DIA DE LOS MUERTOS
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 "X2" movie, and "Orpheus Ascending".
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!
Logan knew he was okay if he just kept moving - there was something about momentum and velocity that helped blur the lines, and keep him from thinking. He knew thinking at this point and in this time was not a good thing for him to do, and if he did it too often he would become a self-pitying wreck, and he didn't want to do that. It would be okay once the self-pity turned to rage, as it inevitably did, but he didn't want to waste time in that bleak void of depression, waiting for it to transmogrify into something he could use.
Man, he needed to get some sleep.
But that was yet another thing he really didn't want to do. This begged the question what the fuck he did want to do, but he didn't know that either. All he knew was not this - something other than this. It was times like these he wished Bob was back, and he knew then that he must have been in real deep shit. But Bob could make it all go away with just a word, a gesture, a thought. He could change reality ... or put him in a better one.
Oh fuck, that was a coward's thinking. Logan instantly hated himself, and seriously considered stabbing his own hand with a fork. But he'd just break the fork if he didn't aim exactly between the bones of his hand.
It was ten to midnight, and he figured by the smell that he was downwind of Pittsburgh, so still in Pennsylvania somewhere. He was in a shitty little town that was trying to be a city, but mostly just had urban blight to show for it. He thought a stop for some food might be a good idea - he was hungry, and by his own recollection, the last time he ate was some time yesterday, and that was just a stick of beef jerky he bought at a gas station mini-mart while waiting for the tank to fill up. It had been pretty bad jerky too.
But sitting here in the torn vinyl booth, trying to discern the patterns in the stains on the formica table top and trying to ignore how the smell of overcooked grease and burnt meat was awfully close to the scent of the cologne the guy at the counter was wearing, he realized he just had an overwhelming physical need to eat; he really wasn't hungry. He didn't actually want to be here. But his stomach wasn't going to knock it off until he got more in it than beer - then maybe he could go get a beer. That sounded good; it always did.
The waitress, a slightly haggard looking Korean woman who appeared as tired as he felt, brought over his cheeseburger and fries, and he grunted a thanks as he eyed it warily. He really didn't want to eat this, and its somewhat sad appearance didn't help. He had no idea a burger could look depressed, yet this one looked like it had been sobbing in the back before someone mercifully bludgeoned it and threw it on a plate.
Oh, what the hell. He picked up the pitiful looking thing and bit into it, chewing mechanically and ignoring the fact that it was slightly overcooked, and someone really should have changed the grease. It was fuel, and that was all that mattered - who cared how it tasted?
It was actually quiet in here, and that was good. No noises save for the sizzle of grease and the clattering of dishes in the kitchen, the burble of the coffee maker, and the ticking of the blue neon limned clock on the wall. A reasonably rare diner (not fast food joint) open this late in this part of the State, the only customers here were himself; the guy at the end of the counter who smelled not only of bad cologne, but suspiciously of doughnuts (bakery worker); and a drunk guy in the end booth who was partially passed out on the table next to his cup of coffee. This place was a magnet for losers, drawing them in like moths to a porch light, and that's probably why he felt so at home here.
The windows were fairly dirty, and the place had yellow lighting as dingy as an old photograph, so it was almost impossible to see outside, save for an occasional flash of headlights penetrating the gloom. Attempting to glance out, he saw his own reflection, and wondered briefly why he found it startling. He looked the same as he always did - as he must have looked for more years than he could remember. Maybe that was the problem.
Or maybe it was just his imagination; for a second he thought he looked ... tired. Not tired as in needing sleep, although surely he did. Tired as in .... used up. He felt spent in some way that was hard to quantify; weary.
Shit, it was too late to be worried about a pity party, wasn't it? He was depressed. Right; as soon as he was done with his burger, it was fork jabbing time.
He wondered if he should just stand up and announce he'd saved the world - a couple times, in fact - for the sheer sadomasochist glee of absolutely no one giving a fuck. Even if they actually believed him - well, maybe the drunk guy would -they wouldn't give a shit. For some reason, that struck him as really funny.
Logan was just wondering where the mustard was when trouble came in.
It didn't matter that he had his back to the door and didn't turn to look; he was developing a real sixth sense about shit hitting the fan, for all the good it did him. And these guys were reeking of nervous sweat and meth and cordite - he knew what they were doing here even before one of them shouted, "Give me the money, bitch!"
He dropped the rest of his burger on the plate and rubbed his temple, even though he knew he couldn't have a headache. He was not getting involved in this. He was tired of saving people - and for what, exactly?It wasn't like they were grateful, or even deserved it half the time.
One of the robbers - kids, actually; they probably weren't older than nineteen - jumped over the front counter as his skinny friend turned his gun - a piece of shit "Saturday Night Special" - towards the customers ( him and the bakery guy - drunk guy was now snoring ) and snapped, "Okay dirtbags, your wallets."
The kid aimed the gun right in his face, perhaps because he was closest.
He looked up at him wearily, and said, "Get that out of my face, kid. You don't wanna piss me off."
It was a kid too. He and his friend were wearing similar navy hooded sweatshirts, hoods pulled tight around their pale, pimply faces, not hiding them more than highlighting their somewhat unpleasant features and glassy eyes with blown pupils; they were so perfectly bloodshot they almost looked red. The kid sneered down at him, and kept the stubby barrel in his face. It smelled like it had been fired recently. "Cough it up, old man."
"Old man?" Now that hurt.
He still had no intention of doing anything, but then the one behind the counter grabbed the waitress by the hair and threw her towards the till. "Hey!" He shouted, standing up. A gun in his face he could make himself live with - sitting by while someone else got hurt he couldn't do.
The kid waved the barrel menacingly, nearly hitting his nose. "Hey fuck, you don't move until - "
He was cut short as Logan ripped the gun from his hand, and gave him a sharp upper cut to the jaw. He didn't dare unleash his full strength on this kid, as he was speed addict skinny, a bag of bones held together by parchment thin flesh - he could not only have broken his jaw, but shattered it into a million tiny fragments. The kid still flew back as if he shot him, falling among the stools at the counter.
"Motherfucker!" His friend behind the counter shouted, aiming his gun at him and firing.
The waitress screamed as the bullet hit Logan dead center in the chest - it was almost like a sledgehammer to the breastbone, but not quite, and only made him take a step back. He looked down at the neat little pencil hole in his white t-shirt, now leaking a little crimson, and looked at the boy behind the counter, scowling at him. "That's done it." He snapped, as he launched himself over the counter.
Logan tossed the other kid's gun away, but must have done it too hard, as he heard a window shatter a split second before the kid fired again. Logan was aware of the bullet whistling past his ear, but before he could get off a third shot, Logan had torn the gun from his hand and tossed it aside, but this time he aimed for a booth.
Logan grabbed the kid by the collar and picked him up off his feet, shaking him like a rag doll. "You have ruined my shirt, and ruined my evening, and they were both pretty shitty to begin with!" The kid's eyes were an odd pale brown, like toasted granola, and seemed unable - or unwilling - to focus on him. Not sure what else to do with the asshole - except throw him around like a chew toy - he smashed his forehead down against his, knocking him cold. He dropped him to the floor off to the side, so he'd be out of the way.
He found the waitress - whose name tag read Lin - staring at him in utter disbelief. "You've been shot," she said, in case he had missed that. "Shouldn't you sit down ... or something?"
As if it had just been waiting for its moment, the muscular contractions of the healing process pushed the flattened bullet out of the hole in his chest and shirt, and it hit the floor with a noise like a fallen penny. She gaped at it in almost comical shock. "No, I'm good," he told her, jumping back over the counter.
He knew the cook had already called the cops, so his dinner was probably over. Logan dug out his wallet and threw down a twenty, figuring it covered the meal and a tip. "Sorry about the window," he said, as he turned to go.
He could feel them staring at him all the way out the door.
He sat in the farthest, darkest booth, nursing his beer, the cheeseburger sitting in his stomach like a ball of lead. He knew he shouldn't have eaten it. Unlike the diner, this place was packed, but again it was almost all men. There were exactly four women among maybe thirty men - two were on dates of some kind, one had been picked up, and the fourth was a career drinker who'd happily accept any drink a man would buy for her, but blow them off if they tried to talk to her. God, they were all rather sad people - another loser magnet joint. He wondered if another couple of shitheads would try and rob this joint.
Actually, he didn't think so. Not only was it crowded, but the bartender was a huge Latino guy who looked like he'd kick your ass if you looked at him funny - half bartender, half bouncer.
It was noisier here, with the constant murmur of voices and clunk of glasses against wooden tables covering up the background rattle of middle of the road pop music playing from somewhere ( wasn't like there was a jukebox ). He had just shrugged off his jacket, tired of sweating but unable to take off his overshirt until he bought a replacement t-shirt, when a man said, "I guess I'll always be able to find you by the trail of the dead."
Logan glanced up at the muscular black man wearing pitch black welding goggle type glasses, and said, "I didn't kill anyone tonight."
Marcus smirked and slid into the other side of the booth, folding his black leather gloved hands together on top of the scarred table. "No, but you shot some craps with a couple of scuzzbags, right? So how ya doin', Fuzzy?"
Logan scowled at him. "Why aren't you in Baltimore?"
"Man, have you lost the plot. I just got back from Latvia - I haven't been home for about a month."
"Latvia? What the fuck were you doing in Latvia?"
"Increasing its black population to one," he replied, giving him a sarcastic, toothy grin. "Actually, if I tell you, I'll have to kill you."
"You mean try to kill me."
"Ha! So depressed, but still full of yourself."
"I am not depressed."
"Of course not. And I ain't the hottest guy in this joint either."
Logan shook his head and looked away, trying not to smile. He really did want to be alone, but of all the possible people that might track him down, Marc was probably the best one. He wasn't judgmental, and didn't require a lot in explanations. "You look like the world's only black Nazi."
He did too - with a long black leather coat to match his gloves and biker boots, black jeans and a tight black t-shirt, he looked like a member of the SS on casual day. He'd shaved his head again, so he had a skinhead thing going for him as well, and a neatly trimmed, small mustache and goatee combo that looked decidedly devilish ( surely that was on purpose ). The small gold scorpion dangling from his right ear - worn along with a topaz stud and a silver ear cuff - made him slightly more flamboyant than your average fascist.
Marcus chuckled, and reached across the table to grab his beer. He could have grabbed it back from him, but he didn't actually care; there was only dregs in the mug anyways. "Ya vole, mein furry friend." He gulped down the rest of his beer, and then asked, "So what's goin' on? I rang Xavier's to see if you were crashin' there, and Summers answered the phone and completely forgot to hate me. He sounded as expressive as Steven Wright. So what's happened exactly?"
"Yeah, right." He then set the mug down with a clunk, and his expression faltered as he realized Logan was serious. "Holy shit. Oh man, I'm sorry."
"We all are." But some more than others. He should have stayed around, he supposed, but he couldn't take the atmosphere anymore, or the memories. Scott moping around, being alternately withdrawn and sullen, and then sometimes Logan would swear he could still smell Jean in the halls - not that he ever mentioned that to anyone. And then there was the whole Xavier thing.
So Xavier knew who most likely was responsible for his adamantium and never said a word, huh? What the fuck else had he not bothered to tell him?Not specifically a lie, but a sin of omission that he didn't appreciate, no matter the motive behind it. Xavier had tried to talk to him about it, but Logan found he was way to angry to talk about it, or be in the same room alone with him, and at least Xavier picked that up and backed off. They would need to have "the talk", and soon, but he wasn't ready for it yet. he wasn't sure when he would be.
"You wanna tell me what happened, or just leave it at that?"
That's what he liked about Marcus - he wasn't going to demand it. Logan shook his head. "Leave it, okay?"
He nodded sympathetically. "Yeah, sure. Is this at all related to that weird "Scanners" head almost exploding shit that happened a couple weeks ago?"
"You felt that?"
"Fuck yeah I felt that. And what a shitty time too - I was picking someone up."
"No, I was in Brussels then."
"Which was worse?"
"Oh, it's a tie. Brussels's neater, but so dull it's not worth it. Latvia seems more exotic, but you're more likely to die. From the food if nothing else."
Logan nodded, and appreciated that Marcus hadn't pointed out he'd completely avoided the question. "So why are ya looking for me?"
"Why? Come on man, a couple of players like us?We should hit the town, cause trouble, and pick us up the hottest bits of stuff we can find."
Logan frowned at him and stared, waiting. It wasn't like this was a town worth hitting - unless, of course, he meant with a bomb of some sort.
Finally Marc relented with a shrug of his hands. "Okay, yeah, I've got an ulterior motive."
Marc rolled his broad shoulders beneath his leather duster. "True. I was wonderin' if you might want to come on a gig with me."
"I'm not a merc."
"It's not that kind of gig; it's more personal." Marcus sat forward, clasping his hands together once more, and lowered his voice conspiratorially. "You know I've been investigatin' military fucks who have been exploiting mutants, right? Well, in Brussels I got my hands on some intell that points me towards a real hot lead, but here's the thing - I can't figure out the military connection. As far as I know, there is none."
He hated to tell him he had no interest in going after the military fucks anymore, so he didn't. "So what are you sayin'?"
"Have you ever heard of a place called Santo Marco?"
Logan was sure the non-sequitur was connected to the topic, although he wasn't sure how at the moment. "Not really. Central America?"
"Bingo. It's this little piece of land carved out by the oil companies, a sort of stealth country down there, full of American and Canadian workers and the locals who service them."
"With all the political unrest down there? I know - Yankee dogs are always the first ones kidnapped, right? But here's the thing: Santo Marco is surrounded by juntas and death squads - and not one of their workers has ever been grabbed. There's never been a spot of trouble anywhere near Santo Marco."
"Bullshit." That seemed unreal, especially since Central America had recently started heating up again as a trouble zone. Not that it had ever stopped being so - although the media would have led people to believe that - it was just that it had hit another peak in its cyclical political violence. "So what,is the oil company there in cahoots with the military, fucking around with mutants?"
Marcus flashed him a brief smile. "Cahoots - I love that word. It could be that, but if so, I haven't found any outside proof of it. But there's strong empirical evidence."
"The whole fuckin' place is the mutant equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle - any mutant that gets within forty klicks of the place is never seen again."
"That's suspicious." If the cadres or the juntas got them, they'd have left the bodies out to be found as a warning, especially if they knew they had bagged a mutant. They wouldn't leave them to rot in the jungle, undiscovered and unnoticed. "Who's the company down there?"
Logan was glad he wasn't drinking beer at this moment in time, because he never wanted to do a spit take. "Barton Perevil's old company? Aren't they bankrupt?"
Marcus sat back, and just from the expression on his face, he knew he was looking at him curiously from behind his light protective goggles. "What, you know who the fuck Perevil is? Yeah, GP technically went under, but most of its property was absorbed by another company, Metropolitan Petrochemical Inc.; they still call it GP down there, mainly because they seem to be having a problem translating "petrochemical". How the fuck do you know they went bankrupt? I mean, it was a big scandal in the financial world, but hey, there's a big scandal every five minutes nowadays - who cares? We're all helpless puppets of the military-industrial complex."
He thought about not telling him, but what the fuck? It sort of reinforced his hypothesis. "Bob put 'em under. GP had a secret project goin' with the Emir of Rhajan, constructing mutants in a test tube, solely for protecting their investments from other mutants."
"Holy fuck. And how were you involved in this?" Logan raised an eyebrow at that, and Marc pointed out, "You said Bob sank 'em - so that means you brought him in on that, right? Or was it the other way around?"
Ah shit. Somehow he had ended up in a conversation he really didn't want to have. "I met one of their scientists once. When she found out what they were really doin', she got a major case of the liberal guilts and tried to save some marked for death."
At least he hadn't asked how exactly he met her. "They infected her with a designer tracker, meant to kill her slowly and lead them to the last survivors. She blew her own head off instead."
Marcus had enough good manners to look shocked. "Harsh. But they survived, huh?"
"One did, yeah."
"What about the designer mutant project?"
"It died with Perevil's credit rating ... or so I thought. The program they did have hadn't had much success, though. Apparently it's hard to design mutants to order." He didn't bother to say their "successes" - ranging from five to fourteen - now called Xavier's home, nor did he bother to say that the only survivor of the older project, Alex, was a cop in Alaska. Elena - there was another woman he let die on him.
"Bob stopped it."
Logan just nodded, deciding that was close enough. "I don't think it was working out for them financially, especially since their big mutant farm in the Northwest Territories went boom."
"Boom, huh?" Marcus smiled knowingly. "And I bet you had nothing to do with that."
"Well, a little. But it was mostly Helga."
That really made him grin. "That woman has a way with a flamethrower. It's a real turn on."
"You should see her with a rocket launcher."
"She is an Amazon without mercy - gotta love that." But he sobered, all good humor fading away, and asked what Logan knew he was going to ask. "Think there's a connection?"
He realized he was still very weary, and being reminded of Elena hadn't helped matters at all. He just wanted to drink until it meant something, but he knew it never would. He shrugged helplessly. "I don't know. I really think it's over. "
"You think so? Or are you just hoping it is?"
He glowered at him for that, even though he knew that was a fair comment. Actually, it was a painfully accurate comment, but he wasn't about to admit it. He just wanted to be left alone to ... to what, feel sorry for himself? Shit - he just couldn't win. "Fuck if I know. But why would they need designer soldiers if the area around Santo Marco's clear? Let's face it - if they had super soldiers, there'd be bloodshed around that place. They'd wipe out the juntas."
Marc considered that a moment, and then nodded reluctantly. "Yeah. But maybe they're workin' on a different kind of mutant."
"Or it's something else entirely."
"Or that. Look, why don't you come home with me - I'll show you the intell I've got, see if you can make anything more about it. Shit, if I'd known you had dealings with GP before, I'd have called you from Latvia."
"Home? Wait a second - I thought you said you hadn't been home for a month. How can the intell be there?"
Logan knew he had walked into something when Marcus got a smart ass, shit eating grin on his face. "They got this amazing thing called the internet, grandpa. It lets you send stuff from one place to another without any physical transfer takin' place. They also got these things called talking pictures - heard of those?"
He crossed his arms over his chest, and glared at him. "This is an elaborate ruse to get into my pants, isn't it?"
Marcus laughed and shook his head. "Look, white boy, I told you once - you're too hairy for me. Wax your neck, and we'll talk."
It was Logan's turn to shake his head and smirk. He had missed Marcus, but he hadn't realized it until now. Unlike some people he could think of, Marcus never hesitated in a fight - he went full on,not at all concerned he might seriously hurt someone: of course he was going to hurt someone, it was a fight for Christ's sake! And then there was the fact that the glands under his fingernails excreted a toxin that was lethal; it took Rogue some time to kill someone - Marcus just needed a second and a good grab. He briefly wondered if he would have made a difference at Alkali Lake, then mentally chided himself for thinking that way. The past was unalterable, and he knew that the hard way - there was only forward, whether he liked it or not. Time didn't care about you or what you wanted; it was as inexorable as the tide.
But he had a feeling if Marcus had been there, he never would have had a chance to kill Stryker, because Marcus would have already taken him out. Marcus had made taking out military guys ( and bases ) his fucking hobby - hell, he probably could have come up with a better way in. Of course the fact that the man packed an arsenal that should have rated him as a well armed small country couldn't have hurt either.
"So why did you want my help?" Logan wondered. "You didn't know about that shit with Global Petroleum."
Marcus shrugged a single shoulder. "I thought this might be some serious shit, and I could use someone watching my back, someone who could hold up their end of a fight."
"And?" He couldn't help but feel there was an "and" in there.
"And I figured I could use the interpreter." When Logan sighed and shook his head, he protested, "Hey, I may be a California boy, but I only know enough Spanish to get by, and it's mostly Spanglish anyways. Besides, in Santo Marco they speak as much Portuguese as Spanish, and the only Portuguese word I know is agua. I need someone fluent in both."
"What the fuck makes you think I speak Portuguese, nonetheless Spanish?"
Just by the way his face contorted, Logan knew he had rolled his eyes behind his goggles. "Give me a fucking break - you speak Zulu! If you speak fucking Zulu, of course you can speak Portuguese!"
"I don't speak it, I just read it." He protested, then paused. "I think ..."
"Same fucking difference." Marcus started to slide out of his seat. "Come on, let's get going. I was hopin' to get some sleep before takin' off for Santo Marco."
He sank back against his seat, letting his head loll against it for a moment. There were times he got tired enough that he could honestly feel the weight of his adamantium pressing down on him from the inside; this was one of those times. "Look, Marc, I'd love to help ya and all, but - "
"I got Jagermeister back home," he interrupted.
Logan stared at him a moment, then shrugged. "Okay, let's roll."
Well, it wasn't like he had anything better to do.