Professor Charles Xavier and his X-men are part of an ongoing struggle. As mutants in world that hates and fears them, they fight for peace and understanding. They fight against numerous forces that threaten war between humans and mutants. Sometimes it comes from humans. Sometimes it comes from other mutants. And sometimes it even comes from those trying to resolve the conflict themselves.
In wake of growing uncertainty about the Mutant Security Administrations effectiveness, President Robert Kelly gave an audience to Colonel John Wraith. Having spent a lifetime developing living weapons, he thought he had the perfect the perfect weapon against mutants.
He turned a crippled European soldier into a killing machine by using exotic techno-organic material that was developed by Sage. This solider became known as Fantomex, but like his predecessors he went rogue. He tried to carry out a mission that would have rendered humans and mutants slaves to a cold logical computer program. He was thwarted, but not before a price was paid.
Colonel Wraith was killed at the hands of his creation. Genosha is in tenuous state. There are many issues, personal and logistical, that need to be resolved. And it starts and ends with the deep scars left by Weapon X.
White House – South Wing
“Colonel Jonathan Wraith built his career on living weapons,” mused General Nathan Grimshaw, “He caused so much pain and ruined so many lives, but when the time comes to hold him accountable…he dies.”
“I’m not sure if you’re disappointed or relieved, General,” said President Robert Kelly.
“I’m guilty of both, sir. Although personally, I’m a lot more disappointed.”
It was not every day that crime scene investigators arrived at the White House to document a murder. The local authorities joined with the FBI, the CIA, the Defense Department, and Secret Service to investigate the death of Colonel John Wraith. It came as a surprise to many, even President Kelly. Colonel Wraith had escaped justice many times before. He tried to do so again after failing to activate a failsafe on Fantomex. But this time he failed. When he tried to escape, the President put the White House on lockdown. It lasted only 30 minutes, ending after the Secret Service found his dead body.
Colonel Wraith’s devious endeavors were over. A number of Secret Service agents and soldiers from the Pentagon cordoned off the room while a team of investigators documented the scene. Wraith’s body was covered in a white sheet, but his mangled neck could still be seen. Whoever killed him had done so with their bare hands. It was an inglorious yet fitting end. Even in death, John Wraith left quite a mess.
“I won’t say this is a tragedy, but it sure does complicate things,” said President Kelly, “Wraith’s work on living weapons is highly classified. We can’t put out a report that he died because he was involved with some secret (not to mention illegal) program.”
“I hope that means you won’t give him a full military burial, complete with flowers and a twenty gun salute,” said General Grimshaw.
“Hell no! But we can’t just dump his body in the Potomac. We’ll have to fudge the details a bit. Make it sound like a long-festering illness finally caught up with him.”
“That’s not entirely false, Mr. President,” said the General.
“Half-truths to be far more tenable than outright lies. Although in this instance, I don’t think it makes a difference. The damage has been done.”
President Kelly bowed his head and turned away from the body. He couldn’t stand to look at it anymore. He couldn’t even watch as the EMT’s placed Wraith in a body bag so that he could be shipped off to the nearest morgue. Instead, he turned his attention to a nearby window. As President of the United States, there weren’t enough half-truths to make this incident more bearable.
“Mr. President, if I may…” began General Grimshaw.
“I’d rather you not, General. I’ve got enough on my mind,” sighed President Kelly, “Captain Freeman sent a report from Genosha ten minutes ago. All it said was the X-men and the Maximoff Twins were able to stop Fantomex. They didn’t kill him or bring him in. They just stopped him.”
“Isn’t that a good thing?”
“It should be. Who knows what kind of horrors he would have unleashed? But it doesn’t just relate to Fantomex. The MSA in District X also informed me that Wraith was working with Graydon Creed, who was supposed to be in federal prison. Hell, Wraith probably helped him escape!”
“At least we’ll have someone alive that we can hold responsible,” made Grimshaw.
“Even so, it adds a darker taint to something that was tainted to begin with. Between Weapon Plus and Graydon Creed’s involvement, Wanda Maximoff has a long list of reasons to be upset with us. And this time, we’re the ones who brought danger to them. Not the other way around.”
“Considering the stunts Magneto has pulled, I wouldn’t say we’re even just yet,” the General pointed out.
“People have a short memory, General. Circumstances are always changing. Genosha is a vital ally. It still has the technology the rest of the world has come to depend on. Now every mutant on that island has more reason to re-think that deal.”
“I doubt they’ll abandon it. This is a case of stepping in a pile of political cow-pies. It will require we show some humility, but in my experience shit is easier to clean than blood.”
“It’s not humility that concerns me. I’m willing to apologize for giving men like Wraith a forum for his sadistic vision,” said President Kelly distantly as he gazed over the Washington DC cityscape, “The part of this that will keep me up at night is why I allowed it to happen.”
“It wasn’t just you, Mr. President,” the General pointed out, “You were as upset as I was after the prison break at Fort Leavenworth. We were so upset that we questioned our ability. So like lazy Americans, we looked for a quick fix.”
“Don’t try to dilute the blame, General. The buck still stops with me. I still gave a chance to a man who should have been court marshaled decades ago. What’s that say about me? What does that say about the precedent I’m setting? I wanted to confront this threat before it blew up in our faces. Now it just seems adding more fuel to the fire.”
General Grimshaw was silent. President Kelly had always distinguished himself as a politician by speaking more truth than his colleagues. This was one of those cases where the truth was harsher than any lie. But he as a general was as guilty as everyone else. He was so upset with the X-men and his inability to carry out his duties for the MSA that he actually gave credence to Weapon Plus. He sought an easy solution when he should have been working harder on the current solution.
This rare taste of humility was bittersweet, but it had the right impact on both men. They were in positions of great influence. The decisions they made had great impact. It wasn’t as easy as expecting the sheer weight of their authority to get the job done. Everything they did had consequences and at this level, those consequences could be severe.
“So how do we move forward, Mr. President?” asked General Grimshaw, breaking the silence.
“That’s a question that doesn’t have a clear answer, General,” said President Kelly, “We have to mend things with Genosha, clean up in District X, and reclaim confidence within the MSA. We have to work a little bit harder to show we don’t need something like Weapon Plus to solve our problems.”
“Sounds like a tough sell. And this from someone who’s always up for a challenge.”
“We’ll have to rise to the occasion. This is one of those incidents that cast doubt along with a new perspective. For once, it wasn’t some mutant zealot like Magneto who brought this on. It was entirely on our shoulders.”
“You think maybe humanity might be as big a problem as mutants in the grand scheme of things?”
“I wouldn’t go quite that far, but we should always be open to the possibility,” the President sighed, “History is never on the side of the aggressors. Fate tends to draw us down the easier path. But nine times out of ten, the harder path tends to be the right one.”
Genosha – Later
When someone saw their life’s work destroyed, it was often agonizing. Sage dedicated untold hours of her life and a good chunk of her soul towards developing techno-organic material. It was from a time in her life when she thought with cold logic. It was not all that different from the twisted logic Fantomex followed in carrying out his mission. Now in the shadow of the massive dome that once made up the World, Sage watched as all that work was destroyed. Yet she couldn’t be more relieved.
‘It’s finally over. All those years I spent developing this monstrosity…and now it’s deleted like a corrupt computer file. EVA is gone. Fantomex is gone. I can hate myself a little less now. So why am I keeping my emotions turned off?’
Sage didn’t allow herself to be as relieved as everyone else. Fantomex was defeated. The World was offline. Even though Fantomex escaped, he was no longer operating by the whims of Weapon Plus or EVA. It allowed the X-men and the Maximoff twins to breathe a sigh of relief. Upon stepping out of the darkened dome, Wanda ordered that the whole area be secured while a team of acolytes came in to clean it up. Alex arrived along with Lance, Blob, Quentin, Pyro, Mercury, and Lorna. They led a larger team of mutant workers to deconstruct the dome and get the Warlock factories going again.
The X-men offered help, but the Maximoff twins labeled this as Genosha’s business. Wanda told them they would have to leave as soon as Professor Xavier arrived with suitable transportation. Nobody seemed intent on staying for very long. Sage was alone in her desire to linger. She remained distant even as the others retreated from the dome. Her attention was only diverted upon hearing a familiar voice.
“There you are, my love! Why are you lingering in the shadow of this monstrosity?” said the urgent voice of Hank McCoy.
Sage was caught by surprised, a rare feeling for a telepath. As soon as she turned around, two powerful arms embraced her. She was ill-prepared for her lover’s affections, but none-the-less relieved.
“Hank…I didn’t realize you had arrived,” she said awkwardly.
“Charles and I landed on the Velocity ten minutes ago,” he said breathlessly, “When I didn’t see you with the others, I grew quite worried.”
“I’m sorry if I made a terrible situation even worse.”
“You can apologize fully by explaining to me why you look so distraught.”
Sage shifted in his embrace and looked back towards the dome where her research took such a dark turn. She watched as Blob and Lorna ripped off sizable chunks of the structure and hauled them away as scrap. Her mixed emotions lingered so she kept them turned off. Yet under the gaze of this man, these feelings were impossible to avoid.
“I hid this part of my life from everybody,” said Sage, “Before I told you, I was content to lock it all away in memories. I took every measure I could to prevent it from coming back to haunt me.”
“I can’t say I blame you. I’ll also point out that suppressing the truth is tantamount to suppressing gravity. It’s a losing battle.”
“With a mind like mine, I should have known that. I foolishly believed my work was too advanced for anyone to exploit. Shaw never managed to succeed. Maybe he wasn’t trying hard enough. My research…I won’t say I had the best of intentions, but I never dreamed it could be so destructive.”
“It’s not your fault, Sage. It was another life, figuratively and quite literally as well,” Hank told her while embracing her a bit closer.
“No Hank. It wasn’t another life. It was still through me that my research went so very wrong.”
“You weren’t the one that created Fantomex.”
“Even if Fantomex isn’t my fault, he’s still my responsibility. I created the techno-organic material that made him possible. I can’t uncreate it. Nor can I prevent others from using it for their own sick ends.”
“It wouldn’t be the first time someone else’s work was used for malicious intent. The man who invented the ski-mask had no control how others used his creation,” Hank reminded her.
“That’s not funny, Hank.”
“It wasn’t a joke. I can see what you’re doing, my dear. You’re trying to cope by numbing your emotions. It may be the most logical recourse, but it isn’t the most necessary. You of all people should understand that.”
He spoke to the very heart of what went wrong with her earlier research. The emotionless shell she had been hiding behind started to crack. Turning back towards Hank McCoy, her lips quivered from the burning emotions aching to get out. He gently caressed her face with his powerful hands, smiling at her with the kind of love that defied all logic.
“Sage…Tessa…whatever name you go by, those emotions you feel are there for a reason. You may have the mind of a computer, but you also have the heart of a woman…one whom I’ve come to love a great deal,” said Hank tenderly.
“Hank don’t…” she began, her voice becoming more strained.
“No, my dear. I must,” he told her strongly, “I’m not capable of turning off my emotions. Even if I could, I wouldn’t want to right now. So if you need to let yourself feel, know that I’m here to feel it with you. I can’t make these emotions go away. But I’ll share your love as well as your sorrows, regardless of how illogical it may be.”
It was probably the smartest thing she ever heard Hank say. For all the love this man had for her, Sage was no longer able to keep her emotions turned off. As if she flipped a switch, her expression became awash with a vast range of emotions. It led her to bury her face into Hank’s furry shoulder. And with his arms still lovingly draped around her, Sage allowed herself to vent in a way she so sorely needed.
“I love you, Hank,” she said through her sobs.
“I love you too,” he said softly.
It was a powerful moment. Through this chaotic conflict and all the painful feelings they evoked, their relationship took on a whole new level. It was unfamiliar territory for both of them. No amount of reason could predict where it would go. And for once, that didn’t bother them.
Such a tender moment did not go unnoticed by the others. Bobby Drake watched with mixed feelings as Hank become closer to his lover. It wasn’t out of curiosity over his teacher’s personal life either. It actually made him think deeper about the relationship drama that always seemed to follow him. Ever since Lorna, he had gone from one heartache to another. This latest round with Jubilee wasn’t the worst he had experienced, but it was still pretty difficult. He kept pondering how Hank seemed to figure it out even as Jubilee approached.
“Wow…between a guy with blue fur and a woman with a computer for a brain, it’s like a Disney movie without the singing,” she commented, “You taking notes or something, Bobby? I’m not sure you’ve graduated to that level just yet.”
“Guess that makes two of us,” said Bobby flatly.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she said with a bemused look.
“I’m not much of a romantic. You’ve told me many times that you aren’t either. So why beat around the bush? Mr. McCoy and Miss Tessa over there have figured it out. They’re making it work way more than we have, that’s for sure.”
“You’re comparing them to us now? Come on, Bobby. That’s not fair and you know it.”
“You’re right. It isn’t. Hank came all this way to help rescue his girlfriend and even though he arrived late, they ended up in each other’s arms. Compare that to us. I come here to save you, we get caught up in this mess, and somehow the emotions aren’t overwhelming us.”
“You make it sound like rescuing me didn’t mean anything. Trust me, Bobby. It did,” said Jubilee strongly, “There’s still time for those emotions.”
She moved in closer, snaking her arms around Bobby’s waist and embracing him. She felt his demeanor shift. He turned away from Hank and Tessa so he could face her. There was still affection in his eyes, but there was something else as well. It was difficult to pin-point, leaving her feeling conflicted as well.
“I’m sorry, Jubilee. But I think this is as big a moment we’ll get,” he told her.
“What does that mean? Were you really not that concerned about me while I was strapped into Fantomex’s toys?”
“Of course I was worried. When I first heard you had been abducted, I was hysterical. Ask the others. They’ll back me up.”
“I did. Kitty told me everything…more so than I wanted,” said Jubilee, rolling her eyes somewhat, “So what’s different now?”
“I don’t think anything is different. I just think I’ve had time to let it sink in and that’s got me thinking.”
“My life was in danger and you’re thinking? Bobby, I refuse to admit you’re that dense,” said Jubilee, trying her best to understand.
“I’m not…well, not as much as everything thinks anyways,” he retorted, “This is a big deal for me. Normally when someone you love is in danger, thinking is at the very bottom of your list of priorities. But for me, I couldn’t help it. I thought about everything from how we got together to the whole Vertigo incident. This relationship we’ve had…it has been going in so many different directions. I don’t think either of us can keep up.”
“Who says we need to keep up? I thought from the get-go we were going to keep it simple,” said Jubilee, giving his face an affectionate touch.
“That’s part of the problem, Jubilee. Simple only goes so far. Simple doesn’t bring out the kind of emotions that Hank and Tessa are going through right now.”
“Bobby, I thought we established that comparing us to them isn’t fair. If you’re trying to make a point, just make it already. I want to know where you’re going with this.”
Bobby paused as he embraced Jubilee, gazing into her eyes with mixed emotions. She tried to caress his cheek again. This time Bobby stopped her, taking her hand and lowering it.
“If there one thing my history with women has taught me, it’s that I’m pretty slow when it comes to realizing stuff that’s painfully obvious. I usually don’t bring it up because I don’t want to be the bad guy. Being an X-man sort of turns me away from that sort of thing,” he said somewhat sheepishly, “Well this time, I have to be the bad guy. I have to be the jerk who says we can’t keep going on like this.”
“That’s what this is about. You’re breaking up with me?” said Jubilee, hurt by this sudden shift in emotions.
“I know you’re okay with how things are, Jubilee. It’s not your style, getting more worked up than you need to be. That’s okay to a point, but I think this whole Fantomex incident shows that this is not going anywhere. So I think it’s best for both of us if we end it right here. If nothing else, you won’t be able to hate me as much since I just helped rescue you. It should make the whole let’s-be-friends transition that much easier.”
Jubilee’s expression fell. This was certainly not the moment she expected to have with Bobby after everything they just went through. Hank and Tessa were closer while she and Bobby were falling apart. It was irony at its most cruel. She couldn’t stop herself from tearing up and pulling away. Even if she wanted their relationship to stay simple, it still meant something to her. Ending it like this really hurt.
Bobby was now in a hell of a position. This was a new and unpleasant feeling for him, being the one to instigate the break-up. He was at a loss, bracing himself for Jubilee to slap him or something. He certainly wouldn’t blame her. He waited for her response, watching as she hugged her shoulders and kept looking away. Then she turned back to face him and to his surprise, she smiled slightly.
“You’re more mature than people give you credit for, Bobby Drake,” she said, “Guess we both underestimated your need for something serious.”
“So…you’re not going to slap me or anything?” he said warily.
“If I were really upset, I would have shot off a few fireworks down your pants by now and you would be doing the most painful break-dance in history.”
“Is that a no?” said Bobby with an awkward grin.
“I’m still upset with you. Don’t think I’m not,” said Jubilee in a more serious tone, “But considering everything we’ve been through, I’d rather not be the bitter ex-girlfriend who makes it worse. That’s just not me.”
Bobby smiled warmly and so did Jubilee. The awkwardness quickly faded. He offered a friendly gesture, placing a hand on her shoulder. It wasn’t more emotional than it needed to be. Jubilee just accepted it and so did he.
“I only have one request before I lose my capacity to resent you,” she said to him.
“Name it,” said Bobby in good humor.
“Wait a bit before you hook up with someone like Amara. I think that would be easier on all of us.”
Bobby blushed. Some of the awkwardness from earlier quickly returned. It was still bearable compared to what it could have been. Seeing Jubilee smile and crack jokes assured him there wouldn’t be too much heartache to contend with this time. It may do him some good to be his casual self for a bit.
Normalcy seemed like an appealing solution for everyone. Back towards the Velocity, Professor Xavier met up with Wanda and Pietro. Jean was with him, joined by the rest of the X-men. There were still plenty of the bumps and bruises that came along with missions like this. Kitty was getting treatment for her concussion. Remy and Betsy were patching themselves up from some burns. Storm had some ice on her shoulder as a result of the fall she took earlier. But injuries aside, there were still a few details to work out with Genosha.
“Thank you for working with us, Wanda. I’m happy to hear that no one was seriously hurt,” said Professor Xavier.
“Ow! Speak for yourself,” groaned Kitty, whose head was still killing her.
“Sorry about that, Kitty. My hand and my mind slipped,” said Jean, who was treating her.
“So it would seem,” said Wanda, rolling her eyes, “I suppose we’re lucky. All Fantomex did was remodel one of our factories. It’s a good thing you shut him down when you did.”
“How did you manage that anyways?” asked Pietro, who was standing next to his sister.
“Actually…we didn’t,” Xavier replied, “Hank surmised there was some sort of failsafe built into Fantomex. He was working on it while we were on route to Genosha. Then at one point, someone or something triggered it for us.”
“Do you have any idea who?” asked Wanda.
“Not at the moment, but I will investigate this matter further.”
“Actually, I’d rather you not,” said Pietro, “For once, I want to enjoy not having to thank you more than I have to.”
The speedster’s attitude was still as coarse as ever towards the X-men. But this time Wanda didn’t scold him. She actually shared some of his sentiment. The other X-men nearby heard this and were inclined to respond.
“Hey, we still helped you, didn’t we? Even if you insist on being a total sod, you have to give us that,” Betsy pointed out as she finished bandaging her arm.
“For once, we don’t owe you anything,” quipped Pietro, “None of this was our doing. You guys were dealing with this before we even knew about it. And though no fault of our own, Genosha got caught in the crosshairs.”
“So you’re going to blame us as much as you blame Fantomex?” said Ororo, “How is that reasonable?”
“If you be using that as an excuse, then you ain’t giving us much incentive to help you in the future,” said Remy.
“I’m not making excuses, even if my brother is,” said Wanda with a slight scold, “But for once, he does make a valid point and that in and of itself should tell you something.”
This remark surprised even Pietro. It had been a while since his sister stuck up for him like this. For once, she was angrier with the X-men than she was with him. He didn’t say anything to change that because someone needed to put them in their place. And right now, Wanda’s voice carried the most weight.
“Genosha has been playing by the rules since we made the technology deal,” she continued, “We’ve done everything we can to make this fragile peace work. Yet human governments still insist on developing these insidious weapons to combat mutants.”
“This is a process, Wanda. You know that. There is still a great deal of fear out there and that fear drives people to take drastic and horrific measures,” reminded Professor Xavier, “Adding to it won’t help.”
“Even so, no amount of fear justifies something like Weapon Plus,” said the Genoshan leader strongly, “I’m not going to forgive and forget, Xavier. The humans of this world need to face consequences for their actions. They can’t plot against our kind with impunity.”
“Speaking as someone who has seen the ugly sides to retribution, I would strongly caution you before taking that approach,” said Piotr, who was sitting next to Kitty.
“Oh what do you know, Ruskie? You and your sister jumped ship before you ever gave a damn about this island,” shot Pietro.
“We do care, Pietro. This affects us as much as it affects you,” said Ororo, stepping in front of the speedster before he got too hostile.
“No…it doesn’t,” said Wanda in a more serious tone, “Just because we’re mutants doesn’t mean we’re all in the same boat. Genosha isn’t just a haven. It’s our home. Every mutant on this island trusts me to protect this home. Whether you aid me or oppose me, I have my priorities and you X-men can’t always be one of them.”
She was stern with her words, conveying the extent of her outrage on this matter. Professor Xavier hesitated to respond. The rest of his X-men were angered that she would be this hostile after they helped stop Fantomex. But he waved them down, preventing any further outbursts. Another headache soon overwhelmed him, leaving him with little else to say.
“I won’t say I completely understand, Wanda. I’ll only say I know how much passion it takes to protect one’s home,” he told her while lightly rubbing his temples, “I won’t try to guide your policies. I only ask that you be careful with your response to this incident. Don’t end up doing more harm than good.”
“I’m always careful when it comes to my people, Professor,” said Wanda in an assertive tone, “The world has to know they can’t get away with committing atrocities against our kind.”
“I agree that atrocities must be confronted. However, I’ve seen time and again how obsessing over punishment leads to more conflict. You may still disagree with me, but I believe this incident proves that humans and mutants are more alike than they are different.”
“You’re right. I still disagree, Professor,” said Wanda, “The more I play this game with humans, the more reasons I see for a place like Genosha. You keep fighting your battles. I’ll keep fighting mine. We’ll see who’s vindicated in the end…provided we’re both still standing.”
It was ominous rhetoric from the daughter of Magneto. This debacle was going to change things. Wanda was going to do what she felt was best for her people, even if it did a disservice to peace between humans and mutants. It left Professor Xavier and his X-men demoralized despite having triumphed over Fantomex. It seemed like this affair would have no winners. In any case, more conflict was sure to come and the X-men were sure to be caught up in it.
It wouldn’t just be the X-men who dealt with this conflict either. Captain Freeman had been keeping his distance since he emerged from the dome with the others. The easy part was over for him. Having to fight an army of Fantomex duplicates didn’t concern him nearly as much as confronting the eventual fallout. He had been exchanging secure messages with General Grimshaw since Fantomex vanished. He chose not to get caught up with the X-men or the Maximoff twins. He was a soldier and not a politician. He had no desire to change that, especially on a place like Genosha.
While the Green Beret was content to walk away from this conflict, Scott Summers didn’t let him completely shrug it off. As the only X-man the mutant soldier could relate to, he was compelled to confront him.
“You’re not going to chime in, Captain?” asked the X-leader, “Wanda and her brother are pretty pissed. Some words from General Grimshaw’s top soldier may settle them down a bit.”
“I’m a soldier. I’m not a diplomat,” said Jack, not taking his eyes off his communicator, “Besides, I would probably make things worse. I don’t trust those two and they don’t trust me so why bother?”
“If you keep giving reasons for mistrust, then you’ll only make your mission as a soldier more difficult,” Scott pointed out, “You can’t win every battle with fighting, Captain.”
“I know. That’s why I leave that sort of thing to General Grimshaw,” said the Captain as he put away his communicator, “I’ve been sending him plenty of reports. He knows how bad it is over here. He’ll work with the President to put out some of these flames.”
“You really think he’ll do enough to placate Wanda and Pietro? Bearing in mind that these two were raised by Magneto?”
“It doesn’t matter what I think. He has what he needs. He knows about Fantomex, the dome, and how pissed off the terrible twosome are over there.”
“All the more reasons to try and rebuild that trust,” retorted Scott.
“Far as I’m concerned, there are more reasons not to trust them. Just look at how they’re cleaning up this mess. They’re not demolishing that dome. If anything, it looks like they’re saving it. That means they may use Fantomex’s old toys against us.”
“Do you really believe that? Or are you just making excuses to avoid battles you don’t want to fight?”
Captain Freeman grumbled a few curses under his breath, turning away from the X-leader and preparing to put this mission behind him. Scott wasn’t about to make it easy for him. There were other forces at work that troubled Jack Freeman. He was sure of it. So he reached out to him one last time, being careful not to push the fragile trust he had established with this man.
“Captain, you still have one advantage over every other diplomat on this planet,” Scott told him.
“If you’re going to point out me being a mutant, don’t bother. I get that already,” he replied.
“I know you do. What I don’t think you get is the perspective that offers. It’s not that you can’t run from this issue. The bigger question is whether or not you should.”
“Even if I should, I know can’t. Not right now,” the Captain argued, “I have other tasks I need to get back to. General Grimshaw expects me to meet up with the troops at the base on the south end of Genosha. I need to be back on my mission within the next 48 hours.”
“I’m sure that mission is important. I’m also sure that the circumstances aren’t always going to accommodate you. There will be chances for you to play a part in this mess. Sometimes you won’t have the luxury of choosing to ignore it…not if doing the right thing matters to you.”
Doing the right thing used to be an alien concept for Jack Freeman. He came from a world where the right thing involved the next mission and little else. That had changed a great deal since he got involved with General Grimshaw’s mutant initiative. It wasn’t so clear cut anymore. Just doing what he was told may not be enough. This X-man, who undoubtedly had the heart of a soldier, understood that better than he did.
“Are you done?” he asked the X-leader.
“Only if that isn’t sarcasm in your voice,” replied Scott.
“I’m not smart enough to be subtle. Take comfort in that when I say I’ll keep your words in the back of my mind.”
“Be sure that you do. You have more allies than you think, Captain.”
The Green Beret chuckled somewhat, amazed at how Scott Summers of the X-men could see him as an ally. It was reassuring to know that someone besides General Grimshaw had faith in him. One day he may need that. As he walked off to meet up with his fellow soldiers, the Captain Freeman was left hoping that such a day would not come.
As the mutant soldier walked away from this mission, he passed Logan and Laura. They also decided they needed some space. The battle against Fantomex had been very personal for them. This battle nearly killed them both. They survived only to see another connection to their lives disappear. Fantomex was gone and so were any answers he may have had. Even if he didn’t have any, it left the two former living weapons conflicted.
Before this unfolded, Logan had been desperately seeking Laura and she had been trying to avoid him. Now they had found each other and with no threats to tear into. That meant they could finally confront some of the much more daunting issues at hand.
“So how’s this gonna work? You gonna give me the silent treatment again?” asked Logan as he stood with her atop a rocky clearing.
“What do you expect me to say, Logan? Fantomex is gone,” said Laura, gazing distantly towards the coast.
“Forget Fantomex. I’m talking about you,” he said in a more serious tone, “The fight is over. There’s nothing stopping you from running off on me again. If that’s what you’re gonna do, I’d like a heads up.”
“If you wanted to get away from me, would you still be sitting here right now?”
“That depends. If I was gonna be stupid or downright cruel, I would stick around just to screw with me. Since you and me got so much in common, I’m pretty confident you ain’t gonna do that.”
He was daring her. It was tempting to run away again, but there were more forces drawing her to this man than there were forces pushing her away. She kept gazing into the distance, even as he slipped his arm around her shoulder. She didn’t react at first, but it wasn’t long before this gesture triggered a round of confusion emotions.
“What do you want from me, Logan?” she said through a strained voice, “You found me, we beat Fantomex, and I’m not trying to kill you. So why are you obsessing over me?”
“It ain’t every day you find out you been cloned. Plus, I’m sort of curious about why you wanted to kill me so badly one moment and then went outta your way to avoid me.”
“I already told you. I wanted to kill you because you’re the final link to my creators.”
“Laura, I don’t know who the hell these creators are. If I did, I’m pretty damn sure I would have killed them by now,” said Logan.
“Guess that gives us something else we have in common,” she muttered.
“Something else?” said Logan, picking up on the subtext of her words, “You telling me you killed them already?”
Laura tensed within Logan’s embrace, hugging her shoulders and holding back more painful emotions. The horrific details of her life played over in her mind. It usually filled her with a rage that led her to attack anything and anyone close to her. But in this man’s arms, she felt an entirely different kind of instinct. Tears formed in her eyes and she held her head low as the scars of her past festered once more.
“My creators…they took everything from me. They made me a weapon, conditioned me not to feel emotion, and used me to do horrible things. Then one day I started feeling things I wasn’t supposed to feel. They didn’t make sense to me. They hurt so much. I felt so much rage that eventually it became too much. So I took it out on them. One-by-one, I killed them all. I…I thought it was the only way to stop from feeling this…this pain.”
“But it didn’t work,” Logan surmised, having known that path all too well.
“Not nearly as much as I hoped,” she replied bitterly.
“And you thought killing me would just put a stop to the emotions?” surmised Logan.
“That was my reasoning, flawed it may be,” she conceded.
“So I don’t gotta convince you it’s bullshit.”
“No…I understand now that killing you won’t solve anything.”
“So why the hell did you run away from me? I could’ve helped you.”
“Because being around you caused other problems,” she said in a more strained tone, “Being around you before and being around you now makes me feel more emotions I don’t understand…emotions I wasn’t supposed to feel.”
She was not able to articulate what those emotions were. Logan didn’t make her either. He could figure it out in the way she shifted within his presence. It seemed the only emotion she understood was rage. That’s what helped her break free. That’s what helped her kill her creators. Now she was feeling something else and he was the source. Something about that made Logan smile.
It was not unlike the transition he went through when he joined the X-men. Before then, rage was pretty much all he understood. Then he met people who made him feel different. But with this girl, it was even stronger. He wasn’t just some stranger reaching out to her. He was the closest thing to family she had. It put him in an awkward position, but one he didn’t mind being in.
“I think I have a pretty good idea of what you’re going through, kid. Being turned into a meat puppet does quite a number on you,” he told her.
“Don’t call me kid,” she said bitterly.
“It’s what you are, Laura. It’s why none of what you’re feeling makes sense. It’ll only start making sense if you’re willing to swallow that anger along with your pride. This is one thing you can’t solve by fighting it. You gotta want to be more than just a weapon.”
“I…I’m not sure what I want,” said Laura, her voice becoming more strained.
“Then let me help you figure it out,” said Logan, “Don’t think of me as your clone. Think of me as…I don’t know, some new kind of family that neither of us knows much about.”
“Family…that’s another thing I wasn’t supposed to have.”
“Me neither. Guess that gives us a damn good reason not to blow this chance. You and I are messed up in way too many ways. I’m willing to give it a try, even if it means dealing with shit I don’t understand. Are you willing to do the same?”
More overwhelming emotions welled up in her. Laura finally turned to face the man whose blood created her. For the first time in her short life, she actually felt weak. It was as if all the rage had been replaced with something else. She had suppressed everything but the anger to this point. Now it was about to come gushing out.
“You don’t have to give me a straight answer,” he said, holding her a little closer, “If you wanna just let it all out, go right ahead. I won’t think less of you.”
“I…I don’t want to. It’s too much.”
“I can take it, darlin’. So can you.”
The emotions finally boiled over. Instead of giving a straight answer, former Weapon X-23 threw her arms around Logan and buried her face into his shoulders. In an outpouring of pent up anguish, she cried. Tears streamed down her face in a way she had never experienced before. It was painful yet liberating. She was finally allowing herself to feel these emotions. And in this moment she finally felt more like Laura and less like X-23.
For Logan, it was an equally profound moment. He was the least equipped man on the planet when it came to dealing with emotions, especially those of a teenage girl. Yet here he was, embracing this girl as she cried into his shoulders. He held her in a way only family could. His gruff expression faltered and for once he became a source of comfort. It was ironic, yet fitting. He had been such a mess lately. When Logan’s crossed paths with this girl, it affected him deeply. And whatever he felt that day was now complete. This girl was part of his life and they both had a lot of rebuilding to do.
They weren’t the only ones either. The battle against Weapon Plus was over. The aftermath was just beginning. The full effects of these events would take time to sink in. But for the long road ahead of them, they could afford to be patient.
‘Heavenly father, I thank you for your grace. I’m back on the path of righteousness. And this time, I will not stray.’
Isaac took several moments to offer a thankful prayer to the Lord, even as the crisis in District X reached its end. Graydon Creed and William Stryker had been thwarted. The abducted mutants were now free and safe. After shutting down the operation through Arcade’s computers, he and Rogue led the anxious and traumatized mutants back to District X. They were met with plenty of news cameras, who were still swarming about the area. They also met up with the duplicates of Jamie Madrox, who was working with the New York City authorities to re-establish order in the community.
The abducted mutants were relieved to be free and relatively unharmed. However, some still needed medical attention. Isaac helped Jamie and Rogue get some of them to EMTs, navigating reporters and cameramen in the process. It made for some compelling TV. It showed how mutants were victims in this ordeal, something that was rarely shown by the media. There was also the matter of Graydon Creed. While Stryker and Arcade had escaped, Creed was left behind with a wounded eye for the authorities to arrest. However, he didn’t go quietly.
“THEY’RE DOING IT TO ME AGAIN! THE MUTANTS! THEY’RE PLOTTING AGAINST US ALL! WE MUST KILL THEM ALL BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!”
“You know, Ah would think a guy who hates mutants that much would have a little more subtlety with all these news cameras around,” commented Rogue as she watched the NYPD drag Creed through an army of reporters.
“Doesn’t bother me,” said one of Jamie Madrox’s duplicates, “If he wants to make a fool of himself, let him.”
“Did Ah say it bothered meh? If he’s gonna be the poster boy for every crazy son-of-gun that hates mutants, more power to him!”
“And the entertainment value doesn’t hurt either,” added Jamie.
Rogue and Jamie couldn’t help but smile as three officers shoved Graydon Creed into the back of a police cruiser. Every camera and media device documented his raving madness, which were sure to become a major sound byte in every major news report. It was a fitting end for a man who thought it was okay to abduct innocent mutants and kill them in cold blood. She had seen so little justice lately, making this especially meaningful.
While she and Jamie enjoyed the show, Isaac was a bit more reserved. He had been helping some of the younger abductees find their friends and families. Three young mutants in particular had been pretty traumatized. They had some bruises and wounds, but were okay for the most part. It was their spirits that were most wounded. As such, Isaac took it upon himself to confront them and helped them find their friends.
“You’re going to be okay now, blessed ones. You’re safe,” he told them.
“But what if they come back?” asked a young mutant girl with blue skin who couldn’t have been older than thirteen.
“He won’t. God won’t allow such wicked a second chance,” said Isaac, “He will protect his children…especially blessed ones like you.”
“How can you be so sure?” said an older boy with grayish skin.
“No one can ever be sure. We can only have faith in God’s plan and his love.”
He came off as a strange if not charismatic human to these young mutants. They still smiled at his words, taking comfort in his presence. Isaac set himself apart from the reporters, the police, and the other humans caught up in this affair. For young mutants who felt abandoned by everyone including God, it was a refreshing message.
Isaac smiled at the young mutants as a Madrox duplicate led them back into District X. He then turned his attention to Rogue, who was watching as the activity with the media and the police settled down. She and the prime Madrox clone watched them haul off Graydon Creed. He was tempted to enjoy such a sight as well. However, he chose to avoid such vindictive feelings. They would only distract him from his true purpose.
“I hope you’re not taking too much pleasure in Graydon’s disposition, Miss Rogue. His soul is tormented enough. Leave any further punishment to the Lord,” said Isaac as he approached her.
“Sorry if Ah ain’t as holy as you, sugah. Ah can’t help but feel a little satisfaction in watching a fella like that make a fool of himself,” said Rogue, still grinning as the cruiser drove off.
“Need I remind you this wasn’t a total victory. William Stryker and Arcade still got away. So did many of his Purifiers.”
“All the more reason to enjoy this,” she said, “Stryker and his goons are probably in another zip code now. And the Purifiers they managed to arrest ain’t gonna confess to damn near anything so why not enjoy whatever smaller victory we get?”
“Is that the only reason you’re taking a perverse pleasure in this?” Isaac questioned, “Graydon Creed is a tormented soul who will continue to be tormented until he atones. You don’t need to add to them…unless you feel tormented as well.”
Isaac’s tone grew more serious. Rogue sensed what he was getting at and her once triumphant demeanor shifted. He saw in her the same conflict that everyone seemed to pick up on. She did such a poor job of hiding it that there was little sense in denying the truth. She turned away from the scene and started walking back towards District X with Isaac following closely.
“You don’t have to be so apprehensive, Miss Rogue. I do not judge others. I leave that to God and God alone,” he said to her.
“So why are you bringing it up?” she questioned, “Ah’m a mutant. Ah can’t control mah powers. Ah’m an off-duty X-man with serious family issues. Ain’t that reason enough to be tormented?”
“There’s a big difference between tribulations and torment. Tribulations are struggles that are out of our hands. The kind of torment I see in you is different. I can see it written in your soul.”
“Mah soul?” she scoffed, “Maybe you’re a mutant after all. If you can see mah soul, then that’s a hell of a power.”
“It’s no power, I assure you. I’m sure others have pointed it out as well. You make no secret of the conflict you harbor.”
“That’s because those others you mentioned are nice enough to mind their own damn business. So why can’t you?” said Rogue, getting somewhat defensive.
“Because I think I can help you,” said Isaac, “I’m in the business of aiding wounded souls. Speaking as someone whose soul has endured plenty of wounds, I see in you someone who has lost her way. You strike me as one caught stumbling through the darkness blindfolded and handcuffed, desperately seeking something that may or may not be there.”
Rogue kept walking, rolling her eyes at Isaac’s holier-than-thou rhetoric. Being deeply non-religious and very reserved with respect to personal issues, the whole spiritual angle didn’t resonate with her.
However, that didn’t mean Isaac was wrong on some levels. After the Nova Roma incident, she had been pretty messed up on a great many levels. She kept herself busy by working with Tessa. It served as a distraction from her long list of issues. She still had unresolved feelings surrounding Kurt, her mother, and Remy. She had been avoiding those feelings at every turn and it was tormenting her to no end.
Isaac wasn’t the first person to notice it. But he was the first to really reach out to her, not at all dissuaded by her attitude and demeanor. It caused her to eventually stop and face him.
“Please don’t misjudge my words. I’m not trying to proselytize. I’ll leave it to God to carry your spirit in that regard,” he told her, “I just want to shed some light on that darkness. I can’t remove those handcuffs, but I can remove the veil.”
“Ah appreciate the offer, Isaac. But Ah got a lot work ahead of meh,” she said, shifting awkwardly under his gaze, “That data we got from Arcade opens a lot of new doors and Tessa is gonna want me to explore them when she gets back.”
“So you’ll continue your work. I have my own work to carry out here in District X. As part of my own spiritual healing, Jamie Madrox has granted me a pass to work with mutants in need of healing. That doesn’t mean I can’t make time for a more personal kind of healing.”
“Maybe you can, but Ah can’t,” said Rogue distantly.
“I don’t believe that and I don’t think you do either,” said Isaac, “There’s a time for work and there’s a time for reflection. Right now, we both need it. A woman such as you doesn’t become an X-man and walk away without unresolved conflict.”
“No offence, sugah. But Ah don’t know if you’re equipped to resolve mah long list of problems,” she said.
“I’d like to give it a try anyways,” he said with a slight smile, “Such conflicts aren’t easily resolved by one’s self. Even with the grace of God, we still need our fellow man to aid us when our souls are wounded.”
This time Rogue couldn’t roll her eyes. She looked at this man and saw someone who was as sincere as he was pious. A man didn’t stab a guy like Graydon Creed in the eye without having some. At least he was working on them, which was more than she could say for her. She put a lot of distance between herself, Kurt, the X-men, and Remy. Maybe it was time she stop pushing away. Maybe the time was right to try to heal some of these wounds.
“You’re alright for a preacher, Isaac,” she said, “Any guy who takes on Graydon Creed and still comes out holy has some hefty stones on him.”
“Flattery won’t make me walk away if that’s what you’re hoping,” said Isaac.
“Ah ain’t trying to chase you away. If you wanna to get caught up in mah many problems, more power to ya. If we can make time, Ah’ll try to put it to good use. Ah still ought to warn you that Ah can be a little slow when it comes to getting mah act together. Just ask mah mama.”
“I have faith it will sink in eventually. Even if you don’t come to see me as someone who could help, I would settle for a simple being a spiritual ally.”
“You mean friend?” she said jokingly.
Isaac smiled, a rare feeling for a man claiming to have so many burdens on his soul. Rogue smiled back, offering a friendly gesture to this strange yet intriguing holy man. They soon found themselves walking together again, making their way through the damaged streets of District X. They had their work cut out for them. Even so, it couldn’t hurt to work on the personal issues that she had been negating. It was just going to require more faith than she was used to.
‘Don’t know if this is a good idea or not. Kurt was always the spiritual one. It seemed to work for him when the going got tough. Maybe it can work for meh. If Tessa’s gonna have me doing more odd jobs, Ah could use a little extra sanity. Besides, Ah wouldn’t mind feeling like an X-man again.’
Academy of Tomorrow – Three Days Later
Former Weapon X-23 had been robbed of a lot of things in her life. She had no childhood, no innocence, and no identity. She wasn’t even technically born. She was made in a test tube. Her entire existence was predicated on killing and that was what her creators wanted her to do.
However, those same creators failed. She did not become a mindless killing machine, even though she came dangerously close at times. She was a teenage girl who felt lost, broken, and confused. Since she ran away from her old life, she had been searching for a new one. It didn’t lead her very far. She ended up a homeless prostitute with no direction and no future.
All that had changed because of Logan, the man whose blood created her. She used to blame him for all her suffering. Now he was the key to her salvation. He once said he was the closest thing to family she had. For Laura, family was an alien concept. It brought with it all sorts of emotions she didn’t understand. If she ever hoped to understand, she had to re-learn how to be a teenage girl. And this time she would have some guidance.
“I’m not sure about this, Logan,” she said as she gazed upon the gates of the Academy of Tomorrow.
“That’s the third time you’ve said that. You don’t gotta keep reminding me,” said Logan with a wolfish grin.
“I still feel compelled to repeat myself. I’m trusting you more than I’m comfortable trusting anyone right now.”
“And I ain’t taking that trust lightly either. I don’t want you to end up a homeless prostitute either. You deserve better than that and it starts here,” he said to her.
Logan didn’t blame her for having reservations. This was a new world for her. After they left Genosha, he and the Professor spent the next few days deciding a new path for Laura. She was in a fragile state. She needed to be in an environment where she could learn to be herself.
It was Xavier who pitched the idea of enrolling her in the Academy of Tomorrow. Emma Frost had worked with them before when she offered to enroll Amara Aquilla after the Nova Roma affair. This was a place where Laura could have a structured environment to learn and grow, which he believed she needed and deserved. He expected some reluctance to her, but he also expected her to take advantage of this second chance.
“Chuck and I worked out the details,” Logan went on, “You’ll get a nice helping of normal. Going to school, taking tests, eating junk food, and everything else that’s part of being a teenage girl. And you’ll still get your share of action. Frost still has her own team of masked X-men knock-offs so you’ll have a chance to put those skills of yours to good use.”
“Class and school seem different enough. BWhy would I want to utilize these so-called skills?” she asked.
“Why not? In my experience you never want your talents to go to waste.”
“My only talent is killing,” she said grimly, “That’s what I was programmed to do.”
“No, that’s what Weapon X wanted you to do. The talents you have go beyond just killing and maiming. You’re a fighter, Laura…just like me.”
“I don’t see there being much difference.”
“Believe me. There’s a big difference,” said Logan strongly, “I used to think killing was all I was good for. It’s why I was always so pissed off at the world. It’s easy to be that way when you ain’t got people in your life that give a damn. It took some hard lessons from folks who cared way more than they should’ve to realize I was more than a failed weapon. I had to walk that fine line between killing and fighting.”
“I still don’t see a difference,” said Laura.
“Killing is just killing. You know how it is and how it feels so I won’t remind you,” he told her, “Fighting is different. When you’re a fighter, you’re doing something that involves more than just taking someone out. You don’t just attack. You defend as well because this time you got something that’s worth defending. I found a home with the X-men and I use every bit of skill I’ve learned to defend that.”
“So what am I defending?”
She was asking some pretty difficult questions. Logan was still very new to this as well. It was as hard a fight as ten one-on-ones with Sabretooth, but he still owed it to this girl to try. For a great many reasons, she was helping him as much as he was helping her.
“That’s something you’ll have to figure out on your own,” he told her, “Right now, work on defending is this new life here. You got a chance to be Laura and not X-23. You also got people who care about you now.”
“You mean like you?” asked Laura.
“Well I wasn’t gonna get into specifics, but yeah. Unless you still hate my guts.”
“I…I don’t. Not anymore.”
“You sound uncertain. Should I be on my guard?” said Logan in a half-joking tone.
“Maybe you should. All these feelings…they’re still new to me,” she said distantly, “I used to hate you so much. Now every time you look at me like you’re doing right now, I feel all these new emotions. I don’t think they’re emotions I was meant to feel.”
“You’re a teenage girl. Crazy feelings are more normal than you think. Don’t ever think you’re better off not feeling anything. It’s these pain-in-the-ass emotions that make us better. We’re both behind the curve, that’s for damn sure. But that’s why we gotta fight for one another. That’s what family does.”
“Family…that’s still the strangest feeling of all.”
Once again, Laura tensed under this man’s presence. Ever since that moment on Genosha, certain emotions stuck with her. Many swirled around what this man meant to her and what role he played in her life. It was far more of a struggle than any fight she had been part of and she was still ill-equipped to handle it.
Logan scorned himself for mentioning the F-word. It was a strange feeling to him as well and he didn’t have the added burden of being a teenage girl. He had been such a mess lately. Being around this girl helped settle him down. In some ways he was as lost as her. That made embracing this whole family concept more vital.
“Yeah…about that,” said Logan, drawing her gaze back towards his, “You should know it goes both ways.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“In case you ain’t figured it out, I’m just as messed up about it as you,” he conceded, “I don’t know what we are. I guess you could be my kid sister or my daughter. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. Whatever the case, it ain’t gonna change squat. You and me…we’re family. That’s all there is to it. And part of being family means helping each other when we’re too screwed up to help ourselves.”
“That part I understand. You’ve gone out of your way to help me with everything,” said Laura, “What still confuses me is how I’m supposed to help you.”
“You’re already helping me, darlin’. Just you being here and not trying to kill me is doing more than I’ll ever be able to do on my own. That leads me to one last little tidbit before I send you on your way.”
Laura grew curious as she watched Logan reach into his pocket and pull out a small slip of paper. He seemed as anxious as she was when he placed the paper in her hand. At first she wasn’t sure what to make of it. Then she unfolded it and read the contents. It was a legal document of sorts, but what stood out most was the text at the bottom.
“Laura Howlett,” she read.
“Yep,” sighed Logan, “I remember you saying you were never given a last name or anything. So I figured I’d give you one that fit.”
“But…why Howlett?” she asked, her hands shaking as she read this paper.
“Because there’s been a lot of bad shit associated with that name,” he said distantly, “The way I see it, I might as well connect it with something good for once. You can fight through a lot of things, but you can’t fight through the past. Sometimes the best way to cope is to make part of it worth remembering.”
Laura didn’t take her eyes off the paper. She kept staring at that name, Laura Howlett, and let it sink in. It didn’t feel like the name of a stranger. It was certainly more meaningful than a label like X-23. It set into stone her connection to this man. He was her family. When she finally looked up from the paper, she smiled. It was the first smile she showed in recent memory. Logan smiled back and pulled her into another embrace. This time it was overwhelming in a good way.
“Thank you, Logan,” she told him through a strained voice.
“Sure thing, kid,” he said with a grin.
“Don’t call me kid.”
“I will when you quit giving me so many reasons.”
It was annoying, but Laura didn’t stop smiling. Logan still had his gruff tendencies. She shared many of those tendencies with him, assuring her that they had plenty to help each other with. It should make this new life of hers all the more challenging. Unlike the missions before it, she had plenty of incentive to see it through.
As Logan and Laura parted from their embrace, the gates to the Academy opened and Emma Frost approached. She looked as smug as usual, not hiding her amusement in seeing Logan play the family role.
“There you are, Laura,” she greeted, “I take it you’re ready for orientation.”
“Yes…I am,” she said as she put the paper away.
“Then I guess this is where Frost tells me to piss off. But don’t worry. I’ll be in touch,” Logan told her, “I’ll make time to pay a visit every week, even if it means cutting a few classes from the institute.”
“You might have more time if you merely cut the hours you spend drowning your sorrows in bars,” Emma pointed out.
“Don’t push it, Frost. You’re a lousy enough role model. The world can’t handle too many teenage girls picking up that wit of yours.”
“You don’t give me enough credit,” she teased, “I’ve always been good at shaping young minds. I don’t need wit to pull it off either.”
“Right,” said Logan dryly.
Laura was set to enter her new life. She looked ready and eager, despite of Emma Frost’s questionable persona. She had done enough running. The horrors of her past weren’t going to prevent her from having a future.
“Watch yourself in this joint,” Logan told her before they parted, “You got a lot going for you and nobody is gonna make it easy for you.”
“I can handle it,” she assured him as she followed Emma into the Academy, “You know I’m tough enough. I am your clone after all.”
“You’re more than that, Laura…much more.”
Logan stood by and watched until Emma led her into the main building. As he watched his thoughts drifted back to those memory flashes he experienced when he was so close to death. He was once a monster, worse than any living weapon. He would have stayed that way had he not taken that first vital step with Rose. Now he helped Laura take that same first step. She was still young and had the potential to be much better when it came to clinging to that last bit of humanity. Being her family was a big part of realizing that potential.
As the feral mutant turned away, his thoughts continued to wander. Logan found more than he expected with this girl. He sought her out when he was losing his grip on his sanity. Now he was back on solid footing once more. However, that still left a few daunting questions unanswered.
‘So I have a family now. I have a daughter or a sister or whatever the hell you call a teenage girl clone. I’ve known her for just a few days and already I feel like less a prick. So what now? What do I do with this shit? Why do I still feel…empty?’
Upstate New York
Going to prison for the first time was a traumatic experience. For some, it was enough to deter them from ever breaking the law again. For others, it pushed them further down the dark path they were already on. It was along that dark path where going to prison lost its impact. There was no regret or remorse. There was only disappointment.
Graydon Creed wasn’t used to such disappointment. Going back to prison didn’t upset him nearly as much as having failed again in his mission to destroy the mutant race. This time he had scars from his struggle. After being stabbed in the eye by some mutant-loving priest, he had to wear an eye patch. The doctors told him he would likely have to wear it for the rest of his life, making it a painful reminder of his failure.
‘There’s nothing stopping them now. I’ll be rotting in a prison cell, paying for the crimes of William Stryker and Jonathan Wraith while the mutants lay waste to humanity. This pitiful ride to some unknown military prison may be my last taste of freedom. From here on out I’ll only be a witness to the destruction of the human race.’
It was a quiet, solemn trip. Graydon Creed sat shackled in the back of a SWAT van that was taking him to a special prison where he would serve out his old term on top of the new term he would get for participating in Weapon Plus.
Since William Stryker was still at large and John Wraith was dead, the authorities took their frustration out on him. They were going to great lengths to make sure he didn’t escape this time. This new prison they were taking him was an advanced supermax facility jointly run by the state and the military. His cell would be among the most isolated, which was appropriate. It would give him time to reflect on his failure.
‘If they expect me to feel remorse, they’re going to be deeply disappointed. My only regret is I didn’t take any mutant lives. It would have compensated at least partially for the failure of Weapon Plus. Instead, I’m pegged as the criminal. And I’ll remain a criminal until my fears surrounding the mutant race come true. By then there won’t be enough humans left to say I was right.’
Creed held his head low, not caring at this point what happened to him. He didn’t even notice the road getting a little bumpier. They had just left the highway and were entering the back roads the led to the prison. As expected, the van pulled over. There was a bit of commotion going on outside. Creed recalled something about MSA authorities having to meet up with the New York state police in coordinating his transport. Since he had been deemed so dangerous that he could only be housed in a supermax prison, they took extra precautions.
Creed heard more footsteps just outside the door. They sounded like a few MSA officers arguing over the logistics of this transport.
“You sure you want to be inside there with this guy? He’s a bit on the unstable side,” said one deep male voice.
“I’ll be fine. I’ve been around worse,” said another somewhat flat voice.
“I’m surprised you’re volunteering. I was told you called in sick earlier.”
“Changed my mind. The boss busts my balls enough. I don’t want to give him any more reasons.”
“Don’t know how far that will go. Don’t be surprised if it doesn’t get you squat.”
“I’ll get whatever I can take.”
The back doors to the SWAT van opened, revealing a dozen armed men from the MSA and state police watching over this lone prisoner. Two state police officers entered wearing full body armor and wielding assault weapons. They appeared to be officials from the prison they were heading. Creed didn’t even make eye-contact. He didn’t even flinch from his grim disposition.
“You’re almost to your new home, Mr. Creed,” said one of the officers, “This time, don’t expect any buddies to bust you out.”
“I wouldn’t even want them to,” said Creed grimly.
The officer rolled his eyes and signaled the officers outside. They nodded and closed the doors, locking it tightly before heading back into their respective transports. Within five minutes they were moving again. It wouldn’t be long now. Graydon Creed was drawing nearer to his ultimate fate.
As the van moved, the two officers sat on the bench across from him. One was fairly young, bearing short auburn hair and a rugged complexion. The one next to him was older and a bit more clean-shaven, looking like a veteran officer who had done this many times before. They kept a watchful eye on him, keeping their rifles ready at all time. Creed didn’t look like much of a threat. He looked like a broken man who had completely given up.
“For the record, I’m a 20 year man,” said the older officer, “I’ve transported serial killers, spree killers, gang lords, and suspected terrorists. And I have to say you’re one of the least imposing men to ever warrant this kind of hardware. You got everyone here on edge because they think your resourceful friends will try to break you out again. Even if they do, I’m not sure how dangerous you truly are. You hate mutants. I hate boy bands. Only difference is you send homicidal robots into crowded neighborhoods to solve it.”
“I don’t think that’s an accurate assessment,” said the younger officer.
“Maybe it isn’t. Or maybe I just read the news closer than everyone else. A guy with all this money and all he can do with it is wage war on mutants? That’s pretty sad. I can’t help but wonder if it’s because you’re that dangerous or just that disturbed.”
“Are you done?” said Creed, who was barely listening.
“Yeah…I’m done. Just thought I’d put that out there.”
Graydon Creed still didn’t look up. The older officer was still more cautious than his younger counterpart. For some reason, the younger officer was fairly quiet. He looked at Creed in a different way. It would have been disconcerting if Creed actually cared all that much.
“You really think this guy is that dangerous?” asked the younger officer.
“I think he’s the kind of guy who attracts danger. Those guys can be just as bad,” his older counterpart replied.
“You really believe that, huh?”
The younger officer shifted, gripping his rifle a bit more firmly. Then in a move that actually caught Graydon Creed’s attention, the younger officer used the butt of his gun to effectively knock out his comrade.
“Augh!” the older man grunted.
“Guess this proves you right,” said the younger officer in a flat tone.
Creed tensed as he watched the old keel over into a world of unconsciousness, leaving him alone with this mysterious individual. A normal officer never would have done something like that. Graydon may have been in a state of despair, but he was no fool.
“Who are you?! What sort of ploy is this!” he demanded.
“It’s no ploy I assure you,” said the younger officer, “This is…overdue.”
The voice shifted radically. He no longer sounded like a young man. He sounded like a woman. Then her eyes turned yellow and Graydon Creed quickly pieced it together.
“You’re…you’re a mutant!” he exclaimed, seething with hatred.
“Indeed, I am,” the figure said, “I’m sorry it has to be this way, Graydon.”
“Sorry? What good is an apology from a monster! If you’re going to kill me, then do it. Spare me the disgust of being in your presence.”
“You’re a sick and misguided man, Graydon. Even though I’ve killed before without losing a moment of sleep, I could never kill you no matter how much you hate me.”
“Why is that?” scoffed Creed.
The expression on the figure changed, turning from a hardened gaze to one of deep sorrow. Through this shift, the figure’s body took on a new form. She turned from an imposing man to an equally imposing woman with blue skin and red hair. Graydon was repulsed by this display of mutant abilities. Dspite this revulsion, the woman set aside her rifle and looked upon this man with many mixed emotions.
“My name is Raven Darkholme. I’m a shape-shifter and a mercenary. Years ago, I was raped by a man named Victor Creed. That man, I’m sorry to say, is your father. And I am your mother.”
When Graydon heard this he was livid. Very few knew the name of his biological father, Victor Creed. He never knew that of his mother, but hearing that name come from this woman made her claim too plausible to ignore.
“No…YOU LIE!” he exclaimed.
“It’s true. Victor was going to take you. He was going to use you to hurt me. I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. So I found a rich family with good connections and put you up for adoption. Since you weren’t a mutant, I wanted you to…”
“STOP! DON’T SAY ANOTHER WORD!”
“Don’t make this harder than it already is! I’m trying to…”
But Graydon Creed would not listen. Fate, it seemed, was playing the cruelest trick of all. In his hour of defeat, his darkest secret was exposed. He was the son of two mutants. His blood would never be pure.
“I WON’T HEAR IT! YOU’RE NOT MY MOTHER! I HAVE NO MOTHER!”
“Son…” began an increasingly frustrated Raven Darkholme.
“DON’T EVER CALL ME THAT! EVER!” he seethed, now clutching his head in anguish, “I’M NOT A FREAK! I’M NOT! I’M NOT! I…NOOOOOOOOOOOO!”
‘Bet you thought this was the end of the issue, didn’t you? After all, don’t all issues end with the old NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO bit? Well not this time! Everybody’s favorite merc has one last surprise for you lovely people. If you’re sick of all this sappy drama shit, you’ll love this!’
Deadpool casually leaned against the back of an unmarked building, twirling a few bullets in his hand while humming some incoherent songs to himself.
‘Since when is Journey incoherent? You got something about the classics?’
He had been waiting for nearly a half-hour. A new contact of his was supposed to arrive any minute. New contacts were always difficult to deal with. Some were put off by his methods. Others knew and respected his reputation for being obnoxious, but only dared work with him on a limited basis. For this guy, he expected something different. In his experience, those who were most jaded often got along with him. It’s how he and Wolverine ended up being such successful partners. He had yet to find someone as reliable since. That may change tonight.
“Excuse me. Are you the one who calls himself Monsieur…Ironcock?” came an accented voice.
Deadpool turned to see a figure approaching from the other end of the ally. He seemed to appear out of nowhere, which to an experienced mercenary was a good sign. It meant this man had skill and that was worth respecting.
“Ah yes, I do go by many names. Mr. Ironcock…Mr. Tacomaster…Mrs. Booberella, but that’s another story. For you my friend, just call me Deadpool,” he greeted as he approached the presence.
“Deadpool? Pardon my manners, but that’s almost as vulgar as Ironcock.”
“Almost? Wow, you are French! You’re way too polite around us rowdy Americans.”
Jean-Phillipe cast this deranged man a skeptical yet humored gaze. It had only been a few days since he escaped the clutches of Weapon Plus. His body was still badly scarred. For that reason, he re-fitted his wardrobe, stealing a few high end white shirts along with a matching trench coat. He also bought a mask that only revealed his eyes. It wasn’t the same high-tech body suit Weapon Plus gave him, but it felt right for him during this transition phase in his life.
He was a free man, but he was also a freak. He still had all these advanced skills and reflexes programmed into him by Weapon Plus. He was also a soldier who had once been too crippled to fight. Now that he was capable once more, he could get back to doing what he was best at. However, he couldn’t go back to the military. He had enough from government stooges trying to exploit him.
As a result, Jean-Phillipe decided to try his hand at the mercenary game. As Fantomex, he could be quite a formidable force. But to break into this dangerous game, he contacted someone who was already well-known within mercenary circles. He was rumored to be the most unorthodox and unstable. He was perfect for showing Jean-Phillipe the ropes.
“Now that I’ve got my wussy European joke out of the way, what do you say we skip the whole interrogation step?” said Deadpool, “You called because you need work and the mercenary business is pretty much the only game in town for us failed science experiments. Well…that and the circus, but being a mercenary pays better.”
“I’m not entirely in this for the money. It can do a lot, but it can’t purchase the excitement I require,” said Jean-Phillipe, “Not entirely anyways.”
“Spoken like a true socialist! Excuse me while Rush Limbaugh’s head explodes.”
“I’m also in a bit of an exploratory phase. I’ve never had this kind of power before and I’m not yet certain how I’m going to use it. I know how Weapon Plus wanted to use it. I’m certainly not going to give them the satisfaction.”
“So do what I do! Make them regret every waking moment that they created you,” said Deadpool proudly.
“Yes, that is another reason why I sought you out. You’ve been down the road I’m seeking to follow. As ludicrous it may be, you may be the best one to show me how to maximize my potential as Fantomex.”
Deadpool grinned under his mask. This guy was as motivated as he hoped he would be.
“So it’s true. You do seek the way of the super-powered mercenary, grasshopper,” he said, talking as if he was a Zen master, “That is most fortunate, for I am well versed in the art, science, and general awesomeness of such a craft. Stick with me and you too shall become a master.”
“Very well, sensei,” said Fantomex, rolling his eyes, “Just understand that I will allow myself to be as obnoxious or feeble-minded as you. I do have limits. Also understand that I’m no mass murderer. I kill for purpose, not pleasure.”
“I respect and admire your snooty French mannerisms, grasshopper. I shall do my best to respect them while causing enough explosions to keep my reputation.”
“Very well,” he said dryly, “Now if you that willing to teach me, can we begin? I’ve spent the past few days pulling my mind together. I’d rather not waste any more time dwelling on the past.”
“That alone makes you more fun than my last partner,” said Deadpool, giving Fantomex a light punch in the shoulder, “As such, I’ve already prepared your first lesson.”
“We’ve got a mission already?”
“Not quite,” grinned Deadpool, “But in case you haven’t noticed, the building we’re standing behind is a strip club called Saxy Jazzy. As you shall come to learn, Grasshopper, the way of the mercenary beings and often ends with wooing scantily clad girls with daddy issues.”
Now it was Fantomex’s turn to grin. It was a lesson that wasn’t nearly as difficult as he expected. He expected Deadpool to be obnoxious. He expected this new life of his to be chaotic. However, there was always time for beautiful women. If he and Deadpool shared an equal appreciation for fighting and womanizing, then they should get along fine.
“Mr. Deadpool…I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” said Fantomex as he followed Deadpool down the other end of the ally.
“Ah…a classic Casablanca ending,” said Deadpool, “I knew the writer couldn’t resist.”
“What was that?”
“Nothing! Now let’s go see some boobies.”
Next Issue: Girls Night Out
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