Nothing good ever happens on a ship...

August 06, 2018:

X-23 has been missing for a while. X-Man & Rogue get a lead on her location and track her down.

Sound Stage C

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Several months ago Laura Kinney, also known as X-23 and briefly a stand in for Wolverine, pretty much vanished from around the Xaviers Mansion. Gone in the night with nothing but a short, polite and very very unhelpful note to explain where or why. Since then there were occasional signs she was fine. A dead drop message here, a police report about abandoned buildings full of expensive science equipment that 'mysteriously' explode there.

And then just over a month ago nothing. No reports, no check ins and not even a psionic trace.

At least until today. When her psionic signature re-appeared in the middle of the Atlantic on a container ship that doesn't also doesn't seem to exist. Fake holding companies behind not just the ship but every single company that claims to be sending goods on the ship.

And that ship, The 'Salty Wrangler', is in the unfortunate position of being both on fire /and/ currently very slowly sinking.

*

Way to go, Laura. You will turn Nate's hair all white before he turns 30.

When Laura appeared in the New York area a few years ago Nate was one of the first to attempt to befriend her. Which was not easy, since Laura barely talked and Nate often talks too much. But lab-rats/living weapons gotta stick together, and he managed to establish a rapport with the silent killer, and set a bad example for her, of course.

And so Nate did his best to keep an eye on Laura, and when she became and adult and took the Wolverine name (while Logan went undercover for months) he was as proud as any older brother could be. And yet still insisted into keeping an eye on the usually elusive young woman.

He did insist het to keep in touch at least once a week. When she didn't, he started looking for her. When she was missing three weeks he started looking actively and demanded Cerebro sweeps. The first thing didn't work, but the second just did. So he grabbed the closest senior X-Men, who happened to be Rogue (because she has full access to the Blackbird) and off they go.

Just 15 minutes at Match 5, but he is also trying to reach the young woman telepathically.

*

Rogue hadn't seen Laura since the bulk of the operations in Genosa had passed. She'd not worked with Laura while on that island, but she had interacted with her here and there throughout it, had even given the girl an orange popsicle when they had some downtime near a fridge in some house on the island.

As for now? Rogue's in the X-Men Base when Nate stumbles across her and informs her of the what and the haps about whats going on at sea. She'd been working ON the Blackbird that morning, so the jet was in good shape (thanks Carol for all those great plane skills and knowledges!).

And so they were off, Rogue at the helm of the jet, monitoring its systems and the scanners that are added in. "Ya know this thing ain't easy t'maintain cause its the only one of its kind. The SR-71 wasn't ever made to haul a buncha people around, this… SR-77 is way heavier than it and well, we gotta custom make all its parts." Rogue rambles on about the jet, because Carol Danver's side of her mind demands that she do so. "Hell the '71 couldn't even hold a full tank'a gas and take off at the same time… it had to be refueled t'full once it was airborne."

As they draw closer, Rogue nods out the windows. "There she is… The Salty Gobbler." And now she's just grinning a little, to herself, because she makes herself laugh way too much.

*

Telepathy doesn't receive much of a response. The ship only seems to contain a single mind which is… fuzzy. There's a touch of grim satisfaction and a whole bunch of trippy psychedelic going on which doesn't really make any sense. If Nate's ever hooked into someone on a healing factor grade drug trip he might find the sensation familiar.

The ship drifts aimlessly, seemingly without power, and as the X-men fly closer it becomes increasingly apparent that something unpleasant has happened recently. The ship has distinctive claw marks gouged into the metal, containers are carved open, railings cut into bits. There's also enough blood splattered around to put a season of the Walking Dead to shame. No signs of any people, unless you count a stray body part here and there.

*

Nate has seen all kind of altered mental states. Sleep, drugs and serious injuries all make harder to find or read a human mind. With Laura being notoriously hard to keep drugged or injured, there are certainly reasons to worry. Which makes a rather grumpy co-pilot out of Nate.

"Don't land, keep it hovering," he requests. Yeah, landing the Blackbird on a sinking ship would make a poor idea. Then again Nate is the kind of pilot that would do it if in a hurry.

But the auto-pilot can keep it hovering away from the sinking boat. After Forge and Shi'ar tech the Blackbird capabilities relate to the old SR-71 about as much the space shuttle capabilities relate to a WWI bi-plane.

As for Nate, he phases out of the Blackbird about the same time Rogue slows down to under the speed of sound. Gives the ship's deck a cursory glance and mind-link's Rogue if she allows, so she can share his senses. "Can't sense anyone alive up here," he mutters.

*

With a swipe of naked hand across the control panel's touch display, Rogue has the jet on auto-pilot in hover mode set around the perimeter of the seaship and she too is rising up from her seat. "And I'm guessin' that that red stuff on the deck'a that ship ain't made outta corn syrup and red food colorin'." She mutters while slipping her gloves back onto her hands, and not fighting any mind influence from the telepath… Rogue had no such blocking abilities anyway.

The southern girl rushes to the back of the jet and hits the release on the rear ramp, causing it to lower, she angles her body and silently slips out between it and the upper hull of the ship not even waiting for it to fully lower… using her flight powers to just shoot right out and into the sky.

"Any signs'a life far as you can tell?" Rogue asks over the comms whilst coming around in a wide circle, intending to land on the top-most section of the ship… whatever is the highest crew point.

*

The mental signature for Laura is, unfortunately, deep within the insides of the vessel. There's a loud groaning of metal and the ship shifts ever so slightly more to one side. The air stinks of thick black chemically smoke. A few shell casings clink and clatter as they roll back and forth across the deck.

*

"No, just Laura," replies Nate. "And her mental signature is blurry and unresponsive," he adds, landing on the deck and running towards the closest entrance. "I'll check the bow, you check stern, okay?"

Corpses and shell casings. Obviously there was a big fight onboard. Was it Laura against everyone else or was this pirates or something. No survivors, but maybe he could check a not-too-mangled corpse for identification. Quick check, of course, the damn thing is sinking and probably too large for him to keep afloat for long using telekinesis.

*

Rogue lands with little fanfare and she's immediately greeted with the corpses of the ship's cabin crew near the open hatch into the control cabin of the ship. She wrinkles her nose and slowly nods her head. "Yeah… this was Lil Stabby all right." She exclaims with a heavy sigh following it.

Rogue steps over the bodies and into the cabin of the ship, she stands behind the controls of the vessel and looks out over the entirety of it. "This ship is goin' down, Nate." She says over their secure comms. "Its leaning heavily t'the side… there must be a big hole down there someone. We got like a half hour before its at the bottom of the sea."

The southern X-Woman then turns and starts down a staircase to the crew deck beneath the control room… more bodies. "Everybody's dead. Be careful… she might think you're one'a them."

*

The bodies all seem to be wearing the same bland fatigues favored by mercenaries or soldiers employed for less savory tasks. No phones, no dog-tags, not even a label sewn into the ruins of the clothing they wear. One thing they do have in common is the excess of violence their final moments contained. No clean assassinations or surgical claw strikes, but a whole lot of wild savagery.

As the X-men explore the ship there are the ruins of labs of various sorts. Big person sized tanks filled with goo. Chairs that have straps and drills. If it weren't all real perhaps it'd make an amazing house of horrors.

And right in the deepest depths of the ship a faint low, slurred snarling sound can be heard. Staggering footsteps and clangs of someone stumbling into the solid metal walls or doors.

*

"All this killing was too sloppy," points out Nate. Laura was a very methodical, efficient killer when… well, when she was murderous. Long ago. "I am missing something," he concludes, raising a telekinetic forcefield for defense.

Just as he hears the staggering and clanging. "You hear that? Someone here, and not in a good shape." The labs, tanks and stuff make him suspect what kind of place was the ship. But was Laura a prisoner or was she trying to rescue the victims? If she was, then it seems she failed. But he will make a wide telepathic sweep later, maybe someone managed to escape in a lifeboat.

*

Rogue isn't that deep into the ship yet, she's more near the crew areas so she hasn't seen any of the real nitty-gritty of the vessel. "These guys ain't scientists though." She replies to Nate over the crystal clear comm channel. "They're mercs. I mean like in the classic trope version'a the word. The kind that got more protein in them than a Outback Steakhouse."

She steps over one of their bodies, her metal boot coming down softly on the ground next to a table that was loaded with guns and… playing cards, cause poker and murder go great together.

"Any sign of her?" Rogue asks then. "We need t'bring the jet around and get it in close. Let her know that we're here and ready t'pick her up. If she can hear us, maybe she'll just run and jump on inside… If I know Laura, she's not gonna wanna talk t'us about all'a this, not for awhile anyhow. And yeah, this may be a bit sloppy, but she and Logan get sloppy when they get inta rage-mode."

*

The stumbling figure finally shuffles into view. Laura is not so much wearing the remains of some kind of hospital gown as she is plastered into it with dried blood. Where that blood came from it's impossible to say. Some must be her own judging by the bullet holes but there's a lot around her mouth and hands which probably came from elsewhere. Extended claws occasionally snag on something, either clanking off the side or just cleaving through. A few pipes hiss steam or drip water, while the smoke is so thick the air itself is hazy and stinging.

"Air… up… bad," Laura mumbles, shaking her head in Nate's direction and faceplanting with the strain. Sticking out her back are close to two dozen tranq darts filled with some mystery chemical. Each one has a little mechanical barb that constantly digs itself back in even as her healing factor tries to push it back out again.

*

"I have never seen Laura in a rage," comments Nate, waiting for Rogue before moving deeper. "She is usually very controlled, although I heard that she was gassed with some thing in Mutant Town once…"

And there is Laura, looking like hell.

If she got caught again he is going to tease her about it. Later. Much later. When she is self-aware and has put some distance. Right now he rushes forward to catch her before her head reaches the floor. "Alright… I am taking her to the plane," he grunts, pulling out the barbed darts with little consideration. She will heal. "See if you can find a server room, or laptop, or anything that gives us a clue. Ten minutes, though, then we go."

*

"You weren't there when they told her that they were no longer servin' the McRib then." Rogue replies over the comms while still walking through the part of the ship that she's in. The whole ship tilting at an awkward angle now. "I think I found the Captain's Quarters." Rogue says as she tries the handle, its locked… of course… so she snaps it with her considerable strength and then shoves the door open to get inside.

"Is she okay?" She has to ask. "Are you okay?" She clarifies, only really needing that info she realizes, to know if Laura is all right or not.

"Lookin' around the Cap's room t'see if I can find a computer t'swipe… hopin' its a better model than mine so I can keep it!"
Rogue then mutters, off of comms. "Come on, One Eyed Willy, where's your porn machine."

*

Laura Kinney clamps her hand around Nate's jaw, forcing him to look into her eyes. "Said /air bad/," she shakes her head emphatically. Then coughs and spits out something bloody with a hint of white. Was that a finger? It's probably best not to look too hard. Her mind is still fogged from the drugs but there is a very definite sense of warning. Then with a grunt of effort she damn near bites her own lip off, the pain sharpening her mind for a moment, just long enough to add "Trigger scent."

*

Trigger scent. Yes, that rings a bell on Nate. Fancy name of something to make Laura go nuts. Which means the Facility was here. Which means she was hunting them (which Illy and Nate TOLD her not to do alone - not that she ever listens). Or they hunted her down. Which means they have not learned yet she is off limits and there will be some more murder soon.

"Got it," will do this the fast way. "Rogue, get out of here, I am going to punch a hole in the hull." He drags Laura to one of the outer bulk wards. Sea water should clean them up any scent particles they could have caught. The Blackbird might need to go through decontamination, though. It is hovering outside. "I'll fly Laura back. The air outside is drugged."

*

Rogue has a Captain's hat on her head at this point, she'd found it on a shelf in the Quarters, and a cigar between her lips while she's rooting around in a file cabinet that she pulled open. When she gets the word to 'get out of here' she responds, with Cigar muffling her words, "Copy that." but she spends a few more seconds pulling files and stuffing them into a laptop case, which she's wearing around her torso… laptop stuffed inside it of course.

The file cabinet is ripped out of the wall then and she turns to face the outer port hole bearing wall… then just kicks it until its screws pop loose and the wall falls down into the ocean.

A second later and the Southern Belle is airborne with her haul of sea pirate lab weirdo loot.

She's circling around up to the Blackbird and flying back into its open rear hatch where she lands and starts to walk back toward the controls, depositing what she'd looted along the way… except for the captain's hat.

*

Laura Kinney grins, wider and more manic than any expression she's ever shown before and lets out a low giggle. Whatever drug she was dosed with is apparantly very very strong. "Won't be long now. Everything is going to go away. Then the noise will finally stop," she informs hazily. Not resisting being carried out, but not making any effort to retract her claws to make it any easier. She smiles a serene smile "Tick, tick. Then bang."

*

"Loopy Laura, now I have seen everything," mutters Nate humorlessly. Then he blasts through the ship's hull and all becomes very wet and very cold. For about fifteen seconds, which is what takes him to reach the surface. « Race ya back to Westchester » he projects to Rogue.

He is going to lose because he is carrying Laura. But not by much!

*

Rogue is sitting down in the control seat and taking the jet out of autopilot when she hears Nate's words. She smirks at them then, spends a few seconds cataloguing some more information about where they are in the Atlantic exactly and taking some more pics of the vessel down below before its fully gone.

"Yeah, screw that." Rogue replies. "There's a country music festival up'n Boston. I'm gonna fly this thing up there, load it up with a buncha hot country music performers and then… well… the rest is adult rated, so I'll keep it offa comms."

Rogue's grinning then as she adjusts the SR-77s vector back toward the good US-of-A's shoreline and then glances out the viewport on the port side. "Happy life down there, Salty Gobbler." And with that said, she shoves the throttle forward on the X-Men's jet, and it tears across the sky.

*

The ship was already doing poorly before Nate ripped another hole it in. It does even less well when somethings inside, probably explosives set by a very delirious Laura, start to go off. And thus the Salty Wrangler and any secrets it may yet have contained are lost to flames or the ocean depths.

The explosions do at least provide a farewell send off as Rogue and Nate leave for their respective destinations. Laura meanwhile slips into a restless sleep. Oblivious to the high speed flight she'll be making.

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