It's in my nature
(Logan Howlett x Rhondella Stark)
Part 4 of Marvel's Soulmates series
July 1st, 1976
Upstate New York
Today was just a normal day for every other child. For Rhondella it was two things. 1) it was her seventh birthday, 2) Her Uncle Howard had promised her a very special type of birthday present. She had been very excited as the morning light peaked into her window. She had been awoken by the familiar, but not completely unwelcomed weight that was her younger cousin Anthony. The smell of blueberry waffles wafted through the air and she could hear Edwin humming one of his favorite classical tunes while he worked. "C'mon, C'mon Rhonda! Today's the day! Dad's taking us to his work" Tony cheered using his smaller hands to grip the covers and pull them away from her.
Rhonda chuckled and playfully rolled her eyes. "I bet you forgot what else today brings cuz" Rhonda laughed and ruffled Anthony's dark brown hair. The little boy that sat on top of her grew a ghostly white as he had realized that he had honestly forgotten. "Oh c'mon now, the smart little Tony Stark has forgotten something important?" Rhonda giggled and booped the little boy's nose.
Tony crossed his arms over his chest and contorted his face in a look of annoyance. "I have not! I just have a lot of dates to think about" Tony lied through his teeth causing Rhonda to shake her head. She pushed Tony off of her and then hopped up out of her bed.
The cool floor under her feet was a familiar feeling, but she knew that her skin would eventually stop their protest and enjoy the feeling. The seven year old practically skipped down the hallway with the five year trailing behind her still trying to guess why today was so important to his cousin. Rhonda slid down the bannister not even caring to remember her Aunt's protests from the past about falling and breaking her neck. She was too excited today because she finally was able to see her Uncle Howard on her birthday.
The kitchen was filled with the delicious smell of waffle batter, orange juice, popping bacon and fresh eggs. Rhonda skid to a stop in the doorway seeing Jarvis behind the counter working on their breakfast. At the table was Agent Carter or as Tony and Rhonda knew her 'Auntie Peggy' and Maria Stark.
When Peggy heard the pattering of feet she slowly looked up from her newspaper to see Rhonda standing in the doorway. "Well if it isn't our favorite birthday girl" Peggy chuckled smiling at the out of breath child. Suddenly Tony came skidding behind Rhonda, he didn't exactly make a graceful stop and ended up face first into Rhonda's back. With this new force that Tony had created gravity did the rest causing both children to topple to the floor in a fit of giggles. "Are you two alright down there?" Peggy laughed seeing the two twisted in a pile of limbs.
"We're fine Aunt Peggy" Tony laughed pinning Rhonda to the ground only to be toppled over by the older girl. "Why didn't you tell me today was your birthday?" Tony asked earning an eye-roll from Rhonda who got up off of him and took her seat at the breakfast table.
"And that is where you are like your father sometimes Young man. Do you ever listen when we tell you things?" Maria scolded playfully and smiled a kind smile to Rhonda. "Happy Birthday Rhondella, this is from your uncle Howard and I" Maria said sliding the girl a dark blue envelope. Rhonda opened the envelope excitedly and read the card. A happiness spread over her features as she looked at the three tickets tucked inside the card.
"Oh wow…a-are y-you serious Aunt Maria? T-tickets to the Pasadena Who-Con?" Rhonda asked causing Tony to jump up from his place on the floor and stand close to Rhonda so he could see her prize.
"Yes, yes darling we got them for you and Tony to enjoy because we both knew how much that show meant to you two. Jarvis will be taking you as you both know of his fascination with the show" Maria said turning her gaze to the faithful butler who was finishing with cooking their breakfast.
"Oh my gosh thank you Auntie Maria! Thank you! Oh Tony this is gonna be so much fun! Maybe we'll get the chance to meet the Doctor!" Rhonda cheered and then pulled her younger cousin into a bone crushing hug. Tony sputtered for a moment and then hugged her back. Jarvis chuckled seeing the two's display of affection. It was nice to see two cousin almost become like brother and sister in such a small amount of time.
"Of course darling we had to do something nice for your birthday. Now hurry up and eat because your Aunt Peggy is taking you and Tony to visit your uncle Howard" Maria said although her voice grew slightly uneasy. The look on Peggy's face was one of sympathy and slight disgust.
The truth of the matter was, all three adults in the room knew what was about to happen to the young girl. None of them said a word about the true purpose of the visit to Howard because they feared that Rhondella would not react well. The tension in the room was finally broken when Jarvis served up the waffles and bacon making Rhonda and Tony cheer in happiness.
Suddenly the room grew quiet as both of the children let out a soft yawn. Soon they were both in a chemically induced coma. For the good of Howard's experiment Rhonda had to be knocked out and Tony had to left behind. "I am sorry Miss Stark. I mean nothing against Mr. Stark, but I find it cruel to do this to her" Jarvis said as he lifted Tony in his arms.
"I don't agree with this either Edwin, but we have no choice. Howard is going to do what he believes is right for the common good of man. Until Captain Rogers can truly be found this is the only choice we have" Maria answered with tears in her eyes.
Peggy gently lifted Rhonda into her arms and a sad look painted her face at the mention of Steve and then at the thought of what was going to take place today. "The thing is Maria, are we really sure that this will help the greater good of humanity? Margo is not going to be happy to know that the subject is Rhonda. Steve would not condone this either if he was here. You know it to be true" Peggy answered trying to keep her grip as she slowly began to walk to the doorway of the kitchen. "Let's just hope the child survives" Peggy called over her shoulder and walked away. Maria looked on as she watched her friend take her precious niece away to become her husband's lab rat.
"Mrs. Stark shall I put Master Anthony to bed?" Edwin asked his gaze following Peggy's disappearing form.
"Yes Jarvis if you don't mind. Please keep your eye on him and make sure that he doesn't wake up until we're given the signal" Maria answered wiping a tear away from her eyes. Jarvis disappeared down the corridor with the boy in his arms leaving Maria to her own devices. "Dear lord forgive for what I have done" she whispered to herself and then walked herself to her room so she could be alone.
Top secret SHIELD base
Upstate New York
Today was an important day for Howard Stark. Today was the beginning of a top secret experiment that would hopefully replicate Dr. Erskine's Serum. The thing is, no one had ever tested it on a female before. Of course this experiment was not government funded, because why would you ask a woman to do a job that is more suited for a man right? They didn't want to be hounded by the press and they wanted to say they had dignity. Yeah right. They just didn't want to see what could actually happen if you were able to replicate it in a body that had a completely different chemistry than that of Steven Rogers.
From the day she had been born Howard knew his niece was a tough cookie. Her soulmate tattoo suggested it. The tattoo was a paw-print with three long slash marks running through its center. To most it was unusual because the shape meant her soulmate had something to do with Animals, but no one could predict what the slash marks meant. It was because of this tattoo that Howard had known she would be the perfect subject for his experiment. Of course he had to wait until she was at least seven years old because then her body would be at peak production of development.
He had to do this experiment with great caution though because he had promised his brother and his wife that he would protect and care for their daughter. Of course he was not the average father figure, far from it, but he would keep his word to them. Maria had not wanted Howard to be so reckless, but her words would not stop the progress of today. Today Howard Stark wanted to show the world that the super-soldier was not dead.
After many tedious hours of surgical work and serum insertions they placed the child in an observation containment unit so that they could study the effects and run tests with her when she had awoken. Of course during the actual experiment process she had experienced a few complications and it looked like her body had not really been altered like Steve's had, but he had been a completely different case at the time.
Howard's science team stood with him on one side of the thick, one sided glass while a few other scientist carefully made their way up to the bed where the subject still laid in the chemically induced coma. They both had electric prods in their hands ready to use them and wake the sleeping child.
Suddenly the girl shot up in the bed an erratic fear washing over her. Rhondella's whole body lit up on fire and the two unfortunate scientists were thrown against the wall, their skin torched with third degree burns and singed eyebrows.
Howard looked on in shock seeing an effect that he had not anticipated coming from his niece. He pressed a button on the control panel in front of him changing the one-sided glass into a sheet of double sided glass. "Rhonda can you hear me? Take it easy now, I'm here" Howard said calmly into a microphone.
Rhonda looked up at the voice that she knew was her uncle and then that's when she saw it. Her eyes grew wide as she had seen what she had done to the two scientist. Her gaze then stared at her fiery reflection in the double sided glass. She sunk to her knees and stared down at her hand. "WHAT DID YOU DO TO ME? UNCLE HOWARD HOW COULD YOU?" Rhonda screamed and suddenly a huge gust of wind rained over her blowing out the fire from her skin. She was surprised to find her skin was unharmed from the flame.
"Rhondella you must understand, this was an important experiment. We had to know the effects that Dr. Erskine's serum had on a female body chemistry" Howard explained giving his niece a cold and hard gaze.
"SO WHAT YOU TAKE ME AGAINST MY WILL AND MAKE ME INTO A MONSTER?" Rhonda continued angrily. The ground began to shake violently as her own gaze turned into one of fury and the purest form of anger. "You know I read in a book once, anger is only one letter short of danger!" Rhonda snapped and the glass that separated her from the scientist and Howard shattered with the force of the ground moving beneath her feet.
Just as she was about to move closer and exact some sort of revenge on her inhuman uncle she saw a familiar sad face coming to stand next to him. It was her aunt Margo. "Please Rhonda calm yourself. If you hurt these men then you will truly being proving yourself correct. You are not a monster, you will just be unique like me" Margo said in a pleading voice to the young girl.
Rhonda took one look at her aunt and then turned away and stalked over to the furthest corner of the observation room. The ground stopped shaking, but as her soft sobs could be heard a thunder cloud formed over her head. It was a personal rainstorm was raining heavily over her head soaking her by the second. "NO YOU'RE RIGHT AUNT MARGRET. I'M NOT THE MONSTER. HOWARD STARK IS" Rhonda shouted through her sobs and over her shoulder.
Margo felt so horrible for the child and it angered her to no end that she hadn't stepped in and stopped Howard. She also knew that Bucky would not appreciate his blood being what had been used to recreate the serum. Margo shook her head and then used her stardust to recreate the glass encasing that separated the two rooms.
Howard looked around at his staff, a wild and excited look grew on his face. "Please tell me someone recorded everything that just happened. It's not science unless someone records or writes it down" Howard shouted looking around the room at the other scientists.
Margo, being angered herself with what had happened and also at the man's insensitive reaction, grabbed Howard with a giant fist made of stardust and then proceeded to carry him out of the room. As soon as they were out of sight and earshot of the other scientist, she slammed him against the wall and held him there. "What the hell were you thinking? Testing that on a child for one. Then you act like her suffering is a good thing? You do realize that she will never be able to have friends or live a normal life now right? There is no 'Oh I'm sorry you don't like your powers, how about we reverse it' switch. You've ruined her life and I feel absolutely ashamed that I allowed it to happen" Margo snapped closing the stardust tighter and tighter around Howard's throat.
"Margo…let m-me explain…" Howard coughed out squirming against the chokehold that Margo held against him. Finally Margo dropped the choke hold, but continued to pin him to the wall.
"Fine, give me one good reason not to pound you into oblivion other than being my friend and the guardian of the child you just hurt" Margo growled glaring daggers at her prey and trying to will herself not to kill him.
"The world is in a turmoil right now because Steve isn't here. Buck can only do so much and Hydra doesn't rest. The world can always use more heroes, especially if it's to guard the safety of innocent lives. The mutant phenomenon is growing in great depth and this maybe her chance to make a difference. Of course the effects aren't what I had planned, but with your help and maybe the help of a few others we can teach her control" Howard answered giving Margo a pleading look.
Margo sighed and closed her eyes. Yes it was true, the world was in the middle of a brutal cold war. It didn't help that the boys in Vietnam were dying as fast as the president was sending them. Young men going off into a war and never returning home was something that she didn't want to keep seeing in her dreams. "Fine. You better hope that this works and that she doesn't end up dead. If anything bad happens to that child while she grows up, I will not be the only one willing to rain hell fire down on you" Margo answered letting him go and turning away from him.
"Where are you going Agent Whitty?" Howard called after her as she walked down the corridor.
"I'm going to get your son. The boy is the only thing that can keep her calm and happy. If you want this to work then you're gonna have to do it my way" Margo answered with venom still in her voice.
Tony didn't remember what had happened, all he knew was that he was in his bed and the soft nudge of a familiar hand had awaken him. "Master Anthony it's time to get up" Jarvis' soft voice could be heard through the haze of sleep. Tony slowly yawned and sat up in his bed. He wiped sleep from his eyes before he realized something important. He jumped out of bed and frantically ran down the hallway towards Rhonda's room. "Master Anthony!" Jarvis had called after Tony, but his calls were unheard as he threw open the door.
When Tony didn't see Rhonda in her bed he turned and looked at his friend and guardian. "Jarvis where's Rhonda?" Tony asked with tears threatening to spill out of his little eyes. Jarvis gently placed a hand on Tony's shoulder and closed his eyes preparing himself to tell the boy about the experiment.
Suddenly Margo showed up behind them giving Jarvis a sad look that said. *We need him, the deed is done and he is the only one that can help*. Jarvis slowly turned Tony so that he faced his aunt and then took long even strides to exit the room. "Aunt Margo…W-where's Rhonda? W-what's wrong with Jarvis?" Tony asked watching his friend walk away and then looking back at his aunt.
Margo gently knelt down in front of the five year old and took his smaller hand in her own gently. "Do you remember how Captain America was created?" Margo asked earning a nod from the child. "Well Rhonda was subjected to an experiment. Your father made her into a mutant and now she is scared. Will you help me make her brave?" Margo asked softly watering down the whole situation to the point that Tony would be able to comprehend.
"Y-yes Aunt Margo I'll help you," Tony answered softly although in the back of his mind he knew that this had to have something to do with his father's stupid obsession over Captain America. Tony packed a few things including Rhonda's favorite stuffed bear Einstein and then followed his aunt Margo to her car.
"Ever since that day I lived with the idea of a growing resentment towards the man I looked to as a father. The man I had once wanted to trust. I can't trust someone who made me into a freak of nature and then characterized me as a weapon and not a child" –Rhonda
January 5th, 1980
5 years later…
Rhonda sighed impatiently as she swung her legs back and forth and waited on her Aunt Peggy or Aunt Margo to come a get her. Sitting in the principal's office was an occurrence that had taken place at least once a weak. Better than when she had been in elementary school where she would be sent there almost every day.
Today's incident was Rhonda breaking another kid's nose because she had pinned them down against the wall of the hallway with her wind capability and then let her plant friends that had been in a neighboring class, Venus flytraps, take care of the pest. He deserved it for picking on a younger kid that was mutant just like her. She didn't tolerate bullies like the teachers did. The teachers at this school didn't care if mutant students were bullied. Mutants had to stick together and that's what she did for the younger mutant.
She smiled a little when she saw two familiar face enter through the front doors of the school. It was her Aunt Margo and Uncle Bucky here to save the day, but probably ready to scold her for getting in trouble yet again. The two walked into the office, Bucky had a bit of an amused look on his face. Margo looked slightly annoyed as she walked into she principal's office leaving the other two in the waiting room. "Alright kiddo whadda ya do this time huh?" Bucky asked earning a small smirk from Rhonda.
"Rhonda you've got to learn when standing up for someone goes a little too far. You can't be kicked out of this school because it's the last one we've got left" Margo groaned as she started up the dark blue punch bug and began to drive away from the said hated place.
"Aunt Margo I'm sorry, but the teachers wouldn't do anything for him. Leon's a mutant like me and he can't help it. They don't like us mutants ya know" Rhonda answered feeling the shame wash over her.
"Wait is Leon the Neon lights kid that you said is basically a human night light when the lights go out?" Bucky asked from the front passenger seat.
"Yeah why?" Rhonda answered perking up just a little.
"Buck I'm not saying that I'm not proud of her for standing up for him, but she has to learn better control. We've got to work with her on her powers and try to help her conceal them from the world. She'll be called a freak for the rest of her life if she doesn't learn" Margo answered with concern lacing her voice.
"Well isn't that why Professor Xavier wanted to visit her for?" Bucky asked making Rhonda's heart stop for a moment. She knew by now the reputation of the great Professor X and his school for mutants. She had always wanted to go there when she had learned what Howard had made her into, but there was one thing stopping her. Tony.
"Buck you gave away the surprise" Margo groaned and playfully rolled her eyes. Rhonda giggled a little from the back seat and then looked at her Uncle's reflection in the rearview mirror. "We have someone that you need to meet Rhonda. We're not going to force you to make any choice today ok. We just want you to talk to him and a few of his colleagues that are here to visit you" Margo added playfully slapping Bucky on the arm.
"Ok, but you've got to make a deal with me first" Rhonda said rubbing her hands together carefully so she wouldn't start a fire in the car.
"Ok and what's the proposition?" Bucky asked with a smirk on his face. He already knew what she was going to ask and by now knew that him and Margo weren't gonna say anything, but it was fun to see her gamble for her freedom.
"If I see him and his friends then you guys have to promise not to tell Uncle Howard or Aunt Maria because both of them would have my head for beating up another kid," Rhonda offered earning the first real smile that she had seen her aunt give all day.
"It's a deal Hun," She said, as the world around them slowly grew less and less crowded and more and more open. The skyscrapers and huge highways slowly disappeared and turned into open meadows and small forest like areas. Rhonda knew this road too well by now. It was the road to the secret Shield base that rested just outside the city.
She sat in the comfortable silence that came with the unusually large conference room. When they had arrived at the Shield base Rhondella had been lead to the large conference room and there she waited for her visitors to arrive. While she waited, she was reading a book on animals and their psychological behaviors. Rhonda had always wanted to understand why she was so good with animals, especially after she had discovered her soulmate Tattoo on her collarbone. The tattoo was considered unique and everyone she had tried showing it to was unable to decipher who or what it meant. Rhonda's tattoo was a colorful paw-print with three identical slash-marks running the through the center.
Suddenly the sound of the large wooden door opening drew Rhonda out of her reading and she quickly placed the book back into her book bag. Couldn't have her Uncle Howard seeing her reading right? Because apparently reading was weak. She didn't see her cruel uncle. Instead, she saw a wise looking, bald-headed man roll into the room in a wheel chair. Behind the bald-headed man were few others. The first man was tall and lean with dark brown hair and a pair of sunglasses shielding his eyes. The next was a beautiful woman with ebony colored skin and snow-white hair that was tied back in a simple braid. The last to enter the room was a tall, blue, hairy creature with a pair of thick glasses resting on the edge of his nose. Rhonda was very surprised, but also trying to hold back her inner fangirl. She was met with some of the greatest mutants in the world. Cyclops, Storm, and The beast. The one that Rhonda knew was Charles Xavier smiled warmly at her and gently held out his hand in a friendly gesture. "Hello I'm Professor Charles Xavier. You must be Rhondella, it's lovely to finally meet you," He said in a kind and soft voice.
Rhonda was shy at first, but she returned the gesture and shook Xavier's hand softly. "Y-yes sir. It's an honor" She said softly with a small embarrassed blush coming up her neck and across her cheeks.
"Well it's definitely a bit more of an honor to meet a young mutant like you. You're special you know. The only survivor of such a dangerous experiment. I've heard that you have trouble fitting in with normal people, but you see that is normal. One who is not normal cannot be treated as such for them to survive" Charles explained watching as a small flame curled in the palm of one of Rhonda's hands. "You see, this doesn't have to be the end. There's a safe place for mutants like yourself to learn, grow, and some even become heroes," Charles added gesturing to the three mutants who stood behind him.
Rhonda rung her hands burning the skin on each of her palms, but it began growing back just as quickly. She had so much to think about, it wasn't that she didn't want to join the band of mutants, she was just afraid. Rhonda had many younger kids who depended on her and one of them included her little cousin Tony who was in his own way a mutant because of his brain condition. "You do not have to decide now if you do not wish to. If you believe that you are not ready then there will always be another day to decide it," Charles said sending her calming brain waves. It was a weird feeling, but she felt so much better after they rolled over her.
"T-thank you sir. I have gratitude for you even considering me because I wasn't naturally born this way. I just have so many who count on me to survive," She says softly looking down at the table before her in fear of disappointing her visitors.
"Of course, I do understand that. I understand that you watch after many of the younger mutants at your school and even your younger cousin. Fear not Rhondella, a better day will come and you will know your decision by then. We hope to see you one day with us, but until then if you need us you will always have our help," Charles said softly and gently placed his hand lightly on her shoulder. He had a soft look in his eyes that showed the girl that he was not disappointed or angry with her.
When the meeting was over Charles, Scott, Ororo, and Hank still sat around the table in the room talking about the young mutant. "She will have many hardships ahead of her," Hank said with an uncertain look in his own eyes.
"She will, but it will be our duty to help her. She has a unique Soulmate and a date that is set a decade or more in her future. She deserves the chance to grow and one day find him," Ororo stated seeing only a glimpse or two of her tattoo.
"And she is right Dr. McCoy the child has the right to one day find her soulmate and one day she will. We will do our best to care for her until one day she makes her choice" Charles said and then signaled for his students to follow behind him.
"Do you even know who her soulmate is?" Hank asked as he fell into step beside Charles' wheelchair. Ororo and Scott also gave their leader a questioning look.
"Oh yes. I know him, but you all have not met him yet. His name is Logan and he has walked this earth alone for at least a century waiting for the day when his Soulmate Tattoo will guide him to his soulmate," Charles answered as they began making their way towards the hangar bay.
"Wait so you're saying that her soulmate is almost a hundred years older than her?" Scott asked in disbelief and his eyebrows shot up to his forehead.
Scott's reaction caused Charles to chuckle. "Haven't you ever heard the old saying Scott? Age becomes just a number you know" Charles said as he wheeled inside the cabin of the jet. Hank shook his head and then jumped into the cockpit. "Now let's get home, Jean can't hold the fort forever" Charles said and climbed into one of the leather seats. As soon as Ororo and Scott were in the cabin of the Jet the door closed and it lifted off like a graceful bird into the skies.