Rahne wandered fearfully and hopelessly through the city like a small red-haired zombie.
They all think I'm a baby. And now, after leaving them in the heat of battle, they must think I'm the worst sort of traitor. The Sentinels may have killed them, for all I know! I feel like such a coward, but I couldn't stay. I am so tired of fighting all the time, so tired of the entire way of life. Oh, Lord, forgive me for walking out on them. I don't even know where I'm going or what to do once I get there. Please, Father ... give me a sign of your approval. I'm so scared of this city, and of all these new feelings in my heart.
She was cold, hungry, sad, confused, and as lonely as a person could be. She was also lost, and didn't know if she really wanted to be found.
Finally she saw a sign that got her attention, and went inside the building with a vague hope for warming her body and her soul.
Professor Charles Xavier looked across his desk with eyes that spoke of sleepless exasperation. He was faced with a situation he had never planned for, and was clearly at the end of his rope. The man in his office had been his student and comrade for years, but he had not seen Xavier this distraught many times.
"I have led students across the country, the world, the universe ... I have seen them graduate, quit, or even die ... but I have never had a runaway before," said the Professor. "Two students left while Magneto ran the school, but they returned before I ever knew about it.
"I had to notify her foster mother, Moira MacTaggert. She is QUITE DISTURBED. She asked -- or rather, demanded that we find her. If we fail to recover her, Moira will sever all ties to this institution — and to me — and will seek legal action against us. I telepathically verified that she is dead serious about that.
"With Cerebro damaged in the Sentinel attack, we are searching for a needle in a haystack. Needless to say, we cannot notify the authorities.
"Rahne is quite powerful, but she is a very sensitive girl, and vulnerable to innumerable dangers. I fear it may already be too late. Whoever controls the Sentinels now may chase her down, for all we know. One thing we can be sure of is that eventually, the inoculation will wear off and she will become a mutate again.
"I know how many times I have urged you to restrain yourself. I know we have disagreed many times on how to approach delicate situations. I have always asked of you to be more of a thinker and less of a killer.
"What I'm trying to say, though it pains me to say it, is ... find her, regardless of the cost. Do whatever you have to do, just bring her back to us. I pray I won't regret this more than I already do."
Wolverine nodded his head in understanding.
Rahne did not find warmth in the church.
Actually, it wasn't a church, but an evangelistic crusade meeting on the top floor of the building. "Welcome, People of God," the sign read. "Meeting every day this week. Come in for Bible study and refreshments."
She found herself caught in the middle of a roomful of angry people being roused into a loud furious protest against 'the mutant menace'. The preacher told them what they wanted to hear, and played on their fears to join them as a group. To make things worse, he claimed to be a faith healer, and performed a few miracles that were fairly convincing.
"Mutants," he exclaimed, "are the spawn of Satan and are here on earth only to steal, kill, and destroy. They admit they ain't even human! I say, if a mutie comes ‘round my house, he better be bulletproof cos I ain't breakin' any commandment by killin' something that ain't even human!"
Rahne was frantic to leave, but the crowd was too thick and too raucous. The preacher said that they should all vote to pass mutant restriction laws, and to report all mutants to the authorities. He told them that all mutants were killers and should be hunted down and shot. He had them willing to give their money or their lives for his cause.
"Behold I send you out as sheep among the wolves!"
This made Rahne panic. She pushed her way out from the crowd and searched madly for the exit. The room resounded with the voices of hundreds shouting "DIE MUTIE DIE! DIE MUTIE DIE!"
She saw a window and dashed to it. Her thoughts were incomprehensible as she leapt through the glass and plunged helplessly down from twenty stories up.
Wolverine surveyed his surroundings and paused in the shadows for a smoke.
I just love these side jobs. Goin' solo is just what I need right now, and cuttin' loose to find this girl should be a welcome release from the straight-laced gig. Guts are healin' up pretty good now, so it shouldn't be a problem.
Charley sure is scared, though. Never seen 'im so eager for me to be aggressive- usually the other way around.
Her scent is so easy to follow. Innocence stands out like a sore thumb these days. By the time I was her age, I'd killed. I'd maimed. I'd cussed, smoked, drank, and screwed like there was no tomorrow. I don't even remember innocence. Guess to somebody like her, I got one foot in hell already. Shit, she's probably right. Only if there is a hell - and a God to send me there - I won't go alone.
Wolverine put out his cigar and slinked on through the night, anticipating whatever the trail would lead him to.
A church. Figures. The girl freaked, took off without any direction or company, got lost downtown, and entered the first building that she could identify with.
He entered the building and took the elevator up to the appropriate floor.
Damn if I can identify with any of this. Except maybe that cross. Been crucified myself once, and I'd just as soon take a mean shot to the gut as to even look at one of those things now. If that means avoiding the man nailed to it also, so be it. Thanks but no thanks.
So help me, I just don't understand the appeal religion has on people. I've sniffed this place out and peeked at some of the literature lying around, and one thing I know for sure: the Preacher here is a fake and a con man. The people who were here half an hour ago were all ripped off bigger than shit. He probably doesn't even really hate mutants- or believe that book he preaches from. Even I can tell he's twisted the words around.
From out of a room in the back, the preacher came strolling. He whistled while counting his money. It had been a great night.
The girl jumping through the glass was an excellent touch! Who would have guessed there would be a real mutant in the sanctuary? Either my luck has really improved, or there really is a God and he's mighty happy with me!
"You have been a naughty boy, Reverend," Wolverine said from the shadows.
"Who's there? How did you get in here?" The preacher almost dropped his money, he was so startled.
"I can get into any place you go, Rev."
"Where are you? I'll call the police if you don't come out! Who are you?"
"The devil," said Wolverine as he rose up from behind the altar. "And you ain't calling anybody, Rev. Not today." Only his silhouette and eyes were illuminated as he hovered over the altar and started to make his way toward the preacher.
"What do you want? This money? Take it! Take it all!" The preacher was almost paralyzed with fear at the apparition coming slowly at him.
"Don't want your dough, Rev. I want answers. A red haired teenage girl was here tonight. This is where her trail ends." He popped out the claws on his right hand, and the razor sharp edges of the blades reflected in the preacher's eyes. "Tell me what happened."
"I don't know what you're talking about! Stay away from me! I warn you, I will call on God's power to strike you down!"
"Bullshit," said Wolverine as he grasped the man by his shirt, "your only power is lies, and I ain't buyin'. Her trail ends at the broken window. There's no body or blood on the street below. Don't make me say it again, bub- what happened?"
"She got scared or something," yelped the preacher. He was terrified. "Maybe she committed suicide, I don't know! She crashed through and fell! How do I know why there's no body?"
Wolverine kicked the man firmly in the stomach, sending him flying back. He hated being lied to, and was not going to tolerate it tonight from this man.
"Bub, while you're catching your breath, I want you to watch something. This is healing - this is power." Wolverine brought his claws slashing through his left forearm, sending blood spurting out from three parallel wounds. Before their eyes, in less than a minute, the wounds closed and vanished, as though they never were.
"I ain't afraid of man or beast or God himself," said Wolverine as he retracted his claws and approached the preacher. He put his fist beneath the preacher's chin. "How about you? Tell me all you know, RIGHT NOW, or we will see if you recover as fast."
The preacher talked. He told Wolverine about how he and several others rushed to the window to see what would happen to the girl, and how they all saw what appeared to be an enormous robot flying through the air. He told him how it caught the girl in one hand and flew off into the night. He told him how he used that spectacle to inspire even more ire in his followers, telling them that she must have been a mutant spy and that she was rescued by one of her evil accomplices. He made a lot of money that night from donations to his "God-Fearing Anti-Mutant Crusade."
Wolverine knew he would have serious trouble finding Rahne now, if she were even alive. He did have an advantage, however. It seemed whoever sent the Sentinels to attack the X-mansion was specifically looking for Rahne. He had two good leads on who might have control of the Sentinels. He hoped it wasn't the Federal Government.
"I'm leaving now, bub. But don't think I've decided to let you live. Ya got twenty-four hours to change careers and get the hell outta this town. Or I'll be back."
He left the preacher lying on the floor and headed for the Hellfire Club.
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