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Volume 7 -- Issue 161 -- Capitol Corruption

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Capitol Corruption
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The conflict between humans and mutants grows with each passing day. Professor Charles Xavier assembled a team of gifted mutants, the X-men, to fight for peace and understanding. That fight led to the Mutant Monitoring Initiative, a partnership between the X-men and the governments of the world. That partnership allows them to give peace of mind to a wary public while bringing infamous men like Sebastian Shaw to justice. Now that same partnership is under fire.

In wake of Sebastian Shaw’s arrest, many secrets have been uncovered. Corruption has been exposed. Mutants have lost jobs and livelihoods as a result of Shaw’s fall. In the midst of these escalating conflicts, Revered William Stryker reemerged after a mysterious attack that left his Purifiers decimated. The X-men were able to confront him. In doing so they discovered a new threat.

The attack that killed the Purifiers had all the marks of Weapon X. However, before the X-men can investigate any further, President Kelly and General Grimshaw put a stop to it. The great resources that the Mutant Monitoring Initiative once provided have now become a liability for the X-men.

While they are unable to investigate the source of the attack, X-Force has no such restrictions. Led by Cyclops, the team is already hot on the trail of these mysterious attackers. They believe there is a connection to White Cell, the mysterious private defense contractor that has caused problems before. Now, the race is on to confront them before they strike first.

Boston Harbor

Former Weapon X-23’s life had been one mission after the other. She was never conditioned to be a normal teenager. She was conditioned to be an unthinking, unflinching weapon. It was a constant struggle to maintain the humanity that she worked so hard to recover. The surrogate father, Wolverine, helped her a great deal in that struggle. Lately, others like Julian Keller, helped a great deal as well.

“Tell me again what I’m eating,” said Laura as she and Julian walked around the outskirts of the Boston Harbor.

“Fried crab meat on a stick,” said Julian as he devoured his helping of the regional dish, “By far, one of Boston’s best culinary contributions.”

“It tastes…fishy,” she said.

“It’s seafood. It’s supposed to taste that way,” he joked, “Is it really that bad?”

“I didn’t say it was bad. It’s just not like anything I’ve ever eaten before. Where I came from, I had a strict diet that was supposed to make me stronger.”

“And it didn’t include seafood?”

“It didn’t include much of anything. I would describe it to you, but I’d rather not. It tasted nothing like the foods I’ve eaten since I left.”

“Damn, you’ve definitely been deprived!” said Julian, shaking his head, “So long as you’re at the Academy, that won’t happen. Stick with me and you’ll be hooked on the best junk good your stomach can handle.”

He made it sound like his own personal mission of sorts. Laura looked towards him and actually smiled. She was still getting used to expressing herself, especially when it came to positive feelings. Julian evoked more positive feelings than most. He didn’t seem turned off by her stoic personality. If anything, he found it intriguing.

As Laura finished her meal, Julian casually slipped his arm around her shoulder and led her further down the harbor. She found herself needing that feeling more and more lately. Ever since the incident with Beak, Laura made a concerted effort to act like a regular teenage girl. It wasn’t easy, but moments like this helped. It was like thumbing her nose at her sadistic creators, becoming everything they didn’t want her to become.

“Thank you, Julian. You’ve been very helpful. Even if your maturity is constantly in question,” said Laura as she finished her snack.

“You’ve been talking to Sam and Roberto again, haven’t you?” teased Julian, “I thought I told you that half of what they say about me is total bullshit.”

“That still leaves half, but I don’t hold it against you,” she assured him, “You’ve done more for me than anyone at the Academy. I know I don’t make it easy for you. I’m surprised you haven’t quit on me a few times.”

“Well after that incident where you sliced through my bedroom door while I was watching a movie with one too many explosions, I did consider it,” he joked.

“And I can’t promise there won’t be more incidents like that,” she said in a more serious tone, “Logan told me that trying to be a normal teenage girl is important. I’m inclined to believe him. But it’s difficult when I still have these powerful instincts.”

“You’d be surprised how many other teenage girls struggle with instincts. Tabitha and Amara can’t seem to control themselves at times.”

“These instincts are different. I live every day with the assumption that I’m still being hunted. Wolverine told me himself that this mentality will never disappear completely. The problem is my instincts keep telling me that the threats are there and I need to attack them. Most of the time, nothing is there. Even if there was, it limits my ability to be normal. Sometimes I wonder that even after I do everything I can to rebuild my life…I’ll still be a monster.”

Laura led Julian away from the main boardwalk to a quieter part of the harbor. Having finished her snack, she needed a moment to collect herself. They found themselves standing between a closed food hut and couple of storage containers.

She was still not comfortable with crowds, especially when she got worked up. She had to pull away from Julian for a moment. He gave her some space as she hugged her shoulders. He stood awkwardly behind her, staying silent for a moment before trying to console her.

“Uh…is this one of those times where you need some space?” asked Julian.

“No. Please don’t leave,” she told him, “I just…”

“You don’t need to explain yourself,” he said, “I get it. Old scars have a way of re-opening themselves. There’s nothing I can say to make it go away. So I won’t try.”

Laura tensed as she felt Julian’s concerned eyes on her. It was one of those limits that made it difficult for her to relate to him or anyone for that matter. To his credit, Julian was patient with her. That didn’t make it any less frustrating.

An awkward silence lingered for a moment. Laura took deep breaths just as Logan and others at the Academy taught her, trying to collect herself before her instincts got the better of her. Just when it seemed as though the feeling had passed, a mysterious new scent filled the air. It was a scent that triggered an entirely new set of instincts.

‘That smell. It smells like…no, this is different!’

Clenching her firsts, the former living weapon snarled at more scents followed.

“You need to leave, Julian,” she said sternly.

“What did I do wrong now?” he groaned, “If talking about instincts is really that stressful, then I’ll…”

“It’s not that. We’re being watched,” said Laura intently, “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll start running!”

“Well I’ve never been known for my judgement, so you mind giving me a better reason?”

Laura grunted in frustration. Julian clearly wasn’t going to just walk away from her and she didn’t have time to convince him that this wasn’t mere paranoia. As he looked at her in confusion, she noticed an ominous shadow come over him. Reacting on pure instinct, the former living weapon lunged towards Julian and tackled him to the ground.

“GET DOWN!” she exclaimed.

With only a fraction of a second to spare, Laura shoved Julian out of the way just as a dark figure passed over. He landed flat on his back, getting the wind knocked out of him in the process. While he was stunned, Laura instinctively shot up and drew her claws.

As she took in her assailant, she noticed an ominous similarity between them. Like her, he also had a set of claws protruding from his knuckles. He wore a black body suit not unlike the one her creators had her wear. He also had a dark helmet covering his entire head. However, the helmet didn’t hide a familiar scent.

“You…you smell like, Wolverine. But you’re not him!” she seethed.

“Weapon X-23,” said the figure in a voice that sounded like it came from a computer.

“My name is Laura! Laura Howlett!” she barked, “Get it right or I’ll carve it into your skull!”

“You must come with us. Your must fulfill your purpose.”

“Who the hell is us?” Laura snarled, “I killed every last asshole that took part in my creation!”

“No. You have not,” said the figure in a mechanical tone.

As soon as he said these words, Laura picked up more scents. In a series of flashes, four more mysterious figures appeared. They looked completely identical, bearing the same black suits and mask. As soon as they appeared, they each drew their own set of claws. Within moments, they surrounded her.

“Hnn…Laura?” groaned Julian, still trying to get his lungs working again.

“Do you need a better reason, Julian? Run!” roared Laura.

“I’m not leaving you!” he exclaimed.

“You can and you will. This is my fight. I can handle it!”

The dark figures surrounded her, their claws drawn as they prepared to attack the feral young mutant. They moved in perfect synchronicity. They surrounded their target from all sides, but former Weapon X-23 was ready to take them on. It promised to incur a great deal of violence and bloodshed. For that reason, the figures instigated special tactic that promised to mitigate this situation.

While X-23 was preparing to attack, another presence emerged from behind one of the storage crates. However, his was different from the other figures in that he wasn’t wearing a mask or a special tactical suit. Instead, he bore attire that ensured Laura and everyone related to Logan knew who they were dealing with.

Like a predatory animal stalking its prey, he snuck up to the still stunned Julian Keller. Just as he was about to get up, the imposing man pulled him into a powerful choke hold. Once the young mutant was in his grasp, he made his presence known to Laura.

“Ack!” choked Julian, once again unable to breathe.

“Care to rethink that, little miss runt?” snarled a bemused Victor Creed.

Laura tensed upon hearing that voice. She never heard it before, but it sounded familiar. When she turned around she recognized him as someone Logan had told her about. He was even more repugnant than she imagined. Worst of all, he had Julian in his grasp.

“Sabretooth!” she growled, “Logan was right. You stink worse than a thousand toxic waste dumps.”

“Good to know Logan told you all about his old buddy. Did he also tell you what I do to the people he cares about?” quipped Sabretooth, holding his claws closer to Julian’s neck.

“If you so much as breathe on him…” she threatened.

“Blah blah. You’ll cut me to pieces. Yada yada. You’ll kill me a dozen times over,” laughed the feral mutant, “Jeez! You really are his clone. Hope that means you’re not as stupid as him. Otherwise your boyfriend here is gonna regret ever wanting to bone you.”

Laura snarled with murderous rage. This man knew Logan very well. That meant he knew her too, possibly in ways she couldn’t imagine. Between him, the five masked figures, and Julian’s predicament, her decision was clear. This was one instance where her instincts and her humanity were in agreement. Despite a determined look from Julian, she withdrew her claws.

“What do you want from me, Sabretooth?” she said flatly, “How many more reasons are you going to give Logan to kill you?”

“I’ve yet to decide,” grinned Sabretooth, still maintaining a firm grip on Julian, “Cooperate and we’ll both find out soon enough. We’ve got an overdue reunion to get to. And you’re gonna make sure my old buddy ain’t late!”

Nova Roma – X-Force Base

“Are you absolutely sure about this, Mystique?” asked an anxious yet intrigued Scott Summers.

“Reasonably sure,” answered the shape-shifter, “The Hudsons played stubborn for a while, but eventually I coaxed them into a pleasant conversation.”

“I hope you veren’t too rough vith zhem, mother,” said Kurt, unnerved by some of what his mother told him.

“They’ll be fine…in a day or two.”

Mystique’s presence was always cause for concern. There was never any doubt that she was up to something. Only a select few had an idea of what it entailed. This time, however, she didn’t take sides or work angles. Her missions were personal. Now, as X-Force continued uncovering Shaw’s many shady connections, she summoned Kurt, who teleported her back to their base so she could reveal what she had learned.

What she had was more than just disturbing information. It was an astonishing coincidence. Not long ago, Emma Frost paid a visit to Sebastian Shaw’s prison cell where she learned more about the mysterious business partner that betrayed him. Just as they hit a dead end, Mystique returned with more tantalizing details. In the War Room, she had Scott, Logan, James, Kurt, Warren, Domino, and Emma’s full attention.

“I can’t believe it. These White Cell assholes are at it again!” growled Logan.

“Actually, it makes a lot of sense,” said James as he and Domino sifted through some old pictures, “I knew my brother was onto something. There’s no way it stopped at that bullshit with the Mutant Liberation Front.”

“These photos we’ve been taking only add more volatility to the mix,” said Domino as she placed a few larger photographs down, “As it just so happens, White Cell has been pulling back their operations since the Shaw incident. They’re opting out of their lucrative contracts left and right. Not exactly a sound business practice to say the least.”

“Neither was betraying Shaw,” added Emma Frost, “As a former businesswoman of immodest success, this raises many red flags. No obscenely profitable private military sacrifices so many lucrative deals without a damn good reason.”

“I don’t think money is the issue here,” said Scott as he pondered this situation further, “That, or maybe money is no longer the issue.”

“Since when did greedy businessmen suddenly stop being so greedy?” wondered Warren.

“Greed might not be the motivating factor,” said Mystique, “I set a trap for the Hudsons because a recent vision from Destiny indicated that they were indirectly involved in the deal with Shaw.”

“And how reliable are these so-called visions?” said Domino skeptically.

“Reliable enough to confirm what I already suspected,” said the shape-shifter, “The same man I’ve been searching for is involved with White Cell. He’s the same man that betrayed Shaw with the MGH deal. If this involves who I think it does, then money may not even be top ten in his list of aspirations.”

“You talkin’ about him?” said Logan in a more serious tone.

“Who else would go to such extraordinary lengths for so long?”

The former living weapon snarled as vivid memories came rushing back. He could tell Mystique was recalling those same memories. It covered that one striking gap that neither of them could seem to recall. If this was really him, then they were facing more than just another one of Shaw’s corrupt business partners.

“Who exactly is this him you keep referring to?” asked Domino as she set the pictures aside.

“Is he zhe same man ve tried locating zhe first time ve tracked down zhe Hudsons?” asked Kurt.

“There’s a reason why he’s so difficult to find. Even the Hudsons only had a vague idea of where and how he operated,” said Mystique distantly, “He’s had a long time to insulate himself. I get the sense that he’s not trying as hard anymore. He may even want us to find him.”

“If this mystery man has a name, that would be most helpful,” said Warren, “You’re giving us very little to go on.”

“If I knew that, then I wouldn’t have left James Hudson’s teeth intact,” retorted Mystique, “We’re talking about gaps in my memory that even Sinister couldn’t rebuild. Someone has obviously gone to great lengths to keep my knowledge of him limited. You think I would have stayed undercover for this long if I didn’t have the details?”

“You’re being awfully vague here, Mystique,” said Scott sternly, “Keep in mind that not everyone in this room fully trusts you.”

“I trust her. That’s all you need to know, Summers,” said Logan, who approached the X-Force leader in a confrontational manner.

“As if sleeping with a woman is the only qualification for trust,” said Emma dryly, earning a scold from Logan and Kurt.

It was still unsettling, trusting information from Mystique. Even though Kurt was her son and she had a connection with Logan, she had a long history of deception. Even if she was being sincere, it only added to a long list of unanswered questions.

“Trust or no trust, it adds up,” said James, still going over some spy photos, “After meeting with the Beaubier twins again, I think my brother was looking for the same man. From what they told me, the power structure in White Cell is pretty elaborate. It’s organized so that no one level of the organization can identify with another.”

“A common strategy among most private armies,” shrugged Emma, “That way if they’re ever charged with war crimes, they can’t identify their superior officers.”

“And you think that this same mystery man that Mystique’s been searching for is at the very top level of that organization?” said Scott.

“Based on what Emma extracted from Shaw, it’s more than probable,” said James, “A private army that employs mutants could do a lot of damage with MGH at their disposal.”

“Maybe that’s what John was investigating,” mused Warren, “Maybe it was another reason why he left the X-men.”

“Or maybe it became a reason later on,” said James in a darker tone, “We both thought White Cell was a godsend. Since they did so much good for our reservation, he got in real deep with them. Maybe it was too deep. From the looks of it, MGH might have been the last straw.”

“Even if they were the ones behind MGH, I doubt they’re just looking to corner the market,” said Mystique, “White Cell is preparing for something big. And I don’t think the X-men, the MSA, or anyone in between is in a position to stop it.”

“Given all the lobbying White Cell does in Washington, I think it’s safe to assume the President will be reluctant to investigate. If it works for my dad, then it’ll definitely work for a group like White Cell,” said Warren.

“That means X-Force will have to be proactive on this,” said Scott assertively, “We lost out in the battle against Shaw. The X-men and the rest of the world are billing it as a triumph of the Mutant Monitoring initiative. If we can reveal that White Cell was pulling the strings, then X-Force will have made an important statement.”

It was an important breakthrough with vast implications. X-Force was still reeling from their defeat in Mexico. They needed to show that while the Mutant Monitoring Initiative could succeed on some levels, it overlooked others that could be even more damaging in the long run.

Armed with such a powerful lead, Scott made his way to the War Room computer and booted up a holographic projection of the world. With a few quick data inquiries, he highlighted a number of dots in certain areas. Logan, Mystique, Domino, James, Emma, Warren, and Kurt gathered around to see where they were going with this.

“What you’re looking at here is a map of all known bases for White Cell,” said Scott, “Most of this information comes from what John Proudstar left us. Some are publicly acknowledged. Others aren’t.”

“Does this include the affiliates that John uncovered?” asked James.

“That and some old Shaw Industry hubs,” said the X-Force leader, “In total, it includes over 200 facilities in over 60 countries. Most are probably legitimate. According to Mystique, they’re all being coordinated by a central hub. If we find that hub, we’ll find this mystery man.”

“So we’re really going after this guy that Mystique and Logan can’t even remember?” said Domino with a raised eyebrow, “Am I the only one that sees a problem with that?”

“Ve’re pinning all our hopes on zhis man,” said Kurt, who seemed to share Domino’s concern, “Are you sure zhis is zhe vay to go?”

“As sure as I’ll need a beer by the time this shit is over,” answered Logan, “Whoever this mentor is, he’s got the answers we need. If my memories are any indication, he’s as bad as Shaw and twice as deadly.”

“All the more reason to find him,” said Scott as he enlarged the map, “Anyone from your past tends to be nasty anyways. In that sense, we’re more ready than we think.”

“I’ll take that as an insult and call you a prick,” muttered Logan.

“Ready or not, finding this man will be a problem even if X-Force wasn’t in the MSA’s crosshairs,” said Mystique, “I spent months trying to infiltrate White Cell. James Hudson only told me about this special hub from which every order originates. Do you really think you’ll be able to find that hub before it blows up in all our faces?”

“You almost sound skeptical, Mystique. Do you have that little faith in us?” said Domino dryly.

“In my experience, all X-related teams tend to be clumsy at best,” said the shape shifter.

“You’re doing little to pay your trust dividend, mother,” warned Kurt.

“We may not have to go far,” said Scott as he began a series of animations on the map, “According to James, White Cell is already in a heightened state of activity. The activity is centered on only a handful of locations. Assuming the information Mystique gave us is valid, we should be able to trace a central source.”

“Your vote of confidence is so inspiring,” said Mystique dryly.

“Careful Mystique,” said Warren in a threatening tone, “We’re sticking our necks out for you and I would appreciate it if you didn’t get them chopped off.”

“Save the hostility for the enemy, Warren. We need Mystique as much as she needs us,” said Scott, shooting the shape-shifter hardened look, “She’ll be running point with us. She’ll have to if she wants our help.”

“Assume what you want with Mystique, Summers. But don’t assume anything with this guy. We did that with Shaw and that sure as hell didn’t work out,” said Logan.

“Not to pile on, Scott. But I still have the bruised ribs to prove it,” added Domino.

“I haven’t forgotten, X-Force. I don’t intend on making the same mistake twice,” said the X-Force leader, “I have every intention of having a Plan B this time. I’ll throw a Plan C and D in for good measure because this is one instance where we can’t expect to cross paths with the X-men. This may end up being bigger than MGH, Sebastian Shaw, or the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. It’s exactly the kind of crisis that X-Force is equipped to handle. After what happened in Mexico, failure is not an option.”

Scott made it sound like a second chance of sorts. X-Force had been wounded and outsmarted by Sebastian Shaw. It shook their cause and their confidence to the core. Emma’s interrogation of Shaw along with revelations from Mystique now put them in a position to finish what the X-men and the MSA thought was already over.

Scott enlarged the map so they could begin coordinating their search. As he was starting to trace potential sites for the hub Mystique mentioned, Logan’s cell phone went off. It caught him off guard because he wasn’t one to get phone calls and only a select few had his number.

“Logan, if you’re going to keep your cell phone on during meetings at least pick a more creative ring tone,” said Emma in her usual harsh tone.

“No kidding,” said Warren, “I thought part of being in a secret X-men team meant being under the radar. As in no cell phones.”

“I’ll yell at you two later. I need to take this,” said Logan as he stepped aside to answer.

“Make it quick, Logan. We need to go over our plan of attack,” said Scott impatiently, “We can’t fall behind with this mentor of yours like we did with Shaw.”

Logan snarled angrily as he answered his phone. He recognized the number it displayed as belonging to Laura. She only called at certain times to check in. This wasn’t one of those times, which was sign that something was wrong.

“What is it, kid? This ain’t a good time to…Julian? What the hell are you doing with Laura’s phone?” barked Logan.

“Julian?” said Emma, now more intrigued by this development, “As in the same Julian that should be in class right now?”

“You guys want to pay attention here?” said James impatiently, eager to finish his brother’s work.

“Shut up! This may be related,” barked Logan as he turned his attention back to the phone, “Start talking, kid. What happened to…what do you mean she surrendered? That ain’t Laura…so you just let them take her? Why the hell didn’t you…Sabretooth?! You better not be fucking with me kid!”

“Watch the language, Logan. That’s my student you’re talking to,” said Emma strongly.

Logan ignored Emma’s remark. Now all of X-Force turned their attention to Logan. The mention of Sabretooth added another piece to the puzzle. If this affair involved someone from Logan’s past, then it was only appropriate that Sabretooth be involved.

“Son of a bitch…Give me at least one reason I shouldn’t stop yelling at you…I see. Fuck, guess that qualifies…you picked a piss poor time to be useful, bub,” said Logan, groaning in frustration, “Sit tight! I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

Logan threw aside the phone, breaking it in the process. Now Scott, Warren, James, Domino, Kurt, and Mystique were all looking at him. It sounded like their predicament had just gained a new complication.

“How bad is it, mien friend?” asked Kurt anxiously.

“Talk to us, Logan,” urged Scott, “I heard the name Sabretooth and Weapon X. What does it mean?”

“It means there’s gonna be a change in plan, bub,” snarled the feral mutant, “We can skip the part where we go door-to-door with White Cell. Sabretooth just dropped a bit fucking clue in our lap and I’ll bet you all the wine in Nova Roma it’ll lead us straight to the man we’re lookin’ for.”

White House – Conference Room

General Grimshaw had mixed views when it came to secrecy. He was never a fan of elaborate cover-ups. In his experience, they often came back to haunt him. At the same time, certain secrets had to be kept. Some information was just too hard for the public to process. It would undermine both the military and the laws that kept the country in check. These contrasting views were never more at odds after the revelations surrounding Sebastian Shaw.

“Good work today, General. You’re managing this well,” said the Secretary of Defense as he and several officers filed out of the conference room.

“Did you forget to add the sarcasm? That seems to be the sentiment throughout the MSA,” said General Grimshaw in an exasperated tone.

“I’m as sincere as anyone in my rank can be, which isn’t saying much,” he replied, “You’re not just doing the right thing. Sebastian Shaw shares the stench of one too many dirty secrets. Bringing him down has already cost many corrupt officials their jobs. If word spreads about White Cell, it would be many times worse.”

“Don’t remind me, Mr. Secretary. I have enough trouble sleeping at night as it stands.”

The Secretary of Defense offered a reassuring gesture. It showed that for all his bold work, General Grimshaw still had support from the top. The encouragement was welcome, but the sentiment was bittersweet.

The General found himself lingering at the table while the rest of the staff filed out. The only other person that lingered was Captain Jack Freeman. He attended this meeting so he could back up General Grimshaw. Despite all the positive news surrounding Shaw’s arrest, there were plenty of complications.

“Do you need a moment, sir?” asked Captain Freeman, “Should I get you an aspirin? Shot of morphine maybe?”

“I’m okay, Captain. I just need my stomach to catch up to my brain,” assured the General.

“For what it’s worth, I agree the Secretary of Defense,” the mutant soldier, “Regardless of the fact that he used to work for White Cell and still accepts their donations.”

“You really should learn to quit while you’re ahead, Captain,” said Grimshaw dryly.

“That’s training I haven’t really had time for. We’ve all been busy cleaning up the clutter left by Shaw. We’ve shut down one too many corrupt factories, put one too many desperate mutants out of work, and exposed the kind of corruption that would make Michael Moore’s head explode. We have our limits. There’s only so much we can and should do at once.”

Should being the operative word, Captain,” came a new voice.

General Grimshaw and Captain Freeman looked back towards the doorway where most of the staff had exited. Standing in the doorway was wounded, yet irate Charles Xavier. Having suffered a stab wound from Reverend Stryker, he had enough reasons to be upset. The recent revelations surrounding White Cell only gave him more.

“Professor Xavier,” greeted the General, “I thought you were supposed to take a week off so your insides could heal.”

“You’re talking to a man who spent a good chunk of his life in a wheelchair, General. A stab wound is hardly capable of hindering my efforts. Especially when the people I’m supposed to trust insist on ignoring my concerns.”

“Do we really have to discuss this again?” groaned the General, “There’s a long list of issues we’ve yet to resolve. If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather move forward.”

“Therein lies the problem, General. It’s not all the same,” said Xavier as he approached the beleaguered officer, “Part of moving forward involves making sure relics of the past don’t come back to bite us. From what I’ve heard, there were plenty of bite marks before Shaw was even arrested.”

Despite being in discomfort from his injuries, the Professor stood in front of the General so that he would have to walk through him in order to leave. It was his way of trapping the decorated officer so he couldn’t avoid the issue. Captain Freeman was prepared to move in and push Xavier back, but General Grimshaw waved him down.

“Are you going to yell at me for canceling all MGH research? If so, you should know that Hank McCoy beat you to it,” said the General in an exasperated tone.

“There are many reasons why it’s worth belaboring,” said Xavier as he took a step closer, “Never mind the fact that MGH had tremendous promise for understanding mutation and dealing with it in the future. I’ll even overlook the great lengths Abigail Brand went to in destroying every sample that SWORD managed to concoct.”

“Then why are you looking at me as though I punched you in the jaw for good measure?” quipped Grimshaw with folded arms.

“Because your reasons for doing so are far more egregious,” he replied, “It’s one thing to throw away something like MGH out of paranoia. It’s quite another when the reason is based on who it may be affiliated with in addition to Sebastian Shaw.”

General Grimshaw shook his head and groaned. He had a feeling this conversation would come up. It dealt with something that no one was equipped to deal with. It centered around an organization he went out of his way to avoid.

“I take it someone uttered the words White Cell,” said the General.

“I read over Shaw’s recent round of interrogation. It was quite distressing to find out that certain details were omitted from the report I received.”

“How exactly did you get your hands on those?” questioned the General.

“Need I remind you that I’m the world’s most powerful psychic?” he reminded, “Not all your men are as skilled at guarding their secrets as you are. That and under the Mutant Monitoring Initiative, I can exercise a certain level of clearance. Did you really think you could hide Shaw’s revelation about White Cell?”

“We weren’t sure if they were the ones Shaw had described. We’re still looking into it.”

“Please don’t patronize me, General,” said Xavier in a crass tone, “You and I both know there aren’t too many private armies that employ mutants. His every word describes White Cell to the letter. I know I’m not the only one that came to this conclusion. Bear in mind my X-men have clashed with White Cell. I know the signs as well as you.”

General Grimshaw scowled Xavier’s harsh tone. He also scowled himself and all the officers around him that thought they could keep these details from a man like Professor Xavier. In addition to being a powerful psychic, the Mutant Monitoring Initiative gave him access that they couldn’t prevent him from exercising. This was bound to happen eventually, but it wouldn’t change the outcome.

“This is a touchy issue, Xavier…more so than you can possibly understand,” said the General, who tried to maintain a reasonable tone.

“I understand enough, General,” said Xavier sternly, “White Cell is more than just a dirty word around here. It’s a scandal. One that became necessary years ago when every country agreed to ban mutants from their military.”

“Be careful with your choice of words. You’re entering dangerous territory,” he said in a more apprehensive tone.

“I’ve been there more often than you think. Keep in mind, one of my former students used to work for White Cell. I know how they operate. They do the kind of work that some governments would rather pay others to do. Now the attack on Reverend Stryker reveals a possible connection with White Cell…one that may even be linked to whoever betrayed Shaw. You didn’t try very hard to keep the truth from me, but you refuse to do anything about it. You’re content to brush it off and hope it goes away.”

“It’s not that simple. You’re smart enough to know when there are damn good reasons and when it’s better that you not know them. I hope that is what’s keeping you from ripping the details out of my mind.”

“That’s because I have a keen interest in preserving the integrity of the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. I’d rather not resort to probing minds to uncover threats that are being ignored. You saw the pictures of what happened to the Purifiers. Are you going to tell me that this isn’t an apparent threat?”

“There’s definitely an element of Weapon X, but there’s not enough evidence to link the attack to White Cell. That’s our official statement and it isn’t changing.”

“Don’t talk to me about evidence, General. Everyone in your department and their aides suspects White Cell.”

“You might want to lower your tone, Xavier,” said Captain Freeman, stepping in front of Xavier with an intimidating glare.

“I’ll use whatever tone I deem appropriate,” he shot back, “Between Shaw’s testimony and the attack on the Purifiers, we have more than enough reason to investigate White Cell. Yet your people are saying we can’t touch them.”

At this point, Xavier was getting so worked up that his injuries caught up with him. He clutched his side where the stab wound still festered. General Grimshaw maintained a hardened demeanor, hiding his frustration. Captain Freeman stayed in front, keeping Xavier from keeling over while maintaining a tough demeanor. It helped calm the powerful psychic down while dissuading him from drawing out his outburst.

“I think you’ve made your point, Professor,” said Captain Freeman flatly.

“Do you not have an opinion on this matter, Captain Freeman?” asked Xavier, short of breath from the pain, “Would you end a mission before you knew it was complete?”

“I’m a Green Beret. My mission ends when my orders end. I may not agree with everything my commanding officers do, but General Grimshaw has my trust pretty much every issue that I’m not equipped to understand. You and the X-men would be better off accepting that.”

Professor Xavier’s gaze narrowed as he pulled away from Captain Freeman, refusing any additional support.

“I don’t believe that for a second, Captain. I’ve never believed in blissful ignorance,” he said strongly.

“Does it look like I’m blissful?” quipped Captain Freeman.

“You look like everyone else in the government right now…content to let the chips fall where they may, regardless of the damage it might do,” scolded Professor Xavier.

“You make it sound like we’re being reckless,” said General Grimshaw, “Everything we do has all our best interests in mind. This is one of those situations where we have to consider what would do the least damage. Without getting into sensitive details, the damage done by an assault on White Cell would exceed anything that happened to the Purifiers.”

“Since when did doing the least harm equate to doing the most good?”

“Since you agreed to play by our rules,” replied the General, “This isn’t cops and robbers. This isn’t heroes and villains. The line between good and bad isn’t just blurry. It’s constantly shifting. If you really want to make this Mutant Monitoring Initiative work, you’ll learn to accept that.”

“I’m sorry, General. But rules or no rules, there are some things I cannot compromise,” said Xavier, “If you’re serious about trust, you’ll learn to accept that as well.”

It was clear that General Grimshaw wasn’t going to change his mind. With that in mind, Xavier turned around and left the conference room. His stab wound was still festering, but it paled in comparison to the pain of frustration.

He placed so much trust in men like General Grimshaw. Now in the face of a potentially dangerous threat, these same men refused to do the right thing. For the first time, Charles Xavier wasn’t in control of his own vision and that didn’t sit well for a moment.

Captain Freeman watched Xavier leave with a touch of suspicion. He had come to know this man fairly well. Xavier wasn’t going to let this go. He was going to do something drastic that would end up affecting them all.

“That man is going to be a hell of a problem, General,” said Captain Freeman.

“I know,” said the General flatly.

“What can we do about it?” he asked.

“There are any number of things we can do, Captain. In terms of what we should do…well, that’s another story.”

District X – Sage’s Quarters

“Hank, will you please stop seething already? You’re starting to worry me in more ways than I can process,” said a frustrated Sage.

“I’m sorry, my love. But not everyone has the luxury of turning off their emotions,” said Hank as he hung upside-down over her desk.

“You’re playing dirty and not in a good way. I’m ready to consider a telepathy-induced coma.”

“Is that a threat or an offer? Because at this point, I’d welcome it,” he quipped.

Hank casually jumped down from his perch and landed behind his lover. His expression hadn’t changed since he barged in unannounced in a very foul mood. She had seen him worked up before, but not like this. For once, it didn’t involve an experiment that had gone wrong or a mission that failed. It involved the very logistics that allowed him to do his job.

Sage had to keep her emotions turned off to prevent herself from screaming into her lover’s ear. She could no longer focus on her latest District X reports. She had enough on her plate with dozens of upset mutants returning from Shaw Industries. In their frustration, they caused a fresh wave of unrest. Bishop, Multiple, Jubilee, and the Lights all worked to contain it. Her lover’s mood wasn’t making those efforts any easier.

“This is getting ridiculous, Hank,” she said with a harsh scorn, “I get that you’re upset about SWORD shutting down your MGH research. I am too. What I don’t get is why you think fuming around District X will make a difference.”

“I’m under no illusions that it will. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to formulate an appropriate way in dealing with this,” said Hank distantly.

“I refuse to believe that a man as smart as you has such poor coping skills. Since when does Hank McCoy walk away from problems rather than solving them?”

“You think I didn’t try? As soon as Abigail Brand left the lab, I got on the phone with General Grimshaw. I spoke with him for nearly three hours. His answers were always a variation of ‘this has already been decided’ or ‘I’m not at liberty to discuss such matters.’ I spent another nine hours calling everyone from the Secretary of Defense to the head of the National Science Foundation. Nobody would budge.”

“That doesn’t mean you should storm off and throw a hissy fit,” Sage argued.

“If you can surmise a means of swaying stubborn politicians and a mountain range of red tape, I’m all ears. These men that Charles placed so much faith in didn’t just clamp down on MGH. They locked it away as if to will it out of existence!”

Hank’s demeanor shifted from heavy frustration to solemn despair. He finally turned around to face his girlfriend, revealing that his anger was merely secondary.

“It’s one thing to have an unsolved equation that I can’t figure out. It’s quite another to have bureaucrats come in and restrain me from solving that equation. You saw the data from my experiments. You know as well as I do the kind of good MGH could do for mutants and humans alike.”

“I crunched the numbers multiple times. I know what we’re missing out on,” she said flatly.

“And if your emotions were turned on right now, would you be as upset as I am?” he inquired.

Sage paused for a moment, her stoic demeanor not changing. Even though her mind was as ordered as a computer, Hank could see all her infinitesimal subtleties.

“I will have to plead the fifth on that,” she replied.

“Then I won’t belabor the point,” said Hank as he resumed his pacing, “Those possibilities aside, I feel as though we’re missing out on a supreme opportunity. One that could eventually cost lives in the long run. I still remember vividly how I was at the mercy of my mutation in my younger years. I had nothing close to MGH. I was left to my own devices and it nearly destroyed me. Were it not for Charles Xavier, I would probably be in a zoo struggling to open a banana.”

“So you still wish you had way to contain your mutation? One that allowed you all your ape-like agility minus the fur that keeps us both so warm at night?” said Sage with a touch of criticism in her tone.

“I’m not saying I would have it any other way, my dear,” he said to her, “I’m just saying that it would have been nice to have a choice. Imagine a young mutant with a mutation that makes him look so inhuman that it’s impossible to function. Imagine another mutant with an ability that could serve them well, but is either too weak or too volatile. With MGH, we could refine some mutations while regulating others. Unfortunately, this is a choice that many upcoming mutants are denied. It is the very crux of the conflict that the X-men have always struggled with.”

“I would argue that you’ve done well with that struggle. Just look at what the X-men have done. Look at what you’ve done.”

“And I take pride in every one of those accomplishments,” Hank went on, “However, this does not change one inescapable truth. The exploits of the X-men are finite. We can save every mutant in the world from themselves, but more will be born with each passing year. Sooner or later, time will catch up with us as it does everything else in our universe. That is why it is important that we not only understand mutation, but utilize a means of controlling it. That way mutants like myself could have a choice.”

Hank fell silent again as he walked back to Sage’s desk. Next to her computer were a stack of papers that he managed to salvage from SWORD. They weren’t much. They were mostly test results and molecular scans for MGH. As he picked up these papers, his expression fell. He saw in them so much promise that would never be realized.

“MGH could have been the great equalizer. It could have established a means of dealing with mutants long after the X-men were gone,” Hank went on, “With it, we could have mitigated the danger and maximized the benefits. We would no longer be at the mercy of forces we neither control nor understand.”

“Sometimes there’s a good reason why natural forces are so difficult to control,” Sage argued.

“I don’t doubt that some such as Sebastian Shaw would use such breakthroughs for their own benefit. That doesn’t take away from the promise they offer. I thought the Mutant Monitoring Initiative was supposed to take such breakthroughs out of the hands of men like Shaw. Since it began, I’ve been preparing for something like MGH…a breakthrough that could permanently change the stakes in the human/mutant conflict. Then for reasons that defy all logic, the same authorities we trusted shut us down. It’s as if they don’t care if the conflict escalates.”

“Just because they set MGH aside for now doesn’t mean they’ll revisit it,” said Sage, “This may be a case of mankind not being ready for such a breakthrough.”

“A part of me has been trying to convince the other parts that this is the case. However, the more I think about it, the more I realize that we can’t afford to hold back out of fear.”

“You make it sound so apocalyptic, Hank. Are the times we live in really that bad?”

“If you saw the pictures from the massacre at Purity Church, you would not contest this notion,” he told her, “Sebastian Shaw demonstrated that there are many sinister forces that will readily exploit mutation for their own means. If others besides Shaw can utilize MGH, then we’re doing ourselves a disservice by censoring it.”

“We still have the data, Hank,” said Sage as she approached him from behind, “Even without government resources, there’s still a chance that we could develop MGH.”

“I think you underestimate the kind of resources the government has,” Hank retorted, “As much as it pains me to say this, it may be the case that the very initiative we placed our faith in could be our undoing.”

Sage was at a loss. She started to share some of Hank’s frustration. He had always been a forward-thinking man. Looking down at the papers he was holding, she sensed the sheer vexation of not being able to move forward with this work. It weighed heavily on his mind and no amount of brilliance could resolve it.

Sage attempted to console her lover by wrapping her arms around his primal form. She sensed him ease somewhat within her grasp. He remained fixated on his MGH data. Moving forward from here would require both their considerable intellects.

“Now is not the time for excessive doubt, Hank,” she told him, “There is still plenty of work to be done, with and without MGH.”

“I know, my love,” Hank sighed as he took her hand in his, “I suppose I’m just not fond of starting back at square one.”

“We still have the data and a proof of concept with Jubilee and the Lights,” she reminded him, “There are still plenty of questions left to answer. Namely why General Grimshaw and so many others in high places prefer not to pursue MGH.”

“I’ve pondered that as well. Given my position under the Mutant Monitoring Initiative, it may be a dangerous question to answer.”

“That’s never stopped you before,” said Sage, throwing in a slight tease.

“Point taken. I wouldn’t be an X-man if it did,” he said, finally managing a slight smile.

“Then why don’t we dig a little deeper? Preferably in more than one way,” she said, adding some sensual undertone, “Just because you’re disappointed doesn’t mean you should stall your passions.”

“I have no intention of letting them do so,” assured Hank.

“Then prove it to me. You may be surprised at what you find.”

Sage leaned over and turned his head so that he met her in a deep kiss. He finally turned away from his MGH papers. His caring and exceedingly patient girlfriend proved far more interesting. He could not find any flaws in her logic, as was often the case. He didn’t have to start over again. He could keep digging. He was prepared to heed both her advice and her advances. Then the buzzer to her door rang out.

“Perhaps you could answer that another time?” Hank suggested, “It would give me a greater chance to give you the proof you requested.”

“I have my priorities, Hank. Right now, you’re at the top of the list,” she told him, “Besides, they can always hunt down Madrox. He’s literally everywhere.”

“As always, your logic enchants me…among other things.”

The buzzer rang out again, but Sage and Hank continued to ignore it. The two lovers backed away from her desk and slipped into a more heated embrace. Their kissing resumed, this time with greater fervor. Hank was prepared to lead her to her bedroom where he could vent his frustration in a far more appropriate manner. They were only halfway there when a hail of gunfire erupted from the side of the door.

“Open sesame!” yelled a deranged voice.

The couple abruptly ended their embrace. Hank instinctively shielded his lover, watching as over a dozen bullets riddled the door. Once the doorknob was effectively rendered scrap, the door was kicked open to reveal two familiar figures.

“Was that really necessary, Deadpool?” said a bemused Fantomex.

“If we’re going to keep this fic PG-13, then hell yes!” grinned Deadpool as he casually twirled his guns before putting them away, “Besides, you know patience isn’t high on my list of virtues.”

“Well, it’ll have to make a comeback from the looks of it,” he said as he looked towards Hank and Sage.

Hank quickly took on a more aggressive demeanor. The last time they faced Fantomex, he abducted Sage and put her through a world of discomfort in a very literal sense. He wasn’t about to let it happen again.

“Fantomex!” exclaimed Sage, “You picked a very inauspicious time to seek me out again.”

“I see you’ve even made a few inauspicious friends,” he said with a threatening snarl.

“Dude, could you save the fancy words for an economics lecture? I get enough snooty shit from Pierre le Douche over here!” said Deadpool, gesturing towards his associate.

“Please…let’s spare ourselves the exchange of insults. I would be more than happy to shoot Deadpool in the head a few times later as payment for the door,” he told them.

“Just a few?” scoffed Sage.

“Hey! I’m standing here with guns of my own, you know,” said Deadpool.

“We’re not here to cause another raucous, as difficult it may be with Deadpool involved,” he said, ignoring his partner’s remarks.

“You’re no fun. I’m gonna raid the fridge,” said Deadpool as he walked off.

“We’re here because we need your help,” Fantomex went on, “I know given our history you’re not inclined to trust me. However, recent events dictate we take such chances.”

Hank and Sage remained apprehensive, even as Deadpool walked towards the kitchen. Sage stepped out from behind Hank’s protection to confront the man that once tried to use her in a number of uncomfortable ways. She quickly reasoned that if he wasn’t inclined to attack her, then he wouldn’t be this direct. So with plenty of suspicion to spare, she confronted him with Hank remaining close.

“I’m never going to fully trust you,” said told him outright, “The techno-organic sludge that flows in your veins ensures I’ll always have a reason to doubt you.”

“I don’t need your full trust. I just need enough of it to help with a rather dicey situation,” said Fantomex.

“Speaking of dicey, who the hell mixes fried onions with carrots? Where do you keep your cold pizza or half-eaten tacos?” shouted Deadpool from the kitchen.

“As you can see, I’ve been keeping busy lately. And not in the ways you might think,” said Fantomex.

“If you’re conferring with Deadpool, I would argue those ways are still suspect,” argued Hank.

“Success! Ladies and gentleman, we have week-old Chinese food,” said Deadpool.

“I rest my case,” said Hank.

“There’s a long, colorful story about how I ended up partnering with Monsieur Wilson,” said Fantomex, “If I had time to explain it, I would. However, there’s a much more pertinent story to be told regarding a recent scuffle in Russia.”

“What kind of scuffle?” questioned Sage.

In response to her question, Fantomex casually lifted the upper part of his uniform. In doing so he revealed more than just the scars of the techno-organic material that gave him his enhanced abilities while preserving his life. He revealed a large set of scars that ran from his lower-right torso to his upper-left shoulder. It was a scar so deep that couldn’t heal properly even with the help of techno-organic material. Furthermore, the scars looked like claw marks with which any X-man would be familiar.

“Those scars…” said Hank as he quickly drew conclusions.

“Are not what they seem,” said Fantomex as he lowered his shirt, “They are a result of a recent clash where Deadpool and I got caught in the crossfire.”

“To be fair, I did throw a grenade…or several,” said Deadpool as he walked out from the kitchen with a carton of Chinese food in hand.

“It doesn’t matter who shot at who,” said Fantomex, “The Omega Family and the cunning individuals who gave me these scars were all after something. For all I know, they’re still fighting over it because I managed to acquire it when I escaped.”

Fantomex then reached into his pocket and pulled out a small glass container. He casually tossed it over towards Sage, who instinctively caught it. As soon as it was in her hands, she and Hank recognized it.

“By stars and garners…is that what I think it is?” gasped Hank.

“MGH! How is that possible?” exclaimed Sage, “I thought the MSA confiscated every last drop!”

“That’s precisely why we’re here,” replied Fantomex, “I believe this is something you’re familiar with. In addition to that container, Deadpool and I uncovered some very disturbing revelations. It would be in your interest and ours to help us seek them out.”

“I smell a team-up!” grinned Deadpool.

Hank and Sage exchanged glances. Their whole conversation about digging deeper into MGH took on a whole new dimension. Fantomex and Deadpool might be the least deserving of their trust, but they might be onto something. It could end up leading them to some very important and quite possibly some very disturbing answers.

Xavier Institute – War Room

Jean Grey had a knack/problem for letting her emotions get the better of her. If affected her powers, her relationships, and her role as an X-man. The Mutant Monitoring Initiative evoked many heightened emotions since it was enacted. She often struggled with them more than the others. In the days that followed the massacre at Purity Church, a new wave of emotions consumed her. Those emotions only grew as the X-men were ordered to end this mission before tying up some disturbing loose ends.

That order came as a shock for everyone. In the days that followed the massacre at Purity Church, the X-men scrambled for answers. At every step along the way, they were stifled by the authorities they were supposed to trust under the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. It had gotten to the point where they could go no further without defying the government.

It put the X-men in a difficult position. So Jean took it upon herself to convene an off-record meeting with Ororo, Rogue, Remy, Betsy, and Piotr. It was a dangerous situation that could set a dangerous precedent and they couldn’t afford to ignore it.

“How much longer do you plan on keepin’ us here, Jean? We be going around in so many circles that Remy’s startin’ to get dizzy,” said Remy as he casually leaned against a nearby wall.

“We’ll stay as long as we have to. Beast didn’t risk sending a triple-encrypted message to my laptop just to have us ignore it,” said Jean strongly, sensing that the others were getting impatient with her.

“We’ve all read the same message, Jean. We all agree this is serious,” said Ororo.

“Anything that brings Fantomex and Deadpool out from whatever wasteland they were hiding more than confirms it,” said Piotr.

“Where we can’t agree is what we’re supposed to do about it,” Ororo went on, “Our orders are as clear as a cloudless sky. We’re to drop our investigation on Purity Church and focus on cleaning up what’s left of Shaw Industries.”

“I understand the order perfectly. What I don’t understand is why you guys seem to be okay with it,” said Jean.

“Who said we were okay with it?” said Rogue, “Ah agree. It stinks in every possible way, but it’s getting too hot to handle. Especially if Fantomex and Deadpool are gonna start blowing things up.”

“That’s never stopped us before.”

“Well this isn’t before. This is now,” said Betsy in a more serious tone, “The X-men can’t go running around, poking their noses wherever they think trouble may lie. There are rules and protocol under the Mutant Monitoring Initiative.”

“And you agree with them?” questioned Jean.

“I never said I did. That doesn’t mean we can undermine it whenever it becomes an inconvenience. Maybe for this case, it’s a problem. But try and look at the big picture. Is solving one crisis worth causing ten more?”

Jean and Betsy exchanged angry glares. They were on opposite sides of the spectrum here. Betsy was the daughter of a cop. She placed a much bigger value on law and order. That meant setting aside her outrage was easier. To her, working with the law meant respecting the law even if they didn’t agree with it.

Sensing that Betsy wasn’t going to budge, Jean turned towards the War Room computer and brought up the files that Hank and Sage had sent them. They were heavily encrypted and just looking at them may put them at odds with the MSA. For that very reason, Jean made sure everyone looked long and hard at them.

“You want to see the bigger picture, Betsy? Look at this!” said Jean, “Someone else besides Shaw has MGH. Hank and Sage tested the sample Fantomex gave them. It’s the real deal. That means we’re not the only ones who know about it. This could be where the White Cell connection comes in.”

“This is also where General Grimshaw draws the line,” reminded Piotr, “He’ll take on men like Sebastian Shaw. He will not take on White Cell.”

“And aren’t you the least bit curious why?” said Jean, “This isn’t the first time they’ve shown their dark side. Have you all forgotten the role they played in the Genosha Exodus? You know, the one where they hijacked a nuclear submarine?”

“No need to remind us, sugah. That was pretty dang nasty and it could’ve been a lot worse,” said Rogue.

“Exactly! So what if the incident at Purity Church was White Cell’s way of finishing what they started?” Jean went on, “According to Hank, Deadpool and Fantomex encountered those masked assassins that slaughtered the Purifiers. They seemed pretty determined to keep every last drop of MGH for themselves. That makes them a prime candidate for that so-called partner that betrayed Shaw.”

“I’ll concede it makes sense. I’ll even concede that the Professor is probably right yell at General Grimshaw for not digging deeper,” said Betsy, “My problem is what you’re implying we do behind his back.”

“Is it really so unreasonable?” said Jean, “Deadpool and Fantomex gave us more than enough information to act on. Beast says they were able to escape the assassins. They even got a few leads on where their base may be.”

“You be placing a lot of trust in those two, Jean,” said Remy skeptically, “You sure they be deserving of it?”

“If they’re wrong, they’re assholes. No big deal. But if they’re right, they may lead us right to White Cell’s doorstep. This may be exactly what John Proudstar was trying to uncover before he died. The MSA sure isn’t going to act upon it. They’ve made it clear that White Cell is too well-connected. So what besides bureaucracy is stopping us?”

Jean made some compelling points. The information from Hank and Sage seemed concrete. Deadpool and Fantomex had a lead on White Cell. If they followed it, they could piece together the intricate web that started with the Genosha Exodus and led them to Sebastian Shaw.

With the brutal massacre of the Purifiers still fresh in their mind, it seemed perfectly logical if not wholly necessary to follow this up. At the same time, there were obstacles that stood in their way.

“We’re all on the same side here, luv. We should be investigating White Cell. We should be uncovering this elaborate conspiracy for what it is,” said Betsy in a calmer tone, “However, we need to do it within the confines of the law.”

“What good is the law if it leads to more massacres like the one in Purity Church?” questioned Jean.

“It goes back to that bigger picture I mentioned earlier,” she explained, “Look at what we did with Shaw. Without the law, we would have just stifled his operation, harassed his henchmen, and maybe roughed him up. But with the law on our side, we had him arrested and now he’s going to go on trial. That’s not something the X-men could have done before and it’s something we need to be able to do for future threats.”

“I’m not saying we sacrifice that. I’m just saying that we do what X-men are supposed to do.”

“But as X-men, aren’t we supposed to obey the law?” added Piotr, “I’ve seen what happens when people try to take it into their own hands back in Russia. It tends to do more harm than good.”

“He’s right, Jean,” said Betsy, “If White Cell is truly a problem, then let’s convince General Grimshaw to change their minds. That way we don’t just annoy the bastards involved with MGH or the Purity Church massacre. We actually put them on trial and impose a more official form of justice.”

“You make it sound like that’s even possible,” scoffed Jean, “You heard what Professor Xavier said. He’s tried repeatedly to convince the General that we need to investigate White Cell. At every turn, he’s brushed it off.”

“Which is why we need to keep trying,” said Betsy, “It may not be the most efficient way, but it’s the right way.”

“But if it’s too late and people start dying, how is that right?”

Betsy found it difficult to maintain her composure. Jean was right on a number of levels. Rogue, Remy, Ororo, and Piotr couldn’t contest anything she was saying. There was no clear-cut line between right and wrong. This wasn’t a matter of the X-men being the heroes they were supposed to be. It was a matter of them working within the restrictions that they willingly embraced as part of the Mutant Monitoring Initative.

Sensing that nobody was going to take this as seriously as her, Jean turned off the War Room monitor. Arguing like this wasn’t getting them anywhere. This lack of unity within the X-men was unprecedented, but she wasn’t about to let it stop them.

“I’ll take your lack of an answer as proof that the X-men are slipping,” she said bitterly, “I still remember when we never had to argue about confronting a threat. I already feel nostalgic for those days.”

“Jean, please don’t make too big a deal of this,” coaxed Betsy.

“Yeah, we’ve got enough on our plate with Shaw as it is!” said Rogue.

“If you guys are content with listening to General Grimshaw and living in blissful ignorance, be my guest,” said Jean as she stormed off, “Bear in mind that if we don’t do something about it, then someone else will…someone like X-Force. Are you that willing to let our friends take this on by themselves? Even if they walked out on us, I’m not leaving them behind…no matter what the Mutant Monitoring Initiative says!”

“Jean wait…” said Betsy.

It was too late. Jean was already gone and no one short of Juggernaut could stop her. She was too upset to listen to reason. Rogue, Remy, Ororo, Piotr, and Betsy were left conflicted by her outraged sentiment. Moreover, the mention of X-Force reminded them that even if they didn’t act on White Cell, that didn’t mean that others wouldn’t.

“This here mess ain’t gonna clean itself,” mused Remy, “Seeing as how her ex is in X-Force, Remy don’t see her lettin’ it go.”

“Jean’s pretty dang stubborn. Ain’t no doubt about it,” sighed Rogue, “Without Scott to calm her down, there ain’t no telling what she could do.”

“If she doesn’t start using her frontal lobe more effectively, she could do serious damage to the Mutant Monitoring Initiative,” said Betsy.

“So could White Cell,” added Piotr.

“All the more reason to restrain her so we can focus on working the MSA over,” said Betsy, “If X-Force gets involved, it’ll add a personal stake to what is already ridiculously complicated affair.”

It seemed inaction wasn’t an option in this instance. Somebody had to do something. Jean Grey could do a lot of damage on her own, intentionally or otherwise. Betsy, Piotr, Remy, and Rogue exchanged glances, as if to dare one another to go after her. Being the former bearer of the Phoenix Force, she was dangerous to confront. After the silence lingered for a moment, Ororo stepped forwards.

“I’ll go speak with her,” said Ororo, “If nothing else, I’ll try to calm her down before she makes any brazen moves.”

“You’re a brave woman, Miss Munroe,” commented Piotr, “Perhaps we should get the Professor involved as well. He may be able to reason with her.”

“I don’t think reason is an appropriate measure here, Piotr. So we’ll have to try another approach,” said Ororo as she started following Jean.

“What kind of approach are you talking about?” asked Rogue.

“I don’t know yet, but we had best figure it out soon,” she said as she left the War Room, “I have a feeling that whoever is involved will not wait for us to resolve this. For all we know, it has already escalated in a terrible way.”

Boston – North Point Park

Julian Keller paced anxiously while constantly checking his phone. The longer he waited, the more danger Laura faced against whoever had been brazen enough to abduct her. Clouds had since rolled in. A light rain was falling over Downtown Boston while thunder echoed in the distance. The North Point Park had since been vacated, making it a dreary yet appropriate setting.

It had been nearly an hour since he called Wolverine. His ear was still ringing from all the enraged yelling he had done upon hearing the news about Laura. When he finally settled down somewhat, he instructed Julian to meet somewhere private yet open. That way if the same people attacked again, they wouldn’t have anywhere to hide.

It was a risky, unnerving experience. Julian still felt as though Sabretooth and those mysterious figures were close. He was not equipped to handle them and neither was X-Factor. The only one who had more incentive to find Laura than him was Wolverine.

“Where the hell is this guy?” he groaned restlessly, “There’s no way it should take him this long!”

‘You really need to learn patience, Julian. I suppose that’s a lesson I’ll have to reinforce at a later time.’

Julian clutched his head upon hearing a distinct telepathic voice in his mind. That kind of coarse, yet wry tone could only come from Emma Frost. He immediately scanned the area around him, noticing only a female figure in a heavy coat walking by with a large umbrella.

“Miss Frost? Where are you? Is Wolverine with you?” he yelled out.

‘You might want to lower your tone, Julian. If we hadn’t thoroughly surveyed the surrounding area, we would all have billboard-sized targets on our backs.’

“Wait…who’s we?” Julian asked out loud.

At that point, Julian noticed the woman in the umbrella stop about fifteen feet from where he was standing. Upon taking a closer look, the woman raised the umbrella to reveal that she was Emma. She was easy to overlook because she wasn’t wearing the overtly revealing outfits that endeared her to so many male students. It left Julian feeling a bit sheepish in addition to being vulnerable.

“I hope you’re not missing too much class because of this, Mr. Keller,” she said as she approached him, “I can appreciate your passion, but your inexperience could be a liability.”

“This better not be another telepathic lesson,” said Julian with growing suspicion, “I’ve never been good at those or surprise exams for that matter.”

“It’s no lesson, but it may qualify as one. Given the frantic nature of your distress call, you need to learn to control your emotions in a situation like this. It would make things much easier for myself and my team.”

“Team?” he said curiously.

“That would be us, bub,” came a voice from behind.

Julian instinctively shot around to see this team standing right behind him. Wolverine was with them along with Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Warpath, Domino, and Angel. They were all in their full uniforms, having appeared courtesy of Nightcrawler’s teleportation. The young mutant was visibly startled. He looked towards Wolverine at first. Then he turned back to Emma Frost.

“Wolverine…Warpath…so it is true. You are working with X-Force, Miss Frost!” said Julian.

“Don’t look so shocked. Emma Frost has rarely been able to keep herself out of trouble,” joked Angel.

“But I saw you teaching classes earlier this morning,” exclaimed Julian, “Is that a telepathic illusion? Are the memories I have of you giving me detention all false?”

“Settle down, Julian. I don’t warp the minds of my students that much,” assured Emma, “Although you’re giving me plenty of reasons to reconsider my limits.”

“In other words, pick your jaw up off the floor and listen,” barked Wolverine, “I’m already pissed that Sabretooth has Laura. I’d rather not take it out on your sorry ass!”

“Do as he says,” said Cyclops in a calmer tone, “This is already a sensitive situation. Stoking Wolverine’s temper is only going to make it worse.”

Julian had to restrain himself under X-Force’s harsh gaze. Emma Frost continued scanning the area, using her telepathy to ensure that nobody would contemplate eavesdropping on this meeting. The presence of rain and thunder added extra cover. X-Force continued scanning the area as well. There were any number of ways they could be attacked. They had to be ready for all of them.

“For what it’s worth, ve’re sorry ve kept you waiting,” said Nightcrawler, “Ve actually arrived here over a half-hour ago.”

“You’re a teenage boy. You probably watch snippets of the news in between reality shows,” said Domino, “You know that X-Force’s status with the authorities is pretty iffy.”

“That’s why we had to show up early and survey the area,” said Warpath, “We had to make sure that whoever attacked you and Laura wasn’t looming around waiting for another shot. It was one of the first lessons I taught X-Factor. Know your surroundings before every battle.”

“I feel used,” muttered Julian, “You could have at least dropped me a hint or something.”

“Given how much you were yelling earlier, you probably would have blurted everything out the first chance you got. Sorry, but I ain’t gonna risk that. Not when Laura’s involved!” said Wolverine.

The former living weapon didn’t go easy on Julian. Even if he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, he loomed over the young mutant apprehensively. He was already uncomfortably close to Laura. Then he managed to get her abducted. It did not make a good impression to say the least.

“Now if I remember your rambling, you said a bunch of dirt-bags in masks appeared outta nowhere and surrounded you. Then at some point Sabretooth showed his ugly ass,” said Wolverine as he glared at Julian, “For the sake of your balls, that better not be code for screwing up and letting Sabretooth take Laura!”

“I swear that’s what happened. There were ten of them. Maybe twelve,” said Julian, not flinching under his harsh scold, “They were like robots or something. They even had claws like yours!”

“You sure you weren’t seeing things, bub?” said Wolverine, drawing his claws to further reinforce his point.

“I swear it’s true! That’s when that Sabretooth grabbed me. He used me to get Laura to surrender without a fight,” said Julian.

“And you didn’t do shit to stop it?” snarled the former living weapon.

“That’s enough, Wolverine,” said Cyclops, pulling him back before he went too far, “He claimed he did all he could and I believe him.”

“As do I,” said Emma, who scolded Wolverine for threatening her student, “Julian’s thoughts are as accurate as his words. From what I gather, he wasn’t in a position to stop Sabretooth.”

“I have the scars on my neck to prove it if you want to see,” grumbled Julian.

“You’re lucky that’s all you have, kid,” muttered Logan.

Cyclops pulled Wolverine back further. He wasn’t helping their situation by taking his frustrations out on Julian. He was clearly worried for Laura. Their best bet for helping her was to piece this together.

“Scars aside, this may confirm what Mystique told us,” said Warpath, “White Cell is making their move and they’re playing the Weapon X card.”

“White Cell and Weapon X?” said Nightcrawler, “Zhere’s a dangerous combination if ever zhere vas one.”

“They also fit the description of that massacre at Purity Church,” said Cyclops as he started making connections, “That classified report Emma extracted from the Pentagon came to a similar conclusion. Even if Weapon X isn’t directly involved, White Cell may be utilizing what’s left of them.”

“Not that I ever cared for Reverend Stryker’s adherents, but why would White Cell attack them and then go for Laura?” asked Domino, “If this is some kind of strategy, I’d say it’s pretty fucked up.”

“We should assume there’s an underlying reason,” said Warpath, “If they’re as coordinated as Julian says, then this is definitely more than a couple of bad apples that Wolverine forgot to butcher.”

“I don’t care how bad they are. What’s the plan for saving Laura?” asked Julian intently.

“Careful with that impatience of yours, Julian,” said Angel, “Trust me when I say you should care. Guys like Sabretooth and Weapon X are not to be taken lightly.”

“We’ve dealt with people like this before. They have a way of hurting their targets in way too many ways,” added Cyclops, “It won’t be any easier given the current situation with the Mutant Monitoring Initiative.”

“I haven’t kept up with the whole X-men/X-Force dynamic and honestly, I don’t care! If you guys are as equipped as I hope, then you already know how we’re going to find her!”

“You wanna tone it down, you little punk? You’re not even the most pissed off person here, so if you really wanna help Laura you’ll…”

Wolverine froze in mid-sentence. His expression quickly changed and he started frantically sniffing the air around him. The rest of X-Force grew noticeably more alert as well. The fields around them were still vacant, even as the rain fell harder. Yet there was a distinct feeling of being watched.

“I know that look,” said Cyclops, “You smell something, don’t you?”

“Oh yeah…and it stinks to high hell,” snarled Wolverine.

“I’m sensing it too,” said Emma, who was also on alert, “There are some very troubled minds closing in.”

“Already?” said Domino with a slight scoff, “And here I was thinking we would have time to swing by Fenway.”

Once again, Julian was confused. He looked around and didn’t see anything. He was starting to wonder if maybe this was another one of Emma Frost’s mind games.

“Okay, I’ll bite. What did I do now?” groaned Julian.

“Kid, we kind of have a confession to make,” said Angel as he prepared his techno-organic wings for battle, “We had an ulterior motive for why we had you meet us here in an open place like this.”

“You mean it wasn’t just to make me stand out in the rain?”

“Not entirely,” said Cyclops as he adjusted his visor in preparation for battle, “You see, we suspected that abducting Laura wasn’t just another elaborate way to piss Wolverine off. It was bait. Someone wanted to lure us out into the open.”

“And guess what? It worked!” snarled Wolverine.

As X-Force took on an aggressive demeanor, a series of brief flashes appeared through the dreary conditions. From these flashes, a number of familiar figures emerged. Julian recognized them as the same masked figures that attacked him and Laura. Just as before, the figures surrounded them with swift machine-like efficiency.

In the process, they drew a set of claws that looked identical to Wolverines. They quickly closed in, ensuring that X-Force had no means of escape. In addition to the dark figures, another flash brought forth a more unique presence. This time it wasn’t Sabretooth. It was an entirely different figure wearing what looked to be a cross between Wolverine’s old X-men uniform and a ninja outfit. As soon as he emerged through the rain, Wolverine’s eyes widened.

“You…I recognize that scent,” seethed the former living weapon.

“You should,” said the man from under a cloak, “My name is Daken. I have scent I hope you would appreciate. Part of it belongs to you.”

“Damn, we just met this guy and already I know he’s a dick,” said Warpath.

“I take it zhis is another old associate of yours, Wolverine?” said Nightcrawler.

“None that I’ve met before,” grunted Wolverine, “If his scent means what I think it means, then I would rather be facing Sabretooth,”

“Unfortunately, he chose to sit this one out,” said the man, “He’s enjoying the company of Miss Howlett at the moment.”

“Laura! What did you do to her?” exclaimed Julian.

“It ain’t gonna be half as bad as what I do to you!” roared Wolverine.

“Ooh, sounds fun! I’m always up for playing rough,” said Daken snidely.

“Sounds like something you would say, Frost. Coming from a man, it’s a lot more unsettling,” commented Domino as she readied her guns.

“Amongst other things,” said Emma as she shifted into her diamond form.

Then in a gesture that surprised everyone except Wolverine, Daken revealed his own set of claws. His were slightly different, having two come out from his knuckles and the other come out from his wrist. As took an aggressive stance, the ten cloaked figures did so as well in perfect harmony. With X-Force completely surrounded, they were ready to overwhelm them.

“I’ve been waiting for this a long time,” said Daken with a sadistic grin, “Unlike Sabretooth, I don’t have the patience to draw this out over a lifetime of meaningless bloodshed. I would rather confront it now as we near the very end!”

“The end? Bub, if you know Sabretooth in the slightest you know this shit doesn’t end so long as I’m breathing!”

“I don’t think you fully understand,” said Daken, “When I say the end, I mean the end of all conflict. To appreciate what it, my loyal associates here are prepared to fight you. Enjoy it while you can! For it shall be your last!”

Without even a gesture, the ten masked assassins attacked. X-Force responded just as quickly. The odds were stacked against them if they were surrounded so Cyclops cleared the way with a wide-arcing optic blast that knocked back three assassins. Using this window, X-Force went on the evasive.

“Spread them out, X-Force!” ordered Cyclops, “Take them down one-by-one!”

“If zhey’re as tough as Wolverine, zhe odds are stacked against us,” said Nightcrawler.

“Whine about odds on your own time. I’m going for pretty boy here!” said Wolverine, who immediately set his sights on Daken.

“Be my guest, Wolverine! If you’re lucky, I’ll save you a few!” said Domino as she took out her guns and started shooting.

Using the weather and the wide-open space to their advantage, X-Force quickly divided up the assassins. Angel took to the air while Warpath went for the direct approach, charging the first assassin he saw and striking him with an uppercut that would have taken the head off a normal man. Domino backed him up with a hail of gunfire, using a few well-placed shots to pin down the two other assassins that tried to harass Warpath. Cyclops focused on further wounding the three assassins he hit earlier, increasing the power of his visor to more lethal measures as these figures proved durable.

Nightcrawler and Emma Frost lingered around Julian, who didn’t react as quickly as he needed to. The four remaining assassins tried to surround them and hit them with a claw attack. Emma used her diamond form to protect the young mutant while Nightcrawler teleported around, hitting each assassin with a series of acrobatic kicks.

“Whoa! I did not plan on getting a haircut today,” exclaimed Julian as he narrowly avoided decapitation from one assassin.

“Looks like we’ll have to work on your combat skills as well, Mr. Keller. You’re making yourself too vulnerable,” said Emma as she made sure that assassin received a punishing kick to the groin.

“Go easy on him, Emma! Zhese guys are as quick as Wolverine,” said Nightcrawler as he narrowly avoided getting cut himself.

“Quit babying me already! I can take care of myself,” said Julian.

Already fed up with the adults belittling him, he used his telekinesis to unleash a wall of force that shoved back the three assassins that tried to attack Nightcrawler. He teleported out of the way just in time, allowing the three figures to go flying back as if they had been hit by a speeding truck. Again, they didn’t wince or grunt. They were like drones and they proved to be quite reliant.

The assassins that Julian hit with his telekinesis landed right next to Warpath and Domino. Even though their limbs and uniforms were tattered, they stammered to their feet and fought back. Any wounds they incurred were already healing. Domino and Warpath were finding that out themselves.

“These guys are as durable as Wolverine too,” said Warpath as he snapped the neck of an assassin for the second time.

“Maybe I should have brought a bazooka,” commented Domino as she shot three bullets into the heads of two oncoming assassins.

Despite various bullet wounds, the assassins kept coming for Domino. She found herself backing away towards Warpath. Then one leapt into the air and pounced as if it were Wolverine on a berserker attack. Before he could reach Domino, Angel tackled him and mid-air and used his techno-organic wings to slice into his flesh. Even with half his torso ripped off, the assassin still tried to swipe at Angel.

“I don’t know, Dom. These guys heal pretty damn well!” said Angel as he narrowly avoided, “Is it wrong for me to miss the Sentinels?”

“Healing or no healing, there’s still flesh underneath that mask.” said Cyclops, one of his optic blasts passing right by Angel as he flew by, “Go for the heads! They can’t do much without a brain. Once neutralized, go for Daken!”

It seemed like a logical command. First, they took out the assassins and then they would surround Daken just as he tried to do with them. However, Wolverine wouldn’t have it.

“Don’t even think about it, Summers! He’s mine!” snarled Wolverine, his feral anger focused entirely on Daken.

“It’s hilarious how right you are,” snickered Daken.

While the rest of X-Force seemed to be containing the assassins, Daken seemed to be playing games with Wolverine’s attack. Whereas Wolverine launched a barrage of claw slashes and jump kicks, he remained evasive. He didn’t attempt to counter or strike back. He only used his claws to block incoming slashes that he couldn’t avoid.

He matched Wolverine in speed and agility, further frustrating the feral mutant. Daken even showed off a bit, doing back-flips to avoid one of Wolverine’s lunge attacks and doing an almost graceful spin-move to avoid a stab thrust aimed at his neck. Such tactics quickly got under Wolverine’s skin, but that wasn’t the only thing fueling his rage.

Everything about Daken triggered all sorts of intense emotions within Wolverine. The way he moved and fought seemed all too familiar. He never met this man before, but he didn’t evoke the same feelings that other shady figures from his past often did. This man was different. He seemed to know it as well and kept toying with him as if to tempt him with answers.

“You gonna keep playing ballet with me? Or are you gonna fight?” roared Wolverine as Daken did another nimble back-flip over him.

“Sorry, old man. I’m just having too much fun,” taunted Daken, tangling his claws with Wolverine’s as he tried to counter.

“There are easier ways to commit suicide, bub. But you ain’t in it for the thrills! You know something and you’re gonna make me beat it outta you!”

“What? You don’t like a challenge?” he teased.

“Cut the bullshit! You don’t go through the trouble of teaming up with Sabretooth and kidnapping Laura just to fuck with me,” barked Wolverine as he tried to stab him again, “Tell me who you are so the real fun can begin!”

Wolverine went for another stab attack again. This time, he struck Daken across the face, causing a long cut across his face. It shredded his mask as well, causing it to fall off. As it did, Wolverine got a full view of his face.

He had a somewhat exotic complexion with a mix of Asian and Caucasian traits. What stood out most was his hair. It looked like a uniquely kept Mohawk that was meticulously styled. Seeing him face-to-face evoked more mysterious emotions inside him because as he looked closer, he recognized something profound.

“Those eyes…I’ve seen them before,” mused Wolverine.

“If only I had a nickel for every time that pick-up line worked,” laughed Daken, “I’m told I inherited them from my mother.”

“Your mother…” said the feral mutant distantly.

“Confused? Don’t worry! I’m getting bored already. That means I can finally do this.”

Finally, Daken launched an attack of his own. Wolverine quickly shook off his shocked state of mind to defend himself. He was able to deflect a stab attack from Daken’s claws, but he failed to notice him retrieve a high-tech syringe with a familiar-looking red substance inside.

Just as Wolverine was about to counter, Daken did another back-flip to land behind the feral mutant. Before his feet even touched the ground, he injected the contents of the syringe into Wolverine’s neck.

“Ack!” he gasped.

“Take it easy, old man. Fighting it only makes it worse,” said Daken.

The area around the injection burned. Within seconds Wolverine felt his entire body stiffen. It was as if someone had hijacked his every muscle. He contorted wildly for a moment, trying to wrestle back control. It was no use. He was completely paralyzed.

Cyclops and Angel both noticed Wolverine’s distress. Emma, Nightcrawler, and Julian had fought off the assassins around them as well. Warpath and Domino shoved aside the assassins that were still trying to stab them with Domino putting a few extra bullets in their head so she could join X-Force as they caught up with Wolverine.

“Wolverine! Please tell me that wasn’t what I think it was,” said Angel.

“Whatever you did to him, you just made the biggest mistake of your life!” shouted Cyclops.

“Oh relax, handsome. It wasn’t MGH. It was something more subtle,” taunted Daken.

“Either undo it now or we’ll all beat you to a pulp in a very unsubtle way!” said Warpath.

“You would be wise to listen,” said Emma as she stayed close with Julian and Nightcrawler, “We just bested your durable friends here.”

“I used to train vith Wolverine. You’re not going to beat us vith cheap rip-offs!” added Nightcrawler.

“Oh please, do you really think it was their job to kill you?” laughed Daken, “Honestly, I’m insulted. I hoped you would give us credit for such a brilliant strategy.”

“And who’s us?” questioned Domino.

“What’s so damn brilliant about these guys anyways?” scoffed Julian as he kicked one of the nearby assassins.

Daken kept smiling as he let the plan speak for itself. Shortly after Julian kicked one of the wounded assassins, the mysterious masks they were wearing lit up. All ten of the figures scattered across the field erupted with similar activity. The eyes and mouth areas of the mask started glowing brilliantly, so much so that it illuminated the falling rain around them.

“Add one more lesson for this kid, Frost. Teach him when to shut his mouth,” said Warpath.

“Duly noted,” said Emma, scowling a very sheepish-looking Julian.

“I knew it couldn’t be this easy,” groaned Cyclops.

“And we haven’t even gotten to the best part,” grinned Daken.

X-Force remained on alert. In addition to the glowing, the masked assassins shot up and reorganized in perfect unison. The team prepared to fight them again, but this time they didn’t attack. Instead, they formed a line in front of Daken and the paralyzed Wolverine. Then in a mysterious display, they interlocked their arms. When they did this, the light from their masks grew so bright that it consumed everything within a half-mile radius.

“Zhat energy…I recognize it!” said Nightcrawler.

“Fall back, X-Force!” exclaimed Cyclops.

“Run Julian!” urged Emma, trying to shove her student away from the danger, “Get away before…”

But it was too late. Before they could even turn around, X-Force was completely engulfed in the light. Cyclops, Angel, Nightcrawler, Warpath, Domino, Emma Frost, and Julian Keller shielded their eyes as it consumed them. They then felt themselves transported into the unknown.

Wherever they were going, Daken was grinning every step of the way. He had tricked them all. They now faced an uncertain fate with no hope of the X-men coming to their aid.

Up next: Crimes Against Inhumanity

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