Summary: A call for help from the New Orleans Thieves' Guild takes
Cyclops, Storm, Rogue, and Logan to the Big Easy, where things are not as
easy as they seem.
Disclaimer: These characters are the property of Marvel and Twentieth
Century Fox. I make no profit from their use.
Author's Note 1: Author's note: I have envisioned a brown-haired Christian
Kane as Gambit (Lindsey from Angel) and Marc Blucas as Joshua (Riley, from
Author's Note 2: PLEASE READ THIS - I began this story in August, long
before the events of September 11th. I never had any idea that real life
would find an echo in this story. I can only tell you, honestly, that I
really wish it hadn't.
A young woman picked her way along the rutted dirt road, hopping clumsily
over the muddy spots. This late at night, even the crickets were falling
silent among the tall pines that clustered thickly in resistance to
civilization's encroachment. So intent was she on negotiating her path
over the uneven ground that she gave a startled gasp when the large man
stepped out of the trees and into her path.
Flannel clad and smelling of beer, he grinned at her wide-eyed fear. The
designer jeans and salon haircut belied his redneck image. "Watcha doin'
out here, honey?" he drawled. The faintest hint of white ghosted from his
mouth in the cool evening..
"Um, ma car," she stammered, gesturing back down the track to the distant
blacktop. "It just up and quit on me, and when I saw all the tire tracks,
I figured y'all must be up here huntin' or sumthin'." One small hand
flitted nervously at the shotgun in his grip. "I figured maybe one of you
boys might give me a ride." Her soft southern accent trailed off, and she
smiled nervously and shrugged. The big man didn't miss what the shrug did
to her cleavage under the tight scoop- necked shirt.
"I think maybe we could help you out." His eyes traveled down the white
shirt to the black leather pants and back up to the odd streak of white at
her widow's peak. Must be a new fashion statement, he thought. "Honey,
the guys are gonna just be thrilled to meet you," he said. A nasty grin
revealed the even result of rather expensive orthodontia work. He slung
the shotgun in one elbow and reached out for her with the other hand. She
stepped back, and his expression turned menacing. "Come on."
The woman turned away from him, and for half a second he thought he might
get the fun of chasing her through the woods. He was totally unprepared
for her to spin back, and never even saw the boot that slammed into the
side of his head. He dropped the shotgun and staggered. Trying to keep
his balance, he was completely unable to fend off the hands that grabbed
the front of his flannel shirt. A knee flashed into his groin, then his
belly. He was already collapsing when the iron grip smashed his head down
onto her rising knee.
Rogue, who had long since ceased to think of herself as the helpless
southern belle she'd been raised to become, slid the shotgun into the
brambles. A man dressed in black leather, just as tall as her victim but
runner lean, eased up beside her. One hand held out a jacket, a twin to
his own. Under a ruby-lensed visor, a quick grin flashed in appreciation
of her economical assault. A beautiful, white-haired, mocha-skinned woman
joined them, followed by a younger woman with a merry glint in her Asian
eyes, and a tall, sandy-haired young man, all of them in black. In
moments, Rogue's white shirt was zipped up in the concealing black leather
uniform of her team, and she ghosted after them in a stealthy jog.
In the small clearing further up the dirt track, half a dozen trucks and an
occasional battered sedan were parked in a semi-circle under the edges of
the trees. A weathered bunkhouse and cabin sat side by side, framing the
open area. A handful of men lounged about, talking idly and poking the
dying remains of a large fire. Beer bottles and cans littered the trampled
grass around them, and occasional their bawdy laughter punctuated the
Cyclops paused in the narrow space between the two buildings as he studied
the situation. A bulb harsh light over the cabin door threw harsh yellow
light towards the grassy alley, but left the shadows all the darker where
he stood, his shoulders flat against the weathered wood. He could hear
voices coming from the small windows in the bunkhouse wall and he estimated
at least five more men were playing cards within. A wooden plaque on the
back door read "Humans Only," but he spared it no attention.
He gave a hand signal, and Storm and Jubilee faded back, circling around
the perimeter to the far side of the larger building. Rogue stayed several
feet away, watching rear guard. Cyclops waited until he picked up a
flicker of movement on the edge of the clearing, then gave Bobby a nod.
The younger man held out his hands, and a haze of white frost and cold
streamed to the old screen door on the back of the cabin. The wood creaked
and popped as the intense cold and ice sheeted it, encasing the doorway in
a barrier that would require significant effort to breach. Another hand
gesture and the two followed their leader, crouching under the light and
the windows as they crept to the front edge of the bunkhouse wall.
Finally, reaching up, Cyclops made a slight adjustment to his visor.
A mighty beam of red light streaked across the clearing, hitting one of the
trucks and causing it to blow up in a ferocious explosion. The men around
the fire scrambled to their feet as a second truck exploded, the quiet
conversations becoming disconcerted yells and ineffective curses. Streaks
of sparkling light and coils of multi-colored plasma from the opposite
direction sent the bewildered group running for cover.
A whipping wind sprang from nowhere as more men spilled out of the cabin
and the bunkhouse. Fast food wrappers and other debris joined with dust
and dried leaves, forcing the few men who had not run to shield their
faces. Storm hovered several feet off the ground, arms spread wide, her
eyes pure white as a gale- force wind knocked moresome of the men off their
feet. A few hardier souls struggled against the elements, but the rest
hugged the ground and attempted to crawl away from the onslaught.
Cyclops sent several more blasts into the trees and then one into the fire,
the explosive force sending burning debris and hot coals showering down.
Bobby the Iceman sprayed snow and cold on several of the larger smoldering
chunks, freezing them to the wooden veranda of the bunkhouse. Rogue
sprinted for the door of the cabin, with Cyclops right behind. A shocked
man in a denim shirt and baseball cap belatedly tried to intercept her, but
failed to see her large shadow. Cyclops quickly overwhelmed him with
several well placed punches, annoyed and not a little anxious at the delay
in backing Rogue up. He entered the cabin in a rush, glancing at the
overturned table, scattered cards and chips from the interrupted game. An
unconscious man lay on the dirty braided rug. A gangly teenage boy with a
bad complexion charged him from the kitchen, only to be twisted around and
redirected out the open door and into the yard. A quick check over the
kitchen pass-through's counter for more opposition revealed only the
accumulated dishes of men who considered 'roughing it' a license for
The front door was equipped with an old but serviceable heavy wooden bar
that he rammed shut, leaving him the luxury to turn and locate his
teammate. A hallway led off the main room, and Rogue emerged from one of
the doorways and immediately tried another closed door. This one was
locked, but gave way as she dropped back a step and gave it a strategic
kick. Several large splinters flew as the door crashed open.
Scott was directly behind Rogue and grabbed the broken doorframe to avoid
slamming into her as she paused just inside the doorway. Huddled in the
corner of the sparse room was a small form sitting on a bare army surplus
cot. The gray fur on his arms blended into the scratchy gray woolen
blanket he clutched around him. Huge eyes stared out of a paler gray face.
Small, inarticulate sounds came from his throat has he watched the two
"It's O.K., son," Cyclops said appeasingly, holding his hands out. "We're
here to help you." The child watched them advance another few steps,
then suddenly bolted over the end of the bed, but a heavy chain rattled as
it pulled the child up short of the corner. He was chained to the wall.
"Bastards," muttered Scott.
Rogue knelt slowly beside the boy, talking gently, her southern accent more
pronounced as she tried to soothe him. "It's alright, honey. We're gonna
to take you home. We're gonna take you to your momma."
The child looked up at Rogue, then to Scott, with an expression of slowly
Outside, a lone holdout finally staggered forward in the wind, trying to
point a large pistol at Storm. She watched him struggle, then gazed
upward. A bolt of lightning struck the ground in front of him, and the
force of the discharge tossed him up and out.
The windstorm died, and Jubilee pushed her messy dark hair out of her face.
"Stormy, you got style," she commented.
"Thank you, Jubilee," she replied in her measured English tones. Together,
the two women crossed the empty yard to join Bobby Drake. The young man
assumed a pitcher's stance, then formed another snowball in his bare hands
and lobbed it the burning truck, obviously enjoying the sizzle as the cold
orb hit the hot metal.
Inside the cabin, a flash of red severed the chain. The child stared at it
in disbelief, then at Scott's outstretched hand. He slowly put his grubby,
furry, fully human-shaped hand in the man's and let himself be drawn to
stand upright. Cyclops gave him an encouraging smile. The child smiled
back. He offered the same small smile to Rogue, then looked beyond the two
adults and suddenly shrieked in fear.
Reacting instinctively, Scott grabbed the child and whisked him up off the
floor as a large Rottweiler stalked into the room. Its growl rose and
fell, then abruptly shifted into a flurry of barking as it lunged at the
three of them. Rogue grabbed the edge of the metal framed cot, spinning it
on its leg and into the dog's path. Quickly she grabbed the blanket and
snapped it in the air. The distraction worked for only seconds. Scott
fingered his visor with one hand while trying to keep the boy up high with
his other arm, desperately maneuvering for a shot. The dog lunged again,
ignoring the flapping fabric and biting Rogue's forearm. Viciously it
shook and tore at her. Its comparable mass jerked her across the floor and
forced Scott to hesitate. He called out a warning to her and managed to
get a shot, but it merely scorched the wall.
Abruptly, the dog froze. It's eyes locked with Rogue's. Above its white
teeth the veins stood boldly against the suddenly gray gums, echoing the
condition of Rogue's face as her features twisted in pain and shock. A
gasp came from her, met by a sad whine from low in the dog's chest as its
grip loosened. It fell to the ground, twitching heavily for several long
moments, then grew deathly still.
"Rogue!" said Scott urgently, reaching out for her arm. He did not touch
her, but the movement let her tear her eyes from the corpse and inspect the
damage. Her leather sleeve was badly torn, exposing her pale arm and deep
bloody wounds seeping heavily. Tearing a piece from the ruined blanket she
wrapped it around her arm and followed her team leader out of the silent
room. Outside, Storm and the younger team members greeted them with some
"Let's go," Cyclops ordered, still carrying the boy.
Jubilee gave the bloody rag around Rogue's arm a long look. "You okay,
sweetie?" she asked.
Rogue's white strands bobbed as she nodded. "I'm fine. Don't worry, I'm
not gonna start sniffing anybody's butt or nothing."
"How about growling?" Bobby asked. He ducked from the glares he received
on all sides.
"What? We already got one of those."
"Let's get out of here." urged Scott. They walked away, leaving various
fires burning in their wake. Not a single person opposed them.
Tendrils of heavy smoke swirled lazily around the afternoon patrons of a
small corner bar. The occasional 'chuck' sound of balls hitting each other
came from the pool tables in the back room. The inevitable TV was barely
audible, and a newscaster read the news without enthusiasm.
"Three days after being kidnapped from his family home, nine-year-old
mutant Tommy Robertson is back with his family. Details of his return
remain sketchy. The boy's mother will only say that "friends" helped him
escape from his captors. She does say she plans to send the boy to a place
where he'll be safe, but refuses further comment.
The group accused of kidnapping the mutant, a local chapter of Humanity's
Champions, claim they were attacked by agents of the National Security
Agency using rocket launchers and explosives. A spokesman for the NSA
called this claim ludicrous.
The spokesman for Humanity's Champions insists that the local chapter
exceeded its authority, reiterating that the organization is dedicated to
non-violent changes. The head of the organization, Franklin Pierce, was
unavailable for comment. Local members could face charges of kidnapping
and civil rights violations."
A man wearing a battered leather jacket sat at the bar, dashing what was
left of a large cigar into the ashtray in front of him. Almost as if it
were against his will, a slow, feral grin grew from one corner of his mouth
to the other. Reaching into his pocket, he stood up and threw a bill on
the ring-stained counter.
"Headin' home?" inquired the barkeeper.
The man paused for only a moment. "Yup."