Sabertooth, Toad and Mystique had left the mansion after Willow had explained what was going on. They were quite clearly concerned about the Initiative, and wanted to discuss among themselves what they intended to do about it. Mystique gave Willow a slip of paper with a phone number on it, saying that if Willow ever wanted to work with people that would go for results, call her.
Nobody at Xavier's trusted these three enough for them to be welcome on the school grounds. Spike and Willow had had a long quiet discussion about what to do, and Willow had managed to get a bit of time with the school's computers. She had managed to get some satellite imagery of Sunnydale, and was certain that she had found the location of the Initiative's base. She had been exhausted, and had fallen asleep over the printouts on a table.
Jean had agreed to perform the surgery on Spike to remove his implant, mainly as a means to keep him in one place. She had sedated him, and removed the implant from his head, setting it aside to examine later. It seemed to be a remarkable piece of technology. Spike was left unconscious in the med lab, expected to be asleep for close to eight hours.
* * * *
Jean hadn't figured on Spike's vampiric recuperation. She had dosed him as if he were a normal person, and based it on his body mass. He woke up barely an hour later. His head ached, a dull throbbing pain radiating tendrils of fire from the back of his skull. The med lab was empty. The entire lower portions of the school were also empty, and he rushed upstairs, a suspicion growing inside.
The X-Men were gone. Willow was asleep at the table where she had been gathering information on the Initiative, using satellite images. They had left without Spike and Willow. Spike had a feeling that this wouldn't turn out well.
end part 9.
Spike growled in frustrated anger. The noise of it woke Willow up, and she looked around, trying to figure out what was going on. She only saw Spike, looking slightly wobbly, and wearing his vampire face.
"Spike? What's wrong? Everything's all quiet." Willow still sounded a bit sleepy. She looked at the mass of papers spread over the table, suddenly frowning. "Where's the thermal imaging of Sunnydale?"
"Remember I said they didn't trust us? I think they left without us. The redhead did something to my head, said she'd take the chip out." Spike grimaced, his head throbbing. "My head hurts a lot, she must have done something to me."
Willow gestured for him to come closer, and stood up in front of him. She held her hands out, one on either side of his head, and chanted a few words. The pain faded.
"Red, that's wonderful."
Suddenly, he reached out and pinched her arm, right below the elbow. Willow winced, and Spike got this incredibly big, wicked smile on his face.
"She really did it. I can hurt people again. Red, find a way that we can go after those Initiative bastards without these X- people, I want them to bleed."
Spike prowled the mansion, pondering the best, most painful ways to torture and kill the soldiers, and Willow used the computers once more, this time getting detailed information of Magneto's prison. She had carefully routed herself, and had worked some sort of complex computer thing that she told Spike would prevent the people at the prison from finding who had accessed their data, assuming they even noticed. She downloaded blueprints, and wiring systems, a listing of the guards on duty, and their schedules.
She had gathered a vast amount of new papers before she fell asleep again. There was only so far that willpower could substitute for sleep, and Willow had gone beyond that point. The computer had been disconnected from the prison, and from the Initiative, and was now simply doing some sort of internal maintenance when Spike looked in near dawn. He gathered the papers, and took them and Willow to the room she was supposed to be sleeping in.
He also slept, knowing that Willow would have some sort of plan for the next effort.
* * *
Charles Xavier was worried. His X-Men had decided that Willow was an unknown, and there had been concern over how trustworthy she was. Spike was a dangerous and violent individual, and so it had been decided, after much debate, to go investigate the Initiative, and if the proved dangerous, to impede or remove their operations, and to do so without either Spike or Willow.
They should have been in touch with him again by now. He could only assume that something had gone terribly wrong.
end part 10.
The X-Men's jet returned shortly after dawn, and landed in the hanger. Charles Xavier did not hear Scott's voice over the radio as this happened. He was very concerned, and went to the hanger to figure out what was going on. He realized that his concerns about something going wrong were accurate. He sensed Logan's mind, filled with too much anger to read easily. Storm, disturbingly unconscious and tinged with pain. Jean's mind was there, similarly unconscious.
The X-Men had underestimated the Initiative. They hadn't taken Willow's warnings seriously enough. Cyclops was captured, Jean and Storm to injured to be on any active missions. Logan was in decent enough shape, but his uniform was slashed, perforated by circular holes proclaiming that he had been shot with bullets, and almost covered in dried blood. Xavier had the sudden realization that if not for Logan's healing factor, none of his X-Men would have returned from this mission.
"The girl was right. They were military, with rows of captives. Whole place smelled like pain, fear, and antiseptic. We didn't prepare well enough. They got Scott, it was all I could do to keep them from getting Jean and 'Ro. We have to go back. But, we have to be better prepared next time." Logan's voice was thick with exhaustion and smothered rage.
"I think you should rest. We will plan what to do next when you've had enough rest to think clearly again. I will tend to our injured in the med labs." Xavier's voice was concerned.
That evening, when Spike and Willow wandered downstairs, the Professor's voice rang in their minds, asking them into his study. He was there, and Logan was as well. Neither of them looked calm, although Xavier looked unhappy and worried, Logan looked unhappy and angry.
"My X-Men were under-prepared for the Initiative. Scott has been captured. Jean and Ororo are in the med lab, both seriously injured. I confess, we were uncertain as to the validity of your concerns, and so we didn't take your cautions seriously enough. I have asked you here to see if you have a suggestion as to our next action." Xavier's voice was quiet, clearly upset by what had happened.
"We can't leave him there. Their records indicate that they are going to regard him as a hostile non-human if he displays any abilities outside the normal human range. The complication is that you don't have any other students ready for something like this." Willow was clearly thinking about this, voicing her thoughts for the Professor and Logan's benefit.
Spike figured that Willow had thought about all this upon learning that the X-Men had left without them. "We bloody well told you they were dangerous. You should have listened to us on that point, even if you lot did decide that we were both crazy." Spike couldn't quite refrain from an I-Told-You-So.
"You don't have the numbers or firepower to take them down yourselves anymore. The first step is to call Mystique, Sabertooth, and Toad, and have them help us with step two." Willow's voice was confident. She had a plan, and now Xavier was finally willing to listen to her.
"What is step two, if I may ask?" Xavier was thoughtful, wondering how sound her plan would be.
"Step two is liberating Magneto from prison so that he can help us eliminate the Initiative. I can't picture anyone that survived the Nazi concentration camps ever permitting something like this, let alone the mind control chips that they are working on."
Xavier and Logan both gasped at the scope of her plan. It was on one level amazingly simple, obvious that Magneto wouldn't stand for this. On the other hand...
"You can't just waltz up to a prison and pop the doors like you did at the mansion. It will be something much more complicated and difficult," Logan spoke, not arguing with her idea, only wanting to be certain that it was well planned in advance.
" I know. That's why I used your computers to access the plans for the prison. I have all the information that we need." Willow had a faint smile on her face. Finally, things were moving in the right direction. As Spike went to get the stack of papers from her room, she found the slip of paper, and called Mystique.
end part 11.
They had agreed to listen to Willow's plan, and so Toad, Sabertooth, and Mystique returned to Xavier's mansion. There had been some glares exchanged between Logan and Sabertooth, but they had restrained themselves from actual fighting.
Willow had gotten their attention when she had began by saying "I want you to assist in the retrieval of Magneto from federal prison."
Seeing that everyone was now focused on her, she smiled slightly. "I have the blueprints, and the listing and schedule of the guards. This won't be easy, but we can manage it as long as we keep our timing right, and don't stop for any extra violence. You did catch that part, right guys? No ad lib violence, or it will throw off the schedule." Willow glared slightly at Spike, as well as looking at Sabertooth when she said that.
Then, Willow began to elaborate the plan. She and Xavier had considered all the security measures, and had also taken into consideration Mystique's shape-shifting. Mystique actually played a pivotal role in this plan, and after some questions, everyone was clear on the details.
* * * *
They hadn't had much difficulty. The plan had worked, and they had retrieved Magneto. He had lost weight while in prison, and he looked to have a few bruises on his body. The expression on his face had been surprise, and relief. He had also been extremely puzzled to see Logan working with Sabertooth and a strange red haired young woman to free him. Willow had gone into the building and done something to the computers. She had only smiled, and said it was a minor surprise for later when Toad had asked her about it.
They had all boarded the jet and Logan had them airborne before Willow would answer any questions, of which Magneto had a great many.
" Let me explain, and umm I'm Willow Rosenberg. There is a secret military project called the Initiative. They are using demons and vampires to experiment and perfect a mind control chip. They also have Cyclops right now. I found out about them, and hacked into their system. They trace back to another illegal secret research program called Weapon X, which was responsible for Sabertooth and Wolverine. I asked the X-Men to help me get rid of them. They didn't take me seriously, and went without me or Spike." She gestured at a blond man sitting across from her.
"They failed. The Initiative captured Cyclops, and Logan was barely able to get Jean and Storm out with him. We need more than just myself, Spike and Logan to get rid of the initiative, so I asked Sabertooth, Toad and Mystique to help get you out of prison."
Grinning, Spike took up the next line. "We want you to help destroy the Initiative. Completely."
Magneto was quiet for a moment. He remembered the horrible things that had happened to him and so many others in the camps. He recalled his fears about experiments to find some way to act against mutants. The fears of so many people that mutants would destroy humanity, and now it sounded like humanity would do the job all on it's own. There was only one possible response.
"Count me in."
end part 12.
After the plane had returned to the mansion, Mystique, Willow and Magneto went to the kitchen for a bit of food, while the rest of the people went to shower and in most cases, go to sleep. Willow explained about the Initiative in greater detail, wanting Magneto to understand why they had to be dealt with. She figured she didn't need to use the war-room and its visual display screens, and he looked like he needed a good meal anyhow.
They decided to have a session for planning in the morning, after everyone had rested. Willow, Xavier and Magneto would plan a strategy for dealing with the Initiative. After he was shown to a room, Magneto asked Mystique to explain what had happened to result in him being retrieved from prison with Charles' jet.
She explained that the X-Men had viewed Willow as mentally unbalanced, obsessed with the destruction of the Initiative. They hadn't taken her warnings seriously, and had gone to investigate the Initiative without either Willow or her companion Spike. Mystique didn't know any details, but things had gone very wrong for the X-Men. Jean and Storm were injured, recovering in the medical area. Cyclops had been captured.
His sleep was full of troubled dreams. Dreams of horrors in the past, and of what might come to be. If this initiative succeeded in creating mind control chips, what would become of mutants? Would they be hunted down by mind-controlled soldiers? Would they become mind-controlled slaves to a world of intolerance and hate?
Morning was a welcome end to his dreams. He found clean clothing provided; clothing that neither suggested prison wear or carried the logo of Xavier's school. It was a gesture he appreciated very much. Hopefully, there would be plentiful coffee for the planning session.
There was hot coffee and also breakfast. He entered the room, following the scent of coffee and eggs, and saw that Willow was already there, a cup of coffee beside her, and busily using the computers for something. She looked up as he entered, and offered a half smile, and waved in the direction of the coffee.
"Professor Xavier's not here yet, I think he went to check on Jean and Storm. Your people are fine. Toad's in the library, looking at some books on engineering. I really don't think I want to know what Sabertooth and Mystique are doing. They shared a room, and haven't come out yet. Spike isn't a day person; he's still asleep, probably dreaming about gutting soldiers or something. He's a bit violent at times. Have coffee, it's really good."
Magneto was drinking his coffee and asking Willow about the layout of the Initiative when Xavier joined them. Willow was explaining that it was underground, located beneath the local college, and used the screens of the war-room to put up the blueprints of the Initiative base.
"This complicates things. The location under a collage... it will make any actions against them much more difficult." Magneto was thoughtful, considering the difficulties they would have to work around.
"Do not forget that we must be careful not to cause injury to the students of the college!" Xavier was concerned. How much danger would there be to the students of the college? He would have to make certain that whatever plan they settled on did not endanger the surrounding people.
"I want this to be thorough. I don't want to leave any corner operational, and I want to make certain that the Initiative is closed down for good. As near as I can tell, there should be minimal risk to the structural integrity of the nearby buildings, after all it's California. People have to build to withstand earthquakes, which Sunnydale does get on a regular basis. However, that does mean that the underground facilities will be designed fairly resistant to impact or shaking. Honestly, I have no experience in destroying an underground facility. Hopefully, one of you will be able to make up for my lack in that area."
The planning continued for hours, details of structure being discussed, along with questions of how many soldiers, and what sort of electronic measures they would have. Xavier kept trying to inject a note of caution for the surrounding citizens.
end part 13.
They had eventually hammered out a plan. They would move at night, to minimize the risk of endangering the ordinary students and citizens of Sunnydale. Xavier would be staying in Westchester, as he lacked the physical mobility to be particularly useful during the actual assault. They had made their plans to make the best use of their abilities. Toad would be responsible for releasing as many of the prisoners as he could. Mystique and Willow would disable the computers, as well as making certain the Initiatives files were completely destroyed. Sabertooth, Spike, Logan and Magneto would deal with the main forces of the Initiative, which should also provide enough distraction for the others to accomplish their goals.
Xavier still thought it would be far too bloody, and would result in too many people killed. He did admit that the Initiative had to be stopped, but wished there was another way. Unfortunately, he hadn't been able to think of a less violent, workable plan in the short time they had available.
* * * *
The flight went better than Magneto had hoped. Mystique was piloting the plane, which had caused Charles some dismay. Wolverine was sitting by Willow, and they appeared to be talking. Sabertooth was sitting near the blond, Spike. They seemed to be discussion the upcoming violence, and he heard Spike mention that the Initiative soldiers carried some sort of electrical stun gun. There were no conflicts between Wolverine and Sabertooth. The flight was almost peaceful.
Logan was talking to Willow. He thought she was attractive, and intelligent. She also seemed to be a nice person, except for the Initiative. He wanted to get to know her a bit better, to know the actual person instead of the fact that she was an excellent computer hacker, and looked pretty, even first thing in the morning. Maybe after this was over, he could ask her to go out for dinner somewhere. Assuming they all came back from this.
* * * *
They had arrived in Sunnydale, landing the plane near the place Spike remembered escaping the compound. Carefully, they emerged from the plane, alert for any sign of the Initiative soldiers. Seeing that the area was clear, they very carefully moved to the access way that Spike had used, and Willow, Mystique, and Toad began their descent into the complex. Referencing the printout that Willow had given them, the others moved to find the major access to the base, the one they had used to move in the large equipment. It was time for the Initiative to fall.
They had found the main entrance, and Magneto used his power to rip the main doors, made of a steel alloy to withstand earthquake, fire, or bullets from their hinges. The shriek of tormented metal got the attention of everyone inside, and a siren began to sound inside. He raised a field around him, one that should stop any bullets from actually coming into contact with him.
"The Initiative shall fall. We shall begin now."
Soldiers began to come forth in response to the siren. Magneto could feel the metal in their weapons, and was something else... other small bits of metal that he could sense. When he had a moment, he would have to locate them more precisely. He could see Sabertooth and Logan, each having taken a position at the edge of the doorway. Spike was standing a bit inside, a lit cigarette in his hand, and his face having changed. His eyes were now yellow, with sharp teeth and his features no longer looked quite human. He looked like he was looking forward to the violence ahead.
Meanwhile, Toad had found a guard by the hall of cells, and rendered him unconscious with a boot to the head. He picked up the keycard, and moved down the hall, opening the cells one by one. Some of them were occupied by what looked like almost normal people, others contained beings that would never pass as human. The X-Man was huddled in one of the cells, curled in a corner, bruises and burns showing clearly in the harsh light. He hadn't been the only injured prisoner, many of the others had shown burns and cuts over them, and there had been bruises visible on some of them. Others, he couldn't tell if they had bruises under their scales or fur, but they had been sliced into as well. He was glad that he hadn't been a prisoner here.
Willow and Mystique had found the main computer, and had only minor difficulties getting inside. Mystique had shifted into one of the men they first found, after first dropping him to the ground. They had no more problems after that, as Willow had picked up a lab-coat and clipboard, looking like a researcher at a casual glance, and Mystique now looked like one of them... The computer system was doomed.
end part 14.
They had managed to take down the Initiative. Toad had come forth, Cyclops unconscious and slung over his shoulder. The protective visor was gone, as was his shirt, and he had bandages over parts of his arms and chest. Bruises and a few small burns mottled his skin, making it clear that his stay had not been pleasant. He was pronounced annoyingly heavy, and almost but not quite dropped to the floor of the plane.
Mystique was limping, and Willow was holding her arm oddly, a military green shirt wrapped around it from wrist to elbow. Sabertooth and Logan were showing no signs of serious injury, despite the numerous bullets that had struck both of them. Logan had displayed a capacity for violence that would have entirely appalled Xavier, having gone into a terrifying rage after being hit with the taser. Apparently, his metal skeleton had conducted the charge very well, and he had gone into a frenzy. Magneto was not actually injured in the attack, but he was exhausted. Maintaining the shield that prevented him from being shot had been demanding, and he had also sent careful pulses that had interfered with the electronic security.
He had been a bit disturbed when Spike had been shot by one of the soldiers. Other than the initial blood spray from the impact, his wounds had not really bled, and then there was the way he had torn the throat out of the first soldier he had grabbed. There had been very little blood that had spilled from the body of the soldier. He had always assumed that stories of vampires were untrue... but now, he had seen Spike in action.
After their return, Xavier had been appalled at the extent of the violence they had used. His outrage had faltered when he got a good look at Scott, who was now wearing the pair of special sunglasses that Logan had taken along on the plane. Scott had bruises, clearly of differing ages. There were burns, and under the bandages had been what appeared to be acid inflicted wounds as well as deliberate incisions. The sight of his student having clearly been beaten and tormented with these brutal experiments had stunned him into silence. Logan had helped carry Scott to the med labs, so that his injuries could be properly tended to.
They had gone to wash up, and put on clean clothing before discussing what had happened. He had the feeling that Xavier would not like the news of what had been going on any better than he had. Especially not the bit about how some of the soldiers had carried bits of metal implanted in their bodies. Perhaps they were closer to perfecting their behavioral control than they had assumed. He hoped that whatever Willow and Mystique had done to the computers had caused their records to be permanently destroyed.
end part 15.
To the relief of Charles Xavier, the injuries inflicted on Cyclops, painful as they were, would heal. He had suffered no permanently disabling injuries, and had not been implanted with any devices. It appeared that there had been tissue samples taken, and that he had been injured in a variety of ways, as well as having some cracked ribs, and a crack along one of his arm bones and a sprained wrist. It would take time to see what sort of mental trauma he had suffered from his captivity, and how well he would recover from that.
They had eventually gathered in the war room. Everyone had taken the time to clean up, and have his or her injuries tended as needed. By the time everyone that had gone had meandered into the war room, there was a plentiful supply of hot coffee waiting for them. Willow's arm was now encased in a cast, a dull blue nylon covering her arm from wrist to shoulder. Toad had acquired a few minor bruises and scrapes, Mystique had a limp, but it was impossible to tell if she had any bruises. She was curled on Sabertooth's lap, looking tired after the exertion of the assault on the Initiative.
They referenced the plans that Willow had downloaded, each explaining their part of the mission. Toad had gestured at the row of cells, describing the condition of the occupants as best he could. They had scattered after he opened the cells, and he had no idea where any of them besides Cyclops had gone, or what had become of them. Willow explained that she had deleted the records about their chips, leaving only the sections about the torturous experiments. She had made certain the chip studies couldn't be retrieved.
The remaining files would give the people that would inevitably go to search the debris the impression that the horrible torturous experiments had been done for no further purpose than the infliction of pain on individuals with abnormal features and abilities. Considering the extreme emotional feelings that the mutant debate had caused, any rumors of an organization kidnapping and torturing people, especially under government funding would be such a public relation nightmare that the people responsible for authorizing it would be hoping for the promotion to janitors. She had also done something to leave the impression that the Initiative had been behind Magneto's disappearance from prison, intending to study him as well.
The description that Spike was able to give of the surgical tables located in the central area had appalled the Professor, as had Magneto's news that there had been small chips implanted in the chests of the soldiers. He had removed one so that it could be studied. A quick comparison had shown it to be very similar to the one that had been implanted in Spike.
After several long hours discussion over the probable motives of the people behind the Initiative, they had concluded that they didn't know the plans of Dr. Maggie Walsh, but they could not have been good. They had also concluded that the Initiative complex was done for, through a combination of certain explosives that had been planted by Mystique and Toad, Willow's rendering their computer system inoperable, and the fact that Magneto had used his power to warp and bend the steel structural supports, bringing down sections of the walls and ceilings. While parts of it were still standing when they left, the entire structure was dangerously unstable, and the remaining walls could collapse at any time.
end part 16.
After everyone had concluded that the Initiative was now a dark note in the pages of history, and they had no idea what the intentions of Dr. Maggie Walsh had been, the discussion had moved to one of philosophy. It was a direct, immediate philosophy, about the question of mutants and what sort of future they would face. There were considerations of political concern, legal matters about mutant rights and the use or misuse of mutant abilities. Logan, Sabertooth and Mystique slipped out as this progressed, clearly not feeling like joining the debate. Spike stayed, not so much interested in the words as he was in just watching Willow.
She seemed alive again. Not that her actual physical health had been in question, but she was alive again. She was caring about things again, letting herself feel things beyond pain and heartbreak. He didn't think she was suicidal anymore. Spike also suspected that part of Willow's renewed interest in life had to do with Logan. He had seen them glancing at each other when they though nobody was looking. She found him interesting, and he seemed to want to know her better. He watched as her eyes sparkled when she argued about whether a mutant should be held responsible for arson if they used their powers to burn down a building. Yeah, Willow was alive inside again.
He went to find Logan. Since the mutant was partly responsible for Willow feeling again, he wanted to have a few words with him. Logan was sitting in a chair, a cold bottle of beer in hand.
"I've seen how you look at Willow." Spike spoke, getting the man's attention.
Logan wasn't surprised; he had known Spike was there. But he hadn't expected the vampire to talk to him. They hadn't been particularly friendly. He looked at Spike, wondering where this was going, hoping that he wasn't about to get the 'stay away from my girl' speech.
"You want to know her better. I just want you to treat her right. Red's had a lot of trouble in her life, and she deserves better than what she's got so far. If you're interested, just make sure you treat her right. She's the closest I've got to a friend. Hurt her and I'll hunt you down and make you bleed." With those parting words, Spike went to the room his things were in so that he could pack.
He left a note for Willow, and packed his things. There was a whole world away from California or Brazil, and it was about time he go see some of it. Now that he was a fully capable vampire again, he could get back to really having a life, so to speak.
end part 17.
After some time discussion the possible futures of mutants, Magneto and Xavier concluded that they had said enough on the matter for now. Willow had been right in the discussion, and while she had not had the same number of years watching events unfold as the other two, she had considerable practice observing people, and in planning to deal with unusual activities. While Xavier believed that given enough proof that mutants were still people, they would be accepted, Willow was convinced that one team of superheroes, or several teams for that matter wouldn't convince people to accept mutants.
Willow argued that people wouldn't accept mutants as their equals based solely on the actions of a few, highly visible powerful mutants fighting. First, they would have to be reassured that mutants were held responsible for their actions, and then a gradual process of acceptance could begin. She assumed that it would be a long, difficult process, but was hopeful that there could eventually be co-existence. Her view had been argued, and debated, but eventually, they had conceded that she was as entitled to her view of the future as they were.
Magneto had gathered Sabertooth and Mystique, as well as prying Toad out of the library, and they had left. They had offered Willow a nearly polite farewell, and Toad had promised to look her up if they needed to break anyone else out of prison. They had left to go somewhere else, and Willow didn't ask about their future plans.
Willow wondered how much of a future she had. Before they had come here, the deal had been that Spike would kill her, quickly and with minimal pain after his chip was out. The plan had held some appeal then, when she was still devastated over Oz and his cheating and departure. Now, she thought there might be some reasons to live, like a certain interesting Canadian. She went upstairs, and found a note by her computer.
Red - I know that we had a deal. Thing is, I got to know you, and
you aren't half bad, for a mortal chit. Go out and live a while. Be happy,
maybe have a nice shag with Logan bloke you keep staring at. I'll have
a new life ahead of me, only fair that you have one to.
Take care of yourself. Spike
Smiling, Willow went to find Logan and see if he still wanted to go somewhere for dinner. A new life... maybe a new love. She was willing to try that.
end part 18.
end Project Initiative.