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When it came down to it, he just didn’t know if he could trust him.
He didn’t feel too bad about it, and wouldn’t, as long as Xavier wasn’t up. If there was some pharmaceutical company experimenting on mutants, wouldn’t they have already heard something about it? The Professor had connections that Logan couldn’t imagine - if something like that was going on, he’d have known. Scott was sure of that.
But why would Marcus have lied to Logan? He’d believe him lying to someone else, sure, but Logan? Seemed weird. And there had been rumors on the internet of such places, but it was the internet - there were rumors about Elvis living happily with Bigfoot, and many sites dedicating to proving it. You could find your deepest wish or most persistent fear championed by frighteningly large groups. You couldn’t trust a damn thing on there.
If it were true, though … it was more than troubling. Treating mutants as lab rats was bad enough when it was the Organization doing it for military purposes. But for medical purposes? No one sane or reasonable person had liked the Nazis - so why were some people so eager to emulate them?
Logan gave him no information to go on anyways: “a pharmaceutical company in Northern Europe”. That was like saying “A volcano in the mid-Pacific” - he’d had no idea there were so many in Europe. And the only modifier Logan gave him - “somewhere Nordic” - didn’t help much at all. What was he going to do? Call them and ask, “Are you experimenting on mutants? Would you please stop?” Yeah, that would work.
As if to makes things worse, there was Rags. He was currently in the med lab, snoring so loud you could actually hear him in the hall, even though the room was basically soundproof. He wasn’t so much sawing logs as chainsawing through a cement bunker. He’d have thought no living, properly functioning Human could make a noise like that, but that made sense, as he wasn’t Human. Still, that didn’t seem like a normal noise …
He encountered Logan in the hall, and he must have caught him glaring at the room where Rags was making a noise like a badly tuned leaf blower, because he said, “I made sure he was turned on his side, so, y’know, if he vomits in his sleep, he won’t choke on it.”
That hadn’t occurred to him. Was it really a good thing anyways? Maybe when your time was up … no, that was just cruel. “I think he’d had some absinthe, I could smell it comin’ through his pores,” Logan continued.
Scott shook his head in disbelief. “Hasn’t he heard of rehab?”
Logan shrugged, in a manner suggesting that he didn’t care his supposed “friend” (acquaintance, whatever Rags actually was to him) was killing himself a bottle at a time. “He’s a Persaid demon, and I guess that’s how he handles it. I would if I were him, so I can’t bug ‘im.”
“What do you mean ‘that’s how he handles it’? Handles what?”
“Well, his kind are supposedly sponges of negative psychic energy. They absorb … bad feelings, I guess. They can’t help it, I don’t even know if they’re aware of it. But I’d imagine it would get to you after a while.”
Scott tried to imagine that as a power, but it seemed so nebulous as to be almost non-existent. Besides, if he really removed “bad feelings” from a room, why was rags involved in so many fights? It didn’t track.
But it was all beside the point. He shook his head, and got back to the most important point. “I need more information about where Marcus might be. I can’t narrow it down any further.”
Logan scowled at him, like he was being the asshole. “I can’t. He never told me the name of the place. I don’t even think he told me the name of the country.”
Scott scoffed in disbelief. “You don’t think? Do you know or d -” He paused as the elevator door suddenly slid open, and he was surprised to see Rogue and the Professor come out.
Rogue was pushing the Professor’s chair, and it was impossible to say which of them actually looked worse. They both had the cold (dubbed by Piotr as “the cold of the damned”), and they looked pasty and tired, with chapped, bright red noses and watery eyes. Although Rogue was pushing his chair, the Professor looked slightly better than her. “Oh, thang gog yer here,” Rogue said, sounding highly congested. She left the Professor’s chair, and walked over to Logan, stripping off one of her gloves.
Logan raised an eyebrow as he looked between her outstretched hand and her face, and grumbled, “You just wanna use me for my body.”
She frowned at him, and said, “Give me a breag. You owe me one anyways.”
“I do? News to me.” Still, after a few skeptical seconds, he sighed and grabbed her hand. Veins popper out on his hand and seemed to worm their way up her hand, small tendrils appearing beneath her throat as they did beneath his. After only a few seconds he let go and staggered back, hitting the wall for support as Rogue just remained standing there. The chapped redness of her nose faded as he watched, the redness and liquidity of her eyes disappearing into clean clear whiteness in two blinks, and she shook her head and took a deep breath. “Oh wow, that so much better,” she said, no longer sounding congested. “You’re so lucky you don’t get sick.”
“Cheater,” the Professor said to her, the corner of his mouth quirking up in a smirk.
“Hey, you’d do it if ya could,” she replied flippantly, sounding a bit like Logan.
Logan himself looked briefly ashen, but soon his skin seemed to flush, his healing factor kicking in and compensating for whatever Rogue had taken from him. “you’re weakenin’ your immune system by takin’ from me,” he pointed out, straightening up. He almost looked normal. “It’d be better for you in the long run if you just lasted it out.”
Rogue wiped the crust away from her nose, and shook her head. “Maybe, but I ain’t waitin’. This was a real bitch.”
Scott gave her a sour look for the language, but she ignore him, like she usually did. Instead, he turned his attention to the Professor. “Are you sure you should be up?”
In spite of being obviously ill, Xavier gave him a look that made him feel exactly ten years old. “I’m fine, Scott. I’ve probably had more colds in my lifetime than you, and the drugs wore off enough that I sensed some distress.” Just as he paused, a loud ripsaw snore tore through the hall, and both Rogue and the Professor looked towards the med lab.
“Do y’all have an angry buffalo in there?” she asked.
“Rags is … sleeping it off,” Logan offered, clearly tempering his language around Rogue (for once - way too late, but hey, at least he remembered to do it once).
“Sleeping off what exactly? Oh, don’t answer,” Xavier replied, humor sparkling in his eyes. He may not have felt great, but he was in a terribly good mood. That Nyquil must have been something. “We have someone to look for, don’t we?”
Xavier steered his wheelchair down the hall, towards Cerebro, and while they followed, so did Rogue, which made both Scott and Logan stop and look at her. “What?” she replied, peeved. “Marcus is missing, I know that. Maybe I can help.”
Before Scott could tell her to go back upstairs, Logan drawled, “Yeah, you can. Keep an eye on Rags for me, okay? I got him up on his side, but he’s kinda floppy, and I don’t want him chokin’ on his own puke. So if you don’t mind …” he pointed down the hall, to where rags was making the angry camel bellow.
She stared at him for a solid thirty seconds, arms crossed over her chest, then turned sharply on her heels and headed for the elevator. “I’m outta here,” she added needlessly.
As soon as the door slid shut, Logan smirked . “I knew that would do it.”
Logan had his moments. Not many, but he did have them.
Both of them followed the Professor into the cool metal room of Cerebro, the dome of the ceiling arching high over their heads. It looked higher than it actually was, a tricky optical illusion. “Are you sure you’re up to this?” Scott asked nervously, as the Professor grabbed the helmet interface, and the doors slid closed behind them. He could remember just how miserable that bastard cold left him feeling.
Xavier looked back at him with a small, faint smile. “Your concern is noted, but misplaced. I wouldn’t be down here if I didn’t think I could do it.” He slid the interface on, and the room faded to darkness before what appeared to be a holographic map of the world filled the sphere, the scattered mutants across the world appearing as pinpricks of gold light on its surface.
It was when Xavier was focusing, making the glove swing to the European side, that Scott saw something odd. It looked like a faint spray of dull golden dust, almost more mustard than gold, and too small and diffuse to be spots; it almost looked like a small nebula superimposed on a tiny part of northern Europe. Logan must have seen it too, because he asked, “What the hell is that?”
Xavier brought it into tighter focus, but it didn’t help at all. It didn’t become any clearer or sharper, and in fact the color seemed to fade the closer he got. “That’s Denmark, isn’t it?” Logan asked.
“It seems to be,” Xavier acknowledged, and his voice had the slightest hint of strain. “An island off of Aero, I believe.”
Logan nodded as if he knew where he was. Scott was vaguely aware Denmark had islands, but didn’t recall one named Aero.
“What is it we’re looking at?” Scott wondered.
Xavier shook his head faintly. “I’m not sure. I’m not picking up Marcus … and I can’t quite get a lock on whatever this is.”
“It’s a thing?” Logan replied.
“I don’t think it’s a person. I’m not picking up a mind, per se … but I’m not sure what I’m getting here. It’s some sort of mutation.”
“But a mutation of what? Can you pick up animals on this thing?” Logan asked rather testily.
“No. This is picking up some fragment of Human mutant DNA - familiar DNA. That’s why it’s registering at all. Normally it wouldn’t register something that isn’t a living Human.”
“If it isn’t a living Human, what is it?” Scott reiterated.
Xavier paused dramatically, and that made him nervous. The unknowns were starting to make him reflexively nervous, mainly because he had yet to encounter one that was much good.
Before he could respond, though, the nebula of faint gold fuzz started fading away, dissipating like smoke. “What’s goin’ on?” Logan asked, sounding anxious. Did he think this was somehow connected to Marcus? Then again, did they have proof it wasn’t?
Again Xavier hesitated, and Scott knew instantly the next thing out of his mouth would be a guess. “I’m not
sure. It’s being shielded somehow, or - ”
“Dying?” Logan interrupted, sounding pissed off. (Normal.)
“If it was never fully alive in the first place, I’m not sure you can classify it as dead,” Xavier responded with asperity. "I'm honestly not sure what's going on here."
But it was quickly a moot point. The amber fog had completely disappeared off the map. Gold points of light glimmered on the "mainland", deeper into Europe, but that little island was a dark spot of nothingness. To say it was weird was an understatement.
"I should probably check that out," Scott said, scratching his head. What would he find? Anything?
"Yeah, we oughta," Logan agreed. "Scandinavian Air hits Copenhagen, and it'd be a strange coincidence if this wasn't connected to Marc somehow."
Scott scowled at him - we? - but Xavier took off the helmet, causing the doors to open behind them, and he looked back with a small, tight smile, meant specifically for him. "Yes, I think that would be a good idea. I'm curious what that was as well."
Xavier couldn't see him roll his eyes behind the visor, but he was sure he knew just the same. There was no point in teaming him up with Logan - they were never really going to get along, and he had to know that. It wasn't just the Jean issue (although there was that) - they just had whole different philosophies. For instance, he thought going off half-cocked and killing in general was wrong; Logan clearly didn't agree. Which was puzzling since Xavier didn't agree with killing either, so why was Logan here? You couldn't "save" a man who didn't want to be saved.
(But he sure did come in handy when the Organization hit the mansion, didn't he? It was almost ... prescient ...)
Scott sighed and turned away, stalking out of Cerebro and heading towards the hangar to prep the jet, not bothering to check if Logan was following him or not.
Logan was bad enough. But trying to figure out if the Professor was playing a game of his own was somehow worse.
He would have preferred traveling with one of the kids. At least they would generally take orders.
Logan didn't want to put on the suit - again. He figured this wasn't "official" so there was no need to bother, but Scott disagreed.
Finally, when they were within about forty minutes of their destination, Logan went into the back and put on the suit. He came back to the co-pilot's chair grumbling. "I feel like such an asshole in this thing," he muttered.
"If the suit fits," Scott suggested, not bothering to smother his smile.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Logan glare at him. "What, you like dressing up as a leather boy?"
"It's not really leather, it's -"
"I shoulda known. You repressed types are always kinky."
"I am not repressed! Just because I'm not amoral -"
For some reason, that made Logan chuckle and shake his head, and Scott felt like hitting him because there was something so patronizing in it.
But that was probably what Logan wanted to do, rattle him, goad him, so he didn't take the bait. He concentrated on the instrument panel and ignored him, studying wind speed and flight patterns.
They had to fly above most commercial airline lanes, which put them up pretty damn high, with a layer of clouds blocking out almost all sign of land or water, so they were extremely reliant on instruments. Of course at these speeds, things were changing rapidly, almost too rapidly for the instruments themselves, so he gave Logan the job of watching them and telling him when they got the readings he wanted. Tedium, with the added bonus of trying to keep on top of all the readings, which were flying by at an almost superhuman clip. This was where Logan could prove his eyesight was really supernaturally good.
He groused a little - he expected that - but he did tell him when they hit the numbers he wanted, and Scott took them into a lower altitude, shedding speed and dipping below the major flight lanes since they were now entering Denmark's airspace. Denmark didn't really have a lot in the way of anti-aircraft defenses, so even if they were picked up, all they had to worry about was a fighter jet intercept, and they could easily lose one of those. Still, he didn't want that to happen; they didn't need that kind of attention.
It was going on evening here, the sun's reflection turning the ground below a burnished orange like an old and faded photograph. Even though he was concentrating on flying and not getting painted by someone's radar, he noticed out of the corner of his eye that Logan was staring out the windscreen, looking down at the land speeding below them with something almost like wistfulness.
"The Danes are a remarkable people," he said, apropos of nothing.
"What?" That seemed like an odd thing to say.
"Did you know that in World War Two, when the Nazis were parked on their doorstep and demanding that they give up their Jews, they refused? They were looking at an entire Panzer division, this tiny little country, and they said no.”
Scott considered that a moment. "I think I saw a documentary about that last year." He vaguely remembered it; he was something of a history buff. But he really didn't know that much about it. For some reason, it didn't get mentioned much in history books, but yes, Denmark stood up to the Nazi war machine. Many Danes died, apparently, the country was occupied, but less than two percent of their Jews died - the Danish resistance had been able to smuggle a great majority of them to safety in Sweden. "Yeah, that was remarkable. It makes you wonder why more governments didn't do it."
"Because people have a tendency to abandon principals at gunpoint, if they ever really had ‘em in the first place," Logan replied, with the assuredness of someone who had seen it too often to be surprised by it anymore. "But the Danes honestly believe that no one is lesser or greater than anyone else - a Dane is a Dane, and things like ethnicity or religion are secondary at best. At least back then. It's possible things have changed now, but ... I don't know. If the world ever decides to say "Give us your mutants or else", I have a feeling the Danes will still say "You'll have to get through us first". And good for them. It gives you some hope for humanity as a whole."
It was his tone of voice that made Scott study his face. It was strangely pensive, like he was gazing out into the past, and he remembered that picture he saw, that black and white photograph of Logan turning away from the camera as his other friends celebrated the end of World War Two. God, he was alive back then - and he was here, wasn't he? All they knew was he worked for Canadian Intelligence back then, that he was an operative who functioned as some kind of interpreter between all the allied groups functioning in the European theater at the time.
Weirder still, Scott realized he may have known more about Logan’s past than he did. He saw the photo, so he must have been told some of that … but he didn’t remember any of it, did he? It was gone. The one time in his life when he may have actually done some good (the Nazis were one group who honestly deserved to meet Logan in a dark alley - repeatedly), and it meant no more to Logan than a yellowed photograph and a small sheaf of mostly censored memos. It was someone else’s life, someone who wore his face, and used his name, but wasn’t him.
What was that like? To have so much of your life torn away; and not just your life, but a good part, a strong part, a part you could mostly be proud of. And now he was looking down at a place where he may have been, but couldn’t consciously remember. He felt bad for him, and didn’t want to, as it could only get in the way.
What a weird thought - Logan was an old man. Not only that, but he was once a spy. That was so weird on several levels, but mainly it was strange because he didn’t have the temperament for it. Well … this Logan didn’t. Maybe that other one, the one who fought in World War two, did.
The place they were headed was actually a small island off of Aero, a picturesque island with little land mass and little development; a place that would be called “quaint” by a real estate developer. A quick computer search turned up no pharmaceutical company here or anywhere near here. Either that was a dead end, or this had absolutely nothing to do with Marcus, and Logan had simply gotten his hopes up.
It wasn’t quite dusk, the sun was sinking slowly beneath a sea turned the color of molten gold, but Scott came around the far side of the island, hoping there was no one out for a leisurely evening walk on the shore. There was a flat field of slender green grass on a harsh bluff overlooking the sea, a perfect place to set the jet down - and film some kind of bodice ripping romance, where you needed windswept cliffs overlooking the unforgiving sea. It was actually beautiful; it was a shame they really didn’t have time to enjoy it.
They landed easily, although it took a moment longer than it should have, mainly because there was a sudden updraft from the side of the cliff - it was just as windswept as he imagined, but slightly more dangerous.
As he shut everything down, he had Logan do a instrument sweep of the immediate area, which was just about twelve feet all around them; this island wasn’t the size of Manhattan, and he honestly wasn’t sure of its name. Aero, a tiny island, was huge by comparison to this one. The village that made up the population of the island was just over a wide swath of land, the centralized location of this tiny fishing village dwelling mainly in a tiny dip that probably passed for a valley. The rough cliffs on this side made it pretty much unusable; the wharfs and piers that supported their meager economy were all on the other side.
“You’d think we’d get a dog barkin’ at us or somethin’,” Logan commented, when the scan turned up nothing.
“Maybe when we get out,” Scott offered. “They probably don’t get a lot of visitors around here.”
“Yeah. Especially visitors who look like escapees from an s & m farm.”
Scott scowled at him, but Logan just spread his hands wide, a quiet way of saying “Prove me wrong”. He shook his head dismissively and went to open the exit hatch.
He punched in the manual release, and stood to one side as the hatch unsealed from the side of the jet with a pneumatic hiss. And he’d been feeling bad for Logan a minute ago? No wonder it never lasted.
Logan had finally ventured from the cockpit, but he froze as if in horror, his face become a hard, feral mask. “Shut the fucking hatch!” he bellowed, suddenly racing for it.
But Logan didn’t answer; he’d already closed the distance between them and grabbed a rung on the hatch, making it stop. It would stop if it sensed inner resistance or something trapped in it, a safety failsafe. Logan continued to pull it back, making it automatically seal shut.
“What the hell is your problem?” Scott exclaimed, torn between anger and curiosity. Was being back in Europe making him freak out? He wasn’t the most stable person in the world, so -
And that’s when he smelled it.
The hatch had let in a whiff of cold air from outside before Logan forced it shut, but only now did Scott truly appreciate how rank and nauseating the smell was. “Oh my god,” he gasped, slapping a hand over his nose and mouth. He could feel his gorge rising as the smell of shit, rotten fish, sea salt, and god knew what else seemed to settle in his nostrils. He swore he could almost taste it, and it made his eyes burn.
“It’s death,” Logan said, his eyes bright and slightly wild. “We’re too late.”
When he was sure he could open his mouth without vomiting, he leaned against the fuselage, and said, “Is there a reason to be so dramatic? It just smells like we hit someone’s septic tank.”
Logan glared at him with eyes more green than brown, and strangely sharp - they were the eyes of someone looking out from a very bad memory. “It’s more than just shit; it’s decaying flesh, it’s the smell of the acid in your stomach digesting your own organs, it’s the smell of blood turning to rust. Believe me, I know what it smells like.”
He didn’t want to; he wanted to believe Logan decided to pick now to be a drama queen. But he didn’t. There was something too haunted in his expression, and something too meaty in the smell for him to believe it was just Logan’s morbid imagination running away with him. Besides, if anyone knew death intimately, it was him.
Scott took a couple of cleansing breaths through his mouth, hoping the air circulations in the jet would scrub the scent away soon enough, and Logan tromped back to the cockpit, asking, “What turns on the cameras?”
That was a new upgrade he was experimenting with, micro-cameras embedded in the jet’s skin to give them outer views. But since he knew that might not be good enough, there were also small probes, basically little missiles no bigger than bottle rockets, that could hit a specific area and give them a view of the area without risking anyone or drawing unnecessary attention. In beta tests, he’d worked out the kinks, but it’d never been field tested before. Well, now was as good a time as any, wasn’t it?
He joined him in the cockpit and started to enter the appropriate information into the computer. “Want to go for the village?”
“That’s where the people are,” Logan replied, a strangely ominous agreement.
He could sense Logan behind him, so anxious the tension seemed to radiate off him in waves, but it wasn’t fear - it was pure, unadulterated rage. Did the smell alone make him angry, or was he still worried about Marcus?
“Probe away,” he reported dully, as the computer confirmed a successful launch. You could barely hear it inside the jet, it was just a soft noise, like someone hitting the plane with a pillow.
The monitor screen was no bigger than one you’d find on a portable television, and Scott stood off to the left so Logan could get a good view of it. Since the village wasn’t far away at all, it was just two seconds before there was a confirmation of impact, and the camera began transmitting telemetry.
The village was beyond quaint. It had a wide cobblestone street, and many of the shops and homes lining it had a look that was positively Bavarian, with high peaked, sloping roofs and small square windows limned with brown paint. It wouldn’t have looked out of place in a production of Heidi.
Except for the bodies.
They seemed to be everywhere, splayed on the sidewalks and splayed in the streets, looking for all the world like they’d been hit with mass narcolepsy and fallen asleep right where they’d been standing. One woman’s shopping bag had broken on impact with the street, and oranges seemed to glow in the dim light like luminescent grenades. There were no words for the stark, quiet horror of the scene, none, and Scott could feel it in the pit of his stomach, a cold knot slowly growing tighter. Just like that; no warning, no chance to defend themselves or flee. Just like that. He didn’t even see blood.
“What could do this?” Scott asked, but it was a rhetorical question. Logan couldn’t know any more than he could.
All they knew was a mutant was probably behind it.