Dedicated to D. Benway. Wherever you are, this is for you. Our email conversations were the inspiration and although it's been awhile, I never forget a good source. ;)
Summary: X-Men Movie Universe: A new interest picks up the pieces of the Weapon-X project. This story contains graphic, violent scenes and plenty of the three A's: Angst, Action and Adventure.
Spoilers: None really. Contains references to Barry Windsor-Smith's "Weapon-X" the definitive story of Wolverine's beginning.
Usual disclaimers apply.
New fallen snow carpeted the mountainous landscape in a white sheet that sparkled under a moon edging between dark, bloated clouds. Somewhere in the distance, a wolf howled once and an animal cried out in the moment of death. At the edge of a frozen lake, a half dozen buildings surround by a chain link fence topped by razor wire, looked dilapidated and long deserted. Broken down military trucks further lent an air of neglect and abandonment. But appearances were purposefully deceiving. In the basement of a long, one story cinder-block bunker, computers and other equipment hummed in a neat and sterile environment. Half a dozen technical personnel went about business, quiet and orderly, checking computer hardware and program output on monitors. One man wearing a white lab coat paused to study a satellite image.
"Close-up on image in quadrant L2, Miss Edwards," he requested.
"Yes, sir," his assistant answered and used the mouse to draw a square around the specific area. The computer screen clicked to the area and centered, bringing into focus a man, his eyes and face frozen in an expression of serious intent. "Who is he?"
"Ah, that is the question, Miss Edward, that even he doesn't know." He raised his voice just a bit, enough to catch his team's attention. "It is time, my friends, to finally see the face of freedom. He is the key," Doctor Kirby said. "Freedom from fear of mutant persecution."
A few techs gathered around to get their first look at the weapon that they had worked so hard to reconstruct. Many of them had left lucrative jobs to work for Kirby and the doctor appreciated their dedication. In the process of choosing his select team, he had screened each applicant thoroughly. All of them, he made certain, had suffered or had a loved one suffer under a mutant's power. Those he had hired understood that due to the nature of their project, security around the secret of their agent would be kept until the moment of deployment
Kirby felt that moment had arrived.
"Weapon-X is... impressive, doctor," said Miss Edwards. "He is not what I expected." The woman adjusted the glasses on her nose and licked her lips. Her dark hair was pulled into a bun as severe as the cut of her gray suit.
"What did you expect, Miss Edwards?" Doctor Kirby asked and took note of the slight flush in her cheeks. It wasn't hot in the room, just the opposite. All the computer equipment needed to be cooled.
"I expected a more brutal appearance. He appears intelligence and that makes him more dangerous." She tapped her fingernails on the keyboard. "A pity we can't meet him in person."
"Weapon-X's civilized exterior is only a veneer; he is a tool, a living tactical weapon with the appearance of a man. This satellite photo was taken this afternoon in Professor Xavier's School for the Gifted. He is in a perfect location for initial deployment," Kirby said and smiled. Thick eyeglasses magnified his benign expression and his avuncular smile was one a child would trust. "All my anti-mutant colleagues were going about mutant elimination the wrong way."
"Find a mutant to execute the rest," Miss Edwards said with approval in her tone.
"Exactly. My uncle found the perfect mutant, one that could survive the required operations, but my uncle made one lethal mistake. He underestimated Weapon-X's ferocity and strength and paid the ultimate price. I won't make the same mistakes he did. Weapon-X will never know what is happening to him or by whom. All our contact with him must be by remote only, with his mutant senses it is important that he can't see our faces or identify our scents." A year ago, when Doctor Kirby first stumbled upon his uncle's technical journals and tapes in an old box, he realized he held the salvation of mankind in his hands. The journals were damaged, some slashed to ribbons and splattered with his uncle's own blood. Kirby had some problems reading them and the tapes needed restoration. The expense and effort to restore the tapes were worth the trouble; what he saw both frightened and thrilled him and gave his life new direction. It had taken him six months to rebuild this lab on the ruins of the old lab. After that, it took Kirby another three months to locate Weapon-X, and when he found him he couldn't be more pleased.
"Should I run another simulation?" Miss Edwards asked, her fingers moved nimbly over the computer keyboard. "I have Professor Xavier's mansion plans and grounds layout downloaded."
Kirby tapped a finger on his chin and stared at the image of Weapon-X. "No. Are all the necessary software and hardware upgrades in place?"
"Yes, sir. The revisions have been completed and complied successfully into existing code and all A.I. simulations have executed as predicted."
"Kill rate in the simulations?" Kirby asked.
"Averaged over ten scenarios, sir, KR is 99%," Miss Edwards answered. "Would you like me to bring up the data?"
"Not necessary, Miss Edwards. Tonight we bring Weapon-X online. We're going live people," Professor Kirby turned and announced to the techs in the lab and a subdued cheer arose. They all had been working hard for this moment, the moment of truth when they would know if their world would at last be safe from mutants. "Miss Edwards, let's wake up Weapon-X and apply stimulus at one quarter. Let's see what he can do."
"Is that wise, sir? We should run through a few more tests...."
"You're second guessing me, Miss Edwards," Kirby mildly reprimanded his assistant. She was a good assistant, asked few questions, usually did as she was instructed and unlike his other half dozen assistants, she was pleasant to look at. "Even the most detailed computer simulations cannot substitute for real data. Let's see what we can do with mild stimulus."
"You're correct, sir, I apologize." Her fingers tapped on the keyboard.
"Tech, bring Weapon-X's retina camera online," Dr. Kirby ordered. He clasped his hands together and put a calm façade on his excitement. His uncle had spent years working on this project; he wished he could tell the man that his dream would finally find fruition.
"Yes, sir," replied a young computer techie sitting in a swivel chair at a bank of system. "Executing programs. Programs in run state."
The screen displaying the retina camera feed remained blank, that was to be expected Kirby knew, their subject would be sleeping.
"Thank you. Miss Edwards, you may proceed to bring up Weapon-X's neural controls."
"Executing," she said and typed in the final keys, then quoted Virgil "Let us die even as we rush into the midst of the battle. The only safe course for the defeated is to expect no mercy."
"You misquoted. Isn't it 'expect no safety'?" Kirby asked with a slight amused tilt to his lips.
"Not in this instance, doctor" she replied with an arch of one eyebrow.
* * * *
He opened his eyes and found himself surrounded and suspended in a warm, viscous liquid contain a glass-like tank; a breathing tube tape into his mouth force-fed him oxygen. Dozens of attached tubes snaked off his body, and like snakes he could feel their teeth locked deep inside his flesh.
"He's conscious. What are his vitals!" barked a voice.
"Stable," replied a female voice, the rest of her reply drowned out in a hum of machinery.
"Very good. Begin the feed."
His whole body spasmed and he tried to gasp, the breathing tube stifling his cries. Exquisite pain painted his world red and seared through his entire body like a blazing inferno that charred every nerve ending. A blurry figure wearing hospital scrubs and a surgical mask bent over the tank, they held a long hypodermic needle.
"High. Higher than we expected and rising."
"Up the pheno-B two points... no make that one. We don't want him to have beans for brains."
"Compensate and increase feed."
Liquid metal seemed to rush through his body, hardening it and turning it to a pillar of living steel.
"AAAAHHHHHHH!" Logan shouted and jackknifed up in his bed. A sound like a gunshot cracked over his head.
Six adamantium claws slid from Logan's hands and he rose up to his knees and lashed out. His right claws hooked into the wall and slashed through the drywall like paper. He stumbled from the bed and slashed at anything in his way. His claws ripped blanket and sheets into thin streamers. Spinning around, he slashed blindly, splintering a chair and ranking the claw points through the wooden closet doors. Outside, a crack of lightening lit the room to daylight brightness.
The sound had been lightening, not a gunshot.
Crouched, naked and panting in the middle of his room, Logan stared wildly into the darkness and realized he was alone. Outside, another crack of lightning lit the room before it plunged into darkness once again. He retracted his claws and breathed in deeply of the familiar smells... yet there was something off about the smell, some underlying change that he couldn't define. The peculiar scent faded. Perhaps it was nothing more than a phantom of his nightmare. He looked around the destroyed room. Jean and Storm weren't going to appreciate his interior decoration techniques.
"Shit," he mumbled, stood and retracted his claws. "I'm losing it."
Maybe it was the storm that had triggered his dream. In the shadowed areas of his memory he could remember a mother of a storm the day that two men approached him in a snow-covered lot outside a crowded Canadian bar. He'd been half drunk; they had taken him by surprise. Logan had sworn it would never happen again, but it did the day he met up with Sabertooth. He crossed to the window, moved aside the curtains and looked out into the darkness and the heavy rain slanting down in a stiff wind.
In had been a few months since dreams of the Weapon-X lab haunted him. Since his return from the abandoned military installation at Sulphur Lake, he and the professor had twice-weekly sessions. In these, he gritted his teeth and tolerated the professor screwing around in his head attempting to purge memories that might be false and to help fade the tormenting memories of the adamantium bonding. At first Logan disliked allowing another to free range into his mind. It was the only place he felt vulnerable, where he felt he could not shield himself.
Until tonight, he thought the nightmares were gone, but the memory of the suffering was forever burned into his mind. Not even the professor could heal those invisible scars.
All Logan had to do was close his eyes to feel pain spiking up his entire body, consuming him in fiery agony. He clenched his hands and recalled the first glimpse of his claws pressing through the flesh of his knuckles like an inner monster straining to free itself of his human-like cocoon. Perhaps in that instant, a monster had been born and deep inside his soul there was a darkness that still had a purpose.
Vivid in his memory were his screams and the glistening red blood running down his forearms and the horror of those 9" steel claws. He held his hands up for inspection. The skin was smooth and unbroken, only a few splatters of blood drying on his knuckles. Sleep was impossible now. A glance at the clock told him it was a little after midnight. Crossing to his nearly destroyed dresser, he slipped on a pair of jeans, a t-shirt and his boots. Another jagged crack of lightening lit the room again and a rumble barely a second later, rattle the windows. The illuminated clock face blinked out. He flicked the light switch and nothing happened.
The power was out.
Logan considered the dark an ally, it provided a secure blanket of anonymity where he could shed his civil façade, but tonight he felt it provided no such refuge. Lately he felt his every move and thought was being watched and measured. He wanted to blame it on his paranoid personality. Logan kept a bottle of Canadian whisky in his top drawer and he reached for it. Jean couldn't disapprove of something she didn't know about. He gulped back half the bottle, his mutant healing ability compensating for most of the alcohol's effects. That sucked really. A man should be able to get wasted when he needed to.
Logan paused as an odd tingle spread up his spine and over his scalp. He staggered back against the wall. Static-obscured voices whispered to him, rising and falling like the volume control on a radio. He gulped down several large breaths and the odd feeling passed. He held up the bottle, looked at the label and made a silent vow to avoid this particular brand.
Needing something to do other than dwelling on his thoughts, Logan slipped out of his room and into the dark, silent hallway. The mansion appeared deserted, but he knew it was not. He could detect the different scents of the people sleeping behind closed doors. He passed the door to the room where Jean and her boy scout stayed. Imperceptible to anyone without his sensitive auditory mutation, Logan could detect the murmur of voices. He paused for a second then continued, his steps turning toward Rogue's room. He should make sure she was okay, then again he reminded himself, she was a young woman now and no longer a frightened runaway that needed him.
"Flamin' kids grow up too fast," he grumbled.
It hadn't been that long ago that he promised he'd take care of her, and he hadn't been doing a great job of it. Not that she needed help. She was busy with schoolwork and friends, and he with the X-Men. She didn't need him any longer, and although a remote part of him felt he should be pleased to shed that burden, he was not. She provided a grounding focus, a reason to not tell Dickhead to shove the X-Men idealistic bullshit rhetoric up his ass as he'd been tempted to many times. The X-Men was not for him.
Outside Rogue's door, Logan paused and lightly knocked with the back of his knuckles. If she didn't answer he would just leave her be, no sense in waking her. But before he finished his knock, the door edged opened and Rogue peeked out, her hair tousled and her robe askew. As usual she was dressed almost head to toe. At the sight of him she smiled, her affection genuine and unconditional.
"Hi. This is a surprise visit," she said in her soft drawl and opened the door a little wider.
"Lights are out. I wanted to make certain you were okay."
"I'm okay." Rogue flinched when another streak of lightening lit up the area. "This storm woke me up." Her smiled suddenly faded. "Logan, you don't look so well."
Logan ran one hand through his hair. "Yeah, well, it hasn't been a good night."
Rogue stepped out of the room and closed the door behind her. "Are you having nightmares again? I thought the professor had taken care of them."
"Guess not." He flicked at her silver lock of hair with a finger. "I'll deal with it tomorrow. Go back to bed, kid."
"Promise me you'll see the professor first thing," she urged standing so close to him that he could feel the heat of her body. He found it comforting and dropped an arm around her shoulders. Her absolute trust and friendship had thawed a part of him that he thought would remain forever frozen.
"There's supposed to be a break in the weather tomorrow, so how about we go for a motorcycle ride."
"Go for a ride? Really?" Rogue clasped her arms around his chest and gave him a hug. He patted her back and smiled. Sometimes she really did remind him of a kid, but her quicksilver flashes between mature woman and young teenager still had the power to push him off balance.
"We'll go into New York City and walk through those museums you like." Logan set his hand on her forearms and drew away from her. "See you around noon." He started to leave but she stopped him with a light touch on his arm.
"Wait, Logan," she began, then hesitated and looked over her shoulder at the door then moved toward it. "Do you... uh, want to come in?" Rogue opened the door a bit allowing Logan to see that two other young students, Kitty and Jubilee, sat on Rogue's bed and looked at him with identical guilty expressions. They had a half dozen candles lit and a pack of Tarot cards lay spread on the blanket "We haven't been able to get back to sleep, so we're having a tarot reading party by candlelight." She tilted her head and smiled up at him. Logan wondered if she were flirting with him. "I could read your fortune."
"Kid, I don't think I want to know, I--." Kill her a battery of voices muttered in his head. Logan looked away and shook his head and pressed one hand to his ear. "What?"
"I didn't say anything. Are you okay?" She closed the door, moved next to him again and put her hand on his arm.
Kill her. "I--," Logan said and looked up. The face of man in a surgical mask and scrubs looked back at him. He yanked away from her and stepped back.
"What's wrong, Logan? You look like you've seen a ghost."
It was Rogue's voice coming out of that mask. The image flickered back for a moment to Rogue then to the man with the surgical mask, the nightmarish image that played so prominently in his dreams; the face whose disembodied hand held a long hypodermic needle. One part of him, his conscious rational mind, told him this was Rogue, the other part of him, survival instincts on alert, shouted at him to pop his claws, gut her and take his long-overdue revenge.
Do it! sibilant voices whispered.
A sudden image, like a picture in a slideshow, clicked into his mind of Rogue lying on the floor, a pool of blood spreading out from her back, a white trembling hand pressed over three narrow wounds in her chest. He held onto that image like a drowning man to a life raft, it was the only thing keeping him from popping his claws. "I'll see you tomorrow, kid," he managed with what he hoped was a normal tone. "Go back in your room."
"Okay, Logan," she replied tilted her head for a moment, then quickly leaned up and kissed him on the cheek. It the briefest of touches that his healing factor immediately compensated. "Thank you," she whispered in his ear, then turned and sashayed back into her room with a provocative sway of her shapely rear end.
That sight was almost enough to clear Logan's mind. Almost. The door closed behind her and he leaned back against the wall. Sweat popped out on his forehead and he drew a long, ragged breath. He wiped his forehead on his t-shirt sleeve.
"I should wake up the professor," he told himself. It would take just a mental shout but whatever it was seemed to have lessened, although he could still hear a faint irritating buzz in the back of his mind. Perhaps another few hours of sleep would help and then he'd call the professor.
* * * *
The image on the screen was that of a young woman with long brown hair and large brown eyes. Information streamed across the bottom half of the screen identifying the girl as Marie, AKA Rogue. Mutant abilities: With touch, possesses ability to absorb mutant power from other mutants or life force from humans.
"How convenient for her," Kirby muttered and tapped his fingers on the arm of his lab chair. "Update Miss Edwards."
Miss Edwards tapped on her computer keyboard. "Weapon-X's healing factor is compensating for the stimulus. He's fighting us, sir."
"that was to be expected. Increase stimulus by 1/8th and maintain steady current." His eyes narrowed at the screen. "We will find a point, Weapon-X, where your healing factor cannot cope."
The screen displayed the dark hallway from Weapon-X's point of view, all of the visuals automatically copied to disk for analyzing at a more convenient time. Someone approached up the hallway, they wore casual clothes and, oddly enough, sunglasses. The computer took the image of the newcomer froze it and streamed data across the lower half of the screen. 'Scott Summers,' the computer reported, 'AKA Cyclops, Mutant power: Produces optic energy blasts.'
"Increase stimulus another 1/16th."
"Increasing," Miss Edwards replied.
* * * *
Logan turned back down the hallway toward his room but a familiar scent brought him up short. Growling, he stepped backwards, fading into the deep shadows of an alcove and listening to the approaching footsteps. A coherent part of his mind categorized man's scent as Scott Summers. Another part of his mind identified the scent as the man in the surgical mask and he readied himself for an attack on the man responsible for all his pain, take retribution for all the memories he had lost. He fell into a half-battle crouch.
Kill him! The voices urged. Feel his fear.
Just past the alcove, the masked figure stopped. "Logan, was that you? Are you here?" The man turned and stared right at him, eyes sparkling weirdly in the darkness. He held up a hypodermic needle and the voice changed, low and mocking. "And you're going to do exactly what we tell you."
"Like hell," Logan rasped and leapt from the alcove. He hit Scott straight on, taking him down to the ground and pinning him with his forearm cranked against his throat, twisting his face to the side and planting the knuckles of his free hand against Scott's cheek. The position rendered Cyclops' power useless. "Tell me why you're looking for me. What do you want?" The tip of a single claw slid out, touching flesh but not tearing.
"Logan! What the hell is wrong with you?" said Scott's voice, but this wasn't Scott.
Logan bore down on the forearm at Scott's throat. With his adamantium skeleton he outweighed Scott by close to a hundred pounds. No mercy. Logan's voice dropped to a guttural growl. "I don't know what game you're playing, but I don't like it."
"Why don't we end it right here, Logan," Scott rasped though the surgical mask, his face turning read. "Let's do it. I'm sick of your shit, you psycho."
Logan pulled Scott's head around so they faced each other, and he shoved a fist under Scott's throat. "I'm game. Let's see what is faster, your beams or my claws. I'll even give you a head start."
Logan blinked. The face wavered between that of a man wearing a surgical mask and Scott's. What was he doing to Scott? Granted, he thought the guy was a dickless Boy Scout, but he didn't hate the guy enough to scramble his brains. He fought to relax his arm and release the guy. His arm would not obey. He gritted his teeth and fought to relax his arm.
Kill him, now!
"Stop it!" Logan shouted. His arm shook with the strain, sweat popped out on his forehead. Finally his hand obeyed him and he jerked it back, releasing Scott and stepping away.
Scott rolled to his side and coughed, holding a hand to his throat. Logan watched him, waiting, but nothing in Scott's demeanor told him that he was a threat. Finally, Scott sat up. "You don't belong here, Logan," he rasped "You're a danger to yourself and everyone around you. If you respect the professor, you would leave before you kill someone."
* * * *
"Healing factor still compensating," Miss Edwards reported. She brought up a graph on the screen. "Should I increase?"
Dr. Kirby remained silent for a moment. "No, decrease the stimulus and let him relax and drop his guard. Let him think that his hallucinations have past. Then, we'll increase it to 90% and take him unawares, he'll be unable to fight us then."
"90% could render him unconscious," Miss Edwards said.
"I think we're underestimating our weapon's resolve and regenerative abilities. It is what my uncle did. I will not make that mistake."
* * * *
Rogue slipped back into her room, shut the door and leaned on it, her grin stretched ear to ear. She was going to spend an entire afternoon in Logan's company. She couldn't think of another way she'd want to spend it. Maybe they could take a picnic or stop at a café and have lunch. With Logan she could forget her cursed mutation and just be herself. Oh, her friends at the school were nice and she felt like she belonged, but none of them gave her the fluttery feeling Logan did.
"Why was Logan here?" Kitty asked.
"Checking to make certain I was okay with the power being out and all. He's going to take me out on the motorcycle tomorrow." She skipped to her bed, plopped down and rolled to her back, smiling.
"She has that dreamy look on her face again." Jubilee rolled over to her side, leaned on her elbow and propped her cheek in the palm of her hand. "You really like that guy." Rogue hugged her pillow. "He's too old for you. I've heard Jean talking with the professor that because of his mutation, no one knows how old he is."
"If you take that into account, then he'd be too old for anyone," Rogue said, a little miffed. She didn't want to hurt her friend's feelings so she added, "anyway, we're just friends." That's a lie, Rogue corrected herself.
"I think he's scary," Kitty spoke, gathered up the cards and shuffled them. "I've heard he's got metal claws. I mean, why would someone want metal claws unless it was to hurt someone."
"I've seen them," Rogue replied, remembering the Canadian bar. That seemed so long ago. "It's not his fault. He didn't want them there."
"Still you have to wonder why they're there," Kitty persisted. "Anyway, Bobby thinks you spend to much time with him."
"Bobby would think I spend too much time with any guy that wasn't him," Rogue countered. "Logan makes me feel… safe."
"Well, you're here with us now, and that should make you feel safe," Kitty replied. "You don't need him anymore. Here, look, I've shuffled the cards. Let's do you, Rogue. Touch the cards and shuffle them and think about what you want to know?"
Rogue took the cards, shuffled them absently and thought a moment. She rolled to her stomach and crossed her legs up behind her and handed the cards back to Kitty. "Okay I've thought."
"Keep those thoughts." Kitty turned over the first card and laid it down. The three girls drew quick breaths at the face-up card.
It was Death.
* * * *
Scott lay on a trolley underneath Storm's black SUV, only his legs and feet showing. He loved tinkering with cars and the smell of oil and grease usually had an odd comfort for him. Today it couldn't banish his mood. He hadn't slept well last night after his encounter with Logan and he was angry with himself for backing down. Logan couldn't be trusted. He lived on a hair trigger, anything could set him off and one day he was going to snap and someone in this school would end up dead. Scott gave the wrench a vicious twist. From now on, he would be on guard around Logan. He heard the scuff of feet against the cement floor of the garage. He looked down and saw the boots that Rogue favored.
"Hi," Rogue said, bending down and looking under the car. "What you doing?"
"This is my grease monkey impersonation," he said and smiled. He liked Rogue. What she saw in Logan was beyond his ken. She envisioned him as some kind of hero; a ludicrous label for someone like Logan. "Want to help?"
"I'll pass for now," she replied. "I'm suppose to meet Logan. Have you seen him?"
Scott's smile evaporated along with his fragile good mood. His expression darkened. "Don't know," he replied shortly, and continued working, his stiff posture a clear dismissal.
"Maybe he's upstairs in his room," she said. By the tone of her voice, he could tell she was confused by the shortness of his reply. "I'll look for him there."
Scott didn't reply, just mumbled something that he hoped she couldn't hear. She left, her footsteps fading away and Scott focused on his task, trying to forget last night. Working on the SUV helped, it gave him something to focus on. Alone once again in the garage, he couldn't get his mind off last night's confrontation. He should have spoken with Jean about it, which would have helped. Maybe. She seemed to be on Logan's side lately, defending him and reminding him that he had risked his own life to save Rogue. The soft swish of wheels broke into his thoughts.
"What's going on, Scott," the professor asked. "I need you to talk to me."
So much for hi how are you, Scott thought. He scooted out from under the car and looked up at the professor. He knew why the professor had found him and he didn't' want to talk about it right now. "Nothing." He started to scoot back but the Professor's voice stopped him.
"I don't need to be psychic to know when you're lying."
"Damn," Scott muttered and pushed away from the car, sat up, straddling the trolley and looked away from the professor's intent face. He couldn't lie. "Logan attacked me last night." He pulled down the collar of his turtleneck with the crook of a finger to show Xavier the finger shaped bruises.
Xavier was silent for a moment. "Logan did this," it was a statement and not a question. "Do you know why?"
"Who knows what the hell goes through Logan's mind. Except perhaps you." Scott shrugged. "Maybe you can give us a clue."
"To help him, I want you to tell me what you think happened before I go talk to him," the professor said.
"He kept saying that 'It's not going to happen. I won't let you take me off guard.' He was babbling and I thought he was going to kill me, then he just let me go and disappeared." He tried to sound offhand, but knew he'd never fool the professor who didn't need to read his mind to know he was upset.
"Why didn't you wake me?"
Scott shrugged again. He knew he was being difficult but he couldn't help it. "I can handle him."
"Logan is not someone you can simply 'handle'" the professor returned tightlipped, and Scott keenly felt the reprimand. "He's had his mind tampered with, his memories ripped from him. He doesn't know the first thing about himself. He's not even certain about his real name. That would make anyone angry."
"It's not the anger!" Scott shouted, unable to prevent his surge of anger. "The anger we could all handle. The problem is that the man is dangerous to everyone around him. Who does he have to kill in order for you to believe me?" Scott looked at the Professor then took a deep breath. "Logan doesn't belong here. I don't know why you allow him to stay."
"This is the very place that Logan does belong," the professor corrected. "Would you have me turn him out? The brotherhood is not dead, only temporarily suspended. We all know they won't hold Magento for long and Logan would be a valuable ally for their cause. We all must work to help him."
"He is dangerous."
"He is a more of a danger out there among humankind.
"What you're doing isn't helping him, and it's putting us all at risk."
For a moment an expression of uncertainty crossed the professor's face and it rattled Scott.
"Logan's memory implants are deep and I've been unable to purge them. I'm sorry, Scott. I'll ask Logan to report to the lab so Jean can run some tests." Xavier suddenly jerked in his chair, his eyes widened and his entire body stiffened. "I heard…" he said between clenched teeth and held a hand to his head. "Logan. There's something wrong with him, I…" The professor's body spasmed then stiffened, his mouth opened in a silent scream.
"Professor!" Scott shouted and grabbed his shoulder.
"Logan… is…" the professor whispered, straining to speak. "Something is very wrong. I cannot break in, something is blocking me. I cannot help him."
"Son of a bitch," Scott swore, "Rogue went up there looking for him."
"Hurry," the professor whispered. "Hurry before it's too late."
* * * *
"Logan!" Rogue called through the door and knocked again. She pressed her ear to the door. It appeared no one was home. "Hey sleepy head, you promised to take me for a motorcycle ride!" The lug wasn't answering... unless he'd already gone somewhere else and forgot about their date. She brushed a lock of long brown hair away from her face and resisted the childish urge to stomp one foot. "The rat, he wouldn't dare," she mumbled to herself.
Rogue had dressed carefully this morning for the motorcycle ride. She wore her long, elbow length gloves, her long black coat she'd had since her runaway days and boots. Her jeans were flattering. She'd wrapped a soft scarf around her neck, the muted colors of brown and tan complimented her eyes. Before thinking about what she was doing, she wrapped a hand around the doorknob and turned. His room wasn't locked. Taking a breath and holding it for a moment, she slowly pushed the door opened and peeked into his room.
"Hellooooo," she called, stepped inside and stopped short staring at the chaos. "What happened here?" Logan's room was a mess. Sheets and blankets were shredded to ribbons. Claw marks perforated the walls and the beautiful woodwork and furniture. Rogue's eyesbrows rose. "He had said he was having a bad night, guess he wasn't exaggerating. Well, it looks like he left without me where he went, that rat. When I catch up to him I'm going to... OOF!"
An iron-like clamp encircled her throat, lifted her up off the ground, spun her around and slammed her against the wall. Held there, like a pinned bug, her head rocked back, cracking into the drywall. She couldn't breath and she gasped for breath. "Please," she managed and looked into the enraged eyes of Logan.
Only this wasn't Logan. It was his face, but it wasn't him. It was a raging beast that looked like Logan, that had his face but the light in his eyes was that of a madman, no light of recognition. He held up a large fist, jack it back and popped his claws. She stared at those deadly weapons and couldn't look away. When she had first seen them in that Canadian bar they had frightened her, now they were turned on her. Death. She remember the card.
"Logan," she whispered, her throat constricting in far. She squeezed her eyes closed, tears trickling from under the lids. "Please don't do this." Somehow she summoned the strength to lift a gloved hand, reached out and stroked the hand that was cocked back to kill her. "Logan."
A shred of sanity flickered in his eyes. "Rogue, you... shouldn't... have... come," Logan stuttered. "I… can't…. fight… it." He struggled to speak plainly, the words forced out between clenched teeth. His hand shook and the claws inched toward the tender underside of her jaw. She could feel the cold, sharp points touch then indent the flesh. Rogue swallowed and took a ragged breath, feeling a prickle of hot blood as his claws drove into her skin
Rogue closed her eyes. "You promised, Logan. You promised to protect me." The claws pushed further. "You promised," she ended on a sob, her fragile courage shattered.
Logan threw his head back and creamed, eyes clenched shut. "NO!" he shouted, pulled back his claws and released her. Logan staggered back, hunched and panting, arms held out to his sides.
Rogue slumped into a crumbled heap and held a hand to her neck as she gulped in deep breaths climbed to her feet. "Logan," she said, "talk to me. Tell me what's happening. What is wrong?"
"No, no," he kept saying to himself, shaking his head. "Go away. I won't do it. I. WON'T. DO. IT!"
And before she knew what he was about he turned the claws on himself and rammed them full length into his chest. Blood instantly soaked his T-shirt and he grimaced before sagging and falling, almost in slow motion, to the floor.
"Logan!" she screamed and ran toward him and he put out a shaking hand.
"Get away, Rogue, while you can." His voice was rough and scratchy from pain. "I won't let them hurt you or anyone." He popped out the claws from the hand he held toward her and, arm quivering in exertion, straining against an invisible bond he pointed them inward at himself. He clenched his teeth and slowly, winning the battle, his claws pressed against his own throat.
Rogue took a step toward him and reached out to grasp his straining arm. "Don't do this," she whispered.
"Me or you." His expression was tortured, like a helpless prisoner. "It's the only way," he ground out. Sweat poured down his head. "It's the only way."
Logan shoved the claws into his neck, the tips protruding out the opposite side.
"Logan!" Rogue screamed again. She ran to him and went to her knees at his side. Grabbing each of his forearms in both her hands and yanked his claws from his flesh. Blood flew in an arc, spattering her face and clothes. "Logan," she whispered, slipped her arms around him and tried to lift him up. He was slippery with blood and she couldn't get a good hold on him. She wasn't certain how his mutant healing factor would handle this, or even if it could. She had to get the professor.
"Help!" she cried. "Someone help me!"
* * * *
Scott, following by Storm and Jean ran into the room and stopped short.
"My God," Storm whispered, and held a hand to her mouth.
The room was in chaos and splatters of blood were everywhere, smearing the walls and the floors like a haphazard attempt at painting. The smell was pungent and made Scott's stomach roll. At least Rogue was still alive; Logan had not yet harmed her. Rogue stood in the middle of the room, her clothing soaked with blood. Logan with his claws popped, weaved drunkenly at her side. Rogue's face was drawn tight in pain, three red spots glistened at her neck from three puncture wounds.
"Get away from him!" Scott shouted and touched the controls of his visor, aiming for the middle of Logan's chest. He'd been waiting to take out this psycho and now this was his opportunity. No one would question what he was about to do, and in time they would thank him. He dialed up the beam control, he wouldn't let Logan's healing factor heal this.
At that moment, Rogue looked at him. Her eyes widened.
"No!" she shouted and leapt in front of Logan. "It's not my blood!"
Scott had already let loose an optic blast; he couldn't take it back. The blast hit Rogue square in the chest, lifted her up and flung her backwards, slamming her against the far wall. Scott instantly shut down the beam. It was too late.
Rogue slid limply to the floor amid plaster pieces and dust and lay unmoving, limp and lifeless.
End of Chapter One