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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16


Written by NicoPony
Last updated: 05/06/2007 06:22:13 PM

Chapter 16

Gambit keyed in a sequence of numbers into the bracelet on his forearm. He pressed a button to set the destination, but did not activate it. He was crouched against a cement barrier somewhere in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, or Cut Throat City as the locals had dubbed it. This part of the city was eerily empty, having sustained the brunt of damage inflicted by both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. The city streets were cracked, the houses uprooted and ruined vehicles strewn about like so many forgotten toys. Dusty lawns remained vacant and bare, the soil filled with toxins so that nothing grew.

Gambit had generally avoided the CTC; it was not part of the LeBeau Clan’s turf. The few occasions he’d ventured into the area were with the Harvest Master when it came time to disseminate Guild wealth. Some of the other clans, lower on Thieves’ Guild pecking order and living in the Lower Ninth, had harbored nothing but resentment for the LeBeaus. Gambit just preferred to avoid conflict all together, and stayed out the the area. Out of sight, out of mind. Which, apparently was the local and federal governments’ opinion on the matter as well. Little, if anything, had been rebuilt in this area.

He wondered if he’d left enough behind for the X-Men to find Sarah and the other children. It was Death’s idea to kiss Rogue, leaving behind memories of where to locate the closest access portal. It took all of Death’s self-control to overcome his revulsion at physical contact and kiss her. The effort not to kill her had knocked him flat. Gambit had left enough dead Marauders in his wake; surely Henry would make the effort to investigate. The cards left behind would pique his innate curiosity. Gambit’s last ditch effort to ensure the children were safe would maybe mean leaving behind his own body in some sort of Da Vinci Code-esque manner. “’So dark the con of man,’” thought Gambit ruefully. Then: “What a stupid book. It would have to be if Bobby recommended it.”

“What are you blathering about?” Death asked.

“Nevermind, popular culture reference,” Gambit replied silently.

“Is this anything like that Buffy you’ve been telling me about?”

“No, ones a book, ones television.”

Death was silent for several long moments. Gambit swatted at a mosquito; even as the hungry insects approached, they were zapped by the unstable charged particles surrounding him. “Great, former superhero turned human bug-zapper.”

“It’s quiet,” Death said ominously. “Too quiet...”

“Y’don’t say things like that,” Gambit scolded.

“Why not?”

“B’cause, whenever anyone says that, something bad happens. It’s a cliche.”

“What’s a cliche?”

“It betrays a lack of original thought, is what it is.”

“Can I even have original thoughts?” Death asked.

“Why don’t you shut up and give it a try,” Gambit replied. Then: “Good God, does this guy ever shut up? And how far gone am I to be sitting here in the dark having an argument with my alter ego?”

Something scurried out of one of nearby hovels. Rats bounced through the scrub to another shelter.

“Time t’make the donuts,” Gambit thought.

“Is that a cliche?”

“No, it’s a catch phrase. Get with the program, will ya?”

Gambit leapt over the cover of the cement barrier and streaked across the open street. Such an obvious move screamed: “Come and get me!”

He had not reached the cover of the broken remains of a nearby house when Sinister appeared, flashing into existence with a burst of light. Gambit skidded to a halt and jumped back as a blast of energy left a smoking crater at his feet. He landed in a crouch, waiting for Sinister’s next move.

“The whereabouts of the patients, if you will, LeBeau,” Sinister said.

“Dead,” Gambit replied. “I kil’t them.”

In the darkness, Gambit saw Sinister’s face twist into a furious mask. “You lie.”

“Yes, and often. But not this time,” Gambit gave him his most deranged grin. Boy, he was really chewing up the scenery here. “You must’ve witnessed my little exchange with darling Sarah,” he continued. “When I smashed her hopes for any rescue. That was right before you forbid me from seeing the patients, remember?”

“That’s...impossible!” Sinister hissed. “You cannot betray me!”

“Can’t I? Well, maybe Death can’t but Gambit don’t have any such compulsions...Boy, I hate talking in third person. It’s so damn confusing!”

“Do you have any idea of what you’ve done?” Sinister cried. “You’ve just ensured the destruction of the mutant race!”

Gambit shrugged, “Tant pis,*” he said. “The world is better off, in my opinion.”

Sinister gave a cry of rage and fired a bolt of energy in Gambit’s direction. Gambit threw up his arms, making no effort to avoid the blast. The bolt seemed to divide in two and flow around Gambit’s body. The blast smashed into the building behind sending a flare of power up into the air.

“Whew,” Gambit said, and uncinched the cloak from around his neck. It crumpled to a heap around his feet. “Gettin’ hot in here. Thanks, by the way, for restoring my former powers. I knew y’couldn’t leave well enough alone.”

Gambit sent a barrage of playing cards flying in Sinister’s direction. Several cards detonated, sending Sinister’s form roiling as he reformed his body around the damage. Sinister’s arm flew out, extending bonelessly in one long flow, and bore down on Gambit’s chest. The blow sent Gambit to the ground with enough force to crack the pavement. Sinister’s body moved like an avalanche or a tidal wave, crashing toward Gambit in a sinuous flow and smothering him. He found his head enveloped in the flow of living flesh. His hands moved through the thick mass that was Sinister’s body.

Suddenly, Gambit’s mind jerked back, as if pulled by a mental tow line. Death’s mind surged forward, his powers seeking out every oxygen-carrying cell in Sinister’s body and turning it to putrid toxic sludge. He heard a muffled scream, and suddenly, Sinister was pulling away from Death, tendrils of human tissue undulating in the air. Pieces of flesh sloughed from Sinister’s form to fall sizzling on the street in stinking piles.

Death felt an intense pain in his head. He screamed and jerked backwards, clutching his skull in agony. It felt as if something had detonated within his head. Blackness swirled across his right eye.

Gambit righted himself, the pain was still intense, but with Death’s mind suppressed, he no longer felt the compulsion not to defy Sinister. Gambit’s vision suddenly swam in flowing energy, and at the center of it was the black pulsating form of Sinister, looking like a hole in space. Concentrating his efforts, he focused on Sinister’s body. Pinpricks of light began to dot Sinister’s form. The pinpricks coalesced, then fell together in a shimmering cascade of explosively charged kinetic energy. Sweat rolled down Gambit’s face in an effort to hold the charge, to not let it detonate.

Gambit depressed the button on his bracelet, activating the tesseract portal nearby. He held forth a final playing card, the King of Hearts; ’suicide king,’ a personal favorite.

“You look like the right man t’do the job,” he whispered to the impassive face.

Rogue was gripping Wolverine by the wrists as she soared toward the bright golden glow up ahead. Storm and Iceman were not far behind, the roar of their passing caused debris to fly up and dance down the empty streets.

When they neared the battle site, it was to see Sinister glowing like a star about to go super-nova, and Gambit staggering forward, a glowing card held in his grip.

“Iceman!” Rogue cried, and released one of Wolverine’s arms. She made a wide sweeping gesture. “Surround the area! Protect the levy!”

Iceman nodded and sped away, propelled by the constant creation of ice beneath his feet. They felt the spray of chilled water fleck them as he passed. “Storm! We need wind!” Rogue pointed upwards. “Goin’ straight up!”

Storm raised her arms skyward and roiling clouds formed in the sky above, crashing together with a crack of lightning and thunder.

“Logan, I need y’to protect Remy,” she said. Wolverine looked up at her and gave her a thumbs up with his free hand.

“No problem, darlin’.”

Rogue dropped Wolverine above the two embattled figures. As she soared past, she saw Gambit release a charged card, while simultaneously, Sinister sent a silver spear-like object flying in Gambit’s direction. Sinister was knocked back into a portal in space just as Gambit was speared in the chest by the flying scythe. Wolverine hit the pavement just as Gambit’s body dropped lifelessly to the street. Rogue’s cry of dismay was lost in the deafening roar erupting from the open tesseract doorway. Wolverine threw his body over Gambit’s just as the whorl of the ensuing explosion rolled over them. Rogue was sent spiraling through the air with the concussive force of the blast. A columnar cloud descended from the sky above, sucking the majority of the blast upwards into the atmosphere. The outward moving energy was caught by the curving walls of ice, protecting the nearby city from any further destruction.

Rogue corrected her flight, and roared back to where she had released Wolverine. She failed to catch herself in time, and crashed to the pavement and rolled several feet. Ignoring her pain, she scrambled to her feet and ran toward where Wolverine and Gambit lay.

Wolverine was just pushing himself up from where he’d been covering Gambit’s body from the brunt of the blast. His healing factor was working double time to repair the injuries caused by the explosion. His uniform smoked in places, revealing singed flesh.

“Remy!” Rogue cried, falling to her knees beside Gambit’s body. The lower half of his face was burned, giving the impression that he’d been split diagonally in two; one half red burned flesh, the other black.

She was filled with relief when his eyes flickered open. He stared sightlessly upward as charged particles began to drift down from the clouds above. The lights reflected in the black surface of his eyes.

“Les etoiles...**” he murmured.

“Remy, stay with us, help is on the way,” Rogue said, pulling the broken half of Death’s scythe from Gambit’s chest.

“What’re you doin’, girl,” Wolverine asked, his voice rough. “That might’ve been all that was holding his insides in!”

“No, Logan. If Gambit’s powers are as strong as I think they are, he should be able to close up his own wounds.” She looked down at the gaping hole in his chest, which continued to seep his life’s blood onto the pavement. “Oh no...!” Rogue moaned, and pressed her hands into the wound. “Remy, please, don’t do this t’me again!”

A dark shadow passed over them as the hull of the Conquistador cleaved through the clouds. “See,” she said. “Help is here. Just try t’hold it together until we can get you to a stasis chamber!”

Tears rolled down Rogue’s cheeks, leaving white trails on her soot-covered face. She received a long, drawn out sigh as a response.

“C’est fini, Anna,” Remy whispered. “Je suis libre.”

“I’m free.”

(*tant pis: (French) Oh well, too bad!)

(** Les etoiles: (French) the stars.)


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