DISCLAIMER: All characters, contained
in this part, are the exclusive property of Marvel Comics.
I am neither using them to make me a profit or to bring down
Marvel' s particular heavens with a crash. :) Comments however
are much appreciated at firstname.lastname@example.org
as is any criticism, kvetches and bouquets, along with requests
for archiving. I won't say no. :) Um, this part is probably
a PG, if I had to rate it. Otherwise, no romance etc ... in
this one, merely a competiton between two masters of their
Only I grope among you, pale-faces,
among a forest of pillars that hold up the dome of
high ideal heaven
Which is my prison,
And all these human pillars of loftiness, going stiff,
metallic-stunned with the weight of their responsibility
I stumble against them.
Stumbling-blocks, painful ones.
~ The Revolutionary, DH Lawrence
Black Tom Cassidy was up the proverbial creek without a paddle.
Given the choice, however, he would have preferred an Uzi
to a oar in his current situation any day. He found that few
people who claimed to be invulnerable, untouchable, actually
passed the litmus test, if it came in the form of a few rounds
of bullets. As it was, he was helpless, cornered in the alley
by a woman he knew to be a remorseless terrorist. And she
was holding the gun for which he had earlier wished. He sighed,
resolving never to play the part of Good Samaritan ever again,
no matter how pretty the damsel in distress was.
Although the woman standing before him hardly met the conventional
standards of beauty - her eyes were jade-chips beneath a luminescent
stripe in her hair, while her slender body was as perfectly
honed and deadly as tempered steel - she had worn a different
face when he had offered to help her. A wolf in lamb's clothing.
Dressed in a floaty, floral dress with a chain around her
ankle, her short, blonde curls had framed a pixyish face that
had spoken of an intangible, unspeakable sadness. Still, she
had hardly appeared the type to be a serious alcoholic, although
the straight vodkas she had downed in quick succession contradicted
that. Perhaps her boyfriend had left her and she was looking
for some liquid solace, he had mused. After all, she seemed
to have grown more and more cheerful with each drink, smiling
stupidly at him as she called for the next. Ultimately, concerned
for her safety in the rougher parts of town, he had offered
to call her a cab instead and see her to it ... That had been
his mistake, he glumly told himself, he had forgotten that
no good deed went unpunished.
The tipsiness had vanished the instant they had stepped out
the door, to be replaced by a demeanour that was cold, professional
and extremely frightening. Feeling a hard something press
against his ribs, he had glanced down and had found it to
be the barrel of a miniature gun. Moulded in black plastic,
small enough to fit snugly in her palm, it was still more
than capable of killing a man. Of killing him, unless he answered
"Ah'll repeat mahself, sugah," the endearment was
deprecating, "Where can Ah find Remy LeBeau?"
"I ... I don't know who ye mean," he lied, stalling
for time. He was in what his literary brother called a Catch-22
situation. If he betrayed Clan LeBeau, one of the largest
crime cartels in the country, he would wish that he had met
his death at her hands. On the other hand, every atavistic
survival instinct screamed that he should give the terrorist
what she wanted and worry about the consequences at some time
in the future. Best to play ignorant and hope that she believed
him, or that he could stall her until someone rescued him.
Preferably LeBeau, thereby killing two birds with one stone.
"Don't lie ta me," her trigger finger twitched
infinitesimally and he gulped, "It ain't a very ... healthy
habit. After all, you did recommend him ta me as payment for
that sum Ah loaned you."
Once again, he cursed his gaming habit and vowed to follow
Teresa's advice to quit. He had lost count of the people to
whom he was indebted because of it and the number of times
it had landed him in trouble. He remembered this one though
-- a rich, sultry drawl on the other end of the telephone
who had promised him all the money he needed to pay his debts
in return for how to contact Remy LeBeau. He had been only
too glad to oblige, his conscience too dulled by fear to care
that he was selling out a fellow Guild-member.
"Truth is," he scuffed the dirt with his shoe,
"Truth is, I don't know where he lives. You see, he comes
to the bar sometimes to see my niece, Teresa, and I've only
ever met him here."
Pink lips pursed thoughtfully, as she lowered her weapon,
"What does he look like, Tom?"
"Handsome, strapping fellow, but with eyes like one
of Old Scratch's demons," he gabbled in relief, "Red
on black, if you'll believe it or not."
Her eyes widened almost imperceptibly, as if she had realised
something that surprised but delighted her, and she smiled
"Oh, Ah believe you..."
"So Magneto is alive and negotiating with the Western
European Security Trust," Storm said softly, as she wiped
the foam from the cappuccino off her top lip with a delicate
gesture. The weary expression of a few days ago had become
one of profound exhaustion, as a result of too many late meetings
and nights spent worrying about the implications of both WEST's
capitulation to his demands and his seeming ability to circumvent
"...To recognise Avalon as a separate, diplomatic entity
with full UN-protection in the case of hostile invasion,"
Cyclops' plain, good face was a mirror of her own worried,
tired one, "Such as by the vigilante X-Men. Trust me,
Ororo, I'm as annoyed and concerned about this development
as you are."
She raised an eyebrow, "You think, as I do, that it
is a prelude to a bid for world-domination? As we both know,
Scott, Magneto's grand and noble cause stems out of deep insecurity
as a result of his hideous interment in a Nazi concentration
camp. He will not rest until he has complete control of every
country in the world, so as to be able to prevent a future
He nodded mutely, swallowing a draught of his beer. He was
not a drinker ordinarily, but the strain had been taking its
toll on him and he needed something a little stronger than
Adam's Ale to relax. Similarly, Ororo had been spending more
and more time with her plants, surrounding herself by greenery
as she always did in times of stress.
"Which begs the question," the Kenyan said, "Of
what we are going to do if the bill is indeed passed."
A grim expression on his face, "Execute our own version
of the Magneto Protocols."
So, Rogue mused as she arranged herself decoratively against
the pillow, LeBeau was the strange, demonic man who had seen
with the X-Men when they had come to investigate Mont St Francis.
The man whose eyes had seemed to cut through the layers of
her careful disguise and see to the soul beneath them. She
recalled his probing gaze, which she had since half-dismissed
as a hormonally-overactive young man's frank appraisal of
a beautiful woman. She, after all, laboured under no illusions
about her attractiveness; saw it as a weapon to be wielded
like a gun or a knife. However, if it were Remy doing the
appraising, she was unsure about whether the inspection had
its origins in lust. Did he know that Rogue, Carol Dee and
Yvonne Montgomery were one and the same?
The earlier thrill of discovering his true identity, of putting
a face and more importantly a location to the legendary LeBeau
name had faded to a strange ambivalence. She had hoped to
conduct her revolution silently, efficiently and secretly,
but the thought of competition with someone of equal skill
and wits was an appealing one. After all, it was the political
equivalent of chess. If she were able to move the other side
of the board without being captured or discovered, the pawn
would become a queen; if not, he would win the game by default.
She would be tried for treason, and sentenced to life imprisonment
in the Hulkbuster Base to be used as a guinea-pig in the government's
disgusting Agee Programme. Fortunately, alpha-class mutants,
such as herself, were few and far between, or else she would
be looking at a death-sentence.
She shivered, trying not to think of the consequences of
failure, and picked up a dog-eared novel from the side of
the bed, noting listlessly that he read Anne Rice. Opening
it to the first page, she settled down for the long wait ahead
Stash snug in the bodypack against his chest, gripping a
cup of Harry's finest joe, Remy LeBeau climbed the steps that
led to his room. Trips to the New York Times' archives
were always profitable, if not in the monetary sense. Although
not the prize he usually pursued, this yellowing newsprint
could be more valuable than any gold or rubies if it had the
information he required. It had taken him hours of painstaking
searching, despite the computerised catalogue, to find anything
and everything pertaining to the terrorist, Rogue\Carol Dee,
and her murder of Carol Danvers. Anything and everything in
the case of the former was unfortunately very little, he thought,
which would complicate his task. As her name implied, Rogue
was a cipher without apparent identity, political affiliation
or motive, a skilled operative who did the job and disappeared
without a trace. In other words, he added wryly, worthy
Transferring the coffee to his left hand, he searched his
pocket for his room-key and unlocked the door. It was not
that he did not trust his team-mates, so much as ancient,
suspicious habit. The coffee slopped over the top of the polystyrene
mug, scalding him, and he swore. Still, he knew that the espresso
would come in useful in the hours ahead of him. He had the
unenviable task of scanning all the articles onto his laptop
before returning them the following night. As was typical
when he was on a job, he had resigned himself to not getting
much sleep that night. Which was probably a good thing --
he thought, desperately trying to conceal his shock -- as
his bed was occupied. By probably the most lovely woman he
had ever seen.
Curled up against his pillow, her bare feet tucked beneath
her, wearing a loose, white dress that revealed tanned shoulders
and throat, she seemed quite at home. Her white-streaked hair
was caught back by twin, silver barrettes, but her face seemed
too young for it to be the result of aging. Words read by
a shocked announcer, printed in every newspaper in the world,
came back to him. The terrorist, who had killed Carol Danvers,
had had hair like that.
How had she found him? Did she know that he was looking for
her, for her connection with the decidedly suspicious Yvonne
Montgomery? Gambit could have laughed, had he not been so
stunned. He'd spent hours scratching through every newspaper
published in the previous four years and the object of his
search had been in his room the entire time.
"What took you so long?" Rogue asked with a strangely
familiar half-smile, "Ah've been waitin' fo' hours."
Continued in Chapter
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