Gambit stands at the gates of Xavier’s school, in uniform, head down and pondering over recent events. He realizes on some basic level that this is only a dream, yet he still shivers in the icy wind, feeling his body turning numb and becoming as deadened as his already shattered heart. He knows he messed up, that’s what he does. True happiness was on the horizon but he still managed to wrest it from his own grasp, strangling it with his silken tongue of lies and deceit. Through the bars, running through the snow he sees Rogue, Beast and Joseph with Storm and Iceman above them, enjoying themselves. Once again he can play the outcast, the pariah who can only watch as his former friends and allies frolic in the snow; until they notice him.
Their smiles turn to scowls as Joseph clenches his fist and tells Remy he doesn’t belong there. Rogue adds that Joseph is correct; he’s already caused enough damage. Storm says they trusted him, they welcomed him into their team and their hearts. “Traitor! Liar! Murderer!” vociferates Iceman as Rogue says that she thought he really cared about her, and thought they had a real shot together. She grabs the cold metal bar of the school gate and says, “But you were playing me all along! Using me! Laughing behind my back!” Her words rip through Gambit like jagged spikes and he desperately wants to deny them; but he can’t.
As he turns, the imposing figure of Mister Sinister is standing behind him and he tells Remy that the truth hurts and if the X-Men don’t want him back, he can come back to work for him. Gambit wants to blame Sinister for his troubles. He had commissioned Remy to hire the band of mercenaries known as the Marauders and led them into the Morlock tunnels on his orders. The resulting massacre, Gambit feels, is all his fault. At least that is what Remy tries to tell himself as he instinctively releases three charged cards at Sinister who has his hand outstretched to welcome him back. Before they even leave his hand, he knows that it’s just another lie. It was his own greed and weakness that led him to Sinister. As the cards release their explosive energy when coming into contact with the villain, Remy too wishes he too could burn within their purifying flames. But all he feels is the numbing cold of his own guilt.
Gambit awakens screaming, as was common these days, or at least he thinks he wakes up. How can he be truly sure? All he does know is that he is still cold. An angry chill has been rattling his bones ever since the X-Men abandoned him to die in the Antarctic. He wasn’t sure how he survived the long trek to civilization but he did, didn’t he? Try as he might, he can’t shake the cold or the loneliness as he pours himself a drink. As he prepares for his evening’s work, he wonders if there is any chance they’ll take him back.
He wanders onto his balcony, overlooking the Oakland Bay Bridge and visions begin to haunt him. Archangel flies in front of him and instantly answers his last question, telling him he has to be kidding. He had led the Marauders. He was responsible for the senseless slaughter of the Morlocks and allowed his friends to crucify him. Rogue agrees with him, adding there is no place in the X-Men for a traitor. Remy tries to ignore the taunts, knowing they are only figments of his imagination, but they still draw blood.
Later, he finds himself swinging through the streets of San Francisco, the TransAmerica Pyramid building glistening in the background as he thinks about how he came to the city hoping to get a line on Sinister, and took on work as a thief to get by as that is what he knows best. He thinks about how beautiful the city is and who he would most like to share it with. To try and moralize the kind of work he does, he only steals from other criminals, but knows a thief is still a thief. As he enters a room through the window, he makes his way to the safe which is covered by a painting. Removing this, he suddenly realizes he isn’t alone in the room and turns to see someone on the couch. He wonders if he is asleep but soon learns that the man on the couch, and two more people lying face down aren’t sleeping; they are dead, and the room is drenched in water.
A vision of Wolverine appears, lighting a cigar and tells him that it looks like he’s stepped in a real pile this time. These guys were professionals who didn’t go down easy. He adds, “That water coverin‘ em? Curious! It’s almost as if someone drowned ‘em like a bunch of old alley cats, but… in a penthouse?” Gambit then sees a vision of Rogue who asks him where he’s going. He isn’t running away again is he? She adds that these men are well-known drug dealers and he had come to rob them. Why should he care if they were dead? Remy looks grim as he thinks, ‘Why indeed?’
Remy leaves the crime scene and heads across town, thinking about what his visions had said. He hastens toward a rat hole, a downtown bar where his contact, Oscar, conducts his business. He is one of many parasites who lack the particular mental defect to become thieves, but who are still easily lured by the promise of easy pickings. Oscar sniffs out easy targets and makes preparations and gives the job to a professional, like Gambit, in exchange for an advance fee and a percentage of the actual haul. Remy seats himself in a booth opposite Oscar, who sports a psychedelic T-shirt, glasses, long hair with a goatie.
They discuss his failed job. He tells Remy that he has heard rumblings about a war brewing among the locals, but he still could have scored the place. Remy replies that it was hard to give the safe his full concentration with all the unwanted company. Oscar says he counting on his cut and Remy, letting his coffee cool says he was too before mentioning another matter that they had discussed. “You mean Essex?” says Oscar, “Getting a handle on that guy is like tryin’ to grab a fist full’a mercury. He’s all over the place and I hear that ain’t his only name.” Gambit already knows full well about the man known as Mister Sinister.
As he sits silently, Remy envisages Bishop snarling at him, asking him why he’s wasting his time with this scum when he could be using his powers for the good of all mankind. Psylocke tells Bishop not to waste his breath, as if it were left to her, she’d slice his throat for the suffering he caused Archangel. Beast, playing pool says, “Ain’t love grand. You’re willing to kill the man who hurt your sweetie.” He adds that it’s too bad that Gambit hasn’t the guts to punish the one who shattered his lover’s heart before correcting himself, “Whoops! Silly me, that ‘was’ him wasn’t it. Your shot Psylocke.” Oscar sips his coffee and tells Remy to stop zoning out on him and asks him if he wants another mark. Looking quite depressed by this constant barrage of criticism from his own mind, he replies, “Sure, why not?”
Remy leaves Oscar and wanders along the quay which offers him a grand view of the Golden Gate Bridge, but he is in no mood for sight-seeing. He has a weight on his mind and needs to snap out of it. He wonders what’s wrong with him, why he is so cold? A fresh vision of Archangel swoops down beside him and asks if he really wants to know before telling him that it is because he is a man without a conscience or a soul. He adds that the Morlocks were defenseless mutants who hid in the tunnels beneath New York City before an image of Remy himself, angry and even more critical continues, “And you led the raid which massacred them! You’re a monster, Gambit.” The final face in this trio of visions is the hooded face of death who adds, “A foul and loathsome creature that even Death will not welcome.” Remy’s knees suddenly collapse beneath him on the quay side and a tourist passes him but offers no aid as an icy wind gnaws at his soul, or is it the conscience he is said to lack?
Gambit is in action once again, leaping, bo-staff in hand over a large iron gate guarding a mansion. Lights are on in the house but he continues his approach, past the swimming pool and towards his next pickings. Oscar has lined this job up for him, supplying him with everything; detailed diagrams of the house and grounds, plus the best time to strike. He’s arrived an hour ahead of schedule and wonders to himself whether he is early as he has little else to do, or did he instinctively know what to expect. He rounds some shrubbery and notices another lifeless body, another man who appears to have drowned. At least, thinks Remy, this one is within spitting distance of a pool. Suddenly, he hears gunshots screaming into the night, just as he himself usually does in the morning and wonders if that means he will wake up again.
He stalls, but a vision of Cyclops appears and tells him to move it. Lives may be at risk and he has a duty to save them. He is still an X-Man at heart. Archangel then appears to supply the contrary opinion, telling Summers that slime-o (Gambit) only cares about himself, having no sense of honor or responsibility. Remy runs, maybe to spite Archangel, or in spite of him. Either way, he reaches the main house after passing two more deceased gunmen. The sight he sees inside adds a new chill to his already frozen blood.
Inside the house, he sees Hydro-Man drowning a helpless gunman in his liquid hands. Hydro-Man isn’t a mutant, just a normal human leg breaker with the ability to transform himself into water. Remy remembers reading something about him, probably in the Daily Bugle a while back. Not that this information matters at present as Gambit grabs a lamp from a nearby table, charges it up with kinetic energy and hurls it at the villain. Hydro-Man reels in pain and screams as the shock takes its toll. However, it doesn’t take him long to recover and he ominously rears up in front of Gambit, telling him it was a cute trick and wishes he had time to learn it. Unfortunately, he is running a little late as the Don has a few more bodyguards than he was led to believe. He hurls gallons of water at Remy who leaps high in the air as he asks who hired him. Hydro-Man isn’t in the mood to reveal this as revealing a client is a major no-no in his business, not, as he tells Gambit, that he’ll have the opportunity to rat him out anyway.
As Gambit lands, he feels the watery hand of the villain cover his face, cutting his oxygen supply. Against this kind of foe, Remy’s agility is of limited value and he struggles to breathe. A vision of Bishop tells him to fight; surrender is not an option. Storm also appears and reminds him to use his brain as there must be a way of diluting his opponent’s grasp on him. As Remy starts to run through the house with Hydro Man maintaining his hold over his face, an apparition of Rogue flies overhead and tells him that’s the spirit. She says, “Don’t you dare die on me Remy. I hate what you’ve done, but if you quit now I’ll never forgive you! I know your lungs are bursting, and your vision’s gone but you can’t give up on yourself, on us. You can make it Gambit, you can jump.”
Flailing almost helplessly, Gambit leaps from the house and into the swimming pool. He bursts through the pool’s covering, suddenly questioning the wisdom of Storm’s plan - but then Storm isn’t really there so he can only blame himself. After what seems like an age, he summons the energy to kick to the surface and emerges to take a lungful of air as Hydro-Man, who followed him into the pool, emerges, ready to continue his attack. Luckily for Gambit, several gunmen who his foe attacked earlier, emerge from the house begin to open fire on Hydro-Man, and despite their weapons having absolutely no effect on him, he knows that they are simply occupying him until reinforcements arrive and decides to leave the scene. Remy recognizes his idea as being a good one and also takes the opportunity to depart. He thinks that while the Don may applaud his efforts on his behalf, he won’t appreciate his original reason for being there.
Night has now fallen and Gambit, after wandering aimlessly around San Francisco as he had the Antarctic wasteland, stands at the foot of Lombard Street, ‘the crookedest street in the world.’ He wonders why he can’t recollect how he escaped from the Antarctic and what terrible secret his subconscious is hiding from him. As he stands there, he realizes he has arrived at some sort of crossroads in his life. A vision of Jean Grey appears and tells him that it’s funny how things work out. According to the guidebooks, Lombard Street once had a shady past. It’s now a major tourist attraction. She changes form, into her original Marvel Girl uniform and says anything can evolve over time. Another switch reveals her in the Dark Phoenix uniform and she tells Remy that he is no longer the same man who hired the Marauders, or worked for Mister Sinister. Jean turns back into her current self and adds that he can recreate himself, if only he dares.
The rain has begun to fall in San Francisco as Oscar makes his way past the bar he hangs out in. Jean’s words twist in Remy’s head like a rusted wire. He was a thief when he joined the X-Men and a traitor when he left. His past had caught up with him and they were forced to discard him like moldy trash. Now he’s back to being a thief and as he thinks about Hydro-Man’s killing spree he tells himself it doesn’t concern him…. Or does it?
As Oscar passes a dark alleyway, Gambit’s hand reaches out and drags him off the sidewalk. Remy is now quite angry and confronts Oscar. He asks Oscar if he thinks he can play him, use him to rip off his enemies after Hydro-Man has done his dirty work. He knows this so-called war among the locals is Oscar’s doing. Oscar defends himself, replying that he is just trying to get by the best he can. He explains that he used to be the kid even the wimps and geeks kicked around. But now things have changed, and he is now ‘the man.’ Remy says he can easily be a dead man but Oscar tells him that isn’t possible, not when he can still offer Essex or Hydro-Man in his place.
Soon, while the rain continues to sweep the bay area, Gambit sails across the waters, heading towards Alcatraz Island in a speed boat. He thinks about the two villains mentioned. One he wants for personal vengeance, though he tries to convince himself his intentions are noble, that he’s acting on behalf of slaughtered Morlocks. The other is the one he chose, for reasons he can’t really fathom. Hydro-Man is a murderer, sure, but the same can be said of his victims. He isn’t even a mutant Remy thinks, he’s not his problem or his responsibility and yet here he is, following up on Oscar’s information. In the middle of the bay, he finds his quarry, a lager boat with several men on board. Remy stops and leaps onto the boat and the men draw their guns and start shooting at him. They knew he was coming and tell Gambit that their boss asked them to make him welcome. Gambit springs forward and lands a two-footed blow on his first opponent. He knew Oscar would sell him out so he came prepared. He tells the gunmen that “When Remy LeBeau comes a’callin’ on the bossman, he don’t settle for no hired help!”
He charges three cards in his right hand as he smacks a second man on the jaw with his bo-staff, held in the other, adding that he’d look foolish if he came all this way in such miserable weather, only to end up a dead man. He has his reputation to protect. As he releases the cards, the Archangel vision reappears and tells him that he hopes he’s proud of himself, as he was kicking some serious butt there. He was overwhelming these hapless gunmen with a brutal efficiency which almost reminds the Archangel of the night the Marauders took on the Morlocks. His cards land and a fire breaks out on the boat’s stern. The Cyclops vision also returns to provide the counter-perspective. He tells Remy that he can’t allow Archangel to distract him; it is no time to start doubting himself or his mission. He is here for a reason and he must accomplish it.
As Remy grits his teeth and shouts, “Hydro-Man! I’ve come for you!”, the visions of Iceman, Beast, Wolverine and Cyclops stand behind him, offering him their support as he faces his liquid foe. Hydro-Man pours himself towards Remy who leans back at the swiftness of his attack. He asks Gambit why he even bothered to come after him as he has no business messing with him. Remy can all but shout in agreement; Sinister is the man he really wants, Sinister who is scheduled to meet Oscar come dawn. Still, Remy understands, someone has to stop the killing, that’s what heroes do and a hero is what he truly aspires to be. He rocks Hydro-Man with a swipe of his bo-staff before jumping back into his own speed boat. He takes off at full-speed and it looks like he is fleeing in the face of a more powerful opponent, but Remy has a plan.
As Hydro-Man quickly catches up with him, moving effortlessly through the sea, he raises himself on a column of water and gloats about his abilities. He tells Gambit that he is trapped, unable to avoid him on the tiny boat but Remy is already charging the boat up via the steering wheel. He doesn’t know if it was part of his plan to do this, or whether it was simply instinctive. Hydro-Man launches a fresh attack, using the same method as last time and clamps his watery hands over Gambit’s face, telling him he hopes he took a big breath, because it’s his last. As his lungs scream for oxygen, Gambit wonders if is the strain of charging such a large object, or simply the fear of drowning that brings him to a state of near-paralysis. Is drowning even worse than freezing, he questions. No, for reasons he can’t even begin to identify, freezing strikes him as infinitely more terrible.
He reacts to his situation by picking another card out of his pocket and holding it in front of Hydro-Man who asks what’s with the card. Remy doesn’t respond, but throws it at him and breaks the hold over his face. “So ya temporarily managed t’break my grip - big deal,” says the villain, “What does it buy ya in the long run? Yer still gonna die!” His confidence is shaken though when Remy skips with some force from the boat saying, “That remains to be seen.” Hydro-Man wonders what is going on, thinking that jumping into the bay isn’t going to save him, but after only a couple of seconds, the boat explodes in a massive plume of smoke and flame, dispersing Hydro-Man’s molecules far and wide. Remy sees the boat collide with the rocky shore but oddly, he can’t feel any heat, or warmth. He thinks it must be because the water’s cold; yes, that must be the reason.
As dawn breaks, a rainbow sweeps over San Francisco and Gambit returns to the bar where Oscar hangs out. As he enters, he assumes Sinister is long gone, but what does he have to lose if he isn’t? As he half-expected, he finds Oscar nailed to the wall, dead, having realized all too late that Remy’s warnings that Sinister was not to be trusted were well-founded. Remy leaves the bar and thinks to himself as the visions of the X-Men surround him that it’s funny; he knows he should feel frustrated and angry over the way things turned out but, though there is an unnatural sluggishness to his steps, he’s also quite pleased with himself. His time with the X-Men wasn’t wasted. They have become an intrinsic part of him and no matter what the future holds, they’ll never abandon him.
Remy struggles to move his feet as he staggers, bare-chested through the Antarctic snows. He is so tired, even the knowledge of his imminent death cannot keep his body from failing him as he drops to the snowy ground. He thinks about the X-Men, and how they’ll never abandon him. He thinks it may be a lie, but he clings to it nonetheless. Some dreams, he thinks, die so much harder than others, but eventually, those dreams are forced to succumb. Laying helplessly in the snow, a man with a team of Huskies approaches, but with Gambit’s body half-covered in snow, the stranger doesn’t see him and leaves the area, abandoning Gambit to his fate.
Candles line a small section of tunneling under New York City, transforming what is simply a sewer into a welcoming shelter. The noises of a construction crew are getting closer and Callisto, lying wounded on a makeshift bed, asks her young friend Marrow if it isn’t time they should be moving on. Callisto wears only a pink thong with a few herb leaves covering her torso whilst Marrow is in her usual green and blue uniform. She sarcastically replies that she forgot she had made reservations at the Plaza. She adds that she should let the Healer’s herbs do their work while she takes care of the upworlders. Callisto holds Marrow’s hand and tells her that violence only leads back them and they had learned that the hard way. That is why she had sent her to the X-Men in the first place - to find a better way. She adds, “No more blood, promise?” Marrow, wielding a bone dagger replies that promises don’t work in the tunnels. Down here, things go bump in the night.
Nearby, a team of construction engineers are working in the tunnels, with Bob and Jim discussing horror movies. “Night?” says Bob, “You are so wrong man. Dawn of the Dead was way superior!” He adds that he has a date that night and wishes to clock out early. His boss, Jim Pillman tells him the only date ‘he’ cares about is their deadline. He asks him to prep the area while he scouts out an adjoining tunnel. With torch in hand, Jim moves slowly along the sewer as rats scurry away into the darkness. He thinks about his responsibilities and the younger engineers he works with. To him, they don’t have any kind of responsibility about being an adult; only caring who starts for the Knicks and what they’re doing on Saturday night. He meanwhile has to think about getting the job done. Still, he thinks, maybe he should cut ‘em some slack. They aren’t the ones with a young daughter and a summer place in Wildwood to pay off.
As he looks around, he says to himself, “Look at these rats. Freakin’ vermin. Hate ‘em.” Surprisingly for him, Marrow speaks from the shadows, telling him they’re not too fond of him either before grabbing him around the face and dragging him backwards, adding, “Neither am I.” As he drops his torch, she informs him that he has two choices; the stupid one ends with him not breathing, and she asks him if he can feel something in his back. Holding the dagger to him, she tells him “It’s two seconds away from your spleen. I’m going to take my hands off your mouth. Scream, I dare you.” Releasing his face, but maintaining a strong grip around his neck, Jim can see Marrow by the flaming torches lining that particular tunnel and asks her nervously what she wants. She replies that it’s time for him to take his toys back home. Doesn’t he know? This area’s too dangerous to work in. Jim is petrified but tells her she’s nuts and asks what’s down there that’s worth him losing his job. Marrow turns him, and holding the dagger to his face, says, “How about your life.”
She continues to tell him that humans don’t know what a life is worth but down there, they learn young. Thinking back to the time when the Morlocks were attacked by Marauders including Scalphunter, Sabretooth and Riptide, she remembers being a young girl, helpless as were her underground family against such a ferocious onslaught. She watched as the Morlocks were killed without mercy.
She asks Jim if he remembers reading about the Marauders opening hunting season on them as it made for tasty headlines. Despite what the papers said, they didn’t all die. Some lived, with death branded on their brains. She adds that the papers didn’t report that on that day, an angel came down to save them, but said she was there and it was the angel that needed saving. In her memory, the X-Men’s Angel is shown crucified against a wall by Harpoon’s energy weapons. Marrow points to dried blood, plastered on the wall beside them in the shape of Angel’s body. She tells him that heaven came there to die. What makes him think he’ll do any better? She continues, telling Jim that his kind think the Morlocks, or ‘Uglies’ as she calls them, are so different, and don’t deserve to feel the wind on their faces. She asks him if he has any places he holds sacred.
Now released from her vice-like grip, Jim replies the church, his house, his kid’s room. Marrow says that they have holy ground too, and he’s treading on it. If she returns to find a single brick cracked or a strand of cobweb touched, then she’ll touch him, and points the dagger to his throat to reinforce her threat. Reaching under his jacket, she pulls out his identity card and shows him it. She knows his name, as the card reads ‘Jim Pillman, Local 17’ and she tells him not to make her come knocking on his door - she might wake his kids.
Jim leaves the tunnel and rejoins his colleagues. Bob, using a Pico 420 drill to open up the ground tells him they were getting worried but Jim replies that he shouldn’t get his panties in a knot. He then informs his team that they are packing up and pulling out. He says he saw some cracks in the foundation he didn’t care for and the place could come down around their heads. Jim removes his hard hat and asks if he’s sure, mentioning the deadline Jim had pointed out earlier. Jim angrily points his torch straight into Bob’s face and yells that last time he checked he was the boss so he should believe him when he says the place isn’t safe.
Marrow meanwhile returns to Callisto’s side and tells her she is safe now; she’s seen rats skitter off slower. Callisto asks if they were limping and Marrow replies that it’s nothing a little corrective surgery won’t fix. Callisto asks how she managed to change their minds, “A pleasant conversation over tea?” Starting to re-bandage her wounds, Marrow smiles and replies, “Oh, I just battered my big ‘ol eyelids and said, Oh pwease mister man, don’t hurt my sweet widdle home!” She adds that men sure are suckers for a pretty face. Callisto smiles and says she talks tough but sometimes she thinks she is a scared little girl. “Whatever gets you through the night” replies Marrow.