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"Smoke and Mirrors"

Smoke and Mirrors

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19

This story must be better than I thought if y'all are reading part five. Just the standard disclaimer stuff here I'm afraid. All the characters belong to Marvel except Zodiac who is mine. She can be used with my permission. If you wish to archive, keep my story intact and credit me. I would also appreciate an e-mail if you did so. You don't have to, but I sort of like to see how it looks on your page. Please send any comments or criticisms to RogueStar ( I won't get offended if you tell me that you don't like something, I'll probably change it for the better !
However, I do take exception to flames and will probably ignore them. The story is quite clean and contains no vaguely dirty scenes. Just a teeny bit of violence - non-graphic.
So all of that said and done, enjoy the story. I hope it will be as much of a fabula miribila to you as it is to me.
P.S. Gotta thank Montana Matheson for the insightful criticism he has been giving me, I really appreciate it. He's made me think about some things I hadn't thought about before. Thanks, Blackeye. I also want to thank everyone who has sent me information, it will be used and then you'll see your name in lights (or pixels!)

Part 5

When Ah was young, Ah used ta believe in magic. Not the magician-pullin'-rabbit-out-of-a-hat-kind; real magic. The kinda magic that made the earth spin and the stars come out at night. The magic of bein' special, of bein' somebody.  Ah even used ta believe mutants were magical - until Ah became one and realised that it wasn't magic at all, but a screwed up gene inside me that gave me mah gift. Sometimes Ah still think Ah believe in magic; when Ah see Scott and Jean look at each other with love in their eyes, or see Beast an' Iceman together. Friendship and love. That's real magic. An' Ah think that perhaps it's time Ah experienced a little magic too.

Remy glanced at the woman sitting next to him on the hard, stone bench. Her face was flushed pink with exertion and she was smiling. Her tawny hair, highlighted by an unique white stripe, flew around her face in wisps.

"Ah think Ah know why Cyke made trainin' runs compulsory." She wiped the sweat off her forehead, "Ah'm terribly out of shape."

"Your shape not look too bad to me."

Rogue looked surprised at his words. Heaven knew why, she had a beautiful figure, perfectly muscled.

"Y'all wanna get a hotdog? Mah treat?" She took the compliment as banter, instead of how he had meant it.

"What happened t'you bein' out of shape?" He teased.

"Ah thought y'all said mah figure wasn't too bad. Guess it can stand a hotdog." She jumped up, "Race ya."

Gambit groaned as he sprinted after her rapidly retreating figure.  Dere be better ways to catch a lady.' He thought.  Much *better* ways.'

When he finally arrived, Rogue was standing there waiting for him, a hotdog in each hand.

"Slow today, cajun." She said as she handed one to him.

"You had a head start."

"Not that much of one." She grinned. "Enjoy breakfast."

"Breakfast?" He looked skeptically at the mustard-laden breadroll.

"At the moment, Remy. Ah couldn't care less." Rogue sat down on the grass, stretching out her long legs. "Ah'm hungry enough t'eat a horse."

"Den you be in luck, chere, dese hotdogs probably contain dat very ingrediant." Gambit sat next to her.

She laughed, "You could do better?"

"Please." He looked disgusted at the implication that he could not.

"Ah forget - you're cajun." She rolled her eyes, "God's gift to women an' the kitchen."

"An' don' you go forgetting it, Rogue."

"How could Ah when you constantly remind me of it?" She smiled.

"Jus' want you to remember me."

"Y'all think Ah'd forget?" Concern flashed on her face.

"I mean I AM pretty unforgettable . . . ."

"An' ever so modest." She interrupted.

"Jus' one of my many virtues." He grinned.

Rogue punched him in the arm, sending him sprawling on the grass.

"Hey! What did I say?"

She laughed, extending her hand to him. "Get up, sugah."

Gambit took it, feeling her adamantine strength beneath the gloves.

Note to me: never, ever make dat woman mad.

"Wanna run home?" He suggested, still holding her hand.

"Sure. Make Scott proud of us." She showed no inclination to want him to let go.

"Den . . . Race ya. Loser buys drinks at de diner." Gambit dashed off into the distance.

Rogue sighed and went after him, hovering a few inches above the ground. She could fly faster than she could run. Catching up wouldn't be a problem.

Gambit scanned behind him, she was rapidly approaching.

Guess poppa was right when he said dat you should never take a bet wit' a lady.  Specially not a Southern one.

She had caught up to him by then.

"Ah love a competition.  Specially when Ah'm winnin'." Rogue said as she floated next to him.

"Maybe I let you catch up wit' me."

"Excuses. Excuses. You were beaten by a better person an' y'all know it."

"Not yet."

"Give up. You lose."

"What do dey say: it ain't over  til de fat lady sings?"

"Darlin', she's already sung and come back foh an encore."

"You just scared I'd beat ya." Gambit laughed. "Wanna call it quits?"

"Hmmp. Not sure if Ah agree . . . but Ah guess we could." Rogue relented.

"Jus' t'keep your pride intact, I'll say I lost."

"Ah highly doubt it has anythin' to do with that."

"You want de real reason, chere?" He smiled.


"I want t'buy you drinks."

"Remy, Ah won't hold you to your promise. Ah know y'all are tryin' t'be nice but . . .  you don't have to."

"I want to." He looked into her green eyes. "Honest."

"Yeah, sure." She bent her head down, examining her sneakers.

"I mean it." Putting his hand beneath her chin, Gambit lifted it.

"Ah'm sorry . . . it's just that this all is happenin' too fast." She turned away from him, hugging herself. "Ah thought Ah was ready for another relationship, that Ah could forget what Ah did, but Ah can't. You understand?"

"Perfectly." His voice was compassionate. "Girl, in case you haven't got it yet, you're worth waiting for."

Rogue's eyes filled with tears.

"Ah hope Ah am, darlin'. Else you're going t'be disappointed in the end."

"You *could* never disappoint me, Rogue." He whispered as he turned away, "De fact is I've never felt anyt'ing close to dis for anyone b'fore."

She didn't hear his final words and any reply she might have made was unspoken.

All she knew was that she was overwhelmed by a feeling which was both frightening and elating in its intensity; a feeling which could lead her away from the lonely future she had planned. . . .

Ah dropped him colder than yesterday's leftovers, mainly because Ah was terrified of both losin' an' havin' him, also because he made me feel so many confusing things. It definitely wasn't because Ah had no feelin's foh him. Ah was drawn to him like a moth to a flame, and like that proverbial moth, Ah was scared Ah'd burn away to nothin' but smoke if Ah got too near.

If'n Ah was in his shoes, tryin' to love a woman whom he could never touch, Ah would have given up. He was too stubborn or too stupid to do so. Later, Ah learnt that to him th' chase was as good as the prize. Even better sometimes. Ah was lucky he felt that way,  cause some time even Atalanta had to stop and pick up the golden apple.

"The golden age of mutantkind ends here." Graydon Creed said, taking the last sip of his glass of water. "We must move tonight to show that we will not tolerate their current treatment by humans."

The small group listening to his words shouted their agreement.

"Our target is simple. A factory owned by a man called Milbury. He has been hiring the freaks for months now, depriving normal people of employment. We must show him that this is unacceptable.

If anyone tries to stop us, you know what to do."

They clutched their weapons tighter to them, hugging them to their chests.

"Any questions?"


"Then what are we waiting for? Let's show those mutie freaks what we really think of them."

Cheers as the cluster of people broke up and went in separate directions to work, to home and to school, fuelled by hate and the need for revenge.

"So, Cyke, why'd you call us in here?" Wolverine asked, leaning against the wall.

"Wait for everyone to return." Scott cautioned, "I don't want to have to repeat myself."


The man named Logan looked around the room of people. Storm was as poised and regal as usual, although her eyes had a worried look in them. Jean, sitting next to her, looked beautiful with her red hair hanging loose over her shoulders and a smile on her face. Near them, Beast lounged, taking a minute to relax from the pressures of working 28-hour shifts in a laboratory.

Iceman was amusing himself  by making tiny sculptures on the table which promptly melted, leaving pools of water behind. Gambit was looking fixedly at the door, an unreadable expression on his face. Rogue was. . . wasn't there, Wolverine realised.

Cyclops cleared his throat for silence, obviously tired of waiting.

Suddenly the door opened and Rogue walked in.

"Am Ah late?" She asked, concerned. "Sorry if'n Ah am, but Ah didn't have mah communicator with me."

Cyclops nodded his forgiveness. "Sit. We were just about to begin."

She seated herself in the vacant chair next to Storm. The white-haired woman whispered something to her and Rogue shook her head.

Wolverine wished that his super-sensitized hearing was just a little more super, so that he could hear what they were saying. Scott tapped the table and stood up.

"Thank you for all coming. The professor regrets that he is unable to be here, as he has an urgent meeting with a colleague of his." He paused. "I called this meeting because I have recently received word that there is to be a violent anti-mutant attack at a factory tonight. We naturally cannot allow that to happen."

"Flamin' right we can't." Wolverine interjected. "So what do we do, bub?"

"We go there and stop it." Cyclops told him. "Naturally there will be innocent bystanders, employees of this factory, so we must be careful not to injure them."

"How do you propose to do that?" Jean asked.

"Simple, we split into two teams. Team one will be responsible for evacuating the area; team two will stop the actual attack." He answered her. "I'll lead team two; Storm team one."

"Can we choose whose team t'be in, or will it be like school, where de leader picks?" Gambit said, smiling.

"I have already chosen." Cyclops said. "Wolverine, Rogue, Jean, Iceman, you'll come with me. The rest go with Storm."

"One objection, fearless leader." Beast sat up straight, "There are five of you and only three of us. A tad unfair, methinks."

"I am aware of that fact, Hank." He pushed his hair back. "Uh, Rogue, you go with the others. Cover their tails."

"Sure thing, sugah." Rogue smiled, suffixing it with a muttered "If'n Ah absolutely have to."

"Gambit not need to hide behind any woman's skirts."

"Good thing Ah'm not just any woman then, isn't it?" Rogue said, the uncomfortable look on her face contradicting the flippant tone in her voice.

Wolverine noticed the exchange with interest.

Looks like things are going to heat up around the old mansion.

"Dismissed then." Cyclops said with some relief. "Meet in the hangar at 1700 hours."

"Sweetheart, have you been watching James Bond films again?" Jean groaned.

"That or he's been hanging around the Avengers too much." Iceman laughed.

"I think you  assume erroneously!" Beast protested, "Us Avengers and ex-Avengers do not all speak like we have taken our elocution lessons from Mr. Bond." "Nope, just 99% of you do." Iceman ducked Beast's playful swat.

Wolverine grinned as he walked away in the direction of the Danger Room. Let others joke and play; he would prepare for tonight, when one mistake could cost him his life. . . .

The moon hung in the sky, occasionally obscured by clouds drifting across its mirror-bright surface. Stars twinkled around it and the scent of jasmine was carried by the gentle breeze. A peaceful night; a silent night; shattered forever . . . .

"Follow me." The man hissed to his companion as he edged his way along the perimeter fence.

"We don't have much time."

The footsteps of the night watchman were sharp and regular, a staccato beat.

 "Pass me the wire-cutters."

Fumbling in his pocket, the one figure handed them to the other.

"Darn wire, why does it have to be so stiff ?"

"To stop people like us getting in?"

"Shut up, Jim."

Finally, there was a hole in the fencing through which they climbed.

"You jump the watchman, I'll gas him."

Jim nodded his agreement. Creeping up behind the watchman, he tackled him, pinioning his arms to either side of him. Ineffectually, the mutant let off a few bolts of energy which crackled into the ground.

"Come on, Bob." He yelled.

Bob Jones walked up to the guard, a leer on his face.

"How does it feel to be powerless, mutie? To know that your life is in my hands?"

"Just do it, Bob. I don't know how much longer I can hold him for." Jim said desparately.

Grinning broadly, he put a chloroform soaked handkerchief across the mouth of the prone guard.

The mutant's body sagged and went limp.

"Send off the signal, Jim."

He depressed the trigger of a flare gun, shooting a bright white spark into the darkness.

Outside, Graydon Creed stood, smiling in satisfaction.

"What are all the fireworks foh?" Rogue asked, leaning against the window of the Blackbird.

"My dear, I am sure that this display of pyrotechnic pomp means . . ." Beast grimaced, "That we are too late."

Cyclops looked worried. "Let's pray that that isn't true, Hank."

The Blackbird landed softly on the concrete outside of Milbury's factory, and instantly cloaked.

"Remember, we don't want to hurt any of them. Not even the Friends of Humanity." Cyclops cautioned.

"Speak for yourself, bub." Wolverine growled.

"Logan." Scott's voice held a warning tone.

"Don't worry, fearless leader. Desire isn't the same as deed." Wolverine assured him, "Unfortunately."

"Head out."  Cyclops said. "My team, follow me."

Wolverine slipped his mask over his head and ran after Cyclops, "Let's rock."

Jean and Iceman emulated Wolverine. The remaining X-Men looked at each other.

"So, Stormy, what is our plan?" Gambit leaned against the fence.

"For a start, you can call me Storm; and we don't have a plan."

"A successful mission needs a well-thought out plan." Beast said. "But I propose we . . . ad lib."

"Ad lib?" Rogue echoed, "We're hopelessly outnumbered, outgunned an' he says we ad lib?"

"I have found that extemporaneous plans are often faciliatated more by instinct than by any well-thought out strategy and therefore are more effective." Beast explained.

"Hmmp. Ah understood a whole two words of that an' it still sounded illogical."

"Beast has a point." Storm said, "We are unaware of what we will be facing and so are unable to plan."

"Besides it be more fun dat way." Gambit laughed.

"So, what are we standin' around here foh then? Our health? Let's go." Rogue flew up, "Ah'll scout from the air with Storm, you boys do the ground."

"Who was leader again?" Storm gently teased.

"Sorry,  Ro. Ah forgot." Rogue looked embarrassed.

"If I was Storm, I would have you doing a hundred press-ups or something leader-like." Beast said, "Why when I was in the army . . . ."

"You were never in the army, Henry." Storm reminded him.

 "A small technicality. But enough of this idle chatter, let us depart as well, Monsieur leBeau."

"Way ahead o' ya, Henri." Gambit yelled from behind the fence.  "I already have departed."

Beast vaulted over the fence, "You search east, I'll search west. Rendez-vous at the door of the factory."

"Guess Drake was right about de Avengers talkin' like spies." Gambit mused to himself, as he sprinted in an easterly direction.

Dieu! It looks like we be too late. He thought as he saw the flaccid body of the guard in the bushes. Gambit felt his wrist, a faint pulse still throbbed.  Least he's alive. Better see if he's de only one near here.

"Rest easy, Monsieur. I'll return." Gambit said, knowing that the guard could not hear him. He continued his search of the area. There were no signs of people, dead or alive, apart from the watchman.

Bizarre. Where could all de employees be?

A question for another time perhaps. He started on his way to the factory door where he could see the blue form of Beast standing impatiently.

"Found anythin', sugah?" A voice behind him made him spin around, pulling out a couple of cards as he did so.

"Chere." He dropped them as he saw who it was, "It's you."

"Awful jumpy t'day, aren't we?" Rogue smiled. "Found anythin'?"

"Jus' a security guard. He's alive. Not sure if I should take him back to de Birdy, or meet Henri."

"Go meet Hank. He'll be safer where he is than at the Blackbird."

"You find anyone?"

"No. It's kinda creepy." She shivered, "Almost like this place is run by ghosts, there's that much sign of any workers."

"Where's Stormy?"

"On the rooftops, looking for a way in."

"I'll go join Beast den. He probably is wondering where I am."

"Bye, Remy." She said, adding quietly "Take care o' yourself while you're at it."

"You too, chere."

She rose into the air and flew onto the roof of the building, while he ran across to the door where Beast was waiting.

"Your arrival is expedient, Gambit. This lock refuses to listen to rhyme or reason, but I am hoping that your skills will prove to be more effective."

Gambit laughed, "T'ought I left my life as a t'ief behind - good t'ing I didn't do de same wit' my lockpick."

He extracted a slender metal rod from his sleeve and bent over the keyhole, removing the panelling.

"It's electronic." He informed Beast. "Harder dan de usual mechanical ones."

"I am aware of that particular aspect of its morphology."

"Fortunately for you, Jean-Luc leBeau's fav'rite son aced his lock-picking test in t'ieving 101."

Gambit's brow furrowed in concentration. "Jus' a few more seconds. . .voila!"

The door sprung open.

"Beast, somet'ing worries me. Don' you t'ink it's strange dat we haven't met any resistance yet?"

"That we must leave in the more-than-capable hands of our team-mates."

They slipped inside, leaving Graydon Creed to marvel at the fact that his plan was working perfectly, unlike those of mice and men.

"You ready?" Bob said to the small group gathered around him. They nodded, holding their molotov cocktails.

"But I saw people just go into the factory. . . ." One of the men said, "Shouldn't we wait for them to come out?"

"Muties." Bob spat. "Let them burn with the building."

"But . . . ."

"Why are you a mutie lover all of a sudden, Karl?"

"I'm not."

"Prove it. Throw your cocktail in first."

Karl stepped forward and pitched the bomb at the factory. It exploded in a burst of flame.

With cheers and hoots, the rest of the group followed suite, the explosions breaking the uncanny stillness of the night.

"What th' . . . ?" Rogue spun around as she heard the blast. She and Storm were sitting on the rooftop keeping guard.

"By the Bright Lady! They are bombing the factory." Storm's voice was filled with a combination of fear and anger.

"Lawd. Where's Gambit and Beast?"


"No." Her eyes were terrified. "They may have come out, we haven't been watchin' th' door."

"I'm sorry." Storm put a hand on her shoulder. "But this neither the time for grief nor mourning, we must flee this place immediately and take whatever steps are necessary from there."

She flew into the air, followed by Rogue.

"I will attempt to put the fire out, using my control over the elements. You go back to the Blackbird and wait there for the others."

"Damned if Ah do, Storm. Ah'm goin' in t'see if he . . . they are all right."

"No, child. It's too dangerous, I will not allow you to."

"Sorry, sugah. Ah've never got nowhere obeyin' other people; only by listenin' to mahself have Ah done anythin'." She flew in the direction of the factory.

"Rogue! Come back!" Storm yelled. "By the Goddess, you'll get yourself killed."

Shaking her head clear, she realised that for Rogue to stand any chance at all, she would have to extinguish the flames. She raised her hands in supplication to the heavens. Clouds gathered above the factory and rain poured from the sky, slicking down her body, down the factory, putting out the flames. Smoke billowed in huge wings from the husk of the building, obscuring the young woman from Mississippi, and Storm offered a simple prayer to the Goddess in whom she so strongly believed.

"Bright Lady, if she is to die, let it not be because she loved somebody."

Rogue coughed, her lungs full of the grey cloud that shrouded her. Her eyes burnt, and tears streamed down her face, caused only partially by the acrid smoke. She looked around. No figures moved in the shadows, betraying their existence. There was only the eerie, shimmering blanket of smoke; insubstantial and uncaring, it embraced and suffocated her simultaneously.

A cough, not hers. Perhaps . . . she barely dared to hope that either of them could be alive.

Clearing her throat, she managed to call: "Remy? Hank? Is that you?"

No answer, less hope. She tried again. "Sugah? Please answer me. Please."

More tears and another cough. Trusting her instincts, she flew in the direction from which she thought it came. Her instincts didn't fail her. They were lying on the floor, barely breathing, shallow, asthmatic gasps that rent their diaphragms in two.

"Hold on. Don't die on me." She whispered as she slung them over her shoulders. She could feel her strength deserting her, the smoke gaining possession of her.

"Ah can't . . . give up. . . ." Rogue grunted, "As much foh me as foh him."

In desparation she flew up, breaking the ceiling as she passed through. Fresh air filled her lungs and she drank it in thirstily. She barely had time to place them on the floor, before she too collapsed.

"Quick. Someone help them." The words drifted through her half-conscious mind until she too fell into a deep sleep.


Continued in Chapter 6.

1. Atalanta was an athlete and a huntress who disposed of her potential suitors by challenging them to a foot race. When they lost she would decapitate them. Eventually one man, Hippomenes, beat her by dropping golden apples, given to him by Aphrodite, by the side of the road. She would pick them up, delaying her. He won the race and her hand in marriage.
2. The quotation at the end of the FOH paragraph was paraphrased from a Robert Burns poem.
(I can't plagarise) It actually is: 'the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley.'

Part 6 Preview
Rogue. Gambit. More corny sayings than you can shake a stick at. Down time. Recuperation.


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