In an ever changing world, Professor Charles Xavier and his team of mutants, the X-men, struggle for understanding in a world that hates and fears them. That struggle has led them through many battles so far. From the shores of Genosha to the bayous of Louisiana, their battles rage on against an ever changing array of foes.
With their arch nemesis, Magneto, now in prison, the X-men have turned their focus towards containing the sentinels, an army of giant robot humanoids built to hunt and kill mutants. These sentinels were used by Cameron Hodge in his attempt to seize power. Shortly after his downfall, plans for the sentinels were stolen by a criminal named Black Tom Cassidy. He eventually sold the plan. The X-men tried tracking him down, but ended up getting caught up in a conflict between the Thieves Guild and the Assassins Guild. In the end they found more questions than answers. The plans remain unaccounted for.
Even as the X-men are busy searching for the sentinel plans, other threats persist. Some of them are older than the X-men themselves, yet they still have the potential to affect the X-men and their cause. One of those threats is simmering in Colorado Springs under the command of the military. But it’s a threat the X-men know is all but unstoppable.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
“Damn it, John, will you turn that hippie crap you call music off already? There’s only so much Beach Boys I can take!”
“Take it easy, Stan. We’re almost there,” said 26-year-old John Proudstar.
“Well at least speed it up a little! It’s bad enough we’re stuck transporting this Marko guy. I don’t need your piss poor tastes in music making it any more unbearable.”
John Proudstar rolled his eyes as he stayed focused on the road ahead of him. This part of Colorado wasn’t as interesting or picturesque as the images people got on post cards. He and everyone else in this convoy would have been much happier spending the weekend in Aspen instead of transporting this kind of deadly cargo for NORAD. It was a job that should have been done by army grunts. Only problem was they were completely unequipped to handle something like this. That’s why they called in people who knew what they were dealing with.
The convoy was pretty extensive for a single load. There were eight heavily armored cars, most of which were converted from Striker Troop Transports. Only these were not built by the military. They were the product of White Cell, a secretive but large private military company. It had operations all over the world and was sort of a best kept secret by the United States military. When they wanted to get something done cheaply and without risking their own manpower, they called them. They knew White Cell had expertise that others were just beginning to grapple with.
John was driving the main vehicle with the cargo. Three cars were in front of him and three were behind him. They were almost at their destination. They just passed a sign indicating they were nearing the military zone. Once their cargo was in military hands, they could collect their bonuses and go home. The man sitting next to him, a career mercenary named Stan, was already celebrating. He took out a bottle of whiskey and started drinking.
“Here’s to hoping this is the last time we have to hear from this nut,” he said, raising his bottle, “Explain to me again why this mutant nut is so dangerous.”
“He’s not a mutant. Didn’t you read his file?” said John in a serious tone.
“I skimmed over it,” he shrugged as he took another drink, “But with power like his, complete invulnerability and ridiculous strength, I just assumed he was some sort of mutant like you.”
“I wish,” muttered John, “Cain Marko’s a special case. He doesn’t get his power from mutation like mine. He found something a lot more potent.”
“Let me guess, crystal meth and a boatload of steroids?”
“Not even close,” said John, “It’s magic. That’s what drives his power.”
“Magic?” scoffed Stan, “I don’t remember David Copperfield pulling off the kind of tricks this nut did.”
“It’s not that kind of magic. I’m talking real magic as in the kind that makes the impossible possible. It’s real. Believe me, I’ve seen it. I dealt with him back when I was with the X-men.”
“I’m sure you did!” he laughed, “Can’t imagine the kind of shit you must have seen with those guys. Must have been too much to handle since you quit.”
“That’s another story. All you need to know is this guy, Cain Marko, is the real deal, magic and all.”
“Yeah whatever,” he muttered, “You sure that isn’t bias talking? Aren’t Native Americans supposed to believe in magic and stuff?”
“Your racial sensitivity is amazing, Stan,” said John dryly, “But just because I am Native American, it doesn’t mean I’m delusional.”
“Did I say you were?” said Stan innocently, “I just said you were bias. I mean seriously, magic? Mutants are hard enough to wrap my head around. But that has science backing it up and I trust science more than I trust slight of hand.”
John cast his partner a harsh scorn. It may have just been the alcohol talking. It wasn’t the first time someone called him out for being Native American or a mutant. It wasn’t even the worst. But most everybody in White Cell respected him enough for his powers and his accomplishments as a soldier and an operative. Some just weren’t as kind as others.
As payback, John turned up the volume on the radio. If Stan wasn’t going to shut up about this, he was going to pay the price.
“Real mature, Proudstar!” groaned Stan, “What are you, twelve?”
“So says the man who drinks on the job,” quipped John over the music.
“Don’t give me that! You’ve done it too!”
“Not in the middle of a mission.”
“With the music you play, how can you not? Seriously, John, I could care less if you’re a mutant or a Native American who believes in magic. But when it comes to music I…”
Before Stan’s rant could continue, he and the entire convoy were stunned by a series of deafening explosions. The three convoys ahead of him literally erupted in a column of fire. The convoys behind them were hit as well. But the biggest and most powerful hit the convoy with the cargo, which was the one John was in. The gate onto the base had been in sight. Their task had been almost complete. But someone set a trap for them. Whoever they were they were cunning, cold, and ruthlessly efficient.
John felt it first. It shot up right through the bottom of the vehicle. Two well-placed land minds in the roads exploded simultaneously. The first was meant to take out the engine. The other was bigger and meant to hit the containment section. Fires and shrapnel filled the front area, scorching Stan almost instantly. John, whose mutant power involved invulnerability and strength, was stunned but overwhelmed.
“Damn it! Mines!” he cursed.
With fires and shrapnel burning around him, he tried to steer the transport. But it was no use. The engine and controls had been fried. The vehicle just kept going until it crashed into the convoy ahead of it, which came to a screeching halt when the mine literally blew its tires out. All John could do was hold on while the whole vehicle swerved and tipped over. He could feel a hard thud in the back, hinting the explosion affected the cargo.
His soldier instincts kicked in. With the fires still burning around him, he grabbed Stan and punched his way out through the side door. He ran as fast as he could to get away from the smoke and fire. He stayed low in case this was some kind of ambush. He didn’t hear any gunshots or see any shooters. All he saw were seven burning convoys with no signs of survivors.
“Stan! Stan, stay with me!” he said.
But when he laid him out he saw only a charred corpse. Stan’s body was literally blackened from the fires and there was so much shrapnel lodged in his body there was no way he could have survived.
“Damn it!” he cursed, pounding his fist on the ground.
He then turned towards the rest of the convoys and took out his pocket communicator.
“All units, check in! Is everybody okay?” he yelled out, “Is anybody okay?!”
He got no response. All he heard was static. He could see in the other convoys the unmoving bodies of the unit. They were all burning with the rest of the vehicle, confirming what John feared. There were no other survivors. He was the only one.
Before he could mourn the loss of his unit, he heard another hard thud in the main transport compartment. Turning back towards the convoy he had been driving, he rushed towards the back area. This is where a large, armored compartment had been specially tailored to house their cargo/prisoner. It was sealed, reinforced, and locked so heavily it would have taken a tank to bust out. Unfortunately, the force inside was way more powerful than a tank.
“Oh you’ve gotta be kidding me!” groaned John.
More thuds erupted from the compartment. He noticed there was a strange greenish gas leaking from the bottom. That gas had been the only think keeping Marko immobile and contained. If too much of it leaked out, there was nothing stopping him from getting his full strength back. That was something John couldn’t allow.
“No you don’t, Marko!” grunted the Native American mutant, “You’re not getting out on my watch!”
But it was too late. Before John even reached the convoy, a deafening bang ripped through the area. The doors in the back, which had dozens of the best locks money could buy keeping them closed, was literally blown open as if it were made of cardboard. The rest of the back end of the convoy was then peeled open by two powerful arms that dug into the metal as if it were tin foil. John could only watch with dread as a hulking figure emerged from the wreck.
“Lock me up in a cage? Ha! When are you dumb-asses gonna learn? You can never cage me!” proclaimed a booming voice.
Those ominous words were that of Cain Marko, a man whose build was every bit as big as his boasting. His strength was even bigger. He stood nearly nine feet tall, his body utterly exploding with muscle. He wore a dark black body suit that looked reminiscent of an old paramilitary uniform, but the most dominating feature of his attire was the large bowl-shaped helmet covering his head. It allowed only his eyes and mouth to be seen, but that was enough to intimidate anybody who saw him.
This was bad. John knew full well what Cain was capable of. There was a good reason why the military went to such lengths to contain him. Once he was free, he was all but unstoppable. Nobody was safe. Even with his own strength, John was overmatched.
“Somebody out there must like me!” grinned Marko as he looked around at the destroyed convoys, “All this destruction and I wasn’t even part of it! Guess I’ll have to find another way to amuse myself!
“Ever consider board games, Marko?” said John.
“Ooh, guess I can enjoy the leftovers!” grinned Marko as he turned towards John.
Before John could put together any kind of attack, Marko grabbed the toppled convoy from the rear and with strength even John found impressive used it to hammer him into the hard rocky ground. All John Proudstar could do was hang on and brace himself. His whole body was driven into the ground leaving an outline of his body along with the impact of the vehicle. The impact left him dazed and woozy. His invulnerable form would protect him from serious injuries. But it was obvious now. He had no chance against this guy on his own.
“Ugh…we need better convoys,” he groaned as he crawled out from under the convoy.
Upon seeing John saunter to his feet, Marko scoffed and started marching down the road. He didn’t know who put together this little trap that freed him. He honestly couldn’t care less. The only thing on his mind was getting back at the man who put him in that cage. Now that he was free, nothing was going to stop him from exacting his due vengeance.
“That was barely worth my time,” he said in a gruff tone, “No time to sweat the small fries! I got bigger targets in mind! That stupid uncle of mine is gonna pay for locking me up! You hear me, Charley?! You’re a dead man! You can’t stop it! Nothing can stop the Juggernaut!”
Xavier Institute – Kitchen
It was right around lunch time at the Xavier Institute. In the kitchen Bobby was making a sandwich while Kurt, Warren, and Kitty were eating some leftovers from the night before. So far it had been a peaceful weekend after a very eventful week. After some coaxing from Ororo, the Professor offered Remy a place at the institute and the Cajun mutant accepted. It wasn’t without controversy. Remy was a trained thief with a criminal record and a cocky attitude. There was still a fair amount of suspicion among the others, but the decision was final. Remy was going to get his chance.
For Bobby, he was lucky enough to avoid the whole mess in New Orleans. Spending the day with his girlfriend was a much better alternative, especially after he found out how messy the battle against the guilds had gotten. It also spared him from some of the bias towards Remy. The others told him the full story, but when he met the guy he didn’t seem all that bad to him. If he was as skilled as he boasted he would make a good X-man.
“I still don’t get what the big deal is, guys! I mean yeah, Remy did tell a few white lies to get us involved in his, but it’s not like he led us into a trap or anything,” said Bobby as he spread mayonnaise on his sandwich.
“That’s easy for you to say, Bobby. You weren’t there,” said Kitty, who was eating a helping of coleslaw, “It’s a little harder to overlook when you get caught between an army of assassins and thieves.”
“It’s still not like it was a total loss,” said Bobby as he finished his sandwich, “Yeah, he lied, but didn’t it lead us who was jacking those sentinel parts?”
“That was a fluke!” argued Warren, “The only reason we found out was because my dad was interested in those thefts as well. If his tech guys hadn’t forgotten to close that link with Shaw Industries we never would have found anything.”
“And zhen ve never vould have been able to stop zhe guilds from killing each other. Ve probably vould have gotten caught in zhe crossfire.”
“But you didn’t. So why not chalk it up to shit happens so let’s move on?”
“Would you be this forgiving if you weren’t so giddy about being with Lorna the whole time?” questioned Warren.
“What can I say? Having a hot girlfriend who’s head over heels for me puts me in a forgiving mood!” said Bobby with an innocent shrug, “Seriously, what’s the use of holding a grudge? Isn’t that what creates madmen and super-villains in the first place?”
Warren, Kurt, and Kitty chose not to belabor the point. Bobby was too upbeat to share their suspicions. It was nice he was so happy with Lorna and all, but it was also annoying. Kurt especially found it disheartening because it reminded him that his lover was thousands of miles away back in Germany. Kitty and Warren didn’t even have lovers. Relationship circumstances aside, he did have a point. Holding a grudge wasn’t going to make things any better. They had to be forgiving to some extent.
“I will say this though. Remy has been good for Miss Munroe,” said Kitty, “She’s been pretty torn up about her breakup with Mr. McCoy.”
“Yeah, I’ll give him that,” said Warren, “Although I’m still surprised those two couldn’t work it out. They seemed so happy together.”
“I’m a shocked as you, man,” said Bobby as he bit into his sandwich, “Maybe Miss Monroe just got tired of losing to him in chess all the time.”
“I doubt it’s something that menial,” said Kitty dryly, “Relationships are complicated. There must have been other factors involved that we didn’t know about.”
“Hope it was nothing serious,” said Warren in a worried tone.
“Vith zhose two, I don’t zhink so,” said Kurt, “It’s not like zhey hate each other now. It sounds like it vas mutual.”
“I still don’t get why though,” said Warren.
“I don’t zhink ve can,” said Kurt, “Sometimes relationships just aren’t meant to be vhile others are.”
“Amen to that!” said Bobby with enthusiastic agreement, “Makes you feel even luckier, doesn’t it?”
“Enough with the Hallmark rhetoric, Bobby,” groaned Warren, “We get it. Stop rubbing it in.”
“Yeah, some of us are lonely here,” muttered Kitty.
Bobby just shrugged innocently as he continued eating his sandwich. He ignored the looks from the others. It was nice to see Bobby so happy with a girlfriend and all, but there was such a thing as overdoing it. At least he was happy though. They had a former thief in their ranks, relationships were ending left and right, and the Brotherhood was out stealing sentinel parts. One of them had to stay upbeat.
Xavier Institute – Den
Not long ago, Ororo Munroe was helping some of her students get over a breakup. She gave them the same speech they expected her to give. She told them it would be alright and that time would heal all wounds. Now that she was going through a breakup herself, she realized just how hard it was.
This wasn’t the first time Ororo had broken up with someone. But her relationship with Hank had been different. For the first time she got really serious with someone. She related to him on a level that wasn’t superficial or casual. It was real, honest romance with all the emotions and challenges that came along with it. It just so happened those challenges were too much for them to overcome.
Ororo did her best to keep it together. She tried not to let her emotions show in training or when she was teaching, but she didn’t do a very good job of it. Most were polite enough not to bring it up. Some like Jean and Rogue even tried talking to her. It helped, but she was going to need more than just pep talk to get over this.
“Gonna stand pat?” asked Remy from across the table.
“Sure, why not?” she said in a monotone voice.
“You even tryin’ to win, cherè? You be taking the fun out of poker.”
“I’m not trying to win or have fun. I just need something to distract myself on a Saturday afternoon,” sighed Ororo, “Besides, I thought you liked winning.”
“Not when it means seein’ you so sad,” said Remy.
Ororo sighed and folded her cards. She couldn’t hide her demeanor from her students. It was foolish to believe she could hide it from her friend.
“I’m sorry, Remy,” she sighed, “I know I promised to help you to adjust to the institute. I suppose there’s only so much I can do when I’m dealing with something like this.”
“Don’t be sorry, Stormy. It ain’t your fault,” said Remy as he gathered his cards and started shuffling them, “Just bad timing, that’s all. What are the odds Remy would call for help when you be on the rocks with your boyfriend?”
“I don’t know, but it probably didn’t change anything. For all I know we may have broken up anyways.”
“Aw, now you just being negative,” said Remy, “Were you this down after you and I broke up?”
“To be fair, you and I were never all that serious.”
“Maybe so, but that didn’t make it any less meaningful, no?”
Ororo groaned to herself as she slumped down on the couch. Remy was not the best person to talk about on relationship issues. It wasn’t that he didn’t know about them, but he was a former lover. Talking to him didn’t just remind her how hard it was getting over Hank. It reminded her of how hard it was in general.
“I like to think all relationships are meaningful,” she said distantly as she watched Remy do a few card tricks, “What you and I had was special in its own right. What I had with Hank was special in another way. The difference is I thought I could be genuine with Hank. I guess I was being naïve because I didn’t stop and think whether or not we were really meant to be.”
“Sounds like quite an oversight,” commented Remy.
“It’s amazing what you can overlook when you get caught up in a moment,” she sighed, “Jean once described it to me after she broke up with Logan. I didn’t understand at the time, but now I do. It really does mess with your heart. I really wanted me and Hank to work. But it just…didn’t.”
“If just wanting was all it took, it would be a heck of a lot simple,” said Remy more seriously, “Heck, I can’t tell you how many times Remy just wanted it to work with Belladonna. But there always be circumstances you ain’t got control over.”
“Only with me and Hank, it wasn’t rival families keeping us apart. It was trust. We just couldn’t build that special trust that would make our love stronger.”
“Trust be a funny thing,” mused Remy, “You can build it, break it, or just plain abuse it. But like good gumbo, it ain’t ever as much as you like it.”
It was an odd way to make a point. Such strange metaphors weren’t unusual for Remy. Ororo didn’t exactly agree with his choice of words, but she figured what he was trying to say. It even made her laugh a little. There were still a lot of things she was putting into perspective. Sometimes a sense of humor helped.
“Speaking of trust, any idea when the rest of this so called team is gonna start trusting Remy?” asked the Cajun, “I get the feeling ain’t nobody besides you trusts me to hold the door for them.”
“To be fair, you did lie to get help from the team,” Ororo reminded him, “That does make it a little bit harder for others to trust you.”
“It wasn’t like Remy exploited everybody,” he shrugged, “Remy just did what he had to do. Ain’t like others here done stuff that ain’t a little sketchy.”
“Maybe it would help if you started doing more around here other than playing cards and fooling around with the Danger Room,” Ororo suggested wryly, “You haven’t even enrolled in any classes.”
“Eh, Remy’s still thinking about that. I was never one for school. Always too busy learning to fight, steal, and what not.”
“And yet you wonder why they don’t trust you?”
“Ah Remy just needs a chance to show the X-men his stuff,” said the Cajun confidently, “You’ll see. All you all will see.”
Ororo managed a slight smile. She would have been more inclined to believe her friend if he didn’t sound so casual about it. Remy never was one to take anything too seriously that didn’t involve jobs or women. She still had her concerns. Even though she knew this man so well, she was uncertain whether or not he could really fit in here. Maybe that was just breakup bitterness talking, but Remy was sure to get his chance at some point. Hopefully he took advantage of it.
It may happen sooner rather than later. The Brotherhood was still out there. Professor Xavier and the others were still investigating those sentinel thefts. It was only a matter of time before they would have to confront them.
Xavier Institute – War Room
“This is bullshit!” grunted Wolverine, “The Brotherhood is as coordinated as a drunk cockroach and half as smart! How in the hell do they keep slipping under the radar?”
“Would you please stop reminding us, Logan? We get it! We’re all frustrated,” said Scott restlessly.
“Since when is dealing with the Brotherhood not frustrating?” groaned Jean.
“Be that as it may, I share all your sentiment. This is a disturbing revelation to an already disturbing situation,” said the Professor as he glared at the holographic computer screen.
The Professor had been looking into this for over a week now, but it felt like much longer. Since the uprising on the Genosha, the Brotherhood had disappeared. There were many in Washington and the UN who wanted them brought in for charges, just as they had done for Magneto. But despite his best efforts with Cerebro and the help (and sometimes meddling) of international security officials, the Brotherhood was able to stay out of sight.
The revelation in New Orleans only added a deeper mystery. Based on the information extracted from the Shaw Industry network, the Brotherhood consisting of Toad, Blob, Avalanche, and Pyro were found to be responsible for all those thefts at the port. The details of their heists were shrouded in mystery. There were only a handful of images of them even being present. All other traces down to the molecular level were wiped clean, leaving them with no trail to follow.
It seemed far too clean for a group like the Brotherhood. They were a dangerous bunch, but they were not this stealthy. If they were stealing sentinel-based technology they had to be working with someone who could use it. The big mystery was uncovering who could be responsible.
Charles Xavier stared distantly at the reports that came up on the computer. They were the same reports he had been reading over for days now. There had to be something he was missing. He just didn’t know what it was.
“Okay, let’s focus on what we do know,” said Scott as he paced throughout the War Room, “The Brotherhood is pulling these heists, all of which involve high tech electronics. Based on information from Worthington Industries, we know they can be used to make sentinel components. Add to that, all these components are tied to a single company, Shaw Industries.”
“Which is another mystery altogether,” said Jean, “Any luck trying to get in touch with them, Professor?”
“Not as much as I hoped,” sighed Charles, “I’ve made a dozen inquiries and every response is the same. Shaw Industries is not involved in sentinel technology.”
“But we know that’s a lie!” growled Logan, “The goons at Worthington found shit with their name on it everywhere!”
“They’re not acknowledging that, Logan,” said Xavier, “They’ve amassed a team of lawyers that would put most lobbying firms to shame. As far as the public is concerned, they’re as clean as can be.”
“Just send me over to talk to their main man. I’ll get ‘em to talk!” said Logan, drawing his claws menacingly.
“No Logan,” said the Professor sternly, “We know too little about this situation to start making accusations. We must find out more before we decide on a course of action.”
“What more is there?” asked Scott, “Nobody’s been able to find anything on the Brotherhood. Even Pietro and Wanda can’t figure out where they are.”
“But they did offer us some clues,” said Xavier as he brought up one of the emails he exchanged with Wanda, “The last time they spoke, Wanda warned them that if they didn’t cooperate they would be left to the authorities. They only responded by boasting they could find their own way to stay out of sight. It appears they were right.”
It seemed hard to believe. Memories of the Brotherhood’s brash and arrogant nature were still fresh in everybody’s mind. They had a lot of skills, but subtlety wasn’t one of them. Yet they found a way. To the X-men, that posed some disturbing questions.
“So I guess the real question is how did they succeed?” Jean surmised, “And more importantly, who could be helping them? There’s no way they could have done this on their own.”
“That’s for damn sure,” said Logan, “But who the heck could keep punks like them from blowing their cover?”
“That’s the main question and the most disturbing,” said the Professor, “Whatever or whoever it is, I have a bad feeling it is a force to be reckoned with.”
Scott, Jean, and Logan tried to stay confident. It wasn’t easy considering how often the Professor’s gut instinct was correct. He had the same feeling before the Genosha incident and nobody wanted to relive that experience again. The world came very close to coming apart. They needed to get the jump on the Brotherhood this time. Having pondered this situation yet again the Professor powered down the holographic computer. They clearly needed more clues if they were to figure this out.
“We’ll investigate this further, but for now we’ll have to prepare for the worst,” said the Professor, “I know it’s Saturday, but I think it would be wise if we scheduled extra training sessions.”
“Yeah, that’s going to go over well with the others,” said Jean dryly.
“Let ‘em complain about it when this shit has passed,” said Logan, “Just leave it to me, Chuck. I’ll make sure the runts stay on alert!”
“I’m sure you will, Logan,” said the Professor with a reassuring smile, “In the meantime I’ll get in touch with Wanda. We should have the rest of the afternoon to go over this.”
The Professor was just about to wheel out in front of Jean, Scott, and Logan. But before he even got to the door, the holographic computer turned on again. This time, it wasn’t by his own doing. The emergency line had been activated.
“Looks like you’ll have to scratch that plan, Professor,” said Scott, “That’s the emergency link!”
“Thought only the president had that kind of line. Must be another crisis they want us to clean up,” sighed Logan casually.
“Let’s pray that is not the case,” said the Professor as he wheeled over to the computer.
The screen by now was flashing red. The whole system was blaring all sorts of warnings. Every one was critical. Whatever this situation was it must have been bad. Only the most sensitive crises caused this much a stir in the system.
The Professor wheeled up to the console. Although the comment had been sarcastic, Logan could very well be right about it being the president. He quickly opened the line and brought up an image on the holographic screen. Only it didn’t turn out to be the president. It was someone much more familiar.
“Oh my…John?” gasped Jean with a mix of shock and intrigue.
“Nice to see you again, Professor. You too Jean. But I’m afraid we got a big problem on our hands! It’s the Juggernaut! He’s escaped!”
Colorado Springs – Downtown
“Heads up you puny weaklings!” taunted the unstoppable Juggernaut.
“Run! Everybody take cover! It’s going to…”
The panicked cry from a local state police officer was promptly cut off as a nearby cop car came flying in, crashing into a blockade. Terrified civilians were already running for their lives, but now even the authorities were starting to break ranks. The unstoppable Juggernaut was on a rampage. As soon as he escaped from his convoy, he made his way towards the nearest population center. That just happened to be downtown Colorado Springs. He crushed cars, knocked over signs, and toppled anything that stood in his way. He truly was unstoppable.
The city promptly called the military at NORAD. They immediately sent a platoon of Military Police to the city armed with troop transports, assault weapons, and high tech paralyzing weapons. They picked up John Proudstar along the way, who quickly tried to take command. But the officers wouldn’t hear it from a private military contractor. They wanted to take this monster down in their own way. John knew full well just how big a mistake that was.
The Juggernaut was heading east, storming down the main road with thunderous steps. The military police sped in and tried to establish another blockade. The unit commander decided to concentrate all his firepower into one area. His reasoning was that the more force they concentrated into one area, the more likely they were to stop him.
“All units fire at will!” ordered the commander, “Focus everything on that lumbering freak! We stop him here!”
“Hate be pessimistic here, sir. But you’ll be lucky to slow him down with these weapons!” said John.
“Shut it, Proudstar! This ain’t a private operation now! This is all military! Now either get out of the way and help the civilians or shut up!”
John grunted in frustration as the commander took lead, aiming his assault rifle at the approaching Juggernaut. There were still cars speeding by and civilians running for their lives. It was not a pretty sight. Such was often the case when Juggernaut was loose. But he was the only one in this city who knew that any attempt to stop him was useless. They were just minor obstacles for him en route to his ultimate goal.
The whole blockade erupted in a hail of gunfire and grenade blasts. There were at least four dozen fully equipped Military Police along this one intersection, looking to stop Cain Marko in his tracks. But to their horror, he just kept coming. Bullets harmlessly bounced off his body like they were bugs. Grenades and explosions didn’t even singe him in the slightest. Even when a flash grenade exploded right in his face, he barely blinked and just kept coming. As more and more firepower was concentrated on him, the Juggernaut’s eyes started glowing a bright purplish/red color.
“Hahaha! That tickles!” laughed Juggernaut, “Do you pipsqueaks ever learn?”
“Keep firing men!” ordered the commander, “Aim for his head!”
“That won’t do you any good!” he scoffed, “And to think I used to be one of you mindless drones!”
With bullets and grenades going off all around him, Juggernaut picked up momentum and started charging the blockade. Some of the units tensed, but all stayed true to their orders. They kept their position and kept on firing.
“Keep shooting, men! Increase fire!” exclaimed the commander, “Hold your position!”
Several units brought out rocket launchers and others opened fire with flame throwers. But Juggernaut just kept coming. At this point some of the units made a break for it. Others were looking to follow suit. Only the unit commander stayed resolute, shooting his assault rifle until he was out of ammo. At one point he took out his side-arm and just kept firing away. It was brave, but fruitless effort.
As soon as Juggernaut reached the barricade, he made a fist and slammed it into one of the troop transport vehicles. Sparks flew and metal warped as the lumbering figure gripped it on both sides. Then with a labored grunt, he heaved it into the middle of the barricade. At this point every unit soldier broke ranks and took cover. The unit commander would have been at ground zero had John not pushed him out of the way.
A deafening explosion ensued. Those unlucky enough to be caught in the crossfire were horribly burned or maimed. The unit commander was protected by John, who shielded him with his invulnerable body. He was still singed by the fires and shocked by the destruction. When the smoke cleared he saw his once imposing barricade reduced to shambles. Many of his men were injured or dead. Others had fled. It was a horrific sight and all the Juggernaut could do was just casually walk by.
“You seeing this, Uncle X?” Juggernaut called out, “I know you’re out there! I don’t care if I have to crush every city on this fucking planet! I will find you! I will make you pay!”
His words were filled with anger and raw hatred. As smoke and fires consumed the area, he continued his trek. Nothing was going to stop him from getting his vengeance.
The unit commander could only lament at the men he lost and the foolish tactics he employed. John was right. This monster really was unstoppable. Still shaking from the attack, he grabbed his communicator and called the base at NORAD.
“God in heaven,” he gasped, “We…we need back up! Get everybody to the city!”
“Hold up, commander,” said John, who was still holding onto him, “Don’t throw more lives at this than you have to. Help is already on the way.”
“Help?! Did you just see what that thing did?! Who in the hell has any kind of chance at stopping that?!”
“The same man who stopped him before,” John replied, “He’s on his way here now. Just get your men and as many civilians to safety. He’ll take care of it.”
“And what if he can’t?!”
John turned towards the bewildered commander with a stern expression. Having been in these grave situations before, he was hardened. He was also a stone cold realist.
“Then we’ll have a whole new range of problems,” he said, “But if you want to save lives, you’ll do as I say. We just need to buy time. That’s all we can do. Just pray we’re not too late.”
X-jet – Over Colorado
It was a tense atmosphere aboard the Blackbird as they sped at full speed to their destination. The Professor gathered the entire team together. Even Remy, who was still officially a reserve, was asked to come along. It was a mission so serious that the Professor himself wouldn’t relegate himself to observation. He was going to fight alongside his team, handicap and all. He brought along his reinforced wheelchair and was now in a modified X-man uniform he wore only when in the field. If they were to successfully contain this situation, they needed all the firepower they could muster.
For much of the team, especially the older members, they understood the gravity of the situation. The Juggernaut was a menacing and daunting foe. He was a force that could never be stopped no matter how much firepower or coordination they could muster. He wasn’t a mutant or some mechanical monstrosity like the sentinels. He was a power unto himself. If that weren’t enough, he also had a very personal connection to Charles Xavier.
The jet descended from 40,000 feet still at full throttle. Scott and the Professor were in the cockpit manning the controls while Hank was closely monitoring the scopes and instruments. The rest of the team was fully strapped in, ready to deploy the second they were over the target. For those who hadn’t faced the Juggernaut before, it was a long and arduous wait.
“Man, of all the worst ways to ruin a perfectly good Saturday, Juggernaut breaking free has to rank near the top!” groaned Bobby.
“I second that,” said Warren, “I was hoping after last time he would be locked away for good. So much for wishful thinking.”
“There’s a reason they call him the unstoppable Juggernaut, Warren,” said Scott from the cockpit, “He finds a way. He always does. That’s why we have to match him every step of the way. If we don’t, no one will!”
“A tad melodramatic, non?” commented Remy, who was the only one who didn’t seem overly concerned, “Who in the hell is this Juggernaut anyways?”
“I’d like to say it’s a topless bar near the airport, but that would be just more wishful thinking,” muttered Warren.
That earned him a look from Jean, who was sitting right next to him.
“Knock it off with the jokes, you two! This is serious!” she said strongly, “For those of you who haven’t faced this guy before, consider yourselves lucky. He’s a baddie the X-men have fought before. He’s a big, strong, muscular behemoth with strength a sentinel probably couldn’t match and a temper just as bad. He can lift a tank without breaking a sweat and throw it into a different time zone.”
“Dang, where does one guy get that kind of power?” said Rogue.
“He must have quite a mutation,” said Kurt.
“That’s the kicker. He’s not a mutant,” said Jean, “His powers are based in magic.”
“Magic?” said Kitty skeptically, “As in real World of Warcraft style magic or pulling rabbits out of a hat magic?”
“Trust me, Kitty. Magic is real,” said Jean strongly, “We’re talking about a power that literally makes the impossible possible. I can’t explain it because I honest to god don’t understand it. It’s not exactly a science.”
“I can vouch for that,” said Hank, “I’ve tried on numerous occasions. Needless to say, it hasn’t worked.”
“But we do know one thing,” said Jean in an ominous tone, “Whatever magic is behind Marko’s power, it’s intense. We don’t know how he got it. All we know is it turned him into an unstoppable force. And the only thing he seems to want to do with that force is destroy the X-men.”
“Why us? What did we do to him?” asked Rogue.
“Not you, specifically Rogue,” said the Professor in a solemn tone, “It’s me he’s after.”
“Vhy you, Herr Professor?” asked Kurt.
“Because…Juggernaut, or Cain Marko as I knew him, is my nephew.”
An eerie silence fell over the team. The Professor rarely talked about his family. It was one of the few times he would get emotional. Charles Xavier always prided himself on being strong and resolute in the face of a challenge. But when it came to his family his strength faltered and for good reason.
“I’m guessin’ this ain’t a pretty story,” said Logan in his usual gruff tone.
“It’s not,” sighed Xavier, “Cain Marko is the son of Curt Marko, who was a close associate of my father. He was a wealthy businessman who helped my father turn his patents into profits. My father so trusted him he made him my godfather. Later when his son, Cain, was born, I took it upon myself to look after him.”
“So what happened?” asked Kitty curiously.
“It all fell apart after my father passed away. My mother discovered that Curt was secretly selling my father’s patent rights to weapons dealers. My mother demanded he stop, but he didn’t. He had so much money tied up in them that pulling out would nearly bankrupt him. But my mother wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
“I take it that didn’t go over well,” said Remy.
“That would be quite the understatement. The Markos lost everything. I later found out that Curt became abusive towards Cain. He started drinking heavily and eventually died of liver disease. At one point, Cain tried to murder my mother. But I helped stop him. It…was one of the few times I had to use my telepathy in aggression.”
Xavier’s gaze grew distant. Such memories still haunted him to this day. He could still remember that image of a teenage Cain Marko lying on the floor of his father’s bedroom, paralyzed by his psychic attack. He could also remember his final words to him.
“I’ll get you, Charles! I swear…one day I’ll make you pay!”
Trying to regain his composure, the Professor turned to face his wary team.
“He swore revenge on me. But out of compassion for the loss of his father, we did not have him arrested. My mother sent him to a military school and I didn’t hear from him again for years. Shortly after I formed the X-men, he came back. But he was different. He had found a new means to exact his revenge. I’m not sure how, but whatever power he came across was great. I later found out it was through some ancient gem with mystical properties.”
Remy tensed upon hearing that. This kind of power sounded pretty familiar, but it couldn’t be that same power the guilds were after. It was too much a coincidence. But there were only so many great powers imparted on mystical gems.
‘A gem? Naw, it couldn’t be…could it?’
While Remy pondered the possibilities, the Professor continued.
“Whatever the source of his power, the fact remains. Juggernaut is very powerful and a danger to us all.”
“So then how do we stop him?” asked Ororo, “You said you’ve faced him before, right?”
“We have. And there is one way to take him down. While physically, he is invincible. Mentally, his mind is as vulnerable as anybody else. By using my telepathy, I can neutralize him just as I did that fateful night.”
“Great, so then why the hell do you need us?” grumbled Logan, “You just want us to throw ourselves at this psycho for the exercise?”
“Since when is it that simple, Wolverine?” quipped Scott, “The Professor can’t attack Juggernaut from afar because Juggernaut wears a special helmet that blocks all psychic attacks. What we have to do is remove that helmet to make his mind vulnerable.”
“Knock off a guy’s helmet?” said Rogue, “That doesn’t sound too hard.”
“Trust me, it’s hard,” grumbled Bobby, “I still have a bruise on my hip from the last time we faced this guy.”
“And I couldn’t fly for a week after what he did to my wings,” added Warren, “He’s not just strong, he’s a dirty fighter.”
“Sounds like my kind of guy,” snarled Wolverine, “Can’t wait to meet him.”
“You won’t have to wait much longer,” said the Professor, “We’re almost there. I’ve been in touch with John Proudstar. He’s trying to help the authorities clear the streets.”
“Is he okay?” asked Jean warily.
“He’s fine,” Xavier assured, “You know as well as I that John can handle himself. But he can only do so much on his own. We must step in and finish the job.”
Jean was still worried. While the others held on for the final descent, she anxiously looked out the window towards Colorado Springs in the distance. They were still a ways away, but she could sense the chaos up ahead and she could sense John down there in the midst of it. She hated facing Juggernaut as much as the rest of the team. But knowing John was down there added extra incentive.
Logan picked up on Jean’s demeanor. Even though they weren’t an item anymore, he could still pick up on her subtleties. She seemed a lot more concerned about this John guy than the others. Jean Grey was a tough woman, but she was terrible at hiding her deeper concerns.
“What’s that about?” he asked Scott, who was focused on flying the jet.
“I’m surprised you haven’t pieced it together yet, Logan,” said the X-leader, “Jean has a bit of a history with, John Proudstar.”
“Wait…you mean this John is the same John she dated? I always figured ‘John’ was just some fake name she used for the guy.”
“Nope,” said Scott, “He’s the one. John Proudstar is Jean Grey’s ex-boyfriend too. It’s a long, complicated story. I don’t have time to give you the details, but I’m sure you’ll be just as eager to meet him as you are Juggernaut.”
Colorado Springs – Downtown
“ERRRRRR CHARLES! YOU’RE TESTING MY PATIENCE!”
Juggernaut stepped up his rampage, angrily slamming his fists against nearby cars and sending them flying through air. One of them crashed into a building, causing glass and debris to fall down onto terrified crowds. State police and military officials from NORAD scrambled to move them along. John Proudstar did his part as well, using his invulnerable form to protect civilians. At one point a car came flying towards a panicked crowd that had been stuck in a traffic jam. It would have gotten pretty messy, but John was able to catch the car in mid flight.
“Enough with the gawking people! Run already!” he grunted in frustration.
“Is…is he with that monster? Is he one of them?” exclaimed a terrified civilian.
“Oh please, not this,” groaned John as he set the car down, “Please get here soon, X-men!”
It was getting worse by the minute. Most of the authorities had given up trying to shoot Juggernaut and just ran for cover. The unstoppable force attacked anything that moved. He knew that the more destruction he caused, the more likely Charles was to get involved. The magic that made him so unstoppable mixed with his hatred and rage. It was so focused, the most primal of emotions mixing with the depths of human malice. It was part of what made him unstoppable.
To Cain Marko, the chaos around him was just an afterthought. None of the panicked cries or terrified screams affected him in the slightest. All his attention was focused on one goal, which was to destroy his uncle. He was close. He could feel it in his oversized frame. Clenching his fists, he stood determined in the middle of a busy intersection. With murderous intent, he scanned every area in sight for signs of his hated enemy.
“I know you can hear me, Charles! Show yourself! We have a score to settle!”
He was prepared to slam his fists into the already cracked pavement. Then he got the response he was looking for.
“Hey Juggernaut! Settle this!” said the stern voice of Cyclops.
Juggernaut looked up just in time to see the X-men descending from a hovering X-jet. He was then hit with a concentrated optic blast from Cyclops. It only stunned him briefly, but it signaled the arrival of his hated enemies. With more anger than ever, the unstoppable man grunted as he prepared to face the X-men.
Cyclops, Angel, Iceman, Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, and Gambit flew in on a trail of wind courtesy or Storm. They were all amazed by how much destruction this man had already caused. The streets were cracked, nearby buildings were on fire, and cars were strewn about the streets in crushed or burning heaps. For those who hadn’t faced Juggernaut before, it was an impressive sight. It also gave them an ominous hint as to what they were up against.
“Dang, that’s Juggernaut?!” exclaimed Rogue, “Now there’s a fella who’s been eatin’ a lot of beef!”
“Looks like he’s got anger issues as vell,” commented Nightcrawler.
“You have no idea,” muttered Cyclops, “You know the plan, X-men! Get that helmet off so the Professor can take him out!”
“Give me five minutes!” growled Wolverine as he drew his claws.
As the team landed, Juggernaut clenched his fists and prepared to attack. The X-men had increased their ranks since the last time he fought them. But that didn’t bother him. It just meant more targets.
“Ah the X-men! More like appetizers!” he grunted, “You’ll help me work up a nice appetite for when I get to Charles!”
“If you’re that hungry, why didn’t you say so?” teased Iceman, “Here, how about a snow-cone, Iceman style!”
Iceman moved swiftly, sliding in on an ice slide that passed right over the imposing figure. Juggernaut tried to swing at him, but he was just out of reach. Once he was behind him, Iceman hit him with a punishing blizzard blast that encased Juggernaut completely in ice except for his head. He knew from experience it wouldn’t hold him long, but they only needed enough time to get the helmet off.
“Go Shadowcat! See if you can phase it off!” Cyclops commanded, “Wolverine, watch her back!”
“No sweat, Cyclops!” said Shadowcat.
“Just try not to get crushed, half-pint,” warned Wolverine, “The guy outmatches you in damn near every category.”
“Thanks for the encouragement,” said Shadowcat dryly, “But I can handle myself!”
With Cain Marko frozen, Shadowcat ran up to the imposing figure and reached for the helmet. But before she could touch it Juggernaut’s eyes glowed again and in a sudden burst of strength, broke free from the ice. The resulting blast shocked the younger mutant and knocked her back right into Wolverine’s waiting arms.
“Whoa…this guy is strong,” she groaned.
“Leave this to the big leagues, kid,” growled Wolverine.
Nightcrawler promptly appeared next to him in a puff of smoke. He quickly took the dazed mutant in his arms and prepared to teleport her away. He was about to grab Wolverine as well, but the feral mutant shook him off.
“Just take her!” he growled, “I can handle this!”
“Based on vhat I just saw, I doubt zhat,” said Nightcrawler.
“You want to question me? Or you wanna get out of my freakin’ way?!”
Knowing it was pointless arguing with Wolverine, Nightcrawler teleported away from the scene with Shadowcat in his arms. Now it was just him and Juggernaut. Being encased in ice didn’t too much to stop him. The oversized figure just cracked his neck and prepared for another attack. That raging look in his eyes reminded Wolverine of his old nemesis Sabretooth. That would be good motivation if he was to take this guy down.
“You think you can take me, tiny? Be my guest!” said Juggernaut with a sadistic grin.
“My pleasure!” growled Wolverine, “Hrrrrahhhhhhhhhhh!”
Letting loose his berserker rage, Wolverine tore into the hulking figure. He didn’t even aim for the helmet. He just wanted to bludgeon this behemoth to see how unstoppable he was. At first Juggernaut didn’t even try to dodge him. He just stood there and let Wolverine plow his claws into his muscular arms. They left a brief mark, but it didn’t even bleed. It just healed over with some strange glowing energy. Wolverine tried again, this time going for the heart. His claws penetrated, but again it did no damage. Everything just healed over via the same purplish/red energy.
Juggernaut wasn’t even breaking a sweat. Laughing in amusement, he showed his enemy the truth depths of his strength. While his claw was buried in his chest, he made a fist and slugged him with a devastating right hook. This drove Wolverine straight into the ground, ringing every metal bone in his body. It left him dazed and disoriented for a moment, but he quickly got back up and prepared to attack again. He moved in for another claw swipe, but Juggernaut beat him to the punch literally. He slugged him again, this time with a left jab that knocked him back. Before he could hit the ground this time, Juggernaut grabbed him by the feet and held him up in a death grip. Wolverine was still raging, but the unstoppable Juggernaut was barely threatened.
“You are one dumb little runt! Guess Creed was right about you!” he snickered.
Wolverine erupted with a new level of rage.
“Creed?! How the hell do you know him?!”
“That’s an interesting question! I’d like to answer, but I’d much rather pummel you to a pulp first!” grinned Juggernaut as he prepared to strike again.
But before he could begin his attack, he was hit with a round of optic blasts, ice blasts, lightning, and charged cards. Cyclops, Iceman, Storm, and Gambit were getting their rounds in, allowing Wolverine to break free.
“Get in line, Marko. That one stretches around the block at least twice,” commented Cyclops as he stepped up the power of his blasts.
“In the meantime, deal with us!” proclaimed Storm as she summoned a new round of storm clouds overhead.
“And they say I’m crazy!” laughed Marko as he took each blow, “You guys must have a lot of issues if you think you can take me!”
“You know, that might be the most acute observation a psycho villain has ever said to us,” snickered Iceman.
“You can commend him later. Just keep shooting!” said Angel who was standing behind them with Rogue, “You ready?”
“As Ah’ll ever be, sugah,” said Rogue, “Just don’t fly meh in too fast. Ah wanna come out of this in once peace.”
“With Juggernaut, no promises,” said the winged mutant.
Putting their plan into action, Angel grabbed Rogue by the shoulders and flew her up over the battleground. They discussed this plan in the jet before they arrived. It was risky, but they had to do something to slow this guy down.
“Careful cherè!” Gambit called out as she flew off.
“She’ll be okay,” assured Cyclops, “Just give her the window she needs.”
“You got it!” said the Cajun.
Taking out a new deck of cards, Gambit unleashed his famous 52-pickup attack. It sent a wave of cards raining down on his enemies. He made sure they exploded just as they were at eye level. Wolverine was still fighting him, but unlike Juggernaut he was nimble enough to avoid them. When they started going off, they were like exploding mosquitoes buzzing around him and exploding. They were blinding at times and irritating, but they were hardly threatening.
“Cute trick!” scoffed Juggernaut, “That all you got?”
“Damn, that power be tough,” said Gambit, “It has to be the gem!”
“Vhat are you babbling about, Gambit?” asked Nightcrawler, who was still with Shadowcat.
“Nothing,” he said quickly, “Just trying to think of a new plan.”
While Gambit mused on this power, Rogue and Angel were flying right over the raging figure. Juggernaut was still taking blasts to the back from the team while Wolverine was keeping him occupied. He kept clawing away, now trying to hit the latches on his helmet. Juggernaut wasn’t making it easy for him, but he was distracted and that was all Rogue and Angel needed.
Once they were high enough, Angel began his descent. Rogue held on tight, bracing for what could be a bumpy impact. The goal was to see if she could drain some of his power. She needed to get in contact with some bear skin if she wad to do so. There wasn’t much with that helmet of his, but given how big the guy was she was sure to grab onto something.
“How did Ah let you talk meh into this again?!” exclaimed Rogue as they neared their target.
“You didn’t! It was your idea, remember?” replied Angel.
“Oh yeah…remind meh to check mah brain when Ah get back!”
Juggernaut remained immovable, taking every blast the X-men could throw at him while Wolverine was attacking relentlessly. At one point Wolverine drove his claws right at the eye holes of his helmet, but just when the tips of the adamantium claws were inches from his eyes he grabbed him by the arm. Then with mighty force he swung him around and threw him right at Cyclops, Storm, Iceman, and Gambit. When they saw this they had to stop their assault to avoid hitting their teammate. They also had to get out of the way, but Iceman wasn’t fast enough. Thankfully, his ice shell protected him.
“Ugh, thanks for taking the impact, popsicle,” grunted Wolverine.
“Ugh, no problem,” groaned Iceman, “I think my organs just got minced.”
It was a satisfying sight for Juggernaut. These X-men were getting more pathetic every time he faced them. He laughed and pumped his fists in the air triumphantly.
“Ha! You punks are a joke!” he taunted, “What’s your next tactic going to be? Shitting your pants?”
But while Juggernaut was leering over his adversaries, Angel swooped in with Rogue and let her go right above his oversized fist.
“Now that language is just uncalled for!” she taunted.
Juggernaut looked up and saw Rogue land right on his arms. As soon as she touched down, she grabbed his exposed arms with her bear hands. Immediately, she started draining him. Juggernaut was caught off guard by this unfamiliar feeling. Despite his vast power, he actually did feel himself being drained. It made him lightheaded, a feeling he hadn’t felt in a long time.
“Augh! What the hell?!” exclaimed Juggernaut.
“Dang! This is some power!” said Rogue, overwhelmed by the rush.
“Errr! Get off me, bitch!”
Grunting angrily, Juggernaut grabbed Rogue by the waist and threw her into the concrete ground as hard as he could. When the rest of the X-men saw this they gasped in horror. With the crater he made, no normal human could possibly survive.
“Rogue!” Cyclops cried out.
“He didn’t…” gasped Shadowcat.
Then to everybody’s surprise, including Juggernaut. Rogue got right back up without a scratch on her. She was just as bewildered as everybody else, but whatever power she just absorbed it protected her. The impact that should have broken every bone in her body barely scratched her. It was the equivalent to stubbing a toe. Now flushed with newfound strength, she grinned confidently as she cracked her knuckles.
“Wow…Ah’m startin’ to see why you’re so dang full of yourself. That barely hurt,” she taunted.
“That’s impossible!” roared Juggernaut, “My powers are magical! Nobody can drain them!”
“Nobody but meh, sugah!”
To prove her point, Rogue slugged Juggernaut with an uppercut that knocked him back further than any attack so far. It caught him and the rest of the team by surprise, but in a good way.
“Mien Gott…go Rogue!” grinned Nightcrawler.
“Looks like this has become a much fairer fight!” grinned Iceman.
“Then let’s keep it that way!” said Cyclops as he began a new round of optic blasts, “The more we bludgeon him the easier we’ll make it for the Professor when he arrives! But we still have to get that helmet off!”
“Just give me another five minutes!” said Wolverine intently, “I ain’t done testing this guy’s unstoppable reputation!”
Despite warnings from the others, Wolverine charged the oversized figure and joined Rogue in the assault. The rest of the team joined in with Storm kicking up a new batch of winds and rain while Cyclops, Iceman, and Gambit renewed their assault. The Juggernaut was still raging, but they had him where they wanted him. It was certain not to last for very long. It was still up to the Professor to deliver the final blow.
As the rest of the X-men took on Juggernaut, Marvel Girl and Beast broke off with the Professor to find John Proudstar. Guided by Marvel Girl’s telekinesis, they found him not far from ground zero helping out some civilians. He was trying to clear cars and create blockades for people to get behind. He was visibly drained and beaten, but still going strong. It had been a while since they had seen this man and these circumstances were hardly preferable. But when they saw him and he saw them, they smiled.
“Greetings, Thunderbird,” said the Professor as he landed next to him with Marvel Girl and Beast.
“Professor!” he said breathlessly, “Boy am I glad to see you!”
He then turned to Marvel Girl and smiled.
“And you came too, Jean. My day’s getting better already!”
“Nice to see you too, John. It’s been a while,” she said, smiling back.
“We’ll have to catch up later,” he said, “Are the others fighting Juggernaut?”
“Yes, and we’ll assist them soon,” said Beast, “But first we must ask how this happened. Did Juggernaut have an accomplice?”
“I…I don’t know,” he said breathlessly, “It all happened so fast. My convoy was transporting Juggernaut to this new containment chamber at NORAD. But before we could get there, we hit some mines. I don’t know who planted them, but whoever it was they were long gone.”
“That is something we’ll have to investigate later,” said Xavier, “For now, Beast will assist you with the civilians.”
“And I’ve gotten in touch with local authorities so we can coordinate our efforts,” added Beast, “It should allow is to ease this chaotic conundrum Juggernaut has created.”
“That’s all well and good, but it might be a good idea if I came along and helped you guys. This chaos won’t stop until he’s back in dreamland.”
“Leave that to us, John,” said Marvel Girl in a reassuring tone, “You’ve done enough.”
John was about to protest, but then he gave her that pleading look that won him over. Even though she was his ex-girlfriend, she still had an influence over him. It was probably a good thing because he was going to need all his strength to deal with the military afterwards.
“Fine,” he said with a sighed, “But be careful.”
“We will, Thunderbird,” said the Professor as he flew off with Marvel Girl, “Just leave Juggernaut to the X-men.”
Juggernaut was getting a taste of his own medicine. Having been drained by Rogue he was now fighting someone who could endure his punishing blows and return them with nearly equal force. In addition, Wolverine wasn’t letting up. He kept driving his claws into them, not caring for a second that he was getting pummeled along the way. It was a testament to his endurance and his pain tolerance. The rest of the X-men kept their attack going as well. Optic blasts, ice blasts, lighting, and charged cards kept hitting him on all sides. No matter how much he thrashed, he couldn’t avoid them.
“ERRRRR! LITTLE PESTS! I’LL RIP YOU ALL TO SHREDS!” he yelled.
“I heard you the first time!” growled Wolverine as he plowed his claws into his back, “Now shut up so I cans stab you!”
Wolverine drove both claws into his upper back, causing Juggernaut to grunt in discomfort. Rogue added to it with another haymaker to the head. At the same time an optic blast and ice blast hit him right in the head. It was knocking him around in all directions. He was starting to get disoriented. Upon seeing this, Cyclops ordered a new round of attack.
“We got him, X-men! Go for the helmet!” he ordered.
“Just keep him steady!” said Angel as he took to the air.
While Juggernaut was thrashing about, Angel flew up high into the sky near Storm’s dark clouds and swooped in for an attack. He flew in a perfect parabolic arc, adjusting his speed so he could time this properly. He watched as Rogue slugged him again, this time in the gut. It caused Juggernaut to keel over, exposing one of the latches on the back of his helmet. When Angel saw this, he flew in and with perfect coordination was able to undo it.
“Augh! You little…” Juggernaut began.
“Oh no you don’t!” said Rogue as she kneed him in the gut, this time even harder than before.
He keeled over again. Then Nightcrawler appeared right on top of his head and undid another latch.
“Nice shot, mien sister! Aim lower next time,” he said.
Juggernaut went to grab Nightcrawler, but he teleported away in a puff of smoke before he could. As he did, Rogue hit him again. This time she got him right in the groin. Even for the unstoppable Juggernaut, it hurt. It also pissed him off in ways he couldn’t even begin to comprehend.
“Two down, one to go!” said Cyclops.
“I DON’T THINK SO!” roared Juggernaut.
His eyes erupted in a blinding flash. This time the energy completely consumed his body, forcing Rogue and Wolverine back. Then in a powerful gesture, he slammed both fists into the already cracked pavement. The resulting impact caused a tremor so great it resembled the impact of a meteor. It sent such a powerful shockwave it blew out windows within a two block radius and sent the X-men flying. Rogue and Wolverine impacted nearby cars. Cyclops and the others fell into large pits formed by the ruptured concrete. Angel was literally blown out of the air by the shockwave and he landed in a nearby dumpster. They were all stunned and dazed, rendering them nearly defenseless against the unstoppable onslaught.
His body still glowing, the Juggernaut stood in what was now a crater in the middle of the street. He was seething with such anger and rage. These X-men were a tenacious bunch, but they couldn’t stop the unstoppable. Much of his anger had been focused on Charles, but these X-men were testing the limits of his temper.
“You don’t get it, do you?! I’m invincible! You can’t stop me! Nothing can stop me! I’ll crush every last one of you X-pukes until you’re just a stain on my fist!”
Then a familiar voice rang out over the desolated streets.
“I won’t let it come to that, Cain!”
Juggernaut turned around and grinned. Finally, he was face-to-face with the man he swore on his father’s grave to destroy. Charles Xavier, his uncle, was hovering before him with Marvel Girl by his side. Since his helmet wasn’t off, he was still immune to his attack. That meant he could finally finish him like he wanted.
“Uncle Charles…you finally decide to show yourself!” said Juggernaut, seething with hatred.
“Yes Cain. I’m here,” he said strongly, “Leave my X-men alone. This is between you and me.”
“Isn’t it always? You think being locked up and put in a coma all this time has made me any more forgiving?! I still hate you for what you did to me! To my father! It’s all because if you!”
There was a touch of anguish in Cain’s tone. It sounded strange coming from a man of such strength, but it struck Xavier on a deeper level.
“Please Cain, I never meant for you to suffer. You’re my nephew! I still care about you! If you could just look beyond your blind hatred and listen to me we could…”
“I’m through listening!” exclaimed Juggernaut, “I suffered under you once already because I was weak! Now I’m stronger than you’ll ever be! For my father, my family, and everyone else you’ve hurt, I will make you pay!”
There was no getting through to him. Cain Marko was not the nephew Charles Xavier remembered. His eyes glowed with the mystical energy of his vast power and the blind hatred in his soul. He charged towards him and Marvel Girl in a blind rage. He was going to crush him with his bear hands.
“Marvel Girl! The helmet!” exclaimed the Professor.
“I’ve got it!” said Marvel Girl as she concentrated her telekinesis on the final latch.
“Not this time!” spat Juggernaut.
Before Marvel Girl could undo the latch, Juggernaut grabbed a nearby slab of concrete and flung it towards the young psychic like a frisbee. He threw it so hard it forced her to redirect her telekinetic shield. But it was too fast. She wasn’t able to divert it enough to keep it from hitting her right in the gut. Having lost her concentration, she and the Professor fell to the ground.
Marvel Girl groaned as she clutched her stomach in pain. Professor Xavier fell right out of his chair when he hit. But before he could get up, Juggernaut grabbed him with his oversized fist. He now had his hated enemy at his mercy and there was nothing Charles Xavier could do to stop him.
“It’s over, Uncle Charley! This is for my father!” he seethed.
“Cain…stop!” gasped Charles, already feeling his frail body strain under his grip.
“No! Not this time! When you get to Hell, tell ‘em Juggernaut sent you!”
It was about to happen. Juggernaut was about to finish off his uncle. But before he could crush him in his bear hands, a distinct Cajun voice emerged from behind.
“You want Hell, homme? You got it!”
Startled, Juggernaut began to turn around. What he saw once again caught him off guard. A determined and cunning Gambit had snuck up behind him. Then with a fully charged bow staff, he leaped up his oversized figure and plunged it into the final latch. While Juggernaut was momentarily stunned, he leaped over towards the Professor and shielded him with his body just as the bow staff exploded in a bright flash.
“Augh!” exclaimed Juggernaut.
As the staff exploded, his whole helmet was completely blown off his head. It made him so disoriented it caused him to drop Xavier from his iron grip. Remy managed to cushion his fall and he continued to hover over him even as Juggernaut recovered from the blast.
“Now Professor! Take him down!” Gambit urged him.
The Professor wasted no time. Just as Juggernaut turned to face him, his head now completely exposed, he clutched his temple and unleashed his psychic assault. He focused as much telepathic energy as the world’s greatest psychic could muster, attacking every aspect of his wayward nephew’s mind. Even for the unstoppable Juggernaut, there was no escape.
With that pained roar, Juggernaut stammered about clutching his head. Slowly, the world around him started to fade. Everything was becoming dark. Eventually, he was too weak to move his massive form. His every limb went numb. His body was no longer responding to his brain. He was going under again. He collapsed in a distant daze right next to his uncle. The image of him hovering over him was the last thing he saw before he slipped into unconsciousness.
“I’m so sorry, Cain,” said the Professor, panting from psychic exertion, “You leave me no choice.”
With a tired gasp, Charles Xavier ended his assault. The battle was over now. Once again, the unstoppable Juggernaut had been thwarted. The victory still came with a heavy heart, but this was how it had to be.
While Gambit helped the Professor back into his wheelchair, the rest of the X-men emerged from their dazed state. Wolverine and Rogue helped Angel out of the dumpster. Shadowcat and Nightcrawler helped Iceman and Storm to their feet again. And Cyclops, ignoring his own pain, ran up to help the wounded Marvel Girl. The X-leader let her lean on him while he and the others gathered around the Professor. He was dazed, but still in once peace. It was a relief to see Juggernaut out cold again. He always left quite a mark whenever they fought him. They were lucky they had been able to get the better of him again. But what really surprised the team was how it happened.
Gambit, someone who was still new to the X-men and struggling to earn their trust, came through at the most critical time. He endured the same impact as the rest of them, but was able to push through and save the Professor. In terms of earning their trust, this made quite a statement.
“Thank you, Remy,” said the Professor, “You saved my life.”
“Ain’t nothing, Professor. Just doing what Remy does best,” said the Cajun in his usual cocky tone.
“You mean besides annoying the hell out of people?” groaned Wolverine.
“Take it easy, Logan. Give the guy some credit. He pulled through when we needed him most,” said Rogue with an admiring smile.
“Yeah, if that isn’t the calling of an X-man, I don’t know what is!” said Iceman.
“Totally!” said Shadowcat, “Guess thieves do have honor after all.”
“Let’s not get too carried away here,” said Nightcrawler, unnerved somewhat by the look Rogue was giving him, “I’ll certainly say zhat vas impressive. It does go a vays towards earning trust.”
“It goes a long ways,” said Cyclops with a look of approval, “Even I’ll admit it. You did good, Remy. We all owe you big time.”
Remy wasn’t used to getting this kind of praise, but he had to admit it felt pretty good playing hero. He just stopped an unstoppable madman from destroying a city and killing innocent civilians. Even the most successful of heists didn’t feel this good. The X-men were still new to him and he was still new to them, but he had to admit they were growing on him. Maybe he could fit in here after all.
With Juggernaut now neutralized, the military took over. Hank and John Poundstar called NORAD, who promptly sent several units and a large convoy of special containment equipment. John also called his associates at White Cell to fill them in on the situation. Needless to say they were upset, but they still sent the necessary supplies and personnel to help clean up the mess. Several blocks were cordoned off as they placed the now docile Cain Marko figure in an advanced chamber filled with a special gas that would keep him unconscious indefinitely.
Professor Xavier and the X-men stayed close by and watched, remaining on standby in case something went wrong. Luckily, the military and White Cell kept to themselves, allowing the X-men time to rest and recover. They could also tell there were still those in the military who didn’t trust the X-men. That was their problem and it was a battle for another day. They had their share of bumps and bruises, but considering what they had been up against it was the best they could have asked for.
The Professor watched with a touch of sorrow as John helped haul the chamber containing his nephew into a nearby convoy. It still wore heavily on him how their once familial bond had shattered. Cain had always been a temperamental man. A part of him believed whatever power he had come across helped drive him over the edge. But it was possible his hatred for the Xavier family was as sincere as his menacing threats. He may never know for sure, but he still hoped that one day he and Cain could be a family again.
Sighing to himself, Xavier watched the convoy drive off with Scott, Jean, Ororo, and Logan by his side. The others were helping with the last of the cleanup and Hank was summoning the jet. John Proudstar chose to stay behind briefly before heading out with the rest of the convoy. Even though he wasn’t an X-man anymore, he still had a strong connection with Charles Xavier and his team.
“Guess we can take it from here,” said John, “We’ll try not to screw it up this time.”
“Be sure that you don’t. We ain’t a cleanup crew,” said Logan.
“But if you ever do need us again, don’t be afraid to call us, John,” said Scott as he extended his hand in a friendly gesture.
“Yes, it was a pleasure meeting you,” said Ororo kindly, “Remember that you always allies at the Xavier Institute.”
“I will. Once an X-man, always an X-man,” said John as he shook the X-leader’s hand and then shook Ororo’s.
He then turned to Jean who despite her lingering injuries gave him a friendly hug. It was still a bit strange, given the history he had with this woman. There was still some awkwardness between them. But Jean managed to get past it. The least he could do was return the favor.
“It was nice seeing you again, Jean. Sorry I haven’t kept in touch,” he told her, “I figured it would still be…strange, you know?”
“Only as much as any ex-boyfriend would allow,” she said, “Just because it didn’t work out between us doesn’t mean I’ve stopped caring.”
“Me neither,” he said with a smile, “I’ll…try to do a better job of remembering that.”
They shared one last meaningful look. Logan couldn’t help but look on with intrigue. Scott remained indifferent to it all, hinting he had seen this before and wasn’t bothered by it. He did seem a little awkward watching them hug. Logan already knew about John, but Scott seemed to know the details. Jean never really talked much about her past relationships when they were together. It was something he was going to have to look into later. He had a feeling it was quite a story.
Last but not least, John turned to Professor Xavier. Even though he wasn’t an X-man anymore, his admiration for this man never wavered. He showed him how to be a hero, which in his line of work was something that was constantly lacking. He owed a lot to this man. After a fight like this, he owed him even more.
“Thanks again, Professor. You and the X-men always seem to pull through,” he said.
“Think nothing of it, John. Despite the grave circumstances, it was nice to see you again. And don’t forget my institute is always open to you should you ever wish to return.”
“As tempting as that may be, Professor, you know why I left. And you know why I can’t come back,” he sighed, “You have your battles and I have mine. This is how it has to be. I hope one day it changes, but for now…I hope you understand.”
“Of course,” said Xavier as he extended his hand, “Take care, John.”
“You too, Professor,” said John as he shook his hand, “Good luck. You and the X-men are real heroes. And the world needs heroes now more than ever.”
Professor Xavier smiled as he and his X-men waved goodbye to their friend. John jumped onto the nearest convoy and rode off, returning to his business while they got back to theirs. The power of his words still lingered. The X-men strived to be heroes in a world that didn’t understand them. Yet despite all the fear and hatred, the world needed them now more than ever. It was up to them to rise to the challenge.
Next Issue: Memory Musings
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