DUST AND ASHES
E-mail: notmanos at yahoo dot com
Disclaimer: The characters of Angel are owned by 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy; the------------------------------------------------
character of Wolverine is also owned by 20th Century Fox and Marvel Comics. No copyright
infringement 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!
She nodded,her dark cascading down and hiding her face."I just taxed myself a bit;I'll be okay in a minute.Go on,Logan,I'll be fine.They'll need your help."
"What about you?"
"The first soldier to touch me gets burned to a crisp."
He had no trouble believing that.Reluctantly he turned away,and started towards the base,his claws springing out from his knuckles as he did so.
This still wasn't right,but he was damned if he was going to let any of these bastards escape.
Wesley glanced up at a section on the ten foot high chainlink fence,topped with a thick tangle or razor wire,and frowned,the moonlight reflecting off his glasses."Did you bring your grappling hook?"
"We don't need it,"Angel said,walking around to an area he'd seen as a shadow,a hole that formed into an honestly empty space in his vampiric night vision.Someone had cut an entire segment out of the fence-not slashed the fence,but taken out an entire six foot by six foot square; the removed section of chain link laid on the desert floor like a chainmail carpet,whole and intact.
Wesley came around and looked at it,honestly surprised."Who did this?"He asked,examining the severed chain link."This was cut remarkably clean.Whoever they were,they didn't use wire cutters."
There was a scent in the relatively still night air,familiar...and soon as Angel placed it,it explained everything."Logan's here."
Wesley glanced at him in surprise."What?Are you sure?"
Angel nodded,concentrating on the smallest noises carried by the empty desert,which seemed to have remarkable accoustics;it was only a matter of counting the number of footsteps crunching on sand."Yes.About two hundred yards ahead of us,with...three others.They smell human too."
"That explains the fence,"Wesley said,squinting off into the darkness as if trying to see them.But even Wesley knew what a pointless endeavor that was,and quickly gave up."But why is he here?Do you think he heard about Cordelia?"
Angel shook his head."I don't know.Why wouldn't he tell us if he did?Frankly,I don't care why he's here;he'll help us get Cordy out."It was then Angel felt a thrum beneath his feet,like a tidal wave of electricity far below them,and the faint lights of the base on the near horizon died a violent death,leaving the cold,bright moon as the only source of light.
"Something's happening,"Wesley said,sounding tense.
From the faint sound of angry voices,Angel knew the power had been cut,and the soldiers assumed they were under attack.He knew they were probably right.
Angel turned and grabbed Wesley's arm,pulling him back towards the car."What are you doing?"
"We're driving in.There's no surprise to be had now,and we may need to make a really quick getaway."
Wesley must have agreed,because he didn't protest any further.
So this is what it felt like to be a condemned prisoner.She really could have done without that knowledge.
They had come to a bend in the corridor when the hallway-no,the entire building-was plunged into darkness,and Cordy knew if she was ever going to escape,it was now.She ran past soldier boy,hoping she tripped him,but barely got ten feet down the hall before a loud gunshot rang out,and she heard/felt the whistle of a bullet passing by not five feet from her head.She froze,hands raised in the air in spite of the darkness,her heart beating so fast she was afraid she might pass out.The fucking bastard could have killed her-and did he care?No,probably not.
Dim emergency lights flicked on at about ankle height,as a seperate
series of dim spots came on just above them,and smug weasel Bertram came
to her and grabbed her arm."Now now,my
"Away from you,"she snarled,yanking her arm back.That just made Bertram chuckle (god,how she wanted to knee him in the groin) as another soldier boy came jogging down the opposite end of the hall.
"I see he brought Electra in,"Betram said to the whey faced soldier as he joined them.
He gave Bertram a crisp salute,and said,"Sir yes sir.He also brought in,according to our scans,Wolverine."
"What?"She asked,wondering if she heard that right.Could there be another Wolverine?No,she didn't think the world could stand two of them.
They ignored her,and Betram seemed pleased with the information."The prodigal son returns?And so soon?Excellent.Are the solar batteries charged?"
The soldier nodded."Ready to engage at your order,sir.But our front line is falling faster than we anticipated,and Lieutenant Cross wants to throw it now."
"He is so going to kick your ass,"she said,smiling in triumph.Maybe Angel caught him before he got out of town and asked him to help,but honestly it didn't matter.She was getting out of Motel Hell.
But they continued to ignore her as if she was nothing more than
a fly on the wall,even though she was technically standing between them."No,wait
for my order.I want them in the complex - C
It was the way Bertram said it,and the way he emphasized 'all' in the last sentence that made her susupicious and nervous.Did he mean a literal explosion?Oh shit,was he one of those losers who,if he couldn't win,destroyed the whole game board?
The soldier threw another crisp salute and jogged off the way he came,and Bertram grabbed her arm and swung her around,dragging her the opposite way."Let's get you somewhere safe, sweetheart.Things are going to get very ugly."
"Oh,they'll get ugly all right,"she agreed through clenched teeth,making him look at her sharply.Did he think it was a premonition on her part?Fine,he could think that,because it was as good as one.
She was going to enjoy watching Logan kick his scrawny little ass to hell and back.Maybe,if she was lucky,she could help.
One of the soldiers was thrown back violenty,slamming back first into his buddy,who had just taken aim with his rifle.He heard him fire a shot,but where it went was anyone's guess.Probably into his friend.
The entrance before the complex was littered with fallen soldiers,most unconscious,but some had their eyes wide open in fear as they tried fruitlessly to move,to get up and grab their rifles - victims of Scorpion's paralyzing touch.
Logan casually punched the last standing soldier in the unit,sending him crashing to the tarmac with blood gushing from his shattered nose,and turned towards Electra when he heard a strange growling noise-faint and growing louder.
He looked back towards the desert and saw a big black car barreling towards them,its headlights off and its street tread tires throwing up huge plumes of sand in its wake.
"What the fuck is this?"Scorpion snarled,coming up beside him.
The car stopped suddenly,sliding about three feet forward in the
sand before coming to rest.
Scorpion took a threatening step forward,but Logan grabbed his arm,and said,"Cool your jets,he's on our side."
"You know him?"He asked suspiciously.
"Sadly,"Logan admitted,as Angel walked right towards him,Wesley scrambling out of the passenger side door and quickly following after.
"What are you doing here?"Angel and Logan asked each other in unison.They both stared at each other,and Logan pointed at him."You first.This ain't exactly L.A."
"These bastards kidnapped Cordelia.Isn't that why you're here?"The
tall,broad shouldered vampire-still wearing his hopelessly attention getting
long black trench coat(in the
"What?They took Cordy?"He exclaimed in disbelief,but he knew simply from the anger in his eyes he wasn't lying.
"They think she's a mutant,"Wesley said,joining them,adjusting his glasses.
"Who the hell are they talking about?"Scorpion asked.
Logan turned back towards the complex,angrier than ever,and he didn't think that was possible."A friend.Come on,Angel,you're with me."
If they had hurt her in any way at all,Logan knew their experimenting on mutants days were over.Because he was going to kill each and every goddamned one of them.
They had tried to shield the complex doors,which were pretty thick adamantium,but Electra blew them off their hinges,hitting a few soldiers who were laying in ambush for them.They were on them so fast they didn't have time to do much more than become punching bags,although one managed to lift his rifle and take aim at Logan.But Angel jumped him as he fired,decking him with a single backhanded fist to the face,and as another tried to converge on Angel,Wesley pulled out one of the tasers the Omegas had loved to use and fried him,leaving soldier boy twitching and insensate on the floor.
Angel came back to the group,grimacing as he dug his fingers into his chest and pulled out the bullet he had taken,tossing it aside."Where would they keep the prisoners?"
"That's your mutation?"Scorpion asked,impressed."You're impervious to bullets?Shit,I wish I had that one."
Angel didn't answer,and Logan was glad.He wouldn't know how to begin explaining the vampire crap."I think they'd be in the center of the complex,"he said,then suddenly wondered how he knew.Had he remembered?
Even in the darkness,the shape of the place had a sickening familiarity to Logan;a shadow of a nightmare,the architecture of fear.If he didn't know this place specifically,he knew something like it,and it made him feel cold with anger and remembered terror.He didn't want to be here; everything in him screamed for him to run,to give up now and get away while that was still an option,but Cordy was in here somewhere.He wasn't leaving without her,or any other mutant undergoing what he had gone through.
Angel had simply nodded and turned away-if he had smelled his fear he didn't comment on it-and as he led the way down the entrance corridor,Scorpion said,"Hey,I should lead-I can see in the dark."
"So can I,"Angel answered matter of factly."And they don't have what it takes to kill me."
Although the others couldn't know how true that was,they let him
go ahead,and Shrike leaned down and scooped up one of the fallen soldiers
rifles as he followed,checking the clip for ammo.
Angel encountered gunfire ahead,but not for long,as the narrower entryway widened out into a larger corridor.By the time they turned the corner and joined the fight,half of the squadron was already down for the count.
As Logan punched one soldier and kicked away another,unleashing his claws,Wesley suddenly stared over his shoulder,and exclaimed,"What the hell are you doing?"
Logan turned,and saw Shrike taking aim at him with the soldier's stolen rifle as the walls suddenly began to close around them."Fucking bastard,"Shrike snarled,pulling the trigger as Electra sent a bolt of electricity streaking towards him,but it was too late.The bullet punched through Logan's shoulder,spraying his own blood on his face as the bolt hit Shrike and threw him backwards down the hall as the walls closed between them,sealing like doors.
They were now trapped in a featureless white room,ankle deep in unconscious soldiers,as the lights suddenly came on,making Scorpion wince in pain and shield his eyes as Electra came to Logan's side.
"Are you all right?"She asked,visibly concerned,as he grabbed the wound,blood oozing out between his fingers.
"I'll be fine,"he snarled,walking towards the nearest wall.Had Shrike lost his mind?Or was he being controlled by someone else?Either way,they were busting out of here.
It was then he smelled the gas,and it was the last thing he smelled before he hit the floor.
But he was supposed to be a mutant,not the undead.So Angel closed his eyes and let himself fall to the floor(although he partially landed on top of a fallen soldier),and played dead,which wasn't hard for him at all.In fact,closing his eyes was all he needed to do to play dead,although it wasn't playing by any means-he was dead.But presumably these guys didn't know that.
Two minutes went by before he heard metal gears engage,a tremble shivering through the floor as one of the walls scraped aside,and he heard the footsteps of several men enter the room.He listened carefully and judged it to be about a dozen people,mostly men.
"That one there,with the silly hair-that's our dear Wolverine,"a man with a haughty,Eastern seaboard accent said,as Angel felt himself kicked aside,off the fallen soldier.They were dragging their comrades to safety first,outside the hallway."Inject him and the girl.Scorpion can be dealt with more easily."
"Who are these guys?"A soldier asked,and Angel knew he was referring to him and Wesley.
"I'm not sure,"haughty man-the leader,obviously-replied tentatively."The Brit didn't manifest any obvious abilities,but the pretty boy exhibited some interesting traits.He's worth more study."
Pretty boy?Angel wasn't sure if he should be flattered or insulted.
Angel felt himself grabbed by the shoulders,in preparation for being dragged away."Do we inject him too?"The soldier asked.
Angel opened his eyes and gazed up at the soldier,who gasped in shock and almost dropped him."It wouldn't help,"he told him,springing to his feet and tossing the soldier across the room. He went straight into his friend,who was approaching the fallen Logan with a rather wicked looking needle.
Angel quickly grabbed the man dressed in a grey green jumpsuit,figuring since he wasn't wearing the army fatigues of the others he had to be the haughty voiced leader.He tried to pull his sidearm,but Angel was too quick,grabbing him from behind and crushing his throat with his forearm as he reached down with his other hand and pulled the man's automatic pistol,pressing it to his temple.It was amazing how quickly he stopped struggling.
The soldiers who came with him all pulled their rifles and aimed them at Angel,but he made sure they all saw what a compromised position their leader was in,with his own weapon aimed at his own head."Throw the guns down,or you'll be scraping the commmander's brain off the wall with a trowel,"Angel snarled,tightening his grip briefly on the man's throat.He was turning a convincing shade of red,his eyes bulging,the stench of fear coming from him almost overpowering.
The soldiers exchanged confused looks,unsure how to proceed.Hadn't
this ever happened before?
"Tell them to do it,"Angel growled in his ear,loosening his choke hold just enough to allow the man to talk.
"You won't kill me,"he croaked,his voice little more than a harsh whisper."They'll shoot you dead."
"They can't,or weren't you watching the surveillance tapes when
we came in?I'm impervious to bullets,asshole."Angel then lowered his voice
to a silky whisper,assuming more of an Angelus stance-these monsters deserved
Angelus if anyone ever did."And I'm not going to kill you right away.First
I'll shoot your kneecaps out,so if by some miracle you do survive this,you
won't be walking away,ever.And,if you continue to piss me off,I'll start
on your arms - "
He was right about that,but only in the technical sense-he wasn't alive when he entered,either. "Give them the antidote,"Angel demanded.
The man feigned confusion."What are you talking about?"
Angel tightened his grip on the man's neck again,reminding him who was in control here."The antidote to the gas,the one you were going to give your men.If you continue to play games,I'll start breaking your bones one at a time until you have none left.Clear?"
He nodded,temporarily unable to speak,and while Angel knew he should on some level feel bad about threatening harm to a human,he couldn't.He was in on the kidnapping of Cordy and who knows who else...and worst of all,he seemed to know Logan.Was he one of the ones who altered him?Logan had never said it to him,of course,but it was obvious he was in the dark about how he acquired those lethal claws of his,and the pain attached to the topic was almost palpable.Maybe if he was human,he would have ascribed his bad attitude to personality alone,and while there was some of that,a lot of it was defensive,a reaction to pain.Angel knew all about pain-giving and receiving.It wasn't all vampires who could smell pain like a shark could scent blood in the water,but the sadistic ones-like Angelus-learned to acquire it.
And if these bastards hurt Cordy,they were in for pain humanly unimaginable,soul or no soul.
After all the planning and waiting,escaping his handlers had been surprising easily,and he managed to get into the main power complex for the base that had become his prison before the lockdown alert sent emergency admantium doors crashing down,sealing him inside.Not that he cared.In here he could do whatever he wanted to,and what he intended to do would free them all.
The room was dark and crammed with hulking machinery that smelled of grease and ozone, sending out strange shadows in the dim emergency light that made the room look like the engineering section of a spaceship in a science fiction movie.
If he remembered correctly,there was some kind of master control;all
he had to do was call off the lockdown,and shut down the power,main and
auxilliary.Then the only things keeping them here
He thought he saw it,a sort of large circular table in the center of the room,bright with green and red lights that pulsed and threw living shadows on the far wall,but then he heard something under the thrum of the machines,smelled someone...
"Wolverine!Shit,did you cause all the chaos upstairs?"A man said,making him turn,hands formed into fists but his claws still sheathed-for the moment.
It was a fellow mutant,judging from the bland blue jumpsuit he wore,and after a moment he recognized him:Shrike.They had experimented on him too,if what he said could be taken at face value.
"What are you doing here?"Logan asked,unnerved and suspicious.How had he gotten in here after the emergency doors had slammed down?And better yet,why was he here?
Shrike smirked,as if he was an idiot for not knowing."I'm a telepath,remember?They can't block me all the time.I thought maybe I could help."
"That's okay,I think I got it down,"he replied,still suspicious.
"I don't think you do,Wolverine.It's an insane plan.It'll never work."
Logan glared at him,and realized he wasn't acting right.Considering this was an escape attempt, he seemed remarkably calm,and he smelled...clean."How did you get in here?"
Shrike shrugged nonchalantly."Like you.I slipped away."
"No-in here.In this room."
"I knew what you were going to do,and where you were going.I beat you here."It was then he heard a strange noise,metal scraping metal,and soldiers in oil sodden coveralls (specially grimed to hide their human scents) suddenly appeared on the catwalks above,aiming down rifles and electronic weapons.But they were all aimed at him.No one aimed at Shrike;but then again,they didn't have to."So did they,"the telepath added,grinning smugly.
"You fucking traitorous bastard!You've damned us!"Logan shouted angrily,launching himself at the asshole as he unleashed his claws,the familiar pain of them ripping through his skin overwhelmed by the pain of bullets tearing through his body and electric shocks knifing down his adamantium skeleton.But he didn't care,as his sudden dive surprised the telepath,and Logan's forward momentum carried him into Shrike,his claws stabbing through Shrike's chest as he fell to the floor.
Shrike kicked him off,wide eyed with pain and terror as he choked on his own blood,and as Logan felt his consciousness fading away,he consoled himself with the knowledge that,even if he didn't secure their escape from this living hell,at least he killed the fucking prick who ensured they'd be trapped here for the rest of their miserable lives.
He turned towards the sound,and saw a tall man dressed in black pressing a gun barrel to the temple of a man whose military casual clothes made him instantly think "handler".The man also had him in a chokehold for good measure,and he was standing with his back to the wall,so none of the soldiers could get fancy and sneak up on him.
Angel.What was he..?Oh right-now it all came flooding back to him.
He jumped instantly to his feet,making one anxious soldier jump in return and aim his rifle at him,but Logan didn't even look at him as he lashed out with a claw and sliced his rifle in half,the barrel and much of the ammo tumbling to the floor. Logan carefully stepped over the bodies,heading towards the handler,who was becoming more visibly alarmed as he came closer.He thought he was worse than a gun pressed to his head?Good,very good-he intended to be.
"This was a set up all along,wasn't it?"He demanded angrily,no longer paying attention to the remaining soldiers.He was angry enough to kill them all,guns or no guns."Why?What was the fucking point,handler?!"
"What are you talking about?"The handler replied,while Angel just gave him a curious look.
Logan retracted his claws until only the one slicing through his index finger knuckle was out,and he pressed the tip just above the man's left ear,hard enough to just break the skin and make him wince."Tell me.Or don't you want your ear?"
The stink of fear coming off of him was pretty awful now,making him reek like a sweatsock doused in vinegar.Even Angel wrinkled his nose at the stench."Now let's start again,or you'd better hope the military has a good plastic surgeon.Shrike works for you,and he's been fucking with all of our memories.Why?Did you want us back that bad?"
"W-we wanted Electra,"he answered haltingly,trying desperately not to move so he didn't accidentally lop off his own ear."Scorpion was a secondary target,and you were a lucky break."
"Why did you want Electra?"
"Her powers.We wanted her before,but we were unable to retrieve her before the situation at Alkali Lake went critical.Unlike you,Shrike understands and agrees with our goals in the project.He is a true patriot."
"You never had Electra?"He repeated,frowning at his own false memory.It made sense.Shrike cast himself as the hero,and Logan as an also ran,but also a psychopath who killed a soldier in cold blood.He didn't think that sounded right."Why did the situation grow critical at Alkali Lake?What happened there?"
"I don't know.We believe a mutant blew it up."
"I don't know.I wasn't there."
"I was never at Alkali Lake?"Electra said.He glanced over his shoulder to see her getting to her feet,scowling at her own conflicting memories.Scorpion was now coming to,as was Wesley,and they all appeared confused."Why do I remember being there?"
"Shrike's a telepath;he's been messing with our heads,implanting memories and burying others,"Logan told her,glaring at the handler for tacit confirmation.He didn't do anything,but he didn't need to - Logan knew the truth now.And he wondered how much experience Shrike had at burying memories.
"He said he was psychic,"Scorpion said,now sounding dubious.
"Well,he's full of a shit."Logan replied,so angry he felt like he was going to explode.That mutant Uncle Tom led them back here with the intention of enslaving them all once more,although it would be a new experience for Electra,whether she knew it or not.
"Cordelia,"Wesley said,walking over to a soldier and ripping the rifle out of his hands.He looked like he wanted to fight him over it,but a single evil look from Logan put the soldier in a docile mood as Wesley shouldered the rifle strap.""Where's Cordelia?What have you done to her?"
"Yes,what?"Angel repeated,and turned the gun down,aiming it at the handler's leg.
"Nothing,"he instantly replied,his voice going up an octave in terror."We've barely begun preliminary testing of her abilities.She's fine!"
"Where is she?"The Brit repeated,sounding surprisingly serious and deadly.
Angel gestured with his head for Logan to move aside,and he did.Angel then shoved the handler forward violently,aiming the gun at his back."Take us to her.Now."
The handler looked briefly like he was going to protest,but looking between Angel and Logan,he changed his mind.
Logan looked to Electra,who appeared deeply troubled(and he couldn't blame her.It also explained that impulsive kiss back at the motel-Shrike had to do something to keep them from talking about him),and asked her,"Do you think you could do something about our friends here?"
It seemed to take her a moment to understand what he was asking."Oh,of
course,"she finally answered,and held up her hands,palms facing outward.A
bolt of blue fire seemed to spring from them,hitting the nearest soldiers,and
then it seemed to jump from one soldier to another,as if completing a circuit.They
seemed to go rigid before falling unconscious to the floor,joining their
previously fallen friends.Only the handler was left standing,which seemed
to increase his anxiety.
He swallowed hard,justifiably afraid.
Angel shoved the handler forward,closely following him,as Wesley and Scorpion trailed behind.As Electra joined them,Logan stopped her with a raised hand,and said in a quiet voice,"Take care of them,and get them out.I'll join you as soon as I can."
Her responding look was curious and doubtful."What are you going to do,Logan?"
"I'm going to find Shrike,"he admitted,feeling the rage boil through his veins like molten blood."I have to finish what I started fifteen years ago."
"Meaning this time,I really am going to kill him,"he said,walking off in the opposite direction.
In the renewed chaos,it was easier to sneak around,and easier to follow Shrike's scent trail,which seemed to lead him deeper into this Escher like maze of a base - where walls might suddenly appear where there were none before,and corridors looped around each other in a manner so complicated it was guaranteed no unauthorized personnel would ever end up here without escort.Which just proved how traitorous Shrike really was.And even though he felt hopelessly lost,Logan had a feeling he knew where Shrike was headed,and he ran as fast as he could,hoping he wasn't too late.
He stopped as he heard voices ahead,and lights seemed to inexplicably appear in the darkness, oozing from beneath the cracks of a door hidden inside a wall.He couldn't quite hear what they were saying,but he knew the sound of Shrike's voice,and after determining he was inside with three different men who were much closer to the door than he was,Logan moved. He dug his claws into the small vertical crack of the door and shoved it open so violently on its track it warped with a scream of tortured metal.
The closest man,who was beefy and older than most of the soldiers he had seen (Logan assumed he was some sort of leader),spun and pulled his gun,but Logan slashed it from his hands and gave him a flat footed kick to the knee that cleanly snapped the bone in his leg with a sound like a branch cracking in an ice storm. He screamed and fell to the floor,grasping his injured leg and sobbing in a rather undignified manner as the second man,clearly a soldier,brought his rifle to bear and moved in on Logan.But he moved at exactly the wrong time,as Shrike had pulled his weapon and fired as well,and the unaware soldier was shot in the back,the bullet from Shrike's rifle bursting through his chest at bone shattering force and spraying Logan with his blood as he hit the control room floor,as dead as Shrike deserved to be.
As shocking as that was,Logan didn't give Shrike any time to recover.He launched himself over the body of the fallen soldier and leaped over the control table,tackling Shrike and taking him down to the floor before he could get off another shot.
The third soldier was very smart.Deciding he wanted none of this,he ran out the door.Logan could hear his footsteps as he hastily retreated down the outside corridor,and he briefly wondered if he was off to get reinforcements when he decided that the boy was probably just legging it for good,the smartest thing to do at almost any given time.
He could have killed Shrike right then,but he didn't want to,not yet.He retracted his claws inside his hand as he punched him in the side of the head,and he felt a bone crack on impact even as Shrike kicked him off and tried to scramble away.Logan grabbed his leg and pulled him back as Shrike suddenly shot his hand out,metal spike first,and drove it into Logan's shoulder,aiming for the heart and missing by several inches.He brought up his other hand for another try,spike oozing out of his hand while dripping blood,but Logan pinned his left arm to the floor by stabbing his clawed right hand downward until the tips sunk about an inch into the ground,taking Shrike's arm with him.