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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.

This story features several characters which are the property of Marvel Comics, and no money is being made from their unauthorized use here. 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 7

The week following Reine's arrival was a quiet one by the standards of her hosts. Apart from a couple of routine reconnaissance missions, the team had had no calls to duty, which meant that she and Remy had a lot of time to themselves. Although, by unspoken agreement, both kept certain periods in their respective pasts private, both of them had willingly divulged some of their secrets -- for the first time, in some cases.

The other X-Men gave the siblings plenty of space, recognizing their need for time together, but that wasn't to say the two were isolated from the team. Each member did their level best to at least become acquainted with the new arrival. However, although she was unfailingly friendly, she had a definite habit of keeping to herself, much like her brother. Certain other similarities came to light as well: the dry humour, the cynicism, the charm, the self-confidence -- chutzpah, really -- that Gambit was known for, were all present in his sister.

Storm observed their developing relationship with a combination of relief and happiness for her friend. She had always been protective of Remy, and often worried about how his volatile temper and impetuous nature frequently tended to land him in more trouble than he could manage. Since Reine's appearance on the scene, however, Ororo had noticed a subtle, but marked change in Gambit. His temperament seemed to be more balanced, his mood lighter. In no small part, this change was due to his sister's presence, Storm thought. While no less mercurial in temper, Riposte was far more calculating. Where Remy was wont to act impulsively, Reine always seemed to weigh her advantages before taking any course of action. Her brother would take chances recklessly, but she thrived on the calculated risk.

Ororo had made an extra effort to get to know her, and it had paid off. With the exception of Remy himself, Storm was the only one with whom Reine had been fairly open -- not that she was willing to trust any of her secrets to anyone other than her brother. The Windrider was pleased to note that Reine shared all of Remy's best qualities, in addition to having a calming effect on his psyche.

*Perhaps he has finally come to believe that he does not have to face the world alone...I only pray the Goddess that it is so...*

The change in Gambit's mood which Ororo had observed had not gone unnoticed by the others -- especially Scott Summers. As the week went by, he watched the twins with a growing degree of wistfulness. Every time he saw the two of them together, he found himself dealing with memories of his own brother -- good and bad. He and Alex had always had their problems, and even in the best of times, there had been a continuous underlying tension between them. Granted, no one could have predicted that Havok would turn coat, but deep down, Scott still wondered if somehow, he was to blame for that. He shook his head in thought.

*Jean's right -- with such a highly developed sense of guilt, I should have been Catholic* he mused with a ghost of a smile.

Watching Gambit and Riposte, he couldn't help but feel a little envious. They had barely known each other for a week, and they had already attained a closeness which he and Alex had never managed to achieve -- and never would. At the same time, he was very pleased that his resident loose cannon was finally starting to calm down a little. If only for the moderating effect she appeared to have on Remy, Scott would have been tempted to invite Reine to join the team -- had it not been for her blatant disregard of any authority other then her own...

And the minor fact that she had no intention of giving up her 'career'. She had made that abundantly clear some nights previously. Scott remembered that after-dinner conversation well...

Beast had asked her if she had ever considered giving up her life as a criminal, and judging from her response, he had managed to push one of her buttons.

Leaning back in her chair, she had begun to speak in a patient, kindly voice, somewhat like a teacher addressing a slow pupil.

"Criminal...? Let's put things in perspective, shall we? First, what exactly is a criminal? According to Webster's most recent edition, it is 'one who has been charged with or convicted of an offense punishable by law' -- I don't even meet the definition."

"If we go into semantics, we could argue all night -- you know what I meant," Hank smiled.

"Fine -- how about a simple comparison of 'offenses'... If I were to empty out a bank tomorrow, what would I get out of it?" Reine then paused for a moment before answering her own question.


"Money, I believe, qualifies as something," McCoy pointed out.

She waved her hand dismissively.

"Pieces of paper. Nothing. That's all money really is -- since we are talking about a bank, though, I'll have to qualify that: insured pieces of paper. So if I take them, they will be replaced by substitute pieces of paper. Still nothing. How can you possibly consider taking that a crime?"

Her voice took on a chilled note as she continued.

"Now consider, if you will, the ordinary working citizen, who may spend up to three hours a day, unpaid, commuting to and from his job. Each weekday, the company he works for effectively steals three hours from his life. Nobody considers that to be a crime. Yet time is the only thing of value that anyone really has in this world -- it cannot be replaced -- and no one knows how much of it they have to play with. Now I ask you: what has greater intrinsic value? Many pieces of paper, or an hour of life? And, keeping that in mind, who is the real criminal in our comparison?"

Neither Beast nor Scott had been able to find a rejoinder to that, and Cyclops was still irritated whenever he thought about that conversation -- especially when he recalled the glow in Gambit's eyes, and his barely suppressed grin at his sister's logic...he had been mentally filing her argument away for future use, no doubt. He sighed.

*Guess that's one other thing they have in common -- they both just love to rattle my cage. Too bad we can't convince her to change...but I like what she's done for Remy...*

While each day involved a number of different activities for the twins, one constant was Reine's morning workout. Often, Logan would join her. As the Canadian had finally found a sparring partner who could always keep him on his toes, he was determined to take advantage of her presence while he could. Despite her comparative youth, she was just as experienced as he was -- she had trained in karate and other arts practically since she was able to walk. To protect her identity, she was close-lipped about the details of her martial experience, but she had admitted that she held a rank of sixth dan -- and in Logan's opinion, it showed.a

Remy would occasionally join them, on those mornings when he woke early enough. Despite the fact that he was generally able to hold his own in their fights, Reine immediately set about improving his skills.

"Your problem, brother of mine, is that you're an incredible natural fighter," she had said.

"An' just how is dat a problem?"

"Simple -- you've got so much natural ability, you've been able to get away with some sloppy techniques ... until now, of course. You're a good fighter, Remy, but if you clean it up, I don't think anyone will want a piece of you..."

In turn, Gambit began to help his sister work on her fencing. She had been thoroughly trained in the classical school, but Remy had a wealth of practical experience that no fencing salle could offer. To their mutual satisfaction, as he improved, she did.

They were gradually learning about one another, as the bond between them grew and deepened. And on the eighth day of her stay, they discovered the true strength of that bond.

It was a strength that no one could have foreseen.

The day began ordinarily enough, as Reine quietly padded into Remy's bedroom with a loaded tray in hand. It was just past ten in the morning -- early for Gambit, but not early enough to annoy him.

Remy had surprised her with breakfast in bed the other morning (she wasn't sure he had bothered going to sleep -- she had left him watching a movie at 3:00 am), and she had decided to return the favour.

Silently, she approached the bed in the darkened room. Her twin was curled up on his side, nestled against his pillow in the same way a small child cuddles up to a teddy bear. Reine watched him for a moment, a tender smile playing across her lips.

*Dieu...I never would have thought I could care this much for anyone other than me...Guess it's that family, how to wake him up...*

She considered the problem briefly, then smiled. Focusing, she gently touched his mind. Among the secrets they had shared with one another was the existence of their complementary mental abilities. While Remy was a low-level empath, Reine was a telepath, with about the same degree of strength. For both of them, their extra gift seemed unrelated to their mutant power -- it was just there, and always had been, even before their more powerful talent had asserted itself.

Remy was in the middle of a dream, and she waited patiently until it was over before sending him a mental image. She made it fuzzy at first, then slowly brought it into focus -- a late period sunrise by Claude Monet, its pinks and mauves and greys uniting in a blaze of tinted light. Art was a shared passion of theirs, and Remy loved Monet.

# Réveille-toi, petit frère #1 she thought gently.

He stirred, smiling before he even awoke. Opening his eyes, he yawned and stretched out his limbs before raising himself to a sitting position.

"Now dat's a nice way t'wake up..."

"It was either that, or a bucket of icewater -- I'm sure Bobby would have been only too happy to oblige..."

He looked at her warily.

"Y' not still mad 'bout ...?"

She grinned evilly.

"Payback will be mine, but when you least expect it -- be very afraid..."

"So...t'what do I owe de honour o' this little visit?"

"Le petit déjeuner, à la Rénee,"2 she replied, placing the tray over his lap, and removing the lid with a flourish.

"You better appreciate this -- I don't make soufflé aux fine herbes for just anybody..."

Remy smiled broadly, and began to eat. In addition to the soufflé, Reine had made croissants, sausage, and a large bowl of café au lait. To top it all off, she had left an ashtray and one of her best cigars on the platter.

"Mmm...I could get used to dis...," he sighed.

"Better not...besides wanting to do something nice for my favorite and only brother, I also wanted to make sure you were properly stoked before we go into the Danger Room today."

"Merde, je savais que j'avais oublié quelquechose...onze heures et demi, n'est-ce pas?"3

"That's right -- once you finish eating, and enjoying that smoke, you should have just enough time to shower and get human before you meet me there," she stood, and rumpled his hair playfully.

"Wouldn't want to disappoint Imperious Leader, now would we?"b

Remy returned her grin. Scott loathed being called 'Fearless Leader', but this new variation Reine had introduced was almost enough to make him apoplectic. Needless to say, most of the others had already adopted the term.

"Non, we wouldn' want that...I see you dere, Reine."

She smiled over her shoulder as she left the room.

Spinning on his heel, Remy turned and unleashed a barrage of cards at the pursuing Sentinels while Reine dashed for their goal -- the command center. Reaching the locked door, she opened it in an eyeblink, and shouted encouragement to her brother. Gambit broke off his attack and ran for the building while Riposte used the security panel codes, reprogramming the perimeter defenses to fire at their pursuers, and laid down a covering bombardment of her own.

Cyclops watched their performance from the observation deck with a critical eye. This was a difficult simulation, and so far, they had done very well. Better, in fact, than he had expected -- he had thought that Reine would just take the hell-for-leather approach that Gambit seemed to live for, but he had been wrong. Using the center's security against itself had been nothing less than brilliant. Still, there was half of the program to go, and anything could happen...

They had managed to find and retrieve their target -- a collection of computer disks, which held the cure for the Legacy virus. Quickly, they exited the building and moved toward the airfield, dodging sniper fire.

"Something's wrong..." Riposte frowned.

Remy agreed.

"I know it...dis getaway is jus' too easy..."

At that instant, the ground rumbled as a score of Sentinels emerged all around them from the underground hangar.

"So much for easy...get in close! Make them fire in amongst themselves, and we can mop up the rest!"

Scott observed as they bobbed and weaved in among the feet of the behemoths, using their explosive skills to good effect. Their plan was working; enough of the robots were disabling each other to give them a chance to escape. Finally, each of them threw one final barrage, and they fled as one, sprinting for the waiting aircraft.

Suddenly, they were knocked to the ground as a shower of energy beams rained down from above, narrowly missing them. Another five of the robots were closing in from the air, and the ones on the ground that the twins hadn't completely destroyed were on their way.

"We got t' run for it! Hurry!"

Reine scooped up a handful of rocks as she got up, as did Gambit -- they were going to need a little more in the way of firepower to cover their retreat, and the extra mass of the stones would do the job. They were almost at the plane when Reine caught a glancing shot from one of the Sentinels, and rolled to the ground in a breakfall. She had sensed it coming, and was just able to avoid the worst of it.


Remy rushed to her side, empathically probing for injuries. She was all right, and mentally told him so. It was while each was touching the other's mind that it happened.

The robots had surrounded the pair, and something deep within them took over, as it recognized the threat...

There was an indescribable blur -- a flood of images of two lives burst into their respective memories, flowing, uniting, combining in the blink of an eye -- not two minds, now, but one...

...which defended itself immediately, instinctively -- and thoroughly.

The Sentinels were blasted back into oblivion, smashed into very tiny pieces.


Continued in Chapter 8.

a. For those readers who do not happen to train in a martial art, dan is the term used to denote black belt level in Japanese. There are ten different ranks, in order of one to ten. To reach first dan (shodan), or first-degree black belt, usually takes a minimum of three years training. Given the age I see Remy and Reine at (mid-twenties), she would have at least twenty years of martial experience under her belt, which would be about right for a fourth or fifth dan. However, I'm giving her an unusual degree of skill for her age.
b. If anyone out there remembers the "Battlestar Galactica" TV series, 'Imperious Leader' is the term the Cylons (the bad guys) used to refer to their overlord.

1. Wake up, little brother.
2. Breakfast, by Rénee.
3. Shit, I knew I had forgotten something...eleven thirty, isn't it?

Special Note: Thanks go out to Alara Rogers, who let me know that half-identical fraternal twins are actually genetically possible. The instance I had heard about involved the egg splitting after fertilization, but she was kind enough to let me know that there was another possibility, which gave me the result I wanted for my story and was scientifically accurate. So let's hear it for Alara, queen of former biology majors...:-)

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


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