Utopia, home of the X-Men…or at least some of them. Sitting on the steps of the ampitheater, Rogue is alone until Remy “Gambit” LeBeau walks over to her. Gambit tells Rogue that she cannot put this off, that she has to make a choice. ‘Ah know it, Remy. And Ah swear, Ah thought Ah’d already made it, a long time back’ Rogue replies. Remembering recent events, Rogue tells Gambit that the last few months have been as if they did not even get to breathe out between their disasters. ‘The Cooperstown attack. Sinister. Osborn. Necrosha. Bastion. And now this’. Rogue declares that without Cyclops, they would never have got through it all alive. ‘We all know that’ she declares. Sitting down, Gambit assures Rogue that none of this takes away from what Cyclops has done.
‘Yeah, it does. Because the biggest thing he did was to bring us together’ Rogue replies. ‘If we fall apart again, who’s to say it won’t be forever?’ she suggests. Gambit tells Rogue to take his advice and not think about it forever. ‘Just try to decide where you want to be right now’ he tells her. ‘That’s all any of us can do’.
Inside his office, Scott “Cyclops” Summers sits in his chair, several monitors active around him, but he stares out the window, until his brother Havok a.k.a. Alex Summers enters. ‘Scotty? I said, can I come in?’ Alex calls out. ‘Sorry, Alex. I was…preoccupied’ Cyclops replies, before asking his younger brother what is on his mind. ‘Mainly, I’d wishing I’d been here with you while all this was going down’ Alex explains, adding that he is wondering if it is not too late for he and Wolverine to go back to the table on this. ‘What for?’ Cyclops asks. ‘What for? To see if there’s any middle ground between -’ Alex begins, but Scott interrupts him, quickly announcing that there isn’t.
‘So it all falls apart?’ Alex asks, energy surging around him. ‘No. One thing becomes two things. For a time’ Scott explains. ‘We’re not walking out on each other’s lives, Alex’ Scott tells him, adding that they will have two different bases of operations, answering two different functions. ‘You could argue that it gives us the best of both worlds’ Scott points out. ‘Or you could argue that it weakens us fatally, when we really need to be strong’ Havok exclaims, too which Cyclops tells him that is the risk they are taking, obviously. He adds that if there is an alternative, he has not thought of it. ‘So everyone has to make a choice. And I’m betting most of us feel like we’re damned either way’ Alex declares. Turning from his brother, Scott tells him that he is wrong, as most people seem to have had a pretty strong instinct one way or the other. ‘There are only a few who are still on the fence’ Scott reveals.
Back outside, ‘You’re a hard man to find, Magnus’ Rogue calls out as she approaches Magneto, the Master of Magnetism, who stands on the edge of Utopia, looking out over the ocean, which laps at the island’s shore. ‘Rogue. I came up here to be alone with my thoughts’ Magneto replies. ‘That a polite brush-off?’ Rogue enquires. Turning to Rogue, Magneto asks her if she has ever known him to be polite, before telling her that he would never wish to exclude her from anything that concerns him. ‘I’ve been…reassembling myself. Finding a new orientation to my past, and to my future’ Magneto explains, telling Rogue that she has been instrumental in that - essential, even.
‘Ah’m glad to be of services’ Rogue replies as she looks at Magneto, who puts his hands on her shoulders. ‘You’d prefer a protestation of love? What I feel for you runs a great deal deeper than words’ Magneto tells Rogue, before asking her what she is troubled by. Rogue replies that it is the rift between Scott and Logan, that she doesn’t know which way to jump and it is starting to make her a little crazy. Magneto tells Rogue that he cannot make up her mind for her, to which Rogue tells him that is not what she is looking for. ‘But Ah know you never had a moment’s doubt. And Ah’m wondering why’ Rogue remarks. ‘You were here when I arrived. When I knelt to Cyclops. If you know me at all, you must know that it’s hard for me to acknowledge an equal. Therefore, you know my opinion of him’ Magneto explains.
Gazing back out over the ocean, Magneto declares that Wolverine means well, but that he flirts with ruin. ‘Goes with the territory’ Rogue points out. Magneto tells Rogue that right now, ruin is too easy to find, that it surrounds them. ‘Surely you see that?’ he asks her. Rogue tells Magnus that she sees a good man following his conscience for the very best of reasons. ‘Trouble is, Ah see that twice’ Rogue declares. ‘So you’re unable to decide between the two?’ Magneto asks. ‘So far, yes’ Rogue replies. ‘And yet, you refuse to avail yourself to the obvious solution’ Magneto tells Rogue, who asks ‘The obvious…?’. Magneto removes one of his gloves, and tells Rogue that her problem is one of perspective, and that her powers allow her the luxury of parallax, of seeing things from everyone’s point of view.
‘You think this is going to make a difference?’ Rogue asks as she, too, removes one of her gloves. ‘If you do it enough times, perhaps’ Magneto suggests, telling Rogue that each person on the island no doubt sees something the others miss. ‘It can’t hurt to use our eyes’ he adds, before they touch fingers. ‘Lord!’ Rogue calls out as she stumbles backwards. ‘Helpful?’ Magneto asks. ‘Actually, that’s not the word Ah’d use’ Rogue replies, before announcing that she thinks she has found where their next crisis is coming from.
‘A stowaway?’ Cyclops asks Rogue as they gather in a meeting room with Magneto, Gambit, Emma Frost a.k.a. the White Queen, Joanna “Cargill” Frenzy, the members of the X-Club - Dr Kavita Rao, Madison Jeffries and Doctor Nemesis, as well as the recently returned to Earth Starjammers - Havok, Lorna “Polaris” Dane, Rachel Summers a.k.a. Marvel Girl, and her Shi’ar lover, Korvus. ‘Best way Ah can put it, Scott. When Ah touched Magneto’s hand, Ah felt something in his mind that didn’t belong’ Rogue explains. She adds that it was very faint, but that it was there. Rogue adds that it was like that moment when you start hearing a noise that has been going on for a long time, because that same faint trace, that wrong note, is inside her own mind, too.
Emma steps forward and announces that Cerebra concurs. ‘The party that returned from Gul Damar Station should include seven x-gene positives, but in fact, there are eight’ Emma declares. Madison Jeffries asks if Korvus could be the eighth, but Emma points out that Korvus is not a mutant, and that in any case, it is not that simple. Emma reveals that the unidentified blip is not stable, and that it is strongest when the eight of them are together. ‘But even then, I can’t get a physical fix on it. It’s as though it’s hiding from us’ Emma adds. Always ready to speak her mind, the brash Frenzy steps forward and shouts ‘Or maybe you jut made a mistake, Frost. If we had a passenger, we’d know about it’.
‘Would you, Joanna?’ Emma asks calmly. ‘You’ve been in alien space. Dealing with entities from a hundred races of mostly unknown physiology. Cyclops orders Doctor Nemesis to undertake full physical scans on everyone who was on the station. ‘Dad! There’s no way I could miss something like -’ Rachel calls out, but Scott quickly interrupts her, telling her that it is for his peace of mind. ‘Any risk we can avoid, I believe we should’ Cyclops declares.
A short time later, Cyclops accompanies Doctor Nemesis into one of the laboratories, along with the eight who returned from space. Rogue, Magneto and Gambit all go through the scanner, each with a negative result. When it comes time for Frenzy to be scanned, Doctor Nemesis tells her to face the scanner, but Frenzy just tells him to get it over with or she will make him eat his damn scanner. With the results back, Doctor Nemesis tells Cyclops that he is reading nothing. ‘Perhaps this hypothetical mutant has no physical presence at all’ Doctor Nemesis suggests. Next up are Rachel, Havok and Polaris, all whose results come back negative. ‘Ah. Here we are’ Doctor Nemesis calls out when the scanner picks something up on Korvus. ‘Let me take a look at the sword’ Doctor Nemesis asks, motioning to Korvus’s large weapon. ‘You wouldn’t be able to lift it. It is the Phoenix Blade of my ancestor, Rook’Shir’ Korvus replies. ‘Is it, now?’ Doctor Nemesis replies.
Soon, Cyclops and the White Queen are in a meeting room with the three X-Club members. Korvus’s sword is laid out on a table in front of them. Doctor Nemesis announces that Korvus’s sword is the missing piece, that somehow, in passing through the wormhole, the physical structure of the sword has been profoundly altered. ‘Go on’ Cyclops orders. Doc Nemesis reveals that the sword is carrying the same energy signature that Cerebra detects in the minds of the eight who returned from space, but at a much higher concentration. ‘All right. But these are pieces of what, exactly?’ Cyclops asks. Emma remarks that she would like to say pieces of a mutant mind, but that she thinks it is something more complicated than that. ‘A model? A map? A snapshot? It leads to a mutant. It’s a conduit. That’s what we’re sensing’ Emma declares.
Frowning, Dr Rao says what everyone is thinking: ‘This sword once housed a piece of the Phoenix Force’, and asks if it is possible that the mutant presence that Cerebra senses is Jean Grey. Looking at the sword, Emma reports that even scrambled, Cerebra would know Jean’s pattern, and that so would she. ‘But…perhaps the sword is an anchor’ Emma suggests. ‘Perhaps it’s the key to this, in some way I’m not seeing’ she remarks. Doctor Nemesis declares that these words stick in his teeth a little, but that there is an option they haven’t tried yet. ‘And her speciality is exactly what sane people can’t see’ he adds.
‘Excuse me. No. There’s nobody. Nobody. Nowhere. Or at least…not here’ Ruth “Blindfold” Aldine announces a short time later as she stands in front of the sword. Cyclops and the White Queen are with her, as are the X-Club and those who returned from space. ‘Blindfold, I know this isn’t exactly playing to your strengths, but could you be more specific?’ Cyclops asks. ‘I can. Yes. Thank you’ Blindfold replies, before announcing ‘Specifically, it’s on fire’. The young mutant suddenly lurches backwards, ‘Hurting. Afraid. Right though here. As though this was a door Was this a door? A door is what she is looking for’ Blindfold remarks. The White Queen asks Ruth if she is reading a consciousness inside the sword, but Ruth replies ‘No. On the other side. A long way away’.
‘Then - may I?’ Emma asks, taking Ruth’s hands. ‘My mind is very hard to read, Miss Frost. It’s not spelt right’ Blindfold tells the White Queen, who replies ‘I know that, dear. But it’s not your mind I’m aiming for’. Searching beyond Blindfold’s mind, the White Queen witnesses a figure surrounded by flame. ‘Fire, falling into - into some kind of inferno’ Emma tells everyone. Rogue points out that Gul Damar almost fell into its sun, and supposes that Emma is seeing that. Emma announces that she is seeing death - death spat out of the sky. ‘Towards me. Why me? None of this was my idea’ Emma remarks. Cyclops asks his partner if she is getting a face or a voice, but Emma replies that she isn’t, and that she is just getting the emotions.
‘We’re too fast, now. Out of control. Ruin - going to ruin it!’ Emma declares. ‘Where is she?’ Doctor Nemesis asks. ‘In the dark. Burning in the dark’ Emma adds, before telling everyone that whoever this is started to die, but got confused and turned around - and only made it about halfway, and then she stopped. Emma opens her eyes, and Rogue tells Cyclops that she thinks she has the answer. ‘You mean you know who this is?’ Scott asks. ‘Not that. But Ah know how to find out’ Rogue tells him. Rogue continues, telling everyone that if Emma is right, then this mutant mind has somehow been broken into pieces, and the pieces are in all of them - everyone who was on Gul Damar. ‘So when Ah touched Magneto -’ Rogue begins, ‘You absorbed the piece that was in him’ Scott concludes.
‘Ah think so. And that was why mah sense of this other presence got much stronger’ Rogue adds, suggesting she could repeat that touch, everyone in turn, and try to put all the pieces together. Cyclops decides that it has to be worth a shot, but that they have to do it under controlled conditions. He tells Doc Nemesis and Jeffries to build some sort of barricade, for if this thing Rogue is about to reconstitute is dangerous, he wants it contained. ‘Given that we know nothing about its powers and potentialities, that’s going to be difficult’ Doctor Nemesis points out. ‘Cover as many basis as you can’ Cyclops tells him as he begins to leave the room, Emma at his side. ‘For the rest, I’ll make sure our heavy hitters are right on hand. You have an hour’ Scott tells Doctor Nemesis.
While Madison Jeffries and Doctor Nemesis begin constructing the barricade, those who returned from space are gathered in the same room. ‘So, Cyclops is your leader?’ Korvus asks Havok and Polaris. ‘Yes’ Polaris tells him. ‘Then why does he allow this Wolverine to defy him and leave?’ Korvus enquires. ‘Umm…this might take a while’ Lorna remarks, while Rogue approaches Joanna and asks her if she has figured out what she is going to do. ‘A school or a barracks. Where do you think I belong? Seriously?’ Frenzy replies, before announcing that she is going to Westchester. ‘What?’ Rogue asks, wide-eyed. Frenzy smiles, ‘You heard me. If I stay here, I’ll fall back into old habits. Guaranteed. I’m looking to pick up some new ones’ Frenzy reveals.
With seemingly genuine concern, Frenzy tells Rogue that it is tougher for her, though. ‘Your new boyfriend is staying. Your old boyfriend is going back to the school. ‘Whatever happens, your team’s breaking up before it fairly got going. And whatever you do will be a slap in the face for someone’ Joanna declares. ‘Yeah. You got that right’ Rogue mutters.
Later, ‘For the record, I advise against this. Just because something is possible, that doesn’t make it inevitable’ Doctor Nemesis announces. ‘Man, where have you been living?’ Frenzy snaps. Gathered are the eight who returned from space, the X-Club, Cyclops, the White Queen, Betsy “Psylocke” Braddock, Jean-Paul Beaubier a.k.a. Northstar and Piotr “Colossus” Rasputin. Doctor Nemesis ignores Frenzy’s comment and reports that they have gone for a broad-spectrum approach. He explains that if the hypothetical mutant attacks them, it is likely to do so in one of three ways. Motioning to the constructs in the room, he reports that they are dampers and that they will place a heavy molecular impedance on all energy exchanges. He adds that Colossus, Magneto and Psylocke will be their safeguard against physical attacks, while Emma and Marvel Girl will shield them from a telepathic assault.
Doctor Nemesis tells those from space that they will approach Rogue and join hands with her, separately, while Emma monitors throughout. Motioning to Northstar, Doctor Nemesis reports that he will throw the switch on the dampers should they need them. Doctor Nemesis explains that Northstar’s super-speed gives him the quickest reaction time of all, and pico-seconds may count. ‘You may begin’ he states. Rogue turns to her space-companions, and Marvel Girl steps forward first, wishing Rogue luck, she touches her hand, and tells her that she is watching, too. ‘If this thing makes a move against you, I’ll punch it off planet’ Rachel boasts. Rogue thanks her, before proceeding to touch the hands of Havok, Polaris and the others.
Doctor Nemesis informs Rogue that the last step is to touch the sword, unless she can already discern who this mind-trace belongs to. ‘All Ah can say is it’s not a stranger’ Rogue replies as she crouches down beside the large sword. ‘It’s a fiend, Ah’m pretty sure. But Ah’m seeing her out of the corner of mah eye’ Rogue reports. Touching the sword, a flame flickers around it, and Rogue reports that she feels as if she is closing a circuit. ‘There’s power here, and Ah’m pretty sure it’s -’ Rogue begins, but she is unable to conclude her sentence, as beams of energy burst from the sword, and a brilliant, glowing door opens. ‘- it’s not a threat to us. It never was’ Rogue concludes.
With his jaw-dropped expression, Cyclops asks Doctor Nemesis what that thing is. ‘A dimensional gateway. Blindfold was right. The sword was a door’ Doctor Nemesis reports. ‘Or rather it acquired a door on its way through the wormhole’ Doc Nemesis adds. ‘Emma, are you getting -?’ Betsy calls out, and Emma replies ‘Fear. Pain. Both very strong’. Rachel adds that it is scrambled, broken up, which is why they cannot tell who this is. ‘Ah’m going in!’ Rogue announces as she approaches the doorway. ‘No. Your part is done, Rogue’ Cyclops calls out, adding that they need to gather more data before anyone goes through that thing.
Glancing back at Cyclops, Rogue asks ‘You mean you didn’t guess yet? Ah said it was a friend, Scott. A friend who died by fire’. As she steps into the luminouscent gateway, Rogue tells everyone that they should have figured it out as soon as Blindfold started talking about doors. ‘Rogue! Damn it’ Cyclops shouts as he tries to grab Rogue, but he is too late. Through the doorway, Rogue is finds herself in an orange-hued area, where a flaming figure convulses before her. ‘Ruin. Ruin. Going to ruin it’ the figure cries out. ‘Hold on tight, Ariel. Cavalry’s coming’ Rogue tells the tortured young woman, whose body, twisted with flaming fire, is sprawled out before her. All Ariel can shout back is ‘Going to ruin my hair!’