Chicago, Illinois, Monday Morning
Ben Reilly was dreaming. He was walking in a lush green field, miles from civilisation, and he had never felt such peace in his short, eventful existence. Part of the reason he felt so happy was the person walking beside him, hand in hand, that physical contact lifted his spirits and his heart soared through the clear blue sky. In the dream, Ben realised that the person with him was someone he loved, and more importantly, someone who loved him too. He knew that all he had to do was look to his left and he would find out who that person was.
For a moment, a sense of panic and fear permeated him, he was afraid to look at his companion, afraid of what he might find. Pushing those emotions aside, he turned his head in the dream state and looked into a pair of dark eyes. Before he could make out any more features of the female with him, and somehow he instinctively knew she was female, a ringing noise filled his dream and his companion disappeared. Ben looked around, trying to find the source of the noise…
With a gasp, his eyes snapped open and his hand groped for the bedside table and the phone there. He glanced at the clock and saw that it was four in the morning, he groaned inwardly that he was being disturbed so early in the morning, and in the middle of a great dream too. He lifted the receiver and sat up in bed. A pleasant female voice spoke on the line.
“Ben Reilly?” She asked.
Ben replied the best way he knew how, “Can I have the chicken supreme special, with fried rice?” he asked, and as an afterthought, “Oh, and throw in some prawn crackers too.” Ben smiled as stunned silence and a weary sigh greeted him, you wake me up, prepare to reap the consequences…
“He warned me you might be like this.” The mysterious woman replied calmly.
“Do you know what time it is?” Ben asked.
“Yes, but you hero-types don’t exactly have regular working hours.” The woman said with a hint of amusement in her voice.
Hero-types? Ben was curious. How did this woman know his name, his number, and the fact that he aspired to be heroic? He spoke, “Okay, let’s try this then, who are you, can you hear the words coming out of my mouth?”
The woman replied, “We have a mutual acquaintance, my ex-husband, Remy LeBeau.”
Ben understood now, “Belladonna,” he said. “How did you get landed with a name like that.”
Belladonna Bordeaux sighed again, “Mr. Reilly, if you could leave the humour aside for one minute,” she said sternly. “I need your help.” The pain in her voice was unmistakable, here was a woman who was not used to asking anyone for help, and especially someone associated with his former husband. “Can you come to New Orleans, Ben? The Guild is in need of your…expertise.”
“What’s the deal?” he asked.
“Unlicensed thieves.” Belladonna paused. “The Guild usually deals with unlicensed theft but in this case, we have an outside group who seem to be trying to usurp the Guild system.”
“And this concerns me how?” Ben asked.
“This concerns you because a young mutant is involved with the group. The Guild has had trouble in the past regarding mutants, so we need a little outside help.” Belladonna replied.
“Okay, I’ll bite, but why call me, wouldn’t Remy be the better option?” Ben was feeling uneasy, a little worried that he might be drawn into something he should be involved with.
“My darling husband is off on one of his crusades again, travelling the world, righting wrongs.” Belladonna stopped for a moment. “Besides, he told me if I couldn’t contact him, I was to contact you…”
“Me?” Ben was curious now. “You are kidding me, right?”
“No. Be grateful, Remy doesn’t put his trust in many people, and I admit I am curious to meet the man who seems to impress my former lover.” Belladonna gave a short sharp laugh.
“I’ll arrange flights for you, leaving tomorrow,” Belladonna began, “and one of the Guild will collect you from the airport.”
Ben interrupted, “Make that reservations for three, I have a couple of…associates that will be accompanying me.”
“Associates…Very well, I will contact you later this evening with the details.” With that, Belladonna hung up the phone. Ben sat up in bed, fully awake now, half reluctant and half curious about what he would find in New Orleans, at the very least, can you say road trip…?
Seven Hours Later
Kitty Pryde opened the door of her room, intrigued by the sounds of laughter she could hear floating down the hall. The scene that greeted her was beyond belief. Her roommate, Jubilation Lee, sat on her own bed, tears streaming down her face as she laughed uncontrollably. Kitty’s pet dragon, Lockheed, hovered around Jubilee; his attention fixed on the young blond man standing in the middle of the room. Kitty regarded Ben Reilly for a moment, and then shook her head. Ben was hanging upside down from the ceiling, while attempting to juggle three balls. Kitty couldn’t help but smile as her newest friend tried to keep Jubilee and Lockheed amused. Kitty knew well enough that both of her companions had very short attention spans and regularly exclaimed their boredom and to be honest, she was pleased that Ben was making such an effort to fit in.
Ben quickly dropped to the floor, and handed the three balls back to Jubilee. Ben had a look of hopeful determination on his face and Kitty knew that something was going on.
“Okay, what’s up,” she asked.
Jubilee opened her mouth to start babbling, but Ben quickly slipped behind her and covered her mouth with his hand. “Are you doing anything important the next couple of days?” he asked, as he struggled to restrain the squirming Jubilee.
“Not really, classes are finished for the week, why do you ask?” Kitty had a dread feeling that she was about to be dragged into something.
“Well, I was thinking we could go to New Orleans…” Ben began.