Written by Darkstorm5000
Disclaimer: X-Men Evolution, the X-Men, and other related characters in their various incarnations are the property of Marvel Entertainment Group and Film Roman Productions, are used without permission and not for profit.
This was the repetitive sound that awakened the residents of the Xavier Institute in Bayville, New York, as the bright flashing of red cylindrical lights and the loud blaring of numerous alarm sirens in the hallways outside of their bedrooms, which were also located throughout other areas this spacious mansion, alerted them to a breach in the estate's outer security perimeter.
"X-Men, X-Men, I sense multiple thought patterns quickly approaching us. Somehow, they are able to shroud their thoughts from my mental probing, preventing me from ascertaining their identities or even their true intent for coming here. I want the full team to suit up and assemble downstairs, and prepare yourselves for a possible encounter with our late-night visitors'."
These were the concise instructions delivered from Professor Charles Xavier, as he sat up in his bed and spoke through a telepathic link that he maintained with all of his X-Men, the super powered defense-force whom he had founded and trained to protect the world against those unlike-minded mutants that sought to conquer and subjugate the rest of humanity. And it was thanks to those hours upon hours of relentless training, which he had them endure, that his X-Men automatically knew from the apprehensive tone of the Professor's message to be prepared for trouble, just as the whir of more than one helicopter could be heard off in the distance. A distance, which was rapidly diminishing between them.
"Do you think it's SHIELD?" Lorna Dane, the magnetically-inclined Polaris was the first to ask, as she was also one of the first to arrive in the downstairs foyer near the front door a few minutes later. Polaris was dressed in her lavender and black cloth/spandex X-uniform. She was still fiddling with the upper-band of the semi-hood that was attached to her outfit, as she came to a halt by the bottom of the staircase and was trying to securely fasten it around her forehead and underneath her shoulder length lime-green hair.
"I don't know, but I guess it's a pretty good possibility." Alex Summers, the cosmically-charged younger brother of Scott Summers who was code-named Havok replied, as he came downstairs next behind Polaris wearing a black and silver uniform with power-balancing gauntlets on both hands and forearms, before the two teens then went over to take a look outside of one of the front windows.
"Well, whoever it is, if they came lookin' for a fight, then they came to the right place!" Roberto da Costa, the solar-powered Sunspot confidently added to the conversation, as he appeared down in the foyer in his carefully, self-designed red and dark-blue uniform.
"What if it's that new girl who's supposed to be enrolling here? Maybe she's so dangerous that she scores a military escort everywhere she has to go? Which, in a way, would be kinda cool. Um, I guess." Bobby Drake, the consummate jokester also known as Iceman now said, as he came down already iced-up and tried to lighten the mood with what was intended to be an attempt at humorously alleviating this tense situation, but to no avail.
"Nah, it ain't her. Storm and Beast won't be back from Jersey with her 'til at least sometime tomorrow." Logan, who probably had more aliases than most people had fingers (at least non-mutants anyways), said to these four teens at the bottom of the stairs.
But this ruggedly-cool gentleman, who generally went by the most appropriate moniker of Wolverine, came down in his black X-uniform with black gloves and minor, yellow-striping around the shoulders. And like the Professor, Wolverine made his brief remark in a tone that relayed an expectation of a confrontation outside.
Wolverine was quickly followed down the lengthy cascading steps by Cannonball, Magma, Berserker, Wolfsbane, and Multiple each in their distinctively-tailored X-Uniforms, and who along with the aforementioned Havok, Polaris, Iceman, and Sunspot, all made up the Institute's current roster of student X-Men. They had now taken their place as the Institute's main strike-force, replacing the alumni who had graduated from the Institute over the last couple of years, yet who themselves were always willing and available to come back to Bayville to help out at a moment's notice. In addition, the current crop of new recruits had further swelled the Institutes' numbers, and these junior-level students were now all currently listening curiously from the area right around the top of the stairs. They were wondering what was going on down there, having heard the roar of helicopter blades that continually grew ever louder right above the mansion.
"Okay kids, c'mon and give me a little back-up." Wolverine looked around and said to the other X-Men, as he motioned for them to follow behind.
Wolverine was the first to go forward and open the mansion's huge wooden front-door, ready to confront whomever it was that had come calling on them in the middle of the night. But, as the bright flood-lights shining down from the three slowly descending CH-47 Chinook helicopters met him, Wolverine was unaware that he was about to be greeted by a part of his past that had actually come looking for him, specifically.
After jumping off of the concrete stoop outside, Wolverine made a mad-dash towards the three helicopters that had just landed on the expansive front lawn of the Institute. Meanwhile, the mansion's formidable defenses had been triggered by these unidentified visitors, and were now trained on the trio of crafts currently going through disembarking procedures. But, since the helicopters and those mysterious individuals inside of them had yet to show any aggressive actions towards the Institute or its residents, the pulse weapons that had emerged from the ground and out of a large, decorative water fountain with an angel on top, had also remained inert as well.
"Alright, Bub! Whoever the hell you are, you're trespassin' on private property and I'm fixin' to forcibly remove ya!" Wolverine shouted, as his composed demeanor instantly disappeared. It was replaced by a temper that instantly amped itself up, which was also accompanied by claws forged of pure-adamantium popping out from each of his hands, as Wolverine was now in a full-sprint across the estate's vast landscaping.
"Now, is that any way to welcome an old friend, Lieutenant Logan?" A voice calmly replied, as the rear exit-ramp of the front-center helicopter lowered and out came a shadowed figure, who was surrounded by other men that were all armed with large semi-automatic rifles.
"An old friend?" Wolverine responded, as his sprint came to an immediate halt a few yards from the middle chopper, both at hearing his name spoken and at the fact that the voice speaking to him was very familiar for some reason.
"Yes." The man answered, as he came out into the open where Wolverine could get a good look at him, "Or, don't you remember?"
This man, who appeared to be in his mid-to-late fifties, had graying hair and a gray beard and was sporting a pair of thin silver-rimmed spectacles. He was wearing a military uniform consisting of white, black, light and dark-gray camouflaged fatigues underneath a solid black flak jacket, which the other armed soldiers accompanying him were also wearing.
"I remember you just fine, Stryker." Wolverine replied, as he held his hands down by his sides and retracted his claws back into their moorings, feeling somewhat shocked to be addressing this blast from out of his past.
To be addressing a man, who had come here with an unequivocal purpose, Colonel William Stryker.
"My only question is why my former C.O. (Commanding Officer) decided to show up in the middle of the night and turn our front-yard into a whirly-bird parkin' lot?" Logan continued, as he further questioned Stryker, while the remaining members of the special, black-ops squadron under Stryker's full command came out of the two other helicopters and made their presence known.
Meanwhile, Logan himself was also backed up by a rather formidable force to be reckoned with. The other X-Men had finally caught up to him after hurrying behind him on foot, by air, and in a couple of instances, via lava-wave and an ice-slide, and they were now all standing just a few feet behind Logan.
"I'll be as brief and as blunt as I can, Wolverine. I need your help." Stryker told Logan, as he came over and stood in front of Logan, taking his glasses off to wipe the lenses with a plain white handkerchief from his pocket.
"Well, in case you don't remember 'Rev', I resigned from Team-X. And, that means I don't go runnin' around on your say-so anymore." Logan replied, with a clear amount of agitation in his tone.
"I think that I might be able to persuade you to change your mind." Stryker replied, with a slight smile on his face.
"You can think whatever the hell you want." Logan said, as he shook his head slightly and explicitly made known his indifference on the entire matter.
And with that, Logan simply turned his back on Colonel Stryker and started walking back in the direction towards the Institute and where the other X-men were standing. That is, until he heard the 'click-clack' sound of Stryker's men loading the chambers of their weapons.
"Stryker, if you don't tell your boys to back off and put those pea-shooters away reeeaal quick, a whole lotta somebody's over there are gonna end up gettin' hurt. Bad." Logan both warned and threatened him, as he stopped and stood with his back still turned to these military men.
"I don't believe things will have to get to that point." Stryker responded, as he slowly turned around to speak to all of his men gathered around and behind him, "Sergeant Lyman, have everyone stand down. That's an order."
Just then another figure, who had remained on board the helicopter that Colonel Stryker had arrived on, now came down the exit ramp and at last made his presence known. A figure, who was just as much a part of Logan's past as Stryker was.
"I've never known you to be a man who runs from a fight, or walks away from a friend in need, Herr Logan."
Without having to see him, Logan right away knew who it was now talking to him, as he spun back around to once again face Stryker and his men.
"Maverick." Logan made his single-word statement, as he now visually confirmed the identity of the voice that had called out to him, and that it belonged to a long-time acquaintance of his named Christopher North.
"Maverick? Stryker? What, do Wolverine and his friends like to get together and pretend to be in old Tom Cruise movies or somethin'?" Bobby turned to his right and sarcastically said to Ray Crisp, his teammate and the mutant electrical powerhouse with a lightning-like temperament known as Berseker, as the two began to laugh in a low-roar at Bobby's comment about Logan and those other adults over beside him.
"No, we lived 'em. And you might wanna lay off the Top Gun references yourself, 'Iceman'." Logan smirked and replied, as he let Bobby know that an individual gifted with enhanced hearing could easily to hear his comments, whispered as they may have been.
"Let me guess, you're this friend in need?" Logan now scoffingly remarked, as he turned his attention from Ray and Bobby, and walked back in the direction towards the helicopters, Stryker, and Maverick.
"Actually, no. Like you, I've also been asked to make a temporary re-enlistment. It is Wraith who needs our help, he has been captured by an old enemy of ours." Maverick told Logan, as he stood before him wearing a unique form of bronze-colored, lightweight armor-plating.
This body armor was strategically placed over a silver Kevlar-mesh bodysuit that covered Maverick's entire body. In addition, he also had on a bronze and black-trimmed mask covering the majority of his face, which was forged from the same metallic alloy as his armor-plating, along with a banana-clipped MP5 submachine gun that he was toting in his right hand.
"So, who's got him? That maniac, Omega Red?" Logan inquired, as some of those memories regarding Omega Red and Team-X's final mission to stop him had eventually returned, not too long after he had escaped from his temporary imprisonment aboard HYDRA's, now destroyed, flying mothership.
"No, that Russian monster is still in SHIELD custody." Stryker reaffirmed for Logan, as he then came over to the two men, before speaking again, "Tell me Logan, do the names Dark Wind or Donald Pierce ring any bells for you?"
But, Logan's first response wasn't with words.
Instead, it was a simple blank stare, as new memories that had long been blocked and hidden away from him deep within the recesses of his mind suddenly came back to Logan, transporting his sub-conscious back to both a time and a place that were far away from the here and now…
………………………………………………………………………(Flashback) Yokohama, Japan- more than 20 years ago…
Here roughly twenty miles from Tokyo sits Yokohama, one of Japan's busiest and largest port cities on Tokyo Bay. It was the perfect entry point for a small group individuals' wishing to come into the country unnoticed, having done so by way of a stealthy, ultra-fast, and ultra-light speed boat the night before. A speedboat, which was easily capable of slipping past the Japanese Coast Guard's harbor patrol, who themselves were already overwhelmed with a multitude of other illegal trafficking distractions.
And, it was also here that this same clandestine group of men, who had made it their standard operating practice to generally remain out of sight, were now in a secret sub-level that had been built beneath an abandoned warehouse near the port city's numerous docks'. They were currently gathering down there together for a most important mission briefing, having had spent most of this day waiting for their orders.
"So, what's the good word?"
These were the first words spoken by John Wraith, code-named Kestrel, as he came and sat down at a table in the mission-prep room of this rather sizable underground safe-house, which was complete with full living quarters and other amenities. It was one of many dead-drops worldwide that had been secretly set up by the CIA, for use by its operatives who were continuously moving in and out of foreign countries on assignments for them.
"The same as always. We have a minute to pray and a second to die, so let's make the most of the time in between, gentlemen." Colonel Stryker replied, as this man with jet-black hair that was just beginning to show signs of graying stood at the front of the room. While Stryker addressed one of the agents under his command, Wraith himself was joined at the table by their surreptitious Team-X associates.
Maverick, Wolverine, and Sabretooth each came and took their seats around the table, while Stryker dimmed the room as a projection screen lowered behind him.
"I've just got off the line with Barrington, and we've gotten our new assignment parameters. Here's our target." Colonel Stryker said, as the first image appeared on the screen, "His name is Professor Kenji Oyama, an eccentric scientist who likes to call himself Lord Dark Wind."
"So, what's this joker's story?" Logan asked, as he pulled a cigar from the shoulder-pocket of the black and gold special-ops service uniform that he, along with his teammates, was wearing.
While Creed gave Logan a light from a lighter, which he himself had used to light the cigar that he was also currently smoking, all four men sat and viewed a number of surveillance photos taken of Dark Wind and of his family's residence, which scrolled by before them on the film-projector.
"He's one our scientific liaisons' and an expert in both the fields of biology and physiology, one who's made a number of revolutionary discoveries and advances in understanding the human genetic potential." Stryker revealed, as the image of another man flashed on the projection screen next, "The man now shown here beside him is his assistant Donald Pierce. He's an American engineering whiz fresh out of college, who's also light-years ahead of the competition when it comes to robotics and cybernetics. His official cover-story is that he came over here to Japan to help head up Oyama Heavy Industries' developmental department. In truth, we sent him to provide assistance to Dark Wind on a top-secret project that they've been working on for us. But, there's been intel coming across the wire that HYDRA's been tipped-off and are taking a decided interest in their talents."
"HYDRA? Aren't they more in the jurisdiction of SHIELD?" North now asked, as this man with medium-brown hair also visually studied the photos on the screen, which included layouts of a private island off the coast of Japan that Dark Wind owned and resided on.
"Normally, I would agree with you. Hell, I'd probably even go so far as to contact Fury myself, and let that old glory-hound send his boys' in on this." Stryker abrasively replied, which drew a noticeable look from Logan, "But, since the majority of the research that Oyama's been doing on the side has been secretly funded by us, Canada, and Japan, and without any official green-lights here or back home, it means this is a matter that has to remain off the books. And because a credible threat is being posed to an essentially vital national interest, our orders from upstairs are to find out if his loyalties have been compromised, and if so, to make certain that none of what they've been doing ends up in the wrong hands. That means simply, we go in and we take care of this, gentlemen."
"Hah, that's fine by me!" Creed now chimed in, as he blew a small puff of cigar smoke that came out of his mouth and through his nostrils, "You know how I'm all for goin' in 'n takin' care o' things."
Creed then reached for a gun-holster, which was attached to a shoulder-strapped harness that wrapped around the left side of his upper-torso. A wicked smile then came across his face, as Creed loaded a fresh magazine-clip into the monstrously huge .50 caliber semi-automatic handgun that he was now firmly holding up in his grasp.
And all of Creed's teammates followed his lead, loading their rifles and weapons and beginning to prep their other assorted mission gear, all in anticipation of going after their target objective…
"…Wind or Donald Pierce ring any bells for you?"
After a few moments of silent thought, Logan finally brought himself back out of his brief memory flashback.
"Yeah, I remember 'em." Logan finally replied to Stryker's question, as the X-Men standing behind him were curiously confused by his conversation with these two strangers, "But, all that was said 'n done years ago."
"There are some things that are never over, especially where we're concerned. You, Logan, should know that better than anyone." Stryker poignantly stated to Logan.
"Then…let's go finish it." Logan now said to Stryker, albeit unenthusiastically, as he, Maverick, Stryker & his men, all instantly turned and started off towards the helicopters that had landed just minutes ago on the Institute's lawn.
But, not before Logan once again stopped, when a voice from behind called out to him.
"Mr. Logan, don't you want us to come with you? We can help you fight these Dark Wind and Pierce individuals." Was the offer posed to Logan by Amara Aquilla, the magnanimous lava-inducing mutant known as Magma, as she took a few steps away from her teammates' and over towards her mentor.
Having depowered from her fire-form moments ago, Amara's dark cinnamon eyes and hair were now once again visible, along with the coral-orange and white X-uniform trimmed in yellow that she had on.
"You kids' don't need to be gettin' yourselves mixed up in this. Tell the Prof I'll be back, soon enough." Logan curtly responded, as he turned and looked right into Amara's anxious brown-eyes, before he then spun back around to continue his journey across the lawn over towards the three choppers, which he and the other soldiers all promptly boarded.
But, Amara especially thought that something wasn't quite right with this situation. She, like the other X-Men, were very worried about why Logan was suddenly making a complete 180 to leave with this Stryker person, wondering if he was somehow being coerced into going against his will? And even though they all knew that if anyone in the world was capable of taking care of himself that it was Mr. Logan, they were still nonetheless perplexed and troubled over who, or what, it was from his past that he now felt compelled to go off and face?
And just like that, the helicopters' had lifted off and were all gone just as quickly as they had arrived, leaving behind a small band of anxious students on the grounds of the Institute. But whatever was going on, Logan had just made it more than painfully obvious to his young charges that it was something he certainly didn't want to include them in.
Following a fairly long and very quiet helicopter ride, the three airborne craft that had departed from Bayville a few hours ago were now touching down in a secluded and remote forest-covered mountain range. The three helicopters proceeded to land on a wide, circular heli-pad that had been built on one of the larger mountains, located on a fairly flat area that sat halfway up to its summit.
It was then that Logan, Maverick, Stryker, and Stryker's other soldiers all disembarked from the choppers. As soon as they were all clear of the brightly-lit landing zone the entire heli-pad, without any warning prior warning, lowered itself down into a holding bay that had been bored out of the mountain and constructed deep inside of it. Another intricate, mechanized system then emerged from the area around the gaping hole where the heli-pad had previously been, and these robotic gears immediately went to work in camouflaging the almost abyssal shaft that had been left in the ground.
In just a few moments, a fairly sizable man-made mound had been positioned over the opening. And to look at it now, one would be hard-pressed to believe that this small geological formation hadn't been there the entire time.
"So, how'd you manage to get Uncle Sam to spring for a super secret set-up like this anyways?" Logan now inquired, with these being the first words he had spoken aloud to anyone since they had left Bayville, as he, Stryker, Maverick, and the other men continued moving off into an even more isolated area in these densely-timbered woodlands. Logan's remark had been an observation about the amount of funding that, from the looks of it, had apparently been put into constructing this base inside of an entire mountain.
"This installation has been here for years, decades to be more accurate. It's undergone a number of upgrades and renovations in that time, but it's existence remains classified, meaning it's only on a need to know basis." Stryker gruffly replied, as they all hiked up a short trail in this post-midnight darkness, heading towards one section of the mountain's face, "And considering the work that we did together, and the fact that you're a charter member of the world-famous X-Men now, I would expect you to understand better than anyone the necessity of keeping certain…operations highly confidential."
And, as they continued their short trek towards mountain's face, the final touches were now made to the artificial rock mound being laid out to cover the heli-pad's entrance. It was a concealment ploy meant to fool any passer-bys who happened to accidentally stumble into the area, but for some reason Logan turned to look back once more at this small hilltop.
It was then that he saw a battered and dilapidated signpost emerge from within the mound, stationed off to its right side. Logan was just able to make out what was etched onto the sign's unvarnished wooden background, his keen eyesight revealing the wood-carved lettering to him despite the now near darkness of where it had been posted-
"Roanoke- 7 miles"
Instinctively, Logan then turned to his right and visually scanned the far-off direction in which an arrow on the sizable sign was pointing out towards. But, Logan thought to himself that whatever territory they currently were in, it sure didn't feel like it was anywhere close to being in Virginia.
And just as suddenly, Logan started to unexpectedly pick up bad vibes from these new surroundings, an unnerving sensation that he was at a complete loss in explaining as to why he was feeling. But, his unexplainable feelings of apprehensiveness would turn out to be more justified than he initially thought, as his hyper-senses now detected a new presence among them, one who was very familiar to Logan.
And one, who was not at all welcome in his opinion.
As soon as the group reached the mountain wall in front of them, a fairly sizable portion of the mountain-side opened up before their very eyes and unveiled a huge set of solid-steel, double doors behind it. And as the doors slid open, a snarling voice could be heard from the other side greeting their arrival.
"Hiya, runt. Now that the old team's all back together again, we can go kick this little war party into high-gear."
These were the words that had just been spoken by Victor Creed, the feral and cunning mutant also known as Sabretooth, who was standing right at the entrance into the mountain base. And as Sabretooth stood there in his brown and khaki bodysuit, with matching arm-gear and boots and a sleeveless brown duster over his outfit, he was surrounded on all sides by another squad of Stryker's own men who had been left behind at the base, and who were also carrying heavy-caliber armaments in their hands.
Despite the innocently sarcastic tone with which Sabretooth made his comment, on his face was a scowl that belied any good-humored intentions as he looked right in Logan's direction. And, it was an expression that was returned in kind with a scornful frown now plastered across Wolverine's face.
"What the hell's that sonofabitch doin' here!" Wolverine yelled in response, after receiving visual confirmation of what his other senses had been warning him of, right before the doors slid open.
"I brought him here, for the same reason I brought you and Maverick here." Stryker unabashedly and without hesitation replied from behind to Logan, "We all have extensive experience in working with one another, which will be a plus considering the operation that we're about to undertake, and who we're going up against."
"Ain't no way I'm workin' with this killer again!" Logan shouted, as he focused his attention in even more on Sabretooth, "That one exception I made with you in Tibet was just that, a one-time exception!"
"Well, haven't we gotten downright self-righteous in our old age?" Creed mockingly responded, as he looked at Logan with enough ire that it could have burnt a hole right through him, "You may've bought into that pansy, pacifist shit Xavier keeps spewin', but you ain't no better than me or any o' the rest of us! Don't forget, you went on all those jobs too, and we all did what we had to!"
"Yeah, but the difference between you and the rest of us is we knew when the job was over. That was a line you never knew where to draw." Logan told Creed, as he took a few steps closer towards the entrance, and towards this much larger man whose words had struck a nerve because of the tinge of truth stained within them.
"Then let me show you how well I can draw that line now and I'll carve a couple across your throat, and take the rest outta yer punk-ass!" Creed now shouted at Logan, as he held both hands out to his side and extended the razor-like claws that tipped the ends of his fingers.
"Bring it on, Bub!" Wolverine loudly replied, as he too held his fists right in front of him and popped out the knife-like adamantium blades from the back of his hands, before he and Sabretooth charged at one another.
But both men abruptly halted their advances, when a volley of rapid-fire rounds flew by in between the two of them.
"You two will have ample opportunity to continue your personal feud later. Right now, the mission takes precedent above whatever differences you still need to work through." Stryker said to Wolverine and Sabretooth, as he held a semi-automatic assault rifle that he had just grabbed away from one of his soldiers, and now had it positioned up against his shoulder after taking aim with it.
And in spite of the overwhelming urge inside of both men to rip the other one apart, Wolverine and Sabretooth surprisingly did as Colonel Stryker ordered and stood down, although the animosity between them continued to linger in the air so thickly that it was nearly tangible.
"I can't see you gettin' worked up enough over Wraith bein' nabbed to come rushin' to his aid. Or to anyone's, for that matter." Logan now skeptically asked Creed, as he had calmed down only slightly and retracted his claws, while everyone proceeded on into Stryker's mountain base, with the large steel doors slid closing behind them, "What's your stake in this anyway?"
"Same as always, they named the right price for me. Plus, gettin' to see the dumb look on that ugly mug of yours when you found out I was comin' along on this little caper was an extra little bonus." Creed replied, this time his smirking expression remaining on his face, while at the same time becoming serious and chillingly cold, "But, I'm always in for goin' after one o' the 'Big Ones' that managed to get away from us."
"Maybe the Popsicle was on to somethin' after all? 'Cause I damn sure feel like I'm stuck smack dab in the middle of some bad Hollywood sequel right now." Logan silently thought to himself, in reference to Bobby Drake's earlier statement to him, as he, Creed, and Maverick walked along with Stryker and the others further into this sophisticated internal base, which had numerous levels and sub-levels and also had the latest in state of the art technological equipment.
The now mostly reunited Team-X, along with a small and elite tactical crew, then went right over to board a mid-sized cargo plane, which was sitting in an open area located right in the center of the immense inner-mountain base. After Colonel Stryker checked in with the crew in the cockpit and was assured that all of the pre-flight preparations had been made with their destination course being set, the enormous wings of the plane rotated themselves up to a vertical 90-degree angle. The powerful jet-engine thrusters' of this specially-modified MC-130 transport craft then fired to life, as its propulsion system began to slowly lift the plane up into the air. Once it had passed up through a retractable opening built into the mountain's summit and completed its vertical take-off, the wings of this lighter-weight plane rotated back to their previous horizontal position.
After being briefed regarding the recon and surveillance mission that Kestrel had been sent on by Stryker for Central Intelligence, Maverick, Wolverine, and Sabretooth went and took their seats on the plane, for what would be a rather lengthy flight. Most notably, with Wolverine and Sabretooth each taking places at opposite ends of the craft from one another, leaving Maverick and Stryker's special-ops squad of a half-dozen men in the middle of the plane. Those on-board were now speeding off in pursuit of their old teammate, and of those responsible for taking him captive, in the place where John Wraith and his squad's last transmissions had come from and where their homing-tracers' were last detected.
Which, was somewhere in the rugged wilderness of Australia's Outback…
Sinking back into his seat and closing his eyes to catch a momentary respite, Logan was now left to once again wander through the fractured memories from parts of a life, which he himself scarcely remembered. And considering Logan prided himself on the fact that he was the best there is at what he did, it was through these unburied revelations that he was also reminded that some of the things he had done wasn't always very nice…
(Flashback- 20 years ago) Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan- Dark Wind Island
As a small passenger sailboat nears the docking area of this modestly-isolated island that sits off of the coastline of Japan's northernmost region adjoining into the Sea of Okhotsk, those aboard were now preparing themselves for a meeting with the lord of this private manor, who both figuratively and literally fancied himself just that.
"(Who are you to dare trespassing on our Master's domain?)" Was the question posed to these newly arrived visitors by the head of the island's security force, who had come down to the landing pier leading a group of men behind him, a group that numbered about a dozen strong.
They were dressed in outfits consisting of olive-green and brown kimonos, hakama pants, dark-brown jikatabi boots, and each one had a full-length Samurai sword strapped to their hips, coupled with a shorter Tanto blade as an accompaniment.
"(We have been sent here as official representatives of the American Government, and have respectfully come seeking an audience with the honorable Lord Oyama-san. He is expecting us.)" Logan calmly said, as he was the first to step off of the boat onto the wooden pier, himself now wearing a gray business suit and white dress shirt with a navy, light-blue, and orange tie.
Exiting the boat right behind him were Stryker and North who, like Logan, were also dressed up in suits in an attempt to live up to their cover-story of being dispatched there as American envoys. Logan then walked across the pier and courteously bowed to the security chief, who did return the gesture to him, although with a bit of initial hesitation at first. The three visitors' were then surrounded and led by Dark Wind's bodyguards' into the compound's walled-exterior, first having to journey through a large steel double-gate.
Once inside, they quickly approached the stately and enormously lavish residence within, which visually resembled an ancient castle or temple structure that seemed to tower straight up to the sky with regard to its rich splendor and opulence. While doing so, Stryker and North in particular paid close attention to their surroundings and mentally made notes of the very traditional post-beam construction used in its architectural designs, the massive compound's symmetrically rectangular layouts, huge surrounding barrier wall, and the clay-tile roofs above that curved upward slightly. Also prominent was the thickly overgrown forest that surrounded the compound just outside of its heavily reinforced bricked wall, which had tall green pines that were interspersed with the reds, oranges and deep golden brown fall-colors of the Japanese maple trees.
North, who in lieu of his bronze and black face mask was now donning a pair of dark sunshades, also saw that signs of the season's first frost had come and was still evidenced out on the bare ground that lined each side of the walkway, which they were currently moving along on. It would have probably seemed unusual for a freeze to occur this early in autumn, except for the fact that this northern region of Japan was closer to Siberia than Tokyo with respect to its relative climate.
Meanwhile, as they passed through a intricately designed maze-like garden area on this rather brisk morning, out of the corner of his eye Logan could've sworn that he saw a small group of children close by, two boys and one little girl, who were apparently hiding behind a row of shortly-pruned shrubbery, as they observed him and his associates from afar while they walked on by.
After entering another section of the inner-compound, this time through another more constricted entrance that had been built into the compound's stone-bricked foundation, and then having to navigate an even more complex virtual labyrinth of smaller interior villas and a seemingly endless series of outdoor corridors, Logan, Stryker, and North were eventually brought back outside and to a spacious center-court building that had been renovated and remodeled to hold a state-of-the-art laboratory within.
"(Master, forgive our intrusion. But, these foreigners claim to have business to discuss with you.)" The head bodyguard said to a man, who was simply standing there and looking up at one of many rather large, computerized devices in the laboratory.
This man obviously had to be Professor Oyama, the fabled Lord Dark Wind, just judging by the way the bodyguard addressed him and also by his appearance, which consisted of an extravagant, almost imperial, black and gold-embroidered kimono ensemble that he had on.
"(Yes, I have been anticipating their arrival.)" Dark Wind replied in a placid, almost monotone voice, as he continued to look up focusing on the digital readout that was being displayed on the large computer in front of him, which was connected to a medium-sized tank with bubbling gray liquid inside, all the while his assistants' continued working on other assorted tasks in there.
With that, the bodyguards' moved over and off to the side of the entrance and permitted Stryker, Logan, and North to now enter the lab.
"(So, your superiors have sent you to obtain a status report on my progress?)" Dark Wind now said, as he turned to face his three visitors.
"(We've been sent here to make sure that we're all still on the same page.)" Stryker replied, as he stepped forward and walked down a short staircase towards the center of the lab area.
"You can rest assure that everything is proceeding as planned." A new voice said in English, as a man with blonde hair and wearing a white lab coat came over and stood beside Dark Wind. Stryker, North, and Logan immediately recognized him to be Donald Pierce, the man whom they had read about in their mission dossier and was working with Dark Wind as his assistant.
"Is that so?" Logan smiled, as he jokingly and quizzically responded.
"Actually, we are ahead of our previously projected schedule." Pierce confirmed for him.
"We understand that you've nearly perfected this radical new metallurgy procedure that you've been working on." Stryker now remarked, as he came over to get a closer look at the rectification system and attached recovery tank that Dark Wind had constructed.
"Have perfected." Dark Wind quickly corrected him, "The formula and its application process are both a reality, and are the crowning achievement of a lifetime's worth of research."
"And, that is why we have come here. We also believe there are others who have learned of your top-secret discovery, and would seek to obtain it for themselves." North now said, as he stood relaxingly leaning up against the railing that descended down the short staircase by the entrance, with his hands in his pockets.
"Which puts us in a real bad situation, since our job is to make sure none o' those unfriendly-types get their hands on, whatever it is, you guys've been puttin' together in here." Logan now stated aloud, this time in a colder and far more serious tone.
Logan then reached into the coat of his gray suit jacket, retrieving the Hi-Power 9mm pistol that he was carrying from out of his shoulder-holster. He then cocked back the gun's hammer-mechanism while raising it up, now preparing to take aim as a round was being loaded into the weapon's chamber.
Was the echoing sound still ringing loudly around in Logan's mind, as he awoke and was snapped back into the present from this haunting dream. Or nightmare, depending on one's point-of-view. As Logan sat up in his chair, Colonel Stryker passed by in the airplane's aisle, on his way back towards the middle of this ultra-fast transport plane that they were on.
"What is the good word, Rev?" Maverick now asked, as Stryker approached him and the other men, who were all seated in this middle section also. Maverick was addressing the Colonel by his call-sign, which harkened back to a time in William Stryker's youth when he had thought of himself as being a fairly spiritual man, and it was a nickname that he had picked up from fellow servicemen during the early years of his military career.
A nickname, which he felt probably belonged to an entirely different person all-together now, given everything that he had experienced and done in the time since.
"The same as always. We have a minute to pray and a second to die, so let's make the most of the time in between, gentlemen." 'Rev' replied to Maverick's inquiry, as he took a seat with the him and the other men, "Our ETA should be in approximately three hours."
From there they all, including Logan up front and Creed in the plane's rear, took these last few moments available to run through any last minute mission-prep, with most of them performing last minute checks on their weapons and other vital equipment.
And in Logan and Creed's cases in particular, to prepare to do the one thing that seemed to come as naturally to them as eating or breathing.
The barren rangelands' of Australia, or the Outback as it is commonly referred to, is a region that for the most part is devoid of any densely-significant human habitations. But, with every rule there is always an exception, and it was one specific deviation that had brought a small group of travelers' to this area, a clandestine bunch who themselves had journeyed a great distance to get here.
"Ain't much to look at, is it?" Creed was the first to comment about their arid surroundings, as everyone disembarked from the rear of the plane and came down its cargo ramp, after it had completed its vertical touchdown into an area overlooking an empty basin on this expansive landscape.
"Just so long as we find what we're looking for." Stryker replied in his own almost trademarked, straight-forward manner, as he carried a black metallic-case down the ramp in his hand.
While Wolverine, Sabretooth, Maverick, and the other soldiers began to spread out around the transport plane, Stryker went over and laid the large briefcase down onto the parched and sparsely-grassed ground. Opening it, he pulled out components of what appeared to be some form of body-armor, which came in a black and purple color.
The suit's main function was to serve as a light-weight, highly-mobile radar and communications array. Once Stryker had snapped on this cutting-edge equipment, which covered the upper-half of his body and was an apparatus that he had a rather substantial hand in helping to build, he then began to use its highly-sophisticated tracking capabilities to scan the area around them.
"So, what do ya see?" Logan asked in a half-joking tone, as Stryker continued to visually scour their surroundings, doing so through the advanced binocular-goggles of his customized surveillance equipment, while he and Creed relied on more natural means with which to survey the area.
"I…see trouble. We've got incoming!" Stryker loudly responded, as he turned to his right and immediately knelt-down. Reaching down into the case on the ground to pull out a UMP Uzi sub-machine gun, Stryker, Maverick, and his other soldiers' drew out and chambered their weapons, while Wolverine and Sabretooth extended their claws, all of them now prepared for this seemingly hostile arrival.
Flying above, but now quickly descending in upon them, were four circular, almost pod-like crafts with thin blade-like wings jutting out from each side. Without warning, these crafts threw down strafing rounds, scattering their targets below in all directions, as both sides in the air and on the ground exchanged fire with one another. One of these unusual aircrafts then launched a precisely-targeted missile, which blew up the just-landed cargo plane and sent fragments of it in all directions as well. Then, these hovering craft rapidly landed, as their occupants' now emerged to make their presence on the ground known.
"Do not relent in your attack, our adversaries are to be considered most dangerous!" A woman, who was obviously in command of this squad of a little over half a dozen men told them, "Something, which all of you should already know better than anyone."
These soldiers, mercenaries in all actuality, were each dressed in identical dark-gray and red-trimmed uniforms, their faces hidden behind masks with the left half in the same dark-gray color and the right side shaded in a likewise red.
Their female commander, however, appeared in her own unique black military-styled, suit. She had on a mandarin-collared jacket that buttoned down the left side of her body in an asymmetrical fashion, which she wore with a matching mini-skirt that was accessorized with a pair of black leather, thigh-high boots. And while her form-fitting outfit wasn't anything that out of the ordinary, particularly when it was compared to those of her subordinates, what she displayed next would definitely have been considered to be a far more distinguishing trait than her choice of attire.
Sprinting across the landscape and then leaping through the air at Sabretooth, her lengthy jet-black unfurling out of the ponytail that she had it in and now flowing wildly in the air behind her, she held her hands out in front of her and from out of her fingertips long, metallic-looking claws emerged. All of this was happening as Stryker, Maverick, and the other soldiers were now dealing with the other mercenaries who had arrived with her, continuing to discharge their semi-automatic weapons at them, all the while these mercenaries returned fire right back at them with rounds from their very hi-tech energy rifles.
In the meantime, Sabretooth easily dodged this slashing attack from the female leader of the group, but was not as lucky when a lightning-fast wheel kick connected across the side of his face with alarming force and ferocity. Nor was he very fortuitous, when the unforgiving razor-sharp claws on her other hand, coincidentally enough, sliced open Sabretooth's throat and then she spun around behind him before he had time to react. She jumped up onto his back, wrapping herself around his torso from behind, and using both of her claws, she ripped open Sabretooth's upper-chest and spilled an appalling amount of his own blood down onto the soil.
Seeing this, Wolverine bolted over and jumped into the fray to now face off against this whirling dervish, which seemed to be composed of flailing claws and flying high-kicks, the irony not lost him that in the process he would actually be coming to Sabretooth's defense. But, fueled by a survivalist instinct and a desire to defeat her opponents, which was overshadowed even more by a rage that burned deep within her, this human hurricane allowed those emotions to manifest themselves in the form of a focused and disciplined attack, as she now turned around and unflinchingly charged forward at Wolverine.
At any rate, while she was certainly able to match Wolverine blow for blow, the outcome of this fight was something that was never really in doubt. Especially, once Sabretooth's healing factor had mended him enough to allow him to stand up and rejoin this melee in a matter of minutes.
(A few brief, and extremely violent, moments later…)
"We were ordered to bring them in alive, Deathstrike." One of the masked soldiers came over and said to her after the fight had ended, his remark referring to the two men now down on the ground before her feet.
Wolverine and Sabretooth were both left lying in tremendous pools of their own blood, and each had rips in their uniforms where Deathstrike had slashed through them onto various parts of their bodies.
"They are alive. I believe that it will take a far more substantial effort to end the miserable lives of these two." Lady Deathstrike replied, as she retracted her own cybernetically-enhanced adamantium claws, before re-tying her hair back into the single ponytail it had been.
Deathstrike then looked back down at the pair and then all around, as she now took visual stock of the ripped-holes and blood stains that had been left on her own outfit as a result of her fight with Wolverine and Sabretooth. And as she and this mercenary both stood there, they watched as the two mutants wounds' closed and began to heal at an accelerated, just as her own injuries now also did. Then, Deathstrike soon vocalized her next directive to him and his compeers.
"I want you and the rest of the Reavers to gather them up and bring them, along with their beaten compatriots, to the flyers. This day, they will be made to pay for their crimes, and the scales of vengeance will at last be balanced."
Deathstrike now watched the Reavers' do as she had just commanded of them, picking up Wolverine and Sabretooth and carrying them over to their hover-flyers. They were loaded aboard along with Stryker, Maverick and the rest of their new prisoners, who were also being marched or carried onto the craft. Some of Stryker's men had been left unconscious, but not killed, which was a result of the Reavers' using non-lethal force to defeat and then take their adversaries captive.
The reason being that orders from the top were that there was something 'very special' in store for their esteemed guests, which was waiting for them back at their base.
Flying into a hidden and retractable opening in the earth located on the other side of a nearby ridge, Lady Deathstrike and the Reavers hover-flyers now entered an expansive bunker that had been built deep underground in the Australian Outback. And their return was certainly a triumphant one, since they hadn't come back empty-handed either.
After the hover-flyers had docked down inside the bunker, the prisoners were further transported down into this subterranean complex on the back of a couple of flatbed carts. And as the majority of the captured soldiers' were taken down one corridor towards a holding and containment area, Wolverine, Sabretooth, Stryker, and Maverick were being driven towards a far different date with destiny. They all paid careful attention to their surroundings, per their prior military training, and made careful mental notes on the layout of the facility, the very sophisticated technology that had been incorporated into it, which lined the lengthy and numerous corridors that they were now traversing, and the concrete & steel support beams used in this cavernous base's construction.
Soon, the carts came to a stop and the Reavers' silently motioned with the barrels of their rifles for the quartet on the back of them to debark, as they were now led through an entrance into a huge, steel-tiled and spherically-domed room. And in the center of this immense chamber, which had various forms of equipment and other items lining the room's circumference, they now saw the individual whom they had originally come for, John Wraith.
Wraith was currently kneeling down on one knee in the center of a circular-pattern design on the floor with both of his arms restrained in large metallic-cuffs behind his back, just like the ones that had been strapped onto the wrists of his former Team-X comrades after their capture. He was wearing a simple black turtleneck with brown and green camouflaged pants, and the leather gun-holster strapped on his left front side was now noticeably empty
"It's most fortunate to see that all of you could make it." Was the statement called out to the five men, as they were marched in together and now looked up at an observation platform that sat about twenty-five feet above, located down at one end of this arena-like chamber. Each of them now had the opportunity to lay eyes on a man, whom they had long thought to be dead.
A man, whose death they thought themselves to have also played a reasonably significant role in bringing about all of those years ago as well.
"Pierce, what's this all about?" Stryker looked up and said first, as he and the others were corralled over towards the center of this large room where Wraith was.
"Do you really have to ask that question, Colonel? I would think it obvious to just about everyone here in this room." Donald Pierce replied, as he addressed the men from the platform above, having just been joined up there by Lady Deathstrike at his side, "But, in case you're having trouble remembering, let me remind you."
Pierce then pushed aside the lengthy white cape that he had wrapped around himself, now displaying the white, tri-buckled long vest and white and blue-trimmed outfit that he had on underneath. But what was truly revealed, thanks to this sleeveless ensemble, was the fact that both of Pierce's arms were no longer composed of flesh and blood, but were instead made up entirely of complex circuitry and cold steel.
"While you were responsible for nearly destroying me, in the end you only served to make me stronger." Pierce now said, as a wicked smile came to his face, "And in that spirit, I think it only fitting to pay all of you back in kind."
But, seeing Pierce standing up there on the platform right next to Deathstrike and his Reavers', and hearing these words from him for some reason caused Logan's mind and memories to once again drift back to a time and place, to a situation, which felt hauntingly familiar to this one…
(Flashback- 20 years ago)- Dark Wind Island
"…puts us in a real bad situation, since our job is to make sure none o' those unfriendly-types get their hands on, whatever it is, you guys've been puttin' together in here."
As Logan made this fairly cryptic announcement to everyone inside of Dark Wind's research laboratory, he did so while pulling a 9mm handgun from out of his suit coat. This caused Dark Wind's bodyguards' to react with defensive intentions and they immediately proceeded to draw their swords from the sheaths strapped to the sides of their hips.
"Better get ready, 'cause we've got incoming." Logan now further stated, as he took aim with his handgun towards the far wall behind Dark Wind and Pierce, who were standing side-by-side.
Logan's teammates had sometimes thought that he had an uncanny, almost premonitory sixth-sense. Which, was once again confirmed in the split-second after Logan's warning, as that far wall of the laboratory now imploded when a rocket blast from outside tore it open. A full attack was now underway as agents of HYDRA entered the lab, having been sent there on a mission to retrieve the secrets of this experimental process that Dark Wind had invented.
Garbed in green military uniforms with helmets and enhanced-vision goggles that completely hid their faces, this HYDRA death-squad stormed into the lab with their automatic machine-guns blazing and immediately cut down Dark Wind's bodyguards' and other assistants in the room. Meanwhile Logan, North, and Stryker drew their weapons and took cover behind some heavy lab equipment, all in an attempt to at least take a few of their foes out in spite of these overwhelming odds.
But, just as quickly as this impromptu skirmish had broken out, the tide of this raging conflict turned on a dime when another explosion went off, this time hitting the rear-guard of the HYDRA assault force.
"It's about time you guys' decided to show up!" Logan now said, as he traded shots with HYDRA, while acknowledging that his teammates Kestrel and Sabretooth had made their arrival on the scene.
Sabretooth and Kestrel, who had both been kept away as the team's backup, had been circling around the island in the their ultra-covert speedboat. When they observed a HYDRA-VTOL flying by overhead and then touching down near the compound, the pair then parked the speedboat and quietly made their way up behind and around the HYDRA forces to insert themselves into this conflict.
"After we cruised around to the other side o' this island, Wraith 'n me saw these guys totin' some heavy gear up here and we figured things were about to get miiggghhty interestin'." Sabretooth replied, as he had busted into the lab by kicking in a side-entrance door, with both he and Kestrel wearing Team-X's standard black and gold uniform.
While Kestrel kept the nearly two dozen HYDRA soldiers at bay from behind with heavy-caliber munitions fire and rocket-propelled grenades, Sabretooth's came in with a M-16 automatic-fire assault rifle in his right hand while carrying a large green duffle bag in his left, as he made his way underneath a hail of bullets over to where Logan, North, and Stryker had been pinned down.
"I'm here to make sure all 'a these party favors get passed out." Sabretooth further said with a smirk, as he opened the duffle bag and tossed each of his teammates' their weapons from inside of it.
"Then, let's get Dark Wind and Pierce, and get the hell out of here!" Stryker now gave his order to Team-X, as he dropped his handgun and switched to the M-16 rifle that had just been handed to him, continuing to fire against the HYDRA forces on the other side of the lab.
But, before they could get to Pierce and Dark Wind to extract them from this battle zone, they heard and saw a most unexpected twist in this mission, which now seemed to be rapidly spiraling out of control.
Team-X now watched as Donald Pierce, who was Dark Wind's trusted assistant and their own inside man in this operation, had pulled a gun from underneath his lab coat and shot Dark Wind in the back. After shooting him again multiple times in the back, they all knew it could only mean one thing.
"I'm afraid that Dark Wind won't be making the trip with you after all." Pierce now said in a calculatingly reserved tone, as a small group of HYDRA agents all protectively encircled in around him, "And the only place I and his metal-alloy formula are going, is to the highest bidder. Which, Von Strucker has turned out to be, after offering me ten times what your employers planned to pay for this little scientific discovery."
Pierce then keyed in a code onto one of the lab's computer consoles, which in turn opened a secret passageway out of the laboratory that he and his HYDRA escort team quickly exited out of. Simultaneously, the remaining HYDRA troops near the blown-open hole in the lab's wall also turned and began their withdrawal, leaving behind a score of dead and five very ticked-off individuals.
"Go after them and keep them from leaving this island! I'll see what I can do for Dark Wind." Stryker announced his next order, as he went over and knelt down beside a now dying Dark Wind.
Wolverine, Sabretooth, and Maverick quickly made their way through the gaping hole in the wall with rifles in hand. After joining up with Kestrel outside, they all took off towards where the HYDRA-VTOL craft had landed on the island, so that they could try and prevent their departure.
After hustling a good distance over to the area near the island's rocky coastline within the compound's walled interior, Team-X arrived just in time to see that the HYDRA hover-ship was lifting off into the air.
"It appears that we are a bit too late." Maverick said, as he looked at the others, while they all came to a slow halt and watched the vessel, with Pierce assumed to be aboard, preparing to make its exit from the scene.
"I wouldn't count on that, not just yet." Kestrel looked over to his right through the dark lenses of his shades, which were similar to the ones Maverick had on, and replied with a grin. Kestrel threw the M-16 rifle and M-79 grenade launcher that he had been toting in both hands down onto the ground, and then pulled something out of a small bag that was slung across his back.
Unfolding this mechanical device in a matter of seconds, a feat that John Wraith had practiced blind-folded innumerable times and had done so with a great amount of pride, he loaded what turned out to be a shoulder-mounted missile launcher, locking in its target coordinates just as rapidly, and then squeezed the firing mechanism on it. A mini-SAM (Surface-to-Air Missile) flew out of the weapon skyward and its internal guidance system immediately homed it in on its intended target.
While Kestrel held the expended launcher down by his side, all four men watched as the missile flew upward and struck one of the HYDRA ship's vertical exhaust thrusters. The hit ruptured a line to its main fuel core and started an internal chain-reaction within it, which caused the craft's entire rear section to catch fire and then explode in mid-air. The VTOL careened out of control, now engulfed in flames, as it then tumbled in a downward spiral and crashed hard into the unforgiving waves of the ocean.
Presuming that all aboard the shot-down HYDRA craft were now dead, Team-X then turned to quickly make their way back towards the research lab. Once there, they were met by Stryker, who was coming out through the hole that HYDRA had blown into the side of the building.
"We took care o' Pierce, what's the story with Dark Wind?" Logan asked first, as he and the others came back up to the lab's exterior and stopped a few feet away from Stryker.
"He didn't make it." Stryker responded, albeit not very emotionally, as he appeared with a cumbersome battery-powered mobile phone strapped around his waist, "I've radioed in for EVAC to pick us back up on the mainland."
"So, we lost Dark Wind and his work? Then that officially makes this whole mission a total wash and a complete waste 'a our damn time." Creed now chimed in, as he pulled a cigar from out of a small chest-pocket on his uniform.
"Not quite. I was still able to salvage some vital data from Dark Wind's files, before I crashed out all of the drives. I'll see to it that it arrives in the right hands and gets put to proper use." Stryker informed them, as the entire team then turned towards the direction where Creed and Wraith had docked their speedboat.
"Well, the only thing that I want to see for the next couple of days are the back of my eyelids." North humorously remarked, referring to the generally non-stop nature of their lives, and of having to move on from one mission right to the next one.
"I hear ya on that one." Logan added in agreement as he, like Creed, pulled a cigar out from a pocket in his suit coat.
"Your R&R is going to have to wait. When I called for EVAC, word was relayed back that we've got urgent new orders." Stryker told them all, confirming North's opinion about their line of work, "As soon as we get back to base, we're to immediately head in for debriefing."
"What's up?" Wraith asked, as he had just finished reloading his SAM launcher and was now folding it back up into his shoulder bag.
"Barrington and the boys' upstairs are worried about reports getting back to us from East Berlin." Stryker explained, as he hooked the receiver to his mobile phone-pack back onto its belt clip, and they continued their journey across the island towards the speedboat, "Apparently, they're up to something major, something the KGB and Stasi have made a top priority to keep under wraps, and we're being sent back there to check out what it is."
"Once we take go 'n care 'a this, Maverick here can show us all how to have ourselves a reeaaall good time on his ol' stompin' grounds then." Creed sneeringly replied, referring to North's country of origin.
"Can't be no better of a time than the one you had last time we was over there." Logan laughingly replied, as he struck a match and lit his cigar, "Or, had you forgot about goin' AWOL over that broad you'd been shackin' up with for the better part of a month?"
But despite Logan's current demeanor, the expression now on Creed's face was anything but happy, as Logan's comment had brought back a fairly unpleasant memory for him. Creed now looked over at Logan, but didn't say another word in response as they simply walked on with the others. Which, was a strikingly uncharacteristic reaction for him especially.
With their mission objective completed, Team-X continued on to make a hasty departure from Dark Wind's Island. They wanted to be long gone before any Japanese law-enforcement or representatives from other government agencies arrived. Whom, they were most certain to be on their way now to investigate this mini-war that had broken out on the island, and to ask anyone who was involved questions about what had happened, which the members of Team-X had no intentions of sticking around to answer.
But, little were they aware of the fact that they were leaving behind an enemy, who in time, would eventually find a way to exact his revenge upon them for their interference in his duplicitous scheme this day.
A HYDRA recovery-team would later that day come along and unexpectedly find survivors sealed inside the cabin of the hover-ship that had been shot down into the ocean. After pulling Pierce and the other injured HYDRA agents from the wreckage of the fallen VTOL craft, they would be transported back to one of their hidden bases. It was from a hospital bed there that he would wind up striking a secret deal with an up-and-coming ranking officer, who had been dubbed as Madame Hydra by HYDRA's supreme commander himself, Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker.
In exchange for giving her the formula and processing technique of the indestructible metal-alloy that Dark Wind had invented, Pierce would be given the means with which to use his advanced technological know-how to reengineer his broken and shattered body into a complex amalgamation of man and machine, as well as spend the following years further prosthetically rebuilding those injured HYDRA agents into his own elite Reaver corps.
But, it also never crossed Team-X's minds' that they were as well leaving behind three small children on the island, who would soon discover that their father had been killed in this firefight and would find his body now left on the cold floor of his research lab. It was an image that would be burned into their collective consciousnesses for the rest of their lives, seeing him lying there all bloodied from multiple gunshots in his back, and from one that had been fired to the side of his temple. And it was a scene that one scared, and soon-to-be very angry, little girl would never, ever forget.
A young girl, who would grow up with the intent of making these individuals' all rue the day they ever decided to step foot on her family's island, and bring all of this carnage and destruction in tow with them.
A young lady, who later in life would make a deal with the devil to ensure that she would unquestionably be powerful enough to avenge her father against these men when the day came. And while she didn't necessarily give up her soul in exchange, she would wind up trading in pieces of her body and chunks of her humanity as payment for such a guarantee.
"…only fitting to pay all of you back in kind. I and my Reavers' have been waiting a long time for this."
While Pierce had been propounding on his intentions towards his Team-X captives, Logan had just gone on yet another quick trip down memory lane, one which had just come to a sudden and complete halt.
"So, what're you gonna do? Line us all up 'n shoot us in the back, like you did with Dark Wind?" Was the first thing Logan loudly uttered, after he came out of his standing, semi dream-state.
"What…did you just say!" Deathstrike immediately blurted out in response, as she stepped forward towards the platform's railing where Pierce was standing, which drew a baffled reaction from Logan and the others.
With that particular revelation, Logan had just unwittingly and forever altered the perception, the heart-felt notions, of one individual in that chamber towards him and his teammates'. Which was extremely coincidental, given the fact that he had absolutely no idea that currently standing mere feet away from Pierce on that platform was Yuriko Oyama, the daughter of Lord Dark Wind. A woman who, unbeknownst to her up until this point, had this entire time been keeping herself in the company of the man whom had murdered her own father those many years ago.
"Pierce, is this true?" Deathstrike once again asked, but this time her question was being directed over at Pierce.
"I'm afraid so, my dear." Pierce replied, not trying to deny these accusations from his captive, and even going so far as to wholly confirm them, as he stood with his back turned towards her while gazing down at his enemies below, "It appears that the proverbial cat is now out of the bag."
"But, you told me that they were the ones…" Deathstrike paused, her voice heavily-tinged with pain and anger for very obvious reasons, as she once again extended the enhanced adamantium claws from out of her fingertips and was now preparing to make good use of them, "You were my father's most trusted assistant!"
"More the fool him." Pierce coldly remarked, still facing forward and away from her.
Then, without another word being spoken Pierce spun back around to face her, and at a speed that managed to even catch Deathstrike by surprise, he discharged a stream of high-voltage electricity from out of his cybernetic hands. This artificial lightning-bolt hit Deathstrike with enough force, and packed enough power behind it, that it knocked the neural networks of her augmented nervous system completely offline.
"Allow me to introduce you to Dark Wind's rather gullible and naïve daughter. A chip off the old block, I must say." Pierce now announced to Team-X, as two of his Reavers' came over and picked an unconscious Deathstrike up from the steel-grated flooring of the observation platform, "And one who, unfortunately, has just outlived her usefulness to me."
The Reavers' then carried Deathstrike over to the railed-edge of the platform and unceremoniously dumped her down onto the chamber's floor, which was where Team-X currently was. But while Pierce had been otherwise occupied and distracted with Deathstrike, Wolverine and Sabretooth had expeditiously worked together to free themselves from the cuff-like manacles locked around their wrists.
"There, got it." Sabretooth said first, after Wolverine had popped his adamantium claws from out of his hands and Sabretooth proceeded to use them to cut himself free of his metal cuffs first, despite the fact that they were both restrained with their arms behind their backs.
Then, it was Sabretooth's turn to repay the favor, as he extended his own claws out of his fingers and swiped at Wolverine's cuffs in a single, slashing motion.
"Hey, you might wanna watch it with those, Bub!" Wolverine vocally remarked, as Sabretooth's remunerating gesture had cut a bit too close against his arms and hands for his liking.
"Aw, quit yer bellyachin' kid, and let's just get to it." Sabretooth unapologetically replied, as he next made his way over to Maverick, while Wolverine went to go free Kestrel.
"So, how'd you manage to get caught behind enemy lines anyways?" Wolverine humorously remarked to Kestrel, as he came up from behind to use his claws to free an old friend.
"Guess I was just havin' a bad day? But, it looks like I'm not the only one." Kestrel sarcastically replied, referring to the fact that all of his former teammates' had also wound up in the same predicament as him.
"Droppin' that first-round was more intentional than anything. I guess Rev figured since these jokers were pullin' their punches, it'd be easier than us tryin' to fight our way inside to get to you." Wolverine told Kestrel, as he revealed the ploy that Stryker had them use to gain access to the base.
Stryker had silently communicated his order via a secret hand-signal that told them to purposefully lose the battle outside with the Reavers', which was something that the members' of Team-X had prided themselves in all of their years together in rarely having to ever use.
"But, my question is why you didn't just pull one of your disappearing acts and get goin' a long time ago?" Wolverine now asked, as he used his claws to finish freeing Kestrel by carefully slicing off the cuffs that had been around his wrists.
"This base must have some kind of low-level distortion field, because something's been disrupting my teleportation abilities ever since they brought me down here." Kestrel replied, as he now stood back up alongside Wolverine, "But, I wasn't worried. I knew you guys'd be along soon enough to lend a friend a hand."
"And how were you so sure we'd show up?" Wolverine now smirkingly inquired.
"Because man, can't none of us turn down a chance to bust heads like we used to!" Kestrel laughingly replied, as they started over to join the others.
"And here I was beginnin' to think I was the only one around here gettin' antsy for some real action." Sabretooth further added to the conversation, as he had just finished freeing Maverick and then Stryker from their restraints.
These five men now, now loose and ready to cut-loose, were gathered together and looking up at Pierce. This time they prepared to address him for a change, as Stryker went over and knelt down next to where Deathstrike had landed, who thanks to her adamantium-laced skeleton and accelerated recuperative abilities was not seriously injured from her rather precipitous fall down to the solid-steel tiled floor.
"Pierce, looks like we're about to drop yer ass. Again." Logan candidly stated, as he popped the claws out of his left hand to display a matching set to Pierce, pointing them right up at him.
"Think again, mutant." Pierce scornfully replied, as he now stood flanked on both sides by his Reavers', "I didn't have all of you brought down here out of some simple, nostalgically-sentimental need. You are here so that you can get a first-hand demonstration of my greatest creations yet."
Pierce then went and entered in a code sequence into a keypad on the wall behind the platform, which caused the circularly-designed sections in the center of the chamber's steel floor to draw back and open itself up. Rising up through the opening on a disc-like elevator were, what appeared to be, a group of about thirty people.
But upon closer inspection of these persons garbed in black and red hooded outfits, they saw an eerie translucent glow coming out through the eyeholes of their masks, which revealed that this group was anything but human.
"My army of unstoppable cyborgs' will prove to be the decisive equalizer in the war to come between normal humans, and the ever-growing mutant populace." Pierce continued with his diatribe, as his armed robotic constructs began to spread out towards Team-X, who had all moved over and away to one side of the chamber, "When mass-produced, my superior warriors will determine which human faction ultimately gains and maintains control of this planet."
"Superior, huh?" Sabretooth mockingly replied to Pierce's assertion, an instant before he tore off like a madman across the arena-like chamber, diving face and claw-first into this throng of tin-men.
Following his lead, Maverick, Wolverine, and Kestrel also made their way over into this hostile conflict, while Stryker remained behind with Deathstrike and armed himself with the mini-thermite explosives that had been hidden inside of his body armor, just in case any of Pierce's robots came over to engage this 'non-mutant' fifth of Team-X.
As this mock gladiatorial contest got underway between Pierce's android army and his greatest enemies, the members' of Team-X were surprised by the fact that these cyborgs' they were going up against weren't just any run-of-the-mill robots. Instead of jerky and slow-responding movements, Pierce's cyborgs' possessed reflexes that allowed them to produce smooth and fluid, almost lifelike, reactions to their opponents' attacks. And, their advanced A.I. granted them the ability to analyze, and then counter, their foes' maneuvers accordingly and most effectively.
But Team-X, a group of hardened soldiers who had survived countless conflicts and engagements alongside one another during the height of the Cold War, were now fully reunited for the first time since that ideological clash had ended. It was a feeling that was extremely natural to all involved, seeing as none of them seemed to have lost a step in that time either.
"Someone oughta tell this jackass he ain't got the market cornered when it comes to buildin' hyped-up hardware with an attitude." Wolverine tauntingly remarked, as he astutely dodged the machine-gun fire coming from some of the cyborgs' directly at him, and was now waiting for the proper moment to aggressively retaliate with his claws.
"I think his primary concern is going to be on fixing his toys', once we've finished playing with them." Maverick banteringly replied, as he stood beside Wolverine and fought with another one of these cyborgs in hand-to-hand fashion.
Although Maverick was currently without his favorite weapon of choice, he would still prove himself to be just as dangerous unarmed, if not more so. Out of nowhere, a huge blast of concussive-force energy emerged from Maverick's hands, now ripping through a couple of the cyborgs' that were standing right in front of him.
"Rico, just what inna hell was that!" A shocked Wolverine turned and momentarily paused his own attack against the cyborgs' to inquire.
"Come on, did you think that you and Creed were the only ones to receive the 'special treatment' from the old Weapon X program?" Maverick looked back and replied, with a veiled smirk on his face that was barely visible from under his bronze and black mask.
Meanwhile, their other teammates were also heavily involved in this epic brawl. As Sabretooth continued to violently slash his way through the cyborg army, Kestrel put to good use shaped mini-charges that Maverick had smuggled in there and tossed Kestrel's way. Kestrel now strategically placed and then detonated them against their adversaries, doing so with expectantly explosive results.
With his creations falling so easily against these, his most hated enemies, Pierce could only stand by and helplessly watch this wholesale liquidation taking place. Which he had helped to orchestrate, as his constructs were being virtually annihilated in just a matter of minutes by their living, breathing, and far more experienced opponents.
"Looks like somebody owes you one hell of a refund, Pierce." Wraith sarcastically remarked to Pierce, who remained perched high above them.
With the battle now at an end, Wraith went and bent down to pick up a spare piece of debris, which had been broken off of one the androids and then strewn about these coliseum-like surroundings, and now gave it an up-close and careful visual examination.
"Only thing anyone owes him is a choice ass-whuppin'!" Sabretooth both growled and smiled simultaneously, as he looked up to the platform above, "And it's long past time we collected!"
"Another day, miscreates." Pierce coolly replied, even if the extremely indignant expression on his face indicated just how truly livid he was at having witnessed this spectacular defeat.
With that, Pierce then turned around as a secret passageway in the wall behind opened up, which he and his Reavers' immediately used as an exit from out of the chamber.
"Well, I don't have no intentions of turnin' this into a trilogy, I'm goin' after him!" Logan now shouted, as the platform's rear-wall closed in behind the departing Pierce and his henchmen, "Anyone else in?"
"Wolverine, I want you, Maverick and Sabretooth to all go after them. Kestrel, I want you to go and free the others, and then plant a few well-placed charges to put this base out of commission." Stryker now said to the team, as he handed Kestrel the remaining thermite explosives in his possession and then went over to pick a still unconscious Deathstrike up from the floor, cradling her limp form in his arms, "I'm going to get her out of here and try to raise a communication line outside. We'll all meet out there when you've finished."
Everyone now did as Stryker had ordered and they all moved out. Maverick, Sabretooth, and Wolverine summarily headed up to the observation platform where Pierce and his Reavers' had been moments ago, managing to cut and pry open the doorway of the secret passageway so they could continue their pursuit of him. Meanwhile, Stryker and Kestrel had each went off in an opposite direction, both men now on their way to their appointed destinations as well.
Emerging from the underground bunker through an auxiliary exit, Stryker next found himself back out on this vacant Australian landscape. He was now standing in what appeared to be a small and long-abandoned frontier settlement, which the Reavers' had co-opted and were obviously using to help cover their activities in the area.
Being out here in the open and free of whatever dampening field the base was emitting inside, Stryker proceeded to use the advanced technology within his external bodysuit to send out an encrypted SOS signal that was soon picked up by Central Intelligence, which they would respond to by sending out a retrieval team to come and get them.
With nothing more left to do at the moment but sit and wait, Stryker decided to do exactly that. He went over and took a seat on the worn out wooden steps to the front porch area of a closed-down general store in this deserted town, finding a spot that was close to the oak benchseat where a still recovering Deathstrike had been left laying upon. And as the first rays of a new dawn began to emerge on the horizon, it was then that Stryker saw Maverick and Wolverine slowly heading towards him, coming from the far off rangelands that surrounded the perimeter of this small and isolated town.
"Where's Sabretooth?" Was Stryker's first question at the sight of seeing only these two men returning.
"That dirtball took off as soon as Pierce's trail went cold." Logan replied, as Stryker stood up from the small staircase.
"What do you mean? What happened to Pierce?" Stryker further inquired, as he took a few steps over towards them.
"Vanished into thin air." Maverick revealed, "Once we left the base, Logan and Creed tracked their scents until it came to an end on a nearby cliff. The only thing we found when we got there was a local aborigine, who was just sitting out there all alone."
"Did you question him to see if he saw anything?" Stryker asked them.
"Nope. Way that dude was meditatin' out there, he didn't really seem much interested in carryin' on any kinda small-talk with us." Logan explained, referring to this man whom they had come across on the cliff's edge, which allowed him to look out on the wilderness expanse of the Outback for miles and miles. Logan and Maverick had observed him simply sitting there cross-legged in deep and heavy thought, as he completely ignored any attempts by them to communicate with him.
"So, Pierce and his Reavers' decided to jump into the ravine, or they had an escape craft out there waiting for them." Maverick surmised, as he came over to lean up against the wooden railing along the front of the general store.
"Either way, they're long gone now." Logan finished, as he now pulled one of his customary cigars from out of a pocket on his uniform, which he was thankful hadn't been bent or damaged in the course of all of this fighting.
But as these men were talking, another craft of a far different variety came streaking in overhead, and then doubled back around before rapidly decelerating into a vertical-hover right above them.
"Hmmph, looks like my ride's here." Logan now said to a surprised Maverick and Stryker, and was taken aback a bit himself at seeing the famous X-Jet making an appearance here, as it slowed to a vertical descent in an open area of town not too far away from them.
Logan then immediately started off in the direction towards the X-Men's primary mode of long distance travel, but not before turning back around to leave these two with one more final, parting remark.
"Next time you decide to go 'n throw another get-together like this one, do me a favor and just lose my invite in the mail." Logan smirked, both humorously and seriously saying to Maverick and Stryker, as the ramp to the X-Jet lowered and he then made his way on over to board it.
Once Logan had entered the plane and the ramp had closed up behind him, the X-Jet's engine thrusters thunderously kicked in and sent it shooting straight up into the sky, and on its way back home.
Meanwhile, Stryker and Maverick were left behind to watch this fairly breathtaking sight. Soon, they were both joined by Wraith and the rest of Stryker's men, who had just been freed by Wraith and were now all exiting out Pierce's base through the secret exit that had been built within the abandoned general store's interior.
"Creed and Logan gone already?" Wraith asked, as he and Sgt. Lyman were the first to come out of the building.
"I would've been thoroughly surprised if either of them had remained much longer than they already did." Stryker nonchalantly responded, "But they've served their purpose. For the time being, at least."
"I figured they'd want in on tracking down Pierce, and with what's coming up next?" Wraith now grinned and stated.
"I think she'll be the one who wants a piece of Pierce worse than any of us." Maverick commented, as he pointed over at Deathstrike, "Which is fortunate, since there are now a few apparent openings on this 'new' Team-X."
"I believe I can certainly find a place for a woman with her particular talents." Stryker replied, his demeanor as stoic and unchanged as ever, "She should fit in well with our other new recruits."
"I pulled the schematics and other info we were looking for off of one of the terminals down there, before I scrubbed Pierce's data-banks." Wraith now said, as he handed a computer disc over to Stryker, "So, I take it you didn't tell Logan the real reason we came here?"
"That information is on a need to know basis. And at this juncture, he simply didn't need to know." Stryker stated, as word now came across his suit's internal communicator that their airlift would be there in a matter of a few minutes.
"Still kinda cold, if you ask me." Wraith remarked, as he now held the remote-control detonator to the charges that he and the soldiers had placed throughout the underground bunker, which he would set off once they were all airborne.
"Don't be too concerned." Stryker told him, as a slight smile now finally came across his face, "Wolverine will find out about everything soon enough."
Onboard the X-Jet, Logan now made his way up from its rear to the cockpit, having just lit his cigar as the plane was leveling off at its cruising altitude.
"Judging by the state of your uniform, I take it that you and your friends had a rather quaint engagement together?" Ororo Munroe, the mutant weather-goddess code-named Storm said to Logan, doing so in a half-teasing manner as she sat at the helms of the plane.
Her statement was a not so vague reference to Logan's now bloodied and ripped up black and yellow uniform. And her comment about his attire caused Logan to now take notice of Storm's own navy and white-trimmed X-uniform, which she seemed to always keep in a fairly pristine condition.
"Yeah, we sat around with tea 'n little fancy crackers and the whole bit." Logan very sarcastically replied to her remark, as he chomped down on his cigar while coming over to take a seat in the co-pilot's chair beside her, "Not that I don't appreciate it, but why'd you come all the way out here to get me anyways?"
"After Henry and I returned to the mansion this morning, Charles informed us about your leaving with a group of mysterious individuals, whom were apparently old acquaintances of yours." Ororo revealed, as she put the plane on auto-pilot and turned in her seat to face Logan, "But, some of the children were extremely concerned about the manner in which you had departed and I promised them that I would come and find you, in case you needed help. I used the GPS homing device built into your uniform to uncover your location here on the other side of the globe, but its signal suddenly disappeared right before I crossed into Australian airspace. I had been circling this general vicinity for some time, which is where Cerebro and the X-Jet's tracking system had last spotted you. Since you had apparently vanished into thin air, I was making preparations to call in the rest of the team to mount a full search. That is, until you reappeared on our scanners."
"Like I said, thanks again for the lift, but you guys shouldn't have been wastin' any o' your time worryin' over me." Logan said, as he sunk back into his seat.
"If you truly believed that none of us would be concerned about you, then you're still as thick-headed as the day I first met you." Ororo smirkingly remarked, as she turned back towards the plane's controls.
"Well, guess I can't really argue with you on that one." Logan said, as he couldn't help but laugh in response to her statement.
Storm then began to key in a final flight plan into the X-Jet's navigation system, which would take them back to Bayville.
That is, until Logan reached over and interrupted her.
"Say, why don't you make a sharp left and just drop me off. I got a little R&R time comin' up, and I think now's a perfect time for me to take some of it." Logan now said, as he was overcome with a deep need to get away for a little personal time, especially after everything he had just been through, and he keyed in a new course in the plane's navigation system.
"Very well. Although from your choice of destination, I have a sneaking suspicion that rest and relaxation are not the principle activities which you have in mind." Ororo commented, once she had looked down at the X-Jet's control panel readout and saw that Logan had set the plane's coordinates in a direction heading to Japan, "Especially, if you and Mariko are going to get together."
"Ha! You know us too well, 'Ro." Logan once again replied with a hearty laugh, as he now stood up from his seat and turned to head back to the rear of the plane's cabin.
While Logan went back there to change out of his shredded X-gear and into his civvies, the plane veered onto its new flight path and now rocketed towards Japan to make a temporary stop in a place that, over the years, had become something of a most-favored territory for Logan.
To be continued in a new, ongoing fic featuring all of the X-Men, and eventually crossing over with Ultimate Avengers…