————— Office of the Lord Imperial —————

Shuffling the papers in his hands, Sebastian Shaw, Black King of the Hellfire Club, put the report into the shredder at the side of his mahogany desk. He sat in silence for a minute, composing himself. Taking his quill he dipped in into an ornate ink jar gilded with silver. He lifted a sheet of parchment from his desk drawer and began to write. When he was finished he blew on the ink to dry it. Scanning it one last time he set it down and lifting a tiny golden bell, rang it. The little chime sounded sweet and rang off into the distance. Getting out of the leather chair he walked over to the window and gazed out over the New York landscape. He turned as he heard the person he had summoned enter.

A woman wearing a red, leather corset walked into the room, entering through a panel in the wall. She adjusted her red lace suspenders, bending sensuously as she did so. Sebastian smiled, wondering if she actually thought such obvious flirtations would garner her any favours from him. Straightening she asked “You rang?”, a slight pout forming on her red, painted lips.

“Yes Eve, I did” he replied using a business like tone. Sensing it the red garbed woman instantly became more professional in her demeanour. Walking across the room she took a seat at his desk and waited to hear what her boss had to say.

“You have been my aide for about half a year now Eve, and in that time you have performed any tasks I have given you exceptionally well”

“Thank you my lord” she replied.

“Yes. I now have a more demanding task for you. As you may be aware, there are a number of, shall we say ‘mutant’ organisations springing up throughout America and in other parts of the world. Even here in New York we have things such as that abominable Bacchae group and … what was it called again … oh yes, Kaufman ‘Enterprises'” he chuckled to himself.

“I have heard of them my lord” confirmed Eve.

“Well, I would like you to help me show these mutant ‘entrepreneurs’, that all mutant business is Hellfire business” he said, menace creeping into his voice.

“A novel idea, but how do you plan to accomplish this, I alone would not be able …” started Eve.

“Yes, yes Eve. I did not intend to send you alone” he said glaring at her for the interruption. “There was a plan in action to help control just this very situation. Have you read the files on our previous White Queen, a Miss Emma Frost?”

“Yes” replied Eve, wondering where he was going with this.

“She was training a group she called the Hellions. They were to be the Hellfire Club’s enforcement. They were assembled to protect the interests of the Club. The Club’s and mine as well for that matter. But that all ended in ashes. Miss Frost made an absolute disaster of the team, ending with most of them dead. One of the few surviving members is the woman known as Tarot. You have seen that shell of a woman wandering the corridors of our headquarters here. Now Miss Frost has turned her back on the very people who made her. Well you, my dear Eve, shall be assembling a new team. I want this project revived and this time it will work. Your task is to bind this new team to the Hellfire Club. Bind them tight Eve”

She watched as he walked over to the desk, sitting in his chair across from her. Lifting a piece of parchment he slid it across the desk to her.

“On there are a list of names. They are mutants but their powers are latent. Now, you know of our latest acquirement, I suggest you begin Eve”

She looks down at the list, upon which there are several names. It was signed by ‘Lord Imperial’.

The first name on the list was Alan Tremaine.

————— Science Department, NYU —————

He looked up from his microscope. Exhausted and mentally drained he pushed his stool back from his work bench and sighed. He had been working on this project for the better part of a year. He had graduated valedictorian from Harvard University when he was sixteen. A year later he finished his Masters project in Oxford College in England and his doctorate in three years from NYU. Now, nearly twenty one, he had finally gotten the research grant to lead his own project. The only thing was the project was not turning out results as quickly as he had foreseen.

His funding body had contacted him a week ago demanding results. He had tried to stall for more time but they had been adamant. He was working flat out now trying to get something ready to present to the grant board next week, but it was looking hopeless. He felt he had let himself down, him and his research students. The project was original and well thought out, but there were always setbacks. Why couldn’t they understand that? Alan was beat, there was no way he was going to finish in time.

He leaned back in his chair and sighed. He began to think of what he would do next when the board shut him down. Discussing travel plans in his mind he was unaware of another presence entering the room.

“Working hard?” said Eve as she leaned against the doorframe, a graceful leg showing through the split in her long, red leather coat.

Gasping in surprise the wheeled chair Alan was sitting in slid from underneath him and he crashed to the tiled floor unceremoniously. Quickly scrambling to his feet he stood and gawked at this imposing, impossibly sexy woman standing in his doorway. She leaned forward and, swaying her hips, walked into the small lab and stopped a few paces away from Alan.

“I hear that your research is about to lose funding” she ventured.

Finding his voice, Alan asked “How do you know that?”.

“A little bird told me” Eve replied with a dismissive wave of her hand, “But that is not important. What is important is what you plan to do about it” she said with a raised eyebrow.

“I … I don’t really know. There is a meeting next week with the board but I don’t think I can be ready for it. If I rush the experiments they will produce useless results but I can’t … I just can’t” he finished, slumping his shoulder, admitting defeat to himself. “Why am I even telling you this?”.

“Oh now, don’t be so downhearted. As a matter of fact I may just be able to help you” said Eve. “I represent someone who has taken an interest in you. He is willing to offer you unlimited funding in return for certain … services”.

“Services?” Alan began before what this strange woman had said registered “Hang on did you say unlimited?”. His eyes lit up again at the thought of being able to continue his work. Eve registered it with delight. This one is in the bag she thought.

She closed the gap between them and pressing herself up against him. Leaning in she spoke right beside his ear “Unlimited”.

Feeling uncomfortable at this woman’s brash behaviour Alan backed up. “What sort of services, because I’m not into anything funky?” he asked.

“Not yet anyway” murmured Eve under her breath. “Well you are in luck then as my employer needs nothing like that from you. He is looking for something entirely different” she smirked.

Unsure of what was happening, Alan was getting frustrated with this woman’s elusive answers. “Look lady, who are you?” he demanded.

“My name is Eve” from somewhere she produced a fruit that looked like an apple and held I out to him. “And I come bearing temptation”.

————— Office of the Lord Imperial —————

She opened the door and slinked through it into the office. Selene smiled to herself, Sebastian was out. She had been ninety percent sure of it beforehand and had decided the ten percent risk would be fun. She was here for no real reason other than to have a snoop around. Bored with her usual pastimes, she thought that it would be exciting to tread the floors of her King while he was away. As they say ‘the mice shall play’. Except she was certainly no mouse.

She wandered over to the mahogany desk and ran her black painted nails over its sleek service. She considered scratching it, to give Sebastian a little mystery to solve but then reconsidered. Something else had caught her attention. A piece of paper lay on the desk. A piece of paper with a list of names on it.

She snatched it up and read it quickly. Smiling to herself she wondered what her darling was up to now.

——————— Science Department, NYU ———————-

The fruit lay on the floor, half eaten. Eve glanced at it and picking it up, stored it in the small bag she had brought it in. She then glanced at the other thing that was lying there. The young, genius scientist Alan Tremaine was writhing on the floor, his body changing on the most basic cellular level. She was enjoying this job more and more. Eventually the wriggling man stopped and she saw his muscles relax. Fed up with waiting she prodded the prone man on the ground.

“Come on now, get up” she coaxed.

“Ugghhh … what the hell just happened?” Alan moaned as he struggled to his hands and knees. He felt like he was going to throw up.

“On your feet, I won’t speak to you while you crouch there like a dog” she said.

He got to his feet, clutching his stomach. He raised his head and saw the woman Eve staring critically at him. “What have you done to me?” he asked.

“Me personally? Nothing. You have just undergone a transformation. Your latent X-gene has been activated. You are by all definitions a mutant”.

He stared at her like she had slapped him in the face. The words would not digest, He was a mutant. He quickly looked himself over, he looked exactly the same. Thank God for small miracles he thought. He then asked the next logical question.

“What do I do? I mean do I have powers now?” he asked. He saw her eyes flicker briefly before she focused them on him.

“You are a Geomorph, with the ability to control the very ground beneath your feet, and possibly things made from stone as well” Eve replied. “Your powers have lain dormant in your genetic makeup for a long time. With my help you have unleashed them. It is high time you began to live to your full potential Alan Tremaine. High time you lived up to your heritage”.

Walking over to where Alan was still half crouched, Eve caressed the side of his face. She looked into his eyes and he found himself unable to look away. She seemed to plumb the very depths of his soul with that stare. Finally she looked away, deciding something in her own mind, something he had no idea about.

“Why don’t you give them a try?” she asked him.

“But I don’t know how” he said.

“Just feel it. This is who you are, it will come to you” she replied.

Alan closed his eyes and thought about what she had said. He was a Geomorph, so that meant he could control rocks or something. He felt something click in his mind and suddenly he could feel the Earth three stories beneath his feet. He could feel the rock, like it was a living organism. He felt the subtle pressures and movements of the Earth as clearly as he felt the floor he was standing on. Extending this new awareness he could feel a similar presence off the walls of the building. It was weaker though than that of the actual Earth. Deciding that was enough he broke his concentration and came back to the real world.

The whole place was trembling. The fixtures and equipment gently rattling in their place. He looked at Eve, who seemed unfazed by it all. She stood calmly as the shaking subsided. He looked at her and saw her grin.

“Did I do that?” he asked.

“Yes darling, and you could do so much more. The possibilities are endless if you agree to work for my boss” she answered. “I have given you a gift Alan, one you need to learn to control. I can do that for you, come with me and I will teach you all you need to know about your new powers”.

“Do I have a choice?” he grumbled.

Laughing Eve replied, “No honey, not anymore. Not unless you want funding, and let’s face it who is going to fund a mutant? From this moment on you are bound to the Hellfire Club”.

————— Somewhere Beneath the Hellfire Club Headquarters —————

Selene wandered through the warren of underground levels beneath the Hellfire Club’s New York Headquarters. She had done a bit of further digging since discovering the list of names on Sebastian’s desk. So he was creating a team that would act with the authority of the Club. Well this should be interesting. There was no way however he was going to let him have all the fun.

Removing a small golden key from between her breasts, she inserted it into the lock of an elaborately carved, wooden door. Turing it she heard the catch release and she swung the door open. A large steel door was behind it.

She walked over to it and removed a panel to reveal a console in the door. Punching in a code, she stood still for the necessary retina scan and fingertip identification. Finishing that the steel door swung heavily inward.

Inside, Selene walked over to a large casket in the centre of the room. Running her hands along it and placing her cheek to it she crooned “It may be time to let you out sweetie. Wouldn’t you like that?”. Stepping back she let her gaze drift over the curves of the casket. She decided that the contents of this casket could be put to better use than for simply providing her with nourishment. And if Sebastian is planning what I think he is, then this should most definitely be an amusing little game.