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 8: Outer Heaven
It was official. The element of surprise was lost on Shadow Cell. Stryker had sounded the alarm and their cover was blown. For a religious nut, he knew how to do security. Now they were in the basement of a heavily fortified building, surrounded by fiercely loyal, fully armed units blindly loyal to one man.
It was the kind of situation Shadow Cell had always trained for.
"Shit! Damn you Stryker!" cursed Mayhem as they ran down the narrow halls of the sub-levels, "Looks like we'll have to get to the top the hard way!"
"Well we're not getting up there without a little firepower!" said Cyclops as he led the charge, "Let's see what kind of hardware this nut keeps!"
Turning down the next path, they were matched by three guards. And unlike the MPs in Quantico, these guys didn't ask questions.
"BURN IN HELL HEATHENS!" yelled one of the guards.
"You first!" shot Phoenix as she hit the floor and hit them with a fireball of flame.
"AHHHHHHH!" they all screamed in agony.
Not waiting for them to burn to death, X23 finished them off with a few bullets. With the guards down, they plowed through. But along the way, they saw a camera. And unlike last time, they didn't shoot them out. Instead, X23 used the opportunity to give him the finger.
"IF YOU'RE WATCHING THIS YOU PRICK! YOU'RE NEXT!"
"X! Let's go!" yelled the Scarlet Witch.
"Right behind you!" she yelled, her guns in hand as she followed her comrades further into the Stryker's fortress.
Back up top, William Stryker was not in a pleasant mood. He had the best security force money and faith could buy. Yet still, someone dared to infiltrate his domain during his hour of triumph.
But this was certainly no government intrusion. No, this was something much more. Whoever these intruders were, they were good. They were VERY good. Add to that, they had an attitude. And with Legacy's completion so close, he couldn't afford any obstructions.
"Crafty little bastards," commented Stryker, unafraid yet irked.
"Who are they? Special Forces? Commandos? SHIELD?" inquired his security chief.
"No," he said adamantly, "I've seen all three and this is something much more."
Stryker's words didn't sit well with his subordinates. And rightfully so, after all he was a West Point graduate and when it came to the battlefield, his instincts were usually right.
"What should we do sir?" asked the lead scientist anxiously.
Looking back at the machine that was cultivating Legacy, Stryker could feel the pressure. He didn't like to be rushed and these intruders were pressing him. But he was still the stronger man. God was on his side. And whoever they were, they weren't going to stop the ultimate judgment.
"How much longer?" he demanded.
"We're still programming the sample," explained the scientist, "It'll be at least another 20 minutes."
"You have less than 10," shot Stryker.
"10? But sir..."
"You heard me!" he said sternly, "Do not question the will of God! Get that virus ready ASAP! Don't waste any more time questioning my divine authority!"
Without another word, the scientists got back to work, this time at a much more feverish pace. Stryker had dealt with infiltrations before, but they never ticked him off like this. He was usually so calm and collected, but there was just something about this case that didn't sit well.
"What about the Angel units, sir?" asked the security chief, "What are your orders?"
"I want a full scale lockdown of all sub levels," he ordered strongly, "Whoever they are, box them in. Don't let them get to the upper levels!"
"Aye sir! They aren't going anywhere!" assured the chief, "All units Angel units, listen up! The intruders are in the lower levels! Enter lockdown level omega! Let NOTHING through! That's an order!"
Stryker stood supremely confident in his holy sanctuary. Whoever these heathens were, they would pay for their indiscretion with their souls. God would see to it that they were protected. And it was His judgment which shall win out in the end.
After shooting their way through more guards and security turrets, Shadow Cell arrived at the heavily reinforced doors to the armory. And since they had the card and the keycode, they wouldn't have to break it down.
"Guys, I'm sensing a lot of activity on the lower levels!" warned Phoenix.
"Stryker's boys are fast," commented the Scarlet Witch, "Better have a warm welcoming for them. You got the code?"
"Yeah, it's revelation666 believe it or not," she muttered.
"Damn, this guy is a religious nut," scoffed Mayhem as he punched the code in.
With the correct code input, the mechanisms of the heavy door unlocked. And as soon as Shadow Cell saw the assortment of hardware Stryker had stored, their eyes widened.
"Holy shit," said X23, impressed by what she saw.
"This almost as much hardware as Shadow Cell had," said Cyclops.
"Stryker has connections, that's for sure," said Phoenix as she picked up a few AK-94s, "But we better make good use of this stuff. Stryker's going to try and box us in."
"Standard flanking maneuver," said the Scarlet Witch, "Gotta love it."
"Hell yeah," said Mayhem as he picked up some frag grenades, "At least you don't have to worry about shooting innocent bystanders."
Grabbing every gun, grenade, and explosives they could, Shadow Cell prepared for the onslaught. Cyclops, Phoenix, and the Scarlet Witch grabbed mostly automatic weapons like AK-94s, Scorpions, and X1101As. X23 grabbed a load of grenades and a launcher, a weapon she used to use to great effect during Shadow Cells heyday.
For Mayhem, he was grabbing every piece of high explosives he could get his hands on. With enough C4 and Claymores to put a hole through the planet, Stryker was going to have quite a mess to clean up.
"They're surrounding us, guy!" warned Phoenix.
"We're ready for them!" growled X23, loading up her grenade launcher, "Let's see them try and hold us back!"
"Don't get too cocky, X," said Cyclops, snapping in a clip to an AK, "The halls are narrow and the quarters confined, so we won't have a lot of room to move."
"And neither will they," added Mayhem, "They'll probably concentrate their fire, so we better make our bullets count and..."
Suddenly, Mayhem stopped in mid sentence as his eyes fell upon a crate that was covered by a sheet. Curious, he removed it to find out what it was. And when he and the rest of the team saw it their predicament got that much more complicated.
"Wow," he said.
"That's a LOT of plastic explosive," said X23 with a wolfish grin.
"Yeah, hate to see it all go to waste," said Mayhem as he busted open the crate and took out a large pack of explosives, "Better make sure it all gets put to good use."
Taking one of his C4s, Mayhem wired the crate to blow, activating the remote detonator. When this thing went off, it would probably take half the sub-levels with it. Stryker may have been very well armed, but he would learn the consequences of putting so much firepower in one area.
"You guys ready?" said Cyclops, holding his weapons up in preparation for the assault.
"Right behind you, Cyclops! Just let me get one more thing," said Mayhem.
Outside the armory, every Angel unit from far and wide converged on the three sub-levels. Stryker ordered that any and all intruders be annihilated and with hundreds of troops concentrating their firepower all at once, they didn't stand a chance.
"Come on! Come on! This way!" said one of the Angel captains, "Security sensors detected the disturbance heading this way! All units, delta formation!"
Like the well trained army they were, the Angel units formed perfect alignments of troops to maximize their firepower. They had the most advanced weapon and body armor to boot. Whoever dared to assault their holy center would pay for face the wrath of God.
Finally, the main core of Stryker's aptly named Angel unit fell upon the armory. And once they saw the open doors, they took their positions and prepared their assault.
"Wait for my signal..." said the leader, "We must hit them swiftly and decisively!"
The air grew thick with tension as the determined soldiers held their weapons at the ready. All sights were on the armory door. Anything that stepped out was going to be ripped apart. They didn't have a prayer in heaven.
"Get ready!" ordered the Angel leader to his squad, "On three! One...Two..."
Then suddenly, before he could finish his count, several grenades flew out of the armory. Immediately, the Angel soldiers reacted.
"GRENADE!" yelled one of the soldiers.
Taking cover, a deafening bang sounded throughout the hall, blowing deadly shrapnel through the narrow hallways. Some weren't lucky enough to get out of the way and were torn to pieces. But that didn't stop the determined soldiers.
"Reform! Reform!" ordered the leader.
With psychotic determination, the Angel unit reorganized their formation. This, however, was their second mistake.
As if on cue, more grenades flew out, but this time they couldn't get out of the way. But unlike the last round, these were flash grenades. They weren't meant to kill. But they were soon going to wish they were.
"Cover your eyes!" yelled the leader.
But his command was too late. The reforming troops didn't have time and many of them were effectively blinded by the flash. Some fired wildly at the armory, but all that did was send stray bullets into friendly territory.
Then suddenly, a figure stepped out into the open. And when they saw what he was packing, the hardened units gasped with horror.
"From one man of faith to the other..." said Vincent Freeman, "May God have mercy on your misguided souls."
The proud soldier, husband, and father of one stood unafraid in the crosshairs of the ruthless Angel unit. But on his back was a huge, turbine-like pack that fed cables and bullets into a large, deadly gattling gun.
Its size almost dwarfed Mayhem's figure. It was too heavy for any mere man to hold. But with his super strength, it was light enough to wield. And as the gears of the gun started spinning, the soldiers knew what was coming up next.
"Vulcan cannon!" he proclaimed, "Send Stryker my regards!"
"DOWN!" yelled the Angel leader.
But it was too late. The echoes of war were upon them.
In a long stream of bullets, the Vulcan cannon unleashed a barrage that tore through the Angel guards like confetti. And because they had concentrated so much of their manpower in the narrow halls, they were easy targets and had little chance of avoiding the onslaught.
"Fall back! Fall back!" ordered one of the lieutenants, "We need reinforcements!"
His words did little to stem the bloodbath. Dozens of soldiers fell and Mayhem made sure they knew what they were up against. However, despite the onslaught, the soldiers of William Stryker would not go down that easily.
"Return fire! Hit the back! Hit the back!"
Upon hearing this, the rest of the team got in on the action.
"NOW!" ordered Cyclops.
Hitting the floor, Cyclops and Phoenix jumped into the maelstrom and rolled over to Mayhem's position. Once they had their shot, they took it and unleashed a wave of AK-94 fire into team of Angel soldiers that were at Mayhem's back. The element of surprise helped the most, leaving them too open for too long as they were mowed down.
Following close behind, X23 and the Scarlet Witch jumped in on the action and supplemented Mayhem's onslaught. With many of the remaining Angel guards taking cover, it left them vulnerable to another kind of assault.
"Try and take cover from this, assholes!" yelled X23.
Carefully aiming her launcher, the former living weapon unleashed two grenades down the hall. She had to be careful, making sure that what she shot bounced off the walls and ricocheted into the adjacent hall. But thanks to her expert shooting skills, the Angel units bore the blunt end of the attack.
"OH GOD WE MUST..."
But before he could finish, the grenades detonated and blew many of the Angel units off their feet.
"Nice shooting X!" yelled the Scarlet Witch over the noise.
"Looks like we've got our opening!" said Mayhem as he halted his assault, "Come on! Let's get to the elevators!"
"Right behind you, Mayhem! We'll cover you!" said Cyclops, still returning fire to the remaining guards.
With a Vulcan cannon in hand, Mayhem led the charge, unleashed waves of bullets down the halls as they made their way down the maze-like corridors. But as they moved, the Angel units began returning more fire. They threw grenades and hit them with shotgun blasts, but Mayhem wasn't afraid to bear the blunt end of these shots and neither could X23 since she could heal.
Shrapnel, shells, and stray bullets swarmed throughout the area like angry hornets. Some found their way through the assault. The Scarlet Witch felt one graze her neck while Cyclops received a nasty bruise on his upper thigh. Add to that, shrapnel was tearing into them as the enemy returned fire with grenades. Phoenix tried to shield them, but ended up taking some shards herself.
"We have to get to the elevators!" yelled Cyclops as he unloaded more rounds into the narrow halls.
"How much further?" yelled X23, using one of her guns to hit guards who wouldn't go down.
"I'm sensing at least another 200 meters!" said Phoenix, blood now trickling down her face from shrapnel wounds.
"Great! How many guards does this asshole have?" yelled the Scarlet Witch, using her hex powers to divert incoming bullets.
"Plenty from the looks of it!" said Mayhem, still unloading his Vulcan into the guards, "We just have to keep moving! We're running out of time!"
The Angel units were fighting valiantly, better than any trained army of a top notch military power. But Shadow Cell couldn't afford to slow down here. Stryker was too close to succeeding. He had Legacy and could unleash it at any second.
The halls were flowing with blood as Shadow Cell plowed through the melee, ignoring any wounds they took despite the pain. Stryker wasn't going down without a fight, but neither were they.
Back in Stryker's lab, activity was at a fevered level as the scientist scrambled to get the virus ready. But the computers could only move so fast and the situation down below was looking bad. The only one who stayed calm was William Stryker. If anything, he seemed impressed by these tenacious intruders.
"Sir, Angel six just went offline!" said the security chief in a grim tone, "They're dropping like flies! I'm losing video feed!"
"Bring up corridor eight," ordered Stryker sternly, "Show me the loading quarters."
Complying with his wishes, the subordinate brought up a visual just in time to see a platoon of soldiers explode from a grenade from X23. Those not affected were mowed down by gunfire from Mayhem's Vulcan. The turbulence was disrupting the feed, but this time Stryker got a good look at the five intruders.
"Good Lord!" exclaimed the security chief, "Who are they? And how is that man carrying that thing?!"
Stryker took a moment to absorb this sight. Whoever they were, they were skilled and efficient. They moved swiftly and smoothly, taking down anybody who got in their way. Those unlucky enough to get close were taken down with unparalleled close quarters combat skills. It was quite a sight.
Deeper they probed, mowing down more Angel units. Some managed to hit them, but they just kept coming. They were tough, no doubt about it. It proved they weren't just some government minions. They were real soldiers, real warriors. And even Stryker had to admit, he was impressed.
"Amazing," he said in a daze, "Look at that, ambushed from both sides, yet they managed to reform into a proper counter formation without hesitation. It's like a reflex for them."
"Sir?" said the security chief in a concerned tone.
"These are no mere soldiers. No, they're something much more. Look, the man with the Vulcan just took a bullet to the chest, but it didn't even scratch him."
To the security staff, it was something out of a horror movie. Angel was hitting them, but they weren't going down. In some cases, they scored direct hits. But they just kept on coming.
"Could...could they be demons? Has Satan sent his minions to try and stop us from doing God's work?" asked one of the chiefs.
"No, even if it were Satan, we would have crushed him by now," said Stryker, grasping his bible firmly, "I've seen soldiers and mutants of all kinds, but this...this is something entirely different."
More grim images filled the screen. To many others, they were still demons. One woman actually unleashed waves of fire and burned their soldiers alive. Another shot death beams out of his eyes and hands that ripped through flesh without mercy. There was even one soldier that seemed to divert any bullet that found their way through to her.
"This is not looking good, sir! Not good at all!" said one of the chiefs, "Angel leaders two and three just went down!"
As they got closer to the core of the sub-levels, more Angel units fell. Some managed to get closer in these less confined spaces. But then they saw one of the soldiers draw claws right from her hands and tear them apart. Others were actually lifted into the air by some unseen force and sent flying in mangled heaps of flesh and bone.
Yet despite this, Stryker's fascination kept growing. His well trained mind ignored the horrors and focused on the tactical components. They kept moving, hinting they had a destination in mind.
Then it hit him, the pieces of the puzzle began falling into place. Impressed or not, Stryker was not naÃ¯ve enough to overlook the truth. And looking at the images of the skilled soldiers, an eerie calmness fell over him.
"Sir, we're beginning the final procedure before cultivation!" said one of his scientists.
"Excellent," replied Stryker with a smile, "Make sure Legacy is ready. I have a feeling we may be getting some unexpected guests soon."
"Guests, sir?" said the security chiefs, "You don't mean..."
"Oh I do," replied the man of faith with a confident poise, "Isn't it obvious? They're the ones who opened that safe back at Quantico, yet they let us take it so they could track us. And here they are."
"Sir?" said another subordinate, not knowing what this was implying.
"I suppose I should be flattered," he said, sounding almost humored, "They actually let me get Legacy for a chance to face me. It would be rude to disappoint them."
"You mean they're coming up..." began the security chief, but Stryker cut him off.
"Relax, my disciple, they will not change a thing. God has already seen to that. These pestilent intruders are another matter...one I wish to take care of personally. And rest assured, they will face the same judgment as the rest of this heathen world."
Shadow Cell was getting close. They could feel it. The Angel units were fighting harder with every step of progress they made. But it wasn't enough to hold them back.
After treading through these halls of chaos, the five mutant soldiers were bloodied with the scars of war. Their uniforms were torn, wounds were festering, and blood was trickling down their bodies. But they had been in worse shape before, so they kept pressing onward, not letting Stryker's determined minions hold them back.
"We're almost there!" yelled Phoenix as she unleashed a wave of telekinesis to knock back a crowd of Angel units.
"Good! Because I'm almost out of ammo!" said the Scarlet Witch, tossing aside her X1011A and firing what was left in her Scorpion.
"Me too!" exclaimed X23, "They just won't stop coming!"
"And trust me, there are plenty more!" said Phoenix, sensing reinforcements.
"Then we better get to those elevators fast!" said Cyclops.
Turning down the final corner, Mayhem unloaded the last of his Vulcan into a crowd of Angel units guarding the elevators. It took a few passes, but with X23's final two grenades, they cleared them out with ease.
"I'm out, guys!" said Mayhem as he tossed aside the heavy Vulcan.
"So am I!" said X23, "Let's hurry up and get to the top of this dump!"
"Agreed! We'll cover you!" said Cyclops, loading his final clip of ammo into his AK.
Down the halls, the reinforcements arrived. Cyclops took the left hall, Phoenix took the center, and the Scarlet Witch took the right. The elevators were secured, but Mayhem and X23 knew how to get around that. They just needed time.
"Shit! This thing is locked tight and armored tough with electronic defenses!" cursed X23.
"Well you better get cracking on it!" warned Phoenix.
Unloading what was left of their AKs into the rushing guards, Cyclops, Phoenix, and the Scarlet Witch carefully covered their comrades. Once their weapons were spent, they went on the defensive. Phoenix and Scarlet Witch used telekinesis and hex bolts to shield them from the oncoming assault while Cyclops tried to hold them off with energy blasts.
Hoping to slow them down, Phoenix also started some fires, but even this didn't slow them down. The reinforcements just kept coming.
"Any time now, you two!" yelled Phoenix as another pullet grazed her leg.
"Almost got it!" said X23, "This thing is locked, electrified, and wired with sensors! Just have to override the magnetic locks!"
"Well hurry it up! They're not going to stop!" yelled the Scarlet Witch.
Despite fires, hex bolts, and energy blasts, the powerful Angel units were all converging. Even though many had been decimated, they were still well organized enough to come together for a final assault. And this time, it would be nearly impossible to hold them off.
Finally, X23 and Mayhem unlocked the elevator. It was time to move up.
"There! Got it! Come on guys!" said Mayhem, "The shaft is still locked down, but the elevator's defenses are down!"
"Will it open?" asked Phoenix as she, Cyclops, and the Scarlet Witch fell back.
"Of course!" said Mayhem confidently, "With a little coaxing of course."
With no more electric defense fields to worry about, Mayhem punched through the heavy metal doors and wedged them open with a loud grunt of strength. The lights were off and it wasn't moving, but they only needed the defenses down to do their thing.
"Quick! In here guys!" exclaimed Mayhem.
Emptying a few more rounds into the halls, the five mutant soldiers filed into the industrial strength freight elevator. As soon as they were in, Mayhem used his strength and energy blasts to weld it shut. But since it was locked down, there was no use moving it. However, they had something different in mind.
"Still got that plastique, Mayhem?" asked Cyclops.
"Got plenty, Cyclops. And the stuff in storage is still wired," grinned Mayhem.
"Then you know what to do."
Attaching the heavy wad of explosives onto the back wall, Mayhem armed the detonators. With an affirmative nod, the five mutant soldiers made their next move.
"Quick! Up here!" said Cyclops, charging his arm and punching a hole in the emergency hatch on the roof.
"You thinking what I sense you're thinking?" asked Phoenix.
"You know it, sweetheart," said Cyclops with a grin, "Come on! Let's show Stryker how Shadow Cell cleans house!"
Swiftly, the five mutant soldiers helped each other up onto the top of the elevator. Once they were clear, they looked up to see a long shaft with laser sensors the whole way. Stryker wasn't one to take any chances, but that wouldn't do him any good now.
"You guys ready?" asked Mayhem, preparing himself for what he knew was about to come.
"Shadow Cell is always ready," assured the Scarlet Witch as she held onto her husband.
With an affirmative nod, Mayhem held grasped the detonator firmly in hand. Below them, the Angel units were trying to wedge open the door, an action that they were soon going to regret.
"Time to spread our wings and fly," said Cyclops, taking a direct quote from the General.
"Right!" the others said in perfect unison.
With Phoenix using her telekinesis with Cyclops and X23 and Mayhem using his flight abilities with the Scarlet Witch, the five mutant shot up through the elevator shaft like a bullet in a gun. The sensors went off and lockdowns were initiated on all doors, but they wouldn't stay looked for long.
"NOW MAYHEM!" yelled Cyclops.
With the detonator in hand, Mayhem pressed the button to the plastique. Down below, the Angel soldiers had just punched through the door, but the only thing they saw was a heavy wad of explosives. And once it dawned on them, they knew what was coming.
In a burst of raging flame, the plastic explosive erupted like a volcano, blowing the surrounding Angel soldiers to pieces in an unstoppable fury. The explosives in the armory went off as well, taking with it the rest of Stryker's hardware and the reinforcements who were unlucky enough to be in the way.
The shockwave traveled up the elevator shaft, taking with it the elaborate sensor array. It caught up to them quickly, but since the building was divided into two main elevator shafts, they could escape it once they got to the top.
However, that maneuver was more complicated than it sounded.
"Here it comes!" warned the Scarlet Witch.
"No shit!" cursed X23, "You two are cutting this one close!"
"Don't worry! We'll make it! I swear we'll make it!" yelled Mayhem in a determined tone.
The flames were nipping at their heels. They were almost at the end of the shaft. If they didn't get out, they'd be cooked like steaks. Their window was less than two seconds and one slip would be all it took to end this mission on the spot.
"Get ready, Phoenix! Steady...NOW!" yelled Mayhem.
In a split second move, Mayhem veered to the right, punching a hole through the barrier, and allowing him and Phoenix to fly into the secondary shaft. They cut it so close that X23's leg was charred by the flames, but she ignored it as they continued their ascension.
"Hate to see the repair bill for that one," commented the Scarlet Witch.
"Well at least now Stryker knows he's in a battle," grinned Cyclops.
"Then I think it's time we have an old fashioned face to face with the good Reverend!" said Phoenix, sweat pouring down her face as she worked her mind hard.
"Affirmative!" said Mayhem strongly, "This ends right here! Right now!"
With the Angel units behind them and no more barriers above them, Shadow Cell prepared to face the end of their mission. And waiting for them up top was the man who threatened so much, including their families...William Stryker.
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