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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


Glancing at her portable tracker from time to time, Lieutenant Parker traced her way through the maze of tunnels. The gadget was the only means of navigation that she had in the featureless sewers. Not only did it have an on-screen compass that indicated her position in relation to the homing beacon, but its vibration increased in frequency as she approached it. She was glad for both of the features. Neither direction nor distance had any meaning in this underground labyrinth. She had been walking for what felt like hours, but, if the hand-held device had not been growing more insistent by the minute, she would have sworn that she was making no progress.

She had to admire the rebels' cleverness in choosing their base. It was a natural labyrinth without landmarks by which to orient herself. The only impression that Sabrina got from them was one of overwhelming greyness. The walls and arches were grey, raw stone. The walkways were smooth, grey concrete. The water, that murmured alongside them, was the grey of opaque glass. It was like being lost in a pea soup. She could have walked in circles for hours and not known it. If she had not had her tracker, she probably would have.

Even with it, finding her way through the tunnels was difficult. The compass did not register walls or dead-ends, so she was constantly having to retrace her footsteps and try an alternate path to reach her goal. As she did so, she mentally mapped the route she had followed in preparation for her eventual extraction of Pryde and her return of her to the MPF headquarters. The rebels would probably attempt to follow her, if the supersoldier was anywhere near as damaging to the Emissary's reputation as she imagined, so her escape had to be neat, quick and efficient. At that point, she could neither afford to be trapped nor to retrace her footsteps through a wrong turning.

As she rounded a corner, the little gadget began to vibrate at the frequency that meant she had reached the homing beacon, while the compass on the screen was spinning in circles to confirm the other information. Hating the wastage of resources but knowing it could only betray her now, she crushed it in her fist and tossed it into the water, where it sank noiselessly beneath the surface. It had done its job. It had brought her to the door to the holding cell. Through the slit of the door in front of her, she could make out the vague shapes of manacles in the gloom. Beside it, an electronic lock was set into the wall and she quickly punched in the combination. The door hissed open as the locks slowly disengaged. At least the Contact had been useful for something, she thought wryly.

She had been disappointed, but not surprised, to discover that she could access only his short-term memory and only portions of that. Whenever she tried to focus on the rebels, on their base or on their plans, she would hear a mocking, little tune and have the strangest feeling that someone was smirking at her. It was as if all the dangerous memories had been replaced when she had touched him and had invaded his mind. Admittedly, her powers were a club to a telepath's probe, but she imagined the same would have happened if the latter had attempted to access them more subtly and delicately. If Remy LeBeau had put those defences in place and he was the only one who could have done so, he was a more powerful and skilled psion than the MPF had imagined. It would have taken a number of their best men and women weeks to construct a comparable resistance to mental probing.

"Bright side," she muttered to herself, "It hasn't compromised your op."

She had been lucky in that the code to open the door had not been among the removed memories. That was sloppy of LeBeau. If she had been in charge of the rebellion, she would have made sure the Contact did not know how to open the holding cell. Certainly, it was not a logical place for infiltration - few agents would risk themselves in the way she intended to do - but a great tactician foresaw and pre-empted every means of attack. Which was precisely what LeBeau might have done, if she thought about it.

In her first year of studies at the Academy, their instructor had taught them about deliberate leaks, about misdirection. One of the most basic ways of capturing an enemy was to allow them to discover false information and use it to lure them into a trap. She, herself, had used the technique during her first assignment as a Black Striper. The government had suspected one of the newspaper men of abusing his position of trust by printing a series of pamphlets on corruption in the Traskian administration, but had no real evidence of his involvement. They had all been lies, of course, so it was only just that he had been caught out by the same. She had fabricated a series of bank transactions between a high-ranking official and a company that had just won a high-value contract with his government, then had made sure those records had found their way into the hands of a known informant of his, whose loyalty had switched with the first bill she offered to her. The instant the pamphlets had appeared on the streets, the newspaper man had been taken into custody and executed as a traitor the next day. It would be too ironic if she were captured by the rebellion's use of the same technique, she thought. Still, of all the infiltration stratagies that she had considered, this had been the only one that had even a hope of working and, regardless of the risk it entailed, she had to proceed with it.

Grimacing slightly, she pushed open the door and stepped through it. It swung shut behind her, and she heard the locks hiss back into place. The holding cell was precisely as she remembered it: a small, square room that could not have been more than ten paces in width. The walls were thick, grey stone - cool and slightly damp to the touch - and were studded with manacles at regular intervals. From what she had gleaned from the Contact's mind, he was supposed to use those to restrain himself until a psion could check that he, and anybody he might have brought with him, were clean. The image inducer she was wearing would be of no help to her when it came to fooling the mental scan. She would have to rely on her own resources to do that.

"Ready or not, here I come..."

With a grimace, she placed her wrists into the manacles and they clicked around them. She noted the nature of the technology - sensors that registered heat, or perhaps pressure - and wondered briefly how she could counter it. Her strategy was risky enough without planning for every eventuality. She ran through her plan quickly in her mind. She had to fool the rebels into believing she was the Contact in order to infiltrate their base. When there, she had to extract Soldier Alpha and return her to the lab for reconditioning, which meant isolating her. Failing that, she had to eliminate her. Its apparent simplicity was deceptive. She was all too aware that it was the sort of dangerous, difficult mission out of which heroes - or corpses - were made.

Ironically, however, the first stage of it was simplicity itself: All she had to do was wait.

Sabrina Parker was not sure how many hours she had been manacled to the wall. In the grey limbo of the sewers, she had no way of knowing how much time had passed. Judging by the way her arms were beginning to ache and her stomach to grumble within her, though, it was more than a few hours.

She wondered briefly if they had penetrated her deception and had decided to leave her to starve to death. It would be the most logical, most expedient way to eliminate her. In a few days time, her body would probably be thrown out into the gutters. There would not even be a hero's burial for her. There would be no flag draped over her coffin; no words spoken by her squadron's commander about her bravery and her skill. The Emissary had made it clear that any success or failure with which her mission met would never be acknowledged. As far as anyone knew, she was on furlough. Besides, by the time the scavengers had picked her of everything from clothes to fillings, she would be just another corpse. For all they would know, she could be another nameless corpse of another nameless mutant who starved in the ghettos.

In the midst of similar bleak thoughts, she heard the locks hiss open and she lifted her head to see who had come to release her. She was obscurely disappointed to see that it was not LeBeau. The gladiator in her still prized a worthy opponent above everything else, and the newcomer appeared to be anything but. He was a young man of about twenty-five, who might have been handsome had he not been so haggard. His skin was the pasty colour of an invalid's, while the faint stubble on his jaw and cheeks gave him a vaguely seedy air. The lines about his mouth belonged on a much older, much wiser man. She had to imagine any dark smudges beneath his eyes, because he was wearing sunglasses. They were a ridiculous affectation in the sunless tunnels, she thought in contempt, but typical of your average mutie. Most muties did not even have the sense programmed into gamma sentinels.

"Ya know de drill by now, Contact," his voice was as tired as his face, despite its strangely musical quality, "I'll scan ya, den take ya back to base."

Swallowing hard, Sabrina nodded her acquiescence. Suddenly, she was glad that the boy standing in front of her was not LeBeau. She had anticipated the psiscan, had prepared for it, but it was undoubtedly the riskiest part of the operation. If she could fool this kid and get past it, Soldier Alpha might as well be captured already.

She heard the boy take a deep breath, then felt the light touch of his mind upon hers. Unlike the brutal violations that were the Ghosts' - the psionic corps - routine scans, his psychic probe was gentle and strangely cool. It reminded her of the softness of raindrops on bare, warm skin - the momentary prick of cold, then the smooth glide down naked arms and legs. She had no time to admire his technique, however. In the split second after the first raindrop fell on her, she threw open the part of her mind in which she had stored the Contact's psyche and memories, thoughts, emotions poured out of her like a river in flood...


Blue and yellow love hovering above him.. White and silver cold against his chest. He might be perfect, but he's a mutie. I know he is, so what...? You know they have to be terminated. No! No! He's my son! I love him! You know there is no choice. I love him. Mommy. Warmth. Milk. Lullaby.


Standing in the broken colours cast by the stained glass window, he feels holy. He is humbled and exalted at the same time. Magnificat anima mea dominum. My soul exalts my Lord. He wants to sing along with his soul.


Sister Marguerite is dead. Her skull is split. He can see her brains ooze grey. Around her neck, her rosary is as white as bone.


Her lips on his forehead for a long time. Warm breath like a sigh. I love you, baby. I'm sorry. I love you. I'm so, so sorry. Blue and yellow love swallowed by black night. In the distance, a hymn.


Sister Marguerite was afraid. There was a tremble in her hands, in her lower lip, in her eyes. Kurt, you must get out of here. You must go now. The MPF have discovered that we are keeping you here. Go now and may God be with you! The tremble was in him now, but he ran.


You bastard! She was a good woman! She never harmed anybody! She never harmed you! Why did you kill her? Why? WHY? WHY? The man cannot answer. His eyes are wide and staring. Blood bubbles between his thin, ascetic lips and onto his uniform.

His shields already in tatters from Butcher's Alley, the Contact's memories tore through Remy LeBeau's unprotected mind. They ripped at him. They rent him. They were as simple and primal as the first kill. They were claws and fangs, talons and beaks, teeth and nails. Pain, the worst pain he had ever felt, shot through him. He screamed it. He screamed the agony, the fear, the hatred. His mind was being torn to pieces. He could feel it shred further with every memory that rushed at him through his connection with the other mind.

Desperately, he threw up a feeble shield that he knew was not strong enough to withstand the assault. He felt the memories and emotions crash against it. He felt their violence and their force. His shield would not last long. It could not and he did not know what he would do when it broke. He had nothing left with which to defend himself. He had used up every reserve of energy resisting Butcher's Alley...

Suddenly - as suddenly as it had started - the attack stopped, leaving him doubled over and gulping for air. The room spun crazily, dizzily around him, but, empty of even his own thoughts, his mind was blessedly quiet. Its blankness was a kind of sanity. Nonetheless, when a thought was able to form, it was a disturbing one: all appearances to the contrary, the manacled figure standing in front of him was not the Contact.


Continued in Chapter Seven.

DISCLAIMER: I would say the characters are Marvel's, but I've probably butchered them beyond recognition in writing this story. Nonetheless, I am not making any profit off this story. The most for which I can hope is kind feedback and I'm not even sure whether I shall get any of that. ;) If you've enjoyed it, drop me a line at OR and I'll be very, very grateful.Thanks, as always, to my editor who points out all the glaringly stupid parts to me and makes me wonder why I didn't see them myself. Previous parts can be found at [or pryde1.html -> pryde5.html, if that ain't working]


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