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"Tales of the Twilight Menshevik"

Stories in this series:

Sisters under Their Skins
Midnight Sun
A Year in the Life
October 6: A Night 2 Remember
A Day's Work
Late Summer Interlude
The Time the Twain Shall Meet
Message to a Grandchild
Ergo Bibamus 1: Eat, Drink and Be Merry
Lights in the Dark
Between the Woods and Frozen Lake
Ergo Bibamus 2: There's a Tavern Near the Town
Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Someone Blue
Valentine Allsorts
The Ballad of Trish and Henry
Rogue's Fairy Tale
Magneto, My First Love
To My Dark-Haired Lady
The Raven and the Oriole
Trish -- A Rapture

Val and Ray at the Movies
March 2002
July 2002

Tales of Future Twilight
Ergo Bibamus 3: Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes
They Will Always Be Penny and Max to Me
Getting to Know You
Fourth Thursday in November
The Iceman's Tale
Pictures at an Exhibition
The Survivor Has a Different Kind of Scar

Twilight Yet to Come
Hang on to Your Ego
Strange Headfellows
Sonnet for Magnus
Between the Winds

DISCLAIMER: This is an unauthorized work of fiction using characters belonging to Marvel Entertainment Group. No profit is being made on it. This work is copyright of Tilman Stieve ( Please do not archive this on your website without informing me first. You can download this and copy it for your entertainment, but don't sell it for profit, or Marvel will set their lawyers on you.

A Day's Work

I. It was quiet in the newsroom. In the center of the seats, two German reporters were trying to teach Skat to a French and a Spanish colleague to pass the time. Daily Bugle photographer Peter Parker sat away in a corner, watching a television set belonging to one of the camera crews.

"What on Earth are you watching there? Looks like some awful daytime soap?"

Parker looked up. Another American journalist was looking down on him, the attractive dress and expensive coiffure almost a badge of her profession. Trish Tilby, a television correspondent who specialized in storylines involving mutants -- the operations of the now-defunct X-Factor, Inc., the X-Men, award-winning reports from the civil war in Genosha. And hadn't there been rumors that she was, or at any rate used to be, the Beast's girlfriend?

"Hi! I thought I might meet you here, there doesn't seem to be a major mutant-related story that's not covered by you. I'm Peter Parker, I work for the Daily Bugle," he said, rising.

"Howdy. I've seen a bit of your work. But isn't your forte action shots? What are you doing at a boring ol' conference?"

"Well, it's really just part of my assignment. We're basically using it as a hook to do a feature on the European superpowered people. Or costumed Euro-freaks, as my esteemed publisher likes to call them."

"And now you're stuck here, waiting for the press conference. So, what is that you were watching?"

"Over here, it's called Die Klinik am Central Park. God knows why, it's supposed to be set in Queens, but I guess that's German TV executives for you. Maybe you've heard of it, though it's one of those soap operas no one ever admits to watching, Secret Hospital."

"I assume you have a good reason for watching a dubbed American series?"

"Yup, I wanted to see my wife speaking German."

Trish Tilby looked a bit surprised, then the coin dropped. "So you're Mister Watson-Parker! You know, I hadn't made the connection between you two, what with Parker being such a common name."

"Well, that's one way of putting it."

"Oh, I'm sorry, Peter, I didn't mean..."

"No, it's okay. Actually, I could have used Mary Jane's name a few years back when I was in England. Everyone asked me if I was related to Sir Peter Parker."

"Who's he?"

"No one you'd need to know. He used to be director of British Rail. So, Trish, been to Germany before?"

"Actually, no. Have you?"

"Yes, once. To Berlin. Not the most pleasant memory. Ned Leeds, my partner, was murdered in his hotel room."

The conference room was beginning to fill as members of the press and other media arrived singly and in groups. The door near the podium opened a little and a blonde woman peered through the crack before closing it again. Trish Tilby became alert: "Look, there's Valerie Cooper. I had wondered why so many American gossip columnists were accredited to this conference. Guess they want to be ready in case she is prepared to tell about her and Mystique."

"What, the ex-terrorist?"

"The same. Haven't you heard about that thing?"

"No, I was rather preoccupied at the time..." With that Jackal psycho and that poor sap he had surgically altered to resemble me so I'd think he was my clone, but I can't tell that so I won't jeopardize my Spider-Man identity, Peter Parker added in his thoughts.

"Well, it seems that last December Cooper had an affair with Mystique, whose can assume the shape and physiology of any man or woman..."

Oh dear, Peter thought, that's one of the less well known drawbacks of having a secret identity -- now I not only have to listen not only to the story, but also to the lengthy explanations...

1st NATO Conference on Metapowered Operatives
Universität der Bundeswehr Hamburg
Holstenhofweg 85
22043 Hamburg-Wandsbek

Friday, 12th April 1996

10:30 a.m.
Opening speech
Greeting speeches by representatives of the University of the Bundeswehr and the Senate of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg

11:00 a.m.
Pierre Plaszek (D): Setting Up the German Metapowers Network With France and the Benelux States

11:45 a.m.
Raymond Sikorski (USA): Ten Years of Federal Government Liaisons with Metapowered Teams

12:30 p.m.
Heather Hudson (CDN): Department H and the Canadian Model of Superpowered Operations

1:15-2:45 p.m.
Lunch break and poster discussions

2:45 p.m.
Dr. Alistaire Stuart (GB): Cooperation Between United Kingdom Agencies and British and Foreign "Superheroes"

3:30 p.m.
Capitaine Jean-Luc Ronarc'h (F): La Force Spéciale Surhumaine et les engagements français en l'outre-mer

5:00 p.m.
Reception and buffet

Saturday, 13th April 1996

9:30 a.m.
Jennifer Walters (USA): Mutant and Metapowers-Related Legislation in the United States and Canada

10:15 a.m.
Prof. Dr. Anna-Cornelie Bijland (Leidse Universiteit, NL): Metapowered Humans and the International Court in the Hague
11:00 a.m.
Brig.-Gen. Nicholas Fury (USA): Superpowered and Costumed Freelance Operatives in the Intelligence Agencies

11:45 a.m.
Dr. Valerie Cooper (USA): The Federal Strike Teams Freedom Force and X-Factor under the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton Administrations

12:30 p.m.
Kurt Wagner (D/GB): Britain's International Metahuman Team -- A Personal Experience

1:15-2:45 p.m.
Lunch break and poster discussions

2:45 p.m.
Maj.-Gen. Süleyman Tüysüz (TR): Metapowered Operatives in the Gulf Wars and Later Conflicts on NATO's South-Eastern Flank

3:30 p.m.
Lt.-Col. Bruce Woologong (AUS): NATO, SEATO, and the Situation in Genosha

4:30 p.m.
Press conference

Sunday, 14th April 1996

9:30 a.m.
Dr. Reed Richards (USA): The Fantastic Four as Quasi-Autonomous Emergency Force

10:15 a.m.
Dr. Fokko Schlickpottje-Buch (D): Meta-Agents of the Former GDR. Evidence from the East-Berlin Archives

11:00 p.m.
Dr. Grzegorz Tomczak (PL): Former Warsaw Pact Countries Applying for NATO Membership -- Metapowers Aspects

11:45 a.m.
Dr. Henry Pym (USA): Suits and "Star Wars" -- Complementing the Military vis-à-vis Potential Extra-Terrestrial Threats

12:30 p.m.
Prof. Charles Xavier (USA): Mutant and Non-Mutant Metahumans: The Shape and Numbers to Come

1:15-2:45 p.m.
Lunch break and poster discussions

2:45 p.m.
Panel discussion

5:00 p.m.
End of conference

III. Outside, the gray clouds were darkening, but from the top of the high-rise building there still was a good view over the twin lakes of the Alster and the surrounding parts of the city. Inside the Finnish restaurant, the two couples had just finished soup and were now waiting for the main course. The gray-templed man with the eyepatch leaned back in his wheelchair: "Well, Bern, hope you had a better time on the town than we did at the conference."

A broad smile appeared above the woman's cleft chin: "That bad, huh?"

The other woman took Nick Fury's hand. "Yes, we had the legal experts in this morning, and that really made for riveting entertainment. Even the She-Hulk couldn't make it interesting."

"I wondered about that; why all the legal topics?"

"Damn bureaucrats," Nick Fury spat out, "when they ain't got nothin' better to do, they write a set of new regulations for anything they can put their noxious little minds to."

"And now they're catching up with superheroes." The athletic blond moved aside to give the waiter access. "I'm having the moose steak. The salmon's for you, Val, isn't it?"

"Yes, Steve, and Nick's having the American plate." She giggled silently.

"What?" Fury was roused a little. "So I like what I like."

The four settled down to their meals and resumed the conversation.

"They're making special regulations for superheroes?" Bernadette Rogers wasn't sure whether to be concerned or amused.

"Safety regulations, minority representation in government-supported super-groups, special building specifications, everything." Steve Rogers was still having trouble digesting all the facts. You wouldn't believe it, Bernie. "Just the new laws, by-laws and city ordinances issued the past five years by various states and counties on 'unassisted flying' are astounding. In Sweden, superheroes are not supposed to fly without a parachute, in elsewhere they must wear a helmet even if they're invulnerable, in Kenosha they're liable to be fined if they take off in the presence of minors..."

"And the best part," the Countess interjected, "in some places they actually revived old laws against flying that were originally passed for the persecution of witches."

"I guess Doctor Strange may run into trouble in some parts of our great country," Nick Fury quipped. "And of course some o' the bureaucrats in Brussels will do their utmost to create a standard Euro-superhero, while the national bureaucracies will fight tooth an' claw to uphold their own peculiar norms an' standards for costumed operatives. That'll be a sight to see."

Everybody joined in the laughter. Steve Rogers turned to his wife.

"At least today I wasn't that sorry we decided you wouldn't go to the conference because I'm there as you know who. Even if that meant that you missed Nicholas's magnum opus."

Nick Fury grimaced in mock annoyance at that little dig: "Hey, it's bad enough that I'm now relegated to a desk most of the time, but having to give stupid little speeches at conferences like this really is the pits! Maybe it would've been better if that psycho Castle had succeeded in rubbin' me out..."

The others apparently did not think this as funny as the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Countess Valentina looked particularly worried. "Caro, you must not say that..."

"Relax, Val, I'm just joshing. Sheesh. It just takes some gettin' used to, but you oughta know that I've seen enough to consider myself lucky. I mean, I could be a mindless vegetable like Castle is now. An' just 'cause I got a bullet through my spine's an' I'm trapped in a wheelchair doesn't mean I can't enjoy myself. I mean, just look at Xavier, he's doin' alright!"

"I noticed you were having a long talk with Forge during the break. Does he think he can help you?"

"Mebbe." Fury dug into his meal.

Steve turned to Bernie: "So what did you do today, honey?"

"Went on a tour of the port in a launch and then to that arts and crafts museum near the railway station in the afternoon."

"Ya been to the Reeperbahn yet? I hear parts of it are very 'in' now."

"Actually no. Steve's musical tastes are a bit on the conservative side. Janet and I had a hard enough to get him to agree to go to The Black Rider with us."

"Yes kid, that's the difference between bein' frozen in a chunk of ice for a couple o' decades an' bein' on life-extendin' drugs. Steve missed the rock 'n' roll era, I could adjust to it as it happened. Which reminds me, Countess, how about a night out on the Reeperbahn together?"

"Engaging in a little nostalgia, Nicholas?"

"Back in '61 when I was here on a CIA mission, I went to the clubs most every night. There was this girl... she really was crazy about that band from England, what were they called?."

"I think I can see what he's going to say next," Bernie whispered to Steve.

"Ah yes, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Wonder what became of them?" He grinned. "Betcha thought I was going to say I was one of the guys who played around with their guns to get the Beatles to do their requests, right?"

Bernie nodded sheepishly, and Steve said with a broad smile: "It certainly makes for a striking image."

"Sorry, I actually never saw the Beatles performing at the time. Antje wanted to take me there one time, but ... something happened and I had to leave at short notice."

Steve laid aside his knife and fork and wiped his mouth. "So you've been to Hamburg before?"

"Sure. Matter of fact, the first time I was here was pretty much exactly fifty years ago. I wuz a rookie O.S.S. officer in Bremen -- that was under U.S. occupation as a port for our zone, while the rest of Northwest Germany was British -- ," he added for Bernie's benefit. "I frequently had to travel to Hamburg for our co-operation with our Brit opposite numbers." He ate the last slice of meat, chewing pensively. "Fifty years. God, that makes me feel old."

He and Steve Rogers exchanged an almost affectionate look as the waiter brought desserts.

"You know what really gets me about this year's primaries?" Fury went off on a tangent, "It's the way every commentator says that Bob Dole will be the last member of the World War 2 generation to run for president. Makes me want to run myself in four years, just ta prove 'em wrong. Or maybe you should do it. After all, a guy in a wheelchair would never get elected."

There were significant smiles and chuckles all around, but Steve Rogers's were a little melancholy. Of course, as the only graduate of the Super Soldier Program he had been interviewed a few times by President Roosevelt. He wondered how many others were still alive who had as vivid a memory as he did of meeting up close the invalided man who had led the free world to victory against the Axis. "Actually, there is a serious side to this," he mused aloud, "they say that the way media coverage has grown and evolved in the past decade, a man who had the kind of disabilities FDR had could never make it to the White House. So if they had had today's media in 1932, he might not--"

"Makes ya think..."

Countess de la Fontaine turned to Bernadette: "It is nice I finally got to meet you properly. But I was surprised that you're here if you're not actively involved with Steve's, um, profession."

"Yes, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity for a little vacation together. I'd call it a second honeymoon if we'd actually had our first one and Baron Zemo hadn't put a spanner into the works at the time."

"Sorry to put a damper on things, but if you want to get to the theater before it begins ta rain, mebbe ya'd better start out soon..."

"At least we don't have to be at the press conference!"

NATO Conference on Metapowered Operatives 1996

Press Information Sheet 3:

Super-Powered Teams Operated by or Affiliated to NATO National Governments

United States of America
The Federal mutant strike force operates out of Washington, DC under the control of Mutant Affairs Coordinator Forge. It currently consists of five active members -- Havok (leader), Polaris, Strong Guy, Random and Mystique -- and a few reserve or affiliate agents.

This independent team is sanctioned by the US government and the United Nations. It operates out of New York City, the second headquarters near Los Angeles is currently only used when missions take the team to the Western United States. Plans to set up a third base in St. Louis have run into financial difficulties. The team roster is subject to frequent changes and in emergencies a large number of reserve members can be called into service. The present Avengers chairwoman is the Black Widow, the active team includes Captain America, Crystal, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, Thor and Wasp.

Fantastic Four
The oldest existing independent team also is based in New York. As the name states, the team normally consists of four active members, although it too is subject to occasional changes and has a number of affiliate and reserve members. The current roster consists of the Invisible Woman (leader), Human Torch, Thing and She-Hulk, with Mr. Fantastic and Lyja Storm acting as base support.

Alpha Flight/Troupe Alpha
This autonomous team formerly was the active branch of Canadian Government Department H, which now only acts as a loose overseer. The team's headquarters is situated near Toronto, but members normally are dislocated all over the country. Alpha Flight consists of six active members -- Guardian (leader), Aurora/Aurore, Etoile Polaire/Northstar, Sasquatch, Puck and Diamond Lil -- and also has a reserve.

Force Spéciale Surhumaine
The FSS is operated by the French Defence Ministry from its base at Senlis near Paris. It is kept separate from the French contingents of the European multinational teams and can be used in conjunction with military operations oversees. Field team leader is Cuirassé Bleu, details of the current membership are classified.

United Kingdom
This autonomous team operates in loose co-operation with law-enforcement agencies and the Ministry of Defence, the latter connection being through the W.H.O. Excalibur operates from an undisclosed base. Current leader is Captain Britain, his deputy, Nightcrawler. Other current members are Shadowcat, Meggan, Phoenix, Wolfsbane and Colossus.

Multinational Teams
Currently, the old mostly regional organization is being replaced by one reflective of the differing degrees of co-operation with the various branches of national governments.

Caçadores do Sul/Cacciatori del Sud/Cazadores del Sur/Chasseurs du Midi
This alliance of government-affiliated groups from Italy (Squadra Mista), Portugal (Turma Tonante), Spain (Alianza Alada) and Southern France (Escadron Mistral) operates in conjunction with their national governments and police forces. The office of chairperson alternates annually between nations. Under the umbrella of this organization, the four small teams concerned operate with a great deal of autonomy from each other. Current chairman is Corneja Supersónica of the Alianza Alada.

Gardiens du Nord/Noordelijke Wachters/Nordwächter
Northwest European equivalent of the preceding, the Northern Guardians consist of the Benelux organization Legioen van het Recht/Légion de la Justice, the German Hypernormaler Einsatzdienst and the Northern French Escadron Sambre et Meuse. In this year, the spokesman is Zeeuwse Leeuw of the Legioen van het Recht.

The Network/Das Netzwerk/Le Réseau
An independent association of mainly Northwest European superheroes co-operating with police authorities on a regular basis. Under the current leadership of Cigogne Tricolore, the active membership at present consists of Doktor Donau, Havörnen, Marcassin, Spaßvogel and Vlugge Hagedis.

Note: This list does not contain intelligence agencies with metapowered capability (e.g. S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Turkish Special Operative Agency). Information on these is in any case classified.

V. "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen of the press. My name is Pierre Plaszek, I am one of the co-ordinators in charge of setting up European metapowered teams and also one of the organizers of this conference."

The speaker with the pronounced Berlin accent looked like the intermediate ministerial bureaucrat he was. Not being an active member of any of the ruling political parties, he had risen to his appointment mainly through his seniority. A man in his late 40s with a wiry build and graying hair, he sat at the edge of the raised table, a sheaf of notes before him.

"I'd like to start by introducing my four colleagues. On my left is my compatriot Nightcrawler, one of the founding members of the freelance metapowered team Excalibur, which is based in England." The indigo-skinned mutant's demonic appearance and gaudy costume had already assured him the majority of looks from the journalists. He smiled all around, flashing a set of impressive canines. He acknowledged the waves and whistles from some of the British reporters.

"He will be answering questions about his team's changing relationship to the English authorities. Next to him is Doctor Valerie Cooper of the American National Security Council." The severely-coiffed official was clearly big with child, and had opted for a light gray 'business maternity suit'.

"She has a distinguished career supervising the operations of a number of meta-operatives under the auspices of her Federal Government and is currently ze deputy to ze man on her left, Agent Forge. Mister Forge is the co-ordinator in charge of US mutant operatives, most notably the Washington-based strike force team X-Factor." In testimony of this fact, the full-blood Cheyenne with the mechanical hand was wearing a skin-tight blue and yellow jump-suit.

"And last not least we have Capitaine Jean-Luc Ronarc'h of the Superhuman Special Force in Senlis." The slightly corpulent dark-blond Breton in the navy uniform gave an abrupt military nod. Plaszek then picked up his papers and launched into his opening statement:

"As you will probably know, the field of metapowered operatives has been attracting more and more attention over the past years, especially since the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, after which a number of the international agreements limiting the use of what are commonly referred to as superheroes and superheroines became inoperative. There is also the matter of certain non-aligned countries -- such as Genosha in the Indian Ocean -- setting up powerful meta-powered strike forces that pose a potential threat to world peace. Most national governments in NATO have done some work on either setting up metapowered teams of their own for military and/or law-enforcement purposes or in some cases setting up co-operative liaisons with the existing freelance teams, such as Excalibur in England or the Avengers and the Fantastic Four in America.

Here in Europe we've also seen some efforts to institute closer links between nations in the superpowers sector. Here we of course we had the examples of police co-operation and the Euro-Corps we could emulate or even aim to improve on. At the moment, you will have heard, we are setting up a new organisation for the metapowered teams in Germany, the Benelux nations and Northern France. Other governments are also looking into closer co-ordination of their efforts -- you probably heard of the recent negotiations between Spain and Portugal.

Now that NATO has increased its engagement in the implementation of the Bosnian settlement, there is also increased talk of sending a metapowered force there. Given that some of the belligerent groups have meta-powers capability, it may become unavoidable to give NATO forces operating in Bosnia-Herzegovina the special forces necessary to deal with every threat they may run up against. The theme of course also came up in the Bundestag debates about the German involvement in the Bosnian venture."

Most of the journalists had reported in detail on a lot of the subjects Plaszek was running through here, so eyes were glazing over. One or two even risked switching off their cassette recorders. Others went through their lists of questions one last time to be ready when the opening spiel was over. Bugle shutterbug Peter Parker listened more attentively since he found Plaszek's accent a little hard to understand and because he hadn't followed European news that closely back in New York. The cameraman from Trish Tilby's crew was panning along the table on the podium to capture each of the five persons sitting behind it. Ronarc'h was looking at his notes, Cooper and Forge were conversing in whispers, Nightcrawler was fighting an impulse to make funny faces when Plaszek was not looking his way.

"This is a first attempt to pool our different experiences on an international level and compare notes on our various national doctrines and solutions to problems that have cropped up over the years. Since this is a NATO conference, our starting point were of course the mechanics of operating meta-powered teams. But of course, to properly assess the matter of meta-powers, we also must look at the related issues, for instance the domestic aspect. Over the past five years, more and more news reports and opinion columns have been devoted to what is commonly referred to as the mutant crisis, especially in the United States and with reference to Genosha, but to a lesser degree also in some European nations. In some cases, the growing interest in 'the mutant question' has already led to legal proposals and some laws and regulations, such as the attempt in the United States to register mutant powers by Federal Law..."

Without warning, both wings of the main door were abruptly flung open, one of them actually ripped out of its hinges.

"The alleged mutant crisis is nothing but a smokescreen behind which American imperialism lurks so it can plot new machinations to destroy the proud heritage of the independence-loving peoples of the European nations!"

All eyes were fixed on the intruder in the turquoise suit and classic Greek helmet who struck a dramatic pose in the wreck of the entrance.

"But, no longer! You may have fooled and bribed the media, but we see through your fabrications. We know that these so-called mutant terrorists are all in the pay of the CIA, hired henchmen that pose a bogus threat so the arms industrialist can be fed more money and covert US control can be implemented the world over!"

"Bull!" One of the journalists jumped to his feet, pointing an accusing finger at the podium: "If you think you can fool right-thinking Americans with such a transparent maneuver, 'Miz' Cooper, you have got another thing coming! This pervert is just another one of your henchmen, and this entire conference is part of a concerted campaign to divert decent people's attention from your godless conspiracy to subjugate the world through your foreign and genetically-engineered mercenaries!"

"Silence, wretch!" thundered the black-clad intruder. "I don't care if you're one of the minions of the American military-industrial-televangelist-political complex or just the sorry product of your country's barbaric culture -- cease your prattling or be swatted like the insignificant insect you are!"

The members of the panel had taken advantage of the unexpected diversion and reached for cellular phones and communicators. "We got a live one," Plaszek half-whispered into his handy.

"Hah, call all the reinforcements you want! No one will stop us from our mission to rid the world of America's manipulators and their stooges. Now cower before the might of -- Kakothanasia and his KakoDaemons!"

A number of masked and costumed figures crashed in through the windows on the right, armed with an assortment of jet-packs, power-gloves and hand-held weapons.

"Du lieber Schreck, with names like that, do you expect your enemies to laugh themselves to death?" quipped Nightcrawler as he leaped onto the table, seizing Dr. Cooper by the upper arms. The blue-furred mutant and the pregnant woman disappeared in a flash and a loud implosion, leaving behind a cloud of sulfurous smoke.

They rematerialized in the parking lot. Nightcrawler reached for his communicator: "I can have some of the back-up here in a jiff, dear. Just tell me who you want to look after you, I'll buzz them and 'port them here."

"Don't bother, Kurt. Just give me a couple of seconds..."

Nightcrawler's chin dropped as blonde hair turned auburn, pink skin to indigo and the sharp, businesslike jacket and skirt to a skintight blue and white costume: "Mother?"

"Ever the perceptive one, my boy. Come on, get me back to the conference room, I'll aid Forge, you'd better help evacuate the room."

"But where's Valer--? Oh, I guess she went to her special meeting a little earlier..."

"We'll talk about it later." Mystique half-embraced Kurt Wagner, getting ready to be teleported again. She gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "Good luck?"

Another yellow flash in a black cloud. They were back in the battle zone. The two non-powered officials, Forge and two security agents had taken cover behind the desks on the podium, defending themselves with small arms and the huge blaster Forge must have secreted in his prosthetic leg. Half the journalists seemed to be making for the emergency exits, the others were busy taking pictures or holding up their cassette recorders and Dictaphones. Oddly, one of the photographers Raven had noticed earlier seemed to have dropped from sight. Already the first reinforcements, the Flemish heroine Vlugge Hagedis -- a slender woman in a shiny green and brown scaled suit with an artificial tail -- and the Dutchman Zeeuwse Leeuw -- whose gaudy leotard was decorated with a lion's head at the center of his chest where four red, four white and four blue triangles met in a gyronny sunburst -- burst in through the podium door...


Valerie Cooper's Diary 4/13/96. Intermittent rain. NATO conference. 2 dry talks on legal matters (1 by She-Hulk, 1 by a Dutch univ. prof.), N.Fury on MPBs in intelligence agencies. My own spiel went rather well, followed by K.Wagner's funny account of his life w/ Excalibur. Lunch at cafeteria w/ C.America, Fury, Wasp, R.Richards. In the afternoon confidential meeting in an alternative tearoom in St.Georg (WC in different pt. of bldg., you had to ask for the key, which does not make it easier for pregnant women). My contact, Hammonia, introduced me to some other mutants operating in Eur. w/o links to gov'ts. M. took my place at the press conf., which was attacked by a group of conspiracy-obsessed terrorists. At least 1 of them sneaked in w/ a false press pass. Supertypes in vicinity quickly foiled the attack, for unknown reason the "Kakodemons'" electronic equipment seized up after a min. or so. I didn't hear about it until later. -- People I met at the café: 1) Hammonia, local mutant woman in mid-20s, came in civilian disguise (shades) to protect secret I.D. frm me & others. Normally operates freelance w/ partner Griepenkerl. Flies, dives, above-avg. strength, some kind of super-sense. Quite likeable & interested in having confidential l.o.c. w/ us & X-Men. 2) A Kurdish meta who wished to stay anonymous. Only came to listen to what I had to say. He did not get along at all with. 3) Batmansahin, a Turkish-German woman (Batman is the town her family comes from, sahin is Turkish for buzzard) who kept asking me what I was going to do about PKK terrorism. 4) Morgengrant, an Austrian with anarchist tendencies, an attitude (the name means "morning surliness") and an explosive punch. -- Interesting talk, even if there was no concrete result apart maybe the contact to H. Will have to wait for further ramifications. -- Afterwards Rogue picked me up & we went to Aunt Emma's house in Winterhude. -- Phone conference w/ Havok about state of affairs in Washington.

VII. An insistent spring drizzle fell as Valerie Cooper and a woman wearing sunglasses and a black wig stepped from the Café Orion into the back court with its little garden. Under the arch to the Lange Reihe she found someone waiting.

"Hi Val. Who's your friend?"

"Rogue, meet Hammonia. She arranged this. Hammonia, this is Rogue of the X-Men."

The two younger women greeted one another, the German adding: "I hope you like it here. Unfortunately we seem to be having a lot of our national Hamburg weather this weekend."

"No, ah find it fascinatin'. Ah'm always so glad when ah get to properly see some place without havin' to fight some bad guys or save the world that a little rain don' bother me none."

"Well, I obviously saw a lot about you and your team in the media. It is great to meet you. I must say I'm a bit surprised to see you waiting for Frau Cooper here. I didn't know your relationship to Washington is so good?"

"Actually, it's more a matter of personal ties. A few of us are in town t' keep an eye on the conference, just in case." Rogue pointed at her communicator. "As a matter of fact, there just was some trouble at the press conference, but it turned out we weren't needed."

"Really? Could you please give me a moment?" Valerie got out her cellular phone and stepped out onto the sidewalk to contact Forge and Mystique in the Bundeswehr university. This left the others some more time to talk. When Val had finished her call, she returned to them.

"Are you sure you don't want to accompany you part of the way?" Hammonia asked.

"No, I should be okay. The crisis is over, and in any case Rogue is with me and others are in easy reach."

"Good, then I'll leave you two to it. My partner and me still have a crime to solve in the harbor. I'll keep what both of you had to say in mind. Well, tschüss for now." The lady in the trenchcoat walked into the door of the dance studio. A minute later, a masked figure dressed in red and white burst forth from a first-floor window opening out into the courtyard, rapidly gaining altitude as she banked in a leftward turn towards the southwest. The two Americans looked after her, then Valerie turned to Rogue.

"So, glad you made it."

"The glowin' expectin' momma look suits you."

"This is where I'm supposed to say, 'no, I'm enormous,' right?" Valerie grinned. It was now near the rush hour. Traffic on the street was already coagulating, the sidewalks were filling, especially at the bus stop in front of the Asian curio shop.

"So, how was your meeting?"

"Well, early days yet. We're still just getting introduced, scoping each other out. Actually, it was a little less restrained than I thought. At one point I almost expected two of them to come to blows."


"Oh, a Turkish lady and a Kurdish gent. You know how it is, the Turkish government is waging war in Kurdistan, some Kurdish exiles reply by attacking Turkish shops and installations in Europe, and so these two spent a lot of time hissing accusations at each other."

"Not such a great idea to have t' invite 'em both, looks lahk."

"Well, it sure was an object lesson how in some places other conflicts play into mutant politics."

"Not lahk at home, right?"

"No, in the States we're used to see 'the mutant question' as a problem in itself or as part of a bigger problem. It's not just mutiphobes, some are beginning to look distrust all people of powers or are interpreting the growing number of mutants as just one of the signs of the coming of the Apo-, er, the End of Days. Whereas in Eastern Europe and the Middle East..."

"... people may not always love us, but at least they find us useful if we're on the right side, whatever that might be. Sad really. For more'n a few folks the biggest reason to consider livin' with mutants seems to be they're even more scared o' someone else. Really makes ya feel wanted."

"Sorry, didn't mean to get you down. And of course you get the lunatic fringe..." Val added, pointing to a couple of small posters plastered to an cigarette vending machine. She had seen both before in a number of places. One expounded how superpowered Aryan mutants were "the next logical step in human evolution", while ugly mutations were proof of an impure ancestry and that super-powered beings from the "inferior races" were hell-bent on subverting the Germanic races and warring against them. The other one claimed in fact there were no mutants, that all persons known as mutants actually were genetically-engineered agents-provocateurs of the intelligence agencies of the imperialist nations and that public supporters of mutant rights were in fact nothing but stooges of the conspiracy to divert the proletarian masses and the suppressed peoples of the world from their struggle against capitalism and neo-colonialism.

"Some people will do anything to explain away facts that don't fit into their model of the world," Valerie added with a sigh before returning to the earlier subject: "Actually it went off pretty well at the talks."

"Managed to gain some new contacts?"

"Yup. And acted as a kind of broker between some of the others."

"Good for you. So you're pleased with your behind-the-scenes activities?"

"That I am, kind lady. For the most part. I guess it went as well as could be expected under the circumstances and in such a short time."

"And the NATO conference? How's that been goin' so far?"

"Pretty smoothly. But you don't really expect all that much to come from these big gatherings in the first place. So your expectations aren't likely to be disappointed."

"At least not much, ah reckon."

"Look, the real reason I'm glad you've come with me is that it gives us a chance to talk." There was a short, but still awkward pause. Val continued: "I'm not sure how to begin this. Our previous history was a bit... unpleasant, and now I don't know how you feel about me breaking into your family, as it were."

The two women were leaving St. Georg and, after negotiating the busy street, they now were walking northward alongside the Alster. Rogue picked up the thread: "Actually, ah don't think that should be such a big problem, least not if ah can help it. Ah know we used t'be on different sides o' the fence -- and ah guess, at least in the official view we're still not entirely on the same one -- but ah know Mystique and you really care about each other and try to always do the right thing... As a matter of fact, with your kid, ah'll probably come visitin' more often than ah used to b'fore..."

"Still, it can't hurt if we get to know each other better. Is there anything you want to know about me?"

"Well, sure there is. For one thing, what made you decide to go into Mutant Affairs?"

"I thought you knew. From when ...?" The memory of the time when Rogue had absorbed her memories none to gently, putting her into a coma for half a day (shortly after a task force led by Valerie Cooper and Henry Gyrich had brought down Storm) was still vivid, and it was plain to see that it was not pleasant.

"Ah'm sorry there was no other way. But no, ah don't remember everything afterwards when ah absorb people's memories -- it's usually a matter o' luck less'n ah concentrate on the matter. An' at the time ah was so busy tryin' to find out what had happened when 'Roro got zapped with Forge's neutralizer an' where she might be, ah really had no time for your life story."

"Oh, I can perfectly understand what you did, intellectually. Probably would have done the same thing if I had been in your shoes. But that evening still was a scary experience, even though you had just saved me from those monsters. Anyway, your question. Well, there was my family background in law-enforcement -- including my marriage, although that had already broken up. I had been following the debate on "the mutant question" since I went to college. You saw a little of me as I was at the time -- worried and a little too much in awe of what Senator Kelly had to say."

"But since then you learned a lot."

"I like to think I've become a little wiser and not just older."

"And you almost lost your life so you could save Mystique."

Valerie shuddered: "One of the worst times of my life. Living in the thrall of the Shadow King was the ultimate violation. Most of the time if felt like a powerless observer locked up in some back room of my own mind. I still have nightmares about it, of looking on helplessly as I walk up those stairs to murder Raven..." She faltered.

"But when it came to the moment o' truth, you overcame the Amahl Farouk's hold. Not many can make that claim."

"Yes, and I have the scars to prove it. Still, it is a moment neither of us will forget to our dying day."

"Yeah, Raven tol' me she has bad dreams 'bout it too. Only now it's no longer about you shootin' her, but actually succeedin' in killin' yourself."

VIII. Kurt Wagner switched off the VCR. "Well, that's all Trish Tilby's camera crew shot at the press conference. What to you think?"

Amanda Sefton was the first to respond: "Well, at first glance, it is just what you'd expect how a group of absolute beginners would do against such numbers of superheroes, especially if these included so many experienced old hands. Still, it went almost too easy. It was over so quickly I didn't even have time to get actively involved. By the time I arrived on the scene it was over bar the shouting."

"You can bet that, if it gets mentioned at all, a few of the more hostile reporters will claim the whole incident was stage-managed to generate favorable press coverage," Alistaire Stuart suggested. "We know we didn't, but do you think any of the others involved in the conference arranged something?"

"No, highly unlikely. Professor Xavier psi-scanned them and there is not the smallest clue of anybody pulling the strings in the background." This came from Scott Summers sitting in the back of the room.

"Still, it was awfully convenient how the Kakodemons' electronics all seized up after such a short while," Kurt still couldn't pronounce the hapless terrorists' name without smiling. "But Lorna Dane is in Washington, and Kitty was out on the town with Meggan." He frowned.

"I first thought Forge had some kind of jamming device," Alistaire added, "but he was just as surprised as everyone else."

"Think it could have been someone who snuck in with the media people?" Amanda suggested.

"Well, it would be possible," Kurt's eyes twinkled mischievously. "There was this Silkworm fellow, but I think I know who that was under those awful brown-and-black hoop-rings, even though he disguised his normal speech patterns by attempting to fake a cockney accent." Not a bad idea for a semi-lone wolf to put on different costumes when he's off his regular beat, he thought. That can't hurt when you've got a civilian identity to protect. But being a bit of an acrobat myself, I couldn't fail to recognize Spider-Man's moves. Wonder why he only hit on this idea now, could it be he's settling down? Nightcrawler continued: "If he managed to get in, why not somebody else? If the person responsible even was in the same room..."

"And there's not many people we know who would be able to do that kind of stunt from a distance. Without also frying the television crews' equipment." The other silently agreed with Cyclops's unspoken suspicion.

IX. Wet as they were, the unpaved sidewalks of the fashionable Uhlenhorst neighborhood were turning a little muddy. Rogue's and Valerie's shoes were already becoming a little dirty as they passed the turquoise dome of the big mosque on the Schöne Aussicht. In spite of the slight drizzle, the view of the Alster lake and the spired city to the south still was good enough to see why the street had been named "fair view".

"Considerin' you must've known how people would react to news of your private life, ah guess you stopped tryin' to go find paths of less resistance. That's pretty admirable, but," the younger of the two women soberly looked at the older, "are you sure you really know what you've let yourself in for?"

"Well, in my position I should have been more prepared than almost anyone when I got serious with Raven, but honestly -- no, I don't think so. But then, could you be prepared for my kind situation? There's so few other genejoke-flatscan couples around, and really none in a government position that is as prominent as mine, and most haven't got the ex-criminal and lezzie aspect in addition to the usual mutant grief. I sometimes wonder if I'm wildly optimistic or just plain crazy to attempt this. Of course Pietro thinks Raven and I have a bad case of mutant jungle fever..." Valerie sighed mock-dramatically.

Rogue grinned: "Or should one say gene-gal fever?"

Valerie Cooper responded with a pixyish smile: "Anyway, he thinks we're out of our mind, but he's been a true friend all the same. Ah well, as my granduncle used to say, the step towards marriage must be taken a little imprudently, or it would never be taken at all. And complete prudence is unnatural. We may safely use 'shacking up' as an alternative for 'marriage' in the 1990s. Of course the drawback of living together with Raven is that we're now well on our way to becoming the world's most screwed-up family. As Raven's significant other, am I now some kind of father surrogate from hell for Kurt, Graydon Creed and yourself?" It was clear she was barely managing to hold back a giggle.

"If Mystique can be both a mother and a father, why shouldn't you too? Ah'll just have to work on gettin' used to the concept of you as fam'ly."

"Well, at least you've some idea of what to expect."

"Yeah, but it's bound t' be different with you. T'me, Destiny was a bit lahk a gran'ma, an' you're..."

"... young enough to be Raven's sister's daughter?"

"Well, that's one way of puttin' it. So maybe we'll have t' work on a compromise between you bein' my parent an' my elder sister."

"Apropos nothing, there's something I've been meaning to ask you. I've seen you in action a few times, and one thing struck me as strange."

"What would that be?"

"When you use your absorption power, you seem to kiss your male, um, donors more often than not, even enemies. But I don't think I've ever heard of you kissing a woman. Is your power something sexual for you?"

"Ah've never really thought about it. Actually, when ah got mah power, what ah first missed most was kissin' momma or even huggin' her so closely that our faces touched. But the way you put it, it really is strange. You'd think ah'd rather kiss someb'dy lahk 'Roro or Mystique or even yourself than some o' the scuzzbuckets ah actually did kiss... It's almost as if ah acted under the influence of an outside force or as if ah'd permanently absorbed the memories of someone workin' for an entertainment self-censorship body. Ya don' think Carol Danvers might have something to do with it?"

"That hugging thing, was that when you still lived with your biological mother or with Raven?"

"Ah had run away from home shortly 'fore mah power kicked in. Actually, ah hadn't had much 'normal' fam'ly intimacy 'til ah hooked up with Mystique."

"She took you under her wing before you were manifestly a mutant?"

"Yeah, at the time ah didn't wonder about her motives. She gave me the love, the fam'ly ah never had. 'Course ah later had to wonder about her motives."


"Y'see, she then had gotten out of the spy business an' was just settin' up the second Brotherhood. So what was a mutant supremacist doin' adoptin' a normal human gal? Ah kinda suspect Destiny must've sensed ah was goin' to get powers some time later and then told Mystique where she could 'happen to run into me' when a left home. And they were there for me suspiciously early when ah was all in a tizzy after first experiencin' mah powers with Cody Robbins..."

"The boy you were necking with when you got into puberty?"

"Yes. After ah left Mystique, ah sometimes wondered about how much of her love was just pretense. On the other hand, ah was very lonely among the X-Men at the time, so ah prob'ly had cause to justify what ah had done."

"But now you're on good terms with her again."

"Well, ah know she manipulated me from time to time when ah was with the Brotherhood, but she raised me well. I was able t' make mah own choices, even if it took some time to get her to accept them. That ah would stay with the X-Men even if they couldn't help me control mah powers. You know, when y'all were gunnin' after me with Forge's neutralizer, she actually considered letting you proceed 'cause she hoped if ah lost mah powers, ah would return to her?"

"Did she tell you that?"

"No, that was in a letter Destiny had left for me an' had not thrown out when everyone thought me 'n' the others had died in Dallas."

"Yes, I remember Raven and Irene were both devastated at the time, although Raven of course was out for Forge's hide..."

"Anyway, it took a while and some effort, but now ah feel at ease again when ah'm with Mystique. Ah guess ah have you to thank for that, at least in part."

By now the two had entered Winterhude and were proceeding along turn-of-the-century houses and 1960s high-rises. Since they were getting near the end of their walk, Rogue had something to ask: "So, what do ah have to know about this aunt of yours?"

"Well, Aunt Emma's from the Canadian branch of my family. She came here after the war when she worked in the administration of the British Zone. She met her husband at the time, a German emigrant in the British army, and later they settled down here when they got demobbed. She also knows Nick Fury from way back then, at least that's what he told me over lunch."

"How does she feel 'bout you, Mystique and the baby?"

"She seems to have taken it better than my parents did at first. She was quite chipper about seeing me on the phone. But then she's always had a soft spot for me."

They crossed a small canal and approached Aunt Emma's white art nouveau villa. It had a very noticeable circular window in the second floor. Val and Rogue walked down the entrance path together.

"Oh, one final question."


"If ah behave, will you raise mah allowance, Daddy?"

X. The door of the old apartment in the Schanzenviertel opened, and Sara Voss and Axel Giovanoli, better know to the world (or at least to the city of Hamburg) in their costumed alter ego Hammonia and Griepenkerl, came home after an exhausting afternoon. Their investigations in the harbor had ultimately not brought them much nearer to cracking the drugs and arms smuggling operation they were trying to bring down. As they entered, they were greeted by Axel's wife Elena, one of the people they shared the apartment with. After they had prepared and eaten dinner, Sara settled down at the PC in her room to get a little more of her MA thesis written.

Nick Fury was not enjoying the night as much as he had hoped. The floor show at Schmidt's was not to his tastes after all, and when Valentina suggested they adjourn to a jazz club in another part of the city, his wheelchair caused a bit of a hassle. It took him almost an hour to mellow sufficiently to have a moderately good time.

In the office the Bundeswehr University had provided for him, Pierre Plaszek had just finished writing his memo on the events at the aborted press conference and worked his way through an small pile of administrative papers. He sat back with a creamy piece of pastry and finished off his working day by looking through the schedule for the last day of the conference.

On the Lombardsbrücke, Trish Tilby and her crew had finished shooting her segment for the evening news in America. As they broke up, they noticed another American or Canadian camera crew who also felt correspondents looked more photogenic with the view of the city across the inner Alster behind them than when they stood in front of the university entrance. She also found Kurt Wagner and Amanda Sefton who had come to pick her up and take her out to a nearby pub.

In the Thalia Theater foyer, Steve and Bernie Rogers were having a relaxed chat with Janet Van Dyne during the intermission. From a review of the day's events at the conference they had passed to a short discussion of the musical they were watching with its funny mix of German and English texts and were now onto private matters and prospects for shopping and/or sightseeing before the return flight to New York.

At Hamburg Central Station, Morgengrant in mufti got onto the evening southbound ICE train. He had a walkman and a substantial stock of cassettes, but he felt it in his bones that it was going to be a long night and he would be fully living up to his codename when he arrived in Vienna the next morning.

Valerie Cooper stepped away from the window and sat down on the chair by the table. "Well, it looks like you had fun at the press conference," she called out to the bathroom as she opened her diary to start writing down the day's entry.

"Oh sure," Raven Darkhölme replied as she came into the hotel bedroom. Along with many of the official trans-Atlantic attendees at the NATO conference, they had been quartered in the Atlantic-Hotel. Their third-floor room had a good, if not spectacular view of the outer Alster, which now reflected the bright lights of the city to their left and the more sparse ones of the homes and gardens of the wealthy in Harvestehude on the shore beyond. Only the beautiful white house of the US Consulate-General shone from beyond a group of weeping-willows, illuminated for aesthetics and security.

"Well, at least Kurt's expression when he realized I wasn't you made it worthwhile," Mystique continued as she toweled her hair. "And all things considered, having a little fight was preferable to another question-and-answer session on our relationship."

"But it was supposed to be about the workshops. Were there still that many 'personality enquirers' there?"

"A few faces seemed familiar. Anyway, when they do the press conference again, you'll have the pleasure of answering the usual questions again."

"When's the rescheduled time?"

"After the panel discussion tomorrow." Mystique switched on her blowdrier.

Valerie looked through her agenda. "Well, my sudden notoriety seems to have gained us a choice of platforms." She picked up a small stack of letters and handed them to Raven. "Have a look at these invites."

"They want you for German talk shows? Whatever next. Hmm." She looked through a couple of letters. "Who's Harald Schmidt?"

"Definitely to avoid. Auntie Emma tells me he does a really cheesy Letterman imitation and generally goes in for embarrassing jokes that backfire on him. In America he'd give the term 'politically incorrect' a bad name. And by now even the novelty of guests showing him up has worn off."

"And what's Ruge neunzehnZehn?"

"That's a veteran TV foreign correspondent and four guests sitting around a table. Apparently worth considering, but it would depend on who the other three would be. I hear Ruge sometimes has trouble in preventing that one guy continuously interrupts the others."

"Hmm. And how were your talks in the afternoon?"

"About as ticklish as we expected. These people obviously are reluctant to get into bed with a US government representative. Some of them really would like to think of me as some sort of running dog of Yankee imperialism. First time that being associated with you actually was considered a point in my favor."

"And I missed it!"

"Of course, with you out of the way, Rogue and I could have a really sweet heart-to-heart." Valerie grinned broadly. Having completed her diary entry, she got up and walked across the room to settle down on the bed. "You know, I really could use a foot rub."

"Glad to oblige. You are aware that we are in imminent danger of turning into Travanti and Hamel? Discussing the days events while snuggling up in bed like the end of every episode of Hill Street Blues that ever was?" Mystique set about her task. "So did you and Rogue get along well?"

XI. The silver-haired mutant opened the door to his room in the small hotel and let Rogue in. "I'm so happy you decided to come."

"Hey, it's not everyday you get a message on your laptop before you even get the chance to install a modem, let alone patch into the web." She was making light of it, but it was clear she felt a little uneasy about this rendezvous behind her teammates' backs. But she was confident enough in herself to think she was best suited to deal with Magnus on her own at this stage. Many of her teammates had, well, not exactly a tendency to shoot first and ask questions later where he was concerned, but they could behave a little irrationally with him. She recalled the time when Magneto had first been joined by the Acolytes -- she had tried to entreat him, persuade him, appeal to him to turn back. A futile exercise, it turned out, but who knows what might have happened if Wolvie and the others hadn't been so pig-headed and instead had been prepared to listen to him first? Magneto showed her to the upholstered group of chairs arranged around a coffee-table.

She sat down on the one with its back to the wall. "From what ah heard 'n what ah saw on the news, it seems you also took a hand in that li'l altercation at the press conference." It was a statement, not a question. "Guess it sometimes is hard to resist the urge to flaunt your powers, eh?" she added after he nodded to break the ice.

He settled down next to her: "No, I really am glad, because considering my behavior at our last encounters, it would only have been too understandable if you had told me to go to hell."

"No, you should know ah'd never do that. Well, maybe if ah was really mad, but then only for a short time. Ah know how important it is to give people 'nother chance, ah mean, just look at me or Mystique! If Professor Xavier hadn't gotten the other X-Men to give me the time t' prove mahself..."

Magneto tried to put her at her ease: "Yes, in your case Charles's ideals came to fruition, no wonder you've so taken them to heart. Rogue, sometimes I think no one believes in Xavier's Dream more passionately than you, maybe not even Charles himself these days."

She looked at him in slight surprise. "What do you mean?"

"Well, you and some of your teammates have sometimes appear in public without hiding what you are..."

Rogue smiled wistfully remembering some of the incidents. There had been trouble occasionally, but there also were rewards. Like that broken-nosed window-cleaner whose life she had saved and who later threatened to beat up a mutiphobe bigot who had given her grief at Bloomies. Too bad she had forgotten to ask him for his name. He was kind of cute being chivalrous.

Magneto continued: "Charles, on the other hand, always takes great care to appear as a normal Homo sapiens sapiens. Some of his recent actions subordinated his old belief in the good in mankind to expediency. It wasn't just when he reduced me to a drooling idiot (although in that moment he became very much like me). But just look at the way he is playing fast and loose with the facts to partly cover up the Legacy Virus crisis."

Rogue's mouth opened to defend Professor X, but she thought better of it. Who was she kidding? She herself could not understand why Hank and the Professor had been so eager to cover up the fact that not just mutants could contract the Legacy Virus. But then she had not been asked. The net gain seemed so minimal: So the public would learn about this health hazard a few months later. But at what price? Such maneuvers had a way of backfiring -- here in Germany that was very apparent in the cynical way the general public now reacted to research results on BSE published under the auspices of the British government. Why would the Professor take such a risk? It was almost as if he was not being himself. Was that the reason she had not told him she was going to meet with Magneto today? For Hank it had already caused great personal pain when he unexpectedly found himself up against his girlfriend in public. He and Trish had still not yet reconciled.

Magneto had paused, when it seemed Rogue was going to say something. Now he went on: "And yet, although his own actions seem to vindicate my pessimism, I am only sad. If it wasn't for the youthful idealism of people like you, one could be tempted to despair. But I also was thinking about the personal disappointment I caused you. We were more than friends for a time, in the Savage Land."

She nodded, then, after the silence had became more and more uncomfortable: "Yes, ah was hurt, and there's no denyin' what ah felt for you..."

"And now?"

"For a while ah sorta had an on-the-rebound thing goin' with Gambit, but that turned sour. Suddenly his wife showed up -- he's legally still married t' some assassin in the Big Easy -- an' that wasn't the only nasty secret he tried t' keep from me. Then, when ah finally found out he was leadin' me on -- we kissed when we thought the world was ending -- it all went to pieces. At the moment he's on leave from the team, tryin' to sort out what he messed up."

"I'm sorry..." Magneto looked concerned.

"Ah guess Remy 'n' me can both chalk it up as a growth experience. Look, what he did in the past was horrible, but he wants t' make amends." She did not answer Magneto's unspoken question. Her lively face went through a succession of emotions -- anger, embarrassment, regret -- before it settled into a sad expression of pity. She felt Gambit still had the right to make a clean breast of it to the others when he finally felt ready; if she confronted the others with his secret shame without his consent, she was not sure if his fragile ego could take it. That way he still had a chance to regain his self-respect. She sighed. "What hurt me most was that he never could bring himself t' be honest with me, always tried t' make me feel bad for askin' him about himself. Ah had to wonder if he really loved me for mahself, or 'cause he subconsciously enjoyed the raised self-esteem or power mah ... infatuation gave him. At one point he almost had me thinkin' he might actually be impervious t' mah power! You at least never raised any false hopes in me..."

"I only broke your heart when I left you in Pangea," Magneto moved towards her, "paying no heed to your appeals to my better angels. It took me long enough to take them up and think of making a fresh start, even if I'm not yet ready to the X-Men, if I'll ever be."

Rogue looked puzzled. Such high-flown phrases were not her style, so she was not sure what to make of him using them on her. But you had to make allowances -- even though he had been artificially rejuvenated by Eric the Red, he belonged to an older generation that was used to a more poetic and declamatory style of speaking. "I was too impatient for the slow road then, but in the weeks and months sitting on Asteroid M, waiting for my memories to return, I had time to ponder many things."

Rogue butted in with a question: "Yes, ah've been meanin' to ask -- ah thought the Prof had sucked 'em all out. How did you regain your memories?"

"Well, most would have returned in any case, given enough time and patience. It was a bit like erasing files on a computer disk. Until you record something that uses its data space, the files are still there, you just can't find them in the directory. With a few extra twiddles on the dials you can still eventually access them. On Asteroid M, I had ... friends who nursed me back to health. One especially, an old friend of Charles's..." There was a distant look in Magneto's eyes for an instant, then he shook it off. "And we had my backup databanks that they could use to help me restore my memories. And having to stay in one place all the while gave me ample time to think and reminisce. About what you had told me in the Savage Land, and about our times together there..."

His hand moved up to her face as of its own accord.

"Magneto, you're holding my chin...", Rogue said in shock.

"Sorry, you don't want me tooo..." His voice trailed off. Only now did the significance of that statement dawn on him -- he was not wearing gloves. Normally that would have meant that she should have absorbed his powers and memories through their skin-to-skin contact and he should no longer be conscious. After all, he was not projecting the high-scale electromagnetic shell he would raise in a fight. He froze.

And everything went black.

He woke laid out on the bed. Rogue was sitting by his side, her face a mirror of her relieved concern. "Welcome back to the world of the living."

He had a little trouble finding his bearings. "How long was I out?"

"About a minute or two, sugah."

"What happened?" he asked, slowly raising himself.

"Near as ah can tell from what ah saw and the memories I caught," Rogue replied, "ah can only assume that you must've been projectin' a low-level biomagnetic field around your body. Sort of on stan'by, 'cause y'are in unfamiliar surroundings. An' then, when ya discovered our skins were touchin', ya were so surprised ya switched off your powers and mine cut in."

Magneto scratched his chin pensively. "Yes, that could be it. Your power -- or at any rate the part that absorbs memories -- is clearly connected to the nerve endings and synapses in the skin, and my magnetic field must prevent the bio-electrical transfer. And I am probably continually 'on standby', as you put it. Now if I do it again, I should be able to..." He gently touched her cheek. Nothing happened. Her eyes became moist, but her face lit up in silent happiness. Magneto's mouth, too, broadened in a smile.

"Magnus, isn't this amazin'?" she said, her voice half-cracking with the overwhelming experience. "You know, ah had practically given up hope..."

"At least as long as I remember to build up a biomagnetic field around my body."

"Ah was in your head just now, so I know how you feel 'bout me," she said. "Now, if'n ya'll remember t' maintain your field, ah think ah'd like t' demonstrate how ah feel 'bout you..." She put her arms around him and planted a big wet kiss on his lips. For once, could just settle back and enjoy it, without having to catch her partner's slumping body or being troubled by the sudden inrush of memories. She was loath to end it, but finally she broke away.

They both took a deep breath, at a loss for words for a while.

At last, Rogue spoke: "Ah reckon we'd better get back t' business. After all, that's why we came 'n' met here, t'discuss what ya're gonna do now..." Personal is not always the same as important, she thought with a mixture of sadness and determination, personal is not important.

"Yes, I guess we'd better...", Magneto added reluctantly. He sensed that they had passed a great barrier in their personal relationship.

She had to giggle at his doleful expression. "Sorry," she apologized. "It ain't that ah wouldn't like to... But ah think ah'd rather work out mah feelins about this first. Ah've waited most of mah life to be able to do this..." Against his expectations (hopes), she did not kiss him again. Instead she contented herself with taking off her glove and tenderly stroking his cheek. "...without losin' mah powers. But," she added, "ah reckon it won't hurt -- too much -- to wait a little more before we ... explore the wider possibilities..."

Magneto resigned himself to it. He certainly would not want Rogue to rush into things just because they had accidentally discovered that she could.

XII. The thin crescent moon momentarily broke through the dark clouds and its pale white light was reflected oft the glass of the telephone booth. Inside, a young American was busily speaking.

"Everything turned out well, thankfully. I hardly was needed. ... Right, mommy, I'll had a proper dinner, not a burger or a Currywurst ... What's a Currywurst? You don't really want to know ... Actually, I ran into an old acquaintance and he invited me out. You know, the one I met in Berlin a few years ago."

Maybe I'm being paranoid by not mentioning Wolverine's name, Peter Parker thought, but you never know with the telephone, especially when it's radioed over long distance. Better safe than sorry.

"He said our last time together in Deutschland was such a downer that he wanted to make up for it a little ... well, glad everything went well at the checkup ... have a nice evening ... Love you too! ... Byee!"

This story was first published in Menshevik Annual #5 in the April 1996 mailing of MZS-APA (Homepage: For this posting, a few changes (mostly matters of style and grammar) were made. Chapter XI underwent a more extensive rewrite, as it had been a bit rushed to make the deadline for the first publication and I was not entirely satisfied with it.
A number of differences to the mainstream Marvel Universe should have become apparent in the story. In general, I stick to the writings of Chris Claremont and draw part of my inspiration from the stories written by his successors. However, I make additions of my own and reserve the right not to adopt plot developments that strike me as implausible or out of character (yes, I know lots of people probably would not agree about the way I see e.g. Magneto, Gambit and Mystique, but you can't please all of the people all of the time). So although in the Twilight Menshevik Universe there were events similar to Fatal Attractions and LegionQuest, they did not happen the same way. Magneto did rip out the Adamantium from Wolverine's bones, but he had not caused the death of thousands before that -- to my mind, because of his personal history, Magneto would have thought of different ways to demonstrate his powers without (by his standards) needlessly endangering so many lives of innocents. Mystique's road to X-Factor also was a little different, as in the TMU she was exclusively concerned with her undercover struggle with Graydon Creed after the end of the Muir Island Saga and did not attempt to kill David Haller, as he was not responsible for Destiny's death. When Claremont wrote her, Mystique acted extremely rationally and did not display the fits of madness that beset her in some of the more recent stories.
In case you wonder about the codenames of the non-Marvel characters, the ones not self-explanatory or explained in the text have the following meanings: Cuirassé Bleu: Blue armoured Ship/Battleship; Caçadores do Sul etc.: Hunters of the South; Squadra Mista: Mixed Squad; Turma Tonante: Thundering Group; Alianza Alada: Winged Alliance; Corneja Supersónica: Supersonic Crow; Gardiens du Nord etc.: Northern Guardians; Hypernormaler Einsatzdienst: Hypernormal Operational Service; Zeeuwse Leeuw: Zealand Lion; Cigogne Tricolore: Red-White-and-Blue Stork (inspired by a famous fighter squadron -- storks are also very much associated with Alsace-Lorraine); Doktor Donau: Doctor Danube; Havörnen: Sea-Eagle (Danish); Marcassin: Young Wild Boar; Spassvogel: Jester, Wag; Vlugge Hagedis: Quick Lizard. Kakothanasia correlates to Euthanasia, only while the Greek prefix "eu-" means "good, well", "kako-" (as in cacophony) is "bad, evil". Hammonia is the female personification of Hamburg (so you could say she's a sister to Britannia, Columbia and other feminine national symbols), Griepenkerl is Low German and means "grab-the-man".
Acolytes, Alpha Flight, Asteroid M, Aurora, Avengers, Baron Zemo, Beast (Hank McCoy), Black Widow, Belladonna Boudeau, Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Captain America (Steve Rogers), Captain Britain, Colossus (P.N.Rasputin), Valerie Cooper, Graydon Creed, Crystal, Cyclops (Scott Summers), Daily Bugle, Department H, Destiny (Irene Adler), Diamond Lil, Doctor Strange, Eric the Red, Excalibur, Fantastic Four, Countess Valentina Allegro de la Fontaine, Forge, Freedom Force, Nick Fury, Gambit, Genosha, Guardian (Heather Hudson), Henry Peter Gyrich, Havok (Alex Summers), Hawkeye, Human Torch, Invisible Woman, J. Jonah Jameson, Ned Leeds, Legacy Virus, Magneto (Magnus), Meggan, Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards), Mystique (Raven Darkhölme), Nightcrawler (Kurt Wagner), Northstar, Phoenix (Rachel Summers), Polaris (Lorna Dane), Professor X (Charles Xavier), Puck, Punisher (Frank Castle), Henry Pym, Quicksilver (Pietro Maximoff), Random, Cody Robbins, Bernadette Rosenthal Rogers, Sabretooth (Victor Creed), Sasquatch, "Secret Hospital", Amanda Sefton, Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde), Shadow King (Amahl Farouk), She-Hulk (Jennifer Walters), S.H.I.E.L.D., Raymond Sikorski, Spider-Man (Peter Parker), Storm (Ororo Munroe), Lyja Storm, Strong Guy, Alistaire Stuart, Thing, Thor, Trish Tilby, Amelia Voght (Voght, by the way, is a good Hamburg name), Wasp (Janet Van Dyne), Mary Jane Watson-Parker, W.H.O., Wolfsbane, Wolverine (Logan), X-Factor, and X-Men are TM & (c) Marvel Comics Group. The Euro-heroes (except those belonging to Excalibur) and villains, Spider-Man's Silkworm disguise, Val Cooper's unborn daughter (Irene Cooper) and her Aunt Emma (Andreesen), Pierre Plaszek, Captain Ronarc'h and the other non-Marvel participants at the conference belong to me, Tilman Stieve (, for all the good that does. Any resemblance of the story to real persons and situations is of course purely coincidental.


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