Prologue - not so distant past - somewhere in the Australian Outback
Long before I hear his approach, the wind carries the smell of him. Him, and the blood of his prey. He’s a rogue. A killer. So am I. And tonight, the need is on both of us.
From his perch in a tree, Wolverine leaps at the warthog that is running through the forest. When he gets there, it doesn’t take long for Wolverine to shred him to pieces. As Wolverine gnaws at the flesh, he is taken back in time. Back to the time when he faced Lord Shingen, head of the Clan Yashida, father of the woman he loves. He remembers that it took him two battles to prove himself against him. He didn’t survive the second, yet still he can laugh in his memories of the first. Lord Shingen took him out and then mocked him in front of Mariko. Telling her to behold the man that she loves is no man at all; he’s an animal.
As Wolverine wallows about in his kill, rain suddenly starts to come down. The same rain that does what Wolverine can’t do for himself. It washes, cleans the stains of his kill. Rain... in the Australian Outback this time of year? Wolverine looks up to see Storm standing on a rock above him. Wolverine asks her if she saw? This was nothing for her or any of the others!
Storm replies that they are all X-Men, they all have mutant abilities. His include the instincts of a creature of the wild and they have saved them many times. How could they not accept them? They accept that he is more than his wild side, better. That too has been proven many times. Wolverine responds that they animals always there, and needs out on occasion. Stuff like tonight’s hunt is usually how it starts. The X-Men are family to him; he can’t parade the animal in front of his family. It’s best to head where he can let out the leash, to allow the beast to run a little.
Storm and Wolverine continue their conversation as they make their way through the Australian Outback. Storm questions as to what do they do if they need him. Wolverine responds that Psylocke can fix him and, with Gateway around, he’s never really that far. When they get to Gateway, Wolverine says to him that it’s another of those trips, but he knew that didn’t he. They’ll never know how much the silent old Aborigine knows. The only thing they do know is that when he whirls that bullroarer of his, it’s there. Call it an inter-dimensional portal. Call it a mystic portal, somehow he creates it, the X-Men all use it. Makes coming and going from their secret base real convenient. The only problem may be what happens in between. With that Wolverine says his goodbyes to Storm and enters Gateway’s portal.
Present day - Madripoor
Wolverine, in his Madripoor disguise of Patch, comes flying out of the Princess Bar window, past the shocked onlookers. Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home. At least not what any proper upstanding citizen would want to call home. Maybe that’s its appeal...
Wolverine crashes into a cart on the street. Standing in the busted window of the Princess Bar stands Roughhouse. He is calling out to Wolverine to come back; he’s barely started. He’s going to rip his bones out, pound him to bits with them and then feed what’s left to the neighborhood cats and dogs!! As Wolverine brushes himself off and removes his jacket, he thinks to himself that maybe the appeal of Madripoor is it’s friendly natives.
Wolverine pounces at Roughhouse and delivers a punch to his face. As he does Wolverine points out that while Roughhouse was outlining his game plan and, giving him time to shrug off his coat, he must have gotten soft in his absence. Roughhouse is about as soft as a mountain, a big mean mountain, one with a counter-punch. Roughhouse delivers a straight right hand to Wolverine’s kisser. Then comes the left hand. It makes the animal rage inside Wolverine, makes him want to use the claws. He resists though, this is what it is all about, being pushed to the edge, staring into the abyss and finding it in you not to go over.
Wolverine strikes back with two fists to Roughhouse’s chin, knocking him backwards. He then launches himself into Roughhouse. Roughhouse is Wolverine’s favorite sparring partner – he can go all out without going berserk. There’s no underestimating the big bruiser either. He sure can take a punch or anything else he can throw at him. Longer than most anyhow. Wolverine then knocks him through the wall of the Princess Bar, knocking Roughhouse out cold.
Patch comes back into the Princess Bar to the sounds of applause. Everybody loves a winner, especially when they’ve bet on him and in Madripoor’s Lowtown, a lot of locals back him. Since word’s not out that he’s Wolverine, except for a few close friends, complete with a mutant healing factor and an indestructible adamantium skeleton, they even get reasonable odds. You’d think that Roughhouse’s boss would learn not to offer those type of odds.
General Nguyen Ngoc Coy, late of the South Vietnamese army and now one of Madripoor’s two crimelords. General Coy makes his way through the crowd with the assistance of his bodyguard, Bloodscream. If General Coy has scruples, Wolverine notes, he doesn’t store them on this island. For honor among thieves, the class act is the competition - Tyger Tiger. Tyger hands a roll of paper over to O’Donnell, his lease has been renewed. O’Donnell accepts it and congratulates her on getting Coy to gamble the lease he shaded her out of on the fight that just occurred. Wheeling and dealing never stops at the Princess Bar, that must be the reason that Wolverine/Patch brought half interest from O’Donnell for the action. That and the good company if you watch your wallet.
On another side of the bar, Archie Corrigan collects his money from a Senator. He informs the Senator that his guided tour of the city’s seamy side comes free with chartering his plane, side-bets are an another matter. As Patch and Tyger leave arm in arm with beers in hand so they can continue the celebration, the Senator is shocked that such a small man can defeat such a giant. Archie explains to him that the magic of Madripoor that nothing is quite as it seems. Everybody loves a winner, but losing??? Archie Corrigan, owner and sole employee of South Sea Airways will tell you, it’s one thing this town doesn’t forgive.
As Roughhouse lays unconscious, three individuals stand over him. General Coy asks the stranger if he is still interested. The stranger indicates that after tonight’s entertainment he still is. After all, he didn’t bet on him. General Coy then informs the stranger that Roughhouse served him long and well as his enforcer. However, despite recent disappointments, he cannot insult such loyalty by accepting less than his original offer. The stranger agrees, he never haggles. Besides, business dealings should be like a good clean shave, clean and smooth. With that, the stranger extends his hand, exposing the metal on his arm, with a large sum of money to the general. The deal has been completed.
At the royal palace, Captain Tai and the Prince of Madripoor, Prince Baran, are just finishing up dinner. Tai applauds the dinner they just had, the flow of one course to another, artistry. The prince responds to the acknowledgements, Tai’s sensitivity to such nuances is what makes him an excellent chief of police. He, the prince, strives for similar artistry in the flow of events on their charming island. Still, disruptions occur. Take the recent seizure made by Tai’s men at customs.
Tai expands on what his men found. The imports were for General Coy. They were from Central America. An embarrassing matter, hidden in them were quantities of cocaine. Doubly embarrassing was the fact that the plot was publicly uncovered by the man known locally as Patch. He has a useful nose for this sort of thing. Tai continues, speculation now abounds that with this new drug source, the general looks to make crack his latest inroad into the purses of Madripoor. The prince responds by indicating that his country thrives on a wicked reputation. However, he knows the difference between tolerating a vice, and unleashing a plague.
In the flow of events that the prince envisions, Coy’s imports would return to their point of origin. Tai thanks the Prince. It is very reassuring thought, considering his force is stretched quite thin. Lapses in security are inevitable. During such times, anything might vanish from custody.
Once Captain Tai leaves, the Prince asks the stranger who was hiding out on the balcony if he was able to observe enough from his hiding and if he, as well, is reassured. The stranger responds that it’s intriguing. The prince’s police chief, beneath the circumspection, the air of corruption, may well lurk a dedicated, even honest man. The prince shoots back that Tai is a man who honestly understands the limits of his position in Madripoor, unlike his associate!! General Coy crossed a line with this business. He violated the balance of power, of vices and virtue, the prince carefully maintains.
The aged and wrinkle-faced stranger replies that his shipment to Coy was definitely a mistake, for which his employer has agreed to pay quite handsomely. He then opens up a briefcase, chock full of money. The stranger continues. With the return of the confiscated material, he can guarantee that its like will never come to Madripoor again. The prince takes the case away from the stranger and indicates to him that they have nothing more to discuss. The stranger agrees.
He then points out that, while the prince has a concern for balance of power, perhaps he will permit an observation from one who has seen power lost and power gained over the years. If ever there was a natural-born balance-tripper on the job, he is already at work in your principality. When the prince asks what he means, the stranger, with a click of his heels together, replies that of course he means the man Patch. He then bids the prince a good evening, leaving him with a look of concern on his face.
On a rooftop balcony somewhere in Madripoor, Wolverine is enjoying the early morning sun. It’s a good morning. Quiet, city’s not awake yet. Air’s still clean. Heavy with the smell of the sea, tinged with scents of the jungle. At dawn, a man could almost believe Madripoor isn’t really Gomorrah on the Pacific rim unless, like most of Lowtown, that man was helping Tyger and me with last night’s victory celebration downstairs in the Princess Bar.
Wolverine looks over at Tyger, who, wrapped in nothing but the bed sheets and wearing Wolverine’s eye-patch, is content and sleeping the morning away. Wolverine tells her to sleep well. She’s got a world-class hangover to face. She’ll be wishing for his healing factor instead of that patch.
That thing, he muses. The patch. Fun in the beginning. New identity. New look. New part of his life. Like Tyger, most who know him aren’t deceived... just willing not to question as long as he obviously wants it that way. Otherwise, he guesses it helps maintain the secrecy... their illusion that Wolverine and the X-Men are dead. By maybe what it really helps is him... to fool himself. He started in Madripoor taking the role of Tyger’s conscience. Is that what he was doing last night? Or does being Patch allow him to give the animal such a long leash... He needs someone to play conscience for him? He tried to be a samurai for Mariko – what’s Patch tried?
At that same time, Wolverine catches a whiff of something. It’s distinct, despite the exhaust fumes, and machinery oil from the street below. It’s cocaine!! Wolverine notices that the truck is carrying the same cocaine he helped uncover yesterday. As he leaps from rooftop to rooftop, he wonders where and why?? He also realizes that if this was Hightown, all modern skyscrapers, and smooth glass towers. He’d have to stay on his balcony and wonder. But Lowtown in old, a sprawling maze of narrow streets and connecting rooftops. The only problem with this workout is that it’s cutting seriously into his self-agonizing.
He thinks to himself that he was lucky to sniff out General Coy’s load of junk so soon after Gateway got him to Madripoor. Should’ve known that, in Madripoor, nothing is ever that simple. He follows them all the way down to the docks. Local muscle, bush league freelancers are handling this. That’s not like Coy to let others handle anything of he... He stops short when he notices Roughhouse being tossed from the back of the truck. He is bound and blindfolded.
A strange man exits the truck and requests that they take some care with their burden. He wishes the gentleman just as undamaged as the crates even if he cost somewhat less. He then gives the men their pay, plus a bonus for their swift service. However, there is a deduction for their clumsiness with his purchase. He never haggles or rewards ineptitude. When he turns to leave, Wolverine notices from his perch that there was a glint of something as he turned... metal collar??? At that point, the stranger orders the men that they need to move swiftly before they lose the cover of the morning mists. Now that he is gone, Wolverine is left with more questions and no answers.
On the boat, the stranger begins to tell a tale. The best way to explain is perhaps the incident that occurred in New York – Hell’s Kitchen.
The armored door of one of those tenements – turned illicit fortresses called a crack house proved no restraint to a certain customer. Hammer Cody, a once promising heavyweight, reduced to fighting for his next fix. This day he won the biggest fight of his life... and left the dealers who gave it to him dead. The price? Multiple gunshots and stab wounds… as well as his sanity. None of which slowed the rampage that followed. In fact, it seemed nothing could. Until Daredevil showed up out of nowhere.
Daredevil asked Hammer if he was on PCP or maybe some new designer drug new to the street He also realized that reasoning is a waste of breath. Best he can offer is to take him down fast. This day, however, Daredevil’s bravado is somewhat misplaced. Hammer takes him down with a tackle. Daredevil is able to dodge Hammer’s punch and delivers one of his own. Hammer responds with a backhand shot to Daredevil’s face. When he goes to follow up and finish the job, Daredevil is able to leap behind him and use his billyclub to choke him out. Though battered, Daredevil stood over the fallen man.
Still, intense... like one listening for a sound others cannot hear. Then, sirens filled the air. As the police arrive, Daredevil heads towards them. Just then, Hammer leaps to his feet and cracks Daredevil in the back of his head with both of his fists clenched together. He then stomped on Daredevil’s head. The police order him to stop where he is shot down with numerous gunshots to his chest area. What was possible from such a confrontation would never be learned.
The police inform Daredevil that Hammer is dead. That is what Daredevil knew. What he didn’t know was why. An answer denied Daredevil. Disposition of Hammer Cody’s body and the drugs which fueled him became part of a complicated jurisdictional dispute between numerous local and federal law agencies and ultimately... disappeared. Into their hands, happily. Less happily, something was all too obvious... fate’s a monumental gift to us still had some bugs to be worked out.
In the bowels of the ship, the stranger continues. Working out the bugs, following through, was always his specialty. It’s one of the reasons he’s survived as long as he has. Naturally, modern science, the wonders of cybernetics has had a bit to do with his survival as well. The stranger is an old man, his body covered in metal for the most part.
In a corner of the room, Roughhouse is strapped down so that he cannot move. He yells at the stranger that he doesn’t care much about surviving or he would never have done that to him! If he ever gets loose, him and that fancy tin suit are gonna look like a beer can run over by a road grader! The stranger responds to Roughhouse’s threats. He understands that he has not yet reconciled to his business arrangement with General Coy. Roughhouse asks what business arrangement he is talking about? He’s the best enforcer to ever hit the South Pacific; the meanest, toughest muscle to be found. There’s no way he can be bought and sold like some coolie slave! He then calls the stranger pruneface.
The stranger reveals his name - it is Geist. He is reluctant to accept name-calling from anyone who would style himself Roughhouse. He then points out that he is full of amusing contradictions. General Coy’s enterprises include a very active slave traffic. Roughhouse participated but now he resents being treated the same? Yet a slave he is, Coy and him know that Roughhouse helps himself from time to time with Coy’s drugs. He may think it is recreational, part of a large man’s appetite. It is beyond that. He will see how far beyond with an experiment. It involves the same batch of cocaine he told him about. Shipments of which they’ve gone to ridiculous lengths to reclaim.
Roughhouse asks about Cody... Geist then removes his one hand and replaces it with a long sharp blade. He informs Roughhouse that there is a reason to believe he will fare better as a test subject. Before the experiment begins, certain adjustments are necessary. He then holds the blade up to Roughhouse’s nose.
Climbing up the chain attached to the boat, Wolverine in his brown and tan costume is starting to notice that there are complications. This boat is obviously a U.S. Navy vessel. Who smuggles cocaine on an American warship and what do they need with Roughhouse? Some part of him, maybe the part that would be samurai instead of animal – has to know. Sure, he’s an enemy, but one who’s fought him well. It’s earned him something, if only so they can fight again someday. Except that day may not come because of a sound in the air, one he’s never heard before - the sound of Roughhouse screaming!