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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 17

Scott stepped outside of the warehouse that had so recently been converted into the X-Men’s operations center, his gaze sweeping the area in search of a familiar figure. He walked most of the perimeter of the building before he found Bishop, perched on the highest platform of a fire escape that clung to the side of the building. The time-lost X-Man stood facing out across the city, his stance vigilant.

Since the Blackbird’s sensors continued to report the area as clean, Scott went ahead and called the other man down. This wasn’t a conversation he wanted to have up on Bishop’s self-assigned watch post.

Bishop climbed down then leapt the last few feet from the bottom of the fire escape, landing in front of Scott with remarkably little noise for such a big man. He straightened and regarded Scott with familiar stoicism, but Scott thought he saw a flicker of uncertainty in the other man’s eyes.

He knows what he did, Scott thought, relieved. That fact would make the conversation a lot easier. However, as commander, he still needed to make the point.

He pinned Bishop with a disapproving stare. “In the future, I expect that all arrangements affecting the safety of this team will be brought directly to me. Is that clear?” he asked. He was still baffled by Bishop’s behavior earlier that afternoon. Bishop was a good soldier, but he had completely disregarded the chain of command to bring their visiting gang representatives to Gambit, a man Scott had thought Bishop detested.

Bishop stiffened. “Yes, sir.” His gaze was focused straight ahead and did not meet Scott’s, giving the senior X-Man little insight into what he might be thinking or feeling.

Scott crossed his arms, consciously forcing himself to adopt a casual stance. “Do you want to tell me what you were thinking this afternoon, Bishop?” he asked as gently as he could.

Bishop’s stance faltered. His gaze darted to Scott’s face, then away. “I... am not certain that I can.” An expression that might have been pain crossed his face and disappeared.

Scott was puzzled. He had the feeling that this one incident had broken the scabs on a far deeper, more painful subject, but he didn’t have the faintest idea what that might be. He sighed internally. He didn’t know the what, but he could guess the who.

“This is somehow about Gambit, right?”

Bishop nodded reluctantly.

Scott waited, wondering what might be going on behind Bishop’s calm mask. He knew Bishop had some kind of close connection with Gambit in the future he came from, but he had never gotten a good feel for what kind of relationship it had been. On the day they’d met, Bishop had accused Gambit of being both a traitor and murderer, but there were also a number of instances where he had stepped up to defend Gambit when someone made a disparaging remark. Jean’s only input was to label it a classic love-hate relationship, at least on Bishop’s side. Scott had the feeling Remy didn’t know what to make of Bishop’s attachment to him, any more than the rest of them.

Bishop seemed to collect himself as he turned to face Scott directly. His expression was somber. “I have always wondered how a man like Gambit could have become the man I knew-- the Witness.”

Scott’s interest was immediately piqued, though he tried to keep his expression neutral. “What do you mean?”

Bishop’s gaze grew distant. “The Witness raised my sister and I after our grandmother died. He was a... hard man.” He darted a glance toward Scott. “Not cruel, just--“ A small shrug betrayed his frustration. He took a deep breath, and then the words poured out in a minor torrent. “The Witness spoke six different languages fluently. His company, Stark Fujikawa, had legitimate fronts in eight countries and illegal operations in more than twenty, all of which he personally controlled in some form. He had blackmail material on just about every public figure you could name. He manipulated elections within the United States, arranged coups in other countries--“ Bishop made a sharp gesture. “Even used assassination, if that’s what it took to accomplish his goals. In some ways, he was one of the most powerful men on the planet.” His dark eyes bored into Scott’s, filled with conflict. “To be honest, I have never been able to see that man in Gambit. Not... until today.”

Scott was taken aback, both by the flood of information and by the image Bishop presented. “And today?” he prompted, dreading the answer.

Bishop’s face regained its composed mask. “Today I saw the Witness staring back at me from Gambit’s eyes,” he said quietly. “And I reacted as if that was who he was.” He blinked, regret and shame reflecting momentarily from his gaze. “I will not let it happen again.”

Scott managed a nod, his mind whirling with disturbing thoughts. He wasn’t sure he believed Bishop’s assessment, but on top of the many other disquieting things that had happened in the last few days, particularly those involving Gambit, he found himself unable to completely dismiss them.

Though Bobby returned within a couple of hours, it took Gambit a full twenty-four hours to come home and by the time he reappeared Rogue had half-convinced herself to go looking for him, Sentinels or no Sentinels. Her relief at seeing him again was almost painfully intense and was followed by an equal flash of anger.

’Least the man could’ve done is tell me what he was up tah, she groused as she trotted across the warehouse toward him. It rankled that it was Scott who had informed the rest of them that Remy had left to try to work out some kind of agreement with the Thieves Guild. Remy didn’t tell Scott anything, but now even he seemed to know more about where Gambit was and what he did than Rogue.

She was among the last to gather at the folding table that had been set up beside the Blackbird. The table served as their planning center, and held the mini-cerebro as well as an interface to the Blackbird’s on board systems. One end of the table was clear, and as she arrived Remy was already pulling a sheaf of papers from a familiar satchel at his side and laying them out on the tabletop. He tossed a document tube down on top of the pile then shrugged out of his coat, running his fingers wearily through his hair.

He looks o.k., Rogue thought, watching him. Tired. She didn’t see any indication that he might have gotten hurt, though, and the hard knot in her stomach loosened a notch.

Remy gave no indication that he’d noticed her presence. Instead, he nodded in Logan’s direction, his attention split between Wolverine and Cyclops. “Guild’s willin’ t’ deal.”

Logan raised an eyebrow as Scott picked up the document tube. “Is that what this is?” Scott asked.

Remy frowned, but nodded. “Pretty much.”

Logan flipped through the stack of papers for a moment then looked up at Remy in surprise. “These’re technical briefs on the Prime Sentinels.” His gaze narrowed suspiciously. “What’s the deal, Gumbo? Even Guild couldn’t turn this around so fast.”

“Non.” Remy raised a hand to massage his temple briefly. “De Guild’s been puttin’ together information on de Sentinels f’ it’s own protection.” He let his hand fall and looked over at Logan. “I jus’ convinced dem t’ share.”

Logan’s expression didn’t change. “What’re the terms?”

“No terms.” Remy held out a hand to Scott, who handed him the document tube after a moment’s consideration. “Dis is a nods ‘n whispers t’ing only.”

“A what?” Scott asked. Rogue had heard the term before, from her mother who had always used it to refer to missions where deniability was the most important issue. She was surprised to hear it coming from Remy, considering the political connotations.

Oblivious to her thoughts, Remy answered the question while he opened one end of the tube. “It means dat de Guild is willin’ t’ extend some protection an’ provide information t’ de X-Men t’ bring OZT down.” He slid a set of schematics from the casing and began spreading them out on the table. “Y’ c’n ask de Guild f’ what y’ need, an’ y’ get whatever dey willin’ t’ provide. But if anyt’ing goes sour, de Guild’s gon’ evaporate an’ y’ be on y’ own.”

“That sounds a little flimsy,” Scott said.

Remy glanced at him. “It’s better dan what y’ got now. De Guild don’ know dey dealin’ wit’ de X-Men.”

Scott digested that for a moment, then turned his attention to the schematics. “What are these?” From Rogue’s vantage, they looked like a set of drawings from the city planner’s office.

Remy looked down at the curling pages, his gaze empty. Rogue was struck by how obvious it suddenly was that he couldn’t see what was there. “Dere’s a Guild safehouse we c’n use. It’s got decent livin’ quarters an’ it’s in a residential area, which makes f’ better camoflage.” He tapped the top drawing. “Dese should be enough t’ map a route from here t’ dere t’rough de storm sewers. We’ve got access right outside de buildin’ here an’ in de basement on de ot’er end. From what I’ve been told, de Sentinels’ sensor range is only a couple o’ feet while dey’re human. Stayin’ underground should be enough t’ keep us from bein’ noticed.”

Scott spread the drawings out on the table, studying them. “What’s the safehouse like?” he asked without looking up.

Remy shrugged lightly. “Gon’ be a little cramped, but its solid. I went by t’ check it out before comin’ here.”

Rogue glanced over at him in sudden concern. He was out wandering the city alone? Was he insane?

No one else seemed to share her feelings, however. Ororo turned to Remy with a pensive frown. “We will put innocent lives at risk by living in a residential area.”

Remy cocked his head. “Mebbe, chere, but we can’ stay here.” He gestured with one hand, taking in the confines of the building. “Dis was jus’ a bolt hole-- an’ a good place t’ ditch de ‘Bird.”

Scott looked up from the schematics. “That’s a valid point. This building doesn’t even have running water, and we can’t live off the Blackbird’s systems for very long.” He scanned the gathered X-Men. “However, I can’t say I like the idea of using the residents of the city as camouflage.”

Logan crossed his arms. “We don’t have much choice unless we want ta leave New York. Anyplace we find that’s livable is gonna have people around.”

Scott’s brow furrowed. He chewed on his lip as he thought. Rogue didn’t envy him the decision. Their current living conditions were pretty primitive, with the exception of the Blackbird’s medlab. The situation was especially bad for Jean because she really needed more than emergency rations and the Blackbird’s limited store of recycled water to keep both herself and the baby healthy. But if they went into the city, even to forage, they faced the risk of being discovered by OZT.

Finally, Scott’s expression cleared. “I want to take a look at this safe house and get a feel for the area before deciding anything. Gambit --“ Gambit raised an eyebrow as Scott tapped the schematics spread out before him. “You get to play tour guide. We can find out how good these drawings are while we’re at it.”

Looking somewhat surprised, Gambit nodded and Rogue’s gut tightened, but she bit her lip rather than voice the fears that clamored inside her.

“All right.” Scott clamped the end of the small flashlight between his teeth, mumbling his words as he peered at the schematics in his hands. “There should be a ladder about four feet in front of you, right side.”

He looked up, the beam from the flashlight spearing into the darkness that filled the sewer. The light swept across Gambit, and Scott watched as the other man moved along the wall, fingers trailing lightly across the rough surface until they lit on the steel bars bolted to the cement.

In the course of their damp, difficult trek through the underground tunnels, Scott had gained an appreciation for how Gambit was managing his handicap. Originally, the Cajun had driven him to angry distraction with a near-constant stream of questions about the dimensions of the tunnels, but eventually he’d begun to notice that Gambit was using the information rather than just pestering him with it. If Scott told him that the ceiling dipped a certain distance ahead, Gambit would duck at exactly that point, following the description Scott had given him. He’d found it a little unnerving until it occurred to him that the other’s experience with a “spatial” power might very well allow him to do exactly that. What continued to bother him, however, was the ease with which Gambit moved in what he claimed was utter darkness, save for the heat of their own bodies.

He’s done this kind of thing before, Scott thought for about the hundredth time since they started out. He’s obviously been trained to do it. Scott didn’t think there was any way Gambit could do what he was now unless he’d had a lot of practice. So who trained him? This Thieves Guild? That thought didn’t sit too well with Scott. He was singularly unimpressed by the various organized crime factions he’d run across in his time. They were selfish, undisciplined and universally destructive. Logan’s description notwithstanding, he doubted Gambit’s thieves were much better. The fact that Gambit himself behaved like an overgrown punk only lent credence to his conclusions.

Unfortunately, for the last few days Gambit had been acting like anything but. Scott couldn’t remember a time he’d ever seen the other man behave in such a responsible and level-headed manner. The only time that even came close was when they’d first met. Gambit had deliberately allowed himself to be hit by some shrapnel in order to use the metal sliver as a lockpick. Thinking back, Scott was surprised to recall how impressed he’d been by that. In fact, he’d originally categorized Gambit as an unpredictable and dangerous operative of much the same caliber as Logan, but that impression had quickly been shattered by his juvenile behavior on later missions.

Is that the sleight-of-hand Hank was referring to? he wondered suddenly. Has Gambit been deceiving us for the entire time he’s been with the X-Men? The thought was frightening. But surely the Professor would have known. He would never deep scan Gambit without his permission, but he kept surface contact with all of us. Gambit couldn’t have hidden the truth from him. Not for four years.

Only partially reassured, Scott dismissed his suspicions for the moment. He moved forward to where Gambit was carefully climbing the ladder into a long pipe that lead toward the surface. Scott followed him, pausing when the other held out one hand.

“Hang on, Cyke. We’ve reached de security grid.”

Scott looked up at him. “Do we have a problem?”

The light from the flashlight didn’t quite illuminate Gambit’s grin, but Scott could hear it in his voice. “Non. Here.”

Out of the dimness, he handed Scott something that looked like a pocket calculator. “What’s this?”

Gambit shifted slightly on the ladder rungs. Scott caught a metallic glint as he opened the cover on a small keypad attached to the wall. “A code generator. De system has a randomly generated password dat change every day.”

Scott raised an eyebrow as he glanced down at the little calculator in his palm. He hadn’t been expecting a decent security system. Mulling his thoughts privately, he followed Gambit’s instructions to call up the day’s password and they proceeded upward into the basement of a building.

Scott was still climbing out of the pipe when Gambit straightened and walked confidently toward the stairs. He paused with his foot on the bottom one to wait.

He knows the building, Scott observed as he carefully closed the trap door they’d come through. He said he came by here earlier today. So did he walk through it and learn the dimensions today or was he already familiar with it? They climbed the stairs, emerging on a very normal-looking kitchen. He’d never been inside the building where we’re storing the Blackbird, obviously, so chances are at least fair that he’s never been here before, either. It hadn’t taken very long for Gambit to learn his way around the hangar, though.

Scott paused, turning a full circle as he studied the kitchen. That’s a lot of memorization for one day. He glanced involuntarily at Gambit who lounged in the doorway that led to the rest of the house, idly shuffling a deck of cards. A lot. He made a mental note to ask Jean if she’d ever seen any sign Gambit had a photographic memory. At the moment, he couldn’t find any other answer to fit what he was seeing. However, if that was true, then there was no way Gambit could be as ignorant as he appeared.

Frustrated by his train of though, Scott pushed it aside and concentrated on the safe house. He was glad to note that the house appeared to be furnished, since everything they had had been lost with the mansion. The kitchen let onto a combination living/dining area, and he immediately understood why Gambit had referred to the house as “cramped”. It was going to be hard to fit everyone into the same room at once.

Gambit seemed to sense his thoughts and flashed him a familiar, irritating grin. “On de bright side, dere are five bedrooms.” He nodded toward the staircase that lined one wall. “Three upstairs an’ two down here.”

Scott ignored the comment and proceeded to make a thorough examination of the house and the small yard behind it. But except for the security system, which covered the yard and the roof in addition to the windows and doors, the squat brownstone was utterly normal. The neighborhood was almost too picturesque, with two neat rows of houses lining the empty street. In the distance, he could hear children playing, their laughter seeming out of place in the midst of what was, to him, a reconnaissance mission.

He returned to the living room to find Gambit lying on the couch, ankles crossed and eyes closed. He appeared for all the world to be asleep. Scott felt a burst of real anger.

“Gambit!” he snapped.

“What?” The other man did not so much as crack an eyelid, though he sounded alert enough.

Scott stepped very firmly on his temper. “You could at least pretend you’re on a mission here.” Oddly enough, he had discovered sarcasm worked much better on the Cajun than any kind of honest disapproval, though he rarely found a way to use it.

Gambit opened his eyes and Scott silently congratulated himself on a small victory. “Mission? An’ here I t’ought it was a house,” he quipped and Scott’s gaze narrowed.

Abruptly, Gambit sat up and swung his legs off the couch. He ran the fingers of both hands through his long hair, then looked up at Scott. “Don’ y’ t’ink y’ takin’ dis a bit too serious?” He gestured at the house around them. “I mean, de whole idea is dat nobody’s gon’ come lookin’ f’ us here. De security’s armed-- “ He paused. “An’ I’ve been up f’ de last thirty-six hours workin’ de deal, so lighten up, all right?”

Scott was taken aback by the weary anger in the other man’s eyes. Thirty-six hours? But that made sense if Gambit had been busy the entire time he’d been gone. He frowned ruefully as his thoughts turned. For once he’s dragging for a legitimate reason, so I guess I should be a little more sympathetic.

He sighed softly. “I’ve seen everything I need to. There’s no reason you can’t get some sleep once we get back to the hangar.”

Gambit cocked an eyebrow, his expression reflecting traces of surprise. He stood without comment, though, and followed Scott back toward the basement stairs and the underground route that would take them back to the X-Men.


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