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SHADOW MAN--CH6: WHAT WOLVERINES WANT 6/15

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  • mainsmel
    Chapter 6-What Wolverines Want Something I gotta tell you, kid, uh—Fawn, he mumbled around a mouthful of Overcooked Spaghetti á la Toad. Lehnsherr. Don t
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 9, 2002
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      Chapter 6-What Wolverines Want

      "Something I gotta tell you, kid, uh—Fawn," he mumbled around a
      mouthful of Overcooked Spaghetti á la Toad. "Lehnsherr. Don't trust
      him."

      "But—"

      "I mean it! Don't trust him. He ever tries to give you shots, pills,
      anything weird like that—run and don't look back!"

      He glanced over at the chair where she sat to see if his warning had
      taken effect, but she in turn was regarding him with a pitying little
      smile. Scowling, he shoved in another wad of spaghetti and chewed
      over the problem. How could he convince her? He didn't want to scare
      the kid to death by telling her she was next in line for a metal
      skeleton. Besides, she wouldn't believe him. Who would? Try a
      different tack, then.

      "You know why I'm here, kid?"

      "Dr. Lehnsherr says you're in pain," was her prompt reply.

      His laugh was as bitter as the scorched tomato sauce that graced the
      gluey noodles. "Damn right, I'm in pain! The bastard's experimenting
      on me! Cutting. Burning."

      "I don't see any scars."

      "Course not. I heal real quick."

      "Um."

      He glowered at her over his bowl. "What?"

      "Dr. Lehnsherr says you're distraught, psychotic, sick in the head—
      that kind of pain. He says you think you're part wolverine. That you
      think you're tortured and persecuted. I mean, after all, burns always
      leave scars, don't they? But you don't have any."

      Logan sat on the bed drop-jawed, seeing everything turned inside out.
      It was Magneto's word against his. And Magneto was the benevolent Dr.
      Lehnsherr who wanted to help cute, fuzzy, little animals, while he
      was the crazy, half-naked, hairy beast kept locked up for
      observation. A sudden thought struck him.

      "What do you do with the lab animals, kid?"

      "Feed them, of course, clean out their cages, take observations."

      "And that's what you do with me, too, isn't it? Feed me and take
      observations."

      The bit of color in her pale skin faded. Eyes huge, she mutely lifted
      the bottom of her sweater to reveal a small tape recorder hooked to
      the waistband of her jeans.

      Logan swore, impressing even himself with the range of expletives and
      the varieties of vilification that came readily to his tongue.

      Fawn plugged her ears and ran out.

      A few minutes later, in the midst of a creative (though highly
      improbable) description of Magneto's family tree, a mighty yawn
      cracked Logan's jaw and he sank back on the lumpy mattress as if it
      were a cloud of softest down, slipping into the dream like a hand in
      a glove. And he was home.

      *******


      "How do you do that, kid? It's you, isn't it? The dream?"

      She had appeared with the tray held out like a peace offering and he
      had accepted it as such. So now his teeth ripped strips of dry,
      stringy chicken off the bone, one of Toad's better efforts. My
      complements to the chef, he thought, digging out a shred of meat from
      between his molars.

      Fawn grew red with embarrassment.

      She did that a lot, blushed, Logan observed. Or maybe any slight
      change of color was just more noticeable on her fair skin. He kinda
      liked it.

      "I'm sorry. I won't do it any more."

      "No. No, the dream's fine, but . . . "

      She looked down at her hands. "I don't know how I do it. I wasn't
      always able to. I guess it really all started when I was thirteen. My
      mother was killed in a car accident. Five months later my father
      remarried."

      "Great!" Logan muttered under his breath and forked up a load of
      burnt, rubbery green beans.

      "Janet had good intentions, I suppose," Fawn was saying. "She wanted
      to be a model wife and mother. To her that meant a spotless house and
      a perfect child. She whipped the house into shape in no time, but
      even after four years she never could figure me out."

      Fawn laughed, shook her head. "Ever since I can remember I've wanted
      to be a zoologist or a vet. I love animals. Dad says I started
      collecting—bugs, feathers, stuff like that—as soon as I could walk so
      my room's always been an incredible mess. One day Janet and I had a
      terrible fight—screaming, shouting, throwing things."

      "What about? Your room?" Logan asked in mid-chew.

      "My dung collection."

      "Your WHAT?" Logan yelled, and immediately fell to coughing when in
      his outrage a quantity of bean juice went down wrong.

      "It didn't smell!" she protested. "Much," she amended. "Try lifting
      your arms," she advised when his wheezing continued.

      He did so and air filled his lungs even as water leaked from his
      eyes. He snuffled and dragged an arm across his face.

      "It's called scatology," she explained, handing him the tissue
      box, "the scientific study of feces. By examining an animal's scat a
      scientist finds out what it eats and by that deduces where the
      animal's probable feeding areas are. Then people or cameras can be
      stationed in likely places for on-site observation."

      Unbidden, a little printed card appeared before Logan's inner eye:

      WOLVERINE SCAT: burgers and beer

      FEEDING AREAS: any roadside tav

      "Sounds fascinating," he croaked and blew his nose.

      "It is!" Fawn agreed, not picking up on his sarcasm. "And I had
      eighty-seven specimens! I won a Science Fair prize for that
      collection. That's why I was so angry when I came home from school
      that day and found Janet flushing them down the toilet. 'Where they
      belong!,' she screamed at me.

      "So I threw her antique vase at her grandmother's big hall mirror,
      smashing both of them. She stomped on my bird nests and dumped my
      beetle and snake skin collections in the toilet too. It ended up
      flooding the bathroom because all the dung didn't go down. Then we
      moved on into the kitchen— You get the idea."

      Fawn picked up the plastic knife that Logan had scorned to use and
      turned it around and around in her hands. "That night, six months ago
      now, I threw clothes in my backpack, took some money out of Dad's
      wallet, and left. I'd done a lot of camping and hiking with the
      Scouts in this area, so I took the bus and came here. I planned to
      live in one of the Scout huts during the winter and camp out in the
      woods during the summer. Because the forest is where I feel most at
      home anyway."

      She glanced at him briefly, dropped her eyes to the revolving
      knife. "You see, the kids at school thought I was some kind of study-
      freak geek, and I guess I was because all I read and talked about was
      animals. They called me Fauna and they didn't mean it in a nice way.
      They meant it like beast, or creature, or . . . or something sub-
      human."

      "Hey, it's okay." Logan's smile was crooked. He could guess what was
      coming and knew her pain and shame because he had lived it
      himself. "Something happened up here, didn't it, kid?"

      Fawn nodded dumbly, swallowed, stared at him, willing him to believe
      her. "It must have been about two in the morning when the bus let me
      out down on the highway and I set off through the forest. There was a
      full moon and I knew where I was going, but then clouds rolled in,
      covering the moon. In the dark I got confused and I panicked. Just
      what you should never do!" She blushed and grinned ruefully.

      "So here I was blubbering and stumbling into things and calling for
      help and— " A look of wonder lighted her face. "A female fox, a
      vixen, came out of the trees. She looked at me and just like that I
      knew she came to help. She led me to a big pine and crawled under the
      boughs. I followed and we slept there the rest of the night with her
      at my side keeping me warm. The next day she told me of the base here
      and the empty guard house over at the north gate."

      Her eyes refocused on Logan and her expression defied him to
      disbelieve her. "Animals talk to me and I talk to them. And I am not
      crazy!"

      "You're not crazy," he agreed, and at his calm acceptance of her
      impossible statement some of her tension left and her shoulders
      slumped.

      "You're just saying that. Why should you believe me?" she mumbled to
      the strip of plastic in her hands.

      "You're not crazy and you're not a freak. You're . . . advanced." He
      found himself using Magneto's term and scowled, but what else could
      he call her mutation so she wouldn't fear and despise herself?

      "And I know you can talk to animals, because you talked to me. Didn't
      you?"

      Fawn gave a little self-conscious laugh. "I'm sorry. It shouldn't
      work with people, but you're different."

      Logan's smile of encouragement stiffened at the corners. You don't
      know how different, kid, was his thought. Did that mean he was more
      beast than man? "Yeah, well, that dream, that first night. How did
      you know?

      She blushed. "When Dr. Lehnsherr and Mortimer came to the base they
      found me living in the guard house next to the gate. Dr. Lehnsherr
      was angry at first. He thought no one would be here so he could do
      his experiments in peace. Like I told you, he came to do research to
      help animals heal quicker. But when he saw my little veterinary
      clinic for the sick forest animals that I'd found, he was really
      impressed and asked me to work for him.

      "You see, ever since that night when the fox came to me, besides
      being able to talk to animals I always feel it when they are afraid,
      or hungry, or in pain. If they're hurting I usually know how to treat
      the injury or illness. But also I talk to the sick animals, or,
      rather, 'dream' to them to calm their fears, let them sleep. Because
      it's when we're asleep that the body heals itself.

      "One night, Dr. Lehnsherr came to me, saying he had a sick man up at
      the base, a violent, frightened man who thought he was an animal, a
      wolverine. He asked if I'd be willing to come to his lab and try to
      dream something peaceful so that this man could sleep and heal. So I
      did."

      A little puff of air escaped Logan's lips, half laugh, half protest.
      He wasn't a violent, frightened beast . . . was he? "How—How did you
      know what to dream?

      "I just sent back what I saw you wanted," she said modestly. "A
      home."

      Her words hit Logan in the gut and for a moment he couldn't
      breathe. "Yeah. Yeah, thanks, kid."

      "You're welcome. Now maybe you should close your eyes . . ."

      "No, wait! When— When was it you first sent me the dream? Four nights
      ago? Five?"

      She looked at him and smiled. "It was three weeks ago. You're a lot
      better now." And she began to croon.

      Three weeks! Gotta get out of here! His head was whirling so fast it
      felt like he was being sucked down a drain. He struggled to get off
      the bed but the yawn seized him and he fell back, fighting the sudden
      lassitude. The food! he realized even as his eyes glued themselves
      shut. The bitter taste. Magneto was spiking the food with some kind
      of sleepy drug! Maybe old Toad's a pretty good cook after all, was
      his last, muzzy thought before the crooning pulled him down into the
      dream, down into the den where he was safe and warm and loved. At
      home.
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