Just the same as any other night, Jonothon was having trouble sleeping.
One of a dozen recurring nightmares, plucked from the mental stocks, from between the place where it was neatly filed between 'Silent Hill' and 'Killing His Girlfriend With A Kiss.' This one, neatly labelled 'Manifesting,' always started out the same. Gayle. A club in London. He'd tipped the girl watching coat check so that she'd leave it to them for a while, and was in the process of wooing his then-girlfriend into losing her virginity when, the same as it did every time he dreamed this dream, his powers manifested.
He woke up in a sweat, grabbing at his face as he shot bolt-upright in his bed.
The same dream. The same violent explosion that had ripped his face away, haunting him for years, now.
And, he reflected, as he stepped up to the mirror and grinned a little in spite of himself, it was a problem that was really only going to plague him in his dreams, from now on. Now, the worst that he had to worry about so far as his face and chest went was that unfortunate flavour that one's mouth happened to have, first thing in the morning. And maybe snagging his clothing on the corners of the device that Weapon X had implanted into his newly re-built chest in order to keep his powers under control. Under his control. That on its own was exhilarating. Exhilarating if, he reminded himself, something to be wary of.
He was somewhere in the middle of putting toothpaste onto his toothbrush when the buzzer to his room rang, and a moment later, Jackson was peering through the bathroom door, watching Jono quite happily brush his teeth.
And no force between Heaven and Hell was going to get Jonothon stop brushing his teeth, thank you.
"Whoa! Well, look at you, Jono! Man oh man. Did the docs do some number on you or what?"
"No complaints here, mate," Jono replied after spitting, and then rummaging around the counter some more. Hah! Dental hygiene! Yes! "I doubt you'll ever meet someone so happy to be able to floss again, I can tell you that."
"I can imagine," Jackson replied, his tone a little dry as he leaned back against the footboard to Jono's bed. "But anyway, pretty boy... I didn't come here to watch you gawk at yourself in the mirror all day. We've got stuff to do."
Apparently, it was time for the grand tour.
The Weapon X facility turned out to be a bit more... chipper than Jono had expected it to be. Businessmen in suits greeting them with smiles and nods of their heads as they passed by in the hallway. The well-lit hallway. Somehow, Logan had gotten Jono thinking that the place was going to be all... dark... and spooky. Apparently all of that had changed when Jackson had gotten his hands on the place.
Jono was fine with that. For all that he liked his shadowy corners over the past few years, a bit of overhead lighting when you were deep in a pit of vipers could do wonders for a person's confidence. Not to mention one's ability to keep one's knees from visibly knocking together.
Security robots, off to the sides. Jono had been expecting those. Professional-looking people in business suits, on the other hand? Those were a bit of a shock. Especially when the polite young lady turned around to report to Jackson that Agent Zero was finally getting a bead on Cable's leftover rebel cells before looking at Jono and making a bit of a show of checking him out.
Checking HIM out.
Needless to say, Jono was left stammering a bit before they moved on to meet the staff that he was going to be working with on the field. Kyle Dibney, AKA Wildchild, had given Jono a thorough sniffing before making a tick on his clipboard and getting back to work. The doctors on duty included one Doctor Lykos, whose name rung a bell... It was made far more clear when the guy shifted into the large green pterodactyl-man named Sauron, right there in Jono's face.
Seemed like a nice enough fellow, mind.
It was over dinner in some late-night diner that Jackson finally got down to business. After Jono finished going on about how good the burger was, and it was pointed out to him that pretty much anything would probably taste good after tasting nothing but fireworks for a few years.
"Got me there, mate."
Either way, Jackson wanted to know what Jono thought of the program. And he told him, flat-out. It wasn't what he'd been expecting. It didn't seem half as nefarious as the stories that Wolverine shared.
"Look, I ain't gonna blow sunshine up your drawers, kid," Jackson replied, "I didn't exactly agree with everything my predecessors did. So yeah, I will admit some of our bad rep may be justified. But the thing is, that was--"
"-- the old program." Jono was starting to sense a trend here.
"Darn straight it was." Jackson made a reach for his coffee. "These days, we're just another branch of the government-- like the FBI, the CIA, S.H.I.E.L.D.--"
"Except you use mutants to do your dirty work."
The conversation went on from there. Jackson saying that he tried to make amends with Wolverine, and Jono making a show of mouthing off about him. Jackson asking what in the world made Jon turn away from the X-Men at all.
"Rather put that part of my life behind me, though, if it's all the same to you, mate..."
"Uh-oh, it's one of those. Now ya gotta tell me. Ya got me too curious."
Speculations, now. Like they were old friends from high school or something. It didn't take long before Jackson guessed that it might be a girl. Pressed on until he guessed that maybe Paige had something to do with it. Hook, line...
"Hey, you're better off, ya ask me. I mean, she was white trash if I ever saw it."
"Look, there's no call for--"
"Shoot, trailer park trash is more like it! The kind Springer even throws back--"
Sinker, of course, involved Jono rising out of his seat yanking Jackson to his feet by the scruff of his shirt, and readying a menacing fist. After that, there wasn't any room for doubt. After that, Jono clearly had a motive for leaving the X-Men, shallow as it might seem. And after that, Jackson was willing to give Jonothon his first job for Weapon X. He slapped down a handful of photos from an envelope.
"Here's John Sublime. Billionaire spokesman for the 'transpecies' movement, as well as someone who I'm sure I ain't gotta tell a former member of the X-Men twice about how dirty he is."
"I'm confused... the X-Men assumed Sublime was dead. Cyclops and Wolverine said--"
"Ya know what they say about what happens when you assume, my friend."
"Regardless, why would you blokes give a toss about him, anyway? I mean, I know Sublime is actually a 'mutant parts' dealer, but why would you--"
"Ain't none of your concern. You're on a need-to-know basis and you--"
"--don't need to know." Naturally. Jono eyed the photos for a minute, and then nodded and looked up again. "Fine, I'll play. What do you want me to do?"
"And here I've been saying all this time you're a bright kid. Come on, you know where this is headed... We want you to kill him."
Silence, from Jonothon. He'd been hoping that he'd been wrong, was all. He was a lot of things, but not a murderer. Killing in self-defense wasn't the same as setting out with a hit in mind. It just... it wasn't.
"And make sure he stays dead this time, ya hear me?"
"I hear you... loud and bloody clear." Jono's appetite was gone. Good burger or not, it was staying right there on the table as he pushed himself to his feet. "Well, I do hope I have a bit of time to think this over."
"Sure. Just not too much time. Tick-tock, tick-tock, kid."
Jono didn't say a word as he shoved his hands into his pockets and walked out of the diner.
Not a bad film, really. Jono could appreciate the classics. Jono could also appreciate popcorn. The two combined were a bit of a help, even as a hand rested on his shoulder from the row of seats behind him.
"Here's lookin' at you, kid."
Logan, who asked what the damage was, exactly. Logan, who wanted to know what Jonothon was going to have to do in order to get in good graces with Weapon X. Logan, whose response to Jono's 'Weapon X wants me to kill John Sublime' complaint was a bit of wondering why they'd be interested in Sublime in the first place, and then some hearty approval.
And Jono... wasn't exactly okay with that. But he couldn't help but admit that Logan had his points, too.
"In case ya ain't caught wind of it yet, times are changin'. An' the X-Men have got t'change with 'em. The price for fightin' the good fight and savin' lives nowadays? That's gone up. So if all it takes to bring down a murderin' scuzzball operation like Weapon X is Sublime's head an' a small piece of your soul... you pay it."
"Hey, what's up, Jono?"
Getting into Sublime's facility... that was the easy part. Sauron and Wildchild provided one hell of a distraction while Jonothon slipped into the ventilation system. The bloody ventilation system. Like in the movies. And here he was, crawling through them on his hands and knees, right up to the target's office like it was nothing.
Who the hell designed buildings like this!?
… Probably the same people who grafted mutant body parts onto human volunteers, so that they had super-sensitive hearing and the ability to, say, blow up ductwork when they sensed an intruder. Bloody hell, that was a long drop.
When Jono came to, he was strapped down to an operating table, a pair of doctors hovering over him talking back and forth about removing his entire chest cavity.
Casual conversations like that had a funny way of waking a person up quickly, no matter how thoroughly sedated one might happen to be.
Wildchild was the one who gave the save, ripping the throats out of the doctors before they could saw the torso out of a struggling Jono.
Right, then. Time to do the job.
When Jono found his way to the hole that Sublime was hiding in, getting into it himself was easy enough. After all, while his power wasn't pouring out of his face anymore, the implant in his chest meant that he had a fair bit more focus with it. The titanium door that Sublime was barricaded behind was blasted away with no effort at all, revealing the man himself sitting at a desk, looking completely unconcerned.
"That door was solid titanium, Chamber. I'm impressed. Drink?"
"Didn't come here to drink, Sublime. I came here to--"
"Kill me? Yes, I know." He stood, reaching for a bottle of Scotch, and poured a glass for Jono all the same. "Take the drink-- it'll do you some good. You seem tense... conflicted. Perhaps a little chat is in order?"
"Ain't nothin' to chat about, mate," Jono eyed the drink, now in his hand, for a moment, and then shrugged and downed it. What was the worst that it would do? Most of his insides still weren't there, after all. They were just conveniently gift-wrapped in a prettier package than before. "You're a cold-blooded monster who chops mutants up for a living." He set the glass down and levelled a blazing, fire-eyed look at Sublime. "And you're going to die."
Funny how much easier that sort of thing was to say after being strapped down to the operating table with a bone-saw aimed at your ribcage.
"Ha! The mutant chop shop... is that what you think this is really all about? My, Jackson really does keep you folks in the dark over there. Let me ask you... do you think Jackson actually gives a toss about what happens to the mutants here?" He was rummaging around in his desk, now. Jono's eyebrows furrowed as Sublime's rant continued. "Quite the contrary, my dear boy. Quite the contrary!"
And then he threw... something. Jono didn't really catch what, except that it was exploding in his bloody face and sending him flying backwards. Which, really, he probably should have seen coming from a mile away. In any case, it was hardly the worst explosion he'd been caught in, and he was decked out in some pretty functional body armour, on top of that.
Sublime seemed at least slightly shocked this time, as Jono charged out of the flames, grabbing him by the lapels and slamming him back against the wall.
"Well played, old sport," Sublime cooed. "For the record, that was a spleen taken from a mutant capable of making his entire body explode. Can't blame a fellow for trying, no?"
Attacked with a spleen. This day just got better and better. But Jonothon said nothing.
"Look, lad... It's clear to me that you're in a tad over your head... that you don't grasp the scope of what you're involved with here. Let me ask you this... are you honestly sure you've chosen the right side in all this? I mean, they've asked you to kill someone! But luckily for you, it's not too late. The right choice can still be made. To blazes with the X-Men... to blazes with Weapon X. Choose the right side... ours. Our side can use a man like you..."
Jono didn't speak.
Jono just let go, and stood back.
The hole that he'd just burned clear through Sublime's chest would do the killing. And the flames that were swallowing up the rest of the room would clean up the mess afterwards.
"So how'd it go?"
Jono had agreed to meet Logan in a bar after the hit. A sort of... casual debriefing. Or, if nothing else, an excuse to stare into a shot glass and stew over the fact that now, he was a murderer. Something to add to his resume.
"A rousing success," he mumbled. "I have Weapon X's full trust, a mutant chop shop was destroyed... oh, and a man's dead. Almost forgot about that. Cheers."
"Look, Jono... when ya first got involved in this, ya knew there'd be some bad situations... some bad choices to make. And the end o' the day, we're a lot closer to bringin' the Program down around their flamin' ears, an' all it cost us was a very bad man. Fair tradeoff, I'd say."
Logan knocked back his drink. Jono left his glass, still full, sitting on the bar and stood to leave.
"You know, mate... after Sublime alluded to a connection between him and the Weapon X Program, he asked me if I was on the right side... and it's a question I've been wondering if I even know the answer to anymore."
[NFI, NFB, Ganked from Weapon X issues 16, 17, and 18. Here is where I pat Jono on the head. Pat. Pat. Pat. OOC is welcome.]
- Weapon X HQ, Jono's 616, Thursday-ish