Home | Forum | Mailing List | Repository | Links | Gallery
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


Written by Karen Bruce
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 10

Presentiment is that long shadow on the lawn

Indicative that suns go down;

The notice to the startled grass

That darkness is about to pass.

~ Dickenson

Sipping her coffee delicately, peach lipstick leaving its kiss on the polystyrene cup, "Yvonne Montgomery" scanned the information that she had pulled up from SHIELD's enormous data banks. Enormous that was, when it came to anything other than Valhalla. As befitted a project of Valhalla's reputation and magnitude, even SHIELD seemed to be uninformed of the specifics. That was not surprising, considering the Americans' ridiculous paranoia of Communist moles infiltrating their secret agencies. She smiled, savoring the delicious irony of the fact that the greatest threat to their national security was a girl from backwoods Caldecott Country. Nick Fury was past his prime, she thought scornfully, for him not to have recognised her. He had only been the lead agent on the Ms Marvel murder, which made her deception of him the more delicious. Nonetheless, she still had to operate on the assumption that they would ultimately discover that her WEST credentials were fraudulent and she had to have infiltrated the Doomhammer's computers before they did.

From the little she had been able to piece together from military reports, dating back to the Cold War years, the system that controlled the Doomhammer defense network was located in a secret, remote installation in the mountains. However, to find the physical network, she had to discover a means by which to enter the logical one, the collection of intangible terrabytes that formed the basis of the system. When she had done so, she could cause the machine to transmit a signal on a wavelength that the agencies monitoring the project would explain as radio interference or solar radiation. Without a homing beacon, she had no hope of discovering the facility's coordinates. After all, the architect had died some years ago under suspicious circumstances, while the blueprints had been conveniently destroyed in an accidental case of arson.

Chewing her lip thoughtfully, she attempted to pull up the access codes for the government LANs and WANs that dated from the early eighties. In response, the screen flashed a red access-denied and asked her to enter the prerequisite password. Unsurpising, but irritating. Her only chance at gaining immediate access was if one of the programmers had been lazy and had not bothered to remove the code with which they had tested the system. Trying to recall the standard series of codes which Mystique had taught her, she typed "TEST" and hit return. Again, an identical red screen with the legend that her password was invalid. "DEFAULT", "BETA" and "PRYDE" produced the same result. Evidently, she thought with a scowl, Katherine Pryde had been as good at her job as Fury had suggested.

Still, she had other resources at her disposal, literally including the minds of every agent at SHIELD if she chose. Naturally, if comas became endemic among his staff, Fury would begin to suspect that something was amiss. He would have to be . . . "Dudley Doright" of the X-Men not to realise that she had infiltrated his organisation. On the other hand, if she obtained the information from him and it was almost certain that he did have the highest possible security clearance, he would be in no position to stop her nor would the squad of bumblers he called agents.

It would not be as easy, but it would certainly be more pleasurable.

"Remy, ti-frere, what in de name o' de Bon Dieu are ya doin' down here?" yelled Mercy leBeau from the wrought-iron balcony that overhung the street. She had a suspiciously pink ball of yarn in one hand, which she waved in his general direction by way of greeting. A handsome woman with her corn-blonde hair and blue eyes, she was one of his oldest friends. They had gone through tilling and training together; had crammed for exams over coffee and beignets a few hours before writing them; had disapproved of each other's taste in dates and clothes; had confided their deepest secrets in each other. Mercy, after all, had been the first person who he had told about his kinetic charges.

She was also his brother's wife, who had learnt to be resigned to Henri, if not to love him. Like Remy, she had been forced to marry for the peace of the Guild, to end the power-struggle between the leBeaus and the Alouettes. Their wedding had been the signature on a deal that affirmed Henri's position as heir, and made Genard, her brother, the future Harvest Disseminator. Mercy's veil had failed to disguise her tears and her anger at her father's decision, but Blaise Alouette had remained immovable. He had placed great stock in Clan leBeau's concept of family loyalty, of the obligation to those tied to them by blood or marriage, and had felt it the only way to be certain.

Both Mercy and Henri had been deeply unhappy; had taken that misery out on one another in the same way an abused cat would claw at whoever was closest. She had become bitter and fragile; he had responded with remoteness and impassivity. Although physical divorce was impossible from both a religious and a political standpoint, their spiritual divorce was clear to all in the clans. They went through the forms of marriage, attended mass together and danced together at soirees, but their interactions were too rehearsed and too stiff. Their chilly, perfect politeness was a constant source of pain to Jean-Luc, who had wanted his eldest son to be happy even in an arranged marriage. Looking at the blonde woman's distended abdomen, Remy felt sudden pity for the child who would be born into the grotesque masque that was his or her parents' life together, but he hid it with his best proud-uncle smile.

"Came t'see m' niece, but I guess I be a few months early f'r dat."

Grinning with pleasure, he leapt from the steps and caught onto the balustrade, pulling himself up with practised ease. That particular skill had come in useful for more than one type of nocturnal activity, he thought, some more pleasurable than others. Mercy laughed, shaking her head in mock disapproval, then hugged him warmly and planted a sisterly kiss on his


"Unfortunately, oui," she commented wryly, "But, seriously, Jean-Luc tol' us ya said it was somet'ing important. Ya gettin' married on me, Rem, or have ya run afoul o' someone?"

"Mmm, both. I eloped wit' de Kingpin's daughter," he replied with a grimace, placing a companionable arm around her waist and steering in the direction of the door.

The small room into which they emerged was as homely as it was familiar. Remy could not remember how many times he had curled up at the foot of Henri's bed as a child, listening to his brother spin wonderful stories of princesses and dragons and brave knights; of beautiful worlds that were far removed from the streets on which he had grown up. The table was where his brother had patiently helped him conjugate Spanish verbs or prove a particularly difficult theorem. The easy chair was where Henri would sit and smoke his pipe, an intent expression on his face, while Remy told him about the latest in a long series of prepubescent heartbreakers. He inhaled deeply, breathing in the well-known and well-loved smell of tobacco, linen and books and feeling the tension, that had dogged him since finding the card beside his bed, dissipate. If anyone could make everything all right, a child-like part of him insisted, it was Henri leBeau.

"Tres marrant, Rem," she said with heavy sarcasm, "Very amusin'."

"It be not'ing, Mers," he told her, "Jus' a mystery I want solved . . . ."

"An' ya X-Men don' have de resources?" she sounded skeptical, folding her arms across her chest in a pugilistic posture, "Or don' ya want t'tell de Scooby Gang 'bout ya illegal activities?"

"Once again, ma chere Sherlock, it be both," he sprawled into the leather chair, while Mercy perched on the edge of the bed, "I woke up yesterday t' find a singed card next t'my bed an' m'room stank of a woman's perfume."

Arching an ironic eyebrow, "What *had* ya been up t'de night before, mon petit beau-frere?"

"Dat's what I want t'know," he replied, "I can' remember a t'ing, except . . . ."

Except he remembered the fearful delight as the woman had slipped her arms around his waist and he had felt the rise and fall of her chest against his own. He had been looking down at her - he could almost see the challenging smile on her uplifted face. Apart from her smirk, she was featureless in his memory. He could not even remember the color of her eyes or hair. Although she had been smaller and slighter than him, he had had no doubts that she had him trapped; that she could either kill or kiss him, depending on her whim. In a sense, she had chosen to do both, he thought, as he remembered the shining, sharp-edged dark into which he had fallen.

"Except?" she prompted.

"One helluva kiss," he admitted with a grin that he did not feel, "Beyond dat, dere be not'ing."

"So, like Cinderella's Prince, ya be lookin' for de woman t'whom dat kiss belongs," the corner of her mouth twitched in amusement, "Gonna have t'kiss a lot o' frogs 'fore ya find ya princess."

"Naah, fun as dat sounds, I'm gonna get Tante Mattie t'do my dirty work for me . . . ."

Standing by the window and watching the team relax, Cyclops suddenly realised what Xavier meant when he had said that they were all so very innocent.

In a prank as tired as it was traditional, Bobby had iced the ground beneath Thunderbird's feet, causing the Cheyenne to slip and slide in a mad, vaudeville dance. Beast was laughing as the usually solemn Native American alternated curses and threats with attempts to regain his balance. Their game of football had come to a standstill as a result of the trick, and Wolverine was making his way to the victory keg, a glint in his eyes that dared someone to tell him his team was actually losing.

Storm was leaning against a tree, lithe legs curled beneath her, a crease in her forehead as she considered the chess-board in front of her. Ororo hated the game, but knew how much Forge, her opponent and husband, enjoyed it. Knew that might be one of two activities that could tempt him from the keyboard and that the other probably was not suitably for public viewing.

Only Gambit was missing from the tableau, having returned to New Orleans on personal business. Although Cyclops had been both curious and suspicious, he had known better than to ask questions to which Interpol would not like the answers. If he saw no evil and heard no evil, he certainly could speak no evil, if Gambit's nocturnal activities caught up with him.

"We should join them, you know," Jean commented. She was drifting a few inches above the floor, legs crossed in a Yoga position. Her red hair was braided, twisting like a scarlet snake to rest on the ground, and she was wearing an oversized T-shirt and leggings, as she always did when she meditated. Her green eyes were luminous with power, the deeply alien and exotic superimposed over his familiar wife of two years.

"We should," he acknowledged the fact just as he knew neither of them would act on it.

"In a minute," she demurred, "I just need to finish these mental exercises, or else I'll have no chance of finding Montgomery later, as opposed to an anorexic one."

He smiled at the joke, but it faded as his gaze returned to the grounds. He could not shake the feeling that the team should be preparing for war. That they should be training more and harder than they had in the past. That most of the innocent children he was watching from the window would be dead before they won. That, while skies were falling around them, the X-Men were playing games beneath the vast and nude heaven.


GambitGuild is neither an official fansite of nor affiliated with Marvel Enterprises, Inc.
Nonetheless, we do acknowledge our debt to them for creating such a wonderful character and would not dream of making any profit from him other than the enrichment of our imaginations.
X-Men and associated characters and Marvel images are © Marvel Enterprises, Inc.
The GambitGuild site itself is © 2006 - 2007; other elements may have copyrights held by their respective owners.