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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 21

Remi shivered in the early morning air as he stood and tried to stretch out some of his stiffness. His arm and shoulder ached from the wounds the Hounds and his own powers had given him, but the blood that had seeped through the makeshift bandages was mostly dry. His stomach rumbled as he looked around, taking in the dim interior of the garbage filled alley. He hadn’t seen much when he’d arrived there the previous night. Exhausted, hurt and terrified, he’d had only the strength to find a doorway to curl up in. He’d cried himself to sleep. In the cool morning mists, his cheeks felt dried and taut from the salt on his face, and he rubbed them with his palms.

Now what, Remi? He desperately wished that Renee was there, but she was some eight years in the future. He’d left her, and now he was more alone than he’d ever been in his life. Part of him wanted to run to Westchester, or better yet, to use a portal to take him to Chandilar, but he knew he couldn’t. His parents wouldn’t know him. And even if they accepted him, his chances of keeping Ororo Munroe alive that one night in Cairo would be nullified.

Remi took a deep breath and faced the mouth of the alley and the broad thoroughfare beyond. He tried to push away all of the events of the past weeks—all the loss, all the fear, all the doubts. There was still hope. In defiance of all laws of reason and probability, Remi was in the right place and the right time to make the future what it ought to be. He just had to go do what needed to be done.

Resolved, Remi Neramani stepped out onto Bourbon Street, deep in the heart of the French Quarter of New Orleans. There was someone he had to find.

Remi slid a few bills and scattered coins across the counter of the tiny diner with only a twinge from his conscience. He’d been forced to use his telepathic talents to shield him from notice as he filched enough money for some dinner from one of the other patrons. Despite his best intentions, he’d discovered that being a time traveler and a Shi’ar prince did nothing to fill his stomach here. There were too many children on the street looking for handouts, and most people didn’t seem to have much charity. He pushed the thoughts away and dug into his gumbo with such zeal that the woman behind the counter chuckled.

"Ain’ seen a real meal in a while, looks t’ me," she commented. She was a heavy-set woman, dressed in an apron and with a kerchief tied in her hair. A pair of black eyes peered cheerfully at him from a face the color of a walnut. "Y’ got a home, boy?"

Remi glanced up at her. "Not anymore." Behind her, he could see his reflection in the mirror that backed the counter. He certainly looked the part these days—gaunt, with a week’s worth of grime caked on him along with the blood. His long hair was tangled and matted, and his clothes nearly in tatters.

The woman’s expression turned sympathetic. "Where y’ been sleepin’ den?" She nodded toward the street outside her little eatery. "Dey’s some bad ‘uns out dere."

"I know, Mamman." It had been easy enough to absorb the Cajun dialect from some of the locals, and Remi tried not to think about how easily it came to him. There was a part of him that found this city very comfortable. He picked up his bowl to drink the last of the broth and then set it down regretfully. He was still hungry, but he was trying to use his powers as little as he could to get by. Mutants were almost unknown at this point in history. He couldn’t afford to draw attention to himself. Unfortunately, he had to do a lot of telepathic work, but what little he could avoid, he did. He really didn’t like stealing. It left a bad taste in his mouth and a twinge of guilt in his heart.

The woman ladled another serving into his bowl, shushing his protests with a wave. "Eat y’ fill, boy. I don’ charge dem dat doesn’ have it." She grinned over her shoulder at him as she sashayed toward the kitchen. "An’ den y’ gon’ have a bowl o’ my famous bread puddin’."

Remi didn’t spend very long wondering what bread pudding was. It was a relief to simply sit and think of nothing at all. This was his third day in New Orleans, and like the ones before it he’d spent the entire day wandering the streets, telepathic senses thrown wide in the hopes of catching a reference to the people he sought in the minds of some passerby. So far he’d found nothing. No thoughts of a Thieves Guild or of a family named LeBeau.

Charles Xavier turned in surprise at a sudden beeping sound behind him. A red light had begun to flash on the main panel of a truly monstrous pile of computer equipment. The device was Charles’ pet project, part of his growing vision for the future of mutants. It was still in the prototype stage, rarely operating for more than eighteen hours at a time before some bug or another brought it crashing down, but Charles had already located several mutant signatures with his Cerebro device. Now it appeared the device had found another. He wheeled his chair over to the main panel and put on the headset that hung beside it.

Images flooded his mind as the Cerebro device began transferring data. Charles absorbed it all, wincing at the less than perfect interface. He quickly forgot about the small pain as excitement filled him. The signature of the new mutant indicated a power level equivalent to Magneto’s or his own.

He pulled off the headset, tucking it under his arm, and touched the button on the intercom. "Scott?"

"Here, sir," came the immediate response.

"Scott, assemble the X-Men. The Cerebro has detected a new mutant."

"Yes, sir!" Charles smiled at the young man’s enthusiasm. He released the intercom button and looked back at the monitor that gave him a two-dimensional representation of what the Cerebro was working on.

What an addition this new mutant could be to the X-Men, he thought as he peered at the map the Cerebro had brought up. I should have known that Magnus and myself couldn’t be the only ones. He tapped the flashing dot that was the city of New Orleans thoughtfully. Let us only hope this mutant believes in the cause of peace.

Remi stiffened with a tiny gasp. There! He grasped after the voice in his head, trying to separate it from the crowd. A low voice, full of knowledge and secrets. It had whispered the name LeBeau.

He looked around, only belatedly remembering that he wasn’t supposed to act frantic, lest he draw unwanted attention from his quarry. He didn’t immediately spy the owner of the stream of thoughts that ran through his head, though he knew the man couldn’t be very far away. The thoughts were dark, leaving Remi chilled. It was a little like touching the Shadow King again, so he made no effort to penetrate the mind more deeply.

Remi stepped out into the street, following the voice in his head. He had only a vague instinctive knowledge of which way to go, so he melded with the crowd and let it carry him in the general direction. All the while, he held tightly to the tenuous thought strand that promised him a connection to the man he needed to find.

People crowded all around Remi, none of them moving in quite the same direction, and yet he marveled at how smoothly the crowd moved him down the street. It was like being caught in an ocean tide, pulled smoothly yet inexorably in a direction of the water’s choosing. Remi looked around, still somewhat awed by his surroundings. He had never seen a city like New Orleans. The French Quarter had a festive spirit that seemed to emanate from the very streets themselves, a kind of cultural pageantry that Remi found breathtaking. The air was filled with the scent of flowers that nearly overwhelmed the smells of cayenne and garlic. Huge garlands of white and pink blooms were strung along doorframes and guttering, shedding petals like snowflakes. The sultry sound of a tenor sax floated through the air, undiminished by the human noises. Remi finally spotted the musician standing on a crate, a circle of listeners surrounding him. People lined the storefronts as well, standing or sitting on narrow balconies on the second stories. They were drinking and laughing, the conversations often spanning the distances between balconies or spreading down to the street level.

After a while, the voice led Remi off of the main street into a vacant side way. Remi paused at the mouth of the alley. It was a perfect place for an ambush, though of who or why, Remi couldn’t begin to guess. But his voice was definitely down there, and now that most of the crowd was behind him, Remi could find two other minds very near the first. They weren’t any more pleasant than the other, and Remi skimmed the surfaces, gaining one important piece of knowledge. One of the men was named Andre LeBeau.

Uncertain, Remi backed out of the alley. He didn’t necessarily want to contact the thief he’d found. He just wanted to follow him. Once around the corner, and back amid the festivity of the main street, he settled himself on the curb next to one of the tall iron lamp posts and leaned his head against it. He listened to the distant saxophone, letting it all but obliterate the ugly thoughts of the thief.

Remi started out of his daze when a man stepped into the mouth of the alley. He was dressed in black leather, with a short gray cloak thrown back over his shoulders. He peered into the alley cautiously, and his thoughts slid toward the various weapons he carried. Remi was surprised. The man was a walking arsenal.

Eventually, the man started down the alley. His thoughts remained alert for trouble, but he also seemed expectant and not terribly afraid.

"LeBeau?" Remi could not physically hear the word, but it echoed in his mind. "Are you here?"

Remi turned his attention to Andre, following him as he stepped out into the other man’s sight. "Right here, Devereaux."

The two stared at each other, and Remi was amazed by how deep their mutual hatred ran. Both would have killed the other in an instant and enjoyed it. Remi shuddered and withdrew until their thoughts were nothing more than a murmur. He knew what it felt like to kill that way, and it terrified him. Still, their spoken words echoed loudly on the surfaces of their minds.

"Is everyt’ing ready?"

"Oui. On de Rue de Fleur. Two days."

Without another word, the two men parted. Andre stepped back into the shadows where his friends waited. Devereaux came out of the alley a moment later. Remi watched as he stepped into the crowd and disappeared.

Andre and his companions waited nearly ten minutes before they emerged, and even then they were careful. One of the three turned up the street, passing Remi without a glance. The other two went the other direction. Remi gave them a short head start and then climbed to his feet. He truly did not want to listen to their minds, so he only did what was necessary to be certain he would not lose them in the crowd.

They walked for nearly an hour, until the tightly packed shops gave way to spacious homes in an area Remi thought was called the River District. He followed Andre over a low stone wall only to find himself in a graveyard. Many of the markers were in the form of elaborate statuary, and Remi stared in surprise at the image of Ky’thri. Then he shook his head. No, not Ky’thri. Not on Earth. But the winged woman standing over one of the graves reminded him of the statue that stood outside of the Temple of Stars. A sudden wave of homesickness washed over him. It would be a very long time, if ever, before he stood in the Temple of Stars again.

He shook off his preoccupation and looked around for Andre. To his dismay, both men had disappeared. Remi expanded his telepathic powers, sweeping across the graveyard, and even back toward the houses. He found nothing except the thoughts of ordinary people in the midst of normal dinnertime activities.

Remi cursed himself for his moment’s inattention. Where could they have gone that he wouldn’t find them telepathically? Feeling suddenly frantic, he made another search, but was forced to conclude that the thieves were gone. As was his chance of finding Jean Luc LeBeau. Eventually, he sank to the ground next to the statue.

Now what? he asked the stone face silently, but there was no reply.

"This way. We’re getting closer."

Cyclops ducked and dodged between the throngs of people crowding the street as he tried to follow Marvel Girl’s retreating figure. She had finally found another trace of their mutant quarry after hours of searching, and had taken off after it with her usual single-minded determination. Now Cyclops was left trying to catch up. Not very auspicious for the supposed leader of the X-Men, but Marvel Girl had a talent for confusing him. One glance from those green eyes was usually all it took.

Marvel Girl stopped so abruptly that he nearly ran into her.


She didn’t look at him. Her attention was still focused in the direction she had been traveling. "He’s shut down again. I can’t track him." After a moment, she looked up at him, her expression apologetic.

Cyclops glanced at the darkening sky. "Maybe we should find someplace to stay until morning. We can start looking again then."

Marvel Girl nodded. "Do you want me to have the others meet us?" The other three X-Men had stayed with the hidden jet to give Cyclops a chance to get the feel of the city before he brought his entire team in.

He nodded. "Go ahead." He was confident now that the perpetual party atmosphere and riotously dressed people would only serve as useful camouflage for the X-Men. Tomorrow, they would look for their mystery mutant. Cyclops was confident that they would eventually find him.


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