ARMY OF THE NIGHT
E-mail: notmanos at yahoo dot com
Disclaimer: The characters of Angel are owned by 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy; theNotes: Takes place shortly after the "X Men" movie, and "Weapons Of Choice".
character of Wolverine is also owned by 20th Century Fox and Marvel Comics. No copyright
infringement intended. I'm not making any money off of this, but if you'd like to be a patron of the
arts, I won't object. ;-) Oh, and Bob is *my* character - keep your hands off!
Bondi Beach, Australia
Out on the promenade,a wooden boardwalk full of cafes and trendy stores that mimicked the overall curve of the beach on the North end of the crescent,it was first thought to be an earthquake.
A small trembling at first,noticeable only to rollerbladers sent sprawling by the sudden shifting of stable ground,small black cracks on the weatherproofed surface suddenly growing into fissures,the wood cracking explosively,with far more force than the slight tremors would suggest.
Then the things appeared.
They seemed to shoot out of the newly forming chasm in the ground,a dozen slender men as pale as milk,it looked like they were wearing black clothing,except it flowed around them like smoke,constantly shifting and moving as they did,and shading their heads from the aggressively bright sun.
People began to scream and run as the men started to grab the people closest to them and simply pull their heads off like caps off a bottle,the headless corpses falling to the promenade and staining the wood with their blood.The strange men didn't walk but seemed to glide,and while they had arms and the ebony fog gave them the approximation of a human torso,they had no lower bodies-no legs,no waist-and their hands were simply gnarled claws of bone.Those close enough to see their faces described them as narrow as blades and devoid of almost all features,except for lipless mouths crammed full of needle like black teeth and wide set, tangerine sized eyes that were empty,bloody holes in their heads.
And yet none of the surviving witnesses noticed the man in the white suit standing by the now abandoned juice bar,eating a sandwich and watching the carnage with a growing smile on his face.
Also,no one really noticed the surfer,who'd been chasing waves off Bondi,come in from the beach.He was simply there,dripping wet at the end of the boardwalk,surfboard held up on one end beside him.Everyone remembered the "surfie" as handsome,and his board as very weird ( red with black stripes,it had a large skull on it with a big red nose and a feather boa,encircled by the words "Dead Clowns Squirt No Seltzer".No one knew what the hell that was about).He was wearing what everyone agreed to be the ugliest surfing shorts they'd ever seen-long neon green and yellow shorts with horseshoes and four leaf clovers on them.But almost no one could agree on his hair color (some said it was brown,others said it was blond,and some said it was both),or what it was he wore around his neck:although shirtless and barefoot,he wore a necklace with a green pendant.Some said it was tear drop shaped,or a shark's tooth,or a four leaf clover,following through with the theme set by his shorts.Only one person correctly guessed the pendant was a small,carved jade elephant.
The smoke clad wraiths streaked towards the man,who didn't react at all."You're dead,"he said,in an off hand,blase manner.
The wraiths let out screams that shattered glass for meters around the boardwalk,and they seemed to dissolve into swirls of grey smoke that dissipated in the off shore wind.
The man began walking towards the chasm,that was now bleeding a pale blue fire into the air, and said,"Close."
The fire seemed to withdraw inside the gap before the ground seemed
to heal itself shut,the boardwalk included;the wood knitting itself back
together like it was alive.Only broken windows,headless corpses,gallons of
blood,and ancillary cracks remained of the first assault.
Only then did anyone else notice him.
He was described as "looking a lot like that bloke in the J. Crew
catalog",which cleared nothing up.The best that could be said was he was
blandly handsome,with a sort of airbrushed look to his skin:square jawed,slender,hair
covered by a white Panama hat that matched his vanilla suit.
The man chuckled,and put down his sandwich on the counter of the juice bar.Someone thought there were maggots squirming between the slices of bread."Me?You're the idiot who walked into a trap."
"Not a very good trap.You really think your aseraphim can do anything to me?Or you,for that matter?"
The man cocked his head,studying him curiously."Still hangin' with these creatures,huh?Do you still call yourself Bob?"
"I like it.It's concise and to the point."
"You think you're gonna kill me this time?"
"Yeah,I do.You should have returned to my back yard with more potent back up,Ceph."
It was then a coffee kiosk on the left side of the promenade seemed to explode,and huge black tentacles-at least sixteen feet long and eight feet thick-slithered out of the huge hole where the espresso shop used to be.The thing made a noise that wasn't quite audible to human hearing, but several dogs and sea birds suddenly dropped dead,and everyone within a half mile radius became violently ill.Except for the man in the white suit,and the nonchalant surfie.
"You stupid,amoral prick.An Old One?"The surfer called Bob said,seemingly unconcerned that one of the thick black tentacles had wrapped around his legs."You know I ain't having this in my dimension."
"This isn't your dimension,Bob.But I think it's time you moved a little closer,don't you?"
It was then that they all disappeared:the tentacled thing,the surfer,and the guy in the white hat, leaving only bodies and a huge hole in the promenade where the coffee shop used to be.
No one knew what to think of any it.But everyone was willing to believe it was all part of some new t.v. show.
As always,Logan's dreams were sensory explosions:scent,smell,taste,sight (of course) and feel.But this time he wasn't in agonizing pain,being torn apart in slow motion by suited men with scalpels and bone saws.
No,this time he was in a strange bed,softer than the one he knew himself to really be sleeping in back in the real world,laying on his left side,facing a wall where a small window was covered with a rice paper shade,and a pretty but austere pen and ink drawing of a crane wading in a koi filled pond was hanging just below and to the right of a blue and green neon palm tree,which cast colorful shadows on a hardwood floor.
He wasn't alone either.Far from it.
A woman was sleeping nestled up against him,her breasts pressed up against his back,one of her smooth legs stretched between his,arm draped loosely over his abdomen.He could feel her slow,warm breathing in the hollow between his neck and shoulder,and knew it was Mariko.He didn't know how he knew;he just did.
He'd been here,in this room,before.Last time there was no neon palm tree on the wall,giving the darkened bedroom a sense of whimsy.Last time,he had turned over to have a look at Mariko- see her as something else beyond a still photograph on a grave marker-and instantly woke up, almost falling out of his bed in the real world.His mind wouldn't let him see Mariko,probably because it didn't remember her.It recalled the feeling of her,the warmth,her smell,and apparently a new detail or two,as long as enough time was allowed to lapse between dreams. But because it was a dream,and he recalled so little,he didn't know how much of this scenario he could trust.
If he was to be perfectly honest with himself,probably none.But he so badly wanted to believe...
Such as the neon palm tree.He suddenly knew how they got it.A tacky restaurant-catering to the American tourist and serviceman crowd-went out of business,and what it couldn't sell it threw out.The neon palm tree was one of the items doomed for the landfill,but Mariko liked it. "How ugly is this?"She said,laughing."Oh,I have to have this."
"Like me?"He replied.
She elbowed him lightly in the ribs."You're the handsomest guy I know.Under all that hair."
"Ha."He remembered putting his arms around her waist,holding her as she leaned back against him affectionately."It's a good thing I'm a tolerant person."
That made her laugh.She had a lilting,musical laugh.
Was it her voice,though?He thought it was.He thought he could feel her against him,smell her hair (almonds),but he could not recall her face,even though he knew from the photograph what she looked like.It was a blank spot in his mind-
(You can't remember because you shouldn't remember.)
-and he didn't know if it was a good thing or a bad thing.
Part of him wanted to wake up and leave this place,this torture that was part memory and part wishful thinking (and he would never know which was which),but another part of him never wanted to leave.Maybe all of time travel was memory,and if he could force it,remember hard enough,maybe he could go back.Maybe he could warn himself,and her-
Warn her of what?What happened to her?
He knew she was dead.He knew she was murdered.But that was really all he knew.He knew Bob was sitting on certain details about her death that were not reported in the official records, and he didn't know why,except...he didn't want to know why.
He was such a fucking coward.He was afraid to know.He was afraid to look it hard in the face. Because all he could remember was it hurt so much if he looked at it again it might break him. Again.
He ran his fingers over her arm,feeling her soft skin,and wondered what could be so bad his mind just shied away from it.He wished it would shy away from vivisection,from the million and a half tortures he had suffered in his life,but no.Still,did the memories of them leave him feeling breathless,like he'd just taken a wrecking ball to the the sternum and couldn't stand,nonetheless breathe?Because that's exactly what happened when he saw Mariko's grave,saw her picture, and even thinking about her was enough to make him feel like he might have a panic attack.
Coward.That's what it came down to.He had failed to protect her,had simply failed her,and now he couldn't bear to look at her.
No-it wasn't her.It was what she represented:the greatest failure in a life full of failures.
She stirred,and he felt her hair tickle his back as she shifted position,and he thought he heard her mutter something.He told himself not to ask,but he did anyways."What?"
"What time is it?"She repeated,words still slightly slurred by sleep.
He glanced around for a clock on his side of the room,and didn't see one.But he could tell from the lack of light around the edges of the window blind,"It's dark."
"Light dark or dark dark?"
A weird question that suggested he had answered that way many times before."Dark dark."
"Hmm."She rubbed her forehead against the back of his neck,settling back into sleep.
He wondered if he loved her.He must have,to have slaughtered a big chunk of the Tokyo underworld for her.
No,he did it for himself.He lost her,so he decided to make others
hurt.That sounded like him.
"Do you love me?"He heard himself ask,much to his horror.He was just thinking it!How the hell did he say it?!
He hoped she wouldn't answer,or he'd wake up first.But she said,voice still muffled with sleep, her breath a caress on his skin:"Always."
He wished she hadn't answered.
He woke up feeling terrible.At least it wasn't a screaming nightmare,but frankly he probably would have preferred it if it was.They never left him feeling hollow;they just left him furious.
Logan just knew this day was going to be remarkably shitty.
"Sorry Mr. Logan,"she said,returning to solidity and continuing down the hall."Mr. Summers gave us the okay to go into town,but if I'm late I bet John and Rogue are going to take off without me."
He frowned at her.How often did he have to tell the kids not to call him "Mr. Logan"?It made him feel a thousand years old."Only use 'em if you have to,"he said,deciding he wasn't going to chide her about the "Mr." now.Kitty was the most polite kid he had ever met,making him wonder what kind of repressive home life she had before she ended up here.But at least she wasn't bad as 'Clops-yet.If old one eye had his way,though,she would be.
It seemed to take her a moment to realize he was talking about her-their-powers.It was what he generally told the kids in his self-defense class,although he was torn about it.It was best for them,in today's world,not to make it obvious they were mutants.But on the other hand,why did they have to hide it?Of course,if Scott had his way,they wouldn't use them ever,until they got older or something.Who the hell knew his reasoning.But it proved 'Clops had learned nothing from his brief time in the hands of the Organization.Age was of no concern to the bad guys.
She finally got it,and nodded."I will."
He nodded,worried more about John and Rogue.There were loose cannons.But if Kitty and-he was assuming,but it was a good guess-and Bobby were with them,they could probably act as a stabilizing force,and they wouldn't get in too much trouble.If old tight ass actually gave them the okay,that had to be the reasoning.
Kitty gave him a polite smile,and then stopped backing down the hall and continued running full tilt,and rather than turning into the connecting hall,she went right through the wall,taking a short cut to the garage.
That reminded him it was Saturday,as close to a day off as there was around here.It was a relief in a way,except that meant if he didn't split soon someone would probably find something for him to do.Well,in theory:it's not like he took orders.
He wanted to just grab his bike and go,but it wasn't quite afternoon yet,and he'd never find an open bar in the vicinity.And he was hungry,or maybe it was just random acid eating a hole in his gut (a hole that would seal itself,so why care),but he thought he could swing by the kitchen and get something to eat before he drove off to...well,somewhere.Anywhere but here.
He must have slept through the general Saturday morning madness,as the usual din was a dull roar.There were some kids still clustered in the front lounge,the t.v. blaring away,and from the shouts and taunts of derision he guessed some were playing a video game.He could hear some out back too,on the grounds,and tried not to hear.There were some days-many;most,in fact- where it didn't pay to hear so well.
The kitchen was thankfully empty when he entered it,and you could tell the kids had been through because it looked like a small hurricane had preceeded him.There were dirty bowls and plates on every stainless steel surface,discarded cups,empty and half empty boxes of cereal and milk,and the smell of slightly burnt food (mainly toast,with an eggy breakfast sandwich follow up) heavy in the air.He knew Scott would probably have a tizzy,but this was normal kid stuff,and as long as no one expected him to clean it up he thought it was nice to see.
There was some coffee going-for the 'adults' only (but he knew some of the kids stole some- and the kids now knew they could steal it in front of Logan,because he honestly didn't care if they drank coffee or not)-but he wasn't in the mood;caffeine did nothing for him anyways.
He looked in the industrial sized refrigerator,hoping that a beer suddenly materialized overnight,but no,that never happened (where was Ganesha when he needed him?),so he grabbed a slice of leftover pepperoni pizza and a soda to wash it down with.It would have to do until he could get a real drink.
He wasn't even completely out of the fridge when he sensed someone enter,and he knew exactly who before he even shut the door and turned around.
"You can't be having that for breakfast,"Jean remarked disapprovingly.
He scowled at her,setting the pop on the counter so he could open it without getting any on his pizza."You think it matters if I have a balanced diet or not?"He replied."Half of it is beer."
She frowned right back at him,running a hand through her hair as she observed the kitchen chaos.She was wearing a green sweater and a long black skirt,her hair back in a ponytail,and she must have been doing something because she was wearing her glasses,and yet somehow she still looked very good.Telekinetic perk?"Which I don't understand.You say alcohol doesn't affect you,and yet beer tastes terrible,so why drink it?"
"Cheap beer tastes terrible.Some beers taste good.I'll buy you one sometime."
She shook her head."It's a good thing you heal fast,because I don't think your liver would have survived otherwise.Oh god,look at this mess."
"They're kids.They make messes."He knew,even though he was sure
Jean couldn't hear them,
This made Jean scowl at him,but then she threw up her hands in defeat.She knew there was no arguing with him (although it rarely stopped her from trying).
"Yes,but they can also pick up after themselves,Saturday or not."She went to one of the cupboards,took down a blue ceramic mug,and crossed to the coffee maker.As she poured herself a cup,he asked,around a mouthful of crust."You can't be having that for breakfast."
The look she gave him could have exploded his head if she was using her powers,and he couldn't help but chuckle sardonically.
"It's not polite to talk with your mouth full,"she snipped,trying
to hide the fact that she was emptying an awful lot of artificial sweetener
packets into her cup.Oh yeah,that was healthy.
After a moment of heavy silence,she asked,"Did you see the paper this morning?"
He gulped down half the soda-this was a particularly greasy pizza,but not too bad-then said, "Nope.Has the government finally announced it's going to kill all us dirty mutant motherfuckers yet?"
She turned back to face him,cradling the mug in her hands.she gave him a sour look for the language,but since it was just them in here she let it go."No,it seems there was an earthquake in Australia yesterday."
"Australia gets earthquakes?"
She could only shrug."It seems it ruptured a gas line,and caused an explosion that killed several people and sickened many others.Since it was near Sydney,I found myself wondering if Bob could have had something to do with it."
"Bob?Why?I mean,blowin' stuff up is hardly his style."
"Except in Camp Lejune,and that lab up in Alberta-"
"Lejune was a self-destruct;Bob had nothing to do with that.And technically me and Helga blew up Eden's lab in Alberta."Alex helped too,but he thought he'd leave her out of it.Jean would expect such outrageous behavior from him and Helga.
From the rather disappointed look she gave him,he was right about that."I should have known."
"What blew up,anyways?Did they say?"
"A coffee shop."
Logan laughed and almost choked on a piece of pepperoni."Well,I don't blame him if he did blow it up."
Her scowl deepened,bringing forth hidden lines on her face."Logan,be serious."
"I am.Look,just 'cause it happened in Australia doesn't mean it had anything to do with Bob."
"I thought you said that's where he was going to."
"Yeah,but since when does Bob stay anywhere for long?He's kinda everywhere and nowhere at once."
She sighed,apparently giving up on what must have been a well considered conspiracy theory."I suppose."
Although he had his own reasons for disliking him,he had to ask:"Why don't you like Bob?"
She grimaced,clearly not wanting to answer the question."It's not like I don't like him-I just don't trust him."
"He's never hurt us."He had a vague sense that one of the reasons Jean didn't trust Bob was because she thought he might be using him...he was pretty sure he had a better idea of what she thought when he was in Bob's head,but strangely enough,he could barely remember it now. Maybe not so strange,since he was lucky to remember anything at all.
"Not that we know of,"she replied,then rolled her eyes at his skeptical look."Look,I find it hard to trust someone who won't trust us.We hardly know a thing about him."
"To be fair,I don't think anyone really knows that much about him.Even Helga couldn't tell me what he was."
"So why the mystery if he has nothing to hide?"
"Now darlin',that's unfair.We all have things to hide.And I bet a guy as powerful as him has lots of skeletons in his closet."
"That's what I'm afraid of,"she admitted,sighing.
It was then that the kitchen door opened,and Xavier wheeled inside."Ah,Logan,I'm glad I caught you before you left."His cool blue eyes scanned all the kitchen detritus. "Kids."
"I think I'd better remind them they have clean up duty,"Jean offered,giving Logan a strange glance before she gave the Professor a polite smile and left the kitchen.What was that about?
"She's concerned about you,"Xavier said,answering his unspoken question.He hoped he read his expression and not his mind.
"She shouldn't be.I'm always good."
Xavier nodded in a way that suggested he was humoring him.But before Logan could snap at him for it,he said,"I was wondering if I could ask a favor of you."
He gulped down the rest of his pop,and crushed the can into a tiny aluminum ball in his hand. "What?"He wasn't saying a damn thing until he knew what this was about.
"I was just using Cerebro when I detected a great expenditure of mutant powers in Japan.I was wondering if you'd accompany Scott to check it out.I realize you two don't quite get along,but-"
"Why me?"He interrupted,heart beating double time at the mention of Japan.
"Jean and Scott both told me you speak Japanese fluently."
How much did he know?Had Bob opened his big mouth and told him something he shouldn't have?"I don't know.But I can't help ya,I got other plans."
Xavier's eyes narrowed,lines bunching in the corners as he seemed to scour Logan's face."Why are you afraid?"
"I'm not afraid,"he snapped angrily,jumping off the counter.He so didn't want to discuss this right now.Or ever.
Xavier's eyes widened in surprise,and he said,"You had a wife?"
"Stay out of my fucking head!"He shouted,storming out of the kitchen.
He walked through the dining room,startling some of the kids so bad they jumped out of the chairs and stood at attention,as if afraid they were going to get a reprimand.But he ignored them and went on through to the sun porch,and went outside.In this maze of a mansion,there was no way to get to the garage unless you backtracked (or had Kitty's power),and he was not cutting through the kitchen again.Fuck it-he could cut through the yard and go around to the front garage entrance and grab his bike.He was not talking about Mariko with anyone.It was hard enough with Bob,and that hadn't really been voluntary.Not completely.
He ignored the kids out back playing softball,and several of them gave him strange looks as he simply climbed up and over the dense,eight foot laurel hedge that separated different parts of the grounds,and hopped down to the other side.He was use to odd looks from the kids, though;he wasn't like any of the tight assed prigs around here,and they seemed to be equally in awe and afraid of him,which was fine with him.It meant they generally kept their distance.
Except Rogue,but she always had to be contrary.
It was a nice day,or it should have been,but it wasn't to him.The sun was too bright,the air too redolent of people and car exhaust,and he knew he couldn't get a headache,but he would swear there was one trying very hard to form behind his eyes.
He opened the garage door,and had set a single foot in when he smelled someone familiar."No fucking way,"he exclaimed,in angry disbelief.
Xavier wheeled out of the shadows near the front of the garage entrance."I won't tell anyone, Logan.That's for you to decide.But why shut us out of your life?"
"What life?"He replied angrily.Xavier wasn't gonna stop him from leaving,that was for damn sure.
"We're your friends.We want to help,if we can."
He straddled the bike and kick started the engine,revving it so the noise filled in all the gaps and made communication virtually impossible."I don't have any friends,"he muttered.
Xavier heard him,maybe because he was telepathic."You have more than you think,"he said-or maybe sent.He really didn't know.
He drove out of the garage and didn't look back,and Xavier made no attempt to stop him.
Once out on the road he opened up the throttle,leaning into the wind and trying very hard to become one with the motorcycle.He weaved in out of his lane on the highway,passing cars as if they were standing still,enjoying his own personal velocity.
He had no idea where he was going,simply away,and that was enough.Maybe if he drove fast enough,he could leave it all behind-himself included.
There was no clock visible-not a shock,as people didn't come in here to while away the time, they came in here to kill it stone dead-and in spite of all the windows near the front the place was a dark as hell,even in the middle of a bright afternoon.It was like a black hole of despair, and he felt right at home.
He ordered a beer from the dumpy bartender,a guy who had about thirty more pounds on his frame than was healthy and had the sallow skin of someone already suffering from a disease, and he took his beer back to a torn vinyl booth in the corner.
There was only a handful of people in here,the hardcore drinkers,depressives,and sad sacks who had absolutely nothing better to do on a sunny Saturday afternoon than get loaded on cheap beer and smoke themselves into a premature grave.
Some sort of sporting event nattered on the small t.v. above the bar,but few people even bothered to pay attention;most were hunkered deep in their own private hells,and if not for the white noise blather of the set,there'd be no noise in here at all,save for the clunk of glasses against the stained wooden bar and the heavy exhales of cigarette smoke.
Did he really belong here,though?Didn't he deserve better than to be constantly hovering around the bottom level of society,lingering in the wake of the scum of the earth?
He spied what may have been today's paper on a near by table,but he felt no urge to get it.The world was fucked,whether he kept up on it or not.
He was half way through his watery,piss flavored beer when he realized he heard whispering over his shoulder.He turned sharply,but there was no one behind him.Or beside him,or anywhere near him.But he would swear...huh.Again,it didn't pay to hear so well.
Still,didn't he smell something strange?He smelled a woman,yet there were no women in this bar,just lumpy grey men;none could pass for transvestites even with help from Industrial Light and Magic.He couldn't shake the feeling a woman had been close,and watching him.
He finished off his beer and decided to leave this cesspit before he got even more depressed. Was that possible?
As he stood up,a guy at a near by table asked,"Hey bud,d'ya know what time it is?"
Logan was wearing a watch,yet he didn't know why.Time never mattered to him,did it?
He could have told the guy to fuck off or guess,but he was too enervated by this place to even do that.It was like the building itself was a psychic vampire.He glanced at its face,and said, "Yeah,it's-"
It was then the entire world shifted,and he was sucked into reality,only to be spat out once more.
Spat out somewhere else.
He staggered across an almost violently purple carpet,and nearly fell headlong onto a blue suede couch.
"See,I told you it was him,"Helga said,as he looked around the room.
He was in the front room of a large house apparently decorated by a flamboyantly gay man.The furniture was all brightly colored suede or leather in a living room that was much bigger than his trailer and seemed cavernous thanks to the 'floating' ceiling above,the walls all painted a pale but bright eggshell blue,like the sky in the height of summer.It smelled intensely of sage, eucalyptus and smoke,and like a couple of familiar women.
He wheeled around and faced Helga,who was standing by a baker's rack stuffed full of books. She was wearing a crop top t-shirt that barely covered her breasts,and cut off denim shorts that showed off her nice legs.She had dark crescents that suggested she wasn't sleeping well.
"Sorry if we interrupted your drinking,Logan,"she said,not sounding sorry at all."We have a problem."
"What,you couldn't call?"He snapped.He looked to his right to see the other vaguely familiar woman,the blue haired,blue lipped Amaranth,sitting cross legged amidst a small sea of animal and batik pattern floor pillows,a mirror flat on the carpet in front of her.It looked to be covered with ashes and seven herbs and spices.
He glanced around,and although he spotted several signs that he lived here-the brightly painted didgeridoo next to the stereo and the big black sombrero (with pendulous white dingleballs) hanging on the wall next to the Dali print were dead giveaways.Only one weirdo could live in a place like this."Where the hell is Bob?"
He turned around,doing a three sixty of this huge living room,and paused as he saw the view out the equally huge bay window.It was night here,and the water-there was lots of water out there-looked like black ink,reflecting the multicolored lights of the buildings across the Harbor like iridescent gemstones,making the moon hanging low in the sky look like a pale candle flame in comparison."Whoa."It was a hell of a view.Of course,would Bob settle for less?
It suddenly occurred to him:"Fuck,am I in Australia?"
"Ooh,someone give the genius a biscuit."Amaranth said sarcastically.
"This is part of the inside of the Sydney place,"Helga said,by way of explanation.She sagged into a chair near the bookcase,and it looked distressingly like a refurbished electric chair. Knowing Bob,that was a great possibility."And we brought you here because we don't know where Bob is."