SHADOW MAN--CH9: STRIKE FORCE 9/15
- Chapter 9-Strike Force
Xavier rolled into his office and saw three heads bent over the
Blackbird plans. He paused a moment as memories came flooding back.
Jean, Scott and Orono had first come to him as confused, angry,
frightened adolescents, had stayed on as friends, now lived and
worked here as colleagues. He sighed inwardly. How could he possibly
manage if anything happened to them? Logan was a wild card, a gypsy.
Was he worth their sacrifice?
Yes, the man had come through with flying colors that night on
Liberty Island, knowingly putting his life at risk to save Rogue's.
And he had been as near death as is possible and still live as a
result of that sacrifice. But then he had gone off with Scott's
motorcycle and never a goodbye. Loganviolent, irresponsible, vain
and noble. An uneasy, complex mixture made all the more volatile by
the man's all-encompassing rage, rage born of fear.
Logan's anger served the man as a psychological safety net; Xavier
understood that now. For someone with no past except a few spotty,
suspect memories, the world was a threatening place. Such a person
was constantly vulnerable before others. Everyone was a stranger, but
in truth might be either friend or enemy. Or worse, and this was
truly frightening, the stranger might be an enemy claiming former
friendship. Therefore, not knowing who to trust, Logan chose to trust
Indeedand here Xavier smiled to himselffor self-protection, in
order to keep people at a distance, Logan took on a threatening,
belligerent guise, very much like the cactus Scott had suggested. For
should Logan not confront the world with suspicion, anger, and rage,
then he must fall victim to his fear of it.
Shaking his head at the impossibility of it all, Xavier pushed on
into the room and Jean looked up. She knew immediately where he had
"Was Cerebro able to locate him?"
"Yes, Logan's still at Alkali Lake."
"Then what's the problem?" Scott wanted to know. "Did he get arrested
for trespassing or something? I can understand how Logan could be in
trouble. He attracts trouble like black pants attract lint. But how
could he be hurt?"
The problem," Xavier said, "is that Cerebro shows Logan together with
"What?" the three chorused, and Xavier heard surprise, disbelief and
indignation in their outburst.
"Magneto's in a high security prison!" Scott protested.
"That's what we've all been assuming," Xavier agreed. "Mystique must
be taking his place. It is the only way such a deception could work.
As a result we have no idea of how long Magneto's been gone."
"If Magneto's also at Alkali Lake," Storm said softly, "then Logan's
in real trouble. He's helpless before that man."
"Ah'm goin'." Rogue stopped Jean and Scott in the hall and looked the
man in the eye.
"Going where?" he asked innocently.
"That lake where Logan is. Everybody in the school knows you're
goin' 'cause Magneto's up there too."
He glanced at Jean with irritation. "Can't anybody keep a secret
She laughed. "Not with a flourishing teenage grapevine."
Scott turned back to the girl. "Yes, we're going. No, you're not."
Rogue felt herself grow hot with anger. "Why?"
"Because it's dangerous, you've had no training, and you're too
She took a deep breath. "Ah've already been in that kind of danger
and Logan rescued me. Ah want to help rescue him."
"Sorry. The answer is no." He took Jean by the arm and proceeded down
Rogue watched them turn the corner. Ah'm goin' anyway, whether Mr.
High 'n Mighty likes it or not, she decided. And with that resolution
firmly in mind, she went first to her room for warmer clothing, then
directed her steps towards the lower levels and the Blackbird.
The last briefing was brief. Xavier looked at the three ranged before
him in their uniforms and wished he could come up with something more
positive than what he had to say.
"There are complications," he stated bluntly. "I notified the
authorities about the prisoner 'Magneto's' true identity, but somehow
Mystique caught wind of it and managed to elude capture. I believe we
must assume she has contacted Magneto by now. Possibly she's even
gone to Alkali Lake herself. Therefore, we can no longer hope for
either a surprise attack or an easy rescue."
Scott frowned. "Magneto doesn't know that we're aware he's up there,
or even that we know Logan's there."
"True," Xavier agreed. "But Magneto does know of Cerebro's ability to
find mutants. Once Mystique informs him of events here, whether he
stays at Alkali Lake or leaves, he'll be on his guard and expecting
some retaliation from either the authorities or us, or both. As I see
it, the only point in our favor is that he doesn't know we've already
Scott nodded, studied each of his companions a moment, turned to
Xavier with a hard smile. "So we're quickand we're careful. And we
better go now."
Xavier saw them down to the Blackbird, watched them leave, stayed
there some little while thinking of the three who had gone to the
rescue of a man they hardly knew, a man of questionable loyalties.
And he thought of the man himself, his contradictory mix of ferocity
and tenderness, now rendered powerless before any revenge Magneto
might wish to exact.
The Professor was minded of the wolverine, the man's namesake. A
small, tough vicious animal, it was reputed to chew off its own paw
in order to free itself from a trap. Would Logan also be desperate
enough to willingly harm himself in order to escape?