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 9: Will of the Divine
The entire building was shaken by the explosion caused by Shadow Cell's attack and William Stryker certainly felt it. His whole staff faltered, feeling a new sense of vulnerability after being hit so hard. Yet still, the Reverend stood calm and collected.
With his bible and cross in hand, he still believed they had God's blessing. However, not many others shared his confidence. Whoever these attackers were, they were very strong. And judging from the damage they had done, they would need the will of the divine for help against this force.
"Angel leader, come in!" exclaimed the security chief, "Angel unit, do you read? Answer me, damn it!"
"Easy, my disciple," said Stryker calmly, "I don't think they can hear you."
"Those monstrous heathens!" scorned one of his lieutenants, "How could they stop Angel? How?! We had them cornered and outgunned!"
"Obviously, these warriors don't falter in the face of great odds unlike those of a weak will," said Stryker scorning his outburst, "No, whoever these intruders are, they have a will as iron as the crusaders."
Styrker's words didn't sit well with even his most ardent followers. It was almost as if he had admired these demons. But no one dared criticize him for that. After all, Stryker never was one to take criticism in full stride.
And still, the situation worsened.
"Sir, I'm reading a blackout on all lower levels," said one of the technicians, "Elevator shaves 1 and 2A are offline, communications links are down, and every security system is now compromised. The structure of this very building may be in question!"
"Do not worry about the building, my disciple. It shall continue to stand," said Stryker firmly, "As long as our power is still on, we are not going to stop. God's will MUST be completed."
Stryker then turned to his lead scientists.
"How much longer?"
"Programming complete sir," affirmed one of the technicians wearily, "Cultivation should begin in five minutes."
"Splendid," said Stryker with an approving grin, "Then everything is about to fall into place. It's only a matter of preparing for our 'guests.'"
The notion of meeting these heathens did not sit well with anybody present, but their faith in their cause remained unyielding. And even in the face of dire conflict, they chose to stay with their leader every step of the way.
"What are our orders?" asked the security chief.
"It's simple, my humble subordinate," said Stryker with a confident stance, "Part of being a good General and a man of God is making sure that there are NEVER any lose ends."
Ascending up the elevator shaft, the five mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell were nearing the top of the building. The shockwaves from the explosion had disabled the sensors and security system meant to keep the shaft clean of intruders, leaving the path to Stryker open.
He was close. They could feel it. And the sooner they took care of this guy, the sooner the world could be safe from his wrath. Thoughts of their children hung strongly in their minds. This wasn't just for the world...this was for them as well. And even as soldiers, the yearning to embrace their loved ones again was a powerful feeling.
"We're almost there! I can sense him and his crew!" said Phoenix, straining her mind as she flew Cyclops and X23 up the shaft.
"Good! I swear when this is over, we're going on a second honeymoon, Wanda!" said Mayhem.
"Second honeymoon?" exclaimed the Scarlet Witch, shocked that he was thinking such things at a time like this.
"Yes! I mean it! But first things first!" grunted Mayhem, holding his wife close as they approached the end of their mission.
Finally, near the top floor, Phoenix stopped.
"Hold up, guys! This is it!" she exclaimed, drawing her guns.
"Then let's not keep Mr. Holier than Thou waiting!" growled X23.
With a swift punch from Mayhem and Cyclops, the heavy door was mangled. And much to their surprise, they didn't face any guards upon exiting. Instead, there was a long hall with fancy decorations and religious art before them. It was hardly surprising given Stryker's religious fanaticism, but it wouldn't change his fate.
"I don't like this," made Cyclops, gripping his gun firmly as he led them down the hall.
"You and me both, Cyclops," said Phoenix, "I can't sense Stryker, but I'm sensing plenty of minds."
"And I'm smelling too many scents," growled X23, "And too many is never a good sign."
Stryker may have been a madman, but he wasn't stupid. He had to know they were coming. That explosion probably gave it away. He had to have something planned. Men like him always did. But they wouldn't know until they faced it.
Then, as they entered the open lab area, Stryker made his brilliance known.
Suddenly, out of all nooks and openings within the room, heavily armed soldiers dressed in a supped up version of the Angel soldiers' equipment exploded into the area. With picture perfect precision, they all aimed their guns directly at the five mutant soldiers...only their guns were a little different compared to what they faced earlier.
All around them, they were staring down the barrel of high tech energy guns that fired bursts of plasma instead of bullets. They were weapons decades ahead of their time and only one other unit had carried such armaments before and they were all dead.
"GURSO guns," said Cyclops in a grim tone, "Why am I not surprised?"
"I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him who sat on the horse, and against his army," came a voice, "Revelations 19:19."
Immediately, the five mutant soldiers scanned the area for the source of the voice. But it was coming in from several projectors scatted throughout the vast room. It was like being inside a miniature stadium, making it impossible to determine where it was coming from. But they didn't need to know the source. It was all too apparent who this voice belonged to.
"William Stryker I presume," growled X23 angrily, still gripping her guns in preparation to strike, "Show yourself!"
"Oh come now, do you really think I'm that foolish?" scoffed Stryker, "And to think, I had such admiration for you. After all, none of the other teams the government sent to stop me got this far. I suppose you should feel accomplished. But I'm afraid that won't change the outcome of this battle."
"Shut the fuck up you genocidal psychopath!" yelled Mayhem, "I can't believe you call yourself a reverend! Real men of God don't slaughter innocent millions!"
"Oh spare me your blasphemy," said Stryker with an exasperated sigh, "You're in no position to criticize the will of God. Save that for when you meet Him to atone for your sin. And from what I've seen, you and your mutant brethren will need to do a lot of praying to escape eternal damnation."
Their situation was bad, no doubt about it. Stryker had them surrounded on all sides. It was impossible to make out where each guard was. They knew what those weapons were capable of. Even with their strength and healing, one shot from them was too much. Stryker knew this and he had plenty of reasons to be confident.
It was do or die time. Stryker had the upper hand and they had walked right into his trap. Now it was all on him. One command was all he needed to turn their children into orphans.
'Shit! He let us in so he could surround us! Classic gatekeepers maneuver!' exclaimed Cyclops via his thoughts.
'We should have seen it coming,' replied Phoenix, 'I should have sensed it.'
'Beat yourself up over it later, Phoenix,' shot X23, 'We have to get out of this. I've still got a sister who needs to learn CQC.'
'And we still have kids to come home to,' added Mayhem, straining over the thought of his baby girl back home.
'And we will!' shot a determined Scarlet Witch, 'I still have that little 'surprise' I planted in the power room. We just have to wait for the right moment.'
'Right! An Indian Cobra counter...you guys know what to do,' sent Cyclops.
It wasn't much, but it would have to do. Stryker may have had the advantage, but he was still far from victory.
"You're sick, Stryker! You're fucking sick!" yelled Cyclops, starting things off, "We know your plans! We know all about Legacy! And you're NOT going to succeed!"
"Such atrocious language," scoffed Stryker, "Even Special Forces weren't that crude when they tried to stop me. But then again, you aren't them...not by a long shot."
"You got that right, bub!" spat X23, "We're your worse nightmare! All your money, followers, and faith couldn't stop us from hunting you down!"
"I wouldn't dare argue that, but in case you've forgotten...I could end each one of your lives right now with a simple command."
"Yeah, yeah...we know," scoffed the Scarlet Witch, "Z1300E plasma guns...enough firepower to incinerate tank armor. Made specifically for the GURSO unit, yet somehow a prick like you has them!"
"But of course," said Stryker proudly, "Where do you think GURSO got them in the first place? You don't think the US military has that level of technology and expertise, do you?"
"Funny, and I thought they just bought them off of Ebay," scorned Phoenix, "And now you're hiding behind them like the coward you are. Honestly, Stryker, do you think God would look kindly upon cowardice?"
"Do NOT mock God around me, monster!" spat Stryker angrily, "Rest assured, I can and I will incinerate the lot of you with a mere command!"
That set him off. He was losing his focus. It was just what Shadow Cell wanted. Apparently, they could insult him, but it was his faith where he was most vulnerable. And they were going to exploit it.
Casting each other a subtle grin, they turned to Mayhem since he knew God better than any of them.
"Well I have to say, I'm disappointed," said Mayhem, lowering his guns and relaxing his stance.
"I wouldn't press your luck, heathen," scorned Stryker, "I just may do it."
"Go ahead, REVEREND!" scoffed Mayhem, his words thick with sarcasm, "Frankly, I'd be insulted if you did. Here I was thinking that we were going up against some fringe unit out for a little power, not some God-fearing nut who reads the bible WAY too literally. What's wrong? Read Deuteronomy and Leviticus too much?"
"Shut up! I will not stand and allow you spit in the face of God!" yelled Stryker in a rage.
Mayhem couldn't help but smile. He knew this hit him where it hurt. And with the encouragement of his comrades, he pressed further.
"You're a sick man, Stryker. You call yourself a man of God, but in reality you're the greatest heathen of them all. Your men are just too blind to see it."
This began arising the suspicions of those holding the guns, something they knew had to be done if they were to make it out of this. And Mayhem had the ammo to make it happen.
"You have so much hatred for this world and everyone in it that's the least bit different. You're an insult to God's greatest message. Wasn't it in the Book of Proverbs number 10:12 where it said 'Hatred stirreth up strifes, but love covereth all sins?'"
"Don't you dare!" yelled Stryker, unable to take this level of blasphemy.
"You're also a powerful man, are you not?" argued Mayhem, going even further, "You have all this money and power, yet you use it for death and destruction even though the bible also says 'Withold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.'"
"Shut up! Shut up!" bellowed Stryker, "My heart and soul belongs to the Lord! I have dedicated my life to carrying out God's will! Legacy is the only way this world can be purged of wickedness! Like the flood that cleansed the world before, this virus will purify the human race!"
"And there in lies your greatest weakness, Stryker," said Mayhem definitively, "You think you know the way. You think God speaks to you. And because of that, people follow you blindly and without question as you seek to commit horrible atrocities!"
Stryker knew this man was playing him. And he was succeeding. It was causing his men to falter, which he could NOT afford at this point. But he was still the stronger man. God would not abandon him in this late hour. And with his strength, he held firm.
"They are NOT atrocities," said Stryker in a more collected tone, "It is a blessing to be bestowed with such a task from the creator. You and your freakshow comrades are just puppets...pawns who fight battles only as they are told. You don't have a higher purpose. You're just soulless, godless, heathens who think they can beat the forces of faith."
Casting his comrades a knowing look, Mayhem remained strong. Stryker may have had plenty of faith, but he was without honor or humanity. And no matter how strong his forces were, they had the stronger will.
'Get ready guys. We're going to be cutting it close here,' warned Mayhem, 'Are you ready, Scarlet Witch.'
'I'm ready, my love,' she sent him with a warm feeling of reassurance, 'I'll do my part. You do yours.'
With such strength to guide him, Mayhem went in for the kill.
"I guess that's something we can both agree on, Stryker...the power of faith. But you place your faith in all the wrong places. You seek to destroy a world you're disgusted with. That's not faith...that's madness. You don't do this for God. You do this for yourself. Passage 29:23 of the bible says 'A man's pride shall bring him low, but honour shall uphold his humble spirit.' And you, sir, are without honor. You call us heathens, but in listening to you, I think you're the one who needs Gods mercy the most!"
Those words hurt. No bullet or blow could have ever hit William Stryker as hard as that, but this man had done it. It struck him down to his very soul. Even his henchmen could sense it. Stryker wasn't going to let this stand. It was downright sacrilege. And from this, he did exactly what Shadow Cell had hoped.
Stepping into the light before the massive DNA computer, Stryker looked Shadow Cell right in the eye as he held up the small vial of Legacy. Now they knew the face of their nemesis. He had shown himself in his frustration. It showed he was shaken, not to mention overconfident. And that's all they needed.
"You...you devils!" he spat, holding Legacy to him like a shield, "I admired your ability to make it so far, but now you have incurred the wrath of the divine! I have the complete Legacy virus in my hand, fully programmed to take out all those unfit! Including you! And once my machine starts cultivating the virus, there will be no stopping it! The Kingdom of Heaven will rise! The word of the Lord will be fulfilled! And you will be the first victims!"
The fury in Stryker's words shook even his subordinates. Yet still, Shadow Cell did not falter. Threatened with annihilation, facing death in the face, and seeing the end of the mission within their grasp was what they had trained for. It was do or die time. They had their chance. All they had to do now was take it.
"Even if that turns out to be true," said the Scarlet Witch, secretly grasping the detonator in her left hand, "We'll make sure where the last."
With the single press of a button, the C4 in the power room erupted into a ball of flame, destroying the major arteries that delivered power to the building. And in the blink of an eye, everything in the room went dark.
"SHOOT THEM! DON'T LET THEM GET AWAY! SHOOT THEM!" bellowed Stryker.
But it was too late. The sudden darkness gave the five mutant soldiers the window they needed to make their move. With only seconds to spare, Shadow Cell scrambled and took down the nearest guards, taking their weapons and using their bodies as human shields.
"OVER HERE! OVER HERE!" yelled the guards who were in their grasp.
However, they were quickly silenced by a few neck snaps and impalement from adamantium claws. Yet their voices drew the fire, illuminating the room with bright flashes of plasma. All the while, William Stryker was fleeing from the melee with Legacy in hand.
"STRYKER!" yelled Mayhem as he snapped the neck of two guards, "GET BACK HERE YOU COWARD!"
With the determination of true warriors, Shadow Cell took cover from the ensuing plasma fire behind the fortified areas where the elite guard had held up. Most of them were firing blindly because of the darkness, but some were cutting it too close. There was so many of them and they couldn't chase Stryker until they were neutralized.
But being the resourceful soldiers they were, Shadow Cell improvised.
"Thirty seconds until cultivation," said a robot voice from the machine.
'Guys! We've got to stop that thing!' sent Cyclops as he and Phoenix stayed low to avoid plasma fire.
'Don't gotta tell me twice,' grunted X23, unloading a few rounds at guards who were foolish enough to give their positions away, 'Mayhem and I will cover you! You know what to do!'
Then suddenly, a plasma round grazed X23's left arm and ripped half the flesh off. Letting out an anguished cry, she angrily returned fire.
"X!" yelled the Scarlet Witch over the noise.
"I'm fine! JUST DO IT!" she yelled.
With no time to argue, Cyclops, Phoenix, and the Scarlet Witch prepared for the final assault. If that machine began cultivating Legacy, then it would be all over...not just for them, but for their families as well.
"10 seconds to cultivation," sounded the machine, "9...8...7...6...5..."
'We're out of time, guys!' exclaimed Cyclops, 'NOW!'
With cover fire from X23 and Mayhem, Cyclops, Phoenix, and the Scarlet Witch shot up from their crouched position and eyed the main computer. What happened next spanned mere seconds. They had only one shot at this, so they had to make it count.
Pushing her hexing powers to the max, the Scarlet Witch twisted and warped the vast machinery, causing echoes of twisted steel and metal. Already, sparks were flying. Cyclops and Phoenix took it from there.
"Together now, Phoenix! FIRE!" yelled Cyclops.
Charging his energy powers to the max and summoning all her pyrokinesis, Cyclops and Phoenix unleashed a concentrated blast into the heart of the computer that momentarily illuminated the room with a blinding light. And when it impacted the machine, the ensuing shockwave nearly blew the roof off the whole building.
"DOWN!" exclaimed Mayhem, taking cover behind one of the fortifications with X23, whose arm was still healing from the blast.
Getting as low as they could, Shadow Cell braced for the coming fireball. And knowing this blast was going to be deadly, Phoenix and the Scarlet Witch brought up telekinetic shields and hex fields around themselves and their comrades. It was a heavy strain, but a necessary one if they were to see their families again.
All around them, the force of the explosion reverberated, mixing with fire and air to create a lethal cocktail to all those in its path. Stryker's elite guards weren't lucky enough to get out of the way. Their bulky suits made them a few seconds too slow. And with one last agonizing yell, Stryker's death squad went up in flames.
The sound of windows shattering and concrete shattering echoed throughout the area. Even Stryker felt it as he ascended to the roof. But he kept going, knowing full well that Shadow Cell was going to pursue.
'Everybody alright?' sent Phoenix, who had clung to her husband to brace for the blast.
'A little extra crispy, but fine,' replied Mayhem.
'Did we get them all?' asked the Scarlet Witch.
Then suddenly, several guards who had taken cover shot up from the rubble and aimed their plasma cannons at them.
"DIE WICKED HEATHENS!"
But before they could fire, X23 and Mayhem shot them dead.
"I think that's it," said X23, still feeling the stabbing pain in her arm.
"What about the virus?" asked the Scarlet Witch.
"If it leaked, we'd know it by now," said Cyclops.
"Then that leaves one last lose end..." said Mayhem as they all met in the center of the devastation.
"Stryker," said Phoenix with a grunt, still short of breath from using her powers so much, "Come on! Let's move! Time to end this!"
And through the rubble, they made they followed Stryker's trail. Along the way, a few guards who had survived tried to slow them down, but they were taken out with a few quick claw swipes, hex bolts, telekinesis, and energy blasts. Nothing was going to stop them now. This had to end. William Stryker couldn't be allowed to pursue his insane dream a second longer.
Bursting through the door and into the still pouring rain, William Stryker ran to the edge of his elaborate skyscraper. He knew from the explosion that the cultivation had been stopped, but he still had a vial of Legacy. He could still deliver God's will.
Those heathens had tricked him. They were strong both physically and mentally. And he had done the one thing no soldier of God should do...he faltered. But be that as it may, he was going to finish this. Even if it cost him his life, he was going to finish this.
Stopping at the edge of the roof, the door behind him was blown away by a punch from Mayhem. And as the five mutant soldiers stormed out into the heavy rain, they drew their guns for one final showdown.
"Stryker!" yelled Cyclops, leading the charge with Phoenix, who was zeroing in on his mental signature.
Looking over the edge, Stryker stopped and turned around. He was without any guards or arms. He had no protection or henchmen. All he had was his bible and a vial of Legacy. But to him, that was all he needed.
"It's over, Reverend. You lose," said Mayhem with venom in his voice.
Their uniforms were tattered and torn. They were all breathing hard from the adrenaline. Yet the fire in their eyes still burned with intensity and Stryker could see that. They were going to complete this mission. And there was nothing he could do to stop them.
But Stryker still had one last ace up his sleeve.
"Come now my most worthy adversaries," he said as he held the vial over the edge of the building, "You know I still have victory right here in my hand. You may have stopped the cultivation, but there is still enough of Legacy in this vial to reek a great vengeance upon this wicked world."
"Drop that vial and you die!" spat X23, grasping the trigger of her guns firmly.
"I have no fear of death," quipped Stryker with an insidious grin, "Unlike you I have an eternity of paradise to look forward to. You kill me I ascend to the side of God. You, however...you will burn forever in the pits of Hell! You and all your wicked brethren! Humanity was perfected in the Garden of Eden, but mutants and all unworthy tribes have tainted that perfection! Only with Legacy will mankind be pure again!"
"You're still going to murder millions!" spat Cyclops.
"It is not my place to question the will of God," said Stryker, sounding calm as he faced the end, "I am just a messenger. You, on the other hand...are just pawns!"
Then, in a show of murderous insanity, William Stryker threw the vial over the side of the building.
"YOU SON OF A BITCH!" yelled X23.
Quickly, the five mutant soldiers ran to the edge while Stryker slipped away. With little time to act, all they could do now was run on instinct.
"I've got it!" yelled Cyclops, the rational part of his mind going cold.
Then, in an act of blind determination, the young leader leapt over the roof and dove down towards falling vial.
"NO!" yelled Phoenix in horror as she leapt after her husband.
"PHOENIX, WAIT!" yelled the Scarlet Witch, trying to grab her, but failing.
Over with Stryker, a smile formed on his face. For even in the wake of such determination, he still won.
"It's over," he said to himself as he made his way towards the other side where the door was still intact.
Through the blistering rain, Cyclops fell towards the ground below in pursuit of the vial. He couldn't let it impact. Not only would it kill him, but it would kill his children as well. Images of Nathan and Rachel from their birth to the present surged through his mind. They were the strength he used as he fell faster, determined to stop Legacy.
Then he saw it. The faint outline of the vial was there, falling through the rain. The deadly contents were still contained. They represented the last piece of Mr. Sinister. And after all the pain he caused them, it was time to lay it to rest once and for all.
"Goodbye Sinister," he uttered as he delivered the final blow.
Charging up whatever energy he could, Cyclops unleashed an optic blast through his eyes that illuminated the dim surrounding sky. And in a flash of ruby red, the vial and its sinister contents disintegrated into nothingness, ending once and for all the final legacy of Mr. Sinister.
Yet even with the vial destroyed, Cyclops was still falling. The ground was coming up mighty fast and he was going to hit. But not far behind him, the woman who gave him so much strength over the years would be his angel. And even with a body and mind racked with fatigue, she used her telekinesis to save him.
They still had a family to go home to. They still had the rest of their lives to spend together. They had made their vows and they were going to keep them.
"Scott!" she yelled as she pushed her mind to slow their fall.
"Jean..." he sent back, feeling the invisible force of her mind slow his descent.
Using the link that bound them as their greatest strength, Scott Summers and Jean Grey gave each other strength as they braced for impact. But with thoughts of their children back home waiting for them, the strength that guided them was pushed beyond all limits as they slowed to a comfortable rate until finally, they hit the ground below.
The landing was rough, but not life-threatening in the slightest. Cyclops stumbled to the hard pavement below, but fought the pain and returned to his feet as he caught his wife in his arms. Together, they collapsed to the ground, fervently embracing each other with relief.
However, Phoenix was hysterical.
"You crazy fucking asshole!" she cursed him as she slapped his face, "What were you thinking?!"
"I'm sorry," said Cyclops, taking her blows in stride, "I'm sorry, my love. I just...I was thinking about you, Nathan, and Rachel and I...I just couldn't let it happen."
Upon hearing that, she stopped hitting him and pulled him into a deep, passionate kiss.
'Don't you EVER do that to me again! You hear me?' she sent him through their link as they lovingly embraced.
'If you and our kids are ever in danger, I can't promise I won't. But I'll try,' he replied, sending her all the love in his heart, 'I made a vow to protect the people I love. And as a man and a soldier, I will never break it.'
'And neither will I.'
Together, the couple embraced this moment. Legacy was gone. Victory was theirs. They could go home to their children. But still, there was one last lose end.
Back up on the roof, Stryker was trying to make his escape. In his mind, he had won. With Legacy unleashed, every last freak and heathen would fall. It was a victory for the righteous. God's will had been fulfilled.
A new Eden would soon rise as the wicked perished and they would need a leader. As a vessel of divine will, he sought to fill that role. But making his escape was easier said than done.
"I've done it! At long last, Revelations has been fulfilled!" he ranted as he scrambled for the door back inside.
However, before he could touch it, a single bullet hit just a few inches away from his hand, stopping him cold in his tracks. Turning around, he was now facing three very angry mutant soldiers, each of which had a gun pointed right at him.
"You're not going anywhere, Stryker," growled X23, "This ends now!"
Even in the face of the deadliest soldiers in existence, Reverend William Stryker was unafraid. After all, he had no reason to be. He had won. And even if he died, that would not change the fate of them and their heathen brethren.
"You really think you can change your fate now?" laughed Stryker as he backed away to the edge, holding up his bible as a shield, "Face it! I've won! You can't stop it now! You will all face God's wrath!"
"Hate to break it to you, pal, but Legacy's gone!" grinned the Scarlet Witch, having received telepathic confirmation from Phoenix, "The only wrath from here on out is ours!"
"Ha! Say what you will, but it's not going to change," said Stryker, not believing a word, "You just can't accept that you lost. Granted, you are all fine soldiers. If you weren't polluted by mutant blood, you could have made wonderful disciples."
"Shut up!" yelled Mayhem, sick of this man's convoluted concept of God, "We're nobody's disciples."
"Oh? Then why did you go through all this madness?" questioned Stryker, "Why fight me all the way up here in the twilight hour of this wicked world? Were you not ordered to take me down? Were you not ordered to stop me?"
"No," spat the Scarlet Witch, "You think we're just some mindless drones who don't fight for anything other than our superiors. But you're wrong...dead wrong. You could never understand why we do what we do."
"Then tell me...from one man of war to another...what is it that drives you to fight?"
Cocking their guns, the mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell summed up their answer in one word.
"Honor," said Mayhem.
Stryker scoffed. Here he was thinking they were something so much more, yet their reasons were as insipid as their heathen blood.
"Honor? Bah! Pathetic! Do you even understand the bigger picture?"
"To hell with the big picture!" shot X23, "Sometimes it's the smaller things that are worth coming home to."
"And will killing me, a humble man of God, vindicate such beliefs? Will it bring you honor? If so, then why haven't you done it already?"
Slowly, Mayhem, X23, and the Scarlet Witch lowered their guns. It brought a smile to Stryker's face as he stared them down with his venomous gaze.
"I thought so," he said triumphantly, "You can do it, but will it really change anything? Will it really give you everything you want?"
It was the first truth Stryker had spoken. He was right. This wouldn't change the bigger picture. They were still soldiers, created by Mr. Sinister and trained to kill. And victory or not, that would never change.
"No," said Mayhem, "It won't. But guess what? We don't give a damn."
Then, in a final act commitment to the mission, Mayhem, X23, and the Scarlet Witch raised their guns and unloaded the last of their rounds into the body of William Stryker.
A look of shock fell over his face, but it soon turned to one of calm. It was finally over. The end had come. And while still grasping his bible, he sent one final message into a world so wrought with sin.
"Oh God...grant me...peace."
Then, through the pouring rain, William Stryker's limp body fell over the edge and plummeted to the ground below. He bore no anguish as he succumbed to death. He was not afraid to face his creator. And as his body impacted the hard ground below, the mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell looked down with mixed feelings.
Suddenly, Cyclops and Phoenix approached them to witness the sight as well. Having ascended from the ground via telekinesis, they sought to help their comrades. Instead, they were just in time to see the final demise of William Stryker and the end of Shadow Cell's last mission.
"Is it over?" said Phoenix, staring down at the unmoving body alongside her comrades.
"Yes," said Mayhem in a distant tone, "It's finally over...both Stryker and Sinister."
"May God have mercy on their souls," said Cyclops, his words appropriate for the end of this trying mission.
It was bittersweet in many ways. In stopping Stryker, they had carried out the final wishes of Mr. Sinister. They had destroyed Legacy. And now that his final ghost had been laid to rest, Scott Summers, Jean Grey, Vincent Freeman, Wanda Maximoff, and Laura Howlett could lay this grim piece of their past to rest.
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