Disclaimer: These characters are the property of Marvel comics, and have been used without the permission of the rights holders for non-profit entertainment purposes only.

Sinister Intent: Chapter Eight

Mac O'Roni

     “What I wanna know, Doc, is what d’heck Sinister wan’ go an’ do dis for? I mean, yeh, I ‘spose dis is useful an’ all, but what good would it do him? Why he need t’go an’ make Gambit a telepat’ when he already seem pretty damn good at readin’ people’s minds hisself? Why he make me a shape-shifter when he one? What good’m I t’him? ‘Zit jus’ t’show he can?”
     Henry McCoy looked at him over the rims of his reading glasses. “Gambit, could we—”
     “An’ how do it work? How d’heck do a guy six foot two an’ a hun’red an’ eighty poun’ turn hisself int’ a li’l bitty pigeon? An’ what d’heck happen t’ma clothes when I do? I done it an’ I jus’ don’ get it.”
     “Gambit, I—”
     “Sinister said it ‘ultra-physical.’ Wha’d’heck does dat mean? Don’ t’ink Gambit can flex a muscle an’ grow a feat’er.”
     “If you will shut up for a minute we could attempt to answer these questions,” McCoy snapped, startling himself far more than his patient, who was used to being told to pipe down and pop off by himself.
     “A’righ, a’righ, don’ get ya shorts in a twis’,” Gambit said. “Jus’ spos’a watch d’screen, right?”
     “Yes. You’ll be shown a series of random pictures. Each one will be on the screen for ten seconds. Focus on visualizing each picture in your head. What we’re going to see are what kinds of things you can transform into, how quickly you can do it, and whether some things are easier for you than others. If it gets too taxing physically, tell me and we’ll stop. I’ve got you hooked up to this EKG to keep an eye on things as well, so I’ll know even if you don’t.”
     “What’s all d’res’ a’ dese machines for?”
     “Monitors for blood-pressure, heart rate, heart rhythm, respiration, brainwave activity, and bio-kinetic activity,” McCoy answered, pointing out each machine in turn with the eraser end of his pencil. “I’d have liked to perform these tests while running a CAT but that’s not conducive to this sort of experiment since you don’t have much freedom of movement. It would be of incredible interest, though, to see which areas of the brain are active while you’re utilizing this power. Still, monitoring your brainwaves and bio-kinetic activity will give us a rough idea.”
     “Bio-kinetic activity, hein? You t’inkin’ dis got somet’in t’do wit dat?”
     “It seems likely to me that you ability to manipulate the form and function of your body is directly connected to your ability to manipulate your own potential energy. A record of how much kinetic energy is discharged during a metamorphosis will test that hypothesis. However, it might be difficult to prove whether any such discharge of energy is the cause or partial cause of the change itself, or merely a side-effect. Another area where a CAT scan or MRI would possibly have been more useful to us.”
     “You know we maybe gonna be in trouble wit’ dese ‘lectrodes an’ stuff if I en’ up turnin’ int’ somet’in furry,” Gambit pointed out.
     “It should be okay,” McCoy said, smiling. “These are specially designed to work without necessarily having to come into direct contact with bare skin. They’re the ones we use on me, because I patently refuse to allow myself to be shaved.”
     “Okay, le’s get started, den. Ain’ lookin’ for’ard t’dis much.”
     McCoy began the program and Gambit sat watching. Nothing happened, not so much as a twitch of muscle, although the brainwave monitor showed considerable activity. “Hmm…perhaps ten seconds isn’t long enough for you to—”
     At that very moment Gambit changed. The screen had just popped up an image of a saltwater crocodile, but what he became was clearly an American alligator—and a damn big one. The entire transformation took less than ten seconds in itself.
     “Fascinating! Well, this in itself is proof beyond question that your transfiguration is cerebral and not innate. Under the same conditions, Mystique, even without knowing anything from personal experience about either crocodiles or alligators, would have become exactly what she was shown. Your power clearly requires some sort of conceptualization for it to work, and therefore familiar animals are easier than unfamiliar ones.”
     Gambit opened his mouth to speak and closed it again when he realized that he couldn’t. The loud snap of his powerful jaws startled even him. With obvious effort, he forced himself back to human form. The transition was nowhere near as swift or smooth as from human to animal.
     His EKG went crazy and Beast turned off the program. “That’s clearly enough of that for the nonce,” he said. “Interesting that it should be harder work for you to change back. How do you feel? Okay?”
     “Li’l winded,” Gambit said. “It funny, doc—Gambit don’ seem t’ hafta have all dat clear a picture in ‘is head t’ change from one t’ing t’anot’er, but it take a lot a’ t’inkin t’ even see me in ma own head, an’ it hard as hell t’ hol’ dat t’ought.”
     “Let me see if I understand you,” McCoy said. “Now, clearly when you saw the crocodile your brain immediately associated it with the alligators you no doubt saw from time to time in the swamps down in Louisiana, so the change was nearly instantaneous. You had a strong pre-conceived idea of crocodilians from that experience. But you have a much harder time picturing yourself. Forgive me for touching on the psychological here, but that would indicate to me that you do not have a particularly strong self-image. What do you see in your head when you do manage to think of yourself?”
     He shrugged. “Brown hair, red eyes, big nose,” he said.
     “Hmm... Well, for one thing, I really don’t think your hair quite qualifies as brown. Wouldn’t you say that color is much more a dark auburn?”
     “’Sthe differ’nce?”
     “I don’t know that it makes any, but it’s possible that if you’re not seeing yourself just quite the way you really are, it could be making it harder for your body to reassume its natural form. As far as other shape-shifters go, that’s the easiest transition, not the hardest. Your cells should all have a memory of exactly what they’re most comfortable being, and want to return to that naturally. I think it’s your mind that’s making the change so difficult. Perhaps you should try focusing on just one physical attribute that you can visualize distinctly. Your nose, for example, really isn’t that big—if you’re even a little sensitive about it, you could be exaggerating the feature in your mind and messing up the whole process. Maybe you should just focus on what your eyes look like. Wouldn’t hurt to try, anyway.”
     “But are dey really red? Ain’ dey more of a dark crimson?”
     “All right, you wisenheimer, make fun of me, but consider the suggestion anyway.”
     “I will, Doc. What next on d’menu?”
     “Nothing today; I don’t want to push you too hard. Tomorrow I want to start medical and genetic testing. I should have done it first, of course, but you know me—I like to get to dessert first and then go back and eat my peas. Metamorphic powers are the most scientifically intriguing of any mutant ability, and I was fairly champing at the bit to get my walking papers from Cecilia so I could study this phenomenon.”
     He winked at Gambit, and the Cajun grinned. He’d heard all about the wheedling, begging, threatening, and blackmailing that went on before McCoy managed to convince Dr. Reyes that he was well enough to be discharged.
     “We’ll find out what sort of changes Sinister made somehow. This would be easier if your medical records prior to this were a bit more complete, but we’ll manage,” Beast finished.
     “Maybe I go see Stormy now, den. Hope she wake up soon.”
     “It won’t be long. Dr. Reyes assures me she’s coming along just fine.”
     “Well, I see you tomorrow, Doc. You wan’ Gambit here bright an’ early, neh?”
     “Ten o’clock sound all right? I know that’s early for you, but most of us are up and about long before then.”
     “Gambit drag ‘is carcass down ‘ere somehow, Doc. See you den.”

On to Chapter Nine!