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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

All Characters in this Fan Fiction are trademark and copyright Marvel. (Yes, when you play chess you should say: Queen's Gambit (TM) ) Zodiac is mine. They are not used to make me a profit, much as I wish they could, and are therefore not to be used by you to make a profit. But archive and distribute freely, remembering to credit me (because I wrote it!) and not change one word.
Synonyms are even not acceptable! If you archive, I'd appreciate an e-mail. If you don't archive, I'd still like an e-mail telling me what you thought of it. Flames are ignored. Criticism is welcome, though compliments are MUCH better. So send your witty insights to:
Enjoy the story!
Hasta luego,

Part 8

It's hard t'see de woman you love so helpless. Harder still t'know dat she was always so self-sufficent.

Who'da t'ought dat she would need me one day? Wouldn't let her down . . .Couldn't.

People talk about chivalry an' about damsels in distress. De noble knight racin' t'de rescue o' de fair lady. Never t'ought of myself as particularly chivalrous. Just knew dat I had t'help her; dat I couldn' leave her blind an' alone. Guess she was blind in two ways actually. De physical was obvious, but de psychological . . . well, let's jus' say dat she was more likely t'see again, dan t'see herself as beautiful. Often wonder jus' who Cody was an' what she did t'him dat was so bad. It's wrecked her self-image for life. She t'inks dat she's wicked for what she did all dose years back.

Know how it feels t'hate y'self. It's hard,  cause you got t'live wit' y'self 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, an' 52 weeks a year. If I could give anyt'ing I got t'make her see jus' how beautiful she is, both inside an' out, I would. As it was, the only t'ing I could give her was my love and understanding. Odd dat it proved t'be so much.

"We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

Blessed be the name of the Lord, but who could bless anyone when a child was dead? When a child who was so young and full of promise was senselessly killed?

"Forasmuch as it has pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear sister here departed we therefore commit her body to the ground; earth to earth; ashes to ashes; dust to dust. In sure hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself."

Yes, let her be transfigured, and wear a  robe of light. Let goodness and mercy follow her wherever she may go, for she was young and she was my sister. Let her be happy and let her sing with the thousand-hundred heavenly host, for she always had a beautiful voice; the voice of an angel.

"I now call on Piotr Rasputin to read the tribute."

His voice came to my ears, distant and indistinct. I rose as if in a dream and walked to the pedestal, unfurling my neatly prepared and packaged speech.

"Illyana was not of this world; she was a creature of light, an angel who walked among us. It is then perhaps fitting that she has gone to be with He who created her."

False words. Hollow words. Why did she have to go and leave me alone?

"I loved my sister. It was impossible not to love her; she was a beautiful, brilliant butterfly whose life was cut off all too soon. That is the tragedy of today. We should not be standing here by the grave of one so young and innocent. Illyana died before she could live. Died before she ever knew that there was a world outside of our back garden in Kyrgyzstan. Her whole future was destroyed by a lunatic."

Tears streamed down his cheeks.

"I am sorry . . . I cannot continue . . . ."

"Piotr. Do not worry. It is fine." Storm stepped up to the pedestal, "Come."

She gently took his arm and led him back to his seat.

"I now call on Doctor Henry McCoy to read to us a poem in remembrance of Illyana Rasputin."

Beast walked up, and opened a large leather covered volume. He cleared his throat.

"Remember me when I am gone away, gone far away into the silent land; When you no more can hold me by the hand, nor I half turn to go yet turning stay. Remember me when no more day by day you tell me of our future that you planned: Only remember me you understand, it will be too late to counsel then or pray. Yet if you should forget me for a while and afterwards remember, do not grieve: For if the darkness and corruption leave a vestige of the thoughts that I once had, better by far you should forget and smile than that you should remember and be sad."

Wise words. Words of comfort. It was hard to believe that they were not written for today, but all those years ago by a poet who had not felt my grief.

"Go in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost who is our strength and portion now and forevermore. Amen."

Amen. The word was whispered throughout the congregation. Amen.

"Piotr, what do you intend to do now?" Storm rested her hand lightly on Colossus's shoulder.

"I am not sure. I should go back to Kyrgyzstan and try to rebuild my life." The man sighed. "Find my parents and ensure that they are buried decently."

Storm nodded, "You know that you always have a home with us, if you need it."

"Nyet, but thank you." He stood up, "Now, more than ever, my country needs strong men; workers to help it reassemble itself. I cannot sit by and let my compatriots toil, while I live off someone else; off the bounty of another country."

"I understand." She paused, "But that is not the only reason you are returning, is it?"

"You were always too perceptive." He looked away, "I . . . I must find Omega Red and make him pay for his crimes."

"Piotr . . . ."

"Nyet, do not say it. Do not say revenge has no purpose."

"I was only going to warn you to be careful lest you destroy yourself in the process."

"I thank you. I will be careful."

She hugged him quickly, feeling tears of sympathy come to her eyes.

"Goodbye, brother."

"Goodbye, sister."

The funeral had ended hours ago. The final hymns had been sung, and Illyana had been sent to a better, brighter place. Still Rogue cried, tortured sobs racking her slender body. She cried like she had not for eight long years. She cried like she had while standing by Cody's hospital bed, watching him caught between death and life.  She cried, knowing that it was not for Illyana she cried; but for herself, for her soul. She was trapped in darkness, both physically and spiritually - caught in a room of smoke and shadows where there was no exit. No hope. Tears gave way to anger. Why had she had to be born a mutant? Worse, born with a power that seperated her from the most common of intimacies - the holding of a hand, the light brush of fingers against her skin, a simple kiss to her cheek from the man she loved. Footsteps sounded lightly behind her.

"Chere?" Gambit's voice sounded concerned. "Everyone is back at de mansion now. Came t'fetch ya."

"Ah don't wanna go. . . just yet. Ah . . .  haven't . . . haven't finished here."

"Rogue. Come, dis do no good. Y'need t'forget, t'forgive y'self."

"What do you know about what Ah'm goin' through?"

"I was you at one time."

"Have you held the body of the boy you loved knowin' that you killed him? Have y'seen your daddy look at you with hate in his eyes? Have ya ever had ta go away, b'cause it was impossible ta stay? Have ya?" Anger clouded her voice. "Do ya know what it is like ta never be able ta touch anybody *ever*?"

He sat down next to her on the bench. "Non."

"Now . . . Ah'm afraid that Ah have nothin' left; that mah soul died all those years ago with Cody."

"Dat not be true. Y'have a lot t'give." He put an arm around her and pulled her to him.

She stood up, shaking him off.

"An' what is your stake in me, Remy leBeau? Why are ya in the game? What do ya possibly hope t'acheive by lovin' me? By lovin' a murderess?"

"What makes y't'ink dat I need t'acheive anyt'ing? Dat loving ya ain't reason enough?"

"B'cause no-one in mah whole life as ever done so."

"De ol' sayin goes dat's dere's a first time for everyt'ing."

"Lawd, Ah'd like t'believe you . . . but . . . Ah CAN'T."

"Look at you, I know ya're angry. I know dat you're hurt an' scared. . . ."

"Who are you? Sigmund Freud? Y'don't know how Ah feel."

"Honey, I know all too well. I've gone t'rough it."

"Ya can't have. No-one could have." Rage filled her green eyes as she opened them. "Ah deserve *this*. Ah deserve t'be blind foh what Ah've done."

"Listen t'y'self. It was blind chance, bad luck, whatever y'want t'call it - but it wasn' caused by what y'did all dat time ago."

"How do you know it ain't some kind of divine judgement? That it all was luck?"

" Cause if it were divine judgement, I'd be blind, not you."

"What d'ya mean?" Curiosity temporarily negated her anger.

"I've done terrible t'ings in my life as well. Lied, cheated an' stolen. It should be me who pays, not you."

"Don't you see, we're birds of a feather. Both tryin' t'escape from the sins of a past we'd rather not happened. Both makin' a better life foh ourselves." Tears rolled down her cheeks. "Both hopin' beyond hope that we're finally safe . . . only  t'realise that we ain't. That one day we both will have t'pay."

"Rogue . . . ."

"Please don't say it. Don't say that it ain't mah fault when Ah know it is."

"Jus' was going t'say dat we should try flyin' t'gether." He laughed, trying to break the uncomfortable tension that had sprung up between them.

"Not sure if Ah'll fly ever again." Sadness in her voice.

"Y'will. Given time, broken wings heal."

"If'n'when they do, Ah think that Ah'd like ya ta fly with me." She blushed slightly.

Gambit smiled, "Y'know, chere. I t'ink I'd like dat too."

"But foh now, could ya just help me back ta the mansion? Don't fancy gettin' lost in the grounds."

"Bien s–r. Take my arm."

Slowly, hesitantly, she took her first steps back home; arm-in-arm with the man which she knew that she was beginning to love.

Belladonna Bordeaux flung the crystal ball from her in disgust It shattered against the wall, sprinkling crystal shards all over the room. For the last half hour she had been watching intently as her husband insisted on making the biggest mistake of his life; of their lives.

"J'ai vu assez. Le temps pour regardant et restant est termin. On faut agir auparavant *elle*
[I've seen enough. The time for watching and waiting is over. I must act before *she*]
se vole. Auparavant c'est trop tardif."
[Steals him. Before it's too late.]

She rested her head against the bureau, ignoring the throbbing that always came to her temples when she had used her powers. She knew what she had to do. She had to go to New York, to Westchester, and convince him of what he really wanted; what he really needed. And it wasn't some Southern witch from Nowheresville with a come-hither drawl.

"Gris-gris. Va ici!" She yelled.
[Gris-gris. Come here!]

"Oui, Mademoiselle?"
[Yes, Ms?]

The old man limped into her apartment, bringing with him a pungent smell
of herbs and incense.

"J'irai a New York. Je voudrais voir mon mari." [I am going to New York. I wish to see my husband.]

She wound a strand of blonde hair around her finger, knowing that the old witch-doctor was unable to refuse her anything when she acted the part of an innocent child.

"Ma petite . . . votre pere . . . apres que Remy a fait a Julien. . . ."
[My little one . . . your father . . . after what Remy did to Julien. . . .]

"Je sais . . . mais Gris-gris, c'a ete un duel honnete. . . Remy n'a pas trompe."
[I know  . . . but Gris-gris, it was an honorable duel . . . Remy didn't cheat.]

"Dit-le a votre pere."
[Tell that to your father.]

She shook her head, letting the blonde ringlets fan out around her face.

"Et, ma petite, il croit que vous etes mort." The old man continued.
[And, my little one, he believes that you have died.]

"Donc, on se faut montrer que je vis." She shrugged.
[Then I must show him that I live.]

Gris-gris sighed, "Ma petite. . . ."

"Ferme-la!" [Shut up!] Belle yelled, her face twisted in anger, "Ca m'est egal si tu es d'accord ou non - j'irai et la verite c'est que!"
[I don't care if you agree or not. I am going, and that's the bottom line!]

"Bon." [Okay.] Gris-gris said reluctantly. "Trouvez votre mari . . . mais, Belle, soyez prudente."
[Find your husband . . . but, Belle, be careful.]

"Je suis toujours prudente."
[I am always careful.]

"Je sais . . . mais vous pouvez excuser un homme vieux qui s'inquiete pour vous?"
[I know . . . but you are able to excuse an old man who worries himself about you?]

Belle laughed. "Inutilement."

"Je l'espere, ma petite," [I hope so, my little one.] he whispered as he watched her go out of the room, knowing that she would inevitably be hurt by her husband again.

"Doctor, come quickly." Nurse Humphries pushed the door of his office open. Her blonde hair was tousled and she was smiling.

"Dionne, what's going on?" Doctor Lee stood up, curiosity etched on his handsome, Asian face.

"He's awake."


"Cody Robbins."

"The boy who was attacked by a mutant eight years back?"

"Yeah. Pretty incredible, isn't it?"

"Amazing. Is he articulate?"

The nurse nodded, "Yes - as unbelievable as it may seem."

"Almost gave up hope on that kid." He mumbled, examining the pattern on the floor. He was momentarily ashamed of his lack of faith. Shaking his head, he looked straight at the nurse.

"I must talk to him, ask him what he remembers. Room 17, right?"

"Uh huh." Nurse Humphries opened the door, letting him through.

Doctor Lee walked briskly down the hallway, his patent leather shoes drumming a staccato beat against the vinyl. Pushing open the door to room 17, he took a deep breath, not knowing what to expect.

"Welcome back to the world." He grinned at the inhabitant of the bed, "Been long enough."

The man smiled wanly. "Woke, and found Ah'd all grown up."

"Can you remember much of what happened the night of the . . . accident?"

"No, not really. Sabrina might know though."

"Sabrina?" Paul Lee asked in confusion.

"My girl." His forehead puckered in confusion, "Ah was with her on the night of the accident."

"Oh. Her." He nodded, torn between the Hippocratic Oath and his conscience, "She doesn't live here any more."

Cody looked surprised, "Really? Do you have an address for her?"

"Nope, sorry. Her father might."

"Phone him; ask him. Ah've gotta tell her Ah'm alive."

"I'll get on it." Doctor Lee wrote it down in his notepad, "But first you need rest."

"Doctor, Ah've been asleep for eight years. Th' last thing Ah want to do is rest." Cody laughed.

"I'm serious. You don't want to place to great a strain on yourself at first." He echoed his patient's laugh, "Besides, the sooner you get to sleep, the sooner I can go phone Sabrina's father."

"Guess that's as good a reason as any to hit the sack right now. Night, Doc." Cody shut his eyes, dreaming of the girl who had been with him on that night, her beautiful face crowned by a single streak of white.

 The phone rang.


"Hi, this is Paul Lee from the hospital."

"What do ya want?" The middle-aged man was instantly suspicious.

"You know Cody Robbins?"

"The kid who was attacked by a mutie freak. Who doesn't?"

"Well, he's come out of his coma and is asking to see your daughter."

"Don't have a daughter. Sorry."

"Her name is . . . ." The sound of paper being flipped over. "Sabrina."

Sabrina. The daughter he had discarded like yesterday's newspaper because of who she was - what she was. The daughter he still missed.

"Sorry. Never heard of her."

"Oh. Must have the wrong number then. Sorry for wasting your time."

"No problem." He put the phone down, next to a photograph of him and his wife, holding a tiny baby. A baby he had called Sabrina.

"Beast, what's th' prognosis?"

"Eminently favorable, my dear Mississippi Mudcake."

"Ya mean that Ah might see again?"

"I mean that you probably will see again." Beast removed the Shi'ar optic scanner from Rogue's head and replaced it on the shelf. She stood, smoothing out her long, denim skirt.

"That's th' best news Ah've heard all year. Kinda tired of havin' ta rely on either people just ta go from A ta B." She sighed, "Not that Ah'm ungrateful, mind. It's just that damsel-in-distress ain't mah thing."

"I would imagine that invulnerability does make helplessness inconceivable." He smiled.

"How much longer  til Ah can see?"

"I'm afraid that any approximation I give will be a wild guess."

"Ya have no idea?"

"Not the inkling of one."


"Damn it, Jim. I'm a doctor, not a clairvoyant."

"Ah see." Rogue nodded, a faint smile on her lips. "Thanks anyhow."

"My pleasure. Sorry I couldn't be of more assistance."

"Ain't yer fault. Guess God didn't make ya psychic as well as furry."

Beast laughed, "Can I help you to your room?"

"What, an' deprive Remy of his *fun*?" Rogue pulled a face.

"Is there something going on between you two that, as part-time team-leader and full-time busybody, I should know about?"

"When Ah find out mahself, y'all'll be the first ta know." She grinned.

"Good." He nodded in satisfaction. "After all, *someone* has to know what is going on around here."

She smiled. "Good luck. Ah reckon half th' time th' people themselves don't know what's happenin' around this place."

"Speaking of all things happening, I have an appointment I've only just remembered about. Please excuse me." Beast glanced at his wristwatch and grimaced.

"Appointment, Hank?"

"More precisely, a date with the tantalizing tellurian, Tish Tilby."

"Enjoy yourself." Rogue said.

"A Disney Classic, popcorn and a jumbo-sized coke - what's not to enjoy?"

"See ya around. . . or in mah case, hear ya." She waved.

"Bye." Beast walked out of the room, the swish of the door behind him indicating that she was alone again. Alone, blind but not completely without hope.

The Sentinels marched. Large booted feet hammering against the concrete of the test-field.

The floor shook as they moved, sending seismic waves across the landscape. Sun glinted off burnished metal. They were monuments to mankind's ingenuity when it came to hatred and fear.

"You look impressed, Senator." Gyrich smiled, "Are you?"

"More than impressed, Henry. These . . . Sentinels are the ideal line of defense against mutantkind.

The ultimate weapon to help humans reclaim their superiority." Robert Kelly wiped his forehead with a handkerchief. "When will they be ready?"

"Final testing is underway. I would estimate a month or two."

"A month; a year - I don't care as long as the mutant threat is contained. Permanently." Kelly clenched his hand into a fist.

"I understand completely. Mutants took my daughter from me. I will not let it happen again." Hate filled Gyrich's face. "I swore that on the night she went away forever."

"Good. Proceed, I'm giving you government sanction for this project."

"Thank you . . . I promise you shall not regret it."

They shook hands, sealing the extinction of a species.

"Child." The man's deep voice filled the room, reverberating off the walls.

"Yes?" The silver-eyed girl replied, hiding her fear beneath a cold voice.

"I know who you are and of what you are capable."


"I have watched your bloodline carefully; seen it progress into the perfection it has become; even meddled in it to an extent. But even I did not expect it to mature as fast as it did; to produce the epitome of mutanthood that you are - the weapon that I need."

"What is your interest in me?" She asked, terrified.

"There is little I do not have control over - excepting the future. With you working for me, I can predict exactly what will happen and control that as well."

"I have one more question: who are you?"

"You can call me Mr. Sinister."

The child nodded, "What can I gain from this partnership? What is my reason for joining?"

"You said one more question, nevertheless I shall answer this one.I can promise you the two things that you have always desired - power and control."

She looked doubtful for a few seconds, then smiled, realising something.

"I will accept your offer."

"And what am I to call you?"


He smiled, "I hope that, unlike the stars, you will prove to be accurate."

"Only time will tell." She smiled back, silver lips curling slightly.

Sinister pushed the large metal door open, and with it, the next part of  Zodiac's life.

Rogue began the long walk upstairs, using the railing to guide her hesitant footsteps. She had told Remy that she would be fine; that she could manage by herself. He had sounded skeptical and had insisted on helping her. Smiling, she had said that she had to learn how to perform her daily tasks again - unassisted. Now she almost wished she hadn't - that his hand could be on her arm, guiding her. Her feet searched for the next step; her hands for a grip on the railings; her muscles tensed.

Feet met air. She slipped, temporarily disorientated. Cursing, she lifted herself up again and carried on her painful climb. Her hand stretched out to touch the railing. Nothing. Shock ran through her nerves in an electric tingle for an instant, before she realised that she had reached the top and that the banister had curved out into a balcony. Rogue smiled, feeling her tension melt away like smoke before a wind. She had climbed the staircase by herself, and it felt great. The only pity was that no-one had witnessed her victory over her blindness. No-one save the young man watching her with intent, red eyes.


Continued in Chapter 9.

1. The poem read by Beast at Illyana's funeral is 'Remember' by Christina Rossetti.
2. The 'on faut' construction actually means 'one must' but it sounded too formal for the occasion.

* Will Cody find 'Sabrina' to be what he has expected?
* How will Belladonna deal with her long-lost husband?
* What is the true purpose of Zodiac's alliance with Sinister?
* Does Freakazoid use highlights in his hair?
For the answers to these questions and more, read Smoke and Mirrors 9.


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