A Test of Power
From this arises the question
whether it is better to be loved
rather than feared, or feared rather than loved.
It might perhaps be answered that we should wish
to be both: but since love and fear can hardly exist
together, if we choose between them, it is far safer
to be feared.
Il Principe 1532
Professor Charles Xavier crossed the study and parted the
heavy drapes to reveal a clear crisp night sky filled with
multitude of twinkling stars. He thoroughly enjoyed evenings
like this -- as long as he was indoors. The fireplace contained
a few quietly burning logs that filled the room with warmth
as well a golden glow which always had a relaxing effect on
him. It was the perfect environment to sit down and enjoy
the new book he had recently purchased.
He placed his hand on the window pane, which revealed something
else about this evening: It was extremely cold -- unusually
so. As he glanced across the great lawn of his Westchester
mansion, he noticed a thin cloud of smoke rising from just
below the window. He quickly looked down see that it was not
smoke at all but steam that was coming off of Logan, who was
engaged in some form of martial arts exercises -- in a short-sleeve
shirt, no less. A small smile formed on his face as he recalled
the time Logan had asked him why he had such an aversion to
the cold weather.
What were Logan's exact words...? "You shouldn't spend
so much time indoors, Chuck. Cold air, a little sunshine,
puts hair on yer head."
"I thought you said that was what your beer drinking
did," the Professor had commented dryly.
"Nah! I said drinking beer put hair on your back. You
want to know where you get hair if you drink whiskey?"
"Maybe I should consult Henry on that question. His
overly hirsute condition might best qualify him to answer
"If you mean McCoy's got a lot of hair you're right
there, but he's the teetotaling type. Then again, maybe he
is tipping a few beakers back with the amount of time he spends
in that lab all by his lonesome.
He closed the drapes and left Logan to his exercises. Logan
was right about one thing, at least. Charles telepathically
located Henry right where one would expect to find him these
days, in the medical lab, tirelessly working on a cure for
the Legacy Virus. Without even a focused telepathic scan,
he could sense wave after wave of intense frustration emanating
from the lab's sole occupant. He had been meaning to speak
to Henry about taking a much-needed vacation, and felt it
might give him a fresh perspective with his work. Charles
could understand better than most what intense and prolonged
frustration could do to the human mind. He was just about
to telepathically summon him when Robert Drake burst into
the lab recommending just what Charles had in mind. He withdrew
his telepathic probe and made a mental note to speak with
Henry first thing in the morning.
Bobby Drake entered the MedLab with his normal childlike
exuberance, not bothering to check whether any medical restrictions
were in place due to the current nature of Dr. Henry McCoy's
research. He then proceeded to gently spiral a football right
into the small of the stooped back of the tired doctor, who
was squinting microscope as he examined a slide. Henry continued
his work and didn't seem to notice that Bobby had even entered
"So that's how it's going to be, Hank? I'm not going
away until you say yes."
"You have yet to pose a question," Hank mumbled.
"Oh, so there is someone alive under that blue
fur coat!" Bobby laughed. "Let me cut to the chase.
Me, Warren, and Logan, are heading down to Shea tomorrow to
watch the Jets and the Dolphins play football. Warren's got
some primo season tickets -- four, to be exact -- and you
are cordially invited."
"I have too much work to accomplish this weekend, Bobby,"
Henry said without glancing up from his microscope. "Why
don't you ask Bishop?"
"Bishop?!" Bobby exclaimed. "I said we were
going to a ball game, not a funeral. Come on,
Hank, you remember football. Heck, you even used to
play it a hundred years and four college degrees ago! Do I
have to bullet my next pass into the back of your head
to get you out of this cave?"
"This is not a cave, Robert. It is a medical laboratory.
A laboratory that might be useful in saving lives if I were
not constantly interrupted for fatuous reasons!" Henry
angrily snapped out his response, raising his voice with each
Bobby stood dumbfounded at the angry outburst -- Hank had
never taken that tone with him before. More than anyone
else, Hank always had seemingly infinite patience, no matter
how juvenile and annoying some of his comments were. Bobby
considered Hank his best friend, and he tried to brush away
his hurt as he rushed to justify his intrusion and prove that
he had Hank's best interests in mind.
"I'm sorry Hank," Bobby said quietly. "I just
thought that you needed a break," he went on nervously.
Me and the rest of the guys thought that you've been working
way too hard. Logan was just saying the other day that the
rest of the X-men always get to solve our problems with our
"'McCoy gets all the damn near impossible problems and
he's got to use his noodle to solve 'em.'" Bobby tried
to inject a little humor into his explanation, hoping his
best "gruff" voice imitation of Logan would lighten
Henry's mood. He continued in a more serious tone. "Hank,
I know what you do for the team, for mutants in general, is
much more important than anything I've ever done or will do.
I just come off like a goofball all the time."
Hank sighed. "Robert, please forgive me and accept my
sincerest apology," he said, his voice was tinged with
regret. "My frustration level with all my ineffectual
attempts to find a cure for the Legacy Virus has reached an
all-time high. Everything I've tried has been a dismal failure.
My anger has nothing to do with you and is inexcusable."
A small smile crossed Henry's face. "Maybe a football
game is just what the doctor -- or rather, the Iceman
-- ordered," he said, sounding more like himself already.
"Perhaps I could interest you in a game of a different
The chillingly familiar voice startled both Bobby and Hank.
They spun around and were horrified to see Mr. Sinister step
out of one of his reality-defying dimensional portals, appearing
out of thin air right in the middle of the lab. As the transport
doorway closed, Bobby overcame his initial shock, and his
training took over. Shifting into iceform, he began to move
to the side. Logan had constantly drilled it into all of the
X-Men to never present an opponent with a stationary target
-- move immediately. He had once told Bobby that it was the
very first few seconds that almost invariably determined the
outcome of any fight.
With a casual wave of his hand, Sinister enveloped Bobby
in a faintly glowing pink sphere, literally freezing
him in place. Bobby was conscious but unable to move. The
ease with which Sinister had rendered Bobby harmless stopped
Henry in mid-stride from manually activating the intruder
alarm. What also stopped him was the impassive manner with
which Sinister now greeted them.
"Gentlemen, please consider the mode of my arrival.
I could have just as easily sent my team of Marauders, an
explosive device, anything I wished. I assure you, I mean
you no harm. All I have is a simple request. Your acquiescence
is of great importance, but you will have a choice and will
not be forced in any way." Sinister delivered this seemingly
benign speech with his hands folded innocuously in front of
him, attempting to dilute the natural menace he exuded.
Although Henry, like many of the other X-Men, had an almost
intrinsic fear of Sinister, Sinister's logic did not escape
him. With just his transport technology alone, Henry could
think of twenty different ways he could have destroyed any
of the X-Men -- or the entire mansion, for that matter. Sinister
was far too prudent a man to show up at the proverbial lion's
den ill-equipped, and would certainly expect to encounter
some resistance, to say the least. Because he was a consummate
planner, Bobby's initial reaction, although understandable,
was doomed to failure because of the caliber of the adversary
Henry shuddered. Yes, perhaps their greatest and most insidious
enemy had somehow easily bypassed possibly the most advanced
security system on the planet, and was standing in the middle
of their home completely unhampered, currently free to wreak
havoc and do as he pleased. But he took solace in the fact
that the mechanical and electronic systems were not the only
things that the mansion contained that could detect an intruder's
presence. That thought calmed Henry to some degree, allowing
him to focus and present a somewhat calm and clear-thinking
This subtle change in Henry's demeanor did not go unnoticed
by Sinister. "Your comrades have no idea that I am here,
so no one will be coming to your aid, nor will you require
any. If you refuse my request as well as my offer, I will
A consummate planner indeed, with an uncanny way of foreseeing
any and all possibilities, Henry thought. He also wondered
if Sinister was somehow screening his own presence and this
conversation from the telepaths that resided in the mansion.
"Release Robert as a show of good faith and I will consider
your request," Henry demanded with as much false bravado
as he could muster, stalling for time.
"Obtain his promise that he will attempt no attack on
my person -- what little good such an effort would do -- and
he will be released. But rest assured, should he break his
promise, I will employ the same abilities I have just demonstrated
in tandem, and young Mr. Drake will find his head and thorax
in two vastly different locations." Sinister punctuated
his remark with an intimidating stare in Bobby's direction.
"As long as you don't try to harm Hank, I won't do a
thing," Bobby managed to croak, trying to sound as confident
as possible considering his situation.
"Then we are in agreement and can converse like civilized
men." The pink sphere surrounding Bobby disappeared,
and he was able to move again.
Unhurried, Sinister slowly approached Henry, his gait a mixture
of grace and strength, innate confidence and power oozing
with every step. Henry had to consciously fight back the urge
to fight or run and managed to hold his ground. Sinister towered
over Henry, his terrifying white visage now within a few feet
of his own face. The cape of his elaborate costume, if one
could call it a costume, with cloth-like tendrils fanning
out in all directions, suspended in air with seemingly a life
of their own. They reminded Henry of the hair of the mythical
Medusa, a sea of poisonous snakes constantly in motion and
ready to strike at any moment.
Henry had often wondered about this choice of outfits for
Mr. Sinister. The man certainly did not possess a flamboyant
personality -- quite the opposite really, more like a mortician
from a bad John Carradine movie, as Logan was fond of saying.
No, Sinister was first and foremost a scientist and was primarily
concerned with functionality and efficiency, not appearance.
Henry decided that the costume was not a costume at
all, but rather an extension of Sinister's own body configured
in such a way to harness much of the known and possibly unknown
and unseen ambient energy that everyone is constantly bombarded
with. The crackle that Henry felt in the air as Sinister approached
confirmed his theory. Yes, he now was quite sure. This was
the closest he had ever been, or ever wanted to be to Mr.
Sinister. Henry could feel almost a static electricity in
the air around him as well as see a very faint blue glow at
the end of each of the tendrils of his spidery shroud. But
he was sure that it was not simple electricity that Sinister
was able to harness, especially when he employed this energy
with such a wide variety of uses and with such devastating
"May I?" Sinister motioned toward the microscope.
"Of...Of course," Henry stammered.
Sinister bent his large torso over the microscope to peer
into the eyepiece, and with his gloved hand he expertly adjusted
the focusing and lighting knobs with practiced ease. "Ahh.
I see that you are continuing your quest to find a cure for
this troublesome little bug." Without looking up, Sinister
held out a computer disk with all the flourish of a magician
pulling a rabbit out of a hat. "This might help you towards
Henry cautiously reached out and took the disk, but kept
it at arm's length from his body. Sinister straightened. "Please
allay your suspicions, Dr. McCoy. Given our past, I can understand
your mistrust, but kindly read what is on the disk."
Henry still hesitated. When dealing with Sinister, everything
came at a cost. As oddly superstitious as it may have sounded,
he suspected that as soon as he viewed the disk's contents,
his soul would be forfeit and there might be no turning back.
"Let me assuage your fears and put this into terms you
might be more comfortable with. This information will cost
you nothing. The data on that disk will no doubt be helpful,
but it will be the subsequent information that will be especially
"And that information comes with a price," Henry
said openly, not trying to mask the suspicious edge to his
There was no maniacal grin or sarcastic remark from Sinister.
He instead responded matter-of-factly.
"Your cooperation will benefit both humans and mutants
-- all you and your X-Men profess to stand for."
"And the benefit to you?" Henry asked with more
than a slight bit of sarcasm.
"I do not claim to be a good Samaritan. My motives remain
my own. But as a scientist, you must review all the information
available to be able to make an informed judgment. You may
begin with the disk."
Sinister's last statement was not a request but a polite
command. Although Sinister's face remained expressionless,
Henry believed the man's patience was coming to an end. The
stakes were too high to decline his offer, he finally decided,
so with no further discourse, Henry inserted the disk into
his PC and quickly scanned through its contents. He was immediately
struck by the sheer scope of the research data he was reading.
Sinister was erudite even by Hank's standards, and this was
most definitely reflected by the esoteric theories he was
now just touching on.
"This...this is years ahead of where I am now! This
also supports my recent supposition that the Legacy Virus
does not behave entirely like a virus but has many of the
attributes of a bacteriologic infection as well," Henry
Bobby could hear how thrilled Henry was to actually confirm
some of his own theories by how many octaves his voice had
risen. Bobby was no psychologist, but it was obvious to him
how easily Sinister manipulated people by seemingly granting
their fondest desires and was more than a little concerned
at Hank's present state of mind.
"Are you familiar with Menigococcal Meningitis?"
"Yes I am," Henry said eagerly. Meningitis occurs
globally an shows an endemic pattern in temperate climates
causing a steady number of sporadic cases or small clusters
with seasonal increase in the winter period."
"That is true, but Meningococcal Meningitis is the only
form of bacterial meningitis which causes epidemics,"
Sinister lectured. "The highest rates occur in young
children, although during epidemics older children, teenagers
and young adults are also affected. Transmission is by direct
contact, including respiratory droplets from the nose and
throat of infected persons. Are you familiar with viral hemorrhagic
"Yes. They are a group of diseases caused by viruses
from for distinct families of viruses; filoviruses, arenaviruses,
flaviviruses, and bunyaviruses," Henry quickly rattled
"All from memory -- impressive" Sinister commented
as if speaking to an eager pupil. "The usual hosts for
most of these viruses are rodents or arthropods."
Henry noticed that Bobby's somewhat confused expression became
more pronounced after Sinister's last statement. "Arthropods
are ticks and mosquitoes Bobby," Henry supplied.
Bobby just nodded his head and looked slightly embarrassed
and a little annoyed that Henry had not only noticed his confusion,
but chose to highlight it by saying out it loud.
Sinister ignored the interchange and continued. "In
some cases, such as Ebola virus, the natural host for the
virus is unknown. All forms of viral hemorrhagic fever begin
with fever and muscle aches. The severity of viral hemorrhagic
fever can range from relatively mild illness to death."
"The origin of the Legacy virus is also unknown,"
"A distinct liability that I am not subject to,"
Sinister said with a trace of smugness creeping into his voice.
"That is one of the advantages that I have had over you
in studying the disease," Sinister said casually as if
relating tomorrow's weather forecast.
"How is that possible?" Henry asked incredulously.
"Stryfe brought the Legacy Virus back from the future.
You would have no way to determine, study, or have access
to the original host."
Sinister ignored his disbelief and did not enlighten Henry
as to what his earlier dissertation had to do with a cure
for the Legacy Virus. "Let us adjourn to one of my labs
and we can continue this discussion and answer some of your
questions. I must insist that we proceed with some alacrity.
No doubt one or more of your colleagues might visit this lab
and be less than pleased with my presence. Even though your
detection devices have been rendered temporarily inoperative,
some of your more psi-sensitive teammates might delve a little
deeper into the psionic deception I've placed over this room."
Sinister noticed Henry's inquisitive look.
"You appear to be sleeping to anyone who would make
no more than a cursory examination to the occupants of this
room," Sinister explained.
Henry's facial expression did not change significantly.
"Mr. Drake and myself would appear as light background
noise...as if you were dreaming."
Yeah, Hank's nightmare, Bobby thought.
Although Henry was not a telepath, he understood the difference
between unrefined, brute force-type telepathy, and delicate
skill, and which was more difficult. It was his turn to be
impressed. A very subtle deception indeed.
"I am sure only a skilled telepath could achieve so
effective a deception, considering the quality of the telepaths
that reside in this household," Henry commented.
Sinister would not acknowledge that he was a telepath or
possessed telepathic ability, an admission of which Hank tried
to solicit. So little was known about Sinister's actual mutant
abilities -- or if he was even a mutant at all.
"I have a fair amount of knowledge concerning telepathy.
Again, it would only stand up against a casual examination.
In addition, should one of your more nocturnal teammates venture
close to this lab, his acute olfactory senses would no doubt
detect my presence. I am sure you will concur that his recalcitrant
nature does not lend itself to reasonable colloquy. And as
distasteful as I might find it, I might be forced to defend
myself and will employ a much less passive approach than I
did with young Mr. Drake."
Although Sinister neither changed his inflection or raised
his voice, Henry understood what he was implying. Make
a decision to leave now, or people might get hurt.
"I will accompany you back to your lab," Henry
"Not by yourself. I'm coming with you," Bobby said
just as firmly.
"Don't be ridiculous, Robert," Henry said immediately.
"It is not necessary to endanger...it is not necessary
for both of us to go. Our discussions would only bore you."
"I know you don't trust him anymore than I do,"
Bobby said pretending to ignore Sinister's oppressive presence.
"You're not going alone."
Henry could tell that Bobby was determined to accompany him.
Honestly, he admitted to himself, no matter how intrigued
the scientific part of his mind was at the prospect of what
he might learn from Sinister concerning the Legacy Virus,
the primitive part of his brain was terrified at the thought
of being alone with him. He genuinely wanted Bobby's company
and was touched that Bobby was willing to place himself in
potential danger for no other reason to be assured that he
was all right.
Sinister opened one of his dimensional doorways.
"Do you have any objections if Bobby accompanies me?"
"If you feel more comfortable with a companion,"
Sinister motioned towards the portal, "then by all means."
Hank began to furiously scribble something on a piece of
"I take it you are leaving a note for your esteemed
Henry cautiously nodded.
"You needn't be alarmed. That is quite acceptable. In
addition, you may contact the X-Men on a daily basis in order
to assure them of your continued safety."
This surprised both Hank and Bobby but did not make them
any less suspicious of Sinister's intentions.
"One last thing. You have not given me a reason why
you need my help. I must insist on one before we depart,"
Sinister paused at the threshold of the portal, as if contemplating
his choice of words in order to answer Henry's question. He
turned staring directly into Henry's eyes with a particularly
intense and frightening countenance.
"Fair enough, I wish to enlist your aid in killing Apocalypse."
With that, Sinister turned and stepped into the portal, his
swirling and undulating cape following in his wake, and politely
commanded, "Follow me, gentlemen."
Henry and Bobby looked uneasily at one another. Things had
gone from bad to worse.
"Well he's showing us the door, you first," Bobby
managed a smile.
"Into the abyss," Hank said without his usual touch
of humor and stepped through the doorway.
"Yeah right." Bobby took a deep breath and followed
Continued in Chapter
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