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SHADOW MAN--CH 4: A SINGLE CELL ANIMAL--4/15

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  • mainsmel
    Chapter 4-A Single Cell Animal The next day, or days, or weeks blurred into an endless red agony interspersed with periods of blessed oblivion and brief sparks
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 6, 2002
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      Chapter 4-A Single Cell Animal

      The next day, or days, or weeks blurred into an endless red agony
      interspersed with periods of blessed oblivion and brief sparks of
      lucidity. Logan twitched, blinked, and the room slowly came into
      focus. His head was to one side and he stared at the puke-green wall
      and the sturdy metal table with its collection of tiny, labeled,
      plastic bottles for long minutes before he perceived that he wasn't
      in the lab. Moreover, he was lying in an actual bed, he discovered,
      as one hand unexpectedly spasmed and his callused fingers snagged on
      the sheet under him.

      He must be in a . . . He frowned, fighting an internal battle to
      dredge up the word. Yeah, hospital. He must be in a hospital room.
      But why? He'd never been in a hospital room before. Never needed to
      be. Had he? He noticed with mild interest that his right arm was
      connected to a tube and that the tube was connected to a bottle
      overhead.

      He was being poured out of that bottle. When the fuel gauge on this
      dead, lumpish thing that was his body read 'full,' he could get up
      and go. Go where? a little voice asked him. Back. He'd go back. Back
      to school. His brow creased. That was stupid! He was too old to go to
      school. But . . . Wasn't there a school? From somewhere came a soft,
      whimpering sound. From himself, he realized to his amazement.

      A cool hand suddenly cupped his forehead, rested there briefly, then
      moved down to his cheek, gently turned his head so that he was facing
      up. He squinted, his eyes tearing at the bright light and a shadow
      immediately came between him and the source of illumination so that
      he could see without distress.

      The long somber form bending over him gradually took on details. A
      sober, sad face, with deeply carved lines of pain bracketing the
      mouth. Compassion warmed the gray eyes. Steely determination chilled
      them. The whole was haloed by a silvery cloud of hair.

      Who is he? wondered Logan. A doctor? A priest? A man who has a
      purpose in life, that was obvious. A man who sees clearly his duty
      and pursues his goal with single-minded passion. No aimless shuffle
      for him in this world, rather firm steps in his chosen direction.
      Logan envied him that purpose, that goal, something so at odds with
      his own marginal, vagabond existence. Yeah, he could admire such a
      man, Logan decided. Not like him, maybe. A man like that would be too
      driven to have friends. But disciples, yeah.

      "Who— " Logan began, but cool fingers lightly touched his lips.

      "Hush, my boy. Don't try to talk just yet," came the soft, sonorous
      command, delivered in Magneto's voice.

      Magneto! Logan jerked away from the fingers as if they had burned
      him. He scowled at the man. It was Magneto, sure enough, but even
      knowing that he could still see the compassionate crusader.

      The other drew back and the light fell fully on his face. Logan saw
      the naked hurt in it the instant before it was masked and the Magneto
      he knew stood before him, hard, contemptuous.

      "We have completed approximately a third of the work laid out." It
      was cold, precise, like a report. Gone was the soothing tone of
      moments ago. "I am giving you a few days to recuperate before
      continuing. Although you recover rapidly it is a strain on your
      system. Use this time to rest, eat, sleep. Toad will see to your
      needs."

      The man went over to the entrance of the room. No door hung in the
      frame. "Do not think you can escape. I have set a magnetic field on
      this doorway that will repel any such attempt." For proof, he pulled
      a folding, metal ruler from his pocket and threw it at the empty
      oblong. The ruler bounced off nothing and clattered to the floor.

      "Nor think to hold Toad hostage to gain your freedom," he said,
      retrieving the ruler. "I have made certain that your claws are
      inoperable for the time being. So hobbled, you are no match for him."

      Logan swallowed, felt sweat pop out on his forehead. "Seems you
      thought of everything." His voice sounded strange to his ears, rough
      and deep in his throat.

      Magneto regarded him a moment. His lips pressed into a small, thin
      smile. "Yes."

      He pointed a finger at the opening and, ruler in hand, exited.

      Logan waited until the echoing footsteps fell silent, then counted to
      twenty before he viciously yanked the needle out of his vein and
      levered himself to a sitting position with arms that threatened to
      buckle under his weight. Even that minor activity left him with a
      pounding head and black spots swimming before his eyes. His breathing
      was rapid and his stomach felt queasy and what he wanted most right
      now was to lie down and go to sleep.

      He looked at his hands, normal to his eyes, and shot out his claws—
      only they didn't. Before he could change his mind, he tried it again,
      then again. Nothing. There wasn't even that split-second warning
      prickle before they slit his flesh.

      Falling back against the pillows, he found himself staring up at the
      ceiling and laughing. He hated the claws! His healing ability and the
      metal skeleton were easy enough to conceal, but the claws— The claws
      were what made others think 'mutant' when they saw him. Yet the
      blades were not natural, but manufactured and welded on. And so he
      hated the claws because they made him different. And he reveled in
      the claws when men bigger than he turned pale and backed off. And he
      felt fierce pride in the claws when they slashed through any obstacle
      that stood in his way. And now . . . Without the claws he wasn't
      Wolverine—just Logan, a shadow man with no roots in the past, no ties
      in the present, no plans for the future.

      He took a deep, shuddery breath and pushed himself up once more. Rest
      a minute, he decided. Just a quick minute, then make a break for it.
      Magneto said he had escaped before, so it wasn't impossible. His own
      dumb luck he had to do it again!

      His claws— Okay! The bastard had monkeyed with them somehow. They
      weren't gone, they were still there. But a magnetic field? What a
      load of crap! Some two-bit carnival trick with the ruler, that's all.
      Probably tied a length of fishing line on it to make the thing jerk
      back that way.

      Logan half-fell out of bed, staggered as a wave of giddiness washed
      over him, and grabbed the bed frame for support. Part of his mind
      registered that he was naked except for a pair of skivvies and that
      there were pink streaks running down his arms and legs, across his
      chest. Shouldn't he be healing faster? Maybe the drugs in that bottle
      were slowing down his regeneration metabolism. They were sure as hell
      slowing down his thinking. Felt like he had mashed potatoes between
      his ears.

      One hand dragging along the wall to steady himself, he followed the
      contours of the room until he came to the empty doorway. Somewhere
      down the dimly lighted hall he could hear the steady, maddening drip
      of water, but no sound of voices or footsteps. The air that came to
      him through the opening smelled musty and singed. Nobody. Nothing.
      But then he hadn't sniffed out Magneto just now, either, he reminded
      himself. The drugs must have deadened his senses as well. Okay, then,
      take a quick glance to make sure. He thrust his head around the
      doorframe and the next instant found himself flat on his back in the
      middle of the room.

      Some little time passed before the walls stopped converging and
      receding in rhythm with the pounding of his heart. When they finally
      ceased their dance he felt it safe to roll over and struggle to hands
      and knees. Big mistake. Only sour bile came up with his retching, but
      after the spasms stopped he felt somewhat better. Not trusting his
      legs, he crawled over to the blackness in the doorway and touched
      nothing. To his shock the 'nothing' pushed back.

      How long he experimented with the magnetic field Logan didn't know.
      By the time he scented Toad's distinctive odor of mushrooms and mud
      wafting down the hall not only was he feeling his usual irascible
      self, but he had discovered that pillows and pill bottles flew
      through the doorway with ease when he tossed them. However, when he
      launched the metal stand that supported the drip bottle, it was flung
      against the back wall so violently that it could now be classed as a
      piece of abstract art.

      As for his own adamantium-enhanced body, he learned that the more
      abruptly and powerfully he punched his fist into the dark, the more
      brutally it was knocked away. But if he extended a hand slowly,
      gently, caressingly, almost lovingly, easing it, teasing it into the
      space, he could reach a good three, four inches into the hall before
      the 'nothing' refused to allow any more such liberties.

      Much to his disgust Toad waltzed in with blithe unconcern, as if the
      magnetic field didn't exist. Which it didn't for him, nor for the
      plastic tray he carried. Only for Logan was this doorless room a
      prison cell.

      "Bad boy!" Toad flashed his pearly grays as he glanced around at the
      chaos. "Clean up your meth, or you won't get any food."

      "Clean it up yourself, you walking roadkill!" Logan
      growled. "I'm 'thick', remember?"

      The creep didn't even set down the tray, merely opened his maw wider
      and what looked like a python shot out, striking Logan just under the
      ribs with such force that he hit the wall before doubling over to
      fall on the floor, gasping in vain for air.

      He was still trying to catch his breath when the python cinched
      itself around his ankle and dragged him over to the piece of junk
      that was the drip stand and its broken bottle.

      "Hokay . . . " he wheezed. "Hokay. I get . . . the picture. No . . .
      workee, no eatee. Fair . . . fair enough. Just . . . gimme a . . .
      minute."

      "Now." The plastic wastebasket bounced off his head.

      "R-right." And Logan started picking up pieces of glass.
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