Disclaimer: The character of Wolverine is owned by 20th Century Fox and Marvel Comics. No copyright infringement intended. The characters of Angel & Buffy the Vampire Slayer are owned by 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy. Bob and his crew are mine - kidnap them at your own peril!
N.B.: Takes place shortly after "X3" and "Prey".
Logan would have chalked this up to bad luck, except he knew damn well it was premeditated.
He looked around the bar as surreptitiously as he could, using reflective surfaces to see if he could spot their watcher without being seen himself, but Faith leaned over and nudged him with her elbow, making it look like an accident as she reached for the bowl of peanuts. "What is it?" she whispered. "Gotta vamp in here?"
"Nostrils flare, eyes narrow and dart around the room. If I don't know the warning signs of you about to open up a can of whoop ass, I must be stupider than I look," she replied, tossing a peanut in her mouth and chewing it lazily. "So what's the haps?"
"It's not a vampire, but a fucking psychopathic mutant," he grumbled, trying to spot them in the mirror over the bar. He didn't catch anyone staring at them, so he couldn't narrow down his suspects. Of course the bar had to be crowded tonight.
The Schooner was a vaguely nautically themed bar full of dark wood and fake leather on a Vancouver pier, just campy enough to be popular amongst the younger, hipper crowd. Faith liked it, although she often derided the clientele, many of whom were so neat and well scrubbed that Logan felt embarrassed for them. Where was the rebellion? The bad hair, the worse clothes, the loud music that sounded like a band saw cutting into a metal hull? Youth was supposed to be about striking out at the older generation, giving them the finger in more ways than one, but these kids were all fucking sell outs. He wanted to smack them all on the back of the head.
At least the bartenders were usually interesting. For instance, tonight's bartender was an Asian woman who had shaved her head bald, had a tattoo of morning glory on her neck, and wore enough hardware in her face that she could have been used as a boat anchor. She was still kind of attractive too. She claimed her name was "Haze", but Logan knew that was a lie.
"Really?" Faith asked, sounding more intrigued than scared. She tried to do a little surreptitious looking around of her own. "What do they look like? What can they do?"
"I dunno. They shapeshift."
"Oh. So, they can look like anyone? Which is why you don't know what they look like?"
She looked around for a moment, then took a drink of her beer. "Bummer."
"If I search 'em out, will you be okay?"
Faith raised an eyebrow at him. "You do remember who you're talking to, right? If you're lookin', I'm comin' with you."
"Faith, she's bad news."
"She?" she repeated, grinning now. "All right, chick fight. This oughta be fun."
"Yeah, they're always kinda sexy," a woman said in a husky voice, coming up to the bar on his left hand side and slipping onto one of the high stools.
Logan didn't even look, he just put his fist at the base of her spinal cord, and growled, "Twitch and die."
Mystique chuckled warmly, like he was flirting with her. "Come now, old man. If I wanted to fight you I'd have waited outside with a high powered rifle and shot you through the ear canal when you came out the door. Then I'd have played with your cute little girlfriend until you healed."
Damn - that was a pretty good plan.
Faith leaned over the bar to get a better look at Mystique, and snapped, "Bring it, bitch."
Mystique smiled at her, licking her lips in a predatory manner. "Any time you want, jailbait."
"You have five seconds to tell me why you're here or I'm popping my claws," he warned, staring at her and gaining her attention away from Faith.
Tonight she looked like a statuesque blonde in a turquoise silk blouse and matching miniskirt that clung to her like it was painted on. Of course it basically was, as it was all her skin, which was completely creepy if you thought about it. Her eyes were the color that her skin usually was, and her white-blonde hair was shoulder length and looked as soft as fur. Men all over the bar were staring at her, and many were probably wondering why the hell she was sitting next to him.
Mystique sighed dramatically, like he was being unreasonable. "I just want to talk, Logan. We have a common problem."
"Cut the shit and tell me what the game is."
"Am I lying?"
That was the hell of it - he didn't think she was. Then again, if you were psychotic enough to believe everything that fell out of your mouth, you'd never appear to be lying on a lie detector test, even one as sensitive as his nose. "You back with the Brotherhood?"
That seemed to startle a genuine laugh out of her. "Are you kidding? Some kid runs it now. They think hacking websites is a radical act. Bunch of fucking lightweights."
"Why don't you take it over?"
"What use do I have for snot nosed brats?"
The fact that Mystique sounded like she was being honest unnerved him deeply. This had to be a set up. "You kill Magneto yet?"
Now she smirked, her eyes brightening visibly at the thought. "The old bastard's hiding from me. You don't know where he is, do you?"
"If I did, I'd have killed him myself."
Again that warm chuckle, It was really getting on his nerves. "That's what I've always liked about you, old man - you don't fuck around. So why are you with Xavier's pussies?"
"'Cause he ain't a raving psycho," Faith interjected. "Now what the hell's your deal? Are we throwing down or what?"
Mystique's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Why don't you run along and play, normal? Leave us more evolved types to talk."
"She's not a normal," Logan said, before Faith could reach across the bar and punch her. Since Mystique presumably didn't know about demons and slayers, it was probably better to stretch the truth in this way. Hopefully Faith would play along.
Mystique eyed Faith warily. "Oh really? What have you got?"
"Strength mutation," Logan quickly answered for her. He seriously hoped she didn't kick his ass for this later.
But Faith, good sport that she was, played along. "Strong enough to put you through a wall, super skank. So why don't you just say what you're gonna say and piss off?"
He could love this woman eternally. Seriously, he could marry her tonight.
Mystique glared daggers at Faith for a moment, then snickered as she broke into a grin so feral that a weaker person would have pissed their pants. "Kitty has claws. It's a major turn on. I bet you're dynamite in the sack."
Faith just stared right back at her. "Are you seriously flirting with me? Is that the best you can do?"
Logan pressed his fist insistently against Mystique's back, just in case she forgot he had his sheathed claws right over her spinal column. "Talk. I'm getting impatient."
"Aren't you always? An old friend of ours has suddenly resurfaced - Emil Vogel."
Logan looked at Mystique, waiting for more, but nothing else was apparently forthcoming. "I haven't the slightest fucking idea who that is."
She rolled her eyes. "Oh, your goddamn amnesia. Fine. Do you remember Operation Overlord?"
He was about to tell her no, but he stopped, as he had a strange feeling. It almost sounded familiar, didn't it? But in a way he couldn't name. It was like an itch in the back of his mind, a word on the tip of his tongue that he couldn't quite spit out. "Wasn't that some World War Two thing?" Faith asked.
"I believe the name has been used a couple of times for different operations," Mystique said, like the old spy she was. "The one I'm referring to took place in Russia in the '80's."
Logan shook his head. "I don't remember the '80's at all."
Mystique smiled humorlessly. "Lucky you. Long story short: You and I are were sent in to recover a weapon Vogel was developing for the Russian government, although we weren't working for the same team. The details of the weapon were left vague, but we discovered that Vogel was a genetic engineer, and was trying to engineer a virus that would kill mutants. It was in a theoretical stage, but it had a certain plausibility. You and I decided to change the game and destroyed all his work, blaming each other for doing it so our employers wouldn't exterminate us. Vogel dropped off the radar soon after - the government was not happy that all their time and money had gone to waste, and they sent him to rot in Siberia. Fast forward to the end of communism, and Vogel was released from Siberia and quickly disappeared. I heard he was in Sao Paolo, but I was never able to track him down."
"Why did you want to track him down?" Faith wondered.
Logan knew the answer before she answered. "He's a loose end and dangerous. I don't like to leave those alive. Anyways, just by random chance while I was still being held in one of America's fascist detention cells - just before the cure wore off - I overheard a couple of G-Men talking about Vogel putting a new weapon on the market, and the government's covert inquiries into buying it before anyone else could get it. As soon as I got my powers back and broke out of there, I ransacked their files for everything they had on Vogel. They don't know if he's in the States or Canada -" this made her scoff. "American intelligence has never been more of an oxymoron than it is now. But the bottom line is there's going to be a black market auction, with Vogel's weapon going to the highest bidder, and it's here, in Vancouver. It came in through the port."
Logan was listening to all of this with a kind of dazed skepticism, but Faith was listening with rapt attention. "What kind of weapon is it? Another virus?" she asked.
Mystique shook her head. "From what I heard, it's even worse. A gene coded poison, something that could be dumped in a large water supply. It wouldn't do anything to the norms, but it would kill everything with an active X gene."
"Holy shit," Faith gasped. "Can they do that? I mean, the technology's that good?"
Logan shrugged, but then admitted, "They're always tryin' to find new ways to kill us."
"I knew you'd get it, old man."
He scowled at her. "I don't get why you're telling me all this. Nostalgia? You can't have the warm fuzzies for a memory you don't have. And I have no reason to trust a single goddamn thing fallin' out of you mouth."
She gazed at him like he was the stupidest thing to ever crawl out from under a rock. "Investigate Vogel yourself. Maybe it'll trigger a bit of recall. I can't believe I never did."
"So you're claiming you know me, that you've known me for a long time."
She shook her head, disappointed, and took his beer bottle and had a swig. "You were Moose and Squirrel to my Boris and Natasha … or vice versa. I can't remember which of those was more flattering. We butted heads a few times, but we could never quite manage to kill each other. Not that we didn't give it very good tries. Now that I think about it, I think you were the longest relationship I ever had." She put the bottle back down, but as far as Logan was concerned, it was hers now. "It may be difficult to imagine now, but you used to be very good. You weren't the smartest, but you survived - that was your gift. Everyone else could be tumbling off the battlefield, but you'd still be there, hanging on. I could kill every single member of an Organization unit, but as soon as the smoke cleared, there you were being all pissy. It was almost admirable, in its fucked up way." She smiled faintly. "You should have seen the shit fit my handler had after that time in Vienna. "Why won't that cocksucking motherfucker just die?!" Hilarious."
"Well, that certainly sounds like you," Faith told him.
He gave her a sidelong glance out of the corner of his eye that he hoped she interpreted as "don't encourage her", and wondered which would be worse: the possibility that Mystique was lying to fuck with him, or the possibility that she was telling the truth to fuck with him. He was dying to ask "What time in Vienna?" but felt that would be falling for her bullshit. Was there plausibility here? Maybe. Yes, he worked for the Organization as their good little killing machine, and he knew from some of the things Xavier had told him that Mystique had been an assassin and worked for some government, although it was never clear who. All the training she had seemed to indicate a high level operative, and certainly her ability would make infiltration a natural skill. Also her age was a question mark - she could theoretically be as old as him, although he doubted it. How much of this did he dare to believe? He shoved it aside, along with the anger he felt at realizing that, if she was telling the truth, she knew a great deal more about his past than he did and had never bothered to share it with him. But then again, she was an evil bitch - why would she?
He rubbed his temple, and asked, "I don't see what the fuck any of this has to do with me. You want Vogel, go get him. I know you can."
"Yes, but I'd like to make it easier if possible."
"You know I have no problem handling a crowd, but Vogel's aware that mutants won't like this if they get word of it, and there are some governments that aren't happy with him either. He's surrounded himself with Russian mobsters, many of who are ex-Stasi. I don't know if there any mutants in the bunch yet, but I know they have enough armaments smuggled up from the States to take over the government in a bloody coup. Vogel is my target, so I'm offering you a deal: I get Vogel, you get the weapon. Between the two of us, I'm sure we can take out the entire Stasi contingent, and any other subsequent cannon fodder Vogel is hiding behind."
It was his turn to scoff at her. "What the fuck kind of deal is that? You make work for me? You don't want that weapon in anyone's hands either, darlin'. You can't convince me you'd just let it go."
"Would you really want the weapon in my hands?" she countered, smiling slyly.
He glared at her. "This is bullshit. What's your game? Why am I so fucking important?"
She grinned at him in an evil way, showing lots of perfect white teeth, and Logan was sure she had added a couple she didn't need. "The key word was "mafia", Logan. The Russian mafia? Just think what they'll do when they hear Logan Yashida is here and after them."
So that was it. Yeah, that made sense. The Russian mafia knew who he was - it was through Russian intelligence that Bob found those records on Bloody Friday. The Yakuza had the most reason to hate him, but the Triad and the Russians shared the sentiment. In fact, every organized crime group that had heard of him probably just loathed him on general principal.
"Yashida?" Faith repeated, studying him. "Isn't that, uh, Japanese?"
Mystique ignored her. "They hear about you, they'll panic. Panicky people, no matter how good their training, get sloppy. And that's how I get in. They'll be so freaked out by you they'll never notice they've been compromised."
He glared at her with open scorn. "So I'm a decoy. I take the shots and make the noise, while you sneak into their nest and kill 'em while they sleep."
"Oh no, never in their sleep. You never get to see their expressions when you kill them in their sleep." Her grin was savage and completely calculated. Was that for Faith's benefit? It couldn't have been for his, because he knew her too damn well for it to bother him. She was a crazy bitch? What a fucking news flash. Next thing you know, somebody would claim water was wet.
"There's still nothing in this for me, Mystique."
"Beyond peace of mind? Then try this on for size, Logan. The Organization thinks they obliterated all records of you, but they weren't as detail minded as they should have been. I can get records on you, Logan, ones they thought they'd put to bed a long time ago. Your life before them and without them. I know where to find all sorts of things. It's rather amusing how no one ever seems to plan for me."
"I've done okay."
She shrugged a single shoulder. "We're a breed apart, old man. While all of these soft … normals were sleeping in their cribs, we were fighting wars that these idiots never heard of and couldn't care less about even if they had. I was born for battle, and you were built for it. Which is why I never figured out why you joined up with Xavier's goody two shoes brigade. Except you always did have a sentimental streak that undermined you at every turn. Still does, doesn't it?" She stood up, gracefully sliding past his fist, and he let her, because he was so pissed off at her right now that there was no move she could make that he couldn't beat.
She reached into her shirt and pulled out a business card sized piece of paper, which she dropped on the bar in front of him. "If you're interested, call me. I'll share all the intell I have on Vogel and the small army guarding him."
"I don't trust you for shit," he pointed out, in case she missed that very basic fact.
She shrugged again, this time using most of her upper body, a disturbingly sinuous move. "I don't trust you either. But you've never been a rat, old man. Unlike some people, you won't stab me in the back. If you were going to do that, you'd have the decency to stab me in the front." She then turned on her heel and walked out of the bar, most of the men watching her go. Wow, Magneto had really fucked her up, hadn't he?
But what really bothered him was she was right. He hated backstabbers. If you were gonna sell someone down the river, you could at least man up and tell them to their face before you did it. Maybe because he himself had been betrayed one too many times to like it.
"She's got the whole creepy thing nailed down, doesn't she?" Faith said.
"It's been her life work," he agreed, looking at the piece of paper she'd left behind. Vancouver number, probably a really good hotel.
"Thinks she's on the level?"
"I dunno. Psychopaths lie real well, so I can't always tell by smell."
"Do you remember her? I mean, working with her?"
He shook his head. "But I know she was a spy at some point. She's too good not to be."
"Think you slept with her?"
That had never even occurred to him. "God, I hope not."
She grinned slyly, mischief twinkling in her eyes. "I don't know. It might be fun to sleep with someone who could be anybody you wanted them to be. I mean, if she was a man, she could alter the size of her d-"
"Could we please not go there?" he interrupted. "I already feel vaguely nauseous as it is."
Her smile was very unsympathetic, but she patted his hand kindly. "Sorry. Look, we can check into this guy ourselves. I mean, if she is telling the truth, this is something we should look into."
"Don't start. Besides, we mutants need to look after ourselves." She took a deep swig of her beer, and then, as soon as she put the empty bottle on the bar, asked, "So, Yashida?"
He wondered if he should go kick Mystique's ass just for giving him more shit to explain.