DUST AND ASHES
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 during "Angel" season two, and right after
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!
"Non Zero Possibility".
It didn't matter that he couldn't see them in the motorcycle's sideview mirror;he could feel their eyes skidding along his back,leaving an itch between his shoulder blades.
After several blocks of pointless and confusing maneuvers that didn't seem to lose them,he decided he'd had enough.He wanted to get this over with.
But first,he wanted a beer.
He pulled off into the parking lot of the first bar he came across,a dive that looked like it was built from trouble itself.Which was good,because when the shit hit the fan at least they could deal with it.
He stood for a moment,in the cool shadow of the decrepit,graffitied old tavern,where the heat didn't radiate from the pavement more than it oozed like blood from an old wound,and watched for any movement at all.But traffic was steady on the road,and no one else turned in-could they sense him somehow?
Fine;he was going in.If they wanted to follow and get their asses
kicked,that was their choice.
The bar's interior was as dim, smokey,and depressing as he anticipated,stinking of old cigarette smoke,stale beer,and sawdust with a tinge of vomit underneath,which was always indicative of a classy joint.He took a stool at the scarred wooden bar and ordered a beer from the bartender,a large man with no neck and a bulbous bald head that could have belonged to an alien on "The X Files";he was certainly ugly enough to have been one.And he didn't smell that good either.
The guy's tiny,porcine grey eyes glared at him as he gave him his beer,and Logan guessed he was the type who didn't like strangers.It made him want to move in and never leave,just to piss him off even more.
The t.v. behind the bar nattered like an idiot,blaring some dumb show that featured scantily clad women who couldn't quite manage being lifelike,but whatever sound there was was drowned by the wooden clacks of men playing pool at a table in the back and the jukebox, now playing an old Soundgarden song which rise over the rest of the ambient noise like a comforting thought.
"Nothing seems to kill me,no matter how hard I try..." The singer crooned in an eerie yet tired voice,like he had learned it from hard experience.Logan idly wondered if he was a mutant too.
"They're playing your song,aren't they?"A deep,resonant male voice asked,and he glanced up to see a tall,impressively muscled man standing beside him,holding something out from a chain around his neck."Alkali Lake?"
It was then Logan saw he was holding out a pair of dogtags.
Logan felt others beside him,so he turned and saw a woman beside
The shock burned through him like acid,and for a moment he
"You were following me,"he guessed,still not certain if they
"I'm sorry about that,"the first muscular man said.Logan looked
"Wolverine,we need your help."
the door of the Hyperion Hotel,followed closely by Angel and
Gunn.Cordelia saw Wesley was holding out the front of his blue
shirt,which had a large,black splotch on it.
"Soak it for a while.I think so,"Angel said,and Gunn looked like
"What is that?"She asked,putting her ice pack down on the couch
"I think its Hyrerian demon blood,"Wes admitted,trying hard to
"They threw it on you?"Cordelia asked.
Wesley seemed hesitant to answer."Not as such..."
"He tripped and fell onto the table,"Gunn elaborated,glancing
"The guy with the sideburns and a big stick up his
"He's gone,isn't he?"Angel wasn't really asking a question.She
She nodded very carefully,sure not to aggravate her volitile
"Or any goodbyes,"Wesley said,joining Angel in the frown
Gunn snorted derisively."Yeah,and he always struck me as Miss
"He's been through a lot,"Angel said,and Cordelia couldn't help
Wesley shrugged his narrow shoulders,still managing to hold his
"Maybe,"Angel said,in a somber way that suggested they'd see
"Maybe I could change,"Wesley suggested.
Angel gestured vaguely towards his room upstairs."Help
She gave him a small smirk as she got up from the lobby sofa and gathered her coat from the rack."Well,I hate to leave you guys with your laundry,but I have an audition tommorrow,and unless they're doing a remake of "The Evil Dead",I think I'd better get some sleep."
"Are you sure you're okay?"Angel asked,as she retrieved her purse from the bottom drawer of her desk.
"I'm better than I was. At least i didn't have two visions tonight.In that respect,I'm great."
"I'll drive you home,"Gunn offered,holding the door open for her.
"You don't have to,I'm a big girl."
"I'm goin' that way anyways,"he claimed nonchalantly,but she had a feeling there was some ulterior motive at work,even if it was just getting away from laundry talk.
She relented,and once outside,the cool night air didn't revitalize her like she had hoped,but just made her feel more tired.It had been a long couple of days.
Cordelia climbed in Gunn's beaten up truck with typical reluctance-there was a time in her life when she'd never be seen in a vehicle this sad-and he was silent until they were on the road.Then he finally asked,"What do you think happened between Angel and that guy?"
It took her a moment to figure out what he meant."You mean Logan?I don't know.Why?Do you think something happened?Beyond what Angel told us,that is."
Gunn shrugged,his hands tight on the steering wheel,his deep brown eyes focused resolutely on the road ahead."I don't know...I just know there's something missing in Angel's story.He was drugged for the pit thing,right?But then he snapped out of it;supposedly the drugs wore off.The more I think about it,I wonder how Flemming could be stupid enough to not give him a big enough dose.And then there's the fact that he admitted Logan belted him a few times,but how come there was barely a scratch on him?When Sideburns elbowed Angel in the face,it left a bruise,and I'm pretty sure he pulled his elbow a bit.If he hit Angel at full force he should still be recovering.What gives?What did Logan tell you about it?"
Gunn had several good points,all of which had bothered her earlier,but she had no good answers."Well,Angel's a vampire.He heals fast."
"Not that fast."
"Well,no,not when compared to Logan - "It was then that it suddenly occured to her Angel had possibly healed as fast as Logan.But how?It wasn't like Logan could share his ability,or Angel could take it...
"Oh my god,"she gasped aloud,eyes widening in horror.Had Angel fed off Logan?That would explain everything,including the guilty look in Angel's eyes.
"What?"Gunn exclaimed,glancing around for any visible enemies."What is it,Cordelia?"
She pointed at the dashboard clock."Is it that late?My watch must be broken."
He spared her a glance,giving her a dour frown."That isn't what you meant."
"Yes it is-do you know how much sleep I need?I'll be lucky to get a beauty nap at this rate.Shit,what am I going to do?I'll look like death warmed over tommorrow."She took a mirrored compact out of her purse and pretended to examine her face for black circles and puffiness until Gunn shook his head and resume staring at the road.She didn't want to tell him-or anyone-anything until she could talk to Angel about it.Or better yet Logan,but he was gone.And now she really doubted they'd ever see him again.
Gunn pulled the battered old truck up to the curb beside her building,and when he put it in park,he turned to give her a skeptical look."I know you're not telling me something."
She scoffed,slinging her purse over her shoulder and finally getting
the passenger side door open (she'd have thought he'd have fixed the sticky
door by now)."Just because I have the vision thing doesn't mean I know everything."She
stepped out onto the sidewalk and looked at him,barely noticing the dark
blur out of the corner of her eye until it tackled her,throwing her down
"Cordy!"Gunn shouted,jumping out of the truck and grabbing her attacker,a black clad man who looked not unlike the commandos she had seen in previous visions.As Gunn threw him back and punched a second one who attempted to hit him,Cordelia scrambled to her feet and grabbed her mace from her purse,ignoring the new ache in the back of her head from where it bounced off the sidewalk.God damn it,it was always something.
She heard someone run up behind her and spun quickly,blasting him in the eyes with the mace,and the commando fell back shreiking,grabbing his eyes.
But that's when she heard a sharp electric snap behind her,and pivoted to see Gunn fall to all fours on the sidewalk after being hit with something that looked like a taser.Before she could help she was grabbed from behind,a big bear of a commando pinning her arms to her sides,and she tried to squirm out of his grasp but she couldn't do it:he had a grip like a vise.
"Gunn!"She shouted,as the taser commando kicked him so hard in the face she thought she heard the cracking of bone,and he collapsed onto his back on the sidewalk,bloodied and unconscious.
A black van suddenly pulled up,the doors sliding open as the commando dragged her towards it,wrapping an arm around her mouth so she couldn't scream as he picked her up and quite literally handed her to the commandos waiting inside.
"You are so in trouble for this,"she spat,trying pointlessly to fight (and not show her fear) as one of them pinned her arms behind her back and slapped handcuffs on her wrists."Angel is going to kill you."
"Who?" One of the commandos said,as he jabbed a needle in her arm,and the world fell away into a grey and glassy haze before she could even think about what he had just said.
"You think we're scamming you,don't you?"The woman said.She was a tall brunette with clear blue eyes and a handsome face that looked closer to twenty than thirty,her creamy skin almost unbelievably flawless.Her dogtags said Electra,but her name was Naomi-or so she said.
"Why would you come to Los Angeles looking for me?"He countered,searching their faces for the slightest hint of disingenuousness from any of them.They smelled pretty on the level,but it was hard to tell in this noisome bar.
"Actually,we didn't come looking for you,"their unofficial leader,Shrike,admitted."We came here looking for Wraith."
Logan felt his stomach twist at the name,but didn't let it show on his face."So did I.He's dead."
Electra flinched visibly,gazing down at the cigarette burned table,while the other man at the table,Scorpion (nee Marcus),frowned and stared down into his untouched beer.Shrike (nee David) didn't seem all that surprised;he simply nodded."I feared as much,once we saw the ruin of his shop.We were about to leave,but then I realized you were here."
"And how did you 'realize' that?"
"Shrike has some psychic abilities,"Scorpion said.He was a man of average height with impressive musculature,his skin so brown it was almost true black,and large,dark eyes that seemed to be mostly pupil."That's how we knew where to look for Wraith in the first place."
"What did you want with him?"Logan asked,curious what he'd get from them.
"His help."Shrike said simply."But now that he can't,perhaps you can."
"You keep going on about this help-what the hell do you want from me?Just spill it.I don't have all night."He snapped,suddenly wanting to be anywhere but here.Couldn't they give him a break?He'd been drained by a vampire and electrocuted today;you'd think he'd get a break after that.
Shrike leaned forward conspiratorily,almost knocking over his beer,and said,in a whisper,"The bastards that experimented on us are back in business,Logan.We want to shut them down once and for all."
"Where?"He asked.For the moment,it was the only word he could spit out.
"Over the border of California,in a desert just outside of Dry Lake,Nevada,"Shrike said,sitting back,but still keeping his voice low."It's an old army proving grounds...supposedly.But for an abandoned area,it is extremely busy."
"And heavily guarded,"Scorpion added.When he grabbed his beer to have a drink,Logan noticed,for the first time,he was wearing black leather gloves.
"If it's heavily guarded,how do we get in?"
"I think all of us,working in tandem,could be far more than they bargained for,"Shrike said confidentally."Especially since we have the lay out of the place,and thanks to sattelite photos,an idea of the weaponry and opposition we'll face."
"How'd you get the layout?"It almost struck him as too good to be true.
Shrike smirked bitterly before admitting,"Let's just say the man didn't part with the blueprint willingly,but I got it anyways."
Logan actually didn't care if he killed an entire armada for the information,as long as it was accurate."Are they experimenting on mutants now?"
Electra nodded."We believe so,but we've been unable to get an exact number on how many mutants are being held captive.There could be as few as ten,or as many as fifty."
"That's why we need to put a stop to them as soon as possible,"Scorpion added.
"Who are they?"
"As far as we can tell,they work for some secret U.S. military organization,or at least we think it's the U.S. alone,"Scorpion said,fidgeting slightly in his chair.He seemed anxious to get going and do something,anything,which Logan could completely empathize with."But there seem to be some international ties that aren't clear."
"It could be part of some worldwide military network to use mutants as weapons,"Shrike elaborated with a shrug."We're not completely sure.But there's so many people in on this it's hard to believe it's been kept secret."
"Well,it's not like anybody gives a fuck about mutants,"Logan opined bitterly,having a gulp of his beer in an attempt to wash a sudden bad taste out of his mouth.Sadly,the beer was weak and putrid,and didn't help much at all.
"We do,"Electra pointed out,giving him a small,sad smile.
This still seemed too good to be true.It was something he had always wanted,and it just fell into his lap.He knew in his gut he shouldn't trust it,but could he pass up this opportunity?"If I said no,what would you do?"He wondered,deciding the answer would make or break his decision.
"It would be a pity,but we'd go on just the same,"Shrike responded easily.
Scorpion nodded."We're just offering to let you in,nothing else."
"But we'd be lying if we didn't admit we could use all the help we could get,"Electra said gently,almost touching his hand but instantly thinking better of it.
Yes,they would be lying,and he didn't think they were now.Logan knew this might be a trap,that it might be the stupidest thing he had ever done-which was really saying something,in retrospect-but what did he have to lose at this rate?
He glanced at the three mutants sitting around the table,and asked,"When do we leave?"
and he instantly winced at the spasm of guilt that brought on.He didn't blame him for leaving in a hurry considering what had happened,even though he had no clear memories of it.But maybe that was for the best.It was bad enough he knew he'd fed off another human being (again)-to have memories of it would have been too much to bear.
He was headed for the stairs when the phone rang.
He was going to let the machine get it,but decided that was selfish since he was standing right here,and reluctantly picked up the receiver on the third ring.
"Angel Investigations,"he answered,remembering to do so at the last second.
"Angel,they got Cordy,"Gunn gasped,his words sounding slurred."The goddamn commandos,I think.I tried to stop them-"
"Wait,hold on,"he interjected impatiently."What do you mean they got her?Where are you?"
"They kidnapped her,I think,I don't know why,"Gunn replied,sounding weary."I'm outside her place,at a pay phone.Shit,I think I have a concussion.I can barely stand up."
"Sit down,"Angel advised,his mind racing.Why the hell would they take Cordy?To get back at him?He felt a cold rage building from the pit of his stomach,but right now he had to focus and help Gunn."I'll be right there."
Even as he slammed down the receiver and raced out the door,he knew he should have called an ambulance,but he also knew Gunn would have objected to that.It was better he drag him to the hospital himself.
Then he'd find Cordelia,and get rid of the commandos once and for all.
Electra glanced at him sharply."You really don't remember us?"
"No.Do you remember me?"He stopped walking,making them turn to face him."Do you remeber what happened to that place?"
The three of them exchanged curious glances before Scorpion admitted,"None of us have coherent memories;we have fragments,shards that have no real context."
"I remember you,"Electra said."And Shrike.But I don't think I was there very long,and I have no memories of the explosion.I just remember some hunters finding me in the snow."
"I woke up in the snow too,"Scorpion said,a grim look on his face."The person closest to me was dead.I have no idea if they were doctor or mutant."
"I woke covered in rubble,at the edge of the complex,"Shrike added.
Logan mulled that over,sifting through the few memories he had,and finding a glaring discrepancy."You'd have been dead-the place was vaporized."
Shrike nodded."It was,and I would have been dead,if i wasn't like you."At his surprised look,he added,"I heal rapidly as well,Logan,although perhaps not as fast as you.In fact,I was the prototype."
"Prototype for what?"
Shrike held his hand up,and a single,thick spike burst from between two knuckles in the center. But unlike when Logan did it,blood trickled from the base of the silver spike."For this.But because I didn't heal fast enough,they figured I would die if they did a whole body graft,so they stopped with my hands.And of course I have just the one claw.But that's often more than enough."He retracted the spike,but the gash in his skin remained for almost a minute,blood continuing to ooze from the wound before it slowed and stopped,the skin knitting itself together as if in slow motion.
It was a shock to think there was someone like him,that he was not the first,and Logan wondered if it was an egotistical streak or pure disbelief that they'd want to do it to one person, nonetheless two.
"My name is sort of a giveaway,"Electra said,filling the sudden,awkward silence."I control electricity with my mind and can physically channel it.I think my ability fascinated them."
"In theory,I'm not very special as mutants go,"Scorpion said sheepishly."Mainly I see in infrared."
"Seriously?"Logan hadn't thought that was possible for the human eye,but they were mutants,so why the surprise?"But what's with the gloves?"
He glanced at his hands as if they'd suddenly become foreign to him."It was the experimentation they did on me.I have these artificial glands beneath my fingernails that excrete a neurotoxin I am apparently immune to.A brief touch can paralyze;a good grab can be lethal."
"Whoa,"Logan murmured,very glad he wore gloves.
"I almost feel sorry for the bastards,"Shrike commented,a sarcastic smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth."They made us to be human weapons,and now they're going to see how well they accomplished their task up close and personal."
"I'll remember to shed tears for them,"Logan said,glancing around the parking lot.With Scorpion's ability to read heat signatures(and paralyze),Electra's ability to control electricity,and Shrike's psychic abilities,they should be all but invincible,a wonderful confluence of natural ability and the desire for vengeance,and that wasn't even counting his virtual indestructability.
So why was Logan unable to shake the feeling that something was very wrong here?
"Um,pardon me,"he said to a receptionist,who had a phone receiver in one hand while she was typing on a computer with her other.He assumed she wasn't a nurse because he hadn't seen many nurses in blue paisley halter tops with purple streaks in their hair.But,again,this was Los Angeles...
He had to repeat himself two more times,in a gradually louder voice,before she gave him a sullen glance,her purple painted lips curving down into a moue."Can I help you?"She said,in a tone of voice that clearly conveyed the sentiment "Screw you and the horse you came in on".
Luckily,he had spent enough time around Sunnydale High to not take this knee jerk arrogant attitude personally."I'm looking for a Charles Gunn.He was admitted not too long ago,with a head injury,I believe."
She wedged the receiver between her left shoulder and ear,and pouted at the computer screen as she typed."Charles Dunne?"
"No,Gunn,G-u-n-n,"he replied,and her icy blue eyes gave him an abrasive look,like he was doing this just to annoy her.At this rate,he was sorely tempted to be really rude.
"Wesley,"Angel called.He turned to see him cutting through the crowd,which seemed to part more naturally for the tall,imposing man(which was grossly unfair).
Wesley glanced over his shoulder at the receptionist,and said,with a deeply insincere smile,"Never mind."If looks could kill,Angel would be scraping him off the wall,but he was heartened to know he'd made her life difficult,if only for a moment.
He joined Angel over in a corner,as private a place as there was in this madhouse,and asked, "How's Gunn?"
Angel frowned,concern evident in his dark hazel eyes."He has a
concussion and a possible skull fracture.Yhey're keeping him overnight for
"Very little that could help,"Angel sighed,crossing his arms over his chest."As soon as Cordy got out of the truck she was jumped,and he attempted to intervene.He figures he took out three or four of them-and Cordy got one with her can of mace-before he was hit with a taser.They were dressed like the commandos,and he thinks there may have been as many as a dozen,but he's not sure.All he knows is he was kicked in the face and knocked out.When he came to,Cordy and the commandos were gone."
Wesley rubbed his eyes,causing his glasses to fall to the bridge of his nose.He didn't even want to think what those mercenaries might want with Cordelia."Why would they take her?Unless..."
Angel finished the thought for him."They want revenge for the death of their boss."
Wesley felt numb to the pit of his stomach,suppressing the frigid shudder of fear that ran down his spine.If they wanted revenge,killing her was the first thing that came to mind...but if they had wanted to do that,they could have done it when Gunn was unconscious.What did they intend to do with her?
Considering what they had done to Angel and Logan,he didn't want to know."Where would they take her?Flemming's digital broadcast center was burnt down."
Angel nodded,scowling in thought."We need to find out if Flemming had a back up site,somewhere he might go if the warehouse was out of the question."
The Englishman knew what was coming,and dreaded it-he'd rather be doing something,anything else-but they couldn't help Cordelia running blindly through the city."The internet."
Angel nodded."We need to find out if Syon Corp has any other holdings.Call me if you find something."
"Call you?"He repeated in disbelief,as Angel started walking away."Where are you going?"
"I have some informants to shake down,a few heads to break,the
usual,"he replied almost casually,but the tension was evident in his flat
tone of voice,in the way his shoulders grew rigid
Of course,he used to,so he couldn't complain,and it was bigger than his.But it still seemed decrepit and sad somehow.
They were just using it to travel,there wasn't enough room for
people to sleep in it,but at least the motorcycle fit inside it okay.Shrike
was driving,for now,and Scorpion was up front in the passenger seat,leaving
him to go over the rudimentary plan with Electra.She admitted she rarely
sat up front,because she could sometimes accidentally interfere with the
He couldn't get over how young she looked,and told her so."Do
you have some regenerational abilities as well?"He wondered,as they sat
across from each other on the floor of the trailer.He
She smiled faintly,brushing a loose strand of long brown hair out of her eyes."No.I have vague memories of running away from home when I was seventeen-neither my parents or I could handle me anymore-and I think I ended up at Alkali Lake somehow.Maybe I was kidnapped,I really don't remember.I just know I wasn't there long,maybe a couple of weeks,before the explosion."
"You said you remembered me,"he pointed out,his mouth suddenly dry,his heart fluttering nervously in his chest.He was almost afraid of what she might tell him about himself,about the Logan...before.
She clasped her hands together,and cast her gaze down at the thin layer of rust colored carpet between them and the metal floor of the trailer.Was she a bit nervous too?Yes,he could smell her anxiety,see it in the way her fingers clenched and unclenched in her hands."What I remember most is being afraid.They'd given me something that interfered with my powers,and they were dragging me...somewhere.I just knew they were going to do something awful to me,so I started struggling and screaming.Shrike showed up first:he demanded they let me go,but they told him to get back to his...I don't remember.I was pretty heavily drugged at the time,everything seemed like it was happening underwater.Then you showed up,asking what was going on...and then I'm not sure what happened.Next thing I know is I'm on the floor,and there's an siren going off,loud enough to hurt my ears,and you and Shrike are fighting a lot more...soldiers?I want to call them that...than I initially saw,and when I tried to get up to run away,I put my hand in something wet-blood.Then the hallway was crawling with soldiers,and they took the both of you down by shooting you with something.I started screaming again because I thought they'd killed you guys.They dragged me back to my cell,and it was maybe a few days later that I woke up in the snow..."She trailed off,but when she looked back up at him,there were unshed tears in her sapphire eyes."I never knew the names of either of you,not then,but you were my heroes.I don't know if you actually saved me-they may have experimented on me later,I don't remember-but at that time,all that mattered was you tried.It gave me a false sense of hope."
"Not so false,as it turned out."Logan replied,trying not to show his own fear.Could that story be true?"Do you remember if Shrike and I were...oh god,this is a silly question...prisoners too,or were we working with the soldiers?"
That question seemed to startle her,making her sit up rigidly straight as she blinked the tears from her eyes."You think you were working with the soldiers?"