Peacekeepers: Remnant Shadows
by Alicia McKenzie
Someone was growling steadily, and Logan realized, after a long, hazy moment, that it was him. He forced his eyes open and stared down at himself, groaning at the sight of the techno-organic blisters seething along his skin.
Just like before. He remembered, so clearly. Buenos Aires. The outbreak. The nest of Prime Sentinels had been in an abandoned warehouse. The XSE had evacuated the area. No innocent bystanders to worry about. Just trained field officers, men and woman who could handle themselves in any situation--
Except when 'anything' was a nanite toxin that literally melted the flesh off their bones. Logan closed his eyes, the memories almost more overwhelming than the pain. Some of them had been so young--
But he'd survived. Whole and healthy, unlike the fourteen others who'd pulled through, only to live on crippled and disfigured, their bodies irreparably damaged by the toxin.
He'd survived. He'd do it again. He had to--his son was out there somewhere, in trouble. Think, he had to think--to focus--
Logan opened his eyes again as his mind started to clear. The restraints were gone. He was lying on the floor, and when he looked up, even with his blurred vision, he the unmistakable glow of some sort of containment field, all around him. Sinister had said something about that, he thought. Putting me in a containment chamber--out of reach of--
Nick. The pain grew less important, as he remembered. Scalphunter, saying Tyger had turned Nick over to them--no, she wouldn't do that, he thought. There had to be something else--
"Your healing factor has certainly not lost any of its efficiency with time," Sinister said, and Logan raised his head again, to see the geneticist standing outside the forcefield, watching him avidly. "Do you know what is happening? Your body is actually expelling the nanites at the same time your healing factor produces antibodies against the biological component. I can duplicate the first process, but not the second. The antibodies are what I need." Sinister suddenly turned, and Logan stared doggedly past him, trying to focus.
What he saw sent him struggling to his feet, despite the pain, and charging the forcefield with a roar. It flung him back to the floor, and he got up again, cursing, willing his healing factor to work faster. Creed merely smirked at him as he strode further into the room, dumping Nick's unconscious body onto the floor as if he were a sack of potatoes.
"Excellent," Sinister said, looking measuringly at Logan for a moment, before he turned back to Creed. "Put him in restraints and a collar," he ordered, and then smiled coldly at Logan. "It certainly can't help to have another healing factor in reserve, for further experimentation."
"Sinister," Logan snarled, his voice coming out stronger than he'd expected. His healing factor WAS working faster than it had back in Buenos Aires, a distant, calmer part of him realized. The blisters were still rising on his skin, but older ones were fading, and his head was getting even clearer. At the moment, though, he couldn't have given a shit about how HE was feeling. "Leave him alone, damn it--you want your fucking cure, TAKE it! Just leave him out of it!"
Sinister gave him a speculative look. Creed merely grinned toothily. "You look a little under the weather, runt," he jeered, leaning over Nick and turning him over onto his back. "Having a bad--"
Dark golden psi-energy lashed out and flung Creed across the room. He hit the wall so hard that the metal sheathing it warped under the impact. Nick rolled and came to his feet, sizing up the room in one swift glance. The handcuffs he'd been wearing were in pieces on the ground, and his eyes were clear and alert.
"I don't think I like the idea of a collar," he said. The bruises on his face were fading as Logan watched. "Makes me feel like a dog, or something."
Sinister sighed and rolled his eyes. "Young man," he said, reaching out a hand, "you chose the wrong day to try my patience." A blast of crimson energy slashed through the air. Nick threw up a TK shield in time, but the impact sent him reeling backwards.
Logan swore again, desperately throwing himself against the forcefield once more as Nick went to his knees. Even with his vision still blurred and the glow of Nick's shield distorting the air, he could see the pain on his son's face. "Nick, watch it!" he shouted as Creed hauled himself to his feet and charged.
Nick whirled, and the table Logan had been strapped to up until a few minutes ago wrenched itself clear of its base and flew through the air to slam into Creed. It sent him sprawling, but he was still moving, if slowly, despite the force of the impact.
"Poor behaviour for a guest," Sinister said. "Didn't your parents teach you any manners?"
Nick glanced at the table, and it lept upwards and smashed down on Creed once more. Creed went limp, save for the occasional twitch, and a spreading pool of blood started to edge outwards from his body.
"They tried," Nick said, turning back to Sinister. "It didn't take."
More movement, beyond the glassed-off partition blocking access to the lab, but Nick reacted before Logan could shout another warning. The air blazed gold again and the glass exploded, every fragment turning into a lethal piece of shrapnel under the force of Nick's will. Logan saw a piece shaped almost like a sword drive itself all the way through Vertigo's chest. Scrambler and Scalphunter were in the way of the worst of it, and when the last pieces had finally fallen, they were barely recognizable, bloodied shapes lying motionless on the ground.
"Impressive," Sinister said mildly. His eyes burned red as he stared intently at Nick, who staggered, a moan escaping him. "Interesting," Sinister continued, moving slowly towards him. Nick moaned again, sinking to his knees, his eyes rolling up into his head as if he were about to pass out. "I would have expected more resistance than this--or is your telepathy that underdeveloped?"
Logan snarled and threw himself against the forcefield again, just as futilely. "SINISTER!"
"Tell him to stand down, Logan," Sinister said implacably, still moving towards Nick, who slumped forward to his hands and knees, trembling violently. "I have no particular desire to do him permanent damage, but I won't permit him to interfere."
Nick raised his head, slowly, as if he were struggling to do it. He was bleeding from the nose and ears, and something in Logan's chest clenched as he saw it. After all these years, he knew what a bad sign that was--
But before he could even begin to form the words, Nick suddenly rose--levitating, not getting to his feet. "Won't--permit?" he gasped out, psi-energy coalescing around him, turning a paler, brighter gold, like the heart of a flame. Even his eyes were glowing, white and iris and pupil swallowed up in fierce golden light. "Who the--FUCK do you think you are? FLONQ YOU!"
A telekinetic shockwave exploded outwards from Nick's glowing body, hurling Sinister across the room and against the wall. And it didn't dissipate--if anything, it grew even brighter. Logan turned away from his son's incandescent figure before the light blinded him, raising a hand to shield his face. He stared at Sinister, watched as the wall rippled as if it were water rather than steel, as Nick pushed him slowly into it.
The geneticist struggled, getting a hand free and letting off another blast at Nick. The energy in the air blunted, but didn't stop it; it slammed into Nick with enough force that Logan flinched in instinctive reaction as his son was flung like a rag doll to the floor. The energy in the air seemed to implode, collapsing in on itself. Logan swore as he saw that despite the damage done to the lab, the forcefield was somehow, inexplicably, still intact.
"Nick!" he said urgently, as he saw his son sit up slowly. Nick's head turned in his direction, and Logan gritted his teeth at the dazed look in those dark blue eyes. "Nick, get up--find the control for the forcefield--" He looked around at Sinister, and stared in disbelief for a moment. The wall had fused and warped around Sinister, trapping him.
How long that would last, though--"Nick!" Logan snapped, his head whipping back around in his son's direction. "Get up!"
Dad was shouting at him. Nick wondered hazily if he'd ever manage to do something that didn't give his father something to complain about. Hauling himself to his feet, he nearly fell again as the room seemed to tilt around him.
Nick blinked rapidly, trying to focus. The image of his father, standing inside the forcefield, doubled, and he rubbed the back of his hand across his eyes, willing his vision to clear. Pushed things just a little bit too far, I think--
He heard, rather than sensed movement behind him, and started to turn, awkwardly. A massive fist slammed into his midsection, and he doubled over, his tenuous hold on consciousness starting to slip. Sheer stubbornness alone kept him on his feet.
"Not bad, kid," Creed growled, and hit him again. The rest of the air in Nick's lungs decided to make its exit at that point. "Not bad at all."
Nick somehow managed to muster enough telekinesis to hurl Creed backwards a few steps. Laughing, Creed recovered almost instantly and slashed across Nick's chest, sending him reeling away. "You're looking a little worn around the edges, kid," he mocked as Nick staggered. "No staying power, that's your problem."
Don't think hand to hand's an option, Nick thought. His telekinesis felt tapped out, and if he tried to fry Creed's brain, he'd wind up doing the same thing to himself, at this point. He backed away, trying to get out of Creed's easy range, but the towering Marauder followed him, grinning fiercely.
"That little shove all you could manage?" Creed said with a laugh. "Too bad, Nicky. Not fair, is it? You're not half the fighter the runt is, and you didn't even inherit enough from his bitch to make up for it." His grin widened. "I bet that sister of yours did," he said. "I'll have to track her down and see for myself--"
Nick swung at Creed, the image of him anywhere near Zara shattering his self-control, and Creed sidestepped the blow easily. Realizing his mistake, too late to do anything about it, Nick tried to relax his body as he saw the fist coming at him out of the corner of his vision.
It didn't do much good. The blow sent him sprawling, and Creed followed it up with a kick to the side. Pain stabbed through his chest, and Nick tried feebly to roll, to get back to his feet where he could at least make a token effort to defend himself.
Creed didn't give him the chance. Grabbing him by the throat, Creed picked him up off the ground and held him there, effortlessly. "Yeah--I think I'll do that. Once I finish with you--"
"Creed! Drop him!" Nick heard his father snarl.
"Aw, but Nicky and I were just about to get reacquainted. You remember the last time we met, kid?" Creed shook him violently, and Nick sagged in his grip with a moan. "C'mon, kid, you were old enough to remember. No? I do. Your sister crying her eyes out, you trying to play the hero--pretty bad when I can kick your ass just as badly now as when you were six years old." Creed's hand tightened on his throat, cutting off his air.
Stars were exploding in front of his eyes, darkness creeping in at the edges of his vision, but Nick did remember. He remembered his sister screaming. He remembered his own resolve to be strong for her dissolving into a nightmarish haze of pain and fear--
And Creed had just laughed--
"You want to fight me, Creed?" Logan snarled and threw himself against the forcefield again, something in his chest clenching at the sight of Nick dangling limply in Creed's grasp. "Take down the fucking forcefield and let's do it!"
"Maybe in a minute, runt," Creed grinned. "I'm having too much fun right now." He looked over at Sinister, still trying to free himself from the wall. "I'm surprised he didn't push you in head-first," he snickered.
"Don't be flippant," Sinister snarled, ominously. His body thinned, letting him pull himself free finally, and then rippled as it expanded once more to normal proportions. Sinister fell to his knees as soon as he was out, something that sounded almost like a groan escaping him as the techno-organic patches grew, spreading across his body. "The--boy," Sinister rasped, trying to get back up.
"What about him?" Creed asked, shaking Nick again, and then casting a sly look at Logan. "Oh, right," he nearly purred. "A collar. Think I got a better idea than that."
And with one, seemingly casual swipe of his claws, he ripped Nick open from crotch to throat. A howl of denial burst from Logan's lips, and every bit of his rational thought dissolved into berserk rage.
Sinister's eyes widened as Creed tossed the boy's body away, almost contemptuously. He heard a roar from Logan, and then the crackling of the forcefield as Logan threw himself against it wildly, snarling incoherently.
"Oh, you fool," Sinister breathed as Creed looked back at him. "You unbelievable fool."
The silence, broken only by the sounds of Logan's rage, was suddenly filled to overflowing by the unmistakable dull roar of aircraft. Near--very near.
Creed looked upwards with a curse. "What the fuck--"
"The XSE," Sinister said as coldly as he could, rising to his feet. There had been no sound of them approaching, which meant they had undoubtedly been teleported in, perhaps in stages from the nearest base. "They've found us."
There was a shriek of tortured metal as the building was torn open at the seams, the walls peeling away from each other like the skin of a fruit. Sinister saw the glowing, green-haired figure hovering in the air, heard Field Commander Lorna Dane, formerly Polaris, shouting orders to her officers. There were mutants in the black battle armor of the XSE everywhere, and the sky was full of black aircraft, like a flock of ravens.
It was time to go. Seeing Creed bolting for the exit, Sinister dismissed any concern for his fate. He started towards the forcefield, grimly intending to render Logan unconscious by any means necessary and take him with him. One way or the other, he would have his cure--
#There is one sure cure for everything,# a voice that shook with fury snarled inside his mind. #A cure that never fails--it's called death, Essex!# Logan's wife and Nicholas's mother went on, her voice rising to a piercing telepathic scream.
Without a moment's hesitation, Sinister stopped dead and touched the control pad strapped to his forearm. There would be other days, other chances--this was not a fight he could win. But even as he began to dematerialize, his teleportational system whisking him to safety, he felt Sulven strike at him.
And the pain of the virus ravaging his body was suddenly nothing, barely an ache in comparison to the towering, white-hot agony he felt as she reached inside his mind and tore it to pieces.
He arrived at his destination an instant later, in no condition to appreciate the scenery.
The forcefield went down, and Logan threw himself forward, howling with fury as he saw Creed go down under a heap of black battle-armored bodies. They didn't matter. Nothing mattered, except Creed's blood, on HIS claws--
#LOGAN!# Sulven reached inside his mind and yanked him free of the rage, so swiftly and violently that he staggered, falling, his mind reeling from the shock of going from uncontrolled rage to utter clarity in a split-second. She'd done it before, but never like this, never so suddenly that it felt like she'd sucked all the heat out of the world around him--
Then he remembered, and a moan escaped him as he struggled desperately back to his feet. There were hands there helping him up almost immediately, urgent voices talking to him, but he pulled away, and ran for where his wife knelt by their son's side.
Somehow, unbelievably, Nick was still conscious, trying to speak. Logan reached out a shaking hand, and laid it on Nick's forehead gently. "Easy," he rasped. "It's all right, Nicholas. Don't try--don't try to talk--"
Hands outstretched over Nick, a soft ruby glow filling the area between them, Sulven was weeping freely. Logan could feel rage and anguish seething up their link, but she didn't speak to him. He looked down at the wounds Creed's claws had made, and his eyes blurred with something that wasn't anger, or the side effects of the nanite toxin. He could see Nick's healing factor working, but so slowly--too slowly, and even though the bleeding was slowing, then stopping as Sulven used her telekinesis with the sort of precision Logan might have marveled at under better circumstances, Nick had lost so much blood already--
"Where's the fucking medic?" he roared over his shoulder.
Nick shifted, choking, and Logan stared down into those wide, shock-filled dark blue eyes, seeing them starting to go hazy and distant. "Nick," he said brokenly. "Nick, stay with us--"
#Nicholas.# The calm, deep voice seemed to echo in the air between them, and suddenly the ruby glow of Sulven's telekinesis was joined by psi-energy the color of sunlight. Nick's body jerked, and even half-blinded by the light, Logan could see the terrible, deep wounds begin to heal noticeably faster, as if--
As if someone had just supercharged his healing factor. Logan looked around wildly, but there was only the light. No Nathan.
"Nate?" he said hoarsely, despite that. "How--"
#Do you remember when I did this for you, Logan?# The light grew brighter, more intense, eclipsing the ruby radiance spilling off Sulven.
Twenty-five years ago, in Alberta. They'd been fighting Marauders then, too, to rescue Gina. Logan swallowed and looked back down at his son's face. Tears escaped, finally, as he saw that Nick was breathing more easily already.
#Dad--# Nick's voice in his mind was faint, barely a whisper. Logan took his son's hand, squeezing it tightly.
"I'm here, son," he said, and then moved aside to give the medics room.
The door opened, and Logan blinked as Domino gave him one searching look and then hugged him tightly. "Stupid old man," she muttered, drawing back with visible reluctance. "And you!" she said, repeating the performance with Nicholas. "I should kick your ass, boy."
"Hi, Aunt Dom," Nick said a little sheepishly.
"Don't 'hi, Aunt Dom' me," Domino growled. "Get in here, both of you. Where are Sulven and Zara?" she asked, herding them into the house. "I thought they were coming for dinner--I set seven places."
"They'll be along," Logan said easily, hanging his coat in the closet. "Zara doesn't get off duty until six, and Sulven had some business to take care of in New York." He eyed the foyer critically. "You guys been remodeling again?" He was fairly sure there had NOT been a skylight in this room, the last time he'd been here--which had only been a few weeks ago. Domino and Nathan's home might be out of the way, here on the shore in northern Maine, but with enough teleporters in the family, distance didn't really matter. He and Sulven and the twins had spent a lot of time here, over the years.
Domino shrugged, shooing them ahead of her down the wood-paneled hall. They passed the kitchen, and Logan grinned appreciatively at the smells that wafted out into the hall. "Nate got bored. Presto, I come home to find a skylight in my foyer. At least he's given up his fixation on that poor bathroom."
"Yes, but you like it," Nathan said from as the three of them reached the living room, a spacious, airy room done in subtle earth tones, with an enormous bay window giving a panoramic view of the ocean. Domino snorted at him, and he raised an eyebrow. "You did say you liked it," he pointed out, letting go of the file folder he was reading. It floated over to the end table and settled there gently.
Domino smiled at him sweetly. "I didn't say I didn't like it, oaf. I'm just getting tired of getting up every morning to find that the walls in my bathroom have changed color again. Especially since you don't actually bother with repainting."
Nick blinked. "Then how--" he started uncertainly.
"He rearranges the molecules of the paint that's already there," Domino said. "Don't ask me for any more specifics. He just does it, over and over and over again--"
Nathan shrugged. "I didn't like the beige," he said innocently, taking off his glasses.
"Or the blue, or the green--"
"Well, the mint green was hideous."
"Whatever," Domino waved a hand at him and then grinned at Logan and Nick. "Anything to drink?"
"Beer'd be nice," Logan said, sprawling in one of the armchairs.
"How did I guess?" Domino reached out and pulled Nick along with her. "Come and taste the chili, Nicholas. I need to know if it's too spicy."
Logan shook his head, chuckling at the alarmed look Nick gave him as Domino blithely dragged him back to the kitchen with her. "So," he said, turning back to the man who'd reached out from New York and saved Nick's life in Madripoor. "Still bringing paperwork home from the office? I thought you'd sworn off that."
"It's that time of the year again," Nathan said with what could be charitably be called a maniacal grin. "I get to play God with the budget."
Logan raised an eyebrow. "Delusions of grandeur again?" he said. It was an old, old joke, but it still got a chuckle out of Nate.
"Something like that." Nathan regarded him levelly for a moment. "Speaking of paperwork, there was a set of blueprints delivered to my office a few days ago."
"Oh?" Forge had been gone, apparently, by the time Lorna's officers had searched Sinister's complex from top to bottom. Logan hadn't been particularly surprised to hear that. He just hoped, for Forge's sake, that he stayed gone permanently, this time.
"Oh," Nathan echoed him, a very light edge of mockery in his voice. "I passed them on to Bishop. The components are probably being manufactured as we speak."
"Good." Logan leaned back into the chair with a muttered curse. "Maybe something good can come of this after all."
Nathan looked in the direction of the kitchen, his eyes going distant for a moment. "Nick's acting very withdrawn." He suddenly looked back at Logan, scowling a little. "You lectured him?"
"Of course I fucking well lectured him," Logan growled, and Nathan sighed, drawing his cane up across his lap, his hands tightening on it as if it were the staff of a psimitar. It wasn't the first time Logan had noticed the mannerism. "He shouldn't have gone anywhere near that building on his own. The next time I catch him playing lone ranger, I'm going to take him over my knee."
"Good luck," Nathan said dryly. "Then again, Nicholas clearly has very strong ideas about filial obligations, so he might not kick your ass up between your ears." That mismatched gray and gold gaze was somber, suddenly. Troubled. "They grow up, Logan," he murmured. "They make their own choices, take their own risks--decide on their own priorities."
Logan opened his mouth to give that the retort it deserved when a tall, dark-haired young woman walked into the living room and stopped dead at the sight of him. "Hey, darlin'," he said to Clare, in a much more gentle tone than the one he'd been about to use on her father.
Clare blinked at him. She was wearing jeans and a black sweater, her face ghost-white above it. Those huge, haunted gray eyes met his for a moment, and then drifted away as she moved across the room and sat down, cross-legged, by the enormous stone fireplace.
Logan looked over at Nathan, who was watching his daughter, an odd expression that somehow managed to mix patience and sorrow on his face. Speaking of withdrawn, Logan thought at him pointedly.
#She's getting better,# Nathan's voice said quietly in his mind. #It takes time, Logan.#
Time. It had been only six months since Denver, he reminded himself. Psionic damage as severe as what Clare had suffered, caught in the middle of the astral maelstrom, took lots of time to heal. And that wasn't even taking into the emotional impact of being at ground zero when a city died. There were other reasons for this reaction, he supposed. Frankly, he found the self-destructive route Harry had gone - much to Pete and Kitty's distress - much more comprehensible.
"Hi, Uncle Logan," Clare said finally, after another long moment, and then looked at her father, who gazed back at her silently. "The chili's too hot," she said calmly.
"Yes," Domino said ruefully, pushing a flushed Nick ahead of her as she walked back into the living room. "Much too hot. I think we're going to end up ordering pizza."
Nick groaned, a hand over his mouth. "I think my tongue's on fire," he said thickly. He had a glass of water in one hand, and he took a long, frantic gulp of it as he went over and sat down beside Clare.
"That's why I didn't try it," Clare said helpfully, blinking at her mother when Domino mock-scowled at her. "I knew it was too hot."
"So why didn't you say something to me BEFORE I put the extra cayenne pepper in?" Domino muttered, and handed Logan his beer.
Clare shrugged. "You were enjoying yourself." She looked at Nick, almost measuringly, and then shifted around until she was sitting in front of him. She raised her hands, palms-up, and a spiraling thread of silver-blue energy appeared, drifting in the air lazily. Nick took another sip of his water, set it down on the fireplace, and covered Clare's hands with his. Another thread, this one dark-gold, twined around the first. More appeared, weaving together, almost like a tapestry.
Logan watched in silence. The psi-construct was shifting, flashing from silver-blue to dark-gold and then back again, over and over. It was an old game, one the kids had played since their powers had emerged. Even after all these years, he wasn't sure of the rules, or the objective. Zara had tried to explain it once, but he hadn't understood what the hell she was talking about. It had just been--beyond him, somehow.
Just like so much else, he thought, watching a faint smile grow on his son's features as the construct flickered to gold again and stayed there for almost five seconds before Clare leaned forward slightly, her eyes narrowing, and changed it back.
It had been so much easier when they'd been children. So much simpler.
#But they grow up,# Nathan sent to him.
You sound like a broken record.
#Well, it sounds like someone needs to drive that fact into your head,# Nate shot back sardonically.
Logan shook his head angrily. He'd watched Creed nearly kill his son; wasn't he entitled to be a little overprotective?
#Frankly? No. They're all past the point where we can do that, Logan. They're adults. They decide what's important to them and choose their own battles.#
The construct vanished in a flash of blue light. "You cheated!" Nick said with a sudden peal of laughter. For a moment he looked and sounded so young, the uncomplicated delight in his eyes something Logan hadn't seen there for too long. Then, annoyingly, his mind insisted on presenting him with the image of Nick as he'd looked facing Sinister. Grim, determined, and terrifyingly powerful.
"You do what you have to do," Clare said with a shadow of the old deadpan look.
Logan shook his head suddenly. What you had to do--
#And Nick couldn't have sat there with Tyger and waited for someone else to take a stab at rescuing you,# Nathan said implacably. #It's not in his nature--and that, hairball, is as much your fault as it is Sulven's.#
Logan glared across at Nate, who returned his gaze calmly. Domino sat down on the couch beside him, phone in hand and an enigmatic little smile playing on her lips.
"Any preferences for toppings?" she asked innocently.
"No hot peppers," Clare said tranquilly, earning herself a mock-glare from her mother.
Logan shook his head. "Meat, preferably," he muttered, and looked back at his son. It had taken real guts for Nick to hand himself over to Sinister like that, he reflected; it had been a hell of a risk, for the off-chance that a successful rescue was even possible. Guts and courage and real nerve--
It occurred to Logan that he'd been so busy telling his son off for being 'reckless' that he hadn't yet bothered to thank him for walking into harm's way to try and save him. *Shit,* he thought suddenly, and sighed.
Nick looked up at him hesitantly, as if he'd 'heard'. Logan met those dark blue for a moment, and then grinned wryly.
After a moment, tentatively, Nick smiled back.
Back to Archive