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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

Disclaimer: There's nothing different here to the past 16 chapters. Sigh :-P All characters are Marvels. All work is mine. All comments can be sent to me. All flames will be ignored. Enjoy the story - it's rated U. From the statements, extrapolate a 5 point disclaimer and insert it in the space below. Send it to me and I'll even use it in a future story.

Part 17

Bob Jones looks around the quiet streets and sees no-one. Smiling to himself, he runs inside a blackened husk of a building that stands on the corner.

"So?" A voice asks from the shadows, "How is your surveillance going?"

"Fine." Bob replies, "They don't suspect a thing."

"Excellent." The figure steps into the gloomy, half-light. His white hair frames a handsome but tired face. The face of a self-appointed messiah. Magneto.

"Would you mind if I slipped into something more comfortable?"

"Do not trouble yourself on my account."

Bob's body contorts, stretching like taffy in a vacuum. Curves form under a white dress. Olive skin becomes blue. Yellow eyes replace brown ones.

"That's much better." She says, "Being an obese, middle-aged man is not on top of my list of favorite things."

"What have you learnt that might be of some importance to us, Mystique?" He asks impatiently.

"Hmmm . . . ." She lights a cigarette, "The humans are planning to destroy us."

"Something that I do not know?"

"They have developed technology that might aid them in their quest. A little something they like to call Sentinels."


"Giant robots whose sole function is to find and eradicate mutants." Mystique sniffs, "Horribly primitive."

"Are they ferrous?"

She nods.

"And will it serve our purposes to attack them?"


"You then are saying that we sit idly by when our own kind are being destroyed?"

"Yes. Retaliation is precisely what the flatscans want. They are trying to make mutants into scapegoats. To justify our extermination in that way."

"How do you suggest we play this game?"

"We wait."

Jim Smith raises his glass and drains it. It is his fifth whisky of the day and he is starting to feel more than a little omnipotent.

"What do we do when we see a filthy mutie, boys?" He yells.

"Make it sorry it ever came into this world!"

The mutant bartender, Joe Milton, refills his glass for him and slams it on the table. He has the luxury of looking normal. Handsome even, as his wife and two children will testify. So he pretends and tries to forget what he is.

"And then the mutie says: If you'll l. . .let me get past, I'll never come here again." Crude laughter fills the bar, "As if . . . ."
Suddenly, the barkeeper knows he cannot pretend, forget, any longer. He shuts his drinks cabinet and turns to the FOH. His voice is nervous at first.

"I . . . I am sorry but the . . . the bar is closed."

"What, barkeep?" Jim asks.

"I said the bar is closed." He replies, "Closed to the likes of you."

"Are you a stinking mutie-lover, barkeep?" Jim slaps a bottle against the palm of his hand.

"I've sat here every night for the past 10 years while people like you have brought out the same old garbage in different wrapping paper. Racism? Been there. Sexism? Done that. I guess it was cowardly of me to hide behind my mask of  normality' while the rest of the world had to pay, but I'm not hiding any more."

"What are you saying, barkeep?"

"I'm saying that I'm a mutant and that if you have a problem with that you can take it up with me right here, right now."

"It would be my pleasure . . . ."

The phone rings.

"Hello? Angie Milton here?"

"Mrs Milton? This is Officer Aguinal from the Soho Precinct. I'm afraid we have rather bad news for you."

"What? Is it Grace? James?"

"No. It's about your husband, Joseph Paul Milton."

"Yes. Wh . . . what's wrong?"

"We found him severely wounded in a bar at 21.05 tonight. We tried to resusicate him but . . . ."

"Oh God . . . No . . . ."

"I'm sorry, Mrs Milton. I'm so sorry."

Jean Grey looks through the plexiglass of the Danger Room Observation Area with consternation.

"Is this wise, Professor?"

"Wise or not. It is the best course of action."

"Professor, no disrespect to Gambit, but you are placing a telepathic novice in a life-or-death situation with strict instructions not to use any other power but his mind."

"I know, Jean. I am confident that he is capable of handling it."

"He is still recuperating, both physically and mentally, from his kiss with Rogue."

"All the more reason to push him." Xavier replies, "Besides which we are both here in the unlikely eventuality that something does go wrong."

Jean sighs and turns her attention back to the figure in the Danger Room. Gambit is performing exceptionally well for someone who has never been formally trained as a psion. His movements are fluid and coordinated. His attacks tight and concentrated. She relaxes slightly -  but somewhere in the very back of her mind, a small part of her is be afraid that something will go wrong. . . .

The droids come from all directions and Gambit lashes out at them, showing no mercy. His mind  fights against their constant onslaught. His body weaves and twists between the laser beams they shoot. Danger behind him. He spins around, crushing the probe with a thought.

"Have you had enough yet, Remy?" The Professor's voice comes over the intercom.

Before now, he has never felt the thrill of body and mind working in synergy  and he is loath to lose the feeling.

"Non." He pants as he psiblasts another droid, "Not yet."

"Whenever you wish to stop, tell me. I don't want you to overexert yourself."

"D'accord, sir."

He doesn't want to stop, not now that he is beginning to forget about Rogue. About her green eyes looking into his as they walked in the park. About the time when she was blind and depended so much on him. About the time that she saved his life. About the way she kissed him. A sharp sting against his skin. He puts his hand to the area and feels a warm liquid. Blood. The simulation stops and the droids dematerialise.

Jean runs into the room, footsteps echoing on the metal floor.

"Are you all right?"

"Why'd ya stop de sim?" Gambit asks angrily, "I was doin' fine."

"You were injured."

"Dis?" He gestures to the wound, "Dis jus' be a graze."

"You were becoming reckless, careless, losing concentration. It would have been dangerous to continue."

"Maybe next time ya let me be de judge of dat . . . ." He grabs a towel as he walks out of the Danger Room and puts it to his bleeding arm.

"Remy. You should go see Hank - the wound might be worse than it looks." Jean follows him.

"It's not. Trust me."

"I know you're . . . upset about what happened between you and Rogue but you can't endanger yourself simply because of that."

He stops dead and turns to face her.

"Tell me, chere. How would you feel if you lost Scott?" His red eyes bore intently into her.

"I . . . I wouldn't want to carry on." She says, "It would be like my whole world was taken from me. Like suddenly everything disappeared and I was left with nothing."

He nods, "Dat's pretty much how I feel right now, Jean."

"I didn't think that you two were that serious." She says.

Gambit smiles bitterly, "Apparently, we weren't, chere."

"Remy . . . ."

"Save it, Jean. Ain't too much you can say." He walks away, "Don' worry. I'll go see Hank bout dis *graze*."

"Remy . . . ."

The purr of the Professor's hoverchair behind her.

"It's no good, Jean. He needs to deal with this by himself - no amount of words are going to change the way he feels right now. Not by me. Not by you. Not by anyone, except maybe Rogue."

"And she isn't here." She slams her fist against the wall in frustration, "How can she be this irresponsible?"

"I don't know." Xavier looks worried, "Maybe she feels that she is taking responsibility for her actions in the only way she can."

"By leaving the man she says she loves in a coma?"

"No. By protecting Remy in the only way she thinks she can. By keeping him away from her."

Jean sinks into the leather chair and rests her head in her hands.

"Jean. Their private lives are just that - private. We cannot interfere in them and rectify their problems." Xavier puts a hand on her shoulder, "Their relationship is personal as well."

"But . . . ."

"As long as it does not hinder the team in any way, we have no right to meddle in their affairs."

"But . . . ."

"I know it's hard for you to see someone in pain. As a telepath, it is even more difficult because you can share their pain, feel it, alter it. But we are not God, we cannot change the state of the world simply because it suits us, because we have the power to do so."

"You're right. I only wish it wasn't so hard."

"Everything turns out for the best, you have to believe that or you will go insane." Xavier smiles.

She rests her hand on his, "Even relationships?"

"Even relationships."

And as unlikely as it seems, they begin to laugh . . . .

Ah stayed up late that night, just thinkin'  bout everythin'. Tryin' ta make sense o' th' jumble that was mah mind. Playin' solitaire with th' pack o' cards Ah'd stolen from the 7-11. Th' game Ah'd played on an' off foh  th' whole o' mah life. If'n Ah think about it, Ah'd never stopped playin' it. Nevah really  had stopped bein' alone. Despite Remy's words  bout how much he loved me, he nevah had trusted me enough ta tell me what he had done when he was young. An' me? Ah hadn't told him th' whole truth either. Nevah told him  bout mah shame.  Bout Carol Danvers an' how Ah had almost killed her.  Bout Mystique and how she had taken me in an' trained me ta be th' perfect weapon. Guess Ah fell asleep sometime between cryin' an' broodin' about all that Ah did.

Was woken  by a knock on th' door but when Ah went ta open it, there was no-one outside. Only a white envelope containin' a note, sayin: Hope Cemetary, Providence. 10.00am; an' a playin' card, th' Ace o' Spades.

The raven bends her head and places the envelope on the windowsill. She taps on the glass with her beak three times, then flies into a nearby tree to wait.

"You must be getting soft in your old age, Raven." She thinks, "You would never have played cupid before. Especially not for someone who hates you. Especially not for your daughter."

The man, who opens the window, is handsome and tall. His red eyes crease in puzzlement as he tears open the envelope and removes the contents.

"My daughter, if nothing else, has excellent taste in men. I'm almost tempted to keep him for myself." She smirks.

She hears him read the note out loud as if he cannot believe the contents, "Hope Cementary, Providence. 10.00 am."

"Kelly." Trask drops the folder on the Senator's desk, "Here is the information you requested."

The Senator looks up at the younger man and removes his glasses, "Bolivar. Please have a seat."

Trask sits, his foot twitching in impatience.

"I was wondering when our little project would come to fruition." Robert Kelly continues.

"When the Sentinels would be ready."

"That's the other thing I came to tell you. I completed the final testing this morning. Give the word and I'll deploy them." Trask replies.

"Excellent." Kelly rubs his glasses against his collar, "How does tomorrow sound?"

"So soon?" His eyebrows shoot up in astonishment, "Are you sure?"

Kelly nods, "I've waited to do this since my wife died. I'll will not put it off any longer."

"Fine." Trask stands, "Until tomorrow, Senator. When we begin the end. When our names are written into the history books."

"Until tomorrow, Trask."

"And so the pieces fall into place . . . ." Sinister says as he stares at the monitor in front of him.

"I would like to know what the final picture is supposed to look like when the puzzle is complete." Zodiac says.

"My dear child, are you acquainted with the Morlock Massacre?" He pretends that he has not heard her question.

"I lived through it." She replies bitterly, "I was a child of five or six then, but I still remember it as vividly as if it had happened yesterday. The screams. The blood. The panic. We ran along the tunnels, trying to escape. The old, weak and very young could not. I tripped, felt the vibrations as the Marauders approached, smelt the stench of death. He saved me."


"I never asked his name." Zodiac says, "I can't even remember how he looked. I remember what he said to me though. That one day I might understand why he did it, that one day I might be able to forgive him, because he could never forgive himself. What do you think he meant, Essex?"

Sinister smiles, ignoring her query.

"What would you say if I gave you the chance to revenge yourself upon the person responsible for the slaughter of your people?"

"I would accept it." Her mouth twists, "I would make him pay."

"Good." He says, "Because that is the gift I will give you in return for your loyal service to me in the days ahead."

She nods, "Thank you, Essex. What must I do?"

"I need to know how I will stand after the cataclysm which you have foreseen. How will the war between humans and mutants affect me?"

Her silver eyes shut and her voice alters pitch as she speaks, becoming low, melodic.

"The truth will eventually become known. You cannot hide from your culpability forever, nor allow others to shoulder the burden. The man you once called son will be free of you and your legacy, after he has seen his guilt reflected in the mirror. The men of metal will allow you an opportunity to strike when both sides are weak. Seize it, because after your prodigal is emancipated, you shall not gain another chance easily. Your schemes are balanced like a house of cards and will collapse if you are unwary."

"Enough." Sinister says "Leave me now. I have much to prepare, lest after decades of machinations, I am left with less than before."

"Essex." She turns as she leaves to go, "Treat my warning seriously. My visions have never spoken false."

"I will heed your warning." He says, "You have never betrayed me and if you ever did . . . ."


Her face is calm but inwardly her heart beats too fast. Because she knows that it is only a matter of time until Sinister finds out about the message she sent to Charles Xavier . . . .

New York never sleeps, the locals claim, the city's heart beats throughout the night. Yet tonight, it is silent as if it anticipates a coming storm. The man in the hawaiian shirt turns away from the window and puts down his laptop. He is tired and wants to sleep. But he can't. He has a meeting in the morning with the Editor and doesn't want to have a blank sheet of paper to show him.

The ground shakes beneath his feet. Thunder reverberates throughout the city. The moon glints off polished metal. Scott Lobdell's eyes widen in horror, the Sentinels have come to New York.

The jet purrs over the sleeping city on the way to Rhode Island. Gambit has not left a note to tell his friends where he is going. The business that awaits him there is too personal for disclosure. Too painful to be written down. So, he has snuck away like a thief in the night; like he has so often before; with little more than a piece of paper and a card to guide him. The Queen of Hearts.


Continued in Chapter 18.

1. This Episode dedicated to my favorite, bit-part cop - Officer Aguinal - who appeared once in X-Men #68.
2. As I have said before, I have made Gambit a weeny bit more powerful telepathically than he is in the books. Sue me - this is FanFiction and I am no Scott Lobdell. (Whether that is good or bad is up to people's discretion.)
3. I have really overused the card motif here, haven't I?

In Smoke and Mirrors 18:
* Cry havok and let rip the dogs of war
* Confrontation in a cementary?
* Sinister doings to ensure an unsure future
* All the pretzels you can eat for only $5,00 at Greasy Mo's Diner (This Space for Rent)


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