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The Legendary White Ghost, unmasked and rocking the business casual look, was spending a sunny Mystic afternoon in the driver's seat of a cherry-red 2018 Lamborghini Aventador S. For business purposes, of course.
No, wait, come back, I'm serious. It really was business-related.
That didn't mean, of course, that Jean-Philippe couldn't enjoy a fine New England day while he played the 'hurry up and wait' game. He was currently parked at the outskirts of the city with the windows down, slightly reclined in the comfort of the leather seats, listening to some quality gypsy punk through the aux cable hooked up to his phone, and keeping a very intent watch on a truck depot down the street.
It was very conspicuous (his mask was even lying on the dashboard, just waiting to be donned), but he was quite confident that nobody except the man he was awaiting would stumble across the scene anytime soon. He liked Mystic - really, he liked New England in general, it had a vaguely European feel to it that reminded him of some mysterious facsimile of home but different, sort of like a magical realism novel - and had taken a day or so of seeing the sights and exploring until he'd found a vantage point that made him reasonably confident in his seclusion from the public view. In this case, it was the second floor of a parking ramp, positioned atop a hill at just the right angle to watch the depot that so thoroughly held his attention right now.
This was all quite ad-hoc, unfortunately. He'd only been in town for a day, trying to confirm some intel from a semi-reliable source, and then that intel had turned out to be not just good but great, a real once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity. It would've been foolish not to act on it before the window closed, so to speak, and it was only through an extensive network of connections (and the old 'I know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy' routine that thieves tended to have) that he'd been able to contact a fellow professional in the area. Well, 'in the area' - it was a two-hour drive from New York out to Mystic, but the payoff promised to be well worth it.
The passenger's side door opened, and Jean-Philippe turned with a cheery grin to his newly-arrived associate. "Salut! Messr. Gambit, no? I do appreciate you coming out on such short notice. It's quite hard to find quick help for a job like this - there's not exactly a Craigslist for men of our proclivities, you know?"
Down the street, the chainlink gates of the truck depot were opening. The Frenchman's gaze was drawn to the motion immediately, and he kept a watchful eye on it as they conversed.
"Do you smoke?" he asked casually. "I quit last year, but our ride's previous owner apparently keeps a pack in the glovebox. I figured it was only polite to ask"
It was all very low-key, although chances were good it would not stay that way for long.
"Ah, very good. What's life without unexpected challenges, no? We'd be out of a job, my handsome friend, and the world would be a worse place without us causing trouble in it."
It all sounded rather casual, but the reality of the situation was that this was Jean-Philippe's way of psyching himself up. As long as he could remember, step one before something intense and life-threatening had always been be cool, and the rest had followed from there. There was a certain kind of sense to it: if you kept a clear head and took things easy, there was no problem that wasn't easier to solve. This was admittedly easier when one was inured to the type of insane shit that Jean-Philippe regularly got up to, but he was still pretty sure it was a skill anybody could pick up.
His newly-hired heist partner certainly had, by the looks of him. The Cajun was alert, but eminently chill, considering the circumstances. Perfect. Just the kind of backup he'd be needing for this thing - a steady hand and a calm mind.
So, was this Gambit competent? Almost definitely. Jean-Philippe hadn't seen any firsthand evidence, but he knew to trust that it would be so. There was a certain degree of faith involved in these things, and you didn't get to the echelon of thievery that they had without learning you had to take your fixer's word for it on whether or not somebody would be helpful.
"We are there, actually," he answered, noting Remy's eyes instantly going towards the gates. Nice - caught on quick, this one. "This is a bit ad-hoc, I'm afraid, but to quickly give you an idea of what we're up to, in just a minute a truck will come rolling out of those gates, carrying in its trailer a stack of crates imported from Riga." Shifting into reverse, Fantomex backed the car out of his spot and turned it around. He reached for his mask on the dashboard, sliding it on to complete the White Ghost look, and began leisurely driving them down the garage's ramp. "Now, the cargo was sent here to the States by a Russian gentleman that I don't have much fondness for, and hidden inside some of the crates - for smuggling into the States, you see - are a set of cases containing the ingredients for a weaponized neurotoxin, one which, ah...let's not get into the details, shall we? It's quite unpleasant."
Sure enough, as they were pulling out onto the street, an enormous white 18-wheeler truck came rolling out through the gates, preceded by two helmeted figures on motorcycles and a black Humvee. A second Hummer followed behind, and the dubious-looking convoy rolled out several cars ahead of their vehicle. Jean-Philippe's lips pursed under his mask, and he adjusted the stereo, letting the soft tones of Debussy's Clair de Lune drift around the car's interior. Ahhhh, there. Much calmer.
He turned to glance at his temporary partner, gesturing to the truck ahead of them with a hand. "And here we are! Now, once they reach the freeway, I'm hoping to get into that trailer, find the components for the bioweapon, and then relieve our Eastern friends of it. Unfortunately, ah, I am not certain which crate is the right one, and as you can see, there is our truck's friends to think of as well. Really not a one-man job, especially since this was short notice for myself as well." There was a flash of gloved fingers over a switch, and the driver's side window steady rolled down until the light March breeze settled on a route through the Lamborghini. Good times.
With a gesture to the road sign indicating they were about to hit the open road, Jean-Philippe smiled pleasantly at his newfound associate and asked the kind of question people generally dreaded hearing from him.
"So how do you feel about leaping from moving cars, Messr. Gambit? Tentatively, I was thinking I could handle the wheel and address our, how you say, escort situation - give you a chance to show off a bit, n'est-ce pas?"
"Well, I wouldn't advise it," Jean-Philippe mused, confirming his Cajun partner's suspicions. "Of course, I am certain the nerve agent is not mixed, but you know, back home we have this saying - do not pull the tail of the sleeping lion, no?"
No such saying exists, let alone in France.
Regardless, he was well-prepared (as always) for things to get high-octane at an alarmingly sudden pace. Jean-Philippe reached under the dash and drew a rather massive pistol. He braced the steering wheel with his knee and chambered a round as he and Remy steadily drew closer and closer. There was a two- or three-car gap between their vehicle and the truck - particularly when in a car this distinct, part and parcel of following somebody was to stay a little further back than absolutely necessary - but as the masks went on and the weapons came out, the vehicle sped up and Jean-Philippe began steadily weaving into the lane next to their target. He had the driver's side window rolled down, for whatever reason, and was humming along with the music on the stereo when Remy spoke up about the considerable escort their target was packing.
"Hmm, yes, they do have something of a numbers advantage," he admitted. "Still, I expect hey will mostly be looking at me and letting you get on board unmolested. Probably because I will be attacking them."
He hit the brakes abruptly, sending up a cloud of exhaust behind them, and swerved into the lane immediately next to the truck. The way was open, and to his credit, the thief saw his opening and took it without any hesitation. Fantomex held the car steady as Gambit pulled himself up onto the roof in one swift motion, and then, in a single flash of fluid movement, he saw the man leap gracefully onto one of the Hummers. Tres bien. Now it was time to make sure he didn't get shot off it.
The enormous truck was still in place, and it wasn't immediately clear if the driver even realized the sudden attack had occurred. The occupants of the Hummer in the back, however, really could not have helped but notice. This, unfortunately, left Gambit right in the midst of at least three guys who 1) weren't focused on driving and 2) were holding weapons. One of them was already standing up through the sunroof, AR-15 in hand, and had barely started turning around when a single shot rang out and he dropped back into the Hummer, losing his rifle along the way.
It was true that Jean-Philippe was judicious about taking life. He'd done it before, of course, in the war, and he didn't hesitate if it was necessary, but he had a distaste for wanton, needless violence, particularly against those who didn't deserve it. These men, however, were partisans of the nefarious Weapon Plus. They knew full well what they were doing, and the risks that their wicked deeds entailed. He couldn't say he'd feel much remorse for them.
Either way, Gambit was covered for the moment, and as the card shark leaped from the hood of the Hummer and caught the back of the truck, there was a glorious card explosion (cardsplosion?) and the 4x4 went flipping through the air. Fantomex let out a laugh with gusto, slapping the wheel of the Lambo - "Bravo!" - and turned his attention to the rest of the escort. He sped up, plowing past the truck and engaging the attention of the Hummer in front. But this did not mean Gambit was left unattended, as a gleaming green sphere floated back around the trailer and hitched itself to the door next to him, whereupon it began to saw through the lock with great aplomb.
"Apologies for speaking through E.V.A. here," the sphere announced in a familiar (if a bit tinny) voice, "but I figured I would save you the effort of slicing in. Which will be useful - you might need your hands free if there's anyone in here, after all. Good show with the Hummer, by the way. Ha ha, what rogues we are!"
Silly, but fair.
So far, so good.
As E.V.A sawed through the lock on the back of the truck, Jean-Philippe pulled the car around to the front and set to work handling the rest of their problems. Although Gambit had taken care of the vehicle following behind them, there was still the one in front, which was rapidly beginning to change lanes and circle around (presumably in the hopes of getting a bead on the Cajun before he could relieve them of their cargo). Well, that was easy enough to address. Jean-Philippe gunned the accelerator and whipped around in front of the truck, just as the defenders were starting to slow down.
Obviously, Remy had problems of his own with the doors open, but as he turned to retreat, he may have been just in time to notice the enemy car ramping up off the guardrail, plunging over the side of the freeway, and crashing into a stand of trees a dozen meters below. It was not entirely clear what Fantomex had done, although the smart money conjured up a mental image involving incredibly dangerous speed and the mother of all sideswipes.
"So far, so good," announced the sphere. "The other truck is, shall we say, no longer an issue - one bike left."
As the thief leaped nimbly to the top of the truck's container and pulled himself onto the roof, the impossible occurred: one of the men in the truck was following. In fact, he'd pulled himself onto the roof one-handed, courtesy of a pair of scythe-like blades that'd popped out of the undersides of his forearms. They might've been part of his skeleton - it wasn't totally clear - but either way, as he let out a feral snarl and charged after Remy, it was clear that they were going to be bad news. Fortunately, he charged right past the little floating sphere, which had followed them up top, and it let out a shockwave that knocked him clear off the back of the truck. Although the Legendary White Ghost had more than a few balls in the air to keep track of, having three times the cerebral processing power of the average person clearly helped.
Jean-Philippe looked back as Remy dove for the driver's-side door and held precariously onto the handle. He chuckled - ah, to live dangerously! what times these were! - and eased off the accelerator, moving back to block the final motorcyclist from getting close to his temporary partner.
"Lean back slightly, please--" A gunshot rang out, and the driver, who had been reaching for a weapon, quailed back from the window, leaving himself entirely open. Particularly since the window in question had just burst inwards. "--very good! I believe you should have an opening - I'll take care of our friend on the bike."
Unfortunately, the last bike wasn't the only problem. Behind them, the man with the bladed arms had finally skidded to a halt on the surface of the freeway. And now he was....getting up....and running. Running after the speeding vehicles. Worse, he was catching up.
Fantomex glanced in the rearview mirror, and even though he muttered it, his "Ah, merde" was audible through E.V.A.
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