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!
Angel let them use his private office, which was nice of him, but of course meant that Marcus had fun with his desk. "Oh yeah, I feel like gettin' me a bad rug and firin' some punk little kiss ass on national television," Marc said, settling down in the desk chair and sitting up ramrod straight. He then opened the desk drawers and started looking around. "Huh. Think Trump has a desk full of stakes and knives?"
"No, he has people who do that for him," Logan replied, throwing himself down on Angel's couch. It was a fairly nice couch, comfy, also rather Gothic since it was blue velvet. Sometimes he made choices that just screamed "vampire". "So what's going on?"
He stopped snooping in the desk drawers and flashed his a sharp grin. He moved his protective goggles to the top of his head, since only a small corner lamp was providing any illumination in the room, making it easier for him to take with his infrared vision. It was always odd to see Mark's real eyes, though, alien black and eerie. "Right to business. Gotta love that about you. Okay, here's the deal. There's an Organization secret base in the Oak Creek Canyon area of Arizona."
Logan just nodded. "You want me to help you attack it?"
He grinned and shook his head. "Naw man, it's too late for that. I only found out about it after it went ker-flooey."
Logan shifted on the couch, leaning back into it, trying to look casual. He didn't want Marc to know how much that statement made his stomach twist. "It got destroyed?"
"Oh hell yeah. Made such a big boom you could actually catch parts of the cloud on Google satellite photos. I was looking into it, to see if it was a natural explosion or something else entirely, and I found these." Marc had a folder with him, a legal brown one held shut by a clip, and he undid the clip and simply tossed him the entire file. Logan caught it easily and opened it on his lap.
The first thing he saw were photos of what looked like mummies, desiccated corpses that looked a million years old, entombed in the sand of the pharaohs ... except one of them was wearing a Green Day tour t-shirt. "These aren't from the base, are they?"
"No sir, these are in a loose trail along interstate forty to the California border town of Cortez. Ten bodies in all, so far, majority Hispanic, ranging in ages from seventeen to fifty eight, three women and seven men. No connections whatsoever, obvious or minor."
Logan flipped through the photos, taking time to study them all, hoping for clues, to see something that Marc had missed. But nothing jumped out at him except the strangeness of it all; people broken down to dried bits of sinew, collapsed and leathery skin barely holding together a loose framework of bone, teeth pushing out from mouths like withered husks. People as beef jerky. Now he really felt queasy. "Somebody got out?"
"It makes more sense that what the CDC are looking for."
He stared at him in shock. "The Center for Disease Control? What do they have to do with this?"
"The first body found was that of a deputy sheriff, Juan Hernandez the Third, and his sheriff called in the feds, assuming that this was something unnatural. The feds - for whatever reason, and I'm not really clear on it - handed it over to the CDC, who seem to be investigating this like a contagion. I'm no doctor, but what disease can jerk you exactly?"
Logan closed the file, figuring he knew what was behind this. "This was a mutant, wasn't it? Someone who got away."
Marc nodded. "That's my theory; maybe they even blew up the base and escaped." Like him. Marc didn’t say it, but he didn't have to. "The Org are after them, I know it, and they have a better chance of gettin' 'em than the CDC does."
He knew why Marc was here now; he didn't even need the rest of the story. "You want to find them first."
"Hell yeah. They're probably confused and freaked out and think the world's against them. We can help."
Logan swallowed hard, held up the file. "These are civilians, Marc. There's no call for it."
"I know, but the first one was a cop. Maybe they saw the uniform and panicked."
He shook his head. "No excuse for the rest."
Marc sat forward, glaring at him in disbelief. "Bud, what if they're not in their right mind? What would have happened if you ended up in the middle of civilization after Alkali Lake?"
That made him flinch. He didn't like to think about immediately after that; in fact it was hard. His mind wasn't working right, his memories were fuzzy and broken, but ... did he remember how scared he was? And he didn't know why he was scared? Yeah, he remembered that, along with the chill of the Canadian winter that even in mere recollection could make his balls shrivel up. He didn't know what he would have done if he'd actually come face to face with people in the mountains. He liked to think he probably would have hid until they were gone ... but he didn't know. If he felt threatened, he might have acted on instinct, done something he would regret in his right mind.
Oh hell, what was he thinking? He did do something he regretted- Stoff’s would be drug gang up in Bear Creek, the ones who shot at Lily and tried to kill her. He’d killed them; just the sound of the guns infuriated him, rang in his ears like screams, and all he knew was he wanted it to stop - he wanted them to stop. The smell of Lily’s blood made it worse; it seemed to trigger a blinding rage where he was incapable of having a single thought. All he knew was he had to make them stop, and the only way to make them stop permanently was to feed them their weapons butt first, to ram them into trees until he heard their skulls crack like walnut shells. The regret came later, along with a bit more of the sanity. They’d been kids - okay, wannabe drug runner thugs who were trying to murder a cop (and had already killed another cop he didn’t know about) - and he could have disarmed them and stopped them without killing all but Stoff, but only if he was in his righter mind. He was! n’t then. He was barely able to talk back then, to hold a conversation, and the fear and the noise and the smell of other people was always overwhelming him. He hadn’t learned how to regulate it back then, whatever it was in him that allowed him to tolerate crowds.
God, Lily. Poor Lily. Did she ever know how much she had helped him? She was kinder than any cop had the right to be. Yeah, she thought he was a bit nuts, but he was, so that was fair enough. She could have had him charged for those deaths too, but kept his name out of it, probably because he had saved her life. Also, she felt sorry for him; he knew that she had, but she kept her pity so well couched in her warm personality he didn’t realize it until later. She made him realize he could get back out in the world, if he was careful, if he did it right, and that maybe not all people were necessarily bad. He wished it had occurred to him to thank her while she was still alive.
So maybe this mutant, whoever they were, had an excuse. Maybe they weren’t a cold blooded killer, just insane with fear. But that opened up a whole new can of worms, namely that since they were insane, was there any chance of reaching them? He knew he was lucky; his healing factor seemed to extend to his psyche, or - as Bob and Xavier liked to claim - it was all him, fighting his way back from total insanity. How did a person do that exactly? Xavier had a complicated spiel that didn’t make sense, while Bob broke it down to its simplest form: “You’re a stubborn prick. Even you don’t listen to you when you tell yourself you’re nuts.” That actually made more sense than anything. Bob’s alternate theory was he regained his sanity just to piss someone off, which also made sense, although it was no less impossible. Could someone else come back? Well hell - if he did, anyone could. “What if they’re hopelessly insane, Marc? What if we can’t get through?”
He held up his hands in a shrug that admitted that was a possibility. “If that happens, we’ll take care of it. But we have to try.”
That was fair enough, he supposed. “Shouldn’t you have gone to Xavier, though? He’s got the doohickey.”
“Ah. Well, don’t be offended, but I did go to him first. Boy, Scott was sure glad to see me.” He gave him a big shit eating grin, barely holding back the laugh.
He just bet. “Didn’t shoot you, did he?”
“No, but he was thinkin’ about it. Then Chuck rolled up, and he missed his chance.”
“I’m sure he’s still kicking himself. So what did Xavier find?”
“He couldn’t get a lock. So, he figured he/she was shielded, artificially or naturally, from telepaths, or just so fucking nuts he couldn’t get a lock on ‘em.”
He sighed like he was punched in the gut. “Damn.” Which of those three options was actually the worse? Well, anything had to be better than being so fucking crazy that even Xavier couldn’t get a bead on them. “Exactly how did these people die?”
Marc grimaced, making a noise like he’d asked the wrong question. “Well, it’s inconclusive at this point.”
“Inconclusive? Here, let me take a stab - dehydrated to death? Mummified until crispy?”
“From what I’ve been able to dig up, there seems to have been massive, sudden genetic anomalies.”
“Speak English. Or Mandarin, I don’t care, just make sense.”
“It doesn’t actually make a lot of sense, which may be why the feds tapped the CDC. As far as they can tell, something disrupted their DNA on a massive scale. It caused a cellular breakdown of some kind, but no one can tell exactly what the hell happened, just that something caused their genes to implode.”
He scowled at him. “It doesn’t work like that. Nothing can do that.”
“And vampires don’t exist either, dude. So where were we? Look, we’re mutants - we don’t make sense. How come I got poison glands and infrared vision? Where the hell did that come from? And you? How the hell do you even move with all that metal in your body? And shouldn’t you have died anyway? Isn’t the adamantium basically encasing your bone marrow?”
He thought about it for a moment. He had a good point. “My body adapted; it has a tendency to do that. As for the bone marrow … they came up with a way to keep it from blocking it off completely.”
He shrugged. “I have no idea. I just remember some doctors discussing it vaguely over the whine of a bone saw. As for you … yeah, I got no clue. Yer just fucked up.”
“Gee thanks. But you get my point.”
“I guess. But how do we even find this person? Sure, they’re leaving a trail of mummies behind, but wouldn’t it be nice to get them before they kill another dozen people?”
“Yeah, well that’s where your other inexplicable ability comes in.” Marc paused, as if he was supposed to guess, so Logan just gave him a death look. Finally, he said, “Your hyperactive sense of smell, my man. I want you to see if you can find a familiar scent on all the corpses.”
Oh good - he got to sniff corpses! But there was a flaw in the plan beyond even that. “Uh, I thought you said the CDC were on this? So how do we get access to the corpses?”
Marc gave him a grin that was all teeth, the kind of smile a shark might give you as he was drizzling barbecue sauce on your torso. “Do you really wanna know? Might make you an accessory.”
He got to his feet with a groan, and tossed the file back on Angel’s desk. “Look, even if we don’t end up with the feds on our ass, a scent is only gonna take me so far. Do you have any idea where this person could be headed?”
“So it’s be like looking for a needle in a haystack. No, I take it back, that’d be easier; they made machines that could do that on Mythbusters. You’re asking me to track a person by scent alone through the entire state of California, if indeed they haven’t doubled back to Arizona, headed to Mexico, or cut across to Nevada. Your heart’s in the right place, I don’t deny that, but this doesn’t have a chance in hell of working.”
Marc clipped the folder shut neatly, as if Logan hadn’t just told him that he was a loon (in a roundabout fashion), and said, “What if I told you I have a way to tap into the Organization’s communications network? As soon as they send out an alert on a possible sighting, we’ll hear it too.”
“How’d you do that?”
He gave him that smart ass grin again. “I stole one of their comm sets. You’d think they’d lock their car doors, being a super secret mutant killing commando squadron and all.”
Logan scoffed and shook his head, aware that he could be bullshitting him, but he probably wasn’t. When you got cocky you got sloppy, and that was just a short step away from stupid. Certainly the Organization had done stupid things before; they were good at it. They must have had their own Special Kind of Stupid division. “So, assuming we beat them to the area, if I can pick up their scent, we’ll find ‘em faster than the Org.”
“Don’t underestimate yourself and overestimate them. Even if they beat us to the area, I bet you’ll find ‘em faster than those grunt jokers. After all, whoever they are, they’re hidin’ from the Org. They don’t even know we exist.”
While Marc meant that as a point in their favor, it was also a potential hazard. This mutant had some unknown ability to make people’s DNA go fatally haywire, and on top of that they could have been a telepath, or had some kind of mental ability. There was no telling how their power worked, or if they were even in control of it. Maybe it was a projection ability, and maybe it just triggered when they were scared, putting everybody at risk when the Organization went after them.
Which was all the more reason to find them first, he supposed. He just didn’t want to find out the hard way how much damage his body could take on the cellular level before it gave out completely.
He knew he should head home, as he was starting to feel a bit ill anyway, but Brendan found himself not paying attention to where he was walking, and when he came out of his private self-pity party to look around at where he was, he noticed he was standing across the street from Syn, which was now closed.
Why was he here? Did he really think he’d still be here? It was about an hour from sunrise, the sky was already light enough that all the stars had disappeared from the sky. And what did he hope to accomplish exactly? Vampires were killers, and he knew that all too well, losing Matt to one. Yeah, he was cute, but so fucking what? Didn’t make him any less a cold blooded killer.
Damn he wanted a cigarette. He’d done so well, he’d found quitting a breeze, and had no idea why everyone else complained about it. But his addiction was clearly psychological not physical, and now that he was anxious, he wanted a cigarette to calm himself down. Maybe he wouldn’t be here and about to break his cigarette abstinence if Logan had included him in whatever he and Marc were up to - and clearly they were up to something - but no. They left to talk “elsewhere” - strategy outside the range of hearing, certainly - and when he tried to ask if he could help, Logan fixed him with a really scary stare, and said, “Don’t even think about it, kid.” Boy, like that wasn’t suspicious. Still, he liked having feelings in his legs too much to actually pursue it any further. At least when Angel asked if he could help, Logan just shook his head; he didn’t feel alone in his rejection.
Except here and now. Okay, yeah, bloodsucking fiend. But he did help them hurt the Oghur, even if it was unintentional. Maybe he wasn’t lying about just wanting to hang out with him …
No no no! Was he this pathetically lonely that he’d walk into an obvious trap set by a cunning vamp? The terrible truth was yeah, he was. He’d been alone a good chunk of his life, and he just got sick and tired of it sometimes. He felt invisible, unnoticed, hardly in this world at all, like maybe he’d blow away in the first scalding Santa Ana. It was idiotic, he knew it, but it didn’t stop him from feeling that way.
His mind drifted back to the letter he got from his mother last week. When it arrived at the office, and Giles saw it was from a women’s correctional facility in Pittsburgh, he was mortified. But as soon as he told him, Giles just asked when she was supposed to get out, and seemed nonchalant in that perfectly British way of his, but he knew he pitied him, and he hated that. He didn’t want to be pitied because his mother was a crack addict who didn’t even know who his father was - it wasn’t like she was addicted to crack when she had him. It was just when she was with “Uncle” Steve that he got her into it, and he thought of that as the time he lost his mom. He lost her way before she landed in prison.
And then there was the deal of his mother’s letter. He got one once in a while, maybe once every six months or so, and they were always rather … interesting. Sometimes she’d send him little watercolor paintings or other craft projects, as his mother was a pretty decent artist when she was more or less sober, and sometimes she’d send him these weepy letters about “not being there” for him and “letting him down”, which reeked of both a twelve step program and too many Lifetime movies on the prison’s cable system. Also perhaps mega doses of Prozac.
Now she was off it, it seemed. Her latest letter was rambling and weird, her handwriting a messy scrawl that went off the pages in weird areas, while her sentences had a tendency to be broken and periodically incoherent. She was weepy once more, but then on the next page became bitter and self-piteous. Was she off her meds? Must have been. Or something bizarre must have happened. He hoped she didn’t get in trouble; she was due for a parole hearing next year. Maybe she might actually get out, which he would be glad for, although he realized he didn’t want her coming anywhere near him. Maybe he’d go visit her, but he didn’t want her, a relic of his old and unhappy life, crashing into the life he had now. Was that ungrateful of him? Was he supposed to welcome his fucked up mother - a woman he honestly barely knew - back with open arms?
Once again distracted by his own thoughts, he barely heard a noise before seeing movement in the shadows of the alley across the way, the one where Logan had finally killed the Oghur. Kier emerged from the darkness, looking much as he had earlier in the evening, only now he’d added a leather jacket over his torn shirt. “You know, it’s funny, but I think I was hoping you’d come back here,” he said, although there was a frosty edge to his voice.
He shrugged, not yet prepared to admit that he had come here for the same reason. Perhaps it was self-evident. “Yeah, well …”
As he petered off, Kier went on. “Did some asking around, and I think I know who you were with. There’s this vampire named Angel, sees himself as some kind of “champions” of the Humans, kills his own kind. Supposedly he’s a big guy, looms really well. And then there’s this guy - he’s probably a mutie, but no one’s sure - with metal claws in his hands, known as the “decapitator”, supposedly a Berserker slayer who once fought something like fifty demons in an Octavian match and walked out alive. Supposed to be bad news, if it isn’t all bullshit.”
“It wasn’t fifty,” he told him. “More like twenty five.”
Kier quirked an eyebrow at him. “So that’s who they were? You’re a demon hunter?”
“Not full time. I’m not really that good at it.”
That didn’t seem to reassure him. “So you were after the big ugly that attacked us.”
“Yeah. He was an Oghur demon, he was killing young men who came to the club, ripping out their hearts and eating them.”
That seemed to surprise him. “Eww. Really? Man, that’ll teach me not to read the papers.”
“We’re not after you. I mean, as long as you’re not killing anyone.” He realized as he said it how idiotic that was, since vampires generally killed to eat.
But Kier shrugged, stepping out onto the sidewalk. “I’m not. I don’t have to; I got all the blood I want.” That was such a curious thing to say, he just stared at him until he elaborated. “I belong to a bite club off Sunset, I don’t have to hunt.”
“A bite club? What the hell’s that?”
He grimaced as if embarrassed, and Brendan was acutely aware of the stake he always kept inside his boot. Because you just never knew when you were going to run into a vampire. “It’s a place where Humans come to be bitten by vampires for an adrenaline or sexual rush. We don’t kill ‘em; they pay us, we take a bit of blood, we’re all good.”
Now that he explained it, he realized he’d heard of them before, although never shorthanded as a “bite club”. “A vampire whorehouse?” He tried not to chuckle, but it was hard not to.
Kier scowled at him. “I really don’t like that assessment.”
“Okay, okay, sorry.” But it was both true and funny - he was a vampire version of a rent boy. Still, there were worse things to be, and at least he’d found the least lethal way to exist as a vampire. Of course, that begged quite a few questions. He glanced at the sky, just to see if they had the time, and asked, “You wanna go get some coffee or something? There’s an all night diner a couple blocks over. The food ain’t great, but it’s open and pretty quiet.”
He looked at him warily, his eyes scudding up and down the street as if making sure he was honestly alone. “This isn’t just another trap, is it?”
“If it was, would I tell you?”
After considering that, he nodded. “Yeah, okay. Let’s go.”
They walked over to the diner with some lingering reservations about each other, but by the time they hit the diner and slid into one of the back booths, things had thawed between them. He was one of the odder vampires Brendan had ever met, and that was saying something. Something about Kier seemed almost Human, and not in a bad way.
He got him to tell his story, although he hadn’t anticipated how weird it would be. He was Canadian, actually, from Vancouver (which confirmed Bren‘s personal belief that ninety nine percent of everyone on L.A. was from somewhere else, anywhere from another state to the seventh level of hell), an actor who made appearances in lots of filmed in Vancouver shows, mostly as an extra, although he was proudest of having appeared as an extra in two separate X-Files episodes, a personal achievement. Once he got out of school, he decided to try and make his fortune as a “proper” actor, and went to Toronto (where all other “Canada substituting for America” shows and movies were filmed), But after a month and a half of disappointment and barely being able to pay his rent, he decided to live by his father’s axiom that to win big you had to gamble big, and came to Los Angeles.
This was a mistake, of course. He fell into more extra work, but couldn’t seem to get a foot in the door otherwise. Still, through a “friend of a friend”, he was introduced to Benny Lyle, a talent agent who said he’d probably be able to set something up for him. He did get a part as a “Victim number 4” in a horror movie; it was only two lines, but he figured it was better than nothing, and everyone had to start somewhere.
But the problem was it wasn’t a horror movie: it was a vampire snuff film. He didn’t realize this until his costar transformed into an actual vampire and bit him - it was a hard way to learn vampires actually existed. But the thing was, both the director and the star of the film (who bit him) thought he was highly photogenic and would have some appeal in a spin off series of films, involving a “vampire virgin” (being new at the whole vamp thing), so they turned him. He was utterly appalled that they killed him, and then expected him to just star in some of their films, killing other naïve people. So he took off from their big compound in San Pedro and stayed low, went underground, in case they were after him. He honestly didn’t know, but he did go by Kier instead of the name they knew him by, Kieran Davidovitch. (Now there was a last name. Russian-Irish?)
Brendan was equally appalled, although he’d heard of such things; “demon porn”, snuff films where genuine demons killed actual people. He’d never seen one, though, not even on the shelves. “Oh, there’s this place on the strip where they have their own section, next to the adult films,” he told him, inhaling the scent of coffee. He wasn’t drinking it, just smelling it. “I saw the film I was in on the shelf once. I almost rented it, ‘cause … well, I died in it. I was curious to see how much they left in. But I didn’t do it; I just couldn’t. Kinda chickenshit of me, huh?”
“Hell no! I wouldn’t either. “ And since his curiosity was piqued, he pulled out the small notebook and pen he carried in his coat pocket. Why he didn’t know - he had an eidetic memory, after all, and he didn’t technically need to write anything down - but he got used to writing down phone messages for the others to read when he wasn’t there. “Can you give me the names?”
Kier looked between his and his notepad. “Names?”
“Of everyone involved. Production company, co-stars, people behind the camera.”
His eyes widened slightly. “You’re really serious about this detective shit, aren’t you?”
“Yeah. I know, it surprises the hell out of me too.”
Kier wasn’t able to give him all the names, but some. It was for Silver Sun Productions, which sounded just a tad suspect, although he couldn’t say why. He didn’t remember the last name of the director, but he was a “German guy” named Uli, and his co-star went by one name, Raven, which he felt was “way too Hollywood”, although she’d claimed to have starred in some ‘70’s films, which struck him as odd because she didn’t look that old. (He knew why that was now.)
He wasn’t sure where exactly the compound was in San Pedro - he didn’t stop to write down an address - but he told him it had a great view of the water, and had a fairly dense, compact “forest” around it. The property was huge, and if he saw it again, he’d recognize it. Bren figured it’d be easy enough to find out who owned a large parcel of land in San Pedro, and work backwards. As an afterthought, he added Benny Lyle’s name, as there was a possibility he was just a sleazy agent who didn’t know better, but there was a possibility he was a procurer, providing willing young victims and getting a kickback.
As soon as he was done writing it all down, Kier looked at the list curiously. “So you’re gonna get Angel and this decapitator guy to go after them?”
“Well yeah. They’re evil, and that’s what we do, shut evil down.”
Kier bit his thumbnail nervously, and asked, “If you go after them, can I come along? I know I’m technically “evil”, but I really want to give ‘em some payback.”
“Sure, why not?” Even if Angel didn’t like it, Logan would agree. No one could understand the need for revenge quite like he could.