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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: When Logan's mental blocks start crumbling, he begins to wonder just what he's doing with the Organization. A dangerous mission, where nothing is quite what it seems, convinces him to attempt a risky escape.
Notes: Takes place prior to the events in "X-Men: The Movie."
16 Years Earlier
The first thing he noticed, after the taste of blood in his mouth, was the heat.
It was humid and sweltering, almost thick enough to touch. It was like someone had thrown a wet sponge over his face, and he was breathing in as much water vapor as warm, stale air. He sat up, a little surprised to find himself splayed out on the carpet, and saw a dead man across the room from him.
It was dark, there were no lights on save for some bleeding in through the louvered blinds, street lights casting slashes of illuminations on the crimson carpet. A ceiling fan spun lethargically over the center of the room, cooling nothing down, just pushing around the sultry air. His chest ached and burned, and he figured the guy must have got in a good shot before he finished the job.
…. What? What the hell was he thinking? What job? Who was this man and why was he dead?
As he struggled to his feet, a small, square object fell out of his pants pocket and hit the floor. It was a computer disc in a clear blue plastic case, and he had some idea that this was what it had all been about. A small silver disc in a case. He picked it up, and examined it for any clues, but the case and the disc were both blank. Any clues on it would have to be found with a computer.
He was remembering … something. His mission was to recover the disc, and to eliminate the man who had stolen it before he could sell it to the highest bidder. His mission now complete, he had to make his way unobtrusively to the extraction point, which was in a back alley seven blocks from here. Which didn’t make sense, because how could an alley be an extraction point? And who the hell was he?
He went over to the man’s body, just to see if he was really dead. But he knew by smell before sight; the shit and blood and sour smell of the newly deceased, a smell he knew too well. The man’s blood had soaked a black circle into the carpet, a large spot that he almost stepped on, but he deftly avoided it because he knew a footprint impression in blood could be telling forensic evidence.
(And how did he know that?)
He was an Asian man of average height and weight, wearing dark slacks and a formerly white dress shirt with rolled up sleeves, and expensive Italian leather shoes. One arm was splayed out towards the right side of the room, and the other was pointing vaguely in his former direction. He couldn’t tell what powers he could have had, if he had any.
Why was he thinking about powers? What did that mean?
He left the room, which seemed to be some kind of office space in a large apartment, which was almost completely dark, save for an occasional small light. He wanted to look around, but didn’t, because he knew he was running out of time. How he knew that he had no idea, nor had he any idea how he knew he couldn’t leave by the front door. Or how he knew that the side window was open in the left side room, the one he had entered through, and he climbed out before suddenly realizing that there was no ledge to step out on. It was a flat, straight drop down about thirty five feet to a dingy, unlit alley , and while he felt a brief spasm of fear, it passed quickly. He could make this jump with no problem - why was he worried? Because some part of him thought it should be impossible to do without breaking his leg?
He stepped out into thin (well, no, it was pretty thick) air and shoved himself off from the window, landing on his feet in the alley below. He almost overbalanced and put a hand out to the wall to steady himself, noticing only then that he was wearing gloves. No wonder his hands were sweaty.
But as an afterthought, he wondered how he got up to the window in the first place if there had been nothing to climb. Looking up, he thought he saw small cuts in the wall leading up to the window, but he didn’t understand what that meant. He took off his gloves and shoved them in his pocket, only then realizing that there were little cuts in the leather. Was that related somehow?
He just didn’t know. He started walking, sticking to the filthy alley as long as he could, and then, when he had to leave for the street proper, he stuck to the shadows, which lingered in some spots despite the fact that it was the dead of night. Cars warred with cyclos - bicycle taxis - on some streets, and he realized he was in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Had he been here before? It almost seemed familiar.
He found the alley that he knew to be the extraction point, but it was a dead end beside a closed noodle shack, and it made no sense at all. How could this be an extraction point? It sure didn’t look like he was going anywhere. And the scent of fermenting garbage and piss was strong enough to make him gag.
He leaned against the wall, feeling sweat ooze out of his pores in the dense heat, and tried to think. This was wrong on so many levels, where did he begin? So he killed that man because it was his job, his mission? What did that make him? What kind of a job was that? And what was his name?
Wolverine popped to mind, but that wasn’t a name. Who the hell was he? Why did he just kill a man over a disc? And, come to think of it, how did he kill him? He had no weapon, and he didn’t see any on the floor. And if the man had hurt him somehow, why didn’t he feel it anymore?
He sensed a change in the stultifying air, and he looked at the blocked end of the alley, just in time to see a man emerge from the shadows. He was a tall but slight black man in his early thirties, wearing khaki walking shorts, a pale blue t-shirt , and - for some reason - a pith helmet. Maybe he thought that was funny.
Before he could ask where the hell he had come from, he asked quietly, “Got the disc, Wolverine?”
What? There was no way in hell that was a proper name.
The man, who had a slight Spanish accent and was noisily chewing gum that smelled like cinnamon, gave him a quizzical look. “Well? Mission accomplished or what?”
He did know this man, or at least he was familiar somehow. For some reason, he wanted to call him Nomad, even though he knew that wasn’t a proper name either. “Yeah, uh, mission accomplished.”
“Great, let’s get outta this shithole,” he said, and grabbed his upper arm. He was going to pull away, break his grip, but suddenly the bottom seemed to drop out of the world, sending his stomach plunging straight into legs (or so it felt like), and then things snapped back into hard focus. But he was no longer in a sweltering Cambodian alley in the dead of night; he and Nomad were suddenly in a metal lined, sterile hallway, the air dryer and twenty degrees cooler, with the distinct, slightly metallic tang of recirculated, treated air. Nomad let his arm go, and he looked around curiously, not sure what just happened, and Nomad started walking towards a door at the far end of the hall. He stopped half way there, and turned to shoot him a scathing look. “Well? You comin’ or not?”
He followed after him, if only because he didn’t know what else to do. It occurred to him his name might be Logan; that sounded kind of right.
“What’s up with you, man?” Nomad asked. “The guy put up a fight or somethin’?”
“Uh, yeah. I think I got hit in the head or something like that. I’m a little out of it.”
That made him snort, like he’d just made a joke, but he wasn’t sure what was supposed to be so funny about it.
Nomad led him inside what turned out to be a small metal office, where a severe looking man in a tailored suit waited for them, seated behind a dark metal desk. Embedded in the right hand side of the wall were six monitors, four of which had some kind of data on them, but he couldn’t quite see it from this angle. The man looked up, and said, “Excellent. How did it go?”
Was he talking to him? It looked that way. “Fine,” he lied, and took out the disc, because he was reasonably sure that was what he was supposed to do.
The man took it, looking at it with great interest, and once again repeated, “Excellent. Stryker will be pleased. Nomad, why don’t you get Wolverine back to the safe area?” The man’s eyes, dark and somewhat empty, glanced his way. “We have you returning to base on a flight at ten hundred thirty hours tomorrow. “
He just shrugged, as he didn’t know what else to do. Would this make sense eventually? If not, he would just miss his flight, and he didn’t think that was so bad. He wanted to ask why he had to kill the man if he was just supposed to get the disc, but he didn’t dare. Who was that man? Why was the disc so important?
The man’s look became suddenly scrutinizing, his brow furrowing as he studied his face, and Logan had to swallow back a momentary surge of panic. He knew something was wrong, didn’t he? “You look tired, Wolverine. Go get yourself a beer, relax. You did a great job.”
“I will, sir, thank you.” It was autonomic to call him sir, even though there was something he instantly disliked about the man, something that made his skin crawl.
He left the cool office with Nomad, wiping the sweat off his face with the back of his hand. It had been very hot in Phnom Penh; the level of humidity made him think it would be monsoon time soon enough. (Did he have any idea why he thought that?) He asked, out of curiosity, “Are you heading back to base?”
Nomad shook his head. “Naw, they got me on a couple other missions here. They treat me like a fucking taxi service sometimes. I mean, they got other ‘porters - can I help it if I can cover a wider area than most?”
Logan took that as a rhetorical question, and didn’t answer. Porter? He meant teleported, didn’t he? That’s how he showed up out of nowhere, and brought him back here. He had some idea that Nomad’s real name was Javier, and that he had a not so secret addiction to heavy duty painkillers (his constant wide range teleporting hurt him somehow, or so he claimed; it was quite possibly just an excuse). Everybody in the Organization had some secret, something that got them through this without too many nightmares.
Where had that come from?
The “safe area” turned out to be a hotel room in what felt like a different country, or at least it wasn’t as warm and humid. Still, it had a semi-tropical theme, with lots of white and seafoam green, billowy panels of sheer cloth for curtains, and a white and gold ceiling fan above that spun even more languidly than that one in the man’s apartment. The room smelled powerfully of air condition fed ozone and a lemon scented room cleaner that made him sneeze and threatened to give him a headache. There was a boxy computer on a utilitarian desk, and he asked Javier, “Can I access some Organization files from here?”
He looked quizzically at the computer, as if he wasn’t sure what he was asking, and then shrugged. “Sure, I guess so, but nothing classified. Why? Want to file your mission report?”
“Yeah. I don’t think I’m gonna get much sleep tonight.”
“I got some codeine … except it doesn’t work on you, does it?”
“Nope.” He had no idea.
“Man, that must be a fuckin’ pisser. Guess it’s a good thing they kept you in a coma after you were blown to pieces, huh? I can’t imagine how much that would’a hurt without drugs.”
Was he serious? He just grunted and took off his jacket, tossing it on a near by wicker chair. He felt a brief shift in the room’s air pressure, and knew Javier had ‘ported out, probably back to Asian continent headquarters.
He was blown to bits? That must have been exaggeration. But even though he felt sticky with his own sweat, and had a feeling - unsupported by any evidence - that he was covered in blood, he sat down at the desk and started to access what he could of the Organization’s files.
If he didn’t think, if he just sat back and watched, his mind and body seemed to know what to do. It seemed to know you had to access a “blind” website, one that looked like a p.r. page for a business called Mu International (Mu for “mutation”? Probably; not very subtle.) It went through the whole rigmarole, the slickly bland “mission statement” and assorted other paragraphs of business buzzwords that ultimately meant nothing at all, highlighted with generic photos of skyscrapers and anonymous photos of average people in business suits, with no obvious clue of what these people did, where, or why. There was a special page, unlinked by any others, that you could only access by typing in the URL manually; and then you weren’t taken to a page, just a pop up, that demanded three different codes. The three codes were changed every forty eight hours, and to even attempt to hack this page was to flirt with an immediate and painful death. He hoped the three codes that popped ! into his head - a random string of letters, numbers, and symbols - were still accurate.
They must have been, because he was taken to a plain black page, unmarked with any symbols or identifying marks, where a green cursor blinked expectantly. He typed the codename Wolverine, and waited to see if anything happened.
What happened was another pop up, telling him he needed a security clearance of seven or above to continue, and demanded another code. It took him a moment, but the word “Bellerophon” popped into his mind. What did that mean? He didn’t know, but he typed it in, and waited to see what happened.
After a moment, a file loaded, featuring a photo of a man on the left side of the page, and a stark recitation of facts in a column on the right. The photo featured a man with a light beard and strange sideburns glaring belligerently at the camera, his eyes hard and angry, and it took him aback for a moment. Was that him? He hadn’t glanced in a mirror yet to check, but he had some sense that this was him, and he didn’t look happy .. . or very friendly, or sane.The facts were startling in their general lack of clarity:
Given Name: N/A, goes by Logan
Date of Birth: N/A, passes for 30.
Place of Birth: N/A
Previous Service Record: RCMP and CIC, distinguished service record. Victoria Cross (2), Companion Order of The Bath, George Cross. See also Operations: Lancer, Lighthouse, Nightfall, Halcyon. (Official status, deceased.)
Living Relations: N/A
Special Abilities: Advanced healing factor and highly adaptive immune system. Senses an 8.5 on the Kovacs Scale. Physical vulnerability a 2 on the Ferreira Scale. A 9.6 in hand to hand combat; can operate and use a wide variety of weapons and equipment. Internal blades in both hands. Polyglot. See also Weapon X.
Weaknesses: Severe memory impairment. Vulnerable to telepathy. Emotionally unstable. Paranoid. Has suffered several nervous breakdowns; seems prone to instability , Rage often comes out explosively. Misanthropic tendencies; deep distrust of perceived authority figures, especially male.
Notes: Prone to contrariness and irrational fits of violence. Outbreaks can usually be predicted. Consult Control or Lieutenant General Stryker for availability of operative.
He stared at it for several minutes, not sure any of it made sense. They didn’t know his name? “Passes for 30” - what the hell was that supposed to mean? They had to know his name and his age; what kind of government thing could they be if they didn’t know him down to whether he dressed left or right? Officially deceased? But he was right here! What the fuck was this?!
Then again, it said he was nuts. Nervous breakdowns, memory impairment, fits of violence. So that explained everything, didn’t it? He was insane; no wonder he couldn’t remember anything. But somebody had to know who he was … right?
Blades in hands. He looked at them for a minute, remembering the cuts in the gloves, but his hands looked normal. It sounded nuts, but he didn’t want to check; he was sure it was correct, and he had no desire to see them.
At least there wasn’t anything about being blown to bits in here, but there were no files applying to current missions. He tried to search for some of the things mentioned - all those “Operations”, Weapon X - but nothing came up with the former, and the latter told him that the file “did not exist”. So that meant either he couldn’t access Weapon X files, or it was a bogus plant in his records. But why?
Curiosity made him continue searching for anything, as this was deeply unsatisfying. He eventually discovered that Kovacs Scale measured heightened senses, with one being “baseline Human average” to nine being “beyond measurement capabilities”. So he was really on the high end of the scale. The Ferreira Scale seemed to measure how vulnerable a person would be to several strangely brutal factors, including hard radiation, direct lethal neurotoxin exposure, and the raw vacuum of space. His rating put him above neurotoxin exposure, but below hard vacuum. How did they know that? How did they test for that?
Did he really want to know?
Further searches turned up nothing he could use, and while he felt a sudden urge to destroy the computer, he let it pass. He didn’t want to act like a crazy man, now did he?
He peeled off his clothes and went to take a long, cool shower, during which he thought more about what he’d seen. He assumed he worked for some government or military operation, but when would they work with a crazy person? If he was as fucked up as that record seemed to indicate, why didn’t they have him locked up somewhere? If he was that unstable and sick, he shouldn’t be on the loose in general, not to mention working for an outfit that had a generous supply of weapons. Unless, of course, his madness worked for them.
He searched his body for bruises and dried blood, and found none. He stared at his skin curiously, trying to figure out what was wrong with it. He had a nagging feeling something was wrong with it, but he couldn’t pinpoint it. Maybe that was just his paranoia.
He just got out of the shower and was drying off when the phone rang. For some reason, he didn’t want to answer it. But he plodded out, wrapping a towel around his waist, and paused before the nightstand, water dripping from his hair and pattering on the hard plastic phone. He didn’t want to pick it up, he had a feeling he wouldn’t like what was on the other end of the line, but he did anyways.
There was no preamble, no introduction. Just a silky male voice saying, “Did you find what you were looking for, Wolverine?”
His stomach sunk, turned to ice. He knew this voice, and he didn’t like it. “Stryker.”
The man didn’t acknowledge his name, but his lack of response to it was a kind of an answer in and of itself. “Why were you trying to search your own files?”
He sat down on the edge of the bed, wondering why this man’s voice made him equally frightened and angry. “How do you know that?”
He chuckled faintly, and it sounded contemptuous. “We know when anyone accesses anything we have. I thought you knew that.” He paused, and it seemed more for dramatic effect than anything else. “Did Phan … say something to you?”
“Phan?” The name seemed vaguely familiar, and then he realized that that was the name of the man he killed. Although he had been curious, it wasn’t what he needed right now. Stryker’s voice alone was enough to make him feel vaguely queasy - and like he needed to take another shower again. He couldn’t possibly get clean enough to wash the slime away. “No, no he didn’t.”
“Uh huh.” Just those two syllables conveyed epic levels of doubt. “Ground Control thought you looked a little … distracted when you turned over the package.”
Ground Control? The Asian field team leader, the one he gave the disc - the “package” - to. Different from Control, presumably, if only for the extra word, and the David Bowie song reference. Things were clicking into place in his mind, although he wasn’t sure how. Was Stryker’s voice enough to trigger some recall? He knew what he should say to get him off his back. “He put up more of a fight than I expected. He had the … package on his person; I needed to secure it before I could proceed with … cancellation.” Cancellation - such a cold way to say “murder”, like he was nothing but a faulty product line that needed to be stopped before someone got hurt. And for all he knew, it was the truth; his battle with Phan could have gone down exactly that way.
Stryker waited a long moment before he answered. “I see. So why were you looking in your records?”
“My memory fucked up. I’m starting to remember things now … for a moment, I wasn’t sure who I was.”
“And you know now?”
He swallowed hard, and closed his eyes, not sure why this should be so hard. “I’m Wolverine, an operative for the Organization. “ He wanted to add ‘And I have a combat rating of 9.6, and I could kick your fat ass’, but he didn’t actually know what a combat rating meant, nor did he know why he hated this man so much. He couldn’t even dredge up a mental picture of him.
“Did he use his powers on you?”
“No, he just tried to put a new hole in my head with an MKS.” He was dying to ask what Phan’s power was, but something was telling him that, of all people, Stryker was the last person in the world to trust. Any sign of weakness, and he would pounce. If he asked him any questions, he would regret it, sooner rather than later. The longer he could keep him in the dark, the better. He didn’t even need to convince him he was okay, just not bad enough to worry about.
Stryker made a sort of “hmm” noise, one that sounded as if he wasn’t convinced, but maybe he was bored, because he moved on to something else. “When you get to base tomorrow, we’ll do a scan, make sure you’re back to parameters.”
“I’m fine, I’ve healed already -”
Stryker ignored him. “We’re gonna need you in top shape for this next mission, Wolverine, especially now that Inferno’s crapped out on us. A squad can survive even if it’s down a few members, but if the leader’s only got one leg to stand on, they’re completely fucked up the ass. If you don’t think you can do it, I want you to say so now.”
“I can do it.” As an afterthought, he added, “Sir.”
He grunted an affirmative. “We’ll double check that tomorrow. Now, stop dicking around on the computer and get some rest.” He then hung up; once again, no foreplay. It seemed rude, but then again, Stryker was, so it fit.Logan hung up the receiver, feeling like he’d just signed his own death warrant. He supposed he could live with it, if only he knew why.