S1- SENSATION & WONDER
Salem Center, New York
Whole place smells like grease an’ old sweat, an’ I can tell ‘Sako can’t stand it. Her face is all twisted up into a half-scowl, her nose is scrunched so hard it looks like it’s trying to escape to her forehead. I can smell her sweat through the shimmerin’ psionic armor wrapped around her body, can see the pit stains running all the way down her shirt and the perspiration watercolor all over her face. I’ve been runnin’ her hard
, the way she needs.
‘Sako goes by Armor
, an’ the way she tells it, she wants to be an X-Man more than anything
, just like damn near all the ankle biters livin’ in an’ around the ol’ X-Mansion. I figure most of ‘em don’t got what it takes -- for every little miss Power Pack there’s some meathead punk who thinks he can be an X-Man ‘cause he can punch good -- but ‘Sako always knew better.
She came in older n’ most kids on campus. In my book, she was the best
older kid, the only one with more going on in her life than some cell-phone, and the only one who didn’t get any ideas about “borrowing” my beer. And she always put on one hell of a show in the Danger Room. When the rest were cryin’ over scraped knees and lettin’ everything I taught ‘em about fightin’ fall to the wayside, she was in the meat of it, smashin’ through hardlight constructs and workin’ her tail off to keep herself in tiptop, an’ to keep the rest of the munchkins around her from becomin’ Danger Room chow. She was good as anyone, even better n’ a few o’ the active X-Men at the time. But this was before Chuck got it in his dome that we could even consider
young’ns as X-Men, so all she’d get for her efforts was a pat on the back n’ a reminder to study for whatever book learnin’ Charlie had in store for her.
Charlie wanted her to stay at the Institute for college, but me an’ Scotty sat her down ta’ tell her she deserves to see
the world before she’s asked to protect
it. We sent her off a few years ago, to some big money dump that made me roll my eyes, but made ‘Sako’s glimmer. Never heard much about it from her, though. Mosta’ the time her summers back here amounted to the same four words she’d say every time she walked through those doors: “You. Me. Danger Room.”
This is our third summer at it, an’ she’s really startin’ ta’ give me a run for my money. I leave for an Avengers
joint for a week
, an’ I come back to find out she’s been out-scorin’ me, on my
Danger Room courses. Fer my money, that alone more’n makes her X-Man material, but Scotty, Cyclops
, is still wafflin’ about it, in his infinite
wisdom as glorious
leader of the X-Men. Ol’ one-eye keeps givin’ me some rag about wantin’ her to finish school, or pump up her score in team exercises, but more n’ more I figure what’s botherin’ Cyke is the amount of time she spends with me
. Doesn’t help that I started bringin’ her to my personal
Y’see, while ago the Prof installed some fancy Shi’ar alien gizmos to ‘upgrade’ the Danger Room, tore most o’ the old one out. Now instead of cheesy robots, metal armatures, and surprise pits in the floor, it’s all virtual reality. Hardlight trainin’ dummies an’ photorealistic backgrounds, but for all that it never smelled
right, never felt
right. Gettin’ to slash through real metal, feelin’ the flecks of steel stab into your knuckles, tastin’ iron in the air, is a helluva lot better than wipin’ some dopey construct.
On account o’ that simple fact, me an’ Colossus dragged as much of the old
Danger Room’s guts out inna’ woods to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. I figure it’s gotta be ten times as dangerous as the one under the mansion now, and ten times the fun.
Cyclops about exploded when he found out I’d been bringin’ her. Bad enough that I
trained her, he says, bad enough that that I taught her how to maul
her way through Danger Room trials, but God Forbid I get her used to doin’ real
damage with her powers. Says if we keep goin’ like this, somebody’s gonna end up dead
. I told him to tattle to Xavier if he had a problem, and ta’ remember to apply his asshole ointment. Why shouldn’t
I teach her? I’m the best there is at what I do.
‘Sako’s in my Danger Room with me now, throttlin’ a lobster-clawed robot that’s lookin’ for purchase on her armor. My claws are popped an’ I’m making mincemeat out of as many bots as I can get my mitts on, but they’re just keeping me busy
so I can’t bail her out. We’re both knee deep in cut ribbons of battle plate an’ oil but they just keep comin’
, pourin’ out of the walls like fire ants.
are popped, too. They’re new
this summer, pinkish psychic protrusions comin’ from her armor’s knuckles. They ain’t near as sharp as mine, but I’m dead chuffed to watch ‘em slash through lobster bots like rice paper. She’s a fighter after my own heart. Tenacious, tough as nails, an’ -- she’s dancin’ through the crowd of bots now, gettin’ closer to me. Her claws are a flurry around her, cuttin’ open chest cavities and separatin’ robo heads from bodies with abandon, oil flowin’ over her claws like blood
-- now that I reach for it, only word that comes to mind fer’ her is deadly
. I’m the best there is at what I do, but I’m reminded that what I do best isn’t very nice
But these are just robots
. Rippin’ an’ tearin’ gears an’ wires don’t make you a killer any more n’ playin’ virtual NHL will make you Wayne Gretsky. I shove one bot aside and spear my claws through another’s eyesockets. Cyclops knows
it don’t turn you into what I am… But I know it don’t hurt
, neither.|Logan, your attention is requested.|
Chuck’s psychic presence flares in my head, callin’ out to me from beyond. |What’s the sitch, baldie?|
I think, watching ‘Sako leap backwards and slam an elbow drop into robot’s noggin.|It appears an acquaintance of yours is back in town.|
Charlie’s thought comes to me with more n’ just the words, but the feelin’s
, the mem’ries
. The lead smell o’ bullets minglin’ with the iron of blood, petroleum gun lubricant sticky on calloused fingers, a white symbol emblazoned in the minds of damn near every criminal in the city. Most of all, he touches on a promise in my
head, an oath I swore long ago to an old friend, a man as determined as ‘Sako. An’ ‘Sako’s as vicious
as him, I think with a shudder. I can’t help myself from sayin’ it as I think it:”Frank Castle’s back?”