Until a few moments ago, Remy LeBeau believed himself to be far from Earth. Light years away from the life he leads as the X-Man called Gambit. Away from a world that fears and hates him because nature gifted him with something more than other humans. Away from a place where just being a mutant is a dangerous thing. But there’s one thing Remy can never escape from: it’s his past. A past he’d do anything to keep his friends from discovering. A past that, if he did not know better, seems to have followed him across the cosmos. Unfortunately, as the gigantic reptilian creature known as Grovel lashes him with his tail, Remy is now hit with the fact – quite forcefully – that he is home.
After striking Remy, Grovel snarls that this is so annoying of him: he’s going to be swollen for a week! “C’est la vie, mon ami,” Gambit quips while trying to catch his breath. After all, it was Grovel who startled him by sneaking up on him like he did! Here he was, thinking he’d been shipwrecked on an alien planet – and then he sees Grovel. Remy confesses that, if he knew sticking that stick in Grovel’s ugly mug was going to puff him up like this, he wouldn’t have done it – probably. He doesn’t know how he got back to Earth but now that he is, he has to make sure his teammates are too. He tells Grovel that, much as he’d like to stay and make things right, will he excuse an old friend if he goes looking for the rest of his team?
“Not hardly,” Grovel chugs in his idiolect. However, he alerts Remy to the fact that, just because they knew each other once, it doesn’t mean they let that get in the way of a consignment. “Consignment?” a puzzled Remy repeats. “Me?” he asks in disbelief. “But you’re a bounty hunter, non?” he exclaims. Exactly, another voice informs him: they’re both bounty hunters. “You too?” Gambit chuffs at the sight of Grovel’s partner and mumbles that he should have known.
A scantily-clad girl named Spat steps right on top of Remy, aiming her spear at him. “Shoulda… but didn’t,” she reprimands him, her eyes filled with palpable hatred. She wonders: does he know why he didn’t know? She promptly informs him: because he’s stupid. He’s always been stupid; he’ll always be stupid! Gambit asks her not to mince words. What is it she’s trying to say? Spat explains there’s a price on his head – a steep price. However, she’s dying for Remy to give her any excuse at all to bring them just the head! Gambit hopes she’s still not sore at him about Madagascar, is she? “Yes,” she plainly informs him. “Really?” he gulps. “Really yes,” she insists.
As she finally allows him to stand up, Remy half-heartedly jokes that it is a pretty amazing coincidence – isn’t it? “How’s that?” a wary Spat asks him. He explains that here he is, with some fellow X-Men, coming home after winning an intergalactic war by the skin of their teeth and saving everyone in the process and suddenly they’re slammed by this big ship, only to land here – wherever “here” is.
“Remy, please,” Spat cuts him short. He of all people should know that in their line of work, there’s no such thing as a “coincidence.” The morose Grovel suggests she lets him snap him in two – or three – and they get half-paid! Remy retorts that if he gets a vote, he’s for letting himself free so he can track down the rest of the X-Men. They could be hurt or… Spat again interrupts him and with a vitriolic smile, wonders: is that concern she hears, coming out of Remy LeBeau’s mouth? Has he actually learned to care about someone other than himself? “Too bad, Gambit,” she scoffs at him. Too little, too late – and too much riches at stake.
Not very far away, somewhere on this alienesque landscape, the Royal Shi’ar spacecraft Fireclaw – which had been carrying the X-Men – passes through the stargate and lands. The ship, personal transport of the Shi’ar viceroy known as Deathbird, lands distinctly unceremoniously – or, more accurately, it remains land, because all that really arrives is the cockpit of the ship. Beast and Trish Tilby immediately emerge. “B-blue?!” Trish exclaims, noticing the color in the sky. She asks Hank where they are; how’d they get here? And what happened to the others? Hank replies she’s in luck. The answer to all three queries is: ya got me, sweetie!
Hank maintains that with her being the must know reporter and himself being the bouncing brilliant boy scientist, he can posit the following hypotheses: the mammoth ship that caught them in its wake also damaged the stargate, the hyperspatial doorway which should have transported them to Earth’s galaxy. Instead, the resulting alteration of its celestial coordinates landed them here. Hank can only pray the other part of his theory is also correct. “Which is…?” Trish inquires.
Hank elaborates on his conjecture that, because of the random effects of the transgalactic physics of stargate travel, the rest of their friends have been deposited nearby and not scattered across the cosmos. The most puzzling aspect of all this is that the moment before entering the portal, when Hank turned to Deathbird for advice, it seemed she had disappeared. “Great. The witch abandoned ship,” Trish badmouths her.
Hank asks Trish to forget Deathbird now and suggests they find the X-Men. Saying this, his voice lowers and he touches his head and clenches his teeth, visibly suffering. Trish asks him whether he’s all right. “Sure… couldn’t… be… better,” Hank sighs… and then he suddenly faints in Trish’s arms! Struggling to hold him, since Hank is not lightweight, Trish muses that this can’t be good.
Elsewhere, at the sewers far beneath the streets of Manhattan in the city of New York, Marrow struggles with her mutant powers. She tells herself she will not scream; she won’t give in to the pain; she won’t fall to shame. Lying still next to her, a gravely injured and bandaged Callisto argues that the pain only gets worse if she’s trying to deny it – the same way she’s trying to deny who she is… the way she looks. She knows Marrow is concentrating, attempting to prevent the constant shifting and regeneration of her bones that is part of her mutant ability. However, she points out that Sarah is going against the nature of things.
Marrow angrily stresses that the “natural order” is what has always separated humans from mutants! It’s what forced the more hideous mutants into this city beneath the city! It’s how Morlocks found themselves living on the refuse of surface-dwellers! She will always fight against “the natural order of things!” Callisto retorts that life is so much more than the fight. She’s tried to tell her…
Suddenly, she begins coughing, much to the concern of Marrow. After feeling better, Callisto makes her point: “So much like I was, Marrow.” So young. So angry.” She argues that, if you can’t change the world, you’re determined to burn it down. However, she alerts Sarah there’s more to life… there’s hope. She urges Sarah to think back and try to remember a time when she believed in something, more than the hurt. Staring at a dirty mattress nearby, Sarah’s mind travels to the past.
In the sewers, the small girl known as Sarah marvels at the sight of the mutant known as Angel. The feather-winged Angel is shackled on the dirty mattress, bound with fetters and chains. He is hunching, his head lowered. He is still. Sarah thinks he’s beautiful. She wonders: is he dead? “Come on, Sarah!” a voice summons her. “But…” she’s about to retort. “Now, girl!” the voice insists.
Marrow kneels above Callisto and tells her she has to go; things are bad up there. She needs to go kill the people that hurt her and tried to hurt all other mutants: the Zero Tolerance. “No more killing, Sarah,” Callisto pleads her. Sarah insists they deserve to… Callisto cuts her short and argues she’s not interested in what “they” deserve. It’s Sarah she cares about. She argues that all the suffering one does, ultimately comes back to oneself. She urges Marrow to find the X-Men and help them, this once. “If they lose… we lose, too,” she alerts her. Sarah repeats she’s going. Things are bad and she will do whatever she can to make things better. “And…?” Callisto prompts her. “And I will try not to kill anyone,” Sarah complies. “Unless I have to,” she adds, in a lower voice. “Promise,” Callisto begs her. Sarah refuses to give her word.
Moments later after Sarah goes, Callisto prays to God. She knows she gave up on Him a long time ago but begs Him to keep Sarah safe – safe from herself…
Elsewhere, Rogue wakes up, lying on the grass, Joseph snoring beside her. “Remy, tell me that’s you,” Rogue mumbles, only to see the silver-haired mutant beside her. Surprised, she thinks this is mighty awkward. Last thing she remembers was being on the ship, just as they flew into the wrecked stargate. Next, she winds up asleep beside this brook with Joseph! Thank goodness their skin didn’t touch or else her mutant ability would have kicked in and she’d have absorbed his powers… his identity… his memories. She wonders what she would see inside his mind. Would she see the traumas that once made him Magneto?
Standing up, Rogue also awakens Joseph and tells him they’ve got to go and find the others. Joseph agrees this is a good idea and asks her if anything’s wrong. “No. Really,” Rogue insists. As she immediately flies upwards, Joseph implores her to wait up. Rogue tells him not worry. “Ah’ll be…” she mutters – and then she slams right on an invisible barrier in the sky and is violently repelled backwards. “…?! Bruised?” she finishes her phrase and nosedives to the ground, landing into the arms of Joseph.
Rogue thanks Joseph and remarks that was weird. It felt as if she just slammed into a wall – but she was in the open air! She surmises that maybe it was some kind of force field. Determined to confirm if what Rogue gathers is true, Joseph casts wide his electromagnetic bio-field to see what he can reveal. After all, if they are indeed on an alien world, as it appears, then it would have an ecosystem, an atmosphere and an electromagnetic field quite different from the Earth’s. However, because of his magnetic powers, Joseph is very much in tune with the planet’s specific electromagnetic signature. Something is not right here and he shall know the truth!
As Joseph indeed casts wide his electromagnetic bio-field, a spectacle both terrifying and sublime, Rogue contemplates that she doesn’t know if she likes the sound of that – or the way it looks, for that matter. Before he lost his memories and started calling himself ‘Joseph,’ Magneto was the X-Men’s fiercest of enemies. Much as she’d like to believe he’s changed for the better, each time he amps up his mutant powers, he makes her mighty nervous.
As Joseph’s magnetic field dissipates, he tells Rogue that it is as he suspected: he sent out a wave of magnetic energy and it, too, hit something! “Something as in… a cave wall?!” Rogue exclaims in shock as the illusion of the alien world suddenly fades away and they find themselves trapped inside a regular cavern of Earth! Joseph confirms that this entire “alien world” was nothing more than an illusion. Rogue wonders: why? Although she’s glad to be back on the big, blue marble, she wonders why anyone would go through the trouble of bringing them here and then try to fool them into thinking they were somewhere else. Joseph thinks it’s more than that. What he finds more disturbing is that somehow, these caves are… familiar.
Three miles away
“Great,” Trish thinks. She finally gets Hank strapped in so she can investigate the terrain… then the terrain disappears? What’s going on here?
Two miles away
“Uh oh,” Grovel exclaims as they find themselves inside the cave, the illusion gone. Gambit asks them if they did this. “Sort of,” Spat replies.
Meanwhile, Joseph approaches a man kneeling on the ground – a man wearing a full body suit, adorned with countless variegated blotches. “And you are…?” Joseph asks him. The bizarre-looking man introduces himself as Landscape and reveals he has the mutant power to create holographic environments. Leastways he does when silver-haired pinheads don’t take the wind out of him! Joseph advises him to tread carefully and asks him why he wanted them to believe they were on some other planet. Landscape explains he’s a worker bee. He doesn’t get paid enough to ask “why.”
Nearby, Spat and Grovel stare at their captive, Gambit, whose hands they’ve now bound with ropes. Grovel orders him to stop smirking. Gambit, however, has recognized this as Brett’s work; the one who calls himself “Landscape.” Spat confirms that. Remy doesn’t know why they bother with that gumbo head. There was a time when Spat was above using a low-caliber freelancer like him. He teases her that if she asks really polite-like, maybe the two of them can get back into…
Spat cuts him short and warns him to not even try it! She warns him not to try pulling her into those dark red eyes of his! Hurling a knife between Remy’s legs, she cautions him not to start talking about their friendship, either. He lost the right to talk about these things when he went to work for him. Upon hearing this, Gambit silences for a moment and then, apologetically, tells Spat that people make mistakes. Running away from him, Spat retorts that not everybody’s ‘mistakes’ cost other people their lives.
“Dummy,” Grovel chides him. Brooding, Remy realizes she’s getting worse, isn’t she? Grovel replies that of course she’s getting worse. Gambit was there when Spat took the bolt meant for him. Every day, she gets younger and younger. When it first started, she was okay with it. But then she heard about what went down.
Remy retorts that nobody feels worse about what happened than he does. In turn, Grovel retorts that so Remy says and then pushes him forward with his head and telling him to move it. The sooner the job is over, the sooner Grovel can go home, hose himself down and wash this stenchy smell off himself. “You know the worsest part?” Grovel asks him. Even though Remy was always a bum, any of them would have laid down their hides for him – ‘cause then, he was at least a bum with honor. “Yeah, well… dat was just a rumor I started,” Remy does his soul searching. Unbeknownst to Grovel, he hides a dagger between his back.
Pine Bluff, South Carolina
This is a small town which, until recently, has managed to remain untouched by the genetic strife that has gripped the nation. Exiting the “Stuffed Pig” saloon, the mutant known as Maggott confronts a number of locals. They have just parked right outside the bar, all of them equipped with chains and crowbars. One of them tells one of his buddies, Jep, that they come into town for more beer to celebrate Operation: Zero Tolerance putting their thumb down on muties once and for all and they bump smack into another stranger. “Too bad for him,” Jep grunts: they hate strangers. Especially one asking questions about the fella that caused all the trouble a few months back, another guy exclaims. “Mister, we ain’t big on questions hereabouts,” he snarls.
“No worry, mates,” Maggott grins. How about he gives them some answers, then? Like “yes. They’re with me.” And “eat ‘em… they love ‘em!” “What’re you going on, son…?” the puzzled man wonders… and then they all watch as Maggott’s slugs, Eany and Meany, devour one of their trucks! In shock, the men gasp: where’d these things come from? Do they eat humans, too?! “Same questions wherever we go! Refer to previous answers,” Maggott banters. Screaming, the men immediately flee. The slugs return to Maggott’s lap. “Good girls. Maybe next time,” the mutant murmurs. They should just be happy they got the information they were looking for… that they’re one step closer to finding the piker named “Joseph.”
In the caves, Joseph leads the way, while Rogue follows, carrying Landscape almost as if he were a sack of potatoes. Landscape exclaims that this has been real fun – honest. They come down here, they beat him up, everybody has a good laugh. However, he really has to get going. He isn’t of them rugged save the world and free the whales types, like the X-Men. Nope, not him. He’s got to work for a living.
Joseph retorts that, unless Landscape intends to divulge their location and why this elaborate charade has been played, it would be best he silenced himself. They do not take kindly to being taken for fools. He jests that it’s a pity Landscape isn’t paid by the word. “Don’t I wish, pinhead,” Landscape sighs. He’s a bona fide card-carrying bounty hunter, though. Not that they give out cards for that sort of thing, but if they ever did, he’d get one! Rogue wonders whether he ever shuts up! Landscape reassures her that sure he’ll shut up! Shutting up is his second favorite thing to do. He’ll shut up the instant they turn Gambit over to…
“Whoops,” he suddenly exclaims, realizing his goof. Did he say “Gambit?” He meant “Hamlet!” “Enough!” Rogue roars as she grabs him by the throat. She demands to know: what does he know about Gambit? How did the X-Men get here? Who does he work for?
A voice behind her assures her he knows nothing. Rogue turns only to see Gambit, in the custody of Spat and Grovel. Remy explains that Brett is the low man on the totem. In his line of work, the less someone knows, the better off they are; that’s why Joseph and she are better not to start asking questions. Rogue mutters they can’t just let them take him. Remy asks her to trust him: he isn’t going anywhere he wasn’t supposed to. “As if you have any say in the matter,” Spat remarks. “You’d be surprised, woman,” Gambit snaps and exclaims that it doesn’t take a genius to know why these two have been hired. But if Remy’s being brought in… it’s on his terms!
All of a sudden, Remy kicks Spat away and then kinetically charges the dagger he carried, unbinding himself and pressing the dagger against Grovel’s throat. Gambit asks if they are all clear on this little detail – if not, this dagger he appropriated earlier is charged with enough bio-kinetic energy to cut even Grovel’s big-boned head! He even taunts Grovel, telling him he may be a “dummy” but he is a dummy that beat their sorry little butts! Grovel grunts in response.
Rogue happily admits she should have known they didn’t have to worry about Remy. “The others,” Gambit brusquely cuts her short. Beast, Trish, Bishop, Deathbird – where are they? Rogue, bemused by his manners, admits they don’t know yet; they’re searching for them, of course.
“Not too much too tension between them,” Spat ironically contemplates, watching Rogue and Remy’s interaction. If she didn’t know him better, she’d swear LeBeau might actually be in love for the first time in his life. She discerns that Rogue clearly has a major jones for him. She wonders if she knows… what happened.
As Joseph approaches Landscape with a menacing look, the frightened mercenary asks him to back off: pounding on him isn’t going to help! Perhaps not, Joseph agrees. However, Landscape led them to Gambit and perhaps he can take them to the rest of their friends.
Suddenly, Joseph turns around, as an overly melodious, affectionate voice, greets him: “Sweetie-ums, you’re home!” It is the robot known as Nanny, in the company of countless animal cyborgs, their red eyes glowing in the dark! Nanny promises she is going to make sure her sweet little Magneto never leaves her alone again – ever.