NON ZERO POSSIBILITY
E-Mail: notmanos at yahoo dot com
Disclaimer: The characters of Angel are owned by 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy; theSummary: Takes place shortly after the "X Men" movie and during "Angel" season two. And I didn't know about the "Legacy Virus" storline in the comics, so forgive me that. This story is almost two years old as well. An archival piece, I've become a better writer since ( I promise).
character of Wolverine is also owned by 20th Century Fox and Marvel Comics. No copyright
infringement intended. I'm not making any money off of this, but if you'd like to be a patron of the
arts, I won't object. ;-) Oh, and Bob is *my* character - keep your hands off!
* For Tallulah
The demon in cell number one looked around curiously,smelling the change in the air,while there was no visible change in cell number two.The mutant in there had the ability to alter his skin like a chameleon, allowing him to blend into the wall and not be seen as long as he kept his eyes closed.He knew he was in there-the infrared scanners confirmed it-but he had completely disappeared against the foot thick grey cement walls,and had yet to emerge from his disguise. If this batch worked,he'd have no choice but to show himself.
The door opened behind him,but he didn't bother to turn,as he knew it was his head of chemical research,Doctor Jennifer Ruthven."Subject number twelve seems to be responding as predicted ,"the young woman said,coming up beside him.He could see her reflection in the two way mirror:her cool blue eyes,hidden behind wire framed glasses,scrutinized everything with a detachment he envied,and her angular face was highlighted by the tight French bun she had swept her dark brown hair into,making the line of her jaw look sharp enough to cut glass.She wore a conservative brown suit under her white lab coat,and clung to her clipboard like it was a good luck talisman.Perhaps it was.
"It's about time,"he grumbled,sounding more impatient than he actually was."The customers pay for extreme violence;if they wanted tame,they could rent a video."
The demon-supposedly a 'peaceful' kind,but an ugly son-of-a-bitch with red eyes and a spiky green face-had gone from sitting on her bunk,biding her time to pounding on the door with increasing violence,snarling and making animalistic noises as the wood surface began to splinter and break beneath her fist.He was unconcerned,as all the doors had steel-adamantium cores she couldn't break through,no matter how well the agent worked.
"I think I can mark this as a success," Ruthven said,pulling a
pen from her coat pocket and making a
He pulled a walkie talkie from his belt,and said,"Okay,Byrne,release the sedative."He'd just replaced it in its leather holster when the demon in cell number one smelled the change and turned and snarled at the air,but soon fell to the floor on her knees,trying to pull herself back up on the bunk with her bloody hands. But the sedative worked too quickly,and she collapsed to the concrete,unconscious.
In cell number two,the mutant suddenly faded into existence,coughing and gagging as he stumbled away from the wall,then collapsed bonelessly to the ground,body spasming in a seizure before he finally fell still.He turned eagerly towards the monitors,searching for the flatline that would indicate final success...
"Damn it!"He snapped."The fucking thing's still alive!"
"He is comatose,"Ruthven pointed out."He could die later on today or tomorrow."
"Could isn't good enough,"he snarled,punching the wall beside the electroencephalogram monitor.
"Mutants respond differently to various agents,depending on the type and severity of their mutation-"
"Don't lecture me;I'm not one of your fucking students,"he interrupted
crossly.Sometimes this whole operation felt like a money pit,an endless exercise
in throwing his money away.But he was closer to
As if reading his thoughts,Ruthven commented,"This is as close as we've ever come."
"I know,but it's not good enough.Keep me apprised of his condition,"he said,turning and leaving her in the small,dark observation room.
He didn't care if it took another year-he'd wipe all the mutants off the face of the Earth.
Although,considering what he had just seen driving down Sunset Boulevard,this was actually a minor improvement.
He dismounted the bike and glanced around suspiciously;it seemed almost too quiet,which was a hideous cliche,but it still applied.It was L.A. and night had just fallen-wasn't that when most big cities started to get interesting?
Oh,what the fuck did he care?He wasn't here to sightsee-he just had to find this Metcalfe guy and get out of here.But he still wasn't sure if he should return to New York or not - was he ready yet?He was still lacking in the answer department,which is where he hoped Metcalfe could be of assistance...but he knew damn well he was being watched.
Not even bothering to be surreptitious,he did a full scan of the graffiti marred ,grimy block,but whoever they were,they were hiding themselves very well.He sniffed the air,but it made him cough-goddamn smog.Every scent was hidden beneath a miasma of carbon dioxide and other pollutants,which was not great if you had a better than average sense of smell,but was cruel and unusual punishment for him.If he had known how bad it was,he would have brought noseplugs.
Fine-whoever it was could watch.Maybe they were interested in the bike,but that could take care of itself;his only regret was that the anti-theft devices weren't lethal.
He knew precious little more about himself than he had started with when he left for Canada. All he discovered was he wasn't the only one with a set of curious dog tags.He tracked down an emergency room doctor in Toronto who remembered him ("I could never forget that hair,"she'd said-ha ha) bringing in a guy almost two years ago,bloodied and beaten looking,with dog tags that said 'Wraith'.
Of course,he had no memory of that.
But the hospital found a real name for the guy before both of them disappeared (she didn't know how that had happened-nor was she sure how the bill was paid or by whom)-Robert Armstrong Metcalfe.
He tracked the guy down to Vancouver,only to be told he and his family (!) had picked up and moved rather abruptly two months ago,clearing out in the middle of the night.But eventually he got a 'change of address' card that placed them in Los Angeles,and once he convinced him that he and Rob had been 'army buddies' (the best lie he could think of),the landlord gave him the address.
Maybe this guy wasn't the Robert Armstrong Metcalfe-a/k/a Wraith-he'd brought in half dead to an e.r. two years ago;maybe this was just some guy with the same name...around the same age...matching the same description.Or maybe he was going to try and pretend that was the case;or maybe he too was suffering from this strangely selective amnesia that afflicted him-he didn't know.There was only one way to find out.
According to the address he was given,Metcalfe and his family (wife and a kid,according to the landlord-Jody and Timothy) lived over the small business they owned and operated.When he found the right building address,he pulled out the slip of paper the landlord had given him and double checked.
Wraith was a florist?
Well,okay...he didn't remember him,so anything was possible.
Metcalfe's Flowers was closed,but he thought he saw a light on in the back,even through the wrought iron security grating and pulled window shades. He pressed the service buzzer beside the door,wondering what he was going to say."Hi-do you know me?" was completely honest,and all he really wanted to know,but it seemed strange.
It was then he glanced down at the threshold,and noticed a dark smear on the landing.
He crouched down and touched the stain gingerly,rubbing the tepid red fluid between his fingers before sniffing it for final confirmation:blood.
Fresh blood-it wasn't completely cold.
The door wasn't even locked.
He shoved it open with his elbow,tensing for anything,and yet even he hadn't expected what he saw.
Flower petals,torn leaves,and shattered glass littered the floor,which,in the half light from the back room,appeared to glisten like ice.Blood mingled with the water near the front counter,giving it a pink tinge,and he sniffed the air warily,hoping the dickheads who did this were still here,but all he could smell was blood and chemicals,flowers and gunpowder.
He walked around some sort of display table in the center of the
room,now a mountain of debris,and found a woman laying on the floor just
behind it,face down with her head turned to the side,her long black hair
floating gently on the water like smoke,blue eye staring at nothing.
He didn't need to search for a pulse;she had been dead for a few minutes at least,six holes half the size of his fist perforating her torso at nearly all critical points,proving whomever shot her had used major weaponry,and knew exactly what they were doing.This was an execution.
On the far right side of the darkened shop,he saw a larger body laying beside a shattered refrigeration case that had scattered roses and orchids upon it like a fallen hero.
He went over to confirm it was Wraith,but when he gently turned the body over onto its back,he saw it was a man who looked nothing like the picture of Wraith he had seen:like his namesake,he was scrawny and pale,with a long,haunted face,and blue eyes so pale they were grey.This man was thick in the neck and the chest,a bodybuilder probably,and his wide,staring eyes were dark brown,the same color as his hair.Wraith had been blond,following the pale as a ghost theme,and seemed frail,where this man...seemed like a complete chunkhead.
An assistant perhaps?But he hardly looked like someone who would
work at a florist's.
If so,where was Wraith now?And where was the killer's gun?Or were
they the same question?
The door was ajar,so he lightly touched it with his fingertips,letting it swing open gently on a storage room,the illumination coming from a single naked white light bulb suspended from the low ceiling.Cardboard boxes were stacked haphazardly in various piles,while a refrigeration unit that resembled a horizontal freezer sat parallel to the door,an obvious,livid smear of blood on the white enamel.The unit was too small to hold a body,unless it was chopped up,or very small.
As a wave of sickened rage coursed through him,he realized the smell in the air had changed;he smelled flop sweat and adrenaline over chemicals and blood,and let his claws emerge,slicing through the flesh of his knuckles with a familiar pain as he whirled in time to intercept the black clad man who leapt over the boxes on his immediate left,headed straight for him.
With a single swipe of his right gleaming silver claw,he reduced his automatic weapon to several disparate pieces in mid-air,the segments clattering to the floor as he hooked commando boy by the waist of his pants and continued his trajectory,throwing him head first into the wall over the fire exit.He met it with a satisfying crunch and hit the floor like a stone,just in time for the door to slam open and his body to be smashed between it and the wall as a half dozen black clad commandos poured in the door,headed straight for him.
"I knew I was being watched,"he grumbled to himself,kicking one of them in the face as he slashed down with a claw,reducing another shotgun to scrap metal.
Suddenly something hit him in the arm,and he tasted electricity in his mouth as a sharp,paralyzing pain dropped him to his knees,an aurora borealis of lights exploding before his eyes as he felt the power coursing up and down his skeleton.
It was more like a cattle prod than a taser,even though it was a metal dart shot from some kind of device like a black handle,attached to the barb by a long wire,down which the megavolts shot like lightning.He couldn't move,he could barely breathe,and the pain was excruciating.But as they converged on him he knew he had to do something,or he'd end up as dead as Jody...and possibly Wraith.
With an effort of extreme will,he managed to slash through the wire with his claws,even though it briefly made sparks fly from the tips as the wire fell away,and one of the commandos kicked him hard in the face,sending him falling to the floor.Struggling for bodily control,he kicked out and knocked two of them down,his muscles ticcing and shuddering as he struggled to his feet,grabbing one of the commando's shotguns and smashing the butt of it into two of their faces.
He had no idea how many volts they just put through him,but it verged on lethal;a normal person would be dead by now,and even with his virtually instantaneous healing abilities,he could still barely function.These guys were equipped to fight mutants...but they smelled normal."Who are you people?!"He shouted,retracting his claws and falling back back to the more standard punching and kicking-they needed to be alive to answer questions."What the hell did you do with Wraith?!"
But no one answered,and he heard the deadly crackling snap of that electrical weapon being fired,but he shoved his way through the mob of remaining commandos and heard the scream of another commando getting hit with the dart as he bulled his way out the door.He was outnumbered,and severely outgunned - escape looked like a very wise move at this moment,as much as it galled him.But if he wanted to find out who these assholes were,and why they had done this,he needed to be alive to do it.
But there were more commandos at the mouth of the alley,and as soon as they saw him,they lined up like an execution squad and took aim with their automatic weapons.
"Oh shit,"he exclaimed,discovering the alley was a dead end.In more ways than one.
He knew he should have never come to Los Angeles.
Not surprisingly,it was Wesley who answered,barely glancing up from his book."He went out to patrol his old neighborhood,see if his friends needed a hand in hunting vampires."
"That's a good idea,"he admitted,reaching the ground floor lobby and heading to the coat tree where his duster was now hanging."Did he just leave?Maybe I'll go help."
"And leave us here to die of boredom?"Cordy snapped,turning away from her computer game."Thanks a lot."
"I'm not bored,"Wesley said,not bothering to glance up from his book this time.
Cordy snorted derisively."You never are."
"Hey,"he replied,looking confused,obviously trying to decide if that was an insult or not.He couldn't make up his mind,so he changed the topic."We are supposed to be doing research,Cordelia."
"Yes,exactly.Or at least reasons why there might be nothing,"he said,wearily rubbing her eyes,causing his glasses to slide down to the bridge of his nose.
Angel could sympathize with Cordy's frustration:things had been unusually quiet lately,demon wise.And while that should have been a good thing,it was suspect and worrying-demons never decided to go on vacation en masse unless there was something worse than them moving in.So far,they hadn't found anything,and Cordy had been 'vision' less for over a week now,which was even more disturbing (although not from her point of view).
He shrugged on his duster,and admitted-at least to himself-that he was restless and frustrated.Doing nothing drove him crazy. He'd done nothing for,oh,ninety years or so,and that was more than enough.
"I'll see if Gunn and I can track something down,"he offered lamely,and Cordy frowned violently at him.
"That's all you've been doing lately,and you haven't even come up with one lousy vamp,"she complained bitterly,turning back to her computer.
"That's not true.There was that one vampire...a week back..."Angel trailed off,suddenly aware of how foolish and desperate he sounded.Damn it,he needed to find something to beat up.
Just as he turned to go,Cordy exclaimed,"Oh no!"
He spun on his heels and raced towards her,dodging the front desk as she seemed to jerk back violently in her chair and grabbed her head with a painful groan.By the time Angel reached her,Wesley close behind,she leaned forward and rested her head on her keyboard."What the hell was that?"She gasped.
"What?"He asked,unable to hide the eagerness in his voice."What did you see?"
She sat back,panting slightly from the pain,a hand clamped firmly to her forehead."Um,there's this place,Metcalfe's Flowers...it looks like World War Three is going down there.There's a bunch of guys in black..."
"A cult?"Wes interjected.
She started to shake her head,but it proved too painful,so she instantly stopped."I don't think so-they're armed to the teeth.More like...military.Something like that.I didn't get a cult vibe...anyways,they're after this guy...he's on the roof..."As she trailed off,she looked directly up at him."You have to hurry,Angel.They were just pulling out a rocket launcher,and he wasn't doing that well anyways-there must have been a dozen guys on him."
"Do you know why?"Angel wondered.Considering an army was against him,he assumed it was important.
"No,except...he has these things on his hands.It was silver metal..."
"Gauntlets?"Wesley asked,then clarified,"Metal gloves?"
"I know what gauntlets are,Wesley,"she hissed sourly."And no...I can't explain it."
"It doesn't matter,I'm gone,"Angel said,moving quickly towards the door.But as he was leaving,he heard Wes ask,"Is he human?"
And he was partially out the door when he heard Cordy say,"I don't know."
Unleashing his claws,he ran up the wall,using his claws to find purchase on he brick as he scrambled up to the roof,the bullets buzzing past his ears like bees,occasionally tugging at his clothes,and one punched through his calf just as he pulled himself up onto the roof.The pain was searing,but something in the back of his mind told him it was just a flesh wound and nothing to worry about. After all, his flesh healed in no time.
As he rolled to his feet,he found something to worry about.
A half dozen commandos swarmed over the opposite side of the roof,headed
straight for him.
He slashed wildly with his claws,breaking free and rolling to his feet,only to be met by kicks to the face and the back and rifle butts to the back of the legs,nearly beating him back down again,but he knew if he went down there was a good chance he wouldn't be getting back up.
He sliced through a gun butt as it met his face,and slashed a commando
as he tried to jab him with a taser,but as he stumbled back,trying to get
more solid footing,the roof suddenly disappeared,and only his claws snagging
the edge of the building kept him from falling off.
Bullets not only screamed past his head,throwing shards of brick into his face,but he felt the explode beside his body,and glanced down to see several commando boys aiming rifles up at him.Just beyond them was a smaller clot of commandos,one of whom was lugging a large tube that looked an awful lot like a shoulder mounted surface to air missile launcher.
He knew from experience he could recover from almost anything,but he doubted even he would recover from being blown to pieces.
He hit the gas pedal,going full throttle,and turned onto the sidewalk,hitting the brakes as he plowed into a crowd of gun wielding commandos.Several opened fire even as others were thrown into the wall of a neighboring building,and the bullets shattered his windshield,several of them hitting him in the chest as the glass rained down upon him.
Snarling from the pain,he stood up and jumped over the frame of the windshield,landing feet first on the hood as he let his vampire face emerge."I really hate getting shot,"he growled down at the remaining commandos,who gaped up at him in total shock.
"Demon,"someone farther away shouted."Retreat!"
They started backing away quickly,firing over his head as an attempt at covering their retreat. Angel jumped down in front of them,slamming a gun butt back in the lead man's face as he kicked another away,and as the rest broke and run,he noticed another man taking aim at the roof of the building with a missile launcher.
He looked up,and saw a man scrambling up over the edge just as he heard the whine of the missile launcher powering up.One of the commandos plucked up the courage to attack him,trying to jab him with some sort of electrical weapon,but he evaded the clumsy jab and grabbed the man,throwing him into the soldier boy with the launcher just as he fired the missile.
The missile went wide,but clipped the very edge of the building and exploded.Angel ducked and covered his head with his arms as the chunks of brick facade rained down upon him (and he cursed as he heard the metallic thuds of the brick hitting his car),wondering if the man he was supposed to save was somewhere in the debris,atomized by the blast.
As soon as the cascade of detritus lessened to a dust cloud,he looked up to see all the commandos,save for a few who were either unconscious or dead,were gone.That was quick.
But he decided to puzzle over that later;right now,he'd have to see if there was a client left to save.
A good third of the top half of the building was gone,most of it a collapsed ruin falling out into the street,and it was the glint of streetlight off silver that caught his eye.Hadn't Cordy said he was wearing something silver?
He had to clear a few larger pieces of rubble aside,but he soon uncovered the man...or was he a man?
The silver things he saw were long metal claws that appeared to be growing out of his hands.He was sure it was an optical illusion,but no-it wasn't a glove or a brace he was wearing;they erupted out of the skin of his knuckles like badly broken bones.
He thought he was dead,and mentally cursed himself for being too late,but that's when he noticed him twitch slightly as he shifted debris aside.He was alive?How?
He had to be a demon-he'd come down with part of a building.No human could survive that.
But he was unlike any demon he had ever seen,and his blood smelled human.
There was quite a bit of blood too;he was a mass of lacerations that had left his face caked in it and shredded his blue plaid shirt,and a small puddle of blood was forming beneath his head,suggesting a gashed scalp or something far worse. Yet he was still breathing,and fairly strongly too.It made no sense at all.
He heard sirens far away-obviously the explosion had caught someone's attention,even if the shooting hadn't-and even though he knew he was risking harming him further by moving him,he didn't know how he was going to explain the guy's claws to an EMT (or his own bullet wounds,for that matter). He hefted him up in a fireman's carry,careful to avoid his razor sharp claws,and was amazed at how heavy he was.He wasn't a big man by any means,but he felt twice as heavy as he looked,which was odd.It's the metal,he thought,and then wondered where that thought came from,but it was logical.
Now he hoped he hadn't kill him trying to save him.
"Is he all right?"She asked,getting to her feet as he carried him over and laid him on the couch.
"Good lord,"Wesley exclaimed,getting up from his seat behind the front desk."What are those?"
Cordelia knew instantly what he was referring to-the silver things
she had seen on his hands.Eeew-not on,in his hands."He has claws?"It seemed
a little surreal,as well as gross.
"Robots usually don't bleed,"Angel said,looking down at the man curiously.He then frowned deeply,as if he saw something he didn't like."But since when do humans heal so fast?"
"What do you mean?"She asked,looking the man over.He was pretty bloody...but as she looked closer,she noticed he had no obvious wounds.His shirt was torn to shreds (plaid?!Did he not know grunge was over?),and stained with blood,but the visible skin of his chest appeared unbroken.And what a chest.A bit hairy,but nicely muscled;he was stranger than she liked,but what a build.
"What happened to his hair?"She asked.It sort of rose up on the sides,like peaks,and looked a bit like animal ears.
"I'm not sure,"Angel admitted,frowning at that too.
Wesley came over for a closer look at one of his clawed hands."How badly was he injured when you found him?"
"He was on top of the building when its roof collapsed.I thought he was a demon when I found him still alive,but he smells human."
"How can that be?"Wesley wondered,crouching down beside the couch and examining the man's claws close up.He seemed to be trying to determine where they came out precisely,where it matched up to the bones of his hand.
And that's when the man moved.
He was so fast he was almost a blur,and startled a yelp out of her.Before she realized what was happening,Wesley had been knocked backwards into Angel,who managed to catch him and keep them both upright,and then the man was on his feet before the couch,holding out his clawed hands in a threatening manner towards her and Angel's faces.
"Who the hell are you people?"He growled,looking between them.He seemed to be ignoring Wesley,which,if you thought about it,made a certain amount of sense.
Angel didn't seem at all concerned about the three steel claws in his face,even though Wes seemed pretty alarmed,and she wasn't all that comfortable with it either."That's what I was going to ask you,more or less,"he admitted casually.
"You know what I am.You did try to kill me,"he snarled.He then glanced around the lobby,and his brows knit together in confusion over his startled blue eyes.""Is this a hotel?"
"We aren't the people who tried to kill you,"Wes pointed out,more politely than necessary.
"Nice try,but he should have changed his clothes before you tried to sell me that."He dipped his head at Angel,who was wearing black on black clothing (typical for him).He then wrinkled his nose,looking more confused than ever."You don't smell right."
"Hey,"Cordelia snapped.She'd had enough of this weirdo's crap."He just saved your goddamned life-so what if he doesn't smell like roses?!You should be grateful,not threatening to maul us!"
He gave her a startled glance,as Wesley said,"I don't think that's what he meant."
"You know I'm not human?"Angel asked,crossing his arms over his chest."You have an acute sense of smell."
"You can't be a werewolf,"Wesley commented."Although you sort of look like one.No offense."
"What the fuck are you people on?"The man exclaimed,exasperated."Werewolves?And what do you mean you're not human?What the hell are you then?"
"I'm a vampire.What are you?"
The man just stared at him for a good long minute before saying,"Right.You're
a vampire,and-wait,don't tell me-the Brit's Van Helsing and she's Vampira
or something."The claws retracted into his knuckles-ick!How creepy was that?-and
he dropped his hands to his side,shaking his head."And you all live in a
hotel and raise bats for a living.Good luck to ya."
"You can't just leave,"she said,going after him and grabbing his elbow.He yanked his arm from her grasp,turning to give her an annoyed look."I didn't have some brain shattering vision so you could just insult us and walk out the door!Now what the hell are you and who were those morons trying to kill you?!"
Looking at him close up,she realized,in spite of the dried blood and his thin,stubbly beard (and that oh so unfortunate hair),he was a good looking guy.A really good looking guy,considering how unattractive he should have been.If she could have at him with a razor and some of Angel's hair gel,she bet he'd be drop dead gorgeous.His green eyes narrowed as he considered her words,and he shot a brief but suspicious glance at Angel and Wesley."Vision?You're psychic?"
"Well...no.I mean,sort of.But not in a way that can help me win the lottery,although god knows I've tried."The PTB's couldn't give her a break there either;she was pretty sure they had a sick sense of humor if they even had one at all.
"You're a mutant?"
"Mutant?"She scoffed,offended."I am not a mutant!I'm just...umm,help me out here guys."
"Mutant?"Wesley repeated,as if that was somehow a revelation."Yes,of course-I hadn't even considered that.But I thought mutants were born,not...constructed."
"I wasn't constructed,"the man snapped,giving Wes a dirty look.
"His mutation is heightened senses,and a rapid regenerational capability,"Angel said,gazing steadily at the man."Right?"