Disclaimer: I don't own the X-men. This is my first fanfiction, please be kind, thank you.
People were running, some being pulled or carried out of the cell rooms. Most of them hurried and followed directions, a mixture of relief and dazed disbelief on their faces. Some wouldn't come out, and one or two of the X-men would have to go in and assure them this wasn't a trick, they weren't there to hurt them, that they needed to leave before the complex was destroyed.
Wolverine ran down the halls, using his claws to tear open any doors that hadn't opened when Beast had taken control of the security system. Yelling at people to "Move, down that way!" Beast's voice in his ear communicator, telling him there was one last hallway. He smelled fewer people, the last couple cells empty.
A man in the same garb as the other prisoners stood at one of the cell doors looking out, fear and hope warring on his face. Wolverine slowed down. "Time to go, bub." He said.
The man, mouth open and eyes wide, nodded dumbly, then turned back into the room. Wolverine saw him crouch down and pick up another prisoner, a woman. Wolverine turned towards the hall, took a long sniff, wondered if there was anyone else. Ice Man ran up behind him, asked the thought aloud.
"I don't know." The man said.
"Yes, there is, down that way." The woman mumbled, she seemed only half conscious.
Wolverine turned to Ice Man, "Help them get out, I'll make sure." He ran down the last hall.
It was darker in this hallway, he noticed there were no lights in the fixtures. Checking every door along the way, he could smell no one until he reached the last door. It was locked, he tore it open with his claws, no light in the cell, pitch black, but he could smell…someone. His heightened senses let him hear a rustle and the clink of metal as his eyes adjusted. There, on the floor, a small heap.
"I'm here to help." He said gruffly as he came closer. The heap shifted and he heard the clink again. His eyes now adjusted, he saw a chain on the wall, he picked it up, and found the other end hooked to an ankle. He cut through it, scooped up the heap, and started running back to the others.
He wondered if it was a child. It was a tiny, light as a bird body, wrapped up in a blanket, but he didn't slow down to look. He was just grateful the body didn't resist, just leaned into him.
"Wolverine, did we get everyone?" Storm's voice in his ear.
"I've got the last one." He said. A few seconds later and he saw her, she glanced at his arms, nodded and started heading out. Cyclops was setting up the last of the explosives. "Go!" The team leader said to him. For once, Wolverine did.
Shifting the body, he could see part of a face by his shoulder, they stepped into the sunlight and suddenly the body flinched, the face turned and burrowed into his shoulder, as if the light had hurt. He remembered how dark the room had been, and the hallway too. He wondered how long it had been since this person had seen sunlight.
Getting aboard the Black Bird, he could see space was limited, there were more prisoners than they originally thought. Storm gestured toward a bench that was folded down from the wall and he sat next to her.
Storm tried to rearrange the blanket around the body in his arms. He could see now it was female, possibly a teenager or a woman. Hard to tell with her so starved. The stick like arms clung to him and her head was shaved, only dark stubble against pale skin, and her neck so thin, barley holding her head up. She was shivering and when he realized she was cold as ice, he pulled her closer to him and rubbed her arms as Cyclops boarded and the engines roared for take off.
During the flight back to the mansion, Jean and Beast had gone around, checking for injuries. The rescued prisoners had begun to thank them, many of them breaking into tears. It made Wolverine uncomfortable, and angry at the people who had imprisoned them. With grim satisfaction he remembered the soldiers he had killed and the sound of the explosives going off shortly after the Black Bird left the ground.
Jean finally reached him at the back of the jet. "Hey." She said to him, her eyes compassionate but tired.
"Hey, I think she's asleep." He told her. Jean lifted a corner of the blanket, gently took an ankle out.
There was still a metal cuff with a couple chain links attached to it. Jean's brows furrowed as she examined the skin beneath, raw and bloody. "This is probably infected." She said, "We'll have to get the anklet off and have a good look at it in the med ward."
He nodded, he could smell the wound, the blood and the pus. He shifted the girl/woman so Jean could check for any other immediate injuries. There were bruises, and scars, and burns, and obvious dehydration and starvation. The tight line of Jean's mouth matched Wolverine's. He had to admire the red head, she wasn't squeamish about any injuries, over the past few years he had seen her treat several bad ones that could have made a grown man puke, and all the while she'd shown kindness and reassurance to her patient, though he could tell she was angry at the perpetrators, like she was now.
"Let her rest." He told Jean as the girl/woman stirred and pulled away from Jean and back into his shoulder. "There's no place to put her and nothing we can do now, if I try to cut the anklet off now and we hit an air bump…" He trailed off.
Jean nodded, "Bring her to the med ward as soon as we land, I want to hook her to an IV and get some fluids in her right away."
It was Wolverine's turn to nod and he tried not to look at Jean as she turned back to the front of the jet. He'd always had a thing for her, but she had married Cyclops.
Sighing, he looked at the girl. He realized he was holding her with one arm and she fit. So small. His duffel bag was bigger and heavier. If he squeezed her hard, she'd probably break. He wondered why they'd chained her. He could only remember one other prisoner, a feral, who was chained up. It had taken Storm a little time to calm the feral down before Wolverine thought it safe to cut the chains. Chaining up this girl though, keeping her in so much darkness, it made no sense to him.
As soon as the ramp lowered, Logan, which was what he called himself when he wasn't on a mission, was walking down it, the girl held in one arm. She started to stir as he took her into the medical ward. He gently set her on a bed. Jean soon followed, she pulled on a white lab coat and began setting up an IV. "Do you think you can cut the anklet off? Or should we use a saw?" Jean asked him, but before he could answer, there was a thump.
Turning, they saw the girl on the floor by the bed, scrambling backwards, her eyes wide with fear.
"Hey." Logan said and stepped towards her, but she scrambled further away, the smell of panic pouring off her, he stood still and watched as she tried to stand up, but only fell back down. "Easy." He said, squatting down to her level, not sure what to do.
"She's terrified." Jean said behind him.
"Yeah, I figured that."
"It's the room, and my white coat. Oh God, she's projecting so loudly, the things… the things they've done." Her voice choked and Logan turned to see tears in Jean's eyes. "Get her out of here, out of the room now! Take her to Hank!"
Moving quickly, he scooped the girl up and hustled out of the med ward, back towards the jet. The girl struggled, pushing and flailing at him, but so weak he barely noticed.
"My goodness!" Hank exclaimed as Logan called his name and ran up to him in a corner of the hanger. "What's the matter?"
"I dunno, she started freaking out and Jean said to get her to you. I think…" and here he paused, remembering the recurring nightmare he'd had ever since waking up with no memory a couple decades ago. "I think maybe, the med room, and Jean's coat, might've given her a flashback. We know they did experiments."
"Ah, yes." Hank said and looked at the girl.
She had stopped struggling and was staring at Hank. Most people did. He was covered in fur, and blue. His codename was Beast, but his was a gentle soul. Surprisingly, the smell of her fear was fading, and then she reached out to Hank, gently brushing her hand against the fur on his cheek. This was so unusual for him, that he froze.
"We're mutants." A cultured English voice said as Professor Xavier, founder of the X-men, rolled up to them in his wheelchair. "Like you, we're mutants, we're not going to harm you."
The girl looked from Hank, to the professor, to Logan, and back.
The professor was looking at the girl carefully. "Logan, would you please put the young lady down?"
"I don't think she can walk, Professor." He replied.
"Gently, on the floor will be fine." As Logan lowered her to the floor the professor looked into her eyes and pointed to her right foot. "That cuff needs to be taken off, and your ankle treated. Logan here has adamantium claws. Logan, please show her."
Logan hesitated, not wanting the girl to freak out again, but he trusted Xavier. Holding his hand out and away from her, he released the three blades from the back of his hand. The girl gave a little jump, but smelled more surprised than scared. She turned to look in Wolverine's eyes.
"I won't hurt you." He told her, then he reached for her ankle.
The fear smell spiked and there were tears in her eyes when he glanced back at her. She opened her mouth and moved her lips as if speaking, but no sound came out.
"Professor?" He asked, unsure.
"Her mind is in a jumble I'm afraid, I can't speak to her telepathically. Perhaps you should start with one of the links. Show her so she understands. "
Logan picked up the end link with one hand, retracted all but one of the claws from the other, and made eye contact with her as he slowly held the link up, and cut through it like aluminum foil.
Her expression immediately relaxed, and she seemed to understand now as he gently took her calf, holding it still. He carefully put the blade against the hinge of the cuff, angling the sharp edge away from her, and cut through.
"Dear me." Hank said as he crouched down and removed the cuff, taking a layer of dead skin with it. His senses as keen as Logan's, both men wrinkled their noses at the smell. Where the cuff had been, where skin should have been, was an open wound, encircling the right ankle. It was bloody and oozing, the raw muscle showing.
The professor's head was tilted, his expression far away for a moment, then he focused. "I was speaking with Jean, she thinks it's best not to panic her again by bringing her to the med ward. She'll send Ororo with an IV and the supplies you'll need Hank. Logan, there are some rooms upstairs we've been using for storage. Would you and Peter please clear them out? We're going to need the space."
Logan, who wasn't at his best around other people, gladly took the opportunity to help elsewhere. He stopped to look in on Jean. She had removed the lab coat in an attempt to reassure the mutants who were being escorted to the med ward one at a time, in order of medical priority. She gave him a brief smile before returning to her patients. Logan remembered the look on her face when she said the girl was projecting, Jean was so strong, and it bothered him. He wasn't sure if he wanted to know what had happened to the girl.
Ororo/Storm brought Hank what he needed and stayed to help. With words of reassurance, one needle went into the girl's arm, attached to an IV. A second was injected into her right leg, a local anesthetic to numb the foot and ankle. And a third was used to draw blood from her other arm, for testing. Once satisfied the anesthetic had spread, Hank put on gloves and began vigorously scrubbing at the wound, attacking it like a stubborn spot on a dish. After four scrubbings, he applied an antibiotic spray, and wrapped it carefully.
"Well." He said to Ororo and the girl, though he wasn't sure the girl understood. "I don't think there's any gangrene, we may have to do a skin graft, but I don't think we'll have to amputate, so long as we watch the infection closely. Looks like this IV is almost empty. Ororo, could I importune you to get another from Jean?"
"It's no trouble." Ororo said.
Some cots were set up and the girl set on one as her IV bag was switched out a couple times. She was brought a clean blanket and Ororo tucked her in as she laid down and fell asleep. Meanwhile, the mansion was a hive of activity.
Rooms were cleared out, beds set up, clean sheets and extra clothes found. Jean or Hank met with each of the mutants they'd freed. Some were given beds in the med ward, but the healthier ones were taken above and shown to rooms. The kitchen was busy with sandwich making and broths simmered for weaker stomachs. Even the youngest students of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters were eager to help their fellow mutants.
The new mutants were in a bit of shock, they wandered around, went outside, ate, showered, napped, cried. The professor approached each one and welcomed them.
Professor Xavier was especially worried about the girl. She hadn't spoken, and was obviously in worse shape than the others, but also, her mind wouldn't focus. He could only get fleeting emotions of fear and despair, mixed with an oppressive darkness. The glimpse Jean had seen and shared with him was also upsetting. He decided to put her in a ground floor room next to his study, so he could monitor her better. He asked Ororo to let the girl use one of his spare wheelchairs and take her upstairs, help her get cleaned up and settled. He wasn't sure if the girl would be upset at seeing Jean again.
Ororo, a warm and loving woman by nature, carefully helped the girl into the wheelchair and guided her to the room. It had a large window overlooking the grounds, and the girl stared, awestruck, reaching out to the glass. Ororo opened one of the window panels and smiled as the girl reached her hands out, feeling the soft evening breeze.
"How about a bath?" She asked. There was a small bathroom attached, she got the warm water started and slipped to the kitchen for a plastic bag and rubber bands, to cover the bandage with. The girl was still leaning on the window sill when she returned. Taking her into the bathroom, Ororo removed the girl's filthy prison garments. She held her breath when she saw the protruding bones and what looked like surgical scars all across the girl's shrunken stomach, but she couldn't hold back her gasp when she saw the girl's back. Folded flat against her spine, like a moth's, were wings. But underneath and all around them, the girl's back was a mass of scar tissue, multiple layers of new, raw red lines on top of old faded ones.
Pulling herself together, Ororo arranged the bag over the girl's foot and bandaged ankle, so they wouldn't get wet. The girl seemed to understand and kept it out of the water as she got into the tub and allowed Ororo to bathe her.
Realizing the girl's lack of weight meant she'd be cold, Ororo dressed her in sweats and cleaned her right foot with wipes since it couldn't be bathed. The girl was sleepy again, another symptom of starvation, so Ororo tucked her into the bed, closed the window and went to tell the professor what she'd discovered.