Annual 1 - Weapon X Redux, Part One
It was dawn by the time the pair had reached their destination. The larger man's crimson armour glinted in the early morning sun, which glared fiercly over the treetops, bathing the land in an orange hue.
They had been following a long chainlink fence for most of the early morning, and had at last come upon the main entrance gate to the mysterious and secretive Weapon X project, nestled away in the Canadian woodlands. Out of sight, amongst the trees, the pair waited.
Cain Marko, also known as the unstoppable Juggernaut, had discovered that the Weapon X project, once believed shut down, had swung into full operation once more. He had been searching for his friend, and current travelling companion, Black Tom Cassidy, who had been captured by the Hand and genetically altered here at the project, once again given the wood virus that had plagued him before. Now, the pair were back at the project, and Cain Marko was determined to have them reverse what was done to Tom.*
* all this happened in Juggernaut #1 - Eric
The Juggernaut strode purposefully towards the main security gate of the complex. The guards were the same ones who were on duty during Cain's last visit here, and, as before, fled upon seeing the hulking powerhouse approaching. Cain chuckled quietly to himself, then tore through the gates, setting off alarms throughout the sprawling complex.
With Tom in tow, Cain stormed back down the twisting corridors of the complex. Occasionally, guards would attempt to halt his progress, but as Cain boasted to the guards, "Nothing can stop the Juggernaut!"
He swatted them away, or knocked them off their feet with shockwaves caused by one stomp from his huge foot. Tom also served to send many guards fleeing by spearing their weapons with his wooden talons. Eventually, the pair arrived at the laboratory in which Tom had been altered - Research Lab Theta.
Cain raised one massive boot and smashed the reinforced door to the laboratory in. It sailed across the room, causing many a scientist to duck, and crashed into a bank of computers.
"Ah, Mister Marko, Mister Cassidy, do come in! We've been expecting you..."
"Who the hell are you?" demanded the Juggernaut, staring down at the dumpy, bespectacled man standing before him.
"My name is Doctor Huxley, Mister Marko, and this is my laboratory."
Cain put two and two together, and grabbed the small man in one huge hand.
"You're the one who did this to Tom!" he cried, raising the man high into the air until he almost touched the ceiling.
"Y... yes, that is c... correct," stammered Huxley, "and I'm also the only one who can reverse the process!"
Cain grunted, and dropped Huxley to the ground. The small man picked himself up, straightening his lab coat and his glasses, then looked back up at the towering form of the Juggernaut.
"We'll have to conduct some tests on Mister Cassidy first, to see the extent of the virus in his system." Huxley looked over at Black Tom, who was looking around the laboratory nervously. "Welcome back Mister Cassidy, a pleasure to see you again."
Black Tom snarled and leapt at Huxley, who cowered backwards at the sight of Tom's hands formed into wicked-looking talons. The Juggernaut grabbed Tom in mid-leap, holding him firm.
"If ya wanna get better Tom, best not hurt this little dweeb!" Cain said to his friend.
"Aye laddie, ye're right," Tom replied, composing himself, "Just that I owe this little leprechaun fer what he did tae me!"
Cain released his grip on Tom, and turned his attention back to Huxley.
"Fix him," Cain growled, "NOW!"
"R... right away Mister Marko!" Huxley promised, and hurriedly gestured to the other scientists in the room to begin preparing for a round of tests.
Huxley ushered Black Tom to an elevated table surrounded by electronic equipment. He motioned for Tom to lie down, and attached sensors to various parts of his body. A few key presses on a nearby computer terminal and a diagnostic program began to run, analysing the wood virus that Black Tom was infected with.
All the while, the Juggernaut stood watch in the doorway, huge arms folded over his massive chest. He was not going anywhere until his friend was cured.
Huxely walked over to another computer on the far wall, muttering quietly to himself.
"Dweeb! Leprechaun! Hrmph!" he scoffed.
Hours later and Cain was getting impatient. How much longer would these tests run? He wanted Tom cured, and soon, so they could both get out of this place!
He'd started tapping his foot about ten minutes ago, but with his enormous bulk each tap send vibrations through the confined laboratory. Nervous scientists cast wary glances the Juggernaut's way with every tap. None of them were brave enough to say anything.
Cain watched as Tom was poked and prodded with various electronic gizmos. An entire bank of computer printers spat out reams of paper containing data on the tests. Cain had grabbed a passing scientist and asked him for an update on what was happening. The scientist just handed him a handful of printouts containing lines and lines of mathematical equations and charts. Cain grumbled, and scrunched the printouts into a ball and tossed them over his shoulder.
Finally, Doctor Huxley approached the Juggernaut. Cain could sense he was nervous about something, and he wasn't in the mood to hear anything but good news.
Cain stopped tapping his foot, much to the relief of the members of the scientific community in the room, and glared at Huxley. "This'd better be good..." Cain grumbled.
Huxley cleared his throat and began, "Well, Mister Marko, our initial tests are somewhat... inconclusive..."
"Whaddya mean?" Cain asked, sternly.
"W... well," Huxley resumed, "the wood virus that Mister Cassidy was subjected to was supposed to follow a specific path through his system, but our initial tests have shown that it has taken an entirely different course."
"So, Mister Marko, we will have to perform further tests to chart the virus' new course, and determine the best way to reverse the process."
"An' how long will it take?"
"Unfortunately, it will take a few more hours Mister Marko."
"A few more HOURS?!" Cain roared, and then scoffed, "An' you people are supposed to be smart!"
Huxley again cleared his throat, and continued, "We will also need information from you Mister Marko, as to what happened to Mister Cassidy after he left our facility."
Cain sighed, "I can tell ya anythin' ya need ta know, just so long as it hurries things up!"
"I appreciate your co-operation, Mister Marko." Huxley replied, and beckoned to a scientist who hurried over. Huxley said something to the scientist which Cain couldn't quite hear, and then the diminutive scientist turned his attention back to Cain.
"If you would please follow Doctor Nieukerke, he will take you to another laboratory where we can get the information we need."
Cain frowned, and then bent down and poked Huxley in the chest with one massive finger. "If this is a trick, I'll pull this place down around yer ears, little man." he threatened.
"You've asked us to cure your friend Mister Marko, and cure him we shall, with your help." was all Huxley said as he turned and went back to begin the next round of tests on Tom.
Cain glanced over at his friend Tom, covered in wires and sensors. Tom smiled at Cain, and motioned for him to go. Doctor Nieukerke motioned for Cain to follow him, and they headed out of the lab.
They left the lab and walked down what seemed to be an endless maze of corridors. They passed laboratory after laboratory, and Cain's curiosity got the better of him. Every so often he stopped to look through the small window on a laboratory door. Most of the labs contained electronic equipment, others contained things which made Cain turn away disgust. He wondered exactly what it was this project did, but after seeing what he'd seen he wasn't sure if he really wanted to find out.
Doctor Nieukerke led Cain into a laboratory labelled Research Lab Delta Omega. It too was filled with electronic equipment, but one thing Cain noticed was different was that this one contained a chair with a large metal skullcap. It reminded him of an electric chair on death row.
The scientist looked at the chair, and then at the Juggernaut, then back to the chair. He shook his head and motioned for Cain to stand next to the chair, then explained what was about to happen.
"This lab is primarily used to extract a subject's memories for later study." Doctor Nieukerke explained. "We need to find out what happened to your companion after he was taken from the complex, and this device will allow us to do that."
Cain eyed the device suspiciously, but if this could help Tom he was willing to endure it.
"Awright, let's get on with it then."
"Please remove your helmet Mister Marko, so that I can attach the skullcap of the device. I will program into the computer what memories we need, and then you will have to concentrate on remembering everything that happened so that it can all be recorded."
Grudgingly, Cain removed his helmet and sat next to the chair - he'd gone to sit in the chair itself but the scientist kicked up a fuss, saying that his size would crush the device, and that it was expensive. Doctor Nieukerke sat the skullcap on Cain's head, and affixed it with a strap under his chin.
"Now Mister Marko, I need you to remember everything that happened to Mister Cassidy since he left the complex."
Cain sighed, and started to remember back when he arrived at the project, looking for Black Tom.* The scientist started the recording process, and then left the room, leaving the Juggernaut with his thoughts.
Juggernaut #1 - Eric
Doctor Huxley was sitting in his rather sparse office. A desk, a reclining chair, and a computer terminal were the only items in the dimly lit room. There were two doors to the office - the main one that led out to one of the multitude of corridors in the Project, and another door on a side wall that led to Huxley's private laboratory.
Huxley had just finished shuffling through a folder of papers he had received. Across the desk from Huxley sat Doctor Nieukerke, the deliverer of the folder, who had just finished giving Huxley a verbal report on the Juggernaut's memory extraction.
"Excellent, all is going according to plan." Huxley commented, tapping his fingers together, "In an hour, the brainwashing process shall be complete, and the Juggernaut shall be ours!"
"And Cassidy?" inquired Doctor Nieukerke.
"The process is nearly completed. Before the day is out, Black Tom Cassidy will be completely taken over by the wood virus!"
"And the chances of reversal?"
Nieukerke nodded, rose, and left the office. Huxley leant back in his reclining chair and smiled to himself. Lost in his dreams of ambition, Huxley failed to notice the side door silently open and a figure entered, sliding into the shadows.
As Huxley pondered the next phase of the tests, a black-gloved hand fell onto his shoulder, causing him, to almost topple from his chair. A single red eye gleamed in the shadows as Huxley breathed a sigh of relief.
"What are you doing here?" Huxley demanded.
"Just wonderin' how things were goin'?" replied the shadowy figure.
"All is going according to plan. By the end of the day, it shall be time for you to make your move!"
"Good," replied the figure, "I'm gettin' tired of sittin' around doin' nothin', mate!"
"Patience my creation, patience..."
Cain Marko was doing his best to remember everything that had happened to Tom after his physical alteration here at the project. He was currently remembering back to his journey into the Cyttorak dimension to release Tom from the black magic that had enshrouded him.*
see the Strange Tales story arc in Juggernaut #4-5 - Eric)
Problem was, he was having trouble remembering. It was only a few days ago, yet, why couldn't he remember it clearly? Other thoughts kept entering his mind - of him having a job of some sort... a guard... guarding... the project?
But that wasn't right... or was it? He wasn't sure any more... he was confused...
Another memory... an alarm being raised... subject escaping... must've been high priority to call in the head of security... a fight... some horrible creature... and then blackness...
Huxley hurried down the corridors of the complex, as fast as his stubby little legs would carry him. He had gotten word that the procedure on the Juggernaut was completed, and now he must ensure the procedure is a success.
Arriving at the infirmary, he saw the Juggernaut talking to one of the nurses.
"Ah, Mister Marko! Thank goodness you're alright!"
"Who...?" Cain began, still wondering what had happened.
"One of our... er... subjects escaped, and you were knocked unconscious during the scuffle to recapture them." Huxley hurriedly explained.
"I... I don't remember..."
"It must've hit you harder than we thought!" chuckled Huxley, giving one of the best acting performances of his life.
"Yeah..." the Juggernaut said, as one of the nurses handed him his helmet, "must've..."
"You'd best report back on duty Mister Marko," Huxley continued his act, "your shift doesn't finish for another six hours."
Cain affixed his helmet back onto his suit of armour and looked down at Huxley. "Shift...?" he asked, still confused.
"Yes, your shift on the main gate. Even the head of Weapon X security needs to pull a duty shift guarding the main gate!" Huxley smiled, finishing off his Oscar-winning acting performance.
The Juggernaut grunted at Huxley, and left the infirmary, heading back to the main gate.
If Huxley could do cartwheels, he would've done one now. The plan was a success! He now had the Juggernaut under his complete control, and very soon Black Tom Cassidy as well!
The Juggernaut cautiously approached the main doors to the complex. They were open, and beyond he could see the bodies of the guards on main gate duty sprawled on the ground. He wasn't sure if they were dead, but he had to ensure the area was clear before checking.
Just inside the main doors was a large red button, and he approached it to push it and raise the alarm. Just as he was about to press it, a figure dropped down from the ceiling in front of him, dressed in an outlandish yellow and black costume.
"Marko..." Wolverine growled, and Cain heard a *SCHLUKT* sound. The man had extended claws from the back of his hands, and a flash of recognition crossed Cain's mind for a second, but then was gone.
"I don't know who you are, or how you know my name, but as head of complex security I must advise you that you are trespassing on government property. Cease and desist immediately, or suffer the consequences."
Wolverine looked puzzled; the Juggernaut didn't recognise him! Something strange was going on here, but then, that was the norm for the Weapon X project.
Seeing no other alternative, Wolverine snarled and leapt at the Juggernaut, claws extended...
"A Juggernaut In A Toy Shop"
Shopping. The bane of a man's existence, yet the love of many women's lives.
Too bad Cain Marko's not a woman... then he might enjoy shopping more than he does. As it is, he's really not too happy with having to shop for anything... especially in a Super Kal-Mart, where you can buy everything and anything you need.
A pimply-faced teenage girl walked up to him, dressed in the familiar blue vest of a Super Kal-Mart employee. Smiling up at him, she said, "Can I help you with something, sir?"
Cain looked down at her, thinking to himself that he could snap her neck between two of his fingers. Sighing deeply, he forced a thin smile, "Could you point me to the toy section?"
"The... toys?" the girl repeated, trying to stop herself from smiling.
"Yes," Cain said, his forced smile disappearing immediately. Here he was, actually trying to buy something, and he was getting crap from a teeny-bopper Kal-Mart employee! "The toys. I'm looking for a special, rare, ultra-collectible Star Wars figure. Now where are they?" Cain growled, leaning over right into the face of the girl.
Her eyes immediately widened. Cain could tell she was scared, and he loved it. "I... they're right back there," the employee said, pointing toward the back of the store. "But..."
"Thanks," Cain said, ignoring the 'but' from the girl. He walked past a rack of t-shirts on the way back to the toys, and all he saw were X-Men shirts. Wolverine, Rogue, even ol' Charlie had his own shirt.
"Bunch o' mutie-haters don't shy away from making a quick buck, do they?" Cain whispered to himself, lumbering on toward the toy section.
"Mommy mommy!" came a small voice from Cain's left. He looked over to see a young child, probably no older than five or six, jumping up and down in front of his mother. On his feet were a pair of X-Men velcro shoes. "I gots X-Men shoes, mommy!" the boy cried, grinning from ear to ear.
Cain frowned, his mood taking another turn for the worse. X-Men, X-Men everywhere!
He continued on his way, ignoring the happy cries of the child, and finally arrived at the toy section.
"What the..." he mumbled, scanning the racks of toys. He saw one Star Wars toy right away... and only one. On every other rack... and there were at least a dozen... there were X-Men toys.
"X-Men again!" Cain growled, his eyes widening.
He looked over to his right, to another rack, and saw bags upon bags of X-Men gummie candies.
"X-Men!" he roared, his blood boiling.
Everywhere he looked he saw X-Men. Toys, shoes, t-shirts, beach towels, bicycles, videos, even X-Men batteries.
His roars of anger had begun to draw a crowd. The pimply-faced employee who had directed him to the toy section arrived shortly, along with a man who could only be her manager. A small group of shoppers gathered around, staring at the strange, red-haired man. Included in that group were the little boy and his mother.
Without warning, Cain's body began to shift until it was surrounded by his crimson-coloured armor. The crowd took a collective gasp and stepped back, eyeing Cain fearfully.
The little boy's eyes grew wide with excitement. "Look mommy," he said, "it's the Jugalug!"
The Juggernaut glared at the little boy, who uttered an "Eep!", then hid behind his mother, peeking out from behind her cautiously.
"X-MEN!!!" the Juggernaut roared again, slamming his fists into the racks of toys. Any X-Men figures that fell under foot were immediately crushed as Cain stomped on them. The crowd took another step back as Cain flailed about wildly, knocking entire shelves down. Soon, they were stampeding towards the exit doors in fear.
Shirts were slung onto the floor, bicycles tossed through the front windows of the store, shoes ripped to pieces as Juggernaut rampaged. He didn't care what was in his way, X-Men associated or not, he was crushing it. Stomping it. Smashing it.
In a matter of minutes, the store was in shambles. Not a rack of anything was left standing as the Juggernaut stood there, eyeing his handiwork, his anger slowly receding. A pair of shoes, which had been stuck in the ceiling thanks to the sheer force of the Juggernaut throwing them, fell and bounced off of his helmet.
The Juggernaut looked down at the shoes on the floor, and saw Xavier's bald head looking back up at him. It was just enough...
In another few minutes, the store collapsed under the onslaught. Nothing was left standing as Super Kal-Mart was reduced to rubble by the Juggernaut, who burst through what used to be the front door. A cadre of policemen, ducked behind their cars, opened fire at the sight of the person responsible for the mass destruction.
Ignoring the bullets, the Juggernaut shoved past the police cars and made his way down the road. The police stopped firing when they saw it had no effect, and simply stood there watching as the Juggernaut stormed off.
"What the hell was that all about?" the former Super Kal-Mart manager inquired, staring at what used to be his store.
The pimple-faced girl looked over at him, a small smile on her face. She really didn't like the job anyway...
"I don't know," she said, pulling the blue vest off. "All he wanted was a Star Wars toy."