Home | Forum | Mailing List | Repository | Links | Gallery
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 52

Marius Boudreaux rose to his feet and crossed himself as Remy walked into the well-appointed suite in which the Guild leader and his two assassins were being held. For once, the reaction didn’t bother Remy too much. Theo and the other assassin, too, stared at him as if they couldn’t quite believe what they were seeing.

"Y’ really are a devil," Marius said as Remy came to halt in front of him.

Remy allowed himself a small smile. Out of the corners of his eyes, he could see the heat signatures of the two thieves who flanked him flickering-Tom O’Shane’s with smug satisfaction and Artur’s with a far broader mix of emotions.

Remy returned his attention to Marius. "Y’ neglected t’ mention Gris-Gris’s poison might have a second component," he said after a moment.

Marius shrugged, seeming to recover his poise. "I answered de mutant docteur’s questions," he countered.

"Because y’ didn’t expect it t’ make a difference."

Marius’s heat signature flashed, giving Remy all the confirmation he needed. Remy kept his expression still. Let the Assassins Guild chemists spend their time chasing an antidote that didn’t exist.

Remy gestured toward the carved table that sat in the center of the room. "Have a seat, Marius. You an’ I need t’ discuss y’ intentions in de matter o’ dis contract on m’ life."

Marius’ signature spiked, but he acquiesced with a nod. He returned to his seat at the table, where he settled comfortably and crossed his legs. At a gesture from Artur, Theo and the other assassin backed away.

Remy took the seat across from Marius, careful to keep his motions smooth and casual. Exhaustion dogged him, the consequence of having been on life support for half a day. It didn’t seem right that he’d spent sixteen hours unconscious and come out the far side more tired than he’d begun.

He leaned back in his chair and crossed his ankles, regarding the other man evenly. For the first time in his life, Remy found himself in a position of strength versus the Assassins. If he weren’t so tired-and if Belle weren’t dead-he would have thoroughly enjoyed sitting there, letting the silence stretch.

Finally, Marius stirred. "Rogue’s got a sharp eye," he said in an inflectionless voice.

Remy nodded as if it were an utterly normal comment. By mentioning Rogue at all, and particularly by paying her a compliment, Marius was acknowledging his weakened bargaining position and expressing a willingness to negotiate. But given how much damage having one of the assassins under his authority violate a sworn truce had done his reputation, he had little choice if he wanted to leave Thief territory alive.

"Dat she does," Remy agreed mildly. He didn’t offer anything else, however, forcing Marius to take the initiative again.

Marius brushed imaginary lint from his pants leg. "Very well." He raised his head to stare at Remy directly. "De contract."

"How much?" Remy asked. The number would tell him a good deal about what kind of contract it was, and just how intently Bastion wanted him dead.

"Seven million."

Remy stared at Marius in dismay and saw his councilors’ signatures flare. That kind of money could only mean one thing.

"Guild-sealed?" he asked, though he already knew the answer. A standard contract could be negated in a number of ways, including by killing the assassin with whom the contract had been made. But a Guild-sealed contract was, in effect, guaranteed by the Assassins Guild at large. It didn’t matter how long it took or how many assassins were involved.

Marius nodded, satisfaction and frustration coloring his signature though Remy was certain his expression gave none of it away.

Remy’s thoughts turned furiously as he tried to interpret the information. Gris-Gris’s attempt made little sense in the context of a Guild-sealed contract. Those could take years to complete. Even his anger over Belle’s death didn’t explain him rushing into an attack he would have little chance of surviving.

Remy laced his fingers together and rested them against the edge of the table. "I’m beginnin’ t’ think Gris-Gris’s poison was aimed at you as much as me."

An unhappy little ripple in Marius’ heat signature confirmed his guess. Which meant there was a cabal inside the New Orleans Assassins Guild that was trying to take Marius down.

Remy raised his eyebrows. "I’d jus’ as soon not have m’ guild used as de weapon o’ choice in an Assassins’ coup."

Marius uttered a small snort. "I t’ink we can agree on dat." He cocked his head. "Does dat mean y’ plannin’ t’ let me an’ my men walk out o’ here?"

Remy kept his expression even. "If we can come t’ terms on dis contract."

"It’s Guild-sealed." Marius spread his hands in a helpless gesture, though his heat signature was merely wary. "M’ hands are tied."

Remy spent a moment considering him. Marius obviously felt no remorse over the fact, nor would Remy have expected him to.

"Whose choice was de seal?" he finally asked. If Marius had offered it to the client, Remy would have the option of interpreting the act as the opening salvo of a vendetta. Meaning Remy could kill him if he wanted and legitimately claim self-defense should any Guild leaders call him to account.

"Not mine," Marius answered, and his heat signature confirmed he was telling the truth. He shrugged. "Gris-Gris told me Bastion’s right-hand man knew enough t’ ask f’ those terms, but I only have his word f’ it."

Remy kept his sudden interest hidden, though he doubted Marius needed to see his reaction to know how valuable the information was. The X-Men hadn’t heard about Bastion having a lieutenant. Marius had mentioned Bastion’s man deliberately-a new bargaining chip tossed onto the table to see what Remy might be willing to offer in exchange.

Remy didn’t bite immediately. Instead, he went back to the contract. "Just t’ confirm m’ understanding... de only way a Guild-sealed contract can end-other than fullfillin’ it, o’ course-" He flashed the assassin a sardonic smile, "is if de client dies."

Marius tipped his head to the side, his body language evaluating. "True enough," he finally agreed. "Though a contract c’n be passed unbroken t’ de client’s heir, should dat heir be willin’ t’ accept de terms."

Remy tucked that information away for future consideration. He had no idea if Bastion had any children or an estate to pass down to them if he did, but now he was going to have to find out. He wondered momentarily how Bastion might be funding the contract. If he was using government money, leaking that information at an appropriate time could be advantageous to the resistance, as well.

"All right." Remy shifted in his seat, wincing invisibly as his leg twinged. "Tell me about Bastion’s man."

Marius shook his head. "Y’ still haven’t told me whether y’ intend t’ let us walk out o’ here."

Remy watched the other man’s heat signature for a moment, looking for signs of duplicity and finding none. "Oui," he finally agreed. "Y’ walk-on one condition."

Marius’ heat signature flared, but his voice remained mild. "Dat bein’?"

"Dat y’ agree wit’ me dat it’d be in everyone’s best interests t’... drag y’ feet a bit on dis contract." The X-Men already had Bastion squarely in their sights. If Remy could buy himself some time before the Assassins began actively pursuing their contract, he might just be able to negate it from the client’s end before it became an issue.

Marius’ signature flickered thoughtfully as he weighed his options. "I don’ see why it wouldn’ take a few months t’ get organized," he finally allowed.

Remy nodded. Marius couldn’t afford to delay too long or he risked seeming ineffective to his own people, which would only undermine what already appeared to be a weakening position. And as much as Remy despised the leader of the Assassins Guild, he still preferred a devil he knew to one he didn’t. Keeping Marius in power served the thieves’ interests as well.

"Bastion’s man," he reminded Marius after a few moments.

With a nod, Marius complied. "His name is William Green," he began. "British national, born in Suffolk in 1962. Never married, no children. He served in de British Army an’ den joined Black Air. He spent a couple o’ years in de U.S. as some kind o’ liaison t’ de FBI’s mutant counter-terrorism division. He left Black Air about four years ago an’ now he works f’ OZT."

"Bien." Remy rose to his feet and Marius copied him. He smoothed his tie and rebuttoned his suit jacket, signaling his intention to leave. Behind him, he heard Tom speak briefly via radio with the thieves who were monitoring the flight path of the sentinel that regularly patrolled this area, verifying that it remained on its usual route.

Remy gave Marius one last glance. "Have a pleasant flight back t’ New Orleans," he said and walked out, taking his thieves with him.

Remy took a sip of his coffee and set the mug back down on his desk with a small thump, careful to avoid the new pile of drawings that had taken up residence on the ancient wood’s surface. Around him, Scott, Logan, Chess, Mystique and Marcus had gathered for what was becoming a regular morning breakfast and brainstorming session as they tried to formulate a workable assault plan on Bastion’s space station.

"Dat pressure bulkhead is gon’ be a big problem," Remy commented. The bulkhead in question divided the hangar deck area from the control room for the suppression array master scheduling system.

Scott massaged his temples, his heat signature muddy. "We’re just going to have to find some place to cut through." He sounded tired already.

"Takes too long," Marcus said through a mouthful of bagel. "Between the surveillance system and the roaming guards, there’s no way we’d stay undiscovered. There’s two and a half feet of metal there."

Scott let his hands fall to his lap. "If there weren’t who knows how many prisoners up there, I’d suggest we just pack enough explosives with us to blow the whole thing out of the sky."

Chess shook his head. "Even that wouldn’t work, unfortunately." He leaned forward, bracing himself with his elbows on the arms of his wheelchair. "If I understand the system correctly, destroying the master controller would have little direct impact. The control functions are all duplicated in two other control centers on other satellites. You’d have to destroy all three. We have to get into the controller program and reschedule the arrays."

"An’ dat’s gon’ take a couple o’ hours, at least," Remy added. "De arrays themselves take a lot o’ time t’ move." Though he couldn’t actually see Scott’s eyes, he stared into the other man’s face, trying to impress on him the scope of what he wanted to accomplish. "We’re gon’ have t’ have control o’ de space station t’ pull it off."

"We don’t have the manpower to control the station." Scott sank back in his chair.

"Set the prisoners loose," Logan suggested. "That’s yer manpower right there."

"Maybe." Remy could tell from Scott’s voice that he didn’t like the suggestion. "But we’d have no way of knowing what kind of shape they’re in or what they’d be able to do. We certainly couldn’t hope to control them. We could end up with a riot on our hands."

Logan shrugged, acknowledging his point.

The door on the far side of the office opened and Rogue walked out. She went to the wet bar and poured herself some coffee then crossed the room to the desk.

"’Mornin’ everyone," she said, her voice friendly but edged with wariness.

The gathered group returned her greeting in varied manner. Remy watched her for a long moment to see if she would turn his direction or in some way acknowledge his presence. When she didn’t, he picked up his coffee and sipped it, regarding her over the rim.

"Good mornin’, cherie," he said, unable to completely keep the sarcasm out of his voice.

A twitch of her shoulders was her only reaction. "Ah’ll be in the school this mornin’ if anyone needs me." She again addressed the group at large, and with a little hoist of her mug she set off for the door leading out into the complex.

Mystique began to chuckle as the door swung shut behind Rogue. "Is she still mad?"

Remy snorted. "She ain’ mad."

Mystique cocked her head to the side, and Remy could imagine her smile. "She hasn’t spoken to you in how many days now?" Her voice was syrupy. "And she’s not mad?"

Remy set his coffee aside, keeping his expression still with an effort. "Rogue yells when she’s mad."

"That’s true." Logan leaned back in his chair and laced his hands behind his head. "So what is she right now?"

Remy rolled his eyes. "Royally pissed."

Logan and Mystique both burst out laughing and, after a moment, Marcus joined them. Remy hunched his shoulders, fighting the instinct to snap at them. He knew Rogue was angry. He had a pretty good idea why. He just wasn’t sure he had the energy to deal with the inevitable blowup and whatever fallout might result.

"At least we don’t have to brace for the sonic boom any more," Scott commented wryly.

Remy saw spikes of interest from both of the thieves. "Sonic boom?" Chess asked after a moment.

"Yeah." Scott ran a hand through his hair, sounding darkly amused. "You could always tell how upset Rogue was by what altitude she went supersonic at." He waved a hand in the air. "Most of the time it was just a rifle crack, but when she wanted to make a point..." He paused and Remy had the distinct impression he was on the receiving end of a rather sharp look, "she’d hit the mach boundary only a couple hundred feet above the mansion. Rattled the house down to its foundations."

Remy shook his head at the memories. Across the desk, Chess’s heat signature cycled through a range of colors as if he were being forced to reassess the people around him. Which, Remy conceded, he probably was. Guild culture tended to minimize mutations, even as it accepted them. Powers drew attention and were not to be used outside the Guild where someone might see. And Chess himself was human, so that probably affected his awareness as well. Remy doubted he’d given much thought to what kind of powers Rogue might have.

Logan stretched briefly and then crossed his arms over his chest, his attention focused on Remy. "Ya gotta admit, though, the woman has a point this time around." His tone was challenging.

Remy’s irritation with the entire situation crystallized. "She don’ get t’ have a point until she actually says somet’ing," he returned. He stared evenly at Logan. "Same goes for you, eh? If y’ got somet’ing t’ say, mon ami, y’ should jus’ spit it out."

Logan shrugged, unperterbed. "Nah. I’ll give Rogue first dibs."

Remy uttered a grating sigh. He shifted his attention to Scott, whose signature glowed with a faint, low grade anger.

"How ’bout you, O Fearless Leader? You got anyt’ing t’ contribute?" Remy asked sharply. He wasn’t sure why he was prodding them, except that he was tired of the insinuations.

Scott’s signature intensified. "Gambit, you’ve heard my that-was-a-stupid-stunt-don’t-do-it-again speech about a million times. Do I really need to repeat it?" His voice was tight.

Remy stared at him, but eventually shook his head. "Non. I remember how it goes," he answered, managing to keep the sarcasm out of his tone. If Scott launched into one of his lectures, Remy would lose his grip on his temper for certain.

Scott nodded. "Good. You’re too important to lose to some misguided notion of secrecy."

"Excuse me?" Remy stared at him. "Misguided?" He was peripherally aware of the two thieves looking between them with alarm in their signatures.

Scott’s heat signature began to flare unevenly. "That’s what I said." Remy could imagine his accusing expression. "You should have said something about how your blood works."

"An’ I’ve told y’ before dat a good t’ief don’ ever give up an advantage." Remy tried to curb his frustration. "De minute I open m’ mouth, de information’s out there an’ my Get Out o’ Death Free card goes up in flames."

"You very nearly died anyway." Scott crossed his arms, his heat signature bright with anger and underlain with colors Remy associated with fear, though he wasn’t certain what the cause might be. "Primarily because you didn’t say anything."

"True. I got taken by surprise." He had to give Scott that much. He hadn’t given enough thought to how the Assassins’ internal politics might affect the situation.

Remy shrugged. "It happens, eh? But I ain’ gon’ spend somet’ing dat valuable on anyt’ing less than a real threat." Why Scott couldn’t understand that, he would never know.

Scott stared at him for a long moment before shifting his attention to the rest of the group. "Would you all mind giving us the room for a minute, please?" he asked in a deceptively mild voice.

Remy watched the X-Men’s team leader warily as the others filed out, closing the heavy office door behind them.

"Y’ lookin’ f’ some privacy t’ yell in?" he inquired acidly once they were gone.

"Cut the crap, Remy." Scott uncrossed his arms and sat forward. "Yours is not the only life on the line here."

"You t’ink I don’ know dat?" Remy shoved himself to his feet and walked a couple of paces away from the desk. His stomach churned with equal parts anger and pain. "Belladonna’s dead f’ knowin’ me. Warren took a bullet in de chest because o’ my political enemies. An’ Rogue-" He cut his gaze toward Scott as the pain in his gut sharpened into a knife point. "Rogue’s thrown her entire life away, so don’ tell me I don’ understand what’s at stake."

Scott regarded him for a long moment, the colors of his heat signature shifting toward cooler, calmer tones. He steepled his fingers in front of his face. "Honestly, I’m not sure you do. Or maybe you’ve just lost your vision." He tapped his temple, his tone dry. "No pun intended."

Taken aback, Remy could only stare at him.

Scott leaned back in his chair once again. "Have you forgotten that you built this alliance?" He pointed a finger at Remy. "You saw the danger coming before anyone else did and you put all the pieces in place to make this happen." He made a sweeping gesture. "And whether you like it or not, you’re the glue that holds it all together. If we lose you, we lose this war. It’s as simple as that. So you do not get to risk your life for a possible advantage at some undefined point in the future. Have I made myself clear?"

Remy rocked back in surprise-not just for the words themselves, but the vehemence with which Scott said them. On his list of conversations he never expected to have with the X-Men’s field leader, this one ranked fairly close to the top and left him feeling a distinct sense of unreality

"Do y’ know how many times over I’d be dead right now if I didn’ live like dat?" he finally asked. The forces that governed the universe seemed to have crushing Remy LeBeau on their agenda and he had so far escaped only because he’d hoarded his small store of advantages and played them only when he absolutely had to. He’d learned that lesson on the street, where there was always someone bigger and meaner and with more dangerous friends than you, and there was no such thing as safety. Having a surprise hidden up your sleeve was often the only difference between life and death.

Scott regarded him evenly. "I’m not saying you should change the way you live. We’d all be dead right now if not for that." He shrugged. "What I am saying is that you need to reevaluate what constitutes an acceptable risk in the context of our current situation."

He paused, tiny streaks of frustration coloring his heat signature. "Look, Remy. If you were hanging out there entirely on your own I would understand having that mindset. But the last time I checked, the X-Men were still a team, and I don’t think you’ve put that into your calculation."

Reeling internally, Remy crossed the short distance to the desk and collapsed once again in his chair. The message from Scott was clear; You’re not alone. The X-Men always take care of their own. Trust doesn’t exist in a vacuum, Remy.

The truth was that he’d never really expected to win the X-Men’s trust. For most of the time he’d been with them he’d deliberately cultivated a persona they wouldn’t put their confidence in because it bought him the freedom to do what he needed to without their interference.

But the world had changed drastically since then. The X-Men had changed, too. And now he was faced with the rather stunning realization that Cyclops trusted him, with the same laser-sharp, black-and-white certainty with which he always did such things.

Worse yet, he was expecting the same in return.

Remy slipped a couple of cards from the pack he still habitually carried in an inner pocket of his jacket, threading them between his fingers. The repetitive nature of the dexterity exercise helped soothe his nerves and provided a cadence to which he could organize his spinning thoughts.

The problem was that Scott’s trust-the X-Men’s trust-and their willingness to watch his back in general would only last as long as they remained ignorant of the truth about the deal he’d made with Sinister all those years ago. If it was just a matter of the deaths of the Morlocks, they might be willing to forgive. But it wasn’t, and Remy had no choice but to plan for the day it all unraveled. After having been banished from his home once, he knew better than to believe his place with the X-Men could ever be secure.

But that was all in the future. For now-and for as long as he could make it last-he had a very valuable relationship with X-Men. He would do as much good with it as he could while the opportunity remained.

Sighing, he snapped the cards in his hand to a halt and then switched directions. "I guess it’s no secret I ain’ never been much of a team player," he said with only the barest glance in Scott’s direction.

The other man shrugged. "That’s debatable."

The comment drew a pained snort from Remy. "Flattery’ll get y’ nowhere," he deadpanned, to which Scott chuckled lightly.

"Just as long as you’ve heard what I said."

Remy raised one hand in a gesture of surrender. "D’accord." What he could realistically do about it was a different issue entirely, but Scott didn’t need to know that.

"All right." Scott levered himself to his feet. "Then I’m going to go let the others know we haven’t killed each other in here, and we can get back to work on this mission." He waved a hand toward the piled drawing on the desk.

Remy found himself smiling crookedly at the mental image the comment conjured. "I t’ink Logan may faint dead away."

Scott headed toward the door. "Either that or he’s been taking bets."

The first thing Rogue noticed about her husband when he walked into their quarters was how tired he looked. Beast had already corralled her once during the last couple of days to express his concern that Remy wasn’t giving his system time to recover from the stress of nearly dying before returning to his regular breakneck schedule.

Which, she decided as he crossed the room to the closet, he very obviously wasn’t. He didn’t say anything to her as he pulled out a gym bag and tossed a couple of items into it, then went back into the closet to change into the dark, tight-fitting gear the thieves practiced in. Rogue checked her watch. It was close to midnight already.

She bit her lip. Refusing to speak to him had seemed like an appropriate way to convey just how angry she was at him without the screaming that would most certainly have ensued had she actually tried to say something. She was pretty sure she didn’t have enough self-control to have kept it civil. Even now, just thinking about it was enough to jolt her with adrenaline and to send her stomach into freefall.

The problem was that Remy was pretty good at the silence game, too, and the longer it went on the more the distance between them ate at her. She missed him acutely. She missed his smile and the warm rumble of his voice when it was just the two of them. She missed being close enough to smell his aftershave, and the feel of his hands on her skin.

Sighing, she set aside the invoices she was trying to sort. There was no telling what might happen if she opened her mouth but she could already tell she was going to.

"Hank told ya to rest, sugah," she said as he emerged.

He stopped short, anger flitting across his face before his expression disappeared altogether. "Y’ haven’ said a word t’ me f’ nearly five days, an’ now y’ want t’ scold me f’ not followin’ doctor’s orders?" He sounded incredulous.

Rogue pursed her lips. "Yeah, ah’m funny that way."

Remy stared at her for a long moment then shook his head in obvious disgust. "I don’ have time f’ dis." He grabbed his bag and started toward the door.

Anger leapt up inside her, fierce and hot. "It ain’t bad enough that the Assassins have an open contract on ya? Ya have ta go an’ help ’em along by runnin’ yaself inta the ground, too?"

Remy exhaled sharply and tossed his bag down on the end of the bed. "What do y’ want from me, Rogue? I got apprentices t’ train."

She shook her head, not trusting herself to speak.

"Fine." He grabbed the bag and started toward the door.

"Ya had no right!" The words exploded out of her before he’d gone two steps.

He stopped and turned, his expression wary. Rogue jumped out of her chair. She stalked toward him, her hands balling into fists at her sides. "Ya had no right ta put me through that! Not any of us!" Everything she’d felt sitting in that hospital room came back in a rush. "Do ya have any idea what it was like ta have ta sit there an’ listen ta Hank tellin’ me there was nothin’ he could do? Ta have Scott askin’ how we were gonna keep the alliance together once ya were gone?"

Remy’s expression gave little away, but he sighed and tossed his gym bag down beside the door, out of the way. "I am sorry I scared y’, chere. It wasn’ my intention, obviously."

"That’s not the point!" She half-raised her hand, but let it fall again as his expression darkened.

"No, de point is dat I made a choice-one dat didn’ work out so well, turns out-an’ instead o’ gettin’ de faintest bit o’ support or-heaven forbid-sympathy, all I get is people blamin’ me f’ makin’ a mess!" He glared at her, his red eyes like embers.

The pain in his voice made Rogue pause. Remy, however, seemed to interpret her silence more pessimistically. Muttering curses under his breath, he turned away, grabbed his bag and was gone, leaving the door ajar behind him.

Rogue covered her mouth with one hand as she stared at the empty doorway.

"So, dude, you’ve gotta fill me in on the latest gossip." Jubilee glanced over at Logan as the pair of them walked down the sidewalk. They were in a rougher part of the city. Old cars and trash lined the streets and gang graffiti marked the buildings, many of which looked to be abandoned. On one corner, a group of homeless men huddled around a burn barrel, their laughter raucous. Further on, a trio of young black men sat on the bumper of a tricked-out older Cadillac. Music pounded from the car’s stereo system.

Logan snorted, his gaze never pausing as it roamed their surroundings. "I don’t do gossip, Jubes."

"Aw, come on! I haven’t seen anybody in forever." She caught his arm, sidling along sideways to keep up with his stride. "Please?" She gave him her best smile.

"Yer supposed ta be seein’ what ya can pick up from patrolling sentinels."

Jubilee frowned at the reminder. "I told you, there aren’t any in range right now." She was keeping her radar on, or whatever it was that made the sentinels show up on her internal map. They’d been working their way in a wide circle, starting at O-MOM and cutting through several of the sentinels’ primary flight routes over the city. Each of the sentinels they had encountered had returned her greeting and then queried her about the status of the mutant beside her. Jubilee had discovered that she had the ability to tag various things in her environment with labels the other sentinels would understand, so she’d put an "under control-reserved" tag on Logan and so far none of the sentinels had done more than look at him.

Logan heaved a sigh. "What do ya want to know?" he asked.

"Well," Jubilee had to stop and think. "How’s Jean? Has she had the baby?"

Logan shook his head. "Not yet. She’s not due fer another month or so."

"Is she big as a house yet?"

"Jubilee!" Logan sent her a sharp look and she relented with a laugh.

"Okay, okay. But I have a really hard time imagining Jean out to here." She held her arms out, miming a pregnant woman’s stomach.

Logan shook his head. "Yer impossible."

Before Jubilee could come up with something else to say, her thoughts were interrupted by a veritable explosion of dots on her mental radar. She counted twelve, arrayed in a geometric pattern as they moved slowly along the periphery of her awareness.

"Yo, heads up," she told Logan, her attention focused on the sentinels. "There’s something big going on the next block over." Her radar only extended a few hundred feet. She described the group of sentinels to him.

"Sounds like they’re on the ground, then," Logan commented. "They’re movin’ too slow ta be in flight."

Jubilee nodded. "Stay here, dude. I’m going to go see what’s up."

Logan’s response was a dangerous growl, but she’d known him long enough for that not to scare her. She shrugged. "I don’t want to have to explain to all twelve of them that they don’t get to kill you, okay?"

Logan accepted that, though he didn’t look happy about it. As Jubilee started up the sidewalk alone, she saw him step into an empty doorway to wait. The group of homeless men had disappeared, too, she noticed. Their barrel continued to burn, throwing cascades of sparks into the air, but she saw no sign of the men. People who lived on the street seemed to develop an uncanny sense for danger, she thought. Maybe because their lives were so precarious already.

She came to the next intersection and paused in the shadow of the nearest building, startled. The dozen sentinels she’d seen walked down the middle of the street in formation, but they weren’t alone. Interspersed among the sentinels were giant cat-like robots. The winter sun reflected whitely off their metal skeletons, and their claws left gouges in the asphalt as they walked.

Instinctively, Jubilee sent a greeting to the nearest of the robots. The feline creature turned its head in her direction and hissed. The sound made all the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. It returned her greeting with a standard identity string response, but appended a stern warning to stay away which Jubilee was more than happy to acknowledge.

A group of men dressed in OZT battle gear followed the mixed group of sentinels. Jubilee counted thirty human enforcers. They, combined with the dozen sentinels and six CATs, made for a significant assault force.

Objective? she queried one of the human sentinels.

Plans flashed to life behind her eyes-diagrams of the building with ingress and egress routes outlined, mission parameters, targets, and assault protocols. Jubilee staggered into the wall of the building beside her, fingers catching on the grooves in the rough brick face as she tried to stand up under the deluge of information.

It wasn’t until she’d absorbed the images of the targets that fear set in. Doctor Reyes’ face hovered in her mind’s eye along with reams of personal data, as well as Louis and Allie and several other members of the team.

Turning, she shoved away from the wall and launched herself into an unsteady run back toward Logan.

"They’re going to the hospital," she gasped when she reached him. Quickly she described the group of sentinels and enforcers, ending with, "They have orders to kill Doc Reyes and her team. We have to warn them!"

Nodding, Logan dug into his coat pocket for his cell phone, dialed and held the small piece of electronics to his ear, but she could tell immediately that something was wrong. Cursing, he hung up and dialed again, then shook his head.

"No good." He glanced up at the sky. "They must have shut down all the cell towers in the area."

Jubilee blinked, nonplussed. "They can do that?"

Logan nodded. "Yeah, OZT still has a fair amount o’ pull in the government. Means they’ve probably shut down the landlines, too." Turning, he headed back down the street the way they’d come, his stride fast. "C’mon. We’re gonna need a runner."

"Wait, aren’t we going to O-MOM?" she asked as she ran after him. She owed Dr. Reyes and her people everything. She couldn’t just stand by and let OZT slaughter them.

Logan’s expression was grim. "Not until we know we’ll have reinforcements. You an’ me ain’t enough ta take on a group like that."

Jubilee was forced to agree. She followed Logan through a maze of streets, headed roughly away from the hospital. The abandoned buildings gave way to tall brick apartment buildings, their black iron fire escapes clinging to their sides like a strange variety of ivy. A group of boys chased a soccer ball, laughing and yelling at each other in a mix of Spanish and English.

To her surprise, Logan ducked inside one of the buildings. He took the stairs to the third floor two at a time, forcing Jubilee to run to keep up. The stairwell was poorly lit and smelled of stale sweat and cat urine, but if it bothered Logan he gave no sign.

"Let me do the talkin’," he told her as they made their way to a scratched metal door about halfway down the third floor hallway.

Jubilee just shrugged. "Sure thing." She had no idea what they were doing or how it would help Dr. Reyes’s team, but she trusted Logan to know what he was doing.

Logan pounded on the door with his fist. After a few minutes, the door opened a crack to reveal a slice of a woman’s face. She was middle aged and Hispanic and eyed Wolverine distrustfully.

Logan shifted back from the door, his hands held non-threateningly at his sides. "Pardon me, señora, but does Javier live here?"

The woman stared at him for a long moment, her expression strangely knowing, then shook her head. "No, señor. He lives in another building. My son can show you the way." She stepped back, unlatched the chain on the door and pulled it open.

"Alejandro!" she yelled over her shoulder. "Ven aqui, hijo."

A young man about Jubilee’s age came out of one of the other rooms of the apartment.

"These people are looking for Javier," his mother told him.

The young man looked the two of them over curiously as he approached and with a jerk of his head led them out into the hall.

"Outside," he said.

They followed him down the stairs and back out into the wintery afternoon.

Alejandro stopped and turned. "What’s the message?" he asked in accentless English.

Logan chewed on his lip for a moment, obviously thinking. "Tell them the doctor at Our Mother of Mercy is in trouble," he said. His gaze narrowed, accentuating the wrinkles that framed his eyes. "A furious response would be appropriate."

If Alejandro thought it was a strange message he didn’t let it show. He repeated Logan’s words back to him and at the older man’s approving nod, took off at a run down the street. A few seconds later he cut between a couple of buildings, disappearing from sight.

"How do you know he’ll deliver the message?" Jubilee asked as Logan started off in the other direction, back toward O-MOM.

"He gets paid on the other end," he answered.

She trotted after him. "Yeah, but what if he decides to stop for some fries or something?" A new thought occurred to her. "Where is he going, anyway? How does he know how to find the X-Men?"

Logan stopped abruptly. "The message’ll get through. I asked for Javier, so he knows it’s a priority. The rest yer just gonna have ta trust me on." He gave her a shadowed look from beneath his brows and Jubilee felt a twinge deep in her heart. The X-Men couldn’t afford to trust her with that kind of information in case OZT had a means of retrieving the data from her.

For a minute the fear threatened to overwhelm her, but she shook it off with determination. She was still herself regardless of how many sentinels components there were inside her. OZT didn’t own her yet.

She straightened her shoulders, falling in step beside Logan. "Now what?"

He reached inside his jacket to finger the butt of the gun he carried in a shoulder holster. "Now we head to O-MOM. See if we can’t keep the Doc an’ her people alive until the cavalry arrives."


GambitGuild is neither an official fansite of nor affiliated with Marvel Enterprises, Inc.
Nonetheless, we do acknowledge our debt to them for creating such a wonderful character and would not dream of making any profit from him other than the enrichment of our imaginations.
X-Men and associated characters and Marvel images are © Marvel Enterprises, Inc.
The GambitGuild site itself is © 2006 - 2007; other elements may have copyrights held by their respective owners.