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"A Matter of Pryde"

A Matter of Pryde

Author's Notes
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8

This story is still in progress.

A Matter of Pryde


"So, Unuscione, how on earth do you spell that?"

From the moment that Pryde had seen Unuscione, she had known that the other woman disliked and distrusted her. Even while she was smiling at Remy and assuring him that she would take care of the new recruit, there had been a look in her eyes that had suggested that she would have preferred to take care of her in a completely different sense - in a sense that involved a knife or a gun. It was disquieting being hated by a complete stranger and Pryde was doing her best to rectify that situation. However, small-talk was wasted on the woman, who inevitably replied with either a grunt or an insult, and her conversational gambits were becoming increasingly desperate.

"So you can earn brownie points with the Holy Cow for getting it right in your reports? Forget it," Unuscioneís rosebud mouth was twisted in an ugly sneer and she flicked her dark curls dismissively over a shoulder. She was dressed in the red coveralls that seemed to be standard issue, judging by the number of rebels, that they passed in the hallway, wearing the same.

"Why is everyone so suspicious? You'd think that you'd want people to join your rebellion," she grumbled, knowing the answer before she spoke but wanting to vent some steam. They were so suspicious, because the other two, major rebellions had been decimated and their leaders "rehabilitated". Because the few pockets of resistance were becoming fewer, while the numbers in the MPF were growing at an unprecedent rate, so they did not know which mutants could be trusted. In short, because the Emissary had given them every reason to be suspicious.

"We welcome loyal people," she replied, as they rounded a corner and entered barracks set out military-style. The bunks were spread with uncomfortable bed-rolls, while metal lock-boxes at their feet, each stencilled with the name of their owner, held any personal possessions. For all that, however, individual touches made the quarters seem almost homely. One bed had pin-ups of an impossibly busty woman in bone armor; another had a battered rag-doll on its pillow. In the middle of the room, an upended crate served as a table around which a group of people was playing poker.

"This is Pryde," her lips curved in disdain at the name, "She claims to want to help us. Although I have my doubts about her loyalty, Remy dismissed them and insisted that I bring her to your squad."

"Oooh, U, your pretty pout didnít make him melt," a young man with pale hair quipped,"Iím sure youíre crushed."

Stifling a smile at the womanís outraged expression, Pryde looked gratefully at him, glad that someone was prepared to take her part against Unuscione. He was scruffily dressed and he needed a shave and a haircut, but, for all she preferred her men well-groomed, she had a feeling she would like him. His eyes, a clear shade of amber, were mischievous as he grinned at her, "Ií m Bobby Drake, but feel free to call me the fulfillment of your every fantasy. Beautiful woman do in general."

"Yeah, in your dreams!", a pretty, Asian teenager stuck her tongue out at him. Like her eyebrows and her nose, it had a metal ring in it that sparkled in the dull light. Unlike her guideís immaculate red ones, her overalls were covered with graffiti where they were not torn or studded. Despite all that, her most striking feature still managed to be her hair - it was cut into short, angry spikes and streaked orange like that of a tiger. Sensing the womanís scrutiny, she turned a smile on Pryde, "Iím Jubilation Lee - Jubilee, for short. Thatís Li," she pointed to a pretty, hispanic woman with a beauty spot to the right of her mouth and a dark braid curling down her back, "And thatís Raven."

Pryde raised an eyebrow as she recognised the woman from the picture that had accompanied the official reports. Commander Raven Darkholme, who had been one of Moiraís most loyal supporters, had defected to the rebellion four years ago and was one of the most wanted women in North America as a result. Had she not been a shapeshifter, it would have been difficult to mistake her in a crowd. She looked like a Hindi goddess with her blue skin and glossy, red hair, chopped bluntly to shoulder-length. Yellow eyes, the same brimstone color as the Contactís, looked thoughtfully at the younger woman as if not certain what to make of her.

"There are others which you will meet in due course," Unuscione finished with a glare at Jubilation, "But we feel it is better that you become acquainted with only a few members at a time."

"In case I turn traitor," Pryde added wryly, "I know, U, I know."

"The leader is taking a risk with you. It is foolish of him," she crossed her arms in front of her breasts, clearly sensing she was being mocked but finding nothing specific in the words to which to react.

"Lighten up, Unuscione, are you worried that someone will take your position kissing Remyís ass?" Jubilee smiled pleasantly, "Of course, thatís not the way you want to kiss him, but . . . hey, keep sticking your chest out at him and he might notice you one day."

The womanís mouth compressed to a thin, furious line and she turned on a heel, stalking off in the opposite direction and muttering to herself about brats who got too big for their boots. With some relief, Pryde realized that any power Unuscione had was purely imaginary and imagined by the woman herself. After all, if the woman had been in charge of her, she could have made her life extremely unpleasant in the subtle, petty ways that commanding officers had.

Iceman chuckled, "Ignore her - she's always like that when the coffee runs out."

"Coffee? I thought that was humans-only," Pryde could not keep the surprise out of her voice, "Haven't had some since . . . geez, I canít even remember when I had the stuff."

"Does the word 'rebellion' mean anything to you? We're meant to do illegal things," Jubilee explained with a cheerful grin.

"Like cheat at cards," Bobby added, dealing an extra hand and patting the place on the floor next to him,"Or wear pink with red."

She shook her head incredulously as she settled between him and Raven, "Coffee . . . . Unbelievable. I think I might like it here."

As Sabrina Parker left the bar, head bowed and shoulders hunched in the defensive posture that she found attracted the least trouble, she saw a playing card lying among the empty bottles and cigarette butts that were a scummy barís typical exterior decor. It was the Ace of Spades, she realised as she bent and retrieved it, the rebellionís identification signal if the memories she had absorbed from Guido Carosella were to be believed. Had Soldier Alpha dropped it? If so, was she already with the rebels?

Checking to see that no curious eyes were watching, the lieutenant extracted out a portable, fingerprint scanner from the pocket of the leather jacket that she wore over her black bodysuit and ran it over the card. A slight smile touched the corner of her mouth as the results flashed on the tiny screen: left hand prints, no right, and a perfect match to her targets. The rebels were getting careless, because this would be her ticket into their head-quarters . . . .

Wrinkling his nose in distaste, the Contact held his glass of water to the light. Brown flecks floated in it, making a lie of Guidoís claim that it came from one of the human water-sources. It would have been boiled and bleached, of course, but the thought of what he might be drinking sated the his thirst very quickly and effectively. He sighed and pushed the glass away from him. It had been a slow night, punctuated only by a few, thrilling moments of fear where he had seen the eyes of known MPF spy on him. He had forced himself to meet the womanís blue gaze and smile pleasantly: a difficult task considering that all he had wanted to do was teleport back to the base as fast as possible.

"You th' Contact?"

He started more at being recognised than at the unexpected voice, which was low and urgent. The Ace of Spades was slid across the wood of the table and a young woman sat down opposite him. Her hair, chestnut with an unusual streak down the middle, was cropped close to her head and her green eyes were solemn for all her lips smiled at him. A black bodysuit outlined a slim, well-toned body, while a scruffy, leather jacket was proof against the chill of the evening.

"Ja," he replied simply.

"Ahím here to join you."


Continued in Chapter 3.


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