The first thing you learn is how to be alone. The second thing you learn is how to wait. Everyone breaks. No one can be vigilant forever. But you do not need “forever”. Just the right moment. And what happens in that moment is life or death. Your life. Their death.
X-23 and Gambit have been led (more or less against their will) to a small town where they found a second version of Alice, the girl X-23 believed murdered, and Miss Sinister aka Claudine Renko.
What the hell is this? Gambit exclaims. Remy LeBeau, Miss Sinister identifies him. She thinks she does remember him. What an odd feeling, to recall a man she has never met. Nathaniel Essex had a particular fondness for him. His special pet.
Alice walks up to her and Miss Sinister protectively puts her hand on the girl’s shoulder. She can see the attraction, she continues. He has good genes.
Laura speaks up, despite Gambit’s warning, demanding what this has to do with her mother. Miss Sinister tells her to follow her and walks inside. This is a bad idea, Remy warns Laura. Then stay here, she retorts and follows, as does Alice and finally Remy.
She owns the cops? he asks. She owns the town they come from and so, yes, she owns them, is the reply. How does she pull it off? Money and mind control. You spread around enough of the first, you don’t need much of the second. It’s tactics. Conservation of resources. “My mother,” X-23 repeats impatiently. One track mind. She likes that about her, Miss Sinister remarks. An elevator takes her and Alice down. Coming? she asks.
One last chance, Gambit tries to hold Laura back. Does she understand who that woman is? Claudine Renko Laura replies A … clone… of Mr. Sinister. She’s read the file on her. Then don’t do this, Remy pleads. Find her answers another way. If she goes down there, she may not come out the same person she was. Ms. Sinister frightens him, Laura realizes. He agrees. Because of who made her? Because he looks in her eyes and sees him. Laura has no idea who he was or who she could be. It’s not enough to read a file. Paper isn’t blood ‘n’ guts an’ cruelty. She works with men who kill children, Laura points out. She knows what she is. She jumps after the two women. A moment later, so does Remy.
So glad they could join them, Claudine remarks. They find themselves in a high tech complex underground. What is this place? Laura asks. A mystery Miss Sinister, replies. A failed experiment perhaps, she doesn’t exactly know, but it’s marvelous, isn’t it? She was originally put off by the whole apocalyptic city of the future thing, but it’s grown on her in so many little ways. More than a year ago, she suffered an… injury. Someone stabbed her in the stomach. He likes the story already, Gambit mutters. It was Daken Akihiro, she continues. She thinks Laura knows him. The wound wasn’t life threatening but it was her first ever injury in this… transformed body.
They walk downstairs to a pool where some kids re frolicking. Receiving it seemed to wake something inside her, an instinct. She followed the instinct to this place, one of Sinister’s secret labs, and she found something: Children in stasis.
The kids run happily up and greet her. This is wrong, Laura decides. It’s not! Alice protests. Laura asks her to explain. Ms. Claudine saved them, Alice states. She loves them. She’s the closest thing they have to a mother. She was not saved, Laura, retorts. The other Alice, she was given to a man who hurt and murdered her. She was defective, Alice replies.
Enough, Claudine tells her and asks Laura for help. The lives of these children depend on it. She leads them to a library. Claudine continues that she doesn’t know where the children originally came from or if they are even as old as they look. They could have been in stasis for decades. Sinister experimented on children during World War II and he never stopped. She hasn’t even begun to determine what he did to them. If anything. He may have just kept them around as extra stock.
And what is she doing with the children? Laura demands. Letting them live, of course, Miss Sinister assures her. Beyond that, she doesn’t know. They have no education. No understanding of the world. She’s let them go above; not for long, most prefer it down here. It’s what they know. And it’s difficult to break someone away from what they know. Something Laura’s aware of, she’s sure. She asks Remy not to judge her. She had no choice when she became this thing. She was programmed against her will, made. She’s doing the best she can under the circumstances.
Laura follows Alice who is carrying a child in her arms. She noticed that Alice’s eyes have changed in the last few minutes. Whatever, Alive shrugs her off and leaves.
Does she like her? Claudine asks. She’s a sweet girl. A clone, Laura corrects her. A clone with the same memories as the girl she first met. How did she do that? How was it done to her? Claudine retorts, that’s the better question. The moment Nathaniel Essex died she woke up. She had a life before but suddenly she was someone else with another man’s thoughts crawling within her. So she is experimenting on children, Laura accuses her. Claudine assures her she has it all wrong. Laura insists she gave Alice to a man who hurt her. She did not give Alice to that man, comes the reply. She was taken. Just as the other children will be taken. One by one.
Remy remarks he thought she controlled the entire town and has Sinister’s powers. And she can’t stop children from being taken? Laura adds that the man who had killed Alice had Laura’s photograph. She was ordered to lure Laura to him. Not her order, Miss Sinister insists. Not her man. He wasn’t local. And no, she doesn’t have all of Sinister’s powers. Because of that, she had to make her own deal with the devil. With Malcolm Colcord. She shows them his picture. He is trying to resurrect the Weapon X program. The same project that made X-23 and Wolverine. The same man who engineered a concentration camp that experimented on mutants. Sinister created an alternate identity for himself and worked in that camp as one of the scientists. If Colcord ever knew, he certainly didn’t care. But now somehow he has found her. But he doesn’t realize she is not Sinister. She doesn’t have all his memories and not even half his knowledge. All she has of value are his journals. One of which was the basis of the Facility that made Laura. So maybe she exaggerated when she said it was all about her mother, but not by much.
She leads them to a corridor with rooms, telling Gambit she hopes he’ll find his comfortable. If not, feel free to seek out hers. Her bed is very large. Then maybe she can get her minions to bring it here, he orders. There is only one bed. She has another room for Laura, she clarifies. Gambit is against their being separated, accusing Miss Sinister of being evil. No second chance? She asks. A monster made her, so she is a monster? A bit hypocritical, or did she just imagine that once he was a mass murderer?
Laura steps between them. Enough, she orders. She knows what Gambit has done and what she has done. She is staying with him. Someone needs to protect him from Miss Sinister. Well, she thinks the girl likes him, Miss Sinister mocks. Drop dead, Gambit replies. You first, she retorts and leaves.
Now what? Remy asks Laura. Now they find out what is really going on. Gambit believes Claudine was lying. Laura thinks most of it was the truth. The truth was in her scent, but something else too. Fear. Sickness. Desperation. She wants something, but it has nothing to do with keeping safe these children.
Walking the corridor, Claudine stops due to some pain in her stomach, then she begins to bleed profusely from the nose. She walks on, clearly in agony.
Gambit and Laura leave their room. He could have told her it was a trap, he points out. She agrees, so why did he come? He’ll tell her when they are free. They split up, each searching one part of the corridor. Laura finds the trail of blood and follows it, musing what being free means. She passes several cells, which had children in them and comes to a heavy adorned metal door.
Behind the door is an empty lab where people have been tied up. From behind another door, she can hear a thin voice talking. She enters the room to find another lab with human-size test tubes. In front of the only tube with a person inside, Alice is sitting and reading from a book.
She shouldn’t be here, Alice tells her, even Alice should be here. She’s her, Alice explains, referring to the girl in the tube. There were others - three or four. She feels them inside her sometimes, all jumbled. But she’s the last one left. She doesn’t want her to be lonely. What was she reading? “Peter Pan” Alice replies. Ms. Claudine has bunches of books in the library. She lets her read whatever she likes.
Laura recalls Claudine told her the other Alice was taken from her by that man. There were a lot of men, Alice replies, they had guns. Asked what they did to her, Alice replies that they took blood, a lot of blood… They ran tests. But they were disappointed by what they found. They said she was defective. So they gave her to the man… her handler.
Laura notices she see Alice different from their first meeting. More real. Alice explains when she first woke up she was numb. She felt like a robot but the longer she is awake the more she feels. Does being a clone bother her? Laura asks. The worst part is the memories that are part of her but not, Alice replies. She doesn’t like remembering being hurt or dying. She’s died a lot of times now. Was it those men who killed her? Laura asks. Twice, she replies. And then there was another man. He injected her with something. He must have been related to Ms. Claudine. He looked just like her.
Elsewhere, Gambit finds a kitchen where women from the town are making sandwiches for the kids. Gambit asks if they don’t find it strange that the kids live in caves. X-23 joins them, telling Gambit they need to talk. Gambit asks one last question: don’t the women ever wonder even a little what goes on here? They never see anything strange? Slowly the women reply that everything is loving and wholesome. Why do they act like their heads hurt? Everyone gets headaches in town. They blame the water. Government used to run nuclear tests around here. That must be it, Gambit agrees, tells the kids goodbye and joins Laura.
This place makes his skin crawl, he tells her. Did he learn anything? she asks. Nothing, except that Sinister’s fingerprint is all over the place. He’s been in some of his other labs. This feels the same. He can almost taste the suffering.
What did Sinister do to him? Laura asks. Nothing he didn’t let him do, Gambit replies. That’s what makes it terrible. She’s sorry. Is that why he came here with her? Don’t they have better things to be worried about? Like how to get les enfants free of this place? She touches his arm. It’s important. Really? he asks. Really, she promises and touches his face. She thinks she knows why he is really with her. Dat so? He shoves her to the ground. Shapeshifting doesn’t fool him. Where is Laura?
She turns back into Miss Sinister and smirks as he threatens to blow her head off. But suddenly his powers fail. She smirks as she kicks him, explaining she turned them off. Now she is on top of him, threatening he may lose his eyes if they keep fighting. Or they can talk and deal. She knows he’s good at that. He refuses. Not ever again!
That moment, the real Laura drags her away and slashes Claudine’s back. With a kick, she orders her to get away from him. Alice watches horrified. Grinning, Claudine states it didn’t have to be this way. Laura can’t kill her that easily. A moment later, she screams in agony and shifts to body and form of the real Mr. Sinister. “Laura,” he remarks. “What a pleasant surprise!”