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 and his bunch are all mine - keep your hands off!
Once they got back to the hotel, he suggested trying to rinse off some of the holy water, but Yasha assured him it was already gone. It did look like her skin was a little less blistered.
She just wanted to lay down and he did so with her, hoping she couldn’t smell the worry he was surely exuding.
What the fuck had that
eyeless dude been about? Okay, sorcerer, fine, but why
there? What had he
After awhile of stroking her hair and staring up at the ceiling, he had a sudden epiphany. “Why don’t you take some of my blood? I mean, you’ll heal faster, right?”
When she didn't respond, he glanced down and realized she was asleep. She had the most injured side of her face pressed against his chest, her arm casually flung across his abdomen, one leg draped over his. It was really hard to tell when she was asleep; since she didn’t breathe or have a heartbeat, she could very well be faking it to avoid the issue. Yet he didn’t think so this time.
He was afraid to sleep, at least while she was actually on top of him; he could really hurt her if he had a nightmare and freaked out (which was par for the course with him). But of course, just because he so badly didn’t want to go to sleep, he suddenly felt very weary. It was always that way, wasn’t it?
At some point, in spite of his best efforts, he did drift off. But he didn’t dream, at least not that he remembered, and that was all he cared about.
Something woke him abruptly, though, and at first he wasn’t sure what. It was just an odd feeling they weren’t alone, and maybe … a familiar smell..?
“Sorry to wake you big guy, ‘specially when you got company,” a voice said, making him jolt.
Bob was leaning against the door, arms folded over his chest. In the dark hotel room, Logan could still pick up on significant details: he was wearing leather pants again, probably boots too; he’d been out in sunlight recently (he still smelled of it); also, he’d been drinking high quality rum. “Bob, shit,” he cursed, wanting to sit all the way up, but Yasha was still laying on him, and he didn’t want to wake her up. “Where the fuck have you been?”
“Out of town on business. You’re aware your gal pal’s undead, ain’tcha?”
He scowled at him. “No shit.” And since she hadn’t moved, he asked, “Did you do something to her?”
He shrugged, and uncoiled his arms. “Just told her she wouldn’t notice us. She kinda looks familiar … is she famous?”
“Yeah, she’s Angelina Jolie.”
“No she’s not. Her boobs would’ve pushed you off the bed if she was, and her lips would be really big, like she’d been sucking on a tailpipe.”
Logan shook his head and grimaced, trying not to laugh. If he'd had any suspicions this wasn’t really Bob, they'd been allayed now. “She’s called Lady Blood, okay?”
“Oh wow, really? That’s her? Man …you wearing a cup?”
Logan gave him a hateful stare, knowing Bob could damn well see him. “She’s not like that anymore.”
“One would hope not. Rumors had it she got cursed or something and dropped out, only surfacing to kick some ass and make sure no one had forgotten her. Any truth in it?”
“Some. Do you have any fucking idea about all the hell you’ve missed?”
“No. Why don’t ya fill me in?”
So he did, starting with all the Jean nonsense, and then Leonie, and how it all culminated in Leonie getting killed and Jean killing everybody at the Organization base in Mexico. Bob probably could have “seen” it in his mind, and did, but let him rant simply as catharsis. Bob’s posture notably stiffened though, and Logan could almost smell the indignation. “I’m glad she killed those motherfuckers,” he growled. “And I’m really sorry about Leonie, but I ain’t gonna go there, ‘cause I know words are worse than useless now.”
Putting kids in danger or hurting them really pushed Bob’s buttons, didn’t it? Logan could understand, but he felt there was more there, a subtext that was part of the answer to the mystery that was Bob. “You’ve lost a kid, haven’t you?” He guessed.
“More than one,” he admitted, looking away at nothing, jaw tensing. “That’s the worst part of virtual immortality, the loss of so much that means anything to you.” All of Bob’s studied casualness dropped away, replaced by something darker and harder. “ If you have any feelings at all, you never get used to it. I’m never gonna tell you seriously that I envy you your memory loss - I don’t - but some things are better off forgotten.”
Logan felt a small surge of rage for even coming close to declaring his enforced memory loss a “blessing”, but then he got inexplicable insight: one of Bob's kids had been murdered. Because of what he was? Perhaps. Why did Logan think he knew that, though? You couldn’t glean that much information from the tensing of someone’s posture, the rigidity of their body language, the sudden merciless tone in their voice. He couldn’t know that, and yet … it felt right. Maybe he'd picked it up unconsciously at some point; gods knew he’d been in his mind enough times.
But he knew it was
Bob than him. If he was completely honest with himself, he was
devastated by the loss of Leonie only because of what she represented,
not because of who she was, and that was
“I’m not virtually immortal,” Logan pointed out, belatedly realizing Bob had included him in that statement.
“No, of course not,” Bob agreed, far too quickly and dismissively. Bastard.
“So what the fuck was up with that eyeless guy?”
Bob looked back at him, and maybe it was just a dim shaft of slowly burgeoning sunlight bleeding through the join in the curtains, but Logan would have sworn his eyes glowed a brief, deep blue. “Oh shit. The Brothers.”
“You know ‘em?”
“Of them - the Brotherhood of the Panoptes.”
Logan snorted, not all that surprised. “The All-Seeing? Considering they take their eyes out with melon ballers, is that appropriate?”
“Good on ya, you speak Greek. As you know, though, the Brothers don’t need their eyes to see.”
Was that Greek? Oh, yeah, he guessed so. “Yeah. What’s that about? Yasha thought it was a sorcerer.”
“Yasha? Oh, is that Madame Sanguine’s stage name? You do know a yasha is another kinda demon, right?”
“Yeah, I know. Can we move on?”
“Right. Anyhoo, the Brothers have a specific hierarchy, and they all answer to a hierophant.”
Logan instantly interpreted that too - but it was another Greek word, wasn’t it? Shit. “High priest?”
“Yep. Their big hoo-haa Pope Evilus channels quite a bit of black magic; supposedly he is their Chosen, with a direct link to the Pater Sinister himself, Argus.”
‘Bright’, Logan thought, his mind translating the word unbidden again. Given a century, he didn’t think he’d ever understand his stupid, broken little mind. (That’s why the Organization had noticed him, right? His facility with language … ) “Who’s Argus? Some badass god?”
Bob tapped the end of his nose, like they were playing charades. “Yeah, but there’s kind of a funny story there.”
Logan rolled his eyes and groaned. “Funny like Kumiho?”
“In a way. Argus was initially an Earth god, in the most literal sense of the word. He was born of/twinned off of Gaia. 'Gotta love god reproduction.”
“You mean another god, right? Not the Earth itself.”
Bob paused for a
moment, cocking his head to the side, and Logan’s bad feeling increased
“Okay, look, I don’t need those details. Are we completely fucking doomed?”
“Not completely, no.”
“What is Argus’s power exactly?”
“Er, uh, I’m not sure you want to know that one.”
Oh no. “It’s that bad?”
“He can control most things within the Earth realm, namely the things living on it.”
It took him a moment, but he got it. “People. He controls people?”
“Well, yeah; to be technical, flesh. Living or dead.”
“Shit.” But that explained why eyes would be useless to his followers. They could die from the wounds, and it wouldn’t matter. He would keep them going; his “love” would keep them alive. Or at the very least, animate. “So why isn’t he grabbin’ all of us?”
“See, now here comes the funny part,” Bob said, coming closer to the bed. He was close enough now that Logan could make out what was on the front of his white t-shirt: it was an illustration of the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, looking extremely dumpy and pathetic in a mask, cape, and spandex uniform, surrounded by the legend ‘Worst Superhero Ever’. Bob certainly enjoyed his little “in-jokes”, didn’t he? “Argus was banished from the Earth realm a long time ago. See, he was … well, let’s say he was convincing people to worship him by the ton, and the other gods despised his manipulation of the playing field. Also, he started embarrassing his mother, and she wasn’t gonna stand for that. So he was ripped from Earth, and tucked away in a universe where he could run things all by his lonesome and never bug us again. But unlike Fenrir, Argus was happy with this; he got tired of his mother showin’ him up all the time anyways. He couldn‘t play Christ here, but there - hey, who gave a fuck?”
“So he changed his mind. He’s back and he’s pissed.”
Bob shook his head. “It’s not him.”
“But you just said-”
“It’s his followers at work, sure, but it’s not him feeding them. Something is mimicking his energy, but it’s not him. They’re using the Brothers to raise the dead and do their dirty work for them.”
“Raise the dead?” Logan repeated. First he'd heard of that. “Not zombies again.”
Bob shook his head tersely. “As far as I can tell, they’re only using them for specific grunt work. Besides, they can’t use any old dead - they have to be killed in a special, consecrated way to be available for use by the hierophant.”
Logan took a stab in the dark. “Eyes ripped out?”
“Ooh, you’re good at this. We should really go on a game show together. We’d clean up.”
“Why not tell these Brothers they’re being used by the wrong god? Don’t you think they’d be pissed?”
“First of all: why would they believe me, an infidel? Number two: you saw the power the Major Domo is getting out of this. Do you think he wants to give this up? He’s already shrimp-forked his own eyes into non-existence. What does he get out of giving up the power fix? Thirdly: do you think the real god behind this is gonna let me?”
Logan scowled, not wanting to admit he may have a point. “How do you know it’s not Argus?”
“I dropped by his place.”
“I paid a visit to his
dimension before comin’ here. My god, bein’ constantly worshipped
Logan never wanted to know about the habits of the gods; any gods. He didn’t care who, why, or when. “Of course he was gonna deny doin’ it if you confronted him.”
“But it wouldn’t have helped him. He’s a strong guy, but I’m stronger. And right now, he’s the god equivalent of Marlon Brando. He wouldn’t even get his fat ass off the couch. His Earth is much better than this one could ever be, at least according to him. He is worshipped as the one true savior, and thus has been allowed to grow to the size of a small mountain. Why would he want to leave? When I told him I thought someone was exploiting his old followers in his name, do you think he cared? He hasn’t had genuine contact with them in centuries; he couldn’t give a shit if someone exploited their naiveté.”
“Why do I have a feeling this is making me very jaded about religion?”
Bob scoffed. “Like you weren’t already.”
Okay, that was a point for him. “So you’ve got no idea who could be doing this?”
“Not as such. But it’s obviously tied in with the chaos wave.”
Logan sighed heavily, and asked rhetorically, “Is there no end to this shit?”
“Everything has to end,” Bob offered, and Logan wondered if that was actually supposed to be comforting. Bob held out his hand, and said, “Want the quick feed?”
“Yeah.” Logan reached out and grabbed his hand, and got that straight shot lightning bolt of information straight into his brain pan. You would have thought, by now, Bob would find a way to make that easier.
After a moment he had assimilated the whole thing, and realized they were in even deeper shit than he ever imagined. “How do we shut down a chaos wave?” He asked, as Bob hadn’t sent him that information (or if he had, he hadn’t sussed it yet). His head ached a bit, but it was starting to fade. Not so much telepathy as a big psychic sucker-punch between the eyes.
“See, the thing is, this isn’t your average chaos wave.”
“Of course it isn’t.” That would have been too easy. Right?
“Whoever is behind this, they’re feeding the chaos, and it is obviously feeding them. The Brothers are surely helping, but can’t possibly be doing this alone. This is huge; by nature, this has to be a massive effort. Even I might not be able to turn this back. But, rather than shut it down, there might be a way to work it in our favor.”
“Well, I ain’t telling’ ya now, as I have no wish to repeat myself. But let’s say I have a cunning plan. Oh, and a few friends in high places.” He looked past Logan, at the still sleeping Yasha. “Think Senora Sangre would be interested in a dust up? So to speak.”
“Can she kill things?”
“Then yeah, I’d say she’s up for it.”
He clapped his hands
together and rubbed them eagerly. “Beautiful. The undead are always
“How many other people are you dragging into this?” He wondered, as he got the distinct impression that Bob was getting himself quite a group together.
“Oh, just the usual suspects,” he said, curiously evasive. “And a few friends. No one you don’t know.”
Was that supposed to
comforting too? Honestly, Logan’s bad feeling about this had just
Bob suddenly got a very curious look on his face, staring at something only he could see, and said, “Jean manifested on this plane? I wonder …”
He didn’t answer right away, and in fact chose to shake his head. “Nothin’. Just one helluva coincidence, in’nt?”
Logan hadn’t thought of it that way before. And now he didn’t want to think about it ever again.
Scott wondered when he had become this big a moron. What did they want? Well, it was obvious, wasn’t it? That thing; that thing in his trunk. So it was some kind of occult deal - he'd actually thought it might be something like that.
He was still driving way too fast, and taking an evasive route, which belatedly struck him as funny. Did he think zombies could drive, especially ones without eyes? Sure - ultra smart zombies with computerized eye implants. He laughed at the thought, but in a nervous way.
He hated this occult crap; he hated this demon crap. Why couldn’t Bob (and by extension Logan) have kept this to himself? (Maybe the Professor had encountered some long before, but at least he'd had the decency not to share that knowledge with everyone else.)
As he drove back to Westchester, he was peripherally aware that the weather seemed to be changing with a bizarre rapidity, like Storm was having a county-wide nervous breakdown. It was clear, and sweltering one minute, and hardly five miles down the road it was gray and impossibly windy, like a hurricane had come off the coast and strayed deep inland. Another ten miles up, and it was snowing.
This weirdness wasn’t just confined to the atmosphere, either. The statue of some general he’d never heard of had apparently disappeared inside a sudden sinkhole that healed itself up by the time the fire department checked it out; FAO Swartz’s was evacuated when it started raining tadpoles inside the store; someone had stacked cars one on top of another in a county-city building parking lot, making a car pile the equivalent size of a three story building; LaGuardia had been shut down when it was discovered that the tires of a 747 had been inexplicably encased in cement; the New York City public library was closed when books started moving “of their own volition” (it was being alternately blamed on pranksters or a gas leak); a subway train narrowly avoided hitting an elephant (!) that abruptly appeared on the tracks just beyond the 56th street station; the Triborough bridge traffic was all fouled up by the still unexplained appearance of a decommissioned Bradley armored tank in the center of it, blocking three lanes. No reports of eyeless people, but he had a sinking feeling it was only a matter of time.
Scott found himself trying to rationalize it all. Magneto could have put that tank there (it was metal, right?) and stacked those cars. Other mutants could probably control the elements, hence the chaotic weather, and the disappearing statue (perhaps even the rain of tadpoles). But the airplane? He was still puzzling that one out. And he couldn’t even begin to guess about the books or the elephant.
The eyeless people? Well, no mutant he knew of could make the dead walk. He really didn’t believe that was even a power option. What the hell was the evolutionary advantage of making the dead move?
He figured out only one thing, and it seemed screamingly obvious - something had gone horribly, horribly wrong. But what, and where, and how the hell did they fix it? Was there any fixing it?
Did it have anything to do with the thing in his trunk?
The sun was either rising, had risen, or had set again, depending on where he currently was. Or maybe it wasn’t where he was but simply the passage of time. Either way, he was starting to feel chronologically unstuck, just adding to the surrealism of it all.
Even though his radio
technically tuned to the same channel, the broadcasts he received were
constantly leaping all over the dial, and he had given up trying to
follow one. He sometimes heard news; he sometimes heard music
salsa, bland contemporary pop, opera, country, and - he would swear -
polka); he sometimes heard odd things, like someone reading Dylan
Thomas in a somewhat embarrassing Welsh accent, rapid-fire discussion
in a foreign tongue he couldn’t even begin to guess at (Yemeni?
Czechoslovakian? Esperanto?), a college radio station with West Coast
call letters (!), a bad sitcom complete with overbearing laugh track,
and what sounded an awful lot like German air traffic control
He decided to turn it off - as grateful as he was for the noise and the false feeling of company, he knew that it was ultimately making things worse - but as he reached for the controls music flared, loud and somewhat hard rock oriented, not his kind at all. Static jittered in and out, sounding like it was making a radio edit. “They are not gone they are not gone, they are only sleeping,” the singer sang, in a kind of whispery menace. Scott had the impression he was British. “In graves, in ways, in clay; underneath the floor -”
Scott snapped the radio off, and wondered, for the first time, if someone was toying specifically with him.
As bad as it was teleporting across the country with a surly Aussie witch (and relative of Bob’s, which was perhaps the worst sin of all), it was doubly embarrassing that she had to materialize them in a garden shed, as they would be going into someone’s home, and Angel couldn’t enter until he was invited.
The sun was rising - he could smell it in spite of all the fertilizer, and feel it like an itch on his skin - so after dumping him there, Amaranth took herself and Wesley out of the shed, probably to the main house. At least it was a large shed, he conceded.
Angel opened the door slightly, peeking out cautiously, but he wasn’t sure why; the sun had not technically breached the horizon yet, and he doubted there was anyone about playing croquet at five in the morning (Or was it closer to six? The problem with long distance teleport, beyond the odd jet lag, was the uneven loss of time).
He didn’t know what
expected, but it wasn’t this. He was looking out over a wide lawn
an extremely well tended garden, all leading up to a mansion with
brickwork and some pleasant gothic touches that made it look quaint as
opposed to menacing. Did Bob have an East Coast home? Would
No, wait - it couldn’t
Bob’s house. If it was, he should have been able to enter without
problem, as he wasn’t Human. Even if he had a half-Human child
here, it wouldn’t necessarily be enough. A Human lover or
that would keep him out, as long as she lived here. Or Bob could
put an enchantment on the place, forbidding entry of vampires, but Bob
didn’t seem like the type to do that; he even appeared to have some
friends, which Angel didn’t get at all. They were all evil.
mostly evil. Not him … and supposedly not Yasha. But he was
convinced Spike was evil, and no
Angel watched as a ray of pale light slowly brightened on the swath of verdant grass, then, slowly, inexplicably, seemed to cloud, like cream being poured into coffee.
The chaos wave. Wherever the sun was coming up, it had touched down there; it would only be a matter of time before it engulfed this area too, drowning them in dark energy seemingly without focus, but full of bad intent.
Once they had materialized in here, and Wesley finished picking up the shovels and rakes they had inadvertently knocked down, he asked Amaranth how Bob knew of the chaos wave in the first place. “I bleedin’ told him, didn’t I?” Amaranth snapped, taking them both in with a look that could have neutered lesser men. “I’m a witch, ain’t I? I know when things go wrong with the Earth’s energy, you fuckin’ drongoes.”
Why did all of Bob’s relatives that they had the misfortune to meet treat them like dog shit they had just stepped in? Was it an odor, a personality type, or a general world philosophy? Maybe Bob tried to make up for their sour dispositions by appearing to be ultra friendly. Or maybe being related to Bob was enough to make the kindest soul jaded beyond belief.
Angel knew it might take a bit, especially if someone had to be awakened, so he decided to have a look around the shed, and try and determine the type of people he’d be dealing with here. How he thought he could determine that from gardening implements, he had no idea.
But he was able to figure
out a few things. They obviously had money (well, duh), as they had
some of the most up-to-date gardening equipment he had ever seen (he
didn’t recognize about half of it); they didn’t believe in using
artificial pesticides (good for them); and somehow, someone had written
on the ceiling “Paulo is a dickhead”. Why some kid (and it
have been a kid) had bothered to set up a ladder
Finally he heard a noise outside the shed, and the door swung open, revealing Amaranth standing behind a bald man in a wheelchair. “This is him,” she said, gesturing at Angel, who suddenly felt self-conscious. Did she have to save it with such disdain?
The man’s pale eyes widened appreciably, creases forming on his wide brow. He wore a gray suit that seemed oddly elegant -especially for this time of day - and in spite being in a wheelchair, he gave off an almost disconcerting aura of power. “You’re Angel?”
Now he really felt self-conscious. Why did he sound shocked? “Uh, yeah.” He wiped his hands on his duster, even though his hands weren’t damp, and extended one towards the man as he approached, then stopped as he seemed ever so slightly taken aback. Angel decided to simply hide his hands in his pockets. “Do you know me?”
“Only in a roundabout way. You were the friend in L.A. he would never talk about.” The man grimaced wryly. “At least now I know why. With a name like Angel, you‘re definitely not what I was expecting.”
It was Angel’s turn to be surprised. “Logan? You know him?” It was then that it sank in: this mansion on the East Coast - this was New York, wasn’t it? - this wealth, this oddly powerful, upper-crust man in a wheelchair who knew Logan and something about a ‘friend” called Angel …”You’re Charles Xavier, aren’t you?” He guessed, hoping he was wrong.
The man nodded, giving him a tight smile.