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Disclaimer: The characters of Angel are owned by 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy; the character of Wolverine is also owned by 20th Century Fox and Marvel Comics. No copyright infringement is intended. I'm not making any money off of this, but if you'd like to be-------------------------------------------
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Summary: A search for the missing Marcus leads Logan and Scott to a mysterious killer, one who can
wipe out dozens of people without leaving a trace. But how can you prepare to take on a threat of
this magnitude when you don't know exactly what you're dealing with?
Notes: Takes place shortly after "X2" and immediately after "Land Of The Blind".
“I’m a dead man.”
That wasn’t what you expected to hear when you turned on an answering machine. Certainly not the Professor’s answering machine, at nine in the morning. And yet there it was, complete with small explosive noises in the back ground - “thoomb thoomb” - that Scott instantly deduced must have been gunshots. The voice was very deep and masculine, and although the connection was poor (he was clearly on a cell phone), it could only be Marcus, Logan’s amoral mercenary friend. Was he the one shooting, was someone shooting at him, or both? Knowing him, both.
“I fucked up, Logan,” the ghostly voice of Marcus continued, while the shooting also continued in the background. Scott stared at the machine as if it would help, the sunlight pouring in through the window warming his back. “This place, th -” A huge burst of static so loud it made him wince obliterated whatever it was Marcus said. Was that natural? He didn’t think so; Scott knew cell phone reception could be pretty shitty, but that sounded like some kind of electromagnetic burst. “ - inda accident, something got loose, I don’t know what, but it’s -” More static, more gunshots, more words he couldn’t make out. “ - se help, even if it’s just to pick up the pieces. This is totally fu -” A final burst of static, and the connection just died.
Scott stared at the answering machine until the machine turned itself off with a click loud enough to make him start. The Professor really needed to get himself voice mail or something.
What was he supposed to do now? He wasn’t even supposed to be in the Professor’s office.
It was weird, but even though it had happened before, it still stunned him when Xavier got sick. A nasty cold had been working its way around the mansion for the good part of a month now, and Xavier had finally fallen victim to it (Scott had gotten it himself a couple of weeks ago). He was so miserable and zonked out on cold meds that he was staying in bed today, and Scott was trying to juggle the Professor’s schedule around, because he wasn’t a great teacher of quantum physics. Yes, the Professor was as Human as any of them, but it always caught him off guard when he got sick. Why he had no idea. Anyone else could get sick, and he wouldn’t think anything of it, but Xavier being ill rattled him.
Now this. He tried to star sixty nine the number, but couldn’t; a trace also proved pointless. He’d have to roust Xavier out of bed to use Cerebro to find Marcus … but Xavier was in no shape to do that. Hell, he took Nyquil - he might not be up for days. Besides, this was Marcus; it was possible he got exactly what he deserved. A hapless victim that fought back a lot harder than anticipated.
He stood there, wondering what he was going to do.
Where was Logan right now anyways?
It had been a very long night of vampire and demon hunting, and the sun was on the verge of coming up. So what better time to show Angel the new place?
He didn’t yet tell him it was his. He had told Angel he had inadvertently inherited it from a “guy he helped out once” - he didn’t bother to add this “guy” happened to be the former head of the L.A. branch of the Triad, as that seemed beside the point anyways. Angel walked through the place, letting out a low whistle of admiration. Logan sat on the leather sofa in the living room, slumped back, not hurt - tonight had been far too easy; that nest of vampires in an old tenement on the East Side were a disappointing bunch of pussies - just tired. Maybe it was because he exchanged small talk with Naomi, who was as beautiful as ever, and looked at him with just the merest hint of recognition. She recognized him as Angel’s friend, the guy who visited her once shortly after that whole “Canadian thing”, and that’s all. He thought taking out the frustration on a bunch of bloodsuckers would make him feel better, but it didn’t. He just felt old and shriveled inside - here was anothe! r woman he had to let go for his own good. And hers, whether she knew it or not. He was just bad news, poison to everyone he loved. He should really just stick to casual flings; he didn’t think he could take much more of these emotional beatings. They didn’t seem to heal like the physical ones.
“Is this a real Klee?” Angel called from the bedroom.
“I dunno,” Logan replied with a weary sigh. “Maybe you can find some way to figure it out. It’s yours.”
Angel returned to the living room, his footfalls soft on the carpet. “Huh? You’re giving me the painting?”
“I’m givin’ you the place. I don’t wanna live here.”
Angel stared at him like he’d just ripped the head off a bunny. “Are you nuts? Why don’t you want to live here? It’s great!”
“I meant California. I don’t wanna live in California.”
His expression of surprise faded to one of understanding. “Well, okay, I could see that. But I don’t want to take your place.”
He was afraid he might say something like that. At least he had a counter. “I need someone to look after this joint, don’t I? I trust ya not to have an orgy or kick the couch out the window.”
“I can’t have an orgy?” He replied, giving him a strangely goofy grin. Well, goofy for him, anyways.
Angel was in a good mood, and why not? He was back - alive (well, undead), not dead - and things were going pretty well. He had a new team, consisting of Giles, Naomi, and Brendan, which covered a lot of bases - Giles knew everything there was to know about demons, and was a high level spell slinger; Naomi was electrical girl, which certainly made her a lot less vulnerable to big nasties; and Brendan had a lot of street connections, as well as an “in” with the Church of the Stone Temple, which was actually more valuable than it seemed. And the Sisters were always willing to give him a hand, although Angel was naturally reluctant to accept their help. It was a good team, though; solid, tough, capable of facing just about everything. They didn’t need him around.
But he wasn’t ready to go back to Xavier’s either. The truth was, he just needed to get away sometimes, and he felt that urge now. No, it really wasn’t ideal for him to be alone with his thoughts, ever, but he did need to break away from people now and again. He had an urge to go back to Canada, get lost in the woods for a while. He’d probably be a more decent person afterwards. If that was possible.
“Only if you invite me,” Logan replied, with a tired smirk.
“Now how fair is that? You’re here what? Once every few months?”
He was teasing him, but Logan was honestly too tired for it. He was back to not sleeping well, although he wasn’t sure he’d ever actually slept well. Less badly was probably the only way to put it. “Yeah, well, deal with it, Sparky.” He picked up the window remote, and hit the button blacking out the windows. Angel watched the darkness spread through the glass with something like wonderment. “Thought it was startin’ to get sunny in here.”
“Wow,” he gasped, staring at the now black glass. “That is so fucking cool.”
“I thought you’d like that.” He tossed him the remote, and levered himself to his feet. “Just don’t push the button again ‘til the sun goes down.”
“Sure thing.” He put the remote down on the coffee table, and simply the way he hesitated let Logan know he was about to bring up an uncomfortable topic. “Um, are you okay?”
He raised an eyebrow at him, trying to warn him off with a look. “I’m fine. Those idiots weren’t even able to lay a fang on me.”
He shook his head vigorously. “No, I’m not talking about tonight. I mean in general. These last couple of days, you’ve seemed … I don’t know. More taciturn than usual.”
He shrugged. “I’m just tired, that’s all. Don’t feel like talking.”
Angel’s look was skeptical, and yet pitying, which he didn’t like at all. “It’s about Naomi, isn’t it?”
“No, it’s not. I just need to get some sleep, okay?” He knew he was getting angry, and he also knew if he did, he’d basically be confirming Angel’s hypothesis that this was all about Naomi. It wasn’t all about her, just part. “I’ll be okay, I just need to get my head together. And don’t say that’ll take me forever - you know what I mean.”
Angel didn’t even attempt to crack a smile, which made him nervous. “Yeah, I know. If I can help at all …”
“I know. Thanks.” He headed for the door, eager to get out of here before things turned any more maudlin. Angel let him, probably not wanting that either.
Logan knew he couldn’t really have a headache - not unless he took a massive shot to the head - but it felt like he had a leaden fog hovering inside his brain. Being exhausted could do that to him, but he had been sleeping lately, in a scattershot fashion. Could he be … depressed? God, if that was true, that was disappointing. It meant he’d stayed here way too long. He needed to get his mind off himself and his latest emotional disasters before he ceased to tolerate himself.
He’d left the building and was barely four steps away from the door, just exposed to the cool pre-dawn air (it seemed to be the only time L.A. was actually cool this time of year), when he saw Brendan leaning against Thrak’s violently chartreuse taxi. Logan scowled at him. “What are you doin’ here?”
Brendan held up his cell phone. “Scott wants to talk to you.”
He groaned and rubbed his eyes. “Couldn’t you tell him I’m dead or something?”
“He said it’s about Marcus.”
He felt a cold twinge in his stomach, and held out his hand, gesturing for the phone. Scott didn’t hide his dislike of Marc, so if he was calling about him, either Marcus had done something he was really pissed off about, or … well actually he couldn’t imagine a second scenario. Marc had pissed him off. Was it an old grudge, or a new one? “What is it?” he snapped into the phone, looking out on the street. The traffic was picking up, but it was still remarkably sparse for Los Angeles. This was pretty much the only time to even attempt to navigate the streets.
Scott sighed, as if he found his annoyance equally annoying. “I think something’s happened to Marcus.”
Okay, maybe he needed to get his mind off himself, but he wasn’t sure he needed to do so quite this badly.
Logan found himself in a coffee shop, staring at a tea he actually didn’t want and listening to Marc’s phone message, as Scott played it for him.
That burst of static he didn’t like. It was electrical interference, some kind of electro-magnetic burst, most likely to block out all forms of communication (meaning the first “shot” wasn’t quite good enough; the second shot successfully took out the phone), which raised a few questions. There weren’t a lot of people who would have access to a device like that, and fewer still who would actually risk using it. A burst of that intensity could, at least in theory, kill a person too. But the most troubling thing was Marc asking for his help in the first place; with his whole machismo thing, he wouldn’t do so unless he really thought there was a good chance he’d get his ass killed. But then again, he did say he was dead, didn’t he?
The message ended for what was the fifth time, and Scott asked, “Get anything new out of that?”
“No. I’ve made out all I’m gonna hear over the phone. Has Xavier tracked him down yet?”
“He’s still out. I’d really rather not wake him ‘til later -”
“’Cause it’s Marc, right?” he spat bitterly.
“No, because he is genuinely ill,” Scott shot back. He paused, perhaps to keep his temper in check, and then said in a more reasonable tone, “Was he tracking down the Organization again?”
“I dunno. You’d think, but he’s still a merc; he has to make a living.” He rubbed his neck, and wished Marc had given him more to go on, but perhaps he had, and that damn electromagnetic interference took it out.
There was only one thing he could do, one lead he could follow. He had to go to Marc’s place and see if he left any hint of where he had gone.
Man, if he was always going to end up playing detective, he was going to need to get a fucking license.
In a way, he was lucky. Rags wasn’t too hung over to give him a lift via teleportation spell. But the negative part of his otherwise good luck was that Rags wasn’t hung over because he was still drunk. Not sloppy drunk, but drunk enough that he sometimes spoke in all accent - no discernable words, just random Cockney syllables. But from how belligerent he got when he didn’t answer him, Logan figured Rags didn’t realize he was speaking gibberish.
At least Rags got him to Baltimore, which was more than he thought he could actually do. Of course, he missed Marc’s apartment, and actually put them smack dab in the middle of the street in front of the building. It was dumb luck that there wasn’t a car coming down that road at that very moment, otherwise Rags would have been road kill. (He wouldn’t have been - it wasn’t like he hadn’t been hit by a car before.) Since he didn’t want to shred the building’s security system, he got Rags to teleport them inside, but they ended up materializing on the stairwell, and if Logan hadn’t reached out and snagged him, Rags would have gone tumbling head first down the stairs. “Tung ew,” Rags muttered, nearly losing his balance again. His alcoholism was as dangerous as it was annoying, but Logan knew he really couldn’t be that angry at him, because if booze effected him at all, he’d never stop being drunk. There was comfort in oblivion, even if it did kill your liver.
He told Rags to wait in the hall as he popped a single blade and jimmied open Marc’s door. And he’d just had it repaired from the last time he’d done it. Oh well.
Marc still had one of the neatest bachelor apartments ever, and even though it was stuffy in here because the air conditioning wasn’t on, it didn’t have that musty, slightly unpleasant smell of a sealed room. Logan did a quick, brief visual survey, looking for anything that might be remotely helpful. But Marc was neat as well as slightly paranoid, so he knew he probably wouldn’t have left anything out in the open.
He checked the kitchen garbage can beneath the sink, but it was empty - he must have tossed it out before he left. (That might explain the lack of a bad smell.) He looked in the fridge, which was surprisingly empty of fresh food, but had a good stock of beer, soda, and energy drinks. He grabbed a bottle of microbrew and took a good swig before continuing.
On Marc’s coffee table was a small pile of junk mail, and a book with the curious title “I Dream of Microwaves”, and the even more curious cover photo of a man with his head hidden inside an oven, and the rest of his slightly lumpy body sprawled out of it. He bet Marc just picked it up for that cover alone. He had a bookmark in it, but at the end - in fact, a quick scan of his crowded bookshelf turned up bookmarks in nearly every book (and what a thing to see books by Nietzche and John Stuart Mill sandwiched in between graphic novels and The Dead Zone), suggesting he simply left them in the books he used them in. He checked the bookmark anyways, but it was just a folded page from a George Carlin “page-a-day” calendar, from April first. There was nothing written on it, and the small paragraph itself - about not having any “cool” crimes when George was a kid - was no help at all.
He took a look at his DVD shelf, as he spied a piece of paper wedged in between The Usual Suspects and Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law (god, what a psychological portrait his movies and books could paint of him - mainly that he was really, really weird), but it was just the receipt of a light bill from three months ago. “You want me to find you, you bastard,” Logan muttered to himself. “Give me a fucking clue here.”
His bedroom was neat, his bed made, and a search of the nightstand turned up only a “little black book” filled with both women and men’s names, a half empty box of condoms, and a Browning Pro-40 handgun, with half a clip of a hollow points and the safety on. He wondered if any of his paramours had ever found it, subsequently wondering who the hell they had gone home with.
The closet and dresser were full of clothes, but nothing remotely helpful. The bathroom was his last resort, and it too was neat enough to make him give up instantly. But he checked beneath the sink, where the bathroom garbage can was, and actually found some crumpled bits of paper. He grabbed them and smoothed them out on his grey slate floor. One of the pieces of paper was an envelope, the type you got a plane ticket in - and it was for Scandinavian Airlines. The other was a receipt from the neighborhood Walgreens, dated about a week ago, and showed purchases of many “travel sized” items, including shaving cream, toothpaste, and Excedrin. The third piece of paper was a receipt from a gun shop, where he bought an absolute buttload of ammunition.
So he was somewhere in Scandinavia? What the hell was in Scandinavia? Not just what, but what was there that was so well armed and so ready for him that he couldn’t handle it? He scoured his memories, as he vaguely recalled Marc telling him something about a company doing illegal medical things to mutants in Northern Europe, but he’d taken care of that. Hadn’t he?
Oh shit, what if they were ready for him this time? What if they got him?
Rags was still sitting in the hall, looking as if he was going to fall asleep any second, but he was talking to himself - or perhaps his invisible friend. It was pure gibberish, although every now and then there was a coherent word. “ … unble gren forceps muh shivite olness pancakes …”
“C’mon, Rags, you have to get me to the mansion,” he told him, grabbing his arm and lifting him back up to his unsteady feet.
“Twaddle,” he slurred, or at least that sounded like what he said.
Maybe an evil bastard corporation experimenting on mutants for medical patents would be enough to make Scott interested in finding Marcus before he became nothing but a case study, and a corpse in a shallow grave.
But just in case it wasn’t, he could always threaten to keep Rags around until Xavier got up. That should make him do something.