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Volume 5 -- Issue 100 -- Prison Break Part 1

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Prison Break Part 1
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In a world that hates and fears mutants, Professor Charles Xavier and the X-men fight for peace and understanding. For years they have had many challenging confrontations with the likes of Magneto, the Cambrian, the Friends of Humanity, and the Phoenix Force. Their struggle has gained various complications along the way, leading to an entirely new set of challenges that are not easily confronted.

After Magneto’s attack with the Cambrian, humans and mutants were on the brink of war. However, war was averted when the X-men helped Wanda Maximoff strike a deal. Now Genosha is exporting alien technology that has led to immense economic growth throughout the world. The burden has fallen upon the X-men and the newly formed Mutant Security Agency to regulate this exchange so that prosperity thrives and conflict is wanes.

While this deal benefits many, there are those seeking its destruction. Colonel John Wraith is trying to rebuild Weapon X with the help of Reverend William Stryker. Having enlisted the resources of Shanobi Shaw and an advanced hacker, Arcade, they are ready to proceed with the next phase of their plan.

Genosha – South Coast

From the cloudy skies over Genosha, a single metal orb descended towards one of the most active sites on the island. This was once a run-down fishing port. Now it had become the most important shipping hub in the world. This was where the majority of Genosha technology was exported in accord with the peace treaty. This was also where Wolverine would carry out his new assignment.

The orb landed in a small clearing inside the outer security barriers of the port. As soon as it touched down, the top part opened and the former living weapon stepped out. He wore his X-men uniform for the first time after a long absence. After months of self-loathing and heavy drinking, Wolverine was ready to be an X-man again. As he stepped out he was greeted by two figures that may give him a different reason to drink.

“Welcome back to Genosha, Wolverine. I can tell you’re just so thrilled to be here again,” greeted an exceedingly sarcastic Pietro Maximoff.

“Cut the attitude, quickie. I ain’t here on a pleasure cruise. I’m here to work, something I’m sure is an alien concept to you,” growled a grumpy Wolverine.

“You’re one to talk. You never struck me as the most dedicated member of the X-men,” said Alex Summers, who shared the speedster’s lack of enthusiasm.

“For being such a prick, you strike me as someone worthy of the Summers name so I guess that makes us even,” retorted Wolverine, “Now are we gonna stand around busting each other’s balls or are we gonna make this work? This dump is a lot bigger than last time so I need to know what I’m working with.”

The idea of having to deal with Wolverine had little appeal to say the least. Neither Pietro nor Alex cared for the X-men much to begin with and making Wolverine their new security consultant was definitely one of Charles Xavier’s more questionable decisions. However, Wanda already signed off on it so they didn’t have a choice.

“Follow me,” said Alex assertively, “I’ll give you a quick tour of the new shipping docks.”

“Make it quicker if you can. I’m already getting a lot of suspicious scents here and it ain’t just quickie’s god-awful cologne,” said Wolverine.

“So says the guy who arrives on our home smelling like a mix of wet dog and cheap beer?” spat Pietro, “For your information, some of us actually care about how we present ourselves. As public figures, you should know that.”

“Whatever pretty boy,” said Logan, rolling his eyes, “I almost prefer the smell of your sister on blondie here. Guy practically reeks of her, especially in the basement if you know what I mean.”

Pietro cringed at Wolverine’s remark. His eye actually twitched. The idea of Alex dating Lorna still did not sit well. When confronted with lurid details, it was enough to stop him cold. And for a guy like Quicksilver, that was saying something.

Alex was only a little put off by the feral mutant’s comments, but he actually chuckled upon seeing Pietro’s reaction. As much as he disliked the X-men, he appreciated anybody who could silence Pietro Maximoff.

“Keep making comments like that and I may start hating you less, Wolverine,” chuckled Alex.

“Don’t get used to it, bub.”

“I don’t intend to. But anything you can do to make this situation more bearable is fine by me,” said the younger Summers brother.

While Pietro fumed, Alex led Wolverine into the heart of Genosha’s busiest port. They had a lot of ground to cover. Wolverine was very out of place and had to be on his guard. In a ways that was a good thing because he couldn’t dwell his many other problems. If he was lucky, he would find something to stab while on this trip. On a place like Genosha, there was always a chance that something would go horribly wrong.

Skies Over Colorado Springs

“Bearing north at 350 knots. Settling into steady circular patrol. Uplinks active and streaming on encrypted frequency. Entering radio silence.”

The reports from the ground were coming in. The airspace over Colorado Springs was relatively clear on this moonless night. Over the major military zones, all commercial and private air-traffic was tightly controlled. The lone exception was an unarmed C-130 gunship bearing the official markings of the United States Military. However, the activity inside was anything but official.

Aboard the aircraft, Colonel Wraith and Reverend William Stryker prepared to initiate this ambitious operation to free Graydon Creed. With them was a squad of twenty elite Purifiers. Each operative was in full body-suits, masked from head to toe, and armed with unmarked automatic weapons. They sat near the back of the aircraft, ready to receive their orders.

Near the front of the aircraft was a large computer array in place of the weapons systems. This array was assembled and managed through a central interface where Arcade sat ready to work his magic. Next to him were three technicians huddled over a circular device that was about the size of a beach ball. This device was first major component in this operation.

“We’ve got confirmation from NORAD. The clock has officially started,” said Colonel Wraith.

“So as far as the military is concerned, this is an officially sanctioned test ordered by the Air Force?” said Reverend Stryker.

“With my limited influence, this is the best we can manage. That means our margin for error is smaller than I hoped,” said the Colonel.

“How much time does that give us?” asked Arcade.

“Depending on whether the chief in Air Traffic Control needs a smoke break…thirty minutes at the most.”

“More than enough time,” said Arcade confidently, “Thanks to the uplinks from Mr. Shaw, I’ve got a full layout of facility down to where they keep their porno stash.”

“And you’re certain this Mr. Shaw you’ve been talking to is dependable?” questioned Reverend Stryker.

“He has a vested interest in our success. That’s the best incentive we can hope for, provided the equipment Agent Zero stole will suffice.”

All their attention turned towards the technicians working next to Arcade. They had been typing non-stop since they took off. They were engineers who used to work for Weapon X, but were out of a job since Wraith got demoted. This offered extra motivation for them to get this device ready despite the unreasonable demands of this mission.

“Right now we’re still iffy, Colonel,” said the first engineer, “There’s a reason we asked for more than one power cell. The energy you’re asking to release in this EMP bomb is unknown territory.”

“Since so much of this complex is underground, we’ve had to sacrifice some stability and precision. That means that when this thing goes off, it’s going to have a much louder bang and we can’t guarantee it will go unnoticed or even be effective,” said the other engineer.

“I’m not nearly as concerned with stealth as I am with effectiveness. Can one cell still do the job?” asked Wraith.

“If detonated at just the right level and with just the right timing…yes, it will work. But the systems inside this facility are designed to recover from EMPs bursts. Since this blast is going to be weaker than we planned, you’ll be lucky to have half the time we said you would to override the network before the firewalls reactivate.”

“You make it sound like that’s still not long enough,” scoffed Arcade, “So long as those firewalls lag behind the actual system for more than a few seconds, I’ll be able to work my digital magic!”

“In that case spare me the additional concerns,” said Colonel Wraith sternly, “Our time is limited. If the device is ready, set the timer and put it in place.”

The engineers had no room to argue. Using the advanced technology from Genosha was always a challenge. The rules and limits of old technology didn’t apply. That allowed them to pack a lot of firepower into a small device. Even with that technology, they were going to need a certain amount of luck for this to work.

After a few more tweaks, the engineers activated the device and moved it into position with the help of a few Purifiers. In a compartment where a high-caliber artillery cannon usually resided, they placed the bomb on a special release mechanism. The burden now fell upon Arcade to time the drop perfectly and the two pilots up front to keep the aircraft steady.

“This may sound odd coming from a man of science, but now would be a good time to start praying,” said one of the engineers.

“Who needs prayer when you have computers like this?” grinned Arcade, “I programmed that thing myself. You guys just put it together. There’s no need for miracles.”

“The drop-point is fifteen seconds away,” reported Wraith, “Barring any unforeseen turbulence, we should have a clear shot.”

“Feels like my own Death Star run in Star Wars,” said the confident hacker, “Tell those pilots to use the Force because this is going to be a hell of a shot.”

“You worry about the timing. I’ll worry about my Purifiers,” said Reverend Stryker, “As soon as we get confirmation of the attack, we’ll deploy.”

“Then the easy part begins!” grinned Arcade.

Confidence and tensions ran high within the plane. Everybody got into position. Stryker headed to the back in preparation to give the orders to his Purifiers while Colonel Wraith made his way to the cockpit to instruct the pilots. Arcade had the honor of flipping the proverbial switch. The time was fast approaching. This ambitious operation was set to begin.

The next few moments ticked by painfully slowly. The pilots in the front, who also happened to be associates of Colonel Wraith, steadied the aircraft as much as their instruments would allow. The Purifiers waited intently while the technicians held their breath. On one of the many computer screens in Arcade’s computer array, there was a timer imposed over a satellite map of their position. Every factor had to be taken into account from the wind to the plane’s forward momentum. Since this drop had to be exceedingly accurate, the launch had to be perfect. As the clock ticked down, the main pilot in the cockpit announced their approach.

“We’re approaching the coordinates,” he said with his hands firmly on the controls, “Nearing drop point in 5…4…3…2…1.”

At the precise moment when the clock hit zero, Arcade entered the command. From the side of the plane, a lone turret opened up and the small metal sphere shot out into the abyss.

“Bombs away! I always wanted to say that,” grinned Arcade.

“How long until detonation?” asked Reverend Stryker from the rear of the plane.

“9.2 seconds precisely! Deploy your men no more than five seconds after,” he answered.

Stryker nodded and gave the signal to his men, who gave him the thumbs up from the compartment below that would soon open and exposed them to the elements. Time continued to move by painfully slow as Arcade tracked the device through its descent.

“Approaching the complex…looks like we’re gonna cut it close!” said Arcade intently.

“Is it still close enough?” asked Wraith as he emerged from the cockpit.

“Only one way to find out!”

The talented hacker didn’t even blink as he watched the tracking signal on another computer screen. The timer was live, but he still had to steer it. The digital map on the screen kept narrowing the field-of-vision as the bomb approached. It was like a video game, but without the reset button. Arcade waited until the last possible moment. Once it arrived, he hit another button on his console and the device detonated.

“We have detonation!” he announced.

“Do we have a confirmed pulse?” asked Wraith.

“With energy readings like these, we damn well better!” said Arcade.

“But was it enough?” asked one of the technicians.

It was hard to tell because this device was not meant to explode. An EMP was meant to cripple rather than destroy. Arcade prepared to do an assessment. That ended up being unnecessary because the lights within the aircraft flickered and controls of the aircraft became unstable for a moment.

“Whoa there! We just got some major interference,” said the pilot.

“Guess that answers that,” grinned Arcade, “The blast was directed downward, so our systems are still up. That can only mean one thing.”

“Everybody in that prison complex is just starting to shit themselves,” Wraith surmised, “That means we’re ready to make our move.”

“Already on it! I’ll jack the network as soon as it boots back up,” announced Arcade.

“My Purifiers will take care of the rest,” announced Stryker, “Provided that friend of yours delivers what he promised, Colonel.”

“Have faith, Reverend. It is your greatest strength. I trust you know what to do.”

Reverend Stryker nodded and turned towards his elite Purifiers in the compartment below. There was no time for a rousing sermon. With one commanding gesture, Stryker pulled a special latch that opened the rear compartment to the plane. This allowed a sudden rush of cold air into the lower levels. Without hesitation, the twenty elite Purifiers leaped into the darkness of the night and descended towards the prison complex below.

“Godspeed, my holy soldiers,” mused Reverend Stryker, “Our crusade against the wicked will not be stopped, no matter what obstacles the devil puts in our path!”

Downtown Manhattan – Outside Shaw Industries Corporate Headquarters

New York City was as active at night as it was in the day. Getting around this bustling metropolis was challenging enough. Getting around with any anonymity was next to impossible. Yet stealth was exactly what Cyclops, Phoenix, and Emma Frost were going to need in order to complete this mission.

“We’re here,” said Cyclops from the driver’s seat of a rented van.

“About bloody time,” groaned an impatient Emma Frost, “You know we could have taken the X-van. We didn’t have to rent this unsightly thing.”

“It’s not our fault the rental place only had an old Chevy in stock,” said Phoenix, “Besides, the X-van sticks out like a sore thumb. Shaw would see it coming a mile away.”

Even if it was tactically sound, it didn’t make sitting in this thing any more comfortable for Emma Frost. It may have been more than just the van. Being in this part of Manhattan brought back many bad memories. They had just passed in front of the imposing building that housed Shaw Enterprises.

It wasn’t one of the more iconic buildings that dominated the city skyline. It had no distinguishing features, bearing the cold aesthetics of a standard rectangular skyscraper. People passed in and out of it every day, most of whom probably had no idea of the horrors Shaw conjured with his vast resources.

‘So here I am…the very place where I nearly sold my soul for a quick buck. Doesn’t look like much has changed. I’ll bet Sebastian has found plenty of ways to turn it into the fifteenth circle of Hell.’

‘Guess that makes the three of us angels?’

‘Keep your thoughts to yourself, Jean. I’m not in the mood for a psychic debate.’

Phoenix, who was sitting next to Emma in the back seat, kept her mind and her mouth shut as they drove into the parking garage of the adjacent building. Getting inside Shaw Industries was not going to be easy. Based on the capabilities Sebastian Shaw demonstrated in the past and what Emma told them about her captive girls, they were probably dealing with a very secure building. Getting them out was going to require some skill, cunning, and a bit of luck.

Cyclops navigated through the parking garage, making his way towards the lowest possible level. Along the way Phoenix used her cell phone to get in touch with Angel, who was providing them with some additional information on Shaw Industries through Worthington Industries networks.

“Warren just sent me the layout of the building,” she said as she went over the data, “He says there should be a utility door at lowest level of this garage. It doesn’t lead directly into Shaw’s building so we’ll have to knock down a few walls.”

“That’s not going to be a problem,” said Cyclops, making a quick adjustment to his visor, “My main concern is locating these girls through Shaw’s overpriced security systems. I remember Warren saying how Shaw locks down his building. Even Cerebrum couldn’t penetrate the shielding this guy has employed.”

“Lucky for us, we have something better than Cerebrum,” said Emma, “Head to the end of the east wing and I’ll show you.”

“I’m sure this will be a sight to behold,” said Phoenix as she put her phone away.

Emma shot her fellow psychic and former teammate an annoyed scowl. She might not be reading her thoughts, but she had that attitude again. It was the same attitude she had when they started clashing while Emma was still with the X-men. Despite Phoenix’s willingness to help, there was still plenty of lingering tension between them.

“I thought we agreed to dispense with the personal grudges at least for this mission,” she said.

“We are. The mission hasn’t officially begun yet,” Phoenix pointed out.

“Now you’re using technicalities? Real cute, Jean,” scoffed Emma, “Are you being this rude because you’re still bitter about the betrayal I’ve so thoroughly explained and apologized for? Or is sitting next to your boyfriend’s ex really that unsettling?”

“Could you girls please skip the catfight and focus on the mission? It’s probably better if you take out all this lingering hostility on Shaw,” said an exasperated Scott Summers.

“You know there are so many perverse ways Iceman could argue that point if he were here,” quipped Phoenix.

“It probably involves bikinis and a mud pit,” added Emma.

“Well Iceman isn’t here! And if the two of you are serious about this mission, you’ll ditch your past bitterness aside and focus on the task at hand!”

It may have been the only time in history when a heterosexual man stopped two beautiful women from going at it. Jean was hardly surprised while Emma was more surprised than she should have been. Scott Summers was still the same dedicated man she once loved so deeply. He hadn’t lost that dedication, even after she broke his heart and betrayed the X-men.

Looking back at Jean and then back towards Scott, Emma Frost felt a rare twinge of powerlessness. Scott was once her lover and was still the best man she had ever known. Jean was once her friend who had the good fortune to fall in love with that same man. Those feelings were not easy to work around.

Whatever conflicting emotions Emma harbored, she maintained her focus. As she argued with her ex and his lover, Esme and Sophie were in pain. She could feel it in her gut. It may have been that latent maternal instinct that Emma never thought she would experience. Just being this close to Shaw Industries was enough to make her stomach churn in ways that made her worry for her girls. She managed to hold her disgust back as the van pulled up to the east wing. Near the end of the parking lot, they saw another van that had already parked in the corner.

“We’re here. That’s them over there,” said Emma, pointing from the back seat.

“Exactly how much did you tell them?” asked Cyclops as circled the van around the final curb.

“They’re students, Scott. Just as we once were,” she said, “They still have a lot to learn and I’ve made it clear that certain details of this mission are well-above their grade level.”

“So why are you bringing your top students so close the danger like this?” asked Phoenix.

“Before you start chastising my teaching abilities, why don’t you meet them first?” Emma retorted, “I’ve taught these aspiring young mutants and I can verify their capabilities. Think of them as our X-Factor.”

Phoenix resisted the inclination to question Emma’s tactics. Cyclops gave her that distinct glare of his that helped remind her of the benefits of getting along with Emma. This was her mission. She was the one that organized this partnership between them and these new students of hers. She had talked about them a bit during their drive into the city. She spoke pretty highly of them, describing them as their own X-team of sorts. It remained to be seen whether or not that title was rightly earned.

As soon as the van pulled up, they exited the vehicle. Emma then signaled her students to carry out their role.  Their van was slightly larger than the one they rented. It had much more space in the middle. From the side facing them, the sliding door was opened in several new figures stepped out.

“We’re ready, Miss Frost! We have everything you told us to bring,” said a young man with short blond hair and a Kentucky accent.

“Is this all the backup you told us about? I thought you said we would get to meet the X-men!” said another young man with a tanned, South American complexion.

“Don’t get too star struck, Roberto. I never said you would meet the whole team. You’ll have to settle for these two,” said Emma, gesturing towards Cyclops and Phoenix.

“Gee, thanks for making us sound like a consolation prize,” said Phoenix dryly.

“Of course. But where are my manners?” said Emma with equal sarcasm, “Cyclops and Phoenix, I’d like for you to meet Roberto DaCosta, Sam Guthrie, Julian Keller, and Noriko Ashida. These young and overly eager mutants represent the top class of the Academy of Tomorrow.”

“Wait, I thought we were going by codenames,” complained Norkio, a young Asian teen with bright bluish hair.

“Yeah, we’re supposed to be Sunspot, Cannonball, Hellion, and Surge,” said Julian, who stepped out with Noriko to meet the X-men.

“You’re giving them codenames already?” commented Cyclops.

“Just following Charles’s example,” shrugged Emma, “Is it so wrong to honor my X-men heritage?”

Phoenix held back another remark, another urging from Cyclops helping remind her that these students of Emma’s were an important part of this mission. Having been students themselves, it was someone striking to see these young mutants so eager to follow in the footsteps of the X-men.

However, they certainly wouldn’t be mistaken for full-fledged X-men. Sam, Roberto, Julian, and Noriko still had the look of regular students. They weren’t in uniforms. Instead, they worse the same clothes they probably wore to class that day. Emma gave them a brief rundown on these gifted youngsters on their ride in. Like the X-men, they all had unique mutant abilities that Emma was training them to use. Sam could form energy around his body to blast as he called, allowing him to become invulnerable and fly through the air. Roberto could channel solar energy into his body, thus granting him enhanced strength and durability. Julian was a mid to upper level telekinetic who was proficient enough with his psionic gifts to be capable of flight at high speeds. Noriko had the power go generate large fields of electricity and channel them into lighting blasts. It was a pretty strong skill see, but they were raw in the sense that they had not learned how to utilize their gifts to their full potential.

“Are you really just going to have us stand watch?” asked Julian, “You’ve been training us to face the dangers in this rotten world. Do you really think we’re not ready?”

“Not in the way you need to be, Mr. Keller,” said Emma strongly, “The lot of you haven’t been training for more than a few months. You may be the most noteworthy students to enter my academy, but being a good novice is a long ways away from even being a poor amateur.”

“Is this how you motivate your students?” questioned Phoenix.

“I’d answer that, but since most of us were kicked out of every other school we’ve been to, don’t expect us to take chances,” said Noriko.

“Or provoke a powerful telepath for that matter,” added Sam.

They clearly respected Emma’s authority and seemed to fear it to an extent. Scott and Jean may still have their concerns, but Emma trusted her influence on these young mutants to be sufficient for this mission.

“We can discuss my methods later. How are my girls doing?” she asked firmly.

“They seem to be doing fine, but it’s always hard to tell. We haven’t heard a peep out of them since we left,” said Roberto.

“We did just as you asked. See for yourself before you exercise some of those methods,” said Julian.

Sam, Roberto, Noriko, and Julian stepped aside so that Emma could see into the van along with Cyclops and Phoenix. Julian used his telekinesis to pull the doors all the way back so they could see three identical figures sitting side-by-side in the back seat.

It was the first time Cyclops and Phoenix saw Emma’s daughters in person. They looked every bit as similar to her as their picture implied. They were like three teenage versions of Emma Frost. They bore her bright blond hair, her well-developed feminine physique, and some fairly well-endowed curves. Each was wearing the same outfit, which consisted of a white body-suit that was similar to Emma’s old X-men uniform. It wasn’t as revealing, but they definitely shared Emma’s style.

What was nearly as striking as their appearance was what they had on their heads. Each one of them was sitting very still, wearing a series minature Cerebro helmets. They were emitting a steady hum, indicating that they were quite active. And whatever they were doing, they were utilizing a lot of psionic energy.

“Wow…they really are the apple of their mother’s eye,” commented Cyclops.

“Only to a degree hopefully,” said Emma distantly.

“That hardware looks pretty familiar? Is this what I think it is, Emma?” asked Phoenix.

“Charles taught me to work Cerebro just as I’m sure he taught you. Part of that process was understanding how it worked. The other part involved reaching into the deep pockets that only a former hedge fund manager could afford. It allowed me to craft these compact versions of Cerebro. I find them useful, and in some cases necessary, in providing that extra telepathic push.”

“Is it enough push for three teenage telepaths to penetrate the psychic shielding Shaw has in place?” questioned Phoenix, using her own telepathy to assess the level of telepathic activity.

“The Stepford Cuckoos are a hive mind. They’re all connected in a way that’s unique even to telepaths,” Emma explained, “When one of them feels something, the others feel it as well. The same goes for Esme and Sophie. Even a stronger psychic with the aid of a Charles Xavier or the Phoenix Force could not detect them as well as their own sisters.”

It seemed logical. At the same time it was somewhat ominous. These girls weren’t just Emma’s daughters. They were a unique telepathic talent, forged from the perverse madness of Sebastian Shaw. That left a lot of room for something to go terribly wrong.

That dread manifested a lot sooner than expected. Without warning, the three young girls were jolted from their meditative state. They started groaning and shifting uncomfortably. It was as if some unseen force was attacking them.

“Miss Frost! We can feel our sisters. They’re…in pain,” they said simultaneously.

“Damn you, Shanobi!” cursed Emma, “What’s he doing to them?”

“What he’s doing…is painful. Too painful for us to make sense of!”

“Can you at least locate them so I can make Shanobi share that pain?” she asked intently.

“We can sense them on the 53rd floor in some dark room, but something is keeping us from reaching them!”

Emma was consumed by a surge of anger.

“Link up with my mind and I’ll find them!” said Emma strongly, “I know it hurts, but you need to stay connected to your sisters. Don’t let up!”

“We…we will, Miss Frost,” they all said harmoniously.

Emma turned towards her students, who were anxiously awaiting their next orders.

“Protect them from any interference that comes their way,” she ordered, “Noriko, use your electrical talents to keep the helmets powered. Throw in a little extra juice if necessary.”

“We’ll keep ‘em safe, Miss Frost. You can count on it!” assured Sam.

“You better,” she said sternly.

The angry telepath then turned to Cyclops and Phoenix, both of whom looked ready for action. It was just like old times with the X-men. Unlike all those previous missions, this one was very personal to Emma.

“You don’t need to bark orders. We know what happens next,” said Phoenix strongly.

“Then I don’t need to tell you how quickly we need to proceed!” said Emma.

“Phoenix and I are ready to take care of the heavy lifting,” said Cyclops, “You just look forward to reuniting with your girls.”

Shaw Industries – Secret Pent House Lab

“Is it ready yet, Mr. Ramsey?” said a deeply impatient Shanobi Shaw.

“Uh…almost, Mr. Shaw,” said an anxious teenage boy who was sitting in front of a large computer away.

“Almost is not quick enough! Wraith and his cronies just unleashed the electromagnetic pulse over Colorado Springs. If we’re to hack them while they hack NORAD, this elaborate computer setup that I’ve so generously provided must be at full strength!”

“It…it will. I guarantee it,” assured the boy.

Sixteen-year-old Doug Ramsey couldn’t believe the mess he was caught up in. He almost preferred Juvenile Hall to a setting like this. Here he was, a gifted mutant with the ability to translate and decipher codes, having to essentially prostitute his talents to men like Shanobi Shaw so he could avoid the trouble he had gotten himself into. It was certainly not how he envisioned using these abilities when they first manifested last year.

‘God I hate this guy. I thought I had daddy issues, but this guy is a consummate pro. The worst my dad ever did was kick me out of the house because I got caught hacking his boss’s computer. I doubt that’s all Shanobi’s old man did to him. It takes a lot more to turn someone into this big an asshole.’

Doug, or Cypher as he called himself, was working on two days without sleep to get this elaborate setup done for Mr. Shaw. In a secret laboratory built adjacent to Shanobi Shaw’s office, he established a special computer network that was to be a key component in this highly secret and highly illegal operation. Only a handful of trusted technicians were tasked with putting it together. There were only three other computer engineers helping him manage this digital assembly when it required three dozen.

In addition to the computers, this operation included some bizarre experiment involving two teenage girls. The masked technicians working them weren’t pushed nearly as hard. They looked as though they were just waiting for Shaw’s next orders. Cypher tried to not even look at the girls. He figured they had it many times worse than him and looking at them would only make him lose focus.

‘Just don’t think about it, Cypher. Suck it up and keep typing. You can feel sick to your stomach about what he’s doing to those poor girls later. Just focus on getting the hell out of here and away from Shaw forever.’

Working for Shanobi Shaw was never his life’s ambition. He ended up in this mess because of his powers. Last year he figured out he could decipher any code, which allowed him to understand any language and crack any computer code. It started off small. All he did was use it to hack into his high school network to change the grades of anyone who paid him enough money. He then graduated to cracking other networks, including the network at this defense contractor his father worked at. Looking back on it, this probably qualified as one of the worst idea of the century. Not only did that stunt cost his father a job, it cost him a home. If that weren’t bad enough, hacking a defense contractor was sort of a crime and he essentially bought a one-way ticket to a life as a juvenile criminal.

His only means of survival were the same skills that got him into so much trouble. That’s how his path eventually crossed with Shanobi Shaw. His father’s company, Shaw Industries, had a reputation for hiring mutants and paying them handsomely. But pay, in some instances, meant keeping mutants like him from being arrested. That made them the modern equivalent of slaves and Shaw was anything but a merciful master. This ambitious project that involved him hacking NORAD was the latest in a growing list of shady activities that made him sick to his stomach.

“The doctors say my father could awaken at any time,” mused Shaw as he gazed over the unmoving bodies of Esme and Sophie, “When he awakens, he’ll find his company emerging from the biggest crisis it has ever faced. That Genosha deal has cut into our profits in a manner equivalent to ten major recessions.”

“Funny, I thought a company like this would find a way to make some extra cash off that deal. Everybody else has,” commented Cypher as he adjusted the wiring on a few computers.

“Don’t call it funny when you’re clearly too stupid to understand,” spat Shanobi, “My father’s incapacitation paralyzed the Shaw empire. It didn’t matter that he had a son waiting in the wings to take over. My father never believed in me and neither do his shareholders. That’s why we have fallen behind. That’s why competitors like Worthington Industries have reaped the rewards while Shaw Industries withers.”

“Don’t forget Apple as well. I saw the YouTube video of their new hardware featuring Genosha technology. I’m guessing that puts a huge damper in your tech division,” said Cypher, holding back a chuckle.

“Aren’t you supposed to have that network up and running by now?” he retorted, “It’s not that simple. Someone sabotaged Shaw Industries. Someone didn’t want us to benefit from this deal. Whoever is behind this, I’ll see to it that nobody benefits!”

“Nobody? Um…isn’t this deal supposed to maintain peace between humans and mutants?” questioned Cypher.

“This deal is just a temporary band-aid on an otherwise terminal wound. If reclaiming the dominance of Shaw Industries means sabotaging this pathetic excuse for human/mutant harmony, so be it.”

Doug Ramsey felt a chill run down his spine as he continued to work. He may have been a slave to Shaw’s greed, but he wasn’t ignorant of the outside world. He understood the importance of the Genosha treaty. Every mutant understood it because this was the deal that prevented a war that seemed all but inevitable after the Cambrian. If it were destroyed, then what was to stop that war from happening?

He couldn’t think about it at this point. Like it or not, he was trapped. Shanobi Shaw was just like his father in that he didn’t tolerate people having a conscious. If he went back on his word, then he would suffer a fate far worse than simply being turned over to the authorities. Doug couldn’t risk that. His only choice was to proceed and hope that somehow Shanobi would somehow screw it up.

“It’s almost time,” said Shanobi, still fixated on the two girls who lay restrained on a couple of gurneys, “Wraith and the Purifiers will be expecting me to contribute soon. Are Miss Esme and Miss Sophie ready for their grand performance?”

The two masked technicians, who happened to be former operatives of the Inner Circle, carefully calibrated the high tech apparatus that was controlling these two powerful telepaths. A maze of wires and IV tubes flowed in and out of their bodies. Each fed into a much larger array at the back end of the room. This array, which bore an uncanny resemblance to the Cerebro unit that Charles Xavier once used, that would be the key to cripple his competition.

“They’re ready, Mr. Shaw,” said one of the technicians, “Based on these numbers, I estimate we’ll only get one shot at this. Inflicting a mass psychic attack on such a concentrated area is quite a strain, even for a high level telepath.”

“Are you telling me these girls won’t survive the process?” asked Shaw.

“Is that a major concern?”

“Hardly,” he scoffed, “My father wasn’t doing much with these little skanks anyways. Since I think he’s soured on blondes for a while, I’m sure he won’t mind them suffering horribly before they’re disposed of.”

It was a downright sadistic logic that forced Cypher to swallow a healthy dose of disgust. He was almost obligated to rise up and call Shaw a monster, but he held his breath and kept on working. The two technicians looked completely indifferent, showing that he was really on his own in this horrific endeavor.

“In that case, we’re ready to proceed,” said the technician.

“Excellent!” said Shanobi with a sinister grin, “I’ll have Warhawk put in a call to Colonel Wraith. His job is about to get a lot easier and so is mine. That arrogant fool has no idea how much he’s about to help me.”

Colorado Springs

The free fall through the pitch black sky was like a descent into hell. The twelve elite operatives who proudly bore the emblems of the Purifiers braved the descent without fear or hesitation. They were on a mission for the Lord. They were ready to fight on this clandestine crusade.

The landscape below came into view soon after they emerged from the clouds. The darkened prison facility was difficult to see. The EMP bomb that was detonated earlier worked perfectly. The entire area was pitch black. They were completely shrouded by the darkness and poised to storm the secure compound undetected.

“Approaching optimal deployment altitude!” yelled the lead operative, “Deploy chutes in three…two…one!”

In perfect succession, the twelve Purifiers pulled their rip chords to deploy their parachutes. They were black, just like their outfits. As soon as the canopy opened, their descent was slowed. Armed with special helmets, the twelve operatives activated their night vision so they could see ground below. They couldn’t land just anywhere. They had to arrive on a particular spot in order to proceed with the next part of the mission. That spot was on the northwest side of the complex just inside the main wall. The darkness would cover their landing, but not for long.

“Approaching coordinates. Both units follow my signal,” ordered the lead operative.

The next few moments were tense as the ground drew near. Already they could hear some of the panicked voice below. The facility was already scrambling to figure out what was going on. The confusion could only help their operation as their destination drew near.

Through skilled maneuvering, the twelve operatives landed right at the northwest corner right under a guard tower. As soon as they touched down, the men quickly detached from their chutes and huddled near the wall in preparation for the next step. As they did, the each took out their specially made Uzi sub-machine guns. This was not an all-out attack, but they needed to be prepared to oppose those who stood in the path of their crusade. This facility was vast and presented plenty of obstacles. Now that they were on the ground, they could hear the frantic yelling of numerous MPs.

“The hell is going on? Is this a terrorist attack?”

“Everything’s down! It has to be an EMP!”

“Why aren’t the damn backup generators kicking in?”

“Wait! I thought I saw something fly in. I think it landed over there!”

“I saw it too. Damn it, I can’t see anything!”

The Purifiers got into a defensive position. Already, they could sense some activity drawing near. It looked like they were destined to clash with these hapless MPs, none of whom were enemies in this fight. That made the next step all the more vital.

The lead operative gave a signal for each of his operatives to stand down. Not a shot was to be fired until he gave the order. While the other Purifiers waited anxiously, the leader adjusted the radio in his helmet and made a call to Reverend Stryker.

“Brother William, we’re in position,” he reported.

“What is your status? Was your presence detected?”

“More than we anticipated. Please tell Colonel Wraith to hurry with that cover he spoke of. If the MPs get too close, we may have to fire some warning shots!”

“You’ll do no such thing. These soldiers are not the enemy. They are merely misguided. You are to spill no blood except for that of a mutant! Is that clear?”

“Yes sir, but…”

“Have faith, Brother. Colonel Wraith will come through. He better if he values the success of this operation as much as we do.”

Shaw Industries – Secret Pent House Lab

“Mr. Shaw, we’re getting an encrypted message from Colonel Wraith. He’s demanding we launch the attack,” exclaimed one of Shaw’s trusted technicians.

“Of course he’s demanding it. Wraith never asks nicely for anything,” said Shanobi Shaw dryly.

While his associates were working frantically on Cypher’s computer network and the apparatus controlling the two Stepford Cuckoos, Shanobi remained poised and calm. This was a critical moment in this operation, but far from the most critical.

“Mr. Ramsey, may I assume we’re finally ready?” said Shanobi.

“Just finished the final diagnostics. We’re up and running,” said Cypher, “I’m officially tapped into the same signal feed Wraith’s people are using as we speak. As soon as they make their move, I’ll make mine.”

“That puts the onus entirely on Wraith, as unsettling that may be. Even he shouldn’t be able to screw this up after this little psychic surprise.”

Shanobi turned towards the technicians working the machines that Esme and Sophie were hooked up to. They looked just as eager as him to get this operation underway. If only his father was here to see his triumph, then he would realize just how worthy he was of the Shaw name.

“You may begin,” he told the technicians.

“Yes sir,” said the lead technician, “The psychic attack is already channeled and focused on the designated coordinates. The psionic influx will begin in T-minus 10 seconds.”

Shanboi grinned with sadistic intent. The two girls were already shifting uncomfortably. As soon as the two technicians adjusted some dials and flipped some switches, a surge of energy filled the wires going into their prone bodies. Moments later, a series of lights flashed around the helmets they were wearing along with the larger apparatus at the front of the room. The ominous hum of the machines filled the room. Cypher stayed focused on his computer array while everyone else watched the two girls. He was too weak and too squeamish to witness what they were about to go through.

More lights flashed on helmets covering the heads of Esme and Sophie. They started off blue and then flickered to yellow. A few seconds later, a surge of energy poured into the wires. As it did, the two teenage girls let out a cry of agony that echoed through the entire floor of the building.


Downtown Manhattan – Parking Garage


Phoebe, Mindee, and Celeste were in a world of agony. It happened so quickly. One minute they were in a deep meditative state and the next they started groaning uncomfortably as if someone was pressing a vice down onto their heads. The girls started screaming like they were being tortured. For Cannonball, Sunspot, Surge, and Hellion it was an unexpected and distressing turn of events.

“Whoa! Are they under some sort of psychic attack or something?” exclaimed Surge.

“Ah don’t think so. If it were a psychic attack, Ah’m pretty sure we would feel it too,” said Cannonball.

“Well what is it then?” exclaimed Hellion, “It sounds like someone’s jabbing an ice pick into their skulls!”

The four teenage mutants had no idea what to do. Miss Frost did not prepare them for this. She only told them to protect the Stepford Cuckoos. They had been pacing restlessly outside the van for a few minutes now, waiting for an update on the mission. The three girls had been quiet for the most part. They were assumed to be guiding Cyclops, Phoenix, and Miss Frost to their sisters. Either this was some bizarre psychic manifestation or something had just gone horribly wrong.

Filled with panic, Cannonball and Sunspot tried to restrain the three girls in the back seat of the van. They were thrashing wildly, crying out in greater pain with each passing moment. It was difficult to listen to and watch.

“Hold them down, amigo. I think they’re having a seizure or something!” said Sunspot, having to use some of his solar powers to keep the girls in place.

“Ah can’t! These girls are stronger than they look,” said Cannonball, “Hey Hellion! Think you can give us a hand?”

“I’ll try. I usually am pretty good with the ladies,” grunted Hellion.

The teenage mutant used his telekinetic abilities to restrain the three girls in their seats. It allowed Cannonball and Sunspot to back off. They could tell the girls were still in pain. Through their agony, they started talking in a string of jumbled words.

“So much psychic energy…so painful!” cried Mindee.

“Big machine…amplifying everything!” groaned Phoebe.

“Channeling…psychic attack…focused on one area!” moaned Celeste.

“It’s too much,” they all said in unison, “Their minds…our sisters…mere tools!”

There wasn’t much that could be deciphered from these pained musings. Whatever was happening to them and their sisters, it must have been pretty horrific.

“Jeez, now I’m glad Miss Frost didn’t let us tag along. I can’t imagine what they must be going through,” said Surge.

“If these girls don’t keep it down, we may end up seeing our share of action anyway,” said Sunspot.

“You really think Shaw would have his goons patrol neighboring buildings?” said Cannonball skeptically.

Before he or the rest of Miss Frost’s hand-picked students could speculate, they heard some voices from across the parking lot. Apparently, the frantic crying of three teenage girls drew a lot of attention in a place that carried echoes a bit too well.

“Who’s down there? This area is supposed to be closed!” came a voice.

“Whoever is screaming better have a damn good reason for it!” said another.

Cannonball, Hellion, Surge, and Sunspot each exchanged glances. What was supposed to be a glorified babysitting mission was about to turn into an all-out battle.

“That answer your question?” said Surge.

“Loud and clear! Looks like we’re gonna have to play defense, fellas,” said Cannonball, clenching his fists in determination, “Hellion, keep those girls restrained. Put up a barrier if anybody gets close!”

“Guess that means you guys are going to do all the fun stuff, huh?” grunted Hellion, still struggling to keep the girls in their seats.

“We’re gonna do what Miss Frost taught us to do. That’s all we can do!” said Cannonball, now standing with Surge and Sunspot behind the van.

“Well whatever the hell is going on next door must be pretty messed up if it’s causing this much screaming,” said Surge as she prepared for combat.

“In that case they better do what they need to do fast. Our training only goes so far!” said Sunspot.

“We need to buy as much time as we can,” said Sam, “I don’t know what this Shaw guy is up to and Ah’m pretty sure Ah don’t want to know. I just hope he can be stopped before it leads to something much worse!”

Colorado Springs – Prison Complex

Time moved painfully slow for the Purifiers. The MPs were closing in. The whole facility was still darkened by the blackout. The clouds overhead ensured there was no moonlight to offer a guiding light of any kind. Even so, their presence had not gone unnoticed. It was not easy hiding a dozen operatives parachuting right within the walls of the complex. Now that the facilities security personnel were starting to get coordinated, it was only a matter of time before they discovered their presence.

“Over here! I think I saw something fly in over the gate,” yelled the voice of an MP that was getting uncomfortably close.

The Purifiers saw the official closing in through the night vision in their helmets. Their orders remained not to shoot. That order was going to be very difficult to uphold if they got much closer. With the footsteps becoming louder by the second, each Purifier soon received a welcome message through their radios.

“All Purifiers, activate your psychic shielding in your helmets. The psychic attack will commence on the area in five seconds.”

The twelve men did as they were instructed. This news came at just the right moment. One of the MPs finally spotted them through the darkness. When he saw the masked men backed up against the wall, the lone MP raised his weapon.

“Over here!” he yelled out, “We have intruders! Somebody alert the…”

That was as far as the MP got. At that instant, a mysterious energy descended upon the complex in the form of a massive psychic wave. It was concentrated on an area covering fifteen square miles with the prison complex at the very center. As it radiated throughout the area, every unguarded mind in the facility and the surrounding area was struck with the equivalent of a psychic bat to the head.


In the span of a few seconds, every person in the prison complex was rendered unconscious. There was no struggle. Every guard, official, and prisoner went limp and collapsed. There was only the sound of faint groans before an eerie silence descended upon the area. The only ones not affected were the Purifiers, whose psychic defenses held up to the onslaught.

“Give me a status report. Did the attack work?”

“It worked, Brother Styrker! It’s as if God himself reached down and put everyone in a deep sleep,” reported the lead operative through his radio.

“Then it would seem this Mr. Shaw that Wraith spoke of came through. That means you should have a clear path into the holding cells as well as the network hub. Our intelligence indicated that Graydon Creed was in the medium security wing, just a level above where they keep the most dangerous prisoners.”

“What if we run into a door that needs to be unlocked electronically?” asked the operative.

“That’s the primary reason you’ll have to get the backup power online. Our associate, Arcade, is more than up for the task. Just make sure he has access to the network. Once it’s up and running, picking up Graydon Creed should be as easy as picking up a dog from the vet.”

“We will not fail you, Reverend. God is with us!”

The lead operative turned to his associates. Now that their primary obstacles were out of the way, the mission could proceed smoothly.

“We have our orders, my brothers. Isaiah unit, follow me. We’re going to retrieve Graydon Creed from his cell. Ezekiel unit, head towards the south end and get the backup power going. Be sure to check in with Reverend Stryker so his people can access the necessary network hub. This window we have will close quickly so summon your strength, pray for God’s grace, and get moving. For the purity of man!”

“For the purity of man!” the other Purifiers repeated in affirmation.

Armed with blind faith and uncompromising conviction, the twelve elite Purifiers embarked on their mission. They split off into two units, each consisting of six operatives. They had to step over a number of unconscious bodies to reach the main entrance to the facility where their imprisoned target, Graydon Creed, was waiting for them. Only a trick from the devil himself could stop them now.

Genosha – South Coast Port

“Damn…this dump sure has been upgraded since I was last here,” commented Wolverine as he took in his surroundings, “Still stinks to high hell.”

“All the advanced alien technology in the world and painstaking planning at an international level, yet you still find something to complain about?” groaned an exasperated Alex Summers.

“Given number of times I’ve left this island with a pounding headache, I think I’m entitled to be a little extra critical,” the feral mutant retorted.

“You say that as if you need an excuse,” scoffed Quicksilver.

“Ain’t saying I do. Just think it’s a point worth making if I’m gonna be the guy keeping an eye on things for guys who ain’t known for integrity.”

Pietro and Alex wondered once again how Wolverine was supposed to be an ally in this endeavor. Whatever Charles Xavier or Wanda had been thinking, it couldn’t have been logical. The tour hadn’t been going on for more than an hour and Wolverine was getting on their nerves. They led him through the several layers of security for this area, explaining along the way all the safeguards they had in place to ensure that this port and the deal that supported it would continue despite the fragile nature of human/mutant affairs.

Overall, the port was quite a tribute to Genosha’s resolve and the alien technology that proved to be so precious. Within six months, an entire perimeter of thick, metallic walls was erected around an area the size of several city blocks. Along these walls were high tech sensors that looked like giant electronic eyes. Alex and Pietro explained that these eyes were equipped with directed energy weapons, non-lethal blasts, and even projected psychic bursts. It was the kind of defense that most nations would have killed for, but was exclusive only to Genosha. Defenses like this ensured that every square inch of the port was protected.

Beyond the perimeter were a series of smaller walls that had various security points that scanned and identified everybody who entered the port. There were a number of large openings for cargo to pass through and every bit of it was closely monitored. Along the way there were a number of mutants working the various operations of the port, which included some familiar faces like Mercury, Mellencamp, Senyaka, Rusty, and Rictor. There were at least three dozen other mutants with various powers that Wolverine didn’t recognize, but they sure recognized him and weren’t too comfortable with his presence.

In addition, there were a number of international soldiers from the nearby military base doing their share of the work as well. They were even more scrutinized than he was. It was not a friendly place to say the least.

‘Few dozen mutants and a couple hundred soldiers workin’ together…yeah, like this ain’t a recipe for trouble.’

By the time he made it to the actual docks, they had passed through a veritable fortress. At the moment, a large cargo ship was docked in the central port and being loaded with a fresh supply of alien tech. The hardware itself was in a series of sealed containers that looked more like compact bank vaults. They looked very secure. Quicksilver and Havok expressed a healthy level of confidence in the function of this operation.

“If you’re done being an dick, I’ll continue where we left off,” said Havok as he gestured towards the ship, “As you can see, every cargo ship is specially commandeered by the US and British Navy. The carrier group off shore checks every square inch of it and processes every sailor on hand to make sure there are no known troublemakers on board.”

“If you’re gonna tell me that little measure has worked 100 percent of the time since it started, I’ll know you’re full of shit,” commented Wolverine.

“Of course it hasn’t worked all the time,” groaned Quicksilver, “The first few months we had at least sixteen known pirates looking to smuggle this stuff into the black market.”

“But we caught them all and sent a painfully clear message by kicking their asses before handing them over to the UN,” Havok added.

“Must not have been painful enough given the shit that went down in Calcutta recently.”

“I would say you’ve got some lofty standards, Wolverine. But I figure you’re just back to being a dick again,” quipped Quicksilver, “Believe what you want. It’s taken some trial and error, but we’ve got this operation pretty nailed down.”

“I’m still waiting to be convinced, bub,” said Wolverine as he kept looking around.

The former living weapon began walking along the pier, scrutinizing the ship and everybody working aboard it. He analyzed every scent he could, mutant and human alike. In addition to the ship, he scrutinized the loading area of the port where the large metallic crates were stored. Working along with the soldiers were Blob, Polaris, and Mellencamp. They showed off their strength and powers by moving the cargo while keeping an eye on the soldiers. In turn, the soldiers kept an eye on them. Nobody seemed to trust anybody. That was all the more reason for Wolverine to be on alert.

“As you can see, we’ve also refined how we package and ship this hardware,” Havok continued, “This stuff is pretty advanced, but it goes out in its most basic forms. The main components are Shi’ar power cells, quantum computing chips, and a few hunks of exotic metals that I couldn’t begin to describe.”

“We manufacture them at a secure location buried deep within the island. I’m sure you remember that mine where you first saw the alien ship,” said Quicksilver.

“Like I can forget being shot at by some glowing alien jerk-off,” muttered Wolverine.

“Then you’ll love what we’ve done with the place,” said Havok with a wry grin, “We’ve essentially turned that mine into an underground factory using the same Warlock program Magneto tried to control. Our people and a bunch of guys in suits from various countries work to mass produce the baseline components. It’s then carted to the port where we check it, load it, and get justly rewarded.”

“And I’m not talking just about the whole peace deal either,” said Quicksilver, “We don’t give this shit away for free. We sell it at a premium. That means Genosha gets to import all sorts of goodies from the rest of the world. Now we got TVs from Japan, computers from China, beer from Germany, fruit from South America, cars from Britain, and movies from America.”

“I’m sure you punks are thrilled,” muttered Wolverine, “Saves you the trouble of having to steal it.”

“Is there any chance you’re going to say something that’s remotely relative to this mission of yours?” said Havok with growing annoyance.

“That depends,” he said in a more serious tone, “I’m working out how much I’ll need my claws to carry out this mission.”

“We can deal with your claws. We just can’t deal with one more asshole in this very sensitive area during these very sensitive times. If you’re that eager to pick a fight, do humans and mutants a favor and choose another mission.”

Wolverine snarled in response, caring little for how much he annoyed Havok and Quicksilver. Even if they thought he was just here to push their buttons, he was still serious about this mission. Professor Xavier trusted him to be his eyes and ears for this operation. Even with all these safeguards in place, there were way too many ways this treaty could go wrong.

While Quicksilver and Havok simmered with frustration, Wolverine turned his attention towards the eastern portion of the port. In the distance he could make out the imposing military base that still dominated the south side of the island. This base was a result of one of the compromises that Wanda made with the United Nations. After the Cambrian affair, a large body of international troops occupied the island. This was a major source of tension and even with the treaty, a military presence had to remain. So instead of a full on occupation, the military presence on Genosha was concentrated onto a single base and near the chief port no less. Something about that did not sit well with Wolverine.

“That cozy little base part of the tour?” said Wolverine, pointing out towards the base.

“You wish,” scoffed Havok, “That’s where our authority ends and humanity’s begin.”

“That tiny hunk of human filth has been a major source of migraines for Wanda and everyone else on this island,” said Quicksilver, “The humans insist on keeping a military base on the mainland just in case. They say it’s a security measure, but it feels like an invasion force in the waiting.”

“Right, because every human in the whole damn world just loves conspiring against you,” scoffed Wolverine, “That all there is to it?”

“Conspiracy or not, it’s a big part of this operation,” sighed Havok, “The humans process the same data we do. They don’t trust us any more than we trust them so they monitor every piece of tech that gets shipped out. They’re also wired into the mines where we have Warlock so they can make sure we don’t use it to make anything fishy like an H-bomb or something.”

“Wait…so that base you don’t control over is linked right into that alien gizmo that’s the key to the whole damn treaty? And you’re assuming it ain’t a gonna be a problem?”

“We have to. The humans demanded transparency,” muttered Havok, “One wrong move and that base will pick a fight we can’t win. Wanda knows this and promised to hex any Genosha citizen who so much as flips the place off.”

“Heh…lucky for me I ain’t Genosha,” retorted Wolverine, “I’m guessin’ if there’s any funny business goin’ down on this rock, it’s gonna come from that dump.”

With his usual impulsive nature, Wolverine barged past Havok and Quicksilver. He couldn’t conduct a full investigation for Professor Xavier without checking every possible source of trouble. He was risking the wrath of the Scarlet Witch and several major military powers, but it was his job to find every weakness in this operation and his instincts told him that trouble would most likely come from this base.

Quicksilver and Havok were once again annoyed by Wolverine’s brazen attitude. Of all the X-men they could have dealt with, he was by far the most frustrating. However, they did not go after him or even try to dissuade him. Since they were in no position to find out what was going on behind those walls, they might as well leave it to a guy best known for taking foolish risks.

“We’re not going to try and stop him, are we?” said Quicksilver.

“Quick rule of thumb, Speedy. Sometimes the best way to win a fight is to have someone else do the fighting for you,” said Havok wryly.

“If he causes a scene Wanda’s still going to be pissed.”

“If she asks, he overpowered you while I was off taking a piss.”

“Hey! Why am I the one who gets overpowered?” Pietro complained.

“She’s your sister. She’ll believe it,” said the younger mutant as he started walking towards the opposite end of the dock, “So rather than risk any more of your go, what do you say we raid the latest shipment of vodka from Russia? As far as I’m concerned, Wolverine’s tour ended five minutes ago and we lost track of him.”

Colorado Springs – Prison Complex

The Purifiers’ mission was proceeding smoother than they had expected. That psychic attack, courtesy of Colonel Wraith’s mysterious friend, ensured they wouldn’t have to clash with the vast army of military police guarding this facility. They were all out cold and blissfully unaware. Compared to the missions the Purifiers had trained for, this was akin to a Sunday morning church service. That didn’t mean they approached it with less urgency.

“We’re almost at the medium security hub. Isaiah unit, take defense position alpha. We’ll need to wait for the Ezekiel unit to get the backup power online,” said the operative leader.

The six highly trained soldiers of the Isaiah unit stayed close in a two-by-three column as they made their way through the winding corridors of the prison. They had already covered a lot of ground. With the power off, they had to use plastic explosives to open the heavy doors around the outer entrances to the complex. This was all still the lighter parts of the security within this structure. The heavy doors were essentially luxuries because the doors that led to the actual prisoners were far more advanced.

The medium security area presented them with one of these doors. This one had the look of a blast door on a battle ship. They had to drill a small hole in the side to ensure the explosion blew it open. This cost them the vast majority of their explosive ordinance, forcing them to rely entirely on their fellow Purifiers in order to make it through the medium security wing.

Now they faced a barrier they could not blast their way through. The door that led into the prison cells was twice as big as the last one and at least four times as heavy if the metal fixtures were any indication. It appeared entirely locked down with no other clear means of entry. There wasn’t even a keyhole or a mechanism to pick. With the clock ticking, the Isaiah unit could go no further.

“This is it. The level three checkpoint,” said the lead operative.

“It appears to be electronically sealed with a hardwired master gear and time lock fail-safe,” said one of the operatives that specialized in secure entrances.

“I’m guessing we can’t blow this one up, even if we had more explosives,” said one of the other operatives.

“It would take way more than we could carry. The master gear is remotely operated and since the power and the network is down, it’s designed to stay sealed. It is likely their chief security protocol in case the power gets knocked out.”

“Smart move,” said another one of the operatives dryly, “Does that mean the Ezekiel unit should be checking in right about now?”

“They already should have.”

The next few moments were tense. Not being able to proceed in a facility that was pitch black did not sit well. They had no idea how long that psychic blast was going to keep everybody unconscious either. If the power didn’t come back on before they woke up, then the entire mission would be at risk.

The lead operative activated the radio in his helmet and kept signaling the Ezekiel unit. Since this area was so secure the signal did not carry well. Most of their responses were static.

“Ezekiel unit, come in. Do you read? We need the power back on now. By God’s name, do not test our faith at a time like this!”

There was still no response. While the lead operative was still fumbling with it, the other members of the squad were beginning to pray. They needed the strength of their Lord now more than ever to guide them on their crusade.

It didn’t take long for those prayers to be answered. The lights throughout the corridor started flickering erratically. After a few tense seconds, they came back on completely. At that very instant, they got a message from Reverend Stryker.

“Isaiah unit, do you read?”

“Yes sir, Brother William. We read you loud and clear,” said the lead operative with renewed optimism.

“I take it by the tone of your voice that the Ezekiel unit was successful.”

“Indeed they were, God bless them. We’re a bit behind though. The checkpoint to the medium security level is remotely activated. We need it opened immediately.”

“Stay calm, Brother. Arcade is already working on it. If his boasting is any indication, he was able to snake his way past the network’s elaborate firewalls while everything was booting up. It should take no more than five minutes to get the doors open.”

“Will that be enough time to get Graydon and escape before hapless souls on this base regain consciousness?”

“That I’m not sure of. My associate was vague on the duration of such effects. At the moment, it’s best to assume you have fifteen minutes left. I have already ordered the Ezekiel unit to return to the initial landing point. They’re going to deploy a skyhook balloon that our plane will tow in order to extract you from the facility. It should be ready by the time you get out.”

“We’ll be there, sir. God is on our side!” asserted the lead operative.

“It isn’t God I’m worried about. It’s the other unholy forces that may stand in our way. Be on your guard and maintain this uplink. Godspeed.”

The lead operative turned to his comrades and nodded in affirmation. With their unbreakable resolve, they remained confident. Now that the power was back on their chances of success were that much greater. The end of this mission was in sight and everyone was eager to get it over with.

The agonizing wait for the door to open began. The six Purifiers kept up their guard, ready for any of those unholy surprises mentioned by Reverend Stryker. All seemed eerily quiet. Then after a few minutes, they felt something unexpected.

“Hey…did anyone else just feel that?” asked one of the operatives, “It felt like…tremors of sorts.”

“Great, I’m glad I’m not the only one,” groaned another.

“What is it? Could this be one of those unholy forces Brother Stryker mentioned?”

It soon became more obvious. A strange rumble was flowing through the floor. It was small, but noticeable. It didn’t feel like ordinary tremors. It came in a series of strange pulses, as if they were footsteps. The six Purifiers exchanged glances. There was a great deal about this that didn’t feel right. It was enough to send a chill of terror down to their very souls.

Before they could ponder for too long on this rumbling, a loud horn sounded on the door. An array of lights came on while a few electronic panels flickered. After some chaotic computer activity, the locks within were undone and the heavy barrier was opened.

“Whatever tricks the devil may have, I’d rather not face him,” said the operative urgently, “Let’s move, Isaiah unit! Our fellow crusader awaits us!”

The rumbling was quickly forgotten and the six men stormed through the barrier with even greater urgency than before. They gripped their Uzis more firmly, ready to fire at the slightest abnormality.

The medium security wing wasn’t nearly as elaborate as they expected. It was essentially a large, three-level rotunda. There was a lot of open space, which made sense because it allowed the guards on the top level to see everything that was going on with the prisoners. The cells themselves consisted of heavy doors with bullet-proof glass for windows. They didn’t look nearly as imposing as the barriers they had faced earlier.

“According to Arcade’s intel, Graydon Creed’s cell is on the first level. Cell 1016,” said the lead operative.

“Since I can still feel that rumbling, I prefer we get him out quickly.”

Everyone in the Isaiah unit shared this sentiment. Even as they ran, they could feel the rumbling. It was getting more intense and giving them all the more reason to complete this mission quickly and get out of this God-forsaken place.

They scaled the stairs, arriving at the lowermost level and a fresh row of cells. Creed’s was in a special area in the corner. The officials here must have been keeping an extra close eye on him. They noticed a lot more unconscious guards along the way as they neared his cell. Before they even got there, the lead operative radioed Reverend Stryker.

“Brother William, tell Arcade to hurry up and unlock the cells!”

“He’s already undone the electronic locks. However, you’ll still have to open the cell. They require both a retinal scan and a key card. Use one of the guards nearby. You may have to do some searching.”

“I hope we do not have to search for long. There is an evil in this place and I fear it will find us soon!”

“I hope that’s mere paranoia, my brother. What kind of evil do you sense?”

“With all due respect, Reverend…I would rather not describe it. We’ll signal you when we have Creed.”

The six Purifiers scrambled frantically, grabbing as many guards as they could and searching their pockets for key cards. They quickly retrieved several while the lead operative grabbed another guard and held his head up to the retinal scanner to undo the lock. All that was left was the key card. Working feverishly, each operative handed their leader the cards they had gathered. The lead operative immediately went to work testing them. The first two were duds, getting only a red error light in response.

“Come on. Work, damn you! In the name of all things holy, let this be the one!” he said anxiously.

The other Purifiers held their breath as their leader tested the last card. This time they got a green light and the cell door opened, revealing an unconscious Graydon Creed lying peacefully in his bed.

“Praise the Lord!” said one of the operatives.

“Let’s get him out of here. God has granted us his grace. Let’s not make light of it!” said another.

Three of the Purifiers rushed in and retrieved the unconscious man from his bed. They had officially achieved their primary objective. They had Graydon Creed in their possession. Now they just had to get him out before this menacing evil they all sensed caught up with them.

Once the six Purifiers gathered outside the cell, they prepared to exit through the exact route they had entered. Before they could even take their first step, they felt another deep rumble. This time it was a full blown tremor, powerful enough to shake them all off their balance. It felt like it came from the floor right under them.

“Oh Lord…I fear God’s grace may have just run out,” dreaded the lead operative.

“What kind of unholy evil could it be?!” exclaimed one of the Purifiers holding up Creed.

The six men got their answer much quicker than expected. Just up ahead in the central area, a massive force punched right through the floor. They all watched in terror as they saw what looked like an oversized arm tear right through the floor. Then, in a terrifying display of strength, that arm opened an even greater whole through which an imposing being emerged. It was a being too large and too muscular to be human. It looked like someone sold their soul to Satan himself in exchange for strength and Satan delivered in excess.

“Ahhhhhh it feels good to be out of that cell. I told them it was just a matter of time before the Juggernaut broke out!” the imposing figure proclaimed.

“What in the name of the Heavenly Father? This base was sheltering a mutant demon?!” exclaimed the lead operative.

“Mutant? Hahaha! I’m way worse than that, you puny fuck!” he replied, cracking his oversized fists, “And since you just insulted me, I think I’ll use you and your buddies for a little light sparring. Should make for some good practice before I catch up with my Uncle Charlie!”

Next Issue: Prison Break Part 2

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