by DuAnn Cowart
Standard disclaimers, of course, apply. As this story progresses, it may diverge slightly from strict X-continuity. I am patently ignoring the supposed return of Black Air and the death of Jardine.
There may be adult themes in this section.
Domino sat completely still. "Tell me exactly what you know, Wisdom." Recognizing the dangerous undercurrent in her tone, Pete sighed. This ain't gonna be easy. In a quiet voice he answered "I know that Tolliver, or Tyler, or whatever 'e wants to call 'imself, kept you captive fer over a year. I know that shape shiftin' bitch, Wilson's old girlfriend, took yer place with Nate and X-Force."
At his pause, she muttered darkly "Go on."
He poured another glass of scotch, stalling "Damn mutant metabolism- gotta drink three times as much to get half as drunk- 'course you know that." She only narrowed her eyes impatiently and took another long swallow in reply.
Looking across the table at her, he sighed and continued in a softer tone "I know Tolliver took you around with 'im like a bloody trophy wherever and whenever 'e went durin' that time. I ain't never asked, but knowin' you I figger you've got a pretty good idea of 'ow to get in and out of 'is strongholds- even with an inhibitor collar and in restraints, you're too much of a professional not t' notice shit like that. I'm also pretty damn sure 'e keyed your mutagenic signature into 'is security system so even when you was all trussed up you could still come and go with 'im and all 'is little cronies, and with your luck that signature's still in the system. And that," he took another deep breath "is one of the reasons why I need you to 'elp me get into one of 'em. Nothin' else is workin'."
"And," he grinned at her, a genuine, teasing smile this time "If it's a prison or a dungeon on this planet, you've probably been in it and you can probably get into and out of it. Probably done made friends with th' guards, too."
She downed the remainder of her glass and poured another, sparing him a quick smile for his effort to leaven the moment. I guess that "We've tried" means that he's still connected to Jardine and his bunch, officially or not. Either way, that's good- those resources might come in useful.
"Fair enough so far." she nodded, though her eyes remained guarded. Noticing Pete's discomfort, she narrowed her eyes. Runt's not saying everything. Alarms sounded in her mind, and when she spoke again her voice was cold and brittle. "So why do you...or Jardine," she had the pleasure of seeing him tilt his head in acknowledgment "want to break into one of Tyle..Tolliver's strongholds for, anyway? And what are you doing working for Jardine- I thought you were full time Excalibur now."
He crossed his legs under the table and grinned at her. "I'm now a consultant- Jardine's got me set up right. I just help 'im out whenever he's got somethin' suited for me, and I fit it into Excalibur's schedule. Trust me, we've got enough bloody free time over there, an' th' money comes in good. Anyway, 'ave you heard about 'ow we shut Black Air down, right?"
She nodded and noted clinically "Nice little piece of work. That bunch of assholes needed cleaning out a long time ago."
He managed a grim smile. "Thanks. It'd been nicer if we could've stopped the bastards before they ruined part of London, but... Better part than all. Anyways, when the smoke cleared and the inquiries began, I started 'earin' rumors about how some of th' top Black Air geneticists, th' ones that did th' really advanced stuff, were missin'."
"Well, it turns out that they weren't missin' after all. Jardine told me last week that a surveillance satellite caught a clear shot of some of 'em unloadin' some extremely high tech equipment near the ruins of an abandoned castle on the coast of Spain. Well, that got Jardine's people curious, and so they ran a couple of very interestin' tests. Turns out the entire area's using some sort of huge image inducer along with that security system I was tellin' ya about- I'm talkin' a seriously advanced system. This is Cable's bodyslide technology level stuff- it has to be Tolliver. Nobody else on earth has access to that kind of technology- it ain't even Shi'ar."
She took a deep breath, her patience wearing extremely thin. "I know exactly where you're talking about- it is Tolliver's, and trust me, I know just how damn advanced it is." Dropping the faux British accent, she enunciated clearly, afraid she already knew the answer "Now tell me, Pete... what the hell does all this have to do with me?"
He winced "Dom, I know some of what 'appened to you in there. When one of Jardine's agents caught him with a mutant-rights terrorist group, that little bastard Pico spilled his cybernetic guts about 'Petey the Dog', 'e called you."
She swore under her breath "Damn Deadpool." Looking him squarely in the eyes, she asked him "Then why the hell do you need me for this if you've got his guts spilled?"
"Because the obnoxious toerag wouldn't tell 'em a damn thing about Tolliver. They tried everything- and I mean everything- but 'e was just too afraid of Tolliver to say anything that would help us with him."
Domino kept her expression emotionless. She'd been held captive by more degenerate assholes than Nathan's dead son- damn if she'd let anything Pete had to say about him upset her. Keep tellin' yourself that, Dom, she grimaced.
Pete took a deep breath and continued "And that's why you've gotta come with me. Pico did tell us that Tolliver's pet doctors did some fairly extensive tests with yer DNA, but I don't have any idea whether he was tellin' th' truth or not. I also know that 'e did some other kinda experiments with yer tissue, and I know..." He took a deep breath "Hell, I don't know what else, Dom, but knowin' that sadistic bastard there just ain't no tellin'. And now that the Black Air scientists are workin' there... If those geneticists are still doin' the kinds of work that they were doin' for Black Air-" She held up a hand and he paused in mid-sentence.
Still psi-linked with Domino, Cable was desperately trying to listen to Pete's message, maintain the link with Betsy, and sooth the turmoil Pete's words caused in Domino's battered mindscape when he saw a huge purple-black door suddenly appear in her mind. Domino's exhausted psi-voice sounded *Go away, please, Nathan. I need to do this by myself. I'll tell you everything later.*
He started to protest, but felt a gentle push in his mind. Betsy. The British telepath, still linked to him, mentally prodded him *Come, Nathan. She's recovered enough to handle this now. Give her some privacy.* Grudgingly, he stepped through the door, but not without reaching out to her one last time.
Eyes closed, she exhaled in relief. Now she could stop worrying about the impact Pete's words would have on Nathan, anyway, and concentrate completely on what Pete was saying. She sighed shakily. Nathan was trying so damn hard to protect her from what his son had done, but as she'd learned a long time ago there was nothing any of them could do but live with the nightmares, not just those born of Tyler, break down every once in a while and pick up and go on. As soon as Nathan broke their contact she abruptly felt an aching emptiness where he had been, but also a strange relief. Now she only had to worry about hurting herself- and she really didn't care what happened to herself.
She inhaled sharply, trying to shake off those dark thoughts. That's ridiculous, Domino. You wouldn't have survived this long if you didn't care what happens to you. Get real. She wasn't sure, but she thought she felt a crisp violet sentiment of approval that wasn't her own.
Turning her attention back to Pete, she shook her head. "Sorry... I was talking to Nate. I made him break the link."
Pete nodded. "I thought y' would. I was gonna ask y' to in a minute, anyway. Now as I was sayin'..."
She interrupted "Yeah, yeah, sadistic bastards, DNA and tissue tests, et cetera, et cetera. Occupational hazard." She did not want to get into this with anyone, not even a friend as close as Pete. Last week's breakdown was still too raw.
He took another gulp of his drink. "Dom, they were doin' more than just tests at Black Air. Last I heard, those assholes holed up in Tolliver's castle were doin' shit like experimentin' on cloned embryos - and actually clonin' people- not sheep, not cows....people. Especially mutant people. I'm tellin' ya this because you need check this out for yourself."
She looked away for a moment, uncharacteristically silent and vulnerable. Pete felt his throat tighten and he awkwardly placed a tentative hand near her own.
Looking down at his hand, an elegant raven eyebrow arched. Domino's voice was laden with sarcasm. "Yeah, well...I guess there's worse things than being cloned- I mean, cloning gave us Strife and Madelyne Pryor, after all- and I guess Nathan, too."
Pete growled gently "That's my bloody point, you stupid git."
Ignoring his barb, Domino just shook her head and removed her hand from his. She continued in a conversational tone. "What else did that sawed-off little messenger boy say?"
Pete swallowed and edited Pico's comments. He'd had to be forcibly restrained from shooting ten hotknives down his cybernetic throat himself when he'd heard what the mocking little bastard had said- Dom had other things to worry about right now. "Just that his employer was back."
Domino's artificially green eyes widened. "His employer?" she whispered. Pierce or Tolliver? The lesser of two evils, please... she sent a silent prayer to heaven.
Pete took a deep breath and nodded. "Tolliver apparantly had standing instructions that if 'e was to die before Cable did, he was to be cloned and given a full memory implant so's 'e could finish th' job. They're not just usin' his set-up- Tolliver 2 is th' one that's hired th' Black Air geneticists."
Domino felt bile rise up in her throat. Pete's earlier words had shaken her,no doubt, and she knew that they'd have to act on them, but the simple knowledge that Logan had killed Tyler and that he was dead and gone had made everything that had happened to her bearable. Now, closing her eyes she could see his mocking face, feel his fetid breath as he lay on her. She felt her stomach heave. Occupational hazard. Right. And knowing that he was Cable's son made it even worse.
She stood up. "Give me just a minute, Pete," she rasped. "I'll be right back."
She slipped out of the booth and walked slowly to the bar and sat down alone, by herself, to think.
To Be Continued...
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.
Not as the world gives, give I unto you. Do not let your hearts
be troubled and do not be afraid.
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