I hate this, thought Rahne as she hurled her body from one side of the X-men's Danger Room to the other, shifting from wolf form to human and back to her transitional form for a safer landing. She had been battling training droids all afternoon, with no break and no slowing down. She didn't really hate the Danger Room, or training, or sweat pouring from her and blinding her eyes. She had worked hard and used her muscles since she was potty trained. Since coming to America and studying at Xavier's, she had learned more about her powers and had fought powerful enemies much stronger and more experienced than she. What was bringing her close to tears was the way her trainers were treating her.
"Attack! Faster! What are you waiting for?" Cable snarled from the control booth. He was pushing the young mutant to her physical limits and provoking her emotionally all the while with language that would make a Marine drill instructor blush.
"Get your furry ass up and turn around! Do you wanna freakin' die? Get ‘em in the neck!" It was unusual for a solo training session to not be regulated by Professor Xavier or Storm. They would have curbed Cable's tongue by now, and perhaps reminded him that his trainee was a girl barely old enough to drive – not a crusty old war veteran, though she had faced deadly situations many times. Much had changed for the X-men and their related teams since her foster mother, Moira MacTaggert, first took her to them. Wars had been fought. People had died. The institute had gradually changed from a place where mutants learned how to use their powers to a training ground for fatal battles. The world was not warm to mutants, and following Xavier's dream was no safe way to live anymore.
Cable was acting way out of character with her today—very harshly, by anyone's standards. He was feeling the pressures of turning students into soldiers. If he couldn't get them to realize what a deadly future lay in store for them, they would not be ready for it.
To make matters worse, Wolverine was also in the control booth programming the droids' attacks. By Rahne's observations he was a man without mercy. She did not know much about him except what was whispered among her classmates. Killer. Ninja. Government assassin. Undefeatable, inescapable. One person you never want for an enemy. She was sure he would stop at nothing to test her combat abilities to the fullest.
She was becoming exhausted. She shifted to her human form to avoid an enemy's projectile, then rolled, shifted to transitional form and sprang upon the droid, pinning it to the floor. Too tired and stressed to rip out the deactivator in its throat, she hesitated and was promptly punched firmly in the stomach. The hit flung her body up and backward, knocking the wind out of her. She struck the floor with the back of her head first, sending instant pain through her neck and shoulders. She lay there trying to catch her breath and fighting back tears as Cable chewed her out.
"Dead. Dead as a doornail, Wolfsbane. That's what you'd be right now if this were the real thing. You barely lasted three hours. Is that all you want to be worth to your team? Three hours?"
Why are they being so cruel to me, she thought as she tried to get air into her lungs. Cable had not been the leader of the New Mutants for long, and she had gotten along with him just fine. He was a hard man, she knew, but not a bad man. He had proven himself to be honest and diligent, a respectable man. He did have a rough edge on him, but he had not been anything but kind to her before now. Why are they singling me out?
"I need ... t' stop ... now," she finally got out.
"On your feet, Rahne," Cable replied. "We ain't done here."
"Don't ye think I've had enough," she panted.
"Enough?" Cable shook his head in disapproval. Wolverine looked away as if he was bored with the whole operation. "Yeah, I'd say you've had enough. Too much, even. But Magneto, Stryfe, or the Hellfire Club wouldn't give a damn. They will keep on coming, NOW GET UP."
"What d' ye want from me?" The words came out before she knew what she was saying. "How many droids must I fight b'fore it satisfies ye?"
"I thought I made that clear, Rahne. This exercise is meant to measure your incapacitating speed. We wanna see how quickly you can eliminate multiple enemies."
"But I've beaten so many ... "
"Don't beat them, Rahne, KILL them. That's what the throat deactivators are for. You have torn their arms and legs off, disabled them, but you haven't made a single quick kill the whole time we've been at it! You're only tired because you've been playing around with them."
Rahne thought of all the times she had fought and beaten enemies in the past. She had never killed anyone, and she always made it home okay. Sometimes her temper made her think of killing, but she never actually considered it. She had not been in any situation where killing an enemy would be any less than murder to her, and that was a sin so great that she had no desire whatsoever to learn how best to perform it.
"I was never told that coming to Xavier's would mean I would have to become a murderer."
Cable shut off the sound in the control booth so that Rahne could not hear him as he looked away and shouted obscenities at the wall. His face was red with frustration.
"Are you still talking? Were you even awake while we were in Genosha? The world has changed, girl, and ya can't just knock ‘em down and drive home anymore. You can't pussyfoot around when there's a gun pointing at you—ya gotta kill fast if ya wanna live to tell about it!"
Rahne looked past the throbbing of her head, neck, and shoulders, and contemplated what her team leader had just said. The comment about Genosha cut her deeply, because of what had happened to her there. The only reason she could even shift into human form without reverting to a mindless mutate was because of a temporary inoculation made by Xavier and her foster mother, Moira MacTaggert. The drug was meant to reverse the entire mutate process, and they had hoped to help the Genoshans with it. She had no idea how long it would last; maybe two weeks but not more than two months. A second dosage would be fatal. She would have to return to Genosha with the bad news, but for the meantime it was nice to be free to use her human form. To waste this precious time fighting was not a priority to her at all. She did not want to imagine Moira having to look at her as a wolf girl for the rest of her life. There were some things worse than death, and that was something she understood more than all of her peers and instructors. To kill an evil enemy would be to send them to hell, and that was a pressure Rahne did not want to face. She responded with her true feelings.
"An' what if I'd rather not live t' tell about it?"
Cable and Wolverine froze, then exchanged puzzled glances.
"What did you just ask me, Rahne? What are you trying to say?" Cable looked very unpleased. Rahne could tell that this was not the time or place for such discussion, as far as Cable was concerned. She knew she must look pretty pathetic in his eyes, like the kid who pleads with his coach not to make him play. This only made her hate the situation more, and fed her temper. She certainly didn't mean to cross him, but in this case she had to follow her heart. She had trained to fight since day one at Xavier's, and that seemed fine to her as long as it was for a good cause and she wasn't asked to use her powers for evil. It did not seem right at all for someone to tell her she had no choice but to practice killing.
"Ye act as if I have no choice in the matter. Ye can lead me into battle, give commands on how to attack, but the choice t' kill or not kill is mine alone! Killin' is a horrible ... "
"What the HELL do YOU know about killin'?!? If I had a moral dilemma every time I fought, I wouldn't have seen my thirteenth birthday! Don't you freaking lecture me on the horror of death, girl! If you wanna be a part of MY team, you ... " This time it was Wolverine who cut the sound. Wolfsbane rubbed her aching head and prayed for guidance and patience while she watched them. It appeared that Wolverine was very likely telling Cable to watch his mouth! This surprised her, as she had heard Wolverine use the same words many times. Then they seemed to agree on something – an idea perhaps.
Wolverine put out his cigar. "We're coming down," said Cable. He looked very serious. Rahne wondered if she was about to be kicked off the team, and the thought made her heart sink.
Cable and Wolverine walked onto the Danger Room floor, securing the control room door so that no one could come in, not even to observe from a safe place. She had only seen this done twice before, for secret meetings held by the Professor. She knew something bad was about to happen.
The two powerful warriors approached Rahne. Cable spoke first. "Rahney, listen to me a minute. I know you're a very religious person, and you wanna be at peace with everybody if you can. But there are times when you will find yourself faced with an enemy that can only be stopped by killing them. I'm not telling you to go out and kill the next person that pushes you around ... " This brought some peace to Rahne. Then Wolverine spoke.
"He's tellin' ya to kill me," he said.
This, thought Rahne, is a very bad joke.
"He's serious," said Cable. "Logan, I'll let you handle this from here."
Wolverine looked deep into her eyes and understood that she had never heard his real name before. "That's right, you can call me Logan. There's a lot we don't know about each other, but that's fine. It'll always be that way. But you need to trust me for right now. The lesson you are about to receive is the most valuable one you'll get here. I have only given this lesson to a handful of people, but they all thanked me for it."
Rahne was confused, frightened, and still considerably angry. But she kept listening as Logan spoke calmly to her.
"You prob'ly already know about my healing factor." Rahne nodded. "Good. Fact is, it takes an awful lot to kill me. More than you can imagine. I don't think I can bleed to death. So that makes me the ideal practice dummy."
Rahne started to speak, but once again Logan seemed to know what she was about to say. "I won't fight you. This time it's not about speed or strength. It's about whether or not you can make yourself do it. I'm gonna stand right here and not move, and you are gonna RIP OUT MY THROAT. Nobody's here but us an' Cable. I'll heal in a matter of days - I'll tell everybody I got sloppy in the Danger Room. Once you do this, the real thing'll be a lot easier."
"Ye don't understand," she shouted in protest. "I don't WANT to do such a thing! Maybe later- I don't know- I'm not ready- I ... "
"NOW, Wolfsbane. Now or never. I don't make this sacrifice for just anybody."
She had had all she could take. For a split second, she thought maybe the easy way out of this is to just do it and worry about her feelings later. Cable would be off her back, and maybe she would not have to be around this awful, scary Logan for a while. Do it, the voice said. Do it and go cry in your room ... and pray for forgiveness.
In one instant she was in transitional form. She leaped upon Logan -much to his surprise- and her claws sank deep into his abdomen. Logan, defending his throat, did not even see it coming. Her arm went into his flesh and upward in a second, threatening Logan's very heart.
"IF I WANTED TO KILL YE NOW, I COULD. I DON'T! I AM NOT LIKE YOU, I'LL NEVER BE LIKE YOU!"
Rahne tore her hand out of Logan and ran toward the exit. Logan slumped onto the floor silently, pale as a ghost and splattered with blood. Cable, the very picture of surprise, helped him lie down. Neither man had expected this.
She slammed her fist onto the Panic Button, the only means of shutting down the Danger Room while a session was in progress. The exit slid open and immediately the entire building resonated with the Panic Button's alarm, signaling everyone in the school that she had just failed the session. She didn't care about that, and she knew they'd never know what was going on in there unless she told them. She ran cryingto her room, where she would stay until the following day.
Cable tried to apply direct pressure to Logan's wound. "We can't tell anybody she did this, you know. They wouldn't understand. So do we say you had trouble with a droid, or that we were fighting and I got a little too rough?"
Logan was motionless. He strained to speak to Cable. "Bub ... if you go ‘round ... saying you did this to me ... I'll kick your ass."
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