Peacekeepers: Remnant Shadows
by Alicia McKenzie
Logan looked around incredulously, muttering a curse under his breath. The dossier had mentioned that the Princess Bar had changed hands again five years ago - something he'd known, given that he made a habit of keeping track of his friends - but he hadn't expected this. He REALLY hadn't expected this.
"Looks like the place got renovated!" Nick shouted over the sound of the frantic, pounding music. Logan looked around and up at his son, and scowled at the grin the boy was wearing.
"No shit, Nicholas," he growled, shaking his head in disbelief. If he hadn't known he was in the right place, and recognized the general outline of the room, he'd never have known he was in the Princess Bar. It had been completely transformed into a dance club - a fucking dance club! - complete with multicolored strobe lights, barely-dressed waitresses and a chrome and glass monstrosity that he THOUGHT was supposed to be the bar.
It was a travesty. That was the word for it. An absolute travesty.
#Dad, quit glaring,# Nick's voice said in his mind, mock-sternly. #The poor kid in your line of sight is making his peace with God at the moment.#
"A dance club," Logan muttered. "A DANCE CLUB." Looked like a cookie-cutter copy of thousands of similar places across the face of the globe. Was that a sign he was getting old, when things like this bothered him this much?
The volume of the music was unbelievable, almost painful to his enhanced hearing, and the sheer number of people packed in here had his teeth on edge. He cast a sharp look up at Nick and decided not to both wasting oxygen trying to shout over the music.
You sensing anything I should know about? he thought at his son.
Nick's eyes roamed the room for a moment, then narrowed with frustration. #I can't tell. Too much noise--I can't filter through it.# His voice in Logan's head sounded strained, and Logan scowled again.
He really didn't like this. An environment like this made a telepath's abilities useless--was that why Forge had wanted to meet here? #I don't like this, Dad,# Nick said, echoing his thought. #Anyone could be in this crowd, and I wouldn't be able to tell.#
Then just stay alert, Logan shot back at him, much more harshly than he'd intended. Nick stiffened and then nodded, his expression going blank. Logan thought of apologizing, but banished the impulse and paid attention to the crowd instead. This whole situation was making him very uneasy. If only he'd been alone--but he wasn't, and he'd just have to keep his eyes open.
Gritting his teeth, he pushed his way through the crowd towards the bar, trusting Nick to follow him. The bartender gave him a distinctly hostile look, starting from the moment when he was about ten feet away and only getting worse as he closed the distance. Logan's eyes narrowed. Something's up, here-- The guy didn't LOOK familiar--
"Give me a Sapporo," he growled, taking a stool whose occupant vacated with gratifying speed when Logan gave him a pointed look. The bartender glared, and served him without a word. Logan smiled, being sure to show lots of teeth. "You got a problem, bub?"
"Not with you," the bartender said harshly, and inclined his head in Nick's direction. "But your friend's leaking psionic energy all over the place." Logan raised an eyebrow, and the bartender gave him a tight smile. "Got a monitor right here under the bar. Whoever the two of you are, I don't want any trouble."
"You aren't going to have any trouble," Logan said pleasantly, "unless you don't drop the subject and go serve your customers." The bartender glowered, but retreated to the other end of the bar to tend to an insistent group of youngsters. Logan looked around at Nick, scowling. "'Leaking'?" he said harshly.
Nick leaned back against the bar, that tiny crease appearing between his eyes. So much like Sulven. "I--shields are too hot," he said vaguely.
Hot? "Then cool them off, Nicholas," Logan snapped, his scowl deepening at the faintly guilty look Nick gave him. "What?"
"Nothing. I--" Nick trailed off in mid-sentence, and Logan stiffened as he caught the familiar scent. He looked around, and felt a sudden surge of relief, tinged still with unease, as he saw Forge pushing through the crowd towards them.
He'd aged, of course, but not as much as Logan might have expected, in all these years. "Been a long time, Logan," Forge said, those sharp dark eyes raking first over him, then Nick. "Glad you made it. Who's this?"
The obvious answer died on Logan's lips, and he narrowed his eyes at the force with which the idea presented itself. "My bodyguard," he said bluntly. "Bishop thought I needed a keeper."
#Dad?# Nick asked, sounding bemused.
Just follow my lead. It didn't hurt to be cautious. It had been twenty years--he didn't know where Forge had been all this time, or what he'd been up to. It'd be nice to think he could trust his old friend unconditionally, even after all this time, but that wasn't the way the world worked.
"Smart of him," Forge said, nodding at the bartender, who brought him over a beer immediately.
Logan took in the silent interaction. "The usual?" he asked dryly, raising an eyebrow.
Forge smiled thinly. "I've been around here a lot, lately. It reminds me how much things have changed." He took a sip of his beer, silent for a moment, and then jerked his head towards the other side of the bar. "Perspective's a good thing. Privacy's better--let's find a booth."
The place was packed, so Logan was pretty surprised when they actually did find a spacious corner booth, completely empty, as if it had been waiting for them. "This your regular place?" he asked as they sat down.
"Something like that," Forge said, setting his beer down and opening up the small duffel bag he'd been carrying. He pulled out an array of bits and pieces of odd-looking tech, and started to fiddle with them idly, putting a couple together and pulling others apart, like he was working on some kind of puzzle.
Logan couldn't help a faint smile. How familiar was this? "What're you working on?" he asked, peering at the pieces.
"Not sure yet," Forge said vaguely, waving a dismissive hand. "Tinkering. You know how it is." He looked up with a tight smile. "You made good time getting here. I'm surprised how quickly the XSE moved on this. Certainly nothing like any of the military organizations I used to know."
Logan smirked. "Nate and Bishop's influence. Neither of them were ever much for wasting time."
"True enough, I suppose." Forge was definitely assembling something--what, Logan had no idea. "So, what do you think of the Madripoor of the twenty-first century?"
"Haven't had much chance to go sight-seeing, Forge," Logan pointed out. "Maybe after we get those blueprints of yours back to the base." Logan tilted his beer bottle back and forth in the neon-green light. "They could save a lot of lives, Forge," he said, almost too quietly. The music washed over them, trying to steal the words.
"I've seen the footage from Denver, Logan." Apparently Forge had no trouble hearing him. "That's why I started working on them."You've got to love this brave new world of ours, don't you? Remember all those pundits predicting that these baby telepaths would grow up and eradicate war, and racism--"
"And all the rest of the world's interpersonal problems--yeah, I remember." There'd been a definite - and pretty stupidly optimistic - sense of hope when hundreds of thousands of women who'd been pregnant at the time of the Merge of the Twelve had started to give birth to powerfully psi-gifted children. Some people out there had honestly expected those kids to grow up and turn the world into Utopia.
"Too bad it didn't turn out that way." Forge didn't look up from the table. "Instead the world found out how telepaths make war. It's almost ironic."
Logan smelled the suppressed fury coming off Nick, and very deliberately didn't look at his son. "That's one way to put it," he said bluntly. "Don't know as though I'd use that word, though."
"Really? What word would you use, then?"
"There are fanatics in every group," Nick said suddenly, his voice low and cold. "Imagine if the world were still judging all mutants by a few splinter groups."
Forge made a dismissive noise. "How's the family, Logan? Never figured you'd be the type to settle down--"
"Who said I did?" Logan asked, realizing that Forge really didn't have any idea who Nick was. And I think I'll keep it that way-- "I never liked that phrase."
"You avoided my question," Forge said, turning back to his gadget. "I suppose that answers the one I didn't ask."
"Which would be?"
"Whether or not you still trust me, Logan." Forge pushed the two larger pieces he'd produced against each other, and rotated them. There was an audible click, and Forge set the egg-shaped device down on the table with a sigh. "I can't say I blame you," he said with a humorless chuckle. "After all this time--under these circumstances. I'd probably feel the same in your place. But part of me really wishes you'd given in to your suspicious side, old friend."
Logan's hands, beneath the table, tensed, his claws unsheathing. "And what the hell does that mean?" he breathed, and felt Nick stiffen beside him. Shit, tell me I didn't just walk into something here-- "Talk to me, Forge."
"I'm sorry," Forge murmured, looking right at Nick, and Logan felt the blood in his veins turn to ice. "I don't know who you are, but it's a shame Bishop dragged you into this. It really is."
Sitting on the table between them, the harmless-looking little device started to hum. Nick clutched at his head, his whole body going rigid, and Logan held onto consciousness by the skin of his teeth as a telepathic scream of agony surged up the link he shared with his son.
Then the world went mad as a fireball of dark golden psi-energy exploded outwards from Nick's convulsing body, tearing the booth to shreds. Logan was actually airborne for a second, carried on the shockwave, before he came down hard on a table that broke under his weight.
His head spinning, his whole body burning as his healing factor kicked in, working in overtime, Logan fought his way back to his feet. Screaming filled his ears as the crowd started to stampede for the exits, and he saw Forge getting back to his feet, a faint blue glow shrouding him. Personal shield or something--
The explosion had taken out most of the wall, a portion of the ceiling and several booths on either side. The whole corner of the building, more or less. There were bodies here and there amid the debris, and Logan scanned them frantically, looking for Nick.
"I'm sorry, Logan," Forge said, and actually sounded like he meant it. "You really should have come alone. I told Bishop that."
There. Even as he pinned down Nick's scent, the debris shifted and his son sat up, spitting blood and blinking around dazedly. Forge looked surprised, then grim as he reached for something on his belt.
Logan went for him without a moment's hesitation. He didn't know what was going on, and he didn't care. There was no going back from the line Forge had just crossed. None.
He heard the gunfire an instant before the bullets smashed into him, slamming him to the ground. From the left, he thought hazily, pulling himself back to his feet, choking on blood. Through the hole in the wall?
The charged harpoon hit him head-on, not even leaving him enough breath to curse.
Marauders. The realization hit, swift and cold, and a snarl of rage and denial escaped him. His body didn't want to obey him, but he got up anyway. It wasn't all that remarkable, compared to what he was usually capable of in a berserk rage. Only he wasn't in a berserk rage, now. He was as far from it as he could be.
"Nick--" he rasped, staggering no more than two steps towards his son before Arclight stepped up behind him and put him down for the count with one well-placed blow.
If he hadn't had a truly insane level of shields up, he wouldn't be moving. Nick knew that much, even with his mind afire with pain. The echo of the psi-screamer was still ringing in his skull, but if he'd been carrying normal shields, it would have blown out his mind.
What is, is. And there was a woman in strange armor standing over his father's prone body, radiating gleeful hostility. Nick lashed out with his telekinesis, and she screamed as the blow sent her flying through the air and into the bar with enough force to break every body in her body, armor or no armor.
At the same time, he sent his perceptions spinning outwards, analyzing the situation in a split-second. Dead and dying civilians, multiple hostile psi-traces--
#MAYDAY!# he 'shouted' as loudly as he could, projecting images of their location and the situation as strongly as he could, hoping against hope that one of the telepaths back at the base would hear him. Distance was a problem. #MAYDAY!#
That was all he had time for, and he cut off the projection instantly as gunfire came at him from the left. Throwing up a TK shield to block it, he started towards his father at a run. An instant later, something else, much larger than a bullet and glowing fiercely, hit his shield, and shattered it.
Feedback burned through his mind, incinerating what was left of his defenses. Falling to his hands and knees, he clawed feebly at the debris, trying to push himself back upwards, fighting to stay conscious. #Dad--# he thought weakly, and got no response. Somehow, that ominous silence gave him the strength to keep from blacking out. Swallowing past the taste of blood at the back of his throat, Nick did what he should have done from the start and reached out with his telekinesis.
He felt his psimitar quiver where it was buried under the rubble, and looked up as it exploded into the air, flying across the club and right into the chest of the man who'd thrown the energy spear. Nick felt him die, a dull implosion at the edges of his already frayed perceptions.
Prioritize your targets--remember the mission, a cold, clear voice reminded him. Dragging himself back to his feet, he pulled at his psimitar again, nearly falling at the effort it took to free it from the corpse.
Pain control techniques, even the rough and ready ones his 'uncle' Nathan had taught him, took concentration, which he couldn't spare at the moment. Oath, he thought dazedly, this was unbelievable; he'd caught psionic feedback before, but never like this. His skull felt like it was trying to explode, and everything around him kept trying to dissolve into a fiery-edged haze.
He didn't let it. Another moment of concentration, another flirtation with unconsciousness as the pain in his head crescendoed sharply, and his psimitar came right to his hand. Nick raised it, ready to fight--but the gunman was gone. The woman he'd thrown into the bar was gone without a trace as well, and as he looked around, the body of the one he'd killed shimmered and vanished.
Teleportational system--cute, he thought. Something warm - blood, most likely - was trickling down either side of his neck. His nose was bleeding freely, too, and he knew it wasn't just from the explosion.
He tried to focus, to center a TK charge in his psimitar, and nearly doubled over, darkness trying to creep in at the edges of his vision again. Flonq it--NO! Somewhere in the distance, he heard the shrill sirens of emergency vehicles drawing closer, but he forced himself to straighten and face Forge, who looked up from where he was kneeling beside Nick's father.
"I'm impressed," Forge murmured in an unhurried voice, as if they had all the time in the world. He stood up, keeping whatever he had in his hand out of sight. Dad wasn't moving, though. Unless he was hurt, he should be on his feet again by now--unless Forge had just been drugging him or something, Nick thought suddenly. "You recovered well. Took down Harpoon permanently, probably Arclight from the look of it--not bad." His eyes narrowed as he looked at the psimitar. "Cable train you?"
His mind was tightly shielded--amazingly so, for a non-psi. "Back away," Nick said thickly, spitting blood and then raising his free hand to wipe his mouth. Forge merely stared at him, shaking his head slowly. "I said back away!" Nick snarled feverishly. He should blow the son of a flonq's head off, he really should - psionic shock be damned! - but he was too close to Dad. Can't risk the backwash--
"I'm afraid I can't do that, son," Forge said very quietly. "I know you've got a job to do, but so do I." He took a deep breath, squaring his shoulders. "I'm offering you the chance to walk away."
"I can't do that," Nick rasped and leveled his psimitar. "Back away or I take you down."
Flashes, on both sides of him, and Nick backpedaled as swiftly as he could, throwing up a shield. A shield that did no good at all, as a burst of rainbow-hued light came right at him, blinding him instantly. Nick staggered backwards, only instinct keeping his grip on his psimitar steady. Disoriented, he felt the shield around him waver and fall, and struggled to reconstruct it.
"Ha! Gotcha!" a different voice exulted.
"Prism!" Forge again, sounding angry.
"Hey, don't get uppity with me, Maker. You know the boss's orders. No witnesses."
Something slammed into him from behind, knocking him to the ground. His psimitar flew out of his grip, and Nick reached out for it wildly. Oath! Focus, have to focus-- But he couldn't see--his senses were enhanced just enough to make the effects of an attack like this even worse. He tried to reach out telepathically, but felt himself starting to black out, and stopped.
Don't need to be able to see to fight--LISTEN, idiot-- His psimitar, first, though. Locating it with a tendril of telekinesis, he tugged at it gently--
A hand tangled in his hair, jerking his head back. "Picked the wrong day to play bodyguard, boy," snarled a voice he'd heard in his nightmares since he was six years old. "Tough luck for you."
Fear paralyzed him for just that moment too long. He fought it down frantically, starting to lash out with his telekinesis--
And Victor Creed tore his throat out.
to be continued...
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