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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
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Chapter 46
Chapter 47
Chapter 48
Chapter 49
Chapter 50
Chapter 51
Chapter 52
Chapter 53
Chapter 54
Chapter 55
Chapter 56
Chapter 57
Chapter 58
Chapter 59
Chapter 60
Chapter 61
Chapter 62
Chapter 63
Chapter 64


Written by Valerie Jones
Last updated: 05/10/2010 11:31:24 PM

Chapter 11

Remy leaned back in his chair at the head of the Guild council table, searching for a more comfortable position. He was bone tired, with a stabbing headache from the strain of his mind continuing to reach out with senses he no longer possessed. He didn’t feel like he had the energy to corral the argument that raged at that table, so for the moment he just sat back and let the gathered men vent.

Eventually, he leaned forward and rapped his knuckles sharply on the smooth tabletop, drawing their attention. The room quieted by degrees until there was silence. Remy looked around the room, trying to evaluate these eight men who were directly responsible to him for the management of the Guild. They were also the eight men who had elected Remy to the position of Guildmaster, and by now Remy knew them all fairly well.

Artur Valencia was his right hand, responsible for the governing of the Guild itself. Beside Artur sat Chess LaSalle, who was Andrea Black’s father and former Guildmaster of New York. It was rare for a Guildmaster to step down from the position, but Chess had done so when he was diagnosed with bone cancer. Remy wondered what he thought of the past years. He had fought a long but victorious battle with the disease at the same time that Michael was destroying everything he had spent his life to build. Although he was confined to a wheel chair, the mind that had earned him the nickname “Chess” remained as sharp as ever and Remy had come to value his insight.

Beyond Chess sat Terrence Cooper and Will Sandberg. Neither were thieves. They represented the Clans in the Guild council. Next was Tom O’Shane, Remy’s resident hot head and instigator of trouble. Not that he wasn’t a good man-- he was. Remy had no doubts about his loyalty or his dedication to the Guild. Unfortunately, he tended to cause more problems than he solved because of his short fuse.

A thought struck Remy and he was forced to swallow a snort. Was that how Scott categorized Remy himself? Or did Logan hold the title of Chief Troublemaker when the X-Men gathered around the table in the War Room? Remy wished momentarily that he could sit down and compare notes with Scott. Just as quickly he dismissed the thought as ridiculous, and turned his attention back to his Guild council.

The other three men seated at the table were far less approving of Remy as Guildmaster. Ted Bales was probably the most neutral of the three. He didn’t like Remy, but was at least giving the young Guildmaster a chance to prove himself. Unfortunately, Ted was of the ultra-conservative viewpoint. Remy had the feeling he would eventually prove himself to be far too much of a risk-taker to ever gain the man’s approval.

The other two were definite cronies, and Remy considered them a threat. If he could find half an excuse, Remy thought, he would probably take Adrian into the Blood Match ring and remind him whom he was messing with. Adrian Tyre was Michael’s cousin. He reminded Remy of Michael just a little too much for comfort.

Adrian’s other half was Carson McCall. Both were of the opinion that the Thieves settled for far less than they were entitled to because of the no-powers rule. To Remy that was just another version of Magneto’s spiel, that mutants were better somehow and entitled to more than the rest of humanity because of their powers. Magneto had enough power that Remy could understand how he came to that conclusion, but to hear it from men who hardly had an alpha power between them was almost amusing. Unfortunately, neither man had been implicated in any of Michael’s actions and they were both careful now to express their opinions in subtle ways, which meant that there was little Remy could do except watch his back around them.

“Did you know about Zero Tolerance, Guildmaster?” The soft question interrupted the silence.

Remy’s gaze fastened on Will Cooper. He could read the man’s emotions easily through the variations in his heat signature, but he had no idea what expression might be on his face.

Remy shook his head. “Non. I heard de name Zero Tolerance ‘bout t’ree days ago an’ didn’t have any idea what dey were plannin’ until it hit.”

“But you started sending the mutants of the Clan underground several weeks ago,” Will persisted, and Remy realized where the questions were going.

“I knew dere was a new mutant control initiative in de works,” he admitted. He could tell from the fluctuations in the signatures around the room that these men were concerned by how much Remy seemed to know about the government’s anti-mutant programs. It was hard to come by that kind of information unless you had contacts on the inside, which often meant supplying information in return. The Guild would not look kindly on its Guildmaster working as a government informant.

“Most o’ de information I dug up on m’ own, t’rough a lead on one o’ OZT’s front companies. Didn’ have any details, but de picture was bleak enough dat it seemed like a good idea t’ be prepared.”

“Very expensive preparation.” Remy could feel the intensity of Adrian’s stare, despite the fact that he couldn’t see it. “It might have been... prudent of the Guildmaster to share some of this information with the Guild council.”

Remy met the invisible stare with as much nonchalance as he could summon. His dislike for Adrian was intensified by the fact that he was kin to Michael, but Remy had been playing politics for too long to let that distract him.

“Dere wasn’ much hard information t’ share. I made de choice based on intuition an’ experience, an’ because it was de safest course t’ take.”

Adrian cocked his head and Remy could imagine his expression of distant disapproval. “Intuition is an uncertain thing to put so much trust in.”

Remy allowed himself a smile. Adrian was fighting a losing battle today. Remy had made the right choices and they both knew it.

“Depends on how good y’ intuition is, I suppose,” he told the other man. “I trust mine because it has saved m’ life more times dan I c’n count.” He leaned forward slightly. “An’ since you one o’ de ones dat made me Guildmaster, y’ obliged t’ trust it as well.”

Adrian didn’t respond, and the two men stared at each other in tense silence until Chess cleared his throat, breaking the deadlock.

“What about these new Sentinels, Guildmaster?”

Remy turned toward the source of the voice, wishing he could see the older man’s face. He would have been able to learn a great deal from the subtle shift and play of Chess’s expressions. He had the feeling that the retired Master considered himself something of a tutor in the art of Guildmastership. Remy was inclined to agree.

Remy resisted the temptation to rub his eyes. He’d been up almost forty-eight hours straight now, and was beginning to feel it. “I don’ know ‘bout de Sentinels. I ran into a few o’ dem about a year ago, but didn’ know dat was what I was seein’.” He shook his head at the memory. “Dey’re as nasty as OZT wants us t’ believe, t’ough.”

The news that morning had been full of reports about the so-called Prime Sentinels that were being assigned to patrol the streets of cities like New York, London, Hong Kong and Los Angeles. Made to look just like ordinary people, they were human-sized, but equipped with the most advanced mutant detection and tracking equipment available. The news reports had played down the high intensity weaponry that was visible on the new Sentinels, which left Remy wondering how closely OZT was controlling the news media. He hadn’t seen Trish Tilby reporting yet, which might have given him a better indication. Despite his personal dislike of the woman, she wasn’t the type to let anyone write her scripts for her. If she reported it, it would be the truth, no matter how damaging that truth might be. Hank still winced whenever her name came up.

Remy pushed the errant thoughts aside and forced himself to focus. “Who’d we send after technical info on de mutant trackin’ an’ detection package dese t’ings are usin’?”

Artur gave him the names of three thieves. Remy nodded as the names jogged his memory. Information theft was a vastly different arena than the more traditional type of pinch, and thieves usually specialized in one or the other. The three men that the Guild had sent were probably the best they had, with the exception of Remy himself and possibly Bobby.

“Who are dey reportin’ to?”

“To me, Guildmaster.” That was Carson McCall, his voice studiously neutral. “I’ll let you know when I hear something.”

Remy nodded, but Artur jumped in before he could say anything else.

“Guildmaster, there’s something else here we should be considering.” The rustle of papers punctuated Artur’s words.

“What’s dat?”

“There are fourteen New York thieves currently working in countries that have very strong and even violent anti-mutant policies. With the Zero Tolerance field in place, they are at even greater risk.”

“How many contracts is dat?”

Another rustle of papers. “Twelve, for a combined Guild take of eighteen million dollars.”

“We can’t afford to cancel that many contracts!” Tom O’Shane exclaimed. “The penalty fees would kill us!”

“Especially since our resources are so low already,” Adrian added smoothly.

Remy ignored Adrian and nodded to Tom. “Oui. We can’ afford dat.” He looked over at Artur. “Has anybody asked t’ be taken off one o’ dose contracts?”

Artur shook his head. “No, not yet. I just thought it needed to be mentioned.”

“An’ it did.” Remy looked around the table. “Do we have a plan f’ getting’ each o’ dose t’ieves out if dere is a problem?”

“Yes, Guildmaster.” Artur leaned back in his chair. “We’re already making changes to account for the Zero Tolerance field, but now there are these Prime Sentinels and who knows what OZT will do tomorrow.” He paused significantly. “The risk is increasing.”

Remy let the words sink in. “I understand, Artur,” he finally responded. “But we need de contracts. However, if y’ see de day comin’ dat we can’ get one of our people out, den y’ let me know an’ we’ll cancel de contract. Until den, we’re gon’ have t’ trust dat our t’ieves c’n get dere deir jobs done.”

Artur nodded and Remy heaved a silent sigh. “Is dere anyt’ing else we need t’ talk about right now?”

“There is one thing,” Chess said, his wheelchair creaking as he shifted his weight.

“What’s dat?”

“Your personal safety, Guildmaster.”

Remy blinked in surprise, but since “Huh?” was hardly a dignified response for someone of his position, he kept his mouth shut and settled for raising one eyebrow instead.

“M’ safety?” he asked cautiously. His first instinct was to think that Chess had somehow found out about his blindness.

Chess nodded. “Are you going to insist on living in Westchester with everything that’s happening now? Every day it becomes less safe for mutants.”

Remy had to stop and consider his response. The Guild didn’t know about the X-Men. Michael had, but he’d figured it out on his own and hadn’t shared the knowledge with anyone. All these men knew was that Remy lived at the Xavier Institute in Westchester because he had unknown contacts through the school that provided him with valuable information about mutant issues.

Slowly Remy shook his head. “F’ now, I need t’ stay in Westchester. I c’n keep track o’ what OZT is doin’ from dere better dan anywhere else.”

Chess wasn’t satisfied. “It’s an exposed location, Guildmaster. What if Zero Tolerance targets the Xavier Institute? It is known to be a school for mutants.”

Remy stifled his reaction. Chess had hit one of Remy’s private fears squarely on the head. “It’s a risk I’m willin’ t’ take. I can’ explain why, but de mutants at dat school are important. Dey need t’ be protected.” Remy paused. “Consider dem m’ personal investment in de future.”

Remy watched Chess’ heart rate, which was fast enough to indicate that he was thoroughly unhappy with Remy’s choice. “The Guild and the Clans would feel more secure if you were here more often.”

Remy was forced to acknowledge that. “I know. I’ll do what I c’n but I won’ make any promises.”

Silence reigned for several long moments. Then, “Are these people really so important?” Chess asked him. “Are they worth putting the Guild at risk? We can ill afford to lose another Guildmaster now.”

Remy straightened in his seat. What he meant was that if Remy were captured or killed by OZT, the political chaos at a time when the Guild was extremely vulnerable would probably result in their destruction. It was a scary thought.

“Dey worth it, Chess,” Remy finally answered. “Dese people may be de best chance we have t’ take Zero Tolerance down.”

After a moment, Chess spread his hands in a gesture of acceptance. “All right. As you said, I’m obliged to trust your intuition.”

The cab dropped Remy off at the mansion just a little past four a.m. He made his way to his bed and collapsed across it, not bothering to shed either his jacket or his boots. He managed to get in about four hours of solid unconsciousness before the door to his room swung open, slamming into the stop with unnecessary force.

Remy’s eyes flew open. He surged halfway to his feet before realizing where he was and who was standing in his doorway.

“Ow, m’ head.” With a groan, he collapsed back onto the bed and covered his eyes against the bright glow from the window.

“I don’t believe it. You’re hung over.” Scott’s voice was filled with reproach.

“I am not,” Remy retorted automatically. And as his mind cleared enough to remember the past twelve hours, he realized that it was true. He felt hung over, but there hadn’t been any alcohol involved. Just way too many hours without sleep, and too much strain trying to cope with the loss of his powers.

“What d’ y’ wan’, Scott?”

Want?” Scott’s jaw snapped shut. “I want you to stop behaving like an adolescent. I want to see you take something seriously for once. All of our mutant powers have been stripped, and you’re out partying like there’s nothing wrong!”

It took all of Remy’s willpower to keep his anger off his face as he sat up. He focused on the emptiness beyond Scott’s right shoulder and shrugged with as much diffidence as he could. “Ever’body deals wit’ it in dere own way, non?”

Scott simply stared at him, the wash of infrared colors that made up his figure shifting wildly as he struggled to maintain his composure. “I want you in the Danger Room in ten, Gambit.” The words were clipped and cold. “We have a team practice scheduled for eight a.m., which you would have known if you’d been here.” Scott spun on his heel and strode from the room.

When he was gone, Remy let out his breath in a ragged sigh and tried to push his anger away with it. He couldn’t really blame Scott for his conclusion, no matter how much it rankled. The image was a useful cover that Remy had no intention of letting go of.

Wincing as he climbed to his feet, Remy went and shut the door of his room, then went into the bathroom to splash some water on his face. The reflection in the mirror over the sink was an undefined morass of colors that Remy had no names for, but he stared into it as if he might find some kind of insight there.

LeBeau, how in de world did y’ ever let y’self get into dis mess?

Finding no answers, he changed into his uniform and made his way down to the Danger Room.

Scott bit back an exasperated sigh as Gambit walked into the Danger Room, two minutes past the deadline he’d been given. He was in uniform, and though he was pale and unshaven, his gaze was surprisingly keen as it flicked from person to person.

At least he’s walking in a straight line, Scott thought in contempt, then stopped himself. Remy was a grown man and had the right to choose how he would behave. The fact that Scott disapproved of those choices didn’t make them any less his right.

Scott sighed softly. He already regretted his words of a few minutes ago. Remy was correct in that much, at least. All of them had to deal with the loss of their powers in their own ways. Jean was showing signs of withdrawal because of the sudden silence in her head. Betsy’s darting glance betrayed a new insecurity for the same reason. Warren remained in his room, brooding because the sheer weight of his feathered wings left him barely able to walk, let alone fly. Scott himself felt more vulnerable than he could rationally explain for the simple fact that he was wearing neither goggles nor glasses, and because the world was full of colors he had forgotten existed.

Maybe I should be reassured that Remy has reacted by doing exactly what he always does.

Across the room, their eyes met. Remy’s gaze was flat, disinterested-- seemingly unaffected by anything Scott had said. Scott felt a familiar burst of frustrated anger.

If only I could somehow know I could count on him. They stared at each other for a moment more, until Remy broke away to answer Storm’s quiet greeting.

Scott didn’t like to admit how much Gambit’s unpredictability disturbed him. There was no getting around the fact that the Cajun was one of the X-Men’s cornerstone ground fighters. Logan was the other, and the two of them were a tremendously valuable counterpoint to the X-Men’s airborne powerhouses. But despite their differences, Scott trusted Logan implicitly to be where he was needed and to get the job done, no matter how impossible the task. With Gambit, it was different. Though, as Storm was fond of reminding him, Remy had always been there when the X-Men needed him. Still, there was something about the other man that left Scott wondering if this time might not be that first disappointment.

Scott shook his head sharply, banishing the thoughts, and turned his attention to the assembled X-Men. He looked them over, dismayed by how thin their ranks had become. Jean was no longer on active status because of the baby, and Rogue was out with an injury. Beast was also out because he was taking care of Rogue. The loss of his mutant powers was debilitating to Warren, taking him out as well, and Logan was simply absent. That left Storm, Bishop, Psylocke, Joseph, Cannonball, Gambit, Iceman, and himself. They seemed like a painfully small force to pit against the full might of Operation: Zero Tolerance.

“All right.” Collectively, the X-Men turned at the sound of Scott’s voice, their attention immediate and focused.

Scott took a deep breath. “I know you’ve all seen the same things on the news that I have, so I won’t waste time describing the situation. What it comes down to is that OZT appears to be well-financed, well-supported and, at the moment, very popular, so it’s unlikely that we’re going to get our powers back by default.” He surveyed the solemn faces that surrounded him. “We’re going to have to fight for them, and that means finding a way to take on Zero Tolerance without the use of mutant powers.”

The X-Men remained silent. Scott had the distinct impression that most of them had come to that conclusion for themselves.

He pressed on. “So, I’d like to use this session as a kind of re-evaluation, to gain a clearer understanding of each of your abilities without the benefit of your powers. For now, we’ll concentrate on hand-to-hand and small arms skills, and then go on to small unit tactics, et cetera.”

He received nods of agreement as Storm stepped forward. “I will volunteer to go first,” she said.

Scott acquiesced with a nod and commanded the Danger Room to give them a set of practice mats, which appeared with a shimmer of Shi’ar technological magic.

He turned back to the X-Men. “Psylocke. Gambit. You two will be the controls for this.” In Logan’s absence, they were the two best hand-to-hand fighters on the team, and should be able to control each situation sufficiently to avoid injuries. He looked between them. “This first exercise will be pure sparring. Push your opponents to their limits, but I’m looking for an evaluation of skill, not endurance.”

The two nodded their understanding and Scott expanded his attention to take in the rest of the group. “Psylocke and Storm, you’re up first.”

Scott watched the two women spar with a sense of unease. The loss of their powers was a reality they would simply have to cope with, but even this small evaluation exercise was enough to illustrate with painful clarity the scope of the challenge they now faced. Storm was a solid fighter, capable but not exceptional. Psylocke had the advantage not only in skill, but in physical strength, speed and flexibility, and rapidly overwhelmed her.

The good news, Scott thought as he watched them, was that there was nothing Zero Tolerance could do to strip away the character of the X-Men. Storm was at a distinct disadvantage and fell quickly, but not once did Scott see her strength of will or her raw determination waver. She was a woman of courage. He felt a renewal of hope. Skills could be learned. The greatest asset the X-Men possessed was something that no external force could take from them.

For the next round, Scott set Gambit against Bishop. He didn’t expect to see any changes in Bishop’s abilities, and was not disappointed. Bishop was a soldier, and though his natural affinity ran toward other arenas, he was very capable in the realm of hand-to-hand combat. What Scott found surprising was the visible change in Gambit. He had expected the loss of his powers to slow the Cajun mutant down, which it hadn’t. But there was a definite change in the way the man fought, and after a few moments Scott realized what it was. The almost magical way Gambit had of ducking a blow before it was even conceived of-- the utterly uncanny way he had of avoiding damage-- was gone. Despite that, Scott admitted ruefully, the man was still very good, but it made him wonder.

After a few minutes, Scott called a halt. “Gambit, just what exactly are your mutant powers?” he asked when the two men paused.

Gambit raised an eyebrow, his expression one of sour amusement. “It take y’ four years t’ get around t’ askin’ me dat?”

Scott blinked in surprise. It was true. As far as he knew, no one had ever insisted on defining Gambit’s powers. “I guess so,” he finally answered. “But it’s obvious that you’ve lost something besides the ability to blow things up.”

Gambit shrugged lightly, acknowledging the point. “S’pose dat’s true enough.”

Scott waited silently, swallowing a growl of frustration when the other volunteered nothing further. “So is this some kind of deep, dark secret I’m going to have to pry out of you with a crowbar?”

Gambit’s expression didn’t change, but the tiniest crinkling at the corners of his eyes hinted that he knew just exactly how much consternation he was causing his team leader.

“Non,” Gambit said after a long pause. “It’s a kind o’ kinesthetic sense. I c’n track de speed an’ direction of anyt’ing dat’s movin’ around me.”

Scott digested the new information silently. Why hadn’t anyone ever asked the man what he could do?

“How closely can you... track things?”

Gambit’s answering grin was downright irritating. “I t’ink y’ already know de answer t’ dat one.”

Scott’s gaze narrowed as memory supplied the information. Close enough to catch bullets and throw them back. Close enough to stand in a storm of laser fire but not get a scratch. Right.

“What kind of radius?” he asked.

Gambit frowned as if debating whether to answer, but then shrugged. “If I push it... two hun’red yards.”

Scott was mildly dumbfounded. “Why didn’t you ever tell us any of this?” Had he known, he might have been able to put Gambit’s kinesthetic power to use for the good of the team.

Gambit gave him a disgusted look. “Y’ never asked.” He crossed his arms. “An’ it’s pretty much a moot point now, anyway.”

Scott considered the other man carefully. Remy, do you really expect me to believe that you would have told me all of this at any time in the past four years, simply because I asked?

He almost spoke the question aloud, but paused, unwilling. Not because he was afraid the answer was “No”. He was dismayed to realize he was intimidated by the possibility that the answer might be “Yes”, because that would mean that Gambit wasn’t quite the man Scott thought he was.


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