Pain. Trick is, you go beyond it. Put your mind somewhere else. ‘Course, there’s all kinds of pain. Some hurt worse than others. Leave deeper wounds. Like Mariko. Her father, Lord Yashida, showed her the animal in me... and laughed. But she looked deeper. And loved. Still, duty binds her, honor holds her... away. Noble. Romantic. Impossible. Doesn’t stop me. Draws me on. Like Sister Salvation. Married. First to a dictator, now to the church. Impossible. Has to end in pain.
In his own mind, Wolverine sees himself first as an animal, making its way through the snow. Until that animal happens upon Mariko. With her sword drawn, she brings it down on the animal’s head. Only thing is, it’s not Mariko, it’s Sister Salvation. Only it’s not. In reality, Wolverine is strapped to a chair, being tortured by Geist and the president of Tierra Verde, Felix Guillermo Caridad.
Caridad is impressed that Wolverine isn’t screaming. Long past the point when other men, strong men, have howled like animals, begged, whimpered, broken. He decides that he has seen enough and comes to the realization that they may have to face an unpleasant possibility, and that is he has been telling the truth. Before Caridad can leave the interrogation, Geist offers up that their interrogation subject may or may not be the legendary Wolverine. All of those mutant super heroes, the X-Men, are supposedly dead. But he obviously exhibits more than human resistance.
He adds that perhaps greater effort is required. Maybe if his hairy body were more cleanly shaven, better contact could be achieved, and along with it better results. Caridad turns to leave but, before he does, he points an angry finger at Geist and says to him that maybe someday all will be smooth, sleek cyborgs and he will forget this obsession he has for shaving. Caridad indicates that he other goals and they’ve wasted enough time. He orders their persistent friend to be returned to his cell.
Walking up the steps, Caridad mutters to himself that the dream of his life is so close. Yet whenever he is ready to seize it, another complication arises. As Caridad makes his way into the sunlight where his troops are participating in various drills, he continues to mutter. His head is killing him. The migraines that this business has given him. The price of being Felix Guillermo Caridad, the prince of power. A hard decision is needed and he did not become “strongman of Tierra Verde” by fleeing such decisions.
Before Caridad can continue, he is interrupted by his wife, Sister Salvation. Angrily, she yells at him for shutting her away like he did. He made a promise, and she betrayed Wolverine and Roughhouse to see it fulfilled. She tells him that she wants her son; she doesn’t want to languish in some jungle monuments to his army’s oppression. Felix makes an attempt to calm her down. He informs her that the norteamericanos built this training camp; they merely inherited it for supporting their policies. He then lets her know that he is not always the deceptive brute she refuses to be wife to. He finishes with the fact that their son is nearer than she knows. <>
Over on a log perched above a mud pit stand two soldiers sparring with pugel sticks. After a brief contest, one of the soldiers ends up in the mud. The one soldier who did not take a mud bath informs his president that the other soldier nearly had him. Caridad finishes his thought with the fact that the other soldier took a dive so the Sergeant didn’t look bad. He yells at the fallen soldier to get out of the mud now!! As he does so, he removes his helmet. Sister Salvation recognizes him immediately as Palo.
The soldier looks confused, he asks if he knows her. Sister Salvation runs over to him and gives him a big hug. She is exasperated. It’s been five years, five long years. Palo realizes that she is his mother. With his face in her hands, Salvation continues with her shock. She points out how grown he has become. He was just a boy when she had to leave him, and now he is nearly a man. Caridad interrupts. He is a man and he is a soldier of Tierra Verde, much like he was at his age. But unlike him, Palo has not had to claw his way up out of poverty.
Palo interjects that that doesn’t mean he doesn’t try. His ranking in this training cycle has gone from... Caridad cuts him off. Life is not training!! If Palo fought for every opportunity as he was driven to do, the Sergeant would reek of the mud pit and not his son. As he storms away, Caridad indicates that, because he is his son, he will have other ways to prove himself as he did. In the meantime, he allows Salvation to spend time with him for the afternoon, for tonight they will discuss family relationships further.
In a secluded cell somewhere on the compound, an exhausted and somewhat naked Wolverine is being strapped up against a cell wall. Geist oversees the operation and informs the guards to bolt his manacles tight to the wall so, even if he pops his claws, he still won’t be able to wield them. One of the guards informs Geist that the prisoner has been interrogated brutally and beaten exhaustively. After all that, nothing popped. Before Geist leaves, he overlooks a beaten Wolverine and wonders aloud if moments such as this are when is most dangerous. The lieutenant agrees, but only to himself. With that, they leave the prisoner in a dark cell.
After some time, Wolverine hears his name being called. He looks up to see Roughhouse, hanging upside down and chained. He, as well, is mostly naked. When Roughhouse asks him if he is still alive, Wolverine replies in the affirmative that he is. Some body parts haven’t checked in yet, but he guesses he’s okay. He notices however that Roughhouse sounds weak. He asks him if they put him through the meat-grinder as well. Roughhouse responds that they didn’t waste electricity on him; they just used sticks.
Of course, that’s the same way his dad used to beat him. It was the only way his dad said he’d ever mind. He said it would make him a man, and then he’d whack him. That’s how he got the scars on his head. Whack, whack, whack. Good old dad. Scars made him so angry and ashamed so he got bigger, stronger, and angrier. He swore he’d give the scars. He did it so well too and men like General Coy in Madripoor paid him to do it more. Wolverine replies that the world is full of users. But rage isn’t all bad. Not if you get mad enough to break them free.
Roughhouse retorts that it’s changed. Somehow when Sister Salvation cured him, the anger went away along with the madness from that tainted cocaine. Wolverine tells him to try anyway!! Strung up in that position, Roughhouse will die. If Caridad doesn’t care about his favorite guinea pig, then he’s decided the test phase is over. He must be ready to roll with that junk and he doesn’t want to know what will be unleashed. Wolverine continues, its name is Spore. A living disease created back in prehistory by a warped race called the Deviants. It took some god-like aliens, the Celestials, creators of the Deviants to put him out of business back then. Spore was blasted into ooze, absorbed into the earth. Eternal, but dormant until he found a new chance to grow and live. It was Caridad’s cocaine!! Through it, Spore can reach what he needs, human flesh, human blood. He fought with him through his healing factor when he was infected so he knows. If the shock doesn’t kill the user, that thing is free again with no Celestials to stop him!!
In a warehouse on the compound, Caridad is having a conversation with Geist. Next to him are stacks and stacks of cocaine. He informs Geist that it is the last of the Jardin del Rey harvest. He then asks if he can see the monsters in it. He continues that creating a super hero for Tierra Verde was going to save him from history. Justifying all else in the way he lived his life. Geist interjects that the story Wolverine clings to only justifies the burning of that cocaine and as the president’s adviser... He is cut off by Caridad, who orders him to prepare the cocaine for use. After all, monsters can be vanquished with a miracle on your side!!
Out in the courtyard, Sister Salvation and her son, Palo, are spending some time together. Salvation points out that it is a beautiful sunset but she had hoped that they would talk more. So long apart, she supposes it’s awkward. Palo asks her what she wants to hear. That he is unhappy as a soldier and he does it only to please his dad? He is demanding and Palo knows that he disappoints him. But he would never abandon him, as she abandoned the both of them. Salvation responds that she only abandoned his father’s way of life, the brutality, the corruption. Never him! She would do anything not to be separated from him again. From the warehouse, Salvation and Palo are called, the president awaits!!
Inside the warehouse, Caridad greets them with open arms. He informs them that it is time for celebration. He has made an important decision and, whatever their differences, his family is together again. Caridad puts his arm around Palo and tells him that he wants to keep them together; that would please him. He asks Palo if he indeed does want to please his dad. Palo responds in the affirmative. But lately, so little seems to do it. There are always new demands, and he doesn’t make it easy. Caridad retorts that easy is for the weak. Tonight, he must be strong. Tonight, he makes his greatest demand. It involves vast danger, but it will bind their family and make him a hero. Unbeknownst to Palo, Geist fashions his mechanical hand with a gun!! P>
In the cell, Wolverine is pleading with Roughhouse. He tells him that Caridad may already be making his move and the longer they’re chained up, the weaker he will get. Roughhouse responds that he’s trying but he’s afraid. The lady healed something ugly in him and he doesn’t want to bring it back. Even if he di... Before he can finish, they hear Salvation screaming. Something snaps inside of Roughhouse and he bursts out of his shackles. The lady needs them, there’s nothing ugly in that. As he breaks Wolverine out of his chains, Wolverine responds that, from this angle, it’s strictly beautiful.
Now free, Wolverine slashes the lock on the door so they can escape into the corridor. Roughhouse informs Wolverine that they need to save Salvation, but he won’t hurt anybody in the process. That side of him is gone, along with having that living disease in him. Wolverine replies that that is fair enough. When it comes to hurting in this place, he owes them double anyway. As they open up a door, they find it to be empty. Wolverine doesn’t think that is right, there should be somebody on duty. Roughhouse picks up Wolverine’s brown and tan costume and shows it to him. They left it. He asks if it is something Wolverine will need. Wolverine retorts that it is second nature. When he comes to do business, he does it better in a business suit.
Once changed, they make their way through another door, the guards there are all out, with arrows in their backs. Wolverine reckons that, when they went out to investigate, they weren’t ready for what they found. Roughhouse notices that all of their weapons are gone. Wolverine believes that someone’s arming themselves for a major attack. Probably soon, while most of Caridad’s troops are still at evening mess. If they don’t reach Salvation before that happens, they may not reach her at all!
In the warehouse, Salvation is attacking Caridad. Caridad is doing what he can to restrain her, telling her to calm herself. He asks her why she must rewards his frankness with screams and abuse? Salvation shoots back that it is because he is obscene! He’s so obsessed, he’d inflict their child, releasing a monstrosity to grow inside him!! Palo begs for them to stop. His pleas are ignored as Caridad raises a hand against Salvation and calls her a self-righteous witch. Her healing touch can neutralize any risk and leave only the enhancements - powers worthy of a super hero. He asks if she will deny their son what she’d waste on an ailing savage! Will she deprive Tierra Verde?!?
Palo, seeing enough, gets between them. He tells them that enough is enough. He’s watched them fight and rip each other apart once. Nothing is worth seeing them go through it again, nothing!! As Palo opens up his shirt, Salvation responds that there’s no guarantee her gift will always work. Palo informs her that he wants to end this and now!! He will do whatever needs to be done. Geist pipes in that that duty is his. It will be as painless as a clean, close shave. Palo tells Geist that he needs to just do it, before he loses his nerve.
Before Geist can pull the trigger, Wolverine and Roughhouse barge into the warehouse. Wolverine shouts out that he’s never seen what that stuff does!!! Geist ignores him and shoots anyway. Wolverine is able to get between them and, using his claws, destroys all of the darts. Finished with that task, Wolverine slashes at Geist, slicing his gun hand off. Salvation rushes over to Palo. She tells him that she almost died!! If one of those darts were to hit him...
Before she can finish, Palo informs her that he just wants to stop the fighting and to not cause his mother anymore pain. Caridad informs him that it’s not his choice, not when he can use the gun as easily as Geist. With that he picks up the gun and aims it at Palo. He orders Wolverine to stop or Palo will feel the darts. Wolverine points out to Caridad that threatening his son doesn’t seem the best way to stay in his wife’s good graces and from the looks of it, he’s going to need them. Or is it possible that he doesn’t feel it yet?? Caridad looks down to see his chest area riddled with darts. He turns to Salvation for help, but she turns him down. She can only heal one person at a time and it isn’t in her to make him a priority for Palo has been hit by one of the darts.
From behind, Geist cracks Wolverine with a pipe. He notices that it is everyone for themselves. As he leaps out the hole in the wall, made by Wolverine and Roughhouse in their entrance, Geist laments that the art of surviving so many years and so many masters is the art of the well-timed exit. Once he gets outside, he is met by a huge explosion!!
Geist is in shock. Caridad’s troops are yelling at each other to fall back. They can’t fight against their own mortars and rockets. It seems the Indians infiltrated before the attack, looting their arms depots!! Geist is shocked by what he hears. The Indians?? The local tribes are too primitive and too disorganized for such an action. He wonders how it can be. As soon as he finishes his thought, another troop hits the ground in front of him with an arrow in his back. As Geist runs from the situation, he hears the reason for the attack...
VIVA LA BANDERA AND THE REVOLUTION!!!! La Bandera is leading her inspired troops. This band of men who were once political prisoners of the dictator Caridad. So too are their unlikely allies, wave after wave of the jungle’s finest warriors. And she has done it. Despite dissident views, tribal factions, she has inspired them to be an army. Even Enrique, a doubter by nature grins at the prospect of victory!! Their inspiration in turn feeds her – she draws upon it, turning it to energy and with her staff to channel it, lets it explode as a physical force. She is La Bandera. She is a mutant with the ability to inspire. And in all her young life, it has never worked more wonderfully than tonight!!
Inside the warehouse, Wolverine is telling Caridad that he needs to listen to what is going on outside. If he, Wolverine, can hear after taking that shot from Geist - he, Caridad, can too. Wolverine tells him that a little girl, whose father was a victim of Caridad’s drug traffic is about to bring everything down and the best he can do now is let them get medical help before that junk racing in his bloodstream kills him. Caridad, completely focused, retorts that not... if he’s... strong. Like Wolverine, like Roughhouse, like super hero. Pointing the dart gun at himself he rambles that he can give his country and show the world the strong man of Tierra Verde, a super hero!!!! Wolverine screams out that that’s crazy!! Before he can do anything, Caridad shoots himself full of cocaine darts. He falls back, crashing into a table. Wolverine stands over him and tells him that the trouble with mad dreams is that they come with ugly endings.
Wolverine turns to direct Roughhouse to get Salvation and Palo away from all of this so that she can help him. He has to go see if La Bandera needs. Before he can finish his sentence, a “hand” grabs hold of his shoulder. Wolverine thinks it is Caridad but, as he turns around, Caridad informs him that he should know better than that. He is turning into Spore before Wolverine’s eyes!!! He informs Wolverine that he was almost a part of him and that he can call him Spore, and now, he can consider himself a part of him!!!
Before Spore can engulf Wolverine, a shot of energy flows through him from the back. Spore is shocked, pain - so soon after he is free??? La Bandera questions Wolverine as to what this creature is. Spore notices her and heads toward her. She is but a child, a sweet child causing such pain. It can endure it for a sweet, sweet child. Wolverine shouts to La Bandera that she can’t fight it up close and that she needs to get her people out of there. La Bandera, listening to what Wolverine said, orders her followers to pull back. They need to draw it out into the open. Before they can make it out, Chubasco and Luis are grabbed by the beast. La Bandera tells them outside they can rally. She requests that they stay with her. She can keep it at a distance if... Before she can finish, her followers panic and take off running. Without them, La Bandera is powerless against the oncoming beast.
Spore asks her where her pain is. For a second there, it seemed to him like might have been an old enemy - an Eternal. But no, she is just a child whose talent fades, but still sweet! From out of nowhere, Wolverine jumps back into the fray, this time carrying a flamethrower with him. He challenges Spore that, if he wants to consume something, he’s serving it up red hot!! As he blasts away at the monster, he pushes La Bandera out of the way. He tells her that there are more flamethrowers inside if this works and if it doesn’t...
Spore calls out to Wolverine. He has felt the searing fire of the great Celestials. This cannot compare. And before his bulk, it is easily smothered. And that which is smothered can be swiftly consumed. With that last thought, he engulfs Wolverine in his mass!!!