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Into Darkness

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***

Remy looked round at the four men playing poker. They looked to be military, and each had at least a hundred pounds on his own small frame. The largest had a mangy head of blonde hair, and dog tags hung around his thick neck. His nails were long and sharp—each tap of one on the table put Remy more on edge. That one had a particularly nasty look to him, but Remy ignored his feelings of doubt and felt the thrill of the game take over. He started slow, playing the innocent and losing some dough, but worked his way up till he had thousands sitting in the pot. He laid his winning hand on the table and glanced up at the men.

He felt the mood in the room change suddenly, his senses tingling and alert as he became aware of the suddenly deafening silence around the bar. With a quick glance behind him he saw the empty tables—saw Henri locking and barring the front entrance.

“Thanks for the game boys, but I think I will be going now” he spoke as he deftly scooped up the leftover bills from the table. The vicious looking man with the swinging dog tags around his neck slammed his hand over Remy’s.

“Not so fast ‘boy. I can smell a hustler a mile away and you reek.” His eyes glinted maliciously as his grip tightened. Remy snatched his hand away and laughed uncomfortably. There was a visible tightening in the eyes of all the men at the table. With years of experience dealing with big town thugs and gambling addicts, Remy knew all the signs of trouble as well as he knew his own name. It was time to leave and the way tensions appeared to be mounting it was time to leave fast. He threw all the swagger he had into his voice and backed away from the table.

“Take it up with Henri, boys—he runs the place clean. I am done dealing with you lot.”

“Henri doesn’t much look like he appreciates dealing with you LeBeau” the violent one growled again.

Remy stopped in his tracks and felt a tendril of cold fear snaking its way up his spine. How did that one have any idea who he was? That name had gotten him in a lot of trouble when he was younger and not in control of his mutant powers—and he had spent a lot of years running, laying low, and paying money and favors to the right people to have it wiped off the record. Hearing the name LeBeau set off all kinds of warning bells. He twisted to find Henri and almost jumped out of his skin when he turned right in to him.

“Sorry Remy. They paid better than you ever could.”

Henri actually looked like he felt halfway bad about the exchange, but Remy had no time to feel any empathy towards the man. He was truly screwed. If these guys were paying for information about him, then nothing good could come of the exchange. At best, they were hood rats out to get even for some past gambling debt. At worst…well…he had unintentionally hurt a lot of people when he was newly coming into his mutant abilities. Important people. People with nasty connections. He quickly scanned the room—took in the 4 men from his table rising and moving towards him, and Henri still at his back—then took off out the back door of the building channeling all the nimbleness of his thieving teenage years.

***

“Let me at the runt.”

Essex looked at Creed who was already salivating in anticipation of the hunt.

“I want him in one piece Victor—not torn to shreds. He needs to be able to withstand blood work and testing once we get back to the island. He is dangerous. I want him drugged and pliable before we pick him up. Get him subdued and then radio in. We’ll pick you up. Keep it quiet—but I doubt anyone will miss another rat from these streets.”

Victor snarled in agreement then dropped to all fours and tore out of the bar in pursuit.

***

Remy ran without looking back. His first thought was to get to his crummy low rent apartment on St. Claude Avenue. He would grab a few things then head back underground. He would need a new ID, new papers, a new name. He swore under his breath and then felt his breathing hitch as he heard crashing coming from behind him. He was on a dim side street still a quarter of a mile from home when Creed leapt out from behind him and slammed all 240 pounds of pure muscle into Remy’s lean frame. They tumbled to a stop with Creed planted firmly on top and Remy struggled for a grip on a small playing card from his pocket. His eyes felt as though they were swimming, and they couldn’t focus properly. His head had smacked back on the pavement hard and he could feel warm stickiness making its way down the nape of his neck. He began to thrum with the raw kinetic energy he was streaming into the playing card and tried desperately to launch it in Creed’s direction. It exploded in Creed’s face, a shower of sparks raining down on the two men and Remy scrambled for purchase under his feet while Creed gripped his eyes howling as blood ran between his fingers. Remy managed to get his feet under him for a second and turned to run again but a large hand reached out and snagged his foot—pulling him down hard and knocking the wind out of him. He turned to look into the face of a snarling and furious Victor Creed, and gasped in shock as he saw the mutant’s skin knitting together in mere seconds along the numerous puncture wounds from the card missile.

“H..h..how…” He stuttered out and then saw a flash of deep red, then darkness as Creed’s enormous fist crashed into his skull.

Remy came to in very slow increments with a quiet moan. His left eye throbbed and was swollen mostly shut. His mouth tasted like copper, and his breathing was raspy and hitched—he could feel a sharp pain in his ribs with every breath he took. He slowly surveyed his surroundings and was surprised to find himself on the roof of a building, slumped up against the wall of the fire escape. He tried to inch his way towards the door but froze when he heard a voice in the darkness.

“Awake are we now boy? I think it’s high time we had just a bit of fun.”

Remy tried to focus his eyes, to see into the shadows cast by the fire escape. He could see glowing, feral orbs staring back at him. He blinked, and swallowed down a sudden bout of nausea that threatened to overtake him. Creed sauntered out from the darkness and bent over Remi, picking up his limp right arm and running long claws down the inside flesh. Remi flinched as blood blossomed along the shallow scrapes.

“What do y’want wit me?” he mumbled, slipping back into his native accent.

“What do I want? Just to have some fun with you, runt. Where you’re going, you will have all the time in the world to think. I want to make sure you are thinking about me.” Creed winked lasciviously then started putting a slow pressure on Remy’s right forearm.

Remi squirmed, then tried futilely to pull away but Creed kept pushing and grinning like a mad man. Finally, with a loud crack, Remi screamed. Creed let go and Remi’s arm flopped uselessly at his side. He quickly cradled it to himself and tried desperately to control his breathing which was coming out in panicked, sharp and painful bursts. He willed himself to stop the whimpers from his lips that he could hear punctuating the night but they seemed reluctant to end. His arm was a throbbing with a steady burn and jagged points of pain were radiating throughout his body. He could hear the bones rubbing together with every movement and he tried to hold himself as still as possible to minimize the hurt. Creed watched the pain glazed eyes—watched the tightening of the kid’s body and the quick shudders of his breaths—and quietly chuckled.

***

Remy had taken up residence in Omaha 3 years ago, just after turning 16. He came into town on a bleak January morning and within hours had found himself at a local bar, sharking pool. His lanky teenage build, shaggy auburn hair, and liquid brown eyes lent themselves to an easy hustle and that evening he had pocketed enough cash to rent out a cheap motel room for the week. His fake ID read Samuel Novak, listed his birthplace as Lawrence, Kansas and his age as 22. The clerk at the front desk gave him a quick once over, squinting at Remy over the ID, then shook his head with a mutter and passed over the key to a small apartment room 188—the room that would become home for the next 3 years. He began answering only to Sam, and tried to forget about the destruction he left in his wake, and the kid brother he left to the social services of New Orleans. He lost the Cajun drawl, and worked to perfect his Midwestern look. For three years he ran a successful hustling racket in the local clubs, and befriended bar owner Henri, who occasionally helped set up the visiting clientele for Remy—providing free drinks, and a few covert suggestions as to who might be up for an easy game or two for cheap. Remy always split the profits 50/50 with Henri, and he developed a deeper friendship than he would have thought possible being a fugitive on the run. Of course, he was being naive—letting go of his paranoia too easily—and obviously never should have given Henri his trust…

***

After his right arm had been fractured the monster had backed off suddenly. In the distance, Remy could see him placing a call and talking animatedly to whoever happened to be on the other end. Remy wondered fleetingly where the other 3 from the bar had ended up, and then channeled all his energy into trying to move his aching body by inches from the spot he was curled up in. He let out a low moan, and saw Creed from the corner of his eye look up, pocket his phone, and then advance quickly. Remy’s left hand scrabbled at the pavement searching for any pebble he could charge and throw. In a growing panic, his fingers closed around a tiny piece of gravel just as Creed backhanded him hard across the face. He looked up to see something glinting in Creed’s hand, then felt a jab as the monster emptied a small syringe into the side of his neck. Creed backed away giving Remy the opening he was looking for— he focused his energy into the small pellet ready to let it fly and

Nothing.

The rock dropped from his open fingers as his eyes grew wide in horror. He barely registered Creed’s smirk from above him. His mind was racing as over and over again he tried to release the kinetic energy that had been with him since birth, and over and over again it felt as though he was slamming into a concrete wall built up in his brain. He could feel the energy he had already stored thrumming in his body, looking for release, climaxing uncomfortably as it sought any escape from the confines of his skin—but there was no way to reach it—no way to get it out—no way to stop the burning from inside of him. Remy gulped for air and frantically tried to calm down, steady his breathes. With each passing moment the energy lessened considerably until his was able to function again, able to focus instead on the still ever present agonizing pain in his right arm. The whole incident had taken only moments, though it felt like an eternity. Creed still watched, his grin growing ever larger.

“Like that runt?” Creed rasped. “Essex developed that just for you. Used your DNA and everything. If I were you, I wouldn’t try charging stuff up anytime soon—y’won’t be able to release it…and that charge has to get soaked up somewhere. Do it enough and you might just melt the skin off that pretty face of yours…and I’m not quite done looking at it yet.”

Besides making his skin crawl with his tenuous sexual advance, Remy knew something in that statement should be bothering him…something about his DNA…but his head was too muzzy to think straight anymore. He felt himself growing angry at his predicament—furious with himself for once again being too weak to fight back—furious with Creed for taking so much pleasure in his obvious discomfort. He took a deep breath, and spit right in Victor’s face.

“Screw you asshole,” he exhaled with all of his pent up fury.

Creed’s eyes narrowed and his face turned a mottled purple in anger. He reached out and wrapped one hand in Remy’s shirt front and the other snarled in his hair. Remy felt himself being dragged across the rooftop, and was powerless to stop it. Victor threw him across the roof and then bounded after him, slamming into the younger mutants limp form. He attacked at Remy in a frenzy—clawing, and biting, and kicking out—fighting like the feral cat he was. Remy curled in on himself and tried to protect his already injured arm. He felt his ribs crack under one harsh punt to his side. He gasped out in pain and tried to roll away only to feel his broken arm snag into Creed’s reach. Remy sobbed out. His breathing was coming in sharp bursts—he couldn’t get a full breath in without gasping in pain from his fractured ribs. He wriggled in a growing panic as Victor pinned his arms above his head and drew a long claw out, slicing through the thin layer of Remy’s shirt. “Please….please…. please…” The nineteen year old was babbling in pain, trying to control his sobs, trying to relax, wishing he would just black out, wishing the hurt would stop. He knew what was coming next—memories he had buried deep were quickly surfacing—“please…please…please,” it was his personal mantra, eyes squeezed shut against the monster positioned above him. He could hear what sounded like helicopter wings in the distance, and felt Creed tense up above him, and then rip down his jeans in a renewed fervor. The damage he had sustained was threatening to overwhelm him, and he started to black out when he heard a loud voice.

“Victor. Stop. NOW.”

Remy felt Victor slowly draw up and heard people running over. Heard more voices, and jumbled conversation.

“Jesus Christ Victor—he’s just a kid. What the hell man?” More shouts of distaste—comments made. A sterner, darker voice spoke from the distance again.

“What part of ‘subdued in one piece’ does your idiot feral brain not understand? Get him up and in the chopper. I’ll be dealing with you later.”

“Yes, Master,” Creed mumbled.

Victor made his way back over to where Remy was lying and kicked him in the stomach.

“Get up Runt.”

Remy tried to move, made it to his knees, and suddenly doubled over and vomited.

“Ah shit Creed. You really screwed him up” another voice spoke from the distance. Remy stayed hunched over for a moment—tried to breath and swallow the bile still in his throat—and felt Creed’s forceful hands grab him from behind, roughly pull up his pants, and yank him towards the chopper. He stumbled along limply, still horribly nauseous, and tried not to think about where he was being taken—tried not to think about the fact that some of the voices were recognizable as the men he had played poker with earlier that evening—the men who knew his real surname. Tried not to think about anything as he was handcuffed inside the bird, his insides hurting, his right arm burning, and his powers stripped, leaving him completely and utterly helpless. Tried not to think as the blackness he had prayed for finally over took him and he slumped unconscious against his bonds.