Issue Date: February 2013
Story Title: Stiff Upper Lip
Staff: James Asmus (writer), Diogenes Neves & Al Barrionuevo (pencilers), Allen Martinez & Raul Fernandez (inkers), Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist), VC’s Cory Petit (letterer), Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson (cover), Jennifer M. Smith (assistant editor), Daniel Ketchum, (editor), Nick Lowe (X-Men group editor), Axel Alonso (editor in chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)
Pete Wisdom is on the warpath and has Gambit in his sights. Meanwhile, Remy is the captive of Russian megalomaniac Borya Cich and is currently being forced to open locked weapons cases stolen from MI:13. Working for others doesn’t sit well with Gambit. Unseen, he charges up a card with a timed explosive. When it goes off, he grabs a weapon from the case he’s working on and shoots Remlik with it. Unfortunately, Remlik isn’t particularly affected by it and it emerges that he is something of an experiment, having being augmented several times by Cich using body parts from aliens, mutants and others. He and Remy then fight so Remy tries to use Borya Cich as a hostage. Cich zaps him with a cane, which forces Remy to release his grip. Cich has finally had enough and orders Remlik to kill him. Gambit then reveals that he has the remote control for the explosive anklet he’s been wearing. He activates the anklet which he earlier placed outside the door and through the hole he creates comes Pete Wisdom and agents of MI:13. They do battle with Cich’s men and are too strong for them. Remlik, for all his augmentations, is taken out by Remy with a kick to his glass jaw. As Cich and his crew are led away, Pete Wisdom gives Gambit a severe ticking off but lets him go, understanding that he was forced to act the way he did. As Remy is flown home, he contacts Fence, who plays him footage about an E.S.U. professor in trouble which demands his immediate attention.
Pete Wisdom is annoyed. “Get me one of those bloody mutant-killing robots!” he snaps as he walks with Faiza Hussain, the Black Knight and several MI:13 troopers. Faiza asks if that would be unwise, him being a mutant, too. He says that this is MI:13. There are ten mad scientists on the payroll. They can set the bloody thing to just kill Gambit! The Black Knight says that he knows he missed the action, but isn’t Gambit one of the X-Men? He’s one of the good guys, right? Pete replies that Remy LeBeau traipsed into their country, assaulted their monarch, attempted to steal Excalibur, managed to steal his massive arsenal and wrecked much of their clubhouse in the process! So, he’ll be quite happy to shoot first and maybe, possibly, consider asking questions at some point thereafter. A couple of agents attract his attention and inform him that there is something he needs to see in the wreckage.
One of Borya Cich’s men informs his boss that there are just a few more weapons to sort through, then all the men can switch to testing and cataloging. He asks how many of them require the skills of Mr. LeBeau. “Just a few,” comes the reply. Remy, seated at a table, says it’s rude to talk about a fella like he isn’t even there. Two men put a large box on the table and he warns them they need to be careful with it. Cich asks if he hasn’t got any extra witticism to go with his warning. Surely he hasn’t lost his bravado just because he’s left him strapped to some explosives? Remy takes his lock-picking equipment and goes to work on the case, saying that he always gets grumpy when he’s yanked around by a damn teleportation device locked on his ankle.
Remy thinks to himself that, when Borya Cich kidnapped him to get revenge for breaking all those deadly toys in his private collection, he never figured his plan would be to use him to crack open a mess of spy weapons, space lasers and magic wands! Maybe it’s the fact that even if he does everything he is asked, Cich may still blow him up. He’s used to folks trying to kill him. It’s when they try and control him when he has a problem.
Cich is ready and waiting for him to make his move. What he doesn’t realize is that he made it a few cases ago.
One of Cich’s men carries a case with a glowing, charged card sticking out the back. By the time he discovers it, it is too late. The case explodes taking a couple of men with it. Gambit leaps from the table and opens the case he is working on and removes a weapon that looks like a futuristic hair dryer. However, instead of fleeing, his main opposition Remlik just stands there. He informs Cich that it seems their mutant guest has outstayed his welcome. May he have the pleasure of dismembering him? Cich tells him he’s earned it. He can go ahead. “Live a little.”
Gambit warns Remlik to hold on. He isn’t generally the killing kind but if he takes one more step… Remlik tells him that he doesn’t even know what he’s holding. Gambit admits that he doesn’t, but given a minute he’ll figure it out. He fires the weapon which discharges a bright burst of energy which sends Remlik flying into a pile of boxes. “Ah, see,” says Remy. “Didn’t even need a whole minute.” He asks the rest to surrender but, as he speaks, he hears a groan coming from the boxes. Remlik then appears. His chest is a map of stitching and his eyes glow. He smiles at Gambit and reckons that he will ‘live a little’ after all.
Cich asks Gambit if he really thought his collection would stop with strange and powerful objects. He collects remarkable specimens as well. Remlik informs him that he then cut those specimens up and put them inside him. He smashes Gambit, who is sent rolling across the floor from the punch. Remlik adds that he benefits from more than three dozen transplant surgeries from remarkable people, technologies, aliens and mutants. Cich adds that most of his organs and tissues are the very best of their kind ever found - all compiled into one perfect, relentless and hateful man.
Remy leaps up and kicks Remlik in the mouth. Remlik smashes the floor in response but misses Gambit. He tells Remy that he’s better than mutants. He suffered to be better. He punches at Remy again but the Cajun manages to use his agility to evade the attack. He says he earned this whilst Remy was merely born. “Mutants are only luck,” he adds. Remy leaps towards Borya Cich and says he doesn’t know about that. He’s got a little more than luck. He grabs Cich around the neck and charges up his tie. He warns Remlik that he might not want to keep insulting the mutant who has his livelihood in his hands.
Unexpectedly, Cich uses his cane and stabs Remy in the side. He then flicks a switch which sends an electric charge though him, throwing him to the side. He tells Remy that he mistakes him for being helpless. It’s a very grave mistake indeed. He takes the charged tie and throws it at the wall, where it explodes. He adds that this mistake is also his last. He tells Remlik that there is no need to drag this out any longer. They have all they need from Mr. LeBeau. All but his erasure. He tells Remy that there will be no more talking and no more chances to escape. Now he simply kills him. He asks Remlik if he has the remote device for Mr. LeBeau’s anklet. Remy informs him that there is a problem with that. One, Remlik ain’t got it. He does. Two, he doesn’t have the anklet and three… He presses a button and a huge explosion rocks the place.
Pete Wisdom and his agents arrive through the smoke and Wisdom suggests that Cich surrender because they are terribly good at the part that comes next. Cich barks out an order to his men in Russian. “You all wanted to play with your new toys, yes? Kill these imperial puppets!” One of his men fires a cannon at the invading army but the strange cannon shoots fairies. They take one look at Excalibur and turn on the guy. “Protect Excalibur,” says one. “Aid to its most worthy champion,” says another. Faiza tells him he doesn’t know the first thing about England does he? Gambit tells Faiza that he likes a woman who commands authority. She tells him he is a fugitive of justice before double-taking his last comment. The Black Knight tells Remy to take it easy. There aren’t any women where he’s going. And Faiza is his… steward.
While they do battle, Cich reaches for the remote control. He is just about to grab it when Gambit uses a bo-staff to crush his hand. He apologizes, but he needs him to explain to these fine folks just how he dragged him into all this. Cich notices that his anklet has been removed. “How…?” he asks. He replies that Cich should know that he breaks out just as good as he breaks in.
During a period of action, Remy removes his anklet using smoke to prevent Remlik from spotting him. He then leaves it next to a doorway and uses his energy to write a message on the wall - ‘Copy this signal. Ready the cavalry.’
Remy tells Borya Cich that it’s lucky for him that Cich would rather hear the sound of his own voice than get away with it all. Cich replies that it’s funny. He should say the same of him. Remy turns to see Remlik charging at him carrying a giant axe. He swings but Remy ducks just in time. Pete Wisdom runs towards them and orders him to lay down his arms. Remy charges up a few cards and replies that it doesn’t look like he’s fixing to do that just yet. He throws the cards which connect with Remlik. Both his hands are blown off and Remy follows up by kicking him in the mouth once again. Remlik falls and Remy turns to gloat at Cich. “All that work on your man, Cich… and you left him with a glass jaw.”
Faiza and the Black Knight approach him and Faiza informs him that, if he’s quite finished acting like he just saved the day single-handed, she is quite sure he is under arrest. Remy is then shackled and Cich and his men are led away by agents of MI:13. Wisdom warns his men to be careful with Remlik. He’s pretty sure he has a wizard who might be able to turn him into stone but he doubts their medics are good enough to reattach anything. Remy holds up his shackles and asks if he has a wizard that can get him out of them. “No,” replies Wisdom. In fact, he adds, Remy needs to convince him not to pack him up with the rest of these bastards. Remy admits that it looked bad, but he also knows Wisdom isn’t stupid. That’s why he left him the cuff so he could copy the GPS signature on it.
Wisdom informs him that they found the explosive charge and an audio transmitter, yes. He knows Remy couldn’t talk without risking Cich cutting his losses and blowing them all to a hell he doesn’t believe in. But, he also ran. Remy assures him it was so that he could get to Cich. He couldn’t lead Wisdom to him red-handed. He’d be too slippery to pin this on. If he really doubts his intentions, he should know that he could have left any time he wanted. He lets the shackles go, revealing that both his hands are now free.
Pete Wisdom gets right in his face and tells him they should be clear about this. He isn’t entertained by his &*$%@*$%. He doesn’t like being used as a tool to mitigate his personal screw-ups. And, most importantly, he saw footage from when he tried to steal Excalibur. He was enjoying himself and way too much for this ‘under duress’ pile he’s shoveling now. He tells Gambit that he can trust him when he says he knows what it’s like to walk the line between good guy and utter bastard and in his experience he dances on it a little too much. He’ll find himself without allies on either side and enemies on both. He tells his men to get Remy out of there.
As he is led away, Remy asks where they’re taking him. “Out of my country,” replies Wisdom. “Best case scenario. You owe me a bloody massive one,” he adds. Remy asks what the other case scenarios are. Wisdom tells him that if he does anything to suggest he shouldn’t have let him go, he’ll bring the full force of the realm down on him. “Safe flight, Gambit,” he adds as the plane doors close.
In flight, Remy asks if they mind making a few stops on the way. He’s pretty sure his milk’s gone bad sometime around Switzerland. His traveling companion says that’s the trouble with Americans. They confuse courtesy with servitude. Remy tells him he’s not sure it’s courtesy to put him on every international wanted list. It took them a couple of minutes to do that. How long will it take to clear? The guy admits that the bureaucracy means it takes a little longer. Remy says that won’t do. He doesn’t work well with restrictions.
He touches a screen and asks Fence if he’s out there. His companion informs him that it isn’t a radio he’s touching but Remy assures him that Fence will hear him talking just the same. Sure enough, Fence appears on screen and he asks Remy where the heck he’s been. He should answer his phone. Remy replies that it got smashed up two kidnapping’s ago. He has a little problem at the moment. Fence replies that, unless it’s life-or-death, it’ll have to take a back seat. He uses the contraption in his eye to bring up the image of an E.S.U. professor and informs him that she is the one whose fundraiser he crashed to rob Borya Cich. She’s been sending out half-a-dozen messages to Gambit which he hacked into… when he got worried about him. They all go something like this. He plays the video footage.
The professor, standing in front of a large statue, looks at a camera and says she doesn’t know who else to turn to. They are trapped in the Forever City. It was supposed to be abandoned but something is hunting them. Two students are dead. “Please,” she pleads. “We need your help… or none of us will make it out alive!”
Pete Wisdom and several employees
Black Knight (Dane Whitman)
Remlik and one of his men
Unnamed E.S.U. Professor
The term, Stiff Upper Lip, usually refers to British people trying not to display weakness in the face of adversity.
Fence was last seen in issue #2 of this series.
Issue Summary written by: Fantomex