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Lock-Down: Chapter Eight

Mac O'Roni

     Bishop did a much better job of looking casual and keeping his head down than Forge. He watched from a safe distance as the inventor strolled through the compound, his hands in his pockets. He was overdoing it, actually whistling. He never whistled normally, so he should’ve just left off and walked. Still, nobody seemed to be paying him the least bit of attention, and that was good.
     LeBeau was a lot better at it, but then, he was a professional. Bishop watched him stroll up beside Forge and though he was watching and saw the inventor take the little wad of paper out of his pocket, he never actually saw LeBeau take it. Just one second it was there, and the next Forge’s hand was empty. LeBeau walked on like nothing at all had happened, and Forge strode briskly away as though a tremendous weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Bishop hadn’t even been looking in their exact direction, just watched from the corner of his eye, but LeBeau’s forward progression took him past where the bigger man stood, and as he passed he gave him a nod of greeting. And winked at him. He raised one finger solemnly to his lips. Ssh, he was saying. It’s our little secret. Then he just kept walking, and soon he was swallowed up by the milling masses of blue-uniformed bodies.
     Bishop didn’t like it much. He’d never completely trusted LeBeau, more because of what he’d known about the man’s future than his past. Still, he would keep his silence. The man had a slippery mind, and he might just be planning something that would get them out of here. But he would bear watching, of course. Bishop was good at watching, and even if LeBeau could tell he was doing it, that was no problem. Knowing he was being watched might keep him from pulling something underhanded on his friends.
     He went for a walk, as much as anyone could walk in this little fifty by fifty-foot hell, and thought about LeBeau. Not this LeBeau, but the one who’d raised him, taught him to fight, turned him into the same sort of ultra-paranoid killing machine he was. The LeBeau who hadn’t called himself Gambit but the Witness. He wondered where that man was hiding. By his calculations he, Lucas Bishop, ought to be about five years old now. That was how old he’d been in this same year, in his original permutation of time. That was the year he and his remaining family members had been captured and put into the mutant concentration camp. This permutation wasn’t much different from that, except that the Sentinel program was dismantled and this was a prison, not a camp. But he remembered something from that original timeline, and it bothered him. The memory was vague, as with all his childhood memories, but his adult brain interpreted it pretty clearly.
     There was a man in the camp with them, a man who had a certain reputation. He was known to be the man who could “get it for you,” whatever “it” might be, if you could afford his price. Every prison had such men, or indeed women, but this one was different. He actually got “it” for you personally. Meaning he was capable of getting out, and back in, the camps without attracting the guards’ notice. And he was ancient. The five year-old Bishop had thought so, anyway. Meaning he had white hair and crow’s feet, of course—he could have been any age, really.
     Shard had fallen ill, and his grandmother was scared. He remembered that pretty clearly, he also remembered that grandma had sent him to the “get it” man for some medicine that would make his sister feel better. She’d given him an old watch to pay for it with, not knowing if that would be enough but it was all they had. “Beg him, if you have to,” she’d told him. She didn’t have much faith that it would work, but considered it their only hope.
     He’d gone, dutiful grandson that he was, even though the thought of actually talking to the old man terrified him. The man also had a reputation as a sort of bogeyman, and all the children in the camp were scared to death of him. But he hadn’t had to beg, and he hadn’t had to give him the watch, either. He’d just told him what the problem was and what they needed, and the old man had been back with the medicine almost before Bishop had realized he’d left. And then he’d just faded into the darkness. That was the point in the memory when things tricky. He couldn’t tell if it was real, or only his later knowledge superimposing itself on true recall. Still, his mind insisted that the last thing he’d seen of the old man were his eyes, burning red like two coals in the night.
     So if that old man really was the Witness, why wasn’t Gambit like that now? His hair was still a brilliant mixture of cinnamon and copper and God alone knew what other shades of red, and he didn’t think it was a dye job, either. His face was unlined and his body completely untouched by time—and come to think of it, none of them looked as old as they really were. In that prior permutation he’d come to live with the Witness at age fifteen, and then he really had been white-haired and rather decrepit-looking, though his looks in that regard were dangerously deceptive. Surely so much couldn’t change in a mere ten years? LeBeau had no blood relatives. Even if you overlooked the fact that the Witness had an admitted, though unexplained, connection to the X-Men, there couldn’t possibly be two New Orleans Cajuns, of an age, both with burning red eyes, both Master Thieves, and both named Remy LeBeau. That went way beyond the realm of coincidence and into that of ridiculousness. If a comic book writer tried to palm that sort of story off on his fans, they’d lynch him. Somehow, someway, this age’s LeBeau had managed to escape the ravages of time. The Elixir of Life? He didn’t think so. It had to have something to do with why they were all in such good shape. He wanted to know what that connection might be, but he didn’t know how to find out.
     I’ll figure it out, he thought. Maybe if I threaten to wring LeBeau’s neck, he’ll tell me himself.
     With that happy thought, the guards blew the whistle and he joined the masses queuing up to go back inside.

On to Chapter Nine!