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Here There Be Monsters, Chapter 3 (Rating R, Pairing Ororo/Logan)

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  • Stormwolfe
    Title: Here There Be Monsters Authors: Stormwolfe and Tinhutlady E-mail: Stormwolfe@mindspring.com and
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 4, 2004
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      Title: Here There Be Monsters

      <>Authors: Stormwolfe and Tinhutlady <>

      E-mail: Stormwolfe@... <mailto:Stormwolfe@...> and
      Tinhutlady@... <mailto:Tinhutlady@...> <>

      Rating: R, story contains violence, strong language, and suggested
      sexual situations. <>

      Summary: As for a summary, let's see, we've got aliens, mutants, the
      military, and evil scientists. How on Earth are we going to peg this? I
      mean, what more could anyone ask for? (Grins) <>
      Story Notes: This story is based on the ending of the novelization of
      X-2, X-Men United. Therefore, Jean is not dead.* <>

      Notes Stormwolfe: I realize that there are many Predator and Predator VS
      Alien novels on the market. *I have not read them.* Most of the basic
      information regarding Predator was taken from the two movies. The names,
      background on his culture and society, etc. were completely fabricated
      to suit this story. <>

      Notes from Tinhutlady: I'm so glad Stormwolfe offered me the chance to
      work with her on this. It has been a blast! I love action scenarios like
      this and she really let me have a go at it. Many, many thanks to you,
      lady, and to LaDonaJ_Rose (Rabbit); you two are wonderful. <>

      Category: Crossover/Alternate Universe. The X-Men characters are
      portrayed as closely to canon as possible per the various Marvel comic
      universes, cartoons, and movies. Familiarity means that my (our) writing
      leans heavily on Movieverse and artistic license has been taken where
      needed. <>

      Disclaimer: The X-Men and the X-Men movies are the properties of Marvel
      Comics, Inc. and 20^th Century Fox Studios. Predator belongs to 20^th
      Century Fox. No copyright infringement intended in any way. <>

      Dedication from Stormwolfe: To LaDonaJ_Rose for superb beta'ing as
      always and just being a Rabbit. Wolverine6Claws (for help with a
      particular scene, thanks sugar) and X-MenLoganFan for test reading,
      input, general support, and just being friends. Last but far from least,
      Tinhutlady - for taking on this project and putting so very much into
      it! What a blessing to have such wonderful friends and writing companions.

      * *

      *Here There Be Monsters*

      *Chapter 3*

      * *

      Scott looked up from the computer screen as Jean moaned slightly. He had
      gotten her back to the mansion and checked out by Hank as quickly as
      possible. Dr. McCoy had assured him that other than being nauseous and
      possibly having a headache that she would be fine in a few hours. With
      the doctor's consent and help, he had brought her back to their room and
      gotten her settled in bed. Then he started using all his acquired
      hacking skills and every contact the Professor could think of to try to
      track their attackers. The Professor had yet to achieve any results
      using Cerebro to find Logan and Ororo. For the moment, he was resting
      before trying again.

      <>Scott had gotten a good look at the blonde woman's license plate. They
      had not been concerned enough about their identities to try to
      camouflage them. It had been a Government plate so really did not tell
      him much. Moreover, he did not expect to have much luck searching for
      the number, especially since the woman had mentioned 'National
      Security'. Scott would not let himself think hard about failure. There
      was too much at stake. Ororo was one of his best friends, a long time
      companion and confidant who had become something of an older sister
      figure to him over the years. Logan's friendship, and more
      importantly...his respect, had been hard won. It was in Scott's nature
      to set extreme value on those things that he had had to work for the
      hardest. He would not leave Logan or Ororo and the baby to suffer the
      horrors of being research subjects for the 'government'. No matter what
      it took, he would find them. <>

      Movement behind him made him turn to look at Jean. She was now sitting
      up and leaning against the headboard of the bed, her eyes red rimmed and

      "Hey, babe. Welcome back." Scott walked over and sat on the edge of the
      bed beside his wife.

      <>"I feel like hell. What happened? We were going to the store to get
      stuff for an impromptu 'baby news' celebration, right?" Jean made a very
      inadequate effort to straighten her tangled hair. <>

      "Yep. We got to the parking lot and walked into some kind of ambush.
      Someone shot you with a tranquilizing dart..." <>

      "Oh my God! Scott! Logan and Ro..." Jean had inadvertently picked up the
      rest of the story via her psychic link with her husband. She tried not
      to be invasive so it was usually a very passive link. However, Scott's
      distress was so strong it pervaded her senses via their connection. In
      the blink of an eye, the whole drama unfolded into her mind. <>

      Scott looked away, his jaw clenched with fury and humiliation at the
      memory of his helplessness in the situation. Fearless Leader indeed. For
      the first time in a long time, he felt that he had failed his team and
      his friends. Jean leaned forward to wrap her arms around him and lay her
      head against his back. He could feel the warm, sunlit presence of her in
      his mind. <>

      <We will get them back> Jean said through their link. Her mind voice was

      *- - -*

      Stryker heard the commotion in the corridor before McDaniel and Dunst
      opened the lab doors to admit the five men struggling to carry their
      very angry burden. Just inside the room, the male mutant managed to
      wrench his way out of two of the men's arms and the other three
      collapsed on top of him on the floor, holding him down with their bodies
      and carefully avoiding his hands. The metal helmet that had been on his
      head clattered on the hard linoleum floor. Still restrained and gagged,
      the subject seemed to be fairly neutralized but the men were taking no
      chances, having heard from their commanding officer that it was
      extremely lethal.

      "This will never do." Stryker lightly kicked the helmet aside and
      motioned to his lab orderlies; they began to arrange utensils quickly.
      "I should introduce myself. I am Doctor Augustus Stryker. I believe you
      knew my brother William." The mutant raised his head and his eyes
      focused solely on Stryker, much to the doctor's satisfaction. "Welcome
      to my lab. Playtime is over." Stryker pulled a small automatic pistol
      from his pocket and fired in one smooth motion. The bullet struck Weapon
      X right in the middle of the forehead and he instantly went still. <>

      "Stryker!" McDaniel was outraged. "We spend all that time and money to
      get him and you..." <>

      "Relax. He's not dead. Far from it." Stryker looked at his watch as he
      pocketed the gun. "Get him up on the table. We have about one minute to
      remove his clothes and strap him down before he wakes up. Do not remove
      the upper torso restraint. Just cut the clothing around it. Gifford,
      bring the claw restraint gloves." He turned to the only woman in the
      room. "You said you had another, a female mutant?" <>

      Dunst lifted her chin, preferring to show the good doctor that she could
      be just as ruthless. "She's on her way. We had to dart her one more time
      on the trip. Why did we need to put those helmets on them?" <>

      Stryker waived a hand. "It's precaution, really; since one of the
      mutants at the mansion is a powerful telepath, I needed to shield their
      whereabouts from him. Now that they are underground, I doubt he can find
      them. Ah." His eyes lit up when the man carrying Ororo entered the room.
      "Put her over there, please." He turned to Dunst. "Any idea what her
      mutation is?" <>

      "No." <>

      "Hmm, we should put a collar on her, just in case." He motioned and one
      of the orderlies ran to get the device. "It's a pity, really. You said
      she is pregnant?" Stryker watched her nod. "These suppression collars
      often cause miscarriages. Still, mutant fetal tissue is just the thing I
      need for my experiments with the creature's DNA." <>

      "Sir?" One of the orderlies hovered over Ororo with a pair of surgical
      shears. "Shall I remove her clothing, too?" <>

      "No. Wait until the male is awake. I want to give him something to
      watch." <>

      McDaniel shivered slightly. William, the Stryker he had worked with, had
      been a cold, calculating bastard, too, when it came to mutants. This
      younger brother, though, was a completely new ballgame. He decided to
      get his own agenda over with so he did not have to see what effect that
      would have on the male mutant. <>

      "Doctor, have you had any success with the training device for the
      alien?" McDaniel asked calmly. "I really would like to begin testing it
      with simple commands, now that its arm is healing." <>

      Stryker rubbed his hands together, evidently pleased at McDaniel's
      request. "Yes, Colonel. Here it is." He waited for the orderly to
      present the commander with a large heavy collar. "Lower the temperature
      in his cell to approximately 60 degrees and fasten this around his neck.
      Here is the remote." Stryker fished in another of his lab coat pockets
      and pulled out a small black object. "It's labeled according to
      temperature severity. Try not to break it. I only have the one remote so
      far." <>

      McDaniel surveyed the instrument and smiled. One thing about the
      Strykers, they did produce results. "Thank you, doctor. Now you can get
      back to your testing and I can begin mine." <>

      The male mutant was awake now and McDaniel turned on his heel to go,
      with Major Dunst in his wake. The muffled growls from the male as
      Stryker's men began removing the female's clothing followed them halfway
      down the hall.

      *- - -*

      Ororo shivered with cold. Sometime between being taken in the parking
      lot and waking up in this small cell, her clothes had been taken and
      replaced with a thin jumpsuit. At least the material was not horribly
      rough, she thought. Normally temperature changes did not affect her.
      Therefore, she could only assume that the thin metal band fastened
      around her neck was yet another version of a power suppression collar.
      So far, she was able to keep her claustrophobia at bay. It helped that,
      although small, the cell was brightly lit. She was also distracted by
      her concern for Logan, Jean, and Scott. Ororo knew that Logan was
      probably detained somewhere else in this facility. She could only hope
      that the people that took them had followed through with their seeming
      disinterest in Jean and Scott. Ororo had barely marshaled all these
      thoughts when she heard the distinct hiss of gas from a hidden vent. Her
      last thoughts before slumping to the floor of her cell were of her
      unborn child.

      *- - -*

      The next time Ororo awoke, she was in a different cell. She sat up
      carefully, battling dizziness and nausea. She allowed her eyes to roam
      the parameter of the cell. When her eyes noted the figure lying on the
      floor in the far corner, she let out a small cry and staggered over to
      sink down by Logan. He was clad in the same type of neutral colored
      jumpsuit as she. The bulky restraints she had seen them put on him
      during the capture were gone. She ran her eyes over him trying to
      discern any injuries but not seeing anything readily apparent. Ororo did
      note, however, that he had not been fitted with a suppression collar.
      Then she saw his hands and she bit her bottom lip hard to keep from
      crying out.

      Ororo gently lifted his left hand, the one nearest her. It was encased
      in what looked like a metal glove, minus the finger coverings. Instead,
      wide bands of metal ran between each finger. Ororo was sure they were
      designed to keep him from extending his claws. She moved his arm
      slightly so she could look for any kind of lock or release catch. Ororo
      felt sure if it had any kind of locking mechanism she would be able to
      defeat it. Many years spent as a thief had given her prodigious skills
      in the arena of lock picking. Glancing across Logan, she noted with
      dismay that blood was seeping from around where the 'glove' fitted
      around his wrist. Clenching her teeth, Ororo realized locks did not join
      the thing. She could barely discern a small raised spot in both the
      center of the palm and wrist. The device was 'locked' by two pins, one
      that ran from the top piece, through the palm and locked into the bottom
      piece, another pin ran through the wrist. The shape of the 'gloves' kept
      his hands arched at an uncomfortable looking angle and the fingers
      spread slightly.

      Moving him to the shelf that appeared to serve as a bed was out of the
      question. Ororo settled herself with her back against the wall. From
      that position, she could see the entrance to the cell. She did not know
      if she would have any chance to protect him if they came back, but she
      sure as hell would try. It took some effort, but she managed to shift
      Logan so that his head rested in her lap. Stroking his hair gently, she
      closed her eyes and mentally apologized to her Goddess for the mayhem
      she was going to cause at her first opportunity.


      *- - - *

      From a control room above the cell, Augustus Stryker monitored the two
      mutants. Cameras kept every inch of the cell in view. In addition, the
      control room was positioned so that he could see directly into the cell
      from the top or into the cell's adjoining laboratory. He wondered idly
      what the ceilings of the cell and the lab were made of that allowed for
      both the lighting and his easy view into it...he made a mental note to
      find out later. One entrance into the cell, the one across from where
      the two mutants lay, was obvious and looked out onto a brightly lit
      corridor. Another entrance, disguised into the wall at the back...in
      fact the white haired woman was leaning against it...opened directly
      into a laboratory. Stryker was quite pleased at the clever arrangement.

      "He should be waking up soon," the deep Southern voice of William
      drawled in his ear, the voice almost sibilant with pleasure and

      "Yes, we shut off the gas just before putting the woman in. He will
      regain consciousness soon," Augustus replied, rubbing the bridge of his
      nose between forefinger and thumb. He really was not in the mood for
      another argument with William regarding how they were going to proceed.
      He thought he had made it clear that he was running the operation, not
      William. Fighting a headache, he returned his attention to the pair in
      the cell.


      *- - -*

      The first thing Logan noticed as consciousness crept back in was that he
      was no longer alone. Almost as quickly, he recognized the scent. It was
      Ororo. Even with everything they had been through in the last several*
      *hours, she still smelled of forest and fresh rain with the barest hint
      of cinnamon mixed in. Logan mentally smiled. The cinnamon scent was her
      favorite cologne. It was excruciatingly expensive and she hoarded it
      like a miser. He had gotten her a new bottle for her last birthday. She
      had almost cried. The memory faded as he next became aware of a
      thundering pain in his head, centered just behind his eyes, and an
      echoing agony in both hands and wrists. Logan knew the headache would
      subside soon. His body would rapidly clear the noxious knockout gas out
      of his system.

      <>Logan tried to shift, starting to use his right arm to brace himself
      so he would not awaken Ororo. Almost immediately, he had to bite down on
      his lip to keep from crying out at the pain that shot from his hand and
      wrist up the length of his entire arm. He levered himself up rapidly in
      order to get the weight off his arm and swore as Ororo's eyes blinked
      open. <>

      "I'm sorry," he said through gritted teeth. "I didn't want to wake you." <>

      "Is alright," Ororo mumbled, still a bit disoriented with sleep.
      Suddenly her eyes widened, "Logan, your hand... it's bleeding again." <>

      Logan nodded and shifted to lean back against the wall next to her,
      keeping his shoulder brushing hers. He tilted his head back to rest
      against the wall and concentrated on willing the pain in his hands and
      wrists to go away. Guilt over their predicament consumed him. Ro did not
      deserve this. The last thing he wanted was for his previous life to
      affect the people he had come to care about. However, there seemed no
      way around it short of leaving them for good, once they got out of this
      mess. He turned his head slightly to glance at the beautiful woman
      leaning against him. In his soul, he knew there was no way in hell he
      could ever leave her and their unborn child. His future was inextricably
      bound to hers, the baby's, and their friends who had become family at
      Xavier's mansion. <>

      "Logan?" <>

      Logan looked at Ororo and she nodded at his hands, "What can we do?" <>

      He shrugged, "Don't know yet. Painful and unpleasant but not life
      threatening. They'll probably heal enough for me to deal unless I keep
      trying to move them." He paused and looked around the cell and out into
      the brightly lit corridor beyond, "For now, we've got worse problems." <>

      Indeed, as she watched, Ororo noted that fresh blood did not seem to be
      seeping from around the wristband or from under the knuckle guards of
      the 'gloves'. She absently noted that the metal gloves had the same
      highly polished, cold sheen as his claws. It made sense that they would
      use adamantium as the claw restraints. It was the one material that the
      aforementioned claws could not cut through like butter. <>

      Logan jerked his head up and Ororo heard it soon after; a soft hissing
      noise announcing more gas. Helpless to stop the flow, they could only
      wait for what would happen next.

      - - -

      McDaniel nodded as he watched the scene below him. Things were going
      smoothly with the alien. It understood he meant business with the collar
      and was beginning to behave appropriately. Over the last few hours,
      several test runs had yielded telling results and he looked forward to
      teaching it more complex commands. As he stood at the window of the
      control room overlooking the 30 x 30-foot arena below, he began to see
      all sorts of applications for the new military weapon.


      <><>Startled out of his reverie, McDaniel looked over at Dunst and
      cocked an eyebrow, then frowned and waved her to silence as his
      sat-phone rang. She nodded and waited patiently. <>

      "McDaniel here." <>

      "Mike, good to speak with you directly. My staff is wondering when we're
      getting the spacecraft?" <>

      McDaniel grimaced and made a face at Dunst. She laughed quietly
      understanding that the man on the other end was McDaniel's superior out
      of Area 51, Major General Thomas. No doubt, Thomas and his techno-geeks
      at 51 were frothing at the mouth to get their hands on the alien
      spacecraft. She listened as McDaniel assured the man on the other end of
      the line that they only needed the vehicle for another two days before
      releasing it and having it shipped to Nevada. <>

      As he clicked the off button on the phone and set it down, he indicated
      that Dunst should continue. <>

      "Permission to speak freely, sir?" <>

      He frowned, "I've always encouraged my subordinates to tell me what's on
      their minds, Major. Why ask now?" <>

      She looked down and watched as the alien was held at bay with
      temperature while the blood and gore that once was a dog was mopped up.
      "Sir, you don't seem to have a problem with testing animals on that
      'thing' below. Why were you so anxious to get out of Stryker's lab? In
      fact, I haven't seen you go in there since we got the collar and he got
      the mutants." <>

      "You weren't around for the last Stryker so I suppose you don't know
      what is done to them in those labs." He shrugged his shoulders. "Animals
      and aliens are one thing. These mutants look...human. I suppose I'm
      showing my age when I say that I prefer to kill the enemy quickly. I
      don't go in for psychological torture - or even prolonged physical
      torture just for the sake of torturing something - and that's what
      Stryker will be doing to them, especially the male. That woman, she was
      almost normal. Now I wouldn't hesitate to pull a trigger and kill her,
      Dunst, so don't get me wrong; she represents the extinction of our
      species. But I don't think I could do what our good doctor is going to
      do to her and still be able to sleep at night." <>

      He looked back down into the arena and watched the alien prowl around,
      testing the walls yet again. "That thing down there is different; it's
      an animal and we can train it as we please. Even Stryker said he didn't
      think it was capable of creating the sophisticated weaponry in that
      craft we took down. He thinks this species stole it from another so it
      could hunt here. It does nothing but kill, so we're having it kill for
      us instead of for itself. It shouldn't bother the creature that much as
      it still gets to do what it likes to do." McDaniel turned back to Dunst.
      "Understand the difference?" <>
      She nodded. "Yes, sir. I agree. Sir, we're going to need to test the
      alien on a human target soon. Since Stryker now has controls on the male
      mutant so he can do his experiments, I don't see why we can't put the
      female in here. He said the fetus would probably abort anyway and that
      the female is generally useless to him since he had to collar her. Maybe
      we could give her a mercifully quick death and test the alien with a
      human-like subject at the same time." <>

      McDaniel sighed. He had been thinking the same thing. It would be more
      merciful to put the female out of her misery and the alien was certainly
      quick to take out anything put against it. He could still picture the
      lovely hair and skin of the mutant; there was a danger in keeping
      something that human looking, that beautiful, here with all the men
      around. She should be dealt with, but in a more humane method than
      Stryker would use. Yes, he needed a human-like test subject and she
      would do nicely; it would be doing her a favor in the end. He nodded to
      himself even as he spoke. <>

      "We'll test it with a few more dogs first and then go and get her for a
      follow up. Make sure she is not wearing anything remotely military. I
      don't want to give that thing any ideas."

      * - - -*

      Jean Grey sat cross-legged in the center of the king-sized bed in the
      suite she shared with her husband. The television was on in the
      background as Scott half-watched a news program. At the same time, he
      was staring at his computer screen - ever looking for some clue on how
      to find their missing friends. Jean had been casting a telepathic 'net'
      every hour trying to catch something that would help them or give them a
      clue of where to start. Far below, Professor Xavier had rarely left
      Cerebro long enough to eat or sleep. He was pushing himself into
      exhaustion but would not stop. After all, Ororo was one of his first
      'kids' and he still felt an overwhelming amount of guilt that he had not
      been there for Logan sooner. That Wolverine had had to endure a living
      hell for so long weighed heavily on Xavier.
      "....and world renowned Geneticist, Dr. Augustus Stryker, has relocated
      to the United States, following in his late brother's footsteps...."<>

      <>"Scott!" Jean's attention was suddenly riveted on the television
      screen. "TIVO that back to the beginning of that story."

      <>Scott obligingly picked up the remote and ran the news program back
      until Jean told him to stop. They both watched the story with intense
      interest. As it ended, Scott looked at his lovely wife with a raised
      eyebrow, "You aren't thinking there were two of them, are you?" <>

      Jean pushed her heavy red hair back and pulled her laptop in front of
      her, "That's exactly what I'm thinking. Late brother? Geneticist. Come
      on, Scott. How many mutant-hating Strykers can there be? Realistically." <>

      They both turned to their computers and worked in silence for several
      minutes. Scott was beginning to think this lead would once again bear no
      fruit when his web browser downloaded the page from his latest search.
      He took a deep breath and called Jean over. Together they perused the
      web page and all its associated links. Both felt sick to their stomachs
      at the implications in the information they had come across. <>

      Scott sat back, "I'll take this to Charles. Maybe now he can pull out
      some of the big guns and get us some kind of trace on this guy." <>

      Jean nodded, tears glistening in her emerald eyes, "IF even a fraction
      of that one news article is true....." <>

      Scott shuddered as he thought of the report done by an 'undercover'
      journalist regarding a prison in England that Augustus Stryker had been
      allegedly associated with. The atrocities outlined in the article were
      sickening and only served to heighten Scott's fear for his friends. He
      looked up to see Jean staring out the window with tears running freely
      down her face. Ororo and Jean's relationship could not be described
      simply as 'best friends'. They had the same kind of bond one usually
      associated with close sisters. There was a great deal of love and
      respect between the two women though their interests and a majority of
      their personal beliefs were radically different. In addition, Jean's
      earlier tempestuous feelings toward the Wolverine had settled into a
      strong, firm friendship. Scott smiled. His wife was not the delicate and
      fragile personality most people assumed. Now that she had a tangible
      lead, God help this Augustus Stryker if he were involved in Logan and
      Ororo's disappearance.

      *- - - *

      Ororo was not sure whether hours or days had passed but a regular
      pattern was beginning to emerge now that she thought back on it. They
      would gas the room, take Logan away, gas the room, and bring Logan back.
      When he awoke and began to move around, the gassing would begin again.
      Actually, during the first two or three times Logan had disappeared,
      another gas would seep into the room, an acrid-smelling substance that
      had burned her lungs and made her cry out in pain. As soon as she
      slumped to the floor coughing and gagging, a fan would blow and suck the
      poison from the room. She had not been sure why they were threatening to
      kill her and then letting her live, but after the first few incidences,
      they seemed to tire of the game.

      <>Each time Logan had come back, they had left a small tray of food,
      barely enough for her to eat, let alone feed both of them. Taking only
      what she needed, Ororo had left the rest for Logan, but, by the time he
      started to move around and show interest in the food, they would take
      him and the tray away before he could eat. Several times she had tried
      to speak to him, tell him how they would make it through this, but he
      would weakly raise a bloody finger to her lips and she would fall
      silent. <>

      Tears in her eyes, she had tried to wipe away the blood from his badly
      abused hands but he had pulled them gently away. In fact, the more times
      he disappeared, the more he pulled away completely until even touching
      him as he lay semi-conscious would cause him to automatically jerk away
      from her loving fingertips. She had realized after the first
      disappearance that they were abusing him; his haunted eyes told her what
      he would not say aloud and she cried inside, knowing there was nothing
      she could do to protect him. While he was gone, she took to cradling her
      arms around herself and rocking in a seated position. Logan was drawing
      away from her and she desperately needed the healing power of touch now
      so she had tried to give it to herself. <>

      The last two times he had returned, Logan was so pale and drawn she knew
      whatever they were doing was slowly killing him. He would retch and
      nothing would come up, not even spit. Barely able to crawl, he had tried
      to move near her. It seemed that, although he refused her hands on his
      skin, he still needed to see her, smell her, and know she was safe. It
      was small comfort to her. She had wanted to wipe away the blood that
      smeared his face and neck but he had shaken his head; he had not let her
      look under the jumpsuit either. She had grown frustrated at the wall of
      silence he was building and her heart sank at the thought of him
      becoming so distant from her. <>

      Normally it took him a shorter amount of time to recover from the gas
      than it did her. Now it was taking him longer and longer just to move
      from where they were dumping him on the hard floor. This last time, she
      had been able to stroke his hair for a long moment, watching his chest
      work hard for even the tiniest bit of air, praying to the Goddess that
      each time his breath expelled, it would not be for the last time. She
      needed him; she loved him. Strange how such a situation drove home the
      fact that she had grown to care for him more deeply than she ever had
      for Kurt. This was a love she had not even realized was forming and now
      it was being taken away right before her eyes. Her heart had clenched at
      the thought of losing him. His warm eyes and touch had meant so much
      that night. She had blinked back tears trying to remember what it felt
      like to kiss him and hold him. Her fingers had trembled their way
      through his blood-encrusted hair as her mind replayed that loving night
      of passion. It seemed so far away now, as if from a different life. <>

      She had expected the gassing again. Logan had begun to twitch at her
      touch and she knew his healing factor was bringing him around. Although
      she had tried to gently hold him down and allow him some rest, he had
      struggled to lift his head and look around for her. The second he did
      that, the hissing noises started again. She had cried out and flung
      herself on him as if to protect him from their abuse. In her ear she had
      faintly heard the words "I love you, Ororo" before the darkness took
      her. She awakened alone. <>

      In turmoil now, thinking over what had been happening; she paced the
      floor of the cell. Every now and then she looked up at the reflective
      ceiling tiles that let light through from the other side but showed her
      nothing in return. They were watching. They had to be. They always knew
      when Logan recovered. His words haunted her. Were they the last ones she
      would hear him say? Would they finally find a way to kill him? Take him
      from her? <>

      A metallic click sounded behind her and she spun around, fists up and
      ready for anything. The wall of the cell opposite the door was slowly
      opening, revealing a completely different side of the complex from the
      concrete cells she had seen so far.

      *- - - *

      It burned. K'Ha'Lon-Ka knew the device contained some kind of
      refrigerant to bring his temperature down quickly but he could not
      remove it. The metal encasement would not give. It burned with cold and
      made him feel weak for the first time in his life. No matter what kind
      of force he tried, it would not break. Still it burned with a coldness
      that seemed to freeze his skin, seemed to freeze his brain to a numbness
      that scared him. He had never known this kind of fear before and was
      beginning to wonder now if he would survive this planet and see his
      beloved again.

      Nothing like this thing existed on his planet; punishment like this was
      never used. Those who broke the law were allowed a challenge or accepted
      their atonement. This went beyond punishment; it was torture and was not
      considered honorable. A hunter never tortured his prey like this. A
      quick kill was homage to the prey hunted. If prey proved itself worthy,
      it was allowed a challenge, a face-to-face battle with the hunter. He
      was not given this opportunity. All they offered him were beasts without

      <>K'Ha'Lon-Ka knew what they wanted: they wanted him to kill for them;
      they were trying to train him to kill what they wanted. He shook his
      head in disbelief. Not only were they dishonorable, they were monsters.
      There was no honor here, no fight in their dead hearts, and no bravery
      in their blood. They had taken his ship. They had taken his freedom. <>

      They had taken his armor. They had just now taken more of his blood. His
      eyes looked up into the red mass of heat from the lights in the room
      above him and they burned with hatred. These monsters tortured him and
      wanted death in return. Well, he would give it to them. The next human
      to enter this round room would die, no matter what it took. He hoped he
      would have a chance to get the Quiet One before they took him down with
      the device again.

      *- - - *

      Once the wall was fully open, Ororo realized she was gripping her fists
      so tightly she had drawn blood. Three soldiers, stationed behind the
      wall, were now aiming their weapons at her.

      "This way," one of them ordered, as if she were nothing more than a dog.

      Chin up, she decided to take advantage of the situation and learn all
      she could while away from the cell. With all the dignity in her, she
      strode past the other two men and followed the one who had spoken,
      ignoring the assault rifles pointed at her as she moved. She knew she
      might be able to take them but there was another life within her that
      she had to think about now and 'might' was not good enough anymore.

      The room was much larger than she had supposed but she was given little
      time to look around as she was led to an examination table. Still in
      that tone of voice that considered her nothing more than an animal, she
      was instructed to sit upon the table. The whiteness and brightness of
      the place was startling and her eyes took a moment to adjust. It was a
      laboratory. Clean and stark in appearance, it nevertheless felt dirty to
      her as she watched the furtive glances of the three men and understood
      what they wanted to do with her. Her eyes grew cold; they grinned at
      first, and then turned away as her gaze continued to bore through them.

      There was a muffled undertone of voices and she realized there were more
      men in the room. Partially concealed by a hospital style curtain
      suspended from the ceiling, she counted several pairs of paper booties
      normally worn in an operating room just visible below the hem of the
      white cloth. One man stepped from behind the curtain and tore off
      bloodstained surgical gloves before picking up a phone and pressing a
      button. He pulled down his surgical mask in order to speak more clearly.

      "We're just about done taking out what you asked for, sir. Any last
      additions?" There was a pause, "Yes, sir. Will do."

      He hung up and poked his head around the curtain, "He says he needs the
      thyroid again and the prostate this time." Turning back around, the man
      was going to strip off his gown when he spotted Ororo watching him.
      "Good. Thanks for bringing it in. I'll take care of it." He picked up a
      tray on a nearby table and carried it over to a table nearer Ororo.

      When she noticed the syringes and the catheter tube, it dawned on her
      that they wanted her blood and urine.

      She frowned, "You don't need that. I can urinate in a small cup for you."

      No one said anything to her. Ororo gathered from this that they did not
      want her to speak but she noticed a cup was placed beside her on the
      examination table after they had taken several vials of blood from her.
      At least they wanted to make this as easy for them as she did for
      herself. When she finished and set it on the table, she noticed that the
      surgical man and the three soldiers were raking her over with their
      eyes. Long comfortable with her own body, this did not bother her as
      much as they hoped it would and she put the clothing back on without
      haste, climbing back up on the table afterwards.

      "Okay, that's pretty much it for now, then," said another man as he
      walked from behind the screen and inadvertently pulled the curtain with

      <>The sight rooted Ororo in place on the table. Several men hovered over
      an operating table, shoulder to shoulder. Occasionally one would hand
      something bloody and indescribable to another man waiting behind him
      with a cooler for the object. They reminded her of vultures, picking the
      prey beneath them clean with their sharp beaks. Then she spotted the far
      end of the table. Two feet, two very familiar feet, were just visible
      out from under the pack of surgeons and her mind began to reel with the
      possibility of what they were doing. One of the feet twitched in a spasm
      and she felt hot tears fall from her eyes. Oh, Goddess! They were taking
      his organs! They were ripping Logan apart from the inside. <>

      She lurched forward off the table, cheeks flushed with anger and horror
      as she moved to strike down the men, but a cruel blow smashed against
      the side of her head and she fell to the floor, stunned. One of the
      soldiers had struck her but it was the surgeon who was now on top of
      her, wrenching her chin up so she could look at the table where Logan
      lay. <>

      "Do that again and we'll take out his heart." His hot breath seared her
      skin as his menacing voice continued, "I need to get you back to that
      cell, bitch, and I don't want any problems. If you're not back in there
      in the next few minutes, he won't see you on the monitor when he comes
      to. If he can't see you, he'll fight and I prefer to take the bastard
      apart when he's not fighting, got me?" <>

      She blinked. Suspended over the operating table, right above where
      Logan's head would be, was a monitor that showed the cell she had been
      in. So, that was it. She had been gassed at first to show Logan they
      could kill her if he did not cooperate. He had let them cut him open so
      she would be safe. No anesthesia, no compassion, they had simply hung
      her life over his head in order to make him obey and allow them do their
      worst to him. She forced herself to nod and the surgical man pulled her
      up and off the icy floor. She stumbled when he pushed her toward the
      opening to the cell. <>

      "Put it back. We have what we need from it." <>

      Monsters, she thought numbly, they were nothing but monsters. The wall
      closed behind her before the reality of the situation sunk in. She
      turned and smashed her fists against it, enraged at what they were
      doing. Anger blinded her vision and she shook with it, desperately
      wanting to rip them apart as they were doing to Logan. She tore at the
      collar around her neck and her palms left it slick with blood from her
      earlier wounds. Finally, exhausted, she leaned against the wall and
      waited for the next horror to unfold. <>

      The door behind her opened suddenly and she flew at the nearest man that

      A fight ensued and she gave as good as she got for a moment before lack
      of food and exhaustion gave them the edge over her they needed. Bruised
      and battered, she was led away, locked in the arms of two huge soldiers
      on either side of her.

      <>A sudden pain made her gasp and double over slightly and they jerked
      her upright and off her feet. A chill crawled up her spine; had she hurt
      the baby by fighting? Was it just a muscle spasm? She tried to focus on
      the sensation but it left as quickly as it had come. She had looked
      forward to having the baby, to Logan entering a new part of her life;
      now her world was slowly falling apart. Dimly she wondered what kind of
      torture she was headed for now and if they would cut out Logan's heart
      for what she had just done.

      *- - -*

      Scott wanted to roar or break something as the Professor put the
      receiver of the telephone back in its cradle, shaking his head at Scott
      as he did so. Yet another dead end in their search for Logan and Ororo.
      Scott exploded out of his chair and stalked over to the window that
      looked out upon the estate's pristine front and side lawn. It had been
      two days since the attack at the grocery store. Scott and Jean thought
      they were onto something when they had stumbled across the existence of
      Augustus Stryker. However, nothing else had been forthcoming on the man.

      Scott was sleeping less and less. Repeatedly he read the article that
      they had found on the internet. He tormented himself with the images the
      article invoked of gruesome experimentation on 'lifers' at the prison
      that Stryker had been associated with on a 'research project'. When he
      would finally sleep, he would awaken suddenly, hearing his friends'
      agonized screams in his mind.

      <>Scott looked back at the desk as the Professor's phone rang again. A
      forlorn voice caught his attention, "Cott, step up?" <>

      Scott smiled and walked over to the large, elaborate bird play stand
      that had been moved into Charles' office. A large, beautiful Blue and
      Gold Macaw parrot stood on the top 'branch' with one foot up...pleading
      for Scott to pick him up. The bird belonged to Logan. The Professor had
      had Scott move the bird to his 'temporary' cage that was in the smaller
      of the sunrooms near the back of the mansion. Most of the parrot's days
      were spent on the play stand in the office. <>

      Scott extended his arm, "Step up, Featherbutt." The bird's actual name
      was Gryphon but almost everyone referred to him by the nickname Logan
      had given him. <>

      Gryphon rested his large, rather intimidating beak on Scott's forearm
      briefly, merely checking to make sure his new 'perch' was not going to
      move suddenly. Then he stepped onto his arm and immediately leaned
      against his chest, silently begging to be petted, and scritched. Scott
      cuddled the bird closer and gently ran his free hand up under the bird's
      wings. Gryphon seemed to sigh and tucked his head against Scott while
      enjoying the attention. <>

      Scott tuned out the Professor's voice as he spoke with yet another of
      his mysterious contacts on the telephone. For the moment, he devoted his
      attention to the parrot that was now cuddled down comfortably in his
      arms. Gryphon lifted his wings slightly so that Scott could continue to
      rub the wing muscles underneath. Both he and the bird were startled when
      the door to the office flew open and Jean came in. <>

      She stopped by the Professor's desk, tapping her foot impatiently. Today
      she was clad in blue jeans, white Keds and one of Scott's old dress
      shirts. Her hair was tied up in a ponytail and her glasses sat
      precariously on the bridge of her nose. Scott thought she had never
      looked more beautiful. <>

      Charles spoke for a few more moments and put the phone down with a sigh.
      Jean moved around his desk and clicked on his e-mail program. Her eyes
      shone with excitement. <>

      "I found a forwarding address. Not too far from here. In Maine." <>

      Scott came over to watch the information Jean had ferreted out download
      onto the monitor. Even Gryphon tried to watch what was happening; having
      picked up on Jean's heightened emotions. He squawked excitedly, "Wanna
      nut." <>

      Absently the Professor reached into his top desk drawer, took out an
      almond in the shell, and handed it to the bird. As soon as the
      information was downloaded and clear, the Professor hit 'print' and then
      switched to a GPS program. In moments, he and Scott had decided on a
      landing area for the Blackbird. Jean had disappeared to suit up and
      ready the jet. Scott left the Professor to call the other members of the
      team. He returned the macaw to the play stand with a last gentle rub
      down the bird's brilliant blue wings. <>

      "We'll have your dad home in no time, Gryphon." Scott assured the bird
      before quickly exiting the office.

      *- - - *

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