Interstate 80: Laura Kinney aka X-23 is hitchhiking, silently musing that the first thing you learn is to be alone or suffer. It is an easy lesson. You suffer more when people are around. People make you feel alone. And loneliness is a quiet wound…
The driver who picked her up tells her she is lucky he came when he did. Temperature’s climbing. Gonna be a damn hot day. Where is she headed? Away, she replies shortly. He continues ratting. Day like this, you try to walk the road, the road will walk all over you. Burn your feet, burn your bones. Cook a growing man just looking at it. And she’s just a kid, all by herself. She have a boyfriend? Right, never mind. None of his business. But he sees girls like her all the time. Runners. Running away from boyfriends. Bad family. Got a niece her age. Always told her it was better to stay and fight out problems. Gotta outlive the hard times, make better with what you got. Running don’t solve nothing. She is not running, Laura tells him. Sure, okay, he replies unconvinced.
In the evening, he lets her off at a diner. Laura walks past a blonde girl with a black eye who is at a pay phone, promising the other person on the line she knows what to do.
Laura enters the diner, walking past a man in a white suit, leaning against a car. Laura looks at the new star-shaped scar in the palm of her right hand when the blonde girl ask if she can sit at the same table. She simply orders a water.
Looking at the girl, Laura orders a second plate. The girl thanks her for sharing the food and introduces herself as Alice. When Laura tells her her name, Alice recalls she once read a book about this kid who lived in the old pioneer days. Covered wagon and crap. One of them was named Laura. So, is she travelling? ‘Cause she is. Seeing the world. But she doesn’t have a car. She’s been hitching rides. It’s easy for girls.
Continuing, the girl asks if Laura has a car? No, she replies and asks who hit her. No one! Alice claims. But she wants something from her, Laura states. Nothing! Alice retorts stuttering. If she is travelling, where are her things? Laura points out. Who is the man in the car? The one who has been chasing them. How would she know? Alice asks. Laura thinks he sent Alice to talk to her. Alice denies it. He hit her! She denies it again. She smells like him, like sex. Alice calls her a freak. He is her pimp, Laura states. Alice wants to get up. Laura holds her by her arm. She had a pimp once. But he never asked her to lure girls to him. If he had she would have said no. She was lost but not that lost. Shut up! Alice shouts and runs away. She runs to the man in the white suit in the car.
Later, Laura leaves the diner, seeing the car drive away. Another man in a cop car watches her and announces per comm that he has found her.
Laura walks along the street and sees the car from before parking at the roadside, empty. She hears a voice saying “you don’t say ‘no’. You do your job!” She sees the man crouch above the still body of Alice, cursing at her.
Laura unsheathes her claws. The man draws his gun at her and orders her to walk away. He didn’t mean to kill her! Yes, he did, Laura replies. Okay, but it isn’t what she thinks. He fires his gun at her but the unfazed Laura walks on until she beheads him. She kneels down next to the dead girl and begins to dig a grave.
Sometime later, she is joined by Gambit, who cups her chin. How did he find her? she asks. Doesn’t matter now, he tells her and asks how much of this blood is hers. Some, not enough, she replies. She did not kill the girl. He didn’t think she did, he assures her. She relates what happened. She was trapped, Laura muses. If she had killed him while Alice still lived, she still would have been trapped. Bleak, he replies. The truth, she insists.
Gambit searches the man’s corpse and finds a snapshot of X-23. Later, they ride away on Gambit’s motorbike, wondering about the picture and what it means. They are followed by a police car.
Laura and Remy stop in a clearing. Did Storm send him? she asks. He sent himself with her blessing, comes the reply. She told Storm she wanted to be alone. He spreads out a hand of cards and asks her to pick one. They do not have time for games, Laura points out. Always time for games, he insists. Laura rattles down how she imagines the card trick will go: She picks a card, and reinserts it into the deck. He will shuffle it, then by counting cards will choose the one she picked. He will expect her to be surprised. She doesn’t know how to pretend to be surprised.
That’s not the game they are playing, Gambit replies and again asks her to pick a card. She does. The eight of spades. Fear, he tells her. Pick another! Nine of clubs. Fortune. Pick one more! The Joker. Wild card! X-23 doesn’t understand. He knew a gypsy woman down in N’awlins. Good thief. She could tell fortunes with playing cards. To pick an eight means she lives in fear. Fear of leaving something bad. Fear of imprisonment. She is not afraid, Laura points out. Nine of clubs has to do with luck. In her case, she makes her own.
But this one? He holds up the joker. Means something unexpected is coming. Something uncontrolled. He is making that up, Laura accuses him. She killed a man and he is making up games. He acts as though what she did is nothing. He accepts it without question. The other X-Men would not have, they would have asked why she killed that man. They would have told her, she made a terrible mistake. Isn’t he supposed to ask her why she killed him or tell her she made a terrible mistake?
Does she want him to do that? he asks. No, he deserved to die. And she was fit to judge him? Gambit asks. No one else was there who could. Can she live with that choice? Yes. Well, it’s a start, he decides.
They travel on by bike. They’ll be in Flagstaff before the sun goes down, he tells her. He knows a guy there who lives with the ear to the ground, he owes him. He will not take her back to the X-Men? she asks. Not unless that’s what she wants, Gambit decides. She wants to know why he is helping her.
Before he can answer, however, she suddenly orders him to stop. Before them are lots of police cars, along with armed cops who are aiming weapons at them. Alice gets out of a car and asks Laura if she remembers her. Time for running like foxes, Gambit tells Laura. Alice asks her not to. This is about Laura’s mother. Show her, Laura decides and Gambit swears.
So they follow the police cordon. Creepy, Gambit mutters. Worse than a trap. Bunch of police and a dead girl in a dead town. Not too late to change her mind, he suggests. Or she could just ignore him (which she does).
She died, Laura tells Alice. She saw her body. She should have ended differently, Alice replies. She didn’t do her job. What job? Laura asks. What is she? ‘sides maybe a zombie, Gambit mutters, She’s Alice! No, she isn’t! Laura replies. She smells the same… But her face is healed and there is something different in her eyes… They are new and empty. She is not the same girl.
She sees too much, Alice admits. The other Alice was real, Laura announces. She was defective, Alice replies. And Laura was wrong. The man wasn’t her pimp, but her handler. He did his job. His job was to kill her? Laura asks. Alice explains that she failed. Laura was right when she said Alice had been sent to lure her. Except she couldn’t do it. Not then. What does this have to do with her mother? Laura asks. “Everything, my dear”, comes a new voice. ”Step inside and I’ll tell you all about it,” Miss Sinister suggests.