Professor Charles Xavier had dedicated his life pursing peace between humans and mutants. He and his X-men protect a world that hates and fears them. Now the world is on the brink of destruction once more, but this time it isn’t because of human/mutant conflict.
Millions are dying. Millions more are sick. Entire countries are collapsing. And it’s all because of the Legacy Virus, a terrifying plague unleashed by Mr. Sinister. After losing his beloved Selene, he launched a daring and deadly experiment. Using the techno-organic material developed by Tessa and Shaw Industries, Sinister synthesized a virus that can infect anybody and extract genetic information. An unfortunate side-effect is that this process kills many who are infected. So far the death toll has climbed to over 300 million and that toll promises to rise if Sinister isn’t stopped.
The X-men are already reeling with five of their friends being infected. After a week of fruitless research, they got their first break. Logan located Sinister’s base in his search for Mystique. Now the X-men can attack the source of this plague. However, Sinister isn’t the only target.
Boryspil International Airport, Ukraine – One Week Ago
James Proudstar wasn’t used to wearing a suit. Unlike his brother, he did not do well with uniforms. The flight from Boston to the Ukraine had been sheer torment from the beginning. Emma Frost didn’t give him a lot of time to prepare for this mission. She just threw him into a suit, rushed him to the airport, and flew him out under the guise of some faceless businessman. It may have been the most uncomfortable experience James had endured since the last clash with his brother.
‘How the hell did I let Frost talk me into this? I know she’s got a great rack, but this is pushing it. I get that I owe her for keeping me out of jail. What I don’t get is why she takes advantage of it in every conceivable way.’
James got off the chartered plane as fast as he could. Having spent the last ten hours in a confined seat, he was eager to do something less monotonous. As he made his way through the airport, he definitely felt vulnerable. The airports in the Ukraine weren’t nearly as secure as he had hoped. James had to shove his way through some crowds as he made his way through the terminal. He didn’t hear anyone speaking English and he definitely stood out in this crowd.
James kept scanning his surroundings. Emma warned him that Shaw may know of his presence. He was a paranoid son-of-a-bitch and after the incident at Shaw Biotech, he was sure to be extra careful. Upon making it through the last security checkpoint, the Native American mutant took out his cell phone and called Emma.
“Tell me you landed. Tell me Shanobi didn’t shoot you out of the sky.”
“Hello to you too, Emma. And the flight was fine, thanks for asking,” said James as he approached the front gate.
“I’ll assume you’re speaking in code. We don’t have the luxury of informality. You’re on a mission Warpath. Expect it to get dangerous.”
“You’ve said that about every one of these trips. So far, they’ve been as eventful as Sunfire’s history lectures.”
“This one will be different. This time you’re not just looking for more of Shaw’s dirty secrets (as if there aren’t enough). There’s a very real chance you may confront the bastard this time. If Shanobi is keeping his father at this research lab, assume he’ll overreact to any unwanted intrusions.”
“You sound like he’s more than I can handle. Besides, aren’t I just supposed to sabotage the guy?” James reminded her.
“That doesn’t mean you should take this lightly. Shanobi has surely kept an eye on me since the incident with the Cuckoos. I’ve taken every precaution so that you can get close to the complex without being detected, but even my foresight only goes so far. Assume that he’s a step ahead of us.”
“Quit trying to scare me. I know what I’m doing and you know how I want to be repaid. The flight was long so I practically memorized the whole plan. I’ll get into the complex, dig up some dirt, rough Shaw up if I can, and get out in time for a quick drink before my next flight heads out.”
“If the plan is even close to being that smooth, I’ll be shocked.”
“And here I was thinking you were overconfident,” joked the Native American mutant, “I already see the cab you arranged. I’ll check in when I’m in place. Until then, go back to running your school. It’s not like the world is ending because of this mission.”
James tuned off his phone before Emma could give him more of her charming attitude. That woman may have been easy on the eyes, but she was a pain in the ass to work with. At least she was trying to do some good in the world. Sebastian Shaw was a new level of bad. Based on what he uncovered about him, the world would be a lot better once his organization was destroyed.
Upon putting his phone away, James signaled a cab that had been parked along the side of the curb. Emma called ahead to make sure someone was waiting for him. He had a sign with the name “Mr. Pathwar” written on it. That was his alias for this mission and he had to use it carefully in order for this plan to work.
“I’m Mr. Pathwar and I’m in a bit of a hurry. So assuming you speak English, let’s get going,” said Warpath as he opened the passenger door and threw his bags inside.
“Certainly sir,” said the driver in an accented tone, “Rest assured, I will get you where you need to go.”
James strapped himself in for what shouldn’t be too long a drive. Shaw’s research facility was in the heart of Kiev. It was sure to be unimposing on the outside and uninviting on the inside. While the driver got into the driver’s seat, he took out a few of the tools that Dr. Nemesis and Cypher had prepared for him. Emma warned him that he couldn’t rely on his strength to get him through this. To beat Shaw, they needed to utilize other resources.
“You look anxious,” said the driver, “Going somewhere important?”
“Yes, a place so important that I can’t answer questions about it,” said James impatiently, “Just take me to District Eight downtown and I’ll be on my way.”
“Very well, sir,” said the driver.
James didn’t notice the shift in the driver’s tone. He was too busy going over the instructions Dr. Nemesis wrote for this new computer gear they gave him. He had a flash drive, a disk drive, and some other piece he assumed wasn’t purchased from Amazon. He was so caught up in making sure he understood how these things that he barely noticed the driver rolling up the window separating him from the driver. As soon as it was closed, he heard a strange hissing sound.
“That smell,” he said, “What kind of cab smells like…”
Then it dawned on him. That smell wasn’t a normal smell from an Eastern European cab. It was something worse.
“Gas!” shouted James.
“Something the matter, sir?” said the driver in a snide tone.
James watched as the driver turned around, revealing himself to be no ordinary cab driver. He was Warhawk, the muscle Shanobi Shaw used the last time he clashed with Emma.
“YOU!” yelled the Native American mutant as he lunged at the window.
“I wouldn’t do that,” warned Warhawk.
James didn’t listen. The moment he touched the glass, he was hit with a punishing electrical shock that would have instantly killed a man who didn’t have enhanced durability. This along with the gas effectively knocked out the Native American mutant.
“ARRRRGGGGGHHHHH!” he exclaimed.
He was out cold within three seconds. Warhawk kept grinning, amused at how this man had been so surprised. If he thought Shanobi Shaw wouldn’t recognize someone who had previously broken his facilities, he was either foolish or suicidal. Once certain the Native American mutant was out, he took out a special communicator.
“This is Warhawk,” he said into the speaker, “I have our guest. Tell Shanobi to get the lab ready. We have our test subject.”
Academy of Tomorrow – Present Time
It had not been a good week for Emma Frost by any measure. First, the mission with Warpath went horribly wrong. He hadn’t contacted her since he arrived in the Ukraine. That meant something had gone horribly wrong and he was in grave danger. She would have gone to great lengths to get him back. Then the Legacy Virus hit.
Her entire school gymnasium had been converted into a makeshift hospital. Half her students had been infected. Some of them had died. It struck her harder than she could have imagined. These were her students. She was responsible for these children and she was unable to save them. She hadn’t felt this helpless since she lost Esme and Sophie. It was a pain many shared. The latest news reports had the death toll climbing above 300 million. Regardless of whether this was connected to Shaw, this was very bad.
“How could I let it get this bad? What terrible mistake did I make this time?” wondered Emma.
“This was not your mistake, Miss Frost,” said Mindee, Phoebee, and Celeste simultaneously, “You heard what Charles Xavier said. This is the work of Sinister.”
“I know that. Yet somehow, I feel like there’s something I did or didn’t do to make this worse.”
It was a deeply distressing scene. There were rows upon rows of beds in the gymnasium, all of which were occupied by sick mutants. A few were even occupied by her staff. Dr. Nemesis was playing the role of lead doctor, instructing Sunfire and the uninfected students to help him in his efforts. He hadn’t slept all week. But even with his superior intellect, a cure was not imminent.
“This virus is breaking every rule of science,” lamented Dr. Nemesis, “How can I synthesis a treatment when it keeps changing itself? It’s as if it’s reading my mind!”
“You deal with psychics all the time, Doctor. Find a way around it,” said Sunfire as he tended to a sick Tabitha Smith.
“If you have somehow rewritten the book on infectious disease, I would love to read it, Shiro. I could spend a lifetime documenting the Legacy Virus and still not figure it out. At the current rate of infection, that lifetime is very limited to say the least.”
Nemesis was getting irritable. Some of the students kept their distance. Among them were Laura and Amara. They had just finished tending to Julian, who recently came down with the disease. Together, they confronted the bewildered Emma Frost.
“Dr. Nemesis is losing that brilliant mind of his,” commented Amara, “Someone will have to settle him down if our work is to be productive.”
“You sound petty, Miss Aquilla. Is caring for the sick beneath the duties of a princess?” said Emma bitterly.
“Such petty work to has been good for me since I joined this academy. It’s kept me from losing my mind in a similar manner. I guess it’s not doing the same for you,” retorted Amara.
“If you’re not going to rein Nemesis in, I will,” said Laura in a menacing tone, “I swear if he whines about how a blood sample is half-a-milliliter off, I’m cutting off his hands so I can give him his own damn sample.”
“Your frustration is duly noted, girls. I apologize if mine is getting the best of me. That tends to happen to a teacher when her students are dying,” said Emma in a less hostile tone.
Laura and Amara fell silent. Emma was in a vulnerable state. She tried not to show it, but seeing her students suffer really affected her. Emma Frost was never one to overtly show that she cared, even though everyone knew she did. It was strange seeing her like this. At the same time, it was oddly reassuring.
“It doesn’t matter how frustrated we are. What we’re doing clearly isn’t working,” Laura pointed out, “Have you talked to the X-men? I tried calling Logan and couldn’t get through.”
“I assume they’re just as suck as we are,” said Emma, “I would rather not bother them unless I have a way to help.”
“Do you know if they have any leads?” asked Amara intently, “They saved my city once. If anyone can stop this madness, it’s the X-men.”
“Seeing as how a week has gone by and millions have died, assume the X-men are as powerless as everyone else,” said Emma bitterly, “I wish we had something to go on that would give me reason to be less fatalistic. At the very least, I’ll settle something that would tell us just how screwed we are.”
Shortly after she posed this question, her cell phone started vibrating. It seemed like odd timing, but Amara and Laura saw it as a sign.
“You were saying?” said Amara with a wry grin.
“Don’t get your hopes up. It could be a telemarketer for all I know,” said Emma as she retrieved her phone.
She wasn’t expecting it to be much. The screen on her phone said it was an unknown number. That could mean any number of possibilities. So she turned away from her students and answered the call.
“Who is this and why are you calling in the middle of a full-blown apocalypse?” she asked dryly.
As soon as she heard the voice on the other end, Emma’s demeanor shifted. The despair that had that had grown over the past week quickly faded as a sliver of hope emerged in her darkest hours.
“Warpath! Where the hell have you been? Don’t tell me…what? You’ve been…I see. No, don’t worry about it. I’ll yell at you when you get back…don’t be foolish. Of course I have a contingency plan. Just hang on! I need something to come of this and so does the whole bloody world.”
Xavier Institute – Hanger
The X-men prepared for their final clash with Sinister, treating this as a true do-or-die mission. Either they stopped Sinister or perished with the rest of the world. They were open to the very real possibility that they would have to kill the man. Since he was responsible for over 300 million deaths at this point, that wasn’t a point of contention.
Everyone was determined to confront Sinister, but it was still very personal for Scott Summers. This all started with his brother, Gabriel. He had been keeping secrets from him about their parents. He had little doubt that Sinister was part of those secrets. He remembered how Sinister mentioned a special connection to the Summers bloodline. As much as he wanted to stop this plague, he still sought the truth.
Scott lingered outside the X-jet as he prepped it for launch. The team was going to be short-handed with so many sick from the disease. Only John, Rogue, Piotr, Jean, and Ororo would be able to launch this attack. They also had Logan waiting for them, but he was probably caught up in his own battles again. They couldn’t rely on him to do this. They had make sure Sinister answered for his many crimes.
“Are you ready, Scott?” asked Jean as she caught up with him.
“I’ve been ready for the past ten minutes, Jean. We need to get going!” said Scott as he closed the maintenance panels for the jet.
“I think you’re missing the subtext so I’ll ask again. Are you ready?”
Jean added a touch of force to her tone, making it clear that Scott couldn’t hide his troubled thoughts from her. Looking back towards his lover, his demeanor shifted.
“If you’re worried about me being distracted, stop worrying. I know the mission is about Sinister. Not my family secrets. Not Gabriel,” said the X-leader.
“You say that now, but you and I both know how hard it is to set personal issues aside in a mission,” she said, “You’re only human. You’ll either get distracted or you’ll be damn tempted.”
“I can handle it.”
“I believe you. What worries me is Gabriel. You’ve let him get under your skin before, just as I’ve let Maddie get under mine. With so many lives at stake, neither of us can afford that. So I’m not just reminding you. I’m urging you…don’t let it overwhelm you.”
Jean offered a loving gesture, helping to reinforce her point. Scott’s demeanor shifted again under her touch. It was one of the few things that could affect his focus.
“That won’t happen, Jean. I promise,” he told her as he gently caressed her face.
“Good enough for me,” she said with a smile, “Now let’s go kick Sinister’s obscenely ugly ass.”
Scott nodded, sharing his lover’s determination. The jet was ready and the others had arrived. Jean used her telekinesis to open up the hatch so John, Ororo, Rogue, and Piotr could get in. They were every bit as eager to fight Sinister. With friends and loved ones dying, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
“What are we waitin’ for, sugah? Let’s get this bird flying!” yelled Rogue.
“We’re good to go,” announced Scott, “Glad to see you wearing you’re X-men uniform again, Rogue.”
“Glad to be back in it,” she said, adjusting it a bit as she stood near the hatch, “Too bad it has to be under these god-awful circumstances.”
“Does that mean you’re willing to wear it regularly after this is over?” asked Ororo.
“We’ll discuss the future once we make sure there’s a future worth discussing,” retorted Rogue, “Right now, Ah wanna take all mah frustrations out on Sinister.”
“As do I,” said Piotr as he cracked his knuckles, “That madman hurt my sister. Now he’s hurting Katya. When I’m through with him, his face will be the least appalling part of his body.”
“I’m all for roughing the guy up, Peter. But be careful. He’s probably expecting us to be pissed,” said John, who was also in his old X-men uniform.
That was pretty much a given. Sinister had already gone to so many extremes. There was no telling what other surprises he had in store for them. If they were going to stop him, they had to go beyond their limits and hope for a bit of luck as well.
The team was ready to leave. Scott and Jean were about to follow the others into the jet and take off. As they were about to close the hatch, Professor Xavier came in through the hanger entrance.
“Wait, X-men! Before you go, there is something I must bring to your attention,” he said urgently.
“What is it, Professor? More bad news?” said Jean, “I don’t know if we can handle much more.”
“On the contrary, Jean. This may be to our advantage,” said the Professor, “I got a call from Emma Frost. She says she’s made a discovery concerning Shaw Industries.”
“Leave it to your ex to help us at a time like this,” said Jean, rolling her eyes.
“What kind of discovery?” asked Scott with more intrigue.
“If you’ll recall, Shaw Industries helped develop the techno-organic material that Sinister used to make the Legacy Virus. She suspects that Shaw has information on a treatment of sorts. Even if we stop Sinister, we’ll need a means of undoing his atrocities.”
“So what does she need from us?” asked Jean, “We’re already short-handed. We can spare much manpower.”
“I know we can’t so I’ve called Moria MacTaggart. Hopefully, Banshee can provide some assistance. I’ve also linked up Cerebrum with her communications hub at the Academy. If they discover something, I can relay the knowledge directly to the team.”
It sounded like a major break during a week where there had been precious few. Scott and Jean knew better than most why destroying Shaw Industries was important to Emma. If she could helped their mission, it was all for the better. However, they also understood that fighting Sebastian Shaw and his son carried many risks. If Emma was to have any chance, she needed more manpower.
“Hold that thought, Professor. I think there’s another way we can help Emma,” said Scott.
“I’m sure she’s more than willing to accept it. What do you have in mind?” asked the Professor.
“I’ll explain once we’re in the air,” said the X-leader, “There’s someone I think we can convince to lend a hand…even if he’s not terribly friendly with us.”
Professor Xavier surmised what Scott was getting at. Jean picked up on it as well. It was a good idea at a time when they needed all they could get.
“Very well,” said the Professor, “I’ll coordinate with Moira and let him know who’s coming.”
“It shouldn’t take long to get the ball rolling. I think everybody’s eager for something to attack,” said the X-leader.
“Very well,” said Xavier, “I already have Cerebrum running at full power. I’ll be in touch in more ways than one.”
“I would ask that you not push yourself too hard, Professor. But at a time like this, I think we all need to push ourselves,” said Jean.
With the details of their plan in place, Scott and Jean rushed into the X-jet. The hatch closed behind them and within moments, the jet was in position for takeoff. Professor Xavier wheeled back and watched as his students took off. He worried for them as he always did, but Jean’s comments about pushing themselves lingered with him. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the prescription pills he had been using to manage his headaches.
“Whatever my limits, I’ll need more than just willpower to exceed them,” he mused.
Clutching the pill bottle, Professor Xavier wheeled himself back towards Cerebrum. His health was no longer among his most pressing concerns. From here on out, his focus was on stopping Sinister.
Worthington Industries – Pharmaceuticals Division
Warren had always harbored mixed feelings about his company’s pharmaceuticals division. This was where his father tried to develop the cure that nearly took his wings. This was where the rift between him and his father began. However much it disgusted him, this division was now his company’s most important asset.
“Is it ready yet?” asked Warren anxiously as he supervised a team of Worthington scientists.
“A few more minutes, sir,” said one of the female biologists.
“Minutes cost lives and for once, that’s not our new slogan,” he reminded them.
“The information you gave us from Muir Island is rather dense,” said one of the male chemists, “Turning it into a treatment usually takes years. You’ve asked us to do it in days. We’re doing our best, but there are some things that can’t be rushed.”
Warren tried to temper his impatience. His people had been working around the clock. Some hadn’t slept in days. Some of them had family that were sick or had died from this virus. They all understood the importance of their work.
In this instance, Warren was uniquely equipped to bear this burden. Unlike every other pharmaceutical company, he had access to data from Charles Xavier and Muir Island. With this data, they attempted a radical new treatment. It utilized a substance similar to the techno-organic material that made the Legacy Virus. It was supposed to act as a vaccine, making people immune to the virus. It wasn’t a cure, but it was something.
For the past three hours, Warren watched as a prototype was synthesized in one of Worthington Industry’s best labs. In a series of glass containers, the chemicals and advanced meta-materials were synthesized in a single flask. It looked ready, but his people kept telling him they needed to run more tests. While they conducted these tests, people continued to die.
“A surface scan indicates solid cohesion within the molecular matrix,” said the team’s top pharmacologists, “It’s not the cohesion we saw with Weapon Plus, but it’s functional.”
“Does that mean you’ve programmed it to the necessary specifications?” asked Warren.
“We just finished moments ago. I want to say it’s ready, but this is unknown territory. I can’t in good conscious put this in another human being and say it’ll work.”
“Isn’t that what testing is for in the first place?” asked the winged mutant.
“When dealing with something this complex, we need more than just testing. There’s little knowledge on this techno-organic material. We’re stumbling around in the dark here and I’m not completely confident that we’ve worked out all the kinks.”
“But you say it’s functional. It should still do what we programmed it to do, right?” stated Warren.
“In theory…yes. It’s functional,” said the pharmacologist, “Do we need to test it? Yes, we do. Would I want anyone to risk it? Not with this many unknowns.”
Warren didn’t take his eyes off the flask. Everyone in the lab was hesitant to test something they understood so poorly. They weren’t ready to take such extreme risks. But Warren was an X-man. He took those kinds of risks on a daily basis. His old instructor, Thunderbird, used to say you need extreme risks for extreme results. At a time like this, they needed extreme results.
“Everybody take five,” Warren called out, “Let the computers process the data. You’ve all earned yourselves a break.”
The dozens of scientists in the lab were surprised by this announcement.
“Um…are you sure, sir?” asked the lead biologist.
“I thought we needed to be 24/7 until we’ve made a breakthrough,” said the lead chemist.
“You can’t make breakthroughs without a clear mind. Now go rest. That’s not a suggestion. I’m ordering everybody to take a breather. Understood?”
His science team remained suspicious. This was an unusual request, but it came from someone whose name was on the building. For those who hadn’t slept in days, a break was nothing to debate. They all ended up complying Warren’s order.
“Are you coming, sir?” asked one of the female lab technicians.
“I’ll catch up,” said Warren.
Some of the scientists were still anxious. Never-the-less, they did not raise any more questions and left the lab.
Once the last worker had left, Warren checked to make sure the doors to the lab were secure. He didn’t need anyone else around for this. He didn’t need them talking him down either.
“Extreme risks mean extreme results,” he said aloud as he picked up the flask, “I can’t be on the front lines with the X-men to risk my life. Guess this is the next best thing.”
Warren gazed intently at the flask. Someone needed to make a breakthrough. The Legacy Virus was ravaging the world. This new techno-organic material might be the key. He wouldn’t know if it was effective unless it was tested.
“I’m sure this stuff tastes terrible. Here goes nothing,” sighed the winged mutant.
Warren opened the flask and closed his eyes. He remembered the scientists saying that this stuff could be ingested or injected. Since he didn’t care for needles, he went the other route. Warren then braced himself as he downed half the substance in the flask. The minute it went down his throat, he felt a reaction.
“Ugh!” he groaned, “I really hope this is normal.”
He nearly dropped the flask as he leaned on a nearby table for support. He felt the substance force its way through his body, spreading like it had a mind of its own. His insides burned as if he had just poured molten lead down his throat. Soon, his whole skin felt like it was on fire. Then he felt it in his wings.
His wings practically burst out of the special dress shirt he had been wearing. They started thrashing in a way he could not control. No longer able to support himself, he fell to his knees. As he did, some of the feathers on his wings started falling off. He also noticed the veins in his arms turning a strange dark bluish color. At this point, he knew something had gone wrong. Instead of extreme rewards, this test was turning into an extreme nightmare.
“My wings…no!” cried Warren, “What have I done to myself?”
“Hnn…how much longer, mom?” said the sickly voice of Rahne Sinclair.
“Shh…don’t strain yourself, lass. We’re almost done,” said a tired and anxious Moira MacTaggart.
It had been a long week for Moira. The world was falling apart in wake of the Legacy Virus. Ever Xavier told her about what happened with Sinister, she and Forgeworked tirelessly on a treatment. They utilized every possible resource, trying to create something that would stem the tide of this virus.
So far their efforts had failed. Then two days ago, it took a turn for the worse. Rahne came down with symptoms. This made Moira push herself even harder, doing as many tests and experiments that she had energy for. At the moment, Rahne was resting in a special isolation chamber that Forge had built. It was supposed to rejuvenate the energy that the Legacy Virus was draining. It bought her time, but it didn’t cure her.
“I don’t like these latest readings,” said Forge as he grabbed some freshly printed data, “Either my machine is losing its touch or the virus is adapting to counter it.”
“So make adjustments!” said Moira sternly, “We just need to keep buying time. Either Charles or someone else will make a breakthrough.”
“I think you’re putting too much trust in others,” retorted Forge, “This virus has a mind of its own and so far it’s a lot smarter than the rest of the world.”
Forge’s grim assessment didn’t fill Moira with a lot of hope, but that didn’t stop her from working harder. She wasn’t ready to give up. She recently got a call from Charles that gave her reason to believe again. As far as she was concerned, she just needed to keep Rahne alive. Somewhere along the way, Charles would come through and save them.
While Moira sat hunched over her computer screen, the doors to the lab opened. It was Sean and he was wearing his old X-men uniform. It had been a while since he donned it, but circumstances required him to reconnect with his days as an X-man.
“I’m ready, luv,” he told her.
“Is he here already?” asked Moira in a tired tone.
“He just landed five minutes ago. Somehow he was able to get his hands on an advanced transport jet. Don’t know how he did it, but it should make our jobs easier,” said Sean.
Moira showed little excitement in her exhausted state. She still managed to get up and follow Sean out of the lab, leaving Forge to work the experiment. They entered the elevator together and rode it to the top floor where the rooftop landing area was set up.
“It’ll be okay. This here mission could be the break we need,” said Sean, trying to boost his lover’s spirits.
“I hope you’re right, Sean. I don’t think Rahne can hold on much longer,” said Moira with a sob.
“Hey, don’t you be thinking those kinds of thoughts,” he said, cupping her chin affectionately, “If what Charles said about this Shaw fella is correct, he may have just what we need to help her.”
“If he does, I’m sure he won’t make it easy for ye. Be careful out there. I cannot bear to lose anyone else I love.”
“I’ll be okay. I’m an X-men and a soldier, remember?” said Sean confidently, “Besides, I won’t be attacking Shaw alone.”
Upon stepping out of the elevator, they passed through the door leading to the rooftop landing pad. There they saw an advanced vertical-take-off-and-landing jet. In the cockpit was someone Sean and Moira hadn’t worked with before, but he was a friend of the X-men so that was good enough for them.
“I take it you’re Captain Jack Freeman,” said Sean as he and Moira approached the jet.
“And you must be the guy who will never make it on American Idol. Screecher, right?” said Captain Freeman.
“Banshee,” Sean corrected, “Charles tells me you’re a soldier who can be a bit rough around the edges. Think you’re equipped to take on a bastard like Shaw?”
“I’ve spent the last few days watching bodies pile up in Atlanta. Believe me, I’m ready to take it out on someone.”
Sean liked this guy’s attitude. He seemed a bit crass, as Charles had warned him. But if he was as tough as a typical Green Beret, then he was plenty capable. Before he joined the mutant soldier in the jet, he embraced Moira to help reassure her.
“I’ll slug Shaw a few extra rounds for ye and Rahne,” he told her.
“I appreciate that, Sean. But are you sure ye two will be enough against this man?” she asked anxiously.
“We’ll give Shaw all he can handle. I’ll make sure of it. Just stay by Rahne and wait for a miracle. If ye get a chance, tell her how much I love her. Be sure to save some of that love for yourself as well.”
“I will, Sean. I pray it’s enough.”
Sean gave his lover a soft kiss before finally parting ways. He now had all the motivation he needed. His lover and his adopted daughter were depending on him. He wasn’t going to let them down.
Moira stood back as Sean climbed into the jet with Captain Freeman. He had already been preparing for take-off, trying not to pay attention to the melodrama between the couple. He was already going against the will of General Grimshaw and risking his fragile standing in the military. He needed an ally who could stay focused.
“I’m ready to go when ye are, lad!” announced Sean as he strapped himself in.
“You know, we could already be at cruising speeds had you not wasted those extra moments with your girlfriend,” remarked the Captain.
“I take it you’re single,” he quipped.
“It doesn’t matter what my relationship status is. Scott Summers vouched for you and I need to know you’re ready for this.”
“If Cyclops’s word wasn’t good enough for ye, then you must be bitterly single. Take it from a guy who has seen his share of action. When ye have a pretty lady to come home to, ye fight that much harder.”
Captain Freeman rolled his eyes as the jet took off. Within moments, they were a few hundred feet in the sky. Then the afterburners ignited and the aircraft flew off to the east where Sebastian Shaw’s forces awaited them.
Northern Canada – Sinister’s Lab
It had been a long week for Logan. For days, he toiled through the unforgiving Canadian wilderness. Mystique did not make it easy for him and neither did Sinister. It seemed fitting that in order to confront a relic from his past, he had to go through some major obstacles.
Sinister knew how to pick a tough location for a base. On the first day of his hike, he passed a series of old gates. They were Cold War era so he figured this was once an early warning station built by the American and Canadian militaries. As expected, it was well-guarded by natural barriers. There were no roads leading to it. There was a mountain on one side and a large lake on the other. He figured this place was mostly supplied through aircraft and boats. Since the waters were too treacherous, he went through the mountain. It was a perilous journey that took days. When he got to the other side he got his first glimpse at the base. It took another day to hike through some heavily wooded areas to get close enough to see what he was up against.
A few hours ago, he got close enough to survey the facility. That’s when he saw Gabriel Summers and Madelyn Pryor. They were walking around outside talking about something. He didn’t hear much other than a few things about the Legacy Virus that had been causing so much damage. He was tempted to take them down, but chose to remain stealthy. Now that the X-men were on their way, there would be plenty of chances for those two to face their well-deserved punishment.
‘I don’t know why you’re hanging out with Sinister, Pryor, and the second most annoying Summers on the planet. Did you knowingly help? Or were you tricked? What’s your endgame, Rose? I’ll delay saving the world to hear your side of this fucked up story.’
Logan reached the final gate separating the wilderness from the facility. He was cold, dirtied, and unkempt. He brought his X-men uniform with him and changed into it earlier. If Sinister was up to his old tricks, he may have to fight as Wolverine in order for James Howlett to confront Rose.
Drawing his claws, the feral mutant sliced through the gate and stormed towards the facility. The facility had a large two-story building atop a large concrete foundation. That indicated to him that the bulk of the complex was underground, another common facet of Cold War era construction. When he reached the front door, he didn’t bother with stealth. Sinister probably knew he was coming so he sliced his way through the heavy barrier.
“I’m coming, Rose. Ain’t nothing gonna stop me from keeping my promise,” he proclaimed.
Logan ran full speed into the complex. Outside it looked abandoned, but inside everything was nicely lit and had all the workings of a high-tech lab. It bore a similar feel to the Weapon X facilities that haunted his dreams. Sinister added his own touch, giving an alien-like ambiance to the sterile halls. It made for the ominous feeling that accompanied every mission involving Sinister. After making his way down the first two corridors, this feeling was accompanied by a new scent.
“No…it can’t be,” Logan snarled, “Sabretooth!”
Everything that could make this mission harder was getting in his way. Memories of what happened that fateful night at the cabin came rushing back. It was Sabretooth who led the initial charge against him and Rose. Now he was here to finish the job, but Logan refused to give him the satisfaction.
“I know you can hear this, Creed. So whatever litter box you’re hiding in, listen up! I know about Rose. I know about Mystique. I ain’t playing this game with you again. You get in my way, I kill you. No more bullshitting about the past. I’m ending this once and for all!”
Confident that his nemesis got the message, Logan followed the scent trail through the facility. It was very clear, as if it had been laid out for him. Knowing Sinister, it probably was. The trail led him to a freight elevator that led to the lower levels. Logan didn’t bother waiting. He clawed the doors open and jumped down the shaft. He landed right on top of the elevator and tore another hole in the top with his claws, allowing him to enter and carve another entrance through the heavily reinforced doors.
When Logan stepped out, he entered a hanger of sorts. This was probably where the missiles used to be kept and where Sinister now kept his aircraft. It was currently empty, leaving a large open space between him and the entrances to the labs. However, the trail ended in the center of this large area. That’s where Logan saw a familiar figure lying motionless on the floor.
“Rose…” he gasped, his feral demeanor quickly shifting.
Retracting his claws, Logan ran over to her. It was indeed Rose, but she was wearing Mystique’s uniform. However, she no longer bore her usual blue complextion. She was back to the same redheaded woman he once shared so many passionate nights with. She looked weak and sickly, much of her flesh now covered in lesions. Logan ignored them and whatever danger they may imply and took her in his arms.
“Rose…Mystique…whatever name you go by, don’t die on me again!” he urged, “I remember now. I ain’t leaving you with another broken promise.”
Through her weakened state, the shape shifter opened her eyes. Feeling this woman alive in his arms brought back so many memories and emotions. And as he held her closer, she tried to say something.
“Logan…” she said in a raspy tone.
“I’m here, Rose,” he assured her.
While caught up in the emotions of the moment, Logan didn’t realize the scent he had been tracking approach from behind. The second he heard Rose’s warning, a familiar shadow came over him. As he turned around to face it, a punishing blow knocked him across the hanger and ripped Rose from his arms.
“ARGH!” howled the feral mutant.
“Welcome home, old buddy. I missed you,” snarled Sabretooth.
Logan returned to his feet. His emotions for Rose were quickly supplanted by his hatred for Sabretooth. Seeing him stand over her again filled the former living weapon with the burning rage of multiple lifetimes.
“CREED!” roared Logan as he drew his claws.
“It must be my lucky day or a serious case of déjà vu,” taunted his old nemesis, “I seem to remember another time when I was standing over your bitch after kicking your ass.”
“What have you done to her? If you take her from me again, I’ll…”
“Relax, old buddy. That little makeover is courtesy of Sinister. I made sure he kept her alive because I knew you would show up at some point. I was going to tease you about Rose being Mystique. Looks like you spoiled the fun. Guess I’ll have to compensate.”
Logan snarled angrily. That sniveling grin on his face only added to his rage. Sabretooth always took such perverse pleasure in tormenting him over the past. Logan couldn’t afford to give him the satisfaction this time.
“I’m not gonna waste time talkin’ history with you, bub!” he said as he prepared his attack.
“That’s too bad because I had a Plan B in place,” grinned Creed, “You see in addition to Rose surviving, Sinister shed some light on another little secret of ours.”
“I don’t give a damn about our secrets! Your dead rotting corpse means more to me than anything from the past. Hrrrraaahhhhhhhhh!”
Logan attacked his arch nemesis in a rage. Sabretooth was undaunted, using his agility to block and evade every move. He drew Logan away from Rose, keeping his defensive stance and not allowing him to get a claw on his flesh. He only managed a minor scratch, which made Sabretooth grin even more.
“Oh you’re gonna give a damn when you hear this,” said Creed as he did a few back flips to avoid a few slashes.
“Errrrrrrr! Quit playing soft, Vic!” roared Logan.
“Not until I see your reaction. And since you’re not gonna let me taunt you, I’ll just come out and say it,” said the devious mutant as he stared Logan down, “I raped her!”
This revelation caused Logan to halt his attack. Now frozen in place, he was overcome with shock at yet another horrifying revelation.
“You what!” exclaimed Logan.
“You heard me, old buddy. I raped your bitch. I didn’t know she was Rose at the time, but knowing the truth now makes it even more satisfying!”
Logan didn’t say a word. His face cringed with every kind of anger. It was immensely gratifying for Sabretooth. It was just the reaction he had been hoping for. With Logan already in a conflicted state, Sabretooth took full advantage of it.
“Aw, what’s the matter? No you-son-of-a-bitch type response? No telling me how you’ll gonna cut me up and mail my remains to Hell? Come on, Logan! I know you’re capable of more than that.”
“Creed…” seethed Logan, his fists trembling with unparalleled rage.
“You spent a lifetime thinking you had killed that woman and she’s been alive the whole time. Somehow I was lucky enough to have my way with her while you were both clueless. Doesn’t that piss you off? I know it has to make you mad as hell. Show me!”
There was no holding it in anymore. Logan could no longer focus on simply making Victor Creed pay for his many crimes. HIs training and conditioning from the X-men was completely forgotten. In this moment of extreme hatred, Logan erupted into a berserker rage.
“There it is! The old berserker rage!” grinned Sabretooth as he went on the evasive, “Now we can finish this the way we should’ve. Only this time, Rose will be the one to watch you die. Hahahaha!”
Shaw Industries Research Lab – Ukraine
James Proudstar had been languishing in defeat for nearly a week. It could have been longer for all he knew. One moment he passed out in the cab outside the airport and the next he woke up in a cramped jail cell with only one light and a heavy door. He had been fitted with a power inhibiting collar so he couldn’t use his strength to bust out, leaving him defeated before he had a chance to fight. It was a pathetic way to fail his mission.
‘John, I’m sure you would be laughing your ass off if you saw me like this. You always were more careful, even if you were an asshole about it. I should’ve seen it coming. I walked right into Shaw’s trap. Then I let him use me to set another. Even if I’m the better warrior, you’re still the better man.’
The Apache mutant sat huddled in the corner of his cell, restlessly banging the back of his head against the wall. He didn’t give Shanobi Shaw enough credit. He had the jump on Emma’s operation. He made sure Warhawk was in position to take him out with minimal effort. He could have killed him and ditched his body in some Eastern European ghetto, but that would have been too easy. Shaw decided to keep him alive for a different kind of torment.
“Wake up, Warpath! It’s almost time,” said the taunting voice of Warhawk.
“Don’t you have something better to do besides wiping Shanobi’s ass?” groaned Warpath.
“You mean besides making you miserable? I honestly can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.”
The door to the cell was unlocked and opened. Warhawk entered with several of Shaw’s armed henchmen. They kept their weapons pointed at Warpath at all times. Since his powers were being suppressed, he was as vulnerable as any prisoner and they reminded him by hitting him over the head with the butt of their guns. This forced him to stand up.
“That distress call we had you make paid off,” said Warhawk with a smug grin, “Frost sent in reinforcements and Shanobi just got word they’re on route to our location. One of them is actually a former X-man. Should make for a hell of a bonus!”
“An ex X-man, huh? You must be getting desperate. Every time Shaw brings them into the picture, it ends with him getting humiliated,” retorted Warpath.
“We’ve taken the necessary precautions this time. Whoever they send, they’ll be in for a real treat. You should feel lucky. You’ll have a front row seat so you can watch the fruits of your betrayal.”
Warhawk gave the Native American mutant a rough shove. Warpath tried to shove back. This earned him another blow to the head with the butt of a gun. Warhawk kept on grinning as he backed away and let the guards to drag their prisoner out of his cell. Once he was moving, they led him into the lab where he was set to contribute to a very vital experiment.
Warpath wrestled a bit with the guards, but was in no condition to fight them. With his hands bound behind his back and his powers suppressed, he followed Warhawk through the elaborate lab complex that Shanobi had going at full capacity. It looked like every scientist on Shaw’s payroll was present. Most were in sealed off bio-hazard suits. Whatever they were working on, the primary focus was on an elaborate setup near the back of the lab.
“As you can see, a lot has transpired during your stay with us,” said Warhawk, “I’m sure you’ve heard the assorted chatter. The world has been consumed by a deadly plague. Over 300 million people have died and millions more are set to die.”
“You don’t sound too upset, Warhawk. Is death just not that exciting for you?” commented Warhawk, earning him more shoves from the guards.
“Back in Vietnam, I saw piles of charred corpses on a daily basis. I was desensitized to this shit when you were in diapers,” scoffed Warhawk.
“That helps explain why you’re such an asshole.”
“Except I’m the asshole working on this wretched planet’s salvation,” retorted Warhawk, “At least Shaw’s people are smart enough to profit from it.”
“You have a weird way of making excuses,” quipped Warpath.
“It’s not an excuse. It’s purely pragmatic…well, almost purely. There’s always room for the personal touch and that’s what you’ll be part of.”
Warpath was shoved along, the guards constantly poking their guns into his back until they reached the back area of the lab. This was where Shanobi Shaw had been hard at work with his army of cronies. He appeared restless. His focus was on an elaborate series of containment units, which appeared to be the centerpiece of this complex.
Built into the wall and surrounded by various tubes and wires, a special glass chamber held the comatose body of Sebastian Shaw. He had been lingering around the boundaries of death ever since the X-men’s clash with the Inner Circle. Shanobi spent a lifetime trying to live up to his father’s expectations. Time and again, he disappointed him. By saving his life, his father would have no choice but to respect him. If all went accordingly, he would save a lot more and turn a healthy profit in the process.
“Is our test subject ready, Warhawk?” asked Shanobi.
“We kept him alive all week for this. Let’s get some use out of him before we kill him,” said Warhawk as he shoved Warpath towards his boss.
“Test subject? What are you gonna do? Pump me full of drugs and hope I beg for mercy? Hate to break it to you, but that’s been done to death,” said the Native American mutant.
“On this we can agree. That’s why I had something more pragmatic in mind. Seeing as how I can always count on Emma Frost to hound me, I guess you’re the unlucky bastard who fell into my trap,” said Shanobi as he rose up and confronted Warpath.
“Being an unlucky bastard is the name of my autobiography, jerk off,” sneered Warpath.
“Then take comfort in the knowledge that your misfortune will be going to a noble cause for once. We can thank Miss Frost for being arrogant enough to believe she could get a step ahead of me. She of all people should’ve known my father taught me better than that.”
Shanobi turned towards the chamber that currently housed his comatose father. He walked up to it with mixed emotions. Behind this barrier was a man who belittled him for not being the son he wanted. Now he was finally in a position to prove his worth.
Tired and drained, Shanobi pushed a series of buttons on a panel near the chamber that caused a special compartment to open. Within this compartment were two vials, each filled with a silvery substance. Shanobi took one of the vials and scrutinized the contents. This was the key to his father’s recover and to Shaw Industry’s prosperity.
“I’m sure you and Frost keep tabs on the X-men, Warpath. I’m assuming you know of the X-men’s conquest of Weapon Plus,” said Shanobi as he approached Warpath.
“I know more than that. I heard you guys are the assholes that developed the goop that made that clusterfuck possible,” retorted Warpath.
“So you caught a glimpse of our classified files. Good for you,” he said dryly, “But it wasn’t Shaw Industries that made the techno-organic material the deadly substance we all dread. It was our former employee-of-the-month, Nathanial Essex. You think me and my father are devious, but we’re angels compared to that madman.”
“I’ll bet you still send him a Christmas card every year,” said the Native American mutant.
“I have as much respect for Essex as I do the Ebola virus. Even Shaw Industries is not psychotic enough to unleash something like the Legacy Virus. There’s a reason why we let him go and secured his research. Now that research is the key to our salvation.”
Shanobi knelt down so he could look Warpath in the eye. The younger Shaw held up the silvery glass vial a few inches from his face, making sure Warpath understood just how powerless he truly was.
“Ever since my father’s injury, I’ve reopened the files on techno-organic material. You saw what it did for Fantomex. If it can heal a crippled French soldier, it can heal my father. By that same token, it could be used against the Legacy Virus. It’s the same substance operating under the same rules. Unlike every other agency in the world, we have Essex’s old files. We understand those rules and can use them to our advantage.”
“I fail to see how this makes you any less screwed,” said Warpath as he stared Shanobi down.
“Allow me to demonstrate,” he retorted with an ominous grin.
Shanobi rose back to his feet and held up the vial. In a gesture that surprised Warpath, he crushed the vial with his hand and released the silvery substance. At first Warpath thought he unleashed a fresh load of the Legacy Virus or something. But to his amazement, the substance did something that defied the laws of physics. It hovered just above Shanobi’s hand in a globular mass. Even if Shaw was an arrogant prick, Warpath couldn’t help but be impressed.
“As you can see, we’ve made a number of strides in refining this material,” said Shanobi, “We’re able to program certain properties into it that even Weapon Plus never attempted.”
“Okay, I’ll admit. That’s pretty neat,” said Warpath, “So why do you need me as a test subject? And why the hell did you have me call Frost for backup?”
“That’s where the real science begins,” grinned Shanobi as he guided the grayish matter around with ease, “Nathanial Essex developed the virus to infiltrate a host and extract useful genetic information. That extraction process drained the host of life energy, a term science is still catching up with. This life energy is what my father lacks. Healing his body is only part of the process. I need life energy from a number of generous hosts to heal him.”
“You’re expecting me to be generous?” scoffed Warpath.
“Did I say you had a choice?” said Shanobi snidely, “Unfortunately, I’ve calculated that draining you won’t be enough. I need more specimens and since mutants tend to have more life energy than regular humans, I plan on using whoever your friends sent to rescue you. The lot of you will die while my father returns as healthy as a horse.”
“I doubt he’ll give you a hug just for curing him,” spat Warpath.
“He’ll have to give me my dues when he sees the fruits of this experiment. By using the Legacy Virus in reverse, we’ll finally be able to decode its base programming. With that information, Shaw Industries can concoct a cure. We’ll be the heroes. Shaw Industries will have exclusive rights to the ultimate cure…one the world will pay handsomely for as it teeters on the brink of ruin. As my father always said, a good crisis makes great profit. He’ll be a fool not to see my triumph.”
Shanobi sounded like a man with some very serious daddy issues. He also sounded like a man who knew what he was doing. James Proudstar could not belittle him for being short-sighted. He was going to great lengths to prove himself to his father. Worst of all, he tricked him into dragging his friends into it.
It was bad enough that he was going to be Shaw’s guinea pig. Whoever Emma sent as reinforcements was bound to suffer a similar fate. He couldn’t rely on Shanobi to make a mistake. He had to do something in his weakened state to disrupt his plan, which might require him to be more like his brother for once.
Warpath remained on his knees, bound and at the mercy of Shanobi’s guards. Shanobi intended to keep him this way until the time was right. While he was preparing for all the ways his father would react, one of his female scientists ran up to him carrying a video tablet.
“Shanobi, sir! Our monitors just picked up an untracked aircraft settling over us. Radar reports confirmed it came in from the west,” she said.
“Do we have visual confirmation that these are our secondary guests?” asked Shanobi.
“See for yourself,” she said as she handled him the video tablet.
Shanobi looked at the video and grinned. It was a live feed from their security system on the roof. One of the monitors had a military grade hover-jet about several hundred feet above the roof. From it, two lines were dropped down and two figures descended from them. He didn’t recognize them, but he assumed they were Warpath’s cavalry and were poised to walk right into his trap.
“And yet another piece falls into place,” he grinned.
Upon giving the tablet back to his assistance, Shanobi rushed out into the lab and addressed his anxious staff.
“Attention everybody! We’re about to have some unruly intruders. Make sure everything is set up for the test. For most of you, that means you’ll have to make yourself scarce. For some of you, that means putting on a flawless performance. When all is said and done, we’ll have the data we need and I’ll have my father back. The rest of the world has had a very lousy week. Let’s start the next one off on a high note. And by high, I mean obscenely profitable!”
X-Jet – Skies Over Canada
Rogue never considered herself a spiritual person. Her mother taught her that just hoping for something was a sign of weakness. That changed recently when she met Isaac. He introduced her to a kind of faith that went beyond mere hope. He taught her that having faithwas a special kind of strength. Thinking back to all those long talks she had with him, she found herself saying a prayer.
‘God…Ah know you’re probably gettin’ a lot of prayers right now, but Ah need ya to hear mahne for a sec. This virus and all the damage it’s doing…Ah’ve been there since the beginning. Ah feel like…Ah don’t know, that Ah’m responsible in some way. That’s why Ah’m asking for more strength than you already gave meh. Not just for meh, but for all mah sick friends…especially Remy. Please, let us save them.’
Rogue was so caught up in her inner musings, she didn’t realize she was mumbling some of these thoughts out loud. This didn’t go unnoticed by some.
“Rogue, are you praying?” said Ororo, who was sitting in the seat across from her.
“What? Why would Ah…um, was Ah talkin’ to mahself again?” she said sheepishly.
“Your subconscious got the better of you,” she said with a light-hearted smile, “It’s alright though. I’m just…surprised.”
“That makes two of us,” she muttered, “For your information, Ah’m new to the whole praying thing. A while back Ah met up with, Isaac. He’s that fella from that church you guys visited.”
“You mean the Church of Humanity?” said Ororo.
“Yeah, they’ve been active in District X. Ah never cared for church growing up, but Ah don’t know…some of the stuff he taught meh really stuck. Ah ain’t entirely sure how.”
Ororo smiled. Rogue’s demeanor was different from when she last saw her. She had always been a conflicted person, but this was something new for her. It might be to her benefit.
“There’s nothing wrong with finding a sense of spirit,” she told her, “During times of crisis, it helps to reach for something beyond ourselves.”
“That’s something Ah’ve never been good at. When you can’t touch the world around you, the whole concept of reaching sort of loses its appeal.”
“All the more reason to reach harder,” shrugged Ororo, “You’re worried about the world, your friends, and your loved ones. That’s a lot to wrap your head around. Our only real choice is to have faith in something greater.”
“Doesn’t sound like much of a choice,” muttered Rogue.
“That doesn’t mean it’s the wrong one.”
Rogue remained conflicted. Her rebellious persona clashed with some of Isaac’s teachings. While a part of her kept praying, she found herself reaching into her pocket and pulling out a lone playing card. It was the queen of hearts that Remy gave her the day she lost control of her powers. She didn’t make a big deal about holding onto it, but something compelled her to keep it close. With Remy among those suffering from the Legacy Virus, Rogue held it a little closer.
Rogue wasn’t alone in having a crisis of faith. Piotr had a sick girlfriend back at the mansion. He also hadn’t checked in with Illyana. He didn’t know if she had come down with the Legacy Virus well. The same could be said for John Proudstar, who was sitting next to Piotr.
“Are you praying too, Peter?” asked John.
“Nyet, where I come from, praying does not save your girlfriend or protect your sister,” he said solemnly.
“Where I come from, our people stopped praying long ago. Visit my old reservation and see how our society has held itself together. You’ll see it’s not without merit,” he argued.
“That’s easy to say when you’ve gone out of your way to distance yourself from family and friends,” retorted the Russian.
“For your information, I do have an older brother out there who has a knack for getting into trouble. You think I’m not worried about him?” argued John.
“To be fair, John…you haven’t mentioned your brother to this point,” Ororo pointed out.
John shifted in his seat. Even when James wasn’t around, he found ways to frustrate him.
“Okay, maybe that’s a bad example,” he conceded, “That wasn’t my point.”
“If he were here, would you be making the same point to him?” said Piotr.
“Does it matter?” he said, “In case you haven’t noticed, we’re horribly undermanned and we’ve got a lot of lives riding on our shoulders. On a purely logistical level, we’ve already lost. Over 300 million people have died and millions more will before we even get to Sinister.”
“If you’re trying to inspire us, you’re doing a lousy job, sugah,” commented Rogue.
“Let me finish,” said the Native American mutant strongly, “Back in the day, it was common for Apaches to send their finest warriors on missions any rational person would reject. So my people had to train themselves to believe that there were spirits looking out for them…spirits that would push them beyond their limits. Regardless of whether those spirits were real, they made the Apache better warriors. Right now, we need that spirit if we’re to stop Sinister.”
It was more inspiring than Rogue, Piotr, or Ororo expected. They could see why John Proudstar had been an X-man. He knew what it took to go beyond his limits. With so much death surrounding them, there was less of a world to save this time. They had to convince themselves it was still enough.
“I will try and share that spirit, comrade,” said Piotr, breaking the silence, “But what if we take down Sinister only to find out there is no curing the Legacy Virus?”
For this question that had crossed everyone’s mind at some point, Scott spoke from the cockpit.
“That possibility isn’t lost on us, Peter,” said the X-leader, “We can’t assume we’ll find anything.”
“We also can’t assume he hasn’t made a mistake,” added Jean, “Remember, Emma Frost has been working with Tessa and they claim they may have found something with Shaw Industries.”
“What are the odds that it leads to anything useful?” said Piotr skeptically.
“I’m not Beast. I can’t calculate pi to the 438th digit off the top of my head,” she retorted.
“We can probably assume they’re better than we think,” said Scott, “Which is why having faith is vital for this mission. We’re almost at the destination Logan sent us. So be ready to confront Sinister and go beyond your limits. It’s the only way we’ll get through this in one piece.”
Scott’s words were spoken as if they were orders. He needed the team to be stronger. This wasn’t a normal case of the X-men preventing the world from descending into chaos. The world was already in chaos. This time they had to rescue it from complete destruction.
With their destination drawing near, the X-leader gripped the controls of the X-jet and guided it towards the surface. Upon descending through the clouds, a complex came into view. It was just as Logan described. It was abandoned and remote, making it the perfect location for Sinister’s base. There was no time to sneak in or investigate. Any amount of time they wasted only cost more lives. They were going to attack Sinister head on.
“What are the chances Logan waited for us before heading in?” asked Scott as he maneuvered the jet into position.
“That probability I can calculate easily…a perfect zero,” sighed Jean, “Best case scenario is he’s softening Sinister up for us.”
“Or making a bigger mess of things,” added Scott.
“That too,” Jean conceded, “If I know him like I think I do, he’s probably several kinds of pissed off by now.”
Sinister’s Lab – Lower Levels
Wolverine’s immense hatred of Sabretooth mixed with the blind fury of his berserker rage. There were no petty insults or threats. There was only pure outrage. It kept Sabretooth on the defensive. However, he never stopped grinning, even when his nemesis got a few hits on him. Just sending him into this enraged state was a satisfying blow.
In his berserker state, Wolverine moved faster and hit harder. In his first attack he went straight for the jugular, attempting to jam his claws right through Sabretooth’s neck. Sabretooth ducked out of the way and used his feline-like agility to dodge to the side. He had no room to counter because Wolverine went right into his next attack. It was not focused or aimed with any strategy in mind. His berserker rage rendered him the feral animal he was at heart. It was just the kind of fight Sabretooth had hoped for.
With each deadly slash, Sabretooth deflected or evaded the attack. Only a few got through, leaving some gashes on his arm and torso. It was nothing he couldn’t endure and with each slash, he led Wolverine further away from Mystique. Through every grunt, Wolverine kept slashing. It was a side Sabretooth hadn’t seen in a while and he welcomed it.
“That’s it, Wolverine! Give me the monster. Not the pansy who betrayed his best friend for some redheaded skank,” seethed Sabretooth as he took a light slash to the shoulder.
“HRRRRRRRAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!” was all Wolverine replied with.
“Just keep picturing it…me rapingr you bitch,” said Sabretooth, “And boy was she good! Oh I can’t tell you how much fun I had with her. Just listening to her scream was enough to get me off.”
The veins in Wolverine’s face throbbed with more rage. The man inside the beast heard these words and descended into madness. He went for the jugular again, trying to end this man where he stood. This time Sabretooth was ready. He pulled off a nimble spin move, allowing him to get behind Wolverine. In this narrow window, he plunged his claws right into Wolverine’s back.
“ARRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!” exclaimed the feral mutant.
“You got that nasty image in your head now, don’t ya?” grinned Sabretooth, making sure he dug his claws in deep so Logan couldn’t break free.
Wolverine thrashed violently. Sabretooth used his size and strength to hold him back. As he thrashed, Sabretooth leaned in so he could speak right into Wolverine’s ear.
“The sad part (at least for me) is I didn’t remember raping Mystique until recently. It was Sinister who filled in the gaps,” he said, taunting his nemesis with every word, “She was still a top level merc at the time. She was hired to kill some rich shmuck. I was hired by another. She almost beat me to the punch. We fought. I roughed her up. Then…well, it got interesting.”
“Errrrrrrrrr!” snarled Wolverine, struggling harder to break free.
“I ain’t usually one to play around on the job, but I felt something around her…something I couldn’t put my finger on. I bet you’ve felt it too. And it pissed me off in a way that’s second only to you, old buddy. So I did what felt right. I held her down, ripped her clothes off, and did my thing.”
Sabretooth added more injury to insult, tightening his hold on Wolverine and using it to shove him onto the floor. Once flat on his face, Sabretooth pounced like the predator he was. Before Wolverine could even try to get up, he landed right on his back with his full weight pressing down on him. Sabretooth dug his claws into Wolverine’s back with one hand and used the other to grab his rival’s head so he could hold it down. Wolverine was still snarling angrily, but Sabretooth made sure he could still hear him.
“Want to know something even more satisfying?” he taunted.
“Hrrrrrrrrrrrr!” was all Wolverine got out.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” sneered Sabretooth, “Sinister told me my romp with your bitch led to kid. Since I roughed her up so damn much, she didn’t remember the juicy details. She couldn’t hunt me down to pay child support, so she took the kid to some rich family and gave him up on the spot. Seems like a hassle. She could’ve just aborted the damn thing. Never took her for the pro-life kind. Eh, go figure!”
“Hnnnnnn!” seethed Wolverine, his roars muffled by having his face shoved into the floor.
“Now here’s the real kicker. That kid she gave up…grew up to become a guy named Graydon Creed. You know that guy who hates mutants so much he makes killer robots to destroy them? That’s the guy!” said Sabretooth, now laughing hysterically, “The family let him keep his last name. Fuck if I know how they found out. The really pathetic part is when Mystique found out recently, she confronted the little brat. And guess what? He can’t stand the sight of her! Isn’t that hilarious?”
It was hard to process any of these details while in a berserker state. For Wolverine, every taunting word resonated. Driven by his endless rage, he tried pushing back against Sabretooth. It was enough to make his nemesis struggle a bit, but not enough to knock him off. In response, Sabretooth gripped Wolverine’s head harder and started slamming it right into the floor.
“You’re still struggling even after I tell you a funny ass story like that?” said Sabretooth as he kept pounding his enemy’s face into the floor, “If you won’t appreciate good humor, then I’ll just have to knock some sense into you before I kill you!”
Sabretooth’s sadistic laughter overshadowed Wolverine’s feral howls. Even his berserker rage couldn’t help him overcome his enemy’s relentless taunts. Sabretooth had every advantage this time. He had focus to go along with his ruthless tactics. He also had the psychological edge, empowered by having hurt Wolverine in a way that went beyond physical pain. Now Sabretooth was in a position to finish him off. He could finally inflict upon Wolverine the kind of pain he inflicted upon him with his betrayal.
While Sabretooth was relentlessly beating his nemesis, he didn’t realize that his words enraged more than just Wolverine. Mystique may have been in a weakened state, but she could still hear. Every gruesome detail about how he raped her and what happened with Graydon Creed echoed in her mind with the utmost disgust. It was enough to fill her with the kind of resolve that even the Legacy Virus couldn’t restrain.
Now crawling on her arms, she inched closer to Sabretooth and Wolverine. In the process, she retrieved one of her guns. It felt as though the gun weighed a hundred pounds. It could have weighed a ton for all she cared. Victor Creed was not going to win this battle.
“James…I won’t let it end. Not like this,” said the shape-shifter, her hand shaking as she aimed the gun.
With that powerful reminder, Mystique fired a single shot. The shot wasn’t noticed by Sabretooth until the bullet hit him right in the eye.
“Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! My eye!” he roared out in pain, “You fucking bitch!”
It was perfectly aimed, hitting him in a part of his body that he couldn’t just brush off and heal from. Being shot in the eye was painful and disorienting enough to cause Sabretooth to lose his grip on Wolverine. The moment he did, his hated rival took full advantage of it.
In a fresh burst of strength, Wolverine shoved the oversized mutant off his back and drop kicked him in the gut for good measure. This along with the injury to the eye caused Sabretooth the stumble back, falling to his knees in a heap of pain. He understood he couldn’t stay paralyzed for long. He tried to keep moving to stay ahead of the berserker driven Wolverine. He did not move fast enough this time.
“CREEEEEEEEED!” roared Wolverine as he launched his most relentless attack yet.
There was no defending himself this time. Sabretooth was tackled so that he was flat on his back. Wolverine made sure he stayed this way, pinning him down by jamming his claws right into his hips and knees. This made it much harder to maneuver or get up while adding to his agony.
“Ahhhhhhh! You little…” Sabretooth exclaimed.
His outburst was quickly muffed by a punishing head-butt to the face. It broke his nose and dislocated his jaw. Blood started pouring from his face, but that was just the beginning.
Now pinned and at the mercy of his nemesis, Wolverine relentlessly tore into him. Using his claws, he stabbed and hacked away at his face and neck. The sickening sound of flesh being ripped from bone echoed through the area. Wolverine was soon drenched in blood, further fueling his rage. All the hatred over what Sabretooth did to him and Rose boiled over. There was no stopping him.
Pretty soon, Sabretooth’s face and upper body was unrecognizable. Wolverine kept on hacking even when there was only bone left to attack. With each slash Wolverine let out another grunt. Within his howls there was more than just anger and rage. This man took more than his past from him. He defiled one of the few parts of life past that were good. Sabretooth deserved to die, even if it meant letting the monster inside him take over.
“HRAH! ARGH! RAH! HRRRRRAAHHHHHHH!” yelled Wolverine as he hacked away at his nemesis.
All the while, Mystique watched this gruesome scene with mixed emotions. After firing her shot, she dropped her gun and used what little strength she had to crawl closer. She felt her time running out. Sinister kept her alive all this time so Sabretooth could get what he wanted. That time was almost up. Seeing Wolverine erupt in a rage like this reminded her of all those memories where she warned him about becoming a monster. As much as she wanted to see Sabretooth suffer, she refused to let her last moments to be a vindication of those fears.
“Logan…please,” she said weakly, her voice barely echoed over Wolverine’s angry grunts, “Not like this…not after…after us. Don’t be…a monster. Remember, Logan…you promised!”
It was that powerful reminder that resonated within the enraged Wolverine. As those words echoed through the feral mutant’s mind, the blind rage was supplanted by a new feeling. A flash of that fateful memory of the night he lost Rose reminded him of who he was. Just as his claws were about to plunge right into Sabretooth’s chest, he stopped. His claws still trembled as they dripped with blood. Looking down at his bloodied nemesis and at himself, the man once again overcame the monster.
“Damn you, Creed…damn you to the darkest pits of Hell,” seethed Wolverine, now out of breath and emotionally drained.
“Logan…that’s enough,” said Mystique, reaching for him as her strength gave out.
Leaving Sabretooth to bleed, Wolverine got up and turned his attention to his long lost lover. He was quickly reminded of the injuries Sabretooth had inflicted. The wounds in his back went deep and he felt some bleeding within his insides. His head was also ringing from being slammed into the floor so many times. He struggled to stay on his feet for several steps before stumbling to the floor just in front of Mystique, who now had precious little life left in her.
“Mystique…Rose…I’m here,” he told her as he crawled up next to her.
“Unn…that name,” she groaned, “It still sounds…so strange.”
“Yeah…kind of like James. You get used to it.”
Gritting his teeth through the pain, Wolverine took the sickly shape shifter in his arms. He turned her over so she could rest her head in his warm embrace. There was still blood dripping from his hands and Mystique’s face was covered in the lesions of the Legacy Virus. It was not unlike the look she had when she died in his arms all those years ago. With shaking hands, he brushed aside the locks of red hair from her face.
“I remember now,” she told him, “Sinister…told me everything.”
“Yeah, I found out too,” he said, “Guess that saves me the trouble of convincing you.”
“Would’ve been…too stubborn to listen,” said the shape shifter with a laugh grin, “All those moments…those feelings…that kiss we shared…I understand now.”
“Better late than never, huh?” said Logan as he held her a little closer, “It means I kept my promise.”
“You did. You never forgot…us.”
Years of loss and heartbreak were turned upside down in a single moment. Logan caressed her face, ignoring the lesions that covered her skin. Looking at her now, he didn’t see the same Mystique that had been the enemy to the X-men for so long. He saw Rose, the woman he fell in love with and the woman who kept him from becoming a monster. Even as the life was drained from her being, he clung to her as he had that fateful night he lost her.
“Logan…I don’t have much time left,” she said weakly.
“Don’t even think that, Rose. I don’t need you dying on me again,” said Wolverine strongly.
“I…I’m sorry. The virus, it…”
“We’ll stop it! The X-men are on their way. They’ll find a way.”
“No…it’s too late,” she coughed, “While we have this…please make me another promise.”
“No! Don’t put me through this shit again,” he begged her.
“Please…promise me…you’ll look after my kids. Tell them…I’m sorry…for everything. Tell them…I love them…so much.”
Logan’s firm grip started to falter. His hands trembled and his face contorted with a familiar pain. The woman he loved was going to die in his arms again and there was nothing he could do about it.
“Please Logan…promise me,” she said through a weakening tone.
But before Wolverine could make his promise, he heard a gargled groan. While he had been tending to Mystique, he didn’t realize that Sabretooth’s brain was still functioning despite his extensive injuries. This allowed him to claw his way towards their position. Wolverine didn’t realize how close he was until Sabretooth reached out with his claws to grasp him.
“Ugh…LOGAN!” he roared.
He was within inches of tearing into him again. This time Wolverine didn’t have to fight him off. A concentrated optic blast came in from clear across the hanger, striking Sabretooth point blank. It delivered enough force to knock him away from Wolverine and render him unconscious.
“I’m not sure what the deal is this time, Logan. So I’ll assume there’s no time to explain,” said an impatient Cyclops.
Wolverine never though that voice would sound so reassuring. Looking back towards the elevators, he saw that the X-men had arrived. They weren’t in full force. Only Cyclops, Phoenix, Storm, Rogue, Colossus, and Thunderbird were present. It was still a welcome sight. He hadn’t forgotten they still had business with Sinister to resolve.
“Nice to see you too, Cyke. This time that ain’t sarcasm,” said Wolverine.
“You left quite a trail for us to follow,” said Thunderbird as he and the others rushed over to him.
“And is that mah mama?” exclaimed Rogue upon seeing who Wolverine had in his arms.
Wolverine looked up at Rogue and then towards Phoenix, who already knew the story.
“I uh…think we better save that tidbit for later, Rogue,” said Phoenix, pulling Rogue back.
“Don’t you two hold meh back from meh at a time like this!” she said, shoving away from Phoenix’s grip.
“Easy Rogue,” said Storm, who knelt down to assist Wolverine, “I’m sure there’s an explanation.”
“Don’t know how logical I can make it, darlin’,” said Wolverine, “Between this and Sinister, I ain’t got time to…”
The feral mutant’s words abruptly trailed off. Without warning, Wolverine’s face contorted in a new round of pain. His muscles throbbed and his veins bulged. Then in a grotesque display, the lesions of the Legacy Virus formed on his wounded flesh.
“Ungh! The hell?” grunted the former living weapon.
“Logan!” gasped Storm as she and Phoenix caught him while Rogue caught Mystique.
“The virus has infected Wolverine!” said Colossus.
“With his healing? How is that possible?” exclaimed Cyclops.
The X-leader got his answers from an unexpected source. While the team was huddled over Wolverine, two figures entered the hanger from the other end.
“You’d be surprised what’s possible with the Legacy Virus,” said the deep voice of Gabriel Summers.
“It offers more than just death…much more,” said the equally ominous tone of Madelyn Pryor.
The X-men looked up to see the two figures approaching. They were more intimidating than usual, bearing a strange new look in their eyes. Like many others all over the world, they bore the distinct lesions that resulted from the Legacy Virus. But they didn’t look sick. Their eyes were glowing in a bright silvery hue while the lesions radiated with a similar energy. They looked taller, stronger, and more resilient. There was clearly a much darker power guiding them now.
“Madelyn!” exclaimed Phoenix, “What have you done to yourself this time?”
“Do you have any idea what Sinister has unleashed?” yelled Cyclops angrily.
“Spare me your outrage, little brother. I once shared it. I’ve gotten over it,” said Vulcan.
“We both have,” added the Goblin Queen, “Sinister showed us more than he ever promised…more than your Professor could ever hope to deliver.”
“It sounds like you both have really stepped in it now. I’m not even going to try and reason with you this time,” said Phoenix, flashing some cosmic flame.
“Don’t bother. It’s already too late,” retorted Vulcan, “This wave of death that has you so upset is only the beginning. The true majesty of the Legacy Virus is yet to come!”
Next Issue: Dark Legacy Part 4
Read Comments ( 0 )