Three weeks ago, at the First Kestrel Baptist church, John Wraith tells Logan there are two kinds of hell. There’s the one down there with the Devil and the fire and all that mess. And there’s one up here, the one they make for themselves. Now he may not know much about the first one, and hopes not to learn any time soon, but he knows plenty about the second. He tells Logan that he reckons he does too. Logan tells him that hell’s always come easy. But then he’s had plenty of eager teachers along the way. Same as Wraith.
Wraith replies that they’ve both been used and abused their fair share, that’s true. But at the end of the day, they ain’t victims. It wasn’t no government scientist who made them into weapons. They was already cocked and loaded, just waiting for somebody to come along and pull the trigger. If it hadn’t been Weapon X, they woulda found somebody else. They’re killers. That’s what they’ll always be. A bad man can’t change who he is, not deep down. He can’t ever shake that darkness, not truly. But can he choose how to carry it, can’t he? Look how far they’ve come. Look at all the good he’s done. But there’s still that darkness always creeping back in, ain’t there? He knows who can help with that.
Logan asks when does it get easier, that’s all he wants to know. Wraith tells him it don’t. It never gets easier. It’ll only get harder the longer he goes. Devil don’t want men like them to change. He liked them just the way they were. The harder you try to change, to walk right, the more he’ll test ya, the more trials he’ll put in your path. He then tells Logan that his road ain’t never gonna be a safe one. He ain’t never gonna win out over tragedy and sin, no matter how long he lives. But the trying, that’s what matters most. That’s what makes men into something greater than themselves – hero, samurai, whatever you wanna call it. Look what it made him. His old ways took everything from him. Damn near took his life, back when their old friend Sabretooth decided to strangle him and leave him for dead. But for reasons known only to him, the good Lord saw fit to save him. He was a Wraith in more than just name. Now here he is, on solid rock at last.
Just then, two older women walk by the church, wave to Pastor Wraith, and tell him it was a lovely sermon last week. Wraith thanks them and asks them to save some of those muscadines for him. When the women leave, Logan remarks “Pastor Wraith.” Gotta say he never saw that one coming. Wraith quips kinda like Logan the Avenger then, huh? Logan states that a lotta folks in his line of work are talking about this being the dawning of a new age. With Osborn beat and the old Avengers back together, they think that everything’s right with the world again, that it’s all blue skies from here on out. He’s too old to fall for that. He’s seen the worm turn too many times. He then says that things have changed. Even he has to admit. He has a good woman now. He has a home in Utopia with the X-Men. For the first time in his life, part of him wants to have hope, wants to believe… and that scares him. He can carry the darkness, he’s gotten used to that. It’s the hope he can’t handle.
Wraith tells him that faith and hope are fragile things. And Logan’s will be tested, he promises him. He then asks him what he is really afraid of – that faith being broken or being rewarded?
Now. Pastor Wraith stands at his pulpit and begins to preach. He tells his congregation “And it shall pass in that day that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison… And after many days shall they be visited.”
As he continues to preach, Wraith notices that Logan is late. He’s been their every week for the past month. He wonders what’s… Just then, a man rushes in carrying a bloody woman. He calls out to Pastor Wraith that it… it came outta nowhere and just… just cut through their house like it was nothing. They ran but Judy… oh God. He thinks she’s dead… It was coming after them through the woods. They’ve gotta… they’ve gotta run or it’ll kill them. It’ll kill them all. Oh God… God, what was that thing? After seeing the claw marks on the woman’s arm, Wraith tells his congregation to lock the door behind him and that no one goes outside.
Making his way to the shed behind the church, Wraith opens the door to reveal an arsenal. Grabbing a rifle, Wraith thinks to himself that he always thought it’d be Sabretooth who’d come after him, or maybe Maverick (he never liked that guy), or any one of a dozen other guys. But life’s just full or surprises. Pushing a button, Wraith activates the security system and arms the perimeter defenses. Once he does, the mines begin to explode, one after another. He’s not even trying to avoid them. He wants him to know he’s coming. He always knew this day would come. He always knew someone from his past would one day come calling. He just never thought it’d be him.
Entering the woods, Wraith remarks that he’s locked and loaded with 200 thirty-aught-six armor-piercing rounds. All with depleted uranium cores and incendiary tips. But against him, he might as well be tossing dandelions. He has to lure him to the river, get him in the water, make him…
Just then, a figure rushes by him. Opening fire, Wraith gives chase. He doesn’t call out Logan’s name. He doesn’t stop to ask why. “Did you have a bad day, old friend? Why’d you finally snap?” He doesn’t give a damn right now. He just evades and fires. He just runs and prays.
At that moment, Wraith is suddenly knocked off his feet. On the ground, Wraith states that he never saw him move. He then notices his arms are pinned and there’s no one around. What the hell is going on? Seeing a man standing over him wearing a black cloak, Wraith tells him that he’s not gonna beg, if that’s what he’s waiting for. At that moment, the man in the cloak’s eyes light up and Wraith is suddenly covered by bugs and snakes. As he is, Wraith remarks “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I will fear no evil. For thou art with me.” When the man in the cloak leaves him, Wraith begins to scream.
Back at the church, the congregation inside hear Pastor Wraith scream. They decide that they have to get out there and help him but they find themselves unable to. The door is locked. One of them replies that it can’t be, not from the outside. The man tells them that the door won’t budge.
Outside, the man in the cloak walks up to the church and spews some sort of goo on the stairs. When he does, it immediately catches fire and starts to burn the church. As the congregation inside screams for help, Wraith appears and tackles the man in the cloak from behind. He tells him “Make it stop, you bastard, or I swear to god he’ll kill him with my bare…” Just then, the man in the cloak pops his claws and rapidly stabs Wraith in the gut four times. After he does, the man in the cloak asks Wraith if he feels that. That’s what it feels like to be abandoned by God.
Falling to the ground, Wraith asks the man in the cloak that he’s not Logan, is he. The man in the cloak asks “What are we?” They’re surprised at him. They thought he’d know them right off. Maybe he just needs a closer look. Removing the hood of his cloak, the man asks Wraith to tell them what he sees. With his dying breath, Wraith answers that he sees hell as Hellverine stands over him.
At the San Francisco Post, Melita Garner’s boss asks her what the e.t.a. is on her story. After Melita replies that she needs five minutes, her boss tells her that he needs a new reporter. One who can finish stories on time. Muttering under her breath, Melita says that they’re gonna need a new editor after her boyfriend (Logan) stabs him in the face.
Just then, the elevator opens and a guard falls of it, dead; with a blade sticking out of his head. Emerging from the elevator, Gunhawk tells his companions Saw Fist, Fire Knives, Shadow S. and Cannon Foot to spread out and find the woman. Plodding along, Cannon Foot tells them that she’s this way; he can smell her. Looking over her cubicle wall, Melita asks “what the hell?”
Firing his weapon into the air, Gunhawk tells everybody within ear shot to listen to him well if they don’t want to die today. They are not there to kill them all. Just one of them. She’ll know who she is. If she comes forward now, the rest of them will be spared. Getting into her bag, Melita knows that they’re there for her. Upon reaching Melita’s cubicle, Cannon Foot calls out to the others that he found her. Before he can get to her, Melita fires on him with a weapon she pulls out of her bag.
A few weeks ago, Logan laid out a Skrull sonic disruptor, a Kree laser baton, Shi’ar military-grade pepper spray, an interstellar cell phone he stole from S.W.O.R.D., some sort of mystical doohickey he won off Dr. Strange in poker, and vibranium brass knuckles out on the bed. Melita tells him impressive and asks who they belong to. Logan tells her they are hers as of now. He’ll teach her how to use them and she’ll carry them with her at all times, just in case. When Melita asks in case of what, Logan tells her to hope she never finds out.
As Melita runs down the hall, Shadow S. gives chase and tells her there’s nowhere to run. Her man’s not coming to save her. In fact, he’s the reason she’s gonna die. Just then, a masked individual on a motorcycle crashes into the building. After Shadow S. uses one of the spiked balls attached to her mask to damage the driver’s helmet, the driver slams her into the wall. Pointing her weapon at the motorcycle driver, Melita tells them to stay the hell away from her. Whoever she is, she’s not…
Removing their helmet, the driver tells her that if she wants to die, stay there. But if she wants to save herself and save Logan, then get onto the bike and come with her. The motorcycle driver, Mystique, adds that she’s there to help. Once Melita gets on the back of the bike, Mystique drives out of the window and speeds off down the street.
After she does, Gunhawk contacts command and informs their boss that they lost her and that she had help from Mystique. Their boss, an old man, tells Gunhawk copy that and informs him to proceed to his next target. Once the old man hangs up with Gunhawk, one of the eight people around him, a young lady, points out that Mystique has betrayed them. This puts everything in jeopardy. When the old man tells her no worries, the lady states that she could alert the others. The old man asks what they could do exactly. None of them can stop what’s already in motion.
He adds that they have all waited patiently for this moment, some of them for many, many years. No one will take it from them now. When the time is right, Mystique and the Garner woman will be dealt with, just as planned. But for now, they have all the targets they need. Looking onto his desk, the old man peruses papers with images of John Wraith, Silver Samurai, Tyger Tiger, Yukio, Amiko, Cyclops, Jubilee, X-23, Daken, Maverick/Agent Zero, Rogue, and the Sons of the Tiger (Bob Diamond, Lin Sun, and Abe Brown).
Driving down the road, Melita tells Mystique that she knows who she is, she knows all about her. Where is she taking her? Mystique tells her to relax. If she wanted her dead, she would’ve never known she was there. Melita asks who the people were back there and Mystique answers that they are people who hate her boyfriend even more than she does. After Melita asks what happened, where he is, Mystique tells her that’s not an easy question to answer. Does she mean where’s his body or where’s his soul? Melita asks what in god’s name is she talking about. Where is he? Where the hell is Logan?
In hell, the Devil tells Logan, who is being held by a bunch of demons, that he’s been doing this job for a very long time. It seems like forever most days, it really does. Truth be told, there’s not much at all that excites him anymore. He’s raped and maimed and tortured in every way anyone could ever possibly imagine. And plenty of others that no one but him could’ve ever dreamed up. He’s plumbed the depths of human suffering, so many times now that it’s become meaningless, does he understand? Even the most grotesque and depraved acts grow monotonous after a time. It’s difficult to get the same joy from them that he once did. It truly is. But with him, his newest little worm, with him he’s hoping that will all be different. With him, he plans on enjoying himself.
The Clan Yashida ancestral compound – Miyago Prefecture, Japan
As the buildings behind him burn, the Silver Samurai retreats with a sword sticking in his gut. As a young man, he stood for foolish things. Greed and ambition, selfishness, hatred. He was a bastard in every sense of the world. As he grew older, he became more enlightened. He learned to embrace the family he’d never known, to be a leader. He learned to walk a more honorable path. The warriors behind him exclaim “he’s finished.” Another gives the order to burn the rest of the buildings, desecrate the graves, kill anyone they find.
Since he began to walk a honorable path, Silver Samurai has been fighting to stand for tradition, loyalty, and honor unto death. He’s been fighting to stand for something greater than himself. Now, tonight, with his world in flames all around him, he’s just trying to stand. With that, the Silver Samurai pulls the sword out of his gut, turns to face the warriors behind him and defiantly them that no one will disturb the graves of his family. Not while he yet lives.
Turning to face his foes, Silver Samurai sees a Black Samurai, of a sort he’s never seen. They came in the night, quiet as a spring rain, deadly as a tsunami. Their armor and weapons, all variants of his own. And the way they fight, as if they know his every move by heart. How long have they been watching him? They fight as a unit that has trained together for years. Whatever their plan, it has been long in the making. The Black Samurai leader calls Silver Samurai a fool. Clan Yashida is finished, the place will be ash, as will he.
Gritting his teeth, Silver Samurai asks him who sent them. The Hand? Viper? Tell him who else he should kill once he’s finished with them children. The leader informs him they are soldiers of the Red Right Hand. They seek vengeance in their name. As for who is to blame for all of this, he will see himself soon enough in the bowels of hell. The leader then gives the order to his fellow warriors to kill the dog. Tossing one of his energy sabers into the leader, killing him, Silver Samurai tells the others they heard the man. He is but a dog. Come kill him.
Engaging the rest of the warriors in battle, the Silver Samurai states that his name is Kenuichio Harada. He has been a villain, a savior, a master, and a slave. He has stolen and he has sacrificed. He has loved and he has sinned. He has bled and he has shed the blood of others. As the warriors continue to slash away at him with their swords and others pelt him with arrows, Harada fights valiantly. He remarks that he knows not what he will be in the next life. Whether an eagle or an ant, it matters not. All he knows is that death is not the end. It never is, not for anyone. His journey will continue, no matter what happens there tonight. He will carry on. Clan Yashida will carry on. The stronghold had stood for over five hundred years. Yet it was only ever wood and stone. The spirit is what made it strong – the spirit of the Yashida, the spirit of the Silver Samurai. Though all the world may crumble and hell consume the seas, that spirit will yet endure.
After killing the rest of the warriors, Harada weakly makes his way over to the grave of his sister, Mariko Yashida. As he does, he states that apparently dying feels much like living. There is pain and moments of blinding clarity. Everything happens slowly at first, and then pours through your hands like water. He will miss the smell of cherry blossoms, the feel of cold steel, the taste of well water, so cold it makes your teeth ache. Kneeling in front of Mariko’s grave, Harada tells her he will see her soon. His son. He will miss his so…