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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 7

To: [email protected] xmen.com

Subject: {blank}

Please, 'Ro, please, please, I need your help.

Azimuth is gone - she's been taken, kidnapped. It was Sinister, I know it - it was so clean and quick - he's the only one I can think of who would be able to snatch her without leaving even a trace.

I need to find her, 'Ro, I need to get her away from him before he kills her - or worse. I can't stand the thought of what he's doing to her, what he will do to her. I'm doing everything I can to find her, but he could have taken her anywhere.

Can you help me? I know you don't have Cerebro any more, but if you could ask one of the telepaths to try and scan for her - please, I know it is a lot to ask, but I think Sinister will kill her if I don't find her soon. I have attached mental and bio-scans of Azimuth to help your search and a list of all of the places I know of where Sinister has a base. Even if you could just give me an idea of which one she might be in - I need to find her.

God, I love her, 'Ro. Please help me, please, please help me.

Remy

He hadn't even thought when he saw the abandoned laptop. He had known, suddenly and totally, that Azimuth had been taken and that knowledge sent a searing pain through his veins.

It had found its outlet in his hands, the tense pulse of his power concentrated to acid brightness by his fear. He had charged up what he later realised was at least half a deck of cards and blown the high wire fence into smithereens.

The sudden wail of alarms going off in the Danvers' complex had brushed over Gambit's consciousness without hurrying him at all. He had picked up the laptop, logged out of the connection and then turned to inspect the area around it. There were no signs of a struggle and Gambit realised that whoever had taken Azimuth had managed to sneak up on her and overpower her before she could react.

He widened his search outward, picking up the faintest of trails that led to Azimuth's last position. A close inspection showed that it was their own trail to the drop-off point. Even they, light-footed thieves both, had left marks that showed they had been there, if only to his experienced eyes. But of the person who had taken Azimuth there was no sign at all.

'Sinister,' breathed Gambit. Of all the myriad enemies he and Azimuth had accumulated between them, only Sinister could have made the snatch so cleanly. Gambit felt a sudden, terrible urge to destroy and, without thinking, he charged the laptop he held until it seethed between his hands with a fierce, crimson light.

Even as the shouts of the guards reached him he hurled the laptop high into the air. At the peak of its tortured flight it exploded with a piercing scream that sent the just-visible guards hurtling into cover. By the time they raised their heads again, Gambit had faded into the woods.

Despite their long search, they never found a trace of him.

The security at Lynch's home was surprisingly lax. Gambit supposed that was because Lynch assumed no-one knew where he lived and used that as his security.

~Foolish thing to assume, Lynch,~ thought Gambit, as he picked the last lock that opened Lynch's front door. ~It may have taken me a while to find you, but I can steal anything. Even knowledge. Even secrets.~

He had already disabled the simple, single alarm system that wired the whole house and therefore moved quickly once he was in the door. His footsteps were silent as he padded down the hallway to Lynch's bedroom, enabling him to hear the noises that emanated from within.

~He's got a girl in there,~ Gambit thought with some startlement, for he never thought of Lynch as anything but a businessman. For a fleeting moment, Gambit considered breaking in straight away, but realised it could be somewhat impolitic to burst in on his broker at such a time. And so he settled down and waited until the noises reached their crescendo and then died away. Gambit gave it a few more minutes for proprieties sake and then slid his hand around the door-knob, charging it quickly. He stepped away and shielded his face as the explosion, surprisingly loud in the confined space, blew the door handle completely away. And then he turned and kicked the door open.

The girl was a terrified huddle under the bed-clothes and Lynch's hand was already up into the firing position, his pistol covering the door. But before he could fire, Gambit's bo telescoped out and upwards and, catching the pistol by the trigger-guard, flung it across the room. The bo continued upwards until it stopped, the end of the staff pressed firmly against Lynch's adam's apple.

Gambit dropped a half-bow to the girl, never taking his eyes from Lynch's face. 'I apologise for de interruption, chere,' he said, softly. 'I have no intention of harmin' you, but I suggest you scram.'

The girl gathered the sheet around herself and edged out of the bed. Whoever this demonic creature with the glowing eyes was that had invaded the bedroom, she wanted no part of what was to follow. Gambit tracked her with his sensory perception until he was sure she had fled from the house. Then he turned his attention back to Lynch.

'What do you want, Gambit?' Lynch's voice was hoarse with fear - and the pressure of the bo on his larynx.

'Azimuth has been taken,' replied Gambit, and his eyes suddenly sparked crimson. 'Gambit wants to know if it was a setup.'

'Azimuth is gone?' Lynch paled, but his face took on the faintest hint of defiance. 'I don't set up my thieves, Gambit. I'd be ruined as a broker if my thieves didn't trust me.'

'I know who took her,' Gambit replied, his hands reflexively tightening around the bo. 'And I know he can break a man - or buy him. Did he do dat wit' you, Lynch? Did he make you set Azimuth and I up?'

Lynch shook his head. 'It was a legitimate contract. I've dealt with these people before, Gambit.' Lynch's eyes narrowed. 'Maybe Azimuth left of her own accord. Maybe she set *you* up.'

The rush of Remy's power up the bo was made doubly obvious in the darkened bedroom. It filled the staff with cerise light, and Lynch could feel the seething hunger of it against his throat. He closed his eyes and prayed to whatever gods were listening.

But only Gambit was there and his anger was so great he nearly released the power. With difficulty he held it in check. 'Gambit has a survival tip for you, Lynch,' he said, his voice taut with rage. 'Don' ever question Azimuth's loyalty or integrity again, neh?'

Lynch nodded, the slow leak of a tear appearing from under his eyelids.

'I want de details of de contract and who initiated de deal,' said Gambit, softly. 'And I need de mental and bio-scans you have of Azimuth. I need to find her, Lynch, as fast as possible. Or she dies. Understand?' At Lynch's affirmatory nod, Gambit fought his anger down and pulled his power back down the bo and into his hands until he could lock it away again. 'Straight away,' he whispered and then was gone.

Lynch waited five minutes before he opened his eyes and lowered his hands. And then he ran to his computer.

Storm sighed deeply as she pushed herself back from the computer terminal and ran her hands over her face. The anguished plea in Gambit's e-mail was obviously deeply heartfelt and his belief that it was Sinister had taken Azimuth was sincere. But it placed Storm into a deep dilemna.

She was going to have to lie to Jean.

Ororo Monroe prided herself deeply on her integrity and, more than anything, she hated to lie to her friends. But she knew that Jean's feelings against Gambit ran deep - Phoenix had confessed as much to her.

And despite the fact that a third party's life was at stake, Storm dreaded to think what Jean's reactions would be to the knowledge that she would beundertaking this task to help Remy. It would be simpler just to leave his name out of it altogether.

Storm put the call through over the Net to Jean and brooded as she waited for the connection to be made. She had felt like she was coming to know Azimuth - Remy's e-mails had been full of their time together and Storm had started to develop an abstract affection for this woman who had been so good for her friend. The thought of her in Sinister's hands pained Storm - even more for knowing a little of the terrible associations both Gambit and Azimuth had had with him in the past.

Storm wished, desperately, that Cerebro had still been available to her. She could have tried to track Azimuth herself then, or used Psylocke to do it. Storm had far less qualms about lying to the increasingly erratic Betsy than to one of her oldest and closest friends. But with the Professor gone and Psylocke unused to using her telepathy to scan across a country, Jean was her only hope.

'Ororo, what's wrong?' Jean's voice cut into the train of Storm's thoughts.

Pulling her mind back to the present, Storm smiled at Jean's worried face on the monitor. 'Jean, my friend, it is good to see you again. How are you and Scott getting on?'

'Fine, 'Ro, just fine,' Jean's beaming smile said more than the words about how the couple were finding Alaska. But then her face sobered and she said, 'This isn't a social call, 'Ro. I saw your face - you're worried about something. Desperately worried. What's wrong? Is it one of the others?'

'No, no,' Storm's reassurance was quickly given and quickly accepted as Jean brushed her powers over Storm's mind. 'I need help, Jean. Help to find someone.'

'Who do you need to find?' Jean, as ever, was eager to help.

'You don't know her,' replied Storm. 'Her name is Azimuth. She's a mutant - and I have reason to believe she's being held against her will.' Storm took a deep breath as she waited for the onslaught of questions.

But Jean took some time to reply as her face drew into a deepening frown. 'Who is she, Storm? I need to know enough about her to be able to scan. And do you have any idea where she may be being held?'

'She is the friend of an old friend, Jean. They are certain she has been abducted and they need to find her. She is in great danger. But I do not know her - not enough to help you in a scan.' For a second Jean's face took on a look that made Storm think she was planning to mind-scan her, but a negative gesture from Storm's hand changed her mind. 'I have a mental and bio-scan of her available. I'll send it to you by e-mail. With a list of places where she might be held. Can you please try and find her? Please?'

Jean's face softened at 'Ro's quiet, impassioned plea. 'For you, Storm, anything. But who is it for?'

Storm's voice was soft as she replied, 'Someone you don't know at all. Just trust me, please.'

From the look on Jean's face it was obvious that she did trust Storm. 'Of course, Storm. Send me the scans and the list and I'll get right on it. Goodbye, 'Ro.'

'Goodbye,' replied Storm and severed the connection. She attached the scans and list to an e-mail and sent it to Jean. Then she logged out of the terminal and made her way out of the Westchester Public Library and back to her home.

Even in the bright sunlight that followed her, Storm couldn't help but feel cold.

The man crouched on the floor in front of Gambit had given up on trying to contain his sobbing. This was fear at its most primal, a wretched, heaving abandonment of control.

Gambit sighed as he looked down at the man who had initiated the last contract with Lynch. He crouched down on his haunches and reached out, cradling the man's face within his hands in a soft gesture of comfort.

But the man had seen the power that burned in those hands, seen the terrible destruction that Remy had wrought on objects within the room as he had sought to pry knowledge from him. And so the touch of those hands brought him no comfort at all. Instead he huddled further within himself and his sobbing deepened.

Gambit thought of withdrawing his hands but didn't. Softly, his fingers stroked the man's jawline, seeking to give solace, even as they tightened bands of terror around his victim's chest. 'I'm sorry,' Gambit said, his voice soft. 'I'm so sorry for frightening you. But I needed to know. I need to find her, you see. I needed to know if you knew anyt'ing about her. I'm sorry.'

It made no difference - in fact, it seemed to drive the man to greater extravagances of tears. Gambit let his hands fall and pulled the CD-Rom out of his pocket. 'Here's what you wanted,' he said and laid the disc on the chair beside him. 'It has Danvers' datacore on it. Take it to your bosses in de Department of Defense and tell dem dey need to pay Lynch.' He contemplated the huddled man before him and said once more, so softly even he barely heard it, 'I'm sorry.'

Gambit made his way quickly out of the apartment, but paused before the front door. The terrified sobs of the man were still audible and Gambit knew they were the tears of a broken man. He lowered his head and silently contemplated the bastardisation of his soul. Whatever dealings he had with Sinister, however oblique they were, each one etched the shame and the failure deeper.

'Dis too, Essex,' Gambit vowed, quietly, 'Dis too you shall pay for.'

Sinister's base at Middlesboro was empty. In fact, it had the look of abandonment, the walls covered in spider's webs, a thick layer of dust coating the few implements and mechanical contrivances that were left. But Gambit had still had to fight the automated defence systems to get in, as the bleeding cut on his forehead testified.

But he could not fool himself that Azimuth and Sinister had ever been there. Wherever the doctor had taken her, it had not been to the closest base.

Before he left, Gambit indulged in an orgy of destruction. Whether Sinister had abandoned this base or not, he would never use it again now. The pain of Gambit's cut and the pain in his heart combined to ratchet his powers up to maximum and he had loaded every object in the room, till the walls had seethed crimson and the floor and roof screamed a blazon of fervid colour.

Gambit walked away, out of the base and several hundred yards away before he finally released his grip on the ravening hunger of his power.

When the last explosion ceased, the only thing that showed Sinister had ever had a base there was an area of a hundred square feet where the ground had subsided.

Gambit's face stretched into a mirthless smile as he walked away. 'I'm coming, Sinister,' he said. 'And as long as you hold Azimuth, I will never stop.'

To: [email protected] noguild.com

Subject: {blank}

Remy

Phoenix has searched in all of the locations you had suggested. She hasn't been able to find Azimuth for certain - there was no match for her anywhere. But Phoenix said there was a trace of - memory/thought - in Schenectady. She would not guarantee that it is Azimuth but she said it was the only possible lead that she could find.

I hope, for your sake, dearest friend, that it is Azimuth. If you need help, contact me.

My prayers go with you.

Ororo

He had expected to have to fight at least some of the Marauders to get into Sinister's base in Schenectady. As a general rule, Sinister kept at least a few of them around him at all times. But this time, there were none.

The automated defense systems were as difficult to break through as ever. But the practice Remy had had in Middlesboro came to his aid here and he was able to breach the outer defensive barriers with minimal difficulty, earning only a hole burned through his duster sleeve from a laser he hadn't sighted until nearly too late.

But even that close call was forgotten as he made it through the psi-shielded concrete and steel walls into the inner bunker. Because this time, unlike Middlesboro, the base was well-lit and humming with power.

And this time, as he entered the room, he felt the oh-so-familiar itch/buzz in the centre of his mind, the itch/buzz that only came when Azimuth was using her power.

Gambit had little recollection of the next few minutes. He remembered breathing his lover's name and then there was only a blurred impression of running and dodging, using cards to knock out lasers and take down security robots. He had a vague feeling that in some of the rooms he passed, people in white coats gaped and shouted at him, but he ignored them, his mind ferociously focussed on tracking down Azimuth and taking her out of here.

He knew where she would be. Sinister was a brilliant geneticist, but as a designer of bases he tended to stick to one plan. And Gambit had been in the inner sanctums - the rooms where Sinister held his unwilling 'patients' and the rooms where he carried out his 'medical procedures' - Gambit had been there often enough to be able to find them, whatever base he was in.

The last door to the inner suite of rooms was, as always, a thick durasteel construction with a complicated electronic lock affixed to it. Gambit slapped his hand to the lock and pumped it full of kinetic energy, withdrawing beyond the bend in the corridor as the massive explosion ripped through the hallway. When he peeked around again, there was a smoking hole in the door.

Gambit slapped his palms against the door, pushing it open quickly and diving through and down to dodge any energy or laser bolts that might be coming. Even as he tucked and rolled he extended his perceptions and felt the presence of two people in the room. As he came up behind the medical table, a handful of charged cards ready to be thrown, he realised that Sinister and Azimuth shared the room with him.

Sinister stood at a computer console on the far side of the room from him, a look of puzzlement on his face as he turned to watch Remy. Whatever he had been doing it had obviously involved Azimuth for she was in a position that Remy found all to painfully familiar.

The medical table she was strapped to was raised up so she was nearly perpendicular to the floor. She looked as if she had been crucified, her arms spread wide and held with padded cuffs to the table, her legs strapped down at ankle, knee and thigh. A wide gag filled her mouth and from the terror etched on her face, Gambit knew that it was there to muffle her screaming.

'Ah, LeBeau,' Sinister's gravel-filled voice penetrated the horror with which Gambit was contemplating his lover. 'I thought you would come for her soon. Though you made it here a little earlier than I expected.'

'What have you done to her?' Gambit's voice was filled with anguish. Azimuth's face still showed no acknowledgment of his entry to the room and the itch/buzz in his head continued remorselessly onwards.

'Can't you guess?' As ever, Sinister's voice was relentlessly self-satisfied. 'Did you know she could turn her interesting little power on herself? I thought she might be able to, but now I've been able to prove that hypothesis. I turned her power inwards, LeBeau, and turned it on non-stop. I don't know what little reality she's inhabiting right now, but it has nothing to do with the one we're in.'

'But why?' Gambit whispered.

'So long as I tie her down and gag her, she is less of an inconvenience to me,' Sinister explained, as if it was a perfectly natural thing to do. 'When she wandering in her own multitude of realities, she isn't going to try and escape now, is she?'

Gambit stepped out from behind the table he had crouched behind and made his way to Azimuth's side. Silently, he lowered her table until she lay flat before him. He reached out to touch her face, but the muffled screaming never ceased. Somewhere behind her eyes, Azimuth was locked in a reality that didn't include him at all.

'I'm going to take her, Sinister,' Gambit said and turned eyes that blazed onto the doctor, the cards he held beginning to glow again.

'Go ahead,' Sinister responded, affably. 'I have what I want from her. If you had waited just a little longer, I would have given her back to you. But you always were the impatient type, LeBeau.'

Gambit gritted his teeth to try and contain his hatred. 'Don't ever come near us again,' he ground out. 'If you come near us again, I'll kill you. I swear it.'

Sinister's face stiffened and he drew himself up to his full height, a suddenly menacing presence. 'I own her,' he said softly. 'Just as I own you. From your DNA to your very soul, I own every part of both of you. Don't ever forget that, LeBeau. And don't ever think you can escape me. I know what you do, every minute of every day, and when I want you again I will take you. Remember that always, LeBeau. You are *mine*.'

And he was gone, a sudden black stain on the air that faded into nothingness.

Gambit turned from the suddenly empty computer console to look down on Azimuth. He removed her gag and undid her arms from the straps and she turned her upper body from him, trying to curl into the fetal position but prevented by the straps across her legs. Remy reached out and stroked her forehead, but whatever reality Azimuth was in now made her cringe back from his hand as if she feared him striking her.

Gambit sighed and undid the straps on her legs. When she was free he picked her up and she curled into his arms like a child. Remy dropped a soft kiss on her brow and could feel the near-convulsive shaking that permeated her body.

'I'm so sorry, chere,' he whispered. 'I wish I could have protected you from him. But it is too late for foolish wishes. I need help for you, chere, help I can' give you. I'm sorry, lovely Azimuth, I wanted to keep you out of it, but I haven' got any choices.'

'I have to take you to the X-Men.'

 

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