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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 7

“So, what are we looking at here?” Scott Summers surveyed the table expectantly. Seated with him were Logan, Ororo and Hank who, along with Jean, formed a core advisory group whose input Scott valued highly. He often spoke to them individually to avoid giving the impression that he led by committee, but this was an unusual occasion. He was hoping that between them, they could make sense of recent events and the information Gambit has brought them.

Logan shrugged in response to the question. “Government’s got a new anti-mutant program goin’.”

“That does not completely explain Mystique’s involvement, I do not believe.” Ororo’s brows were drawn in a pensive frown.

“Don’t have to. The woman’s crazy.”

Hank smiled. “Even so, she does nothing without a reason. Perhaps we should ask Rogue. She might have some insight into Mystique’s motivations.”

“Maybe.” Scott wasn’t entirely convinced. Rogue had been a young teenager when she was with Mystique and the Brotherhood. He wasn’t certain how well she could understand someone as complex and twisted as Mystique based on that childhood experience.

“I don’t think right now would be the best time to ask, however.” Hank’s expression was studiously neutral.

“You heard that, too, huh?” Scott couldn’t help his sour tone.

Ororo sighed. “Voices carry easily in this house. It did not sound like anything new.”

Logan gave a snort of disgust. “Never is, darlin’.”

“Despite that,” Scott jumped in before the conversation could devolve into gossip, “it’s not really any of our business.” He let his gaze roam the table. “What I was really hoping for from you three was some kind of insight into where this information came from and what level of threat we should be reading into it.”

He had their undivided attention once again. “Logan, Ororo. Do you have any idea who might have given this—“ He tapped the disk case that lay on the table beneath his fingertips, “--to Gambit and why?”

Logan and Ororo glanced at each other briefly.

“The who coulda been just about anybody,” Logan answered. “Cajun knows an awful lot o’ folks in the business, even fer a thief.”

The statement caught Scott’s curiosity. “What do you mean?”

Logan frowned thoughtfully, weighing his words. “As far as I can tell from what I’ve heard, Gambit’s a fully ranked Guild thief. That means he’s good, ‘cause the Guilds won’t give the rank ta anyone who ain’t.” He shrugged. “Still, it’s a specialized skill an’ the Guild guards its territory pretty fiercely, so thieves tend ta be a little... isolated sometimes. They do their own thing an’ don’t mess with anybody, so nobody messes with them.”

Logan leaned back in his chair, his expression contemplative. “I ran into Gambit a while back in Madripoor. Took him ta an old haunt o’ mine-- a pretty rough place full o’ people who like their privacy, if ya get my drift.”

Scott nodded and Logan grinned at his memories. “I figured I was runnin’ a fair risk takin’ a stranger inside, but Gumbo’s the sort who c’n manage an unfriendly crowd, so I went ahead an’ did it.”

“What happened?”

Logan’s eyebrows twitched. “I don’t think there was a regular in the place that didn’t know him already. I’m still wonderin’ how we never crossed paths considerin’ how much time he’d obviously spent there.”

Scott thought about it for a few minutes, but then shoved the thoughts aside as something he couldn’t hope to answer right now. Gambit was a continuing puzzle that alternately frustrated and angered him. The fact that he knew all the same shady characters as Wolverine did not give Scott any sudden burst of understanding.

“So, unless Remy decides to tell us where the information came from, we’re not likely to figure it out.” Logan nodded and Scott internalized his sigh of frustration. Despite the fact that he would never ask her to, he sometimes wished Jean would lower her high ethical standards and scan Gambit for him. Not necessarily to dig up dirt on him, as some might accuse, but simply to give him some kind of inkling as to how the man’s mind worked. Too often he found Gambit’s actions to be completely inexplicable.

Scott shook his head softly. “I guess that leads me to my next question: How seriously should we take this? Any guesses as to how accurate the information is?”

Ororo straightened in her seat. “Scott, I do not mean to sound defensive, but if you are suggesting that Gambit has given us false information—“

“No, Storm. That wasn’t what I was suggesting.” She relaxed slightly as he continued, “I guess I should rephrase that. What I want to know is how representative you believe this information to be. Are we looking at a new Sentinels program or is this just funding for research in mutant genetics? What kind of threat do you see?”

The table was silent for a while. Finally, Hank rapped his claws lightly on the tabletop, drawing their attention. “If the connection with Mystique is real, then my instinct is to believe we are facing a substantial danger. I am convinced she was sending a message by using her true form when she killed Creed. She wanted to be recognized.”

Scott found himself nodding and saw Ororo and Logan do the same. “My gut’s telling me the same thing, Hank.”

Logan cleared his throat. “If ya don’t mind, Cyke, I’m gonna do some investigatin’ on my own. Means I’ll be gon fer a while.”

Scott considered the possibilities and then nodded. Logan’s background gave him an unparalleled ability to gather information that might shed some light on what was happening. He turned to Storm.

“Ororo, do you think you could try talking to Gambit? If there’s anything else about this disk that we ought to know, you’re the one he’d be most likely to tell.”

Ororo frowned lightly, but nodded in acquiescence. “Very well.”

Scott sighed. “All right. I’m going to put the team on alert status for now. Until we have a better idea of what we’re facing, I don’t think there’s much else we can do.”

“Now that Scott knows about Draxar, aren’t you planning to let the X-Men take care of it?” Bobby asked as he pulled the car over into the place Remy pointed out to him. They were at the airport, but well away from the passenger terminals. These hangars were leased by cargo companies and others who wanted to be discreet in their presence.

The rain fell in a steady cascade that was just hard enough to get a person really wet if he stayed out in it for any time at all. It was the third day of solid rain, and the storm system showed no sign of letting up for at least a couple more.

Remy studied their surroundings intently as he answered. “Non. Bringin’ de X-Men in was probably de only chance we had o’ nippin’ dis t’ing in de bud, but I t’ink it’s already too late f’ dat an’ I don’ wan’ t’ see dem end up dead.”

Bobby blinked in surprise at the response. Remy wasn’t the type to be overly pessimistic, and his respect for the X-Men’s fighting ability had never been in question.

“Isn’t that a bit of overkill? We are talking about the X-Men.”

Remy turned to stare at him, his careful search of the darkness outside the car abruptly abandoned. His irises were glowing like embers, and Bobby had to resist the temptation to be intimidated.

“Whatever Draxar is, it’s de cover f’ some kind o’ military black ops. Normally, dat wouldn’ mean all dat much t’ a t’ief o’ my caliber, but I can’ find even a crack in dis one, let alone a way t’ break in.” Something in his voice sent a tiny chill of apprehension down Bobby’s spine as he continued, “De one installation I’ve been inside, I almost got m’self killed gettin’ out of, an’ I still don’ have a clue what I tripped dat gave me away.”

He turned to look out the windshield once more, his gaze roving. “Every instinct I got tells me t’ crawl in a hole an’ hide ‘til dis is over.”

Bobby stared at the rain splattering on the windshield for several moments. That was quite possibly the most unlikely thing he’d ever heard out of Remy’s mouth.

“O.k... Now you’re starting to scare me,” he admitted slowly.

Remy glanced over at him, his expression unreadable, and then opened the door of the car and got out.

Thoroughly unsettled, Bobby followed him, turning his collar up against the steady rain. He followed Remy across the parking area to a small door on the side of one of the unmarked hangars. Remy paused then knocked on the metal door, eliciting a loud, hollow boom that echoed throughout the vast empty space beyond. Bobby wished he knew what exactly it was they were doing, but, for once, didn’t really feel like asking.

The door opened to reveal the face of a man perhaps a bit older than Bobby but with similar all-American looks, and the business end of an automatic rifle. Remy held his hands away from his body, palms showing. Bobby copied the stance.

The man looked them over, his demeanor and haircut both very military. “You must be Gambit,” he told Remy, who nodded.

The man opened the door and gestured them inside. “The Old Man’s expecting you.”

Bobby followed Remy inside, but found himself hanging back as he absorbed the scene before him. The hangar was a cavernous metal building and the lights, though bright enough to hurt when he looked at them, did not quite illuminate the farthest corners. There were three aircraft parked inside the building. By far the largest was a military-looking cargo plane about the size of a C-17. It was painted in desert camouflage. The large ramp was down, allowing access to the belly. The other two airplanes were fighters. Not being an airplane buff, Bobby couldn’t identify them, but he did note the fully-loaded missile racks under each wing.

Scattered around the aircraft and dwarfed by them were various other vehicles and weapons. Whoever these people were, Bobby thought, they were well financed. He saw two Armored Personnel Carriers and a HumVee, as well as something that looked suspiciously like a modern cannon. Men were scattered among the hardware, but Bobby got the distinct impression that they were killing time rather than getting ready for something.

Bobby kept his curiosity to himself as he followed Remy and their guide across the hangar toward a set of tables near the cargo plane’s downed ramp. The tables were covered with a scattering of weapons, some of which appeared to be in the midst of repairs. A man standing beside the nearest of the tables looked up as they approached, his command aura unmistakable. Without introduction, Bobby knew this had to be the “Old Man”. He looked like he might be in his early fifties, with salt-and-pepper hair cut in a military burr. He was wearing fatigues, also in desert colors, and had a pistol holstered at his hip.

The Old Man walked toward them, his weathered face split in a broad smile. Remy was grinning to. Bobby watched in shock as the Old Man swept Gambit up into a bear hug. They gained the instant attention of the rest of the men in the room, and several of the others drifted over to greet Remy in somewhat more restrained but equally friendly manner. The rest watched the reunion in bemused surprise. Bobby got the feeling they knew just about as much as he did about what was going on.

“So who is this?” The Old Man asked after the initial furor had died down. He nodded toward Bobby.

Remy made introductions. “Bobby Drake, dis is Colonel Matthias Midnight. Colonel, Bobby Drake. Bobby’s a Guild t’ief.”

The colonel’s eyebrow twitched upward respectfully as they shook hands. Then Midnight turned his attention back to Remy.

“I assume all that money you sent me means we have some business to discuss?”

Remy’s smile waned. “’Fraid so.”

Midnight shrugged. “I figured as much.” Then a shadow of his own smile returned as he gestured toward the cargo ramp. “If you gentlemen would like to step into my office... “

Bobby caught Remy’s eye as they followed the older man up into the belly of the plane. “So, do I dare ask how you two met?”

Remy’s answer was a snort, but Midnight chuckled. “How many years has it been now? Nine?”

“Ten,” Remy corrected him.

“Ten,” Midnight agreed as he sat down on a large black crate that was strapped to the aircraft’s floor. He cocked his head as he studied Remy. “And I would swear you’ve grown since I last saw you.”

“Almos’ two inches.”

Bobby was sure he saw a flush creep up Remy’s cheeks, and he chuckled. “How old were you?” Remy didn’t talk about himself much, particularly about his past, and it was tremendously interesting to meet someone who knew him so long ago.

Remy looked like he was debating with himself whether to answer, but then shrugged. “Nineteen.”

Midnight leaned toward Bobby, as if warming up to the tale. “See, we--“ he waved his arm to indicate the rest of the mercenaries, “were in Iraq during the last few days of the countdown to Desert Storm. My team needed a really good breaker to complete the mission, so I sent to Langley for an expert.” His expression reflected a kind of friendly outrage. “They sent me this child.” He gestured in Remy’s direction. Bobby was appropriately surprised. Gambit had been contracting with the C.I.A at nineteen?

“At first I thought me and my boys had been sold down the river. Didn’t think there was any way we were going to get into the Iraqi satellite ops center, let alone disable our targets and get out again.” He shrugged as if he still found it hard to believe.

Remy grinned, his earlier discomfort gone without a trace. “Tol’ y’ t’ trust me, didn’ I?”

Midnight laughed sourly and pointed an accusing finger at Remy. “You gambled my men’s lives-- your own included-- and those of a couple dozen pilots in the first bombing wave, on a guess.”

Bobby turned to look at Remy, startled despite himself. But the Cajun’s expression never faltered. “I guessed right.”

Midnight dismissed the response with a wave.

Bobby was unable to restrain his curiosity any longer. “What were you doing?”

Remy gave him a sidelong look, his expression one that Bobby had seen only a few times. His chest tightened. That look meant that this was something he was telling Bobby only because he trusted him as a friend.

He shrugged lightly. “Do y’ remember de first raids on Baghdad, Bobby? De Iraqis were defenseless ‘gainst de stealth fighters ‘cause dere radar couldn’t see dem. Dey had no idea dey were bein’ attacked until de bombs were fallin’ on dem.”

Bobby remembered well enough. He was only fourteen at the time, but his parents had let him stay up to watch the reports on CNN well into the night.

Remy went on without pausing. “De reason dat raid was so successful was because de Colonel an’ his team took out all o’ de Iraqis’ satellite imaging. Blinded dem.”

And you were the one that got them in, Bobby thought quietly. He was aware that he probably had the skill at this point to do something similar, but the thought sent little chills scrabbling up his back. One mistake could have altered the course of that war and who knows how many might have died because of it. He wasn’t sure he was ready for that kind of responsibility yet.

Bobby shook his head. Despite his long-time difficulty with his powers, he’d been fighting with the X-Men for four years by the time he was nineteen. Maybe it wasn’t as different as he thought. There was no way to count the number of lives the X-Men had affected by their actions.

“Why you?” he found himself asking Remy, and received one of the Cajun’s eloquent shrugs.

“Deniability. I was a complete unknown. Nobody could’ve traced me back t’ de Pentagon.”

“Yeah, but why you?” That was part of the answer, but it didn’t tell Bobby how a very young and exiled Guild thief had gotten into the espionage business. That took contacts.

Remy gave him an evaluating stare, then pursed his lips as he answered, “I met somebody who was pretty high up at de Pentagon.” He shrugged. “She diverted a couple o’ jobs my way.”

Bobby resisted the temptation to roll his eyes. “Met” meant “slept with” when Remy used that tone of voice. Several names popped into his mind as possible candidates, and Bobby immediately decided he didn’t want to know any more.

Remy read him easily and turned to Midnight, his demeanor suddenly businesslike. “But enough reminiscing, neh?”

Midnight’s answering smile was filled with wry amusement. “You’re the boss. What’s the mission?”

“Relocate and protect, mostly.” Remy fished out a piece of paper from an inner pocket of his coat, handed it to Midnight. “Bobby here’ll be y’ main contact.” Bobby forced down a surge of annoyance. It would have been nice if Remy had told him beforehand

He got a glimpse of the list of names as Midnight examined the paper and couldn’t help but send Remy a questioning glance. Remy ignored him.

“Dese are all family t’ a group o’ people I expect t’ come under fire sometime soon. I wan’ t’ make sure nobody c’n use dem f’ leverage.”

Bobby’s mind started whirling, in part because it had never occurred to him. His own parents were on that list, along with Hank’s, Sam’s and Jean’s, Scott’s grandparents, and a couple of names he didn’t recognize. He had a horrible sinking feeling in his stomach at the thought of someone trying to use his family against him.

Midnight watched Remy appraisingly. “Do these folks know what’s going on?” He flicked the edge of the paper.

Remy shook his head. “Non. Y’ might as well play it safe an’ plan t’ snatch dem. I couldn’ begin t’ tell y’ who would be willin’ t’ cooperate.” He motioned to Bobby. “Bobby might be able t’ give y’ a better feel f’ what y’ dealin’ wit’.”

Bobby nodded at Midnight’s questioning glance, but then the mercenary shifted his attention back to Remy. “Timetable?”

“Soon.” He gave Midnight an apologetic smile. “Can’ say better dan dat. Jus’ be ready t’ go when y’ get de word. I don’ know how big a window y’ gon’ get.”

Midnight didn’t seem perturbed. “It all pays the same. We’ll be ready.”

Remy stood. “Bobby should be able t’ get y’ anyt’ing y’ need.”

Midnight stood as well, and the two men embraced briefly. Bobby was surprised by the depth of the affection he saw reflected there, on both sides. Then Remy left, his duster flapping about his lean frame as he made his way across the hangar.

Midnight watched him go for several moments, then sat back down and focused on Bobby. “So tell me about these people.” He tapped the list.

Swallowing his thoughts, Bobby nodded and did what he asked.

Andrea Black was a tall woman, heavy boned but not particularly overweight. She had a broad, open face and perhaps the friendliest smile Diedre had ever met. In almost everything, the two women were exact opposites, yet their friendship had endured since childhood. Diedre hadn’t spent much time with Andrea in the past few years, mostly because she had become so isolated while Michael was alive. But now that she was starting to learn how to live again, she wanted to change that.

Andrea winced lightly and rubbed her swollen stomach. She was pregnant with twins which were due in about five weeks.

“Are the babies kicking?” Diedre asked. For the first time in her life the prospect of having a baby was beginning to hold some appeal and she was curious.

Andrea smiled. “Wrestling, more like.” She dug the heel of one hand into her side where she was apparently being poked.

Diedre took a sip of raspberry tea and tried unsuccessfully to stifle a yawn. She glanced at the clock, which had not quite reached midnight.

Andrea followed her gaze. “What time did Bobby say he’d be back?”

Diedre shrugged. “He didn’t. I don’t think Remy told him what they were doing.”

Andrea raised an eyebrow. She paused a moment, as if debating what to say. “So what is the Guildmaster really like?” she finally asked.

Diedre had to think about that one. “... Complicated,” she answered after a bit.

Andrea chuckled. “As opposed to complex?”

Diedre nodded, unable to help a smile. “Well, that too, I guess. Bobby’s the only person I know that understands him.”

Her statement drew a troubled frown from Andrea and Diedre looked at her questioningly.

Andrea shrugged. “Marcus told me the Guildmaster wanted to work with him. He’s really excited about it. He’s been wanting to increase his training for a long time, but hasn’t had the chance.”

Diedre tried to keep the expression off of her face. Marcus Black was one of the best thieves in New York, but Michael hadn’t liked him. That was why he hadn’t been given the opportunity to grow beyond his present skills. The more distance Diedre gained from her late husband, the more she began to realize what kind of man he’d really been.

Andrea was suddenly apologetic. “I’m sorry, hon. I didn’t mean to bring up bad memories.”

Diedre shook her head. “It’s all right. I’m... getting over it, anyway.”

Andrea gave her a grateful smile. “The only reason I was asking was because I wanted to get an idea of what Marc’s in for. With the babies due in a couple of weeks...“ she trailed off sheepishly. Diedre had no trouble completing the thought. She didn’t want her husband being run ragged and away from home all the time on the whim of the Guildmaster, even for the cause of improving his career.

Diedre contemplated the outlines of the ice in her glass. “Bobby claims he’s a pretty tough taskmaster, but I think he’ll be understanding.” Her gaze unfocused as memory impinged on reality. “He almost died protecting Bobby and I.” She shook her head to clear it, and looked up at Andrea. “I think, if you and Marcus really love each other, he’ll bend over backwards to give you time to be together.”

Andrea grinned, looking relieved. “That’s no problem then, seeing as I do love him very much.”

Diedre shared her smile. There had been a number of times when Bobby had expected to spend the night working, only to have Remy send him away with instructions to take his wife out for the evening. Of course, there were also the nights like tonight, when going out was just a ruse to provide Bobby with an alibi for the X-Men. All in all, Diedre didn’t find much reason to complain.

She shook her head. “It’s too bad he can’t get his own love life straightened out, considering how much effort he puts into helping other people.”

Andrea sat up and leaned forward across the table. “Oh, now this sounds interesting.” She was grinning conspiratorially. “I hadn’t heard anything about a girlfriend. What’s she like?”

Diedre flushed, wondering how she could describe Rogue. She knew she couldn’t say too much, seeing how the rumor mill ran inside the Guild. Someone would eventually tell Remy. She couldn’t imagine that he’d be pleased to have the Guild talking about him and Rogue. The X-Men were bad enough.

“I-- I don’t think I can tell you very much. She’s--“Diedre realized what she was about to say and smiled sourly. “She’s perfect for him, if they don’t end up killing each other first.”

Andrea laughed, but Diedre found herself turning the assessment over in her mind. She knew that she herself had been a poor choice for a Guildmaster’s wife. A man with that kind of power and responsibility needed a very strong woman to be his partner. Diedre was beginning to understand that one of the things she did for her husband was to act as an advisor and sounding board as well as giving love and comfort. She still marveled at how much Bobby valued her opinion. Michael had never cared about what she thought, and she had not possessed the strength or confidence to challenge him.

Andrea seemed oblivious to her thoughts. “Well, it sounds like there may still be some room for competition there. You can imagine what the hot topic has been among the single women. You should hear my sister going on about him with her friends.”

Andrea rolled her eyes and Diedre had to laugh. The Guildmaster was always a romantic figure for the young girls of the clans to develop their crushes on, but it was a school girl kind of thing. Most often, a man elected to the position was already married with children of his own.

They were interrupted by a knock on the door, and the tiny chill that whispered across Diedre’s skin told her exactly who it was. She jumped up with a grin. Bobby called it “blowing kisses”, but it was much more than an endearment. It was his powers brushing against hers, melding automatically as they had done ever since Bobby had changed her form to ice to heal her.

Diedre threw open the door to the Black’s apartment and was immediately swept up into a tight hug by her husband. She returned the embrace, ignoring the man who stood behind them, chuckling.

Andrea followed Diedre out of the kitchen, and Diedre pulled away from her husband at the other woman’s flustered surprise.

“Guildmaster... Please, won’t you come in?”

Remy did so, nodding to Diedre in silent greeting as he passed. He approached Andrea and bowed courteously to her. “You mus’ be Andrea.” He gave her one of the charming smiles he was famous for. “Marcus didn’ exaggerate when he told me how lovely y’ are.”

Andrea blushed as expected, but rather than look away as Diedre would have done, she met the Guildmaster’s gaze, her expression diffident. “I’ll bet you say that to all the eight-months-pregnant married women you meet.”

Remy laughed outright and put a hand over his heart. “Ma chere, y’ wound me.”

Diedre was alternately pleased by and jealous of her friend’s response. Andrea had always been full of confidence, and so it was no surprise that she could trade lines with the Guildmaster without batting an eye. Diedre kept her sigh to herself. Andrea always had made it look so easy.

“Are we going home?” Diedre asked Bobby.

He nodded. “Provided we can drag Mr. Charming here away.”

Looking only partially chastened, Remy glanced back at them. Diedre saw Andrea put a hand over her mouth to stifle a laugh.

They said their goodbyes then, and after a few parting words, the three made their way out of the building. Remy paused on the sidewalk outside to light a cigarette.

Diedre tightened her grip on Bobby’s hand. “Remy?”

He looked over at her. “Oui, chere?”

“Andrea is worried that if Marcus starts training now he won’t have any time for her and the babies.”

Remy cocked a surprised eyebrow, and something in his expression made Diedre think that his mind had been somewhere else entirely. However, he didn’t seem to have any trouble shifting topics.

“Y’ t’ink maybe dis ain’ a good time f’ him t’ start somet’ing new?”

Diedre sucked in her breath, surprised to be asked her opinion on what was entirely thief business. “I don’t—That’s not my decision to make. I just... thought you would want to know.”

She could see him filing the information away, and after a moment he nodded. “T’anks, I’ll keep it in mind.”


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