N.B.: Takes place shortly after the "X Men" movie, and TBOO ( love these acronyms...)
Mononoke (n): Vengeful ghost; spectre.
"What is it?"He asked,not bothering to turn around.Lee was always trouble.
"Sir,"he said nervously,casting his eyes down to the carpet even though Haido wasn't even looking at him."It seems some people have been prying into the Yashida business.The Yashidas and their samurai."
There was something he hadn't heard about in a long time.He exhaled a plume of white smoke that curled in the air before him,riding the invisible currents of the air conditioning before meeting the glass and spreading out,losing cohesion,and he remembered how the Yashidas had done much the same thing-only in a much more bloody way.
Some things just weren't worth bringing up;some ghosts should simply remain dead.Unconsciously,he traced the livid scars that crossed his face,from his left cheek,across the bridge of his nose,and ended on his right cheek,little furrows of skin that no longer hurt but were reminders of the Yashida clan and what they had done to him so long ago.He had been one of the few to survive at that time,and it was quite possible he was now the only living member of that massacre.
Him and the samurai,of course.His stomach churned at the thought,and he clenched a fist in sudden,resurfacing anger.
If that bastard was alive,this was his chance to pay.
"I don't know,some demon-"
"Do you know where they can be found?"He interrupted impatiently.The boy never understand what was asked of him;if he didn't pity him for his slowness he'd have gotten rid of him years ago.
The young man nodded,his black hair as shiny as enamel in the reflected light leaking in from the open door,and after a moment Lee seemed to realize Haido still wasn't looking at him,only gazing at his reflection in the glass."Yes sir,I know exactly where they are."
"Fine.Send Hellion to take care of them."
"Yes sir,"he said,giving him a nod that turned into a clumsy bow before he backed out of the room.Or at least he tried;Lee backed his ass into the door jamb first,but rather than straighten out and walk like a normal person,he simply craned his neck in an awkward way and continued backing out.
As soon as the door closed,Haido shook his head in disgust.He could understand the boy being scared of him-who wasn't?-but he took it to the point of sheer idiocy,which was not a far walk from his normal state.
He really had to have him killed one of these days.
Logan wondered why he had come back here again as he drank his beer at the bar,so used to the surreptitious glances of the other patrons he no longer registered them anymore.
No,he knew damn well why he'd come back-he'd heard about the sale of the Kajahara estate.He had to come see what was done to it.It had been bought by a local church ( Buddhist, not Shinto) who were turning most of the grounds into a meditation garden and retreat.Although he still thought most of Akira's 'official' descendants were sons of bitches,at least they had done good there-Akira probably would have liked that.He was very Zen.
Most people who had never actually been to Japan-or had only ever been to the touristy spots-probably wouldn't believe that they had the equivalent of Western seedy bars,but they did,and this one (which translated in English to the "Golden Crane" ) was the best of the worst:the Crane was all dark wood and dim,dirty yellow lighting,the wooden tables and chairs set in haphazard patterns around and within pools of shadows,possibly to hide the fact that the furniture was so old and splintered it probably dated to World War Two.
It was a tiny place too-at best it couldn't have seated more than fifty people-and it smelled inevitably of beer, sawdust,bad cigarettes,and must,as if the wood was afflicted with rising damp.It probably was,but the crusty bar owner,a guy everyone referred to by his first name (Masatake),wouldn't care until it started actually falling apart and injuring customers.
The bartender tonight was old Shunichi,who was even crustier and more misanthropic than Masatake.He was as bald as an egg and wore a patch over his left eye,with the angry red seam of an old,ropy scar trailing out from the bottom of the patch.Supposedly he'd either lost his eye in the war or in a knife fight with some drunken yahoos in the '50's-it depended on which story you wished to believe,and which he felt like telling that day.At first,Logan thought he was giving him the evil eye and the disdainful,almost resentful treatment because he was a Westerner,but he soon found out old Shunichi treated everyone that way,as if he was doing you a favor by taking your money and letting you drink beer out of occasionally dirty glasses.He liked the old guy.
Logan sat at the poor excuse for a bar,so scarred by years of cigarette burns and ill use that if you weren't careful your beer glass could get caught in a rut and topple over;and the padding on the stools had been compressed so much you could feel the wood underneath,making your ass almost instantly numb.But he liked it because he has a good view of both the front door and the narrow corridor that led to the bathrooms and a small back exit that led to the trash strewn alley that was a straight shot over to the local 'soapland' (brothel-not that they were legal,but this was the 'red light' district,and it was amazing what no one seemed to notice around here).
There was a mirror over the bar,and even though it was plastic as opposed to glass,it had spider webs of cracks over half of it,and the rest of it was so grimy with years of smoke it could barely reflect light and movement.But that was okay,as Logan didn't need it:with his enhanced senses,he could hear every single shift of a seat,every footstep,every inhalation from a cigarette,every exhale,every whispered conversation,and he could smell everyone too,despite the miasma of other bar odors.He knew everything going on around him,unless he worked hard to ignore them.
Logan was gulping down the last of his beer (he must have caught Shunichi in a rare good mood because the glass was clean this time),when he noticed the front door open out of the corner of his eye,and saw trouble walk in the Golden Crane.
They were big muscular men in expensive suits,pale grey and well tailored,so well tailored he could see the tell tale bulges of guns in shoulder holsters.Others must have seen them to,or recognized the men,because there was a quite but definitive mass exodus out the back.Even surly Shunichi seemed to slink back into the shadows at the far end of the bar.
The two men stepped aside,allowing a younger,smaller man in a more expensive suit to come in,his dark tie askew on his white shirt as if a big gust of wind had come up just as he entered the bar.He exuded an arrogance and sense of entitlement only those born into wealth and privilege could,and two more big bodyguards followed him in.They were trying to play it cool and intimidating behind their black sunglasses,but even from here Logan could smell the fear.
They had to be Yakuza or from one of the local crime families,because there was little chance someone as wealthy as this boy would even dare to slum in this part of town,even surrounded as he was by this wall of muscle.Even a member of a powerful crime family was taking a big chance coming here,which might explain the fear of the bodyguards.
The boy swaggered over to him and asked in Japanese,with a derisive and mocking tone,"Speak Japanese,white pig?"
He casually drank the rest of his beer,and without even looking in his direction replied,in Japanese,"Better than you,asshole."
Two of the bodyguards snickered while the young man,who had a sharp and narrow visage and a complexion pockmarked with acne scars that his wealth couldn't protect him from,narrowed his hazel eyes until they were angry slits in his hatchet face."Do you know who you're talking to,fuckface?"He snarled in English,with a definite California accent.Not a surprise there-a lot of the wealthy kids went to school in America.Most of the crime families had 'satellites' there,although none were as widespread as the Yakuza itself.The boy slid onto the stool beside him as gingerly as if it was a landmine.
Logan put his empty glass down and slowly turned towards the boy-early twenties at most-and gazed at him with unmitigated contempt."Do you know who you're talking to,asswipe?"
There was a click of a round popping into the chamber of a gun,and Logan was well aware there was a bodyguard behind him and to his right,just visible out of the corner of his eye,aiming the gun at his back."An American shit for brains who doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut,"the boy said,feeling empowered by his bodyguard.
Logan smirked,and couldn't quite contain his chuckling.The boy's severe face contorted,his lips twisting in a contemptuous snarl."What the fuck's so funny,jackass?"
"You and your boys,"he said,and then Logan moved.
He had been alive for more years than he could count-in fact,he did not count.He didn't really want to know how old he was,or how much he had seen and forgotten.He forgot a lot:it was just easier that way.But Logan knew one thing-he couldn't be beaten in a fight.Being a mutant-a freak-you had to learn to defend yourself and do it well, because when people found out-and they inevitably did;you could never quite cover it up well enough not to get noticed eventually-they rarely accepted you with open arms.No,in fact they usually tried to kill you,or at least run you out of town on a rail.You were something to be feared and despised and hated,like a leper in Medieval times, and Logan knew he often got singled out for special contempt,because he didn't get sick,he didn't get hurt (for long), he didn't age...
He didn't die.And the worst part was he knew that from personal experience.
Along with his heightened senses and a resistance to injury,he had superior reflexes,which the bodyguard behind him discovered first hand.In a single smooth movement,Logan was off his bar stool and on him,and he never even had a chance to tighten his finger on the trigger.Logan grabbed his arm and twisted sharply,snapping his wrist as he turned and drove his elbow straight into the man's face with another sickening crack of bone.The man barely had time to cry out-and the gun was still falling from his hand,not yet hitting the floor-when the second and third bodyguards advanced on him,both reaching for their weapons.
Logan slammed a flattened palm straight into the face of the closest one,hard enough to shatter his nose instantaneously and drive it into his face.With just a bit more pressure Logan could have driven his shattered cartilage straight up into his brain,killing him almost instantly,but he had no desire to kill these men,not yet;they were simply doing the job they were hired for.He then turned into a kick that caught the second bodyguard square in the jaw,and Logan thought he felt it crunch beneath the heel of his boot on impact as the bodyguard fell straight into the one with the broken nose,and they both went down in a messy heap on the dusty floor as the one remaining bodyguard by the door took aim and fired.
Logan felt the impact of the bullet,a needle hot pain that ripped through his chest and out his back,and he paused briefly,eye to eye (well,sunglasses) with the startled bodyguard,who stank of vinegary fear.Logan snarled at him, upper lip curling and revealing a canine tooth that just might have been a little sharper than normal."That fucking hurt,"he snapped,simply punching him,a hard right cross that caught the bodyguard ironically off guard.The big guy must have had a glass jaw,because he dropped like a stone.
Logan plucked the gun out of his hand and spun on his heels,cocking it and aiming it at the boy,who had remained seated on the stool,jaw hanging open in obvious shock."For the record,"Logan snarled,stalking up to him with the still warm gun held out before him."I'm Canadian not American,jerkoff."
The boy cringed,stinking of fear,and leaned back until he was completely against the bar in a fruitless attempt to avoid the nearing gun."Okay,you passed,you passed!"He squealed,holding up his hands to show he was unarmed.
Logan pressed the barrel of the gun against the boy's temple,aware it was probably burning his skin but not caring in the least,and growled,"What?"
"You passed the test,"the boy said,eyes closed tightly both from pain and the desire not to see the gun about to splatter his brains all over the bar."You're the gaijin we were looking for."
"What the hell does that mean?"
"It means my brother is a complete fucking moron,"a woman said from the doorway,and grabbing the boy hard by the throat,Logan instantly turned himself and the gun towards the door.
The woman in the doorway did not move;her hands were up on the jamb,so there was no need to further prove she was not carrying a weapon.She had a lovely face,as delicate as a porcelain doll's,but she looked mucho pissed at the moment,giving her helpless brother the death glare."We have so few guards,and you risk four of them for this."
"They're not dead,"he squeaked,as well as he could with Logan's hand gripping his throat.
"No,but they're out of commission,aren't they?"She argued,kicking one in the shoulder blades.He groaned,but wasn't conscious enough to get up.Her hazel eyes scudded to Logan,and she grimaced in genuine embarrassment."I apologize,Kajahara-san.We really mean you no harm.My brother's just an idiot."
"I noticed,"he replied,and got no sense that the woman was lying,so he tossed the boy aside,throwing him on the floor next to his heap of bleeding,groaning bodyguards."But if you know who I am,why did you even think you could take me like this?"Her use of the name Kajahara told him they knew much more about him than he was comfortable with.
"If you were the guy,we couldn't,"the boy rasped from the floor,pushing himself away from his men with his hands. Afraid of blood,or just getting his suit dirty?
"If you'll ignore him and listen to me,"the woman said reasonably,shooting her brother another brief,dirty look.The most amazing thing was Logan could smell no fear from her,just irritation at her stupid brother.That intrigued him,especially since he was still holding the gun,and she knew exactly what he was (or at least thought she did)."We have a proposition for you."
Los Angeles,California-Present Day
She got past the bouncers and walked down the steps into the sunken club,a strange drum and bass remix of BT's "Blue Skies" thudding through the sound system as bright purple and urine yellow lights spun in counter rhythm, chasing each other over floors and walls covered with leopard spot and tiger striped patterns.Even the few scattered booths and tables before the wide dance floor had a sort of spotty ocelot pattern painted on them,and she could not believe someone had deliberately set out to make a club this goddamned ugly.There were rumors it was going bankrupt,and as far as she was concerned,such a blessing couldn't happen fast enough.
She went to the bar,and after shouting a question or two to the heavily pierced bartender,he pointed her in the direction of a booth on the far side of the club,next to the crowded dance floor.In the primary color bright shadows, constantly invading and retreating,it was hard to tell the man in the booth was not human,but the closer she got the more obvious it was.His head seemed to big,for one,and his small knot of narrow dreadlocks seemed to move even when he didn't.She suppressed a small shudder;god,she hated demons.
He looked up as she slid into his booth,and she saw he had a rather big face,almost human,except for slits in the center of his face as opposed to a nose,and bluish tinged skin that looked to have the texture of stucco.She knew she was not one talk about skin:far away,it looked normal,but up close it looked wrong,almost waxen.
"Are you the one looking for information?"She shouted as quietly as possible.
The big headed demon gave her a strange look with his small golden eyes,something like a grin forming on his thin lipped,shark like mouth."That depends.What kind of info you got for me,babe?"
Babe-oh,he was going to pay for that."About-"she leaned forward conspiratorily."-the Yashidas."
He nodded,and slid over closer to her on the vinyl seat."As a matter of fact,I am.What have you got for me?"
Emma glanced around as if making sure the coast was clear,really playing it up for this asshole,and then leaned in, almost close enough to touch."First tell me why you want to know."
"I'm an investigator,"he said back,and she caught a whiff of his rum laced breath."Client asked me too."
He shrugged massive,misshapen shoulders barely hidden beneath a denim jacket."Got me."
"Who is this 'client'?"
Big Head put a delicately clawed blue finger up to his thin lips."Confidentiality,sorry ducks.So what have you got for me?"
"First,can you protect me?"
His textured forehead wrinkled in consternation."Yeah,I guess.Man,what is it about these people that makes others so wiggy?"
"It's not the Yashidas you have to worry about,"she told him,putting her hand on his arm.His arm felt like a metal cable under the denim."It's people who want to leave the Yashidas dead."At his curious look,she added,"Like my client."
And then he burst into flames.
The flames,blue as opposed to your typical red-orange,were superheated,therefore he barely had time to scream as the flames sped up from his arm to his torso,head,and legs,and as she pushed out of the booth and left the table,he was already dead even though the flames had not completely consumed his body yet.
People screamed,and she saw the bartender racing in her direction with a fire extinguisher,and felt the blue flames still flickering through her fingers,tickling her skin.She held up her hand and made a show of blowing the flames out. If he noticed at all,he may have seen that her skin was untouched."Don't worry,it'll burn out before it reaches the furniture,"she assured him,and then,grinning at the stunned look on his face,Hellion walked out of the club.
Birds flitted and sang in the high branches above,the canopy of tightly interlaced branches overhead deepening shadows and dappling the sunlight as he tread carefully over the loamy forest floor,not sure where he was headed but sure he was close.This area-no different from any of the others he had seen in the last four days-still seemed obscurely familiar,as if he should know it.
As he walked,he noted the scent of cougar and wolf,deer and bear,and dozens upon dozens of different animals;he was technically alone save for several small animals (birds,squirrels,voles,hares),at least for now.If he stayed until nightfall,not bothering to start up his motorcycle again,it might be a different story.
Logan was 'walking' his bike because it was simply too treacherous to use in woods this thick,and besides,he hated to defile one of the few unspoiled,non clearcut areas left around here.
The dense copses of towering firs and ancient pines eventually gave way to a sort of clearing,overgrown with weeds cropped often by grazing animals,enough that he could just make out the rectangular confines of an old foundation, and the scent of ash and gasoline,so old they were barely detectable beneath the scent of pine and wildflowers.
His heart skipped a beat as he realized this was it.
Logan looked up at the sky,and suddenly wished it was night,because maybe if he could see the constellations he'd know for sure...
No,this couldn't be.This could be any destroyed,long abandoned cabin...but he didn't believe that.His own personal paradox,the maddening sense of deja vu,tempered with the familiar feeling that nothing was truly known to him, made him feel like he was going to start hyperventilating any second now.
This was his home.This was once one of his homes.
There was no way to verify that,and he knew his memories were less than trustworthy things,but his gut told him this was the place,and his instincts were about the only reliable thing he had.
He put the kickstand out and left his bike on what may have once been a path or even some kind of rudimentary driveway (now it was a scrubby patch of wild grass,foxglove,and Queen Anne's lace),and crouched down in the wildflowers,sifting through morning glory vines and dandelions in search of something,some remnant of the former house and the man who used to live here.
He found ashes,cigarette butts that belonged to men who didn't smell anything like him,but finally,in a tangle of blackberry bushes that smelled strongly of bear and deer,he found a burnt,yellowed corner of a book page.The print was small,and it was so weathered it was as fragile as parchment,but he was sure it was his.Thorns pricked at his skin and tore at his clothes as he reached into the tangled thicket,sifting through black ash for something else, anything,suddenly realizing he was hoping to find a photograph.Why?
His wife;he wanted to find a photo of his wife,his family,even himself.Something to prove there had been a life before this.
He was on his hands and knees in the blackberry thicket,sneezing from the inhalation of ash that had never quite broken down,when he heard his cell phone ring back on his bike.He responded mindlessly,pulling himself out of the tangle of briars,and was half way to his bike when it suddenly occurred to him he didn't have a cell phone.
But the ringing continued,and he searched his bike,finally finding the small,folded up Nokia in the seat storage area of the bike,which he had never used.
Although he was as suspicious as hell,curiosity got the better of him,and he flipped the phone open and activated it. "Who the fuck is this?"He demanded.
"It's fucking me,sunshine,"Bob replied cheerily,loud music pounding in the background."Don't freak out,mate,I left you the phone."
"Why?"He wondered,leaning against the bike,scowling at the trees.
"How else was I gonna get a hold of you?I really didn't want to go through a telepath."
Logan rubbed his eyes wearily."You're stalking me,aren't you?"
Bob chuckled,the music continuing its cacophonous pounding in the background."Hey,how many people get a free cell phone?I wasn't gonna use it unless it was important.Where are you now?"
"Ah-found it?Is there anything left?"
On the off chance that Bob could somehow see him,he held his middle finger out towards the sky."What's so important,Bob?"
"Well,I hit paydirt,but it turned out to be radioactive."
"Speak English.I'm not in the mood to be dicked around."
"Well,it depends on who's doing the dicking,doesn't it?"He then added quickly,"Kidding,Logan,don't hang up."
"Then talk fast because this connections about to get very bad."
"Aren't we Mister Impatient?Look,I think I may have found you in Japan,but someone would rather I didn't."
"Huh?"Logan considered what Bob had just said very carefully,but it stopped short of making any sense.""I'm not in Japan."
"Now,no-but you were in 1977."
A cold shock ran through Logan,and for a moment he was speechless,his heart rate jumping up to triple time.'77? That was what...twenty five years ago?Ten years before his memories-the meager ones he had,starting with waking up naked in the snow at what was apparently a destroyed military compound-began."How do you know?"He finally asked.
"Well,your knowledge of Japanese-and your wife,of course-got me looking around,and a vamp pal of mine in Osaka found out something interesting.Apparently there was a bunch of bloody gang wars in Tokyo in the late seventies,bleeding into the early '80's-and I do mean bleeding.Of course,the official position of the Tokyo police is that never happened,but both Amnesty International and the records of the former KGB confirm that it occurred."
"Yeah.Russia had a little territorial dispute with Japan over some dinky little islands-I believe it's still ongoing-and they were also the closest capitalist running dog society to them,not counting Hong Kong,so you better believe they kept their eyes on them."
Logan almost asked how Bob could get a hold of KGB records,but then decided that wasn't important.Bob was Bob, meaning there was no door closed to him."So what does this have to do with me?"
"Well,there was one family in particular-the Takabes-who were trying to consolidate their power as the only big cheese crime family in Tokyo at the time,and they did that by brutally slaughtering all the competition and potential competition.One of the last on their hit list was a moderately corrupt but relatively straight family called the Yashidas,whom someone in the Takabes had taken a personal dislike to.Anyhoo,the desperate Yashidas apparently went off and hired themselves a protector,one of the few gaijin from a samurai bloodline-well,adopted bloodline:the guy in question's father or grandfather was literally although not legally adopted by a famous samurai named Akira Kajahara-a guy who came to be referred to as Ikkitousen-peerless warrior-or Mouken -"
"Savage dog,"Logan said,translating for him.
"Right,pretty much depended on what side of the fence you were on,"Bob continued smoothly,as if he had never been interrupted."The Takabes figured he was a big joke-nearly everyone did-but this guy turned out to be a big bad ass. He tightened up Yashida security to the point that the White House would have been impressed,and the Takabes could just not contain him:they could not beat him down,they could not kill him,and believe me,they tried often.The patriarch of the Takabes began to take this personally,and he took it out on every other family in his grasp,and sent out international feelers,looking for a merc bad enough to take this guy-and the Yashidas-down.Then there was a big rift in the family in about 1980,and the family began to fall apart.The son of the Yashidas-who was the head of the family biz since the old man had been incapacitated in a car bomb attack back in '77-was successfully killed by the Takabes when he snuck out to a geisha place,and there was a power struggle over who was to take over.Apparently a reformer had it for a while,trying to phase out all of the criminal and crooked elements in the family,with the help of the gaijin samurai."
Bob paused,and Logan frowned at him down the open phone line,even though there was no way Bob could see it (or was there?)."Don't leave me hangin'-what happened?"
Bob sighed,letting the music flood the silence for a moment.Logan thought he recognized it as Tool,but he wasn't sure."A massacre.Some members of the Yashida clan were upset at the attempts to reform,and collaborated with the Takabes to get rid of the reformer and the samurai.I have no official account of what exactly happened,but the KGB refer to it as "Bloody Friday"-sixty seven dead or missing,and massive property damage.The reformer and some of the supporters bit it,but so did many of the traitorous Yashidas,and nearly every single member of the Takabes.Their entire criminal empire collapsed that night and has never been rebuilt,and the Yashidas are a pitiful shadow of themselves.They went completely into crime after the pieces were picked up,with minor efforts to reform,but they're penny ante players on the black market:no one takes them seriously anymore."
"So what does this have to do with me?"
"I think you're the samurai,Logan-Ikkitousen.The description,both physical and simply "mad,bad,and dangerous to know" fits,but what has really convinced me is all the corpses popping up."
Logan was glad he had the bike to sit on,otherwise he was relatively sure he'd have collapsed to the ground. "Corpses?From "Bloody Friday"?"
"No,I wish.You know the vamp pal I had checking things out in Osaka?He ended up staked the other night.But the weirdest thing was I had a Goku demon I know,a good contact named Draakan,check out what he could from here, because L.A. and the surrounding area has a significant Japanese population.He got toasted last night in a tacky nightclub where he had set up shop."
"It was like spontaneous combustion-he burned fast and super hot,yet barely scorched the furniture.And apparently he was set on fire by-and I'm quoting here-a "hottie"-I don't think a pun was intended-a barely legal girl,at least half Asian,who turned him into a crispy critter just by touching him.She herself appeared unharmed and unconcerned."
"A mutant?"He groaned,disappointed but not at all shocked.
"That's my guess,some kind of touch pyrokinetic,because I don't know of any fire demon that can pass for even a moment as human,and a powerful enough witch would only have to cast a spell;she wouldn't necessarily have to have been there.Helga's hitting her contacts,seeing if there's a mutant merc with a penchant for fiery executions out there,but so far she has bupkis.I'm thinking fire woman may be in private employ,which will make her real difficult to find."
"That's a possibility,yes."
Logan's shoulders sagged and he sighed,torn between excitement,bewilderment,and anger.He couldn't even attempt to look into his past without stirring up a mountain of shit.Suddenly,it occurred to him:"Are you in danger?"
"I doubt it.I think I can handle myself.But you may want to come down here and have a look at things for yourself before someone erases every single last trace of it."
"You really think I was involved in this?"
"I really think so.I'm trying to get my hands on some surveillance photos from that era too,photos that might show the Yashida family with their gaijin samurai."Bob paused briefly,then added,with some empathy,"If you've found something important there,though,Logan,this can wait.I'll keep you posted."