The Hard Way: Part 2

by Perri Smith



Even at Salem Center, brawls at 2 a.m. were not a usual occurrence. This one was noisy enough to wake up everyone.

Cyclops and Jean came running out of the boathouse, still pulling on clothes. "What the hell is going on?" Cyclops' bellow silenced the crowd that had gathered. The better part of three teams, in various stages of undress, clustered around what looked like the set for the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Bishop and Domino were both armed to the teeth and looking edgy.

Cable went beyond edgy all the way to enraged. "What is going on is that someone broke into your secure compound and made off with Siryn!" His bellow matched Cyclops' for volume.

"Wolverine is also missing," Storm added much more quietly. She appeared to be by far the most calm of the group, which wasn't saying much.

"Who'd notice?" Boomer muttered. At least five people glared at her and she shut up.

"Did anyone see anything?" Cyclops tried again.

"All we heard was Siryn waking up dogs for five miles in every direction -- by the time we got out here, all that was left of your 'quiet, peaceful suburban school' was a Vegamatic commercial." As usual, Domino was annoying but correct. The small clearing in the woods was littered with slashed trees and branches, blood and the sonic-blasted hunks of vegetation that were Siryn's trademark.

"Who could pull this off under our noses?" Rictor stuck his two cents worth in, skulking around the edges of the clearing.

"I have no idea." Professor Xavier had arrived more slowly than the others, but had already decided on a course of action. "We will find out, and locate Siryn and Wolverine." He turned his hoverchair around. "Jean, Psylocke, come with me. I will need your assistance."

"And what are the rest of us supposed to do?" James Proudstar demanded.

"We'll look for them our way," Cable answered grimly.


Darkness. A hard, cold surface against her back. The feeling of motion through her skin. A plane? Must be.

Voices close by.

"This wasn't part of the deal!" A familiar voice, raised in anger.

"The deal has changed, thanks to your friends." A cold voice, calm.

"Hello, genius, they're not my friends! I hold certain standards for my friends and competence is one of 'em! These jokers couldn't reconnoiter a rock concert!"

"What the hell is that supposed t' mean?" A third voice.

"Great, it's stupid too." Scuffled footsteps, then the sound of a heavy body thumping into something solid. "Uh-uh-uh, no messin' with the merchandise!"

Suddenly, a face filling up her vision, so close she couldn't focus on it. A woman's voice. "Nighty-night, songbird."

Darkness again.


The next time Siryn woke up, it was to pain, lots of it. She heard a far-off groan and realized it was her own. "Oh, m'achin' head! I had t' ask f'r a cure f'r insomnia."

"Oughta be more careful what ya wish for."

She pulled herself carefully into a sitting position, managing to open her eyes to a squint. Since she couldn't quite focus, it didn't do much good. "Cute, Wolverine. What did they do, hit us with hammers? And where th' devil are we?"

"Your guess is as good as mine, Irish."

She heard chains rattle and looked up, managing at last to focus. The first thing she saw were the bars about two inches from her nose. She looked past them and saw Wolverine in an identical cell a few feet away. "Ye must be jokin'. A dungeon?"

"Ya know what they say, stone walls and iron bars ..."

"Do not a prison make," she finished for him. "But they're a damned good start. Y'r bein' pretty cheerful about this."

He shrugged, shifting the chains again. They rattled dully around his wrists, echoing in the chill of the cold cells. "No point wastin' energy 'til I know who I'm after. Then I stop bein' cheerful." The last was said in an ice-cold growl. She swallowed hard and decided to be far out of the line of fire.

She sat up the rest of the way, feeling bruises protest on almost every part of her body. But nothing seemed to be seriously hurt. She looked Wolverine over, but aside from blood on his clothes, he looked all right.

More importantly, she felt a familiar weight around her neck, and saw another one around Wolverine's. Inhibitor collars, made to block their powers. Her hands came up in an automatic reaction to rip the thing off of her throat.

"Don't try it, darlin'," Wolverine warned her, "they've been known t' rig these things to explode."

She hadn't been chained; apparently they, whoever 'they' were, thought Wolverine was the only dangerous one without his powers. She looked forward to proving them wrong. The only exit seemed to be the stairs leading to the steel door on the far wall. If there were guards, they were outside.

"All snug and tight," she muttered. "Any ideas for how we're gettin' out o' here?"

"Workin' on it, Irish. And we got other problems."

"Such as?"

"Such as, what the hell were these jokers doin' sneakin' around the mansion in the first place? Got the feelin' we disturbed some o' their plans and I don't think they're gonna be real happy with us."

"Always the master of understatement, Wolverine. At least, that's what I've been given to understand." The voice came out of nowhere and seemed to surround them, booming in their ears, almost shaking the stone walls.

Neither of them was impressed.

"Is that the best ye can be doin', playin' games with speakers?" Siryn threw out defiantly. "Take off this damned collar, I'll show ye some sound effects!"

When the voice spoke again, she recognized it from earlier, the cold, calm woman's voice. "I think not, Siryn, and this is merely the most I choose to do at this moment. Anything else, I leave for . . . them."

'Them' became clear when the door swung open and two people strolled in. One was a short, almost tiny woman, dressed in a black and blue uniform that looked armored. Her short dark brown hair was pulled back in a stubby ponytail; she didn't look scary until you noticed that her face was completely expressionless, almost dead, and that she wore a gun big enough to belong to Cable holstered on her right hip. Her eyes were chips of gray ice.

The second one Siryn already knew was dangerous -- she didn't need the red and black, armed-to-the-teeth-even-if-they-were-hidden uniform to confirm it. "Wade?"

Part 3

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