Note: I apologize for any boo-boos. It seems I don't have the right
connections for finding a good and reliable beta reader so I end up
having to self edit which, as everyone knows, isn't fool proof.
Comments and suggestions always welcomed. Thanks for all the
enthusiastic reponses--despite the errors--on chapter one.
Chapter Two: One Heartbeat
"Rogue!" Scott, Storm and Jean screamed as one and the two women ran
to the young woman's side.
Guilt immobilized Scott and he could only stare in disbelieve at
Rogue's lifeless body. She had neither moaned nor cried out when the
beam hit her. For a moment he almost had himself convinced that she
was just a pitiful rag doll, lifeless and cold. He had not held back
on that blast intended for Logan. And he had intended to kill
Logan. He had never wanted to kill anything in his life except in
that instance of uncontrollable anger. And that made him like Logan
"She's not breathing," Jean said darting a glance over her shoulder
Scott could have told her that Rogue couldn't survive that blast. He
hadn't even hit Sabertooth with that much force and it was with
consuming shame that he knew he didn't hate Sabertooth as much as he
hated and resented Logan. He felt he should do or say something. To
say he was sorry seemed ridiculous, inadequate. Sorry for killing?
Sorry it was a mistake? Sorry couldn't turn back the clock to that
instant he had fired that optic blast. He started forward and
A mind numbing pain stabbed up his leg, seizing it and immobilizing
it in a grip of agony.
For what seemed like eternity he couldn't draw a breath, the air
paralyzed in his lungs. He looked down at the source of his pain and
stared for an uncomprehending moment at the adamantium claws rammed
through the top of his foot and into the floor. Even in his wounded
state, Logan had moved quick and deadly. Scott stood skewered,
unable to move, his mouth worked wordlessly and time stood still.
Jean said something to him, her words stretched out and
unintelligible. The only things that existed in this moment were
those three claws and the murderous stare of a madman who meant to
see him dead.
"We ain't through yet beam boy," Logan rasped and sat up. Quick as
the strike of a viper, the other set of claws rushed toward Scott's
unprotected stomach, to disembowel him like a fish. Scott fumbled
for his visor control and knew that he wouldn't be fast enough to
save himself and he understood his own woeful lack of experience in
the face of a skilled killer. He had underestimated his enemy and
Scott prepared for death, his heartbeats thumped abnormally loud in
The adamantium claws slowed on their deadly trajectory. Scott
thought it was a trick his mind played on him. The claws, light
glinting wickedly off their razor honed points, drew closer, pressing
into his flesh, slow and determined. He looked at Logan's straining
face as he felt the metal tips slip through his skin like pins
through a cushion. The pain was unlike anything he had experience in
his young life as the claws sunk inexorably toward his vitals.
Scott counted his heartbeats to death when those claws would rip
upwards, tearing through his stomach and slicing his heart. **One**
The claws stopped their forward movement and quivered inside his
flesh. Scott fell to his knees at Logan's mercy. There was no
clemency in that gaze. And Scott knew he looked at the face of his
death. Logan's face.
Numb, Scott saw Jean come into his tunnel vision, her face white and
her eyes wide and frightened. She held out a trembling hand, it
seemed a futile gesture until he realized she was using her powers to
hold Logan, to keep his claws from their goal. Logan was fighting
her and judging by her pinched, desperate expression, she couldn't
hold him much longer. She continued moving toward Logan, slow and
cautiously like approaching a rabid animal. Scott wanted to shout at
her, to tell her to stay away but he couldn't speak, the pain sapping
his voice and his strength.
"Logan!" she said, her voice a hoarse pleading whispered, "you've got
to stop. Rogue is dying."
Perhaps it was the sheer desperation in Jean's voice that penetrated
that single-minded mission to kill Scott. Whatever it was, Logan
shouted, a desperate cry of a wounded animal and he yanked his claws
out of Scott's flesh, an arc of blood followed, bright drops
suspended in midair for a blink of a second, before showing them
all. Scott sagged to the floor, holding his hand to his stomach,
blood seeping out between his fingers. He'd never seen so much blood
and he stared, morbidly fascinated.
"Can you hang on?" she asked him, concern in her eyes. Scott could
detect no censure in her voice for his deed and he hated her for it;
he needed someone to yell at him, tell him he did the wrong thing.
That there was no justifying his impulsive actions. Instead he
simply nodded, hating his cowardice. Jean stared at him a moment and
he wondered if she were reading his thoughts as open and vulnerable
as they were. Can you hear them, Jean? He thought. Do you
understand how much I hate what I've done?
"Stay with me Scott," she whispered again then turned and reached out
a tentative hand to Logan and place it on one his shoulders. Scott
could see the man's muscles bunch as if to strike. Scott swore that
he would find the strength to kill him if he hurt Jean, and if that
meant his own death, so much the better. He couldn't live with
himself if Rogue died. "Only you can help her, Logan," she said to
him. Her only outward sign of tension was her tight grip around
Logan's bicep. "Please."
The mad gleam flickered in Logan's eyes and he took a long breath
that shook his entire frame. Scott remembered that the Professor had
said someone was controlling Logan, and looking at the man, he could
see that Logan was struggling against an invisible foe. Scott tried
to summon a thread of pity for the man but could not. It was Logan's
nature to be violent, Scott reassured himself, otherwise he would not
have been chosen for the project that turned him into a weapon. Fate
and Logan's nature had determined his path.
," Logan began and tried to push Jean away. His words
trailed off as his body spasmed. Shaking, he rolled to his back, his
arms bent and claws held above his face. His scream echoed through
the room and his back arched, his eyes rolled up in his head. "Keep
hold my claws
and bring her to me
," he managed.
"Storm!" Jean called over her shoulder, "bring Rogue over."
"Okay," came Storm's soft accented reply. Through a haze of pain,
Scott watched her conjure a strong wind. She had learned to control
her powers since Magento's defeat, and used the wind to gently lift
Rogue, cradle her broken body and place her next to Logan.
"He's going to kill her," Scott whispered. No one listened. Why
would no one listen? But even Scott was surprised when Logan
strained to retract his claws, veins standing out in sharp relief
across his forearm. The deadly weapons slid back into his arms, and
he turned to cuddle the dying girl next to him, pressing her close to
his chest and tucking her head into the crook of his neck. Their
relationship baffled everyone. He treated the young girl with a
tenderness, an emotion that should have shriveled away and died of
neglect in a man like Logan.
Perhaps there was more to Logan than Scott wanted to credit him for.
Scott brushed that thought away. He would not make excuses for
Logan's behavior like everyone else had. There were no excuses.
"Give me one heartbeat, kid," Logan said hoarsely to Rogue. "One
heartbeat." He cupped her head in one hand and looked down into her
face. It was the closest Scott had ever seen to love in Logan's face
and then he did the unexpected. "You know I always keep my
promises." He pressed his lips to hers.
* * * *
Rogue floated in vast darkness and from here she could see two
lights. One was bright and white, soothing and comforting, it
beckoned to her promising release from agonizing pain. The other
light was red, pain and suffering lay in that direction and fearful,
she moved away from it. She stretched out a hand to touch the light,
instinctively seeking release from the curse of her mutation. In
that light she could go to a place were no one would be afraid to
"Hey, Kid!" called a familiar voice.
She turned to the voice and saw a silhouetted figure step through the
red light and hold out a hand. She flinched from it drawing closer
to the white light.
"Come to me, kiddo. Take my hand," the voice cajoled. She looked at
the bright light, feeling its warmth then turned back to the
silhouette, confused. "One heartbeat is all I want," the voice
said. "Don't quit on me."
Somewhere in her subconscious she knew that voice meant safety and
love, two things she had precious little of since running away from
home. Making up her mind, she turned toward the red light and took
the hand. Warm lips pressed against hers, coaxing her to draw a
breath, his breath, warm and full of life. At last she accepted this
gift, and his life-force entered her, pumping blood through her veins
with renewed vigor and drawing away the lethargy in her heart. She
returned the kiss, seeking the life promised there, and love swathed
her in gentle warmth and swept away her pain.
Rogue took a heaving breath, sucking air into her starved lungs,
breathing life and exhaling death. She focused on four faces
hovering over her. Scott, his face drawn in pain, clutched a hand to
his stomach. Jean and Storm's faces held identical expression of
alternating worry and relief. The professor was there, his face an
unreadable mix of emotions but from all of them she could smell
fear. Then she remembered. Rogue wondered at a sudden need for a
stiff shot of whisky and a cigar.
"Oh please, no," she whimpered.
He lay at her side, the wounds in his chest and neck bleeding freely,
pooling around his body in a crimson lake. His eyes were closed; his
chest rose and fell erratically and one arm twitched.
"No!" she cried and flung herself across him, holding onto him and
pressing her face into his chest uncaring that his blood covered
her. He couldn't leave her. She wouldn't let him. The professor
leaned down and took her arm, Rogue pulled away from him.
"He's still alive, Rogue," Professor Xavier said. "We need to get
him to the lab where we can help him." He reached for her hand again
and she let herself be drawn away. At that moment, Storm hurried the
room pushing a gurney.
The professor used his powers to lift Logan and place him on the
gurney, he then wheeled behind Logan's head and placed his hands on
either side of the man's temple and closed his eyes, his breathing
deep and even. His body twitched and his lips drew back into a
grimace. Jean stood near, her hands on his shoulder. After a moment
he opened his eyes, they seemed glazed and his hands trembled
slightly. Rogue caught another scent of fear. What was the
professor afraid of? Logan? He would never purposefully hurt any of
them. It wasn't his fault!
"What's wrong with him?" Rogue asked.
not certain," the professor admitted and his jaw
tightened. "But whatever was controlling him has retreated for now
but we must expect that it'll come back. If they mean to destroy us,
they'll try again." He reached out and took Jean's hand, making her
look down at him. "Make certain Logan is secure." Rogue could tell
that something else passed between them, telepathic thoughts.
Jean nodded to whatever else the professor had telepathically
said. "Take Logan," she said to Storm.
Storm complied while Jean knelt next to Scott. "Can you walk," she
said softly. Scott grimaced and nodded. She wrapped one arm around
him and helped him up. He leaned heavily against her and hobbled
Rogue tried to contain a sudden flood of consuming anger. She
couldn't hold it, Logan's emotions too strong for her to control.
Boiling clouds of hate and rage built inside her. "You hate him so
much that you would kill him?" she shouted, stepping forward, her
hands clenched at her thighs. Jean and Scott turned to stare at her,
Scott's face a mask of self-disgust and Jean's expression pleaded
with her to stop. She couldn't.
"He was fighting whatever was controlling him and had it under
control until you interfered!" she reaged. "He is more courageous
and noble than you could ever hope to aspire to. You've hated him
from the beginning, and you've tried to find anything that you could
use to condemn him and force him to leave." A twinge of pain sparked
in her head and she held a hand to her temple. "You can't know what
he's gone through. You. CAN'T. KNOW!" Tears rushed down her face
and she pushed passed them, running away, running from the acrid,
iron smell of blood.
If Logan died, she would never forgive Scott. Never. Her anger
broke on a sob and she turned and ran, ignoring Scott's voice calling
out to her. She just ran. Out of the mansion and across the wet
grass she ran wanting to run away and leave the horror behind in
Logan's room. She ignored the curious glances of her classmates.
Someone shouted her name, maybe it was Bobby, she didn't stop to
look. Past the mansion, on a far quiet place there was a grove of
trees and by the time she reached its sanctuary she was out of
breath. She collapsed at the trunk of a tree, leaned against its
rough surface and breathed deep the wet smells of the forest, the
moss, the damp, dead leaves.
She didn't want to contemplate a world without Logan.
* * * *
For several minutes, the only sounds in the lab were the low hum of
computer equipment. Everyone stood mute and stunned by the violence
they had all witnessed, staggered by the brutality of their
creation. A passage from Nietzsche popped briefly into Doctor
Kirby's head: `He who fights with monsters might take care lest he
thereby become a monster'. Perhaps having Logan in the midst of the
X-men was more fortuitous than even he had imagined. According to
intelligence reports, Scott Summers was not prone to uncontrollable
fits of anger. Maybe there was some way he could utilize Cyclops to
his advantage. He hid a smile, in the face of his staff's horror it
would have been inappropriate. He looked down at Miss Edward's ashen
"Are you shocked, Miss Edwards?" he asked, his tone mild.
"Weapon-X's brutality took me by surprise as did his sacrifice to
save the girl. That is a weakness."
"Yes, he resisted," Doctor Kirby said and he once against examined
the scene frozen on the screen. There was blood everywhere, and if
he hadn't been watching he would have thought Weapon-X made a kill.
It was all Weapon-X's blood, he had fought the stimuli and instead
wounded himself to keep from killing the others. Interesting. The
doctor and rubbed his chin between a thumb and forefinger. "Miss
Edwards, what are the stats."
"Stimulus was set at 95%, sir, as you ordered." She sighed. "It
just wasn't enough."
Doctor Kirby turned to the head tech, a short, slight computer
scientist in his mid twenties. "Can we adjust on this side, Mr.
The scientist shrugged his narrow shoulders. "I can make some
adjustments to the program and hardware here. The main adjustments
need to be made to Weapon-X's firmware. I would need him here to
perform those adjustments."
Kirby's mouth thinned and he laced his hands behind his back and
thought. When Weapon-X was created, they used a hypodermic-like
needle with inner fiber optics to connect to Weapon-X's firmware
though the back of his neck. There was nothing he could do to change
that without capturing Weapon-X and retrofitting him. It would be
too risky to bring him here. He thought the base abandoned and Dr.
Kirby wanted to keep it that way. "No. Do what you can, Mr. Downes."
Downes nodded, turned to his computer and brought up a program to the
screen. He pointed to several parameters. "If I increase the charge
from here, it should be enough."
"Very good, Mr. Downes. You have eight hours."
Downes nodded. "Yes, sir." He swiveled back to the computer and
began tapping on the keyboard, bringing up the myriad of programs
that controlled Weapon-X.
Doctor Kirby stood and watched the scientist for a moment. He now
understood what his uncle was up against. Weapon-X's true mutant
abilities extended well beyond previously tested limitations. Was
that why his uncle was slaughtered? Did he also think he had Weapon-
X under control? For the first time since he revived the Weapon-X
project, Kirby felt doubts nipping at the fringes of his confidence.
This would not do. Not at all. He would not make the same
mistakes. Kirby looked around the efficient lab, everyone diligently
working at his or her appointed duties. Assured that all was well,
he turned and left the lab to the sanctuary of his office where he
could read his uncle's notes and ponder his next move.
End of Chapter 2