Disclaimer: Highlander: the Series and all related characters, concepts and events are the property of Rysher Television; Panzer/Davis Productions and their respective creators, and producers, they are not mine nor is any money made from this.
Gambit, Storm, Nanny, the Orphan Maker, Belladonna, and Sabretooth, belong to Marvel Entertainment Group Inc. Note: Some events refer back to the X-Men # 33. Ancient history, I know, but bear with me.
Note: Takes place shortly after where "Half-Life" left off. Again a good time interval is taken into account.
"Loopholes" by Karen
Methos brought the metallic silver rental car into the only available space, muttering under his breath as back fender bumped alongside of the green SUV. He knew the crowds would be something fierce and they would have been better off walking instead of driving, but he had wanted to spare Alexa as much walking as possible. After their last trip to Florence, Italy Alexa spent the latter half of the trip resembling a raccoon what with the dark circles shadowing her eyes. Alexa had slept for most of the road trip with her feet tucked under folded legs and a swathed in a blanket.
Once Methos turned the key in the ignition he maneuvered the vehicle as close to the curb as possible in the narrow street. Unfastening his seat belt he leaned over and tapped Alexa on her left shoulder. "Honey, wake up." At first she didn't respond and turned around. "We're here."
Tossing aside the blanket, she glanced up. "The French Quarter?" Alexa yawned and wriggled out from under the blanket, leaning down to the floor of the passenger side of the car and lifting up a pair of black leather pumps with modestly high heels. She slipped them in one smooth move, the chestnut shoulder length hair falling to cover her hazel eyes.
"Yeah," Methos muttered, wondering when he had ever allowed himself to this much about anyone or anything, it hurt too much when they were gone, or when they were suffering. For all his centuries, just once while he was with her, it was easy to brush aside the confusing tangle of remorse mixed in with the keen-edge razor sharp instinctive need to survive at any cost; then in the back of his mind. 'She only gets one lifetime while I've lived dozens over and over again. Why the hell should I get to keep living and living when she only gets one and it's about to end at any second. There has to be something I can do, some cure for this disease that's eating away at her from the inside. It's an invisible enemy. Damn it! One I can't find with my bare hands!' the thought flashed like heat lightning on a summer morning and fizzled out just as quickly. Out loud. "You'll like the Big Easy."
She smiled up at him and threw open the car door, smoothing down the pleats of her blue and silver spangled sundress. "We'll I've never been here before but I did not spend all my time sleeping while you drove. I did my research."
"All right, " Methos smiled. "Since you seem to know what you're doing, I'll follow your lead. Where to first?" "Research. And here I thought we were specifically on vacation to get away from the research. He teased and reached over to brush away a tendril of auburn hair that had fallen over her hazel eyes.
Alexa laughed then reached into her satchel that she had slung over one shoulder and removed a battered notebook and a map that she thrust into his hands. "We're in the French Quarter, so if we head left down the Bordeaux Ave and then take a left at the plaza."
"If you say so. I've been here before. Can't remember when exactly, but it was probably when all this was being built."
"Oh be quiet," Alexa snapped. This is my first time, so don't ruin it for me."
"I was only pulling your chain," Methos replied, looking down at the cracks in the pavement, feeling a bit remorseful and then a thought occurred to him. "Well, I'll make it up to you. What do you say we stop for a bite to eat that the Commander's Palace. It's a famous Cajun restaurant not far from the plaza and they have a shrimp in garlic sauce dish that's you must try. What do you say?" Methos said, leaning over and kissing her on the lips, a touch as light as the landing of a butterfly on a flower bloom.
"How could I say no to that offer." Alexa smiled and took off down the street at a brisk walk, Methos following along in her wake.
The plaza was a giant tiled square enclosed by ante-bellum mansions and storefronts of several stories whose upper banisters bellied out like giant sails of ocean-going ship. Local restaurants and other eating established offered both indoor and outdoor tables for their patrons, and locals stood or sat on their balconies, observing passerby's. Methos and Alexa mingled with the crowd, taking the sights, sounds and smells of the Crescent City.
At that same instant, Remy and Ororo stepped down from the old-fashioned streetcar, as the driver doffed his wrinkled cap to them. Remy paid the man, and then led Ororo gently by the elbow, to the opposite street corner, when a jazz band had set up an impromptu concert complete with saxaphones, drums, trombones and harmonicas. A
group gathered around the band, some listening, and some swaying along in time with the music.
Ororo did not know what jazz was, although she had listened to Remy explain in that slow drawl of his which just left her as mystified as ever. Ororo could tell good music when she heard it: it was smooth and liquid and it went into the listeners ears like honey going down one's throat. She found herself tapping her booted feet on the pavement while her fingers drummed out the beat on his arm. She could sense the equally strong beat of his heart through the fabric of his the duster coat he wore like a second skin. She could tell that he loved this city and its varied and diverse cultures and history, the way he did his family despite how they treated him. Having lost her own family in disastrous plane crash, she thought she understood, but they were here to have a good time and she could not allow those melachonly thoughts to slow her down.
"Cher," Remy said. "How you doin?"
"I am fine," Ororo replied.
"You'll like this," he added releasing her hand from his sweaty grip and wiping them on the front of his duster jacket. Then he removed a bottle of champagne from one of the many hidden pockets. He tugged at the stubborn cork. Muttering under his breath, the lid finally came off,
"I am not old enough to drink," Ororo said. "Also I do not care much for champagne."
"You always sayin that, Stormy." Try some anyway," he said, handing over the bottle.
"I thought I told you not to call me that. My name is Ororo." She accepted the bottle and wrinkled her nose at the bouquet of the champagne, taking a tentative sip, finding it tangy and sweet on her tongue, and then drank some more.
"Your name can be whatever you decide on, Cher," Remy shrugged, the gesture sending the tangled mass on auburn hair rippling down his back like water disturbed by a pebble thrown into it. Ororo had not known him very long, he hard to figure out like those Chinese finger puzzles she had once seen sold in the marketplaces in Cairo; and as equally hard to pin down. The man had layers and those layers had layers, but one thing she did know, he was kind, had a sense of humor, and made an excellent friend and companion.
"Do you have a plan in mind, or we just making it up as we go along?" she asked.
"De plan, or lack of one, calls for making an orbit of all de major tourist spots on the map, and den we be heading back to the house in de French Quarter come nightfall."
Ororo just nodded. "Indeed."
By the time the sun slipped beneath the horizon line in a wash of pink, cream, red and orange pastel colors, the neon lights came on as if trying to shine brighter than the light of day. Alexa felt, despite how cliched it might sound that she was awake and walked through a dream landscape. A parade of masked revelers had passed by, flinging handfuls of faux gold coins, plastic frogs, and bead necklaces into the crowd. She understood it was meant as a good luck token. It was humid, and even through the light cotton fabric of her sundress she felt the sweat drip down her back, but it was worth it. Methos insisted that they stop for a bit to eat at fancy restaurant, when she would have been just as happy sampling some of the wares being sold by the street vendors because of the tantalizing smell of shrimp, smoke, and tabacco, and others she couldn't identify as readily.
Later that evening
The fortune-teller's shop was tucked into a far end of a back street, the building to either side of side it draped with colorful buntings, streamers and ribbons. The first thing that Methos noticed were the mingled scents of incense, lit candles made of beeswax, and sandalwood. When he pushed aside the beaded curtain that hung over the doorway, their entrance was accompanied by the chiming of beads sewn into the satin fabric.
Methos sneezed when the incense irritated his nose, and he muttered under his breath to Alexa if she really wanted to go through with this, reminding her that most fortune-tellers, palm readers and tarot card interpreters were nothing but con artists out to make a quick buck from gullible tourists. Alexa winked at him. "I want to do this and nothing say or do will change my mind, you stubborn, cynical old man."
"Okay, okay," Methos whispered. "It was worth a try."
The fortuneteller had a bronze plaque displayed on the wall beside portraits of what Alexa assumed were either clients or family members. The shop's interior was dimly lit by candles arranged in a semi-circle and the woman herself sat cross-legged in a leather reclining chair behind a glass table covered by a purple satin cloth. Her black skin glistened in the candlelight, and she greeted them with a wide cheery smile making the lines of her face furrow even more.
"Greetings and salutations, children, I am Tante Matie, please have a seat anywhere, I'll be with you a moment. I have to rearrange Mr.Greymalkin's placement."
"The cat," Tante replied. "In between client sessions he has a disturbing tendency to get into the tools of the trade. I am uncertain if it's out of sheer mischief or because of the comfort of the location. Come now, you cat, out of there." She reached down, her the layers of her skirt rustling in the silence. She bent down and then straightened up with a slight groan with the sudden shifting of weight and an armful of yowling calico cat. The cat's far was gray with streaks of yellow and orange and splotches of black along its flanks. She gently moved aside to a nearby high-back chair covered with a velvet cushion. She set the cat down with the firm instruction: "Stay put."
Settling back into the leather chair, and turning her penetrating brown-eyed gaze to Methos and Alexa : "Well, what can I do for you folks?"
"I," Well, it's like this, " Alexa stammered. "I thought it would be a lark, you know, try and see what immediate future would be like."
"It's more complicated than that," Methos interrupted, placing his hands on the surface of the table. "Alexa's health is dicey right now, and if you're as good as that plaque over your head says you are, then maybe where science failed maybe mumbo jumbo will succeed. You tell us something we don't like then you're in trouble."
"As in, you won't pay me for my services?" Tante replied, serenely. "Show me your palm, child.
Alexa extended her hand across the span of the table, palm turned upwards all five fingers spread in a fan-like shape. She felt the smooth, dry skin of the older woman as Tante Matie rubbed her hand over her skin, feeling for the groves and lines on it. "How long has she been in ill-health?"
"Long enough." Methos replied.
"Aren't you rather young to be so cynical and suspicious? It's like you expect a blow to fall on every second of every waking moment. Tante said. "Child, no one lives forever."
"Hah! " Methos muttered. "You'd be surprised."
"Be that as it may," Tante continued. "Despite what others might say of people in my line of work, we do have to learn a thing or to about how the body works and its various humors. Child, I am sorry, I never asked your name."
"Alexa, my name is Alexa."
"Beautiful name. Tante replied, releasing her hand. She removed a stack of taro t cards from a pocket in skirts and arranged face down on the table. She shuffled them with the all the swift motion and nonchalance of a Las Vegas card shark, then turned three face up in front of Alexa and Methos. "The first card represents your past. The card had a gilded border and it showed a seated woman in a blue dress, spun with a spun lace web design on the hem and the sleeves. She was seated in front of a huge oak true, a lute resting in her lap, her fingers poised over the strings.
"The second card is your present, the Jack of hearts. The third card is your future." It was blank. "Hmm, that's odd. Allow me a minute to sprinkle some sandalwood on the surface, that will bring the picture out for you."
"It seems that that the powers that be are chary of doling out their wisdom tonight. So take the advice of old woman who has seen her fair share of comings and goings. The future is what you make of it. But for the present, find a house in the French Quarter, I'll write down the address for you."
"And what are what we supposed to do there?" Alexa demanded.
"Find the man represented by the Jack of Hearts," Tante replied.
"Well, that's helpful and cryptic." Methos snapped.
"You'll know him when you find him," Tante smiled. "And no one will be more surprised then he will be, thinking fondly of the young man she had in mind, imagining the wry grin, the auburn hair. She could picture clearly the look in his eyes as if he could always some spark of life in even the strangest and most awkward situations that life threw into his path. "There aren't many walking this world who meet that description."
A lone, unmarked zeppelin floated through the sky of New Orleans shredding swaths of cloud in its wake. To all appearances it could have a company's advertising blimp left behind after a parade or a sporting event. It bore no marking or logo of any kind and its silver hull was seemed to absorb the sunlight rather than reflect making the surface up close seem rather splotchy and crinkled. Harmless, right? It was a far different story on the inside of the craft, however.
On board the zeppelin, the crew comprised two people, the owner of the craft and her henchman. The two could not have been more mis-matched. The woman, at least she appeared to be a woman, her was black and slicked as the skin of a toad, her black eyes were fixed on the numerous readouts, dials, switches, and glowing indicator lights that kept the craft in the air. She wore an outfit that would not have been out of place in the mansion of a wealthy aristocrat of most industrial nations. Her outfit comprised a short black top and a red dress that came to her knees, covered with lace. .
Her companion stood behind and slightly to her left, his emotionless, metallic face reflected off the monitor screens. To all outward appearances nothing that passed seemed to affect him one way or another. His body was silver, like the blimp. He was an automaton, designed by his creator to obey her every command implicitly, no questions asked. He could feel nothing. In fact, Nanny, for that was her name, where she got it and why she kept when she had broken from her forgotten master's control, would have been very surprised if had felt something for anyone or anything. Except for obeying her every whim, of course.
Nanny, her eyes narrowing in anticipation of finally closing in on her prey, wished, that for once she had someone to talk to, someone to share her plans and thoughts with her. Otherwise it was more like talking to a wall. She reached out with her left hand, toggled a switch on the control panel and brought up a split screen image of the various areas of the city on the monitors. On the screen Nanny the object of her obsession: a girl with silver hair and olive skin, with a pair of blue eyes. There were not that many girls in the world matching 'that' description. "Ororo Munroe. You naughty girl, for putting me through all this trouble of tracking you down and bringing you back to my side. It's for your own good."
She saw Ororo riding in an old-fashioned streetcar. The girl was accompanied by an older man with auburn hair, and red on black eyes. He wore a khaki duster jacket. "You have eluded for many months, little one. And it seems that you have found an ally, but the hunt ends here and then it will all be over." Over her shoulder, "Maker," she commanded, "Reduce speed, one quarter knots and engage cloaking device."
Scene 6 Encounter
"Well, well," a woman's voice rasped as it floated down a marble staircase that lead up to the upper stories of the mansion. The mansion had looked ponderous from the outside, on the inside it was merely heavy, warm and huge. If it had been necessary, and if had been so inclined, Methos figured he could have successfully waged a full scale harness race complete with harness, carts, matched set of horses, spectators, and judges; and no one would have been the wiser, the place was that spacious. If he was any judge of architecture, and he had had centuries of experience, the owners of the mansion, had fallen on hard times.
A woman glided down the stairs; her slim white hand left a streak of in the coating of dust on the banister. He hair was that shade of blonde called platinum, her blue eyes were flat and icy, revealing little but darting piercing glances at everyone gathered in the reception hallway.
Remy shuffled his feet and stuffed his hands into the pockets of his duster. "Hello, Belle."
"Remy LeBeau. As I live and breathe, never did I did not think I'd see you again. Welcome home." Belladonna said. "What you doing back here?"
"Of course, Ororo, dear," Belle replied, shaking her head at the madness that surrounded her in this house. "Well, we can't stand around here jawing all day. Everyone come into the solar, we'll talk more in there. Follow me."
Methos and Alexa, standing in front a giant potted plant that had been allowed to run wild, just exchanged glances. "Alexa, " he said. "We might as well make the best of it.
This is the address Tante Matie told us to seek out, right?"
"It is. I don't think anyone is going to welcome inside and stay for tea, so let's just invite ourselves," Alexa said.
The solar turned out to be a room built onto the house at one time and then forgotten. The place was airy and boasted a vaulted roof. During the day allowed light to stream at all hours and angles based on the position of the sun in the sky. The walls were painted off-white and the beveled windows were draped in contrasting shades of emerald green, white, and gray. To Alexa's dazzled eyes it was like they had emerged from the dingy hallway into a spring garden. As run-down and ill-attended, as the mansion had looked from the outside it was apparent that at least someone gave some attention to keep the inside of the house in good repair.
"Have a seat anywhere you like," Belladonna offered, waving around at the green and gold upholstered sofa and chairs clustered around a wooden coffee table. "I'd offer you coffee but we're fresh out, and I think we're past making polite social talk."
"Never could get anything past you, Cherie."
"Remy, for once in your life, be serious. Belladonna snapped, out of patience.
"The girl I know, these two you've dragged in here on your coattails I don't. Why are they here in our house? They don't belong here and neither do you what with the exile still in effect."
"Exile?" Methos asked.
"Look, it's obvious you people have some unresolved issues, but can we at least say something in our own defense?" Alexa shouted.
"Yes, Dear," Belladonna sneered.
"That's a very unattractive look for you, " Alexa replied, and instead of ranting and raving at him, maybe you should try asking us directly."
Belladonna sank back into her chair, and sighed. "Very well. Why are you here?"
"That's more like it." Alexa took a deep breath, "It's a long story, but the gist of it is that a local fortune teller named Tante Matie told us to seek out this particular house in this area of the French Quarter and look for the Jack of Hearts."
"She also said we would know him when we found him." Methos added.
Belladonna and Ororo exchanged glances, and in that exchange both agreed that despite their better judgement that this couple was here for the duration. Ororo poked Remy in the ribs.
"Now we're getting somewhere," Belladonna smirked.
"You!" Methos shouted, nearly falling out his chair. "You're the Jack of Hearts."
"Who? Have we met before?" Remy asked, arching an eyebrow, "Can't say as you have a face that stands out in a crowd, not like moi." Remy added, removing a deck of cards and shuffling throw them until he came to the card in question. It looked just like any other card except for being ragged and crinkled around the edged from frequent handling.
Methos glanced at the delicate-boned fingers shuffling the cards, the quick motion in and out like the tongue of a snake, and his thoughts shuffled through all the times he had seen that expression. "I know I know you. Stop shuffling those damned cards and look at me."
Methos wondered why this suddenly seemed very familiar. It was at that instant he felt a sudden jolt of recognition that slid down his spine. Remy LeBeau removed his sunglasses to reveal a pair of red-on black eyes.
Scene 7 Flashback
Paris, France 1975
Remy LeBeau straddled the chair with his elbows resting on the surface, fingers laced together. Across from him sat his cousin, Henri LeBeau, for the duration of his stay in the city of lights, both his chaperone and his mentor. Remy had never been to Paris before, and the mingled sights, sounds and even smells mingled to have a very dizzying effect on a 17 year old boy that grown up in New Orleans.
Paris was a waking tour of wonder, around every corner was something that captivated him, or brought tears to his eyes. Meanwhile, Henri, who had paid an annual visit to the City of Lights, found the boy's wide-eye wonder by turns amusing and wearying. Often having to forcibly remove Remy from his dazed trances, all the while telling other people in line, that it was the boy's first visit. At this rate, Henri wondered if Remy would succeed in passing his final exam in his initiation into the New Orleans Thieves Guild being this naïve and transparent, was something Henri just scratched his head and threw up his hands in sheer frustration.
All of which brought his thoughts back to the present. The server came over to their table, order pad in hand.
A short while later, a bowl of fish soup in front of him and a bottle of wine in the center of the table, Henri launched into his task. "The Guild, mon fer, has very strict rules about these sorts of dings."
"You don't need to be lecturin' me, Henri. I know why we're here. I can be serious about this final phase of my training. It's just easier to act de fool sometimes."
"I know de rules.
"No. I don't think you do. Rule #1 I be your chaperone here. That means you do exactly as I say," Henri snapped.
"I'm listening." Remy replied.
"Sometimes I despair of you, boy." With that kind of attitude I don't think ye'll be seeing your 18th birthday. Rule # 2: You've got to pull of de heist with no one the wiser. Did you make contact with de girl?" Henri asked.
"No worries." Remy shrugged. "Better than dat, mon frere. Saved the damsel an' also got a date with her at the same time."
"You say that now. I don't think you realize just what a dangerous profession this is. You could very well be killed." Henri replied.
"Henri, Relax, I know de risk going into dis and de risks, they are acceptable" Remy replied.
"You are a member of the clan through adoption, but as part of de Thieves Guild, you have to earn your place."
"I know what I'm here to do, Henri. Just got my own way of doing it." Remy said.
"As required by the tracts of Passage, I accompanied you as your sponsor, but if y' fail y'self, you fail me and Poppa, too." Henri bent down and reached into his duffell bag resting on the ground by his chair, removing a section of the Paris newspaper, with the photo of balding man wearing wire-rim glasses and sporting a wrap-around beard. Henri shoved towards Remy.
"This be the pinch. Martin Herzog. A Canadian financier with European Interests, with the girl Genevieve Darceneaux, the daughter of an infamous and imprisoned jewel thief. She stole a very valuable pendant from Herzog, L'eEtoile de tricherie, the Cheating Star."
"Get it back from de Cherie, then?" Remy grinned. "Sounds like fun. Sorry, but de pendant wasn't exactly dangling from her fingertips and I have not quite been invited into the lovely lady's boudoir.
"Foolish boy, are you going to get her to fall in love with you so she hands over the pendant?" Henri arched an eyebrow. "You are my brother, Remy, but you are not my blood. You play a game when the pinch is de thing. A dangerous game."
"But Henri, for me, the Pinch is de game! Put y'self in my shoes. Four months shy of my eighteenth birthday when I am to participate in an arranged marriage 'tween de Assassins and de Thieves, let me have some fun while I still can."
"We'll see about that, won't we?" Henri shrugged and swallowed the last of the champagne.
Meanwhile, Methos straightened up from his seat at the slanted lectern desk in the Sorbonne University and ran his fingers through his dark to coax the snarls out of it, wondering when he had become so vain about his appearance. Glancing into the polished lead-paned windows, he noticed a piece of white paper sticking out of a manila envelope with the unmistakable handwriting of a woman scrawled on it. 'Meet me at midnight at Notre Dame, with love, Genevieve. I have something I wish to show you.'
Methos allowed himself a small grin. He knew she was the daughter of a thief, one of some renown, but he wasn't one to quibble over a small lapse in morals, after all; after a few centuries one had a tendency to make allowances for such things. The translation he was working for the university' dead languages linguistic department would just have to wait. Having made the decision to meet Genevieve at Notre Dame, Methos stuffed his papers, pens, and journals back into a battered leather briefcase and shuffled his way to the double doors, ignoring the other students in the library.
Methos entered the nave of the cathedral, the candles left for those who cared to offer a vigil or a memorial to the dearly departed, were strangely left unlit. The vaulted arches curving over his head like the bones of some beached and ancient sea creatures. Methos, who knew more than a thing or two about architecture, stopped for a brief second to admire it, then moved on. "Genivive, are you here?"
A growling, menacing voice from overhead replied to his question. "Yeah, she's here. But whoever you are, you will have to wait your turn. I got dibs on the frail and the fellow here."
Methos froze, fists clenched at his sides. His first thought that flashed like lightning through his mind was that another Immortal was in town and studying his movements, whereabouts, to discover that he and Genevieve were involved, and intent on using the girl as bait, in order to get to him, had faked the note to meet here. The next thing that came to mind, if it was another Immortal on head-hunt, why hadn't he felt the 'Buzz' that would give away his presence. Methos wrinkled his nose, as the cloying smell of wet fur, fear, and sweat wafted in his direction from his far right and directly above him. Methos drew his sword, and moved forward with the grace and silence of a cat.
"Get up here, LeBeau," the voice came out laced with a growl of a large wild cat. "Or they both drop." A large man wearing a bizarre orange and brown custom, which reminded Methos of the outfit worn by the ancient gladiators in the arena of the Roman Emperors. This enormous man held both Genevieve and man he didn't know upside down by means of a rope tied around their ankles. Directly below this odd tableau stood a younger man in a pewter gray duster jacket, his auburn hair tousled.
"Non!" You want de pendant! You threaten their lives for jewelry?" Lebeau shouted, sounding very young and very frightened. "But it was all a game."
"Games are for children, LeBeau. You're in the big leagues now. Here's the deal, you toss the pendant, I catch it. Course I'm a righty, which means I'll have to let go of the rope!"
"They will fall, this is insanity, Creed!" My brother! The petite."
"Maybe it is. But guess what? You get to choose which one you catch."
Remy removed a jeweled pendant from the many pockets in his coat and attached it around a bo staff. Methos had to wonder at the insanity of it all. That's when that in the dim moonlight coming in through the windows, LeBeau's eyes glowed an eerie red. He had a choice to make and the end it wasn't much of a choice. And tossed the pendant with an overhand throw.
Methos had to admit the kid had guts. Games didn't seem that much fun anymore. He was scared. Too bad it wasn't going to do him any good. At that instant Creed let go of the rope. He held the ropes. He had control. Creed. LeBeau. The names meant nothing to Methos.
LeBeau leapt into the air, screaming in protest, scrambling to make a grab for the rope before his brother's and the girl's weight brought them crashing to the floor. Teeth gritted in effort; he grabbed the rope tied around his brother's ankles, skidding to a stop of the marble floor at the last second. With swift movements, he untied his brother and then turned his attention to the girl. Who lay still on the floor, gasping for air. "Genny! Mon dieu! I never thought."
"Remy, Genevieve gasped, I did love you. I would have given the L'Etoile to you…" and then her eyes rolled back and she breathed her last.
Methos moved forward, not sure if he was more angry at himself for not lending a hand, or at this LeBeau character for getting himself into this damned position in the first place.
"You son of a bitch!" Methos shouted, doubling up his fist and slamming it into the younger man's jaw.
"I deserved that." Remy muttered under his breath, rubbing his jaw where the blow had left a slowly purpling bruise.
"Who are you?" Henri demanded, drawing a pistol from his jacket pocket.
"Does it matter?" Methos replied, ignoring the gun waved in his face. "Yeah, I'm all thrilled your saved your brother's life, but you think you could have managed to save the girl's as well? Or was that asking too much?"
"Enough!" Henri interrupted. "I don't know who you are, nor do I care. Placing the blame will accomplish nothing. Genivive deserves a proper burial. We will see to it. She meant something to you, Sir?"
"You could say that," Methos replied, glaring at everyone.
"Then you will help prepare her for burial. No arguments." Henri stated.
"I'm here to enjoy the spectacle of you making a fool of yourself." Belladonna sipped her tea and lounged back in her chair like a cat on a fence.
"What is that horrible noise?" Alexa wondered, jumping out of her chair and running to a nearby window, as the deafening noise of something crashing and tearing through masonry and trees interrupted their conversation.
Alexa nearly tore down the green and gray drapes from their holders in her hurry. Outside, descending rapidly, was a silver zeppelin, barreling downwards at full steam.
"I know that ship!" Ororo yelled, her fingers tearing through her silver hair in agitation. "I should have known that I could not escape Nanny and the Orphan Maker for long. How could she find me now?''
"Mebbe she have a homing beacon," Remy replied. He moved over to stand beside her at the window. "Don't worry, Stormy. "We'll send this android and her big metal partner packing, no worries."
"Easier said than done, Mr. LeBeau," Methos snapped, moving towards the gaping hole in wall where the window had once been. He was in time to see a six-foot metal plated automaton lift up and something out of action flick ray gun to its holster, aim and fire directly at him. He ducked the blast. Wondering what the others made of this madness.
"You plan to help?" Remy tossed over his shoulder to Belladonna.
"No." Belladonna stood up and walked over to watch as two figures, one short and stubby, the other tall and angular descended from the landing ramp. She back-pedaled away from the window as a red-hot blast of laser fire blasted a whole in the wall.
"Ororo's your responsibility, and I know how difficult a concept that is for you, Remy, but do your best."
"Should have seen dat coming, You know something, Belle, I think you're getting soft, that was almost a compliment."
"Oh, shut up!" Belladonna snapped, darting over behind the couch and taking up a defensive position. "Try not and destroy anything in the mansion while you're at. I just had it redecorated."
"Your wish, Cherie," Remy muttered.
"The Nanny? She's running away from her caretaker?" Methos blinked.
"Ah, could someone clue me in here? Alexa demanded, shouting to be heard over the noise of grinding metal and explosions.
At that instant long metallic tentacles descended from the ship overhead and wrapped around Remy's middle twice, pulling him up into the air.
Ororo screamed once. With surprising sped, leapt through the hole in the wall and up into the air, narrowly squeezing through the ship's entry before it slammed shut behind her.
"That's different," Methos muttered under his breath, wishing that he had a solid, real target on which to vent his frustrations. He went over to Alexa and took her hand in his. "Maybe, gal, we're not meant to understand what's happening here, but I wish that I did."
Scene 9a Aftermath
Inside the aircraft Ororo found Gambit chained to a wall, "Release my friend!"
The squat barrel-shaped android looked up from where she slowly turned a dial on the controls. "There you are, Ororo, dear. Please be patient a moment longer while Nanny finishes up a small task, and I'll be right with you."
"Non," Remy muttered under his breath. "We be finishing this now."
"Children, so in a hurry to die. " Nanny chuckled, a sound that to her listener's ears resembled the low growl of an angry cat, or the steam leaving a boiling teapot. "Hah! Isn't it ironic, young people all think they will live forever, but they're always in a rush."
"There is nothing amusing in this!" Ororo interrupted wondering why she suddenly felt faint, a hot flush spreading over the skin of her face. Her short-cropped silver hair stuck to her forehead. At that instant Nanny fixed her optics on her and Ororo felt her thoughts churn, 'I've been here before. Not as a child that I am now, but as an adult!" Why is it so hard to remember? '
The Orphan Maker approached her, with a laser gun, poised to fire its deadly bolts of energy. At that instant something inside her snapped, or came back to life.
Ororo concentrated and suddenly the small cockpit filled with white mist. A bolt of lightning shot from her fingers sending the automaton flying back into the opposite wall, where Remy was chained. The resulting explosion freed his hands, and that was all it took. Remy flexed his slender fingers and with deft wriggling managed to free his right hand enough to charge the remainder of his bindings so it glowed with a red-hot light, snapping it off, he charged it up some and with an overhand throw launched it straight at the android, Nanny.
Remy untangled himself from the resulting mess of wires, metal and chain, and leapt to his feet, feeling a sudden lurch in his stomach as the aircraft made a sudden descent. Ororo glided over on her own wind currents. "We must leave." The ship is going to crash. "Thank you for rescuing me back in Cairo and again now.
"You rescued me first."
"Then we're even."
"I am glad I did, cherie. It's been an adventure. **
"Is only beginning," Ororo finished.
"We had best leave, the ship will crash."
No sooner had the words been spoken then they could feel the crippled ship go down at a steep descent.
The sound of grinding metal and wires echoed throughout the empty space. The sides caved in. The slid along the metal floor and with nothing to hold onto except each other. They were in free-fall with the air in their lungs burning, hair whipping into their eyes. Ororo looked to where to heavy aircraft took a plunge into the waters of the river below. Ororo kept her head down, knowing that they would be next to plunge into the cold waters. She wished that she had learned how to swim. She was warm now both from exertion and fear, soon she would feel the shock of her body hitting the cold water. It far too late to delay the inevitable.
They hit the water feet-first and Remy lost his hold on Ororo. Remy went down, spluttering as he swallowed what felt like a gallon of water. The waters of the river closed over his head. He was up a few heart-stopping seconds later, spluttering and calling Ororo's name over and over again, trying to catch sight of her. With strong strokes, Remy swam through the water, looking for her, he caught sight of a bob of silver hair and darted towards her, grabbing her hand, and making for the nearest shore he could find.
"You survived," Belladonna said, standing on the river's edge, arms folded over his chest and a grim smile on her lips.
"Don't tell me you were worried," Remy grinned back at her.
"Let's just say, that I would have been very disappointed if you hadn't. A part of me will love you still, despite everything that's happened between us, but I don't know if would happier if you had died up there." Belladonna replied.
"Bully for you!" Methos snapped, "I think that under the circumstances we have been very patient. But we're not here to enjoy the show, while it's been rather entertaining watching the pair of you play action hero, but… Hey, did you get taller in the last 45 minutes, Ms. Munroe?"
"I did," Ororo replied, grinning. "I am Ororo Munroe, Storm of the X-MEN." Now that Nanny's power over is broken, I am slowly regaining my true adult form."
"Huh?" Methos replied, shaking his head. "Never mind that, what about us? We came here because some old fortune teller told us we would find the answers we were seeking at this particular place and time, and so far all we have are more questions."
"Alexa, do you know what he's talking about?" Ororo asked.
"Tante Matie, the fortune teller's name was Tante Matie."
"Relax, Mr. I don't recall that you ever mentioned your name, " Belladonna narrowed her blue eyes, "Why is that? What are you afraid of?" You're obviously running from or to something. The Big Easy is made for people like you."
"Oh for the love of a name. If you must know the names, Pierson, Adam Pierson, and this is Alexa, but you already know that."
"How dare you insinuate that we're on the run, like common criminals," Alexa snapped, coughing out phlegm in her throat, covering her mouth with the sleeve of her sundress, "Excuse me. Go on. I'm better now."
"You don't know, Jack. And speaking of Jack, I would appreciate knowing why Mr. Card Shark over there has to say about why he knows Tante Matie."
"She be a member of the Guild of Thieves," Remy replied.
"Let's go inside the house again. I know just to do," Belladonna stated and went over to a carved wooden armoire standing beside a grandfather clock. She removed a key from a pocket of her dress and removed a velvet pouch. Returning to her seat in the leather couch, she took out a small glass vial, handing it over to Alexa.
"Look, I know family's important, but this is absurd."
Remy muttered something inaudible.
"What! Speak up. I can barely understand you when speak in a normal tone of voice what with the Cajun drawl, so how am I supposed to understand when mumble and garble, damn it!" Methos shouted.
"I said she ain't' my sister, she's my ex-wife." Remy stated.
"Oh, 'that' explains everything," Alexa muttered.
"Belle, Remy whispered, approaching her they way one would a tame but still unpredictable wild cat. "Is dat what I think it is?" Are you sure about this, Cheri? I might do worse than kill her.
"I realize that, you idiot. If the girl is dying, and from what I understand she's tried all other available remedies, this might be her last chance," Ororo said. "It is her decision."
"What is it?" Alexa whispered. "I'm the one whose life is in the balance, don't you think I deserve to know what's going on."
"Dis be the Elixir of Life," Remy replied.
"Elixir," Suddenly I'm not so sure this is a good idea. Alexa, maybe we should look elsewhere."
"Dis stuff be potent, it might cure her, it might now. If it does cure her it might take away all her memories, " Remy replied.
"The cure gives people amnesia?" Methos snorted. "You'll excuse me if I find that hard to believe. Oddest side effect that I've heard of, and I've been around."
Alexa felt a wave of dizziness come over here and the vial of Elixir almost dropped to the ground. "I made my decision. I am going through with this."
"Are you sure?
"Don't second-guess me, Methos. I have made up my mind." With that Alexa removed from the stopper. "How much?"
"Just a sip." Belladonna advised.
Alexa moved the vial to her lips, eyes narrowing in expectation, she swallowed a small bit of the green liquid, feeling it go down her throat, it taste like nutmeg and vinegar, and odd combination but not unpleasant. One sip, and then felt rather than saw Belladonna snatch the bottle from her hands in the instant before she lost her grip and it crashed to the floor. Her body felt tingling all over and her felt as if her head with her consciousness in it floated about six feet above her body, while it went through some not unpleasant sensations and she was a mere observer. She saw her body arch in spasms, sweat matting her hair to her forehead, while Methos gently brushed it away. Alexa suffered more convulsions and for instant she worried that cure wouldn't work, that it was all smoke and mirrors. Then the burning sensation went away, and two halves of her consciousness, the one undergoing the painful convulsions and the one watching both lost their hold and plunged into blackness.
When both had been joined again, Alexa raised her hands, Methos fingers linked with her, and while she appreciated his presence and that he cared for her, she wanted to have her hands free to feel again, the soft weave of the carpet beneath, when she had fallen out of her chair and onto the carpet; they hadn't moved her. A blur images passed through her mind, the jazz bar in Seacouver, Washington where she had briefly worked as a waitress to pay for school, her first time she met had met Methos, the small apartment on campus where she kept her easel and painting supplies. Losing her memory apparently wasn't going to be a problem. Good. When she could feel all of her extremities, Alexa gradually realized that someone was shaking her.
"Alexa! Alexa! Wake up!"
"You can stop shaking me, I'm awake. I can't see how anyone can sleep with that racket."
"Do you remember? What do you remember? Are you okay." Methos asked.
"I feel, I feel like I could dance, I could sing. I feel wonderful, in fact."
"Thank you," Methos said, turning around in his chair to face Belladonna.
"You are welcome," Belladonna replied. "Don't ever say I never did anything for you."