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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 37

Trish Tilby wasn’t sure what she had expected of a woman who had been surgically altered into the pre-form of a prime sentinel. But a bright, bubbling sixteen-year-old wasn’t anywhere close.

Warren Worthington made the introductions personally, on a small sound stage inside the Worthington Industries building that was obviously built for use by the television media. Trish took in the details by habit— a pair of large overstuffed chairs in a muted neutral color faced each other across a small coffee table, and the area was framed by a tasteful rug in colors that matched the WI logo splashed across the backdrop. Eddie again manned the camera, while the rest of Trish’s crew worked the sound and recording equipment.

Jubilee, as she insisted she be called, was a slender Asian-American girl. She had been pretty once, but now her skin was unnaturally pale, with dark hollows beneath her eyes and cheekbones. Her hair was little more than a dark shadow of stubble on her scalp, and over it she wore a white bandana stamped with the X-Men’s red-X-in-a-circle motif.

Jubilee noticed the direction of her gaze and raised a hand to her head. “Wolverine got this for me yesterday,” she said, fingering the edge of the bandana, “at some little sidewalk vendor’s stall. Can you believe they’re selling stuff with the X-Men’s symbol on it? He got me a t-shirt too. It’s so cool.”

Trish decided that comment was as good a place to start as any. She and Jubilee sat in the plush chairs, and she knew from Eddie’s offstage hand motions that they were recording, so she decided to go ahead and jump in.

“The X-Men have become heroes to everyone who hates OZT and wants to see their illegal bid for power in this country ended.” Trish turned to face the camera. “Hello, America. Today I’m here inside the Worthington Industries building in Manhattan with Jubilation Lee, a former member of the X-Men and, more recently, a prisoner of Operation: Zero Tolerance.”

Jubilee glanced at the camera with a nervous frown then turned back toward Trish. Trish gave her a friendly smile. “Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed, Jubilee.”

The girl shrugged. “Anything I can do to help, I guess.” She sat Indian-style in the oversized chair, looking small and vulnerable.

She was, Trish decided, absolutely perfect. That OZT had gone and turned this into a prime sentinel… no one could be unaffected.

“What was it like to be an X-Man?”

Jubilee straightened, as if the mere mention of the X-Men breathed life into her. A smile bloomed on her face. “It was so wild. We were always off on one crazy mission or another, fighting the bad guys… and usually winning.”

Trish couldn’t help but smile in response. “But you left a couple of years ago, correct? To go to a conventional school with others your own age.”

Jubilee rolled her eyes. “If you can call a hoighty-toighty private academy full of mutant teenagers ‘conventional’, sure.”

“Well, more conventional, anyway,” Trish qualified.

Jubilee grinned.

Trish let her expression turn solemn. “Did you want to leave the X-Men?”

As expected, the girl’s expression fell, though Trish didn’t sense any anger from her. Only sadness. Jubilee shook her head. “No. They kinda made me go.” She met Trish’s gaze. “I think they were afraid they were corrupting me or something.”

Trish raised a curious eyebrow. “Were they?” Hank had never said much about the young girl’s presence with the X-Men, except to express concern that she was being forced to grow up too fast.

Jubilee laughed brightly. “Oh, yeah. Not really their fault, though, y’know?” She cocked her head. “Well, Wolverine and Gambit did teach me how to play poker, and Wolvie let me try a sip of his beer once.” She made a face. “That stuff is nasty. Oh, and Phoenix gave me my first sex talk—you know, the bird and the bees stuff—and Psylocke filled in all the juicy details later.” She widened her eyes theatrically. “The woman wears a thong into combat—she knows some really juicy details.”

Trish had to laugh at the thought of what the society page would be printing about Betsy Braddock after the interview aired. “It sounds like it was an interesting place to grow up.”

Jubilee winked. “You betcha, and that’s before you throw in the bug-eyed monsters and supervillains and stuff.”

Trish spent a moment shuffling her cue cards as she tried to regain her composure. This girl was a firecracker, no doubt about it, and she was going to run away with the interview if Trish wasn’t careful.

Clearing her throat, Trish steered the conversation toward a more difficult topic. “Tell me about the day the prime sentinels attacked your school.”

Mention of the sentinels sapped the light from Jubilee’s eyes. “They just appeared out of nowhere and started smashing their way into the building. Ms. Frost screamed at us to run.” She stared off into the distance as if reliving the events she described. “But one of them tackled me. I remember hearing something break as we hit the ground… I think it was my arm.” Absently, she fingered her forearm. “I don’t remember anything after that.” She looked up abruptly, her eyes fierce.

Trish tried to make her voice gentle. “What’s the next thing you do remember?”

Jubilee jerked and her face went a deathly shade of white. “I—I woke up in a prison cell, strapped down on a big, cold metal table. Bastion was there.”

“In person?” Trish stared at the girl in surprise. Other than a couple of press conferences early on, Bastion had not made any public appearances.

Expression haunted, Jubilee nodded. “Yeah.” She swallowed convulsively. “He wanted to know about the X-Men. He wanted--” She grabbed the arms of her chair, white-knuckled. “Security codes, passwords. Everything I remembered about the alarm systems. They wouldn’t stop. They wouldn’t—” She broke off, her eyes shining with unshed tears.

Trish kept her face still. “They tortured you?” she asked quietly.

Jubilee nodded without meeting her eyes. “I betrayed my friends.”

“And Bastion was there, in the room with you?” Trish didn’t really want to force this girl to relive the moment any more than necessary, but she had to make absolutely certain Bastion couldn’t claim ignorance.

Jubilee swiped the back of her hand across her eyes. She looked up at Trish, her expression firming. “He was there. He gave instructions to the others.” She took a shuddering breath and straightened her shoulders. “Sometimes he asked the questions.”

Trish simply nodded at the confirmation and went on. “We know the X-Men survived,” she said, primarily for the audience’s benefit. “To my knowledge, Operation: Zero Tolerance hasn’t managed to capture or kill any member of the team.”

A light of defiance came into Jubilee’s eyes. “Wolverine told me they got out ahead of OZT’s assassins.”

“And now they’re leading the fight to break Bastion’s hold on this country, and the world. Do you know how they’re managing to fight back so effectively?”

As Trish had hoped, Jubilee gave her one of the scathing looks teenagers reserved for not-so-bright adults. “Lady, they’re the X-Men.”

Trish grinned and glanced into the camera. “I suppose no more explanation is needed.” She let the moment linger before turning once again to a difficult subject.

“What happened to you after OZT attacked the X-Men’s base of operations?” she asked Jubilee.

Jubilee’s face seemed to close up on itself. She reached up and slowly pulled the bandana from her head. Beneath the dark shadow of stubble, long lines of scar tissue were clearly visible. The girl tipped her head forward, showing the extent of the scarring to both Trish and the camera. Then, she pulled up the sleeves of her shirt, exposing the long, thin scars that ran up the insides and along the backs of her arms. Finally, she unfolded her legs and scooted to the edge of her chair. Standing, she turned her back and lifted her shirt to show Trish the scars that circled her abdomen.

“They turned me into a prime sentinel,” she said as she sat back down.

Trish hardly needed to feign shock at the statement. Even though she knew it, the concept continued to alternately anger and horrify her. “Your doctor has provided me with copies of your x-rays and brain scans, which will be available along with this interview, but I’d like to hear from you what, exactly, that means.”

Jubilee held her kerchief in both hands and toyed with the knot as she spoke. “I’m the pre-transformation version.” She glanced up at Trish. “That just means I’m still a person inside. See, when someone like me gets near a mutant and they transform into the full-blown sentinel, their brain gets destroyed to make room for the neural network that controls the prime.”

“So every prime sentinel out there—” Trish waved toward the world outside their sound stage, “used to be a human being. A person.”

Jubilee nodded. “Just like me.”

“You did great,” Trish told Jubilee as they wrapped up the interview. People milled around them, a combination of Worthington’s people and her own, as they dismantled or moved the overhead microphones and turned off the bright stage lighting.

Trish extended her hand, which the girl shook a bit tentatively. “Thanks,” Jubilee said. Her gaze strayed past the journalist, lighting with a wide, genuine smile. With hardly a glance at Trish, she jumped out of her chair and ran across the room to throw her arms around Bobby Drake’s neck.

Trish rose to her feet and drifted that direction, not wanting to interrupt what looked like a very happy reunion. Bobby ran a hand across Jubilee’s scalp like an older brother might tousle his sister’s hair. As expected, Jubilee ducked, slapping at his hand in good-natured outrage while simultaneously babbling at him in the breathless warp-speed way of teenage girls everywhere.

Trish nodded to Bobby in greeting as she approached.

“Hi, Trish,” he returned, his expression a shade less reserved than the last time they’d met, and Trish wondered if her willingness to work with the X-Men now might have, in some way, begun to balance the scales in his mind regarding her breaking of the Legacy Virus story.

Trish’s curiosity got the better of her. “So do the X-Men just waltz in and out of the Worthington building any old time they want?” she asked over Jubilee’s steady stream of prattle. “Isn’t that dangerous?”

Bobby gave her an annoyed look. “I’m helping with the building security.”

Trish raised an eyebrow. Robert Drake and ‘building security’ weren’t concepts she would have put together in the same sentence, ever. “Doing what, exactly?”

His expression grew wary, as if he realized he’d piqued her curiosity. “Never mind.”

Jubilee fell abruptly silent, looking miffed. “You guys want me to leave so you don’t have to actively ignore me?”

Bobby immediately shook his head. His expression lightened as he glanced down at Jubilee. “Actually, I was looking for you, squirt. I need your help with something.”

Her face immediately brightened. “Really? Cool.”

Bobby threw a companionable arm across the girl’s shoulders and began to turn her away. Trish bit her tongue, torn.

“Bobby, wait,” she finally said. There was one thing she needed to know.

He glanced back at her.

“How is Hank?”

Bobby gave her a piercing look, as if someone much older and wiser lived behind his boyish face and sky-blue eyes. Trish found herself flushing beneath his gaze.

“He’s fine,” the young X-Man finally answered. “Busy. He’s frustrated by the loss of his lab, of course, but I think he’s enjoying the chance to just practice medicine for a while.”

Trish’s heart felt a little lighter as she watched Bobby and Jubilee walk away, though she had to wonder what Bobby’s enigmatic statement might refer to. Who, besides the X-Men, would Hank be practicing medicine for?

Adrian Tyre spied the man he was looking for seated at one of the tables outside a small, upscale sidewalk café, reading a copy of the Wall Street Journal. He was a nondescript man dressed in a medium-quality business suit. Adrian had been told his contact would be wearing a red tie and drinking hot tea, which the man was.

After placing his order at the counter, Adrian went outside. The café was busy, all of its tables currently occupied.

Adrian paused beside the man’s table. “Excuse me, may I take this seat?” he asked, waving toward the chair across the small table. Had the café been less busy, the question might have drawn notice, been remembered. Adrian was cautiously pleased. The man wasn’t a total amateur, at least.

The man glanced up from his paper, nodded disinterestedly and went back to reading. Adrian was thoroughly amused to see the X-Men’s red symbol pinned to the man’s lapel. It was a bold bit of irony, which he appreciated.

“Thanks.” Adrian settled into the chair, observing his surroundings with casual interest. Given that the man he was meeting was supposed to be an agent for OZT, he didn’t expect to be in danger from sentinels, but he kept an eye out anyway. As well as for anyone else that might look out of place. If LeBeau had managed to put a tail on him, his life could get very difficult.

He watched the people moving up and down the street, intent on their own purposes. None showed particular interest in him or the café, and no one lingered. The street was one-way, barely a lane and a half wide. Vehicles jostled for position as they crept along.

Across the street, the sidewalk opened into a small landscaped area surrounded by benches. A trio of violinists in black pants and white shirts did a credible rendition of Handel’s Water Music as people stopped to watch. A few snapped pictures, and Adrian gave those special attention, but saw nothing suspicious. An elderly Japanese couple seemed intent on filling an entire roll of film with the performers, but they moved on before very long. A frail-looking girl with a bandana over her bare scalp also stopped to take pictures. She was obviously on a short excursion from one of the local hospitals, a stern-faced nurse in tow. After a while, the girl went to sit down on one of the benches to rest. She continued to sight through the camera, often turning to point out things to her chaperone who looked on in ill-concealed boredom.

A pretty co-ed came by with Adrian’s coffee and croissant and then was gone again with a flip of her chestnut ponytail.

“What kind of tea are you drinking?” Adrian asked his tablemate, as he’d been instructed.

The man looked up from his paper again. “Earl Grey.”

It was the answer Adrian had been told to expect, and his gut tightened a notch. He gave no indication, however, as he stirred cream into his coffee. “I’m partial to Assam, myself.”

The man’s eyebrows flickered as Adrian gave the countersign, and the thief’s opinion of him dropped a notch. Not a true professional, for certain. Probably some mid-level operative—good enough for blind drops and first contact meetings, but not one of the government’s best.

The man went back to his paper. “You have information to give?” he said without looking up.

Adrian sipped his coffee. “Yes.”

The man didn’t say anything further, but Adrian could feel the expectancy that emanated from him. He bit back a snort of amusement. This man and his superiors had no idea what they’d just stumbled on. “But not here, and not now.” Adrian broke off a corner of his croissant and was reasonably pleased by how the pastry flaked apart. Only the French really knew how to do pastries, but by New York standards, this wasn’t too bad.

The man turned the page of his newspaper. “Why should I believe you have anything to offer at all?”

Adrian paused, struck, suddenly, by the finality of what he was doing. LeBeau is going to destroy the Guild with his stupid heroics, he reminded himself, and get us all killed. It wasn’t even about money anymore, or even power. He took a deep breath.

“The next time we meet, I’ll give you access to the restricted levels of the Worthington Industries building. That should be sufficient to demonstrate how good my information is.”

The man’s fingers tightened on his newspaper, and his eyebrows once again gave away his reaction.

Adrian stood. “I’ll call you in a couple of days with instructions.” He didn’t wait for a response as he turned away.

Bobby kept one hand near the automatic pistol holstered at the base of his spine and his eyes peeled as he walked along beside Logan. Going above ground always made his skin crawl. And this was a rough section of the city—a narrow corridor trapped between gang territory and the blue collar, ethnically diverse neighborhoods dominated by the Kingpin’s organization. The smell of roasting garlic hung thick in the air, competing with the tang of hot peppers and the less pleasant scents of stale beer, urine and rotting garbage. Aging, graceless brick apartment buildings vied for space with small shops and restaurants, many of which had blackened or broken windows. Cars lined the street, most as old as Bobby.

On the far street corner, a pimp yelled at one of his girls, punctuating the long stream of profanity with slaps. The woman shrieked her protest, vainly trying to cover her face with her hands.

Bobby glanced questioningly at Logan, who gave him a hooded stare and shrugged. “Your call, kid.”

Bobby watched the scene unfold for a moment longer then shook his head. Had they had their powers he wouldn’t have hesitated to interfere, but they couldn’t afford to draw too much attention to themselves with the threat of OZT always looming. Particularly when it didn’t look like the pimp intended to do any serious damage.

They continued on, and Bobby found himself on the receiving end of a sharp, appraising stare from the man beside him.

“What?” he asked after a minute.

Logan looked away, casually surveying the street. “Cajun’s a remarkable judge o’ character.”

Bobby resisted the urge to shake his head. “Why, because I’m not the loser everybody thought?”

Logan grinned. “Yup.” He inclined his head in Bobby’s direction and his expression grew solemn. “I misjudged you, kid. Never gave ya much of a chance ta prove yerself.”

“It wasn’t your responsibility.” Bobby accepted the apology with what he hoped was a reasonable amount of aplomb.

“Wasn’t Gambit’s, either.” Logan gave him another of those appraising looks. “But he was willin’ t’ go out of his way because he saw somethin’ in you the rest of us missed.” Logan angled between two parked cars.

With a quick glance to check for oncoming traffic, Bobby followed him across the street toward the windowless face of a strip club.

They went inside. As expected, the interior was cramped and dim, the air heavy with smoke. A few tired-looking women in a tacky array of high-heels, tassels and thongs gyrated on stage for the benefit of a thin crowd. Bobby looked the room over without expression, but let his gaze linger on the girls since that would attract less attention than ignoring them. He wondered if Logan had chosen the location specifically to see how he would react to it. If so, he was going to be disappointed.

They took a booth toward the back of the room with a good view of the stage, as well as direct line of sight to the front door. Bobby ordered a beer when the waitress came around, then settled in to wait for Logan’s contact to show.

Logan worried at the loose edge of the label on his beer bottle. “Jubilee told me you had her following someone yesterday. Taking pictures.” His voice was gruff.

Bobby looked up, trying to gauge the level of danger implicit in his tone. He saw nothing immediately threatening, though that was no guarantee with Wolverine. “Yeah,” he finally agreed. “I needed someone who for sure wouldn’t get made.”

“Who was she following?”


Logan straightened abruptly in his seat. “She took the pictures of this guy you need ID’d?”

Bobby nodded.

Logan glowered at him, but eventually he looked away and took a swig of his beer. “I ain’t sure I like you puttin’ her in harm’s way.” He returned his gaze to Bobby. “Or should I be takin’ this up with Gambit instead?”

Bobby trailed a finger through the condensation left on the table by his drink. “My call,” he told Logan. He met the other’s gaze calmly. “She’s been hurt by OZT more than any of us. She needs to be able to do something to fight back, and this was pretty low-risk.”

Logan accepted that with a shrug and a vague, conciliatory gesture. “Can’t argue that.”

The front door swung open and a man shuffled in. Bobby pegged him for his early forties, though time hadn’t treated him well. He was tall and scarecrow-thin, with long, stringy blond hair and a leather coat that had seen better days. Logan raised a hand, waving him over.

The man moved toward their table, his demeanor casual, but his eyes scanned every inch of the room with carefully veiled intensity. Bobby took note of a couple of bulges that most likely hid an assortment of weapons.

Once he reached them, the man looked both Bobby and Logan over before nodding to Logan in greeting. “Who’s the cub scout?” He jerked his chin in Bobby’s direction.

Bobby didn’t let his annoyance at the reference show as Logan grinned. “He’s Guild,” Logan said.

The man’s expression cleared, turning distinctly professional. He slid into the booth beside Logan and acknowledged Bobby with a nod.

“You’re looking for a name, correct?” The man spoke with a cultured precision at odds with his rough appearance.

Bobby nodded. “Name and affiliation.”

“Let’s see the money.”

Keeping his movements slow, Bobby reached inside his jacket and withdrew the photo of Adrian and the unidentified man he’d been talking to, as well as an envelope filled with crisp hundred dollar bills. He laid both on the table and slid them toward Logan’s contact.

The man picked up the envelope first, checked its contents then laid it back down beside the photo. With two fingers he drew the photo closer, studying it.

He raised an eyebrow before glancing up at Bobby. “His name’s Alan Garbo--like the actress. He’s been the undersecretary of something-or-other at American embassies in about a half-dozen countries.”

Logan’s gaze narrowed. “CIA?”

The man nodded. “He was. Don’t know about now. He was always mid-level. Never good enough to make station chief.” He shrugged. “I think he left the company a few years back.” He picked up the envelope of money and slipped it inside his coat.

Bobby leaned back in his seat. “If you had to guess, where do you think he might have ended up?”

The man shrugged. “OZT maybe. They’ve been skimming off the government pond.” He levered himself to his feet. “Always a pleasure doing business with you, Logan.” He walked away without another word.

Bobby gave Logan a troubled look. “How good is his guess?”

Logan shrugged. “He knows all the players, so it ought ta be pretty good. Ya gonna take this ta Gambit?”

Bobby nodded. “Going to have to, but I’d like to try to confirm who this Garbo is with, first. Accusing a council member of selling out to OZT is no small thing.” He drained the last of his beer. “Remy can’t touch this unless the information’s solid—a lot more solid than one guy’s hunch.”


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