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 as 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, 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 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 know 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 forbid 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.