Rachel was standing outside, in the middle of the Van Oldenbarneveld square. She stood right in between the home of the X-Women and the home The Initiative had provided for Abby. It was late in the afternoon, and almost completely dark.
“Got another box” Alani called out of the window of Abby’s house, and she held a box on the window frame. Rachel looked at it, picked it up telekinetically and floated it through the air into the open window of the X-Women’s house.
“How much stuff do you have in there, Abby?” Rachel said telepathically.
“Oh… eh… A few…” Abby said, uncomfortable with speaking telepathically.
“It’s okay. Just think it, and she hears” Alani said to Abby as they lifted another box to the window.
“Then why did you call to her?” Abby asked.
“I like yelling” Alani answered with a shrug.
Clarice took the box that Rachel had just moved, and put it down inside their room. Abby was moving in with the X-Women, super-hero style. Abby herself had sent a suitcase of clothing across the square on a cloud she controlled, Rachel telekinetically floated the heavier boxes through the air, the ones containing the guns and ammo the Initiative had provided for Abby, and Clarice had teleported the really heavy objects back and forth. As nice as the furnishings and equipment in the X-Women’s apartment were, Abby’s oven, television and washing machine were just a little newer that theirs. Clarice had exchanged them, while Alani had taken apart Abby’s bed and reassembled it at the X-apartment. For her, it was not a powered exercise, but she had seemed perfectly happy doing the work anyway. After a few more telekinetic trips, floating clouds and teleports, the move was over. Alani and Abby were the last two to leave Abby’s apartment.
“So you’re like an X-man now?” Alani asked.
“I don’t know. I haven’t decided yet. And I’m not a mutant, of course”
“Does it matter?” Alani asked.
“That’s for you X-men to decide” Abby said.
“X-Women. I never made X-Man” Alani said.
“You didn’t? How come?”
“I don’t like my powers. I think they suck” Alani said offhandedly.
“You do? Well, I like my powers!” Abby said.
“Yours are cool. Mine are stupid” Alani said.
“So why are you an X-Woman then? I thought you guys trained to become X-Men in that school”
“Some did. Not me. No way” Alani remarked.
“Why no way? You seem to have full control of what you do,” Abby said.
“Being an X-Man is overrated,” Alani stated flatly.
“Then what are you now?” Abby asked.
“X-Woman. Totally different animal!” Alani answered with a smile.
“No! No! Nooo!!!!” came a loud yell from Kitty’s room, as the others were all sitting in the living room. They all hurried to see what had happened, and they saw Kitty standing in front of her computer. It was shut down, which was strange because Kitty had been running programmes to hack into the Initiative personal files and folders continuously for the past week.
“What’s wrong, Kitty?” Rachel asked with a concerned voice.
“It crashed! My computer crashed!” Kitty shouted.
“What happened?” Abby asked.
“What happened is I finally got in! I was inside the Initiative server, and ran a search for the most recent mentioning of Abby. I got an encrypted file, so I ran my own super-decryption program against it, and then it just shut down!”
“So can’t you like, restart it?” Alani suggested.
“Sure.. But which part of crash didn’t you get? The whole damn thing just crashed. Everything on it was erased, every drive, every single bit of data. All gone!” Kitty shouted as she slammed her fists down on he desk.
“Did you… did you see anything?” Abby asked.
“Not really…. I got those weird signs you get when you’re opening a file in Greek or Cyrillic script and your computer doesn’t know those alphabets. Probably some pictogram code. Then, just before it all broke down, there was one line in English: He Loves You” Kitty said.
“He Loves You?” Clarice asked.
“He Loves You…” Kitty repeated.
“That’s sweet” Alani said.
“Well, if He Loves Me so much, why the hell did He crash my computer? Hm?”
“So… What now?” Rachel asked.
“Now, I’m going to borrow Abby’s computer, copy everything she’s got on it, and place some very urgent calls to San Francisco for somebody to send me all my back-up stuff!” Kitty said, still angry.
“Who does computer maintenance in San Fran, anyway? You’re here, Sage is gone…” Rachel asked.
“Hisako. She’s nerdy” Alani answered.
“Hmmm… So that’s who they got to replace me, huh? Well, she’d better be in, because she’s going to be a busy girl! Now, all of you, get out, leave me to my misery!” Kitty said.
The following morning the X-Women we’re all having breakfast together. Kitty was in zombie-mode, having stayed up most of the night to rebuild her computer with the help of Hisako, the X-Men known as Armor. The girl was a big help, actually, and after a night of burning the midnight oil, Kitty had most of her equipment up and running again.
“As glad as I am that I managed to bring my computer back to life, there is one other thing we should be discussing” Kitty said as everybody had finished eating.
“I know. We’re not much closer to finding out how a DJ suddenly became a powerful telepath,” Rachel said.
“Exactly. Nor have we discovered anything about the attacks on us” Kitty replied.
“Maybe we should go over his apartment once more. Or talk to his friends again” Abby suggested.
“Oh yeah, that’s a good idea. Talk to his sleazy friends again and have them ogle us some more, Sure, great idea” Clarice remarked cynically.
“We should follow the drugs” Alani put in.
“Well, we tried that, didn’t we? The dealer was dead!” Rachel said.
“Not the dealer, the drugs” Alani replied.
“What do you mean?” Kitty asked.
“Simple. I think he got his powers from his drugs. The drugs weren’t sold by the dealer we found, or he wouldn’t be so dead. So, somebody had the dealer sell the drugs to Magni. Somebody who knew he went to San Fran. It’s a conspiracy” Alani explained.
“And when did you come up with that?” Kitty asked.
“Between the second and third bite of my sandwich. Pretty cool, right?” Alani answered.
“I don’t see the conspiracy” Abby said.
“I do. Think about it. A telepath roles into San Francisco, and causes a big mess. Somehow, that’s important enough to raise interdimensional interest” Kitty said with a nod to Clarice, “Then we go after what happened, and we get attacked by a bunch of loser-villains, get stuck with an Avengers-spy, no offence, and we get attacked by a bunch of dead mutants. Meanwhile, anything vaguely connected to the instant telepath disappears, and said telepath turns out to be a junkie”
“When you put it that way…” Rachel said, but didn’t finish her sentence as she heard the mail fall through the door. Rachel got up to look what it was, hoping for a letter from Mr. Van Steen, Magni’s father.
“So how do we follow the drugs?” Clarice asked.
“I don’t know. Let me eat another sandwich” Alani answered, as Rachel walked back into the room.
“Okay, you’re not going to believe this” Rachel said.
“What?” Kitty asked, “The mail can’t be that interesting. Nobody knows we’re here”
“Somebody does” Rachel said, as she showed Kitty the envelope that had arrived. On it was the crest of The Hellfire Club, and it was addressed to The White Princess.
“Okay, refugee from another reality here, but what is The Hellfire Club, and who’s The White Princess?” Clarice asked, breaking the ominous silence.
“Thank you, I started to feel stupid about not knowing” Abby said.
“I know. It’s that place where everybody dresses in lingerie or like Miss Frost, right?” Alani said.
“It’s a very exclusive club of powerful people, who socialize and make deals with each other, often run by some more sinister people behind the scenes. They can be very dangerous” Kitty said earnestly.
“So who’s The White Princess?” Clarice asked.
“That would be me,” Rachel answered.
“Gods, how perfect can you get?” Clarice remarked.
“I must have missed something… When did you join?” Kitty asked.
“I didn’t think I did. I was on a mission with Emma Frost, in Hong Kong, and we infiltrated the Club there. I was supposed to be Emma’s Warrior White Princess, and I guess they took that a lot more serious than I did,” Rachel answered.
“So you’re a Princess. I’m taking it you don’t wear a crown?” Clarice asked,
“So you ran around there in your underwear? All the women do!” Kitty remarked, as Alani and Abby were all ears.
“No, I didn’t. Different branches, different rules, I guess” Rachel said.
“What do they want?” Clarice asked.
Rachel opened the envelope carefully, as if she was expecting it to blow up in her hands or something. She perused the contents for a few seconds, while the others waited impatiently.
“I don’t believe it!” Rachel said and read aloud, “The Black Lord & Lady of The Amsterdam Branch of The Hellfire Club are delighted to invite you, White Warrior Princess Rachel Grey to out Hosting Party bla-bla-bla”
“Sounds like a trap!” Kitty said immediately.
“What do they want from us?” Abby asked.
“I swear, a Princess….” Clarice said, shaking her head.
“Cool, when?” Alani asked.
All the eyes were on Alani, who seemed to think she had not said anything out of the ordinary.
“You’re kidding, right?” Rachel asked, “Why would I possibly want to go to a Hellfire Club party?”
“I know you haven’t been with the X-Men long, Alani, but trust me…” Kitty began before she was interrupted.
“It could be useful” Alani said plainly.
“Really? How? By getting ourselves caught or something? These aren’t nice people, Alani!” Kitty warned.
“You’re thinking American, professor Kitty, We’re not in America. This is Europe” Alani said.
“And what is that supposed to mean? I was in Hong Kong at the Hellfire Club, and it was even more degenerated than the US, with the same people running the show” Rachel berated Alani.
“One moment” Alani said, and left to go to her room. A minute later she returned. In her hands, she had the magazine they had all read on the plane or at the airport, with a big article on the Netherlands.
“What’s that?” Abby asked.
“Article on the Netherlands. We all read it” Alani said.
“So?” Rachel asked.
“The wealthiest people here are traders or drug-dealers, right? So, this club is made up of powerful people, traders and drug-dealers. Traders are not super-bad guys, right? So we can go to meet some dealers!” Alani announced triumphantly.
“In a weird way that makes sense” Kitty said.
“No way! I’m not going, and that’s that!” Rachel said.
“Think about it, Ray. We haven’t gotten anywhere, in any of our investigations. This may give us an opportunity to mingle with some people who can help us,” Kitty said.
“She’s got a point, Rachel” Clarice said.
“I’m not going in there alone, it’s too dangerous!” Rachel said, “I may be powerful, but I haven’t got a chance if it turns out to be a trap”
“We’ll all go, right people?” Kitty answered.
“Excuse me, did somebody say that you had to dress in your underwear at that club? Because I’m not going to do that!” Abby said.
“Does it matter?” Alani asked.
“Alani, don’t you have a problem with walking around at a party in your underwear?” Abby asked in disbelief.
“No” Alani answered with a shrug.
“Girl, you scare me sometimes” Kitty said to Alani.
Rachel sighed, and said: “Okay, if you all think it’s a good idea, we’ll do it. Now, I better cal Emma to ask what a Hosting Party is, and if she knows anything about this Amsterdam Branch”
“We’re gonna have to go shopping. I haven’t brought any formal wear,” Kitty said.
“Just how big was that expense account?” Clarice asked.