Note: This chapter contains some mature
A Test of Power
Extreme justice is often unjust.
Without any intention of stopping, the New York
Police Department squad car carrying two uniformed officers rocketed
down the street. A hodgepodge of trash and dirt was blown into the
air creating a debris filled whirlwind and was the only visible sign
to mark the police car's passage.
Despite the fact that the area was known for
both the sale and use of illegal drugs as well as a haven for pimps
and prostitutes, the criminal activity clearly evident on this very
street was ignored. Police officers, particularly of the uniformed
variety, were rarely seen here even when requested -- or needed. A
greater or more serious crime was taking place in a more deserving
neighborhood that demanded the attention of the law enforcement officers.
The natives more often than not were left to fend for themselves.
Ominous peals of thunder rolled across the threatening
skies, partially drowning out the fading wail of the siren that rebounded
off the crumbling structures lining both sides of the street. The
temporary tempest suffused with the mournful klaxon and sang the dirge
of the city.
Urban squalor. Such a convenient term
used to describe what Apocalypse thought, was such a lucid indicator
of societies inevitable collapse. He looked about him; an unmistakable
expression of disgust crossed his features. The surrounding buildings,
some built as recently as thirty years ago, looked more decrepit and
aged than the ancient structures of his native Egypt. He felt nothing
but contempt for this area -- this Borough of New York City called
the Bronx. It seemed to Apocalypse as if this locale was a focal point
that drew the most feeble individuals of society -- a repository for
While he was a proponent of survival of the
fittest, these people were hardly surviving -- not in any way that
Apocalypse understood things. To him, they were more like a cancer,
a malignant tumor that needed to be cutout to stop its spread to the
rest of the body. These areas only survived -- the people only survived
because of societies misplaced charity, its pervasive disillusionment
that people like this could be helped.
As he walked to his intended destination, he
was propositioned by both men and women. He would simply ignore them.
His size as well as his demeanor quickly disqualified him as a potential
mark or victim, or even a prospective client. One look at his face
and even the most determined peddlers were quickly dissuaded
from pressing any further. He appeared to be a perfectly normal human
being, but it was easy to see that his eyes were the eyes of a predator
-- not prey, and that it would be best for their sake that he be left
Apocalypse knew that the people who approached
him on the street sold their bodies to support their vices. They suffered
from a mental fragility that could only be borne through the haze
of alcohol or drugs. He had seen it in many cities throughout the
world -- in different times, over many centuries. The past and the
present were very much alike when dealing with mankind's vulnerable
underbelly -- the easily broken. He had often wished he could deal
with this problem as he saw fit, if he were not -- restrained
from doing so. Civilization would be much different from what it was
So it was here, amongst humanities refuse, this
abandoned apartment building -- it was here that he would find his
He left the street, the impending storm clouds
and the sun already much too low to cast anything but eerie shadows
through the broken windows and partially open doorway. Apocalypse
stepped inside and his eyes immediately adjusted to the murky interior.
Garbage covered most of the floor space leaving very little room to
walk. What were once solid and intact walls, now consisted of crumbling
sheetrock and splintered wood, exposing a tangle of electrical wiring
and plumbing. The stink of vomit, urine, and feces, permeated this
area even though it was so close to the entrance and outside air.
Although the odor was unpleasant, it did not disturb Apocalypse in
the slightest. He was quite familiar with the scent of decay in all
its forms. Raccoon-size rats brazenly walked across the debris ignoring
his presence, engrossed with their relentless and single-minded search
He turned down a hallway, startling three men
that were involved in some sort of transaction. Two of them immediately
fled, while one chose to stay, angrily advancing on Apocalypse. Apocalypse
supposed that his anger stemmed from the fact that he had intruded
on the man's livelihood, and calmly watched as he pulled a large grease-coated
kitchen knife from inside of a torn and soiled shirt. An incoherent
string of what might have been obscenities issued from an almost completely
toothless mouth. Apocalypse reached out and almost faster than the
eye could follow snapped his neck and tossed him aside like a rag
doll. The man's life was snuffed out so quickly that his enraged expression
was still frozen on his face when he landed among a large gathering
of rodents, who quickly went to work on this unexpected source of
He walked to a set of stairs that led to the
building basement. He moved down the cement steps silently, his pace
unhurried. The lighting was sporadic; overhead bulbs were either burned
out or broken and left large areas completely unlit. Apocalypse had
no difficulty negotiating through the nebulous underground room. He
could see in almost complete darkness or could illuminate the area
himself if he so desired.
From his current location, he could hear faint
murmuring and the subdued moans of a sizable group of people. The
noise resembled the sounds that patients from a military field hospital
might make, but were different because these were not the painful
cries of the wounded. It almost sounded as if they were in some way
diminished or depleted -- giving the impression that they were close
to death and had given up. Apocalypse knew that he was nearing his
He came upon a series of large tanks -- possibly
hot water heaters or storage containers for fuel, which had at one
time provided a source of heat for the building. The foundation walls
were covered with a thick coating of dirt or more probably soot from
the nearby oil-burning furnace. In between two of the tanks, a mother
and her baby were propped up against the ash covered cinderblock walls,
a dark and foreboding backdrop to an even darker reality.
Apocalypse stopped for a moment, regarding the
two humans and stood no more than a few feet in front them. The child,
no more than two weeks old, was nosily suckling on a flaccid and grime
covered breast. It struggled tenaciously, attempting to find nourishment
where there was none. Apocalypse was surprised that the mother had
been able to give birth to the child at all. An abundance of track
marks covered the mottled skin of both of her exposed arms. She made
no attempt to hide her long-standing addiction. The fact that the
baby was still alive was also unexpected, but that it fought to remain
so was not.
Life was stubborn in all its forms. During his
long life, Apocalypse had come across many individuals dogged in their
perseverance -- their will to live unbreakable despite any obstacle.
Young or old, poor or sick, those who truly understood the
great and worthwhile struggle that life was, would never surrender
-- would not go easily into the night. This simple child epitomized
that unyielding spirit but would have no chance to prove its determination
any further. It was grossly underweight, malnourished, and had been
forced to endure the most unsanitary living conditions. Additionally,
the mother's drug use during her pregnancy had most certainly doomed
the child to experience any number of mental and physical deficiencies
in its future -- a future that it would never have. Its hold on life
was already too tenuous to have any real chance. Apocalypse could
see with his mutant ability that its life force had already sunk much
too low, beyond even his technologically advanced abilities to do
any good. He judged that it would die -- painfully over the next few
He would kill the child first, quickly and mercifully.
The mother seemed to momentarily come out of
her drugged induced stupor and see him for the first time. She leered
at him, a practiced and artificial expression meant to beguile. "What
do you want honey?" She licked her lips with a swollen and white spotted
tongue. Stained and crooked teeth did their best to smile at him seductively.
Apocalypse answered her smile with a short but intense and focused
burst of radiation. Her skin immediately started to redden and blister
as her internal organs began to cook her from the inside out. A scream
of pain escaped her lips as long dead nerve endings came suddenly
and ferociously to life. Apocalypse's rare demonstration of mercy
for the child did not extend to her.
After proceeding a short distance further, Apocalypse
stepped into a large storage chamber. About forty people were scattered
about the room wearing little or no clothing whatsoever. The majority
appeared to be incoherent, either enthralled by their captor or from
drug use -- or quite possibly Apocalypse supposed mentally ill. It
was apparent that many hadn't moved for some time and were lying in
their own excrement. The air was heavy, almost pasty, although the
smell of death easily overshadowed the stench of human waste and filth.
With just a glance, Apocalypse quickly counted nine corpses, all in
various stages of decay. A frothing sea of maggots writhed over the
remains and clouds of flies buzzed about the room. They had died of
unnatural causes. Apocalypse could see several different protruding
knife handles, a shattered skull, and a crushed rib cage. Groans of
pain and despair filled the room -- a fertile feeding ground for the
It was a simple matter to locate his target.
Other than himself, only one other individual was standing. Apocalypse
studied his face from the distance. The man's eyes were closed, and
the apparent look of bliss on his face was somehow incongruent with
the sickly skin tone painted across harsh angular features. Keen eyes
snapped open and a voracious curiosity immediately focused on him.
"You've taken a wrong turn my friend...a very
wrong turn indeed," he said with a look of malicious glee. "Or are
you here for a reason -- a police officer perhaps?" he scoffed.
Apocalypse walked towards the man slowly, self-possessed,
seemingly oblivious to what was going on around him. "I am indeed
here for a reason -- to see you Ahmal Farouk."
Eyebrows ascended to the top of an almost noseless
skull that seemed devoid of any skin covering. "Ah, I see you know
me but I am at a bit of a disadvantage." The Shadow King spoke in
a sibilant tone of voice, a whisper so low that it was almost obligatory
to listen. "Perhaps you'd like to enlighten me about your knowledge
of my identity and introduce yourself as well?" he said in a conspiratorial
manner that was mocking at the same time. "After all," he gestured
at the depravity that surrounded him, "we live in a civilized society.
Propriety, formalities, etiquette -- those are the simple and sometimes
superficialities that make us men, are they not?" Sunken eyes that
were nothing but dark holes stared out of a twisted face that grimaced
with something resembling the sound of laughter.
The Shadow King could easily wrest the answers
to his questions from practically any mind by using his mutant powers.
He instead chose to first employ conventional means. He often enjoyed
toying with his prey, especially the strong-minded ones -- or the
ones who initially thought of themselves as strong. It was
so much more satisfying when his quarry believed that they were in
control and then discovered who and what they were facing.
He would often possess the form of the least physically intimidating
individual he could find for just that reason. It was just that much
more shocking -- that much more terrifying for the victim and always
provided him with such a succulent feast. He believed that this one
-- the man in front of him would prove to be just that. The man's
knowledge though was unexpected and there was something about his
boldness -- his composure that disturbed him at some level. His demeanor
amongst the horror that surrounded him was most unusual. He smiled
cruelly. In the end, it made little difference. Human or mutant, perhaps
this witless fool would provide him with some uncommon sport before
succumbing to his usual charms.
Apocalypse looked about him distastefully. "At
first glance it would appear that you prey upon the weak but that
is not entirely true. You instead cultivate the weak, bolstering the
least desirable qualities, intensifying fears for your own pleasure.
Your powers are an anathema to the natural order, and would eventually
conflict with my plans for this planet and its inhabitants -- my vision."
Apocalypse's impossibly deep voice grew deeper still. "A pride of
lions targets the weak, the sick, the old and in the process strengthens
the herd and its future generations. You serve no such purpose, quite
the contrary actually. Without the easily corruptible, the cowardly,
you could not survive. You would promote and foster all these pathetic
qualities and contaminate both mutants and humans on a grand scale.
This I cannot allow."
Shrewd and keen senses beyond the Shadow King's
mutant ability were triggered. When one was used to having almost
ultimate power, sometimes these senses -- these survival instincts
were dulled to the point of dormancy. But this was not the case with
Ahmal Farouk who readily recognized that the stranger was not making
a show of intimidation. No, there was definite power behind the words
-- the Shadow King could feel it.
"You know much about me stranger and yet you
believe you have it within your power to stop me?" The Shadow King's
tone had become spiteful but his bearing had changed slightly, and
unconsciously assumed a more defensive posture.
"I have it within my power to kill or enslave
you. This time, and only this time I will allow you a choice between
He almost laughed but stopped himself. The certainty
in which the stranger said these words was almost unnerving, but the
Shadow King was not easily intimidated. "Not much of a choice but
a magnanimous gesture on your part none the less. Perhaps the person
who would hold my very life in his hands could provide me with a name?"
The Shadow King's tone was sardonic, but a seething anger had underscored
"You require a name? You know of me,
but have wisely chosen to avoid me."
The Shadow King moved closer to the intruder
and had begun to compel those in his thrall into action. He had yet
to probe the stranger telepathically and curiously enough, did not
know the reason why.
"The great and powerful self-proclaimed king
of shadows, how terrifying. Many kings have fallen before me --
one just recently." A sound like a rockslide of huge boulders filled
the room as Apocalypse laughed. "I've known and watched you over many
years. I've seen your powers grow, your confidence swell. Only a very
short time ago, you were just a fledgling mutant telepath, only able
to possess the most weak-minded humans. Later, with some discipline,
your power and skill matured, which allowed you to control some of
your own kind -- feeble-minded mutants."
The Shadow King's eyes narrowed perceptibly.
"You seek to provoke me, why?" His back stiffened. Morbid interest
and seething anger combined, forming a volatile mix.
With a voice devoid of any compassion, Apocalypse's
words and tone were incontestable. "The only child of a drunk and
abusive father. A father who derived sadistic pleasure in torturing
innocent, helpless children -- even his own flesh and blood. How tragic.
But it was the only time that your father was happy -- when he was
inflicting pain on others, was it not?"
A sharp and incredulous intake of breath from
the Shadow King confirmed the validity of Apocalypse's words. "You
are about to receive an excruciating lesson in the art of pain," he
rasped, his voice dripping with spite. All those in his control were
compelled to grab any weapon and were driven into a murderous rage.
It was a testament to the Shadow King's power that despite their physically
depleted condition, those controlled by his potent and poisoned mind
were still able to move.
Apocalypse continued, any threat to his person
was ignored. "My former associate was fascinated by how your mutant
powers were formed. He called it an aberrant form of telepathy because
of your rather special childhood. Pain associated with pleasure,
despair associated with joy, fear associated with satisfaction. You
were able to tap into your father's mind at an early age and wrapped
his depravities around yourself like a warm blanket. You were somehow
able to find comfort in the nightmarish landscape of your father's
mind eventually aiding him in finding victims. Father and son, donor
and recipient, a symbiotic relationship of sorts -- a form of psychic
vampirism, all stemming from the most simplistic of desires -- a child
wanting to make his father happy. A perversion or distortion of a
yet uncultivated mutant power. A sickness conveyed from father to
son -- no different than the passing of a genetic trait from one generation
to the next."
"Enough!" the Shadow King let loose with a guttural
scream. His eyes darted maniacally around the room almost as if he
was worried that someone had just overheard what was said. "I'm going
to carve the skin off your bones, pluck the eyes from your sockets,
and feed your entrails to the rats. I'll pry your mind open, and plant
the most hideous nightmares in your head, playing the worst scenarios
over and over -- you'll never know what's real. I'll keep you alive,
and take you with me like a pet wherever I go. I'll make the pain
last forever, you'll beg me to kill you -- but I won't," the Shadow
King screamed in strangled and bloodthirsty tones, spewing saliva
in all directions.
Three of the Shadow King's slaves were within
striking distance and sluggishly raised crude weapons.
Apocalypse casually raised single arm -- a blinding
spear of light shot from his hand and cut through his attackers. He
sustained the discharge of energy just long enough to kill every person
in the room save for the Shadow King.
The Shadow King's vision was momentarily impaired
by the dazzling release of searing energy. He lowered his forearm
slowly, which he had used in an attempt to shield his eyes. The smell
of cooked meat reached his nostrils and he could barely make out the
smoldering remains of his cattle.
His vision cleared completely and standing where
a man had been a few seconds ago was the mutant overlord -- "Apocalypse,"
the Shadow King hissed, his eyes suddenly taking on a hunted look.
"Yes. I am surprised you recognize me. You've
never seen fit to cross my path. An immortal mutant with my power
-- my resources. What a tempting prize I'd make to someone with your
designs -- and your great power. Yet you've never attempted to control
me, how odd." A mixture of sarcasm and disdain was clearly discernable
in Apocalypse's tone.
The Shadow King crossed his arms and took a
defiant stance. "I have no need of you. You do my bidding with no
encouragement from me." The Shadow King inched closer, appearing unconcerned
about who he was facing. "But since we have now crossed paths, perhaps
I should take your suggestion and subjugate you to my will."
The Shadow King had taken a steadying breath
and cursed himself for his outward display of uncertainty. His own
acknowledgement of fear had only infuriated him further. But if there
were one being on the planet that he feared, it was Apocalypse. He
had no idea why Apocalypse was here, and additional doubt assaulted
his mind and his features as Apocalypse's unapproachable eyes locked
onto his own.
"You sincerely believe that a clumsy show of
bravado can deceive me -- that I do not recognize you for the mewling
coward that you truly are? Your eyes cannot hide the veil of fear
that I've seen in those who have heard just a whisper of my name --
and those who have come to know me personally," something in Apocalypse's
cold gaze turned immediately dangerous, "as you shall."
The Shadow King knew the time for talk was over
and self-preservation drove him to abruptly attack. He extended a
dark tendril of his power and sent it knifing into Apocalypse's mind.
Expecting some kind of defense, Farouk's onslaught was brutal, employing
an enormous amount of psionic energy in one focused assault. Only
the most powerful of telepaths would be able to protect themselves
against such an incursion. His attack would not only penetrate most
any telepathic shield, but also shatter it so completely that it was
doubtful the recipient of such an attack would ever be able to fabricate
one again. But he encountered no shield -- there wasn't any protection
from his attack at all. Instead he found that he had free reign of
Suspecting a trap, the Shadow King immediately
attempted to wrest control of the body from its owner. Strangely enough,
he found that he could not influence Apocalypse's mind at all -- because
he was unable to locate it. He then tried to influence the brain,
the autonomic nervous system, in an attempt to physically control
the body. He tried to stop Apocalypse from breathing, stop his heart,
but again all his efforts failed.
Feeling decidedly uneasy, he decided to withdraw
his presence from Apocalypse's mind but quickly found out he was unable
to do so. A wave of panic washed over him so unexpectedly he could
barely think about his next course of action -- and felt the bile
rise up his throat in his physical body. Having been in complete control
of others for so long, his own reaction was completely unfamiliar
and turned his fear into a panic driven rage.
If he could not escape, he would wreak havoc
and tear this mind apart. He would take any childhood fear or trauma,
the smallest of insecurities and inflate them to crippling proportions.
He would magnify any anxiety, feed any dread -- until there was nothing
else but paralyzing terror. Fear was the vital key -- his key
to controlling any person, human or mutant. He could enter any mind
and find that weakness, that ruling focal point of fear like a bloodhound.
He would sniff it out and then go to it unerringly. It was like a
sweet smelling fragrance to him. But for the very first time, after
violating literally thousands of minds -- here in Apocalypse's mind,
he could not detect even the slightest scent of fear, nothing at all.
He paused, concentrating on bringing all his
formidable powers to bear. He would just take a more basic, yet more
time-consuming approach by examining individual memories. Through
those memories, especially the early ones that served as a foundation
on which every individual's personality was built, it would be possible
to find something to use. He would focus on something particularly
disturbing, and use that to turn it into something all consuming.
He would nurture even the smallest instability and eventually the
foundation would crumble and fall, and with it, Apocalypse.
Even the most powerful telepaths needed to create
familiar frames of reference to navigate through the infinitely complex
maze that was the human mind. When the Shadow King entered any mind,
a lifetime of memories appeared to him as myriad of open doors. The
size of the door tended to indicate the importance of the memory while
the amount of light or its absence spoke to the type -- pleasant
or unpleasant. Because Apocalypse was so long lived, the landscape
of his mind was that much more vast and contained an incredible storehouse
He selected the nearest doorway, and moved closer
but was startled by the size of the entrance. It was more like a huge
portal than any doorway and dazzling light streamed from the opening.
He looked at some of the neighboring portals and the same glaring
light was coming from all of them. He was again struck at how different
this mind was and at some fundamental level that he was unable grasp.
Inhuman, unnatural, his own thoughts strange or inadequate
even to himself when trying to describe what he was seeing here. Perhaps
it was Apocalypse's immortality that forced -- or maybe required
that it develop in a different way.
He caught glimpses of different times and places...different
lives. All he had to do was simply step through one of the doorways
and he would become instantly immersed in that memory -- that world.
He hesitated, for the first time fearful about entering deeper into
another mind. Disregarding his instincts, he forcefully stepped through
the entrance, anger once again fueling his actions.
He immediately recognized the smell of the Egyptian
desert, felt the merciless sun scorch his skin. His senses were instantly
stunned by the richness of the memory, incredibly vivid and deeply
intense -- overwhelmingly real. His forays into other minds, other
memories were pale by comparison, bland, lacking any substance. Here
he was suddenly having trouble separating what were Apocalypse's memories
from his own.
He felt his own muscles ache, screaming for
a moment of inactivity, but that was not allowed. There was nothing
but endless toil for his masters. He hesitated for just a moment trying
to catch his breath, and immediately felt the sharp bite of a whip
tear at his back. The potency of the pain brought him back to himself,
compelling him to withdraw immediately. He threw himself back out
the way he came.
He was deeply shaken by the experience, and
his lack of control. He was one of the most powerful and experienced
telepaths in existence and should have been able to manipulate and
influence anything he encountered. What happened -- shouldn't have
been possible. Yet a simple memory had almost completely overwhelmed
him. He had been ready to capitulate to his captors just to avoid
the pain. He came to the terrifying realization that he had come so
close to losing his identity in that memory, and could have been trapped
He knew that he was traversing through new territory
and must proceed with extreme caution. Perhaps this was an elaborate
trap by Apocalypse. He decided to peer through a few more of the portals
-- before entering into any of them.
The Shadow King stopped at the threshold of
another portal, recognizing Apocalypse immediately even though he
looked entirely human. He was bound and gagged and had obviously been
beaten for some time. Two horses, one attached to each of his legs,
were keeping them firmly spread apart as a sharpened stake was gradually
forced into his body. The end of the stake was well oiled and care
was taken that the stake not be too sharp, else the victim might die
too rapidly from shock.
The Shadow King was very familiar with the art
of impaling. Normally the stake was inserted into the body through
the buttocks and was often forced through the body until it emerged
from the mouth. However, there were many instances where victims were
impaled through other body orifices or through the abdomen or chest.
Apocalypse's body convulsed once and then again
as he coughed up a thick glob of blood. He turned his head to his
tormentors, and spit at them. They had done their job well. He was
still alive and could be punished further. The Shadow King decided
to move on.
He looked into another doorway, again recognizing
Apocalypse in another strange guise. He was being questioned...tortured
by some member or agency of the Church. He could feel Apocalypse's
disgust toward the inquisitor. He refused to answer any of his questions
and would not utter a sound despite the inquisitor's skilled
and persuasive attempts. Driven out of his mind by anger, the inquisitor
ordered that, dressed in a short tunic, the prisoner be put first
in a bath of hot water, then of cold. He was pelted with small stones
bruising his skin making it even more sensitive to pain. Then, with
a large rock tied to his feet, he was raised up again, kept there
for an hour, and dropped again, and his shins were poked with reeds
as sharp as swords. Again and again he was hauled up until, on the
twentieth elevation, the rope broke and he fell from a great height
with the stone still tied to his feet. His body with most of the bones
shattered on impact with the ground. The Shadow king watched as the
inquisitor's sniveling servant took the body and disposed of it in
Looking through several more doorways it was
more of the same. The list of tortures endured by Apocalypse read
like the Devil's handbook for hell: building nails driven into the
head, cutting off of limbs, blinding, strangulation, burning, cutting
off of noses and ears, mutilation of sexual organs, scalping, skinning,
exposure to the elements or to wild animals, and burning alive. Apocalypse
for some inexplicable reason, subjected himself to the most unbelievable
tortures, brutal conditions, sustaining incredible physical and mental
Apocalypse stepped out from one of the portals,
gigantic, a personification of power. "Strength of will is a byproduct
of tribulations, and for that strength of will to be insurmountable,
it must be pursued with a relentless and endless fervor. It can never
be granted, it must always be earned." Apocalypse spoke with a voice
as deep as the deepest ocean trench.
The Shadow King suddenly felt puny and that
he would be crushed like a small insect, insignificant and unnoticed.
"My beliefs are often times misconstrued or
misunderstood. But being understood holds little significance to me.
There are differences between humans and mutants, but they are almost
meaningless. Mutants for all intents and purposes simply possess an
additional tool. Depending on the user, that tool can either be an
advantage or sometimes a damaging crutch. It is strength of mind,
resolve, fortitude, -- individual willpower that will determine which.
It is that strength of will, and only that, which will make all things
The Shadow King understood -- comprehending,
at least in theory at what Apocalypse had done. Apocalypse had subjected
himself to a never-ending series of tests, sustained incredibly over
thousands of years. These merciless trials were chosen to test the
upward limits and beyond of pain and endurance -- both Apocalypse's
physical and mental stamina. From what the Shadow King had seen, Apocalypse
had no limit. The result was a being of such self-control and abstemiousness;
it was too difficult to conceive. A mind formed over millennia from
a crucible of his own making, impossible to sway, indomitable.
All empires eventually fell, growing soft, decadent.
The leaders subject to the same foibles...an immortal even more prone
to these pitfalls. Apocalypse it seemed had found a way -- a tortuous
way to avoid this. The Shadow King realized that Apocalypse's self-image
was not borne out of arrogance or conceit, but out of reality. Tested
over and over again, never growing complacent, unswerving in his brutally
stringent self-imposed doctrine -- Apocalypse truly in every way was
what he proclaimed to be. He was the most powerful of their kind.
Compared to this -- this majesty, he was nothing but a speck, an inconsequential
bug. His powers were a match flame compared to the heart of a star.
If there was ever any fear in this mind it was
consumed, exorcised long ago in a forge of burning pain. What use
would Apocalypse ever have for a telepathic shield? Access to his
mind meant nothing. He could see that to influence Apocalypse telepathically
in any way would be like pushing against the ground and expecting
to be able to move the Earth from its orbit.
The Shadow King had already begun to think incredibly,
in a subservient manner. He had to remove himself from Apocalypse's
mind at all costs. Additionally, whatever Apocalypse had planned obviously
spanned centuries, possibly millennia. That plan required him to hold
steadfastly to a certain course and Apocalypse had taken great pains,
literally, to ensure that he would not or could not deviate because
of personal weakness. And that plan involved him.
He focused on amassing every erg of psionic
energy to break free from Apocalypse. He felt it build and then just
as quickly dissipate. He saw -- or was allowed to see Apocalypse take
control of the psionic energy and weave it into a -- leash -- a leash
that was already there and had just been reinforced. The Shadow King
realized that he had been held here all along -- held in place by
his own psionic energy. Apocalypse had somehow harnessed the energy
and used it against him.
Hysterical, he began to struggle like a trapped
animal. He clawed at the tether in an attempt to extricate himself.
Even though in a mad frenzy, he saw Apocalypse grin menacingly and
then watched as he let go of his chain. He thought he heard the echo
of deafening laughter in his ears as he returned to his physical body
and the physical world.
He felt heavy hands on his shoulders, and moaned
as fingers sunk deeply and painfully into his muscles -- crushing.
The Shadow King's heart stopped and lodged in his throat as he starred
into Apocalypse's eyes that were just a few scant inches from his
own. Too late -- between the moments that they were on the psychic
plane, Apocalypse had crossed the distance that separated them and
now had him in an inescapable grasp.
A bright flash of light, a brief moment of disorientation
-- the Shadow King was momentarily dazed but knew he was in a different
location. He opened his eyes and found himself in a vast room surrounded
by a variety of unrecognizable technology.
"You are far from civilization -- if you considered
where you were to be civilization. You are deep in the Himalayas,
in one of my holding facilities," Apocalypse's cold voice informed
The Shadow King looked directly about him and
noticed that he was being held firmly in place, but no chains bound
him. Strange spheres of energy were somehow acting in concert and
kept him from moving. He could only move marginally and suddenly felt
extremely weak, almost faint.
"You've probably begun to notice that my machine
is draining you of your power though you should feel no shame. This
very same machine once held a god."(1)
"Please," the Shadow King implored. "Do not
kill me. I will do anything you ask."
Apocalypse made a sound that was probably the
equivalent of a sigh for anybody else. "It is always the same. Time
and time again those who have foolishly chosen to go against me first
bluster, then realize that I cannot be beaten. Begging and pleading
soon follow. My challenges are few and far between." Apocalypse shook
his head. "I will not kill you...yet. This particular machine has
many functions. It can also be used for conditioning."
"There is no need for -- conditioning,"
the Shadow King's voice shook, sounding small and terrified. "Anything
you wish is yours, anything!" He was deathly afraid of what was to
Apocalypse ignored the Shadow King's pleas.
"Some, yourself included will see this as simple torture -- but it
is not. For too long you've been in control of others. Consider this
a test, which will be used to convince you...a powerful reminder of
who truly is in control. The thought of independence will never again
enter your mind. My brilliance, my radiance will shed light into every
corner of your corrupted soul." Apocalypse smiled broadly. "Together
we will see what that light shows."
"Please, just tell me your plans and I will
show you -- prove to you how I can help you." the Shadow King's voice
was now high pitched, almost like a squealing child.
"My plans involve an interplay of circumstances
beyond your paltry comprehension. I cannot be placated and to plead
or struggle further is useless. Freedom -- your freedom is a wistful
illusion and a goal that you will never attain. Acceptance of your
situation is the only measure of freedom that you will ever have again."
Apocalypse walked over and stood behind a small
pedestal. "You may in time come to realize that you owe me a great
debt of gratitude. You have immersed yourself for much too long in
your weakness, the murky depths of depravity. You've lost all perspective
to see how debilitated you've become. I have brought you out of the
shadows," Apocalypse laughed at his small play on words. "Out
of the darkness, and into the light -- my light."
Apocalypse passed his hand over an instrument
panel. A snarl of agony erupted from the Shadow King's mouth. Two
hours from now, he would stop screaming but only after both his vocal
cords had ruptured. The Shadow King's inability to make a sound was
irrelevant -- the pain was inescapable. The machine would not let
him sleep or rest but would keep him alive indefinitely, even without
food or water. If he grew tired, it would simply compensate by returning
some of the energy it had appropriated -- always just enough to keep
him fully conscious and completely aware of what was being done to
He watched indifferently as Ahmal Farouk twisted
and contorted while still being held firmly in place. The duration
and volume level of his squall surprised Apocalypse. That was probably
the most remarkable impression that this reputedly fearsome mutant
had made on him. Although, as blood began to run from the Shadow King's
nose and seep from his eye sockets, a mild curiosity had also arisen
in Apocalypse's mind.
"Can you feed off your own pain and misery
and sustain yourself, just as you've sustained yourself by siphoning
off power from others?" Apocalypse asked aloud. "I suppose it would
be no different than trying to consume one's own flesh and obtain
Apocalypse pondered that question and wondered
if he'd have the answer when he returned in ten days.
to be continued >>
X-Factor #50 BU
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