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 44: The Truth
The two teams once again converged for what seemed destined to be the final leg of their journey. The X-men sought their friend...Shadow Cell sought the truth...Both of which lay just ahead. They had punched through an entire army of GURSO, blown away the Colonel, and fought four of the deadliest mercenaries in the world. Now...Only one more obstacle remained...Only one more foe stood in their way. He was the man responsible for pulling all the strings...He was the man that had in his hands that which they were all seeking. He knew the truth...He had the knowledge that they were striving to know. And finally...Nothing was standing in their way.
After they converged, they quickly found that the battle was taking it's toll. Some of the X-men were beginning to show signs of injuries. Warren's already tender wings were drooping after being hit with a blast that sent him falling to the ground. He was also holding his shoulder, hinting that's what he fell on. He was leaning on Betsy, who had a rather nasty looking bruise on her head, probably from a blow from the butt of a gun, but it looked as though she fared better because of her ninja skills.
Kurt and Kitty were also not looking too good. Kurt was limping, clutching a wound on his leg where a round had grazed. It looked pretty nasty, but he was hanging in there. Kitty was helping to support him, but she too seemed to be a bit slow...Probably because she tried to phase through those blasters again and it drained her as a result. Plus, she seemed to be clutching her arm, hinting that she may have been hit or caught some shrapnel.
Remy seemed to be keeping up, but there was some blood trickling down his face. That and his uniform was a bit torn up, hinting that there were probably bruises underneath. But he was tough and had endured heavy pain before, and as long as he kept thinking about Rogue. He set it aside. Mystique seemed to do the same, not showing any injuries she had suffered and mainly covering them with her shape changing abilities that helped her heal. She had been in enough situations like this before to know how to deal and for that she had an advantage.
Even Ororo, despite her strong powers, couldn't escape injury. At one point, she was hit with some shrapnel from a GURSO grenade and she was forced to shield her face, allowing her arms to take some pretty heavy bruises. It also mangled her uniform somewhat, but it was nothing she couldn't repair later as she remained strong enough to press onward, choosing to worry about such things later.
Shadow Cell, however, seemed to bear the most battle scars since they led the way. X23's uniform was already noticeably torn up from some of the round she took, most notably the one she bore for Logan. Wanda still had a few marks and gashes from her fight with Bullseye, but they were nothing she couldn't handle. Scott and Jean had the same form Gauntlet, only Jean arm and shoulder were a bit sore and she had a few cuts and scrapes here and there from shrapnel. Scott had all this and more since he didn't have telekinetic shielding powers and his uniform definitely showed it with some of the gashes he got from shrapnel and bullets, but he knew such things would heal. Their enhanced bodies would take care of that. Vincent's invulnerable form kept him from showing marks, but his uniform was practically mangled from some of the shrapnel and rounds he took for his comrades.
But injuries aside, they could worry about those later. Right now, they had only one thing and one thing only on their mind...Dr. Essex.
"Come on, X-men! Hurry!" urged Cyclops as he and his comrades led the others down the hall towards Dr. Essex's lab, "The lab is just up ahead!"
"And are you sure he's there?" asked Storm who was staying close to the front along with Wolverine and Mystique.
"Positive..." affirmed Cyclops in a confident tone, "Trust me...There's no other place he could be."
"Good enough for me," said Mystique, still holding her Patriot in a ready position for anybody who dared to slow her down, "As long as this prick still has my daughter...There's not a force on the planet that can keep me from getting her back."
"Don't worry, Ms Darkholme..." said Mayhem from just up ahead of her, "If I know Dr. Essex like I think I do...She's probably right there beside him in some form or another. If we find him...We find her. Plain and simple."
"You consider THIS plain and simple?" said Shadowcat, already feeling short of breath from all the running and still struggling to hold Kurt up as he kept limping.
"What? Honestly, how many times have we told you guys that this wasn't going to be some cake walk?" said Phoenix, ready to take whatever Dr. Essex had to throw at them next.
"Yeah, you're in the big leagues now, X-men," added the Scarlet Witch, "This is the world of lies, trickery, and deceit that we live in...Either it kills you slowly and painfully...Or it makes you stronger than you ever thought possible."
"Man...De things I do for, Rogue," mused a very sore Gambit, remaining determined not to let ANYTHING stand in his way from getting her out.
"I hear you, mien friend..." said Nightcrawler in agreement, still limping along the way, "But the sooner ve get her out...The better."
"Right...But just be ready for anything," said Cyclops as they neared the final security doors, "If there's one thing we've learned from spending nearly a decade in this place...It's that Dr. Essex has a knack for deception."
With those words in mind, they prepared to knock down the final door separating them form their final goals...Only, what happened next was something that even surprised Shadow Cell. This time...They didn't need to blow down the door or force it open with brute strength...This time, it simply opened. There were no codes entered...No keys used...It just opened without provocation.
"What the?" said Wolverine, immediately growing suspicious.
"Wow...That was convenient," said Psylocke.
"Too convenient..." grunted X23, knowing that there had to be more.
"Right...Keep your guard up guys," said Mayhem, holding his gun in one hand and the sword of Mr. Kansuke in the other, "Something tells me we're expected."
Slowly and carefully, the two teams entered the vast lab area...And much to their surprise, it was completely silent. Unlike the rest of the building, the lab was deep within the structure of the base and ran on an independent power supply, so it wasn't affected by the tremors or the power surges from the battle outside with Magneto and Asteroid M. But that only made it more likely that Dr. Essex was here...He was just hiding behind a veil of lies as he always had.
Deeper and deeper, they made their way into the lab which was usually swarming with over a hundred people. And for Shadow Cell, it was a strange, if not disturbing, feeling to have it so quiet. They were expecting some sort of trap to be sprung at any minute...But with ever step they took, no such traps were activated. Yet still...That didn't stop the chilling feeling they got in their bones with every inch of progress they managed to make.
"Man...Am I the only one not totally creeped out by this place?" said Nightcrawler, thinking they had already been here too long.
"Don't worry...You're not alone," said Angel, thinking they were walking right into a horror movie of sorts.
"Yeah...I'm officially wierded out," said Shadowcat, "But I'll bet Beast would have a field day with this place."
"No kidding..." said Psylocke as she looked around at some of the machinery throughout the lab, "This stuff looks pretty advanced."
"Yeah, I feel as though we've either walked into a nightmare or we've stumbled onto a movie set for some creepy Sci Fi movie," said Nightcrawler.
"All of you be quiet!" shot Cyclops from the front, wondering how kids like this could have survived this long in the peacekeeping game, "There's no telling what Dr. Essex has done here!"
"Homme...Look around," said Gambit, getting impatient, "Dis whole place is deserted!"
"Don't assume the obvious with this guy, Cajun," said the Scarlet Witch in response, "Trust us...This guy is full of surprises."
"Well Gambit don't see no surprises yet," he said, looking around, thinking they were just wasting time while Rogue was somewhere suffering, "An' besides...Y'all said yourself, dis guy is one tricky homme. What's to say dat he's even here and not somewhere far away so he can..."
However, Gambit did not get a chance to finish his sentence as what happened next pretty much shocked all of them into silence. At first they hadn't seen it...But as soon as they crossed a certain point, an invisible infrared barrier was broken and a hidden trap was sprung.
In a blinding flash...A wall of translucent blue light shot up from the floor from hidden projectors...Creating an impeneratrable barrier right down the middle of the lab. It had been activated in a way so that the X-men and Shadow Cell were now completely separate.
"Shit! I knew it!" said X23, her keen senses detecting the sensor only after it had been broken.
"Damn! What is this thing?" said Wolverine as he tried to punch through it with his claws with no successes.
"Electromagnetic binary fusion powered translucent energy barrier..." said the Scarlet Witch, knowing all too well what this was.
"And in English that would mean?!" said Psylocke angrily as she frantically tried to punch her way through the barrier with her psionic blades
"It's a very powerful shield..." she responded simply, trying to use her hexing powers to break it with little success, "It's designed to imprison even the most determined foes without fail."
"Wonderful...Then how do we break it?" yelled Mystique, not wanting something as insignificant as an unbreakable barrier to stand in her way from saving her daughter.
Just then...A familiar voice came from out of nowhere to answer the shape shifter's question.
"You can't..." it said, immediately prompting the two teams to freeze as they scanned the area for the source of such a voice.
For Shadow Cell...It was a voice they knew all too well. It was a voice they once took so much comfort in over their years as soldiers...Now, it made their skin crawl with bitterness and anger. And upon hearing this voice...They knew right then and there that their quest to find their former mentor was over...And this was where their mission would end.
"Welcome my children...I've been expecting you," said the voice of Dr. Essex in it's usual calm, collected manner.
"Essex!" yelled Mayhem, firmly gripping his gun and sword, ready to tear into this man who had taken so much from him, "Show yourself!"
"Why...I'm right in front of you my child...Can't you see me?" he said, further confusing the five mutant soldiers.
Then suddenly...The area before them became wavy and disoriented. It was like a strange haze that distorted the light around them...And upon seeing this, it quickly dawned on them just what had happened. And just as they had feared...They had walked right into a trap.
"Holograms..." said Cyclops bitterly, sick of the lies, "I should've known."
"Yes, you should have..." said Dr. Essex in a taunting voice as the holograms continued to fade, "But I can't say I blame you...You'll find that I have a knack for deceiving both enemies and friends."
Then, as the images disappeared, Shadow Cell and the X-men gasped at what they saw. Now...Instead of empty, deserted lab...In front of them stood an ominous, elaborate machine with Dr. Essex casually standing beside it as if he had been simply waiting for them. Shadow Cell recognized parts of it as being the bio mutagenic accelerator...Only now it looked as though it had undergone quite a few enhancements. But what really made it stand out in the eyes of both teams was not the seemingly incomprehensible complexity of such a machine...It was the sight of the unmoving body in one of the tubes that really made it a truly ghastly sight.
"Rogue!" exclaimed Mystique as she pounded upon the barriers with her fists, letting out grunt after grunt of anger, "You son of a bitch! Wait till I get my hands on you! I'll..."
"Easy Mystique..." said Dr. Essex over her rage, "Your child is alive and well...For now. But unfortunately, I need her..."
"No! You sick bastard! Let her go!" shot Gambit, who seemed to be following Mystique's example as he frantically pounded upon the barrier alongside Nightcrawler, who was equally horrified at the sight of his unmoving sister floating unconsciously in the tube.
"I'm afraid that's not possible..." said Dr. Essex as he casually approached his proud creations, even as they had their guns pointed directly at him, "Her presence is necessary for this most glorious of moments. And if anything...You should be proud. For young Rogue here is about to become the medium for the greatest evolutionary step life has taken in the last three billion years."
"Proud?!" exclaimed Nightcrawler, "You kidnapped my sister you asshole! You're crazy!"
However, this didn't phase him in the slightest...Instead, he simply let out an amused laugh. Even in the face of the five deadly soldiers he had trained so ardently and the group of super powered mutants that looked ready to tear him limb from limb...He was not afraid. For he knew he was holding all the cards now. Everything was in place now...His machine...His creations...Everything. He had waited a long time for this moment to come and now it was finally upon him.
But for the five mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell, it was anything but momentous.
"You son of a bitch..." grunted Mayhem with unbridled anger and rage, "You lied to me! I know the truth now! It was YOU who was behind Prodigy! And you lied to me! You lied to us! You USED us!"
"So...You found out about Prodigy," said Dr. Essex, his face contorting with a disgruntled look.
"Found out?!" he shot in response, "You were behind the one thing that took everything from me! My name...My childhood...My family...EVERYTHING! And you never told me! You lied to me!"
He hadn't anticipated him knowing this and it did somewhat unnerve him because he was hoping to save that little tidbit for the very end. But as disconcerting as it was, it didn't really affect his plans...After all, it wasn't like it would change the course of destiny.
"Yes...Indeed I did, my boy," he said in an unrepentant tone, maintaining a stoic look on his face, "But it was but a necessary lie to maintain."
"So it's true..." said the Scarlet Witch, feeling her powers simmer with rage, for she had heard so many stories about that heinous project from Mayhem over the years that she couldn't help but feel angry as well, "You really were behind it...And you never told us."
"You lied to us..." said Cyclops, keeping his gun pointed squarely at the head of the man that had been like a father to them all, "You killed all those innocent children...You used us...Why?!"
Even with the five powerful mutant soldiers standing before him with untold rage, Dr. Nathanial Essex paced about them as if he had nothing to fear. It was a strange, if not disturbing sight to both sides...But that's exactly what he seemed to be going for. In his mind...It was already over and no matter what his creations did, they could not change their destiny.
"I sense you have plenty of questions my children..." he said in a taunting tone, "You have been living under a veil of lies for so long that you are confused. Your world has been turned upside down and nothing is as it once seemed. And now...You seek the truth. This is your mission, is it not? To discover that which has been so earnestly kept from you all these years?"
The five mutant soldiers were silent for a moment...Not knowing what to do or think in this situation. They had been on countless missions before when they wouldn't have hesitated to pull the trigger and end it right there. But this was different...This was no ordinary mission. No...This was something much grander...Something they could have never imagined. Only Dr. Essex knew...Only he could possibly shed some light on their world. And for that reason...He knew they couldn't shoot him.
"But...Why?" said Phoenix, "Why did you do this? Why did you lie to us?"
Dr. Essex once again let out a slight chuckle upon hearing such words. It was just as he had predicted...It was just as he had foreseen. He needed no telepathy or foresight...Only intuition to understand what his most coveted creations sought in this late hour of their most glorious stand. He had been pulling all the strings up to this point...He had been making all the rules. And now...The final step of his greatest plan could finally come to pass. And for his creations...It was finally time they learn the truth about their destiny.
"My most glorious creations..." he said to them, his voice brimming with pride and joy, "You have no idea just how much you mean to me. You have no idea just how much you mean to this world. In the years since I came into your lives, you've seen first hand just how corrupt this world is. You've seen that it's all one big power struggle where the uppermost echelons of power impose their unyielding will upon the masses. They have bathed the entire planet in lies...From the dawn of civilization to the pinnacle of the modern era, mankind has done nothing but bring lies and deceit to this world."
"And what makes you any different?!" growled X23, "You're just as much a liar as the rest of the world!"
"Ah...But you see, there is one key difference in my case," he said with a sinister grin, "For you see...The lies I tell are not in the same manner that the rest of the world operates. You know how it works...One group imposes their lies on society...Another group disagrees with them...Therefore, one group confronts the other and the stronger of the two survive and retain power. That's how it's been done over the ages...From despotism to democracy...That's how the world works. Only an elite few hold the power to impose such rule onto the innocent masses...But at long last, the ignorant minds of the world can finally break their chances of bondage and be truly free once and for all!"
Dr. Essex's tone was wrought with the anticipation, excitement, and idealism that had driven him for so long. Nobody...Not even his creations...Could possibly understand the dream that he had held so dear all these years. He didn't expect them to go along with them...But at this point, it wasn't like they had a choice in the matter.
"Mister...I don't mean to interrupt a madman when he's on a roll, but...You're crazy!" yelled Angel through the barrier, "You are in serious need of medication level crazy!"
"Am I?" he questioned, not skipping a beat in this most glorious of moments, "Is it crazy to want to free the world from living in a perpetual power struggle? Is it crazy to want to end all war, suffering, and ignorance to the innocent masses that live their day to day lives in a world of lies?"
"And how is using us as your guinea pigs going to do that?!" shot the Scarlet Witch in response.
"Guinea pigs?" he said with a laugh, "You think this whole deceit means that you are guinea pigs? Oh come now my children...I thought I raised you better than that."
"Could have fooled me with all the shit you put me through when I was your little lab rat back in Prodigy!" grunted Mayhem in response.
"Indeed..." said Dr. Essex, not forgetting about the finer points for a second, "While my intentions may seem just...I cannot deny that some of my methods were indeed barbaric to some extent."
"Barbaric! You kidnapped innocent kids, stuck them in a cage, and watched them all die slow, painful deaths right before you eyes!" yelled Mayhem, his voice brimming with the pain and sorrow that still hung so strongly over his fragile being.
"It was a high price for the necessary data..." he said simply, showing little regret for his actions, "But for the success it brought...I'd pay it gladly many times over."
"Success?" said X23, growing all the more confused, "How can something that killed everybody who was a part of it be considered a success?!"
"Because...It was through that project that Shadow Cell came to pass in the first place," he answered cryptically.
"What?!" said Mayhem, growing increasingly confused by these revelations.
"But...How?" said Cyclops, not wanting to believe what he was hearing, but his instincts just kept telling him that there were no lies in these words.
"It's true my children..." he told them in a wise, almost caring tone, "The suffering of those children is what allowed this most glorious organization to come into being in the first place. At the time, the world of biotechnology stood upon a new threshold...One that could lead to a wealth of new discoveries for man and mutant alike. Yet so many of the higher ups throughout the world were too spineless and cowardly to pursue such advancements. They were too busy fighting each other to maintain their precious power...So I simply had to make due with what I could through both government and private investment. And it was through this that Prodigy was born. Even though the experiments were primitive and the side affects were detriment...It was a necessary step to take for the sake of advancement."
"But at the expense of all those kids?" said a horrified Storm.
"You fail to see beyond the horrors..." he said in response, "Yes...I used those kids for scientific data...And yes...Almost all of them died as a result. But consider this...At this very moment, there are nearly half a billion children throughout the world suffering in the same manner as the children of prodigy. They may not be guinea pigs...But that doesn't make it any less horrific. They live in filth...Tortured by their own poverty that they were born into. They live in fear...For their rulers are willing to oppress and starve them to death for the sake of maintaining their precious power! At any given time, nearly a thousand children die every day as a result of such poverty, famine, and oppression...And I ask you...Would you weep the same tears for them as you would the children of prodigy?"
It was a rather unexpected card for Dr. Essex to play...But it showed both teams that he knew his stuff and wasn't ashamed to show it. There was no regret...Yet there was a reason behind such horrors...A reason they could not grasp. In the mind of Dr. Essex, they were still too young and naÃ¯ve to see things his way...But in the end, that would not matter.
"That's not the same!" shot Mayhem in response, refusing to believe that.
"Is it?" he questioned, "Come now Mayhem...You should know better than that. Both you and your comrades have been to every corner of the world. You've seen first hand the suffering that many innocent people go through...Both children and adults alike. You see them robbed of their freedom, their hope, their livelihoods...Everything! And yet do you weep for them? No! You only weep for yourself!"
The venom in Dr. Essex's words stung...For no matter how much he hated Dr. Essex for putting him through the hell that was Prodigy, there was no denying his words. He had seen the true face of the world time and time again...And often, it made him reflect on his own hardships...But rarely did it cross his mind in this manner and Dr. Essex seemed to know that. However...Shadow Cell refused to be silenced by mere relativisms.
"That still doesn't give you an excuse to cause the same suffering!" said Cyclops, keeping his gun pointed at him.
"You may think that..." he went on, remaining unafraid of his creations malice, "But consider this...Because of Prodigy, I got the data necessary to create the bio mutagenic accelerator...The very machine that made you all so strong. And it was because of the success brought to me by that one advancement that Shadow Cell was born...Created out of the ashes of Prodigy, Weapon X, and every other project before it. Everything else was a work in progress...But Shadow Cell was a work of art. And because of the power I gave you and the training you underwent...Millions of lives were saved. The whole world was saved! Do you not remember all the suffering you helped alleviate because of what you did as soldiers of this glorious organization? Do you not remember all the good you bestowed upon the planet as a result of my actions? Without Prodigy...There would be no Shadow Cell. And without Shadow Cell...Many innocent people, children and adults alike, would have suffered and died. Was the price of those children worth the price of millions of other children and their families?"
The five mutant soldiers didn't respond...For they couldn't think of a way to respond to such questions. Was the price of some human lives worth the price of many? Did the ends truly justify the means? Their hearts told them no...But their minds kept reminding them of what they had seen on the battlefield. The images of pain, suffering, and sorrow that they were so hardened to were not lost upon them and the lives they had saved could not be easily forgotten.
Yet still...They resisted. They didn't want to believe what this man was saying no matter how idealistic it was. But Dr. Essex was far from finished.
"You still used us..." said the Scarlet Witch, breaking the silence, "You still lied to us! Sugarcoat it all you want, it doesn't change the truth!"
However, once again Dr. Essex found a great deal of humor in such words...Humor that only made him seem all the more sinister. Then again...That was kind of what he was going for as he remained unafraid of his most prized creations.
"The truth..." he said, still laughing, "The truth, you say? Everything I've told you should help you understand one thing...And it is herein where your precious answers lie."
"Oh yeah? And what is that?!" grunted Phoenix, not seeing how anything he said could keep them from pulling the trigger.
"The truth is only relative..." he told them simply, "It is not a matter of content...It is a matter of context."
"Context?" said Cyclops, seeming just as confused as the rest of his comrades.
"Yes..." he said, feeling as though he was finally getting through, "There's an old saying...The meaning is in the message. Yet in the way that you interpret it...It's only the message that counts...Not the meaning."
"And what meaning could possibly overshadow everything you've taken from me and everything you've done to us?" shot Mayhem in response.
"Why...The very meaning of what both Shadow Cell and the X-men stand for...Peace," he answered.
"Peace?" said Psylocke, "What do you mean peace?"
Dr. Essex once again moved back towards his proud machine, which would be the very medium for which everything on this glorious day would culminate. This was where the meaning truly resided...This was where the lies would end and the truth would finally prevail.
"Just look at the world..." he said to both teams, his idealism running so strong now that he was so close, "Humans...Mutants...All they do is hate, fight, and inflict great suffering upon the planet. Whether it's through the destruction of the environment or through the suffering of the countless masses all throughout the world...There is no end to such incessant conflict. Shadow Cell was a part of it...Seeking to prevent conflicts before they began. And in every manner of speaking...They succeeded time and time again. The X-men are in the same boat...Abet a smaller scale. But they all remain the same...Seeking to overcome the incessant fury of war and suffering and open the whole planet to a brighter future. However...Fight as you may, such battles are in vain...For they shall never truly accomplish that which you so sorely desire. And do you know why that is?"
"I got a feeling we're about to find out..." grunted Wolverine distastefully.
"It's because both man and mutant are still animals at heart," said Dr. Essex, making sure he emphasized this point, "The Human Genome Project at the turn of the millennium revealed that the difference between man and ape is less than three percent genetic material. Yet through that mere three percent...We get things like art, culture, music, and intellect. Only three percent...Yet at the same time we retain things like hatred, intolerance, and greed. It creates the cycle that has played out time and time again all throughout history...One group oppresses and the other resists. There is no end to it...Only more conflict. And on this most glorious of days...That conflict shall finally end! The days of mankind's blight upon the world is finally at it's end!"
"And just how do you plan to do that?" said X23, not knowing whether to think of this guy as a madman or a freedom fighter.
"Why...With this very machine that you see before you," he said as if to revel in the glory of what he had created, "Over three billion years of life...And this machine shall be the medium to accomplish that which so many eons of time could not create. What the bio mutagenic accelerator enhanced...This machine shall evolve. In this machine...Millions upon millions of years of evolution shall pass within the span of a few short moments...Evolving the specimen within to a new state...A higher functioning...A new being. It has taken decades of blood, sweat, and tears...But it is finally here...The moment of evolution is finally at hand. What you five underwent in the bio mutagenic accelerator was the first step. It was designed to enhance your bodies to the utmost level so as to prepare you for this momentous step...However, your enhanced features was not the only thing I needed for my glorious machine. There was still so much more I needed in order to create the perfect life form that would inherit this planet."
The five mutant soldiers remained silent as Dr. Essex ran his hands over the glowing bio tank that would be the womb for which the most advanced life on Earth would be born in. Even the X-men didn't say anything this time as they listened to this twisted, yet obviously idealistic man go on. And he definitely had plenty more to say.
"If there's one thing that studying life had taught me, it's that DNA can only make up so much of a being," he began, his voice turning to one of musing, "Life is so much more complex...Human life in particular. There are things like culture, beliefs, and emotions that set each and every human being apart from the other. At first I sought to eliminate such things, for I didn't think that it was necessary for life to thrive. But I soon learned that not only is it necessary...It is vital. And if I were to create the next dominant form of life for this planet...I would have to find a way to preserve the best such virtues had to offer...I would need a template for which this new race of beings would build off of. And that, my children, is where you come in..."
"Us...Why us?" said Mayhem, wanting so badly to make this man pay for all the suffering he had inflicted upon him, yet still wanting to hear the truth behind everything that had led to this point.
"Because my children...You embody everything I've been striving to preserve," he told them, speaking with unabated pride, "You embody all the ethics, emotions, morals, and values I wish to pass on to this new dominant race. Things like honor, compassion, love, creativity, perseverance, patriotism, loyalty, integrity, honesty, and above all...Heart. The emotions and values for which you hold so sacred are the embodiments that I wish to pass on...From the special bonds you share to the emotions you treasure...It is all a part of that which I wish to pass on."
Upon hearing such words, both Cyclops and Phoenix looked to one another...Thinking back to what he had said about love. Since that fateful day they laid eyes upon one another...There had been a true connection between them. And after having gone through the bio mutagenic accelerator and persevering through all the hardships of training and missions, that bond had grown into something truly profound. They shared such a powerful love...A love that so often brought them comfort in their darkest hours. Yet here they were now...Learning that such love was seen by this man as merely an ingredient for his plans.
Both Vince and Wanda's gaze fell upon each other as well...Not quite knowing what to think about such a revelation. While they always struggled to get such things out in the open...They never once denied that they shared something special. Whether or not it was love wasn't the issue for them...It was merely expressing it that had been so difficult given all the loss and sorrow they had suffered in their short lives. But to learn that such emotions were mere tools of this...Man...It was definitely a hard pill to swallow.
"I allowed each and every one of you to feel..." he went on, knowing from the reactions he was getting that he had struck a chord, "I allowed you to experience emotion when so many others sought to suppress it. Whether it be the stolen glances or amorous gazes that you so often exchanged...Such things were necessary. And then...There were the discrete little visits that I allowed you."
"What?!" said Cyclops in response, once again gripping his gun firmly.
"You knew about that?!" said Phoenix, feeling her pyrokinesis brimming beneath the surface of her skin, "How?!"
"Oh please...Don't underestimate my intelligence my children," said Dr. Essex with a slight chuckle, "It was obvious from day one...In fact, I encouraged it. I knew you two would share a bond...One that would aid in the preservation of that which I sought to pass on with the final step. And while your bond was expected...The one between Mayhem and the Scarlet Witch was quite a bonus."
"Bonus..." said the Scarlet Witch, her eyes widening with shock as both she and Mayhem exchanged conflicted looks.
"Indeed..." said Dr. Essex with a grin, "Although it was something I never planned for since Cyclops and Phoenix provided much of the necessary tools...I have to admit, it was quite an extra to have another prime example of the complex emotion known as love. And because of your growth along with all the other emotions you learned through the course of your training...Such things shall be preserved and built upon with the next species that shall arise from this glorious machine. It was only a matter of finding the kind of beings that would best carry on the greatest aspects of humanity."
"And that's why you wanted soldiers..." said X23, now beginning to see the meaning behind the message, "That's why you focused on us."
Upon hearing that, Dr. Essex couldn't help but smile...For his creations truly had come a long way since that fateful day they first joined. Now here they were...Finally confronted with the truth. And as much as they had wanted it...It still proved to be a very hard pill to swallow.
"Smart girl..." he commented as he once again paced fearlessly before the angry, battle hardened soldiers before him, "And you are correct...That is exactly why I chose soldiers. For what better way to create the next dominant species than to use the obedience, duty, and honor of soldiers? This was the true purpose of Shadow Cell...One that I so eloquently kept from the rest of the organization."
"So it was never the rest of the team to begin with...Only you," said Mayhem, once again growing bitter over this man's manipulative nature.
"Indeed..." he affirmed without remorse, "The rest of those simple minded fools could never have fully ascertained the true majesty of what I was trying to do. All they wanted was something to preserve their power...All they wanted were pawns to carry out their wishes."
"Yeah? And what makes you any different?" shot Mystique in response, thinking this guy was definitely a few beakers shy of a chemistry set.
"Why...My intentions, of course," said Dr. Essex, remaining as calm as ever, "The rest of the spineless officials here sought only to control and use...Yet I sought to nurture and teach. Together with Magnum, who so graciously provided for me her unbending loyalty and her genes, I created the pinnacle of human perfection. The most powerful soldiers ever to come into existence...So driven, so loyal, so compassionate...They would be the mediums for which to carry out my dreams of evolution. The rest of the organization from the General all the way to that incessant Colonel you so generously took care of for me were mere puppets in aiding me towards my ultimate goal. They provided the tools...I provided the know-how...And it is through this culmination of events that everything shall fall into place."
It was all starting to make sense now...It was all starting to dawn upon the five mutant soldiers. All their confusion...All their anger...All their unanswered questions...They all seemed to be falling into place like the pieces of a puzzle. It brought out so many conflicting emotions within them...On one hand, it was taking their beliefs and values towards helping the world to the extreme...On the other hand, it made them feel so used. They weren't sure how to feel...Only their anger drove them. But they refused to yield...For they were still soldiers and they would NOT back down from the mission. Yet still...there was more to be said...There was more they had to know.
"Events..." said Phoenix, now beginning to see the big picture, "You mean all this shit we've gone through from the Brotherhood, to the X-men, to Magneto was all planned?"
"But of course..." said Dr. Essex with a grin, "And you all followed the script flawlessly as I knew you would."
"But...Why?" said Cyclops, still unable to pull the trigger of his gun.
"For many reasons," he answered, "You see...In order to make my glorious machine work, I needed a source of power great enough to carry out my wishes. And the ancient stone that Magneto had upon Asteroid M was perfect for the job. It was only a matter of letting him find it for me and taking it when the time was right..."
"And that's why you helped him..." said Mystique, also beginning to see the meaning behind this man's lies, "That's why you aided him all those years ago."
"Exactly..." said Dr. Essex with a grin, "You were all pawns...Each one of you following my will whether you knew it or not. And it is through these events that turned the organization against you and brought the X-men and the Brotherhood into this matter that has led to this final step in my glorious plan. And now that you're all here...You can partake in this truly momentous day. My beloved children...From the moment I found out about you, I sought to have you as the centerpiece for this wondrous plan. And with Magnum's help and unyielding loyalty in carrying out whatever it was I told her to do, I managed to bring you all into this glorious organization through your own will. Now...You will be the first, but most certainly not the last...To undergo the final step in evolution. The most important step in evolution since the first cells crawled out of the primordial soup of early Earth...And it is finally upon us. You, along with every other mutant on the face of the planet, will go through this machine and be evolved to a truly higher level. And from this new race, proceeding generations of your offspring will supercede the rest of the raging masses...And through the power of evolution, a new Eden shall arise...One dominated by peace, love, culture, ideas, progress, and equality. You may think my actions to be heinous...But is it really so heinous to wish such things upon an ailing world? Is it really so barbaric to dedicate years of toil to such a profound goal?"
Once again, both the X-men and Shadow Cell were unable to answer such questions. It was strange...Yet it sounded so right that it was practically tearing them up inside. Peace...A world without the suffering that they all knew so well...It was truly an enticing prospect. Yet still...There were so many things about what this man was saying that just made their skin crawl. It may not have been the content that was disturbing...But the context that truly set it apart.
And in order to uncover such hidden meaning...There remained but one more question that had to be answered before the five mutants of Shadow Cell finally got their much needed truth.
"And what of the rest of humanity?" asked Mayhem, still not forgetting all the horrors this man put him through, "What about the other six billion souls that inhabit this planet? What's going to happen to them?"
Once again, Dr. Essex merely laughed...For this was the point where he was certain the final straw would arise. It was only a matter of judgment and conjecture...For he knew his creations all too well...And it was only a matter of preparing for such a reaction.
"Why...The same thing that always happens in the scheme of evolution," he answered cryptically, "Survival of the fittest..."
That did it...That was the final piece to the puzzle...That was the straw that broke the camel's back. Shadow Cell finally had their answers...They finally knew the who, what, where, when, why, and how everything had happened. From their recruitment, to their training, to the betrayal of the organization...It all made sense now. It was all from this man...This enigmatic character that sought so much change upon the world that he didn't care what lengths he had to go to in order to get it.
His intentions seemed noble...But his methods were downright sick. And now here he was...Letting them know the full scope of his plan. He didn't just want to create a new species to dominate the planet...He wanted to create a new species that would wipe out mankind. It was a plan that was truly, deeply sinister in every context of the meaning. They knew this...The X-men knew this...And from the looks of it, Dr. Essex knew it as well. And because of this...The five mutant soldiers couldn't allow this to go on any longer.
"HRRAHHHHHHH!" yelled Mayhem as he unloaded an entire clip of ammo directly into Dr. Essex's body, the years of painful memories finally coming to ahead.
The young mutant who had experienced so much loss and sorrow, mainly as a direct result of this man's intervention, couldn't take it anymore...He couldn't take this truth. He had put him through hell...Just so he could use him and the others for his own plans. Mayhem's actions surprised even his comrades...But what happened next completely overshadowed that.
Once Mayhem ran out of ammo in his gun, the young mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell and the mutant peacekeepers known as the X-men expected this man to fall dead. He hit him with several perfectly aimed headshots, riddled his chest and face with bullets, and kept firing until he was out of ammo. But to the shock and horror of them all...This man did not fall.
His 'body' absorbed the bullets as he was made of some protoplasmic mesh. There was a strange hissing noise as his body seemed to react to each shot with pretty much no effect. It was as if he was made of a strange, liquid metal...Looking like something right out of Terminator 2. And by the time his body reformed with no ill effects, harmlessly passing the bullets out of him as if they were nothing...He was once again smiling triumphantly, for he knew that his creations had just learned the final truth.
"Impossible..." said Angel as he and the rest of the X-men watched from behind the barrier with unabated awe.
Dr. Essex just laughed at that word as he took in the bewildered expressions on the face of his coveted creations.
"You all truly have no idea who you're dealing with..." he said as he took a step closer, causing the five mutant soldiers to back up slightly, keeping their guns at the ready, "You think me to be just some madman who has taken science to a level all but incomprehensible to your feeble minds. Yet I am so much more..."
"Yeah...You're a freak!" shot Mystique in response.
"Freak?" he said with another round of laughter, "Look who's calling who a freak."
"Why you!" the angry shape shifter said as she once again pounded on the barrier, trying to get through and tear this...This man apart limb from limb.
"You all consider yourself to be 'special' because of your mutant powers...Yet I am so much more than that," he said with a grin that would have made anybody's skin crawl, "You look at me, and you see a seemingly mundane, middle aged man standing before you...But I am MUCH older than that. I am over 150 years old...I was born at the time when modern science itself came into being. In a sense...I was born into my work...And I believe that it was my destiny from day one to see evolution to his full power. I met Charles Darwin...I shook his hand. And from that day, I knew what my mission was in life...I knew what I was destined to do. And now...Over 150 years later...It has finally taken shape."
"Errrr! No way!" yelled the Scarlet Witch in response, her eyes now glowing with her hexing powers simmering just beneath her skin.
"You son of a bitch!" shot Mayhem, still driven by his anger towards whatever the monster was before him, "I don't care what mutant powers you have! I'll rip you apart with my bear hands if I have to!
"Ha!" scoffed Dr. Essex, obviously enjoying the reaction he was getting, "Go ahead and try my most dutiful creation. My body would simply reform. You see...Many years ago, I conducted countless experiments to study and test this newfound power that was science and evolution. And having no test subjects back then, I simply used myself...And the results were quite intriguing to say the least. In the end...It gave me the power to control every single cell in my body, allowing me to rework and restructure it any way I see fit. And because of that...I do not age...I do not eat...I do not sleep...And I never tire. But you five should already know that. I am in every meaning of the world...An immortal."
The five mutant soldiers were in a state of pure shock...For this man...This being who they had all looked up to as a father figure since the day they were first recruited...Was so much more than they ever could have imagined. It was bad enough that he had used them...But to learn that he was this enigmatic, yet subtle man was this force...It was just so difficult for their minds to process. They had faced so many powerful forces before. They had gone up against entire armies and the kind of power hungry madman that people make movies about. But this...This was far was the worst.
"You're crazy!" said Cyclops in a low, threatening tone, "You're fucking crazy!"
Once again, Dr. Essex merely laughed...For such a reaction was not a shock to him. Then again...It wasn't like it mattered.
"Oh that's where you're wrong, my boy..." he said with a penetrating grin, "Stupid people are crazy...Me, I'm eccentric."
Then suddenly, before the five mutant soldiers could even begin to react, Dr. Essex his a button on a remote control that he had been palming since before they had even arrived. And the next thing they knew...A paralyzing force was sent up throughout their bodies, causing them to yell out in pain as they dropped their guns and stood helplessly before the raging madman before them.
"AHHHHHHHHH!" they all yelled as yellow sparks shot up from the floor below them.
Looking down, they saw that they had been standing on a special electro-paralysis plate...A little invention Dr. Essex had kept in cold storage for just such an occasion. Some, like Mayhem, Cyclops, and the Scarlet Witch tried to use their powers to combat the device...But the effects of the plate were specifically designed to prevent that, using a dampening field that kept them from using their mutant abilities to any useful level and sent wave upon wave of pain through their bodies, making it next to impossible to concentrate.
Upon seeing this, the X-men once again tried to do all they could to break through the barrier. Kitty tried to phase through it, Kurt tried to teleport past it, and Wolverine tried to tear it apart with his claws...But Dr. Essex's power dampening technology and super strong energy defenses made that all but impossible. He watched with an almost amused look on his face as both the X-men and his creations struggled against the traps he had so eloquently laid out.
He made sure that there was no escape. This was it...This was the final act. His creations were finally ready to fulfill their density. Whether they liked it or not, they would be the saviors of this planet...They would be the first, but most certainly not the last to lead this world upon the path to a new Eden...A new everlasting peace. And NOTHING was going to stop him.
"You dirty, lying, freak show son of a bitch!" yelled Wolverine as he and the others kept pounding upon the barrier to no affect.
"You're not going to get away with this you crazy bloke!" yelled Psylocke, who kept trying to slash through the barrier with her psionic blades.
"Gambit's gonna tear you a new one you sick fuck!" yelled Gambit angrily as he kept trying to blow open the barrier with wave after wave of kinetically charged cards.
Dr. Essex's grin merely widened as he stepped forward towards his now paralyzed creations and the raging X-men. The look on his face was something right out of a nightmare...Enough to make even the bravest of souls falter. The five mutant soldiers kept crying out in pain as the paralysis field kept them contained and helpless while Dr. Essex stood before him...Ready to show them one last secret before the real party began.
"Yell at me all you want...Hate me with every fiber of your being...But it will do you no good," he taunted as he stood poised and confident before both teams, "There is no going back now. You all will eventually succumb to the power of evolution. You may think me mad...You may think me evil...But believe me my most ignorant friends...You don't know what true evil is."
Then...In an act that horrified them all in a way nothing else ever had before...Dr. Essex's body began to shape shift into a new form. His usual lab coat and evenly toned skin gave way to a strange, metallic black body armor that covered him from head to toe and his skin turned as white as a ghost. His teeth became like the fangs of a monstrous beast and his whole body grew as if it were suddenly pumped with steroids. But what made this act on a level that was truly horrifying were his eyes...His blaring, glowing, bright red eyes with a small jewel like object on his forehead that gazed back at the two mutant teams like a monster from the darkest of depths.
And in the eyes of each and every mutant, X-men and Shadow Cell alike, they believed that if evil had a face...This would truly be it.
"Oh my...God!" gasped Kitty, almost throwing up the last five meals she had eaten right then and there.
"Merde..." said Gambit as he and many of the others fell back in horror.
"What...Who..." stammered Storm, not knowing how to accurately describe this horrifying sight.
While the X-men fell back in terror, the five mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell could do nothing more but take in this ghastly sight. For as of now...The kind, encouraging, honorable man that had helped make them who they were was officially gone. And in his place was a true monster. Their screams of agony soon became muffled with screams of anger and shock. The looks on their faces were now wrought with a new sense of horror the likes of which they had never felt either on or off the battlefield. It was the most horrible of feelings...The worst possible acts of betrayal and deceit.
Yet there was nothing they could do to fight it...There was nothing they could do to overcome it. And Dr. Essex knew this.
"Now, my creations, you see my true form!" he proclaimed in a voice that would have put the weak into a coma of horror, for the final moment was finally upon them...And there was no turning back, "The final step in the evolution of life is upon us! Three billion years of progress and at long last, the power of life can finally be tapped and unleashed in it's full glory!"
"You...Sinister...Bastard!" yelled Mayhem through the blinding, paralyzing pain.
However, this just made the immortal being smile once more...For this truly was the end. And if his most prized creations were to fulfill their destiny as he had eagerly prepared them for from the beginning...Then they at least deserved to know his true name. Nathanial Essex was dead...And he had been dead for a long time. Now, in the shell that was once mere flesh...A new being stood before them, ready to complete that which he had started all those years before.
"That's Mr. Sinister to you my boy...And don't you ever forget that name. For as of right now...It is the only name that matters. Your time has finally come Shadow Cell! Your destiny awaits! You should all take comfort in the role you will play in the ultimate game of evolution. Because once the sun rises on this most glorious of days...A sinister new beginning shall finally arise!"
AN: I know it sounds clichÃ©d, but...DUN DUN DUN! It's all coming down to this folks! Sinister's true face has finally been revealed! And now, Shadow Cell is helpless to fight against him and so are the X-men! The secrets are out...The game is over! Now, nothing stands in his way of finishing that which he started. Is all hope truly lost? Stay tuned to find out as this fic reaches its stunning climax! It's been a long, hard road for both teams. but it's definitely not over yet! So what do you all think? Has it been a good ride so far? Please tell me! Send me your reviews via email or post them on the fanfiction website! Thank you all very much for reading and I wish you all best!
THE ADRENILINE IS PUMPING! THE MOMENT OF TRUTH IS UPON US! REVIEW BEFORE IT PASSES YOU BY!!!