In the interior of a cave, Rogue, Gambit, Joseph and the bounty hunters known as Spat and Grovel find themselves confronting a robot dressed in a French maid’s uniform – Nanny – and her army of animal cyborgs. Grovel sarcastically notes that he used to think Remy had hearty fun as a thief, but as an X-Man, it seems, the fun never stops! Kinetically charging his knife and prepared for combat, Gambit replies that’s one way of putting it.
Magnetically charging himself, Joseph retorts that he sees nothing remotely “fun” about this experience. Their lives have not been their own since the moment they were transported into the heart of the Shi’ar Empire. Their return here – wherever here might be – has not been any more pleasant. Rogue agrees with Joseph: this is not a good thing they’re staring at here. Spat gripes that no way she’s getting paid enough to deal with this!
Joseph addresses Nanny by name. Remy notices that Joseph knows that… thing – the one that called him “Magneto.” He insinuates that ‘Joe’ may know a lot more than he’s letting on. Joseph retorts that Gambit is aware he has little access to his memories prior to his life as the man they call ‘Joseph’. Still, he confesses he has the vaguest recollection of the entity which seems to shepherd the rest of these… monstrosities!
“Ta ta tah ah, Magneto,” Nanny calls him out in her overbearingly sweet voice. She scolds him: name-calling is not very nice! Has he been away from home so long he’s forgotten his manners? Spat asks her if that means the silver-haired guy used to live here. Oh, much more than lived here, Nanny explains. Her proud little boy created the place! She welcomes them all to the bottom of the world… to the lair of Magneto!
Prepared to unleash a magnetic bolt, a levitating Joseph retorts that, if that is indeed the case, then he will gladly use his mutant power of magnetism to tear this place apart! “Um, speakin’ of mutant powers…” Remy stammers. “What in the name of…” Joseph exclaims as his powers vanish and he is forced to the ground. Remy mumbles he was just going to tell them: it seems Nanny somehow has the ability to put a whammy to their mutant powers. Spat banters that Remy is still the master of obvious.
Rogue wonders how this is possible. According to their records, when the X-Men were held captive by Nanny, their powers were negated by neural-inhibitors implanted in their restraints. Gambit surmises that the lady – or someone – did some serious upgrading. He announces that, unless they all intend to do some serious bleeding on the floor, he’s all for playing along till they find out what’s what. “Oh, that’s no secret at all… my widdle Gamby baby,” Nanny purrs and then authoritatively tells them all it’s nap time!
Nearby, watching from the shadows, Trish Tilby thinks it’s insane: an android with a voice like sugar dipped in honey in need of an attitude adjustment! That’s a sight she never expected to see: the X-Men being carted away by the enemy, even if Trish has no particular idea who this enemy is. She thinks that’s what she gets when she – Trish Tilby, professional news anchor – strays too far from her chosen field of expertise! And while every one of her instincts says to follow and see if she can somehow find out what’s going on, she’s smart enough to realize the best thing she can do is return to Hank. Not only is he the best-looking of Earth’s most misunderstood mutants, as the blue-furred Beast he’s also one of the smartest men on this planet.
Unaware that she is being spied by one of Nanny’s many pets, a cyborg bat, Trish makes her way through the cavernous corridors, pondering this is going to make for an incredible story but only if she makes it back to civilization alive. If she can just get back to where she left Hank, without being noticed, she should be all set. Her only regret is she hasn’t been able to find Bishop and Deathbird. Hank was wondering if they even returned to Earth when the others did. Trish thinks they must have. Where else could they be?
Somewhere in a galaxy, millions of light years from Earth
This place has no name. Much like its mistress, the Shi’ar viceroy known as Deathbird, the original name out of this outpost has been stricken from the history books of the Shi’ar. Standing above an incapacitated Bishop, connected to numerous tubes, wires and devices, Deathbird knows he can hear her. She knows what she is about to say will be very painful. She informs him there was a tragic accident en route to Earth… all his comrades are dead. He has been severely wounded – crippled – and she brought him here to facilitate his rehabilitation. Many of his bones were crushed during the decompression of the cabin in the instant before she teleported the two of them to safety.
She congratulates him. He fought valiantly to save his teammates: Beast; Rogue; Magneto – the one they insist on calling Joseph; Gambit and even the pathetic Earther known as Tilby. They all met the great silence with courage. Only she and Bishop survived. However, he mustn’t fear; he never truly belonged with those weaklings. Here, he will mend and become stronger as a result of his trials. And in time, the two of them will rule an empire. As she exits and shuts the door behind her, Bishop’s eyes are burning with rage.
The Filchner Ice Shelf, the Weddel Sea, Antarctica
Rogue, Gambit, Spat and Grovel are all kept in a bare room, in chains and fetters. “Told you so,” Grovel grunts. Spat asks her partner to shut up. She knows she should have said “no”, “go away”, “not interested”. But she couldn’t resist the thought of nailing Gambit’s Cajun butt to the wall! “Done?” Grovel asks her. “Yes. Thanks,” Spat replies. She just needed to vent.
Spat approaches Gambit and dismissively asks him: “Now, I don’t suppose the master lockpick can get us out of this mess he got us into?” Remy retorts she shouldn’t think he isn’t trying. Apparently, though, Nanny learned from her experience with his good friend, Stormy, from the last time the X-Men were captives here.
Rogue suddenly releases a deep growl. Worried, Remy goes on all fours towards her and asks her if she’s all right. “I…” Rogue faintly mutters, her head lowered. Remy pats her back and tells her not to worry. If the two of them are here, chances are Beast and Bishop landed somewhere near. “Off,” Rogue snaps at him. Startled, Gambit spontaneously exclaims “Pardon?” Rogue raises her head… and reveals a face distorted by rage, as she gnashes her teeth, her eyes burning with hatred! “I said take yer filthy hands off me, punk!” she growls. Essex paid him big time to do his job and he did! “Now back off or so help me, yer guts are gonna be hangin’ all over these tunnel walls!” she howls like an animal.
Gambit doesn’t know what is more horrific. The sight of the woman he loves, completely overwhelmed by the memories of another or the words that erupt unbidden from her throat. Familiar words. Words he’s heard echo in his head every night for the past several years.
Just as suddenly, Rogue reverts to normal, tears streaming down her cheeks, on account of the shock she just endured. She apologizes to Remy. With her powers negated, memories she absorbed in the past – that she thought had faded – are swimming to the surface. Did she say anything… strange just now? Remy presses her face on his chest: “No chere. Nothing y’need to worry about. Nothing at all”.
Several levels above, Joseph frantically pounds on the glass walls of his cell. He realizes it’s no use: this is obviously much more than glass. However, he vows to find a way to be free, as surely as his name is…
“Magneto,” Nanny greets him as she enters his cell, carrying a tray. “Yes,” Joseph agrees after momentarily hesitating. He is Magneto, the man who created her. He demands she releases him and his fellow X-Men at once! Nanny scoffs at him, telling him he is sooo precious when he’s being imperious. However, she reminds him he knows the rules; he wrote them. She stresses Magneto’s rules: “No mutant leaves here. Ever.” She then tells him to eat; he’s going to need his strength.
“Enough!” Joseph bursts with rage and overturns Nanny’s tray. He will brook this madness not a moment longer! He will not be treated as if he is some petulant child in need of supervision. For the last time, he orders her to release him or…
Nanny cuts him short as she grabs him by the throat with a vise-like grip. “Do not take than tone of voice with me, child,” she warns him and lets him drop to the floor. She assures him she’s only doing all this for his own good; executing the directives he programmed into her. She stresses the world outside these walls is a very dangerous place and it is getting more and more dangerous every day. She didn’t mean to upset him so soon before his bedtime but he must see this.
As she clicks on a button, the huge monitors all around Joseph begin broadcasting an array of channels. In one channel, one of the mouthpieces of the forces of Operation: Zero Tolerance boasts to the reporters that OZT has begun with a vengeance. Another channel shows the moment the X-Men’s ship was shot down by the forces of OZT. In a different channel, the newscaster reports there’s no word of the mutant survivors. One station reports that on the streets of New York, a mutant known as Marrow and the costumed vigilante Spider-Man were seen battling, while in another station Dr. Moira McTaggert calls for an immediate end to this madness.
After Joseph sets eye on all these news, Nanny asks him: how can she release him before he is prepared to deal with current events as they must be dealt with? Joseph tells her she’s right. Now, more than ever, they are needed out there; she can’t keep them here forever. “Watch me,” Nanny mocks him. As she departs, she advises him to be a darling and clean up his room. As he and his friends made abundantly clear, they never know who might be dropping in around here.
However, as she exits the room, Nanny pauses and from a distance, she watches him. Something deep within her mnemonic intellect is… conflicted. She senses there’s something odd about her young charge. Still, Joseph does not notice her concern, because there is something amidst all these images he’s watching that has captured his attention. For the first time he can recall, since the moment he awakened in a Guatemalan mission, weak and amnesiac, he is experiencing an emotion he cannot explain. It is the image of Dr. McTaggert that makes him feel… a need for vengeance.
At that moment, in the Soho loft of Archangel, which he currently shares with his girlfriend, Psylocke, the two reserve members of the X-Men return home from a recent adventure, only to discover the place is a mess. As the high-flying Archangel lands on his living-room, carrying Betsy in his arms, he complains that they no sooner get their life back into some semblance of order, only to return to discover the entire country is up in arms over Operation: Zero Tolerance. As it is, they don’t have to go searching for the fight, because apparently it has found them.
Examining the apartment, Warren admits he doesn’t need Betsy’s psychic powers to know Iceman has been here. He left enough melting ice to make Warren happy this place is covered for water damage! As Betsy gazes at something outside the window, Warren finds a bullet and examines it, realizing this is bad. Somebody emptied an entire gun here; there’re spent shells all over the place. He suggests they call the others at the mansion and see… “Betsy?” he suddenly calls out at her – she is vanished! Looking outside the window, Warren wonders: where did she go?
Back in Antarctica, Beast wanders through the caves, while thinking it’s a wonder he dates at all. He realizes that maybe that’s not the most relevant thought he could have at this moment, but it’s honest. Every time he manages to convince himself that he and his merry mutant mates are entitled to a ‘real’ life – a life in which they get to at least attempt to enjoy the world they so often try to save, despite what seems like its best efforts to the contrary – something like this happens to remind everyone involved of the fatal flaw in that theory: they aren’t normal. What started out as a simple date between Trish and himself has somehow ended here. This leads him to the realization that there must be majorly maladjusted with anyone who’d consent to fall in love with him; irresistibility notwithstanding.
“Enough jokes, Hank,” he lightly scolds himself and starts moving again. Hank can’t shake this feeling of concern; the feeling he’s been here before. Suddenly, as he stumbles across an old, overturned metal chair, he exclaims it can’t be; it doesn’t make sense! He knew there was a reason this place was so familiar. He was here once. Trapped. By Nanny. By… Magneto. But he was also here when the place was destroyed… turned to molten slag by lava from the very core of the Earth. Even if Magneto was behind this, it defies logic to think he could have drawn their ship to this exact spot. He wonders, though: if not he… who? Unbeknownst to him, two figures prowl behind him.
Not far away, Rogue, Gambit, Spat and Grovel are whiling away the night in their cell. Struggling to break through her chains, Rogue asks Spat why she was hunting Remy in the first place. Spat retorts that’s privileged information. Rogue insists it might help them here. “There’s no us, sister,” Spat retorts: there’s only her. Rogue remarks that’s not very productive. Spat insists that neither is this, especially if her boyfriend is going to sit and talk the night away. Rogue clarifies he’s not her boyfriend and she’s not Spat’s sister… and this is all very frustrating.
Spat wryly remarks that tomorrow’s another day… and she’s not getting any younger. Grabbing her mouth, Remy angrily retorts that actually she is getting younger every day, alluding to Spat’s peculiar condition. He professes he feels bad about her because he knows she got muddled up on account of him. However, he admits he’s feeling bad about a lot of things he’s done since they used to work together… which means he’s got to prioritize things, starting with who hired her… and why. “We both know why, Remy,” Spat replies with a dry smile. She confesses she doesn’t know how a lowlife like him has managed to live with himself after what he did. “… As to who…? You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” she tells him.
Remy is about to threaten her when he hears Rogue screaming “Nooo!” Worried, he goes by her side. Rogue, however, is locked in a trance again, her eyes teary and red, without pupils. She addresses a person that isn’t there: “Shhh, petite. Ev’thing’s gonna be okay now.” She promises to a girl named Sarah that no one’s going to hurt her now. She knows this means nothing to her now but someday she wants her to understand… “I’m sorry,” Remy mutters, knowing what Rogue is about to say. “… I’m sorry,” Rogue indeed finishes her phrase.
Nanny suddenly enters the cell and zaps them both, chastising them. Naughty boys and girls, she addresses them – Mr. Clock on the wall says they’re up way past their bedtime. This time she’ll let them off with a warning. However, she warns them not to make her come back here; it won’t be pretty. She then shuts the door behind her.
Remy asks Rogue if she’s okay. Rogue realizes it’s him, isn’t it? The memories she has floating in her head. They’re Gambit’s… the ones she picked up from the time they kissed. She can see it in his eyes. “Yes,” Gambit admits. Rogue begs him to tell her what they mean. What was so horrible… so terrible… that he buried so deep in his mind that even she can’t deal with it on her own? “Not for me. For you,” she adds.
Remy asks her if she wants to do something for him. “Anything,” Rogue readily replies. “Den please, don’t ask me,” Remy tells her. Even though she’s got no reason to, he asks her to trust him just this once. He promises that the moment he can make things right again, he’ll move Heaven and Earth to do it. “One more thing, chere,” he tells her as he leans closer to her. With their powers negated, it means this may be their one night. Their first. Their last. Without a word, they embrace.