Wolverine: The Nature of the Beast (Wolverine (Mass))

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9781416510772: Wolverine: The Nature of the Beast (Wolverine (Mass))
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He was the best at what he did: a born fighter, a mutant whose uncanny speed and strength, augmented by the best technology money could buy, made him close to unstoppable. He had an indestructible skeleton, cast from the hardest metal on the planet. Razor-sharp claws that could cut through steel like butter.

He was Wolverine. Member of the mutant Super Hero group X-Men.

Then everything changed.

Now, with the adamantium ripped out of his body -- with his healing factor reduced to a fraction of what it once was -- the man known only as Logan finds himself racing to defeat a deadly conspiracy that threatens all of mutantkind, a conspiracy that stretches across both time and space, from the ice-capped peaks of Tibet to the neon jungles of Las Vegas, from his days as an agent of the Canadian government to his years as a member of the most unusual Super Hero group of all time...

Here now is Wolverine, bloodied but unbowed, facing long-forgotten foes from out of his past -- and unexpected challenges from his future...

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

DAVE STERN has written/edited/collaborated on multiple previous works of Star Trek fiction, as well as the New York Times-bestselling biography Crosley. He lives in a creepy old house on a hill in Massachusetts, kept company by his family and a lawn of immense and ever-growing size.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1

Blood on the rock scramble at the base of the mountain, blood on the trail leading up.

Fresh blood, bright red blood. I'm two steps out from behind a boulder at the base of the mountain when I see it. I react instinctively, slip back behind cover, and watch. And wait.

And frown -- should've smelled that blood long before I saw it. More proof, if I needed it; my senses ain't what they used to be. I ain't what I used to be. Cheery thought. I set it aside, circle around the scramble so that I'm upwind, and move closer.

Fifty feet away, I get my first whiff -- blood, and the body to go with it. A second later, I see the corpse, obscured by the brush. A desert bighorn, a couple of huge bites missing out of its hindquarters.

I freeze, wait a couple of minutes. Nothing. No sound, no scent. Whatever killed the sheep is long gone. I move in to get a closer look at the kill, and that's when I notice something else is gone, too.

The sheep's head.

I find that ten feet away from the body, bit clean through at the neck. The bighorn -- it's a ram, a big one, a couple hundred pounds, antlers four feet across -- has a look of resignation on its face. Looks like a deer trapped in the headlights, seeing death coming straight at it and knowing there's nothing to be done.

No need to wonder what killed it; I find the evidence right next to the body. Animal tracks, cougar tracks. There's a good number of the big cats scattered throughout the DNR. I ran into one the first day I got here, a female stalking two bighorns, a mother and her lamb. The female saw me coming, growled, tried to warn me off her prey.

I growled back and stared her down. She slunk off into the forest, and disappeared.

That cat was maybe six feet long, a hundred eighty pounds. The one that made these tracks was a helluva lot bigger. A helluva lot more massive. Three hundred pounds, easy, judging from the depth of the spoor I'm looking at. A male, judging from the size of the pad. Maybe as much as eight, nine feet long.

I straighten up and frown.

The cougar that weighs three hundred pounds ain't been born yet.

The cougar that can take a sheep's head off with a single bite ain't been born yet, either.

Something strange going on here.

I feel a little tingle in the base of my spine: excitement. I ain't felt that in a while. I look toward the top of the mountain. The blood leads that way.

My feet are heading in that direction almost before I can stop them.

And then I remember.

I came here to get away from strange. To get away from everything that might remind me of the unusual -- the uncanny, you might say -- and the life I used to lead. Before that life was ripped away from me.

Three-hundred-pound cougars that can rip off a sheep's head in a single bite? I want no part of them.

I move off the trail, fade back into the pines.

Night finds me back at my campsite.

It's about five miles due north of where I found the dead sheep, high up in the rocks, a bedroll tucked under a boulder. I'm eating jackrabbit again; or I will be, once it gets dark, and I can risk a fire. The DNR rangers don't know I'm here, and that's the way I want to keep it. I want my privacy. I want my space.

I want to figure out what comes next.

I've been here a couple of weeks now. Left my bike in the brush outside the refuge, at the base of Tickapoo Mountain; left most of my possessions with it. Took a knife and a canteen and started hiking.

I've been here since, sometimes in the woods, sometimes in one of the mountain caves. Living off the land, keeping out of sight. This part of the DNR borders on Nellis Air Force Base. There's more traffic than you'd expect around. Some military, some rangers, some other campers as well. At a guess, I've seen a couple dozen people since I've been here.

Nobody's seen me. Nobody will, unless I want them to.

I skin the rabbit and grab up some brush to make a fire. Could've taken a few high-tech gadgets from the mansion, I guess, make this part a little easier, but that wouldn't be getting away from everything then, would it?

The sun goes down; reds and oranges fill the sky, casting shadows on the slopes around me, on the desert below. The colors remind me of Jeannie, a little bit. This part of the refuge reminds me of somethin' else, too: Canada. The wide-open spaces, the stark landscape...the past. People I've grown apart from, people I've let slide away from my life. People who lived, people who died.

The sun goes down; the stars come out. Eventually, I light the fire, and I eat.

When I'm done with that, I spread out the bedroll and lie down.

The sky is pitch-black, except for a faint glow near the horizon, way to the south. Las Vegas. The city's only about forty miles from here. Forty miles, and a world away. I'm in the middle of the biggest wildlife refuge on the continent, the DNR -- Desert National Refuge. A million or so acres of just about every kind of climate you could imagine, from pine forest to desert and everything in between, all wilderness, with just a bare handful of paved roads. One of the few places in the country that ain't choked with ATVs and RVs and people whose idea of roughing it is no electric toothbrushes.

It's a place of solitude, like I said. Which suits me fine at the moment.

I got some heavy thinking to do.

I lie back, focus on the stars again, and the night sky.

One minute I'm looking up at the Milky Way, and the next...

I'm right in the middle of it.

I'm flying. In a Blackbird SR-71, suited up for EVA, headed toward a space station. Flying off to save the world again, which back in the day was my job.

I'm dreaming, of course. Dreaming like I have every night for the last two weeks.

Dreaming of the day I died.

My name's Logan, by the way. Just one word. First, last, categorize it however you like; tell you the truth, I'm not sure which it is. I got a problem with my memory, you see: I don't have one. At least, not one that dates back to when I was a kid. Oh, I flash on images sometimes -- a man, a woman, a girl with red hair -- but I can't make heads or tails of them.

I got the government to thank for that.

The U.S. government, and what they did to me in pursuit of what you might call the perfect weapon. Who they thought might be yours truly -- the old Canucklehead right here, talking to you.

My first coherent memories are from a couple dozen years ago, after I escaped from Uncle Sam's tender clutches and went north of the border, where I ended up working with the Canadians for a while. A special branch of the Canadian government, set up by a scientist named Jimmy Hudson, for special people like me, and Veronique Campion, and J. C. Perrault, and Stephen St. George. Special, as in blessed -- cursed, if you like -- with extraordinary powers. Something in our genetic makeup, our DNA. Something that made us a little more than human. Not Homo sapiens. Homo superior. Mutant.

After a while up north, I returned to the good old U.S. and joined up with another team of mutants. That's where the saving-the-world part of my life comes in.

In the dream -- the dream where I'm in that space station, suited up for EVA, walkin' straight into the fight that's going to end with me dyin' -- I'm surrounded by that other team, those other mutants. Along with us on the trip is our leader, a guy named Charles Xavier, Professor Xavier -- who just happens to have the ability to read, and control, people's minds. A mutant himself, Xavier owns the mansion we operate out of; we live there, too. It's a refuge, not just for us but for a whole group of young mutants he's brought there, kids Xavier's taught how to cope with their powers, taught how to cope with the fearful, hostile, angry world that Earth can sometimes be. Xavier himself never gets angry, though; he's always calm, always trying to talk to the people -- or the things -- attacking us, always preaching negotiation, understanding.

Always, that is, except for this time. Except for this trip in the Blackbird, in my dream, which really isn't a dream at all but me reliving the past, reliving what happened two weeks back. In this dream, Xavier's jaw is set. So is his mind.

We're heading toward a space station parked around Earth called Avalon. We're heading for a showdown, and Xavier's already told us it's going to be kill or be killed.

As usual, he turns out to be right.

The part of the dream where I die -- where who I am is literally ripped away from me, ripped out of me -- wakes me up, like always. I lie in the bedroll, stunned, feeling the pain, the shock, all over again, seeing my friends' faces hovering above me, hearing them whisper to each other ("Is he all right?" "Is he goin' to live?") as if I'm not right there listening to every word they're saying.

After a while, the voices -- and the pain -- fade away. I sense the sky around me beginning to lighten. A few birds chirp; branches rustle in the wind.

Something's watching me.

I can feel it -- a presence, an intelligence nearby.

I get to my feet it in a slow, natural, Gosh-ain't-I-tired kind of way, as if I haven't got a care in the world. I do the necessaries, I stretch my muscles, I slip on my boots.

I set off down the mountain. A few hundred feet on, I make my move, ducking back into the scrub. I listen for the sounds of someone following me. I don't hear them. I double back toward my hideout, as close to silent as I can get.

I reconnoiter in a long, careful ellipse, circling the entire camp. I find nothing. No trace of anyone or anything. I do a second pass, a wider circle. Still nothing.

I'm about to head back to my bedroll and some breakfast when I see it. A lonely clump of grass in a patch of dirt, the blades splayed almost flat in all directions. It doesn't look natural to me. I move in closer and see my hunch is right. Someone stepped down hard on the grass, recently. Tromped on it, left the vaguest outlines of a print. I kneel down next to it.

It's not a ...

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