This part is a clear result of indecisiveness. In the light of what happened
on 9/11, I thought it would be insensitive to continue with a story about
terrorism. It certainly does not glorify it, but I thought it might be a bit
close to the bone. However, as time has passed and as I've received a number
of e-mails asking me not to drop it, I've changed my mind. Hence, the debut
of part 11 after so many months.
I've also written the previous eleven parts to cut out a subplot that didn't
accomplish anything, and to remove some of the more high-falutin' prose that
made me cringe now. Those rewritten parts are up at
http://www.geocities.com/textualchemy/fallen.html and I do strongly
encourage you to read them. They'll also be up at FF.net soon under my account.
Otherwise, the characters are still Marvel's and I am still not making a
profit. And I mean the PG13 rating. This has a nasty scene that I wouldn't
want younger kids reading. Nothing worse than Buffy or Angel, though.
Finally, huge thanks to Kaze and Keri for their betaing! If this story is
any good, half of the praise must go to them.
"So, dat Rogue of yours is after Valhalla," Mercy said, handing Remy a steaming cup of coffee before pouring one for herself. Her brother-in-law nodded and sipped at the dark liquid, a worried look on his face. She sat down beside him, tucking her legs beneath her in a futile attempt at getting comfortable. From what she knew about Valhalla -- and government wetworks were a hobby of hers -- he had every reason for concern.
Like the aborted Star Wars program, Valhalla was the product of Cold War paranoia. It was a command station somewhere in Colorado, built to house and control the Doomsmith Command System. Rumor had it that the system was designed to be used in the event of a fatal, nuclear attack on America, when there was no hope of survival. It was a last resort that gave the user absolute control of the arsenal of US missiles. As such, it could potentially be used to hold the world to ransom. She shivered, her hand going automatically and protectively to her abdomen.
"I don' know what t'do, Mers," Remy looked up at her in anguish, "I've known f'r days now, but ... Dieu, I was arrogant enough t'think I could stop her on my own. I t'ought I could flush her out, an' bring her t'justice. Probably ended up givin' her de time she needed to carry through wit' her scheme. For all I know, she be broken into Doomsmith already."
"Or mebbe not," she replied calmly. It was an effort to keep her voice steady, but she knew that panicking would not help the situation, "I say ya call SHIELD. Valhalla be deir baby since NORAD collapsed."
"I got Fury's cellphone number," he told her, then added in response to her clear look of surprise, "Or 'Robert Lord' does. I invented him when I had t' wipe some files about some of our members off SHIELD's systems."
Mercy nodded. She remembered that incident. Some thieves had been filmed breaking into a Republican senator's mansion, and the tapes had found their way into SHIELD's hands. It had not mattered that the politician's money was dirty, nor that the thieves had been employed by one of the government's internal watchdogs. Everyone had disclaimed responsibility for the action, except the thieves who hadn't had a choice in the matter. At the time, it had been a disaster for the Guild, which had been on the point of having its cover blown wide open. They had been employed as individuals as per policy, but people were beginning to ask questions about how unconnected individuals had been able to work as a slick, co-ordinated team. Now, however, it looked like it might save the world. It was almost enough to make Mercy a believer in a higher power.
Giving her a thin smile, Remy removed his own 'phone from his jeans' pocket. Chest tight with tension, she watched as he scrolled down the list of names on his screen to the one that read simply "GOVERNMENT". He pressed the button to dial it, and held the phone to his ear.
Wryly, "Let's hope he's answering his phone..."
"Do you want to come in for coffee?" Rogue asked, extracting her keys from her purse and jingling them.
"Coffee sounds good, Yvonne," Nick Fury replied, adjusting his tie as if it had suddenly grown too tight for him. She smiled to herself, as she turned to unlock the door. She had known he would accept her invitation, just as she had known that he would accept her invitation to a 'business dinner'. Yes, she had gotten his measure at her first interview with him. With his crewcut, pressed uniform and clipped speech, he could only be a member of the Old Boy's Club with all that meant.
She could guess his story too. All of them had the same one. They had fought for their country in the Second World War, and earned more medals than there was room on their chests to pin them. They had used their service record to get into the security business, rising through the ranks in agencies like SHIELD. Eventually, they had made command-level, and began building private empires in their departments. Men were meant to look up - and suck up - to them in a manner befitting genuine American heroes, and women ... well, women were meant to express their appreciation in a different manner, sexual harrassment legislation aside. With times having changed, it was no wonder they were an embarrassment to their employers. She might even be doing SHIELD a favour by getting rid of Nick Fury for them...
"There are some details about the computer systems that I want to discuss with you," he continued, "Agent Pryde did a good job of setting them up for us, but the security is a bit remiss. Especially with the current crop of hackers trying to prove they've got a set of brass ones by hacking into government agencies."
She frowned to herself, wondering if she had misjudged the man. Maybe he only had accepted her invitation because he had thought it would be a good chance to talk business. Maybe he wasn't interested in her as anything but a fellow professional. Maybe he wasn't such a swine after all ... She pushed the thought away from her. It didn't matter why he entered her apartment, only that he did so.
"After you," she stepped aside to let him into the apartment that Mystique had arranged for her in New York. The living room was tastefully and simply furnished in neutral shades with only a few Monet prints on the walls for colour. Off it, the kitchen gleamed chrome.
"Nice place you have here," he remarked conventionally.
"It does what I need it to," she shrugged, twisting to shut the door behind them. The bolts automatically clicked into place to lock it.
He smiled uneasily at her, "You can't be too careful."
"No, ya can't," she replied, dropping her accent with the pretense. The time for subtlety and subterfuge was over. Once she touched him and pulled the access code for Valhalla out of his mind, she could access the Doomsmith Command System and gain control of America's entire, nuclear arsenal, "Ya never know who ya might be locked in a room with..."
Nick's forehead creased in confusion, but she did not give him a chance to put the pieces together. With all the speed and intent of a fighter jet, she flew at him. He scrabbled at his side for his gun, his eyes narrowing in anger. She was too fast for him, however. His hand had only just closed around the butt, when she slammed into him and carried him forward towards the wall. She could feel him go limp in her arms to try and cushion the impact. It would not be enough, she knew. They hit the wall hard enough to shatter the glass of one of the Monet prints, its thin, cold glitters falling to the floor.
If Nick had been limp before, he was boneless now. His neck lolled to one side, his arms and legs sprawled loosely in every direction, his body so much dead weight. Blood oozed out of his nose and the corner of his mouth.
Cursing, because there was no way she could absorb a corpse's mind, she dropped him to the floor and felt at his throat for a pulse. She breathed a sigh of relief as she detected one, as faint as the voice of conscience. He was alive, but dying. She did not have time to waste. She stripped off her gloves and bent him over him. As she touched him and felt his memories flood into her mind, she heard his cellphone ring.
To be continued.
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