Disclaimer – All rights belong to Marvel and DC. I own nothing.
Chapter 42 – Kuzuri
"This is it," Kitty Pryde announced, opening her arms. "Like I said, it's spotless, just like the other one."
Clark looked around, carefully; it turned out that the horrific massacre he investigated earlier — covered up by, probably, Yashida Corporation —, had been the last one, but not the only one. It hadn't even been the second one.
It was the seventh, and according to Kitty Pryde, the body count was well above 40; it was hard to know exactly, since every single crime scene had been cleaned up and official reports simply didn't exist.
Whatever was happening there, they needed to put an end to it, before things got even worse.
Luckily for them, however, even though this crime scene had been cleaned and even though it was older than the one he checked before, his Kryptonian senses still could pick up some clues. And not only his Kryptonian senses, Clark noticed with amazement, but apparently the ones Rogue had copied from him too.
He still hadn't got used to that.
"Holy hell…" Rogue whispered, sheer shock on her expression as she stared at the place. "I can see it!"
"See what?" Kitty asked, looking at Rogue as if she were crazy.
"Everything!" Rogue exclaimed, glancing at Kitty and then at him with wide eyes. "I can see where the blood stains were, fingerprints, footprints, little cracks and marks in the wall from the fighting… My god, is this how you see things all the time?!"
They were both looking at him now; Clark just nodded.
"No wonder you're good at what you do," Rogue breathed, still looking around. "This place has been cleaned days ago and I still can see stuff. This is amazing…"
Clark couldn't help but to smile at the sight. Rogue was probably the only person in the entire universe that could see the world exactly like he could. She thought his gifts were amazing? What her mutant ability could do, replicate mutant and even complex alien physiology with a single touch, that was amazing.
Not for the first time, he wondered exactly how mutants came to be, because some of the stuff they could do was nothing short of incredible, and they were still undeniably humans. Telepaths, people who could shift their atomic composition to phase through solid things, metal manipulation…
Could some advanced alien civilization had something to do with that? Or maybe even gods?
That was an interesting line of questioning, but at the moment they didn't have the time to dwell on that. There were more important things to solve, like finding the mutant girl who was being hunted by Yashida Corporation.
Or was hunting them, given the amount of people she had already killed. It was difficult to tell.
Focusing on the task, Clark started his investigation. The signs left by the fight were still there, less evident when compared to the most recent crime scene, but good enough to give him an idea of what happened. Like before, a small person — the mutant girl, no doubt — stood alone against an overwhelming armed force, using nothing but small blades — adamantium blades. Like before, she had been shot, sliced and hit with blunt force.
And like before she had won, slaughtering her opponents in such a way that the crime scene was left covered in blood and severed body parts.
There was another thing that remained the same as well.
Walking to the center of the place, Clark kneeled by a manhole; a manhole that had traces of small footprints leading to it, just like in the previous crime scene.
"The sewer?!" Kitty asked, unable to keep the horror out of her voice, understanding his line of thought.
"It's not a sewer," Rogue corrected her, glancing at the manhole with a frown; she was looking through it, Clark noticed, still amazed by it.
"It leads to the subway," Clark explained, "just like the one in the previous crime scene." He grinned. "And do you know who happens to manage most of Tokyo's subway lines?"
Both mutant girls looked at him, expectantly, as he carefully lifted the manhole cover.
"Yashida Corporation," Clark answered, glad that he'd decided to make use of the free time he had during his flight to Tokyo and read Natasha's files on them. He looked down at the dark tunnel, then back at them. "Shall we?"
Rogue still didn't know exactly what the connection between the murders and the subway lines was. Was the mutant girl using the subway lines to hide? Was she using them to hunt? Were Yashida Corporation's men using it to move around the city, fast, as they hunted her?
She had no idea, but it was a clue and they were following to see where it led. Better yet, they were following footprints.
Small, bloody, invisible to the human eye footprints, but Clark Kent could see them and, because of his gifts, Rogue could too, even in the dark tunnels; it was overwhelming at first, but Rogue was beginning to like this enhanced vision thing, it was useful as hell.
Not only because it allowed them to follow the mutant girl, but because Rogue could walk around in the dark without tripping every five steps, like Kitty.
"Damn it!" Kitty cursed again, the metallic sound of her feet hitting the rails echoing. "I knew I should've brought a flashlight!"
"Hold my hand," Clark offered, gently grabbing Kitty so she wouldn't fall. "I'll guide you."
Rogue frowned, annoyed; typical, even when she won, she still lost. Sure, holding hands wasn't exactly a safe activity when she was involved, but did Kitty really need to rub it in her face?
"Can't you just make your feet intangible?" Rogue suggested, barely able to keep her displeasure from showing.
"No need, I have a guide now," Kitty answered, smug.
"Whatever, let's move before a train kills us all," Rogue retorted, starting to walk again.
"Not many trains right now, the subway is closed," Clark said, helpfully. "We have about half an hour until it opens again, but for now they're only moving a couple of cars for repairs and such. You can hear them move in the distance if you pay attention."
Paying attention was Rogue's mistake, she realized too late.
Either because of the snippets of memories she got from Clark or because she was finally getting used to the enhanced senses, Rogue had managed to ignore all the loud sounds of the city around her; they were still there, of course, but as background noise that she could just disregard.
When Clark said that, however, her first instinct was to listen.
He was right, the trains were far away, but that made no difference, Rogue could hear them as if they were passing right next to her. Metal against metal, the air being pushed aside when the train advanced, the cars clacking against each other… Without even realizing, Rogue fell to her knees, covering her ears, trying to stop the sudden and overwhelming assault against her senses.
The pain was unbearable. How could someone live like this?! Rogue felt as if someone was drilling her brain and pouring liquid fire in her skull, but worse.
She barely noticed a pair of hands touching her gloved ones, also covering her ears.
"Look at me, Rogue," she heard Clark say, wincing as his voice added to the pain.
Still, she tried to do what he asked.
"Focus on my voice," Clark said, as softly as he could, staring at her eyes. "Ignore everything else. Pretend it's an island…"
"… out in the ocean," Rogue finished, a sudden stream of memories playing inside her mind.
A woman's voice. A woman she loved very much… No, a woman he loved very much.
Clark slightly widened his eyes, surprised at her answer, but he didn't allow it to stop him.
"Can you see it?" he asked, after a moment, feeling Rogue slowly relax.
The overwhelming sounds started to fade, pushed back to a place where she could ignore them. There was only her and Clark, nothing else.
"I see it," Rogue whispered, not knowing if she was actually answering the question or quoting a memory.
"Then swim towards it, Rogue."
Rogue opened her eyes, but instead of seeing a dark tunnel, she saw a woman with a gentle face; she felt warm when she hugged her.
"What's wrong with me, mom?"
It was the voice of a young boy. A young Clark, Rogue realized.
As suddenly as it appeared, the memory faded, and she was looking at the concerned expressions of an aged Clark Kent and Kitty.
Shaking her head for a moment, Rogue gathered her strength and got up, supporting herself on Clark.
"Rogue?" Kitty asked, and the concern on her voice was just plain weird.
"I'm good," Rogue answered, doing her best to sound normal. "I got it under control."
Both of them still looked at her like she could fall down at any moment, but Rogue just met their stares defiantly, almost daring them to say anything; they didn't. Instead, they nodded, and started to walk again.
Rogue followed them a second later, unable to pull her eyes from Clark.
For a moment, all she could see was the scared kid of her memories. It seemed she wasn't the only one there that had a hard time with her powers.
Not for the first time, Clark worried about Rogue's current situation and his hand in it, no matter how unintentional. Despite the fact that he was very much enjoying hanging out with a fellow Kryptonian — even if not a real one —, the consequences for her life could be far less pleasant.
There was a reason why Zod tried so hard to terraform Earth, after all, and it was not only because he was a psychopathic conqueror.
Kryptonians needed Krypton's atmosphere to ground their abilities under a yellow sun, otherwise the sheer boost of power they got from it became almost unbearably painful. It took incredible discipline and force of will to learn to control all that, control that very few Kryptonians seemed to possess.
As far as he knew, Clark was the only Kryptonian in history who had actually grown up under a yellow sun, without Krypton's atmosphere; he could only hope Rogue's gifts could also replicate what he learned through years of pain, at least to give her some comfort until her body went back to normal.
"So, how did you find out about all this?" Kitty asked, squeezing his hand to get his attention. "The killings, I mean. We only learned about it because of the Professor." She suddenly gasped. "Did the Avengers send you?! So it's true, you actually hang out with them?"
Clark had no idea what kind of rumors had been going on about him and his relationship with the Avengers, but at least they worked as an alibi as to why "Clark Kent" spent so much time at the Avengers Tower.
"Umm, in fact, yes," he answered after a moment. "Well, not all the Avengers, just one, Natasha Romanoff. She pointed me in the right direction to see if I could find out something, to know if they needed to get involved."
"The famous Black Widow!" Kitty exclaimed, shaking her head excitedly. She looked at Rogue, or at least in her direction, since it was unlikely she could actually see her in the dark. "Logan told us about her, they're old friends. Well, I guess Captain America is, in fact, his old friend, but you know what I mean."
"She tried to kill him," Rogue explained, as if that were the most normal thing to say in the world. "Obviously that didn't take, and no matter how much Logan tries to deny it, he does have a soft spot for children, so he let her go."
He didn't know what was more surprising: the fact that Natasha tried to kill this Logan when she was a kid — something that, knowing her past, shouldn't be a surprise anymore but still was — or the fact that he survived.
Either this guy was very skilled or his mutation was that powerful; maybe both, but before he could reach any conclusion or even think about how Captain America was involved in all this, Kitty went on.
"They met years later again," she said, "by accident, when they were both hunting this Russian mutant Super-Soldier serial killer." Again, Clark didn't know exactly how to react to that information. "She was one of the good guys by then, so they actually worked together."
"Can you imagine, Logan willingly working together with someone?" Kitty remarked, sighing. "What does she have that we don't? Do you think it's because she tried to kill him, is that the secret?"
"Nah, I almost killed him before and he still doesn't take me to important missions," Rogue countered.
"Yeah, but you didn't mean it. Maybe that's how you get Logan to respect you, an honest to god attempt on his life."
Clark would have asked for clarification on the matter, but as he opened his mouth, a familiar smell assaulted his nose: gunpowder.
He stopped for a moment, sniffing the air, while the two girls looked at him a bit confused.
"Gunpowder," Rogue finally got it. She pointed to the end of the tunnel, uncertain. "That way?"
Gently, Clark adjusted the direction of her hand to point at the right direction.
"More like that way, it's coming from the South tunnels," he said, nudging at the left path in the tunnel bifurcation. "It's fresh, I'd say less than an hour ago. I can smell blood too... And I can listen to a heartbeat." He turned to them. "We should hurry."
Before they could go on, however, Kitty stopped them.
"Can we take a shortcut through the walls?" she asked, suddenly, pointing at the nearby wall. "Instead of walking the entire tunnel down here and turning at the end, can't we just skip through a few walls?"
The very first thought that occurred Clark was that any serious damage to the walls, inside a tunnel, could collapse the whole thing; then he remembered. Kitty wasn't asking for him to break the walls, she was asking if they could go through them.
Quickly, he checked with his x-ray vision.
"Yeah," Clark said, grinning. "That would work." He looked at her, interested. "Can you make other people intangible too?"
"People, things… It takes a bit more focusing, but for a short run? Yeah."
Walking to the wall, Kitty turned her back to it and raised both arms, shaking them slightly for them to hold her hands. They did so.
"Okay, don't forget to hold your breath, there's no air inside the walls," she said. "And don't let go of my hand."
Kitty looked back at the wall for a second, then started walking backwards, pulling them slowly. Clark marveled when she disappeared into the wall, sinking into it like Hogwarts students did when they crossed Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, first her legs, then her torso and head, until only her two arms remained, holding Clark and Rogue's hands.
Then she pulled them too.
Except it didn't go as they planned.
Both he and Rogue, guided by Kitty, stepped forward, ready to plunge themselves into the wall as if they were jumping into a pool. But while Kitty's arms retreated back into the concrete, theirs didn't, and both of them hit their foreheads against the wall, cracking it slightly.
"God damn it, Kitty!" Rogue cursed, jumping back while she rubbed her forehead; probably more because of the shock than because of pain. "Since when two people is too much for you?"
Kitty's face appeared back in the tunnel, frowning. Without saying anything, she got out of the wall and walked to them. Then, slowly, she poked their bellies. Clark watched, curious and a little bit anxious, as Kitty tried one, two, three times.
Until her hand disappeared into him and Rogue's stomach.
It was one of the weirdest things he had ever felt. He could feel her hand inside him, moving, going through his organs, his very molecules, but it didn't hurt. Odd, but not painful.
With an expression of effort on her face, Kitty wiggled her fingers inside them for a few seconds, and then finally pulled her hands back.
She stared at him, accusingly.
"How dense are you?!" Kitty exclaimed. "It's worse than going through Logan's skeleton!"
"I, umm, don't really know," Clark answered, uncertain, not knowing what the density of his body had to do with Logan's skeleton of all things; he was getting more and more curious about this guy, but that wasn't time for that kind of conversation. "Does it make that much of a difference?"
"Yes! You could have warned me before!" Kitty held their hands again. "Now, come on, we're going as fast as we can, it's like trying to swim with weights dragging me down."
Saying this, she started pulling towards the wall again.
"This better work," Rogue started, "otherw—
Whatever Rogue was about to say was left to their imagination, because suddenly they were inside the walls and light and sound disappeared completely; Clark was, once again, completely in awe with what some of the mutants could do.
His enhanced tact allowed him to feel his molecules moving, their atoms shifting themselves to squeeze between the wall, but never breaking free. A normal human would never be able to feel this, but to his Kryptonian physiology it was as if his entire body was vibrating, pulsing at just the right frequency to allow him to move between solid concrete.
Clark couldn't help but to wonder if he could be able to replicate that using his super-speed, now that he had experienced this bizarre feeling once. Maybe if he learned how to vibrate his body down to his molecules…
Before he could finish his thoughts, however, they emerged at the other side, almost as if jumping out of water. Rogue took a long a breath, shaking herself as if she wanted to scratch an itch; she probably felt exactly what Clark did with her copied Kryptonian sense of touch, but didn't know what she was feeling.
"My god, it was like dragging an anchor while swimming across mud," Kitty said, breathing heavily. "I shouldn't have eaten that much ram—"
Kitty immediately stopped talking when she noticed Clark and Rogue's shocked expressions. She wasn't that distracted, it wasn't really her fault, she simply couldn't see the end of the tunnel like Clark and Rogue could; she couldn't see the very recent crime scene they had spotted.
They had finally found a fresh trail, still untouched by Yashida Corporation, complete would blood, corpses, severed body parts and evidence of one hell of a fight.
But instead of rushing there immediately, Clark went directly to the other thing he had spotted before: the heartbeat sounds. Someone there was still alive; beyond terrified, according to his accelerated pulse, but alive. Moving fast, he quickly found a small maintenance door on the wall, so small and so badly illuminated that someone without his Kryptonian vision could easily miss. Without hesitation, he opened it.
"Kuzuri!" yelled the panicked man, most likely a subway technician going by his uniform.
Rogue and Kitty arrived behind him at that moment, both staring shocked at the man, who had his arms raised as if begging for his life; there was no doubt in his mind that the man had witnessed what happened, and by the tears and the pale white face, it had been a horrible sight.
They needed information, but for that, Clark really needed to calm him down.
Dr. Zander Rice felt no small amount of satisfaction when he saw Yashida Corporation's men dragging his wayward pet back, wrapped up in a steel net, her arms and legs pierced by harpoons and forcibly chained together, a muzzle and a leash keeping her head from moving. To an unsuspecting person, doing that to a young girl might've seen excessive, maybe even cruel; Dr. Rice knew, however, that they were not dealing with a girl.
X-23 was an animal — the trail of corpses she left behind was more than enough proof — and needed to be contained.
Yashida's men entered the lab as if they were coming back from war, covered in blood, some wounded, all of them somber. Without saying a word, they took her to the table and tossed her there, each of them pulling the harpoons piercing her limbs to keep her from moving, while Rice's assistants strapped her down.
The little beast fought every second, completely ignoring the blood spurting from her wounds, as she tried to hit the men with her claws.
Her very deadly adamantium claws, coming out from her hands and feet.
When Dr. Rice was certain she was well tied up, he gestured for the people to leave the room and approached, a smile on his face; somehow, the expression seemed wrong on him. His young and handsome features weren't warmed by the grin, quite the opposite. They grew cold.
Dr. Rice pushed the red hair away from his face as he approached, never taking his eyes from the mutant, his lab coat fluttering behind him. How could someone so small cause so many problems? When Dr. Rice accepted Yashida's challenge to clone that accursed mutant, he never imagined things could escalate this badly.
It was a way to make his career, a way to continue the work his father had started in Weapon X, a way to show the world the brilliant scientist he knew he was.
So far, he had failed to clone Weapon X, failed to come up with a solution to solve that, failed to stop Sarah Kinney from taking the project from him and turning it into the unruly animal in front of him. Instead of a Wolverine, they had only an overly aggressive puppy.
But maybe he still could salvage the situation. The true value of X-23 wasn't in a brainwashed killer — Yashida Corporation actually had an entire ninja clan sworn to them for that —, nor it was in the adamantium coating her bone claws.
It was in her DNA. More specifically, it was in Wolverine's DNA inside her, the DNA his father had acquired years ago, during the Weapon X Program, before the whole thing fell apart and the frenzied mutant slaughtered everyone. The DNA responsible for one of the most impressive healing factors ever seen, capable of curing any disease and healing any wound. Maybe the key to immortality itself.
And it belonged to them.
He grabbed a long needle, staring in X-23's hateful eyes. It was time to take it back.
"Kuzuri, Kuzuri, Kuzuri…"
The guy was obviously traumatized by whatever brutality he'd witnessed, Rogue knew that, and that was why she felt a little bit bad for the sudden urge to smack him until he stopped repeating that; that and the fact that Clark needed him conscious to get information.
Maybe if she touched him just tiny bit…
"Don't even think about it," Kitty warned, without even looking at her.
"What?" Rogue asked, as if she hadn't any idea what she meant.
Kitty turned to her, a "Really?!" expression on her face.
"You don't know if you'll get any useful memory out of him, all you know is that you'll knock him out," Kitty pointed out, ignoring Rogue's groan. "Which, I agree, would be nice… But a dick move, nonetheless."
"Fine!" Rogue snapped. "What you're doing, anyway? You've been staring at the wall for the last 10 minutes."
"I'm not staring at the wall, I'm staring at the subway map drawn there," Kitty explained.
It turned out that the room where the traumatized guy hid himself was a small, maintenance room. It had a few terminals, lots of tools, and, apparently, a detailed map of the entire Tokyo subway that Rogue had all but ignored so far, given it was written in Japanese and she had no knowledge of the language whatsoever.
"Why you're so interested?" Rogue asked, glancing to the side as Clark slowly got the man talking.
Kitty grinned and pointed at some part of the map.
"Clark said Yashida Corporation managed the subway, but they do a bit more than that. See?" Rogue couldn't see anything; Kitty rolled her eyes and circled her hand around the entire map. "All these are the subway lines that run beneath Tokyo. But you see those lines over here? They're closed to public trains."
She slapped her hands together.
"Yashida Corporation built a private subway just for them!" Kitty concluded. "Their personnel can go directly where they need to via these subway lines."
Rogue approached the map, eyes fixed on the stations of the private lines, marked by little colorful dots and Japanese letters, each of them a direct access to Yashida Corporation's facilities across Tokyo.
"Can you translate this?" she asked, curious.
"Some," Kitty admitted. "This one seems to be a hospital. This one is their main building, of course, and this one is a factory, maybe? My Japanese is a little bit rusty."
"You wouldn't know what Kuzuri means, then?" Rogue asked, annoyed at the word being uttered again by the traumatized guy talking to Clark. "Because whatever it is, it seems to be important to that guy."
"It's a relatively new addition to Japanese folklore," Clark explained before Kitty could, showing them his phone, as if explaining where the hell he got that information; quite a good phone he had there, to be able to google stuff down there, Rogue noticed. Tapping the man's shoulder one last time, Clark went to them. "From a little bit after WWII. According to the stories, it's an animal, a fierce creature with long claws and sharp teeth, that fears nothing and no one. It cannot be killed." He glanced at the pale man, a little bit calmer now. "He thinks that's what he saw in the tunnels."
Both girls looked at the man as well; it wouldn't be the first time that a mutant inspired legends. Before any of them could say anything, however, Clark went on.
"Of course, a more literal translation of the word Kuzuri is 'Wolverine'," he added, absentmindedly.
Rogue and Kitty snapped their heads towards him, eyes wide.
"Oh, you gotta be kidding me," Rogue muttered, as Kitty quickly grabbed her phone and walked to the subway technician.
"Is this the one you saw?" Kitty asked, showing something at the startled man. "This man over here, is he the Kuzuri?"
She was showing him a picture, Rogue realized, a picture of Kitty, Rogue, Jubilee and Logan that Kitty had convinced him to take one day, back in the mansion. Clark translated Kitty's question to the guy, forehead frowned in confusion.
The guy shook his head negatively; both Kitty and Rogue exhaled, relieved. It was a good thing Logan wasn't there, since he had all but forbade them from leaving the apartment, much less work with Clark.
It had to be their missing mutant, then, and the name — Kuzuri — had to be some kind of freaky coincidence. Like the adamantium blades. And the possible healing factor. And the extreme violence.
Rogue had the feeling they were missing a very important part of that puzzle…
"He says they boarded a train after the fight," Clark mentioned, listening as the man talked, "that went in that direction."
He pointed at the map on the wall, at the lines where Kitty claimed were reserved for Yashida Corporation's private trains. But to which station, exactly? That question was answered almost immediately, by Clark himself, who simply peered with his enhanced vision towards the direction the train took.
God, those heightened senses of his could be a pain in the ass, but they were damn useful!
Smiling, he tapped the dot marking the station on the map.
"Here," Clark said. "A Yashida Corporation's Biochemical Genetic Lab."
Oh, shit, that wasn't good.
"We have to go, now!" Rogue said, urgently. Mutants and labs didn't mix very well.
Both Clark and Kitty agreed, and with one last look to confirm that the subway technician was indeed well, they left the room, walking fast.
They needed to find that mutant girl before it was too late.
"Wow, I've seen banks' vaults that seemed less secure than that!" Kitty whispered, eyes wide, as she leaned a little bit to look.
Clark was forced to agree. The three of them were hidden behind a train, the same one that supposedly took the mutant girl, now stopped right in front of the station leading to the Yashida Corporation's Biochemical Genetic Lab; instead of a simple stairway or an elevator leading up, however, the path was blocked by what seemed to be a door of a nuclear shelter.
A door guarded by a bunch of armed men.
Whatever they had in that lab was valuable, and he was pretty sure the security measures would be able to fend off a small army; luckily for them, they were a bit more than a small army. Even if Clark — and now Rogue, he supposed — couldn't punch a hole through that door, Kitty was more than able to simply ignore it and get in anyway.
As for the guards… Clark's only concern was not hurting them too badly; now that he thought about it, he remembered as he glanced at Rogue, that was a very real possibility.
"Look, maybe I should go alone from here—" Clark started, but was promptly interrupted.
"No way!" Rogue said, immediately. She gestured towards Kitty. "We're X-Men, it's our job. Maybe you should stay back and call the Avengers, we've actually done this sort of thing before! You're a reporter… A mutant one, but a reporter. You weren't trained for this kind of stuff!"
Well, it was hard to argue with that without giving himself away.
"Yeah, what she said!" Kitty agreed. "The last thing we need is another Logan."
"Okay, fine!" Clark said, before they forgot where they were and raised their voices. "But I have some ground rules, and they're non-negotiable. First: no unnecessary risks. I know you're trained, and that one of you is intangible and the other is bulletproof—"
"I am?!" Rogue exclaimed.
"—…but I don't want any of you hurt for taking stupid chances."
Clark waited a moment, to fully grab their attention.
"Two: no one dies! And no serious injuries if we can avoid it."
"We're not murderers!" Kitty argued, affronted. "No matter how much some of those people might deserve it…"
"I'm glad to hear it," Clark said, sincerely, "but that's not what I meant." He turned to Rogue. "Rogue, the gifts you copied haven't faded yet, have they?" Frowning, she shook her head; Clark leaned closer. "Then listen to me very carefully: your muscles and bones are extraordinarily strong right now. I'm not saying this to brag, I'm saying this so you know just how easily you can kill someone just by touching them."
Clark stared into her green eyes, trying to convey just how serious he was.
"Punch a little harder than you intended, squeeze a bit harsher, crash against them a little faster, and their bodies will literally paint the walls red." Both Rogue and Kitty got a little pale by the graphic description. "I'm not exaggerating, I'm stating a fact. Your body is a weapon right now, and like any weapon, you have to wield it responsibly."
By the very wide green eyes staring back at him, it seemed Rogue understood the gravity of the situation.
"You were always a mistake, X-23," Dr. Zander Rice prattled, as he walked around the immobilized girl, barely paying any attention to her. "The DNA sample my father got from Weapon X was too damaged, and after 22 attempts we were unable to salvage the Y chromosome, so Sarah Kinney proposed the idiotic idea of creating a female clone instead. I warned Yashida-sama, but Sarah Kinney disobeyed everyone and went ahead with it anyway… Thus, you were created."
This time, he looked at her, his eyes cold; she barely reacted.
"A mistake," he repeated. "A failed attempt to salvage the experiment from disaster, and one that cost us 13 years. And for what? A feral animal, unable to obey? A watered-down version of Weapon X? The healing factor within you cannot even be transferred to someone else!"
Something that greatly upset Yashida-sama; after all, why else would he spend so much money on this?
Yashida-sama was old and he was dying, and at this point there was only one thing that could change that: Weapon X's healing factor. But all their attempts to lure or recapture him had failed, and the experiment to clone him had resulted in the useless animal strapped down in front of him.
And her healing factor, probably because of the failed cloning process, was lethal to anyone else but her.
The subjects injected with it found that out the hard way, when an unstoppable cancerous growth took their bodies completely; they were more tumor than humans when they put them down.
No, it was time to start over.
"I will take what I can back from you," he informed the girl, "and I will do it properly this time. As for you, the Silver Samurais have been informed. They will take you back to Yashida-sama… Or at least your corpse."
Dr. Rice grinned cruelly at the girl; and she still didn't react.
He felt a hot fury grow inside him. She would learn to fear him before the end.
Rogue had a big problem, and she had no idea how to solve it.
She nodded almost automatically, as Clark calmly explained to her how to best control her new temporary gifts. He went on and on, giving her a crash course on how to avoid hurting people too much during fights, how to put them down quick and easy — but causing the least amount possible of harm —, how not to accidentally kill someone by just touching them.
That, by itself, wasn't the problem; the problem was how close he was standing to her as he did that.
Clark leaned over her as they hid behind the train, whispering in her ear, his breath tickling face, his heat emanating from his skin to hers almost as if he was a human-shaped sun. Rogue was barely breathing, eyes straight forward, as she did the best she could to ignore the growing feeling slowly taking over her.
It wasn't her fault! A lifetime without intimacy, without proximity, without touch, was taking its toll, and being close to someone that hot as he whispered in her ear was seriously testing her limits.
She knew it was wrong, that the timing couldn't be worse — Clark was trying to teach her how not to kill people, as they prepared to save a mutant girl from being experimented upon or killed — but no matter how much she tried to ignore her feelings, no matter how much she tried to stop the very steamy thoughts playing in her disobedient brain, Rogue couldn't. It got to the point where her entire body became warm, almost unbearably hot, almost as if waves of pure heat were traveling through her.
It was only when the heat got to her eyes, so powerfully that they actually burned, that Rogue knew something was wrong.
Clark noticed what was happening just as she did. With wide eyes, before Rogue could even think, he grabbed her by the back of her head — using her hair not to touch her skin directly — and turned her face away from him and Kitty.
Rogue understood why he did that a second later, when a pair of red beams of energy was unleashed from her eyes.
It was as if Hell itself was spilling out of her eyes, unstoppable, unforgiving, devastating. The train they were using to hide themselves simply melt like an ice cube facing a flamethrower, the liquified metal spattering away as the pair of energy beams reduced one of the cars to nothing and went on.
Right in the direction of the lab's fortified entrance.
The armed guards in front of the door had no time to even react, and if Clark hadn't grabbed her head and aimed the beams away, they would've been vaporized; as it was, the heat beams passed between them, clashing against the fortified door directly.
There was no resistance, not even a moment when the reinforced steel doors stopped or slowed down the heat beams. The red energy melted a hole through it, completely annihilating the doors, leaving a pile of liquified metal behind.
Rogue could see it all, even as the beams of pure heat poured out of her eyes; as it all happened, a stray thought inside her mind compared it to the few times she had absorbed Scott's power. Like Cyclops, her eyes were also reduced to nothing more than a weapon of mass destruction, a cannon that dispensed death of which she had no control over whatsoever.
Differently from Scott's ability, however, this time Rogue could feelit. And it hurt.
Scott's eyes fired some kind of concussive force, a concussive force Scott was immune to; Clark's gift, however, burned her as much as it burned everything else. Rogue was screaming in pain as fire was unleashed out of her eyes, melting steel and whatever else it touched instantly, and she knew that if Clark wasn't holding her, keeping the energy beams away from people, she would've probably killed everyone around her already.
"Try to control yourself, Rogue!" Clark yelled in her ear, as she screamed. "The energy is yours, you can channel it anyway you want. Keep it inside you!"
Easier said than done! Still screaming, her arms waving desperately and aimlessly by her sides, Rogue tried to focus, to dig up some buried memory that might help her to control this. Faded images played inside her mind: a teenager Clark blasting scarecrows with his heat vision in a farm, as an older man — his father, Rogue knew — watched, an amused smile on his face; he was as amused as Clark was embarrassed, and Rogue quickly understood why.
Holy hell, was this what happened when he got aroused?! Talk about inconvenient gifts!
Suppressing that line of thought, Rogue dove back into the memories, trying to feel as teenager Clark felt, allowing her body to unconsciously copy his as he stopped the red beams of death. The pain started to fade.
And just as suddenly as they appeared, the red beams disappeared.
Immediately, Rogue took her hands to her eyes, covering them, still feeling the burning itch, but the heat was vanishing; she knew then that it was over. Panting, Rogue looked around, carefully, seeing a terrified Kitty, a worried Clark, and a trail of molten metal and destruction in front of her.
Now she could definitely understand why Scott was so damn afraid when he lost his glasses; Rogue had a feeling, however, that a pair of ruby-quartz lenses wouldn't have made a damn difference in her case.
She glanced at Clark, still panting; his "laser eyes" didn't come with a handy off-switch, unless self-control and his very own eyelids counted.
Rogue really needed to learn how to keep her emotions under control.
"It's ironic, really," Dr. Zander Rice said, raising his voice to be heard over the sound of the drill piercing X-23's bones. "Sarah Kinney was the only person who could see any future in you. She was the one who fought for you, the one who disobeyed all orders and went ahead with the project."
He pulled the drill from her arm, absentmindedly looking at the samples he had already collected from her: blood, bone marrow, skin, hair… Everything that could be of some use after he disposed of this failure.
"She went as far as using her own genetic material to complete the process… And finished it by giving birth to you. For all intents and purposes, she was your mother."
And X-23 very features showed that corruption in their experiment, almost proudly. The mutant girl resembled Sarah Kinney so much that he almost felt he was looking at a tiny version of the doctor, the Japanese features completely taking over what was supposed to be a Weapon X clone. She was small, deceptively frail — a last mistake that many had committed —, with very dark long hair, and a face so pretty it made her look like a porcelain doll sculpted by an artist; if she had the time to grow up, X-23 would become even more beautiful than her surrogate mother.
Dr. Zander Rice was enraged just by looking at X-23 and seeing the despised dead woman.
Cruelly, he grinned, staring deeply inside her eyes.
"And yet, rabid animal that you are, you still tore her apart with your own claws."
For the first time, there was a slight reaction in X-23's eyes, something that not even the drill piercing her bones managed to provoke. Regret, rage, sadness? It was hard to tell, so Dr. Rice decided to go for the finishing blow.
"What you don't know," he started, his voice dripping with sadistic pleasure, "is that you weren't yourself when that happened." X-23's slowly eyes turned to him; he smiled. "Pheromones, X-23, a chemical compound I called 'Trigger 42'. It induces pure, blind fury in animals like you… And I made sure that Sarah Kinney was immersed in it when she visited your cell that day."
X-23 didn't say anything, she didn't try to escape, she didn't even alter her breathing pattern. She just kept staring at Dr. Zander Rice; he felt a pang of rage at being summarily dismissed.
He grabbed her by her hair, aggressively.
"I killed your mother, you stupid animal!" he snarled. "Have you nothing to say about that?!"
There was just silence for a few seconds and Dr. Rice had to stop himself from slapping her in anger, but then X-23 finally answered.
"Go…," X-23 whispered, almost inaudibly.
Dr. Zander Rice frowned, utterly confused, and stood a little closer to try to listen.
"What?" he asked.
And as if answering his question, she glanced down, to her own abdomen.
Still completely confused, Zander Rice followed her gaze, released her hair and pulled her tattered shirt up, uncovering her stomach; his eyes widened when he saw the weirdly shaped swollen protuberance on the otherwise flat abdomen.
There was something inside it!
"Ichi," X-23 concluded.
Dr. Zander Rice looked to her face again. His brain had finally caught up with what X-23 said and translated the Japanese words she had whispered.
Five, four, three, two, one.
Rogue was still frozen in place, panting, her hands hovering in front of her eyes just in case they started to destroy everything all over again. Clark was still standing close, concerned, ready to jump in and help; Kitty, like her, was too stunned to do anything but stare.
Stare at her and at the amount of damage she caused.
Impossibly, no one had been hurt, not even the unlucky guards in front of the destroyed door that led to the lab. They were shocked, pale as snow, but alive and unharmed.
And Rogue really hoped they remained alive, when a following explosion blasted them away from the destroyed doors; an explosion that came from inside the lab, obliterating what was left of the reinforced doors and knocking the guards out.
That one had nothing to do with Rogue, she defended herself silently, as they stared in shock.
"Stay here!" Clark told her and Kitty, before jumping towards the explosion so fast that the remaining flames were put out and disappearing into the destroyed lab door.
The two of them were in silence for a moment, still processing everything that happened; and then, as if they were one, they both jumped after him.
"The hell we will!" Rogue barked, pretty sure Clark wasn't even listening anymore.
Dr. Zander Rice groaned, feeling so much pain that his voice barely came out.
His arm… What was left of his right arm hurt so much that he could barely move. His head was pounding and spinning, his vision blurred, and he could barely breathe; the lab around him was up in flames, the chemicals they kept there no doubt initiating a catastrophic chain reaction once the bomb inside X-23 went off.
The result was utter chaos.
Fire everywhere, the air was barely breathable, smoke and poisonous fumes made impossible to see more than a few meters away. In the other rooms, constant explosions were happening, as the fire spread to the rest of the building.
Dr. Zander Rice's mind barely registered any of that. His world was pain.
Coughing, he twisted around, trying to move, trying to get away from the heat. His right arm was bleeding, ripped apart beyond recognition by the explosion, and the only reason he was moving at all was out of instinct.
Instinct was what probably made him look back.
At first, he wasn't really sure what he was looking at. The smoke was thick and his eyes were foggy, clouded by pain and the fumes, but Zander Rice somehow saw a small figure on the opposite side of the room. It was moving, dragging itself through the flames.
Better yet, dragging half of itself towards the other half.
He had to be hallucinating, Zander Rice thought, so shocked by what he was seeing that he stopped moving. The small figure continued, ignoring the flames burning it, until it finally reached its goal.
And then, in front of his terrified eyes, X-23 grabbed her own detached lower half and forced it against her torn apart waist.
The flesh reacted immediately, almost as if it knew that the body parts belonged together, and started to heal, to attach itself together, guts and severed organs rejoining, tendons reconnecting, muscles attaching to muscles, skin regenerating over it as if nothing had happened at all.
In seconds, X-23 was up, ignoring the fire burning her shoulders and hair as she stared at him; Zander Rice had never felt so afraid in his entire life.
She approached slowly, like a predator stalking a wounded prey, her feet sizzling at each step as her bare skin touched the scorching floor; if she felt pain, she didn't show it. The black smoke parted like a curtain, and then X-23 was in front of him.
He felt her little hands grab his face and he was suddenly pulled towards her, until their foreheads were almost touching.
"P-Please," Zander Rice begged, the word barely leaving his dry mouth. "X-23, please…"
"My name is Laura," X-23 interrupted, her eyes showing absolutely no mercy. "Laura Kinney. And I'm not an animal!"
When she said this, Zander Rice felt a sharp, terrible pain when her adamantium claws were unleashed, digging themselves on both sides of his face; the agony he felt as the claws pierced his skin, muscles and bones was indescribable, but no vital points were hit.
In his desperate torment, Zander Rice didn't know if that was a good or bad thing.
"But you are," X-23 finished.
Saying this, X-23 let out something that could only be described as the mix of a scream and a roar, and pulled her claws up; Dr. Zander Rice felt sharp, unbearable pain.
And then nothing at all.
The sight that greeted Clark once he emerged from the burning elevator shaft into the Biochemical Genetic Lab was easily describable.
The explosion they'd heard had quickly spread to the rest of the building, the flames feeding on the chemicals they no doubt stored everywhere, and the result was the all-consuming fire burning everything. The fire alarm was blaring, heavy fire-proof doors were closing, sealing off that section of the lab, and the sprinkler system was doing what it could to try and stop the flames, without success.
Clark closed his eyes for a moment, focusing. First things first: he needed to find the survivors and get them out.
Even with the roar of the fire, the loud alarm and the incessant explosions, it was easy for him to listen for the survivors, and Clark was already moving towards them before he even reopened his eyes. The heat grew as he approached the heart of the fire, and the fumes poisoning the air would've dropped a human in seconds, but none of that bothered him.
It was, however, more than just bothering the few survivors who hadn't escaped.
It took him less than a second to sweep the place with his x-ray vision. The survivors were scattered in three different places, the nearest one being the more likely to turn into a mass grave the quickest; the four scientists were lying down, trying to limit the amount of smoke they were forced to breathe, stuck inside the room behind a wall of fire. The door leading outside was blocked by flames — part of the ceiling had caved, exposing a gas pipe that had pretty much turned into a flamethrower — and there was simply no way out. They wouldn't last a minute without help.
Luckily for them, that's why he was there.
Clark ripped the door from its hinges and dove into the stream of fire without hesitation, blocking the flames with his bare hands. Before his shirt could even be singed, he bent the metal, twisting the pipe so it would no longer spit fire in front of the door.
And then, before the scientists could really understand what was going on, he grabbed them all like sacks of potatoes and ran to the nearest exit.
The exit had been sealed — a thick metal door simply fell down from the ceiling and closed off that section of the lab to stop the fire —, but it took Clark but a second to just lift the door a bit and slide the still confused scientists through.
The door was still closing itself back again when Clark reached the second room with survivors. This time, fire wasn't the problem they were facing; toxic smoke was.
Smoke and the huge machinery that had fallen over one of the scientists, too heavy for the other two to be able to move it.
To their credit, even with the thick smoke, the heat and the explosions that made everything shake, the two scientists were still trying to free their colleague; evil scientists or not, that was something Clark could respect.
Stopping at the door, Clark took a deep breath; a deep breath only his Kryptonian lungs could take.
The black smoke covering the entire room was immediately sucked into his lungs, almost as if a huge ventilator had appeared out of nowhere and cleared the place from the toxic gases. The taste and the smell were some of the worst Clark had ever experienced, but unlike the humans in the room, Clark's body wouldn't suffer any damage from it.
Holding his breath, ignoring the shocked looks from the terrified scientists, Clark easily lifted the machine pinning the man down and pulled him free. And, like the first time, he grabbed the three of them and ran to the exit, sliding them out the same way; he let the smoke out of his lungs the moment the door closed, wondering, not for the first time, how could people willingly develop smoking habits.
Two down, one to go; hopefully, Clark thought, worried, the mutant girl would be there and unharmed.
His worry grew almost immediately when he heard screams and gunshots.
However bad this situation was, it had just turned worse, Clark realized, running towards the sounds. The moved so fast that the flames in the corridors were put out, only slowing down when he arrived at the correct place.
He got there just in time to see a young girl decapitating an armed man, using what seemed to be a pair of actual metal claws coming out of her hands.
Clark Kent wasn't a betting man, but he would wager his hard-earned money that this was the mutant girl they were looking for, he thought, staring at the scene with wide eyes.
Laura Kinney assessed the new arrival, ignoring the flames roaring around her. It was a quick and practiced action, more instinct than reason; her heightened senses were entirely focused on the task, reading everything there was to learn about the man in the room.
Almost immediately, alarms bells started to ring in her head and her fight-and-flight response went into overdrive.
Whoever that man was — whatever that man was —, he was an unquantifiable threat, she knew right away. He didn't move like a human, he didn't smell like a human, his body — down to the chemicals flowing within him — was not of a human.
Laura Kinney had no idea what she was facing and that scared her.
Fear wasn't an unknown emotion to her, but years of conditioning had taught her to control it, to use it to her advantage; terror could be turned into burning rage quite easily, after all. That had helped her all her life, against all kinds of opponents. Armed soldiers, assassins, martial artists, beasts; Laura had singlehandedly killed packs of wolves, an enraged bear and a tiger filled with all kinds of experimental steroids and stimulants without hesitation during her training.
This time, however, she froze.
It lasted a few seconds, not even that, but Laura Kinney, the X-23, completely froze in fear. And the moment she shook it off, she reacted the only way she knew how: berserk rage.
Laura roared and attacked, unleashing all her six claws — two in each hand and one in each foot — to fight. She crossed the burning lab in an instant, turning into a spiral of death when she jumped, twisting midair so fast that her adamantium claws were but blurs.
And she missed each and every attack, falling back to the ground without even touching him.
She didn't even see him move, her senses simply didn't register the sheer speed. The man evaded every single swipe of her claws, and before Laura could even understand what happened, he was standing behind her. Laura felt a shiver running down her spine and tensed, every muscle contracting, waiting for the attack against her exposed back.
Except it never came; instead of attacking, the man raised his arms, as if telling her he wasn't a threat.
"I don't want to hurt you!" the man said, confirming her hypothesis.
That statement might've very well been true, but her fight-and-flight instincts were still locked in overdrive, the utter danger of being in the presence of something so powerful overruling her rational mind.
So Laura attacked again, faster and stronger than any time before, growling and roaring as she unleashed a barrage of strikes against the man; he dodged every single one once again, moving just the bare minimum to avoid her claws, with such a carefree attitude that Laura couldn't help but to wonder just how slow he perceived her movements to be.
And then, suddenly, he grabbed her.
It wasn't an attack; in fact, if Laura wasn't in a near berserk state, she would've noticed he was deliberately gentle, so much so that he didn't leave even a single bruise on her. Nevertheless, it was effective.
The man grabbed her by her sides, his hands pressing her arms together against her own body. His arms — longer than hers — were stretched, to put space between them, preventing Laura to reach him even with her legs, and he was holding her arms a bit above the line of her elbows, which also prevented her to bend herself to try to bite him.
It was a ridiculous hold, something no martial art would ever attempt, simply because it would never work; it was like he was picking up a doll, instead of actually immobilizing her.
And yet, it was probably the strongest force Laura had ever experienced, and she was including the crazed tiger filled to his eyeballs with drugs in that comparison. She tried to move her arms, to jump, to go back and forth, anything to break or at least weaken his hold over her.
She would've had better chances trying to push an entire mountain, Laura suspected, groaning in frustration. Nothing she did managed to budge his fingers even a little bit, worse than that, he didn't seem to be putting any effort.
Laura Kinney grew desperate when the inevitable truth finally made itself clear: there was absolutely nothing she could do to escape this time.
"Please, I don't want to hurt you!" the man said, suddenly, his voice deliberately calm. "I'm here to help you."
Maybe it was the tone of his voice, cool, peaceful, even amongst that chaos. Maybe it was his smell; his body, as alien as it smelled to her, didn't have the scent of aggression or rage. Maybe it was the fact that even with all her struggle, his hands hadn't, at any moment, held her strongly enough to hurt. Maybe Laura's inner beast realized that she had, for once, met someone it couldn't defeat, no matter how much she tried to, and decided to submit.
Or maybe Laura herself had believed him, simply for the fact that she had to believe that someone out there had to be on her side, other than her own mother, Sarah Kinney.
She didn't know. All she knew was that, for some reason, she stopped fighting.
Slowly, moving as carefully as he could, the man released her; Laura looked into his blue eyes and took a deep breath.
And then she pulled her claws back.
He smiled at her, and Laura knew then she had made the right choice.
"Are you injured?" Clark asked, then paused as something important occurred to him. "Can you understand me?"
They were in Japan, after all, and the girl had Japanese features, which was probably a good indicator she was a local; the girl simply stared back at him, unblinking. Finally, she nodded, once.
He could already tell she would make Raven look talkative in comparison.
"That's good," Clark said, smiling at her. "Unless you also mean you're injured, then not so much."
She shook her head, once, just as quickly; the question, however, was more of a formality, because he was already scanning her, searching for any wounds. To his surprise, there really was nothing to find.
Absolutely nothing; thatwas not only weird, it was pretty much impossible.
Not that he thought the girl was lying to him, that wasn't the reason of his surprise. The reason of his surprise was the fact that the girl's body, from the skin to the very bones, showed no signs of past trauma; that should be impossible. No matter how sheltered of a life she had — and Clark doubted very much that was the case —, his Kryptonian eyes could easily see the marks left by the passage of the time. Small, almost invisible scars on the skin, healed microscopic cracks on the bones, microtears in the muscles fibers…
There was nothing to see, almost as if the girl in front of him had just been born.
Which contrasted heavily with the state of her clothes. They were torn apart, burned, stained with blood and god only knew what else, all indicators of what the girl had actually been through; and yet, there were no injuries to show.
If Clark still had any doubts the girl was a mutant, they were gone now. A mutant with the power to heal. And also bones claws capable of coming out of her hands and feet, seemingly artificially coated in metal.
Adamantium, Clark knew just by glancing at it. It was like nothing he had ever seen before. Incredibly dense, so much that he couldn't see through it; the only instances when that happened had involved lead, vibranium, Uru or straight up sorcery. He studied the claws, imagining just how sharp they would be. Sharp enough to cut him?
It seemed Natasha's tip had paid off, after all, because there was no way this was a coincidence.
He smiled at the girl again, trying to put her at ease. As composed as she looked now, Clark hadn't missed the sheer terror radiated by the girl when she was attacking him a few moments ago, and that pained him. What pained him the most, however, was imagining what that girl had been through at the hands of Yashida Corporation, because there was no doubt in his mind anymore that the girl in front of him was a victim, no matter the deaths she caused.
Experiments, torture, invasive surgeries, mental conditioning… For a moment there, Clark couldn't help but to see a small Natasha in front of him. The calculating look in her eyes was the same one Clark sometimes saw in Natasha's, before she caught herself.
The eyes of an assassin searching for a weak point. Natasha had learned to turn off that part of herself, for the most part, but the girl in front of him hadn't.
Not only they were experimenting on her, they were also using her as a weapon; when Clark caught the ones responsible for this, there would be Hell to pay. Doubly so, if they were, as he suspected, involved in the trading and stockpiling of adamantium for warfare purposes.
Slowly, Clark kneeled in front of the girl; she tensed, but didn't move.
"I'm very sorry about what happened to you, but it's going to be alright now. I promise."
Before he could go on, Clark heard approaching footsteps. He sighed; it seemed Rogue and Kitty had ignored him and decided to enter the lab, after all. He should've expected that.
"Slow down, Rogue!" Kitty yelled, as she phased through the same flames that Rogue had just crossed without a second thought. "Not all of us have the gift of super-spe— WOW!"
The moment Kitty entered the same room Rogue had disappeared into, she jumped back; unless her eyes were deceiving her, and she really didn't think they were, there was a girl Wolverine growling at them.
Pissed off look? Check. Capacity to growl? Check. Retractable adamantium claws? Check!
Kitty knew immediately that they were dealing with something related to Weapon X; no one else in the entire world was so obsessed with Logan.
"They're with me, don't worry!" Clark said, fast, getting in front of kid Wolverine. "They're not going to hurt you, I promise."
Given the bloodbaths that tiny girl had caused all over Tokyo, Kitty didn't think she was the one in danger of getting hurt, but she kept that to herself as Clark calmed her down. Rogue approached her, a truly stunned look on her face.
"Are you seeing what I'm seeing?" she asked Kitty.
"Little Japanese girl Wolverine? Yep!"
"Oh, good, so I'm not hallucinating," Rogue exhaled, relieved. She paused for a moment. "What do you think we're dealing with here? Do you think she's his kid? Lab experiment? Alternate universe variant?"
"Let's check," Kitty said, simply, pulling something out of her pocket and carefully approaching them.
The mutant girl growled again. God, how could someone so cute be so scary?! She was like a Japanese porcelain doll with claws! Slowly, Kitty raised her hands, showing her the picture on her phone for the second time that day: Logan's picture.
"Do you know this man?" Kitty asked, talking to the girl the same way she would to a scared cat ready to pounce.
The growl stopped; that had to be a good sign, right?
"Weapon X," the girl said, bluntly. Then she met her eyes, almost threateningly. "I'm X-23."
Holy Hell, that was not good, Kitty thought. Logan would go berserk when he eventually learned about this.
"Clone," Rogue muttered, rubbing her forehead. "I should've thought of that. This is a genetic lab."
"Is this sort of thing common for you guys?" Clark asked, clearly bothered by the whole situation.
"More than you know," Kitty sighed, putting her phone away. "We'll explain later, I promise, but first…" She looked at the girl, kindly. "We need to get you somewhere safe, but before we go, do you know of any other mutant here, in this lab? Others… Like you?"
The girl, thankfully, just shook her head.
"First good news of the day, huh?" Kitty said. "What's your name?" She paused for a moment, an angry look flashing in her eyes for a moment. "Do you… Have one?"
Everyone turned to the girl, waiting for the answer.
"Laura Kinney," the girl said, almost inaudibly.
"Good, that's good. Listen, Laura, we are here to help you. We work in a team that helps others like us, other mutants. We're here in Japan because we learned what was going on with you. There's a safe place for us, and we can take you there if you want."
Kitty really hoped Laura would agree to come with them, because willingly or not, they would have to take her out of Tokyo; for her safety as well as everybody that crossed her path.
"Will Weapon X be there?" Laura asked.
"Logan, his name is Logan," Rogue answered for her, clearly sickened by the title. "And yes, he works with us."
The girl was quiet for a moment, completely ignoring the fire and the still going explosions around them. But then she nodded once, fast; Kitty smiled brightly.
"Great! Now let's get the hell out of—"
The moment she said that, another alarm started to ring, way louder than any other; it was coming from the room next to the one they were. Kitty had a really bad feeling about this. Without saying anything, feeling they should at least check what that was, Kitty left the room, following the sound.
It was coming from some kind of control room, full of computers and screens; computers that had been damaged quite severely by the explosions, but were still, for the most part, working.
Kitty frowned, trying to make sense of all that, ignoring Rogue, Clark and Laura as they arrived. And when she finally understood what was happening, what the alarm was trying to tell them, she promptly unleashed a stream of curses that would've made Colossus faint.
"Oh, no, no, no…" Kitty said, jumping towards the computers. "This is really, really bad!"
"What?!" Rogue snapped.
Kitty turned to look at them, despair clear in her expression.
"You remember we just learned that Yashida Corporation has its own subway lines and trains?" she explained, quickly, as all of them got closer. "Well, this is one of the control rooms that manages all that. It controls their trains, it open ups the private tunnels, it pretty much runs the whole thing."
"So?" Rogue shrugged.
"So?! So it's busted!" Kitty was typing really fast, using her very limited Japanese as she tried to gain access. "The fire wrecked the controls and from what I'm seeing, three Yashida Corporation trains were dispatched from other stations before their schedule."
Clark Kent was the first one to understand why that was bad.
"Tokyo subway is opening right now," he whispered, checking his watch, eyes wide.
"And we have three runaway trains ready to cause a huge accident," Kitty finished for him.
Rogue, finally getting it, widened her eyes as well.
"Can't you stop them?!"
"If I could, I would have!" Kitty retorted, typing frantically. "I'm trying to stop others from leaving their stations, but something is wrong with the ones that already left, I can't stop them!"
"Well, call the people in charge of the subway and tell them!"
"Pretty sure they don't have access to Yashida Corporation's systems to stop them either, Rogue, and I'm also pretty sure they won't do anything just because I'm telling them!"
"Are the trains in route of collision?" Clark asked, urgently. "With any other train in Tokyo's subway line?"
Kitty quickly checked the monitors and the maps; her blood turned cold.
"Yes," she said, barely hearing herself. "In a few minutes one of those trains will crash head on against this one," Kitty pointed at the map, then turned to them. "It just left one the most overcrowded stations in the city, it's probably filled to the brim with people."
"My god…" Rogue exhaled, like Kitty unable to tear her eyes out of the screens. "What… What do we do?"
What could they do? If they had more time, Kitty was certain they could find a solution. If she were there, she could try to phase the train through the other, or at least take the people out. She could call the Professor and tell him to force the people in control of Tokyo's subway to redirect the train, or even Kurt to teleport everyone out.
Hell, at that point, even breaking Magneto out of his plastic cell and forcing him to help had crossed her mind!
But the simple fact of the matter was that none of those ideas were feasible in the limited time they had. Minutes, maybe less, not enough to even explain the situation to someone, much less form a practical plan.
All they could do was watch; or at least, that's what Kitty thought.
"Kitty, try to prevent other Yashida trains from going anywhere," Clark said, turning his back at them and walking to the middle of the room with purpose. "I'll deal with those three."
She believed for a moment that she had misheard him.
Before Kitty could even ask, Clark simply moved so fast that the air around him boomed, and crashed directly against the floor, going through it, digging a tunnel down back to the subway, his body pretty much turning into the most powerful drill to ever exist as he moved tons and tons of earth and stone in a matter of seconds.
None of them had managed to process what they had just witnessed, when moments later a gasping Laura pointed at one of the screens; Clark was already in the tunnels, flying through them, going so fast that the cameras could barely keep up.
Rogue, Laura and Kitty were stunned, eyes glued to the many screens as Clark flew through the subway lines, navigating through them almost as if he did so every day; it took her a moment to remember that he could see through walls, so he most likely knew where he needed to go.
And he was going there fast, like a man-shaped Blackbird that had just decided to use the subway lines to get to its destination.
"He's flying!" Rogue muttered, shock clear in her voice, still unable to move. "How is he doing that?!"
Kitty had absolutely no idea, but Clark wasn't just flying, he was going so fast that it was a matter of moments before he reached the first Yashida Corporation train in front of him; not the one about to crash against a train filled of people, but one that would definitely cause an accident eventually if it weren't stopped. She just didn't know how exactly Clark would do that.
She got her answer a moment later: Clark just flew through it!
He lifted both arms in front of him and collided against the back of the train, going through the cars one after the other, his body making short work of the steel. The windows exploded, the metal was obliterated, and soon enough Clark emerged through the front of the train, moving with such speed and power that the whole thing was split open from the inside out.
Against everything they believed possible, the first Yashida Corporation's train was stopped; destroyed beyond any chance of repair, more like, but stopped nevertheless, and not an imminent threat anymore.
And by the looks of it, Clark was just getting started; Kitty forced herself to go back to work too.
Clark heard the train in front of him way before he saw it, and as soon as he turned into the tunnel, he finally caught up to it; not the empty train belonging to Yashida Corporation, however, but the one filled with people starting their day.
The train out of control was there as well, at the end of the tunnel, moving in the opposite direction.
He listened to the surprised exclamations and the brakes activating. Some of the people inside were tossed to the floor when the speed suddenly decreased, there were screams of fear and shock, but even if the train filled with people were to stop in time, Yashida Corporation's train wouldn't, and the result would be a crash that would leave no one alive.
They would need a helping hand.
Clark flew faster, easily catching up with the train filled with people, and going over it. There was little space to fly, and he felt his back scrapping the ceiling of the tunnel a few times, but in seconds he had already overtaken the train; now came the tricky part.
Too much strength, and his back would just punch through the metal of the train. Too little, and the train wouldn't slow down for enough time.
Very carefully, matching the speed of the train, he floated in front of it, pressing his back against it; almost instantly, he felt the metal bend, so he relaxed the pressure. Yashida Corporation's train was approaching fast from the other side of the tunnel, ready to crash head on against them. Ignoring it, Clark focused on trying to slow the train behind him down, opening his arms to widen his back and adjusting the amount of force. The speed decreased, and as soon as Clark was certain it was enough, he looked at Yashida Corporation's train.
His eyes burned red and he unleashed his heat vision.
The train in front of him was completely empty, so Clark's only concern was measuring the amount of energy he could unleash without damaging the tunnel itself; other than that, there was no need to hold back. The red energy beams unmade the train at a mere touch, cutting it in half and then liquifying the metal almost instantly, to the point that the entire thing just disappeared into a giant puddle of molten steel in a matter of seconds.
The train full of people wouldn't crash if there was nothing to crash against.
The heat wave filled the tunnel, and Clark slowly cooled it with his breath as he still held the train with his back, gently but surely forcing it to stop. The wheels made contact with the molten metal, slowing the train down even more, until eventually it finally stopped, safe and sound.
Clark made a note to come back and help release the stuck train once everything was settled, and then flew after the third runaway train.
"I can't believe this," Rogue whispered, incapable of looking away from the screens showing the subway lines.
None of them could, she realized, practically smelling Kitty, Laura and her shock. She knew Clark was powerful, she could feel that power coursing inside her, but that? That was simply unreal! That was the sort of power Rogue had only seen the likes of Magneto or Storm throw around, the Professor in a less showy fashion, but only the cream of the crop amongst mutants, and only when they truly needed to get things done.
And not only because of the sheer power, but because of the skill used to wield it.
What Clark did, stopping that train and saving those people, could only be done because he knew how to control that absurd power he had — and that was maybe even more rare than having great power to begin with.
Scott couldn't go anywhere without his glasses, Jean routinely gave them all headaches when control slipped, and Rogue herself was completely unable to touch anyone without draining them.
Destroying the train with a stream of pure energy? Impressive as hell, but what made that beyond incredible was the fact that he did so while saving a train full of people as well. He caught up with it — by flying no less! —, dosed his speed and strength so he could stop a moving train without killing anybody inside, and then, while doing all that, liquified an entire train without losing control and bringing down the tunnel on them.
And he made that look easy!
Not for the first time, Rogue dreaded what would've happened if Magneto had stumbled upon Clark and recruited him for his little club. Deep down, she knew by the memories and feelings inside her that Clark would never fall for it, but the mere thought of having to face someone like him on the opposite side of the battlefield scared her.
And also not for the first time Rogue had to wonder how the hell the Professor didn't find him using Cerebro!
There was no way someone that powerful didn't send ripples throughout the world, didn't glow like a beacon when the Professor peaked with Cerebro. The Professor had found a mutant whose power was having a slightly longer than normal neck, for god's sake! Unless the problem was exactly that: maybe Clark was too powerful, so much that Cerebro couldn't even register him.
Or maybe, Rogue suddenly wondered, maybe Clark wasn't a mutant at all.
Could it be? Memories and energy were one thing, but could her abilities even copy a non-mutant's powers? What would that make him, then? An enhanced — or mutate, that's how they called them back at the X-Mansion — of some kind? Was that the reason Clark's powers were so versatile?
Her eyes widened to the size of plates when that thought occurred her.
Super-strength, super-speed, super-senses, flight, red energy beams he could shoot from his eyes… It couldn't be, could it?!
Before Rogue could have the mother of all epiphanies, however, a terrible noise diverted her attention.
For a moment, she thought the place was starting to collapse, the screech of metal overpowering even the distant explosions. The sounds were coming from the hallway, however, more accurately, they were coming from one of the steel door that had blocked that section of the lab.
From the adamantium blades cutting the steel door!
Rogue almost immediately disregarded the idea that those blades belonged to Logan, simply because they were too long, shaped differently, and didn't come in a set of three; but they definitely were made of adamantium, given how easily they were cutting the thick steel door, almost as if it were made of paper.
Adamantium katanas, Rogue finally realized, stunned.
"Silver Samurais!" Laura growled, unleashing her own adamantium blades.
That didn't sound good at all; Rogue met Kitty's eyes.
"Deal with that, Rogue," she said, starting to type again. "I need to finish this."
She rolled her eyes; typical!
Leaving Kitty to her job, Rogue turned and stood by Laura's side, watching as the so called Silver Samurais cut the door down, slashing huge sections of steel with their adamantium swords. Rogue had no idea what she was about to face, but given the fact that Laura was extremely tense — and that they all had seen how deadly she was while studying those crime scenes —, it probably didn't mean anything good.
Rogue took a deep breath, taking a martial stance, feeling the usual nervousness before a fight; not only because she was about to fight what seemed to be a group of freaking samurais armed with adamantium, but because of her limited grasp on her current set of powers.
She was, at the same time, worried for herself and her friends, and worried about the damage she could cause to her enemies; that was a frustrating state to be.
She needed to hold her strength back, but not enough to give them a chance to hurt her and others. She needed to move faster than her enemies, but not enough to launch herself far away or, worse, accidentally crash against someone and turn them to mush. She needed to use her senses to have an edge, but not enough to become overwhelmed.
If there was one thing Rogue felt confident about, was that she wouldn't start burning everything with her eyes once again; she could think of few things less arousing than fighting a bunch of men armed with adamantium katanas.
That had to count for something.
"Stay behind me," Rogue said to Laura, when sections of the door started to fall. "I'll deal with them."
As much as Rogue didn't want to kill or permanently hurt anyone, if she had to choose between protecting innocents — herself included — and a bunch of warriors fighting for people who experimented on children, she would side with the good guys every time. Trying was enough, but if she needed to go all out, she would.
Luckily, both the X-Men and Clark agreed on that, regardless their distaste for blood, so there wouldn't be any problem on that account.
Laura, on the other hand, seemed to disagree with that notion, if her growls and deadly eyes were anything to go by; Logan's genes, no doubt, because he also tended to deal permanently with people he really disliked. Well, Rogue wouldn't lose any sleep over it, but she would feel like crap if Laura got hurt or worse.
She had already fought alone enough, it was time for someone to stand with her.
A huge section of the door fell down and, almost by instinct, Rogue grabbed Laura and threw her behind her; a second later, a barrage of bullets was fired from the hole in the door. Rogue saw each and every one of them moving towards her, to the very details on their surface, and she was more than certain that she could've dodged them anytime.
But that would leave Laura unprotected, so she stood her ground; Clark implied he was bulletproof, so there was no better time to test that.
Rogue literally laughed when the bullets hit her, shredding her sleeves when she crossed both arms in front of herself, falling to the ground like harmless snowflakes. It barely tickled her.
"I'm bulletproof!" Rogue yelled, holding her laughs, informing Kitty. "How cool is that?"
"Big deal!" Kitty yelled back from the other room.
"No need to be jealous!" Rogue retorted. "Just because you have to let them phase through y—"
Her taunting was interrupted when her hearing caught the clang of metal coming from the other side of the door; Rogue widened her eyes, grabbing Laura and jumping to the side, just at the moment a spear made of adamantium was thrown against her.
Bullets were one thing, but Rogue didn't want to try her luck with that; she had seen what Logan's claws could do.
The spear flew fast, not faster than the bullets, but more than fast enough to hit a normal human. As it was, neither of them were there when the spear flew, embedding itself in the wall behind them, the adamantium so sharp that it nearly passed through the other room.
Almost at the same time, what was still left of the door fell down, and the Silver Samurais got in, followed by a group of armed men.
It was an intimidating sight, Rogue had to admit. Seven real-life samurais, each and every one fully clad in bright silver armor, with terrifying masks, katanas and spears, every piece of equipment forged with adamantium.
Rogue hesitated for a moment, knowing just how dangerous adamantium was, and just how screwed she would be if she hadn't copied Clark's gifts; she could only hope they didn't start to fade right when she needed them the most.
Her moment of hesitation was over when Laura roared and attacked.
Damn it, now it was not the time to freeze, Rogue thought, getting up and attacking too. Bullets flew, hitting both her and Laura, but none of them stopped, advancing towards the Silver Samurais and their armed henchmen.
And suddenly it was chaos.
Blades swinging, bullets flying, claws slashing, punches and kicks being thrown around. Rogue's first hit was a direct punch against the chest of the closest samurai, right after she dodged his katana; the man flew against the wall, cracking a hole into it and disappearing into another room.
Maybe a little bit less strength, Rogue considered.
Laura sunk her claws in the man's chest, spinning over him to attack another one before the man even drew his last breath.
They were harmless, Laura concluded, even as a bullet grazed her shoulder; the wound was healed a moment after, and she reciprocated by slashing the man's gun and then his neck. Foot soldiers, no different from the dozens she killed during training.
The Silver Samurais, however, were a different story.
Laura roared when one of them approached, staring at her from behind his Oni mask. Ignoring the terrified foot soldiers, she focused on the samurai, promptly attacking him. The warrior blocked two of her attacks using his katana, but she finally managed to find an opening, hitting his leg.
Only to feel her claws slide uselessly against the adamantium armor.
Snarling, Laura dodged the counterattack, using her small size and her speed to avoid the samurai's reach and superior strength. Around them, the woman that smelled like the powerful man that defeated her was fighting several opponents at the same time, using her strength and speed to great effect; did they belong to the same race?
Burying the non-important questions, Laura tried to attack again, searching for a weak spot. Again, her claws were unable to breach the adamantium. Chest, neck, feet… Everything was covered behind the unbreakable metal.
Everything but the eyes.
Jumping, Laura attacked head on; the Silver Samurai simply lifted his katana.
Laura impaled herself on the adamantium blade, the sword burying itself in her chest, cutting her flesh and bones so easily that she only stopped when her chest touched the hilt. Blood gushed from the wound, her legs lost all sensibility when her spine was split, and the lack of air made her certain her lungs had been damaged.
An attack that would have ended any opponent… But not her.
The Silver Samurai had to know about her healing factor, but old habits were difficult to break, especially in the heat of battle. His instincts told him the fight was over, so he almost imperceptibly relaxed.
It was all Laura needed to sink her two claws into his eyes.
The Samurai fell down, taking her with him, and Laura was quick to pull herself from the sword so she could heal; there was a moment of silence, as the other Silver Samurais watched their fallen brother.
It was unlikely that the same tactic would work again, Laura assumed, joining the woman against the remaining enemies.
Kitty was doing the best she could to ignore the battle sounds coming from the next room, but that became a little bit harder to do when a samurai wearing adamantium armor was sent through the wall, completely demolishing it as he fell inside.
As usual, it seemed Rogue was incapable of restraint once she copied a flashy power.
The samurai stayed down for several minutes, sprawled on the floor, most likely fighting to keep conscious after a blow like that; the armor did its job, though, otherwise he would probably not get up at all.
Dizzy, stumbling because of the sheer weight of the adamantium and the hit he just took, the samurai got up, using his long spear to support himself. Kitty kept typing, battling against the broken software and her own troubles with Japanese as she tried to stop the computer of remotely sending any more trains into the subway lines.
She was forced to stop, however, when the samurai finally noticed her; and, without hesitation, thrust his spear through her back.
Instead of what should've been pretty much a bloodbath and instant death, what the samurai got was an annoyed, silent sigh. Kitty was forced to stop working and activate her own ability to turn intangible, so the spear would not only through her safely, but through the computer as well.
Making sure one of her hands was still touching the computer, fighting against the familiar nausea that scrambled her stomach every time she phased through adamantium, Kitty turned, ignoring the terrified eyes of the samurai and the spear through her torso, and waved frantically to the other room; once Rogue finally noticed, she opened her arm indignantly, an expression on her face that universally meant only one thing:
Do you mind?!
To her credit, Rogue solved the situation quickly, blurring towards the samurai, grabbing him by the shoulders, and pretty much tossing him against the ceiling; he probably wouldn't get up after that, Kitty considered, once he fell back to the ground and stayed there.
Back to work, then.
Kitty managed to override most of the Yashida's trains before the damaged computer could send them aimlessly to other stations, ready to crash against train who were actually supposed to be there.
All but the three who had already left, two of which Clark had already stopped.
She glanced towards the screens, seeing Clark flying in the tunnels, approaching the last one. Kitty had no idea how he was doing all that, but at the moment she was just glad that he could.
Her job there was done and she would leave Clark to his; time to fight some samurais.
Clark flew as fast as he could without completely shredding his civilian clothes; while Kelex could delete the footage of any camera able to record this whole debacle later on — something she already did when they were just walking through the tunnels before —, Kitty might still need them to find the rogue Yashida trains, so he decided to let them on at the moment.
That meant that simply changing into his Superman attire might not be the best of ideas; not only because Clark didn't want to advertise that Superman was looking into this matter, but because changing into his Kryptonian skinsuit in front of cameras was just not a smart thing to do, no matter how certain he was that he was flying so fast that his face was probably blurred.
And, of course, it would undoubtably reveal his identity to Kitty and Rogue; he was still holding out hope that they hadn't connected the dots, even considering all the clues they'd witnessed so far.
Best to let everyone possibly watching that he was an unknown mutant and deal with that later.
The noise let him know he was getting close to the last Yashida train, and soon enough he had eyes on it; almost automatically, he tensed his body, ready to accelerate and just rip the train apart, much like he did against the first one.
Only to immediately stop and reassess the situation when he listened something else coming from the train: heartbeats.
There were people inside! Quickly scanning the entire train with his x-ray vision, Clark confirmed what he already knew, seeing several Yashida Corporation's employees scattered in the several cars, holding for dear life as the train accelerated to its maximum speed.
That wasn't the end of the bad news, unfortunately.
While this train wasn't about to collide with any other train coming its way, it was moving towards the surface, soon to be outside the underground lines, about to cross a bridge over a section of the city.
Problem was, the bridge wasn't completely built yet; if the train continued on its path, it would fall down over the city, killing not only every passenger inside the train, but everyone unfortunate enough to be passing under it.
He couldn't allow that to happen.
His mind was working as quickly as it could, searching for possible solutions. Flying in front of the train and holding it until it stopped wouldn't work this time, not with the train moving at top speed; he would eventually stop it, no doubt about that, but if he wanted to do it safely, it would take him longer than it would for the train to reach the end of the line.
All he would accomplish with that, would be drop a slightly slower train from the bridge, hardly an acceptable solution.
Fly into the train and take the passengers out, one by one, was also not a good idea, simply for the fact that there were too many people. Clark didn't doubt he was fast enough to do it, but he did doubt the passenger's very human bodies would survive the experience. Given how close the train was to the end of the line, and how fast it was going, Clark would have to move far quicker than a human body could handle if he wanted to disembark every passenger in time.
The third and final solution Clark thought of, however, was doable; risky, but he didn't have the luxury of thinking for much longer.
Inhaling deeply, Clark unleashed his arctic breath on the train, keeping the temperature low enough to slightly freeze the outside, but not enough to harm the people inside. The metallic surface of the train was quickly covered by layers of ice, including the wheels; not so much as to derail the train, but enough to visibly slow it down.
When Clark judged he was about to reach the critical point, he stopped blowing the freezing air, and immediately advanced, ready to unleash the ability on the very opposite of his power spectrum.
He flew over the train, blasting the subway cars with his heat vision, quickly and precisely separating them one by one from the whole. Uncoupled, and carefully slowed down until stopped, the cars stayed behind, leaving the passengers inside them stranded but safe.
One by one, Clark cut off the cars, shortening the train more and more as it advanced nonstop, leaving the dark tunnels for the rising sun of the surface; they had arrived on the bridge, and they were approaching its end faster than ever.
Redoubling his efforts, Clark worked even faster, blurring from one car to the other, his heat vision cutting the steel with machine like efficiency. He purposely ignored the approaching abyss, the screams of terror of the passengers, and the surprised exclamations of the people passing under the bridge, completely focusing on what he had to do, not allowing any distractions to get in the way.
Until there were only two cars left, one with passengers, and one completely empty; both seconds away from falling down.
Sinking his fingers in the steel, Clark held down what was left of the train, trying to slow it down as he cut it with his heat vision; the train, even at top speed, was no match for his strength, but the metal under his fingers was simply not strong enough to resist the tension. It bent and then it was simply sliced, almost as if he had claws instead of fingers.
But before the steel could relinquish completely, Clark finally uncoupled the car filled with passengers and stopped it, inches away from the edge of the bridge.
The last car, however, kept going; it was launched over the end of the bridge, flying for a few seconds, until it inevitably began to fall over a street filled with people.
Leaving the car filled with passengers where it was, Clark flew towards the falling car, descending even faster than it; there was no one inside, so for once, things would be pretty straightforward.
Clark flew under the train car and grabbed it, stopping it midair. The steel bent a little against his muscles, the car's own weight and gravity forcing it down, but with barely any effort Clark held it, and then lifted it back to the bridge.
He could hear the surprised yelling both from the people on the street and the passengers of the train, but Clark was fairly certain no one had been able to see what had actually happened in too many details.
And if they did, well, he could only hope Superman didn't make the news and his investigation could remain under wraps for a little longer; Natasha was of the opinion Clark was incapable of being discreet, and he really didn't want to prove her right.
It was time to go back to the lab and finish things up.
Adamantium, Kitty knew, was virtually indestructible.
She had seen some of the things Logan endured during her time in the X-Men, and while his healing factor was no doubt responsible for keeping him alive, the adamantium in his bones was always along for the ride and it had never been damaged.
Car and even airplane crashes, high-caliber bullets and bombs, unbelievably powerful concussive blows from the likes of Blob, Sabretooth and even Scott — accidental friendly-fire, or so he claimed, but it still nearly buried Logan into the ground —, swords, knives, claws…
Nothing had been able to even dent the adamantium in Logan's skeleton, and Kitty had no reason to think the Silver Samurai's armors were any different.
So when she was face-to-face against one of them, armed with a single pencil she found lying around, it was understandable why they didn't see her as a threat, especially not when Laura and Rogue were kicking all kinds of ass on the opposite side of the room.
He just raised his katana and advanced, no doubt meaning to kill her quickly and focus on the real dangers.
His plans changed when the blade simply passed through Kitty, harmlessly, if she didn't count the sudden bout of sickness that always bothered her when she phased through adamantium; given that the alternative to phasing through it would be losing the upper half of her body, Kitty wasn't inclined to count the sickness as a real problem.
Keeping that in mind to avoid barfing, Kitty took advantage of the samurai's surprise, stepping to the side and attacking him with her pencil.
It would have been a laughable — or maybe tragic — move, one born out of despair or stupidity… If Kitty hadn't used her powers to phase the pencil through the adamantium armor.
And then left the pencil there, inside the man's elbow, when she retreated.
The scream of agony the Silver Samurai let out was muffled by his mask, but it was still enough to fill the room; free of Kitty's power, the pencil rematerialized inside the man's armor, inside of his very arm, and the result wasn't pretty.
Flesh, bones and tendons were immediately destroyed, and the arm pretty much lost its function. He dropped the sword, shocked and in pain, and Kitty used the moment to finish the fight.
She ran to him and grabbed the dropped sword; and in one fluid move, she phased the katana through his foot and into the ground, leaving it there.
The moment Kitty let go of the sword, the samurai screamed again, kneeling in pain, as the sword pinned him down. She tried to ignore the wails of torment, remembering that he would've done much worse to her and her friends if he had the chance, and grabbed the man's helmet, phasing it out of his head.
Without it, all it took was one solid blow against the back of his skull to put him to sleep, something she achieved by using the samurai's own helmet.
Kitty sighed tiredly when the terrified henchmen finally broke out of their trance and started to shoot her, the bullets passing harmlessly through her; it seemed they needed to be taught a lesson as well.
Turning, alerted by the vibrations in the air, Rogue grabbed a spear before it could make contact with Laura, pulling it away from its owner with almost no effort; and then, in one fluid movement, Rogue spun, using the spear handle to drop everyone around her.
Logan himself had trained her in hand-to-hand combat, and he made sure she could handle herself in a fight even without her abilities, but Rogue had absolutely no illusions that she could beat any of those samurais in a fair fight; at least, not in normal circumstances.
The circumstances, however, were far from normal.
Rogue was just so much faster, so much stronger, that the whole thing didn't even feel like a real fight. She knew when the attacks were coming, she could dodge or block them with laughably easiness, and each one of her punches or kicks were sure to put down whoever was unlucky enough to be in her path.
There was no reason to not make things even more unfair, though.
Without giving him a chance to defend himself, Rogue grabbed the samurai who had attacked Laura and pulled out his mask — a dragon, maybe? — in one single movement. And then, when there was nothing else between his skin and her, she quickly took out her glove and touched his face.
There was a flash of disjointed memories and thoughts, and a stream of energy traveled through her body; Rogue held him for a few seconds, enough to knock him out for a few hours, but nothing more than that.
And when she released him and faced the rest of the opponents, Rogue grinned.
"I know Kung Fu," she quoted, adopting a far more elaborate martial stance than before.
"Samurais don't know Kung-Fu!" Kitty yelled from the other side of the room, obviously too busy fighting to get her hilarious and witty joke.
She could call it whatever she wanted, Rogue decided, spinning the adamantium spear with a newfound skill that would make Logan proud. She stared at the remaining Silver Samurais, each and every one of them holding their weapons tightly.
Normal eyes wouldn't be able to see, but Rogue noticed they were shaking under all that armor.
They moved at the same time, a flurry of adamantium blades that would make most opponents run in fear; Rogue just danced between the attacks, spinning the long spear around her, blocking the hits coming from all sides without any difficulty whatsoever.
Before, Rogue had the strength and the speed; now she also had the skill.
Advancing so fast that the spear in her hands became just a silver blur, Rogue started to counterattack, using both the blade and the handle to hit her opponents. The sheer strength she copied from Clark gave her the necessary force to actually hurt the Silver Samurais even behind their armor, the blunt attacks hitting so powerfully that the energy behind the blows traveled through adamantium and into their bodies.
Maybe she could even breach the armors with the blade of the spear, if she tried hard enough, but that wasn't something Rogue was willing to find out.
Instead, Rogue proceeded to beat them into pulp, but not enough to kill, no matter how much they deserved it. Shoulders, arms, legs, head… Rogue unleashed a barrage of attacks, forcing the Silver Samurais to drop their weapons, fall down and stay there.
The fight around them stopped, every single person watching the tremendous beating she was dealing to the Silver Samurais, the noise of adamantium against adamantium echoing in the room so loudly that the building was starting to tremble. The henchmen facing Laura and Kitty just stared, shocked beyond belief, probably unable to understand how such a powerful elite team could lose like that.
Rogue twirled the spear between her fingers and then stuck it into the ground.
"That's it?" she taunted the fallen warriors, as they groaned in pain. "You guys like to torture little girls, but this is what happens when the little girls fight back?"
She had no idea if they could even understand her — or if they were conscious enough to do so —, but at that moment Rogue didn't exactly care. Maybe it was the heat of the battle, maybe it was all the repressed memories and personalities she'd copied getting rattled by the situation, maybe it was the simple fact that she had just beaten down a bunch of people who tortured and experimented upon mutants. Rogue didn't know.
All Rogue knew was that she was feeling like nothing in the world could possibly hurt her.
She felt unbeatable.
And that was probably why it took her so long to understand what was happening when one of the Silver Samurais grabbed something from inside his armor.
A grenade, Rogue finally realized. An adamantium grenade, her x-ray vision told her.
"Death before defeat", the memories of the Silver Samurai she had drained whispered in her ear.
"NO!" Rogue yelled, blurring towards the man, but it was too late.
Laura coughed blood.
The pain was so great that her vision was blurry, her entire body hurting. She could feel the healing factor starting to kick in, but the injures were so extensive and so severe that it was taking longer than usual.
Groaning, Laura grabbed a piece of shrapnel being expelled from chest; adamantium bombs, she realized, tossing the little shard away.
That explained the damage, she rationalized. The adamantium shrapnel made a trail of destruction in the room that none of the previous explosions managed to match. They brought down walls, parts of the ceiling and the floor, and simply ripped apart every single non-armored person around it, Yashida Corporation's henchmen included.
From where she was, Laura couldn't see the two women who came to rescue her, and she wondered if their blood was on her hands as well.
Laura would definitely be dead if it weren't for her healing factor. The explosion threw her against the wall and was powerful enough to break most of her bones, but the shrapnel were the ones that really did a number on her. Her legs were nearly torn apart, her stomach and torso were shredded to pieces and one of her arms was literally hanging by a piece of tendon.
The pain bothered her, but Laura knew she had nothing to worry about on that account; no, what she needed to worry about was the fact that she still couldn't get up, but that wasn't true for the Silver Samurai stirring in front of her.
The adamantium armor had clearly protected the warrior from the worst of the explosion, shielding him from the deadly shrapnel with the only thing strong enough to stop adamantium: adamantium itself. He was hurt, it was clear by the way he was trying to get up, but he was less hurt than Laura.
The Silver Samurai got up, grabbing the adamantium spear by his side. He took a deep breath, trying to ignore the pain of his injures, and finally looked at her. Laura met his gaze, trying to force herself up as well, but no matter what she did, her body simply didn't respond.
All she could do was growl and roar, and not even that she could do it properly.
The man laughed cruelly at her pitiful roar, poking her with the adamantium spear, taunting her as one would provoke a leashed beast.
"That was it?" the man said in Japanese, slapping her face with the side of the spear blade. "Do it again, come on."
Furious, Laura took a deep breath, feeling her lungs fill with blood, and roared again.
The thunderous sound that echoed throughout the room did not come from her mouth, Laura realized, seeing the Silver Samurai freeze.
The samurai turned fast to the origin of the sound, but he wasn't fast enough to defend himself against the feral shadow that tackled him to the ground. The spear fell to the side while the samurai tried to fight off his attacker, but the form on top of him was stronger and far more enraged than him to allow that. The samurai was shaken like a ragdoll, violently beaten against the floor.
And then lifted up in the air, six adamantium claws buried deep into him through the few openings of his armor.
The Wolverine, Laura gasped, eyes wide.
Wolverine kept the Silver Samurai lifted above his head for a few more moments, the blood dripping down his claws, and then he tossed him away as if he were nothing. His eyes met Laura's, losing the animalistic glow for a second, but the beast was back the moment he sensed another samurai getting up behind him.
Roaring, Wolverine jumped against him, dragging him down the elevator shaft filled with flames.
Laura was so shocked that she was actually startled when someone tapped her shoulder: Kitty Pryde, she remembered, alive and well.
She supposed the ability to turn intangible was really useful against explosions.
"Logan will deal with him and any reinforcements, don't worry," Kitty said, half of her body inside the fallen wall. "Can you move? We need to find Rogue. I think she fell down when the floor broke."
Laura tested her legs; still hurting, but good enough if she had help. Accepting Kitty's hand, she disappeared into the wall with her.
Rogue's ears were ringing so loudly that it made her dizzy; her head hurt as if someone had split it open in half.
And it was nothing compared to the pain she felt all over her chest.
Stumbling, her legs barely responding, Rogue touched her torso, wincing when she felt the burns; it took her a second to gather the courage to look, and when she did, she gasped. Her entire torso was covered in burns, the skin red and inflamed in some points, and completely gone in others.
It was also littered with shrapnel, the sharp pieces of metal buried all over her belly and chest.
It was a gruesome sight, one that would make Rogue avert her eyes in normal circumstances, but for some reason she couldn't look away. She was breathing fast, filled with fear and pain, but she forced herself to calm down and assess the situation.
The first thing that came to mind was that, by all accounts, her body should be scattered all around the room in small pieces.
Not only she had taken a grenade explosion to the chest, the shrapnel littering her chest were made of adamantium. The explosion had destroyed everything around it, pulverized walls, opened a hole under her feet, demolished columns… But when it hit her, the shrapnel hadn't managed to dig themselves more than half an inch into her body.
She suffered burns, of course, her chest was hurting tremendously because of the impact, and the sharp adamantium fragments were buried all over her front.
But she was alive! The powers Rogue had copied from Clark, despite taking longer to fade, had finally run its course, but they had saved her life. With a single touch, they made her strong enough to resist an adamantium grenade.
How powerful was he?!
No matter how curious she was, that was a question for another time; first, Rogue had to get out of there, find Kitty and Laura, and then seek medical help. Trying to make her hands stop shaking, Rogue started to pluck out the adamantium shrapnel all over her chest, biting her lips to keep herself from screaming in pain. Maybe it was a good thing her head hurt to the point of making her dizzy, because otherwise she probably wouldn't be able to move, much less touch her burned skin.
Groaning, Rogue pulled herself up and started to walk, searching for a way back to the upper floor. The explosion had opened a hole in the ground, and she and a bunch of Yashida's goons had fallen down; only she had gotten back up.
That's what Rogue thought, at least; and her distraction cost her the only chance she had to defend herself.
She didn't even see it coming; Rogue only noticed the adamantium katana when the blade was already buried into her stomach. The sword went through her, blood splashed from her belly and mouth, and Rogue felt her entire body get cold.
"ROGUE!" Kitty yelled from afar, but Rogue barely listened, the pain too great for her to do anything else.
The Silver Samurai was kneeled in front of her, half-covered by debris, his armor scratched and damaged because of the bomb; but like Rogue, he had survived. Holding the katana still deep into her, the samurai got up.
Then he twisted the blade and dragged it to the side, before pulling it back.
Rogue nearly blacked out. The pain was indescribable and she fell down, out of breath, blood flooding from the huge wound. She could hear Kitty screaming from far away, and her own heartbeat seemed to fill her ears as she watched the Silver Samurai raise his sword for the last time.
That was it, Rogue thought, when the katana started its descent.
Rogue blinked, certain she was imagining things. There was nothing between her and the sword… And then it was. Or, more accurately, someone.
And Clark Kent had just stopped the adamantium sword with his own body, the blade resting uselessly against his shoulder, not a single scratch to be seen on him.
Rogue watched as he lifted a single hand and then flicked the Silver Samurai's forehead; the noise of the finger hitting the helmet was like a church bell being rung, and the man was thrown back as if hit by a cannonball, falling heavily to the ground, unconscious.
Her eyelids were growing heavy, but Rogue managed to smile when Clark kneeled closer; it made no sense, really, but she couldn't help but to feel a bit of hope. Maybe the blood loss was truly making her delirious, she thought.
"Oh, no, no, no, Rogue, you can't do this!" Kitty said, desperately, sprinting to Clark's side when he kneeled by Rogue.
Clark ignored the panicked girl, using his jacket to try to slow down the bleeding while he checked the wounds with his x-ray vision; he grimaced, feeling a pang of fury. That man hadn't simply stuck a sword into her stomach, he had done his best to completely rip her apart from the inside out.
The blade had shredded her organs — stomach, intestines, liver and a kidney — and split her spine; he had nearly cut her in half.
Blood loss was the least of Rogue's problems and there was absolutely nothing Clark or anybody could do, not against that kind of damage. Clark was filled with hopelessness; even if he took her to a hospital immediately, her organs were destroyed beyond repair.
Or so he thought.
"Hang on, Rogue, Logan's not here, but Laura is!" Kitty exclaimed, searching for the girl in the dark room. "You can borrow her gift!"
Of course, Clark thought, nearly slapping himself for forgetting; Laura could heal herself and Rogue had the ability to copy other abilities. This could work!
Walking quickly, Laura approached them, also kneeling by Rogue's side. The girl had a determined look on her face.
To their surprise, however, Rogue shook her head.
"No… She's too small, too hurt… She won't…"
Rogue believed she wouldn't survive the draining, Clark realized at the same time Kitty did. He didn't know how her powers worked, but they apparently put a lot of stress on the bodies of the people she drained, and Laura, despite her impressive gifts, was just a kid. A kid who had healed, in the span of a few hours, injuries that should've killed her ten times over.
There had to be a limit.
"I am willing to try," Laura announced, without hesitation.
Rogue just shook her head, inflexible, her face so pale that Clark was surprised she was still conscious.
"No, not again, never again…" she whispered. "Won't trade your life for mine."
Laura widened her eyes almost imperceptibly, and Kitty was on the verge of tears, looking around, searching for any alternative, but Clark already knew what he had to do.
Laura might not survive Rogue's abilities, but Clark would; he had before. Getting up, Clark ripped his own shirt, exposing as much skin as he could, and then — giving little thought to modesty now — he did the same to Rogue's tattered and burned shirt.
And without a second thought, Clark embraced her and took off, breaking every single floor of the building as he ascended to the sky.
The effects of Rogue's gift were instantaneous; the moment his skin made contact with hers, Clark felt his energy being drained, leaving his cells to enter hers. It felt like static, a continuous humming, and Clark could see why normal people would get overwhelmed by it.
His energy reserves were just too big for it to make a difference, at least right away.
In a matter of seconds, they left the building and reached the clouds, going through them as well, until the sunlight shined over them. Then, Clark stopped, and still hugging her, he glanced at Rogue with his x-ray vision.
Organs were literally remaking themselves, new cells forming at such speed that it took seconds for her vital organs to regenerate. Blood was being produced faster than ever, flooding Rogue's arteries and veins, replenishing the liters she lost. The shattered spine reattached itself and the cracks in her bones vanished. The burns all over her front were healed, leaving her skin as perfect as before; the shrapnel wounds and the sword gash on her stomach closed themselves, expelling any foreign objects still stuck into her, not leaving any trace of scarred tissue behind.
Clark continued to hug her, feeding Rogue his energy, touching her with as much skin as he could, and the sun continued to feed them both; Rogue's healed skin started to absorb the light as well, her gift successfully copying Clark's physiology like before.
She gasped when that happened, opening her eyes as the sudden burst of energy flooded her body. And without hesitation, Rogue kissed him.
Clark was too surprised to move, but even after he recovered from the shock he didn't turn her away, thinking she was simply overwhelmed by the moment. That might have been true, he didn't know, but he soon realized that the kiss also served another purpose: the intensity of the draining nearly doubled, his energy leaving into Rogue's lips, and Clark couldn't help but to wonder if her lips absorbed energy better than her skin or if Rogue simply started to deliberately drain him, instead of letting her "auto-pilot" do all the work.
A thought for another time, Clark decided, unable to completely detach himself from the feeling of her soft lips.
He lost track of how long they kissed, the energy buzzing through his skin and into hers, the sun replenishing the energy he lost almost as quickly as Rogue could take it. The kisses became more intense as Rogue's strength grew, and her fingers grabbed his muscles with such power that a human would have end up hurt by it. She hugged him even tighter, pulling him against her own body.
When Rogue finally pulled back and opened her eyes, they were glowing bright red, and her cheeks were almost as red; she was floating without his help, he noticed.
Slowly, she touched his face, the tip of her fingers making his skin tingle.
"You're Superman!" Rogue gasped, eyes wide.
Clark didn't know what his answer would have been, if he would have confirmed or denied it, but it didn't matter, because before he could say or do anything, she pulled him closer and kissed him again.
It was a good thing Clark still had a lot of energy to give, because Rogue didn't seem inclined to stop any time soon.
He realized he didn't mind all that much.
The moon was shining bright over Yashida Mansion, basking the impressive building with its silver light.
Logan followed the kimono clad woman, allowing his senses to stretch. Despite not being in sight, he could smell several people in the place, his nose good enough to differentiate the servants from the guards simply by the scent of metal of the guns they were carrying.
The place was well-guarded, but Logan showed no traces of apprehension; the guards watching from the windows, however, had the faint scent of adrenaline as they followed him with their eyes.
It seemed tales of what happened in Yashida's lab earlier that day had reached them, Logan thought, and the humiliating defeat of a whole unit and seven Silver Samurais was bound to put fear in their hearts.
The ironic part? Despite being blamed by what went down at the lab, for once, Logan had very little to do with that chaos.
He only arrived at the very end, following the trail the girls had left behind, and was greeted by what seemed to be a warzone; it probably said a lot about his reputation that they assumed he was responsible for that just for being seen at the place.
It did present him with the opportunity to be there, however, so he wasn't complaining.
They went up a stairwell, and he started to hear several beeps that reminded him of medical equipment coming from some place nearby. He was proved right when the woman opened a door and gestured for him to get inside.
The room was a mix of a lavishly decorated Japanese bedroom and a hospital, that was the first thing Logan noticed. The beeping was continuous, coming from the high-tech machinery scattered everywhere, and the tables were covered by several medical equipment; in contrast, there were samurai armors displayed in the corners, and a beautifully painted mural on one of the walls.
Logan's attention, however, wasn't in the room; it was in the man lying down in the middle of it.
"Oh, Kuzuri," Ichiro Yashida greeted, adjusting the heigh of his bed to look at Logan. "You look the same." He grinned. "But then, that is no surprise."
Logan could not say the same, but then, that was also no surprise; the last time he had seen Ichiro Yashida, a nuclear bomb was being dropped on Nagasaki.
He was a young officer of the Japanese army back then, one who took pity and released the prisoners so they could try their luck at escaping before the bomb fell. Logan had been one of those prisoners, and in return for his kindness — as useless as it might have been, giving the sheer power of the bomb —, he had saved Yashida's life, throwing him inside the same well he had been imprisoned in and then shielding him from the worst of the nuclear blast with nothing but a metal plate and his own body.
The frail, old man in front of him couldn't be more different than that young officer.
Where once there was strength and vigor, now there was only fatigue and the clear scent of sickness. Logan had seen enough people reaching the end of their lives, and he could tell without difficulty that Yashida would soon be one of them.
Except for the eyes, those were still the same; those and the radiation burns on the side of his face.
"Dr. Green," Yashida called, and the blond woman in the room turned to him. "Leave us, please."
The woman bowed, and left the room without a word.
"My oncologist," Yashida explained.
"Well done," Logan remarked, watching the beautiful woman go.
Yashida just chuckled, then sipped his tea. Logan shook his head when offered, so he waited in silence for a few moments.
"For many years, I have wanted to thank you for saving my life," Yashida finally said.
He just stared back into his eyes for a long minute.
"Is that why your scientists were playing with my DNA?" Logan bluntly asked. "Making clones? Experimenting on them?"
Many would've cowered before Logan's gaze, but Yashida didn't even flinch, nor did he try to deny what he did.
"Precisely," he answered. Logan frowned. "I didn't spend all these years searching for you just to thank you, Logan. I wanted to repay you. To offer something no one else can. A gift to equal the life you gave me."
"I don't want anything from you."
"Not a thing," Yashida corrected him, then sighed. He looked into Logan's eyes. "Eternity can be a curse. It hasn't been easy for you, living without time. The losses you have had to suffer… A man can run out of things to live for. Lose his purpose. Become a ronin, a samurai without a master."
He raised his bed, getting closer.
"I can end your eternity," Yashida concluded. "Make you mortal."
Logan stopped, not knowing what to say to that.
"What I am can't be undone," he snarled.
"Yashida Corporation can do anything," Yashida affirmed. "I know more about your mutation than anyone else, even you. That is what my scientists were studying it. We believe that your ability to heal can be passed, from you to another."
He looked at Logan and for the first time he saw the same Yashida from decades ago.
"I am still the same man you met all those years ago, Logan. I was not ready to die then, I'm not ready to die now."
Logan leaned over him, menacingly.
"Are you offering to kill me?"
"No, not right away. You can live a long and ordinary life. Fall in love, have a family, grow old… And one day die an ordinary death."
Whatever Logan was expecting from this meeting, this wasn't it. After what went on in Yashida's genetic lab earlier that day, after Rogue and Kitty found a female clone of him of all things — the same mutant that had been killing people all over Tokyo —, he went directly to Yashida for answers, to learn more, to search for clues about Weapon X, about experiments on mutants… Not this.
"You have finally found a home, Kuzuri," Yashida spoke, and Logan turned to look at him. "Friends, maybe even family… But you know it won't last. Like everyone in your life, they will eventually grow old… But you will not. Are you prepared to lose them again?"
That was the wrong thing to say.
Logan knew more than anyone that Yashida was right, eternity could be a curse. That was true. It was a curse because the people you cared about would always leave, regardless of how long they lived for.
But one of those people he cared about had nearly died young because of Yashida's actions.
Rogue had almost died. Kitty could've died. X-23 — Laura — would've died, after living an entire life of torment at Yashida's hands, just so he could try to replicate his healing factor. Who knew how many others had suffered that same fate?
So no, Logan didn't want anything from Yashida, no matter how tempting it might have been. He knew a deal with the Devil when he saw one.
Without saying anything, Logan unleashed his claws; Yashida's eyes widened and the scent of fear spiked. It seemed he really wasn't ready to die, just like he said.
Panicking, Yashida frantically pressed a button by the side of his bed, and almost immediately a bunch of armed men entered the room; Logan grinned. He had been eager for a fight, he wouldn't lie.
But then, before he could swing his claws or they could fire against him, everything stopped, as if time itself had been frozen.
Logan frowned for a moment; then sighed, realizing what was happening.
There was a bluish smoke, and the smell of brimstone filled the room, just as three people appeared out of nothing.
Charles Xavier, Kurt Wagner and Hank McCoy.
Charles took one look at Logan's claws and raised a single eyebrow.
"Not every problem can be clawed away, Logan," he remarked, exasperated.
"They can if your claws are sharp enough," Logan retorted, petulantly, but retracted them nevertheless.
"There are subtler ways to get results," Charles decided, moving his wheelchair closer to Yashida.
Yashida, like everyone else in the mansion, was still locked into his own mind, frozen still by Charles power. A frightening, but very useful gift, Logan had to admit.
"Now, let's see what Mr. Yashida has to say about this whole situation," Charles said, touching his own temples and closing his eyes.
While he dug into Yashida's memories, Henry McCoy did the same with the computers. Logan still couldn't use those damn things to save his life, but he had seen Kitty, Forge and Hank do that thousands of times now. They linked a — what was it called? — a small computer to the bigger one, and then copied everything they could find inside it. And then they deleted everything else.
That was important, because apparently, hitting computers with his claws did not guarantee that the information inside them was truly gone. How crazy was that?
Even having seeing this process several times already, though, Logan still hadn't get used to how weird was seeing Hank using computers. Not because he doubted Hank was smart enough — he was one of the most intelligent people he had ever met, certainly far more intelligent than him — but because Hank was huge.
There was a reason they called Hank "Beast": he looked like a huge, blue gorilla, with claws and opposable thumbs on his feet.
And yet, despite his claws and sheer size, Hank was capable of using those fancy technological gadgets far better than Logan — and most "normal people" in the world — ever would.
"I agree with Charles about 'clawing your problems away', Logan," Hank added, good-naturedly. "Especially when you're dealing with computers. Do you know how much trouble these guys," he waved his clawed fingers, "can cause when I'm dealing with delicate equipment?"
Logan didn't know, no, and he wasn't particularly interested in learning, but he was spared having to answer when Kurt appeared by his side, annoyingly happy as he always was.
"So, where's Rogue and Kitty? And it's true they found a girly mini-you?" he asked excitedly, his thick German accent permeating every word.
Kurt Wagner, the Nightcrawler, was possibly the only member of the team that drew as much attention as Beast when he went for a walk. Like Hank, he was also furry and blue, but differently from him, Kurt was leaner and quite a bit smaller; which didn't mean much when trying to draw less attention, because he also had a long tail, pointed ears, two-toed feet and three-fingered hands.
At least he could teleport away when he wanted to, as opposed to Hank, who could only climb away very fast if he wanted to leave quickly.
"They're not here, Elf," Logan grumbled, walking to Charles. "They'll be back to the mansion tomorrow, with the girl and the other mutant they found."
Something Logan wasn't exactly happy about, not after both of them had disobeyed him and almost died; he wouldn't have them out of his eyesight if he could help it, and he certainly didn't like the idea of them spending the night with a pretty boy they'd just met, mutant or not, but he had a job to do.
He wondered for a moment if that was how parents felt, then shook his head; he didn't want to go there, especially now that there was a literal kid with his DNA out there.
It did make him think, though…
When "Dr. Green" judged she was far away from the mansion as she needed, she stopped the car; and then peeled her old identity away.
It was no different than a snake shedding its skin, really. The lab coat was set aside, as were the rest of her clothes. The blond hair reverted back to its pitch-black color after she applied a few drops of a special chemical. The nano mask was removed from her face, changing her features completely; she looked into the mirror, removing the contact lenses.
A beautiful woman looked back, her green eyes betraying nothing of what she felt.
More than her appearance, her mannerisms changed, down to how she presented herself. As Dr. Green, she had an image of knowledge and authority, but still subservient to her betters.
As Ophelia Sarkissian, she was unmistakably lethal. A dangerous serpent ready to attack.
Turning, she grabbed the clothes on the backseat and got dressed again, wearing her dark green skinsuit, and then she opened her computer, making a call.
Alexander Pierce appeared on the screen.
"It's done," Ophelia announced. "The genetic research is safe, as is the adamantium."
"At the hands of the X-Men," Ophelia admitted. Pierce raised a single eyebrow. "The telepath can't find anything if there isn't anything to find. He doesn't know anything that can lead them to us."
When X-23 escaped and started to kill all of Yashida's men, Ophelia knew preparations had to be made; it would be a matter of time before the Avengers or the X-Men showed up — maybe even Superman himself, if they were unlucky enough —, and when the Biochemical Genetic Lab went up in flames earlier that day, she realized the time was up. Having Wolverine show up at the mansion later on was simply the sign she needed to get away quickly, before Charles Xavier arrived.
Yashida might have not known anything of consequence, but she did.
Still, she regretted the fact that they wouldn't be able to count with Yashida Corporation's resources anymore. The genetic research they had on mutants was well advanced and it would serve them well, and the adamantium stash Yashida had amassed during the years was a valuable acquisition, but losing Yashida meant losing their influence over Japan and Asia.
Nothing that time wouldn't fix, but for now they would have less allies there.
"And the clone?" Pierce asked.
"X-23 was taken by the X-Men."
"Pity. She could've been useful, if controlled."
That, frankly, was not something Ophelia would shed any tears over. She had never agreed with that particular project, that had been all Yashida's, and it spelled trouble since the beginning. Add to that the incompetence of the project managers, such as Dr. Rice, and it was a wonder that it took that long to blow up in their faces.
Eventually, however, it did, and that was why she was there at the moment.
So Ophelia chose to remain silent about it; if Pierce noticed or cared about her opinion, he didn't say.
"Anything else to report?"
Almost imperceptibly, Ophelia nodded, sending over part of a footage she managed to recover from the Biochemical Genetic Lab. Somehow, most of the local footage of the lab — and the entire subway line — had disappeared, but the images she had didn't come from that database.
It came directly from the camera hidden inside the mask of a Silver Samurai.
The quality of the footage was far for perfect, and it had been difficult acquiring it. She had arrived literally minutes before SHIELD isolated the place — and not the friendly agents that reported directly to Pierce —, and had barely escaped unnoticed, but what she found… Well, it was worth it.
The images played on the screen: a woman fighting against several Silver Samurais, faster and stronger than any of them. But it wasn't the physical display that interested Ophelia, it was what happened when the woman touched the face of one of the samurais.
As if by magic, she immediately learned how to fight like them.
A mutant ability, that much was clear. Some kind of tactile telepathy? Impressive, but by itself it wasn't much. Her impressions changed, however, when the woman survived the explosion of an adamantium grenade and a subsequent impalement; not by healing, like X-23 would have, but by copying the abilities of another mutant who could.
The mutant woman in the video had the power to steal other powers for herself: a parasite.
That greatly interested her.
"Do you have a sample?" Pierce asked, simply.
Silently, Ophelia raised a single adamantium shrapnel covered with blood.
"Make this your new priority. Hail HYDRA!"
Clark sat down on his bed and sighed; the day had been far longer than he could've ever predicted.
A desperate search for a mutant girl in danger, a huge fire, runaway trains, samurais… Whatever Clark expected when he traveled to Tokyo, that hadn't been it. But at least things seemed to be going his way.
Laura had been saved, and it was a potential lead to his adamantium problem; he hadn't asked her yet, he decided to wait until they were all back in the US, but he had a feeling she would know something useful.
Natasha had sent her people to arrest Yashida's goons and to investigate the lab. Yashida's mansion, Kitty and Rogue guaranteed, was being taken care of by the X-Men and they would share what they found with him when they met in the US. Clark wasn't one to leave investigations to others, but even he recognized that flying there and demanding answers would achieve nothing. Best to play smart, and if that failed, then he could always fly there and demand answers anyway.
And Rogue, despite her very close call, was alive and well; maybe a bit more than that, after copying his powers again, this time for more than just an accidental touch.
Neither of them knew the consequences of that. Rogue, as far as she had known, could only absorb mutant powers, and Clark's alien physiology was a bit more complex than that. Who knew what Kryptonian DNA could do to her?
More importantly, who knew how the way she copied his powers could affect her?
The first time, Rogue had barely touched him, and her body had copied his abilities and drained some of his energy, keeping them for far longer than what was normal for her. The second time, however, couldn't have happened more differently.
Not only they had touched for far longer than the first time, but Rogue had been severely injured. Many of her organs had been completely destroyed, her blood had been almost entirely lost, and a good portion of her skin had been burned.
And when Clark touched her, she healed all that damage while also copying his Kryptonian physiology, down to the sunlight-absorbing cells.
But what would that mean in the long term? What would happen once the powers she'd copied had run its course? Would the organs regenerated with Kryptonian cells turn back to normal? Would the Kryptonian blood running through her veins transform into human blood? And what about the cells capable of absorbing sunlight? Would they keep absorbing energy, feeding her new Kryptonian physiology, or would they revert back to their normal state once the time was out?
Would there be a "time-out" at all? They had absolutely no idea, and the only way to find out was through observation, so Clark would keep her close.
That was why Rogue, Kitty and Laura were there in Natasha's apartment with him, each one sleeping in their own rooms. The following day, they would go back to the US — Natasha had been kind enough to provide documents for Laura — and maybe they could get some answers from the mutant specialists in the X-Men team, but until then, Clark wouldn't take his eyes off her.
He felt responsible for what had happened, both the injure and the subsequent power absorption. Maybe if he had been quick enough, neither of them would've happened, but unfortunately, he couldn't go back in time.
Clark was so distracted by all this, that he only noticed someone was at the door when he heard knocking.
"Come in," he said, surprised.
Rogue entered his room, slowly, closing the door behind her; Clark was in front of her in a second, worried that something could be wrong.
"Are you okay? Is something w—"
He stopped talking when she, very slowly, touched his face. There was the familiar tingle where her fingers traced; he closed his eyes.
"Did I hurt you?" Rogue whispered, removing her hand.
"No… It feels nice," Clark admitted.
Her touch could drain energy, and to most people, that was not only painful, but possibly lethal. Clark, however, had immense energy reserves, to the point that spending the day flying and lifting tons barely tired him. The strain her touch provoked was a novelty, something he could only imagine humans felt when they said that exercise, even the intense kind, felt good.
Rogue only smiled, and touched him again, tracing the lines of his face with the tip of her fingers. She looked into his eyes.
And then she kissed him again.
"Please," Rogue said, pulling back for a moment, her eyes never leaving his. "Just this once."
An entire life without being able to touch someone without hurting them… And then Rogue met someone who she could feel with her own skin. Clark couldn't possibly measure how much that meant to her, not really.
So he held close and, tenderly, kissed her back.
Kitty was tossing and turning, unable to sleep.
That, by itself, wasn't unusual, she always had trouble sleeping after missions. The adrenalin, the stress, sometimes the pain, those were all bad for a good night's sleep. And the mission earlier that day had provided all that in great measure.
What was keeping her up, however, was the revelation at end of it: Clark Kent was Superman!
Holy Hell! What was Kitty supposed to do with that information? She wouldn't go around telling people, of course, but should the X-Men know? They had already withheld that part of the mission when they reported to Logan, still keeping the illusion that Clark was just a mutant, but the next day they would all go back to the X-Mansion, and what would happen then?
Telepaths, mutants with enhanced senses, geniuses… How the hell would Clark keep his secret identity there?!
She knew everybody at the Mansion could keep a secret, so Clark's identity wasn't about to become public even if they found out, but Clark didn't know that. How would he react? Was he counting on it? He had to be, Kitty had told him about the telepaths, hadn't she?
The last thing they needed was to piss off Superman.
Suddenly, Kitty smiled, hiding her face into the pillow. On the other hand, she had met Superman! How cool was that?! She had wanted to meet him ever since, well, forever, but mostly since he saved them from that near plane crash, a bit after Black Zero Event.
Would he go out with her if she asked? God, the girls would be so jealous of her!
And the last thing on her mind, was, of course, how had she missed this?! Superman didn't even wear a mask! She had seen his face, talked to him, grabbed his hand… And yet, Kitty did not make the connection between Clark Kent and Superman until he started flying around.
Could that be some kind of alien form of telepathy? Or she was just that stupid?
Whatever the answer was, Kitty never got it, because at the moment she turned again on her bed, she was suddenly face-to-face with a pair of eyes.
"GAH!" Kitty exclaimed, pulling back so fast that she fell from the bed. "Don't do this, Laura! How long have you been here?!"
"A while," Laura admitted, tilting her head.
Kitty took a deep breath, trying to calm herself.
"Right… Well, what do you need?" she asked. "Is something wrong?"
Laura nodded, once.
"Fight noises," she said, and Kitty felt her blood turn cold.
More Yashida's goons? Samurais? The police? Kitty didn't know, so she followed Laura, keeping a hand on her shoulder to immediately phase them through any danger if there was the need. The girl guided her through the enormous apartment, going up the stairs, and Kitty frowned, confused.
She stopped in front of Clark's bedroom door; there were indeed sounds coming from there.
Gesturing for her to remain where she was, Kitty took a deep breath and carefully phased her head through the wall, hoping to surprise whatever threat was there.
Kitty's eyes widened so much that they hurt; that wasn't a fight!
"And they said heroes don't do that," Rogue said deliriously, half-laughing, half-moaning, as she grabbed the sheets with all her might.
Kitty had honestly no idea what Rogue was talking about, and she suspected neither did she, given the nearly drunk expression on her face. But her attention wasn't on Rogue anymore, it was on the head in the process of getting crushed by Rogue's thighs.
Clark Kent's head!
Kitty froze for a second, unable to tear her eyes off what she was seeing, but she recovered her mental faculties quickly enough and started to retreat; she would've probably succeeded if Laura hadn't grown impatient and kicked the door open.
"Oh my god!" Rogue yelled, pulling the covers as she jumped. She looked around, her eyes finally finding a terrified Kitty, still phased through the wall. "Kitty! Get out!"
She didn't have to ask twice. Kitty grabbed Laura and dragged her out of the room as fast as she could, avoiding looking back at all costs.
"Were they fighting?" Laura asked, as she was pulled far away from the bedroom.
"Quite the opposite, kid," Kitty replied, finally arriving in her own room, her face burning hot. "Quite the opposite."
Laura thought for a moment, while Kitty tried to calm down.
"Mating, then," she shrugged, in the same neutral tone.
Kitty just covered her own face, unable to say anything.
"Not a threat," Laura concluded, turning around. "I will sleep now."
Then she left the room; at least one of them would sleep, Kitty cursed, throwing her pillow against the wall.
"…authorities still don't know what caused the explosions at the Yashida Corporation's Biochemical Genetic Lab, but a terrorist attack was not ruled out. Mutant extremists are the prime suspects, since investigations have uncovered illegal experiments regarding the X-Gene going on in the facilities. Yashida Corporation has yet to issue a statement…"
Natasha grinned, seeing the images of the obliterated trains in the Tokyo subway, as the survivors told the reporters what happened.
"You call this being discreet, Clark?" she chuckled. "Well, at least Superman wasn't mentioned yet, I'll give you that much."
She couldn't wait to make fun of him when he came back; until then, however, she would settle for someone else.
Natasha opened the passenger window of the car and looked out.
"Hey, fellas," she greeted. "Either one of you know where the Smithsonian is? I'm here to pick up a fossil."
"That's hilarious," Steve retorted, rolling his eyes, as he entered the car.
Somehow, Natasha didn't think she would be bored.
Author's Note: Guys, I thought I left it clear, Rogue and Kitty are not in school anymore. They have some characteristics based on the Evolution version (not only that version, but a lot comes from there), but they're clearly aged. They're young adults, 19/20 years old, and Clark is 21/22. There's nothing creepy going on here, nor there will ever be in any of my stories. Just to make things clear.
Hey guys, how are you?
First of all, I'm so sorry for taking this long to update, even though I said I would update in the next week. Thanks for all the kind messages wishing me well, but I'm doing okay, what happened was that my parents house went through some renovations and they asked me to stay there to help.
I thought it would take a couple of weeks, at best, but I severely underestimated the chaos.
There was a jackhammer inside the house, the bedrooms were demolished, the living room too… I'm currently writing in the kitchen, which is a terrible thing to do, because since I can only write at night and it's cold as hell in Brazil right now, I have to go to bed early because I simply can't take the cold.
And when I say bed, I mean the mattress I have in one of the rooms, because the bedrooms aren't ready yet hahaha
Anyway, I received a ton of reviews and messages and I answered only a few, and I'm so sorry about that. I'm going to try to answer them all, but I haven't been visiting the site these days because of all this.
Sorry again, and thank you for all the kindness. I at least hope you guys like the chapter. I hope you're all doing great!