Born with extraordinary powers, a talented team of mutants known as the X-men fight for peace and understanding in a world that hates and fears them. Led by their mentor, Professor Charles Xavier, they stand against those who pursue conflict between humans and mutants. Their greatest challenge lately has been stopping the spread of sentinel technology that could be used against mutants and humans alike.
This challenge has brought them to the bayous of Louisiana where an old friend of Ororo’s has called them in for help. Remy Lebeau, a Cajun thief, has been caught between a war between the Thieves Guild and the Assassin’s Guild. Both are attacking each other in wake of a rash of mysterious thefts around the port. Remy managed to trace those thefts to hardware developed by Worthington Industries, a company with ties to the sentinels. He also uncovered evidence that the sentinel plans had been sold and neither guild was involved.
But just when Remy was ready to help the X-men find those responsible, they were attacked and Rogue and Remy were abducted. The Thieves Guild has a long-standing dispute with Remy that they are intent to resolve. Now the X-men find themselves in a difficult position, not only having to rescue their friend but having to stop this conflict before it consumes any more casualties.
Downtown New Orleans
Marius Boudeaux spent his whole life in the criminal underworld. As leader of the Assassins, few could say they were as dedicated or as tenacious. He had been doing this for over three decades and was feared by his enemies and loved by his followers. He perfectly embodied the tradition of the Assassin’s Guild, unwavering loyalty to his allies and unparalleled hatred to his enemies. Anybody in the business of assassination had to have a unique set of qualities and he came from a long line of worthy leaders. Like his ancestors before him, there was nothing he wouldn’t do to uphold the honor of the guild.
But as dedicated a leader he was, this title did not come without hardship. In the business of assassination there were always bound to be losses, professional and personal. For much of his reign as leader of the guild he made sure his losses were only professional. But there was one in particular that always struck him on a deep, personal level. It was one of the few blemishes on his otherwise impressive record as leader of the guild. It was his late daughter, Belladonna, and he still mourned her to this day.
Gazing distantly over the cityscape of New Orleans, Marius scowled his reflection in the window. Some would see an imposing elder man with gray hair and who was always dressed in the finest French attire, but he only saw an aging man who needed to get stronger. The Assassins Guild operated out of numerous strongholds, but the most opulent was a lone skyscraper in the downtown area. It was not far from the Louisiana Superdome and he could see much of the city from his dwelling on the top floor. It was heavy defended and highly secretive, but with all the violence going on lately in the New Orleans underworld he felt the effects.
“Perè! Please open up! It’s urgent!” came a familiar from outside his private office.
“Come on, Julien,” said Marius in his usual cold tone.
The door opened and his son, Julien Boudeaux, entered with an urgent demeanor. He was struggling to catch his breath. He must have run the whole way up here. He didn’t usually barge in unless it was important so Marius took notice.
“What is it, son?” he asked intently, “I thought you were going to organize our elite unit to strike the Thieves’ at their west end stronghold.”
“I was. But something’s come up! We just received a direct call from Jean-Luc himself!”
“Why would that old rat call?” he scoffed, “Does he finally wish to surrender?”
“Non! He says he has the peace offering you requested! He has Remy!”
Marius’s cold demeanor shifted. Every time he heard that name, Remy, his blood boiled and his heart ached. It was because of that man, the adopted son of his greatest enemy, that he endured his worst failure as leader of the Assassins Guild. It was because of that man he lost his precious Belladonna. The only way he would ever even consider halting his attack on the Thieves Guild was if he had a chance to make that scoundrel pay.
“It sounds like a trap. But Jean-Luc swore with thieves honor that he has him.”
“Jean-Luc never swears anything on thieves honor. He must be telling the truth for once,” said Marius, his voice seething with anger.
“He says he’s ready to deliver him. It’s up to you to set the destination.”
It was the chance he had been waiting for. At last he would be able to avenge his lost Belladonna. It would be a fitting way to bring an end to these senseless confrontations. For the past few months, the Assassins and the Thieves were tearing at each other on all fronts. Murders were ordered daily and resources and safe houses were destroyed or vandalized. It was all because someone had been pulling destructive jobs at the port, which was tenuous territory for both guilds. Neither side was supposed to steal from the other or do jobs within their network, but that all fell apart.
At first Marius was certain it was Jean-Luc making a move on his guild. But after months of senseless fighting, he wasn’t so sure. Even as they fought, these mysterious jobs kept going down. It led him to believe someone else was behind it, but none of his sources could seem to turn up any leads. Regardless, he wasn’t about to back down from a confrontation with the Thieves Guild. It would be an insult. The only way for the bloodshed to stop was for one side to present a peace offering. He never thought the Thieves would be able to put it together. It looked like he was wrong.
“So what do we do, Perè? I wanna get my hands on that bastard as much as you! But it be taking a major chance!”
“For my little Bella, it’s a chance worth taking,” said Marius in his thick French accent, “Tell Jean-Luc we gonna do this. This is gonna go down on our turf. We’ll use the old oil depot up the river.”
“I’ll get the elites too!” said Julien intently, “This be our chance to finish them all off!”
“No son. There will be no trap. We only bring our elites for protection.”
“Don’t start, boy! If Jean-Luc’s gonna give us his thieves honor, we gonna give him our assassin’s honor as well. It’s only proper. They probably be just as eager to hand him over as we be to get him.”
“I still don’t trust ‘em!”
“Trust don’t matter. Only getting Remy matters,” said Marius strongly, “Once I get my hands on him, I’m gonna make sure he suffers every bit as much as he deserves! He be runnin’ from us for too long! It’s time he pays for Bella!”
Upon grabbing his jewel encrusted cane, Marius stormed past his son and out of the room. He had some important arrangements to make. This senseless conflict that had consumed New Orleans took a back seat. The whole mission of an assassin, to kill or die trying, was to become secondary for once. All that mattered now was avenging his daughter. That meant getting his hands on Remy Lebeau and showing no mercy.
New Orleans – Port Warehouse
“Lousy, freakin’ pissant Cajun! He set us up! He knew we were going to be attacked! When I get my hands on that little shit, I’ll rip his eyes out!”
“Keep it down, Logan! Some of us still have a splitting headache!” groaned Kitty.
The feral mutant was fuming and rightfully so. The X-men had just endured a punishing blow. Just as they were ready to help Remy investigate these mysterious thefts, they were attacked. It happened so fast, indicating that it was a sophisticated, coordinated, pre-planned assault. Whoever was behind it knew how to hit them. They avoided confronting them directly, taking their mutant powers out of the equation. They used a smoke screen to blind them and uncanny speed and efficiency to take them on and get what they needed. The end result was Remy and Rogue being abducted.
It had to be the Thieves Guild. Ororo knew the signs all too well. They had been after Remy for years now. He was usually so good at avoiding them, but this time they got the drop on him. Someone must have tipped them off. They didn’t have a chance to stop them. That’s why the Thieves Guild was so good. She didn’t blame Logan for believing it was a setup, but she knew better. This couldn’t have been Remy’s doing.
“Take it easy, Logan. I’m certain Remy didn’t intend for this to happen,” said Ororo.
“It’s too convenient!” argued Logan, “They drop in and grab us just as we’re planning our next move! Either he anticipated this or it’s a hell of a coincidence! In my experience there ain’t such a thing as coincidence!”
“And now zhey have Remy and my sister!” Kurt lamented.
“Don’t tell me you’re taking his side, Kurt,” said Ororo.
“I’m not taking sides here, but it is somewhat telling, Storm,” said Kurt, trying to remain calm, “I know Remy is your friend and all, but I have experience in zhis as vell. Perhaps he just vanted us here as extra protection. Is it at all possible he could have known?”
“No, it isn’t!” said Ororo strongly, “Remy may be a thief, but he’s not that devious! Especially not with me!”
“You sure that ain’t old feelings talking?” said Logan skeptically, “The guy was your lover boy.”
“Regardless of our history, none of you know Remy as well as I do. He has his flaws, but he has a big heart…more so than you think,” quipped the African woman, “There are other forces at work here, but he’s not behind it!”
“No offence, Storm, but you’re asking us to place a lot of trust in this guy,” said Logan.
“I’m not asking you to trust him! One way or another I’m still going to help him! If you don’t like it, feel free to stay behind. Remy’s a friend and good friends help each other in their time of need.”
Ororo’s tone left no room for argument. She was right. She did know Remy better than the rest of them. The mere fact she trusted him enough to be romantically involved with him said a lot. If nothing else Ororo was a good and loyal friend. But some still had their suspicions.
“Fine,” grunted Logan, “I still think he’s a punk. What the hell did you see in him anyways?”
“That’s a long and complicated story,” said Ororo, “But for argument’s sake, assume it was similar to what Jean saw in you.”
That shocked and silenced the former living weapon in a way few things could.
“Ooh, snap!” snickered Kitty, whose head finally stopped throbbing.
“Shut up, half-pint,” muttered Logan.
Kitty just shrugged, but kept laughing to herself. Even Kurt found it somewhat humorous, but Storm remained as serious as ever.
“Enough second guessing,” said Ororo with growing frustration, “Can I count on the lot of you to help me with this?”
“Of course, Storm. Ve are X-men, remember?” assured Kurt.
“Yeah! And teammates help each other just like friends do. Right Logan?” said Kitty with a wry grin.
“Don’t push it,” said Logan, making it clear he still had suspicions.
“Thank you,” said Ororo graciously, “Now let’s get going. We have to find Remy and Rogue! I’ll get in touch with the Professor. He should be able to track them with Cerebro.”
“Any idea on vhere zhey may be taking zhem?” asked Kurt.
“I have my suspicions, but one thing about the Thieves Guild that makes them so good is they know how to stay out of sight. If we’re going to find them, we’ll have to move fast. I doubt they’ll keep Remy prisoner for long.”
“Why? What are they planning to do with him?” asked Kitty anxiously.
Ororo cringed at such a question. She knew Remy’s history and she knew how many people harbored a deep grudge against him, the least of which being his own family. Having grown up in a criminal underworld herself, she knew what these people were capable of. When it came to their enemies, the Thieves Guild showed no mercy.
“I’d rather not contemplate that, Kitty,” said Ororo as she started making her way towards the rear entrance where they came in, “Let’s just get back to the jet and get moving. The longer the guild has Remy, the worse our chances are of recovering him and Rogue in one piece.”
“Hnn…mah head,” groaned a tired and sore Rogue.
Everything was spinning. Her head was throbbing and her whole body felt like it had half-ton weights on every limb. Either someone hit her really hard or she was drugged. Either way was hardly comforting. She wasn’t sure where she was. She tried opening her eyes, but her vision was still blurry. She was sitting upright on a hard surface, which felt like a wooden box or something. She also noticed her surroundings were vibrating and swaying. There was the distinct sound of a high-powered motor along with flowing water. As her vision cleared Rogue also noticed her surroundings were moving. That led her to assume she was on a large boat of sorts and if the humidity was any indication they were in the heart of the Louisiana swamp.
Everything about this gave her a bad vibe. Memories of the attack quickly came rushing back to her. She remembered the blinding explosions and the noxious smoke. She also remembered being attacked. It was an ambush that hit the whole team. They tried coordinating, but were overwhelmed at every turn. She tried fighting back, but then someone struck her on the head with something and everything went dark.
‘Don’t panic, Rogue. Whatever’s goin’ on, the X-men will find ya. The Professor’s probably detecting mah thoughts right now. They better get here fast. This whole thing stinks and it ain’t just the swamp.’
Rogue tried struggling from her daze, but quickly learned her arms and legs had been restrained. She also remembered her inhibitor collar was still on so if anybody got close to her, she couldn’t drain them. There were clearly a number of figures around her. Her vision was still blurry, but she could already sense they weren’t friendly. Then through her dazed state, she heard a sickening grunt.
“Augh!” choked Remy in agony.
“Get up!” spat the venomous voice of Henri Lebeau, “Quit your whinin’ traitor and take your punishment like a man!”
“Take it easy on him, Henri. The Assassins want him in one piece,” said Etienne.
“To hell with the Assassins!” said Theoren, “They have all the time they want to torture this maggot for his sins! We only got the next hour or so!”
“Oui! It’s best we make them count!” said Henri.
Remy groaned in pain as he lay helpless on the floor. Before he even fully came too, his embittered brother and cousins started beating him. It didn’t take long for him to realize what was going on. He had been dreading this for years now, but it was bound to happen sooner or later. The Thieves Guild had him and they were making their disgust with him well-known.
They were aboard one of the Guild’s private yachts, which were specially crafted to navigate the swamp. It was more spacious than usual boats, allowing for over a dozen heavily armed Thieves Guild members to stand watch over them. It came as no surprise that Etienne, Theoren, and Henri were among them. They had been waiting for years to get a shot at him. They finally got their chance and were making good use of it. Remy tried to resist, but they made sure he couldn’t by drugging him with sedatives. They didn’t use enough to knock him out, only enough so he couldn’t fight back. It was a cowardly way to exact their vengeance, but Remy expected nothing less.
For Rogue, it was a ghastly sight. Her vision cleared just in time to see the three men go to work on Remy, kicking and punching him mercilessly. Etienne focused on the lower body, stepping on his knees and shins. Theoren focused on his core, kicking him hard in the back and stomach. Henri, seeming even more resentful than the others, was holding Remy by the neck as he relentlessly punched his face. All Remy could do was take it, grunting and groaning with each blow. Rogue tried to remain stoic as her mother taught her, but she had her limits to the level of brutality she could stand to watch.
She looked around, trying to see if there were any possible means of escape. It didn’t look too promising. They were in the middle of a crocodile infested swamp. There was nowhere to run off to. Their captors made sure of it. They restrained them on the stern of the yacht and all around them were imposing thieves armed with assault rifles. They were all dressed in street clothes and trench coats and every time Remy coughed up blood they cheered. Apparently, they had as much hatred for Remy as the three men.
“Yeah! Hit him again!”
“That’s right! Beat ‘em into croc chum!”
Hentri, Etienne, and Theoren stepped up their assault. It was getting to a point where they were set to do some serious damage. Then through the cheering a powerful voice rang out.
“That’s enough!” said Jean-Luc as he pushed through the cheering crowd.
The hoard of thieves wisely fell silent. Etienne and Theoren also stopped upon seeing Jean-Luc walk up to them. The only one who hesitated was Henri, who maintained a firm grip on Remy’s neck.
“Let him go, son,” ordered Jean-Luc.
Henri’s expression tensed with anger, but he did not question his father’s orders. He understood the importance of this deal like the rest of them. As much as he wanted to make his brother suffer, the needs of the guild came first.
He let go of Remy’s neck, leaving him a bludgeoned mess on the deck of the boat. But before he backed off, Remy had one last message for him.
“You still hit like a femme,” he grunted through the pain.
“Damn traitor!” yelled Henri.
He motioned to grab Remy again, but Etienne and Theoren held him back. Jean-Luc gave them a stern look, letting them know they were not to let his angry son go. He could appreciate his feelings for Remy, but this deal between them and the Assassins was honor-bound. Personal vendettas had to take a back seat.
Hovering over the bruised and battered body, Jean-Luc gazed down at his adopted son with a mix of resentment and sorrow. Remy didn’t look him in the eye, but he could sense a similar demeanor. He knew as well as his father how grim these circumstances were.
“It’s been a while, Remy,” said Jean-Luc.
“Not long enough,” grunted Remy as he coughed up more blood.
“I wish it hadn’t come to this,” he said with as honest a tone a master thief could muster, “You were always special to me. You and your mother were my pride and joy.”
“Don’t…don’t you dare bring Remy’s mère into this! She be better than all of us!”
“Maybe so, but that don’t justify what you’ve done. You didn’t just betray your fellow thieves, Remy. You betrayed your family. And for what? A woman? Some newfound conscious you be hiding from us?”
“Remy…hides…nothing! Remy only did…what was right. It’s what Marianne would’ve done.”
“Is that what Belladonna would have done?” quipped Jean-Luc, “You know damn well she and the rest of the Assassins wouldn’t have blinked an eye if they succeeded where we failed.”
“It don’t matter,” groaned Remy, “What happened to Belladonna was a mistake. But what happened to the rest of the guilds…it had to be done. Remy has no regrets.”
Jean-Luc’s expression fell. It was hard enough his adopted son betrayed his guild. It was even harder to digest that for all the dishonor he caused them and the guild, he didn’t have one ounce of remorse. He had the one weakness no thief could ever afford to have. He had a conscious. He tried training it out of him over the years, but he failed. Rising up to his feet, Jean-Luc shook his head and sighed.
“This be a shame, mon fils,” said Jean-Luc, “You could’ve been one of the greats. Time was, I be looking forward to the day you take over for me. But what’s done be done. You’re gonna serve the Guild one way or another. We gonna give you over to the Assassins.”
“Let me guess. Remy be some kind of peace offering to stop all this fighting,” muttered the defiant Cajun.
“You know the rules of the trade, Remy. This be how we do things. It breaks my heart, but you chose your path. Now it be time to pay your dues.”
Jean-Luc gestured towards a couple of subordinates, who in turn grabbed Remy’s bruised form and dragged him over towards the area where Rogue was sitting. First they made sure to bind his hands and feet. They then injected him with another round of drugs to ensure he couldn’t concentrate enough to use his powers. The Thieves Guild was prepared for everything, including mutants. They weren’t taking any chances with him.
Rogue tried not to cringe when she saw his battered face. But despite his pain, Remy remained stoic and strong. It was remarkable anybody could take that kind of beating, especially from his own family. Clearly, there was much more to him than she thought.
Once Remy was restrained Jean-Luc lead most of his crew away towards the bow, leaving six armed thieves to guard them.
“Hey wait! Where do Ah fit into all this?” she asked as they walked off.
“What else? You be leverage,” said Henri, “Remy ain’t gonna do something stupid if a pretty femme be involved. He always had a weakness for them.”
“Oui, but don’t worry. We let you go after this deal be done,” assured Jean-Luc.
“Unless you wantin’ to be having some fun first,” grinned Etienne.
That earned him a disgusted look from Rogue and a slap upside the head from Jean-Luc.
“Shut it, Etienne. You know we don’t be hurtin’ the femmes,” said Jean-Luc, “You be lucky you can even enjoy a femme. You were supposed to take that Ororo woman.”
“A femme is a femme!” shrugged Etienne as he leered over Rogue, “Besides, I be liking this one’s style! She got the build and the curves a homme like me can appreciate.”
“Back off, pal! Ah got standards. And you’re as ugly as shit and half as useful.”
Henri and Theoren laughed while Etienne just scowled and moved on. Jean-Luc had to grab him to keep him going because he was clearly tempted to make her pay for that remark. Rogue just scoffed and settled in as the boat picked up speed. There didn’t seem to be any way out now. Her best tactic was to buy time and hope the others caught up with them.
As she sat, she turned towards the wounded Remy. He was still breathing hard and blood was dripping from his mouth. His face was littered with bumps and bruises and so were his arms and torso. He was pretty out of it, but he remained stoic to it all. It didn’t seem to affect him one bit that his own family was selling him out to their enemies. Something about that resonated strongly with Rogue.
“Hang in there, Remy. Storm and the rest of the X-men will find us,” she told him.
“Whatever cherè,” he groaned, “It don’t make much difference at this point. Remy is ready to take whatever fate comes his way.”
“That’s sickeningly macho of you,” said Rogue dryly, “But try to have a little faith. The X-men don’t leave friends behind. They’ll catch up, beat all these swamp dwelling sewer rats to a pulp, and get us out of here.”
“I’ll believe that when I see it,” said the Cajun, chuckling somewhat at her choice of words, “You got quite a mouth you, Rogue. You sure be tellin’ Etienne off.”
“Thanks, but if a man’s gonna act like a pig it’s only fair Ah treat him like one.”
“Truer words was never spoken,” said Remy, smiling through his pain, “You’re okay, Rogue. You got the attitude to go along with the beauty.”
Rogue smiled and blushed a little. Even in his pained state, he had the energy to flirt. This man was every bit as tough as Ororo described. He was also every bit as immature, but that only heightened her curiosity. His family clearly bore quite a bit of resentment. He must have done something pretty extreme for it to get this bad.
“Ah know it ain’t mah business, but what’s this all about? Why does your family hate ya so much?” asked Rogue.
“You mean Stormy never told you?” said Remy.
“She said it wasn’t for her to tell. Ah gather it ain’t pretty.”
“That be a hell of an understatement,” sighed Remy, getting a little drowsy from the drugs, “But you’re right, cherè. It was bad. Hell, it was the worst. In the Thieves Guild, a thief is only as good as his honor. There ain’t no room for loyalty. There ain’t no room for morality either. It’s all absolutes. That’s where Remy messed up big time.”
“So what happened?” she asked, “That jerk that hit on meh said it had something to do with a girl.”
“That be one of the reasons,” he sighed, “See, when Remy was growin’ up, the only friends I had were my brothers in the Thieves Guild. We all looked out for each other. We all trained with each other. But Remy was always the outcast because Remy was adopted.”
“Ah know how that feels,” said Rogue empathetically, “Ah’m adopted too.”
“Sucks, don’t it?” said Remy, fighting off another coughing fit, “That’s why Remy liked to strike out on his own. I would just run off and get away from the guild. That’s how I met my first real friend. Her name was Bella…Belladonna.”
There was a certain strain in his voice as he said that name. It sounded like she was someone he cared for a great deal.
“She was Remy’s childhood friend. Later on, she became a lot more. But there was one big problem…one we didn’t realize until it was too late. Bella was the daughter of Marius Boudeaux, the head of the Assassins Guild. And in case Stormy didn’t tell you, the Thieves and the Assassins don’t get along.”
“Yeah, she made that pretty dang clear,” said Rogue, “So how did you get around it?”
“That’s just it. We never did,” said Remy, still breathing hard from his wounds, “We tried to make it work. But every time we had to choose between each other and the guilds, we chose the guilds. But Remy still had hope. We dreamed of one day taking control of our guilds and bringing ‘em together for once. Then it all went to hell.”
Remy needed a moment before talking about the next part. It was almost as painful as the beating he took. Rogue gave him all the time he needed as she listened intently.
“One day, Jean-Luc comes to me sayin’ there’s this job we gotta pull. It was some fancy gem this private military folk came across. Ruby of Cytorak or something. There was this legend that whoever had it would be unstoppable. The Thieves wanted it and so did the Assassins. Whoever succeeded…well, let’s just say it would be a mess.”
“Ah take it you weren’t able to steal it,” said Rogue.
“Oh Remy stole it alright. That wasn’t the problem. It was what happened afterwards that bugged me. See, I knew if Jean-Luc got the gem, all the Assassins, Belladonna included, would be killed. And it wouldn’t stop there. Every guild all over the world would be taken out. Ain’t nobody would stop them. Even if it was Remy’s guild, Remy just couldn’t go through with it. The price in blood be too high.”
It was a noble deed for a thief. In fact, it was too noble. Rogue wasn’t sure what to make of it. If Remy was a lifelong thief why would he pick that moment to suddenly grow a conscious?
“Why the change in heart?” asked Rogue, “Since when do thieves grow a conscious all of the sudden.”
“You can thank Remy’s adopted mother for that,” sighed Remy, “When Jean-Luc wasn’t busy raisin’ me to be a thief, my mère was there raisin’ me to be better. She had a big heart…one she couldn’t share with Henri or Remy’s cousins. She died when I was seven, but she left a hell of an impression.”
“Sounds like it kicked in at just the right time,” Rogue commented.
“Not exactly,” said Remy, his voice now low with sorrow, “After Remy stole the gem, I tried to get away and ditch it. But the Assassins caught up to me. Belladonna was leading them. She urged me to give her the gem. Remy wouldn’t. Then the Thieves showed up. There was a fight. Guns went off. Some buildings caught fire. And Bella…”
Remy found himself struggling to put it into words. Rogue cast a sympathetic look, trying to move closer to him despite her bound state. It was painfully clear what happened. It must have really hurt him. It was now starting to make sense why Ororo defended him.
“Ah’m sorry, Remy,” said Rogue softly.
“Ain’t your fault, cherè. She got caught in the crossfire. There was nothing Remy could do,” he said sadly, “I did manage to ditch the gem. I tossed the dang thing into the ocean. Hope I never see it again. But when all was said and done, Remy was a traitor and an outcast. My own family hated me. The Assassins hated me even more than before. Remy’s been in hiding ever since.”
“Why didn’t you just leave?”
“Remy thought about that,” sighed the Cajun, “But only cowards run from their problems and Remy ain’t a coward. The guild would follow me anyways. I thought I could fix this, but there ain’t fixing betrayal. It got pretty bad at one point. Thanks to Stormy, I hung in there. Until now, that is.”
Remy cringed again as he swallowed more blood. Rogue was looking at him with so much sympathy, but he had to remind her he didn’t deserve such sentiment.
“These here thefts be the kicker. One way or another, Remy was gonna get involved. I knew it before I even called you guys. The whole point was to get someone involved to stop this dang guild war. Heck, Remy don’t even know if these thefts have anything to do with sentinels.”
“So what? That speech ya gave us back at the port was all a lie?” scorned Rogue.
“Not entirely. The part about Siryn and Black Tom be true. The rest about Worthington was just leverage,” he said after another cough, “At some point the guild was gonna attack. Guess they just attacked sooner than expected.”
“And you didn’t bother to warn us? All because you wanted save your own skin?” said Rogue, finding that a lot less noble.
“It’s self-serving, I know. But Remy does what he has to do. This guild war has gotta stop. It ain’t always noble and it don’t win Remy no friends. But it’s right. That’s all that matters.”
Remy let out another round of coughs as he fell silent. While he reeled from his beating, Rogue studied him. He was even more complicated than Storm described. He was a thief and a deviant, yet he had a good heart. He believed strongly that there was right and there was wrong, regardless of what other people thought of him. He wasn’t as noble as he could have been. He got the X-men caught up in this for no other reason than to save himself, but that didn’t make him a monster or a coward. It just made him Remy.
As the boat ventured further into the humid swamp, Rogue found herself looking at the Cajun with a critical eye. She still didn’t know what to make of him, but now that she knew part of his story he seemed like someone worth saving. He defied his family and Belladonna to do the right thing. There was a lot to admire about that. If they got out of this, he might be someone worth reaching out to.
“If you’re gonna take pity on Remy, save yourself the trouble, cherè,” he said, “It don’t matter either way.”
“Ah don’t pity people, Cajun. Ah may be an X-man, but Ah have mah own way of judging people,” she said in a stronger tone, “Now Ah don’t know you and to be perfectly honest, Ah still don’t trust you. But for a rat like you to have come this far, you gotta have something going for you. The X-men ain’t gonna leave you behind.”
Through his pained state, Remy turned towards Rogue and grinned. This girl was sassy if not somewhat crude. But she spoke her mind and showed no fear in doing so. That was something he couldn’t help but admire.
“You know how to make a fella feel better, cherè. You wouldn’t happened to be getting soft on Remy now would you?”
“Don’t push it, Cajun,” said Rogue with a half-grin.
They were in quite a predicament. Rogue still couldn’t believe a guy in Remy’s state still had the strength to get cute with her. It was as childish as it was admirable, but at this point they had to hang in there any way they could. There was no doubt in her mind. The X-men were on their way and they were going to find them. She just hoped they got here as soon as possible. Time was running out.
New York City – Queens
“Come on, Lorna! Just a clue? A riddle? Hell, even a subtle hand gesture?” said Bobby Drake in his usual playful tone, “The suspense is killing me!”
“You’re an X-man, Bobby. You’ll survive,” said Lorna, who was sitting next to her boyfriend on a bus.
“Are you sure? Usually when girlfriends surprise their boyfriends, isn’t it supposed to involve pizza and lingerie?”
“If every surprise played out like it does in your twisted male fantasy, then that’s how every relationship would play out,” teased Lorna, “I know you usually pick how our little outings play out because you’re not the one with the unemployed mother. But this time I want to pick an activity for us. We’ve gone down the list of typical date-worthy antics. I think it’s time we try an atypical approach.”
Bobby was still deeply curious. Lorna was more focused than usual. Whenever he managed to make the trip to New York City, she usually followed his lead. He liked showing her a good time and getting her away from the serious world that was so hard on her. School wasn’t getting any easier and her mother’s health continued deteriorating. So when he arrived at her door with a full plan, he was pretty surprised when she convinced him to scrap it in turn for a surprise activity.
Lorna kept the details to herself. She then led Bobby to a bus stop a few blocks away where they boarded one of the many busses that passed by the area. It was a bus that went across Queens, passing through a few major shopping areas before nearing the city. Bobby kept looking out the window and back at Lorna, eagerly awaiting their destination.
He didn’t sense anything was wrong, at least not more than usual. Lorna had a lot on her mind between her mother, her crazy siblings that were running Genosha, and being the daughter of Magneto. She had moments where it overwhelmed her. This wasn’t one of those moments. When the bus stopped at a seemingly random corner, she grabbed his arm and led him off.
“We’re here,” she announced, practically rushing her boyfriend off the bus.
“Where’s here? How atypical are we talking here? Because in my experience, degree means everything and not just when it comes to being cool,” said Bobby.
“Follow me. You’ll see!”
Still gripping his arm, Lorna led Bobby across the street into an area that was gated off. It looked like a construction zone, but there wasn’t much construction going on. It looked like the site of an old housing project. There was dirt, debris, and metal scattered everywhere. When they reached it, Lorna looked through the gates to see if anybody was there. Once certain they were clear, she used her powers to open one of the metal gates.
“Whoa…why are we going in here, Lorna?” asked Bobby, who hesitated a bit before following his girlfriend.
“Because no one else is here,” she replied, “Construction has been held up on this area for weeks. Something about the city undercutting the crews and causing a labor dispute.”
“If it doesn’t involve a mutant being scapegoated, I’m pretty sure I haven’t followed that.”
“You don’t have to. All you need to know is this place is an unofficial scrap heap until the city gets it’s act together. That makes it the perfect place for our little activity.”
“Which is? And please don’t say ‘you’ll see’ again.”
Lorna let go of Bobby’s arm and stepped away for a moment. She turned her attention to a series of stacked metal beams laying next to a bulldozer. Summoning her powers, she levitated one of the heavy beams. It was an impressive feat. Bobby had seen her stuff like this before. Then she took it a bit further.
With the beam still levitated, Lorna concentrated harder. Her face contorted as she directed her powers to bend the beam so that it formed a jagged S-shape. Once she was done, she drew it over towards her and set it down between her and Bobby.
“You once said I was prime X-men material,” she told her boyfriend, “I’m not sure if you’re right. If you are, I think it’s only proper I refine how I use my powers.”
“That’s your activity? An outdoor Danger Room session minus the holographic T-Rex?” said Bobby in a somewhat baffled tone.
“Since it’ll take me a few centuries to save up enough money for my own Danger Room, this will have to do. I’m serious about this, Bobby. I want to get better at this.”
“Hey, I’m not making light of it,” he said reassuringly, “It just seems as though you already have control over your powers. You’ve never needed the equivalent of a ruby-quartz visor to manage them.”
“I’d like to do more than just manage it. You saw what my father did on Genosha. He levitated a chunk of rock the size of a football stadium! Seeing as how I inherited his powers, I think that shows how far I have to catch up.”
She made a valid point. Magneto was a powerhouse. Bobby had experienced that first hand and had the scars to prove it. If Lorna shared his powers then it was only logical that she would share his potential. Magneto had a lifetime of experience under his belt and Lorna was still a teenager. If she was to be part of the X-men one day, then she needed to do more than levitate a few metric tons of steel.
“So what do you say, Bobby?” said Lorna, giving him a pleading look to further sway him, “Will you help me train?”
Bobby smiled at her determined spirit. He cracked his knuckles and formed an ice shell around his body, stretching like he often did before a Danger Room session.
“As far as I’m concerned, we just entered a Rocky movie and Eye of the Tiger is playing in the background,” he said, “Since the rest of the X-men are probably busy with class and what not, I guess I’ll have to be the one to whip you into shape!”
“Should I be worried?” said Lorna playfully.
“Nah! You’ll find that I’m a much easier teacher than Wolverine or Cyclops! If you really want to fill that X-uniform with that hot butt of yours , then prepare for some action! Because you’ll get plenty with the X-men!”
Worthington Electronics Factory
Scott, Warren, and Jean had been searching for nearly two hours. Their time was almost up. In less than fifteen minutes, the Worthington liaison was going to barge in and order them to leave before they could find what they were looking for. So far none of the reports Warren dug out revealed anything and there was no word from Hank or the Professor. The longer they went without finding anything the more likely it seemed that Remy’s tip was bogus. That didn’t bode well for the others in New Orleans.
“Didn’t we look over this report already?” groaned Jean as Warren gave her another file.
“How can you tell? They all look the same,” said Warren dryly, “I can’t believing I’m saying this, but my dad may actually be the innocent one here. It doesn’t look like he’s let any sentinel tech fall into the wrong hands.”
“We can’t be too certain. Not when it comes to sentinels,” said Scott, who continued to maintain his focus, “Maybe we’re not looking at this the way we should. The parts may not be there, but the materials might.”
“Now you’re just pushing it, Cyclops,” said Warren, “If it were just materials, it wouldn’t be much of a tip. Anybody can make anything with the right materials. It doesn’t have to be from Worthington Industries.”
“Then there must be something else we’re missing!” said Scott with increasing frustration, “These thefts aren’t coming from nowhere!”
“Calm down, Scott. We’ll figure it out,” said Jean with a reassuring gesture.
Her gentle touch helped calm the X-leader down. The last thing they needed in situation like this was to lose their demeanor. It was hard not to get worked up when the rest of the team was in harms way with the guilds. It was also hard not to be suspicious of this Remy character. Even though Ororo vouched for him, that didn’t automatically prove he was trustworthy.
While Scott and Jean looked over more records, Warren was ready to call it quits. This was going nowhere. As much as he wanted to catch his father breaking his promise to contain the sentinels, the evidence just wasn’t there. If someone was stealing Worthington parts, it wasn’t under his watch. There was nothing in these reports to make him suspect anything.
Sighing to himself, he put another stack of reports away. As he did, one of the files fell out onto the floor. Rolling his eyes, he picked it up and put it back together. That’s when an ominous document caught his eye. It was entitled “Competitor Report: Shaw Industries.”
“Hmm…that’s odd,” said the winged mutant, “Why would this be in a weekly report?”
He checked the date. It was pretty recent, less than two months old to be exact. That fit the timeframe Remy mentioned. He said these thefts began shortly after the Genosha incident. This seemed to indicate that there were others that took notice. Curious, Warren opened the file and began reading over it. It didn’t take long for him to uncover a number of ominous revelations.
“Ongoing thefts of competitor components,” he read, “Possibly espionage? Guess dear old dad is attentive to detail after all.”
Warren kept reading. The more he uncovered the more suspicious he grew. Scott and Jena soon took notice.
“What is it, Warren? Did you find something?” asked Scott.
“I’m not sure,” said Warren as he flipped through the pages, “But it may be possible that Remy was half-right without even knowing it.”
“What do you mean?” asked Jean.
“He may have assumed Worthington Industries was a target just because it had a history with the sentinels, but it isn’t the only company tied to them. There were others and perhaps he didn’t take that into account, if of course he even investigated.”
“So what does that mean for us?” asked Scott, “If Worthington Industries isn’t the target, how do we find out who was behind these thefts?”
“I don’t know, but there may be another way to…”
Then before he could even finish his thought, something in the file caught Warren’s eye. It was a small footnote at the bottom of a page. It mentioned the name of that company again, Shaw Industries. But that wasn’t the only detail that stuck out. That’s when a new idea hit him. Soon, he was smiling ominously as he folded up the file.
“Of course! Dad, you devious moron, you finally did something right!” said Warren as he rushed past Scott and Jean.
“Slow down, Warren! What are you talking about? Did you find something?” said Jean anxiously.
“No, but I found a way for us to find out if that makes any sense!” said Warren as he sat down at the console, “But we can’t do it from here! Hank and the Professor are the only ones who can pull this off!”
Working swiftly, Warren grabbed the cell-phone they were using to link Cerebro into the Worthington network. It was still transmitting, but the communication link to the Professor and Hank was still open.
“Professor, come in,” said Warren intently.
“Go ahead, Angel. Has your search turned up anything?”
“You could say that,” he said, “Listen, this is going to sound like an odd request, but I need you and Hank to do something for me on your end.”
“Of course. What is it?”
“I need you to shift your focus from the Worthington archives to all outgoing network connections, namely the encrypted ones. They should be linked up to both allies and competitors. Look for any connection leading to a network under Shaw Industries.”
There was a brief silence over the line. Warren couldn’t tell if they were doing it or hesitating. It was definitely a bit odd to give up on the core of their search, but he was certain this was how they were going to find what they were looking for.
“Hmm…that’s strange. Hank just brought up a list of network connections and there is only one listed for Shaw Industries. But it looks dead. Nothing is coming through it.”
“It must be turned off or something. Try to activate it!” said Warren strongly, “Trust me, Professor! What we’re looking for isn’t in Worthington Industry’s network! It’s with Shaw Industries! Get into their network through my father’s servers and we’ll get the answers we’re looking for! I promise!”
Xavier Institute – Cerebro
As soon as Warren’s tip came through, Professor Xavier and Hank shifted their focus. Like the others, they were ready to give up their search. They just weren’t finding anything in the Worthington archives that would lead them to believe they were dealing illegal sentinel tech. But Warren seemed confident there were other forces at work. This Shaw Industries may be the culprit. But they quickly realized that getting into their network was nowhere near as easy as the Worthington Industries network.
“This is strange,” said Xavier as he concentrated with Cerebro, “The connection is linked in, but no information is flowing through it. It’s as if someone on Worthington’s end set it up, but then abandoned it.”
“Probably because it’s impossible to get through,” said Hank, who was typing on the console feverishly, “I’ve never seen encryption like this before. Whatever is on the other end must be of great importance.”
“All the more reason to suspect Warren’s hunch has some validity to it. I’ll see if I can use Cerebro’s psionic interface to break through.”
“Don’t bother. It’s multi-layered,” said Hank as a huge ‘access denied’ screen blared, “The only way anybody is getting into this network is with the key.”
“Any idea on how to obtain it?”
Hank’s gaze narrowed on the image on the screen. Professor Xavier didn’t see it, but as soon as he heard Warren utter that name Shaw Industries he tensed. It was a name he heard numerous times before, but not while in the field with the X-men. He hoped it would never come up in the course of a mission. Now it may hold the key to unlocking this mystery.
He had two options. He could either try hacking the network himself, which if this encryption was any indication would take days if not weeks even with Cerebro running at full capacity. Or he could tap ‘other’ resources that he had been desperately trying to keep private. With the team counting on him and Ororo in the field, his choice was clear. There would be consequences, but he would deal with them in due time.
“Hold on, I have an idea. I need to get my laptop,” said Hank as he rose up from the console, “In the meantime tell Scott, Jean, and Warren to pack up on their end. Get in touch with Ororo’s squad as well. Tell them we may have found something. We’ll know for sure within the hour.”
Aboard the X-jet
Upon recovering from the incident at the warehouse, the team reconvened in the X-jet to plan their next move. Some were still a little sore from the attack by the Thieves Guild, but there was no time to rest while Remy and Rogue were captive. Kurt and Ororo were especially concerned. Ororo worried that Remy was in mortal danger under the hands of the Thieves Guild and Kurt worried that his sister may get caught in the crossfire. Finding them was their top priority, but if the attack was any indication the Thieves Guild wasn’t going to make it easy for them.
With Logan in the cockpit manning the controls, Ororo and Kurt focused their efforts on the consoles. They had already contacted the Professor, who happened to be busy with something else involving that tip Remy gave them, but he was already hard at work trying to locate their missing friends. It was hard to pinpoint a location given the state they were in. Until the Professor could detect them, they had to rely on the beacon in Rogue’s communicator in order to catch up. But that was proving to be difficult as well.
“Vhat’s wrong vith zhis thing?” grunted Kurt as he pounded his fist on the computer screen, “Vhy can’t it locate Rogue?”
“They’re in the swamp, Kurt. The signal must be getting scrambled in the swamp gas,” said Ororo, who was trying to remain calm, “I wouldn’t be surprised if the guild had some sort of jammer as well.”
“Zhen vhy can’t zhe Professor just link us up to Cerebro? Ve’re making zhis harder for ourselves!”
“What? You don’t like a challenge?” commented Logan from the cockpit.
“Logan!” exclaimed Kurt.
Then Kitty stepped in, who had been holding an ice pack to her head. She placed a strong hand on his shoulders, trying to calm him down. She didn’t blame him for getting worked up, but this was not the time to lose their cool.
“Whoa! Easy there, Kurt,” she coaxed him, “We’ll find them. Bear in mind these are pretty nasty people we’re dealing with. They’re not going to take any chances.”
“I know. Zhat is vhat concerns me,” said Kurt in a grim tone.
“Me too,” said Ororo, “But I know the Thieves Guild very well. They’re resourceful, but they’re also cocky. They do slip up. We just have to be ready to exploit them.”
“I’m hoping that means we have a plan,” said Kitty.
“We do, but we can’t put it together until we know where they’re heading. Being a former thief myself, I have a vague idea of where they may go. They’ll want as much cover as possible, so they’ll probably head up the river into the swamp.”
“There’s a no-brainer,” commented Logan as he gazed out over the landscape, “That just leaves over half the damn state.”
“They’ll also want a place that is isolated from the conditions,” said Ororo, “These guilds are too sophisticated to do business in some random area. They’ll probably use a private residence in the bayou or some abandon real-estate along the river.”
“Zhey vill probably vant to keep moving as vell,” surmised Kurt, now sounding much calmer, “It vould make zhem harder to track. It might be vhy ve can’t get a fix on zhem.”
“It’s possible. We’ll just have to hope that they’re in a good mental state so the Professor can track them.”
“That ain’t gonna be a problem with Rogue,” said Logan as he flew the jet in lower, “She’s tough. She’ll find a way. Girls like her always do.”
The team could take some comfort in Logan’s words. Rogue was tough by any measure. She had been in bad situations like this before. She knew how to handle herself. They just had to hope Rogue didn’t push too many buttons. Otherwise she would be in just as much trouble as Remy.
As the jet soared over the expansive swampland, the sheer scale of their search set in. They were beginning to see why the guilds operated out of a place like this. These swamps were treacherous and unforgiving. Anybody who didn’t know what they were doing was as good as dead. Once they found Remy and Rogue, they would definitely be on the guild’s home turf. Hopefully Ororo’s experience would help them get the drop on these thieves and assassins.
The longer they waiting the more anxious Ororo grew. She tried not to let it show, but she was genuinely concerned that Remy wouldn’t make it out of this. For all she knew, they could have already killed him. She didn’t want to even entertain such a thought. The Thieves Guild was supposed to be an honorable syndicate, but in her experience there was no such thing. With the kind of animosity in Remy’s family over what he had done, there was always a chance someone may take matters into their own hands.
Finally, through the weak communication link, they heard the Professor.
“Ororo, do you read?”
The African mutant grabbed the link and quickly turned on the speaker.
“I read you, Charles. Please speak up. The connection is very weak,” she said.
“This won’t take long. I’ve found Rogue’s psychic signature. She and Remy appear to be headed towards an abandoned oil facility in the swamp. They appear to be unharmed, but they are also surrounded by armed thieves.”
“But zhey are alive, right?” said Kurt anxiously.
“Yes, but I sense that won’t hold true for long. They’re about to hand Remy over to the Assassins. If you’re going to stop them, you must get there quickly.”
“No worries there, Chuck! Just give us the coordinates and we’ll take care of the rest!” grunted Logan impatiently.
“I’m sending them to you now, but I strongly advise you hold back as long as you can. Warren and the others just uncovered something from their end. Hank is looking into it now and we should have our answers in regard to those thefts soon.”
“Vhy does it matter?” said Kurt, “Ve only have to get Rogue and Remy out of zhere.”
“No, he’s right,” said Ororo, “If we’re to stop further bloodshed between the guilds, we need answers. I know it seems foolish to get involved with the guild wars, but this is personal for me, remember? I must see to it this doesn’t fall apart.”
It seemed somewhat strange at first, wanting to stop a collection of criminals from destroying each other. But Kurt, Kitty, and Logan could sense how important this was to Ororo. It was easy to forget that she had a very personal stake in this conflict. This was part of her life and she couldn’t just leave it behind to implode on itself.
“Fine,” said Logan dryly, “We’ll be gentle, but if they do anything I ain’t gonna stay on the sidelines!”
“I would expect nothing less, Wolverine. I’m sending you the coordinates now. Please keep your communicators on. I’ll call you as soon as we know the full story.”
The communication link was soon muddled by static, but it stayed up long enough for them to get the coordinates. As soon as Logan had them, he entered them into the navigation computer and hit the afterburner. Ororo, Kitty, and Kurt strapped themselves into their seats and held on as the jet descended over the murky swamps. Time was running out. They had to save Rogue and Remy.
But at the same time, they couldn’t help but be a little curious. The Professor must have really been onto something if he was asking them to hold back in rescuing their friends. It was easy to forget amidst the personal issues of this mission that there were greater matters at stake. This was still an investigation into stolen sentinel hardware. It was big enough to spark new conflict between the guilds. There was no telling what new revelations may lead to. Either way, they were going to find out soon enough.
Louisiana Swamplands – Abandoned Oil Facility
The long journey into the heart of the Louisiana swamps was over. The Thieves Guild had arrived at their destination. As per request from the Marius Boudeaux, they were meeting at an old oil facility. It was pretty small for a rig, barely spanning the size of a couple of football fields. It consisted of a series of elevated platforms surrounding a stack of drilling and refining machinery. Most of it was in total disrepair. There were also a number of wooden docks leading up to it where boats could be parked. This is where the Thieves anchored their yacht and where the final part of this deal would take place.
At first, they didn’t even get off the boat. Jean-Luc had his scouts on deck scan the area with binoculars. They found out the Assassins were already here, most likely from a boat as well they anchored on the other side. They were waiting for them up on the platform. Marius and Julien were present along with a dozen assassins. Chances were they had more hiding throughout the rig and the swamp. It was typical precautions and Jean-Luc wisely took some of his own.
“Let’s get going,” he ordered, “Half come with me. The rest stay back and surround the area. Ain’t nobody gonna double-cross us and get away with it.”
“We’re coming with you, Perè,” said Etienne.
“Oui, this be a family affair,” said Theoren, “We do this together.”
Jean-Luc only nodded, knowing there was no way he was going to convince them to stay back for this. They all wanted to be a part of this. It was a long time brewing, waiting for Remy to repent for his betrayal. The only one who didn’t look eager to see it end was Henri. Jean-Luc figured he didn’t see this as worthy enough punishment. But it wasn’t his call. This was how it had to be.
“Take Remy and the girl,” he ordered, “They gonna take lead. The Assassins already be watching us. Let’s make ‘em see what they wanna see.”
A couple of thieves nodded and went to the back of the boat to retrieve Rogue and Remy. Their hands were still bound behind their back, but they cut the restraints on their feet so they could walk. After roughly forcing them to stand, the two thieves pushed them towards the side of the boat and onto the docks.
Once they were off, half the group split off and took cover as Jean-Luc ordered. The rest stayed close as they escorted Rogue and Remy towards the platform at gunpoint. Remy was still reeling from his beating so he stumbled most of the way. But Henri, who was keeping a close eye on him, kept shoving him along.
“Stop whining, Remy! It be over for you soon enough!” Henri taunted.
Remy grit his teeth through the pain and kept going. Rogue gave him a reassuring look, reminding him there was still hope for them. He still wasn’t too optimistic about his chances, but he kept on going. The way he saw it, whatever fate had in store for him would be revealed soon enough.
After a tenuous march up a column of stairs, the thieves and their two prisoners arrived on the platform. They were greeted by a team of equally armed and equally suspicious assassins. They were all neatly dressed in full body white combat outfits complete with expensive belts and furs. It was part of their arrogant style, ensuring they looked rich and opulent wherever they went. It was a stark contrast to the Thieves Guild, who wore anything they got their hands on even if it was dirty or worn.
Marius and Julien Boudeaux scowled their arrival. They were the best dressed of all, wearing their finest white suits. Julien had a high powered rifle and an old French style sword with him. Marius had a fancy looking cane with a couple of handguns strewn around his hip. The animosity between these two groups clearly not lost and neither were the suspicions.
“Jean-Luc Lebeau,” said Marius, “It’s been a while, monsieur.”
“Likewise, Marius Boudeaux,” said Jean-Luc, “I see you came prepared. Is Jean-Luc’s honor bound word not good enough for you?”
“I be trusting a thief as much as a wounded deer trusts a hungry croc,” said Marius, “But I see you come bearing gifts. You actually brought that scoundrel fils of yours.”
“Oui, this be him,” said Jean-Luc as he pushed Remy forward.
“Looks like your boys went to work on him,” scorned Marius, “The deal was that he be in one piece.”
“He is. He still have plenty of bones for you to break. You must excuse some of Jean-Luc’s ‘immature’ youths. They can’t always be helping themselves.”
Jean-Luc turned towards Henri, Etienne, and Theoren to ensure he knew who he was referring to. The three young men remained stoic and unapologetic for what they did. Their only regret was not being allowed to make him suffer more.
But Marius didn’t care. Remy was still present and alive enough to do his rightful penance. The old yet imposing figure loomed over the wounded Cajun, his gaze full of hate and anger. This man was responsible for the death of his daughter. For years he longed to see him suffer for his egregious crimes. At last he was going to have his chance. He had so many elaborate plans for making him suffer. However, that all depended how smoothly this exchange went.
“So how we gonna do this?” asked Jean-Luc.
“As quickly as possible,” answered Julien, “Remember, you’re bound by your word. Make one wrong move and it will be considered a betrayal. Then both you and your son will have a lot more in common.”
“That ain’t gonna happen,” said Jean-Luc, “But before I hand my own fils over to you, you and the rest of the Assassins has to give me your word that this gonna stop the fighting. We be killing each other too much over these thefts and we don’t even know who be responsible.”
“That’s still up for debate,” said Marius suspiciously, “But on this matter, I’ll concede. You have my word that as soon as Remy is in our possession, I’ll pull back my forces.”
“You give me your word bound by honor?”
“Of course,” assured Marius, “You and your thieves may be the scum of New Orleans, but we are still men of honor.”
Jean-Luc scowled his snide tone. Marius wasn’t the one giving up a son. He could be as snide as he wanted. He looked down at his wounded son, who was on his knees still breathing hard. Remy didn’t bother looking him in the eye.
“Enough stalling,” said an impatient Julien, “You have our word. Now give us Remy. But you and your merry band of thieves better stay back!”
“Oui,” said Marius, “Only you can made the exchange, Jean-Luc. It’s only fair, no?”
“Non…it ain’t,” said Jean-Luc bitterly, “But if that be the terms, so be it.”
Jean-Luc then turned towards Henri and the rest of his thieves. He waved them back, ordering them to hold their position. They obediently listened, although Henri continued to glare angrily towards Remy. Jean-Luc ignored him for now. They would talk about this on the way back home. The only one who looked concerned was Rogue, who was still being guarded at both sides by Theoren and Etienne. He wasn’t sure what they would do with her after all this. That was something else he would deal with later. First, he had to go though the difficult task of handing his son over to his hated enemies.
“It’s time, Remy,” said Jean-Luc as he helped Remy up to his feet, “This be it, son. As your Perè, I truly be sorry it has to end like this.”
“Don’t be lying to yourself, Jean-Luc. You be very bad at it,” said Remy in his pained daze, “Let’s just do this.”
Jean-Luc’s expression hallowed as he began marching his son up to Marius. With every step, the Assassins stood ready to strike. Any wrong movement and it would be a blood bath. The Thieves were poised as well, watching closely with every second that passed. Rogue couldn’t even bear to look at this point. She just took deep, calming breaths hoping that the X-men would show up any minute.
With every step they took, Henri Lebeau’s expression swelled with anger. Even as his cousins kept their emotions in check, he could not contain his rage. Remy was his brother. His betrayal hit much closer than anyone else in the Thieves Guild. Their father may have had a soft spot, but he had no such compassion. Remy Lebeau was a traitor to his guild and his family. They were the ones who were supposed to exact his punishment, not their greatest rivals. It would be Marius who would have the satisfaction of making Remy suffer for his crimes. Such a thought was too much for him to bear.
Jean-Luc and Remy were about halfway towards Marius. Remy stumbled along the way, his bruised limbs making it hard for him to stay coordinated. Those sedatives they gave him were pretty strong, but Jean-Luc kept him going. Despite a heavy heart, he kept pushing his son. He wanted to get this over with.
“Almost there,” said Jean-Luc, “Just a bit further, Remy.”
“Whatever,” grunted Remy, remaining indifferent to it all.
But before Remy could return to his feet, Henri Lebeau could take no more. Remy had to pay and he wasn’t going to give the Assassins Guild the satisfaction. In a blind rage, he shoved aside two of his thieving brethren and charged towards Remy and Jean-Luc. Time slowed down for him as everyone around him was just beginning to react. In the span of a second, he drew his loaded gun and aimed it at the head of his adopted brother.
“REMY!” he yelled in a rage.
“No Henri! Don’t!” urged Theoren.
But it was too late. Henri was beyond stopping at this point. He fired his gun at his treacherous brother. When Jean-Luc saw this, he didn’t have time to think. He could only react. His first instinct was to guard his son. Grabbing him by the shoulders, he lunged the side. The bullet narrowly missed his head, but it kept on going. And instead of hitting Remy, it struck Marius Boudeaux right in the thigh. As soon as Julien and the rest of the Assassins saw this, all hell broke loose.
“It’s a double cross! Slaughter them all!” ordered Julien.
Every Assassins close enough to hear that command obeyed, drawing their guns and swords and taking aim at any thief they could set their sights on. Henri and the rest of the Thieve’s Guild could only react by drawing their weapons as well and taking cover behind one of the drilling rigs. Two thieves weren’t fast enough and took lethal rounds. From that moment on it was a firefight to the death.
“Damn you, Henri! Look what you did!” exclaimed Etienne.
“It had to be done!” yelled Henri as he fired wildly at any Assassin he could find.
“What the heck kinda logic is that?! Your mama feed you paint chips or something?!” exclaimed Rogue, who was still being restrained by Theoren.
“Shut up!” spat Henri, “Theoren, “Keep her restrained! We may still need her!”
Rogue tried to struggle against Theoren, but he had size and strength on her. All she could do was watch as gunfire erupted all around them. As bullets came flying, some of them impacted near them. One of them grazed her inhibitor collar, causing a slight wound and shorting it out. She tried to make a move again, but Theoren kept a strong hold on her. Most of his body was covered as well so she couldn’t touch him to drain him.
‘Dang it, of all the times to get mah powers back! Ah gotta get a remote control for this thing or something!’
While Theoren was holding her down and shooting wildly through the rig, Rogue saw Remy still down on the ground with his father hovering over him. He looked pretty out of it. The impact must have knocked him out or something. Bullets were flying around him, but Jean-Luc moved him towards a stairwell for cover. He was armed only with a bow staff, but he was still able to use it to deflect incoming bullets. For a man of his age, he showed quite a bit of skill.
No amount of skill was enough to hold Julien back. A thief had already killed his sister. Now one had shot his father. There was nothing but hate now. He was going to make these thieving scum pay. After making sure his father was escorted towards cover, he drew his sword and set his sights on Jean-Luc.
“Jean-Luc!” he proclaimed, “I’ll skin you and your son’s alive!”
“Julien wait!” urged Marius.
But nothing was going to stop him. Julien charged through a hail of bullets, setting his sights solely on Jean-Luc. The seasoned thief was ready for him, gripping his bow staff intently as he awaited Julien’s charge. With rage in his eyes, Julien slashed right at the head of his hated enemy. Jean-Luc countered with his staff and nimbly spun around and attempted to strike him on the head. Julien countered, blocking the attack with his sword and spinning around for another attack. Jean-Luc countered again. This time their weapons clashed head on, leaving them in a bitter grapple. The younger and stronger Julien overpowered Jean-Luc pressing him back against a rail right next to where Remy was still down.
Jean-Luc grunted hard as he looked over the edge of the rig, seeing a long drop and a murky swamp below him. He may still have his skills, but he was not a young man anymore. He did not have the strength or endurance to overcome this man. Julien’s eyes were locked on him with unadulterated hate and malice.
“It’s over, Jean-Luc! Your Thieves had your chance!” taunted Julien, “This will never stop! I’ll hunt you and every one of your thieves down and kill them with my bear hands if I have to!”
“You be a fool, Julien!” grunted Jean-Luc, “Just like your father!”
“Like father…like son,” he scowled as he looked over at Remy, “Take a good look at him! No matter what happens, your fates will be the same!”
It was ironic if not fitting. Jean-Luc never wanted to this to happen with his son. Just when it seemed it was going to end, it got even worse. Perhaps this was the fate of their guilds. Perhaps this was his fate as a father. He failed his fellow thieves just as he failed his adopted son. Nothing short of a miracle would stop this carnage now.
Julien was poised to finish Jean-Luc off. Then through the raging gunfire and the burning hatred between these two guilds, something strange happened. A cold wind swept through the otherwise hot and humid swamp. All around them dark clouds seemed to converge around them. Some took notice while others just kept shooting. Then a booming round of thunder and lightening erupted from the clouds. The whole area was then consumed by a swirling gust of wind that was too strong to be natural. It caught both the Thieves and the Assassins off guard.
“What in the hell?!” exclaimed Marius.
“What kinda voodoo is this?!” exclaimed Etienne.
“That would be mah ride,” grinned Rogue, “They’re late, but they always show.”
Another round of thunder echoed through the air as a large black jet descended over the area. Through the swirling winds and lightning, four figures emerged and flew down on a strange wave of wind. It was Ororo, Kurt, Logan, and Kitty and when they saw Rogue and what was going on between the guilds they knew something had gone wrong. It was now be up to them to stop them.
“Guns, swords, and badly dressed thugs?” said Logan intently as he drew his claws and prepared for battle, “This must be my lucky day!”
Next Issue: Cajun Chaos Part 3
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