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Chapter 1


Written by Amanda Sichter
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 1

Strands of silver hair, silken-soft, over half-gloved fingers.

That was the first thread.

He was a mutant - he knew that. He knew what his powers were. He knew how to fight and that, if he had the chance, he could take down any of the men who took him to and from his cell.

He also knew that a power-dampening field spread through the whole prison and stopped him using his abilities, that the shackles and guns meant that even the thought of resisting when they came to get him was futile.

That was all he knew - until he remembered the silken-soft feel of white hair on his fingers.

It came while they were interrogating him, a sudden vision, a memory-sense of hair sliding over his hands, a flash of something he had once seen.

He didn't know what had brought the memory back, whether one of the questions they asked had jogged something loose in the blank space that was his memory or whether his mind, idly turning over as he listened to question after question that he had no ability to answer, had grasped at something vague and half-hidden.

He had the sense not to let any expression cross his face, but he grasped the memory greedily to him, tasted it, savoured it.

It was the first time he had thought of anything since they had come upon him in the ruins of that house, had fought him, had taken him down by sheer force of numbers. It was the first inkling he had that there had been a

life before the prison.

It was the first thread and he clung tightly to it.

The second thread came while they were beating him.

He felt the blows upon his body, felt the pain wash over him, crash and break against the rocky shores of his mind, find no purchase in the empty spaces and fall away until it came again in another wave.

His mind fled from the pain, curled in on itself, curved inwards and deeper, away from the hurt, away from their useless obsession with asking him questions he did not know the answers to. It curved in and found the

second thread.

'It's the new laws.' The words echoed inside his skull. 'They're coming for us. All of them. They're coming. They can do anything they want to us. Anything. They'll kill us all.'

He held tightly to the words, curled his fist tight around this second thread, grasped it to him. The words gave him hope that there was a reason why he hung now in chains as they systematically destroyed his body.

Idly he wondered if the beatings would be easier to stand if he knew why he was enduring them.

They gave him the third thread.

The man kneeled before him, held down by guards, the gun against his temple.

'Tell us what you know,' they said. 'Tell us where they are. Or we shall kill him.'

He looked down at the face of the man - older, long-haired, proud - and wondered why he was supposed to care if they killed him. The look in the man's eyes, acceptance and resignation mixed, stirred something deep within

him, but what it stirred was not memory.

'Tell dem not'ing, son,' murmured the man and for a moment his eyes filled with love. Just for a moment - until they looked at him and cursed at his blank features and shot the man.

'Jesus, you're a cold fucker,' said the guard closest to him and his voice was filled with revulsion.

~Cold,~ he thought inside himself. ~Yes, cold.~ But a small space in the emptiness glowed, a gentle warmth that the man had called him 'son', that his eyes had said so much.

It was the third thread and he carefully added it to the others.

He woke from a dream of slamming doors to an image that hung in his mind, so clearly that he thought he could almost reach out and grasp it.


He saw lockpicks.

Some small part of him knew once again what he was capable of.

They put him in a strait-jacket when they found him working on the door of his cell with the carefully broken buckles of his prison-issue overalls.

When they found him in the cell with his arms out of the jacket and again working at the lock with broken buckles they put him in something that resembled a hospital gown, that gave him no place to conceal anything, that gave him no tools to work with.

His skin shuddered back from the feel of the gown, away from a memory so sordid that he pushed it away even when it might have shed more light on the darkness inside his head.

But he held onto the lockpicks as the fourth thread.

He had not screamed at all until she came.

Despite the things they had done to him, despite the pain and the fear he had never screamed. Parts of his body would never work properly again, he knew, had broken and bent and healed all wrong, but they had never dragged more from him than a moan.

Until she came.

A blonde woman, thin, mousy, she sat before him in the interrogation room, hunched in on herself, afraid. With something between amusement and bemusement he watched her and wondered what they thought she could do that would break him.

Until her fingers slipped into his mind, until the tendrils of her thoughts oozed beneath his shields, around them, clutched at the tenderness of his mind and trawled through it, battered against the blank spaces of his

memory in a violation of his very soul, a mental rape that drove anguish into every point and particle of his being.

He opened his mouth and screamed and screamed and screamed.

She ripped at him, tore at him, sent shuddering fire excoriating across the blankness in his memory - and then the vision came.

A man's face, strong, unyielding, determined, rose before his eyes, held him fast against her attack, placed a bulwark around his fragile mind.

She withdrew, pulled out from his mind, and her face took on a speculative look.

He looked down at his hands and saw that he had drawn blood from his palms where his fingernails had dug deep.

He looked up at her again. 'Tell me,' he said, his voice harsh and cracked from long disuse. 'How does it feel to betray your own kind? How does it feel to be Judas?'

Her laugh told him the extent of her near-crazed fear, far more than any words would have. 'Betrayer?' she hissed at him. 'I have no choice. The new laws - we are nothing now - less than animals, lower than humans. If I

don't do this - do what they want - they'll put me in here with *you*.'

He smiled softly, the first smile he could remember making. 'I hope de thirty pieces of silver are wort' it.'

'Thirty pieces of silver?' she whispered. 'They don't pay me. They don't need to pay me. I'm just trying to stay alive.'

'I think that's enough of that,' said the other man in the room. 'Tell me what's in his head.' The smile the man turned on the woman was wolfish and he suddenly knew that this man wanted an excuse to kill her - to kill

anyone. He knew now why she was afraid.

'There's nothing in his head,' she said and flinched back as the other man leaned into her. 'He's got a memory block in place,' she added hurriedly. 'It's a total mind block, but it's temporary. It's already starting to fray

around the edges.'

Fraying. He smiled inside himself. Little did they know about the fistful of threads he held close to himself, treasured.

That stern unyielding face inside his head was the fifth thread.

She battered at him, day and night, stopping only when she needed to sleep. They did not care whether he needed to sleep.

The feel of her mental fingers inside his mind, slipping against his block, probing, dipping, ravaging, grew no less repulsive.

His throat went raw from screaming.

The end came swiftly, far more swiftly than he had imagined it would.

Her mental fingers slipped in again, worried at a section of the block, slid into it and bit deep.

She had time for only one half-voiced cry of triumph before the lash of his mind caught her, drove her backwards into her own skull, knocked her unconscious.

He looked down at her, astonished, and then the mind block frayed and he remembered.

The mansion burned.

Someone in the background was weeping and he could sense, peripherally, the gestures of someone being tended, carried, gently taken away.

'It's the new laws,' said a woman's voice, a voice that sent a shudder of half-memory through him. 'They're coming for us. All of them. They're coming. They can do anything they want to us. Anything. They'll kill us


A man's face, stern, unyielding, before him, a man hovering in a golden wheelchair. 'We have to flee. They've sent too many against us - we've got too many wounded. They know about me. I never knew they'd turn so quickly.

We have to get out of here.'

'I'll stay,' he heard himself say. The man's face turned to him, astonished. 'You need someone to cover your retreat, divert dem. I'll stay.'

'Gambit!' The woman's voice again, her presence behind him, her hand gentle on his shoulder. He rubbed his cheek lightly against that hand, gave her what reassurance he could with his touch.

'I'll be okay, chere,' he said. 'You have to go.'

The man in the wheelchair looked at him again. 'You really want to do this?' the man asked and he knew that he had nodded. 'Then let me - they'll capture you.'

Reality had hit hard, suddenly, and the man in the wheelchair

was sagging.

'I know,' he replied.

'I can - ' the man in the wheelchair started, stopped, rubbed his hand over his pate in a gesture of helplessness. 'They'll force you to betray us. Unless you let me - I want to wipe your memory, Gambit. Cover it over with

a temporary block. Leave you enough to fight, to escape, but nothing else. Do you agree?'

He nodded again. Something in him was strangely calm, and he suddenly knew why that mixture of resignation and acceptance in the eyes of the man who called him son had meant so much.

She wrapped her arms around him, held him tight and he pressed her body close against his, watched as the silver-white strands of her hair slipped over his half-gloved hand.

'We'll be back. We'll find you,' she said and then she was gone, flying away to help with the wounded.

The man in the wheelchair looked at him again. 'You can escape,' he said. 'Even if they capture you - you're the best thief in the world, Gambit. You can escape.'

He felt the wry grin spread across his face. He loved these people - their optimism was always so boundless, even in these hellish scenarios.

'You sure?' he asked.

'No,' replied the man. 'I can - implant a command,' he said, haltingly. 'You can escape, I'm sure - at the very least we'll come looking for you - but if they break through the block - I can hold them off for a while, place a trap inside your head, but then -'

'You need to make it permanent,' he said and it was not a question. He felt like he had been preparing for this moment for a long time, since the new laws had first been mooted, since he had known the danger all mutants were

suddenly in.

The man in the wheelchair was agitated, made worse, it seemed, by his own unnatural calm. 'I'm asking you to kill yourself for us,' he half-shouted.

'And you haven' before?' His smile, the lop-sided charming smile he used so well, had spread across his face. 'De X-Men will die if dey don' escape, if I betray dem. Do what you have to, Professor.'

The Professor nodded and said a word. 'Say that,' he said. 'Say that, and it'll wipe your mind clean, forever.' The Professor reached out, gripped his hand tightly. 'We'll come for you, Gambit. We'll be there. But if you

have to - '

'If I have to,' he whispered, coming back to the present, to a room full of shouts, to the woman's body being tended, blood coming from her nose.

No other memories came, nothing else to fill the blank spaces, to tell him whether the choice was justified, necessary, reasoned.

Someone had trusted him once.

Someone had loved him.

It was enough.

He felt only a brief pang of regret for the woman with the white hair - or was it brown and white? He couldn't remember.

He opened his fist - let fall the threads.

He said one word.

And ceased.

Been amusing myself. This is the kind of stuff that happens when I amuse myself. I don't know about you, but it certainly scares me.

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