The first screams tore through them with the full force of a nuclear explosion. It sounded inhuman. A screech echoing across an endless and barren field of pain. The worst of it was that there was something horribly fragile and afraid living inside the horrible sound. 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. Tubes and wires were connected at odd angles. Surrounding his body was a pale yellow halo of light that grew brighter as they entered the room. His face contorted in agony, his back arched as far as the restraints would let it, and 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 aimed 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 at Logan・s side the same time that he fell to the ground.
"Okaaaaaay..." Cyclops looked at the damage the two women had caused. Well, it had 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.
Storm turned to the machinery attached to Logan and began to disconnect it as best she knew how. "Rest easy my old friend," she said quietly. "We are going to get you out of here." As each wire and machine was powered down, Logan relaxed a little more, until he fell silent and the last tube was removed. The light disappeared and Storm lay a comforting hand on his sweaty shoulder and met his bleary eyes for the first time in too long a while. He stared through her, his eyes focused somewhere far in the distance. A chill ran down her spine when she saw that the color of his eyes had changed. They were no longer the blue that she associated with the color of deep water but were instead becoming a glowing red. The original hue seemed to swim in the red, slowly drowning in the foreign shade. Suddenly, Logan・s eyes rolled into the back of his head and he fell into unconsciousness. No...I did not just see that did I? she thought. It must have been the poor lighting in here.
Cyclops and Rogue reached the table. God he looks terrible, he thought. "Rogue, get those restraints off of him." Cyclops tore off the arms to his uniform and began to wrap the makeshift bandages around Logan・s wounds.
Rogue pulled as hard as she could to break his bonds but to no avail. Shoot! she thought, These suckers must be made outta adamantium! Not ta worry, Sugah, I・ve still got a few tricks up my sleeve. Giving up her attempts on the cuffs themselves, she hit the bed itself as hard as she could instead. That left the chains, but at least he was free. Lifting him in her arms, she turned to the others. "Ahlright folks, let's get the Hell out o・ heyah."
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 coming toward the door. White hair bobbed toward her and black eyes stared from a paler face. The girl slowed a few feet in front of her. "You!"
"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 getting that information. 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. Even when she had first rescued Wolvie in the desert he hadn・t looked that bad.
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 it's 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, arrangements to be made, and people to contact. 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 man 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.
Author's Note: It looks like everything's going great for our mutated friends, right? RIGHT? Tune in next week, >evil giggle< it's not over yet!