In a high-tech laboratory, surrounded by various instruments and monitors, two men in lab coats review data on a clipboard. That’s superb, the scientist with the clipboard proclaims. An excellent day’s work, doesn’t he think? Absolutely, sir, the second scientist agrees. Now, the first continues, tomorrow is also going to be a big day. The second begins to ask if he means what he thinks he means, but the second interrupts with a confirmation, noting that he believes so. They’re finally ready to begin vivisection.
Weakly, a voice mutters “Hoffman,” the scientist’s name. Just so he knows… when they get out of this… they’ll kill Hoffman themself. In reply, Hoffman smiles that he knows how they feel, but please know that although they are suffering… he swears it’s for the greater good. With a smile, Hoffman then offers a “good night.” Hanging on an X-shaped metal cross, their limbs strapped to the cross’s four corners, the bound prisoner replies “Drop dead.” Ignoring the insult, the two scientists depart, one asking the other if he wants to grab an espresso. Starbucks is still open. Absolutely, the other replies.
In a darkened, spacious room, Gambit lowers himself via a line. Mentally reminding himself to be careful, he twists and turns his body past security lasers. Eventually, Gambit positions himself upside down, right next to object of his attentions: a small statue standing upon a marble pedestal. Perfect, Gambit notes to himself. Now to get the mystic shielding… Chant the spell that should remove it from what’s holding it in place. And then he…
Suddenly, the lights of the room come on, surprising Gambit. Uhm… hello, Gambit remarks to the new arrival. Nice evening. Watching from the doorway next to the light switch, Wolverine replies yeah, terrific. With that, he steps forward, earning a warning from Gambit regarding the alarm. It’s shut off, Wolverine informs him. The owner turned it off once he arrived. Unsheathing his claws, Wolverine then slices the cable holding Gambit, who unceremoniously drops to the ground. Come on, idiot, he tells Gambit.
They can’t, Gambit protests. That statue is a doorway t’another dimension! Doesn’t he understand? Yeah, he gets it, Wolverine rejoins. With the right spell, it can summon an evil demon that could lay waste to the entire world. When Gambit then agrees, Wolverine interjects that it’s not his. It was bought and paid for, fair and square. He can’t just steal it. Gambit begins to disagree, but Wolverine emphatically reiterates that he can’t. It poses no immediate threat, he continues. The spells that activates it have been lost for three thousand years. Again, Gambit tries to protest, but Wolverine remains adamant, instructing Gambit to come with him. Now. He’s not screwing around.
As they approach the X-jet outside, Wolverine explains that the owner’s security system was designed by Tony Stark. It picked up on his entry in no time. Stark found out and summoned him while he was still putting his rig together. That’s embarrassing, Gambit bemoans. Should have brought a more efficient rig. What was he thinking? Wolverine asks. There’s this. And Rogue told him all about all that nonsense he was involved in with that girl, Janelle… Joelle, Gambit corrects. Whatever, Wolverine rejoins.
Changing subjects as they approach the jet’s ramp, Wolverine points at Gambit and reminds him that he has responsibilities to the students. He’s supposed to be a damned teacher. Weakly, Gambit begins to remark that he is, but Wolverine interjects whenever he’s around, which lately is never. Plus, now he’s running the Thieves’ Guild. Asked how did he know that, Wolverine replies that he knows everything. Get in the plane, he tells Gambit, and be grateful no one’s pressing charges. As they walk up the ramp into the jet, Gambit warns Wolverine that, if an interdimensional demon ends the world, he’s not to blame him. Noted, Wolverine replies. They’re going back to the school.
Sometime later, Gambit finds himself in a drinking establishment, thinking back to the entire exchange with Wolverine. He talked to him like he was a child. The whole way. A damned child. Returning his mind to the present, Gambit stands at the establishment’s bar, with the rest of the room in ruins. Various other patrons lie unconscious around the room with the center of the room hosting a smoldering fire. Taking another drink, Gambit asks the rest of the bar if anyone else wants to say that New Orleans had Katrina comin’ because of its ungodly beliefs? Anybody? ‘Cause it may’ve been some years back but they got a long memory.
Finishing his drink, Gambit asks the barkeep if he can have another, whatever it is he was just having. When a voice announces that he wants coffee, Gambit begins to protest but halts when he sees who spoke. Standing before him is Polaris, clad in a tight-fitting, yellow costume with grey trim. On her face she wears yellow lenses resembling sunglasses but without visible rims. Hello, Remy, she tells him.
Gambit quickly embraces his Polaris, noting how good it is to see her. After she agrees, Gambit pauses a moment, asking her if she isn’t supposed to be insane. He means, there was word that she caused a bit of a hullabaloo at a bar not long ago. She had a bad day, Polaris quips in reply, to which Gambit agrees that they all have those. Changing subjects, Polaris suggests that they get outta there and find a coffee shop.
In short order, the two find themselves in a booth in Starbucks. Declaring it much better, Polaris gets to her point and asks Gambit what did Logan tell him. Studying the menu as he does so, Gambit replies that if he wants to stay with the X-Men, then his thieving sidelines are done. That he has to cancel all contact with the Thieves Guild. That he walk th’ straight and narrow from now on. Asked how that makes him feel, Gambit asks back why she’s asking. What’s going on that she’s not telling him? Rather than reply immediately, Polaris takes a drink from her tea mug. After putting it down, Polaris still doesn’t reply to Gambit’s question, but rather informs him that she’d like him to take a ride with her. Asked where, she tells him Virginia. What’s in Virginia, Gambit asks, aside from colonial settlements and refugees from Washington DC? One day to find out, Polaris tells him.
A short jaunt to a private airfield, they find a private jet awaiting them and minutes afterward they are airborne. Nice little jet, Gambit remarks, handing his empty cup back to the comely flight attendant. Not the Blackbird, he then adds, but not bad. Asking her what the logo is on the side, Polaris explains that it’s for Serval Industries, a rising corporation. Inquisitively repeating that word “serval,” Gambit asks if that isn’t like a cat or something. Taking a sip from her own cup, Polaris corrects that it’s a midsize African cat, actually. She’s not sure how they picked that for the symbol, but go figure…
Her free hand to her earpiece, the flight attendant excitedly reports to “Miss Dane” that the pilot says that they have a problem, out the port window! Polaris asks “really?” and glances out the window, after which she nonchalantly adds that, yes, she sees. Quickly approaching their position, she sees a surface to air missile, about which she instructs the flight attendant not to worry about it. A moment later, Polaris snaps her fingers and the missile explodes a safe distance from the aircraft.
Incredulous, Gambit is still looking out of the window as he asks who the hell fired the missile. Told an enemy, most likely, the still-shocked Gambit asks if Serval has missile-firing enemies? Serval has all kinds of enemies, she informs him. Asked by him what they do for a living, Polaris replies that Serval is into a variety of things, ranging from owning a major internet search engine to weapons manufacture. That’s what pays the bills. But at the end of the day, they specialize in helping people. Calling him “Remy” for emphasis, she swears to God, she’s been researching them nonstop and, as far as she can determine, that’s what they do. And there are some individuals who have a problem with that.
Shortly thereafter, Gambit gets his first glimpse of the sprawling corporate campus of Serval Industries as their jet approaches. It’s impressive, he thinks to himself, he’ll give them that. He’s still in awe as they approach the front entrance, where Polaris is greeted by surname by a security guard wearing an earpiece and opaque-black rimless glasses, who then asks how she is this fine day. Addressing him as “Teddy,” she replies that she’s fine and asks about him. Couldn’t be better he answers, at which point he asks who Gambit is. Introducing him as Remy Etienne LeBeau, also known as Gambit, she then adds that, with any luck, he’ll be working there. As she then signs them both in at the front desk, Polaris then introduces Gambit to Teddy. He feels safer already, Gambit quips, still taking in the massive lobby.
Suddenly a short, bald man slams into Gambit on his way into the building. They both exchange apologies, after which the man continues on his way. Glancing at him suspiciously, Polaris says Gambit’s given name. However, when he tries to act innocent, she repeats it with greater emphasis, after which Gambit gives a guilty smile and calls after the man. Holding the short man’s wallet, he asks if he lost something. Quickly, the man returns, and guesses that he must have dropped it. Must have, Gambit replies sheepishly. After the man is out of earshot, Polaris chastises Gambit, who counters that he was just tryin’ t’keep his skills sharp. Where’s the harm? That harm is, she counters back, that he’s just not to life people’s wallets. Fine, fine, he replies.
A few steps away, they enter transparent, sapphire-colored tube and stand on a platform within. When Polaris speaks “top floor,” a computer voice replies “yes, Miss Dane” and the platform rises up the tub. Talking elevators, Gambit notes. How very Star Trek. He should see the transporter room, she replies. Asked seriously, Polaris replies with a “mebbee.”
At the top floor, the doors slide open to a room which a wide-eyed Gambit immediately proclaims very nice. Within, an Asian woman clad in a cream pantsuit with a double-breasted jacket with a Serval Industries logo thanks “Mr. LeBeau” and asks if she may be the first to welcome him… to X-Factor. Her name is Linda Kwan, she continues, and, frankly, this place was her idea. Prompted by Gambit, Linda replies elaborates that she was part of a committee, admittedly. Then asked if she is a scientist or super hero, Linda quickly replies no, she’s in public relations. Her job is to make Serval Industries look good to the public.
In the middle of the spacious room, which seems to be half office, half lounge, Gambit plops himself down on a round, lobby-style couch. And X-Factor, he begins, is going to help her do that? She knows that the name’s taken, right? By Jamie Madrox? Actually, a voice interjects, startling Gambit from behind. Not anymore. With this, the black, business-suited newcomer greets Linda and Lorna by given name, offering them a good morning, to which Lorna replies with “Harrison” and Linda with “Mr. Snow.”
Rising from the couch, Gambit offers his hand, surmising that the newcomer would be “Harrison Snow.” Quite so, Snow replies, taking Gambit’s hand in greeting. He’s the CEO and president of Serval Industries. When Gambit replies that he’s heard of him, Snow rejoins that of course he has and then asks Gambit if he can call him Remy. Told sure, Snow continues. He’s sure Gambit has heard of him because Gambit’s a thief, and he has a lot of things worth stealing. So, that makes him of interest to him. When Gambit replies that he supposes so, Harrison places a hand on Gambit’s shoulder and smiles slightly. The news media calls him the next Tony Stark, he continues, thanks to his talent for weapons manufacturing. Which he thinks is rather presumptuous because the Tony Stark they have already have is doing just fine. Plus, he’s not really a weapons enthusiast, despite their profitability. But go tell the press what to do.
In any event, Snow continues as he turns to the bar to pour himself a drink, they bought the rights to the company name from Mr. Madrox. Papers were signed yesterday, in fact. Should be enough money for him to live quite well on his farm. Confused, Gambit repeats “his farm” but Snow ignores. They want him for X-Factor, Snow tells him, gesturing at Gambit. Well, more accurately, Lorna wants him and he’s inclined to go with her recommendations. Taking a sip from his drink, Snow then adds that, in fact, the timing couldn’t be better, because they have an assignment for him.
Wait, hold up, Gambit interjects. He doesn’t even understand what this X-Factor is… This, Snow smiles slightly, regarding his glass, would be the first corporate super hero team. Countries have them. The United Nation does. Why not a corporation? Why not a team dedicated to serving the desires of a company whose main business is helping others? Furrowing his brow as he regards his would-be employer, Gambit asks if Serval is that company. He means, and he shouldn’t take this wrong, but how does he know Serval is not evil? To this, Harrison Snow offers a maniacal “bwwwaahahahaa.” Remy, Snow then continues, returning to something more sensible, he has attended Harvard University. He edited the Lampoon. What evil person edits the Harvard Lampoon? Looking now more sheepish than distrusting, Gambit admits that he’s still a little… He means, perhaps he should talk to someone…
How about an Avenger? Snow asks. Taken aback, Polaris begins to ask what he means, but finds her answer arrived before question. Appearing out of nowhere, Quicksilver appears in his classic costume and announces that Harrison Snow means him. Pietro?!? Polaris explains. What’s he… what… She… Sensing her questions, Snow explains that Quicksilver showed up while she was out bringing in Remy. Putting his arm around his shoulder, Snow continues that Quicksilver tracked her there when he got her out of police custody. He was concerned about her. It’s kind of sweet, actually.
Unconvinced, Polaris tells Harrison that Pietro may be a lot of things, but “kind of sweet” isn’t one of them. Pointing an accusatory finger at her, Quicksilver replies that he doesn’t think she gets to lecture him, considering the last time she saw him, she tried to shoot him. When she counters that she was drunk, he points out that most people fall down when they get drunk, not open fire on their half-brother. Interjecting, Gambit opines that if more people had him for a half-brother that might change. No one asked him, Quicksilver replies, giving Gambit a scowling look. He knows, Gambit rejoins, innocently blowing dirt from beneath his fingernails. Just felt like saying it.
Turning her back to them both, Polaris begins to walk away, explaining that Quicksilver can see she’s fine now. Not drinking any more. So why not go back to the Avengers? Haltingly, Quicksilver replies that they had a bit of a falling out. Glancing back, Polaris asks what kind of falling out. They figure out he’s evil yet? Lowering his eyes, Quicksilver replies that he’s not evil, all right? Stop accusing him! They simply had a disagreement and he doesn’t want to discuss it any further. He wanted to volunteer to join her organization. Sensing that this is not to be, Quicksilver then adds a “fine” and begins to walk to the elevator tube. He’ll be on his way. Sorry to bother them.
As he reaches it, Polaris tells him to wait. It’s… If he really wants to come on board, she then tells him, then… you know… sure… A short distance away, Gambit bluntly announces that Quicksilver’s spying on them for the Avengers. When Quicksilver emphatically replies that he’s not, Gambit offers a “whatever” and turns to Harrison Snow. Calling him “Harry,” he asks the Serval CEO, out of curiosity, what’s this “mission?”
Snow thanks Gambit for asking and then explains that it involves a Doctor Terrance Hoffman, a noted biologist. Apparently, he’s embarked in some rather hazardous directions. According to their sources, he’s come under the employ of a rather secret organization. They’re not sure which one, although they’re thinking it may be a division of Advanced Idea Mechanics. In any event, they are busily obtaining for Doctor Hoffman something to research: mutants, as it turns out. They’re not sure what the nature of his research is, but as a company they have a problem with experiments being conducted on kidnapped victims. So they thought they would provide them with the location and let them do the rest.
Soon thereafter, night has fallen in the secluded, wooded surrounding the research facility in question. Through the woods, a speedster races trough the foliage. Within the facility, two armed AIM soldiers stand guard. One asks the other if the other heard something. Before the second replies, one is taken down by the speed of Quicksilver while the other is knocked off his feet by one of Gambit’s charged playing cards. When the two report their status, Polaris, flying high above, commends their good work. With any luck, she tells them, they’re in and out in five minutes tops.
As the three make their way through the facility, Gambit is still not sure he buys any of this. A convenient assignment to help rescue mutants? What does the corporation get out of this? He asked Snow, he recalls, but Snow just blew it off with a convivial “we just want to help people, Remy. Is that so terrible?” Which it’s not, of course, Gambit admits. It’s still leaving him wondering, though. Then again, he’s done far worse things on far less motivation. Might as well see this through, at least for now.
Deeper in the facility, a man in surgical garb and holding a scalpel tells his patient that he wishes he’d reconsider allowing him to knock him out. Weakly, a voice instructs him to go to hell. They wants his death screams to ring in their ears forever.
Suddenly, a figure bursts into the operating room, calling for Doctor Hoffman and informing him that they’re under attack! Some mutants, he thinks. Pulling down his face mask, the surgeon smiles and announces “how excellent!” New samples are coming right to him! Did she hear that, Fatale? he asks his patient, who is hanging on an X-shaped metal cross, her limbs strapped to the cross’ four corners. She’s about to have company.