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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


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

Chapter 6

Yvonne Salome Montgomery, the database entry read as it flicked up onto the screen with the press of a button. Her face - whether it was beautiful or not, Remy could not quite ascertain - stared out at him with knowing, slightly accusing eyes. Hacker, they mocked, you'll be caught and sent to jail to serve out life. Breaking into the security systems of a government agency, even one as relatively inefficient and low-powered as the West European Security Trust, was too risky for even a Grandmaster Thief's complete comfort. Everything about the information should have allayed his suspicions - it was comprehensive to the point of pedantry - but it did not. His misgivings about her went deeper than reason, into simply knowing that there was something entirely amiss about her. His friends back in the Thieves' Guild would have split their sides laughing, he thought disgustedly, and then told him that there was nothing wrong that a cold shower could not cure. That he had been struck by the proverbial coup de foudre. Was he sure that he had not? That he was not fabricating this whole conspiracy scenario to explain away the love (or lust, bien sur, he added wryly) at first sight in which he did not believe? Glancing back at Yvonne, he could not dismiss the notion. She was lovely - luminous eyes, teasing rather than accusing, revealing a keen intelligence that was complemented by an adamantine will, lips that had a trace of a smile. Similar to Belladonna. Precisely his type. He swallowed, wondering if a subzero shower was not in order, after all.

"Dieu," he tapped a tattoo out on the desk where his slim, swift laptop rested, "I am losin' it."

He had eschewed serious relationships after being exiled from New Orleans, being forced to leave his wife behind to grieve both brother and husband. He had looked back, despite his father's whispered advice not to do so. Stupidly. The desolation on her face had preempted any serious relationship he might have had, had smacked too much of infidelity for his honor. Besides, love was an inconvenience in his profession. Being both an X-Man and thief a demanded privacy, secrecy and, unless he found a soulmate within the team with sympathies towards his late-night activities and skills at providing an alibi in case something went wrong, he would compromise his position and those of his friends. An agent of WEST was neither, as Wolverine would understand. He stopped, remembering the fragments of his teammates' conversation he had overheard amongst his musings about Montgomery. Logan, with his highly sensitive sense of smell and almost animal instincts of whether someone was good, bad or indifferent, had exploded: 'that somethin' stank about that frail, other'n the red tape that WEST's chokin' in.' Naturally, Cyclops had dismissed his suspicions, being preoccupied with the fact that Magneto was alive and the implications thereof on the balance of power and world peace. If there was an earth left once 'Carol Dee' got control of Valhalla . . . . Slamming his laptop shut after extricating himself from WEST's database, Remy went to find Wolverine.

The video rewound and played at the press of a button, scrolling backwards and forwards between past and present. A lacquer-haired reporter with a red-clown-smile painted on her oriental face was standing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. She clutched a microphone with an indiscreet station logo on it.

"Good evening, my name is Miki Yee and I'm on scene in SanFran, continuing our report on the death of Carol Danvers, better known as the American hero, Ms Marvel."

She filled the screen, resplendent in black costume with lighting-flash, gold hair flying behind her as she sped through the air in increasingly intricate loop-de-loops and corkscrews. Young, beautiful, beloved, she was the embodiment of the American Dream, from which her death had caused the populace to wake.

"For those of you who have just joined us eye-witness reports indicate that she was attacked on the bridge by as yet-unknown assailant and, after a struggle, was thrown into the bay. Forensic reports have still to determine whether she was killed in the fight, or drowned. In this reporter's opinion, it is irrelevant. One of our greatest heroes is dead, no matter how the deed was done, and the repercussions of that can be felt from the highest level to the lowest. Grieving admirers have flocked to the Golden Gate Bridge to pay tribute to Ms Marvel, holding a candle-light vigil and presenting a petition to the mayor to bring her murderer to justice."

The scene shifted to encompass the bridge, bedecked with flowers, flags and cards, and shimmering with points of candle-light like fireflies. Beneath it, the deadly waters into which her limp body fell swirled darkly as if they too were an accomplice in the task. The camera panned in on a crude, crayon drawing of Carol Danvers - hair yellow, skin pink, costume black, a stick-figure - then jumped to a bouquet of white roses, before taking in a stiff, white card with a bunch of violets on the front that proclaimed that she would be missed.

"Yet who is responsible for this crime? With the help of witnesses, SHIELD pieced together an identikit of the perpetrator, which they then identified as a terrorist, known simply as Rogue, who is a member of Magneto's notorious Brotherhood of Evil Mutants."

A blurred photograph, a jumble of colours, barely distinguishable as a woman. Wolverine paused and squinted, listing the obvious features mentally. Green uniform trimmed with black. About 5"8 judging from the height of the door in which she was standing. Chestnut hair with an unusual white streak to it. Beyond that, she could have been anyone. Fast-forwarding, the photograph made way for the agency's sketch, which was no more helpful. Beyond the white streak and the fact that her eyes were green, the artist had elected to draw a generic woman's face that could have fit a million or more Americans. Contact lenses and a bottle of dye could easily negate any advantage SHIELD had, he mused as someone knocked on the door. Cursing, he barked a gruff 'go away' before returning to his perusal of the screen. The visitor was obviously not dissuaded as he heard the squeal of hinges behind him. Sniffing, he smelt an odd combination of cigarette smoke, cologne and singed paper. It could only be LeBeau, he thought in irritaion.

"Don't ya understand English, kid?"

"Parfaitement. I also understan' dat de world could be in danger if I don' speak t'ya," the young man came to peer at the screen, "De Ms Marvel murder case? Dat was her killer - can't remember her name - but dey never brought her to justice."

"Rogue," Logan supplied, "Now, what cock and bull story have ya come t'tell me about the world bein' in danger? Or was it just an excuse t'come snoopin'?"

Remy grimaced, "It's about Yvonne Montgomery."

Wolverine raised an eyebrow. Someone else shared his suspicions about the WEST agent? He was convinced that he had seen her somewhere else, and, in that capacity, that she was anything but material for a government agency. He had thought that the answer might lie in his personal obsession - the Carol Danvers' killing - but, after watching hours of videotape for some clue, he had to acknowledged that he had been wrong.

"What about her?"

"As y'said, mon ami, somet'ing stank about dat frail," the Cajun's face was humorless, "I want t'find out what."

"Yeah, me too. I thought I'd seen her before. Heck, I thought she might be on this tape of Carol Danver's death, but . . . ." he shrugged, "Gonna contact a buddy at WEST - man by the name of Maverick - and find out exactly who an' what this Montgomery is."

Murmering something about Carol Danvers, the other man's preoccupied expression became concerned. He raked a hand through his hair, then reached for a cigarette - both nervous habits which on a man less used to maintaining perfect emotional control would express themselves as sheer panic. He charged the tip, then inhaled deeply, before breathing the smoke out with a whoosh.

"Dieu, Logan, ya Rogue is Carol Dee."

The girl was furious, Mystique could see it, now that numbing fear had passed. Her knuckles were white around the wooden handle of the coffee-mug, which was splintering beneath the pressure applied to it. Rogue could have easily snapped an iron bar like a matchstick, so she was evidently tempering her extraordinary strength. Good, her mother approved, she was learning some self-control. That was as obvious by the fact that she was continuing with the task at hand instead of snapping at Mystique about revealing her identity. After all, it had been a calculated gambit to introduce her daughter as an operative. Although the X-Men could theoretically disprove Montgomery's existence, the information Rogue had uploaded in the databank to convince SHIELD of her suitability for the task at hand should prevent that occurance. Moreover, WEST's diplomatic corps' missions were ultraclassified, so the only person who were able to verify them were the leaders of the various countries. Mystique doubted that the outlaw X-Men would have access to the Western European powers' private phone-lines. They would be arrested and tried for vigilantism, treason and sedition before they could say: "hello", "bonjour" or "buenos dias". She smirked, turning her attention back to what Rogue was doing. A document, evidently gleaned from some newspaper's report, displayed information on the quasimythical Clan LeBeau. She had heard the name - they were reputed to be the first family of crime, who operated a highly efficient international, robbery syndicate out of New Orleans. Their existence, however, had never been formally proven and thus they had assumed the proportion of a legend. A criminal cockatrice or legal loupgarou, she quipped.

"Shopping for a pet thief, dear?"

"Tried that earlier," her daughter's voice was strained, "Man turned me down cold."

It was Mystique's turn to be angry. Forget her introducing Rogue as Yvonne, this was an overt breach of security that could have potentially lethal repercussions. She had revealed their intention to seize control of Valhalla to an outsider - a thief, who, however immoral, might baulk at a coup d'etat and its ultimate consequence of totalitarianism, enforced by the barrel of a gun. Big Sister is watching you.

"Idiot!" she snapped, "What the hell were you thinking?"

"Ah was thinkin' that Remy LeBeau might be able t'hack inta Valhalla faster'n Ah could even with SHIELD's super-computers. Ah mean, a Grand Master thief whose speciality is supposedly electronics could be useful. He's also got a reputation foh bein' discreet an' completely professional."

Sarcastically, "There's a difference between having a fling with him, then expecting him to be discreet, and revealing our plans for world domination, then wanting the same."

The younger of the two rubbed a hand across her bleary, grey eyes, looking more frail and exhausted than Mystique had ever seen. Concern replaced irritation abruptly. Was she expecting too much from the girl? Should they delay their project and preoccupy themselves with petty potboiling until Rogue recovered her strength? The world could and would wait, would continue spinning on its axis, but their situation had become precarious - with the risk of revelation poised over them, like the blade of guillotine, they had no choice but to proceed with the plot. As rapidly and secretly as they could. Rogue's tiredness was nothing a week in Hawaii would not cure.

"Don't Ah know it. That's why Ah'm tryin' ta find out more about him," she indicated the screen, "But . . . th' man's a ghost. Ah only found out about him through a contact in th' underworld - gambler by the name o' Black Tom who needed a few dollars to pay his debts and was prepared to sell out anyone or anything for them. Heck, Ah had th' man promisin' his first-born child in exchange for cold cash. Fortunately for him, Rumpelstiltskin wasn't mah name an' Ah just needed a thief."

"Did this Black Tom . . ." Mystique curled her lips disgustedly at the name, "Tell you anything at all about LeBeau? Anything we could use as leverage?"

Rogue shook her head, "Just gave me his e-mail address an' added that Ah might as well hire th' best, although he was bound t'bankrupt me."

"You suspect he knows more about your thief?"

"Definitely. Should Ah . . . pay him a friendly visit?"

It was a difficult situation. On the one hand, any further exposure Rogue had to the public out of the guise of Yvonne Montgomery could ruin the project if one of them later recognised her as something other than a SHIELD agent. On the other, her daughter had created the situation and Mystique was loath to play janitor, sweeping up the shattered glass of her mistakes and allowing the girl to believe that she would do so indefinitely. Or was there another option, she thought, as her eyes found a slim, metal box lying on the desk, acting as a paperweight for a wobbling pile of newsprint. An image inducer.

Nick Fury scrolled disgustedly through the list of applicants who wished to serve as Katherine Pryde's replacement. Although hailing from Africa and Asia, Poughkeepsie and Chicago, Sydney and Sao Paulo, and were probably incapable of being more disparate, they had one trait in common - none of them were vaguely in her class. Taking a sip from his seemingly bottomless espresso, seasoned with a good measure of J&D, he picked up an application printed on WEST's official letterhead. Unsurprisingly, the CV was glowing, as would be expected from an agent with the sense to transfer from that particular deadend trust. Moreover, the information gleaned from WEST's databanks spoke of a skilled, loyal and diligent agent who was experienced in every aspect of the trade. Yvonne S. Montgomery, he mused, would be quite an acquisition with the added benefit of being a thumb in the eye to the Western European bureaucrats. SHIELD and WEST's animosity was legendary in the political sphere and he could not pass up on an opportunity to spite them. Quickly, he tapped out a reply on his crusty 486, that he refused to trade despite the superior technology offered to him by the tech devision.

TO: [email protected]

FROM: [email protected]

SUBJECT: Acceptance of job application

When can you start?

N. Fury

Head of Field Agents, SHIELD


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