Disclaimer: I don't own Marvel, Hasbro, or whatever company owns GI Joe at this point (Marvel, Hasbro, Devil's Due, Image, IDW, etc).
These are bonus/misc. scenes that don't make it into "Silence" or are related to the "Silence" universe.
Chapter I: Beginnings
Note: I wanted to write about a younger Beach Head and Lifeline trying to deal with their mutations. Bits of dialogue that are written in italics are Wayne 'overhearing' thoughts telepathically, but not really realizing that he's hearing thoughts. The names of Beach Head's family members are my invention. I chose 'Robert' for his father because Beach's full name is Wayne R. Sneeden. I've always figured that his middle name came from his father.
He pressed his ear against the door. His parents were arguing again. It wasn't an unusual phenomenon, as his parents always argued. The eleven year old Wayne Sneeden often tried to convince himself that it was entirely normal. Try as he might though, the young boy easily noticed the differences between his family and the families of his better dressed and well fed classmates. For one thing, their parents seemed to get along.
Fear, anger, disgust, outrage, pain….
"It's not his fault!" his father said loudly. "Why won't you understand? He's no different than he was before!"
Wayne blinked and held his hands to his ears. Shouting. People were always shouting and saying things that were better left unsaid. When he was at school, he could always hear the taunts that people said his way. The young boy had confronted one classmate about it, who had given him a weirded out look and had claimed to not have said anything.
"He's your son, Susan!" His father's voice was rising. That was bad. Usually the elder Sneeden rarely raised his voice even when he was angry. Wayne resisted hiding in the corner of the room that he and his sister shared. He already knew that his father was upset. The boy wasn't sure how, he just knew.
"He's not my….I didn't give birth to one of them!" His mother's voice drowned out his father. She was the yeller. Wayne didn't know how she could continue to yell so much without losing her voice. His mother's voice died back down. She was nervous. There was a flash of fear as she wondered if someone may have overheard her.
Wayne's bottom lip trembled slightly. Why was all of this happening to him? It wasn't his fault. He wasn't a….a mutant. He wasn't a freak. He was just an eleven year old kid that was trying to get by in the world. Right now, all he wanted to do was finish the sixth grade.
His mother didn't like mutants. The five year old Wayne Sneeden had no concept of what mutants were, but he knew they were bad people. He was grocery shopping with his mother when he saw his first one. It was a green skinned woman with pale, yellow eyes. She kept her head down as she quickly grabbed a few items off of the shelves and walked towards the cashier. Mama gave a disdainful sniff and glared after the woman.
"We may not have any money, but at least we have our pride," she announced loudly. "At least my children aren't freak jobs." The green skinned woman flinched slightly as she waited for an equally disgusted cashier to ring her up. The unknown mutant rushed out of the grocery store. When the five year old recounted to the story to his father later, he couldn't understand why his daddy frowned.
"No Robert, I refuse! And what if people find out that…that he's a freak?" His mother was growing more and more frightened. Her image and pride were at stake. She cared less about how her son felt and more about how his mutation reflected upon her.
Hot tears began to roll down Wayne's face. He tried to stop them, but they kept coming. The boy hugged his knees and curled up into a fetal position. More than anything in the world, he wished that Robin was home. However, his older sister was still working at her after school job, making money to help with their family's expenses.
"I'm sorry," he muttered. His parents continued to argue and occasionally scream at each other. It was his fault. The only reason they were arguing this time was because of him.
Rough hands shoved him into a set of lockers. Wayne bit his lip to keep from crying out. The library books in his hands fell to the floor. Three eighth graders leered at him. He knew their names well: Terry Jenkins, Matthew Farris, and Casey Cedrick.
"Leave me alone," he warned them. Brave words. Wayne knew that he was in trouble unless a teacher happened by. He hadn't yet hit his growth spurt and all three of the boys were bigger than him. One of them kicked him in the shin.
"Know your place, Sneeden," Jenkins told him. The hulking blonde was the ringleader of the trio. "A trashman doesn't need good grades. A guy would think that yer tryin' to be better than us."
"Ah am better," Wayne muttered. Cedrick spit in his face. The red head smirked at him and patted his other cheek.
"You hear that guys? He thinks he's better than us," Cedrick sneered. He leaned in closer and Wayne felt his heart beat a little faster. "You're nothing," the boy told him. "Your old man's just a crippled deadbeat and your mom's a whore."
Wayne's body froze in shock a brief moment before a tidal wave of rage shot through him. His vision blackened for a brief moment. The school hallway shook slightly and locker doors rattled in their frames. There was a crunch sound as three bodies were thrown into the metal lockers on the other side of the hall.
When his vision cleared, Wayne was shocked to find his three tormentors sprawled on the floor in a crumpled heap. One of the boys had been knocked unconscious while the other two were groaning and rubbing their heads. Wayne began to slowly back away. He didn't understand what had happened, but he suspected that it was his fault.
"Fuck," Farris groaned. Half dazed, he seemed the most aware of the three teenagers. He tried to stand up, but sat back down with a whimper. The teenager glared at the eleven year old mutant inching away from them.
"Sneeden's a mutie," he said venomously. Wayne shook his head, but the teenager ignored him. "Don't deny it you damned freak!"
The eleven year old Wayne Sneeden turned and fled in the other direction. His three tormentors went to the nurse's office and complained. When Wayne was pulled in for questioning, he pleaded innocence. Having no proof of anything, the principal let him off the hook. However, that didn't stop Jenkins, Cedrick, and Farris telling anyone they could that he was a freak.
In the three weeks after, he had discovered that he could move objects with his mind. Terrified, the boy began to avoid even the few friends he had at his middle school.
Wayne had struggled with the rising animosity at school for a fourth week before finally caving in and telling his father. It hadn't been easy. Shocked, his father had simply patted his shoulder and promised to be the one to break it to his mother.
A door opened and slammed shut. His mother was leaving, probably for good. Wayne Sneeden jumped to his feet and burst out of his room. He ran outside and saw his mother throwing bags into the family's beat up car. The boy tried to hold back his tears as panic set in.
"It ain't mah fault, mama!" he wailed. His mother cast him a disgusted, scornful look. She turned her back on him and threw the last suitcase into the car. Tears rolled down his face again as she climbed into the driver's seat and slammed the door shut. Not knowing what else to do, the boy turned around and bolted. He ran as fast as he could in the other direction.
His father reached out after him. Agony and pain hovered around him like a dark cloud.
Wayne ignored his father. Terror had taken over his body. Even his own mother hated him.
The terrified boy scrambled over the broken fence separating their tiny house from the next door neighbors. An old woman peered warily at him from inside of a closed window. Wayne ignored her and kept running. He passed an old army recruiting sign. The boy knew that sign well. He often stared at it and dreamed of the future.
But there was no future for him. Wayne felt what hopes he'd once had shatter into tiny pieces. He wanted to join the military and become a man like his dad. Maybe he'd try college at some point, but all he wanted to do was be a soldier. Wayne had worked his ass off to be at the head of his class. But it no longer mattered how hard he worked or how good his grades were. They wouldn't let him in the military or college if they knew he was a mutant. No one would hire him.
He had no future.
His breath grew ragged. Wayne finally stopped a few blocks from his house. His chest and ears hurt as he panted to catch his breath. The boy swallowed a lump in his throat and looked around him. He was still in the run-down neighborhood that he called home. A dog barked at him as he began to walk slowly down the street.
Where could he go? He couldn't go home.
Making a decision, he turned left at the next intersection and kept walking. After catching his breath, Wayne broke into a run again. A small thicket of trees came into view. The boy slowed back down to a walk when he reached it. His throat burned from thirst.
Wayne ducked underneath a branch and pushed aside a few shrubs as he walked. He knew this area well. It was where he went to think or be alone. The boy found his favorite oak tree and sat underneath of it. He often brought a book with him to read. Today, all he had was himself and the screwed up pieces of his life.
He sat for several miserable hours. Wayne's throat and head began to hurt from the lack of water. Since he had no money in his pockets to buy a bottle of water and there was no way that he could go home, the boy stubbornly stayed where he was. Another hour or so passed before he heard his sister calling his name. Wayne froze slightly and wondered what he should do.
Branches snapped underfoot as his older sibling made her way through the small grove of trees. Nearly five years his senior, Robin Sneeden looked very much like their mother. Wayne didn't know if he could deal with that at the moment.
"Dammit Wayne!" she shouted. Robin threw her arms around her younger brother. Wayne stiffened slightly. He wanted to pull away, but he was too relieved by the human contact and the relief and worry radiating from his sister.
"Dad's worried sick about you," she chastised. Robin Sneeden gave him another hug before smacking him in the head. Wayne winced slightly.
"We're going home," the older Sneeden ordered sharply. Wayne hunched his shoulders and gave her a stubborn look.
"Why?" he asked. "Ah ain't wanted there." His sister smacked him again. Wayne rubbed the side of his head. It wasn't fair. Why was he getting hit for saying the truth? His sister crossed her arms and glared at him with equal stubbornness.
"Stop being a baby," she said. Robin bit her lip slightly before putting an arm around her brother. "Look…Dad and Ah still love you. Mom's just…well….you know she's always been like that." Wayne looked at her. She was telling the truth. Whatever his mutant powers did, he somehow knew that.
"Dad won't kick me out?" he asked quietly. His sister sighed and her grip around him tightened.
"No Wayne, he won't."
Dusk was setting in when the two Sneeden siblings walked home. Neither one spoke. Wayne felt himself stiffen when their father hobbled into view. The elder Sneeden's leg had been injured during the war. Robert Sneeden had been given a medical discharge because of his disability. The boy now felt guilty that his father had been frantically searching for him on a bad leg.
Wayne thought that his ribs were going to snap when the elder Sneeden male dropped his cane and hugged him tightly. Robin had been right, he had been worried sick. The young boy was shocked to find his father fighting back tears. Never once in his young life had he seen his father cry.
"Oh, thank God," Robert Sneeden muttered. He held his arms around his son while his daughter explained where she'd found him. The former army soldier nodded his head and led his two children inside. Wayne sat on the stained sofa. His father sat next to him.
"Wayne," his father finally said. "None of this is your fault. You haven't done anything wrong."
Wayne didn't say anything. He stared down at his hands. His swallowed again, wishing that he had some water. The elder Sneeden noticed and called out to his other child. Robin came back with a glass of water and handed it to her younger brother. Wayne gratefully gulped it down.
There was an awkward silence for a while. Wayne pretended that he didn't know every thought and emotion flowing through his father's mind. Try as he might, the elder Sneeden was worried about him. Society hated mutants and there was prejudice everywhere. If anything, Wayne was lucky to at least not look like a mutant.
"What am I going to do?" Wayne finally asked. He wasn't able to hide the trembling in his voice. "I won't be able to…" His father interrupted him before he could finish his sentence.
"You can do anything you want to do," Robert Sneeden told him sternly. After a moment, he gave a wry smile and added, "Well, except run away or quit school. You're going to graduate and show everyone that they are wrong about you."
His father patted his knee. Wayne felt much better about himself. He didn't how he was going to do any of it…how he was going to deal with any of it. But his dad was on his side and that was all that mattered.
"You mean it?" he asked quietly. Robert Sneeden placed a hand on his son's head and drew him close. Wayne reveled in the contact. His father wasn't the most affectionate of men, but he loved his children. The boy put an arm around the man he admired so much and gave him a brief hug. Surprise flitted through the older man's mind before a satisfied smile crossed his face. Robert Sneeden returned the hug.
"Son…" the Sneeden patriarch said. "You're going to change the world, one person at a time. You're going to show all those damned pogues that you can't keep a Sneeden down. That's an order."
Ten Years Later:
A young ranger was dying, shot through the heart by one of the mercenaries that had been hired by a local drug cartel. Pain was etched into his face as blood spurted out. His name was Amilio Bocaletti, a twenty-one year old Italian-American from the Bronx. He had been a gregarious young man, full of life and dedicated to his mission.
"Don't you dare die on me!"
The speaker pressed his hands against the exit wound. Twenty years old and on his first tour of duty as a ranger, Wayne Sneeden willed the blood to stop gushing. It refused his orders and continued to stain his hands red.
"Please don't die, Milio," the young ranger pleaded. They had gone through Benning together. They were battle buddies. Friends.
Milio's lips moved wordlessly. Blood dripped out of his mouth and the young man coughed. Wayne Sneeden watched helplessly as his friend began to choke on his own blood.
"Where's the danged medic?" he bellowed. Someone shouted a reply. Medic Reyner was patching up their unit commander and would be along shortly. Wayne Sneeden swore and pounded at the ground. Panama dirt clung to his bloody hands. The medic wasn't going to make it in time.
"Milio…." Wayne said softly. "Ah'm so sorry, Ah…"
Milio gurgled at him, trying to speak. His mind was quickly fading. Not sure what else to do, Wayne placed a hand on his friend's forehead. The other ranger was trying to communicate something. The least he could do was find out what. Wayne closed his eyes and sought out the other man's mind. The Alabama native wasn't very good with telepathy, but it was all he had.
Seconds later, Wayne was sucked down through the recesses of a dying man's mind. It was like being pulled through a black hole. The ranger tried to scream, but his voice had no echo on the psychic plane. Then, so faintly that Wayne wasn't sure he heard it, was the word 'Thanks'.
Emptiness. Wayne gasped when he found his mind back where it should be. Sweat trickled down his face. He didn't have to look down to know that Amilio Bocaletti was dead. Completely shaken by the death he had witnessed inside out, Wayne Sneeden laid his head on the chest of his fallen brother in arms and cried.
Note: In Silence, Professor Xavier discovered that Beach Head had unconsciously placed telepathic blocks in his mind that inhibited his powers. Wayne unconsciously put these barriers up as a result of the problems he was running into with his abilities when they first emerged. The incident with his mother, the three bullies, and the dead friend in Panama were reasons he did this without realizing it.
Note:Lifeline's background in the comics and the cartoon differs slightly. In the comics, his father was an abusive workaholic and there is no mention of a sister. It is unclear if he was a preacher, at least as far as I can tell. In the cartoon, his father was a pacifistic preacher and he has a sister. What seems to be the same for both canons is that father and son are estranged. Since I have already mentioned a sister previously in Silence, I will keep her as part of the story 'canon'. However, she doesn't make an appearance in this chapter. I have kept the part of Lifeline's father being abusive, as that was the impetus for him adopting pacifism. I have also portrayed him as a pastor, as a nod to the cartoon.
His father was screaming at him again. Twelve year old Edwin Steen flinched as he waited for the storm to pass over. If he was lucky, it would just be verbal abuse today.
It wasn't fair. His father was the pastor of their local church. He wasn't supposed to be like this. The elder Steen was supposed to be a loving father and a man of God. Maybe he'd been that way before his mother died. He wasn't now.
"I'm sorry," the scrawny boy said quietly. He looked younger than his age. Edwin knew he could pass as a ten year old, which didn't help his self-esteem.
"Sorry?" the man yelled. "Sorry for what? That you're a sorry excuse for a son? That you'll never amount to anything?" Edwin flinched again. He stared down at the floor. Hopefully today would be one of the better days. At least his sister wasn't here at the moment.
"You'll never be a man," his father sneered. "Not a real one." There was a hint of alcohol on his breath. Edwin had tried to hide the alcohol once, but his father had found out and beat him.
No one really knew that his father hurt him, of course. He was a pastor, a man of God. As a preacher's son, it was Edwin's lot to not complain and invoke his father's wrath or to bring shame on him. They lived in an affluent neighborhood, after all. It was shiny and bright, where nothing "bad" ever happened.
"Please Dad," Edwin pleaded. "I'm sorry, okay? I'll try harder." It didn't matter how hard he tried or what he did. His father continued to rain insults and fists down on his eldest child. It was all to make him a "man." It was bad enough that Edwin was already a target for bullies at school. Having his father as one didn't help.
"Stop begging!" His father roared. He raised a fist and Edwin drew back. He automatically raised an arm to protect himself, even though he knew it wouldn't work. Edwin braced himself for the inevitable blow and told himself that he wouldn't cry this time.
His father's fist connected. A split second later, Edwin's ears were suddenly assaulted by an inhuman scream of pain and the sounds of bone cracking. The terrified boy opened his eyes and saw his father cradling a broken arm. The older man's face was contorted with pain and shock.
Terrified, Edwin backed away from his father. His elbow accidentally knocked against a wooden end table. The tiny table exploded into wooden splinters and dust. Edwin gaped at what had once been a piece of furniture.
"Y…you…" His father sputtered, staring at him with wild eyes. "You're one of them…one of those sinful abominations…."
"I….I didn't mean…." Edwin was on the verge of tears now. Panic had taken a hold of him. He couldn't move or think. His body seemed rooted to the floor. The boy watched as his father seemed to move in slow motion. The man picked up a lamp and threw it at him. It inched forward through the air. Edwin blinked, not able to understand why everything was suddenly so slow. He moved to the left and watched as the lamp slowly flew past him and shattered against the wall. The boy looked back over to his father, who was also in slow motion. The man's mouth moved, but Edwin couldn't string together the long, drawn out sounds that were probably words.
He blinked again and things were back to normal speed.
"OUT!" His father screamed. "I WANT YOU OUT OF THIS HOUSE!"
Edwin stared at him. His father couldn't mean…he hadn't meant to…
His father screamed at him again. Edwin backed away. He couldn't leave…however bad this place was, it was his home. The boy had nowhere else to go.
"Dad," Edwin begged. "Please…I didn't mean…"
"I'M NOT YOUR FATHER, YOU FILTHY MUTIE!"
Edwin ran. With his heart racing in his chest, the boy fled out of the pristine, expensive looking house in an affluent neighborhood of Seattle. Colors and shapes blurred past him. When Edwin finally stopped, he froze with shock.
He was in a different neighborhood. The boy looked around in confusion. He had been heading towards his friend Jason's house. It was the only refuge that he had.
Edwin walked down a sidewalk. He didn't recognize anything. People milled past the confused twelve year old. Edwin noticed a pretty blonde girl close to his age, standing next to a woman that was probably her mother. The two females were standing near a post office.
"Mom, do I have to go to Uncle Ted's party?" the girl whined. Her mother shook her head.
"Courtney, for the last time…" the woman sighed. Edwin cleared his throat.
"Um…excuse me," he said shyly. Neither of the females heard him as they continued to argue about 'Uncle Ted's party.' Edwin asked again. He got two half glares. The boy swallowed his panic.
"Sorry…uh…where am I?" he asked meekly. "I'm a little lost."
"Lost?" the mother asked. "Where are your parents?" Edwin flinched at the question. A concerned expression came over the woman's face. She bent down with a motherly expression.
"This is 23 Street, about three blocks from the zoo," she said kindly. "Do you need some help?" Yes, Edwin thought, I need help.
"I'm okay, thanks," he said. Edwin Steen walked away from them, feeling more confused. He knew where the Seattle Zoo was and this didn't look like the area that was three blocks away. Maybe if he could find a payphone, he could call Jason for help.
Edwin passed by a newspaper machine. He froze and whipped around to stare at it. The local newspaper said the Peoria Journal Star. A feeling of dread filled his stomach when he leaned in closer. According to the title page of the newspaper, it was from Peoria, Illinois. He backed away from the newspaper machine and looked around. This couldn't be right. Why was a newspaper stand in Seattle, Washington carrying an Illinois newspaper?
The boy walked down the road and looked at every single shop he passed by. A convenience store had a poster on its window advertising the Illinois State Lottery. Panicking, Edwin took off at a run.
He stopped after what seemed like just a few seconds. Houses dotted an expanse of wide prairie. Edwin gulped as he searched for some sign of his new location. After some searching, he spotted a road sign far in the distance. Taking care to walk instead of run, the boy headed in its direction. He was shocked to find that he could clearly read the words on it, even though he was still a good quarter of a mile away.
Welcome to Saskatchewan
No way. Saskatchewan? He was in Saskatchewan? How the hell had he ended up here? How was he in Saskatchewan? Growing even more panicked, the young mutant turned around in a circle. No no no! Edwin picked a direction and took off at a run again. He stopped when he noticed something bluish-green underneath his feet and the boy immediately fell into water.
Edwin flailed around in a panic. He forced himself to calm down enough to tread water. His head popped back up to the surface.
Edwin Steen gazed around in shock. Miles of empty ocean surrounded him.
He burst into tears. The boy sobbed and continued to tread water. He had no idea how he was going to get out of this. Edwin no longer even knew what direction he'd come from. Thinking maybe he could try running again, the by now hysterical mutant found that he couldn't get back on top of the water.
This was it. He'd been kicked out of his house, discovered that he was a mutant with strange powers he couldn't control and as if that wasn't enough, he was going to drown to death. Edwin didn't even know which ocean he was in.
"Help!" he shouted. There was no one to hear him, but he shouted anyway. Maybe he would get lucky.
"Somebody please help me!"
Edwin began to pray. His father had destroyed much of his belief in God, but right now praying sounded pretty damned good. The boy didn't know how long he prayed and shouted for help, but he finally gave up.
He was going to die. Even though his arms didn't feel that tired yet, eventually they would. Edwin knew he couldn't keep treading water forever. His bottom lip trembled. He wasn't going to cry again. Crying wasn't going to get him out of this situation.
The boy picked a direction and began to swim. He swam as fast as he could. Edwin found that he couldn't swim as fast as he'd run. The young mutant also realized with dismay that he was getting disoriented by the lack of landmarks. For all he knew, he was going in circles.
"Help!" he shouted again.
"I heard you the first time, child," a voice said above him. Edwin forgot to tread water in his shock. He sank underneath the waves. A strong arm reached down and pulled him back up again. The boy found himself face to face with a tall, elven eared man. The strange man had black hair and wore nothing but a green Speedo like garment.
"Um…." Edwin stuttered. The man was floating above the water. He still had a strong grip on the boy's shirt. His rescuer held him up to face level and gazed at him with an aristocratic air. Edwin tried not to look too terrified by the man's intimidating stare.
"I am Namor," the man finally said. "What grieves you, young one?"
"I…uh…" he stammered. Edwin launched into a half hysterical account of what had occurred since his father had tried to punch him. The mysterious Namor listened impassively while Edwin told him everything, being too terrified to leave anything out.
"I see," the man said when he was done. "This is the first time that your powers manifested themselves." Not knowing what else to do, and uncomfortably aware that he owed his safety to this Namor, Edwin simply nodded his head.
"Do you have anywhere to go?" Namor asked. Edwin wracked his brain. There was one place he might be able to go. If that didn't work out, then he was effectively homeless.
"My friend Jason…his mom treats me like a second son," he stammered. "I might be able to go there. But that's in Seattle and I don't know where I am."
"The Atlantic," Namor replied. "About 150 kilometers off of the Norwegian coast." Edwin stared at him. None of this was possible. He was just having a bad dream that he would wake up from soon.
"I will help you back home," the man told him. He examined the scrawny child before giving a small sigh. "I wonder if you can fly as well."
"Fly?" Edwin asked meekly. "I can't fly." Namor raised an eyebrow and gave him an amused look.
"You ran halfway across the world and an ocean," the man said dryly. "I think it's more than possible." Edwin willed the bad dream to go away. Try as he might, however, reality wouldn't change. He was a mutant with superpowers. He'd been kicked out of his home and he was stranded in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
"How do I find out?" the boy asked sullenly. Namor's emotionless face studied him for a moment before the corner of his lips twitched slightly. Edwin gulped when the man wrapped an arm around him for a better grip. They floated high up into the air.
"Oh, I'm sure that we can test it on the way back to Seattle," Namor said dryly. A feeling of dread spiked through Edwin.
Several times back to Seattle, the mutant was subjected to various "tests" before he finally discovered that he could float in the air if he wanted to. Once Edwin discovered that, a feeling of joy rushed through him and he briefly forgot about his problems. The boy zipped around through the sky and enjoyed the feeling of the wind in his hair. He laughed in delight when he shot up through a cloud.
Reality came crashing back in when he noticed that Namor was watching him with crossed arms. Edwin had no idea how a man barely dressed could be so physically imposing. He floated back down to his rescuer. The twelve year old lowered his head and refused to look at him. The man had taken time out of his day to help and here he'd started playing with his powers and ignored him.
"Do not feel ashamed," the man said. "Look at me, young one." Edwin looked up at him. The man didn't look the least bit angry. Then again, he showed very little emotion at all. Namor gave him a satisfied nod before pointing towards the northwest.
"Seattle is that way," Namor told him. "I think you can find your own way now. This is where we part." The strange man gave him another nod before leaving him. Edwin watched him fly away. The boy floated in the air for a long time. After a while, he turned in the direction that Namor had pointed in. It took some trial and error, but Edwin finally managed to arrive in Seattle.
When he knocked on the door of his friend Jason's house, it was already dark. Edwin waited with bated breath until someone answered it. That person turned out to be Mrs. Woosley, the closest person he had to a mother figure in his young life.
"Edwin?" the portly woman asked him in surprise. "What's happened?" Edwin realized with a start that his clothing was torn and that his hair was in disarray. Tears rushed to his eyes when he remembered why he was here in the first place. A pair of gentle arms encircled him and drew him close.
"It's okay, honey," Mrs. Woosley said gently. "Come inside and we'll talk."
Unbeknownst to the boy, a hidden figure was watching him high above the city lights. Confident that the young mutant would be taken care of, Namor the Submariner took off in the skies. It would be years before they met again.
Note:I recall reading that Lifeline ran away from home/was kicked out when he was in high school and went to live with a friend. I couldn't find the source of this, so I could be wrong. I used this idea in this chapter, except he's in middle school instead of high school in this story. Also, the girl that Edwin met in Peoria, Illinois was a young Cover Girl. Peoria is her home town. Also, thanks to willwrite4fics for suggesting Peoria and Karama9 for her suggestion of Saskatchewan.
Ten years later:
Corporal Andrei "Nicky" Nikitin scribbled some numbers onto a form. Picking up a needle, he loaded it with a measles vaccine and stuck it into a jumpy recruit. The nervous young man gritted his teeth as his body was subjected to several rounds of vaccinations. Nikitin nodded his head at the young man. He signed the paper and handed it back to the recruit.
"Best of luck to you, Mr. Calhoun."
The army medic prepared his needles for the next recruit. The son of Russian immigrants, the corporal was stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. His job as one of the resident medics was to inoculate potential soldiers against infectious diseases.
A new recruit sat down nervously next to him. He was a scrawny young man with a recently shaved head of black hair. Nikitin glanced at the recruit while he waited for the kid to hand him the medical form. He'd seen scrawny recruits before. Many of them washed out. This one had a light frame and looked as if he were underweight. The drill instructors would fix that shortly.
He cleared his throat. The young man jumped and handed him the sheet of paper. Corporal Nikitin looked down at the name. Steen, Edwin. Birthplace: Seattle, Washington. The medic picked up a needle and held it up to the recruit. Nikitin prepared to run through his by now automated 'I need to vaccinate you, so sit still and shut up' speech.
"Which vaccine is that?" the scrawny recruit asked curiously. Nikitin blinked before telling him that it was for Rubella. He was surprised when Steen knew what it was, as most recruits didn't know or cared.
"I was an EMT," the recruit explained sheepishly. "I'm going to be a medic."
A hint of a smile twitched on his lips. Nikitin found himself rooting for the scrawny recruit, even though he knew he shouldn't play favorites. Medics had to stick together.
"Well then, good luck to you, Mr. Steen," he said. The corporal pressed the syringe against Steen's arm. He pressed down on the needle. There was a snap. Andrei Nikitin gaped as the needle broke off. He scratched his head and checked the recruit's arm for injuries. There appeared to be no puncture wound.
Edwin Steen cringed nervously. Nikitin hoped that he hadn't scared his fellow medic with the strange glitch.
"Don't worry," he assured the young man. "I'm not sure what happened. Let me give you the Meningococcal shot and I'll come back to the Rubella one." The corporal gaped when the second needle snapped off when he attempted to inject it. A trickle of sweat rolled down Recruit Steen's face.
Andrei Nikitin stared at the recruit with confusion. One needle break was a fluke, the second was strange. Consciously aware that the line of recruits needing vaccinations was being held up, the medic picked up the measles vaccine. The needle broke again.
What the fucking hell?
"What's the hold up, Nikitin?" One of the drill instructors shouted. "Get a move on, you danged medic!"
Corporal Nikitin stared at the clearly frightened recruit. Dark, pleading eyes stared back at him. Son of a bitch. He had a feeling that the recruit knew why the needles wouldn't go in. The corporal tried another needle and found the same result. Agitated now, he took a deep breath to calm down. There had to be…he blinked…there had to be a logical explanation.
Logical…as in superpowers?
Nikiton hesitated a moment before leaning in closer to the young man. He lowered his voice until it was barely a whisper.
"Are you…one of them?" he asked quietly. He didn't say the word mutant, but Nikitin figured that it was understood. A look of panic shot across Steen's face before he finally gave a short nod. The medic debated on what to do. He didn't want to out the young man, but it was against regulations not to give him the vaccines. Then again, if he was a mutant, he possibly didn't need to be inoculated against any diseases.
Ah fucking hell, he'd better not regret this. This could get him into a shit storm of trouble.
He picked up an empty syringe and moved his body between Steen and the view of the next recruit. Nikitin pretended to inject the nervous mutant with the vaccines. He marked the check boxes on the sheet of paper, signed it, and handed it back to the grateful Edwin Steen.
"I can cover for you this time," Nikitin told him quietly. "The next medic may not be so willing to help you." Steen gave him a grateful nod and left. The army corporal gave a heavy sigh and turned back to the line of waiting recruits.
Edwin sighed as he swept his eyes around the barracks. He was on fire guard duty, which meant that he and one other recruit were responsible for keeping an eye out for trouble. The other recruit, a Minnesota native, gave him a curt nod from the other side of the barracks. Good, no trouble. At least no one was trying to sneak out tonight. The mutant sighed again and did his best not to eavesdrop on the various conversations taking place inside and outside the barracks.
"…got cookies again, I know it. The danged bastard won't share…"
"Five weeks left guys, we're halfway through…"
Another snippet of conversation attracted his attention. This one was taking place outside among some of the instructors.
"…son of a bitchin pacifist. I can't believe…"
"We've been through this, Sanchez. He hasn't complained about the weapons training, even if he won't ever pick up a weapon again." Edwin recognized that voice. It belonged to one of the machine gun instructors.
"Even so," a third voice said. "He's not trying. Steen's doing well with the PT, but he's capable of doing better, he just tries to hide it. I don't know how the fucking hell a scrawny guy like him is doing so well." Edwin cringed as he listened to his drill sergeant, Jordan Lukas. Sergeant Lukas was probably the scariest man that he'd ever met, with the exception of his father. Nothing Edwin did ever satisfied Lukas and he'd done more pushups and punishment duty than he cared to remember.
Dammit. Edwin had tried his best to hide his mutation, but his drill leaders could still see that he wasn't being pushed physically. A horrible feeling sunk in his chest. They were going to wash him out, he knew it. The mutant didn't know what he'd do if that happened. Yes, he was a pacifist, but he wanted to be a combat medic. He wanted to treat wounds and help soldiers in the field. Edwin turned his attention away from the instructors. Eavesdropping would only worsen his mood.
His hour shift eventually ended and a new pair of recruits took over their fire guard duties. Edwin crawled into his bunk, but couldn't sleep. When his eyes finally closed, it was about an hour before the wakeup call.
The next few days went by in a blur. Since the drill leaders had observed that he was capable of doing more, Edwin made himself move slightly faster. He also tried to act more exhausted. None of it seemed to fool Sergeant Lukas, who continued to scream and bellow at him. It was during one of his punishment duties that Edwin spotted Medic Nikitin eyeing him from a doorway. Their eyes met briefly before the mutant looked away. Edwin dipped his sponge back into the pail of soapy water and continued to scrub the latrine floors.
They were just beginning Phase III of basic training when Lukas finally pulled him aside during the recruits' personal hour, just before lights out. Sweat trickled down the nape of his neck as he followed after the drill instructor. This was it; he was going to get kicked out. Tension ran through his shoulders and up his neck. Edwin forced himself to keep breathing.
A door shut behind him after they entered an office. Edwin braced himself as the tall African-American sergeant turned around to study him carefully. His face seemed as if it were etched from ebony. Finally, after a long moment, his DI motioned to a chair and ordered him to sit. Edwin sat.
"Do you know why you're here, recruit?" Sergeant Jordan Lukas asked. Edwin wanted to shake his head no, but knew that he would be caught in a lie. Instead, he gave a short nod.
"I'm not pushing myself enough," he said quietly. A pair of dark eyes bore into him. They were like twin pools of black ink. Edwin shifted uncomfortably.
"I'm sorry sir…" he started.
"I ain't a 'sir' recruit!"
"I'm sorry, sarge," Edwin corrected sheepishly. "I just…" he trailed off. How the hell did he explain any of it without getting kicked out? It wasn't that he wasn't being challenged. The mental and psychological elements of basic training pushed him to his limits. It was the physical training that was the problem. The DI stared silently at him for a moment before leaning back in his chair.
"Off the record," Sergeant Lukas said quietly. "I had a little talk with Corporal Nikitin. He told me about the vaccinations."
Edwin's body froze. He couldn't help it. His heart sped up in his chest as he eyed the drill leader warily. One person knowing about his mutation was bad enough. It would be even harder to keep a secret with two.
"Am I…getting kicked out?" he asked quietly. His sergeant sent him such a sharp glare that it made him sit up straight. After a long moment, Lukas shook his head. Edwin felt his tension drain slightly. He watched as his drill instructor stood up and paced around the small office. Jordan Lukas finally came to a stop before a painting of President Truman.
"Truman desegregated the military in 1948," Sergeant Lukas said, almost to himself. "Before that, people with my skin color had to serve separately. Most of the time we had to be in support roles and weren't allowed into combat." The imposing drill leader turned around to look at the scrawny recruit.
"My mama was in the Birmingham March, recruit," the sergeant told him. "I ain't gonna judge you for being a mutant. However…" the man trailed off for a while. The sergeant circled him and Edwin shifted uneasily.
"You're too obvious," Lukas finally told him. "You've tried to hide it, but the DIs can all tell that you're not straining yourself physically like the others. We need to work on that."
From that point on, Edwin's spare time was spent with Sergeant Lukas working on how to better hide his powers. The DI continued to bellow at him and push him, but he also became a fellow conspirator. The remaining weeks of boot camp blew by until it was finally graduation day.
It was the proudest day of his young life when he marched in front of the gathered crowds of family members. Mrs. Woosley, who had taken him in and raised him as a second son, had made the trip with his friend Jason. Edwin caught sight of her in the crowds. Tears rolled down her face as she beamed at him.
However, it was the meeting with Sergeant Lukas after the graduation ceremony that stuck with him for the rest of his life. Edwin gave the man a sharp salute when he saw him approaching. He owed this man and Medic Nikitin. Without them, he wouldn't have made it through basic training.
"At ease, private," the man told him. There was a satisfied grin on Lukas's face. They shook hands. Edwin thanked him for all that he had done. The sergeant simply nodded in reply.
"I suppose you're off to Sam Houston for training?" his DI asked. Edwin nodded. Fort Sam Houston was the training center for army medics. Sergeant Lukas looked pleased by his response.
"Good," Lukas told him. "We need good medics. By the way, this is for you." Edwin blinked when his drill leader handed him an envelope. The future Joe stared at it a long moment before taking it. He was careful not to crush it as he slid his finger through the seal. Edwin pulled out the card, which was a simple green card with the army's emblem on the front cover.
He opened it and a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. fell out. Edwin flipped it around and saw that the sergeant had written 'Never give up' on the back of it. The inside of the blank card simply stated, "Remember why you wear that uniform. Good luck, Sgt. Jordan Lukas."
"Thank you, sir," Edwin told him. An irritated expression crossed the taller man's face and the army private mentally slapped himself.
"Don't call me sir!"
"Yes sergeant," he corrected. Lukas sighed. After a moment, he gave the smaller man a grin and patted his shoulder.
"Lord help me, Steen, you'll give me an aneurism yet. Hopefully your next sergeant can fix your desire to call every damn person a sir." Edwin gave him a sheepish look. However, Lukas simply shook his head and held out a well-muscled hand.
"Good luck in the world, Steen," his drill sergeant told him. "I hope that someday you can stop hiding."
"Thank you," Edwin told him. "I owe everything to you."
He saluted the sergeant again. It was the last time that they ever met. However, Edwin never forgot what the man had done for him. The picture of Martin Luther King Jr. was framed and later hung in his office at the GI Joe Pit. Sergeant Lukas's card was kept in a small box of mementos. On occasion, the man known as Lifeline would pull the card out and stare at it the inscription inside of it.
"Remember why you wear that uniform."
Edwin Steen never forgot. Once, when Doc asked him about the card, the mutant simply told him that it was from a man who had given him a chance. Doctor Carl Greer had responded with a raised eyebrow, but hadn't asked any questions. Doc was good about that, even when his pacifistic protégé insisted on doing his own vaccinations.
Note: Thanks to willwrite4fics and Karama9 for offering comments.