SHADOW MAN--CH 4: A SINGLE CELL ANIMAL--4/15
- 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
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
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
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
Wolverinejust 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
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
"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 . . .
"Now." The plastic wastebasket bounced off his head.
"R-right." And Logan started picking up pieces of glass.