THE ARCHETYPE ASSOCIATION
"It breathes!" Henry announced. "It walks!
It shows no signs of higher brain functions whatsoever! Is
"Dead?" Betsy added.
"Keith Richards?" Bobby finished.
"No! It's the X-Men's contribution to altered states
of consciousness, Mister Will Riley!" Henry finished
with a Kermit the Frog "Yay!"
Will's only response was to let his head thud onto the table
and emit a groan reminiscent of Lurch from The Addams Family.
"There must have been a switch somewhere. The X-Men have
been replaced by the Not-Quite-Ready-For-Any-Time Players."
"Weren't you up earlier?" Betsy asked. "I
thought I caught a psi-flash from you at around four."
Betsy had worked the night watch, and was having a quick bite
before heading to bed.
"Answering nature's call," Will mumbled. "I
didn't want to wake Rogue up, so I just headed back to my
room." He pulled his glasses out of a shirt pocket and
put them on. "Could I see the paper, please?" Taking
it from Bobby, he glanced at the front page blearily.
A moment later, he was on his feet, his eyes wide open. "Oh,
Five minutes later, Rogue was awakened by the sound of a
frantic knock at her door. She jumped out of bed and started
towards the door, but stopped when she caught a look at herself
in the mirror and realized that she was still wearing the
see-through leotard. She grabbed a robe and put it on, then
opened the door.
Will stood there, looking unkempt and nervous. "Can
you be ready to leave in two hours?"
"Dublin. Remember when I talked to Jeff Riordhan while
we were on the road? His daughter's sweet sixteen is tomorrow,
and I promised to be there."
"Can't you just teleport over?"
He shook his head. "Jeff will want documentation on
the trip. Besides, I'll need the time to go over my paperwork."
She nodded. "Have you talked to 'Roro yet?"
"She and Xavier already gave their okay. Pack light.
Anything extra you need, we'll get there."
"I'll be ready in half an hour."
Ninety minutes later, they boarded a British Airways jet
and made themselves comfortable in their business class seats.
Rogue carried only a moderately sized purse, but Will's briefcase
was bulging with both his computer and a stack of papers.
Once the plane had taken off and the sign indicated that
they could unbuckle their seat belts, Rogue opened up her
purse and took out her Discman. "What did you bring?"
Will asked her.
"Nazgul, Kate Bush, Meat Loaf, and the Grease
soundtrack. Are you going to be working the whole trip?"
"Probably," he said with a grimace. "I have
a lot to go over."
"Can I do anything to help?"
"Not just yet. Once I have a good idea of how I'm going
to tackle this, I can let you know. Just relax for now."
"Okay." She turned on her CD player and focused
her attention on the latest Danielle Steele novel.
After about an hour or so, she decided to give her eyes a
rest. Glancing over at Will, she saw that he had already finished
a respectable portion of his paperwork. She slipped the headphones
off her ears and tapped him lightly on the shoulder. "How's
"Not bad," he said as he removed his glasses and
rubbed the bridge of his nose. He handed her a notepad. "Can
you double-check these numbers?"
She took the pad from him and mentally checked his arithmetic.
"Seems right. What's this in, thousands?"
He suddenly blushed. "Not quite."
She looked at him for a moment, confused. Then her jaw dropped.
"Millions?" she mouthed silently.
"Since this point last quarter. The second column is
since last year."
She added the second column up. "This is your profit?
Not your net worth?"
"I'm not even sure what my net worth is right
now. That's one of the reasons I'm having this meeting. The
birthday party is just an excuse, really. I haven't seen Jeff's
family in a while, and I like to keep in touch with them."
"No wonder you said that we couldn't bleed you. You
were probably making money faster than we could spend it."
"I wouldn't go that far. Most of what I have
is either in long-term investments, or being used to expand
my intelligence capabilities. I don't have that much in liquid
"How much is not that much?"
"About eighty mil or so."
"How much do you pay in taxes?"
"Less than you'd think. Jeff knows some very creative
"When did you hire him?"
"About seven years ago. He had just graduated from law
school, but he hadn't been able to make the usual connections
that you need to be really good in the field. He'd been concentrating
on his work, not back room politics. I respected that, and
I respected the fact that he took time off from law school
to take care of his daughter when his wife was ill."
"Are you close to his family?"
"I make sure to see them on their birthdays, send gifts
on their wedding anniversary, that sort of thing. Since I
put a small part of Jeff's salary into my portfolio, they
make a comfortable living."
"What does his wife do now?"
"She's a data systems consultant. She and Kitty could
probably talk shop for hours." He paused when the flight
attendant came by to offer refreshments. "I've debated
letting them both into my informant network, but it's a bit
risky. It's a damn shame, though, because they're both very
bright. I think the odds are good that Jeff has suspicions
about how I spend my time."
Rogue blinked in surprise. "Is he trustworthy?"
"Absolutely. His conversations with me fall under attorney-client
privilege, since I make sure to mention some aspect of my
business every time we meet. When other people are around,
I keep the conversation focused on everything but business.
It drives Jeff crazy, but he accepts my reasoning." He
signed another document and put it on the bottom of the pile.
"What's their daughter like?"
His face became reflective. "Maire? To be honest, I
don't really know. I haven't seen her in a few years. I'm
looking forward to this party, because it'll give me a chance
to catch up on things with her."
"She knows you that well?"
He pointed at himself. "Say hello to 'Uncle Will'."
She grinned. "You've got to be kidding."
"Nope. I made a deal with her a few years ago. I match
any money that she makes on her part-time jobs, pay her for
high grades, do research into scholarships, and send her care
packages around exam time. She's been making high honors for
the past three years."
"What does she want to major in?"
"I was going to ask her that tomorrow. We'll get to
Dublin at about five P.M. local time, and I'll call Jeff to
find out where he made the reservations. We'll have a light
dinner on our own, then get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow,
we'll meet up with them about ten or so, and see if Maire
has any objections to an all-day shopping spree. You can go
along, and Jeff and I will meet you for dinner."
"Where will you two be?"
"Going over business."
"To be honest, I was kind of hoping you'd let me listen
in on that."
"I didn't think you'd be interested."
"Why not? Bobby's taught me enough about accounting
that I won't come off like a total idiot in front of Jeff.
We can all go with Maire after you're done."
He thought about it for a moment. "Okay then. I'll call
About an hour later, they were served a light lunch, then
offered headphones for the movie. Will declined politely,
choosing to get back to work. Rogue simply closed the shade
to her window and fell asleep.
As he paused for a moment to gather his thoughts, Will noticed
a pair of blue eyes peeking out from behind the chair in front
of him. He smiled, and a blond girl, about four years old,
leaned over to smile back. Will put a finger to his lips,
then pointed at Rogue. The girl nodded, then pointed to the
seat next to her and let her head go limp as she closed her
Will grinned, then held one finger up for attention. Reaching
into his shirt pocket, he took out his sunglasses and put
them on in place of his reading glasses. He then started typing
again, holding his hands like a piano player and waving his
head from left to right. The girl giggled, covering her mouth
with one hand. Will grinned at her again, then got back to
After a while, Rogue awoke and stretched as best she could
in her seat. "What's our time like?" she asked with
"New York time or Dublin time?"
"I meant how much more flight time."
"About two and a half hours. Want some coffee?"
"Sounds good. Black, please."
Will smiled and went to the commissary. A minute later, he
came back with a mug of steaming hot coffee. "Here you
go," he said as he gave it to her.
"Thanks." She sipped at it and looked at Will's
paperwork, which had diminished considerably. "You got
a lot done," she noted.
"The laptop is a big help. I'd be spending most of my
time going over my notes without it. I'll have to think of
some way to thank Forge for making it."
"The best way to do that would be to take one of Ororo's
shifts so she can go see him."
"I think that's doable." He reviewed another document
and signed it.
Forty-five minutes later, Will completed the last of his
business work. "Glad that's finally over,"
he said to himself as he took off his glasses and rubbed the
bridge of his nose.
"Are you going to rest now?"
"I don't want to risk damaging the plane," he said
to her in a low voice.
"That's a good point."
"Besides," he said, "I still have to set us
up with a hotel room." He reached down into his seat's
armrest and pulled out the phone which was stored inside it.
After digging his wallet out of his back pocket, he ran a
credit card through and dialed a number. "Hello. I would
like to rent one of your double occupancy rooms for this evening
and tomorrow evening. The highest grade which you have available.
We'll be arriving at about six or seven P.M. Last name is
Riley, I'll be paying by charge card, Bank of Ireland Platinum
Visa. I'll give you the account number when I arrive."
He listened for a moment. "That will be fine. Thank you."
He returned the phone to its place inside the armrest.
"We all set?"
He nodded. "I think that's it. We'll figure out where
to eat once we've checked in. If customs is too much of a
hassle, I may decide to crash at the hotel early."
"That's right, you haven't taken a nap today. Are you
"Oh, I'm okay. The crowds at customs may wear me out,
though, depending on how bad they are." He opened up
a pocket in his laptop case and removed both a CD case and
a small pair of earphones. "I think I'll just listen
to some music for a while."
"Okay. What do you relax to?" She took a look at
the title of the CD.
They got through customs fairly quickly, then grabbed a taxi
to the Merrion Hotel. After checking in and settling into
their room, they went out to find a place to eat. A few minutes
later, they decided to simply drop in at what appeared to
be the local pub. Will chose to sample the stew and the house
root beer, and Rogue had the fish and chips, choosing to sample
the stout, which she found to be slightly bitter, but good
nonetheless. "I could start developing a taste for this
stuff," she admitted.
"It's been keeping Irish workers going for years,"
Will told her. "I remember reading somewhere that Guinness
is so dense in nutrients that you could live on it for a little
"Don't tell Logan that. He might try to prove it."
They paid for the meal, then went back to the hotel, where
Will called Jeff to arrange their meeting time, which they
decided would be eight o'clock the next morning at Jeff's
office. "Ask Nuala and Maire to come by the office at
about two. We should be nearly done by then. We'll have the
limo pick us up, then go to the shops and the restaurant.
If she's up to the idea, we can hit a club afterwards. All
right, see you at eight." He hung up the phone, then
yawned. "What time is it?" he asked Rogue.
She glanced at the clock on the nightstand. "Almost
"It might be a good idea for me to hit the sack early,"
he mused. "I'll need an hour or two before the meeting
to let my brain kick in."
"I'll be going to bed early, too. That nap I took on
the plane threw my internal clock for a loop." She stretched,
rolling her shoulders to get the kinks out. "I think
I'll take a shower first, though."
"You expect me to be able to sleep now that I've heard
"You could always watch," she told him with a wicked
"Now there's a thought."
She laughed and kicked off her sneakers, then walked towards
the bathroom, unbuttoning her shirt as she went. She closed
the door partway behind her, then tossed her clothes onto
a chair just outside the door.
Will stood up and changed into his pajamas, then climbed
underneath the sheets and dimmed the lights to a level which
was comfortable enough for him to fall asleep, but bright
enough for Rogue to find her way around the room. He quickly
started to nod off, barely hearing the sound of Rogue's hair
dryer from the bathroom.
After a few minutes, the bathroom door opened, and Rogue
walked out, wrapped in a towel. "Maybe I should take
the other bed," she whispered to herself when she looked
at Will's sprawled form.
Will's eyes opened. "Only if you want to," he told
She smiled. "I'd rather have the company." She
took her body stocking and microfiber mask from her bag and
slipped into them, smiling at Will's appreciative whistles
and growls. "You're a dirty old man," she told him
in a teasing voice.
"I didn't say that." She tied her hair back
into a ponytail and pulled it through the back of her mask
as she put it on. Will moved over and lifted up the sheets
as she curled up beside him, tucking her head into the crook
of his arm. She wrapped her arm around his chest and sighed
happily. "Sweet dreams, love."
"Hey, that's my line."
"Oh, shut up and kiss me."
They awoke at six the next morning, after Will tossed the
ringing phone halfway across the room. "The designers
did their job too well," he grumbled.
"The telephone ring was the fiendish product of both
engineers and psychologists. It was specifically designed
to be so annoying that you'll answer it just to shut it up."
She laughed. "Go hit the showers. I want a bite to eat
before we go to see your lawyer."
They sampled the continental breakfast, then grabbed a taxi
to an area of the city where glass office buildings and nineteenth-century
flats stood side by side. Will asked the driver to stop beside
a small, tasteful three-story house on a corner. He stepped
out of the cab and took Rogue's hand as she stepped out. "Nice
place," she commented.
"Jeff only uses three rooms. The rest is other offices."
"Do you own the building?"
"I considered buying it, but I decided that it might
be a little intimidating for Jeff if I literally owned the
roof over his head. I just rent the space."
"What floor is he on?"
"Top. He likes the view," he explained upon seeing
her features droop.
She sighed. "Okay. Let's start climbing."
Three steep flights of steps later, they reached a plain
office door, with a small nameplate on the side which read
J. Riordhan, Esq.. Will tapped lightly on the door,
and it opened a few seconds later.
The man who appeared from behind the door was a few centimeters
taller than Will, with sandy blond hair and blue eyes which
were framed by horn-rimmed glasses. "Will!" he said
with a smile. "You're actually on time!"
"Miracles do sometimes occur," Will replied
dryly before breaking into a grin. "How are you doing,
"Great. Come on in." He motioned them into the
office, most of which was devoted to a large desk, two plush
chairs, and several file cabinets. Shelves of law books lined
the walls, and a small refrigerator was nearly hidden in one
"You've cleaned up," Will said approvingly.
"I've been switching to electronic records for most
of the work. It makes things go a lot faster. You haven't
introduced me to your lovely companion." He looked at
Rogue with a glint of amusement in his eyes.
"My mistake. Jeff, Miss May O'Hara. May, this is Jeff
Riordhan, my attorney, broker, and partner in crime."
"My pleasure, Miss O'Hara," Jeff said, giving her
a firm handshake. "I can see that Will's description
of you wasn't an exaggeration."
"Oh, we'll get along just fine," Rogue said
with a smile.
Will glanced at the clock. "We'd better get started.
We have a lot to go over." They all sat down, and Will
opened his briefcase, booted his computer up, and handed Jeff
the documents which he had reviewed on the plane. "Everything
looks like it's in order. What's the total right now for the
fund as a whole?"
Jeff glanced at Rogue uncertainly. "You can trust May's
discretion. She and I have been together long enough for her
to have a good idea of what I've been doing."
Jeff shrugged. "It's your decision." He tapped
at his computer for a few seconds. "As of closing in
Hong Kong, you were worth... you want it to the nearest million?
Okay, about forty-five point two seven billion." He glanced
up. "Uh, Will? Your girlfriend just fried a chip."
Will turned his head towards Rogue, then reached over and
pushed her chin upwards, closing her mouth. "Remember
to breathe, dear."
She stared at him. "You are taking me on the biggest
shopping spree later."
"He can only access a small percentage of that money,"
Jeff pointed out. "Most of it gets rolled back into various
"Besides, May, you're worth a good chunk of change yourself
by this point. Remember the funds I started? They've been
doing very well."
"But they haven't been open that long," Rogue protested.
"You're forgetting that the stock market has been doing
very well lately," Jeff reminded her. He tapped
at his keyboard again. "Right now your share of the fund
is worth about one hundred twenty-seven thousand punts."
"What's that in dollars?"
Jeff thought for a moment. "The punt and the dollar
have been running pretty even lately. Let's say it's about
one hundred twenty-five thousand. Your initial loan is paid
off, so you can touch it immediately if you want."
"I'd feel better if you didn't, though," Will admitted.
"I'd like to see the funds at ten million apiece before
any withdrawals start."
She nodded, still dazed at the notion of suddenly being a
rich woman. Mystique had set up an account for her years ago,
of course, but Rogue had not touched it since joining the
X-Men, feeling that it was somewhat hypocritical to use money
derived from the sorts of activities that she was now supposed
to work against. She had never gotten rid of the money however.
She was a 'hero', true... but Mystique didn't raise a fool.
"Did you want to go to the Crypt today?" Jeff asked
He nodded. "We'll take care of that after everything
else is done today. They won't be awake for another twelve
hours or so, anyway. Let's start with the TKO fund. How much
is it up by?"
Jeff tapped at the keyboard again. "You've been pretty
conservative with that lately. It's up by about one and a
"Move it into the moderate risk division. I may be using
"Right. What next?"
"Let's just go over it all one part at a time."
Over the next six hours, Will and Jeff reviewed every aspect
of Will's finances. Rogue listened intently, amazed at both
the scope and breadth of Will's influence in the business
world. If she understood it all correctly, Will had been spending
the past three years quietly amassing large shares of stock
in many of the publicly traded companies of the Standard and
Poor 500. He had been averting suspicion by using dummy companies
and purchasing through one-on-one transactions rather than
on the open market. He chose not to exercise his voting options,
so he was not bothered by the usual corporate infighting found
in the corporate world.
They were finishing up the last of the foreign bonds when
Jeff's phone rang. He looked at Will, who nodded, then picked
up the mouthpiece. "Hello, Jeffrey Riordhan speaking.
Oh, hello, love. Yes, I'm almost done. Just come on up, I
should be ready by the time you get here. Goodbye."
"That was our signal?" Will asked.
"They're at the end of the block. Why don't you two
step into the loo until they get here?"
"Good idea." He and Rogue stood up and went into
the small bathroom which adjoined Jeff's office, leaving the
door open just a crack.
After about three minutes, they heard the other door open.
"Hi, Da!" a cheerful feminine voice announced. "Ready
Jeff sighed theatrically. "I'm sorry, love, but I can't
go just yet."
"What?" was the hurt reply. "But why?"
"I just finished talking with a client. He and I have
some business to discuss, and I can't leave the office until
it's taken care of." As he spoke, Will and Rogue quietly
opened the bathroom door and sneaked into the office. Rogue
could only see the backs of the two women who stood in front
of Jeff's desk. They looked similar, with willowy builds and
long, straight brown hair. She hung back as Will stood about
half a meter behind the one on the left.
The smaller person sighed. "What's so important?"
"Seeing my favorite niece," Will said casually.
The girl let out a high pitched peep of shock and surprise,
then spun around, looking up at Will's face. "Uncle
Will!" she squealed in delighted recognition as she
jumped into his arms and received a bear hug. "I thought
you were in the U.S.!"
"Happy birthday, kidin," he told her with
a grin. "I decided to surprise you this year. How does
it feel to hit sweet sixteen?"
"Not much different," she admitted. "I still
have homework due tomorrow." She looked over his shoulder
at Rogue. "And this has got to be May."
"Pleased to meet you, Maire," Rogue said with a
smile as she offered her hand to the girl.
Maire's grin widened. "Oh, I just love your accent!
You're from the Low South?"
"Deep South," Rogue corrected her gently. "Mississippi,
to be exact." As she spoke, she studied the girl closely.
Maire appeared to take after the woman standing next to her,
who Rogue assumed was her mother. The pale, clear skin of
her face was framed by straight brown hair, which was tied
back in a loose ponytail. Her brown eyes displayed a mixture
of playful humor, excitement, and affection.
Maire disengaged herself from Will's embrace and shook Rogue's
hand firmly. "I'm glad I finally got the chance to meet
you. Uncle Will talks about you in all his messages to us."
"He writes you letters?"
Will snorted. "Who writes letters nowadays? I use email
like everybody else." He glanced at his watch. "We'd
better get going."
"You're not leaving already, are you?" Maire asked
in a hurt voice.
"No," Nuala said, speaking for the first time,
"we all are. Tell her what she's won, Will."
Will switched his voice to a passable imitation of Don Pardo.
"You, Maire Riordhan, will spend a day in the fashion
shops of your choice. After choosing an ensemble, you will
be taken to dinner, where you will dazzle all present with
your charm and grace. The evening will be crowned by a visit
to Renard's, one of Dublin's premier dance clubs. Lastly,"
he finished as he removed a small box from his jacket pocket
and handed it to her, "you have won a free box of Rice-A-Roni,
the San Francisco treat!"
Maire laughed again. "You never change, Uncle Will.
But how are we going to get there? Our car's a little too
small for all of us."
As if on cue, Jeff's phone rang, and he picked it up. "Hello,
Jeffrey Riordhan speaking. Thank you, we'll be right there.
Your answer awaits," he told Maire as he hung up the
phone and put on his jacket.
They all left the office and went down to the street, where
the limousine was waiting for them. "Ladies first,"
Will said with a smile as the chauffeur opened the door. Maire,
Nuala, and Rogue all stepped inside, taking the rear seat,
and Jeff and Will settled into the front seat, which faced
the rear of the car. "So, Maire," Will asked, "where
can we find your dream outfit?"
Maire thought a moment, then looked at her mother and Rogue.
"Are you two going to get outfits?"
"I sort of have to," Rogue confessed. "I wasn't
given much time to pack."
"Be nice," Will said mildly.
Maire leaned forward and gave the driver an address. "This
place should make us all happy."
Soon afterwards, they stopped in front of a small shop which
was tucked between two brownstones. Will spoke with the driver
for a few moments, making sure that they could agree on a
break schedule (on Will's tab, of course). A few minutes later,
they stepped into the store, the ladies went straight to the
racks, and the men found chairs to sit in while they read
the paperbacks which they had hidden in their jacket pockets.
"You know this is going to take a few hours," Jeff
"I'm an old hand at it by now," Will shrugged.
"Just be ready to 'ooh' and 'ah' when they come out for
"Right. By the way, you never did explain why
you were incommunicado for a few days."
Realizing that Jeff was talking about the road trip following
the events in Salt Lake City, Will decided to tell part of
the truth. "Exhaustion. I did nothing but rest and bum
around, then spent a few days in Chicago with May and some
Jeff nodded in approval. "Good. I've been telling you
for years that you push yourself too hard." He looked
at Will closely for a moment. "She's a good influence
on you. I haven't seen you this relaxed in a long time."
"It's easy for me to relax when I'm around May. She
keeps me from taking myself too seriously."
Their conversation was interrupted by Maire, who practically
skipped into their field of vision. "What do you think?"
she asked them as she showed off her outfit, which combined
a gold lame tube top, a full-length pleated skirt in burgundy
with shots of gold thread providing highlights, and a black,
"You look fabulous, Maire," Will gushed. "Your
father and I will have to beat back the boys with sticks."
"Thanks," she replied, smiling. "May asked
me to tell you that she'll be out in a few minutes."
"There's no need to rush. We have plenty of time."
"Not really. You still have to get an outfit."
Will looked at his grey tweed jacket and slacks. "What's
wrong with this?"
Maire rolled her eyes, muttering a few naughty words in Gaelic.
"It's fine for a board meeting, but not for a dance club.
You may have grey hair, Uncle Will, but that doesn't make
you an old man. It's my birthday, and I say that you're
going to wear something that'll get attention tonight."
"You tell him, sugar," Rogue said as she walked
out in a knee-length green skirt, black turtleneck, and tweed
jacket. "I can never get him to dress down when we go
"It looks like you're outnumbered, Will," Jeff
"You're not going to rise to my defense?"
"Do I look suicidal?"
"Okay," Will sighed when they reached a mens' clothing
store that met with the ladies' approval, "did you have
anything in mind?"
"Let's start with the jacket," Rogue decided.
"What about it?"
Will shrugged and handed his jacket to Jeff. "Keep an
eye on this," he requested. "I'll wear what they
pick out to the club, but not to dinner. And I get power of
veto," he warned the women.
"We'll see," Rogue said ominously. "Any ideas,
"Let's see how he looks in blue," the young woman
said thoughtfully. "That should go well with his hair
and eyes. Black would work, too."
"Let's combine both," Will suggested. "How
about a grey shirt, blue pants, and black coat?"
"Sounds a little basic."
"What if the coat was black leather?"
Rogue thought about that. "That could work. Let's see
how it looks on you."
After a few minutes of searching through the racks, the requisite
items were found, though Rogue needed a moment to mentally
convert the sizes from European to U.S. "Give these a
shot," she told Will as she handed him the clothes.
"Okay," he said with a resigned expression as he
went to the dressing room, "I'll be out in a minute."
"I'm not sure if this was the right outfit for me, May,"
Nuala suggested as she sat in her chair. She was dressed in
what could best be described as the typical Little Black Dress,
with red heels and a red, sequined jacket which made her appear
to be a bit curvier than was actually the case.
"You look great, Nuala," Rogue said with a grin.
"By the way, I wanted to ask.... what does your name
"It's from Celtic mythology. Will was amused by that,
as I recall. It used to get me in trouble one in a while back
when I was in school."
"Try having a pagan name in a country that's ninety-seven
"That must have hell for you.... no pun intended."
Nuala shrugged. "It gave me a thick skin, and taught
me not to give a damn about what other people think. Jeff
told me that's what he found most attractive about me."
"The fact that you were... and still are... the most
beautiful woman that I've ever met didn't hurt, though,"
Jeff said as he sidled up behind Nuala and wrapped his arms
"Thanks, love," Nuala murmured as she leaned her
head back and kissed him lightly on the cheek. Rogue found,
to her surprise, that she was not made uncomfortable by the
open display of affection, as she might have been in the past.
Will's been influencing me more than I thought.
Maire simply rolled her eyes. "Save it until you get
"Are they checking each other's tonsils again?"
Will asked as he walked out.
"'Fraid so, Boss," Jeff said with an unrepentant
grin. "What's the verdict?"
"I like it," Will admitted as he studied himself
in the mirror. His coat had a somewhat glossy sheen to it
which complemented both the navy shirt and the highlights
of his hair.
"So do I," Rogue agreed. Then she frowned. "Something's
"You're right." Will picked up his jacket and removed
his sunglasses. "Much better," he said as he put
them on. He looked at Maire. "What do you think,
"Not bad," Maire said thoughtfully. "I think
we can do something with it."
"You think he's salvageable?" Rogue asked.
"There's definite potential here," she conceded.
"I'm so glad to hear that," Will said dryly. "I
was afraid that I'd be the only billionaire at the party that
no one wanted to talk to."
After a sumptuous meal at Maire's favorite restaurant, they
were driven to Renard's Will advised the driver that they
would likely be inside for several hours. "Do you have
a beeper?" he asked.
"Tell you what," he offered. "I'll pay your
cover fee if you promise that you won't drink, and will leave
as soon as I buzz you."
"No problem, sir," the young man said with a grin
as he stepped out of the car and tossed his cap inside.
It was still relatively early in the evening, so they did
not have long to wait before entering the club. Will reacted
immediately to the loud music, quickly inserting his earplugs.
A brief talk with Maire led them to a table above the dance
floor, where a respectable crowd had already begun to gather.
"I'm going to go down there, okay Da?" Maire asked
"Just check in with one of us every once in a while,"
Jeff requested. "I don't want you vanishing on us."
"I'll come by every half hour or so," she promised.
"Besides, if there is any trouble, I always have
the last gift Uncle Will gave me." She grinned
and bounced off.
"What did you give her?" Rogue asked.
"A ten centimeter, one-hand action, liner lock folding
"He gave me one, too," Nuala added. "I never
go out without it. Some parts of Dublin can get pretty dangerous
"You don't have to tell me about that," Rogue supplied.
"I live an hour or so from New York, and I've run into
some of the Underground." The Morlocks count, I guess.
"Is New York really that bad?" Jeff asked.
"It's like any other city," she shrugged. "As
long as you're careful, you won't have any problems."
A waitress came by to take their orders, and they were all
sipping at their drinks a few minutes later. Jeff had ordered
a shaken vodka martini, Nuala a glass of Merlot, Rogue a pint
of Guinness, and Will a Coke. "So, May," Nuala asked
with an impish smile, "what's a girl like you hanging
around with a lump like Will?"
"He's my sugar daddy," Rogue said, grinning. "I'm
just sponging off him until somebody better comes along."
"Oh," Will said in mock anger, "so now
the truth comes out. I was wondering what the getaway car
Jeff laughed. "You two definitely make a good team.
What did you have to do to make him say the 'L' word?"
"You wouldn't believe it," she said in perfect
honesty. "I'm still not sure I believe it."
"Well," Will drawled, "you're the one who
said that you wanted an exciting, passionate relationship.
I supply the first part, and you supply the second part."
"He does have a way with words, doesn't he?"
Nuala said with a smile.
They chatted about various innocuous subjects for a while.
Rogue was surprised at how easily she was able to relax with
the married couple. Although both Jeff and Nuala were professionals
who were wealthy in their own right, they were absolutely
without a trace of ego, a trait which she surmised had endeared
them to Will. They were honestly interested in her as well,
and she felt slightly bad that she had to give them answers
which were, at best, only half-true.
They were interrupted by the appearance of Maire, who bounded
up to their table, practically quivering with excitement.
"Just checking in," she assured them.
"Enjoying yourself, kidin?" Will asked.
"I'm having a blast!" She took his hand and tried
to pull him to his feet. "Come on. I want to get at least
one dance out of you tonight."
Will looked down at the dance floor with a dubious expression.
"Well," he mused, "it's not too crowded
"Great!" She virtually flew down the stairs, eliciting
a squawk of protest from Will as she dragged him along for
"I'll be down in a few minutes," Rogue called to
him just before he dropped out of sight. "He'll probably
be playing with the band before the end of the night,"
she told Nuala with a chuckle.
"He's still playing music, then? He used to entertain
Maire by rattling off old songs and poems. She loved it whenever
he did anything by Shel Silverstein."
"He plays every once in a while. He's been concentrating
on his writing lately."
"That's good to hear," Jeff said with some relief.
"He has a novel due soon. I don't want to have to field
calls from his publisher."
"I don't know how far along he is, but he's been spending
most of his free time working on it."
"He should be done pretty soon, then. He usually doesn't
take more than two months or so at a time."
Nuala sat up in her chair, glancing over the railing. "Well,"
she decided, "he isn't making too big a fool of
"He probably asked the deejay to play some Eighties
tunes," Rogue said, having noted that The Escape Club's
Wild Wild West was playing.
After the dance floor had experienced the extended mix of
Donna Summer's I Will Survive, Rogue, Jeff and Nuala
decided to head down themselves. As she went down the stairs,
Rogue surreptitiously checked to make sure that her gloves
and the collar of her shirt were firmly in place.
She found Maire and Will after weaving her way through the
crowd. "One side, girl," she told Maire in a mock
growl. "I'm cutting in."
"No problem," the younger girl replied with a grin.
"I'll find something closer to my decade." She laughed
at Will's expression as she danced off.
"I wonder if I could spank her without being called
a dirty old man," Will thought out loud as the song ended.
"I thought we already agreed that you are a dirty
"True," he conceded, "but that's not for public
consumption." He glanced upwards as the next song began.
"Oh, good," he said with an evil grin. "I
like this one." He adjusted his coat. "I
was sort of in a Gothic mood tonight, anyway."
"Who is it?" she asked.
"Rosetta Stone," he answered as he put on his sunglasses
to hide the fact that his eyes were starting to glow. He wrapped
one arm around her waist and drew her closer.
I'm told that eyes
are the windows of the soul
Godspeed be with you
Drawn inside by razor lines
And now I'm up upon the ledge inches beyond the edge
Indications start to shine
Cloud nine white line this time I'm on adrenaline
I'm on adrenaline
I'm on adrenaline
I'm on adrenaline
Although her earplugs muffled the sound of the music, Rogue
was still able to feel the vibrations of the bass through
the air and floor. She slipped his hands underneath Will's
coat and pressed herself against him. I may as well experience
some kind of 'bump and grind' tonight, she thought wryly.
Will, surprisingly, didn't seem to mind the close contact.
He playfully dipped her down so low that her hair brushed
the floor, then drew her back up. She draped her arms around
his neck and gave him a beguiling smile. Even through her
several layers of clothing, she was able to feel a spark between
the two of them, and a warmth beginning to build within her.
Don't get too wound up, she chided herself. It's
not worth the grief, and it won't be fair to Will if you're
bitchy later. Just relax and enjoy the music.
They danced through several songs, including a medley of
Fifties tunes. The next song was a slow tune, and Rogue leaned
her head on Will's shoulder, enjoying the feel of his breath
wafting through her hair. For a few moments, the rest of the
world seemed to fade away, and she was only aware of his presence,
of the way his hand rested casually on her hip.
The moment was, if not ruined, at least interrupted when
Maire walked up to them and tapped on Will's shoulder. "Sorry
to break it up," she apologized, "but I have class
in the morning."
"No problem," Will said as he and Rogue disengaged
themselves from one another. "We'll drop you off at home,
then we and your father can visit the Crypt." They made
their way off the dance floor, and Will pulled out his phone
and dialed their driver's beeper.
"You two all set to go?" Jeff asked them once they
had returned to their table.
Will nodded. "I beeped our driver. Just let me pay for
our drinks." One swipe of a credit card later, they left
and got back into the limo. Jeff gave the driver his home
address, and they were off a moment later.
"So, kidin," Will asked Maire, "did
you enjoy yourself?"
Maire's face lit up. "It was the best night I've ever
had!" She jumped forward in the seat and embraced him
fiercely. "Thank you, Uncle Will!" She turned to
Rogue and started to open her arms to hug her. Rogue accepted
the hug freely, but was careful to gently direct the girl's
head towards her shoulder, rather than against her cheek.
They dropped Nuala and Maire off at their flat, then went
back to Jeff's office, where they paid the driver. Will gave
the driver a one hundred punt tip. "Thanks for being
so patient," Will told the man.
"Thank you, sir," was the reply. "You're
the first customer I've had in years who remembered that I
After the limo had driven off, they got into Jeff's Renault,
and drove to a flat about fifteen minutes away. "Welcome
to the Crypt, May," Jeff said as he parked the car.
"It looks innocent enough," Rogue commented as
she glanced at the flat, which looked like every other one
on the street.
"Just wait until you get inside," Will told her.
He had kept his eyes closed for most of the ride, pleading
fatigue as his reason. Rogue had easily surmised, however,
that he was reining his powers in so that he would not affect
As they stepped up to the door, Rogue was slightly startled
to find that there was a keypad discreetly hidden on the side
of the jamb. Jeff removed a keycard from his jacket pocket,
inserted it into a slot on the keypad, then entered a six-digit
number. The door clicked a moment later, and they went inside.
The room which they entered was dimly lit, but Rogue was
able to see that there were about a dozen surge suppressors
on the floor, linking several servers which had been double-stacked.
A moment of mental arithmetic told her that there were thirty-six
servers in the room. The walls held shelf after shelf of racked
CD-RWs, and a grooved track was built into the floor, guiding
a robotic arm which fed them into one of four readers. "I'm
impressed," she admitted. "Are these things always
"Twenty-four seven," Jeff confirmed. "We're
constantly updating our intelligence."
"That why we have the air conditioning on at full blast,"
Will added. "This place would be a sauna without it.
The really expensive part, though, was paying for the
emergency generators downstairs."
They walked up a narrow flight of stairs to a plain wooden
door which stood against the right wall. Jeff was about to
knock on the door when Will tapped him on the shoulder.
"Let me," he whispered, smiling evilly. He stepped
forward at Jeff's nod, and changed his expression to one of
repressed, cold fury. He firmly rapped on the door three times,
Rogue's angle of view was not good enough to allow her to
see behind the door as it opened inward. The shriek and subsequent
slamming of the door, however, were hard to miss.
Will grinned as he looked at her. "I know it's evil,
but I just love doing that."
"How long do you want to give them?" Jeff asked.
"Let's make it about three minutes. You did rent
the jumbo dumpster this time, right?"
"Right. They threw all the trash and contraband out
the window the last time we did this," he explained to
Rogue. "It took us two days to clean it all up. We decided
to save a step this time and put a dumpster in the alley."
"Makes sense to me."
The sounds of bumping and crashing lasted for about five
minutes. When the door opened again, a young man with shoulder-length
blond hair stood nervously behind it. "H-hello, Mister
Riley," he stammered in an American Midwestern accent.
"Good evening, Mister Holland," Will said smoothly.
"Tell me, I'm curious... why was I just shut out of my
"I'm sorry, sir, it's just that... er, that is, we weren't
expecting you, sir. We needed a moment to clean up."
"Ah. I see." He paused for a moment. "May
I come in now?"
"Uh... yeah, sure!" The door was nearly jerked
off its hinges by the nervous employee, and Will, Jeff and
Rogue calmly stepped inside.
The room they entered was somewhat chilly. This was most
likely due to the fact that a window was open. The center
of the room was dominated by a workbench which was cluttered
by an assortment of electronic components. A single work shelf,
interrupted only by doorways, was attached to the walls. Then
large-screen workstations were evenly spaced along the work
shelf. Another shelf in a corner held several faxes, document
scanners, and laser printers. The room was lit primarily by
the light from the monitors, and only a single, incandescent
light fixture on the ceiling provided any additional illumination.
Five young men dressed in jeans and T-shirts stood nervously,
waiting for Will's next move. Rogue guessed that the oldest
of them was twenty-five, the youngest sixteen or seventeen.
They all had the unnatural pallor of those who rarely venture
out into natural light. Three of them were Caucasian, one
black, and one Asian.
"Hello, gentleman," Will said in greeting. "I
was in the area, and thought that it might be a good idea
to see how things were going. Have there been any problems
that I should know about?"
"No, sir," the Asian replied quickly. "No
problems, no complaints. Would you like a full report?"
"I don't have that kind of time, Harry. Just give me
the short version. There are some other things to take care
of first, though.
"Gentlemen, It's my pleasure to introduce you to Ms.
May O'Hara." He inclined his head towards Rogue. "May,
meet the Crypt Crew. This is Mister Roger Holland, Mister
Mike Winston, Mister David Ryan, Mister Kevin MacGregor, and
Mister Harry Zhao."
Rogue gave each of the men a friendly handshake. "Nice
to meet all of you."
"David," Will requested, "I'd like you to
help May set up a few alternate identities. Could you run
her through the gauntlet?"
"No problem," he replied. "If you'd please
follow me, Ma'am? He led Rogue into another room, where a
bluescreen was set up against one wall. "If you could
stand over there, I can set up the cameras."
"Sure," Rogue agreed with a smile.
She stood and waited while David set up a tripod and digital
camera. "All set," he told her a minute later. Then
he paused. "Um... I hate to have to tell you this, but..."
"Let me guess," she said dryly, knowing what was
coming. "You need me to strip."
He grimaced as he nodded. "That's probably why Mister
Riley asked me to do this. You're not my type."
"Care to clarify that?"
"I can ask my boyfriend to explain if you like,"
he explained as he set up some lights.
"Oh. That's a little different, then." She removed
her clothing, placing it on a nearby table, then stood in
front of the screen again.
"A little to my right, please... good. Now turn to the
right..." He took several shots of her from the front,
side, and back. "Now for the tedious part."
"Look up." She did so and saw another camera, which
was mounted onto a track shaped in a half-circle, which was
in turn attached to a circular track. "This camera will
give me the data needed to create a three-dimensional texture
map of your body which we can use to make a computer model.
We'll be able to make still pictures of you from any angle,
in any outfit. That way, if you need 'proof' that you were
somewhere else at some point, we can supply it."
"Good planning," she agreed. "But if I ever
see these pictures on the Web..."
"No chance. I'll be encrypting the files myself, and
the CDs will be under lock and key. Those perverts out there
will never see them."
"Please hold still now," he requested. "This'll
take about ten minutes."
She remained motionless as the camera was lowered and began
to take a series of pictures. It crossed the length of the
half-circle in one second, taking ten pictures as it did so,
then moved slightly to her right and repeated the process.
"In case you're wondering," David said, "the
camera moves one degree after each pass. We'll end up with
thirty-six hundred exposures." He paused a moment. "Maybe
that was the wrong word to use. Anyway, once this is done,
we'll get pictures of you in high and low heels to get your
posture right, then a few of you smiling and talking so I
can match your dental profile. Making the teeth look perfect
is the first mistake that amateurs make."
Rogue found it difficult to hold still for the required amount
of time, but she managed to endure it. She posed while David
took pictures at eight different angles of her posture in
both sets of heels. She was then asked to give a wide smile,
and finally to open her mouth wide and tilt her head forward
and back so that he could get good shots of her teeth.
"That should do it," David finally said. "You
can get dressed while I process all of this." He sat
down in front of the computer and proceeded to ignore her
for the next few minutes as he called up files.
Rogue dressed quickly, then stood beside David and watched
him work. He pulled up a head shot of her, then ran a program
which added a white blouse and suit jacket to her frame. "What
color do you want it?" he asked her.
"Kelly green." The color of the suit changed appropriately.
After another moment, the blouse was changed to a cream color.
After another five minutes, several other head shots of Rogue
were 'clothed' in various suits and casual outfits. "That
should be enough," David said. He sent them to the color
printer, then pulled up another program. "What languages
do you speak?" he asked.
"French, German, Spanish, Russian, and Japanese."
"Good. That means I can be creative." He thought
for a moment. "We'll make you a citizen of France, Germany,
Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, and the U.S., and vary your
age between twenty-four and twenty-seven. Your Irish and U.S.
passports will be as May O'Hara. What do you want for a middle
"Irene." That's for you, Destiny, she thought.
"Place of birth?"
"Let's make it Biloxi, Mississippi."
Over the next five minutes, Rogue 'became' Olivia Claubert,
a Fashion model from Saint Chapelle, France, Brigette Darkhoelme
of Dresden, Germany, Stephanie Robin of Bern, Switzerland,
and May Irene O'Hara of Cork, Ireland. David sent the documents
to another printer, then opened up a drawer on his desk and
fished out the appropriate passport covers. "They should
be ready in about ten minutes," he told her. "I'll
bring them out to you."
She replied with a nod and headed towards the door, but came
back a moment later. "Can you burn me an extra copy of
"No problem. Why?"
"That's my little secret. Don't tell your boss."
"Ah," he said, smiling. "One of those
Rogue grinned and entered the main room again, where she
found that Will was instructing the rest of the Crypt Crew
on the subjects which he wanted them to focus on for the next
few weeks. "Keep an eye on any unusual activity in the
business sector. I may be making some large transfers of funds
during the next quarter."
"Yes, sir," Harry replied. "Anything else?"
"That should be it for now." He glanced up at Rogue.
"Almost. I'm waiting on David. He says ten minutes."
Will nodded, then glanced at the researchers, who were all
staring at Rogue with smitten expressions. "Roger, why
don't you tell Miss O'Hara a little bit about our setup here?"
Well, Rogue thought to herself, now I know how
he earns employee loyalty.
She played dumb for the duration of the tour, during which
she was shown the multitude of cable and satellite links that
the lab was connected to. She found that she was honestly
impressed by their competency. They had managed to push their
intelligence capabilities close to the limit of what was available
through off-the-shelf technology. They evidently found time
to tinker around, as well, because she was given two gifts:
a small radar detector which had a range three times greater
than standard units, and a small device which would allow
her to use a pay phone without putting in any money.
David came back into the lab just as her tour was nearing
its end. "Here you go," he told her, handing her
a large manila envelope. "The rest is your department,
sir," he said to Jeff.
"Are you staying through tomorrow?" Jeff asked
"Probably not. I have to get some things done by tomorrow
evening, so we'll probably be out of the country by noon."
Jeff frowned at that. "I can set them up, but they'll
take twenty-four hours to process."
"Set up what?" Rogue asked.
"Your line of credit. It'll draw off your share of the
fund." He sat down at the terminal and started typing.
"Can I see the passports, please?"
Five minutes later, May O'Hara (and her alter egos) had a
line of credit through the Bank of Ireland, with the gold
card to prove it. "I can take care of the payments if
you want," Jeff offered. "One less sheet of paper
for you to worry about."
"Sounds good to me," she agreed. "Is there
anything else we need to do?"
"That should cover it," Jeff said as he stood up.
"I have to get home and get to sleep, Will."
"Sorry, Jeff," Will apologized. "I keep forgetting
that you have problems adjusting to my hours. That should
do it, gentlemen," he told the Crew. "Keep up the
good work, let me know if you need anything, and please
remember to go outside once in a while. If you guys don't
get some fresh air soon, you're going to develop mildew. Ready,
"All set." She placed her new I.D. back into the
envelope and stepped over to the door. "Thanks for all
your help, guys," she said to the Crew. "I really
appreciate it." She blew them a kiss as she shut the
door behind her.
The young men were silent for several moments. "Do you
"If we could ever..."
"Not a chance."
Continued in Chapter
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