The body of X-24 had suddenly gone still. As he fell to the ground, Logan got one last look of what he used to be: A feral creature with no purpose, other than to kill. A creature so consumed by hate and rage, without care and without remorse. The view of his former self was renewed by Laura, revolver still raised, smoke emitting from the barrel. His vision blurred as he looked at the branch impaling him. The pain was unbearable.
Laura dropped the gun and ran to Logan. She stared at his wounds then looked into his eyes. He didn't have much time, and they both knew it. Tears began to flood her eyes.
"No, no" Laura pleaded. She was trying to conceal her emotions, but it was a losing effort. Tears started to streak down her face as she tried to savor what could very well be the last moments she'd have with her father.
"Take your friends," Logan started. Laura shook her head with a pained look on her face. She knew what was coming. "They'll keep co- coming. You don't have to fight anymore." His breathing was short and quick. He slurred his words as he tried to hang onto consciousness.
Logan reached for her hand. Laura took it as they supported each other, looking into the eyes of the other, wishing there was a way out of the coming inevitable fate.
"No," Laura repeated.
They looked deep into each other's eyes. Although he wouldn't admit to himself, Logan cared for Laura. She walked in the same footsteps as he once did and carried the same load on her shoulders.
"Don't be what they made you," Logan called out in a strained whisper. He was speaking from the heart. Both he and Laura were engineered in a lab. They both had adamantium forced into their bodies by scientists with the mindset of creating a weapon. They both were designed to kill, to hate, to shed blood without a care in the world. They weren't made to care. They weren't made to love. Life taught them otherwise. "Laura. Laura," he called once more.
"Daddy," Laura begged through uncontrollable sobs.
Logan's breathing evened. The pain was setting in and he saw the end coming.
"So… so this is what it feels like," Logan said. He wasn't speaking of death, for he had experienced it before, but the feeling of dying in the arms of someone who truly cared for him was foreign to him. He'd been on the other side far too many times for his own liking.
Logan stared into Laura's eyes as she returned his gaze. A week ago, Logan didn't even know of her existence. And although he was reluctant initially, he knew that there wasn't anything he wouldn't do to ensure her safety, even if it came at the expense of his own life.
His eyes went blank. His breathing stopped. The once perceived invincible Wolverine lay dead in the arms of his daughter.
"No," Laura sobbed, "Daddy."
Her friends came, but would not come too close to Laura or the lifeless body in her arms. They knew it was too late for Logan and they understood the gravity of the situation. Laura looked to them for strength. They didn't know what to do. They had never seen Laura express such remorse, much less for another person. She was always a quiet child and they did not know how to comfort her. Although all of them were extraordinary in their own ways, they were all still children.
Laura dropped her head in remorse and placed it on her father's chest. She continued to cry uncontrollably for several more minutes, reflecting on what had just happened. Logan, her father, had just given his life in order to grant her a fighting chance for a better tomorrow. She stayed that way for several more minutes. Time stood still for Laura and at this moment she had no purpose, no objective, and no idea what to do next.
After what seemed like an appropriate amount of time, Rictor carefully approached Laura and put his hand on her shoulder. "We need to get going Laura," he said. "Alkili will send more soldiers and we need to cross the border now."
"We need to bury him," Laura stated without taking her eyes off of Logan.
"Of course," Rictor replied in compliance. Although he wasn't all too happy about spending crucial time that could be used to extend the gap between the children and Alkili, Rictor knew that he along with everyone there were forever in debt to the man that lay still in Laura's arms.
The next half hour was devoted to preparing a proper burial for Logan. Laura and Rictor carefully removed the branch from Logan's abdomen, while the rest of the kids dug a hole that was to be his place of rest for eternity. Laura receded back into her shell. She worked expressionless, not showing anyone the agony that was tearing her apart inside. The children understood that Logan was her biological father of some sort, but would never expect them to become emotionally close by any means.
Before the process was finished and the funeral began, Rictor ordered Bobby and two other children to scavenge what they could from the dormant Alkili vehicles. There wasn't much to grab, but a few weapons and two more bottles of the green serum. Although they all shuddered at the thought of what the serum was made for, Rictor couldn't ignore the use in it if used in proper doses. He stashed them in his personal backpack along with the money Logan had refused to take. Although they were a group of children, Rictor had always been looked to as the leader of the group. He was the eldest and had taken on the role with pride. After making sure the supplies were in order, the rest of the children joined Laura at the foot of Logan's grave.
The tomb itself wasn't anything extravagant. They covered the hole with a pile of rocks and made a makeshift cross with some tree branches that stood at the head of the grave. The children formed a circle all looking down at the tomb that held the body of the man that had just saved their lives.
Several minutes had passed, still no one dared to say a word. Finally, Laura had mustered up all of her strength and stepped forward.
"A man has to be what he is Joey," Laura began, "can't break the mold." Tears began to form in her eyes. The children felt a mixture of remorse and confusion. They didn't know who she was talking about but didn't dare interrupt her to ask.
"There's no living with a killing," Laura continued, her voice breaking. "There's no going back. Right or wrong it's a brand. A brand that sticks. There's no going back. Now run on home to your mother, and tell her… tell her everything's all right. There are no more guns in the valley." Laura ended her final words with a single tear as she looked to Rictor to make the next move.
The rest of the children did not understand where the words were coming from. But Laura remembered distinctly of the time she and Charles spent together in the hotel back in Oklahoma City. The movie Shane was the first movie she had ever seen. In fact, it was the first piece of visual media that she had ever experienced. Although it was fictional, Charles told her it was important so it stuck with her. She saw a lot of similarity with what Shane and Logan had said in their final moments. Logan had told Laura that killing people, right or wrong, is killing all the same. For so long, she believed that the death she caused was justified because of the wrong that the other has done. But after hearing what her father said, and after he told her not to become what they made her to be, she felt lost. From what she's heard and from what she's read, the Wolverine was supposed to be an animalistic character when it came to killing those who have wronged him or his loved ones. And until the finals moments of his life, he displayed just that. She saw him carve down Alkili's men whenever they came close to her or Charles. However, just the day before he told her of his discomfort with killing individuals. Justified or not, to him killing another human being was all the same.
"Let's go. We've gotta move," Rictor finally said snapping everyone back into reality.
One by one the children followed Rictor away from Logan's tomb and toward the Canadian border where they would be safe. Laura stayed behind until it was just her, alone with her father's grave. She stared at the cross that stood strong in front of her. Although she believed in God, she knew that her father needed to be sent off with a bit more honor. She slowly raised the cross out of the earth, turned it and planted it back at the head of the grave. Now instead of a cross to signify Logan's tomb, there stood an X. With one last look, Laura wiped away a tear and walked off to rejoin her friends. She got about 20 yards away as a single rock fell from the tomb.
Laura froze. Her heart dropped and she couldn't breathe. She felt almost as if Charles was next to her seizing once again, putting her into a mental paralysis. All sense of time was lost and Laura couldn't differentiate a minute from a year. She stood there for what seemed like an eternity before slowly turning her head to gaze back upon Logan's grave.
Nothing appeared to be out of order. No rocks looked to be missing and the X still stood proudly. Laura's heart raced. She knew what she had heard, but what she was seeing didn't give it any merit. She had seen her father be torn apart and watched him die in her arms. No amount of mutant powers or God's gift could save him. Logan is dead. Isn't he?
Laura has lived her young life without any parents and since the first day she was born, she was raised like a weapon. Transigen instructed their workers to treat the children like "things" instead of human beings. Laura had no guidance and no one to look up to other than her friends and the few nurses at Transigen who had a conscience. Laura didn't rely on anyone but herself to survive and that's exactly how she preferred to live her life. At least that's what she thought.
Slowly, Laura made her way back to the grave. She didn't know what she was looking for or what she thought she'd find. But still Laura put one foot in front of the other until she was right next to her father's eternal resting point.
She waited, not really knowing what she was waiting for. The scene of Logan's death kept replaying in her mind like some cruel broken record. There was no way that any normal human being, mutant or not, could survive what he went through. But even though an immense sense of doubt filled Laura's heart, the longing for a father outweighed it. If anybody could do the impossible and live through a mauling by the Wolverine, it was Logan himself.
With that in mind Laura launched herself onto the grave, tearing through rock, trying to unearth her father. She was possessed by sadness and rage. Her tears flowed and her hands bled as she dug like a madman. In desperation, Laura used her claws to slice through the stone until she hit dirt. She wept and wailed in a flurry of emotions, digging and digging until finally, her fingertips felt the cloth of a tank top.
Her claws retracted, as she didn't want to inflict further damage on her father's body. Laura used her hands to brush away the dirt until Logan's body was completely revealed from the waist up. He lay still. His wounds were still there and the hole in his body hadn't changed. Laura put her ear to Logan's chest hoping to hear a pulse. Hoping by some higher power and against all odds, that fate would change and her father would be alive.
Laura waited and listened. Nothing.
This was her breaking point. Tears began to flow from her eyes like a river as she wept like she had experienced Logan's death all over again. She screamed from frustration, despair, and from anger. She thought she was losing her mind. Laura didn't want to believe that she imagined the rock falling, but it was looking that way. Even if one had fallen, she cursed herself for allowing herself to believe that it could mean her father was miraculously alive. She was at an all-time low as she screamed once more and lay her head back down on Logan's chest. Through her uncontrollable sobs and raging emotions, she had the thought to stay lying in that tomb for the rest of her life. That's when…
Laura's eyes shot open and she sat upright. She knew she had heard it. A heartbeat. Pressing her ear back down to Logan's chest, Laura closed her eyes and prayed. The world went silent and the anticipation made her heart race.
"Please," Laura pleaded, trying to hold back tears.
Her eyes opened once more. That was all the assurance she needed.
"RICTOR! JONAH, BOBBY!" Laura screamed out for help. She started once again brushing the dirt from Logan's body. "RICT-," Laura screamed, but was cut short as she saw that they were there again surrounding the former grave. "He's alive," she began as her voice cracked, "he needs help." Her friends looked at her incredulously, but none made a move to help Laura. "Come on!" Laura pleaded.
Laura was a mess both emotionally and physically. Her eyes were wild with excitement, her breathing was heavy, and she was slightly shaking. Her clothes were now covered and stained in dirt. Her knuckles were red and fingertips bloody. The kids were visibly scared of what Laura had become in this moment.
It was Rictor, unsurprisingly, who finally made a move towards Laura. He slowly climbed down without any urgency until he was at eye level with her. He needed to stay calm and pick his words wisely. Laura was a bomb that needed to be diffused. "What are you doing Laura?"
"What am I doing," Laura repeated with a rage in her voice, "he's alive and you all just stare!"
"Laura," Rictor began, "please let's continue to the border. Everything will be okay after we're safe."
"Rictor, Logan is alive. Esta vivo. He needs help now."
"We saw him ripped apart by adamantium claws. I saw a branch go straight through his stomach and I watched the life drain from his eyes." Laura winced. Her anger was growing at every word Rictor was saying. "I know he's the great Wolverine, but maybe we need to listen to what he was saying and accept the fact that what we all read in those stories isn't real."
"Check his pulse," Laura said through gritted teeth.
Rictor slowly put his index and middle finger to Logan's neck while at the same time lowering his head to Logan's chest. He closed his eyes and listened intently. Though he knew that no matter how keen his ears would be, his efforts would still prove to be futile. Rictor sighed, "Laura, I don't know what you expec-," the words were caught in his throat. His mouth went dry and his eyes shot wide open. "What the hell," was all Rictor could say.
Laura didn't have to ask him. She knew that he'd heard it. "He needs help," she began, "let's get him in a car and to a hospital." As she spoke she continued to unearth Logan's body and was beginning to hoist it out of the grave. Still, no one moved to help her.
"Laura stop," Rictor said grabbing her arm.
"What are you-"
"I know it seems like he has a chance. I know you want him to have a chance. Believe me, we all want to see Logan alive and well right now. But, that's not the hand we were dealt. I've read the stories, I've seen what your healing can do, and I know that Logan has been through much worse and came out unscathed on the other side. But I've also seen what his abilities are now. They're not what we thought and hoped they were, maybe they never were. It may seem like he's fine now, but you saw what happened to him with your own two eyes Laura.
"I do not need you to remind me." Laura was fuming. Her own father was alive and it seemed as though Rictor wanted to leave him in a hole.
"We have a chance at safety. Not just for me, but for all of us here. Your friends, your family all need you to come with us."
"Then we take him with us and find help at the safe zone."
"How do you expect us to carry a fully grown man for 8 miles?"
"There are cars."
"What do you think this is? You think there's a road we can just follow and a big sign that says 'Mutant Refuge Camp'? There's no way one of these tanks can fit on the trail we need to be navigating on. We'd be completely exposed." Rictor was trying to be sympathetic. He understood that Laura lost the closest chance she'd have at a real father, but he was more concerned with the safety of his friends.
"Then it is clear what must be done." Laura said, still not taking her eyes off of Logan's body.
"Lo siento, Laura," Rictor apologized, "come on we can still make it if we cut-"
Laura started to dig out her father's body once again. She was nearly finished and started to lift his body up, but was stopped by Rictor once again.
"Laura I… I don't understand."
"My father is alive, and needs help," Laura said this while looking right at Rictor. Although she was mad, her anger simmered. She knew what had to be done, but also knew that the safety of her friends was very important to her as well. "If I have to do that by myself, so be it."
"No. Laura, give this up and come with us. Please."
Laura looked at Rictor. The anger and rage that filled her being a moment ago was gone. She was calm, collected, and in control of herself and of her emotions. "This is where I want to be Rictor. He saved my life and now I need to save his. I couldn't do it for Gabriella and I won't let it happen to my father. I can cross the border and be safe. But I want to be able to live with my actions, and that starts with him." Laura gestured to Logan's body as she ended her speech. It was the most any of them had heard her talk at one time. She had grown up in the span of a week more than any of them could start to understand.
The tension in the air was so thick, it was almost visible. The group of mutant kids that had grown up together, escaped captivity together, and had been through so much just to be together was on the verge of breaking up again. Only this time, it was by Laura's will. Rictor couldn't help but be angry with her. After all, they'd journeyed far from Mexico to get to this point together. By nothing short of a miracle, they had all made it to the set out coordinates and were so close to safety that they could taste it. And yet it was in risk of being compromised at the last leg of their journey. Rictor was angry, but he understood.
"Let's get him into a car," Rictor called out to the other kids. None of them moved an inch. "Come on!" That kicked them into gear as they all moved to help remove Logan from his former tomb. Laura exhaled. Though she would not show it, she was exuberant that Rictor had given her his approval for her departure. In the midst of all the madness, they had not yet broken eye contact. It wasn't until Logan was almost out of the tomb when Laura gave Rictor a slight nod. Rictor nodded his head in return and they both joined the others in preparing Logan's body for a safe trip.
With all of the kids' help, Logan was removed from his grave and safely secured in one of the Alkili vehicles. They had decided to use one of the larger, van-looking ones that were still functional since it had a gurney inside. Delilah figured that it was to be used as an ambulance that would provide medical care for Alkili soldiers in case of emergency. There were tons of supplies from such as syringes and gauze which they used to patch up Logan's wounds. Although there was a fear that it would attract attention, the children all agreed that it was the most practical for carrying a wounded passenger. After everything was settled, Laura and Rictor met face to face once again.
"Sure I can't change your mind?" Rictor asked. Laura shook her head. "Alright then well you should have this then," Rictor said as he went digging through his backpack. He took out the two bottles of the serum as well as the cash that Logan had denied.
"I can't," Laura said, "You should keep it."
"You definitely need it more than we do. Once we're in Eden, I'm sure we'll be okay." Rictor gave Laura a smile that she warmly returned. Laura took the serum and extra cash and stowed it away in her own personal backpack.
"Gracias Rictor," Laura said sincerely.
There was a long pause. Both of them knew that this very well might be the last time that they'd see each other. They both hugged which shocked the rest of the kids. Rictor had tears in his eyes as he pulled away. "Take care of yourself, the both of you," he said.
Laura nodded and looked at all of her friends. There was a solemn vibe to the group, for no one wanted to see Laura separated again. But they all knew that her mind was made.
"Let's go! We've got a lot ground to cover and some time to make up." Rictor broke the trance and started to walk towards the border. One by one, the other children followed in compliance. Laura stayed there frozen for a few moments, wondering if she had made the right decision. After the last of her friends disappeared into the shrubbery, she snapped out of it. Laura ran to the back of the vehicle and jumped in.
Logan was still there, safely strapped in a gurney. She slowly approached his body, once again seeing the gaping hole in the center of his abdomen. It brought back the painful memory of how it all happened. Nobody could live through what he had, and yet here he was. Laura once again placed her head onto his chest to make sure his heartbeat was still there. She didn't hear it and for a second her heart dropped. Then it came. His heart was weak, but it was beating. She took a deep breath and gave herself a chance to recollect her thoughts. Once back in control, she pulled out the map from her backpack and examined where she could go to get Logan the proper treatment he needed. The closest town was roughly 120 miles from her location. Laura nodded to herself and moved to the driver's seat of the vehicle. She started the ignition and the car roared to life. As she eased onto the gas, she gave one last look towards the direction of the Canadian border.
"Good luck" Laura called out. And with that, she took off with one singular goal ahead of her. She was going to save her father's life