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SHADOW MAN--CH:13 CONFLICT 13/15

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  • razberrybullet
    Chapter 13-Conflict Wolverine shot out his claws, deliberately leaped into the beam of light so that for the last few seconds of life his victim would know the
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 22, 2002
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      Chapter 13-Conflict


      Wolverine shot out his claws, deliberately leaped into the beam of
      light so that for the last few seconds of life his victim would know
      the terror of death. Startled, the man jerked to a stop, one hand at
      his visor, then—

      "Logan! Thank God!"

      Rattled, Wolverine's attack lost it impetus. He remained crouched,
      trying to think what to do. This was not the way it was supposed to
      happen. The prey should cower, try to run, or, if bold, brace itself
      to fight. This one did not follow the time-honored pattern, instead
      approached with empty hand outheld. The predator chose to take that
      open palm as a sign of aggression and with a snarl tensed to launch
      himself.

      "Scott, look out!"

      Lemon and mint—

      Wolverine quickly shifted stance, his back secured against the crate.
      To his left the redhaired woman, to his right the man. The man was
      more a threat, so— He focused on his chosen target once again and
      released the boiling rage. From behind he dimly heard the woman's
      cry: "—not Logan anymore—a beast—"

      He sprang and something trapped him in mid-air even as a spear of
      fire lanced his left side. His howl was drowned by the woman's scream
      and the force that held him suddenly vanished, dropping him to the
      floor.

      Only a moment he lay so, stunned, the fire eating deep into his
      flesh, before he struggled to his feet. The woman stood before him.

      "I'm so sorry! I didn't mean for Scott to—"

      He threw his right arm across her throat, clamped her against his
      body, retreating with her as shield toward the tunnel door.

      "Stop, or I'll fire!"

      Wolverine laughed and it came out a growl. The man was weak; he would
      not release his burning ray if it endangered his woman. They all
      three knew it. His free hand searched behind for the door handle
      while he kept an eye on the enemy and the panel pushed open against
      his fingers. A quick look back showed him Toad, Mystique, Magneto.

      Magneto scanned the situation with a sweeping glance, regarded his
      wounded minion and his prize with pride and pleasure. "Well done!
      Quickly, now, inside. Toad, bolt the door!"

      It was accomplished as soon as ordered and then all followed Magneto,
      running down the corridor, the woman caught between Mystique and
      Toad, while Wolverine, gritting his teeth against the slow-healing
      burn in his side, played rear guard.

      How much longer before the man besieged the door? That question was
      what spurred their heels. The woman was their only assurance that
      they might all survive that attack; her presence alone granted them
      more time to escape. And so it proved—almost. They had all but
      reached the lab door when the explosion deafened them, flung them to
      the floor, and a ball of fire roared up the tunnel.

      *******

      Rogue and Fauna huddled next to the wall, not knowing where to go,
      what to do, now that the team was discovered, and so they felt the
      thick concrete at their backs suddenly shake, saw the flare of
      scalding red momentarily reveal in minute detail the stark, square
      crates surrounding them, heard the deep rumble of the blast roll
      round and round the huge room like thunder, and— Like thunder, the
      rumble was followed by rain.

      "F-fire sprinklers!" Rogue turned her face up to the chill sting of
      pelting water. Oddly, the mundane normalcy of the emergency system
      calmed her and she took Fauna's hand, pulling her along the wall
      towards the source of that sheet of flame.

      When the girls arrived, Cyclops and Storm were cupping water in their
      hands and throwing it at a glowing hole in the wall. It used to be a
      door, Rogue saw, because the handle was still there, but the middle
      was nothing but steam where the water splashed. Around the edges
      pulsed red, metal lips like the horror house mouth at the fun fair
      that swallowed the little carts filled with screaming kids.

      "Enough! Let's go!" And Cyclops sprang between the burning lips to be
      gulped down by the darkness beyond.

      Storm drew her cloak close about her and prepared to follow. Rogue
      halted her with a touch on the arm.

      "Where's Jean?"

      Storm's eyes burned white. "Logan caught her and they went off with
      Magneto!"

      "With Magneto? Not Logan!" Rogue protested.

      "I saw it myself. Just as I arrived with the keys, the door opened
      and there was Magneto, Mystique, and that horrible Toad. Logan
      dragged Jean inside and the door closed." And the lips sucked in
      Storm.

      Rogue cautiously peered inside, keeping her distance from the
      devouring mouth. "Water's on the floor in there too. Ah guess it's
      awright," she decided reluctantly.

      Fauna bent over and picked up the set of keys. "Your friend must have
      dropped these when they started wetting down the metal." She put the
      keys in her pocket and turned her back on the hole. "The raccoon's
      not about to go in there and neither am I."

      "We can't just leave them."

      "They left us!" Fauna pointed out.

      And Rogue felt the same bitterness as the other girl. We're not part
      of the team, Rogue realized. To Storm and Jean and Cyclops, Fauna and
      me are just bratty little kids taggin' along, always in the way,
      always needin' to be looked after.

      "Awright, then what?"

      "First we get out of here." Fauna was already following the
      raccoon. "And then I have an idea where Dr. Lehnsherr . . .
      Magneto . . . might be, and what we can do about it."

      Rogue thought it over and for the first time since she'd come down
      the stairs—hours ago it seemed like—she felt happy. Maybe we'll even
      end up rescuin' the big folk!

      *******

      Wolverine choked down a groan, slowly rose to hands and knees out of
      care for his seared back. The sprinklers had turned on and the burns
      weren't as bad as they could have been. On the floor where he had
      lain the woman stirred, opened her eyes. She was alright, then. He
      thought he might have suffocated her, falling on her that way.

      Magneto and Mystique had scrambled up and ducked into Wolverine's
      cell to escape the fire ball. Toad had leaped over the prisoner to do
      the same, knocking her back down into the path of danger. And
      Wolverine— Unthinking, he had thrown himself on top of the woman,
      shielding her face against the flames with his body. Her uniform and
      gloves were fireproof, but the delicate skin of her face—

      "Stupid!" he muttered—whether to himself for protecting the enemy, to
      her for getting caught, or to life in general, he didn't know. He
      wavered to his feet, stopped himself just before reaching down to
      help her up, ignored her look of gratitude and murmured thanks, and
      scowling, followed along behind to the lab.

      The heavy, vault-like door clanged shut behind him and Magneto spun
      the wheel, sending the five bolts, each as thick as Wolverine's arm,
      into steel sockets. Now the man turned from that task and smiled down
      at his prisoner seated in the chair where Toad had shoved her.

      "A relic from the Age of Paranoia," Magneto explained, gesturing at
      the door. "This room was part of the base's bomb shelter. I doubt
      your young friend's glance, destructive as it is, quite has the power
      of nuclear fission."

      "Better plan to stay in here a long time then." She returned
      Magneto's smile and began reordering her hair. "Scott is stubborn."

      Magneto frowned, displeased.

      Wolverine knew that look. Agony was born from that look. He backed
      against the door to be as far as possible from what would come next,
      grabbing the locking wheel behind him to stop the spasmodic shaking
      of his hands.

      "You will tell me Charles's plans and who else has been notified that
      I am here."

      "I don't know Professor Xavier's plans. I am merely the school
      doctor."

      Magneto laughed. "It is pointless to lie to me, Miss Grey. Charles
      has told me all about you. You were his first student. You came to
      him when you were eleven. You are like a daughter to him. And now you
      are his closest confidant. You will tell me what I want to know."

      She remained silent, unconsciously rubbing one hand over top the
      other.

      "Fine!" came the cold voice, and Wolverine's guts turn to ice. "Toad—"

      Startled, Wolverine caught his breath, released the wheel as if it
      burned him, peered narrowly at the woman. "Wait! Let me. I'll make
      her talk."

      Magneto scrutinized him, his initial surprise turning
      thoughtful. "Very well, my boy. Let us see how persuasive you can be."

      Wolverine glared down at her. "What the hell do you think you're
      doing? Why are you here?" His voice was low and tight with menace.

      She looked up, a smile trembling at the corners of her mouth. "We
      came to take you home, Logan."

      Wolverine blinked, recoiled as if he'd been struck. He was lost and
      people searched for him? Friends searched for him, wanted him? Came
      to this hell hole for him? To take him home. A shiver like an
      electric shock ran through his body and each nerve tingled. For an
      instant the lab and its occupants sprang into unnatural focus and he
      saw everything, everyone with brilliant clarity.

      "You knew he was here," Magneto now said, a statement, not a question.

      "Professor Xavier told Logan that Alkali Lake might hold some answers
      to his past."

      Magneto smiled. "He has found his past. He has relived his past,
      haven't you, my boy?"

      "Yeah . . . " Wolverine pulled himself together. "Yeah! Dumb broad,
      you wasted your time coming for me! This is where I belong. The
      Brotherhood has the right idea. Force!" His fingers dug into her arm
      and he shook her roughly. "Why should we have to hide what we are?
      We're the future! And we'll damn well fight to get our freedom. Our
      freedom, hear?"

      He shot out his claws barely an inch from her nose and saw her jerk
      back, turn pale. With a jeering laugh he resumed his post at the door
      and gripped the wheel with steady, cunning hands.
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