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Her eyes blinked open. Grey haze. Where was she? The half-real
smoke world between life and death? The alarm clock rang -
unless there were alarm clocks in heaven, or the other place,
she was alive. She felt around her body - soft linen and rough
wool met her fingertips. She was in her bed. Rubbing her eyes,
she stood up and fumbled for her robe. She had to find Beast;
had to find out why the world looked like so much smoke. Shivering
slightly in the cold, fall air, she slipped the robe over
her arms and flew down the hallway. She felt for the door,
praying that her sense of distance had not played her false.
Rogue knocked on the hard wood. Movement from inside. A squeak
as the door slowly opened.
"Rogue." Beast yawned, "Far be it from me
to question you, but may I ask the purpose of this nocturnal
"Ah'm sorry, Beast. . . but Ah had ta see ya. Mah eyes
- somethin' screwy's happened ta them."
"It's like . . . there's a kinda grey curtain in front
o' mah eyes."
"Most promising. Let us examine this phenomenon closer
with the benefit of more accurate instruments than my intuition."
Rogue laughed. "Lab time, right?"
"Got it in one, my dear Mississippi Mudcake."
His hand on her arm guiding her down the labyrinth of passages.
The swish of an opening door.
"Perhaps the Shi'ar neural scanner can cast more light
on the state of your optic nerves."
Cold metal against her face. Whirring electronics. The tapping
of Beast's pencil against the table.
"Most interesting." He mused.
"A good or bad interesting?" Trepidation filled
"Good. As in the optic nerves seem to have regenerated
remarkably well. I predict the almost complete return of your
vision in the next 24 hours."
"Really . . . . Lawd, Ah mean Ah hoped . . . prayed
that it would, but . . . you know."
"I do." Beast smiled, "Still, even after you
are able to see again, I would recommend that you take precautionary
measures to safeguard the well-being of your eyes."
"Avoiding high intensity light; wearing dark glasses;
succintly, not placing too much strain on them."
She nodded, "Ah see."
"Soon literally as well as figuratively."
She laughed as much out of relief than anything else.
"Foh makin' me not lose hope." Rogue grinned, "An'
for gettin' out of bed at 3 o'clock in th' morning."
"Just doing my job on both accounts. Besides which you
were a model patient." Beast yawned, "Mmm . . .
"Get back ta bed. Sorry foh wakin' y'all up so early."
"If getting up early results in hearing good news, then
I shall be the proverbial early bird. . . . Starting tomorrow."
Rogue laughed, "Sleep well, sugah."
The swish of a door, then silence as the mansion returned
The night passed into dreams for the young thief lying in
bed, watching the moon and stars as they glowed. He couldn't
sleep on a night like this, when the wind was cool and the
sky a display of lights. He wanted to run; feel the adrenalin
pounding through his body; give credence to his instincts.
The urge hadn't lessened as Storm had promised it would. Night
by night, it increased in intensity until he felt that he
would prefer to go crazy than restrain himself one more day.
But he wouldn't . . . more than that . . . couldn't. Too much
rested on his new start. Too much at stake to play the game
recklessly. Too much to simply capitulate to his impulses.
Too long he had gone with his feelings and too long they
had played him false. He closed his eyes, trying to fall asleep;
trying to get through another long night. Images passed through
his consciousness. Images of his wife, bringing with them
bittersweet memories of pain and love.
Images of his life long ago when he was young and impressionable;
when he did something for which he could never atone. Images
of him now, trying to forget his past and move ahead; trying
to make a better day for himself. Images of the woman with
whom he wanted to do it.
Image followed image, blurring in a kaleidoscope of memories
A voice spoke to him: "Remy? Pourquoi as-tu oublie moi?"
[Remy? Why have you forgotten me?]
His wife. Her face was as beautiful as the day he had first
seen it. Her perfect blue eyes gleamed from beneath hair of
pure gold and her lips curved seductively.
"Belle?" He whispered.
The figure smiled, "Alors, tu rappelles."
[So, you do remember.]
She came closer . . . .
Light. Bright light met his eyes, shining through his open
windows. He was awake and Belle wasn't there.
"It was jus' a dream." He reassured himself, "Jus'
a dream. Not real."
But somehow he wasn't so certain of the unreality of what
he had just seen. Somewhere deep inside he knew that Belle
was alive and that she was looking for him. He also knew that
when she found him, he would have no idea of what to do.
Belle lay back in her bed, ignoring the pain that twisted
behind her eyes.
Soon, it would all be worth it when she saw her husband again;
when they were reconciled. She smiled in satisfaction. Everything
was going according to plan . . . except his response to her
in his dream. She had expected surprise - not shock - and
certainly not the fear she had seen in his red eyes. Fear
of what? Fear that she was a ghost? Worse. Fear that his carefully
constructed world was collapsing like a house of cards? Fear
that she might cost him the woman he truly loved? The insipidly
beautiful woman with her large green eyes and streaked hair;
projecting a frigid aura and untouchable to boot. She was
the sort of woman that Remy would have considered a challenge.
And she knew full well that he could never resist a challenge.
Therein lay her own fatal mistake . . . she had shown that
she cared; that she loved him. He had become bored and consequently
distant, spending more time training at the Guild Hall than
at home with her. Then came the time for the tithing . . .
. Belle shivered as she remembered that day. The air in the
hall had hung heavy with the scent of smoke and ceremonial
herbs. Vague illumination provided by a few candles had broken
the darkness which shrouded the proceedings. The floor had
been hard and cold as she knelt before Candra as was customary
and had mouthed the words of the tribute.
Next to her had been Remy; his red eyes blazing with fury.
He had always hated the tithing; hated submitting to anyone,
even the External.
She could sense his rapidly escalating annoyance as the proceedings
"Nous vous remercions pour votre patronage et votre
gentilesse tout au long des annees."
[We thank you for your partronage and your kindness throughout
Belle's voice faltered in the middle. Why was Remy not speaking
the sacred pledge? Was he insane? Candra had killed Guild
Members for less. Quickly she continued, hoping the External
had not noticed her momentary lapse.
"Et maintenant, nous vous demandons une aide precieuse.
Le elixir sacre de longue vie pour notre loyaute envers vous."
[And now, we ask of you a boon. Le sacred elixir of life for
our loyalty to you.]
Candra had stood and produced a bottle. Light shone through
the viscous liquid, refracting and casting rainbows through
the room. Bathed in green light, Belle had watched.
"Tout le monde ne peux pas avoir l'immortalite. Elle
a un prix. Aujourd'hui je l'offre a les tres fidele et les
tres consomme qui m'ont bons servi."
[Not everyone is able to have immortality. It has a price.
Today I am offering it to the very loyal and the very skilled
who have served me well.]
Belle could feel the tension in the air as everyone in the
room wondered whether they were worthy; whether they would
received eternal life.
She saw the surprise and disgust on his face as his name
He stood and walked slowly towards the platform.
"Merci, Candra - mais je ne le veux pas."
[Thanks, Candra - but I do not want it.]
A whispered gasp went through the crowd. Did he not wish
to live forever? Why did he refuse the Elixir of Life? Hate
shone in Candra's blue eyes.
"Insolent garcon. Je suis une deesse . . . et a ceux-la
qui ne rends pas hommage a moi - je suis une deesse furieuse.
Pour ton insolence, je t'exile a ici et a la guilde des voleurs."
[Impudent boy. I am a goddess . . . and to those who do not
worship me - I am a wrathful goddess. For your insolence,
I exile you from here and from the guild of thieves.]
"Bon. Du moins, je serai libre a ton controle."
[Fine. At least, I will be free of your control.]
The clustered people whispered to each other as he walked
through them and out of the door."Il est fou."
"Il a agice Candra . . . ."
[He annoyed Candra . . . .]
"Mais il vis."
[But he lives.]
"Silence." [Silence] Candra's voice was icy, "Nous
continuerons maintenant. [We will continue now.] Belladonna
At the sound of her name, Belle stood up automatically and
walked to where Candra was sitting.
"Je vous remercierai pour votre generosite, Eternelle,
et prends l'elixir sacre de longue vie."
[I thank you for your generosity, External, and take the Sacred
Elixir of Life.]
She sipped at the silver goblet in front of her, fighting
the nausea that came when she drunk of the Elixir of Life.
It burned through her body, cauterizing her veins; incinerating
"Mon Dieu!" She screamed as everything went black.
Belle remembered the pain; remembered thinking she was going
to die; remembering slipping into unconciousness; remembered
feeling her pulse slow to an imperceptible level; remembered
being alive and dead at the same time. They had told Remy
she had died, knowing no better themselves, yet when she had
awoken and wished to see him, she found that he had disappeared
like so much smoke. She had searched for him - unsuccessfully.
Pain eventually gave way to grief and grief to resolution.
The Elixir that flowed through her veins had endowed her with
powers as well as immortality. She had developed them; turned
them into sharply honed instruments. It had taken years and
discipline to reach the necessary level of skill, but she
had done it. Now, she smiled, now she could find him and make
him love her, as she loved him.
Tomorrow, she would begin her journey. Tomorrow, she hoped,
would not be too late . . . .
"Ain't it beautiful?" Rogue smiled as she looked
around the mansion gardens. The trees were a blaze of red,
gold and orange against a sky of blue, except for a few pines
standing like green sentinels above the landscape. It was
a scene made all the more beautiful by being the first thing
she had seen since her blindness had disappeared.
"Oui. But it ain't de scenery I'm looking at."
"Remy . . . ." She blushed slightly, "Ah wanna
"Foh bein' there foh me when Ah was blind . . . when
Ah needed someone. Ain't many people would o' done it."
"Par contre, I should t'ank you for givin' me de opportunity
of spending a couple of weeks in de company of a beautiful
woman." He grinned.
She smiled slightly. "About wantin' me also?"
Rogue laughed nervously. "Th' odd thing is Ah didn't
think Ah wanted ta . . . love anyone ever again after what
happened. Then you came inta mah life, an' suddenly everythin'
changed. Ah always felt - hoped - that Ah had mah emotions
in check, that Ah could control the way Ah felt about anything
or anyone; then Ah fell in love with you, despite tryin' mah
hardest not ta." She shook her head. "Y'all turned
mah world upside down, Remy LeBeau . . . you made me see that
. . . that Ah could love again. More'n'that, that Ah should."
"I love you too, Rogue."
"Ah reckon Ah feel th' same way about you, Gambit."
They walked up to the mansion, hand-in-hand - their silence
saying more than words could ever express.
"You've heard about the top secret project the government
is working on?" Bob Jones took another swig of beer.
His friend nodded. "Yeah - don't know much more about
it than that it will rid us of muties once and for all."
"What else do you need to know?" Bob grinned.
"Yeah." Jim laughed, "Just like to be able
to take part in this historic occasion."
"That's the best part. We can . . . the big boss
wants us to stir up trouble; create mutant riots and get the
public on our side."
"My pleasure." He slammed his tankard down on the
bar, spilling beer over the greasy counter. "About time
the government did something about those freaks."
"God bless America."
"Amen to that, brother. Amen."
The radio buzzed into life.
"And that was the Top 20 Hit Parade. Moving on . . .
The sound of papers being shuffled came over the airwaves.
"In our Missing Person's report, Dr Paul Lee from Caldecott,
Mississippi is searching for Sabrina Parker. If you have any
information regarding her whereabouts, please contact us at
671-9283. Now onto more pleasant things . . . ."
"If you have seen Sabrina Parker or know anything about
where she is, call us on 671-9283."
"Dr Lee is looking for Sabrina . . . ."
"If you know anything about a Sabri. . . ."
" . . .na Parker, phone 671-9283."
Rogue flicked off the radio in her room.
Drrring. The phone in Doctor Lee's office rang.
"Hello? 671-9283. Dr Lee speaking."
"Hi! I'm calling in conjunction with the Sabrina Parker
"I know where she is."
"She's honeymooning with Elvis on Pluto. I"ll give
you her telephone number there if you like."
Laughter on the other end of the phone.
Paul Lee slammed the telephone down. He'd had his fill of
cranks. All morning the phone had been ringing and no-one
had had a piece of solid evidence yet. It was like she'd just
disappeared; like Sabrina had ceased to exist the moment Cody
had gone into a coma.
"Hello? 671-9283. Paul Lee speaking."
Silence. Another crank-caller.
"Hi."The voice sounded terrified.
"Miss, why are you calling?"
"Ah . . . Ah'm Sabrina Parker."
Something about her voice told Paul Lee that the caller was
"Why are y'all lookin' foh me after . . . after all
"Are you familiar with the Cody Robbins case?"
"Sabrina? Are you still there?"
"Yeah . . . Ah was with him the night . . . the night
he . . . ."
The voice trailed off into silence.
"He's awake. He wants to see you."
"But . . . but . . . ."
"It would probably speed his recovery to see a familiar
face at this time."
"His . . . parents?"
"Dead. Father in a car-crash, mother committed suicide
a year later."
"Moved on. Probably don't even remember his name. You're
all he's got."
"Ah'll . . . Ah'll come."
Paul Lee put the phone down, smiling for the first time in
a long time.
Ah remember the exact moment when th' enormity of it all
hit me. Ah'd put th' phone down an' had walked through ta
th' Rec. Room in a sorta daze.
Ah remember not being able ta believe that Cody was awake;
that he wanted ta see me. He obviously could not remember
what had happened all those years ago, else . . . else Ah'd
be the last person he wanted ta give th' time of day. It was
incredible. It was also terrifyin'. Ah didn't know if'n Ah
could look him in th' face, knowin' that he had missed out
on eight years o' his life because o' me. At th' same time
Ah knew Ah had ta, that if'n Ah didn't confront that part
of mah life then, Ah never would be able ta again. Didn't
make it any easier, though. Ah couldn't tell anyone 'bout
what Ah was gonna do . . . 'bout what Ah had ta do - not even
Remy . . . especially not Remy. Odd how it's hardest ta tell
things ta those that matter th' most ta you. Reckon that's
why he couldn't tell me about th' dirty secret he's got hangin'
But Ah didn't know about that then.
Ah put off goin' ta see Cody as long as Ah could, until Ah
knew that puttin' it off was only makin' it a whole lot harder.
Ah packed mah bags and prepared mahself as best Ah could ta
face th' one thing Ah'd always feared . . . mah past.
"The pieces are falling into place." Sinister smiled
as he looked at the monitor. "It shall be interesting
to see what the picture will look like when the puzzle is
"I can tell you." Zodiac's voice interrupted his
"Child. I did not hear you come in."
"What is so fascinating?" She came closer.
"Merely the fact that knowledge of one's eventual destiny
does not allow one to change it."
"Then why do you need me?"
"Sinister does not like to be surprised. You are a method
of safe-guarding against surprise. A means to predict the
"I see. What is the end . . . Essex?"
"You have been reading the files on me, I see. That
was to be expected."
"I was curious about what would compel you to become
what you are today."
"An interesting question." He stood. "One
for another time, perhaps."
"First answer my other question."
"You are the clairvoyant. Can you not predict what it
"I could, but without knowing why."
"I am afraid I cannot accomodate you there. The less
you know the better it is - for both of us."
"Why won't you tell me?" Frustration colored her
"May I remind you who is servant and master here? I
give the orders, not the other way around."
"Yes, sir." She bowed her head. "Forgive my
presumptuousness. It will not happen again."
"Good, make sure it does not. Now leave me, I have much
The silver-eyed child left the room, letting the door close
with a soft swish behind her; leaving Sinister to contemplate
the mysteries held inside the monitor.
Continued in Chapter
Those who do not speak French may be unaware of the disrespect
Gambit paid Candra when he said 'ton controle'. French-speakers
use the term 'votre controle' when they wish to show respect.
How will Cody react to Rogue?
What is the end Sinister is referring to?
What new developments are happening with the Sentinels?
Bob Jones and Jim Smith - do such corny names really exist?
Find out in Smoke and Mirrors 10!
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