'I was what you'd calll a very special child' the man called Winsor – known as Contagion – remarks as he pinches the bridge of his nose. He opens his eyes, 'Even compared to my siblings' he adds. He smiles and covers his mouth, realizing that he knows why he is suddenly feeling reminiscent. 'Not to worry, I'll let you in on the joke' he declares as he stands next to a dirty, blood-stained wall. 'My siblings, indeed. The relationships were rather more complicated than that' he adds. Using his cane to help him walk along the wall, he passes a mass of arms and legs that have been melded together and states that his family tree was a mess of crossbred flowers. 'Moldered fruit' he adds as he walks past the costume of Monark Starstalker, and the broken bird Ulysses. 'Inedible nuts' Contagion scowls as he passes Madcap who is stuck to the wall, a rotting mass covering his feet, hands and face. 'Grafted limbs' Contagion adds as he looks down at where Scavenger is also stuck to the wall, upside down his body intertwined with that of Vic Slaughter's. 'Wormed' Contagion remarks as he passes Suicide, whose body has been sliced in half, and both halves of his body are stuck to the wall with the same rotting mess.
The horrors continue as Contagion points at Yi Yang, who is chained to the wall, with roaches running all over her body. 'Termite infested' Contagion declares. 'Heartwood-rotted' he adds as he passes Immortalis, who is also chained to the wall, with something covering his head. 'Poisonous' Contagion smiles as he continues along the wall to where the blue-skinned Corruptor is chained, with tubes hooked up to his body, extending own to buckets at his feet. 'Overgrown' Contagion adds as he passes Marjorie Brink, who is crouched against the wall, chained also, several books at her feet, she scribbles furiously, pages falling around her. 'Roots withered' Contagion scowls as he passes Harry Sykes, who is chained with his arms overhead, and looking rather out of it. 'But you know how it is' Contagion remarks as he looks back down the filthy room at his prisoners. 'The shackles of family' he declares, remembering being much younger, a deep-sea like glass helmet around his head, and looking at his various mutated siblings who were chained to a wall. 'They simply cannot be broken' Contagion smiles as he sits down on Wolverine a.k.a. Logan, who is stuck on all fours. 'Nor can they be outgrown' Contagion adds as he reaches down at touches the swelling brain of Flip, who is stuck on the floor next to Wolverine and who drools back: 'I hate you, Dad'.
'Of course you do; another link in the great chain of father and son traditions' Contagion points out, announcing that he did not know his own father, but he had a potent father figure upon whom to fixate. 'We all did' he remarks. 'My brothers and sisters and I. We shared the same great man' Contagion declares, closing his eyes, the memories flood back to him:
Flashback images, narrated in the present by Contagion
'Our uncle' Contagion states. 'What hopes he had for us all' He recalls being chained alongside his mutated siblings, the glass dome over his head. 'Hopes that high – only children can so thoroughly disappoint them' Contagion remarks, recalling their uncle standing over them in the shadows, then an explosion, and he turned to see the skeletal remains of his siblings. 'Ah, the tiny traumas of childhood' he murmurs, while remembering how he reached out for one of the bones of his siblings, touched it and picked it off the remains. 'The lessons they teach. How they linger. Indelible'. Using the stub of bone fragment, the young Winsor etched the following words into the wall: 'The Best Survive”. Contagion adds that the traumas of childhood shape values and beliefs, more surely than the hand of destiny, and reveals that their uncle believed the world could be a better place.
Several dozen of the mutated siblings studied in a vast library, for their uncle bred them to be better, to discover kernals of strength and ingenuity in their infirmity, while Contagion recalls that their uncle discovered his own profound inner excellence only when his outward fineness had been marked, and he sought to find in them, his state wards, similar diamonds in the rough. Contagion remembers standing at a counter, vials and potions around him as he performed scientific experiments as a child, while a painting of their uncle loomed behind him – Dr Victor Von Doom! Contagion remembers that he and his siblings were to be sharp stones to help cut the world into the shape their uncle knew would suit it best, and recalls that for himslef, his DNA was such a clutered mess of inbred faults, it is a miracle he survived to term. 'What possible utility he could have seen in me is a mystery' Contagion remarks, as he recalls his birth, lying in a pool of birthing fluids, while all around the room, hospital staff lie dead on the floor. 'Then again, I admit, not immodestly, that I showed some sllight promise at a young age'. He was placed in an incubator, and it took some time to see how his potential might be safely exploited.
Time passed, and with several years' intense study in virology, combined with a course in non-traditional metaphysics suffused in disciplinary meditation, not only did Winsor gain sufficient control of his own biology to contain his rampant infectiousness, he also opened his inward gazing third eye and was able to focus its attention on the challenge of learning to manipulate his wonderful sickness. He began to share it with others, giving the sickness to his siblings. 'Giving. Is there any greater pleasure?' he asks, recalling how in the library his siblings would clutch at their throats, cover their mouths and keel over. 'Well, certainly there is. Seeing the results of all one's hard labors come to fruition, for instance' Contagion remarks, while remembering his siblings all lying dead around him. 'Isn't it odd how success only makes one dream of greater success?' Contagion asks. 'That was only one of the many invaluable lessons I learned from my uncle' he declares, while recalling the library walls crumble around him, enabling him to enter the township, where the civilians collapsed as he walked past them. 'The one that seized my imagination in the end was the thought that one person might strive to remake the entire world. And that rather than serving another's vision, one might serve their own' Contagion declares, while remembering the buildings in the town crumble to rubble. Winsor stood amongst the now decayed town, amongst rubble, dead people and animals, as the trees and land around him started to rot. 'And re-create the world in their own image' he declares.
Still sitting on Wolverine's back, Contagion says 'Insert a horribly dangerous betrayal of my uncle, a more than fortuitous disappearance by same, many years of research and planning, and that just about brings us up to then present'. He adds that things are working out almost exactly as he always planned. He looks over at his prisoners and explains that having recruited a team of eminent self-healers, he infected each with a number of custom-designed viruses, and harvesting the antibodies each developed to fight off the infections, then reinforcing them with more robust versions of the original viruses and so on. Those who can listen and go wide-eyed, as Contagion declares that each of them have unique healing factors, biological and chemical, supernatural and metaphysical, or simply too bizarre to understand. 'Allowing me to distill a virus that will kill anything on Earth, Heaven or Hell!' he grins, his third eye opening on his forehead. He points upwards, and adds that only space and stars are left to be dealt with.
Contagion touches his son's large brain and remarks that he found his son's immune system especially pliable, and infected him with a virus that hypertrophied his neurological tissues, while using a viral mutation of technarchy cells to repattern his brain as a receptor for similar “life” forms. 'Easier than it sounds, actually' Contagion boasts. 'I hate you, Dad' Flip states once more. Contagion strokes Flip's face and tells him that he has ample reason, but not to harp on it, or he will be less inclined to cure him before the weight of his brain collapses in on itself. Contagion then launches into another tale about the past:
Flashback images, narrated in the present by Contagion
Winsor leans over a high-tech console and reads something on one of the screens, while a scientist and a security officer lie dead on the floor. He knew that the Technocratic existed, it was far more labor-intensive to secretly cross his uncle's border, gain access to a Latverian sub-space communications array and make an arrangement with a Shi'ar dealer in proscribed materials. But she came promptly, served as an excellent extraterrestrial test subject, and her space craft, just one hut over, would act as a fine delivery device. Winsor examined the techno-virus, while the Shi'ar woman clutched at her eyes.
And, finally, Winsor procured an adaptive healer – Wolverine. He used this place as bait to draw Logan close enough for capture and manipulation. While people watched on, a naked Wolverine battled the beastly Griz, as dozens of rats clambered over him. Wolverine was then infected over and over with every possible variation of Contagion's core virus that he could imagine, knowing that the antibody he would develop in response would give Winsor the key to his new virus, as Yi Yang, Scavenger and Marjorie Brink perfomed diabolical experiments on Logan's body.
'Which is where things got interesting, yes? When you scampered off with my antibody still inside your hide' Winsor remarks, pointing his finger at Wolverine's face.
Flashback images, narrated in the present by Contagion
Contagion met the Corrupter, which is when it became evident to him that he had become capable of infecting virtually anyone with viruses as complex as his knowledge and self-discipline would allow him to construct, but he could not infect himself, until Wolverine said the magic words “Brew a new virus. Something that eats all the bad stuff in your DNA. Heal yourself”. Contagion took that as a clear enough command, and under the influence of the Corrupter serum and Wolverine's command, he overcame a mental block that kept him from infecting himself. He then created a virus that healed his DNA by eating the flaws that limited the range of viruses he could create.
Motioning to his prisoners, Contagion declares that after which, taking his minions back in hand was simple enough, as eas sending dear Driver Reese with an infection that would only fully activate with Wolverine's DNA in close proximity. 'Which connects her to me. And I asusmed you'd follow the trail to come here' Contagion explains. He touches Wolverine's head, 'And here you are' he concludes. 'Yep. And I already know how I'm gonna kill you and everything' Wolverine replies. 'Good for you. Oh, look!' Contagion exclaims, as he transforms one of his fingers into a long spike, and waving it in front of Wolverine's face as he continues to sit on Logan's back, the madman explains that he has infecged himself again, but rather than increasing the density of his muscle tissues to make him hugely strong, massive and fast, this one is making his tissues pliable, giving him subtle control over molecular forms. He states that he is creating microscopic pipettes inside, tipping them with viral molecules that will attract Wolverine's antibodies. The sharp spike pricks Wolverine's face, drawing blood. 'Ahhhh, there it is. An antibody that can fight off the many infections that have taken you to to the edge of death. Well into that kingdom for most anyone else'.
Contagion raises the spike to eye level and looks at the blood on the tip. 'Negative template for a virus that incorporates all things natural, unnatural, Technecrotic and truly dead. I can see it already, Logan. And do you know what it looks like?' Contagion asks, announcing that it looks like the future – it looks like him, all the universe will soon looke like him. 'So pretty' he declares, when suddenly, Monark Starstalker and his bird, Ulysses have re-formed, and appear whole once more. 'I am a technos nanotool. A highly adaptive nanological artificial intelligence with multiple backups. And I can do many cool things' Monark Starstalker boasts as he points his sword towards Contagion. 'Including that long and pointy trick' Monark declares, as his sworc extends, annd pierces the shocked Contagion's chest. Monark Starstalker adds that his nanites are cool in many other ways, like the way they can reconfigure in hostile environments and mimic aggressive elements. Blood seeps along the sword, while a tech-pattern forms on Contagion's chest. Monark Starstalker then tells Contagion that until the nanites subvert and incorporate them, like they are doing inside his body now. 'It's one thing to infect humans, mutants, machines and aliens. It's another to infect an interdimensional-technology hive mind' Monark Starstalker points out.
Monark Starstalker moves closer to Contagion and still attached to the sword, lifts him up off of Wolverine. He informs his ally Wolverine that his nanites have broadcast a protocol to the ones still in his own system, and they will disassemble the suggestant virus that Contagion hits him with. 'Thanks, I really want to kill him' Wolverine replies. 'Yes. There's a line forming now' Monark Starstalker adds as he points at Contagion and tells him that he is going to unresolve his hand, put inside his head and plant a grenade in his forebrain. 'Which is what you get for #### up my lover' he tells the madman. 'What have you? Did you not? Don't you?' Contagion replies, grinning. 'Spit it out fast, I'm about to blow your mind' Monark Starstalker warns Contagion, who replies 'Did you listen to nothing I was saying? I can infect devils and angels. Robots are not a problem' he declares, as tendrils spill from his chest into the tech-molecules Monark Starstalker is emitting. Monark looks shocked, and he recoils, as the virus wraps itself around his sword.
Suddenly:'Hey, Bub. Know what makes me happiest?' Wolverine asks as he shoves both sets of claws through Contagion's chest, and holds the villain overhead. 'I'm happy to be doing what I want to do. I'm really happy you got full control of your diseases and I can cut you as much as I want. I'm even happier you got some healing now so I can cut you over and over'. Wolverine adds that he is happiest Monark Starstalker didn't kill him before it was his turn to take a crack. Wolverine then pulls his arms outwards, seemingly shredding Contagion as blood and guts pours over Wolverine. But Contagion fall to the ground, his body restored, grinning, he exclaims that it is going to take much more than one crack to kill him. Suddenly, there is an explosion, and a wall is busted open. 'Goody. May we try to kill you next?' a voice calls out from the new opening, where Emma Frost, Dazzler, Cyclops and the Beast, all wearing protective face masks, stand. The X-Men have arrived!