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 is 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!-------------------------------------------
Summary: With both Xavier and Scott out of the picture - perhaps permanently - Logan finds himself
in charge of an ad hoc X-Men team struggling to stop Rogue and Saddiq, and rescue them from the Organization. But it turns out to be a much harder prospect than they could ever imagine.
Notes: Takes place shortly after "X2" and immediately after "Exit Wounds".
You knew your life was out of control when you went to bed at sunrise, and got up after sunset. Well, maybe not if you were a vampire, but Brendan wasn’t. Still, he was a vampire hunter, wasn’t he? It was probably a good thing that he fell into the natural habits of his enemy, learn to think like they thought. Or at least he was pretty sure that’s what Logan would have said.
He knew he’d slept through something kind of major, but he had no idea what. After showering, he nuked a breakfast burrito and wolfed it down while watching The Simpsons and trying to interpret Alejandro’s note.
Ali’s parents were doctors down in Ojai, and you could tell by his handwriting, which was so generally atrocious that it could have been just the random scribblings of a spastic three year old, or some obscure demon graffiti. He thought he could make out Helga’s name on the post-it, so as soon as he was finished eating, and there was a commercial, he called the Way Station, but Lau answered the phone. Helga wasn’t there, and he had no idea if she had called him at all, so basically that was a waste of time. He finished the show, and his morning/evening can of Red Bull, and grabbed his weapons before heading out.
It was corny, but he felt he needed a utility belt. Right now, he was using a coat with lots of inside pockets to hold his vials of holy water and his stakes, with an emergency knife in his back pocket (no big deal on its own, but he had Rags bless it, so it stung vamps as much as holy water - which was also blessed by Rags. It was convenient knowing a high priest of something), but the weather was just getting too warm to wear the coat all the time. Could you just buy belts like that, or did you have to make your own? He wasn’t great at crafts.
But what was he thinking? This was Los Angeles - if such a thing was available anywhere, it would be here. He could probably get it in faux leopard fur if he wanted.
The sun wasn’t completely down, but close enough for all the bloodsuckers to get active. The wedge of sky visible through the skyscrapers was a bloody crimson shot through with orange, pretty if you didn’t know pollution was the cause, and heat radiated up from the pavement like he was in the world’s largest stove. He’d hardly walked two blocks before he wanted to shuck the coat, but of course he couldn’t.
Brendan headed for the nearest cemetery, this one called Westfield, and he let his demon side emerge before he attempted to scale the back wall. He always fought vampires in his spiky teal demon face, as it just wouldn’t do for them to know what he looked like in Human guise. Yeah, they could tell him by smell if they were really observant, but he didn’t intend to make it easy on them on the off chance they got away from him. Besides, he was stronger as a demon - it was his one truly useful skill.
He easily scaled the stone wall and dropped onto the far Southeastern side of the grounds, the neglected end of the cemetery. Oh, the groundskeepers got here eventually, clearing away the weeds and straightening up the fallen headstones, but no one seemed to notice a disturbed grave or two, or perhaps a missing corpse. It was always amazing what people could learn to ignore.
How they managed to ignore a few mausoleums and crypts that appeared to be lived in - up to and including at least one that had a secret tunnel that cut straight into the sewer line beneath the city - he had no idea. That was a special level of denial that he couldn’t quite fathom.
The front part of the cemetery looked neater, more refined, while this part had the slightly seedy air of a horror movie set. Huge trees seemed to make up a secondary fence - Mountain ash? Pines? He couldn’t really say; he was a city boy, and he just didn’t know his trees - and cast huge swaths of shadows, covering smaller mausoleums, and allowing vampiric movement even now. He could see some around the mausoleum he was especially worried about, the one that cut into the sewer line, and moved to the shadows, hoping to sneak up, while he quietly pulled out a stake and a vial of holy water. The vials were actually recycled, stoppered crack pipes and vials, for the simple reason that they were often thin and fragile, easy to break, which is what he needed. Most cases, you needed to get up close to a vamp to splash holy water on them; with these babies, he could fling it from a distance. Also, you could find these things discarded all over the bad parts of town, and L.A. had an awful lot of bad parts - not just in movies either.
He could see two vamps in the shadows, both men, both kind of big. But the closest one had his back to him, and just like normal, if they did smell him, all they caught was demon and didn’t worry about it. Still, the guy closest to him started to turn, as if he’d heard something or became suspicious of the smell, so he had to move fast. Brendan buried the stake in the vamp’s back before he could complete his turn, and lobbed the glass grenade of holy water at his friend.
The vamp he staked exploded into dust a millisecond before the vial shattered on the chest of his friend, splattering his face and upper body with holy water. He glared at him, enraged, before he realized the smell of burning flesh was coming from him. He stared at the smoke like he could stop it that way, and then ran off snarling, partly in anger and partly in pain.
Too easy. He knew he couldn’t afford to get cocky, but honestly, he was good at his job. And frankly, he loved it. Now if only he could get paid for it.
The cracked marble door of the mausoleum was ajar, so he nudged it open with his foot and lobbed in another vial of holy water as a sort of room clearer before shoving the heavy door all the way open. It was a waste of good holy water, as the room seemed dusty and empty, save for what looked like a marble coffin in the center of the mausoleum. Its marble lid was in a dozen separate pieces on the floor, and whatever was left in there looked like just a pile of dusty rags. Was the occupant a vampire? Did they rise and throw their coffin open however many years ago?
“Now what kinda demon are you, little boy?” A female voice drawled, startling him.
He still had his stake ready, and he reached into his pocket for another vial. She was standing on the far side of the mausoleum, in a pocket of shadows by the entrance to the tunnels leading to the sewer, and she was so pretty that he couldn’t help but pause. She had rich, soft red hair falling around a delicate face, her lips a slash of blood red against her pale skin, long lashes framing eyes a cornflower blue. She was dressed in skintight black leather pants and boots, and a green silk tank top that was pulled tight over her breasts, like it was a size too small. Not only was she a hell of a lot prettier than your average vamp, but something about her looked almost … familiar. Had he seen her in a movie before?
Somebody clubbed him on the back of the head. He hadn’t even heard them, or smelled them; he just felt the impact, a dull pain that caused lights to explode in front of his eyes before being followed by their negative counterparts, little black motes that seemed to pulse with his heartbeat, and before he hit the floor, he felt himself caught. Cold, strong hands pinion his arms behind his back, pulled him up so he was on his knees, and someone grabbed his hair hard and pulled his head up at a painful angle. He wanted to be unconscious, but no such luck.
His vision returned gradually as she sashayed over to him, and even if he wasn’t aware of the shadows around him coalescing into vampires, he knew fighting was kind of useless at this point. This whole thing had been a trap - and chump that he was, he swallowed it whole. (Damn it - why didn’t it occur to him it was too easy? Because it usually was?) Still, he tensed his arms, tried to judge the strength of the vamps holding him, and they were disconcertingly strong. Not only that, but with his head held firmly and his legs pinned beneath him, he was effectively helpless. There were simply too many of them holding him down; he couldn’t overpower them.
He could feel blood trickling down his face, leaking from a cut on his scalp, and she reached out a blue painted fingernail and caught a bit of it. She then sucked on her fingertip, but only for a moment - she soon made a sour face and spit out what little blood she’d taken from him. “Eww! Bitter! So you’re not an edible kind of demon, are you?” She didn’t know what he was? Well then, he wasn’t about to tell her.
“He’s a half-breed,” a vampire holding him down snarled. He had breath like a slaughterhouse dumpster. “He has a Human reek about him.”
“Me? Have you guys smelled yourselves recently? You’re worse than the sewers.” Why he was trying to quip he had no idea. Denial, perhaps. This wasn’t going to be it, was it? After all he’d been through, these parasites weren’t actually going to get the better of him, were they? He wasn’t actually going to die here, was he? It seemed unreal somehow; he couldn’t wrap his head around the concept. He just wanted to ask rhetorical questions until he annoyed them - or maybe himself - to death.
Still, they ignored his defiance, perhaps because it was expected. The woman stroked what hair he had that wasn’t being pulled back by some dildo, and now he was sure he had seen her before. A ‘70’s film, maybe? Horror or porn? He couldn’t remember, but he figured it didn’t matter. Is that what happened to some washed up actresses in this town - they joined the undead? It seemed like a lateral career move, but honestly, it was probably better than doing boat shows with David Hasselhoff. “We don’t like our kind getting killed,” she purred, letting her fingernails sink in. “Especially not by some half-breed mongrel like you.”
“Fair enough. So is this where you beat the shit out of me?”
“Oh, I bet you wish that were so,” she said, and suddenly assumed her vamp face, eyes suddenly turning yellow, jagged teeth erupting in her generous mouth. “But we play for keeps, honey pie.”
She grabbed his head, and he knew suddenly what she was going to do the millisecond before she wrenched his head sharply to one side, and he heard the sickening crack of his own neck being broken.
Some kind of digital cacophony woke him up - it sounded like an alarm clock having a seizure - although as Piotr groggily woke up, he thought it sounded something like “Living La Vida Loca”. Whoever invented custom pop song ringtones should be dragged out back, beaten, and possibly hung upside down by their ankles while being forced to watch “The Simple Life”. That would teach them.
As he sat up, he considered going metal and pulverizing the tiny cell phone on the table beside him, but he remembered it was Clarissa’s, and she might resent him. Piotr looked around, wondering what the hell had happened.
He fell asleep while drawing? He had; the sketch he was working on, a classical still life, was only partially done. There was the bowl, and the ghostly half penciling of a pitcher, its mouth floating in space without a body or a base. Looking around, he saw the students who had joined him in art class were all asleep - some on the long tables, some on the floor, having clearly fallen off their chairs. The cell phone had only woken him up, perhaps because it was beside his head, or because Ricky Martin music always made him want to punch something.
He stood up, rubbing sleep from his eyes, and decided to see if anyone else had been effected.
It couldn’t have been gas, could it? He didn’t smell any, and he didn’t feel ill, just kind of sleepy. A strange mutant power? Did anyone around here have the ability to put people to sleep? He hadn’t heard of anyone like that, but maybe there was a new student who could. Of course, a telepath always could; they could send out a big “Sleep!” command, and everyone would. But there was no one here powerful enough to effect the entire school, except Xavier.
No, that made no sense - why would he do such a thing?
In the hall, he found more sleeping bodies, some people snoring, others collapsed on top of each other like they were tackled, or at the bottom of a rugby scrum gone horribly wrong. He peeked in open doors, and found more of the same. He had to step carefully so as not to tread on anyone, and the whole thing was almost unbearably eerie. It was like being the last man on earth. “Hello?” he asked, wondering if it would wake anyone up. It didn’t , at least not that he could immediately tell.
It was a clear walk to the Professor’s office, and he looked inside hopefully. “Professor?” But the study was empty, with the only signs of life belonging to the light on his answering machine, which blinked due to new messages. He checked behind the desk in case he had fallen, but he wasn’t here. Where could he be?
Piotr checked his room, his library, the lounge area, to no avail. That left the possibility that he was gone, or he was downstairs, and he took the elevator down to confirm his suspicion one way or the other.
It was actually worse downstairs. The stainless steel hallways usually seemed cold and empty, as sterile as an operating room, but he felt so impossibly alone right now he wanted to go back upstairs and retrieve Clarissa’s cell phone, just so he could have someone to talk to. He didn’t know who he’d call, but even the guy at the Pizza Paradise would be okay for the moment. Just the voice of another Human would be welcome in all this emptiness.
“Professor?” he asked, hearing his voice echo, rebound off the metal walls. He wanted to go metal just out of basic fear, which was stupid, but there was no one here to comment on it, so he went ahead and did it. It always felt weird when he did it, he lost all tactile sensation and felt just a bit cold, although Ms. Grey had suggested that last bit was psychosomatic. Maybe it was; maybe he just assumed he would be cold being covered in steel.
When he came around a bend in the hall, he saw the door to Cerebro was wide open. “Professor? Are you in there?” Again his voice echoed, worse this time because of what a large, empty chamber Cerebro was.
He didn’t see the body until he was a meter from the doorway. “Professor!” He raced to his side, dropping to his knees and shedding the metal so he could feel for a pulse. It took him a moment to find one, but he did; still, it was thready and weak, and his breathing was shallow and labored. He pried open one of his eyelids to have a look at the pupil - he had taken some basic medical courses, mainly just to give himself something to do that might have practical applications someday - but his eyes were rolled back, showing only white. A quick search for his chair showed it was at the bottom of Cerebro, a broken wreck.
At least he knew what had happened now. The school had been attacked, and while the rest of them were put to sleep, Xavier was assaulted. But who could hurt the Professor like this? Who could even sneak up on him?
And what the hell was he supposed to do now?
Logan could feel the weight of the entire world as he climbed the staircase up to Srina’s flat, and knew that he had had way too many long nights/mornings in a row, with far too many serious injuries. But at least his face had grown back, more or less. Some of the stubble was even growing back, although it would be a few hours before it matched the undamaged side of his face. He was hoping he could get in and shave the other half of his face, try and even it up before Srina noticed, but even if he got away with that, she would notice. Women in general seemed to be more detail oriented than men, but when that woman was a professional thief, a breed whose survival depended on noticing when the slightest thing was amiss, you were pretty much screwed. He had no hope of getting anything past her, unless she decided she just didn’t want to see it. And lately she hadn’t embraced denial as a lifestyle choice.
This time he heard the Dandy Warhols leaking from her flat, and he made sure to rattle his keys very loudly, in hopes she would open the door for him. She did, but it took a moment, and before she opened the door, he caught a very strong scent of rum and coke. She never drank this early, so she must have still been up from last night. That made his gut twist in anxiety, as he was sure that meant something was horribly wrong.
She almost fell against the door once she opened it, suggesting she was at a nearly comical level of intoxication. “Wow, you’re in one piece,” she slurred, reaching out and grabbing his shoulder. He grabbed her arm and helped hold her steady as he came inside and shut the door. She looked like she needed the help. “I thought you’d be waitin’ for a limb to grow back.”
“Did it make the news?”
“Did what make the what?” She moved backwards and stumbled, but he managed to steer her towards the sofa, and sat down heavily beside her. She sagged against him, nuzzling her head against his neck. “I jus’ assumed you were out gettin’ gutted again. ‘Specially when you didn’t show up at the pub.”
“Oh shit, I forgot.” And he had. He had told her he’d meet her at the corner pub for a drink tonight - last night - to make up for yesterday. Er, the day before. “I’m sorry. I’ll make it up to you tonight, okay? We’ll hit that Indonesian place you love so much. Assuming you’re not too hung over to eat.”
“Hung over? I’m not drunk.” She paused briefly. “Okay, that’s a lie.”
He nudged the coffee table with his foot, making the two empty bottles of rum and the crystal tumbler with the quarter inch of dark liquid in it rattle. “I was about to say.”
Looking at the table, though, he saw there was a book on it he hadn’t seen before, a new one by Haruki Murakami. “Hey, what’s that?”
She followed his glance with her glazed eyes, then rested her head on his shoulder once more, as if it was too heavy for her t hold up any longer without assistance. “Yeah, I saw that downstairs today in the shop, it just came in. I thought you read his stuff, an’ decided I’d get you a present. You do like him, right?”
“Yes, he’s one of my favorites. Thank you.” He felt terrible now - he stood her up inadvertently, she’d bought him a gift - but then everything that was wrong with this scenario sunk in. She had stayed up all night drinking, waiting for him to come back; she had exchanged the sunny Delays disk for the more melancholy Dandy Warhols one; she was draped all over him, but not in a sexually aggressive manner, which was kind of typical for her; she had bought him something, not taken it her usual ‘five finger discount’ way. Oh shit.He pushed her back just a little, so he could look her straight into her foxglove hued eyes. “Sri, are you about to dump me?”