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 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:  The first assignment for Logan's strike team involves a bizarre mystery they have no choice but to solve if they want to survive.
Notes:   Improves upon / takes place after the events of "X3" and shortly after "New Blood".




He should have known something was up with these bozos when they appeared at the end of the hall dressed head to foot in some kind of body armor.

It was black and gleamed like an insect carapace, and Pyro wondered if it would look as good melted as he let go a flamethrower blast at them. With some help from that Indian kid, he was able to repair one of his lighter rigs, so all he had to do was raise his hand and unleash hell. "Eat that, assholes!"

The problem was, after several seconds of blasting them full on with waves of fire that were blistering the paint in the halls, these assholes were still coming forward. "Fireproof? Fucking fireproof armor? There's no such thing!" he shouted, scowling at the oncoming column of guards. They were moving slowly, but they were moving, and that bothered the hell out of him.

It bothered him even more when they raised their guns.

"I could use some help here!"

Just the thudding footsteps alone told him it was Piotr before he even walked by, his skin in full metal form and reflecting the fire as he walked straight into the flames and started tossing guards aside like rag dolls. Shots were fired, but they weren't gunshots; they were some kind of darts or something. They just bounced off Piotr though, and John was pretty sure they had this, until one of the guards jabbed Piotr in the side of the neck with a stick.

John thought it was just some big, tricked out truncheon, but it spit a huge blue spark, and tendrils of electricity snaked around Piotr like a living thing. Even though he was sure Piotr was immune to electricity in that form, it dropped him to his knees. Son of a bitch, a tricked out, mutant class taser? Now those did exist; Mystique had once mentioned to Magneto that the Organization had every kind of weapon you could name, invented solely to stop mutants across the spectrum. It was their ... um, some French term; sounded like raisins, but it couldn't be that.

Suddenly something ran past him, and he saw Kitty, in her intangible form, run into the fray. She crouched down, and must have made her hand briefly tangible, as she grabbed Piotr's arm as soon as the electric tendrils drained into the floor, and the guard's next jab went right through Piotr, who was no longer solid.

Kitty helped him to his feet, and they ran through the guards and through the wall, disappearing into the complex. "Now that's what I'm talking about!" John shouted, pouring on extra flames. Two away; hopefully they made it to the power core in time.

But there was still the problem of reaching the control center. As if in answer, he noticed a small, dark figure in his peripheral vision: Nariko, pressing her hands up against the wall. It was a small change at first, but it looked like the wall was melting under the palms of her hands. Wax? Clay? Frosting?

John felt a thump, and looked down to see that one of the darts had somehow survived the flames and hit him in the chest. "Motherfucker!" There was a yelp as Nariko was also hit by one.

The scene froze, and Logan asked, "Were you ever gonna join us?"

"Yeah Carrie," John snapped, calling back the flames and pulling the dummy dart out of his protective chest plate. "Coulda used you at any point."

The person shaped black hole named Zehra simply glared at them under heavy dark brows. She was standing against the far wall, behind him, and she blended in so well with the shadows that he forgot she was there. Well, never moving had also helped as well. "This isn't real. Who cares?"

Logan rubbed his forehead and pinched his eyes shut, like she was giving him a headache. Maybe she was; she was hurting John too, but much lower in his anatomy. "Darlin', it's a practice run. And lacking battle at the moment, you have to get ready for it. What part of that don't you understand?"

"I understand all of it, I just think it's retarded."

Kitty stuck her head in through the wall, and said, "Don't use that word."

"Sorry I offended you, Princess."

Oh snap. Girl fight!

Kitty came stomping through the wall, looking as angry as John had ever seen her (and he'd never seen her angry, so that was a first), but Logan inserted himself between them and Kitty stopped before she walked through him. Apparently Kitty had walked through Logan before and found it unpleasant, although John had no idea why. Kitty couldn't feel in that form, right?

"Ignore her, she's just tryin' to pick a fight."

Kitty frowned and crossed her arms over her chest, casting an evil look at Zehra over his shoulder but making no further move to disobey him. "Yeah, maybe, but because of her we failed in our objective again."

"No, you didn't; we did it without her."

"But we sucked," John exclaimed.

"Kitty and Piotr got through the front line; presumably, in your intangible form, you could have reached the power core. Before she got darted, Nariko made a hole in the wall through to the control room. Assuming I'm immune to the drugs in the darts, I would have made it through. Even if not, we still had Kitty and Piotr in."

"You would have made it through," a muffled voice said, and even though all the guards were currently frozen, one moved and took off his helmet. Her helmet. It was Doctor Khoury, wearing one of the guard's armor, and mixed in near the front. She'd had her gun out, but hadn't, in retrospect, been actually firing it. "I'd have heightened your healing factor, so even if you weren't immune to the drug, it wouldn't matter."

Even unflappable Logan looked mildly surprised. "When did you steal their armor?"

"I grabbed it off one of the guys you filleted while you were playing one man army out front," she said, and reached down into the armor and stuck her fingers through stab holes in the gut, which weren't visible due to the kind of armor it was. It didn't heal over, but it may as well have; it was so sleek and dark it was hard to see properly. "If you're going to insist on being a pacifist, then you find other ways to survive. Playing faceless henchman looked like my best bet."

Logan did something John had never seen him do: he grinned, an off kilter kind of grin that was slightly lopsided. It was creepy as all fuck - guys like Logan didn't look right smiling. They should be growling or snarling or glowering; but smiling? That was fucking weird. "I guess you get a gold star then. I didn't even see you on the field."

"Are we through?" Zehra asked impatiently. Supposedly she was telekinetic (or a "teek" as Mystique had called them, and she made it sound like a slur), but John was sorely tempted to give her a fireball right in the face. Nothing major, he didn't want to fry her, he just wanted to burn her caterpillar thick eyebrows off for being such a bitch.

"You are," Logan said menacingly, his grin collapsing like it hadn't been there at all. "We're done for today."

Before the illusion winked out and they were just in a big empty room again, John was able to see what Nariko had done to the wall: it was mud. So, you could cut through to the control center and get a quality facial mask at the same time. Leave it to a woman to multitask like that.

As they broke up, John wandering back to his room, he noticed Logan following Zehra out. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when he chewed her a new asshole.

Maybe next time they did this, they wouldn't have to deal with her.


Logan paced Zehra, letting her lead the way, but not so much that she wouldn't be aware she was being followed. But he said nothing, so it was up to her to get irritated and spin around before snapping, "What?! You gonna punish me for not participating in your reindeer games?"

"I'm tryin' to figure out if you're just lazy or scared. I do get a whiff of fear offa you."

Her brown eyes narrowed, and he picked up the slight ozone tinge that he could usually scent before she used her powers. He'd discussed it with Shaheen, and they'd come to the conclusion that her telekinesis was triggered by an excess of electricity building up in her body and brain, and that was pretty much what a seizure was as well: an electrical storm in the brain. This girl just made too much for her own body to handle. Logan wondered if she knew. “I’m not a coward.”

“Okay, so you’re just lazy?”

He heard a faint crackle, static electricity building in her shoulder length black hair. He was probably gonna get his ass kicked. “This is bullshit. It’s fake. It’s not real. Why waste our energy on scenarios that probably will never happen? It’s stupid.”

“Oh, so that’s it. Yer afraid of triggering a seizure.”

He was slammed back violently against the wall, enough so he dislodged plaster and all the wind was knocked out of him. He also couldn’t move. He’d hit a bullseye there. “I am not afraid! Stop saying that!” Strands of her hair writhed with static electricity, in a way that made him think of Medusa.

“Sweetheart, let him go,” Shaheen said, coming up the hallway. She was out of the borrowed armor now, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, and her long doctor coat. “Although it is nice to see you can fight if you want to.”

“It is, isn’t it?” Logan agreed. The pressure against his chest let up, and Zehra turned away in disgust, stomping down the hall. She started cursing under her breath in Turkish, which she probably thought they didn’t understand, but Logan got every word. He was waiting to spring on her that he actually spoke Turkish, but he was saving it for the right moment.

“I’d ask if you’re okay, but that’s silly,” Shaheen said, and glanced at the wall behind him. “The very least she could have done was use her abilities to fix the wall.”

“I know. I left a big dent.”

“Metal’s gonna do that. Also, impact. Should we get mad at her? If you were normal - I mean, not gifted with a metal skeleton - she’d have probably broken bones.”

“I guess were gonna hafta wait ‘til she puts Pyro through somethin’ and see how hard she throws him. Everybody tosses me around like a cigarette butt.”

“It’s your charming personality.”

“I’m a people person.”

She smirked, but didn’t quite commit to the laugh. The weird thing was, since they were the oldest on the team, they had become strange de facto parents to the rest. At least they had become friends of a sort. “So I’ve noticed.”

“You wanna get a drink? I know this bar that starts happy hour right about now.”

“Can’t say I’m much of a drinker. Never really had a taste for it.”

He shrugged. “That’s okay. You can watch me drink.”

She smiled wanly at his joke, and he thought she looked troubled as she glanced down at the floor, considering something. “Umm, I don’t want to offend you, but you’re not my type.”

“I could be.”

“No, you really couldn’t.” She sighed, shoulders sagging, and admitted, “I like redheads.” She paused again briefly. “Female redheads.”

He shrugged again. “So do I, so we got that in common.”

She gave him a sidelong glance. “You’re really unflappable, aren’t you?”

“Got nothin’ to be flapped about. Chuang-Tzu said ‘All those who consider external things important are stupid within’.”

“Wow, a warrior and a philosopher.”

“Not really. I read that in a fortune cookie.”

He finally got a laugh out of her, and damn it, it was about time. “I heard so many stories about you - most of them terrifying - but no one ever mentioned your sense of humor.”

“Yeah, well, I think most people think I’m a humorless bastard. But when you have a life as absurd and fucked up as mine, you’d better have a sense of humor.”

“I hear that.”

“So, you at least play pool?”

She scoffed. “Logan, I’m a lesbian. Of course I play pool.”

He wasn’t sure he made the connection, but okay. “Bet I’ll beat ya.”

“Twenty bucks says I kick your metal ass.”

“Yer on.”

So she really wasn’t that much of a pacifist after all.




Well, she was good, he had to give her that.

The first game was basically a tie - too damn close to call - so they were playing a tie breaker as he sipped a beer in between shots. She was on her third virgin margarita. It was a quiet bar, dark even in the afternoon, and people who wandered in here were generally local and career drinkers; they wanted quiet, so they didn’t go out of their way to bug anyone and generally policed themselves. It helped that the bartenders were generally on the tough side; right now on duty was Joe, a war vet with a hook (well, a metallic grasper, but it had a kind of hook look) for a left hand and a torso so broad he probably needed to order special shirts. If someone looked like they were about to start trouble, he glared at them and they usually stopped.

Logan was trying to concentrate on the game - he had to; Shaheen was better than he expected, a real pool shark - but his mind kept wandering back to Zehra. She’d be of no use in the field if she was afraid to mix it up. She clearly thought she was ready for an actual battle, but unlike Pyro and Kitty and Piotr, she hadn’t been in the field yet. Her abilities would be useful, but he supposed he was going to have to kick her off the team. The others had surprised him by gelling pretty well together; they were a formidable team. And while she wasn’t a fan of fighting, Shaheen was a great second in command, mainly because she was so damn smart. (Did that really surprise him? She was a doctor - as a rule, they weren’t complete dumbasses.) Storm really wasn’t going to like getting Zehra back, but hey, the girl was a fucking brick wall. If she ever made any sort of effort, he’d have given her a shot, but she didn’t want to do anything but sulk and pick fights with the others. He was surprised that Pyro hadn’t set her head on fire yet; he was amazed at his sense of discipline. Maybe he was afraid she’d put him through the wall.

The cell phone in his pocket rang just as he was lining up his shot, and Logan knew right away it was trouble. Only Storm, Angel, and Bob had his number, and they never called to shoot the shit. He dug the phone out and flipped it open. “Yeah?”

“I think it’s time to see what your team has,” Storm said, without preamble. “I need you back here now.”

“It’s that bad?”

“It’s bad.”

“Terrific.” He hung up and shoved the phone in his pocket, while Shaheen stood by, leaning on her pool cue like a cane.

“We got a job?” she asked.

“Looks like it.”

“Damn it. I guess I’ll have to kick your ass next time.”

“You wish, sister.” Logan wondered if he had time to leave Zehra out, or if he’d have to take the dead weight with him.

Knowing his luck, he already guessed the answer.