~It is done as you commanded, Lord.~
The ancient eyes never left the monitor in front of the giant being. "Excellent. The Awakening went well?"
~The body is strong, my Lord.~
~The First Child is in safe hands as you requested. She seems to be experiencing... 'regret' for her actions.~
"Would that all felt as you, eh Serenity? None of those distracting feelings. It is no matter. She will see all soon enough. Begin the next phase of my plan."
The blonde bowed deeply to her master's back and left. The monitor continued to play, showing a darkly lit hall on the outskirts of his lab. A small group slunk along the wall, as unaware of the security camera as the mouse is of the stalking cat.
The figure pressed a button and the image changed. The hand lingered on the screen, fingers caressing what they found there. A man lay abandoned on a metal table, wires and tubes poking out from his flesh at odd angles.
A suppressed whisper escaped the figure's lips. "I have waited so long for you to arrive at this point... oh, so many years... all the pain you have endured... the rage you try to deny... soon you will arrive at your destiny. Death is only a prelude to immortality, and your time awaits you..."
Serenity had been correct in her assessment of Eve- she was being torn apart inside. She had served the Master her entire life, having been given life by Him; she understood and accepted blindly what was expected of her.
She had been told all about the harsh tales of the outside world. Of a brand new race of which she was a part of, although somehow better than the others. Creatures who shot red fire from empty eye sockets, vampire women that sucked out your soul with nothing but a touch, flying witches that singed and cracked the very earth with lightening, people like the Dark Riders... people like Serenity.
Then there were the Master's "Projects", mutants under His special attention and care. These beings needed only minor adjustments to become One of the Strong. These "adjustments" often took years, and the Projects were at their most dangerous during that period of readjustment. She had been briefed on them all, and especially on Mr. Logan. The Master had been watching him for a very long time, and had even made it a point to interfere and interact with the mutant at points in his life. One of her Master's plans had obviously been set into motion the day He instructed his capture in the Weapon X Program, although Eve was unsure of the reasons for His actions.
Wolverine and a man named "Cable" were especially dangerous, she had been told, and was then given reasons as to why. While the stories of the mutants had sickened and worried her, the exploits of the two men had made her truly afraid.
But when she had touched Mr. Logan for the first time...it hadn't been as she'd feared. There was an unnatural uneasiness along the fringes of his mind, as if something horrid prowled the edges, holding sentry for what lay within. That feeling alone would have shied her away from looking deeper, she would just do as the Master asked and be done with it, but as she prepared to leave the bloody battle field she caught a glimpse of something hidden under a veil of anger and brutality. It shone like nothing she had ever seen before: bright, luminescent memories and principles. It was the true self of Logan, one he too often chose to hide behind a mask of rage. It was the honor that had made him join the X-Men for the atonement he felt he needed, it was what broke his heart every time he dared to love and lost, it was the shame and humiliation at what had been done to him and what he had done, it was what inspired his too few friends to cherish his gruff manner. It was what had made him save a white-eyed girl from being crushed by a falling telephone pole. That glimpse showed so much, and yet not enough. She so longed to be a part of that pure, honorable self that she never wanted to leave. Eve was unsure how long she had stayed nestled inside his essence, secure and safe and unnoticed. Serenity had bullied her way into her mind and made her go back to her own body. As her eyes fluttered open she had never felt so disheartened about her life... never felt so utterly alone...
Eve made her decision and looked around the room the Dark Riders had placed her in for safe keeping. The only other being there was Manta. The reptilian thing was perched in front of the doorway, blocking both her exit and anyone's entrance. Its beady black eyes never strayed from her as she moved closer to it. The predatory gleam in them made her shiver.
As she sidled towards the door she entered its mind. It was a greasy, nasty, violent thing, churning with primordial desires and thoughts. Her shivers intensified to full trembling.
She had always known she could read the thoughts of the Dark Riders; it had never been in question. The first and only time she had was when they were introduced to each other as children. Just a brief mental nod to say "hello" was all she had intended, but was never given the chance to. Her tentative attempt had been met by horrifying hostility and rage. It had told her all that she had needed to know about her "friends".
Now, however, she felt the end justified the means. Manta, she whispered directly into his cerebral cortex, as if it were his own mental voice he heard. Please close your eyes.
Manta's eye's closed.
When I go out that door, I don't want you to follow me. And don't tell anyone I'm gone either...Okay?
Manta's head bobbed up and down mechanically.
Eve opened the door and walked into the hallway. The Awakening had already begun, and Mr. Logan could not be exposed to the Restructuring or the warmth she knew was in his mind would be warped and twisted forever. Mr. Logan's friends had to be warned. They were in mortal danger.
Rogue itched. Her skin felt like it was threatening to jump off of her bones and she longed for a cigarette. The fact that she had never smoked one before was understandably bothering her. The desire to be out of the complex was burning away at her nerves. She needed be outside, soon, by any means necessary.
She chalked it up to nerves. Lord, she had faced off with aliens, demons, evil megalomaniacs, bad hair days, entire armies, dinosaurs, politicians, and even a nuclear missile or two and the simple act of walking down a hallway was making her more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a room of rocking chairs!
Her discomfort was easily explainable. The corridor had seemed endless. They'd passed a number of dark rooms filled to the brim with all sorts of mechanical instruments and computer equipment of all sizes. Dominating one round chamber in eerie silence was a large glass tube. Glinting inside was a strange, thick liquid the color of blood. It sent shivers down Rogue's spine and she was reminded of a giant, pregnant womb, minus the child. The odor of the hall and the adjoining rooms was making her sick. It smelled like caged death, so strong that she could almost taste the blood.
The place resembled nothing more than an underground hospital save for one thing: every piece of equipment was lifeless. Computers had been shut down, monitors were blank, and instruments were silent. Illuminated only by flickering overhead lights neglected workstations held the remains of coffee cups, files, and personalities. The entire complex was radiating a sense of...absence.
It's like a tomb down heyah.
The last time she had felt this wrong was when she had first come to the mansion. To keep herself from jumping at every shadow, Rogue sunk into her thoughts and memories...
The team had accepted her early on, but she had felt...alien entering such a place. Especially when she had almost killed one of their closest friends. Each one was polite enough, but there were cold undertones every time she was in a room with them. She truly did want to change, but what else could she have expected?
The worst of the bunch had been Wolverine. He gave new definition to the phrase "cold shoulder." The X-Men had been invited to Japan for his almost marriage to Mariko Yashida. She remembered standing in the doorway watching the small group get reacquainted and realizing that these people were more than just a team, they were family. Mariko had noticed her and asked Logan if he would invite her into their home. His words still squeezed her heart with an icy fist years later: "If it were up to me, M'iko, I'd cut out her heart." He had meant those words, and she knew it. Unlike the other X-Men, he hated her on a personal level. Carol Danvers and he were close friends and had served together before the X-Men were a glimmer in the Professor's eye. After all of the horrid things that had been done to him to make him forget, Logan was fiercely protective of the people and memories he did remember. Those precious few were rewarded with a love that many never saw.
That love had saved Rogue's life. Wolverine had given her a chance to prove to herself and to the rest of the team that her intent to change her life was genuine. The X-Men had all been poisoned that very night, leaving only Rogue and Wolverine to fend off Viper and the Silver Samurai, surviving themselves only by the skin of their teeth. She had taken a shot from Viper's gun meant for Mariko and Logan. She still could remember the unexpected pain as the beam cut deep into her chest. She remembered how gently Logan had held her, telling her that it was going to be okay. He had voluntarily allowed her to absorb his healing factor in order to save her life, putting his own at great risk. The gift was a double-edged sword, allowing her to absorb not only his powers to heal, but also to wallow in the turbulence of his mind and thoughts. She knew that there would always be a part of him that could not forgive her, but he felt that everyone deserved a second chance, with a little help from a friend. Rogue had risked her life to save Mariko, and that meant more to him than she would ever know. Logan now considered her one of his friends, one of the lucky few.
Things had been different between the two of them since that night. They had shared something no one else could ever hope to understand, that overwhelming hybrid of power and pain as your being is made fresh and new before your eyes. It had made them coconspirators in a world of prejudice. They were reminded of each other every time their eyes met. Rogue held back the seductive urge to make contact with others. She imagined that it was how a junkie might feel about their drug of choice, and desperately rallied against what that meant about her. Every second of every day, Logan fought to keep his killer instincts at bay. They all knew what it meant if he were to succumb, they had faced it many times in the gore-streaked visage of Sabretooth. Rogue knew Logan's greatest fear was that he wouldn't be strong enough to stop himself from going over the edge, but instead of cowering in some corner as she had sometimes been prone to do he walked tall and faced the imminent storm. He was one of the bravest men she'd ever met and she would readily walk through Hell to help him.
Which brought her back to her current situation.
The hall ended unexpectedly a dozen feet in front of the group. The room it opened into was dark, and nearly impossible to see inside. That didn't stop sound from escaping however. The brisk sound of cards being shuffled made Rogue immediately homesick for Remy, and she wondered if he had woken up yet. If he was thinking about her at that moment. The shuffling was underlined by the soft whispers of voices in light conversation. Jubilee gasped and silently held up the mini-Cerebro for all to see. The blinking green dot was going so fast as to almost be constant. The meaning was plain to see.
Wolverine was inside that room. Alive. He was going to come home with them. The X-Men would deal with whatever horrors had been done to him, together, as a family. He was in that room and they were going to get him.
Heaven help the Dark Riders...Logan's family were ready to protect their own and nothing was going to stop them. Nothing.
Eve struggled to breath as she ran down the hallway. She had to warn the X-Men, they had no idea what was happening in that room. Logan's body might be Awake but he was not. The essence that made him the man they loved was being tortured somewhere else entirely. She could feel him fighting it, screaming in rage and pain in his mind, the only voice left to him. He could feel everything that they were doing to him, knew what the darkness slowly consuming him was and cried out against it. It was his worst nightmare brought to life and he was powerless to stop it. She let him feel her presence through his torture and whispered that it would be all right. Help was on the way and he need just hold out a while longer. His mind grasped onto hers for meager respite from the pain. It almost drowned Eve in sensation but she somehow managed to remain on her feet.
As she rounded a corner, she saw the X-Men far ahead of her. They were clustered a dozen feet in front of the door. Just in time, she thought. Suddenly, Logan's screams ripped through her and she stumbled to the ground. As it echoed to her through the hall Eve realized that the scream issued from his mouth as well as his mind. Logan must have been reconnected with his body. All of his senses were on fire now, not just his soul. He was in agony. Sounds of thrashing and growling could be heard as an acidic undertone to the scream. His flesh reflected the struggles that his mind had been alone to deal with.
Eve surged to her feet as she saw the X-Men charge into the room. "No!" she screamed. "It's a-" She gasped and stopped dead as cold shudders attacked her small frame. An icy voice echoed throughout her entire being.
~What are you doing First Child? The Master forbade you to come hear, did he not?~
Serenity stood unmoving in the hall ahead of her, effectively blocking Eve's way. Eve's heart threatened to burst as the screams continued. If she couldn't get to them that way...X-Men, please-
The chill that always accompanied Serenity's voice grew huge, cutting a path directly through Eve's mind, severing any mental connections before she could block it out. Logan's cries grew unbearably louder, and Eve's was lost in the flood of pain.
She gathered herself up from where she had fallen to the floor in agony. At first her timid voice failed her, but she steeled herself and went on. "You...You don't understand Serenity! He's not like us! He doesn't deserve this!"
The voice echoed in her scull forcefully.
~Doesn't deserve this? The Master bids it, it is done. I thought you knew that First Child. Must you be reminded? Again?~ Serenity stepped toward her steadily.
Unbidden tears fell from Eve's bizarre eyes. If Serenity got her hands on her, the X-Men were as good as dead. "I don't have time for this." Putting all of her weight into it, Eve punched Serenity right in the middle of her expressionless face. The blow hit her hard and she landed on the floor several feet away from Eve.
"Wow," Eve whispered. Please be unconscious, please be unconscious, PLEASE be unconscious!
The roar from the room ahead of her ended abruptly. The empty silence was paradoxically worse than the cacaphony of torment. "Oh, no."
Leaving Serenity on the floor, Eve ran as fast as she could to the room ahead of her. But she already knew that she was too late. The trap had been sprung.
The first screams tore through them with the full force of a nuclear explosion. It sounded inhuman, a screech echoing across endless, barren fields of pain. And yet there was something horribly fragile and afraid living inside the horror. It called to their very souls, begging for an end to the madness it was surrounded by.
"Wolvie..." Jubilee whispered.
The X-Men surged forward, into the darkened room. Lightening flashed in a strobe, thanks to Storm, illuminating everything in short bursts. The card players, the Strong Woman and the Heat Shimmer Man, had discarded their game and running toward a table in the back of the room. Stunned by the X-Men's thunderous entrance, they turned, revealing fully what lay on the metal slab. Uniform torn and bloody, mask missing, Wolverine writhed against his restraints. Face contorted in agony, the scream still sprang from his throat.
"X-Men- ATTACK!" Cyclops yelled.
Screaming a rebel yell that would have made any Yankee weak in the knees, Rogue blasted toward the woman, arms outstretched and fists clenched. She slammed into the Dark Rider's chest and bulleted on at full blast. There was a resounding crash as the far wall crumbled under their combined weight. Dust filled the air and for a moment, nothing could be seen of the two. Then, the scene slowly came into view. A snarling Rogue stood rigid over a hurt and bleeding Dark Rider. "That was fer Gambit," she spat.
Storm lifted her bruised body carefully off of the ground. Cyclops and Jubilee were teaming up against the Heat Man but to no avail. His shield simply absorbed all of their efforts. Storm's regal voice carried over the din to the fighters. "Well my friend, you seem to have an appetite for my colleagues fire. Let us see if you are still hungry after you taste me!"
Lightening flashed from her eyes as she gathered the elements to her. Dark clouds flowed overhead as the breath flowed from her body. Her white, shimmering hair misted about her on the arctic gale aiming itself at the Dark Rider. Hail the size of softballs rained down on him. Those that he could avoid melted, but there was just too many at one time. Several chunks hit him in the trunk and legs, but one viscous looking piece connected solidly with his skull with a mighty crack. Storm landed gently on her feet the same that he fell to the ground.
"Okaaaaaay..." Cyclops looked at the damage the two women had caused. Well, it turned out better than he was worried it would. The reason for his mission returned to him and he rushed to Wolverine's side. "Jubilee, watch the door."
"If we're ambushed by the rest of the Dark Riders, then this would have all been for nothing and we'll never get Logan out of here. Now guard that door!"
Obviously torn, Jubilee hesitated a moment and ran to the door.
Cyclops reached the table. God he looks terrible. "It'll be all right now Logan," he said and placed a hand on his heaving chest. Logan's face relaxed with his touch, and Cyclops' ears rang with the silence as his cries stuttered out into unconsciousness.
"Rogue, get these restraints off of him and let's get the Hell out of here."
Jubilee snapped to attention when she saw movement in the dark hallway. Someone was coming. She drew in breath to shout a warning but the cry died in her throat as she recognized who it was. White hair bobbed toward her and black eyes stared from a paler face. She slowed a few feet in front of her.
"Please, you have to-"
"Bitch!" She spun on her ankle in a viscous round-house kick, belting Eve solidly in the jaw. She fell to the floor, out like a light. Jubilee looked unsympathetically down at her. "Humph. Wuss."
"What's going on here?"
She turned to find Cyclops standing in the doorway with Storm and Rogue, who carried a silent Wolverine.
"Unconscious. We're not sure how bad yet. Now answer my question."
"Jus' guardin' the door, like you said."
"Uh huh. We'll have to take her with us."
"We need to know exactly what has been done to Wolverine. She's the perfect candidate for that. Oh, and you'll be the one to carry her out of here."
"Aw, man! But she-"
"No 'buts'. Do it."
Cyclops pushed passed her out into the hall, Storm close behind. Rogue gave her a sympathetic smile and followed. As she passed Jubilee got a good look at her precious burden and she had to remind herself to breathe again.
She kneeled down close to the girl's crumpled form. She whispered quietly in her ear to avoid the others overhearing her. "You did that to him, and for that I should kill ya myself." An evil grin slipped onto her features. "But I think I'll leave you ta Wolvie. I know he'll love that." She grabbed her arms and picked her up. For someone who was older than the teen, the white-haired girl was surprisingly light. "Hey guys, wait up!"
Hundreds of miles way, a man sits alone, surrounded by faces and memories. The memories were particularly strong today.
He places the final piece in place and surveys his work. The frame is strong wood, but the metal fixtures at its edges were too heavy and often unbalanced and upset it, so that it always appeared to be leaning in one direction or other. Much like the man in the photograph it holds, he mused.
He gently turns it around in his hands so that he can study the image hidden behind the glass front. The picture had to have been taken without its subjects knowledge, had the man known the photographer was there he never would have held the pose. Kitty must have snapped it; there was a period of a few weeks when the teen carried her camera everywhere. The Danger Room, the hallways, to class, to the breakfast table, nowhere was safe from her flashbulb. Her specialty was phasing out of things and catching her victims unaware. Sometimes only the camera's face would show up out of the carpet and they'd never know she was there until the film had been developed. He smiled as he remembered Bobby trying to get her to take some pictures for him for blackmail purposes. He never was sure what became of that subject...
This picture held one of her trademarks. The image was bisected by a portion of wall, allowing the viewer to see inside the house as well as inside. The light off of the full moon reflected back on the man in the picture, the only source of illumination to be found. His forehead rested on a window, rough features distant. A single hand had been placed on the pane, as if wanting to touch what lay in wait outside. Beyond the wall, the viewer saw the forest surrounding his home. The man gazed into the depths of the wood, seeking he knew not what. A phrase of poetry flashed unbidden through his mind. The woods are lovely, dark and deep...
There were many different facets of the man in the picture, many of which had been captured on film at some time or other, but none of those photos appealed to him as this one did. There was something elemental in his gaze...as if the only thing holding back this primal beauty were the walls he allowed himself to be caged in.
The man rubbed his eyes roughly and took a quick breath. He had been sitting here reminiscing when there were things needed to be done, contacts to be made. As he set the picture on his desk firmly, his fingers betrayed him and played over the glass of the man's cheek. His brown eyes roamed over the other frames on his desk, the sizes and shapes as varied as the people they stood for. So many...he had hoped...it had seemed as if they would live forever. Especially that wonderful, vital man. He'd already lived through so much that there were times he felt that the roles would be reversed, and the gruff brawler would outlive him.
The buzz of the field intercom on his desk buzzed urgently through his tortured thoughts. He practically dove for it. "Yes?"
"Professor, we found him," Cyclops voice droned in. The professor held his breath. "Him and the girl. And Professor...You're not going to believe this...but he's alive, sir. Logan's alive."
He released a shuddery breath and buried his face in his hands. The tears he'd held in for so long came and he wept.
"Thank God," he whispered. Silently, he reached a shaking hand out to the newest frame on his desk and gently laid it face down, obscuring those soulful eyes. The next few lines of that poem rifted through his head and he smiled. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.
They all turned at the squeak of the door hinges. Several very apprehensive gazes aligned on the flurry blue man that entered shortly after. Hank took off his glasses and rubbed his tired eyes. Between worrying over Gambit in the infirmary and his constant work in the lab, he had only managed to sneak in a few hours sleep in as many days. It didn't look like he'd get the opportunity to nap any time in the near future either.
He sighed as he looked at the X-Men gathered in the War Room. "Well...he's still not awake so I can't make any guesses as to his mental condition... but physically everything seems to be working fine. Gene scans, x-rays, blood tests, they all match up with how his body functioned before save three noteworthy exceptions. First, our occasionally feral friends eyes have begun to change color, as Storm was gracious enough to notice. His normally blue eyes are now a rather bizarre shade of red with little blue swirls surrounding the pupils. I'd wager that in a short time, they will turn completely red. Second, the cat scans are registering that he has an awful large amount of brain activity going on for someone who's just been 'resurrected'. He's thinking real hard about something folks, but I truly have no idea what it could be. I wouldn't suggest that the Professor or Jean attempt to telepathically contact him yet, however; they could hurt him more than help him. And last but certainly not least, Logan's life signs no longer register on any conventional equipment. The only things that worked at all are Cerebro, the Shi'ar equipment and just plain old-fashioned stethoscopes and eyesight. According to the standard 'non-alien' equipment Logan is legally dead. And yet his lungs and heart continue to function on his pre-established level. It's almost as if he was being purposely cloaked against any modest means of discovery...
"And that leads us to the million dollar question, my friends: why did Dark Riders take him at all? It has become clear that the "attack" on the girl was simply a fabrication to draw us out of the woodwork, as it were. But was the only reason for the ruse this sorry abduction? They had to know that we'd come for him...at least to claim his body. I just can't see why they'd go through all this trouble!"
"Easy Hank," the Professor soothed. "When do you expect him to wake?"
Rubbing the bridge of his nose, Beast visibly pulled himself together. "Based on his previous rate of healing before his abduction? I'd wager anywhere from twenty minutes to a half an hour. That is if we wakes up at all."
At that, everyone suddenly seemed to find something more interesting to look at than Hank and his worried expression. Silence rained in the room for several long minutes until the crack of Jubilee's gum broke the quiet. "That's okay," she whispered to the arranged adults before her. "He'll wake up in ten, just to prove you wrong Blue..." Her trembling lips betrayed her steady tone and confident words.
"Oh, child." Storm hugged her tightly with her good arm and smiled encouragingly. "He will be fine, you'll see. Isn't he always?"
Jubilee grinned back. "Yeah... You're right 'Ro. Everything'll turn out cool."
"All right people." Cyclops stood and attracted their attention. "The way I see it we have two options. One, we stand around here, moping, waiting for Wolverine to wake up, or two, we can do something constructive. I say we 'question' our white-eyed guest down in the detention center. I'm willing to bet that she has some answers."
"Right," agreed the Professor. "Hank, you stay in the infirmary and notify us if there is any change. Cyclops, Jean, you join me in questioning the girl. Everyone else," his voice grew softer, "try to relax. I know that you're on edge, we all are, but there's no rushing these things. I want no waiting by the door or getting in Hank's way. That includes you too Jubilee. Relax. What happens, happens." And with that, he turned and headed out the door and into the hall.
As everyone the group began to dissipate, a certain teenager mumbling darkly, Rogue stopped Hank with a light touch on his arm. "Doc...uh, I know this is gonna sound shallow o' me what with Wolvie an' all, but...well, Ah didn't get a chance ta ask earlier. . ."
Beast chuckled warmly and patted her gloved hand. "It's all right Rogue, you don't need to ask. Remy is doing fine. Like his hirsute compatriot, he has not yet awoken but his wounds are on the mend."
With a sigh and a grin Rogue relaxed a great deal. "Thanks Doc. Ah'd appreciate it if ya'll let me know when he wakes up."
"Definitely my dear. You will be the first to know. Know, you'd better follow the Professor's orders and enjoy some sweet repose. You've had a very long couple of days."
Cyclops caught his wife's arm as they left the War Room and pulled her close. His voice was low, so that the others wouldn't hear. "Jean, are you all right?"
"I'm fine Scott, really."
"Jean...You've been completely unresponsive to your side of our link. What's wrong? Is it about Logan? Is that it? Are you worried that I won't understand how relieved you are that he's alive? That you feel for him-"
"No Scott, it's not that at all."
"Then what is it, honey? If I can help you I want to."
Jean's jaw twitched and a tear escaped her right eye and slid down her cheek. "You don't know Scott..."
"Then tell me. Please"
As words failed her Scott felt the golden curl that was her mind return to his thoughts. He repressed a sigh as she reset their mind link and mentally fed him what her stubborn, trembling lips could not.
~I felt him DIE Scott. In my mind...in his. There's no way you can fake that...that horribly EMPTY feeling when someone close to you is gone. That little girl killed him, Scott, no matter what Hank's tests say otherwise. I don't know what that thing is you rescued, whether it's just a shell or something else, but I'm telling you it is NOT Logan!~
Eve groaned as the overhead lights burned through her bleary eyes and directly into her pounding brain. She was sorely tempted to close them again and retreat back into that wonderful dark calm of unconsciousness but decided against it. There were things much more important at stake here than just her discomfort. Banishing the headache she looked around her.
Where am I? she wondered. She was lying on a cushioned slab in a corner of a tiny room. Cell is more like it. Besides the bed, a single chair and table were the only other furnishings in the room. There were no windows and a thin field of static covered the only exit. And standing behind the field...
"Please you have to listen to me!"
Cyclops hmphed. "Oh we have all intentions of listening to you. And don't get any ideas. This force field not only keeps you from escaping but it also negates any and all mutant powers. Now, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself."
"And what you did to Logan," Jean Grey-Summers finished for her husband.
Eve looked at her captors. Cyclops' face remained a stony mask, but his stance and the tone of his voice left no doubt as to his mood. Seated quietly behind him, Professor Xavier had tried to arrange his features in what he must have thought was a kind, understanding expression but what was reflecting in his eyes was a completely different story. Unlike the others, Phoenix didn't bother with putting up a false front. Sparks literally flared from her eyes and her teeth were fixed in a permanent snarl. Nope, she didn't have any friends here with this bunch either. Eve had learned the hard way that with people this upset, it was best just to do as they say.
She stood and walked as close to them as the field would allow. "My name is Eve, and I never wanted to hurt Mr. Logan once I realized the kind of person he really was."
"Fat lot of help that was to him then," Jean growled.
Eve chose to ignore that. "If these static things cut off mutant powers then you must put one around Mr. Logan as soon as possible."
"And why is that?" Professor Xavier asked.
"He'll be awake soon. We don't really have time for explanations...Oh, all right, if you insist! What you rescued from our labs wasn't Mr. Logan, not really-"
"I knew it!" Phoenix spat. "You killed him you little-"
"Jean stop!" Cyclops grabbed the red head before she could disarm the field and then do the same to Eve.
"Violence solves nothing here Jean!" the Professor yelled over her grunts of effort.
Eve put up her hands to block any forthcoming attacks. "No, you don't understand! He's not dead, part of him is just...somewhere else. The part that makes him Mr. Logan."
Xavier put a soothing hand on Jean's arm. "Please, Eve, elaborate."
Phoenix had calmed down a considerable amount and Eve felt it safe to continue. If someone like Phoenix ever got a hold of her... She decided to put it as simply as possible. "I didn't kill Mr. Logan. I only separated part of what made him himself, his essence if you like, from his physical shell. I'm sorry to say that the process was not a very pleasant one and was quite painful."
Eve almost didn't hear the quiet protest from Phoenix. "But I felt him die."
"Yes, Mrs. Summers, you did." She looked away, ashamed. "The Dark Riders needed you to stay away for a while so they made me hurt him. The Separation terminated the link between Mr. Logan and the physical world. Death is essentially the same act, only on a different level. And for Mr. Logan this Separation was twice as hard because his senses and self were so deeply in tuned with the world around him. Mr. Logan has been in another plane, utterly alone. Isolated with his memories and his pain. Everything he remembers or has ever tried to forget has been let loose from the mental constraints that he'd placed on them. I'm guessing that an equal equivalent for us would be if we were to cut out our eyes, ears, tongue, nose and fingers and then being dropped in the middle of a war zone...It hasn't been a very pleasant experience for him, I'm afraid."
Cyclops had gone several shades paler. "If it's that bad than just return him back into his body from this other plane."
Eve's small laugh held no humor. "But I can't! After the initial Separation Serenity took over the process. Mr. Logan has two distinct personalities: one, the man that you've all come to know and love and two... the monster that he has hidden from you. You might have seen glimpses of it when his control lapsed but for the most part he's kept it stored safely inside. Up until now, Mr. Logan has been the only one aware of how horrible this creature was, and that knowledge hurt more each day he suppressed it. It's woken him from his sleep in a cold sweat at least a thousand times." Eve noticed the way that Professor Xavier stiffened in his chair at this revelation.
"While he's been in this other plane, his...Other has been given free reign on his body and his memories. Serenity has been there the whole time, taunting it and teaching it how best to use what they gave it. She's blocked both parts of Mr. Logan away from any outside stimulus. You see, I was lucky that I could even get in to talk to him let alone save him!" Eve looked desperately at the three X-Men opposite her. "Don't you get it?! Your ‘rescue' wasn't an accident on our part, every one of your actions had been planned on by the Master. You must get Mr. Logan's body down here very quickly before the Awakening is complete. If not, Mr. Logan may be gone forever and you will be at the Other's mercy!"
Serenity turned to her Master. ~Now, Lord?~
She closed her eyes and gathered her strength.
Cyclops turned as a white beam shot through the walls toward them. As it passed through him, gooseflesh raised every hair on his body and the chill made him shudder. He saw the beam bounce harmlessly off of the force field to scatter around the rest of the room.
It seemed to have a more drastic effect on Jean and the Professor though. Before they could scream, blood burst from their noses and each slumped forward, completely limp. Scott barely caught his wife as she fell, he was so terrified. Not of the apparent injury to his love, but of the fact that their link had shared nothing with him. Not a forewarning, not a cry of surprise- even her pain had not crossed over to him. In fact, it was as if the link had never existed at all.
“Jean? Jean?! Can you hear me?” No response from his now unconscious bride. “Professor?!” None there either. The Professor was sprawled in his wheelchair, head lolling against the backrest. Scott gently shook hid wife. “What’s wrong baby? Please answer me...”
A barely heard whisper interrupted his plea. Scott looked up to see the white-eyed girl slowly backing away from the holding field.
”What?” he demanded. He dimly realized that the walls were still in place and intact. The force of the blast surely would have turned them into rubble?
“Serenity,” Eve whispered, eyes large and frightened. “If not for the force field she’d have gotten me, too.”
“Can you fix this?”
Eve slowly shook her head. “N-no. It’s already started. We’re too late…” She tore her eyes away from the unconscious telepaths and looked at Scott. “But maybe...You have to let me out of here now. I’m the only one he can’t get to. I don’t know if I can stop him or not but I’m your only chance. Please!”
“You better have a good explanation for all this,” Scott muttered as he laid his wife on the floor and headed toward the keypad lock.
~The telepaths are out of the way Master.~
“Excellent Serenity. It is time for the end of the old world, and the beginning of ours. If our puppet is successful here, nothing will be able to stand in or way again.”
“Wake Logan, Serenity.”
Beast was in the medlab when the cold white beam strafed the house. What on earth? he wondered. He made only four steps to the intercom when a loud, rhythmic buzzing diverted his attention. Henry rushed to where one of his monitors was going crazy. As he reached the table housing both computer and patient he gasped.
“Logan! You’re awake! I-"
Any comments, medicinal or otherwise, died on his tongue as his friend’s eyes connected steadfastly on his own. Henry tried to back away, or in the very least blink, but found himself unable. A red the color of dried blood had somehow creeped into Wolverine’s eyes, swarming in a pool of blood-shot white. Before Hank’s unbelieving eyes, a red haze seeped out from under his lids, giving them a bizarre, entrancing allure.
And then Hank was gone, being pulled headfirst into a blood filled nightmare.
Cyclops had punched in the first three digits when his hand suddenly dropped to his side. Alarmed, Eve rushed forward. She gasped, hands flying to cover her mouth. A light red mist hovered obscenely over Cyclops’ visor and, she assumed, his eyes as well. And then he simply fell, landing hard on the ground next to his wife.
“Oh no,” she whispered, backing away from the door to crouch in the furthest corner. “It’s over. It’s all over. I was too late...”
As the first cries and moans penetrated her cell, tears had already made well-worn tracks down her cheeks.