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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 31

Jubilee held tightly to the bed rails as Terry wheeled her out of her cubby and down a long, cement hall. A bundle of cast iron and copper tubes ran along the ceiling, held in place with large metal brackets. Light came from a series of fluorescent lights that hung down below the tubes, but many of them were burned out or flickered badly. The walls were painted a dull, institutional gray. It didn’t look like any hospital Jubilee had ever seen.

Terry maneuvered the bed into an elevator that had obviously been designed to transport them. The car was large and rectangular, and had doors on either end. Jubilee craned her head to look at the elevator buttons. The bottommost, labeled “B3” was lit, and as she watched, Terry punched “B1”.

Several things clicked together in Jubilee’s mind. “Why are we in the basement?” she asked.

The elevator doors slid shut, and with a smooth whir, the car began to rise. Terry glanced down at her. “We can’t risk putting you with the other patients, hon.”

Jubilee turned her face away. “Because I might hurt them.” It wasn’t a question. She was a prime sentinel, made to kill mutants.

The elevator dinged, and the door slid open. “We certainly don’t want to risk triggering your transformation, that’s true,” Terry said as she wheeled the bed across the uneven threshold. She paused as soon as they cleared the elevator, though, and looked around. Across the hall, a man in scrubs nodded to her in greeting.

“We clear?” Terry asked, and the man nodded. He came over and helped Terry push the bed down the hallway.

Terry glanced down at Jubilee. “Much of this skullduggery is for your protection as well. These days, pre-transformation sentinels tend to end up dead if people find out what they are.” She shrugged, her expression diffident, but Jubilee felt a chill.

They wheeled her into some kind of imaging chamber. A huge machine squatted at the center of the room, looking like a giant white toad. The circular opening on its front side reminded Jubilee of a mouth, stretched wide and waiting to swallow her. She shivered.

Terry and the man transferred Jubilee from her bed to the imaging platform. They arranged her to their satisfaction then braced her head between a pair of contoured foam blocks.

They’re just going to take pictures, Jubilee tried to reassure herself. But her heart hammered beneath her ribs, and her palms were sweaty.

Terry disappeared from her vision for a few seconds and then returned with a silver cylinder about the size of a small flashlight in her hand. After a moment, Jubilee recognized it as a pneumatic syringe like the ones Hank used in the medlab.

Terry showed the syringe to her. “This is a neuro-paralyzer,” she said. “I’m going to inject it at the base of your skull. It’ll lock up the nannites in your brain for about twenty minutes, so the doctor can come and do the scan.”

Jubilee frowned. “You can’t do the scan when the nannites are… active?” The idea of millions of little robots crawling around inside her body like ants gave her a serious case of the willies, but she tried not to let it show.

Terry shook her head. “Oh no, it’s not that,” she said with an odd smile.

“Then why?”

Terry sighed and patted her arm. “Doctor Reyes is a mutant.”

Jubilee digested that as Terry slipped the syringe behind her neck. She felt the painful pinch as it discharged, and then the nurse was gone, leaving Jubilee alone.

“All right, dat settles dat one.” Remy pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to push his headache down to a more manageable level. He shifted in his seat behind the Guildmaster’s desk and looked over at Artur. “What’s next?” Other than a couple of missing shelves over the wet bar and the lingering smell of crème de menthe, his office had been restored to order sometime during the night. He suspected he had Bobby to thank for that. Of course, he had Bobby to thank for the hangover, too, and he felt like someone was taking a jackhammer to the back of his skull.

“The Miami job,” Artur answered, and Remy dragged his thoughts back into line. The reserved tone of Artur’s voice told him the other man didn’t like the proposition that was on the table.

Beside Artur, Chess laced his fingers across his stomach. “We don’t need trouble with the cartels, particularly now,” he said.

“We don’t owe them any loyalty, either,” Tom Shane shot back from the opposite side of the desk. Except for Adrian, all of the thieves on the council had ended up gathered around Remy’s desk to discuss the current batch of jobs the Guild had under consideration. The sudden oversight was yet another indication of how much of the guildmembers’ trust Remy had lost. A few days ago, he would have chosen the pinches he wanted his Guild to take and politely declined the rest, and no one would have batted an eye at the Guildmaster doing his job.

“It’s a personal request from de Guildmaster of Miami,” Remy reminded them. He’d spent much of the morning on the phone with his counterpart in the Miami Guild, trying to get a grasp on the political climate there that would lead to such a request, and the level of risk to New York if he accepted.

“But, stealing from a Columbian cartel in order to provide evidence for a federal prosecution?” Artur shook his head. “It’s absurd.”

“It’s dangerous,” Chess said.

Remy shrugged. “Oui, it’s risky. But de Miami Guild is gettin’ squeezed a little too hard by de cartels, an’ they’ve asked f’ our help. Their people are too well known to be able t’ act against de Colombians. They’d end up in a war.” He pinned each of the council members with a cool stare. “I got no problem takin’ money from de Feds-- indirectly, o’ course-- if it helps out our brothers. Nobody messes wit’ Guild.” If it weren’t for OZT, Remy would have taken the job himself, for no other reason than that he loathed drug dealers. But the council wasn’t going to accept that as sufficient reason.

Chess raised a hand, forestalling a further protest from Tom. “I agree we owe Miami whatever help we can afford to give them,” he said. “The question is, can we afford this? What if the Columbians trace it back to us? What if the government does?”

“Den we deal wit’ dem.” Remy tried to keep the frustration out of his voice. “De Kingpin can buffer us ‘gainst de cartels. An’ if he doesn’t, we’ll take matters into our own hands. How long dey stay in business if their shipments keep disappearing, eh?”

“And the federal government?” Chess asked.

Remy spread his hands. “Dat’s de Miami Guild’s problem. I told their Guildmaster they’d have t’ front de deal. We can’t afford to draw any more exposure than we already got by backin’ de X-Men.”

Artur breathed an aborted sigh. “Well, it sounds like you’ve thought through all the possible complications, Guildmaster.”

Remy bit back a sarcastic response. Had lying to the Guild about Rogue some how turned him into an idiot?

Even an oblique thought of Rogue made his stomach curl into a hard little knot and he had to take a deep breath to steady himself.

“So dat’s settled.” Remy said after a moment. He turned toward Carson, carefully schooling his expression. “I’m gon’ put dis in your hands,” he told the thief, and saw a ripple of surprise run through the gathered councilors. “It’s a difficult pinch dat’s gon’ require a deft touch an’ a lot of prep work. But I t’ink y’ de right t’ief for de job.” Other than himself and possibly Marcus, Carson was probably the most qualified for this specific task regardless of how much Remy despised him personally. And it was a good time for the Guildmaster to be obvious about not playing petty favorites among his thieves.

Remy folded his hands on the desk in front of him. “Is dat all, gentlemen?”

He received a round of nods as the door to his office opened to admit Mystique. She walked several paces into the room and paused, one hand on her hip. Remy instinctively rose to his feet. His hand found the Glock that habitually sat on the corner of his desk, but he kept his finger off the trigger as he rested the muzzle lightly against the desktop.

He swept his gaze across the members of his council before returning his attention to Mystique. “Den I believe my future mother-in-law would like a moment.”

With nods and a few departing comments, the council dispersed, leaving Remy and Mystique to face each other uninterrupted. Remy could read little of value from her heat signature, but that had always been the case with Mystique. Her body functioned too oddly for him to readily interpret what he saw.

“Raven.” He acknowledged her with a nod.

“Where is my daughter?” Mystique’s posture didn’t change.

Remy resisted the desire to put his finger on the trigger. “I don’ know.” That fact gnawed at him, a constant ache that nothing could soothe.

Mystique let her hand fall from her hip and slowly sauntered forward. “You don’t need the gun, Remy.”

He snorted. “Y’ forgive me if I don’ believe y’.”

She sat down in one of the chairs fronting his desk and crossed her legs. Hooking one elbow around the back, she regarded him evenly.

Following her lead, Remy returned to his seat. He balanced the handgun on his knee. “What do y’ want, Raven?”

She clucked her tongue disapprovingly. “You don’t seem very happy for a man who’s getting married in a little over two days.”

“I’m ecstatic.” Leaning forward, Remy rummaged in his top desk drawer with his free hand until he located the pack of cigarettes and lighter he usually kept there. “Y’ come by just t’ mess wit’ me?” Still keeping the Glock in his right hand, he tapped out a cigarette, put it in his mouth, and lit it.

When he leaned back, Mystique helped herself to a cigarette as well. “It’s tempting,” she allowed, and he could tell from her tone that she was smiling. “But, no. I just want to see my daughter.”

Remy shook his head. “Can’ help you.” Just saying the words hurt, but he pushed the pain down, burying it deep inside his heart where it couldn’t control him.

“Even if I promised not to break her out or otherwise interfere?”

Remy exhaled a long plume of smoke. “An’ why would y’ promise dat?” He was more than a little surprised she hadn’t done anything violent yet. Logan was supposed to be keeping an eye on her, just in case.

Mystique laughed outright. “My dear boy, do you know how long I’ve been trying to get that hard-headed child of mine to join the real world? If I’d known that threatening you was the key, I’d have done it a long time ago.”

Remy blinked at her, thoroughly startled. “Y’ okay wit’ all dis?”

“Okay?” Mystique waved airily. “I’m delighted.” She affected a wealthy socialite voice. “Imagine, my daughter, Guildmistress.”

Remy narrowed his gaze, his thoughts turning. “F’ de last three years y’ been makin’ it clear y’ didn’ like de idea of Rogue an’ I together,” he finally said. “So what’s changed?”

“Is that what you thought?” Her voice was pure innocence.

Remy raised an eyebrow, refusing to rise to her bait. “Y’ really did come by just t’ mess wit’ me.”

Mystique chuckled. “One of the very few things I approve of in my daughter’s life is her choice in men.”

“I’m flattered.”

Mystique stubbed out her cigarette and leaned back in her chair. “You should be. No, my issue has always been with this stupid Dream nonsense Rogue keeps chasing.” She paused, and her voice grew serious. “I’ll tell you, Remy, until this past year I was convinced this little dalliance with my daughter was going to end with you swearing off any and all illegal behavior and joining Xavier’s merry band full-time. Then I would never have gotten Rogue back.”

Remy finished his own cigarette as he studied Mystique. Then he shrugged. “Can’ say I wasn’t tempted,” he told her. “But it jus’ wasn’t practical.” Not to mention how unhappy the Professor would have been to lose his primary source of information.

Mystique tipped her head to the side, and the smile returned to her voice. “See, this is why I like you.”

Under other circumstances, Remy might have smiled. Instead, he sighed tiredly and tossed the Glock back into its customary spot. “If y’ got no intention of interfering, why do you want to see her?”

“Don’t you?”

The question cut into him with the precision of a knife. Remy fought to keep his expression still. “I doubt my reasons are de same as yours,” he managed after a moment.

Mystique shrugged as if acknowledging his point. “Let’s just say it’s a unique opportunity to meet my daughter with all her fairytale pretensions stripped away. I’d like to see what she’s made of these days.”

Remy shook his head as a chill scrabbled up his spine. “Y’ cold, Raven.” But, she always had been. He gestured vaguely. “You can always try talkin’ t’ the council, but I doubt it’ll do y’ any good.”

Jubilee sat on the edge of her hospital bed, dressed in a pair of well-worn jeans and a faded GAP sweatshirt. The clothes were a donation from Terry, who had raided her teenage daughter’s closet for a couple of outfits. The IV and heart monitor were gone, as was the pain, and the only remaining evidence from her accident was a set of narrow, pale scars along her leg.

The woozy feeling from the neuro-paralyzer injection had just begun to fade when Dr. Reyes walked in.

Reyes was a young, severe-looking Hispanic woman with a surprisingly kind smile. “Good morning, Jubilee. How are you?” she said as she entered. She carried a manila folder in one hand.

Jubilee kicked her feet as nervous little quivers chased through her stomach. “I’m okay.” She looked at the folder. “Is that my brain?” They’d done the scan the day before, and Jubilee had been left in an alternating state of terror and anticipation since then.

Reyes flashed her a smile. “It is. Would you like to see?” She came and leaned one hip against the table beside Jubilee. She opened the folder then turned it so the young woman could view it.

Jubilee studied the plastic film covered with squiggly black lines and colorful blotches for several seconds. “What should I be looking at?”

Dr. Reyes pointed to a section of black squiggles near the center. “These black marks are the neural net resident in your brain.”

“The… sentinels part?”

Reyes nodded. “The command and control network, yes.” She pointed to a little black knot in one of the squiggles. “That’s one of the microcomputers. They task the nannites.” She looked up, meeting Jubilee’s eyes. “Those are what we have to shut down if we want to keep you human.”

The fear in Jubilee’s stomach turned sour. “How?”

She watched as Dr. Reyes’ demeanor turned distinctly professional. She pulled a pen from her breast pocket to point with. “This area here—” she circled a thick tree of black lines, “—is the heart of the transformation control logic. There are a total of seven microcomputers. They work in pairs, so there are three redundant controllers with a seventh that provides a reduced logic set if all three are somehow disabled.” She paused for a breath. “Which means at a minimum we have to destroy all three of one type, plus the backup. And we have to do it in less than ten milliseconds or the controllers will be able to retask the nannites to start the transformation.”

Jubilee was relatively savvy about technical systems, so she followed the gist of what the doctor said. “Can you do that?”

Reyes nodded. “With an array of lasers, yes. But there’s always the risk of the microcomputers migrating while we’re programming the lasers, or the calculations being just slightly off despite our best efforts.”

Jubilee shuddered. She wasn’t sure she could ask the obvious next question, so she was relieved when Dr. Reyes simply continued her explanation.

“I won’t lie to you, Jubilee,” the doctor said, her expression solemn. “It’s a significant risk. There’s about a thirty percent chance we’d trigger the transformation.”

Jubilee bit her lip. “And then what?”

She shrugged. “We’ve become pretty adept at destroying primes before they complete the transformation.” Her gaze was uncompromising.

Strangely, Jubilee was reassured by that. Dr. Reyes had always talked to her like an adult rather than a child, and it helped to know, if worse came to worse, she wouldn’t allow her to become a sentinel.

Jubilee looked again at the image Reyes held. “What do all the rest of these do?” She indicated the black marks outside the area the doctor had indicated.

“Those control the prime sentinel. They contain the base operating system and instructions, weapons control and targeting, flight controls, navigation, et cetera. If we destroy the transformation logic, the rest of the net will just sit there, inert.”

Reyes pulled another of the colored brain scan films from the back of the folder and laid it out for Jubilee to look at. “Here. This is what the brain looks like in a prime sentinel.” Unlike her own scan, where the black squiggles were sparse, the sentinel’s head was so thick with them that parts of the scan were simply black.

“It takes a tremendous amount of computing power to run a sentinel-- far more than exists inside the pre-transformation version. During the transformation process, the nannites clear away significant amounts of brain tissue in order to make room for the expanded network they’re tasked to build. Without that expanded network, the microcomputers that contain the rest of the sentinels programming are useless.”

Jubilee hugged herself, feeling cold. “So once they turn into a sentinel, the person inside is already dead,” she concluded. They’d had their brain eaten away.

Reyes nodded. “Yes.”

Jubilee gripped the edge of the exam table until her knuckles turned white with the strain. She wanted to demand that Dr. Reyes go in and destroy every single one of the alien things in her head, but she knew it would only sound childish.

Dr. Reyes went on. “It will take three or four days for us to build a complete three dimensional model of your brain and to program the lasers, but then we’ll be able to do the surgery. I’d like to get started as soon as possible.”

Jubilee forced her thoughts away from the gruesome images the doctor’s words had conjured. “Okay,” she agreed. She didn’t see that she had any choice. But, she also couldn’t take the risk of dying before she could manage to pass on the Professor’s whereabouts to someone who might be able to rescue him.

“Hey, Doc?” Jubilee raised her head to look directly at Dr. Reyes.

Reyes paused in the middle of closing the manila folder. “Yes, Jubilee?”

“Have you ever heard of the X-Men?”

Reyes smiled. “I was wondering when you were going to ask about them.” To Jubilee’s startled look, she added, “Yes, I know all about the X-Men.” Her expression turned diffident. “Charles Xavier is-- was-- an acquaintance of mine.”

Jubilee stared at the doctor, speechless. “Are they all right?” she demanded as soon as she found her voice. “Are they still alive?” She couldn’t help the sudden burst of hope and desperation that exploded inside her heart.

Dr. Reyes nodded. “Yes, they’re alive, and leading the fight against OZT.”

Wolverine! Jubilee sagged against the examination table as her muscles all seemed to turn to jelly. She was overcome with the sudden, inexplicable urge to cry, but she fought it.

“I need to get a message to them,” she told Reyes once she’d managed to gather her composure. Her voice sounded thick to her own ears. “I was on one of OZT’s satellites. I have important information to give them.”

Dr. Reyes pressed her lips together in a thin line, her frustration evident. “We haven’t had any contact with the X-Men, I’m afraid. We’ve got some information for them as well, if we could figure out how to get it to them.”

Jubilee’s heart sank at her words, even as a new question formed in her mind. “Who’s ‘we’?” she asked after a moment.

Reyes’ expression lightened. “Xavier’s mutant underground, of course.”

The comfortable blackness surrounding Rogue shattered as a harsh, pungent smell stabbed into her sinuses. She jerked away from the smell, her eyes opening automatically. Adrian crouched over her, his hands holding the two halves of the capsule he’d just broken open beneath her nose.

“Wake up,” he said, his tone neutral.

Pain followed consciousness, and Rogue groaned. She rolled away from Adrian, struggling to get her arms beneath her. The chain attached to her wrists clattered and scraped across the stone as she moved. Every motion hurt. Rogue gritted her teeth, breathing in shallow gasps as she hauled herself into a sitting position and braced her back against the cold stone wall.

Finally, she turned her head to look at Adrian. “Time for the next round, sugah?” she asked, her voice scratchy. Her tongue felt thick and her throat ached with thirst.


Rogue studied him, no longer intimidated by his flat stare. She wasn’t certain, any more, how much of his cruelty was driven by duty and how much by his hatred of Remy.

“How much time… left?” she asked. Speaking made her ribs scream. She was pretty sure a couple were cracked, or so badly bruised that it made no difference. Adrian had done a pretty impressive job of walking the fine line the council had defined for him. Other than the possibility of her ribs, Rogue had no broken bones, nor did she think she had any significant internal injuries. Just a sea of hurts, coupled with hunger and sleep deprivation.

Adrian’s watch glowed momentarily as he checked it. “About sixteen hours.”

Last day, Rogue thought, nearly dizzy with relief. It really was going to end. She just had to hold out for a few more hours.

Adrian’s shoes scraped against the stone as he shifted his weight. “You do understand that none of this is personal to you, don’t you?”

Rogue forced her eyes to focus on Adrian once again. Something in his tone made the hairs on the back of her neck prickle in warning. She summoned a thin smile. “Don’t worry, sugah. Ah know who ya aiming at.” She drew a shallow, pained breath. “Don’t forget who… lined the shot up for ya.” She met his gaze and held it. Just because she didn’t like power games didn’t mean she wasn’t any good at them. And it was important to remind Adrian that the reason he was on that side and she on this one was not because he was in charge, but because she’d arranged it that way.

His expression narrowed. “You’re a tough one, I’ll give you that.” He held out his hand to one of the two men who stood behind him. There were always three thieves in the room with her, though this time Rogue didn’t immediately recognize either of Adrian’s companions.

The man handed him a flat black case about the size of a glasses case. He opened it to reveal a small syringe clamped into the velvet interior. Rogue felt a quiver of nervous fear in her stomach. Drugs were something new.

She watched him warily. “What… is that?”

Adrian carefully freed the syringe and handed the case back to the man, who tucked it away inside his coat. As Rogue watched, he held it up and checked it for air bubbles. “This,” he said “is an insidious little cocktail a few government agencies like to keep on hand in case they need to provide a little extra… incentive… during an interrogation.” He favored her with a cool smile. “It cost me a small fortune to procure, especially at such short notice. But well worth it, I believe.”

Rogue bit her tongue as Adrian caught her forearm in an iron grip. She instinctively tried to pull away from him, but she just wasn’t strong enough without her powers. She felt the prick of the needle on the inside of her elbow, and then the sensation of the cool liquid entering her veins.

“Don’t worry, it’s not harmful,” Adrian went on. “Other than some strain on the heart. It works on the pain receptors—feeds them all kinds of false information. I’m told it feels somewhat like being set on fire, only you don’t get to go into shock and pass out after a couple of seconds.”

Rogue stared at him in horror as the first sensation of heat began to creep through her body. It was like her blood was heating up-- at first radiantly warm and tingling along her limbs, then uncomfortable, and finally excruciating. Rogue clamped her jaw shut, her chest heaving as she fought the pain, but it kept building inside her like an explosion waiting to be released.

Adrian released her arm then leaned forward until his face was only inches from hers. He stared deep into her eyes, his expression fierce. “Let this be a warning to you, Rogue,” he said in a dangerously soft voice. “I will see LeBeau dead eventually, and if you get in my way, this is only the beginning of how much you will suffer. Do you understand me?”

Rogue twisted her face away and squeezed her eyes shut, desperately praying this was a nightmare she could wake up from. Her fingers curled involuntarily against the stone, the pain of her torn and ragged nails invisible beneath the white hot agony that enveloped her. Her legs spasmed, heels digging into the floor as if she could somehow push herself away from the pain.

Grimy, she struggled to hold on to her self-awareness. “If ya… makin’ threats…” she gasped, “ya must be… right scared.” She turned to look at Adrian and forced her mouth into a smile.

With a snarl of rage, Adrian rose to his feet and stalked away from her. Rogue didn’t see him. She arched her back, her triumph stolen as a fresh wave of agony slammed into her. She forgot all about Adrian as she began to scream.


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