Issue #78
The Lotus and the Warrior Part 1


A new generation of mutants being born with extraordinary powers. As a key to the next stage in human evolution, Professor Charles Xavier and his X-men fight for peace and understanding against those who hate and fear such power. This struggle has recently become more mainstream as President Robert Kelly seeks bold action against the threat posed by mutants.

On the front line of this initiative is General Nathan Grimshaw, a decorated officer whose agenda has been obscure at times. He and President Kelly recently organized a new initiative dubbed the Mutant Security Agency. This agency is to become the foundation for enforcing law and order against all mutants. As such, General Grimshaw sought out Professor Xavier's help in managing this organization. He claims to not trust President Kelly or the people around him to do the right thing. So requires the X-men's trust to ensure that this initiative doesn't escalate the conflict.

In an effort to gain this trust, he presented Xavier with documents proving that he and his trusted associate, a mutant Green Beret named Captain Jack Freeman, were behind the raid on Magneto's citadel. While damning, the General has offered more startling data in the form of new revelations regarding Weapon X. These revelations coincide with an emerging conflict in the criminal underworld of Japan.


Osaka, Japan – Yashida Tower

For as long as there had been civilization, there has been organized crime. Russia, Europe, and the United States had mafias. South America had cartels. Africa had warlords. In Asia it was no different. They had the Yakuza, a unique breed of criminal that had been stirring fear in the Far East for centuries. They were ruthless, but they weren't afraid to trade brutality for cunning.

This cunning is what had paralyzed Japanese and international law enforcement for decades. Whenever there was a crime, it was easy to tell when the Yakuza were behind it. They always had left a unique touch. Their latest victim at the bottom of Yashida Tower was no exception.

"Lacerations, severed hand, and various cuts from the chains that bound his feet," observed one of the crime scene investigators from the Japanese special homicide unit, "To be extra thorough, he was impaled cleanly through the belly."

"All while hanging upside down, no less," said one of the main detectives, "It has all the tell-tale signs of a Yakuza style interrogation. Someone wanted information. Question is did they get it?"

The detective knelt down near the area where they bloodied body was remained. The police were getting ready to load it into a body bag and haul it off to the morgue where it could join a growing collection of victims. The whole block was now cordoned off and the police were trying to keep reporters and civilians away from the scene. Everybody seemed to know what the police knew. The only real mystery was what the Yakuza were after this time.

"Is there anything else you can tell me?" asked the detective to the main investigator did a final review of the body.

"I plan to issue a thorough report. Everything that can be known will be included."

"There is a great chasm between what can be known and what needs to be known."

"I understand, sir. I wish I could be of more assistance. I don't care to understand the Yakuza's methods or their reasons. I only wish to report them."

"That is a luxury I don't have, unfortunately," sighed the detective as he took out a cigarette and lit up, "I may have the worst job in all of Japan. I am expected to investigate and understand the Yakuza's activities when everybody else is too cautious or too scared to be involved."

"You have my utmost sympathies, sir," said the investigator as he finished jotting down some additional notes.

"Save them," he said as he took a puff of his cigarette, "This poor soul deserves more sympathy than any of us. He's just one of dozens who have been filling the morgues lately. For whatever reason, the Yakuza families are at each others' throats again. That raises an important question. What information did this man have that the Yakuza sees fit to kill for?"

"Perhaps the more important question is whether or not you're asking the right question to begin with," came a new female voice in fluent Japanese with a distinct British accent.

The detective nearly spit out his cigarette upon hearing an unexpected voice from behind. He turned around to see that it belonged to a young, attractive European woman who seemed barely beyond her twenties. She wasn't wearing a uniform or a badge, leading him to believe something more obstructive was at work.

"And who might you be?" he asked, "You're a long way from London, missy."

"For your information, I'm from Essex. People from my neck of the woods actually take offence to being lumped with associated with those snide Londoners."

"Forgive my insensitivity, but you're trespassing on a crime scene. So unless you want to be arrested for obstruction of justice…"

"Save the legal rambling, detective. I'm not a civilian. My name is Elizabeth Braddock. I'm here on behalf of Matsu'o Tsurayaba. You do know the name Matsu'o Tsurayaba, don't you?"

The detective tensed and so did a number of his subordinates. That was a name most everyone in Japanese law enforcement knew. It was a name that carried with it a lot of weight, which helped this young woman gain instant credibility.

"Forgive me, Miss Braddock. But how is it you know Mr. Tsurayaba?" he asked with less cynicism than before.

"I don't know him as well as my father knows him. At least when my father was still alive," she shrugged, "They go back a long time. In fact, for a time I knew him as Uncle Tsurayaba. He's the one that taught me to speak Japanese so elegantly in case you haven't noticed. He and my father were big names at Interpol, namely with the East Asian division."

"By that token can I assume that makes you the daughter of James Braddock?"

"Nice to see you have some decent detective skills," she said with a wry smile, "It's true. I am his daughter. If this were happening a year ago, my father would be standing here instead of me. But since my father is dead, Mr. Tsurayaba wants me to assist with this investigation."

"Not to question Mr. Tsurayaba's wise counsel, but what experience does a girl your age have in these matters?"

"I'm a daddy's girl if that helps. He taught me a few tricks of the trade. Plus, I have a few special talents to aid me," she quipped with a wry grin.

"If talents are your chief tools, can I also assume that this is your first investigation?"

"That's two for two," affirmed the British woman, "Officially, this is my first. I have a day job as a criminology student at the University of Essex and a part time job as a model. Your men probably have some of my work in a few lingerie magazines they hide in their desks."

"I…would rather not make any assumptions on that matter," said the detective, needing to take a particularly heavy drag of his cigarette.

"Good, then you'll sleep easier. You don't even want to know what other magazines your officers are hiding in a box on the bottom shelf of your precinct evidence room."

The detective almost coughed on his cigarette. A girl this young shouldn't be this good at detective work, especially when it involved the perverse habits of some of his officers. He had to make a note to remind some of his men on the importance of keeping certain proclivities out of police work. But that was a mystery for later.

Having proven herself, Elizabeth Braddock went to work. She walked past the detective and a few officers so she could get a closer look at the crime scene. There was still blood on the pavement near where the body had landed. On the surface it looked like a pretty standard homicide by the Yakuza. Any detective would probably have reached that conclusion. This is where her special skills came in. She was a mutant skilled in telepathy. It was what allowed her to figure out where the detective's men were hiding their dirty magazines and it was her primary tool in uncovering the much dirtier secrets of this case.

Kneeling down over the body, she closed her eyes and ran her hand over the head of the Yakuza's latest victim. A brief aura of light formed around her eyes as she tapped her psychic abilities. She could sense some of the psychic residue from the victim. Thoughts had a way of lingering, even after death. While studying detective work under her father, she refined her telepathy to pick up on these thoughts. There wasn't much left, but one in particular lingered.

'Deathstrike.'

Her eyes shot open and she rose up. She was now beginning to understand why Matsu'o Tsurayaba asked that she help with this.

"Hmm…guess you were asking the right question after all, detective," she said in her thick accent, "Your assumptions were just off."

"And which assumptions would those be?" asked the detective curiously.

"You're assuming this recent string of murders is a result of Yakuza families trying to extract information from one another. Did you ever consider that someone from the outside was looking to fight their way in?"

"Why would anyone want that? And why use murder to fight their way into the Yakuza's domain. Usually they just accept money."

"Unless this person isn't after money," Betsy reasoned, "The Yakuza are ruthless, but they're not stupid. They know murder sprees generate too much scrutiny. This killer in this case has no such qualms. He or she might have a different agenda."

"How can you be so sure?" asked the detective skeptically.

"You don't stir up a hornets nest unless you've got a taste for a particular brand of honey," she said strongly as she got up and took out her cell phone, "Now if you'll excuse me, I'll need to relay this information to Mr. Tsurayaba. He'll be very interested in this new information."

"Does this mean he'll grace us with his presence? The man made a career of going after the Yakuza. Surely his help would move this investigation along."

"Sorry detective, but Mr. Tsurayaba is retired. His interest in this case is strictly personal," said Betsy as she walked off so she could talk on her phone in private.

"By personal, does that imply this involves a case he was never able to solve?"

"Congratulations, detective. You're three for three."

The detective had more questions, but Elizabeth Braddock slipped away before he could pursue her. She didn't have time to explain all the complicated details that took her from a cozy classroom in Britain to a crime scene in Japan. Matsu'o Tsurayaba needed a favor and since her father was no longer able to provide it, the responsibility fell on her shoulders. It not only gave her an excuse to go shopping in Tokyo, it gave her a chance to get some real crime-fighting experience. It was a hell of a lot more exciting than modeling.


Xavier Institute – Logan's Room

Logan was suited up in his X-men uniform and ready to eviscerate someone. It was early in the evening. General Grimshaw left with his convoy a mere three hours ago. That was all the time Logan needed to catch up with the Professor, find out about the flash drive Grimshaw had given him, and uncover the latest revelation involving Weapon X. The details mattered little to him. All he heard was the words Weapon X and Japan and that was all he needed.

Upon strapping up his boots, the former living weapon clenched his fists and cracked his knuckles. It had been a while since Weapon X reared its ugly head. Just when it seemed as though they had run out of monsters to throw at him, one lay hidden on the other side of the world. It didn't matter what form it took. It only mattered that he could sink his claws into it.

"Logan? Please don't tell me this is what I think it is."

Logan muttered a curse as he turned to see his girlfriend, Ororo, standing in his doorway. She was with him when the Professor revealed General Grimshaw's news on Weapon X. He could tell just by her expression what was on her mind.

"We've been humping long enough to pick up on each others' quirks, darlin'. You know damn well what's going to happen!" said Logan.

"And you know damn well how foolish that always turns out," she pointed out.

"This is different!" he growled, "You saw what General Know-It-All left us! Weapon X ain't dead! They just had a changed scenery to Japan!"

"You're assuming this is the same Weapon X we've fought before. Those reports said nothing about who is involved or why."

"Doesn't matter either way," snarled Logan, "If they're pissing in the same pool, I'm gonna hunt them down!"

Ororo's demeanor shifted. Despite scorning her lover's impulsive nature, she moved closer to offer a tender gesture. It was usually enough to calm Logan down, much to his chagrin.

"Don't do this, Ro," he said in a more serious tone, "You've seen how sick these people are. I've let you into my world and given you a taste of just how much they fucked me up. You of all people should understand!"

"Understanding is one thing. Standing by while you fight back with sheer blood-lust is something else entirely," she said solemnly, "Vengeance is not going to undo their crimes."

"This ain't just about vengeance. This is about answers!" he said strongly, "When Jeannie and the Prof were sifting through what's left of my memories, they found bits and pieces where the gaps are really messed up. One of those gaps had me in Japan. I don't know what the hell I was doing there, but I know it's important! I need to find out!"

"I believe every word of what you say, Logan. My concern is…do you?" asked Ororo softly, "Because when I look into your eyes I see a man who doesn't believe his own words."

"Sounds like you think I'm crazy."

"I think you're not thinking clearly. And when that happens, it rarely works out."

Logan let out another disgruntled groan. This woman could read him well. Jeannie could do that too, but she was psychic. Ororo could see all his weaknesses without reading his thoughts. His instincts were pulling him down a certain path. He sure as hell wasn't going to be as careful as he ought to be and Ororo wasn't going to let him go it alone.

"You know I'm not going to stop you," she said, "I love you and I want to support you."

"You're gonna ask to come with me, aren't you?" muttered Logan.

"We've done this dance before, Logan. You came with me when I had to confront the Shadow Kings. It's only fair I do the same. I also ask that you allow the X-men to help you."

"This ain't their fight. I already got them in a shitload of trouble the last time we faced Weapon X," he said.

"Trouble follows the X-men wherever we go. We're used to it," quipped Ororo with a light smile, "I'm not going to take no for an answer so why don't you save yourself the trouble?"

The African woman threw in those caring eyes to further persuade him. THe had no problem ripping through hoards of Weapon X thugs, but for some reason the gaze of a beautiful woman stopped him dead in his tracks.

"You women are evil," he muttered, "Giving me that damn look all the time."

"I'll take that as a yes," grinned Ororo.

"Go ahead and suit up, darlin'," was all Logan said as he walked past her, "For any of the runts are crazy enough to follow along, tell them they better be on top of their game! You don't get many chances to take the fight to Weapon X. We need to hit 'em and make sure it hurts!"


Xavier's Office

Professor Charles Xavier remained restless long after General Grimshaw left. He reviewed every aspect of the tour and the private conversation they had at the end. He anticipated from the beginning that this new development would change things, but he had no idea it would change like this. Some concerns had been alleviated while new ones had emerged. The challenge was knowing what their next move should be.

Some of his X-men were already making that move. As soon he went over the contents of the flash drive, Logan stormed out to embark on yet another investigation into Weapon X. The Professor chose not to stop him. What was on the contents of that flash drive was disturbing and needed to be investigated. He figured Logan had more than enough motivation to uncover more secrets and deal with them, albeit harshly. Hank and Ororo ran off to assist Logan to assure he wasn't too harsh. This left Professor Xavier alone with Lilandra to take in everything that was happening.

"Your X-men seem overly eager to confront Weapon X, Charles. Are you sure it's wise to act this quickly?" Lilandra questioned.

"In my experience moving quickly is the only viable option against Weapon X. I've been in the minds of men like John Wraith. Believe me…they must be stopped!"

"I won't argue that. It just feels a bit suspicious that General Grimshaw would drop this along with his outrageous proposal in the same meeting," she said as she paced restlessly throughout Xavier's office, reading a copy of the proposal.

"He's cunning and shrewd. That much is certainly clear. But he's also sincere. He wouldn't have told me about the raid on Magneto's citadel if he didn't desire my trust."

"Do you think it's a mistake to keep his secrets for him? He may have other motives."

"Even if that is the case, we must use what he gave us wisely. That includes investigating Weapon X and researching this proposal. So long as Robert Kelly is in the White House we need someone in his inner circle that we can turn to."

"I still don't trust him," said Lilandra strongly.

"Neither do I," said the Professor distantly, "But I sincerely want to try."

Lilandra continued to pace as she looked over the proposal. It all looked so good on paper. The government was going to get its act together, pool some resources, and upgrade law enforcement so that they could hold a mutant as accountable to the law. Like so many other government plans, the intentions were noble. But all the good intentions in the world cannot account for unintended consequences and with mutants those consequences could be severe.

"So what are you going to do, Charles? Go on another media campaign on behalf of the General's new agency?" asked Lilandra.

"I doubt that would do much good this time. The government is doing to do this regardless of what I say to the public. I'm still not sure what form my involvement will take. Officially, I cannot hold a position in this agency. The General wants me to remain an adviser of sorts."

"One that he can put into the public eye and earn instant credibility," Lilandra added.

"It makes sense, does it not? I can put a mutant face on this agency. I can reassure mutants that this isn't an attack on their right to live. It is strictly a means of enforcing law and order."

"I worry it may cost you some credibility. A lot of mutants see you as an inspiration, Charles. If you start playing the role of MSA apologists, you'll come off as a crony rather than a dreamer."

"I know the risks, Lilandra. I've been weighing them every minute of the last several hours," said Xavier as he stared blankly over his desk, "This is an opportunity to great to ignore. We need the government on our side. I must be the voice for mutants within the MSA while still being a visionary for mutants everywhere."

"That's a lot of responsibility, Charles. Are you sure you can manage this?" said Lilandra as she shifted her concern back to him.

"I've managed far worse," he assured her, "I'll have to for my X-men and for mutants…"

His words were abruptly cut off. Charles Xavier's entire body shifted and he became disoriented. It was as if something had just sucked the energy out of him. He suddenly didn't look like a man equipped to handle so many new responsibilities. He looked like a man who had overestimated his physical limitations.

"Ungh…" he groaned.

"Charles? What's wrong? Is everything…" Lilandra began.

She didn't have a chance to finish. She rushed over to Xavier's desk and caught him before he fainted. He almost went limp in her arms, letting out a series of labored grunts. He was fighting just to stay conscious. It was a major strain and Lilandra could feel it with her telepathy. But that wasn't all she felt.

As she held Charles in her arms, his mind of the world's most powerful telepath faltered. He projected a series of ominous thoughts. Lilandra liked to think of herself as a pretty good telepath, but it was rare that she picked up any thoughts that he didn't want her to sense. What was even more disturbing was the content of these thoughts. They revealed something to her that Charles had been keeping from everyone close to him, including her.

"My God…Charles," she gasped as she watching him struggle, "You're cancer is…"

"Please Lilandra…don't," urged Xavier through his strain.

"You're a very sick man! Don't tell me you've been trying to hide this!"

"I don't want my students to know. I don't want anyone to know."

His words were labored. His strength steadily returned, allowing him to regain his composure. However, Lilandra did not let him escape her grasp. Xavier had to divert his gaze, hiding his sorrow from this woman he so deeply cared for.

"Don't shut me out, Charles. You know I care too much about you to ignore this!" Lilandra urged, "How long has this been happening?"

"Since the election," he told her, "The stress of the campaign, Kevin, and the Phoenix has aggravated my cancer."

"You're talking to a woman with two masters degrees, Charles. I know that cancer is not something you aggravate."

"It's too early to tell. I'm still looking into it, but I may no longer be in remission. It's disconcerting, but manageable."

"Manageable? When did a man as smart as you come to associate cancer with being manageable?!"

"You don't understand, Lilandra. You can't understand," said Charles solemnly, still not looking her in the eye.

"Then help me, Charles! Teach me how a woman is supposed to react when someone she loves reveals he's sick!"

"I… don't like to talk about my struggles with cancer. Any man of even slightly lesser means than my billions can afford would be dead. I…I've been living on borrowed time. I've tried to use that time wisely, forming this institute and training the X-men to make a bigger difference in this world than I could ever manage. It isn't just about having a vision. It's about preparing a new generation to attain a peace I won't live long enough to see. And I refuse to let what precious time I have left to be consumed by prolonging the inevitable."

Lilandra couldn't believe what she was hearing. He knew he didn't much longer to live. He even believed he shouldn't be alive to begin with. Anyone who wasn't very close to this man would admire his strength, but Lilandra didn't have that luxury. No matter how noble his efforts seemed, there was little to admire when he was suffering.

Her gaze persisted even as Xavier escaped her grasp. He couldn't afford to make a big deal of this. It pained him to feel Lilandra's emotions projecting through her mind. Eventually, he finally faced her.

"I can handle this, Lilandra. I still have medicine from my doctors that will ease the symptoms and hold back further damage. I'm already on a strict regiment. Aside from these episodes, they allow me to do my job as effectively as I can hope for."

"That's not the same as getting treatment," she pointed out.

"The cancer I have is beyond treatment. Eventually, it will kill me," he said sadly, "Which makes our work all the more important."

"Charles…" Lilandra began.

"Promise me you'll keep this between us," Xavier went on, taking her hands in his, "You're one of the few people outside my X-men I can trust."

"Why? Is it for the sake of mutants everywhere?" she said dryly.

"Not just that…for the sake of us as well."

He gave her hands a gentle squeeze. The warmth in his weak grip was full of longing. In that warmth Lilandra felt his love for her. IAs much as it pained her, there was nothing she could to about it. Her money, resources, and influence meant nothing. It was a feeling she was not used to having. This must be the feeling Charles dealt with every day. Diverting her gaze, Lilandra Neramani let out a defeated sigh.

"Okay Charles. You have my word," she said, giving his hands a light squeeze as well.

"Thank you, Lilandra," he said with a smile, "Now come…we have work to do. President Kelly will be revealing his plan in the coming days and I need to coordinate with Hank on the Weapon X situation."

"Of course," she said distantly as Charles started wheeling towards the door, "We must always be ready for whatever surprises that come our way. Even if some are harder to prepare for than others."

Lilandra's voice trailed off. She swallowed her sorrow and followed him. There was indeed a lot of work to be done. It was just going to be that much harder doing it with a heavy heart.


X-Jet Hanger

"Get a move on, runts! The jet's ready to go and so should you!" barked Logan from the cockpit of the X-jet.

"I thought you were still going over the safety checklist!" Hank called out.

"If she can fly she's ready!" the feral mutant retorted.

Despite Logan's reckless determination, Hank went over as much of the checklist he could manage on the console outside the jet. While he worked Ororo, Kitty, and Remy entered the hanger in uniform. They weren't moving with the same urgency as Logan, but they understood that Weapon X was serious business and the X-men were best equipped to handle it.

"Your boyfriend be more temperamental than usual, eh Stormy?" commented Remy.

"Can you blame him? This is Weapon X," replied Ororo, "He's bound to be more agitated than usual."

"How can you tell? I'm surprised you're not used to it by now," made Kitty.

"I only be surprised by how Stormy keeps talkin' me into tagging along on these here missions," shrugged the Cajun, "First the Shadow Kings and now the Yakuza. Throw in the Sicilians and you got yourself a home run."

"You know why I ask for your help, Remy," said Ororo in a serious tone, "This time it's not about cashing in a favor. I need someone to watch my back and Logan's by default. You know these kinds of people as well as I do. And I have a feeling we'll be dealing with more than the usual devious standards of organized crime."

"It's Weapon X. They have their own crazy standards," said Kitty, "Which is why I'm tagging along this time!"

"Funny, I thought you be coming because you be sick of being left behind on sudden missions," Remy pointed out.

"That was when I was still hung up on Bobby! I'm over that now!" she complained, "Besides, I'm the only one who isn't ridiculously behind in class. I might as well catch up on missions so I don't feel like the laziest member of the X-men."

Remy shook his head and grinned as they reached the rear entrance to the X-jet. Kitty Pryde obviously didn't know what she was getting into with the Yakuza. These were not the kind of people anyone wanted to play catch-up with. But if she could handle Magneto, Sinister, and the Phoenix she had a shot. Her talent for escaping would probably come in handy since the Yakuza had a reputation for trapping their enemies.

Logan already had the engines roaring. Hank was still clearly doing the safety checks, but it didn't look like he was going to complete all of them. His past lay before him across the Pacific and he was intent on confronting it.

"We're takin' off, Hank! So unless you want some burnt hair on your next date, clear the damn launch pad!" Logan called out.

"So much for safety first," Hank lamented, "At least tell me you'll run a diagnostics on the thrust vectoring once you take off!"

"I'll put it on my to-do list! Now step back so I can hit the afterburner!"

Hank didn't bother reasoning with Logan further. Abandoning the console, he rushed towards the hanger doors. Logan clearly had no patience when it came to Weapon X. Hank took comfort in the knowledge that the XR-77 was advanced enough to withstand Logan's abuse.

As soon as he was outside the hanger, he prepared to close the heavy doors so the jet could take off. Just as he finished punching in the codes, he felt a sharp stream of air rush right by him. He turned to see what happened, but he was too late. The doors had already closed and the jet was ready to take off.

With the roar of the engine, the jet gently rose off the platform into hover in preparation for takeoff. As it turned around to line up with the launch tunnel, the presence that flew past Beast appeared right in front of the main windows. From the cockpit, Logan was startled and had to delay taking off. Hovering right in his way was a grinning Rogue in full uniform.

"The hell? Rogue!" Logan yelled out.

"Rogue? Where did she come from?" said Ororo, who was sitting in the seat next to Logan.

Rogue flew over to the side window and knocked on it. Logan opened it, making it clear to her that he was not amused.

"You're in my way, Stripes! I ain't in a very patient mood so get out of the way or get on board!"

"Well since you so kindly offered Ah think Ah will tag along," she said coyly, "Ah heard from Jean you fellas are going on a mission to Japan of all places."

"You heard right. But if you're gonna join the fun you damn well better be serious!" spat Logan, "This is the Yakuza and Weapon X we're dealing with!"

"And if I recall, you do have classes to catch up on, Rogue," Ororo added, "That's why I did not inform you."

"Since when has being behind in class ever stopped meh before," scoffed Rogue, "Besides, it sounds like y'all could use some extra muscle. I can always make up mah classes later."

"How many times have I heard that?" muttered Ororo.

"And how many times has it paid off?" quipped Rogue.

There were plenty of reasons why Rogue should have stayed behind, but Logan wasn't in the mood to debate them. Rogue was tough and so was Weapon X. If the fighting got heavy, which was pretty much a given, her strength could be useful.

"Fine. Forget class," said Logan as he opened the rear hatch, "Get in! Guess you'll learn by doing for today."

"Mah kind of learning!" grinned Rogue.

With the rear door open, Rogue quickly flew around and entered the X-jet. As soon as she was inside, Logan closed it up and continued to maneuver the aircraft into position. She was greeted by a fairly surprised Kitty and Remy. Having heard her voice from the cockpit, they rushed back to greet her. Remy was especially glad to see her on board.

"So that wasn't Remy's ears playin' tricks on him. You really decided to join us, cherè," grinned Remy.

"What can Ah say? Ah'm in an adventurous mood," she said wryly, "Besides, if you fellas are goin' up against Weapon X and crime syndicates, you'll need someone who can bench press a dump truck watchin' your back."

"Remy feels safer already," said the Cajun playfully.

"Always appreciate the assist, Rogue. But is that the only reason you're tagging along?" asked Kitty coyly.

"Ah'm an X-man and this is a mission. Why would Ah need any other?" shrugged Rogue.

"Oh I can think of a few," the younger girl quipped.

"Better keep 'em to yourself for now. Sounds like we're about to take off," said Rogue.

Rogue slipped past Kitty and sat down in a seat next to Remy. A smile never left her face as they strapped themselves in, preparing for what was sure to be a rough flight with Logan at the helm. Kitty sat down in the seat behind them and couldn't help but smirk at how Rogue carried herself around Remy. It appeared she was taking her earlier advice to heart. She seriously needed to clear the air with Remy. Those two had too much chemistry going for them. Depending on how this mission turned out, they should get their share of chances. Kitty wasn't with the team back when Weapon X abducted the X-men. It seemed she would finally get a chance to confront these monsters.

Once everyone was strapped in, Logan hit the throttle and the X-jet shot out through the launch tunnel and into the cloudy skies. The jet couldn't get to full speed fast enough. Weapon X and an army of Yakuza lay before them. Only for Logan, that wasn't his primary concern. Usually when he learned the truth, it wasn't pretty. Looking over at Ororo, he had reason to be careful.

"Are you ready for this, Logan?" Ororo asked with a touch of concern.

"Thinkin' I should be asking you the same thing, darlin'," retorted Logan.

"You already know the answer to that. I'm not sure either of us knows the answer to the other question."

"Guess we'll find that out together," said Logan distantly, "Shouldn't be too long. I can already smell the lotus blossoms."


Xavier Institute – Main Classroom

The sound of the X-jet taking off could always be heard throughout the mansion. For those left behind it was either a relief or a drag because it meant some of the team was out doing more important things than lounging around in a classroom. At times class was more preferable, especially if times were stressful. This was not one of those times.

"Ungh…no more! Please…on your humanity…stop!" groaned an exasperated Bobby Drake.

"Whining isn't going to make these assignments vanish into thin air, Bobby," said a mildly amused Jean Grey.

"A trip to Japan sounds so much nicer…even if it involves gorging on bad sushi."

"If it makes you feel better, I'll shove some Wasabi down your throat for every answer you get wrong on your next exam. That's as much of Japan as you're going to get so you might as well pull yourself together and get this done

The young X-man let out another groan. He respected the importance of class as well as anybody. It was only when class was overdone that he took issue. As soon as General Grimshaw showed up, the team was rushed back into class so that they came off as dedicated hard-working mutants. Bobby had to be especially focused because he was so far behind. Even Rogue didn't need to catch up as much as he did and she was the habitually late one. Just like Lorna, Jubilee was taking up a lot of his time and it showed in the stack of books next to him.

At least Jean was helping out. She and Kurt were among those who stayed behind after word got out that Logan was going on a mission to Japan. Jean was inclined to join, but Ororo talked her out of it. With Hank, Lilandra, and the Professor busy going over the General's visit there had to be someone to stick around and keep class going.

"This is a total drag! The General and his crew is gone! We can stop the act now!" he pointed out.

"We could, but that would just make us look soft and X-men aren't soft. You are an X-man, aren't you Iceman?" teased Jean.

"An X-man who's been droning over textbooks for six hours!" Bobby complained, "There's no shame in mercy, Jean. Can't you just tap into that magic Phoenix power of yours and make this all just go away?"

"I would think the Phoenix has better things to do with her cosmic power than finish a tired little boy's overdue assignments. Now I've finished my assignments and I've given up a nice evening catching up with my TIVO to help you out. You don't want it to go to waste, do you?"

"I don't know, do I?" groaned Bobby.

"Careful, mien friend. It is never wise to make light of a woman's charity," commented Kurt, who was sitting at a computer across from theirs working on an assignment.

"Now you're playing the feminist card, Kurt?" scoffed Bobby, "You, the same guy who makes booty calls to Amanda every other day?"

"At least he's polite about it," shrugged Jean, "I consider whining like a baby in front of a woman far more insulting."

"Forgive my chauvinism. I get insensitive when I'm overworked."

"And I get upset when the New York Jets fail to make the playoffs, so we're even. Now how much longer do you want ot drag this out?"

Bobby groaned as he slowly lifted his head off the desk. There was a long list of reasons why this was unfair. Unfortunately, none of them sufficed in Jean's book. How Scott dealt with that was beyond him. Looking at his stack of assignments and an impatient Jean Grey sitting next to him, he sighed and opened another book.

He and Jean started going over the material again. Kurt gave his friend a sympathetic look. It offered little comfort as Bobby drudged along. Just as it seemed there would be no end to this, the main door to the classroom opened and Scott Summers walked in.

"Hey Jean, do you have a moment?" he asked as he approached her and Bobby.

"Kind of stuck babysitting here," she said, "Can it wait?"

"Hey!" Bobby complained.

Scott ignored the younger man's complaining. His expression was more serious than usual.

"Sorry, but I don't think it can," he said, "You know how last week you had me do you know what during you know when in you know where?"

"Um…I think so," said Jean, blushing somewhat at the subtext in her lover's tone.

"Well I need you to return the favor," said the X-leader, "It's kind of important and I don't want to bother Mr. McCoy or the Professor."

"How important?" asked Jean curiously.

"I'll fill you in on the details. But first, I need you to stop tormenting Bobby just for a moment."

It sounded somewhat urgent. Jean surmised Scott wasn't talking about the kind of favor that could be handled with a bottle of wine and some lingerie. Looking over at Bobby who seemed all too eager for her to abide by Scott's request, she set some papers aside and rose up.

"Okay babe, I'll do what I can," she told her lover.

"Thanks Jean," said Scott graciously, "It shouldn't take long. It should also make us even."

"I'll be the judge of that," she said coyly.

She began following Scott out, leaving Bobby to his own studies. But before he got too excited, Jean turned back to him and Kurt.

"Kurt, make sure Bobby finishes his English paper," he told him, "I don't care if he tries to bribe you with an all-you-can-eat buffet. Keep him in that chair even if you have to hog-tie him."

"I understand, Jean," said Kurt with a mischievous grin, "I promise you our friend here von't negate his studies."

"Aw come on, now you're ganging up on me? I thought the X-men were supposed to trust each other!" said Bobby.

"Good luck on your paper, Bobby," said Jean wryly, "I'm sure Mr. McCoy will be eager to read it after a day like this."

Jean left with Scott before Bobby could further plead his case. He ended up banging his head on the table again in frustration. Even when he seemed to catch a break, his 4friends found ways to mess with him.

Setting aside his own assignments for the moment, Kurt teleported away from his computer and appeared next to Bobby in the same chair Jean had been sitting. He casually took one of Bobby's books and started thumbing through it much to his friend's chagrin.

"You're not going to cut me any slack, are you?" Bobby muttered.

"Debating vith one of zhe world's most powerful telepath is just as pointless as debating vith someone who can teleport anywhere in zhis mansion," replied Kurt, "Keep zhat in mind if you're considering making a break for it."

"Just checking," he sighed.

"Oh come now, mien friend. I know you're tired, but you'll sleep much easier tonight if you have zhis done."

"If I ever get to sleep again, that is," Bobby muttered, "Makes me wonder if a mission against Weapon X isn't worth it. What are those meat-puppeteers are doing in Japan anyways?"

"You'll have to ask Logan and zhe others vhen zhey return. For now, your only pondering should be on early 20th century English literature," said Kurt as he set the open text book on the table.

"Yay for me," he said dryly, "I bet my entire stash of Playboys that whatever is going on in Japan is way more interesting than this."


Tokyo, Japan – Nine Months Ago

It was a sad day for Matsu'o Tsurayaba. On a day when so many were elated that Magneto had been defeated and the asteroid he sent to destroy all life on Earth was destroyed, he was among those mourning a very difficult loss. His beloved daughter, Kwannon, was in a coma and on the brink of death.

He long feared this day would come. Kwannon had been a fighter since she was a little girl. She always looked up the ancient warriors of the past. He decided to nourish that passion by sending her to train in various fighting styles like kung fu and ninjitsu. As a high ranking figure in Interpol, he had access to all the best trainers. It was only natural that she joined the armed forces as soon as she was old enough. Even when they kicked her out for being a mutant, her desire to fight was too strong. He eventually helped her find a private military company called White Cell that accepted mutants. Now he deeply regretted that decision.

'My beautiful Kwannon…forgive me for nurturing your passion. I loved you too much to keep you from such an unfitting fate.'

The report he got from White Cell was grim. Kwannon had been helping in riot control efforts in Los Angeles and got caught in a devastating blast that left her wounded. Her injuries were severe and included massive brain trauma. All that kept her alive at this point was a special hyperbaric chamber packed with life-support equipment. He requested that she be sent home to Japan so that he could be by her side.

When she arrived on a transport plane at Haneda Aiport in Tokyo, he stood anxiously as one of White Cell's operatives wheeled her intensive care chamber down a ramp onto the runway. The chamber was white, on a dolly, and had a clear glass cover so he could see inside. There were also a number of modules filled with various life support machines and medications that were going into her unmoving body. As soon as he approached her chamber, he was taken aback.

"I'm so sorry, Mr. Tsurayaba. Kwannon didn't deserve this," said John Proudstar, the White Cell operative who was tasked with overseeing her transport, "She was hell of a fighter. I couldn't have asked to have anyone better watching my back."

"Please Proudstar-san, do not talk about my daughter in the past tense," said Matsu'o in a with accented English, "She is not dead yet. I will not allow myself to concede that."

"My apologies, sir," said John respectfully, "But I assume you read the same report I did. The doctors at White Cell said she's comatose. Her body was able to heal, but her mind is practically gone due to the brain trauma."

"Practically gone is not the same as gone. I know some doctors in advanced research that may be able to help her."

"Those doctors are probably on the same contact list as White Cell. If they can't help her, then I don't know who can."

John tried to be tactful, but there was no hiding the truth. He had been with Kwannon when she suffered her injuries. The trauma caused hemorrhaging in her brain and the only way to keep her alive was to use these special intensive care chambers keep her body functioning. It wasn't a pretty picture, seeing all these tubes and needles going into her body, making sure her vital organs didn't shut down. He could only imagine how hard it must be for Mr. Tsurayaba.

"She can't die like this. I refuse to let my child suffer such a fate," he said as he gazed at her unmoving face.

"Kwannon was a hell of a fighter. She accepted this fate before she ever joined us," said John, placing a comforting hand on the man's shoulder, "Everyone at White Cell sends their deepest condolences."

"It sounds as though they have also given up."

"We're just going on what the doctors told us. These machines may be able to keep her alive, but they can't undo the damage. If it's any consolation, your daughter was a true warrior. My people always believed that true warriors find peace in the heat of combat. Sometimes the best way to honor them is to set that spirit free."

"I appreciate your attempt to soothe my grief mystical ramblings, but you're assuming I'm a stereotypical, spirit-worshipping monk," said Matsu'o in a low tone.

"I…didn't mean to imply that," said John, now shifting awkwardly.

"I'm certain you didn't. The fact remains that I take no comfort in the myths and folklore about spirits in battle. I cannot and I will not let my daughter die. I will save her."

"Mr. Tsurayaba, with all due respect…"

"That is enough, Proudstar-san!" said Matsu'o, cutting the Apache mutant off before he could go on, "I thank you for seeing to it that my daughter returns home. Please tell White Cell their services are no longer needed. I shall take care of my daughter from this point forward."

His eyes never left the unmoving figure of Kwannon. He placed his hand over the glass cover, a slight tear trailing down his cheek in the process. John Proudstar was silent as he gazed over his former teammate and her father.

In the end there was nothing left to say. John accepted that Kwannon had given her life for the mission. The risk of death was a risk she was always willing to take and it finally caught up with her. He was willing to let her go. Her father was not. Looking at his solemn expression, he couldn't help but worry for this man. But it was out of his hands.

While John returned to the aircraft, Matsu'o Tsurayaba remained fixated on his daughter. He barely noticed the aircraft pulling away towards a nearby hanger. White Cell had given up on her. Everybody had given up on her. Only he remained willing to fight for his daughter's life.

'It will be okay, my little Lotus blossom. Please hold on for me. I do not care if I have to sell my soul to all the demons of the underworld. I will NOT let you die like this. I promise.'


Osaka, Japan – Present

Elizabeth Braddock had slipped away from the investigation at Yashida Tower. She had the information she needed and the police were none the wiser. As soon as she was a safe distance from the scene, she took out her phone and called Matsu'o Tsurayaba. The old man was right. This case was officially out of their league. When Yakuza were involved with someone like Deathstrike, there was no amount of due process that could stop them. She was just about to get into her rented car when Matsu'o answered.

"I have been awaiting your call, Betsy. Please tell me what you uncovered."

"Sorry for the delay, luv. Traffic around the crime scene has been a real bitch," answered Betsy, "But it appears you were right. Someone knows the Yashidas are up to something and she's tying as many toe-tags as they can to find out what it is."

"Who exactly is this she? Is it anyone we know?"

"You were at Interpol for more years than I've been alive. I'm guessing the name Deathstrike rings a bell."

There was a brief silence over the line. Betsy assumed Matsu'o was taking a moment to cringe.

"Deathstrike…are you certain?"

"It had all her calling cards. You would think someone with adamantium claws built right into her fingers would try to be more subtle. The cuts on that body were clean and so was the cut on the chain, which the police appear to have completely missed."

"So they are still oblivious? They have yet to deploy any resources into seeking her or Yashida's activities?"

"That seems to be the case. Regardless of what the police throw at her, I don't doubt she'll keep probing. So long as she doesn't find what she's looking for, the body count will keep rising."

There was another silence over the line. Betsy assumed Matsu'o was contemplating their next move. Looking back towards Yashida Tower, she scowled the Yakuza and the blood on their hands. Her father spent much of his life at Interpol taking on groups like the Yakuza. She grew up hearing stories about their greed, secrecy, and brutality. Yet that never stopped him from trying to bring them to justice. Even after the death of her mother, he never stopped fighting. As such, Betsy sought to follow in his footsteps. It seemed fitting that she would carry on this fight and her Uncle Tsurayaba was giving her a chance.

"So what's our next move?" asked Betsy, "We can't just let Deathstrike keep killing people. It's going to cause another bloody turf war between the Yakuza families."

She heard her uncle sigh over the line. He sounded deeply distressed, which was saying a lot because he should be used to this.

"Do not fret, Betsy. I have a plan."

"Please tell me I'm still part of it. It would be a shame for me to fly out here and not see my first real case to the end," she said.

"Rest assured, you will play a major role in this investigation. For that reason, I need you to meet with me. I am in the Rinku industrial district."

"The industrial district? What in the bloody hell are you doing there?"

"I cannot explain over the phone. Just get here as soon as possible. I am in Building X-10. I'll be waiting with a few associates of mine."

"Did you already call for backup?"

"In this situation, I assumed that would be a given. I will fill you in on the details as soon as you arrive. We must move quickly though. Yuriko Oyama has a tenacity that is not to be underestimated."

"No need to remind me. I've seen enough of her handiwork to want to throw her into the darkest pit I can find," said Betsy as she got into her rental car, "I should be there in a half hour."

"Thank you, Betsy. Again, I cannot tell you how much this means to me. Your father would be proud."

"Thank you for giving me a chance, Uncle Tsurayaba," she said as she started up her car and prepared to drive off, "This is what I was born to do!"


Rinku Industrial District – Building X-10

Matsu'o Tsurayaba swallowed a heavy lump in his throat as his call with Betsy ended. She sounded so excited. She was just like her father, fearless and intent on confronting those who would do harm to others. She had all the makings of an honorable fighter in battle against organized crime. In a ways she was just like his beloved daughter, Kwannon. That made what he was doing to her all the more egregious.

"Is it done, Matsu'o?" said a cold, devious voice.

"She'll be here within the hour, Harada," Matsu'o replied in a bitter tone, "How much longer until this is over and done with?"

"Long enough to make dinner reservations at your favorite restaurant," Harada grinned, "Because by tonight you'll be dining with your fully healed daughter."

"And Betsy? What about her?"

"We'll do our best, but please understand this procedure is a tad messy. The advancements made by Weapon X do come with significant risks."

Matsu'o scolded Harada for his callous tone, but there was nothing he could do about it. This was the only way to save his beloved Kwannon.

"I'm willing to take that risk," he said, "Just be sure you hold up your end of the bargain. If anything happens to my daughter or my god-daughter, you can forget about all the favors I offered from Interpol!"

"Relax, Matsu'o-san. I'm a man of my word. You of all people should know."

"That's exactly why I'm so cautious. Don't make me regret ithis more than I already have!"

Harada merely laughed at such a threat. He knew full well that Matsu'o was in no position to defy him. Matsu'o had so much to lose and Harada had plenty to gain. It was business as usual for the Yashida crime family.

Matsu'o could only fume as Harada casually walked past him, giving him a purposeful bump along the way. It further annoyed Matsu'o, but there was nothing he could do to respond. This man was going to save his daughter. Even though he represented everything he stood against in a lifetime of dutiful law enforcement, he had to trust in this disgusting excuse for a man.

'Forgive me, Betsy. Forgive me, Kwannon. You both may hate me after this is over. But there is no going back now. Our fates are now in the hands of Harada Yashida.'

It was a disturbing thought to contemplate as he followed Harada out of his makeshift office and into the heart of the building. They exited onto an elevated walkway that overlooked a vast open space nearly four stories high and three football fields long. Harada's men cleared out everything in this factory that had been recently closed. In it's place they were setting up a large array of complex machines that included DNA computers, a half-dozen diesel generators, a vast collection of wires and tubes, and stacks of advanced medical supplies. At the heart of it all was a large bio-tank about the size of a telephone booth. This is where most of the wires and tubes led into. Right next to it was a gurney packed with restraints. It was an ominous setup that was supposed to be Kwannon's salvation.

Gazing distantly over the walkway, he saw his unmoving daughter floating in the bio-tank. She was still as motionless as the day she returned from White Cell. Her condition had not changed. None of the doctors he took her to offered any hope. He was not willing to accept that. Desperate, he was eventually confronted by Harada Yashida of the Yashida Clan. He claimed he had access to technology that could save his daughter.

At first he scoffed at such a notion. Harada was a thug who took control of the Yashida crime family through brute force. It helped that he was a mutant, able to channel energy through metals and make them capable of cutting through anything. He gained additional credibility with Matsu'o when he revealed that this technology belonged to Weapon X. When he saw some of the secret files on the program, he saw in it the hope he was looking for. In exchange for using this technology to save his daughter, he was going to use his influence to stifle Interpol's efforts at investigating the Yashida syndicate. It was a high price to pay and would permanently taint his reputation. But for his daughter it was worth it.

Matsu'o Tsurayaba slipped away to get some fresh air while Harada descended the stairs of the platform to the ground level where his acolytes were working feverishly. It appeared they were right on schedule.

"Master Harada! Come over here quickly! We've discovered something that require your attention!" said one of his acolytes, who was dressed in the distinct ninja-like uniform all Yashida Yakuza wore.

"These systems better not be flawed! Black Tom Cassidy assured me these components would do the job!" muttered Harada as he rushed over to a computer console a few of his men were operating.

"It isn't the machines, sir. It is something one of our monitoring agents picked up," said one of the technicians typing on the computer, "You said you wanted to monitor all air traffic to ensure law enforcement wouldn't pick up on our activities."

"Mr. Tsurayaba was supposed to take care of that, but if he's gone behind my back…"

"I don't think he has, sir," said the technician, stopping his master before he became too agitated, "Our men picked up something even Mr. Tsurayaba could not have foreseen. Apparently, a private jet just landed at a secure hanger at Kansai International Airport. One of the occupants is someone who matched a very specific file on our database."

Harada took a closer look as the technician pulled the image up on the screen. It was a bit blurry because it came from a security camera. After some cleaning up by the technician, the picture became a bit clearerr. There were five figures, three women in two men. They looked familiar, but one in particular stood out. As soon as Harada took in his distinctive disposition, he was overcome with a mix of anger and intent.

"Son of an in-bred bitch…it's him!" Harada scowled, "After all this time, the Shiroi Akuma has returned!"

"So it is him!" said one of his acolytes, "The one the Yashida Clan once called…"

"Don't you dare say his name!" spat Harada, causing the man to cower on the spot, "None have spoken of this dishonorable bastard in a long time and for good reason! He should have been sent to a thousand hells ages ago!"

There was a burning rage in the Yakuza leader's tone. There were only whispers and rumors about this so called Shiroi Akuma. Only Harada understood the reason behind such horror.

"What do you think he's doing here?" asked the technician timidly, "Has he returned to finish what he started?"

"No…at least he damn well better not!" seethed Harada, "He left Japan in disgrace! I knew he was alive and running around with those foolish X-men, but I never thought he would dare come to this part of the world again! For him to set foot in this same time zone is a travesty!"

"Then what could he want?" asked one of his lieutenants.

"Isn't it obvious? We're tampering with Weapon X! He must be looking for vengeance as he always has! After what he did to me and my family…I am sickened just by looking at him!"

Harada slammed his fists on the computer screen, breaking it in the process and shocking his Yakuza brethren even more. It caused a tense silence throughout the area. Some weren't sure if they should stop working and start panicking. Harada soon felt all eyes on him. If Shiroi Akuma had returned, this could mean major disruptions for their plans.

"What should we do, Lord Harada?" asked one of his acolytes, breaking the silence, "Should we move our operations?"

"No…the Yashida Clan will not run from this threat. Not after what he did!" seethed Harada, "We will continue as planned. Only this time, we should make room for another participant."

"You mean…you want to lure him here?" asked one of the technicians warily.

"Can you think of a better way to confront this barbarian?" quipped Harada, "Make a call to our foot soldiers in the area! Tell them to prepare a special homecoming for our disgraced guest!"

"Perhaps we should make a call to some of our more experienced assassins," suggested one of his lieutenants, "I doubt foot soldiers will be capable of defeating Shiroi Akuma."

"They don't need to. They just need to send him on the right track. This way we can have our long overdue rematch! I owe as such to my family's honor!"

"I understand, sir," said one of his acolytes respectfully, "Your dedication to the clan is admirable."

"It is also pragmatic," said Harada coldly as he stormed towards the office levels of the building, "Tell all the workers to continue setting up the machines! We will carry out our little experiment as scheduled! In the meantime, fetch my armor and sword! I have a battle to prepare for!"

"Ye sir!" said his lieutenants simultaneously, "And what of the threat of Deathstrike?"

"She is no longer my primary concern. If anything, she could present us with an opportunity. Rest assured, the Yashida Clan will not be dishonored again!"

Harada's harsh words got every Yakuza in the building working at a more fervent pace. The idea of Shiroi Akuma coming their way was enough to make even the most hardened gangster weary. It had long been anticipated that this battle would happen again. Now the past had finally returned in a most menacing form. It could potentially destroy the Yashida Clan's ambitious or reclaim an honor that had been lost years ago. And nobody was more intent on reclaiming that honor than Harada Yashida.

'So this barbarian seeks to confront his shame…so be it. My father, my sister, and my family suffered by your hand. On this day I not only reclaim their honor! II swear on the blood of my ancestors that you will die today Logan-san! The Silver Samurai will see to it personally!'


Meanwhile

The Rinku Industrial District was less active than usual. While work continued feverishly in building X-10, the rest of the district conducted business as usual. This was not a very busy part of the district, but it was still active. Forklifts and trucks moved in and out of the area, carrying various materials across the district. No one would expect anything criminal. That's what made it such a solid cover for Yakuza operations. Since it was on the Yakuza's payroll and surrounded by legitimate operations, nobody was wise to their presence.

At least that was how it was supposed to be. Secrets had a way of getting out even from the notoriously untrusting Yakuza. Most never came out by accident. It always required a healthy dose of force and a small dose of brutality to get the truth. Both were areas in which Yuriko Oyama excelled. When it came to brutality and force, even the most hardened Yakuza had a hard time resisting.

"Please…in the name of all things decent," gasped a desperate and bloodied figure, "Kill me. I shamefully beg for mercy!"

"Quiet, you cowardly excuse for a man!" barked Deathstrike, "I've finally tapped into the building's surveillance equipment! Do not add to your shame by testing my patience! Otherwise I'll find a way to keep you alive even longer!"

The pained cries of a hapless young man went unheard as Deathstrike stood at the edge of the roof from a vacant office building overlooking building X-10. She had hunted, tortured, and killed dozens of Yakuza acolytes in her hunt for the Yashida stronghold. It was only a matter of time before she found someone who finally broke under the pain. The unlucky man who gave her this location was a lowly thug who worked at the building. When Deathstrike found him, she went to work with her aggressive interrogation. Two hours, three fingers, and half a left leg later he finally broke. It was a shameful betrayal. To make matters worse, Deathstrike took him along for the ride.

Not taking any chances, she drugged the man and carried him across the city. When he awoke he was handcuffed and wrapped in chains against the base of a satellite dish on the building. Despite being severely wounded, Deathstrike made sure he stayed alive. She did not offer the comforting embrace of death to those who gave in. There was also a chance this man might still be useful.

Using the computer in her cybernetic limbs, she hacked into the communications network of the industrial district. As expected, building X-10 was heavily guarded. She spent the last twenty minutes weaving her way through firewalls and encrypted signals. If she was to succeed in reclaiming her family's honor, she needed to know what she was up against.

'What are you hiding, Harada? You go through all the trouble of stealing my father's research and further dishonoring his memory. Why? You are no scientist. What could you possibly gain by chasing the ghosts of Weapon X?'

Yuriko concentrated as her arm processed an influx of data. In addition to adamantium digits, she had parts of her body replaced with cybernetics. She learned early on that just having claws wasn't enough. She needed strength and agility beyond what her frail, human body could offer. It was a good thing she had a few friends overseas with the necessary resources. This extra hardware came in very handy when confronting her enemies.

It took a few more minutes to get through the encryption. As soon as she was in, she could make out a few scrambled transmissions from within the building.

"Yes…at last I've found you, Harada! You will not run away from your shame this time! I will see to it that you pay for what you did to…"

But before she could contemplate the ways she was going to torture Harada, she heard something else. One of the transmissions from a few lieutenants came through. They sounded panicked. Something was very wrong. Everyone sounded more tense. That's when she heard it.

"Shiroi Akuma…"

"No…it can't be!" she gasped.

Deathstrike listened in closer. She adjusted her cybernetics, unscrambling the signal so she could clearly overhear what was going on. As she listened in on the details she heard a name she thought she would never hear again. It was the only name that stirred more hatred within her than Harada and if she was hearing correctly, this monster was on his way.

In a fit of rage, she ripped out the chords going into her arms and turned towards the bloodied Yakuza who led her here. Extending her adamantium laced fingers, she grabbed him by the neck and started choking him mercilessly.

"You miserable punk! You failed to tell me the whole truth!" she bellowed.

"Ack!" the man choked, "I…I swear! I've told you everything I know!"

"LIAR!" screamed Deathstrike, her claws digging into his neck and causing more bleeding, "How is it possible that the return of the Wolverine slipped your mind?!"

"Wolverine? I…I don't know any Wolverine!" he whimpered.

"How about Shiroi Akuma?! Does that name ring any bells?!"

Blood started trickling down his face. He was in a lot of pain. He was actually crying now. It was to be expected. Most knew the name Shiroi Akuma. They did not know Wolverine. That was another name more personal to Deathstrike. As such, she was inclined to take her frustration out on this already shamed thug.

"I…I don't know anything about the return of Shiroi Akuma! I swear!" he cried.

"Your lies will only prolong your agony!" roared Deathstrike, "Speak the truth and I may just show some mercy!"

"I do speak the truth! On…on the honor of the Yashida Clan, I swear! I have no knowledge of Shiroi Akuma! Neither does Harada!"

"How can I be sure?"

"Please…the plan was just to test the new technology! And to gain favors! Why would Harada risk involving Shiroi Akuma?"

Deathstrike scowled this cowardly man. He was in so much pain his tears were mixed with blood. Yet despite this man's cowardly disposition, his words were perfectly reasonable. It was not like Harada to take risks of this sort. He knew as well as she did how dangerous Wolverine could be. It would not make sense to involve him when he was just trying to test a new technology that would be valuable on the black market.

This left only one other possibility. Harada was threatened by Wolverine and was in a panic to get this experiment done. This would certainly change her plans. She came here with the intent of getting her vengeance on Harada. Now she had other priorities to consider.

"Lady Deathstrike…I beg of you," said the man with a feeble gasp, "I have spoken the truth. I have betrayed my brethren. Is…is this not punishment enough?"

"Stop graveling. I actually believe you," she said stoically as she finally loosened her grip, "It would seem Harada has more than just me to worry about. He is certain to change his plans with Wolverine's arrival."

"I…I know nothing of such plans! He never shares any such plans with a lowly acolyte like me!"

"Are you deaf?! Did I just tell you not to gravel?! Show some honor you insufferable child!" spat Deathstrike.

The clawed woman tightened her grip on the bound figure again, pinning him to the back of the brick wall and causing more blood to gush from his many wounds. His body and spirit begging for death. Deathstrike was disgusted. There wasn't enough shame for this man to endure for his transgressions. Usually, she showed mercy for those willing to stand their ground against her. For those like this man and especially for those such as Wolverine, she never showed such leniency.

"You are lucky I am now pressed for time!" she said, now holding his claws to his abdomen, "If I am to reclaim my family's honor, I will need to act quickly! That means instead of a slow painful death, I'll have to make sure yours is fast and exceedingly painful!"

"No…please!" gasped the man as he watched her clawed hands menacingly trail down his body, "No…NO…NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"


Up next: The Lotus and the Warrior Part 2