Humans are evolving. The mutant population is growing. Professor Charles Xavier and his X-men are part of this population and seek to use their extraordinary powers to protect a world that hates and fears them. Time and again, those powers helped them overcome overwhelming odds. This time, that power wasn’t enough.
Whether by madness or malice, Sinister has unleashed astonishing carnage. His Legacy Virus has ravaged the world. Over 300 million people have died. Over two billion are sick and all hope now rests with the X-men. The battle is unfolding on two fronts.
On one, the remaining X-men seek to confront Sinister directly. While searching for Mystique, Wolverine found Sinister’s base in a remote part of Northern Canada. On the other front, Captain Freeman and former X-men Banshee seek to confront Shanobi Shaw, suspecting that he has information on the Legacy Virus that may lead to a cure. If either fails, then millions more will die.
Watching over this ghastly affair is Professor Charles Xavier. Armed with Cerebrum, he uses his vast telepathic powers to keep everyone linked together. Doing this comes with additional strain as Xavier has been keeping secrets about his health again. However, those secrets may remain a secondary concern as critical new information pours in.
Xavier Institute – Cerebrum
‘So much death…so much suffering…so much deceit. Sinister is making a move. Shaw is hiding something. Cerebrum can reveal the truth. I’m just not strong enough!’
Charles Xavier let out an exhausted gasp as he took off the Cerebrum helmet. His head was pounding like never before. Cerebrum was running at full power and for once, he couldn’t keep up with it. This device was designed to work with the world’s most powerful telepath. He was supposed to be that telepath, but in his current condition he could hardly claim such a title.
He had been tracking the missions against Sinister and Shaw. A moment ago, he sensed a shift. Sinister did something that shocked his X-men. Something was also unfolding with Shanobi Shaw in Eastern Europe and he needed his telepathy going at full power. But before he could uncover more information, the headaches got the better of him.
“This isn’t working. I need…more,” he grunted to himself.
Reaching into his pocket, the Professor pulled out his prescription pill bottle. It was already half-empty and he had maxed out his daily dose. With so many lives at stake, he could no longer afford to worry about his health.
“Forgive me, my X-men,” said Xavier solemnly.
Closing his eyes, the Professor opened the bottle and downed two more pills. He swallowed knowing there would be a price to pay. He would have to pay it later. There were just too many lives at stake, including those of his X-men. Almost immediately, he felt the pills take effect. It allowed him to put the Cerebrum helmet back on and continue his work.
‘What are you hiding, Sinister? Where does your deception end?’
The large holographic map of the world that hovered above the console spun more rapidly. As Charles Xavier probed relentlessly with his telepathy, he sensed something new. It was something unusual that seemed to emanate from both Shaw and Sinister.
“What in God’s name?” he gasped as he analyzed some of the data, “Could it be that…no, I can’t jump to conclusions just yet. I need to see how this unfolds.”
Shaw Industries – Ukraine
“Keep shooting! Don’t let them through!” yelled a frantic Ukrainian guard.
“The hell did he just say?” groaned Captain Freeman with bullets flying by his face.
“I don’t speak Ukrainian, lad. I assume it was something along the lines of we’re fucked!” said Banshee, who was flying out ahead of the mutant soldier.
Infiltrating Shaw Industries was as frustrating as they expected. The moment Banshee and Captain Freeman landed, they were met by a contingent of Shaw’s thugs. It looked like he hired rejects from the Russian Mafia because these guys were a lot more brutish than typical security personnel. That only made fighting them all the more satisfying.
The path to Shaw was a lot clearer than they thought. Upon busting through the first wave of guards, Banshee and Captain Freeman followed the security barricades. These barricades led them to the more secure areas of the building. Every time they reached one, Captain Freeman went out in front and adapted his body to absorb the gunfire. Then Banshee flew in and used his sonic blasts to paralyze the guards. They went down easily. If one of them had a key card, they used it to get to the next level. If they didn’t, they just knocked down the door.
This was the only strategy they needed to reach the main lab on the 16th floor. Banshee used his sonic blasts to get them through one last barricade. Twenty guards had set up desks as shields behind the lab entrance and aimed their assault rifles toward them.
“Shaw must be getting stingy. These guys couldn’t stop a jaywalker,” said Captain Freeman as he casually decked a guard that managed to stay on his feet.
“You’re right, lad. And that ought to worry ye,” said Banshee in a more serious tone.
“No time to worry. I’ve got too many reasons to find Shaw and kick his ass!”
“Ye may be an experienced soldier, but you’ve got lousy foresight,” said Banshee, who hesitated to move forward, “Does worry ye at all that we’re making this kind of progress? These guards acted as though they had only one tactic before falling on their arse.”
“Shanobi must know we’re coming for him and isn’t throwing his best people into the fire,” said Captain Freeman while checking the pockets of a few paralyzed guards.
“I refuse to believe the man is that stupid. In my experience when a mission is this easy, it’s a sign that things are about to go straight to hell.”
“And in my experience it’s a lot worse when you don’t take advantage of the opportunities in front of you,” said the Green Beret.
Not giving Banshee’s concerns a second thought, he grabbed another guard by the neck and snatched another keycard from his belt. The guard was still conscious, his head clearly ringing from Banshee’s sonic blasts. He offered no resistance as he took the lone keycard and turned his attention to the lab entrance.
“Looks like we’ve got our last key,” he said as he approached the heavy doors, “If Shanobi is behind this door, I get to hit him first.”
“That’s another thing. What kind of advanced research lab is this if they only use keycards to get into secure areas? Muir Island’s janitors use better tech than that,” questioned Banshee.
“You want to keep complaining? Or do you want to finish the mission?” said Captain Freeman, rolling his eyes.
“Are you always this big a sod on missions?”
“Ask my old drill sergeants. I’ll give you a hundred bucks if you can find one that doesn’t want to strangle me.”
Captain Freeman threw caution aside as he used to the keycard to open the lab. As soon as he entered, they found themselves in a wide-open area full of high tech equipment and assorted lab personnel. There weren’t many guards. There were mostly men in lab coats and bio-hazard gear. The moment they saw Captain Freeman, they tensed.
“The intruders are here!” said one of the scientists in his native language.
“And good afternoon to you too,” said the Green Beret with a casual grin.
Reaching into his utility packs, Captain Freeman pulled out two stun grenades and threw them into the center of the room. Within seconds they went off, unleashing a blinding burst and a deafening blast. They also released a thick burst of smoke that shrouded the area, allowing the Green Beret to storm the lab and take out anyone in his path. Banshee didn’t follow him closely this time. He held back and used his powers to neutralize those that Captain Freeman ignored.
‘This fella is a real pain. I don’t get his attitude, but at least he’s doing the grunt work. If he walks right into a trap, I’m not getting caught with him.’
Banshee continued his attack while the Green Beret took out the rest of the resistance. There were only a few guards opposing him and they only had handguns. Captain Freeman made quick work of them, grabbing them by the arms and throwing them to the floor. Most of the scientists ran for cover. Those unfortunate enough to get in his way were shoved aside. Captain Freeman then adapted his eyes so he could see through the smoke. Up ahead, he could see an area in the back with an elaborate setup. It had a familiar figure hunched over a console.
“Shanobi Shaw!” Captain Freeman yelled out, “I believe we have an appointment.”
From the console, Shanobi turned around and sneered at the approaching soldier.
“Damn you and your appointments! You’re destroying everything!” he shouted.
“That’s the point, sonny boy. Now start talking! We know you’ve been working on this techno-organic shit. Spill your guts before I spill them for you.”
Shanobi Shaw cowered near the console. He didn’t run or call for backup. He kept staring down the Green Beret, watching until he was just a few feet from him.
“Are you going to make me ask again? Start talking before I’m too pissed to listen!” barked Captain Freeman.
“Very well,” he said, “Since you asked so nicely, I’ll do better than tell you. I’ll show you.”
Just as Captain Freeman reached for him, Shanobi entered a command on the console. He then stepped aside to reveal the hovering glob of techno-organic material that he released earlier with Warpath. When the Green Beret saw this, he froze in confusion. Then to his shock, the glob launched itself and struck him right in his face.
“Augh!” he exclaimed.
“There now,” grinned Shanobi, “That was considerably easier than I anticipated. I thought the X-men’s chosen allies would be smarter.”
While Captain Freeman stumbled around disoriented, Banshee caught up. He had just finished neutralizing the last of the science personnel. As soon as he saw Shanobi’s little trick, he took to the air.
“I bloody knew it! This was all some fancy trick!” said Banshee as he moved in to attack Shanobi.
“No…not a trick,” said Shanobi, “Just a plan that worked out better than expected.”
Before Banshee could unleash another sonic blast, Shanobi hit another button on the console and unleashed a second glob of techno-organic matter. Just as before, it launched itself towards its target. Banshee saw it coming, but couldn’t avoid it. As soon as the glob hit him, it felt like someone dropped an ocean liner on his body and he fell to the floor.
“Aagh! Bloody hell!” groaned Banshee.
“And that should account for our test subjects,” said Shanobi, “Good show, everyone. You played your parts perfectly. Now the real fun begins!”
With this announcement, many of the guards and scientists who put up so little resistance earlier rose up. In addition the barrier Banshee and Captain Freeman entered through was closed. Doors and chambers from the side of the room opened to reveal a fresh round of Shaw Industry guards. They moved with much greater urgency, quickly surrounding the lab area and securing every key position. It further confirmed that Shanobi tricked them. Now he was making sure they could not escape.
From one of the chambers, a couple guards brought out the bound and powerless James Proudstar. He was shoved at gunpoint to the setup where Banshee and Captain Freeman were now writhing in discomfort. The grayish glob that struck infected them, causing their skin to break out in the lesions indicative of the Legacy Virus.
“Hnn…Warpath?” groaned Banshee.
“Heya Banshee. Welcome to the nightmare,” groaned Warpath as he was forced onto his knees.
“You…you’re that guy from Frost’s Academy,” grunted Captain Freeman, “How did you fucked up this time?”
“Says the guy who walked right into the same trap,” said the Native American mutant, “Guess I was foolish for hoping Xavier would send someone with brains to save me.”
“Hnn…fuck you,” grunted the Green Beret.
“Conserve your strength. You’ll need it,” spat Shanobi, “You and your friend have just been infected with a modified version of the Legacy Virus. If you wish to add precious seconds to your otherwise brief lives, you’ll listen closely. The experiment is about to begin.”
“Hnn…what experiment?” groaned Banshee, now feeling very weak.
“The experiment that’s going to save my father and cure this accursed virus,” said Shanobi proudly, “You want to be heroes, do you not? Well prepare to be part of something truly heroic…which may also be extremely lucrative.”
Banshee and Captain Freeman exchanged glances. Banshee’s earlier fears had been confirmed, but he lacked the energy to gloat. Surrounded by guards and utterly powerless, they were completely at Shaw’s mercy.
“As I speak, this new Legacy Virus is infecting your system, as it has millions others,” said Shanobi as he entered more commands on the console, “Unlike the others, your life energy isn’t being needlessly drained. This modified virus is specifically designed to transmit your life energy through this machine and into my father’s chamber.”
“Hnn…what the hell kind of cure is that?” groaned Captain Freeman.
“It’s more than just a potential cure,” said Shanobi, “What we’re doing is twofold. First, this machine will put my father through a process similar to what Fantomex underwent with Weapon Plus. Another dose of techno-organic material will heal the injuries inflicted by your pestilent friend, Wolverine.”
“I’m sure he had good reason,” muttered Banshee under his breath.
“While this is occurring, your life energy will be channeled into my father,” Shanobi went on, not hearing Banshee’s remarks, “You see, the techno-organic material communicates with itself psionically. It’s difficult to decipher, but I’ve set it up so that the psionic signals in the Legacy Virus are catalogued and recorded. It is data I’m sure no one has uncovered yet because no one has Sinister’s old research notes.”
“Or the stomach to drain two people of their life energy,” Warpath pointed out.
“For many to survive, some must be sacrificed. Seems like a fair trade,” shrugged Shanobi, “With this data, we’ll be able to concoct a counter-measure to disrupt or even destroy the Legacy Virus.”
“How can you be so sure it’ll work?” grunted Captain Freeman, who was barely able to lift his arms, “It’s one of those ideas that doesn’t even sound good on paper.”
“Let’s just say working with Sinister has given Shaw Industries valuable insight,” said Shanobi, “The man would never unleash something that couldn’t be controlled. We just have to understand controls it and use it against him.”
Banshee, Warpath, and Captain Freeman were inherently skeptical of his claims. They couldn’t write him off either. Shanobi had resources and motivation. There was a chance that this might actually work. If Shaw Industries had a history with Sinister, then they were in the best position to figure it out the Legacy Virus. It would still come with plenty of suffering on their part so their intrigue was limited.
Two guards held Banshee and Captain Freeman down while a couple of scientists in bio-hazard suits stepped forth. They proceed to hook both men up to a series of special wires that fed right into Shanobi’s console. These wires went right into their skin and the workers weren’t subtle when they stuck the conduits right into their veins.
“AhhH! Watch it, doc!” grunted Captain Freeman as a needle was jammed into his back.
“You Americans are so squeamish,” taunted one of the technicians.
“Unfortunately, this experiment is not for the faint of heart,” grinned Shanobi, who was already in the process of powering up the equipment, “Take comfort in the knowledge that your sacrifices will be valuable contributions to both Shaw Industries and the world.”
“Sod off, Shaw!” grunted Banshee, his voice barely audible from its usual shriek.
“You actually think you’re the hero here?” shot Warpath, who still had several guns to his back.
“I’m saving my father and curing a deadly disease. What else would you call it?” laughed Shanobi.
“News flash, kid. Charging for it and resolving old daddy issues isn’t heroic. We have other terms for that…like being a petty little shit,” said the Native American mutant.
“I see watching your friends fall into a trap isn’t enough,” sighed Shanobi, “Luckily, I have something extra special planned for you, Mr. Proudstar.”
Shanobi ignored the angry glares from Warpath and entered a new series of commands on the console. Several of his science workers did their jobs as well, preparing this elaborate setup for the experiment.
Within moments the area around Sebastian Shaw’s unmoving body lit up. The cables that were leading into Banshee and Captain Freeman started glowing as well. At the same time, the lesions on their bodies changed color. It led to more discomfort and pain, as if the process of the Legacy Virus was being sped up. Through this process, their life energy started draining and flowing into the machines.
Minutes felt like days as the glowing from the cables intensified. Within Sebastian Shaw’s chamber, the second dose of techno-organic material was infused into the unmoving body just as the fresh batch of life energy fed into it. Banshee and Captain Freeman felt their strength fade rapidly. Even if Shanobi did develop a cure, they would not be around to appreciate it.
“Arrrrrrrrgggggghhhhhhh!” they both cried out.
“Oh quit your whining. It’s all for a good cause,” scoffed Shanobi as he gazed at his father’s chamber, “Awake, father! Look at what your son has accomplished!”
Cyclops and Phoenix had confronted their wayward family before. Vulcan and Goblin Queen had given them plenty of headaches, but somehow they managed to cross lines few rational people would even imagine. Their latest descent into madness raised the bar in a profound way.
“Prepare to be enlightened, X-men. You’re in for quite a treat!” proclaimed Vulcan, the mysterious lesions bulging on his body.
“Fair warning…that treat may include a certain level of pain,” added the Goblin Queen, “But as our uncle says, all progress comes at a price!”
“Is part of that price your sanity, Madelyn?” questioned Phoenix, “What the hell have you done to yourself?”
“And what have you done with Wolverine and mah mama?!” exclaimed Rogue, her attention focused on the two infected figures in front of her.
“Let’s just say in terms of enlightenment, they’ve got a head start,” quipped Vulcan.
The lesions on their faces flashed. In doing so, Wolverine and Mystique’s bodies started moving against their will. Both were infected with the Legacy Virus and now it was manifesting in a new way. The X-men watched them rise up as if they were puppets attached to puppet strings. At first they stood tall and stiff. Then the lesions flashed again and they took defensive stances. Wolverine growled, trying to fight it the whole time. Mystique’s face remained confused and weak, showing immense strain.
“Okay, I’m officially confused,” said Thunderbird.
“That makes two of us, comrade,” said Colossus warily.
The threat became more pressing as Wolverine’s claws were drawn against his will.
“Errrrrrr! Get away!” warned Wolverine.
“Leave us, Rogue! Something is…controlling us,” grunted Mystique.
“To hell with that! Ah ain’t leaving!” said Rogue strongly.
“None of us are,” said Storm strongly.
“Come on, you two. Fight this!” encouraged Cyclops, “Don’t let it…”
The X-leader didn’t get a chance to encourage them. Wolverine’s body acted on its own and attacked, hitting Cyclops with a punishing drop kick. Then he turned his sights to Storm and struck her as well, kicking her right across the face and sending her falling to the ground. Mystique involuntarily attacked as well, slugging Rogue across the face with right cross and hitting Thunderbird with a roundhouse.
“Whoa! So much for that approach,” said Phoenix as she and Colossus narrowly avoided an attack from Wolverine.
“You almost sound shocked,” grinned the Goblin Queen.
“Maybe this will help you focus,” added Vulcan.
Vulcan and the Goblin Queen joined the battle. Their bodies were soon consumed in a bluish halo. Vulcan unleashed a massive energy blast and the Goblin Queen attacked with a powerful telekinetic burst. It looked no different than their usual attacks. But when they struck, both Phoenix and Colossus were in for a painful surprise.
Colossus was hit first. In his metal form he could usually resist these kinds of attacks. This time it sent tumbling across the area, his metal skin warping under the strain. He even felt some bones in his arm and side break, something he never experienced in this form.
“Arrrggghhhh!” he cried out.
“You thought you could resist that,” taunted Vulcan, “Surprised?”
“Hnn…you sooka,” was all the Russian could get out.
While Colossus was reeling, Phoenix experienced an equally punishing impact. The moment her cousin attacked, she instinctively put up a telekinetic shield. Usually this was sufficient, but this time she got knocked back at least ten feet. The Phoenix Force immediately came in to assist her, using cosmic energy to hold back the Goblin Queen.
“Ungh! That…hurt!” grunted Phoenix, her face already sweating from exertion.
“It’s…uncanny. Even I can’t sense where it’s coming from. It’s as if her power isn’t coming from one person. It’s as if…”
“An entire army is attacking rather than just one?” the Goblin Queen finished, showing little strain in her attack, “That’s the power of a collective. Where one may only move a rock, many can move mountains!”
“A…collective?” grunted Phoenix as she resisted her cousin’s onslaught.
“Yes, dear cousin. That’s the true essence of the Legacy Virus. It’s only when Sinister showed us that we understood its full potential,” proclaimed the Goblin Queen.
“The millions that are dying aren’t dying for nothing,” Vulcan added, now standing by his lover, “Through suffering, their collective genome is being compiled. Once enough information is processed, those who survive can taste their fruit and thrive.”
“Eventually the virus ceases to consume and begins to connect,” said the Goblin Queen, talking as though she and Vulcan were completely in sync, “One become many. The individual becomes the group. The virus connects the minds and DNA of all those imbued with it. From that connection we share knowledge, strength, and above all…survival. And for mutants like us, it comes with a little extra boost!”
“Through death, we are united,” said Vulcan, “Working as one, petty differences shall cease. There is no more selfishness or ego. There is only us.”
They sounded even more deranged than usual, but the believed every word of it. Somehow being in this collective mindset made them okay with the death and destruction Sinister had unleashed. They were long past the point of reason so Phoenix chose not to argue with her cousin. She wouldn’t have had the strength either way. All her effort was focused on resisting the Goblin Queen’s telekinetic blast.
“What they say…it sounds so wrong yet so pragmatic. I’m having a hard time understanding.”
‘I’ll point out all the flaws later. Right now, I need you to trust me Phoenix. Use some of that cosmic punch to keep Maddie from turning us into a telekinetic pancake.’
While Phoenix fought with cosmic fury against Vulcan and Goblin Queen, the rest of the team had their hands full with Wolverine and Mystique. They weren’t in control of their bodies, but they attacked with the same ferocity and skill that made them so deadly. Thunderbird and Rogue were forced to oppose them. Rogue was hesitant to strike back against her mother, but Thunderbird was more inclined to fight back when Wolverine landed a few slashes against his durable form.
“You’re hitting harder than I remember, Wolverine. Have you been working out or is this Sinister’s voodoo at work?” grunted Thunderbird as he struggled to block Wolverine’s attacks even with his strength.
“For now…let’s say it’s both,” said Wolverine as he did a back-flip and tried to stab the Native American mutant in the face, “Just stop me already. Repay me by buying me a round after this…or several.”
“Deal!” grinned Thunderbird as he narrowly avoided the stabbing attack.
Thunderbird attempted to subdue Wolverine, using his strength to shoulder-tackle the feral mutant away from him. Somehow the Legacy Virus made him more resilient because he barely stumbled before unleashing another barrage of claws slashes. It forced Thunderbird back on the defensive. Even with Wolverine’s permission, ending this fight would be difficult.
It was even more difficult for Rogue, who refused to strike her mother or absorb her. Once weakened by the virus, now she was hitting with force that Rogue had difficulty blocking. It had been so long since she had seen her mother and now she had somehow got herself caught up into Sinister’s affairs.
“You been workin’ out, mama. Since when do you team up with guys like Sinister?” grunted Rogue as she brushed off several jabs and a roundhouse kick.
“It’s a…long story, Rogue,” groaned Mystique, still unable to control her body, “If I make it out of this…I’ll tell you everything.”
“If you make it out?” questioned Rogue, ducking to avoid a jump kick from her mother.
“I’m not…in control. My body…is failing me,” she said, each word sounding like a struggle, “Please…you must drain me.”
“Now you wanna humble yourself? No chance in hell!” exclaimed Rogue.
Mystique sounded overly eager to subject herself to more punishment. That was not the hard-nosed mother that Rogue knew and clashed with so many times before. Something was different this time, but she couldn’t make sense of it in the heat of the battle.
Rogue still refused to strike her mother. All her moves were defensive, blocking Mystique’s barrage of attacks. But this strategy could not deflect every attack. While Rogue was trying to back away, Mystique managed to get in a couple of shots to the head. While disoriented from the blows, Mystique threw in a kick to the knee that threw her off balance.
“Ugh! There goes mah knee,” groaned Rogue as she clutched her leg.
“Do it, Rogue! Absorb…me,” grunted Mystique as she narrowly missed striking Rogue in the head again.
“Talk to meh, mama. What’s going on? Let meh help you!”
“I…can’t. No…time,” she struggled, “Listen to your mother…for once. Take me…down. It’s the only…”
Before she could finish, a red flash erupted from behind Mystique. It was Cyclops. Having recovered from the shot he took earlier, he struck Mystique on her blindside and used the high power settings on his visor to blast her with enough force to knock her away from Rogue.
“Ungh!” grunted Mystique as was sent tumbling.
“There’s always another way,” said the X-leader, still rubbing his head, “Optic blasts are usually a viable alternative.”
“Dang it, Cyclops! Go easy on her, She ain’t in control,” shouted Rogue.
“You’re welcome,” said Cyclops as he directed his attention elsewhere.
With Mystique momentarily neutralized, Storm re-emerged as well and set her sights on Wolverine. He was still fighting with Thunderbird, pushing him all the way back towards Colossus’ injured form. While they were locked in a grapple, Storm unleashed a burst of lightning against her former lover.
“Logan…I’m truly sorry for this. I’ll leave a fresh bottle of whiskey on your bed as payment,” said the African woman.
The lightning she unleashed struck Wolverine right in the back. Thunderbird saw it coming and he got out of the way just in time, allowing the feral mutant to fall face first onto the floor in a heap of pain.
“Aagh! A little extra crispy…eh Ro?” he groaned.
“You’ll heal. Thanks Storm!” said Thuderbird breathlessly.
“Forget the thanks. Ah ain’t gonna keep fightin’ our friends like thi,!” said Rogue strongly, “You all can stay behind and try to knock some sense into them, but Sinister did something to mah mama. And I’m gonna find out what it is!”
“Rogue, we can’t go after Sinister until…” began Storm.
“Until what?” questioned Rogue, “Until his goons and our friends wear us down? Ah got a better plan for ya. Ah’m gonna hit that ugly son-of-a-bitch while we have a chance!”
Before Mystique and Wolverine recovered, Rogue took to the air. She was about to fly off when Thunderbird caught up with her.
“Wait! I’ll go with you,” said the Native American mutant, “If you won’t listen to Cyclops or Storm, you might as well have backup.”
“You wanna join the party? Grab on and Ah’ll bring you along for the ride.”
Thunderbird jumped up and Rogue caught his arms just as she was ascending. She quickly rose out of range from Wolverine and Mystique. Cyclops and Storm stayed put, still dazed and completely against Rogue’s plan.
“Damn it, Rogue! Fall back! That’s an order!” yelled the X-leader.
“I don’t think they heard you, Cyclops,” lamented Storm.
He started to run after them, only to be grabbed from behind by Mystique. She was back on her feet, her body still beyond her control. She soon had the X-leader and trying to get him into a choke hold.
“Let…them go,” grunted the shape-shifter, “Focus…on me.”
“You better start shooting again, Cyke,” said Wolverine as he approached Storm, who also began another involuntary attack, “It won’t make you any more a prick.”
“Here we go again,” groaned Storm, feeling she would have to attack her friend again.
“That goes double for you, Ro. Better fry me before I…”
He didn’t get a chance to finish his warning. His body got ahead of him, launching another attack on Storm. As he feared, she hesitated to strike him. This time when she unleashed her lightning, he evaded it. He then moved in and struck Storm with a punishing head-butt. It was enough to break facial bones and stop her attack.
“Ungh!” she grunted.
“Somebody stop me, damn it!” exclaimed Wolverine.
He was about to land a deadly blow. Leading with his claws, Wolverine prepared to stab Storm her right in the face. Then, he was roughly tackled before he could. Colossus, who was still in a lot of pain after the shot he took from Vulcan, had recovered and knocked his teammate away from the X-leader.
“Erah! I hope you won’t mind if I obliging, comrade,” said Colossus, wincing as took a defensive stance against Wolverine.
“Good timing, Ruskie. Now knock me out and repay me in vodka,” growled Wolverine.
Colossus ignored the stabbing pain from his broken bones and prepared to counter Wolverine’s attacks, leading him away from Storm so she could recover.
As their fight unfolded, Cyclops broke the choke hold from Mystique and fought back. He continued using his optic blasts, forcing Mystique to evade and re-position herself for an attack. All the while, Phoenix kept Vulcan and Goblin Queen occupied. It allowed Rogue and Thunderbird to fly right past them. They followed the tunnel from where Vulcan and Goblin Queen emerged, sensing this was where Sinister was hiding.
“Keep ‘em busy, guys! We’re gonna attack the source,” Rogue called out.
“We would usually warn you of such foolishness, but this time we’ll let you learn from your mistakes,” grinned Vulcan.
“I don’t like the sound of that,” said Thunderbird warily.
“Don’t let Mr. Sunshine over there discourage you, sugah. Sinister is way overdue for a beating. You wanted to come along so you better contribute!”
“Don’t worry. I will.”
There was no turning back now. Rogue and Thunderbird were on their way to confront Sinister. They flew by several heavy doors and a few laser barriers. Since they were both armed with invulnerability, they were able to ram right through like a speeding train. When they got to the laser barriers, Rogue slowed down and allowed Thunderbird to slam his fists into the wall so he could rip out the wires powering the device. It helped clear the way to their target.
There were no twisting corridors or maze-like areas to navigate. It was a straight shot towards the main lab. There was no subtlety or strategy. Rogue led the charge, plowing through anything that got in her way. When they reached the main entrance to the lab, she knocked the heavy steel doors over and burst into Sinister’s lab.
“SINISTER! WE GOT SOME UNFINISHED BUSINESS TO SETTLE!” yelled Rogue.
“I’m pretty sure he knows where here, Rogue,” said Thunderbird, who dropped down from Rogue’s grip.
“Then where the hell is he? If he’s gonna play hide-and-seek, he’s just makin’ it harder on himself!”
Rogue cracked her knuckles, eagerly anticipating a chance to take down Sinister. Thunderbird was a little more cautious, scanning the elaborate lab from where this insanity began.
The lab was definitely Sinister’s. The equipment throughout the area was very advanced, having that distinct alien feel that Sinister loved to flaunt. He was clearly in the middle of something. There were a lot of box-shaped computer terminals humming with power. They must have been servers processing all the data that the Legacy Virus was transmitting. There were also tables of advanced biology equipment. This must have been where Sinister assembled the Legacy Virus. It gave all the more reason to level this place once they were through with him, but they still had to find him first.
“I’m starting to think Cyclops may have been right earlier,” said Thunderbird anxiously.
“Don’t get soft on meh now, John. Ah think Ah’ve found Legacy Virus central!” announced Rogue as she flew out ahead.
“Rogue, wait!” urged the Native American mutant.
It was no use. Rogue would not slow down. Thunderbird followed her towards the back of the lab where there was an elaborate contraption that looked similar to Cerebrum back at the Xavier Institute. It appeared to be going at full power, which was another bad sign for Thunderbird. He was about to grab Rogue to stop her from going any closer. Then she was blindsided by an optic blast, not unlike the one that hit her mother earlier.
“Ahhhhhhh!” she cried out as she fell to the floor.
“Rogue!” exclaimed Thunderbird.
The Native American mutant turned towards the direction of the blast and got a momentarily glimpse of the source. It was Sinister. He had been hiding behind an array of servers. The moment Thunderbird saw his gaze, another optic blast shot out from his eyes. When it struck, it knocked Thunderbird flat on his back so he was lying right next to Rogue.
“Ungh! Should’ve seen that coming,” he groaned.
“Yes…you should have,” said Sinister dryly.
“Hnn…SINISTER!” shouted Rogue as she quickly got up, “You think copying mah ex-boyfriend’s powers will keep meh from rearranging your god-awful face?”
“Not for a moment,” he said flatly, “That’s why I’m prepared to skip the formalities and do this.”
Sinister raised his hand and as he did this, the large orb hovering over the Cerebrum-like machine opened. From it a large glob of silvery matter shot out and went straight for Rogue and Thunderibird. At the halfway point it split, creating a second glob. The two X-men tried to get away, but it was too late. The two silvery globs consumed them. Within seconds, a paralyzing feeling came over them and they felt their strength abandon them.
“Arrrrrggggghhhhh!” Thunderbird cried out.
“Hnn…the virus,” Rogue groaned.
“Yes…specially modified just for you X-men,” said Sinister, “Allow me to demonstrate.”
Sinister casually waved his hand. In doing so Rogue and Thunderbird felt their bodies move without any signals from their brains. It was painful and disorienting. They now found themselves standing straight up in front of the imposing figure. Sinister’s cold gaze sent shivers down their spine while filling them with anger. His glowing eyes made it clear that he was in control.
“As you can see, the Legacy Virus is capable of more than just infecting,” he said coldly, “As I speak, it’s draining your powers from you…rendering you as frail as a sick kitten. I could have you walk right off a cliff or stab yourselves with the nearest sharp object. Or I could simply amuse myself by having you tear each other limb from limb.”
“Errrr! Ah’d rather hang mahself with Selene’s entrails,” spat Rogue.
“Very well, if you wish to be that ill-mannered…”
Sinister clenched his fist. As he did, Rogue turned to Thunderbird. With no control over her body, she struck the Native American mutant with a punishing uppercut. To her surprise and even that of Sinister, she hit with her unusual superhuman strength. It sent Thunderbird flying across the lab, crashing into a series of chemical vats.
“Ahhhhhhhhh!” he exclaimed.
“Thunderbird!” Rogue exclaimed, horrified at what she had just done.
“Hmm…that is strange,” said Sinister as he moved in closer to Rogue, “You should not have been able to hit with your full power. You should also have lesions on your face by now.”
Sinister gripped Rogue’s face and scrutinized her, looking over her exposed skin and not seeing the lesions that developed so quickly on Thunderbird’s face. She was showing symptoms, but not all of them. It was a curious anomaly that warranted further analysis once this experiment was complete.
“No matter,” he shrugged, “I think I’ve made my point. I don’t just control the Legacy Virus. I am the Legacy virus.”
“You insult every decent parasite that ever lived,” grunted Rogue, “I know all about your old work. Pretty dang pathetic if that ain’t too nice a word.”
“You shouldn’t have the strength to move your tongue, let alone insult me,” said Sinister, “But no matter. It doesn’t make a difference. You X-men are powerless. I’ve already infected your teammates. I slowed the progression so they could stay alive for the next stage. For you and your friend, I don’t have time for stages.”
Sinister’s eyes shifted in a silvery glow. Rogue and Thunderbird then felt the virus attack them with greater ferocity. Thunderbird felt his lesions grow to cover more of his body. All his strength and resolve were ripped away, his life energy literally devoured by the virus. For Rogue, it was slower yet every bit as agonizing. The Legacy Virus within her grew more aggressive, rapidly draining her of her remaining strength.
It was as if their bodies were eating themselves. Sinister was destroying them from within and he hadn’t even laid a hand on them. It wasn’t just the two of them who faced this wrath. Millions of others all over the were suffering the same agony and Sinister made sure there as nothing they could do about it.
“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” Rogue and Thunderbird cried out.
“Cry all you want. It’s all for the greater good. You don’t understand, but you will,” said Sinister, watching as the two X-men suffered, “We’re all prisoners to our mortal shells. Our greatest gift is the ability to make a lasting impression on this world. That’s what this is about. This virus is more than just an experiment. It’s my legacy.”
Shaw Industries – Ukraine
Shanobi Shaw’s experiment was at a critical stage. Banshee and Captain Freeman were getting weaker and weaker, the modified Legacy Virus draining their life energy into the comatose Sebastian Shaw. During the process, Shanobi analyzed the various functions of the virus to unlock the means for a cure. But if stopping a plague was part of Shanobi’s plan, he didn’t make it his main priority. This wasn’t about the death and suffering of millions. This was about him proving himself to his father.
“It’s almost time, father,” he said as the chamber containing Sebastian Shaw glowed brightly, “You always said I had to earn your respect. Well here it is!”
Behind him, Captain Freeman and Banshee were on their knees in defeat. Their bodies were giving out fast, the Legacy Virus consuming them at an accelerated rate. Warpath could only watch. He had not yet been infected, but that was about to change.
With the process moving at full speed, Shanobi entered a series of commands to open another small panel. This panel revealed another dose of the Legacy Virus. It was specially treated like the one that was used on Banshee and Captain Freeman. Concealed in a small vial was the last ingredient to this experiment.
“It’s your turn, Warpath,” announced Shanobi, “The life energy transfer is almost complete. We just need yours to be the proverbial cherry on top.”
“If you’re going to infect me, be quick about it,” muttered the Native American mutant, “The quicker it kills me, the less I’ll have to listen to you whine about your daddy issues.”
“You sound so tough. If you think that’ll earn you mercy, you’re as foolish as you are helpless,” grinned Shanobi.
Warpath stared down Shanobi as he approached. The guards kept him in line and Warhawk was close just in case. But while his attention was on Shanobi, Captain Freeman crawled into his path. He was low on strength, but he continued to show defiance.
“Hey Shanobi…you’re dad…will still hate you,” said the mutant solder, reaching for and grasping Shanobi’s foot, “I bet…he always hated you. There’s nothing you can do. So why bother? Why not just…let him die?”
“You dare insult my father?” exclaimed Shanobi.
Captain Freeman’s words struck a chord, earning him a rough kick in the gut from Shanobi. The mutant soldier grimaced. Already weakened, he fell onto his side and clutched his stomach. Shanobi was still seething, looking tempted to end him before he even got to Warpath.
“I’ll make sure you suffer once my father is well. But first things first,” said Shanobi as he shoved Captain Freeman aside.
Shanobi turned his attention back to Warpath. The Native American mutant stared back for a moment. Then his attention shifted back to Captain Freeman, noticing something unusual after Shanobi kicked him. He looked like he was still writhing in pain, but then he noticed something in his hand. When he figured out what it was, it dawned on him.
That remark against his father wasn’t just to spite Shanobi. After being kicked in the gut, he covertly retrieved his last remaining flash grenade. With what little strength he had, he pulled the pin and looked towards Warpath with an ominous grin.
“You crazy son-of-a-bitch,” said Warpath, shaking his head.
“Oh please, that can’t possibly be your most vulgar insult,” scoffed Shanobi as he prepared to release the virus.
“Wasn’t referring to you, pretty boy,” said the Native American snidely.
Shanobi was momentarily confused. In his confusion, he didn’t notice Captain Freeman toss his flash grenade towards him. It rolled right up to Shanobi’s feet. He didn’t realize it was there until it tapped his boot and he looked down at it. At that moment, a blinding flash and a deafening bang erupted from the small canister.
“AHHHH!” Shanobi cried out.
The instant he was blinded by the blast, he dropped the vial containing the virus. It shattered right next to his leg. Since the blast tore a few holes into his pants and boot, some of his skin was exposed. So the moment the virus was released, it went straight for him.
“The virus…NOOOOO!” exclaimed Shanobi, immediately sensing its effects.
“Welcome to the club, Shaw,” muttered Captain Freeman snidely.
While Shanobi’s horrified cries filled the lab, Warpath made his move. He used the smoke from the grenade as cover, lunging backwards into the guards that had been holding him at gunpoint.
“Finally! I get to join the action,” grunted Warpath, making good use of this window.
He pushed them right back into Warhawk, who had also been blinded by the flash. When they crashed into him, they all fell like a set of bowling pins. Warpath then reached into Warhawk’s pocket and retrieved the key to his restraints. As soon as his hands were free, he used the same key to remove the power-suppressing collar around his neck.
“Crafty bastard…somebody stop him!” yelled Warhawk.
“That somebody ain’t gonna be you,” grunted Warpath.
Before Warhawk could get up, Warpath decked him with an extra strong blow to the face. This knocked him out and seriously wounded his face. There were still countless guards surrounding him and they were all armed. Even with his powers back, Warpath had his work cut out for him.
“Shoot him! Aim for his eyes!” one of the guards said.
They all took aim at Warpath. The Native American mutant braced himself for an onslaught. Before the first shot could be fired though, Banshee rose up from his weakened state. Since Captain Freeman managed to contribute despite their weakened state, it was only fitting he do so as well. It meant summoning what strength he had left and trusting that Warpath would make up for getting himself captured.
“Cover your ears, lads!” he called out.
“Ugh…I know where this is going,” groaned Captain Freeman.
Warpath and Captain Freeman did as he said. Once covered, Banshee let out one last sonic scream. Despite being infected by the Legacy Virus, he was able to unleash a blast that paralyzed and disoriented the guards. It spared Warpath the trouble of taking them all out. It even short-circuited the life energy transfer into Sebastian Shaw’s chamber, causing a series of sparks within the elaborate setup.
“Father…no,” gasped Shanobi, lesions forming on his face as he fell to his knees.
When the sonic yell ended, Banshee collapsed and passed out next to Captain Freeman. Both men were in no position to contribute anymore. It was up to Warpath now. With the guards paralyzed and Shanobi infected, he rushed over to the console and yanked out the wires going into Banshee and Captain Freeman.
“That should stop the whole life energy problem. Now to see if Shanobi’s toys can do us any good,” said Warpath as he set his two associates next to him.
“Better work fast,” groaned Captain Freeman, “Don’t think…I’m wasting another flash grenade…to save your ass.”
“I can save my own ass this time,” said Warpath dryly, “Just hope there’s some data here that can save all our asses.”
While Warpath focused on the console, more sparks flew from the chamber holding Sebastian Shaw. Even though the flow of life energy from Banshee and Captain Freeman had ceased, there was still a lot of activity. The devices monitoring his vitals showed erratic readings. The infusion of techno-organic material caused his veins to bulge and his body to shift. Through this series of sparks and bursts, Sebastian Shaw’s eyes shot open.
“Hnn…” he groaned.
As he returned to consciousness, a rush of strength surged through him. It was like a shock to the system, painful yet invigorating. Through another series of sparks, the former Black King let out an angry grunt and punched his way out of the chamber.
“Finally!” he proclaimed, “It feels good to be alive again…for the most part.”
Upon ripping the wires and IVs out of his body, Shaw realized he wasn’t fully healed. His legs were still weak and he had to limp his way away from the setup. Half his body felt sore and some parts of his torso were numb. Whatever healing procedure he just underwent, it didn’t work completely. It was a frustrating way to return to the world of the living. The former Black King took out those frustrations on his son, who he assumed was responsible.
“Shanobi!” he called out, “Your father would like to have a word with you.”
“Father…you live? The treatment…worked?” questioned Shanobi, still ailing from the Legacy Virus.
“Not entirely,” grunted Sebastian, gesturing towards his legs, “I’m no longer in a coma, but my body still as flimsy as an old car. I must say I’m deeply disappointed.”
“But…I healed you,” his son pointed out, “I saved you. The doctors said…you were dead.”
“Therein lies the problem, Shanobi. As always, you fail to understand everything I’ve tried to teach you.”
Despite his weakened disposition, Sebastian Shaw was still strong enough to grab his son by the neck and lift him up. Shanobi, covered in lesions and crippled by the Legacy Virus, was completely at his mercy. Staring into his father’s angry eyes, he didn’t see the gratitude he expected.
“You were given so many opportunities. The world was literally served to you on a silver platter and you ate around it. You always had to be given power. You never stepped up and seized it. That makes you inherently weak because it is only when one seizes power that they are able to properly wield it.”
“Ack! How can you say that?” choked Shanobi within his father’s grasp, “Everything I did…was for your approval.”
“And now you’ll never have it…not after this latest act of ineptitude,” said the Black King, “I was at death’s door and you had a chance to seize the power I left behind. And what did you do? You focused your efforts on saving me. I would have been more proud had you let me die. But you were too weak. For that, I’m ashamed to call you my son.”
They were harsh words from a very harsh man. Even with the Legacy Virus draining the life from him, his father’s scorn stung in a way that went beyond words. Shanobi was now seething with outrage. He went through all the trouble to save this man and somehow his father turned it into another reason to despise him.
“Hnn…don’t do this, father,” grunted Shanobi, his breath heavily labored.
“I already have, Shanobi. You want to know how a real man seizes power? Let this be your final lesson!” said the Black King.
Gripping his son’s neck harder, Sebastian Shaw roughly threw his sickly son back towards the chamber where he had emerged. He threw him so hard he crashed into a series of wires that had transferred the life energy from the Legacy Virus. Once broken and exposed to Shanobi, they started draining again. Already very ill from the virus, Shanobi Shaw was consumed in a series of sparks. His body now burned and bruised, his lingering grasp on life quickly faded.
“ERRRRRRRRRRR FAATTTHHHERRRRR!” he cried out.
Sebastian Shaw watched stoically as his son let out one last gasp of agony. After a few agonizing seconds, the sparks stopped and Shanobi fell limply to the ground. There was no doubt among him or the guards that watched. Shanobi Shaw was dead.
By now many of the guards had recovered from Banshee’s sonic blast earlier. Warhawk was still unconscious, but with their leader dead there was a great deal of confusion. All eyes were on the Black King now. He was still not fully healed and in no condition to fight anyone else.
“Sebastian Shaw…You’re Highness,” said one of the guards with a respectful bow, “What are your orders?”
“Get me out of here,” ordered Shaw sternly, “I must escape my son’s failure.”
“Certainly,” said another guard, “What about the intruders?”
“Leave them. It seems they know what they’re doing,” said Shaw, glancing over towards Warpath, “I’ll deal with them at a more appropriate time. Right now, I need to gather the power I’ve lost.”
No one dared argue with the Black King. The guards obediently escorted Sebastian Shaw out of the lab. They brought the unconscious Warhawk with them, leaving only a few stray scientists and technicians behind. None of them were in a position to oppose Warpath or his friends.
It was a strange move on Shaw’s part, but one Warpath didn’t go after him. As far as he was concerned, the Black King was doing him a favor. He understood he couldn’t fight them in his current state so he didn’t risk making the same mistakes as his son.
“And I thought my old man was harsh,” commented Warpath as he was still working on the main console.
“At least…Shanobi knew his,” commented Captain Freeman, who was growing weaker by the minute, “Make any progress yet? I don’t think…me and Banshee have much time. And I would prefer…not to follow…Shanobi.”
“I’m as equipped to decode this data as I am to perform brain surgery,” replied Warpath, “However, Shanobi did appear to deliver on some of his boasting. This contraption gathered some interesting data during the whole life-energy transfer with you two.”
“Still hurts…like hell,” groaned the Green Beret.
“If it did what Shanobi said, it also gathered data directly from the Legacy Virus. I can’t make much use of it, but I should be able to link up with Emma Frost at the Academy. If there’s something of value in this data, they’ll find it.”
“Think it’s enough…for a cure?”
“We’ll find out soon enough,” said Warpath anxiously, “If this mission was for nothing, you can spend your last moments calling me an asshole.”
“Thanks…asshole,” said Captain Freeman, managing a grin.
Their mission had been completed, albeit sloppily. Warpath opened up a series of network lines and prepared to transfer the data to the Academy. Somewhere within this data may be the key to stopping the Legacy Virus. At this point, they needed a miracle.
Xavier Institute – Cerebrum
‘Damn you, Sinister! You’ve managed to spread the Legacy Virus to every corner of the planet. In every infection, you’ve left a psychic signature. You’ve kept that signature shielded and decentralized. There’s something hidden that signature you’re trying very hard not to reveal. I must find it and stop this atrocity!’
Professor Xavier was deeply frustrated. The battle against Sinister tested his will as well as his stomach. It was sickening, having to psychically scan a world that was being consumed with death. Feeling so much suffering took a toll on the world’s most powerful psychic, forcing him to take more pills so that he could continue.
He was still stumbling around in the dark. Ever since he detected a psychic presence within the Legacy Virus, he was convinced that this was the key to stopping it. He had Cerebrum running at full power as he tried desperately to uncover it. He was limited by a lack of data. He knew too little about this virus and it was impossible to follow, often behaving as if it had a mind of its own. If that weren’t hard enough, that mind couldn’t be pinned down, let alone deciphered.
As he struggled, his X-men were fighting against Sinister. They had not checked in. For all he, knew Sinister infected them as well. Either they had to pull through on their end or Emma had to pull through on hers. If there was a miracle out there, he needed it soon.
“Incoming emergency transmission. Data line open. Source: Academy of Tomorrow.”
The Professor was jolted from his concentration. Upon seeing it was from Emma, he eagerly opened it.
“I’m here, Emma. Please give me some good news,” he said desperately.
“I wouldn’t contact you if I didn’t have something, Charles. Apparently, those friends of yours got Warpath out of his latest screw-up. He just sent me a rather large data package from Shaw’s servers. He says the data is from some experiment Shaw conducted with the Legacy Virus, although he wouldn’t go into detail.”
“I would rather not know such details. Can you transfer this data to Cerebrum?”
“Cypher’s already on that, but here’s the thing…Warpath sent this data to Tessa as well and she had some interesting things to say about it. I’m not one for biotech jargon, but she mentioned something about psychic resonance within the virus. It was somehow being obscured, but somehow Shaw broke through the clutter. I certainly haven’t sensed anything so I’m hoping you can figure it out.”
As Emma explained this, the data came streaming into Cerebrum. On the holographic screen depicting a map of the world, wave after wave of code was processed. Detailed images of the molecular structure of the Legacy Virus flashed across the screen along with video simulations of the infection process. Along with those images were dense layers of information regarding the inner workings of the virus. It was more detailed than anything uncovered in the past week. Xavier didn’t have time to process all of it, but Emma’s mention of psychic resonance intrigued him.
Using Cerebrum’s interface, Professor Xavier brought up a portion of the data that examined the inner workings of the Legacy Virus. Within the holographic images were a series of glowing areas that gave off strange energy readings. That energy was psionic in nature. It may have been the source of the psychic signature he had been trying to uncover. Within these readings, there was even more data.
“Yes…I see it too, Emma,” said Xavier distantly, “The psychic resonance is clearly there. It appears to be a vital mechanism for the Legacy Virus.”
“That’s what Tessa said. She tried doing some telepathic scans, but that did as much good as waving a stick at it. We figure Sinister is using psionics to collect data from the virus. What we can’t figure out is where the psychic signature in the virus factors in.”
“Which is likely because we’ve been looking at it the wrong way,” said Xavier as more data flashed in front of him, “What if that psychic signature isn’t a signature?”
“And when is a Gucci purse not a purse? You’ve never been one to speak in riddles, Charles. Now is not the time to start.”
“It’s not a riddle. What I’m saying is that based on this data, I don’t think we should treat these psychic readings as a signature.”
“Then what should we call them? Just your atypical psychic anomaly? You and I are both telepaths, Charles. We know there’s no such thing.”
“There isn’t,” affirmed Xavier, “So let’s call this what it really is…a beacon.”
The data started lining up. Xavier used Cerebrum to zoom in on the hologram of the virus. The glowing sections came into focus. As Xavier scrutinized them, he came to a startling conclusion.
“Yes…that’s it! That’s how he’s doing it,” he said, his voice brimming with hope.
“What are you raving about, Charles? Are you having a seizure or something?”
“Don’t you see, Emma? That’s the key! The psychic component of the virus isn’t just to transmit data. It’s how Sinister is holding the entire outbreak together. He’s tied it into his own DNA and using telepathy to control it. That’s how he got it to spread so fast. That’s how he was able to select who got sick…and how quickly a host dies.”
“I’ll have to run that by Tessa to see if it makes a lick of sense, but I’m not seeing where you’re going with this.”
“Look closer! Every virus is its own beacon. A telepathic radio receiving and transmitting instructions on a global level. If telepathy is how Sinister controls it, then telepathy is how we’ll stop it. With Cerebrum, I can send out my own instructions to overwrite Sinister’s. I can order it to self-destruct!”
There was a silence over the line. Emma Frost started to grasp the significance of this discovery. This may be the miracle they were looking for. As exciting as it was, even Emma saw the danger in what the Professor was proposing.
“It sounds great on paper, Charles. But you’re talking about unleashing telepathic energy on a global level. I know you flaunt this world’s-most-powerful-telepath label like a pick-up line, but this is pushing it even for you.”
“There’s no one else equipped to do it,” said Xavier strongly, “By my last count, 300 million have died of this virus. Two billion are infected and more are falling ill with each passing second. We don’t have the luxury of taking this on a case-by-case basis. I need to attack this virus all at once! With help from Cerebrum, I can pull it off.”
“Damn it, Charles! Listen to yourself and understand how crazy that sounds. You’re going to get yourself killed.”
“One life for a couple billion…sounds like a fair trade,” he said ominously, “I’ll be okay, Emma. Thank you for your help.”
“Wait! Don’t you dare…”
The Professor cut off Emma before she could dissuade him. He understood her many concerns, but this had to be done. Too many lives had been lost and many more were at stake. By doing this, he would be straining himself in a way he had never done before. In his current state, it was impossible. So he would have to go to extremes.
Reaching into his pocket, Xavier retrieved his bottle of pills. Dr. Reyes would have him committed for this. He would endure her scorn later. Closing his eyes, he popped open the pill bottle and downed every last pill.
‘I need them all…can’t let my health slow me down.’
Upon swallowing the last pill, he prepared himself for the biggest telepathic onslaught he ever unleashed. His hands shook and his head broke out in a cold sweat. The potent pain-killers flooded his system, causing him to fee dizzy and light-headed. He quickly pushed it aside and gripped the controls of Cerebrum. After making a few adjustments, he brought up a holographic map of the world again.
Despite warning signs from Cerebrum and his better judgment, every last ounce of power was channeled into the powerful device. Every panel in Cerebrum lit up. Professor Charles Xavier’s eyes started glowing as he gazed intently at the image of the world. Taking a deep breath, he unleashed a planetary sized telepathic onslaught.
“One world…a single psychic burst,” said Xavier intently, “This plague ends now!”
Sinister’s Lab – Hanger
“Why do you bother fighting, X-men? Haven’t you figured out how utterly screwed you are yet?” proclaimed Vulcan.
Sinister’s forces were in a comfortable position. Vulcan and Goblin Queen weren’t breaking a sweat containing Phoenix. Mystique and Wolverine were giving Cyclops, Colossus, and Storm all they could handle. Storm was still woozy from the blow she took from Wolverine. Colossus was trying to restrain the feral mutant with his strength, but was unable to due to the injuries he sustained from Vulcan’s blast. Cyclops tried to help him while keeping his distance from Mystique with only limited success. Nothing was going well. It led them to assume that Rogue and Thunderbird had not taken down Sinister after breaking off from the fight earlier.
“Hurry…take me out…help Rogue,” grunted Mystique as she involuntarily punched Cyclops in the gut.
“Argh! I’m trying!” exclaimed the X-leader, “A little help on your end wouldn’t hurt.”
“I’m…trying too, damn it!” said the shape shifter, “I’m too used…to hating X-men.”
Despite their efforts, Cyclops could not get past her to help Phoenix or Colossus. Growing impatient, he led Mystique back towards Storm. She was still on the floor, but not unconscious. As he got closer, she came to and saw what Cyclops was doing. She instinctively reacted as she had trained to do so many times before and unleashed a gust of wind that blew Mystique across the area.
“That won’t buy us much time,” said the X-leader as he helped Storm up.
“That’s all I can manage until my head stops throbbing,” groaned Storm.
“Catch your breath and catch it fast. We need to help the others!” ordered Cyclops.
They set their sights on Colossus, who had Wolverine in another grapple. His claws were slashing across his neck and torso, ripping off much of his uniform. Sparks flew and Colossus was obviously in a lot of pain, but he kept Wolverine from breaking loose.
“You need to…work on…your grip,” said Wolverine, unable to control his body as he tried to break free from Colossus.
“I am not letting go, Comrade,” he said to his friend before turning to Cyclops, “Do not worry about helping me. Go to the others. They…need you.”
Colossus had Wolverine by the arms and was pushing him back towards where Mystique had landed. It gave them an opening to help Phoenix and get to Sinister. Despite Colossus being overmatched, the X-leader trusted his teammate and set his sights on Vulcan and Goblin Queen.
“Come on, Storm. Let’s get the fun couple from Hell away from Phoenix,” said Cyclops.
“You hit the Goblin Queen. I’ll take care of Vulcan,” said Storm, her eyes glowing a bright white again.
Vulcan and Goblin Queen noticed them approaching. Goblin Queen was still in a telekinetic battle with Phoenix. She had her pinned down despite Phoenix tapping her cosmic potential. She was too focused on her cousin to notice Cyclops taking aim at her so Vulcan stepped up.
“You’re making an even bigger fool of yourself than usual, brother,” spat Vulcan.
The older Summers brother unleashed another concentrated blast. When Cyclops saw it coming, he instinctively shielded Storm with his body. Since their blasts usually didn’t affect one another, it came as a surprise when he felt a lot more force than he expected. Cyclops was knocked right off his feet, driving him right back into Storm.
“Ungh!” he exclaimed, “How the…”
“Were you not listening earlier?” taunted Vulcan, “Your biology is no longer enough to protect you. Thanks to the collective power imbued by the Legacy Virus, you’re might as well be a mosquito trying to stop a rhino.”
“Hnn…I’ll need more wind for this,” groaned Storm, trying to pick herself back up.
“You’ll need more than that to be anything more than a passing annoyance,” said Vulcan.
He prepared to blast Storm and Cyclops again. Phoenix saw this as she lay pinned on the floor. She was surrounded by the fires of the Phoenix Force, but that was still not enough to overcome the Goblin Queen. The added power of the Legacy Virus was too great to overcome. Seeing her lover and teammate in the line of fire left her feeling even more helpless.
“Scott…Storm…hold on,” she urged as she pushed back further.
‘Jean…in my current state, I’m not strong enough to stop this. I’m sorry. But being this powerless…I don’t know what to do.’
“You’re making this too easy for us, cousin,” taunted the Goblin Queen, throwing some extra force at her to keep Phoenix pinned, “We’re tempted to crush you for all the grief you’ve given us over the years. You’re lucky we’re enjoying this. Even with that cosmic pet of yours, you don’t stand a chance!”
“We? Us? Sinister…has really done it. He’s made you even crazier, Maddie!” seethed Phoenix.
“We speak from an enlightened perspective. There is no I or me. There is only us…the legacy of Sinister’s work. You couldn’t possibly understand. Not as long as you…”
Madelyn’s taunting then stopped when her expression abruptly changed. The same happened to Vulcan, Wolverine, and Mystique. In a bizarre shift, the lesions from the Legacy Virus that covered their bodies flashed erratically. They shifted from silver and yellow to blue and purple. As they shifted, they started to fade and triggered a great deal of discomfort in the process.
“Ugh! What the…what is happening?” exclaimed the Goblin Queen, clutching her sides.
“The virus…something is wrong,” grunted Vulcan, “I feel it…AHHHHHHHHHH!”
Vulcan keeled over and so did the Goblin Queen, which halted her telekinetic attack and allowed Phoenix to get up. She stammered over to Cyclops and Storm where she helped them back to their feet. As they rose up, they watched with a mix of confusion and intrigue.
“This can’t be part of Sinister’s plan,” said Cyclops strongly.
“How can you tell?” wondered Storm, still wary of this new development.
“He would never make a move when he has us on the ropes…especially not with these two.”
“So if this isn’t him, who or what could it be?” wondered Storm.
“It’s the Professor. It has to be,” said Phoenix surmised, sensing the telepathic wave that swept over the area, “He must have found a cure!”
The miracle they had been looking for was unfolding before their very eyes. Vulcan and Goblin Queen’s lesions faded rapidly, leaving less ominous bruises on their skin. They also coughed up silvery fluid in a nauseating display. And they weren’t the only ones affected.
Over with Mystique and Wolverine, the virus that had been controlling their bodies was now short-circuiting like a machine, causing them to contort and stammer uncomfortably. Colossus let go of Wolverine and watched as he and Mystique fell to the floor, grunting through this very disorienting process.
“Comrade Wolverine! What is wrong?” asked Colossus anxiously.
“Errrrr! Quit giving a damn about me! Get away while you can!” roared Wolverine.
“Go…after Sinister,” urged Mystique.
Despite being injured and confused, Colossus listened. He stammered off and caught up to Cyclops, Phoenix, and Storm. This left Wolverine and Mystique to collapse next to one another. The shape shifter was still very weak, having been ravaged by the virus for much longer. Wolverine still managed to catch her in his arms.
“Hang in there, Rose. I’m here. It’s almost over,” he said to her.
“So tired,” she groaned, “Please Logan…don’t leave me…again.”
“I ain’t going anywhere this time, darlin’. I promise.”
Mystique and Wolverine clung to one another, letting the others go after Sinister. Colossus stepped over the still unmoving body of Sabretooth as he reached his friends. His metal skin was scratched and dinged from the battle. He was every bit as wounded as his teammates, who struggled to stay on their feet as they watched Vulcan and Goblin Queen fall to the floor.
“Can someone tell me what is going on and whether this is a good thing?” asked Colossus upon meeting up with his teammates.
“Phoenix says the Professor just came through,” said Cyclops, “Don’t ask how because we don’t have time to figure it out. We have to go after Sinister!”
“That’s right. Thunderbird and Rogue went after him. Are they okay?” asked a worried Storm.
“I…I don’t know. I’m sensing a lot of strange telepathic signals,” said Phoenix, her mind still strained after her fight with the Goblin Queen.
“Sinister will give us some answers or we’ll beat them out of him, whichever comes first!” said Cyclops strongly, “Let’s go, X-men! Let’s end this!”
There wasn’t a moment of debate. Phoenix, Colossus, and Storm each set aside their lingering injuries and followed Cyclops down the same path Thunderbird and Rogue went earlier. The tide of the battle had turned and this time Sinister wasn’t behind it. They had a chance to take him down and they were going to use it.
Cyclops’s mind was now completely focused on Sinister. He began running full speed, but after only a few steps he felt a hand on his ankle. He turned around to see Vulcan, who looked weaker than he had ever seen him.
“Don’t do it, brother! You don’t understand. What Sinister is doing…must be done,” he said breathlessly.
“I don’t have time to listen to more bullshit, Gabriel. You played Sinister’s game. Now you have to pay the price,” said Cyclops strongly.
“There’s more to it than that…much more,” Vulcan argued, “This virus…it was the next step in something far greater…something that would eventually involve our father.”
“Our father?” exclaimed Cyclops.
“Yes…you still have questions, don’t you? I still have the answers. I can tell you everything. I know what happened to our family, who is responsible, why it was done, and even where our father is as we speak. All that I ask is that you hear me out.”
Cyclops’s gaze narrowed on his older brother. He remembered how this began with a series of revelations surrounding the plane crash that killed his family. He still had many burning questions and he knew Vulcan had the answers. It was tempting to listen.
Then he turned towards his friends. Phoenix looked at him with that pleading look in her eye. It reminded him of what she told him earlier before they flew out. He made her and the X-men a promise. That was worth more than any revelation.
“Sorry brother,” said Cyclops sternly, “The truth isn’t always worth it.”
To reinforce his point, the X-leader shook off Vulcan’s grip and kicked him in the face. This knocked him back and knocked him out. Such an act surprised and relieved his fellow X-men.
“Cyclops…I’m impressed and a little confused,” said Storm.
“I have a new family now. I’m not going to risk it by chasing ghosts of the past,” said Cyclops, his gaze still locked on Vulcan.
“For that, your new family thanks you,” said Phoenix, smiling as she took her lover’s hand, “Now let’s go! I don’t want to miss seeing Sinister’s plan fall apart.”
Sinister’s Lab – Legacy Core
“No…NO-NO-NOOO! My virus! What have you done?” seethed Sinister, who still had Rogue in his cold grip.
“Ungh…Ah ain’t done nothing. You must’ve screwed up,” quipped Rogue.
“That’s not possible! The Legacy Virus…it’s failing. I feel it on every corner of the world. Someone has disrupted the process. You X-men must be responsible!”
The tables had turned against Sinister. One moment he disposed of Thunderbird and had Rogue in a death grip. The next his entire operation was failing. Moments ago, the Cerebrum-like console that was the heart of the Legacy Project started blaring with warnings. On the holographic map of the world, red dots showed up everywhere. Each of these dots represented an area where a Legacy Virus had failed. It was as if a wave had consumed the world and destroyed the virus in its wake.
Sinister sensed a telepathic assault on a planetary scale and only one man was powerful enough to manage it. Charles Xavier must have found a way to attack his virus. He thought he took every precaution. He made sure his virus was robust enough to withstand any attack. Something had clearly gone wrong and it all began with his inability to infect Rogue. Since she was still in her clutches, his first inclination was to take it out on her.
“What’s the matter, sugah? Feeling a bit…vulnerable?” grinned Rogue, still struggling to escape Sinister’s grip.
“I don’t know why the virus won’t infect you. All I know is your friends are responsible for this,” seethed Sinister, “Vulnerable or not, I’ll see to it that you pay the price for your insolence!”
Sinister abandoned all subtlety and cunning. With a firm grip on her neck, Sinister commanded the dying Legacy Virus he introduced into her system to consume her at a cellular level. The silvery substance that had been unable to infect her turned dark red. It soon covered her body to the point where only part of her head was visible. For Rogue, it was like being burned alive.
“Hnn…AHHHHHHHH!” exclaimed Rogue.
The dying virus had almost consumed her completely. Then an optic blast from across the lab shot out and struck Sinister right in the face.
“ARGH!” he grunted in agony.
“Drop her, Sinister. Or the next shot goes right through your heart…if you even have one,” shouted Cyclops.
Sinister stumbled back, dropping Rogue in the process. Cyclops, Phoenix, Storm, and Colossus ran up to corner him. The X-leader led the charge with Phoenix right next to him, her body already surrounded in cosmic flame.
“Colossus, shield Rogue. Storm, go check on Thunderbird,” ordered Cyclops.
“Hnn…forget us. Put that rabid dog down!” grunted Rogue.
Colossus immediately aided Rogue, who was disoriented from Sinister’s attack. The strange reddish substance was already falling off her body. She was weak so Colossus made sure he was in a position to protect her in case Sinister tried another attack. While he was tending to Rogue, Storm went for Thunderbird across the lab. This left Cyclops and Phoenix to confront the man behind all this death.
“You’re not slipping away this time, Sinister!” said Phoenix.
“Not without going through a cosmic force!”
“You deluded little ingrates…you really don’t understand, do you?” grunted Sinister.
“I understand this!” spat Cyclops.
The X-leader fired another optic blast, this time right into Sinister’s chest. It did far more damage than the first hit. He bled out a slivery reddish substance. It clearly caused him a lot of pain and he fell back further, stumbling right into the main console of his machine. Cyclops shot him again in the legs, forcing him onto his knees. Then he shot his arms, causing more wounds. To make sure he didn’t get out of the way, Phoenix held him in place with telekinesis. There would be no escaping this time. Sinister had to pay the price for his many crimes.
“You sick son-of-a-bitch! You’re as crazy as you are ugly!” exclaimed Cyclops, “All those lives! All this death! And for what?”
“There’s no justification for 300 million deaths! None!” yelled Phoenix, her eyes flashing a fiery red.
“You still don’t see it do you? You’re still living in a world of lies,” said Sinister, his silvery red blood dripping from his face.
“All I see here is a mass murderer who is a few optic blasts away from being an ugly stain on history,” said Cyclops, shooting him in the stomach for good measure.
“Hnn…history will always judge through a flawed lens,” said Sinister, gritting his teeth through the pain, “The truth will always be ignored in exchange for something more palpable.”
“Quit trying to sound so charismatic, Sinister. We got the same crazy talk from Vulcan and Goblin Queen. This whole collective bullshit with the Legacy Virus is just your way of making yourself powerful,” spat Phoenix.
Despite his wounds, Sinister laughed. Cyclops and Phoenix were taken aback. This man’s laughter was truly deranged. It spoke volumes for just how twisted he truly was.
“Power? Is that what you think I’m after?” he scoffed.
“Vulcan said the Legacy Virus runs through you. That makes you the puppet-master and everyone else your pawns,” said Cyclops.
“My nephew is a bright young man, but even he can’t articulate the majesty of the Legacy Virus,” said Sinister, still laughing, “You think I’m some mad scientist? That I want to control the forces of nature like a god? What do you take me for? A comic book villain?”
“Could’ve fooled me,” scoffed Phoenix.
“Honestly, when is the truth ever that simple?” he questioned, “You look at the death wrought by the Legacy Virus and see only the loss of life. You allow your emotions to gloss over the inescapable truth that all humanity, including mutants, is exceedingly frail. We are at the mercy of our limits. In our weakness we’re left to toil, putting up with mere illusions of control so that we can survive. Even mutants are limited, but at least they have a chance. For you see, evolution isn’t just the key to survival. It’s the key to truth.”
“Sounds like just another crazy excuse from a crazy motherfucker who stopped caring about humanity a long time ago,” argued Phoenix.
“You’re wrong. In fact, I’d argue that I hold humanity in higher regard than anyone. I’ve always believed that most humans are innately good. The problem is they cannot be as good as they want to because of their limits. Through mutation, ordinary people gain powers that allow them to control their world.”
“If only that didn’t sound like something Magneto said at least once a week,” said Phoenix.
“Magneto was as short-sighted as every other human and mutant. You see, it is only when someone has the power to rise above their limits that they can be who they truly are. Some, like Magneto, become narcissistic tyrants. Some, like you X-men, become heroes. It’s a glorious display of the human spirit. Yet that spirit is shrouded by deception. The only way to unveil it is through my Legacy Virus.”
“That’s your idea of a solution? You kill everybody who can’t live up to their potential?” said Cyclops dryly.
“My virus is only speeding up what was going to happen inevitably. Death is the one force that unites humans and mutants. The millions who died would have died sooner or later. All I’m doing is swallowing that bitter pill now so that in the long run, more will embrace the truth.”
“Now you sound even worse than Magneto,” said Phoenix.
“It was going to be so beautiful,” said Sinister distantly, “After the necessary information was gathered, the remaining survivors would be united. And instead of perishing by the Legacy Virus, they would be linked in a way like never before. The collective power of the human genome and the X-gene could be shared and utilized by every person. With this power, people could be as good or as evil as they were meant to be. No one would live in a deception anymore. I would be anything but a god in this world. I would just be another man, living his life without deception or lies.”
As deranged as Sinister’s rant was, there was genuine sincerity in his voice. He truly hadn’t unleashed this virus out of malice, greed, or bloodlust. He was doing what he through was right. It was disturbing, but they never once considered letting him go.
“If you’re going to end me, do it now,” said Sinister stoically, “I would rather die than live in a world ruled by deception. As we speak, the virus is dying. Millions are being healed. There will be joy and hand-holding for a while, but eventually everyone will fall back into a world of lies.”
“Call it whatever you want, Sinister. That doesn’t justify destroying it,” said Cyclops.
“When you live as long as I have and see how the world truly works, you’ll understand,” said Sinister, “In a ways you two are best equipped to realize just how limited the human race is.”
“Why is that?” asked Phoenix curiously.
“Like I said before…you two are the key,” he said with an ominous grin, “In the genetic material I took from you, I saw the key to the truth. It’s that material along with the others I’ve collected that helped make the Legacy Virus possible. It’s that same material that holds the key to all mutation. It’s why your powers can still hurt me. It’s why I couldn’t infect you with the Legacy Virus.”
“Now you’re just trying to flatter us into sparing you,” spat Phoenix.
“And not going to work,” yelled Cyclops.
“I don’t play games with the truth. One day, you two will realize your potential. When you do, you’ll understand the true cost of this lie. You’ll bring truth to the world at a price much higher than what I’ve wrought with my Legacy Virus.”
It sounded like a warning. Cyclops and Phoenix exchanged glances. This man clearly knew something about them that no one else did. As devious he may be, Sinister was no liar. They believed what he said. It may be more dangerous than they could have imagined. Much like the secrets Gabriel kept, it could unravel the world as they knew it.
At the same time, uncovering those secrets would come at a price. If they let Sinister off the hook, he would go right back to unleashing untold destruction. That was a price Cyclops and Phoenix were not willing to pay. Turning back towards Sinister, Cyclops adjusted his visor.
“Whatever price we have to pay to stop you…it’s worth it,” said Cyclops strongly.
“The lies will destroy you all. Mark my words,” warned Sinister.
“Save it for your reunion with Selene.”
With those final words, Cyclops unleashed one more optic blast. This time it was wide-arced, completely consuming Sinister’s body and causing irreparable damage to his device in the process. In a blinding red flash, his exotic flesh was completely dissolved. There was no cry of agony. Sinister seemed to accept his fate. When the optic blast faded, all that was left was a smoldering puddle of silvery goo and an utterly destroyed machine.
“Is he…gone?” asked Colossus, who had been watching with Rogue.
“He’s gone,” said Phoenix.
“Are you sure?” asked a dazed Rogue.
“As sure as you can be with Sinister,” answered Cyclops.
It didn’t sound very sure in that context. Never-the-less, it was a clear sign that this horrific ordeal was over. Sinister was dead. His machine was destroyed. The Legacy Virus had been stopped. It came as overwhelming relief for the X-men and that feeling would be shared by millions of others all over the world.
However, that relief was short lived. Just as Cyclops, Phoenix, Rogue, and Colossus were catching their breath, they heard a cry from Storm.
“X-men, come quick!” she said in a strained voice.
“What is it, Storm?” said Cyclops, turning his attention away from Sinister’s remains.
The other X-men rushed over to Storm, who had been hovering over a seriously injured Thunderbird. She had been tending to him since she arrived. Thunderbird took a nasty blow from Sinister and had been infected with the Legacy Virus. He landed near a series of chemical barrels, a number of which had ruptured. Now his body was covered in faded lesions and stained with chemicals.
Storm did everything she could. It wasn’t until she uncovered a gaping wound on his torso that it dawned on her. John Proudstar was not going to survive.
“Hnn…is it…over?” said Thunderbird, blood dripping from his mouth.
“Stay with us, John! We can still help you!” urged Storm.
“Too late…chemicals burned me,” he grunted, “Powers out…for too long.”
“Please, don’t pass out. We’ve had too much death in one week!”
“It’s okay, Storm. It just means…I get to die an X-man. For everything I’ve lost…I’m okay with that.”
Storm felt tears form in her eyes. She tried to pull Thunderbird away from the chemical barrels, but it was no use. The wounds were too deep. He lost too much blood and his durability had been suppressed when he was infected with the Legacy Virus. He knew he was going to die and he was okay with it.
While Storm hovered over him, Thunderbird reached into his pocket with his last ounce of strength. He took out a small beaded necklace with a Native American relic on the end and gave to Storm, shoving it into her hand so she couldn’t refuse it.
“Give this to my brother, Storm,” he said weakly, “Tell him…I’m sorry. Tell him…he still has…the heart of a warrior.”
“John…” cried Storm as she clutched the necklace.
“My mission is over,” said the Native American mutant, “It’s time…for my spirit to join my ancestors. I’ve got so much…to tell them.”
Storm said nothing else. She kept holding onto the necklace while John Proudstar drew his last breath. There was no fear or regret in his expression. He left his life behind with no regrets, leaving his friends to mourn.
While Storm gazed over the unmoving body of Thunderbird, the others arrived. Cyclops, Phoenix, Rogue, and Colossus quickly tended to their fellow X-man. When they saw the look on Storm’s face, their worst fears were confirmed.
“John…please no!” cried Phoenix, tears streaming down her face at the loss of her former lover.
“Thunderbird…I’m so sorry,” said Cyclops, having to catch his lover as she buried her face in his shoulder.
“Oh mah God!” said Rogue, the strain on her body now supplemented with sorrow.
“Storm…did he even have a chance?” said Colossus, his voice choked with emotion.
“No Peter…he didn’t,” said Storm sadly, “Sinister was right. We had to pay a price and John paid it without regret. He was a true X-man.”
The battle was over. Sinister was defeated. The Legacy Virus had been destroyed. All over the world, the sick were being healed. Millions of lives were saved, but only after millions had been lost. For the X-men, it cost them dearly. They lost one of their own. Now they would mourn with the rest of the world.
Secret Presidential Bunker
The news was spreading all over the world. In every country on every corner of the globe, it was happening. The Legacy Virus was self-destructing. Millions of sick people were cured almost instantaneously. It was like divine intervention of sorts. The plague was over.
Through the bowels of a highly secure bunker, one of President Robert Kelly’s many aides ran through the elaborate corridors in search of his Commander-in-Chief. He was clinging firmly to a stack of papers, panting heavily as he sprinted into the Presidential suite alongside several Secret Service agents. When he entered, President Kelly and his wife were facing away. He didn’t bother getting his attention. The aide was so excited he just started talking.
“Mr. President, sir! It’s over! The Legacy Virus is self-destructing!” said the aide breathlessly, “Reports are coming in from all over the world. The sick are being healed. By conservative estimates, over two billion people have been saved. We don’t know how it happened, but we’ve been getting word that Charles Xavier and the X-men are responsible. They unleashed this psychic wave that…”
It was at this point the aide realized that President Kelly wasn’t listening. He wasn’t even looking at him. He and his wife were just staring at a bed. When he finally turned around, the president revealed a very solemn expression. Even news that the Legacy Virus had been stopped did nothing to lift his spirits.
“Mr. President?” said the aide in confusion.
“Spare me the good news. Whatever stopped the Legacy Virus came too late,” he said sadly, “My son has just died.”
The aide fell silent. Sharon Kelly was in tears, weeping over the unmoving body of her son. Moments ago, he drew his last breath. The little boy whose life was turned upside down when Magneto turned him into a mutant had succumbed to the Legacy Virus.
“Sir…” began the aide.
“Tell my staff I’ll meet them later,” he said solemnly, “We have 300 million people to mourn. My son is one of them. Give everyone time for this loss to sink in. I have a feeling it’s going to take a while.”
Next Issue: Loss and Lament
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