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 63

Remy sat forward and pulled his feet off the corner of his desk when Warren walked into his office.

"Got a minute?" Warren asked, his voice laced with an understated kind of tension. His heat signature fluttered and spiked, and Remyís gut clenched. It was well after midnight-late enough that the Guild complex had gone still and quiet-and the only reason Remy could think of for Warren to be looking for him this late was because he wanted to have a private conversation with the man who had created the Marauders.

Remyís first instinct was to reach for the Glock that sat on the corner of the desk but he squashed it ruthlessly. Scottís voice echoed in the back of his mind, faintly mocking. Trust doesnít exist in a vacuum, Remy.

Sourly Remy wished he could make that voice shut up. Scott Summers was turning into his very own personal Jiminy Cricket. Heíd caught the X-Menís field leader watching him expectantly over the last few days-as if, in the aftermath of the X-Menís acceptance of the Morlock Massacre and everything else, it was simply natural that Remy would extend that trust, the lack of which, apparently, was his greatest flaw.

Gathering his wits, Remy gestured for Warren to take one of the chairs fronting the desk. "Help yíself."

"I heard you decided not to make an offer on Fujikawa," Warren said conversationally as he settled in his seat. Remy could imagine him dressed in one of the gray, double-breasted Italian silk suits he favored. Warren spread his wings, letting them drape over the arms of the chair like some kind of royal, feathered cape. The effect was strangely intimidating and Remy wondered if Warren knew it.

Remy shrugged, schooling his face into a neutral mask. "It seemed like a bad idea."

"Really?" Warren cocked his head. "You must have heard something I havenít, then. If Worthington Industries was in better shape, Iíd have gone after it myself."

Remy mentally shook his head. "It wasní dat." In fact, heíd originally decided to buy the company, telling himself he couldnít let something that wasnít guaranteed to happen scare him away from a sound business decision. But every time heíd reached for the phone his insides had gone cold with dread, and in the end he simply couldnít make himself go through with it.

Warren watched him expectantly and he sighed. "De Witness owned Fujikawa in Bishopís future," he explained, to which Warren responded with a little "ah" of understanding.

"I can see how that might be a little... offputting," he said.

The comment didnít require a response, so Remy said nothing. Warren fiddled with his shirt cuff, seeming to grow increasingly uncomfortable as the silence thickened around them. The colors of his heat signature darkened and Remy braced himself.

"Is there sometíing I cín do for yí, Warren?" he finally asked.

Warren blew out his breath, sounding frustrated, and laid his arms on the chairís rests. "When you said you were there," he began, his voice strained, "did you mean it? Were you there when they-" He broke off suddenly as if saying the words aloud was too much, but then went on in an angry rush, "When they put me up on that wall?"

Remyís stomach curled into a hard knot. He didnít want to talk about the Massacre- didnít want to think about it even though he relived it in his dreams and heard Sabretoothís mocking laughter in the darkness every time he closed his eyes. But Warren deserved an answer to his question and so he forced himself to go back to that night, to remember the pain and the distant screaming as heíd staggered through the darkened tunnels, searching for another way out.

"I wasní there when they did it," he finally answered. "I came through sometime after." He couldnít make himself look directly into Warrenís face and so stared over his shoulder at the muddied emptiness that made up the rest of the room.

Warren sat forward abruptly. "And you didnít stop to help? Didnít even try?"

Remy laughed, the sound harsh. "Yí forget why I was there in the first place? I almost finished yí off, jusí tí put yí out of yí misery."

Warren shoved himself to his feet, wings extended and beating. The sudden gust of air buffeted Remy and blew papers off the desk. Warren stalked around to the back of his chair where he stopped, bracing his hands on the back. He mantled his wings like a hawk and glared across the desk at Remy.

"So why didnít you?" he ground out.

Remy shrugged, wincing as his ribs protested. He was still bruised all down that side from the Assassinís bullet. "I guess I figured yí deserved de chance tí fight fí yí life, same as me." Involuntarily, his fingers went to his stomach and the long, knotted scars that were all that remained of that night. "I didní owe Sinister anytíing at dat point."

Warren stared at him for nearly a minute in silence as the frantic upheavals of his heat signature slowed. Then he let go of the chair in order to pace. His wings twitched every so often in response to his thoughts and Remy kept a wary eye on them. Those wings gave Warren a full seven foot reach and he could use them more effectively than his fists in a fight.

Finally, though, Warren came to a stop and turned. "Youíre a hard man to hate," he said in a grudging voice.

Remy raised his eyebrows, not sure how to respond. Warren didnít seem to expect anything, however. He went back to pacing, more slowly this time, with his arms crossed and his chin tucked against his chest.

Remy disciplined himself to wait. The other manís body language made it obvious he had more to say.

Eventually, Warren came to a stop. "How do you live with it?" he asked. He didnít turn toward Remy but instead stared at the carpet.

Remyís gut tightened. "How do I live wití what?"

"Knowing youíve killed so many innocent people."

Remy glanced involuntarily toward the gun sitting on the corner of his desk at the flat statement, but Warren either didnít notice or didnít care. He let his arms fall and then held his hands out, palms up, and stared at them. Remyís stomach churned as memories of the rows of charred bodies rose in his mind. He could still taste it in the back of his throat sometimes, that sickly sweet stench of burned flesh.

"One hundred and seventy three," Warren said abruptly.

Remy shoved the memories back down. "Whatís dat?" he asked warily.

Warren turned his head a fraction to look at Remy. "Thatís how many people I killed for Apocalypse."

Remy paused, startled despite himself. The X-Menís files had mentioned Angelís defection and the teamís subsequent meetings with him as Apocalypseís angel of death, though the accounts were dry and sketchy. But, he reflected darkly, prior to OZT the X-Men had been quite adept at glossing over unpleasant details.

Warren flicked his wings and crossed his arms once more with an uncomfortable shrug. "I went to Apocalypse because I wanted my wings back so badly I was willing to do anything to have that part of myself back. And thatís what it ended up costing. One hundred and seventy three lives." He turned to face Remy. "Itís ironic, isnít it? Youíre the reason I lost them in the first place."

"Dat wasnít my choice." Remy sat forward, putting himself in a better position to move quickly if he needed to. Warrenís voice reflected more pain than anger, but his heat signature bubbled in a vaguely threatening way. "I would have killed yí, but clean, eh?"

Warren snorted and shook his head. "Is that supposed to be reassuring?"

Remy just shrugged. "It is what it is." He didnít think he would ever be comfortable discussing the Massacre, but there was a kind of relief in being able to simply confront it.

With a disgusted sigh, Warren pulled his chair away from the desk and collapsed into it. Remy watched him, wondering what he ought to make of the strange conversation. They werenít friends, but he and Warren had more in common than Remy would ever have guessed; like warped mirror images, the Angel and le Diable Blanc.

"Out oí curiosity," he said after a moment, "have yí ever told Scott about it, those hundred seventy three?"

Warrenís heat signature flared, screaming guilt and anger before subsiding once again. "Iíve never told anyone."

Remy absorbed that. "What are yí lookiní for here, Warren?" he finally asked. "I caní give yí absolution."

Warren made a sourly amused sound. "God youíre not. And you still havenít answered my question." He looked away, his voice paling. "How do you live with it?"

Remy leaned back in his chair, wincing as he straightened his bad leg out under the desk. "Same way you do, I expect." He sighed. "Mostly, I try not tí think about it."

"Have any luck with that?" Warrenís feathers rustled softly.

Remy shook his head. "Not recently."

Warren nodded in silent understanding. "Me either."

Rogue hated coming back down into the Morlock tunnels. The cold, gray stone rose around her, steeped in multilayered shadows and oppressive with the weight of the horrors their silent halls had witnessed. Beside her, Remy walked with a stiff set to his shoulders and the flat, empty expression Rogue despised. It meant he had everything locked away behind a thick wall she had no hope of penetrating. But if it was hard for her to come back to this place, she knew, it was nothing short of torture for him. She could feel the tension thrumming through him every time she put her hand on his arm to guide him around some obstacle. Remy knew the tunnels fairly well from the time of the Massacre, but not at a level of detail that would let him walk the uneven surfaces without help. At least, not all of them. There had been a few portions of tunnel where he obviously knew every crease of rock, and she wondered why heíd memorized some at that level but not others.

Unfortunately, the Morlock tunnels were by far the best place to house the arriving X-teams while they prepared to go into space. The underground maze of tunnels provided security in and of themselves, and Bobby and Bishop had installed a security system around the area they were using. This part of the tunnels lay close to one arm of the Guild complex, and the route from one to the other traversed only abandoned underground areas, making it possible for the X-Men to come and go as they needed. And because the tunnels led all the way out to the wreckage of the mansion, they would be able to bring SHIELD, the Fantastic Four and the mutant underground in as well when that time came.

Beside Rogue, Remy stumbled and she reached out to catch him. His fingers slid across her back, warm even through the fabric of her sweater, and she wrapped an arm around his waist to support him. In the uneven light from the X-Menís flashlights, his face became an alien landscape of angular crags, hollowed and lifeless.

Grimacing, Rogue tried to summon cheerful thoughts. She was looking forward to seeing Kurt again, and Moira, Siryn and the rest. Excalibur had only arrived the night before. X-Force had gotten in several days earlier with Malcolm Lotho himself at the van of their Thief escort. The head of the American Guilds would be staying in New York long enough to join Remy and the Guildmaster of Miami when they met with the new leader of the Bogota Cartel. Presented with such a united front, Rogue doubted the Colombians would argue the Guildís terms, but it was yet one more thing demanding Remyís time and attention.

Ahead, light spilled out of a tunnel mouth, pointing the way to their destination. A figure crouched casually in the shadows just outside the pool of light. It rose to its feet and Rogue recognized Domino after a moment. The other woman raised a hand in greeting but looked them over intently before swinging her rifle up onto her shoulder and turning to lead them into the cavern that formed the teamsí living and work space.

"Look whoís here," Domino called to the room as she led the X-Men into a chaotic maze of empty boxes, storage cartons and half-assembled furniture. What had been a bustle of activity stilled as the gathered mutants paused and looked up from what they were doing. Immediately, cheerful greetings went up and the two groups converged on each other with hugs and handshakes.

"Oh mercy, theyíve made a mess," Rogue breathed as she took in the scene. She shot Scott a dismayed look, which he echoed. Theyíd gotten so used to the Guildís culture of fastidiousness and everything in its place that it hadnít occurred to either of them to tell the other teams they had to keep the floors cleared.

"I know," Scott said.

"Theyíre gonna have ta clean this up," Rogue told him anyway.

He nodded. "Iíll talk to Nathan and Moira."

Rogue tightened her grip on her husband. "Careful, sugah. Thereís stuff all over the floor." She picked her way through the mess, kicking boxes and packing materials out of the way when necessary to clear a path Remy could walk, and led him to a group of folding tables that had been pushed together in the center of the room to form a conference area. There were chairs as well and she pulled one out for Remy, who sank into it without comment.


She whirled at the familiar voice and saw Kurt hurrying toward her with a broad smile on his face.

Grinning, she let go of Remy and threw her arms around her brotherís neck. "Kurt! How are ya? Itís so good ta see yíall!" She squeezed him tight, overwhelmed by a sudden flood of emotion.

Kurt returned the hug fervently but then pulled back, cupping her chin in his hand and giving her a worried examination. "Liebling, what happened to your face?"

Rogue rolled her eyes. The swelling had finally gone down, but her cheek and eye were still decorated with dark bruises that her makeup couldnít hide. That plus six stitches in her cheek made her look like sheíd been in a bar brawl.

"Itís nothiní, sugah," she told him. "Ah caught a piece oí shrapnel is all."

Kurtís expression shaded into alarm, but he didnít say anything. Instead, he turned to Remy and cleared his throat. "Hello, Gambit."

"íCrawler." Remy nodded in a neutral fashion. "Glad yí made it in safe."

Before the situation could turn awkward, Rogue bent down to give Remy a brief hug and a kiss. "Will ya be alright here for a bit?"

He nodded. "Oui, chere. Diedre threatened tí bring paperwork wití her." He gave her a faint, wry smile. "Iím sure sheíll find me soon enough."

Rogue smiled. "Okay." Remy absolutely hated the administrative aspects of being Guildmaster. She straightened and turned, tucking her arm through Kurtís. "Címon, sugah," she told her brother. "Ah want ta go say hello ta Pete aní Rahne."

They wound their way across the cavern. Kurt looked back over his shoulder at one point with a mystified expression. "Paperwork?"

Rogue just shrugged. "Somebody has ta pay the bills." As much as she hated the idea of keeping things from her family, she knew she couldnít talk to Kurt about the Guild. At least, not yet. How much got said would be Remyís call, based on what the other teams had managed to learn for themselves and how much they ended up needing to know. It bothered her that she didnít get to choose what she told her own brother, but there wasnít any point to arguing about it. She couldnít risk defying Guild law, not when the repercussions would hit Remy far harder than they would her.

Kurt paused and turned to face her. His brow knit with consternation. "Gambit has gone back to stealing, hasnít he?" Kurt kept his voice low.

Rogue cocked her head as she met his gaze. "He never quit, sugah."

Kurt blinked, his expression filling with dismay. He didnít say anything, though, so after a moment Rogue tugged on his arm and they resumed their walk across the cavern.

"Have you... have you talked to him about it?" Kurt asked after theyíd gone a short ways.

Rogueís gut tightened. She really didnít want to argue with him about this. "Yes," she allowed.


"Aní what, sugah? How do ya think the X-Men are payiní foh all this?" She gestured at the cavern around them.

Kurt followed her gaze then turned back with a frown. "Warren has-"

"Warren has his hands full tryiní ta keep WI afloat, especially since Bastion destroyed his headquarters buildiní downtown." She shook her head. In the aftermath of Bastionís attack, Logan had worked something out with Landau, Luckman and Lake to float Worthington Industries a loan so the company remained solvent, but it would be several years before WI regained everything it had lost.

"It is wrong to steal, Rogue." Kurtís tail lashed back and forth, echoing his worried expression.

Rogue could only shrug to that. Having seen the entirety of the Guildís operations she was convinced the thieves ended up doing more good than harm. And Remy had his own moral compass, even if it didnít point quite the same direction as Kurtís.

"What does Scott say?" Kurt asked with a glance toward the far side of the cavern, where Scott talked with Cable, Moira and Sean.

Rogue shrugged again. "Heíll tell ya that himself." She spotted Colossus and raised one hand to wave in his direction. "Címon, sugah. Letís save the serious stuff foh later, okay?"

Kurt nodded grudgingly, which was as much as she could hope for. Rogue did her best to ignore the lingering questions in his gaze as she went to greet the friends she hadnít seen in more than a year.

"First, I want to thank everyone for making the trip to New York," Scott began once the teams had all gathered around the tables at the center of the cavern. "Youíve risked your lives just to get here, and the X-Men appreciate it."

Around him, X-Men nodded their heads. Scott noted with a touch of pride how his team had managed to sprinkle themselves around the table, settling wherever they had personal ties with members of the other two teams. Jean sat between Nathan and Moira. Rogue had squeezed in between Kurt and Peter, and to Scottís relief she had managed to put Kurt as far from Mystique as possible. Betsy had her arm threaded through her brotherís and leaned her head on his shoulder, and Ororo and Logan had managed to bracket Pete Wisdom, who was the only person out of the group Scott didnít entirely trust.

Scott glanced at Remy, slouched casually in the seat next to him, and mentally shook his head. Dressed in worn jeans and a couple of layers of shirts for warmth, Remy looked too much like the Gambit of old, not the man Scott had come to depend on as his right hand in the X-Men. He would have preferred Remy in one of the disgustingly expensive suits the Guildmaster was prone to, but Warren had nixed that idea before he could even voice it with a simple comment about how treacherous the tunnels would be in dress shoes.

Scott tucked one hand in his jeans pocket as he corralled his thoughts. "We have a lot of ground to cover, so Iím just going to dive in. The X-Men have made a lot of changes since we first lost our powers. Our team structure has changed dramatically. Our tactics have changed, too." He saw a few smiles from the X-Men at the massive understatement. The others were merely attentive.

Scott went on. "I donít want to waste a bunch of time trying to explain whatís changed and why. Instead, we X-Men are going to conduct what is, for us, a standard mission briefing. I know you will have questions-probably a lot of questions-but Iím going to ask that you hold onto them, at least initially. Once youíve gotten a feel for how we run our operations, Iíll open up the table and weíll try to answer any questions you still have."

He paused to see if anyone would say anything, but the gathered mutants remained silent. Nathan was already frowning, his brow furrowed, and Scott could almost hear the gears turning in his head. Privately he wondered if the X-Menís changes would end up earning Cableís respect or his scorn.

Scott nodded to Bishop. "Drawings, please."

Bishop pulled out the thick sheaf of technical drawings that usually resided on Remyís desk and laid them out on the table. Several people reached out to help spread the large documents, weighting the corners down with whatever came to hand. Murmurs of surprise rose from the other teams.

"Where did ye get these?" Banshee asked incredulously as he studied the drawings. He looked up at Scott. "How did ye get these?"

Scott smiled wryly. Just because heíd asked people to hold onto their questions didnít mean they wouldnít ask them anyway.

"Some were provided through the mutant underground and their contacts at NASA," he answered. "The rest we procured ourselves."

"Procured how?" Nathan asked from the far side of the table. He pointed to the top document. "These look like current specs for Bastionís space station."

"They are," Scott agreed.

Nathanís eyes narrowed suspiciously. "These would have been under armed guard in the most secure location Bastion could come up with. How did you get them? Do you have somebody inside OZT?"

Out of the corner of his eye, Scott caught a flicker of reaction from Remy and knew what the other man was thinking. Had Remy been running this briefing, he was sure the thief would have jumped at the chance to pass off his involvement under the guise of a non-existent double agent inside OZT. Scott, however, wasnít willing to lie that blatantly to the other teams. Some fudging would be necessary to protect the Guild, but he was hoping to keep even that to a minimum.

"No, we donít have anyone inside OZT," Scott said after a moment. He met Nathanís gaze before returning his attention to the table at large. "I wish we did." He tipped his head in Remyís direction. "Gambit arranged it."

Eyebrows went up around the table. Scott waited, curious who would speak first.

It turned out to be Pete Wisdom, who crossed his arms over his chest and rocked his chair back onto two legs. "And how does a two-bit street thief have the kind of contacts to íarrangeí something like this?"

"Hey now," Rogue protested, but Scott held up a hand and she subsided with a frown.

"Obviously, a ítwo-bit street thiefí doesnít," Scott answered.

Beside him, Remy sat forward. "Under normal circumstances itís a pinch Iíd make míself," he said calmly and Scott saw the ripple of reaction from those who had never witnessed Remy LeBeau without pretenses. "But OZTís done figured out I ainí what they tíought, either, so itís gotten too dangerous." He fingered his ribs. "I know everybody in dis business datís good enough to get what de X-Men need."

Peteís chair thunked back onto four legs. "Blimey, is that an open admission I just heard?"

Remy flashed a grin. "Off de record... yes, aní if yí ever try tí use it I will make sure de decision comes back tí bite yí." Despite his smile, his tone was serious.

Scott saw Wisdom stiffen in anger, but before he could respond, Moira leaned forward, her expression severe. "Ach, are ye just going to sit there aní let one of yuir people make threats, Scott?"

"It was more of a warning than a threat, Moira." Scott did his best to keep his voice calm. "The truth is that if Pete did try to turn Gambit in to the authorities, our State Department would immediately pick up the phone and have a few words with someone high up in the British government, who would then have a chat with someone at Black Air, and the charges, the paperwork, and everything else would simply disappear." He glanced at Remy. "But the process would take time and burn up political capital Iím sure Remy would rather not spend, and, quite honestly, itís a headache the X-Men donít need."

Silence followed his words. The members of the other two teams looked at each other until Banshee leaned forward.

"The U.S. State Department." He looked between Scott and Remy, his expression wary. "Just what have the X-Men gotten involved in?"

Scottís first instinct was to tell Sean it wasnít any of his business how the X-Men chose to run their operations, but he squelched it.

"Well, weíre friends with the C.I.A. now," he answered instead, keeping his tone light.

"Heís C.I.A.?" Sean demanded with a wave in Remyís direction.

There were scattered chuckles from some of the X-Men. Scott glanced over at Remy who cocked an eyebrow, a smile playing about his lips.

"Non," Remy said after a moment. "Me, Iím jusí a tíief."

"I doubt that," Cable growled unhappily, which prompted a full-blown grin from Remy.

In the pause that followed, Domino leaned forward and cleared her throat. "So, just how do you know Mal Lotho?" she asked Remy.

"Business associate, chere."

Nateís expression sharpened. "Is he your boss?"

Remyís response was a non-committal shrug.

Nate and Domino exchanged glances, then Domino turned to Scott. "I canít argue with the help Lotho and his people have given us, but the guyís a major player, Scott."

Scott nodded. "I know."

Nateís mouth twisted in a scowl. "So what assurance can you give us that Lothoís not the one calling the shots here? Whoís really in charge?"

Scott stiffened. "The X-Men arenít taking orders from anyone." The words came out cooler than he intended, and he saw an answering flash of anger in his sonís eyes.

Nate jumped to his feet. "These people donít give out charity, Scott!" He pounded one fist on the table in emphasis. "Theyíre going to want something in return and I, for one, am not going to agree to anything until I know what itís going to cost me and my team."

Scott closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose as he fought for calm. He was already getting a headache.

"X-Force and Excalibur arenít going to be obligated to Lotho or anyone else because of what weíre doing here," Scott finally said. He opened his eyes to find Nate staring at him doubtfully, and a few seats away, Moira was half out of her chair.

"How can ye be sure?" Moria asked as she straightened. She looked deeply uncomfortable. "These are dangerous people-- career criminals. I dinnae ken how ye can trust them."

Scott internalized a sigh. Heíd really hoped to have this discussion later, once the other teams had had a chance to digest the tactical plans. "Weíre not trusting blindly, Moira," he told her. "Yes, there is most certainly a price for the support theyíve given us, but their help has already been paid for and we do trust them to honor that contract."

There was a pause. Scott turned to Remy and met the otherís red gaze. "Show them your back."

For a minute he thought Remy was going to refuse, but then the thief sat forward and stripped both of his shirts off over his head. He stood, earning a few covert looks from the women in the group which quickly morphed into alarm when he turned to let them see the long scars covering his back.

"Ach, what happened to ye, Remy?" Moira asked with genuine concern as murmurs rose from the others.

Remy shrugged. "I brokered a deal."

"With Lothoís people?" Nate asked.

Remy gathered up the fabric in his hands and pulled his shirts back on before he answered. "With my people." He paused, his gaze intent. "De obligations are mine."

Scott watched the parade of emotions across Cableís face as the other man tried to decide how to interpret the response. He was pleased to see the resistant set to his sonís shoulders relax after a few seconds.

"All right." Nate cleared his throat. "I suppose I can accept that."

Several seats away, Kurtís tail lashed back and forth, the tip darting above his head like an angry bee. "What about Rogue?" he demanded hotly. "Is my sister obligated, too?"

Regret flickered across Remyís face, but his voice remained calm. "Oui, she is."

Kurtís eyes widened but before he could do more than draw a breath, Rogue slapped her palm down on the table in front of him. "Not another word, sugah," she warned, her expression as severe as her voice.

"But, Rogue-"

"Not another word."

Kurt stared at her as if sheíd turned into a stranger. "Why are you defending him?"

"Heís mah husband." Rogue turned toward Remy and for a moment the couple stared at each other, their gazes filled with a fierce intimacy that made Scott feel like a voyeur.

The moment ended as quickly as it had begun. Remy resumed his seat, slouching down in his chair and crossing his arms over his chest. Rogue, too, sat back in her chair and did not look at her brother.

Scott gathered his wits. "Are we ready to get back to the mission?" he asked the room at large. When no one answered, he took it as an assent. "All right, then letís get to it."

"First, let me explain what the goals are." Scott watched as people settled themselves and turned their attention fully to him. "Of primary importance, obviously, is removing the damping field around Earth. Weíll go into the technical details later, but the important point here is that it isnít possible to simply destroy the satellites. Bastionís space station has too many people on it for that to be an option, and there are two backup satellites that would have to be destroyed at the same time as well. Our best option is to take control of the command center and retask all of the emitter satellites to either shut down or direct their fields away from Earth."

Heads nodded as he spoke. The X-Men had shared the information about the suppression fieldís ragged outer edge and the other challenges they faced in trying to shut it down months earlier, so Scott wasnít telling them anything they didnít already know.

"Failing that," Scott continued, "Jean, Joseph, Cable and Rogue will knock as many of the nearby satellites as they can out of the sky, which will at least create a hole in the field that mutants on Earth may find a way to exploit." He didnít add that, should it come to that the rest of them would undoubtedly be dead. That was just the Hail Mary plan.

He pushed his grim thoughts aside. "Our second objective is freeing the mutants being held captive in the prison section of the station."

Sean immediately leaned forward. "Do we know how many there are?" he asked.

Scott shook his head. "Unfortunately, no. From Jubileeís description, it sounds like there could be anything from forty or so to several hundred."

"How is she doing?" Moira immediately asked.

"Sheís managiní," Logan answered gruffly. The silver in his hair glinted as he cocked his head. "The scientists think sheís taken control of all her sentinel systems."

"They think?" The scars on Cableís face seemed to writhe as he stared at Logan.

Logan simply shrugged. "We havenít put it to the test." He sent Scott a hooded glance. "Yet."

Scott rubbed the back of his neck where the short hairs had begun to prickle with dread. "Weíre going to need Jubilee to do some early misdirection of the sentinels when we board the station," he told the group. "Long enough for Remy to get into the security system and cut off their access to station-wide data. Then theyíll be limited to their own sensors and communications, which will give us a decent chance against them."

Cable rested his elbows on the table and stared at Scott. "Whatís the test?" he asked, going back to Loganís earlier statement.

Scott shrugged uncomfortably. "Putting Jubilee in a room with the X-Men and seeing if she tries to kill us."

"Itís a sure bet Bastion let íer go on purpose," Logan added, his gaze sweeping the table.

"What about Charles?" Moira asked before anyone could respond to the ominous statement.

Scott nodded, grateful for the change of topic. "Thatís objective number three." He pulled the top document closer and pointed to an area on the drawing. "When Jubilee was aboard, he was being kept in a cell here. Bastion could easily have moved him, possibly even off the station, but we think itís likelier that heís keeping the professor close in case he needs him for leverage."

"And then thereís Bastion himself." Scott clasped his hands behind his back and squared his shoulders. "Our final objective will be to take him down."

"Do we know which agency will take the lead in prosecuting him once weíve captured him?" Banshee asked. "SHIELD seems like the natural choice, but I dinnae know where they stand now with the American government or any other."

Scottís gut clenched. He glanced at Remy, only to find the otherís expression closed.

"It doesnít matter," Scott told Sean. He cleared his throat. "As much as I would prefer to be able to turn Bastion over for prosecution, we donít have that option. Our final objective will be to kill him."

There was a moment of startled silence, and Scott figured he would be wise to be the first one to say something.

"Weíre beginning to suspect that Bastion isnít human," he began, "but even if he is we donít have a choice. Heís taken out an assassination contract that canít be cancelled except by his death."

"A sweep?" Pete Wisdom leaned back in his chair with a frown. "That must have cost him a few pounds."

"Sweep?" Scott glanced questioningly at Remy, who shrugged.

"Law enforcementís term for it," he said.

Scott nodded his understanding and returned his attention to Pete. "Seven million is the number weíve heard."

Peteís eyebrows rose and he whistled silently. "Bastion must want you dead in the worst way, Cyclops. Thatís a lot, even for the leader of the X-Men."

"The contractís not on me." Scott flashed a humorless smile. "Remyís the target, and heís already survived two attempts. Eventually, theyíre going to succeed unless we do something." Down the table, Rogue paled at his words but her firm expression never wavered.

"Gambit? Why?" Nate gave Scott a narrow stare.

"Because Bastionís smart," Logan answered with a wave in Remyís direction. "He knows whose death would cripple us most."

The pronouncement was met with a round of puzzled stares, but Scott figured that was good enough. Remy had never built relationships with the members of the other teams, so Scott couldnít really expect them to immediately embrace him in a leadership role. That would only come with time and exposure.

He looked around the table. "If there arenít any questions, Iíd like to move on."

He received a few nods and no one spoke, so he turned to Remy. "Gambit, please take us through the station technical specs."

There was a faint shuffle as people turned to Remy. Scott sank into his chair, grateful to be out of the spotlight for a moment. The X-Men no longer looked solely to him for direction or answers and heíd forgotten how intimidating it felt.

Remy waited until the noise of chairs and conversation had died away before he spoke. "Bien. As yí know, Bastionís space station started out life as a NASA observatory almost twenty years ago. Since then, it has been expanded, first by de American government tí support de Magneto Protocols, aní then by OZT. However, de layout of de original observatory has, in large part, determined de structure of de station as it exists today..."

Scott watched with a sense of relief as the expressions around the table shifted from surprise to a hesitant acceptance as they listened to Remyís briefing. It hadnít turned out to be as hard as heíd expected to get the others to reconsider their impressions of the thief, and he could only hope the trend would continue. They would have to learn the truth behind the Massacre before they faced Sinister.

One hurdle at a time, he reminded himself. Against all odds, they had the end of OZT in their sights. All that remained was to finish the job. He glanced over at Remy, his thoughts drifting back to those early days when even surviving seemed impossible. The X-Men had come so far since then, and he had to believe they would be able to see it through.

He nodded to himself. Weíll make it.


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.