DISCLAIMER: Characters belong to Marvel, but the situation is mine. This is a rewrite of the earlier posted version, and previous parts of it can be found on my website at http://www.geocities.com/textualchemy. If you're under 13, you shouldn't be reading this. It has some violence, bad language and . . . some disturbing bits. Go read my Digimon stories instead. ^.^
A Matter of Pryde
Alone, apart from the heavy heartbeat, Katherine Pryde floated in darkness.
Or was she dreaming that she floated? It seemed that she had already been reborn. She remembered a shattering whiteness, a light that had broken her into pieces. Hands had closed around her shoulders, lifting her out of the fluid before placing on her a cold, hard surface. Her body had felt so heavy, and it had almost seemed like it belonged to a stranger. It had taken so much effort to curl a finger, move a foot. Stunned by the light, she had lain there, like a beached whale, and waited to be moved. Worst of all, the steady heartbeat that had measured her days had been gone. There had only been silence and light.
Or had that been the dream? Had she had really been here the entire time? She shrugged off the question. It no longer seemed important. Nothing seemed to matter in this place of shadow, water and heartbeat. Here, she could float free.
As she drifted, a voice began to speak out of the liquid darkness. It said: 0110 010110.
Lying on his bed, staring up at the wooden crucifix that was nailed to a beam, Remy LeBeau prepared himself for murder. Part of him was relieved that he still needed the time to steel himself for the task. He was no ruthless killer. He still had a conscience. He had not yet been made inhuman by the inhuman deeds he had to do. He refused to acknowledge that it became easier every time. Every time, it took a few minutes less to prepare himself; and, every time, it took fewer attempts to justify away the guilt. Soon, he feared he would feel nothing, and, then, he would be precisely like the soldiers who had slaughtered his parents for being mutant sympathisers.
He rolled onto his side, unable to meet the gaze of the figure on the crucifix for a moment longer. For all his fine talk about his conscience, he knew that that day would be no different. The prisoner would be killed after being interrogated. His body would be stripped and his face mutilated, before he was left in the gutters for the scavengers to find. He had gone through the procedure many times in the past, believing it meet that the leader should take on the heaviest burdens and the most difficult tasks. It was ironic. In the end, it did not matter whom the image inducer had disguised. He would end up an anonymous corpse on the streets.
He sighed, checking his wristwatch. He had a few minutes until he was expected. Unuscione was with the prisoner at the moment. He usually took first interrogation, but she had insisted that she would do it, while he rested and recovered from the psionic assault. He wondered briefly if he should have put up more resistance to the idea. Knowing Unuscione's style of questioning, the prisoner might not be in fit condition to speak for weeks. Unlike him, she had no qualms about what they were doing and who they were becoming. She executed her duties without question or without remorse. She even found some pleasure or pride in them to such an extent that there were times when he almost suspected her of being a sadist.
Of all his rebels, she was the one least known to him. He knew there was a story behind how each of them had come to join the rebellion, but she had never told her one to him. Oh, there were whispers of her being born into one of the rich families who bankrolled McTaggert's regime. She had been born to be a society princess, cossetted and adored by all. Failing the mandatory test for the X-Factor gene had put an end to that. In a show of loyalty to the Emissary, Daddy had shipped her off to the Academy. She had escaped from there within the first week, and had run to the only place she could - Callisto's rebellion. It seemed plausible, but he had heard nothing from her that would have confirmed or denied the story, and it remained a rumour.
Wondering how she was getting on with the prisoner, his eyes went back to his wristwatch and he saw that it was time. . . .
"ANSWER ME! WHAT WERE YOU DOING HERE?"
The woman aimed another kick at Sabrina, catching her in the face and splitting open her lip. Pain sparked white and brilliant behind her eyes, and the hot, metallic taste of blood filled her mouth. A scream rushed up inside her, and she clenched her teeth tightly together until her jaw hurt. If she made a single sound, if she opened her mouth to scream, she would tell her torturer everything. She would begin to scream and scream and never stop. She would scream all her secrets. She would scream a betrayal.
She shut her eyes, pressing her head against her knees and telling herself it had been worse in the cages. She concentrated on that remembered pain, and relived it. Again, old scars became fresh wounds. Again, she was impaled, slashed, broken. Again, adrenalin and fear burnt within her. Like light off a blade, the memories flashed in her mind over and over again. She could hear a woman shouting, was aware the blows of hand and feet, but they were as distant and unreal as hope.
Suddenly, the other woman's assault stopped. Her footsteps shuffled away from her across the floor, and her breathing became slow and quiet. In the stillness outside of her, over the tumult within her, Sabrina could hear the beep of numbers being entered on an electronic lock, and the hiss of a hydraulic door opening.
"You're lucky, MPF bitch," the rebel murmured, "Looks like he's come just in time."
Remy LeBeau folded his arms across his chest, trying not to show his surprise and thanking whatever instinct had made him pick up the reflective glasses that hid his eyes. The soldier who had infiltrated their base, the soldier who had ripped through his mental shields, the soldier who was now glaring furiously up at him, was a woman. That should not have made a difference - chivalry had no place in the Era of Humanity - but it did. He always found it harder to kill women. He tried not to wince as he saw the marks of Unuscione's beating on her face. Red marks on her cheekbones would become bruises, blood still flowed from cuts in her lips and forehead, and her eye was swelling up rapidly.
Nonetheless, for all her injuries, she still managed to look defiant.
"Get it over with," the woman snapped, "You're going to kill me, anyway. You know I can block your psiscans, and I'm sure not telling you anything, so you might as well finish the job right now."
Knowing her words to be true, Remy nodded and unsheathed the small, sharp knife that he wore at his belt. He could not explain the impulse that drove him to use a blade, rather than a gun, when he executed people. He only knew that, if he had to kill, he would not do it from a distance. He would not take the easy route.
"I'll make dis as quick as possible," he said, not knowing why he did so.
"Do it," she did not flinch, "I'm prepared to die for my beliefs."
"I'm afraid you're going to get the chance to prove that now," he moved closer and took her chin in his hand to steady her head. As he tilted her head backwards to reveal the jugular, he could see the pulse at the base of her throat quicken at his touch. Her skin was warm, and damp with sweat and blood. It reddened his fingers wherever he touched her. The sight of it caused a liquid, queasy feeling in his stomach, and he looked up from his hands in disgust. The instant he did so, he knew that that had been a mistake, as he caught her eyes.
For the fraction of a heartbeat, he had seen stark terror in them. It had been the animal look of a creature trapped in a corner with no way of escape and a predator bearing down at them. He felt even more nauseous at the thought. She did not care that he had spent an hour steeling himself to kill her; nor did she care that her death would cause him another white night. She did not see him as an ethical man, forced to act against his conscience. All she saw was a killer, a predator, as undistinguished and remorseless as any force of nature. (1) And she feared him.
Now, her eyes held nothing but cynical amusement: "Prolonging it, huh? Like a cat an' a mouse. Playing with me. Making me suffer. Can't say I blame you."
"No," he replied, knowing the words to be true as he spoke them, "I can't kill you."
"That psycho bitch was more than ready to," she shrugged, then winced at the movement, "Guess she's the leader's favourite, sugar. You failed him, just like I failed mah leader."
So, he realised with a start, the woman did not recognise him as the rebellion's leader. He had been feeding false information to the MPF for years now - he had falsified all his personal papers before replacing them in the appropriate bureaux; he had made sure that a 'Remy LeBeau' was caught on camera at some of the warehouses - but he had never been sure how successful it had been. After all, the MPF had entire departments dedicated to exposing frauds and forgeries, and his had hardly been professional quality. It was gratifying to know he had succeeded, but he was not sure whether her ignorance about his true identity would prove any advantage. Any advantage in what? What are you going to do with her, if not kill her?
He pushed the thought away, as he stood and resheathed his knife at his belt. Tomorrow's problems could take care of themselves. For the moment, her wounds urgently needed to be treated. In the sewers, cuts got infected easily, and even shallow ones could prove fatal if they became septic. I didn't spare her to have her die of septicaemia, he thought grimly. After he had seen to her injuries, he could decide her fate.
Walking to one of the cabinets set in the walls, he rummaged inside for the medical supplies he needed. Livable space was at a premium in the tunnels, and, considering how long their prisoners usually remained with them, they could not spare a room for use simply as a cell. Consequently, their prison doubled as storage space, in which Cecilia stashed her medical supplies among other things. It proved convenient in this case, because he did not feel like explaining to the doctor - or to anybody else - why he had chosen not to kill this soldier.
Having gathered everything he required, he returned to crouch beside her.
"Those stolen?" she asked, with what could have been a conspiritorial smile but was probably a grimace of pain.
"Oui. McTaggert blocked off all medical supplies for mutants. These be stolen from a human hospital," he said distractedly, assessing her injuries with a practised eye as he spoke. Of all of them, the gash on her forehead and the split lip were the only two that would require immediate treatment. There was little he could do about the bruises.
"So . . . what's the plan? The old good cop, bad cop routine? Fix me up so Ah trust you an' then sic the psycho bitch on me again? "
"Non, I'm no cop," he replied, "Hold still, mademoiselle."
The lieutenant lifted an eyebrow to indicate the manacles that bound her hands behind her back and the longer chains that led from her ankles to the wall, "Don't have much choice, sugah."
"Dis could sting," Remy told her as he dipped a swab in some hydrogen peroxide and applied it to the cut on her forehead.
She gasped, recoiling from the sharp pain: "Could sting?"
"That's what de doctors always say."
She grunted cynically, but remained still and allowed him to clean her wounds properly. Placing the hydrogen peroxide to one side, he gently applied antiseptic cream to the wounds as an extra precaution. Another gauze swab, stuck in place with some tape, did for a makeshift dressing for the cut on her forehead, while the one on her lip looked as if it were already clotting. He tilted his head to inspect his handiwork, and nodded in satisfaction. If she were to die, it would not be any of his doing.
"So, doesn't leBeau have the guts ta come see me himself?," she asked, while he was wiping his hands clean on a third swab, "Does he enjoy gettin' other people to do his dirty work?"
"Does McTaggert interrogate her prisoners?"
"Of course not!"
"Why should leBeau be any different?" he shrugged, "Chere, you ain't that important in the great scheme of things. You're a pawn in the Emissary's great game of chess."
"Shows what you know. I'm a lieutenant in the Black Stripe Sq . . . ." she stopped in mid-word, mouth snapping shut as if she had said too much. He did not need his empathy to tell that his comment had made her furious, though. Spots of bright colour had risen to her cheeks, and her eyes blazed. Even her back was arched like that of an angry cat. Gotcha, Lieutenant. You're into status, or you have a desperate desire for Big Sister's approval. I can use that to draw you out.
"I don't care if you're a general. All you MPF soldiers are pawns to her. She'd sacrifice you without thinking about it. Wouldn' t shed a tear at your memorials neither."
"And your leader would?"
"Oui. He would."
"Don't give me that holier-than-thou bullshit. In the end, you rebels aren't that different from us soldiers, following a leader, following commands issued from someone too scared to get his or her hands dirty. Tell me, has leBeau ever fought at your side? Ever gone hungry and cold with you? Ever held the dead body of a friend an' wondered if it really was worthwhile to keep the Emissary snug and safe in her office?" she said, a triumphant smile on her face as if she had won a point in their argument.
Remy was silent for a long while, wondering how she could reconcile her professed loyalty to the Emissary with the evident bitterness towards her that her words had revealed. She had said she was prepared to die for her beliefs. The party line would have been a more accurate way to describe it. His mind rehearsed the phrase that had been chanted in the streets by the FOH, that had been scrawled across posters and pamphlets in Times' Square, that had been broadcast on every channel in the nation: "Peace, Prosperity, Purity". Her words had revealed that she was not naive enough to believe that they were genuinely striving for that, or that the MPF's actions were as altruistic as was claimed. Then, why are you fighting, chere? What are you fighting for? Or are you fighting against something?
Slowly, "Yes. I have."
If the lieutenant was surprised by his words, by his identity, she did not show it. She continued to stare steadily at him, her face emotionless and blank. He could read nothing in her green eyes or around the corners of her mouth that would have told him how she was feeling. Then, her lips pursed, as if in thought or in the expectation of a kiss, and she spat full in his face.
He stood and, with infinite dignity, wiped the saliva off his face.
"I'll send Li in with a tray of food, chere," he said, as he began to walk towards to the door, "Sleep tight. I'll see you in the morning."
Continued in Chapter Eight.
(1) I'm sure the ending of that line is a quote, but I cannot remember whether I read it or whether I came up with it for another story. It could be Frederick Douglass' narrative, though?
Down-Home Charm / Fan-Fiction /
Fan Artwork / History Books /
Photo Album / Songbank /
Miscellania / Links /
Legalese: Rogue, the X-Men, and the distinctive likenesses thereof
are Trademarks of Marvel Characters, Inc. and are used without permission. This is an
unofficial fansite, and is not sponsored, licensed or approved by