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In … The Beast Within: Pt. VIII

Belle Reve, Louisiana

Logan woke with a wince. His sides felt like they had been torn open. It took him a few seconds to realise that they had been. In an instance, memories from Kitimat came flooding back – James, Heather, that big Russian with the grey skin. He remembered everything. For the first time in weeks, he felt like he had his feet under him, like he wasn’t playing catch-up. In an instant, that was dashed. The bright lights and cold white walls, the restraints clamped around his arms and legs, and most of all, the fat black woman in the in pantsuit staring at him from across the room made him doubt what he thought he knew about what had happened.

“Welcome back to the world of the living, Weapon X.”

The woman’s voice was familiar but no warm, and it put Logan firmly on edge. “Where … where the hell am I?”

A wry smile appeared on the woman’s face. It was clear from her expression that she had no intention whatsoever of answering Logan’s questions. Small and squat as she was, there was a power to the way she carried herself even whilst she was at rest. There was no kindness, no cruelty even, just control – something about that struck fear even in Logan’s heart and though he seemed to know next to nothing about himself or his past, for some reason that struck him as significant.

“So you’ve finally regained the the ability to speak in full sentences or should I say gained? Even before your most recent ... mental break, you were never exactly a conversationalist.”

Every second Logan was in the woman’s presence, the sense that he knew her from somewhere grew and grew within him. “Who are you?”

“My name is Amanda Waller and who I am, Weapon X, is the only friend you have left in this entire world. After your little disappearing act, there were people more senior than I that wanted your head on a spike … I had to spend an awful lot of political capital to make sure that didn’t happen.”

“You sure do like the sound of your own voice, don’t ya?”

Again that wry smile crept onto Waller’s lips as if to remind Logan who was really in control. “That’s an interesting way of saying thank you.”

Suddenly a wave of memories came flooding back to the mutant. The oppressive sterility of the interrogation room, combined with Waller’s unsettling calm, had allowed his mind to stray for a moment, but now it was back where it needed to be. He heard Heather MacNeil’s screams ringing in his ears, the smell of James’ blood splattering across the snow, and remembered the sense of dread that had overtaken him as he’d watched the man that had shown him kindness fall to the ground in a heap.

“What happened to Hudson?”

Waller trotted out a platitude that only someone accustomed to ordering men to their deaths could manage. "Mr. Hudson didn’t make it.”

A guttural snarl escaped from Logan’s chest. His arms and legs thrashed against their restraints to no avail. They seemed to have been made of the same metal covering his claws because his attempts to pop them proved to useless. Anguished as Logan was, his violent lurches succeeded in achieving nothing other than tiring himself out. Waller watched the scene without flinching even an inch.

“He was a good man,” Logan howled. “That no good son of a bitch watched him bleed out … and for what? He coulda saved him.”

“That ‘no good son of a bitch’ did what was asked of him, Weapon X, and he is a great deal more reliable in that respect than you have ever been. Whilst I regret the loss of life at Can-Am Corporation’s Kitimat division, it’s worth remembering that Sabretooth is not responsible for it. You are.”

“How’d you figure that one? I seem to remember a grey-skinned Ruskie crashing the party. You’re telling me he wasn’t one of yours?”

“I’m afraid not,” Waller said with what seemed like genuine envy. “The most recent intelligence suggests that Omega Red is working for a cabal of former KGB officers that think the current government is being too soft on global affairs, if you can believe that. Once word was out that the famous Weapon X was in the wind, they made a play for you – and James Hudson, Jerome Jaxon, and the rest of those people at Can-Am died because of it. Maybe you’d better think about that next time you decide to go walkabout.”

Logan’s head, slumped forward in what looked like shame, began to bob up and down gently as he listened to Waller speak. A laugh that sounded like a rattling cough began to seep out of him. It grew in volume as the mutant gazed up at Waller opposite him. His eyes fixed on her like a predator eyeing its wounded prey.

“Walkabout? Heh, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Wait until I’ve got these restraints off, I’m going to paint the walls with your blood – and then I’m going after that mangy Sabretooth.”

“Colonel Flag,” Waller said as she met Logan’s gaze. “Send Mr. Creed in here please.”

There was a mechanical whirring from the restraints around Logan’s legs. First the left leg was released, then the right. He glanced down at the unlocked restraints with shock and then back up to Waller who was sat unmoved at the desk still. She had flicked open the folder on the table and began to make notes on the documents inside. If she was worried about Logan’s newfound freedom, she didn’t seem it.

“What are you doing?”

“What does it look like? I’m giving you what you want.”

Logan’s left hand fell free and he instinctively popped his claws. The familiar stinging pain married with a shock of blood and the ripping of skin. He tugged at his last trapped hand in anticipation. Waller was only yards away from him – and though she’d yet to raise a hand in anger towards him, it was clear she was calling the shots around here.

As his right hand was set loose, the door to the laboratory opened and through it stepped Sabretooth. There was a broad smile on his face, almost as if he was looking forward to what was going to happen next. Logan roared and bound across the room towards him, claws at the ready, and felt Creed’s huge hands wrap around his wrists and immobilise him with ease.

“You know, Logan, after all these years I’d have thought you’d be sick of me handing your ass to you on a silver platter by now.”

Hudson’s face flashed across Logan’s mind and helped him call upon strength he didn’t realise he had. “You’re gonna pay for Hudson, bub.”

With a well-placed, Logan sent Creed buckling and broke free from his grasp. From his knees, Victor looked up at him with an expectant smile. Logan snarled and sent his claws driving down towards his throat but at the last moment found himself unable to make contact. It was as if he could feel something in his brain, refusing him the closure that killing Sabretooth might bring him. The harder he strained against the control, the harder it was for him to move. Sensing Waller’s influence, he looked towards the still-seated woman.

“What’s happening to me? I can’t move,” Logan protested as he struggled in vain to deliver the coup de grace. “What have you done to me, you cold-hearted bitch?”

Sabretooth chuckled smugly and sent his claws piercing through Logan’s bicep. The shorter man let out a cry of pain. Creed rose to his feet, lifting Logan with him, driving his claws deeper and deeper as they rose. Once the claws reached the bone, Victor tore the muscle away with a swipe. His hands wrapped tightly around Logan’s neck and smashed him against the ceiling before throwing him down onto the ground.

“How many times are we going to have to do this little song and dance?” Creed laughed as he mounted him. “You can’t beat me, Logan. You could never beat me. Even before Waller’s implants, I had your number and I always will do. No matter where you run, no matter where you hide ... I will find you and make you suffer all over again. The sooner you get that through your thick skull, the better.”

Punch after punch rattled Logan’s brain around its skull. His face was awash with blood. Through it all he could see Creed’s wicked smile. Logan struggled in vain against the punches, managing to block one or two of them, and what futile attempts he made to strike back were once again restrained by Waller’s implants.

“That’s enough, Mr. Creed.”

Without a word of protest, Sabretooth brought his assault to an end. He looked down at Logan’s battered face with a proud smile before standing up and stepping back to allow Waller to lean down and speak to his victim.

“Do you understand now, Weapon X? You’re mine,” Waller said coolly. “Those claws of yours belong to me. You do what I tell you to do, go where I tell you to go, and kill who I tell you to kill. From now until that healing factor of yours finally decides to call it quits.”

Waller gestured towards the doors and they opened on command. Logan was a bloody, broken heap, moaning to himself in pain, but he managed to roll over just enough to see Sabretooth following behind her like a housebroken pet.

Creed looked over his shoulder at Logan and spoke five words that Logan felt like he had heard before. “Welcome to the Suicide Squad.”

In … The Beast Within: Pt. VII

Kitimat, British Columbia

With each bullet that came hurtling from Colonel Rick Flag’s pistols, Omega Red was knocked backwards. Logan watched in shock as the colonel sent the Russian further and further back. Not a single bullet was wasted, nor missed, and try as Red might to shield himself from them, the soldier found a way to pin him down. He looked over to Logan and for a moment, wind flicking Flag’s red hair around in the wind, some faint memory seemed to awaken in the mutant. Germany? No, that didn’t make sense. It had to be his mind playing tricks on him.

As quickly as the thought had appeared in Logan’s mind, it disappeared, and Flag shouted over to him. “Can you stand, soldier?”

Sabretooth released Logan for a moment to allow him to test his balance. He took a step forwards and began to tumble to the ground, finding himself in Victor’s large hands once again. A contented purr came from Sabretooth as he eyed Logan’s bloodied form. Though he didn’t recognise the man, and despite their having arrived to save him, something in Victor’s eyes told Logan that he was more foe than friend.

“Who … who are you people?”

“Looks like we can skip over the niceties, Flag,” Creed called out. “The runt’s gone all One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest on us again.”

A flicker of annoyance crossed the colonel’s face as he hastily reloaded one of his pistols and started firing once more. “Goddamn it.”

This time Omega Red made no effort to block the hail of bullets Flag sent towards him. He clenched his fists, stood his ground, and took the damage the colonel was inflicting without flinching. At the first sign of a break in the firing, Red reached down and forced his fingers into one of the grey wounds on his chest. With a wince, he plucked the bullet out and examined it closely with a sneer.

“What is this trickery?”

“You like that? Something the boys cooked up back at the lab,” Flag said proudly. “We know everything about you, Arkady, including your nasty little carbonadium habit. Without it, you need to feed off people’s life force or you’ll give in to the radiation poisoning. Well, these babies hasten the radioactive decay in your cells … thinking of it as getting a little taste of your own medicine.”

The Russian tossed the bullet aside. “You are all cowards, resorting to parlour tricks rather than facing me like like true war-”

“How’s this for parlour tricks?”

Having set Logan down, Sabretooth appeared behind Omega Red. One clawed hand tore through the Russian’s left side and the other cleaved the skin from his face. Four long gashes ran along Omega Red’s face, exposing the sickly looking grey flesh beneath it, and leaving him struggling to see. He roared in pain and blindly sent his tentacles flying towards Creed. The hulking mutant managed to grab the left tentacle with his hand, but the right tore directly through his bicep. Yet there were no cries of pain from Sabretooth, he simply yanked his arm down, allowing the tentacle to tear directly through the muscle on his arm, and then pulled Omega Red towards him.

“See, I don’t go down as easy as the runt. Those tentacles of yours? I’ve seen ‘em done before by men twice as big and mean as you. I’ve never had no need for toys or ... enhancements. Everything I need to beat you, I’ve got right here.”

A kneeling Logan watched on in shock as Sabretooth and Omega Red traded blows. Watching Creed was like watching a mirror of himself, except bigger, faster, and more vicious. He seemed impervious to the damage that the Russian was dishing out – or perhaps, worse still, the pain seemed to be driving him. With every wound that appeared on Sabretooth’s hide, he seemed to grow in strength and determination.

“This, this is what I wanted from Weapon X, a real challenge,” Omega Red laughed. “You are strong, but not strong enough. You people are all the same. You fight for yourselves, for greed. I fight for the glory to my homeland, to restore my people to their rightful place.”

Once more Creed was able to pluck one of the Russian’s tentacles out of the air as it hurtled towards him. This time he rolled out of the way of the second and used Red’s own tentacle to knock him off his feet. Sabretooth pounced on him, sinking in a deep chokehold and wrapping his legs tightly around his waist. The Russian clawed at his arms in an effort to break free of Creed’s grasp, but with each attempt Sabretooth only sunk the chokehold in deeper and deeper.

“The last time I checked, Big Red, there wasn’t anything glorious about that freezing hellhole of a country you call home. And you’re wrong about something else too: I’m not fighting for greed … it’s about something much more important than that. I’m here to show the runt what the best really looks like.”

Creed felt the strength beginning to wane from Red’s limbs as his breathing slowed. His hands dropped and a satisfied smile appeared on Sabretooth’s face as he sensed that Omega Red was soon to be unconscious. It began to falter as he eyed the Russian’s tentacles snaking towards him. They wrapped themselves tightly around his neck and began to restrict. From beneath him, Sabretooth felt Red attempting to struggle to his feet.

Try as he might to hold him down, the Russian climbed to his feet. He attempted to shrug Creed from his back but couldn’t summon the strength with the chokehold still locked tight around his neck. His tentacles were not only choking Creed back, but sapping his life force every second they were wrapped around his neck.

Sensing the impending danger, Flag began taking shots at Omega Red whilst trying not to hit his teammate. “Hold him still, Creed.”

“I refuse to be beaten,” the Russian wheezed as he shrugged the struggling Sabretooth back and forwards. “Not by you.”

Bullets tore through Omega Red’s thighs and calves, through his stomach, but he refused to fall. Flag reloaded, having emptied two entire clips into the Russian, and this time took aim at his torso. Both men stubbornly refused to release their chokeholds. Sabretooth’s face had grown near purple and Omega Red was wheezing so much he could barely stand.

“He’s not going down.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Sabretooth groaned. “You keep firing, you hear me? The only way this ugly bastard is leaving here is in a box.”

Red stumbled, falling to one knee, and his hands once again slipped from around Sabretooth’s forearms. Try as Victor might to disguise it, his arms had begun to weaken. So too had his eyes. He heard the sound of Flag’s pistols cracking and spotted a barely conscious Logan still knelt where he had left him. He only had a few more seconds left in him.

Sensing Creed was nearing unconsciousness, Omega Red whispered. “Are you prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice, tovarisch?”

Sabretooth’s eyes were closed. The world had gone black. He felt his arms about to loosen and used the last breath he had to issue one defiant proclamation.

“Whatever it tak-”

A sudden, sharp stabbing pain prized Creed’s eyes opened. He looked down and noticed Logan, still barely able to stand, with his fist pressed against Omega Red. The muscles along his bloody forearm tensed as Logan withdrew his claws and the Russian, who had been moments from outlasting Creed, finally to the floor in a heap. His grey blood oozed out and stained the snow beneath it.

Logan stepped back, stared down at their beaten foe, and smiled vengefully. “Who’s the coward now, bub?”

With that the diminutive mutant dropped to the floor alongside Omega Red. Creed stepped back dizzily with one hand to his stomach to stop the bleeding. Flag wandered over and placed a supportive arm around Creed to help keep him standing.

“Huh, I didn’t see that coming,” Sabretooth smiled as he stared down at Logan. “You always were a tough little son of a bitch.”

“He alive?”

Creed winced as he listened for Logan’s heartbeat. It was faint, irregular even, but it was there. “Just about.”

Logan stirred. His eyes were firmly shut, lips nearly crusted over from the blood covering his face and body, but there was movement there. Some rasp trapped in his throat that refused to come out after all the punishment he’d taken.

“What’s that he’s saying?”

Help him,” Logan pleaded in a voice that was so quiet it was barely audible to Sabretooth’s enhanced sense of hearing. Help Hudson.”

Creed glanced down the hill towards Heather MacNeil as she desperately attempted to save James Hudson’s life. “Oh, nothing important.”

“Let’s get out of here before anyone else decides to gatecrash our little family reunion. We’ve made enough noise on this one as it is."

Creed signalled to Flag that he was able to stand on his own and the colonel strode away to call for extraction. Within minutes, the craft had dropped Sabretooth and Flag there appeared overhead. Creed leant down and used one of his large hands to lift Logan up and throw him over his shoulder. As he did so, he noticed that Omega Red, once laid beside Logan, had disappeared.

“Where’d the hell the Russian go?”

Flag shrugged his shoulders. “The Wall asked for Logan and we got him. As far as I’m concerned, Arkady is someone else’s problem.”

In … The Beast Within: Pt. VI

Kitimat, British Columbia

“Ah, you have finally surrendered to the beast within,” Omega Red said a satisfied smile. “Good, I want every ounce of your rage.”

Logan wasted no time in providing him with it. He was on the Russian in half a second, claws plunged deep into his stomach, snarling as he sent them deeper and deeper into Red’s innards. Grey blood came spluttering from the Russian’s mouth. For a moment he looked hurt, but an unsettling smile appeared on his face and he began to laugh. His huge hands wrapped around Logan’s forearms and pulled the claws free from his stomach with ease.

Omega Red sent a vicious headbutt in Logan’s direction. It cracked against his nose and sent blood screaming down his face. Another headbutt, then another, until both Red and Logan’s brains were rattling around in their skulls with all the force of a thousand car crashes. Dazed, the feral Logan managed to dodge the last one at the latest possible second and bit down hard on the Russian’s throat. His mouth filled with blood.

This time the Russian was forced backwards. A hand shot up to his neck to measure the damage of the wound. HIs grey torso was covered in blood and the deep stab marks where Logan had rended the flesh from his stomach. The cuts began to heal as the two men engaged once more. A tentacle sent careening towards Logan’s thigh was parried by a wild swipe of his claws and the mutant was within inches of gouging Omega Red’s eyes when he felt the other tentacle wrap around his leg.

Logan felt the life force being sapped out of him as the grey-skinned man lifted him off the ground. He was dangling upside down, howling as he tried to cut himself loose from the tentacle. His adamantium claws scratched in vain against the carbonadium whilst the Russian watched on in delight. Once the scene no longer amused him, he smashed Logan against the ground until the short mutant was bloodied and derious. Logan clawed desperately at the ground with each smash, hoping to latch onto something that might give him respite from the monstering.

The onslaught ended with a bang. Logan’s world became still for a moment and though he was dangling upside down he made out the shape of Heather MacNeil in the distance. She had been tending to Hudson’s wounds since the fight began, and his once-grey skin seemed to have regained some of its life, and now it seemed she wanted to exact some revenge of her own. Even in his feral state, Logan felt fear as the redhead sent shell after shell in the Russian’s direction.

Omega Red laughed. This is what it has come to, Weapon X? You must have a woman … this widow to fight your battles for you?”

With frightening ease, Logan was tossed aside into the fir trees. He heard the tree trunks breaking and branches lashing his skin but the adrenaline coursing through his body had dulled him to the pain. He heard the sound of Omega Red taunting MacNeil over the shotgun fire and the dull, wet sound of the pellets tearing through the Russian’s skin with little effect. Among the carnage, Logan was even able to make out the sudden click from the now-emptied shotgun. He sprinted over jagged rocks, his bare feet now torn and bloody, and burst through the trees just in time to see Red send a nasty punch in MacNeil’s direction. It sent her sliding halfway down the hill back towards the cabin.

"You son of a bitch," Logan roared as he charged at the Russian with his claws primed for action. "I'm going ... I'm going to kill you."

This time Red seemed faster than before. His punches came quicker, the tentacles were harder to evade, but Logan swiped again and again, keeping the Russian at bay and inflicting what damage he could. For each claw that tore away Omega Red’s skin, his tentacles would lash two chunks of Logan’s away. He was unsure how long they had been fighting, it could have been hours, but he knew he couldn’t keep up the pace. Red was too strong. His healing factor was working overtime fighting Red's attempts to sap his life force. The wounds that once would have healed in minutes were failing to do so.

Worse still, Logan’s foe seemed to sense that he was weakening. He pushed his advantage, picking up the pace with a sadistic grin. There would be no winner to this fight, there could be no winner, only one man that outlasted the other. And it became clear that man would not be Logan. Rage as he did, sending combinations of furious swipes that tore skin and muscle from Omega Red, the Russian would not be cowed. His tentacles ensnared Logan, choking and lashing him, until finally all strength left the mutant’s decimated form.

Logan fell to his knees covered in unspeakable gashes and wounds. The grey skin of Omega Red was near jet black where his blood caked onto his skin. His straw-like hair was a mess of matted fur and the bandana he wore to keep it back had long since been lost. He stood over Logan in judgement, grabbing a handful of his hair and tugging his head backwards. There was a look on the Russian’s face that Logan couldn’t quite place until he opened his mouth to speak.

It was disappointment.

“What’s this? You yield so easily? Nyet, this cannot be. You are not the Weapon X I fought before. It is impossible. That Weapon X destroyed the carbonadium synthesizer and condemned me to a life of suffering without a moment’s hesitation.”

The words meant nothing to Logan. He had never seen the Russian before, he had no idea why he kept referring to him as Weapon X, or what a carbonadium synthesizer was. All he knew was that James Hudson had given him refuge, had tried to teach him how to be a man again, and when he needed him the most he had let him down. The rage in Logan’s stomach started to ebb away as he heard Heather MacNeil’s tears in the distance. She was cradling Hudson, whose faint heartbeat seemed to synchronise with Logan losing consciousness. The mutant’s eyes drooped shut and his limbs began to grow heavy with defeat.

A vicious slap from Omega Red snapped him back to life. “Where is he? It’s this man I want to face, not this ... whimpering coward.”

A barrage of noise that sounded like a locomotive engine came charging through the trees. With each bang, the Russian staggered backwards, and small, deep holes in his torso appeared. Logan fell to the ground with a thud. He groaned and used his elbows to push himself up just in time to see a red-haired man in a garish yellow shirt appear from out of the brush. He had a handgun in each hand that seemed loaded with a special kind of ammunition designed to cause maximum damage to Omega Red.

“Logan might be a no-good, yellow-bellied son of a bitch, Arkady, but he’s our no-good, yellow-bellied son of a bitch, and we don’t take kindly to other people beating on him.”

A strong hand reached down and pulled Logan to his feet as easily as if he were a child. “Speak for yourself, Flag.”

Flag grinned and released another barrage of gunfire in Omega Red’s direction. The Russian roared in pain and staggered backwards again, using his forearms to try and shield himself from the damage the bullets were causing. Logan watched in awe and then turned to face the man that had helped him to his feet. He was almost blinded by the dangerous set of pearly white canines that greeted him.

“What’s wrong, runt?” Sabretooth said with a laugh that sent a shiver down Logan’s spine. “Aren’t you happy to see your old pal, Victor?”

In … The Beast Within: Pt. V

Kitimat, British Columbia

There was a knot in James Hudson’s throat. It had been there all morning. He and Heather MacNeil had spent the best part of a week at the cabin, trying to nurse Logan’s mind back to health, whilst their real lives at Can-Am Corporation had been falling apart. Missing out on crucial government funding for Hudson’s Guardian project had thrown the entire future of the Kitimat division of Can-Am into question. The two-dozen strong team James had assembled had been relying on winning the bid to convince their boss of the Guardian project’s worth. Conveniently for them, Logan’s unexpected arrival in their lives had distracted them from the fallout of their failure. Today that distraction came to an end.

From the passenger seat of Hudson’s truck, Heather shot James a concerned look. “Nervous?”

“Something like that.”

“It’s going to be fine,” MacNeil said with a reassuring smile. “We’re going to walk in there with our heads up. You don’t have anything to be ashamed of, James. Even if Jaxon decides to pull the plug, what we’ve achieved here with Guardian … it was worth it.”

James lifted a hand from the wheel at gnawed at his thumb anxiously. “Tell that to the lab full of people about to learn they’re out of a job.”

Heather wanted to tell him that he was wrong but she couldn’t. She hadn’t stopped to think about what Jaxon walking away from the project might mean for anyone but themselves. Her fierce loyalty to James, and her desire to see his brilliance acknowledged by the world, had blinded her to the fact that dozens of families were going to be caught in the crossfire between James and her former employer Jerome Jaxon.

As James turned the truck up the long gravel path that lead to the laboratory, Heather’s slight nose wrinkled. Though the fir trees obscured the approach to the building itself, there was something in skyless cloud above them that had caught her attention. Thick, black smog was billowing all around.

“What is that?” MacNeil asked as she squinted at the dark substance filling the sky above them. “Is that smoke?”

Hudson grimaced slightly as a sense of dread set in. He drove them further up the path gently despite every one of his senses telling him to turn back. As they drew closer to the lab, the scale of the carnage became clearer to them. Sections of the building were on fire, windows had been broken, and the security trucks parked outside had been laid was to. Most concerning of all was the deathly silence.

“What the hell happened here?”

Once again, Hudson felt his body compel him to turn back but he suppressed the feeling as best he could and opened the door to his truck. From behind it he surveilled what remained of the laboratory that had served as the couple's home away from home for the past three years.

Heather slid out from her side of the truck and confirmed his suspicions. “There’s someone over there, James. I think they might be dead.”

A pained sigh escaped from James’ chest. He followed Heather’s hand with his eye and could just about make out the body in the distance. It was one of the security officer’s employed on site. He'd died trying to protect their colleagues from whatever had done this. Suddenly, a pang of responsibility ran over Hudson and he made his way towards the back of the truck. He threw open a blanket and pulled his shotgun out.

“What are you doing?” Heather called out to him in half-whisper, half-shout. “We need to get out of here.”

Hudson shook his head and pointed towards the burning building. “What about the others? We can’t just leave them.”

A look of despair flashed across Heather’s face. She scampered around towards Hudson and placed her cold hands on his shoulders. Her voice was calm but there was a desperation to her piercing blue eyes.

“Would you please just listen to me this one time, James? Whatever did this to them … brave as you are, you’re not going to be able to put it down with that shotgun of yours. All you’re going to do is get both of us killed. If there are people still alive in there, the best way to help them is to get to safety and call the authorities.”

“Alright,” James agreed with a nod that seemed to acknowledge his shame at not being able to do more. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

Hudson was about to throw the shotgun back in the pick-up when a loud boom rocked the building in front of them. Broken glass shot out from inside it, raining down on James and Heather like hail. Out of the flames stepped a hulking, grey-skinned figure. He stood in the mouth of a newly-created hole in the side of the building and looked down at the pair of them. A chilling smile appeared on his face and he used his tentacles to propel himself down onto the ground.

“Ah, perhaps you can be more helpful than your comrades.”

James flicked the safety off of his shotgun and gestured to Heather to get behind him. She did so without argument. The grey-skinned man seemed unperturbed by Hudson’s shotgun, which was now trained on him, and began walking towards them slowly.

“I don’t know what’s going on here, but … we want no part in it, do you understand me? Let us walk away from here and we won’t tell a soul what we’ve seen. You have my word.”

“It is not your word I want," The Russian smiled. "It is Weapon X. I know your so-called Can-Am Corporation had a hand in his creation. Now you are hiding him. Give him to me and a quick and painless death will be yours. Stand in my way ... and you will die in agony.”

The grey-skinned man came to a stop five metres in front of Heather and James. His tentacles were slithering around like snakes in need of feeding. It was clear from the smile on his face that he meant it. They were dead the second he had laid eyes on them. If the choice was death now or death later, Hudson thought as he peered down the barrel of the shotgun, he intended to die much later.

With a bang, James sent the Russian flying backwards. The cluster of bullets tore through his shoulder and splattered the snowy path with a sickly-looking grey fluid. There was another bang, though this time Hudson only managed to clip the floored grey-skinned man before fleeing.

The Russian dipped his fingers into the already-healing wound in his shoulder and tasted the fluid on his fingers. “Tsk, so be it.”

In the commotion, Heather had found herself in the driver’s seat. James climbed into the other side of the truck and hung from the passenger’s side door with the Russian firmly in the sights of his shotgun. He had risen to his feet, tentacles at the ready, and was already preparing to give chase. Hudson sent another barrage of fire towards him and reached over and placed the pickup in reverse.


MacNeil slammed her foot down and the truck began to pull away from the charging Russian. James knocked open the glove compartment in front of him and grabbed as many shells as he could. He clumsily reloaded and sent another blast towards their pursuer. This time it tagged the grey man in the thigh but only managed to slow him down. Heather took her chance, spinning the truck around, and taking off with speed.

James slid back into his seat and slammed his door shut with. He glanced over his shoulder and grimaced as he noticed the wound on their attacker’s thigh had gone – and he was gaining on them. He used the butt of it to smash through the glass and began to climb through it.

“What are you doing?”

“What does it look like?” Hudson smiled and planted a firm kiss on Heather’s lips. “I’m making sure we get out of here in one piece.”

Once through James threw the blanket he’d kept the shotgun in around his left forearm, knelt down, and rested the barrel of the gun carefully on top of it. The Russian was right in the centre of his sights. He pulled the trigger and gasped in amazement as the grey-skinned man seemed to deflect the pellets with his tentacles. Whoever the man was, he was quicker than anything James had ever seen.

“Yes, I see it in your eyes,” the Russian called out to Hudson. “You know where Weapon X is, don’t you? You are the ones that have hidden him. One way or another, you will lead me to my prey, and once I have killed you and your woman, I will break him too.”

A tentacle came tearing towards the truck and seemed to miss James by inches. He kept his nerve, took aim once more, and this time took great care to aim for centre mass. There would be no missing the Russian this time. He couldn’t afford to.

Hudson grinned as the bullets shredded his thighs and sent him skidding into the trees. “Buddy, you talk too much.”

After ten minutes with no sign of the Russian, James slid back into the front of the truck. He rested the shotgun against the dashboard and took a deep breath in. He reached one of his shaking hands over and placed it on Heather’s thigh.

“Did we lose him?” MacNeil asked as they turned the corner towards the approach to the cabin. “Is … is he dead?”

“I think so,” Hudson said with a nod. “We need to get out of here. I’m going to find Logan. Grab whatever you need from the cabin and wait by the truck. If you hear that thing coming or see something that doesn’t look right, you get in and start driving.”

As James tried to climb out of the truck, Heather’s hand reached across and grabbed him by the arm. “I won’t leave you.”

“You won’t have to,” Hudson smiled. “I’ll be back before you know it, okay? Just grab your things, and try to leave the Louboutins.”

James planted another kiss on Heather’s lips and slid out onto the snow-covered grass. He surveilled the horizon, scanning the banks of the lake, in search of the mutant that had only yesterday warned they were being watched. He had been proved right. Hudson suspected what had happened at Can-Am had something to do with Logan. Was he the Weapon X that the Russian was hunting? There wasn’t enough time to ask those questions. He needed to find Logan and get out.

“Logan!” James called as he wandered away from the cabin. “Logan! Where are you? There’s trouble ... we need to get out of here.”

There was stirring from a set of thick fir trees in front of James. Through them stepped an elk that seemed oblivious to Hudson’s presence. It glanced around calmly for a few seconds, before laying eyes on James. If the elk was troubled, it showed no signs of it. James stood perfectly still as it approached him. It was inches from him with its head bowed, taking great care to avoid clipping Hudson with its antlers, when James felt the urge to touch it. His hand reached and rested on its head gently and in that moment Hudson felt all his worries melt away.

Then the sound of a twig cracking underfoot sent the elk sprinting away and the weight of someone’s gaze fell on Hudson. “Logan?”

“I am afraid not.”

Once again James was confronted by the hulking grey figure that had slaughtered his Can-Am colleagues. This time he was without his shotgun. It was clear from the look on Hudson’s face that he knew there was no escaping. He smiled defiantly and pulled his thick coat from his shoulders, throwing it onto the ground by way of a challenge. The Russian nodded by way of acceptance of Hudson’s challenge and raised his tentacles in preparation.

From down the hill, a piercing scream left Heather MacNeil’s lungs that echoed through the hills. “Run, James!”

Hudson managed to dodge one of the Russian’s tentacles and land a punch square on his chin. Several of his bones broke on contact. The grey-skinned Russian grinned, impressed by the punch, and sent back one of his own. Teeth went flying across the ground and the Canadian fell to his knees with blood seeping down his chin. He spat a mouthful of it out at the Russian’s feet and sprung into action again. This time an uppercut caught with ease. There was a sickening snap as the Russian broke his arm and wrapped a tentacle around Hudson’s neck.

A cold laugh echoed through the fir trees. “You should have cooperated when you had the chance, tovarisch.”

Heather’s screams intensified as a tentacle tore through James’ chest. His hand wrapped around it in vain as he attempted to pull himself free from it but the tentacle around his neck restricted viciously. Hudson fell to his knees again and his face began to redden as the life slipped away from him. In the distance he saw Heather grab the shotgun and race towards them. He wanted to shout to her to get in the truck and drive away but he couldn’t find the strength. Instead his skin grew as grey as the Russian’s and he began to crumple to the ground.

There was a sudden burst of movement as the fir trees opened and another man stepped through it. His thick limbs were dripping with sweat, his torso was rattling as he struggled for breath, but even to Hudson’s lifeless eyes there was no mistaking that it was Logan. He was different now than when they had stood on the banks of the lake: the humanity that Hudson had tried to restore to him was gone. There was only rage.

In … The Beast Within: Pt. IV

Kitimat, British Columbia

Since the day he’d woken up to find Heather McNeil’s shotgun pressed against his face, “Logan” hadn’t spoken a word to anyone. It was clear even to Heather that beneath the growling, there was a man – or at least, there had been once upon a time. It had been nearly a week since they had picked him up and day by day, James had attempted to coax words out of Logan. It was two days until he was docile enough for them to unchain him. Even then he backed himself into a corner like a trapped animal and growled at them for hours on end. Hudson brought him food: he turned his nose up at the cooked meat they offered him, but seemed to enjoy raw meat well enough. Finally, after two more days, he relaxed around them enough that James didn’t feel the need to carry the shotgun – though Heather kept it close at hand.

Logan still wouldn’t, maybe couldn’t speak, outside of vague murmurings in his sleep that almost sounded like words. He seemed the most free out running through the hills and valleys that surrounded the cabin. One morning he produced a deer not unlike that he’d been gnawing on when James had almost run him over. This time Logan had been willing to share it and Hudson seemed to consider that progress.

From the porch, James and Heather watched as Logan trudged his way towards the lake. It had been mild in Kitimat over the past few days and the lake, usually frozen at this time of year, still sat clear and smooth. Logan’s bare feet kicked snow around with him as he went. Though Hudson had been able to get their guest to wear pants, he’d not yet been able to convince him of the importance of shoes. James smiled as he watched Logan kneeling beside the lake. He turned to Heather to find her unmoved by the scene. She was as opposed to his presence there as she had ever been.

“We’re going to have to go back to work soon,” McNeil sighed. “If we’re off much longer, people are going to start asking questions.”

James nodded.

“You know, it’s the weirdest thing. That goat Jaxon was calling me every two seconds up until a couple of days ago – then nothing. Maybe he knows something we don’t? It’s unlike Jerome to go AWOL like that, especially when he’s got someone’s balls in a vice.”

The cogs began to turn in Heather’s mind as she considered what could have caused his sudden disappearance. He was a multi-billionaire after all, there were hundreds of things that Jaxon could be doing. In the back of her mind, she worried not only would the Guardian project be dead, but that they wouldn’t have jobs to go back to when they went back to Toronto. There was a sudden splash from the lake that made Heather laugh nervously. Logan had begun slapping the water in an attempt to attract fish.

“We go into the lab tomorrow and put a brave face on things,” Heather shrugged. “Maybe corporate has already told them the game’s up, maybe not, either way we’ll face that miserable bastard down together. What’s the worst he can do, James? Truett basically built Can-Am from the ground up from beneath him. Everyone knows that.”

Heather invoking his brother’s name seemed to sit uncomfortably with James. “You’re right. It’s probably nothing.”

“What are we going to do with Logan? Do you feel comfortable leaving him out here on his own whilst we go into town? Because I sure as hell don’t.”

“What’s the worst he can do?” Hudson said with a smile. “All he seems to want to do is hunt and sleep. We’ll be out … what, eight hours? Maybe ten at a push. I figure he won’t even realise we’re gone.”

Before Heather had a chance to respond, James skipped down the porch and made his way towards Logan. The mutant was still slapping his forearms into the water and snatching at fish that scattered around with each splash. Hudson made sure to let his feet scrape along the ground noisily as he approached, though he knew well enough by now that the mutant’s senses were far stronger than his own. It was a courtesy. One that helped to keep the growling at bay and their relationship cordial.

“Doing a spot of fishing, huh? I was never really much of a fisherman. My old man was pretty handy with a rod, if my brother’s to be believed. Said he used to take him out fishing most weekends and they’d reel in the biggest trout and salmon you’d ever seen.”

Logan didn’t respond. James didn’t expect one. He’d built up a theory that whatever trauma the mutant had been though had fractured his mind. He had dissociative disorder or something similar to it. Hudson wasn’t a psychiatrist by any means, but something told him the only way to reach the man inside of Logan was to treat him like one. That meant no more shotguns or chains. He’d treat him not like some caged animal, but like a man and maybe with time something would reach him.

“I see you favour a more traditional approach,” Hudson said with a mock slapping motion. “Not much of an angler, eh? I don’t blame you, I could never quite get the handle of it. I went on a fishing trip with Truett and Jaxon once, not lake fishing mind, we were on Jaxon’s yacht out in the Caribbean somewhere. I didn’t catch a damn thing. Nearly split my hand open on a line at one point too. Jaxon didn’t let me hear the end of it for the best part of six months.”

James glanced back at the porch and saw Heather shake her head disapprovingly and disappear inside. He sighed and took to watching Logan have at the water again. This time the mutant’s furry arms plunged into the water just in time to grab a large salmon. It was flapping around violently until he plunged his teeth deep into it and took a large mouthful. Blood sprayed down his face and splattered onto Hudson’s coat. He laughed and looked down to wipe the blood away and when he looked up Logan was thrusting the fish towards his face.

There was no warmth in the gesture, no kindness as such, but there was almost a reluctant acceptance of Hudson’s presence and his likely need to eat too. James considered turning the fish down but had no idea how his refusal might be taken and so accepted it slowly. The mutant was watching him closely, too closely for James to feign a bite. He steeled himself and chomped down on the fish and almost instantly regretted it. His mouth filled with blood, bones, and flesh. It took all his strength not to retch as he forced the mouthful down with a grimace.

James used the back of his hand to mop the blood from his chin and handed the fish back to Logan with a smile. “T-t-thank … thank you.”

A grunt left the mutant’s lips in recognition of the thanks and Hudson’s eyes lit up. It was the first time Logan had acknowledged him verbally and he couldn’t help that it represented a victory of some sort. He wanted to run to the cabin and tell Heather but he knew even if she believed him, she wouldn’t see the significance in it. Instead he stayed with Logan and watched him scarf down the rest of the fish, bones and all.

“You know, Logan, I know you don’t feel the cold like … well, like the rest of us, but I really think we ought to see about getting you some shoes. Your feet are so blue they look like they’re going to fall off any sec-”

A hand clamped over Hudson’s mouth before he realised what was happening. Logan had dropped the fish to the ground and crouched like an animal that sensed a predator’s gaze resting on it. His right hand, dangling free, balled into a fist and James saw the skin begin to stretch over so slightly and the silver claws he’d seen the first night begin to sprout from the back of his hand.

“Someone … someone’s watching,” Logan whispered to Hudson from beside him. “Out there ... in the trees. They’re watching us.”

After a few seconds, the danger seemed to pass because the mutant let his hand slip from Hudson’s mouth. There was no time to ask questions. Logan had taken off running into the woods almost instantly, leaving James alone by the side of the lake. A wave of nausea ran over him and he knelt and pressed his fist against his lips to hold down the raw fish he’d just eaten. Once he was sure that he wasn’t going to be sick, he rose to his feet, and walked gingerly towards the cabin. He wouldn’t be telling Heather about this. That much James was sure about.
I don't want to be that guy, but I have pretty significant plans for Katana down the line.

I should have put it in my sheet, but I didn't want to tip my hand to the plans I have down the line. (Some of which is already written up...)

In … The Beast Within: Pt. III

Terrace, British Columbia

Five days had passed since James Hudson and Heather MacNeil had first encountered “Logan” on that snowy Kitimat road. But more importantly to Jerome Jaxon, Can-Am Corporation’s chief executive and Hudson’s boss, it had been five days since the Guardian project had missed out on funding from the Canadian government. He had only heard from Hudson once since, despite peppering him with phone calls constantly, and even then he’d sounded hurried, almost indifferent to the fact the project Jaxon had been bankrolling for him for three years was on the skids. The tone of voice James had used on the phone with him had left him so incensed that he’d wanted to get on a plane to Iqaluit that very morning. His assistant had talked him down. After four days of radio silence, there was no talking Jaxon down again.

The septuagenarian had boarded a private jet all the way to the town’s remote airport, where a heavyset man in an ill-fitting suit was waiting for him. The driver helped Jaxon climb into the blacked-out jeep and then set out towards the location that had been provided for him. It was an hour’s drive away, even on these open roads, and Jaxon soon found himself incapable of sustaining the rage he felt towards "Jimmy" Hudson. He reached for his cell phone, punched in a familiar number, and launched into a diatribe that seemed to have neither beginning nor end.

“So I have to find out from Maxwell Lord of all people that we lost the bid … Langkowski, I think. You know Langkowski, we met him a few years back at that stupid gala the Van Dynes hold. Well, trust me when I say if you saw Langkowski you’d remember him. He’s huge. Used to play football back in college. One sec, Gabe.”

Jaxon had been ranting for the best part of thirty-five minutes, though it felt like longer for the driver that had suffered through it in the driver’s seat. The petrochemical mogul had only stopped because the jeep seemed to have come to an unexpected halt. He leant forward, peering over towards the driver with a scowl.

“What’s the holdup?”

The driver pointed to a yellow sign that had been planted in the middle of the road. “Road’s out up ahead.”

“The road’s out,” Jaxon sighed as he slunk back into his seat. “Great. Even in the middle of butt-fucking nowhere we’re still running into traffic issues. Gabe, you there? Yeah, sorry about that. Where was I? Oh, that’s right ... can you believe that cocksucker Jimmy didn’t even have the stones to tell me we had lost the bid? After all the millions I’ve poured into this crappy project of his.”

The jeep took a sharp turn into a bumpy offroad. Jaxon felt each shake in his weary bones, but was too proud to ask the driver to slow down. His friend Truett Hudson had passed away three years ago to an unexpected stroke, and he was almost twenty years younger than Jaxon, and ever since, despite his bluster, Jerome had become acutely away of his own advancing years. After a minute or two of rough going, the jeep came to another sudden halt, this one more violent than the first. It took all Jaxon had not to be hurled out of his seat.

“What is it this time?” Jerome shouted towards the thick man in the driver’s seat. “Let me guess: an avalanche has b-”

Without saying a word, the driver flung his door open and took off sprinting. Jaxon watched him in bemusement for a few moments, almost incapable of processing what was happening, before suddenly snapping back to life. He opened his own door, stepped halfway onto the road, and howled towards the driver with rage.

“Hey! Where the hell do you think you’re going?”

If the driver could hear him, he showed no sign of it. Jaxon let out a deflated sigh, rested one of his arms against the open door and leant against the seat in disbelief at what had just happened. He suddenly became aware of the fact that he still had the phone pressed against his wrinkled ear.

“Great. Fucking great. Gabe, can I call you back? My driver has just bailed on me … Yeah, you just can’t get the service anymore. Alright, you take it easy now, and lay off those g-”

There was a scream in the distance. The phone fell from Jerome’s hand onto the rock path, its screen smashing on impact, but he showed no sign of caring. There was something among the trees that had caught his attention. Jaxon made out two arms and legs, a torso the size of a small car, and lithe, silver tentacles that seemed to move as if they had a life of their own. His palms grew sweaty and his aged heart began to pound uncontrollably in his chest. Each heartbeat sounded like a bomb going off in his head.

And then there was the screaming again. The sight of something hurling towards him caused him to stagger backwards into the jeep for protection. There was a dull thud and the entire vehicle shook as the projectile made contact with it. Jaxon peered out and almost vomited as he recognised it as the driver’s ravaged corpse.

“Holy crap.”

Jaxon panicked and surveilled the inside of the jeep in search of a weapon. His arthritic hands fumbled around desperately but found nothing. From the trees, he could sense the figure approaching. With a lunge, Jerome leant out of the jeep for the cell resting on the path. His fingers made contact with it but it was just outside of his grasp. He stretched out further than his old rickety skeleton would allow and almost had it when a large booted foot came stomping down on top of it.

“You are the one they call Jerome Jaxon, nyet?” came a chilling Russian accent. “Chief executive officer of the Can-Am Corporation?”

Jaxon looked up at the man. He was bigger than any human had any right to be, but it wasn’t his size, nor even the vicious tentacles slithering from his arms that concerned Jaxon the most, it was his skin. It was grey and lifeless. He’d never seen anything like it before. The man looked dead – deader than dead, almost – and the straw-like hair and red bandana across it only made him appear even more ghoulish.

Sensing that the man was growing impatient, Jaxon made no attempt to disguise his terror when he answered. “Uh, yeah ... that’s me.”

One of the man’s tentacles slithered up an around Jaxon’s neck. It clamped around it tightly and lifted him from his seat with ease. Each second it was in contact with him, the old man almost felt like he was suffocating – like his life force was being sapped away from him. He felt it come rushing back slightly as his attacker pulled him from the inside of the jeep and slammed him against the side of it.

“Take me to him and I shall let you live.”

“T-take you to who?”

The question seemed to anger the grey-skinned man and the tentacle around Jerome’s neck tightened with his annoyance. “Weapon X.”

“What? I… I don’t understand, I don’t know what that is,” Jaxon cried. “But I’ve got money, lots and lots of money, I’ll … I’ll give you as much as you want, please, just don’t kill me, alright?”

“Tsk, always money with you people.”

A look of dread flashed across Jaxon’s face. There was a sickly crunch and his neck crumpled beneath the tentacle. He fell to the ground with a thud, landing alongside what remained of the driver, and what little life was left in his body began to drain away. The light in Jerome’s eyes began to darken and his tongue, now purple and discoloured, came sliding out of his mouth with a pathetic lurch. The last thing he saw was the grey-skinned man walking away from him. As he faded out of distance, he passed by old snow-covered sign that read: ‘Kitimat: 22 miles’.

In ... The Beast Within: Pt. II

Kitimat, British Columbia

All through the night the captive wildman had thrashed and thrashed. Heather MacNeil and James Hudson had taken it in turns to watch him, but now in the cold light of day the seriousness of the situation they had found themselves set in. What would they do with him? What could they do with him? He was unconscious now but to set him free would be to risk certain death. Heather quietly damned Hudson’s big heart. Were it her decision, they would have left him to bleed out – instead they were trapped in their own home with a creature chained to their bed. James was cradling the shotgun whilst staring down at their captive. She called out across the room to him in a soft, sympathetic voice.

“What are we going to do? We can’t keep this thing tied up in our living room forever, James.”

There was a flicker of annoyance in Hudson’s face. “Don’t you think I know that?”

“I still say we should call the Mounties,” Heather responded matter-of-factly. “If we explain what happened, I’m sure they’ll understand. I mean, it could be a fugitive for all we know ... it could be some kind of kind of escaped mental patient. I bet they’d just be glad that someone got it off the streets.”

James sighed. He flicked the shotgun’s safety on and from his seat opposite the bed set the but of the gun on the ground. There was a weariness to the motion that made Heather realise that Hudson wasn’t annoyed, he was tired. There were heavy bags beneath his bloodshot eyes. He had looked drawn out yesterday after finding out the bad news about the Guardian project, but now Hudson looked like a wraith.

“You shot him at point-blank range with a shotgun and there’s not a scratch on him, Heather. I think it’s fair to say that whoever our John Doe is, he’s not just some oddball that caved in his mother-in-law’s skull with a clawhammer, he’s … well, he's obviously a mutant. That means the poor bastard is going to end up at a government black site on a lab table if we get law enforcement involved.”

Heather walked towards the living room window and stared at the snowy hills that surrounded their home. “That’s not our problem.”

“You don’t mean that,” James murmured weakly as if he was trying to convince himself more than MacNeil. “I know you can’t mean that.”

A sudden pang of guilt ran through Heather and she stepped away from the window and walked towards Hudson. It hurt her to see the disapproval in his eyes. She knelt down in front of him and placed a loving hand atop of one of Hudson’s thighs. The disapproval softened somewhat and he set the shotgun to one side.

“All I know is that you are my world, James, and the longer this thing stays under our roof, the more dangerous it is for both of us.”

He,” Hudson said with renewed disappointment in his voice. “He is a human being, Heather, just like you and I are. He's not a thing.”

MacNeill nodded eagerly in an attempt to recapture the tenderness that had she had lost through her clumsy choice of words. “You’re right.”

James abruptly stood up from his seat with a tired grunt. Heather’s hand slipped from his thigh and she watched as he reached once more for the shotgun and claimed the spot beside the window where she had been standing. His tired eyes were surveilling the hills, though for what he wasn’t sure. Heather looked towards the man, wrapped in the thickest chains that Hudson could get his hands on, and repressed a sneer.

The next half an hour passed in silence. Occasionally their sleeping John Doe would let out a moan, but otherwise Hudson and MacNeil had only the sound of the savage winds hitting their cabin for entertainment. When an electronic whirring came from one of Hudson’s pockets, it acted as a welcome respite from the sound of the wind. He stared down at the name on the screen and sent the call to voicemail with a sigh.

“Is that Jaxon calling?”

“Yeah,” Hudson nodded. “He’s been trying all morning.”

“Why haven’t you picked up? He’s going to want answers and the longer you leave it, the worse it's going to be. You say that Guardian is dead but I still think we could win Jaxon around. We’re not going to be able to do that if you’re screening his calls.”

Hudson sighed and lifted a hand up to acknowledge his mistake. “Alright, alright, you don’t need to lay it on thick. I’ll call the man back.”

Now, James.”

“Okay, I’ll only be a few minutes,” James agreed as he handed Heather the shotgun. “If you need anything, if he so much as moves a muscle, you shoot first and ask questions afterwards, alright? At the first sound of trouble, I’ll come running.”

“Don’t worry, if I was able to nail him with this thing last night, I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to now that he’s been pumped full of painkillers and chained to a bed.”

The door to their cabin flung open and a vicious, bracing wind came snaking inside. Hudson stepped out onto the porch and slammed the door shut behind him. Heather watched him through the window, making sure he’d dialled Jaxon back, before slowly approaching their captive with the shotgun in her hands. She prodded the sleeping man with it and he didn’t stir at all. Once she was sure he was sleeping, she pressed the barrel hard against one of his cheeks and then leant towards him.

“I want you to listen to me. I don’t care what you are, if you so much as think about laying a hand on that man, I’ll kill you. Do you hear me? James might be soft but I’m not. I know a cold-blooded killer when I see one, and that’s what I see when I look at you. Human, mutant, you could be the missing link for all I care, you’re a monster in my books and I’m not going to risk losing everything for you.”

Suddenly the man’s eyes opened. They looked different this time. Still beastlike, but haunted almost, and fixed on Heather’s shock of red hair in confusion. She attempted to stagger backwards but her feet wouldn’t seem to move. Worse still, she noticed that one of the man’s hands had wriggled free from beneath the chains. It was clamped around the barrel of the shotgun. It took half a dozen empty, frantic clicks before Heather realised the safety was still on, and by the time she had flicked it off the emergence of noise from the man’s throat stayed her hand.

“No, not ... not a monster,” he pleaded in a hoarse growl that seemed to carry a hundred lifetime's worth of suffering and anguish.Logan...”
Every now and then, the people need a reminder that this is @Byrd Man's world and we're all just living in it.

I guess today is one of those days.

In ... The Beast Within: Pt. I

Kitimat, British Columbia

Heather MacNeil had been holding her hands in front of the heater for the best part of ten minutes and they were no closer to being warm. Beside her James Hudson was bristling in the driver’s seat. His face was as white as a sheet and the blankness of his expression worried her. Rather than break the silence, MacNeil slid one of her icy cold hands around Hudson’s as he reached to shift gears. Usually it elicited a smile from him, but this time he didn’t so much as acknowledge the gesture. Finally the silence became too heavy for Heather to bear anymore.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s nothing,” Hudson murmured without so much as looking in her direction.

“It’s obviously not nothing, James,” Heather sighed. “You’ve hardly said a word all evening.”

Both MacNeil and Hudson worked for the Can-Am Corporation. Three years ago, Heather had been secretary to Truett Hudson, James’ half-brother, but she had given that up to follow James to Kitimat because she believed in him – but most of all because she loved him. It had been hard living for both of them, but the research James was doing had the potential to change everything.

Perhaps sensing that he’d been too brusque, Hudson cleared his throat quietly, and looked away from the snowy road for a second.

“They gave to grant to Langkowski.”

Heather’s hand slid back around Hudson’s and she gave it a sympathetic squeeze. “Oh, baby, I’m so sorry.”

“I’ve got to break the news to Jaxon in the morning.”

Jerome Jaxon was Can-Am’s chief executive. He’d humoured Hudson’s little venture in Kitimat out of sympathy more than anything else. James had needed an escape when Truett passed away and the Guardian project had provided him with it – but it was leaking money like a sieve, and having missed out on a grant for three years running now, there was no way that Jaxon would support it anymore.

“God, Langkowski’s such a hack,” Heather sighed. “I can’t believe it. There must be some other way? What about next year?”

The grimace that appeared on Hudson’s face as the words left her mouth all but confirmed the impossibility of their being some way out for the pair of them.

“You don’t get it. We’re screwed, Heather, without that money we’re not going to make it through the winter, let alone to next year. Everything we’ve done, everything we’ve worked for these past three years, it’s all been for nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

Suddenly MacNeil perked up as if struck by a lightning bolt.

“You still have that money that Truett left behind in his w-”

James shook his head grimly.

“We might as well pack up and head back to Toronto because the Guardian project is officially dead in the water as of this afternoon."

A deflated rattle left Heather’s lungs and she glanced out of the window at the unpressed snow reaching out into the darkness. Hudson’s icy hand switched on the radio. He flicked past a news station, then past another playing metal music, until he settled upon something more to his liking. Kenny Rodgers echoed around the front of the truck as they crept through the cold towards the ranch the pair called home.

“I pushed my soul in a deep dark hole and then I followed it in,
I watched myself crawlin' out as I was a-crawlin' in,
I got up so tight I couldn't unwind,
I saw so much I broke my mind,
I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in.”

For a second, Hudson’s eyes began to close with tiredness but he jolted away just in time to see a sudden flash of movement appear in his headlights. His foot crashed down on the breaks and the truck skidded along the icy road, very nearly flipping onto its side at one point, before coming to a screeching halt.

Heather’s eyes were fixed on him in desperate confusion. “What the hell, James?”

“There was something in the road.”

Hudson could tell from the look on MacNeil’s face that she didn’t believe him. He let his hands, now wet with sweat, slip free from the wheel and cut the engine. Now the truck had come to a halt it was clear that there was a carcass in the road in front of them, but it wasn’t the carcass that concerned James. It was what was stood over it.

“It almost looked like a person … but that doesn’t make any sense,” Hudson murmured with shock. “All the way out here in this cold? They’d be dead in minutes. It doesn’t make any sense.”

James tried his best to reconcile what he’d seen with what he knew about the Tundra. Whatever he’d seen didn’t look anything like any animal he’d seen before, but there was no way it could have been a man. He tugged the keys out of the ignition and slipped them into his coat pocket. As he reached for the driver’s side door he felt Heather’s hand clamped tightly around his bicep.

“I think we should call the Mounties.”

“No,” James said with a shake of his head. “It’s fine, I’m going to go out and check.”

Hudson pulled his arm free and stepped out into the road. He slammed the door shut behind him, smiling unconvincingly to Heather through the frosted glass, and slowly made his way towards the carcass. It was a deer – or at least what was left of one. He knelt beside it and pressed his hands against it. It was still warm to the touch. There were no teeth marks, only long, straight gashes along its stomach and neck.

“Whatever that was, it's long gone,” James muttered. “Christ, it really went to town on this poor thing. It’s all torn up. There are claw marks here I’ve never seen before.”

Hudson tried once more to parse the images that had flickered through his brain in the moments before he’d slammed down the brakes. He was still struggling to make sense of it as he set the deer’s head down on the road and rose to his feet. The least he could do was move the carcass out of the road, he thought, as he took one last look down at the savaged animal.

“James,” Heather called out nervously from the truck.

“What’s wrong?”

There was a desperation in her voice this time. “Get back in the truck, James.”

Hudson nodded. “I’m coming, I’m just going to make sure this thing’s out of the road. It’s dangerous enough out here witho-”

Without warning, James found himself on his back with the taste of blood in his mouth. His ears were ringing and there was a dull pain in his chest. In the distance he could hear Heather screaming and managed to lift his head enough to make sure he hadn’t been shot. Standing over him was a hairy brute of a man with blood caked around his mouth. There was a crazed look in his eye that made Hudson’s blood run cold.

“Whoa, take it easy there bud,” James spluttered feebly as he tried to push himself onto his elbows. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

A guttural growl left the man’s chest as Hudson tried to climb to his feet slowly and James froze. He met the feral man’s gaze but something told him not to hold it. Instead he lowered it, glancing towards the hairy, torn feet that looked as if they were frozen through. After a few seconds, James carefully tried to climb to his feet again, slower this time, taking care to step back away from the man and to seem as small and unthreatening as possible.

“Alright, I get it. The deer’s yours. Look, here, I’m moving away from it. You see? Take it. I’m going to just back away slowly and head back to my truck, you hear me? Nobody needs to get hurt here.”

The growling quieted as James retreated and he was sure that the truck was only a few metres behind him. He was almost counting the inches as he moved. He felt the hood of the truck hit him in the back and moved to turn around but as he did so made the mistake of making eye contact with the wildman one last time. James heard the roar and saw a glint of metal as the beast seemed to cut the distance between them in a millisecond. It was inches from him when a loud bang rang out.

In Heather's hands was an old shotgun that James kept in the truck in case of emergencies. It was so heavy that she could barely keep it aloft. The naked man had been flung by the impact of the shot into the snow and looked, as far as either of them could tell, to be dead. Hudson was planted to the spot in shock. It took him a few seconds to realise he hadn’t answered.

“Are you alright?” Heather called out. “He didn’t hurt you, did he?”

“I’m fine,” James mumbled. “Though I don’t think we can say the same for our friend here. That was one hell of a shot, MacNeil.”

It was clear from Heather’s face that she saw through his bravado. “I don't care what you say, this time I’m going to call the Mounties.”

James took the shotgun from MacNeil and trained it on the naked man’s bleeding husk. Heather scuttled towards the truck in search of a phone as Hudson drew closer to the man. The snow around him had been splattered with blood. Under other circumstances, the patterns in the blood-flecked snow would almost have been beautiful. James set that thought aside as he nudged the body with the shotgun. A gentle groan came from it. Hudson staggered backwards in shock.

“Wait,” James shouted towards the truck. “This crazy son of a bitch is still breathing. Get some blankets.”

Heather’s face twisted in revulsion. “What? You’re not seriously suggesting that we try and move h-”

“The blankets, Heather.”

MacNeil groaned and ran towards the back of the truck. Hudson shot her an approving look, and then tightened his grip on the shotgun. The man in the snow stirred ever so slightly, revealing the wound in his chest to the elements. Seconds ago it had been the size of a basketball. Amongst the mess of blood and hair, Hudson could have sworn the muscles were reaching out to one another. The naked man was healing.
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