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Lock-Down: Chapter Three

Mac O'Roni

     Every afternoon, when the weather was decent, the prisoners were allowed out into the walled yard for a marvelous hour of “recreation,” which for the most part meant a good stretch but sometimes included such activities as scratch baseball. It was also the only time the men were allowed to mix with the women, for both sections of the prison were allowed out into the same yard at the same time.
     The Native American mutant known as Forge was not given to participate in any informal sporting events on these occasions, preferring instead to stretch his legs, biological and prosthetic, in solitary walks around the compound. It was time he generally spent inventing things, if only in his mind.
     But on one particular afternoon he had company, and not entirely of the unwelcome sort. He didn’t know Remy LeBeau all that well—nobody did, he suspected, even those of the X-Men who had been “close” to the ginger-haired and crimson-eyed Cajun over his many years on the team—but he was a familiar face in a sea of strangers.
     “Bon jour, mon ami,” Gambit said, nodding in greeting as he shuffled up to him across the asphalt with his hands shoved casually into the front pockets of his uniform. Forge’s mouth twitched in the reluctant beginnings of a grin as it occurred to him that, even in the same dull prison blues that every other mother’s son of them were forced to wear every day, the Cajun managed somehow to look as though he had just stepped off the front cover of Gentleman’s Quarterly.
     “Hey, Gambit,” he greeted in return. “What’s up, man?”
     “Nuttin’ much, nuttin’ much. Jus’ takin’ a stroll, me. How you been? Goin’ crazy, stuck in a cell wit’ de pup?”
     This time Forge really did grin, however briefly. “Bish is fine, Gambit. Very quiet. Not a bit of trouble. Nothing at all like I’d imagine sharing a cell with you would be.”
     Remy laughed, a bright crimson runner in that dull gray place. “Yah, ‘mazin’ Wolvie ain’t stuck me yet, neh? Ah well, give it time.”
     They walked in silence for awhile, and then Forge spoke, pitching his voice low and striving to look inconspicuous and nonchalant. “You didn’t come here for small-talk, LeBeau. What’s on your mind?”
     When Remy replied, he didn’t appear to speak at all. He had maximum security subterfuge down to an art. “Dese collars, mon frère…dey your work?”
     Forge was instantly wary, though he tried not to let it show. The last thing they needed was to draw the guards’ attention. Even drawing the attention of the wrong inmate was liable to be disastrous.
     “Why do you wanna know, man?” he asked, on the alert.
     “Jus’ wond’rin, dat’s all. Dey look like your stuff.”
     “Yeah, they’re mine,” Forge admitted. “They made me design ‘em when they caught me. Some other stuff, too. Like your cell door, f’rinstance.”
     “So you know ‘em inside an’ out, neh? Every wire, every alarm…”
     “Where you goin’ with this, LeBeau?”
     “Ain’t goin’ nowhere, mon ami. Nowhere at all. Cain’t. Dey got me surrounded.” He laughed, a short bark that didn’t carry far. “You t’ink you could remember how you made ‘em well enough t’map me out a blueprint of ‘em?”
     Forge stopped short, forgetting in his alarm to keep his manner level. “Now, wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute here, mon ami—”
     “Shut up, you fool,” Remy said amiably, though his eyes were hard over his friendly smile. “You wanna let de whole place in on dis li’l conversation we be havin’?”
     “We ain’t havin’ this conversation anymore, man. You’re gonna get us both thrown in solitary confinement. Or worse.”
     “Nah, ain’t nuttin’ like dat gonna happen ‘less you screw it up, mon frère. Now, can you or not? Make it wort’ your while, me.”
     “What if I do? If you get caught with ‘em, they’re gonna know who gave ‘em to ya.”
     “Dey ain’t gonna catch Gambit wit’ anyt’ing, mon ami. You jus’ got t’make sure dey don’ catch you wit’ ‘em ‘fore you pass ‘em off ta me.”
     “I don’t like this, man. The whole idea stinks.”
     “You don’t have t’like it. But you gotta realize it in you bes’ int’rests. In all our bes’ int’rests. If we ain’ got no edge over dese folks what tryin’ t’keep us down, we might jus’ as well give it up an’ lay over an’ die.”
     Forge sighed. “All right, I’ll do it. But I’m warning you now, these things are pretty well tamper-proof. You can’t pick the locks.”
     “Let me let’chu in on a li’l secret, mon ami: Any lock can be picked. All y’need’s de time, de tools, an’ de talent. Me? I got plenty of all t’ree.” He grinned and walked away, whistling. Forge recognized the song.
     It was “High Hopes.”

On to Chapter Four!