Title: Shadow Man
Disclaimer: The characters are Marvel's except for Fawn.
Rating: NC 17
Feedback: Yes, please! (esp. if you want more stories)
Notes: Lone Wolf. This is what I'd like to see in Xmen-2. Logan's
trip to Alkali Lake doesn't pan out quite the way he hoped.
ALKALI LAKE RESEARCH FACILITY
'Intruders will be swiftly prosecuted' a smaller line of print
ominously promised. Time and weather had faded the sign's fiery red
lettering into an innocuous pink and the tin plaque itself now hung
by a single corner from the chain link fence. Caught by the chill
spring breeze of late afternoon, the warning sign clacked helplessly
against the metal links like a struggling fish dangling from a hook.
Logan put the thing out of its misery with a snikt of claw and the
sign flopped face down in the dirt. He ground the heel of his boot in
Alkali Lake's 'welcome mat', burying it deeper in the damp earth, and
confronted the gates.
Professor Xavier had suggested that the military complex at Alkali
Lake might hold information about Logan's past, a blank save for the
last fifteen nightmare-haunted years. Information about who he was,
why he had claws, a metal skeleton, a numbered tag saying
and why Logan himself had only the one name. Maybe it would be best
not to know a little voice said. He'd been hearing that little voice
all the way up to Canada. But now that he was finally here . . . Ah,
what the hell!
A single sweep of claws cut through the steel bar welding the gates
shut against the idle, the curious, and the 'swiftly prosecuted'
intruders like himself. That was the easy part. For although the high-
tech security barrier proved to be no challenge, nature was another
Seasons of dead leaves had thickly woven themselves into the gate's
lower links and new grass sprouted from the dirt burying its bottom
frame. But at his repeated shoves and kicks the gate grudgingly dug a
furrow in the earth, allowing barely enough passage for himself and
the motorbike before it stubbornly refused to yield any farther. He
maneuvered the bike through, scraping some paint off one fender in
the process, and stopped just inside the enclosure, his senses
The birds had already shut down their song for the day and the heavy
silence was underscored by the shurr of wind in the nearby pines and
the faint slap, slap of wavelets on the thawing lake.
As for the complex itself, save for the lazy curl of razor wire
draped over the perimeter fence, glittering as bright and deadly in
today's cold spring sun as when it was first uncoiled years ago, the
signs of abandonment were everywhere. A half dozen low structures
that had the look of temporary buildings clustered around three
larger edifices of four floors each. All gave silent testimony of
neglect. A few windows broken by past storms, the rest of the panes
opaque with years of dirt, roofing shingles littering the ground,
formerly white walls bleeding rusty streaks, foundations crumbling
from repeated freeze and thaw, skeletons of last summer's weeds
thrusting through patches of melting snow . . . The only evidence of
life was a small tree growing through a crack in the sidewalk.
His nose registered dust, decay, mildew, andwas it his
Although, Logan mistrusted imagination, his own above all. Was there,
or was there not, underlying the dry, itchy smell of dirt the even
drier, acrid scent of hot metal?
Impossible! He pushed the notion from his mind even as the back of
his neck prickled and the muscles between his shoulder blades jerked
tight. Nothing so far said this was the place that had given birth to
his alternate, berserker self, the clawed, adamantium-enhanced
But it was the place. He could feel it in his bones. What bones were
still left him, he amended. And his brows drew down even as the
corner of his mouth lifted. He wheeled the bike farther into the
compound toward the nearest of the larger buildings, reluctant to
ride it as if the raucous noise of its motor might waken something
better left sleeping. He was getting spooked.
Scowling, he propped the machine against the far side of the building
that was his goal, making sure neither the bike nor his pack strapped
on behind could be sighted from the main gate. Though what good
concealing the motorcycle would do he was hard put to justify. The
gate itself was still open and the freshly gouged earth bore not only
his footprints but the tire tracks as well.
He knew his caution was rooted in fear and that made him angry, angry
at himself. His claws punched through the lock on the side door, the
sound of his assault still reverberating through the empty building
when he entered. Half an hour later he came out grimmer, grumpier,
angrier, but no wiser.
There was a lower level to the building and he had discovered a
tunnel leading out of it, but since he had not thought to bring a
flashlight on the trip he decided to leave the underground area for
last. He could find his way about down there without light well
enough, but any documentation he might want to read would have to be
hauled up. Possibly he would find what he was looking for in one of
the offices and have no need to explore the subterranean regions.
Leaving the bike where it was he went on to the next building. The
second edifice yielded no more information than the firstthe
discarded metal desks, empty file cabinets, scraps of paper that
fluttered in the breeze of his passage. One find tantalized hima
forgotten desk calendar opened to a date three weeks after he had
awakened to find himself naked in the snow some fifteen years ago.
Logan had never been sure how to react to that. Had Wolverine be a
failure? An experiment that didn't measure up and so was discarded,
abandoned in the wilderness to die? If so, why not just kill him? The
unknown had shown no compunction about torturing his body, why draw
the line at murder?
Or had he managed to escape? Was that what caused the installation to
fold? Fear that he might be alive and inform the authorities? Ironic
if true, for he remembered nothing. He crumpled the calendar page in
Riffling through the following days and weeks only revealed blank
paper so he flipped back through the calendar to the preceding three,
four months. Nothing he saw there could he interpret as concerning
him. The person who inhabited this office had plenty of meetings
indicated by initials and times. A name, Cornilius, was scattered
frequently throughout. Curious, that. Normal meeting times scrawled
by the name: 9:30 a.m., 2:00 p.m., 3:45 p.m., but also odd times: 5
a.m., 10 p.m., 1:30 a.m. Evidence of experiments that didn't hold to
a common time schedule?
With a growl he knocked the calendar to the floor and strode out of
that building toward next and last of the three, the one closest to
the lake. If this one held no more answers than the first twoand
there was no reason to think otherwisethen what? Back to the
It was a haven, sure, but he had no real business being there. He was
no doctor or teacher. His sole talent, if it could be called that,
was fighting. His intimate fifteen year acquaintance with Wolverine
had revealed no hidden depths of wisdom, philosophy, scholarship, or
even morals. He smoked, he drank, he fought, he womanized, and he
moved on down the road to do it all over again. How could this
unknown past he searched for prove any different?
Lip curled in a snarl, he stomped up the steps of the last building
and slashed through the lock, slamming the metal security door open
so hard it hit the wall. The clangor echoing throughout the structure
satisfied a little his sudden need for violence. Something physical
to strike at rather than the emptiness of his days, the phantoms of
Yeah, he'd been used and abused, royally screwed. But the odds of
finding out who had done it after all these years were about the same
as his winning the Nobel Peace Prize. He had half an hour of
daylight, maybe less, before nightfall, so just give this place a
quick once-over to say he'd done it, then get the hell out. Go back
to that little motel he'd passed twenty miles down the road. Tomorrow
set out for the school 'cause he'd promised the kid. And Jean? asked
the little voice. Jean . . . She appeared in his mind's eye: cool,
smart, refined. What could she see in a Canucklehead like himhot
tempered, ignorant and crude? No, say goodbye. This time for real.
Then Then the road again.
He was midway down the corridor gloomily resigning himself to a bleak
future that matched his equally bleak present when he belatedly
realized something was different about this building. The air
slightly warmer? Fresher? A faint hum on the periphery of his
hearing, more vibration than sound Alerted, he shot out his
and stopped in his tracks, slowly turning his head, questing. A faint
whiff of hot metalthere, down the hall. And this time it was not
imagination! But it was already too late. Even as he took a step
towards the source of that sharp, burning odor his joints locked.