Utopia, where Rogue announces ‘This is how Ah see it. How Ah think it might’ve happened.
Shown with flashback images to “Second Coming”, displayed with Rogue in the present:
‘She was in a car with Logan and Laura. Out in the middle of nowhere. Looking for Hope. When we knew she was back but had no idea where she was’ Rogue explains. Rogue suggests that she was probably feeling pretty relaxed, in spite of everything, because she was with Logan and X-23, so nothing was going to touch her, and probably, she’s happy. In fact the young woman called Ariel was annoyed, because someone had eaten her chips. ‘These were mine! The barbecue flavor were mine! Which one of you ate my chips?’ she demanded to know from Wolverine and X-23.
Rogue points out that Bastion already has them targeted, as he had better tech than they ever imagined, his own Cerebro, even, so they didn’t see it coming - nobody did, as the missiles dropped towards the car they were in.
Rogue adds that, at the last moment they saw it, when it was already too late. ‘Oh, spit!’ Ariel said as she looked up and saw the missile falling towards her. Rogue explains that Ariel knew if she could use her power to teleport, if she could just get the door open, she would be okay. ‘And Ah think she tried’ Rogue adds, but the missile hit before Ariel got the door open, and the car was blown to pieces. Fire and shockwave turned those few cubic feet of space into a little corner of hell. Rogue assumes that Ariel rolled sideways, the door was either open or it was torn off, but she was already on fire, the energy of the explosion, inside her, ripping her apart. But she had something to work with, almost enough.
Rogue announces that Ariel stepped out of time and space - half a step - only she never opened the door that would bring her back again, so that’s where she has been ever since - nowhere.
Sitting around the table listening to Rogue’s theory are Scott “Cyclops” Summers and Emma Frost a.k.a. the White Queen, as well as the members of the X-Club - Dr Kavita Rao, Doctor Nemesis and Madison Jeffries. ‘Well, if that’s what we’re dealing with, then some sort of dimensional reversion field might do the trick’ Jeffries suggests, while Doctor Nemesis mentions the liminal catch-net they built when they fought Emplate. ‘Good thought. I could -’ Madison begins, but Rogue interrupts: ‘No’ she calls out, reminding everyone that she went through that door and found Ariel, so she still has some of Ariel’s power inside her. ‘It feels like this is something Ah ought to do myself’ Rogue explains.
Cyclops asks Rogue what her plan is, to which Rogue replies that she doesn’t have one. ‘Then with respect, maintain a decorous silence until you do. This is a rescue mission, not a karaoke night’ Doctor Nemesis snaps. Kavita points out that Rogue is correct - she is the only one who can currently reach that dimension. Madison agrees and announces that he is happy to let Rogue take point, especially if there is a chance of spider-squid-hybrid-phase-beasts showing up. Cyclops tells Rogue that it is down to her, but to keep both he and the science team informed of her intentions. Rogue agrees, and gets up to leave. ‘Yes. Perfect. Perhaps we can handle the catering’ Doctor Nemesis mutters spitefully.
Soon, ‘You got what you wanted?’ Rachel Summers a.k.a. Marvel Girl asks Rogue as they walk across one of the outdoor areas. ‘Yes. Maybe. Ah think so’ Rogue replies. Rachel remarks that she knows Rogue sees Ariel as a friend, and asks her not to take this the wrong way. ‘A loud-mouthed, abusive friend who needs to be pushed out of an airplane and then danced on by sumo wrestlers’ Rachel adds, referring to Ariel, before asking Rogue if she has an ulterior motive in this. ‘Like what, Rachel?’ Rogue enquires. ‘Like postponing a decision on whether you go to Westchester with Logan, or stay here’ Rachel tells Rogue, who mutters that Rachel didn’t have to look too deep for that one. ‘Magnus is never going to ask. But every time he looks at me, Ah’m hearing it loud and clear. Are we together, or are we…you know’ Rogue tells her friend. Rachel tells Rogue that she wasn’t eavesdropping, just going by her face, when suddenly, ‘Oh no’ she utters. ‘What’s the matter’ Rogue asks. Touching her temples, Rachel announces that Korvus is picking another fight, and that he is going to get his butt handed to him.
In some sort of warehouse, the Shi’ar alien known as Korvus confronts James Proudstar a.k.a. Warpath. Remy “Gambit” LeBeau and Joanna “Cargill” Frenzy are nearby. ‘You call yourselves superior?’ Korvus asks Warpath, striding towards him. ‘It’s a species designation. Look it up’ Warpath replies casually. ‘It is vainglory! Blind arrogance! Superior to what?’ Korvus enquires. He boasts that his people conquered a whole quadrant - a thousand worlds. ‘You subsist on a plot of ground too small for man to stretch out in. You’re pathetic!’ he exclaims. Warpath turns his back on Korvus, but the alien warrior continues his berate: ‘And you tamely endure an insult that a man would answer!’ he adds. ‘Man, you’re spraying me with -’ Warpath begins, with Korvus a little too close for his liking. ‘You have no spine, mutant! No spirit!’ Korvus declares. ‘I’m getting spat on, here. This is alien saliva’ Warpath mutters. ‘Your whole life is picking over other people’s leavings’ Korvus remarks. ‘Okay, that’s just about -’ Warpath begins, but Korvus pokes him in the chest, telling him that he lives on his knees, ‘Because you’re too scared to -’ he begins, before Warpath shouts ‘ENOUGH!’ and punches Korvus hard in the face, knocking him over.
‘Ah thought you said you weren’t eavesdropping’ Rogue tells Rachel, who swears that she isn’t, only Korvus is so furious all the time, it is impossible to shut him out. ‘It’s like we got married and moved in with my folks. There’s nothing for him to do here’ Rachel explains. Rogue is sure that Cyclops will put Korvus to work if he stays, but Rachel points out that it is a lot worse than that, for Korvus has lost the Phoenix power that used to define him, and his people have been conquered by the Kree, and he is stuck on a planet that, from his point of view, is still in the stone age.
‘It’s driving him crazy’ Rachel adds. Rogue asks Rachel if she thinks Korvus is fixing to leave, to which Rachel tells her that for Korvus’s sake, she wishes he would. ‘I love him, Rogue, but I hate to see him like this. Beating himself bloody against the whole world’ Rachel remarks. Rogue tells Rachel that she might be able to help, but she has other stuff to get through first. ‘But when Ah’m done, Ah’ll put a proposition to him’. Rogue adds that it will be a piece of cake compared to some of the other conversations she is going to be having.
Soon, Rogue enters the quarters of Julian Keller a.k.a. the telekinetic Hellion. ‘Whatever it is, Rogue, don’t bother to tell me about it. Just get the hell out’ Hellion declares, without turning to face Rogue. ‘Ah don’t think so, Julian’ Rogue replies, moving in front of Hellion, she puts a hand on his chest. Julian just suggests she stay here, admire the view, and he will leave her to it. Rogue tells Julian to hold on, as she has a problem which she needs his help with. ‘That’s too bad’ Hellion frowns, suggesting Rogue move her hand or lose it. ‘The last time I helped you, you threatened me, like I was the enemy’ Julian reminds her.
‘Yeah. Ah did that. Because you almost killed an X-Man. Someone Ah care for’ Rogue explains, adding that this is different, a chance for Julian to use his powers to save a life. ‘And that’s my motivation, is it? Pure disinterested love of my fellow man?’ Julian asks. Rogue tells him that atonement is his motive, making good, because she knows for certain sure that somewhere behind the obnoxious front the is putting up, he is plain sick with himself for what he did. Hellion looks taken aback, and frowns.
Shortly, in one of the labs, Doctor Nemesis mutters that this plan seems unnecessarily complex. ‘It has too many moving parts. And they’re all people’. Rogue stands with Frenzy, Rachel, Hellion and Megan Gwynn a.k.a. Pixie and tells Doctor Nemesis that they are all people she trusts, including him. ‘I may just cry. Raw emotion always does that to me’ Doctor Nemesis mutters, adding that common sense kicks back in and whispers “too much risk for too little gain”. Cyclops steps forward and reminds everyone that Ariel put her life on the line in the fight that killed Cable and Nightcrawler. ‘I don’t care how big the risk is, James. We do this’ he tells Doctor Nemesis. ‘In your own time then’ Nemesis mutters, adding that the trauma pod is ready, and that if Ariel has half an inch of life left in her, they should have enough to work with.
Rogue points out that they are good to go, and asks Joanna for a little of her invulnerability. ‘Help yourself, again’ Frenzy replies, clasping Rogue’s hand. ‘Thanks. Win or lose, Ah won’t need it but for a minute or two’ Rogue tells her. Rouge kneels down beside Korvus’s sword and tells everyone to keep their wits about them, for on the other side of this gate, it is not exactly in normal space and time. ‘Wherever it is, the laws oh physics are kind of relaxed’ she adds. A beam of energy rises from the sword, signalling the portal is open. Rogue tells everyone that they go in careful, and stick to the plan.
‘A door in the air’ Pixie remarks, surprised. ‘That’s how Ariel’s power works. Ah’m just channeling it’ Rogue explains. ‘And the sword?’ Pixie enquires. Rogue reveals that the sword went through a wormhole, picked up Ariel’s energy signature and became, well, kind of the key to the door. ‘Go ahead, Megan. Ah promise, things will make a lot more sense on the other side’ Rogue tells the young mutant. But, as Rogue, Frenzy, Hellion, Pixie and Rachel pass through the door, they enter an area filled with flame. ‘More sense? Really?’ Hellion asks as he looks up. ‘My God! That’s Ariel? But -’ Rachel begins as they all stare at how enormous in size Ariel is compared to them. Her flaming body convulsing before them, Hellion suggests that in this dimension, your physical size is determined by your ego.
Rogue remarks that one thing is for sure - they are not going to be able to carry Ariel back through the gate, for not only is she too big to move, but she is in the middle of an ongoing explosion. Rogue tells Pixie that she is on first, and the young mutant flies towards Ariel, casting a magical spell on her, causing Ariel to return to her regular size as they teleport back to the X-Club lab. ‘If we’re lucky, the dimensional shift will solve the size problem’ Rogue remarks. Hellion uses his floating hands to hold on to Ariel, who is still surrounded by flame. Using his telekinesis, Julian starts to deal to the flames. ‘Rogue I don’t know if I can -’ Julian calls out as he begins to struggle. ‘Save it. Ah saw you do this, Julian. Saw you direct the energy of a laser blast right through a human body’ Rogue tells him, adding that the energy never touched a single molecule of the girl it was meant to kill.
Rogue tells Hellion that he is going to solve Ariel like a jigsaw puzzle, separate the heat and the shockwave of the explosion from her body’s cells, and that Rachel will spot him, boost his perceptions with her psi-power. Rogue adds that if anything gets past Hellion, she will shield Rachel from the damage. Rogue tells Julian that she knows what she is asking him to do: ‘Ten trillion cells in the human body, and you’ve got to be mindful of every one of them. Like a gleaner separating out the wheat from the chaff…if the wheat could bleed’ Rogue remarks. Julian continues to concentrate hard as Rogue talks to him, and eventually, the flames subside, leaving Ariel a smouldering mess on the floor of the lab.
‘Give her some damn room here, would you? Hero time is over!’ Nemesis booms as he crouches down beside Ariel, adding that it is amazing she is alive. ‘And I’m down ten dollars’ he mutters, before telling the mutants to get out of here and let them work. Ariel is hooked up to life-support, while Kavita and Doctor Nemesis get to work. Nemesis looks at some readings, time passes, and eventually, Ariel begins to wake. ‘Hell…’ she utters. ‘What is it, sweetheart? What are you trying to say?’ Kavita asks her. ‘Hell…hap-hap. Hell happened to my Zanotti heels?’ she asks, mortified. Kavita looks down at Ariel, perplexed, and mutters ‘God help us. We’ve created a monster’.
Night has fallen, and Rogue lies in bed with Magneto. ‘I apologize, my love. Most humbly’ Magneto tells her. ‘What for?’ Rogue enquires. ‘For making you so sad and thoughtful’ Magneto tells her, adding that if Rogue permits, he will try again and do better. ‘Idiot, it isn’t you’ Rogue tells him. ‘No? Then you’re thinking of someone else. That’s worse in many ways’ Magneto remarks. Rogue tells Magnus that he is too good at reading her, and that she wasn’t going to talk about this now, she was going to wait until morning. Magneto tells Rogue that she can’t hide her heart from him, God forbid she should ever have to try. ‘And God forbid I should have so little faith in you as to be afraid of mere distance’ Magneto remarks, before telling Rogue to go and do what she has to do. ‘Ah will. Come the morning’ Rogue smiles, before they kiss.
The next morning, Rogue approaches Korvus, who is sitting on his own, polishing his massive sword. In the background, several residents of Utopia are playing a game of baseball. ‘Looks like the blues are gonna win with runs to spare’ Rogue tells Korvus, who replies that he cares not, for the game is unfathomable to him. ‘You should try football’ Rogue remarks, before asking Korvus if his sword survived the ordeal okay. ‘Her edge is all but ruined. She’ll need days of work’ Korvus replies, adding that this island boasts not a single decent whetstone. ‘Did you try shopping online? They got most things these days’ Rogue tells Korvus, who turns to Rogue and tells her that it makes him uncomfortable when people watch him work. ‘Ah bet’ Rogue remarks, to which Korvus asks her to feel free to leave. ‘Well, Ah’m on may way to a place Ah don’t want to go. Ah’m in no hurry’ Rogue tells him, adding that she is looking for a man to do a dirty, thankless job. ‘You know anyone who’s out of work?’
Meantime, on Gul Damar Station, in Earth’s orbit. ‘By the marriage! This - this is horrible!’ the Shi’ar alien called Glitter exclaims. Her comrades from the Boneyard Dog, Horse and Jat, stand behind her, and Horse tells her that this was the best he could find. Examining her surroundings, Glitter tells Horse that it won’t fly, and that they will be lucky if it can even walk. Jat remarks that they didn’t waste any space on luxuries. ‘Like stabilizers. Or adequate life support’ Glitter mutters. Jat informs Glitter that the engines are sound. ‘I think I can -’ he begins, when suddenly, there is a teleport signal. ‘Damn! Incoming! Get ready to defend the -’ Glitter begins, before Pixie and Korvus are revealed to be in the “incoming”. ‘Captain Korvus, Crew. Crew, Captain Korvus. Rogue says “Godspeed” and I’m out of here!’ Pixie declares, while Korvus frowns at his crew.
‘Got a moment?’ Rogue calls out to Cyclops as she enters his office. ‘Now. Or whenever you want. There’s no time limit on this, Rogue’ Cyclops replies without looking up from his laptop. ‘You’re welcome here for as long as you want to stay’ Cyclops adds. Rogue replies that she already did everything she could to spin it out, but then she plain ran out of road, and how she is here. ‘You’re going to Westchester’ Cyclops remarks. ‘Yes’ Rogue announces. ‘Can I ask why? ‘Scott enquires. ‘Because of you, Scott. In the end - that’s what made all the difference’ Rogue tells him. Cyclops tells Rogue that he knows he hurt her when he left her off the combat roster, and claims that he hated to do it, but he still thinks it was the right call - the only call.
‘You think Ah’m nursing old grudges here?’ Rogue asks him. ‘You’re not?’ Scott replies. ‘No, you dummy. Think about it. Think about what Ah’ve been doing this past year’. Rogue exclaims, reminding Scott that he gave her the toughest job on Utopia, looking out for the kids and heading off their crises, or putting them together against afterwards, the best she could. ‘Ah’ve sweated blood and live on mah nerves. Gone as close to the ragged edge as Ah ever thought to come. And Ah’ve loved every damn minute of it’ Rogue announces, adding that she plans to keep on doing it. ‘Ah’m going to where Ah think Ah can be most use’ she adds. Cyclops tells Rogue that she makes herself indispensable wherever she goes. ‘Kind of you to say’ Rogue tells him, to which Scott suggests that would have been a good exit line.
‘Yeah, but Ah’m not done yet’ Rogue replies, adding that she is only getting to the hard part. Standing close to Scott, Rogue tells him that she knows him pretty well. ‘God knows Ah been around you long enough. Ah’ve seen you grow into this job. And Ah’ve seen you change. Adapt to it’ she remarks. ‘We’ve all changed’ Scott replies. ‘Yeah, that we have’ Rogue agrees, before telling Cyclops to look at her, and that he can’t help remember, how many doubts Scott used to have, about leading them, about his own strengths, and his own instincts. ‘And Ah know why you put those doubts away from you, Scott. Couldn’t ask us to trust you if you didn’t trust yourself. We needed you to be that strong’ Rogue declares.
However, Rogue tells Scott that somewhere along the way “Ah can’t afford to make a mistake” became “nothing Ah do could ever be wrong”. Rogue tells Scott that he hid the doubts so deep, that maybe he couldn’t find them again if he wanted to. ‘But you got to try. Because Ah think they’re what’s gonna save you’ Rogue remarks as she embraces Cyclops, who holds his hands away from Rogue, speechless. Scott remains silent as Rogue leaves his office. Rogue turns back to him and thanks Cyclops for everything. ‘Tell Emma goodbye’ she adds.
Shortly, Rogue approaches Ariel, who has fully recovered, and is wearing a spectacular purple dress. ‘Ready?’ Ariel asks, standing beside a flaming doorway. ‘Ready. Thanks for waiting’ Rogue tells her. ‘Well, you did save my life’ Ariel points out. ‘You’re welcome’ Rogue tells her, before Ariel informs Rogue that she charged this outfit to her Amex. ‘Ah knew the risks when Ah brought you back, girl’ Rogue replies, smiling. ‘Then let’s go. It’s a long trip, and - oh. Hey. Here we are’ Ariel jokes as she and Rogue arrive at the ruins of the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters.