#1 - Madipoor Daze
"The Search for Black Tom, Part One"
The gates proved no obstacle to Cain Marko as he casually ripped them apart, neither did the guards who nearly emptied their clips at the hulking powerhouse known around the world as the Juggernaut. The bullets had no effect, bouncing harmlessly off the mystical shield that surrounded Cain thanks to the Crimson Ruby of Cyttorak that gave him his powers so many years ago.*
(as seen in many flashbacks, most recently X-Men #54 - Eric)
"Don't you fellas know? Nothing can stop the Juggernaut!" boasted Cain. He made a menacing swipe at the guards, who turned and ran in terror.
He strode up to the main doors of the Weapon X complex, tucked away in the wilds of Canada. He had come a long way, and no gates, guards, or huge steel doors would stop him from obtaining the answers he sought. His long-time partner and friend, the mutant known as Black Tom Cassidy, was here somewhere, and Cain was determined to find him.
Smashing his way through the doors, a loud alarm sounded throughout the complex - it had been breached, and emergency protocols were beginning to be enforced. Reinforced door after reinforced door started slamming down in corridors as employees hurried to safeguard vital projects and research data. Security guards sprawled out like ants in an effort to repel the intruder, but upon seeing just who the intruder was, they turned and fled. Some were brave enough to stand and fight, but were casually brushed aside and slammed into unconsciousness. The Juggernaut let out a deep, throaty chuckle, and continued on his way.
Cain strode purposefully down the corridor he had been told to take. The snitch in New York was most descriptive about where in the Weapon X complex Tom was being held, and Cain was somewhat surprised to find out that the Weapon X project was active again. He ploughed through doors, walls, and anything else barring his way until he reached his destination - Research Lab Theta.
"Where's Tom?" he cried out as he barged his way into the laboratory, sending scientists fleeing to the four corners of the room.
A sheepish voice cried out from one of the corners. "You're too late! They already took him!"
Cain strode over to the frightened scientist, grabbed him with one hand, and hoisted him til his head touched the ceiling. "Who took him?" he demanded.
"Th... th... the Hand!" stammered the scientist.
"The Hand? What woulda bunch o' ninjas want with Tom?" Cain thought out loud, and was surprised by the scientists answer.
"They want to use him as an assassin," blurted the scientist, almost without realising it, "they want Madripoor, but they need to get rid of Wolverine first! So we were told to fix him up and then the Hand... came... and... got... him..."
Cain realised his grip had gotten stronger at the mention of the X-Man Wolverine and that the scientist had passed out from the pain. Setting him down, Cain strode through walls and equipment until he was back outside.
"I've gotta get to Madripoor," he thought to himself, "and get Tom away from those crazy ninja bastards!"
And with that, he strode off towards the nearest city, determined to catch a flight to the tiny island nation and rescue his friend...
"Excellent," pondered Matsu'o Tsurayaba as he stared at the figure suspended in fluid in the tank before him. A figure he had taken great pains to get transported from Canada to the Hand's headquarters here in Madripoor. "This 'Black Tom' will make a most excellent tool to use against our hated enemy and complete our plans to rule this island!"
"Yes, my lord," added the current Master Ninja of the Hand, "with the modifications to his genetic structure that the Weapon X laboratories added to him, add to that our mystical changes, this Black Tom will indeed be most formidable opponent..."
"Fool!" yelled Matsu'o, as he backhanded the Master Ninja across the face, ironically with the prosthetic hand Matsu'o was forced to use after Wolverine had sliced off his original hand, "remember this is Wolverine - he who has single-handedly defeated the Hand at almost every turn!"
The Master Ninja slinked back, "My apologies my lord, I forget my place."
"Indeed you do, for although you may be the current Master Ninja, do not forget who rules the Hand!" exclaimed Matsu'o.
Just then, a ninja dropped silently from the ceiling, landing gracefully before Matsu'o.
"Master, I bring news from Weapon X. The American superbeing known as the Juggernaut was there seeking the whereabouts of Black Tom. He was last seen on a flight heading to Madripoor."
"It seems as though our latest acquisition's former partner seeks to reclaim him," replied Matsu'o, "This will be an excellent field test for our new weapon!"
Matsu'o swept his hand in an arc across the room, "Make ready, for our weapon will be put to the test when we send him against the Juggernaut!"
The room burst into activity, hands flying across dials and controls. And silently, suspended in the tank, Black Tom's eyes flicked open and he grinned evilly...
The flight had been uneventful, except for every single person onboard concerned that Cain's weight would send them plummeting out of the sky at any moment. You could almost hear the collective sigh when the plane safely touched down on the small landing strip that Madripoor called its' international airport. Cain looked out the window and scoffed, "What a miserable little hole," he thought to himself, "just my kinda place!" as he got out of his seat and moved toward the door, the plane groaning under his massive bulk with each step.
Unseen by Cain as he disembarked from the plane, a cadre of Hand Ninjas had assembled at strategic points around the landing strip and a silent signal was given to attack.
The first Cain knew of this was when a shuriken struck his left chest and bounced off harmlessly, for even in his human form Cain was still protected by the mystical energies of Cyttorak. Magically summoning his armour, Cain looked around and suddenly saw Ninjas everywhere. Other passengers from the plane screamed and ran as a rain of shurikens and arrows decended on him.
"Don't you pajama-boys know?" cried Cain, "Nothing can stop the Juggernaut!" and with that he charged at the first group of Ninjas, trampling some into the ground, and swatting others halfway across the runway.
The first wave of ninjas crumpled under Cain's onslaught, melting away into smoke upon death, leaving nothing but their ninja garb behind. Some of the ninjas decided facing the wrath of Matsu'o was better than being crushed by this powerhouse, and silently slid away into the shadows.
Cain reached the second wave of ninjas, comprised of the archers and shuriken throwers, and made short work of them too. Without even breaking a sweat, Cain reached the terminal and crashed through security gates and glass doors til he reached the other side.
Then, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted one of the fleeing ninjas who just as quickly vanished again. Setting off in the direction that he saw the ninja, Cain decided to keep walking until he found some more evidence as to the location of the Hand.
Matsu'o was not in a good mood. The ninja who returned with the news that the Juggernaut had defeated one of his best cadre's didn't pleased him at all, and the unfortunate messenger realised this when Matsu'o snapped his neck.
"The time has come..." he muttered. Turning to the assembled crowd in the room he said, "It is time! Send our weapon on his first assignment, and let him bring glory to The Hand!"
And with that, the fluid was drained from the tank. Wires and electrodes were retracted from his body, and the tube slide down and out of sight. Black Tom Cassidy slowly got up, and glared at Matsu'o. The combination of Weapon X technology and Hand magic had transformed him back from a normal-looking mutant into the wooden plant-like creature he had become not so long ago*. He flexed his arms into two sharp wooden stakes, raised them in the air, and cried "Glory to The Hand!" as he raced towards the exit to engage his first target.
(circa Generation X #25 - Eric)
Cain had gotten sick of walking when he couldn't find any trace of the ninjas, and so found himself a bar, went in, and ordered a drink.
"How the hell am I gonna find Tom on this stinkhole of an island?" he thought to himself, "The Hand aren't gonna be easy to find that's fer sure..."
"Ah heck," he thought as he downed the remainder of the pitcher before him, "I aint gonna find 'em sittin' in a bar!"
Cain got up, stepped outside, and turned to head down the street to resume his search. He'd barely passed the corner of the bar when he felt a stabbing pain in his left shoulder! Looking down, Cain noticed a wooden stake, protruding from his shoulder!
A look of shock and amazement spread across his face as the stake removed itself from his shoulder, causing him to stagger in intense pain. And then the blood came, pouring from the wound. Cain was stunned, he was the Juggernaut! How could something get through his mystical shield?
"Long time no see boyo," said a voice from behind him, "nice t'see ye again Cain."
Ignoring the pain but clutching his shoulder, Cain turned and there before him stood the object of his search, his long-time friend and partner, Black Tom Cassidy!
"Tom?!" Cain asked, surprised, "What... why'd ya stab me??? How'd ya stab me?!"
"Be plenty of time fer askin' questions later boyo," Tom said, "but right now I've got t'mop the floor wit ye fer my new employers. Ye might o' heard o' them, they call themselves the Hand!"
"Yer working fer the Hand?" Cain asked, "Since when?"
"It aint by choice boyo, let me tell ye that", replied Tom, who's face then broke into a snarl, "Now let's get down t'business, shall we?" he growled as he leapt at the Juggernaut, dagger-like arms extended, ready for the kill!
Next: The Juggernaut vs Black Tom?! How can Cain fight his best friend and partner? Especially since Tom can somehow penetrate his magical aura! When the dust settles, who will be left standing? All this, and a guest-shot by Madripoor's best-known resident - Wolverine!