One hour. A relatively short amount of time in the grand scheme of things but to the passengers aboard this customized built aircraft (the Blackbird), it seems an eternity ago. One hour ago, the X-Men had successfully infiltrated the Skrull’s covert sanctuary in the hope of finding their missing teammate Wolverine. What they found instead was Death. These mutants, each born with an extraordinary power or ability that differentiates him from normal man have stared death sternly in the face countless times. As an X-Man, it’s expected, if not desired. But rarely has the image reflected back in their own eyes seemed so familiar.
Storm speaks up and tells her fellow X-Men (Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Marrow, Kitty Pryde, Jean Grey, Gambit and Rogue) that it was Logan. In her heart of hearts, though, she loathes to admit it; she knows there is no doubt. Yet his essence, his soul was not present. Cyclops states that he was there. His eyes may have been cursed with these optic blasts since adolescence, but he’s not blind. It was Wolverine, but it wasn’t. At least not the Wolverine they know. He’s been twisted into a perverse reflection of himself.
Jean asks if it was the Skrulls. Cyclops replies that he doesn’t think so, what would be their motivation. Every move, every revelation to this point has been precisely calculated. Whoever their foe is, he knows the X-Men, their strengths, their weaknesses. Jean questions if he thinks it’s a coincidence that they discovered Logan’s identity when they did. Cyclops states that it was planned. They’re not only being attacked on a physical front, but also on a psychological one. They wanted them to know that Logan’s been lost to them in the hopes of demoralizing them even further. If their emotions interfere, if it causes them a moment’s hesitation in the forthcoming battle, then they’ve already lost the war.
Nightcrawler points out that at least they know he’s alive so that means he can still be saved. They just have to find him. Perhaps the Professor, or even Jean, can pick up some kind of psionic trace of his whereabouts telepathically. Jean informs him sorry, but she has already tried. The moment Logan made his escape, she immediately attempted to trace his projected destination but with no luck. Apparently someone anticipated a person of her capabilities and shielded Logan’s mind against mental probes. She adds that Scott’s right though. Whoever is behind all this certainly knows their capabilities.
Gambit points out that at least they know Wolvie’s alive, but don’t they t’ink they should let everyone else in on t’is li’l bit of information? Jubilee’s probably ‘bout ready t’have a nervous breakdown, they know how chere feels ‘bout the guy. Perhaps a li’l courtesy call might be in order. Rogue agrees and says that Remy’s got a point. Kitty replies that she’s way ahead of her. She’s already got a call in to Banshee and Moira MacTaggert at the mansion.
The Xavier Institute for Higher Learning located in Westchester County, New York. It is a notable address in a prominent community that prides itself in measures of prestige. To some, it is the residence of the world’s foremost expert on mutations, Charles Xavier but known to a select few, it is also home for the mutant outlaw group, the X-Men. In the command center, Kitty informs Banshee and Moira that they are on their way back to the mansion, ETA T-minus 17 minutes. Banshee informs her that the landing bay’s already prepped f’r their arrival. Moira then tells her not to keep them in the dark and asks if the trip was successful. Kitty says yes and no. It’s a bit complicated and she’ll go over all of it with them in more detail upon landing. But they did find something out, Wolverine, Logan, is alive. Upon hearing the news, Banshee and Moira are happy.
Jubilee is a survivor. Always has been, always will be. She first encountered Wolverine more dead than alive as she nursed him back to health in the Australian outback. She saved him, but more than that, finding Wolverine saved her. An orphan with no purpose, no direction, she took to Wolverine’s lifestyle like a moth to a flame. She only hopes that it’s not too late to express her gratitude to him personally. She’ll never forgive herself otherwise. As she sits in a chair by herself, clutching a pillow, Banshee tells her that Logan’s alive. Upon hearing the news, Jubilee gives Banshee a big hug and says that she knew it! She knew Wolverine was too tough to kill, she just knew it!
Charles Xavier initially created the X-Men to pursue his dream. He dared to believe that in time both mutants and mankind could put aside their petty prejudices and hatred and learn to live together in peace. Time has yet to agree with his hypothesis, but the dream still perseveres. Jubilant, the Beast comes to Xavier’s door and tells him that the ebullient Beast doth bring him good tidings of joy and, he might add, it isn’t even the jovial season of Christmas mirth yet. The X-Men are presently approaching their genial little homestead with some superlative news. While they were unable to procure their missing compatriot, they did substantiate that his demise was greatly exaggerated.
Turning around, Xavier informs him that as a matter of fact, he already knew. He then requests that he keep him updated as to any new developments as they occur. Also, if he would, kindly inform Storm and Scott that they should proceed directly to his office upon arrival to brief him in full on all details of their mission. The Beast replies uh, sure and tells him that the Blackbird’s estimated time of arrival is about fifteen minutes. Should he alert him when they arrive? Xavier replies that won’t be necessary and to just do as he requested. That will be all. Looking at a photo of his deceased students, Xavier again says that he promises him that will be all.
Once the Beast leaves, Xavier looks at another photo, this one of his new X-Men. He recalls that so much has changed since that hastily arranged gathering. Some have left, only to return years later. Some, like Thunderbird, perished in the heat of battle. And then there’s Wolverine. Was his ego so blind that he failed to recognize the depths to which this man’s essence, his very soul, had been corrupted and perverted? It wasn’t until their initial encounter with the N’Garai that he realized how naïve he had been in his assumptions when he first saw the rage, the conflict inside the man.
He also glimpsed for perhaps the first time why mankind fears mutants as fervently as they do. This was a man pitched in a constant struggle, not only with his environment, but with his very humanity. When unleashed, he was almost beautiful in the chaotic madness he invoked. Savage, vicious, untamed; his feral side only thinly contained by sheer willpower and a fragile psyche that could collapse at any given moment. As he watched Wolverine’s furious assault upon this child of the N’Garai, he realized what he represented to him.
One of the reasons he initially formed the X-Men was to train mutants in the use of their powers so that they aren’t a danger to themselves or a society that already fears and hates them simply for being different. Wolverine was the embodiment of this thought. By agreeing to join the X-Men, Wolverine was reaching out for help. He knew what he had become and what he had the potential to become. In, him, perhaps he saw a solution, or at least a possibility to change the path he was so recklessly treading. As he sat there, captivated by the frenzied scene unfolding before his eyes, he pledged himself one thing. This man, Wolverine, Logan, he was going to save.
Coming out of his dream world, Xavier remarks ‘and save him he shall.’ Telepathically, Xavier calls Henry McCoy, Beast, to his office at his earliest convenience. Entering Xavier’s office, McCoy tells Xavier that the obsequious Beast is at his service and asks if there was something else he wanted him to pass along to the X-Men upon their arrival. Xavier tells him that actually, he summoned him for a different reason altogether. He wanted to apologize for him stolid demeanor earlier.
Beast informs him that there’s really no need for an apology. They all know how strenuous this has been on him. Xavier replies that this has been a trying time for all concerned and it was tactless of him to speak to him in that manner. Although he appreciates the effort, there is really no need to make his apologies for him. He’s buried more than his share of X-Men over the years. With Wolverine’s supposed death, he had assumed he would have to bury yet another. He has no intention of including Wolverine on that list. They will find Logan and they will bring him back to them. Of that, he has his word.
Elsewhere, on route – Kurt Wagner, the mutant known as Nightcrawler, as much for his appearance as for his mutant ability of teleportation gazes out at the calm serenity of the setting sun. While he does, he thinks of lost friends and makes a silent prayer to a god he desperately hopes is listening.
Sitting down next to him, Kitty Pryde says to Kurt penny for his thoughts as if she couldn’t guess. Kurt tells her that he was just thinking of his first impression of Wolverine – basically rude, crude and socially unacceptable. It’s funny; he always referred to him as the misfit, when in actuality he was more ostracized than any of them. He was withdrawn, not wanting or apparently desiring human contact or relationships when in fact he was crying out for it, he just didn’t know how to do it. He remembers looking out at a sunset very familiar to this one while accompanying Wolverine to the Canadian wilderness.
He was surprised he had invited him along on the journey, as it was a rather personal one and Wolverine had always been such a private man. He wanted to make peace with the members of Alpha Flight, Canada’s own version of the Avengers, whom he had long since abandoned to join the X-Men. Instead, they found themselves battling alongside Alpha Flight in a violent encounter with a mythical creature called the Wendigo. They were able to save a mother and her child from the creature’s hunger but perhaps the most astonishing revelation came when he witnessed the inner complexities of Wolverine for perhaps the first time.
Snowbird, a shape-shifter, had assumed the form of a wolverine in defeating the Wendigo but had been consumed by the animal-persona. Wolverine, with nothing more than words and emotions, was able to reach inside her and coax her humanity back to the surface. It was the most remarkable thing he’d ever seen. Although he counted Wolverine among his closest of friends at the time, his admiration for him increased considerably. Kitty tells him that she had never heard that story before and thanks him for sharing it with her.
Kurt thanks her for listening and tells her that there was another moment with Logan that stands out to him, another time where he got a glimpse inside his soul. Oftentimes, they found themselves knee deep in grease and grime making repairs on the Blackbird after almost every mission. It was just something that the two of them always did together. He guesses it was a bonding type thing but who knows?
They talked a lot as they worked. Mainly about superficial things but one day he caught him by complete surprise. Logan had asked him if he ever thought ‘bout dyin’. Kurt had told him that he guesses so from time to time and asked him if he did. Logan told him not really. He figures when it’s time t’ go, it’s time t’ go. No reason dwellin’ on somethin’ you ain’t got no control over. He figures he should live for the moment day to day. Don’t think ‘bout what may or may not happen and forget ‘bout the past. It’s done, ain’t nothin’ can change that. He, Kurt’s, got his religion, his beliefs in the afterlife. Him, he’s not sure what he believes. He only hops that whatever happens after they move on, he don’t have to remember what he did in this life. Some things are best forgotten.
Jean then tells Kurt that they’ll get him back; he just has to hold onto his faith. Scott Summers, Cyclops, tells Jean that he knows she may appear to be the soothing voice of optimism on the outside, but he shares a psychic rapport with her, remember? Jean tells him of course she does, she wouldn’t have it any other way. She then asks him what if Cable’s right and if it is Apocalypse behind Wolverine’s transformation into Death. Scott tells her then they’ll deal with him as they always have. Except this time, they’ll make sure it’s permanent.
He then asks Jean that she really cares for Logan, doesn’t she? Jean replies that she does. He knows he’s the man that she will love for all eternity but there’s a reason Logan will always have a special place in her heart. They had just narrowly defeated Magneto upon his orbiting sanctuary Avalon and they were frantically attempting a reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere in a frenzied sprint to save Wolverine’s life when everything went to hell. Magneto had forcefully extracted the adamatium skeleton from Logan’s body and it was painfully obvious he was not going to make it. There was an explosion, the hatch was blown away, and she found herself only moments away from plummeting to her death when Logan reached out and saved her.
With a tear streaming from her eye, Jean tells Scott that he was dead, his vital signs were nonexistent, he was clinically and medically dead but he came back for her. Hugging her, Scott tells her that he knows they’re all a bit emotional but not to give up hope. They’re going to find him and then they’re going to take down whoever’s responsible for all this – that’s a promise.
Sitting alone, Rogue wonders to herself what they’ve done to him. When she saw that it was him who’d been tryin’ to kill them, her heart musta skipped a dozen beats. She remembers back when she first joined the X-Men. Up ‘til that point, they’d been enemies. She was young an’ misguided back then, but that’s beside the point. He doesn’t know how nervous she was when she first walked through the door an’ was introduced to him as part of the team. She guesses she expected his response but she’d be lyin’ if she didn’t say it still hurt.
He had told Mariko that if it was up to him, he’d cut out her heart. Rogue knew he hated her an’ she couldn’t blame him either. She’d almost accidentally killed one of his best friends, Carol Danvers. She survived, but she absorbed her Ms. Marvel powers permanently. It took her years t’ recover. She, Rogue, doesn’t know if she ever will. She so desperately wanted to prove herself to him, to all of them, but he wouldn’t give her the chance. She found her chance when she took a blast from the gun of Viper meant for him an’ his lady, Mariko. He then saved her by givin’ over to her his healin’ factor. Though she almost died, she wouldn’t have changed a thing. She had proven herself in his eyes. He never told her he forgave her fer what she did to Carol, but it was left in the past where it belonged. She’ll never forget what he’s done fer her in her time with the X-Men. She owes him an’ she’s a girl who repays her debts.
Looking at the look on Rogue’s face, Gambit thinks to himself that the look on her face reveals a lot ‘bout th’ passion in her soul. He knows in times like t’is, it’s best t’ leave her alone an’ let her work it out for herself, don’t mean he’s gotta like it though. They’ve all got their own ways of dealin’ with th’ pain they’re facin’ right ‘bout now. Wolvie an’ he are two of a kind, loners who never thought they needed anybody. That is, ‘til th’ X-Men adopted them, took them into their homes an’ showed them what family was all ‘bout. They may not have always gotten along th’ best but if there’s one thin’ he’s learned with his time with th’ X-Men, you never let your family down an’ the X-Men are the only family they’ve got.
At Salem Center in New York, the day stretches into night as a restless Lorna Dane, the mutant mistress of magnetism, finds solace in a hot cup o’ joe. Sean Cassidy, Banshee, mentions to her that she looks like she hasn’t slept in days and that she should be tryin’ t’ get some shut-eye. If she’s still worried ‘bout being watched, ol’ Banshee will guarantee her that she’s as safe there as if she was in her mother’s arms. Lorna tells him it’s not that at all, she was just thinking about Wolverine. It’s funny, it seems that half the time they’ve known each other, it’s been as enemies. She was a brainwashed puppet of Eric the Red, her possession by Malice, the Shadow King, she’d rather not go on.
Anyway, they’ve barely spoken two words to each other over the years, yet it’s obvious to even an outsider like her that he’s not the same man he once was. With respect to Scott, Jean and Storm, in his own way, Wolverine’s the backbone of the team. With the progression he’s made since coming there, he’s successfully shown them that the X-Men don’t have to be locked in a battle to make a difference. Isn’t that part of what being an X-Man is all about, learning to help themselves as much as they help others?
When Wolverine came to the X-Men, he was a third cousin of the human race. He’d sooner bite you than look at you. Now, oftentimes, he’s the conscience of the team. Who would have thought that? Sean informs her not he, that’s f’sure. The lad’s a changed man, in more ways than one. He’s watched as he’s become a father figure of sorts t’ both Kitty an’ Jubilee an’ he’d be the first t’ admit it, he dinnae see that capability in th’ man when he first met him. The boyo’s full o’ surprises.
He then begins to tell Lorna what he remembers most ‘bout their early days in the X-Men. They were on their way to Valhalla Mountain, tryin’ t’ get there before Count Nefaria used his nuclear arsenal t’ blow up chunks o’ the world. He told him, ‘I think I’m gonna cut him into very tiny pieces if any of his friends stationed there had been hurt.’ He thought the lad was joshin’ but he looked into his eyes an’ knew better. He’ll admit, he was fearful o’ him. He began t’ question his decision t’ join the X-Men in the first place.
But as she said, he’s changed, more so than he ever thought possible. Yet for all the violence in his life, there’s a depth to the laddie only a select few e’er get a glimpse at – a tenderness reserved for those he allows t’ get close enough to him t’ matter. He saw it when he first met his lady love, Mariko. The gentleness he displayed, well it was unexpected t’ say th’ least. If he dinnae know better, he’d even go as far as t’ say the lad was nervous in her presence. ‘Tis a curious sight when all ye’ve known is one persona of the man up ‘til that point. He began t’ realize just how complex Logan was.
Just then, Hank McCoy pokes his head in and tells the two of them that he hates to interrupt what appears to be an illuminating journey down nostalgia avenue but he thought it pertinent to inform them that the Blackbird is currently in the process of making its final approach – the X-Men are home.
If a victory could ever seem shallow, then this would be the one. Although they successfully routed the enemy and destroyed their base, they return to their home still minus one X-Man, still missing a friend. As the X-Men exit the Blackbird, Banshee mentions to Scott welcome home and adds that it’s good t’ see him and Jean back in uniform, they both wear it well. Scott tells him maybe, but not to get too attached to the idea. Cyclops and Phoenix are still officially retired and don’t have any plans to change that status any time soon. This is merely an emergency situation that they couldn’t turn their backs on. Once it’s been taken care of, Jean and he’ll be heading back to the hustle and bustle of suburban living and domestic bliss.
Banshee tells them best o’ luck to the two of them then, they both deserve a bit o’ peace and quiet, they’ve done their share for the cause. In the meantime, he believes th’ Professor would like fer him an’ Ororo t’ join h’m in his study. While Scott walks off, Banshee tells Jean ‘tis a fine lad she’s got there, steady as they come.
At that moment, Jubilee emphatically asks that is she to understand that they had Wolvie in sight and let him go? Why the heck are they all just standing around patting each other on the back for basically doing nothing? Shouldn’t they be getting all available X-Men together and going after him? Somebody get on the phone to the Fantastic Four, the Avengers. Don’t you super geeks have each other on speed dial or somethin’? As she storms off, Jean tries to get her to stop but Jubilee tells her to ‘stuff it Red.’ Generation X, heck, even X-Force could have done a better job. They may mess up a bit, but at least they don’t sit around on their rear ends waitin’ for the bad guy to come to them.
Once she leaves, Piotr Rasputin asks what that was all about. Beast informs him that it would appear their young Jubilation is having a challenging time coping with their inability to procure her missing mentor. Kitty asks if somebody should go after her, maybe she’d better… Speaking up, Marrow tells them that she’ll do it, much to the shock of her fellow X-Men.
In Xavier’s office, Xavier asks Scott if he’s absolutely positive. Scott tells him that there is no doubt in either of their minds, Death is Wolverine. He knows they all feared the worst when they discovered that Logan had been replaced by a Skrull infiltrator. At least they now know he’s alive, but frankly, he’s afraid it might have been better for all involved if he wasn’t. Storm asks him how he can say such a thing, Wolverine is their friend. She would no sooner wish for his death (Logan) than she would for his (Scott).
Scott tells her neither would he but she saw him. He’s not trying to be cold, just humane. If the situations were reserved, he think he’d prefer death to being so devoid of conscience that he would attempt to kill those closest to him. Imagine if you had even a slight awareness of your actions, but were powerless to stop it. He can’t think of a worse fate. Xavier pipes in and says regardless, they must assume that there is a way to cure Logan of his current predicament. They cannot abandon hope, perhaps, if he knew all that transpired at the Skrull facility…
Scott tells him that as Death, Wolverine was very near to delivering what appeared to be a killing blow to Marrow. After Rogue cleared Marrow out of position, he unleashed what he hoped would be as lethal an optic blast as necessary to bring down their foe. Instead, they fell victim to a pre-planted bomb that momentarily split the battle lines. As most of them recovered, Colossus was able to land a crushing blow against Death shattering his helmet and revealing the man behind the mask. Storm adds that the reality of the situation stunned them all, freezing them all in their tracks as he made his escape. She couldn’t bring herself to believe that it was Logan but... they failed him.
Xavier tells her that he is sure she did her best, he’s sure all of them did, no one can fault them. Scott pipes up and says that he’s not so sure about that. He doesn’t mean to be disrespectful, but he thinks he’s wrong. As Death, Wolverine is untraceable. His mental shielding has to this point proven flawless, so finding him might prove extremely difficult, if not impossible. Xavier remarks that now that they know he’s alive, it should only be a matter of time before they’re able to locate him and purge him from the corrupt hand of the fiend responsible.
Scott tell Xavier to remember that they had three of the world’s most powerful telepaths present when they first fought Death – Cable, Nate Grey and Jean – and none of them were able to pierce his shields. If it is Apocalypse, then Wolverine may already be beyond their help. Storm states that if it is Apocalypse as they suspect, then Warren, who had been transformed into the Archangel of Death by this monster, proves that the process can be reversed – Logan can be saved.
Scott says yes, Warren was able to resist Apocalypse’s control, but that was years ago. Apocalypse would have learned from his past mistakes and corrected any flaws. They know the extent of Wolverine’s will power, yet he was out for blood, he wanted them dead. They weren’t there when he looked into the eyes of Death. They were empty, hollow, devoid of reason, logic, and compassion. He’s only seen eyes similar to what he saw in Wolverine’s once before, when the Phoenix entity he believed to be Jean was manipulated and mutated into the Dark Phoenix. He remembers peering into her cold, dark eyes and realizing, painfully, that the person he loved was no longer present. She had been taken from him forever. Wolverine’s eyes were eerily comparable. He looked inside, but he didn’t look back.
Storm asks him what he expects them to do, just give up. Concede that their friend, a man who is as a brother to all of them, is beyond salvation? If that is what he believes, then he himself is sorely mistaken. Scott replies of course not, he’s an X-Man and they take care of their own. He’s merely voicing his concerns that when they do find him, don’t expect it to be Logan. He’s already tried to kill them more than once and there’s no indication to believe he won’t try again. He’s just saying be prepared for the worst case scenario. Maybe to save Wolverine, it may be necessary to kill him.
As Jubilee sits by her self outside underneath a tree, Marrow arrives and asks her if she minds her joining her. Jubilee coldly tells her ‘whatever.’ Marrow says to her that she just thought she might want to talk to someone, open up a bit. Looking at her, Jubilee says that considering the only thing they have in common is their gender and their species, why would she even contemplate a conversation with her? Don’t think she didn’t hear ‘bout how she stabbed Wolvie in the throat when he was tryin’ to knock some sense into her. He may have put it behind him, but she’s not as forgiving. Marrow tells her yeah, what a fight that was – no quarter asked, none taken.
Jubilee tells her she acts like it was a schoolyard fight, but she could’ve killed him. Marrow tells her but she didn’t. That’s just the way things were back then, two animals each staking their claim as the dominant one, the leader of the pack. That’s why she thinks they have more in common than she knows. Like her, she was young, rebellious, an orphan and Wolverine tried to take her under his wing. The only difference is that she (embraced his efforts and she resented them. Things change, people change. If there’s one thing she learned from Wolverine, it’s to never give up no matter what the odds. He’ll be back, she has no doubt. Like the Morlocks and orphans, he’s a survivor.
As she walks away, Marrow tells Jubilee to quit feeling sorry for herself and do something productive. If he truly means as much to her as she alleges, then let him know that when he comes back. She doesn’t know about her, but she never had a chance to tell her parents how much they meant to her. Don’t let that kind of opportunity pass her by.
Alone, Jubilee picks up a pad of paper and begins to write Logan a note. She tells him that, when she first met him, she’ll admit she was scared stupid. Here was this guy who had just pulled himself off a crucifix and he was asking for her help, her. But he entrusted her, depended on her as they made their escape from Pierce and his Reavers. They made it out of there, but that little excursion was just the tip of the iceberg. For the first time since her parents’ death, she felt like she was a part of something that had been missing from her life – a family. And she can’t thank him enough for that.
She’s seen so much, much more than she ever would have thought possible. Heck, as far as she was concerned, she didn’t care if she ever set foot outside a shopping mall again until she fell in with him and the X-Men. She didn’t really have any ambitions beyond finding her next meal and decoratin’ herself in the season’s fashions. That all changed because of him.
Not only has she seen the world and beyond, but she’s gettin’ an education and learnin’ the full extent of her mutant powers. Not bad for a former mallrat. Thinkin’ he was dead was the worst thing emotionally she’s had to deal with since her parent’s death. She’d almost forgotten how much it hurts. Now to know he’s out there somewhere, well, it eases the pain somewhat. But until he comes back to her and the X-Men, it won’t completely go away. She misses him, he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to her. Come back home soon, please. Putting the note on his bed, she signs it ‘love, Jubilee.’
As Logan drinks by himself in a virtually empty bar located in the deep woods of Manitoba, Canada; he thinks that if there’s a difference between man an’ beast, it beats him what it is. After all, man started as a beast. Sure, they say man evolved a more advanced brain around the limbic or “reptilian” mind, makin’ him more than a “mere” animal. But the limbic’s still there, maybe sleepy at the core of what man’s become, but always ready to awaken.
In him, it’s a light sleeper, wakin’ hard and fast. He’s a mutant, more evolved than the average man in some ways, maybe less in others. Sometimes he reverts to the limbic state and gets downright feral, even lost in a bestial rage. They call him Wolverine but he’s really Logan – a man, not a beast, and there’s gotta be a difference.
After hearing some gunshots coming from outside, Logan asks the bartender what’s with all the shots. When the bartender tells him he doesn’t hear anything, Logan tells him that he’s got bad ears, but to trust him – it sounds like bloody war out there. The bartender tells him nah, that’d be just huntin’ season for tweedledee, tweedledum, an’ tweedledumber. But if it’s rapid fire, them boys ain’t shootin’ nothin’, not yet.
After Logan asks him why that is, the bartender tells him first they punch holes in the sky, herdin’ all the game through this blind pass they use, ‘bout a mile north o’ there. See, they get their prey all boxed in, settin’ up a dry land version of shootin’ fish in a barrel an’ them boys ain’t choosy neither. Whatever they flush an’ trap, they’ll shoot at their leisure an’ pleasure. Logan asks him that they don’t even hunt? The bartender tells him not the kind o’ huntin’ he’d call huntin’. Logan states but they take “prey,” so that makes ‘em predators. When the bartender asks Logan what he would call them, the answer he gets is killers. The bartender tells him that it’s the same difference. Logan says no, one’s for a reason an’ the other’s for its own sake. The bartender tells him that he’ll let him be the philosopher but if you ask him, until them nasty space aliens come down, man’s the best predator there is. Logan says yeah, or the worst.
The bartender tells him that he might have a point. Given the herdin’ tactics, these boys must expend a good twenty rounds per trophy. Logan asks that they’re after “trophies?” The bartender asks him who he thinks gave him all these heads. Even yuppies only got so much wall space. Logan asks that they don’t eat what they kill? The bartender tells him nah, these boys can’t be bothered dressin’ meat. Logan says so the whole point is cuttin’ off heads? The bartender says let’s just say the scavengers hereabouts are mighty fat an’ happy game wardens too. If you believe the rumors, them rich blubber yups make quite a crew. Logan quips ‘he said fondly.’ The bartender states that he ain’t in love with weekend warriors but he is fond o’ money and even idiot predators gotta come to the waterin’ hole, friend. Logan tells him hole is right with décor to match and goes to leave. As he does, he tells the bartender that he ain’t his friend.
Lighting a cigar outside, Logan thinks to himself that he oughtta burn the lousy house o’ horrors to the ground but a fire that big might jump to the trees. And as an old Madripoor proverb says, “Never use an axe to swat the fly on your friends’ forehead.” If you’re a man who can think, there’s always a better way providin’ ya take the time to think of it. Logan decides that it’s time to take the time. It’s time to help some friends under the skin, even if he is a man.
The next day, the three hunters, Jared, Frank and Mason are sitting on hammocks while they hunt their prey. Once Mason shoots the first moose and wins a bet, Frank gets up to move to another section hoping to find a better killing angle. Standing above the dead moose, Logan thinks to himself that seein’ red like this can trigger the animal rage if he lets it. But he’s a man, not a beast an’ he’s gotta stay that way long enough to deal with men that don’t. Just then, Jared catches a slight glimpse of a man running away from the moose Mason shot and tells him that he just saw a man except it wasn’t. Mason asks a man that wasn’t a man and proceeds to tell Frank that Jared just had a Sasquatch sighting. Frank tells him to be quiet; he’s got something in his… sight? Just then the sight goes black and Logan appears before Frank with his claws popped. When he does, he sarcastically tells him nice sense o’ smell bub.
Away from Frank, Mason says to Jared that maybe his beast-man is the “spirit of the forest,” in which case, he’ll never see it again. Maybe he’ll only hear it when it’s too late and all he’ll hear is… While he talks, Logan punctures the tires on their vehicle. Mason hears it and points out the hissing sound and wonders if it’s coming from snakes. Jared informs him that it’s coming from the ar-vee which leads Mason to ask if it’s the stove’s gas-line. As he looks over, Logan deftly slices his hammock which causes Mason to fall to the ground with a thud and to complain about the lousy hammock. Over next to the ar-vee, Jared tells Mason that they have three flat tires, something’s very wrong there.
At that moment, Jared calls out to Frank. When he does, a single rifle shot takes out the “hunters” television. Seeing Frank run by him in his underwear, Jared asks what happened to him. Emerging from the forest, Logan tells him that he evolved from predator to prey. Jared proceeds to exclaim ‘the beast-man’ and attempts to shoot him in the gut. As Logan rushes towards him, he thinks to himself that the “hunter” probably can’t believe he just shot him in the gut and he’s only staggered. Other “prey” drops an’ bleeds an’ dies. He just bleeds, an’ not for long. He has a mutant healin’ factor. The gunshots hurt like hell but he doesn’t show it. He can’t give him that satisfaction or the courage for a second shot.
Once he reaches the hunter, Logan tells him that he ripped his gut, now let’s see his and slashes at him with his claws. Shocked, Jared looks down at his chest and doesn’t see any blood. Pointing over to Mason, Logan tells him to not even think about grabbing a rifle and to just waddle over there an’ survive.
Three minutes later, Logan destroys all of their gear and sends the men out into the wild with no weapons, no vehicles, nothin’ but their own skins an’ primitive reptilian brains. But unlike other animals, they’re nobody’s idea of a prize. Popping his claws and pointing them in their direction, he tells them that even if he liked “trophies” there’s no way he’d want their ugly heads. He then orders them to get out of there and to high-tail it back to so-called civilization an’ take up some other “recreation” – bowling, or pie-eatin’, some other way of killin’ time without killin’.
Once the hunters are gone, Logan starts a fire and burns the dead animal’s hides. As he does, he thinks to himself that maybe the difference between man an’ beast is simple. Animals focus on survival, but man can think beyond, to death and even beyond that, to survival after death. That should make man more than an animal, but all too often there’s greater nobility in beasts so maybe they have souls too.
There’s somethin’ he heard at a funeral once an’ never forgot. It was written by John Donne, a rare man who restores faith in man. “Death, be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so. One short sleep past, we wake eternally, and death shall be no more. Death shalt die!” Kinda flowery for such a small fire, but nice an’ brassy too. As if havin’ a soul lets ya spit in death’s eye an’ live to tell about it in a better place. An’ if that don’t hold true for animals as well as men you can keep heaven, an’ I’ll go with the beasts.