Author's note: This is the first chapter of a long story about the title character. It's based mostly on movie canon, so I'm trying to get it written and posted before the third movie, as that will change canon. I'm not sure how it ends, but it covers at least six months in scope. Any suggestions for a better title would be welcome. It begins shortly after the attack on Liberty Island.
BIG BOLD NOTE: I have not seen X3. I will not see it until this story is complete. Please, if you review, do not include spoilers for it, or criticize me for being uncanonical to X3. Thank you.
Logan glanced out the window. Movement on the wall caught his gaze and held it. Someone was climbing down the wall.
The Professor saw his head turn. "What, Logan?"
"Someone's out there," he growled and was out the door. He came out of the building across a dark patio from the wall and was aware of the others behind him.
"Logan, wait, it might be a student!" Storm called. He didn't stop. The invader didn't smell like a student, and as it landed lightly on the ground, he saw its face in the moonlight: a woman, one he did not recognize. She stayed in the shadows, looking around warily, and did not make for the lit building. Instead she hugged the wall, slipping closer to the mansion.
And she moved with the same lithe grace that had characterized Mystique's movements.
Logan didn't stop to think that Mystique was dead, that he had killed her himself; a low rumble grew in his throat and exploded into a snarl as he extended his claws and charged her. She whirled, her eyes widening as she saw him, but incredibly, she didn't run; instead she planted her feet and stood her ground, dropping into what he recognized as a fighting crouch. But she didn't put her hands up as he closed, or duck, or anything. At the very last second surprise crossed her face, and she backed up just far enough that his claws raked across her shoulder instead of her chest.
He pulled back, taken by surprise that she'd not ducked; she took advantage of his hesitation and kicked him squarely in the knee. Logan winced, shrugging it off-- but the pain lingered far longer than it should have.
Before he could stop her she had leapt back on the wall and started climbing. "Stop!" Jean called, and he heard running footsteps behind him. Looking over his shoulder he saw Jean with her hands extended as she tried to immobilize the mutant with telekinesis-- but it didn't work. She kept climbing, dark red blood staining the white stone and green ivy.
He tensed his muscles, preparing for a spring at the wall, but someone grabbed his shoulder. "Don't!" It was Storm. "She wasn't going to hurt us. The professor said so."
"It's Mystique!" he snarled.
"No, it's not," Storm insisted. "The professor got a glimpse of her mind."
"Stop!" Professor Xavier's voice carried not authority but entreaty. "We mean you no harm."
The woman, at the very top of the wall, paused, half-turning to look down at them.
"You can tell if we're lying," the professor added.
The woman stood still, staring at them. "Can't you yank her down with wind or something?" Logan murmured.
Storm shook her head. "I already tried. Besides, I don't have enough control to avoid hurting her."
"Logan, come back here. You're frightening her," the professor said in a lower voice.
Reluctantly, not taking his eyes off of the woman perched in mid-flight at the top of the wall, he backed up until he stood behind the professor's wheelchair. Cyclops gave him an ironic glance. "Well done," he said.
"Shut it," Logan snarled.
"Both of you, stop," Xavier said sharply. He raised his voice again. "We're not going to hurt you."
It was like an odd tableau: the slender, black-clad woman on top of the wall, looking down at them; Storm and Jean, the latter's red hair glinting in the moonlight, stopped halfway to the wall, looking up; Cyclops and Xavier also watching; and Logan, banished behind them all, the woman's blood dripping from his claws before he sheathed them. The picture-like quality was broken as a single drop of blood ran from her left wrist, dangled briefly at the end of her longest finger, and then splashed silently to the stone wall.
Slowly, the woman nodded once and started to climb down again. It became apparent that she could only use one arm, and halfway down she slipped and fell, landing heavily on the ground despite Jean's outthrown hand.
She got to her feet before either of the women reached her, right hand pressed to her left shoulder. The blood, welling around her fingers, showed against her skin where before it had been hidden by the dark fabric of her shirt. There was a trail of bloody spots all the way up the wall.
Jean steadied her and led her not to the Professor, but towards the door leading into the mansion. The woman shook her head. "Wait," she said.
The stiff ivy dug into Narra's skin as she climbed down the cool stone wall. She could see her way by the moonlight. The grounds of the mansion were apparently safe, but she kept watching, wary of an ambush even at the end of her journey.
As she reached the bottom, a feral, animal noise made her look up. A man was running directly at her, long knives extending out of his hand. She dropped into a fighting crouch, throwing a bubble of blankness over herself-- but it did not impede his progress nor make the claws go away, and she ducked too late. The blades caught at her collarbone and ripped as she whirled away, sending hot lines of pain through her entire body.
There was no safety to be had here. She'd have to run again, but there was nowhere else she knew of to go. Adrenaline dulled the pain as Narra leapt for the wall, catching and climbing with one good arm. The knives had half-severed the left strap of her precious backpack, but she couldn't stop to adjust it now. She kept the bubble around her and felt it tested, but repelled the attack easily.
She reached the top, preparing to slide down the other side-- and then the voice of the man in the wheelchair made her pause. Somehow, he knew-- and he was right. She looked down at the five people in the courtyard, and reached out with her mind.
The man who had attacked her was simple: anger and suspicion. No deception there. The two women were wary, but she felt no hostility from them, whereas it radiated from the clawed man. The other two men were concerned, tense, and wary as well. But the man in the wheelchair had not lied. Only the clawed man was belligerent towards her, and as she watched, he retreated slowly backwards after the man in the wheelchair said something to him.
"We're not going to hurt you," the bald man called. His voice was authoritative and reassuring, carrying hints of power. Belatedly she realized that the attacks on her bubble during the fight had come from multiple sources, not just the redhaired woman, and he was one of them.
He was not lying. Her shoulder was bleeding steadily, and Narra knew it was a serious wound. If she left, she might not make it to anywhere else. If she was attacked again, she would not be able to fight off her attackers. And this had been her destination, her source of hope, for six weeks.
She knelt on the edge of the wall and awkwardly started to climb down again, but her arm would no longer support her. She fell and landed on the grass, scraping her face on the ivy as she went. Her body screamed in protest at the fresh pain, but she ignored it and got to her feet, holding her shoulder. Her hand was quickly covered in warm blood.
The two women flanked her, helping her to stand upright. A red haze was beginning to cloud her mind, but Narra pushed it away. "Let's get you to the infirmary," the redhaired woman said, and the other one smiled reassuringly. They started leading her to the building, but Narra shook her head and veered towards the man in the wheelchair. Up close, she recognized him from the pictures. This was indeed Professor Xavier.
"Wait," she said, laboriously unslinging her backpack. "My name is Narrala Symestreem. My father is Ben Hobson." She saw recognition of the name in two of the faces-- Professor Xavier's, and the redhaired woman's-- as she opened her bag.
"The researcher of mutant genetics?" asked Professor Xavier.
"But he disappeared," the redhaired woman said. "Along with his entire family."
Narra nodded to both questions. "Men have been after him and his work. Powerful men, who have connections, and could misuse his research. Six weeks ago I received a message on my cell phone as I was coming home from class. It was my father. All he said was that he and my mother and Stella had to leave, right then, and were getting out of town. I was to come directly to the bus depot."
She shook her head. "I knew they were after his work, which he kept on his home computer. I copied it onto a DVD and erased the originals. Then I destroyed the computer. I got out of the house about two steps before the men who came to ransack the place."
"I knew I had to bring it someplace where it would be safe. I also knew they'd be watching for our cars. So I walked here."
Digging in her bag, she found the slim disk she'd carried all the way from Pittsburgh, protecting it with her life. With her good hand she offered it to the professor. "This is the only extant copy of my father's research work."
When he took it, she felt like a weight had been lifted by her shoulders. Against all odds she'd made it, alone, and the work was safe. Narra allowed herself to slump with relief as the two women supported her and led her towards the building.
Narra was growing increasingly dizzy as they walked through the quiet hallways, but she forced herself to return coherent answers to the questions the two women asked her. The one with white hair was Ororo Munroe, and the redhaired one was Jean Grey.
Narra nodded. "My father reads a lot of your papers on mutants. He really liked the last one."
Finally they descended to a level different from the one above, with antiseptic white tile replacing soft carpet, and brushed steel replacing painted drywall. A door marked with a giant "X" slid open at their approach, and Narra found herself inside a state-of-the-art medical room.
She sat on one of the steel bunks and looked around, pain forgotten as she surveyed the equipment. Near the one wall was what looked a full-length body scanner, attached to a very powerful computer. Delicate surgical tools like nothing she'd ever seen before rested on silver trays in a clear cabinet near the wall. Having grown up in a research university, she was familiar with medical apparatus, and knew these were more advanced than anything doctors elsewhere were using.
Dr. Grey cut away the part of Narra's shirt that was sticking to the slashes and frowned. "These are going to need stitches." Narra, having anticipated that, merely nodded as the doctor filled a clear syringe with a clear liquid. "This will make you woozy. You'll probably want to lay down."
The anesthetic did make Narra woozy, and she closed her eyes as Dr. Grey cleaned and stitched the three long scores across her shoulder. The sight of blood didn't bother her, but seeing a needle going in and out of her own skin might. Finally the doctor put a large bandage over the area and secured it with a dressing. "That might need a sling in the morning. I'd like to see how the bandage holds up tonight." She turned Narra's hand over and fixed a small metal disc to her vein with medical tape, then frowned and reached for another syringe. "Are you allergic to propinquine?"
Narra shook her head. Dr. Grey loaded the syringe and injected it near the other needle mark. "You said you walked from Pittsburgh?"
Narra nodded. "I hitchhiked at the beginning. Then I realized that would make it too easy for anyone looking for me to find me."
"Who was looking for you?"
Narra closed her eyes and concentrated, trying to focus her impressions from the few brief encounters. She'd had plenty of time to contemplate the subject, and always came to the same conclusions. "Not mutants," she said finally, looking up again. "If they were military, they were some sort of special branch. They worked alone or in small groups and appeared to operate under their own initiative."
Dr. Grey looked startled. "You encountered them?"
"Three times." A wave of dizziness swept through Narra, and she closed her eyes.
The doctor must have noticed, for she didn't ask any more questions about Narra's past. "Do you mind staying here tonight? The electrode on your wrist will monitor your vital signs and alert someone if they get out of stable range," she explained. "It'll be safer than putting you in a regular room."
Narra shook her head. "I've no objections."
"Do you want someone to bring you something to eat?"
The prospect of food should have been wonderful, but her shoulder hurt too much for her to be interested. And in the last week she'd simply stopped being hungry. "No, thank you."
She heard Dr. Grey putting instruments away. "If you need anything, press this button and someone will come," she said, and Narra opened her eyes to see what she was indicating, nodding to show that she'd heard. The doctor walked over to the door and paused, her hand on the trigger-pad. She looked over her shoulder. "Logan..." she started.
Narra frowned. "Who?"
"Logan. Wolverine," Dr. Grey explained. "The man who... attacked you."
"He didn't mean to hurt you." The words came out in a rush, a marked contrast to the doctor's previous calm demeanor, sparking Narra's curiosity. "Not you. We had a run-in with some mutant terrorists last week, and he thought you were one of them."
Narra frowned. "Would that be the attack on Liberty Island?"
Dr. Grey nodded, looking faintly surprised. "How'd you know?"
"Just an educated guess," Narra said.
This time it was the doctor who nodded. She paused for a moment, then waved her hand over the sensor pad and walked through the door. It slid shut behind her, and the lights dimmed.
Narra reached over the side of the treatment bench to make sure her backpack was still there, then closed her eyes and slept almost instantly.
"How is she?"
Jean jumped as the door slid closed behind her, and turned quickly to see Logan leaning against the wall, a cigar in his hand.
"She'll be fine," she assured him. "Malnourished and anemic, but the shoulder wound should heal quickly."
"Can I see her?"
"I think she's sleeping."
Logan scowled and stubbed the cigar out on his palm. "First Rogue," he muttered. "Now her." He shook his head, not sure if he wanted to dispel his dark mood or wallow in it.
Jean watched him for a moment, not sure what to say. She knew he was a dangerous man. They all knew it, and yet she also knew he would never deliberately hurt her-- would risk his life to protect her. As he thought he had been doing that night.
Finally she said, "It'll be fine." Trite words, yet she hoped they would be true.
He looked up, his eyes intense, and she realized just how close to him she was standing. Quickly she backed up. "Good night, Logan."
He didn't answer until she was halfway down the hall. His voice was hard to discern. "'Night."