Into the Heart of Darkness
Shinigami snorted as Sinister chuckled over the small vial he handed him before adding it to a small tray of similar ones inside a small cooling unit.
" You've done well, my boy," Sinister said, red eyes gleaming. " I am impressed indeed."
Shinigami acknowledged the praise with a curt nod. He felt itchy, eager to move, to do something. The attack on the woman had filled a craving inside of him, like a battle on some small scale within himself had been won. He liked that feeling - the feeling of rightness, the feeling of satisfaction for doing something correctly. On one level, he wondered whether or not he should feel so happy about doing such a thing to a woman but he brushed it off as a momentary lapse. Women were not as weak as society liked to portray them. He had a brief mental image of a woman with short blue-black hair with a gun next to a woman with blond hair that curled at the sides. Blinking, he frowned - where had THAT come from? He shrugged. Sinister noticed his twitching and tapped a key on the panel thoughtfully.
" It's not enough, is it?" he said, the low dark tones sending a shiver down Duo's back. " You feel the need to fight. To hunt. To go to war. It's inside you - a part of you. Can you feel it?"
Shinigami closed his eyes at the words the dark man spoke, and subconsciously, his fingers tightened around the metal scythe he still held in his hands.
" Good," Sinister said, turning back to the screen. " Because I have another mission for you. Soon. One that will suit you much more then the last. Be ready."
Shinigami nodded briefly and then exited the room. Forearm and Harpoon exchanged looks.
" What's up Boss?" Harpoon asked curiously. " We goin' wih the kid?"
" No," Sinister replied flatly. " It's time for me to make the first move in this little game."
Harpoon shrugged and Forearm looked bored. Sinister chuckled.
It was simple really. If there was one thing that that was sure to draw the X-Men out, it was the murder of innocent mutants. The murder of humans would have the government up in arms and Sinister really didn't want to have to contend with the combined forces of the Avengers AND X-Factor at this juncture - both teams which would be utilized to bring him to justice if he attacked the human populace. No. The trick was to draw out his specific enemy. His Shinigami was the key to his retrieval of backup information, sir Beast was sure to have in that wonderfully protected mansion of theirs. And they would bargain. Oh yes. Of that there was no question - they would give him the information he so desperately wanted and in return, he would give them the boy. But.....
Sinister flicked another button and a view of a small warehouse opened up on the screen. It was small, cramped, dingy - the perfect breeding ground for less-then-perfect species of the mutant race. Sinister's lips curled in a contemplative sneer.
Street rats. All of them. Mucking up his gene pool - they could not be allowed to grow up and reproduce, further diluting the species. Death would have to pay them a little visit.
He knew his subordinates were curious as to why he was even bothering to use the boy - it wasn't normal behaviour from their boss. Sinister snorted.
" They couldn't grasp the brilliancy," he murmered thoughtfully as he watched the urchins sleep in huddled piles, the homeless and the deformed crouching together to conserve body heat in the cool night. Some of the mutants were painfully obvious - Sinister sneered at a ragged woman with lupine ears and a black nose. Outcasts. Forever doomed to be on the outside of society because their mutant abilities were too apparent for them to pass as humans. He remembered another such group that had once dwelled beneath the surface in an attempt to hide from human eyes - and he recalled the fate that befelled them.
" I believe such a rousing performance deserves an encore," he laughed coldly, turning off the monitor. Shingami would go and pass HIS judgement on them. And then the fun would begin - the X-Men and the boy's teammates would be desperate to stop the carnage from happening again and then he would win the round. He laughed as he envisioned what would happen with his protege when he was finally reverted to normal.
He had thoroughly scanned the boy's mind, leaving no mental rock unturned. He knew how deeply the boy cared for others - and how he hated his enemies just as deeply. Within Shinigami's mind was a deep-rooted, unbridled hatred for those who took his life, his family, his home, his CHILDHOOD away. The bug merely changed the targets from that OZ organization to whomever Sinister saw fit to send him against. Sinister laughed again.
" Harpoon and Forearm wouldn't understand why I'm not physically torturing the boy," he said, surveying his laboratory with an even satisfaction. The mental agony the boy would go through when he regained his normal mental faculties would be exquiste! Most likely the boy would be broken, driven to self-destruction. Oh yes. Sinister's eyes narrowed in anticipation. Beating Shinigami to a bloody pulp would be satisfying for the short term - but implant or not, he was still a fragile human. Now, mind torture....Sinister threw back his head and laughed harshly, the cruel sounds echoing off the silent sentries standing guard in their glass prisons, the only witnesses to a madman's insanity.
Hank rubbed his eyes wearily as he watched the cab leave with Cecilia. The fiery Latino had assured him she was fine the minute she was conscious and as soon as she'd been able to get up, she had called a cab.
" I know you're worried," she had told him. " But I need to go home - my work doesn't wait for anyone - do you realize how few people will willingly treat sick and injured mutants?"
Even the argument that she'd been through an ordeal hadn't changed her mind. She'd been through enough attacks as an X-men to develop a thick skin about such things - and the added security Cyclops had promised to install in her home later that day was an added bonus. Beast sighed - there were times he truly loved that woman, even when he wanted to shake her soundly for not taking her own health as seriously as she took others.
" She's gone already?"
Hank looked at the brown-haired boy who stood behind him, blue eyes piercing his.
" Cecilia takes her medical career very seriously - too seriously," he grumbled. " Why? Did you need something? I am certain that while not as attractive as the lovely Dr. Reese, I am no less medically inclined to answer your questions."
Heero hesitated. The blue doctor's speech reminded him of Duo's - fast and incoherant. He shook it off. " I wanted to speak to her about Du-Shinigami."
Hank nodded thoughtfully, noticing the slight lapse. " It may not be your friend-"
"It is," Heero cut him off smoothly. " Who else would call themselves Shinigami?"
"Sinister could have sent anyone out and told them to call themselves Shinigami," Beast said. "He does so enjoy playing little mind games."
" It's not a game," Heero said quietly, deadly. " My...Our Duo would never attack an innocent woman."
" Unless he's being controlled."
Heero blinked at that and his eyes narrowed. " But..." his voice trailed off. Hank looked at him sympathetically.
" You may have to face the fact that in the near future, you may have to battle your own comrade."
Heero's eyes blazed at him. " You think I can't handle it? If Duo has become a liability then...he must be eliminated."
That last part was said with such a resigned air that it shook the Beast to the core. He looked at the young man - no, young boy who stood there, calmly discussing his willingness to kill someone who obviously meant a lot to him.
" How can one with a face so young, be so eager to extinguish the life of one he cares about?" he murmered. " You all have the hearts of warriors...but in the end you are only children."
" We were never children," Heero said blankly. " It was not allowed." He bit his lip but then he shrugged and decided to enlighten the furred man.
" We fight in a bloody war that never seems to resolve anything. We are five who were chosen to represent our homes against an overwheling force. All of us were subjected to training, to block out emotions, to be able to kill our enemies who sometimes were not much older then ourselves. We are the best." His tone turned dry. " And we all know the risks of war."
Hank watched the youth struggle with his emotions. " What of the risks to your souls?" he asked softly.
" What soul?" Heero barked with a short laugh. " No soul could do what I have done and be pure. Maybe Quatre has a pure soul, or even Trowa or Wufei. Duo for sure. But not me."
" Then why be so willing to sacrifice your friend."
Heero went silent for a minute, weighing his thoughts with the seriousness of one who had the fate of the world in his hands. Hank began to think he'd never get an answer when Heero's voice spoke up softly, his eyes staring off at an unseen objective.
" I had the chance once before. I hadn't known him long - he was captured and taken to a military base to be 'debriefed'." Heero licked his suddenly dry lips. " I went after him."
" To rescue him?"
" To silence the leak."
A poignant silence fell over them. Hank's sensitive ears vaguely registered the chirping of crickets in the lush grass before them. Heero chuckled softly as he raised his eyes.
" Duo loves the night - he says that crickets are heard more at night because the glow of the moon draws them out and makes them sing its praises."
Hank closed his eyes for a minute and when he opened them, the open look on Heero's face had reverted to its blank mask. He sighed.
" We will get him back," Hank promised solemnly. " Sinister is using him for something - and based on how that madman has acted in the past, we can safely assume that sooner or later he will contact us."
" Before or after he destroys Duo?" Heero asked quietly.
" He doesn't seem to have harmed him yet--"
" I didn't mean his body," Heero cut him off again. Throwing one last glance at the moon, Heero turned and went back into the mansion. Hank watched him leave silently. A low chuckle sounded in the darkness and the Beast whirled around to see Logan materialize by the side of the house.
" You heard, Logan?"
" And yet you laugh."
" 'Cause Sinister's gonna be gettin' more then he bargained for," Logan said as he leaned against the wall, crossing one leg over the over at the ankles. " That kid is mad. And scared. When he blows, it's gonna be all she wrote for whoever's in his way. Including his friend."
Hank stared at him. " Wolverine, that boy just informed me that he intends to kill his best friend if he deems him an enemy. We both know that Duo is merely under Sinister's control - if we can get the boy, we can break the influence."
Logan blew out a column of smoke before raising a single eyebrow in Beast's direction.
" SO?" Beast was nearly in apoplexy. " SO?"
" If the kid's already broken, why the hell would ya break the influence? 'Side's - in that boys mind, there's no room for traitors. It'd get 'em killed in their war."
" Oh, I'm gonna help all I can - been itchin' fer a good fight against tweedledum and dumber," Logan chuckled at his names for Sinister's henchmen. "But I ain't gonna get involved in what's gonna happen between the two of them. If Heero spared the kid's life, it'll be 'cause there's somethin' worth savin'. He may not get the chance to." He shook his head. " What amazes me is that Heero knows it - and accepts it."
Hank shook his head sadly. " What kind of world raises its children to be terrorists?"
" Probably similar to one that raises people to be bigot politicians like Graydon Creed," Logan shrugged, tossing his cigarrette to the ground and stubbing it out with his toe. Hank threw him a wry look at the mention of the anti-mutant activist before going back into the house. Logan looked up at the moon.
" Damn, I'm starting to like that kid."
Jean was in the kitchen fixing herself a cup of tea before joining her husband in their room. Scott had returned from installing the promised added security to Cecilia's home and Jean wanted to ask him how the girl had looked, just for her own peace of mind. The scent of Earl Grey wafted in the air drawing an appreciative sniff from the red-head's observer.
" Would you like some Jubilee?" Jean asked politely, not bothering to turn around. Behind her, the young asian girl laughed lightly before heading towards the fridge.
" You know me better then that Jean - I need some REAL caffiene."
Jubilee found what she was looking for - a case of Coke - and selected one of the red cans. Closing the fridge door, she looked up at her friend. " Nothing better."
" That's bad for you."
" I know." She popped the tab and took a sip. Playing with the can thoughtfully, she smirked. " I guess I have bad timing, huh?"
" Hmmmm?" Jean looked at the girl questioningly. " You're always welcome here Jubilee - you know that."
" Oh I know," she assured her. " I just mean that I seemed to have come during the middle of a hurricane - mind telling me what's going on?"
" I thought you knew."
" I have an idea," Jubilee shrugged, absently flicking a few plasma sparks into the air. " And I met that one guy, Wufei was it?" She grinned. " Not too hard to look at either!"
Jean smiled fondly at the girl she had come to look at in the light of a younger sibling. " I thought you liked Everett?"
Jubilee shrugged. " I can look. 'Sides, Ev seems to be tagging along behind Ms. Monet lately." 
Jean sensed the masked hurt easily, but she knew better then to push Jubilee. The girl was generally easy-going as long as you left her emotions to herself. " You do know that they probably won't be staying long - we are going to get their friend back and then find them a way home."
" Such a shame," Jubilee sighed. " There've been more cute guys in this house in the last two days then in the last several months! Can't we keep one?"
A sudden noise interrupted the two ladies banter and Jean lifted her head, sensing the approach of a familiar person. Jubille was still giggling and sipping her drink at the same time when Wufei appeared in the doorway. Jubilee froze as Wufei raised an eyebrow in her direction before bowing slightly at Jean and then making his way through the room to exit the other side. Jubilee looked at Jean.
" D'ya think he heard me?"
" Cripes." Jubilee set her can down on the counter before looking back up with a twinkle in her eye. " Did I say cute? I meant gorgeous!"
Wufei snorted as he made his way through the house. _Onnas_. He didn't even consider the implications of Jubilee's statements about himself - as Jean had so helpfully pointed out, they would not be staying long. _And the last thing I need is another woman_.
//Especially one that looks so much like Meiran//
Wufei shook his head and headed out to the hangar. Trowa and Quatre were already there, looking over their Gundams habitually.
" Hello Wufei," Quatre said warmly, jumping down from the arm of his Sandrock. " Here to check on Shenlong?"
" Nataku is in perfect condition," Wufei said. " But she thanks you for your concern." He looked around the hangar curiously. " Where is Heero?"
" He be outside," came a smooth voice from the doorway. Quatre and Wufei looked up even as Trowa leaped lightly to the ground.
" Gambit," Wufei inclined his head at the X-Men formally.
" Bonjour Wufei," Remy smiled at him, flashing his teeth. He pulled off his sunglasses and slid them back up on his head, looking at them through red-on-black on eyes. " Quatre. Trowa. Don' you people ever sleep?"
" Hello Remy," Quatre returned the smile hesitantly. He wasn't sure why, but something about the mysterious man gave him the shudders - a feeling of intense pain and sadness lurked about the young man like a cloak, shrouding him in darkness, blocking out the light. Since arriving, Quatre's sensitivity must have increased because he had to work a bit harder to keep everyone's emotions from washing over him completely. _I think I need to speak to Jean again_. " I guess tonight's excitement was a little much - no one feel's like going back to bed now." He shrugged. " It's almost morning anyway."
" T'ought you might like to know dat de Prof might have an idea on finding your friend."
Trowa and Quatre exchanged excited but wary looks.
" Such as?" Wufei asked.
" Le Bete was fiddlin' around with Cerebro yesterday and put some kind of amplifier on it. Prof t'inks it may narrow down de search. Maybe." He shrugged. " But it's somet'ing, non?"
" Not until it delivers results," said Wufei resolutely, refusing to get his hopes up. Trowa and Quatre appeared much the same way. Quatre looked at Remy.
" Is Duo going to be all right?" he asked suddenly, out of the blue. Remy jumped slightly.
" They all said you knew the most about Sinister - and I can feel the pain you keep locked within yourself," the blond pilot said quietly. " I guess I just want to hear someone who's been in that position, tell me it's going to be all right. I mean, YOU made it out, right?"
" Yeah, I did," Gambit said wearily. " And it nearly cost me my soul. I'd never wish what I went t'rough on another person."
" That helped," muttered Trowa.
" Look, I t'ought I knew de score kid!" Gambit snapped at the one-eyed boy. " But dis be a whole new playin' field - if he sent your friend out to attack somebody den all bets are off! He not goin' t' torture Duo - he be trainin' him! He's makin' him out to be one of DEM - a Maurader!"
" This is what you earlier called the worst-case scenario?" Wufei spoke up.
" Yeah," Remy sighed, pushing a lock of hair out of his face. " Ya hurt de body - it can heal. Whatever don' kill ya makes ya stronger and all dat. But tell me dis - if Sinister makes your buddy attack innocent women, or makes him kill someone or anyt'ing along d'ose lines - what's your friend gonna t'ink of himself when he's back in his own mind?"
Quatre gasped in horror and Trowa blanched. Even Wuefi felt his guts turn to ice at the thought of happy-go-lucky Duo realizing he killed someone. An innocent.
" He'd self-destruct," whispered Quatre. " Same as any of us would. Duo would NEVER hurt someone innocent.....would he?" This last bit was said pleadingly. Remy turned away from those big eyes, not wanting to lie to the kid.
" He may not have de choice."
" Don't let Heero know this," Trowa said suddenly. Quatre turned pale at the thought. Remy frowned.
" Why not?"
" Because if Duo does turn out this way, then he'll be considered a liability. Heero would take him out."
" But he's your friend!" Remy gaped at them, for once, shocked completely. " You'd allow this?"
" Not by choice, " Quatre sai quietly, rubbing his arms as if the warmth in the room had been sucked out. Trowa sat next to him, wrapping an arm around him in an effort to help stop the chills wracking his body. " But out of necessity."
" If you'd allow dis to happen, why not tell Heero?" Remy was now shocked AND confused. "Surely he be the most equipped to deal wit' dat kind o' situation?"
" Of course," said Wufei quietly. "He's the Perfect Soldier. But he cares for Duo - a lot."
" We can't let him know that Duo may become the threat you described," added Quatre. " He would do it - but it would kill him inside."
" There would be two of us gone, instead of one." Trowa finished the discussion with finality.
" Merde..." Remy blew his breath out. " You kids are screwed up, ain't ya?"
" You have no idea."
Four heads snapped up to see Heero Yuy standing behind them with a blank expression on his face.
" H-Heero!" Quatre stuttered, jumping to his feet. Trowa eyed the Perfect Soldier warily, wondering how much he'd heard. Heero caught his gaze and he mentally flinched. He'd heard.
" I know the risks Quatre," Heero cut the Arabian off. He felt his stomach clench in on itself and he took a deep breath. " If one is a tra--liability, he must be eliminated." He couldn't call Duo a traitor. The braided American wasn't - he was being controlled by something that turned him against his training, against THEM. Not a traitor, but a liability.
" I will be the one to take Duo down if it comes to that. Do you understand?" Heero glared at all of them in turn, including Remy. Trowa and Quatre nodded. Wufei scrutinzed the Wing Zero pilot coolly.
" What Chang?"
" Nothing," Wufei shrugged. " I just hope that all of this is of course used as a last resort."
" You know me better then that Wufei." Heero seemed to sag for a minute before straightening. Wufei noted this and nodded.
" I do. And I apologize."
" Unnecessary." Heero waved it off and looked at Remy. " You said Beast might have increased the odds of us finding him?"
" You heard ALL dat?" Remy grinned at the boy. " I didn't even detect you - you are good."
" Supposedly PERFECT," the boy bit out. Remy fell silent and even Quatre blinked at this. Heero stared back at the tall man. " When do we start looking?"
" Prof needs to rest his mind - he'll try again tomorrow wit' de modified Cerebro unit."
" Good." Heero turned and left the hangar area. The four looked at each other for a minute before Remy pushed himself away from the wall.
" Well, you boys may not like t' sleep but I do." He yawned. " Gonna catch a few winks 'fore Cyke decided t' ring de mornin' bell." He waved at them as he disappeared into the house. The three remaining boys just sat there silently.
1. Everette and Monet are Jubilee's Generation X team mates. Jube's has had a crush on Ev for a while but lately he's been following Monet around - whom I personally can't stand and put in the same class as Relena - so that's why Jubey's been visiting the X-mansion. Remember - any questions, please email me!