(Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
Remy LeBeau, wearing a long, red overcoat and industrial-looking boots, stands before a wrecked Sentinel, which lies smoking on the ground. Flames flicker from its joints and much of its bodywork is missing completely. Its once fearsome head sports the painted words ‘AJ’s Auto Shop’ on it, and Gambit feels the two muppets standing before him have some explaining to do.
He asks which of them thought that it was a good idea to take a multi-million dollar piece of hardware, designed exclusively for genocide, and rebuild it with spare parts from their monster truck. They explain that their decision was prompted by the guys over at Cooter’s Quickie Lube, who had been insufferable since they were featured on ‘Monster Garage Shop.’ They just wanted something cool to show off at the fairground. “T’weren’t no malicious intent, mister…” “LeBeau, Remy LeBeau,” replies the X-Man, “My super hero codename’s Gambit, but I don’t stand much on formality. Just call me Remy.”
Remy explains that, malicious intent or not, Sentinels aren’t toys; they’re murder machines and they could’ve gotten themselves killed. The monstrosity was designed to exterminate mutants, he continues, but it wouldn’t be the first time some regular Joe bystander got wasted in the crossfire. The two guys look at him in horror. “Uh, Mister Remy…” they begin. Gambit replies that Remy is just fine. They point behind him and Gambit turns to see why they appear so concerned.
The Sentinel has righted itself and isn’t entirely a spent force. It tries to stamp on him, but Gambit’s swiftness saves him from a nasty headache. An injured Sentinel is still a Sentinel, so Gambit doesn’t hang around. He produces five playing cards from his pocket and charges them instantly. Before he has chance to throw them, the Sentinel’s massive fist comes for him but, again, Remy is too quick for it. He leaps onto the arm and clambers up towards its shoulder. There, he chucks the cards into the vulnerable joint between the arm and the shoulder, before leaping to safety. The Sentinel explodes, leaving Remy with no doubt that the job is finally done.
Now that it’s finished, Gambit tells the guys he wishes he didn’t have to file that report. “Report?” queries one of the culprits. Remy off-handedly remarks that it’s part of his job with the X-Men. They’re gonna be pretty interested why a couple of fellas like them rebuilt a mutant-hunting robot killer. He adds that they seem fine to him, but the X-Men are gonna raise some questions; maybe wonder if they’re working in cahoots with Magneto. The guys appear shocked, and don’t know that Gambit’s only toying with them.
Remy continues to point out that the X-Men will want to investigate too. The town will be overrun with mutant X-Men, poking and prodding around with their telepathic superbrains and heightened animal senses. The guys clearly don’t want this, and ask Remy if there’s some kind of understanding they can arrive at. Remy asks if the red sports bike in the garage is theirs. Seconds later, he roars off towards New Orleans.
Before long, Remy is in the city. It is night time and it seems the whole city is out to celebrate the Geco Festival. Crowds jostle through the streets, while the balconies of the old houses lining the street are filled with people bent on having a good time. A kid remarks on Remy’s wheels and he replies that he can keep ‘em. Another child remarks on Remy’s ‘freaky’ eyes, but his mother simply holds him a little tighter. Remy continues down the street and says hello to a tarot reader named Ida, and a beggar he knows as Ronnie, who asks him for some lunch money. “Soon Ronnie. Real soon,” Remy replies.
Watching Remy's entrance into the city is a guy with spiked, blond hair. He calls his employer, Mister Cooper, on his cell phone and informs him that Remy is back. Remy wanders into a tavern, where the barman knows him. He asks Remy what he’s been up to. Remy replies he’s been doing the usual: fighting monsters and maniacs, rescuing kittens, saving the universe. He asks if that gets him a free drink and the barman replies that he might get a free draft for the kitten.
Nearby, some guys are playing cards around a table. Dan’s friend says there’s a lot of moolah riding on this hand. Dan looks at his cards. He has four aces, but doesn’t like his hand one bit. He stands and tosses them to the table. He folds. His playing partners think he’s crazy, and that Dan thinks the cards talk to him, but Dan heads to the bar and opens his arms, as he sees his old friend, Gambit. Remy smiles as he sees Dan, and they embrace warmly.
Remy asks Dan if his apartment is still in one piece and if he watered the plants. Shipshape, replies Dan, a middle-aged black man with greying hair and beard. ‘Cept, he adds, he doesn’t remember that being part of the deal when Remy gave him that three-month advance. “It was six months rent, you old swindler,” Remy replies. Dan laughs. He’s just trying to keep Remy on his toes.
They relax against the bar and Dan asks what brings Remy back to these parts. Guild business? Personal business? Visiting family? or does he have another ex-wife stashed away that nobody knows about. Remy hints that he has a job. Dan wonders if he gets bored with super-heroing, suggesting that he came back for a different kind of excitement. When he gets bored there, he’ll go back to the X-Men. Gambit asks, “You’re not going to start on me, are you, old timer? Like you said, I’m just keepin’ myself sharp.”
Dan turns the conversation onto a little more serious note. He informs Remy that there’s an ill wind blowing; something bad’s gonna happen. Remy asks if his cards told him that. Those four aces he just threw away give him a message? Dan asks Remy not to poke fun at him, especially when he and his friends run around with underwear on the outside of their clothes, shooting each other with radioactive laser beams. This is serious business, he continues. The cards have been whispering to him all week. Today, they’re screaming at the top of their lungs; warning type things.
Dan takes a swig of his drink and adds that the cards don’t lie and Remy, of all people, oughta know. He holds cards every day and fights with them, but he hasn’t stopped to listen to what they have to say. Remy gives him a little hug, and tells Dan that they’ll pick up this conversation some other time. It’s been along day already and he’d like to head upstairs and get unpacked. He has somewhere to be tonight. As he departs, Dan tells him he’s just trying to caution him. Remy enters his comfortable room, which has a photo of himself on the wall. “Crazy old man,” he says, as he walks through the door.
That night, Gambit changes into casual clothes and wanders into town. The party atmosphere is strong and people throng the streets, with their carefree attitudes, causing Gambit to think that some things never change around here. He passes another familiar face, that of Madame Camille. She asks if he’s an appointment at Mister Cooper’s and Remy replies that he figures she already knows the answer to that; as well as the answer to everything else. She waves him on, joking that he’ll be back for her help soon enough. A girl sweeping up Madame Camille’s shop looks at Remy and gushes at his good looks. “Don’t even think it, girl,” Madame Camille warns.
Upon his approach to Club Orleans, Remy notices a disturbance in the car park. Three men are tussling with a young lady, who clearly doesn’t want to join them in their car. Remy, of course, intervenes and they warn him to move along if he knows what’s good for him. Remy tries being nice and tells them that they’re obviously drunk, and are gonna be hurting one way or another tomorrow. He tells them it’s up to them to decide if it’s from a hangover…or a concussion.
Watching the confrontation is Orlean Cooper, owner of the club. “I love this town,” he tells himself, “Such a friendly place, so much to celebrate, music always in the air, and you never can tell what the night will bring.” Cooper is a blue-skinned mutant with red hair and a stocky physique. He watches Remy make short work of the three thugs, but turns to his guest to listen to what he has to offer.
Sitting in his office is Jack Jessup. As a band plays in the club below them, he asks Cooper to skip the Chamber of Commerce pep talk and jump ahead to the part where he tells him the job and hands over the money. Cooper, having seen the fight outside, has a change of plan. He informs Jessup that circumstances have changed, and his expertise is no longer required.
Cooper thumps a large wad of cash on his desk and informs Jessup that they’d agreed on a considerable sum, and here’s a generous portion of that. Money for nothing! Isn’t that what being a thief is all about? asks Cooper, rhetorically. He warns Jessup to do him a favor and keep his nose out of this, or he can guarantee there’ll be trouble. Jessup stands, and says he’s the best man for the job and Cooper knows it. Cooper replies that he’s afraid that, at this particular juncture, he is not.
He takes him back out onto the landing, which overlooks the bar where diners are enjoying their food. He tells Jessup to enjoy the hospitality of the establishment’s diverse beverage selection but, if he can excuse him, he has an old friend to attend to. Jessup recognizes LeBeau, and doesn’t like it.
Downstairs, Remy is arguing with the mutant doorman, a man much larger than he is. He is chastising the doorman, Alphonse, on not lifting a finger to help the girl being attacked in the car park earlier. The man explains that what happens outside the business is none of his concern. Remy says that’s a nice attitude he has there; a real credit to X-gene carriers everywhere. Orlean Cooper interrupts their argument and asks them to play nice. He reminds Alphonse that Remy is welcome there, just as everyone is welcome. Club Orleans is a haven for civilized people, man and mutant, to conduct business, to pass an evening in leisure and fine music. Just as long as they follow the rules.
Remy asks how he could even think otherwise. He explains that he’s back in town after a long absence. Can Cooper blame him for stopping in at N’awlins’ swankiest jazz club? “Flatterer,” replies Cooper. He asks Remy what really brings him here tonight. “I’ve got a date!” he replies, smiling.
Across the room, a blonde woman in a long golden evening dress waves at him and calls his name. Remy puts his arms out and quietly asks her to kiss him. Before she can resist, he plants one on her lips; just long enough for Orlean Cooper to get the idea that she really is his date. He tells them to enjoy their evening, and leaves them to it.
The woman asks if he cares to explain that, or would he like to see just how far she can shove her fork? “Lili Penrose, I presume,” says Remy, as he seats himself opposite her at one of the club’s tables. That’s an introduction, she points out, not an explanation. Remy tells her that the imposing fella in the two thousand dollar suit is Orlean Cooper; self-proclaimed city godfather and the owner of this fine club, among others. He’s a nice enough guy as super powered gangsters go, but he’s got a firm rule that certain extra-curricular activities take place only if he consents, and gets a percentage. If he found out that they were breaking this rule, he wouldn’t hesitate to have them skinned alive, boiled and left in the swamps as gatorbait; and that’s if he’s feeling charitable.
So, Lili asks, what are they doing there? They could have met anywhere. Remy grins and replies that he knows, but it keeps things lively. Lili is beginning to understand him, and why he agreed to meet her. This is why a super hero moonlights, isn’t it - to keep things lively? Gambit says he prefers to see it the other way round, and adds that the reason he agreed to meet her had more to do with the staggering down-payment included with her job offer. As a waiter deposits a bottle of champagne in an ice bucket to their table, she slides her bag over to him using her foot; a bag containing several wads of cash, and a toy Geco.
Remy pours the drinks, and flatters her by saying that, with a pretty face like hers, along with that cash, naturally, he’d do pretty much anything she wants. Just for fun, though, he asks, what say she tells him what she wants. Lili explains that she wants him to steal a deck of cards. Gambit likes the idea; cards are his speciality. He clinks glasses and makes a toast to the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Over at the bar, Jack Jessup is taking his frustration out on the hapless barman. He wants a particular bottle, but the barman explains that it’s not for public consumption. Jessup tells him that Orlean Cooper told him he could have whatever he wanted, and that’s it. He wants the whole bottle. The barman explains that it’s a 60-year-old single malt, private preserve McCallam, and it goes for twelve thousand a bottle. This is part of Mister Cooper’s private stash, and he’s not gonna like it if he hands it over.
Jessup calls for a trade. He tosses Cooper’s wallet onto the bar and tells the barman he lifted it when they shook hands in the office. He then places a Hydra-designed twin-laser hand cannon down which Cooper keeps taped under his desk. Jessup explains that Cooper stopped to make a call during their meeting and he swiped it. He then produces a small Benin dagger; 15th century, and part of Cooper’s exotic art collection. He took that when Cooper turned to watch his mutie pal beat down some frat boys. He picked the lock to its case and nabbed it.
Finally, Jessup holds up a prayer blade, which was used for sacrifice. It gutted kids whose blood spilled into the Okpara River, and summoned ancient voodoo gods to bind ‘em in servitude. The barman asks how on Earth he would know that. Jessup says he knows all sorts of stuff. He quickly brings the dagger down straight through the man’s hand, pinning him to the bar. He grabs his collar and orders the barman to tell Cooper that he’s doing the job anyway. He’ll get those cards and then he’ll discuss his fee with the highest bidder. He removes the knife and adds that Cooper should know that, if anyone gets in his way, he’ll rip out their stinkin’ mutant guts and feed ‘em to him.