Author's Note: Okay kiddies. Nothin' too bad, but I am issuing a bad word warning. However, I feel that it is merited in the context of the story. Oh, and if you're interested, some of the events take place in actual Marvel continuity (gasp, imagine!). Marvel Comics Present 72, Wolverine 57, and Uncanny X-Men 126, respectfully.

Nightmares and Monsters

by Misty

Part 16/?

* * * * * *

The caverns of the mind are dangerous. Deep casms in memories disrupt the passageways and cobwebs mar the stale air. The rock walls and floor are so full of treacherous outcroppings that one would be completely shredded upon entry.

Sometimes, when a mind has witnessed or experienced too much pain, a strange dark life begins to emerge from within the murky depths of the caverns. Minuscule and parasitic at first, it soon grows, feeding, nourishing itself on the darkness that surrounds it. When it's strong enough, it charges up through the stillness and breaks through the walls of the cavern itself, leaving the very thing that gave it life a screaming, gaping mass. The X-Men had always known that the man named Logan had mysterious demons that they couldn't understand. Now however, they have been plunged into the debris of his mind, and they were forced to look upon his torment in all its hideous forms.

They would never be the same again.

* * * * * * *

Jubilee gagged as the cold tube was forced down her throaght. It tasted foul, like metal death. She vainly struggled one more time to break through the straps chaining her to the table.

* * * * * * *

Sweet pain flowed into Rogue from her slashed wrists. She watched silently as her blood dripped sluggishly onto the newspapers gathered on the table. Through the empty pill jars and whiskey bottles their headlines shouted out at her. "MUTANTS REAL!" "PUBLIC OUTCRY OVER MUTANT MENACE!" "WINGED BOY SEEN IN NY! CITIZENS FEAR MUTANT!" "ARE YOU A MUTANT?"

She felt her eyes droop and she smiled tiredly. It shouldn’t be much longer now. Just a little more blood lost and she wouldn't have to keep living like this anymore. She was burnt out, mentally and physically. She was just so tired of pretending anymore...

Those idiots at work said that she was paranoid. They didn't know the half of it! She had seen the men out of the corner of her eye, watching her every move; she heard their whispers when they thought she was out of earshot. They were everywhere, and nowhere at the same time, always disappearing when she gave chase. Bars, home, even at work she wasn't safe from them. And she knew that the minute she turned her back on them it would be too late, for her or anyone else like her. The shrinks had only looked at her in their shrinky way and said "Who are 'they'?" She was afraid to say that she had no idea.

Sighing, her eyes drifted closed against the pain.

Just a little more... she thought.

And then the blood stopped dripping. No!

Disgusted, she glared at her healed wrists. With a growl of rage she sent the table and its contents hurling across the room with a mighty shove. The papers flew into the air, floating down to land gently on the floor, angry headlines mocking her vain attempts at escape.

God, I just want this to be over!

But it wasn't going to be over anytime soon for her. It hadn't even begun yet and she knew it. She was a mutant, and the whole world knew about it. It was only a matter of time until she would fail to see them lurking in the shadows behind her. Then, Hell itself would be let loose.

* * * * * * *

Beast was still fully awake despite the gas coming in through the tube. He coughed violently as his body tried to reject whatever was being piped into his lungs. Tiny spatters of blood soon appeared on his chin and face. The technicians hovering over him took no notice as they continued to mark on his body in dark ink.

* * * * * * *

"Please my love," she whispered.

Scott looked down upon the woman he cradled in his arms. She was his love, his life, his sole purpose for being. She had shown him so much...

"No, Mari. I can't," his voice broke on her name.

Even with his sensitive hearing he almost missed her words through her grunt of pain. "You...you have done so much for me al...already."

He shook his head violently, telling her that she was wrong, that she was the strong one, the brave one, not him. She went on despite his protests, knowing in her heart the truth.

"Hurts s-s-s-s-s-o-oo... just this l-l-last s-s-s-s-sacri-fi-fice my love...please!"

He kissed her trembling lips with a tenderness most thought him unable. The stench of painful death corroded the scent of his Mariko with her every breath. The woman he loved should not be forced to suffer such a hideous death. Her only crime in this life was to have been his lover.

"I'm so sorry," he whispered in her ear and swiftly tilted her shaking body forward. Scott sprang his claws into her chest, piercing her heart with a wet "schluck" sound.

The echo of it resounded in his ears for a moment, then the only sound in the temple was his tortured breathing.

Her face was so peaceful in death, and yet the very substance that made him love her was gone. Her unfocused black eyes bore directly into his soul and he knew that when he had killed her he had killed himself as well. Clutching her lifeless husk to his chest Scott howled his loss, his tears mixing with her blood on the tiled floor.

* * * * * * *

Rogue watched them blearily as her body gave up and the gas began to win. For a moment, her life was peaceful, nestled somewhere on the edge of consciousness. Then they inserted the first needle. Pain flared through her arm as the sharp point lodged itself in her bone, refusing to be removed. Her eyes widened and she screamed until her throat was raw as they jammed in one after the other, over and over, hundreds of probes across her entire body. The pain didn’t even stop when the technicians were forced to pause and mop up her blood as it got in their way.

* * * * * * *

"I...am...PROTEUS--the mutant who masters reality!"

Jubilee's stomach lerched as the ground gave way under her. Her body twisted and floated away like gossamer strings; the next moment contracting in to collapse on itself. Her mouth wouldn't obey her order to scream, it was busy elsewhere.

This can't be happenin'! her frenzied mind cried. She tried to call on her senses, to rummage through what she felt happening trying to ascertain what was real. Agony flared through her mind at her findings. The sky dripped with blood and the grass flashed neon, burning his retinas. Birds flew backwards and trees sprouted glass tires. The smell of roses mingled with the stench of decomposing flesh. Sounds were becoming so warped that it was unbearable to hear anything. The touch of Nightcrawler's hand on her shoulder burned like acid and froze on contact. Even her own scream was lost in the torrent of severe sensation.

But underlying it all was a deep ache as all of her senses flushed into overload. Her brain exploded with horrid, ghastly imput beyond anything she had ever imagined. It turned her familiar view of the world around her into a playground of repulsively foreign objects. For the first time in a long time, Jubilee felt deep, gnawing terror.

* * * * * * *

The heavy liquid sloshed around her as they dropped Ororo into the tank. Cable's slithered out and attached themselves to several of the needles in her body, leaving others open to the fluid itself. She pounded the sides of the glass, wasting her breath on unheard screams and pleas. She could just barely see them through the mire of the artificial womb: bizarre phantoms floating among beeping gadgets and lights. As the liquid began to warm and bubble she thought I will get out of this thing alive; and when I do, I will watch you die.

* * * * * * *

Blood ran down the tunnels like water. The stench of it filled his sensitive nose and made bile rise in his throaght. For a moment after their entry, silence reigned in the subterranean depths. Then the cries of the dying and wounded rose from before them like waves in an ocean.

Hank had seen the ravages of war before, many times, but he'd never seen anything like this horror. It was a massacre. Hundreds of Morlocks, hunted into a single sewer tunnel, lay overlapping eachother in their agonized death throes.

He followed the others through the throng, blood and entrails splashing against his feet, staining his boots a deep orange. His field training only covered the core medical necessities and most of the Morlocks were far beyond that. He could not help these people; he wasn't a doctor.

Hank bumped something soft and glanced down. The corpse of a child lay at his feet. No more than four, her skin was a pale green, her black hair done up in pigtails. In her lifeless arms she cradled a raggedy doll, dirty porcelain face crushed under her body, protecting it from what had attacked her. And what a attack it must have been. Five familiar furrows had torn her open from her navel to her neck, cracking through ribs and spilling her insides as his foot jarred her body. It had not been a fast death, or an easy one. The girl’s pink mouth was still crying from the grave.

I swear, Sabretooth, he thought. You will pay for this. You sick fuck.

* * * * * * *

The agony began as something inside Scott began to melt and twist. Red flogged his vision and consumed his world in a sea of raging blood. It entered his body slowly, tortuous in its mindless pursuit to be one with him. He could feel it moving inside, pushing and pulling at his very bones. Suddenly his body went into hyper-drive and the pain intensified a thousand fold. His entire body seemed to be full of electricity, frying nerve endings and making his muscles quiver. The invasion was repelled, only to come back stronger and harder, again and again. His mind retreated away into madness and he screamed as if he were being dragged naked through Hell.

When it was done and the liquid around him cooled, he felt himself sink to the bottom of the tank, suddenly heavy. The taste of metal was in his mouth and the cheers of success of the scientists outside burned itself forever into his nightmares.

* * * * * * *

"Vic! We need to get the hell out of here now!" Ororo ducked behind the doorjamb as bullets tore through the sidewalk she had inhabited only seconds before. Firing rounds blindly into the night, she dove further into the building, searching for her comrade. "Come on man, they're right behind me! We'll have ta meet the rest o' the team at the withdraw point," she yelled, the words rolling strangely off her tongue, as if in someone else’s voice. There was no time to think about it now, though.

When she received no answer, she turned to see the room empty. Damn. She'd grown more and more worried about her partner's behavior over the past couple ops. He seemed to be enjoying himself a lot more than usual, inciting confrontations where before he would have simply walked away. Apparently, as she'd grown disillusioned with the job, he simply lived for each mission. She had intended to talk to him about it but this mission had come up and she'd never gotten the chance.

With a growl of frustration, Ororo went deeper into the crumbling outpost, gun held ready. If he'd gone off on his own again...

She found him in one of the rooms towards the back of the building, her partner's bulky form half hidden in the shadows. His gun lay across the floor, far out of grabbing distance. His head was tilted at an angle, like a dog listening to something in the distance. "C'mon Vic, let's book. I wanna make it home in time for my birthday cake and candles."

"Shhh. Can't ya hear it?" His voice was distracted and soft, almost lost in a burst of rifle fire nearby.

"Hear what?" She strained her ears as hard as she could, trying to pick up what he did. Tanks? she wondered. Troops?

"Their screams. They're still echoin' through th' room."

Oh, shit. "Who's screams, Vic?"

"Why don'tcha come on in an' listen for yerself?"

Her heart fluttered in her chest as a passing chopper's floodlight illuminated the room through an open window and the disturbed wind brought the smell to her there in the doorway. Blood spattered the walls and caked the floor. There were bodies laying in the dust, their uniforms smeared with gore. When the light passed over her friend, her stomach churned. Bullet holes scored the wall behind him, although many found their mark; he was bleeding from a number of wounds, apparently unbothered by the loss. His bare hands were curled into viscous claws, the bodies on the floor attesting to their viability as weapons.

Her gun arm dropped from its ready position. "Jesus, Victor...What happened?"

"I figured that'd be kinda evident, runt," he chuckled over his nickname for her. He'd come up with it in basic training. "When ya left me here to secure fall back position I called th' others. I told em that ya needed ta see em right away. An' like that they came scurryin' on in here like chicks to th' mama hen! I waited for em in here and picked em off one by one. O' course, they objected." He motioned with a grin at his ravage body.

Ororo slowly inched her way into the room, her face screwing up as she avoided her fallen team. "Why d'you do this Vic?! They liked us!" For years, she and Victor had worked alone, something about them making others avoid them like the plague. It had made them ideal for this type of work, but it had only made her feel isolated inside, like some sort of monster. When they were put together with this team a few missions ago, the two had been accepted from the beginning, giving Ororo a feeling of acceptance like she hadn't felt in a long time. She had never told anyone, and now, she'd never get the chance.

Victor stalked forward, eyes slitting to a narrow cut of yellow. "I thought you'd get it by now. No one'll ever like us. Not them, not anybody else! We're freaks runt. Predators. An' on some level that meat over there an' people like it always pick up on that."

She shook her head, hard, her breath coming in gasps. "No. I refuse ta believe that. There ain't nothin' special 'bout me or you. You're just a soldier that had one too many ops an' went nuts, an' I ain't like that!" Her shouts were accentuated by forgotten bomb bursts and gun fire outside the building.

"Not yet you ain't. But it'll only be a matter o' time. An' don't think ya can deny it pal. I know, deep down, you're just like me. I can smell it...an' you can, too. Can't ya?"

"No!" she shouted. "I'll never be like you. NEVER!" Ororo dropped her gun and dove towards her partner, meeting him in the air with a grunt. Snarling like the animal he was, Victor tore at her with his hands, clawing at her soft underbelly. She met his blows with those of her own, until the pair landed hard on the floor, breathing heavily and bleeding from new wounds. The fight seemed to go on for hours, the war being waged outside in the cold German air forgotten as the battle inside took precedence over their world.

Despite her words of denial, she found herself coming closer to the edge of some giant precipice in her mind. One look into that abyss scared her more than anything Victor could ever do. Distracted, she was saved from falling as Vic tore her face and neck badly with his claws. Darkness overtook her as the blood poured from the massive wound, and she fell into unconsciousness.

Miraculously, she awoke hours later from what she had assumed would be her death. Victor was nowhere to be found and the flies were buzzing around what was left of her team, the only people that had shown her the time of day other than the man she knew would never rest until she joined him in his rage and torment.


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