In an unstable world, Professor Charles Xavier is trying to help mutants find their place in it. With his X-men, they fight for peace in a world that hates and fears them. As they battle the forces of hatred and war, they are often faced with difficult decisions. And sometimes those decisions become grave mistakes.
There has been a great deal of emotional upheaval lately at the center of it all is Sinister. He already had ties to Weapon X. Then it was discovered that he worked for Shaw Industries to help develop the techno-organic material behind Weapon Plus. But beyond his recent atrocities, he has been keeping some very dark secrets.
He knew the truth about Mystique’s connection to Wolverine. He knew that the plane crash that supposedly killed Cyclops’s parents was no accident. With these secrets, he manipulated the X-men and the Mutant Security Agency into attacking him. Through his trickery, they fell right into his trap.
Sinister sent his Marauders to Mount Rainier where they constructed a mysterious machine. After letting the X-men find them, they allowed their allies at the MSA to bomb the device. However, this did not destroy the threat. It only made it worse. Now even Sinister’s allies will come to see the kind of horrors he’s unleashed.
The data was coming. The biggest and boldest step in Sinister’s research had begun. The X-men, the MSA, and even his own Marauders played their part perfectly. It was a pathetic yet predictable outcome. It marked the beginning of a profound, albeit messy process.
Sitting in the center of his device, Sinister activated a hologram depicting the entire world. From it, the silvery mist that had been unleashed from Mount Rainier was spreading fast. Within hours, the prevailing winds would carry it to every country on every continent. There wasn’t a soul that could hide from it. His creation would find its targets and extract the information he needed. Such a process had some rather gruesome side-effects, but that didn’t bother him in the slightest. After losing Selene, he was through being subtle.
“My legacy begins,” he proclaimed, “I can feel it spreading. Every bit of genetic information…all linking directly to me. The legacy virus will finish what we began, Selene. For you, my love, I will finish what we started. And I’ll make sure the world knows my sorrow.”
It was going to happen quickly. Within days, the entire global population would be affected. Within a week, the data would come pouring in. Within two weeks, he would have everything. Those fortunate enough to still be alive would see the truth behind the destruction.
“Uncle Essex! We need to talk,” yelled Madelyn Pryor as she and Vulcan entered his lab.
“My dear godson and goddaughter,” said Sinister, “I’m glad to see you’ve returned safely.”
“Forget safe! We passed by Mystique on our way in. We’ve pieced together the secrets you’ve been keeping from us,” said Vulcan angrily.
Sinister didn’t flinch at the harsh tone of his godchildren. He imagined the scene on Mount Rainier was quite messy. The other Marauders weren’t with them. He didn’t expect them to be. They weren’t immune to what he had just done. Nobody was immune.
Gabriel and Madelyn had seen their godfather cross many lines. They had always subscribed to using brutal methods to get necessary results. However, this was beyond brutal. After what they saw with Mystique, they saw a new level of horror in their godfather.
“This Legacy Project…it’s not just about collecting genetic information. It’s about unleashing a plague!” said Vulcan.
“You said that techno-organic substance was just a primer to scan DNA,” added Madelyn, “You never said anything about it being infectious!”
“If I had, would you have refused to go along with it?” asked Sinister in a cold tone.
“I would have at least asked for an explanation!” said Vulcan, grabbing his Uncle’s shoulders and turning him around, “We’re talking more death than anything Selene attempted in Nova Roma. Why are you doing this? What do you expect to gain?”
Sinister was not put off by his godson’s tone. He saw more confusion in his eyes than rage. It was understandable. This was beyond anything he and Madelyn had ever been a part of. Being their godfather, they both deserved a lesson in truth.
“When you lose someone you love, the world becomes a much darker place,” began Sinister, “Our emotions and the ties they create distract us from the harsh reality of this world. You both have felt such loss. You’ve lashed out against that harsh reality in your own way. Now I’m doing it my way.”
“I don’t see why your way requires a global plague,” spat Madelyn.
“It wasn’t my original plan, but plans change. Losing Selene changed the stakes. The techno-organic material I developed had always been part of the equation. With it, I was going to extract the necessary information from a select few. It was to be controlled, quiet, and clean. Much of this operation was predicated on Nova Roma being our base. When that part of the plan fell through, I had to revise it. Now I can only obtain the necessary information through more elaborate measures.”
Sinister directed their attention to the holographic map hovering above them. He enlarged it to show how the mist from Mount Rainier was spreading. The winds and the high altitude allowed it to span out in all directions. It wouldn’t be long before the whole world was affected.
“Without the resources of Nova Roma, getting the necessary information is akin to finding multiple needles in multiple haystacks on every corner of the world. So if I’m to get this information within a reasonable time frame, I need to buy the whole haystack rather than waste time sifting through it.”
“So you’re infecting the whole world this virus,” surmised Vulcan, still outraged.
“It’s not a virus. Its techno-organic nature makes it so much more,” said Sinister as he gazed up at the map, “I used my own unique biology as a base. This material can enter any being, human or mutant, and sift through their DNA as one would sift through a filing cabinet. Once they have the information, it is psionically beamed back to me and integrated into this machine.”
“And a side-effect of this process is death?” said Madelyn dryly.
“Only for those with weak genetic,” said Sinister coldly, “Since I didn’t have the resources on Nova Roma to refine this material, I’m left with this crude version. It causes significant damage during the process. Believe me, it was not my first choice. However, it is now my only choice at this point. When the X-men took Selene from us, they made this necessary.”
“How is it necessary?” said a bewildered Gabriel, “This can’t be the only way.”
“It isn’t, but it is the only way that will result in the fewest needless deaths.”
Now Madelyn and Gabriel were really confused. Losing Selene had affected their uncle in ways they never imagined. Beneath that inhuman exterior, there was a broken man who had just lost a loved one. Somehow, this loss left him twisted. At the same time, he sounded completely serious in justifying his actions.
“I understand your outrage,” he continued, “All I ask is that you trust that what I’m doing is best for this world. I didn’t realize what a desolate place it was until I lost Selene. I see now that regardless of what I do, plagues of one kind or another will consume this planet. Death and suffering will continue as long as the people of this world keep living a lie.”
“Is that all you’re doing, Uncle? Just speeding up the inevitable?” said Madelyn, “If so that’s hardly a reason!”
“Come now, dear goddaughter. I may not look it, but I’m not a monster. These deaths will not be without purpose,” Sinister assured them as he turned away from the map, “They will all lead to something greater…something that’s worth dying for.”
“And what might that something be?” asked Gabriel skeptically.
Sinister grinned, an expression he hadn’t shown since Selene had died. When Gabriel and Madelyn saw what he was doing, they would see the truth behind all the death. It was a truth that had been decades in the making and one reserved for those who could truly appreciate it.
“Follow me and I’ll show you,” said Sinister as he led them into another area in his lab, “Whether you accept it or not is inconsequential at this point. You’ll soon learn like so many others that once you confront the truth, there’s no going back.”
Logan had reached the end of the road literally but not figuratively. He was on Mystique’s trail, but she wasn’t making it easy for him. After getting the GPS device from Kurt, he continued his trip. He could have had Illyana teleport him to the destination or called in the X-men, but this involved Mystique. She had a way of attracting greater danger. In addition, this was also personal. Logan needed to find her on his own.
This led him to the northernmost parts of Canada. On his motorcycle, he strayed off paved roads and any other signs of civilization until he reached the mountains. These were areas so remote that riding or flying was a challenge. As Kurt warned, the GPS device went dead. The battery went out and the signal was jammed. Wherever Mystique was, it must have been very secure.
Luckily, Logan had prepared for that. A while back Mystique left him a little gift in the form of a dog tag with a special transceiver on it. Not long after the GPS went out, the transceiver activated. This transceiver acted like a compass, pointing him in the right direction. As soon as he reached the last part of drivable road, he set out on foot towards his destination.
‘You ain’t making this easy on me, Rose. Can’t say I’m surprised. Wherever you’re hiding, I’ll find you. I’m a hard-headed Canadian. There ain’t no cold or terrain tough enough to hold me back!’
After setting his motorcycle against a tree, Logan set out on a narrow trail leading into a treacherous valley. A few miles back, he passed some old rusted fences. Mystique couldn’t be camping out in this remote area for kicks. There had to be some sort of facility out here. It had the stench of an old military or a secret research complex. After his experiences with Weapon X, these were his least favorite places to be.
Looking down at the dog tag Mystique gave him, he saw he had quite a ways to go. On foot it would take more than a few days to get close enough. He would resist calling the X-men unless it was absolutely necessary. He wasn’t going to make it easy on himself now that he had another chance with Rose.
“Hang on, Rose,” said Logan as he took his first steps through this arduous journey, “Even if you hate me now, I’m keeping my promise.”
Xavier Institute – Infirmary
The X-men returned from their battle with the Marauders in dire spirits. As far as they were concerned, the battle was still ongoing. Sinister had once again deceived them. He made sure they did exactly what he wanted them to do and now they were paying a terrible price for it.
Whatever Sinister had unleashed, it affected both the X-men and the Marauders. Shortly after Sinister’s machine was destroyed, some of the X-men came down with debilitating symptoms. Kitty and Betsy were the first to be affected. Hank, still weakened from his battle wounds, fell ill soon after. The symptoms included lesions, joint pain, fatigue, and an overall feeling of weakness. It was as if the life was being sucked out of them. It wasn’t clear how contagious it was, but that didn’t stop Scott, Jean, Bobby, Ororo, Remy, Piotr, and John from getting them back to the mansion where they met up with Professor Xavier and an unexpected guest in Rogue.
But there was little time for a reunion. Rogue arrived with information that explained what was going on. She hoped to share it before it was too late, but seemed they were past that point. The revelations she shared only reinforced how bad this was.
“The legacy virus…I have to say this is a new league of madness for Sinister. As if he hadn’t distinguished himself enough,” said Bobby as he and the team stood near the beds of Betsy, Kitty, and Hank.
“So you’re saying this is what we unleashed, Rogue?” asked Jean, “A full blown super-plague?”
“It’s more than a plague,” said Rogue, who could barely look at her ill friends, “This virus is driven by the same techno-organic gunk that made Fantomex. It’s air-born, adaptive, and pretty much indestructible. Once it infects someone, it can do damn near anything. It’s what Sinister worked on while he was at Shaw Industries.”
“Sinister worked at Shaw Industries?” said Scott bitterly, “It’s insane how little that surprises me.”
“You ain’t the only one. The data Tess hacked showed how nasty this bug is. When Shaw found out Sinister was doing his own thing, he sent him packing. But Ah get the feeling Sinister never stopped. He’s probably been workin’ on this stuff since before we first fought his pale ass. That Weapon Plus crap probably gave him that extra push. Hell, he may have stolen some hardware from them to get it done!”
“But why would he do it? He’s a devious man, but he never struck me as the genocidal type,” said Ororo desperately.
“You sure? He sure seems like a guy who gets off on mass death,” commented Bobby.
“I be more interested in why he insisted on tricking us to unleash it,” said Remy, gently running his fingers down the face of the sleeping Betsy, “Ain’t like the guy lacks the gear to blow something up.”
“It could be his way of making us pay for what happened to Selene,” suggested Jean.
“If he’s as cunning as you say he is, that machine was going to blow up anyways. He just wanted us to be there to see it,” said John, who was standing by the Professor.
It was a cruel trick from an exceedingly cruel man. Professor Xavier felt responsible for falling for it. He was the one that urged General Grimshaw to send in help. Now two of his students and one of his teachers were in grave condition.
Hank, Betsy, and Kitty were resting comfortable in their beds. They were hooked up to a series of medical devices to keep track of their vitals. They were given pain killers and muscle relaxers to ensure they were comfortable. Xavier held off on applying any additional treatments since they knew so little about what they were dealing with. Rogue’s revelations helped paint a clear yet grim picture. It was enough to make him take a double dose of his meds to manage his headaches.
“Forget Sinister for one moment,” said Piotr, who was hovering over Kitty’s bed, “Tell us, Professor…how bad is it?”
“I don’t know yet, Peter. You heard what Rogue said. Sinister can program this to do anything he wants,” said Xavier as he rubbed his throbbing temples.
“So for all we know he could have made this infection lethal,” said Ororo anxiously.
“He could have, but I doubt mass death is all he’s is after,” said Xavier as he wheeled towards one of the medical monitors, “If Sinister wanted a truly lethal virus, our friends would be dead by now. He clearly has other motives. Based on these vitals, the virus is attacking the body’s ability to make energy. Near as I can tell, it’s infiltrating cells, hijacking their various metabolic processes, and using it to fuel the processes of the techno-organic material.”
“Do we have an idea what sort of processes we’re dealing with?” asked Scott.
“Not yet, but the process is suspiciously similar to the process that occurs when Rogue drains someone. It’s as if the virus is mimicking certain mutant abilities on a large yet decentralized level.”
“Well isn’t Sinister’s circus act soaking up DNA and mimicking mutant powers?” asked Bobby.
“That ain’t sittin’ right with meh on one too many levels,” dreaded Rogue.
“We don’t know the finer details so we cannot jump to conclusions just yet,” said Xavier in a reasonable tone, “We can, however, conclude that if the virus continues to drain the victim, they will die.”
“And how long would that take?” asked John, getting sick just thinking about it.
“It varies,” sighed Xavier, “It could be anywhere from a week to a day. However long it takes, the Legacy Virus has the potential to be lethal in all cases.”
That was enough to make everyone to share the dread. Piotr hovered closer to Kitty. Ororo and Remy did the same for Hank and Betsy. Their friends were dying and there was nothing they could do about it. Such a feeling was difficult to digest.
For Scott, it was enough to make him turn away. He started pacing, cursing himself for being so blinded by his family affairs. He was the one that pushed for a confrontation with Sinister and because of that, they ended up doing helping that madman. He never even got any answers from Gabriel. It was the lowest he had been in a long time.
“This is my fault. I led the X-men right into a trap. I should’ve seen it coming!” seethed the X-leader.
“Don’t even think about blaming yourself for this, Scott,” said Jean, offering a consoling gesture, “Sinister played us. That thing was going off whether we attacked him or not.”
“If I hadn’t been so hell bent on beating the answers out of Gabriel, I might’ve…”
“Even if you knew, it doesn’t make a difference. It happened. This virus is loose. No crisis was ever solved by needlessly blaming yourself.”
“Far as I’m concerned, we’re all responsible,” said John, “Sinister may have even leaked that file on your parents. It would explain why White Cell was able to find it so easily. The man went to great lengths to make sure we were in the line of fire. He’s a lot smarter than you’re giving him credit for.”
“Or maybe we’re just more foolish,” muttered Scott.
“In that case we better wise up. A lot of lives are at stake, including our friends!” said Jean strongly, forcing her lover to face their sickly friends.
The X-leader was still reeling, but Jean wouldn’t let him punish himself. There was work to be done. Their friends needed help and there was no telling how many people this virus could infect.
While this dire prognosis set in, those who were infected continued suffering. Kitty, Betsy, and Hank were in that fuzzy area between consciousness and unconsciousness. They were partially aware of their surroundings, but had a hard time comprehending what was going on. They knew they were sick. They knew Sinister was involved. They understood how serious this was. It was just a challenge, clinging to whatever strength they had left.
“I won’t let it happen, Katya. I won’t let Sinister’s madness destroy us,” said Piotr, clinging to his lover’s hand, “You said we would talk. We will have that talk. I promise!”
“So do I…” she said weakly.
“Hnn…how much worse will this get?” groaned Betsy, “Feels like the bloody Titanic is pressing down on my bones!”
“Then you probably shouldn’t move, Betsy. You don’t wanna hit an iceberg in cold waters,” made Rogue.
“Still busting my chops, luv?” said the British mutant.
“Just trying to give you something else to complain about,” she said with a light smile.
“Save your strength,” said Hank from the other bed, “Even joking…could be strenuous.”
Professor Xavier wheeled over to Hank with Ororo. He sounded a bit more coherent than the others. It may have been because of his physiology, but he also gained insight during their battle that the others had yet to grasp.
“Speak for yourself, Hank. Why are you trying to sit up?” said Ororo, having to push him back on his bed.
“During the battle…I saw something on the device,” he said, his voice deeply strained.
“What is it? What did you see, Hank?” asked the Professor intently.
“This virus…it acts as a single organism. Like EVA…in Fantomex,” said Hank, having to pause in mid-sentence, “You must find…the source. Contact Tessa. Contact Grimshaw. Contact…everybody.”
“Easy Henry,” coaxed Ororo, “We’ll figure this out.”
“It may be…too late. I saw…how powerful this virus is. As we speak…it is spreading.”
“Conserve your strength, old friend. The X-men will fight this,” said Xavier with a comforting gesture, “I’ll pool every resource at our disposal. We’ll coordinate with General Grimshaw and Tessa. We’ll work to contain the spread of this virus and minimize those afflicted!”
“That reminds me, Professor. Shouldn’t we have masks or some kind of protective suits?” asked John Proudstar, “We won’t be much help to anyone if we get infected.”
“Ah was worried about that too, but remember this ain’t your typical Outbreak style virus,” said Rogue, “We’re talking techno-organic here. It’s air-born, but it’s selective.”
“And you are knowing this how?” asked Colossus.
“Those ain’t mah words mind you. They’re Tessa’s. Ah figure if you all ain’t showing symptoms now, the virus ain’t gonna select you.”
“How sure are you it won’t at some point?” asked John skeptically.
It only sounded somewhat reassuring. If only three of them showed symptoms after sharing a ride in the X-jet, then they may be in the clear. For whatever reason, this Legacy Virus wasn’t interested in all of them. That left them with plenty of manpower to work with.
While Rogue and John were pondering this, they didn’t notice Remy and Bobby shifting somewhat in their demeanor. It came on suddenly. One minute they were their healthy usual selves. The next minute they had to lean on nearby walls to keep themselves upright.
“Mr. Proudstar, sir…I think I can answer that question for you,” said Bobby, who was suddenly short of breath.
“Aw hell no, please tell meh you’re about to make a joke Bobby,” groaned Rogue, dreading the potential ramifications if she was wrong.
“He ain’t joking, cherè. This virus be like Sinister himself,” he said through ragged breaths, “It likes to mess with us before it screws us over.”
As soon as he said those words, Remy and Bobby collapsed onto the floor. Rogue gasped in horror while John, Ororo, and Piotr rushed to their aid.
“Remy!” Rogue cried out.
“We’ve no time to be shocked, Rogue,” exclaimed Ororo as she tended to Bobby, “Come over here and help us!”
“It would seem the infirmary will need more beds,” dreaded Piotr.
It seemed even Tessa didn’t know what they were dealing with. This Legacy Virus was becoming increasingly unpredictable. Seeing Remy lying motionless on the floor with legions forming on his face, a feeling of helplessness came over Rogue. As she rushed over to assist her friends, she silently recited some of the prayers Isaac taught her.
‘God…if ya really are out there, please don’t let it happen like this.’
Praying seemed to be their only immediate option. Rogue, Ororo, Piotr, and John aided their fallen friends while Scott and Jean prepared some beds. As they went to work, Professor Xavier watched the readings on Hank, Kitty, and Betsy change. The vital data was getting more erratic. It was as if the virus was taunting them. As he looked closer, he saw something more diabolical than any disease.
“We’ll have to set up some kind of containment, Professor,” said Scott as he wheeled over some fresh beds, “We need to protect ourselves from being infected!”
“I’ll see if I can use the Phoenix Force sterilize the air a bit. Don’t if it will help, but it’s better than nothing,” said Jean, using her telekinesis to retrieve medical equipment.
“It may not be enough. For all we know, we’re already infected. The symptoms just aren’t showing,” said Xavier as he watched more data come in.
“Now’s not the time to get paranoid on us, sir. We need to get to work before this virus starts claiming lives!”
“Based on what it just showed us, I fear it already has,” said Xavier distantly, “Sinister made sure we fell behind. Before we can even begin, the losses will mount.”
“Let’s not let it get to that point,” said Jean.
“I’m afraid it already has, Jean. And there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Seattle, Washington – Day One
“We got another one coming in. Get another bed in the ER!” yelled two frantic hospital workers as the wheeled a new victim into the ward.
“Another one? We just ran out,” said one of the nurses.
“Well you better magically conjure more because I doubt this will be the last one!”
Dr. Christopher Kirby watched as another victim rolled into the ward. He was the unlucky doctor who was on clinic duty today. It’s strange how it started off so slow. Then a few hours ago, people started pouring in showing the same debilitating symptoms. It had all the signs of the kind of outbreak that they trained to deal with and prayed never happened.
Rushing over towards the latest patient, he saw an elder woman with familiar symptoms. She was weak, barely able to move. She had these strange legions all over her body and she was growing paler by the second. He followed her until they wheeled her into an overcrowded ER full of similarly ill patients.
“Patterned lesions and weak vitals,” said Dr. Kirby as he felt around her neck, “She’s the same as all the others.”
“That makes over fifty in the last hour alone,” said one of the nurses, “I’m still getting my doctorate, but I think that qualifies as an epidemic.”
“It’s not like any epidemic I’ve ever seen,” said Dr. Kirby as he surveyed the other patients, “These symptoms defy everything I know about medicine. It spreads like a virus, but there’s none of the usual signs of infection. There’s no fever or heightened immune response. There’s no progression from one symptom to another. It’s all happening at once!”
“What could it be? Water poisoning? Some kind of mass allergic reaction?” pondered the nurse.
“One that affects everybody the same way regardless of age, health, or any other relevant demographic? I doubt it.”
“Whatever it is, we need to determine how lethal it is,” said one of the EMTs, “If this is some sort of epidemic, I need to report it to the CDC.”
The EMT and the rest of the personnel on staff got their answer in ghastly way. Not far from where they were standing, a young boy no older than 12 went completely limp. The machines monitoring his vitals flat-lined and the doctors nearby rushed to aid him.
“We’ve got another one going flat! Someone get the defibrillators over here!” yelled one of the doctors.
“You’ll have to wait until we’re done over here. Clear!” said another doctor who was in the process of using them, “This young woman is crashing again! Try and use adrenaline!”
“I already have. No response. It’s as if the life just melted out of him!”
It looked like two more people would be added to the growing body count. A 12-year-old boy and a woman in her mid-twenties succumbed to this mysterious disease. It said to the doctors and everyone else on staff that this outbreak was of the very deadly kind.
“I think that answers that,” said Dr. Kirby grimly.
“It’s official. I’m skipping the next two pages of protocol,” said the EMT, “I’m calling the CDC.”
“Something tells me we’ll all have to forgo protocol. Whatever it is we’re dealing with here, it’s nothing short of sinister.”
Atlanta, Georgia – Day Two
“Someone cordon off that street. I need sterilization depots at every point of entry. No one goes in or out of the hospital without level four bio gear!” barked an anxious and sleep-deprived General Grimshaw.
“Sir, that gear doesn’t seem to be helping,” said one of the Colonels, “I just got word two nurses and a doctor wearing that stuff came down with symptoms.”
“Then step it up to level five. I don’t care if there is no level five. Make one and keep every infected person quarantined. This thing has already spread beyond the United States. Let’s not let it spread any further!”
General Grimshaw was a lot as calm than usual. He once prided himself on being able to maintain a level head even in the worst of crises. This was a crisis of an entirely different nature and one he was personally responsible for.
‘This has to be your doing, Essex. Only an asshole like you could unleash something this bad. I should have had you thrown in the deepest, darkest hole when I had the chance. Now I may have actually helped you. If this is your idea of a joke, then I’m not laughing.’
Grimshaw surveyed the surrounding chaos. The area around the CDC headquarters had been turned into one big biohazard. Patients from nearby hospitals were being rerouted so the doctors at the CDC could determine what they were dealing with. The MSA and the state police were setting up large barriers, preventing reporters and family members from entering the area. It was getting ugly. Even from behind a sterilization unit, he could hear the frantic cries of the people.
“TELL US WHAT’S GOING ON! IS THIS A BIO-TERROR ATTACK?”
“PLEASE LET ME THROUGH! I NEED TO BE WITH MY HUSBAND!”
“DON’T KEEP ME OUT HERE! LET ME SEE MY CHILDREN!”
It was difficult to listen to. Grimshaw tried to shut it out. In the span of a day, every drill this country had put together for dealing with a biological attack was put into effect. It was only now they were finding out that these emergency plans were flawed. As more people became ill and the body count rose, it became obvious that this was not a normal disease.
The General couldn’t afford to lament. Adjusting his bio-hazard suit, he made his way towards the main building where he hoped to meet with the CDC’s best doctors. Along the way, he met up with Captain Jack Freeman. He had flown down to Atlanta with him when they got word from Charles Xavier that this Legacy Virus was on the loose. While Jack had no training in pandemics, his authority with the MSA helped keep a tight lid on this area while they assessed this increasingly dire situation..
“General Grimshaw, sir…I just got a report from the Pentagon,” said the Captain urgently.
“Walk fast and talk fast, Captain. How bad is it?” asked the General as they made their way into the main building.
“The President and every member of Congress has officially gone into hiding. Every branch of the government is being protected as if a nuclear bomb just hit.”
“All points considered, I almost prefer the bomb,” said the General as he watched several nurses wheel stacks of body bags towards the morgue.
“We may end up preferring multiple bombs after this. Reports are streaming in from all over the country. The death toll just climbed past 10,000. And that the conservative estimate for one day. Just one!” said the bewildered Green Beret.
“I can count, Captain. What about overseas? Any numbers from them?”
“There have officially been cases on every continent…including Antarctica. We got a head start, but they’re catching up fast. Intel from the CIA says every country is getting a taste of this Legacy Virus, as you’re calling it.”
“That’s not what I call it. That’s what the bastard who unleashed it calls it,” said the General bitterly.
“You mean Essex? The same Essex X-men clashed with? Whoever he is, he’s giving Magneto a run for his money. I’ve seen Michael Bay movies that are less destructive!”
“Essex is worse than any underpaid Hollywood writer could conjure,” he said, “John Wraith may have been the brains behind Weapon X, but Nathaniel Essex was the muscle that made it work. If what Xavier told me earlier is accurate, he’s also behind that techno-organic crap that made Weapon Plus.”
“That’s a long list of reasons for us to nuke the guy on sight,” said the Green Beret strongly, “Does this have anything to do with that favor we granted to the X-men that involved dropping a bomb on Mount Rainier?”
“It has everything to do with that, Captain!” said General Grimshaw in an outburst of frustration, “That bomb may have been what unleashed this plague. It was probably Essex’s way of getting his enemies to do his dirty work for him. He can’t resist getting everybody’s hands dirty in an atrocity.”
General Grimshaw had to stop and catch his breath. Captain Freeman stopped with him. In all the years he had been under this man’s command, Captain Freeman had never seen the General like this. For once, a calculated decision had gone horribly wrong. He held himself responsible like he always did and the growing death toll was wearing on him.
“Don’t get mad at yourself, General. Get mad at Essex!” urged Captain Freeman.
“I should have seen it coming,” he mused, “How many people are going to die as a result of our collective foolishness?”
“More will die if we keep focusing on the shit and not the asshole it’s coming from. If Essex is pulling the strings, then why aren’t we going after him?”
“You think that hasn’t crossed my mind?” said the General, having to lean on the wall for support, “Everyone from the X-men to the Montana militia have tried finding this guy. He’s officially listed as dead so that should give you some idea of how hard he is to track.”
“He’s pretty cunning for a dead man, but even the dead leave a stench,” said the Green Beret, “You can keep organizing these death camps. I want to go after Essex. Give me some resources from the MSA. I can find him!”
“You’re welcome to try, son. But right now, resources are at a premium,” said the commanding officer, “I need my best soldiers on the front lines. Right now, that line is here at the CDC.”
“But sir, I can do more good if you…”
“This isn’t up for debate, Captain. That’s an order!” said the General in a rare tone that silenced the Green Beret, “We don’t know enough about what we’re dealing with and we don’t have any leads on Essex. There are already people at the Pentagon looking for this guy and until they find something, we have to focus on this outbreak. So rather than waste time, which is already costing us lives, I need you here!”
Captain Freeman was still reluctant. Whenever the source of the trouble was some crazy asshole with an axe to grind, the street punk in him wanted to find that person and take them down. The soldier in him, however, listened to his superior officer. That didn’t mean he agreed with him. That also didn’t mean he would leave Essex to people in DC.
“Very well, sir,” he told the General, “I’ll stay.”
“Thank you, Captain,” said Grimshaw after regaining his composure, “Now follow me. We need to get the latest from the autopsy reports.”
The Captain simply nodded, having little else to say as they watched this parade of death continue. While he wasn’t going to get help from the General or his fellow soldiers in DC, it didn’t mean he had no cards left to play.
‘Sorry General, but for once you’re not thinking clearly. If you’re not going to focus on Essex, then I’ll have to take on this mission. I’m not super soldier, but I know just who to turn to for help.’
New York City – Day Three
“We’re getting short-handed here, Multiple. We need more clones!” ordered an overwhelmed Lucas Bishop.
“And I need a trip to Hawaii on a private jet. So I guess that means we’re both going to be disappointed,” quipped one of several hundred Jamie Madrox clones running through the streets of District X.
“You’re making jokes at a time like this?”
“It’s no joke, Bishop. I’m at my limit. I make any more clones and I won’t be able to pull myself together…literally.”
Bishop spat off all kinds of curses. The situation was dire in District X and the rest of New York for that matter. The streets had been closed off to regular traffic and open only to emergency personnel and public transportation. The whole city had been turned into one big biohazard and every district, including District X, had to cooperate.
Thousands had been infected. Thousands had died. Humans and mutants were equally vulnerable. Over half of District X’s mutant population was ill and some had already perished, leaving Bishop and Multiple to tend to the sick while disposing of the dead. While ten Multiple clones were hauling supplies from a passing ambulance, ten more were loading bodies into the back of a dump truck. Bishop had a strong tolerance for hardship, but this was making him sick to his stomach.
‘That’s ten more on top of ten-thousand from the city. For once the humans are seeing eye-to-eye with us. I would rather take ten Bastion attacks and five police throw-downs than deal with this shit. We’re finally working together and it still ain’t enough.’
The last of the convoy through District X passed. Bishop watched as a few armed men and women from the NYPD rode by atop some National Guard transports. They were tired and distraught, having seen so much death in such a short span of them. These were the same people that often harassed District X. Now they were just as dazed as everyone else.
“For what it’s worth, I thought you mutants would be the death of us. I’m willing to admit out loud that I was wrong,” said one of the officers.
“Don’t try to humble yourself. This ain’t the end. We’ll be back to hating each other soon enough. I’m sure of it!” shouted Bishop.
“Don’t think less of me if I say I hope so.”
Bishop’s gaze hardened as the officers left the District X. With growing frustration, he ran back towards the central building. He shoved past several Multiple clones and cordoned off buildings full of sick mutants. The NYPD and the city may be at a loss, but District X wouldn’t give in so easily. They had more resources at their disposal than the rest of these doomsayers.
“Tessa! Where you at, girl?” shouted Bishop as he entered the central building.
The determined mutant barged past more Multiple clones and rows of small beds holding sick mutants. He kept himself from looking and stormed up the nearest staircase, assuming the elevators were too busy moving mutants from one floor to the other. Tessa was the brains of this district. This disease had the signs of something techno-organic, which meant Tessa may be the only one who could figure it out.
After making his way towards the upper levels, Bishop burst through the door and made his way to Tessa’s quarters. He arrived in time to see Tessa looming over a sickly Jubilee, who had been running herself ragged since this outbreak began.
“Aw hell no,” groaned Bishop.
“Hell yes, Lucas…it’s exactly what you think it is,” said Jubilee.
The young mutant collapsed in Tessa’s arms. Bishop ran over to help catch her. Jubilee had all the symptoms. She looked weak and pale with those unmistakable legions covering her body. She was still conscious and trying to fight through the pain. Tessa and Bishop had to hold her down so she didn’t put any added strain on her body.
“It’s another one, Bishop,” said Tessa, her emotions having been turned off, “Jubilee is case number 30,582,028.”
“Those numbers better be code,” said Bishop as he took Jubilee in his arms and carried her over to Tessa’s bed.
“I wish they were,” she said, “The Legacy Virus continues to spread. I’ve been tracking it with Charles Xavier. Cases are breaking out on every continent. People are dying by the thousands. And it’s all because of my work.”
Bishop could tell her voice was strained even with her emotions turned off. If she turned them on she probably would have broken down in a heap of sorrow. He couldn’t have that right now. District X needed them to keep fighting. Upon laying Jubilee in Tessa’s bed, he stormed over to her and grabbed her shoulders.
“Don’t you beat yourself up again, girl. We’ve rapped this tune before. This ain’t your fault!” he said strongly.
“It’s still my research, Bishop,” she said, her emotions seeping through, “This disease is a direct result of the techno-organic material that I created. I’ve spent the last few days studying blood samples to prove it.”
“Then that ought to be a good thing. If this is your handiwork, you should be able to stop it.”
“I’ve been trying. But this form of techno-organic material is different from the one I developed. It’s different even from what was used with Fantomex. Every attempt I’ve made at containing it has failed. It certainly doesn’t help that my boyfriend has been infected.”
“So why you still standing here like you made this happen?” reasoned Bishop, “You ain’t the problem Tess, but you can be the solution. That’s what your boyfriend would want. And that’s what District X needs! Now are you gonna get it together or not?”
The logical part of her brain agreed with Bishop. This virus was not a direct result of her work the same way Fantomex had been. It was something very different. That didn’t mean she wasn’t responsible. It only meant she had more reasons to fight this than everyone else. Looking over at the sickly Jubilee, she felt a renewed determination.
“I need some more testing equipment,” she said, sounding like her old stoic self, “Tell Multiple to unload the latest shipment of medical gear in the basement. I’ll sift through it and find what I need. I have a few more tests I need to conduct.”
“At a girl,” said Bishop with an approving grin, “We got to keep fighting. We in a better position than a lot of fools out there!”
“That’s the problem, Bishop,” said Tessa as she walked over to Jubilee’s bed, “We’re in a better position to weather this storm. But the same can’t be said for countless others.”
Morlock Lair – Day Four
Living in a sewer had always been difficult. Destitution and disease were a fact of life. The Morlocks went to great lengths to make the sewers a habitable if not symbolic home. Now their efforts were failing. Their choice of residence, or lack thereof, was finally catching up to them.
“So cold…need another blanket,” gasped one sickly Morlock.
“Can’t move. Wish my mommy…was still here,” said another Morlock who couldn’t have been older than twelve.
“Tired…need to sleep,” said one of the older Morlocks who had been living in the sewer for decades.
Upon seeing one of their brethren slipping away, Marrow and Calliso rushed over.
“No! Don’t fall asleep,” urged Marrow, “You may not…”
“I know,” said the old Morlock, “I’m okay with that. Anything is better…than this.”
Such despair struck the two young women as they watched this old Morlock that survived so much slip into unconsciousness. They could tell from the look in his eyes that this was his last gasp. His face was covered in legions. He had received little treatment since he came down with symptoms. Within moments of closing his eyes, he was dead.
Marrow and Callisto gazed solemnly over this latest victim. He was not alone by a long shot. Throughout the main lair, dozens of Morlocks lay sick or dead. They were dying at an alarming rate. In the past two days alone, their numbers had been halved. The lack of medical supplies and the dingy conditions of the sewers accelerated this onslaught of disease. There was no stopping it.
“The sewers are killing us almost as fast as this plague,” said Marrow with growing despair, “If we don’t do something soon, there will be no Morlocks to speak of.”
“I’m normally inclined to blame the surface world for such suffering,” said Callisto distantly, “But I’ve heard from the former Morlocks in District X that the people above are dying at the same rate. For once, both our worlds are in peril.”
“You almost sound disappointed,” said Marrow bitterly, “Would you feel better if this was an attack by the surface dwellers?”
“It would give me us something to take my anger out on. That’s for damn sure. But here we are, watching our people die. And there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Callisto was right. It would be so much easier if this were some sort of attack from their numerous enemies. It would have given them something to fight against. Instead, they were surrounded by senseless, meaningless death. The death that consumed them was consuming the surface as well. Neither were equipped to handle it. This left everybody in a state of complete despair.
Callisto and Marrow shifted their attention towards the Morlocks that were still alive. They were set up on hastily constructed beds that now lined the lair. If any Morlock was still healthy, they helped tend to the sick. One Morlock who was in critical condition was Leech. He was the youngest Morlock and seeing him suffer was troubling, even to the most hardened souls.
“I’ve been in touch with other Morlock communities,” Callisto went on while Marrow gazed over Leech, “Their story is the same. So many are dying. Our entire society is collapsing. Some are seeking refuge with the surface world.”
“So much for the Morlocks staying out of surface affairs,” muttered Marrow, “This may be the twilight hour of our people.”
“We’re not dead yet, Marrow. We still have reason to fight!” she said strongly, “Healer has been working around the clock on a treatment. If he can find a way to combat this plague, then we have a chance at reuniting and even strengthening our people.”
She sounded more confident than anyone should have at this point. Marrow found it difficult to share such confidence after they had lost so much. Healer had come through before, but this was different. This wasn’t some disease that emerged through traditional sewer living. It was something far worse. And while Marrow adjusted Leech’s sheets, Sunder came running over from across the lair.
“My leaders, come quick!” he said in an urgent tone.
“What is it Sunder? How much worse is it getting?” said Marrow.
“I…I’d rather not say. Come see for yourself.”
Marrow and Callisto followed Sunder across the lair, passing by dozens of sick and dead Morlocks along the way. The sight, sound, and smell of so much death consumed the already putrid sewer air. The two women ignored it as best they could, trying to remain strong for their people. They soon arrived at Healer’s workshop. What they saw dashed whatever hope they had left.
“No…” gasped Callisto.
“Healer!” Marrow cried out.
Their oldest friend and co-founder of the Morlocks lay passed out on the floor. His workshop was a mess, covered in numerous failed elixirs that had been spilled or discarded. Header hadn’t been able to synthesize a cure. Now it seemed he wouldn’t get the chance. When Marrow turned him over, they saw that his face was pale and his body was covered in lesions.
“I…couldn’t stop it,” he said weakly, “An hour ago…I felt it coming.”
“You can’t be ill, Healer. We need you! Your people need you!” urged Marrow.
“I…have failed them,” said Healer sadly, “This disease…it’s too strong. It cannot…be healed.”
“Don’t say that! We’re Morlocks. We fight through the darkest corners in the darkest of hours!”
“It’s…too late. The sewers protected us all these years. They can’t protect us from this.”
“Is that it, Healer? Have you given up fighting because our home can’t protect us anymore?” barked Callisto.
“Callie don’t,” said Sunder, having to hold her back.
“I’ve been fighting…for so long,” said Healer solemnly, “It’s only in death…that we see…just how trivial it was. I’m sorry, my Morlocks. I’m so…sorry.”
With a weak cough, Healer’s frail old body went limp. He slipped into a world of unconsciousness, taking with him whatever hope the Morlocks had of surviving. It was a sad and bitter moment for Marrow, Callisto, and Sunder. Healer was gone. Morlock society as they knew it was finished and there was nothing they could do about it.
Genosha – Day Five
Magneto often preached that the end of mutant kind would be a result of human depravity. Only all-out war could get in the way of mutants taking their rightful place in the world. If he hadn’t disappeared, he may have to revise his assessment. Mutants and humans alike were now succumbing to other forces. This time, both were powerless to stop it.
“Death…suffering…fear…that’s all I can sense,” said an exhausted Quentin Quere.
“That’s the fifth time you’ve said that in the last two hours, Quentin. I don’t need to be reminded,” said the equally exhausted voice of Wanda Maximoff, “I need you to keep track of every mind on this island while we’re dealing with this!”
“Nearly a quarter of our mutant population is dead. Another quarter is very ill. As far as I can tell, we’re not dealing with jack shit,” retorted the young psychic.
Wanda could’ve hexed Quentin for his attitude, but that wouldn’t have made him any less right. The past few days demonstrated just how powerless they were in the face of this plague. Genosha, home to many powerful mutants and the most advanced technology on the planet, was withering under the relentless attack of the Legacy Virus. It didn’t just consume their homeland. It consumed the world. For once, there were no human oppressors to deal with. It was a crisis that Genosha shared with the world and on every front they endured heavy losses.
Wanda and Quentin had been making their way through the downtown area of the Genosha capital city. The day-to-day lives of their citizens had been completely disrupted. The whole island was under a state of emergency. Two days ago Wanda issued an order for the entire mutant population to converge in the capital so they could fight this disease together. Alex and the Brotherhood helped organize their efforts. This outbreak forced the many factions within Genosha to set aside their differences and work together. It was probably the most united they had been since the initial uprising. However, this unity wasn’t doing them an ounce of good.
Using Warlock technology, the Brotherhood constructed special pods to contain and treat the sick and dying. These pods lined the streets while family, loved ones, and brethren tended to them with growing dread. They were attempting all sorts of treatments. Even the mutant healers pitched in. Nothing worked.
“Come on, Elixir Try harder!” barked Blob while standing over the pods containing Lance and Pyro.
“This is the sixth treatment in the past two days. I think it’s safe to say this disease is beyond my healing abilities,” said an exasperated Josh Foley.
“So what are you saying? We just stand here and watch them die?”
“You think I want that?” exclaimed Elixir, “I came to this island so that I could heal people without my powers being exploited. Now I can’t heal a damn thing!”
Blob snarled at the younger mutant, ready to eat him alive for giving him attitude. Wanda stepped between them, showing little patience for fighting.
“Knock it off, Blob! Elixir is as upset as I was when I found out my hexing powers had no affect on this disease,” said Wanda.
“Well if you can’t hex it and Foley here can’t heal it, what the hell are we gonna do?” said Blob in frustration, “These pods are turning into coffins. So excuse me for getting a little pissed. I think I’m in pretty good company.”
The oversized mutant had a point. The citizens of Genosha were all upset. They were watching their fellow mutants perish. The powers that once set them apart did little good. Many gathered around barriers that Lorna set up along the streets, watching and lamenting at the destruction consuming their island. The only one they could turn to at this point was their leader.
“HELP US, LADY WANDA! I CAN’T LOSE MY LITTLE BROTHER LIKE THIS!” said one teenage mutant.
“WE NEED HELP! CALL THE HUMANS! CALL THE X-MEN! CALL SOMEBODY!” exclaimed a middle-aged mutant woman.
“THIS IS MY ONLY HOME! DON’T LET IT DIE LIKE THIS!” cried an old mutant man.
Wanda held back many painful emotions as she listened to the frantic cries of her people. It was times like this she wished she had the cold resolve of her father. He would never let his emotions paralyze him like this. He would not tolerate being so powerless. All eyes were on her now. Genosha was expecting her to fix it.
“Wanda, we have a problem!” a familiar voice cried out.
“Please…no more problems,” said Wanda, feeling even more overwhelmed.
Wanda watched as the crowds parted ways and Alex came flying through. He had Mellencamp with him and in their arms were Lorna and Pietro. They had been hard at work trying to maintain some semblance of order on the island. Now they were showing symptoms of the disease.
“It started an hour ago,” said Mellencamp with an unmoving Pietro Maximoff hitched over his shoulder, “Lorna was trying to fight through it and Pietro just…slowed down.”
“Now I can’t keep them awake. We have to get them into a pod!” exclaimed Alex, who was holding a weakened Lorna in his arms.
Wanda couldn’t be her usual assertive self. Seeing her half-sister and brother fall ill was too much for her to handle. As she ran up to Alex and Mellencamp, she shook her head in disbelief. The lesions on their faces looked bad. This along with an ever rising body count threatened to undo everything they had built.
“No…” she said grimly.
“Hnn…I feel so weak. I…hate it,” groaned Pietro.
“You’ll hate death even more if you don’t conserve your strength,” barked Alex.
“Alex don’t,” said Lorna in a raspy voice, “This is a fight…none of us can win.”
“Don’t say that, Lorna. I’m not letting you give up that easily!” said Alex strongly.
“Quit trying to inspire us, Alex. It’s not working,” said Wanda as she caressed the face of her younger half-sister, “Our mutant abilities will do us no good this time. For once, we are all truly powerless.”
Nova Roma – Day Six
“ATTENTION ALL CITIZENS OF NOVA ROMA. THIS IS AN EMERGENCY MESSAGE FROM THE CURIA. IN WAKE OF THE RECENT OUTBREAK, ALL CITIZENS ARE TO REMAIN IN THEIR HOMES WITHOUT EXCEPTION. MEDICAL TREATMENT AND FOOD WILL BE DELIVERED BY THE ARMY. PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE YOUR HOME. AUTHORIZATION TO SHOOT HAS BEEN GRANTED.”
Nova Roma was not used to this kind of hardship. This kind catastrophe had always spared their hidden city, thanks in large part to the protection provided by Mount Anton. Now that their society had been exposed to the outside world, they shared in the hardships. Despite their remote location and having more resources than the rest of the world, thousands had died and hundreds more were sick from the Legacy Virus.
As a result, the Nova Roman government almost completely shut down the city. Citizens were told to stay in their homes. The sick were left isolated, cared for only by what few medical personnel and mystical healers remained. The only ones roaming the streets were Nova Roman soldiers, who did their best to maintain order. That wasn’t easy when even the Nova Roman Senate was at a loss.
In the Curia, every senator and their family barricaded themselves within the opulent structure. Some had already perished and their bodies were tossed outside to rot. Their power and prestige did not protect them. They were as vulnerable to this disease as the commoners they looked down on. It was sobering in the worst possible way.
“I’ve never seen Nova Roma brought to its knees like this,” commented Margali Sefton, “Not since the days of Selene’s ancestors has there been so much destruction.”
“Random and unstoppable death will do that. Even the most powerful can’t help but be humbled,” said Shaman sadly.
“You sound pretty humbled yourself, Shaman. I take it you’ve given up on finding a mystical cure,” commented Margali.
“I haven’t given up. I’m taking a break,” he said in a less-than-convincing tone, “Back on my old reservation, my people had a way of moving beyond tragedy. We tend to see the past and the present as one in the same where the spirits of the dead remain with us. But I don’t think my people imagined that being surrounded by so many death could be…troubling.”
It was the most distressed Shaman had ever sounded. He was usually so calm and collected. That was why he was so good at training Illyana and treating Amanda. He had faced plenty of tragedies in his life, but none like this. Margali offered him a some consolation. In some ways she was trying to comfort herself as well. Her family spent generations protecting the world from a dark power. Now it seemed another darkness may beat them to the punch.
At the moment, the luckiest soul in Nova Roma was Amanda. She had the luxury of being in a coma. She hadn’t awoken since their last battle with Selene and was being kept in good physical condition within a special mystical chamber. This was where Kurt often came to visit. He spent much of his time just being in her presence, taking comfort in her spirit. Now he needed more than comfort.
“Do you think this is it?” asked Illyana, who was standing next to him, “Could this be the darkness that Miss Sefton warned us about?”
“I doubt it, Illyana,” sighed Kurt, “If it vas, ve vould have seen other signs.”
“It might as well be that power, yes? It is killing so many people. It may end up killing everybody!” she said sadly.
“Zhe X-men von’t let zhat happen,” said Kurt strongly.
“I wish I could share your faith, Kurt. But it doesn’t look like anybody can save the world at this point.”
“Sometimes it’s not possible to save zhe world. It’s only possible to save vhat’s left of it,” said Kurt as he placed his hand over the chamber holding Amanda, “It’s like vith Logan. Vhen ve vent to see him, he had already lost so much. For reasons ve don’t yet understand, he zhinks finding my mother vill somehow save vhat’s left.”
“And if it doesn’t?” she said anxiously.
“In either case, it’s still vorth fighting for. You just have to be prepared to take more losses.”
Kurt closed his eyes and bowed his head. Illyana couldn’t tell if he was reaching out to Amanda or just praying. He still had hope. He may be the last one in this city if not the whole world. This plague was doing more than just killing people. It was breaking their spirit.
One week into the Legacy plague had gone by. In that week, civilization stood on the brink of complete destruction. Millions died. Millions more were infected. Every major national and international issue took a back seat to this crisis. There wasn’t a soul that could hide from the Legacy Virus. It didn’t matter if someone was rich or poor, human or mutant, man or woman, young or old. This virus affected everybody and in every case, the situation was grim.
China – Beijing
“Colonel Liu, the numbers are in. Half our population is either sick or dead,” said a young and solemn subordinate.
“Half? In one week?” said Colonel Liu.
It couldn’t have been true. Colonel Liu watched as the People’s Army, the largest in the world in terms of numbers, mobilized a massive effort to contain the Legacy Virus. Standing stop an armored convey, he watched as they rolled through deserted streets. Soldiers that found anybody walking by were immediately forced into quarantined areas. Even an old man with a two-year-old girl was not spared. Three soldiers jumped out and put guns to their heads.
“You there! You are in violation of the quarantine!” yelled one of the soldiers.
The old man looked up with a lifeless expression, the little girl not even showing any fear.
“If you’re going to shoot me, please do it now. My family has been wiped out. My granddaughter and I wish only to see the heavens one last time before it claims us.”
The three soldiers turned to Colonel Liu for orders. The Colonel shook his head. There was no use striking fear into the heart of their people anymore. They were already facing death.
“Leave them,” said Colonel Liu, “In one more week, we may all be taking our last gaze at the heavens.”
Australia – Sydney
“Doctor Lowe! Are you in here?”
The anxious voice of an Australian nurse echoed through what may have been the most distressing place of the hospital. Every other room was in use, tending to the sick and dying. Only one room was truly quiet and that was the morgue. The nurse, who hadn’t left the hospital in days, rushed in when she got word that their top pathologist had disappeared. The last place she decided to look was the morgue, which was now completely stacked with bodies. Sure enough, she found him. He was sitting in a corner, his head buried in his hands that were dripping with blood from the corpses.
“Doctor…” she gasped as she ran over to the dazed man.
“I can’t take it anymore,” said Doctor Lowe in his thick accent, “It’s all the same. Everybody’s dying. The disease gets in their bodies, they get weaker, and the life just drains right out of them.”
“This is no time for a breakdown. We need every doctor on hand for incoming patients!” urged the nurse.
“Who the fuck cares?” cried the Doctor, “I’m a pathologist. I deal with the dead. All I’m going to see is more bodies piling up on my table, telling the same bleeding story. And you know what the worst part is? In the end there will be no one left to hear my story…because this plague is going to kill us all.”
Doctor Lowe had lost it. He could not continue. The nurse said nothing more. She slowly backed away, watching this grown man bawl in despair. She was tempted to join him, but there were too many people that needed her. In the end Doctor Lowe may be right. There may be no one left to tend to the dead.
India – Mumbai
Throughout the history of India, bloody wars had caused rivers to be choked with dead bodies. Wars against the Mongols, the British, and the Ancient Greeks had resulted in plenty of bloodshed. Now, with a Legacy Virus ravaging every corner of the planet, the rivers of India were carrying endless streams of bodies into the next life. In a culture built around reincarnation, there wasn’t much to be reborn into.
For some, like Rav Gavaskar, being born into a life of wealth and privilege seemed meaningless now. From atop his opulent home, he could see the local river in the blistering Indian sun. It was usually such a beautiful sight. Now it was a nightmare because there were bodies floating downstream at an alarming rate.
“Father! What are you doing out here?” said Paras, a young mutant boy with purplish skin.
“Go back inside, Paras. I wish to be alone,” said Rav.
“How can you stand to be alone? My brother is gravely ill! If these are his last moments, shouldn’t you be there for him?”
“I’ve no desire to see my oldest son die. I already watched his fiancé die. I already watched our neighbors die. I’m sick of death. I won’t be a part of it.”
Paras was disgusted by his father’s remarks. He sounded so cold and hopeless. It was not unusual for him, especially after he found out his youngest son was a mutant. Paras scorned his father even if he wouldn’t look him in the eye. If his father wasn’t going to console his brother, then it was up to him.
“You’re a coward, father. Just like everyone else who threw themselves in the river rather than risk infection. I miss when you were just ashamed of having a mutant as a son!” spat Paras as he stormed off, “Enjoy the company of the dead. I’m sure you’ll get along with them just fine.”
Saudi Arabia – Mecca
“Oh Allah, the most merciful and compassionate, deliver us from this valley death. In the name of the Prophet, grant us your endless grace.”
The prayers Mecca ran out with more fervor than usual. In wake of so many deaths, thousands of Muslims from throughout the region converged at their holiest city. Allah’s mercy had not reached them yet. Along the roads leading to Mecca, dozens of bodies lay scattered in a trail of death. The disease somehow found them before they could reach their destination. Even the Saudi authorities were weakened by the devastation of this plague. Yesterday the king of the country issued an edict. Muslims everywhere who wished to seek salvation in their holy cities were welcomed to do so.
Among those Muslims was Sooraya Qadir. She and her mother were refugees from Afghanistan. In the span of a week, her father had died and much of her village had been devastated. They survived the Taliban, but they may not survive this. As a mutant, she once thought her powers that allowed her to turn into dust would be the greatest threat she faced. She now realized how wrong she was.
“How much longer must we pray, mother?” asked Sooraya as she and her mother gazed upon masses of desperate Muslims.
“As long as it takes,” she said, “Only Allah can save us now.”
“Allah could not save my father. Do you really think he will save us? Even after he cursed me with being a mutant?”
“Allah doesn’t curse anyone, Sooraya. He takes care of the dead and blesses the living,” her mother said strongly.
“I don’t know which I prefer anymore. Life and death seem so irrelevant now.”
Her mother didn’t respond. She just bowed down and kept praying. From within her traditional veil, Sooraya prayed as well. She didn’t expect her prayers to be answered. If Allah was listening, he would know how lost she truly was.
Africa – Nigeria
In an already volatile region, the mood of the people was tense. Throughout Africa, entire villages and communities were decimated by the Legacy Virus that had swept the world. The continent had already been ravaged by AIDS, but this latest plague did in one week what AIDS could not in decades. It led many local authorities to mobilize their military and issue martial law. It meant armed convoys went roaming through dusty roads, trying in vain to keep order.
In Nigeria that meant local militias and government troops conducting regular patrols along the towns and villages that littered the countryside. Everywhere they went they found more death and despair. No one could escape this virus. Even in the dense jungle, the Legacy Virus found a way to spread more death.
“Stop up here,” said the lead driver of a Nigerian convoy, “I see something up ahead.”
“What is it?” said Captain Okankwo, “Is it even worth stopping for?”
The captain got his answer sooner than he would have preferred. As the convoy stopped, he and several men armed with AK-47s stepped out to investigate. An old man was standing in the middle of the road. He was almost naked, wearing nothing but ragged jeans. In his arms were two children who couldn’t have been older than two-years-old. They were both dead, their bodies covered in the familiar lesions of the disease. He looked completely lost, as if he too was dead without having been sick.
“Death took every one of them…even my grandchildren,” he said weakly, “I’m trying to find him. Can you help me?”
The armed men froze, at a loss for what they were seeing. Out of nowhere, a bullet was fired by one of the soldiers. It went straight through the old man’s head, killing him instantly. Captain Okankwo turned around and pointed his gun in the direction where he heard the sound.
“Who did that? Show yourself you swine!” the Captain barked.
A lone soldier raised his hand, showing no remorse for what he did. As far as he was concerned, he did that man a favor.
“I did, sir,” he said, “And if you want to kill me too, go ahead. I just gave the old man what he wanted.”
France – Paris
“Hurry up! Give us the results already!” exclaimed an anxious man in a suit.
“Just another minute, monsieur. The results are printing out,” said Dr. Jacques Moreau, the French Ministry of Health’s top scientist.
“I need some good news to share with the President. Every country in Europe is turning to us for answers.”
“Everyone is turning anywhere for an answer. That’s what millions of deaths in the span of one week will do to the world.”
Dr. Moreau had to be more urgent than usual. The entire city of Paris had been shut down. All of Europe was in a state of shock. The roads had been cleared. Travel had been restricted. Everybody had to stay within their community and receive supplies from government transport only. These were dire times and with each passing hour, it kept getting worse.
All of Europe and pretty much every industrialized country now had one focus with their remaining resources and that was to find a cure for this disease. Dr. Moreau had a member from the French Parliament looking over his shoulder as he conducted his latest round of tests. He was working in the most sophisticated lab in all of Europe. He had access to every piece of data any doctor could ask for when researching disease. For the last six hours he had been conducting a test with an advanced electron microscope. When the data printed out, Dr. Moreau eagerly read it over. As expected, the results weren’t promising.
“Well?” said the diplomat.
“If I’m not asking for champagne, you can assume that nothing has changed,” said Dr. Moreau, “It’s the same story we got from the Brits, the Germans, and the Americans. Nothing can stop this virus.”
“Damn it, Jacques! I’m not asking for a miracle. It’s a fucking virus! Don’t we know a thing or two about viruses?”
“I don’t know if I should even classify this as a virus. So much of it is…wrong for lack of a better word,” said Dr. Moreau distantly, “This virus doesn’t obey the rules of biology. Sometimes it acts like a machine. Other times it acts like a living thing. It’s impossible to pin down and every bit as impossible to stop.”
“So what am I to tell the ministry? That we’re dealing with something that’s breaking the laws of nature?”
“No monsieur…you’re to tell them that there’s little we can do,” he replied solemnly, “We don’t understand what we’re dealing with. It may very well kill us all before we do.”
Mexico – Mexico City
In every major city of every country, there was one job that had become more reviled than any other. It was difficult enough tending to the sick and the dying. The Legacy Virus that had consumed the planet was slaughtering millions. One task that was gruesome yet necessary was disposing the bodies. As cities became strained and the authorities grew frustrated, respect for the dead waned in wake of countless hoards of bodies.
“It’s right up ahead, amigo. Slow down. You don’t want to get too close,” said Victor, the man who had the gruesome task of disposing the bodies.
“I’m not driving any closer than I have to, Victor. The smell is killing me,” said the man driving the oversized dump truck they were riding in.
“You get used to it, but you don’t want to. If it makes you feel better, I’ll make the dump. Just stay inside, close your eyes, and pray the nightmares don’t drive you crazy. The last guy who had your job went loco and that was before the plague killed him.”
The driver had to swallow the bile in his threat as the truck pulled up to a storm drain near the edge of the city. With so many people dying in a city that was overcrowded to begin with, the only place to dump the dead bodies was the storm drains. They had been turned into makeshift mass graves. With so many people leaving the city and others cowering in their homes, nobody was in a position to complain. For Victor, it was his only calling. Once a lowly garbage man, he was now tasked with this most terrible of chores.
Hardened from the sight of so many bodies, he stepped out of the truck and instructed the driver to turn around and back towards the ditch. Once he was in position, he gave the signal. With the flip of lever, the back of the truck tilted and unloaded its ghastly cargo. Over a hundred bodies had been piled into the truck. Men, women, and children that succumbed to the Legacy Virus joined the countless masses dying by the thousands. It was Victor who was tasked with dumping them and he took no pleasure in it.
‘I’m no priest. I never even went to church. Guess the only appropriate thing to pray for is peace and quiet.’
Victor watched as the bodies poured into the massive ditch. They joined hundreds of others, some of which had been there for days and were starting to rot. The smell was horrendous. The only way to prevent it from spreading was to burn them. That was another job Victor had been tasked with.
“I have no family. Never had time for a wife. My only friends are the pictures on liquor bottles,” he mused, “Guess there’s no one better for this job than me.”
Removing his hat, Victor took out a bottle of hard liquor. He took a big gulp of it first and then he placed a dirty rag in it. He then used his cigarette lighter to ignite the rag. Once it was burning, he tossed it onto the pile of bodies. Within moments, the pile of corpses was ablaze. Such a morbid sight would have destroyed a lesser soul. For Victor, his soul might as well have been amongst those bodies.
“Ashes to ashes, amigos. You got it easy,” he said to the burning bodies, “Don’t worry about getting lonely. You’ll have plenty of company soon enough.”
United States of America – Presidential Bunker
President Robert Kelly had based his campaign on being able to handle a crisis. He still remembered confronting the former President after Magneto tried to destroy the world with an asteroid. He along with much of the world condemned him for being so weak in the face of pressure. Robert Kelly thought he could be better. Now he wasn’t so sure anymore.
This Legacy Virus brought the world to its knees in a way Magneto never could. One week had gone by and millions had died. It happened so quickly. Not even their worst bio-terror scenario could ever have imagined something so devastating. The nations of the world were on the brink of collapse. Authority was breaking down. Governments were waning, desperate for any possible solution. Every resource was being dedicated to stopping the Legacy Virus. So far, every effort had failed.
It was as sobering as it was tragic. Not only was the human world suffering. The mutants were being hit just as hard. Reports indicated that mutants were dying at the same rate as humans. This virus didn’t discriminate. Everybody was vulnerable. He and pretty much everyone from the White House was now secluded in the most secure bunker in the country. Even among his staff, some cases had broken out. It showed that even the leader of the free world couldn’t run from this. It was fitting because in a ways this evil was a product of their own doing.
‘Damn you, Nathanial Essex. Damn you, Weapon X. Damn you, Colonel Wraith. Damn every one of you who helped unleash this plague! Was this supposed to be it? The ultimate weapon? If so, I almost prefer a nuclear holocaust. At least with a bomb people don’t have to wither away in front of their loved ones. If what Charles Xavier said about Essex is right, he’s every bit as sinister as his name.’
The President had been cursing those responsible for the past hour. In the main situation room, he had various meetings with his Joint Chiefs and advisers. They all offered the same grim assessments. People were dying by the millions. There really wasn’t much else to dissect. Even after the meeting ended, he lingered. As President he had decisions to make. None of them were easy and none of them may make a difference in the end. Even the most powerful man in the free world was powerless against this plague.
“Mr. President,” came an unfamiliar voice, “Do you have a moment?”
“I’m the leader of a crumbling nation. I have more time than I care to spare,” replied President Kelly, “Who are you and what do you want?”
The man came over to the conference table and set down a metal briefcase. He was wearing a black suit and sunglasses. In a world that was on the brink of falling apart, he was remarkably well-dressed.
“My name is Henry Peter Gyrich, Vice President of covert and governmental operations,” he said in a stoic tone.
“Vice President? What happened to the man I appointed?” asked the President.
“He’s dead. The Legacy Virus got him,” Gyrich revealed.
“Forgive me if I’m unable to mourn. It wouldn’t be the first associate I’ve lost today.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to, sir. As acting head of the CIA, it is now my duty to share this information with you. I wish we had done so sooner. As you can imagine, we’ve been pretty swamped.”
“I don’t care to imagine, Mr. Gyrich. Show me what you want to show me. I could use a distraction from all this death.”
Gyrich didn’t flinch. The gravity of the Legacy Virus didn’t seem to affect him as much. President Kelly couldn’t help but be somewhat put off by that. He still pushed it aside for the moment and watched the well-dressed man open the briefcase.
“These files have been in storage for over half a century,” said Gyrich, “They represent a great deal of work that the CIA conducted on specialized mutant affairs. The one you’re most familiar with is Weapon X.”
“I was under the impression the CIA already had the official reports on Weapon X,” said the President.
“We do, but the CIA specializes in unofficial reports. One of them is on the man you’ve been cursing…Nathanial Essex.”
Gyrich tossed an open folder on the table, revealing a few old photos of Dr. Essex during his Weapon X days. When the President saw his face he cringed. This madman was responsible for all this death. He was also responsible for the program that had caused so much damage to humans and mutants alike.
“As you know, Essex was part of the covert program that created Weapon X. He was an obscure scientist who specialized in biotechnology that was at least several decades ahead of its time. Without him, Weapon X never would have been possible.”
“I don’t need his life story, Gyrich. Why is this being brought to my attention?” said the President.
“Because we at the CIA believe that knowledge didn’t come from nowhere,” said Gyrich firmly, “This Legacy Virus is unlike anything a mere human has conjured. It’s almost…alien.”
President Kelly’s gaze narrowed. He could see Gyrich’s intent even through his sunglasses.
“You remember the day after your inauguration. You were briefed by various agencies on information that only the President can know. One of those matters involves extraterrestrial forces.”
“I remember. It actually wasn’t the most shocking revelation I’ve had since I was elected.”
“I wouldn’t expect it to be. What we’ve uncovered is something that may shed light on where this virus came from. Based on intel our people have compiled over the years, we suspect that Essex somehow had alien help. It’s the only way he could gain so much knowledge and understanding in such a short period of time.”
“That makes perfect sense in an X-Files sort of way, but why are you confronting me about it at a time like this?”
“Because we also suspect it’s part of a larger plot…one that goes beyond Essex and extends to every mutant on the planet,” said Gyrich.
He put another file in front of the president, this one containing research data from Weapon X that was thought to be lost. It actually had some blood stains on it, hinting that the CIA went to great lengths to get this. When President Kelly opened it, his curiosity grew despite his sorrow.
“When I joined the CIA, my specialty was mutants. I’ve long seen them as a potential threat greater than any rogue nation. That’s why I got involved in the Essex case. I’m not interested in Weapon X as much as I am the secrets it uncovered.”
“What secrets might those be?” said President Kelly as he picked up the file.
“That Nathanial Essex was onto something that none of our scientists have figured out…something that may have inspired him to create the Legacy Virus. In some of his more private experiments, he hinted that there may be something unnatural about mutation. These extraordinary powers we see were not the result of the mutation process we all learned about in high school biology.”
“That’s been speculated many times before, Mr. Gyrich. What makes this genocidal madman any more credible?”
“Evidence, sir,” replied Gyrich, “Essex appears to have found evidence that there’s something within the mutants that’s worth killing for. It is of my opinion and a select few that whatever he’s discovered, it’s a potential danger that may exceed that of the Legacy Virus. At the moment, we treat mutants as random acts of God. Well what if that’s not the case? What if the mutants of this world are a product of something far more sinister if that’s not too inappropriate a word?”
Gyrich sounded pretty convinced. President Kelly remained skeptical. The contents of these files were telling. Some of this old test data from the Cold War could be taken a number of ways, but it did open the door to many possibilities. If they were correct, it would fly in the face of a major assumption about mutants that no one saw fit to question.
“This is all very intriguing and troubling,” said President Kelly as he set the file down, “I’m not sure what you’re asking me to do, Mr. Gyrich. All our resources are tied into fighting the Legacy Virus.”
“I understand that sir, but like I said this intel about Essex could be linked to the virus,” said Gyrich strongly.
“It could be. It could also be a complete waste of time. You haven’t showed me enough to warrant a full scale investigation. Surely the CIA has more than just these old files from the Cold War to back this up.”
“That’s just it, sir. Since Essex is listed as dead, no one has dared touch his work. I can’t give you the confirmation you need, but I feel this is our best lead. All I’m asking of you is to take a chance. What more do you have to lose?”
The moment Gyrich posed this question, the doors to the room burst open and a new presence came rushing in accompanied by the Secret Service. It was President Kelly’s wife, Sharon. She was in tears and carrying a very sick boy in her arms.
“Robert!” she cried out in a fit of tears.
“Sharon? What’s wrong?” said the President, quickly losing interest in Gyrich.
“It…It’s our son. It’s happening to him.”
Robert Kelly went from being President to being a father in a split second. Shooting up from his seat, he rushed over to his wife and looked to see their son cradled in her arms. His son, who had been such an inspiration since Magneto turned him into a mutant, was afflicted with the Legacy Virus. His pale, spongy body was covered in the familiar lesions. He looked tired and frail. Even the elaborate defenses of this bunker couldn’t protect him.
“No…not my son,” he gasped.
“Mr. President…” began Gyrich.
“Hold that thought, Mr. Gyrich. I have more pressing matters to attend to,” said President Kelly strongly.
“But sir!” Gyrich argued.
“Not another word!” he said strongly as he rushed out of the room with his wife and son, “I no longer care about the why of this virus. I only care about the how. If you and the CIA want to be useful, get to work! Someone needs to find a cure for this virus and it better happen soon!”
Gyrich was left alone in the room as the President rushed his son to the bunker infirmary. It seemed all semblance of authority had broken down. But as far as Gyrich was concerned, this virus was a sign and not an end. Something else was going to come of it. He was certain. If the President of the United States wasn’t going aid him, he would have to find his own way.
‘You’re making a mistake, Mr. President…one too many others have made. I won’t let it continue. Someone has to find these answers. Guess it’ll have to be me.’
Xavier Institute – Infirmary
Professor Charles Xavier had barely slept the whole week. When people were dying by the millions, it was difficult for anyone to sleep. His headaches quickly returned with a vengeance, prompting him to take the maximum dose of the medications that Dr. Reyes gave him. It allowed him to function, although it didn’t help him find a cure. A week of research coordinating with the likes of Tessa, Aerie Global, and Moria MacTaggart had yielded no treatments. The Legacy Virus was still ravaging this world.
In the time that Sinister unleashed the virus, millions had died. Curiously though, the X-men who had been initially infected held on. Bobby, Betsy, Remy, Kitty, and Hank were still alive. They had been in a state of deep unconsciousness for the past five days now. To keep them from withering away, Professor Xavier set up feeding tubes. This helped keep their bodies going, but for reasons he didn’t understand the virus wasn’t killing them. He and Jean had run test after test. Perhaps there was something about the X-men’s biology or maybe Sinister was making sure the X-men would remain alive just so they could watch him destroy this world. It was as cruel as it was mysterious.
“General Grimshaw send me the latest report,” said Professor Xavier distantly, “The death toll worldwide is approaching 300 million. The number of infected is approaching the two-and-a-half billion mark. This virus is beyond devastating. It’s…”
“I know,” said John Proudstar, who was standing next to the Professor, “You don’t need to put it into words, sir. I can fill in the blanks.”
The Native American mutant fell silent, as did the Professor. They watched solemnly over their gravely ill teammates. Bobby, Betsy, Remy, Kitty, and Hank were clinging to life by a thread. It was difficult to watch, which was likely why Scott, Jean, Ororo, and Piotr chose to busy themselves with more research. Only Rogue remained in the room. She lingered around Remy’s bedside, lamenting about how she had failed to warn the team in time. At the moment she was sleeping lightly in a chair next to Remy’s bed. She was probably the only one getting any rest at the moment.
“How much worse can it get, Professor?” asked John, “Is Sinister really going to infect everyone on the planet?”
“That seems to be the case,” sighed Xavier, dazed from his meds, “Based on the latest tests I did with Jean, this virus isn’t sparing anybody. It’s meant to infect everyone at some point. For some, it kills them quickly, as the 300 million dead bodies thus far have proven. For others, they’re able to survive. That large gap in those infected versus those dead says to me that Sinister isn’t trying to kill everybody.”
“Could’ve fooled me,” scoffed John, “All week this bug has just been wiping people out. If he’s really not looking to kill everybody, he has a fucked up way of showing it.”
“According to Tessa, the virus is in a preliminary stage. The first week appears to be a weeding out period, as disgusting it may be. Those too weak or unfit are selectively eliminated while others like our friends are kept alive.”
“But why? Is there a reason to anything with Sinister?”
“That I don’t know. It may not be worth finding out at this point. If this first week was just to set the tone as Tessa described, the next week may give us our answers. But by then it may be too late if it isn’t already.”
It was the most hopeless the Professor had ever been. John Proudstar had never seen him like this. Despite his stature, Charles Xavier was the strongest man he knew. He took a chance on a disgraced ex-marine when no one else would. If he was starting to lose hope, then there was little chance for anyone else.
“It can’t end like this, Professor. We can’t stop fighting, even if everyone else has,” said John, “You taught me better than that.”
“I know I did. And I’m trying to practice what I preach,” said Xavier distantly, “I’m not sure how much more death my mind can endure.”
“There has to be a way! If we can find Sinister, we can beat the cure for this virus out of him…or just beat him for the sake of beating him!”
“We’ve been trying that all week. In between researching the virus and searching with Cerebrum, we’ve found nothing. Sinister has taken all the necessary measures this time. He won’t allow us to find him until he wants us to find him.”
“Quit sounding so damn defeated, Professor!” said John in a fit of frustration, “Where’s the man who taught me to believe in dreams? Has that man stepped out or was that man ever there to begin with?”
“The dreamer is still here, John. It’s the pragmatist that you’re talking to right now,” said Xavier flatly as he gazed over the beds of his students, “My dream was for human/mutant peace. This has little to do with that. Sinister is something entirely different. He’s…an aberration to any dream or nightmare.”
“If you’re giving up because he’s too much to handle, then that’s a pretty lousy excuse and you know it,” retorted the Native American mutant.
“It’s not that we can’t handle Sinister. It’s the logistics of doing so. The man is a monster, but he’s a cunning monster. There are no lines he won’t cross. It is for that reason we cannot fight him in the way we need to. Only a miracle will give us a fighting chance.”
John was about to scold his former mentor again. Then the infirmary doors opened and Jean Grey came running in with what might have been the first signs of hope all week.
“Professor!” she exclaimed.
“Huh? The hell? We under attack or something?” said Rogue, stirring from her slumber.
“Slow down, Jean. What is it?” asked Xavier.
“Please tell me that glint in your eye means you have good news for once,” said John.
Jean was breathing hard, having to collect herself after a week of death and destruction. She just came from the lab and had her X-men communicator in hand.
“I just got a message from, Logan,” she said to her mentor, “He’s found Sinister’s base!”
“Wait…is that what he’s been doing all week? Looking for Sinister?” asked Rogue.
“Not by a long shot. It’s…a long story, but for now call it a happy coincidence,” said Jean, “Hank said we needed to attack the source of this virus. Well now we know where that source is! So what are we waiting for?”
Professor Xavier turned to John, the hope returning to his beleaguered spirit. This may be the miracle they needed. They now had a chance to confront the man behind this madness. It could be their last chance at stopping Sinister from leaving a dark legacy.
“Tell Logan to hold his ground. The X-men are on their way,” said Professor Xavier as he wheeled out of the infirmary, “This is likely our only chance to stop the Legacy Virus. Let’s make it count!”
Next Issue: Dark Legacy Part 3
Read Comments ( 0 )