A Test of Power
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6

This story is still in progress.

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Stars and Garters

Chapter 5

"It is our nature to fear a dark purpose
in that which we do not understand, but
true evil may lie more in ignorance than in suspicion.


The tesseract doorway opened, and Mr. Sinister stepped from the pocket dimension into the familiarity of his innermost sanctum -- his personal laboratory. He had spent the greater portion of the last fifty years sequestered in this cold and sterile place. If he were to call anyplace home, he presumed that it would be the here.

This facility, was one of three such facilities built by the United States Government during the Cold War to house Department of Defense scientists in case of a nuclear exchange with a hostile nation. The complex was large enough to accommodate a hundred scientists whose specialized talents warranted that their lives be spared the fate of the rest of humanity. Located in a remote region of the Appalachian Mountain range and under four hundred feet of solid rock, the facility was built to withstand anything but a direct hit from a nuclear warhead. With the modifications that Sinister had incorporated, even that could not penetrate his defenses. His laboratory fortress was impregnable.

Sinister had annexed the nuclear shelter for his own use just after its completion. Careful planning went into surreptitiously expunging all financial and physical evidence of its existence. Even greater exactitude was required to telepathically erase any memory of shelter's existence from all of the people involved in its fabrication. A tedious and time consuming task yet compared to the building of a facility of similar proportions, hardly any trouble at all. While money and technology presented no impediment to a person with his resources, a construction project of this scale would certainly attract some attention. Sinister had long ago settled on this method to acquire both military and commercial bases to spread and secure his various operations around the globe.

Information had always been the cornerstone to Sinister's power base. He owed the efficacy of his data gathering in no small measure to Apocalypse. It was at Apocalypse's behest almost a century ago that he developed the techno-organic virus. The foundation of practically all of his devices and tools was based on organic technology and stemmed from his creation of the virus. When computer science was in its infancy, Sinister's pathogen was placed at the first production facilities, infecting the actual hardware. With the advent of an interconnected global network, Sinister's virulence spread like histories worst plagues, except the host never exhibited any symptoms to betray the viruses' existence. The virus was built to replicate and evolve, much like its naturally occurring template. It could mimic its environment, whether they were mechanical constructs or living beings because the virus was a congruous amalgam of both. Sinister's eyes and ears were everywhere; no secrets could be kept from him. No matter how brilliant individual, corporate, or military safeguards were devised to be, it was of little consequence. Sinister's virulence was already insidiously entrenched for decades, its capricious nature remodeling itself to match its surroundings. His pet microbes reported back to its creator with complete anonymity and were behind much his seemingly miraculous knowledge of people and their supposed secrets.

Sinister sat down in his control chair, which immediately activated a probe that burrowed into his hand establishing a direct neuro-link, and imparted a wealth of select information into his mind. He noted with mild amusement that McCoy and Drake had been busy during his time away, exploring every accessible inch of his home. A small smile formed on his face. He would quickly review the rest of the data and then join them.

"You almost sound like you admire the guy, Hank."

"I admire what he has accomplished Bobby but certainly do not condone his methods. Look around you," Hank said with the wonder of a small child. "The technology before you is extraordinary. Organic based technology that is centuries ahead of anything we've seen."

"I don't get it. I don't see you making such a big deal about the fancy Shi'ar tech. we have. Why the big deal about all this freaky looking stuff?" Bobby asked.

"Not to demean the accomplishments of our Shi'ar friends, but what you see here before you are the achievements of a single man, not the attainments of an entire race ... a race much older than mankind. What Sinister created here, is the culmination of his own solitary genius."

"You will embarrass me with any further accolades," Sinister's deep voice echoed in the large room.

Both Bobby and Hank jumped. "You might try clearing your throat or something before you walk in a room -- especially looking like you do," Bobby added.

"I'll consider it Drake," Sinister said tersely. "I trust your accommodations are to your liking. I am not used to getting guests."

"I wonder why," Bobby muttered.

"Your laboratory facilities are nothing short of astounding," Henry interjected. "I could lose myself for years just studying some of the technology you've been gracious enough to allow us access to."

"You are free to indulge your curiosity for as long as you wish. I would welcome the company of such an accomplished researcher," Sinister said.

Henry raised a cynical eyebrow. "Please forgive my temerity, but I am a bit skeptical at your sudden desire for companionship. While I admit to knowing very little of substance about you, your insular nature is common knowledge."

"Perhaps it is time for some change," Sinister said sounding reflective.

"You expect me to believe that you've had a sudden crisis of conscience," Henry said incredulously. "Dangling all this wondrous technology in front of me, even with my gluttonous appetite, does not sufficiently cloud my reasoning skills. Isn't this just another perfunctory fallacious statement that is part of another guileful plan?"

"Skepticism, 'the mark and even the pose of an educated mind'," Sinister said.

"John Dewey," Henry quickly supplied.

Sinister nodded in acknowledgement. "But I detect the animosity that underscores your tenor. Please enlighten me on its source."

Henry's lips curled with disgust. "Is this some elaborate game to you?" Is this how immortals amuse themselves to circumvent boredom?" he continued, angrily. I have been known for my naiveté, but I refuse to believe that a sane mind capable of such accomplishment, -- the study and devotion necessary to attain all of this," Henry gestured around him, suddenly at a loss for words.

"I assure you, this is no game," Sinister said seriously.

"Then what is all this?!" Henry gesticulated furiously. "The technology I see before me could benefit mankind in an infinite number of ways. The cloning tanks Bobby and I observed -- an inexhaustible supply of organs -- the donor and recipient are one and the same -- zero probability of rejection. Paraplegics instantly cured with either replacement limbs or depending on the nature of the injury, regeneration of existing nerve cells."

"The number of diseases that can be attributed to a genetic antecedent is staggering," Henry continued with a level stare. "I am certain that you've mapped the entire human genome years ago and can easily identify and eliminate any defective gene in an unborn fetus. Think of the unnecessary pain and suffering you could eliminate for both parents and children alike. Instead you waste your time on replicating homicidal maniacs like Detroit turns out automobile. The common man, myself included, would consider what you could do here as miraculous. Is my assessment of your abilities accurate?"

"Actually a bit understated. All of the things you've mentioned are well within my purview," Sinister said without the hint of arrogance in his voice.

"Then why not share your genius with humanity? You were a medical doctor at one time, and acquainted with certain precepts -- above all else 'do no harm'. Even as long lived as you are, you couldn't have forgotten the Hippocratic Oath," Henry said, his voice laced with a bitter sarcasm.

"I have never forgotten a single thing." Sinister made a sound that almost resembled an honest laugh. "Would it surprise you to know that I helped Thomas Percival establish the first code of ethics in 1846? I was also present when the Nuremberg Code for research ethics on human subjects that was established during the war crime trials at the close of World War II."

"You, want to speak to me about medical ethics?" Henry said disbelievingly. "I most certainly understand the importance and practicality of obtaining consent from research subjects or surrogates if the subjects could not provide consent for themselves. I strongly doubt that you do. I also do not need a history lesson," Henry said, glowering.

"That is precisely what you need," Sinister admonished. "Perhaps you could answer a question for me. Why do you not use the Shi'ar technology you have in your possession for the betterment of mankind?"

"That is a different matter entirely," Henry said defensively, knowing where Sinister was leading.

"In what manner?" Sinister asked, clearly irritated. "You X-Men are so sanctimonious. If the Shi'ar technology that you utilize in your med lab was made available to the medical community, do you deny that countless lives would be saved that can not be saved now?"

"No I do not," Henry admitted somewhat sadly. "But less scrupulous people could and would apply that technology in ways that could prove quite hazardous to mutants and humans. What mutants lack in numbers is partially offset by the superior technology that we -- the X-Men possess. We are not willing and can not afford to give up that advantage, and would most certainly risk exposure and draw unwanted attention to ourselves with the release of this technology."

"And I suppose none of your diatribe could be applied to me," Sinister said, his expression arrogantly impassive.

Henry was unrepentant. "You've had over a hundred years to figure out a way and seem to have squandered that time on nothing but Machiavellian machinations."

"Indeed," Sinister's eyes narrowed slightly with contempt. "Let me commence with succinct history lesson and a modest dissertation of my contributions to science over the last one-hundred and forty years."

Sinister began in a level tone, a faraway look in his eyes. "In 1866, Austrian botanist and monk Gregor Mendel proposed the basic laws of heredity based on crossbreeding experiments with pea plants. His findings were published in a local natural-history journal, and were largely ignored for over thirty years until I reintroduced them rekindling genetic research by the scientific community."

Sinister continued, quickly listing past events and names that Henry was intimately familiar with. "In 1882, while examining salamander larvae under a microscope, German embryologist Walther Flemming -- quite honestly his assistant, spots tiny threads within the cells' nuclei that appear to be dividing. The threads would later turn out to be chromosomes."

"In 1910, U.S. biologist Thomas Hunt Morgan's experiments with fruit flies reveal that some genetically determined traits are sex linked. His work also confirms that genes determining these traits reside on chromosomes. In 1926, U.S. biologist Hermann Muller discovers that X-rays can cause genetic mutations in fruit flies. Both scientists attribute much of their findings to correspondence with an unknown European doctor."

"In 1944, working with pneumococcus bacteria, Oswald Avery, Colin Macleod and Maclyn McCarty Milbury prove that DNA, not protein, is the hereditary material in most living organisms."

"Need I go on about my work with British physician Douglas Bevis using amniocentesis to test fetuses for Rh-factor incompatibility, which would lead to screening for genetic disorders? Or my help to American biochemist James Watson and British biophysicist Francois Crick for their discovery of the double helix structure of DNA, the molecule that carries the genetic code."

"There is more -- much more, but I see no reason to continue. Since I have no peers, recognition has never been of any concern," Sinister said somewhat haughtily. "My point being is that over the years, I have fastidiously nurtured mankind's fledgling study of genetics, prudently considering the wisdom of revealing too much too soon -- helping, guiding whenever and wherever I could. My intention, completely altruistic..."

"Altruistic!" Henry's eyes blazed. "You have the audacity to proclaim to possess that quality when you had men, women and children murdered. Did you hear me?!" Henry spat out the words contemptuously, Sinister's stony expression enraging him more. "You had children -- children hunted down like poor wretched animals -- whose last sight was their parents being butchered by a group of psychotic killers. The survivors, God help them, live in constant fear and are unable to lead any kind of normal existence -- normal for Morlocks, because of the psychological damage they suffered." Henry felt his heart hammering in his chest and was almost gasping for air as if he was in the midst of some great and prolonged exertion. All of this emotion had suddenly come to the surface, a catharsis that surprised Henry himself.

For so very long, he had wanted to confront Sinister about the Morlock Massacre. Bobby was right, God help him, he did respect Sinister in a fashion. The scientist in him could not help but admire Sinister's great genius. But it was difficult to reconcile how he could admire a man capable of such a heinous atrocity? But he had uncovered some undeniable facts about the man before Sinister -- before Apocalypse's transformation.

Who was Nathaniel Essex? The individual before him now who is considered the epitome of evil...was once incredibly a husband, a father, a man devoted to the pursuit of knowledge much like himself -- a scientist with such promise.

Henry recognized the kindred spirit in Sinister. Like him, Sinister did not see the human and mutant genome as just a complex code to be unraveled or broken. It was more like a beautiful mosaic to be admired and appreciated -- an autobiographical record of all the vicissitudes and inventions that have characterized the history of our species and its ancestors since the dawn of life.

He also realized that Sinister was blessed with one of those truly rare and gifted minds, and was peerless at deducing nature's secrets. He had bravely flaunted the strict conventions of his era, risking his reputation and position, solely to uncover the truth. What could possibly drive anyone, especially this man to accept an offer from a monster like Apocalypse?

When Scott and Jean had been time displaced and returned from the past and gave an account of what they had learned of Sinister's origins, Henry had been temporarily consumed by the information they had related. He had always had a personal fascination with Sinister and devoted a great deal of time searching for any signs of his deeds throughout the last two centuries. There were clearly indications of sudden inexplicable leaps of discovery in the field of genetics. A man gifted with immortality and Sinister's genius would certainly explain these leaps. Could Sinister's claims of providing beneficial guidance to mankind be true?

Henry had personally seen the signs of a human being in Sinister. Faye Livingstone -- a woman, as improbable as it might seem, Sinister romanced in the 1930's was proof of that.(1) She clearly loved him despite being held prisoner and learning that she was nothing more than a test subject -- a genetic guinea pig in some macabre experiment. Sinister eventually released her well before his experiments ever reached fruition. She never married or had any children and spent her final years alone in the Carlysle Nursing Home, unable to walk or communicate with anyone. Unbeknownst to Charles, Henry had conducted his own investigation and had learned from one the of staff, an attending nurse named Doris, that a gentleman by the name of Nathan Essex had visited Faye every year without fail for many years. She also informed him that this man had seen to it that she received the best of care, had paid all the nursing home bills and was genuinely concerned about her welfare. Were these the traits one would ascribe to a villain? Was this Mr. Sinister?

Henry had thought long and hard about that incident. Was it regret over the way Sinister had treated her that kept him involved in her life? Did he experience guilt because he felt responsible at the way her life had turned out? Henry wasn't entirely sure but he was present when she died -- in Sinister's arms, and witnessed a brief but unmistakable emotion cross that cold glacial whiteness -- anguish.

After their trip into the past, Scott and Jean had described Nathaniel Essex as driven scientist but more so, a loving husband and a father who lost everything he cared about. Even after knowing what they would suffer at Sinister's hands in the future, they had pitied him. Could the magnitude of the personal tragedy he suffered be the real reason behind his transformation? How could one quantify what the loss of a young child, a wife, and an unborn child would do to a person's soul? What could possibly be more damaging? Additionally, Scott and Jean had said without Sinister's intervention and risk of his own life, the world would have most certainly fallen to Apocalypse especially since there was no one to oppose him then. Henry's gut instinct told him that somehow what Sinister had revealed about his contributions to humanity were true...but what could possibly explain the Massacre?

Sinister recognized that Henry was wrestling with unanswered questions and spoke with grave deliberation. "Do you recall the incident with Threnody? I told you then that sacrifices have to be made in order for a greater good to be achieved. By your own admission, you told Robert Drake that I could do more for her -- more to fight the virus--than you could...because I was willing to damn parts of my soul to the task while you were not.(2) "

"I remember," Henry answered slowly. "But what does that...?"

"The origins of the virus Henry, do you recall that I said I had access to the original host?"

"Why yes, but Stryfe ... the Morlocks -- the Morlocks?! Henry asked incredulously.

Sinister nodded. "Years ago, I had detected a sudden and surprising concentration of mutant bio-signatures residing in underground tunnels. Curious, I investigated and discovered a hidden community of mutants -- mutants whose existence I had no record of. It seems that these mutants were artificially bred -- primarily laboratory generated mutants. A difficult and significant accomplishment in itself, but a more ominous reason was behind this experiment. What I discovered was that this isolation was fostered to incubate a disease of incredible virulence."

"The Legacy Virus," Henry spouted.

"Yes, but an unmutated version of the virus that you are familiar with today," Sinister supplied -- "the virus that Stryfe was kind enough to supply me with."

"Your brilliant but amoral counterpart the Dark Beast, had succeeded in creating a brand new mutant gene pool -- the Morlocks."

Henry's heart skipped a beat and felt his stomach knot as he realized what Sinister was about to reveal. His doppelganger, an alternate Henry McCoy from a universe that should never have existed, a rabid animal that even had kidnapped and imprisoned him to take his place on the X-Men(3)-- the creature that wore his face and for all intents and purposes was him, the one individual Henry could say that he loathed, not loathed, that he truly hated ... the Dark Beast was responsible for the Legacy Virus? "My God no," Henry whispered.

"Unfortunately yes," Sinister said dispassionately. "He was also conducting, what I believed was some very unrefined experimentation with mutating protein structures and using the Morlocks as his test subjects. Initially, I had thought the disease was an accidental result of your counterpart's undisciplined experimentation. But I soon came to the realization that the virus was no accident. It was far too complex, brilliantly and specifically engineered. It was also well beyond the Dark Beast's capabilities to create. Furthermore I began to suspect that the Dark Beast was nothing more than a deadly, yet unknowing pawn in a much larger game."

"Whose pawn and for what purpose?" Henry asked, transfixed.

"I believe that the virus is a biological weapon, alien in origin. Its purpose -- the complete eradication of both mutant and mankind. The individual or individuals behind the disease -- I do not know," Sinister said, a look of disturbed concentration across his face.

"And your actions ... an attempt to stop the spread of the disease?" Henry asked.

Bobby thought that Henry's face almost looked hopeful.

Sinister simply nodded.

"Why not ask for help, we...?"

"Your type was not even willing to sully its hands with the simple matter concerning Threnody," Sinister interrupted Henry, his tone supercilious. "To stop the spread of this virus required swift and brutal action. Much like a gangrenous appendage, it was necessary to cut off the arm in order to save the body. Why involve anyone else? My soul is already damned, why taint the purity of any of Xavier's saints?" Sinister said with a humorless smile.

Henry shook his head, a confused expression on his face. "But why a team of killers? Why not just use a form of incendiary device to insure that no one escapes and no traces of the disease remained?" Henry trailed off softly, not believing what he just said.

"Incendiary explosive devices specially designed by my own hand were placed in the tunnels," Sinister answered. "I also physically sealed the tunnels and took precautions to prevent anyone from teleporting in or out."

"You planned on killing everyone in the tunnels," Bobby suddenly interjected. "Both the Morlocks and your Marauders. And you probably selected a team of murderers, assassins, and sociopaths -- the real scum of the earth...because they deserved to die. Maybe that's your warped version of a conscience -- or as close as it gets. But what about Gambit?"

Although Sinister did not respond to Bobby's statements directly, Henry observed that Sinister was regarding Bobby as if -- as if for just a brief moment, he was somewhat surprised about Bobby's insight -- and its accuracy.

"I selected the members of the team due to specific talents and attributes," Sinister answered tersely looking at Henry. "It was of paramount importance that none of the infected parties escape. While my bio-signature recognition devices are virtually infallible, I always build in multiple redundancies into all of my plans and endeavors. For instance, Sabertooth's acute sense of smell and ability to distinguish different scents coupled with Gambit's spatial awareness was another way to account for all the Morlocks -- and to insure that none would escape."

"I am also first and foremost a scientist, and needless to say, not without what you moralists would call sin. I used this opportunity to conduct a field experiment of sorts. I was curious how Victor's unique immune system would deal with this new virus. I also wanted to have a normal mutant subject infected with the virus as well."

"Gambit," Bobby said disgustedly.

"Having sole access to this virus might also be quite useful," Henry said, his voice thick with insinuation. "I imagine quite a bit could be learned from this alien generated virus. In the right hands, or should I say competent hands, the virus would make for a very powerful weapon."

"There is that," Sinister said blandly.

"The disease did not spread," Henry said with a sudden realization. "You were successful, stopping the initial form of the virus. But...

"No I was not successful," Sinister said his lips pursed with suppressed fury. "Both of my explosive devices disappeared. Your teammates were also able to teleport into the tunnels, Sinister said shaking his head.(4) "To this day I am at a loss to explain who or what was able to thwart me."

"Apocalypse?" Bobby suggested.

"No. I am uniquely familiar with the Celestial transport technology that Apocalypse employs and its distinct energy signature. This was something else entirely. Somebody -- the manipulator behind the Dark Beast, somehow discovered my plans to eliminate the disease and successfully foiled my attempt. I was forced to resort to a back-up plan and ordered my Marauders to begin eliminating all of the Morlocks."

"There must have been another way," Henry said his voice thick with emotion.

"There was not," Sinister said with a withering glare. "You do not understand. The present version of the Legacy Virus pales in comparison with what the Morlocks were infected with. I estimated that in fourteen days after I had ordered the Marauders to eliminate the Morlocks, the virus would have been fully developed and reached its highest level of communicability. Once the Morlocks left the tunnels, I projected that in two months, approximately three quarters of the world's population would have contracted the virus with a one hundred percent mortality rate. In three months, there would be no one left to compile any statistics on the disease."

"That's impossible. No virus spreads or acts that quickly," Henry exclaimed.

"I assure you, I have not hyperbolized the malignancy of the virus -- and my computations are quite accurate."

"But the disease did not spread," Henry repeated. "None of the X-Men who entered the tunnels contracted the virus -- and all the Morlocks were not killed to contain the spread of the disease."

"I believe that Apocalypse was responsible for stopping the virus," Sinister said a curious expression on his face.

"Apocalypse?" Henry exclaimed. "I would think with his insane philosophy, he would have welcomed the disease."

"Indeed," Sinister nodded in agreement. "But there is much of Apocalypse's philosophy and Apocalypse himself that bears investigating. All I can say is that Apocalypse appeared in the tunnels on that particular day to gather the mutant called Plague who would eventually become the Horseman known as Pestilence.(5) That type of serendipity or happenstance stretches one's credulity. After that point, I could find absolutely no trace of the virus. I examined each and every one of the Morlocks as well as everyone who had ventured into the tunnels that day. The virus was gone."

Henry's mind reeled with what he had just heard. Sinister ordered the extermination of all of the Morlocks to stop the spread of an even more deadly version of the Legacy Virus. To avert a worldwide catastrophe that would eliminate every living mutant and human being on the planet, Sinister had taken steps -- drastic steps. The good of the many..., Henry thought soberly. Faced with the same choices, what would Charles or the X-Men have done? What would he have done? He could never believe that Charles would capable of murder no matter what the circumstances. But would that indecision have sealed the world's fate?

Sinister was right and his arguments were cogent, Henry thought. The X-Men were limited in many ways by their code of ethics. Sinister was free to act, with Threnody -- and with the Morlocks. Henry knew that evil and good were not as easily discernable as the colors ascribed to each -- black and white. There were innumerable gray areas that even the X-Men had been forced to deal with. But did the X-Men, or the world itself owe an incredible debt of gratitude to Sinister, or God help them, Apocalypse, for possibly saving all of civilization? Henry was deeply troubled and ashamed by his thoughts -- not only because of what Sinister had done, but a small and selfish part of him was grateful that it was Sinister who had known about the threat the Morlocks presented -- and had taken action.

"Why tell us this now?" Henry asked quietly. "Why allow people to believe..."

"That I had the Morlocks killed in a fit of pique -- because they are an affront to my future vision for mutants," Sinister said sounding grandiloquent. "Suffice to say that that belief serves a purpose, as does everything I do."

"You were correct Henry, immortality can lead to boredom, and quite possibly a temporary loss of morality. One goes through various stages of behavior when the specter of death no longer looms so large, but it also offers a unique perspective. Accept that for the moment that it does, and do not dismiss what I am about to say as the ravings of another megalomaniac."

Sinister steepled his hands almost as if he was preparing to deliver a sermon. "You and the rest of the scientific community believe that evolution consists of a sort of generation-by-generation fine-tuning in each population, all under the benign guidance of natural selection -- the name we give to any and all factors that promote or inhibit successful reproduction by members of those populations. This process of gradual change inexorably leads to improvement in the species and ultimately to new species as those improvements accumulate."

"Superficially persuasive as this view is, it ignores certain basic realities. It assumes, for instance, that organisms are little more than agglomerations of special-purpose mechanisms, each of which can be tracked independently of the packages of which they form a part. We speak of the evolution of upright walking or the evolution of the hand, often without realizing that legs and hands can only be part of the story."

"The reality is that natural selection can vote up or down only on entire organisms, defects and all. Individual organisms are mind-boggingly complex and integrated mechanisms, they often succeed or fail, economically and reproductively, as the sum of their parts."

"It is the same with populations and species. Species exist and compete with others in the real world of finite resources. They cannot survive as disembodied attributes. What's more, the ecologies of which they form a part have an alarming tendency to change abruptly. If an ice sheet covers your habitat, it's entirely irrelevant how well you are adapted to the meadows and forests now buried beneath the ice."

"Finally, please bear in mind how distinctive new species originate. Even I do not comprehend everything about how this transpires, but I do know that in large interbreeding populations, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for new genetic variants to become established. If any meaningful innovations are to become established as a new species, it is essential that the population be small. Large populations simply have too much genetic inertia."

Bobby noticed that Hank was completely engrossed, hanging on Sinister's every word.

"You can hypothesize where this argument is heading. During the Ice Ages, when our own species emerged, human populations were small and scattered and were continuously disrupted by climactic fluctuations. Conditions were ideal for genetic innovations. Today, however, the human population is 6 billion and mushrooming and increasingly densely distributed. At the same time, individual humans are incomparably mobile than ever before."

"The upshot is that after a period of diversification, Homo Sapiens is in a mode of reintegration, as witness the fact that the boundaries between geographical variants of our species are becoming increasingly blurred. If present trends continue, those boundaries will become blurrier still. Amid all this, the conditions for incorporating meaningful new innovations into human populations have all but disappeared - and with them the prospects for significant evolutionary change."

Sinister smiled. "Of course such predictions are based on the assumption that current conditions will prevail into the foreseeable future, and it is quite possible that this assumption is wrong. Anything that would serve to fragment the current huge human population might help re-establish the conditions necessary for future human change. Unfortunately, we would undoubtedly perceive such an event as a terrible disaster, since it would necessarily entail the disappearance of billions of human beings.(6) But Apocalypse might not."

"Left to its own devices, the mutant race will most certainly die out. This brief spurt in evolution is nothing but an aberration. For the most part, the majority of mutants are more susceptible to disease and are sterile. Should they reproduce, their offspring are highly unstable, their physiology unable to handle the great energies they possess."

"Strangely enough, your leader's dream is necessary for the mutant race to survive but not for the philosophical reasons he espouses. Humanity and mutants must coexist and interbreed. Humanity possesses the resistance to disease as well as the viability to multiply and stability to insure that mutants survive. Their numbers will remain small, extremely small, but with my attention and special cultivation, they will become firmly established."

"Unfortunately, Apocalypse believes that humanity will weaken and dilute the mutant gene pool. He intends to eradicate any and all humans and by doing so doom mutantkind to extinction. I can not allow Apocalypse to complete his plans."

"I'm not swayed by all your fancy gizmos and words," Bobby suddenly said. "So now we're to believe that you murdered all the Morlocks for a good reason? You also think that mutants and humans should do the nasty as often as possible -- and you and the Professor are on the same side when it comes to mutants and humans? You must be nothing but a misunderstood bad guy," Bobby said mockingly.

"You have a surprisingly keen insight Drake but a distinct lack of social graces. I would expect something more from the son of two such fine parents," Sinister said with a piercing glare. "William and Madeline isn't it? Port Jefferson is such a lovely coastal community."

Bobby was speechless, a pale look on his face.

"Come now Drake. You really don't believe that I am ignorant about your lineage? Someone who has devoted multiple lifetimes to the study of human and mutant genetics, wouldn't know who your parents are -- or about any siblings, nieces, nephews, or cousins? Do you believe that I wouldn't have complete knowledge about any blood relative of any of the X-Men? I would most certainly know where they lived -- if perchance I needed to locate them to test or confirm a theory of mine," Sinister said, his expression changing to match the underlying threat behind his words.

"Hasn't it ever occurred to any of you X-Men how vulnerable you are to someone with my abilities? I could kill any number of you at any time easily and without your knowledge. I could expose your entire team, terrorize or blackmail you with a simple threat to any of your loved ones. Do you think for a minute that you would refuse to do my bidding should I decide to entertain either of your parents in my home?"

"But there is no cause for alarm," Sinister's expression changed and the terrifying threat that his eyes exuded a moment before was gone. "I only said the things I did to illustrate how easy it is for me to obtain your cooperation through less than pleasant means if I wished. I only want you to see that to question my sincerity is foolish and illogical. I am neither good nor evil -- neither petty nor malicious. But I will not shrink from difficult choices, nor will I hesitate to make sacrifices if I believe the greater good is involved. To further illustrate my goodwill, I can inform you that I did not leave your teammate to die in the bitter cold of the polar wastelands. Quite the contrary -- I saved his life."

Both Bobby and Hank exchanged glances. "You ... you know where Gambit is?" Bobby said tremulously.

"Of course." Sinister pointed towards a darkened corner of the large room. Another room was revealed, with four transparent walls. The interior was illuminated by Sinister's gesture and further revealed an advanced medical infirmary not unlike the X-Men's own. In the center of the room on rather simple bed was none other than Remy Lebeau -- or what remained of him. His head and torso appeared perfectly normal -- except for the fact that there wasn't any trace of either his arms or legs.

Continued in Chapter Six.

[1]X-Men '95
[2]X-Men #27
[3]X-Men Unlimited #10
[4]Uncanny X-Men #211
[5]X-Factor #10
[6]Ian Tattersal MNH