Disclaimer: The X-men and their world belong to Mavel/Fox. No profit or copyright infringement is intended. This is an X-men Shared Universe, orignally imagined by Tarchannon, Dark Legends is a dark future where the next generation of the Legacy virus has triggered disturbing changes in the X-men. For further stories by a variety of authors and poets, go here.

 

Wild Card

There were no animals to be heard, not even insects. Remy shifted, uncomfortably perched in the highest crook of an old oak, his skin prickled in anticipation of a lightning strike and the air smelled of ozone. The entire New York sky was spangled with an ever-changing blue/green/gold/crimson aura borealis and news all over the world had been speculating on the source of the freakish weather ever since it had first appeared. The New Orleans exile frowned at the dark and decrepit mansion he was studying - he had his suspicions about the aura and they focused on the so-called Academy for Gifted Youth.

The thief's current assignment looked less promising than many. His first task would be to determine if anyone was even alive in there. Remy re-programmed his night goggles and checked out the energy signatures along the high brick and iron wall surrounding the mansion and it's extensive grounds. The mansion's defenses sprang out at him in luminous electrical patterns; a complex surveillance system, pressure and motion detectors along the top of the wall. Some kind of modified laser alarm shown like a crimson web on the wall itself. There even looked to be some kind of proactive defense system - highly illegal, of course but there were a lot of illegal things going on here, if half his information was accurate.

He pulled the goggles off and absentmindedly crossed himself, staring at the deserted looking buildings. Several windows were broken; shards of glass glittered like broken teeth in the alien blue light. Off to the south, more than twenty graves were lined neatly up, all of them fresh bare dirt. People were dying in there - perhaps they were all already dead. Remy had never met any of the mutants known in the news as the X-men, but no one deserved to die alone and rot unburied. God rest, all.

On the other hand, those kinds of security systems required constant upkeep. He'd been all the way around the perimeter already, there were none of the breaks he'd expect from an abandoned system. So -not everyone was dead and Remy knew there was a weather witch among the X-men. That was the only explanation he could think of for the lights in the sky, sunspots and alien invasions aside.

The thief resettled himself in the tree for a night of observation. Tomorrow he'd try a break in if he had to. Remy pulled out the palm-sized computer with his assignment and the background information his boss had felt he needed for the mission. The thief wrinkled his nose irritably at the tiny screen. Psychopathic madman, his boss. But, in this case anyway, he was right. Thousands of mutants were dying and no one had time for squeamishness. Sinister, crazy or not, was a scientific genius and perhaps mutant-kind's hope of survival. And Sinister needed the knowledge and the skill of his old enemy, Dr. McCoy.

The aura above him rippled suddenly, turning blood red and twisting into a distorted spiral. An abnormally warm wind fluttered the dying leaves, swept across the overgrown grass and hissed through the open windows of the mansion. Remy tightened his grip on the tree and squinted past the waving branches, flinching as lightning flickered in the bloody sky. The snap and crash of thunder did not drown out the screaming from the mansion. Remy scrambled to the end of a branch, shoving a handful of auburn hair back impatiently and peered across the wall. There was someone on the roof.

A lightning strike illuminated the naked woman riding the wind, white hair whipping around her face as she soared above the darkened building. The bloody light shone on her blue/black skin, she looked like an idol carved of jet - glittering, terrifying and cruel. Crouched on the roofline, a figure shouted curses in German, shrieking defiance. Remy's German wasn't good but he understood the words for god and devil and sin. The regal woman laughed, thunder rolling in her voice.

"Sin - in hell?" She laughed. "Sin among the dammed is virtue! And there is no sin in my dogma!"

"You are no god!" The shadowy figure yelled. "You are nothing - nothing but another dammed soul. A mad temptress!"

"I am more a god than your poor lamb!" The white haired woman screamed, rising higher in the air, her voice carrying clearly on the cutting wind. Lightning gathered like a halo around her. She shone in the night, her curves and beauty an invitation to worship and dark lust. "What has your god done for you - for us? Spat upon, shamed - a human god is no god of *ours*! You god knows when the swallow falls - I bring the rains to succor her! You god loves the meek - I protect them! Worship me. Love me -!"

"Nein -!" And there was a flash of yellow, sulfurous light and the figure on the roof disappeared only to appear a moment later on the front walkway. "I'll never serve you - I may be dammed but I won't abandon my god!"

The woman - Goddess - shrieked in rage and soared up into the night sky. She screamed and the storm answered. Remy, crouched low on his branch, stared in open-mouthed shock. Lightning rained down on the mansion, outlining the two figures in spectacular blue fireworks. More windows exploded, the lightning rod on the topmost dormer hissed and smoked. Lightning chased the German speaking figure across the mansion's grounds, as it appeared and disappeared in flashes of smoky yellow light. There was a vague pattern to the fleeing mutant's path - something the thief could predict but seemed to be throwing off the pursuing weather witch. On impulse, the Remy flicked his Bo-staff to full extension. He flexed his knees a couple of times - turning the flexible branch into a springboard - jumped, spun and planted the tip of his staff on the half inch gap he'd noticed in the surveillance web on the lip of the wall - the only gap he'd found. The thief arced across the wall in silence, long coat fluttering like wings in the darkness. The graceful Cajun's flight went unnoticed in the darkness and the madness of the goddess' storm.

He hit the ground running and sprinted into an overgrown formal garden. Remy took refuge behind a neglected copy of an Egyptian pharaoh and shuffled his cards, pulling out two for ammunition. He didn't have a hope of success in open conflict but perhaps he could provide a little distraction. If he didn't do something soon the mutant with delusions of godhead was going to kill her rebellious subject. He barely charged the cards before sailing them out on a path perpendicular to the fleeing mutant's path. They exploded, sparking briefly like rose colored fireflies in the densely overgrown formal maze nearby. Since he'd timed to the 3-second moment of darkness when the blue mutant was invisible - the light stood out and the flying woman turned to it. Lighting exploded among the lavender and boxwood.

The next appearance of the German mutant brought him to the edge of the Egyptian style pavers. The mutant glanced wildly at the sky and - seeing it temporarily empty - threw himself under some shrubbery. Remy remained motionless and silent, studying the half-seen figure warily. The short blue fur fit the description of the mutant he'd been sent to contact but nothing else did.

Dr. Hank McCoy - licensed in 1999 and a graduate of MIT - was blue and furred but neither the thief's pictures nor descriptions included a tail, glowing yellow eyes, or the ability to teleport. Dr. McCoy, AKA 'Beast' was supposed to be only a physical mutant, unnaturally fast, strong and agile but nothing else. Unless you count a genius IQ as a mutation. Nor was he German.

The panting, sotto-voiced curses coming from the dying canna lilies were certainly German and the English defiance shouted from the rooftops had been heavily accented. So - it wasn't McCoy. Remy eased a couple more cards from his deck. This devilish mutant didn't fit descriptions of any of the X-men. Perhaps that was why the weather witch Storm had been attacking him.

There was only one way to find out.

"Hsst -"

The mutant spun around with a frightened cry and Remy's half formed plan to capture the invader and use him to get into the X-men's good graces collapsed. Despite the blue fur and the demonic eyes and the truly alien hands and the tail - the mutant trembling in the shadows was very young and very frightened.

"Easy der, homme." Remy whispered, his voice barely carrying over the slowly settling storm. "Remy done you a favor, oui?"

He tipped his head to the woman still hovering above the mansion. She seemed to have forgotten her earlier anger and was now savoring the weather, the winds played with her long hair and her face was tipped up to the aura which was now a dozen different dancing shades of blue, green and vibrant gold.

"Who are you?" The mutant whispered harshly. His yellow eyes widened as he met Remy's inhuman gaze. "We have devils enough within - we don't need any outsiders here!"

Remy recoiled. "Remy no devil child! Jus a mutant looking for help - eh? Dis not de Academy? Dis not de place where mutant's can turn to? Who are you, homme? Perhaps you de one attacking de good folks here -"

He stopped at the other man's bitter laugh. "Me attack them? More like I'm hiding in the shadows and hopping the - false goddess does not kill me and listening to our fearless leader weep like a child."

"W'at happened, homme?" Remy pressed. The other mutant huddled down in the dark, his eyes glowed hot yellow and his tail was twitching restlessly in the dry grass. The thief kept his face quiet with effort, even as he worry grew. He could see now how matted and filthy the blue fur was and smell a sickening mix of sweat, filth, blood and - sulfur. And sex. Something was terribly wrong. "Why was - dat woman chasing you?"

"Because -" The mutant shuddered and coughed, spitting into the grass while Remy drew back in revulsion. "We're in hell, mien friend. Hell - or hell has arrived on Earth. I've seen it - "

The mutant's voice dropped and Remy warily leaned closer. "I saw it all - first in my dreams. Now - everytime I jump - the heat, the stink and the screaming. Am I dreaming still - fever dreams - and I'll wake and everything will be normal? No deaths, just some hideous demon sent nightmare. But - I don't believe that. I know where I am. Hell. It's just like it was written. The bloody moon. And all the devils of hell - bred and born - in our bones. We all serve the darkness - every mutant born. Satan's children."

"Non" Remy hissed, startled to discover old faith still hidden somewhere inside. And he couldn't bear to hear the pain, the despair in the mutant's voice. "Non. Dat's all the fools talking in your head. We no more dammed dan anyone else in dis hard world. God gives us dis life to learn and to hope and not to give up."

"Not give up - not give up." The mutant moaned. "All the dead children, where are they now? Is it easier to be dead? Or to live in this place?"

Remy watched, disturbed at the stranger bowed down to the ground, sobbing weakly and begging for mercy in German. Remy recognized the rhythm of the classic prayer, even if he didn't understand the words. He put a tentative hand on the bony shoulder and winced at the burning heat of high fever. The mutant was sick, suffering under the plague currently sweeping through the mutant world.

"You're sick." Remy said. "The plague? What about the others?"

The mutant jerked back, staring at him in horror. "Dear God, have you not had the plague? Get away - get away from here! Get away from me!"

The mutant shoved him away then sprang up then just as suddenly grabbed for the thief again. Remy dodged back warily. The mutant stumbled then sank wearily down, his brief burst of energy gone.

"No!" The mutant searched the sky anxiously for a moment but they remained undiscovered. "God - no, you can't leave. Not now. You could be exposed. You could carry it - we can't let that happen. You can't leave. No one can. "

Remy closed his eyes, throat tightening in grief and horror. No wonder the mansion had been silent. They didn't know. "Dieu. Do you not know, homme? It's too late for dat. De plague - its out der killing us all."

Remy studied the sickly mutant for a moment but he had few options. "Dat's why I'm here, homme. To find Dr. McCoy. Dis plague is de chile of de Legacy. He can help. He must help."

The mutant sat back on his shins, shaking his head in despair. "So - for nothing. All of us, dying alone for nothing."

"S'v plait!" Remy wanted to shake the man but was afraid to touch him and set off another ramble about god and the devil. He needed information, not religion! "De doctouer. Is he still alive? Who lives in der? Why de woman chasing you around like a stray chien, homme? And who are you?"

"Gott. Gott." The blue mutant muttered, sinking into German and ignoring the rangy thief. He wrapped long arms around himself and rocked. "Just another dammed soul. That's all I am."

"Merede!" Remy hissed. "Get over yourself, homme! Maybe dis not even hell, you t'ink of dat? Maybe - maybe dis is purgatory! De bible don't got much to say 'bout dat. Maybe dis is your last chance to do t'ings right! Maybe dis a test - God, he move in damn strange ways eh? Get you're blue ass off de ground and talk to Remy!"

The blue mutant lifted his face hopefully to Remy. "Purgatory?"

Remy went with it. "Ouai. Purgatory. We ain't at de hot basement yet. But it's going to take more den prayers might save your soul, homme. Got to go on - face de tests and pass. Den you get to heaven. Help me. Help you amis, eh? Play your cards right homme, and you go to heaven."

"You - god's devil." The mutant breathed, staring hard at Remy and his strange eyes. "Lies or truth. I've wanted - wanted some hope - so long. So long. I prayed. Are you an answer or a lie?"

Remy leaned close, ignoring the sick stink. "De lord, he no fool. Don matter if Remy de devil or a saint. God gonna get his way. And you got to let de lord move you, homme."

The mutant closed his eyes for a moment and his cracked lips moved in silent prayer. Then he looked back at the thief, yellow eyes blazing with more than fever heat. "My name is Kurt and I'm the newest of the X-men here. And - the doctor is still alive."

TBC (written, 08/2002)