*******
Previously: In order to find an in with drug-dealing elite of Dutch society, the X-Women have accepted an invitation to a party, hosted by the Dutch branch of the Hellfire Club. Expecting the Dutch branch to be a collection of provincial degenerates, they were very surprised to run into Selene the Black Queen and her servant Kevin Ford, formerly a student at Xavier’s. As Kitty and her team try to make the best of the mission, they are getting picked of one by one. And meanwhile, Modred the Mystic and John Sublime seem to have some designs of their own.
*******

An autumn storm raging over the Netherlands had made the head-servant of the Hellfire Club’s Amsterdam Branch decide to close the front-door. Any late arrivals to the night’s festivities would have to knock before being admitted. As most of the members and guests were already present, the head-servant did not really expect anybody to come knocking, thus ensuring somebody did. A servant went hastily to the door, to admit the person arriving as the party was already well underway.

“Ah, good. I was afraid I might not be let in at this hour. That would most certainly have perplexed me.” the man at the door said, stepping inside and folding his umbrella. He wore the classical baroque style of the Hellfire Club, all black, and had long gray hair, tied back in a ponytail. He also wore very peculiar purple-tinted glasses.

“Excuse me sir, might I enquire after your name? I do not know you as a member and you are not on the guest list” the servant said, looking at a mounted screen near the entrance.

“My name is Modred, called the Mystic. I have been a member of this gentleman’s club for decades, frequenting the London branch’ HQ” Modred said, handing the servant his umbrella, and grabbing a small amount of yellow dust from his pocket.

“I was not aware of any additional visitors, Sir Modred, let me please consult…” the servant said, as Modred blew the dust in the man’s face. The servant shook his head, and then looked at Modred again.

“Sir Modred, welcome and enjoy your evening” the servant said. Modred nodded at the servant, and walked down the hall into the ballroom. There, he threw another small amount of dust in the face of the servant that handled the announcements, and disappeared into the crowd. Standing near the winding staircase to lead to the second floor, Modred took off his glasses. He let his eyes go over every face he could see in the huge ballroom, and studied everyone carefully. He the put his glasses back on, and did the same thing over again.

“Hmm, It is good to see none of these fine Ladies and Gentleman have obscured their true nature. Of course, one does not need to hide one’s nature in company such as this, where everyone is a shark” Modred said to himself, and pulled out his compass. The needle of the compass glowed fiery red now, and Modred smiled. His target was close, very close.

*********

As Kitty danced with a bore of a man, who talked constantly of how well his shipping company was doing in spite of the credit crisis, she could no longer suppress a yawn.

“Tired already? The night is still young” the broad-shouldered man said.

“I’m sure it is” Kitty mumbled under her breath.

“Perhaps a little energy boost?” the man asked.

“Like what?” Kitty asked.

“Like the white substance that gets us all through heavy nights” the man said with an insincere smile.

Kitty understood the man was talking about cocaine, and went with the man as he leads her of the dance floor. Looking around, she saw that Abby was still dancing with a handsome young man, whereas Alani and Clarice had disappeared. Kitty then accompanied the man into the hallway, and into a supply room.

“I figured you’d like some” the man said as he took a small paper bag from his pocket, “You Americans like living in the fast lane, don’t you?”

“You said it” Kitty said, hiding her disgust for the man, who proceeded to lay out four lines of cocaine for them on a small wooden table.

“After you” the man said.

“Oh no. The owner goes first!” Kitty said, buying a little more time to get out of snorting drugs.

“As you wish” the man said, rolled a 100 euro note into a straw and snorted up two of the four lines. As he wiped his eyes and nose, he handed the straw to Kitty. Kitty then bent forward over the table, and phased the table, causing the cocaine to drop through it. She then made a slight noise to indicate she was in fact taking the drugs, and stood up again.

“That’s pure Columbian, you knowm” the man said, “I import it myself, through Surinam”

“Hmmm…. It may be too early too tell, but I’ve had better,” Kitty said, hoping the man was dumb enough not to notice she was lying.

“Are you serious? Like what? This is premium stuff we’re talking about here!” the man said.

“Oh, I don’t know… I just thought… I’m in Amsterdam. There must be something better here than just plain old cocaine or XTC…” Kitty answered, a little less nervous as she noticed her dance-partner was already feeling the effect of the drugs he took.

“Oh, I see… A connoisseur, are you? I suppose I could get you something else… I have my contacts, you know” the man boasted, putting an arm around Kitty.

“Yeah? So what can your contacts get me? What amounts?” Kitty said, graciously moving out from under the man’s arm.

“Amounts? What are you talking about, woman?” the man asked, slightly dismayed.

“Hello! Are we still on the same page here? You may have come here for the dancing, but I sure didn’t. I want to buy. I want to buy large quantities to ship to the US, and I want exclusive rights to the product. Now, what can your contacts get me?” Kitty said, getting into her role as a drug-importer.

“Hmmm… I… I’m not sure… I could introduce you… He’s here right now, so…” the man stammered.

“Well, what are we waiting for, then? You didn’t think I was going to be spending any more time with you here, did you?” Kitty said. The man was in complete shock, and hurried to compose himself. Then he opened the door of the supply-room for Kitty, and escorted her back to the ball-room. Kitty looked around the room, and saw that Abby had gone, too.

********

When Kevin had suddenly left Alani on the dance-floor to run off, Alani had not hesitated long before going after him. She went down a hallway that led to a big hall, with a grand flight of stairs that lead upwards. Kevin was nowhere to be seen.

“Kevin? Where are you?” Alani called.

No reaction came, and the only sound Alani heard echoing through the hallway was the sound of the music coming from the ball-room.

“Kevin? I’m sorry, Kevin. I didn’t mean to bust your balls or anything” Alani said, but again, no reaction was forthcoming.

Alani looked around, and saw that all the doors in the hall were closed. She tried them one by one, but found them all locked. With nowhere else to go, Alani went up the flight of stairs. Once upstairs, she found herself in a large corridor, lined with many doors. Alani gave a sigh, not wanting to spend too much time on her own in a place like The Hellfire Club HQ.

“Kevin?” Alani called out again, but once more there was no reaction. Alani went left down the corridor, but was hesitant about randomly checking doors. You never knew what you would find, after all, and she was quite sure that she was not supposed to be here. All of a sudden, she heard a door open behind her. Alani turned, and saw Kevin standing in the corridor.

“Kevin! I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it, you know?” Alani said and saw Kevin was shivering.

“I’m sorry, Alani…” Kevin stammered.

“Oh. Okay. About what?” Alani asked, and never saw the man who came up behind her and sprayed her with fast-acting knock-out gas.

********
“Ladies, please. There is no need for such language here” the Black Lady of the Amsterdam Hellfire Club said. Rachel and Selene stood almost nose to nose, like price-fighters before a big match. They had all moved in to a chamber next to the ballroom to continue their discussion in private. Once the Black Lord had closed the door behind him to stand with the Black Lady, Rachel had turned the discussion into a shouting match between her and Selene. The evil Black Queen had not responded well to Rachel’s threats and called her several derogatory names, smiling as she did it.

“I want to know what is going on here!” Rachel said, “Why have you invited me along with this… creature? What is the purpose of this?”

“We are merely hosting an evening for visiting Lords Cardinal. I hope you are not implying any sinister motivations on our part” the Black Lord said.

“Ah, Joseph… Let’s play our cards openly, shall we?” Selene said, “By now the need for subterfuge has passed. You do realize this, dear Rachel?”

“I hope you realize that last time we met in Hong Kong I beat you, Selene. Now, I won’t stop at that!” Rachel warned.

“Oh, really? And may how ask how you are going to accomplish this minor miracle without the use of your powers? You must have noticed by now that this whole place is rigged with psychic dampeners? You can’t use any of your formidable talents on the premises” Selene taunted Rachel.

“Neither can you. Your psychic powers are gone, too” Rachel said.

“True, but there is always magic!” Selene said. She gestured with her hands and spoke in an indecipherable tongue. Before Rachel could react, the carpet rose up beneath her feet and wrapped itself around Rachel. Rachel struggled as hard as she could, but the magic animating the carpet was strong.

“Black Lord, if you would do the honors? There are more levels to this re-enactment” Selene said, and left the room through another door.

As Rachel struggled, she saw the Black Lord pick up a wooden baton, and the last thing Rachel saw was him smashing it into her head.

*********

Clarice had had a busy night so far. She had been snooping through all the offices and other rooms upstairs, to find something that could connect the Hellfire Club to drug-dealing, mutants or both. So far, she had come up empty on all counts. Finally she had found the office of The Black Lord Joseph Ter Einder. Clarice started going through the man’s paperwork, notes and letters right away, thanking the archaic traditions of the Club that forbade digital correspondence. Clarice had to restrain herself from laughing out loud when she found out that in real life the Black Lord was a television and theater producer, having grown wealthy through the production of mass-family-entertainment. The Black Lady was a politician in real life, an influential figure in the European Committee. Thinking that every country got the degenerates it deserved, she continued digging. Finally, she found something interesting. It was a letter by Selene to the Black Lord, which indicated that the Black Queen had been visiting every Hellfire Club Branch in the world to get their endorsement for founding a new Hellfire Club that would lord over all other branches. It seemed the Black Lord had been jockeying for favors, and in return had told her of an opportunity to find an old enemy, Rachel. Selene had accepted his offer, and given him elaborate instructions for a re-enactment.

Clarice remembered what Kitty had told them about the X-Men’s history with the Hellfire Club, how the Inner Circle of the Club had once lured the X-Men to their HQ, and had proceeded to capture all of them and brainwashed their most powerful member. As she realized that Rachel had been isolated from the other’s first, Clarice figured that the Club would try to capture her and the others. Suddenly, the room started spinning violently around Clarice. She tried to concentrate to teleport, but found it impossible to focus on a direction. As the room spun in all directions, Clarice saw the Black Queen coming towards her.

“You ruined your own surprise, dear” Selene said, “There was a time when inhuman looking mutants such as yourself were burned at the stake. Rest assured, this will not be your fate. Yours will serve a purpose”

With a gesture, Selene caused a giant oaken book-case to fall over, dropping on Clarice. The room stopped spinning in Clarice’s eyes, and was replaced by pitch-blackness.

********
“Miss Pryde, this is Mr. William Volwater” Kitty’s dance-partner said, as he introduced her to a chubby blond man in his fifties.

“Pleased to meet you, Miss Pryde” the man said in badly articulated English, “And to what do I owe this pleasure, Barthens?”

“I was told that you are the man to see about doing business of a certain kind” Kitty said, trying for charming.

“I see. Barthens has been bragging about me again?” Volwater said, as Barthens began to stammer.

“I you are not, then I’ll…” Kitty said, berating herself for using a cliché.

“That depends on the business, Miss Pryde” Volwater said, dismissing Barthens and the woman he was talking to with a gesture.

“I want to buy certain chemicals” Kitty said.

“I’m sorry, Miss Pryde. I’m in real estate, not chemicals” Volwater said.

“Right… And I suppose you know Barthens because he imports real estate for you?” Kitty said

“No, he does not. And I think I know what you are talking about. However, I never do business when I’m drinking, and I have already had enough. Come by my office sometime. We’ll talk” Volwater said, and handed Kitty his card.

“I understand” Kitty said, “It was a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Volwater”

“As they say, the pleasure was all mine. Enjoy your evening Miss Pryde” Volwater said, and beckoned the woman he was talking with to come back.

Kitty walked away, and looked around the room. There was no sign of Alani, Abby or Rachel, and Kitty started to worry. Rachel had been gone for a long time, and Kitty found it a little too much of a coincidence that both Alani and Abby were gone at the same time. She tried sending her thoughts to Rachel, but got no response. Walking around the room, she noticed that Kevin was gone, too. What could have happened? Then a servant came up to her with a tray that had a phone on it.

“Excuse me, Miss Pryde, you have a call. Would you like to take it in the library?” the servant asked.

“Yeah… sure…” Kitty answered, and followed the servant out of the ball-room. Every fiber in her being told Kitty that this was a set-up for an ambush, but she followed the servant into the library anyway. She took the phone of the tray, and waited for the servant to leave. Her eyes still on the closing door, Kitty phased immediately when she herd the tiniest of noises, and as she dropped the phone a club went through her head. She turned around and saw two men in ski-masks with clubs.

“Missed me, bub” Kitty said, as she could tell from the body-language of the attackers they had not expected what they had just seen. Both men hesitated for a few seconds, and then ran at Kitty with their weapons raised. Kitty phased again, and as the men passed through her, she turned around, turned solid and kicked one of the men hard in the back of the head. The other recovered from the miss, and made a feint with his club, while kicking Kitty in the legs. Kitty lost her balance, and the man charged her again. Kitty grabbed the man as she graciously moved out of the way, and ran him head-first into a wall. The man seemed to try and get up from it, but Kitty grabbed his head and kneed him in the face.

“Okay, that’s nice” Kitty thought and ripped a bigger split in her evening gown. Looking around, she saw a pair of dueling blades hanging on the wall for decoration. She took both of them, and found that they were actually sharp.

“Kitty to the rescue” she said softly to herself, and then phased through the ground into the cellars.