Disclaimer: The characters, with
the exception of Miki Yee, belong to Marvel and are not used
to make me a peso of profit. The scenario belongs to me --
do not use it without permission or I'll set my Orcish hordes
on you. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
are the currency of choice -- criticism is welcome, but will
be accepted with wobbly knees. ;) This part is rated PG for
some ... very mild swearing and a few innocuous innuendos.
'With solitude, the furnaced
all self-consuming fission;
the crowd provides: providing, drains
the self into confusion.'
Yvonne Salome Montgomery, the database entry read
as it flicked up onto the screen with the press of a button.
Her face -- whether it was beautiful or not, Remy could not
quite ascertain -- stared out at him with knowing, slightly
accusing eyes. Hacker, they mocked, you'll be caught
and sent to jail to serve out life.
Breaking into the security systems of a government agency,
even one as relatively inefficient and low-powered as the
West European Security Trust, was too risky for even a Grandmaster
Thief's complete comfort. Everything about the information
should have allayed his suspicions -- it was comprehensive
to the point of pedantry -- but it did not. His misgivings
about her went deeper than reason, into simply knowing that
there was something entirely amiss about her. His friends
back in the Thieves' Guild would have split their sides laughing,
he thought disgustedly, and then told him that there was nothing
wrong that a cold shower could not cure. That he had been
struck by the proverbial coup de foudre. Was he sure
that he had not? That he was not fabricating this whole conspiracy
scenario to explain away the love (or lust, bien sur,
he added wryly) at first sight in which he did not believe?
Glancing back at Yvonne, he could not dismiss the notion.
She was lovely -- luminous eyes, teasing rather than accusing,
revealing a keen intelligence that was complemented by an
adamantine will, lips that had a trace of a smile. Similar
to Belladonna. Precisely his type. He swallowed, wondering
if a subzero shower was not in order, after all.
"Dieu," he tapped a tattoo out on the desk where
his slim, swift laptop rested, "I am losin' it."
He had eschewed serious relationships after being exiled
from New Orleans, being forced to leave his wife behind to
grieve both brother and husband. He had looked back, despite
his father's whispered advice not to do so. Stupidly. The
desolation on her face had preempted any serious relationship
he might have had, had smacked too much of infidelity for
his honor. Besides, love was an inconvenience in his profession.
Being both an X-Man and thief a demanded privacy, secrecy
and, unless he found a soulmate within the team with sympathies
towards his late-night activities and skills at providing
an alibi in case something went wrong, he would compromise
his position and those of his friends. An agent of WEST was
neither, as Wolverine would understand.
He stopped, remembering the fragments of his teammates' conversation
he had overheard amongst his musings about Montgomery. Logan,
with his highly sensitive sense of smell and almost animal
instincts of whether someone was good, bad or indifferent,
had exploded: 'that somethin' stank about that frail, other'n
the red tape that WEST's chokin' in.' Naturally, Cyclops had
dismissed his suspicions, being preoccupied with the fact
that Magneto was alive and the implications thereof on the
balance of power and world peace. If there was an earth left
once 'Carol Dee' got control of Valhalla ...
Slamming his laptop shut after extricating himself from WEST's
database, Remy went to find Wolverine.
The video rewound and played at the press of a button, scrolling
backwards and forwards between past and present. A lacquer-haired
reporter with a red-clown-smile painted on her oriental face
was standing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. She clutched
a microphone with an indiscreet station logo on it.
"Good evening, my name is Miki Yee and I'm on scene
in SanFran, continuing our report on the death of Carol Danvers,
better known as the American hero, Ms Marvel."
She filled the screen, resplendent in black costume with
lighting-flash, gold hair flying behind her as she sped through
the air in increasingly intricate loop-de-loops and corkscrews.
Young, beautiful, beloved, she was the embodiment of the American
Dream, from which her death had caused the populace to wake.
"For those of you who have just joined us eye-witness
reports indicate that she was attacked on the bridge by as
yet-unknown assailant and, after a struggle, was thrown into
the bay. Forensic reports have still to determine whether
she was killed in the fight, or drowned. In this reporter's
opinion, it is irrelevant. One of our greatest heroes is dead,
no matter how the deed was done, and the repercussions of
that can be felt from the highest level to the lowest. Grieving
admirers have flocked to the Golden Gate Bridge to pay tribute
to Ms Marvel, holding a candle-light vigil and presenting
a petition to the mayor to bring her murderer to justice."
The scene shifted to encompass the bridge, bedecked with
flowers, flags and cards, and shimmering with points of candle-light
like fireflies. Beneath it, the deadly waters into which her
limp body fell swirled darkly as if they too were an accomplice
in the task. The camera panned in on a crude, crayon drawing
of Carol Danvers -- hair yellow, skin pink, costume black,
a stick-figure -- then jumped to a bouquet of white roses,
before taking in a stiff, white card with a bunch of violets
on the front that proclaimed that she would be missed.
"Yet who is responsible for this crime? With the help
of witnesses, SHIELD pieced together an identikit of the perpetrator,
which they then identified as a terrorist, known simply as
Rogue, who is a member of Magneto's notorious Brotherhood
of Evil Mutants."
A blurred photograph, a jumble of colours, barely distinguishable
as a woman. Wolverine paused and squinted, listing the obvious
features mentally. Green uniform trimmed with black. About
5'8, judging from the height of the door in which she was
standing. Chestnut hair with an unusual white streak to it.
Beyond that, she could have been anyone. Fast-forwarding,
the photograph made way for the agency's sketch, which was
no more helpful. Beyond the white streak and the fact that
her eyes were green, the artist had elected to draw a generic
woman's face that could have fit a million or more Americans.
Contact lenses and a bottle of dye could easily negate any
advantage SHIELD had, he mused as someone knocked on the door.
Cursing, he barked a gruff 'go away' before returning to his
perusal of the screen. The visitor was obviously not dissuaded
as he heard the squeal of hinges behind him. Sniffing, he
smelt an odd combination of cigarette smoke, cologne and singed
paper. It could only be LeBeau, he thought in irritation.
"Don't ya understand English, kid?"
"Parfaitement. I also understan' dat de world could
be in danger if I don' speak t'ya," the young man came
to peer at the screen, "De Ms Marvel murder case? Dat
was her killer -- can't remember her name -- but dey never
brought her to justice."
"Rogue," Logan supplied, "Now, what cock and
bull story have ya come t'tell me about the world bein' in
danger? Or was it just an excuse t'come snoopin'?"
Remy grimaced, "It's about Yvonne Montgomery."
Wolverine raised an eyebrow. Someone else shared his suspicions
about the WEST agent? He was convinced that he had seen her
somewhere else, and, in that capacity, that she was anything
but material for a government agency. He had thought that
the answer might lie in his personal obsession -- the Carol
Danvers killing -- but, after watching hours of videotape
for some clue, he had to acknowledged that he had been wrong.
"What about her?"
"As y'said, mon ami, somet'ing stank about dat frail,"
the Cajun's face was humorless, "I want t'find out what."
"Yeah, me too. I thought I'd seen her before. Heck,
I thought she might be on this tape of Carol Danvers' death,
but..." he shrugged, "Gonna contact a buddy at WEST
-- man by the name of Maverick -- and find out exactly who
an' what this Montgomery is."
Murmering something about Carol Danvers, the other man's
preoccupied expression became concerned. He raked a hand through
his hair, then reached for a cigarette -- both nervous habits
which on a man less used to maintaining perfect emotional
control would express themselves as sheer panic. He charged
the tip, then inhaled deeply, before breathing the smoke out
with a whoosh.
"Dieu, Logan, ya Rogue is Carol Dee."
The girl was furious, Mystique could see it, now that numbing
fear had passed. Her knuckles were white around the wooden
handle of the coffee-mug, which was splintering beneath the
pressure applied to it. Rogue could have easily snapped an
iron bar like a matchstick, so she was evidently tempering
her extraordinary strength. Good, her mother approved,
she's learning some self-control. That was as obvious
by the fact that she was continuing with the task at hand
instead of snapping at Mystique about revealing her identity.
After all, it had been a calculated gambit to introduce her
daughter as an operative. Although the X-Men could theoretically
disprove Montgomery's existence, the information Rogue had
uploaded in the databank to convince SHIELD of her suitability
for the task at hand should prevent that occurance. Moreover,
WEST's diplomatic corps' missions were ultraclassified, so
the only person who were able to verify them were the leaders
of the various countries. Mystique doubted that the outlaw
X-Men would have access to the Western European powers' private
phone-lines. They would be arrested and tried for vigilantism,
treason and sedition before they could say: "hello",
"bonjour" or "buenos dias".
She smirked, turning her attention back to what Rogue was
doing. A document, evidently gleaned from some newspaper's
report, displayed information on the quasimythical Clan LeBeau.
She had heard the name -- they were reputed to be the first
family of crime, who operated a highly efficient international,
robbery syndicate out of New Orleans. Their existence, however,
had never been formally proven and thus they had assumed the
proportion of a legend. A criminal cockatrice or legal
loupgarou, she quipped. "Shopping for a pet thief,
"Tried that earlier," her daughter's voice was
strained, "Man turned me down cold."
It was Mystique's turn to be angry. Forget her introducing
Rogue as Yvonne, this was an overt breach of security that
could have potentially lethal repercussions. She had revealed
their intention to seize control of Valhalla to an outsider
-- a thief, who, however immoral, might baulk at a coup d'etat
and its ultimate consequence of totalitarianism, enforced
by the barrel of a gun. Big Sister is watching you.
"Idiot!" she snapped, "What the hell were
"Ah was thinkin' that Remy LeBeau might be able t'hack
inta Valhalla faster'n Ah could even with SHIELD's super-computers.
Ah mean, a Grand Master thief whose speciality is supposedly
electronics could be useful. He's also got a reputation foh
bein' discreet an' completely professional."
Sarcastically, "There's a difference between having
a fling with him, then expecting him to be discreet, and revealing
our plans for world domination, then wanting the same."
The younger of the two rubbed a hand across her bleary, grey
eyes, looking more frail and exhausted than Mystique had ever
seen. Concern replaced
irritation abruptly. Was she expecting too much from the girl?
Should they delay their project and preoccupy themselves with
petty potboiling until Rogue recovered her strength? The world
could and would wait, would continue spinning on its axis,
but their situation had become precarious -- with the risk
of revelation poised over them, like the blade of guillotine,
they had no choice but to proceed with the plot. As rapidly
and secretly as they could. Rogue's tiredness was nothing
a week in Hawaii would not cure.
"Don't Ah know it. That's why Ah'm tryin' ta find out
more about him," she indicated the screen, "But
... th' man's a ghost. Ah only found out about him through
a contact in th' underworld -- gambler by the name o' Black
Tom who needed a few dollars to pay his debts and was prepared
to sell out anyone or anything for them. Heck, Ah had th'
man promisin' his first-born child in exchange for cold cash.
Fortunately for him, Rumpelstiltskin wasn't mah name an' Ah
just needed a thief."
"Did this Black Tom...." Mystique curled her lips
disgustedly at the name, "Tell you anything at all about
LeBeau? Anything we could use as leverage?"
Rogue shook her head, "Just gave me his e-mail address
an' added that Ah might as well hire th' best, although he
was bound t'bankrupt me."
"You suspect he knows more about your thief?"
"Definitely. Should Ah ... pay him a friendly visit?"
It was a difficult situation. On the one hand, any further
exposure Rogue had to the public out of the guise of Yvonne
Montgomery could ruin the project if one of them later recognised
her as something other than a SHIELD agent. On the other,
her daughter had created the situation and Mystique was loath
to play janitor, sweeping up the shattered glass of her mistakes
and allowing the girl to believe that she would do so indefinitely.
Or was there another option, she thought, as her eyes found
a slim, metal box lying on the desk, acting as a paperweight
for a wobbling pile of newsprint. An image inducer.
Nick Fury scrolled disgustedly through the list of applicants
who wished to serve as Katherine Pryde's replacement. Although
hailing from Africa and Asia, Poughkeepsie and Chicago, Sydney
and Sao Paulo, and were probably incapable of being more disparate,
they had one trait in common -- none of them were vaguely
in her class. Taking a sip from his seemingly bottomless espresso,
seasoned with a good measure of J&D, he picked up an application
printed on WEST's official letterhead. Unsurprisingly, the
CV was glowing, as would be expected from an agent with the
sense to transfer from that particular deadend trust. Moreover,
the information gleaned from WEST's databanks spoke of a skilled,
loyal and diligent agent who was experienced in every aspect
of the trade. Yvonne S. Montgomery, he mused, would be quite
an acquisition with the added benefit of being a thumb in
the eye to the Western European bureaucrats. SHIELD and WEST's
animosity was legendary in the political sphere and he could
not pass up on an opportunity to spite them. Quickly, he tapped
out a reply on his crusty 486, which he refused to trade despite
the superior technology offered to him by the tech devision.
SUBJECT: Acceptance of job application
When can you start?
Head of Field Agents, SHIELD
'You cannot remake the world
- it's clamour, cant and chatter;
the self, of course, more dense, more knurled
is quite a different matter'
Continued in Chapter
NOTE: The poem quoted is verses
one and two of Livingstone's 'Libation to the Geoid, Station
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