Categories > Cartoons > X-Men: Evolution > Extermination

New Surroundings New Allies

by slickboy444 0 Reviews

Takes place 2 years after Apocalypse, 1 year after the Phoenix. The mutant problem has grown and a obscure general named William Stryker thinks he has a solution. Has Scott/Jean, Wanda/Kurt, Kitty/...

Category: X-Men: Evolution - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama - Characters: Cyclops - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2006/01/14 - Updated: 2006/01/14 - 7263 words

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Extermination
Chapter 16: New Surroundings, New Allies


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The cool Northern Canadian wilderness was a vast stretch of endless evergreens and empty fields. The animals that dwelled within this habitat were far from any human population and built to withstand the cold winds of the night. It was near a remote, freshwater lake over 250 miles away from the city where a lone black plane began to descend towards the area. The trees and animals took notice of this...However, there was one little inconsistency in the usual untouched wilderness of the northern Canadian expanse. One single human...Took notice of the incoming plane near the lake. It was a young teenage girl who looked to be around 16 years old. She wore a tight leather uniform that was torn in many places...As if it had been the only set of clothing worn for years. The girl had long, dark brown hair with a tanned skin tone and deep brown eyes. Her demeanor seemed tough, rugged...As if she had been living in this remote area for years with no human contact whatsoever. She sniffed the air...Inhaling the strong scent of burning jet fuel that now lingered in the air...Yet was too faint for any normal human to smell. But this girl was far from a normal human...She was made to be a living weapon...A soulless killer. She didn't have a name in a normal sense...Only a designation. She was X23...the clone of the original weapon X...Wolverine.

She had his healing factor...His heightened senses...And his adamantium claws in both her hands and feet. And like him...She was part animal inside. And it was that animal that helped her survive...While her human side, or what was left of it, had sought revenge on those responsible for her painful existence. She...Wasn't supposed to have any emotions whatsoever. Yet growing up being tortured every day of her life and raised like an animal...There still existed a deep feeling within her...A feeling that surfaced whenever she saw other children like her with their families, smiling happily and enjoying life. And through this, she developed something that she was not supposed to have...Feelings. And it was those feelings that caused her to fight her creators and get away. With help from the man she had once despised as being responsible for all her pain...She exacted her revenge on Hydra, the organization that created her and tried to make her into a soulless killer.

But now...Her purpose for existing seemed somewhat trivial...And meaningless. Sure she was free...But why? And what was a living weapon to do with her so called 'life?' Living in the wilderness...There was nobody to tell her what to do, what to think, or what to feel. New sensations...New feelings that were once strictly prohibited by Hydra were emerging more and more with each passing day. The long suppressed human within her...Was finally starting to grow. She felt things like anger...Sadness...Despair...Loneliness...and Frustration. But she was all alone...With nobody to help her make sense out of all these unfamiliar feelings. SHIELD and the rest of the world for that matter believed her to be dead...And she might as well have been...Only, here she was...Standing on a ridge watching the black plane descend towards the lake.

It had been years since she actually came into contact with another human, be they mutant or not. Now suddenly...Newcomers were arriving in this place where nobody else dwelled for miles. It was a most unexpected turn of events for young X23. She was dead in some ways...Alive in others. She had been living in the wild for well over a year now...And she was going to find out who these intruders on her solitude were and what they wanted. With the heavy sent of jet fuel still hanging strong...The former living weapon began to trace it over towards the lake, where she would find out more about who these intruders were.

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"Descend over there Cyclops," said Magneto as the facility that he had described earlier finally came into view, "There's a hanger built into the hill. I'll open it for you...Just keep it steady."

Using his magnetic powers, Eric Magnus Lensherr, also known as Magneto, opened the large metal doors that led into the top part of the facility. It was a new dwelling that couldn't have come any sooner...For Pietro was still in need of medicine, the X-jet was in need of fuel, and the surviving members of the X-men and the Brotherhood were in need of a safe haven from the marauding military that had destroyed their homes and killed many of their friends.

The X-jet landed softly thanks to its vertical take off and landing thrusters and Scott used the forward movement of the wheels to slowly and safely move the jet into the concealed hanger.

"Wow...What is this place?" said Kitty as she looked at the darkened area as the jet entered the hanger.

"A former SHIELD post...Designed to keep 100 agents safely concealed for extended durations of time with no assistance from the outside world."

"A SHIELD post? But what's it doing in Canada?" commented Jean, finding it strange for an American based operation to be placed in a foreign country.

"That is one of the reasons why it was shut down..." answered Eric, "SHIELD used to work jointly with Canadian intelligence 10 years ago during the last administration, but after a few changes in leadership...Relations between both intelligence communities soured and SHIELD was forced to abandon this base before it could even pack up most of the contents as a part of an joint agreement. But thankfully...I managed to learn of this place and salvage it. I had the intention of using this place as a secondary base of operations...But I never used it."

"Well at least it's a step up from the cave," said Mystique as the engines began to die down.

"Indeed...This place has enough food and provisions to keep us all here indefinitely. It is also not on any maps and is concealed by the landscape. Add to that, we are in Canada...So I doubt that we'll have to deal with the American military up here anytime soon."

"Don't be too cocky..." warned Scott as he finally killed the engines, "These past few days have been full of surprises."

Once the engines finally went silent, a new light suddenly shined from the ceiling of the hanger. One by one...Rows of fluorescent lights lit up and illuminated their new surroundings. Upon exiting the plane, the new inhabitance of this mysterious dwelling took in the sight of their new shelter. From what they could see in the hanger alone, it was clear that Magneto had been right in saying that this place hadn't been used in some time. Old barrels of jet fuel and rusted chains littered the spacious area of the hanger, hinting that perhaps it was meant for more than one plane. Dust and soot had gathered on the ground around them as everybody began to explore the mysterious base.

"So this is where we're going to have to live?" said Wanda somewhat distantly, not at all liking the dark, dingy atmosphere of the old base.

"For now, fraulein..." said Kurt with a gentle smile as he came up behind her and placed a hand on her shoulder, helping to alleviate at least some of her anxiety.

For the next few hours, the surviving X-men, Brotherhood, and Acolytes explored the vast underground complex that they were now going to live in. The whole complex was divided into three levels: the first being the hanger and holding areas for vehicles and aircraft, the second being the large lounge and living area for the soldiers, and the third being the place where the vast computer terminals and intelligence gathering equipment resided. Most of the computers in the third level had been wiped clean of any data on them and all of the components remained silent as if it hadn't been used in years. In addition to there being a large array of living quarters on the second level...They were also relieved to find that it had a fully equipped hospital with the best equipment available. This was a major godsend to Pietro, for it also had a sizeable storage of the strong pain killers like morphine that the wounded speed demon was desperately in need of. While most of the tired mutants quickly found their way to the dormitories to get some much needed sleep, Scott, Jean, and Magneto carefully helped move Pietro into the better equipped medical bays of the base. While some parts of it were still a little dusty, for the most part it was still sterile. Upon lying Pietro on to one of the main medical beds, he let out a deep groan as he face winced in pain from the sudden movement of his body.

"It's alright my son..." said Magneto softly, hating the feeling of hearing his son in pain, "You're going to be just fine."

Jean wasted no time in setting up an IV to the speedsters arm while Scott helped by hooking up a pack of morphine. Even though he had been told that he had survived the gunshot wounds...Magneto still held a great deal of concern for his son's well being and it showed in his expression.

"Is he going to be okay?"

"Don't worry...Now that we've got pain killers and disinfectant, we can keep him pain free and stop the infections. His body should do the rest and he'll be back to his old self in no time," assured Jean as she began to administer the morphine and go through some of the pain killers stored in the cabinets.

Eric breathed a powerful sigh of relief as he looked back down at his wounded son. He gently found himself stroking his head as he quickly dozed off from the pain killers and feel into a deep sleep. While Scott was replacing some of the bandages, he actually caught a glimpse of the master of magnetism's face as he hovered over Pietro protectively. And without his helmet on, Jean actually could sense some projections from this man that had once been able to avoid the detection of Cerebro with ease. And while he continued to look down at his son with a morose expression...He actually felt teas form in his eyes. Scott seemed to catch this and was once again forced to hide his undue surprise that a man like Magneto, whom had once been considered the worst of the worst by the X-men, actually weeping for a son that he didn't even seemed to have cared about a little over two years ago. It was nearly the same thing with him that he had experienced back with Mystique when they first encountered her at the mansion. She had become a completely different woman from the old, bitter enemy they once knew and in spending time with her in the past few days at the cave...They had come to see that she really had changed as a result of these past two years. If that was so with Mystique...Then could a similar change have taken place in Magneto as well?

'He sure seems worried Jean...I've never seen him like this. I never thought he even had an emotional side to him,' said Scott with his thoughts as he finished replacing the bandage on Pietro's leg.

'Well these past few days have been full of surprises,' answered Jean, who seemed equally shocked that someone as bitter and cold as Magneto could ever change, 'I never would have thought Mystique to have a soft side to her...But after spending time with her, I've seen it for myself.'

'You think that maybe the same thing has happened to Magneto? I mean...He did go through the same ordeal with Apocalypse as Mystique did.'

'It's possible...But all I know is that from what I can sense...The man is really confused and angry with himself. His whole mind is a jumbled mess and he's projecting some really depressing feelings.'

Like Mystique...Magneto had gone through something traumatic as a minion of Apocalypse. However, the effects of such an ordeal had been unknown to anybody...Until now. In dealing with Mystique, Scott and Jean had their old dogmatic views towards their former enemy shattered. Now...Was the same thing going on with Magneto? Was there any human left within this hallow shell of a man that had once sought to destroy humanity?

'I can finish up in here Scott...You should go get some rest. It's been a long day...' sent Jean as started to apply some disinfectant and apply the last of the new bandages.

'Are you sure Jean?' replied Scott, seeing the dark circles under his girlfriend's eyes.

'I'm positive...I'll be done soon. I promise I'll join you later...You know I'm not going to be able to sleep alone.'

'I know...Neither of us is...' sent Scott in return.

Although he hesitated slightly at first, he didn't go against Jean's wishes and began to make his way out of the medical bays, but not before they sent each other one last 'I love you' through their link.

"Magneto, I can take it from here. I promise you...He'll be alright," assured Jean, as she nearly finished replacing the final bandage.

Eric didn't even look up to meet the gaze of the young redhead as his sight remained fixed on his son. He was still lost in deep thought as he gently ran his hands along Pietro's face. It was clear that he didn't want to leave his son's side...There were so many things left to say to him after all this time. But lying there unconscious on the hospital bed...He could do nothing but wait. He had betrayed his son...He had thrown away his daughter...How was he ever going to be able to repent for such atrocities? He might as well have been one of the gunmen that did this to Pietro. Feeling tired on nearly every level imaginable, Magneto finally conceded to Jean's request as he looked back up and headed towards the door...But not before speaking his peace.

"Thank you Jean Grey...I owe you all a great deal for looking after my children," said the master of magnetism in a deep, yet grateful tone.

Jean didn't know how to respond to a man that had tried more than once to kill her and every last one of her friends. But looking at the man before her...He truly was not the same as he was before. Bearing that thought in mind, Jean merely responded as simply as she could.

"You're welcome..."

Eric Lensherr managed so smile ever so meekly as he slowly made his way out of the medical area and into the dimly lit lounge. Everyone had fallen quiet...Succumbing to the exhaustion that such a trying ordeal had put them through. But as Magneto made his way towards the sleeping area, he encountered Cyclops once more as he sat tiredly on the couch. It was unusual because Magneto had seldom seen him out of uniform, yet despite the grim past involving him and his actions towards his friends, he and the others had trusted him. They were a lot quicker to do so than he had anticipated and the reasons for that still avoided him. He truly didn't want to sleep...He knew that nightmares from Apocalypse and everything he had seen would haunt him. Now that he had seen first hand what had happened to his son...Now that he had questioned his true purpose after what Piotr had said...Everything was so unclear to him. These uncertainties held true in his hallow expression had he let out a deep, tired sigh.

"You should get some sleep Mr. Lensherr...It looks like you haven't rested in days," said Scott as he looked at the dark circles under his eyes.

It was a rare moment for Scott to see Magneto look so weak. But here he was...Standing before him looking like a mere shell of the man that had once tried to control him.

"I haven't rested period, Cyclops...Of all the things within my power...I still cannot attain the simple pleasure of a good nights sleep."

"Let me guess...Bad dreams?" asked Scott inquisitively, almost humored by the obviousness of Magneto's insomnia.

"How did you know?" said Magneto, looking greatly surprised at the young man's perception.

"Because I'm no stranger to them either..."

"I find that hard to believe..." said Eric with a hint of sarcasm in his tone.

"Still Magneto I see..." said Scott as he shook his head, "I would have thought that you of all people would know better than to judge people before you even know them."

Magneto was about to respond...But he could find no way to respond to Scott's words. Now he felt guilty upon hearing this...Him being a minority among minorities, yet still being as judgmental as the people behind all of this carnage. Eric Lensherr just let out another sigh, knowing that he was still confused and the answers that he had been seeking for the past two years were still no closer to him than they were before.

"I'm sorry Cyclops...But I guess my lack of sleep is starting to show," admitted Magneto, "It's just so exhausting to feel how a mere week can seem like an entire lifetime."

"Relativity..."

"What?" replied Magneto, confused by the young man's words.

"Einstein's theory of relativity..." explained Scott, "Grab hold of a hot pan and a second can seem like an hour. But put your hands on a hot woman...And an hour can seem like second. It's all relative..."

Magneto just looked back at Scott with an unparalleled look of bewilderment. Then...He did something he never thought that he'd do at a time like this...He laughed.

"Cyclops...I spent five years studying at Oxford University...And that has to be the best physics explanation that I've ever heard."

"Thanks...And please, call me Scott."

"Very well...Scott," said Eric as he finally collapsed onto one of the soft chairs adjacent to the couch that Scott was sitting on.

The two former enemies then sat in silence as the eerie calm of the underground base hung strong in the air. This strange place was their home now for the time being...They were hiding. For all this turmoil and drama...It was still sobering and somewhat frustrating to know that they still had no clue as to why this happened or who was responsible. But now...Everybody was simply too exhausted at this point to seek such answers.

Scott couldn't help but look back at Magneto as he stared aimlessly into space. He suddenly got the feeling of déjà vu, for he had been in a similar position with Mystique a little less than a week ago. Scott never expected to connect with Mystique...Yet he had, and in the short time she had been with them, she had come to prove herself as Raven Darkholm and not the angry, bitter woman that they once knew. With this in mind, Scott Summers couldn't help but ask himself...Was this possible for Magneto as well?

"You know for what it's worth Scott...I'm thankful that you and your friends trusted me upon my arrival. I know that I've hurt you and the rest of your friends a great deal in the past...And I guess saying that I'm sorry doesn't cut it," said Magneto as he finally broke the silence.

"No...But it helps," said Scott with a light grin, almost not believing that such words were coming from the mouth of Magneto, "Besides, I think we all owe you for leading us to this place. It's definitely better than hiding in that dirty, dingy cave back in the hills."

"Indeed...I figure that I'm well overdue for a decent act of kindness on my part. That and...I owe you all a great deal for saving my kids."

"Think nothing of it, Mr. Lensherr...We're just doing what Professor Xavier taught us," said Scott in response.

"Xavier...Yes, he taught you all well," mused the master of magnetism, "I never would have thought that I'd live to see the day when his students...The same ones that I fought so hard against and used so recklessly...Would help me or the Brotherhood for that matter after so many complications."

"Well I never thought there would come a day when we would all be forced to come together like this after losing so much," replied Scott.

"And yet...You all seemed to stay so strong despite this...Stronger then even I could ever hope to be. It is times like this that I'm glad...That you chose Xavier's dream over mine."

It was yet another comment that Scott never thought he would hear come out of Magneto...Yet he had heard it with his own ears. He couldn't help but shake his head in amazement...But then again, these past few days had been full of surprises.

"We're only as strong as our sanity...This whole ordeal has taken a lot from us. Our home is gone...Many good friends and teachers are now dead...So much to deal with in such a short period of time really can affect the way you see the world."

"I know what you mean..." responded Eric, being reminded of some of the memories that haunted him as a result of Apocalypse.

Such a response sparked Scott's curiosity...For it only further backed up the notion that this wasn't the same man that had tried to control him nearly three years ago on Asteroid M. His curiosity finally got the better of him, as Scott tried to find out more about Eric Lensherr in the same way he had done with Raven Darkholm.

"You know...It's been two years since any of us even so much as saw you Mr. Lensherr. Right after the whole Apocalypse thing...You just seemed to disappear off the face of the Earth. We never heard from you...We never detected any activity from you...Yet here you are after two years. What happened?"

"Why do you wish to know? Why do you care?" asked Magneto skeptically.

"Because I'm curious..." answered Scott truthfully, "Two years ago when I last saw you with my friends...I was looking at a completely different man. Two years ago...I would have wasted no time fighting you after everything you put me and my friends through. But now...You look different, you sound different...It's as if I'm in the presence of a completely different person. And I'm just curious to know why?"

Magneto tried to hide his look of remorse for letting himself be so easily read by a man of such youth. Add to this...He was a man that he had once deeply hurt with his plans. Yet Scott had easily seen his troubled face despite all his stoic nature. And if he could see it...Then how different had he truly become?

"A lot has happened in two years Scott..." said Magneto in a deep voice, void of emotion, "Many things happened while I was under Apocalypse's control during that dark time. I saw things...I felt things...I experienced things that haunt me to this day. My life...For all of its luster and history...Has been an endless cycle of vengeance, hate, and personal vendettas. But while I was under Apocalypse's control...I actually saw myself in the midst of that cycle...I finally got a clear picture of what I had become after all this time. And when I stopped to think about it...I truly hated it...I hated it more than I can ever describe with words."

"Sounds like Apocalypse really had an impact..." commented Scott as he listened intently to Magneto's story.

"He did...And now that I look back on it...I was the true monster...Not him. Comparing what he tried to do to the world and what I had done in my life...Apocalypse's sins couldn't hold a candle to my own. I rejected those who tried to help me...I hurt my children...And I hurt anybody that stood in my way...Even the innocent. Apocalypse may have been a madman...But I was the true monster."

Scott didn't know how to respond to such words as the pain in Eric's voice started to show through all of his stern nature. What had happened to him as a minion of Apocalypse must have been horrible for it to take a man who claimed to be dead of emotion and turn him into the hallow shell he saw before him.

"What exactly did you see...While you were under Apocalypse's control?"

Eric truly hated talking about it...But holding it in was doing him no good. But if he was to gain the trust of the surviving X-men and his children as well...Then maybe it was time for him to come clean for a change and stop keeping secrets from himself.

"Memories, mostly..." answered Magneto after a brief hesitation, "Memories of my life...What I had done...The people that I had hurt. Over and over again, Apocalypse not only made me watch what I had done...He made me feel every last painful emotion that my victims and loved ones felt as a result of my actions. Those victims included Wanda, Pietro, and my wife. That alone was bad enough and was more than necessary to drive me mad...But the worst punishment that I endured as a result of Apocalypse's control...Was being forced to see my failure as a parent to my kids...And a husband to my late wife. These memories...All of them...Were things that I had desperately tried to forget all these years. For all the struggle and pain that I went through towards my dream...I think my real goal...Was to forget."

"And that's why you wanted to rid yourself of emotion," said Scott as the answer finally dawned on him, "Not because it made you weak...But because it hurt."

The old holocaust survivor let out another sigh as he thought about the truth in Scott's words. For all his years of life, even that hidden purpose had been denied by his stubborn nature simply because he sought to justify instead of rectify. Many of these feelings he had from those fateful days under Apocalypse's control had been brought back with a vengeance after having all the emotional shielding that he had built up to that point shattered like the most fragile of glass.

"I guess...That was the real reason. It is now that I think about it," admitted Magneto, as more feelings from Apocalypse continued to surface, "I suppose...That I believed that I could justify my actions in some form or another and not tell myself that it was just a way of keeping my conscious clear. Eventually...I just wanted everything to go numb. I didn't want to feel anything."

Ever since he had found out about him, Magneto had been a true enigma to Scott and the others. His reasons, his actions, his overall hatred towards humanity...Were all mysteries with only partial answers to countless questions. Yet finally...After suffering through such a traumatic ordeal, answers were finally coming out now...And it began to make sense now. Scott never thought he would be having a conversation like this with Magneto. The man had tried to wipe out the human race once...His life was always consumed with greed and power. But there were now actual reasons for this. Scott Summers had always been one to stubbornly overlook the simple ploys of cause and effect when it came to certain people. Yet after everything that had happened, his level of thinking had changed so much. And now...He could understand.

"We all feel that way at some point in our lives I guess...But few people have the power like you do to actually carry it out," said Scott in a tired tone, "It's only natural to want the pain of bad memories to go away. I can honestly say that it's something I thought about a lot after watching my parents die. And maybe...If I was given the chance...To forget...Then I can't honestly blame you for feeling the way you do."

Magneto looked back at the young man sitting before him with intrigue as he spoke from personal experience. Never in a million years would he have thought to have something in common with Cyclops of all people. Yet this young man...Who had only lived a fraction of the time, yet experienced many similar things, seemed to understand when he once thought nobody ever would. But there were still so many questions...So many doubts. He thought about the dream he had once worked for...And he thought about the ideas that he once believed in. Through this...He just couldn't help but wonder.

"If you understand...Then I have just one question for you Cy...Scott," said Eric as he quickly corrected himself, "Why did you go with Xavier? Why did you take so strongly to his dream after you've had everything that meant something to you taken away? Why?"

"Why so curious all of the sudden?" asked Scott after hearing the old man's yearning tone.

"Because...I have to know. What is it that keeps somebody like you, Nightcrawler, Jean, or Xavier fighting for something that seems so impossible? What drives you to do such things like help enemies that would other wise hurt you? What do you have that I seem to lack in knowing my purpose when I have nothing more than doubts?"

It was a difficult question from a difficult man. Professor Charles Xavier spent the better part of his adult life trying to give Eric Lensherr the answers that he craved...Yet in the end, they still weren't enough. Scott felt the weight on his shoulders of trying to do something that his mentor couldn't...But after talking to him now here in the late hours of the night...He felt that he should at least try, for he owed both Xavier and Magneto as much.

"You know...Shortly before my dad died...He told me that when a plane goes into the air, either it keeps flying or it crashes. For most of us...We like to believe that dreams are just dreams and ideas are just ideas. Whether or not they're right or wrong isn't what matters...What does matter is that we believe in them. The Professor gave me the opportunity to follow an idea...That we, the mutants that everybody hates and fears, can make a positive difference in the world. We could fight for peace...Not war. We could fight for life...Not death. I nearly died that fateful day when my dad's plane went down...I was so close to death. If one atom...One fiber of my being had given way...Then I wouldn't be sitting here right now. I guess what I'm trying to say is...What keeps me believing in what the Professor says doesn't have a whole lot to do with how I see the human race...It's just more of how I see life. I know that you've probably seen a lot of death Mr. Lensherr...I know that it probably tainted a lot of things in your life. But for me...Surviving the worst of human cruelty...Seeing and feeling the worst that mankind has to offer...Doesn't make me think less of humanity...It gives me strength to fight it. I suppose that the reason I believe what the professor says...Is because I feel that maybe I can make a difference...A good one...For the future for both myself, my friends, everybody..."

It wasn't the right answer to what Magneto was asking...But at the same time, it wasn't the wrong answer either. Scott had his reasons for following Xavier's dream and Magneto had his reasons for doing what he did as well. But the difference between them was that Magneto felt that his reasons were not valid...They were mere lies that he told himself to justify what he had done. He...Lied to himself. He fought with himself. That much was clear now...But after hearing what Scott had to say, he felt that maybe if he could be that honest with himself...Then maybe he could fight his pain instead of trying to forget it. Just maybe...He could learn to think clearer.

"I wish I had that mindset Scott...I really do," said Eric after a long silence, "For all the years I've lived...I've been trying to do things that would help me forget...That would help me wash aside what humanity had done to me. Somewhere along the line...I think I let myself believe in my dream because I thought that it would lead me to some decent sanity on my part. I guess...I was wrong. If anything...I only made it worse."

"I think that's the difference between you and me Mr. Lensherr," responded Scott, "I stopped trying to forget a long time ago. I once thought like you in that I would have done anything to make my pain go away. But I've learned since then...I've learned that trying to make it go away doesn't do anything other then make it worse. That's because you CAN'T make it go away...It just hurts the more you try. So I don't try..."

"Then what is it that you do that I seem to be negating? I have lived for so long now...What is it that you do that I still can't seem to ascertain?"

"I cope..." answered Scott simply, "I don't forget...I remember. I don't fight it...I accept it. For some it takes longer than others...But eventually, we all learn. It's a part of being...Human I guess."

Magneto fell silent upon hearing that and simply sank into his chair, his mind processing everything that this conversation had brought to his awareness. Ever since Apocalypse...He had been doing a lot of thinking. Lately, that's all that he seemed to be doing...Thinking, questioning, and pondering. Now, his head actually began to hurt with so many conflicting thoughts going through his head. On one part of his mind...The old ideas that the source for all this confusion, carnage, and pain in his life was because of mankind. The other part of him...The new part, the one that had been growing ever since Apocalypse, kept questioning whether or not his pain was self inflicted...And just how much his own ignorance was the cause of all this.

He had fought humanity for a long time...Believing that they were unworthy of inheriting the Earth. He had seen so much of their hatred...Yet he still remained confused. Were not the victims that he and Charles helped all those years ago human? Was his late wife not human? Were his own parents not human? Yet he was a man that had betrayed his friend, hurt his children, and fought through many innocent people that stood in his way. Was he not just as unworthy? There was so much about humanity that he didn't know. There was so much about himself that he didn't know as well. But where was this taking him? What path is he going down? Will he choose to stay bitter towards humanity for the rest of his life? Or will he choose acceptance of both their flaws and his own?

He was truly in a struggle with himself as he leaned back on the chair and rested his eyes. Scott could see that he probably needed to be alone for now, so he got up and prepared to head towards one of the bedrooms. Jean then made her way down the hall to see Scott stretching and yawning in exhaustion after she had finished sedating Pietro for the night. Jean noticed Magneto's disposition as he sat still on the chair. Without his helmet, he was still projecting some rather unpleasant thoughts and feelings. But this time, she sensed a new feeling of uncertainty...And if she was not mistaken, clarity as well. She then turned towards her tired boyfriend, knowing that he had probably spoken with him.

"Is he going to be alright?" asked Jean, her voice barely a whisper.

"I don't know..." replied Scott, just as quietly, "The man is really confused. I never thought that he'd have problems that seemed so...Human, for lack of a better word."

Jean suppressed a laugh upon hearing that, knowing Magneto was never one to associate himself with anything 'human.'

"I guess that even an old guy like him can still learn new things...Especially after everything that's happened."

"I wouldn't doubt it...But right now, I guess he just needs some time to think."

And with that, the young couple left the master of magnetism to do just that...To think. Like he had been doing ever since he was freed from Apocalypse, he was stuck thinking about the same things he had for two years now. Only this time...He had learned something from being with his children and former enemies...But that only made him think harder. Either way, all this thinking was beginning to take a toll on the master of magnetism. His dream, his purpose, his own self worth...Were now in question. But at this point in time...It remained to be seen just what path he would choose in the end.

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The fury of activity in the Pentagon had finally simmered after the stunning escape of the surviving mutants in New York. The utter disappointment of failure had hung strong for the soldiers on the field, but for General William Stryker...It seemed to be but a minor setback. He was still as confident as ever, much to the surprise of his subordinate officers. Now that the targets were in Canada, the search for them was reduced to merely going over endless streams of satellite photos in hopes of finding a trace of their presence. Much of the officers were now alternating between resting and regrouping the troupes on the field. Stryker and Magnum remained awake for the most part...Never resting for more than an hour at a time. Yet despite this, they never once showed any sign of fatigue. It was a true show of endurance to see this operation out to the bitter end and only added to the growing prestige from soldiers both military and Friends of Humanity alike.

"Sir..." said one of the female officers near the communication's desk to the General as he went over the censored press releases that he was feeding to the public, "We have an incoming message over a secure line from secondary task force that you mentioned in the protocols."

"Excellent, they're right on time," said Stryker as he looked at the hour on his watch.

The general then left his position from the papers that he would later feed to the press and picked up his communicator.

"This is Stryker...Go ahead."

"General Stryker sir...We've been watching the news lately. And I have to say sir...You've really outdone yourself with this operation."

"Please...If you wanted to flatter me, there are more efficient ways than calling me at this hour. Just tell me what you have to say soldier."

"Very well sir...My FOH team recently got the secondary list of potential mutants that could pose a threat just over an hour ago. We've been preparing to go follow through with our protocols as you requested them and we're finally ready to go. We just need your confirmation, sir."

"You have it soldier..." said Stryker with a optimistic look on his face as the next part of his plan started to come together, "Remember, take care of the mutants that I have red flagged first. When the final step comes into being, having them taken out will greatly assist in the last part of the operation."

"It shall be done sir," replied the voice over the line, "With all the resources that you have been giving my humble team of assassins, you need not worry. It may take some time, but we will find each one of these freaks and take them out before they can inconvenience the final step. All we need to worry about is the press getting word of this unlawful activity."

"Don't worry about that," assured the general, "I have the press in my back pocket. Just do your part and I shall do mine...Stryker out."

And with that, the line went silent and the general went back to going over the news that he would 'release' to the press. Meanwhile, back with the group of Friends of Humanity soldiers that the Stryker had just spoken to...Each one of them was preparing to head out and fulfill the tasks that their superior had given them. They were all armed to the teeth with some of the deadliest weapons that money could buy. And they all seemed confident in their abilities to fight and win against their enemies. The leader of the group was now barking orders to every last assassin present and the ones he was speaking to over the radio in remote locations. The list that Stryker had given them was a long one...But there were some names on the list that were marked ominously as priority over all the rest. And the first name to be marked on this list...The first name that they would go after...Read Alex Summers.

*************************************************

AN: Well, that's it for now! So what do you think? Alex is now a target and X23 has made an appearance. Stay tuned to see how they will impact the story! And don't forget Magneto's little musing from his conversation with Scott. I know that some of you will slam me for making the master of magnetism a little OOC, but I thought that he should be a part of this after that last scene of "Ascension" where he is shown to be helping with the X-men. If you recall...Xavier mentioned "Some enemies becoming friends." I just wanted to do that since I always thought Magneto had a complex character. There will be more with him soon enough, so stay tuned! Oh, and by the way...That quote about relativity that Scott made was a quote from the movie "Deep Blue Sea." I don't own it...They do so please don't sue! And please...I implore you all to review! Send me your feedback directly via email or post it on the fanfiction website! I love getting reviews and I any feedback would be greatly appreciated! Well, thanks for reading and I wish you all the best!

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