‘Scott, Ah don’t know if you can still here me. Ah lost you, a ways back. But Ah’m thinking real loud, in case the Cuckoos are picking this up’ Rogue thinks to herself as her “Trance” form floats through the decaying lighthouse in the side-dimension where the villain Emplate exists. Rogue announces that she found Emplate’s house and got inside. ‘That part wasn’t even hard’ she adds, before remarking that Trance’s powers are holding, so she is still a ghost, more or less. ‘Trouble is - so are the guard dogs!’ Rogue exclaims as the demons that have been chasing her enter the room she is hiding in.
Crouched behind some sort of strange object, Rogue gets a surprise when the object states in a robotic voice ‘Declination? Bearing? Distance?’. The object repeats itself, as Rogue quietly tells it to keep its voice down. The object repeats itself, while Rogue exclaims that she cannot talk right now. ‘These creatures -’ she begins, but the strange object repeats itself again and again, before speaking more urgently and loudly. ‘Oh no!’ Rogue gasps as the deadly creatures find her hiding in the middle of the room. One of the creatures lunges through the strange object, causing Rogue to leap backwards, and float through the floor.
The creature nips Rogue, drawing blood, which appears yellow in the “Trance” form, and Rogue thinks to herself that if she could make Trance’s sting work then she would have a chance against the creatures. ‘But everything works differently here’ she tells herself, before finally evading the creature that nipped her, knowing that she has to stay on the move and hope the creatures lose interest. ‘Some chance’ she tells herself as she floats downwards through the lighthouse, leaving a trail of yellow plasma-blood in her wake.
Suddenly, Rogue finds herself floating into the dungeon - where the X-Men Student Bling is being held prisoner. ‘Rogue? Is that you?’ the slightly confused Bling asks, before standing up and exclaiming ‘Oh, man, am I glad to see you! Even if you’re blue and glowy!’ Bling asks Rogue to get her loose quickly before Emplate comes back. But Rogue replies that she can’t do that. ‘Oh no! No way!’ Bling exclaims as her hands pass through Rogue’s arm when she reaches out to her. ‘Ah can’t set you free’ Rogue remarks, before Bling asks where the rest of the rescue party is. ‘Where are the big hitters? I want Wolverine and Colossus!’ she shouts. Rogue dives through the dungeon floor, telling Bling that she will be back soon and will figure out a way to free her. ‘No! Don’t leave me, Rogue! Don’t -’ Bling exclaims, before screaming as the creatures enter the dungeon and follow Rogue through the dungeon floor.
‘Can’t fight. Can’t hide’ Rogue thinks to herself as she continues to pass through rooms in the lighthouse. ‘Sure can’t run forever’ Rogue tells herself as she glances back and sees the creatures very close to her, and she wonders how she is getting out of this one.
Meanwhile, on Utopia, home to the Uncanny X-Men and most of the world’s remaining mutants. ‘Who did this? Who ordered this? Answer me!’ Gambit exclaims as he marches through a gathering of X-Men and friends, including Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Surge. Gambit finds Cyclops, who tells Gambit that nobody ordered it, that Rogue volunteered. ‘But you allowed it, Cyclops?’ Gambit snaps, standing over the motionless bodies of Rogue and Trance. ‘It was her or Trance’ Cyclops explains, adding that Emplate took Bling and closed the gate behind him, and only Trance could see where the gate was. Cyclops adds that as it turned out, in her Trance form, she could pass through to Emplate’s pocket dimension, but Rogue offered to take Trance’s place.
‘Rogue using Trance’s powers? What happens when they fade?’ Gambit asks angrily. ‘Her two selves will merge again - either there or here’ Cyclops replies, to which Gambit exclaims ‘So you sent her in blind not even knowing whether she can get back. You - you -’, but he cannot finish his sentence. Instead, his eyes flash red, and he turns away, while Cyclops declares that he doesn’t need to justify himself to him. Cyclops adds that Rogue makes her own choices, before seeing something wrong with Gambit and asking him ‘What’s wrong, man?’. Gambit replies that nothing is wrong, but doesn’t look at Cyclops. He leaves the gathering of mutants by declaring that if Rogue is hurt, then he and Cyclops will talk again. ‘Count on it’ Gambit exclaims.
Stumbling down the side of a hill, Gambit’s face turns black, his hair white and his eyes flash red - the appearance he had as the Horseman of Apocalypse known as Death! He leans against a building to steady himself, while the memory of being chained in Apocalypse’s laboratory flashes through his mind, as the uber-villain told him ‘The creature that emerges from that machine will not be the one that entered’. Gambit pulls a playing card from his utility belt and throws it - but it doesn’t do much, as if his powers had changed along with his appearance.
Elsewhere on Utopia, in the laboratory complex assigned to the X-Club, where the three primary members - Doctor Nemesis, Dr Kavita Rao and the former Alphan Madison Jeffries, are busy going about their latest work, while the former Fallen Angel, the pink-haired, fashion doyenne Ariel sits on a chair nearby. Doctor Nemesis tells Madison that he thinks they are ready, to which Kavita asks Doctor Rao what definition of “ready” they are using here. ‘Is it the one where you flick the switch of an untested machine that could fold most of reality down to the size and thickness of a passport photo?’ Kavita asks. ‘Yes’ Doctor Nemesis replies casually as he presses a control. ‘Good. So long as I’m clear’ Kavita mutters.
‘Listen, do you guys need me or not?’ a very bored Ariel asks, leaning on some equipment. ‘Because I’ve got important things to do involving nail varnish and daytime TV’ she announces. Doctor Nemesis calls her “girlie” and tells her to open one of her doors from here back to the mainland. ‘Yeah? Why exactly?’ Ariel asks. ‘To see if we can shorten your leash’ Doctor Nemesis replies as he presses a button, a glowing light appears overhead. Doctor Nemesis announces that it is a liminal dragnet and when it is turned on all spatial and dimensional distortions should be a lot harder to maintain in its vicinity. He adds that he is engaging level one.
‘Clear back to the mainland, huh? That’s what, like, five miles?’ Ariel asks, standing up, she tells the others that she has done five thousand miles. ‘I’ve read your file, Ariel’ Doctor Nemesis remarks, before telling her that whenever she is ready. ‘Okay. Watch my dust’ Ariel exclaims as she opens a door - only to be seeing an exact replica of what is behind her. ‘That - wasn’t five miles, was it?’ Ariel asks. Doctor Nemesis tells her that it was seven point two meters in the wrong direction. ‘People, we’re in business’ he exclaims. ‘Peachy’ Ariel mutters, before folding her arms and exclaiming ‘Incidentally, why did nobody tell me that this jacket needs a belt?’
Back in the pocket dimension, Rogue flies through the outer wall of the lighthouse, screaming, she darts various floating objects in the open space, while telling herself that she probably has got about the same chance as a spit on a griddle, but that she remembers something Destiny said to her back in Caldecott. ‘If you got a pack of dogs snapping at your heels - take a road that runs by a bear’s den’. Rogue flies swiftly through the openness, while other strange and wondrous creatures suddenly emerge - creatures that begin to attack the ones chasing Rogue. Rogue looks back and sees that one of them is still pursuing her, so she flies towards a large mucky creature, which her pursuer then gets stuck as Rogue flies for safety. ‘Made it!’ Rogue exclaims, and with a stern face, she flies back towards the lighthouse. ‘Seconds out. Ah’m coming for you, Marius St. Croix!’ she declares.
Inside the lighthouse, DOA approaches Emplate, apologizing for breaking in on his private moment, before announcing that they had a visitor. ‘I told you - never come in here!’ Emplate declares. DOA replies that he never did - until now. ‘But I think the X-Men are onto us’ he announces, revealing to Emplate that Rogue just walked through the front door bold as brass. ‘Well actually it was the wall she walked through, but -’ DOA remarks, before Emplate angrily grabs him by the throat and exclaims ‘Rogue? Rogue is here?’. Lifted off the ground, DOA assures Emplate that she has been dealt with, as his sicced the vespertines on her and then she exited. ‘But she won’t be alone’ Emplate declares as he drops DOA back to the floor.
DOA exclaims that she might be alone, and points out that they don’t even know how she found them. Emplate remarks that it is not likely Rogue did it alone, which he thinks is a pity. He adds that he thought he had found a soul mate in little Bling. ‘A staff on which I could lean for some time to come’. Emplate leaves the room and DOA follows him into the corridor, asking what they are going to do now. Emplate replies that he is going to consume her - as much as he can. ‘Drop her body into the void, in case they’re tracking her, and move the house to some other part of this hell-hole’ Emplate adds. ‘Alas. Alas. It’s all to do again’ he mutters.
Rogue suddenly passes through the outer wall of the lighthouse, and enters a corridor, though she struggled doing so and realizes that it was harder then before, and therefore she thinks she is running out of time. ‘Declination? Bearing? Distance?’ the strange object announces as it senses Rogue in the room. ‘You again?’ Rogue exclaims. ‘Not again. Me. Always. Move. Always. Destination? Bearing? Distance?’ the object states. ‘Take us home!’ Rogue exclaims. ‘That’s not a bearing’ the object responds. ‘Back to the X-Men’ Rogue declares. ‘The X-Men are not a bearing’ the strange contraption responds. A frustrated Rogue asks it to tell her the last orders it got. ‘We’ll work from that’ she suggests.
Back on Utopia, ‘There, you see?’ Doctor Nemesis remarks, pointing to the liminal dragnet. ‘It’s lines on a graph, Nemesis. Some context would be nice’ Cyclops replies, while Jeffries and Kavita go about their work nearby. ‘Good God, boy, it’s a fractal pressure point. A place where dimensional torque has left stress marks on reality!’ Doctor Nemesis exclaims. ‘Fine. That’s what it is. What does it mean?’ Cyclops asks. Doctor Nemesis replies that it means they know the angle of the intersection between Emplate’s dimension and theirs. ‘The vector of his approach. The dragnet is ready to use, so if he comes back -’ Doctor Nemesis begins, before Cyclops receives a telepathic call from the Stepford Cuckoos. Cyclops tells them to go ahead, and the girls remind him that he said to let him know if anything changed. ‘You’ve re-established contact with Rogue?’ Cyclops asks. The girls reply that they haven’t, that Rogue is still out of range. ‘Then what?’ Cyclops asks. ‘It’s Hope. Trance. She’s waking up’, the Cuckoos announce.
There is a massive THOOOM as the door to the dungeon in Emplate’s castle opens. ‘Wow. Is it that time again already?’ the wide-eyed Bling asks, semi-sarcastically. Emplate stands before Bling and claims that he takes no pleasure in her pain. ‘Sure don’t lose much sleep over it, though, do you?’ Bling retorts as she gets off the floor. ‘Of course not. It’s concomitant to my own survival’ Emplate replies, before informing Bling that some good news is that he has come to put her out of her misery much, much earlier than he had anticipated. ‘Out - out of my -? You mean you’re gonna kill me?’ a frightened Bling asks. ‘Yes’ Emplate replies as he stands before her, with DOA at his side. ‘By doing the - the Dracula thing again?’ Bling asks. ‘Exactly’ Emplate tells her. ‘Is there any point in me begging?’ Bling asks. ‘None’ Emplate declares. ‘Or offering you some kind of deal?’ Bling asks. Emplate tells her that her marrow, life energy and life are the only things he wants.
His leech-like hands extend towards her, and Emplate tells Bling that it will hurt less if she doesn’t struggle. ‘Surrender your will’ he tells her, adding that the energy will flow without hindrance from her to him, like flood water through a dam. ‘It will be over very quickly’ Emplate assures Bling, who shouts ‘Okay. Come and get it!’. With that, Bling releases sharp bolts of her power, exclaiming that the “it” is the mother and father of all smack downs. Emplate is knocked backwards, and lands on the dungeon floor, while Bling exclaims ‘Sucker punch, face-ache. Amazing, huh?’ before exclaiming that there is nothing up her sleeve. ‘Oh, wait. Yeah, there is. There’s an X-Man!’ Bling declares as Rogue’s “Trance” form appears once more.
Emplate gets up off the floor, ‘Rogue!’ he exclaims, before remarking that DOA said she was dead. ‘And you took his word for it? Always ask for receipts, shugah!’ Rogue exclaims, before unleashing Trance’s bio-sting on DOA, telling him that she will bounce him off every wall in the room. Bling also blasts DOA, while Emplate remarks that Rogue strikes him with borrowed fire. Rogue remarks that she finally figured out how to use Trance’s bio-sting, before asking Emplate if he wants some more, ’Or are you going to offer us ladies a ride home?’. ‘I’m going to eat you both alive and decorate my house with your intestines!’ Emplate snarls.
Rogue continues unleashing the bio-sting, but it begins to pass through Emplate, who tells Rogue that she took him by surprise. ‘But nothing touches me except with my consent’ he declares. Emplate then punches Rogue in the face, telling her that she reminds him of his sister. ‘So sure you’re the cleverest one in the room, even while you’re ignoring the obvious’. Emplate announces that he can control his density, which means he can match it to Rogue’s. Bling makes a move to aid Rogue, but DOA steps in front of her: ‘Ixnay, girlie. This ain’t a tag match!’ he exclaims, while Emplate’s leech hands extend to Rogue’s face, ‘You used to kiss your enemies when you took their powers, didn’t you, Rogue? Consider this my homage…’.