Born with extraordinary powers, the X-men and their mentor Professor Charles Xavier, fight for peace and understanding in a world that hates and fears them. That same world has revealed a number of menacing individuals who pursue an agenda of destruction. One of them was Cameron Hodge, a ruthless dictator who created an army of killer robot humanoids known as sentinels to hunt and kill mutants. The X-men managed to stop him, but plans for the sentinels have escaped their grasp.
In a daring plot by the shady figure known as Black Tom, plans for the sentinels were stolen from Worthington Industries. The X-men tried to stop him, but he managed to slip away and disappear into the criminal underground. Since then the X-men have been pursuing leads as to his whereabouts and who may be interested in using the plans. So far no one has turned up.
In the midst of all this, Ororo Munroe and Hank McCoy have been having difficulties with their relationships. Things have grown distant between them largely as a result of Hank’s secret involvement with a woman he met online named Tessa. But as they were preparing to lay these matters to rest, Ororo got an unexpected phone call. An old friend of hers, Remy Lebeau, called in desperate need of help. And he claims to have information on the stolen sentinel plans.
New Orleans – French Quarters
The city of New Orleans was like any other urban jungle. Aside from the tourism, businesses, and what not there were certain areas people were smart enough to avoid. They were the dark allies, shady ghettos, and mysterious gatherings where all sorts of unscrupulous activity took place. People would run into every kind of unsavory character they could imagine from petty thugs to cold-blooded killers. In a city surrounded by swamps and marshes, there was any number of places to hide a body. It gave New Orleans a unique reputation when it came to the criminal underworld and Remy Lebeau was a part of it.
“Hey Lebeau!” shouted a random voice from a crowded street, “You’re a dead man!”
The shouting was barely noticed. Most people probably thought it was just some guy teasing a friend, but Remy knew to take it seriously. Hiding behind a trench coat and baseball hat, he slipped into the nearest bar and carefully watched the crowd. He saw a familiar figure walk towards where he had been standing.
“I know you’re here, you’re Cajun scum! You’re days are numbered, you hear? You’ll never make it out of this swamp! You’ll be croc chow!” he taunted.
Remy stayed out of sight, hiding in the bar and casually leaning back as if he were waiting for someone. The figure kept looking around, but eventually gave up and moved on. But he and others like him would return. That was the nature of the Thieves Guild.
“Damn you, Jean-Luc,” Remy cursed under his breath, “Damn you all to hell.”
He was in a difficult position. His whole world was falling apart. The home he once loved and cherished was turning into a nightmare.
It was hard to contemplate where it all went wrong. Remy was a young Cajun mutant who spent all his life in the New Orleans criminal underworld. When it came to world of thievery and assassins, he had seen it all. He didn’t remember his birth parents, but he was raised in these parts by a master thief named Jean-Luc Lebeau. It was a stroke of luck for him in some ways because if New Orleans had a mafia, Jean-Luc would be a godfather. He was the head of the Thieves Guild, an organization with roots going back centuries. He carried a lot of weight in the criminal underworld and he saw potential in him as an orphan. But it wasn’t out of love or compassion.
Since his birth, Remy was a known mutant. He was born with mysterious red eyes with black irises. Early on it turned a lot of people off, but not Jean-Luc. He taught Remy to embrace his abilities. He even taught him to use them to his advantage. As it turns out, they gave him an uncanny talent for thieving. As a boy he stared by pick-pocketing. As a teenager he graduated to jewels, money, and electronics. His skills were further enhanced when he developed another mutant power. He found he could charge inanimate objects with a special kind of kinetic energy and cause them to explode. It came in handy when he needed to break into something. It saved him the hassle of carrying explosives, but it had other uses as well.
“Hey pal, if you ain’t gonna buy a drink you might as well leave,” said the intimidating voice of the barkeeper.
Remy turned around and saw a somewhat obese middle-aged man with messy black hair approach him from behind the bar. He looked like a biker of sorts. In these parts it helped to look intimidating when running a business, but Remy wasn’t easily intimidated.
“Fine then, Remy will have a drink,” said the Cajun.
“Hold on…” said barkeeper as he looked at him critically, “I don’t just start a tab for anybody. And you don’t exactly strike me as an honest drunk.”
“Fine then. Remy will just take his business elsewhere,” shrugged the Cajun as he started to turn away.
“Not so fast!” he said as he got right in Remy’s way, “Did I say you could go?”
“Take it easy, homme. You don’t wanna make something of this,” warned Remy.
“I’ll be the judge of that!”
Remy groaned as he watched the barkeepers curious eye drift over him. Remy studied him as well and noticed he had a familiar tattoo on his arm. It was an emblem of swords crossed together over a shield. Anybody in the New Orleans underworld would know that symbol well. It was the mark of the Assassins Guild.
“You look familiar,” he said suspiciously, “I’ve seen those eyes before ‘round these parts. Mind if I see some ID?”
The barkeeper then shifted poise slightly, revealing that he had a gun and a knife tucked in his pants. It was a purposeful gesture, letting Remy know he was not messing around. But Remy remained undaunted. If this man wanted ID, he would get it.
“Sure thing, homme,” he said as he reached into his coat, “Here’s my card.”
The barkeeper looked at him suspiciously. The card he took out wasn’t exactly a business card or anything. It was a normal playing card, the ace of spades to be precise. To anyone associated with the Assassins Guild, it was a dead giveaway.
“A playing card?! Now I know where I’ve seen you!”
“Oui, but have you seen dis?” grinned Remy.
With a flick of his wrist, he casually tossed the card towards the oversized barkeeper. But before he did, he gave it a special charge. The barkeep immediately reached for his gun, but before he could even ready it the card erupted in a blinding purplish glow and exploded with punishing force.
“Augh!” grunted the barkeeper as he was blown back against his bar.
“Sorry homme. Dat’s what you get when you mess with Gambit,” grinned the Cajun.
As soon as other patrons in the bar saw this they sprung into action. Most were smart enough to back off, but a few with the same Assassins Guild emblems on their arms stepped forth. They were armed with knives and guns and bore the same imposing physique as the bar tender.
“You just earned yourself a trip in a body bag!” said one of the assassins.
“Keep it. Remy’s too pretty to hide his good face,” quipped the Cajun.
As the two men approached, Remy reached into his coat and whipped out a compressed bow staff. Besides playing cards, it was his weapon of choice. Jean-Luc taught him many ways how to use it and it came in very handy when dealing with minor inconveniences like this.
Armed with a knife, the first assassin charged him with a stabbing motion. With lighting-fast reflexes, Remy countered by hitting jamming the tip of his staff into his gut and using his momentum to fling him out a nearby window. The loud crashing sound stirred more chaos inside and outside the bar. People started getting up to rush out, some of which got in the way of the second assassin. This kept him from attacking and gave Remy a window to end this fight before it got out of hand.
“Tell the Guild they ain’t never gonna take, Remy!” he yelled as he struck the assassin in the right knee with his staff.
His pained yells kept him paralyzed for a moment. To finish to job, Remy whipped out another round of playing cards and flicked them into the air. He charged them first like he did with the first one, only this time he made them somewhat lighter so they wouldn’t cause as much damage. He needed a distraction, not all out destruction.
Each card exploded, knocking out lights and causing patrons to take cover under tables. It also knocked the second assassin to the ground, allowing Remy to knock him out with one last swipe of his staff. Once he was no longer an obstacle, he ran out through the kitchen to avoid the crowds. Nobody else stood in his way. None of the chefs tried to be heroes and let him walk out the side exit into an alley. They were wise to do so because Remy wasn’t going to let the Assassins take him. If they couldn’t handle him, then that didn’t bode well for others.
Once in the alley he looked out towards the street and heard sirens in the distance. The police were already on their way, but they weren’t going to find anything. That’s how it worked around here. The Assassins had their own laws and so did the Thieves Guild. Nobody was foolish enough to take them on. Nobody, that is, until he did.
“Another day another escape,” sighed Remy, “When does it end?”
It was a question he had been asking himself for years now. His life was tied to the Thieves Guild and as anyone brought up with them knows, their greatest enemies were the Assassins. The feud between them went way back before even Jean-Luc’s time. Nobody knows exactly how it began, but at some point the Thieves and the Assassins were one guild. Then out of nowhere a master thief, who was supposedly one of Remy’s ancestors, murdered one of the assassin leaders and they broke off into factions.
Since then it had been one bloody fight after another. They called it the unspoken war of the underworld. Thieves hunted assassins and assassins hunted thieves. Remy was brought up to despise the assassins and do whatever had to be done to wipe them out and seize control of New Orleans. For a while he did just that, fighting many battles alongside his thieving brethren. But one day it all changed.
There was a point in this senseless conflict when it all could have ended. Remy was a part of it and he could have been the hero, the thief who destroyed the Assassins Guild. But that never happened. He made a fateful decision that spared the Assassins and his brethren. It was a decision that haunted him every day. It was the reason why he had no allies in either guild anymore. Every day was a fight for his own survival, but he never once considered leaving. He stayed in hopes of making things right again.
But lately, that was getting a lot harder. Conflict between the two guilds had escalated to new levels. A dangerous new turf war was emerging. And he found himself at ground zero. He wasn’t sure why, but something was coming to ahead. He could feel it.
“Hurry up, Stormy,” said Remy as he tucked his cards and bow staff away, “Remy’s in a hell of a position. And it’s only gonna get worse.”
Ororo Munroe had mixed feelings about New Orleans. As she looked out through a passenger window on the X-jet, many conflicting memories came back to her. Some were good. New Orleans was her first real taste of America. After Professor Xavier found her, he helped her get into the country as a student. She was then able to get the education she needed at Louisiana State University, but she got a lot more than just an education when she came here. Her life in New Orleans was much more eventful than anyone realized.
Now part of that life had resurfaced and she found herself on a mission with very personal stakes involved. Riding along with her were Logan, Kurt, Rogue, and Kitty. They were not only there to support her but to further investigate. This matter had implications that extended beyond the personal aspects. But everyone seemed curious as to how Ororo was tied to this affair. She spent much of the plane ride filling them in, but they still had plenty of questions.
“So this guy, Remy, was a friend of yours when you were in college?” asked Kitty with bit of suspicion in her tone.
“There’s no need for innuendo, Kitty. I won’t deny it. Remy is a good friend, but for a while he was more than that.”
“Ah see,” snickered Rogue, “Must have been a real cutie to sweep a gal like you off your feet.”
“It’s a lot more complicated than that,” sighed Ororo as she gazed out the window, “I met Remy when I was still new to this country. He and I were both in a difficult place, trying to fit in as mutants in an unforgiving city. But that wasn’t the only thing we had in common.”
“Vhat do you mean?” asked Kurt curiously.
Ororo shifted uncomfortably as she recalled those fateful days.
“Like me, Remy was a thief. We both grew up around thieves and much of our lives to that point had been built around thieves. But his was a different kind of thievery.”
“How different can a thief be?” scoffed Logan, who was flying the jet, “Doesn’t matter what they call themselves, they still steal.”
“It wasn’t about what he stole. It was about the organization he was a part of,” Ororo clarified, “You see, New Orleans has a long history of secretive organizations known as guilds. The two most prominent are the Thieves Guild and the Assassins Guild. Think of them as the godfathers of their trade.”
“And this Remy guy was involved with them?” said Rogue, questioning Ororo’s earlier judgment.
“Yes, he was a top thief in the Thieves Guild,” said Ororo solemnly, “But he’s not just some thug. He’s a special case.”
“You just sayin’ that because you had a thing for him?” asked Logan.
“I’m saying it because he did something no one in either guild ever does. He walked away,” said Ororo.
“That’s it? He walked away?” said Kitty.
“I know it doesn’t sound like much, but take it from a former thief. Getting out of the criminal world is very hard. For Remy it was even harder. He broke the first cardinal rule of thieving to get away and he’s been paying for it ever since.”
“What rule is that?” said Rogue, still skeptical.
Ororo was forced to hold back her emotions on this matter. The others couldn’t understand because they weren’t former thieves. To her it struck a powerful chord.
“The central importance of keeping his word,” she said, “Above all else, a good thief is to do as he promises. Nothing else must get in their way. Not their emotions, not their personal feelings, and especially not their morality. Remy let all three get to him. It happened in the span of a single night. It would have had major implications for the Thieves Guild, but he didn’t go through with it. He couldn’t.”
“Why? What was holding him back?” asked Kitty curiously.
“That’s not for me to say,” said Ororo, “But afterwards, Remy was cast out by his own family. For a while he was on the brink. Both the Assassins and the Thieves Guild wanted him to suffer. To them, he was dead.”
“He who betrays is already dead,” said Kurt empathetically, “I remember zhat saying from zhe Azazel. It’s a constant throughout zhe criminal underworld.”
“Remy’s no exception. Luckily, that’s when our paths crossed. I helped him get through his darkest hour and he helped me in my new environment. All throughout college we relied on one another. I did my best to keep him from falling into traps from the guild. I even tutored him for a while. He helped inspire me to pursue teaching.”
“And you still hooked up with him,” commented Logan, “The guy must have seen one too many bad pornos.”
“That’s another story entirely,” said Ororo, rolling her eyes, “I’ve tried to keep in touch with him since I graduated, but he’s had to go into hiding again. For him to call me out of the blue like this must mean something very serious is wrong.”
“And he claims it has to do with the sentinel plans?” said Kitty.
“That’s what he says and I believe him.”
“You sure he’s not just jerking you around so he can get the X-men to bail him out?” said Logan in a cynical tone.
“I know him, Logan. And I trust him. Say what you will, but I know Remy has a good heart. One way or another, I’m going to help him. That’s what friends do.”
The resolve in her voice and the look in her eyes left no room for argument. Ororo may have been a kind, caring woman, but she had a tough side as well. It wasn’t too hard to imagine her as a former thief. Logan still wasn’t convinced, but Rogue, Kitty, and Kurt trusted her word. Kurt especially sympathized with her plight. He knew how hard it was to get away from a life of crime. If Remy had her trust then that was enough for them.
The jet descended through the clouds over the afternoon skies over the city. Logan activated the stealth generator so they wouldn’t be seen. The haze from the swamp would also act as good cover. The team was ready to begin their investigation and Ororo looked ready to reunite with her old friend.
“Just out of curiosity, how come you never brought up Remy before?” asked Rogue, “Did you even tell Hank about him?”
Ororo flinched somewhat at such a question, which pretty much gave the answer away. And if the hurt in her eyes was any indication, it was a sensitive subject.
“I’d rather not discuss that, Rogue,” she said, “Let’s just find, Remy.”
“Shouldn’t be too hard,” said Logan as he grabbed a small PDA from the console, “Chuck just linked us up with feed from Cerebro. Whoever this guy is, he’s been using his powers a lot lately.”
“That’s never a good sign,” groaned Kitty, “I knew we should have tried harder to wrestle Bobby away from Lorna. Hopefully Scott, Warren, and Jean find out more enough on their end to keep this from getting messy.”
“That all depends if that tip this Remy guy gave ain’t bogus,” grunted Logan, “And if Warren’s old man will let them snoop around his old factories enough to see if he messed up again.”
“Let’s hope family connections prevail,” said Kurt as he stood near the hatch with the rest of the team, “Vhat about, Beast? Is he going to be backing us up remotely?”
Ororo’s expression shifted again as she prepared to open the hatch. It wasn’t lost on her that this incident with Remy was derailing their plans to get together and work on their relationship. But that would have to wait.
“No…he’s caught up in another project,” she said in a slightly bitter tone, “We’ll keep in touch with the Professor if we need help.”
“Ouch, a guy ain’t helping his girlfriend on something this important? That can’t be a good sign,” said Rogue under her breath.
“Quiet Rogue!” whispered Kitty, “Leave comments like that to Bobby!”
Rogue shook her head and fell silent. As someone fresh off a breakup, she knew how distracting relationships could be. If there were other issues going on between Ororo and Hank, it was sure to affect how this mission would pan out. The last thing they needed when dealing with professional criminals was relationship drama.
Once the jet was in hover, Ororo opened the hatch from the X-jet. Logan, Kitty, Rogue, and Kurt each gathered around her and waited as she summoned a round of winds to carry them down to the streets of New Orleans. Once they were air born they began their descent. This was a deeply personal affair for Ororo, but if it involved the sentinel plans and the Thieves Guild then it had the potential to erupt into something much worse.
Not far from the city limits of New Orleans, there were vast stretches of swampland. It was an unforgiving terrain with thick trees, sweltering humidity, and hungry crocodiles. It was the perfect hiding place for anyone looking to stay out of sight so it was only natural that the Thieves Guild carry out their operations there. Nestled on a large hill was the famous Chateau Lebeau. It was an opulent manor built in traditional French-Cajun styles. This was where much of the history of the Guild was written. This was where their ultimate triumph over their enemies would take shape.
For Jean-Luc Lebeau it was sure to be a bittersweet triumph. As he stood over on the balcony overlooking the swamp, he lamented over how it all went so wrong. These past few weeks, New Orleans was under a hidden siege. The Assassins Guild wasn’t letting up. They were attacking the Thieves head on, claiming they had broken the fragile peace between them by stealing from their clients. It was ironic because he had gotten similar reports that someone was stealing from their clients as well. His fellow Thieves were convinced it was the Assassins. He believed that at first too, but now he wasn’t so sure.
Regardless of who was causing this turmoil, neither side was gaining any ground. At the rate they were going nothing would be left of either guild. It was tantamount to suicide to continue, but backing down wasn’t an option. There was only one possibility left. Unfortunately, it meant a significant sacrifice on his part.
“Perè? You still out here?” came a heavily accented voice.
Jean-Luc turned around to see his son, Henri Lebeau, looking at him with that critical eye. Behind him were his nephews Etinne and Theoren Marceaux. They were family and he trusted them in a ways he didn’t trust other members of the Guild. But Henri he wasn’t so sure about.
“Just enjoyin’ a little sun, my boy,” he said, “I take it from that charmin’ look of yours ya found something.”
“More like we found what was left of it,” grumbled Henri, “Remy was in de French Quarters in a prime Assassins hangout. There was a little ‘incident’ that left quite a mess for the middle of the day.”
“Did you catch up with him?”
“Non, he was long gone by the time I got there. But he knows we’re comin’ for him. I’m sure of it! He’s just hangin’ around Assassins to buy time.”
“Oui, it’s reckless and dangerous,” added Etinne, “It’s right up Remy’s alley.”
“Remy’s a smart boy,” sighed Jean-Luc, “He’s done a good job of layin’ low these past four years. Ain’t no reason for him to let his guard down.”
“I’m still surprised he ain’t skipped town,” said Theoren, “He knows we’re after him so why don’t he just leave? He must be plannin’ something!”
Jean-Luc sensed their frustration. Henri, Etienne, and Theoren had good reason to be even more resentful of Remy than the rest of the Guild. Even though Remy was younger, he constantly outdid them. Early on it was just a sibling rivalry, but now it was something much more serious.
“Don’t start gettin’ paranoid on me, Theoren. We all know Remy ain’t got the backup to fight back. Since we expelled him from the Guild he’s been cut off from our network as well.”
“That don’t mean he ain’t gonna try!” said Henri angrily, “He’s cunning, but he’s gettin’ desperate. He knows he can’t run forever. And he’s too damn stubborn to run away. He thinks he can stick around and win us over. But he’s wrong!”
“He ain’t tryin’ to win us over, son. I know Remy better than that,” said Jean-Luc sternly, “He thinks he can make all this right again.”
“Then maybe he really is losing his mind,” laughed Etienne, “After what he did he should know there’s no going back!”
“That ain’t ever stopped him before,” sighed Jean-Luc, “He’s gonna keep trying.”
“You ain’t gonna give him a chance, are you, Perè?” asked Henri.
Jean-Luc was silent for a moment. As head of the Thieves Guild, he couldn’t afford to show any weakness. Even if he did have a soft spot for his adopted son, he couldn’t let that affect his judgment. He had to do what was best for the Guild and that meant upholding their sacred bylaws.
“Remy had his chance. He knows what he did,” said Jean-Luc, “And we know what we gotta do. If we’re gonna stop this mess with the Assassins, we need to capture him…alive.”
“Alive? Ya might as well ask us to wrestle an angry croc!” complained Theoren.
“The Assassins won’t accept him any other way. The terms they gave us are clear. If we wanna prove to them that we ain’t behind these thefts, we gotta give ‘em some leverage. They figure my own adopted son is a high enough price to pay and they sure as hell have been wantin’ to get their hands on him.”
“That be puttin’ it mildly,” scoffed Henri, “But Remy deserves whatever they do to him! He screwed us all over! It’s time he pay the price!”
“I know. I just wish it didn’t have to be like this,” said Jean-Luc in a low tone.
“We all do,” said Etinne, “But this be how it is.”
Jean-Luc turned away from his son and nephews briefly, hiding his bitter expression. Nothing would make him happier than to end this senseless conflict with the Assassins once and for all. But what they were asking of him was a lot on a personal level. They didn’t believe him when he told them the Thieves Guild wasn’t behind the thefts plaguing their clients. The only way to prove he was telling the truth was to present them with a peace offering. Asking for Remy seemed win-win for everybody. The Thieves Guild expelled him and the Assassins had a long standing grudge against him. Despite this, it still weighed heavily on him as a father.
He wished there was a better way, but this was the best they could do. He was about to turn and address his family again. Then his cell phone started beeping. Someone had just sent him a secure email. He already had a good idea what it entailed so he didn’t bother ignoring it. Taking out his phone, he opened the encrypted message.
“What is it, Perè?” asked Henri.
“It’s Remy,” said Jean-Luc, “One of our spies found him. He’s at the port.”
“Then what are we waitin’ for?!” exclaimed Etienne, “Let’s bring that little rat in!”
“We will, but I’m comin’ with ya,” said Jean-Luc as he put away his phone.
“What?! But Perè…” began Henri.
“Don’t start with me, son. I know I be safer here, but this is a family affair,” said Jean-Luc strongly as he retrieved his bow staff, “And we gonna take care of it as a family.”
Worthington Electronics Factory
With the mission underway in New Orleans Scott, Jean, and Warren began doing their part. Their destination was a factory owned by Worthington Industries that specialized in electronics. It was based in southern Arkansas along the Mississippi river and acted as a major trading hub for Worthington products being shipped in and out through the country. In the middle of the day it was running at full speed and like all Worthington facilities, it was highly secure. Luckily for the X-men, Warren coaxed his father into letting them investigate.
After being dropped off by the others in the jet, they entered the facility through side-entrance so as not to disrupt operations. Heaven forbid if Worthington Industries lost a few million dollars in productivity. But for once they weren’t out to stop or disrupt anything. They were just following up on a tip from Ororo’s friend, Remy.
“I hope this Remy guy Ororo trusts so much is wrong,” said Warren as they made their way into the building, “My dad will be mighty pissed if components from his company are being used to make black market sentinels.”
“I sympathize with your father, Warren, but I actually hope Remy’s right,” said Scott, “If we find proof of new sentinel construction we’ll know where and who to attack. Better we find them now than wait until they’re deployed.”
“That’s for sure,” said Jean, “But how exactly are we going to track these parts? Will your father give us access to logs or anything?”
“Are you kidding?” scoffed Warren, “We’re lucky he’s giving us access to this building, let alone his precious records!”
“I thought you said things between you and your father were improving,” said Jean coyly.
“They are to some extent, but let’s just say we have a long way to go,” groaned the winged mutant, “He would trust me to perform open-heart surgery on him before he trusted me with company records.”
“Not taking his side or anything, but I can see why,” said Scott, “It wouldn’t look too good for him if someone found out his company was involved in shady sentinel dealings.”
“But if he was genuinely concerned, you’d think he would be willing to help us more,” said Warren cynically, “The mere act of investigating is tantamount to admitting guilt for him and my father has too much pride for that.”
“So if we’re going to find evidence of sentinel tech in his company, we’re on our own?” surmised Jean.
“I’m afraid so,” said Warren, “And even if we do find something, that doesn’t mean my father will do anything about it. Especially if it could potentially hurts the company.”
It didn’t sound too encouraging. Finding the sentinels was of great concern to the X-men and mutants everywhere. But to Warren’s father, his company’s integrity took precedence. The lack of trust between him and his son probably played a factor as well. Whatever the reasons, if they were going to find something they were going to have do it on their own accord.
The three X-men kept to themselves as they made their way through the elaborate factory. Warren’s father ordered they be guided through by an official Worthington liaison. There were only so many parts of the factory they would allow them to see and the factory manager, neatly dressed older woman, would watch over them at every turn. They passed many workers along the way and endured their fair share of suspicious glances. Nobody said anything, but nobody was too comforted by their presence either.
They eventually arrived in the upper levels near the main offices. This was where upper management ran the day-to-day operations of this facility and like the rest of the factory, it was fairly busy at this time of day. The only area with little activity was the archives. Naturally, they were well-guarded and nobody without clearance could get in. Before they could even enter, the liaison stopped them and looked at them with a somewhat menacing glare.
“These are the archives. They detail everything this factory has produced,” she said, “Our CEO has permitted me to allow you full access for no more than two hours. Should you find anything that you wish to bring to his attention, you must give it to me first. Is that clear?”
“Yes, I know the drill,” groaned Warren, “Could we please get on with this? We have friends in a very serious predicament and we really do need to get to work.”
The manager gave Warren a harsh scold, but she did as he asked. She showed her ID card to the two guards and scanned her thumb over a fingerprint scanner to open the heavy doors. Before they entered, two armed security guards gave them an intimidating look. They made it clear they were being watched. But Warren just brushed it off and Jean tried to keep herself from laughing. As tough as those men were trying to look, she could still sense they were afraid of them. Some of their thoughts weren’t even threatening, but they were still disconcerting.
‘Stop looking at my boobs pal. I can read your thoughts. So long as I’m here, keep your perverse fantasies to yourself.’
Her psychic message caused one of the guards to nearly fall over. It did make him appear a little less imposing though. They were going to have to deal with this kind of scrutiny either way. They might as well try and work with it.
Once inside, the three X-men were met with a daunting sight. There were at least several rows of unmarked filing cabinets with records probably going back years. There were also six computer terminal all linked to large data servers that lined the walls. It gave the room a very cramped feeling. It wasn’t nearly as well-maintained as the rest of the offices. There were wires and cables protruding everywhere and boxes full of old parts were stacked or strewn all over the area. If there was evidence of sentinel dealings here, it was well hidden.
“Ooh boy, where do we start?” said Jean.
“If this factory is run like the rest of my father’s industrial playgrounds there should be sales records in the weekly reports,” said Warren as he made his way over to the filing cabinets.
“How detailed are they? Will we be able to tell if someone’s using them for sentinels?” asked Scott.
“I’m not sure. That assumes my father or the people making these sales haven’t removed them from the records, which on this level is pretty damn likely.”
“Good thing we came prepared,” said Jean as she took out her communicator and cell phone and walked up to one of the terminals, “Beast gave me this special linking program on my phone. If we can get into the system here, he should be able to use it to access other Worthington networks that may contain the information we’re looking for.”
“Just make sure Hank doesn’t leave any traces,” said Warren, “If my father suspects for a minute that the networks are being hacked, he’ll pitch a fit.”
“I wouldn’t worry about that. When it comes to computers, Hank’s pretty reliable,” said Scott, “He did hack Hodge’s network on Genosha.”
“Yeah, but he was in a different mindset then,” Warren pointed out, “I get the feeling this incident with Ororo and one of her ex lovers isn’t sitting too well with him. Then again things between those two have been pretty rocky lately.”
“I’m sure he won’t let it affect him,” said Scott, “Hank’s too good for it. He’s worked through much more difficult personal issues before. We all have.”
“Don’t remind me,” muttered Warren.
The winged mutant got to work, slipping away into the maze of filing cabinets to look for the information that may not even be there. Most of their success would hinge on how well Hank could infiltrate the system and track the more secretive transactions of this factory. Remy’s tip was very specific. Whoever had the sentinel plans was using components from this factory. He didn’t elaborate how he know. It was up to the three of them to find out.
Scott sat down at the primary console next to Jean and launched the operating system. While it was booting up, Jean plugged a cable from her cell phone into one of the network drives. As soon as it was connected Hank’s program launched on its own. All she had to do was dial out to the mansion where Hank and the Professor had the computing power of Cerebro to help their search.
“I’m accessing the database,” said Scott as he typed away on the computer, “I’m going to try and open a connection. Dial out to the mansion and make sure they’re ready.”
“Already on it, Cyclops,” said Jean.
While Scott continued to work, Jean dialed the special number the Professor gave her. She wasn’t as tech savvy as they were. All she knew is this cell phone connection was going to allow them to access all the information Warren’s father didn’t want them to see. Chances were that was where they were going to find what they were looking for.
“Okay, we’re connected,” said Jean as she set the phone down, “You hear me on your end, Beast?”
“Loud and clear, Jean. I’ll take it from here.”
Through the phone, Jean could tell Hank’s voice didn’t have the same confidence it usually did. It was flat and uninspired, something she rarely heard from Hank. He was usually so confident and sophisticated. Today he just didn’t seem entirely there.
Jean found herself dwelling on it as she watched Hank’s program go to work. Scott was still typing on the console, pouring through the database to see if he could find anything. It was doubtful that he would given what Warren told them about how this place was run. But as she thought about Hank and Ororo, her thoughts soon drifted to Scott.
“Hanks sounds a little off,” she commented, “I think Warren may have a point. This whole deal with Ororo and some old flame of hers is affecting him.”
“What makes you say that?” said Scott, keeping his ridged focus like he did on missions.
“I just get that feeling, you know? Plus, I have an uncanny talent for picking up on these things. Call it psychic if you want, but I don’t need to read minds to see it’s there. And I think it’s serious.”
“Maybe it is, but I think they’ll work it out. They care about each other too much to let something like this come between them.
“That’s just it. They really do care, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their doubts. You and I should both know what that’s like. And I’m beginning to think there’s a deeper meaning to it.”
Scott turned away from the console briefly and turned towards his long time friend. He set his ridged Cyclops demeanor aside for the moment. He was still dealing with issues stemming from his breakup with Rogue and this issue did resonate strongly with him. It also struck him for a number of other more personal reasons.
“What kind of meaning?” Scott inquired.
Jean took a deep breath as she struggled at first to find the words. This was a sensitive issue for her as well, but it was very pertinent.
“You may think this sounds ridiculously corny, but I think all these failed relationships we’ve been going through lately have to do with one simple concept…love.”
“Love?” said Scott with a half-grin, “You’re right, that is corny.”
“Even so, I think it has some merit. Hank and Ororo do care about each other and it’s pretty clear there is love between them. But I don’t think it’s that deeper love.”
“Deeper love?” said Scott skeptically, “What makes you say that?”
“I’m not entirely sure, but I think it has to do with little things like trust and what not. He didn’t say it, but I don’t think Hank even knew about Remy before today.”
“I’m not sure about that. They have been dating for a while. That should have come up at some point.”
“You’d think that, but I don’t think so. It kind of reminds me of how I never talked to Logan all that much about my last boyfriend. And I’d venture to guess you didn’t tell Rogue much about your ex either.”
Scott shifted awkwardly at her words, but there was no arguing with the truth. Jean had a talent for picking up on that sort of thing. He was starting to see where she was going with this.
“I know we had special cases with the people we’ve dated. Rogue didn’t have a history and Logan doesn’t remember most of his life anyways, let alone his ex girlfriends,” Jean went on, “But Hank and Ororo didn’t deal with any of that and they still didn’t go into it. That says to me that while they may love each other, it’s not in that deep, powerful way that allows them to really trust each other and open up with stuff like that.”
“And you can verify all this without psychic powers?” said Scott with an impressed look.
“Well, maybe I pick up on a few thought projections here and there,” said Jean with a sheepish grin, “I know I’m probably being a hopeless romantic, but if the love isn’t strong enough the relationship can only go so far. To really love someone…that takes something special.”
“Special like what?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think anybody does. If they did we wouldn’t have to go through the trouble of failed relationships, no would we?”
That evoked a slight laugh from both of them. Jean still made a serious point and it did get Scott thinking. Given how they had both recently gotten over relationships, it was only natural that they would dwell on these issues. Scott couldn’t recall her being this deep about it, but it was more than he could have come up with on his own. Being the guy he was it wasn’t an easy topic to dwell on. Few men would ever be so overt about it. But manly issues aside, he did think about it. It did have an effect on him.
“I guess we’ll have to wait and see,” said Scott.
Jean smiled warmly and Scott smiled back. There was an awkward silence between them, which Scott realized.
“For Hank and Ororo, I mean,” he said quickly.
“Yeah…of course,” said Jean sheepishly, “That’s what I meant. What else could I have been referring to?”
“Nothing…nothing at all.”
There was another awkward silence. Jean couldn’t herself from blushing and Scott found himself turning back to the computer screen to hide his reaction. He tried to put on his Cyclops mindset again, but Jean could still pick up on his demeanor. She just chose not to push it any further less it get too awkward.
It was also easy for them to forget that they weren’t the only ones on this mission.
“You guys want to save these nauseating topics for another time?” groaned Warren as he combed through some thick records, “If Bobby weren’t surgically attached to Lorna he would have a field day with this.”
“Remind me to thank Lorna then,” said Scott as he got up from his seat, “Don’t worry, Warren. We haven’t forgotten. We’ll help you with the files. Hank can take care of the networks without us.”
Returning to his leadership role, Scott grabbed a stack of records from Warren and started combing over them. Jean remained at the console and continued smiling. As awkward as her conversation with Scott had been, it was kind of nice to get that out in the open with him. She had been musing over this issue for a while now and it didn’t just extend to Hank and Ororo. There was so much more she wanted to discuss with him, but it would have to wait. They would have plenty of time to work on it later.
Xavier Institute – Cerebro
Hank McCoy usually never shied away from an intellectual challenge. Whether it was the physics of the X-gene or the crossword puzzle in the New York Times, he approached every mental test with enthusiasm and vigor. But this was different. This challenge wasn’t much of a challenge on a purely intellectual level. It was a challenge of his emotions and his heart.
Ororo caught him completely off guard when she revealed this issue regarding Remy Lebeau. They had talked extensively about her experiences in college. Even before they started dating, she went on for hours about the challenges she faced. But nowhere in her stories did she ever talk about Remy, let alone a relationship with him. It shouldn’t have surprised him. Past relationships were sensitive issue for both of them. He had his own reasons for never bringing his up, but it still struck him on a deeply personal level.
Regardless of his personal feelings, however, he had to help her and he had to help Remy. This issue revolved around more than just him. It had the potential to affect mutants everywhere if this man was right and sentinel technology was being utilized. He was already hard at work, trying to find out if this tip Remy offered was valid. He had his own personal prejudices about a man Ororo described as a career thief and former lover, but he set them aside and worked with the Professor to find out the truth.
“We’re linked up, Charles,” said Hank as he worked feverishly, “I should be able to access all Worthington networks, including those not privy to everyday scrutiny.”
“Good, start looking at those first,” said the Professor, “I feel we’ll find the evidence we need in them.”
“That remains contingent on this Remy Lebeau character’s sincerity,” he said, trying to hide his skepticism, “He claims there have been a significant increase in thefts in the area that we somehow missed. He also claimed he personally looked into it and traced it back to this one menial factory.”
“I understand it seems unsavory, old friend. But we must take it seriously. The thefts are beyond dispute and Worthington Industries does have historic ties to the sentinels.”
“Correlation doesn’t always denote causality.”
“But it can imply other connections. That’s what we’re to find out.”
Professor Xavier wasn’t used to hearing this kind of skepticism from Hank. He understood he had a personal stake in this endeavor since it involved Ororo, but he sensed there was more to it than just simple concern. Hank was usually so good about being objective in serious matters. He was concerned his emotions might get the better of him in this instance.
As Hank ran his program, sifting through streams of data, Xavier ran his own search using the Cerebro interface. The human mind was a lot more powerful than any computer and it allowed him to decipher certain kinds of data more quickly. As he worked, he kept an eye on Hank and noticed how his demeanor remained so distant.
“Hank, please understand that if you don’t feel up to this because of Ororo…”
“Please don’t bring that up, Charles. I’m distracted enough as it is,” said Hank flatly.
“I can see that. And while you know my policy towards the personal lives of others, I am not above concern for good friends.”
“I don’t see how bringing this up at a time like this will make me any less distracted.”
“I don’t see how not addressing it will make you any more distracted.”
Hank’s expression remained stoic. Charles Xavier had a profound talent for winning arguments with reason. He was one of the few people he could match wits with. But these weren’t matters as simple as quantum mechanics. These were relationships issues, something Hank had an egregious history with as did Charles.
“It has nothing to do with the fact that she’s meeting up with an old flame,” said Hank assertively, “It’s not like she’s getting back together with him.”
“Come now, I’m sure that was never a concern,” said the Professor, “What was it? Perhaps it was a relationship she didn’t dwell on.”
“It was a relationship she never even mentioned to me. Even before we were an item when we talked extensively about our lives, she never even brought him up. Yet now all of the sudden she claims he was a big part of her life.”
“And you’re left wondering what other aspects she hasn’t told you about?” he surmised.
Hank’s expression shifted as he turned towards his old friend and mentor.
“I’m worried about what implications this has for us. I never asked about previous lovers because I didn’t think we were ready to get that intimate. You know how hard a subject it is for me.”
“You’re referring to Carlie, aren’t you?”
Hank tensed at the mention of that name. It was a name nobody had brought up in years and for good reason. To this day it still caused him untold heartache.
“I take it you didn’t tell Ororo about her either,” the Professor surmised.
“I wasn’t ready,” he sighed, “I was too caught up enjoying this new feeling I had with her. It was novel and fresh. And I admit I missed the tender touch of a woman. I planned on telling Ororo about it sooner or later. But other issues kept coming up. It hasn’t been as easy as I hoped.”
Charles gave his friend an understanding look. He didn’t know just what those ‘other issues’ entailed, but he didn’t have to in order to empathize. Hank was a very reserved man emotionally. He had to be in order to contain his animal instincts. At times he overcompensated, but this was one instance where that was a detriment.
For Hank, it was hard just trying to verbalize it. The Professor was a good listener, but this was not something he was ready to address at the moment. He was still pondering over a number of issues between Ororo and Tessa. Until he worked them out, it wasn’t worth getting this worked up about it. He still had a job to do.
“If it’s all the same to you, Charles, I would prefer we not discuss this further,” he said as he turned back to the console, “If we are to track the sentinel plans, we must focus on the task at hand.”
“Very well,” said Xavier, despite his lingering reservations, “But if at any point you don’t feel up to this, I can handle the rest on my own.”
“Thank you, Charles. But I’ll be okay. The heart is strong, but so is the mind,” said Hank as he resumed his feverish typing.
“Are you sure?”
“I’m positive,” he affirmed, “You know me. I prefer to contribute. And if what Remy claims is true, it could have grave implications for all of us.”
New Orleans – Main Port
Guided by Ororo’s winds, the X-men descended over the westernmost area of the main port. New Orleans had been historically dominated as a port city, acting as a gateway into the heart of the United States. At this time of day it was at its busiest. Several large oil tankers were already making their way to the docks and a couple of cargo ships were in the midst of unloading their goods. With so much chaos and expansive warehouse space, it was the perfect place for someone like Remy to hide.
With directions from the Professor, Ororo flew the team down to a seemingly normal-looking warehouse. There was activity out front with dock workers moving about so they landed in the back near a rear entrance. Even before they landed, Ororo started looking for her Cajun friend. It had been so long since she had seen him. She didn’t know what kind of state he was in. It couldn’t be good for him to call her for help like this. She understood the circumstances that led him to a life in the shadows. For him to emerge like this, something serious had to be wrong.
While Ororo remained concerned, the others weren’t sure what to make of this. Logan, Kitty, Rogue, and Kurt could tell this was personal to her. They were getting involved in a conflict between the two criminal Guilds over something that may have nothing to do with sentinels. They had no reason to question Ororo’s judgment, but something about this just didn’t feel right.
“You sure this is the place, Storm?” asked Rogue.
“These are the coordinates from Cerebro,” said Ororo as she double checked, “Remy should be inside.”
“Any idea what this guy friend of yours is doing holding up in a place like this?” asked Logan in a cynical tone, “A warehouse in a port in broad daylight is a hell of place to hang out.”
“Maybe he just has a seriously poor sense of direction,” joked Rogue.
“It may seem strange, but trust me Remy has his reasons,” assured Ororo, “He’s probably just hiding here. At this time of day it’s a pretty good place to stay out of sight.”
“Vhy? Vhat vould he be hiding from?” asked Kurt.
“That’s a bit more complicated. I think it would be best if you let Remy tell that story.”
“Oh I’m sure this will be good,” said Logan, already convinced something was up with this guy.
Ororo led the way as the team entered the warehouse. Inside they were met with stacks upon stacks of large metal crates. The overall layout was open and spacious. From the looks of it this place was nearly filled to capacity. There wasn’t much room to work with and there were only narrow paths between the crates for them to move. The others quickly saw what Ororo meant when she said this was a good place to hide. Since it was so full there weren’t any workers walking about. They could still hear the bustling activity outside though, which if nothing else provided good cover.
The team made their way towards the center of the warehouse where there seemed to be a clearing. Nothing about it seemed too threatening, but Logan kept his guard up like he always did. He started sniffing the air, trying to detect any suspicious scents. Before they reached the clearing he got something and cringed.
“What is it, Logan? Smell anything?” asked Kitty.
“Yeah…chili fries, a burger, and some other weird food I can’t even make out,” muttered Logan.
“It’s probably shrimp gumbo,” grinned Ororo, “Which can only mean one thing.”
Ororo ran out ahead of the others into the clearing. There she saw a familiar figure sitting with his back against a crate, casually shuffling a deck of cards in one hand and eating with the other. He looked a bit more rugged than she remembered. His clothes were dirty and unkempt, consisting of a wrinkled gray sleeveless shirt and dark denim pants with a hole in the knee. But that gritty yet handsome complexion was unmistakable.
“I knew you’d find me, Stormy,” grinned Remy.
“Remy…is that you?” said Ororo with a mix of excitement and concern.
“The one and only,” he said in his thick Cajun accent.
To prove his point he lightly charged a card and tossed it towards her. Ororo smiled as she caught it, watching as it caught fire and floated away. Remy Lebeau may have changed in appearance, but his skills and demeanor were the same.
While Ororo was taking in this moment, the others caught up with her. They didn’t react at first when they saw Remy. They were still unsure what to think. But as soon as Kitty and Rogue emerged, Remy’s grin widened.
“And what do we have here? Seems like you been makin’ friends, Stormy. And some of them is easy on the eyes,” he said with a flirtatious look.
Kitty blushed while Rogue wasn’t amused. Even if this guy was a friend of Ororo’s, she didn’t take kindly to strangers hitting on her. Especially since she was fresh off a breakup.
“Please tell me this ain’t him,” she groaned.
“Sorry to disappoint you, Rogue. But this is him,” said Ororo as she walked over to her friend, “Remy, I’d like you to meet those friends I told you about. This is Rogue, Kitty, Kurt, and Logan.”
“Any friend of Stormy’s is a friend of Remy’s,” said the Cajun as he casually approached Rogue and Kitty.
He went for Rogue first, taking her hands and kissing it. Rogue still didn’t look amused, but she had to admit it was a nice gesture. This guy looked like he crawled out of the sewers, but at least he had manners.
“Remy’s gotta admit, he loves you guys’ dress sense,” he said as his eyes ran up and down Rogue and Kitty.
“He doesn’t vaste time, does it?” whispered Kurt.
“And what’s wrong with that?” joked Kitty.
“I zhink it’s vorth pointing out he’s a little old for you.”
“Oh lighten up, Kurt. It’s all in good fun!” assured Kitty, “Besides, he seems to like your sister better.”
That certainly made Kurt a little more uncomfortable. Looking over at Remy, he saw that he was still hovering around Rogue. She didn’t look too amused, but she didn’t push him away either. Ororo did mention that Remy was a bit of a ladies man. With Rogue fresh off a breakup, the last thing she needed was more drama.
Thankfully, Logan stepped in and got back to the task at hand.
“Enough goofin’ around!” he said as he confronted Remy apprehensively, “We didn’t just come to this dump for a vacation! You called us, remember? You better start explaining yourself and for your sake it better be the truth!”
“Logan please!” said Ororo, trying to push him back a bit.
“No, it’s okay Stormy. You’re charmin’ friend here is right. I owe you fellas an explanation,” said Remy, undaunted by Logan’s aggressive poise, “Ya all got here just in time too. It’s been gettin’ pretty bad.”
“Vhat’s been getting bad?” asked Kurt.
“Remember them tips Remy gave ya about the sentinels? That’s what this is about. And seein’ as how you and Stormy are all big time heroes now, Remy figures you’d be the best to take care of this.”
“That all depends,” said Logan, still skeptical, “How did a rat like you get caught up with the sentinels anyways?”
Remy took a deep breath as he prepared to tell them the story so far. It didn’t get to this point overnight. It was a long, drawn out process. There were a number of details he wouldn’t be able to divulge, but he owed the X-men as much as he could offer. Looking over at Storm, he took comfort in her kind gaze. She made it clear she already trusted him. It was just a matter of getting the rest of the X-men on his side.
“It wasn’t by choice, that’s for sure. Remy saw them sentinels on the TV just like everybody else. The last thing anybody wants is to deal with them gizmos. But that’s all changed,” he said as he grabbed his trench coat, “It started not long after the whole Genosha thing. Someone started pulling off big time heists from this here port.”
“Vhat kind of heists?” asked Kurt.
“The kind that your average street thug ain’t good enough for,” Remy answered, “Now around these parts, that ain’t unusuals. Between the Thieves Guild and the Assassins Guild, major heists is par for the course. But as I’m sure Stormy told you all, things ain’t all that rosy between them. They got strict territory. If a thief steals from an assassin’s network that’s damn near treason, but whoever was doin’ these jobs didn’t get that message. They just stole from everybody and made quite a mess in the process.”
To further reinforce his point, Remy took out some photos from his jacket and gave them to Logan and the others. They gave some pretty graphic details to the heists. They showed he wasn’t exaggerating. There were images of entire crates being ripped apart as if it was done by a giant hand, ships with huge cracks in them, and entire facilities burned to the ground. Whoever did this was packing some major firepower.
“Dang, whoever these guys are they know how to leave their mark,” commented Rogue.
“That’s what the Guilds thought,” Remy went on, “The Assassins thought it was the Thieves and the Thieves thought it was the Assassins. So for the past two months it’s been all out war. You ain’t gonna see it in the papers, but both sides ain’t gonna rest until they wipe each other out. To them they broke the cardinal rule of their guilds. They went back on their word. But Remy ain’t so sure that was the case so I looked into it.”
“How sickeningly noble of you,” said Logan dryly, “I’m sure you were just being a good little thief.”
“Remy has his reasons,” said the Cajun strongly, “At first I thought it was the Assassins tryin’ to set the Thieves Guild up. But somethin’ didn’t add up. That’s when Remy started looking into what these guys was stealing. They were big time hardware, the kind big time weapons is made out of. At first I didn’t think no sentinels was involved. Then Remy made two big time discoveries. The first one you already know. Most of them parts were linked to Worthington Industries.”
“The same Worthington Industries that have the rights to the sentinels,” Kitty surmised.
“Oui, but that ain’t all. The clincher was when Remy caught a glimpse of a nasty lookin’ scoundrel that came to town.”
Remy took out another picture and gave it to Logan. It was grainy and unclear, hinting it was taken from hidden camera or something. But the figure it depicted was unmistakable.
“Black Tom!” said Kurt with anger dripping from his tone.
“Right on,” sighed Remy, “Everybody in the thieves world knows about him. Whenever he comes to town, it ain’t ever a good sign.”
“He must have been here to sell the plans!” growled Logan, “Do you know who bought them?”
“Non, Remy only knows Black Tom sold ‘em to someone very unsavory. I didn’t get a name. I only know it’s someone very sinister.”
“And how did you find that out?” asked Rogue.
Remy just grinned mischievously.
“The man happened to have a fine lookin’ daughter,” he said proudly, “You’d be amazed what slips after a few rounds of bourbon and a couple of hours in a motel.”
That caught everyone by surprise. Kitty and Rogue found it outrageous yet intriguing while Ororo just rolled her eyes. Having known his flirtatious tendencies well, Ororo wasn’t surprised. Logan and Kurt scoffed, but even they had to admit any guy that could seduce Siryn had to be tough.
“Okay, I’ll admit it. That earns you some points with us,” said Logan.
“Are you kidding? Siryn?!” exclaimed Kitty.
“What can I say? Remy has skills and he knows how to use him,” he said with a cocky grin, “She also filled me in on that tip for that Worthington factory. If you want proof they’re making the parts, you’ll find it there.”
“Yes, we’re already looking into that,” said Storm, “But where does that leave us here? I’m sure you didn’t just call us in to visit.”
“You know me well, Stormy,” grinned Remy, “It’s true. I asked you all here for a reason. You all want to stop the sentinels and Remy wants to stop the war between the Thieves and the Assassins. And we can only do that one way.”
“And vhast is zhat?” asked Kurt.
“Simple…we gotta find who be pulling all these thefts,” he said strongly, “Remy can’t do it on his own. Both guilds want Remy dead so there’s only so much I can find.”
“Why would they want you dead?” asked Rogue suspiciously.
“That’s another long story Remy ain’t got time to tell,” said the Cajun, “Right now we got bigger fish to fry. So how bout it? Will the X-men help Remy?”
There were a lot of things about this Cajun thief that didn’t sit right. He had all the signs of someone who came of age in the dishonest environments of the streets. But regardless of his appearance, he gave them the break they had been looking for. Ever since the Black Tom ordeal, the X-men had been trying to stop the sentinel plans from reaching the black market. It seemed they were too late to stop the first sale, but they weren’t too late to stop them from being used.
Logan was still suspicious and so was Kurt, who knew from his experience in the Azazel when someone wasn’t telling the full story. But Ororo believed him and he seemed to have won over Kitty and Rogue. It may have just been his charm, but whatever the reason he made his case. It was their duty to make a sound judgment.
“We’ll help you, Remy,” said Ororo with a friendly gesture, “You have the support of the X-men behind you.”
“I knew I could count on you, Stormy,” grinned Remy, “You always did come through for me.”
Ororo smiled warmly. These weren’t the best circumstances for them to reunite, but it was still a nice feeling.
“Just bear in mind, Herr Lebeau, ve must be able to count on you as vell,” said Kurt, “And vith all due respect, you don’t strike me as someone who is completely forthcoming.”
“Oh Remy gets it. He ain’t no big time hero,” he said innocently, “Just let this here Cajun prove himself. I already got me some leads.”
“Then we should get going,” said Ororo assertively.
The others were in agreement. Kitty, Kurt, and Rogue started following Ororo. But Logan continued to linger.
“Wait…” he growled.
“Logan, must we do this?” groaned Ororo, “Give Remy a chance! I know you don’t trust easy, but…”
“No! It’s not that! I smell something!” he said with predatory intent, “Ain’t it ain’t that god-awful gumbo!”
Remy was inclined to defend his favorite food, but Logan was serious. The rest of the X-men took it seriously as well. Logan’s knack for sniffing out danger was uncanny. If he said there was danger it was usually wise to heed his warning.
“What is it, Logan?” asked Kitty anxiously.
Logan walked ahead of them tentatively, sniffing the air with greater scrutiny. A whole new round of scents inundated the area. They weren’t port workers and they weren’t tourists. They were stealthy and well-organized. They also bore the distinct scent of malicious intent. He had been in enough fights to know the signs of a confrontation. He was just beginning to zero in on it when he picked up on another scent.
“Ah hell…” he grunted as he quickly processed it, “GET DOWN!”
“Huh? What are you…” began Remy, but he was quickly cut off.
In a split second, Ororo tackled her friend to the ground while Kitty, Kurt, and Rogue took cover. Remy didn’t know them that well. If he had he would have known that anytime Logan tells them to get down, there was no room for hesitation. But before they could get into a full defensive position, it happened.
In the span of a half-second, four gray canisters fell around them and as soon as they hit the ground, they exploded. Only it wasn’t a normal explosion like a grenade. When these things went off, they unleashed a bright flash and a deafening blast that stunned everybody. Along with this blast was a dense cloud of smoke which quickly filled the area. Because of the flash burst, it was hard for anybody to coordinate themselves enough to get out of the way. The only one who reacted fast enough not to be stunned was Kurt, whose keen instincts served him well.
“Logan! Rogue! Vhere are you?” he said while choking on the smoke.
But the young mutant couldn’t see through the smoke. Kitty was out and so was Rogue. He couldn’t tell where Ororo and Remy were. He sensed a new swarm of presences around him. He could barely make out traces of their figures. He tried to follow them, but they were too fast. They must have been using masks and night vision.
While Kurt was stumbling about, Logan growled menacingly and arose. His ears were ringing and he could barely see since the flash temporarily fried his retinas. But he could still sense their attackers nearby. Drawing his claws, he howled angrily as he slashed through the smoke. He managed to graze a few of them, but they moved fast. Whoever these guys were, they were well-trained and well-equipped.
“Hrrahhhhhhhh! Where are you?!” he roared.
While Logan was trying to find the ones responsible for this, Remy groaned in a daze under a cloud of smoke. He couldn’t see or hear as a result of the blast. But he was conscious. It didn’t take long for him to figure out what this was. It had all the signs of a special kind of attack from a special breed of thieves. There wasn’t much time. They were probably surrounded already. He looked to his side and saw Ororo still struggling to recover. Working on instinct, he tried reaching for his bow staff. But as he did, a foot stepped on his hand and pinned it to the floor. Then a new presence emerged behind him and through the ringing in his ears, he heard a familiar voice.
“Bonjour Remy,” said the menacing tone of Henri Lebeau, “Been waitin’ a long time for this. Ain’t nobody gonna help you now.”
Remy grunted at the sound of that voice. He tried to throw a punch, but he missed and before he could recover he felt a sharp blow to his head. After that, everything went dark.
It was all happening so fast. The X-men were just beginning to recover. Logan was still trying to fight them through the smoke while Kurt was stumbling about looking for the others. They could still hear the footsteps around them, but they were growing very faint. Whoever was behind this, they were already trying to make their escape. They couldn’t let them get away. Grunting through her daze, Ororo rose up and summoned the power of the winds.
“Hold on, everyone! I’m going to clear the air!” said the African beauty.
A sharp gust soon filled the area. Within a few seconds it was swirling like a tornado. The smoke was quickly drawn away, concentrated within the whirlwind. With a quick shift in direction, Ororo sent it flying out a nearby window. It completely cleared the air around them, but it revealed only a grim sight. The attackers were already gone.
Kitty was still on the floor rubbing her head and Logan was still attacking. At one point he thought he grabbed one of the attackers, but when the smoke cleared he found out he had only gotten Kurt by mistake.
“Easy Herr, Logan. I’m on your side,” said Kurt, choking somewhat as Logan held him by the collar.
“Damn…” groaned the feral mutant as he withdrew his claws.
Panicked, Kurt quickly scanned the area. He made his way over to Kitty to help her up, but Rogue and Remy were nowhere in sight. Ororo was looking around as well and she seemed to have the same grim feeling he did. She had spent enough time as a criminal herself to know the signs. She had also spent enough time in New Orleans to know who would be coordinated enough and motivated enough to pull off something like this.
“Ack!” choked Kitty as she caught her breath, “Kurt? Where’s Rogue? And what about Remy?”
“They…they took them!” said Kurt angrily, “Both of them!”
“Who? Who were they?!” roared Logan.
“I know who they were,” said Ororo in a grim tone, “It was the Thieve’s Guild. They were here to take Remy back.”
“Back for what?!” demanded Logan.
“Revenge,” she answered solemnly, “And we may already be too late to stop them.”
Next Issue: Cajun Chaos Part 2
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