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