San Francisco

Remy LeBeau stood on the third floor of the San Francisco Museum of Natural History, clutching in his hands a red gemstone, the Devil’s Heart. In the doorway of the room he was about to leave stood the Shocker, a costumed mercenary hired by Norman Osborn to steal the jewel that Gambit now possessed.

Trust my luck, Remy thought, I pick de night de bad guys gonna snatch de gem. He smiled as he looked at Shocker, I thought some o’ de X-Men’s costumes were funny, but dat guy’s wearing a quilt. Hmm, wonder if it’s eiderdown?

Remy tensed his body, as he tried to figure out how to escape. Before Shocker could react, Gambit threw himself backward into a somersault that carried him over the shattered glass case that once housed the Devil’s Heart. Shocker stood his ground and quickly thumbed on the microcontrols in his gauntlets, charging up his vibration focusers. He pointed his hands at Remy and let loose a wide-angle vibration blast. Gambit, not knowing what to expect, took the brunt of the blast, and felt his insides begin to shake as he almost dropped the jewel.

Shocker spoke, “That was a warning thief, give me the Heart.”

“Thief? Dat would be calling the kettle black, quilty, unless museum security has changed an awful lot since this afternoon.” Gambit quipped. Inside though, Remy was wary. Have to get out of this room, dat vibrating blast near did me in.

“I’m a reasonable man, you aren’t part of my job, just give me the gem and you can walk away.” Shocker said as he took a step into the room.

Yeah right, and I’m a Frenchman. Shocker passed through the doorway, his eyes never leaving Remy, watching and waiting for Gambit to make the next move. Good, thought Remy, I have to try and get him in de room, then I might be able to get out.

Remy’s red eyes flashed as he spoke, “Okay, guess dat sounds fair.”

Gambit took a step towards Shocker, the Devil’s Heart in his hand. His other hand was behind his back, as he retrieved his bo staff from its holster. He carefully extended the staff to a length of three foot and then, when he judged his opponent to be close enough, he lashed out with the metal shaft, catching Shocker a hard blow on the side of his head, before the mercenary had a chance to react. Seconds later, Gambit was out the door past him and heading down the stairs. Reaching the ground floor, he saw the damage that had been caused and cautiously looked around the lobby.

Better get a move on, de cops bound to be heading here soon. He looked around once more, and saw nothing except for a few unconscious security guards. Suddenly, he felt the ground shake ever so slightly, as if someone or something very heavy was walking over the floor. You know, if I had a glass of water with me, I’d be getting dose ripples in it, like Jurassic Park. He smirked. Maybe quilty bring a T-Rex to de party?

Then he saw Rhino. The heavily built grey skinned man regarded Remy, then Rhino noticed that Gambit had the gem they were sent to steal. Remy stood motionless, facing the Rhino down. Well, what do ya know, it’s Juggernaut’s uglier younger cousin.
At that moment, Rhino started to run, with Remy right in his path. Gambit calmly stood his ground, even as he became aware that Shocker had appeared at the top of the stairs directly above him. Gambit waited until Rhino was almost upon him and then dove to the right, carrying him safely out the range of the Rhino’s charge.

Remy rolled to his feet as Rhino, unable to halt his momentum, ploughed through the base of the staircase. The blast that Shocker had aimed at Remy splashed harmlessly against the floor. Gambit placed the Devil’s Heart in a pouch attached to his jumpsuit, and extracted a deck of playing cards. He took three at random, and held them between the knuckles of his right hand.

Shocker had Gambit in his sights, a high intensity blast charged and ready. The Rhino had extracted himself from the wall he partially demolished and was readying another run at Remy. Gambit flicked his eyes across the scene before him, noting where the supports for the remainder of the staircase were. He activated his powers, the magenta glow of energy enveloping his right hand and the three cards he held. Then he swept his arm in a long arc, releasing the cards that flew straight at their targets. The charged cards impacted explosively against the remaining support struts, bringing the entire staircase down on top of Rhino, and burying him under rubble. Shocker followed a few seconds later, landing with a thump on the top of the shattered masonry.

Gambit calmly walked over to the incapacitated mercenaries, extending his staff, and drove the butt of the staff into Shocker’s head, knocking him unconscious. Heh, dat big guy was a dumb as Juggernaut too, he thought.

Wasting no more time, Remy ran out the front door of the museum into the street. He stopped for a moment to listen to his surroundings, but all he could hear was the night-time sounds of the city. Something’s wrong here, there should be sirens, the police are bound to notice a museum being demolished. Gambit’s glowing eyes regarded the street around him, deserted, no sign of life at all. Still, better hurry up, before dose idiots back there wake up.

Remy immediately noticed the black van parked across the street. Suddenly the side doors of the van opened and two Scriers stepped out, armed with automatic weapons. Gambit began to run, evading the cloud of bullets that sprayed from the Scriers’ guns, dodging and weaving, throwing himself through a complicated set of acrobatic moves. He leapt into the air, twenty feet from his assailants and unleashed several charged cards. Two exploded on the ground, startling the gunmen and two more cards stuck each man square in the chest. They both fell heavily to the ground, out cold.

Remy extracted a handful of throwing knives and proceeded to puncture the tires of the van, as the driver tried to start the engine. The van made it a few feet before the tyres gave way completely. The Scrier stopped the van and attempted to open the door, only to find Gambit standing there, red eyes glowing. Mere seconds later, the driver was also unconscious and Remy was on his way again.

Unbeknown to Gambit, the Green Goblin was perched on the roof opposite the museum, relaying information to his master, Norman Osborn. The Goblin kept a silent visual over the museum, although his mind was in turmoil; the conditioning he had received at the hands of Osborn and his technicians had scrambled his thoughts, his memories. The man behind the costume was Ben Reilly; a clone of Osborn’s most hated enemy, Spider-man. Osborn thought the irony was exquisite, he could not bend Peter Parker’s will but he could control Ben Reilly, his genetic double. Any confrontation between Parker and Reilly would cause significant emotional harm to the former. However, the clone was proving to be stronger than Osborn or his staff realised. He knew he was someone else, but every time he tried to grasp his identity, the conditioning stole his mind away, descending into madness. The Goblin suppressed a giggle; his mind fully focused once again on the job at hand.

He spoke into his headset, “Sir, we have problems, Shocker and Rhino went into the building about five minutes ago. I’ve lost contact with them.”

Across town, in an office complex owned by Osborn Industries, Norman Osborn sat in a small room, surrounded by technicians and medical staff. It was nearly time for him to have his medication, as he felt his tenuous grip on sanity beginning to slip. The comm system emitted a tone, indicating that one of his field operatives was trying to contact him. He motioned for one of the technicians to activate the speakers. He listened to the Goblin’s comments with mounting fury.

“Incompetents,” he growled. “I must have that gem, do you understand me?” His voice was getting louder, and tinged with a hint of madness. “My contacts in local law enforcement mean you have a clear window to carry out the recovery, but you cannot take all night. Prove to me, m’boy, that you are worthy.”

On the rooftop, the Goblin replied through clenched teeth, “Yes.” He deactivated his headset and turned to look at the museum again. He heard gunfire, followed by the screech of the van’s tyres. Good, he thought, that’ll be the mercs, now we can go home happy.

At that moment, the Green Goblin spotted Gambit standing in the street, near the now incapacitated van. Who is this? A thief? The Goblin checked his bag, ensuring he had a full complement of weapons, and focused on Remy with a pair of binoculars. He watched as Gambit withdrew the Devil’s Heart from a pouch on his costume and regarded it in the moonlight. Then Gambit turned on his heel and began to run.

Without hesitation, the Green Goblin activated his glider and slowly rose from the rooftop. He kicked in the main thrusters and angled the sled towards Gambit’s position. As he reached street level, he extracted two pumpkin bombs from the bag he carried slung over his shoulder.

On the ground, Remy was running down the street when he heard a noise, sounds like a very small plane, what de hell is going on here? Is everyone and dere uncle after dis t’ing? He risked a look over his shoulder and saw the Green Goblin descending towards him, small orange orbs clasped in his hands. I t’ought the other two were dressed funny, Remy thought wryly.

At that moment, the Goblin unleashed the two pumpkin bombs directly in Remy’s path. The twin explosions knocked Gambit off balance and he fell to the ground, the Devil’s Heart rolling away into the middle of the street. Gambit responded by rolling to his feet, several cards already charged in his hands. With a quick flick of his wrists, Gambit unleashed a storm of explosive cards at his airborne assailant. The Goblin dodged and weaved on the glider, attempting to evade the thief’s projectiles. One card struck him on the leg, another on the arm, overbalancing him, and causing the glider to dip dangerously close to the ground. He recovered quickly, levelling off and aiming directly at Gambit, forcing him to the ground again. The goblin swept over Remy and continued towards where the Devil’s Heart had fallen.

The Goblin spotted the gem and skimmed the glider low along the street, deftly picking the jewel up without slowing. Suddenly, the Goblin became aware of a buzzing noise in his head, a tingling feeling that permeated his mind. At that instant he pulled the glider up into a tight climb, luckily avoiding the barrage of charged throwing knives Remy had discarded moments earlier.

On the ground, Gambit was bewildered, drogue, how de hell did he dodge that? How did he know to pull up? Gambit suspected there was far more to his opponent than he previously realised. Serves me right for t’inkin’ dis guy was just a mook in a Halloween costume. Remy silently cursed himself, now he has de gem too. Gambit fixed his gaze on the Goblin, who now hovered a few hundred yards away, just above first floor level. The man on the glider was obviously waiting for something. Remy started walking slowly towards his adversary, wary now of the man’s abilities.

The Green Goblin now had the Devil’s Heart, but instead of returning to his master immediately, he paused, switching the glider into hover mode, he stopped and turned to look back down the street towards the thief, who even now was making his way towards him. For brief moments, the Goblin’s true personality fought against his conditioning, and for a few scant seconds, actually won. Ben Reilly suddenly became aware of his surroundings. No, his thoughts cried, I can’t do this, I won’t let Osborn turn me into this…thing, must fight this influence… He unconsciously allowed his hand to open, dropping the Devil’s Heart towards the street.

Remy raced towards the glider, diving and catching the jewel before it could hit the asphalt. Okay, he thought, first he fights me for de gem, and then he actually gets it and voluntarily drops it. Dis be getting’ real freaky. Not wanting to sound ungrateful, Remy chose this moment to beat a hasty path away from the scene.

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