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Chapter 52: Chapter 52

I've never been much for scotch, but when Charles Xavier offers you a glass of whatever obscenely expensive vintage he happens to have on hand, you accept a glass, even if you're too much of a philistine to appreciate the subtilities of the vintage. Or whatever, those are the fancy words pop culture has taught me about alcohol, I have no idea if any of them are correct, it's always been about the end results for me.

"Is something wrong, Mr Magnusson?" Xavier says as he slumps into a leather armchair near the fireplace, swirling the crystal glass of whisky as he sits down, the amber liquid reflecting the firelight as he moves the container around. Even now, all these weeks past, I can tell that he enjoys being able to move around by himself, Xavier might believe in the future of humans and mutants co-existance, but he'd much rather see it happen without having to be wheeled around by Summers for the rest of his life.

I take a sip from my glass, the amber liquid burning as it passes through my throat "Sorry, I'm just not much of a conneisseur when it comes to liquor" I couch, trying to pass the burning liquid down "I hope it's not the expensive kind?"

Xavier just smiles "I wouldn't worry about the cost, the Mutant Messiah is worth a few thousand dollars of aged scotch."

I groan "Please professor, not you too..."

"Oh don't worry, it's all in jest" he says with a dismissive wave "Though I will admit, despite your dismissal of the title, you've done far more for mutantkind in a month than I've managed in a lifetime. It does make one feel rather humbled." He tries to play it off as a joke, but there's a stiffness in his face that says that it's not quite as much of a joke as he wants it to be. I feel an unusual mix of pity and annoyance, because as much as I respect what Charles Xavier has accomplished in a lifetime of work for peace, he'd always put his faith in the better side of human nature to win the real victories.

And no one has ever gone broke betting on humanity's propensity for screwing itself out of spite.

Before I can respond, he decides to change the subject "I don't know if you're aware, but there was a rather interesting newscast this afternoon while you were out on one of your mystery Christmas errands. Something about the Red Skull being apprehended? You wouldn't happen to know anything about that?"

I smile "Ah yes, funny story that..."

....

....our top story tonight, the Prime Minister of Israel has announced that their security forces have taken custody of infamous Nazi war criminal Johan Schmidt, more commonly known as the Red Skull. Despite being reported dead several years ago, DNA and dental records have been turned over to the International Criminal Court that seemingly confirms the prisoners identity, though the circumstances around how Schmidt managed to so convincingly fake his death remains uncertain. Schmidt, who's rise to infamy began in Germany shortly before the outbreak of World War 2, has spent decades as one of the most notorious fugitives from justice, but it appears that this might now have been brought to an end. Schmidt's capture, alongside that of neo-nazi figure Andreas Von Strucker earlier this month...

How could it have gone so wrong?

Johan Schmidt, the man who had terrorized the world for almost a century, reduced to nothing but a prisoner, and even worse, the prisoner of the same subhuman vermin he had set out to destroy so long ago. Him, the great Red Skull, confined to a featureless prison cell by the jewish parasites, who were probably too busy coming up with ways to publically execute him to even come in here and gloat over their hollow "victory" like he'd expected them to. For some reason, though he'd never admit it even under threat of torture, a small part of him felt almost insulted that no one had even given him the time of day, even the guards who dragged him off to the interogation and medical examination room didn't even spare him a second glance, much less the taunts and beatings he had expected. Like he was the one beneath them.

Schmidt gritted his teeth, tugging uselessly at the shackles that kept him secured to the steel cot that was the only thing resembling furniture in his cell. Damn it all, he had been so CLOSE! Rogers was dead, and his unborn child was to serve as a host to his greatest enemy, it would have been the perfect victory, and now all of it was just gone! And all of it because... the mutant. Schmidt snarled at the memory of that miserable untermensch, the same man he had dismissed as nothing but a buffoon undeserving of the powers nature had so carelessly bestowed upon him, and now this freak was the orchestrator of his downfall. Now, all he could do was sit here and wait to be hauled to whatever ramshackle court the Jews saw fit to condemn him in as the corrupt nations that supported them crowed and congratulated themselves while watching his public humilation. He had no doubt he'd be found guilty, he made no secret of the things he had done, he would proudly defend all of them, and death was sure to follow.

The uncertainty was wether he'd go to the gallows cursing Rogers or the damn mutant.

...

"...so yeah, I figured if anyone had a claim on the bastard, it'd be Israel, you know? I mean, aside from Captain Rogers, but the man is forgiving to a fault, executing prisoners in cold blood isn't really his thing, no matter how big a reason he'd have to do it. Though I doubt he'll shed many tears after Jerky Face is dead."

Xavier nods thoughtfully "It does seem rather doubtful there'd be any other outcome for Mr Schmidt's trial, though I am loath to take pleasure in the death of any human being, no matter how reprehensible they may be. You're sure he has no way of evading justice again, he does have a rather unpleasant history of avoiding his well-deserved fate?"

I shake my head "I made sure of it this time, there's no way for him to back up his mind, no extra bodies or any robot bullshit or other last-minute saves, once he dies this time, he's gone for good. I even put a tracker on Crossbones and Jerky Face's daughter to make sure they won't try anything stupid, he's not going anywhere. And it was the best Christmas ever!"

"Perhaps not something I'd put on our christmas cards, but I understand the sentiment..." Xavier stares at his drink for a moment "If you don't mind me asking, exactly what are these errands you've been doing? I don't mean to pry, but I do get rather curious of what a reality warper does with his time."

"Oh, just handing out a few gifts to people I think might get left off Santa's list..."

Nathaniel Essex, better known to the world at large as Mr Sinister, was not a man who cared about Christmas, but even he had to admit, if he was the pathetically sentimental type, he'd consider his latest prize one hell of a Christmas present.

When the new mutant boogeyman had first made his existance known, Essex had been captivated. Oh sure, the mutant genome had produced it's share of ludicrously powerful mutants, but that kind of power usually came with pretty severe drawbacks that made them useless for his purposes. Proteus had been promising, but his power required the use of host bodies as the energies used by his version of the powerset burned through them at a pace that made using his DNA unfeasible at best. Others, such as Xaviers bastard or Magneto's accursed daughter who had nearly brought their entire species to ruin, showed ovbvious symptoms of severe mental instability, making them inconvenient for his use as well. What he needed was the DNA of a mutant who could be controlled, molded for his work.

Essex grinned as he began transferring the delicate sample to his work station for further study. Ginnungagap might act like an undignified buffoon, but he showed no signs of the insanity that had toppled so many other valuable gene stock. Even if a clone of the man did not meet his expectations, it would still make a powerful breeding stock, especially if he combined it with the Summers/Grey bloodline. Essex knew all too well the potential that lay locked away in the potential offpsring of Scott Summers and Jean Grey, and if he combined that with the reality warper... there was no limit to what he could finally mold the mutant race into. All those years, decades, centuries of trying to force the evolution of mutants along the right path, pruning off the weak and useless as he went, would finally be validated.

Finding a genetic sample of the man hadn't even been difficult, he had made no safeguards whatsoever, simply tracking his energy signature had rewarded Essex with a hair sample in some wretched tavern in New York where he had been sighted alongside the gamma-mutate harlot Walters. Essex shook his head, still boggling at Ginnungagap's carelessness. He might not share the insanity so common amongst others of his kind, but the sheer incompetence displayed by not even trying to protect his genetic code didn't speak well for his intellect. Hopefully that was a trait that could be bred out of his clone offspring...

A loud beeping from the computer console pulled Essex out of his pondering, and his smile fell from his face as the data began to appear on the massive screen in front of him.

"What in God's name..."

Rather than the genetic information that was supposed to be appearing on screen, pulled from the sample he had provided the machine, there was only one line of text, flashing with massive green letters against a black background.

Nice try, Mengele. Here's a christmas gift I put together just for you! Merry christmas, or happy holidays, whichever you prefer!

It took Nathaniel Essex three days to sort through his diary collection, which he had been using to back up his research since the 19th century, most of which had now been randomly replaced with lyrics from "Repo: The Genetic Opera", dialogue from some godawful schlock called "The Clonus Horror", and for some reason, photos of an obscure superhero Essex recognized as The Scarlet Spider.

However, on the last page of his final journal, there was a note that made his blood run cold.

Just so we're clear, I'm coming for you, Sinister. You're just not high enough on my list to bother with just yet. Enjoy the holidays, because they'll probably be your last.

.....

"God, I hate the fucking holidays..." Peter Gyrich muttered as he flipped through the latest reports to pass over his desk.

It was hard to imagine now that just a few weeks ago, he'd been on top of the world. Oh sure, the Initiative had a few hiccups, a few kids died or got maimed or whatever, but they'd made real progress, for the first time in decades, and it seemed like the country might actually be on top of the metahuman problem. The mutants were down to an easily managable handful, the so-called heroes were towing the line, even the villains were quaking in their fruity costumes since they knew the days of supercops and robbers were just about up and the government was calling the shots again as was proper, they could finally utilize metahumans as a resource and not just run damage control after one of their shitstorms in New York... and then, it was all gone.

All because of the damn mutant.

Gyrich gritted his teeth, leafing through the latest bullshit tossed his way. The fucking cowards in Washington was throwing him under the bus just to cover their own asses, like any of them had protested his methods when it was all going according to plan. Now, all of a sudden, everyone was crying over that MVP brat getting his brains blown out and wah-wah-wah, like he'd be the first dumbass kid to die in a government training program. Or the last for that matter. And of course, since Tony Stark was already in prison, so now HE had to be the scapegoat for all the other hurt feelings they hadn't punished anyone for yet. Bad enough that the damn Initiative was falling apart...

He sighed, thinking back. Once Cloud 9 had deserted, it just opened the flood gates. Trauma was gone before he'd even managed to drag himself out of the East River where Cloud 9 had dropped him, Komodo had disappeared the following day, but apparently not before giving James Rhodes a leg fracture for "being a fucking dick", and he didn't even know where Hardball and Slapstick had gone. As of right now, only the kids dumb enough to buy into the "hero" schtick like The Boulder, or the truly desperate freaks like Batwing, were still hanging around Camp Hammond.

"GODDAMNIT!!" he snarled, shoving the pile of paperwork off his desk. He slouched back in his chair, leaning back against the rest as he stared as the ceiling. Why did this have to happen? His whole life he'd been working to get a leg up against the hero freaks, he'd worked with the Avengers, he'd kissed every butt in Washington, and now, finally, he'd almost been there. The mutants were neutered and shoved into a corner to be safely forgotten about, the non-mutie heroes were under the governments thumb... granted, Rogers dying wasn't great, but the man had always been far too caught up in his ridiculous ideals to see reality for what it was, so it had been for the best. And now, all of it was just undone in a single afternoon.

He didn't know how, but somehow, someway, that mutie fucker would regret throwing everything into chaos, even if he had to pull every goddamn Sentinel out of storage to do it, even if he had to turn M-Town into a goddamn walled off ghetto, it didn't matter. He was going to win back America, even if he had to burn it to cinders first....

A knock on the door interrupted him. "What?! I'm busy!"

The voice that answered was not his secretary "Oh, I think you can take a minute out of your busy day for me, Mr Gyrich..."

Gyrich bolted upright, but even before his eyes could confirm it, he had already recognized that damn voice from the Genoshan tv broadcast. Sure enough, right in front of him, reclining in one of his guest chairs, was that same bastard he'd just been cursing the name of. Ginnungagap. In his office. The words were out of his mouth before he even realized it.

"Oh you have got to be fucking kidding me..."

The mutant just smiled "Oh, it's no joke, Mr Gyrich" He gave the office a disdainful glance "I expected you to have a nicer office to be honest, but I guess being an utter disgrace and a public laughing stock doesn't net you a lot these days. Well, unless you're elected President."

Gyrich finally managed to regain his voice "Yeah, funny thing that, somehow the quality of my work space began to decline roughly around the time your fat ass started showing up...Mr Magnusson, isn't it?" His hand began to move slowly towards the drawer he kept his personal sidearm in.

The mutant just gave him a bored look "Seriously? The Sentry couldn't even scratch me, but you think the peashooters they give you in basic training could work?"

Gyrich's hand froze, before pulling open the drawer anyway "It might make me feel better!" Before he could reach for the weapon, there was a flash of flight, and where his gun had been just moments before, there was now a neon-colored plastic toy with a BANG-flag sticking out of the muzzle. "...you know, we have to pay to have those replaced. Not all of us can conjure up bullshit out of thin air!"

"If we're done with the posturing, I actually came here for a reason" the mutant said, before reaching side the front pocket of the denim vest he was wearing, and Gyrich felt a shock of fear run up his spine... until he pulled out a cartoonish-looking pill, which he placed on the desk.

Gyrich just stared at it "What the hell is that?"

The mutant shrugged "It's the cure for Alzheimers."

...what?

"What?"

"I said it's the cure for-"

Gyrich stood up, snarling "I know what you SAID! I mean WHAT?!"

The mutant just leaned back in his chair, Gyrichs anger not moving him one bit "I know about what happened to your father, Mr Gyrich."

Gyrich just gaped for a moment, before regaining his composure "You son of a-"

He was cut off as the mutant stood up as well "No, I'm talking now, Gyrich, and you will listen! As I was saying, I know what happened to your father, I know that he died with his brains turned to mush, too doodelally to even recognize his own son. I also know that you were the one to take care of him while he slowly rotted away, because as much as a shitstain as you are, he was your father. And because I know this, because I know as much as a human pile of garbage you are, I'm giving you this as a christmas gift." He picked up the pill again, before slamming it back down on the desk, closer to Gyrich this time. "I know that turning out like your father is one of the few things that scares you, so this pill right here? It will prevent that from ever happening."

Gyrich couldn't help himself from scoffing "You seriously expect me to believe that crap? In case you haven't noticed, you're considered an enemy of the state! And you show up here, uninvited, in the office of an employee of the United States Government, and try to feed him some kind of magic pill? Even if I did believe you, why on Earth would I not turn this over for research?!"

"Because that's not the way my powers work." the mutant said with a shrug "That's not a universal cure for Alzheimers, it's not technically even medication. It will only work for you, for this specific condition, and only that. It's a gift, for you and for you only, as far as anyone else is concerned, it's just a cartoony pill."

Gyrich hesited, before picking up the tablet, staring at it as he held it up. It was colored red and white, like medication you'd see in comic books or video games "So, whats the joke here? It'll kill me? Turn me into a mutie, or some other Twilight Zone bullshit? What's your fucking game?!"

"There's no game, and that's the game in of itself. It's a gift, and it works exactly as I said it does. If you take that pill, any chance of you ever developing Alzheimers will cease to exist. Or you can not take it, and will run an above-average risk of developing it as you age. Either way, the choice is entirerly up to you. Belive me, or don't. I do have other places to be, it's Christmas after all."

"Wait!" The mutant stopped, just as he was raising a hand to disappear "Why? If this is real, why on God's green earth would you ever give me something like this!? It makes no sense! This won't change anything, you know. Even if this is real, it changes nothing. You're still a threat to the United States, and you will be dealt with! So why?!"

The mutant smiled "Because, if you do take that pill, no matter what you do from this day on, you will never be able to forget that you owe me. And that is my Christmas gift to myself."

And then he was gone.


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