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It was a prison, it was a gulag, it was a concentration camp. The inmates were lifers, with no hope of parole or reprieve. Their crime was all the same: they’d had the supreme audacity to be born.
They were mutants, of all different varieties, segregated only by gender and, in a less staunchly controlled manner, by priority. The “extremely dangerous” mutants were kept all in one maximum security cellblock, but there was really very little danger from most of them. The inhibitor collars many of them wore ensured it.
The only one of these inmates that the guards were really leery of was a burly little Canadian fellow in cell 17. He didn’t wear an inhibitor—he didn’t have any powers worth inhibiting—but every morning the guards would open two plates covering two sizable holes in the close-set adamantium bars of the cell door. He would stick his arms out through these holes as far as he could reach, and the guards, from well back, would lock his hands away in articulated adamantium gauntlets.
The purpose of these gloves, dangerous weapons in and of themselves if they didn’t keep his wrists short-chained to his ankles so he couldn’t strike out with them, was to keep the infinitely more dangerous weapons hidden inside his hands at bay. The twelve-inch, retractable adamantium claws that were a part of his very skeletal structure.
Every evening at lock-down the process would be repeated in reverse. He was given free use of his hands at night because no one cared if he decided to stick himself or his cellmate, a grinning idiot who didn’t seem to know that he was in prison at all. In fact, the guards greatly looked forward to the morning they would find that creepy red-eyed sonofabitch lying in a drying pool of his own blood.
But he wasn’t considered dangerous, that one. Just annoying. He was cheerful and jocular in the extreme, heavy sarcasm that bordered on or jumped right over the edge of madness, but it was clearly a put-on. The point of this charade was obviously just exactly what it accomplished. The twisted little prick got off on making his captors crazy.
The guy must have known to cool off on it a bit when left alone with the temperamental Canadian, though, because he was still there every morning, wild-eyed grin firmly in place and smart-ass mouth running a mile a minute in that slick Cajun French pigeon-talk of his. And the Canadian, surly and growling all the rest of the live-long day, always looked like he really enjoyed the show.
The two men must have been better friends on the outside than the administrators’ research had indicated. Still, with the short fellow’s violent temper it was deemed inevitable that his cellmate, a noted gambler in his prior life, would someday raise the ante a bar too high and lose the hand. They underestimated his intelligence, and they underestimated a lot more as well. The crazy Cajun knew that, and liked it just fine.
It took the guards a long time to realize what they’d missed: that the red-eyed bastard probably really was off his rocker, and that he most certainly was dangerous. Much more dangerous, in his way, than his cellmate. And by the time the prison administrators, the only people who really could have done anything to stop it, came to realize this basic fact, it was far too late.
On to Chapter One!