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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
 
 
 

Between the Darkness and the Light - REVIEW THIS STORY

Written by Amanda Sichter
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 6

To: [email protected] xmen.com

Subject: {blank}

Something is wrong.

We can both feel it - we're jumping at shadows and as tense as cats. And the nightmares are back. Not just the bad dreams - we're both too used to those - but the honest-to-goodness wake-up-screaming kind of nightmares.

Why does it have to happen now? I just want peace, 'Ro, just time to savourbeing with Azimuth, time to be young and foolish and in love. Instead we're on the run, moving from city to city, trying to find a place where we don't feel like we're being stalked. We're in the middle of a job as well, a difficult heist, and the tension is making my nerves scream. I hope, so desperately, that the job is all it is, that once we finish it and the tension stops, we'll go back to normal and the nightmares will end.

Please, praying to all the gods that watch over thieves, please don't let it be Sinister.

Remy

Oddly enough, the nightmares started with Azimuth.

Gambit woke with a start in the middle of the night, his thief's instincts screaming. He lay feigning sleep, his breathing regulated, his body relaxed, as he tried to determine what had awakened him. And then he realised that Azimuth was whimpering beside him and he turned in concern to look at her.

His night-vision made it easy to see the strain on her face, the tense movements of her eyebrows and lips as she made clutching motions with her fingers. Even as she watched, a thin film of sweat broke over her forehead and upper lip. From past experience, he knew better than to touch her, so he waited as her movements became more and more frantic and her muttered treaties more desperate. Finally, a cry of 'No!' tore from her chest and Azimuth's eyes flew open.

Quickly, Remy reached over and gripped her hands with his. 'S'okay,' he soothed, and let go of one hand to stroke her forehead. Slowly the fright diminished in Azimuth's eyes and she released the breath she had been holding in a sudden sob. 'Was it the boy?' Remy asked.

Azimuth nodded. She didn't know why the boy turned up in her dreams, for she had never had any brothers or nephews and she had no particular affection for children. But in her worst nightmares she was always fixated on the same boy.

'There was a fire,' she said, her voice low and underlaid with anguish. 'He was standing there and the fire was all around him, coming at him from behind, and I screamed at him and he didn't hear me, and I reached out to grab him and I couldn't touch him, and I waved my arms and he couldn't see me. And I screamed and I screamed and I screamed and the fire came and he burned and *he didn't see me*. I wasn't real, Remy, I wasn't real,' and Remy cradled her to his chest and soothed her as her tears came.

The tears slowed and stopped quickly and Azimuth turned to face Gambit.

'Remy,' she said and then kissed him, her mouth hungry with desire and fear. They made love, Azimuth's frantic need for reassurance driving her more than any sexual desire, and afterwards Gambit held her until the final tension left her body.

'Better?' he asked whimsically, brushing the wisps of Azimuth's hair from her forehead.

'Much,' she replied. 'I haven't had a nightmare about the boy for a long time, Remy. It took me by surprise.'

'Well, I see you still react in de same way.' Gambit grinned.

Azimuth blushed hotly. 'Maybe we've been doing too much of that kind of thing,' she said. 'Maybe I'm having nightmares because I need something to do.'

Gambit tilted his head and considered her face. 'Maybe,' he conceded. 'Much as I'm enjoying dis life of endless sin and debauchery, I t'ink maybe our vacation might have gone on long enough.'

'Do you think we should contact Lynch?' Azimuth murmured softly into the hollow of Gambit's throat.

'Oui,' replied Gambit. 'He talked about a job in Kentucky when he rang last. It might still be available.'

'Then you'll ring him in the morning?' Azimuth asked.

'If it make you happy, chere,' said Gambit, and then damped down the sudden excitement that coursed through his veins as Azimuth nodded. Much as he loved this pressure-free time with her, the thought of another heist always set his blood to burning. It was a long time before he fell asleep.

Lynch, as always, sounded happy to hear from him. 'Of course I've still gotthe Kentucky job for you,' he said. 'How soon can you start working on it?'

'Straight away,' replied Gambit. 'What sort of job is it?'

'Data retrieval,' Lynch's voice was circumspect, as they were on an open phone-line.

'How much de client be payin'?' Gambit knew that the price was always the best indicator of the difficulty of the job and he knew Lynch wouldn't give him any more details over the phone.

'One point three,' Lynch replied, and Gambit whistled below his breath. It was a huge payout for a hacking job and indicated a surprising level of difficulty - and danger. 'Thirty percent cut,' Lynch continued and Gambit grinned. Lynch was being brave - as he always was when Gambit was at least a city away.

'Of course, mon ami,' he replied, smoothly. 'You can e-mail me all de details. You know my address.'

Azimuth's tired face lightened as she read the printed out details that Remy had handed her. Their interrupted sleep had left them both with dark circles beneath their eyes and Azimuth's face was drawn with pain as much as weariness. Nightmares about the boy always left her drained.

But she liked the sound of this job and her face, as she scanned the text, gradually grew more animated. Finally she turned smoke-grey eyes back to Remy. 'I never knew you could hack,' she said.

'Of course, chere,' replied Gambit and dipped an extravagant bow. 'Dere is more to being a t'ief dan just sneakiness and light fingers. Dese days dere is ever more need for a t'ief to be able to operate computer systems - security and otherwise.'

Azimuth smiled broadly. 'The more I get to know about you, LeBeau, the more there is to admire,' she declared.

'T'ank you, chere,' he replied. 'Glad I can impress you. Now all we got to do is work out how we get into dis place so we can do de hacking. Any ideas?'

They had been going over the plans for almost three hours before Gambit finally threw them down in disgust. 'Dere simply isn't enough information,' he said, angrily. 'How de hell Lynch t'ink we can get in wit'out knowing what we face?'

Azimuth ran weary hands through her hair. 'I don't know,' she said. 'I mean it's obvious they're going to have ultra-high security. Danvers is notorious for it. What else would you expect from a chemicals firm?'

''Specially one dat might just be supplying chemical weapons illicitly to overseas countries,' Gambit continued the thought. 'No wonder de government be willing to pay so much for a datacore dump.' He stared at the plans, his face locked in brooding lines, for some time. So the sudden, delighted grin he turned on Azimuth startled her from her silent reverie.

'Who said we got to get in?' Gambit said and laughed at Azimuth's surprised expression. 'We be takin' data, not goods. And we got enough information to at least try to hack in on an outside line.'

A slow smile spread over Azimuth's face as she contemplated what Remy said. 'It's worth a try,' she said. 'And at least this time my skills might be more than a match for yours.'

'Chere?' Gambit turned a puzzled look on his love.

'The boys at Kytek's programming department taught me a lot more than they thought,' said Azimuth, smugly. 'They may have thought of me as just the head of sales, but they gave me a lot of training in programming - and I did a lot of extra work in my own time. I'm pretty good at doing this sort of stuff, LeBeau.'

'Bon, tres bon,' murmured Gambit and kissed Azimuth lightly on the forehead. 'Because I have a feeling I'm going to need all the help I can get.'

The soft chime of the computer woke Remy from his light doze. He had been working on getting into Danvers' system for two days now and it was wearing on him. As well, Azimuth had had another nightmare, and last night he hadjoined her, waking in terror from a dream of pursuit that had ended with his bloody body on the floor. He had lain awake beside Azimuth for hours, and though she had not wakened, he saw that her sleep, too, was troubled. Even now, she was curled up on the lounge behind him, taking a nap.

But a look at the screen sent adrenaline through his veins, and banished the thought of sleep from his mind.

'Azimuth,' he called softly and she woke instantly.

'What?' she asked.

'We're in.' Remy could feel Azimuth's presence over his shoulder as she looked at the screen.

'We've got a line,' she agreed. 'But it looks like it's first level only.'

Gambit had to agree. The screen that greeted him was only a log-on screen and it looked like it would take a lot of hacking before they would get to any of the information they needed to extract.

He sighed and settled down to start running programs.

Azimuth stared at the screen in dismay. The program she had built and run hadn't taken her where she thought it would, but had instead dumped her into a secondary access channel. ~Is it because I'm so tired?~ she thought. ~Am I screwing up that badly?~

The nightmares that were haunting her were becoming increasingly virulent and her sleep becoming increasingly fitful. And after last night, when she had woken to discover Remy tossing and sweating in the grip of his own terror, she knew that his ever more tired features were not due solely to her.

~What is this job doing to us?~ she thought, and then backed up a few steps in her program and re-wrote a sub-loop. She entered and executed the file and was suddenly in the security domain.

'Remy,' she hissed and Gambit was by her side in an instant.

He looked over the screen in silence and then clasped her shoulder in appreciation. 'Well done,' he said and then his hand beneath her elbow urged her out of the seat. 'Time for me to have a go,' he grinned at her and then his face sobered. 'Get some rest,' he continued, 'I'll need you fully functional again soon.'

Azimuth nodded and headed to the bedroom to try and get some rest.

She stared at the screen, wearily, and wondered what else she needed to do to try and get into the highest access levels. Remy had been working for hours in the security domain, gathering information on Danvers' security systems, both computerised and physical. But now she had the computer back and she wanted to get the datacore dump as quickly as possible and get out of there.

The screen flickered, once, and then returned to normal. Azimuth cursed her tired eyes and then began to run another program. Her fingers froze on the keys, however, as a sudden, screaming warning went off in her head. ~There's someone on here with me~ she thought and her fingers flickered madly as she slammed out of the connection.

'Remy,' she called, her voice breathless.

'Azimuth?' Gambit's head poked around the kitchen door, from where he was preparing lunch.

'I think we've been sprung,' she replied, shakily. Remy's frown of puzzled concern led her to continue, 'There was someone on the line with me, Remy. I logged off, but it might have been Danvers' security checks.'

Remy walked into the study and sat himself next to her. 'Let's see,' he said, and logged back into the connection. Quickly, he got back into Danvers' security domain and inserted a program he'd designed that would ping him if anyone in Danvers hooked into his connection. There was nothing.

'See,' he turned to Azimuth. 'Not'ing.'

Azimuth shrugged. 'You're right,' she said and Gambit turned back to try and crack the next level of access. He had only been typing for a few seconds when Azimuth's hand suddenly clutched at his shoulder. 'There he is, now, he's back on,' she said and Gambit saw her face had gone stark white.

He checked the ping program and saw nothing. 'Chere, dere's nobody on de line but,' he started, and then he felt it. The same sudden, startling instinct that Azimuth had felt, a searing consciousness that someone else was sharing their cyberspace. With a muffled oath, Remy crashed out.

'You're right,' he said, turning to face Azimuth. 'Dere's someone in dere wit' us. And he don' come from Danvers. It's an outsider as well. And I t'ink he know where we are.'

Azimuth pushed her fingers through her hair and gave a shaky laugh. 'That's all right then,' she said. Gambit frowned at her. 'I've got a different access ID in every state in the country,' she said. 'All we've got to do is move around.'

Gambit smiled at her. 'You really do have de instincts of a t'ief,' he said in admiration. 'Because dat's exactly what I was going to suggest. You t'ink you de only one wit' more dan one ID?'

Azimuth returned his smile. 'I'll go pack,' she said.

The Outsider, as they came to call him, took two days to find them in Minneapolis, a day and a half in Sioux City, a day in Des Moines, six hours in Omaha, five in Topeka and three in St Louis.

Azimuth burst into tears when the ping that announced the Outsider's presence had sounded in St Louis. Gambit had sympathised deeply as he took her into his arms and soothed her. Whoever the Outsider was (and there were a hundred possibilities, thought Gambit) he was enjoying stalking them, his mere presence becoming enough to intimidate. And the tension that he caused was interfering further with their sleep. Both of them were now subject to nightmares of such intensity that they feared going to sleep and were snatching cat-naps whenever possible.

Finally Azimuth's tears stopped and Gambit held her away from him. 'Ready to try again?' he asked, and was unprepared for the sudden sweep of fear that passed over Azimuth's face.

'I don't want to go back in,' she said and her voice was soft. 'I'm afraid, Remy, I'm really afraid.'

Gambit sighed as he looked down on her. 'So am I,' he admitted quietly. 'So am I.'

'What do we do?' Azimuth asked. 'Do we tell Lynch the contract is over?'

'Non,' replied Gambit. 'We go in for real.' Azimuth tilted her head in puzzlement and Gambit couldn't suppress a grin. 'We got into Danvers' security domain, chere, and we stored every bit of info dere was. Lynch didn't give us enough to break into de place, but surely we've got enough now.'

The slow breaking of Azimuth's smile was like the sun coming through clouds. 'You're right,' she said. 'You're right,' and she laughed and kissed him until they were both giddy.

They had slept well in the motel in Louisville, the thought of imminent action banishing the nightmares for one night at least. And now they sat in the woods as night fell, the high wire fence in front of them the edge of the Danvers' complex.

'You right?' Gambit turned anxious eyes on Azimuth, but she regarded him serenely and nodded. The lap-top computer she held hummed slightly as it counted down the moments until it would start to run its programs. But the line that connected it with the Danvers' security systems was an internal one, a direct interface into their computer. This was one the Outsider couldn't break into and that allayed Azimuth's fears completely.

'Good luck,' Azimuth said and counted down the seconds with Remy until he started his run. 'Now,' she said and Gambit exploded into action. He telescoped his bo staff out as he ran to the fence and used it as a pole-vaulter would, to swing himself over the fence. The instant before his feet would touch the electric field that extended above the fence, Azimuth activated the program that sent a micro-second pulse down the line and removed the field from that section of fence. Gambit's body swung over the fence unharmed and he dropped into the complex. He didn't turn to say anything to Azimuth, instead setting off at a steady run across the grass.

Azimuth didn't mind the lack of a goodbye. They were on micro-second timing here and even a word could destroy the meticulous timing that had to exist between her activation of programs and Remy's actions.

Carefully Azimuth worked her way through the programs she fed into the security domain, programs that cut off power here, diverted a camera there, released a door-lock somewhere else. As each program ran and no alarms sounded, no sudden flurry of activity occurred, no explosions went off, Azimuth's confidence began to grow. 'He's in the building,' she whispered to herself. And then 'He's at the terminal,' 'He's made the dump', 'He's past the cameras', 'He's past the guards'.

She ran the second-last program, the one that got him out of visual range of the building without being picked up on camera and felt herself relax. There was only the program to again divert the electric field from the fence to go, and then they would be away. Azimuth felt her shoulders drop in relief and she let the tension drain out of her.

The voice, so familiar and so dreaded, whispered in across her left shoulder. 'So LeBeau can make it out now by himself?' it asked, and she knew that this was the Outsider.

The terror that pierced Azimuth was so intense that she couldn't think to formulate a lie. Numbly, she nodded, agreeing with the speaker.

'Good girl, Azimuth,' said the voice and Azimuth closed her eyes in fear, and hoped that it might all be another of her horrible nightmares.

'Good night, Azimuth,' said the voice and then she knew no more.

Remy reached the fence exactly on time, feeling somewhat pleased with himself, the CD-Rom holding Danvers' datacore in his duster pocket. For just an instant he thought he might have gone a little off-track and he cursed himself light-heartedly. And then he looked again, and what he saw drained all the joy from his heart.

The lap-top computer lay abandoned, leaning drunkenly against a tree.

Of Azimuth there was no sign.

 

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