Categories > Cartoons > X-Men: Evolution > Sinister Soldiers

Dealing With The Hex Factor

by slickboy444 0 Reviews

The Evo world is forever turned upside down when a man named Dr. Nathanial Essex begins a project known as Shadow Cell from which the lives of Scott, Jean, Vincent, Wanda, and X23 are changed forev...

Category: X-Men: Evolution - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Romance, Sci-fi - Characters: Avalanche, Berzerker, Blob, Boom Boom, Cannonball, Colossus, Cyclops, Gambit, Iceman, Jean, Magma, Magneto, Mr. Sinister, Multiple, Mystique, Nightcrawler, Professor Xavier, Quicksilver, Rogue, Scarlet Witch, Shadowcat, Storm, Sunspot, Toad - Warnings: [?] [V] [X] - Published: 2006/02/02 - Updated: 2006/02/02 - 8102 words

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Sinister Soldiers
Chapter 9: Dealing With The Hex Factor


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Her name was Wanda Maximoff. She was an eleven year old girl with messy black hair, raggedy clothes, and a look in her eyes that told a truly tragic story. Since she was seven, she had lived in a dark, dank, nightmarish room in an under funded insane asylum in New York. It was a scary, dreadful place for a young child, but this was where she had been forced to stay...And there was nothing she could say or do about it.

She knew she was different...She knew it was the reason why she was here. Her daddy had thrown her away into this horrible place because of it. He had gotten rid of her because she couldn't control it. But what only made things worse was the fact that she didn't know what 'it' was. She could feel it inside her...And sometimes it would happen without warning and no matter what, she never had any control over it. It often happened when she got angry. Objects would break, things would move, and she knew that she was the cause of it. She tried to control it...She tried so hard...But in the end, she failed.

She missed her daddy...She missed her brother...But they had thrown her away. They never came to visit...They never wrote or even so much as avowed any knowledge as to her existence. The thought alone brought tears to the scared young girl's eyes as she huddled in the corner of her dark cell. Nobody ever came in anymore...They just slid trays of food through an opening in the door. And they never maintained her room very well either. Because of 'it' her bed post had been mangled beyond recognition, the sink had been busted, and the padded walls had been torn. They never even gave her clean clothes, leaving her in the same raggedy, dirty rags that she had been wearing for as long as she could remember.

As she huddled in the corner of her cell, Wanda thought back to how she got here. She remembered that very day so clearly...That day when her childhood was abruptly ended forever and her world was forever darkened. For years, her daddy had told her that she and her brother were different...But she had no idea just how different she truly was. When things started breaking, when objects started moving on their own...He would yell at her, and sometimes scream at her to stop. She tried and she tried...But it just kept getting worse as she got older. Until finally...It all came to ahead and her daddy told her she wasn't manageable anymore.

It all happened so fast...He just told her and her brother, Pietro, to get into the car. She remembered clearly the cold tone in his voice, and she would later find out that it was just a prelude of what was to come. He drove her to this horrible dark place on a stormy night...A night that would forever hang strong in her mind. When they got there...There were already big, scary looking men standing there...And they grabbed her and began taking her away.

She had been confused, dazed, and very scared...And all she could remember was seeing her daddy and brother just standing there...Watching as these scary men took her away into the dark building she was now stuck in. She reached out to them...She cried and she cried...But they did nothing. They just stood there and watched as she was taken away.

"Father! Father please! Don't let them take me! Please! Don't let them take me! Daddy! Don't let them take me!"

She had never cried so much before in her life...But her tears had been in vain. As soon as she was taken into the asylum, her daddy and brother disappeared from sight. She kept struggling and fighting to escape...But the big, scary men were too strong for her. She reached out...Not wanting to go...But it didn't change anything. At one point, she thought she saw Pietro reach back...But her father had been there to keep him in check. Neither of them showed a hint of emotion...No tears, no sorrow, no regret. They had abandoned her...They had thrown her away.

In this heinous place, Wanda had to endure loneliness, sadness, and confusion as she struggled to make sense out of what it was she couldn't control that had caused her so much pain and sorrow. Over time, she had hoped that one day her daddy would come and take her out of this horrible place...But they never did. They left her here...They didn't want her. She might as well have been dead.

Such thoughts brought tears to the young girl's eyes, but such tears weren't just that of loneliness and sorrow...They were also of anger and hatred. She cried and she cried, but her daddy just threw her away. He threw her away and never looked back. He abandoned her...She was not his daughter anymore. And in her eyes...He was not her father anymore. She had no father...She had no brother...She had no family. She had nothing...Nothing except this dark room. This was her world now...And she didn't want to be here. She wanted to leave...But no matter how hard she cried, she was stuck here...Trapped in what felt like an unending nightmare. Sometimes she would grow dazed and confused when 'it' began to manifest and she was assailed by horrible memories of her time in this very unfriendly place. However, whenever such horrors got too great for her to bear, she just kept reminding herself of who she was...Because that was something she never wanted to forget...That was something she never wanted somebody to take from her.

"My name is Wanda Maximoff...My name is Wanda Maximoff...My name is Wanda...Maximoff."

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It was late in the afternoon when an unmarked motorcade of cars pulled into the insane asylum which hopefully held the next recruit of Shadow Cell. Some of these cars contained fully armed GURSO soldiers while one contained Magnum, Scott, Jean, Vincent, and Dr. Essex. There was another that had the Colonel and the General, for they had chosen to ride separately this time...Mainly for security reasons. The center black car that contained the mutant kids of Shadow Cell and their mentors was surrounded by other cars containing GURSO soldiers. However, they were quickly becoming accustomed to such procedures...Even if it still left an uncomfortable feeling deep down.

When Dr. Essex, the Colonel, and the General stepped out, they were greeted with the dark, ominous shadow of the insane asylum that held the target in question. Magnum soon followed with Scott, Jean, and Vincent as they stood by their superiors obediently and took in the sight before them.

"Damn, why do all insane asylums look like something out of a Stephen King novel?" said the Colonel as he looked distastefully at the building before him.

"It's an insane asylum Colonel...What do you expect? Disneyland?" quipped Dr. Essex as he rolled his eyes at the Colonel's observations.

"Enough..." said the General, who seemed more serious about this situation than the other two men beside him, "Doctor...Are you sure this girl...This Wanda Maximoff is in there?"

"But of course General," assured Dr. Essex in a confident tone, "She has been in this same facility since age seven."

"Age seven?" said the Colonel, not seeing how a child could live in a place like this...Then again, Jean Grey seemed to manage, "How'd she end up here in the first place? Is she another orphan?"

"No Colonel...Her father simply threw her away," explained Dr. Essex as he held the young girl's file in his hand, "According to what I've read about her...It was because of her mutant abilities."

"Her father put her here?" said the Colonel, surprised that anybody would do that to a child, "Damn, she must have been unmanageable then. What makes you think she won't be just as troublesome to handle at Shadow Cell?"

"Because Colonel...We have something her father didn't..." explained Dr. Essex with a grin as they waited for the GURSO units to settle before they entered, "We have the bio-mutagenic accelerator. I also did a little background research...And I think the intensity of this girl's powers are simply too great to pass up."

"But will she be able to manage becoming a soldier?" asked the General.

"Oh don't worry about that General," assured Dr. Essex, "I have a feeling that with all the issues that some along with having your father throw you away like garbage...The girl in question will have all the motivation and drive she needs to become worthy of Shadow Cell."

"I guess we'll just have to wait and see," said the Colonel as he signaled the surrounding GURSO soldiers to stay back, but stay ready just in case, "But for something like this...Did you have to bring the runts with us?"

Scott, Jean, and Vincent clearly heard that comment, but they didn't flinch or respond in any way. They knew the Colonel wasn't exactly very fond of mutants...Them included. However, like the GURSO soldiers that constantly watched over their every move, they had grown somewhat used to such words from the ever suspicious Colonel as they kept their focus on the task at hand.

"They are going to meet their newest recruit Colonel," said Dr. Essex as they were now all poised to enter the facility, "They have a right to be here."

"Whatever...As long as they don't cause any trouble," said the Colonel as he shot the three kids a distasteful look.

"Just focus on the task at hand Colonel," said the General, wanting to get this over with, "Now come on...We have a new mutant to recruit."

And with that, the three men, Magnum, and the mutant kids made their way into the dark facility with the GURSO unit staying behind. Magnum stayed close to the kids, for she had been instructed by Dr. Essex to keep an eye on them while he and the two officers took care of business.

The three mutant kids that were now soldiers in training for Shadow Cell had eagerly agreed to go, if for anything to at least get a chance to get outside for something other than obstacle courses from boot camp. However, they didn't know they would be coming to a place like this...An insane asylum. Such a place was very disheartening for young Jean Grey...Who had spent plenty of time in a place like this herself before Dr. Essex and Shadow Cell freed her.

Jean tried to hide her fear and anxiety like she had learned to so effectively as a result of boot camp as she neared the entrance, but wave after wave of such panic did not go unnoticed by Scott, who was walking right beside her and could clearly sense her feelings. Scott had come to know Jean better than anybody over these past two years since that fateful day they first met in the insane asylum where Jean was taken out of to become a part of Shadow Cell. Over time, they had come to share a special bond...One that allowed them to truly read each other in a way nobody else could. And it was through this bond that Scott could sense her turmoil and responded by placing a comforting hand upon her shoulder as she began breathing in ragged breaths.

"Jean...Jean are you okay?" asked Scott in a concerned tone as he saw the expression on Jean's face turn to one of great discomfort.

This seemed to catch Vincent's attention as well as he too turned to see the look on his friend's face.

"Jean?" said Scott as he tightened his grip on her shoulder.

"I'll be fine..." she said abruptly, pushing aside her weary feelings and swallowing the lump in her throat that was forming as they neared the entrance, "I just...I don't like this place."

"I know...Neither do I," said Scott in a soothing tone, "Don't worry...It'll be okay. I know how hard it is."

Jean tried to respond, but the words wouldn't come out right as she found herself leaning in closer to Scott, if for anything...For something to hold onto.

"Don't worry Jean...We're here," assured Vincent, "And it's probably good that you come with us on something like this. Because if whoever this girl that Dr. Essex says we're going to recruit has lived in a place like this...She'll probably need all the help she can get. And who better to understand her than you?"

That helped calm Jean down a bit more as she managed to look back up with a more determined expression at her two friends. Her poise strengthened and she began to take deep breaths...Focusing on the girl they were here to help. And as they entered and Jean kept her cool, Scott removed his hand from her shoulder...However, she still didn't want to let him go, so she kept holding onto his hand...Taking comfort in having something to keep her strong.

Such actions did not go unnoticed by Magnum. However, she didn't say or do anything to stop the actions of her young pupils. Part of this was because of what Dr. Essex had secretly ordered about letting Scott and Jean interact together, but another part of it was her belief that the closer they got to one another, the more effectively they'll fight on the battlefield, for contrary to popular soldier dogma...Emotions could be a very powerful driving force when it came to combat.

Magnum and the three mutant kids stayed silent while following Dr. Essex and the two officers, going through numerous security checkpoints in the process as they neared the most secure section of the hospital where Wanda was being held. Along the way, they passed numerous other mentally ill people who seemed to be wandering around in a daze, harboring strange expressions upon their faces. Some were twitching sporadically and others were talking to people who weren't there. Jean picked up a few of these thoughts and tightened her grip on Scott's hand as they finally made their way to their final destination where a middle-aged doctor was waiting.

"Ah, you must be the gentlemen my secretary told me about," said the doctor as he extended his hand towards the three men in a welcoming gesture, "I'm Dr. Steven Ginsburg."

"Yes, please to meet you Doctor," said Dr. Essex in a friendly tone, "My name is Dr. Nathanial Essex and these are my two close associates."

"It's a pleasure to meet you," said Dr. Ginsburg, "So, what brings you folks here? I have to say we don't usually get impromptu visits like this. Usually we have to organize such meetings over the phone first."

"Yes, I'm aware of that," said Dr. Essex, putting his people skills to work once again, "However, given the situation here, I feel it would be best if we do this as quick as possible."

"Indeed," said Dr. Ginsburg, "Now...Who exactly is it that you are here to see?"

"A resident of your dwellings for the past five years..." answered Dr. Essex, wanting to cut right to the point, "A young girl by the name of Wanda Maximoff."

Dr. Ginsburg's face immediately paled...A reaction Dr. Essex was all too familiar with after being in a similar situation like this with Jean. It was almost humorous to him in a way because it seemed so predictable for someone who didn't truly understand just what he had in his presence. And because of this, Dr. Essex didn't flinch or falter in the slightest even as the weary man before looked back in shock, thinking they had to be mistaken.

"Wanda Maximoff?" said Dr. Ginsburg in a non-believing tone, "Doctor...I don't think you mean..."

"I know exactly what I mean..." quipped Dr. Essex before he could finish, "Your ears do not deceive you my friend...I clearly said Wanda Maximoff. And she is the one I'm here to see."

"Dr. Essex, I didn't mean any disrespect, but I really don't think you want to get involved with a case like this," he said, sounding as though this had been a nuisance for him for some time, "This girl is truly a bizarre case. She's a very disturbed little girl and anybody who worked with her will tell you that very strange things happen when they're around her. The girl flinches at the sight of her own shadow and is very traumatized emotionally. Her own father wants nothing to do with her...In fact, he's the one that threw her here in the first place."

"Yes Doctor, I know of young Wanda's plight," said Dr. Essex as he held up the folder containing her information, "I probably know even more than you do. I'm fully aware of the great 'anomalies' surrounding her case. And since neither you nor your staff seem to be very good at handling her...I think me and my associates can help you..."

As always, Dr. Essex used his charm and poise to sway the curious middle aged man who had been dealing with all the stress Wanda Maximoff had been causing him since he first arrived. And with the offer Dr. Essex had in mind, he had a feeling that he would be all too eager to get her off his hands.

However, while Dr. Essex was talking to Dr. Ginsburg, the curiosity of the three mutant kids began to grow as they saw the reaction in the middle-aged man when the name Wanda Maximoff was spoken. They were right outside the heavily reinforced door where the scared young girl that had been thrown away by her father currently sat huddled in a corner. All three of were eager to see just who would be their new teammate and the lingering mystery of how she came to be in such a horrible place hung strong in their young minds.

There were no windows into the room...Only a slit near the bottom that looked big enough for food trays to be passed through. This feature didn't go unnoticed by Vincent as his curiosity got the better of him and he found himself approaching the heavy door and kneeling down so that the slit was at eye level. Scott and Jean eagerly stood behind him, also feeling quite curious, although Jean was a bit more reluctant because being in a place like this brought back so many unpleasant memories for her.

While Scott worked to keep Jean calm, Vincent pressed onward as Dr. Essex and Dr. Ginsburg continued to talk and discuss young Wanda Maximoff. With an uncertain shakiness in his hand, Vincent found himself taking the sliding knob that opened the slit and slowly slid it to the right...Giving him a good, clear view into the dark room. And what he saw made him nearly freeze.

"Oh my God..." he said to himself as he took in the sight before him.

It was a tragic scene that Vincent knew all too well. A little girl that looked only a couple years younger than he did was huddled in a dark corner. He could clearly detect tears in her eyes and she sounded as though she was crying. The room was very ominous and Vincent somewhat cringed at the sight of somebody living in such a sad state of existence for years at a time. It was almost like a mirror to him...Reflecting upon himself the kind of dark things he had been through in his life.

His light blue eyes widened in amazement at this girl...Then, she suddenly turned towards the door and he got a full view of her face. Vincent's eyes widened in a strange sense of awe as he looked back at the young girl's face, for it seemed wrought with sorrow and loss. It was a look he knew all too well...Yet one he seldom saw on another person's face. And as he looked into the tear stained eyes of the young girl, Vincent Freeman felt as though something paralyzed his whole body...For he could not tear himself away from what he was looking at.

For young Wanda Maximoff, the sudden appearance of a set of eyes gazing at her had startled her...But upon seeing them for herself, she quickly determined that they were not the cold, dark eyes of a guard or doctor. No...These eyes were very different. They were an eerie shade of light blue the likes of which she had never seen before. And unlike so many other eyes she had seen in this dark place she was forced to call home...These eyes looked peaceful, warm, and non-threatening.

It was the first time in a long while she had seen someone and not been scared. Slowly, she got up from her huddled state and slowly made her way over to the door where the eerie blue eyes of Vincent Freeman stayed locked onto the visibly traumatized young girl. She went slow...Unsure whether or not this was even real and she was simply imagining what she was seeing as she so often did in the dark world she lived in. For Vincent, his heart rate went up the closer she got. Scott and Jean tried to get a look at what he was so fixated on, but the young man did not move in the slightest.

"Vincent..." said Scott as he tried to shake his friend out of his daze, "Vincent, what do you see?"

The young man didn't respond, for he had barely even heard what was spoken as he saw the young girl known as Wanda move closer and closer to the door. Jean could clearly sense a presence in the room, but she couldn't get a clear reading. She didn't know why it seemed to send Vincent into such a daze, but whatever it was...It seemed likely that he wasn't going to be broken out of it.

As Wanda got closer and closer to the door where the enchanting blue eyes remained fixated on her, she felt her legs start to shake somewhat. She wasn't sure why, but something about that gaze had caused the already weak muscles in her body to falter. Soon, it became too much for her as she found herself kneeling down to look closer into the penetrating eyes of Vincent Freeman. She didn't know what to say. It was as if she had forgotten how to talk. But from Vincent...He managed one word that nearly made her heart skip a beat.

"Hi..."

Wanda was within a few feet of the door upon hearing that word, when suddenly...The door swung open and Dr. Essex now stood in the doorway with Vincent, Scott, and Jean standing closely behind him, getting their first clear view of the young traumatized Wanda Maximoff. Immediately, she fell back and found herself scooting towards her bed in a fit of renewed fright. However, upon seeing this, Dr. Essex merely smiled at the sight of the young girl. She looked so fragile and hopeless on the outside...Yet from within, he could see that there was so much more just waiting to be tapped.

"Hello Wanda...It's nice to meet you," said Dr. Essex in a warm, welcoming tone as he allowed Scott, Jean, and Vincent to enter while Magnum, the Colonel, and the General stayed outside to take care of the paperwork that would officially make this girl a part of Shadow Cell.

Wanda looked terrified, but at the same time, she was curious since this was a man she had not seen before and the way he carried himself in terms of poise and demeanor was so different compared to the other cold doctors who often came into her room. And then there was the image of the three other kids that looked to be around her age if not a little older. They looked kind of imposing for kids, but they didn't look threatening to her as she saw the compassionate looks they gave her...Almost as if they knew what she was feeling. Dr. Essex saw the traumatized look on her face, but it only served to assure him that this was going to be every bit as easy as he had hoped. That ignorant fool of a father had tossed away this genetic prize like the evening garbage...And all he had to do was pick her up and she would be a part of both Shadow Cell and his master plans for the future.

"It's okay Wanda...You don't have to be scared. I'm here to help you and so are my friends. We're here to take you away from this heinous place..." he said as he saw a sudden look of intrigue appear on the young girl's face.

"Who...Who are you?" she said in an anxious tone.

Dr. Essex simply smiled as he knelt down before her and offered her a comforting gaze which seemed to seal the deal right then and there that this young girl was going to be one hell of a soldier.

"My name is Dr. Nathanial Essex. And I'm here with an offer..."

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Naturally, it didn't take a lot of convincing to get Wanda to willingly agree to join Shadow Cell. After all, anything had to be better than that heinous asylum her father had thrown her in. The promise of gaining full control over the power that had caused her father to get rid of her so heartlessly and becoming strong was just too great an offer to pass up. And with her acceptance, the Shadow Cell officials handled her paperwork so that she would officially disappear just as Scott, Jean, and Vincent had. She was now a recruit of Shadow Cell...And her new life was set to begin.

Like Scott, Jean, and Vincent had been on their initial recruitment, Wanda Maximoff was very quiet on the ride back to Shadow Cell. She wore a power dampening necklace to keep her powers under control and she pretty much kept to herself the whole time. She sat next to Vincent and across from Scott and Jean in the unmarked car throughout the drive and from time to time, they would each assure her that everything was going to be okay and she was going to have a new life with Shadow Cell. They knew full well from personal experience that it was hard to comfort someone who had just come out of such a horrible place, but with looks and words of genuine compassion, young Wanda gradually began to ease in her fears as she felt a sense of comfort among these other lost souls.

Upon arriving back at Shadow Cell HQ, she was immediately prepped for the bio-mutagenic accelerator. The elaborate, somewhat scary procedures were a little overwhelming to the young girl, but Dr. Essex allowed Vincent, Scott, and Jean to remain present during the procedure in order to comfort and calm her.

When the process was finally underway, Wanda was effectively under the effects of the sedatives and barely conscious, but she could still make out the presence of the three other mutant kids that knew all too well the kind of feelings that came along with going though this machine.

"Dr. Essex..." said one of the female scientists sitting at the main computer terminal that operated the programs that ran the machine, "We're all set to go."

"Excellent," said Dr. Essex with a grin as he looked at young Wanda in the bio tube, "Begin the procedure."

With the input of a few commands and the coordinated instructions between other scientists, the hum of the machine filled the room as the tube filled with green liquid and began accelerating Wanda Maximoff's mutation to delta class levels. While Scott, Jean, and Vincent watched with some discomfort over seeing the pained looks on Wanda's face as the machine began putting her through the same process they all went through with equal discomfort, Dr. Essex stood alongside the Colonel and the General as they watched their newest recruit.

"So what powers can this little freak do?" said the Colonel as he watched with indifference at the pain upon the young girl's expression as her DNA was being restructured and enhanced.

"Oh she's quite the bombshell Colonel," said Dr. Essex as he watched on with fascination at the computer readouts of her mutation and genetic structure, "While I can't give you a complete scientific explanation, I have surmised that young Wanda's powers deal with the manipulation of probability."

"Probability?" said the General, thinking that was a new one on him, "How on Earth can she manipulate something like that?"

"Like I said General...I can't really give you an explanation for that," said Dr. Essex, "But I do know that it is quite intense. She can change the chance of a gun or bomb failing from a fraction of a percent to one hundred percent. She can also cast something I refer to as hex bolts that can cause a truly devastating burst of destruction from within on a molecular level. This gives her telekinetic-like powers over her environment, only through a different medium. She can make buildings collapse, exert powerful control over the structures around her, and paralyze anybody mutant or human that stands in her way."

"Sounds pretty powerful..." said the Colonel as Wanda began to let out pained groans that echoed through the lab area.

"Indeed she is Colonel..." said Dr. Essex with a triumphant grin, "And just think of how powerful she'll be once my machine gives her full control at her ability's maximum intensity. With powers like hers, I can see her doing well in the realms of demolition, sabotage, and overall destruction."

"So you're saying we should give her some explosive's training?" said the General, who was trying to focus on something other than the pained look on the young girls face as her body and mind was reconfigured into the more advanced form of a delta class mutant.

"Yes, I feel she'd do well in that field, I'm sure of it," said Dr. Essex with confidence as the process neared its climactic final moments, "By the time we're done with her...I think she'll be able to put together and disarm a nuclear bomb with a blindfold. She will be yet another integral part of Shadow Cell...And I can see that she is truly brimming with potential."

Neither of the officers argued with that as Wanda let out louder yells of pain through the bio-tube. Both Scott and Jean were starting to get anxious while Vincent seemed the most concerned. He knew they were only allowed to stand so close, but Vincent made sure that he was still in plain sight of her so she would have something to focus on.

"Oh God...I hated this part," cringed Jean, knowing the procedure was nearing its inevitable climax.

"Yeah...I know," said Scott as they firmly held onto each other's hands.

"Come on...Just a little bit longer," said Vincent, talking as though he was speaking directly to Wanda, "You can do it Wanda...You can do it. Just get past this part...And it will all be over."

Whether or not Wanda could hear him didn't matter to Vincent, for he just kept his eyes fixed on hers. From the tank, Wanda felt as though her entire body was on fire both inside and out. She felt as though her thoughts were beginning to delude into nothingness and she was falling apart on a cellular level...But Vincent's gaze remained strong on her and it gave her something to focus on.

Vincent's comforting blue eyes...The ones that had rendered her paralyzed when she first saw them...Was all she wanted to focus on now. It hurt to keep her eyes open in the liquid environment of the tube, but she didn't tear her gaze away from him. The eerie, light blue eyes that told a thousand tragic stories stayed fixated on the young girl that was currently in a world of pain as she put her hand on the class as if to reach out to Vincent. And although he didn't fully realize it, he found himself reaching out as well as he kept talking to her through her pain.

"That's it Wanda! You're doing it!" urged Vincent even though he wasn't sure if she could hear him, "Just a little bit longer. I know it hurts, but you're very strong...You can do it! Just hold on Wanda...Just hold on."

As Vincent's eyes locked with hers, Wanda let out one last pained yell as the final part of the process came and went. And when it was finally over, she passed out into a world of unconsciousness...Her last image being the light blue eyes of Vincent Freeman.

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Upon the procedure's completion, the Shadow Cell doctors gave the unconscious girl a thorough examination to make sure she was okay. Like Scott, Jean, and Vincent, her powers had been greatly enhanced in terms of intensity and control, and along with the advanced cell structure, her body was improved physically as well. As was the case with the others, she was now an inch or so taller and the foundations for future muscle and body growth was clearly visible.

After the doctors gave her the thumbs up, the whole procedure was deemed a complete success and she was allowed to rest in the infirmary. Scott, Jean, and Vincent stayed with her at the request of Dr. Essex, knowing it would probably be beneficial for her to know and grow closer with her fellow teammates. With doctors coming and going, taking notes and recording data about her enhanced physiology, the three mutant kids stayed by her bedside. Nobody said much and Vincent seemed to be the one most lost in thought as he looked at the still form of the young girl lying in the bed before him. Scott and Jean weren't sure why, but they didn't say anything to him...For if there's one thing they had learned in being a part of Shadow Cell, it's when to keep their comments to themselves.

Then finally, a mere five hours after the procedure, Wanda Maximoff began to stir from her unconscious state. She felt as though every part of her body had a lead weight on it, but her mind was returning to a state of full awareness as she felt the presence of three people beside her. Her vision was still blurry, but as it cleared she got a full view of Vincent, Scott, and Jean.

"Ugh..." she groaned as she tried to sit up, but felt as though her body weighed a ton.

"Yeah...I felt that way too when I woke up as well," said Jean somewhat lightheartedly as she smiled slightly down at the young girl.

"We all did," said Scott as they all gave the traumatized young girl some space, "Don't try to sit up though...It'll all wear off soon enough."

"What...What happened?" said Wanda, rubbing her head somewhat at the pounding soreness she felt surging through her.

"You went through Dr. Essex's machine," explained Vincent, "And believe it or not, what you just went through made you stronger."

"Stronger?" said Wanda as she became more aware and grew more curious as to what was happening, "Stronger with what?"

"Stronger with everything..." explained Scott, "Now like us, you can control those powers that Dr. Essex told you about. You can use them to their fullest extent."

Wanda felt a lump form in her throat at the mention of her so called powers. Dr. Essex had explained them to her...At least as best he could to a young girl who had her childhood taken away the moment her father abandoned her in that insane asylum. She still didn't understand them and part of her didn't even want to understand them after so much pain they had caused her. These 'powers' had made her life a living hell and all she wanted to do was forget she had them.

Upon seeing this sudden shift in her demeanor, Wanda hugged her shoulders and fought back her tears as she turned away from the three mutant kids who had been so nice to her since she first saw them. This quickly concerned them, but given how much her life had changed in the span of a single day they could hardly blame her.

"Wanda...Wanda what's wrong?" asked Vincent as he reached forth and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.

Wanda usually cringed at the slightest touch, but for some reason, she did no such thing upon feeling this boy lend her what comfort he could through gestures so simple, yet so meaningful to those who knew such pain.

"I don't want to use my powers..." she choked out, trying had not to break down in front of them, "I hate my powers...They curse me...They cause nothing but pain."

"Hey, hey...I know how you feel," said Scott, seeing that she was on the brink of tears as he moved in a bit closer to the distraught young girl lying in the bed, "I once thought that too...We all did at some point."

"Yes, but it's different now Wanda," said assured Vincent as he tightened his grip on her shoulder, letting her know that she didn't have to feel so much sorrow anymore now that she was here with them, "You're in a place where you can learn how to use your powers without pain."

"No...I don't want to," she sobbed, hugging herself tighter as she felt a sudden chill, "My powers they...They're what caused my daddy to...To get rid of me. I...I couldn't control them so...He threw me away into that horrible place. He...He didn't want me...He threw me away...He threw me away..."

Saying such painful words brought back a lot of unpleasant memories for the young girl as she began to weep into her pillow. The thought of using these cursed abilities that had done nothing but cause pain was very scary to her since they always led to trouble. She was afraid that once these people saw her abilities, they would throw her away just like her father did...And she would be locked up in that horrible asylum until the end of her days.

"My God...Your own father?" said Jean in disbelief.

"Yes..." managed Wanda in response on the brink of tears, "He abandoned me...He didn't want me..."

"Hey, it's okay Wanda...It's okay," said Vincent in a soothing tone, "We're not your father. We're here to help you. I know it hurts...Believe me. We all know how you feel."

"How can you possibly know?" scoffed Wanda bitterly, "How can you ever know what it's like to be thrown away into an insane asylum and be locked away like some animal?"

Jean cringed at her words, for they brought back quite a few memories for her that she'd rather forget. But at least now she could safely say she's not the only one who had to suffer in an asylum, thinking she was crazy.

"You'd be surprised..." said Jean in a low monotone as she took the hand of the traumatized girl into hers in a gesture of understanding.

Wanda was about to respond, but she was quickly cut off when she took in the hallow look on the redhead's face...A look she knew all too well.

"You...You mean?" she began, but stopped and let Jean fill in the blanks.

"Yes..." she answered in a low tone, "I was also in an insane asylum before Dr. Essex got me out. And believe me...I know how bad it feels. I was drugged, bound, and imprisoned in a room that pretty much became my whole world."

Jean's hardened mind kept her from getting too emotional about it, but the pain and anger she felt for having to live in such a horrible state of existence always lingered. While over the past two years she had learned to manage it, she knew it was all but impossible to ever forget it. Wanda could clearly see the look of pain that was so familiar to her as she took in what this seemingly hardened young girl had just revealed to her and even managed to give her hand a squeeze in return...Almost as if she was subconsciously thanking her.

"You see...You're not alone Wanda," said Scott, "We all come from unpleasant backgrounds. You were in an insane asylum and so was Jean. I had to live with a foster dad that used to beat the crap out of me on a regular basis until I ran away and was forced to live on the streets."

"And I had to spend the early years of my life living in a cage and being used for painful experiments that left pretty much everybody else dead except me," said Vincent in a deep, understanding tone, "Then I had to live on the streets for years until I found a home in an orphanage...Which later burned downed and killed everybody I cared about."

The revelation of such tragic stories did help alleviate young Wanda's tears, for they helped her feel as though she truly wasn't alone. It was the first time in many years she had felt such comfort and although her body was still weak from the process, her mind was now more at ease as she took in the compassionate looks of the three mutant kids. They truly were no stranger to pain and sorrow...That much she was certain of. But what made them different was their willingness to truly help her...To give her something to hang onto and something to live for. Looking back at their concerned faces, Wanda began to feel as though her spirit wasn't in pieces for once as they all offered her something not even her father could give her...Understanding.

"We all know how it is to feel broken mentally, physically, and spiritually on all levels Wanda..." said Vincent as he kept his hand on her shoulder and gazed into her pained eyes, "But that's why we're here...To pick up the pieces and rise above the past. I know it seems impossible now...But just take it one day at a time. You're alive and now you can truly gain control of your powers...That alone is something to be thankful for."

Coming from Vincent, that was quite a statement given how dark he had been since the destruction of the orphanage...But in the presence of someone who was truly in need of comfort and support, such feelings were set aside as saw the tears in Wanda's eyes began to fade, showing them all just how strong she truly was deep down.

"But...Why does it matter that I'm still alive?" she mused, still full of uncertainty, "My own father didn't love me. My entire life has revolved around rotting away in an asylum."

"Well we're not your father and that's not your life anymore Wanda," said Jean with a deep urging in her tone as she saw Wanda going through the same anxiety she had to go through when she first arrived at Shadow Cell, "You're a part of Shadow Cell now...You're one of us now."

"Yeah, here you'll learn to rise above the past," said Scott as he saw the look on the young girl's face gradually begin to push aside the sorrow and fight to regain that which her father had so heartlessly taken from her, "We've all been in your position Wanda...We know how hard it is. But you don't have to keep living in a world of sorrow anymore...Not while you're here with us."

Wanda felt their urgings push her in a way she hadn't been pushed before. For so long now, she had given into to hopelessness and sorrow...And going back on that was no easy task, for Scott, Jean, and Vincent could attest for that. But if this girl was now going to be a part of Shadow Cell, they would have to help her in the same way they helped each other get through each rigorous day. Being able to survive abandonment and imprisonment in an insane asylum was testament enough to her strength, and all they had to do was help her truly bring it out...For it would certainly make her one hell of a soldier.

"I just...I really don't know how I'm going to do this," she said, still full of lingering uncertainty.

"Don't think that Wanda...I think you've made it quite clear to the rest of us that you're definitely Shadow Cell material," said Vincent as Wanda once again became fixated on his alluring, light-blue eyes that had captivated her so much when she first saw them, "I know it's scary in many ways, but that's what we're here for. Part of being with Shadow Cell is looking out for one another...And you're one of us now. So no matter how hard the past is or how uncertain you feel about the future...You're never alone. I can help you...We can help you. All you have to do is let us. You won't be weak anymore because from this day onward...We'll help you become stronger..."

"Stronger..." she said, feeling as though she had just experienced her first hint of confidence in quite some time.

Looking back into the blue eyes of Vincent Freeman, Wanda felt a new sense of determination the likes of which she had never felt before. Her own father had thrown her away...He had taken everything from her. But now, for the first time since that fateful day, she felt as though she could truly get back that which she had lost. Now she honestly felt she could become strong, powerful, and driven in way she wouldn't have thought possible a mere couple of days ago.

Looking into Vincent's eyes gave her a strong feeling deep within...Many of which she had never felt before. Through him, she had first seen the window for which she could escape her old life and build a new one. And from there, she had ended up here...Left at a crossroad that was so open to so many possibilities. All she had to do was make a choice...Be strong and fight her past sorrow or be weak and let it consume her. And for the traumatized young girl, the choice was now clear.

"I want to be stronger..." she said, this time with a more definitive tone, "I want to learn...I want to fight...I want to be a part of this."

Upon hearing her choice, the three usually stoic kids actually managed to smile at their new friend as Vincent released his grip on her shoulder and took her hand...Giving her a warm, gentle feeling inside that helped make her feel so strong even after having lived through so many horrible things.

"Well then Wanda..." said Vincent as he took in the strong, determined look on her face, "All I can say now is...Welcome to Shadow Cell."

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

AN: Scott, Jean, Wanda, and Vincent are now a part of Shadow Cell and that leaves only one more recruit before the team is complete...X23. So that means all you X23 fans should sit tight and stay tuned to see how she comes into the picture in this very strange and very different world! You won't want to miss it! So what do you think so far? Are you interested in seeing where this story goes? Please tell me! Send me your feedback via email or post them on the fanfiction website. It doesn't matter which one you do, just as long as you REVIEW! Thanks for reading everybody and I wish you all the best!

HEY YOU! PLEASE REVIEW!!!
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