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 50: Dawn of a New Day
In the early hours of the morning at the Xavier Institute, many of the institute residents remained fast asleep after a truly exhausting day...One that had resulted in them gaining insight into a world they wished they hadn't as well as five new students, the likes of whom many still had mixed feelings about. The sun wasn't even up yet as dead silence dominated both the outside and inside of the mansion. The battle against Shadow Cell had left them all so tired and battered that nobody really had any plans to get up for whole day. However, for a few restless souls, even this level of exhaustion couldn't keep them down.
In his room, Logan grumbled in his sleep as he so often did. Most of this was just jargon, but there were some coherent words and phrases. It was something the former living weapon had grown used to over the years. He suspected that it was just an unfortunate side affect of having most of his memory wiped and it was his sub conscious messing with him, but that didn't make sleep any easier as he eventually tossed and turned his way into full alertness.
"Damn..." he muttered as he sat up in his bed, still tired, but unable to sleep, "4 AM and I still can't sleep...Fucking great."
Grabbing a couple of cigars, Logan decided to try and smoke some of his troubles away. Throwing on a light jacket, he made his way out of his room, keeping as quiet as possible as he walked down the halls of the still sleeping residents that he had sworn to protect. Part of him thought it was kind of redundant because after last night, it would probably take a nuclear bomb to wake them up.
But despite this, Logan stayed quiet out of habit as he walked down the darkened stairs and made his way over towards the back entrance that led to a balcony overlooking the pool. However, as soon as he stepped out, he was greeted with a most unexpected sight.
"What the..." he began, but he didn't even give himself a chance to finish as he looked out over the balcony.
Out in the distance before him, standing upon the soft grass just north of the pool were the five mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell...Wide awake, in full uniform, and completely alert. Last night had been the hardest on them by far, yet they were still up as the disciplined, driven soldiers that they were.
They were all doing what looked to be tai chi exercises combined with CQC style moves. They went through several motions, each of which they had learned and perfected over the years and each of which was designed to hone and perfect their fighting skills on every level. Their movements were fluid and synchronized despite their tattered uniforms and it looked as though it were as natural as breathing to them. They were also doing unique breathing exercises coupled with intense focus, which were clearly exercises designed to strengthen the body as well as the mind. They all moved together as one, as if they were all the same body and the same mind. Never before had Logan seen such discipline and dedication.
In addition to their movements, they also had their guns still in hand, which were pretty much as much a part of them as their limbs in their eyes. Their knives were with them as well and occasionally, they took them out to do a quick stabbing maneuver, showing that they still had the soldier instinct that had guided them through so many missions. And holding this whole bit together were the terms and sayings that their drill sergeants had drilled into them like prayers, which echoed clearly through the early morning air for Logan to easily hear.
"Semper fi! Do or die! Gun ho! Gun ho!" they all said in perfect synchronistic as they used the rhythm and sound of those words to help them organize their motions, "I am a soldier! I am a warrior! I fight for my country! I fight for my honor! I will overcome my enemy and kill him before he kills me! I will never surrender! I will never give up! I am a patriot! I am fighter! I am a soldier!"
Logan stood mesmerized by their words and actions as he lit one of his cigars and watched the institute's newest recruits live and act as though they were still in the military. Even after everything they had been through and all the betrayal they suffered at the hands of Sinister, the Colonel, and the organization that brought them together...They still lived in the mind of a soldier.
But from Logan's point of view, it wasn't just out of habit. It was as if these exercises and sayings helped hold them together. It was as if these motions gave them clarity. He saw how distraught they had all been last night. Yet now, as they went through the exercises that had helped make them so strong, it looked as though they were ready to take on every terrorist in the world.
"He who dares, wins! He who fights, triumphs! Nothing will stand in my way! Nothing will keep me from overcoming the enemy! All else is irrelevant! The mission is key! The mission is life! We are soldiers! We are warriors! We are, and shall forever be, Shadow Cell! Defenders of our country! Defenders of our honor!"
And with those final words, the five mutant soldiers seemed to complete their ritualized exercise, once again helping them attain the mindset that had brought them so many victories in the past. However, now that they were no longer with Shadow Cell and surrounded by a new world, such a ritual seemed to have a different context within their young, tormented minds.
Even though they had no schedule or training plan laid out for them, Scott Summers, Jean Grey, Vincent Freeman, Wanda Maximoff, and X23 still remained in the world of warriors...Forever bound by the discipline, principles, and virtues that had been instilled on them for so long. Part of them still expected one of their drill sergeants to barge in at any moment and start yelling at them, setting into motion the usual practices that they had grown so accustomed to over the years. Yet it never came. And all they could hear now was silence...Complete and utter silence.
"So...What do we do now?" asked Wanda as she and her comrades took a moment to absorb this strange new feeling of not being bound or regimented by the military anymore, "What the hell do we do now?"
That question seemed to hang over each one of them as they simply looked out over the lake, which was still bathed in moonlight. Normally, this is what they did. This is how they lived. They woke up early, trained, exercised, went on missions, came back, got whatever rest they could, and did it all over again the next day. Every aspect of their lives was regulated from the moment they awakened to the moment they went back to sleep.
There had always been very little down time for them and even during those moments, their actions were still heavily regulated. But now, everything had changed...Everything was different. And after years of living under the whim of the military, it was a lot for their young minds to process.
"I guess...We don't do anything," said Scott as he and his comrades stood silent as they took in the silence around them, "No training...No yelling...No planning...Nothing."
"This is definitely going to take some getting used to," made X23.
"Tell me about it," said Vincent in full agreement, "We've all been living the lives of soldiers for so long that I honestly don't know how else to live. Even with the betrayal and lies...Here we are."
It was a surreal feeling for all of them, not living surrounded by GURSO soldiers and not having every single aspect of their lives regulated. They were civilians now, living life under their will and not the will of others. And while many would have found that many times more appealing, to the five mutant soldiers, it was...Strange, to say the least.
"So what's going to happen next?" said Wanda, still feeling as though her question had not been fully answered, "Usually, this is the part where we learn what we're going to do for the next 36 hours."
"I know. I keep expecting Magnum, the Colonel, or one of our drill sergeants to appear at any moment and start barking orders," said Jean, finding this to be almost too awkward for her.
"And I think that feeling will stay with us for a while," reasoned Vincent as he let out a deep sigh, "I guess...We'll all just have to adapt to this new life."
"Yeah...I know," said Scott in response, not sounding to optimistic about it, "But something tells me it's going to take lot of work to get used to this new world."
Silence once again fell over the five mutant soldiers as they continued to stand out near the cliff overlooking the lake. Logan also continued to watch them, casually smoking a cigar and remaining eerily entranced by what he had just seen. As strange as it was to see a team of soldiers that were still trapped in their military mindset, part of Logan saw a great deal of potential in that. It was only a matter of seeing how they all learned and adjusted to their new surroundings. And if what Logan had seen was any indication, then he had a feeling that they were going to be just fine.
Down in the institute infirmary, the sterile halls remained silent under the florescent glow of the blaring light. Hank, the resident doctor, had turned in for the night after an exhaustive preliminary physical of the two most heavily injured victims of the mission...Rogue and Mystique. While Rogue was nowhere near as beaten and bruised as Mystique, Hank and the Professor wanted her to stay in the infirmary in case any mal effects from her presence in Sinister's machine showed. She had already passed out from exhaustion on the ride back and was still fast asleep, but luckily...She wasn't alone.
In the room just across from that of Mystique, Rogue had been resting comfortably in a bed on through the night. And sitting in a chair right next to her was a sleeping, Remy Lebeau, who had not left her side the entire time. For the most part, the Cajun had been fairly restless, drifting in and out of sleep, wanting to be awake for when Rogue finally came to.
But eventually, his own exhaustion caught up with him and Remy feel asleep. The gentle hum of the machines that were keeping a close watch on Rogue's condition were the only sounds echoing through the room. And while Hank had assured Remy that Rogue was in no apparent danger, that didn't stop him from worrying. That Sinister character was a real monster and had shown that he had a knack for deception. And if anything were to happen to Rogue as a result of what was done to her, then Remy would never forgive himself.
He was there when she was abducted...He had failed to protect her when it mattered most. That fight with Magnum still resonated strongly in his mind and part of him kept telling himself that if he had managed to keep that crazy gun toting psycho away from her, then maybe things wouldn't have gotten so messed up. But there was no changing that now. The damage had been done and there was nothing more for either of them to do other than to move forward from here.
Remy had been in a deep sleep for a good four hours after having slipped in and out of consciousness at first, but he managed to get what rest he could after such an exhausting night. However, such rest was not to last, for even in his deep sleep, it took only the sound of a tired, gentle voice to wake him up and bring him back to the world of the real.
"Remy..." came a soft, nearly inaudible voice from Rogue's tired form.
Quickly, Remy managed to pull force himself out of his drowsy state as he opened his eyes to see the beautiful gaze of his southern belle laying right before him. And if his eyes were not playing tricks on him...He could have sworn that she was smiling at him.
"Hey dere, cherÃ¨," he said, smiling down at her as he placed his hand over hers, which was still covered by her gloves.
"You...You stayed," she said, obviously still a bit groggy from it all.
"O' course Remy stayed," he said in response, "Ya don't really think dat I'd let you wake up in dis cold bed here all alone, do ya?"
That got Rogue to smile as she managed to give his hands a slight squeeze, but her grip was still a bit weak from her exhaustion. It may not have been much, but it spoke volumes to the both of them as they continued to smile.
"How...How's Mystique?" she asked him.
"She's still out cold. But Hank an' de Professor says she should be okay, so don't worry...She's in good hands."
It was still a bit odd to find herself so worried about Mystique after everything she had done to her and the X-men. But with her head no longer wrought with only bits and pieces of coherence and old memories once again coming to the surface, she had something she hadn't had before with her...Clarity. But despite this, she was still in no condition to confront them and she damn well knew it.
However, with Remy by her side, it wasn't all bad. In her mind, he was still the swamp rat that so often flirted with her, but after seeing just how worried he was for her, she was beginning to see that what they had was something so much more.
"Remy..." she managed, once again finding exhaustion catch up with her.
"Rogue?" he responded, seeing that there was clearly something she was trying to say, but not quite able to get the right words out.
"Thank you...Thank you for bein' there for me."
Such words helped warm the young Cajun's heart as he smiled back down at her and rose her hand up slightly so he could give it a reassuring kiss.
"Anytime ma cherÃ¨."
"Please...Stay with meh," she said, her eyes slowly closing once again.
"Don't worry...Remy's not goin' anywhere."
And once more, the two mutant youths feel into a deep sleep, taking comfort in the feeling that this was truly the dawn of a new day.
Across the hall from Rogue and Remy, Kurt had also been drifting in and out of sleep throughout the night as she stayed by the bedside of his injured mother, Mystique. She was still out cold, heavily bruised, and was littered with bandages all over her body. He too hadn't escaped injury, having suffered numerous bruises and an ankle that he had to keep in a cast. But that was nothing compared to what Mystique had suffered. And while he was assured that her shape shifting healing factor would help her recover fairly quickly, it didn't take away from the pain she had been in.
The list had been fairly lengthy...Four cracked ribs, a collapsed lung, internal bleeding, a dislocated shoulder, and numerous bruises and wounds all over her blue skinned body. She had truly been in a world of pain, but she was still alive. While many of the others still remained suspicious, there was just something about her actions that had spoken to him and Kurt couldn't forget that as he went over many of the grim details in his mind.
She had risked everything to save them. She had betrayed Magneto, gone up against Shadow Cell, and fought Magnum to the death. And all along the way, she endured so much punishment...So much pain. Nobody, except for probably him and Shadow Cell, believed her. And even after seeing what she had gone through, he could tell that many still didn't trust her.
But hat didn't matter to Kurt. This was HIS mother. This was the woman who gave him life. Regardless of what she had done in the past, there was no escaping the fact that her blood flowed in his veins. And now that she was here, so broken and torn, it left the young man to ponder where it would all go from here.
He had no idea what time it was or even how long he had been out, but eventually he gave up trying to sleep and found himself simply focusing on his wounded mother. Looking down at all the bandages still riddled upon her body, Kurt couldn't help but shutter at the kind of pain she was in. It was a true testament to her tenacity as a fighter, but it was also a painful reminder of the world she had been a part of.
In his mind, he found himself going over some of the memories of what she had done in the past from when she had tried to recruit Rogue through deception to when she first revealed to him their connection as mother and son. At first, he remembered how difficult it was for him to get around being the biological son of one of the X-men's greatest enemies. It had been hard even looking at the others after that.
But every time he thought back to it, he didn't simply remember the fight that so many of the others held onto...He remembered the words she had spoken and the look upon her face. She hadn't told him out of obligation or out of her own interests...The attack from the Brotherhood could attest to that. But despite the shock of such a revelation, so much had remained unsaid...So many questions had been left unanswered.
But now that she was here, maybe he could finally learn the truth. Maybe she could finally say to him what she had been unable to say that fateful day. And maybe...Just maybe...There was hope for them.
"You vent through a lot of pain for us..." he found himself saying, even though the shape shifter was still clearly unconscious, "But...That didn't even matter to you. Your own vell being didn't even cross your mind."
Kurt then found himself taking his mother's limp hand and holding it gently in his. She may have been out cold, but that didn't mean he couldn't lend her what comfort he could when she was in such great need.
"You helped save Rogue...You helped save me...And you knew this vas going to happen to you. You knew that Magneto vas going to kill you. But you vere there for us...You vere really there for us vhen ve needed it most. And even though so many of the others don't believe you...Even though nobody really trusts you...I vant to be there for you...Just as much as you vere there for me last night. You're still my mother...And I'm still your son...That much neither of us can change. And I promise you...I vill make sure that ve have our chance."
Even though she was still unconscious, Kurt found himself smile as he felt the warmth that was still in Mystique's hand, hinting to him that she would wake up eventually. And when she woke up, they would definitely have a lot to talk about.
Back in the upper levels, the sun was finally starting to rise over the horizon. It was still fairly dark out, keeping most of the institute asleep for the most part. However, the five mutants of Shadow Cell remained restless. Even after having woken up in the still darkened hours of the morning to do their usual routine that they were so used to, that still didn't set their minds at ease. This was all just so new to them...Not being in the military and having to go through all the rigors that came along with their training. In many ways, it was a great shock to their system. They truly had no idea how to go about their day now. There was no training to worry about or mission to prepare for...So what more was there for them to do?
After having stood out over the lake for a good hour or so, the five mutant soldiers eventually returned to the mansion and went back to their rooms. They didn't know what else to do at this point. They couldn't sleep. Being in the military for nearly a decade had practically trained the need for extensive sleep out of them. And since everybody in the mansion was still so tired from the mission, there was no one for them to associate with...No one for them to turn to for any such clues on how to go about their lives here.
Eventually, they all ended up getting a feel for their new rooms, looking over everything that it had come with and already thinking of ways to organize it, given that such traits had been drilled into them over the years. Overall, the rooms were definitely a step up from the bland, featureless rooms they had back at Shadow Cell that more closely resembled cheap college dorm rooms. For one, there were actually windows to let the sunlight in, the walls were neatly wallpapered, the closets were at least three times bigger, there was actual carpeting on the floors, and the sheets on their bed were actually soft.
Yet despite this new feeling of comfort, it just didn't feel...Right, for lack of a better word. They just couldn't get around the idea that they weren't going to be living the lives of soldiers anymore. Sinister may have used them and the Colonel may have hated them, but they still remembered what Logan told them just before they left the base forever. Everything they had felt...All the pride and accomplishment of having saved so many innocent people over the years...That was still theirs. The pride of being a soldier, a warrior, and a patriot was still with them and it would always be with them no matter what.
But now that they were living at a school, trying to adapt to civilian life again, it would be strange not having that feeling of going out on a mission, carrying out each and every task they were given, and saving the innocent from destruction. Yet at the same time, there was also the desire to take back what was taken from them and rise above that which Sinister had made them into. They didn't want to be tied to the past. They wanted to move forward.
With the sun just beginning to peak over the horizon, Scott continued to lay back on his bed, simply staring up at the ceiling. He didn't even try to go to sleep. Like the rest of his comrades, they just weren't used to sleeping in or having any more rest than what they needed to function. And given their advanced bodies, they required a lot less sleep than the average person and they had gone days at a time with none whatsoever. So instead of sleep, Scott attempted to merely relax his mind, using some of the many techniques they had learned over the years from Magnum and the mind/body specialists that had helped them gain control over their powers.
Soon, Scott found himself in a trance of deep focus as he regulated his breathing and streamlined his thoughts. But try as he might, he just couldn't set his mind at ease. This environment was too different...This whole world was too different. How were he and his family ever going to adapt to something like this?
He was tempted to go back over towards Jean's room and stay with her for a while, but they had both agreed that it may not be a good idea to have the elders catch them together in the same room. But then again, that was still their Shadow Cell mentality talking since that's what they had always done in the past. They didn't know Xavier's policy towards such practices, but they simply did what they were used to...Even if it meant remaining tied to the rules of the past.
While Scott was trying to rest his mind, Logan had decided to get up early after having managed only about an hour more of sleep. And since he already knew their newest students were up, he figured he might as well greet them to show that this wasn't a hostile place that they needed to be weary about. Naturally, he started with Scott's room, which was the first one to the right. And without thinking, he opened the unlocked door and stepped in to see what the young leader was up to.
"Mornin' Cyke, how..."
Then suddenly, before he could even take a step inside, a lifetime of training and instinct kicked in for the young leader and he immediately reached under his pillow and pulled out his loaded gun and pointed it directly at the intruder.
"Hey! Hey! What the fuck?!" cursed Logan as he suddenly found himself staring down the barrel of a gun and pushed it out of the way as he stepped in, "What are you doing?! Put that damn thing away!"
As soon as Scott's mind caught up with his actions, he quickly ascertained what had happened and lowered his gun.
"I'm...I'm sorry sir," he said, keeping a stoic demeanor as he so often did before superior officers back at Shadow Cell, "I just...It was impulse, that's all."
"Yeah, I can see that. But why the hell are ya keepin' a loaded gun under your pillow? This is a school, kid! Not a freakin' war zone!"
"I always sleep with a gun under my pillow," he answered bluntly, "And so do the others. We've been doing it for years so we could be ready at a moment's notice to face any kind of threat. It was a part of our training."
Logan only responded with a deep sigh. He found himself rubbing the back of his neck as he felt himself so graciously reminded just how complicated something like this would be. They were all still in a soldier's mentality. Their minds just couldn't leave the battlefield because that's how they had been trained. And Logan knew from personal experience that there was no way to truly 'untrain' a soldier.
"Look, bub..." he began, his tone now calmer and more collected, "I know this is a big adjustment for you and your buddies and I know that it's really hard to break old habits, but ya gotta start tryin' at some point. Ya can't treat everything like the military. This is a school."
"Yes...I understand," said Scott obediently as he set his gun aside.
Logan had a feeling that this was only going to be one of many problems when it came to getting these experienced soldiers out of their mindset. And so far they were off to a hell of a start.
"Well, I just came to tell you guys that breakfast is in a few hours and the Prof wants to meet with ya before then. There are still a few things we gotta discuss before we make your stay here official."
"Okay, sir. I'll tell the others," said Scott, knowing he had messed up, but keeping his poise before his new superior.
"Good...Cause I don't wanna start my mornin' by seein' a bunch of guns pointed at me. Just be sure to tell them what I just told you and keep the gunplay to a minimum," said Logan as he made his exit, thinking to himself that he was off to some start today.
Once Logan was gone, Scott fell silent again as he sat back on his bed and took a few deep breaths, feeling a bit overwhelmed with what had just happened. Even with the discipline and drive of a soldier, he just couldn't get himself off the battlefield. He just couldn't escape the life he had embraced for nearly a decade. He knew he and the others were going to have to alter their mindset a bit, but it was sure to be a difficult task at best.
Later that morning after Scott had relayed the message to the others, the five mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell met in Xavier's office. Logan, Ororo, and Beast were also present, wanting to keep the atmosphere informal and non-threatening. Yet despite this, Scott, Jean, Vincent, Wanda, and X23 kept with their collected, poised demeanor. In their minds, Xavier was their superior officer and out of habit, they kept a respectful stance to show their loyalty and obedience even though this was no longer the military.
They were quiet, focused, and concise...Aspects that Professor Xavier, and the rest of his staff for that matter, weren't used to dealing with. After having managed teenagers for so long, they were just so used to the youthful rebelliousness that they so often entailed. But for these special cases, it was very different.
"Well first of all, I'd like to say good morning to you all and thank you for meeting me at such an early hour," began the Professor in a calm, friendly tone.
"With all due respect sir, we're very used to such hours," said Vincent.
"Yeah, last night was probably the longest time we've been allowed to sleep in nearly eight years," added Jean.
Such information was a bit startling for the Professor and his staff, but he was quick to get around such details as he decided to cut right to the chase.
"Well I hope you learn to take advantage of some of the new freedoms you'll have here at the institute. You must remind yourselves that this is not the military anymore. This is a school and you're no longer required to follow the strict regiment that I'm sure you're all used to. Here, we have scheduled sessions, but we all try to be flexible with them so each student can learn with their best possible aptitude."
"But Professor, we can already control our powers easily," made Wanda.
"That much I am not concerned about," replied Xavier, "You all have already shown that you have a remarkable mastery of your mutant abilities. But at the same time, there are other aspects beyond that of mutation that my school stands for. Here, we not only help young mutants with their powers, we also provide them an education."
"An education?" said X23, finding some of this a bit unfamiliar due to her lack of experience in the real world, "But we have that too. We were all taught standard and advanced academic skills back at Shadow Cell."
"Yes, I suspected as much. But here, it's a bit different. When I talk about education, I am referring to the kind which people pursue for a career, job, or passion. Now I'm sure you all have plenty of aptitude in an academic sense, but I don't believe you've had any real experience in education by choice."
The five mutant soldiers couldn't deny that. Choice was almost a foreign word to them after having endured the Shadow Cell lifestyle. Now here they were with the opportunity to have the kind of freedoms that they so often fought for and defended. But while this did have it's appeal, it was still quite alien to them.
"We've...Never really been allowed to make choices before, sir," said Scott, keeping his tone respectful and poised, "Our whole lives have been dedicated towards the pursuit of mastering the battlefield and all aspects of combat."
"Yes...And to a great extent, I'd say you succeeded in that regard. But now that you're not in the military anymore, you have a chance to go a different route...That is, if you all want to."
"Oh believe me, sir...We want to," assured Vincent, "It's just...I don't think I can ever forget about being a soldier. It's who we are...It's what drives us. And personally, I don't think I could even function without it. I know it may sound a bit strange given what we had to go through and all, but...We are soldiers...Plain and simple."
Such words gave the Professor plenty to think about, for he had absolutely no experience when it came to issues like this. Looking back at them, he could see that they were all still the dutiful soldiers that Shadow Cell had created. They still bore their now tarnished uniforms, guns, and knives as if they were ready to head off into the thick of a war zone. And they still bore the obedient, loyal mentality that had been drilled in them since day one of their recruitment.
In many ways, they were stuck in such a mentality, but part of them still wanted to be stuck like that. They still had their pride and their honor...That much nobody could deny. It was all a matter of effectively using those attributes to help them function in this new life.
"I understand, my boy..." he told them respectfully, trying to sound as though he wasn't talking down to them as a usual officer back at the base might have done, "And believe me, I have no desire to make you forget that which has driven you so hard over the years. I believe that you should always take pride in who you are. Looking back at you now, I can see that you are all still proud soldiers. And I believe you have every right to be proud with everything you have accomplished. You all have saved so many innocent lives and you must never forget that. Even with factors such as Sinister and that Colonel, you should all hold your heads high for that which you have accomplished. It shows that you are truly noble souls at heart...And that is why I believe you deserve help."
It was a bit odd for the five mutant soldiers to hear such praise from someone who wasn't the General or Dr. Essex. And at the same time, it helped lighten their tense demeanor a bit since they had initially been concerned that the Professor would want them to relinquish their title as soldiers now that they were in his walls. Yet thankfully, he was willing to compromise and had no intention of going down the same roads as the stern, demanding officers that they were so used to dealing with.
"Thank you sir, we really appreciate that," said Scott respectfully.
"Think nothing of it my boy. I mean ever word of it. And please...You don't have to address me or any of your instructors for that matter as a superior officer. We are not your superiors. We are you teachers."
"Yeah...We know," said Wanda, "But that's just what we're used to doing. We were always taught to stand with poise and respect before our elders."
"Well then that definitely puts you a step up above some of the others around here," commented Logan with a grin.
"Oh hush, Logan," said Ororo with a slight laugh.
The lightheartedness of their words did help the five soldiers lessen their stiff poise a bit, but they still remained adamant about showing respect and obedience to their new elders. It was definitely a bit awkward for the Professor since he was not used to being seen as some infallible superior to a group of mutant soldiers, but that was just one of the many things that they would have to work around.
"Well in any case, I appreciate and honor your respect," he told them in response with an approving glance, "But don't forget that now you're out of the military, you have new freedoms to enjoy. That means you can go out, socialize, and choose what to do with your time here. Granted, there are rules, but I have great confidence that you will abide by them."
"Of course we will, sir," assured Vincent, knowing just as well as the others that rules would be key for them since their lives had been so strongly governed by them over the years.
"But rules aside, there are still plenty of other formalities that we must handle in order to make the best of your experience here."
Then, the Professor proceeded to take out a few folders from his desk. Inside, there wasn't much except a few papers. But these papers were all blank and had no writing on them whatsoever. They were standard identification papers...The kind that everybody who weren't super secret soldiers had. The five mutant soldiers recognized them clearly and knew their importance, but it was also a bit of a strange sight for them since they were just so used to living as shadows.
However, with the diligent work and vast resources of Professor Charles Xavier, he hoped to help them with that.
"As you all are clearly aware of, none of you officially exist," explained the Professor as he showed them some of the blank papers, "I tried doing a few extensive searches for any personal data of yours from the past that might still be archived, but unfortunately I was unable to find any such information. Each one of you is either listed as dead or never having existed in the first place."
Hearing that was a harsh reminder of sorts, but it was a feeling that they had grown used to over the years. And it was for that reason that becoming official in a legal sense evoked some strange feelings within them.
"I was unable to find any birth certificates, medical records, or any such information. Whatever Shadow Cell did to erase your pasts, they did so with complete and utter efficiency."
"Yeah...That's what they do best," muttered X23, knowing all too well that it was pointless to try and get any real data on them since they worked in the world of black ops.
"Indeed..." said Xavier, not arguing the point, "But aside from what they erased, that doesn't mean that it isn't salvageable. One of the first things I intend to do is create a paper trail for each one of you."
"Sir...I don't mean to speak out of line, but are you sure that's wise?" asked Jean, "If our names suddenly appear in public records, then I'm sure that wouldn't go unnoticed by the government. As far as they're concerned, we're still a national secret."
"Yes, I understand that. I'll just have to work around such issues. I may have to pull a few strings, but this needs to be done if the five of you are to be allowed a chance."
"But sir...Doing that could give the government a reason to go after you," warned Scott, knowing all too well how the government operated.
"That's a chance I'm willing to take," he said confidently, "If you all were willing to risk your lives to save one of my students, then the least I can do is take my chances at returning the favor."
Such words spoke volumes to the five mutant soldiers, who had no idea that this man would be that willing to go out of his way to help them rebuild their lives. They knew that there was a huge risk associated in getting involved with them. For all they knew, the government was still after them, not wanting to let their most powerful unit be lost.
And since the government usually got what it wanted, Xavier was really putting his neck on the line for them. It was a rare show of compassion from someone that they had once deemed a potential enemy. The only other person to even remotely show them the same honest sincerity was the General and they had no idea where he was now. It helped put Xavier in a new light for them. He was a man who was truly willing to help those who could not help themselves.
"That's...Very kind of you, sir," said Vincent gratefully.
"Think nothing of it. You're my students now and as such, it is my job to ensure that you have the same opportunity that everybody else enjoys. That means things like a home, education, and the freedom to aspire to become that which you want to be."
"But...How are we going to fit into a life like that?" asked X23, not knowing if it was possible for them, "We're soldiers. How can we ever learn to live the lives of civilians?"
"That ain't a question anybody can answer right off the bat, kid," said Logan, stepping in with this one, "Soldiers or not, ya still deserve a chance and a choice. Now that doesn't mean that we expect you to know what to do with your lives right at the moment, but we want ya to have everything ya need to pursue it once ya know."
"I'm not sure if we can ever know," said Wanda, not feeling too optimistic about it since she couldn't see herself living any other life other than that of a soldier.
"Hey...Sometimes ya just gotta have faith," he told them, earning him a slight smile from Ororo, "Just take it one day at a time...You'll find what you're looking for."
"Indeed," said Beast in agreement, "For you would be surprised just how many others at this very institute have pondered those exact same utterances...Myself included. But as wise men so often say, even a thousand mile journey begins with the first step."
"Well said, Hank..." said the Professor with an approving glance, "And for the time being, we must simply take it one step at a time. I'll try to get a paper trail, but that means you'll have to lay low for a bit."
"Don't worry...That's something we're all very good at," assured Jean, "Hell, it helped us spy on you guys before."
"That's...Reassuring," said the Professor, feeling surprised, yet confident that they would do what they had to in order for him to do his job, "In addition, I suggest you simply get a feel for the institute. Feel free to explore and I urge you to converse with some of the others."
"Yeah, like that'll be easy," muttered Wanda, knowing they still probably harbored a grudge against them for kicking their asses earlier.
"Yes, it may take a little time, but I have confidence that they'll come around if you simply give them a chance," said the Professor, although he did have a few concerns about how some of the students would handle their presence, "And one more thing, I'll talk to some of the others to see if we can't get you some temporary clothes until we can get you all a new wardrobe."
"New clothes?" said X23, who remembered the issues she had with civilian clothing last time she had to wear it, "Why can't we just stick to our uniforms?"
"Well aside from the fact they look like they've just come out of a shredder, you ain't on a mission and you ain't trainin' for once," said Logan, finding it a tad discerning if this 14 year old girl didn't even know the first thing about dressing like a normal teenager, "As long as you're living civilian lives, you're gonna have to wear civilian clothes."
"He's right, my dear," said the Professor, "And in addition, now that you are civilians and students here, I also ask that you relinquish possession of your guns."
"Our guns?!" said Jean in a shocked tone, "Why don't you ask us to cut off one of our arms while you're at it?"
Such words came as a bit of a surprise for Xavier since he didn't know just how attached they were to their guns, but despite this, he managed to stay collected and justify his position.
"Please understand...This is a school. I know you're used to always having your weapons at hand, but we are not trying to maintain an aura of war. And the standard rules of this school stipulates that firearms are prohibited."
Looking down at their guns, which so seldom ever left their side, the five mutant soldiers stood somewhat conflicted. Even though Shadow Cell had used them to such a great extent, they still remained attached to many key aspects that they had been taught over the years...One of which being the importance of firearms.
They had always been very attached to their guns. It was a trait that they picked up from Magnum. And even though it was over, it was still not an appealing thought to relinquish their firearms which had gotten them out of so many jams. But if they were to adhere to the rules of this man, it was not their right to argue.
"I assure you all, I do this purely out of safety concerns," said Xavier, still sensing their reluctance, "Guns may have had a place back at Shadow Cell, but they are not vital here."
"I know, sir, but...Our guns are more than just firearms to us," argued X23.
"Yes, that I can tell. But I'm afraid I cannot make any exceptions when it comes to this rule. Now I'm not saying you have to part with them completely, but as long as you're not in a combat situation, then I simply ask that you allow them to be stored for the time being and we'll discuss their use later on."
The five mutant soldiers still didn't look too enthused about it, but then again this was Xavier's school and these were his rules. And like it or not, as long as they were here, it was their duty to obey him. Even though they were still deeply conflicted, many traits of the military were clearly still with them and there were some of those were traits that they didn't want to let go of.
"Well...What about our knives, sir?" asked Scott, who didn't like the feeling of being completely unarmed since it was such an alien feeling to him.
"For now...I'll let you hang onto them," answered Xavier, seeing that they were all clearly still very militarized, "This is a process and we must take it one step at a time. Just consider this one step of many and I'm sure we'll work things out in the long run. But for now, I think it would simply be best if you explore on your own for a while. Get a feel for the institute, talk to the others, and try not to remain too closed to the new opportunities here. It's not Shadow Cell, but all I ask is that you give it a chance."
Scott, Jean, Vincent, Wanda, and X23 still had no idea where they were going to go from here or even how they were going to fit in at this place. It was just so alien to them...Not living a life of regulation, training, and strict obedience. They just weren't used to stuff like that. But if they were going to try and build a new life here, they were going to have to make an effort.
"We'll try, sir...On our honor, we promise you," said Scott after a brief hesitation.
"Thank you..." said the Professor with an approving grin, "In that case, simply leave your guns on my desk on your way out and feel free to explore for the rest of the day. And if need be, I'll ask some of the others to lend you a change of clothes. I'll keep you posted on my progress, but for now, take this time to adapt."
The five soldiers lingered a bit since they still hadn't been dismissed, but a nod from Logan confirmed that they were free to leave. And as he had asked, they obediently left their guns on his desk...However, not without some major hesitation. Leaving without their guns was like leaving without a part of themselves, but they did it anyways...Hoping they would learn to manage.
"I better get the twins back exactly like I left them," said Wanda, showing just how much she cared for her weapons.
"Don't worry...I assure you that they'll be safe," said the Professor.
"See that you do. These things mean a lot to us," said X23 as she reluctantly left her three treasured firearms that she had so meticulously handcrafted with her own blood, sweat, and tears upon his desk.
And with that, Shadow Cell silently filed out of his office, leaving the four adults with a pretty good idea of just how far they had to go with these five. And if what they saw was any indication, they had a long road ahead of them.
"Well that was must certainly a peculiar episode," commented Hank, "They are still very much stuck in the mindset of a soldier."
"Kind of comes with the package Hank. Once ya train a soldier to kill, it's hard to untrain em," said Logan as he picked up a few of their guns and had a look at them.
"I most certainly wouldn't argue that point my friend. But I did find it somewhat odd that they wanted to hold onto many of the creeds that Shadow Cell had taught them. Not to mention, they seemed a bit overly attached to their firearms."
"Obviously you don't know dick about soldiers, Hank," he said as he held up one of Scott's guns, "If you did, you'd know that every soldier develops a major connection with their weapons. Whether it's a sword, a tank, or in this case, a gun, it becomes a part of them pretty much to the point of them seeing it as another limb."
"Well I certainly hope that such a mentality won't affect them too much," said Ororo, still harboring plenty of concerns about the young mutants that had once been such powerful killers.
"Oh I don't know...That mentality isn't something they want to let go of and after seein' the kind of shit they've endured, I don't blame em. But personally, I can see some advantages to it. Did ya see how they were acting?"
"Yes, they were quite obedient and respectful. I suppose that also comes along with a military mentality of strict unquestioning adherence," said the Professor as he began to ponder the matter.
"Add to that, they still clearly think you're their superior officer, Chuck," grinned Logan, knowing that much was still slightly lost on him.
"I know, Logan. That's something we'll just have to work on."
"Well you can't deny that it definitely has it's advantages, Charles," said Hank, who was beginning to see what Logan was getting at, "After having dealt with plenty of rebellious youths here at the institute, it would certainly be a nice change to have a group that takes the rules so seriously."
The wheel chair bound man thought of that for a moment and did that there were some aspects of their mentality that would definitely help with things in the long run. He knew from day one when he started this school that he would be dealing with unruly teenagers of all sorts, but these five were in a completely different league. Their whole lives had been structured on strict, unyielding obedience and absolute loyalty. Choice was never a part of it. And having students like that at his institute could provide a good example for the others to some extent. But there were still a few issues to it that he felt had to be resolved.
"Yes, I see what you're getting at my friend. But as easy as their unyielding loyalty may be, I do think we need to push for a little balance. I want them to start making choices for themselves again and I want them to reside here on their terms just as much as mine. And besides, I don't think I am officer material."
"You sell yourself too short sometimes, Chuck," made Logan as he picked up Wanda's gun and continued to grow increasingly fascinated by them, "And regardless of what ya may think about them bein' soldiers and all, ya gotta admit they sure take it seriously. I mean, just look at these guns. They really say a lot."
"What do you mean, Logan?" asked Hank, not knowing enough about firearms to see what he was referring to.
"Oh come on, Hank! These things are just as much a piece of art as they are guns. They all look like they handcrafted these things on their own. The grips are modified to fit their hands, the feed in mechanisms have duel reinforced springs loaders, the weight to clip ratio is perfectly balanced, each firing mechanism has double boron compensator, the barrel is pure adamantium with a hairline rifling, the triggers hammers are all customized, the firing chambers are polished to a mirror shine, and they even added groves so they could hold their knives to it."
"Hmm...No wonder they were reluctant to part with them," said Ororo, somewhat astounded by all the details Logan had just listed, "They even marked them...Kind of like what warriors back in Africa did with their weapons."
"Can't say I'm surprised," said Logan as he held one of the guns up in a standard ready mode, taking note of the feel, "Either way, this shows just how good these kids are when it comes to bein' a soldier. It's as important to them as this school is to us."
"Indeed..." said the Professor as he leaned back in his chair and pondered where they would go from here, "And for that reason, I feel we must nurture that part of them every bit as much as we should nurture their adjustment. It's clear that they have no desire to part with the warriors within them. And because of that we may need to do a little adjusting ourselves in order to accommodate them."
With plenty of challenges ahead of them, the Professor and his close associates clearly had their work cut out for them. It was sure to be a long, hard road for them just as much as it would be for Shadow Cell. They had never had to deal with soldiers as students before, but as with everything they had endured so far with this school...They would learn to adapt.
"So do you really think that they can learn to fit in here after everything they've managed in the course of their lives?" inquired Beast.
"That remains to be seen old friend," said the Professor, who couldn't help but wonder just how these former soldiers would learn to live in a world without the military, "But I do believe that I can be certain of one thing...It will be an interesting journey for all of us."
AN: The first day is always the hardest, isn't it? Shadow Cell is still stuck in a place they can't get out of. They may be X-men now, but in their hearts, they're still soldiers. How is that going to affect life at the institute though? Can they really learn to adapt? Stay tuned to see where they go from here! And don't forget about Mystique! Her fate is still undetermined as well! There's still more to come and I hope you all enjoy where I take it! But in the mean time, I urge you all to REVIEW! Send your comments to me via email or post them on the fanfiction website! Thanks for reading everybody and I wish you all the best!
COME ON FOLKS! SHOW THAT YA GOT SOME FANFICTION SPIRIT! REVIEW!