Title: X-Book 2: Shadows and Steel - Chapter 25: Stryker's Price
Rating: PG-13 (violence, language)
Genre: Crossover, SPOILERS FOR X2
Summary: See Chpt 1
Disclaimer: I own nothing in regards to the Marvel characters or
any character from a previously published source portrayed in this
The office was dimly lit, located too far below ground for windows.
The only illumination came from a small desk lamp, and its stark
light cast black shadows around the room. It was strangely
furnished with one black desk surrounded by a wide variety of
computers and electronic screens, which were all currently not
powered up. The monitors stared blankly at the room's only occupant
like a dozen dead and shining eyes reflecting back dimly.
General William Stryker sat at the desk, his eyes closed with
frightening serenity. His chin was resting gently against the
fingertips of his steepled hands, as if he were lost in silent
prayer. His brow was furrowed slightly, the desk lamp alighting his
lined and weathered features in such a way that his eyes seemed
quite deeply set back in his face.
But, prayers and meditating thoughts were not what now preoccupied
He was waiting, with quiet patience, for an expected phone call.
It had hardly been two hours since the prototype was dispatched on
its first mission, but Stryker knew any conflict would not last long.
The black phone sitting to his left rang sharply in the silent
office. Stryker lowered his hands and reached for the receiver with
a curious, though unpleasant, expression. He lifted it carefully
from the cradle and held it to his ear.
"Report," was all his said, though the tone was light and
conversational. He had been in a very agreeable mood since he
watched the Sentinel fly away from his base, and the reply he
received made him smile. The expression was horrid in the shadows,
his eyes shining from the dark sockets and his top row of teeth
exposed to the gums.
"The Sentinel is returning, sir," the voice of a random solder said
quickly, "It has acquired three mutants successfully...all are
believed to be unconscious but alive."
"Lensherr?" Stryker asked and there was a long pause before the
"No, sir," the soldier said, "He escaped in one of our
Stryker's grin widened. There had been a reason he had insisted on
sending regular, metallic aircraft.
The soldier continued to speak, "He seems to have abandoned it in an
airfield outside the city. His implanted locator is out of range,
but recon reports an unregistered aircraft is currently following
the Sentinel's path..."
"Excellent," Stryker said softly, and then spoke commandingly over
the phone, "Tell recon to keep tracking that jet and keep me
posted. You others begin heading back to the base. I want you to
maintain positions outside this compound. If Lensherr wants in,
we're gonna be damn sure he doesn't get out."
"Sir, there's something else," the soldier said quickly, "The
Wolverine was sighted by our ground troops, along with several other
mutants identified in our files as prior threats to..."
"Don't concern yourself with them, soldier," Stryker
interrupted, "Lensherr and Charles Xavier have been setting their
own against each other for years. If mutants want to kill each
other, we won't be the ones to stop them. However, if Xavier's
mutants also assume the need to find where our little prototype came
from, we'll be ready for them. In the end, those two and their
followers may do the world a favor and destroy each other."
Stryker laughed suddenly at this thought, his voice harsh and
barking. The soldier on the other end of the phone flinched
involuntarily at the noise.
"My orders stand, soldier," the General finally said, "Keep
positions until further notice."
"Yes, sir," the soldier replied and then the line clicked and fell
Stryker put the receiver down gently, and continued to smile. Eight
months of planning were finally coming to fruition. With Lensherr
approaching, what had begun at Alkalai Lake would finally end...and
mutants, those freaks of all things natural, would perish under
Stryker's orders, even if he had to kill them one at a time...
Suddenly, the black phone rang again, and Stryker frowned. He
picked up the receiver quickly, assuming there must be some problem
with the mission, and anger filled his face.
"Yes," he shouted, "Report!"
"Good evening, William," a low and overly pleasant voice said and
the anger in the General's face changed quickly into fear, "I trust
all went well...with your little test tonight?"
Stryker felt a cold sweat break down his spine and he took a deep
breath to keep his voice from shaking.
"Yes..." he repeated, "Everything...everything went perfectly..."
"Not...quite perfect...correct?" the voice scolded gently, as a
parent would to a child.
Stryker shook his head, "No...no, not quite perfect.
"I'm very sorry to hear that, William," the stranger said
sympathetically, "But I'm confident you will get what you want very
The voice of the stranger on the other end of the line then became
"In the meantime...I do believe that machine did take a few other
things from the scene, did it not? And those things
are...currently...still alive...aren't they?"
Stryker nodded, "Yes...it did...they are."
"It would be a great shame if they came to some...harm...before I
arrived to collect them..." the voice said threateningly, "In fact,
it would be a shame if any of the approaching mutants were
somehow...killed...before they had been put to their own uses..."
Stryker was breathing heavily as the stranger spoke. His free hand
began to shake, and slowly, out of his control, drew a loaded gun
from his desk drawer. Stryker did not bother to struggle as his own
hand pointed the gun to his temple. The stranger's voice
reverberated over the line and the receiver shuttered.
"It would be a great shame..." the voice said to the General, "...if
your uses...your promises... ran out, before you were able to
complete your work."
Stryker nodded again, and even though the stranger was communicating
with him from a great distance over the phone, the General had no
doubt the stranger knew his every movement.
"Very good," the voice said, and Stryker's armed hand fell away as
he regained control of his limbs, "I'm glad we understand each
other. You keep your promise..."
The stranger waited for Stryker to repeat his vow.
"To give you what you want..."
The voice sounded pleased, "And I will keep my promise. To help you
achieve your goals. To free this world of the plague known
at 'mutants.' Once my work is complete...no mutant will remain on
The stranger then sounded quite friendly again, "Good bye, William.
It's been wonderful talking with you again."
The line once again fell dead, and Stryker's hand trembled as the
receiver fell from his grip. The entire office seemed to have
filled with a numbing cold, the sensation Stryker remembered from
his near demise at Alkalai Lake. The one and only day he had seen
the stranger in person.
<<Give me what I want.>>
The memory of the stranger's words pounded in his mind.
Shortly after the stranger had helped him escape a water death,
Stryker began to receive numerous phone calls, always the same
greeting tone, always the vicious demands.
<<Gather them, William. Gather them, but do not kill them. I want
them alive. Any. All. All but Lensherr.I promise, he will be
yours to destroy as you please.>>
The General, in the moment of failure after the dam broke, had
wanted nothing more than what the stranger promised. A chance for
revenge, a new chance to solve the 'mutant problem,' the mutant
And the stranger had not disappointed, giving Stryker power and
technology beyond his imagination, the means to the ultimate end of
The mutants, as much as possible, would be taken alive. Gathered by
Stryker's new Sentinels, and then given to the stranger when the
For what reason, Stryker did not know. He did not care. At least,
he thought he did not care.
The stranger was not one to question. He was powerful, unseen,
dangerous.and had proven his ability to control Stryker and his men
without ever appearing in person. No failure or mistake would be
acceptable. With such powers, the stranger could have been a mutant
himself for all the General knew, but somehow he doubted it.
Somehow...he doubted the stranger from the wilderness was anything
that close to human.
Stryker stood and marched quickly out of his office. The Sentinel
was returning and his enemies were approaching. He would worry
about the arrival of the stranger when it was imminent. Any
lingering thoughts were shoved away, any emotion or empathy buried
under his hate, and Stryker barked orders to his men to prepare for