Memories. But not his own. A roaring gorilla. An elderly couple. (No way out! Looks so beautiful from up here, the old lady tells her husband, clinging on him, snow falling all around them. How will we get through this? she asks him. Way we always have, Maryanne… one day at a time… he answers)
Conservations. Ones he’s never heard. (A young boy on a ship, looking at something with his binoculars. Look hard enough and you can see your house from here… his father tells him. Poppa, we live in Canada! You’re silly! the boy retorts).
He’s searching, sifting through the recent past, until that past gives up its secrets. (Do you trust me? Joseph whispers. Rogue hesitantly pauses before she replies Yes. Joseph leans forward and kisses Rogue’s forehead. Ah… ah don’t know what t’ say, Rogue stutters in shock. Joseph wishes her Merry Christmas).
The mysterious mutant known as Maggott stops sifting through memories of people he doesn’t know. He wonders: what was that all about? What did Joseph do that was so great for that woman? One of his two ‘slugs’ lets out a sound of impatience. “In a minute, girl… Please. One more moment before you do your thing,” Maggott tries to appease the creature and caresses it. His two ‘girls’ have led him here, devouring anything and everything, somehow tracing the movements of this man, Joseph. But can they look onto the biggest city on the world – New York – and dream?
As his slugs somehow merge with him, Maggott groans for a moment as he is instantly energized, his skin assuming a tone of blue. “Guess that’s my answer,” he murmurs.
Standing on top of one of the Twin Towers, Maggott is overwhelmed by the grandeur laid out before him. Seven million people doing seven million different things, sleeping, working, partying, living their lives for the most part, the way they want to. Only a year earlier, the idea of gazing out across the New York City skyline from atop the World Trade Center would have seemed laughable. It was not so long ago that his life was little more than indentured servitude in a place far, far from this bustling metropolis. But that was before he changed. Before something he could not explain began to grow inside him. Before the slugs. And the thought that frightens him – that shocks him – is sometimes, he wishes things could go back to the way they were. Maggott knows they’re getting closer. They’re going to find him soon. And when they do, things will be better, and maybe, just maybe, he’ll be free.
More than half a world away, beneath the Filchner Ice Shelf in Antarctica, a terrified Trish Tilby wanders in a cave. She can’t stop thinking Not fun. Not fun. Not fun. First, she and a handful of X-Men crash-land in what’s left of a borrowed spacecraft and then she goes on her own to search for any survivors. Not that she was very helpful when they were carted away by… whoever. But then, that’s probably why she is “Trish Tilby, anchorwoman” and not “Trish Tilby, mutant cavalry.” Though she does know who can help her – if she can make it back to him in one piece. But there’s something about these dark tunnels she doesn’t trust…
Suddenly, a hand grasps her from behind. Two hands cover her eyes as a familiar voice teases her: “Guess who?” Trish quips that, judging from the sound of his voice, she’d say he is the same blue-furred and brilliant boyfriend she was just searching for. “Close,” Beast replies. “You’re not my boyfriend?” Trish asks in shock as she turns around to face him. “I’m not blue. Fascinating, no?” Hank smiles as he emerges from the shadows in his human form.
“That’s one word, Dr. McCoy,” a flabbergasted Trish replies and asks him if he can come with a few dozen others to explain to her what happened in the twenty minutes since she saw him last. Hank’s working hypothesis is that there’s a device within these caverns that somehow countermands mutant gene structures, thereby, at least temporarily, rendering some basic DNA sub-structures on a biomolecular level dormant. “And for those of us who don’t subscribe to Scientific America?” Trish gripes. Beast explains that his mutant power’s been suppressed. He’s human with a capital “H.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that, he adds.
At that moment, in the fortress above those caverns, a shackled Remy LeBeau broods by the fire, next to a slumbering and similarly strapped Grovel. In many ways, this should have been the happiest day in Remy’s young life, despite the fact he and his teammates in the X-Men are prisoners of the cybernetic creation known as Nanny. Despite the reality that they’ve somehow had their mutant powers stripped away, and are trapped here, in the onetime base of their greatest enemy, Magneto, in the farthest corner of the planet, with little hope of rescue… and even less of escape.
For the first time they met, he and the woman known as Rogue were able to fully express their love for each other. With their powers inhibited, she was able to touch him, without fear that she’d absorb his powers, his mind and memories. Gambit ponders that was stupid. To think after all he’s done, trying to convince himself he deserves to be happy. He has to face that it is never going to happen. Not for him. Not for Rogue. Not until he faces his past once and for all.
Rogue gently touches his back. She remarks that he seemed like he were a million times away just now. Was he thinking about how they’re going to get out of here? Shhh, she softly mutters. Never mind – she takes it back. She doesn’t care… not really. Not about anything but them right now. Almost from that first time they headed into town on Remy’s bike, she could feel it. For the first time in her entire life, she felt… hope. She knew that underneath all that hair, all that attitude, there was a person who cared for her. A person who loved her. A person she could love. And she does. She… loves him.
Remy suddenly stands up. He pleads her not to say that. A flustered Rogue calls his name and insists she does – she loves him. Gambit retorts she can’t love him because she doesn’t really know him. Rogue reminds him she knows he has secrets, but she knows in time he’ll share them. “Then what?” Remy wonders. When she can’t forgive him any more than he can? Emotionally charged, he runs away, jumping over the enormous body of the sleeping Grovel.
A desperate Rogue pleads him to wait and makes to go after him, when Spat suddenly grabs her by her chains and asks her to let him go. Rogue reminds Spat she was Remy’s friend one and begs her to let her go. “Later. Maybe,” Spat replies. But first, she suggests they talk about those memory flashes she’s been having since her powers turned off. Then they’ll see how eager she is to chase after Spat’s old ‘friend.’
New York City
Wandering amongst the crowd, Maggott is lost in reflections of bitterness. Humanity. Ha. Be dipped if I can ever figure them out. The same type of people that’ll throw an art exhibit to celebrate what’s ‘different’ in the world are the same people that go about their lives as Operation: Zero Tolerance rounds up mutants? He supposes he just isn’t figuring some types.
“You are one to talk?” a voice interrupts his meditations, just as a light flashes momentarily in a dark alley nearby. Perplexed, Maggott contemplates it’s wild: almost as if the shadows were talking to him. Removing his shades, he invites whoever’s there to show themselves and throw down like real men.
Before he has time to react, a boot proceeds to mercilessly kick at his face. His assailant, the mutant known as Psylocke, is surprised by the phrase he used: Real men? Ironic choice of words coming from one such as himself! Rubbing his aching, bloody face, Maggott remarks that didn’t take long. “The beating?” Psylocke asks. “Running into one of you X-Men types,” he explains. He knew once he made it to the States, looking for Joseph, he was bound to bump into one of them. By reputation, though, he thought they’d be a bit more reasonable…
In response, Psylocke kicks him, sending him flying to a kiosk. “Usually,” Psylocke responds to Maggott’s remark. But she senses a great darkness within him. She introduces himself. From what she can see in his mind he is called… Maggott? Reason alone to be suspicious, she notes. Only moments ago, she became aware of his existence and she would have him taste the raw powers of her psionic blades before she allows him to bring any harm to her fellow X-Men!
“Harm?” Maggott growls as he emerges from the demolished kiosk, his skin now dark blue and his eyes red, his two mechanic slugs right next to him. He warns her that ‘harm’ doesn’t even begin to define what it is he and his friends are going to do to her. Surprised, Psylocke wonders where those slugs came from – and why didn’t she sense them a moment ago?
Flying above, Archangel has his own concerns. He has to keep reminding himself that Betsy is not quite the same woman she’s always been. So maybe she was just staring at the World Trade Center for no reason…
Suddenly, he hears a man from below screaming: “Run for your lives! Mutants! He’s got some kinda giant worms!” Propelling himself downwards, Warren contemplates the option that they were needed down below. He has to face it: dating a telepathic ninja is going to take some getting used to!
Meanwhile, in Antarctica, Grovel admits to Gambit that he’s never been the one that loved him most, on account of his being a nonscrupulous loser and all. However, they worked long enough for Remy to know about Grovel’s people. Kluruvians don’t like to see anybody with a sad-on. He urges Remy to tell her. He loves her. She loves him. Something like that doesn’t happen daily. It’s not likely he’s going to be able to outrun his past forever. “Real simple, old man. I tell her, I lose her,” Remy retorts. Grovel tells him it’s even simpler: he doesn’t tell her; he never really has her to lose.
Nearby, Rogue confesses to Spat that, over the years, she’s had to share her mind with a heck of a lot of people, starting with Cody, then Carol Danvers, and most anybody she’s ever touched to some degree. But this? This is different. It’s like when you take a big old sip of hot soup and you burn the tip of your tongue. A scar she can’t help but playing with… only the scar is on her memory.
She asks Spat if she’s making any sense at all. “Maybe,” Spat replies. She asks Rogue what she can remember seeing. Sifting through her memories, Rogue remembers shadows, mostly. “Eight people?” Spat asks her. Rogue can recall them one towering over another; over… Gambit? Spat tells her they’re arguing, right? Rogue claims she can’t hear them. “That’s because you’re afraid,” Spat berates her. “Of what?” Rogue wonders. “Of the truth,” Spat replies. Hearing this, Gambit stresses that the truth isn’t always the same thing to everyone.
“Enough!” a beleaguered Joseph cuts their conversation short, appearing in the threshold. He argues there is no time for whatever drama in which they’ve entangled themselves. He has learned that Operation: Zero Tolerance has launched a full-scale offensive against their mutant comrades. It is incumbent upon them to free themselves and go to their aid. Remy admits it’s a good plan. He suspiciously wonders, though, how Joseph broke free and got here through several levels of his old base. “How do you think I did? What are you implying?” a vexed Joseph confronts him.
Rogue reminds Gambit that Joseph has proven himself. Suddenly, she sees Gambit popping the chains. Surprised, she asks him if they could have left at any time. “And? So?” an undeterred Gambit retorts. They didn’t have a plan before, he reminds her. As he proceeds to unbind Spat and Grovel, Spat urges him to leave the two of them here; they have no time to waste. Spurning her plea, Remy mockingly blathers that he’s going to leave them to Nanny, abandon them in the middle of the Antarctic, right.
Manhattan, World Trade Center
Maggott boasts that if he really wanted Psylocke hurt, he would have let the girls at her. Psylocke taunts him, remarking that it’s so polite, condescending and totally inconsequential what he wants or doesn’t want. “What’s the American expression…? Blah blah blah!” Maggott sneers at her. In response, Psylocke whips him with her psi blade. Gritting his teeth, Maggott asks her if that’s the best she can manage.
“Not even,” Psylocke promises and strikes Maggott with her psi blade, the focused totality of her telepathic powers which bond her, if only for an instant, with her target. However, in this case, the target’s mind is already tethered elsewhere, to his slugs. As the two creatures begin to roar, Betsy wonders what’s happening; she can’t focus… “Meany… No, girl… Please… Don’t!” Maggott screams at one of his slugs as the creature prepares to lunge at Betsy… and then Archangel appears and batters it up with a pole, throwing Maggot into unconsciousness.
Warren wonders: with everything else they have on their plate, from finding the X-Men that were taken out by Bastion, to trying to figure out how to connect with the rest of their teammates who disappeared in space, did Betsy really need to go out searching for an all-new, all-different threat? Psylocke urges him to believe her when she tells him this young man is much, much more than simply a “threat”. She looked within Maggot and all she saw was a great… darkness. Warren admits that can’t be good.
The South Pole
The former captives are trying to find the way out of the caves. “Not too quietly here, huh?” Grovel quips. “What… you don’t think they’re just gonna let use leave?” Gambit sneers. He scoffs that all they’ve got to do is follow their savior, Joseph, and he’ll… Joseph retorts that all Gambit has to do is shut up. He can stay if he likes and wallow in self-pity for whatever unspeakable crimes he’s committed. Joseph, for one, has grown tired of being manipulated by events beyond his control; that ends now. Rogue wonders if he’s being a little harsh. No, Joseph replies – and Rogue comes to agree. Spat admits they all crack her up. Do they always get along this well?
Suddenly, an explosion of light and sound occurs before them. Joseph challenges whomever it is to step forth from shadows and confront them directly. Nanny emerges, with her army of techno-organic monstrosities at hand. She complains he’s sounding cranky. Maybe it’s time she puts them all down for a nap – a final nap. Remy realizes they’re outnumbered and overpowered. This is exactly the situation he was hoping to avoid. They shouldn’t have left the cell until they knew exactly what was going on here.
Unbeknownst to everyone, a mysterious person is watching everything from a monitor, quipping that none of them has the slightest clue as to what’s going on here.
An enraged Nanny argues that she’s tried to be nice and kind and patient. But they wanted to play. “As of this moment, play time is over,” she snarls as she rapidly shifts into full battle mode: her veneer of sweetness changes into a horrible visage of glowing eyes, long sharp tacks emerge in her head in lieu of real hair, her arms transmogrify into machine guns and a mace is generated in the lower part of her body.
“Ummm… power check?” Rogue asks her companions. They’re all negative. Joseph: “Not me.” Gambit: “Nope.” Spat: “Not a one.” Grovel: “Not hardly.” The insane robot wishes them goodnight… but before she has a chance to attack them, her head is smashed by someone from behind! A short-circuited Nanny begins letting out blurry sounds, although she manages to utter one last phrase before her head falls off: “Foolish children… only delayed the inevitable… the trial has only begun.”
Rogue suddenly realizes her powers are back. Joseph notes that such is the case with all of them, it seems. Charging up with kinetic energy, Gambit realizes that whatever device was dampening their mutant abilities, it must have been built right into Nanny. “Ain’t dat right, Joe?” he asks Joseph. Joseph agrees but wonders who freed them from this construct’s thrall. Gambit suggests they take a look and approaches the beheaded Nanny, only to see Trish standing beside her, crowbar in hand.
Trish nervously greets them. Believe it or not, she was the muscle – Beast, who has naturally reverted to his blue-furred ape form, provided the brains. Hank explains that he wasn’t being cowardly, of course. He just believed that as a human, Trish would make it close enough to come in under Nanny’s radar. Trish jokingly warns them not to get used to it. As superheroines du jour go, she thinks she makes a really good news anchor. Beast stresses that the mystery remains, however. If it was not Joseph who recreated Nanny, complete with the necessary technology to negate their powers within a certain radius, then who was responsible? And why were they brought – or drawn – here?
Rogue, however, is thinking there are more important questions that need to be answered; matters that need to be resolved once and for all. Approaching Remy, she begs him to reveal what it is he’s been hiding from them all this time. Gambit retorts that’s not a question any more. Rogue again asks him if he’ll tell her. Leaning his face close to hers as if wanting to kiss her, Remy whispers, “I…I…I can’t.” But he knows he can’t keep hiding, either. He’s through with running from his past. He’s tired of going to sleep with his shame, only to discover it’s still there when he wakes up.
Grovel asks him if he’s turning himself in. Gambit clarifies he’s actually turning himself over to the truth. As he allows Spat to bind his hands and departs with the two bounty hunters, he hopes that someday Rogue will be able to forgive him, because he knows himself never will.