I've not been
reading the X-Men for a while, so I thought best to describe my story as being set in an
alternate timeline. Historians out there, don't flame me! And hey, I love mail! E-mail
your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The more we live, more brief appear
(The River of Life, T. Campbell)
Bobby adjusted his tie as he walked along the corridors to Senator Graydon Creed's office. The corridors were empty, months after the bustle at the height of election campaign. His shoes rang resoundingly on the marble tiles of the floor. As the pace of his steps took him nearer to his assignment objective, Bobby replayed in his mind, the incident that brought him back to this hateful place again.
It was one of the X-Men weekly meetings. Storm and Cyclops were systematically running down a list of things that needed looking into. Some of these included liaisons with other affiliated teams over the nation-wide mutant crisis or monitoring traces of old enemies like the Phalanx and such. Assignments on Graydon Creed had trickled and finally slowed to a stop in the preceding months after he lost the election campaign.
But that morning, Scott Summers began, "It seems that Creed's acting up again. He's been contacting the country's corporate big-timers for some time now. We might be talking about economics here but I still don't think we can let up on him."
"Sam's not going to be very good at this." Scott offered as an explanation before turning to him, the accounting major. "Sorry, Bobby, but I'm afraid that you'll have to make a couple of trips as Creed's liaison again before we can safely pull the tabs off him."
There had been an uncomfortable silence in the room after this was announced. Scott might have been a good leader, but he was crippled by shyness that discouraged bonding with his teammates. Everyone in the room knew the pain the assignment would give Bobby and Scott's matter-of-fact way of putting it, did not make it any easier.
"What Scott is saying, Bobby," Ororo had interjected, "is that if we could find a replacement for this distasteful assignment, we would. However, you were Creed's liaison; to introduce another at this point of time would require building trust and guarantee little valuable information from him."
He had smiled to himself. "I know my job, Storm. You don't have to reason with me."
I do know my job, Bobby told himself, but that doesn't make it any easier. He knocked on the mahogany wood and waited for the permission to enter. When he opened the door, the surprise laid not so much on the fact that Creed had company but the nature of his company.
Emma Frost whipped around when she heard the door opened and paled when she saw who it was that entered. Bobby tried on his part, to keep as neutral a face as possible while greeting Creed, assiduously avoiding eye-contact with her.
What are you doing here? He demanded mentally, waiting for her reply as he re-established relations with Creed. The formality took only a while; still, Bobby was baffled when he received no attempts to explain her presence in those few seconds.
Senator Creed was gracious enough in receiving his former aide even if he was a bit cold; a few weeks of absence might do that, nothing that a renewed acquaintance cannot remedy. Bobby was dismissing Creed from his mind even as he acknowledged the man.
His mind raced through all the possibilities for her presence, each one uglier than the last. Mental connections snapped into place, coinciding with what Scott said about Creed and corporate CEOs, followed by others involving shadowy loyalties and betrayals. When it was inevitable that he should introduce himself, Bobby prayed that his rising anxiety would not destroy his masquerade.
"My name is Drake Roberts, campaign liaison to Senator Creed here," Bobby began his introduction, fervently hoping all the while that she would wipe that shocked expression off her face. "I hope to have the privilege of your acquaintance, Ms. - ?"
Before she could reply, Creed interrupted even more coldly than ever. "Ms. Emma Frost, the Hellfire Club's White Queen. I realise now that you know that as well as I do, X-Man. And I have her to thank for that."
He spun around to face Creed and spent several precious seconds returning his attention to Emma Frost with an accusing look. She betrayed me! A series of automatic reflexes was usually all that Bobby needed to change into his ice form. Surprise rocked him now when he discovered his inability to transform.
He might as well spend the rest of the evening staring at the White Queen.
"Don't even bother, Iceman." Sensing his intention, Creed rose from his chair and raised a finger to demand their attention, "Can you hear that insidious humming in the background? I took the trouble to install an inhibitator in this room; Genoshan-made, quite reliable as a matter of fact."
His obvious resort failed, Bobby licked his lips and tried a last attempt, masquerading for what he knew was a doomed enterprise. "I-I'm not sure what's going on, Sir. There must be some kind of mistake here - "
He was in the middle of this speech when Creed hit a button on his desk and the side door opened to admit several well-dressed men.
"You - intend to choose the hard way.", his adversary observed. "Then you must be held in unofficial custody. Did I ever tell you I hate spies? You, X-man, are here to tell on me, but I will bleed you dry on everything you know about your fellow mutants." He turned to address one of the men. "Get him out of here."
A red-hot anger rose in Bobby. He was not going to go down without a fight, not in front of man who caused his father's death and certainly not in front of a woman who had shamed him so many times. A sudden movement betrayed his formerly passive stance and he rammed an elbow into one opponent's midriff while yanking another's tie to connect that man's head with his knee at the same time. Bobby knew that this was all in vain even as he tried to make eye contact with Emma Frost. The least he could do was to brand his rage of her betrayal into her mind.
Bobby was so intent in his anger that the vision of her distraught face failed to register until it became a pale spot in his blurring vision. By then, it was too late.
Emma was making her own calculations when Bobby's identity was being exposed.
She had graciously accepted Creed's invitation to discuss what he termed as business negotiations involving mutual benefits. Right now, she could see that the balance was tipping away from her favour. Creed had activated an inhibitator without informing her; preventing her from communicating with Drake when he entered the room. Of course, he might not know that she was a mutant but telepathy or not, she had an unpleasant feeling that she was being included into whatever designs that was meant for Drake.
She schooled her face into composure, hoping that her earlier anxiety had gone unnoticed and asked as casually as possible -
"What do you intend to do with him?"
If Creed had been cordial before Drake entered, he was bristling with hostility now.
"Don't pull that act on me, Frost."
Emma narrowed her eyes. Nobody spoke to her that way and escaped unscathed. That was when she had her telepathy and could force people to think the way she wanted. But defenceless as she was, the White Queen was not tutored to a life of restraint and forbearance.
"May I remind you that I'm here for a business transaction. I certainly didn't need to see this display of human rights violation you take so much pride in."
Creed snorted. "Human rights? Mutants have no rights. And that might just include you, mutant-sympathiser. I've heard rumours about you, Frost and your expressions awhile ago told me just about everything. Still, I might be persuaded to accord you a degree of respect considering that you are one of the big players in the business world..."
Emma breathed an inward sigh of relief. At least Creed did not know that she was a mutant. She was still holding her ground in the game but she was getting irritated with his arrogance. With her beauty and power, discrimination seldom found its way to her doorstep. But Emma Frost remained part of the mutant collective, and much as she hated to admit to herself, there was a certain pride in it.
"Stop boring me, Creed. Mutant sympathisers abound in this country, you can't get rid of all of them. My wealth just makes it easier - "
"Don't force me to deal with you, Frost. You can't afford it. The way I see it, you've two options. One, you can walk out of this building, keep your mouth shut and I'll consider you an ally. Two, you can choose to stick with mutants and set yourself at odds with me. If you're as clever as I think you are, the choice shouldn't be difficult."
"I think you've over-estimated my intelligence, Mr Creed."
"It's your call. That X-Man thinks you've betrayed him. Who knows, being imprisoned for a few days with the object of your sympathies might just change your mind."