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Once Upon A Time In New York City…

Chapter One

He couldn’t remember what it felt like to not be scared. Every night, he’d fall into a fitful sleep in the hopes that he’d never wake up. But he always did. He’d given up talking a long time ago. Those around him spoke in an unfamiliar tongue, not that any of them were interested in talking to him anyway…

At night, he would ask God what he’d done to deserve this inhuman torture. But God was forever silent, never once answering his silent pleas. But he knew God worked in mysterious ways. He thought of the words of Nietzsche…

What doesn’t destroy me makes me stronger…

And every day he WAS growing stronger. Their brutalities strengthened his already well-toned body. He was getting faster, more agile, and far more dangerous. He knew his time would come. So he watched them with dead eyes. Endured whatever they decided to inflict upon him without complaint…

And waited…

Learning their ways…their strengths and weaknesses…studying his surroundings…he formulated a plan…

There was one particular guard who liked to test him, or more specifically, his agility…he liked to throw things at him. He only did so at night, when his superiors weren’t around to stop him. He couldn’t say why exactly, but he got the feeling that his tormentors wanted him alive. He could dodge the projectiles easily enough, but the fool had gotten more vindictive, throwing sharp or breakable objects designed to make him bleed…

He looked up as the idiot clanged his weapon against the electrified bars. “So how ya doin’ tonight, freak?” He sneered, laughing loudly to himself as if he’d just told the world’s greatest joke.

He didn’t reply. He never did, even if he’d been able to understand just what the fool had said. He did know the meaning of the word ‘freak’, though…and he didn’t like it. He watched dispassionately as the guard hefted what looked like half a brick. He wondered absently where the fool had found it around here. The place was meticulously tidy, all gleaming steel and glowing panels…very high-tech.

He braced himself, watching as it flew towards him. He dodged it just enough to save himself from serious injury, but it still hurt as it grazed his temple. He slumped soundlessly to the ground, smirking inwardly as he heard the idiot gasp. Seemed he was right, they weren’t supposed to harm him…

He heard the hum that electrified the cell’s bars die. His hand slid slowly for the rudimentary weapon he’d forged for himself. A blade of glass, one end wrapped in a strip he’d shredded from his stiff, greyish sheets.

His grip tightened as the door to the cell opened. “Oh, man…” the guard lamented, more for himself than his charge. “I’m in for it now…” He groaned when he saw the blood puddling on the floor. “Why the hell didn’t you dodge it, freak?” He demanded of the still form on the floor.

He surged to his feet as the idiot touched his shoulder, burying the shard of glass in the fool’s thigh, revealing in the resulting scream.

“You freaky little son of a bitch!” He shrieked just before a foot connected with the side of his head. His temple hit the side of the narrow bunk as he slumped to the floor like a puppet with its strings cut.

He gazed silently at his handiwork for a moment, then squatted down beside him, checking for a pulse, both relieved and annoyed when he found one. Even though the creep deserved to suffer in kind, he was against killing, though a part of him wished the sadistic little bastard dead. He quickly shredded the remainder of his sheets and bound and gagged the guard. The idiot was unconscious, and he doubted he was going to wake up anytime soon, but he wasn’t taking any chances.

His eyes fell on the guard’s weapon, now lying uselessly on the floor. He thought about taking it, but decided he didn’t need it. He possessed far more deadly talents of his own.

He padded silently across the floor, they hadn’t bothered to provide any footwear for him, not that they could have easily found any to fit him. He didn’t care, he rarely wore shoes anyway. He peered cautiously up and down the corridor outside. He’d never set foot outside his cell without an armed escort, and he certainly didn’t want one now. He could have escaped at any time, of course, but the place was heavy with sensors, they’d know as soon as he used his talents.

It was quite dark now, lighting kept to a minimum to allow sleep. He moved swiftly, silently, always keeping to the shadows that hid him well. This was after all a jailbreak…

He stopped as he came to a corridor junction and realised he really didn’t know where he was going. He knew he had to get out of here, but which way was out? He frowned to himself. Perhaps he hadn’t thought this through as well as he thought he had.

But there was no way on God’s green earth he was going back to that cell!

He heard voices coming from his left, and pulled back into the shadows, hiding as only he could. The pair that walked past were dressed in the uniforms he was used to seeing, but their relaxed attitude as they chatted to each other meant only one thing. He smiled. These guys were on their way home…

He followed easily, how could they possibly expect that he’d made it out of his cell? Obviously as eager to get out of here as he was, they didn’t even look back. He stiffened as the corridor opened into a large, and extremely well lit room. There was no way he could possibly get across it without being seen.

“Verdammen!” He hissed quietly under his breath.

“’Night, guys.” The guard sitting at the desk at the far side of the vast space said brightly to the pair.

“C’mon, man…” The younger one all but whined. “Just open it up.”

“Got a hot date?” The other chuckled.

“Yeah, right…” He grumbled. “You know we’re not allowed to socialise while we’re stuck on this assignment…”

“Tell me about it.” The other added. “I miss my wife and kids…”

“Yeah.” The seated guard sighed. “All because they have to have their freaky army…”

“Gotta put them muties to some kinda use.” The young one said with a shrug.

In the shadows, he frowned. He knew enough of their language to know they were talking about him. His eyes narrowed as he watched the guard reach beneath his desk, turn something. The wall in front of him opened up. He gasped involuntarily as cool, clear air wafted over him. Fresh air. For the first time since…he couldn’t remember when…he could see the world outside…

And that was all he needed.

He mentally flicked the switch inside his head, and he was there…outside…

Free…

~~~~~~

Behind him, he didn’t see the guards sniff the air.

“What the hell is that?” The young one asked.

“Smells like sulpha…” The seated guard frowned.

“Oh, shit!” The other’s eyes widened. “That’s the signature of that little freak’s power!”

“That’s impossible!” The young one countered. “It couldn’t have gotten out without setting of the alarms.”

Behind his desk, the guard pulled up the displays from the security cameras in the appropriate area as he simultaneously closed the doors. “Not if somebody opens the door.” He grumbled, the other two leaning over to look over his shoulder.

“Shit!” The young one commented.

“But who’d be stupid enough…” The other began.

“Doesn’t matter…” The third countered, slamming his palm down on a large red button on his control panel. A claxon of alarms echoed throughout the complex.

“All that matters is that we get the little freak back or we’re all for the chopping block.”

~~~~~~

He spun as he heard the alarms. The lights around the complex flared to life, stabbing into the darkness in an attempt to locate him. No need to be stealthy now. He dropped to all fours and began bolting across the hard, cold ground. He didn’t like to run that way…it seemed so inhuman…but he had to admit, it was effective, he could move at twice the speed. He knew he could travel much further even faster if he was to use his gift…but it was far too flashy to use at the moment, far too easy to track in the dark. And besides…that’s what they’d be expecting.

No…he’d stay low to the ground, use his unique colouring to blend in with the shadows. Or at least as best he could against the newly fallen snow. He knew they’d send everything they had after him, and that was a lot. He didn’t know who was funding them, or why. He didn’t know how they’d found him. He didn’t really care. All he cared about was getting away. He’d just run until he dropped. Run until he was free, or until his heart burst from the effort.

Even death was preferable to going back…

~~~~~~

Bright eyes flashed as he awoke with a start as the images…half memory, half dream…faded from his mind. With a shuddering sigh he fell back into the nest he’d made for himself amid the piles of luggage. He closed his eyes as he remembered things he didn’t want to remember. He absently rubbed his jaw where that sadistic bastard, Wraith, had kicked him when they’d caught up with him. Tears stung his eyes as he remembered the rank smell of his own burning flesh as the guards had followed the orders and scorched the soles of his feet. He hadn’t been able to walk properly for a week.

After that they had moved all the captive mutants to other cells. There had only been the three of them at the time. They’d been locked behind a solid wall of eerie green light that shocked at the touch. But they knew that wouldn’t stop him. He’d tasted freedom, and he’d learnt the lay of the installation. His power could have him out of the cell in an instant.

So they had put the micro explosive in his head…

He lay in the darkness, listening to the steady thrum of the engines that surrounded him, trying to forget. He’d felt bad about stowing away in the baggage compartment, he knew in its way it was stealing. But he didn’t have the money to buy a ticket. He doubted he’d have been sold one any way…

He rummaged in his pocket, producing the scrap of paper with its hastily scrawled message. He could see perfectly in the dimness, even without the soft illumination offered by his glowing golden eyes. He smiled slightly, remembering who had given him this little shred of hope.

“Jean…” He said wistfully. She had been the only one in that horrible place that had even attempted to talk to him. She’d been the first one outside his family that hadn’t looked at him with fear or contempt. Even the others, supposedly mutants like him, had shrunk away from him.

He pocketed his little treasure and looked at his watch. Just a few more hours and they’d be landing in New York. He threw open his rucksack and pulled out a large red apple. He didn’t want to risk falling asleep again, even though he doubted he could, given his latest nightmare. They had been getting steadily worse. His family in Bavaria had no idea how to help him deal with what had been done to him.

He remembered how his mother had wept on his return. How she’d run her hands through his now midnight fur. It had been blue once, as beautiful as a clear summer sky…

She had spat out a curse on the head of all who had played a part in what had been done to her beautiful blue boy. He knew she’d be upset when she awoke and found him gone. The note he’d left would offer little comfort. But he knew that she’d know it was something he had to do.~~~~~~

He’d almost nodded off again when he heard the distant burble of the plane’s intercom. He couldn’t understand a word of it, but he knew it was the Captain announcing that they were now in their final descent. He would be telling the passengers to fasten their seatbelts, to put away their trays and return their seats to their upright position.

Around him he heard the landing gear come to life. He gathered his belongings, fishing in his backpack for the pair of dark glasses he’d brought. There was absolutely nothing he could do about the unearthly glow of his golden eyes apart from hiding them. And the only way out of the baggage compartment was when the handlers came to unload it for he had to see where he was teleporting to.

He strapped his worldly goods to his back and wedged himself in for landing. He winced as the wheels hit the ground, jostling him about and showering him with a few small, unsecured items of luggage. He could actually feel the plane begin to decelerate, as the roar of the engines changed in tone and pitch.

When the plane finally drew to a halt he reached out and grabbed the closest wall, crawling up it and around to where he knew the door was. He hung there just to the side, waiting.

It seemed to take hours before he saw the door crack open, before he felt the blast of air from outside. On any other day he would have found it rancid, raised in the mountains as he was, but after being locked in with other peoples belongs for so long, it smelled wonderful.

He took a few deep lungfuls, then took a quick lay of the land outside. He could see the airport terminal directly ahead of him, not very far away at all. He glanced up at the roof, threw the switch in his mind and he was there. He looked back down over the edge of the roof, smiling to himself when he saw the baggage handlers, confused by the sudden flash of golden light and the stench of brimstone.

He looked up. The sun was quite low in the sky, but he felt it best that he wait until after dark before he looked at hopping some form of transport into the city. He didn’t have much money, and it was all Duetchmarks and Europounds anyway. He could have had it converted if he’d known enough English to explain what he wanted. But he feared opening his mouth. The brimstone taint to his breath wasn’t as constant as the glow it brought to his eyes, but he had as much control over it. He pulled up the collar of his long overcoat, and pulled the beat up old fedora out of his rucksack and pulled it down to hide his elfin ears. Then he headed down into the terminal.

Nobody paid him any mind as he made his way through the crowds. He smiled grimly to himself. At least there was one advantage to the changes Weapon X had made, his black fur was far less obvious. With his ears, eyes, hands and tail hidden he didn’t look unusual at all. At least not to a casual glance. He was probably thought of as an African American. Of course, if anyone were to take a close look at his face, at his very European features, that assumption just wouldn’t hold any water.

But, so long as he kept his head down and his mouth shut, no one would notice him.

By the time he’d freshened up the sun was down and he quickly found there were numerous buses going in the direction he wanted. He pulled out the map of New York and its surrounding boroughs that he’d managed to appropriate from the tourist information centre inside the terminal. He tried to judge just how far from the city Westchester was. It was a fair distance, he guessed about fifty miles. He sighed as he realised he really hadn’t thought this through. His departure had been very much a spur of the moment thing. He had quite literally bolted in the middle of the night.

No, he told himself. He wasn’t going to give in to despair now. He’d survived eight months of torture, found his way home from Finland, managed to journey all the way from that same home to New York City.

What was another fifty miles in comparison to all that?




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