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 42: Confrontation and Answers
Missiles, bombs, and mortars continued to explode in deafening bang after bang outside Shadow Cell HQ while the X-men and the five mutant soldiers continued to make their way deeper into the base. Much of the GURSO unit had converged outside in the front to take on Magneto's Asteroid M base, which was quickly turning large portions of the base defenses into rubble.
Through the power of numerous electromagnetic pulses and a constant barrage of high energy laser fire, many of the stationary systems like the surface to air missiles and the high powered turrets were turned into scrap metal, leaving GURSO to respond with only the arms they could carry with them or mount on the back of a vehicle. Yet they still fought on with fanatical resilience. And even though Asteroid M showed no signs of letting up...They were causing damage.
In the depths of the vast floating base, Magneto kept up with electromagnetic barrages with unrelenting force. His anger towards his one time ally for interfering in the plans he had waited so long to fulfill was like a raging fire...Burning with the hatred of being betrayed. And while the resistance from GURSO was a lot more than he had expected, his base managed to absorb the damage with it's hard exterior shell that had been carved from an asteroid and powerful electromagnetic shielding.
However, the longer this went on, the more impatient Magneto became. He wanted that stone back and no high tech anti-mutant army was going to stand in his way. All who opposed the evolution of mutants as the superior race would all fall before his power and since Essex had betrayed him...He would face the most severe of punishments.
"This is taking too long..." said Magneto, growing increasingly angered with GURSO's stubbornness.
Just then, he got a radio message from the four Brotherhood boys, all of whom were still manning the base's weapons systems to provide support fire.
"Hey boss!" said Lance with a hint of urgency in his tone, "I think they're sending in more reinforcements! Just how many of these guys are there?"
"Not enough Avalanche..." said Magneto ominously, "No army, large or small, is going to stop me from claiming what's rightfully mine! Keep up with a high rate of fire and beat them back!"
"Sure thing, sir!" replied Lance as shifted his focus back to his station, "Okay guys, let's show these mutant hating assholes what the Brotherhood is made of!"
"With pleasure!" said Blob as he blasted some of the last remaining stationary surface to air missile sites that had been concealed in the trees, "Man, now I know what it feels like to be in a George Lucas flick!"
"Lucas?" said Todd as he kept focusing his fire on the moving vehicles, "I was always more a Star Trek kinda guy."
"Hey guys! Less Sci Fi and more shooting!" said Pietro, who was trying to pin down the new reinforcements with cover fire.
However, unbeknownst to Magneto and the Brotherhood, Dr. Essex had been watching images of the epic battle on his laptop since it began. He was still nestled deep within his lab, safe from the bombardment. The only real threats he faced were from those who had made it in...And in actuality, that's exactly what he needed to happen in order to make this work. So far, everything was going precisely as planned...Shadow Cell and the X-men were making their way towards their next challenge, Magneto was keeping GURSO busy, and the Colonel was scrambling to keep up with both.
And since Dr. Essex knew Magneto well enough to see when he was overconfident, he finally felt it was time to proceed with the next step. With a few commands placed into his computer, he saw his chance and as he looked back at the clock that he was using to monitor each event...He smiled to himself, for it was right on schedule.
"Oh Magneto...You poor deluded fool," he said in an amused tone as he brought up a secured prompt, "You haven't changed a bit...It's really sad. And you call yourself a superior being? I'll show you what superior beings can really do..."
Then, once the prompt was up, he got a quick real-time image of Asteroid M on his screen and it was hovering almost directly over the front perimeter...Leaving it in the perfect position for his next move.
"Okay now...Let's see how those little 'surprises' I planted in the GURSO suits work," he said as he hit a few commands.
Suddenly, on the outside, many of the GURSO units felt a strange twinge in the back of their necks. It was like a powerful static shock of sorts...Only it brought with it an unusual feeling...One that resonated deep within their minds. It was as if a voice was now echoing in their heads...A voice that was telling them exactly what to do...A voice that they felt the unyielding need to obey.
"Perfect..." said Dr. Essex with a sinister grin as he a got successful readings on all levels, "Now then...Let's see just how tough that base of yours really is, old friend."
Then, with a new string of orders being channeled directly into their minds via mind control chips, every GURSO unit outside now had a new brand of orders to follow and they did not hesitate in filling them out. And since the Brotherhood could see their every move from above, such actions did not go unnotices.
"Hey, yo! What the hell are they doing?" said Todd, lessening his rate of fire for a moment as he took in their actions.
"I don't know..." said Pietro, who was also intrigued by this, "They don't look like they're retreating."
"Then keep firing!" said Lance, who didn't let up.
"No wait, Lance! Look!" exclaimed Todd as he saw something on his screen.
The four Brotherhood boys temporarily halted their assault for a brief moment in order to take in what was going on down below. GURSO's movements were definitely unusual even from the point of view of a group of boys who weren't familiar with military tactics outside of video games. But to them, it was definitely clear...Something was going on.
Then, as they all watched anxiously at GURSO's actions...They finally got a rather disturbing answer to their question.
"Holy shit..." said Lance as he saw from his view screen what was happening, not knowing just what this could lead to.
Down on the ground, clusters of GURSO soldiers gathered around what seemed to be empty plots of field along the base entrance...Only they weren't necessarily empty. Out of concealed, hollowed out plots of land...Over a dozen strange looking turrets which had what looked like oversized electrodes rose out of the ground and aimed directly at Asteroid M. A few of the soldiers manned them, taking positions in the control mechanisms in the rear while others took cover in and around them, still returning fire with their high powered guns and shoulder-mounted surface to air missiles.
Knowing this had to be some kind of new threat, the Brotherhood boys attempted to direct their weapons over towards the strange looking turrets...But unfortunately, they didn't get a chance to get a shot off. GURSO beat them to it.
As the mysterious turrets began to charge up and glow a bright bluish yellow color, sparking and simmering with intense amounts of energy, Magneto finally took notice of these and began to worry...For he recognized exactly what they were and it was all the more confirmation that Essex was definitely behind all this.
"No..." he said, clenching his fists in rage.
Suddenly, several of the turrets erupted in a supercharged, high energy, electromagnetic burst. Immediately, the blast reacted with the electromagnetic shielding of Asteroid M and sent shockwaves echoing all throughout the base. Many defense guns shorted out and exploded, dozens of missile launchers mounted near the citadel and the underbelly erupted into a fireball, and systems all throughout the base shorted out and went offline.
The blast struck deep...Even down to the core of the structure that kept it floating, causing a huge round of tremors to erupt all around the base. Some of these tremors were strong enough to knock the Brotherhood boys out of their seats and nearly caused Magneto to loose his balance in the main control room...But that only served to make him more determined.
"Yo man! What the hell was that?" said Todd, rubbing his now sore head.
"Beats me..." said Lance, "But whatever it was, it broke the shields."
"Damn! So what do we do now?" said Freddy, who didn't know much about shields, but knew that it couldn't be good if they were down.
Just then, they received a scrambled message from Magneto, who sounded enraged beyond description now...For this new development would definitely change things in this most critical of battles.
"Brotherhood! Respond!" he ordered firmly.
"We're here, Magneto," said Pietro, although he and the others had some trouble making out what he was saying through the static. "What's going on? What was that?"
"A little surprise from an old friend..." he responded grimly, "I should have seen it coming...Only he would be resourceful enough to bring something like that to the field! Can you take them out?"
Lance then went back over to his station to check the equipment, but much to his dismay, it wasn't operating properly because of the damaged components.
"No..." he responded with a frustrated grunt, "Whatever that thing was, it shorted out our live feed screens."
"Damn it..." cursed Magneto, "Then switch to the scopes. Take down those turrets! One blow too many from them and this whole base will fall to the ground! I don't care how many systems you have left...Divert them all towards those turrets!"
"You got it boss!" said Todd as he and the others returned to their stations and began blindly firing into the base, trying to take down the weapons that could very well destroy this most fortified base.
However, in Magneto's mind, he knew that the damage had been done. Dr. Essex had once again played him and he walked right into it. It was one of the many things that irked him to no end...Such elaborate use of deception. Part of that side to him is what made him such a grave threat and a dangerous foe.
And after suffering that one blow, many of his surveillance and monitoring systems had gone offline. Asteroid M was effectively blinded and was now actually vulnerable despite it's imposing size and majesty. This was his life's work...The culmination of his dream of bringing down humanity for all their brutish hatred...And he was NOT going to let it die here. But as determined as he was...In the back of his mind, he knew that the odds had definitely shifted.
Back inside the base, the X-men and Shadow Cell continued to penetrate deeper and deeper into the facility. And after having punched through the major external security barriers and the holding cell area, the path before them a bit clearer and there were fewer GURSO soldiers left to hold them back. With the fight against Asteroid M still going strong outside, many of the internal soldiers had been forced back towards the front to aid in the fight...Clearing their way for the next challenge. However, for some...They weren't about to let it get any easier for them.
"Those freak sons of bitches!" growled the Colonel as he made his way down the vast halls armed only with a nine millimeter and his raw, unbridled determination, "I'm not going to go out like this! I'm going to take every last one of those freaks with me if I have to!"
With the GURSO command center now in shambles and damage from the attacks eating away at the bases infrastructure, it was no longer possible to control things from a consolidated nerve center. The Colonel had been trying to radio his GURSO commanders via hand held communicators, but for some strange reason, they weren't responding. He suspected that this was because of the electromagnetic interference from Magneto, so instead...He would handle this fight up close and personal.
Even with Magneto, Shadow Cell, and the X-men bearing down on him, the twisted man who had made it his life's goal to see every last one of his enemies, mutant's included, neutralized and eradicated. And if he had to do this with his bear hands...So be it.
However, while the Colonel was making his way down through the ground level, he was unaware of the progress of the two teams as they neared he main research and training facilities. The tremors hadn't gotten any less intense, but they were becoming less frequent for some reason. Maybe it was because the fighting outside had died down or something was distracting Magneto, but that wasn't what was on their minds now. All they could think of now was getting to the lab and finding Dr. Essex.
"How much further till we get to the lab?" said Psylocke, who was following close behind Phoenix and Cyclops.
"We're almost there..." answered Cyclops in response, "And with GURSO being stretched between us and Magneto, we're finally getting a break in the resistance."
"Finally, some good luck!" said Nightcrawler, who felt as though they had faced enough anti-mutant soldiers for one lifetime already.
"Don't get too confident about that blue boy," quipped Phoenix, "That doesn't mean we still don't have resistance to worry about."
"Yeah, we still haven't seen any of the Colonel's elites yet," said Mayhem as he and X23 fired a few quick shots at a couple of lone GURSO soldiers that tried to ambush them.
"Elites?" said Warren, not knowing if he really wanted to know the answer to that, "What do you mean, elites?"
"The best of the best in GURSO," answered Mayhem, "Specially equipped, specially trained soldiers that the Colonel personally oversaw for taking down even the most powerful of mutants. Most of the time, they stay around the innermost areas keeping things secure...And since we haven't seen them yet, it's logical to assume they're still here waiting for us."
"Ugh...More anti-mutant super soldiers?" said Kitty, not liking the sound of that.
"From dis place...What part o' dat is supposed to surprise you, petite?" said Gambit, almost feeling used to the idea given what they had faced so far.
"The Cajun's right," grunted Wolverine, who still had his claws drawn, ready for combat, "This is the big leagues here team...So keep your guard up! Ain't no tellin' what else they could throw at us."
"We've almost gotten used to that idea..." said X23, who seemed to follow Logan's actions as well, keeping her claws drawn in a manner that seemed uncannily similar.
Finally, as they encountered several more GURSO soldiers, all of which fell to a quick lightning strike from Storm and a few slashes from Wolverine and X23, they entered the largest part of the research area, which was actually shaped like a giant doughnut with multiple levels above them. This is where the corridors diverted to main training areas and from there, led over towards the lab. This was usually a place that was bustling with activity form officers, scientists, and GURSO soldiers alike...But now it was eerily calm, bringing to surface many ominous feelings amongst the five mutant soldiers.
"Wow...Is this the research area?" said Warren as he took in the size and scale.
"Yeah...And normally it's one of the busiest places in the whole base," said the Scarlet Witch, "Which is why something doesn't feel right..."
"You're right..." said Cyclops, "I feel it too."
The silence was thick with tension as they all scanned the vast area, looking for any signs of a disturbance or a trap. Everybody stayed focused and ready, not knowing what was going to pop out next. And after what they had faced so far...Anything was possible.
However, unknown to them, there was indeed another presence just outside the room watching their every move...Only it wasn't another huge GURSO ambush or trap. It was only one man armed with a handgun...One man who was determined to see each one of them die. It was none other than the Colonel...And on is way towards the main battle, he now found himself trapped...For in his way lay the very enemies his entire unit couldn't take down. And now that he stood alone against them, the brash and paranoid man once again allowed his raging impulses guide him.
"Oh shit...Oh shit..." he said, feeling short of breath as he gripped the gun in his sweaty hands, "I'm not going out like this...I'm not going to die like this."
Peaking back around the corner he watched as Shadow Cell and the X-men scanned the area. In his mind there was no way out...This was it. It was do or die time. He had been waiting to take down these freaks for too long now...And even if his GURSO unit couldn't hack it, he would not stop fighting. He would see these freaks die if it was the last thing he did.
"Show's over Shadow Cell..." he said to himself as he nervously swallowed the lump in his throat and looked at the unsuspecting mutants with rage in his eyes, "Time to face the music..."
Back with Shadow Cell and the X-men, they remained vigilant...Scanning the area and staying close together so as not to be divided in the event of an ambush. However, the Colonel, despite is powerful mental shields, did not go unnoticed...Namely by Phoenix, who was getting slight traces. And as a rule of any combat tactic...It was necessary not to give the enemy any hints. But that didn't stop her from informing her comrades.
'Guys...' she sent them, 'I think we have a rat in the area...'
'Rat? Who is it?' asked X23 in response.
Then suddenly, before Phoenix could answer, the Colonel came charging out of the darkness with a war cry...His pistol at the ready and aimed directly at the five mutant soldiers he had been tasked with controlling since the onset of the project.
"DIE MUTANT SCUM! DIE!" he yelled wildly firing his gun directly at Cyclops, Phoenix, Mayhem, X23, and the Scarlet Witch.
However, while this did surprise some of the X-men...Shadow Cell didn't flinch in the slightest. And as admirable as the Colonel's determination was...It didn't mean much as Phoenix and the Scarlet Witch diverted each incoming bullet with ease. Nevertheless, the Colonel kept firing...Shooting and screaming like a madman. He barely even noticed that each one of his bullets was deflected away and didn't land a single hit. Yet still...He kept firing and firing...Intent on wiping out those he believed to be mankind's greatest foe.
Finally...As his fury raged on...His gun ran out of bullets and instead of the deafening bang of the deadly rounds, the air echoed with only the sound of empty clicks. It took a moment before the realization hit the Colonel...But as soon as it dawned on him, he raging war cry abruptly fell silent and he watched in horror as he now stood unarmed before the five deadly soldiers that he had ridiculed so much.
"Oh shit..." he said as he dropped his gun and held his hands up in a show of surrender.
The five mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell hadn't been struck at all by any of the rounds. It was an act of sheer desperation and madness on the Colonel's part...An act that he clearly didn't think through as he now stood completely exposed and vulnerable. Yet still...His paranoia and anger pervaded.
"You...You little freaks!" he spat, now beginning to sweat nervously as he gazed back into the cold hard glances of the five mutant soldiers, "You'll never get away with this! I'm still your superior officer and you are still just mere property of this organization! You're still soldiers! You're still subordinates!"
The five mutant soldiers didn't seem affected in the slightest by the Colonel's words. Hell, they barely even heard him. Over the years, all his angry rhetoric was like the annoying background noise to their lives as soldiers. From the earliest days of their training to all their success in each and every mission they took on...This man had been at the forefront of making their lives more difficult than they already were. And now...They finally had a chance to end it. And against a man like the Colonel...It was best not to squander such an opportunity to finally shut this paranoid asshole up.
"Colonel...Sir," said Cyclops as he and the others took a step closer to the noticeably frightened man, "It's been a pleasure serving you...Not!"
And with those final words, the five mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell whipped out their guns and unloaded an entire clip of ammo directly into the Colonel's body...Sending him falling to the ground in a bloody mess. Normally, they would have only needed one shot...But given who the target was, they didn't want to leave anything to chance.
Upon seeing this, some of the X-men got a bit queasy about their actions. They knew Shadow Cell was a pretty hardened team...But even this seemed a bit over the top.
"Damn...A tad excessive, don't ya think?" commented Wolverine as he and the others took in the sight of the now bloodied corpse of the Colonel.
"Believe me, Logan..." said X23 as she and her comrades put their guns back in their holsters, "You have no idea how long we've been waiting to do that."
"Yeah...About time somebody shut that prick up," said the Scarlet Witch in agreement, "He looks better dead anyways."
"Couldn't have put it better myself..." said Phoenix, "Regardless about what you people think about killing...If you knew this guy even half as much as we did, you'd have done the same thing in a heartbeat."
"Bloody hell, I guess we'll never know..." commented Psylocke, still finding the sight of the bloodied, bullet laden corpse a tad disturbing to say the least.
"Well...Now that this prick is out of the way, what next?" asked Mystique, hoping that Rogue wasn't far off at this point.
Then suddenly, before either of the five mutant soldiers could answer, their demeanor suddenly changed once more...Hinting that something was up. But before they could even ask them any further questions...They got their answer in the form of some rather disturbing clapping from the upper deck above.
Instinctively, Shadow Cell drew their guns and pointed it directly at the source...But froze upon seeing who it was as they were once again overcome with shock...For their trusted teacher and long-time mentor, Magnum, was now standing before them. Under usual circumstances, they would have fired upon any possible obstruction to the mission...But this was no ordinary challenge. This was the woman that made them who they are...This was the woman that taught them how to be soldiers. And from the looks of it...She was well aware of this as she took in the conflicted looks on their faces.
"Magnum?" said X23 as they all lowered their guns at the sight of their mentor calmly pacing the upper levels in full view of her students.
"Well done my most prized pupils..." she said as she now stood before both the X-men and Shadow Cell completely unafraid, "You've accomplished what I've been yearning to do for nearly a decade. The loss of the Colonel shall bring few tears...For you know as well as I do that he didn't have many friends."
"Cut de crap lady!" spat Gambit, not looking all that daunted at the sight of the intimidating Russian mercenary, "Where's Rogue?!"
"The girl? She's fine and in good health...For now. But this has nothing to do with her and everything to do with you. I can't tell you how much planning and preparation has gone into this little plan...And finally, after all these years, it's finally coming together."
"Plan? What plan?!" said Mayhem angrily, yet still not able to point a gun at his mentor.
"Why...The plan for you my dutiful students," she told them with a strange grin, which was very uncharacteristic of her to anybody who even remotely knew her.
"For us?" said Cyclops, growing all the more confused, "What are you talking about? Are you're in on this too?!"
"Oh believe me...I've been on this since the beginning," she told them in full confidence, "From day one, I pledged my unbinding loyalty and dedication to this cause. From day one, I fulfilled each and every order I was given by the man behind it all...Dr. Nathanial Essex."
"So you were in on it!" grunted the Scarlet Witch, feeling the sting of betrayal once again from someone she had always trusted in the utmost, "We trusted you in every conceivable way and listened to you preach on and on about things like honor, integrity, duty, and self sacrifice and this is what it all leads up to?!"
"You know...In America, we have a word for that lady...It's called hypocrisy," said Angel, finding this information all the more disconcerting since this woman definitely didn't sound like a nice person to say the least.
"Call it what you will...It is still a part of everything I've taught you my students," she said, not skipping a beat, "Whether or not I deceived you is not the point...I was merely practicing that which I preached."
"Yeah right!" spat Cyclops in response, "You never preached betrayal!"
"No..." she responded in an affirmative tone, "But I did preach something else...Something far more important than any of you seem to be capable of grasping...Loyalty. And in the end...That is why I am here right now...Standing before you as everything is falling into place."
"Loyalty..." said Mayhem, finding this all the confusing.
"Yes...Loyalty to the bitter end," she told them, showing decisively that she had no regrets, "It was I that orchestrated the holes in GURSO's ambush that allowed you to escape...It was I that abducted Rogue from the X-men for use in Dr. Essex's plan...And it was I that deceived you for the sake of conditioning your minds and bodies for this fateful day."
Such words were difficult for Shadow Cell to process. This woman had had been their mentor and teacher since they first arrived and they had always looked up to her and strived to attain the level of focus, skill, and lethality she wielded with such ease and efficiency. But to learn that she had been a part of this...To learn that she was simply answering to Dr. Essex and nothing more...It was all very hard for the five mutant soldiers to take in.
"But...Why?" asked Phoenix, part of her still not wanting to believe it, "Why do something like this? Why spend all this time training and teachings us just to backstab us in the end?"
Magnum continued to pace, the look on her face not faltering in the slightest. Looking back down upon the five young soldiers she had trained so ardently, she was flushed with a mixture of both pride and pity...For they truly had no idea just how grand this momentous plan was.
"It's a difficult story, Phoenix..." she said in response, "One that you will never understand. You see...In nature, organisms live and thrive for one purpose and one purpose only...To leave their mark on the world they lived in...To leave something behind for future generations. A part of our legacy as living things is passed on from parent to offspring...That's how life works...That's how we as life grows and evolve. Yet for some...Life is but a random coalescence of moments...Each moment ticking away, drawing us closer and closer to our doom. And when that time finally comes...There will be nothing left...And within a few generations we'll be forgotten as a mere shadow in the grand course of life."
Magnum's words were wrought with a strange kind of emotion that was very unlike her. It was as these ideas had been coursing throughout her mind for a long time now...Almost as if she was haunted by them in a sense.
"And what does this have to do with you?" asked Cyclops, knowing there had to be a connection of sorts...Given that Magnum always operated within the realm of meaning and purpose.
"This has everything to do with me, Cyclops," she said, her emotions becoming more firm and assertive, as if she was speaking to the world at large and not just them, "Growing up, I cared nothing about the future...Only about the present. All I ever wanted was to be a soldier...The greatest soldier ever to walk the Earth...And I let nothing stand in my way. Years of training and discipline taught me the skills and knowledge that I imparted upon you throughout the course of your training...Yet still, I wanted more. I underwent numerous procedures to make my body stronger and more resilient against normal human limitations...I pumped myself with the best black market steroids money could buy. I became so strong...So deadly...I became everything I had ever hoped for and my enemies came to see that. Yet in the end...My actions came with a most devastating price...One that I did not fully ascertain until many years later."
Shadow Cell stood dazed as they listened to their usually stoic mentor talk as though she was deeply twisted and haunted by this feeling. It was clear to them that this had been on her mind for so long and only now was she finally coming clean about it. Even the X-men couldn't help but find this strange woman intriguing in her words. She clearly had quite a story to tell...And something told them it was closely connected to why she was standing before like this now.
"So many of victims have fallen by my hands..." she went on, the burning intensity of her voice not waning in the slightest, "So many people knew and feared me. Entire countries wanted me dead...Whole organizations cowered in fear at the mere mention of my name. But still...No matter how many challenges I overcame...No matter how much blood I shed upon the world...I could never escape the truth...I could never escape the curse I had brought upon myself."
"Curse?" said Mayhem, not knowing what she was leading to with this, "What curse?"
"The curse of my own actions...The curse that had doomed me to a life destined to be forgotten in the pages of history. Pumping my body full of all those chemicals had made me strong and powerful...Yet as a result, it destroyed my ability to have children...It destroyed my ability to pass my legacy onto the next generation. And no matter how much I kill or how hard I fight...I can never escape it. I was doomed to simply live out what moments I had left in life knowing that I'll wither away into obscurity in the end. But then...Dr. Essex came in and changed all that. He gave me a chance to pass on a legacy to the next generation...Finally allowing me the opportunity to see my genes live on even after I am dead. And all he asked of me was to pledge my complete, unbending loyalty to him and his cause until the very end..."
This moment had been played out in Magnum's head for so long now that it was almost a relief to her now that it was all coming together. Looking back at the five mutant soldiers, she actually felt fulfilled in a sense that she managed to carry out her duties with such remarkable results...Even if they didn't quite understand just how important they were to this whole plan. But that didn't matter to her...All that mattered was that she was finally getting that which she so sorely sought after all these years.
"So that's it?" said Wolverine, not sounding too impressed with this imposing woman's story, "That's why you go through all this shit? Just so he'll give ya a chance to have a kid?"
"Ja, that's just messed up lady!" added Nightcrawler, "And besides, vhat makes you think he'll give it too you anyways?"
"Actually...He already has," said Magnum cryptically.
"What?!" exclaimed Mayhem.
"It's true..." she told them, "In a ways, our paths were strongly linked because he had something I needed and I had something he needed."
"What do you mean?" said Storm, not seeing where this was going, but knowing enough to understand that it definitely had some relevant meaning, "What is it that you had that he couldn't get on his own?"
"Something vital to his greatest plan..." she answered stoically, "Something so vital that it could not have proceeded without it...My genes."
"Your genes?" said X23, not understanding what genes could possibly have to do with it.
"Yes...My genes. It all goes back to the Human Genome Project completed over the course of the last decade. Through this program...Scientists worked to uncover the very makeup of what made human beings who they are. And in the course of this study...It was discovered that there are 40 unique 'soldier genes' that aid in the skills of all warriors. These genes have such things like strength, stamina, and psychological balance to the organism...Giving them a far greater capacity on the battlefield. And as it just so happens...I have all 40 of these genes. And that's what Dr. Essex was after."
"Soldier genes?" said Cyclops, sounding somewhat intrigued by such a notion, "That's all he wanted? But then...How did he give you what you wanted if he just took the information from you genes?"
"Oh no, Cyclops...He did much more than that," said Magnum ominously, "He didn't merely copy the information in my genes and store them...He actually implemented them."
"But...How?" said X23, not seeing how that was possible.
"Simple...By putting them in you," she answered.
"What?!" yelled Phoenix, shocked by this revelation.
Each of the five mutant soldiers suddenly felt a strange feeling in their bodies as their blood coursed through their veins. It was as if they felt something there that they had never realized before...And only now with Magnum were they learning the true story of their purpose. And from the looks of it, there was still plenty more to tell.
"It's true..." she said in a tone that left no room for lies, "How else do you think you managed to gains so many attributes of a soldier so quickly?"
"But how?!" spat Mayhem in response, who had his body violated and altered enough for one lifetime.
"Through the bio-mutagenic accelerator, how else?" she answered, which only served to further deepen the sense of betrayal within the five mutant soldiers, "When you stepped into that machine...You stepped into a new world. And while everything Dr. Essex did to your powers and physiology was fully documented...In addition, there was a little extra work done courtesy of my own flesh and blood. A package these genes from my DNA was instilled within your genetic code and manifested in a way similar to your mutant abilities. In a sense...You now bear my blood...You now bear my legacy. Hate me all you want for betraying you...But you can never escape the truth of that which now flows through your veins."
Scott Summers, Jean Grey, Vincent Freeman, Wanda Maximoff, and X23 now felt a strange, sickening feeling form in the pit of their stomach. The knowledge that such things now flowed in their bodies...Written directly into their genes...Was quite a disturbing feeling. And as violated as they felt from it all...They could not escape the truth in her words.
Such a story also didn't sit well for the X-men, for it was only a further testament to just how demented this woman was. It was clear that she was an enigma in and of herself...But they had no idea she could be THIS twisted.
"Lady...I may not know you on a personal level...But you're sick!" said Angel, finding this whole thing almost too disgusting to comprehend.
"Dat's some understatement, homme," said Gambit in agreement.
"And you all say I have issues..." muttered Mystique.
"Shut up!" spat the Russian born mercenary as her eyes fell upon the shape shifter, "You I'll deal with later...But for now, I am merely here to carry out yet another order."
Such ominous words didn't sit will with Mystique, for upon hearing them she couldn't help but think that there was something strange about this woman that went beyond what they had just found out. It wasn't just her involvement in this instance...It was something else. And the more she looked at her...The more certain that she became that she had seen this woman somewhere before. But while she tried to search her memory banks for any such clues, the five mutants of Shadow Cell weren't done with their mentor just yet.
"Another order?" shot Cyclops angrily, sickened by this whole thing enough at this point, "Is that all there is now? Just your orders from Dr. Essex? Was all that stuff about honor, integrity, and inner strength just bullshit?!"
"No Cyclops...Everything I taught you was true. And in a sense, it's not just what they were on the surface...It's what they were in a deeper sense. I taught you those ideals because it's necessary for each and every soldier to know the kind of things that drive someone into battle. For me...Honor, loyalty, and self sacrifice are in the same context as yours. But at times...Such ideals can become skewed in the pursuit of completing the mission."
"Skewed?" said Mayhem curiously, for he never believed that things as solid as honor could become warped in any sense no matter what the circumstances, "What do you mean skewed?"
"It goes back to what I've always taught you...Loyalty to the end," she went on to say with no regrets and no remorse, "As I've said many times before, whenever you find yourself on a mission, it is necessary to remain unyielding in your loyalty whether it be the orders you're given or the obstacles you face. And for me...I've been on this mission now for nearly a decade. From the moment Dr. Essex came to me...I pledged my unbending loyalty to comply with each and every order...Carrying out every single task he gave me. And even if that meant doing things like betraying trust...Manipulating views...And even burning down orphanages...It was all done through loyalty."
Upon hearing that, Mayhem felt his bones chill. It was a revelation that sent a shock all throughout his system...A shock that drew within him a burning, raging, immeasurable anger. Images of the orphanage going up in flames all those years ago suddenly came rushing back to him...Images he had long tried to cope with. And now...Not only did he find out that someone he had trusted so deeply on so many levels had willingly betrayed him...But she also took from him something he knew he could never get back.
"No..." he said, a look of unbridled anger falling upon his face as he firmly gripped his gun, "You...That was you?! You burned down my home?! And all those innocent kids?!"
"Dr. Essex saw it necessary to rid your life of such obstructions..." she said stoically, showing no emotion even in with the knowledge that she had committed such a heinous act, "Whether it be the orphanage or the old man...It was necessary in his eyes. All I did was comply..."
Mayhem couldn't believe it...He had never felt anger like this before. It was bad enough learning that Dr. Essex, the man who he had respected almost as a father figure, was behind the heinous project that took everything from him...But to learn that he had also been behind the destruction of the only other home he had ever known was just too much. They had taken and given him so much...But in the end it all came down to lies...It all came down to them using him like a mere puppet. It was all too much for the young soldier to take.
"Vincent..." said the Scarlet Witch, quickly placing her hand on his shoulder as she saw his whole demeanor shift.
Cyclops, Phoenix, and X23 also gathered around their distraught friend, feeling his anger from such a devastating revelation, but unable to truly comprehend it even.
"Lady...You are one sick bloke!" spat Psylocke upon hearing about such heinous deeds, "You think you can justify shit like that?!"
"It is not my duty to justify..." she said in an emotionless tone, "It is only my duty to comply. And that's what I did...And that's what I'm doing now."
Such words only further enraged Mayhem as he once again pointed his gun back up at his mentor and teacher. Memories of the life she had taken from him and the world that had come crashing down upon him in his darkest hour haunted him like the shadows of a thousand nightmares. It hurt on a level he could never have imagined. He felt sickened...Betrayed...And used. For so long, he thought he was paying Father Michaels and all those who died in the orphanage homage by joining Shadow Cell. But now that he knew the truth...He understood that he was merely feeding the beast that had taken everything away from him.
Yet even with the knowledge that this woman had destroyed the orphanage that he held so dear...Even with the knowledge of what she did and how she used them...He could not bring himself to pull the trigger. He wanted to so badly...If for anything, to bring justice to the innocent lives she took. But no matter how hard he tried...He just couldn't.
"You have played your part well Shadow Cell..." she told her pupils as she took one more look at them, "Everything you have accomplished has culminated in this very moment. And even though you may dislike me now...That does not change that you are my students. I trained you...I nurtured you...I helped you all become the most powerful soldiers to walk the face of the Earth. You carry a trace of my blood within your DNA...A trace that is now completely part of your being. And even if you do manage to pull the trigger...It will not change the truth."
"No..." grunted Cyclops as anger seemed to consume the entire team.
"You lying bitch!" spat the Scarlet Witch, feeling her powers simmer in a burning rage.
"You betrayed us...You USED us!" yelled X23, who had been used enough in her short life to have it leave a truly deep impact within her being.
"You're gonna burn for this!" yelled Phoenix, engulfing her body in flames, ready to burn this woman who had taught them so much to the bone.
Yet despite this, Magnum didn't flinch or show any signs of concern or fear. She had expected as much from her students and the damage had already been done. There was no turning back now...For she would not falter in her unbending loyalty to Dr. Essex. With all the skills, knowledge, and ideals she imparted upon them...The one that seemed to resonate the strongest with her was simply loyalty...And she would stay loyal until the bitter end.
"I know I'm going to hell...I know I have a lot of sins to repent for. But at least now...I have something to leave behind...I have something that'll live on even after I die. And now that you all know the truth...I have but one final order to comply with. I know there are still many questions...But you'll all find out soon enough. Until then...It has been a privilege teaching you...My students."
"ERRRR! NO!" yelled Mayhem as he quickly ascended into the air and began to speed towards the stoic Russian mercenary that had taken so much from him.
He may not have been able to shoot her...But he sure as hell could beat the living shit out of her. Unfortunately...Magnum seemed all too prepared for this. Reaching into her trench coat, she quickly whipped out a flash grenade and threw it directly at Mayhem's face. And as always...Her aim was perfect and it erupted in a bright flash that blinded and disorient Mayhem while on his path towards vengeance and justice for what was done to him.
"AHHH!" he yelled as he flew past Magnum, missing her by a pretty decent margin.
He frantically began to rub his eyes, causing him to become all the more disoriented as he soon fell crashing to the ground where his comrades quickly came to his aid.
"Vincent!" yelled the Scarlet Witch as she and Cyclops quickly helped the still dazed young man up, who was still disoriented from the blast.
"Mayhem...Are you alright?" said Cyclops as he and the others stood by him to help in whatever way they could.
However, while Cyclops, Phoenix, X23, and the Scarlet Witch were helping their ailing friend...Magnum decided it was time to make her move. She had succeeded in her task...She had carried out her order exactly as was instructed. Now...It was all on Shadow Cell. They still had a part to play...But given that they were students, she was confident in every regard that they would not disappoint her.
"The place is here...The time is now," said Magnum as she began to make her way across the upper deck, "Shadow Cell...The final test is now underway. If you wish to uncover the full truth...You will overcome the challenges that lay before you. The mission is still on...The game is not over. Now...The path to destiny awaits. And whatever the future may bring you from this point on...I wish you all the best...My beloved students."
Then, as she began to make her escape, the X-men jumped into action.
"Stop her! Don't let her get away!" ordered Angel.
Gambit, Psylocke, and Storm all tried to use their powers to stop the renegade mercenary from getting away. Yet a fury of charged cards, psionic blades, and lightning strikes were not enough to hold Magnum back. And before they could even get a hint of where she was going...She disappeared into the shadows.
"No..." said Mayhem, his sight now returning to him as he quickly pulled himself together, ready to fight through whatever he had to in order to avenge the life that had been taken from him, "We have to stop her..."
"And we will!" said Cyclops in a determined tone, "She can run, but she can't hide from us!"
"Then what are we waiting for?!" yelled Gambit, wanting to find this woman almost as bad as Shadow Cell for taking Rogue, "Let's get her!"
Then suddenly...Before they could converge and make their move...A loud, obnoxious voice filled the area from the upper decks where Magnum had just been.
"Whoa...Hold on there kiddies! Didn't your mamma tell you that it's impolite to leave before you're excused?"
Then, as the X-men and Shadow Cell looked up towards the source of the voice, their gaze met with that of Deadpool, Gauntlet, Bullseye, and Omega Red. Like Magnum, they had been given their tasks to carry out...And as any good mercenary, they intended to do just that.
"Who the hell?" said Wolverine, feeling as though he had just walked into a circus sideshow.
"Wow...Talk about your Halloween costumes," commented Shadowcat, thinking these guys looked pretty over the top even by their standards.
"Halloween costumes?" scoffed Omega Red, "Little girl, you have no idea who you're dealing with!"
"Yeah, we're here as a little favor to Magnum!" said Deadpool as he sized up his targets, which didn't look too impressive in his twisted mind, "She said you guys were being naughty and needed a timeout. So we're here to give you all a good spanking!"
"Yeah? You and vhat army?" shot Nightcrawler.
Then suddenly...Out of every single dark corner and opening, a new stream of GURSO soldiers stormed the area. They were bore bigger weapons, more advanced armor, and an overall more deadly aura. They were the GURSO elite...The best of the best when it came to the Colonel's anti-mutant forces. Only now...They were not being controlled by the now deceased Colonel. Now...They were under the full command of Dr. Essex.
Soon, the large, imposing anti-mutant team which outnumbered them nearly ten to one surrounded them on all sides...Their high tech energy guns at the ready. Now the X-men and Shadow Cell were once again faced with overwhelming force...But if this was what they had to go through in order to find the truth...So be it.
"Dude..." said Nightcrawler, his eyes widening at the surrounding force.
"You just had to ask, didn't you?" muttered Cyclops as he and his comrades all took out their guns and stood in full CQC ready stances.
Such a sight only caused the four deadly mercenaries up top to laugh in amusement, for this looked as though it was going to be easier than they thought. Magnum had not been exaggerating when she told them the intricate details of Shadow Cell's function and now they were about to put them all to the final test.
"Now the fun can finally begin!" said Bullseye eagerly as the battle stood poised to begin.
"Got that right, Bullseye..." said Gauntlet with a grin, "And I'm gonna enjoy crushing a few bones."
"Now, now little boy...Remember, no desert until after dinner," said Deadpool in an obnoxious tone, "These kiddies are up way past their bedtime and it's up to us to put them all down for a little nap!"
"Bring it on asshole!" said Mayhem, feeling all the more determined now that he knew the truth and was prepared to fight for it with every fiber of his being.
While the battle was brewing, Magnum continued to make her way back to the lab. It was all coming together...Everything was falling into place. It was only a matter of time now and she had officially done her part...And as always, she had fulfilled it completely. The final challenge was about to begin...And she was confident her students would not disappoint her. Now, her job was done...And the rest was all left to fate.
AN: Well, that's it for now! The action continues to heat up as the veil of lies finally begins to falter! Now Magnum has revealed part of the truth...But plenty of mystery still remains! Do you want to uncover the answers? Do you want to see where this is all leading? Well, stay tuned and you'll see for yourself! The big battle is drawing closer and closer to a climax for the ages and you won't want to miss it! So what do you all think? As always, I urge you to tell me! Send me your feedback via email or post it on the fanfiction website! Thanks a ton for reading everybody and I wish you all the best!
THE ADRENILINE IS PUMPING AND THE ACTION IS HEATING UP! PLEASE REVIEW, FOR THE CLIMAX IS NOW EVER SO NEAR!