FANDOM: X-Men (Movieverse)
SUMMARY: “The last time I got mixed up with a group of mutants claiming to be the good guys they turned out to be an anti-human terrorist cult.”
RATING: R (for language)
CHAPTER ONE: Ratfinks, Suicide Tanks and Cannibal Girls
CHAPTER TWO: Two-Lane Blacktop
CHAPTER THREE: How to Make a Monster
The DEVIL'S REJECTS
Logan woke up in his old room at the mansion, which was a surprise, but not an entirely unwelcome one. It beat waking up in the county jail, or the morgue, or some black ops detention facility. He’d done all of those already and couldn’t say he’d enjoyed any of them. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and sat up. His shirt was a bloody, bullet-riddled mess. He pulled it off, tossed it into the trash can and shuffled into the bathroom to take a much-needed leak. When he came back out Xavier’s voice popped into his head.
Welcome back, Logan.
“How’d I get here?” he asked, pulling on a clean shirt.
I sensed you were heading for trouble so I asked Ororo and Kurt to drop in on you. Rogue insisted on tagging along.
He threw open the door to his room and almost barreled over the professor, who was parked in the hallway right outside. Logan raised his eyebrows. “You been spying on me, Chuck?”
Xavier smiled and started heading down the hall, leaving Logan to tag along in his wake.
“What happened to the girl?” Logan asked.
“Your friend Elizabeth? She’s here as well. Ororo has been attempting to make her feel comfortable. With limited success, I’m afraid.”
“She doesn’t belong here. She’s not one of us.”
Xavier stopped and turned his wheelchair so he could look up at Logan. “You don’t know, do you?”
“She’s a mutant.”
Logan stared at him. “The hell she is. I never saw her do anything out of the ordinary.”
“She’s a telepath.”
“What, like Jean?”
The professor paused almost imperceptibly—if you weren’t looking for it you might not even have noticed—before saying, “Telepathy was never Jean’s primary gift. Her telekinesis was always much stronger. As far as I know Miss Braddock has no telekinetic abilities. Her gifts are more like mine.”
Logan suppressed a shudder. One professor poking around in his head was bad enough. He didn’t like the thought that he’d been hanging around another mind-reader without even knowing it. There was no telling what kind of stuff she’d fished out of his brain. Or put into it.
Xavier continued down the hall. “I don’t suppose you’ve heard of Betsy Braddock?”
“No, should I?” Logan said, keeping pace with him.
“She was an English supermodel, a rather famous one. She was romantically linked to several well-known actors.”
Logan shrugged. “I musta let my subscription to Us Weekly run out.”
“Her career ended when she was outed as a mutant. She was attacked by a stalker one night outside a nightclub and manifested a psionic bolt to defend herself. The incident was witnessed by a number of people and the man who attacked her was left with permanent brain damage. He had a knife and almost certainly meant to do her serious harm, but that didn’t seem to matter to anyone.”
“Course not,” Logan sniffed. “And you’re saying this supermodel is Elizabeth?”
Xavier nodded. “She was vilified by the press. Her professional contacts and most of her friends abandoned her, her career ended almost overnight. She must have felt quite angry and alone, it’s hardly surprising that she fell in with the Brotherhood after that.”
“She would have been a ideal recruit in Erik’s anti-human crusade. I regret that I made no attempt to contact her myself at the time, but it was shortly before the incident at the Statue of Liberty last year and I was rather preoccupied.”
“She did seem like she was on the run from something. I just figured it was a lousy boyfriend or someone she owed money.” He dodged around a group of the younger students stampeding for the stairs—headed for the cafeteria, by the look of them. Which would make it dinnertime, which meant that he’d been unconscious for hours.
“I’m afraid it’s something much worse than that.”
“Is that what all those cops were doing at the bus station? Because they weren’t looking for me, at least not at first.”
Xavier stopped again. “The police were there looking for Sabretooth, who, in turn, was apparently looking for Miss Braddock. Whatever her involvement with the Brotherhood, she seems to have parted with them on rather bad terms. I would be very interested to know why.”
“Unfortunately, so far she’s been rather reluctant to open up to any of us here.” Xavier inclined his head meaningfully at the next-to-last door on the left. “You seem to have formed some sort of bond with her; I was hoping you’d have better luck.”
Logan scowled. “Of course you were.”
Xavier flashed one of those smug little smiles of his and steered his chair back toward the elevator.
“If she’s psychic she’s gonna know I’m here to interrogate her,” Logan said.
“Then don’t interrogate her,” Xavier called over his shoulder. “Why don’t you try showing a little kindness? I think you’ll be amazed where that can get you.”
“Kind ain’t exactly my wheelhouse,” Logan grumbled.
He heard the old man laugh as he disappeared into the elevator. Logan sighed, walked over to the door and knocked.
“Come in,” Elizabeth said.
She was standing by the window. Pale orange light slanted in through the curtains, catching the purple highlights in her hair and turning them a dusky burgundy. “They told me you weren’t dead,” she said, turning to look at him. “I guess they were right.”
“I’m pretty hard to kill.” He closed the door behind him and stepped into the room. “You doing okay?”
She shrugged. “Well enough.”
The bruises around her throat had started to darken and three half-moon shaped puncture marks were visible under one of her ears. She looked tense and exhausted. Logan wondered how long it’d been since she’d slept.
“It’s funny,” he said, “you don’t look like a Betsy to me.”
Her mouth twitched. “They told you about me.”
“I knew that accent of yours sounded fake.”
“I suppose there’s no point in trying to maintain the charade any longer,” she said, dropping into an English accent tempered by years of living in New York.
He pulled the chair out from the desk and swung a leg over the seat so he was straddling the back. “So you’re a telepath, eh? That’s how you got me past those cops.”
“That was simply good old-fashioned ingenuity and bluffing. I try not to use my powers unless I absolutely have to.”
Her expression darkened and she turned back to the window. “Because bad things tend to happen when I do.”
He wondered what she meant by that, but he had more important questions to ask. “The professor thinks you’re mixed up with the Brotherhood.” She didn’t say anything, just kept staring out the window. “Why was Sabretooth after you?” Nothing. He decided to try a different tack. “At least tell me why you came back to the bus station. Were you looking for me?”
She nodded. “I saw the police pull up out front when I was leaving.”
“So? Not like it was your problem.”
She turned and fixed him with those icy blues eyes of hers. Something about the look she was giving him sent a cold chill down his spine. Or maybe it was just knowing that she was a telepath. Mind readers made him twitchy.
“I have visions of the future sometimes,” she said. “I had one in the car, when I gave you your jacket back.”
“That’s why you got all hinky all of a sudden.”
“I saw you lying on the ground in a pool of blood with bullet wounds in your chest. You were dead.”
“Cheerful.” So she was a precog as well as a telepath. That was info Xavier would almost certainly want to have. Logan wasn’t sure yet whether or not he was going to tell him.
“When I saw the police go running into the bus station I thought ...” She trailed off and pressed her lips together.
“You thought you could stop it from happening,” he finished for her.
“Idiotic,” she said bitterly. “As it turned out, my being there is what caused it. I should have remembered my Sophocles.”
“That’s twice now you’ve stuck your neck out for me.”
“And twice you’ve stuck yours out for me. As long as we’re keeping score.”
“That ought to buy me a little bit of trust, don’t you think?”
She seemed to consider this for a moment. “A little, I suppose.”
“Well I’m telling you that these people here, Xavier and the rest, they’re good guys. They can help you.” He corrected himself. “We can help you, with whatever you’ve gotten yourself into. If you let us.”
Her mouth curved in a rueful smile. “The last time I got mixed up with a group of mutants claiming to be the good guys they turned out to be an anti-human terrorist cult.”
“Tell me about it.”
“All right,” she finally conceded. “You know who I am, so I suppose you know what happened to me?”
“I got the gist of it, yeah.”
“Shortly after my fall from grace, I met a woman named Wanda, a mutant. She was the first person who’d been kind to me since I was outed. She introduced me to her brother and some of their mutant friends and for a while it was just nice to have friends again, to be accepted for who I was, you know?”
“They called themselves mutant rights activists. We went to a few demonstrations and did some counter-protesting at the anti-mutant rallies. Then one night we broke into this anti-mutant organization’s offices and smashed their computers. There was some more vandalism after that, but it was all petty stuff. Eventually they took me to meet Magneto. He had a lot of interesting things to say."
Logan scowled. “Yeah, that guy really likes the sound of his own voice.”
“I thought he was brilliant. He talked about valuing ourselves and our gifts, standing up for our rights and not letting the humans make us feel inferior. It was all quite appealing to me after everything that had happened. Then he told me they were planning something big, and asked me to help.”
“What was it?”
“Breaking into a top secret Department of Defense facility. Magneto said the government was developing some kind of weapon to use against mutants. He wanted us to break in and steal the schematics, to see for ourselves.”
That got Logan’s attention. “What kind of weapon?”
“I don’t know. It was part of something called Project Wideawake, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of it.”
“You saw it?”
“I saw the facility. It’s supposedly part of a NASA complex in Maryland, but it was being guarded by private security contractors. Serious, hardcore mercenary types.”
“That doesn’t sound like NASA.”
“No. They were definitely building something inside—something big—but I couldn’t tell what from the bits I saw. They didn’t seem to be very far along yet.”
Logan stood up. “We need to tell the others about this right now. If the government’s really building some kind of anti-mutant weapon, the professor needs to know about it.” He held out his hand. “Come with me. Tell them what you saw so we can do something about it.”
She stared at him for a moment. Then she nodded and took his hand.
Professor Xavier’s office was a stuffy, Tudor-style nightmare that make Elizabeth feel like she was a little girl back in father’s library at Braddock Manor. Logan stood behind her, his arms crossed tensely, while Xavier regarded her mildly from behind an intricately carved mahogany desk. Ororo and Kurt, the two mutants she’d met on the plane yesterday, were there as well. They were all watching her, waiting for her to tell her story.
Xavier made Elizabeth exceedingly uncomfortable. She’d known he was a telepath from the first moment she’d met him, when she stepped off the plane at this bizarre little school of his. Despite the great show he made of playing the benevolent host, she’d felt him silently prodding at her mental barriers, looking for a way inside her mind. It was frankly a bit terrifying. He was remarkably strong, stronger than any telepath she’d ever encountered, and far stronger than she was. It had been all she could do to keep her mind shielded from his attempts at intrusion, and she was almost certain he wasn’t bringing anywhere near the full force of his powers to bear.
And now he was at it again, tap tap tapping away, looking for a weakness to exploit. But she’d be buggered if she was going to let him intimidate her. She forced herself to meet his gaze and calmly said, “Do you mind? I can feel you trying to get into my head and I find it incredibly intrusive.” She heard Logan chuckle quietly behind her.
To her satisfaction Xavier looked appropriately shamefaced. “I apologize,” he said, and she felt him withdraw from her shields. “That was very rude of me. It won’t happen again.”
The door opened and another man walked into the room. Between his wan complexion, the red sunglasses he wore, and the three-day stubble darkening his cheekbones, he gave a strong impression of someone coming off a major bender.
“Scott,” said the professor. “I’m glad you could join us.” He said it gently, but there was a subtle edge to his voice that hadn’t been there before. “Elizabeth Braddock, may I introduce Scott Summers, another of my colleagues here at the school.”
Scott nodded at her curtly. Then his gaze found Logan and every muscle in his body seemed to tense. The two men stared at one another like a couple of pit bulls sizing each other up in the fighting ring. This went on for a long, uncomfortable moment before Scott finally scowled and turned away. He went and stood the other side of the room, about as far as it was possible to get from Logan.
“Well,” said Xavier, “now that we’re all here perhaps Elizabeth will share her story with us.” He smiled encouragingly.
She took a deep breath and carefully recounted everything she’d told Logan about her dealings with the Brotherhood and about the NASA facility that was most definitely not a NASA facility.
“I’d heard rumors that such a site existed,” said Xavier. “I am disappointed to discover the rumors are true.”
“We had this guy named Mortimer who was good with computers,” Elizabeth went on. “And he hacked into the system and copied all the relevant files onto a data disk, including the schematics. Then when he was done, he went back to the originals and changed a bunch of numbers around. Just a bit here and there, not enough that anyone would notice, but enough that they’d never get the thing to work.”
Xavier nodded approvingly. “Very clever.”
“While we were waiting for Mortie to finish, Wanda’s brother Pietro started going on about how awesome it was going to be when the ‘insects’ found their own creation turned against them. Apparently Magneto was planning to use the schematics to build a weapon of his own that he could use against the humans. He was going to target Washington, D.C., to teach the U.S. government a lesson.”
“Of course he was,” Scott said.
“That was the first I’d heard about that particular aspect of the plan,” Elizabeth said. “I was appalled.”
“What did you expect when you got into bed with the Brotherhood?” Scott said derisively.
Elizabeth bristled. “Just because I’m angry about the way humans treat us doesn’t mean I think we should start slaughtering them all wholesale. I never signed on for that.”
“So what’d you do about it?” Logan asked.
“Nothing at first. I kept my mouth shut and pretended to go along it. But then once we were safely away I used my powers to get the data disk away from Mortie and rewrite everyone’s memories. I sent them all back to Magneto thinking we’d failed and I’d been caught. And then I ran.”
“I assume Erik saw through the deception and sent Sabretooth after you to retrieve the schematics,” Xavier said. “How disappointed he must have been when we brought you here.”
“Where are the files now?” Ororo asked. “Do you still have them?”
Elizabeth hesitated. “What would you do with them if I did?”
“I suppose that depends upon what the files reveal,” said the professor. “But I can assure you that in this situation our goal is the same as yours—to prevent violence rather than instigate it.”
He seemed sincere, but she knew firsthand how very deceiving appearances could be. She knew next to nothing about these people, how was she was supposed to know if she could trust them? But then she remembered what Logan had said. For whatever reason, her instincts told her to trust him. And he seemed to trust Xavier.
She took off her watch and tore off the data disk she’d taped to the backside. “Here,” she said, tossing it to Ororo. “What now?”
“Before we decide that,” said the professor, “we need to determine exactly what this Project Wideawake was attempting to build.”