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!
Angel found him with his head down on the desk, arms over his head like he was trying to avoid some devastating blows. “Wes?” He asked, wondering if he decided to have a late afternoon nap, or if someone had attacked him.
But Angel heard a muffled, “He’s gone.” He then raised his head, and looked at him with eyes more irritated than tired. “I called that school back in New York, and apparently there was an incident of some sort this morning - Logan’s missing.”
Angel wasn’t sure how to take that. “He’s been kidnapped?”
Wesley shook his head, running his hands through his short black hair and messing it up even further. “No, he’s done a runner, again. Is Yasha with you?”
“No, she’s still in the archives, searching through files. Did you know she reads Kestlan?” It was an obscure written only demon language - even Wesley only knew a few verbs.
“I’m not surprised. She
had access to the files of the Templars before she burned them all, didn’t
Angel closed the door to Wesley’s office, and asked, “Anything on her?”
The Englishman stretched in his chair, joining his hands together and holding them up over his head, arching his spine as he tried to work the kinks out. “Nothing new. She seemed to drop off the face of the world shortly after killing that Slayer in Nepal.”
“Presumably where and when she was cursed.”
“Presumably.” He let his arms fall back to the desk, without even ruffling a single file. “She remained something of an urban legend in the demon world - the “Dragon Lady” - and was rumored to be living in almost all of Asia, Japan, and Canada since then.”
“Dragon Lady? Isn’t that stereotypical?”
“Um, no. She has a large dragon tattoo along her spine. She seems to have acquired a couple of others over the decades.”
“Oh.” Angel only hesitated a moment before throwing himself down in the chair before the desk. A shaft of sunlight from the open blinds behind Wes bisected the chair, but Angel quickly reminded himself all of Wolfram and Hart was covered with mystically treated glass, so their undead employees didn’t burst into inconvenient flames. It was strangely thoughtful of them. “First a curse, now a telltale tattoo. She’s stealing all my best bits.”
“At least she doesn’t have a soul.”
He shrugged. At least there was that. “So what was the curse exactly? She’s been less than illuminating.”
Wes rubbed the back of his neck as he started shuffling the small piles of folders making a temporary restraining wall around his desk. “Most of the records of the Watchers were destroyed along with them, but there was some information at the Australian branch office. Buddhists are much like Wiccans, in the sense that they believe that whatever they send out will come back on them-”
“Instant karma. Yeah, I know that much.”
“Then you know that desire is, to their belief systems, the path to suffering? So that was her curse. Of course, the group that cursed her at least felt they were damning themselves to the very same thing, but obviously felt it was worth it.”
Angel hated to admit it, but after shifting uncomfortably, he was forced to say, “I don’t get it. They cursed her with desire?”
“I know, it’s hard to wrap your head around, isn’t it? But if you think of it as damning someone with constantly unrequited love, you can appreciate the true evil genius of it. She constantly wants, but it’s a nebulous desire that can’t be sated; it surely leeches the joy out of everything.”
“So you’re saying she’s depressed? A chronic depressive vampire?”
Wesley considered that a moment. “That could be one way to look at it, yes. She can never be truly happy.”
Angel was still at a loss - that stopped her from being evil how? But then again, he was depressed for a long time too, and he could barely be bothered to hunt down a rat. Maybe it was amazing she was up and about in society in any form. “And how does this keep her from being an evil predator?”
It was Wesley’s turn to shrug. “I don’t think it does. But she can no longer take joy in slaughter.”
“Ah.” Again, he was at a loss to see how that helped matters. So she wasn’t sadistic … she killed without feeling anything at all? That was an improvement how? But rather than focus on that, he decided to move on to the more relevant topic. “Are you sure your interpretation of the prophesy is correct? How long did you see it - a few seconds?”
Wesley gave him a rather harsh stare, like he couldn’t believe he was being this boneheaded. “The implications are dire, Angel. I think Bob intends to use Logan as his proxy in some apocalyptic battle.”
“You’re assuming it’s against his will. You know how Logan loves to fight.”
“Yes, but you know as well as I do that endowing a Human with god like powers, even temporarily, never ends up well. Even with someone as resilient as Logan.”
“But even if we tell him, what can he do about it? You’re assuming Logan will care.”
That made Wes sigh wearily, shoulders sagging like he had just had a ten ton pack strapped to his back. “I know. But he ought to.”
There was nothing he could say to that, so he remained silent. Behind Wesley, the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles gleamed gold in the dying light, a strange garden of gilded rockets awaiting launch. Wow - did someone slip something in his blood this morning? Or was recent proximity to the frustrating, enigmatic Lady Blood driving him nuts?
He really didn’t like her, but the truth was he didn’t know why. Maybe it was her coolly superior air, or the fact that she was so miserly with any kind of facts about herself, like telling anyone would make her explode into dust. She wouldn’t talk much about her relationship with Logan either, and he knew there was something untoward going on there.
(And, you know, she was really very pretty …)
“Find anything further on him in the files?” Angel said, mostly to derail his own train of thought. He was getting as bad as Spike now. (Although he'd stopped crassly hitting on her after Yasha brought him to his knees with a savage wrist lock, and told him she’d rip his arm off at the joint and beat him to death with it if he didn’t cease and desist. But behind her back, Spike still insisted she wanted him. Angel had no idea if Yasha had taken any enjoyment in humiliating Spike, but Angel knew that it made him happy.)
Wesley sighed again, more heavily this time, and he pulled a sheaf of files off the right hand pile and shoved them towards him. “So far no. Oddly enough, I’ve found files on the mutant phenomenon going back to the early thirties, long before it was even secret conjecture in the scientific community.”
“So they had some inside knowledge?” He took the top folder and started flipping through it, finding lots of yellowing documents printed in French.
“It would seem, but I’m not sure how. And many of these files have no obvious connection to mutants or mutations of any sort, which is even more puzzling.”
“But you haven’t found any specific references to Logan?”
“Not so far, no.”
Angel scanned a few more
documents, and noted the connection. “These are documents from World
Wes nodded, flipping through another file of his own. “For some reason these were grouped in with the mutant files. It seems to be about a top secret mission codenamed Operation: Nightfall.”
“They had such cool code names back then.”
“Well, it was a reference to the night jumping necessary to drop the agents behind enemy lines. It was a secret - and unprecedented - collaboration between English, Canadian, and Russian intelligence agencies -and eventually American - to get special agents into hostile territory, mostly France and Poland, and share information reported by their various operatives. As you can imagine, no intelligence agency has ever been that cooperative with a rival ever since.”
Angel flipped back and read the documents more carefully. He hated to admit it, especially since during that period of time he'd been homeless and hiding out in New York, feeling sorry for himself, but he’d become a World War Two buff. He blamed the History Channel, which should have been more appropriately named the Luftwaffe Channel. “Was it successful?”
“Very much so. But the mortality rate was incredible - most of the operatives were dead by the end of the war, and seven of them went missing, presumed dead, but no bodies were ever found. But then again, they never could identify everyone buried in a mass grave; they just didn’t have the technology back then.”
Angel grimaced sympathetically, and continued scanning the pages, skipping the Russian ones - he never did learn how to read that. He turned to some pages in English, but they seemed to be cryptically composed memos that imparted little in substantive information. The one at the end of the file had a small black and white photo paper clipped to it, and written on the bottom white edge of the photo in ink faded to ash gray was the words “The End!” Considering the beaming, drunken smiles on the servicemen’s faces, and the wine glasses in their hands, it referred to the end of the war.
But they weren’t really soldiers, were they? These were the spies, the moles who made it through months (longer?) in enemy territory, gathering intelligence that would get them tortured and killed if they were even suspected of being spies, not just discovered. The Nazis were hardly known for their tolerance. Most of them looked oddly young, although they had a hardness in their eyes that suggested not only were they older than they looked, but had seen and done things they would have gladly taken back if they could. Angel wondered idly if any of these men were still alive.
One sitting at the far left side of the photo, hoisting a pint mug, was proudly wearing a RAF jacket with a British flag patch on the sleeve, probably the first time he could proudly display his nationality since he was dropped in. There was an American there too, judging from the small flag tucked in his pocket, and two Russians who had their arms locked together like they were having a friendly arm wrestle. A couple of the men standing in the back had no obvious signs of nationality, and there was one man turning away from the camera, his face only partially visible in profile, the patch on the sleeve of his jacket slightly blurred. Maybe he gained Angel’s attention because he didn’t seem to be celebrating; everything in his posture seemed to say he’d seen too much horror to celebrate anything ever again.
“Oh my god,” Angel exclaimed. “I know why this is in the file.”
Wesley looked up at him, brows bunching in curiosity. “Why?”
Angel pulled the paper clip off the file, and it instantly crumbled to dust between his fingers, showing how old it was. He handled the photograph gingerly, in case it intended to dissolve as well. “Look closely at the figure on the far right, the man in profile, wearing a Canadian Special Forces jacket.”
Wesley took the photo very carefully, and studied it for a moment, until he saw what Angel had seen. “Oh Jesus,” he gasped. “Is that Logan?”
“It looks like it.” And the most frightening thing was he hadn’t aged a bit. Only his hair was different, his jaw a little more clean shaven, but that was it. “Hey, there’s writing on the back.”
Wes flipped it over, to read the ink scrawl, reduced to a gray outline, but still legible (barely). “Limey?” he repeated, with a frown of distaste. “Bear?” After consulting the front and back, he said, “Oh -someone listed them by their nicknames. Still, don’t you think, with so many Brits, Limey was confusing?”
“Bound to be,” Angel agreed. “Is Wolverine on the nickname list?”
“Oddly enough, no. According to this, if I’m reading the order correctly …” He carefully flipped back and forth between both sides before saying, “According to this, he was called Lingo.”
“Lingo? Why the hell would they call him that?”
Wes stared at him a moment, equally puzzled, and then Angel saw it: that look Wesley got when all the pieces suddenly clicked into place, when he suddenly realized something both obvious, astoundingly difficult, and brilliant. “Because he spoke the lingo. All of it.”
Angel got it himself. He couldn’t help but think of Logan’s most obvious mutation - claws - first. “His fluency with language. Do you think he was trained for it? Or could he just do it - secondary mutation, perhaps?”
Wes shrugged a single shoulder. “Chicken or egg. During the war, they were certainly recruiting interpreters - how quickly could they drill someone on a foreign language, let alone several? Being Canadian, it’s not difficult to imagine he was already fluent in French, which probably gave him an edge.”
“But how many languages does he currently speak?”
Wesley set the picture down carefully, then held open his hands in a kind of shrug. “If he was fluent in the main European tongues back then - French, German, Italian, Spanish, even Polish and Russian - he would be an invaluable intelligence asset. There would be nothing anyone could say around him, in any language, that he wouldn’t understand.”
Angel simply nodded, not only seeing the wisdom in that, but feeling a little dumbfounded. Here he’d just been wondering if any of those guys were still alive, and it turned out he actually knew one - but one who didn’t know he knew, if that made sense. “And then there’s the small fact that he seems immune to death. How perfect is that in a mole?”
“But this was before mutations were known; I’m sure they had no clue on that front. Perhaps Logan didn’t either.”
“Until he was shot and not killed.”
“Quite possible. Or maybe he just attributed his lack of injury and illness to simply being lucky. That’s not unheard of.”
Angel looked down at the yellowing photo once more, now upside down from his perspective, and saw as if for the first time how weary Logan looked in that photograph. He’d probably just wanted to get the hell home. (Where was home?) “But, hey, if we ever find Logan, we have something for him. A photo, and the knowledge he was fighting for the good guys in in the war.”
“What do we have?” Wes replied. “Think about it - he might not take this well.”
“Let’s be generous, and assume he’s was in his mid-twenties when this picture was taken. Do you realize how old he’d be now?”
Okay, math wasn’t his strongest subject, but it didn’t take him long to figure out where Wes was going with this. “Shit. He’d be in his eighties.” With an ironic tip of his head, he added, “He wears it well.”
“And we’re giving his age the benefit of the doubt. He could be much older than that. He could be as old as you.”
“No.” It wasn’t that Angel didn’t believe him, it was just that he couldn’t believe Logan could be that old. Sure, vampires didn’t age, but they were dead - hard to age when you were dead; that kind of left you out of the time bubble. You only commenced rotting and decaying if there wasn’t something demonic dwelling in your skin.
“But at least we have somewhere to start,” Wes sighed, sitting back in his chair. “Logan was in the Canadian Special Forces in the ‘40’s. Now all we have to do is comb their records until we find him.”
“Oh yeah. The military is bound to throw open their records on a secret mission to an American law firm.” Angel said, frowning at the thought. Shit.
Wesley groaned, and laid his head back on his desk again, careful to avoid the picture, not bothering to hide his dejection.
Well, now they were going to see how far throwing around the weight of an evil empire would get them.
The instant he felt the dissonance, one hundred eyes converged on the scene.
The thing about having pieces of your consciousness in a billion other things was that you always had someone near the epicenter of whatever occurred, when and wherever it happened. Since he assumed it could be trouble, he sent the copperheads, the corals, and the cobras.
Degei was perfectly fine being alone with his babies. He knew that many people feared snakes, for reasons he couldn’t fathom: snakes were terrific. Snakes were him, his people and his offspring, and they were him as well. It wasn’t a relationship he expected the physical-bodied to truly understand.
Through dozens of his (babies) eyes, he saw the visitor was Bob, which was no surprise - Bob was the only one who visited him regularly, and was in fact the only New World god whom he considered a friend. Most of the rest of them were insufferable, which made them different from the Old World gods, in that the Old Worlders were generally intolerable.
Even though he was actually
in his cottage, making himself some tea, he saw, in his mind’s eye, that
What the hell was that about? Kill another Human? He wasn’t implying that a Human attacked him, was he? Since when could a Human hurt a god?
Degei cast his consciousness outward, making sure that his babies grabbed Bob and brought him back here, as he began straightening a spot for Bob to recover in. So much weird stuff had been happening lately - what the fuck was going on now?
This was exactly why he preferred the company of snakes.
There was a unexpected knock on the door just as the Aliens DVD got to the good part, where that smarmy Paul Reiser was about to be killed. Shit.
Marc paused the movie, and used a special function on his remote to call up picture in picture. But it didn’t show him another television channel - it showed him the view through the small security camera he had hidden in the hall, pointed at his door. Peepholes were for chumps.
Standing at his door was a cappuccino-hued Barbie doll, dressed in a flouncy blue poet’s shirt and tight brown pants, with stack-heel boots that probably gave her an extra four inches of height, her long hair inexplicably as white as vanilla icing. Ah, of course, Xavier was sending out his people; he should have anticipated that.
He supposed Storm was attractive to many, but not to him, just like he kind of missed the boat on Jean, no matter Logan’s feeling towards her. Marc liked women who looked like they could not only keep up with him, but could potentially outpace him. Storm was way too delicate looking, and Jean far too patrician, in spite of the red hair. But Helga - he could go for her, in spite of the fact that she was as green as last year’s tuna salad. You had to love a woman who not only had her own flamethrower, but could use it like a Marine on holiday. There was a woman who had his heart, and a few other organs as well. He really had to remember to ask her to marry him next time he saw her.
Marcus put his goggles on, and pulled his Glock out, placing it just under his left thigh for easy, quick reach, hand on the couch beside his leg. He kept his posture slouched back and casual, feet up on the coffee table, as he grabbed the smaller remote that operated the new electronic lock on his door. He only used it when he was home, because it was too easily manipulated from the outside, if you knew how to read and interpret infrared frequencies. (The fact that he was the only person he knew that could do that was not a point in its favor.)
He pressed the button that unlocked it, and tossed the smaller remote aside, as he got rid of the security camera picture on screen. “Come on in if you want, babe, but he ain’t here.”
Storm did open the door and step inside, giving him a curious look. “How did you know who it was?”
He shrugged, and tapped his goggles. “Everyone has a specific infrared frequency.”
She considered that a
moment, and then looked back at the door as she closed it. “You can see through
“That one, yeah.”
She scowled at him like
she knew he was lying, but couldn’t prove it. And she must have been uncomfortable
with him, because she stayed by the door, arms crossed over her chest. “Where
He shrugged again. “Fuck if I know. Even under ideal circumstances he’s hardly gregarious.”
She cocked her head and gave him her best “fuck you” stare, and it was difficult for him not to laugh. He expected better from a sister. “We just want to help him.”
“If he wanted your help, he’d have gone to you in the first place.”
“He’s in shock.”
“Yeah, he is. What the fuck happened? He didn’t tell me anything about it. How old was the girl? Who was her mother? Where the fuck were you guys when they were getting shot?”
Her frosty blue eyes narrowed, as if she didn’t like the implication of failure in his tone. “She was seventeen; her mother was apparently the mutant nicknamed Static. According to the Professor, Leonie was the result of some sort of gene combination program. And the shooting occurred at Abbot’s Park - Logan and Leonie were alone there. By the time we found out, it was all over.”
“Convenient.” Logan had been shaken by Static’s death too, wasn’t he? Damn, a double whammy. No wonder he was so broken up.
Her frown deepened into a scowl. “Where is he, Marcus?”
“How would I know? He cleaned up and took off. Do you really think I can keep Logan from going when he doesn’t wanna stay?”
“Am I? You guys have done a boffo job of makin’ him stay yourself. And maybe I oughta warn you of something, Storm. Maybe you don’t believe me about infrared signatures, but I have learned something interesting: before mutants use their powers, their body temperature spikes, especially in the vicinity of the brain. So even when a mutant thinks about using their powers against me, I can see it, and act accordingly to prevent it. And I can; I have extraordinary reflexes, and I’m always armed. If you’d like to put that to the test, I’m willin’, but I don’t think you’d like it. S till, I’d only wound ya, ‘cause yer a friend of Logan’s. Wanna try me, sweetheart?” Seeing through the door had been a lie, but this wasn’t. He could see a mutant powering up, even if it was just a split second before the act, and he could shoot first - he knew that from experience. He slipped his hand beneath his thigh, and wrapped his fingers around the butt and trigger guard. It wouldn’t take him a! ny time at all to put a bullet through her shoulder or lower leg.
For a moment, the static electricity around her remained pretty high, but then started dying down, as she decided he was being honest. “You’re despicable; the type of mutant who gives other mutants bad names.”
“This from the woman who was thinkin’ about zappin’ me ‘cause she thinks I’m lying.”
“I know you’re lying. And I wasn’t going to zap you.” She then decided to try the guilt tack, perhaps to distract from her poor lie. “If he’s your friend, you wouldn’t send him out into certain danger.”
“I didn’t send him out into certain danger. He wanted to leave, and I didn’t stop him. He had calmed down, and he promised to give me a call. I don’t think he’s in any immediate risk. Those fucks are playin’ with him, and you know it.”
“We don’t know any such thing, and neither do you. All we know is that they torture and kill mutants for sport, and they have fixated on Logan as their favorite punching bag. Where is he?”
“I told you, sweetie, I haven't got a clue. But as soon as he calls, I’ll let you know.” He knew Logan would never forgive him if Xavier’s lame-ass crew broke in on his action. But if they wanted to come with him on his raiding party in two and a half days (give or take a few hours), they could, as long as they didn’t get in his way. Still, he wasn’t telling them anything until it was high noon time. He didn’t trust them not to jump the gun.
She huffed a sigh through her nose. “This is pointless.”
She spun back towards the door, hair flaring dramatically behind her. “This could have been easy, but fine, you’ve made your choice.”
“Oh, honey,” he chuckled. “You really don’t want to threaten me.”
She paused half way out the door, and shot him her most withering glare, which still just wasn’t cutting it. “You haven’t heard the last from us.”
“I’m sure I haven’t. Sayonara, muchacha.” He gave her a mock friendly wave, hoping she’d take the hint and get her bony ass out of his loft.
She simply slammed the door as she stormed (Ha!) dramatically off. No wonder Logan didn’t like to spend too much time with them - bunch of pompous, self-righteous sorts, weren’t they? And no good at issuing genuinely effective threats.
He grabbed the small remote and reinitiated the door lock, then turned the DVD back on, pulling the gun from beneath his thigh and placing it beside him on the couch, still in reach on the off chance he needed it. But he didn’t think he would, at least not for the time being.
Marcus wondered what Xavier’s next move would be, but as he watched Reiser finally bite it (why didn’t they show that graphically on-screen? The audience would have cheered), and the film started to move on towards Vasquez’s inevitable death scene - a true tragedy, because, movie character or not, there was another woman he would’ve married in a heartbeat, and she wasn‘t even green - he found it hard to concentrate on all the gory alien action, not just the Xavier question. Honestly, he didn’t care what he and his “X-Men” did next; it didn’t matter one way or another.
He couldn’t help but wonder if Logan had reached target point yet, and what - if anything - he was doing. What was the plan he wouldn’t tell him about? He still had a really bad feeling about that. Couldn’t he have at least humored him and taken a gun, even if he never intended to use it?
If something really did happen to Logan, Marcus wasn’t sure he’d be able to forgive himself.