Gambit (3rd series) #23

Issue Date: 
December 2000
Story Title: 
Shell Game

Fabian Nicieza (Plot), Yanick Paquette (Pencils), Parsons/Stanisci (Inks), Kevin Tinsley (Colors), Richard Starkings & COMICRAFT’s TP (Letters), Mike Raicht (Assistant Editor), Mike Marts (Editor), Joe Quesada (Editor in Chief)

Brief Description: 

Gambit leads the Unified Guild of Thieves and Assassins against the threat of Ego in New Orleans. Gambit realizes that the fight may be futile, but still fights on. After clearing a block from the threat of the Ego-spore, Gambit and his group are approached by Heth’sa, an alien imprisoned on Earth. He explains that he once used to be a prison guard from the planet Culth, which uses the X-Cutioner armor as a guard uniform, but during a prison riot he ran away in cowardice and was sentenced to prison. When Maximum Security was implemented, he was sent to Earth. Heth’sa makes a deal with the guild. If they can help him break into an Oklahoma silo and get him to the X-Cutioner armor, he will give them a c.d. containing information on Ego collected by the High Evolutionary. Gambit, Emil, Bella Donna, Mercy and Heth’sa break into the facility and get the c.d. Heth’sa uses the transport system of the suit to go back in time to kill him instead of letting himself run away. Gambit follows Heth’sa, knowing that if the man does not live then they would never retrieve the information on Ego. Gambit prevents Heth’sa from killing his past self and, instead, helps the man decide to make amends by fighting now. Gambit returns to the future and makes plans to get the c.d. to Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. After they leave, the New Sun reveals that he was in the X-Cutioner armor during the Assassination Game and plans on killing Gambit to save the Earth.

Full Summary: 

New Orleans is under attack by Ego, who is out to absorb the city into him like he has done with much of the rest of the world. In the streets, Gambit finds himself wrapped up in tentacles. Jokingly, he tells Ego that he does not kiss on the first date as he charges up some cards with kinetic energy. Bella Donna kicks back another tentacle and tells her companions that Gambit now knows what girls feel like on a date with him. Mercy LeBeau jumps over another tentacle towards a bystander caught by Ego and tells Bella that this is ridiculous. Emil Lapin evades another tentacle and jokes that the city looks worse than during Mardi Gras.

As the Unified Guild of Thieves and Assassins continues to fight on, Gambit charges up the tentacles wrapping themselves around him and escapes. He agrees with Mercy and tells the others that he cannot charge up enough Ego matter to stop its growth. Bella uses her swords to cut a man free and tells Remy that they should be worrying more about New Orleans anyway. Besides, continues Bella, she hasn’t had a good workout like this in months.

Emil comments that they should leave it to the assassins to enjoy fighting alien squids. Gambit tells Emil to be thankful that he kept him on his team because, if he put Emil on the team on the other side of the city, they would probably be hacking him up along with Ego. Bella runs through the crowd in the street to Gambit and tells him that they are not like the X-Men. They should be staying in the shadows. Usually in a riot like this they would be looting the finest galleries in town.

Sarcastically, Gambit says that his big brother, Henri, would be disappointed. He tells the other three to move the civilians out of the way. If he cannot stop Ego from taking the city, he can at least clear the block. With that said, Gambit charges up the area around him with kinetic energy and unleashes it on Ego, destroying all signs of the alien on the block. An explosion occurs, which sends a cloud high up over the city.

Tired, Gambit kneels on the ground to catch his breath. The remains of Ego lay splattered all over the block and on the people. Emil tells Remy that that was gross and Bella, who is on the ground and covered in green slime, complains that he could warn a person next time. Mercy smiles and helps Bella up, telling the other woman that she does not have a drop on her. Bella tells her that is because she hid behind her. Bella gets up and asks Remy what they are going to do next.

Remy tells them that he cannot do this block by block, because it will kill him. Also, he only came down here to help out between helping the X-Men. This is a mess a whole lot bigger than they can expect to handle. Taking out Ronan the Accuser, the Kree warden in charge of prison Earth, is going to take the big guns like the Avengers or Fantastic Four, not a bunch of assassins and thieves from New Orleans. Gambit continues and tells Bella that she is right; this isn’t something the guild would normally do. However, the ancient prophecies concerning the guilds will mean nothing if Ego eats the whole planet.

Bella pulls some gook out of her hair and asks him to get to the point. What are they doing here, she asks. Bella continues and says that Mercy had a point about his work being a compromise to the guild’s ability to work secretly in the city, as they have been doing for hundreds of years. Gambit picks a tentacle off Bella’s shoulder and tells her that life is change. The fact that the guilds are united and Gambit leads them should attest to that. Bella reminds Gambit that he barely survived the vote to make him their patriarch. He should not press his luck. Gambit smiles and tells her that pushing luck is what he has been doing his whole life.

Bella tells him that maybe they made the wrong decision. She then asks Gambit if he is going to go block-by-block and blow up Ego until his head explodes. Gambit tells her that he would prefer not to but, looking around him, he tells her that they may not have a choice. Emil tells Remy that they could pretend Ego isn’t attacking and then they could steal some jewelry.

Suddenly, from behind them, a voice offers them some help. Mercy is shocked that someone snuck up behind them and spins around. A large, pink man, wearing a yellow shirt, green pants and tan boots, stands behind them and introduces himself as Heth’sa from the planet Culth. However, they may be more comfortable with the Earthen name given to him when he received his uniform: X-Cutioner.


The New Sun writes in his diary about what he has learned so far about Gambit. A baby boy with red eyes was abandoned in a New Orleans hospital and taken by the Thieves Guild a day later. The prophecy was the same in this world as in his, though his upbringing was different than Gambits. “Heredity v. Environment. An eternal conundrum…”

Interlude 2:

In Washington D.C., Jacob Gavin Jr. and Gloria Dayne sit in an apartment. Jacob is called the Courier, a shape shifter who currently is stuck in the form of a female. Gloria is called Fontanelle, a mutant dream therapist. Both individuals are working to help Gambit uncover the secrets of his past and the existence of the New Sun.

Jacob analyzes the information that he and Gloria have so far. The Black Womb is a government sponsored covert genetic research lab run by Amanda Mueller, who was Gloria’s mother. Gloria points out that she has not seen her mother in decades. Jacob tells Gloria that they met Amanda when he and Remy traveled back to 1891. That would mean she is older than dirt before she gave birth to Gloria.

Jacob continues and says that they have the New Sun, who is an exact duplicate of Remy but more powerful. When Gloria was working for him, he ordered her to dreamscape people who had experience with Black Womb years ago. Gloria asks why and wonders if New Sun is Gambit’s twin brother or a clone. Jacob asks Gloria what her best guess is. Gloria guesses that if New Sun is a clone or twin he was most likely born as a result of Black Womb and raised separately from Remy. If he is an alternate-earth variation of Remy, then he may be here to understand the difference in their upbringings. There are only two ways to find out. Find Black Womb or find New Sun.

End Interlude.

The Guild returns to their safe house in the Garden District with the X-Cutioner and takes him into a room to interrogate. Gambit’s houseguests, Quiet Bill, who can open windows between dimensions, and Huey, Bill’s homeless friend, look on from the hallway. Gambit tells the X-Cutioner to talk. The X-Cutioner tells Gambit that he understands why he does not trust him, because all the aliens are prisoners forced upon Earth. However, before he became a prisoner he presided over them.

Heth’sa explains that he was a security officer on an orbital penitentiary above his planet, Culth. The officers all wore armor from which the mutant bounty hunter, X-Cutioner, culled his weaponry. Years ago, there was a riot on the station and the officers were overwhelmed. He panicked and fled for his life. All his coworkers died, standing their ground. He was tried and convicted of cowardice and thrown into a Shi’ar penal system instead of a Culth prison, as a sign of mercy. He served his sentence there until, one day, his entire outpost was relocated to Earth. He became one of Ronan’s wardens and used equipment he found to learn of Gambit’s recent battle with the X-Cutioner in New York.

Gambit stops Heth’sa and tells him that he cannot help. X-Cutioner fell into the East River and he was not in any shape to fish him out. Heth’sa tells Gambit that he was able to track the armor’s teleport sequencing. He knows where it is, but not how to acquire it. Gambit realizes that Heth’sa wants their help to steal it back and asks why.

Heth’sa tells him that the suit has components that can teleport him home so he can make amends for what he did wrong. Emil sips his coffee and asks what the guild gets out of it. Heth’sa tells them that the armor has a database that has information that may help slow down Ego. The information was collected by the High Evolutionary. Mercy says that they can sell the information to the highest bidder. Gambit just looks at her and Mercy realizes that her brother-in-law really did turn into a boy scout.

Some time later, Heth’sa pulls out a device which projects map of a missile silo in the region of the Oklahoma plains. He was successful in following the armor’s teleport signal from New York City to there. However, he was unable to obtain the information he needed to get into the silo without triggering the alarms and alerting the authorities. “Or triggering a couple of nukes?” asks Emil.

Gambit reminisces about the time he was conned into stealing a jet plane. Mercy tells him to remember how that turned out. Shocked, Gambit reminds her that they crashed the plane. “Exactly! Like Emil said,” exclaims Mercy, “Fun time!”


In his diary, the New Sun continues to write about the history of Remy. In his late teens, Remy lost control of his biokinetic energies. Remy lacked the formal preparation that New Sun had. In desperation, Remy turned to Sinister, who lobotomized the boy and returned his power levels to a more manageable level.

End Interlude.

Gambit, Mercy, Bella, Emil and Heth’sa climb down the silo with ropes. Gambit tells the two women below him that he does not know what is more delirious; the blood rushing to his head as he is upside down or the view he has. Bella asks him if the silo is impressive. Mercy tells Bella that Gambit was talking about their bodies. Bella says that it is funny for Remy to flirt, considering he flinches every time she gets near him.

Emil says that he knows it is weird coming from him, but asks the others if they could act professional. The group nears the bottom of the silo, which Emil was able to hack into. Heth’sa’s scout ship flew them from New Orleans to Oklahoma in fifteen minutes. Heth’sa looks at him handheld and tells the others that the X-Cutioner armor is ahead, but he also picks up some additional energy signatures.

Bella and Mercy reach the ground floor and check to see if the landing corridor is clear, which it is. The others reach the bottom and all head to a locked door with a console next to it. Heth’sa begins to hack into the console to unlock the door and tells the others that he may trigger a military alert code. Gambit tells him that they have to take the chance. The doors open without any alarm going off, which Heth’sa takes to mean is a silent alarm.

Gambit turns on the lights. In front of them is a staircase that leads up to the X-Cutioner armor, which floats in stasis. On the adjacent walls are his weapons. Emil realizes where his tax money goes, but Mercy reminds him that he does not pay taxes. Heth’sa tells the group that the armor is in a gravimetric stasis shell and asks Gambit if his country was safeguarding it. Gambit says that he does not know, because he never knew who was wearing it in New York City.


In his lair, the New Sun realizes that one of the storage vaults used by Federal Agent Carl Denti has been accessed. The use of the X-Cutioner armor during the Assassination Game was designed to keep Remy off-balance. The New Sun prefers that Remy not know the scope of his country’s military secrets…

End Interlude.

Heth’sa deactivates the stasis shell and takes out the memory archive. He gives the c.d. to Gambit and tells him that no normal computer on Earth will be able to read it. Gambit tells him that he has a few friends who can look at it. Heth’sa begins to mess around with the machinery of the armor and wishes Gambit the best of luck. Gambit asks the alien what he is doing to the armor when, suddenly, there is a loud screeching sound and a flash of light. When the light fades, Heth’sa is gone.

Gambit realizes that Heth’sa has activated the teleportation system. He takes the mask of the X-Cutioner and puts it on to search the logs for where Heth’sa has gone. Mercy asks him why he cares and tells him that they should go. Gambit tells her that they are responsible for whatever Heth’sa is doing. Gambit has the mask project the data for the last teleportation destination.

Mercy and Bella Donna are confused and shocked when they learn that Heth’sa has gone back in time. Gambit tells them that he is going to change the decisions he has made. Emil does not understand what the big deal is. Gambit shows Emil the disk and the man realizes that if Heth’sa makes sure he does not run away in the prison riot, then he would never be sentenced the Earth. If he was never sentenced to Earth, then he would not be able to give Gambit and the others the information they needed to fight Ego. Gambit puts the mask back on and activates the transport system.

Remy travels to the past. He has seen prison riots before and even led one when he was seventeen. He sprung himself and two drunks from a closet jail cell. However, none of those prepare him for the carnage and brutality before him. Gambit appears high on a ledge and looks down at the scene of the X-Cutioners being killed by the rioting Culthan prisoners.

Gambit jumps to the floor and uses his powers to charge up some of the prisoners’ weapons, which detonates them. He leaps over another group and drop kicks the ones he lands by. He jumps back onto a ledge and sees a lone soldier, who eyes the crowd, looking for someone, but not attacking anyone. This is Heth’sa. Gambit takes off his mask.

Gambit watches to see how Heth’sa plays things out. Heth’sa tackles himself as his past-self runs away from the battle. The present Heth’sa tells the other confused Heth’sa to get back into battle. The past Heth’sa tells him that if he does he will die. The present Heth’sa tells the other alien that his life may as well be over and explains to him what will happen next. The past Heth’sa is in disbelief. Present Heth’sa tells the other that if he runs he will shoot him, for at least he will die with honor.

Gambit does not understand what the two aliens are speaking exactly, but he understands the meaning of it. With his powers, he charges up Heth’sa gun and causes it to explode. The past Heth’sa takes advantage of the situation and runs away to meet his future. Heth’sa is furious with Gambit, but the mutant tells him that he could not allow Heth’sa to change the timeline any more than he already has. He tells the alien that killing himself won’t redeem him. Heth’sa asks what will and Gambit gives him the X-Cutioner mask that the past Heth’sa dropped. Heth’sa puts it on and goes into battle to die like he was supposed to.

In the present, Gambit returns. Bell is surprised as, to her, he was only gone for five seconds. Gambit tells her that time travel is a funny thing, but it made a difference in the end. Emil asks Gambit what they are going to do with the c.d. Gambit tells him that he is going to take it to the X-Men or someone like Reed Richards who can decipher it. Mercy tells Gambit that she met Reed Richards before he became Mr. Fantastic and assures Remy that the name fit even then. Gambit returns the X-Cutioner mask to the armor and the group leaves.

Once the group is gone, the X-Cutioner armor begins to move and shake. A voice comes from it as the arms reach up to pull off the mask. A bright radiance of blue energy engulfs the room as the armor thinks about how Gambit still wonders who was inside the X-Cutioner armor during the Assassination Game. The New Sun stands revealed and tells the absent Remy that it was he! In his diary, New Sun writes that the key to Earth’s salvation will be brought on by Gambit’s death.

Characters Involved: 

Gambit (X-Men and Unified Guild of Thieves and Assassins)

Bella Donna, Emil, Mercy (Unified Guild of Thieves and Assassins)


Huey, Quiet Bill

Ego, the living planet

New Sun



Various prisoners and guards of Culth

New Sun’s Diary:


New Sun


Story Notes: 

The issue is part of the Maximum Security crossover.

Issue Information: