the security of this project...Now he was the destruction of it. He couldn't believe it...He truly had gone off the deep end. He had disgraced everything they stood for...As soldiers...And as officers. And now there was no turning back.
"You're...You're insane!" he yelled as he was forced up off the ground by a couple of GURSO soldiers.
"Maybe..." said the Colonel in response, "But insanity aside...If I go down, I'm NOT going down without those freaks to accompany me! And just to make sure I have as much leverage as possible...I'm going to ensure that this whole freak show is incinerated with YOU in it!"
The General began to struggle somewhat, but he was no match for the stoic GURSO soldiers. The Colonel almost laughed at his struggles, for it was a sight he never thought he'd get a chance to see. But now that he was in charge...The impossible finally seemed within the grasp of reality. And even if SHIELD wanted to take him down...He would not go without carrying out that which he felt he was his destiny as a soldier.
"This doesn't change anything, General..." said the Colonel as the GURSO unit hauled his once superior officer away, "Even if SHIELD tries to take me down...That only makes my goal a matter of time. Those freaks WILL fall...These genetic atrocities WILL be destroyed. Maybe I am mad in a sense...But mad or not, I'm in charge now...And with the resources at my disposal, Shadow Cell's days are numbered!"
AN: Quite a complex web of lies, deceit, and treachery, isn't it? Everything has been building up in a complicated mesh of struggle, strife, and ambition. Whether it be by the Colonel or Dr. Essex, it is all a mere web of lies orchestrating the events that are unfolding when you get right down to it. And they shall continue to unfold my friends! Everything is beginning to fall into place! Rogue is the last piece necessary in Dr. Essex's puzzle, the General has been officially usurped by the Colonel, and Shadow Cell is now going to have to team up with the X-men if they're going to have any hopes of survival! Stay tuned to see how it all comes together in a battle that's sure to be every bit as uncanny and astonishing as an X-men story can be! But as always, I urge each and every one of you to REVIEW! Send your comments to me via email or post them on the fanfiction website! I really appreciate all you reading my work and I wish you all the best!
LIES! LIES! AND MORE LIES! BUT HERE'S ONE TRUTH...I LOVE REVIEWS! SO PLEASE REVIEW!!!