Note: This chapter contains some harsh language.

A Test of Power

Chapter 9

Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.
William Pitt

The present

He opened his eyes and blinked a few times to bring his surroundings into focus. His eyes adjusted rapidly to the soft and diffuse lighting, which didn't seem to come from any particular source. A disturbingly familiar antiseptic smell wafted into his nostrils informing that he was in a medical infirmary. Remy immediately broke out in a cold sweat recalling the loss of his limbs, and an icy mist enveloped his heart when he remembered just whose medical facility he was in.

"You're awake. How do you feel?" a detached voice inquired from the corner of the room.

He turned his head and felt his skin blossom with goose pimples as Mr. Sinister wraith-like, entered his field of vision and approached him. He forced his expression to remain impassive as he tried to conceal his dread. He gritted his teeth as clinical hands performed a proficient evaluation of his condition.

The memory of the past few months assaulted his senses and he felt his stomach lurch as it always did when he awoke from these periods of prolonged slumber. Sinister had told him that one of the devices used to repair his injuries, put him in a kind of healing trance to optimize his recovery. He would sleep deeply and undisturbed for days. One of the side effects, if it could even be categorized as such, was some disorientation when first waking -- a brief amnesia of sorts. He supposed it was a fair trade-off -- fresh newborn terror every time he awoke in the boogey man's torture chamber, in exchange for the return of his limbs.

Gambit could feel the knot in his stomach tighten as he remembered other things as well -- screams, blood, terror, regret, shame, and betrayal.

Like countless times before, his thoughts returned to the same seemingly life defining episode. In the vein of an endless movie reel, he was helpless to prevent his mind from replaying the sequence of events -- the succession of sins that led to his own private damnation.

He could never forgive himself for what happened in the tunnels that day. The fact that he had assembled the team, that he had been present during the carnage, that he had kept silent about his participation to his teammates and closest friends. All this contributed to the guilt and revulsion he felt about himself, the self-loathing that had consumed him like a cancer for all these years.

But maybe more than anything else, it was what he had done afterwards -- immediately following the massacre that humiliated him most of all. Nothing. The great Remy Lebeau, the bold and daring master thief, had done absolutely nothing.

He certainly hadn't done anything to bring Sinister to justice. His own involvement may have had something to do with that and alerting the authorities, what good it would have done anyway, wasn't exactly his style. But he didn't even make a single attempt to find Sinister -- quite frankly, he hadn't even considered pursuing Sinister at all. Not a single thought about confronting him about being used in such a way. Not a single thought about seeking retribution -- let alone trying to hold him accountable for the murders he had perpetrated. Why?

Yes, he was a different man back then. He wasn't a member of the X-Men, but he was still a man. And if double-crossed, a man with considerable resources, talents, and mutant powers -- a man to be feared. But he had never come across anyone like Sinister before. A man who seemed to know everything about him, who could outreach him mentally, physically, without any effort at all. Even his edge, his mutant powers, were useless against him.

There was only one reason that he had not gone after Sinister. Fear. That fear coupled with a mix of helplessness against Sinister -- those two things fed each other, leaving him a virtual cripple.

But stranger still, a part of him -- a part of him had felt he had done the right thing. He was able to admit that to himself, but had never been able to voice those thoughts aloud -- not to anyone else, not even Rogue. Even after absorbing his memories, she had never sensed that feeling because he had buried it so deep. He had done the right thing...the only thing he could have done. But how could he take...pride, if that was even the right word, let alone speak of it considering the heartache and grief he had experienced over the massacre. Maybe it was this small sense of pride -- maybe that was what he was ashamed of most of all.

Remy sighed inwardly. Only he could feel such a deep sense of self-recrimination and pride about the same thing. Or maybe he had associated himself with nothing more than thieves and assassins for so many years, he had just lost sight of the truth.

But he truly hadn't known that the group he had put together were going to carry out the wanton slaughter of innocents. Sinister had said that he only wanted to kidnap a few of them for the purposes of study, to find out more about mutants.(1) If he had known Sinister's true purpose...if he had just known, he would have done anything to prevent it. Hadn't he tried to stop them and almost lost his life in the process? Hadn't he saved the life of a little girl? What more could he or anyone for that matter have done differently? Hadn't he spent the rest of his life trying to atone for his sins? Wasn't he worthy of some type of redemption?

So what -- he hadn't gone after Sinister. Who in their right mind would have? It would have been suicide to try that alone. Hadn't he fought against Sinister, and villains just like him, with all his heart when he had the X-Men along side him?

He had wanted to scream this -- couldn't his teammates see this for themselves? Hadn't they finally realized he was trapped, played like a fool at a point in his life when he had nowhere and nobody to turn to?

Yes, he had sold his soul to the devil, but only because this particular devil was the one person that could provide him with what he so desperately needed. But he couldn't bring himself to force this on his friends -- confess how he felt. What would have been the use? After they were in possession of most of this information, they should have come to this realization themselves. Yet his teammates -- his friends had condemned him -- and left him to die. He had thought he could never descend any further, and never feel as despondent as he had after witnessing the slaughter. He had taken the first steps towards surrender in the tunnels that day and when Rogue and the rest of the team had left him in that frozen wasteland, he had finally given up -- he truly had wanted to die.

And then...and then he had woken up in Sinister's lab, a quadruple amputee. There he discovered the real meaning of terror, and shamefully recalled screaming out unintelligible pleas while sobbing uncontrollably. Everything he had been through over the past few years, had culminating into a one-minute admission of his complicity with Sinister. His confession, the exile and condemnation from his friends, and then to wake up in his current location and condition -- it had been too much for him. It was if all his courage had left him at the same moment and collided with a simultaneous outpouring of years of mental turmoil. And then something inside of him just snapped. Maybe he had lost his mind because for a time, he had actually thought he was dead and in hell, and Satan was just masquerading as a pale faced mad scientist who used something called a tesseract to get to and from his infernal home.

But Sinister -- Sinister of all people had somehow managed to calm him down. For once that ever-rational deadpan delivery of Sinister's -- that aura of competence was just what he needed. Sinister promised that it was well within his capability to return his limbs to him, and would do so immediately with no strings attached. And strangely enough, Remy found himself trusting him.

Sinister told him that it was his common practice to monitor the bio-signatures of certain individuals. Remy was one of them. One of his devices had alerted him to the fact that Remy's bio-signature had dropped dangerously low. He related how he had pinpointed his location, and then proceeded to use his tesseract to transport him back to his present location.

All this had flashed through Remy's mind in the brief period of time it took for Sinister perform his examination.

Sensing that his subtle telepathic measures were having their desired effect, Sinister continued a detailed description of what had happened. With a technique he had perfected long ago, he psionically laced halcyon words, which would foster the mental repair to Remy's psyche. He communicated both on a subliminal and verbal level as he clinically described how due to the extreme cold, the blood in his body had retreated from his extremities in an attempt to keep his internal organs functioning. He was suffering from a severe case of frostbite and Sinister had been forced to amputate all of his arms and legs.

"You done," Gambit said in a clipped tone.

"For now, yes," Sinister answered, glancing at some hand-held instrument." Sinister was secretly pleased that Remy's self-assurance was already returning, but his expression betrayed nothing. Not that it mattered. Remy would hardly believe such considerations even went through his mind. "You are making excellent progress. The growth of your limbs is progressing at an acceptable rate."

"Acceptable to you maybe," Gambit said with a little more distaste than he actually felt. Gambit tested his ability to move and found he could move both his arms and legs slowly. His arms had developed to about his elbows, while his legs had just about progressed to his knees. Only a day ago, his arms and legs had been nothing but mere nubs.

"You have an exceedingly complex nervous system. It is much more dense than the average human or even the average mutant -- if there is such a thing," Sinister added, pleased by what passed as a joke for him Gambit thought. It's why you can do all those wonderful things your lady friends find so impressive," Sinister continued in a droll tone.

"The density of my nerves an' my arms an' my legs ain't de body part dat de ladies find so impressive," Gambit's own tone serious.

"Ah yes of course," Sinister nodded his head, a single eyebrow arched wryly. "The return of your limbs was somewhat slow at first but will proceed more rapidly from this point on," Sinister said, already returning to the more familiar sober and clinical tenor.

"Let's stop dis dance," Gambit said abruptly. "You saved my life. Now you doin' your Dr. Frankenstein act. What you want?"

"Here I expect a morsel of gratitude and I'm greeted with such a contemptuous tone. And I feel any comparison between myself and one of Mary Shelly's fictional characters is hardly fair. I don't avail myself to any body parts from the deceased -- well not anymore," Sinister said with a predatory smile.

"Stop playing your games, Sinister. I ask you dis before, a long time ago...why me?" Remy continued and didn't pause for Sinister to feign ignorance about what he was asking. "It got nothin' to do wit' with my talents of gettin' in an' outta places. Ain't nothin' I come across better den your tesseract doohickey. Dat be any thief's dream. You got tricks, ways o'knowin' things -- ways o'doin' things, make a voodoo witch doctor run for his momma. Why you pick me to go into dos tunnels dat day?" he asked with undisguised effort. "An' now you save my life Essex? What is it 'bout me dat I deserve...your notice?"

As he asked his question, his mind drifted back to the past once more. When Sinister had approached him about putting together a team, he had initially thought the request was -- well stupid. After all, it was obvious to him at least, that Sinister had resources and was perfectly capable of getting anyone he needed, and for whatever the reasons. It was also readily apparent to Remy that Sinister was no choir boy and traveled in circles where bad men, even skilled ones, were pretty easy to come by. But the man said that he could pay Remy whatever he needed -- and Jean Luc himself vouched for Sinister's ability to provide Remy the special thing that he required. Alarm bells had gone off in his head that very day, and his instincts had told him that Sinister wasn't like other men he had dealt with before -- and Remy had done business with some of the worst. But the price was right and the job was pathetically easy by Remy's standards. He had said yes, and damned his soul for -- for what seemed like an eternity.

Sinister was regarding Remy strangely and was taking his time before answering. Remy wasn't sure that he was just stalling in order to fabricate an answer.

"S'matter Essex, cat got your tongue? Why your interest in dis simple thief?" Remy asked acrimoniously.

"That, Mr. Lebeau, is a very long and complicated answer -- an answer that you will find hard to believe, and one you most certainly won't like."

Remy glanced down at his legs. "I ain't goin' nowhere any time soon. An' far as me believin' what you say or likin' it, why don't you give it a try...Mister Sinister," Remy added emphatically.

"I suppose you deserve some answers," Sinister said, running his fingers through his hair in so human a gesture, that Remy almost mistook the motion for one of...apprehension.

"Suppose I were to tell you that you and I have a bit in common," Sinister began.

"You gonna start out wit an insult. What the hell could you an' I possibly have in common?" Remy asked angrily.

Sinister smiled. An uncharacteristic smile for Sinister -- one that Remy had never seen before...in that Remy could swear that underlying the smile was the faintest hint of pain.

"We've both experienced loss. You've lost someone dear to you -- Belladonna. While I," Sinister paused, seemingly unsure of his next words. "I am sure some of your teammates have spoken of my...history," Sinister continued a bit more quickly than he intended. "There are certain similarities in that we have both have been given cause to grieve. For a time, we both handled our loss in a similar fashion," his voice unnaturally neutral, even wooden, for what should have been a sensitive subject.

Remy burst out laughing. "You -- maybe I'm barkin' up de wrong tree, but are you lookin' for some compassion -- from me? I know a little 'bout what happened to your wife an' your son, if dat even what you takin' 'bout. As I heard it, dey deserving of the compassion, not you," Gambit said more cruelly than he intended. "You an' me Essex, we ain't de same."

Sinister just stared at Remy saying nothing, expressionless. Yet Remy felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise, as Sinister's crimson eyes burned murderously blood red. Remy imagined that hellfire looked and felt something like this. Sinister closed the fingers of his hand into a fist in an absent minded gesture, and then glanced down at his hand, conscious that Remy had noticed this outward reaction to Remy's words.

Sinister slowly unclenched his fist, his hallmark composure returning abruptly like the flicking of a light-switch. Not the smartest thing to do, Remy thought. I'm on a bed without any arms and legs in one of his labs, and I'm pushing Sinister's buttons. This wasn't going to do anything for his supposedly wily reputation.

"You sincerely believe that I am pandering for sympathy?" a faint trace of that cold fury still lingering behind those eyes. "I am simply endeavoring to answer your questions. Why don't you bear with me for the moment? I will refrain from attempting to garner any additional sympathy," Sinister added disdainfully.

Remy said nothing, allowing Sinister to continue uninterrupted.

"When Apocalypse approached me," Sinister began, "I was very much like you in that I had reached a rather low point in my life. Granted, there were differences, but there were similarities as well. I was somewhat despondent, a sense of hopelessness had infused my being. I neither cared for my own welfare, nor did I care about the welfare of others. Things like family, friends, emotions themselves -- useless, superfluous. They would get in the way of other things, things that I -- things that Apocalypse deemed would need my full attention," an unmistakable trace of bitterness in that usually otherwise stoic demeanor.

"Would you concede that there was some resemblance, some likeness between what I just described and your state of mind when we first met?" Sinister asked.

"I wasn't feeling dat great 'bout tings, so what?" Remy said brusquely.

"You've spoken to your teammates, Beast and Drake. They've told you why I had to eliminate the Morlocks."

"Dey tol' me what you said," Gambit said hesitantly.

"And you don't believe them," Sinister said firmly, but without a trace of anger in his voice. "What was McCoy's opinion of my account?"

"Hank's smarter den just 'bout anyone I know. But he's a gentle soul, da type you like to fuck wit'.

"What was his assessment?" Sinister said, a little impatience creeping into his voice.

"He believe you tellin' da truth. But it don' make any of it right, -- even if I believe you," Remy quickly added. "Nothin' ever will," his voice thick with anguish. "But maybe it mean somethin', I just don't what," his voice so low it could barely be heard.

"You were going to be my third line of defense against the spread of the virus," Sinister continued, indifferent to Remy's emotional state. "After the failure of my explosive devices, the Marauders were next in line to complete the objective. Should they have failed, you were next."

"What do you mean?" Gambit asked dumbfounded, his undivided attention on Sinister.

"I had expected that whoever was behind the Dark Beast might attempt to thwart what I had planned. I knew that this opposition would be powerful -- powerful indeed. I would need a powerful weapon to combat this opposition."

Gambit was quick on the uptake, processing all that Hank and Bobby had told him earlier as well as what Sinister was relating to him now. "So how would I..? realization dawned on Gambit. "You...you were going to restore me to my full power," he said with forceful conviction.

"Yes, but you have no conception of what that even means," Sinister responded.

"Well why don't you tell me then," Gambit said angrily because of the frustrating way that Sinister always seemed to dangle a carrot in front of people and then snatch it away just before you could take a bite.

"The vial I gave you in exchange for certain services..."

"Yeah?" Gambit interrupted. "It helps me control my powers, keeps me from going haywire."

"In a way yes," Sinister nodded his head slowly. "But it is also the cause of your problem."

"What da hell you mean da cause?" Gambit said through clenched teeth, feeling both angry and apprehensive about what Sinister's answer was going to be.

"I wanted to provide you with reason to come to me -- seek my help. I required that the motivation and the rationale be potent enough for you to keep returning," Sinister spoke in the manner as if he were going over a list. "And of course it was of paramount importance that you believed that this was all of your own volition -- for the data to be of value," Sinister finished as if he were speaking to a room full of college students.

Remy had a wide-eyed expression frozen on his face, either not understanding -- or unwilling to believe what Sinister was saying.

"The vial is both the solution and the source of your fluctuating power levels," Sinister explained. "It is a psionic energy storage, delivery, and reclamation device."

Gambit mouth hung open in disbelief. He instantly recalled his initial exposure to this wondrous device, the miracle of the immediacy of the solution to his long-standing problem -- and Sinister's instructions on how the vial should be used. He had told Remy to gently place the vial at the base of his neck. He should expect a slight pricking sensation which would be accompanied by a mild warmth. The vial appeared to dissolve in his hand completely disappearing, but in actuality was simply absorbed into the back of the neck.

"The device itself is merely an offshoot of the techno-organic virus. An organic machine that passes through your epidermis and continues through subsequent layers, until it ultimately bonds to the base of your brain stem. Once there, it can either impart or absorb energy -- a rather complex delivery and recovery system of psionic energy," Sinister added. "At any time I could direct the device to convey the energy into your system, causing the increase of unmanageable energy levels. Conversely, I could reverse the process and simply soak-up the energy back into the device, seemingly granting you a cure."

"What was da point of dis experiment," Remy said with barely restrained fury. "Was it sometin' bout my mutant powers dat de device only work on me?"

"The device was designed to only work on you. I have attempted to use similar devices on other mutants, but have not met with any success to date. The device itself was only a singular ingredient for the experiment, but was by no means the focus.

"As I said before, it was important for you to choose to return to me but you could not be forced to do so in any way. I simply created the compulsory circumstances. The illness, or your problem, which you were led to believe that only I could help you with, was the necessary impetus."

"I still don' get it. If makin' me more powerful wasn't da main ting' you tryin' t'do, den what was it? An' why you want me t' keep comin' back, believin' I need your help?"

"As I stated earlier, I needed someone similar to myself, but not in any physical way," Sinister quickly clarified. "I understand your confusion and know that when most layman hear the word experiment, they immediately think of test tubes and chemicals -- an abundance of scientific equipment. But it was not that type of experiment."

"Den what type was it?" Remy said, barely repressing the volatile roil of emotions he was undergoing.

"I was interested in less tangible things. What makes a man good or evil, choose one path or another? What makes one man go through obstacles to achieve an objective while another will choose an easier path, but be forced to hurt others in the process. All the social dynamics that go into making good or bad choices. My foray into an area of behavioral science, or let's say -- an aspect of it"

"Repeating myself once more -- both of us were in similarly miserable states of mind. To say I am less than pleased by my actions during my tenure with Apocalypse and after would be the understatement of the century. Was overwhelming grief a suitable excuse? That question plagued me -- consumed me for a great deal of time. It perturbed me to such a degree, that I decided through you, I would obtain an answer."

"I required someone worse than myself -- and please take no offense. I simply mean that between the two of us, I certainly had a much more traditional or ideal upbringing. I had two loving parents -- a stern but eminently fair father. My family was affluent, privileged, which offered me multiple opportunities. While you, -- you grew up abandoned, an orphan, raised in the streets. As a mutant, I naturally had an interest in you, but it was your background that truly intrigued me. When I thought you had reached a low point, I saw you as the perfect candidate.

"If you recall, you didn't want to participate in the actual operation. You said that there was nothing else I could give you. I believe you told me that I could no longer afford you."

Gambit remembered what Sinister had said like it was a mere moment ago. "Every man has a price to charge, Lebeau. I think I know yours," Remy said robotically, repeating word for word what Sinister had told him many years ago.(2)

Sinister nodded his head in agreement. "So simple a thing really -- when dealing with people like you...like the X-Men. I simply appealed to your sense of morality, your humanity, which I find both a strength and a weakness." Sinister said without a trace of smugness. "I told you that there were innocents involved. I told you that although I had given strict instructions to the Marauders to resort to force only if absolutely necessary -- I had my misgivings about certain members' inclination towards violence -- that their aggressive natures might get the better of them. I needed you to keep things straight. I even gave you a device to contact me directly if things got out of hand."

"Oh come now Remy," Sinister shook his head from side to side. "You knew something didn't sound quite right. I described the type of people I needed for this operation, then I claim that I am concerned about collateral damage?" Sinister said with a doubtful expression on his face. "I professed that I didn't want things to get sloppy and needed you as insurance. Yes, I sweetened the pot with more money, but that isn't the reason you agreed to go -- is it? Being the way you are, you felt it was your duty to go along."

Remy's voice was flat, emotionless. He wouldn't look at Sinister, but instead just stared at the ceiling. "You told me dat you'd be busy wit' somethin' else, somethin' important, but dat you'd come by right away if tings got ugly. When tings' started goin' down da wrong road, I keyed dat device you gave me till both my hands cramped," Remy's voice shook. "But you never came. You never had any plans on showin' up. You was just watchin' da whole time."

"Yes I was," Sinister simply responded. There was nothing apologetic in his tone. "I tend to choose a rather different path when attempting to perform some self-examination." Sinister shook his head in disbelief. "No matter what I threw at you, your moral compass would not allow you to do the wrong thing. I suppose I refused to believe the experiment results, after all, that would mean that I could only conclude that you were the better man. So I suppose I punished you. I had believed I was beyond that sort of petty behavior."

"Even when you awoke to find McCoy and Drake by your side -- you were first concerned for their safety and pleaded with them to leave and not trust what I had to say. Even after believing that they left you in Antarctica to die, you still felt it necessary to protect them," Sinister said incredulously.

"What do you mean believin'?" Remy was able to pick out that subtlety even after everything he had just heard.

"You are not aware of this, perhaps subconsciously," Sinister said as an afterthought, "but you are a low level telepath -- of an interesting variety. At times of extreme stress, you act almost as a broadcast antenna, having an effect on those in your immediate vicinity."

"What do you mean?" Remy asked, once again dumbfounded by this potential revelation.

"You can influence behavior," Sinister responded. "Oh, you have no control over this," Sinister waved his hand dismissively, "and only under the most extreme duress would it even manifest itself to levels that might be felt. Nonetheless, it did occur."

"I suppose what happened with Morlocks...and everything associated with it thereafter, was enough for this brand of telepathy to have a noticeable effect. The revulsion for your actions, the years of self-loathing -- you managed to impart those feelings on those around you. Couple that with Rogue's absorption of your powers, she was simultaneously doing the same thing, which exacerbated the ill feelings towards you."

Remy was speechless, afraid to believe.

"Remove the telepathic element I just described to you, and your friends would feel no different than they did before they learned of your affiliation with me. Indeed, immediately upon their return from the Citadel, your Professor explained what he had suspected for some time to account for the X-Men's bizarre behavior. Horrified, they quickly returned to find you. McCoy and Drake were going to explain this to you when you awoke with them by your side, but you quickly grew fatigued, needing to rest and they were unable to discuss this rather salient point. Rest assured, they are anxious to unburden themselves of their guilt, and will tell you this themselves tomorrow morning."

Remy craned his head off the table, the veins in his neck swelling dangerously. "You...you fuck with my powers to make me believe I had a problem so I'd come t'you for help -- because you had some fucked up notion dat we da same somehow, t'see if I act like you?" Remy said, stammering with rage. "All dis time an' shit -- da hell I went tru' for nuthin'...nuthin' but some fuckin' experiment -- for a madman? You'd have to be a man," Remy's body and voice shook, "a human bein' not some fuckin' heartless monster t'have somethin' t'compare wit'," his eyes raking hatred across Sinister one last time.

Gambit dropped his head back into the bed, hard, not feeling a thing as he looked away from Sinister. He had finally come to realization that you couldn't escape Sinister because he was like a black hole. Once you were caught up in that gravity well, you could never hope to get away. You could only spiral further down into the darkness.

"Obsession is a powerful and fascinating emotion Remy," Sinister said suddenly, with something almost akin to a rueful expression on his face. "Great accomplishments are possible because of it -- but it can also result in a blind recklessness that can ultimately lead to the ruination of oneself...and others as well."

Something in Sinister's voice made Remy look back at him once again. For a moment, he almost thought he could see the true face of Nathaniel Essex -- a glimpse of what Sinister, behind the facade or without the posturing, was all about. He almost laughed at himself.

Let Sinister spill his bullshit for whatever his reasons. He was certain some of it was true -- all the bad shit for sure. But he knew there wasn't a true face of Sinister or even Nathaniel Essex for that matter. There was just the face of Mr. Sinister for whatever suited his purpose at a particular time. And the only face he wanted to see was Mr. Sinister's dead face, and the expression on it when Sinister realized it had come about by Remy's own hand. He would kill Sinister -- he swore that to himself then and there.

"I have studied it tirelessly, in myself -- but was unable to grasp some of the most rudimentary notions behind it."

Remy heard Sinister's voice through his haze of anger. He forced himself to concentrate on what he was saying. Remy resolved himself to keep his emotions in check because some gut instinct told him that what Sinister was relating, was terribly important to not only him, but countless others as well.

"I soon determined that to understand my own obsessions, I needed to understand them in others first. I discovered that in the object of one's excessive desire, it is possible to uncover the core of that person, -- the quintessence of a man's soul," Sinister's speculative tone changing to one of unnerving confidence.

"To that end, I gave you your obsession, and in all ways, all the important ways, through deeds and actions you proved what type of man you are. I on the other hand..." Sinister simply shrugged.

Remy just glowered at Sinister, saying nothing, his lips curling with disgust.

"There is more," Sinister said quietly, his whisper cutting through the air like a gunshot.

Remy's eyes blurred, feeling such a deep and burning hatred, that he felt like he would ignite and explode like the cards he commonly used.

"I have been accused by one of your esteemed colleagues of using mutants like pawns. I suppose that is true to a certain extent -- especially when speaking about you," Sinister began, his tone almost melancholy. "By my estimation, a short time from now, you will come to me asking for my help in some X-Men related endeavor.(3) I undoubtedly will agree to help you, but will feign ignorance about certain things."

Remy looked at Sinister like he was completely insane.

"I admit, this might be a bit bewildering, but try and stay with me. Where was I? Oh yes...I pretend to know nothing of your impending sojourn and nothing about the partner that will be accompany you. On both family and Guild related business, you will travel to the past -- my past and once again, or for the first time I suppose," Sinister corrected himself, sounding thoughtful, "seek my help. You will ask my past-self to perform a surgical procedure for a problem you will encounter. He of course, will notice that you had already undergone surgery and recognize his own hand -- my hand in the performance of this surgery.(4) It is through that recognition, that method with which I will send a message to myself."

"Why would you want to send a message to yourself?" Remy asked, fascinated despite his great anger.

"I thought it would be rather obvious," Sinister simply shrugged. "A large part of our conversation has been about this very subject. Wouldn't you like to change certain aspects of your past? Suppose I had the ability to send Drake back to a certain point in your past...let's say just before meeting up with me. Wouldn't you arm Drake with the knowledge of the Morlocks and what the Marauders were going to do?"

"Have him warn me 'bout you more likely," Remy responded with a withering glare. "OK, I can see de advantages in such a ting. But what dat gotta do wit me, and my surgery?"

"Think about it. To ensure that the message got back and was unnoticed by anyone -- anyone except the person that the message was intended for...."

Remy absentmindedly reached back with a limb to short to touch faint scars at the base of his neck.

"Yes Remy, the scars. Do you think that a surgeon of my skill, with my technology would have to resort to conventional surgery with a simple scalpel...leaving scars? You've seen the way the vial...my techno-organic based technology works. There would be no scars -- unless I wanted there to be...unless I wanted someone to notice."

"OK den, since you inna talkative mood -- what was in da message?" Remy asked bluntly.

Sinister graced Remy with a condescending smile. "Many things Remy, many things."

"Dat ain't an answer," Remy snapped back.

Sinister paused for a moment considering Remy's question. "A way to kill Apocalypse."

"Hmm. De way I see it, dat message must'a got garbled 'cause 'Pocalypse been around for a time," Remy said with a cruel edge in his voice.

"Why yes he has. How very perceptive of you Remy," Sinister responded sardonically. "Yes, I was unsuccessful. Despite, if I may say so myself, my rather clever, almost inescapable attempts on his life, Apocalypse will celebrate another salubrious year of life."

"Why you all o'sudden tellin' me dis?" Remy said abruptly.

"Would you believe peace of mind?"

Remy's expression answered that in short order.

"I suppose not," Sinister sighed. "No matter. You will have no recollection of the last part of our conversation in that it might influence your actions. Eventually, I will restore this information to you and despite your skepticism, I assure you it will give you a measure of peace."

"What da hell you mean?" Remy asked furiously. "You ain't fuckin' wit my mind again."

"What I am about to say will be of little consolation, especially coming from me, but you should take solace in it," Sinister said solemnly. "You have nothing to be ashamed of Remy," Sinister said, ignoring Remy's outrage. "Your actions before, during, and after the Mutant Massacre were truly heroic." Sinister looked at Remy earnestly and said -- "Your Professor chose wisely."

"I don't give a'shit what...."

"Sleep," Sinister commanded. Remy's eyes closed instantly and he was quickly asleep.

"Of course there was more than one message Remy," Sinister said aloud. Perhaps most importantly, a way to kill Apocalypse, he thought to himself. But Remy didn't need to know that the psionic energy storage device that Sinister had implanted in Remy, was a time-bomb of sorts meant to kill Apocalypse in the past. Should it have worked, it was unfortunate that it would have killed Remy as well.

Remy also didn't need to know that Sinister was intensely interested in an artifact called the Momentary Princess.(5) If Sinister's theories proved correct, that precious gem could provide him with the solution to his ultimate problem. One gem of six, Sinister mused, all of inestimable value.

Sinister returned to his private lab to monitor the progress of some ongoing experiments but was distracted, his thoughts returning to his conversation with Remy. His earlier claims to Remy about the reason behind the implantation of the device were also true...at least in part.

The better man, Sinister thought and sighed to himself. There was no need to conduct an experiment for what a child of two could easily discern. The true test subject of the experiment had been himself, Remy had just been an unfortunate casualty...one along with many others. How far he wondered, would he go to prove the type of man he was...or had become?

continued >>

[1]Gambit #7
[2]UXM #350
[3]Gambit #10
[4]Gambit #14
[5]Gambit #10

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