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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.
Open the game, you cowards.
If you're going to have a Nova corpsman of 16/17 why not just use Sam Alexander?

Because Sam Alexander sucks, obviously.
Just looking for feedback on concepts before diving into actual writing.

I really like this Runaways roster, a slightly more macabre approach works really well for them.

Between this and @Jareth's X-Force, we have some really interesting teams on deck for this game. I can't wait to see where you both go with them.

C H A R A C T E R C O N C E P T:

For all intents and purposes, this version of Wolverine is indistinguishable from the depictions of Logan most of us are used to. I have attempted to repurpose his backstory for a shared universe setting and as such have incorporated DC characters into his past and present where possible. Other than that, conceptually I have not made many, if any, radical changes to the character.

C H A R A C T E R M O T I V A T I O N S & G O A L S:

Wolverine has been my favourite comic book character since I was a kid, but I've mostly avoided playing him in roleplaying games, outside of an incredibly short-lived run in the dying days of SHH. I think a big part of that is because, even as a Wolverine superfan, I'd grown as tired of the character due to overexposure. Listening to Wolverine: The Long Night kind of rekindled my interest and, despite having vowed to be done with comic book games, here I am. Dusting the cobwebs off the saddle for one last ride. Again.

C H A R A C T E R N O T E S:


S A M P L E P O S T:

@Morden Man Have you had a chance to see my sheet yet?

Sorry, I'd totally missed it, but everything looks fine to me. Feel free to go ahead and start posting.

Briefing Room Six, Pegasus Helicarrier

Guy Gardner and Ben Grimm walked side by side into the briefing room. It had been two hours since they had boarded Guy’s old ship, the Pegasus, at the Triskelion on the orders of Dum Dum Dugan. They had been told next to nothing. Gardner had spent most of that time catching up with old colleagues. Valentina Vostok, Gardner’s old commanding officer, had showed him pictures of her new baby whilst the rest of the crew clamoured over Ben. Even on a SHIELD helicarrier, a walking, talking rock monster was something of a novelty, after all.

Dugan was stood with his back to Guy and Ben. The old SHIELD agent was inspecting a holographic reenactment of what looked to be an assault on a convoy of trucks. His eyes remained trained on it long after the two SHIELD agents had taken their seats in the briefing room. After a few moments, Guy grew restless and cleared his throat in the hope of catching his mentor’s attention.

“You mind telling us what’s going on here, Dugan? Something tells me you didn’t drag us back onto the Pegasus so I could see my friends.”

“Heh, friends?” Ben murmured through a mischievous grin. “You ask me, your “friends” didn’t seem all that too happy to see you, Carrot Top.”

Guy scowled. He still quite hadn't gotten over Ben's little "Condiment King" prank the other day – which was made worse by the lecture he'd been given by the eggheads down at the infirmary when he'd explained how he'd broken two of his fingers. In light of both of those things, ribbing Gardner about the Pegasus proved a step too far and his famous, or perhaps infamous, ability to laugh at himself failed him for once.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about. I was the best damn ca-”

“Enough,” Dugan shouted as he finally turned to face them. “This is serious. We don’t have time for … whatever this is. I’m going to need the two of you at the top of your games if we’re going to make our way out of this godforsaken mess. So you both need to settle the fuck down.”

It was clear from Dugan’s voice that he would brook no further argument or interruptions. Usually an affable man, the weight of the task facing him was clearly wearing on him. Perhaps more than he would like to admit, his regret about what had happened to his longtime partner Nick Fury was making him second guess his every decision.

Sensing the seriousness of the situation, Ben nodded earnestly to Dugan. “We’re all ears.”

“Chin escaped,” Dugan sighed. “His transport convoy was attacked just outside of China. Nine MSS officers and four of ours are dead. Needless to say, the Chinese are livid. We’re talking the kind of angry that might end up with them pulling their support for SHIELD altogether.”

Suddenly the holographic images of a vehicle under siege made sense to Guy and Ben. The reenactment had been stiched together out of bits and pieces of CCTV footage that SHIELD had been able to collate from different sources near the scene. It wasn’t perfect, but it created some sense of what SHIELD had been up against. The attackers moved fast, using deadly force as if it were nothing, and had Chin out within a minute – in short, they were professionals.

Sensing that Dugan wasn’t telling them all of this out of the goodness of his heart, Guy frowned. “So what do you mean for us to do about it?”

“See, that’s where things get a little problematic," Dugan said gingerly. "We’ve got our hands on some reliable intel that suggests that Chin has taken refuge in Lowtown. No prizes for guessing why he's holed up in the only town in the world that SHIELD isn't authorised to operate in.”

The words left Dugan’s mouth as matter-as-factly as if he were describing water as being wet. They were accepted as much by Guy Gardner too. Next to him, Ben Grimm’s mouth was agape. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The shock was writ over his face long before he had a chance to voice his disapproval vocally so Dugan was almost prepared to field the inevitable follow-up question.

“Now I know you're yanking my chain? I thought SHIELD had the UN’s authority to go in wherever it needed. You’re trying to tell me that Madripoor is off-limits for the world’s biggest peacekeeping body? That place is as big a hive of criminals as there is on the face of the Earth.”

Guy shrugged. “It’s not a matter of legality, Ben, it’s ... well, the complete opposite. You thought Juba was bad? Lowtown makes Juba look like one of those Scandinavian countries where all people do is ride bikes and congratulate each other on how frigging perfect-looking they are.”

Ben pinched the bridge of his nose as he struggled to try and make sense of what Guy had said. Whilst his eyes were closed, Dugan shot Gardner a disapproving look, as if to compel him to silence, and then set about trying to explain the grubby little compromise that he and Nick Fury had helped broker with the Madripoorians nearly three decades ago.

“SHIELD entered into an agreement of sorts with some of the local criminal element to turn a blind eye to all the drinking and whoring that goes on in Lowtown. We don’t go after them for trying to have a good time occasionally, and they keep things fairly above board in the region.”

It was clear from Ben’s sigh that he thought that the Madripoorian agreement was ridiculous. “Just when I thought I’d heard everything.”

”It’s not perfect,” Dugan conceded. “Heck, it’s not even close to being right, but it works for both parties. Neither of you were around to see what Madripoor was like before – or what the helpless sons of bitches that lived there had to put up with. If you had, you would understand.”

It felt like a lifetime since the war in Madripoor – though no one was allowed to call it that, of course. Dum Dum had spent eight summers fishing the bodies of dead SHIELD agents out of the drink without so much as putting a dent in the colony’s drug trade. It was too ingrained in its culture. They hadn’t realised that when they went in, but they soon realised it once the bodies started to pile up. Since SHIELD had stopped operating in Madripoor, it had cleaned its act up some. Now it was mostly casinos and brothels – and fugitives from SHIELD like Zhang Chin.

Ben rolled his eyes. “Well if SHIELD can’t operate in Lowtown, then why the hell are you telling us all of this? As much as I want to see Chin's narrow butt taken down, it doesn’t sound like there’s anything we can do about it. Not unless Chin suddenly decides to take a vacation.”

Suddenly there was intent in Dum Dum's eyes as he looked at Guy and Ben, but there was also doubt. Of the two of them, Guy knew Dugan better and was quicker to sense that something was amiss. “Why are you looking at us like that?”

Dugan swallowed hard.

“Guy Darrin Gardner, Benjamin Jacob Grimm, effective immediately you are stripped of your positions as Agents of SHIELD. Director Hill has asked me to thank the you both of for your distinguished service over the past three months. You will be escorted off board this helicarrier by SHIELD security staff at the next possible juncture. SHIELD wishes you the best of luck in your future endeavours – whatever they may be.”

A knowing smile crept onto Guy Gardner's face as the true meaning of their sudden dismissal from SHIELD sunk in. “Oh, you son of a bitch.”
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