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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 15

As the Blackbird dove out of the hanger, Rogue found herself unconsciously gripping the arm of her seat so hard that it made the fingers of her good hand ache. She forced herself to let go, then opened and closed her hand a couple of times to relieve the tension. The Blackbird seemed to skate across the ocean for just a moment before beginning to rise into the night sky.

She could put no names to the emotions that roiled inside her. In a very short period of time, nearly every single marker by which she measured herself and her life had been stripped away. First were her powers and the physical invulnerability she took so much for granted. Then her home, which would be gone as soon as Logan pressed the button on the small remote he held. And finally, there was the man who sat beside her. A man whom she had, until recently, believed she knew.

She glanced obliquely at Gambit, but he was leaning back against the head rest, eyes closed. His body language was calm, relaxed, and she found herself wanting to kick him just to get a predictable reaction.

Through the headset she wore, Rogue heard Ororo reading off the altitude. Logan was supposed to wait until they’d climbed through two thousand feet before detonating the explosives. He would have to wait for Scott to deactivate the cloaking field because the low-power signal couldn’t penetrate it.

“Looks like Rogue was dead-on,” Scott said from the cockpit, startling her from her thoughts. “We’re picking up four stationary bogeys about six miles out. They look like Sentinels.”

Rogue felt a sense of gratification that she’d been right, but that was quickly drowned out by concern. She had no idea what these new Sentinels could do against their Blackbird.

“Two thousand feet,” Ororo announced.

“Preparing to de-cloak,” Scott answered her. Rogue’s stomach tightened.

“Hey, aren’t the Sentinels goin’ ta see us?” Across the aisle, Cannonball looked nervous. Rogue sympathized. She, too, was used to being invulnerable. It was very hard to sit in that airplane knowing that her survival was entirely dependent on one man’s piloting skills. She was used to picking her own risks and managing her own destiny. But without her powers, she was dependent on the technology and on the abilities of the people who best knew how to use it.

“Yes,” Scott answered Sam tightly. “So we’ll just have to make the window as small as possible. Logan?”

“Ready, Cyke.”

The Blackbird rolled into a steep turn and Rogue realized that she could see the mansion and the grounds through the downward windows.

“De-cloaking... now.”

Rogue stared out the windows at the ground wheeling below them. There was a horrible pause as Logan’s thumb depressed the button on the remote, then the mansion shattered as a ball of fire engulfed it. In the harsh light from the expanding flames, Rogue was startled to see the shadows of tiny human figures outlined against the grass. Her stomach clenched instinctively as the threat to their lives became painfully real.

“Re-cloaking,” Scott said.

Then Rogue’s view of the explosion disappeared as the Blackbird went into a full-fledged barrel roll. She gripped the arm rest of her seat as her harness bit into her. Rogue counted two complete rolls and most of a third before the Blackbird stabilized its bank angle and began to pull away on a different trajectory from that of their original turn. Rogue understood the maneuver. With any luck, the Sentinels would be looking for them along the flight path they had been tracking when the re-cloaked, allowing them to slip through the cordon without being spotted.

The airplane leveled out and the minutes passed in tense silence until Scott announced that they had passed through the Sentinels with no sign they had been spotted. Rogue breathed a soft sigh of relief that was reflected in the faces around her.

Hank adjusted his glasses, which had slid down his nose under the high g-load. “Now that we’ve survived the immediate crisis, may I inquire as to where we plan to make our new base of operations?” Like the rest of them, he was wearing a headset that allowed him to communicate both with the cockpit and the other X-Men.

“For now, at least, we’re heading for New York,” Scott answered him. “It’s one of Bastion’s ‘target’ cities, and as good a place to start as any.”

“Ya got any ideas where we’re gonna park the ‘Bird?” Logan asked. He carefully unwrapped the old, bloody bandages that covered his hands where his claws emerged and began rewinding them. “Even with a cloakin’ device, it’s gonna be hard ta hide.”

There was a short pause, which to Rogue meant that Scott had to stop and organize his thoughts. “I’d like to find an abandoned warehouse, though I’ll certainly entertain any other suggestions people have. At this point we’re pretty much winging it.”

“We must assume the city’s airspace is being patrolled.” Bishop’s voice sounded in her ear. Rogue turned in her seat to catch a glimpse of the time-lost mutant. He sat rigidly, rifle across his knees and his face as impassive as his voice.

“Well, if anybody knows a good place to land, I’m listening. Otherwise, we’re just going to have to risk a search.”

Unwillingly, Rogue’s eyes slid sideways. Beside her, Remy was shaking his head ever so slightly, his mouth curled into a small, almost amused smile. He touched the controls that would let him speak over the communication net.

“Cyclops, dere’s an abandoned building at de corner o’ White an’ Bethany.” He spieled off a set of grid coordinates with an ease that left Rogue certain that he hadn’t just thought of it.

At another time the ensuing pause might have been comic, but when he came back on the headset, Scott’s voice was painfully wary. “Is this more of your contingency planning, Gambit?”

Rogue watched as the smile disappeared from Remy’s face, leaving something hard in its wake. She felt a twinge of sympathetic pain because she knew Scott’s mistrust hurt him, even though she also felt like Scott had a right to his misgivings.

“Oui,” Remy answered curtly. “Y’ got a problem wit’ dat?”

“Only because it isn’t like you.”

Remy arched one eyebrow. “Dere’s where y’ wrong, Scott. It’s exactly like me.” He fingered the mouthpiece support on his headset, his gaze distant. “I may not know too much ‘bout runnin’ around in spandex savin’ de world, but I know a lot ‘bout survivin’.”

Rogue looked away, her thoughts churning. The echoes in her mind reinforced his words with half-seen memories and vague feelings she could not place. She knew Remy didn’t define his life by his membership in the X-Men, but she was too afraid of what she might find in the memories she inherited from him to go looking for what he did define his life by. Somewhere deep in the core of her heart, she was terrified she would find herself absent from the list of things he considered most important.

“Not bad, Gumbo.” Logan stood at the bottom of the Blackbird’s ramp, surveying the interior of the building.

At the top of the ramp, Remy forced himself to respond with a grin he most definitely didn’t feel. Everything beyond the bottom of the ramp was a complete unknown. The steel, concrete, flooring and other materials that made up the building were all of nearly uniform temperature, turning the world around him into a murky soup. The only things he could see clearly were the Blackbird, because of the still-hot engines and the residual friction heat that warmed the airplane’s skin, and the X-Men themselves. From Bobby’s description, he knew there was a fair amount of clutter filling up the inside of the abandoned building. He had heard the crunching noises as the Blackbird drove over some of it, as well as Scott’s muttered comments about not wanting to start a fire with their jet exhaust.

Remy walked down the ramp and stopped beside Logan. The downside to all of it was that there was simply no way he was going to be able to do anything without giving away his loss of vision. In itself, that didn’t bother him too much. The X-Men had just been rather rudely stripped of their false sense of security. He didn’t expect anyone– except Rogue, perhaps– to have particular attention to spare for him because of his handicap.

The problem was more the cumulative effect of too many changes, too quickly. In general, the X-Men distrusted him because they thought he was immature and irresponsible– not because they knew he lied to them on a regular basis. The more they saw of the truth, the more that balance would shift. If it shifted far enough, Remy would be forced to sit down and very literally come clean with them or else forfeit his place on the team, and that he did not want to do. It was going to be a very delicate balancing act.

O’ course, y’ could tell dem everyt’ing now an’ eliminate de problem, he reminded himself sourly. That was the other option, one that sent chills scrabbling up his spine every time he thought about it. No, there were some parts of the truth he could never tell them, and if he were ever to attempt to win the X-Men’s trust based on that kind of exposition, he would have to give them everything.

Remy continued to consider his options as he dug a cigarette out of his duster and lit it. The burning ember was a tiny star of brightness against the muddled background. He studied it with detached interest as he exhaled.

Descending the ramp behind him, Betsy groaned lightly. “I suppose it would be too much to ask to reinstate the no-smoking policy, Gambit?”

“It’s a big building, chere,” he answered her. “Lots o’ ventilation.” Most of the front wall was no doubt missing now, since they’d driven the Blackbird through it.

Logan chuckled. “Yer fightin’ a losin’ battle on that one, Gumbo. They outnumber us.”

Remy took another drag on the cigarette. “Mebbe so,” he answered. “But I’m payin’ de rent.”

Standing a short ways away, Scott turned sharply at his words. “Since you brought it up, Remy...”

Remy turned to face the X-Men’s team leader, his body language carefully schooled, and waited for Scott to continue.

Scott closed the distance between them with two long strides. “How exactly did you come by this– “ he waved a hand, “place?”

Remy deliberately blew his smoke away from Scott as he considered his reply. The last thing he needed right now was to antagonize the man unnecessarily. Then he shrugged. “Ain’ a big deal, really. We’re deep in gang territory here. I jus’ made a deal wit’ de gang in question t’ lease some o’ dere space.”


Remy could imagine Scott’s expression and had to suppress a smile. “Oui.”

“Isn’t that a little risky?” Joseph asked. He was standing by Rogue and Remy had to throttle a sudden burst of jealous anger. Another drawback of his restricted vision was the fact that warm things tended to blend together. He couldn’t tell if Joseph was standing a short distance behind Rogue or if she was literally leaning back against him. Chances were, it was completely innocent, but there was always that possibility...

“What if this gang decides to sell us out to Operation: Zero Tolerance?” Joseph continued.

Remy forced himself to concentrate on the question and not let his imagination run away with him when he needed to be calm. He shook his head. “Ain’ likely.”

“Why not?” Scott’s voice was openly questioning.

Remy sighed and ticked the points off for him. “One, dey mutants. Dey ain’ gon’ tell OZT anyt’ing. Two, dey’re bein’ well paid t’ keep quiet. An’ t’ree, I have a... reputation f’ bein’ a bad person t’ double-cross.” He gave Scott a thin smile. “It ain’ a guarantee, but it’s about as close as y’ gon’ get.”

Scott’s stance betrayed his reluctance, but he nodded. “All right.” He began to turn away as if dismissing the subject in favor of more pressing matters.

Remy hesitated for a moment, but then forced himself to speak. There was no way around it. “Scott.”

Scott turned back to him and Remy imagined an expression of suspicion on his face. “What?”

“Dere’s... one more t’ing.”

Expectant silence answered him and Remy braced himself. “A couple days ago, y’ asked me ‘bout m’ powers an’ what I lost when dey went away.”

Scott nodded tightly. “I remember. Your kinesthetic sense, which no one knew about.” His words were laced with sarcasm.

Remy ignored the verbal jab as he dropped his spent cigarette on the ground and stepped on it. “Oui. But dat ain’ de only t’ing.”

Scott’s sigh spoke volumes. “And?”

“An’... I’ve also lost most o’ m’ vision.” He tapped his temple lightly. “Red an’ black, non?” His words produced a ripple of surprise as he continued, “At de mansion, it didn’ much matter, but here–“

“It didn’t much matter?” Scott interrupted incredulously. “You’re telling me you’re blind, but it didn’t much matter?” He managed to mimic Remy’s tone without picking up any of his accent.

Remy bit down on a growl of frustration. This was exactly what he had wanted to avoid. “I am not blind.” To Scott’s right, Rogue’s heart rate had gone up which, Remy thought unhappily, probably meant that the over-protective mothering instinct he detested was kicking in.

“I said ‘most’.” He tried to keep his voice reasonable. “I didn’ say ‘all’.”

Scott crossed his arms, his glare a tangible thing. “Explain.”

Remy sighed. “I c’n still see in de infrared, but not’ing in de visual spectrum.”

“Really? How fascinating.” While Scott was still processing the new information, Hank stepped up beside Remy. “Your eye structure is quite unique. I had been wondering if your vision didn’t extend beyond the normal range.”

Remy nodded slightly in acknowledgment of Hank’s presence, but kept his attention focused on Scott. The other man’s heat signature indicated that he was beginning to get truly angry.

“This is so typical, Gambit.” Scott’s voice was cold. “Everything’s a secret with you. Your powers, your past– “ He leaned forward, his stance aggressive. “Out of the blue, you pull these stunts–“ He waved one hand to indicate their present location. “Several pounds of plastic explosives, this hiding place... “ Scott trailed off in apparent exasperation.

“A good t’ief don’ ever give away an advantage.” Remy told him, his fingers balling involuntarily at his sides. “Y’ can’ get it back.” That was a matter of survival, but in a context he wasn’t certain Scott would understand.

Scott made a disgusted sound. “I thought you were an X-Man.”

Remy’s temper snapped. “I am! An’ don’ y’ dare tell me de X-Men don’ keep some parts o’ dere lives private!”

“This isn’t about privacy, Gambit. It’s about concealing important information that could have significant impact on the team.” Scott had regained his composure.

“Fine.” Remy bit the word out. “Den tell me what Rogue’s real name is.”

Rogue’s exclamation of surprise was clearly audible in the silence. Scott did not respond, and Remy gave him a sardonic smile. “Ain’ dat ‘important information dat could have significant impact on de team’?”

“That isn’t exactly the same thing,” Scott responded stiffly.

“Why not? Seems de same t’ me.” Remy couldn’t help the mockery that colored his words. He’d never pushed this argument with Scott because it ran too close to a rather painful truth. Today, however, had become a day to draw some lines.

Scott’s heat signature intensified as his temper flared. “Rogue has proven her loyalty to the team--”

“But I haven’.” Even though he’d seen it coming, Remy wasn’t prepared for how much the words hurt as they left his mouth.

He was answered by a dead silence that said more than any words could have.

“Dat’s what I t’ought,” Remy said after a moment. It took everything he had to keep his voice steady. He couldn’t bear to look at Rogue or Ororo, so he kept his attention focused on Scott. To his credit, perhaps, the other man’s anger began to abate. Remy watched as his shifting heat signature settled.

“All right.” Scott sounded suddenly very tired. “I can’t deny that, but trust doesn’t exist in a vacuum, Remy.”

Remy noted the use of his given name with a touch of surprise. He understood the message and was oddly gratified that Scott would make the gesture.

“Oui,” he agreed softly. “An’ I haven’ exactly told y’ a lot about m’self.” Briefly, he wished that he had the opportunity to look Scott in the eye. “But dere never seemed t’ be much point since y’ had y’ mind made up ‘bout me since de beginnin’.”

Scott was clearly taken aback, though he didn’t get angry as Remy half expected him to. He was silent for several long moments, his stance contemplative. Finally, he sighed. “So just what is a ‘fully ranked Guild thief’?”

Remy blinked at him, thoroughly startled. “Who tol’ y’ dat?” In all his years with the X-Men, Scott had never once attached any kind of significance to the word “Guild”, until now.

“Logan’s words. I’d like to know what they mean.”

Remy glanced over to where the Canuck stood, watching them. He couldn’t read anything useful from Logan’s posture, but that wasn’t unusual. It did confirm that Logan knew something about the Guilds, a fact Remy had long suspected.

Unfortunately, the question also put Remy in a very bad spot. It was an uncanny talent Scott had. “Why don’ y’ ask him?” He did his best to keep the question casual rather than defensive.

Scott stiffened. “I may. But right now, I’m asking you.”

Remy’s shoulders slumped in resignation as he shook his head. “I can’ tell you.” He saw the sudden flare of heat that he was sure was reflected in Scott’s face, and felt his own composure shatter as he found himself once more trapped between incompatible loyalties. “Dere are rules, Scott! I managed t’ get out o’ one death sentence from de Guilds– I ain’ likely t’ survive anot’er one!” And, as Guildmaster, he had a responsibility to uphold Guild law that had nothing to do with the threat of punishment.

They stared at each other in angry silence until Logan cleared his throat. “He’s tellin’ ya the truth, Cyke.”

Scott turned sharply to look at Logan. The other man shrugged. “I ain’t an expert on the Guilds, but I know that much.” He looked toward Remy for a moment. “An’ since I ain’t a member, I can talk.”

Remy couldn’t help a small grin. “True ‘nough.” He was intensely curious himself to hear what Logan might say.

Scott crossed his arms and waited.

Logan spent a moment collecting his thoughts. “In a way, the Guilds ‘re organized crime the way groups like the Mafia and Yakuza can only dream of.” Remy cocked his head at that assessment and knew that Scott was similarly interested.

“What do you mean?” Scott asked.

Logan shrugged. “Guilds ‘re family-based an’ loyal to the death. They’re spread across the planet, but never step on any o’ their neighbors’ toes. An’ as far as anyone can tell, they don’t have the internal politics that plague other groups. If there ‘re betrayals and backstabbings, they don’t happen in public, an’ everybody knows that ya don’t mess with Guild because if ya mess with one, yer gonna have ta take on all of ‘em.” He paused. “T’ tell the truth, nobody knows how the thieves make it work.”

Remy tried to cover his reaction. Logan’s description wasn’t exactly correct, but he was close and his words gave Remy some very interesting food for thought.

Scott turned to Remy. “I suppose you aren’t at liberty to explain.” He sounded annoyed, but that was far better than Remy had expected.

Remy shook his head. “’Fraid not.”

Scott stared at him thoughtfully for several moments. “I thought you were banished from your Guild.”

Remy winced internally. That was still painful, despite the passage of years. “I was banished from New Orleans,” he clarified. “Dat ain’ de same t’ing.”

“Why not?”

Remy weighed his answer carefully: what he wanted to tell Scott, balanced against what his enemies in the Guild could crucify him for if it was made known. Finally, he sighed and opted for the safer answer. “Bein’ Guild ain’ somet’ing y’ c’n undo. I can’ stop bein’ a t’ief any more dan you c’n stop bein’ a Summers.”

“I don’t believe that.” Scott said. “Everyone has a choice in their actions—“

Remy shook his head emphatically. “Non. Dat’s not what I meant.” This was one of the hardest things about talking to Scott. They so often had completely different concepts attached to the same words.

“Scott, when you use de word ‘t’ief’, what y’ mean is somebody dat steals t’ings, non?” Remy asked, and was rewarded with a cautious nod. “Don’ matter if dey takin’ a pack o’ gum from de corner store or a Michelangelo from de Louvre.”

Scott crossed his arms. “And your point?”

Remy spent a moment gathering the scattered shreds of his patience. “When I say ‘t’ief’, I mean somebody dat’s a member o’ de Guilds. Dat one word is like a family name an’ a nationality an’ a rank all rolled into one. It ain’ about stealin’ at all.”

Scott digested that in silence. “I’m not going to pretend I understand that.” He paused. “But I guess I’m going to have to accept it.” His tone made it patently obvious that he didn’t like the fact.

Remy sighed. “Can’ ask f’ more dan dat.” He wasn’t sure what they had accomplished with the conversation. Now Scott and the rest of the team knew there were other factors in his life that he couldn’t simply ignore because he was an X-Man, but if anything, the knowledge had made Scott less trusting rather than more. Remy didn’t even want to consider what might be going on in Rogue’s mind. He knew perfectly well that she saw him as an X-Man and only that. Her vision of the future didn’t include the Guild, which was another reason he was so hesitant to introduce her to the truth.

After a few moments, Scott moved away and began giving instructions for unloading the Blackbird and setting up their temporary headquarters. The gathered X-Men slowly dispersed to their various tasks. Rogue turned away without comment. Remy sadly watched her go as he lit another cigarette.

Logan waited until everyone else was gone before stepping up beside him. “You an’ me need ta talk,” he said without preamble.

Remy kept his gaze on Rogue. “What about?”

Logan flexed the fingers of one hand, examined his bandages. “’Bout how much help the X-Men are gonna be able ta count on from the Guild.”

Remy abandoned his thoughts of Rogue and turned to Logan. “’Scuse me?” he asked guardedly.

Logan growled deep in his throat. “I ain’t Scott, Gumbo. The Guilds have a vested interest in seein’ the end o’ Zero Tolerance an’ we’re gonna need information if we’re gonna stand a chance o’ takin’ ‘em down.”

Remy acknowledged the rebuke with a small nod. “Oui.” He paused. “What particular information did y’ have in mind?”

Logan folded his arms over his chest. “Technical data on the satellites, locations and building layouts of OZT’s main facilities—“

Remy snorted. “Y’ don’ want much, do y’?”

Logan growled again, sounding frustrated. “Listen, Gambit. I don’t know how the Guilds’re organized, an’ I can’t say where ya are in that organization, but I’ve worked with a couple o’ thieves in the past. When it comes right down to it, the Guilds’re the best there is fer this kind o’ thing.” He turned an invisible stare on Remy. “There’re men in the Guild that can get us what we need. Yer just gonna have ta find a way ta talk ta the Guildmaster here in New York or D.C. or wherever ya have ta go, an’ convince ‘em.”

Remy arched an eyebrow. Logan knew more about the Guilds than he’d suspected, though, luckily, not too much. It was obvious that he saw Remy as an ordinary thief and did not suspect more. For Remy, it was something of a relief to finally have at least that much out on the table. He would be able to deal with Logan on a more professional level now, but still without much risk of exposing his real role in the Guild.

“De Guild don’ do pro bono work. What y’ askin’ for gon’ be expensive.”

Logan’s stare didn’t change. “Like I said, it’s in the Guild’s best interests. Yer Guild leaders ought ta be able ta see that.” He shrugged. “But if it comes down ta price, I can probably work somethin’ out with Landau, Luckman and Lake.”

“Scott’s gon’ throw a tizzy.”

“Let ‘im. Eventually he’ll calm down an’ realize it’s the best option we’ve got.”

Remy stared at Logan and tried not to laugh at the absurdity of the situation he was being put in. From Logan’s standpoint, it made sense. Use Remy to make official contact with the Guild and establish some kind of working relationship with the Guild leaders to exchange information in return for the X-Men destroying OZT and its fledgling police state. In truth, it was exactly what Remy was hoping to convince the New York Guild to do, but Logan’s involvement would make it more complicated. On the up side, though, Logan would also add some legitimacy in Scott’s eyes, so as long as he could keep Logan from discovering the Guildmaster’s identity, it just might work.

Remy found himself nodding as his thoughts coalesced. “I’ll see what I c’n do.”


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