X-Men: Special Threats, Issue Two

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X-Men: Special Threats, Issue Two

Post  AndyWright on Sun Jul 08, 2012 12:58 am

X-Men: Special Threats
Issue Two

The metal arm of the Valkyrie android flew up to block the gloved spear-hand-thrust from its hooded commander, the woman named Six. The woman with every square inch of her body covered by clothing.

Six thrust her other hand forward, palm upward, as if aiming to drive it into the metal abdomen like a spade into earth. The Valkyrie shot its arm downward, grabbing the attacking hand by the wrist to stop it less than an inch from its target.

The two froze, the Valkyrie struggling to hold back the striking hand. The commander was still pushing forward, as if testing the strength of the android.

The commander swung her other arm across and slapped the face of the Valkyrie. The Valkyrie seemed to go limp for just a split second.

The commander threw two punches to the Valkyrie’s face in that moment and then jumped up to throw her boot straight into the android’s chest.

It stumbled backward, lost its footing, and fell on its rear end with a clank.

Six brushed off the sleeves of her long, gray jacket. “We have a long way to go.”

The Valkyrie rose to its feet and bowed to Six. It spoke in a distorted voice. “Your attacks did not make sense.”

“That’s because you’re thinking too concretely.” She paused as Chief Fox came down the stairs into the featureless, concrete hall. He flipped a switch, turning on the rest of the lights and revealing dozens of other Valkyries, all currently still and lifeless, lining two opposite walls.

“Sir.” Six removed her hood, revealing her thick blond hair, cut just longer than shoulder length and the white, simple mask covering her face. It looked like it was from an unpainted porcelain doll, except for the two holes cut out for her eyes.

Fox nodded to Six. “Xavier is in Japan.”

“Yes sir.”

Fox gestured at the Valkyrie. “This is one of the two that survived?”

Both Six and the Valkyrie nodded. Six answered, “She took Wolverine’s claws to the face.”

Fox chuckled as he walked slowly around the Valkyrie, inspecting the thin, fitted plates of metal on the neck and a cheek, replacing those that had been torn by adamantium claws. They were a slightly different shade of gunmetal than the rest. “That had to hurt. How long did it take the X-Men to escape?”

Six’s posture slumped. “Not long.”

Fox frowned, pausing while looking right at the eyes of the Valkyrie. He took in a breath. “Do you have a name?”

The Valkyrie kept its head and eyes straight forward. “No.”

Fox looked at Six. “She survived an attack by one of the most legendary fighters in the world. I’d say she deserves a name.”

“Yes sir. I agree sir.”

He walked away from them, heading toward one of the ranks of inanimate Valkyries. He looked down the line of them, inspecting them carefully.

Six’s voice was somewhat uneasy. “I’ve been giving this one specialized training. I’m hoping to download more comprehensive combat skill from it into the others. Hopefully to avoid any more quick defeats like this last time.”

“We accounted for every contingency. Any member of the X-Men that would have been there. Every ability they could have displayed. What was different?” Fox smiled at her. “It couldn’t have just been a lack of comprehensive combat skills.”

Six shook her head. “No. It was a girl.”

“A girl?”

* * *

“Illyana. We’re here!”

Blue eyes slowly opened to find the Blackbird silent and nearly emptied of the crowded mass of people. Illyana suddenly found herself shivering. The air was extremely cold. Her eyes immediately moved to the door, seeing brilliant white light. She heard calm voices talking outside. “Where are we?”

That almost annoyingly-cheery German accent answered her with enthusiasm: “Hokkaido, Japan! Beautiful, but very, very cold. Here.”

Kurt handed her a rough blanket that she quickly wrapped around herself. He gestured for her to come out of the jet.

Her eyes first shut as she stepped out of the jet amongst a dozen or so of the students huddled together, a cold wind blowing snow hard against their faces for a few seconds.

Then the wind faded, and her eyes went wide.

They were at the timberline of a tall peak. All around were other sharp peaks, their roots darkened with thick forests. A couple hundred meters uphill was a huge stronghold built right into the mountain. The three story, dark-gray stone structure stood out starkly against the white snow. The levels went up in terraces, with the swooping roofs of traditional Japanese architecture bordering each. The top roof was level with the mountain slope behind it. Stubby pine trees lined the front yard, which looked recently swept clear of snow.

There was one male figure, dressed all in white, standing on the yard, looking out at the group clustered around the Blackbird. Illyana looked closer, and saw figures stationed on different spots of the roof, dressed in black, holding large rifles.

Kurt led the group in a quick jog across the white threshold toward the fortress.

* * *

It wasn’t much warmer inside. Kurt rubbed his skinny, blue arms briskly as he shut the door behind them, he and Illyana the last to enter the ancient-looking place. Shutting the door also left it very dark, since all the windows were shuttered and a few lanterns were the only things casting light.

The floor was stone, but some of the walls were hardwood. Everything was dark, but it didn’t look neglected.

Illyana almost jumped back as a wild-haired figure stepped out of the inky darkness into the light. Wolverine nodded to her. “Nice work back there, kid. Magik, right?”

“Not anymore.”

He frowned. “Colossus’s sister? The red hair is throwing me off.”

She nodded.

Wolverine squinted one eye and pointed at Kurt. “Why’re you having Elf here teleporting you around? I thought you make your own little teleportation disks things. Like in that video game with the creepy computer.”

“I have to explain it to everyone,” she mumbled before taking in a breath. “I can’t do that anymore. I can’t do any of my old abilities anymore. Now I can reform metal objects as soon as I touch them.”

He chewed on his lower lip a moment, then his eyebrows went up. “Okay. Anyway, we should all get down below with the first group. Damn cold up here.”

“Down below?” It was Sarah, huddled in a corner, shivering worse than anyone else. “The floor is solid rock.”

Instead of answering, Logan walked over and slammed his fist against a wooden plank on the wall.

A ways into the darkness, the floor began to sink downward, light shining up from below. It formed a ramp leading underground.

Logan walked to the top of the ramp. “Let’s go.”

* * *

Logan shivered as he took off his heavy coat. “This was an old research facility set up jointly between the Japanese and American governments back during the Cold War.”

Illyana followed Kurt as he walked with Logan down narrow hallways carved into the stone, lit by a string of lights tacked to the ceiling. The rest of the students were back in an old cafeteria area, eating MREs, as Wolverine had called the strange meals compressed into brown plastic bags.

Logan sighed as he looked at the ceiling. They passed many doors on the left and right, locked, rust around the hinges and latches. “They were designing bioweapons and delivery methods here. Kind of like the Cuban Missile Crisis in reverse, except that no one ever found out about this place.”

They entered a slightly larger space, ancient computers and machinery along one wall, advanced computers and huge flat screens against the other. Xavier was sitting along the back wall. Scott Summers was standing in the center with Storm.

Logan and Scott nodded to each other.

Kurt’s voice was slow. “Why come here? I don’t understand.”

Xavier smiled. “To redeem it. I have a lot of work to do. A lot of it would no longer be safe to do back in the States. Too many people watching. Too little privacy.”

Kurt’s eyes went wide. “It has something to do with the Decimation doesn’t it! You want to find a way to get the rest of the mutants their powers back.”

A chill went down Illyana’s spine. She looked at Xavier, who was looking at the floor.

“That’s part of it. I have other motivations as well, but I’ve yet to share them with anyone.”

“I thought you came out here to form some sort of international awareness group for human equality.”

Everyone turned around to see Sarah standing there in the entrance to the room. Illyana squinted an eye at her, wondering why she had followed them. Sarah looked both shy and fearless, being stared at by some of the world’s most powerful and influential individuals. Her tone was timid, but her voice came through clear and her posture was tall.

Xavier’s eyebrows lowered over his eyes. “Sarah Echaves. You’re not a telepath, are you?”

She shook her head. “I don’t have any mutant powers at all, actually.”

Xavier’s tone was very serious, but Illyana knew him well enough to know he was in teacher-mode. “Even if that wasn’t on my mind, it would definitely be worth pursuing. Do you have any ideas for how--”

“Xavier.” Logan was gesturing toward the hall. Three people were walking toward them. The man in lead was wearing all white. Illyana figured he was the man that had been outside in front of the facility earlier. He was also wearing sunglasses, which seemed odd. Following him was a woman and a young man in light riot armor, carrying a P90 submachine gun.

Xavier smiled at Sarah. He whispered, “We’ll talk later.”

“Logan!” The man in the sunglasses, with a bellowing Japanese accent, shook his head. The deepness of his voice didn’t match the apparent frailness of his figure. “Good to see you again.”

“Takahashi.” Logan gave the man a sudden, short bow, which the man returned. Logan then turned to the group and introduced them to the man. He got through everyone, until frowning and mumbling when getting to Sarah. “This is, uh.”

Kochira wa, Echaves de gozaimasu.” Sarah said, pointing at herself and bowing to the man.

The eyes of the woman standing behind the man went wide, and she smiled big and rattled off quickly in Japanese. Sarah’s face turned red as she stumbled through trying to respond to the questions.

The man, Takahashi, sighed and smiled at Logan. “You know my wife, Kiko.”

“Yeah.” Logan shook his head and turned to her. “I wish I could have come back before your grandfather passed. Miss that old tinkerer, even if he was a nut job.”

Kiko bowed, or nodded. It was hard to tell which. Her English was slow and rhythmic. “My husband carries many of the same traits, except that his work is not tainted by the purposes of war.”

Takahashi nodded, his eyes squinting. He was looking at Xavier. “Any help you need, sir. It is yours. I have connections in the government that will keep you secret, safe, and adequately supplied.”

“We could use a break from being under a microscope.” Ororo folded her arms. “Mutants have always dealt with distrust, but since they decided to start treating anyone with extra-human abilities like they were potential criminals--”

“Or weapons.” Scott added.

“Yes.” Ororo looked at him, then back at Takahashi. “And honestly, I don’t think Steve Rodgers helped things much by starting that ridiculous conflict.”

There was a long silence, with people exchanging smiles and nodding to each other. Scott clapped his hands together and was about to say something, but then Takahashi’s deep voice came first. “I had hoped all that superhuman registration nonsense would awaken people to the childishness of their bigotry.”

“It has.”

For the second time, Sarah was able to grab everyone’s attention and make herself look very uncomfortable, despite her boldness.

Takahashi frowned. “Has it? Many nations are seeking to imitate America by implementing their own registration processes, despite condemnation by the UN of such policies. There are passionate proponents of such measures even the Japanese government.”

She nodded. “Well, not everyone has figured it out yet. I mean, anyone with superhuman abilities is a danger to everyone’s safety? Where do you draw the line? It’s stupid. In high school I would get beat up because I made everyone else in my swim team look slow. Just because I’m a really, really good swimmer. No X-gene. No cosmic energy. Just big hips and strong lungs.”

“That,” Xavier folded his hands in his lap. “Is exactly why I opened my doors to anyone who wanted refuge from the registration act. It opened up prejudice toward any variety of unusualness that small, petty minds could possibly invent. There is no line anymore. It gives people a legal right to hate and fear anyone who’s different.”

Scott let out a dry chuckle. “I hadn’t thought of it that way. I’m surprised more non-mutants didn’t come to the mansion.”

“It’s really scary!” Sarah said, her eyes growing huge as she looked up at Scott’s visor-covered face. “It’s the home of the X-Men! Most people I know think you guys are awesome, but not everybody. I’m from Southern California. Minorities standing up for themselves are the norm there. Not everywhere. It literally took me four months to work up the courage to come. I was sure you guys would send me home anyway. I wanted to run away the first three days I was there. If Illyana hadn’t reached out to me I probably would have.”

Illyana frowned, but quickly put the expression away. She had no memory of doing any such thing. She had simply put up with Sarah’s endless barrage of questions and rambling as best she could.

Sarah looked around, at all of them, her voice shaking a little. “This is important. And, I’m scared to death. Really, like, freaking terrified. But I don’t want to be anywhere else right now.”


* * *

“We’re not running and hiding.”

Mutants, regular folks, and everything in-between were crowded around the cafeteria, listening to Summers. He was sitting on a table, looking out at the sea of refugees that had joined on for this.

He nodded. “Though, it sure feels like that, I admit that. But right now is an important, delicate time. We need to be ready and we need to be strong. We’ll continue classes like normal, as best we can. It’ll help us focus.”

Logan was getting bored already. They were running and hiding, and it had been Logan’s idea to do so. He wasn’t proud of it.

After a few more minutes listening to Summers ramble on, he got up, mumbling something about needing to do something.

Logan went up a steep, metal, spiral staircase that led to a hatch opening up to the top roof of the facility. As he opened the hatch to step out, he regretted not grabbing a coat. It was very bright and the sun was warm on his skin, though.

He paced a ways on the roof, looking down at the courtyard out front with its little trees, then turned toward the mountain. He walked over and hopped over the short wall surrounding the roof to the slanting surface of the mountain. He hiked upward, snow soaking the cuffs of his pants when he’d step and sink into an area where the snow was deeper than expected.

Scott’s speech echoed in his mind: Be ready and stay strong. Xavier’s allies had diminished in their potency by droves since the Decimation, since Magneto’s PTSD daughter lost her mind and took away the powers of all but a handful of mutants. Granted, that left many of Xavier’s enemies without abilities as well, but that hardly mattered with world governments pouring billions of dollars into weapons and tech designed to level the playing field between humans and “superhumans.”

Logan didn’t feel “super.” He felt old and tired.

“Didn’t like my speech?”

Logan turned around to see Summers coming up behind him, a grin on his face. Logan hadn’t realized how far he’d climbed already. The roof of the facility was already a few hundred meters behind and below him. He shrugged as Summers caught up and walked alongside him.

“I thought coming here would relax me.”

Summers kept smiling. “It is beautiful. I’m relaxed, but that could be because I finally get some freedom from Emma.”

“I thought you and Frost were getting along fine.”

Summers shook his head. “Yeah. Anyway, how exactly did you know about this place?”

“I didn’t. I knew Kiko’s grandfather. He was a mechanical engineer working here in the seventies, but before that he taught Judo in Aomori. I hired him to train me up a bit. A few months ago, Kiko sent me an email, saying she heard about all the trouble we were having, and that if anyone from the school needed a place to get away, she had some connections.”

* * *

Illyana was standing on the roof of the facility, watching Logan and Scott talk about a quarter mile up the hill from her. It was strange to see them so social, but the happenings of the last few years had probably affected them strongly. They had her, at least.

One of the things Sarah had said stuck out in her mind: that she was terrified to be here, but wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Illyana realized she felt very similar, except that she felt uncomfortable and anxious everywhere.

Curious what the two of them were talking about, she considered running up to join them. The hatch behind her opened and Mr. Takahashi climbed out, smiling at her.

She nodded to him. “Hey.”

He nodded/bowed back. “I did not expect you to be here.”

“Why?” she turned just her eyes toward him, the rest of her still facing uphill toward Scott and Logan.

“I’m a bit of a fan, of the infamous sorceress Magik! Though I hear your abilities have changed as of late.”

“A fan.” She smiled. “Right. Of a half-demonized, half-crazed little girl.”

“You’re a young woman now. What do you call yourself now that you no longer go by Magik?”

She frowned, taken back by his intensity and by the fact that word had gotten around that she’d abandoned her old call-sign. Of course, she had made a big deal out of it to Logan. “I call myself Illyana. The name my mother gave me.”

He nodded. “I heard you can change metal. Xavier believes you can potentially do far more than you even believe you can. Perhaps you should call yourself Alchemy.”

She looked up the hill at Scott and Logan again. “Whatever.”

He took a step closer to her. It made her slightly uncomfortable. He was the same height as her, but cast a very intimidating presence. It could be his voice, the booming power behind it. “I know what it feels like to have demons in the past that haunt you.”

“Good for you.”

He came even closer. He was now standing somewhat in front of her, looking at her eyes. “You have gone through incredible pain.”

She didn’t answer. He lifted up a hand and very lightly brushed the back of a finger against a scar on her neck.

She reached up and grabbed the finger, twisting it around to force him to bend over and go to a knee. She looked down at him, right in the eyes.

She was about to tell him to not touch her, but the hatch opened again. She let go of his hand and walked away as Takahashi’s wife came up onto the roof. He brushed off his knees and turned to Kiko. She wore the same big smile she’d had on earlier.

Illyana mumbled as she felt a cold wind wash off the emotional rise from her little moment with Takahashi. “When did the roof become a hang-out spot?”

“Masaaki.” Kiko Takahashi came over to her husband and spoke to him silently. Illyana found herself frustrated that Takahashi did not move close to or speak softly to his wife, as he had just done to her.

Illyana would be avoiding him from now on.

Takahashi and his wife talked for a few moments, Kiko gesturing toward Scott and Logan during the conversation, then at Illyana. Illyana felt uncomfortable as they both looked at her.

Takahashi then chuckled. “She says that--”

Takahashi’s radio crackled. He grabbed it from the strap on his shoulder and yelled into it in fast Japanese. The response came in a panicked tone, and deep wrinkles formed between Takahashi’s eyes. He looked up the hill at the two X-Men: “Logan! Mr. Summers!”

They didn’t hear him. They were too far away and the wind was going in the wrong direction.

Takahashi went sprinting up the mountain.


* * *

“How is it you know so many people, anyway?”

Logan looked up. He pointed at Summers and then himself. “You’d say you and I are friends, right?”

Summers frowned. “More or less.”

“And I pretty much piss you off constantly?”

“Pretty much.”

“Well.” Logan smiled. “I’m pretty good at pissing people off.”

“Logan! Mr. Summers!”

The two of them looked downhill. Takahashi was running up the mountain toward them.

Logan’s eyes narrowed. “What?”

“You must not be up here! We must get down!”

Logan looked uphill, toward the mountain’s peak. He first saw a contrail that was mostly blended in with some high cloud cover. Then he saw five tiny white spots falling from the sky.

He started walking backwards, downhill, his eyes still toward the peak. Then a white parachute deployed from one of the white spots. Then the flash from a gun muzzle lit up from the white spot.

Bits of snow around them popped up into the air.

“Go!” Logan was running backwards now. The other white spots had chutes appearing as well. They were gliding down the mountain, approaching fast.

Takahashi pulled his P90 from behind his back, sighted in, and popped off two-round bursts at the parachutists. Bits of snow flew into the air all around the three of them and sometimes between their feet as they ran down the mountain.

Summers mumbled something and turned to aim his visor. The white floor glowed bright red for a second as he sent off a wide-angle blast. Summers smiled.

Logan turned around, and saw the nearest of the parachutes go limp and the man below it fall and tumble. He rolled and rolled through the snow before hitting an outcropping of rock and stopping very suddenly.

With that guy down, there were four parachutists gliding in pursuit. They were now less than a half mile back. They were only a few dozen feet from the ground, but with the slope of the mountain it was hard to tell when they’d come down. As long as they were airborne, they were moving much faster than Logan and the rest could run.

There was a squad of men in black standing on the roof of the facility up ahead, but they couldn’t shoot with Logan, Summers, and Takahashi in the way. They sat, kneeling, aim ready, waiting for a clear shot. Standing behind them was Ilyana and Kiko.

Summers turned around again, fired, missed. He cursed, waited a moment, then turned again to fire and burn a hole in one of the parachutes. The man below it sunk to the ground and went tumbling off to the side, out of view. Three left.

The roof of the facility was only a hundred meters away. The parachutists were only a couple hundred meters behind them, and about to touch down. A thought crossed Logan’s mind.

“Be right back.”

“Wait!” Summers said.

Logan winked at him, then stopped and ran back toward the pursuers. “Don’t get all misty on me, Slim!”

Logan went into a sprint, but his pace slowed a bit as he heard someone joining him. He turned just enough to see Summers following him.

“Damn it, Summers, you’re not bullet proof!”

“Neither are you.” Summers said as bullets rained down from up ahead.

“I don’t need your help! I just need one alive. Takahashi’s guards will just kill them all.”

* * *

“Get below! Now!” Takahashi was covered in sweat as he jumped over the short wall surrounding the roof and huddled up with his wife and the three guards.

Illyana was against the wall, but not next to them. She was trying to get her breathing under control, but every time a bullet would ricochet off the stone behind her, her heart would stop beating and her diaphragm would clench up.

She watched chunks of stone flying up from tiny craters along the floor and other surfaces each time a bullet would hit. She frowned, noticing that some of the rounds were hitting around the hatch leading to the stairs. The hatch was currently closed, and would take a moment to open, leaving someone an easy target if they did so.

“If I can—”

She charged for the hatch, grabbing on to the metal. It crumpled under her grip like it was nothing but papier-mâché. She pulled back right away, a bullet buzzing inches from her ear.

Her heart pounding against her chest, she closed her eyes as the metal of the hatch reformed into a circular shield in her hand. She opened one eye, looking at the opening leading down to the stairs and then at the five others a few feet from her. She had a shield, she might be able to get them down below. It wasn’t very big, though. Not much coverage. And she wasn’t exactly Captain America.

“Why do I feel so freaking useless right now?”

* * *

Logan cursed. He tried to keep himself between the gunfire and Summers. He took a shot to the leg and screamed out, pain exploding along that entire side of his body as he forced himself to keep running.

The pain slowly subsided and Logan’s vision became crystal clear as the men touched down not seventy-five meters up ahead. He ran faster, extended his claws, then screamed as he took three bullets, two of them in his chest.

He went to his hands and knees for only a second, then screamed again and ran faster. One of the gunmen stumbled and lost his footing as he realized Logan was headed straight for him. Off to the right another went down as he took a blast of red energy to the chest. He didn’t get up and his chest was smoking.

Logan reached the startled one, slashed his gun into a pile of metal chunks, then threw a round-house kick into the side of his helmeted head. Logan turned to go after the other, but saw that Summers had somehow gotten his gun away from him and was now in a fist-fight.

“Huh.” Logan then screamed as he felt three bullets go into his back. He turned and saw the man he’d just disabled, lying on his back with a pistol in his hands.

He ran back to him, but the guy shot off a round that bounced hard off his metal skull. Going dizzy, Logan stumbled forward, slashing once at the air out of sheer frustration.

The man got up on a knee and shot Logan again in the head and chest. Pain and anger and nausea swimming around in his head, Logan belted out with a full-lunged scream and jumped forward. He landed his knees right on the chest of the man, ripped his pistol away, and grabbed the guy by the throat.

“Would you stop that!”

The guy grabbed an odd-looking syringe from a pack on his thigh and jammed it right into Logan’s shoulder. Logan’s whole arm burned with pain, making him scream again. His vocal cords almost hurt now.

“Damn it.” Logan, jaw clenched, punched his claws straight through the throat and neck of the man. A gargling sound could be heard through the man’s helmet as blood rapidly painted the snow red and splattered upward all over Logan’s fist and forearm.

Logan got up and shook the blood from his claws, then wiped them clean before retracting them. He looked over just in time to see Summers get behind the other man and break his neck.

“Summ--damn it!” Logan cursed again, looking around at the three dead men. “We need one of them alive!”

“Yeah. Sorry.” Summers’ whole body was rising and falling with the heavy breaths he was taking in and out. “They don’t go down easily.”

Logan saw Takahashi running back up the hill toward them and frowned. He held up a hand in Takahashi’s direction “Hold on. Where’s the other one?”

Summers frowned. “I don’t know. He rolled off to the side.”

“I seriously doubt he’s--”

More gunfire. It was aimed at Takahashi. Snow piffed into the air around him and rounds ricocheted off the stone of the facility’s roof. The guards, Illyana, and Kiko all got back down as Takahashi ran back to his cover and fired back at the last of the gunmen.

The gunman, hiding behind a small, smooth bit of rock exposed from the snow, took cover as the guards opened fire as well. Tracer rounds zipped by, less than fifty meters from where Logan and Summers were standing.

“Don’t kill him!” Logan yelled.

“I wonder if--” Summers said, just as Logan took three or four shots and fell to his face.

He’d taken two to the same leg, and didn’t really feel like getting up right away now. He moaned as he pulled himself to his hands and knees and turned around. He saw Summer, bleeding out into the snow.

“Slim! Damn it.” He scrambled over to him, but the pain all over his body made his movements slow and sloppy.

He heard someone yelling down below. It was Takahashi. He picked up a LAW rocket launcher and unfolded it.

“Hey!” Logan was pressing his hands against the wounds on Summers’ chest, blood soaking them immediately. “What the hell are you doing! Where’d you even get that?”

Takahashi knelt down, his body still, aiming steady and waiting.

The gunman raised his head. There was a screech-BOOM. A trail of white smoke listed in the wind between Takahashi and a huge cloud of gray smoke where the outcropping had once been.

Bits of rock, snow, and gunman rained down onto Logan.

Logan cursed as he took off his shirt to wrap around Summers’ chest to try and hold back some of the bleeding. He threw Summers’ body over his shoulder and stumbled down the hill.

Takahashi stood still, in his path, facing the blackened spot in the snow and rock.

Logan made eye contact with him as he passed. “We needed one of them alive! Now how are we supposed to know who sent them?”

“They wouldn’t have talked.”

Logan passed him, furious. “We have a telepath with us, moron.”

“He killed my wife.”

Logan slowed his pace just a little. He looked down and saw four bodies riddled with bullets, plus Illyana in the corner with the former hatch of the stairway reformed into a shield in front of her. Kiko had at least four wounds, in the head.

Logan closed his eyes as the wind shifted for a second, sending the stench of blood rushing up his nostrils. He opened them and saw Storm fly up out of the hatchway, then Kurt jump up out of it right behind her.
Kurt ran over to one of the guards who was moving a little, checking the bullet wounds.

Storm’s eyes went wide as she took everything in. “What happened!”

Logan pushed past Illyana as he headed for the stairs. “You’re late.”

* * *

Summers died very quickly. One of the guards almost seemed like he might pull through, but then faded off during the night.

Logan was pacing outside the door of the makeshift clinic they’d assembled, which was now little more than a morgue. He’d spent three hours going through the gear the gunmen had on them, trying to figure out where they’d come from. Their weapons were HK G-36s. Their communications gear was Chinese. Their uniforms were Russian. They carried knives that he recognized as Japanese. The syringe one of them had used to jam crap into his arm reminded him of something he’d seen in India.

That was the only lead he had: Each of them had been carrying the same drugs that one had used on him, in the same odd syringe. It wasn’t much, but it was something.

Still pacing, he caught sight of Illyana leaning against a wall around the corner. Her head was drooped forward, her short, maroon hair partly covering her face. He sighed, walking over to her.

“Hey.”

She didn’t move. “Hey.”

“Been pretty quiet around here.”

She nodded.

“You okay, kid?”

“I screwed up.”

Logan frowned. “How?”

She looked up, some hair falling away to reveal an eye that was red and somewhat glazed. “I didn’t do anything. I just watched while you two got shot at.”

Logan snarled, suddenly feeling very anxious. He turned to lean against the wall right alongside her. “I told Summers to stay back. I didn’t even need to run up there, except to disable one so we could get some intel off him. Not even that worked out. If YOU had tried to help, you would have just ended up like Summers.”

“I can form armor around my body.”

Logan’s eyes narrowed. “From metal stuff around you, right? What was there? The hatch? The stairway? That was just crap steel anyway. Even if you formed it thick enough to stop an assault round, you wouldn’t be able to move in it. You did--”

“I could have protected Mrs. Takahashi and the guards.” her voice was low. “They did seem like they had cover, though.”

Logan inspected her face. She was guilty and frustrated, but there was something else. She’d seen something that didn’t quite make sense.

He opened his mouth a moment before speaking. “Did something else happen out there?”

She shook her head. “No. It just seemed like they had cover. The guards had them huddled up against a stone wall between them and the shooter.”

“Why didn’t you join them?”

She shrugged. “I was trying to build up the courage to run out there. I turned the hatch into a shield, but my legs wouldn’t move. I guess I can handle lightning blasts from robots, but not gunfire. Stupid.”

“Well, granted, you had Elf helping you take out those robots.”

Illyana almost smiled. Logan felt himself calming. He took in a deep breath and let it out his nose slowly. He put a hand on her shoulder and looked her in the eye. “Listen. This wasn’t your fault, okay? We don’t need you beating yourself up. If you froze, you froze. It happened, it’s over. You won’t do it next, time, okay? You need to believe that.”

* * *

Illyana found Kurt sitting out on the roof of the middle level, wearing a heavy coat rippling in the wind. Night was falling, and so was the temperature, but Kurt didn’t seem bothered.

Illyana pulled her own coat tighter as she sat down next to him. He looked over and smiled, then resumed looking down the descending slope of the mountain. She matched his gaze, watching the pale yellow of the horizon slowly fade.

“You meditating? Praying?”

Kurt sighed. “A little of both. I don’t think the reality has sunk in yet.”

Illyana let out a humorless chuckle. “Reality.”

He turned to her again. “Illyana. What made you come back? I suspect it was something quite significant.”

She looked down and then shrugged. “I’m not really ready to talk about it yet.”

He nodded. He sucked in a long breath. “I must admit I’m frustrated.”

Illyana waited for him to continue. His forehead just furrowed up as he kept staring at the horizon.

“At me?”

He frowned, turning to her. “What? No! No, sorry, I meant, at the situation. I’m sorry, I should have finished my sentence. I guess, I wish I had been there. Logan wanted a prisoner, and I could have easily grabbed one for him. Ororo and I were all the way in the bowels of this place, talking to the professor. By the time we heard what was happening and got up there, it was over.”

“At least you didn’t freeze when it happened. I didn’t freeze at the mansion.”

His eyes squinted. “I think we lose touch sometimes. With the real seriousness of things. Any fault you have is a fault we all share. A false expectation.”

“Not Logan.”

“Well.” Kurt smiled. “No. But Logan was a soldier first and an X-Man second. We spend too much time fighting government agencies, which often act under the guise of defending the people. So, they usually don’t go out of their way to kill us. Or, we’re fighting Magneto, who sees us as confused members of his brethren; souls that should be converted to his ideologies.”

“Everything’s different when you fight people that just want to kill you.”

“Yes. Occasionally we come up against such adversaries, but, I don’t know.”

There was a long silence. The light of the horizon turned from soft yellow to a cool white. Illyana felt herself getting very cold. She scooted over to press her shoulder against Kurt’s. He smiled and put an arm around her, but did not pull her in tight.

The wind shifted. Illyana looked up and heard what sounded like a helicopter. She couldn’t tell where it was coming from.

The sound getting louder, blinking lights came into view, circling around from behind the mountain. Illyana looked at the guards stationed outside the facility. None of them seemed surprised or interested.

It was an old Huey, painted black. It landed a few dozen meters from the front yard, wind and snow whipping up everywhere.

“Who’s joining us now?”

Kurt shook his head. “No one. Logan’s leaving.”

“What?” Illyana stood up. “Why? I was just talking to him five minutes ago and he didn’t say anything about this. How can he leave? We need him even more now!”

Kurt shrugged, still sitting. “He wants to find out who sent the attack.”

Illyana watched as a figure with wild hair marched out of the facility toward the helicopter, carrying a duffle bag. She wanted to yell at him, tell him to stop, but knew he wouldn’t listen.

* * *

Logan’s bones felt very, very cold as he walked toward the helicopter. Something nagged in the back of his mind, and he turned around.

He saw Illyana and Kurt up sitting on one of the roofs. Illyana was looking at him, and he could tell she was pissed. He waved. She didn’t wave back.

He turned back toward the aircraft. “Sorry, kid. Gotta do this.”


Last edited by awilliamwright on Thu Jul 26, 2012 1:32 am; edited 1 time in total
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AndyWright

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Re: X-Men: Special Threats, Issue Two

Post  Erik Dee Fullmer on Tue Jul 10, 2012 2:12 am

Damn Andy. Your X-Men are tight. I like where this is going. I'm hooked!
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Re: X-Men: Special Threats, Issue Two

Post  AndyWright on Tue Jul 10, 2012 2:26 am

Thanks! I've been nervous, because I feel like I'm taking huge risks, and I don't know how people will feel about them. But, I figure I should follow through on the outline I have planned, even if it might upset a person or two.
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Re: X-Men: Special Threats, Issue Two

Post  Paul E. Schultz on Tue Jul 10, 2012 3:09 am

Yeah, man you mix action and melodrama with a healthy dose of...dare I say it?...character development. Remember when that used to happen in the X-Men? Or any comic book? Hard to develop characters with Event after Event. Anyway, solid writing, man. Never did like Cyclops.
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Re: X-Men: Special Threats, Issue Two

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