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The Starlight Saga, Chapter Seven

Mac O'Roni

     “Hello. May I please speak to Master Jean-Luc? There are foxes in my hen houses.”
     A long, uncertain pause. “Jus’ a moment, ma’m’selle,” the thickly accented voice on the other end of the line finally returned. Storm was not at all surprised, although she knew whoever she was speaking to likely was. There weren’t many outside the Guild who knew the priority codes, and this man had probably never heard an unfamiliar voice speak that particular one, which meant to convey that a family member was in trouble.
     A longer pause, and a deep, angry voice came on the other end. “If dis is some kin’ of joke, you goan fin’ out it ain’—”
     “It’s me, Jean-Luc,” she cut in.
     “…Ororo? What wrong? Somet’tin’ wrong wit’ Remy?” The anger had dissolved utterly, replaced by instant and undoubtedly genuine concern. Jean-Luc LeBeau, Master Thief and Patriarch of the most notorious thieves guild in New Orleans (and most of the world, for that matter), was a hard man by nature as well as by training. He was not easy to like. But Storm had long ago learned that he had one weakness, and that weakness was his adopted son. It was impossible thenceforward for her to dislike the man, knowing as she did that he genuinely adored her self-appointed brother.
     She heard him calling for Tante Mattie, the Creole traiteur who had been the closest thing to a mother that Remy had probably ever had in his life. She gave them time before she answered.
     “Yes, something is wrong with Remy, Jean-Luc. But I don’t know exactly what. I was hoping you could help me find out.”
     “He ain’ hurt or nothin’?” Unmistakable relief.
     “Not exactly, no.”
     “He in de stars,” a foggy, age-grizzled female voice said, faint but audible over the long-distance receiver. Storm shuddered at Tante Mattie’s eerie words, remembering her own thoughts the night before. She knew that her brother loved this woman dearly, but she could never quite get over the chilling presence of the woman’s powers. “We goan lose him, Jean-Luc, if somet’tin’ ain’t done.”
     “Quoi?” That hard voice now betrayed fear.
     “He’s been acting very strange lately,” Ororo said. “Not himself at all. You see, an art show came to town, and we found out about…about his childhood.”
     “Dat damn salaud d’Ardielle?” he swore.
     “Yes, that was the artist’s name,” she replied dryly.
     “I tell you what, ‘Roro, if he hadn’ kicked off hisse’f, I’da killed him for what he done.”
     “I do not doubt it. In any event, Remy handled that quite well. Afterward, however, something happened, which I believe to have been at least indirectly related, that was…quite upsetting to him.”
     “I do not know. There are those here who do, but I do not think that it matters. What matters is that since then, Remy has been very much not himself. In fact, it is quite as though he were many miles away—”
     “—An’ jus’ phonin’ in his feelin’s,” Jean-Luc finished. He sounded weary. “Oui, chère—he done dis before.”
     “He has? Then you know how to bring him out of this state?”
     “I let you talk to Mattie. She know more ‘bout dis part den I do.”
     She didn’t want him to turn over the telephone to the mystic, but sat silent while the exchange was made.
     “You know where he be, l’il sissa-girl,” the woman’s cobwebbed voice wheezed. “He out ‘mongst his kinfolk in de skies.”
     Or maybe she’d said “disguise.” Ororo didn’t know what Tante Mattie meant either way—almost everything she said was a thinly disguised riddle, probably on purpose to increase her aura of mystery. But she listened respectfully. There was something about the traiteur that demanded respect.
     “If you don’ bring him back t’ hisse’f soon, l’il sissa-girl, he goan stay out dere an’ you ain’ never goan see him ‘gain in dis life.”
     “That is what I fear, Tante. How do I bring him back?”
     "You goan have t’ figga dat out f’ y’sef, chile. Las’ time dis happen, de boy was jus’ a boy. He were sad an’ scairt an’ di’n’t have nobody what love him. Took long time f’ me and Jean-Luc to bring him roun’. Di’n’t trus’ us, mais non! Di’n’t trus’ nobody, po’ chile! Not even his own se’f. You goan have t’ figga out how t’ make him trus’ y’, l’il sissa-girl, an’ show him y’ love him an’ want him back!”
     Storm slammed her fist down on the table. She had thought that Remy did trust her, and that he knew she loved him. But clearly, he must still have his doubts about that or he would have come to her for help.
     “How did you manage it, Tante Mattie?” she asked.
     “Back den, it wa’an’t so hard as it goan be now. He were too young, he still need people back den. We jus’ give him his space, give him our love, an’ ‘ventually he come t’ us. Dis time, ain’ goan happen dat way. He grown man now, big an' strong an' he don' t'ink he need nobody. You goan have t’ go to him, chile. He won’ come t’ you.”
     “How do I do that?”
     Tante Mattie laughed, a sound like ancient, rusty hinges. “Chile, I don’t know! You de only one can, dat’s all I know.”
     “Thank you, Tante. I guess I’ll figure it out somehow,” Storm said, rubbing the bridge of her nose in exhaustion. She said her goodbyes to the mystic and the thief, promised an agitated Jean-Luc that she would take care of his son, of course she would, what were l’il sissa-girls for, and hung up the phone.
     She sat for a moment, hand rubbing distractedly at her brow and the other still on the telephone receiver. Then she plucked it back out of the cradle and dialed another number.
     “Hello, Muir Island Hospital? Is Professor Charles Xavier there? I need to speak to him. It’s something of an emergency.”
     Storm was feeling much better by the time she got off the phone with Professor Xavier. She climbed the stairs to her attic loft with a lighter step than she had in days. Everything was going to be all right, she was sure of it. Whatever Tante Mattie thought, she had utter faith in Xavier’s abilities to set things straight.
     But she knew as soon as she opened the door that something was terribly wrong. A flood of confused, frightened emotions assaulted her fairly as soon as she turned the knob to enter.
     These were not her emotions, they were Remy’s. She knew all about his empathetic sense, of course, but had never known him to broadcast before. It scared her, because she knew that it probably meant that his psi-shields were completely down. This could be worse than I bargained for, she thought.
     She found him curled up and quivering at the foot of her bed, face streaked with tears, and that scared her further. He looked so lost, and so young—a child with no one to trust in, and no one who loved him.
     When they first met, Ororo had been the child with nothing and no one. The Shadowking was out to get her, and she was scared and confused. A thief had taken her under his wing, kept her safe, kept her well, and she had loved him with all her heart ever since. Now it looked like it was time to return the favor.
     She sat down on the bed beside him and moved to put her arm around his shoulders. It hurt her heart to see the terrified way he shrank from her touch.
     “Remy…Remy, my friend, my brother—it is I. Your Stormy.”
     Stormy mad at Remy. The words were clear enough that she almost believed he had spoken aloud, but realized with a shock that the communication had been mind-to-mind.
     No! Never! she thought back, wondering if the message would be received.
     Oui, she is! She fight the mads all las’ night, an’ don’t get a lick of sleep for it!
     Did he know that before, or did he read it from the imprint of my emotions in the bed?
she wondered, forgetting for a moment that their minds were joined psychically.
     Oui, Gambit feel it in de sheets. Please don’ be mad, ‘Ro—Remy di’n’t mean t’ poke him nose in where it don’ belong! Him jus’ come in here ‘cause he t’ought bein’ where you’d been might make him feel better.
     She noted that his speech, or thought patterns or whatever this was, was less grammatically correct than usual, his mental accent thicker. Was that the way he always thought, or in the extremity of his anguish, was he reverting to an earlier, easier way of talking?
     Remy, you have nothing to apologize to me for. I am not now, nor have I been at any point in the near past, angry with you. I did spend last night in a fury— she admitted, knowing that there was no point in lying about it— but I was angry with Hank and Logan, not you.
     Why you angry at dem, chere? Y’ still are, I can feel it.
     I’m angry at them for not noticing you were still hurting. For using you and not considering what was best for you.

     He looked at her through eyes that seemed strangely magnified. She realized that they shimmered with unshed tears. His lower lip quivered, and then he was in her arms, sobbing violently, his face buried in the hollow of her shoulder.
     Dey leave Remy, padnat, his voice echoed in her mind. Dey leave him all alone again. All he wan’ was t’ be loved, an’ dey take it away from him.
     “What?” She was so shocked that she said it out loud.
     Dey say dey can’ give him de kin’ a love him need, an’ dey say it all f’ de bes’. It don’ feel like de best t’ me, chere. Mais non!
     She rocked him in her arms like a baby, cooing softly and trying to comfort him, telling him that she loved him, always loved him, over and over. She kept herself calm in this way, and that was important. At this point, her friend was more vulnerable to her emotions than he was to his own, and she did not want him to feel the sick black rage that threatened her bright soul. It took a long time, but eventually the young man in her arms cried himself to sleep.
     “Don’t worry, my friend,” she whispered, her voice deadly calm. “I will make everything better in the end. I swear it. I will do this…
     “…or I will die trying.”

     Halfway around the world, in a dimly-lit underground laboratory echoing with the screams of unwilling test subjects, a telepathic presence was detected by a mind that never turned far from thoughts of it. Glowing red eyes gleamed in triumphant ferocity as the former Dr. Nathaniel Essex stood and drank in the flood of confused and terrified emotions he was receiving from his prize, his life’s greatest frustrated experiment.
     “LeBeau…” he said. His voice was low, deadly, and hungry.

On to Chapter Eight!