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Fanfic The Ultimate Prey PG16 2/2

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  • Kat Hunt
    CHAPTER FIVE Looking back on it, Logan realized he expected to come upon Beast at every turn. Sure, Hank had been on the run a whole day, and though not clumsy
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 24, 2002
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      CHAPTER FIVE


      Looking back on it, Logan realized he expected to come
      upon Beast at every turn. Sure, Hank had been on the
      run a whole day, and though not clumsy by any means,
      he was big, too big to travel quickly through the rain
      forest's thick growth. Evidence of his struggle was
      everywhere�plants beaten down, trampled, crushed,
      branches bent or broken, torn-off leaves carpeting the
      flattened moss, wisps of blue fur decorating the
      foliage. Hank's route was as clear as if it had
      signposts.
      Stupid, maybe, to follow that path of destruction.
      Logan weighed the pros and cons even as he sprinted
      down the trail. Abandoning this bulldozed highway to
      beat through the brush on his own might be safer, but
      it would be a hell of a lot slower. And if he met up
      with Hank like he hoped, all the better. Together they
      could clear out that cesspool of scumbags in no time
      flat. Besides, the traces of his own passage over the
      moss were all but lost in Beast's general mishmash. So
      he kept on as he had started and soon saw Hank's
      methodical logic at work.
      Beast was squaring a circle. Ignoring all the minor
      contours of the island's coast which would rack up
      miles of travel if followed, he instead was moving in
      a straight line from promontory to promontory. Keeping
      the water to his right he had gone inland some little
      distance, his guide the light filtering through the
      trees at the shore. For every time that light dimmed
      the path turned seaward and came out on a headland
      allowing a clear, sweeping view of cliff, or cove, or
      bay. Then the trail went inland once more and straight
      on to the next distant cape.
      Dogging Hank's track, Logan had in this manner looked
      down on a bay and a pretty, isolated little cove, both
      empty of life and, more importantly, empty of boats. A
      third time he gained close to an hour by not taking
      the turnout, merely casting ahead until he came to
      Hank's return trail. Now the trammelled path again
      veered right but Logan continued to forge through the
      shrubbery, scanning the terrain for mutilated
      vegetation, the mark of the Beast. He found nothing.
      Disturbances in the foliage, yes, and made by
      something fairly large. He'd say deer, for he'd come
      across their droppings several times, except the moss
      bore no imprints of sharp hooves, only scuffed,
      blurred depressions. On either side of the markings
      were parallel gouges like ski tracks set wide apart.
      He puzzled over those, uneasy that he could not put
      name to what had made them. But, in any case, Hank had
      not come this way. Had Beast finally discovered the
      boat? Logan doubled back, sprinted up the turnoff.
      What he spotted first was the blood.
      A spray of dried blood like rusty red berries dotted a
      broad leaf, glaringly brilliant amid all the green. He
      stared at the droplets a moment, motionless, the
      turmoil in his head settling into a single thought.
      Not Hank's. Couldn't be Hank's. The fur ball was too
      big, too strong. This must have happened after he had
      already passed by this point. One of the island's
      carnivores had a lucky catch, that was all. He'd seen
      traces of fox and badger, raccoon. But for the blood
      to spurt out that way . . . The prey had to have been
      almost above the leaf�and the leaf was thigh-high. A
      bird, maybe?
      Against his will, his eyes travelled from leaf to
      ground and there lay the answer. Earth torn up, plants
      crushed and wilting, no clear prints but much
      flattened ground. A little puddle of blood gone sticky
      and black with flies. A snarl of blue fur hung limp
      from a twig.
      He took a deep breath, another, his heart pounding so
      hard he could hear it drumming in his ears. Beast was
      shedding all over the whole damn forest but this was
      not Hank's blood. NOT! But Logan was already plunging
      ahead, reading sign. Whoever� Whatever had been
      attacked here, had not been killed. The swath of
      levelled vegetation attested to that. The chase,
      torturous, twisted . . . The pursuit, direct and
      effective. Then�another patch of churned-up dirt, more
      blood, more shreds of fur. The impression of a heavy
      mass still visible in the revealing moss.
      Logan swallowed. Okay. Hank had been wounded. Caught.
      The blurred markings he'd seen earlier by the turnoff
      were those of the hunters. There was no body here.
      Beast had been carried away. The gouges he'd puzzled
      over were those of a travois, an Indian litter dragged
      on the ground. Two nearby birch trees, their
      hacked-off stumps still bleeding clear sap, had
      provided the transportation. Logan didn't remember
      sinking to his knees, but now he ran unsteady fingers
      down that depression in the moss, pulled a wisp of
      blue fur off a prickly bush and sniffed it. Burnt
      roses.
      The rumble of breaking waves at some point impinged on
      his ears, brought him to his feet. With Hank
      incapacitated it was up to him to find the fucking
      boat and get them all the hell off this island! His
      lips pulled back in a snarl, he ran, following the
      direction Hank would have taken had he been able.
      The promontory looked out on an expanse of cracked and
      fissured cliff that stretched off in the distance to a
      dim, blue headland. No boats. He stared at the
      churning water, at the regular explosions of spray as
      waves struck the cliff's sheer rock wall. But what he
      saw was Hank in his lab, Hank with the kids, Hank
      lighting up like the Fourth of July whenever there was
      something new to analyse, investigate. It was the
      continual roar of crashing surf that covered the
      hunters' approach.
      Something made him turn, but it was neither scent nor
      sound, for the sea wind's constant beat at face and
      ears brought him only salt, thunder. No, some spark
      buried in mankind's primitive ape brain, a nameless
      vestige for intuitive self-preservation, caused him to
      spin about. Too late. He didn't even have time to pop
      his claws before a hammer blow struck him in the
      chest. He staggered back, one step, two, air all but
      driven from his lungs, and gaped first at a smiling
      Kiefer lowering a crossbow, then focused on the steel
      shaft protruding from his flesh.
      At the sight of that short, thick spear all the
      fear-born rage in Logan's being blasted forth in a
      roar. He yanked out the bolt in a spurt of blood,
      scarcely feeling the pain in an adrenaline surge, and
      clenched the shaft ready to stab down. Claws sprang
      from the other hand, glittering, thirsty. His lips
      curled back in a carnivore's contemptuous smile at the
      shocked horror on the hunter's face and he leaped in
      attack. But the loose rubble beneath Logan's feet
      shifted at his sudden movement. He skidded, fell to
      his knees, sliding backwards even as a second quarrel
      whirred above his head and his legs slipped over the
      edge of the cliff. Scrabbling for a hold, claws and
      steel shaft struck sparks from the stone. The next
      instant the blades clove empty air.
      The fall was endless and far too quick. Arms and legs
      flailing in what on land would have been a run, he
      plunged into frigid green water which bruited him
      about like a child's toy, pulling him under only to
      toss him up again. The deafening crash of waves on the
      surface muted to an ominous grumble beneath. The
      current whirled him about, played with him, and
      finally with a powerful surge drove him towards the
      cliff. Even under water Logan felt the speed of that
      thrust hurtling him into the wall of rock.
      Instinctively, he curled into a ball, made himself as
      small an object as possible. His hip struck something
      solid, numbing that whole side. The shock caused him
      to open his mouth and swallow sea. Stone scraped skin
      off his back; a blow to his shoulder spun him around.
      His lungs burned for lack of air and he struggled
      futilely for the surface but didn't know which way to
      go for the green water had suddenly turned black. At
      last, tired of its plaything, the ocean spit him out
      on a little shelf of sand and withdrew. He hacked out
      water and lightening immediately lanced his chest. A
      scream, his scream, still echoing in his ears, the
      dark swooped down to claim him.
      *****
      Cold, so cold. Shivering, Logan drew into a knot, and
      that action caused the encroaching tide to splash into
      his mouth. He choked, coughed, automatically struggled
      in a worm's progress over gritty sand to escape both
      the freezing water and the throbbing ache in his chest
      that the coughing awoke. The exertion at last roused
      him from his stupor.
      Logan rolled onto his back and looked out on a
      blackness so intense it seemed to have substance.
      Blind! His sharp gasp of panic was answered by an
      equally sharp pain. No, not blind, but hurt, somehow .
      . . Squeezing his lids tightly shut against that
      nothingness, he took air in shallow gulps as he sorted
      through a jumble of impressions and events, trying to
      understand where he was and why. The image of the
      hunter flashed in his mind. Bastard hit him with
      something. Eyes still closed, a hand groped its way
      across his chest, woke a thrumming at its touch.
      Yeah, it was all coming back in pathetic detail.
      Certain death by crossbow, then certain death by
      falling off the damn cliff, then death by drowning . .
      . It was as if some sadistic, little god had a bet
      going on how many ways he could die. With great care
      Logan levered himself to sit upright against a wall of
      rock and peered out at his surroundings.
      At first he could distinguish nothing in the
      smothering dark, but little by little his eyesight
      adjusted and he made out a dim finger of light which
      in fits and starts illuminated his confines. The
      reflected light came from the water that licked at the
      ribbon of dark sand on which he found himself. He was
      in some little cleft in the rocks, swept there by the
      current through the undersea opening to this little
      crack in the cliff. The split slanted upwards and the
      only reason he lived was thanks to a tiny pocket of
      air caught by the stone.
      The sight of the water made his throat convulse in a
      swallow. Now the malevolent little god was putting his
      money on death by thirst, and if that didn't pan out,
      there was always death by starvation. Logan could see
      no escape from either of those options or from the
      cave itself. The adamantium made his body so heavy
      that swimming was not something he did by choice, and
      only when circumstances demanded it did he grudgingly
      take to calm and shallow waters. Hardly the case here.
      Besides, say he did make it though the sea tunnel, he
      still must swim up to the surface and the turbulence
      there was likely to smash him on the rocks. No way he
      could escape such a fate twice. But even if the dice
      were thrown in his favour, there was still the climb
      up the cliff face. Sure, he'd clawed his way up part
      of the Statue of Liberty, but the rock wall here was
      five, six times that height.
      Morose, he stared at the lapping wavelets washing the
      strip of sand, belatedly realized that they were
      methodically erasing the gouges he'd made dragging
      himself out of the water. Yup. His lucky day. He
      wouldn't die of thirst after all. High tide was coming
      in. The sea would get him first.
      Logan stood, backed away from the icy water when
      something sharp struck his foot. Swearing, he bent to
      snatch up the object and fling it at the ocean.
      Something hard and cold and heavy met his groping
      fingers. The bolt from the crossbow. He'd clutched it
      all through the fall from the cliff and even when the
      sea swept him here. He gripped the shaft to him now.
      Damn! One chance. Give him just one chance to drive
      this steel stake in that bastard's heart and the
      miserable little god could deal Logan whatever
      horrible death its twisted mind could conjure.
      It looked like the god wasn't going to take him up on
      the offer. The tide rose higher and higher, forcing
      Logan to finally wedge himself up against the cave's
      pitched ceiling. It wasn't high enough. Logan turned
      his face into the rock to escape the icy spray and
      from a fissure in the stone there came to him an
      odour. Burnt roses.







      CHAPTER SIX


      How long it took to claw an opening from that crack
      Logan never knew. The tide had all but reached its
      peak before the rotted stone of a sudden broke away to
      leave a gaping hole. He pulled himself up and through,
      clung panting a moment to the rock not believing his
      good fortune that he had escaped drowning. Then,
      seeing what awaited him, he grimaced. The sadistic
      little god had particularly nasty end in mind, for
      Logan found himself confronted by a labyrinth.
      All along the coastline of the Pacific Northwest rise
      mountains, hills, islands of glacial rubble; gigantic
      boulders left behind in tumbled heaps when the
      retreating ice lost its hold. This island was just
      such a moraine of rock and stone and dirt. On its
      upper surface there was life, both plant and animal.
      But beneath, the sterile, broken bones of the island
      revealed its prehistoric origin.
      Logan squirmed, clambered, crawled among slabs of rock
      jumbled one against the other. It was a rat's maze of
      crevices and gaps, a torturous, twisting route over,
      under, between. And now that the dim illumination of
      the water was left far behind, he must pick his way
      though it by feel. He could stumble blindly through
      this puzzle, suffer thirst, go yammering, slavering
      mad, until he finally met his death�were it not for
      the smell of roses. He followed that sweet thread of
      fragrance, backtracking countless times to pick it up
      again. His hands were his eyes, his nose the guide.
      The roses led him up, around, through, and up and up
      again until at last he squeezed between two rocks and
      found himself in a natural crevice, a narrower version
      of the tunnel which backed the animal cages. Like that
      other passageway, the muted sound of beating surf told
      Logan this shaft also had a opening to the sea, but
      here Hank's distinctive perfume permeated the tiny
      cave.
      He must have circled back around to the house, he
      realized. Part of the rock here had been hacked away,
      roughly shaped and widened to serve as a storeroom.
      Light filtering through an air vent set high in a
      steel door revealed a built-in freezer as well as
      racks holding canned foods and crates of supplies.
      Logan snatched a couple of cans from the shelf, slit
      off the tops with a claw and downed the contents
      without really tasting what he swallowed. He had to
      look at the labels afterwards to see what he'd eaten.
      Green peas. Chicken noodle soup. The liquid eased his
      thirst but didn't satisfy his hunger. The rabbit had
      been many hours ago and his internal clock said that
      it was well after dusk. Hank was on the other side of
      that door. But if he was going to be of any help to
      Beast he needed food. With more deliberation he chose
      a large can of stew and a few minutes later gently
      pushed down the handle of the door. It opened with a
      soft click and he slipped inside.
      His back against the door and hidden on one side by a
      storage cabinet, he tested the room with his senses.
      No odour other than Hank's and a pervasive medicinal
      stink. No sound but the ticking of a wall clock�1 a.m.
      It was much later than he thought. He must have been
      unconscious two, three hours after he was washed into
      the cave. When he was weak or badly injured�or
      both�healing put him out like a light. And then who
      knows how long he'd been wandering through the twists
      and turns of that 'rock garden' from hell. He peered
      around the cabinet. No movement. Just a mound on a
      steel table.
      Why he went to that table he couldn't say. Some
      instinct must have known what the sheet concealed. He
      lifted the cloth and for a few blissful moments did
      not understand the significance of that lump of raw
      meat. Bled and gutted it looked like prime beef with
      little fat. No . . . Not beef, the shape was wrong. He
      frowned, puzzled, suddenly felt eyes on him and
      glanced up. Hank was staring at him. Hank's head was
      staring at him!
      Logan choked back a cry of horror, fought the surge of
      revulsion that rose in his throat. Hank�skinned,
      decapitated. A sweep of the room revealed chaos,
      insanity. The head in a jar of liquid, beside it a
      carved likeness. Propped in a corner a plaster cast of
      the body. The soft blue fur floating in a vat. On a
      table an array of glass eyes . . . It was his
      nightmares come to haunt him! Cutting, torture� He
      recoiled, slipped and fell on the floor.
      Oddly, it was the calm sanity of Hank's steady gaze
      that touched off the berserker madness in Logan. This
      cannot be! He sprang to his feet, wrath and rage held
      tightly coiled by a hair trigger, ready to be
      unleashed at the first pretext. The taxidermist now
      entering the room with a steaming cup of coffee never
      knew what hit him.
      Wolverine hurtled through the lower levels leaving two
      guards slashed to ribbons dying in his wake. He hardly
      saw them when they confronted him, simply dealt out
      death, as one would swat a fly. Burning in his brain
      was the image of the jagter, the hunter. Kiefer. That
      was his prey, all else was impediment. He came to a
      row of cages. Feral mind spoke to feral mind and claws
      ripped through bars as he ran. Beyond, two figures,
      also held prisoner. Wolverine freed them as well with
      lightening snikts. Anything held captive must be
      released. As he was now released to kill and kill and
      kill!
      Shouts, cries, beat dimly at his ears. Louder but no
      more important were the roars and snarls of his
      brothers as they fed. Something bit him in the arm. A
      stinging, buzzing bee. Claws swept through the metal
      rod that sent it, chopped in half the creature who
      would stop him. He went up and up, came to an open
      place, scuttled hunched, sniffing for that single
      scent among the maze of others. Found it fresh, the
      stink of fear not fully cloaking the jagter's stench
      of blood and ordure. With a howl of savage joy
      Wolverine bounded up the stairs.
      Room after room he sped through, the darkness no
      barrier to his sight, his sense of smell, then� Shock
      jerked him to a stop like a noose about the neck. The
      eyes . . . Everywhere eyes! The eyes of beasts�mute,
      demanding. Heads hanging from walls. Vengeance, they
      whispered in his brain. Vengeance! He raised a fist of
      claws in salute. A promise. A vow. And ran ahead.
      The next room� Armed men awaiting him, standing,
      crouching, preparing to leap! Almost he set himself to
      attack then understood. They were frozen so in death.
      Vengeance. The lifeless eyes glittered with madness.
      His own eyes likewise glittered; again he raised a
      fist of claws. Vengeance! he vowed, and ran on.
      Through the next door�horror of horrors! A wax works
      of freaks. Men. Women. Children. Wings, scales, fangs,
      tentacles�the abnormalities were infinite, repulsive,
      beautiful. A little girl with emerald/amethyst eyes,
      only that to mark her different, mutant, prey.
      Vengeance, she begged. VENGEANCE!
      Wolverine heard the soft sweep of flesh across metal,
      sensed the squeeze of trigger. He dropped to the floor
      the instant before the rifle spat thunder and
      lightening, splintering the wall. In one smooth motion
      he rolled upright, already leaping to attack.
      The hunter was quick and clever. The barrel of the
      rifle struck Wolverine's head while a knife drew a
      line of red across his chest. Claws shot out, severing
      the knife hand and the fist fell, the weapon still in
      its grip. The hunter shrieked, dropped the rifle to
      seize his pulsing wrist as he ran for the far door.
      Wolverine's laugh was more a baying as he chased
      behind. He loped, ending on all fours as he casually
      reached out, swiped off a lagging foot. The man fell,
      man no longer, now helpless prey. He wept, screamed,
      writhing on the floor, the carpet drinking his blood.
      Jagter was a threat no more but Wolverine had just
      begun. Vengeance dinned in his ears. The lifelike
      dead, obscene ghouls, trophies�beasts, men,
      mutants�all hovered about as with a surgeon's
      fastidious skill claws dismembered the living prey.
      The jerking legs in four quick cuts, the thrashing
      arms in four sharp slashes. Now only the twisting,
      mewling head remained.
      The claws slid home and Wolverine grabbed a handful of
      golden hair, sticky with sweat and blood, dragged the
      twitching, bleeding carcass to a certain spot. The
      prey's cries had become raspy croakings. Maddened by
      pain and shock it was some minutes before the creature
      saw what Wolverine held, understood what he would do.
      The yellow eyes flickered, focused on the steel shaft,
      just before it was driven into his heart.
      The predator lopped off the head to finish the job,
      held it spiked upon his claws and pranced to the
      window, howling his victory to the full moon. The
      pitiful torso remained nailed to the floor, a
      sacrifice at the feet of the child with
      emerald/amethyst eyes. In his cry of savage exultation
      Wolverine did not hear the intruder nor the explosion
      of the shot, only the crash of glass as he was
      propelled through the window.
      The moon shattered in a thousand shards.







      CHAPTER SEVEN


      Jan ran to the broken window but the thick foliage
      below hid the mutant's body. The baster! The BASTER!
      At last he turned and slowly approached what remained
      of Kiefer, his boet. He wept as with trembling hands
      he lifted the head from where it had been dropped,
      gathered the scattered parts of his friend, his salt
      tears mingling with the salty red blood.
      How could this have happened? He'd witnessed with his
      own eyes the hunter's perfect shot with the crossbow,
      the dying mutant's fall into the icy sea. At dinner
      Kiefer had been irate and discontent that the body had
      been lost. The claws, he said, his collection must
      have those claws! And Jan had privately promised
      himself that in the morning he would have the men
      search the shoreline, drag the waters. And then
      tonight�
      The first alarm had come from the camera in the animal
      room, the creatures loose and on the hunt. And the
      remaining two mutants free as well. Fire, blasted
      walls, floors slicked with ice, men frozen in place .
      . . From the security control room he'd struggled to
      organized the guards, have them contain the animals,
      put down the mutants, but screen after screen showed
      carnage, confusion. At last by remote he opened the
      outer doors, turned off the electric fence and had the
      gates slide apart. Let the beasts escape! They could
      not get far, this was an island after all. Let the
      mutants go as well. No escape for them either, for the
      boat and the helicopter would remain secure. And then
      the sudden, awful thought�where was the hunter during
      all this mayhem? Too late did he think to look at the
      screens of the upper levels.
      "I failed you, boet. It is my fault. I am to blame."
      And Jan spoke true. Was it not he who had proposed
      they hunt mutants? And for more than a year they had
      been successful, Jan sniffing them out, tracking them
      down, Kiefer making the kill. 'Mutant serial killer'
      the newspapers called him. Kiefer had laughed, kept
      the clippings in his bedroom�more trophies.
      For Jan had no difficulty seeking out the abnormal. He
      need only look within himself. An empath, he sensed
      feelings, emotions. But not of people, only of beasts
      and man/beasts�mutants. Did that not mean he was a
      monstrous freak as well?
      Should Kiefer realize Jan was defective� Nein, the man
      never knew. Kiefer wanted companionship, admiration,
      worship. Jan understood this, was eager to comply.
      Like a loyal dog, he had attached himself to the
      hunter. He was safe, hidden, while he played the
      follower, the tracker. But his beastly self he could
      never completely push aside. He must use his cursed
      wrongness to track down prey. With the hunter's every
      kill, Jan felt a bit of the noxious brute within
      himself die as well. And he rejoiced.
      As to mutants Jan perceived their aberrations as well
      as their emotions. He had felt intuitively that the
      boy made ice and cold. However, he kept silent or
      Kiefer would ask how he knew. Of the joke maker, he
      sensed only that the mutant healed quickly. But to
      recover from the quarrel of a crossbow? Impossible!
      Yet lying here on the gory rug was proof of both the
      baster's survival and his revenge. And from what hell
      had come those vokken claws?
      Jan rose and retrieved his rifle. The mutie heals,
      hey? If the gods of the hunt are with me, I shall kill
      him again and again and again! At the door he turned,
      addressed the pieced-together corpse. "I go to fetch
      your trophy, boet. I shall lay that baster at your
      feet."
      Outside it was already growing light, the early
      pre-dawn glow of summer in the northwest. The moon
      looked like a huge blind eye in a pale face. Jan
      slipped among the bushes, rifle at the ready, and at
      last stood beneath the broken window. There was no
      body. Glass crunched and snapped under his boots as he
      searched for and finally found an erratic blood spoor
      leading away from the house.
      He could have sworn his shot went true, but in the
      dark . . . No matter. By some miracle, the mutie had
      survived the bullet, the glass, the fall. The trail of
      blood was proof of that, but more so the throbbing
      agony that now besieged Jan's senses testified that
      the baster still drew breath. But he was hurt, hurt
      deep, hurt bad. Jan gritted his teeth in a savage grin
      as the lightening stabs of pain increased in strength
      and frequency the closer he came to the prey.
      However, as he tracked the wounded beast through the
      forest, inexplicably the spots of blood, the waves of
      torment, grew less frequent. Twice must Jan halt and
      cast about, a compass needle that searched out
      suffering. Then he continued on in a new direction to
      be soon rewarded by a drop of red. But for some time
      he had seen no sign and when he quested with his
      senses the anguish had lessened to the point where it
      had become woven into the forest's web of life and
      death. He could pick up at least three mortal dramas
      nearby of hunter/hunted, predator/prey, ferocity and
      fear, fright and pain. But which was his prey? Too
      late he understood that he was now prey.
      From the tree overhead dropped a creature no longer
      man, claws set to stab, teeth ready to rend. With a
      cry of horror and rage Jan stumbled back, raised his
      rifle. A flashing claw sheared through his weapon,
      another slashed open his arm. But the tracker's other
      hand had already launched a knife which lodged in the
      brute's shoulder. The mutant howled, pawing at the
      steel while the tracker fled.
      The 'copter's back at the house! The boat is closer!
      Jan's thoughts raced faster than his feet as he
      swerved to plunge downhill among the trees, taking
      great bounding leaps at the risk of breaking an ankle,
      a leg. With Kiefer dead there was nothing, no one, to
      hold him here. Let the rest look out for themselves!
      Between the fronds of the evergreens he saw the glint
      of water and pushed his pace.
      *****
      Logan opened his eyes to see sunlight glinting through
      the evergreens. With a groan he rolled over and got to
      his feet. The Bowie knife lay where he had dropped it
      after yanking it out of his flesh. Damn, after this
      little vacation he needed a vacation! He picked up the
      knife and slipped it through the belt loops of his
      jeans which had earlier carried the quarrel from the
      crossbow. His mind briefly touched what had become of
      that steel shaft, shied away in horror. Weighting him
      was a heavy, terrifying impression of being caught in
      a red/black nightmare, doing things he didn't want to
      remember in the sane light of day. With almost
      physical effort he pushed the images away. For the
      time being, at least. They'd haunt him again in his
      dreams, they always did.
      He studied the ground, picked up the sign immediately
      and was off tracking the tracker. Once he realized Jan
      was heading downhill he sniffed for him. If he knew
      where the bastard was now he could make for him
      directly. The early morning breeze obligingly brought
      him the distinctive odour of sour milk and bloody
      meat. Logan instantly veered left in a straight
      diagonal that would bring him to the water.
      Jan was filling the tank of a sleek motorboat when
      Logan burst out of the trees and pounded down the
      dock. The man spun around at the noise, swung the fuel
      can catching Logan on the side. Claws slashed out, cut
      the container in two. Stinging liquid splashed in
      Logan's eyes and he staggered back, blinded, rubbing
      futilely at the burning. The next instant he felt the
      sheared metal edge of the can rip across his abdomen.
      Logan roared and charged, his attack weakened by
      tearing eyes, his strength flagging from shock and
      loss of blood. A blurred shape loomed before him. He
      caught Jan in his arms, trying to squeeze the life out
      of the man, even as he felt his own life draining
      away. They wrestled, crashed to the dock, Logan on
      top, his hands now clutching the other's throat even
      as Jan attempted to wrap a length of rope around
      Logan's neck. Still locked together they rolled and
      fell into the frigid water.
      The icy jolt numbed Logan's pain, cleared his eyes
      enough to see a dark coil gracefully descending
      through the water. What the . . . ? Jan jerked on the
      drifting anchor rope. The heavy steel hook fell off
      the dock with a muted splash and sank past the
      opponents into the dark. Before Logan realized what
      was happening Jan had looped the trailing rope again
      and again around his enemy's throat and body and
      pulled himself free to swim upward while Logan was
      inexorably drawn down, arms pinned to his sides.
      His struggles entangled him all the more and the panic
      rising in Logan's breast threatened to empty his lungs
      of air in one last futile scream. Somehow he must cut
      the ropes but his arms were bound fast. He had to make
      the bindings slack and the only way to do that was to
      swim down.
      It was the hardest thing he'd ever done, rolling over,
      legs and feet propelling him away from light and air.
      The cold was so intense the water seared his flesh. He
      couldn't feel his legs anymore, assumed they were
      still doing their job because it got darker and darker
      and his lungs shrieked. All the while he worked his
      arms. The coil around his neck loosened, slipped off,
      then all the loops suddenly uncurled and he writhed
      free to kick and kick and kick upwards.
      Above he saw churning water. The bastard was getting
      away! He kicked furiously, propelling himself forward,
      aiming for the dark shadow of the hull. He'd thought
      to grab the rail, drag himself over the side. But he
      wasn't going to make it. As the boat moved off he
      reached out. Claws ripped open the fiberglass keel.
      The boat listed, took on water and Logan clambered on
      board. It was short, bloody work after that. Both boat
      and tracker were dead in the water by the time Logan
      hauled himself up on the dock and collapsed.


      Bobby found him there later. "You okay?"
      Logan opened his eyes. "Yeah. Just sunbathing."
      "Sun's not out. It's cloudy."
      He squinted at the sky. The kid was right. It was
      broad graylight. With a groan he got to his feet.
      "What's happening up at the house?"
      "Mr. Summers's got everybody jammed in one of the
      animal cells. Everybody that's still alive," he
      mumbled and looked away, unable to meet Logan's eye.
      "We f-found Dr. McCoy . . . Mr. Summers's there with
      him now," he added in a rush. "He wants you call
      Professor Xavier, have him send out the Blackbird. He
      says the helicopter here would take too long and . . .
      and Dr. McCoy . . . "
      "Yeah. Yeah, I understand. I'll take care of it. You
      go get yourself something to eat."
      "I- I'm not hungry."
      "Yeah."
      *****
      Telephone receiver in one hand, with the other Logan
      snatched Ulrich up by the collar, shook him like a dog
      shakes a rat. "Where are we, you little fuck? What's
      the name of this damn place?"
      "Canada. B-British Colombia," Ulrich mumbled around
      broken teeth and torn lips. "The Straits of Juan de
      Fuca."
      "The place, shit for brains! What's the name of this
      flaming island?"
      "W-wolverine. It's Wolverine Island."
      Logan scowled at him with disbelief, threw him back on
      the floor.
      *****
      From the forest edge the panther watched the huge
      black bird speed across the sky, its hiss of wind
      growing fainter and fainter until once more all that
      could be heard was the sighing of trees and the clap
      of wave against rock. The big cat licked clean a paw
      and settled in a patch of sun for a nap. Life was
      good. He had fed well.
      *****
      "What are these?" asked Rogue, bringing a load of
      clean towels into Logan's room.
      He glanced at the objects in question carelessly
      tossed on the bed. One was a shock of silky,
      sun-bleached, yellow strands, the other a scrub brush
      of stiff, white bristles. With a sniff he turned his
      back on the scalps, muttered over his shoulder,
      "Trophies."

      ______________

      THE END

      *Boet: Afrikaans meaning a brother or less directly
      in slang a comrade or close
      friend.


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