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"Wild Cards"

Wild Cards

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26

This story is unfinished.

The following story features several characters owned by Marvel Comics, used without their permission, and no money is being made from their use. The character of Reine, however, is my creation, and if you use her without my permission, regardless of whether or not cash is involved, I'll just have to hunt you down and kill you.

Wild Cards

Part 1

The planning stages were all over -- it was time to act. The lone figure in the coffee shop gazed intently at the picture in the newspaper, and smiled contentedly. All of the arrangements were made, and there was an hour before the night staff came on duty.


Rising from the booth, the stranger walked to the door, leaving the paper behind, its banner headline advertising the Gemology exhibit at the Natural History Museum.

The stranger walked for some time, enjoying the night air, until the building was in view.

Looking up at the Museum, a cheerful grin lit up the drifter's striking features; behind dark glasses, red-on-black eyes gleamed with anticipation. The curtain was about to rise for Act One.

Silently, I made my way to the exhibit I had been looking for. Getting into the Museum had been as easy as sneezing, but if you plan properly, that's how easy it always is. I had no worries about the guards. The sleepgas grenade I had detonated would keep them napping for at least an hour; plenty more time than I would need.

There it was -- lovely -- just as it was reported to be. And it was mine; or would be, shortly. The lasers and infrareds were quite good, more than enough to fend off an ordinary thief. However, as I'm fond of pointing out, "ordinary" is the last thing I am. Now all I had to do was leave my card, and make good my escape. I savoured the sight of my little bauble for a moment -- the "Pride of Genosha", a massive, flawless, uncut red diamond, practically filled my palm. Carefully, I tucked it away, leaving my marker in its place. A brand new knave of hearts now had the place of honour in this exhibition.

Quickly, I went to the air duct. I never like to use the same entrance and exit, so as I had come in through the front door, I opted to leave via the roof. I moved fast, knowing that every passing minute increased my chance of being discovered. As I climbed two floors above the scene of my little transaction, I ran through my mental checklist to see if I had left behind unintentional evidence.

I suppose I should explain myself. The police simply love fingerprints -- they get so disappointed when they don't find any. Obliging soul that I am, I left plenty behind. Not my own, I hasten to add -- the Genoshan ambassador's. Fingerprint gloves are almost like a second skin, but the right solvent dissolves them easily enough. As for my card, I like to leave my mark on a job well done. Some call it ego, but I prefer to think of it as taking credit where credit is due.

Once I arrived at the fourth floor, I carefully exited the duct and headed for the stairwell to the roof -- it could only be accessed from this floor and those above it. Handy, since there was nothing of monetary value stored here, and security was correspondingly lax, unlike floors one and two.

All I had to do now was get to the roof, leave the building, and ditch my token disguise before heading back to my base of operations.

On one-off jobs like this, I don't get fancy with disguises, as they are only a precautionary measure -- play it right, and nobody will see you in the first place. I made more of an effort for extended projects. Tonight, I had donned a short, black wig and goggles. The goggles, as well as hiding my eyes, still allowed me the use of my superior night vision. Act One, scene one was coming to a close, and it looked as if it would go without a hitch.

I thought.

Little did I know how much this particular job was going to change my life.

It was pretty late by de time I left de club dat night. Tina had been tryin' t'pick me up again, an' I was runnin' out of nice ways t'say "non". It was gettin' so I'd have t'change clubs soon, just to avoid her. Somehow, I managed to get away, an' I started walkin' to where I'd parked de bike. Gave me a chance t'start t'inkin' about things. O' course, de first thing I started t'inkin' about was Rogue. I don' t'ink I ever fall dis hard before. Rogue was de reason I been tellin' the Tinas I keep meetin', "merci, mais non". It's hard t'be crazy in love wit' someone who don' trust ya...'specially when dey got reason...

Anyway, while I was t'inkin', something made me stop in front of dis one building. Mebbe I don' steal for a livin' no more, but de t'ief in me just knows when a job's goin' down. At first, I was s'prised to see it was de Natural Hist'ry Museum. Gen'rally, dere ain' much worth stealin' there. But den I remembered Beast talkin' about some jewel exhibit dat was goin' to be on. It was startin' tomorrow, so de time was right.

I took a quick look 'round -- everyt'ing was secure on de ground floor -- so there only be one way to go.

I headed on up to de roof, t'inkin' I be doin' de cops a favour.

No way was I prepared f'what I was goin' to find...

Quick and quiet, the figure emerged from the stairwell. The escape route was clear. Stealthily, the intruder scurried behind the shadow of the stairwell, and began to rummage through a pack it carried. Meanwhile, another shadow crept to within striking distance...

Sensing danger, the burglar whirled to meet its attacker, but just a moment too late. Gambit slammed into the thief, but the stranger grabbed hold of the Cajun and rolled with the impact, taking the X-Man along for the ride. In the scuffle, both wig and goggles were lost.

In that instant, the struggle ceased, as the two found themselves face-to-face, each staring incredulously into red-on-black eyes.

My attacker had almost gotten the jump on me -- irksome, as I'm rarely surprised. However the years of training I've put in martial arts came to my rescue. Without thinking, I relaxed my body, turning with the impact, and grabbed hold of my assailant, allowing his momentum to take us both down as I rolled. He managed to grab at my disguise as this was happening, and I lost both goggles and wig while we were still on the ground. I was about to counterattack when I stopped cold, as he had. For the same reason, I'll bet...

The man's face was practically a mirror of my own, with my eyes staring back at me, as shocked as I was.

However, I am nothing if not a professional. Greetings weren't the order of the moment, escape was. I drove my stiffened fingers into just the right spot on his abdomen, and he doubled over, winded. I leapt to my feet, grabbed the line gun from where it had fallen, and sprinted for the edge of the building. My strike would only buy me a few seconds of grace, and it was just barely enough. As I fired the line, I could hear him getting up, and starting to run. I dropped the gun, grabbed the now-anchored line, and swung to the next building.

As I sailed into the night, I could feel his eyes burning into my back, but there was no way he could catch me now.

Which wasn't to say I wouldn't see him again. He had seen my face, and I was going to ensure that he kept that knowledge to himself.

I couldn' believe it. Dis one was good -- real good. Somehow heard me comin', but still couldn't get out of de way before I hit. Dat's when I found out that my man was une femme. Helluva fighter, too -- only Logan had ever been able to take me down like dis one did. I managed t'knock off her disguise, an' that's when we both stopped fightin'...

My hair, my face, my eyes, starin' back at me like she don' believe it either.

I was still starin' when she recovered, an' that hit in de gut left me suckin' air for a couple of seconds. By de time I got up, she was firin' her escape line. I went after her, but it was already too late, an' she was swingin' out of range.


She'd gotten away from me dis time, but dat wasn't t'say she'd be so lucky again.

'Specially since I'd made her leave t'ings behind. I picked up de bag of equipment, den the goggles an' de wig, wrappin' them up carefully.

Time to leave 'fore de cops come askin' what I be doin' up here. I climbed down de same way I'd gone up, and moved quickly t'where I'd parked my bike, bein' careful t'make sure nobody followed me.

As I started de drive home, I couldn' help smilin'. I was goin' to find her, find out who she was.

I patted de pack of t'ieves gear behind me. It was goin' to lead me to her, but I was goin' to have to move fast.

All I needed was a little help from mes amis...

After reaching my safehouse, I set aside my prize and paced the floor.

I had rented the little office some months previously, in a virtually empty building with a high tenant turnover. No one would remark on the sudden disappearance of the new accountant's office, nor on my late nights at "work". I had carefully outfitted the back rooms with any and all of the equipment I needed for my operations in the city.

The first thing I needed tonight was my thinking equipment. I sank down in my leather armchair with a snifter of twenty-five year old Scotch in one hand, and a lit Cuban cigarillo in the other.

Problem: my attacker had seen my face. When the paper came out tomorrow with the banner headline "Knave of Hearts Strikes Again", the cat would be out of the bag. Annoying -- all these years with a spotless record, and here he was, trying to ruin my batting average. Can't have that. I had to find him, and silence him. I blew some fragrant smoke into the bowl of the glass, and drank, thinking hard.

First, I had to find him. Fortunately, he wasn't the only one with a description to remember, and it wasn't likely I'd forget that face. The resemblance was almost scary. At least it gave me something to go on. Also, from his dress and the faint odor of beer on his breath, he must have been clubbing -- and there weren't that many places to go around the museum, so I had a search radius...

It was a start. Once I did find him though, getting him to keep quiet was the problem. Killing, though certainly effective, is the mark of a criminal, as well as an amateur, and I am neither. However, a couple of hours' work with the right mix of drugs and hypnosis would do the trick. I would blank out the events of the night. He would end up missing about six hours and gaining a nasty headache, but I would be safe.

And while I was doing that, I could also find out who he was...

The sooner, the better -- one advantage I had though: I knew what to look for, and he wouldn't. What he would expect to see, wasn't what I would show him.

I readied my full disguise kit for the morrow, and headed blissfully off to sleep.


Continued in Chapter 2.

"All warfare is based on deception." -- Sun-Tzu, The Art of War


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