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Volume 7 -- Issue 162 -- Crimes Against Inhumanity Part 1

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Crimes Against Inhumanity Part 1
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Professor Charles Xavier assembled a gifted team of young mutants to fight for peace and understanding in a world that hates and fears them. Using their extraordinary powers, they stand together in an increasingly chaotic world. However, that unity is now a distant memory. The X-men have become bitterly divided over the Mutant Monitoring Initiative that Professor Xavier himself formulated. There are now two teams, X-men and X-Force. They operated under very different circumstances and recently those circumstances have become more serious.

After the arrest of Sebastian Shaw, Professor Xavier and the X-men uncovered that the threat wasn’t over yet. A major mystery remained. Who betrayed Sebastian Shaw and why? As they pondered this mystery, an old name re-emerged. The private military group, White Cell, has always been a bit of an enigma.

They’ve drawn suspicion from the X-men before. Former X-man, John Proudstar, used to work for them and before he died he believed they were up to something. Now they’ve been implicated in the recent massacre at Purity Church. But in a stunning development, General Grimshaw and President Robert Kelly have ordered the X-men to cease all further investigations.

Outraged, Professor Xavier braved a festering stab wound to confront the General to no avail. It has triggered unrest within the X-men, especially after recent revelations from Hank courtesy of Fantomex and Deadpool. While they struggle to formulate a plan, X-Force is already hot on White Cell’s trail. However, in following that trail they ended up falling into a trap laid by a man named Daken. He’s a man that has dark ties to Wolverine and those ties run much deeper than even he realizes.

Montreal, Canada – Several Weeks Ago

“Hnn…Daken?” groaned a very tired and very naked Jean-Paul Beaubier, “If the clock reads any earlier than five, come back to bed.”

“What’s wrong? Did I wear you out last night?” said a far less tired Daken Yashida as he buttoned up his shirt.

“No, but some of us need more than three hours of sleep at a time,” he said, his face now buried under a pillow, “Especially if we’re to be effective in our job.”

“Sleep is overrated and so are excuses,” scoffed Daken, “Besides, you know the boss’s policy about inter-office relationships. He encourages them.”

“If this is a relationship, then it’s too fast even for me.”

Daken shook his head and chuckled at how weak Jean-Paul sounded after a night with him. It wasn’t the first time they hooked up in their down-time at White Cell. In each instance, Jean-Paul failed to keep up with him. Despite his mutant speed and military training, he was rendered too human when he tried to match wits with Daken.

Jean-Paul groggily turned over and watched Daken fix his distinct hair-style in the mirror. He wasn’t dressed in the same tight pants or stylish button-up shirt as last night when they hooked up. He was in his special custom-made uniform. He made it a point to stand out on a mission. It was like he wanted people to know who they were up against. That kind of bravado was appealing in some ways and annoying in others.

“You’ll have to enjoy the afterglow without me,” said Daken as he put on his mask, “I received a call last night. I have an important meeting with Sebastian Shaw at his Villa this afternoon.”

“The boss has been giving you a lot of private missions lately. It doesn’t help all those old rumors about him playing favorites with you,” said Jean-Paul.

“Why shouldn’t he?” shrugged Daken as he combed his hair, “I was one of the first operatives for White Cell. I’ve known the boss longer than any of you so why shouldn’t I enjoy the privileges that come with it?”

“Therein lies the problem, Daken. You enjoy them too much. Both on and off the battlefield, your talent for indulgence is only equaled by your ego.”

“Since when does that bother you? I can’t help it if my appetites are diverse. I’ve yet to meet a man who can satiate them all…or a woman, for that matter.”

“You know, I used to joke about bisexuals being greedy and you’re making that joke less and less funny,” said Jean-Paul with a slight scorn.

“I never liked that term. Bisexual…someone who simply stopped caring about body parts and somehow that makes them greedy,” joked Daken, “I never forced you to sleep with me, Jean-Paul. Although, I certainly could have if I were so inclined.”

“That doesn’t bother me as much as the knowledge that you would probably get away with it,” retorted the Canadian mutant, “You seem to forget that I didn’t join White Cell just because the military doesn’t take kindly to gay mutant men. I joined because I believed its principles. Nearly everyone else, human or mutant, takes those principles seriously. Yet you don’t seem to care in the slightest.”

“Maybe everyone else just cares too much,” quipped Daken as he finished with his hair, “Or maybe it’s because the boss makes himself known to me and so few others. Whatever the case, it doesn’t matter in the long run.”

“How do you figure? You think everyone will suddenly not be annoyed by your attitude?” asked Jean-Paul.

“I’m merely assuming that White Cell’s growth will ensure these petty grievances mean little in the long run. I would love to go into details, but I sense you’re tired and you need your beauty sleep. And I would hate to compromise that beauty.”

Even when Daken made a compliment, it still came off as egotistical. Jean-Paul decided not to belabor this man’s egotism. That was a mission that no soldier was equipped to handle. In his frustration, he buried his face on his pillow again. Daken had finished with his hair and was poised for whatever personal mission the boss had planned for him.

“Don’t get too discouraged, Jean-Paul. You’ll see there’s purpose behind every mission. It’s part of White Cell’s motto,” said Daken as he playfully trailed his fingers up Jean-Paul’s back before heading towards the door.

“I don’t need a lecture on White Cell’s mission statement. Not from you and not at this hour,” he said, his voice muffled in the pillow.

“It’s worth remembering, Jean-Paul. There’s meaning to everything. I just like to look good and have fun while doing it. Because when the fighting stops and the war is over, there will be plenty to celebrate!”

Unknown Location – Present Time

Logan’s feral rage had many sources. He was an angry man by nature. However, the line between anger and rage was vast. In between were all sorts of emotions that had nothing to do with anger. Along with those emotions, there were memories. Whenever Logan got caught up in his rage, some of those memories surfaced in ways that were both vivid and disturbing.

“Logan-san…there’s something we must discuss. It’s important and it cannot wait.”

“Can’t it wait just a little, Mariko? Your old man seemed pretty pissed when he asked me to meet with him.”

“I have no desire to keep you from him, but this matter requires that I pester you. It is something that will affect us in a profound way.”

“Ain’t no need to pester me, darlin’. You know I take it seriously when anything involves us. Just let me work this shit out and you can pester me all you want.”

“Very well, my love. But please hurry. I can only contain my excitement for so long!”

Through the dark haze that was his fragmented memory, Logan could see Mariko Yashida standing in front of him. He could see the glimmer in her eye as she eagerly embraced him. She was trying to tell him something imortant. However, this was where his memories entered uncharted territory. Before she could tell him, her image faded into the depths of Logan’s mind.

“Hn…Mariko?” Logan groaned in a low tone.

“Not quite, but it’s the next best thing,” said a snide voice.

Logan opened his eyes to see Daken standing in front of him. More recent memories came rushing back to him. He recalled the fight in Boston. Daken and his army of shadowy assassins were on the ropes. Then they pulled some strange trick. The assassins unleashed this strange light and then everything became a blur.

Somewhere along the way, Logan ended up in some strange cell. However, it wasn’t like a prison cell or a holding area at Weapon X. There were no restraints or bars. There were no heavy doors or armed guards watching over him. It looked like a normal room with brick walls, a small bed, a toilet, a sink, and no windows. Logan’s first instinct was to get up and drive his claws into this man until he told him what had just happened. However, he was still paralyzed, lying on the bed flat on his back.

“You!” snarled Logan as his muscles barely twitched.

“Yes, it’s me. The latest object of your rage. As if you don’t have enough as it stands,” said Daken dryly.

“I’m telling my body to rip you to shreds for all your bullshit, but apparently you found a new way to fuck with me! I get enough of that shit as well!” grunted Logan.

“Yes, well we can’t have that volatile temper causing such a mess. I understand you’ve been known to leave quite a mark on anyone that dares to capture you.”

“Then save yourself the trouble and turn off whatever the hell you did to me,” said Logan, “If you do, I promise I’ll make it quick.”

“Now why would you want to do that? I was hoping we could spend some quality time together. You know, the kind that a father is supposed to spend with his son,” said Daken as he loomed over the paralyzed figure.

Logan growled upon hearing those words. For once, Daken didn’t talk in a snide or condescending tone. He was dead serious, which almost seemed uncomfortable to him. That helped lend credibility to what he was saying. He was his son. A revelation like this usually triggered all sorts of chaotic emotions within Logan.

As this revelation sank in, Logan felt his body move on its own. He didn’t know if Daken was controlling it or if someone else was pulling the strings. He rose from his bed and stood up before this ominous young man. Now looking at him eye-to-eye, Daken glared at him with emotions that had been decades in the making.

“You’ve had time to process my scent. You’ve looked me in the eye and you’ve seen the signs. I hope you’ll skip the denial part so we can get to the heart of this matter,” said Daken, his tone focused with a unique kind of anger.

“You think this is the most fucked up revelation from my past? Hell, this ain’t even top five,” scoffed Logan.

“So finding out you have a son with a lifetime of reasons to despise you isn’t a big deal?”

“Of course it’s a big deal! I don’t hesitate in the middle of a fight unless it’s a big deal!” barked Logan, “Your scent wasn’t enough. It’s your eyes that sealed the deal. I’ve seen them before, except they were on a beautiful woman that I used to love. Not some dirt-bag punk with bad hair.”

“Well, now they’re mine,” said Daken firmly, “My darling mother was kind enough to impart them on me. It’s a shame she never got to see them. You ended up slaughtering her before she ever got to hold me.”

Now Daken was the one fuming with anger. Logan matched that sentiment every step of the way as he recalled the woman who once had those beautiful eyes. The image of her embracing him as she tried to tell him some important news played over in his mind again. That image was followed by a gruesome memory of him holding her bloody body in his arms. From here, the truth was obvious.

That’s what she was going to tell me. She was pregnant,” said Logan, “It was just before everything in the Yashida Clan went to Hell.”

“And you didn’t stick around to find out. It would’ve been pathetic if it hadn’t nearly killed me,” said Daken in a cold tone, “That dead body you held in your arms had company. I was still in her womb, underdeveloped yet still alive. You could have stayed longer, tied up all the loose ends, and made sure you left nothing behind. But you didn’t.”

“Kid, if you’re gonna hold a grudge against me for not even knowing you existed, that’s a damn lousy reason,” barked Logan.

“As if causing the death of my mother isn’t valid enough,” Daken retorted, “But that’s not my only reason for resenting you. Our family issues go much deeper than that.”

Daken took a step closer to Logan so he could look him in the distinct eyes that so reminded him of Mariko. The bitter resentment soon gave way to a more serious demeanor.

This was both personal and logistical for him. Daken had plenty of reasons to seek out his father years ago, if for no other reason than to honor his dead mother. However, he was not like his father in one key aspect. For him, vengeance wasn’t enough to justify a moment like this. There had to be something greater at stake.

“Just look at yourself, father. Look back through those broken memories of yours. Let them tell you about the kind of man you are,” said Daken in a scathing tone.

“Bub, if you even understood half the memories I got floatin’ around in my head, you’d know what a dumb ass question that is,” quipped Logan.

“I know more than you think. I know where you’ve been, who you’ve killed, and how you’ve conducted yourself,” Daken went on, “You have all the trappings of a monster, but I don’t believe in monsters. I only believe in pitiful men who follow their anger, negating every other passion along the way, unless it’s convenient.”

“You trying to lecture me? Because if you really are my son, then you got the roles ass backwards.”

“If not your son, then who else?” Daken retorted, “Who else could point out what an inept man you are? You reflect the absolute worst of our family. You fight endless personal battles in both the past and present, never truly realizing the kind of damage you leave behind. And for what? Has it brought you peace?”

“Depends on your definition,” snarled Logan.

“Seeing as how you haven’t stopped fighting, I’ll take that as a no,” snorted Daken, “In many ways, you’re a metaphor for the world as we know it. Every day there’s more needless fighting. People like you simply refuse to move forward. You just wallow in your anger. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result, both you and the world been certifiably demented for centuries.”

“Is there a point here, kid?”

“Perhaps not, but unlike everyone before me I’m prepared to do something about it.”

Daken backed away from Wolverine and walked over to the door. He then gave it a hard pound with his fist, signaling whoever was on the other side to enter. The door swung open to reveal Sabretooth and Laura. Logan grunted in anger at the sight of Sabretooth being anywhere close to Laura. However, he noticed something different. Like him, they didn’t seem to have control over their own bodies.

“Heya, old buddy,” said Sabretooth snidely, “I see they stuck you with that annoying drug too.”

“Sabretooth! Only you could make a shitty situation like this stink worse,” barked Logan.

“Consider yourself lucky. If your fruity little bastard here hadn’t stuck me with a needle, these walls would be painted with your blood by now.”

“You deserve to stuck with much worse,” said Logan, “I swear if you so much grazed my daughter, I’ll…”

“It’s okay, Wolverine. He didn’t,” said Laura, who was in a similar paralyzed state, “Although he certainly tried. He thought he could rough me up before you arrived. That’s when Daken injected him with the same drug he injected into me.”

“Seeing as how none of you can control your violent impulses, I figured it was necessary,” said Daken.

Logan’s expression tensed as much as it could in his paralyzed state. More pieces fell into place. Daken and whoever else was behind this elaborate operation wanted the meat of the Weapon X program. Laura was bait. Sabretooth was a puppet that didn’t notice the strings until it was too late. His presence was sure to complicate thingg.

“Here’s some fatherly advice, kid. Hiring Sabretooth ain’t ever necessary,” said Logan, “He’ll screw you over and smell like shit every step of the way.”

“Why you…” grunted Sabretooth, only to be cut off by Daken.

“That’s enough, you two. Somebody should have said that to you decades ago,” he said, “You may not be able to handle Sabretooth, but we can. So long as you promise him a chance at tormenting Wolverine, he’ll agree to anything. As it just so happens, we need him as well as X-23.”

“I told you not to call me that. My name is Laura!” barked Laura.

“You’re lucky you can identify with any name. I could have just let Sabretooth do what he wanted with you,” quipped Daken, “Like any animal, he simply had to be tamed.”

“Kid, as much as I hate Wolverine, I’ll gladly spare some for you,” snarled Sabretooth, “You and that asshole boss of yours are gonna pay!”

“What boss?” questioned Logan, “Tell me who’s pulling the strings in this joint. That way I know who to stab when this drug wears off.”

“That’s where the insanity I mentioned earlier comes into play,” said Daken as he turned back towards Logan, “Someone goes through the trouble of putting you all in the same room, having to resort to exotic drugs to ensure that you behave. Yet again, your first inclination is to stab each other. You’re not even the least bit curious on how and why of this endeavor.”

“There ain’t much to understand,” scoffed Logan, “The story never changes. Some asshole wants a few meat puppets to do their dirty work. Why should I expect anything less from this shit?”

“Because this is different, James Howlett…very different,” came an ominous new voice.

The whole room fell deathly silent. Logan, Sabretooth, and Laura felt their bodies moving again. Despite their ardent resistance, they turned around and stood side-by-side to greet a powerful new figure. Even for former living weapons, it was a presence that struck them in a profound way.

The figure was a man that stood an imposing seven feet tall. His whole body was heavily muscled, covering a broad form that rivaled even Sabretooth. He wore a large cloak that covered a body suit not unlike the one Daken wore. As he pulled back his cloak, he revealed a face that bore a striking similarity to Logan.

He had the same wild hair and burly complexion except most of his hair was gray. Also like Logan, he had a very feral demeanor. His penetrating eyes implied they had seen many battles. As he looked down at the three paralyzed figures, they all growled defiantly. Daken grinned at their resistance as stood beside the imposing man.

“That voice…I’ve heard it before,” said Logan, feeling more old memories surface from the depths of his mind.

“Me too!” grunted Sabretooth, who experienced something similar.

“It’s good to know your memories aren’t completely damaged,” said the man, “You’ll definitely want to remember what you’re about to become a part of.”

“To hell with being part of this shit!” barked Laura, struggling harder against her paralysis, “Who the hell are you!”

“That is not an easy question to answer,” said the man as he approached the three former living weapons, “I’ve gone by many names. Some have called me Night Wolf. Others have called me the One Man Army. Most know me as Romulus, the founder and visionary of White Cell. However, a select few have even called me the Mentor.”

“Mentor,” mused Logan, “So it is you. You’re the guy that trained Team X.”

“That is only a small part of a much larger story,” he said, “It is a story I hope to finally end soon. I’m glad to see that Daken has succeeded in the first critical step.”

“I’m sure you had no doubts, honorable grandfather,” said Daken proudly.

“Grandfather?” exclaimed Logan as it quickly dawned on him, “That means…”

“Yes James,” said Romulus, “I am your father. And today, the true purpose of Weapon X shall finally be revealed.”

Uzbekistan – One Week Ago

“YOU TWO SCOUNDRELS ARE GOING TO DIE A THOUSAND PAINFUL DEATHS!” exclaimed an enraged Darkstar as she unleashed a torrent of energy bolts.

“Spoken like my last five ex-girlfriends. At least she’s saying it with her clothes on,” shrugged Deadpool as he returned fire with his guns, “And we weren’t even the ones to started blowing stuff up this time.”

“Would you refrain from making excuses, Wade? I need you to focus entirely on shooting while I take care of this,” said a focused, yet frustrated Fantomex.

“Well whatever this is, take care of it fast. I love sticking it to Omega Red in a completely non-sexual way, but this is pushing it!”

Gunfire reigned in every direction. Explosions could be heard for miles around. In between those explosions were the angry yells of Russian hit-men, Uzbekistani soldiers, and any other thug Omega Red could recruit. Caught in the middle of this carnage was Fantomex and Deadpool.

Having already provoked Omega Red with the debacle in Panama, Deadpool continued harassing his old nemesis in whatever way he could for however much money he could amass. His new partnership with Fantomex had paid significant dividends. However, they would have to pay more if they were to escape.

It started off as a simple stake-out of a secret Omega Red shipping route. It turned into a full-scale assault on an armored train that ran through the rugged terrain of Uzbekistan. Omega Red went through a lot of trouble to secure a package. Naturally, Deadpool and Fantomex were curious to see what this package entailed. They were unpleasantly surprised to discover that this shipment was of great significance to Omega Red.

He had Darkstar and an army of his top thugs guarding it. They managed to fight their way into the armored car that contained the package, which was in a heavy safe. After taking out most of the men guarding it, Fantomex focused on opening the safe while Deadpool dealt with Darkstar’s reinforcements.

“Get to the safe! Secure the package or Omega Red will have our balls!” shouted an Uzbekistani soldier from the adjacent train cart.

“He’ll have more than that if those two get away with it,” said one of Omega Red’s Russian lieutenants.

“Forget about collateral damage!” said a higher-ranking enforcer, “Blow those masked freaks up along with the damn train! Just get that package!”

“Well since you asked nicely…” said one of the larger thugs wearing combat gear.

With Darkstar still firing wildly from above, the thug braved incoming gunfire from Deadpool to move further up in the passenger cart. Once he took cover behind another seat, he retrieved two grenades from his belt. Upon pulling the pins, he roughly heaved them over to the armored train cart ahead of them.

“Incoming! Not a joke this time!” said Deadpool, his eyes widening beneath his mask.

“Still not laughing,” said Fantomex flatly.

With the grenades still in mid-air, Fantomex turned away from the safe for a moment. With lightning-fast reflexes, he took out his guns and fired several shots. He managed to hit both grenades when they were halfway towards their cart. It not only deflected them. It sent them flying back into the cart where Omega Red’s henchmen watched in horror.

“You stupid mother…” began one of the Omega Red lieutenants.

“Hey! We’re owned by Disney now so watch your language!” said Deadpool.

“FALL BACK!” yelled an Uzbekistani captain.

The whole train cart descended into chaos as the two grenades landed. They exploded within seconds, rocking the train and engulfing several of Omega Red’s thugs. It effectively quelled the incoming gunfire from Omega Red’s henchmen. It also promised to bring in more reinforcements.

“Whew! Nice shooting, Frenchie. John Wayne would be proud,” said Deadpool as he reloaded his guns.

“Spare me your American pseudonyms for once. We’re still on a moving train that Darkstar is intent on derailing,” Fantomex reminded him.

“Ah come on! It’s not the worst bind we’ve been in. Omega Red is just shooting for overkill like he always does when he’s pissed,” scoffed Deadpool.

“He may have a valid reason this time,” said Fantomex, maintaining a serious tone, “While you were busy making Old West references, I managed to open the safe. I believe I’ve found what Omega Red has deemed important enough to protect so ardently.”

Fantomex held up what he retrieved from the safe. It didn’t look like much. It was just a simple canister with glowing red liquid inside. Deadpool was hardly impressed.

“Seriously? That’s it?” he scoffed, “I was thinking he was guarding some weapons grade plutonium or the good version of the Star Wars: The Last Jedi. What the hell is so special about tiny bit of cool-aid?”

“It’s actually what I expected,” said Fantomex as it looked at it closely, “It seems to confirm that generous tip we beat out of Omega Red’s henchmen. They’re still trying to screw Sebastian Shaw over for the Panama deal.”

“Aw come on! That can’t be the only reason,” said Deadpool, “Omega Red never does anything half-assed. There has to be something more to that shit to justify me wasting so many perfectly good bullets.”

As soon as Deadpool finished saying that, their train cart was overrun by a new swarm of figures. This time they weren’t Omega Red’s men. In brief flashes of light, imposing men in black suits with masks appeared in what looked like some sort of teleportation power. They quickly surrounded the cart, setting their sights on Deadpool and Fantomex. When they drew sets of familiar-looking claws, the two mercenaries realized that this was bigger than Omega Red.

“I hate it when you’re right, Wade,” groaned Fantomex.

“That makes two of us,” said Deadpool as he took out his katanas.

From above, Darkstar flew in lower. She also recognized the figures. Omega Red had warned her about this. Deadpool and Fantomex had no idea what they just incurred.

“You fools! You should have had the good sense to die!” yelled Darkstar, “You’re only dooming yourselves and the Omega Family!”

“You only pose more profound questions,” said Fantomex as he prepared to defend himself against these new threats, “We may have to dig much deeper for the answers.”

“Dig all you want, buddy!” said Deadpool as he prepared for battle as well, “If it’s all the same to you, I would like this flashback to end early. This is sure to get messy and hurt like hell.”

District X – Present Time

Sage scrutinized every detail of Fantomex’s story. While he was telling her about the elaborate lengths they went through to escape Uzbekistan, Hank was hard at work scrutinizing the sample of MGH that he gave them. Their story along with the sample proved to be a treasure trove of information. Whether by intent or accident, Fantomex and Deadpool had provided them with their most vital information.

“So you managed to escape both Omega Red and these mysterious assassins in one piece?” said Sage.

“You sound both skeptical and impressed,” said Fantomex coyly.

“It’s mostly skepticism,” she said in a more serious tone, “I assume that part about riding a bus full of Swedish cheerleaders was an embellishment.”

“Deadpool said that. Not me,” said Fantomex.

“Hey! I can dream, can’t I?” said Deadpool, who had nearly cleaned out Sage’s refrigerator, “After the beating we took by those Wolverine rip-offs, the universe ought to give us a reward involving Swedish cheerleaders.”

“That’s debatable,” said Sage, not amused by Deadpool’s attitude, “I’m more interested in the reason why Omega Red went to so much trouble to protect that sample. Was he trying to protect it from you two or those assassins?”

“Assume it was the assassins,” said Fantomex, “As much as we’ve done to harass Omega Red, he doesn’t consider us his most pressing enemies.”

“Although we’re hard at work on reading the top of his shit list,” said Deadpool as he finished off some leftover chicken, “We have to be at least top five. We’ve screwed up so many of his operations.”

“But none as important as this,” said Fantomex, “Omega Red has a history with Weapon X, as I’m sure you already know. After extracting some information from his associates, we surmised that he uncovered some clandestine activity. It started as a simple effort to undermine Sebastian Shaw’s MGH operation. Somewhere along the way, he found out that there was a much darker hand involved.”

“That would be White Cell,” said Sage strongly.

“So it would seem,” said Fantomex, “Which is where that sample comes in. We brought it to you because it may be the key to finding them.”

“If it just so happens that there’s a connection between Weapon X and these White Cell guys, that’s all the reason I need to blow them up,” added Deadpool.

Sage had many reasons not to trust Fantomex. Deadpool could hardly be taken seriously to begin with. However, their story fit the elaborate puzzle that she and Hank were piecing together.

The betrayal of Sebastian Shaw was just a prelude. Someone either using White Cell or running them from the top used him to develop MGH. Now that Shaw had gone down, that someone was trying to tie up loose ends. That meant acquiring every last bit of MGH. It seemed so logical. The only thing they were lacking at this point was a reason.

Sage let Fantomex’s story process in her computer-like brain for a moment. She continued studying the masked man, trying to ignore Deadpool’s horrible manners when it came to eating her food. Fantomex still had his shirt off, displaying the claw marks on his chest that had yet to heal. He was playing off her and Hank’s desperation for answers. If there was any truth to what he and Deadpool were saying, then they had to follow it.

“You’re placing a lot of trust in me, Fantomex. I’m tempted to remind you that you once abducted me against my will,” she pointed out.

“You hear that, Frenchie? She’s tempted! That’s a good sign, right?” said Deadpool with a friendly nudge.

“Do us both a favor and continue stuffing your face with food, Wade. Temptation is not always the butt of a lurid joke,” said Fantomex as he matched Sage’s cold gaze.

“You’re no fun. Got any pop tarts in this joint?” he said as he returned to the kitchen.

Deadpool slipped away, leaving Sage to confront this man that in many ways she was responsible for. He still had the techno-organic material that she created flowing in his veins. The potential for danger was too great, even for her mind to calculate.

“Ignoring my partner’s poor table manners, I feel it’s only fitting that I place my trust in you, Tessa,” said Fantomex.

“It’s Sage now. Call me Sage,” she told him sternly.

“To me, you’re Tessa. You’ll always be Tessa. EVA made quite an impression on the subject and I can still see her in your eyes.”

“If this is your way of getting me to trust you, quit while you’re ahead and I might not throw you out the window.”

“Hate me all you want for what I did. It won’t change the truth,” Fantomex went on, “You see, after the unfortunate incident with the World, your influence still guides me. I’m a soldier by trade and by nature. Like any soldier, I need a mission and for reasons that aren’t wholly unreasonable, I found myself on a crusade against Weapon X.”

“And you think teaming up with Deadpool is a reasonable means to conduct that mission?” said Sage skeptically.

“Say what you will about him, but he has the same incentive to undermine Weapon X as I do. As you can see, they’ve worked him over in ways that makes me feel lucky.”

“My ears are burning. And it isn’t just because of the grenade I took to the face,” said Deadpool from the kitchen.

“I rest my case,” said Fantomex, maintaining a serious tone, “All the while, a part of my mind remained fixated on you. No matter what I did, the techno-organic material that now flows through my body ties me to you. I don’t fully understand it, but it still compels me to seek you out.”

“Coming off as an obsessive stalker does not help your case,” she told time.

“If only I had a nickel for every time I…” began Deadpool.

“Keep eating, Wade. I’m not done yet!” shouted Fantomex, starting to tense under such scrutiny, “Make no mistake, Tessa. I don’t like this connection any more than you. However, I despise Weapon X and all those affiliated with it even more. They’re the ones that did this to me. Not you. Now I suspect that White Cell may have a heavy hand in Weapon X. It may run much deeper than even your mind can comprehend. I don’t care if you despise me. However, that substance that I took these scars for is my only link. If it leads me to the heart of Weapon X, at least help me find it so I can rip it out.”

He sounded less like an obsessed stalker and more like a soldier. It was easy to forget that behind the techno-organic substance, he was still Jean-Phillipe. He was a soldier with an enemy in his sights. He had just as much incentive to find Weapon X as anyone else. The scar on his chest was tangible proof that there was a Weapon X element to this affair.

While Sage carefully analyzed this man’s ever word, Hank was hard at work studying the sample. He had to distract himself from the knowledge that Fantomex was hopelessly obsessed with his girlfriend. He was prepared to attack him the moment he made Sage too uncomfortable. However, the data from the sample proved more vital.

“I don’t mean to complicate this immensely awkward situation, but it appears that Fantomex’s suspicions may be correct,” said Hank from Sage’s lab, “Please note that I take no pleasure in saying that.”

“Tell me you found something, Hank,” said Sage, not taking her gaze off Fantomex.

“Indeed I have,” he said as he looked through a scanning microscope, “I can see why White Cell and Omega Red would deem this sample of MGH so valuable. It has a number of refinements we didn’t see in the MGH samples retrieved from Shaw. I suspect this sample is actually an undiluted prototype.”

“Please skip the science part of your explanation, Mr. McCoy. Explain to me why my suspicions are correct and I promise I won’t rub it in,” said Fantomex.

“Well since you asked politely,” said Hank dryly, “As you’ll recall, the final incarnation of MGH that Jubilee and the Lights took had a unique property. In addition to enhancing their powers, it created a hive mind…one that Shaw thought he could control.”

“We already proved him wrong in that regard,” said Sage, “Does this either reinforce it or complicate it?”

“A little of both,” he answered, “Based on molecular scans and mutagentic analysis, this sample appears to be a sort of psionic catalyst. It is the specific component of MGH that creates the hive mind. It does this by flooding the brain with a series of neuro-chemical proteins that establish a telepathic link that feeds into every higher brain function. This undiluted sample is so concentrated that it could probably go beyond merely influencing thoughts. It could directly control an individual’s motor functions.”

“I thought I asked politely to skip the science part,” said Fantomex dryly.

“I’m afraid it cannot be skipped,” said Hank, “I mention this link because as a result, it acts like an antenna of sorts to receive telepathic signals. Think of it as a receiver for a remote control.”

“It sounds like Weapon X in its simplest form,” said Sage, “Using simple brain chemistry to control mutants.”

“I’ll add that to my list of reasons for wanting to destroy them,” said Fantomex.

“As if we need any more,” said Deadpool as he returned from the kitchen, “You got any more hot sauce, by the way?”

“There’s more,” said Hank as he printed out a sheet of data.

“Where? I can’t eat leftover noodles without hot sauce,” said Deadpool.

“I was referring to the sample. Not Sage’s pantry,” said Hank as he grabbed the sheet of data, “This undiluted prototype is still active. These latest scans indicate that the neuro-transmitters are still receiving psychic signals from an outside source.”

“What kind of signals?” asked Sage as she looked over the print out, “Could I possibly influence it with my telepathy?”

“I don’t think so. Like a radio stuck on one particular station, this chemical cocktail is attuned to only one telepathic signal. No one, not even Charles Xavier, can influence it.”

“So it’s like a radio stuck playing country music? Oh the horror!” said Deadpool.

“I’m hope your assessment isn’t as pessimistic as it sounds,” said Fantomex impatiently.

“If you took the time to analyze data every now and then, you may find the hope you’re looking for,” said Hank, still apprehensive towards Fantomex, “Try and apply a little logic. If the prototype is still receiving signals, then that means said outside force is still broadcasting. If it’s capable of reaching this sample, then it may be strong enough to trace.”

“It may also explain how White Cell was able to betray Shaw,” added Sage, “By sending out a psychic signal that overwrote the Wyngarde sister, it effectively broke his hold on them. If it was tuned to only the chemical components in this substance, then it was probably too subtle for Cerebrum to detect.”

“That’s because neither Charles nor any other psychics knew to look for it,” Hank concluded, “Now we know there’s a signal to be found. If we’re able to trace that signal, it may lead us right to White Cell’s doorstep.”

It was as promising a lead they could hope for. Whether by skill or luck, Fantomex and Deadpool found something. The puzzle was almost complete. They knew White Cell had betrayed Sebastian Shaw and now they knew how. As a result, they had a way to find out where this madness was coming from. The only remaining question was why.

That promised to be the most difficult question to answer. White Cell didn’t have to betray Shaw. They could have exercised great power with something like MGH under their control. Yet once Shaw finished his work on the drug, they took back the substance that had such incredible promise. The presence of the psychic signal indicated that they were still active. They clearly had a plan of sorts. The only remaining step was to find them and uncover the full truth.

“Well as someone who barley passed fifth grade biology, I’m convinced,” said Deadpool as he finished his meal, “You guys say we can hack their psychic caller ID? I’m game!”

“I assume it’s not as simple as it sounds,” said Fantomex with folded arms, “If you’re correct, how do we go about tracking the signal to the source?”

“Therein lies the problem. It is as simple as it sounds,” sighed Hank as he set aside the data, “Tracking the signal is fairly simple with Cerebrum. It may take a nominal psychic several scans over the course of a few days. It could happen much sooner if Charles Xavier fully dedicated his telepathic talents to this endeavor.”

“And why wouldn’t he? Doesn’t he have a keen interest in stopping White Cell?” asked Fantomex.

“He most certainly does. Unfortunately, the Mutant Monitoring Initiative requires that we cooperate with the authorities on all our endeavors. Those same authorities have decreed that we are not to attack White Cell, nor are we to investigate MGH any further.”

“Well I’ve never been one to respect the law or the Ten Commandments for that matter, so why should that be a problem?” shrugged Deadpool.

“Not everyone has the luxury of reckless disregard for propriety, Mr. Wilson,” said Hank sternly, “The X-men are supposed to be law-abiding heroes, even when the law becomes perverse. Even if we told Charles about this, he would not be in a position to do anything. He would completely undermine the initiative he worked so hard to create, thus as much damage as White Cell in terms of mutant relations.”

“And there’s no means of working around it? Come now, with your collective brilliance it would be an insult if you couldn’t surmise a way,” scoffed Fantomex.

Sage and Hank scorned Fantomex for being so petulant. He didn’t even try to understand the implications. He expected the X-men to compromise their fragile status with the government so they could go after White Cell. With plenty of lingering animosity, Hank took the data sheet back from Sage and made his way back to the lab area.

“I never said there was no working around it. I only said it would be difficult,” said Hank, “I’m going to call Jean Grey and see if she can’t work something out with Cerebrum. With some careful coordination and a little luck, no one has to know what we’re doing.”

“Ooh, going behind the government’s back? I like! I like!” said Deadpool in a mischievous tone.

“Are you sure Jean is up to this, Hank?” asked Sage, “I thought her powers took a substantial hit when the Phoenix Force went silent.”

“She’ll have to find a way to compensate,” said Hank as he opened up a secure line to the Xavier Institute, “She’s the only one in the X-men that’s as intent on finding White Cell as we are. Moreover, she’s willing to undermine the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. Like it or not, the only way to uncover this betrayal is with a little betrayal of our own.”

“Seems more or less appropriate,” shrugged Fantomex indifferently, “Just make sure she understands the urgency of this matter. The sooner we can snuff out another relic of Weapon X, the better.”

Unknown Location – World War II

“Errrrrrrrrrr! Enough already!” groaned James Howlett through a world of agony, “I can’t…”

“No James. You can and you must,” said a cold tone, “Otherwise the pain will never stop. I shall see to it.”

The harsh words of his mentor ensured that James would not escape this torment out of mercy. He would either fight his way out or continue suffering. Such was the heart of all Team X training. As the Mentor’s prized pupil, he was singled out for the most intense training. It was the kind of training meant to strip away all reservations about killing. When consumed with so much agony, that threshold was non-existent.

The Mentor always had creative ways of honing one’s killer instinct. This was by far his most elaborate. In a large cage that had been taken from a nearby zoo, James was stripped naked and locked inside with a pack of six hungry wolves. The Mentor shot them up with rage-inducing drugs for good measure. With nothing but his bare hands, he was expected to survive.

Even with his healing, that proved difficult. The wolves had already gashed his body repeatedly. Now covered in blood with nearly his entire left arm reduced to bone, he was on the verge of collapse.

“Look at them, Wolverine,” said the Mentor from outside the cage, “These animals don’t hide from their nature. When faced with a threat, they attack without mercy. The only way to defeat them is to match their ferocity.”

“Hnn…kind of hard when I can barely stand,” said James as the wolves surrounded him in preparation for another attack.

“Only a man stands in preparation to be eaten. For this, you must cease to be a man and become the Wolverine!”

James kept panting harder, trying to block out the pain and weakness. With his legs threatening to give out, he looked around at the hungry wolves as they closed in. They were growling with feral intensity, showing their teeth as if to prepare him for more pain.

It was too much. He refused to become lunch for these rabid creatures. The man in him had already been weakened from the Mentor’s training. The only way James Howlett was going to escape this was as Wolverine.

As the growl of the wolves intensified, James let out a growl of his own. The man in him had succumbed, but the Wolverine had not. With a feral determination of his own, James draw his boney claws. Then as the first wolf pounced in for an attack, he met it in mid-air and slashed its throat without mercy. Fueled by this burning bloodlust, the bloodied form of James Howlett launched a brutal attack on the wolves.


His yell was more animal than man. In this enraged state, no pain or weakness could limit him. The wolves didn’t stand a chance. Within seconds, their blood stained the cage. Some even splattered onto the face of the Mentor, who didn’t bother wiping it off. As he watched James Howlett eviscerate each animal with unrelenting brutality, he allowed himself a rare smile.

“That’s it, my son. Embrace it. Embrace your full nature. Not just part of it,” he mused over the commotion, “As James Howlett, you are a man. As Wolverine, you are destined to be so much more.”

White Cell Facility – Present Time

‘My father…I can’t freakin’ believe it. As if my past wasn’t fucked up enough. First, I find out I have a dirt-bag son. Now I get to add daddy issues to the mix. This is the same asshole that turned James Howlett into a monster. Now he says he wants to finish what Weapon X started? If he’s anywhere nearly as fucked up as I am, that can only make shit worse.’

Wolverine’s angry thoughts fueled a raging internal struggle. It was a struggle he lost with every involuntary step he took. Standing alongside Sabretooth and X-23, he had no control over their bodies. It was like his brain had been disconnected from his limbs and they were getting signals from somewhere else.

It was discomforting, disorienting, and enraging. He could tell that Sabretooth and X-23 fought it as well. They were no closer to overcoming it than he was. Romulus and Daken certainly didn’t seem too worried about them succeeding.

With their bodies being controlled, Romulus led the three former living weapons out of their cells and into the heart of this facility. It didn’t have the same feel as a Weapon X lab or even a military base. It almost seemed like a temple of sorts with high walls, a spacious layout, and multiple levels. There was a lot of open space for large equipment to move.

Along the way they noticed various machines that looked built for hauling heavy equipment. They also noticed a number of light and heavy freight elevators. Given the lack of windows and heavy support pillars, this place was probably underground and very well-hidden. All along the ceiling there were cameras and sensors built into the elaborate lighting. It ensured that no square inch of this complex was unaccounted for.

As Romulus led them through the facility, they passed through a series of heavy doors. Wolverine noticed that each door had a distinct X-shaped symbol on it. He recognized the symbol as one that used to identify Team X. The memories came flooding back to him. This man didn’t just train him. He conditioned him to be the monster he now despised. That monster was responsible for so much of his torment.

“So it was all you, wasn’t it? You were the hidden hand jerkin’ everyone around from the beginning,” said Wolverine, “Don’t know if that makes you an asshole father or just an overall asshole.”

“You give me too much credit, son,” said Romulus flatly, “I don’t micromanage. I didn’t plan every intricate detail of your life. I merely provided the necessary influences.”

“So at what point was pumping me full of adamantium and turning me into an animal necessary?” barked Wolverine.

“And why the hell did you have to drag me into this shit?” growled Sabretooth.

“When I say necessary, that doesn’t mean it was desired,” retorted Romulus, “By now, you both should remember your training from Team X. You should know that I taught you the difference between what is necessary and what is required.”

“I remember everything, damn it! You didn’t teach us shit. You conditioned us,” roared Wolverine, “You stripped us both down to animals. You poked and prodded us in all the right ways to make us killing machines. If that’s teaching, then what the hell were we supposed to learn?”

“In order to be the perfect warrior, you must embrace your most basic instincts,” said Romulus, “Both you and Victor were always good at that. You more so than Victor, my son. You were childhood friends for a reason. He was always adept at restraining you from embracing those instincts too much.”

“The runt and I were friends?” seethed Sabretooth, “I don’t remember that shit and I’m pretty sure I don’t wanna!”

“For once, you say something that ain’t complete bullshit, Creed,” groaned Wolverine.

Romulus led them to a large door at the end of a wide corridor. He then turned around and faced the enraged former weapons. Daken stood by his side, ready to rough them up if the order came. However, Romulus didn’t resort to such brutish tactics. He had used them enough when he trained these two men decades ago. This was different. They were too childish to understand it, but they were now part of it.

“You were more than just friends. You were like brothers. That’s what made you such a formidable force,” said Romulus, “But teaching you to be the perfect warrior required more than camaraderie or mutant abilities. For you see…I needed you to be the one, my son. I needed you to be the template from which Weapon X would be built. That required you to suffer. It required many around you to suffer. Yet it was all for a purpose.”

“I’ve heard that before,” scoffed X-23, “There’s no purpose behind living weapons. It’s all greed and ego! My creators didn’t even try to hide it.”

“Well, I am not your creator, Laura Howlett. At least not directly,” said Romulus cryptically, “The men who made you and the men behind the original Weapon X may have had depraved motivations, but they were never going to succeed. I wouldn’t have allowed it if their own incompetence hadn’t done them in.”

“So then what’s the difference between you and them? How are you any less depraved?” spat X-23.

“Because my motivations are different,” said Romulus, “I’m not out for money, power, or glory. Not anymore. From the very beginning, you’ve been part of a much grander vision.”

“Grand visions have a way of putting me to sleep,” snarled Sabretooth.

“Vision or no vision, if Weapon X is part of it then its safe to assume it’s batshit crazy,” said Wolverine.

“Are you really that judgmental, Father? Honestly, good parenting must skip a generation,” teased Daken, “I almost feel sorry for your little clone here.”

“As soon as I can move again, I’m cutting your throat and ripping off that ridiculous hair of yours,” seethed X-23.

“Before you deem my vision mad, see it for yourself,” said Romulus, “I can promise that your lifetime of suffering has not been in vain. I can also promise you that more suffering will follow you and it won’t just be restricted to your lifetime.”

There was a less-than-subtle subtext to his voice. Romulus made sure his children understood it despite their anger. To add further substance to hit threat, he opened the large door behind them. It revealed the biggest room yet and inside were a great many reasons for Wolverine and X-23 to cooperate.

The massive room looked like it was one part lab and three parts labyrinth. It was shaped like a sphere, not unlike the designs of Cerebrum back at the Xavier Institute. It had only one central platform where rings of lab equipment that consisted of chemical synthesizers, medical examination tables, and bio tanks. All this equipment was arranged around a central core.

The core looked like a supercomputer, consisting of elaborate green tubes that fed into a glowing array of circuitry. It looked pretty advanced, not unlike the machinery that Sinister used. Given his role in Weapon X, it seemed fitting. Where Romulus set himself apart was the scale of the operation.

All along the surface of the sphere were hundreds of egg-shaped pods. They all resembled the bio-tanks that Sabretooth, Wolverine, and X-23 knew so well from their nightmares. Within these tanks they could see development figures. They looked like human fetuses. It was disturbing on many levels. What was almost as disturbing as the other figures occupying the lab area. To their surprise, there were none of the usual Weapon X scientists in white lab coats. Everything was being operated by the masked assassins that they had fought earlier.

As they were led towards the lab, Wolverine and X-23 saw that Romulus wasn’t restricting the scope of Weapon X to just them. Cyclops, Angel, Warpath, Emma Frost, Domino, Nightcrawler, and Hellion were each sitting on an examination table with two assassins doing a detailed medical analysis. They looked every bit as uncomfortable, indicating that they were also at Romulus’s mercy.

“Nice of you to join us, Wolverine,” greeted Warpath dryly.

“Since you haven’t killed this guy yet, I assume he shot you up with the same paralyzing gunk,” said Angel, wincing as one of the assassins stuck a needle in his wings.

“Damn,” grumbled Wolverine, “So much for one of us being competent enough to escape.”

“Speak for yourself, Logan. I don’t enjoy having my body controlled against my will. It has tone too many bad connotations,” said Emma Frost.

Both Logan and X-23 growled at this sight. The horrors of Weapon X left many scars on them. These were scars they wouldn’t wish on anyone, let alone their friends and teammates. Romulus was playing dirty by threatening that same torment on them.

“Julian…” said X-23, her gaze quickly narrowing on him, “He has nothing to do with any of this. I doubt you’ll let him go, but don’t put him through this.”

“I’m okay, Laura. I can take it,” said Hellion, hiding his discomfort as electrodes were placed on his head.

“No you can’t. You shouldn’t!” said Logan.

“I’ve endured vorse training from zhe Azazel,” added Nightcrawler, “Ve’ll be okay.”

“For the moment, at least,” said Cyclops, who looked far more agitated than the others, “Just…stay focused, X-Force.”

“You okay, Cyclops? It sounds like you’re having a panic attack,” commented Domino, who was sitting on the table next to him, “Although no one here would blame you.”

“I’m fine. I…I’ll be fine,” said Cyclops, sounding like he couldn’t breathe.

Cyclops sounded like the body-controlling drug was taking a toll on him. It was more psychological than physical. He was fighting it as hard as he could while the others tried to stay calm. As they struggled, Daken approached them with a taunting leer.

“You’ll all be fine, provided you cooperate. Although if some of you insist on being difficult, well then I’ll just have to punish you,” said Daken, eying Angel and Emma Frost in a lurid manner.

“I really hope that wasn’t supposed to sound sexual,” groaned Angel.

“Welcome to my world,” grumbled Emma.

Daken cast his sadistic gaze on each member of X-Force, licking his lips in a disturbingly lustful manner at times. It was as if he was daring them to try something foolish. He made sure that Wolverine and X-23 saw this. That way they would also be dissuaded from resisting their control. It left them both powerless and frustrated. Turning back towards Romulus, Wolverine fought ardently to contain his anger.

“You sick son-of-a…” he snarled.

“Watch the language, son. I’d rather not waste time teaching lessons on manners,” said Romulus, his voice still as stoic as ever.

“Son?” said Warpath in confusion.

“So that means this Romulus guy is…” said Domino, her words trailing off.

“Doesn’t matter who or what he is!” barked Wolverine, “I’ve seen enough of this vision of yours! It’s the same stench of Weapon X! Just different flavors!”

“What you see, smell, and hear is only the surface of something much greater,” said Romulus, “Wait until you understand before you cast judgment.”

Romulus stepped away from Wolverine, X-23, and Sabretooth for a moment. He turned his attention to the walls of this vast facility, focusing on the developing figures inside. His stoic gaze finally faltered.

He was a man beyond petty emotions, but some were inescapable. Those emotions hadn’t caught up to his son, but it was only a matter of time before they did. Most people had the luxury of dying before that moment. For him, there was no such luxury.

“Like you, I’m an old man that time for got,” he said to his son, “The mutant power that you inherited from me has kept me strong, durable, and ageless. It allowed you to survive the worst of World War II. In that sense you’re lucky. You only had to survive one war. I’ve had to survive countless.”

“Wait…how old are you? That gray hair can’t just be for show,” said Wolverine.

“I’m old enough to know that mankind’s next great war is never far,” Romulus answered, “I don’t remember the date I was born. It could be as early as four centuries ago or as many as forty. It’s all blurred together because in nearly every stage of my life, I was a fighter. I was born into a warrior clan called the Lupine. Like you, I was drawn to combat. I learned to fight, to kill, to hate, and to hunt. And I was good at it…very good. Thanks to my mutant abilities, I never feared death in battle. I healed from every wound and always ended up tanding over my enemies body while they withered away. I savored it. I craved it. I was war and war was my life.”

“Sounds like a healthy environment for an aspiring sociopath,” commented Angel, still wincing from the needles in his wings.

“It’s tragic how right you are. I eventually came to lead my clan. Together, we fought battles all over Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. But as the years went by, the combat caught up to the rest of my clan. They couldn’t heal or cease from aging. Eventually, they died out. I tried time and again to father children that would inherit my abilities. None survived. As a result, I became a wandering warrior. Even without my clan, I couldn’t turn away from war. I continued to seek it like an addict seeks a drug.”

“Maybe you should have tried heroin,” groaned Hellion, starting to feel sick from the treatments.

“So you liked to fight. Big deal! I like to fight too. What does this have to do with anything?” scoffed Sabretooth.

“It’s exactly what has led us to this moment,” said Romulus in a stronger tone, “You and my son may be comfortable with your endless fighting. I was too for centuries. I spent time in Japan. I fought in the Americas. I went anywhere there happened to be a conflict, but with each battle it started to wear on me. It happened slowly and steadily. The endless fighting kept wounding me in ways I could not heal from. It got to a point where all the conflict surrounding each battle became meaningless. It was only near the turn of the twentieth century that I came to a profound realization.”

“It couldn’t have been too painful if it led you to this,” scoffed X-23.

“Look closer, my grandchild,” said Romulus distantly, “Every conflict we’re part of is essentially the same. It doesn’t matter if it’s between nations, families, clans, religions, or mutants. It all has the same flaw. Old conflicts fuel new conflicts. Fear and uncertainty fuel aggression and hatred. It’s an endless cycle, one that no one has even tried to break. That’s where Weapon X comes in. Together, we’re going to break the cycle!”

There was an angry desperation in his tone. As he turned around and addressed the former living weapons, he looked upon them with a strange sense of pride. He was like an artist looking upon his greatest work. While they stood paralyzed, Romulus smiled for the first time. Even though they were hardened killers, it sent a chill down their spines.

“Everything you went through, from your training to the adamantium bonding process, was part of a larger plan. It started with the birth of my only son. The circumstances were…unusual. Yet they yielded the results I desired.”

“Something tells me it’s a good thing I don’t remember that shit,” muttered Wolverine, “I won’t ask about who my mother is if you spare me the details.”

“The details are not important,” Romulus went on, “The important part was protecting you so that you could fulfill your destiny. As you can imagine, I have my share of enemies. They would have gone to great lengths to kill you. That’s why I left you with the Howlett family. They were already a family with a strong military lineage. They set the stage for your admission into Team X. That’s also where you met Victor Creed.”

“You can skip this part. I don’t need to remember why I hate this little runt,” seethed Sabretooth, earning him a snarl from Wolverine.

“How could I? For it was the wealth of the Creed family that financed Team X. They sent you because you to join because you lacked discipline. You were an unmotivated brute. Your friendship with my son helped make you who you are.”

“It also screwed me over in ways that still piss me off,” roared Sabretooth, “You gonna tell me that was part of the plan too?”

“As a matter of fact, it was,” said Romulus with a slight grin, “After my son betrayed Team X, I was the one that helped you attack him in Canada. I was the one that sent him on the path that led to Weapon X.”

“So that also means I can blame you for killing Rose!” yelled Wolverine.

“It was necessary, my son. I couldn’t allow you to live a life of peace. Not yet anyways.”

“That supposed to make me understand?” he said dryly.

“Look at it this way…she still survived in the form of Mystique,” said Romulus callously, “You’ve no reason to be upset with me. Both of you and Victor Creed needed to be motivated. That way I didn’t have to pull to many strings. I just had to make sure there were people like Nathanial Essex, Abraham Cornelius, and John Wraith that were equally motivated to make Weapon X succeed. They needed only a few subtle nudges from me. That way I could focus on the other aspect of my vision.”

Romulus turned away from the former living weapons and back towards X-Force. He casually made his way along the examination tables where Cyclops, Angel, Warpath, Domino, Nightcrawler, Emma Frost, and Hellion were still undergoing extensive tests. They all looked uncomfortable and anxious. Some looked like they were in pain. Yet Romulus remained indifferent to it all.

“Turning mutants into weapons is not a novel idea. If I hadn’t come up with it, rest assured someone else would have,” Romulus stated, “That’s why I always made sure there was a balance. Between Team X and Weapon X, I founded White Cell to act as that balance. Being a simple private army with lenient recruiting policies proved lucrative. It also helped me gather data for what Weapon X would become.”

“By data I take it you mean us,” said Warpath, who now had several needles going into both arms.

“In a manner of speaking,” he replied, “As a mutant myself, I have first-hand experience of their value in a war. Whether it’s healing, wings, or firepower the innate abilities of a mutant give them the edge over all mankind. Man can build tanks, planes, and nuclear bombs. But they are mere tools. Like all tools, they have their limitations. They break down. They malfunction. They have no warrior spirit.”

“And turning them into mindless drones is better?” said Domino dryly.

“Who said they had to be mindless? The key is imparting that killer instinct that makes warriors like myself so deadly. Yet even with enhanced healing, heightened senses, and adamantium bones the end results are still limited. That’s the point of gathering data. Much of it came courtesy of Sebastian Shaw, a man who you can always rely on being too greedy for his own good.”

“It’s obscene how right that is,” muttered Emma, who didn’t appreciate all these unwelcome hands on her body.

“While Weapon X developed the tools to impart that killer instinct, Shaw developed a means of synthesizing mutant abilities,” he went on, “For him, it wasn’t enough to merely have abilities of his own. He wanted to control them.”

“And you didn’t?” scoffed Emma.

“No…not control. I wanted to channel them,” said Romulus as he loomed over Emma’s examination table, “The development of MGH was decades in the making. I understood that if I was to create the perfect living weapon, they needed the right blend of mutant abilities. That included firepower, strength, durability, telepathy, and teleportation. This way they could be anywhere and deliver any amount of force required.”

“All those powers you listed…that’s where we come in, isn’t it?” said Cyclops, still looking more distressed than anyone else in X-Force.

“I can think of few subjects more worthy,” said Romulus with another sadistic grin, “You were willing to stand and fight against your own friends. You were willing to oppose every government in the world. In addition to your powers, you have that killer instinct that every living weapon needs.”

“Should we be flattered or pissed?” groaned Angel.

“Showing a little honor certainly wouldn’t hurt,” said Daken coyly, “My grandfather went through the trouble of deceiving Sebastian Shaw and having him develop a means of artificially enhancing mutant powers, only to screw him over when he succeeded. And not in the fun sort of way either.”

“Logan, I don’t know vhat your son here says about you, but it’s creeping me out,” said Nightcrawler as Daken’s sadistic eyes passed over him.

“No need to remind me, Elf. Sonny boy here has problems that ain’t gonna be solved with discipline,” quipped Wolverine.

“Your son’s only problem is his loyalty,” said Romulus as he stood proudly by his grandson, “After I saved him from a gruesome fate in Japan, he’s become one of White Cell’s best warriors. He understands what I’m trying to do. I didn’t go through the trouble of developing Weapon X and soliciting the greed of Sebastian Shaw to develop MGH for my amusement. There was always a greater goal in mind.”

Romulus turned away from the examination tables and made his way back towards Wolverine. With Sabretooth and X-23 still by his side, Romulus loomed over the former living weapon. There was a strange mix of pride in his expression. It wasn’t just the pride of a father seeing what his son had accomplished. It was an arrogant kind of pride that assured no one would undermine his vision.

“Look back on all the experiences you had, Wolverine. All that skill, rage, and heart made you more than just a killing machine. It made you a warrior,” said Romulus.

“That supposed to make me hate you any less?” grumbled Wolverine.

“It’s supposed to provide perspective that I hope to impart on the next and final generation of warriors,” said Romulus as he gestured over to the walls, “Look at these wondrous specimens before you. The raw materials from which they are crafted comes directly from you. It’s not unlike what I had Sebastian Shaw attempt with the Weapon X-23 program. Why go through the trouble of training many warriors when you can just clone your best?”

“So you were behind that program too?” spat X-23.

“Don’t tell me you’re surprised, little runt,” scoffed Sabretooth.

“It was a necessary part of the process. Granted, it took 23 tries, but the fruits of that program are what led to this magnificent complex,” said Romulus, “Your program helped me earn Shaw’s trust when he was still an aspiring deviant, Miss Howlett. Even though he failed to control you, he succeeded in developing the cloning process that I intend to use for this unprecedented moment in the history of war.”

“What’s so unprecedented about it?” scoffed X-23, “If you’re just making more clones, you’re still no better than Shaw.”

“There are easier ways for a father to flatter his son, bub,” added Wolverine.

“You’re forgetting one important difference. Unlike Sebastian Shaw, I am not driven by greed or profit,” Romulus pointed out, “For Nathanial Essex, making the ultimate living weapon was a glorified science experiment. For Abraham Cornelius, it was an act of pure ego. For John Wraith, it was purely strategic. For me, however, it was something much greater. For you see, once someone has the ultimate weapon, then war as we know it becomes obsolete. That endless cycle of conflict has no choice but to end.”

Romulus stepped back from the former living weapons and approached the elaborate core at the center of the vast chamber. The core appeared to be processing a great deal of data. It looked like some of that data was coming from the examinations being done on X-Force. Some of it was probably from Weapon X. Between the core and Romulus, everything that had influenced the course of their lives was now in a tangible form.

“Take everything that Weapon X ever developed. Take everything Sebastian Shaw developed with X-23 and MGH. Take all the mutant abilities gathered from decades of White Cell operatives. Put them on a template derived from my own son and the result is both the ultimate warrior and the ultimate weapon. These humble assassins that you’ve encountered are mere prototypes. They helped demonstrate the basic potential that my son’s template could create. Combined with the enhanced control offered by MGH, the final process can begin!”

“What process? Is this the same process my brother tried to stop?” asked Warpath, still resisting as the masked assassins stuck him with more IV fluids.

“John Proudstar never stood a chance at stopping me. No one did,” said Romulus confidently, “Most of White Cell doesn’t know about this place. I’m just the faceless vision behind it. With that vision, I will take White Cell’s mission to a new level. With all these materials, I will create not just one ultimate warrior. I will create an entire army of them! Armed with mutant abilities and the killer instinct of my son, they will traverse every corner of the world. They will be swift, deadly, and efficient. There will be no need for bombs, bullets, or collateral damage. They will destroy any threat and win any battle with absolutely loyalty.”

“So what will that make you? The ultimate warlord?” said Wolverine dryly.

“No…more like the ultimate peace-keeper,” said Romulus.

From the core, Romulus entered a few commands on the control panel. Several pods from the wall extended outward, reaching the central platform. Once they were close enough, the greenish bubble that encased the developing figures inside opened. It revealed a fetus that looked like a newborn infant. Wolverine had to hold back his disgust because he could see the small boney claws extending out of their little hands. Due to his paralysis, he and X-23 watched as a series of IV extended out from the walls and injected themselves into these infant figures.

“You want to understand my vision? You need only understand this,” said Romulus as Daken joined him at the core, “I’m a tired old man who has seen one too many wars. The war that mutants are trying to prevent is inevitable and I have no desire to see that war. The only way to stop it is to strip both man and mutant of their ability to harm one another.”

“How the hell are an army of Wolverine clones supposed to do that?” scoffed Sabretooth.

“On his own, they can’t. But armed with the powers procured from Shaw and those donated by your friends in X-Force, this new generation of Weapon X warriors will be unstoppable. Under my command, I will send these warriors to every corner of the planet. With their power, they’ll destroy every weapon that’s more lethal than a butter knife. Every tank, plane, fighter jet, bomb, and gun will be eliminated. Every military will be reduced to scrap. Any human or mutant that attempts to wage war on one another will be slain, thus forcing every being on this planet to set aside such needless conflict. With no wars and a vigilant eye watching over the world there can finally be peace.”

“Only on your terms!” Cyclops shouted out, “If you’re the gate-keeper of these weapons, then it’s not true peace. It’s just your peace.”

“I fail to see the problem with that,” scoffed Daken.

“That’s because there is no problem,” asserted Romulus, “Mankind has had thousands of years to learn peace. They’ve failed at every turn. The only way for peace to reign at this point is for someone to impose it.”

“And who are you to do the imposing?” asked X-23, “Just because you’re old, tired, and jaded?”

“Because I have more incentive than anyone to avoid war,” said Romulus, “None of you can possibly understand. You’re still too caught up in your own personal vendettas to see the big picture. Once everything is in place, you’ll come to accept it.”

Romulus sounded so certain that he was right. His vision was so grand, yet so perverse. He took his aversion to war to an outrageous extreme. Wolverine, X-23, and the rest of X-Force didn’t need to strain their imagination to see the implications.

On some levels, his intent was good. He not only wanted to end all war in one single swipe. He wanted to impose a strict peace that could not be broken. Taking in everything he had just told them about Weapon X and MGH, they could safely say that he had the tools to do this. If all these developing fetuses turned into obedient Weapon X warriors armed with a wide range of mutant powers, then no one would be able to stop Romulus.

The fate of all conflicts would rest in the hands of one man. That was a lot of power to be placed in the hands of one man, let alone Wolverine’s father. Romulus himself admitted he had been jaded by lifetimes of war. Even if he believed he was doing the right thing, he was still a man of very twisted ambition. He had to be stopped.

“Okay, I’ll be the one to say it. A world with no war and no fighting sounds like a pretty sweet deal,” said Hellion, sounding sick from his examination.

“Does this mean you’ll stop fighting the drug? You’ll save yourself a lot of needless frustration,” said Daken.

“You didn’t let me finish,” said Hellion, trying to push through the discomfort, “There’s just one problem that I’m sure everyone else here is smart enough to see. If you’re the guy with the ultimate weapon and you’re using that weapon to just force everybody into line…well, that’s not really peace.”

“So you do pay attention in class,” commented Emma.

“You don’t need school to figure out this vision is bullshit,” said Domino.

“You had best watch your tone,” threatened Daken, drawing his claws in a threatening manner, “None of you are in a position to criticize.”

“On zhe contrary. Ve’re zhe ones being held against our vill so ve’re in a much better position zhan you zhink,” quipped Nightcrawler, “Take it from someone who knows a little about hellfire and brimstone. If people are good just because some all-powerful threat vill kill them if they slip up, then zhey’re not really good.”

“If you’re as old as you say you are, you should be old enough to know better,” said Cyclops, who was sicker than Hellion at this point, “A very smart man named Charles Xavier once told me that peace can’t be imposed. It’s difficult to attain for a reason. That’s what makes it meaningful.”

Romulus’s stoic gaze didn’t falter. Those remarks did nothing to dissuade him. If anything, he was disappointed. Such a reaction wasn’t unexpected. None of these credulous souls had experienced what he experienced. The only way they could fully grasp his vision was to be part of it.

“I don’t usually agree with Summers so you know this is a big freakin’ deal,” said Wolverine as he stared down his father, “This ain’t the way to work out your issues, pops. Take it from me, lashing out at the world like this ain’t gonna end well.”

“I’m sorry, my son. But within the context of our vast lifetimes, you’re still a child,” said Romulus as he stood before his son once more, “You don’t yet know what’s good for humanity. No one does.”

“That includes you too,” quipped X-23.

“And who are you to make that judgment?” scoffed Daken as he pointed his claws at X-23.

“Don’t bother being angry with her, my grandchild. She is but an infant,” said Romulus as he waved Daken down, “I won’t argue that I’m more qualified than any other being on this planet to make such a call. I’ll just say that I’ve had centuries to put myself in a position to do so. It would be selfish of me not to utilize it.”

“As selfish as making yourself an army of Weapon X’s that only you can control?” questioned Wolverine.

“It’s all a matter of context and vision. I don’t care if you fail to see that now, my son. One day, I promise you’ll appreciate it.”

“Once this drug wears off, I’ll give you something to appreciate old man,” growled Sabretooth angrily.

“Which is exactly why we’ll make sure you get a double dose,” said Daken, taunting Sabretooth by pointing his claws at his face.

“As will all of you,” said Romulus, not waving Daken down this time, “In order to perfect my Weapon X warriors, my son and X-Force must remain cooperative. Over the course of the next few days, my associates will extract and synthesize your abilities with the core templates I’ve already created.”

“Days? Now I’m agreeing with Sabretooth as well,” said Angel, sickened by the notion of being controlled like this for days on end.

“Do not worry. You’ll receive reasonable treatment. I’m not a monster. Not unless you provoke me,” said Romulus with a very unsubtle undertone, “Your warrior skills and mutant abilities will provide Weapon X with the last necessary elements for a moment hundreds of years in the making. Once my new army of warriors is completed, you shall all bear witness to the end of all war.”

Xavier Institute – Cerebrum Chamber

Jean Grey had never been this hesitant before. She knew what she had to do and she knew without a doubt that it was right. Hank and Sage found exactly what they needed. Fantomex and Deadpool had stumbled upon what might be their best link to White Cell. All she had to do was trace the psionic signal that was controlling the sample that Sage had in District X. It sounded so simple. Yet there were certain factors she couldn’t ignore.

For nearly five minutes, Jean stood at the control panel for Cerebrum arguing with herself. She understood the urgency of locating White Cell and uncovering their secrets. She also understood that doing so flew in the face of the MSA’s direct orders.

She wasn’t even supposed to be here. She was supposed to be coordinating with Betsy, Piotr, Ororo, Rogue, Remy, and Captain Freeman on exposing the rest of Shaw’s operations. She was obligated under the Mutant Monitoring Initiative to stick to the official mission. If she moved forward with this, then she could undermine everything they had worked for.

‘What are you waiting for, Jean? Just go through with it already! Hank and Sage already gave you the data. Just put the helmet on, run the program they gave you, and do what you need to do.’

Even if she decided to defy the Professor, there was no guarantee she could even trace the signal. With the Phoenix Force still dormant, it might take days for her to successfully track it. On a logistical and personal level, she was at a loss. She was so caught up in this internal struggle that she didn’t sense Professor Xavier enter the Cerebrum chamber.

“Trying to squeeze in a little overtime, Jean?” he greeted as he approached.

“Professor!” gasped Jean, nearly jumping out of her skin as she turned around, “I uh…I thought you were in a meeting with General Grimshaw.”

“It ended early. Besides, there wasn’t much to talk about for once. They still refuse to address my concerns,” he said in a morose tone.

“Oh? Like what?” asked Jean, trying to go along with the conversation.

“You’re a skilled psychic, Jean. You know what those concerns are. I’m also a skilled psychic last I checked. I know what yours are as well.”

A wave of anxiety fell over the young psychic. She could tell from the look in his eyes that he knew what she was up to. He might not have known the details, but he was smart enough to know the intent. He could just as easily find out from a stray thought so she instinctively closed her mind off, which might as well have been another clue.

“You don’t need to guard your thoughts, Jean. I’ve already walled off mine. You couldn’t leak any thoughts to me if you injected them into my skull with a syringe,” he told her.

“I…don’t know what you’re talking about, sir,” said Jean, still playing ignorance even if it was making her look like a fool.

“Then I’ll change the subject,” Xavier said, “I know that you’ve been quite vocal about the Shaw case. Even some of your fellow X-men don’t fully agree with you. But I understand your argument. You’re actually right on many levels. Ignoring the possible White Cell connection could prove detrimental. Even General Grimshaw agrees that the betrayal of Sebastian Shaw was likely a sign that someone within the organization is making a move.”

“Yet he still won’t do anything about it,” stated Jean, “You’ve tried to convince him, but he’s not budging.”

“I’ve tried to convince everybody at or above his pay grade to probe deeper into White Cell. I’ve yet to make any meaningful progress. I doubt I will in time to make much of a difference. So I’ve decided to set the issue aside and let other forces handle it.”

“Were those your exact words to Grimshaw?” she asked him.

“More or less,” he affirmed, “I intend to keep them as well. I plan on refocusing my efforts on more pertinent matters while rehabbing from my stab wound. As for White Cell, I’m confident those other forces I referred to will do the right thing. I may not be able to help them, but I can offer them my unspoken support.”

Jean’s anxiety turned to suspicion. There was a distinct subtext to Professor Xavier’s tone. If he knew what she was up to, he was being exceedingly coy about it. His expression was purposefully cryptic. It was like he was trying to tell her something with neither words nor thoughts.

“I’m…sure they’re appreciative, sir,” said Jean, choosing her words carefully, “Who or what do you think these other forces entail?”

“The kind that know when to do the right thing…even when seemingly insurmountable obstacles stand in their way,” he replied with equal care, “Especially when they feel they have information worth acting on.”

“Well even if hypothetically speaking they had such information, they would have quite a time covering their tracks,” she said, “You said it yourself, sir. You’re a powerful psychic that has to report to the MSA on a daily basis.”

“And I’ll continue to do so,” Xavier said with an exasperated sigh, “But even a powerful mind like mine tends to forget things every now and then. In addition, the medications they gave me for my wound may or may not have certain side-effects. I certainly couldn’t be held responsible if I was simply unaware of such activity.”

At that point that Jean pieced it together. The Professor couldn’t say it overtly. He couldn’t even think it. However, it was still implied in both his words and his gestures. Jean nodded lightly to let him know she understood. Assured of this, Xavier smiled and turned around.

“I’ll let you continue working on some upgrades for Cerebrum, Jean,” said Xavier, maintaining a cryptic tone, “I’ve cleared a few channels and sent out a maintenance notice to the MSA.”

“I appreciate that, sir,” said Jean with a smile, “I should warn you though…these upgrades may take a few days.”

“I understand. Take all the time you need,” he assured her, “If you or anyone else in the team needs to take some off time, go right ahead. I have plenty to keep me occupied in the meantime.”

The Professor didn’t look back as he exited the chamber, almost as if to avoid seeing anything that he would have to lie about later on. Jean let out a sigh of relief. Professor Xavier might have been a man of principle, but he was still willing to bend the rules when necessary. With his unsaid understanding, Jean’s decision became clear. Taking another deep breath, she grabbed the Cerebrum helmet and put it on in anticipation of a very taxing psychic search.

‘Guess that takes care of that. You have no more excuses now, Jean. For all you know Scott, Logan, and the rest of X-Force are already hot on White Cell’s trail. Knowing those two, they’ve already gotten themselves into trouble! Phoenix Force or no Phoenix Force, you need to step up and track that signal!’

Up next: Crimes Against Inhumanity Part 2

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