Marie stood nervously, waiting for Marius. She heard a twig snap behind her, and she twirled around, a charged card in her hand.
"You ain't plannin' t'blast me t'bits, are ya, chère?"
Marie let out a deep breath, the card fizzling in her hand. "It's you, Marius."
"You were expectin' mebbe de Easter Bunny?"
Marie rolled her eyes. "You're late. I was about to give up on you."
"Sorry. I found Emil."
Marie blinked. "Is he all right?"
"Yeah, he's fine. Candra's got him, but she ain't hurt 'im none."
Marie let out a sigh of relief. "So where is he?"
"Little place out behind the Assassin's hideout."
"Did you see him?"
"Oui. I wanted him to come wit' me, but he was afraid of it makin' Candra too angry. So he tol' me to come get you, and dat we could come back and take down Candra. Also said to bring your new 'friends,' whatever dat means. He said dat would solve two problems."
Marie frowned at that. Could Emil mean the Marauders? They couldn't' possibly be any use against Candra. But what else could he mean? And as for the two problems—well, if the Marauders actually were effective against Candra, that would solve the problem of dealing with her as well as the one of proving their abilities to Sinister… It was a longshot, but Marie had learned to trust Emil's little intuitions. "There's a team of, um, fighters, here." Marie said. "Vicky and I have been training with them—sort of. They're probably who Emil means."
"She gonna help us?"
"She said she would."
"Good. She's de kinda person you want on your side. Good an' scary. So what's de gameplan, chère?"
"Meet me back here, at the same time tomorrow. I should have everyone rounded up by then. We'll move out then and surprise attack Candra."
"Sounds good to me. I'll see you den, Marie."
Marie nodded. "Take care of yourself, Marius."
*** *** ***
"Vicky, I gotta talk to you."
Vicky opened one eye. "Fine. Just stop shaking me, LeBeau." Vicky sat up on the bunk, rubbing her face. "I don't know what time it is, but I'm guessing it's some ungodly hour. What's up?"
"Marius found Emil."
Vicky snapped awake at that. "He did!? Is Emil okay? Candra didn't hurt him did she?" She frowned. "I mean, uh, the only person I want hurting that bastard is me."
Marie cocked an eyebrow. "Right. Yeah, he's fine. Look, Marius said that Candra's keeping Emil outside the Assassin hideout. He talked to him, and told Emil to tell us to come back—with the Marauders."
"The Marauders! How does Emil even know we're with them?"
"Um, he's got a bit of…intuition."
"Intuition?" Vicky thought back to their fight with the Ultramites, where he'd somehow known she'd be in danger before it had even happened—and subsequently saved her life. "Precognition sounds more like it."
"Yeah, that, too."
Vicky blinked a bit. "So Emil's a mutant?"
"I think so. He's never said, but yeah, that's where I'd place the smart money."
"Anyway, no time to discuss Emil's DNA structure at the moment. We have to figure out some way to convince the Marauders to come with us and fight Candra."
Vicky frowned. "Well, we have Arclight covered—hold her Bon Jovi CD's hostage. But as for the others… Hey, maybe we could lead Vertigo there with a trail of Jack Daniels."
"Creed, this is serious."
"You know, you are absolutely no fun."
"Look, we need a plan that'll actually work."
"My plan would so work."
Marie rolled her eyes. "Whatever. Look, we have to think. Wait…you're the leader now. Maybe if you order them to go, they just will."
"Marie, sweetie, I think you've been drinking the swamp water again. Since when did these rejects listen to me? And you think they're going to just because I'm their leader for some bizarre reason? Come on, think about it. Logan's our leader—when's the last time we listened to her?"
Marie frowned. "Yeah, you have a point there. So what do we do?"
Vicky mirrored Marie's frown for just a moment before the corners on her mouth began to turn up. "Wait, I got it."
Vicky grabbed Marie's arm and started to drag her from the room. "Come on. I'll fill you in on the way."
*** *** ***
Emil really hoped his uncanny ability to predict future events hadn't chosen this time to be finally wrong. The images he'd been getting of this "team" that was supposed to be coming to save him weren't exactly promising. And in the meantime, he'd had to put up with Candra, and her psychotic ramblings. It was even worse that being stuck with his siblings.
But he'd seen Marie and Vicky would save him, and he had to have faith. It was only a matter of time before he got out of there—and got to see Victoria Creed again.
Emil smiled at that thought, deciding it was enough to keep his mind occupied for a while…
*** *** ***
Marie stood with Vicky outside Rhiannon's door, her hands on her hips. "Victoria, you can not be serious."
"Why not? And move. I can't knock on the door if you're standing in front of it."
"That's the point, blondie. Look, Rhiannon is not going to help us, plain and simple."
"Yes, she is. Trust me. And call me blondie again and you'll be sitting out this fight in traction."
Marie chose to ignore the last part of Vicky's statement. "Why should I trust you?"
"Other than the fact that I'm your teammate and we're in this together? Look, when Rhiannon asked me to take over as leader of the Marauders, I felt, well, a genuine sense of concern from her—concern for the wellbeing of these kids. Sure, she's got to be something bad if she's mixed up with a guy like Mr. S., but hey, so was your dad, and he turned out decent enough. All I'm saying is, I don't think Rhiannon wants to see anything bad happen to the Marauders, and she'll be willing to get them out of hot water with the diamond-headed one. So move so I can knock on the goddamn door."
"Move it, kid."
Marie sighed and slid to the side. Vicky knocked on the door, and Rhiannon emerged a few moments later, looking rather annoyed. "What do you want?"
"Did we wake you?" Vicky asked in her sweetest voice.
"Actually no. Haven't been sleeping." She narrowed her eyes. "But what do you want?"
"Marie and I have a little proposition for you. May we come in?"
"Nein. Go back to your bunks before I report this to Mr. Sinister."
"Rhiannon, it's important. It's about the Marauders…and how to save them."
Rhiannon started. "Come in then." She stepped back, letting Marie and Vicky come into her quarters. She gestured to her couch. "Have a seat."
"Thanks," Vicky said with a nod. She sat down and Marie followed her lead.
Rhiannon sat in a chair across from them. "So what is your important news?"
"I'll be blunt," Vicky began. "There's this immortal woman named Candra who's kidnapped Marie's cousin. We want to get him back, but well, we're going to need help—and we have reason to believe that the Marauders can be that help. And if they succeed, well, that should prove their worth to Sinister, shouldn't it?"
Rhiannon blinked. "I suppose… But Sabretooth, you've seen this team. They aren't exactly…battle ready. And fighting an immortal? I think they'd have better luck taking their chances against Mr. Sinister."
"But it's worth a shot, right?" Vicky said. "I mean, they might actually be able to defeat her."
"How, cut off her head?" Rhiannon scoffed.
"Lady, this ain't Highlander." Vicky said. "We just need to slow her down long enough to spring Marie's cousin. And we need you to convince the Marauders to go with us. Somehow, I figure they won't just up and walk into the swamps with me."
"No, they hate you," Rhiannon said very matter-of-factly.
"Good thing I'm not going for prom queen. But they will listen to you, won't they? I mean, if you told them this was some sort of official mission?"
Rhiannon sighed. "They'd have to. But using Mr. Sinister's personal strike force for a private matter…I don't think he'd be happy."
"Oh come on," Vicky replied. "He probably wouldn't even notice. All he does is lock himself up in his lab all day any way. Besides, he said he wanted them dead, Rhiannon. You told me that yourself—and you also didn't seem to fond of the idea. This could be your chance to save them. Do you want to let it just slip by?"
Rhiannon looked down for a moment before looking up to meet Vicky's gaze, determination in her eyes.
"I'll do it."
*** *** ***
"So where are we going?"
Rhiannon looked around for the hundredth time since they'd left Sinister's base, afraid she'd find her employer trailing behind her. "There's a threat Mr. Sinister wishes for us to handle," Rhiannon said succinctly.
Scrambler smiled psychotically. "It's about time. I haven't killed anyone in at least a good month. That's too damn long."
Vicky cut him a look. "You really are a psycho. And coming from me, that's saying a lot."
"Does it make you want to get all hot and sweaty with me?" Scrambler asked, putting his arm around Vicky.
"No." She grabbed his arm and twisted it around his back. "Try that again, and I'll kill you."
Scrambler just smirked, shaking his arm as she let it loose. "Big words, there, pretty lady. Remember, I can turn off your powers like that." He snapped his fingers.
"I don't need my powers to kill you. All I need are these," Vicky flashed her talons in his face.
Rhiannon turned around, shooting them a look. "This is important, so behave yourselves. Mister Sinister will be quite unhappy should you fail."
"So what if he's unhappy?" Scrambler asked. "What's he going to do 'dispose of us?'"
Rhiannon's uneasy silence proved that question to be more than the sarcastic quip that Scrambler had meant it to be. The Marauders stopped short. "Rhiannon, what exactly is going on here?" Scalphunter asked.
Rhiannon sighed. "Mister Sinister is…less than impressed with your performance."
"But we can do better!" Arclight exclaimed. "Really! We're just starting."
"I know that," Rhiannon said, "but he is less than patient." She looked down. "I should be honest with you about this mission. It is not Mister Sinister who requested you come, but Sabretooth and Gambit."
"Why should we do anything for them," Harpoon asked. "They're just a couple of annoying bitches."
"Look, fucker, you wanna find the closest small, dark space, because I'd be happy to look for it," Vicky snapped.
Rhiannon held up her hand. "Sabretooth please, none of that." She sighed. "Look, I know none of you trust Sabretooth and Gambit, but well, they knew what Mister Sinister was planning, and came up with this idea to help you. There's a woman who is causing some problems near here. If you can form an actual team and defeat her, then it will prove your worth and quite possibly save your lives."
"But why should we trust them at all?" Blockbuster asked. "This may just be a trap. Everyone knows they used to be X-Men. They could be trying to kill us as well."
"Yeah, they could be trying to get rid of us and prevent the threat we could cause to the X-Men," Riptide said.
Marie and Vicky both began laughing. "No offense or anything, but the X-Men would rip you guys into little bits," Marie said.
"You're not helping," Rhiannon said. Marie and Vicky unsuccessfully tried to subdue themselves. "Honestly, I know this is difficult for any of you to accept, but this is your last chance. If you don't do something now that proves to Mister Sinister that you aren't the embarrassments to mutantkind that he thinks you are, he's going to have you eliminated—the same way he did to the Morlocks via your parents." The Marauders grew suddenly silent. "This isn't something you exactly have a choice in. Either take a chance, fight today, and prove yourselves capable, or die. It's not really a hard decision."
"Really," Vicky said. "It's like 'cake or death.' If you have brains, you're not going to chose 'or death.'"
Scrambler crossed his arms in front of him. "So what exactly are we up against?" he asked. "Rhiannon, you said it was just one woman, but if that's all it is, then Gambit and Sabretooth could taker her out by themselves, no problem. As much as I hate to admit it, they're good fighters."
Rhiannon frowned. "It is just one woman—it's just not a normal type of woman. Her name is Candra, and she's an External—an immortal mutant."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Scalphunter said, waving his huge gun in the air. "Immortal? Like that McLeod guy off the television? We can't do nuthin' about that, Rhiannon! I saw that show—bullets don't hurt him none. What am I supposed to do?"
Marie sighed. "It isn't like that, genius," she said. "Candra can be hurt, just not killed. I think." Marie frowned. "Look, I'm not really sure about her physiology or whatever, but I do know that my parents stopped her once, so she's not like, completely indestructible. And if you guys are able to even just stall her, that would be impressive."
"Look, I'm really not up for this," Prism said. "I'll smash into a million pieces."
Vicky grinned at her. "Don't worry about it. If that happens, I'll be sure to find your fragments good homes, by selling them on eBay for people to hang up in their kitchen windows."
Prism glared, but didn't say anything in response.
Rhiannon sighed again, looking at the Marauders with pleading eyes. "Please. Mister Sinister will kill you. Sabretooth and Charger probably won't. Which chance do you really want to take?"
Scrambler looked around at his fellow Marauders. "Can we talk it over for a moment?"
"I guess," Rhiannon said, slightly exasperated.
The Marauders walked a small distance away and formed a huddle, leaving Marie and Vicky with Rhiannon. Marie gave Rhiannon a small smile. "Don't worry about it. They'll say yes, and they'll be successful. Emil said so."
"Who's Emil?" Rhiannon asked.
"Her psychic swamp cousin," Vicky said, very matter-of-factly.
"Oh," Rhiannon said. She shrugged. "Well, I've seen weirder."
"Like what?" Vicky asked. She paused, then said, "You know, we really don't know that much about you. Except you work for Sinister and you smell a lot like a fat guy named Klaus. I guess both of those could count for weird."
Rhiannon smirked. "I was Klaus. I'm a shapeshifter."
Vicky's eyebrows went up for a moment, and then it clicked. She knew exactly who Rhiannon was—or at least she had a damn good theory. She'd have to talk to Marie about it later.
The Marauders broke up their huddle and came back over to Rhiannon and the two X-Men. Scrambler stepped forward. "We'll do it. But if you guys fuck us over, things are going to get ugly."
"Fair enough," Rhiannon said. "Let's get going then."
The small group continued on.
*** *** ***
After two months, there's finally a new chapter—and it's short! Sorry about that, but hopefully I'll have time to wrap up this chapter soon. Review and let me know what you think!