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Volume 2 -- Issue 29 -- Cajun Chaos Part 3

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Cajun Chaos Part 3
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In a world that hates and fears them, the X-men use their extraordinary powers to fight for peace and understanding. Led by Professor Charles Xavier, they reach out to those who would help them and confront those who would do the world harm. So far their confrontations have been many, including the likes of Cameron Hodge, Magneto, and the sentinels. But recently, they’ve confronted a different threat with very personal undertones.

In their efforts to track the stolen sentinel plans from Black Tom Cassidy, the X-men find themselves caught up in a long standing conflict between two opposing criminal guilds in the New Orleans underworld. On one side is the Assassins Guild and on the other side is the Thieves Guild. In wake of a recent string to of thefts with possible connections to the sentinels, the two guilds erupted in conflict. One of the thieves, Remy Lebeau, sought help from the X-men through his old friend and former lover, Ororo Munroe.

The situation quickly turned against them. The Thieves Guild ambushed the X-men, abducting Remy and Rogue in the process. They then tried to hand Remy over to the Assassins as payment to stop the conflict. But it all went horribly wrong, leading what was sure to be an all out blood bath. Then the X-men entered the scene and the conflict is poised to take yet another turn.


Louisiana Swamplands – Abandoned Oil Facility

For centuries the Thieves and the Assassins had been at war. Countless lives had been lost as they confronted each other over issues of territory, honor, and prestige. The two guilds’ hatred for one another ran so deep it was practically engrained in their ideology. To be on one side was to despite the other. Despite various obstacles and changing times, the battle persisted. Now it was worse than ever.

Just when it seemed the violence would stop, the deal between Jean-Luc Lebeau of the Thieve Guild and Marius Boudeaux of the Assassins Guild fell through. There would be no exchanging the wayward Remy Lebeau for a tentative peace. There would be no ceasing this bloody conflict that erupted over these mysterious thefts at the port. There would be only retribution. If they wanted to continue their battle, they were going to have to overcome an obstacle unlike any they had ever faced before.

“I got the pretty boy with the sword! The rest of you can have the scraps!” growled the raging Wolverine as he landed on the platform.

“Careful Wolverine! Remember the plan!” said Storm, who was hovering high in the sky directing the weather to their advantage.

“Like that’s going to stop him,” snickered Shadowcat.

“Now I know how Cyclops must feel,” said Nightcrawler as they jumped into the fray.

Nightcrawler and Shadowcat broke off separately with Nightcrawler handling the thieves while Shadowcat handled the assassins. Wolverine went straight for Julien, who still had Jean-Luc by the throat. At first he seemed undaunted by the presence of the former living weapon. As far as he was concerned some short freak spandex and claws coming out of his hands was an annoyance at best.  Jean-Luc looked a little more concerned, but let Julien take a stab at it anyways.

“Meddling freaks! This doesn’t concern you!” spat Julien.

“You kidnapped one of the X-men, pretty boy! It concerns us!” barked Wolverine, “You wanna mess with them? You go through me!”

Julien, undaunted by his threats, took a defensive stance as Wolverine lunged towards him with his claws. The former living weapon was fast and agile, but Julien was a trained assassin. He knew how to hold his own against even the most tenacious foes. Wolverine began with a fury of slashes and stabs. Julien avoided them and deflected them with his sword. He also used his gun to shoot his raging foe, but to his shock Wolverine just took the bullets and kept fighting. It caught him and Jean-Luc off guard, but he continued the fight. Only Jean-Luc, having been injured by his fight with Marius, decided to stay put and watched while looking over his wounded son.

For the two guilds, it was an unexpected entrance. Marius and Jean-Luc didn’t know what to make of it. Their only instinct was to keep fighting. The thieves took cover behind the drilling rig while the assassins were spread out, using discarded boxes and stacks of machine parts for protection. But nothing would protect them from Storm’s wrath. She had already unleashed her fury. With thunder and lightening consuming the area, powerful winds disrupted the conflict in all areas. It effectively kept the thieves and assassins that had been hiding in the surrounding area from reinforcing their brethren.

“We must converge! Our leader needs us!” exclaimed one of the assassins.

“We can’t! Not through these dang winds!” exclaimed another as he dropped his gun.

“Damn thieves! I hate it when they bring in freaks! Shows they ain’t man enough to face us!”

“If you think you’re man enough to go against nature, then by all means!” offered Storm, “But I must warn you, the odds are against you!”

To prove her point, Storm used some lightning strikes to disarm the surrounding assassins and thieves. This not only kept them from fight on the platform, it kept them from firing back at her. Some tried to get in closer to take her out, but it was no use. There was no braving her winds.

“To hell with this! Take cover thieves! We ain’t up for this fight!” yelled one of the thieves.

Most who heard wisely heeded those words, bracing themselves for the winds. Some tried to shoot at the hovering mutant, but they were quickly neutralized by Shadowcat and Nightcrawler. Using his teleportation powers and advanced mercenary skills, Nightcrawler appeared in front of several thieves and kicked away their weapons. When one tried to sneak up behind him, he skillfully used his tail to disarm him.

Shadowcat used a more finesse approach for the assassins, phasing through the bullets that did come her way and simply grabbing weapons as she ran by. Through careful phasing she managed to lay a few assassins out with some chop attacks and punches. She aimed carefully, going for the weak parts her uncle as well as Wolverine had taught her. One tried to counter with a knife attack, but Shadowcat responded with a quick spin move and finished him off by hitting him upside the head with his own gun.

At one point, she ended up right over Marius. He was still injured from the gunshot wound on his leg and was being watched over by two elite assassins. They tried to shoot her, but their bullets had no effect. Smiling to herself, Shadowcat let her combat training kick in as she kicked their guns away and downed them with a quick kick to the gut. For Marius it was impressive, but it was still an insult to his guild.

“You people got no idea who you’re dealing with!” shouted Marius, “The Assassins are gonna kill you all for this!”

“And I thought the French were supposed to be so charming,” she commented as she hovered over him.

“Zhey are not French, Kitty,” said Nightcrawler as he appeared in front of Etienne, “Zhey are just thugs.”

“Careful with your words, freak! You and your friends is gonna be swimmin’ with the crocs after this!”

“It’s sad, but zhat’s not zhe vorst threat I’ve heard from someone who is about to get knocked out,” snickered Nightcrawler.

Eitenne, Theoren, and Henri all ganged up on Nightcrawler. Behind them, Rogue was still being held back by a couple of thieves trying to keep away from the swirling winds. But she didn’t look concerned. She just gave her adopted brother a reassuring grin, letting him know she had faith in him to do what he had to do. These three thieves were a lot braver than the ones around him who were running from Storm’s attack. That didn’t mean they would do any better.

“I got this!” said Henri, armed with a gun and knife.

“Back off, Henri!” spat Theoren, “You’ve done enough!”

“Shut it! He’s mine!” yelled Etienne as he lunged forth.

Nightcrawler easily teleported out of the way and appeared behind the angry Cajun. Before he could turn around and counter, he drop kicked him in the back so he crashed right into Theoren. Then Henri came at him. He managed to get a solid punch in, leaving a sharp stinger in the young mutant’s shoulder. But he pushed through it and did an acrobatic leap, flipping in mid air and kicking him right in the chin. This nearly knocked Henri out, but despite blood dripping from his mouth he showed no signs of stopping.

But Nightcrawler didn’t have time for this. They came here to get Rogue and Remy to safety. His main concern was Rogue, who was still struggling behind two other thieves. She once helped rescue him from Black Tom. It was only fitting he return the favor.

“Hold on, Rogue! I’ll be right zhere!” he called out to her.

“Ugh! Take your time, Kurt,” said Rogue as she struggled with her captors, “Those three need an extra beating for the attitude they’ve been given me!”

“Is zhat true? Have you been insulting my sister?” said Nightcrawler as he leered menacingly Henri.

“That’s your sister?!” scoffed Henri, wiping the blood from his face, “No wonder she be such a bitch!”

Kurt’s expression quickly shifted to a hard, determined scold.

“Now zhat vas just stupid.”

Henri lunged at Nightcrawler again, this time with more focus and intent. Theoren and Eitenne joined them, but Nightcrawler used his nimble agility to avoid them and counter their attacks. He made sure he added in a little extra punch this time. If they had given Rogue a hard time, he was going to make sure they didn’t dare try it again.

While Nightcrawler handled the thieves, Wolverine stepped up his attack on Julien. The young assassins proved tougher than the others. He kept shooting Wolverine in his legs and slashing him with his sword. It didn’t stop the feral mutant, but it did slow him down. Julien also started going for major veins, slashing his neck and wrist and trying to bleed him. Even with Wolverine’s healing, that would be difficult to recover from.

“I’ll cut every ounce of flesh off your body you fowl animal!” proclaimed Julien.

“That’s a lot of cuttin’ Frenchy! I don’t go down easy!” growled Wolverine.

“So you’re one of those extra durable mutants?” he scoffed, “No matter. It’ll only prolong your suffering!”

“Story of my life, bub.”

Grunting through the pain, Wolverine lunged with another attack. Julien tried to shoot him again to slow him down. Only one bullet hit, which wasn’t enough to slow him down, and with momentum and body weight on his side the former living weapon pinned the young man against a rail on the platform. He went for the final blow, slashing horizontally with his claws. Julien tried to block it with his sword, but Wolverine swung with such force he severed the blade from the base and cut a good chunk of Julien’s arm off in the process.

The young assassin howled in agony, clutching his arm and dropping his gun in the process. Blood quickly flowed from the wound and the throbbing pain maid it nearly impossible to fight back. He could only grasp his arm and try to stop the blood loss. But blood loss was the least of his worries as Wolverine now stood over him with his claws pointed right at his face.

“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t fillet that pretty mug of yours like a T-bone steak!” he said menacingly.

“Augh! How about this?!” grunted Julien.

In an unexpected move, Julien reached into his pocket and pulled out a grenade. As soon as Wolverine saw this he tried to grab it. He only managed to grab his wounded wrist, which caused him to writhe in more pain. But in the process, he knocked the grenade out of his hand and it tumbled towards where Remy and Jean-Luc were.

“Get back!” yelled Wolverine.

What happened next caught everybody off guard. The lone grenade settled less than six feet from where Jean-Luc was leaning against the rail. When he saw it he reacted on instinct, diving towards the nearby stair column for cover. He completely forgot that Remy had no such cover. He was still conscious, but in too much pain to move. His only option was to brace himself. It was an option that meant almost certain death and Remy was not going to accept that.

Operating on the same instinct as his father, Remy improvised. With his last ounce of strength, he rolled off the entire platform and fell into the murky waters below. Just as he started to fall, the grenade went off and the whole area was hit with a deafening bang.

“REMY!” Ororo cried out.

Everybody on the platform was momentarily stunned. The blast rocked the whole structure, which was already unstable to begin with. But when the smoke cleared there was a gaping hole on the side of the platform. Jean-Luc was wounded, clinging desperately to the steps. He was clutching his side, which took some shrapnel, but the pain was secondary. His focus was his son, who had since disappeared in the waters of the swamp.

“Son…” said Jean-Luc.

“Remy…no!” gasped Rogue.

Watching the chaos unfold, Wolverine was even more enraged.

“God damn it! You’re even stupider than I thought!” growled the feral mutant, who still had Julien in a grapple.

“It had to be done,” sneered Julien, “That Cajun had it coming!”

“And you have THIS coming!”

With a sharp grunt, Wolverine slugged Julien right across the face with his fists. He hit him so hard he broke several facial bones, leaving that handsome complexion he once had a mess now. It took Julien out of the fight, causing him to fall limply to the platform. Even though he may have deserved his wounds, the damage was done.

Etienne, Theoren, and Henri, who were still battling Nightcrawler, tried to rush to their leader’s aid. But while they were recovering, Rogue took action. Despite her hands still being bound behind her back, she was able to shove off the two thieves who had been holding her back. The grenade blast stunned them just enough to allow her to shake loose. Then to the shock and horror of Nightcrawler and the rest of the X-men, Rogue ran towards the gaping hole in the platform and jumped into the waters after Remy. The ongoing battle between the thieves and the assassins was completely lost on her. Her sole focus now was saving Remy.

“Rogue don’t!” exclaimed Nightcralwer.

“Damn it! What the hell is she doing?!” exclaimed Wolverine.

“I wish I knew,” said Ororo, still in shock after watching Remy fall into the swamp.

Their words were lost on Rogue, however. Despite her arms being restrained she still plunged head first into the swampy waters. It was cold and murky, but she pushed it all aside as she started kicking her feet to catch up to Remy. She didn’t have to go very far. Under water everything slowed down and became quiet. The commotion from above was utterly silent, leaving her only with clear thoughts as she followed the faint figure ahead of her.

In the back of her mind she couldn’t help but wonder why she was doing this. She barely knew Remy and by all accounts he was not an innocent person. He was a thief who may have lied just to get the X-men to help him. He was someone who betrayed his own family. He was someone who had little regard for his own life, let alone that of others. But after hearing his story about how it all came to this, she felt she knew enough to know he was someone worth saving.

Despite the poor visibility in the waters, Rogue finally caught up to the wounded Cajun. She discovered the blast left him unconscious. His hands were also still bound behind his back so he had no chance of getting free. Her hands were bound as well, which would make it hard enough for her too. But she wasn’t leaving without Remy. Then she got an idea.

‘Ah can’t believe Ah’m doing this. Remy better not remember any of it.’

On a whim, Rogue swam in closer and briefly pressed her lips up against Remy’s. Since her inhibitor collar was shorted out earlier, their brief skin contact allowed her to drain a bit of his powers. It also seemed to act as a shock to Remy’s system because his eyes shot open as soon as he felt her touch. But he didn’t have time to dwell on it. He was running out of air and Rogue was short of breath as well.

Now armed with his powers, Rogue charged the shackles on her wrist so they shattered. With her hands now free, she took Remy in her arms and began kicking towards the surface with all her might. Her lungs were screaming for air and her body was on the verge of giving out. Carrying Remy was more strenuous than she anticipated, but she never once considered letting him go. She came this far for him and she was going to save him.

When they finally broke the surface of the water, she let out a labored cough as she gasped for air. She sensed Remy moving in her grasp as well. Despite being somewhat drained by her, he was still conscious. He was coughing as well, having been unable to hold his breath in his wounded state. But he was breathing again. With him still safely in her arms, Rogue swam them towards the closest dock.

“Ugh! Ah hate swamps!” groaned Rogue as she pulled him out, “You owe me big time, Cajun!”

Remy was still gasping for air, weakened by everything that just transpired. But he was alive and he had this beautiful yet strange girl to thank.

“Hnn…cherè. You…you saved Remy.”

“Yeah…” she said breathlessly, “Guess Ah did.”

“This mean…you are soft for me.”

“Don’t push it, Cajun,” said Rogue, managing a slight smile.

While Rogue and Remy caught their breath, Storm came flying down on a trail of wind. After seeing Rogue jump into the water after her friend, she halted her weather assault and came after them. She was just as surprised as Remy to see Rogue pull him out of the dark waters and swim him to safety. It was a heroic act even if it was foolhardy. None-the-less, she landed next to them and helped Remy up.

“Remy! Are you alright?” asked the African mutant in a worried tone.

“I be okay now,” said Remy, grinning towards his savior.

Rogue rolled her eyes as she wiped the dirty water from her hair and face. Even after coming so close to death, he still had the gall to get fresh with her.

“That was very bold of you, Rogue,” said Storm, “Thank you for saving him, even if you did take an unreasonable risk.”

“Ah couldn’t give those creeps the satisfaction,” said Rogue, “Please tell meh this is over.”

“Not quite,” said Storm as she helped undo the shackles on Remy’s wrists, “There is still one important matter to settle.”

Back up on the platform, the fighting wasn’t over. With Storm’s weather assault no longer going strong, the Assassins and the Thieves emerged from their cover. Etienne and Theoren ran over to help Jean-Luc while Henri stared down Nightcrawler. Despite being disarmed and disoriented by the X-men, they were not ready to halt their battle. The earlier transgression by the Thieves Guild couldn’t be forgotten and nobody was leaving this platform until they settled this dispute once and for all.

Marius, his leg still bleeding, was helped up by one of his assassins. With the winds no longer a factor, reinforcements finally arrived. More thieves soon followed suit. Despite his injury, the Assassins leader stared down his nemesis. Jean-Luc, who was wounded as well, was being propped up by Etienne and Theoren. Despite his concern for Remy, he maintained his poise as the leader.

“You think this is over, Jean-Luc? You think you can just go back on your word and leave here in one piece?!” bellowed Marius.

“I ain’t going anywhere until we end this,” grunted Jean-Luc, “You wanted Remy, well now you can’t have him! You want to stop this war? You gotta go through me!”

“Then you and all your thugs will die with you! You’re the ones who set this into motion!”

“And you be the ones who kept it going!”

“It’ll go on as long as it has to!”

There was so much hate and animosity between the two groups. They all seemed dead set on killing one another until only one of them was left standing. Even the X-men found it difficult to understand. They dealt with their share of hate before, but this was on a different level.

“I don’t think they’re going to stop,” said Shadowcat.

“Guys like them never do. Their either too proud or two stupid,” grunted Wolverine as he pushed the wounded Julien aside.

“Probably a little of both,” remarked Kitty.

“We should probably let ‘em just kill each other. That would solve all their problems.”

“Zhat isn’t zhe plan, Wolverine,” said Nightcrawler as he gazed over the rail to check on Rogue, “Now zhat Rogue and Remy are safe, ve can finish zhis.”

The three X-men stood to the side on the edge of the platform and waited for Storm to fly in with Rogue and Remy. The two guilds were still staring each other down, ready to resume the fight at any moment. But that moment never came. Storm kicked up another punishing whirlwind, this time focused on the area between the two guilds. Like last time it forced the two sides back.

“Ah hell, not again!” grunted Henri, “Somebody shoot that witch!”

A number of assassins and thieves who still had their weapons took aim, but Storm wouldn’t have it this time. This carnage was going to end here.

“I wouldn’t do that,” she said in a menacing yet calm tone.

Using her powers, she created a powerful wind sheer that blew through each group like wall of air. It was so concentrated it blasted the weapons right out of their hands. Most ended up in the swamp. Those that reached for them were met with a sharp warning in the form of miniature lightning strikes. It was enough for even these hardened criminals to take a step back.

Issue 29: Cajun Chaos Part 3 Panel 1

“Enough! This senseless violence must end now!” yelled the African mutant sternly.

“Back off, weather witch! This ain’t got nothing to do with you!” yelled Theoren.

“Oui! This be between us and these thieving scum!” said Julien as he struggled to get up.

“Shut up and listen, bub! Or we may just let you kill each other!” growled Wolverine, pointing his claws at Marius aggressively.

“What the hell could you freaks have to say anyways?” scoffed Etienne.

“Enough to make you realize that this unending violence is unnecessary and unwarranted,” said Storm.

“Bullshit!” barked Henri, “Either get out of the way or…”

But before he could finish, Jean-Luc cut him off.

“Quiet Henri! You don’t get to make orders anymore today! Not after all these dang stunts you be pulling!” he said strongly, “Let’s just hear what the lady has to say. If nothin’ else, we should be respectful to a lady, non?”

Jean-Luc looked over towards Marius, making sure the expression in his eyes and tone was sincere. Even though they may be battle hardened criminals and lifelong enemies, they were not without honor or manners. Their younger subordinates didn’t understand, but they still respected their word. They had to if they knew what was good for them.

“Oui,” said Marius, “Let the lady speak.”

“Dang, and Ah was startin’ to think you guys had no manners,” commented Rogue.

“We do when it comes to the femmes,” grinned Remy as he leaned on her for support.

All eyes were on Storm now. She had their attention and they were all clearly suspicious of her. If she was to end this conflict before it got any worse, she had make good use of this opportunity. With the winds still protecting her, she took out her cell phone and used it to open up an image.

“In case you’ve forgotten, this all started with those thefts at the port. These thefts occurred in territories by both guilds. They were quick, destructive, and untraceable. Every attempt at investigating them hit a dead end, but there was a reason for that and it had nothing to do with the skill and efficiency of the guild.”

Storm then tossed the cell phone over to Jean-Luc so he could look at the image. When he saw it, his expression tensed.

“That image you’re looking at is courtesy of Shaw Industries, the company from which many of parts were from. Those figures you see are neither assassins nor thieves. They’re mutants. They used to call themselves the Brotherhood.”

“The Brotherhood?!” exclaimed Rogue, “They were the ones behind all this?!”

“I was as shocked as you, Rogue. But honestly, can you think of a better culprit?” Nightcrawler pointed out.

“It’s true,” said Storm, “Shaw Industries investigated it. But for some reason, they were covering this up. These images had to be hacked out from some very sensitive systems. Whoever did made sure no authority or criminal organization would find out.”

“Why would they want to be doing that?” asked Marius.

“Use your brain, Frenchy,” grunted Wolverine, “So long as your guilds were killing each other, nobody would notice the thefts and nobody would be stupid enough to look into them! Your little spat was just cover! Whoever was behind this shit they knew how to push your buttons, which makes them a hell of a lot smarter and you guys pretty damn gullible!”

Despite his insults, the image was hard to deny. Jean-Luc tossed the phone over to Marius so he could see for himself. It was a pretty telling image. In it the wayward members of the Brotherhood considering of Avalanche, Blob, Toad, and Pyro were carrying out machine parts from crates they busted open. Marius recognized the area. It was a part of the port that was their territory. He remembered attributing that very theft to the Thieves Guild. All his sources seemed to agree. This completely disproved it.

It left the two leaders at a loss. All this bloodshed was all to serve someone else’s agenda. They could tolerate conflict between them so long as it was honorable and justified. There was no way to justify this. It was for all the wrong reasons. If they had gone on and just killed one another, it would have been an insult to everything they stood for. It could not go on. Some, however, were not so quick to abandon the conflict.

“Father…you’re not taking this seriously, are you?” said Julien, who was still reeling from the beating Wolverine gave him.

“Pictures don’t lie, son,” said Marius, “It makes too much sense.”

“So what?!” spat Henri, “This don’t change anything!”

“Wrong Henri. It changes everything. Right, Jean-Luc?” said Remy, fighting through his battered state to address his adopted father, “Both the Thieves and the Assassins be bound by their honor. Battle can only be justified for an honorable cause.”

“And you think you have the right to be talkin’ honor to us?!” retorted Henri.

“It don’t matter where it comes from. It don’t change the truth. The way it stands, both sides is dishonoring themselves by punishing the other for crimes they didn’t commit. There’s only one honorable solution. You know what it be and it means swallowin’ a whole lot of pride.”

They were powerful words from a man both guilds considered a traitor. Regardless of his status, there was truth to what he said. For either guild to continue their assault on one another would be a disgrace to their principles. They were not just common thugs. They were men of honor and dignity. That’s what separated them from other criminals. To lose sight of this was to lose sight of everything that mattered. With that in mind Jean-Luc stepped forth and approached Marius.

“Perè?! What are you doing?!” exclaimed Henri.

“What has to be done, Henri,” said Jean-Luc as he shook off Theoren and Etienne, “Remy’s right, Marius. We ain’t fighting for anything honorable. We just be fighting. We’re better men than this. Let’s do us the honorable thing.”

“Are you asking the Assassins Guild to stop our efforts? Even after we’ve formally declared yours to be a target? That’s quite a disgrace,” said Marius strongly.

“It be more of a disgrace to fight for all the wrong reasons,” he said, “We got our share of grudges, but let’s not settle them like this. Let’s do the honorable thing and end this while we have the chance.”

“He can’t do that!” lamented Etienne.

“He’s Jean-Luc. He can do what ever the hell he wants,” said Theoren bitterly.

With angry eyes from both the thieves and assassins on all of them, Jean-Luc extended his hand to Marius in a peaceful gesture. At first, he just stared at it. To shake the hand of a thief wan an outrageous if not disgusting notion. He looked at his wounded son, Julien, and then back at his assassin brethren. As difficult as it was, they deserved better than this. If they were to defeat their hated enemies, it would be done with honor.

The two leaders were wounded, tired, and frustrated beyond words. Despite all this, Marius Boudeaux accepted the gesture from Jean-Luc. This symbolic gesture made it official. The fighting between them would stop for now.

“You give me your honor bound word you do your part,” said Marius.

“You got it, homme,” said Jean-Luc, “I’ll be making sure of it.”

The old Cajun turned towards Henri with a threatening glance, warning him not to try anything stupid again. He could tell he was plenty tempted. His expression was still wrought with anger, but with Etienne and Theoren watching him closely he stayed silent.

“Very well, then let it be done,” said Marius in a threatening tone, “But make no mistake, Jean-Luc. The Assassins Guild will one day wipe you and every last one of your scoundrels from the streets of New Orleans.”

“We’ll see about that,” said Jean-Luc with an equally strong demeanor, “The Thieves Guild ain’t ever gonna give in. When this here dust settles, we gonna be the last ones standing. You can count on it.”

The hatred between them was still strong. It was sure to stay strong even as they struggled to rebuild from this affair. The two guilds had been at war a long time. It seemed that was going to continue. It just wasn’t going to continue like this.

The two guild leaders gestured towards their respective clan. Marius was helped off by a couple of subordinates. A few others helped the badly wounded Julien off as well, whose face was still bloodied and swollen. Before he left, he turned back towards Wolverine and scowled. Wolverine just snarled, letting him know that if he ever wanted that kind of beating again he was still out there. One day he may get that chance.

The thieves backed off as well. Jean-Luc ordered his brethren back to the boat. Most obediently obeyed him, but Henri, Etienne, and Theoren hesitated. They were reluctant to leave such a battle even with the new knowledge that it was for dishonorable purposes. It felt as though they were missing out on an opportunity and Jean-Luc was throwing it away. Henri especially was frustrated, but this time he did not break his father’s wishes. However, there was still one issue they hadn’t resolved.

“What about Remy?” asked Henri, “We can’t just let him go for what he’s done!”

“You want him, bub? You can have him! But first, you gotta go through us,” snarled Wolverine as he drew his claws again, “You’ve seen what we can do. You really wanna push your luck?”

Henri seemed poised to take Wolverine up on his offer, but Jean-Luc stepped in.

“Non…leave him, Henri,” he said.

“But he still betrayed us! This don’t change that!”

“I know. And Remy will pay for what he’s done. It just ain’t gonna be today,” said Jean-Luc.

“You be making a mistake! The Guild’s honor be at stake here!”

“The Guild’s honor is always on my mind. I’ll be defending it however I can. You don’t like my methods, that be your problem.”

Henri tensed with fury, but Theoren and Etienne dragged him away. His hateful glare remained locked on Remy until he was out of sight. Remy, despite his dazed state, just stared back. He knew this wasn’t going to be the end of it. Henri wouldn’t rest until he paid for his betrayal. Nobody in the Thieves Guild would. But for what he endured today, his father would grant him a small bit of mercy.

“Take care, Remy,” said Jean-Luc as he started walking off.

“That all you got to say?” said Remy dryly, “It ain’t ever gonna end, you know? It’s gonna keep going until everything we ever built is gone.”

“This is how it has to be,” he retorted.

“Keep tellin’ yourself that. Ain’t gonna make it right. Keep huntin’ Remy for all he cares. Keep fighting each other until every last one of you is food for the crocs. Just remember one thing…I got no regrets. If Remy could do this all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Jean-Luc cast his son a bitter yet saddened look. As leader of the guild, it was hard enough having losing someone as skilled and dedicated as Remy. But as a father, it was sad he had to go his own way. Remy was a special young man. He imagined great things for his son. The Thieves Guild just wasn’t part of it.

The conflict was over. The Thieves Guild and the Assassins Guild were gone. The mystery over the thefts was solved. It left Remy alone with the X-men. Ororo was glad to see that he was okay and Rogue seemed glad as well, even if she didn’t show it. Now they faced an entirely different problem.

“I’m glad you’re alright, Remy,” said Ororo.

“Thanks Stormy. Remy owes you one,” said the Cajun.

“You owe us way more than that,” snarled Logan, “We followed that so-called tip you gave us. Turned out it was bogus. It’s a good thing we still found what we were looking for or else these punks would still be killing each other.”

The Cajun shifted upon hearing this revelation. He had a feeling the truth would come out sooner or later. It might as well be now.

“Okay, Remy admits he may have told a little white lie,” he said with an innocent smile.

“You call tricking us into helping you little?” said Kurt bitterly.

“Take it easy, you two. He had his reasons. He always does,” said Ororo, still casting her friend a bit of a scorn, “We can deal with it later. Right now, we have to get back to the mansion. I’m sure the Professor will be very interested in investigating the Brotherhood.”

“That should be a blast,” muttered Rogue, “Is Remy coming with us?”

“That depends, cherè. You wouldn’t leave this here wounded Cajun to rot here in the swamp now would you?” said Remy with a wry grin.

“Don’t tempt us, Cajun,” grunted Wolverine.

“Don’t mind, Logan. He’s just kidding…right?” said Kitty suspiciously.

“Of course he is,” assured Ororo, “Remy is a mutant and he needs help. Last I checked the X-men were in the business of helping wayward mutants.”

“You be too kind, Stormy,” said Remy, “Too bad everyone don’t share your sense of grace or your style for that matter.”

That earned him some looks from the others. Ororo shook her head and laughed. Remy had a talent for rubbing people the wrong way. Around Logan that wasn’t very wise. But he was right. They weren’t just going to leave him. He was still her friend after all. After seeing what he went through and learning why he went through it, few could argue he was someone who deserved a chance.


Outer Westchester

“Lorna! LORNA! Be careful! You’re going to…”

That was all Bobby Drake could get out before it happened. In a bang that was probably heard several blocks over, a couple of heavy duty metal girders that were twisted to begin with snapped like tooth-picks. It set off a few car alarms nearby and sent shards of metal and concrete in every direction. This caught Lorna completely off guard, who had been trying to bend the metal into a series of shapes that Bobby specified. It didn’t turn out to say the least. Bobby had to rush in and form some ice beams to shield them from the falling debris.

“Argh! Not again!” exclaimed Lorna in frustration.

“Don’t be angry! Be relieved! This one was right over your head!” said Bobby, having to thicken his ice shield.

“Maybe I should let something wound me. It might knock some sense into me.”

Lorna was pretty frustrated. Bobby could hardly blame her. He and Lorna had been training for the last hour and a half. They had been making quite a mess in the process. All around them were twisted scraps of metal. Most marked failed attempts at trying to reshape the metal in a ways similar to what Magneto had done. Bobby used some of the same techniques he learned under Charles Xavier to instruct her. Even though this was the first lesson, it wasn’t nearly as effective as he hoped.

This latest test involves taking two hunks of metal and twisting them in a way that they became somewhat fluid. Bobby had seen Magneto do this in the past to form those metal transport orbs that his goons flew in. There must have been another trick to it because all Lorna ended up doing is stretching the metal to it’s breaking point. It was the third time Lorna failed at such a feat and it was starting to frustrate her.

“This can’t be a good sign,” said Lorna, “If I were to put on an X-men uniform, I would be more dangerous to my friends than any outside threat.”

“It’s one lesson, Lorna. You think I mastered attained my level of coolness in one lesson?” said Bobby, supporting her as she caught her breath, “Don’t make me tell you the story about how one sneeze turned the backyard pool into a skating rink.”

“At least in that story you only had your powers for a few weeks,” she pointed out, “I’ve had my powers for over a year. I know how to use them. I know I have the potential to master them.”

“And you will. These things take time. You can’t expect to make origami out of five-ton steel beams overnight.”

“I’ll need to at least be in the same league. You said yourself that being an X-men requires more than just powers,” Lorna reminded him, “You need a certain level of cool as you call it.”

Bobby rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. Lorna had a good memory. Sometimes that didn’t work to their advantage. He made no secret about his desire to see her in an X-uniform. The Professor also made no secret about how not just anyone could join the team. He was still convinced she could, but then again he was definitely bias since he was her boyfriend.

“You’ll get there. We’ll work on it,” assured Bobby.

“I appreciate you being the supportive boyfriend and all, Bobby. But when your mother gets cancer and your father is a tyrannical madman you can’t help but be a realist,” sighed Lorna.

“It was concluded years ago that reality sucks, Lorna. The X-men train themselves to rise above it. The Professor once said a world without idealism is a world that never makes any progress.”

“I don’t doubt his message. I only question if I’m equipped to fight for it,” said Lorna distantly.

“Want me to keep encouraging you? Or should we get away for a bit and drown our frustrations in a pizza?” offered Bobby.

“Pizza sounds nice,” she said with a light smile, “But as much as I want to share your enthusiasm, a part of me wonders if I really am X-men material.”

“I’d rather not debate that. I’d rather spend the rest of our time together doing less atypical activities.”

Bobby slipped his arm around her waist in a comforting gesture. It helped Lorna settle her thoughts. She continued smiling and returned her boyfriend’s embrace. As nice as less strenuous activities sounded, a part of her wanted to debate these concerns. While she hugging him, her expression shifted. She grew more conflicted. Looking around at the metal scraps, the question remained. Was she as fit for the X-men as she once believed? She had no doubt that Bobby still believed in her. However, belief only went so far. She had her share of work to do if she was going to make it happen.


Institute Infirmary – Later

Growing up, Remy Lebeau was a strong believer in fate. His adopted mother always taught him that everything happens for a reason. It wasn’t always clear and sometimes it was downright painful. Being captured and beating up by his own family and then used as a bargaining chip was hard to warp his head around. It left him at quite a loss on a personal and pragmatic level. He was still an enemy to the Thieves Guild and the Assassins Guild. True to his adopted mother’s wisdom, fate opened up a new opportunity for him.

Despite his questionable tactics to get the X-men involved in his affairs, they flew him back to the Xavier Institute and treated his wounds. Ororo being the sweetheart she was vouched for him, even as others like Scott and Logan were suspicious of him. But he could care less about what they thought. He already proved himself to those that mattered. Professor Xavier was convinced enough to bring him to his school. If he played his cards right, he may be able to convince him enough to take it a step further.

The Cajun mutant contemplated this latest development as he lay back on a bed in the infirmary. His body was covered in bandages and he still in a good deal of pain. Ororo urged him to rest, but he was too wired to sleep. He found himself casually shuffling a deck of cards, occasionally charging them to make them glow. It helped him ignore the pain so he could think. The way he saw it, he had two options. He could go back to New Orleans and keep running from the Guilds or he could try his luck here. This latest debacle proved he would never be able to mend the rifts he created all those years ago. If he was going to make something of his life, he had to find a new path.

While lost in thought, the doors to the infirmary opened and Rogue entered. Upon seeing her, Remy smiled.

“Hey sugah,” she greeted, “How ya feeling?”

“Remy’s been better,” he sighed as he kept shuffling his cards, “But Remy’s survived worse.”

“That supposed to shock meh?”

“Would it still impress you if it didn’t?”

“Who said Ah was impressed?”

“You never said you weren’t,” quipped Remy.

Rogue rolled her eyes. This man had quite a wit to him. It was annoying at times, but charming as well. Remy was an interesting man. She learned a lot about him through this affair. She got more involved than the others, having been abducted with him. She didn’t plan on it happening the way it did, but it gave her a unique perspective on him.

“So Ah hear Ororo’s gonna talk to the Professor about letting you join,” said Rogue.

“That’s what she told me,” said Remy as he stopped shuffling his cards, “Ororo be a good friend. She knows Remy ain’t got much to go back to in New Orleans.”

“So you’re gonna stay?”

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you, cherè?” said Remy with a flirtatious grin.

“Ah’d just like to know if Ah should start hidin’ my jewelry,” quipped Rogue dryly.

“Sure you are,” he said skeptically, “But you may not have to worry about that. Remy ain’t even sure if he’ll stick around. Don’t get me wrong, Remy’s glad you guys helped him. But this gig not be my thing. Remy’s a thief. Ain’t nothing going to change that. And a thief don’t seem like a good fit for a team like the X-men.”

“Don’t be so negative. The X-men give everybody a chance if they’re serious. Just look at Logan. He’s got more baggage than all of us combined!” said Rogue, “Heck, look at Kurt. He was a mercenary for crying out loud!”

“Maybe so, cherè. But baggage or no baggage, they still heroes. And Remy ain’t sure he’s got that. It just don’t seem like my thing.”

Rogue’s expression fell. This man was intriguing, but he was also stubborn. He sounded so certain of himself that he ignored his own merits. She was beginning to see why Ororo said he was such a frustrating friend to have. He was someone who just needed to be pushed in the right direction.

“So you aren’t gonna stay?”

“Remy didn’t say he wasn’t,” answered the Cajun in a serious tone, “I just ain’t sure yet. Remy’s gotta think about it long and hard.”

“Not be pushy or anything, but you’re just makin’ it harder for yourself, Cajun,” she said strongly, “Ah don’t know if you’re a glutton for punishment or something, but you just seem to love being miserable.”

“Now why the hell would you go and think that?” said Remy, taken aback somewhat.

“You’re the guy who stayed in New Orleans even though you had two ruthless criminal guilds chasin’ after you. Ah know you think it’s responsible and all, tryin’ to face your problems. But there’s a fine line between responsible and just plain punishing yourself. And Ah don’t think you want that.”

Rogue then got more serious. She pulled up a chair and sat by his bed. She wasn’t sure what exactly she was doing. Much like Remy himself, she didn’t think these sort of things through. It’s part of what messed up her relationship with Scott. It may mess this up as well. That was a chance she was going to have to take.

“Remy, remember when you told me about your mama and how she taught you right from wrong?”

“Oui, you ain’t gonna try and use her to convince me, are you?” said Remy.

“Ah’ll use whatever it takes to get your head out of your ass,” she quipped, “Just take a moment to think back to what you told me on the boat. When you betrayed everybody you cared about, you said it was because you knew it was right. That’s all well and good, but it goes both ways. It ain’t always just about what’s right. It’s about what’s wrong. Think about that before you make another pig-headed decision. You can’t do what you feel is right by doing what you know is wrong.”

Remy fell silent as he digested those words. Rogue was not the most articulate girl in the world, but she knew how to get a point across. She knew his story. He showed her first-hand how he could do the right thing when everybody around him wasn’t. That was the easy part. His mother always emphasized the right thing. Knowing what was wrong seemed only secondary and yet it may be the key.

The Cajun thief found himself thinking back to his life in New Orleans and what was possible for him here. He still felt responsible for so much of the strife within his own guild. To just run away from it seemed so wrong, yet trying to confront it like he had been doing for the past few years only made it worse. That seemed even more wrong. His mother may have taught him the tenants of right and wrong, but he was never perfect when it came to discerning between the two. For a decision like this, he couldn’t afford to make the same mistakes he had been making for so long.

Sighing to himself, Remy turned to Rogue and smiled. He then reached for her hand and grasped it. This woman was something else. If he did choose to stay, he would certainly enjoy being around her more.

“You have a way with words, cherè,” he said, “Thanks for the pep talk.”

“Sure…no problem,” said Rogue, blushing a little as she felt his hand on hers.

“But Remy’s got one more important question for you,” he said with a serious and focused expression, “And it’s real important you answer it.”

“Why? What is it?” she asked.

Rogue felt very awkward for a moment. He had this strange look in his eye. Was he making a move on her? Was that really a good idea given what happened when she went so fast with Scott? A lot of possibilities rushed through her mind.

Then to her surprise and relief, Remy just smiled and asked his question.

“You got any smokes?”

Rogue let out a sigh of relief.

“Sure, sugah. You want filters or non?” she said as she took out a pack of cigarettes.

“Don’t matter to me. Remy just needs a good smoke before he makes his decision.”

It was an unusual way to relax after taking such a beating, but Remy was an unusual guy. Rogue gave him one of her cigarettes and took one for herself. For someone faced with such a monumental decision, he looked remarkably calm. It boded well for his chances at joining the X-men. Rogue could sort of already tell what he was going to do. There were sure to be some critics, especially with Logan and Scott. Remy was going to have to prove himself, but Rogue believed he was up to the challenge.


Outside Hank’s Room

Ororo Munroe had been pacing through the halls of the dormitories for what felt like hours. The rest of the team had been debriefed and were ready to call it a night. She did her duties, settling things with Remy and talking to the Professor about his future with the X-men. He seemed willing to give Remy a chance, but it was still up to him how they were going to go about it. That still left one major issue for her to resolve.

In the drama surrounding Remy and the guilds, it was not lost on Ororo that she had different plans for this afternoon. She hoped to finally sit down with Hank and talk about the rift that had come between them. She believed they could still salvage their relationship and make it stronger. Now that didn’t seem nearly as likely. It wasn’t just because of what happened in New Orleans. This whole ordeal gave her more to think about. It also led to a few interesting revelations.

Finally, the door to Hank’s room opened and he stepped out. He bore the same distant expression, indicating he had been thinking about this as much as her. He also bore a touch of sorrow. This affair had an equally profound affect on him as well.

“Hey,” she said flatly.

“Hello Ororo,” Hank greeted, “Sorry to keep you waiting. I was uncertain whether or not you wanted to postpone our little discussion until tomorrow.”

“I think we’ve postponed it long enough. I know these aren’t the circumstances we wanted for this, but we might as well get it out of the way.”

“Are you sure?” asked Hank anxiously, “It may be more reasonable to…”

“Please Hank, it’s either now or never. So let’s just do this and say what needs to be said. We’ve already had a head start. You know about me and Remy and you know why I didn’t want to talk about it. So let’s just go from there and get through this.”

As simple as it sounded, it was still so daunting. For a moment there was only silence between them. Hank sensed he was the guilty party here. He could see it in the way she was looking at him. Ororo already revealed a secret about her life when Remy came into the picture. It was only proper he do the same.

“I was engaged once,” he told her, “Five years ago, I was scheduled to be wed to a beautiful woman I loved with all my heart.”

Ororo was expecting any number of things from her lover, but she sure as hell wasn’t expecting that. All she could do was stand in shock.

“You were engaged?!” she gasped.

“Yes,” he said solemnly.

“Hank I…who…who was she?” she asked him.

“Her name was Carley,” he said sadly, “She was a mutant like you and me. She had special vision that allowed her to see across nearly the whole electromagnetic spectrum. It rendered her blind for a while. I worked with the Professor to develop special eye-ware for her to help her see. But in that time, we fell in love.”

Hank shifted, trying to hide the hurt in his expression as he remembered this. It had been a long time since he even talked about it, but Ororo deserved to know.

“What happened with her?” she asked him.

“My mutation,” he sighed, “It kicked in shortly after I proposed. It’s why I tried so hard to stop it with a serum I developed. You know the rest of the story. I did my best to work it out with Carley. She said she still loved me, but she…struggled to make the adjustment.”

“You mean she couldn’t accept your animal appearance?”

“She couldn’t accept what that appearance would entail for her,” said Hank, “It caused great strain between her parents, who were already suspicious of me. She never said it overtly, but I could always tell it bothered her.”

“It never bothered me,” said Ororo.

“I know it didn’t. I surmise that’s why it was so easy for us at first. But what made it so difficult with Carley was we had so many ambitious plans together. We were going to do so much with our work. I was ready to share my life with her. But in the end it would have been too hard a life for her. That’s why I called it off. I didn’t see anybody else until you came along.”

“And yet you couldn’t share that life with me?!” said Ororo somewhat bitterly.

Hank then took her hands and held them firmly in his. He looked the beautiful African woman in those beautiful blue eyes of hers. They were so sincere yet so full of uncertainty.

“Please don’t presume any insincerity. I genuinely care about you, Ororo. You have a strength to you that even Carley didn’t have. I can’t say I expected us to be as serious as I was with her, but it’s been…hard for me. It isn’t something I felt I could share. Just as you could not share with me your relationship with Remy.”

The African mutant was about to fire back, but when she thought about it she quickly realized how hypocritical that was. After tensing for a few moments, she found herself taking several calming breaths before going on.

“I want to say that’s different, but in all honest it’s not,” said Ororo.

“So…you’re not mad at me?”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” she said seriously, “But I think this brings up something very important. And after revisiting with Remy and thinking long and hard at what we’ve been through, I’ve realized something.”

The African woman placed her hands over his. Then she turned away briefly, hiding a slight tear that escaped her eye.

“I may love you and you may love me, but we don’t love each other enough to share our lives with one another. It’s never a good sign when two people have to keep secrets like this. If we can’t talk about the past what hope do we have for the future?”

“Are you saying it’s too late?”

“I’m saying it’s gotten to a point where we can tell when one of us isn’t being truthful,” she said with a slight scorn, “And that’s not a promising sign.”

Hank shifted awkwardly. He knew what she was referring to and couldn’t argue with her logic.  He had been the one hiding his online exchange with Tessa. He had been the one making excuses. Ororo deserved to know the truth.

“That can change, my dear,” he said, trying to turn her gaze back towards her, “I’ll come clean. The reason I’ve delegated so much time to my laptop is because I’ve been having an online exchange with a woman named Tessa.”

“An exchange?” said Ororo curiously.

“It’s nothing scandalous, I assure you!” he said quickly, “We just talk, that’s all. She’s a mutant with unique talents in computing. She’s the reason I was able to hack those images from Shaw Industries so quickly. She’s also the reason I was able to hack the AI of the sentinels back on Genosha.”

“So that’s how you did it,” muttered Ororo, “That sure explains a lot.”

She sounded bitter. No woman liked to find out her lover was dividing time between her and another woman. But Hank remained resolute. He kept holding her in his embrace and looking at her with as honest a gaze as he could manage.

“But it doesn’t have to continue. I’ll stop talking to her if it will salvage what we have,” he said strongly, “I love you, Ororo. I don’t want to lose you.”

As honest and sincere as his voice was, Ororo still couldn’t bring herself to accept them.

“Hank, I love you too. You’re a great man. But this just proves what I’ve been dreading. I can’t relate to you in the way you deserve. I can’t talk for hours about quantum mechanics, bio-molecular proteins, or 17th century play writes. That side to you, the part that’s so intellectual and astute, is part of who you are. And if I can’t get around that then I can’t love you in the way you deserved to be loved.”

Then in a solemn gesture, Ororo pulled out of his embrace. They were difficult words that were strained with tears and sorrow. Hank was taken aback. He saw no reason why they couldn’t work this out. He had to remind himself that such emotions couldn’t be rationalized. Sometimes they just led to painful conclusions.

“Does this mean we’re ending our relationship?” he asked sadly.

“Better we do so now before we really get hurt down the line,” said Ororo solemnly, “Don’t think I’m doing this out of spite, Hank. I’m not…not entirely anyways. But these secrets we’ve kept from each other and these problems we have…they’re just too much.”

“But why does it have to be like this? Why can’t we reason this matter together?”

“That’s just it, Hank. It’s not a math equation. Emotions can’t be quantified. They can only be felt. You know how I feel and I know how you feel. I know this isn’t easy, but I also know this is right for both of us. And sometimes doing the right thing can be painful.”

With a heavy heart and a sad gaze, Ororo turned away from the bewildered man and walked away. For once, Hank found himself speechless. Even with his vast vocabulary, he could not put together any string of words that could possibly describe what he was feeling right now. He just stood there in the hall, watching as Ororo walked away. A part of him wanted to go after her, not wanting it to end like this. But he stayed put. What’s done was done. He could only sigh to himself in acceptance.

Ororo hugged her shoulders as she made her way down the halls of the dormitories. She said what she needed to say. She did what had to be done. Their relationship had to end. It hurt more than she expected. Hank was a good man. She had so many good times with him as his lover. It was hard coming to terms with the notion that they just weren’t good for each other. She could feel the hurt look on Hank’s expression as well. It stuck with her even after he was out of sight. Even if it was right, it sure was painful.

As she made her way through the hall and down the foyer, she passed Scott and Jean. Having gone through their own breakups recently, they quickly picked up on her demeanor.

“Is everything okay, Miss Munroe?” asked Scott in a concerned tone.

“Yeah, you look so sad,” said Jean.

“I’ll…I’ll be fine,” she said, holding back her sobs.

She walked past them, still hiding her distraught expression. She turned to head down the steps. As she did, she passed Bobby who had just gotten back from his day with Lorna. He bore an upbeat smile, completely the opposite of Ororo’s. When he saw her he barely noticed.

“Heya guys! Sorry I’m a little late. Lorna and I totally lost track of time,” he said, “What’s going on?”

When Ororo saw his happy demeanor her expression fell with renewed sorrow. More tears formed in her eyes and she was forced to run off quicker to keep herself from getting too worked up around her students.

When Bobby saw this, he just scratched his head in confusion.

“Uh…okay, what did I miss?” he asked.

Scott and Jean exchanged nervous yet humored glances. Bobby was going to have a lot of catching up to do.


Louisiana – Abandoned Military Base

The swamps of the Louisiana bayou were always most ominous after sunset. It’s when the birds stopped chirping and the bugs started roaming. In some areas the humidity caused a dense haze to form over the murky waters. It provided great cover to predators like crocodiles, always on the lookout for their next meal. Only the brave and the foolish dared to venture through the swamp at this hour. For the former Brotherhood of Mutants, it was a little of both.

A lot had happened since the Genosha incident. Lance, Freddy, John, and Mortimer were all left at an impasse. Magnet was in jail, Mystique ran off to do her own thing, and Wanda was now running the show. Rather than stay and watch Genosha fall under the domain of humans and the X-men, they struck out on their own. There was nothing left for them. Magneto promised a world where they would be on top, not the humans. He failed to deliver and to go along with Xavier’s agenda was tantamount to surrender. It left them with few options.

The way they saw it, if they had to go back to life in a human dominated world they weren’t going back without having some resources at their disposal. Getting those resources wasn’t easy even with powers. Their faces were well-known because of their much publicized attack on the Genoshan embassy and their participation in Magneto’s uprising. To escape jail or worse, they needed help. That’s when a new opportunity came along. It involved working for a mysterious man who called himself Sinister.

At the moment, they were on their way to meet up with him. They sped through the muggy swamp aboard a special hovercraft, towing behind them some pretty heavy cargo. They just finished another successful heist at the port in New Orleans. Today it had been even easier than usual. Ever since the crime guilds in New Orleans started killing each other, nobody so much as bothered them while they did their work.

“I tell you, mates, these jobs are starting to get too easy for my liking,” said Pyro as he casually formed some fireballs with his flame throwers.

“I know! It’s like walking into a store and taking whatever the heck we want!” said Blob, who was eating some take out he got while they were in town.

“Hey, I’ll take it!” said Toad, who was lounging next to Blob, “If only things in Jersey were this easy.”

“Don’t get too comfortable guys. You never know what this Sinister nut will throw at us,” said Avalanche, who was driving the boat, “Call me paranoid, but I don’t have a good feeling about him.”

“What do you expect? The guy calls himself Sinister!” laughed Pyro.

“It’s no joke, John. We’ve all seen how bad it can get when madmen are involved. And compared to Magneto, this guy’s a real heavyweight.”

“No argument here,” said Blob as he slurped down the last of his meal, “But he’s done his part so far. He’s kept the authorities off our back.”

“Maybe so, but what’s to stop him from going back on his word when all is said and done? Remember, he also promised to pay us big time and set us up in some country without extradition.”

“Right, but explain extradition to me again?” asked Toad.

“Get a dictionary, Toad,” said Blob, “And this guy better pay up like his promised! Otherwise I’ll make that face of his even uglier!”

“You really think a guy like him is going to be intimidated by that, Blob?” said Avalanche dryly.

“He better be! For all the hardware we’ve been stealing for him, the son-of-a-bitch better pay up!”

“Ah take it easy, you guys. Why so tense?” coaxed Pyro, “Look on the bright side! We don’t gotta deal with the X-men or take part in any crazy world takeovers. We just gotta steal what this guy tells us and we’ll be set for life!”

“If only we could all be as laid back as you, John,” muttered Avalanche.

“What can I say? It’s another one of my many gifts,” said Pyro, showing off a bit by forming a couple of complex shapes with his flames.

Lance and the others rolled their eyes. They shouldn’t have been too surprised. John never took anything seriously. He was a few sparks short of a blaze so to speak. That was his problem though. They had genuine reason to be concerned about this Sinister guy. They were placing a lot of trust in him. If he decided to screw them over they would be back at square one and that was assuming he didn’t spring some sort of trap on them. Whatever the case may be, there was no turning back. They were going to finish this and hopefully get their lives back on track.

They rode through the treacherous waters of the swamp for another ten minutes or so. Their destination was an old military base built along the river. It was surrounded by rusted fences with intimidating ‘no trespassing’ and ‘government property’ signs. It’s not like they were necessary though. This base was in the middle of nowhere and nobody in the right mind would venture into these parts. It seemed eerily fitting for a guy like Sinister to work out of.

When they got close, they passed through a series of gates build into the water. They were all open, but Sinister rigged them with sensors so he could see who was coming. After passing through the first one, the radio on their boat started beeping. Since Lance was carefully steering the boat up to the docks, Toad answered.

“Go ahead, boss,” he said.

“You’re late. Do you have the parts?”

“Oh sure! No problem! It was even easier than usual! The thieves and cops must have been busy with something else.”

“So it would seem. I’ll be up in a minute. Have Blob haul the crates into the south hanger. I’ll be waiting.”

“Will do, Mr. S! Is this the last one?”

“Not quite. There are but a few remaining components. And I’ll need you’re assistance in putting them together properly.”

“Tell him that’s gonna cost him extra, Toad!” said Blob.

“I heard that, Blob. And please watch your tone! The lot of you are in no position to bargain! The only reason you’re not being tortured by authorities from Shaw Industries is because I’ve been covering for you! You’ll still be paid your dues, but don’t think for a second you can start making threats!”

“Of…of course!” said Toad anxiously, “Blob didn’t mean anything! It was a joke, right! You know, not serious and stuff?”

“Do I strike you as someone with a sense of humor, Toad?”

“Um…”

“Don’t bother answering. You’ll only be wasting more time. Just get me my parts! I have big plans in store and I won’t let rebellious attitudes slow them down!”

The radio then went dead, leaving the Brotherhood silent and somewhat intimidated by their predicament. This Sinister guy didn’t mess around. He showed he wasn’t afraid of them and wouldn’t hesitate to make them suffer for insubordination. Even Pyro found it a little disturbing. Working for Magneto was never this intimidating. Too bad they didn’t have a choice.

“Still looking on the bright side, Pyro?” asked Lance.

“Shut up, Lance,” muttered the Australian mutant, “Let’s just be glad we won’t have to deal with this bloke much longer. I don’t know what he’s got planned, but I don’t want to be around when it goes down.”


Next Issue: The Unstoppable Juggernaut

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