4 Years Ago - Nevada Desert
Technologically advanced machinery quietly whirred, hummed and clicked as three scientists observed the young woman suspended in a stasis tube. Leads and wires were hooked and recording her vitals, trailing from her entirely bare skin to the edge of the tank that she was suspended in. On the outside of the glass was a high tech readout screen, displaying her vital signs and how far that she had progressed.
"Her readings, sir." A petite doctor in her early thirties handed a tablet to the foremost mind in mutant genetics, Dr. Hampton. The mid-fifties man was well put together with a little shine in his eye that indicated the nature of a dreamer. He was a man who had dreamed of something more, something greater and was forefront on the battlefield for mutant rights, a battle that everybody involved with Project M knew would come to the forefront very soon - perhaps too soon.
"Thank you, Dr. Hill."
Turning to his two colleagues, Peter Hampton quickly went over the readouts, ensuring that Subject 7 was still viable. "She's been wiped entirely clear, per her request." It was the oddest of requests. When recruit Katriona Vaughn had been chosen as the perfect candidate for the Weapon M program, a program dedicated to the protection of mutantkind and the mutant agenda, she had personally requested that all memories be stripped of her upon program completion.
Former MI-6 agent Brady Calhoun, Katriona's mentor, stepped into the room, his hands slid into the pockets of his snug jeans and shoulders hunched beneath his leather jacket. It disturbed him to see her like this, but as the first subject of Weapon M, he couldn't judge her for it.
"How's our girl?" The subtle Irish brogue rolled over his voice like a nicely aged liquor.
"Completely wiped. She's a blank slate, a weapon to point and aim."
"She'll never be just that, everybody here knows it. Surely you remember how she responds in the field?" Even as a probationary agent with the specified branch that she'd been in, Kat had been lauded and condemned for innovation and a tendency for going off book. It was during her partnership with Brady that he'd begun guiding her as a protege and from there they'd become something more - something without definition.
"She's exactly what we asked for, exactly what we need. Within her is limitless potential and the will to usher in a new era."
2 Weeks Later
Subject 7 - Weapon M - Katriona Vaughn. All one in the same, now going by the moniker of Outlaw. She stood in the center of a simulation room, one which she'd been rigorously testing the applications of her power in for the last two weeks without end. Brady and Dr. Hampton watched from the observation chamber up above.
Outlaw moved with precision, utilizing the above human senses she had at her disposal as the base and permanent part of her power set to guide her actions. With the black cloak that was part of her 'uniform' flowing on the winds as she moved with the acrobatic prowess of a ballet dancer, the young woan lashed out with an expertly executed back-kick while simultaneously leaning forward and landing a throat chop on the simulated assailant coming at her from the front.
In a macabre ballet of pain and destruction, she managed to put down corporeal simulations of nine highly trained Special Forces operatives in less than seven minutes using an explosive technique of innovative fighting and without any powers other than those she always carried with her.
"Her times are nearly as good as yours, Calhoun." Dr. Hampton spoke in what could almost be called an affectionate voice as he relayed what both men had seen.
"She's a sight ta see, for sure." With emphasis on his words, Katriona completed the simulation and the room reverted from a street fight scene to the sterile blank environment that it was when not in use. Looking up to the observation room, she simply saluted and walked out, heading down to the showers.
"Telepathic scans have come back, reaffirming that her powers make her as impervious to telepathic assault as we're able to test without damaging her. Ka...Subject 7 is also immune to DNA scans," The small slip in almost referring to Outlaw as Katriona, belying his own personal feelings for the young woman. In the process of crafting Weapon M and turning her into a weapon in the name of mutantkind, Hampton had come to look on her fondly, in a way akin to a daughter or favored niece.
"Is everything in order for her departure?" Nothing gave away Calhoun's tension other than the innocuous clenching of one of his fists as he strode to the window of the observation room and pensively looked down at the young woman, his brow furrowed in deep thought.
"False identities are set up, safehouses have been established and everything is good to go. She's passed all qualification tests and there are no fractures in her memory."
"Speaking of, do ye have the video that she recorded pre-wipe. She'll want to see it for verification." Despite the fact that the wipe had been per her own request, she wouldn't trust a soul until she saw it for her own eyes. Hampton slipped a disc from his pocket and handed it over to Calhoun, who nimbly slipped it into the inside zipper pocket of his worn black leather jacket.
Thirty minutes later, Brady Calhoun and Katriona Vaughn sat side by side in an F250 with a top of the line hand-built motorcycle resting in the back of the bed. Tension stifled the ambiance of the cab as Metallica blasted through the speakers. Kat had been briefed, she knew what she was and she knew her mission, but she didn't trust anybody, least of all the man who sat beside her right now.
Reaching forward with one hand on the wheel, Brady went to turn the volume down. The second that his fingers left the dial hers turned it straight back up, putting it several notches above where it had previously been stationed. "I know ye can't think that's a good idea, lass."
Her eyes narrowed as she glared at him, twisting in her seat and positioning her back slightly towards the door. Studying his face, Kat took note of every feature; the little white scar on his chin that was mostly hidden by a rough layer of stubble, the crow's feet at the corner of his eyes that only showed when he smiled - which was incredibly rare, the mischievous twinkle in his light blue eyes and a face that was lightly lined, a map of a life long-lived. "I don't really care too much about what ya think at this point in time, darlin'." There was the slightest Southern twang to her voice as she spoke and rebelliousness was evident in posture and tone.
"You should start caring, and real quick." His voice was quiet as he used the buttons on the wheel to change the radio to some country station. The melodic tunes of Lee Bryce came coursing through the speakers.
'I'm hard to love, hard to love, no, I don't make it easy. I couldn't do it if I stood where you stood. I'm hard to love, hard to love, you say that you need me. I don't deserve it, but I know that you love me, girl.'
Rolling her eyes like a recalcitrant teenager, Katriona hit the switch to lower the window and stuck her head outside so she didn't have to bear the music. Her russet hair blew around her face, the notable white streaks whipping into her eyes as the rumblings of the highway blocked out music that made her far too introspective.
Holding her hand out the window, the warm summer air flowed through her gloved fingers, creating a whistling effect. Surfing her hand through the air she ignored the constant scanning of the radio until some generic pop began fluting through the speakers. "Are you like, twelve years old?"
Brady's eyebrows rose in surprise at her blatant attack on him. "Are you, like, in the business of insulting the only person in a position to help you?" He put on a perfect American accent and rose his voice an octave or so while perfectly mimicking her cadence of tone.
Arching a surprised eyebrow, she crossed her arms over her chest in what was a defensive gesture without even realizing it. "You're an ass."
"And you're acting like a spoiled child when you're one of the most talented people I've had the opportunity to work with. It may take you a while to get re-acclimated to your position, but you chose this path for a reason. Now you stand tall, and proud and you walk it. If not for yourself, for everybody else."
The silence was nearly overbearing as Katriona was momentarily speechless, a feat in and of itself. "I still think you're an ass."
2 Years Ago - New York City
The snowfall was a vision of Wintery wonder that Katriona surveyed with a lightened heart from the window seat in the luxurious apartment that she'd obtained in the heart of the city. A lit candle sat on the window ledge, wafting the scent of cedar and balsam throughout the spacious living area, fully decorated for the holidays.
Footsteps echoed as they approached the front door and out of pure instinct, she reached for the dagger that was strapped to the flat of her arm, hidden beneath the black silk gloves that hit her just below the elbow. There was a scratching as Brady balanced the takeout bags against the door while scrounging for his keys and opening the door.
The moment that the heavy door opened and Brady entered, the tantalizing scent of perfectly prepared Chinese food wafted through. Kat was off the window seat in a second and striding over to the granite top island in the center of the oversize kitchen. Tearing open the stapled closed bag she pulled out the container of General Tsao's and began scooping out a serving onto a plate that Brady had just placed in front of her.
Sitting on the large supple leather couch, each in their prospective corners as Elf played, they merrily went about eating their dinner. Kat sneaked a peek at Brady out of the corner of her eye as she brought noodles up to her lips while expertly using chopsticks. He was as enigmatic as ever and it was times like this during mundane activities that he let down his guard just the smallest.
"What's bothering ye, Katriona?"
As simple as that, he cut to the crux of what was wrong. It was an innate talent of his and one that never failed to drive her crazy. "Just thinking about family, or whoever it was that I had back home." She'd come to terms in the past years with what had been told to her regarding a voluntary mindwipe and she'd crusaded for mutants, albeit it from the shadows. But there would always be a nagging inside of her, she wouldn't be human if there weren't.
"What you're doing, it's important." Grabbing his can of Budweiser from the table he took a long, languid sip while placing his plate down and looking over at Kat, who was absentmindedly staring out of the window.
"Is it? So important that I gave up everything I'd ever known for it?"
"There's nobody else that..."
"Yeah, I know, I know." She rolled her eyes, hurriedly standing up from the couch. Stripping off her gloves, she threw them down onto the glass table and walked over to the French doors that opened out onto a balcony with a top notch view of the city. Standing in front of them, Kat looked out at the view, wondering if her family was looking at the stars at this same moment in time.
"There's nobody else that can do what I do, because there's nobody else that can steal powers, that can avoid detection, all that fun stuff." Her voice was filled with derision and her lip curled to show her distaste as she spoke next. "Nobody stupid enough to give up everything they had for a worthy cause."
Padding quietly across the lush carpet of the living room, Brady stood behind her, almost touching but not quite. She caught a whiff of his cologne and closed her eyes, allowing the scent to ignite memories of missions in the last two years, during which time they'd built a tenuously unbreakable camaraderie. "Do ye believe what you're fighting for, Kat? Do ye believe that mutants deserve to be protected, deserve to be saved and that those who are oppressing us deserve whatever's coming to them?"
"I do." Her voice was quiet as she splayed a hand against the cool glass, resting her forehead against it as the white fluffy snow began to accrue and pile on the balcony. The lights that she had strung up there sparkled through it, creating a glistening and magical effect.
"Do ye trust me?"
"With my life." Although perhaps not with anything else.
At this point, he reached forward, placing his hand on her shoulder, resting it on the thick knit of the Irish fisherman's sweater that he had gifted her for Christmas the year prior. "Then do details of the past, details that ye can't remember, truly matter?"
There was an unseen grimace of pain on her face as she bowed her head and closed her eyes. Placing her hand over his just for the quickest of moments, too quick to retain anything of his, she removed his hand, leaving it to dangle by his side. Head still down, she avoided his gaze, brushing past him on her way out of the room. "Yes."