The world has become an exciting and dangerous place. Ordinary humans are being born with extraordinary powers. These mutants are the next stage in human evolution. Some resort to hate and fear while Professor Charles Xavier and the X-men fight for peace and understanding. However, that peace is under siege.
General Nathan Grimshaw and the Mutant Security Agency thought they could maintain peace within the growing mutant population. But after a series of setbacks along the way, President Robert Kelly sought an alternative with Colonel John Wraith. He offered him a program known as Weapon Plus. Using techno-organic material, a crippled French soldier named Jean-Phillipe was transformed into the deadly Fantomex. Wraith sent him on a mission to prove his worth. Then it all went horribly wrong.
The AI that controls Fantomex’s techno-organic blood, EVA, went haywire. Now this AI has changed his mission. This has brought him to the shores of Genosha where he stole some of the island’s alien technology. Fantomex is now poised to send the world into chaos, leaving the X-men in a race against time to stop him.
Genosha Citadel – Earlier
Wanda Maximoff always had mixed feelings about her father. She often scolded him for his recklessness, but she also respected his ability to handling a crisis. Since becoming the ruler of Genosha, she has faced many challenges. The margin for error in this endeavor was very small. So when she got word of an attack on a mutant community in New York City and an unplanned visit by the X-men, she had to act with the kind of leadership that made her father so respected and feared.
“You’re wasting my time, Mr. President. And I’ve got precious little to waste,” said an upset Wanda Maximoff to a holographic projection of President Kelly.
“We’re not miracle workers, Miss Maximoff. If we were we wouldn’t be working in government.”
“I’m not asking for a miracle. I’m asking for answers!” she shouted, “You tell me the attack on District X was the result of a rogue weapon and you act as though I don’t have a valid reason for yelling at you? First off, I’m disturbed that your government is supporting weapons tailored to attack mutants. Then you actually gave the man behind it an audience?”
“It was with deep reservations, I assure you. What happened with Weapon Plus was NOT planned.”
“So it wasn’t your idea to have Fantomex abduct innocent mutants?” scoffed Wanda.
“That was all courtesy of Colonel John Wraith. He’s the one you should be upset with. As we speak, General Grimshaw is interrogating him. He claims to have knowledge of a fail safe.”
“He better! Because I just got word from my brother that the X-men arrived moments ago. If we’re to avoid a very unpleasant incident, your people had better clean up this mess. Because this time, Genosha had nothing to do with it.”
She spoke with more force than usual. This secure line was set up on her request. Wanda refused to go through the regular channels. This was one instance where she played by the rules and mutants still ended up as victims. He still didn’t take kindly to her tone. Wanda wasn’t like her father in that she could speak so forcefully. She was still an overwhelmed young woman struggling to make sense of this.
“We’re working on it, Miss Maximoff. Yelling at me and making threats is not going to solve anything.”
“I know,” she said in a calmer tone, “But I think I have a right to be upset.”
“Being upset can also lead to poor decisions and that’s something we can’t afford. We’re keeping you in the loop. We’ve no desire to undermine our relations with Genosha. We will resolve this crisis and bring those responsible to justice. Unfortunately, that’s going to require some trust.”
The President spoke with his share of force too. As upset as she was, Robert Kelly was still the President of the United States. The revelation about Weapon Plus was a lot to process. So much of this was beyond her control. She had no choice but to let these events play out.
“I’ll give you all the trust I can spare, Mr. President…more so than my father would have,” she told him.
“We’ll make sure that’s enough. I’ll personally update you as we obtain new information.”
“I’ll be expecting it soon. In the meantime, I’ve some work to do on my end as well.”
The call ended and President Kelly’s image faded. Wanda pounded her fist on the communication console,. A living weapon with the express purpose of containing mutants posed all sorts of dangers. She wanted to believe that the human authorities would make good on their word. She had gone out of her way to humble Genosha before the world, seeking to atone for her father’s transgressions. It now seemed like a losing battle.
While she fumed, the door to the communications chamber burst open. Pietro, Alex, and the mutant acolyte Blink entered the secure chamber.
“I take it the President didn’t have much to say,” commented Alex.
“More than I thought. Less than I hoped,” replied Wanda.
“Then you’ll be just as disappointed to learn that my call with Charles Xavier wasn’t that productive either,” said Pietro bitterly, “His X-men are already over the Warlock factories despite our stern warnings.”
“You didn’t try to shoot them down, did you?” she groaned, ready to strangle her brother if he made another stupid decision.
“I told the defense teams to stand down, but they sure were tempted,” said Alex.
“This is after they ignored my order,” added Pietro strongly, “They know something and they’re not telling us.”
“Charles Xavier is keeping secrets too?” said Wanda in an exasperated tone.
“He gave me the same run-down. There’s a mutant-hunting meat puppet on the loose. He attacked District X and now he’s setting his sights on Genosha. The X-men are here to stop it, but they aren’t cooperating.”
“I expect that from human governments. But from Charles Xavier, that’s disappointing.”
“The sentiment is pretty unanimous,” said Alex, “We can’t expect governments or the X-men to resolve this. We’ll have to fight this out on our own! That’s why Blink is here.”
“I was told my abilities might be needed,” said the young mutant woman, “I can teleport you to the factories or to anywhere else Genosha’s forces may be needed.”
“Your contributions are always welcome, Clarice. I didn’t plan on waiting for the President to call back,” said Wanda.
“Does that mean we’re going to launch an all-out attack?” asked Pietro eagerly.
“Overreacting is my father’s tactic. Not mine,” she reminded him, “You’ll accompany me and Blink to the factories so we can assess the threat. Alex will stay here and mobilize the Brotherhood. Our first task is to ensure the rest of the island is secure. Once we know what we’re up against, we’ll respond with the appropriate measure of force.”
“And if the X-men get in the way?” asked Alex.
“Let’s just say I’m not in a very reasonable mood and leave it at that.”
Pietro grinned at his sister’s tone. She was finally showing some of their father’s leadership. She was more willing to act rather than let others act for her. This was a blatant intrusion on their country. They were not going to be pawns in someone else’s affairs. This was their chance to assert Genosha’s strength.
Wanda set aside the rest of her political duties and took on her role as the Scarlet Witch. She joined her brother next to Blink, ready to take her frustrations out on whoever dared to attack her country.
Genosha Warlock Factories – Now
“Whoa…” gasped a bewildered Scarlet Witch.
“Those crazy humans! What have they done?” exclaimed Quicksilver.
The Maximoff twins stepped out from Blink’s portal expecting to see something horrible. What they saw more than met their expectations.
Of the six factories that made up the Warlock complex, one had been completely replaced with a new structure that dwarfed the others. A massive dome now dominated the area.
It was big, standing nearly twice as tall as the largest Warlock factory. It bore a very different makeup from the other buildings. The distinctive Warlock texture had been replaced with a silvery gray surface. Along that surface were elaborate arrays of circuits and lights. It gave the impression that something was unfolding inside. Whatever it was, this was likely what they had to stop.
“What is it?” wondered Blink, having to take a step back.
“The likely result of someone hijacking our hardware,” said the Scarlet Witch firmly, “It wasn’t enough to just steal Warlock components. He built this monstrosity with it.”
“Whoever’s behind it, they have to deal with us now,” said Quicksilver.
“I doubt he’ll see that as much of a threat, Quicksilver,” came a new voice.
Blink, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch turned around to see the X-men approaching. They looked like they had gone a round or two with this threat. Their uniforms were tattered and they noticed the wreckage of the X-jet in the distance. Even if they approached in a non-threatening manner, their presence wasn’t welcome.
“X-men,” said the Scarlet Witch flatly, “I expected to find you here.”
“Nice to see you too, Wanda. You’re always such a ray of sunshine,” said Shadowcat.
“Sorry we couldn’t soften him up for you,” said Cyclops, “We had a little setback with the X-jet.”
“Maybe that will teach you to ignore my warnings,” said Quicksilver apprehensively.
“The only lesson I care to learn is how we’re gonna bust through this dome,” snarled Wolverine, barging right past the Maximoff twins with X-23 by his side.
It was not a pleasant greeting. The X-men were still a bit dazed after their crash landing. Cyclops, Wolverine, X-23, Iceman, Storm, Shadowcat, Gambit, Psylocke, and Colossus had to crawl out from the wreckage of the X-jet and traverse the rugged terrain. Captain Freeman was with them, following closely despite lingering trust issues. As they made their way to the factories, they watched the massive dome literally grow from the ground. What Fantomex planned to do with it was still a mystery and one with many distressing implications.
Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch remained apprehensive. The X-men knew more than they were willing to tell them. They kept their distance as they watched as Wolverine and X-23 approach the dome.
“He’s in there,” grunted X-23.
“You can smell him?” said Wolverine.
“No…I can just sense it. He’s a weapon like we are.”
“He ain’t like us, kid. Not by a long shot,” he retorted, “Either Weapon X is still pulling his strings or he cut himself loose so he could pull his own.”
“Excuse me, but would you mind telling us what the hell we’re looking at?” asked the Scarlet Witch impatiently, “If this is that Fantomex that President Kelly told me about, he’s trespassing on Genoshan soil.”
“With all due respect, your highness, I don’t think he gives a damn,” said Psylocke.
The Scarlet Witch was inclined to hex Psylocke for her remark. Storm had to step in between them to make sure this situation didn’t get any more volatile.
“Let’s be mindful of where we are, Psylocke. Wanda has a point. She deserves to know what we know,” said Storm strongly.
“You talk like we know more than squat, cherè,” said Gambit.
“We can at least fill in a few blanks,” said the African woman, “Firstly, the man behind this structure is Fantomex. He’s strong, agile, durable, and very dangerous. He caused a great deal of destruction in District X. Now he’s on some mission and tricked us into taking him to Genosha.”
“He tricked you? How did he manage that?” said the Scarlet Witch.
“For the sake of our dignity, let’s skip that part,” groaned Shadowcat.
“More importantly, he’s as resourceful as he is unstable,” Storm continued, “He’s not in a coherent state of mind. Yet he was still able to formulate a way to get to Genosha and utilize your technology.”
“He’s supposed to be the latest version of Weapon X,” added Colossus, “Except he’s supposed to be more advanced so his creators call him Weapon Plus.”
“So what makes him more advanced than badger boy over there?” said Quicksilver, gesturing towards Wolverine.
“That’s where this techno-organic blood of his comes in,” said Cyclops, “That’s probably what’s responsible for what we’re looking at here.”
It still didn’t make a lot of sense. Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch were familiar with Weapon X. Their father researched them back when he was fleshing out his plan for the Genosha uprising. It was yet another horrific example of humanity’s disregard for mutants. But humanity wasn’t content with just one horrific atrocity against mutants so they unleashed another. Now it was threatening their home.
Before the X-men could offer the Maximoff twins more answers, Captain Freeman stepped in. He wasn’t too thrilled about being on Genosha. He hadn’t been here since he stole Magneto’s helmet. Nobody knew it was him though so he could afford to use his usual methods.
“Enough with the cliff notes. We don’t have time to go over all the ways Fantomex has outsmarted us,” said Captain Freeman as he confronted the Scarlet Witch.
“And who are you?” she asked, “That’s not an X-men uniform you’re wearing.”
“I’m not an X-man. I’m Captain Jack Freeman, United States Army. Right now, I’m the eyes and ears of General Grimshaw. And Fantomex is a product of some old skeletons that need to get buried.”
“So your government sees fit to dump your incompetence on Genosha?” scolded the Scarlet Witch.
“That was Fantomex’s idea. Not ours!” said the Green Beret strongly, “Now my superiors want to be rid of this thing and they don’t want it causing a major incident.”
“It is a little late for that, comrade,” commented Colossus.
“I don’t care what stage we’re at. It’s only going to get worse if we allow it. That’s why I’m authorized to call in whatever hardware we have patrolling this island to blow this guy off the face of the Earth.”
“Are you threatening to attack my country?” said Scarlet Witch firmly.
“I’m giving us all extra motivation for you to help us destroy this thing,” retorted Captain Freeman, “You talk like I want it to come to that. I don’t. I’m a mutant just like you. I know using Genosha for target practice is a bad idea.”
“You’re a mutant?” said Quicksilver, “I thought they didn’t let mutants in the military.”
“They don’t, which is why I’m making such a big deal of this,” he went on, “Unlike other soldiers, I have extra incentive here. If it comes to unleashing a hell storm on this guy, I want no part of it. There are too many people in DC looking for an excuse to use extreme measures. Let’s not give them more reasons.”
Wanda Maximoff stared down this confrontational soldier. Were he a normal man, she would have taken more offence. But this man was a mutant. He had more reasons to be aggressive, even if he was ill-mannered about it. He also added an extra complication to this crisis.
The Scarlet Witch turned back towards the dome and approached it. She walked up to where Wolverine and X-23 were standing. Captain Freeman and the X-men joined her. Blink and Quicksilver followed as well, albeit reluctantly. They all had plenty of reasons to stop Fantomex before he completed his mission.
“In that case I’ll skip the explanation and get my answers from the source,” said the Scarlet Witch, her hands now glowing with hexing energy.
“Does this mean we’re teaming up with the X-men again?” said Quicksilver dryly.
“I’m as excited as you, quickie,” said Iceman dryly, “But my girlfriend happens to be trapped in there so I’m not in the mood to berate you.”
“Your girlfriend is involved? This just keeps getting better and better.”
“Knock it off!” scolded Cyclops, “Normally I don’t like busting in all gun ho like this, but Captain Freeman is right. Time is working against us. At the very least, we need to slow Fantomex down.”
“To do that means gettin’ inside this den of crocs,” said Gambit, “How we gonna manage that? That techno-organic voodoo be pretty durable.”
“That may be the case, but you’re forgetting how good I am at beating the odds,” said the Scarlet Witch as she placed her glowing hand on the dome, “There are any number of probabilities I can use to get us inside. Luckily, I only need one.”
Xavier Institute – Hank’s Lab
The pressure was mounting on Hank McCoy. The X-men were about to confront Fantomex and Sage was sure to be caught in the crossfire. Now that they were on Genosha, the Maximoff twins and the Brotherhood were involved as well. They were going to battle this monstrosity and they still had no idea how to stop it.
Hank put his efforts into overdrive, analyzing the fresh stream of data that was coming from the archives in District X. It added to a string of secrets he had uncovered within the techno-organic material. With Jean’s help, he discovered traces of psionic energy. This allowed him to dig deeper into the AI known as EVA. Along with some revelations from the transfers sent by Bishop and Multiple, he began piecing it together.
“So EVA is now guiding the mission,” said Hank into a recorder as he printed out a fresh analysis, “The incident in District X must have corrupted her safeguards. Sage never got beyond the beta version of the AI. Now it’s in a state of confusion, ignoring all ethical protocols. That or Weapon X tweaked the program on their own, which would be even more distressing.”
The minds behind Weapon Plus made their share of tweaks to Sage’s work. Based on his analysis, the techno-organic matter in Fantomex was deeply flawed. Wraith and his thugs clearly had no idea what they were dealing with. This substance was the driver of this madness. Stopping it was the only way to stop Fantomex.
“This World database seems to be the point of obsession,” he went on as he read over the data, “Sage programmed EVA to maintain a database of all mutant abilities. Without the ethical protocols, she’ll stop at nothing to obtain that data. I must assume there’s a failsafe built in. Sage always has one. Perhaps Weapon Plus cracked it before they deployed Fantomex? If that’s the case, then maybe I can crack it as well.”
Hank was about to sit down and resume his work. Then the doors to his lab burst open and Jean Grey came barging in.
“Times up, Mr. McCoy! We need to get moving now,” she said strongly.
“Why? Has Charles gotten any updates from General Grimshaw?” asked Hank.
“Forget Grimshaw! We just got word the X-jet crash landed on Genosha and Fantomex is making himself at home.”
“They crashed? Is everyone okay?” he asked nervously.
“They’re fine. But right now, they’re about to confront Fantomex. The crazy meat puppet created some dome over a Warlock factory. We don’t know what he’s going to use it for, but we’re pretty sure it’s better off destroyed.”
Hank pondered this new information for a moment. Looking back at the data, Fantomex’s mission started making sense. This dome must be the next step in EVA’s programming.
“He must be creating The World,” he surmised, “The AI is taking its protocols literally. It’s going to catalog every mutant and every ability into one system.”
“I’m not sure what that means, Mr. McCoy. But I’m sure it gives us more reason to table the lab work and come with me,” she urged, “Professor Xavier has the Velocity ready to go. We need to get to Genosha!”
“Confronting Fantomex without understanding his abilities will surely make the situation worse and put Tessa at greater risk,” he lamented, “This AI is tenacious. I’m trying to surmise if there’s a failsafe in the programming, but I need time to decipher it!”
“You’ll have to decipher it along the way,” said Jean, using her telekinesis to close his laptop and yank him out of his seat, “Take your laptop with you, but you need to come with us. Keep in mind your girlfriend is in trouble. Even if this is her mess, I’m assuming you want to save her!”
Jean’s urgent pleas prevented Hank from arguing further. He didn’t resist the young psychic’s telekinetic urgings either. He turned off his digital recorder and tossed his lab coat aside. It made more sense to stay and decipher the failsafe. However, when his lover was in danger, logic had to be set aside. With his laptop in hand, he followed Jean out of his lab and towards the hangers.
‘For once my heart takes priority over my brain. I may be doing Sage a disservice, but I cannot stay here while her life hangs in the balance. Forgive me, my dear. Please hold on long enough for the X-men to come through!’
Genosha – Inside The World
“Hnn…Henry?” groaned Sage as she emerged from unconsciousness.
“No, dear creator. Not Henry,” said an oddly toned voice.
Sage opened her eyes to find herself in a place she had only seen on a computer screen. It was the World, the culmination of the ambitious research she conducted in another life. In the time between when she passed out and when she awoke, Fantomex turned it from a concept to an actual structure.
She was under the center of a massive dome. The entire surface along the outer wall was brightly lit with advanced circuits. They were very complex, having integrated the alien technology of Warlock into its surface. Within this array were rows of pod-like compartments. They were all about the size of a refrigerator and most of the components fed into these pods. Within them, Sage could see figures standing in suspended animation. They were duplicates of Fantomex, minus the wounds and disfigurement. There were hundreds if not thousands of them. It was a horrific display, but it was only the second most vital part of the World.
Sage then noticed she was standing right in the heart of this perverse creation. Fantomex propped her up in a web-like set of restraints. From the smooth white floor, a series of cables and wires shot up and trapped her so that she hung a few feet off the floor. These cables fed into an array of box-shaped pods that encircled the central area. They were like massive server farms and every one of them was linked to her. Fantomex seemed proud of what he had done, standing before her like a child trying to impress a parent.
“Does my work please you, Tessa?” he asked her, “The World has finally taken form and substance. I based the design off your plans for the Mark III. As you can see, I’ve made a few adjustments. I had to scale it up in order to accommodate additional hardware.”
“The pods…you’re cloning yourself?” said Sage.
“Cloning is such a messy and slow process. The duplicates you see come courtesy of one Jamie Madrox. I sampled his abilities for a reason. His mutant powers will be what allow me to complete my mission.”
“Whatever this mission is, I want no part of it,” she said strongly, “I don’t know if it’s you or EVA who has malfunctioned, but this is madness!”
“No…not madness, my creator. This is what’s necessary.”
He sounded like a cross between a madman and a glitchy computer program. Fantomex was oblivious to any sense of order that had been programmed into him. Neither she nor Weapon Plus had any control over this perverse mission.
“Fantomex…EVA…something has happened to you. I can fix it if you let me!” urged Sage, trying to reason with her creation.
“There’s nothing to fix. I’ve calculated every possible scenario. I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that this will accomplish my mission,” Fantomex proclaimed, “I am a product of your ambitions, Tessa. You saw through the prejudices of humans and mutants alike. You understood that the only way to forge order from this chaos was through knowledge. That’s what the World is about…knowledge.”
“After what you did in District X, I don’t find you very knowledgeable,” she replied.
“All knowledge comes at a price. You already understand that better than most. You programmed me to understand that as well. Humans and mutants fear one another because they don’t understand one another. Knowledge is the key to overcoming that fear. To gain that knowledge, every human and every mutant must be processed.”
“By processed I take it you mean by force?”
“If that is what is necessary for the mission, then so be it. That is why I have created my army of duplicates. They will go out into the world, sampling the blood of humans and mutants alike. Once we have this information, the World will compile it into a single database. With such knowledge, we’ll be able to contain the traits that are calculated to be too destructive.”
“And how do you plan on weeding them out? By killing them?” surmised Sage.
“I am a weapon. Containment is an unfortunate part of the process. Rest assured, it will be guided by logic. As I absorb the information on every human and mutant, I shall leave a trace of my techno-organic blood within them. This way, EVA won’t just be able to monitor every man, woman, and child. She’ll be able to share with them this vast wealth of knowledge. Think of it as a network of enlightenment, uniting them under one mission…our mission!”
“On paper, that might be logical. But in practice, it’s insane,” she retorted, “I once believed in the power of cold logic. The problem is it leaves little room for choice and compassion. Those feelings can’t be processed. They can’t be controlled. EVA was supposed to understand that. That’s how I know you’re flawed. If this is what EVA calculated, then I know this mission is a perversion of my work.”
Fantomex stood before Tessa with a hardened demeanor. He was truly hurt. This woman was his creator. She more than anyone should have appreciated what he was doing. Yet she refused to embrace the grandeur of what he created. Dismayed or not, his mission was too vital to leave unfinished.
“Clearly, you’ve been deluded, my dear creator,” he said flatly, “No matter. That’s why I have arranged to make you the heart and soul of the World. Once the main systems are up and running, every bit of information that governs this complex will go through you.”
“I would rather die than be your personal flash drive,” scolded Sage.
“Your mind is a computer. Like any computer, it requires an upgrade. As soon as the World comes online, EVA will work all those little bugs out of your system. To make sure you remain cooperative, I’ve also made sure to add extra incentive.”
Fantomex turned to his right and gestured towards one of the box-shaped structures. The structure then structure turned around to reveal a ghastly sight. It was Jubilee. The young woman had been bound and restrained by a series of cables that resembled a spider-web. And unlike the ones restraining her, Jubilee also had a few running into her body that were filled with grayish fluid.
“Jubilee…” Sage gasped.
“I apologize for this ghastly setup. However, I calculated that you would not cooperate unless given an incentive. Miss Lee here shall fill that role. Should you resist, I will inject her with a dose of techno-organic material that will dissolve her internal organs.”
“You twisted son-of-a-bitch! That’s goes way beyond logic and you know it.”
“You may be appalled now, but you shall understand once your upgrade is complete. Logic dictates that we make short term sacrifices for long term gains. Whether that sacrifice is blood or suffering is immaterial. The key is and always has been logic. That is what will guide the World. That is what will instill order.”
There was no reasoning with him anymore. Looking at Fantomex and then towards Jubilee, Sage was at a loss. For once her brilliant mind could not surmise a solution. Her research and the influence of Weapon X had truly created a monster. Now she was set to become the victim of her own research. It was a cruelest of ironies.
While Sage fumed in despair, Fantomex was poised for triumphThen across the dome, a strange purplish energy engulfed an area the size of a train car and caused a forceful explosion that ripped a hole through the dome. From that hole, a series of figures emerged.
“Who dares enter the World?” said Fantomex with mild annoyance.
“I’ll give you three guesses, bub!” came a familiar voice.
“And two should be pretty obvious,” said another of similar ferocity.
The two figures leading the charge were Wolverine and X-23. For the first time since his mission began, Fantomex was surprised. He had killed these two pestilent mutants. These two failed experiments shouldn’t be a threat. In addition, they brought allies with them this time.
The X-men stormed into the dome entirely focused on Fantomex, not bothering to take in their surroundings. Cyclops, Iceman, Storm, Gambit, Shadowcat, Psylocke, and Colossus followed the charge led by Wolverine and X-23. Captain Freeman was with them, taking on the poise of a trained Green Beret. Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch were there as well, although they kept their distance from the X-men. Blink stuck close to the Scarlet Witch, acting as an escape plan should one be required. They were in Fantomex’s domain now, meaning he clearly had the upper hand.
“Dang…this be some fancy digs,” commented Gambit.
“Fancy nothing! Look what he’s done with Tessa,” said Cyclops, pointing towards the center where Sage was being restrained.
“Not to sound insensitive to her, but look what he’s done with Jubilee,” said Iceman, his gaze quickly falling upon his bound lover.
“Should I be disgusted? Or is this to be expected?” said Quicksilver dryly.
“It’s over-the-top, that’s for sure. But tor Weapon X, I’d say it’s still pretty standard,” commented Shadowcat.
“Meaning this monstrosity needs to be demolished,” said Storm.
“That I’m more than prepared for,” said the Scarlet Witch, her hands still glowing with hex energy
“Don’t get too ahead of yourself, luv. This bloke is pretty resourceful,” warned Psylocke.
The X-men, Captain Freeman, and the Maximoff twins were halfway to the center. Then Fantomex gestured towards the area and erected a barrier between two box-like structures to halt their advance. As they came to a stop, he made an acrobatic jump from his perch to the top of the wall so he could address his enemies. Wolverine and X-23 were the first ones he confronted.
“This is a logical disconnect,” he said, “I killed you. Your lives ended by my hands.”
“You’re new to Weapon X so let me fill you in on a little secret…we’re really freakin’ hard to kill,” retorted Wolverine,
“You also made the biggest mistake you could have possibly made. You pissed me off!” added X-23.
“You pissed off a lot of people,” said Captain Freeman, “You’re playing with fire and that fire could get real hot if you let it.”
Fantomex was momentarily stunned. It was as if something inside his already chaotic mind had short-circuited.
“No…this is an error. I must complete my first mission before I complete my final mission. I must end Weapon X to ensure the World is untainted!”
“He sound upset…among other things,” said Iceman.
“Is this a good or bad thing?” wondered Colossus.
As he and the others pondered this, Fantomex gestured towards the dome above him. A number of circuits and lights activated, causing the countless pods along the surface of the dome to open. From these pods, dozens of duplicates of Fantomex poured out and promptly surrounded his enemies. The X-men, Captain Freeman, and the Brotherhood now faced a daunting challenge. As if one Fantomex wasn’t challenging enough, now they had an army to face.
“That answer your question, Petey?” commented Gambit.
“Da…more or less,” said the Russian mutant, preparing for an attack.
“If you X-men have a plan of attack, I would love to hear it,” said Quicksilver, showing a touch of nervousness.
“I got your plan right here,” snarled Wolverine as he drew his adamantium claws, “You guys take on the dupes and save the girls. Leave pretty boy here to me and X!”
“What the hell kind of plan is that?” said an impatient Captain Freeman.
“The kind that’ll work,” said Cyclops, “Let’s do this, X-men!”
The X-leader fired the first shot, unleashing a wide-arced optic blast that struck one of the Fantomex duplicates. The Fantomex army responded swiftly, launching a coordinated swarm of counter-attacks against the X-men and their allies.
To prevent from being completely overwhelmed, the Scarlet Witch used her powers to create a powerful hex field around them. This caused the incoming Fantomex duplicates to fly off in the opposite direction or malfunction. It gave room for the rest of the team to organize themselves and attack.
Cyclops broke off with Psylocke and Gambit, slipping behind one of the box-shaped structures and forming a line where they could concentrate their firepower. Colossus and Storm stayed near the barrier Fantomex put up earlier, mixing strength with nature’s fury to oppose the coming onslaught. Shadowcat and Iceman stuck around Captain Freeman, who was already tearing into the first Fantomex duplicates that the Scarlet Witch’s hex bolts weakened. Quicksilver stayed close to his sister along with Blink, using the hex field as a protective barrier.
“Can you handle them, Miss Maximoff?” asked Blink warily.
“That depends on how many bodies he’s willing to sacrifice,” said the Scarlet Witch, her body glowing with hex energy, “Stay close to me, Blink. You’ll be our escape should it be necessary!”
“It won’t,” assured Quicksilver, “Keep the hexes coming, sis! It’ll end this battle quicker.”
Not to be upstaged by his sister, the speedy mutant went to work. He accelerated to blinding speeds, running about the area and striking the hordes of Fantomex duplicates too fast for even their advanced reflexes to avoid. They were durable, not going down with a single blow. However, they added up and left them vulnerable to his sister’s hexes as well as firepower from the rest of the X-men.
This initial attack prevented Fantomex from overpowering them like he did before. It was also strong enough to clear a path towards the original Fantomex for Wolverine and X-23. They didn’t bother with the duplicates. A few tried to attack and they were promptly decapitated or dismembered. This allowed them to claw their way up the barrier and confront Fantomex for their overdue second match.
“Quit getting your dupes to do your dirty work. Be a good meat puppet and finish your mission!” roared Wolverine as he neared the feet of Fantomex.
“I had no intention of letting others do my work for me,” he replied, “How you survived before is irrelevant. This time I shall make sure there is nothing left from which to heal.”
Using the malleable world around him, Fantomex ordered the construction of two new handguns from the Warlock material he now controlled. A box-shaped structure to his left forged the weapons and tossed them out for him to catch. As soon as they were in his hands he shot down at Wolverine and X-23, who were still clawing their way up the barrier.
The two former weapons were prepared this time. They each moved to the side, avoiding the initial wave of bullets. X-23 used the extra claws in her feet to climb faster so she was right at the feet of the menacing figure. With strength well beyond her years, she pounced on the imposing figure. He was in a position to evade so she made sure he evaded right into her claws.
“Hrrrrrrrrraaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!” X-23 roared.
“Augh! You pestilent little…” Fantomex began.
“Don’t even think about finishing that thought, bub,” yelled Wolverine.
With X-23’s claw still lodged in him, Fantomex could not evade Wolverine as he tackled the figure right off his perch atop the barrier. The three of them fell towards the metal floor below and closer towards the center where Sage was trapped. They hadn’t even stopped rolling when Fantomex shoved the two feral mutants off and returned to his feet. Wolverine and X-23 did the same, noticing that the wound in Fantomex’s body was now bleeding with his distinct techno-organic matter.
“You cut him, kid. But he’s healing fast,” said Wolverine.
“We’ll just have to cut him again,” grunted X-23, wiping some of the material off her blood, “That blood of his can’t work if it isn’t in his body. Let’s bleed him dry!”
“You’re welcome to try if you enjoy futility,” taunted Fantomex.
“That’s another thing about Weapon X you should know. We’re at our best when shit gets futile,” grinned Wolverine.
The feral mutant turned towards X-23 and nodded, letting her know he was with her this time. This emboldened the two former living weapons. This was their fight. They were both driven by the rage fueled by the same people who created Weapon Plus. Fantomex was a manifestation of all the madness they sought vengeance over. With their claws drawn, they began attack that madness.
Washington DC – White House
Colonel Wraith was in a precarious position. He was used to being in positions of authority, but now he found himself on the very opposite end of the spectrum. The failure of Weapon Plus and the damage it caused left him the scapegoat. He would have to pay the price for its failure.
But he hadn’t survived as an officer this long without being a special breed of cunning. Weapon Plus was still on the loose and as the creator of this project, he was the only one who could shut it down. This gave him the leverage he needed to cut a deal with President Kelly. While that deal was being worked out, he sat silently in small conference room that now acted as a makeshift holding cell. There were six armed Secret Service guards watching him with their weapons drawn. General Grimshaw was there as well, keeping an eye on him every step of the way.
“You’re enjoying this aren’t you, Nathan?” said the Colonel, “I bet you’ve fantasized about this in ways some would construe as a fetish.”
“You underestimate my sense of duty and overestimate your worth, John,” retorted the General, “You’re the one who seems to be enjoying this. You’re waiting for your immunity deal to go through while I’m waiting for the order to shoot you.”
“You think I enjoy watching a project I’ve worked so hard on fail yet again?”
“I think you enjoy getting away with it. You based your entire career on turning people into weapons. I don’t want to speculate on how many atrocities you’ve been a part of.”
“Think of me what you will, General. But in the end, I will be vindicated,” said Colonel Wraith confidently, “You and the rest of the world will see that living weapons are an inevitable step. It is the only way we can contain the threats facing our future.”
“Maybe the threats in that dream world inside your head require those extremes. But I’m staying grounded in the real world,” said Grimshaw strongly, “Mutants may be a threat on some levels, but the biggest threats come from men like you…men who are willing to pay any price, yet try to do it without getting their hands dirty.”
“I’d rather overplay than underplay my efforts when it comes to order. One day you’ll see the true cost of this mission. And when that day comes, you’ll admit I was right.”
Colonel Wraith knew how to get under Grimshaw’s skin. It made the thought of him getting an immunity deal even the more egregious. He was tempted to shoot him where he stood. His duty was the only thing preventing him. This man still believed that everything he had done with living weapons was right. If this deal went through, then nothing would stop him from building on his atrocities.
The doors to the conference room finally opened, effectively ending any chance he had at shooting this man. President Kelly entered with a female staff assistant and a few more Secret Service agents. He had a set of papers in his hand and looked every bit as disgusted when he placed them in front of Colonel Wraith.
“There you are, Colonel. Your immunity deal, signed and sealed,” said the President bitterly.
“Thank you, Mr. President. Mind if I read over the fine print before I sign?” asked Wraith with a slightly snide tone.
“Read quickly. The situation on Genosha has taken a turn for the worse. This failsafe of yours better be worth it.”
“I wouldn’t ask for a deal of this nature if it wasn’t, sir,” assured the Colonel.
The next few minutes were agonizing. Wraith scrutinized each page of the packet, making sure there was no loophole that the President could exercise to screw him over. As he read, President Kelly turned towards General Grimshaw. He didn’t say a word, but his eyes were practically yelling at him.
“Don’t say it, General,” President Kelly told him.
“There’s nothing left to say, Mr. President,” said the General flatly.
The two men shifted their gaze back to Colonel Wraith. He seemed satisfied. The details were as good as he could have hoped for. It only required his signature.
“Satisfied, Colonel?” asked the President impatiently.
“Yes, everything seems to be in order,” he said, “Got a pen?”
“You can’t resist asking for more, can you?”
“Only when necessary, Mr. President,” said the Colonel wryly.
The President groaned as he gave the disgraced officer a pen from his pocket. Colonel Wraith kept grinning as he signed on the necessary lines, thus absolving him of any responsibility from the failure of Weapon Plus. It was a crime against humanity and now it couldn’t be undone.
“There now, your part has officially been fulfilled,” said Wraith as he finished.
“Now will you be so kind as to fulfill yours? This way I can stop hating you so much,” said President Kelly.
“Hand me my cell phone and I’ll end this in under a minute.”
Colonel Wraith handed the papers to the President, who in turn handed them to the female aid. He then turned to General Grimshaw, who had been holding onto Wraith’s cell phone since they arrested him. He still had a disgusted look on his face as he gave it to his commander-in-chief.
“Here…now how is this going to work?” asked the President as he placed the phone in front of the Colonel.
“Watch and see, Mr. President,” said Wraith ominously.
All eyes were on Wraith once again. The Secret Service agents moved in closer, making sure he didn’t try anything. They watched as he unlocked his phone and activated a series of applications. He went through three layers of password protected security, eventually arriving at a keypad. He set the phone down on the table and entered a ten-digit number. Everything seemed to be going smoothly for a moment. At one point there was a status screen that showed up that started loading. Then an unexpected error message flashed and John Wraith’s confident demeanor shifted.
‘Damn it, Arcade! You and Stryker were supposed to take care of this.’
“Is there a problem, Colonel?” said the President impatiently.
“No sir. It’s just a minor error,” he said in as calm a tone as he could, “Give it a moment. It’ll all be over soon,” he told them.
He had to think fast. Something had clearly happened with Stryker, Creed, and Arcade. The fail safe couldn’t be activated. He didn’t have time to figure out what happened. He was going to have to take more desperate measures so he activated another program.
Everyone in the room focused the phone. As another program activated, the screen turned green for a moment and showed only a small status bar in the center. When it got to the end the screen went dark. It seemed suspicious, but everyone kept watching. They didn’t even notice Colonel Wraith closing his eyes and looking away. Then it happened.
The screen on the phone erupted in a powerful light that completely filled the room. It was so powerful that it temporarily blinded everyone in the room, including Grimshaw and the President.
“Aagh!” they all cried out.
In this brief moment, Colonel Wraith made his move. Grabbing the pen the President gave him to sign his deal, he shot up and stabbed the two Secret Service agents guarding him. As he did, he took both of their guns and used them to shoot the other Secret Service agents blocking the door.
“Sorry, Mr. President! The rules of war are not unlike the rules of poker. Always be ready to call your opponent’s bluff,” he taunted as he rushed out the door.
“That sniveling little…” began President Kelly as he rubbed his eyes.
“Being an on-duty officer, I won’t say I told you so, sir,” said General Grimshaw, needing a moment as well.
“You can say it all you want after you stop that runt before he gets away.”
General Grimshaw helped the President up along with the remaining Secret Service agents. They now had even more reasons to despise this man. Once their vision cleared, they saw that Wraith had already made it out of the room. He was armed, dangerous, and determined to escape justice. That could not happen. Not after all the damage he had done and the damage that continued to unfold as a result of his atrocities.
Genosha – The World
“Complete the mission. Destroy the intruders.”
This was the mantra of Fantomex and his army of duplicates. Like him, his duplicates contained all the strength, agility, and durability necessary to confront his enemies. The X-men, the Maximoff twins, and Captain Jack Freeman put up a formidable attack that continued to delay the World from becoming active, but they needed to do more than that in order to stop him.
Fantomex’s duplicates weren’t as cunning as the original, even if they were just as resilient. They didn’t move with the same determination and efficiency they had seen before. It allowed the X-men and their allies to oppose them. The key was taking advantage of the Scarlet Witch’s hex bolts. They seemed to do considerable damage to the functioning of these duplicates. This was most apparent when his techno-organic blood was shed. Under her hex bolts, the exotic substance withered.
“I don’t know what you’re doing to them, Wanda. But keep it up!” said Quicksilver as he sped through a line of duplicates, hitting them along the way.
“Quit trying to be fancy, Pietro. Take them down already!” grunted the Scarlet Witch, keeping up her hex attack going while Blink stayed close.
“Relax! These dupes are dumber than they look. They can’t even-AAGH!”
The speedster was cut off when one Fantomex duplicate managed to avoid his speed attack and clothesline him. This caused Quicksilver to fall to the ground and tumble towards one of the box shaped structures surrounding the central area.
“Figures…” groaned the Scarlet Witch, “A little help?”
“I’ve got him, Wanda,” assured Cyclops, who was standing nearby, “We’ll keep an eye on your brother. Just do what he says and up with the hexing.”
The X-leader directed a few of his optic blasts towards Quicksilver’s area. He downed three Fantomex duplicates before they reached the speedy mutant, turning them into spatters of techno-organic goo.
While Cyclops kept an eye on Quicksilver, Psylocke and Gambit had to pick up the slack as ten Fantomex duplicates tried to overwhelm them. Some hadn’t been hexed so they were harder to hit. Gambit unleashed a barrage of charged cards while Psylocke used her psionic blades deliver killing blows to the head.
“These blokes are hard to hit,” commented Psylocke, “They’ll be even harder if we have to keep babysitting quick-draw over there.”
“Hey! I can still hear, you know?” barked Quicksilver as he returned to his feet.
“This time we be needing quantity over quality,” said Gambit, ignoring the speedster’s outburst.
“It would be a lot easier if it looked like there was an end in sight,” she retorted.
“If there isn’t, there will be,” said the X-leader, directing some of his shots back on some incoming duplicates.
“And how can you be so sure?” questioned Quicksilver.
“Because we’re not going to stop!”
Cyclops’s confidence was hard to share when there appeared to be more Fantomex duplicates pouring out every second. Their numbers actually seemed to be increasing. As a result, they stepped up their firepower on all fronts.
In addition to the Scarlet Witch’s hexing powers, Storm used her powers to soften up the incoming hordes of Fantomex duplicates. Their techno-organic blood didn’t react very well with lightning. With so many conductive materials in this dome, it was easy to form. Storm hovered a good fifty feet above the ground, guiding streams of swirling winds around her. These streams were so powerful they blew away duplicates that tried to jump down from the ceiling towards her. They were met with punishing blasts of lightning, causing significant burns. Those that made it to the ground were met by Colossus, who ripped through the Fantomex army apart without mercy.
“Be careful with the lightning, but not too careful!” he called out as he crushed the heads of two Fantomex dupes together, “They are not the only ones that conducts electricity.”
“I’ll do my best to keep it away from you, Peter. I can’t promise you’ll remain unscathed,” replied Storm, her eyes glowing bright white as she concentrated harder.
“I can take it. These monstrosities cannot.”
The Russian mutant demonstrated the kind of ruthless efficiency that could only be learned in the darkest corners of the Russian Mafia. Colossus was brutal, striking Fantomex’s forces with pure strength. They tried to overwhelm him with agility and coordinated assaults. Colossus endured the blows, ignoring how they hit hard enough for him to feel the impact through his metal flesh. He responded with focused rage, striking some of the duplicates so hard that their heads flew off. He even grabbed two Fantomex minions by the neck and used them as rams to crush several others against a box-shaped structure. It caused bone to break and techno-organic blood to splatter everywhere.
Such brutal tactics didn’t go unnoticed. Shadowcat was fighting alongside Iceman and Captain Freeman not far from Colossus. She watched anxiously as the young Russian unleashed the kind of fury she only saw from Wolverine. But unlike Wolverine, Colossus’ rage was a cold, focused attack. It was actually more distressing in some ways.
“Peter…what has gotten into you?” she wondered as two Fantomex duplicates phased through her in a failed attack.
“Quick gawking at your boyfriend, Shadowcat! Don’t make me point out the irony in me having to say that,” said Iceman, who was still focused on finding Jubilee.
“Will you kids quit it with the 90210 crap. We’ve got a mission here!” exclaimed Captain Freeman.
“90210? Have you watched any TV in the past 10 years?” quipped Iceman.
“Have you ever taken a mission seriously when your girlfriend wasn’t involved?”
Captain Freeman kept trying to fight through the waves of Fantomex duplicates. He adapted his body to be extra resilient like Colossus, allowing him to take a constant stream of punishment. These duplicates sensed he wanted to fight his way to the original as well. They made sure they got in his way, trying to knock him off his feet and pin him to the ground.
The Green Beret’s combat training kicked into full gear, using a series of take-down maneuvers. He turned their attacks against them, using his durable form to take an initial blow and grabbing the duplicate to snap his limb like a pretzel. At one point, he even used the mangled body as a weapon to knock away more duplicates.
Captain Freeman’s push towards the center drew enough attention that it allowed Iceman to remain relatively untouched. He used his ice blasts more effectively, freezing incoming duplicates in a block of ice before they could even reach them. This stopped many, but some were strong enough to break the ice and attack him. Shadowcat stepped in to cover him, using some take-down maneuvers of her own to knock them away. When they tried to counter she phased right through them, causing a few Fantomex duplicates to strike each other in the process.
“Are they trying to kill us? Or just stall us?” wondered Shadowcat as three more phased right through her.
“Go ahead and test that theory for all I care. I’ve got my own theory,” grunted Captain Freeman as he tried to bull-rush six new Fantomex minions.
“It doesn’t feel right.” she said strongly, “He said something about finishing one mission before another. Are we actually helping him by fighting like this?”
While Fantomex ignored these concerns, Iceman took them more seriously. Fantomex had endless duplicates to throw at them. Iceman didn’t expect much progress with their current tactics. They were relying too much on Wolverine and X-23 taking down the original or for Professor Xavier to come through on something. With Jubilee’s safety still his concern, he looked over towards the central area and formulated a new plan.
“You’re right. And before you get too shocked, grab on and keep phasing. I have idea,” said Iceman.
“Ooh boy, these are always so much fun,” she groaned.
Against her better judgment, Shadowcat listened to her ex-lover. She grabbed onto his icy shoulder and started phasing, causing six charging Fantomex duplicates to run right into each other as they attacked. Once clear from further attacks, Iceman formed an ice slide that carried him up over the attacking duplicates and towards the center. When Captain Freeman saw this, he narrowly avoided an attack from two Fantomex duplicates and used a nearby box-shaped structure to jump up onto the ice slide.
“Stop! Just where the hell are you going?” he demanded.
“Hey! Who invited you?” said Iceman, who was thrown off balance by the Green Beret’s presence.
“If you’re heading towards the heart of this dump, I’m coming with you!” stated the mutant soldier, “Now do you have a plan or not?”
“If you stop shifting your weight around, I’ll tell you,” grunted the young mutant as he tried to keep his balance, “Fantomex says he’s on a mission. He won’t shut up about it. So if we’re going to stop him, we have to attack the mission and not him.”
“Does attacking the mission involve rescuing your girlfriend?” surmised Shadowcat.
“He wouldn’t have taken her if he didn’t need her,” he said, “Now keep phasing so Storm’s lighting doesn’t hit us. And if Cyclops can hear me, he should be shooting our way for cover right about now.”
Down below, Cyclops did pick up on Iceman’s new plan. It was a much needed plan for a battle that wasn’t going anywhere. Even though Iceman wasn’t known for strategy, he was highly motivated because of Jubilee and that was reason enough to try it.
“I heard you loud and clear, Iceman. Go save your girlfriend!” said the X-leader.
Cyclops offered his support in the form of optic blasts. Once again, Gambit and Psylocke had to take on the fresh wave of Fantomex attacks while he took aim with his visor. He fired a series of wide-arced shots upwards to knock away several Fantomex duplicates as they tried to jump up and grab Iceman, Shadowcat, and Captain Freeman. They were also aided by Storm, who used her lightning attacks to disrupt others trying to get in their way. Some got pretty close. Storm managed to hit them with an extra powerful strike, one that was so intense that Shadowcat had to phase them through it.
“Whoa! Way to crank up the voltage, Storm,” encouraged Shadowcat.
“I’ll keep them from following you. Hurry and do what you need to do!” said Storm, forming a full-fledged tornado to further hinder Fantomex’s army.
Thanks to this tactic, Iceman made it to the central area. He arrived just in front of Jubilee, who was still wrapped in wire-like restraints. It was hard to tell if she was conscious or not. However, their presence this close to the core did not go unnoticed. Four new Fantomex duplicates descended from a nearby wall and landed right behind them.
“Complete the mission. Destroy the intruders,” they said in perfect unison.
“Is that all these things can say?” said Captain Freeman as he took a defensive stance.
“Give them an English lesson later. First, kick their asses so Shadowcat can free Jubilee!” said Iceman.
“You’re commanding your ex to free your future ex. This is bittersweet,” she commented.
“Kitty!” exclaimed Iceman.
“Settle down! I didn’t say I wouldn’t do it.”
“You kids are getting on my nerves almost as much as these guys,” grunted Captain Freeman.
The Green Beret took his frustrations out on the Fantomex duplicates. He rushed all four of them, adapting his body so he was extra dense. They tried to assault him from all directions. His durable form took the punishment, but left their share of bruises. He endured the pain, grabbing two of the Fantomex duplicates by the arms and throwing them back towards Storm’s tornadoes. The remaining two were more tactful, showing some strength by luring him into an attack and evading it. They countered and delivered some head shots to the mutant soldier. It disoriented him, but did little to slow him down.
While Captain Freeman wrestled with the Fantomex duplicates, Shadowcat worked on freeing Jubilee. She was extra careful, making sure she didn’t trigger any surprises Fantomex may have had in store for them.
“Nice and slowly, Shadowcat,” said Iceman, “I know you’re tempted to make me squirm here…”
“Relax Bobby, I’ll get her out,” assured Shadowcat, “Although you’ll still have to have a long unpleasant talk with her after this is over.”
“I’ll take that chance.”
Shadowcat carefully grasped Jubilee’s bare face while Iceman formed a thin layer of ice over the tube containing the material that was poised to be injected into her. Once the system was frozen, Shadowcat pulled Jubilee out. It was a little hard to concentrate. Captain Freeman’s battle with the two remaining Fantomex duplicates was getting uncomfortably close. Shadowcat still managed to free her. Once Jubilee was out of the restraints, Iceman took her in his arms.
“Hnn…” she groaned as soon as she was free.
“Hey Jubes…” said Iceman, smiling as she opened her eyes.
“Bobby? Boy, you’re a sight for sore eyes,” said Jubilee in confusion, “What’s going on? Actually, I don’t think I want to know. Where’s Tessa?”
“Over here, Jubilee!” said a familiar voice.
Iceman, Shadowcat, and Jubilee looked to their right. They saw that Tessa was bound as well and in a much more elaborate manner than Jubilee. She was stuck at the very heart of this structure, as if she were Fantomex’s prized prisoner.
“Tessa! What the hell are you hooked up to?” exclaimed Jubilee.
“Never mind that. Just get me out of this,” she urged.
“Be there in a sec,” said Shadowcat as she turned to her left for a moment, “Hey Captain, think you can hold them off a bit longer?”
Captain Freeman was stuck in a grapple between the two Fantomex duplicates. It looked like they were trying to choke the life out of him and he couldn’t break free.
“What does it look like?” grunted the mutant soldier.
“Yeesh, and I thought Wolverine anti-social,” commented Iceman.
Not giving Captain Freeman more reasons to yell at them, Iceman led Shadowcat and Jubilee towards Tessa. It seemed to be working. By freeing Fantomex’s hostages, they would disrupt his mission.
Such disruptions were not lost on the original Fantomex. But this time he wasn’t inclined to do anything about it. He was too caught up trying to complete his first mission to kill Wolverine and X-23. This proved more difficult than the first time. By themselves, he had the upper hand. Together though, he was at a disadvantage.
“No! The World must not be stopped,” shouted Fantomex, who took his eyes off Wolverine and X-23 for a split second.
“Your world is about to come crashing down, bub,” snarled Wolverine, moving in and stabbing Fantomex right in the upper thigh.
“In more ways than one,” added X-23.
The fight was turning against Fantomex. He started it with plenty of firepower. Fantomex used his two guns to fire carefully aimed shots at Wolverine and X-23. They made it a bit more difficult for him this time, using their arms to guard their faces so he didn’t hit anything vital. They took several rounds in the arms and torso, but it didn’t cause enough trauma to knock them down.
They then coordinated nicely and slashed at his arm, forcing him on the evasive. He was able to dodge Wolverine’s initial attack, but not X-23’s. She came in and used the claws in her feet to disarm the gun in his left hand. In being stunned for a split second, Wolverine disarmed the right by slicing his hand off. It hurt, but the mission would not allow Fantomex to slow down.
He went on the evasive, using his agility to dodge the next round of attacks. Wolverine and X-23 hit nothing but air for a while, allowing Fantomex to land a few blows of his own. At one point and used Jubilee’s powers to hit them with energy blasts to the face. This stunned and seriously burned X-23, but not Wolverine. He lunged in and slashed him right across the chest. Fantomex tried to counter with raw strength, grabbing Wolverine’s arms on the next slash and kneeing him hard to the gut so that he coughed up blood. This dazed the feral mutant for a moment, allowing Fantomex to twist his arms into submission. It may have worked had X-23 not pounced right behind him and driven both claws into his neck.
From here it was a stalemate. Fantomex fought on, his techno-organic blood helping him heal from the wounds inflicted by Wolverine and X-23. However, their strategy to drain him did have an effect. The more techno-organic blood he lost, the slower he healed. Now faced with the prospect of losing his creator, he had to take more drastic measures.
“I…cannot…fail,” grunted Fantomex as he countered Wolverine’s attack with a punishing haymaker, “I am more advanced. You are…inferior,”
“Ain’t no topping the classics,” grinned Wolverine, wiping some of the blood off his face.
“Or the spin-offs,” snarled X-23, who countered by slashing right across Fantomex’s throat.
“Ack!” he choked, more techno-organic blood splattering onto the floor, “You should have…stayed dead.”
“I was tempted. Believe me,” said X-23, throwing in another slash to the gut.
“Do yourself a favor, bub. Forget whatever missions they programmed into you,” added Wolverine, “But if you insist on being such a prick about it…”
“Do you really believe I would compromise my mission?” said Fantomex, grinning despite being impaled with two sets of claws, “You failed experiments never stood a chance. I was holding back. But if you and your friends insist on obstructing my mission, I will no longer show such mercy.”
“You’re bluffing,” said X-23.
Fantomex kept grinning. His eyes suddenly flashed like a computer processing new data. As they flashed, his army of Fantomex duplicates shifted their tactics.
“New mission prerogative received. Shift from containment to termination.”
“What the hell does that mean?” wondered Captain Freeman.
All around the dome, the Fantomex army became faster and deadlier. Whereas the X-men and the Maximoff twins had been able to hold them off, they duplicates stepped up their efforts.
It started with Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. Two of the Fantomex duplicates coordinated and got directly in the speedster’s path. This time they were more forceful. They tripped him up as he ran by, causing him to tumble again. This time there was another Fantomex duplicate waiting for him, grabbing him as he flew through the air and throwing him towards Blink and the Scarlet Witch.
“WHOA-WATCH OUT, WANDA!” he exclaimed.
“Pietr-UNGH!” was all the Scarlet Witch got out.
The speedy mutant crashed right into his sister, knocking her back along with Blink. It left Quicksilver with broken bones in his legs, Wanda with multiple rib fractures, and Blink was a severe concussion. This also stopped the hex attack that had been so effective at weakening endless hoards, causing the others to struggle as well.
Cyclops, Gambit, and Psylocke were suddenly met with a new kind of firepower. Ten Fantomex duplicates surrounded them and unleashed a wave of energy blasts that resembled Jubilee’s. This forced them to abandon their line and they had to scramble to avoid the impact.
“Whoa! That be a new trick,” grunted Gambit, who got singed by a few blasts.
“No…they were just saving it,” grunted Cyclops.
“And it bloody hurts!” groaned Psylocke, who got a particularly nasty burn on her arms.
Now finding themselves surrounded, the three X-men turned to Storm and Colossus for backup. However, they soon found themselves overwhelmed too.
To this point Colossus had used raw strength to plow through the hordes of Fantomex duplicates. Then suddenly, they all backed off for a moment. Confused, the Russian mutant prepared for his next attack. However, the Fantomex duplicates struck first. Moving as one, they charged him full speed and rammed him from every angle. Even in his metal form the blow hurt.
“Ungh! Actually…felt that,” he grunted, his internal organs rattling in a way that made him very disoriented.
“Hold on, Colossus. I will assist you,” said Storm, still hovering above.
She never got the chance. Two Fantomex duplicates jumped up atop one of the box-shaped structures. They then armed themselves with Bishop’s energy powers and fired a concentrated burst at her. It struck her point blank, disrupting her concentration and sending her tumbling through the air.
“Ahhhhhhhhh!” she cried out.
“Storm!” exclaimed Colossus.
She fell to the ground not far from where Cyclops, Psylocke, and Gambit were being overwhelmed. More bones broke and large bruises formed. The battle quickly turned against them. It seemed Fantomex had just been toying with them the whole time.
This was a bad sign for Captain Freeman, still caught up fighting two Fantomex duplicates. He looked over towards Iceman, Jubilee, and Shadowcat. They had been trying to free Tessa. Then six fresh Fantomex duplicates descended towards to the ground and surrounded them, grabbing them from behind and pinning them to the floor.
“Damn it! Not again,” groaned Jubilee, once again restrained against her will.
“Hold on! I can phase us,” said Shadowcat.
“Wait!” urged Tessa, but it was too late.
One of the Fantomex soldiers sensed her doing this and slammed her head right into the floor, leaving what was sure to be a moderate concussion. When Iceman saw this it became clear they were in big trouble.
“I hate it when you’re right, Kitty,” groaned Iceman, feeling himself forced to the ground as well.
“I’m starting to hate it too,” said Captain Freeman.
The mutant soldier tried to fight off the two duplicates holding him back. He ended up suffering three major haymakers to the head, which knocked him on his back. He tried to get up, but the two Fantomex duplicates kicked him in the gut to keep him on the ground.
For Wolverine and X-23, it added new urgency to their battle. Fantomex had played them. They still had their claws buried in his weaponized flesh, but it bothered him about as much as a bad itch. Seeing his eyes glow even more, they twisted their claws and tried to do more damage.
“What the hell kind of mission is this?” roared X-23.
“One that’s working in my favor,” said Fantomex snidely.
“You better call them off or I’ll cut your ass into a million separate pieces!” grunted Wolverine.
“A threat from a failed weapon is like a threat from a dead dog. It means nothing to me. I am more advanced than you can ever hope to be. I am the only one fit to complete the World. No matter what you do to stop me, you’ll fail! You’ll always fail because I…”
Without warning, Fantomex abruptly stopped. It left Wolverine and X-23 confused. Something didn’t smell right. Then to their surprise the imposing figure’s expression shifted completely. His eyes flashed again, only this time it looked as though they were short-circuiting.
“What’s happening? Did all that crap he was saying cause him to overload?” asked X-23.
“No…this is something else,” said Wolverine.
He immediately pulled his claws out of Fantomex’s body. X-23 followed suit. They backed away and watched as Fantomex endured a series of strange seizures. All the circuit-like veins on his body started bursting and his techno-organic blood gushed out from every wound. In a cry that echoed throughout the entire dome, Fantomex clutched his head in agony.
“No…EVA…shutting down. Data…becoming corrupt. It’s…crashing. Everything is crashing! It…AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”
“There! Ah did it,” proclaimed Rogue triumphantly.
“What exactly did you do?” asked Isaac curiously.
“Ah ain’t entirely sure. Six firewalls, two dead ends, and some fancy signal tracker bouncing off a military satellite was what Ah had to get through just to enter some special code.”
“A code for what? I assume these heathens were using this to do the devil’s work!”
“That might not be too far from the truth. But whatever these fellas were running from this joint is officially shut down!”
Isaac had been hovering over the computer for the last several minutes, watching Rogue navigate endless streams of computer code. He finished freeing the abducted mutants and many were eager to leave this place. However, Rogue wouldn’t leave until she finished shutting down this operation completely. The screen now read “termination protocols activated.” It was not clear what that meant. But if it further thwarted Graydon Creed and William Stryker’s activities, then it was definitely for the better.
“Don’t know what this Fantomex fella was all about, but he had a hell of an off-switch. Looks like Creed and his boys were controlling him from here. Doesn’t look like they were controlling him very well.”
“Sounds like their pride got the better of them,” said Isaac.
“You might be right. Arcade was trying to send out some signal to fix it. That signal going to him was pretty dang encrypted. Something that requires a 512 bit alpha-numeric encryption sequence better be fixing something big,” she commented as she got up from the array.
“What does that mean?” he asked.
“Beats meh. Ah’m just going on the memories Ah picked up from Arcade. Ah barely understand half the techno-geek thoughts Ah absorbed,” she shrugged, “Maybe we should ask him for details. Ah’ll bet he…”
It was at that moment that Rogue realized Arcade was nowhere to be seen. She looked behind her to see that the wiry young man she knocked out was no longer there.
“The hell? He’s gone!” she exclaimed.
“He must have slipped away while we were distracted,” groaned Isaac, “Please accept my sincerest apologies, Miss Rogue.”
“Don’t crucify yourself, sugah. We’ll just have to find our answers another way.”
Arade guy may have had answers they needed. She still had a lot of hacker jargon coursing through her mind. It was difficult to make sense of and there were still plenty of issues that needed to be resolved. But looking back towards the freed mutants and the dazed figure of Graydon Creed, they had enough to work with.
“We still got our share of consolation prizes,” said Rogue, “We can send Creed here back to jail where he belongs. We can also get these mutants home safe and sound.”
“There will still be plenty of wounds to heal, physical and spiritual,” mused Isaac, “It appears I have my work cut out for me.”
“That makes two of us,” she said with a smile, “We can’t win every battle, but Ah have a feeling we won the biggest. Ah’m sure that shuttin’ down Fantomex will solve lot of problems.”
Genosha – The World
“My mission…I have failed.”
Fantomex had completely lost control. His mission, the World, and EVA were shutting down. The techno-organic material that made up his blood was losing its potency, rendering him unstable and weak.
This sudden shift was felt by the X-men, Captain, Freeman, and the Maximoff twins as well. As soon as Fantomex started failing, his army of duplicates followed suit. While he withed in agony, each duplicate dissolved into a puddle of silvery goo. It was an inglorious yet distressing way for his mission to fail.
“Uh…this is a good thing, right?” said Quicksilver, holding his side as he helped his sister back to his feet.
“I would assume so,” she said, rubbing her head and helping Blink to her feet.
While the Maximoff twins were recovering, they were joined by the X-men. Cyclops, Psylocke, Gambit, Storm, and Colossus stammered towards their position, watching as the Fantomex duplicates continued to dissolve.
“Somehow, I doubt this is part of his mission,” said Psylocke.
“Was this something we did?” wondered Storm.
“It isn’t. Other forces are definitely involved,” said Cyclops suspiciously.
“Whatever they be, Remy will take it,” said Gambit.
In addition to the destruction of the duplicates, the vast and complex machinery that was forged from techno-organic and alien technology was shutting down. The lights, circuits, and computers flickered before failing completely. Some shot out sparks, rendering them inoperable. With plenty of wounds to mend, the X-men and the Maximoff twins were more than happy to see this madness come to an end.
The destruction also freed Iceman, Jubilee, and Shadowcat. They were just as confused as the others. Iceman and Jubilee helped a concussed Shadowcat back to her feet. In the process the wires that kept Sage bound slackened and she was freed.
“Hnn…this better not be from the concussion,” groaned Shadowcat.
“Your head can throb in peace, Kitty,” assured Iceman with a touch of humor, “Fantomex and his toys are shutting down.”
“But why?” wondered Jubilee, “What did we do?”
“We didn’t do anything,” said Sage as she stammered down from her restraints, “Someone must have triggered the failsafe I coded into the techno-organic material. It’s shutting down EVA and the entire AI matrix.”
“How? I didn’t see an off switch anywhere,” said Iceman.
“It’s there. Someone else just found it before we did,” mused Sage as she looked around at her failing creation, “This should have been done a long time ago.”
Sage was deeply relieved in more ways than her computer-like mind could articulate. Fantomex and the World were a part of her life she spent years trying to forget. Now it was over. The weight on her shoulders was finally lifted. However, plenty of damage had been done and plenty of lingering issues had to be resolved.
Captain Freeman, who had been pinned by Fantomex’s duplicates, rose up and stepped over the puddles of goo. He was not concerned about what just happened. His focus was on Fantomex, who was now on his knees in a weakened state. He rushed over to join Wolverine and X-23, who were cautiously standing over Fantomex.
“Don’t even think about finishing him off, you two,” said Captain Freeman to Wolverine and X-23, “I’m under orders to take Fantomex in. I don’t care if he did get sick on the job. He’s got a lot to answer for.”
“Do those answers involve dissecting him?” scored Wolverine, getting in the mutant soldier’s way before he could get to Fantomex, “You bring him back to your pals in the military and the cycle starts all over again.”
“That’s not for you to say,” said the Green Beret firmly, “Besides, what would you do? Kill him?”
“He was turned into a weapon just like me,” shouted X-23 angrily, “You bring him back to the monsters behind this and they’ll only create more monsters like us.”
“You’re making this personal. I’m sorry, but I can’t have that,” Captain Freeman argued, “I have my own mission. I need to finish this.”
Another fight looked ready to begin. Then the rest of the X-men arrived along with the Maximoff twins. Sage approached with Iceman, Shadowcat, and Jubilee as well. Everyone was suspicious of what just happened and the feud with Captain Freeman wasn’t helping.
“All of you, quiet! This isn’t over yet,” said Cyclops.
“He’s right. It isn’t,” said Sage, her gaze falling upon Fantomex, “This man is a victim, just like his predecessors in Weapon X.”
“That’s some victim,” said Quicksilver dryly, “Do I need to list the number of crimes this man committed against Genosha?”
“His crimes are nowhere near what they could have been,” said Sage as she knelt over the beleaguered figure, “If anyone is guilty, it’s me. I’m the one who must take responsibility.”
The X-men, the Maximoff twins, and Captain Freeman looked at Sage strangely. She should’ve wanted to do a way with Fantomex more than anyone. Yet here she was, consoling this man who had caused them so much pain. When she took him in her arms, Fantomex finally looked up. The gaze on his face was very different now. It actually looked human.
The man behind the techno-organic menace was in a conflicted state. He had been aware of everything he did. Every thought, memory, and action was etched into his mind as if it were his own. Now that he had control of himself, he could finally make sense of it all.
“It’s okay now, Fantomex. It’s over,” she told him softly.
“My name…is Jean-Phillipe,” he said in an accented voice that bore no trace of the robotic tone from earlier, “It…it hurts. Everything…hurts.”
“It’ll stop hurting soon. I promise,” she said to him, “The people who did this to you…”
“Weapon…Plus,” he seethed.
In an unexpected move, Jean-Phillipe shot up to his feet. Everyone around him stepped back defensively. Sage waved them down, trying to stay close to this disturbed man. He had a trace of the madness instilled in him by his creators.
“Don’t push it, bub. I know that look. You don’t wanna give into it,” said Wolverine.
“It’s too late,” he said through labored breaths, “What they did…it can’t be undone. Those men…they used me. They turned me into this…this freak.”
“I know the feeling. You’re letting it get to you,” said X-23 apprehensively, “You don’t want to do that. Trust me.”
“I know what I want. I know what I must do. EVA is fading, but she has one last mission for me.”
Despite his weakened state, Fantomex’s eyes flickered one last time. With EVA’s last gasp, he felt re-energized. With this new energy, he ran at speed that even Quicksilver couldn’t follow. He then shoved past Sage, Cyclops, Storm, and the Scarlet Witch to reach Blink. She had been only a minor participant in this conflict. Now she would be the end of it.
“Hey! What are you…” she began.
“Blink!” the Scarlet Witch cried out.
In the span of a few seconds, Fantomex grabbed Blink’s shoulder. From the top of his hands, the circuit-like veins on his body latched onto the veins in her neck and drew a small sample of blood. It wasn’t much, but it was just enough for him to complete his mission.
“Forgive me, Madam,” he told her, “I need your abilities for just a moment.”
Fantomex shoved the dazed Blink back to the Scarlet Witch just as she and the X-men were getting ready to fight back. Before they could, Fantomex used Blink’s powers to form a teleportation portal. As he stepped inside, he turned back for a moment and offered one last gesture.
“Au revoir, my friends. You have your missions. I have mine.”
“Wait!” urged Sage as she tried to catch up to him.
It was no use. Jean-Phillipe stepped into the portal and disappeared. The moment he left, the rest of the World shut down. Darkness soon descended over the entire dome, signaling the end of this ill-fated mission.
It left many mixed emotions. Fantomex had been thwarted, but they wouldn’t get a chance to hold him accountable to his crimes. Captain Freeman was especially disappointed. He wouldn’t be able to bring this guy in like he wanted and save them a diplomatic nightmare. However, Wolverine and X-23 were probably the most conflicted. Facing another living weapon was like facing themselves, leaving left them with a lot to ponder.
“He’s gone,” said Colossus distantly.
“He’s more than gone, luv. I can’t even sense if he’s in the same time zone,” said Psylocke after doing a brief scan with her telepathy.
“That’s it? He runs and that’s the end of it?” wondered X-23.
“You were expecting a parade or something?” grumbled Captain Freeman, “This is one hell of a mess.”
“Speak for yourself. You’re not the one who has to clean it up,” said the Scarlet Witch, who was allowing Blink to lean on her for support.
“Cleaning up is merely superficial,” said Sage distantly, “So many were hurt. So much destruction was unleashed. And it was all because of my work. Because of me, people and mutants became mere tools.”
“Some tools,” said Wolverine, sharing some of Sage’s distress, “Don’t bother beating yourself up, darlin’. It wasn’t you who did this. You just provided the bullets. Weapon X loaded the gun and fired it.”
“What does that mean for us?” asked X-23 intently, “What does that mean for him?”
“I’ve been trying to figure that out for a long time, kid. I ain’t expecting to get any answers from this,” sighed Wolverine, “As for Fantomex, he knows what he’s doing. I figure once he ties up a few loose ends, we’ll see that ugly mug of his again.”
White House – South Wing
Colonel John Wraith was playing a dangerous game. He tricked the President of the United States and General Nathan Grimshaw, but not before he signed his immunity deal. Now he was being hunted for other crimes. There were so many people that hated him. They all had so many reasons to lock him up. None were good enough to stop him from continuing his work.
‘Those gullible fools. Do they really think I’m that stupid? They were never going to let that deal get me off the hook. They would have found a way to lock me up even if that fail safe worked. I must finish my work. They’ll find out sooner or later just how much they need me. Because if I don’t show them, fate certainly will.’
There were a lot of obstacles in his path. Continuing his work wouldn’t be easy. First and foremost, he had to escape. The White House was crawling with Secret Service agents. They blocked off most of the north and west wing so Wraith followed a less traveled area, weaving through dining halls and bedrooms. Once he was out in the open, he could make a few phone calls and slip away. He had done it before. He could do it again.
“Over here! I think he went this way,” he heard a few Secret Service agents call out.
Wraith slipped into a nearby dining room, which was empty at the moment. With two guns at his disposal, he waited impatiently until the agents passed. He was ready to shoot if they came this way. Luckily, they didn’t. They kept making their way down towards the other wing. It gave him the window he needed to escape.
“They still underestimate me,” Wraith said to himself, “When will they learn?”
He prepared to step back out into the hall. Then to his astonishment, a bright pinkish light appeared behind him. Colonel Wraith instinctively turned around and aimed his guns at the light. In doing so, an imposing figure struck his arms and knocked the weapons out of his hands. Then that same figure grabbed him by the neck and lifted him up off the floor.
“Ack!” he choked, “Who…”
“You know who, Jonathan Wraith,” said the accented tone of Jean-Phillipe, “You should have known this was coming.”
“Yes…that name is starting to have more meaning to me now. I have you to thank for that. I also have you to blame for making me another meat puppet in your arsenal.”
For the first time, Colonel Wraith showed genuine fear. Looking into the enraged eyes of Fantomex, he saw a man not unlike Wolverine. He was enraged, confused, and intent on taking his frustrations out on him. He was hardly the refined weapon he helped create. His body was badly scarred where the circuit-like veins were. His face was etched with similar wounds, but now they weren’t glowing. They were normal scars, reflecting the many that Weapon Plus had inflicted.
“You used me. Just like you use everybody,” seethed Jean-Phillipe, “You healed my body, but took my soul.”
“I…took nothing. You…sold it to me,” Wraith grunted.
“You’ll make any excuse to justify this madness. For a while I even shared that madness. I don’t need a computer in my blood to calculate how flawed that is. I don’t even need half a brain to know you won’t stop.”
“If not me…others will,” he grunted, “Others who are far worse.”
Fantomex stared down this choking man. Looking into his eyes, he saw a man who honestly believed that what he did was justified. There was no way around it. Even though EVA was fading fast, she helped him come to one final conclusion.
“In that case, this world will have a little less madness to deal with,” said Fantomex coldly, “Consider this your last mission, Colonel Wraith.”
With those final words, Fantomex used his enhanced strength to snap the neck of Colonel Wraith. The sickening sound of bone breaking signaled the end of an era. Within moments, Jonathan Wraith’s eyes rolled into the back of his head and his breathing ceased. Fantomex watched the life drain from him, keeping a firm grip on him until he was certain Wraith was dead. Once he sensed no more signs of life, he dropped this once decorated officer’s lifeless body to the floor.
It was a ghastly end for the man behind Weapon X and Weapon Plus. It was also fitting end, dying by the hands of his creations. Fantomex remained still for a moment, looking at the body and everything it symbolized. His mission was over. The purpose for which he was created no longer applied. Despite being confused and conflicted, a burden had been lifted. Now he could begin his own mission.
“Weapon X and Weapon Plus may not die with you, but it’s a start,” he said to the lifeless body, “You destroyed many souls, Colonel. May yours never be at peace.”
EVA was about to go out for good. With her last act, Fantomex manifested Blink’s power one last time. Turning away from Colonel Wraith, Jean-Phillipe disappeared into the unknown. With him, he took yet another piece of Weapon X’s grim legacy.
Next Issue: Fate and Uncertainty
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