Author: Notmanos
E-Mail: notmanos at yahoo dot com
Rating: R
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 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!   

In the harsh light of the sun,you could see that the town was nothing but a ramshackle collection of buildings in differing types of slow collapse,half of them closed and abandoned,the facades still bearing the layers of dirt and grime from the old smelter,whose shutting down several years ago killed the town.

Logan drove slowly down the crumbling main street,avoiding the huge potholes that the dim streetlights didn't bother to illuminate,and sniffed the air,not surprised at how stale it seemed.The place even smelled like a closet that had been nailed shut for decades.

There was an island of light up ahead,a small gas station so old its pumps weren't even digital or set up for credit cards,but it did have that ubiquitous urban staple,the attached mini-mart.In this place,it was probably the grocery store.

He saw a car in the parking lot,some kind of all terrain vehicle,and he wondered if it belonged to the person he was looking for.

Logan pulled the bike into the parking lot,avoiding the crumbling berm,and the gashes in the concrete that looked as if it had never recovered from an earthquake,and cautiously sniffed the cool,misty air.He smelled nothing but exhausted and gasoline,dust,rain,and concrete.And one person,very familiar,with a hint of vanilla musk perfume,cigarettes,and wintergreen underneath it,who had come through very recently.Time changed some things.

But not him;never him.

It was a little disturbing to think Bob was one of the few other men who could understand that.

He killed the engine and put down the kickstand,then dug in his pockets for a cigar as he approached the glass door of the mini-mart.

He found a half smoked stub that he had saved,and stuck it in the corner of his mouth as he gently shoved open the door.He heard the jingle of the bell,and among the odors of overcooked meat stewing in its own congealing juices,over boiled coffee,a hint of lemon cleanser,and the commingled scents of the roughly dozen people who had been in here the last ten hours or so,two scents came on strong:the rather sleepy looking man at the cashier's counter,desultorily reading the paper as he sipped his coffee,and the woman he smelled out in the parking lot.

He had just started stalking the bright,florescent lit aisles when he sensed/heard/felt something winging its way towards the back of his head.

He spun on his heels,his left hand shooting up and snatching the object out of the air before he even had a chance to see the thing.The object felt so familiar,though,he knew it was a can of beer from the cooler by feel alone.

Looking down the aisle,he saw a tall,dark woman grinning at him."You know,that's always been completely creepy."

He raised an eyebrow at her."Not being able to cold cock me with a blunt object?"

She shrugged a single shoulder."That too."

Alex then came down the chip aisle and embraced him,which was a bit of a shock,but he wondered why he was surprised by it.She probably still believed he was some kind of hero or something,which couldn't be farther from the truth.He was just...what was he?

An angry man (a wounded animal).In a way,Elena and Alex had done him a favor by giving him a target for his free floating rage all those years ago.And now he was getting another target,and not a moment too soon.

"You know,hugging you is a lot like hugging a warm statue,"she said,pulling away from him.

"Is that a compliment or a complaint?"

"Just an observation,"she replied,still smiling warmly at him.The smile reflected in her light hazel eyes,which still had a slightly exotic tilt to them.Actually,her whole face seemed to be tinged with a hint of the exotic,from her regal nose to her full lips to the slightly mahogany hue of her skin.She looked very much like the girl he remembered,except she was about an inch or two shy of six foot tall,and he could see slender but cable strong muscles in her long neck and long,formerly gangly limbs.She'd enhanced her own 'try-and-pin-down-the-nationality' looks with a short haircut,artfully messy,and under the harsh lights,it gleamed midnight black,like the pelt of a panther.Now she didn't look awkward,she looked formidable,which was as it should have been.She was.

She stared at him for a moment,cocking her head to the side."My god-you haven't even aged a day,have you?"

"I get that a lot,"he replied wryly.He then jerked his head in the direction of the mud brown ATV in the parking lot,beside his bike."Wanna talk in the car?"

She nodded.It was better than to talk where an understandably confused clerk couldn't listen in on their conversation.

"I'll meet you out there.I gotta buy a beer."Well,hell,it was better than coffee.

She made a small noise of amusement,and when he turned back towards the clerk,she put a warm hand on his shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze."It's good to see you again,Shane."

It took him a moment,but to his surprise,he actually remembered the reference.



The truck hit him...well,like a speeding fucking truck.

The sense of impact was unbelievable;Logan imagined it was exactly what getting hit in the chest with a wrecking ball would feel like.

He had a sense of being thrown off his feet,and knew he had been when his back slammed up and through a wall.He remembered hitting the tiled floor hard,but his consciousness winked out for a few seconds.When he opened his still slightly blurry eyes to the scene again,he could see a huge hole in the drywall where he must have come through,with pieces of it still flaking to the floor.

The truck was still idling outside,and he could hear the scuff of boots on pavement.And he hurt.How could he not?He'd just gotten plowed into at high speed and thrown through a wall.Adamantium skeleton or not,he took some damage;he could feel all the bruised tissue furiously repairing itself,organs partially crushed returning to normal,rattled brain finding new anchors.

God was he angry.He thought he had been angry before,but obviously that was just a snit.He was going to kill each and every one of these fuckers...as soon as he got off the floor.

To make matters worse,he was on a bathroom floor.He didn't know if the soldier boys had finally cut the power,or if him coming through the wall at sub-light speed had done it,but there were no lights at all.But,even if he couldn't see in dim light, he knew the smell of urinal cakes and piss,and the feel of the cold,slightly broken tiles beneath his aching body were a bit of a giveaway too.

More scuffling outside,voices,whispered and nervous."There's no fucking way he could have survived that.That's overkill-"

"Not on a homicidal freak like that.What does he have in his fucking hands?Machetes?"

"I bet he was just wearin' 'em,like spiked brass knucks."

"We'll see for ourselves in a minute."

He heard the sound of a pin being pulled,and a metal cannister bounced in through the roughly Logan shaped hole in the wall.

Logan knew it was probably a stun or flash grenade (a gas one he could've smelled by now),and he forced his still healing body to move,grabbing the hot cannister in mid bounce,and lobbing it into one of the farther stalls.By the noise of a splash,he knew he had hit an inadvertent bullseye,and quickly rolled over onto his side,curling into a fetal position and covering his head with his arms.

He chuckled to himself as he thought,"Fire in the hole",and as if on cue,the grenade went off,and the toilet exploded.

Potentially deadly shards of porcelain shrapnel spewed outward,some punching through the thin metal walls of the stall, and the sudden pressure in the line caused water to gush like geysers from the other toilets and the couple of remaining urinals.Who knew one little stun grenade could turn a john into a water park?It was a good thing no one was using one of them either,or that would have been one hell of an enema.

"What the fuck-"one of the soldiers said,and he risked a glance inside.

Logan was already on his feet and standing against the wall,waiting for some dumb ass to do just that.

He simply lashed out an elbow and caught him flush in the face,the crack of bone as magnificent as it was startling to the other soldiers clustered around him.They reacted,raising weapons,trying to back off and get some distance,but Logan threw himself at them,slashing like the scythe of Death itself.Far too soon,the five soldiers were down and out,quite possibly for good.Dumb as paint,those boys.

There were no more in the parking lot,not even in the still idling truck;they were all out in the woods,trying to run Elena and Alex to ground.He could still hear sporadic gunfire.

He wondered how good they were as trackers.Logan bet he was better,especially in such welcome territory as the forest.
Grinning to himself at the thought of a hunt,he ran off towards the woods,following the smell and sounds of the soldiers into the snowy darkness.

He supposed that he could have been blind and unable to smell,and still he would have had no trouble following these morons.And it wasn't just the sporadic bursts of gunfire,although god knew that helped.No,these guys didn't leave a path in the snow but an entire landing strip,and they tore through the foliage like a herd of rampaging moose.He could have been completely senseless,and yet found them all easily.

The snow seemed florescent in the moonlight oozing through the thick layer of clouds,the trees black and as towering as giants,and he moved quietly through it all,a ghost picking off the straggling soldiers one by one.

Now more in control of his rage,he thought of the strikes clinically.He started taking out men with no struggle,no noise;one well placed hit and they were down.He could be most quiet animal the woods had ever seen if he put his mind to it,and it was kind of funny since he was one third metal,and round about three hundred pounds,and not necessarily known for his grace and delicacy.But what he lacked in obvious poise he made up for in skill.

And not for the first time,he wondered where and when he had acquired these skills.

He heard curses up ahead,cries for help over their radios,not only due to having been laid low by gunshots,but some of the dipshits had fallen into old mining pits,now overgrown by shrubs,but still as injurious as old fashioned booby traps.Logan knew where they were,though;there was a difference in sound around the pits,a difference in the 'feel' of the ground,a vaguely tar like smell,and of course he could often see the shadows beneath the huge,tangling briar mounds (of course,he wouldn't expect anyone with merely normal sight to see that).He hoped Elena and Alex had avoided them,unlike these assholes.He'd hope Elena was smart enough.

He found the final cluster of troops trying to surround Elena and Alex,but they were at a bit of a loss:Elena had started up an incline so dense with trees and underbrush it was an obstacle course,and allowed very few opportunities for a clear shot on either side.

Of course,he could see their footsteps in the snow,but anyone who followed the path was met with a hail of bullets.Or so he assumed from all the blood on the snow,and the dead body splayed half way up the trail.

They were trying to surround her,but the upward slope and dense vegetation were making it a battle,and while he could hear the helicopter,it was just making sweeps of frustration,as the trees were too tall and too close together to allow for aerial sniping.Either Elaina was a good tactician,or that had been a happy accident.

He easily picked off two of the men quietly at the same time (one went down with a punch to the back of the head;the other one he just snap kicked in the face),and then searched them for stun grenades.The first one didn't have one,but the second one did.Obviously it was special issue.

He sighted the largest group of soldiers,a few klicks away from him and trying to hunker down behind the trees and shrubs at the base of the rise,pulled the pin on the grenade,and lobbed it at the soldiers.They didn't notice it until it plopped down into the snow before them,and even then,only one had time to react in any manner at all."Oh sh-"

It then went of in a stunning flash of noise,pressure,and light,and the men fell like ten pins,some still conscious enough to groan pitifully,but not do anything productive.

The helicopter buzzed the treetops dangerously low,but he knew they couldn't see him.When he didn't want to be seen,he was almost as good as invisible.

He quietly stalked the hillside,in search of the few soldiers who had managed to penetrate the forest without getting shot by Elena.In spite of the stun grenading down below,they never expected him,and he always caught them by surprise.In two minutes,he had left a small,scattered trail of bodies behind him,and after a brief gun battle,Elena had taken down what he scented to be the last remaining one.

"Don't shoot,it's me,"he said,before openly emerging from the underbrush.

Elena was crouched down behind a large evergreen trunk,while Alex was hiding behind a tree farther up the slope.And he knew,from the sour scent of infected blood,that Elena had been injured.

Elena stared at him in slack jawed shock,still holding her Glock like a good luck talisman."How in the hell did you-did you fight your way through all those men?"Her eyes then fell to his bloody claws,dangling at his side,and he instantly retracted them back into his hands.For some reason,he felt momentarily embarrassed that she had seen them,and probably guessed that he had slaughtered quite a few of the soldiers.

"Wow,"Alex said,emerging from her hiding place."You're like Superman with claws."

He scowled at her."I am not."The closer he got to Elena,the more he could see blood on the snow around her,like it was bubbling up from the roots of the great tree."Oh fuck,where were you shot?"He asked,quickly moving to her side.

He saw the surprise in her eyes,but she didn't ask how he knew.He got a sense there was now very little he could do that would truly shock her."My shoulder.It's superficial."

He crouched down in front of her,and helped her slip her left arm out of her sleeve to have a look.Flak jackets didn't have sleeves,and he didn't know why;it would have been a favor to them all.

It wasn't 'superficial' as she claimed;there was a hole in her shoulder,about as thick around as his thumb,and it was bleeding copiously.It didn't help that the bullet was lodged against the bone,silver glinting against crimson and white."I bet that hurts."

"No fucking kidding,Sherlock,"she snapped.

"I think I can get it out of there.Close your eyes."


"Trust me,just do it.And don't move."

For a long moment,she just stared at him,searching his eyes for some hint of what he planned to do,then she nodded grimly and looked away,closing her eyes tightly.

He popped the claw of his right forefinger,and carefully slid it inside the wound,not touching her skin but sliding in up against the bullet.He didn't want to touch it with the tip and cut it,he only used the side of the blade to loosen the bullet, and when he thought he had it,he began to slowly withdraw it,the bullet being pulled along with.She hissed underneath her breath,and her body tensed in pain,but Elena didn't move.

He managed to work the bullet out of the wound,and as soon as it fell to the blood tinted snow,he retracted his claw inside his hand.

"Whoa,"Alex said,in awe.He had sensed her behind him,watching,but there was nothing that could be done for it.

Elena opened her eyes and glanced at the wound before looking at him."You used your claws,didn't you?"

He shrugged."One."The blood was still flowing freely,and in the dark he could truly see how gaunt she looked,her cheekbones like razor blades about to slice through her skin.She was already dying,and this was just insult to existing injury.Her blood was a poisoned thing,but she still needed all that she had.

He ripped off a piece of his plaid overshirt (which was already torn and bloody as it was),and wrapped it around her injury,tying it tightly,although not so tightly that it became a tourniquet."Once we get back to the truck,I can sew it up."At her surprised look,he added,"Well,you can't go to a hospital,can ya?And you need stitches."

"Oh,I know.I guess I'm just surprised you can sew."She replied,and a hint of a smile graced her pale pink lips.

He scowled at her,but he didn't really mean it.He felt a strange pity for this woman,and he didn't know why.What happened to her and her 'kid' was none of his business,and he really didn't care.No,he didn't.

But he still wanted to know who these soldier boys actually worked for,and if he was really 'one of theirs'.Just because Elena didn't know him didn't mean he wasn't from a separate project.

The adult Samson project.After all,wasn't he supposed to be the perfect killing machine?

Hadn't he just proved it?

The helicopter buzzed as low as it could go,and once it had made its pass,he said,"Come on,let's get out of here before reinforcements arrive."

"You're gonna take us to Alaska?"Alex asked hopefully.

"Alex,"Elena warned."I don't think that's-"

"We'll see,"he replied,not ready to have this discussion right now.He'd worry about what the hell he was going to do with them once they were all back on the road again.

Elena tried to get to her feet,using the tree as a brace with her good hand,but she almost fell right over.Still holding on to her gun probably didn't help matters.

He stood up,grabbing her around the waist to help steady her."You gonna make it?"He wondered.

Somehow,he had said something wrong.The look she gave him was pure death."I'll be fine.I was just dizzy for a moment."

"I wasn't-"he began,then stopped.Wasn't a point in having this argument,and he wasn't about to apologize for showing a modicum of concern.He looked over to Alex instead.The girl was still looking at him with wide,staring eyes,as if she wasn't sure if she should be scared of him,or admire him,or try and find a happy medium."Can you shoot?"

It seemed to take her a moment to process the question."Yeah,sure."

He plucked the gun out of Elena's hand,and handed it to Alex."I think they're down for good,but keep your eyes open."

"Hey,"Elena protested,although weakly.She looked very ashen in the slivers of moonlight,and he felt her body shift clumsily,her hip rubbing up against his.She was very close to passing out.

"You have two guns,"he pointed out,carefully draping her left arm around his shoulders.She let out a little hissing breath of pain,but then she fell almost heavily against him.He was hoping she was unconscious so he could just throw her over his shoulder-they'd move faster-but she was still conscious.She'd simply unbalanced,and going down a snowy hill full of vegetation with her was a daunting prospect.

Still,he headed down,almost dragging her along,Alex taking up the rear.The sight of blood soaking through the snow and fallen bodies-some dead,some not-greeted them on their way down,solid forms in the long midnight shadows of the towering trees,the scent of gore and death on the wind overpowering the smell of the snow that he knew would soon fall. This was a pretty place;it was a shame to pollute it with so much violence.

Elena was losing strength;he could feel it in the general sag of her body.She had been running on pure adrenaline and will, and now that the battle seemed to be over it was fleeing her.Her head lolled against his shoulder,and she said,in a voice so quiet it was probably good her face was close to his ear,"You're not just a mutant.What are you,Logan?"

It was a fair question,really.He wished he could answer it."I don't know,"he replied,just as quietly,his words turning into white clouds before him.But it was a partial lie,wasn't it?He suspected...he knew he was almost too good at hurting people. He knew how to kill,quickly,quietly,and efficiently,even if he didn't always choose those options.

He was a killing machine.And he suspected that he had been made that way.

She made a strange noise,half way between a scoff and a labored sigh,and he wondered if that was her way of saying she didn't believe that for a second.But the next thing she said sounded delirious."You're like "Shane" or something."

"Who's Shane?"He'd never even slept with the woman,and yet she was still comparing him to old boyfriends?

"You know,the old movie.You're like the loner gunslinger who shows up to save the day."

He had to think about that for a moment."Do you mean "The Road Warrior"?I thought his name was Mad Max."And while Max carried a gun,he was hardly a gunslinger;he never really had any bullets.

Man-how disturbing was it that he knew that?

But she didn't answer,mainly because her entire body became dead weight,and she pitched forward,now finally unconscious.He held her up,though,keeping her from hitting the ground,and now he hefted her up over his shoulder in a fireman's carry.

"She's not dead,is she?"Alex asked in a small voice,clearly worried about the woman she thought was her mother.In truth, she was probably no more than her architect.But was he going to tell her that now?

"No."He caught himself before he said 'not yet'."She's just lost a lot of blood.She'll be okay once I patch her up."

Of course,that was a lie.Whatever was in her blood was killing her,and 'patching her up' might give her-what?A few more days?A week?He couldn't imagine she'd last a month.Now that he was carrying her,he realized most of her bulk was flak jacket and police parka;she weighed almost nothing.It was like she was a hollowed out husk of a human being,a mostly emptied shell.

Alex nodded,choosing to trust him,and in that moment he was disgusted with himself for getting involved in this slow motion tragedy,and for having anything to do with humans at all.Their cruelty towards one another-nonetheless mutants- seemed bottomless.

But even he wasn't cruel enough to leave them here.

The trip down the slope was uneventful;the guys who could still move chose not to while they were around,probably to avoid a more painful ass whupping,or death.Bullets were good against Elena,but that was it;they just pissed him off,and if he understood Alex's mutation correctly,they just bounced off her.She certainly didn't appear injured in any way.

But back at the truck stop,there was trouble waiting for them.

That damn chopper was looping around in wide arcs,clearly waiting for them to get back to the lot.It wasn't snipers he was worried about-it was them following his truck and calling in more vultures.

(And if they hurt his truck...)

He found a nice quiet,intact spot behind the diner,and crouched down,gently putting down Elena on the ground,propped up against the back wall of the diner.She moaned,and it sounded like she tried to say something,but she was semi-conscious at best,and her eyes weren't even open."Look after your Mom,"he told Alex."I'll be right back."

"What are you going to do?"She asked,sounding nervous.What,did she think he was abandoning them now?

In a way,it infuriated him.Did she think he was that much of a heel?And hey,wait a minute,since when was he committed to helping them?He wasn't indebted to them;he could walk away with a clear conscience right now.

(Yes he could,damn it!)

"I'm gonna get the chopper off our ass,"he said,waiting until it came back around before heading out into the parking lot.

"How?"Alex shouted after him,but he didn't reply,because as soon as he moved out from beneath cover,the helicopter crew spotted him.

A spotlight stabbed down at him,threatening to blind him (that was the whole point),but his adapted quickly,even before the first bullets hit the concrete and shot sparks.He felt wasp like stings as bullets hit him too,but they didn't slow him down as he ran across the parking lot,and jumped up on the cab of a semi parked off to the far side of the lot.He then jumped up on its rear trailer,running its length as the chopper swooped down low for a more direct shot-just what Logan was waiting for.

He ran to the end of the trailer,and lunged,leaping right for the low flying helicopter.

It was a near thing,but he managed to grab one of the skids on the bottom of the chopper with one arm,his extra pounds all on one side throwing the chopper immediately off balance.It lurched dangerously towards the ground,and Logan felt the pilot fighting it,trying to pull it up and right it-somehow-and the sniper sitting inside the 'copter slid open the side door and aimed the barrel of his rifle right at Logan's face.

Since he was hanging on to the skid with his right hand,he popped the claws on his left hand and slashed upwards,slicing his rifle to ribbons before he could fire a shot,and the sniper was so shocked by it he leapt back inside the chopper,out of slashing distance.

The helicopter had managed to stay in the air,low,but continued to list heavily on Logan's side,and the pilot veered off, away from the dangerous gas pumps.The chopper seemed to shake a bit,as if trying to fling him off (maybe the pilot was giving it a shot),and while he knew he could just go in and take out both men,he had no interest.He just wanted the 'copter out of here and away from his truck.

He slid down the skid towards the tail,and dug his claw into the body of the chopper,just before it thinned into the tail,and ripped down,tearing metal and causing liquid to spew out like he'd just severed an artery.

Except it smelled like fuel.Which was exactly what it was.

He let go of the skid and simply let himself fall-no matter where he landed,he'd be fine;no fall would ever be enough to kill him-and as he fell he watched the chopper suddenly over-correct itself (the sudden lack of his weight must have been a shock to the struggling pilot) and veer sharply upward and off to the right,bleeding fuel all the way,like a severely wounded mechanical animal.

Logan hit the ground hard,but he had let go over a field of weeds,so his fall was cushioned by a foot deep layer of virgin snow.Even so,he had to lay there for a moment,staring up at the steel grey clouded sky as his vision pixilated slightly, black motes swarming before him like the negatives of fireflies,and his once again bruised organs sent out sharp spikes of pain that pulsed and faded with the motes in his vision.

The chopper veered off hard to the south-southwest,and he could hear its engine start to sputter.It was possible there'd be enough residual fuel in the line that the pilot could make a sloppy emergency landing,but most likely it would be a hasty crash landing.

Color him concerned.

As soon as the pain faded to a dull background throb,he got up and started walking back to the truck stop,brushing snow off the back of his jeans.

He was roughly sure he heard a distant thud of hard impact-the chopper coming down like a stone?-once he crossed onto the concrete median of the parking lot.

Alex was waiting,peering around the corner of the diner,her face almost all goggle wide eyes and gaping mouth.It was a comical caricature of shock that nearly maybe him laugh."You're completely fucking insane,"she gasped.

He shrugged."I get that a lot."

She stepped back as he approached,as if afraid he might do something psycho,but then she looked at him solemnly."You really are like me."

And now it was his turn to be slightly freaked out.


Her ATV didn't have enough room in the back for his bike,but she had lots of bungee cords,so he simply put it on the roof of her truck,on its side,and they lashed it down.

Once they were done,they got in the front seat-which he couldn't help but notice was a lot more spacious than the front cab of his truck ever was-and she started the ATV for the long drive South.

"I forgot how strong you are,"she said,giving him a sly sidelong glance.

"Huh?"He dug out his lighter and lit his cigar stub.He could smell the smoke on her clothes and in the interior of her car- she smoked,so she wouldn't care.

"I was going to offer to help you get the bike up,and then you heft it up like it's no more than a frozen turkey."

He shrugged,not sure what to say."It was heavy."

She smirked at him like she knew it was a lie,and threw the ATV into reverse."Still smoking the stinky stogies,I see."

"And you're working the cancer sticks,I smell."

She scowled,even as she focused her attention on the road."Are you really one to give me a smoking lecture?"

"Yeah,'cause I can damage my lungs pointlessly;they always come back.Do you have an internal healing factor?"

She shook her head,and started heading down the empty road at dangerous speed."You sound like my dad."

Now there was something that it had never occurred to him to ask.It took him a moment to remember their names too-how embarrassing.""How is Sabine?And,uh...Bryan?"

She grimaced,and he knew he had hit a sore topic."Bryan died in a car accident four years ago."

"Oh.I'm sorry."He was,even though he never met the man.He could honestly barely remember him;he had filed him away in the 'inocuous do-gooder' category and not really thought of him since.

She shrugged."It's strange how accustomed you get to death.I actually spent weeks looking for clues that he was actually murdered-his death I accepted.Just not that it was an accident."

"But it was?"

She nodded,her expression grim,lips thinned almost to nonexistence."Hit a patch of black ice,spun out,and slammed into a light pole at exactly the wrong angle.There wasn't even a second car involved."She paused briefly."It didn't even occur to me to tell you until I was taking his car apart for forensic evidence.I thought "I wish Logan was here;he'd be able to smell if something was amiss"."She glanced at him then,and her grin was self-effacing,embarrassed.her perfect teeth almost lambent in the darkness."Every time I hit an impossible wall,I always wished you were there.Somewhere along the way I decided you were the guy who could solve all the problems."

He snorted humorously."So you've been smokin' more than just tobacco."

That made her laugh,and it was such a nice sound he couldn't help but grin."Now come on.I'd get canned if I smoked the blunt.And believe me,I've met enough burn outs on the job I ain't eager to start."

"What do you do?"

She seemed to take a moment to answer that,as if afraid of his reaction."I'm a cop."

She had to be pulling his leg."Bullshit!"

That made her laugh again."No,seriously,I am.A detective in the Juneau P.D.,thank you very much.How did you think I finally found you?Good detective work.But don't worry,technically I'm on 'vacation' right now.I'm here as me,not Detective Brannon."

Maybe that explained why she was in the phone book under her real name-she was a goddamn cop.Would Eden risk that kind of exposure?They'd have no guarantee they could buy off or silence the entire Juneau police force.And she had brought up something that was bothering him."How did you find me?"

"Well,you know that whole Statue-"

"Internet video?"He interrupted.He was starting to get a good idea how dangerous the internet was.Sex crazed Klingons aside.

She nodded."Get that a lot,do you?Well,the res sucked,but I was pretty sure I recognized your hairstyle,and,well,the claws.The persons I did get a good look at were an anonymous redhead-she could have been anybody-but I knew the guy was the key."

"The guy?"He repeated,with growing horror.Oh no.

"Yeah,visor face.Now how many people walk around with glasses like that?I figured if I could get a zero on his location,I could find you."

He put his head in his hands,not quite able to believe it."You found me 'cause of Cyclops?"