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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


Written by Valerie Jones
Last updated: 03/23/2007 01:26:56 AM

Chapter 11

Remi stared at the map spread out across one end of the long table. Luckily, he was several inches taller than Everett, so his view from behind the older man was good. The map, however, was hardly worth looking at. It was only a sketchy outline of the new relay center. Remi tried to banish the image of Chamber from his mind as he stared at the place on the map that was marked with a large "X". But the psionic fire danced behind his eyes no matter how hard he tried to forget.

Chamber was one of the most powerful telepaths of his generation, a fact Remi knew well because he had sparred with him on a number of occasions. For purely psionic training, Remi had worked most with his father and Jean while he was on Earth. But for the combination of physical and psionic combat, Chamber had been the most effective at training the young Shiíar prince. And because of that, Remi felt obliged to step in now, despite the guilty voice deep inside him that kept telling him that he would be helping to murder Jono.

"Heís going to know weíre coming," Remi told Everett. The heated conversation that had been going on around the crowded room slowly quieted as Everett turned to look at Remi.


Remi was uncomfortable with all of the eyes in the room fastened on him. But he tried to keep his voice steady as he answered, "Because he can sense your brain functioning. Unless youíre completely brain-dead, heíll see you." He shook his head at the memory. "I could never sneak up on him."

Everett gave him an odd look. "Then how did you keep him from seeing you yesterday?"

Remi paused. No one but his father and Jean had ever known about Gambitís memories, and he wasnít sure he wanted to tell anyone about it now. He didnít know how Cody and Renee might react. "I... cheated."

Everettís eyebrows rose fractionally. Remi chewed on his lip as he tried to decide what to tell them. "Itís a trick I know. But itís a risk."

"How so?"

"I think I might forget who I am, if I try that again."

Everett stared at him blankly, but Mischa, Dallasí most senior telepath, had a furrow between her high drawn brows. Rachel, too, watched him quizzically. Everett glanced at Mischa, who simply shrugged.

"So, theyíll know weíre coming." Everettís gaze swept the room. "Now the question is, do we have the firepower to take the relay base despite that?"

Remi listened attentively as the adults drew up plans for the assault on the relay center. He had been sitting in on such things since he was ten at his motherís insistence, and at her knee had learned a fair amount about the conquest of planets. This raid was on a far smaller scale, but Remi found that many of the same principles applied.

"One of the things that is going to hurt us is the fact that we arenít going to get any aerial support for this." Domino leaned across the table to tap a spot on the map. "Weíre either going to have to come at them from the one direction-here-or weíre going to have to find a way to take on the ground defenses." She surveyed the room. "Either way, just getting in is going to be expensive."

"We do have a telekinetic to give us an umbrella," Everett pointed out. Rachel looked uncomfortable under the sudden gazes turned her way, but she nodded.

"And thatís probably what weíll need to clear the ground defenses." Domino reached up to adjust a battered purple beret. "Still, the relay center will be a rabbit warren. Most mutant powers arenít going to be worth squat down in there."

Everett looked like he was beginning to get annoyed. "Are you saying we shouldnít try to take it?"

Domino shook her head. "No. Of course not." She sighed. "Iím just wishing out loud for a way to make them come to us."

"We have four telepaths now, including an Omega-- supposedly," said a young blond man on the far side of the table. Remi bristled at his scathing tone. "Between them, they should be able to kill Jono before anyone steps foot in the relay center. We could waltz in and take the place easy, then."

Remi found himself staring at the other man. His words held a deep-seated bitterness that was disturbing in someone so young. He couldnít have been more than ten years Remiís senior. Remi felt like he should recognize him, but he couldnít find a familiar face behind the patchwork of scars. The most noticeable was a saucer shaped indentation in the side of his head. The skin covering it was dark and wrinkled. Wispy blond hair grew in a few places, but for the most part, the scar was bare.

"Who is that?" Remi asked Everett in an undertone.

"Franklin Richards."

Remi recognized him immediately, and was stunned. The version he knew was vastly different. "What happened to him?"

Everett didnít look at him. "The Shadow King had his powers cauterized." Then he raised his voice to address the group. "A relay can draw on as many of his fellow relays as he needs to. I donít think our four can overcome him on sheer strength alone."

"Someone will still have to get to him physically." Mischa chewed on her lip. She was a tall, stern-looking woman, but Remi had taken an immediate liking to her. She was very forthright-something he was coming to value. "Perhaps we have enough power here to distract him." Her gaze was fastened on the table as if she were voicing her thoughts as they came to her. "The Hounds will be disorganized if the relay is too busy to hold them in check. We might have more luck with a small team."

There was a murmur of discussion. Remi turned to Mischa. "By ídistractí, you mean me, right?"

She nodded. "I mean you. With me for backup, of course, but Iím not powerful enough to really threaten a relay. You are." She watched him for a moment, her expression contemplative. "If youíre willing."

"I... donít think I could kill him," Remi finally answered.

"Neither do I." Her smile was warm. "But if you can convince him that you both can and will, given the chance, we can hope heíll drop everything else until he feels safe again."

"Killing Jono will be my responsibility." Everettís expression was grim. He turned back to study the map, as if he couldnít stand to hold Remiís gaze. Maybe that wasnít so surprising, Remi thought. They were close friends in his own time, and in this one too, it seemed. What would it be like to have to kill a friend, Remi wondered, and shuddered. He never wanted to find out.

They spent the rest of the day hammering out the assault plan. The insertion team would consist of Everett, Domino, Rogue and Cody. To Remiís surprise, Rogue had argued long and loud against including Cody. She had flatly denied any personal reasons beyond not wanting to risk the life of someone so young on an uncertain mission. Remi didnít think that anyone believed her, but he was glad to see Rogue acting a little more like the woman he knew. It was reassuring, somehow.

When the planning was finally done, he and Cody walked together toward the barracks where they had been given bunks. The attack was set for the day after tomorrow, leaving the two boys less than forty-eight hours to prepare. Remi felt like he was caught up in a whirlwind of events that he could not control. Ever since they had landed in this timeline, they had been bouncing from place to place and battle to battle. He still had no answers for his questions about the paradox that should have unmade them all. No explanation for the timewave that had destroyed his home and his life.

Cody must have heard his frustrated sigh. He glanced over at Remi, his expression pale. "Are we really going to do this?"

Remi stopped and looked up at the wide Texas sky, sprinkled with stars. It was an impossibly beautiful sight for such an ugly world. "I donít know," he answered, truthfully. "I guess itís time for us to decide if weíre going to join this war." He looked over at Cody. "Since I was a little boy, people have been telling me that I would someday be responsible for billions of lives. That I had to learn everything I could, and practice, so that when the day came, I wouldnít let those people down." He looked back up at the stars. He didnít want to, but he knew what his decision had to be. "I guess tomorrow Iíll start finding out if I learned enough."

Cody unclipped the pin that Everett had given him that evening and held it in his palm, studying it. Made of simple aluminum, the pin was an "X", framed by a circle. He started to laugh raggedly.

"What?" Remi asked.

Cody looked over at him. "I just realized that I got my slot." He held up the pin. "The X-Men." The X-Men had only needed one mutant to fill their ranks when graduation had come around, and Cody had been determined that that one would be him. Though, truthfully, Cody had been talking about growing up to be an X-Man like his father since the day heíd learned to talk.

Remi reached up to finger the pin attached to his collar. It was identical to Codyís. Fate was strange sometimes, Remi thought. He was not Gambit, and never would be, but somehow he, too, had become an X-Man.

Much later that night, while the Dallas enclave lay silent save for the sentries who walked the walls and manned the radar, the Shadow Kingís forces attacked.

On a low hill nearly a mile distant, the air shimmered, forming the appearance of a giant face. The Gamemaster watched the first explosion send a ball of fire rolling skyward and nodded in satisfaction. The Shadow King had done what he expected with the information the Gamemaster had given him. Another turn of the game was being played out in keeping with his plan.

Actually, this part was proving to be a simple matter. There was little challenge to maneuvering the Shadow King. He was bruteónothing more. His sheer strength made him attractive, but he was not fit to survive. And the other oneóthe boy. After the long years of working with the Witness, of manipulations so subtle that even that canny fox had not realized he was being played, moving the boy Remi around the gameboard was nothing. The Witness had been the only one who could have ruined his plans. Now that he was safely lost in the cycling of timelines, there was little that could thwart the Gamemasterís final victory. He had only to see the game through to its conclusion.

There was, of course, a small chance that the boy would be killed. The Gamemaster didnít find that likely, though. It was a risk he simply had to accept. It was a rule of the game. But he was confident that, even in this incarnation, the boy would prove to be the survivor he had always been.

A smile appeared on the shimmering face as the Gamemaster settled in to watch his play unfold.


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