Disclaimer: I don't own the X-Men or any of their characters. Tora and Weapon X-ii are my own though.
The woman sat motionless, gazing into the infinite depths of the water below. So sad. Nothing left. She had failed. Reaching out, a single finger touched the smooth surface, spreading ripples across the glassy pool. When the waters had settle, an image had appeared on it. A little girl, scared, alone. Her red hair shorn short, dressed in a loose white robe. Once again, the hand reached out, but when the finger touched the water, the image did not distort, but began to move.
The little girl cried, sobbing for a family she barely remembered. A word she knew was important slid past her lips.
The smooth, featureless metal walls began to distort and a tall bearded man in a pristine lab-coat entered. The girl withdrew, suddenly terrified. The man's lips twitched, as if he was holding back a smile. The child drew back, only to find the chain around her wrists and neck had tightened, preventing movement. A dart fired from the wall, hitting her in the arm. A slight widening of the eyes, a flash of fear and then she was unconscious. The man busied himself, removing the heavy chains swiftly before signalling the stretcher through. The child was lifted as if she weighed nothing, placed with infinite care on the rough white material. Moving fast through the corridors, the man began readying himself.
The theatre was pristine, unused. With a slight smile he placed on the mask and gloves, as a strip of hair was shaved from the child's head, leaving an area perfect for entry. The shining pieces of metal on the tray, destined for the girl's brain, glistened, full of knowledge. Knowledge that would make the perfect weapon. Knowledge of what she one day would be. Humming softly to himself, he picked up the delicate scalpel for the first incision…
The girl sat, groggy and confused in her cell, feeling the blood dry on the back of her head. Thoughts that didn't belong to her were rushing through her head, too fast for a three-year-old to comprehend.
"The recoil on a AK-47 is…"
"The expert in battle moves the enemy…"
"A fatal mistake in unarmed combat is to…"
"A single strike to the suprastrenal notch can cause severe internal bleeding…"
As the first sting of a salty tear began to well up at this intrusion to her thoughts, she realized she could understand the words spoken outside the cell for the first time in their entirety, instead of the few words she had picked up over time.
"Did the Prof say what this thing was capable of?"
"No, but the way he's acting, it'll be better than an army."
"You're telling me. Apparently, the first one killed everyone in the facility in under ten minutes when it broke out."
"And we're guarding this thing?"
"Don't worry. The last one was an adult. The most this one can do is bite our ankles."
"I don't know. I can't help but feel a little bad. Locking up a kid and all…"
"Are you kidding? That isn't a kid, okay? That's a weapon in training. Don't ever yet the Prof hear you call it a kid."
An image flashed through her head. A man. Short. Dark hair. Snarl sneaking past his lips. Three claws, gleaming with metal extended through his hand, standing over a man, bleeding on the floor. And then a whisper in the darkest corner of her mind.
"This is what you will one day be…"
Scared, alone and not even safe in her own head anymore, the girl-weapon cried herself to sleep.
The woman leaned back, a sad smile on her lips. So scared. So alone. She longed to reach out, give the child a promise of the beautiful things to come. But she couldn't. There was nothing left to reach out to. The waters swirled, blurring the sleeping girl and replacing it with another image. The same girl, now a few years older, her hair growing into a bob, with a single defiant black streak against the red. Dressed in identical white robes and holding a sword with two hands, trying hard not to over balance. The woman looked at the image and then, almost as if she didn't care- how could she not care, she cared so, so much- waved a hand, starting the image moving.
The girl danced, dodging the lasers and ducking under darts. The sword flashed and a flying bot was cut down in midair. The sweat running down her face was a testament to the difficult challenge. The Professor was watching with interest. Of course he was. Here was his experiment, his creation, running a gauntlet most adult agents at the peak of their ability couldn't handle. Even at six years of age, it appeared he had chosen well. Even though the digital implants enhanced her learning ability a hundredfold, she appeared to be naturally intelligent, agile and resilient to anything they could throw at her.
"And that is without it's power activated…"
The child finished with a broad sweep of the sword, decapitating the final robot. She held the sword, which was almost as big as she was tall, in a momentary salute before allowing her exhausted arms to drop. Instantly, a huge shock of electricity from the collar around her neck caused her to snap back to attention, a single tear rolling down her other impassive face. Once again, there was the hum of electricity as the collar did its job. The Professor strode out and began berating her.
"Tears are weak! We have no weaklings here! And show respect. The exercise has not finished until the instructor says it has. What are you?"
There was a flash of something, almost rebellious, in her eyes until the veil of indifference dropped down and she replied in a dull monotone.
"I am a weakling. I am nothing. I am not worthy of the honour bestowed on me. I will never be Weapon X. I owe my life to the Professor's kindness. I will be the best. I will be Weapon X-ii."
The Professor smiled and turned away. Deep down, in a twisted way, he cared for the child. She would be his legacy. She was perfect. And her spirit was his.
The woman watched in silence as scene after scene of this barbaric cruelty ensured. The girl grew stronger, the tasks harder, the thanks less. She began to listen, to learn. Not out of choice, but out of a desperate need to be recognized. She learned what was already in her mind. It wasn't so much being taught as being reminded. She grew faster than a child should, becoming an adult in some areas, a child in others. Gradually she was almost trusted. No more was she tranquillized any time they wanted to take her anywhere. The chains were still there, but they were slowly loosened. She was able to move, explore the room that was her home. But it wouldn't be her home for long.
The girl entered the room, exhausted after training. She had done well enough to be allowed sleep and food. A stirring in the corner had her on instant alert, hands snapping up to a guard position, feet moving quickly, taking her weight on the back leg, ready to snap round in a roundhouse kick. The bundle in the corner moaned again, more pitiful than threatening. She moved closer, warily but not with her usual caution. Her steps were carefully placed, silent. She didn't walk like a child. She walked like a predator. A dishevelled head, eyes red with tears, appeared from under the blanket, saw the girl and ducked back in as a hand swung round, smashing into the concrete floor. The head peered out again and saw the same expression of fear and surprise on the girls face as it's own. Gradually, almost as if to show it meant no harm, the figure uncurled and stood up. A second girl, gangly and awkward looking, all arms and legs, gazing at the other, wary, graceful girl, a whole head shorter but who could obviously beat the other in an instant if required. The eyes were different as well. The newcomer's eyes were those of a child, innocent and scared. The shorter girl had a look of world-weariness not seen even in adults and suggested suffering and sorrow. But there was still a hint of steel in their golden depths, as if there was still a little uncrushed spirit, still a child deep down. The other girl seemed to sense her confusion and launched in.
"I'm Eva. Who are you?"
The girl's mind raced, finding the language in her data banks and translating it.
If Eva was surprised, she didn't show it.
"Too long. I'll just call you Xii."
The girl appeared surprised. In all her years, no one had ever treated her with such frank friendliness. Tentatively she tried the facial expression of the other. The corners of her mouth moved up and her lips parted, showing her teeth. The result was astonishing.
Eva flung her arms around the newly named Xii and gave her an exuberant hug. Only for both to be racked with the pains of an electric shock. Xii remained upright, the smile dropping from her face and went silently to stand against the wall and place her arms above her head for the cuffs to slide out of the wall to shackle her wrists. Her eyes showed only resignation and sorrow that the hard work of the day had gone unrewarded. Eva lay crying on the floor, as shock after shock ran through her body and she couldn't stop the tears.
Xii just sat and looked on. Even when the other girl looked at her pleadingly, she didn't react. She stared into space and tried to escape the living hell of her life.
Once more the woman moved back from the water. Her face was pensive, thoughtful. The girl Eva was so full of life. She had obviously grown up in a normal family. It was Xii who was the enigma, Xii who she was interested in. The child who was an adult and a weapon and so many other things. The child with a heart of fire and ice and a spirit of adamantium. The girl with a thousand names. The girl with so much to gain…and so much to lose.
The two girls danced around in a barrage of lasers. Xii was still swifter, stronger but Eva had lost her awkwardness. They were best of friends. Xii carried the brunt of the work and Eva helped in her own, unique way. She reached out to the image of a gun on the wall and concentrated. The image solidified and burst out of the wall and she threw the gun to Xii, who immediately began the difficult task of shooting the weaponry on the walls. They moved in unison, graceful and smooth, towards the next image and the one after that. Eva's mutant ability keeping them safe, while Xii's perfect aim, a mixture of natural talent, training and data banks, prevented either from going down to a burst of white fire. The last turret fell and the girls exchanged smiles. They had grown closer as the years went by, with Xii showing Eva the ropes and helping her when she wasn't strong enough to complete tasks. Strictly speaking, Eva was Eden. But she still remembered the family who had sold her on discovery their third child was a mutant and sometimes thought about her brothers. For Xii, Eva was her only family. Their only other friend had been a guard, the one who had expressed doubts about "locking up a kid", who had become their greatest ally. He talked to them and they learnt more from him of the world than anywhere else. He had remained out of a need to protect the two children who were growing up faster than a child deserved. At ten, they acted more like people who had lived a lifetime. He had left though. Xii never mentioned the sound of a gunshot she had heard on the night he had signed off for the last time.
The woman sat back. She wished she could go back and tell the man what he had done. He had given a child the chance to be a child. The waters swirled again and she recoiled. Not this. Please not this. She didn't want to see this again. But the images moved on regardless.
The two girls squeezed through the ventilation shaft. It was hot and every ten seconds a blast of air sent them sliding backwards. It had been the work of years. They had studied schematics, sketched portraits of themselves on the wall. To the guards watching, the two girls were sleeping in their cots. It was the tenth anniversary of Xii's arrival. She was twelve. Eva was thirteen. Just. She had used much of her energy creating bodies from the sketches, effectively brain-dead clones. Xii was helping carry her. Finally, they pushed back the last air vent and stepped into the driving blizzard. They struggled through wave after wave of thick snow, one girl carrying the weight of the other. Both were strong and healthy, but neither had eaten that day and they weren't going to last long. Sooner or later something was going to go wrong. Xii took a step wrong, caught her ankle in a hidden burrow, fell and heard her leg give a sickening crack. Eva stopped, but Xii waved her on, a single word passing through her lips that passed a death sentence on one of them.
Eva looked back once, then continued, as Xii lay back and waited for the howling dogs to find her.
Once more the woman looked on in sadness as Xii was found, half dead from exposure and pain.
The guards were shocked. Years of being told to care for the Weapon and now they were being told to punish her, it, as they saw fit. They had finally decided on the dogs. She sat there, expressionless. Gazing through the unbreakable glass, golden feline eyes locked in them. The dogs attacked and a slight whimper past her lips and then nothing. She sat as wave after wave of pain ran through her. Suddenly, the door slid back and a body was thrown in. Eva. Broken, the life passing from her as Xii pushed her way through the vicious dogs to get close. But as she reached her, she smelt the life slip from her battered body. Xii screamed. The scream of someone who had lost their dearest friend, their only reason for living. Her hands bunched into fists and sudden pain caused her to scream again. Smooth bone slid from her hands, passing through her finger joints, telescopicically unfurling, lengthening. At the same time, the wounds in her stomach and legs began to heal. Pain beyond any torture the Professor could devise ran through her and a rage so cold and terrible lost the child. There was no Xii, just the beast, the murderer. The human who moved so fast and so ruthlessly that the dogs didn't know what hit them. Then the child gained control and screamed. She screamed with the pain of someone who had lost their innocence forever.
The woman again paused in her reflections. Was that it? The first time the beast had been released. How crude. That anger wasn't animal. That was the anger of the worst of humanity. An animal's rage is pure. And the emotions swirling from the pool were tainted with hate and fear and cruelty. And above all, a thirst for revenge.