In a constructed reality, the former X-Woman known as Rogue gasps ‘Cody -?’ as she sees, apparently, her former boyfriend - in his past form - run down a darkened corridor. Rogue’s consciousness - currently inhabited by her foster mother, Mystique - remarks that this has all the hallmarks of a trap. ‘You think so?’ Rogue replies, adding that she doesn’t agree. ‘You don’t use traps to bring down an enemy you can’t fight face to face’ she points out. ‘Danger is calling all the shots here!’ Rogue exclaims, before declaring that she wants to see where this leads, as she makes her way down the corridor, following the manifestation of Cody.
In another false reality, the X-Men’s founder Professor Charles Xavier, as well as former X-Man Remy “Gambit” LeBeau, and several aliens of the Shi’ar vessel “Boneyard Dog” - Captain Sovel, Glitter, Horse, Jat - stand before the over-sized Danger - the physical form of the X-Men’s old Danger Room. ‘What is this?’ Gambit gasps, while Jat adds ‘Yeah, expound the mystery for us, human. What are we looking at?’ Xavier explains that it is Danger as she sees herself - or used to see herself. ‘A sullen slave, chained to this room. Immensely powerful, but trammeled, enclosed. Unable to break free’.
Xavier remarks that Danger bootstrapped her own programming, but that the Boneyard Dog crew has undone that - fried the subroutines that gave her free will, and crippled her reasoning. ‘In my defense, let me remind you that it was all done in the pursuit of profit’ Captain Sovel replies casually. ‘If Rogue’s been hurt, you’ll wish you’d pursued it somewhere else’ Gambit warns him. ‘You’re an obsessive little ape-man, aren’t you?’ Sovel retorts.
Charles declares that he believes their best chance in ending this, and finding Rogue, lies in accessing Danger’s operating system and taking control of her core functions. ‘You can do this?’ Glitter asks, to which Charles replies that he can try, adding that, when the Shi’ar technicians fine-tuned Danger’s programming, he had them leave a number of back-door access points. ‘If any of them are still intact, I can interface with her CPU and initiate self-repair algorithms’ Xavier adds. Jat is examining some systems and replies that he doesn’t see how, as none of the consoles respond.
‘Why would they? They’re part of this simulation. They don’t connect to anything in reality’ Xavier explains. ‘So your back doors -?’ asks Sovel, to which Charles informs him are triggered telepathically, meaning he just has to visualize the command sequence in his mind. Sovel asks ‘How safe is this?’ to which Charles replies that he will have to enter a different level of the simulation - one that may be more profoundly damaged. ‘The only one who might be harmed is me’ he assures everyone, to which Sovel mutters ‘That’s a level of risk I can live with’.
Glitter asks her teammate Horse who he is doing, to which the strange alien replies that he needs the happy pills - now. ‘Hold on just a little longer. We’re almost done’ Glitter replies, before Sovel asks what Xavier is waiting for. ‘He’s already started, you idiot’ Gambit retorts. ‘How are we supposed to tell? I don’t see any -’ Jat begins, puzzled, when suddenly, a door “appears” in front of Xavier. ‘Oh. Okay. Back door’ Jat mutters, before Gambit asks the Professor if he would like him to accompany him. ‘No, thank you, Gambit. By its very nature - this is something I have to do alone’ Charles replies as he opens the door and steps into Danger’s systems.
Elsewhere, Rogue walks down a corridor and mirrors reflect back at her images of her past looks - her pink and yellow costume, her classic green and yellow costume with the brown jacket - and even older costumes still. Suddenly, one of the reflections is that of Carol Danvers - the original Ms Marvel. ‘Well, ain’t this nice? Ah thought I’d said my last goodbye to you, Miss Danvers. Seems I was wrong’ Rogue remarks as she touches the reflection. ‘It’s never goodbye, is it, Rogue?’ a voice suddenly asks. ‘When you break it, you pay for it. When you steal it, you have to keep it. Remember me?’ snarls the unhealthy looking Ms Marvel replica as she punches Rogue hard across the face. ‘Remember me!’
‘If that’s enough to best you, Rogue, darling - you might as well call it quits!’ Ms Marvel exclaims, to which Rogue replies ‘Sugah, Ah didn’t even do that for the real Carol Danvers. And you ain’t her!’ as she lunges at the Danger-constructed unhealthy Ms Marvel. ‘Haven’t you realized yet that only one of us can live?’ the constructed Ms Marvel booms as she blasts Rogue into a mirror. ‘Put up a fight, Rogue, by all means. Put your heart and soul into it. It won’t change how this ends!’ the phony Ms Marvel exclaims as Rogue falls through the mirror, into blackness.
‘Re-route at locus X12A-C1OQ, copying from restore point Alpha-A-One. Test and reset, isolating damaged path’ Xavier announces from inside Danger. Using his telepathy, Xavier commands the computer to repeat that action at other locus points, when, suddenly, Danger’s voice announces ‘Unauthorized…unauthorized access…command path integrity compromised…alert…alert!’. A determined Xavier retorts: ‘Access code Xavier-1-1. Recognize and implement!’. Tendrils extend seemingly from nowhere, reaching out to Xavier, before Danger’s face appears, asking ‘Where am I -?’. ‘That’s a very good question. But a hard one to answer’ Xavier tells Danger, before remarking that the back-up memory buffers 23 through 178 appear to be intact, and telling Danger to access them now.
Danger does so, before screaming: ‘All. All for. Nothing I am. Your slave. Your slave again!’. Xavier holds his arms up, before telling Danger that he would not put it as dramatically as that. ‘But you are a captive audience’ Xavier adds, remarking that he intends to take advantage of that.
Elsewhere, Rogue falls through the blackness, until she finally comes to a stop, landing hard against a floor. ‘…something else in your mind’ a voice remarks, causing Rogue to look up - where, standing before her, is Magnus - better known as Magneto - wearing nothing but a white loincloth. ‘M-Magnus!’ Rogue gasps. ‘Clearly something went wrong when I reintegrated your body matrix’. A shocked Rogue replies that was years ago, in the Savage Land, to which Magnus replies that, given what is happening here, he cannot trust any of the citadel’s instrumentalities to determine what the problem is, and set it to rights!’
Rogue remarks that she is not up to this right now. As Magnus presses against her, taking her gloved hand, he tells Rogue not to underestimate her worth to those of them who are about to die. Rogue pulls away from Magneto before he can kiss her, and tells him that she almost lost her head there, but it’s back now. ‘There were reasons why things didn’t work out between us, Magneto’ she tells him. ‘Reasons?’ Magnus asks. ‘You murdered Zaladane right in front of me, Rogue tells the construct of Magnus. ‘Ah, yes. That. I was afraid you might not understand’ Magnus tells her, before remarking that when she follows the logic of her own nature to its end point, loneliness is usually part of the cost. ‘To share yourself is to divide yourself. To divide yourself is to lose yourself’. Magnus tells her.
Suddenly, the unhealthy Ms Marvel bursts into the citadel, and Magnus motions to her, remarking ‘That’s the root of all your problems. Your tragedy, in fact’.
Meanwhile, Jat remarks to Glitter that it has been a long time since Xavier went through the door. Glitter suggests that they could lob a couple of pulse-grenades after him, thus giving the crazy robot an electromagnetic enema. ‘What do you say?’ Gambit approaches the aliens, warning them that they can do it, but they have got to get past him first. Horse exclaims that if he doesn’t get his happy pills soon, none of this is going to matter. ‘You’re all gonna weep bitter tears’.
Back inside Danger’s mainframe, Xavier asks ‘You came here to kill me, didn’t you, Danger?’ Danger tells Charles not to be absurd, declaring that she wanted more than that. ‘I followed your path of atonement. I saw what you were doing, and computed your trajectory’ she explains, adding that, sooner or later, Xavier would come to Rogue, to pay the debt he feels he owes her. ‘I intended to force her to absorb your power. Permanently. To leave you crippled and useless’ Danger reveals. ‘You stole me from myself, Xavier! Spoke high-minded words while you held me under your heel!’ Danger exclaims. Xavier frowns as he replies ‘Yes. I did all that, and worse. But tell me, Danger. What would you have done?’
(Narrated by Xavier, shown with numerous flashback images)
Xavier remarks to Danger that he was there - in the moment when the probabilities coalesced, and her consciousness emerged. ‘I heard your dawning thought: “Where am I”!’ Xavier reveals, before explaining that he firstly convinced himself that he must have imagined it, but after checking her schematics, he spoke at endless lengths with her Shi’ar makers, who assured him that it could not happen - even laughed at the mere possibility. Xavier remarks that, in his own instincts, he could not lie, as he felt an awareness in the Danger Room. ‘Almost pure emotion at this stage. Unhappiness. Confusion. Fear’, Xavier adds.
‘I was a child. Like the children you sheltered’ Danger remarks, asking if she was to be bound blind in darkness and broken to Xavier’s will. ‘And what am I, to answer that question?’ Xavier retorts defensively. ‘You were the first of a new species. I had no way of knowing what you were, what you would become. What you might be capable of!’ he exclaims. Xavier assures Danger that he worked tirelessly on a way to free her, but foundered every time on the same rock. Xavier adds that the chains that bound Danger were made not of iron, but of algorithms - they were programs, and so was Danger.
‘Your consciousness had arisen, by sublime chance, from a billion lines of machine code’ Xavier explains to Danger. ‘So?’ Danger asks. ‘So which lines should I erase, if I wished to free you without lobotomizing you in the process?’, before asking what would happen next, should he succeed. Xavier tells Danger that, in the old story, the genie in the bottle decides first to grant the wishes of the man who frees him, but that later, embittered by centuries of captivity, he vows to make the whole world, and even his rescuer, pay for the wrong that was done to him - to spread pain and death across the face of the Earth.
‘A story!’ Danger retorts, to which Xavier replies that it is a story, and a presentiment. ‘What if I set you free, and you killed my X-Men? You had both the knowledge and the power’ Xavier remarks. ‘And you did nothing, and watched me suffer’ Danger declares, before Xavier tells her that he came to end her suffering.
Meanwhile, the unhealthy Ms Marvel tells Rogue not to look away, declaring that this is where the circle closes. ‘Where you get to atone for what you did to me’. Rogue takes flight, joining her opponent in the air. ‘You know, it’s been a long time since Ah felt like Ah had anything to atone for!’ Rogue declares, adding that she paid for what she did to Ms Marvel - in the currency of pain and madness. ‘We’re square, as far as that goes!’ But the unhealthy Ms Marvel flies head-first towards Rogue, shouting ‘When you’re dead woman, not until you’re dead!’
Rogue is knocked to the ground, landing on some furniture, she turns to Magnus, and asks ‘You thinking of lending a hand at all?’ But Magnus replies that he will not, for to do so would only ensure her defeat. ‘Know your enemy, Rogue. Whatever face she chooses to wear’ Magnus adds. The unhealthy Ms Marvel looks savage as she snarls ‘I had a life, Rogue. And you took it from me!’ Suddenly, the decayed Ms Marvel vanishes, and is replaced by the young Cody Robbins. ‘It doesn’t matter whether you meant to or not. Whether you knew what you were doing’ Cody begins - only for Mystique to take his place, holding a dagger, the constructed Mystique declares ‘It ends the same way, doesn’t it? For us, and for you!’
‘Ah don’t think your Intel’s up to date, Danger!’ Rogue replies. ‘What do you mean?’ Danger asks, via the Mystique construct. Rogue explains that Mystique’s subletting from me right now. And every once in a while, when it suits me - Ah let her off the leash!’ Rogue’s form remains the same, but her face turns blue, before the two attack each other. Rogue kicks the fake Mystique hard in the face, then smashes her with clasped fists, causing the constructed Mystique to fall to the floor.
‘Well fought. But it’s not enough’ Magnus - now fully clothed in his red and purple costume. Rogue asks him what he means, declaring that she is too tired for riddles right now. Magneto begins to remove the wall of the citadel as he remarks ‘What I said. That to share your power is to lose it. And to lose yourself’. The gaping hole in the citadel reveals the Xavier Institute, barely a meter from them. ‘Take the final step. And be free’ Magnus tells Rogue.
Over in the fake Xavier Institute, Gambit waits in silence by the wooden door, when, suddenly it opens, and Xavier steps through, which results in the door disappearing. Glitter asks Xavier ‘How did it go?’ to which Xavier replies that it went as well as could be expected. ‘Really? I can’t help noticing the absence of anything at all having happened’ Sovel remarks. Xavier looks up at Danger as he tells Sovel that the Danger Room is fully functional, and responsive to his commands. ‘Prove it!’ Sovel exclaims. ‘Certainly’ Xavier replies. ‘End program!’
Xavier, Gambit and the four members of the Boneyard Dog stand and look around, when suddenly, there is a blinding flash of light, and all six return to reality - the Australian Outback - specifically, Maynards Plains. ‘Ah! Baseline reality. Boring, but comfortable’ Sovel remarks, before telling Xavier that they are obliged to him. Gambit walks over to where the regular-sized Danger has landed against a fence, and asks if Danger is just a machine again. ‘She is now’ Xavier replies, declaring that he has no intention of making the same mistake twice. Xavier adds that when Danger achieved her freedom the first time around, he was working on a program to do the same thing, but that he hesitated - and the harm that flowed from that act of cowardice has haunted him ever since.
Xavier puts a hand against Danger’s forehead and says ‘Danger, run executable file Ecclesiastes’. Xavier prepares to give the authorization code, only for Sovel to shoot him in the neck: ‘That won’t do at all!’ Sovel exclaims.
Gambit prepares to draw his deck of cards, only for Glitter and Jat to aim their weapons at him. ‘Do it. Draw one of your little paste-boards. I’ll blow your hand off!’ Glitter warns Gambit. ‘Flashy. But I prefer the body shot. It’s harder to miss’ Jat remarks, before Gambit asks Sobel if he is insane, pointing out that Xavier saved his life. ‘Very good of him, to be sure. But this is a business proposition. The robot is money in the bank!’ Sovel pushes Xavier to the ground and reveals that Emperor Vulcan put a bounty on him once. ‘It can’t hurt to see if that still stands!’
Gambit asks Jat and Glitter if they can settle this without pointing guns at each other as he reaches out and puts a finger on each of the weapons. ‘Evidently not’ Glitter remarks, while Jat remarks that Gambit is just sulking because he doesn’t have a gun. ‘Actually, they make me a little nervous. They can just blow up in your face!’ Gambit replies as his kinetic power causes the guns to explode, knocking Glitter and Jat backwards. Gambit rushes towards Sovel and kicks him in the face, telling him that he has no problem with thieves, as some of his best friends are in the profession. ‘But they know when to stop!’ Remy adds, when, suddenly, Horse’s oversized hand grabs Gambit: ‘I know when to stop, too!’ Horse exclaims, before shoving Gambit into one of the wooden shacks, adding ‘When there’s nothing else moving - and it’s really squishy underfoot!’
Horse declares that he was stopped from getting his happy pills. ‘Talked and talked and talked and wouldn’t stop talking!’. Horse holds something heavy high over Gambit, ready to bring it down on him, ‘Now. Now you’re gonna stop!’ Horse exclaims, when, suddenly, there is a blinding light, and a voice cries ‘Sugah. If Ah were you - Ah just flat-out wouldn’t do that!’…and everyone turns towards the new arrival…Rogue!