5 years after Sinister Soldiers, a sinister ghost from the past arises and brings Scott, Jean, Vincent, Wanda, and X23 of Shadow Cell out of retirement one last time. Jott, Wanda/OC
Chapter 7: Rapture
William Stryker was close. He was so close he could feel it in his bones. The final sacrament in God's name was almost ready. Yet still, he couldn't turn off his anxious mind.
Standing in the central lab atop his elaborate skyscraper, he was unusually tense as he watched his loyal subordinates prepare the lab for Legacy. In the center of it all was a vast, military grade DNA computer. Officially, it didn't exist. But as one of the world's wealthiest industrialists, he had certain privileges.
Millions had been spent setting this up, but his deep pockets had no trouble absorbing the cost. Yet it wasn't the cost that worried him. It was something far more mysterious.
"General Stryker, sir," said his chief scientist, "The computer is almost ready. We're booting up the final sub-units."
"Good, just make sure they're ready to run as soon as Legacy arrives," he said indifferently, still pondering.
"It shall be done," affirmed the loyal subordinate, "Is there anything else?"
"No, just leave me."
It was a rare order, but no one was inclined to question it. If Stryker said it, they obeyed it. It was that simple.
Yet as Stryker paced about the lab, he couldn't stop thinking about what his soldiers had told him. He had expected this mission to be far more complicated. Even with God's blessing, something just didn't feel right.
'It doesn't make any sense,' he thought to himself, 'Why would a hidden safe go unnoticed by the MPs for 30 years and show up opened when my men arrived?'
Zealous or not, William Stryker was not stupid. He didn't spent four years at West Point learning how to do things the easy way. This was too convenient. Missions like this were meant to be struggles. So why did everything simply fall into place? Was it God aiding him? Or maybe there were other forces at work.
"Angel one, come in," he said into his communicator.
"This is Angel one, sir. What are your wishes?" replied the voice.
"Gather all other Angel units from their posts and come to my building and fortify it under protocol 276."
"276?" said the soldier on the other in, "Is something wrong, sir? Are we under attack?"
"No," assured Stryker, "Just get over here and get your men into place. That is all."
Stryker's commands were sudden and unprecedented. Normally, this was an emergency plan, but his gut told him this was the right move. And his loyal private army weren't about to argue the point.
"Aye sir. We'll be there in less than 15 minutes."
Setting his communicator aside, Stryker clutches his bible with one hand and took his cross in another. Closing his eyes, he sent out a prayer. This moment was 2,000 years in the making. And with God's blessing, the kingdom of Heaven shall finally reign in the realm of man.
"Please almighty God...protect my army and give us strength for the momentous triumph to come."
In the skies over Manhattan, the weather practically made it a no-fly zone. Thunder, lightning, and heavy rain fell upon the proud city which would become ground zero for the will of a God fearing madman. But that's exactly what Shadow Cell was hoping to stop.
In the X-jet, Cyclops skillfully flew them through the turbulence in pursuit of the lone Blackhawk helicopter that contained Stryker's Halo unit. They had Legacy and they were going to unleash it as soon as their resources allowed them. But unknown to them, they were also leading the five mutant soldiers directly to the source.
"Still got em, Scarlet Witch?" said Cyclops, focusing intensely on flying through this rough weather.
"The weather is scrambling the radar and the stealth on that chopper makes it practically invisible, but that beacon is still singing like an opera star," reported the Scarlet Witch.
"Any chances of increasing our following distance?" said Cyclops, "At this range, they could possibly pick us up even with our stealth."
"Negative, the weather's too lousy," she replied, "Any further and we could lose them."
"Right, then I'll just have to stay on them," said Cyclops intently, "What about air traffic?"
"Weather's officially grounded all commercial flights," said Mayhem, "But according to the map readout, we're just over Manhattan. So be ready for some urban maneuvering."
"This night just keeps getting better and better," grunted Cyclops.
The plane shook more violently as they began to descend. The lights of famous skyline were coming into view, but visibility was still very limited. All they had to go on was the tracking device the Scarlet Witch had planted. And hopefully, it would lead them to the door of William Stryker.
"They're leveling off," reported Phoenix, "It looks like they're landing."
"Landing? Where?" asked Cyclops.
"On a heliport atop a skyscraper. Hold on, I'm getting a workup," said Phoenix as she typed feverishly into the console.
Within the span of a few seconds, they got the data that confirmed their suspicions.
"StrykeCorp Tower," said the redhead with a venomous tone, "I should have known. What better place to release a supervirus than the middle of New York City?"
"Plus, it makes them untouchable if SHIELD doesn't want to cause mass rioting," added X23, "It's the perfect entrenchment."
"Not perfected enough," said Cyclops as he circled around the top of the building, "I'm taking her down."
But before he could, Mayhem stopped him.
"Wait!" he urged, "Don't do it! Stryker probably wired his building! If we alert him, he may lock it down or flee!"
"He's right, Cyclops," said Phoenix, "This is just one of his buildings. He probably has plenty all over the world. So we better make sure he doesn't suspect anything."
With a frustrated grunt, Cyclops turned the X-jet around.
"Fine. Then we'll have to find somewhere else to land."
"Way ahead of you, Cyclops," said X23 as she brought up a readout, "There's a building with a flat rooftop about six blocks away. Activity is light, so it shouldn't arise suspicion."
"That, and the weather should cover us," added Mayhem, "Here are the coordinates."
Skillfully flying through the stormy weather, Cyclops maneuvered the nimble aircraft to the rooftop X23 had told him about. It was a little smaller than he would have liked, but it was big enough to hold the jet.
Engaging the vertical thrusters, the young pilot carefully descended, hitting major turbulence along the way. Thunder and lightning added to the tension, but he had landed in worse. And once the jet touched down, he killed the engines and put the plane into stealth mode.
"Okay guys. Let's go pay the good Reverend a visit," said Cyclops as the team filed out of the hatch.
Stepping out into the rain was like walking underneath a waterfall and it showed no signs of letting up. But that didn't slow Shadow Cell down. If anything, it would provide cover for them as they scoped out Styrker's tower. Time was still working against them. They had Legacy and they were going to use it. If they didn't stop them here, then it was all over.
"At least we won't have to shower when this is done," muttered X23.
"We've been in worse," said Phoenix, "Now come on, let's get to a vantage point."
With her telekinesis, Phoenix levitated X23, Cyclops, and herself into the air while the Scarlet Witch jumped onto the back of her husband while he flew her through the rain. It was sort of an unwritten rule that they always flew together, but over the years it seemed to work well enough.
Landing atop the building adjacent to Stryker's tower, the five mutant soldiers started scoping out the modern fortress before them. And as they saw the activity both outside and in, the true challenge of their task was apparent.
"Good God," said Mayhem as he used a pair of binoculars to watch the streets below, "Look at all that hardware. Fury wasn't lying when he said this guy had his own army."
"And from the looks of it, they're all gathering to fortify the building," said Phoenix, "I just picked up some projections. Stryker gave them some emergency order and they're already on high alert."
"So much for stealth," muttered X23, "You think he knows someone's onto him?"
"He's a religious nut, but he's also a West Point grad last I checked," said Cyclops, "We opened that safe for him and he probably thinks it was too good to be true. And common logic dictates that if it's too good to be true, it usually is."
"Simply put, crazy not stupid," quipped the Scarlet Witch, "So what do we do?"
For a moment, the five mutant soldiers kept scoping out the area. Down below, jeeps drove by the front entrance and unloaded an endless platoon of soldiers, each armed to the teeth with the same high tech weaponry as the soldiers back at the base. They were all moving swiftly and urgently, hinting these were no amateurs.
One by one the units filed into the massive building. From every possible entry, there were dozens of guards, each of them ready to die for Stryker's cause. They were close, no doubt about it. And Stryker was making sure nothing interrupted him during his moment of triumph.
"Guess we can't do a ground entry," said X23, breaking the silence, "How about the roof?"
"With that chopper and all those guards? Fat chance," decided Cyclops.
"What about the windows?" inquired Mayhem, "We can just do a Croatian Cannonball."
"Negative, hotshot. Looks like they're fortifying the windows too," muttered the Scarlet Witch, "Plus, they probably have alarms. Remember, crazy not stupid."
"As if we could forget?" groaned Phoenix.
Looking at the structure, they could see metal covers descending over the windows, which were probably bulletproof to begin with. It was logical to assume they were rigged with censors and probably a lockdown mechanism to corner intruders. Stryker seemed the kind of guy who would trap his base for any possible intrusion. Now it was beyond an ordinary office building. Now it was true fortress.
"Damn, this guy is paranoid!" cursed X23.
"Paranoid but smart," added Cyclops, "He's got everything covered from top to bottom. So that leaves only one possible point of entry."
"Oh shit, please don't say what I think you're about to say," groaned the Scarlet Witch.
"Sorry Scarlet Witch," said Cyclops in an exasperated tone, "But we'll have to take the sewer and do a Roman Aquastorm."
The five soldiers were forced to conceal their groans. It was bad enough they had to take on this lingering ghost of Mr. Sinister, but having to go through a sewer in this weather was rubbing sulfuric acid in the wound.
"I'm liking this guy even less now!" growled X23, "Not only is he threatening our families, but he's making us tread through the fucking sewer in the middle of a storm!"
"Then save that hatred for when you meet him," said Phoenix as she put her binoculars away, "This guy is going to have plenty to answer for!"
With no love lost on William Stryker, the five mutant soldiers descended to the surface below to find a sewer entry. It was dirty, smelly, and downright unpleasant. But it was unfortunately necessary in order to stop this prick once and for all. And when they saw him, they'd have plenty of anger to unleash.
In the lab area of the upper levels, Halo one finally entered the presence of their great leader with their objective in hand. They were all closely guarded and well equipped to ensure their precious cargo made it. And now that their mission was complete, they could move onto the next step.
Stepping into the central lab was like stepping into a 21st century version of Dr. Frankenstein's lab. The machinery was high tech beyond anything the civilian sector could dream of, but for William Stryker it was no more extraordinary than a cell phone.
And as the Halo leader approached their exalted reverend, he and his unit bowed respectfully to the man they revered.
"Reverend Stryker," said the leader, "We have what you ordered. Legacy is ours. Halo two and three martyred themselves defending us during our escape."
"And God shall bless them with a place in heaven," said Stryker in his charismatic tone, "Now, the virus..."
"But of course, sir," said the leader as he presented him with the vial.
Stryker's hands actually trembled as he took the small glass container in his hands and gazed ominously upon it. His heart raced as he held in his hand the tool that would grant him his ultimate dream of carrying out God's will. And ironically, it all came in the form of something so small and simple.
"Amazing," he said as he held the container up to the lights, "The ultimate weapon...the power of divine judgment...all in the palm of my hand."
Then, his lead scientist stepped forward.
"Reverend Stryker, sir," he said respectfully, "What are your orders?"
Feeling his victory so close, it took a moment before he was willing to let go of it. But with time working against them, he reluctantly gave him the vial.
"Get it into the mainframe and begin the programming process," he ordered, "Divide the dosage up into equal amounts for each inferior group we discussed. But at the top of the list, make sure mutants are key."
"It shall be done, sir," said the scientist as he carefully took the vial, "Once programming is complete, we can begin incubation. That way, there will be enough to spread all throughout the world."
"Indeed...just as it has been written in the pages of Revelation," said Stryker in a daze, "The wicked shall parish while the faithful will live to inherit the kingdom of God. How long will it take?"
"Best estimates, about an hour," said the scientist.
"Not good enough," said Stryker sternly, "You have 30 minutes."
"30 minutes? But sir..."
"Just do it!" he ordered assertively, "This must be done quickly and I desire no interruptions. Is that understood?"
"Sir, yes sir!" said the scientists and Angel guards together.
Reverend Stryker smiled to his loyal followers as they respectfully bowed to him. With the end so close at hand, they were going to rule the kingdom of Heaven as justly as the Holy Father. But it wasn't over yet and the good Reverend knew that there was no point in a battle that allowed overconfidence.
"Good. Now make sure this entire building is locked down. From this point onward, I don't want any more entries until the job is done! We've come so far and we cannot allow ourselves to become overconfident! God is with us and we must remain steadfast in carrying out His will! And after 2,000 years, the final judgment is upon us all!"
Down in the wet, smelly sewers of New York City, the five mutants of Shadow Cell waded through dirty, run-off water in pursuit of an entrance to Stryker's tower. The water was chest deep and reeked of city excrement. Stryker's madness was bad enough, but this wasn't making it any easier.
"Come on! Just a bit further!" urged Cyclops.
"Ugh, I'll NEVER get the scent out of my nose!" growled X23.
"Hang in there, X! We're almost out!" urged Phoenix.
"Easy for you to say! You don't have enhanced senses!"
Finally, they reached a stone ledge just before a large intake pipe built into the tower's plumbing. One by one, they got out of the deep water. With all the rain, it was like trying to get out of a raging river. And even after they were out, the smell remained.
"Damn, after this I'm spending the whole week in a bathtub!" groaned the Scarlet Witch, "This is worse than that time we had to infiltrate the Kingpin's place!"
"Yeah, at least then it wasn't raining like the Amazon," agreed Phoenix, trying to catch her breath.
They were all tired and dirty, but they still had a job to do and with a skyscraper above them, they had a long ways to go.
"Okay guys, let's stay focused," said Cyclops, "Mayhem, can you get a schematic for us?"
"Already downloaded one before we left the jet," said Mayhem as he took out his PDA, "And near as I can tell, Stryker's paid just as much attention down here as he has topside."
"Great, then did we just wade through raw shit for nothing?" grunted X23.
"Not entirely," said Mayhem, "He may have secured the utilities basements with sensors and cameras, but he's got no guards and no reinforcement around the perimeter so we should be able to punch through. From there, we can make up to sub-basement one where we can ride the freight elevators halfway up and the service elevators the rest of the way."
"Sounds easy enough," said Cyclops, "So what's the catch?"
"At the moment...completely unknown," sighed Mayhem as he put away his PDA.
"Fuck..." cursed Phoenix, "I got a bad feeling about this."
"We all do, Phoenix. And we're not even psychic," said X23, "But when does that ever stop us?"
"Never!" said Cyclops with renewed determination, "Now come on! Let's get out of the sewer and find Stryker!"
Rest period was over as Shadow Cell picked up and proceeded through the intake tubes. They were fairly small, but big enough to walk through swiftly. Several times, they came across steel gates meant to filter out junk, but a quick optic blast, telekinetic burst, or hex bolt maimed them into scrap metal.
Once they were through the tube, they came to some doors that led into the lowest levels of the tower. Naturally, they were locked, but a quick pick of X23's claws and they were open.
"Finally, out of the sewer," said a relieved X23.
"Yeah, but now it gets interesting," said Cyclops as he took out his gun and knife and held it in a CQC ready stance.
Working their way through the boiler rooms and plumbing components, the team began to come across security. But thankfully, X23 smelled the ozone and got them over it. Working their way up, they came across some cameras as well. But just as they had at the base, they could still make their way through.
"You know what to do, Scarlet Witch," said Cyclops.
"Way ahead of you, Cyclops," said the Scarlet Witch, her eyes now glowing.
Through some creative hexing, the Scarlet Witch gave Shadow Cell a narrow window to slip through. On the security feed, it looked just like simple static, but it cleared up as soon as they were through.
They came across more cameras as they neared the power stations. But before they went further, they stopped for a moment.
"Looks like this is the place that powers this monstrosity," said Mayhem as he took in the layout of the area.
"Yeah, and from the looks of it, Stryker set up his own independent power source so he's off the grid," said Phoenix, "He's even got classified X43 fuel cells."
"You mean those experimental fusion cells that can power entire cities?" inquired Cyclops, "Why am I not surprised?"
"It must mean that something's taking up a lot of juice," added Mayhem.
"Well there's only one way to fix that," said the Scarlet Witch as she took out a few wads of C4 and molded it in her hand, "I knew this stuff would come in handy."
"Hold up, Scarlet Witch," said Cyclops, "We can't cut the power now. Stryker will just take that as a sign and make an escape."
"I know, Cyclops. Remember, I'm a demolition expert," said the Scarlet Witch confidently, "That's why I'll set it on a remote detonator. And if I'm not mistaken, if I wire it to the main conduits, I should be able to kill any chances of backup power. These cells may be volatile, but they're not deadly enough to blow. It'll just give us a card to play should we need to cut the power."
"Make it happen, Scarlet Witch," said Cyclops, "But don't touch anything else. Stryker can't know that we're here."
As the Scarlet Witch did her thing, the soldiers of Shadow Cell remained vigilant, standing in full CQC stance. There was still an ominous feeling to this building. Already it had shown to be unique in the security it had in its sewers. But the more undocumented technology they came across, the more anxious they became.
"Damn, from the looks of it nearly every fuel cell is running at full throttle," commented Phoenix as she looked at the wattage meter.
"With two dozen of these things, it probably means it's powering something more than just the lights," said Mayhem ominously.
"Well Sinister's recording did say it needed a powerful computer," said Cyclops as he saw the readings for himself.
"Add to that a defense system that nuclear silos would kill for and I'd say this guy knows how to run up his electric bill," said Phoenix.
"And we'll remind him of it," said the Scarlet Witch as she placed the last of her C4 on a wire cluster, "There, I set them up for remote detonation."
"Good work," said Cyclops as they moved forward, "Can't win a card game without a wild card, especially if it's rigged."
"Well based on what Stryker has shown us thus far, I think it's time we teach this prick some manners!" growled X23.
Making their way through the power room, they came across more reinforced doors. This time, X23's claws weren't enough. Mayhem had to lend a hand and warp the hinges. Security was getting tighter and the cameras were getting more numerous.
Working their way up a small flight of stairs, the five mutant soldiers entered what appeared to be storage. And even though it was the lowest basement level, it still had plenty of cameras and sensors.
"Damn, this guy doesn't take any chances," said X23 as she used her nose to lead them through the inferred beams.
"All good General's leave nothing to chance," quipped Mayhem, quoting a saying from General Grimshaw.
"Why does that give me a bad feeling?" inquired Phoenix.
Suddenly, as if on cue, the door to the far end of the room opened and two armed guards and a technician stepped in. And unlike last time, there was nowhere to hide.
All that static from the cameras probably got their attention. It may have worked at Quantico, but not against Stryker. And with nowhere to hide, that left only one option.
"INTRUDER!" exclaimed the two guards as they raised their weapons and the technician took cover.
"Oh fuck," groaned X23.
Letting their reflexes take over, Mayhem used his super speed to grab the first guard's gun and break it into two. From here, a quick CQC maneuver snapped his neck and he fell limply to the ground.
X23 took care of the other one, shooting his weapon with her guns and lunging at him with her claws drawn, impaling him at the neck before he had a chance to respond.
Naturally, this scared the unarmed technician shitless.
"Oh God! The Devil has sent his minions!" he cowered as he tried to run away.
"Not so fast!" said Phoenix as she used her telekinesis to stop him and drag him back.
The feeble man struggled. He was certainly no soldier and cowered in fear before them. Unlike the other two, he wasn't worth killing. Instead, he could help them.
"No! NO! Monsters!" he said, having an all out panic attack, "You'll never break me! My loyalty is to God!"
"Sorry pal, but I don't think God wants you awake for what's about to come," said Phoenix as she put her hands on his temples.
With a quick probe the man's body went limp and fell into a deep sleep, but not before Jean extracted some useful information that was sure to aid them on their mission. And once she set him down, she reached into his pocket and pulled out his key card in triumph.
"Hey guys, what's the only thing better than finding someone's key card and pass codes?" asked Phoenix with a sneaky grin.
"I give up, what?" said X23.
"Finding someone's key card and pass codes to the armory on sub-level one."
Such news got the five mutant soldiers to smile. If they were going to battle Stryker's well equipped private army, then they would make sure it was a fair fight.
"Now that's the crafty redhead I married!" grinned Cyclops.
"Thank me after the fireworks," she replied, "Now come on! Let's go see what kind of goodies Stryker has for us!"
While the five mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell were ascending the sub-levels, progress on Legacy was going forward as scheduled. But William Stryker was still anxious as he kept a close eye on his scientists and his security forces.
Every Angel unit had to check in every few minutes during this critical phase and Stryker was leaving nothing to chance. He had guards on every floor and at every possible point of entry. There was no way in or out, yet his worries still couldn't be laid to rest.
Then suddenly, one of his security lieutenants drew his attention.
"Tech one, come in. Do you copy? I repeat, tech one do you copy? What's the word on the camera static in the sub levels?" he said anxiously into the communicator.
"What's going on?" demanded Stryker, quickly making his way over towards the command console.
"Oh, nothing sir, I was just trying to check in on our tech team that was sent down to check the cameras. Apparently, our watchdogs have been complaining of static."
"Static?" said Stryker, his suspicions heightened, "And why is it that you did not inform me?"
"The cameras are still fully operational, sir. We just got a little snow, that's all. But they seem to be back up."
Stryker wasn't convinced. His security system was the best in the world. Even the Kingpin would have been envious of this elaborate network of sensors he had constructed. And it NEVER failed, even for a second.
And because of this, Stryker knew something was amiss.
"Lieutenant, give me readings on sublevels four and five."
"Aye sir," said the loyal subordinate, "I'll flash them by you one by one."
Like clips of a movie, Stryker watched the shots of each camera and for the most part, nothing seemed amiss. The plumbing was working, the power was optimal, and the utilities corridor was secure.
Then he saw a shot of the storage area.
"Wait! Freeze it!" he exclaimed.
As soon as the lieutenant stopped the slideshow, he saw it too. On the floor, there were three bodies, two of which were dead. It sent a cold feeling through Reverend William Stryker. He knew something wasn't right about this mission and this proved it. And with God's divine will on the line, he couldn't let anything stand in the way of the judgment.
"By God," said the Lieutenant.
Taking swift action, Stryker grabbed his communicator and hit the emergency button on his cell phone.
"Attention all Angel units! This is Reverend William Stryker! Our security has been breached from the sub-levels! Engage protocol 636 and converge on the ground floor! Whoever they are, do NOT let them get to the upper levels! Show them the consequences of going up against the will of God and send them to Hell where they belong!"
SHADOW CELL VS WILLIAM STRYKER! REVIEW BEFORE THE CARNAGE!