SHADOW MAN--CH:12 UNDERGROUND 12/15
- Chapter 12-Underground
Rogue did not like the tunnel. Fauna had said that because of the
cruel, cold winters up here in Canada that the lower levels of the
compound's three main buildings were all connected together, and that
the easiest and safest way to get to Logan was to take the hidden,
underground route. Rogue supposed it was a good idea, but she didn't
like the tunnel's cold, stale air, or the funny smell of stinky feet
that reminded her of the gym locker room at the high school back
Each of the three team members had little lights as part of their
equipment and used them now to pick out the way. The tiny beams
revealed just enough to make Rogue not want to see more. There's just
too much nothin' that can be hidin' anythin', she decided.
Fauna was up in the lead with Cyclops and the raccoon. She had left
the squirrel and the raven back in the woods and instead had asked a
raccoon to come with them into the tunnels. "Because," she had
explained, "raccoons hunt in the dark, and this old fella is willing
to scout ahead for us." After them came Jean, then Rogue, and last
They'd had no problem getting into the building. Fauna had found a
set of keys in the guard house last October when she'd arrived and
had explored the whole base looking for anything that might help her
get through the winter. But it turned out they didn't need the keys
because the door lock was just a mess of metal.
"Logan. His mark." Rogue heard Cyclops say, looking like he'd just
eaten a too-green grapefruit. Then he started swearing a blue streak
when he spotted his motorcycle and the measly old scratch on its
When they first came down the stairs from outside, the big room at
the bottom looked like any other basement junky with old, broken
furniture, wood crates mostly empty, boxes and boxes of mildewed
books and leaning stacks of musty computer printouts. But then, as
they started along the tunnel, Rogue just knew that it was only the
little pencils of light that kept the walls from snapping shut and
burying them here forever. And if she felt like that, what must Storm
be feeling all closed in like this away from the sky? She reached
back and took the woman's hand.
"Hope you don't mind. Ah'm a little scared."
It worked. Rogue heard a sharp intake of breath, then Storm squeezed
her hand in reassurance and the woman's tension eased a bit as she
gave a little laugh. "I can't say I like it down here either, but at
least it's fast and it's hidden. And the sooner we get Logan, the
sooner we can get out."
After about ten minutes they came to another wide space which proved
to be the basement of the second building and they followed the
raccoon through the same kind of clutter that they'd found in the
first, weaving a crooked path to the far wall.
But now the raccoon seemed to be lost. Rogue could see its eyes
reflecting the light like a cat's as it rounded boxes, then came back
only to set out once more, trotting back and forth along the wall.
Fauna knelt on the cold concrete and the raccoon rushed to her. She
picked it up in her arms and smoothed its fur.
"He can't find the tunnel entrance," she announced. "It was open when
I was down here three or four months ago. Maybe Dr. Lehnsherr closed
it for some reason."
"Storm, Jean," Cyclops said, "split up. Look along the walls. I'll
start over here." The three spread out, taking the lights with
them. "You two stay there," he called over his shoulder to the
girls. "We'll be right back."
The dark fell on Rogue and Fauna like a heavy, black cloth. From time
to time they saw little sparks like fireflies on either side of them,
then as the searchers picked their way among the crates the lights
winked out to reappear once again, smaller, dimmer.
This basement area seems a whole lot bigger than the first one,
thought Rogue. But then we didn't explore the first one 'cause the
raccoon went straight across it to the tunnel. She put her back to
the chilly wall and took a deep breath to calm the jittery feeling in
her tummy. The stagnant air felt thick and heavy in her lungs as if
the blackness was swamp water and she was drowning in it. She was
glad Fauna was standing right beside her, so close she could feel the
heat of the other girl's body. But she didn't want to talk to her.
Somehow, in this smothering dark she felt like she was blind but that
there were lots of other things around that could see, and she didn't
want to make any noise. She just wanted to hunker down and hide.
They hadn't noticed any little lights for a while but they could
still hear the voices of the three calling to each other. Rogue
almost wished they wouldn't, because their words were so twisted and
booming and echoing that it sounded like they were arguing.
Noise approached, rapid steps, a jerking light. Rogue held her
breath, then Storm showed her light on her own face.
"We found the door. It's locked. Cyclops wants the keys."
Fauna handed them over and Storm sprinted off the way she'd
come. "Down here," she called over her shoulder. "Just follow the
Just following the wall wasn't as easy as it sounded. Small
peninsulas of crates reached long fingers into the basement, and they
must follow by touch up one side and down the other to reach the wall
again. Still, thought Rogue, it's better than standin' and waitin'.
At least we'll soon be with the others.
Fauna gave a sudden start, leaned down, put her lips to Rogue's
ear. "Something's wrong. The raccoon smells a stranger. Somebody must
have come in from the tunnel."
Rogue clapped her hands over her mouth and bit down hard on her lip
so as to hold back the little cry coming up her throat. She did not
want to hear this.
Wolverine rolled off Mystique, swiveled his head towards the empty
"What," she began. But he sealed her lips with a hard, horny palm
and, once she understood, released her to pull on his jeans and get
to his feet.
"Voices," he breathed, standing just inside his cell to peer down the
dimly lighted hall.
He sniffed, detected no new odors. Despite all logic, the sounds,
faint even to his hypersensitive hearing, came from the far end of
the corridor which was secured by a heavy metal door.
"Tell the others," he ordered. "I'll investigate."
She nodded, rose, gave his hair a painful yank. He knew it for
affection and replied in kind with a stinging slap on her rump. She
grinned and left.
Wolverine pinched out the candle without bothering to wet his
fingers. The switch to the room's lighting was outside the door and
he generally left it off, preferring the gloom.
He loped down the tunnel-like passage, his bare feet silent on the
concrete, rage and fury seething in him. Intruders? He fervently
hoped so. As yet, he'd had no opportunity to be of service to
Magneto, prove his loyalty, do his duty. His duty: defend, protect,
Crouching at the far door, he placed an ear against the cold metal.
Voices, yes, though what was being said was too muffled by the
metal's thickness for him to comprehend. But intruders? Most
His lips twisted in a sneer of contempt as the narrow gap under the
door brought him familiar, hated scents. Fresh rain and the acrid
smell of ozoneStorm. Heady, sun-warmed mint and sharp lemonJean.
Salt and sulfurCyclops.
The voices faded as the trio moved away and he carefully slid the
bolt out of its catch, extinguished the hall lights, and pushed the
door open just wide enough to slip through. He paused there, the
closed door at his back, questing with eyes, ears, nose.
The space on this side was large, warehouse size, black as the bottom
of a hole. But his acute vision made out a dim jumble of crates and
boxes stacked about haphazardly, preventing any clear line of sight.
Good hunting! was the thought that came immediately to his mind. The
age-old game of predator and preyand he knew well which of the two
was Wolverine. However, he kept his claws sheathed for the time
being. Let their deadly snikt be the last thing his victim heard.
He felt the berserker frenzy surge in him and knew the danger of
that. Planning, stealth, was needed here, not the wild, brutal
rampage he yearned for. Magneto would wish to question these
interlopers. And if Wolverine feared anything it was surely not these
pitiful fools stumbling about in the dark, rather the displeasure of
Sluggish air currents confused the scents, mingling and stirring them
only when the intruders moved. No, despite the bewilderment of
echoes, sound was the best indicator of the trespassers' presence.
And now, as if he had willed it, soft, cautious steps came toward him
preceded by a narrow line of white light, groping ahead like a blind
man's cane. He glided to the nearest crate, another shadow among the
He wanted it to be the man. Let it be the man! Too well he remembered
the other's scorn, flaunted superiority, his smooth-faced smirk. Let
it be the man. From this one his claws would drink. Magneto could
have the women to interrogate. And after he was done with them,
Wolverine would have the women toofor his pleasure. But now, let it
be the man.
Stinging salt, sulfur's stink came to his nostrils. It was the man.