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Volume 7 -- Issue 156 -- Drug War Part 2

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Drug War Part 2
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Tensions are escalating for Professor Charles Xavier and his X-men. He continues to fight for peace and understanding in a world that hates and fears mutants. However, that same world also wants him to deal with threats that are still poorly understood.

There is still plenty of mystery surrounding Sebastian Shaw and the drug, Mutant Growth Hormone. With the controversial Mutant Monitoring Initiative at stake, the X-men hatched a daring plan that involved sending Jubilee right into Shaw’s clutches as a spy.

Along the way, she met up with five other mutants, each intent on rebuilding lives that had been shattered by their mutant abilities. Feeling trapped with no control over their lives, they placed their trust in Sebastian Shaw to give them another chance. They witness first-hand as the X-men’s plot unraveled and Jubilee’s deception was exposed.

Now, as the X-men make their way to Shaw’s Mexican villa, X-Force is already on the scene looking to oppose Shaw before it becomes a public spectacle like the recent incident with Nitro. However, like the X-men, they underestimated Sebastian Shaw. Even as they begin their attack, Shaw is aware of their presence and has taken precautions to ensure that nobody opposes him.

Outside Villa Del Fuego
“We’ve got a sniper on the loose out here and some kind of firepower!” barked one of Shaw’s Mexican guards as he ran for a defensive position with three subordinates.

“Didn’t we call for backup already?” asked another guard.

“The boss isn’t answering. They might be in lockdown.”

“Well sound the alarm or something!” exclaimed another guard as he prepared his assault rifle, “Our surveillance gear is already down. We need to strike back before-AUGH!”

That was as far as the four armed men got. While they were still running, a purplish puff of smoke appeared ahead of them. From it, three figures emerged. Nightcrawler, Wolverine, and Warpath didn’t let them pass or sound any alarms.

Warpath clotheslined two of the guards while Wolverine and Nightcrawler took out the other two. They fell before a shot could even be fired. One tried to turn around and run in the other direction, but Wolverine grabbed him by the collar and pulled him back.

“Let go, gringo! This isn’t…what I…signed up for,” the man struggled.

“You make a deal with the devil, you better be ready to die for him, bub,” snarled Wolverine as he aimed his claws right at the man’s throat.

“Go easy on him, Wolverine. I don’t zhink he’s one of Shaw’s more loyal associates,” coaxed Nightcrawler.

“It’s still a shitty excuse,” quipped Wolverine, “Consider this a slap on the wrist.”

This slap ended up being a knee to the gut and an elbow to the back of the neck. It effectively knocked the guard out. He would live, but he would need a brief hospital stay at the very least.

Wolverine had little capacity for mercy when it came to Sebastian Shaw. If the point of this attack was to get Shaw to react, he preferred making a much more forceful statement.

“You done, Wolverine?” chided Warpath.

“Don’t be an ass about it, bub. Leave that shit to Cyclops,” said Wolverine as he shoved the unconscious guard aside, “We’re just rattling Shaw’s fancy cage. From the looks of it, he ain’t doing dick about it.”

“He vill eventually. Men like Shaw always do,” said Nightcrawler confidently.

“For all we know, he already has. We just haven’t felt it yet,” said Warpath as he scanned the area thoroughly.

“Well he better make his move soon. These half-assed attacks ain’t my style. I’m starting to think Cyke is losing his touch.”

“You say zhat at least twice a day, Logan. Vill you ever give it a rest?” teased Nightcrawler.

“You might as well ask him to quit drinking,” scoffed Warpath, “Speaking of Cyclops, where the hell is he?”

Before Wolverine could make another degrading comment about their leader, the distinct beam of an optic blast shot out from around a nearby corner. With it came two other Mexican guards that never got a chance to fire back. They were sent flying a good twenty feet away from the main villa wall. Shortly after they landed on the rugged Mexican terrain, Cyclops and Emma Frost emerged.

They had successfully cleared out their end of the Villa perimeter. Emma Frost was in her diamond form and there were a few bullet holes etched in her already revealing uniform. While Cyclops continued scanning the area for other targets, Emma brushed herself off as best she could.

“We took out the main sentries in the back. Did you encounter any problems hitting the barracks on the side?” asked Cyclops, keeping his hand on his visor just in case.

“Oh I’m fine, darling. Thanks for asking,” said Emma dryly, “I have no problem with you using me as a human shield while bullets rip through my uniform.”

“As if you had much uniform to begin with, Frost,” teased Warpath.

“If you’re gonna bitch about Cyke’s tactics, I’ll be happy to join you,” said Wolverine with folded arms, “We ain’t getting nothing from these pansy ass attacks. We’ve roughed up a few guards, torn up a few gates, and damaged his fancy landscape. I bet Shaw could just write a check to fix this shit.”

“The point isn’t to overwhelm him. The point is to make him overreact,” reiterated Cyclops.

“I get the strategy, bub. I still think it’s fucked up,” Wolverine retorted.

Cyclops scowled his feral teammate. He was not in the mood to argue with him, even if his concerns were valid. Shaw didn’t seem to be responding to their attacks. He had to know about them. Either he was choosing to ignore them or he was still reluctant to make his move. Even if the strategy was flawed, they had to keep applying pressure.

“I understand you guys are frustrated, but we need to keep on pushing,” urged Cyclops, “Domino has already taken out the security cameras and sensors. Angel took out the observation towers and air defenses. He’s on his way to pick Domino up so we can link up and attack the gates.”

“We might want to let her soften them up a bit, darling?” said Emma, who shifted out of her diamond form to use her telepathy, “I’ve been doing scans of this tacky villa Shaw calls a base. I’m not getting any psychic signals.”

“He’s probably got the place shielded. We’ll know more once we start damaging it,” said Cyclops.

“Finally! A plan that makes sense,” said Wolverine, his claws prepared for action.

“It might not be that simple or that fun,” warned Emma, “I’m detecting more than just shielding. I think he might have a psychic or two by his side. It’s just like him to try and replace me.”

“You can compare thongs with them soon enough,” said Warpath, “If we’re going to hit Shaw harder, let’s do it now before he decides to take his head out of his ass and…”

Suddenly, Warpath’s warning was cut off when a mysterious blast struck only a few feet from where they were standing. Cyclops, Warpath, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Emma Frost instinctively fell back. They turned around just in time to see a large column of greenish light plow through the landscape and hit the outer wall of the villa, leaving a sizable indent. Along with it came the cry of two familiar voices.


X-Force recognized these cries as belonging to Domino and Angel. Domino’s tattered figure tumbled to the side just short of where the blast had struck. Angel fell a few feet from her as if he had been thrown right along with her. They hadn’t endured the full force of the blast, but it looked like she endured more than her share.

“Domino? Angel!” exclaimed Nightcrawler as he, Cyclops, and Emma rushed to their aid.

“What the hell was that?” exclaimed Warpath as he scanned the area.

“Shit if I know, but it already stinks to high hell!” snarled Wolverine.

While Wolverine and Warpath covered them, the others took in Domino and Angel’s tattered condition. It looked like she got into a fight with a pack of angry bears and lost. Her uniform was torn and tattered. There were wounds over her back, left side, and face. The rifle she had been using was now nowhere in sight.

Angel was almost as bad. His wings had cushioned his fall, but he had what looked like teeth marks over the upper half of his body. It looked as though someone had just picked these two up and threw them across the rugged landscape.

“That…sucked,” groaned Angel.

“Ack!” she grunted as she coughed up some blood.

“Take it easy, you two. Try not to move too much,” said Cyclops as he carefully sat her up against the nearby wall.

“Guess this means your luck ran out,” commented Emma as she did the same for Angel.

“Hnn…luck will keep me from getting killed or crippled. It won’t spare me the pain that comes with it,” groaned Domino.

“It’s nothing zhe Nova Roman doctors can’t treat,” said Nightcrawler as he helped Cyclops keep her upright, “Now tell us who did zhis to you.”

“Hnn…dragons,” groaned Warren as he started coughing up blood as well.

“Let them catch her breath, elf. They’re clearly out of it,” snarled Wolverine, “Besides, we don’t need to find the answer. Looks like it found us.”

Cyclops, Nightcrawler, and Emma turned around to see what Wolverine was referring to. From the dusty cloud left from the earlier blast, another figure emerged. This time it was nobody they recognized. She emerged as an attractive yet imposing woman, her body surrounded in a greenish cloud of energy. She stopped about twenty feet from where Wolverine and Warpath were standing.

“They were an easy target,” said Chimera, her green eyes flaring menacingly as she prepared for another attack, “She got only one shot off before I took her out. The winged one tried to help and failed miserably. I hope the rest of you put up more of a fight.”

“Sounds like something one of my ex-girlfriends would say,” said Warpath as he clenched his fists, “Are you the only one Shaw sent out to confront us?”

“If that’s the case, he’s getting ridiculously cheap. And I’m not just talking about your horrendous fashion sense,” said Emma as she met up with Wolverine and Warpath.

“I’m all the Inner Circle needs to round up you pitiful peasants,” said Chimera confidently, “That way he can save his main arsenal for much larger threats.”

“Main arsenal?” questioned Cyclops.

Before he or anyone else in X-Force could inquire further, another commotion erupted from within Shaw’s villa. Cyclops, Wolverine, Warpath, Nightcrawler, and Emma all looked up to see a fireball-like burst shoot up into the sky. It looked like a large fireworks display going off and behind it were two other figures.

One was an odd looking winged figure and the other looked like a mix of fire and ice streaking along the sky. There were other noises breaking out from the front door, but they were not able see what was going on. Chimera wasn’t going to let them.

“Vhat vere you saying earlier about Shaw doing responding to our attacks, Wolverine?” asked Nightcrawler.

“Can it, elf! One bloody brawl at a time,” said the former living weapon as he set his sights on Chimera.

“Don’t let her hold us back, X-Force! Take her down quickly so we can get closer to the villa,” said Cyclops, leaving Domino and Angel with Nightcrawler while he took charge.

“You make it sound as though I’ll go down easy,” taunted Chimera, “I may be only one mutant, but I have an advantage that you’ll soon wish you had!”

With X-Force now staring her down, Chimera used her powers to demonstrate the advantage she boasted about. From the green energy surrounding her, she formed five large dragon-like creatures. They came together in a swirling burst of power, shooting a good thirty feet into the sky. It was an impressive display. Shaw was more prepared than they expected. Despite increasing activity from the villa, they prepared to attack. Whatever that activity entailed, it would have to wait.

X-jet – Above Villa Del Fuego
“No…this can’t be right. Please for once let these readings be wrong,” said Tessa in a more emotional tone than everyone is used to.

“Dang, Ah already miss the beta version of Tessa,” groaned Rogue.

“What is it? What are you detecting?” asked Professor Xavier, who was in the cockpit with Beast.

“Remember that device I had Jubilee swallow?” she replied as she looked at the data on her laptop, “Well, I think she just lost her lunch because it’s no longer transmitting.”

The mood throughout the X-jet was already tense. They had just arrived over Shaw’s base with faint hope that they could get to Jubilee before anything went wrong. If Tessa’s demeanor were any indication, then they were too late.

The news prompted Beast to fly in lower over the villa. Phoenix, Storm, Rogue, Gambit, Colossus, and Psylocke braced themselves for more turbulence and more bad news. Captain Freeman sat next to Tessa and had been keeping tabs on the situation since before they even took off. He had a line open to General Grimshaw and the MSA. From the looks of it, they were going to need it.

Tessa could already hear Bishop and Multiple yelling at her from District X. They had both been against sending Jubilee to spy on Shaw. They were concerned about her ability to handle herself in a tight situation and potentially undermining the deal they had going with Shaw. It looked like both their fears had been realized. She worked feverishly to reestablish a link with the transmitter. All she could get in return were error messages.

“If you need me to push the panic button, I can do it in a heartbeat,” said Captain Freeman, “The General has the President of Mexico linked up in a conference call. MSA forces are prepared to surround the compound and strike!”

“Knowing Shaw, he’s probably prepared for that,” commented Colossus.

“We need to hold off a bit longer. If Jubilee is in trouble, then this just became a rescue mission,” said Phoenix.

“Is there any chance you can trace the location of the signal before it cut out?” asked Storm.

“I’ve been trying. Something keeps blocking me out,” said Tessa, her frustration building rapidly, “I designed this transmitter myself. It has no fewer than three fail-safes!”

“Keep trying, my dear,” said Beast as he ignited the afterburner, “We’ll be right on top of Shaw’s location in less than three minutes. If you want an explanation, you’ll have to forcibly extract it.”

It seemed to be the only option at this point. As eager as she was to beat the answers out of her former boss, Tessa had reservations. Shaw knew her as well as she knew him. He was capable of hurting her in so many ways. She tried turning those feelings off as she had tried turning off so many others. She kept working while the rest of the X-men prepared to attack. Then to her surprise, her transmitter became active again.

“Wait…I think I have something,” she said as she worked to unscramble the signal.

“Please tell me it’s Jubilee saying she ate a spoiled burrito,” said Psylocke.

The signal came in clear, so much so that it triggered a loud screech that forced Beast to level off the jet for a moment. Before Tessa could decipher anything, the signal turned into a message. From her laptop, a familiar voice rang out.

“I hope this is on because I have an important message to deliver.”

“That’s him! That’s Shaw!” exclaimed Phoenix.

“My signal? How is he…” began Tessa.

“We’ll figure that out later. Hank, level the jet! We need to hear this!” Professor Xavier urged.

The X-men, Tessa, and Captain Freeman fell silent as they listened in on this transmission. Beast kept the jet level. Below, Shaw’s villa was in sight so he likely knew they were close.

“First off, don’t fret for Miss Lee. She’s fine. So are the five strapping young mutants that accompanied her. I assume you think you’re saving them. Although, I must say I’m disappointed. I expect more cunning, especially from former associates.”

“Former associates?” questioned Gambit as he looked towards Tessa suspiciously, “What the hell is he talking about?”

“Now is not the time, Gambit. There are more pressing matters that need addressing,” said Beast, ensuring Tessa didn’t have to answer.

Tessa swallowed her anguish at Shaw’s words. It sounded as though her secrets would be laid out for everyone to see. There was no hiding her past any longer.

“I wish I had time to explain the true extent of what I’m doing. I know you’ve witnessed the power of Mutant Growth Hormone. I’m sure you and plenty others think it’s dangerous. Yet it is just a stepping stone. A means to an end. Unlike my previous deals, this has a much grander vision. One that will render the X-men, the MSA, and the Mutant Monitoring Initiative obsolete. I could spend hours explaining to you the true essence of MGH. Instead, I’ll show you. If by chance you’ll survive, then you’ll understand why this is necessary…and why it cannot be stopped!”

With this ominous warning, the signal returned to static. A cold silence fell over the X-jet. The cold voice of Sebastian Shaw sounded as mad as ever and he rarely failed to back up that madness in kind.

“Ah’m probably gonna regret saying this, but what do you think he means by that?” asked Rogue.

Before the team could even contemplate such horrors, the X-jet was rocked by a new wave of turbulence. It wasn’t the engines or the afterburners. Something had actually struck the X-jet from the outside and struck it hard.

“WHOA!” exclaimed Colossus, “Better start regretting, Rogue.”

“What the hell was that?” said Captain Freeman as he looked out the window.

“Not what…who,” Professor Xavier dreaded.

“I sense it too, Professor,” said Phoenix as she clutched the sides of her head, “I think Shaw just made his point.”

All eyes now turned towards the windows where the shadow of a large figure just passed over them. The source of the shadow was revealed as it flew around over the side of the jet. It appeared to be a young girl with a very unusual complexion even for a mutant.

Outside the X-jet, Laurie was thoroughly enjoying her new powers. No longer pale and feeble her skin had completely shifted to a blue, scaly complexion that was complemented by her long flowing pinkish hair. In addition to her skin tone, her whole body became more malleable. She was now shaped like a large sail with talons for feet and a fin-like tail that she had used to strike the X-jet earlier. Before she could only fly. Now she was new breed mutant.

“Are you seeing this, my king? Are you seeing how my new powers strike fear into the hearts of our enemies?” exclaimed Laurie.

“I don’t think they’re afraid yet. But they will be soon!” came another voice.

A sparkling fireball-like figure flew past Laurie as she soared over the X-jet. The figure flew around towards the front of the jet, which was still lumbering forward at an unstable speed. Her body was surrounded by blinding sparks of light, almost as if her entire body had been replaced.

As she flew through the sky, her hands pulsed with balls of energy. Her eyes pulsed as well, dominating a face consumed with focused anger. As soon as she flew in front of the cockpit of the X-jet, Professor Xavier and the others gasped.

“Is that…” began the Professor.

“Jubilee!” exclaimed Tessa.

“Hey guys? Remember me?” Jubilee shouted, “No? Why don’t I remind you!”

The pulsing light on her hands intensified. From it, she formed a much larger ball of energy. Then with a casual gesture, she unleashed it at the X-jet. It struck the windows of the cockpit, shattering the reinforced glass. It sent a rush of cold wind through the aircraft, forcing Hank and Professor Xavier to duck in order to avoid the deadly sheer.

“We’ve lost pressure! I’ll try and activate the autopilot!” shouted Beast over the howling winds.

“I guess say this confirms the link between Shaw and MGH!” said Captain Freeman as he and the rest of the X-men held on in their seats.

“You think?!” scolded Rogue.

While the X-jet started to tumble through the air, Jubilee flew around towards one of the sides where Laurie was still hovering. Not content to just make the X-men uncomfortable, they prepared to deliver another attack.

“I think we’ve officially surprised them,” said Laurie.

“Let’s surprise them more for the glory of our king and queens,” said Jubilee, “Idie, come in and join the fun!”

From behind, a bluish red fireball shot past them at high speeds. It went right for the rear engines of the X-jet and was poised to bring them down.

“Don’t call me that anymore!” shouted Idie, “I don’t want to be that weak, scared little girl anymore. I’m Oya! Spirit of the elements! The Inner Circle is my lord now!”

From the oddly colored fireball, the distinct figure of Idie Okankwo emerged. Half her body was covered in fire. The other half was covered in ice. Armed with both elements, she unleashed a concentrated beam of ice on the engine exhaust of the X-jet. Despite the hot flames, a thick shell of ice formed over it. This killed the propulsion system of the X-jet, rendering it an oversized glider with nowhere to go but down.

The sudden loss of engine power was quickly felt within the jet. The lights went out in the cabin and the nose of the jet quickly turned downward. The only option left for Professor Xavier, Tessa, Captain Freeman, and the X-men was to hang on.

“This be the part where the ride gets rough,” said Gambit as he held on.

“What on Earth has gotten into Jubilee?” wondered Colossus.

“You mean besides MGH?” said Rogue.

“That can’t just be it. Someone’s toying with her mind. I can sense it!” said Tessa.

“As can I,” said Professor Xavier, “We’ll have plenty of time to dig deeper once we land! For that, we’ll need to make an emergency landing.”

“That’s our cue, Storm. You ready?” said Phoenix, who was already using her telekinesis to full effect.

“I know the drill, Phoenix,” said Storm, her eyes turning white as she summoned a new wave of winds.

It was their standard last-ditch protocol for landing a crippled X-jet. Phoenix used her telekinesis to level the jet off and keep it stable. Storm used her powers to create a whirlwind underneath the aircraft, allowing it to descend steadily to the surface. The jet was only ten thousand feet above the surface so it wouldn’t be too unpleasant a drop. Jubilee, Idie, and Laurie noticed this and were not about to let them get too comfortable.

“They think they can take the easy way out,” said Jubilee, “Laurie, show them how the Inner Circle treats that kind of sloth.”

“Gladly!” grinned Laurie, “But call me Transonic now. If Idie is getting a cool codename, I want one too.”

Laurie sought to earn her codename in kind, shifting her body so that she looked more like a giant hawk of sorts. In this new form, she flew down at high speeds to catch up to the X-jet.

As soon as she reached it, she shifted her body again. She turned into a giant stingray-like creature, forming talons on her feet and grasping onto the wings. Once she had a firm grip on the aircraft, she used her large size to rock it violently. It threw off Storm and Phoenix’s efforts while making the environment inside very uncomfortable.

“Argh! Something’s throwing us off!” grunted Phoenix.

“Our stomachs can tell us that, Jean!” shouted Rogue.

“Storm, intensify your winds!” ordered Professor Xavier, “This is going to be a rougher landing than expected.”

“I’m trying, Charles!” grunted Storm, “Ungh! Nature can rarely make such promises!”

Storm attempted to form a much stronger whirlwind underneath the X-jet. that helped counter the heavy forces that Laurie was imposing. It still wasn’t enough to prevent the jet from going into a tailspin. Everyone on board had to hold on tightly, bracing themselves for what was sure to be an unpleasant impact.

 Phoenix tried to slow them down and stabilize the aircraft, but she struggled every step of the way. Without the Phoenix Force, her mind grew heavily strained.

‘Come on, Phoenix! If you’re still in there…I could really use your help.’

Despite her pleas, the cosmic being remained dormant. As the X-jet neared the ground, Phoenix’s mind nearly gave out. She and Storm managed to make one final push to level the aircraft off so that it didn’t plunge nose-first into the ground. However, they weren’t able to make the landing as easy as they hoped.

With Laurie still clutching the wings, the X-jet skipped and skidded along the rough terrain just outside the south end of Villa Del Fuego. Captain Freeman instinctively adapted his body to become more durable. Colossus did the same, forming his metal shell in preparation for the impact.

Before they hit, they undid their restraints and grabbed onto the others to shield them. Rogue and Beast did the same. Captain Freeman covered Tessa while Beast protected Professor Xavier. Rogue aided Gambit while Colossus tried to protect both Storm and Psylocke. He tried to help Phoenix, but she was too focused on pushing her powers harder to stop the jet. It got to a point where she started bleeding from her nose. When the X-jet finally did stop, she passed out while the others were left to collect themselves.

“Hnn…have we stopped yet?” groaned Colossus, who was pinned against Storm and Psylocke.

“I certainly hope so,” groaned Storm as she rubbed her head.

“We damn well better!” grunted Psylocke, “You mind getting off me before I start envying Kitty?”

Colossus shook his head in a daze as he crawled off the two women. At this point, he noticed that their seats had fallen over and the roof was warped to the point where panels had broken off. The others experienced similar clutter.

“Better get up before Remy gets too comfortable as well,” said Gambit, who was pinned under Rogue.

“This ain’t the place or the time, sugah,” groaned Rogue as she pulled him out of his seat.

“Ain’t ever stopped us before,” he shrugged.

“Glad to hear you haven’t lost your wit, Gambit,” said Professor Xavier as Beast helped him up, “Is everyone else alright?”

“I…I think so,” said Tessa as she emerged with Captain Freeman, “But I think Phoenix strained herself a bit too much.”

“She’s endured worse. I’ll tend to her,” assured Professor Xavier as he rushed to help the unconscious Phoenix out of her seat.

“We all have,” groaned Beast, still rubbing his head, “This may qualify as the worst landing we’ve ever managed to survive. I’m not sure if it’s a testament to our luck or the X-jet.”

“Forget the X-jet! The taxpayers will reimburse you for a new one,” said Captain Freeman, “We need to get out of this tin can and find those punks that attacked us.”

The Green Beret didn’t take time to collect himself. He was still focused on the mission. But before he could rally the X-men into his mindset, the jet was rocked again with more turbulence. This time it was different.

The entire right side of the jet was literally ripped open as if it was a tin can. The X-men had almost forgotten that Laurie still had a hold on them. Using the talons she formed on her feet, she peeled away the wreckage.

“Playing dead in there won’t stop you from being dead! But it never hurts to practice!” taunted Laurie.

“Ugh, as if mah mama hadn’t given meh enough reasons to hate blue-skinned mutants,” groaned Rogue.

As a gaping opening was ripped into the jet, a harsh gust of dusty wind swooped through the crippled jet. The still dazed X-men fell back from the turbulence and watched as Laurie stood in front of them, shifting her form so that she was humanoid again. Moments later, Jubilee and Idie landed next to her. From behind three other ominous figures emerged. It gave the X-men yet another reason to feel sore.

One of the figures was a larger, more muscular, more animal-looking Teon. Now twice his normal size, he also had fur all over his body to make him look like a true beast. Standing next to him was Gabriel, who was hard to make out because he seemed to be a walking blur. It was as if time and space around him was obscured.

Behind the both of them was Kenji, who took on a form that looked anything but human. He was now a hulking blob-like creature that stood as tall as a large house with tentacles laced with blackened veins. In the center, he sat on a throne-like chair with blackish veins bulging from his body. As they caught up with their comrades, they were eager to attack.

“KILL! KILL!” roared Teon.

“That’s the spirit, Teon!” grinned Gabriel in a strongly modulated tone, “I hope you girls saved some leftovers for us!”

“I think we softened them up a bit. Feel free to do some softening of your own,” said Jubilee with a sadistic grin.

“That is not what his majesty ordered us to do. We’re to make an example of them. Their demise shall be our greatest work of art,” seethed Kenji, his voice raspy as the veins around his head throbbed.

They all sounded drunk with power and intent on doing Sebastian Shaw’s bidding. It was the same intoxicated mindset they had seen in Beak only this was far worse. With Jubilee leading them, fighting back would prove difficult in so many ways.

Professor Xavier met up with Captain Freeman as they emerged from the wreckage. Beast, Tessa, Storm, Gambit, Rogue, Psylocke, and Colossus soon followed. Colossus carried the weakened Phoenix with him. They were all still dazed from this sudden attack. Shaw was fighting dirty in the worst possible way. Opposing him would mean opposing these young, misguided mutants.

“Remember that panic button you mentioned earlier, Captain?” said Professor Xavier.

“What about it?” said the Green Beret as he prepared to fight.

“Now would be a good time to start pressing it. Shaw has pulled some dirty tricks before, but this is by far the most egregious.”

“It may be worse than that,” mused Tessa distantly, “If this is what I think it is then we’re all in grave danger.”

Sebastian Shaw looked down at the weakened Jubilee with a bemused glance. Still reeling from having literally thrown up her secrets, she tried in vain to attack him. She barely raised her hand before Shaw grabbed her by the throat, lifted her up off the floor, and showed her to the five wary mutants that had watched this whole event unfold.

“You see, children? This is what happens when pawns try to betray their king,” said Shaw, “This brazen young lady had the audacity to take my generous offer and undermine it.”

“But…why would she want to do that?” asked Idie in a confused tone.

“Is she undercover for the MSA or the CIA?” asked Gabriel.

“Not quite, but close,” said Shaw cryptically, “You don’t take bold steps forward without trampling over a few people and making some enemies along the way.”

“That sounds…troubling,” said Kenji.

“Fight?” said Teon defensively.

“Do not misjudge us, young ones,” said Regan Wyngarde, “We do what we do with your best interests in mind.”

“We never would have let Miss Lee get this far if we didn’t think we could make something productive of it,” added Martinique.

Laurie, Kenji, Teon, Gabriel, and Idie were still confused. They had no idea they would play a part in some infiltration plot. They were just here to make a new life for themselves. They had since discovered that Sebastian Shaw was no philanthropist. He had a much larger vision in mind and he wasn’t afraid to hurt people in order to achieve it. That disturbed them on a number of levels, but they weren’t in a position to change their minds.

“So…what’s going to happen to her?” asked Laurie anxiously.

“Watch and see for yourself,” grinned Shaw, “All the answers are within this syringe.”

The Black King held up the syringe that contained a full dose of the newly modified MGH. The five young mutants looked on intently while Jubilee started to panic. This mission was getting worse by the second and she didn’t care for needles in the first place. She started struggling, but Shaw’s grip on her neck was too great.

“Ack! You stick me with that…you’re a dead man,” grunted Jubilee, “My friends…will come for me.”

“Oh I’m counting on it, my dear,” said the Black King, “In fact, I expect you to greet them.”

With no further hesitation, Shaw jammed the needle into her shoulder and injected every last drop of MGH. Jubilee cringed at the feeling, doing her best to fight the coming effects. But it was no use. As soon as the drug was in her system, she felt it change her.

“Argh! It burns! I feel…”

“We know,” said Regan Wyngarde ominously, “We feel it too.”

Shaw let Jubilee go, allowing her to fall to her knees. The burning sensation in her arm quickly spread all throughout her body. She clutched her sides and kept groaning in discomfort.

Within moments her hands and eyes started radiating sparks. Soon every inch of exposed skin was radiating these sparks. It got to a point where her skin was apparently replaced by these sparks. It was as if she was becoming the very firework-like power she wielded.

In addition to her body, the MGH affected her mind as well. Her thoughts raced and were quickly bombarded with these new feelings she didn’t understand. It was as if her brain was thinking thoughts that weren’t even hers. As these powers consumed her, Martinique and Regan’s eyes started glowing. Jubilees eyes soon matched this glow. Once her mind settled and her body stabilized, she rose up in her energetic new form. The discomfort had subsided and was replaced with something very different.

“Well, Miss Lee? How do you feel?” asked Sebastian Shaw.

“I feel…right,” said Jubilee as she looked down at herself, “This is it. This is what I was meant to be!”

“Such is the power of this new refined version of MGH,” said Martinique.

“It doesn’t just complete your powers. It links all those who partake in its glory,” said Regan, her flashing eyes demonstrating this link.

“Yes…I can sense it. The Inner Circle…this is where I belong.”

“And we’re welcome to have you, my dear,” said the Black King.

It turned out even better than he expected. This version of MGH was potent in an entirely new way. The mutants who used it wouldn’t just be bound by it’s power. They would be bound to the Inner Circle. It ensured that Sebastian Shaw would have control and power in abundance. It would lay the foundation for a new Inner Circle.

With this successful demonstration, the Black King turned to the five mutants that had watched in amazement. They were clearly impressed and disturbed by what they had seen. Now they were faced with a daunting decision.

“Whoa…this was so not part of the deal,” said Laurie.

“Does it count as bonus?” questioned Gabriel.

“That depends on a very skewed definition of the word,” said Kenji in a defensive tone.

“Flight?” said Teon.

“I don’t think that’s an option,” said Idie anxiously.

“He’s right,” said Shaw as he approached them with Warhawk following close behind, “You five made the decision to come here. Now you must see that decision through.”

Shaw turned towards Warhawk, who handed him five more doses of the new MGH. The five mutants stepped back for a moment, but there was nowhere for them to go.

“Together with Jubilee, you will be the first in a new generation of mutants. You will no longer be bound by the limitations that hinder you. You will be complete…united…and above all, in control thanks to the Inner Circle.”

“I take it that control is wielded by you,” surmised Kenji with a touch of cynicism.

“Like all natural hierarchies, there needs to be a king,” he shrugged, “This is your destiny. It’s time for you to embrace it.”

“And if we refuse?” questioned Laurie.

Shaw and the Wyngarde sisters laughed. The fear in these young souls was laughable. It was an easily corrected flaw. They would serve the Inner Circle well for years to come.

“I don’t think you fully grasp what I’m saying,” said Shaw as he presented them their doses of MGH, “Destiny cannot be chosen. It can only be accepted. It’s only a matter of how much you want it to hurt.”

Villa Del Fuego South Perimeter – Present

‘Hear me, my fellow lights. Our thoughts and our powers are at levels these fools can’t possibly understand. They are petty and dysfunctional, never sure of themselves or each other. We don’t have the problem! We are the lights of the Inner Circle and together we’re going to show these pawns some real power!’

These determined thoughts were shared without impediment by Jubilee, Laurie, Idie, Gabriel, Kenji, and Teon. There was no barrier between them. They were one unit with one purpose and that was to serve the Inner Circle. They stood together against a dazed team of X-men that were still reeling from their impromptu landing. With this collective determination, they launched their attack.

“FIGHT! KILL! FIGHT! KILL!” roared Teon as he charged towards the X-men.

“Guess we know they’re strategy. Spread them out and take them down, X-men!” said Captain Freeman as he prepared to adapt his body again.

“I don’t think that will do much good,” said Tessa, who had sensed their collective thoughts earlier.

“It’s better than lying back while Shaw enjoys the show,” said Rogue, who had already taken to the air.

Rogue and Captain Freeman drew the fire away from their friends. Jubilee and Idie unleashed energy bolts and fireballs right at the Green Beret. He adapted his body to take the heat and the punishment. It blew off the top part of his uniform, but his adaptive form was able to endure.

Rogue went for Laurie, who was still hovering in the air. She flew towards her at high speeds, which Laurie tried to match. While she was still in her large, sting-ray form it didn’t add to her strength. When Rogue struck, she was stunned and tumbled to the ground. Rogue made sure she fell flat on her face so she stayed stunned.

“Ungh!” grunted Laurie as her large form reshaped.

“You’re new at this so here’s a quick lesson for ya. Lookin’ scary ain’t gonna make you stronger,” said Rogue.

“Is that a lesson or a theory?” said Kenji, who immediately came to Laurie’s aid, “If so, why not test it?”

Before Rogue could even get off Laurie, Kenji lashed out at her with seven swirling tentacles. They slithered around her legs and arms, pulling her up into the air and binding her in an iron grip. She tried breaking free with her strength, but Kenji proved to have the reliance to go along with his size. He shifted from an amorphous mass to fifteen-foot humanoid with tentacles for hands.

“Errrrrr! Fahne! You’ve made…your point!” grunted Rogue.

“Oh I’m just getting started,” grinned Kenji in his new form, “Your destruction shall be my greatest work!”

Kenji had Rogue in his grasp. Idie and Jubilee had Captain Freeman pinned. This allowed Teon and Gabriel to attack the rest of the X-men. Teon caused the ground to crack with every step he took. He pounced on the X-men like a wild animal attacking its prey. He went right for Tessa and Jean, who were the most vulnerable.

“KILL! FIGHT! KILL! FIGHT!” he stated.

“That’s a disturbing order of words,” groaned Tessa a she tried to rouse the unconscious Phoenix, “Come on, Jean! Sleeping through this is not an option.”

She tried dragging Phoenix away, but at the rate Teon was charting that would do them little good. The feral mutant snarled as he reached out to attack. He was just a few feet away from them when Colossus rushed in from the side and knocked him out of the way with a shoulder tackle.

“You would be wise to change your priorities, boy,” said the Russian, clenching his fist as he stared down hulking young man.

“FIGHT!” barked Teon.

While Tessa dragged Phoenix away from the chaos, Colossus moved in for an attack of his own. He attempted a special Spteznaz take-down maneuver, grabbing Teon by the wrist and attempting to twist him in a way that would put him on the ground.

However, he was surprised to find out that Teon was a lot stronger than he looked. He was able to push Colossus back to the point where he fell to his knees. Being so used to having upper hand in terms of strength, this was a distressing turn.

“Augh! He is…strong!” grunted the Russian.

“KILL!” roared Teon as he twisted Colossus’s arms.

“It’s the MGH. Be careful, Colossus! He has more power than you think,” said Tessa, who was pulling Phoenix away to the other side of the jet.

Colossus shot up and tried to push back, his determined gaze now locked with Teon’s. He saw a strange red glow in the young man’s eyes. The MGH was fueling a hidden power. It was a power that he would need more than strength to overcome.

Tessa successfully got Phoenix out of the way, leaving Colossus to occupy Teon. While she kept trying to rouse the unconscious psychic, Gabriel attacked the rest of the team in daring way. Storm, Psylocke, Beast, Gambit, and Professor Xavier were back on their feet after emerging from the crashed jet. However, Gabriel made sure they had nowhere to run.

In a display that would have made Quicksilver jealous, he started running around the beleaguered X-men at high speeds. Except it didn’t look as though he was running. It was as if time and space itself was behaving differently around him, causing the air to swirl in a way that was very disorienting.

“Feeling dizzy yet, peasants?” taunted the young mutant.

“Oye, just what the world needs,” groaned Psylocke as the wind bombarded them, “Another Quicksilver wannabe.”

“It’s the same attitude, but with a different method,” said Beast, “It doesn’t look like he’s running. It looks like he’s manipulating the temporal flow around him.”

“That supposed to mean something?” said Gambit as he tried to cover his mouth from the swirling dust.

“It means stopping him will be more difficult,” said Professor Xavier, who was already trying to use his telepathy, “Storm, see if you can do something about this dust storm.”

“Just to be safe, I’ll throw in something extra,” said Storm with glowing eyes.

Having channeled her share of wind currents from earlier, Storm refocused her powers and intensified those winds. With them she formed darkened clouds overhead. Sensing the X-men needed to overwhelm Shaw’s forces just as they had done to them, she did more than just fight back with her own burst of winds. She threw in some lightning and hailstones as well.

Gabriel was mildly impressed by this display. His blurred form became more jumbled as the swirling winds blew back towards him. The hail disoriented him as well. At high speeds, they hit him with a lot more force. However, the distorted space around his body ensured that they did little damage. It also ensured he could avoid the lightning and prepare for his next attack.

“You think nature has a chance against time and space itself?” she taunted, “Unfortunately for you, I aced all my physics exams!”

The Mexican mutant abruptly stopped his attack, seeming to reform himself atop the wreckage of the X-jet. His whole body still appeared to be a blur. His eyes were glowing with the same reddish hue as Teon’s and with his sights set on Storm, he warped the area around his body in a completely different way.

“I don’t need speed to beat you,” he taunted, “Time is always on my side!”

Xavier quickly sensed what the young man was doing. He watched as the blurred figure turned into a series of barely visible streaks. Those streaks went straight for Storm, who was still focused on keeping up her weather attack.

“Storm! Behind you!” shouted Xavier.

Storm didn’t even get a chance to turn around. Gabriel came in at speeds that seemed so great that it was hard to see him. As these faint streaks swirled around Storm, she was struck dozens of times by a barrage of punches and kicks. It happened so fast that she didn’t have time do defend herself.

“Augh! Umf! Ahhh!” she groaned as she keeled over.

“Stormy!” yelled Gambit as he took out his bow staff.

“I’ve got him!” said Psylocke confidently, “The little bugger is fast, but he can’t outrun my mind.”

“Don’t need to,” said Gabriel, his voice seeming to come from all directions.

Psylocke formed two psionic blades while trying to reach the young man telepathically. It was hard to pinpoint his location. He wasn’t like Quicksilver, who just moved too fast to keep up with sometimes. It was like Gabriel was coming at them from all directions. Before she could even pinpoint his mind, she felt a sharp kick in the stomach along with several punches to the face.

“Ack! Hold still you little…” grunted Psylocke.

“You’re assuming I can at this point,” laughed Gabriel.

He proceeded to strike Psylocke harder, knocking her to the ground. Gambit rushed to her aid, taking out a fresh deck of cards in the process.

“That ain’t no way to treat a femme,” said the Cajun.

“Don’t know what a femme is, but I bet I can treat you worse,” grinned Gabriel.

Leaving Psylocke writhing on the ground, Gabriel directed his attack towards Gambit. Just like before, there was no avoiding his attack. Gambit didn’t get a chance to charge his cards or strike Gabriel with his bow staff. He was already getting his own dose of high-speed punches and kicks. Within moments, he was on the ground as well.

Gabriel was moving too fast to counter. They had no chance of beating him in hand-to-hand combat. Upon seeing both Gambit and Psylocke have little effect on Gabriel, Storm pushed through the discomfort and tried to form another wind attack. She was still sore. She even felt a tooth in her jaw loosened from the punch she took. Gritting through the pain, she prepared another attack.

“Hold on!” she urged them, “I’ll try freeze him with a blizzard this time.”

“You’ll do no such thing,” came another voice.

Before Storm could attack, she felt four tentacles slither around her waist. She was then yanked away and dragged away from her friends. She soon found herself hanging in the air next to Rogue, completely bound and immobilized by Kenji’s form grip.

“Heya Storm! Welcome to mah nightmare,” said Rogue, still struggling to get free.

“These children…they’re very coordinated,” grunted Storm, struggling for breath under Kenji’s grip.

“That is our second greatest strength,” said Kenji as he pulled Rogue closer to him, “Having linked minds is quite helpful. But it’s no substitute for raw power!”

Kenji now had Rogue and Storm subdued in his grip. Teon was matching Colossus’s strength at every turn. Gabriel had Gambit and Psylocke at his mercy. Captain Freeman remained on the defensive against Idie while trying to keep Laurie from gathering herself.

It was not looking good for the X-men. Professor Xavier kept trying to reach their chaotic minds while Beast stood protectively in front of him. While this battle was unfolding, Sebastian Shaw was likely in the process of escaping.

“Any suggestions before I throw myself into this battle, Charles?” said Beast, watching anxiously as his fellow X-men were beaten down.

“I’m working on it, Beast. I’m picking up some new psychic activity,” said Professor Xavier as he concentrated harder, “I sense Shaw is making his next move, but there’s something different! Something I can’t quite…”

Xavier was abruptly silenced by a powerful energy ball hitting Beast from above. It sent him tumbling back into the wreckage of the X-jet, charring some of his fur and leaving him wounded and dazed.

“Hank!” exclaimed Xavier.

“He’ll live,” said the source of the blast, “You on the other hand…well, you’re psychic. You figure it out.”

Professor Xavier looked up to see Jubilee hovering in mid-air. She had left Idie to handle Captain Freeman and set her sights on the man she once respected so much. Her body continued radiating steady bursts of ionic sparks. From this energy, she concentrated it in her hands. There was no hesitation in her actions. Her desires were the collective desires of the Inner Circle.

“Jubilee…listen to me. Shaw has you under his control. I can help you fight it!” urged Professor Xavier.

“I don’t want your help. Don’t you see? This is what I’m supposed to be. This is who I am now!” she exclaimed.

“That’s the MGH talking. Don’t let it control you!”

“It’s not controlling me. It is me. I am now something greater. The Inner Circle has united us in ways the X-men and District X can only dream of. We are just the first of many. And if you and your X-men stand in our way, then you will die!”

Villa Del Fuego North Perimeter

“Cyke! Whatever battle plan you had for this mission, throw it out. We need something new!” barked an increasingly frustrated Wolverine.

“I’m working on it, Wolverine,” grunted an equally frustrated Cyclops.

“Well work harder!” exclaimed Warpath.

X-Force was on their heels, staying on the defensive as they fought to overcome Chimera’s attacks. Her abilities proved more potent than expected. She was clearly using MGH and it gave her more than enough power to pin them down. If that wasn’t demoralizing enough, it looked like she wasn’t even trying that hard.

“You X-men wannabes are a joke,” laughed Chimera, “You must be out of shape because I was expecting something less boring.”

“I don’t kindly to jokes about my figure, bitch,” scolded Emma Frost.

“Give me another minute. I’ll make sure that figure of yours is the least of your worries!”

Chimera had X-Force surrounded. From the greenish aura surrounding her, she formed a hoard of dragon-like creatures that stood a good twenty feet tall. They roared and snarled as they swirled around X-Force, keeping them pinned back against the perimeter wall.

Warpath, Cyclops, and Wolverine attempted to fight off the onslaught. Warpath and Wolverine used their durable forms to strike menacing creatures. It was like trying to break glass that kept reforming itself. Every time they did damage to one dragon, another would reform. It was a losing battle.

Cyclops tried to attack the source by blasting Chimera with his optic blasts. None got through because she had several dragon-like creatures surrounding her like a protective cocoon. Even at his visor’s highest settings it wasn’t enough.

While he tried to blast her, Emma Frost used her diamond form to divert incoming attacks. Several dragons tried to bite her, but only ended up breaking their teeth on her hardened form. Now they were just using their foreheads to ram her, which was enough to throw her off and allow some attacks to reach Cyclops.

X-Force had no room to maneuver or reorganize. Cyclops kept trying to formulate a new strategy. It didn’t help that they had an injured Angel and Domino on their hands. Nightcrawler was busy trying to treat their wounds. They were barely conscious at this point. Domino was in no condition to shoot and Angel was in no condition to fly. It limited their options against this tenacious foe.

“She’s too powerful! It has to be the MGH,” exclaimed the X-Force leader.

“No shit, Cyclops! What do you propose we do about it?” said Warpath as two dragons surrounded him and trapped him in a deadly vice grip.

“First off, we take the wounded out of the equation,” he said assertively as he stopped his attack, “Nightcrawler, teleport Domino and Angel to safety. Get them to any shelter you can find.”

“I’ve been trying, Cyclops. Zhis woman keeps fighting dirty,” said Nightcrawler, who was using his agility to avoid being trapped like Warpath.

“Assume that means Shaw has slept with her,” commented Emma, “Hold on, we’ll cover you. When they both wakes up, tell them they owe us!”

Two new energy dragons formed right in front of Nightcrawler. He was trying to get to his wounded friends, who had since passed out. The two glowing creatures let out a deafening screech as they lunged towards the German mutant.

Emma got in their way and used her diamond form to obstruct their path. One hit her head on, causing it to spiral out of control. The other went around her and tried to devour Nightcrawler whole. Cyclops didn’t let it get close enough, using an optic blast to obliterate the head of the beast. He focused several more blasts towards a few smaller dragons, which finally allowed Nightcrawler to reach Angel and Domino.

“Danke, mien friends! I vill return shortly,” he said as he took Domino and Angel in his arms.

“Make it quick, Nightcrawler! This may be one mission where we’ll have to pull back,” said Cyclops as two new dragon creatures slithered around his lower legs.

“No way! We came here to stop Shaw and I refuse to leave before we wipe that snide grin off his face,” yelled Emma Frost.

“Some struggles are not vorth zhe price, Emma. Zhis may be one of zhem,” said Nightcrawler grimly.

With Domino and Angel secure, Nightcrawler teleported away just as five new dragon creatures tried to engulf him. This removed one problem from the equation. Now they could go on the offensive.

However, Chimera’s energy dragons were changing tactics as well. Now instead of large, menacing dragons she was forming smaller, more numerous dragons to bind and constrict them. Cyclops and Emma were already surrounded so they couldn’t move. Warpath was trapped as well. Chimera was leaving little room for surprises.

In his frustration, Wolverine was concerned less about this mission and more about taking this woman down. She reeked of Shaw’s scent. It was almost as bad as the MGH in her system. Using his claws, he cut up and slashed his way through the energy dragons that were trying to engulf him. He fought his way towards where Warpath was being bound. As he looked towards the all too content Chimera, he hatched a new mission.

“I’m sick of waiting for Cyke to get his head outta his ass,” grunted Wolverine as he sliced off the head of three small dragon creatures, “Hey Warpath, feel like doing something reckless?”

“Ungh! If it gets these glowing lizards out of my face, I’ll give it a go,” grunted Warpath.

Following instinct over strategy, Wolverine used a fresh hoard of attacking dragons as stepping stones to make his way up towards Warpath. He skillfully stomped on the head of the glowing green dragons, using his claws to slice through those that tried to throw off his balance.

They all failed miserably. As soon as he reached Warpath, the feral mutant used his claws the slice off the heads of the dragons that were keeping him bound. This caused them to losing their grip on the Native American mutant, which allowed him to use his strength to finally break free.

“Ah! That’s better,” said Warpath as he fell to the ground, “Was that the reckless part?”

“Hell no!” said Wolverine as he turned back towards Chimera, “If you wanna return the favor, grab me and throw me at the dragon bitch as hard as you can.”

“Okay, I’ll say it. That is pretty reckless,” said Warpath as he swatted away a few smaller dragons.

“You gonna argue with me? Or are you gonna do it?”

“Makes about as much sense as any plan at this point,” said the Native American.

Giving Wolverine’s plan little thought, Warpath did as Wolverine requested. He grabbed the shorter Canadian by the legs and held him up like a javelin. Wolverine bent his knees, staring down more dragons as they game his way. Then with all his might, Warpath threw the former living weapon at Chimera as hard as he could. Wolverine and the laws of physics did the rest.

Leading with his claws, Wolverine flew through the air at speeds that would have liquefied the internal organs of weaker men. His claws cut through the swarming dragons like dagger through mud. Along the way, they grazed and scratched him, tearing at his burley flesh. However, he was going so fast they had no hopes of stopping him. By the time he reached Chimera, her arrogant grin was replaced with shock.

“You deranged…” she began as she fell back.

“FUCK OFF, DARLIN!” barked Wolverine.

The greenish aura around Chimera shattered as Wolverine broke through. When he reached her, one of his claws drove right into her upper shoulder just below her collarbone. He missed the vital organs he was aiming for, but the gaping wound was enough to disorient the powerful woman in a major way.

With Chimera wounded, her dragon hoards seemed to feel it as well. Their green energy forms flickered, as if they were static on a radio. It caused them to release their grip on Cyclops and Emma. It also allowed the team to reorganize after being caught off guard.

“Well that’s one way to silence Shaw’s playthings,” said Emma as she brushed herself off.

“I’m tempted to point out how stupid that was, but I won’t argue with results,” said Cyclops as he adjusted his visor again.

“Come on! Let’s go help him finish her,” said Warpath.

Warpath was poised to charge through the remaining dragons and confront Chimera with Wolverine. The feral mutant seemed to have her in a vulnerable position. His claws were still buried inside her and she was getting disoriented. The greenish aura around her was flickering more violently as she tried to form new dragons to pry Wolverine off her. Even though these creatures wasted no time in tearing through the feral mutant’s flesh, he waved off his teammates.

“What are you waiting for? Get off your asses and go after Shaw!” roared Wolverine.

“No way, Wolverine! She’s using MGH. You can’t take her on your own!” said Cyclops.

“Doesn’t matter if I can’t! I can take the punishment!” he snarled as a dragon bit right into his lower neck, “Save your bitching for Shaw! He deserves it more!”

Cyclops didn’t care for such tactics. At the rate Chimera was tearing into Wolverine, he would be nothing but bone within a few minutes. However, he hadn’t lost sight of their original mission. They had to get to Sebastian Shaw. Warpath and Emma Frost remembered as well.

“You heard him, Cyclops. He’s okay with getting mauled by dragons,” said Emma, grabbing him by the arm and urging him along.

“We wanted Shaw to make his move. He made it. Now let’s make ours!” said Warpath.

Cyclops lingered a bit longer, watching as Chimera seethed with growing anger as she formed more dragons with which to consume Wolverine. By now half his upper body was devoured, but he kept his claws buried inside her. He would not let her go. She was completely focused on maiming Wolverine, leaving them a narrow window to act.

“This whole operation is falling apart,” mused Cyclops, “There’s no mission or plan anymore. We’re just reacting to Shaw’s tactics.”

“This isn’t the time for excuses. Plan or no plan, we need to get to Shaw!” said Emma, now pulling him along.

“Listen to your ex, as fucked up as that sounds,” said Warpath as he ran up to the gate, “We’ll work out a new plan while we’re destroying Shaw’s operation!”

“Shaw’s probably expecting that. We can’t just walk right into his trap,” argued Cyclops.

“We can’t just stand here and do nothing either.! Now grow a pair and help me blow open this gate. It’s reinforced so we can’t expect Shaw to just unlock it and…”

Then to Warpath’s surprise, the gate unlocked itself and swung open. It caught X-Force completely by surprise once again. Emma, Warpath, and Cyclops looked on in confusion. This felt like yet another surprise from the Black King.

“You were saying, Warpath?” said Emma dryly.

“Don’t start with me, Frost,” grumbled the Native American, “What the hell is Shaw thinking? Is he inviting us to come kick his ass?”

“No…it’s something much worse,” said Cyclops as noticed some activity in the distance.

From the front end of the villa, they could see it coming. The doors had burst open and dozens of people in dirty clothes came storming out. These weren’t Hellfire guards, Mexican soldiers, or anything of the sort. They weren’t armed or trained. They were civilians. And somehow Sebastian Shaw had inspired them to charge towards them with murderous rage.




It was yet another dirty trick by Sebastian Shaw. Not content with sending someone like Chimera to attack them, he threw innocent people into the mix. To get to Shaw, X-Force would have to go through them. It was an impossible obstacle on a mission that was already falling apart.

“They’re minds…they’ve been warped beyond recognition,” said Emma, shifting out of her diamond form so she could use her telepathy.

“I take it back. We need a plan now,” said Warpath, “Any idea, Cyclops?”

“Not this time,” he said grimly, “As much as I hate to admit it, I think Shaw may win this round.”


Professor Xavier braced himself as he Jubilee prepared to strike him with another energy blast. He kept trying to penetrate the collective mind that seemed to be guiding her and the five other mutants. It was no use. Her entire psyche revolved around the Inner Circle now. She was beyond reasoning with.

“On behalf of the Inner Circle, may you burn in Hellfire,” said Jubilee, her hands now glowing brilliantly.

With a simple gesture, the young mutant unleashed her attack. To her surprise, Professor Xavier didn’t try to dodge it. He didn’t have to. He already sensed help coming his way. Before the blinding ball of energy reached him, it was diverted by a telekinetic shield.

“Professor!” yelled Phoenix as she emerged from behind the jet with Tessa, “You should be running already.”

“I had faith that you would sufficiently recover, Phoenix,” he told her, “Are you up for a slight change in plan?”

“Not as much as I want to be,” groaned Phoenix, still rubbing her sore head.

While Phoenix caught up with Professor Xavier, Jubilee flew in lower and sneered.

“That’s just pathetic,” she scoffed, “You think telekinesis can shield you from the Inner Circle’s wrath?”

“You’re still young, Jubilee. Even with your new power, you fail to pick up on certain details,” said Xavier cryptically.

“What details?” she said dryly.

In her arrogant state, she didn’t notice a figure emerging from behind. Beast, who she had blasted earlier, recovered sooner than she expected. While she was focused on Xavier, he climbed atop the wreckage of the X-jet and waited for her to lower herself into position. Then when she wasn’t looking, he pounced on her from behind.

“That would be me!” he proclaimed.

“What the-ahhhhhh!” she exclaimed.

Beast jumped into the air and landed right on her back. With his ape-like arms, he grasped her in a powerful grip. He held her arms so she couldn’t aim them and he used his legs to keep her legs from thrashing. His weight and his grip threw her off, causing her to tumble through the air while firing off chaotic energy blasts from her hands.

“Errrrrr! Get off me!” yelled Jubilee.

“It would seem you can only channel your energy through your hands,” he said as he tightened his hold on her, “As such, I have no intention of letting you use them.”

Jubilee flew chaotically through the air, trying to shake Beast off. She passed Idie and Captain Freeman in the process, who was still enduring her ice and fire attacks. Colossus and Teon were still in locked in a battle of strength. Gambit and Psylocke were still trying to fight off Gabriel as he used his speed warp attacks to subdue them. All these battles were waged in the shadow of Kenji, who had Rogue and Storm in his grip.

This battle was deteriorating in so many ways. The X-men were overwhelmed. These six young mutants were warped by MGH and the Inner Circle. They were allowing Sebastian Shaw to complete whatever devious endeavor he had crafted. Professor Xavier sensed in them this mysterious collective psyche that was driving them. While he could not break through it, he could trace it.

“We cannot win this battle directly. Their powers are too great and their minds are too closely linked,” said Professor Xavier, still scanning with his telepathy.

“Yes, I’ve been sensing it too,” said Tessa, “So how do we win indirectly?”

“By going to the source,” said Xavier strongly, “I’ve been trying to track it since we landed. Shaw is not a telepath. This link must be the work of the Wyngarde sisters. Only they have the knowledge and skills to create such an effect.”

“That goes without saying,” said Phoenix, still trying to catch up after being so dazed, “So if they’re the source, why don’t we find them and take them out?”

“That’s what I’ve been working on,” he said, “I think I can trace their location. They haven’t left the villa yet, but they are planning to.”

“There’s no way it would be that easy,” Tessa pointed out.

“It isn’t,” Xavier affirmed, “I sense some other force at work. I’m not sure if it’s coming from the Wyngardes, but it’s somehow linked to Jubilee and these five mutants.”

“Well if you can point me in the right direction, I can take us to it,” said Phoenix, “I can complain about my crippling migraine later.”

“I’ll uplink my mind with yours,” said Xavier as he concentrated harder, “We had best move quickly!”

“What about the others?” wondered Tessa as she looked back towards the struggling X-men.

“I just informed Captain Freeman about this. I trust he’ll make the appropriate choices.”

Having little time to debate, Phoenix formed a new telekinetic bubble around the Professor and Tessa. With it, they levitated into the air and started making their way towards the villa.

Along the way, they passed over Kenji. He tried to attack with his tentacles, but Storm made sure he didn’t reach them. She used the storm clouds above to strike him with lightning, ensuring that they could escape.

“Hurry Charles! We’ll keep them occupied,” yelled Storm.

“Ungh! Speak for yourself, Storm,” groaned Rogue, who was still stuck in Kenji’s grip.

Professor Xavier’s departure with Phoenix and Tessa didn’t go unnoticed by the five mutants. They understood their mission was not complete. They needed to buy time. While most were preoccupied with other X-men, Laurie took on a new form. Now in the shame of a dragonfly-like creature, she tried to catch up to her fleeing enemies.

“No! The wrath of the Inner Circle must be complete!” she yelled.

Captain Freeman notice Laurie coming his way on her route towards Professor Xavier. Having just heard Xavier’s plan via telepathy, he understood the plan had to change. This was their chance to show that they could be a team and accomplish their mission.

“You picked a hell of a time to show some balls, Xavier,” said Captain Freeman, who was still enduring a fire blast from Idie, “It’s time I return the favor.”

“Whatever you’re planning, I won’t let it happen!” yelled Idie.

“Kid, you’ve got a lot to learn about acting tough,” quipped the Green Beret.

With a wave of fire still surrounding the mutant soldier, Captain Freeman broke away from Idie. Then in a bold maneuver, he ran right up into the path of the low flying Laurie. Just as she was about to pass over him, he adapted his legs so that he could jump higher than any normal human could ever hope to.

Following his soldier instincts, he timed it just wright and grabbed onto one of Laurie’s dragonfly wings. With his strength, he bent the wing around and forced Laurie to change course against her will.

“Hey! What are you-WHOA!” she exclaimed.

Laurie’s eyes widened as she made an unexpected U-turn, arcing around so that she was right in Idie’s path. The young African girl was just as surprised and wasn’t able to get out of the way. Laurie collided with her, sending Idie crashing to the ground.

“Ahhhhhhhhh!” she cried out.

“Not so tough now, eh?” grinned Captain Freeman.

“You know you can’t win like this,” said Laurie who was still trying to shake him off, “You will fall! All those who oppose the Inner Circle must fall!”

“We’ll see about that,” said Captain Freeman, “Your Inner Circle buddies are forgetting that the X-men have something they didn’t have the last time you faced them!”

“Oh yeah? What’s that?” scoffed Laurie.

“Backup,” grinned Captain Freeman.

Despite Laurie flying wildly through the air, Captain Freeman held on and refocused his efforts. Looking over towards Psylocke, who still had her hands full with Gabriel, he sent out a vital message.

‘Psylocke, are you in too much pain to relay a message. That girl burned out my radio.’

‘This bloke annoying the hell out of me, but I can try. Why?’

‘I need you to get in touch with the MSA units that are closing in. Let the rest of the X-men hear this as well. I have a plan! And if it works, we just might hate each other a little less.’

Villa Del Fuego – Roof

Everything was going quite smoothly for Sebastian Shaw. He subdued the X-men on one front and overwhelmed X-Force on the other. All the while the production and synthesis of this new incarnation of MGH was completed. Now he and the Wyngarde sisters were ready to spread MGH to the mutant masses. It promised to take the Inner Circle’s powers to new heights.

Having done all they needed to do at this location, Sebastian Shaw called in a covert helicopter transport compliments of some friends he had in very high places. While the X-men and X-Force were preoccupied, the helicopter arrived over the villa and landed on the roof. The rest of the Hellfire guards and researchers had since cleared out. Shaw gathered every last dose of MGH and stored them in a large metal briefcase. Now on the roof with Regan and Marginique, they prepared to depart.

“You think it wasn’t too much? Sending our followers after X-Force?” questioned Regan.

“Relax. They have a public image to maintain, remember?” said Martinique dryly, “They won’t hurt civilians, even if they are heeding our whims.”

“Did I say I was concerned?” quipped Regan, “I’m just worried they won’t leave anything left for us to enjoy before we kill them.”

“For your sake and that of the Inner Circle, your minions should leave nothing but corpses in their wake,” said Shaw as he led them to the hatch of the helicopter, “Trust me when I say the X-men and their affiliates are better off dead.”

“Don’t tell me you wouldn’t mind torturing them before killing them,” said Martinique.

“Nothing would make me happier, but there are some luxurious that even I can’t afford,” he said in a more serious tone, “MGH isn’t just a plan for the Inner Circle. It’s a business arrangement. I have a very important client who helped make this possible. That same client will aid us in mass producing MGH. With it, we’ll be able to bring many more mutants into the Inner Circle’s collective.”

“Ah yes, this mystery client of yours,” joked Martinique, “Sometimes I wonder if you’re pulling his strings or if he’s pulling yours.”

“Don’t be foolish, my queen,” scoffed Sebastian Shaw he reached the helicopter hatch, “I’m the Black King. I never deal with a client that can betray me. If he knows what’s good for him, he’ll do as he’s told. He knows that I’m always prepared.”

Flushed with confidence, the Black King opened the hatch to helicopter. He was then met with something that completely threw off his plan. A dead body tumbled out through the hatch. It was the body of the pilot, his neck and torso slashed with what looked like claw marks. Shaw instinctively stepped back as the body limply fell to the roof.

“What is this?” exclaimed the Black King.

“Bet you weren’t prepared for that,” came an ominous voice from inside the helicopter.

Sebastian Shaw looked up and saw a figure emerging from within the aircraft. He was wearing what looked like a ninja outfit with Japanese symbols on the front and back. He had unusual hair, consisting of a mohawk-like style. He was lean, yet heavily toned. He also looked menacing, making it clear that he was the one that maimed the pilot.

“Who are you?” he demanded, “Did Leland or Pierce send you?”

“No,” he said, “I am Daken Yashida. I am here to terminate a business arrangement on behalf of my mentor.”

Before Shaw could express his outrage, Daken clenched his fist to reveal two adamantium claws. With agility too swift to avoid, he lunged forth and slashed at Shaw’s arm. He easily severed it from just below his elbow, causing him to drop the metal briefcase he was holding and fall to his knees in agony.

“ARRRRGGGHHHHHH!” he cried out as he clutched his bleeding arm.

“Thanks for finishing our work, Mr. Shaw,” grinned Daken as he took the metal briefcase, “Your Inner Circle has served us well, but unfortunately for you MGH is more than a business…not that you’ll be around to appreciate it.”

Up next: Drug War Part 3

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