ECD prologue

Disclaimer: Sadly, I don't own the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the Stargate, or the Goa'uld. I can happily lay claim to Special Agent Daria Noclaf, the Tau'ka… oh wait, this plot isn't really mine either. Darn. I'll just go back to the sandbox now.

Summary: Take one hunter, a secret agent, a renegade captain, a vampire, an invisible man, an immortal, and a doctor with split personalities. Add one alien spy. Sprinkle with some nifty special effects and a bored author. Stir to combine and serve as soon as it is typed. Sequel to "A New Hand For a New Century: Queen of Spades". Second in the New Hand Trilogy. I hope old fans won't be bored and new ones won't be confused. and I promise this will have more action than the prequel. (No Holmes though- but don't give up on the old boy yet.)

"The best way to get another chapter is to fill the authoress's inbox with reviews." – Me.

OSCOSCOSCOSCOSCOSC

Some stories tell you the story. Some stories only tell you part of the story. Others…

Others tell you the story that is different from the one you know.

This is one of those stories.

This is one of those stories that no one hears.

Until now.

Now, the story continues…

OSCOSCOSCOSCOSCOSC

Chapter One: The Faces of a League

London, Albion Museum.

Tottenham Road.

July 1899

"I don't much like theatrics," the older man growled, eyed M suspiciously. Special Agent Daria Noclaf looked the newcomer over carefully from her position in the unlit adjoining room. She mentally classified him as an old, grizzled warrior, veteran of too many battles. He was moderately tall, with a short gray beard and a taste in clothes that ran towards khaki and utilitarian.

The one who had brought Daria, Captain Nemo, the invisible thief Rodney Skinner, and this newcomer together stood. "After Africa's veldts, London's weather isn't helping your mood any, I see." The man, known to her only as 'M', began to move around the table that dominated the room, turning up the gaslights as he did.

"Identify yourself." the newcomer said gruffly.

"I'm known by many names, Mr. Quatermain. My underlings call me Sir," M said. "My superiors call me M."

"M?" Quatermain replied.

The cadaverous-looking man smiled mysteriously. "Just M." The lights came on fully, revealing the slim, light-haired man standing next to the long wooden table. The old library they were in was decorated with paintings of various groups of people, none of whom Daria recognized. M gestured Quatermain to one of the chairs and handed him a manila-colored file. He explained about the group he was forming, a league of people with remarkable skills and talents. A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, as it was. Quatermain looked through the papers in his folder. The silently watching Daria knew that the folder mostly biographical information on a number of people. Most of the records had a photograph attached.

Quatermain, occupied as he was with his file, didn't see M's discreet gesture. That was the signal for Daria to follow Nemo into the main room. Skinner, of course, was nowhere to be seen. The old man only looked up when he heard the clink of Nemo's sword belt.

"Mr. Quatermain, Captain Nemo," M said by way of introduction.

"I know of Mr. Quatermain." Nemo said solemnly.

"And I know of you, captain." Quatermain replied. "Rumor has it that you're a pirate."

"I prefer a less provocative title."

"I'm sure you would."

Now it was Daria's turn to step forward.

"Can we get on with this?" she said with an amused smile. "Pirate, not a pirate, does it really matter? He's going to be working with you, so you might as well get along."

Quatermain looked over at Nemo. "Friend of yours?" he inquired mildly.

Daria frowned mentally at the brush-off, but schooled her face into a blank mask. "Not really. We just met." she said. She did not have a warm-fuzzy feeling about this, recognizing the signs of a typical Victorian male in the way he practically ignored her.

"Mr. Quatermain, this is Miss Daria Noclaf." M said.

"Don't tell me she is going to be a member…" Quatermain said.

Daria folded her arms over her chest and treated the old hunter to a Look. Clearly, being polite and subservient would not work. She had a job to do. "Actually, I am." she said calmly.

"On what basis?" the hunter challenged.

"A great deal of combat, technical, and intelligence-gathering experience, for one." She made a negligent gesture with one hand. The file M had given him floated off of the table and hung there in midair. "In addition to having telekinesis and communications-telepathy, and perhaps one or two other things." Daria eyed Quatermain coldly, her labradorite-colored eyes narrowed slightly in challenge. "Of course, you'd know this if you actually looked at my file instead of assuming superiority based on gender…"

"Gentlemen, Miss Noclaf, please." M cut in before the fur could start flying. The file dropped to the table. "Nations are striking at nations. Every attack marked by the use of highly advanced weaponry."

Daria raised a skeptical eyebrow but said nothing.

"These attacks are all the work of one man," M said, "who calls himself the Fantom."

"Very operatic." Quatermain commented. "What's in it for him?"

"Profit. Those machines are his creations, the work of scientists he holds imprisoned. His attacks have nations clamoring for the weapons that assail them."

"Then it's a race for arms."

"And millions will perish."

"There's one last chance to avert war." M explained. "The leaders of Europe are to meet secretly in Venice."

"And you believe that this Fantom will attack that conference?"

"If he can find it. We need a team to stop him in Venice. This team consists of seven members."

Quatermain nodded, looking through the file folder.

"You'll have four days." M told them.

The hunter looked up in surprise. "Four days to get to Venice?" he asked disbelievingly. "It's impossible."

Daria rolled her eyes. "Careful how you use that word, Mr. Quatermain, especially in this company."

"Let me worry about that." Nemo put in mysteriously. Daria was looking forward to seeing what the East Indian man had in store for them.

"Well now," Quatermain said critically, having returned his attention to the file. "Extraordinary gentlemen indeed. One of them is late." He looked down at a black-and-white photograph attached to the file. "Harker, the chemist."

"Oh, chemist, eh?" said a voice with a cocky Cockney accent. "Do we get to blow something up then?"

"I hope so." Daria said under her breath, a small smile growing on her lips. She knew where Skinner had gotten to after all. This promised to be entertaining. The thief had already shown himself to be rather… mischievious.

Quatermain looked around for the source of the voice. "My eyesight must be worse than I thought," he said, upon seeing no one.

"No, your eyesight's fine," the unseen voice said. It carried distinct overtones of coming from someone wearing a huge smirk on their face.

"No games, M." the hunter said sharply, still searching. M shook his head.

"Some time ago, a talented, albeit misguided, man of science discovered the means to become invisible."

"Yes, I recall the tale, but didn't he die?"

The Cockney voice chuckled. "Well, 'e did, but 'is process didn't. You see, I stole it, and 'ere I stand for all to see."

The room's occupants winced at the terrible pun.

"Is this some parlor game?" Quatermain demanded. He flinched as something invisible slapped the back of his head.

"Boo!" his tormentor said, "Believe it."

Another manila folder slammed onto the table next to him. Quatermain noticed that Daria was gazing at something just behind his chair, eyes half-slitted in concentration. She couldn't quite see him, but she could vaguely make out a patch of air that was distorted ever so slightly, calling to mind a heat haze. He twisted around and shoved at something that felt like human flesh.

"Easy now, Allan." exclaimed the Cockney voice. Its owner backed into a free-standing lamp, causing it to wobble dangerously. "I'm feeling a bit of a draft in my nether regions. And I must say, it's quite refreshing." A trench coat hanging on the back of the chair next to the hunter picked itself up and began to fill up, outlining the figure of an unseen man. "Allow me to introduce myself." The voice now came from the vicinity of the hanging coat. "Rodney Skinner, gentleman thief." A pot of white greasepaint picked itself up and an invisible hand smeared some on the face of its owner. It was a rather odd sight, seeing patches of a face become visible as the makeup outlined it. "Now, I thought invisibility would be a boon to my work." Skinner continued. "Well, as you can imagine, it was my undoing. Once you're invisible, it's bloody 'ard to turn back."

Daria merely raised an eyebrow. "Of course it is."

"We finally caught him." M explained. Skinner finished painting his face and shrugged nonchalantly.

"And they'll provide an antidote. Well, that's if I'm a good boy."

"And are you a good boy?" the auburn-haired woman inquired. Her tone indicated that she doubted it. Skinner smirked at her.

"I guess you'll find out, won't you?"

"I don't need to," she retorted coolly. "I think I found out earlier."

Skinner gave a grand sweeping bow. "Anything for the lady," he replied airily.

"Just be warned that if you go after my gear, you will be very sorry."

"Am I late?" inquired an aristocratic voice before Skinner could reply. The League members turned to see a woman in a black dress, veiled hat, and scarf stroll into the library. M shook his head, smiling.

"A woman's prerogative, Mrs. Harker." he said, waving her to a seat. Quatermain frowned in disgust.

"Please tell me this is Harker's wife with a sick note," he said in an almost pleading tone. Mrs. Harker glided forward.

"Sick would be a mild understatement," she said mildly. "My husband's been dead for years."

Daria's mouth twitched in a grin. "Yep, I'd call that sick." She was already inclined to like this new woman. Then she mentally shook herself. They are humans, and the only time you will be working with them is for this assignment. Don't go making friends.

"Gentlemen, Miss Noclaf, Mrs. Wilhelmina Harker. Mina's prior acquaintance with a reluctant League member may prove useful."

"I'm waiting to be impressed." Quatermain interjected. He was clearly wondering what the world was coming to, that they needed a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comprised of an old hunter, a pirate, a thief, and two women.

"The fate of the world is at stake." M told them. "There are two more members to recruit. The clock hands turn, gentlemen. And women." he added with a nod to Daria and Mina Harker.

"Kicking us out already?" Skinner asked, sounding a little hurt. "A moment ago, it was sherry and giggles."

OSCOSCOSCOSCOSCOSC

The group followed Captain Nemo up the long flight of stairs that had led to the underground library. It was pouring rain outside, and anyone not either wearing a hat or carrying an umbrella was almost instantly soaked; specifically, Daria. She held up her hand to protect her eyes from the downpour, looking sour. Her other hand held the edges of a short cloak around her.

It's STILL raining? Chaos and Fortune, doesn't it ever stop? I HATE water. Then she chided herself. She had been in London for most of a year. She knew perfectly well that it didn't rain all the time.

At the bottom of the stairs, parked along the side of the road, was a strange white transport with six wheels. Quatermain frowned at it. "What in God's name is that?" he asked suspiciously.

"It's pretty, whatever it is," Daria commented. She had seen nothing like it before, but it was pretty.

Nemo smiled mysteriously. "I call it an automobile," he said.

"Yeah, but what is it?" Skinner cut in.

"The future, gentlemen. The future." Nemo gestured to the black-clad man standing next to the automobile. "This is my first mate."

"Call me Ishmael. Please." the man told them. He waved them into the vehicle. The group filed inn, Nemo and Ishmael in the front, Quatermain, Skinner, Mina, and the wet (and irritated about it) Daria in the back. The back seat was a little crowded with four people in it, and they were forced to jam in together more closely than some would have liked. Skinner, of course, seemed pleased with the arrangement, as he was seated next to Mina Harker. On his other side was Quatermain, and Daria sat on Mina's left, next to the window, with her sword across her knees. Skinner looked over at Quatermain.

"So how did M get you?" he asked.

"None of your business."

Mina watched the exchange with her usual elegant manner. "You're a little testy, Mr. Q. On edge at the risks, perhaps?" she commented. The hunter gazed at her, eye narrowed and hard.

"Please call me by my full name, Mrs. Harker. Let us leave the mysterious single letters to our friend M, all right? Besides, I doubt if a woman would measure danger the way I do." he said. Daria leaned forward to watch the conversation.

At least I won't be the only one giving 'Mr. Q' a hard time.

"And I imagine you with quite the library, Mr. Quatermain." Mina replied. She was probing his defenses and reactions, trying to get the measure of the famed Allan Quatermain. "All those books you must have read merely by looking at their covers." The hunter raised an eyebrow in a faintly irritated expression.

"I've had women along on past exploits and found them to be, at best..." he trailed off for a moment, as if searching for the right word. "...a distraction." As one, Mina and Daria both assumed identical, innocent expressions.

"Do I distract you?" the two women chimed in unison. Quatermain shook his head.

"My dear girls, I've buried two wives and many lovers, and I'm in no mood for more of either." he told them firmly. Skinner looked over at him, a mischievous look on his grease-painted face.

"You can send them my way..." he began. All three of his companions glared at him.

"Skinner, shut up." they said in a perfect three-part harmony.

The thief turned his attention to Daria. "Well then, how'd he get you then?" he asked.

The woman shrugged. "I was in town finishing up some other business when some upstart puppy calling himself Sanderson Reed showed up asking if I wanted to help save the world. Me being me, of course I had to say yes." She didn't elaborate on the statement. It would go better if they weren't distracted by all the pesky little details as to what she, a Tau'ka Special Agent, was doing on Earth. Or how, for that matter, she and her people existed.

The automobile took them to a rather dingy section of the city and rolled to a stop in front of a run-down old house, putting an end to the conversation. The rain had stopped some time ago.

"Shall I wait, Captain?" Ishmael asked politely. Nemo shook his head.

"No, bring my lady to me." he told his first mate. The other man nodded and drove off, leaving the League standing in front of the old mansion.