E-Mail: notmanos at yahoo dot com
Disclaimer: The characters of Angel are owned by 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy; theNotes: Takes place shortly after the "X Men" movie, and "Waking The Dead"
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!
Siberia - 1985
From the relative lack of blood, it was clear none of the three soldiers were killed outside.
The blood frozen beneath a thin layer of rime on the top of the snow was just spatters, droplets like reddish black tears littering the snow in isolated patches, like tiny groupings of confetti left in the wake of a party.
Of course, the one soldier's guts spilled out on the snow, the intestines curled up like fat grey snakes below his torso, spoiled the party atmosphere.
Millar left to vomit, and they could all hear him barfing his guts out just around the corner of the communications shack, the technicolor yawn hitting the hard packed snow with a wet splat followed by a sound not unlike a sizzle, as it was so warm contrasted to the dick shriveling cold that it made the snow under and around it melted and steamed, before the sub - arctic air instantly froze it all again. It was so unbelievably fucking cold - in spite of the five layers of high tech clothing they all wore - that it seemed like their breath didn't just turn into white vapor but froze solid, becoming ice crystals that added to the endless sea of white.
Kozinski took comfort in the fact that it wasn't currently snowing. The sky was nearly as white as the ground, and for the first time he understood the term "snowblind": if it wasn't for all the blood and body parts stretching out over the planes ( steppes? ), it might have been hard to tell the ground from the sky.
Currently the extraction team was in the main encampment of the compound, which was made up of a half dozen loose shacks and quonset huts, although the compound itself was made up of a dozen or more buildings stretching out for a quarter mile on this desolate snowy plateau, where summer was when the temperatures reached a blistering two degrees below zero. It was a place fit for neither man nor beast - so of course the Russians had a major experimental base here, guarded by two hundred plus soldiers, some of the superhuman variety. That's what this whole base was about - superhumans. And it was so impossible to access that about a dozen operatives had gotten themselves killed trying to infiltrate it over the years. The Americans back at HQ were concerned that the Ruskies had gotten far ahead of them in utilizing superhuman talent out here, since they were so perfectly isolated here, in this snowy nowhere in the overall bigger icy nowhere of Siberia, there was no way they could say for sure.
Until now. No one thought this operative would have any success - other superhumans had been sent in, others with more impressive abilities, but they always ended up slaughtered, or killed by the harsh weather before they could make it to the main encampment ( thanks to the sensors and scanners surrounding this place, no agent could ever be dropped closer than five miles out ). Kozinski had heard of this guy, some sort of amazing, kick ass operative, but he hardly sounded superhuman at all. He figured they'd get satellite confirmation of his death within two days. After all, he thought the only guy with a real chance was the one that channeled all that energy - he could wipe out enemies from a distance, and could keep himself warm. This op had no long distance powers like that.
But of all the bodies they had spotted - and there were hundreds, although the fact that many were torn up made it look like even more - none looked like his.
Also, the retrieval signal was valid. Meant nothing in itself - it could be a trap - but thermal and satellite imagery showed only a single living thing on the entirety of the encampment. It was unbelievable, but it didn't seem to be a falsified reading. Still, the team was prepared for an ambush, an unbelievably sophisticated trap, and Kozinski was pretty sure that was the deal here.
But the longer he was here, and the more dead bodies they found ( and they were fucking everywhere ), the more he had to admit to himself that maybe the unimpressive mutie actually made it all the way. Holy fucking shit.
He wished they could just get him and go. The balaclava was driving him crazy, making his face itch, but they had to keep every inch of their skin covered while they were here: it was so arctic that any exposed skin might become instantly frostbitten or at the very least severely windburned, and he knew his eyes, although protected by goggles, felt frozen solid. He could swear when he blinked, he saw ice crystals in his eyelashes.
He shifted his gun to his opposite hand positioning, left on trigger ( he was an ambidextrous shooter ), but the gloves were so heavy he could barely feel it. Millar was still chunking, on his knees and heaving, but since he'd had to pull up his mask to do it, Kozinski wondered if he'd just given himself some frostbite as well. What kind of soldier was he if a few torn up bodies made him lose his lunch? He deserved whatever he got, the weak willed bastard.
"Thermal signature stationary, ahead of you inside the comshack, one hundred meters," Hovitz said from his earpiece. Hovitz - the lucky shit - was back in the copter with the stationary sensor gear.
"No movement?" There were mikes built into these masks ( he hoped they all enjoyed the sounds of Millar blowing chunks ), so they could leave their hands free, but damn it if that somehow didn't make the itching worse. As soon as he peeled this damn thing off, he was going to scrape the first layer of his skin off his face.
"He got up while you guys were coming in, south - southwest. Judgin' from the heat registers, he threw some more fuel in the wood stove, and poured himself a cup of something hot - tea? Don't think he's a coffee guy."
Kozinski thought he could smell burning wood, in spite of the fact that it felt like his sinus passages and lungs had been scraped raw by this lethal cold. "He knows we're here, and he's not doing anything?"
"Affirmative. He seems to be waiting."
"Does he know it's us?" He wasn't a psychic mutie - there was no fucking way he could know if they were friendly or hostile.
"I don't know. But he don't seem real concerned about it."
He had to be the stupidest thing on God's green earth. Or he had to be so confident that he could kill anything - no matter the numbers, or the weapons they were packing - that he wasn't even bothered by whatever was outside his door. He'd have to be the coldest motherfucker on Earth; arctic; sub - zero.
He'd belong here. No wonder he survived.
"Team A, follow me in, standard pattern," Kozinski ordered, with more confidence than he felt. "Team B, fall back pattern, Team C, flank." He waved them on and clutched his automatic rifle tightly, so much so that he could almost feel it in spite of the gloves, and moved towards the communications shack.
Smith came forward and filled the gap left by the ailing Millar in the advance team, and Kozinski shouldered open the door of the shack, ready for anything, leading with his weapon. You didn't want to shoot your own guy, but god knows it'd happened before with muties. "Scimitar," he shouted, the code phrase that should have made him stand down, if the mutie was theirs.
Although it looked like a clapboard shack, it was so warm in here his goggles instantly fogged up, and he had to push them up onto his head to see. The warmth on the skin beneath his eyes was momentarily welcome, but then almost unbearably hot, and his eyes watered. It was like walking into an oven after the brutal cold outside, but he knew it was probably barely thirty two degrees in here.
The com shack was deceptively austere and simple, a two room hut with simple wooden tables and chairs, a pot bellied wood stove, and communications equipment so sophisticated Kozinski only recognized about half of it, most of which was piled up on a long table on the right side of the main room. He spotted the splashes of blood on the walls and floor, indicating the soldiers found right outside had been killed in here, the blood dried to a crusty brown by the heat.
The man was sitting at the table in the center of the room, closest to the stove, his chair canted back on its rear legs, his feet propped up on the table. He was wearing one of those big, thick Russian soldier's parka with the fur lined hoods, smoking a cigar and holding a mug of coffee ( Hovitz had been wrong ).
The man glanced at him with hard blue eyes, his expression completely bored, as if there weren't ten highly trained Black Ops soldiers aiming anti - personnel weapons at him. He put his mug down on the table, blew out a stream of cigar smoke, and drawled, "What took you guys so long? I've been here for two days."
Kozinski stared at the man, unsure if he was their guy. But he had a Canadian accent, didn't he? Still, how could he be this blasé, this cool? "Wolverine?" He said, only for confirmation. They only ever knew the muties by their code names.
The man stood, and his officers tensed behind him, shifted their aim to cover the man more completely. But agent Wolverine grinned, a hard, blade sharp smile that reflected with sadistic glee in his piercing, dead eyes. Kozinski suddenly knew what he was thinking - "I could take you all, and go back to my coffee". He wasn't scared at all, he wasn't concerned; he thought it was funny. He was a complete psychopath; crazier than a shithouse rat in July. No wonder he survived and completed the mission. "No, Nancy Reagan. Who the fuck do you think, grunt?" He reached into the pocket of his snow white parka ( arctic camouflage - which begged the question how did he see those soldiers before he ripped out their guts and left a violent stain? ), and Kozinski motioned for his men to stand down, although he kept his gun casually fixed on him, in case the mutie really was going for a weapon.
But Wolverine pulled out a thick black square, about the size of his hand, and held it up like it it was self - explanatory. "Got all their data, including the stuff they tried to hide as personnel files. Can we go now? I need a beer."
The fucker was nuts. "Bastion, we have recovered the package intact," he said into his mike, lowering his weapon. "Area clear - request immediate extraction."
"Affirmative," Hovitz replied in his earpiece. "Coming in to the main compound, e.t.a sixty eight seconds."
As far as Kozinski was concerned, the chopper couldn't come in fast enough. He was sure, as unimpressive as this mutie bastard seemed, he was the most singularly dangerous mutant he had ever met in his life.
And God help them all if he ever snapped his tether.
Somewhere in Washington D.C. - NowSloane paged through the hidden files, wondering what the Organization was trying to hide from one of its most loyal operatives.
Of course she was a mutant operative, and that made her instantly suspect, but still how long had she worked for them? Twenty two years? Didn't she deserve a little credit?
Okay, when she used her mutation she was immune to the mind probes, and if that wasn't suspect, nothing was. But she had to, otherwise they'd have discovered how the mutants working voluntarily for the Org - pretending to believe their bullshit about quietly promoting a "mutant agenda" while quieting the "bad apples" ( they loved to put metaphors in a blender and see what happened ) - had a little agenda all their own. Did they really believe all the telepaths had been completely corrupted by their big gun telepath? They knew, damn it; they all knew the truth. The mundanes - the Humans - had their truth, and the mutants had theirs.
But if the Humans knew they knew, they'd probably try and kill them all. Try being the operative word.
She sat alone in the darkened basement of what was supposedly ( on the outside ) a copy shop,one ear listening for anyone who might drop by unexpectedly, while she had an earphone plugged into her other ear, listening to Radiohead.
"Pull me out of the air crash," she whisper sang, as she started decrypting documents. "Pull me out of the lake. 'Cause I'm your super hero. We are standing on the edge."
The first unencrypted documents didn't surprise her much. They seemed to concern the "rogue operative" Wolverine, who had been a very hot topic since it was discovered he was really and truly alive. That wasn't a surprise to her; she'd been his partner on several missions; she knew damn well killing him was almost impossible. She was pretty sure he'd have to take a tactical nuclear strike face on before he'd kick that great, glorious bucket. That's why they wanted him for the adamantium bonding process, wasn't it? It wouldn't kill him; hell, it wouldn't even slow him down. She had no idea he hadn't volunteered for the thing, not at first; eventually she figured it out.
Was that really a recent picture of him? She studied the thumbnail portrait carefully, enlarging it until it pixilated. Yes, a recent photo: his facial hair had changed some, his eyes looked greener, but it was Wolverine all right, and he hadn't aged a day. Not a single day in ... holy shit, how many years? As long as she had known him - twenty two years. Incredible. She knew his healing factor could do things like that - she'd heard people say he'd been with an espionage group that eventually mutated ( ha!) into the Organization back in the '60's, and someone had it on good authority he fought for the Allies in Europe back in World War Two ( oh, come on! They could pull the other one ... ) - but he either had no idea how old he was or played it cagey. From what she'd heard of the telepaths who'd fucked with his head, to make him a good and compliant operative for the Org, she supposed he really did have no idea. And if the Organization had some huge master file on him, containing his real name and his real age, she had never seen it, or even heard rumors of its existence.
Poor man. She knew she shouldn't have a soft spot for him, but she kind of did, even after all this time. He was good in bed and had a really impressive body, which always rated high in her book, but he also kicked serious ass. And unlike others she had been partnered with over the years, he didn't panic when the shit hit the fan and everything went fubar; Wolverine never panicked. Either he gave into that psychotic rage that terrified people even in the upper echelon of the Org, or he played it cool and bided his time, waiting for his best chance to accomplish whatever he decided to do. He was very, very good. The best, in all honesty.
Which is why she figured he hadn't died at Alkali Lake, but escaped. In her estimation, as soon as the telepathic imprinting began to fail, it was only a matter of time. They had few options: either break him truly and finally, for all time ( which had been done, apparently - several times. He even seemed to heal from that ); find some super duper headfucker to do it all good and proper once and for all ( those types were really hard to recruit, with the added snag that the Org was generally terrified of them ); attempt to scramble his brains and hope enough of the autonomic functions were left to make him a sort of zombie operative ( not possible, and not a really good idea either way - part of Wolverine's great talent was not only was he extremely vicious, but he was also very clever. He sometimes played the stupid thug, but anyone who had ever been on a mission with him quickly discovered that was his cover identity ); or simply kill him, which was a difficult prospect but not impossible. But from a fiscal point of view it was impossible - how much did adamantium cost? And who the hell else could they get for a project like that? They'd tried others before Wolverine, and tried some after, albeit in a less extensive way. So far, almost no one had survived the procedure or the bonding process, and no one could undergo the extensive alterations that Wolverine had and live. A few minor cases had been done here and there, but she didn't know if any of them were still alive. Well ... no, there was that one at the very least ... there had been two, but Shrike had gone off the deep end and got himself killed. But then again, Shrike had always been mentally unstable; a couple of telepaths had slapped a warning about that on his file, but nobody of any merit took them seriously.
God, what a fruit basket he had been. She was glad he was dead.
Strangely though, she was secretly glad Wolverine wasn't dead. Logan was his name, right? He had been her favorite partner - she knew he'd never chicken out, never get shot in the head, dumped in a river, and leave her on her own. Okay, that had happened, but he climbed out of the river so motherfucking enraged the assholes who thought they did him pissed their pants as soon as they saw the look in the ( supposed ) dead man's eyes. As if coming back from the dead hadn't been bad enough, they now got to witness the special hate of a man confronting his would be murderers. It wasn't pretty. It still made her laugh thinking about it. When they created bad asses, the Organization broke the mold with Wolverine. She wondered if that was still true. From what she'd heard of failed attempts to contain him, it was.
She caught her reflection off the computer screen, and pushed a strand of her short red hair back behind her ear as she studied her own face. Whereas age had been kind to Wolverine, it hadn't been quite as hands off with her. She was forty seven, and maybe she told herself she looked thirty and felt twenty, it wasn't exactly the truth. She didn't look forty - oh, no way! Her mutant genes had been good to her there - but she didn't look like her fresh faced twenty five year old self either. She could see fine lines starting to gather in the corner of her odd eyes - odd because they appeared to be completely cataracted over, orbs of pure white in her sockets. But she wasn't blind, and they weren't cataracts:her pupils were white, as were her irises; they were in there somewhere. Just an oddity of mutation, her most visible one - she learned a long time ago to always wear dark glasses in public. But if people saw her eyes more often, they'd see the lines that time was starting to leave on her, no matter how fit she was, no matter how young she seemed. She frowned at her reflection to see if she had laugh lines too. No, it didn't look it; but then again, how often had she laughed? Her life was hardly a laugh riot.
If she had a line for everyone she had ever killed, she'd look like a prune.
Sloane shook herself out of her momentary state of vanity, and concentrated on the files. She wasn't too interested in Logan - yes yes, Upstate New York, possible connections to a dangerously powered telepath, yada yada yada - but there were some assorted photos of other potential mutants he had been seen with. Identified: Scott Summers, who had briefly been in the Organizations hands ( she still didn't understand how he got out - no one did. It was the weirdest thing - all the soldiers in the support unit with Cyclops - who didn't end up dead ( when the telepathic blocks fell, he shot about a half dozen choppers out of the sky ) - seemed to have the worse case of amnesia anyone had ever seen; the telepaths said there were no memories to recover, none. It was like they hadn't been erased, but hadn't even existed in the first place ... ), supposedly a teacher at a suspect private school; Doctor Jean Grey, a known mutant rights activist, and also affiliated with this "school"; and the dangerous telepath in question, Professor Charles Xavier, owner of the school. Two women - a teenager and a white haired black woman - remained unidentified, but were most likely mutants as well. Cyclops was a known quantity and could be handled, but Xavier seemed to make everyone nervous. He was a strong enough telepath that he could turn an entire unit against one another, and while he could be neutralized, it would take careful planning. And then there was Wolverine himself, who could be neutralized for a while, but the problem was getting him in the first place ( no one wanted to deal head on with an angry Wolverine - no one ) and then in keeping him contained. Getting him in a box could be done; keeping him in it was the tricky part.
Then there was the curious case of the extremely good looking man who only appeared in a single telephoto shot ( but in no close ups, and no one could ever remember actually seeing him ). His eyes were an unreal shade of blue, possibly suggesting mutantism ... but why was he so damn elusive, and a natural at not showing up on camera or even in a person's memory ? And the photo couldn't be matched to anything in the files. There was a general belief he was a telepath too, even more powerful than Xavier - powerful enough to erase his own existence. Now him - whoever he was ( his unofficial designation was "Pretty Boy", for obvious reasons ) - he made the guys in Spec Ops wet their pants. Xavier could be dealt with ... but this guy? No idea - no clue. He was the real spanner in the works.
There were no plans to move in on them yet - well, not in this file - and the next files seemed unrelated, except for a reference to '85 Siberia, and an operation called Sleeper. Which was funny, because that operation was called Lost Cause ( because so many operatives had died trying to implement it ). She could remember when Wolverine was told he was going in ( he hadn't been given a choice ), and he didn't seem at all concerned. The last thing he said to her was, "Back in three days."
The funny thing was that was true. He was back in three days, mission accomplished. After that, the upper echelon seemed to treat him with something like awe, tempered with huge buckets full of fear. She'd heard rumblings he'd only been sent to see if he could actually be killed - almost no one thought he had a chance to succeed where so many others had failed.
Logan himself hadn't known much about what he'd accomplished. He told her it was some secret mutant experimentation base, but he hadn't seen any mutants, except those helping guard the base; mostly it was just soldiers and white coats ( doctors ). And what he was able too pull from their databases was mostly encrypted, and he had no desire to decrypt it, even though he admitted he had "lots of time to kill" once he completed his mission.
She did kind of miss him. None of her partners since had ever been as simply competent as he was, and his unwavering confidence in his abilities rubbed off on you after a while. His refusal to worry about anything had left her with a nonchalant attitude towards life that seemed to impress the newbies, but as cool as they thought she was, she knew she had just borrowed it.
Did he remember her? She knew his memory had been wiped ( again ) before the Alkali Lake thing, because the telepathic blocks had broken down ( again ), so probably not. A shame - although if she ever encountered him on the street, he might assume she had hostile intent, and although she was stronger than your average person, she had no desire to fight him: he was just too strong, and too damn good at the whole fighting thing. Operation Lost Cause proved that if nothing else.
Sloane intended to skim the files, but the name change - from Lost Cause to Sleeper - intrigued her. They usually didn't change an operation's name, not even after the fact ... and that's when she realized it was the true operation - Lost Cause had been a cover.
The more she read, the more she got a really bad feeling that ate at her stomach like acid. Holy shit ... was this end game?
That was her true reason for searching the files - the underground was concerned that the mundanes in the Org had a failsafe in place, in case they did rise up against them or try to overthrow them. She had no idea the plan went so far back.
How advanced was it?
There were some documents missing, and a lot of this was coded, but she had seen enough. She plugged in the drive and started to copy all of it to disk.
She knew if they caught her she was dead, and she might never see it coming. Sloane knew they were experimenting with lethal implants, and she had once dug one out of herself; supposedly it had been a "chemical warfare inoculation", but she knew better. She had no idea if she'd been given a second one, but she didn't think so. Her mutant abilities could make remote detonation impossible.
At first, she thought her ability was the most useless thing ever created. She could mentally project a field that interfered with the signals of everything, from radios to televisions to security cameras to MRIs to cell phones, and she was given the lamest code name ever: Static. But she discovered by accident that her power didn't only work on machines - it worked on telepaths too. That made her a very valuable commodity to the Org, because not only could she prevent enemy troops from calling for help through mechanical means, but she could stop them from doing it by telepathic means as well. That's why she and Wolverine were often a team - he was the offensive weapon, and she was the defensive one. Yin and yang in the Black Ops world.
Idly, she noticed her name mentioned in the strike plan against Xavier. Yes, that made sense - she could neutralize his telepathy quite easily, no matter how powerful he was. But would she hurt a friend of Logan's?
She was not stupid enough to believe in such a childish thing as love; that was for people who didn't dwell in the real world. But she did like Logan, and respected him, and that in itself was rare - people seemed to go out of their way to give you reasons not to think much of them. She could count on one hand the people she respected at the end of the day. Maybe he did escape and go rogue, but he had never been fairly recruited in the first place. And maybe he didn't buy the mutant agenda she and the group were promoting, but she was not so much a fanatic that she would go along with brainwashing to make him agree, no matter how much they needed a man of his talents. Yes, he would be a great weapon in their stable, but she was not prepared to hurt him like the mundanes did to get him to fall into line. The fact that he refused to fall into line - any line - was one of Logan's greatest charms. He was an endearing pigheaded bastard.
Sometimes she wondered about the others. Yes, the more powerful the mutants on their side the better, but since when was brainwashing and coercing them the right idea? Didn't that make them as bad as these mundanes?
Out of his mind or not, maybe Logan had the right idea - maybe escape was the best answer.
Continuing to sift through the documents, she noticed an odd code near the bottom of one file, familiar and yet seemingly out of place. She stared at it for a long time before it slowly dawned on her - Phantom. That was the special code phrase and lexicon of Reaper.
No way. No fucking way! Had he sold them out? No ... this had to be a ploy, something he was playing along with ... right?
She stared at it for the longest time, wondering who was really playing who. There came a point when there were so many double crosses and so many counterplots it became impossible to keep track of everything without a scorecard.
But what if he was selling them out to save his own ass, or position himself as the ultimate power? Would it really surprise her?
There was the bleep of a full disk, so she quickly pulled it out
of the drive and inserted another, as she had a couple of megabytes of files
to go. She looked at the disk speculatively before putting it in the inside
pocket of her coat. Her abilities had been known to interfere with recordings
on computer disks and CD - ROMs, so she had to be careful using her "static"
As burning continued, she mentally combed her list of people she could trust. Reaper, ironically, had been on it. Did that throw the entire list out the window? Yes, she guessed it did. She could trust no one if there was something else going on, and they didn't trust her with the details of it.
But there was one person left on the list, wasn't there? The one person who had been on the top of her list until he went away.
As she pocketed the second disk, she wondered if Logan would be glad to see her, or try to kill her on sight.