Chapter One: Black
‘Well, that was the fastest trip Ah ever took that didn’t involve teleporting!’ Rogue exclaims as she and Magneto arrive at museum memorial for victims of the Holocaust. ‘But Ah still think we missed the open hours’ Rogue points out as she touches the museum sign. ‘That needn’t trouble us’ Magneto replies as he uses his power to easily open the front doors. ‘Breaking and entering needn’t trouble us?’ Rogue asks, suggesting to Magneto that he doesn’t get this whole being-on-the-right-side-of-the-law thing. Magneto tells Rogue that they will touch nothing, explaining that he was looking for a little privacy to talk to her, to tell her a story in a fact - a parable of sorts. ‘And it has to be here’ he adds.
They walk through the museum as Magneto reveals that there is an item in the permanent collection that will serve as a visual aid, adding that it is at the end of the hall, and is a photograph taken by Ruth Gruber. They look up at the photograph, and Magneto informs Rogue that it is of August Hirt, Director of Anatomy and Strasbourg University in the 1940s. ‘You knew him?’ Rogue asks. ‘Not well, and not for long’ Magneto replies, before announcing ‘Just long enough to murder him!’
Flashback to the 1940s:
Magneto explains that Hirt was a dull and plodding mind, but that three of his superiors in the biology faculty were Jews. Their dismissal in 1936 paved Hirt’s way to the directorship - and to membership in the Ahnenerbe, the Nazi brain trust. Magneto tells Rogue that Hirst was sincere in his fanaticism, and that he worried that once the inferior races were exterminated, it would be difficult to prove their inferiority. So, in October 1941, Hirt went to Heinrich Himmlker with a simply yet ambitious solution - 100 human specimens would be chosen from among the undesirables at Auschwitz. Full physiological measurements would be taken, then, the subjects and their skeletons and organs preserved for posterity.
Himmler loved the idea, and Doctor Hirt arrived at Birkenau in the April of 1942. It was a raw day, but then it was a bad spring, even in April there was frost on the ground. Magneto informs Rogue that they were not yet blasé about scientists at Auschwitz, as this was a year before Mengele’s reign began. With a letter of introduction from the Reichsfuhrer in his pocket, Hirt was given every courtesy. ‘Him. And her. Not these’ Hirt would say as he examined the prisoners. ‘I need healthy specimens, not walking bones!’ he declared. But, even celebrity endorsements have their limits. ‘And him. I’ll take him’ Hirt declares, motioning to a young Max Eisenhardt.
But the warden informed Hirt that the boy was Sonderkommando, that he belonged to the work detail, and asked Hirt to choose someone else. ‘Absolutely not. I am preserving a record for posterity. It’s of the highest -’ Hirt began, but the warden interrupted him, ‘Herr Doktor. Posterity is all very well. But I have quotas to fill. Choose someone else!’ Hirt frowned at Max and told him that it is only a matter of time and place, that his story is finished. ‘My job is to write its epilogue’.
Magneto informs Rogue that, in the end, Hirt selected not 100, but 115 subjects, as he didn’t want to leave Asians, Romanies or Poles from his catalogue of inferior peoples. The measurements were then taken at Natzweiler-Struthof, under Hirt’s direct supervision. Afterwards, Hirt recorded in his journal “Death was induced by means of an aqueous mixture of potassium cyanide and oxalic acid. Death was induced” - the very language of science has about it the shine and edge of a fresh scalpel.
Mangeto continues with his memory, informing Rogue that the bodies were sent to the faculty of biology at Strasbourg, to Hirt’s own department, and they were to be preserved and rendered over the next seven weeks. But the assistances there were overwhelmed by the sheer number of corpses, and, moreover, the chemicals for rendering the bodies were not available. So, they were in a warehouse in Dortmund, where it seemed the papers required to move them had not been presented.
In April of 1945, the allies were moving on Berlin, and the thousand-year Reich was prematurely winding down. Dr Hirt was painfully aware that he had a basement full of corpses whose origin and purpose might be difficult to explain. So, Hirt fled across the border to France, and was held there by troops of the French provisional government. Hirt’s papers identified him as August Bremmer, a salesman of gentlemen’s formal attire. They had no reason to doubt him, and only held him in custody overnight because there was a curfew. But, to be confined - to look through the bars from the wrong side, made Hirt feel uneasy, as though the world had turned upside down.
‘And oh - it had’ Magneto tells Rogue, revealing how he tore open Hirt’s cell. ‘Who are you?’ Hirt gasped, before Max Eisenhardt introduced himself. ‘Have we met?’ Hirt asked. Max frowned as he revealed that they met in Poland, outside of the town of Oswiecim. ‘At the camp called Auschwitz’ Max announced. Hirt looked worried - ‘Oh God! Oh God! I remember you!’ he exclaimed, before seeing that Max was holding up a rope. ‘A rope? Why do you offer me a rope?’ he asked, to which Max replied ‘That will become apparent’ and holds it out to the Doktor, asking him to take it, as a gift. ‘You’ll be glad soon, that you have it’ Max added.
Hirt took the rope and announced ‘I’m a scientist, you understand? I serve scientific truth. I don’t need to plead my case to you’, as he looked at the rope. ‘No. You don’t. And it would be pointless ‘Max told him, before announcing that he also serves truth, in many small, but necessary ways. ‘Your case has been heard, and sentence has been passed’ Max declared, before announcing the sentence is death - by hanging. ‘Are you mad?’ Hirt declared as he rose to his feet. ‘I’m like yourself, Herr Doktor, mad enough to commit atrocities and sleep well afterwards’ Mac replied, informing Hirt that he is tonight’s atrocity, or at least, his first choice, just as Max was Hirt’s choice long ago.
Max informed Hirt that if he chooses to live, which is his prerogative, then he will fall back on his other choices - Leopald Hallstein, for example - and Greta Kaiser. ‘My father and my sister!’ Hirt exclaimed, covering his face. ‘And your children, Theodor and Sylvie are still alive, you’ll be happy to hear for the moment, at least’ Max added. ‘You wouldn’t! You wouldn’t hurt them!’ Hirt cried, to which Max replied that with God as his witness, he would. Max announced that his aim was to punish Hirt, that is all. ‘If you refuse this squalid, self-inflicted death, the punishment must take some other form’ Max explained.
Hirt dropped back to the floor, and announced that he cannot do it, as he does not have the courage. ‘;But you have all night, Herr Doktor’ Max replied, assuring Hirt that a rope is more than strong enough for the task. Max then suggested to Hirt that he use the roof-beam though, as the pipes will not take his weight. And later, two French soldiers entered the cell - to find Hirt hanging from the roof beam, rope around his neck, he had indeed taken his life as Max ordered.
‘A parable?’ Rogue asks. ‘I’m sorry?’ Magneto replies. ‘You said this was a parable, Magneto. Ah think that implies some sort of a moral’ Rogue points out. ‘Yes’ Magneto agrees, adding that he would prefer to avoid facile sermons, but obviously they are all shaped by their past. He adds that though much has happened since, the era that shaped him was a time of darkness and nightmare. Rogue asks Magneto if that absolves him, then - ‘Do you come pre-absolved?’, but Magneto replies ‘No. Quite the opposite’ and informs Rogue that he is telling this to her for her own good. He explains that he learned from his oppressors, took the darkness and the nightmare into himself, and became adept at using them.
‘You felt some - fondness for me, at Fortress X’ Magneto states. ‘Yes’ Rogue admits. ‘Even some desire’ Magneto adds. ‘Hell, yes’ Rogue tells him. ‘But you hesitated. You didn’t act on what you felt’ Magneto points out, before turning from her and declaring that her instinct was right, that she should follow it and go back to Gambit. ‘He loves you. And your love ennobles him’ Magneto explains. He tells Rogue to rest east with the choice she has already made. ‘But if he ever makes you unhappy…tell him the story of Dr Hirt’.
Chapter Two: Red
‘So the room went quiet, and he said:’ Frenzy a.k.a. Joanna Cargill thinks to herself inside the cafeteria on Utopia, as the Toad sits at a table, several empty bottles lie strewn before him. ‘Apologize? Apologize for what?’ the Toad asks. Joanna decides that the question was fair, so she gives the Toad a fair answer - by punching him through the cafeteria wall and out into the open. ‘You want some more?’ Frenzy asks. ‘Not so much, actually’ Toad replies. ‘But you’ve been begging for it, you piece of crap!’ Frenzy declares, before grabbing Toad by his collar and telling him that Megan Gwynn is Tempo Cadre. ‘You spit on Tempo Cadre, you spit on me. You think that’s a smart move?’ Freny asks.
Suddenly, Remy “Gambit” LeBeau appears and charges a playing card with kinetic energy as he tells Frenzy to stand down. ‘Get out of my face, LeBeau, or I’ll rip yours right off your skull!’ Frenzy shouts back. ‘Alors, we fight! But what are we fighting about?’ Gambit wonders, while Frenzy tells herself that now she has Gambit to deal with him, but has dealt with him lots of times, so she feels like she owes him some bruises. Gambit reminds Frenzy that Tempo Cadre never existed outside of a dream, and points out that she is not dreaming now, so there is no excuse for sleepwalking - or for pulping Toad because he spoke out of turn.
Blood on her fists from punching Toad’s face, Joanna suddenly steadies her fist, and looks at Gambit. She thinks it funny - strange - as she looks at her hand and sees the blood over her knuckles, and, just like that, she realized what she as doing. ‘Here. Keep him!’ Joanna exclaims as she throws Toad towards Gambit. ‘Keep me. Please!’ Toad declares, while Joanna remarks ‘I feel dirty just touching him’. Toad lands at Gambit’s feet and Frenzy turns and walks away, she tells herself that Gambit was right about sleepwalking - you cannot do that and live.
Back in her quarters, Frenzy stares into her mirror and tells herself that she was a soldier, and when you are a soldier, the red rage carries out, it sees you safely through like a lucky rabbit’s foot - like armor that you wear on the inside. But even before that - before Fortress X - it was always there. Images of her time at Fortress X - on the battlefield, and with Scott Summers - flash through her mind, as she tells herself that the blood tide, the hot wire in her brain, glowing like the filament in a light bulb - bright, bright red. Frenzy gets into the shower, the water runs over her as she thinks that when she loves someone she feels the same - like she is halfway fighting them, tearing some trophy of joy or lust out of their lips, their flesh.
‘Feeding that red screaming thing at the core of me’ Frenzy tells herself, while wondering ‘Who am I? Who’s the me that’s here, now, staring in this mirror? Thinking these thoughts? Joanna Cargill? Sometimes. Not too often’. Frenzy takes to her hair with a pair of scissors, and soon, stands before a mirror, examining her new, sleek short-on-one-side-long-on-the-other hairstyle, and trendy new black and blue costume. The style she had during the Age of X. ‘Frenzy. To name it is to own it’ Joanna tells herself.
Soon, a shirtless Gambit is shooting some hoops on the basketball court. ‘LeBeau!’ Frenzy calls out to him as she walks towards him. ‘Frenzy. That’s…a good look for you’ Gambit tells her. ‘Shut up’ Frenzy snaps back, before telling Gambit that she was losing back there. ‘Yes’ Gambit tells her. ‘And you stopped me from killing the little puke-stain, so I’m grateful’ Joanna admits. Gambit spins the basketball on a finger and tells Joanna that she is very welcome.
Frenzy tells Gambit that the truth is, and sick as it may sound, that she actually liked the way they had it back at Fortress X, as it made sense to her. ‘I was off the leash the whole time, and it made me a hero. A legend. But in the real world, there’s…morality. Context’ Joanna remarks. ‘Consequences’ Gambit adds. ‘Exactly’ Joanna tells him, adding that she thinks it is mostly garbage, but that she is going to learn to handle it, because there is something she had back there and wants to have it again. Joanna hangs her head as she announces ‘I’m going to be an X-Man’.
Chapter Three: A Color that Tastes like Screaming
‘Ready, Legion? Let’s try - one eight six’ Doctor Nemesis suggests as he stands inside a lab, and calls out the number assigned to one of the personas inside Legion a.k.a. David Haller. ‘One eight siz. Johnny Gomorrah’ Legion announces as he holds up his wrist-band control that modulates the power of the personas inside him. Legion aims his new power to one of the robot targets inside the lab, and releases the power. Dr Kavita Rao stands nearby. ‘Target still intact’ she announces, before revealing that the target has been transmuted into chalk - ‘No. It’s salt’ Kavita realizes as she tastes the remains of the robot.
‘Excellent. Two two seven’ Doctor Nemesis calls out, but Legion replies that he is tired. ‘A dozen more, then we’ll stop for the day. Two two seven’ Doctor Nemesis states once again. ‘Two two seven. Time-Sink’ Legion calls out - but as he attempts to activate the power, nothing happens. ‘Try again’ Doctor Nemesis orders, but Legion replies that he is trying, only nothing is happening, just void. He adds that there is synesthetic interference - a color. ‘A color that tastes like screaming’ Legion explains.
Doctor Nemesis begins tapping away at consoles, ‘That’s impossible!’ he declares. ‘You mean it’s impossible for you to get it wrong? You’re not infallible, Nemesis’ Kavita tells her colleague. ‘Bo. But that wrist control is’ Nemesis replies, before remarking that he and Jeffries collaborated with Reed Richards on the switching mechanism, and that each channel is a neural link to one of Legion’s sub-personalities, bypassing his schizophrenia to five him complete and direct control for up to a minute at as time. ‘Try again’ Doctor Nemesis orders.
‘One thousand and twelve’ Legion announces. ‘What? I said try again. The same number’ Nemesis declares, but Legion tells him that he is trying something else. Legion’s form shifts to blue and energy swirls around him as he remarks that the Delphic will answer three questions truthfully, and there is nothing she doesn’t know. ‘You just have to ask the write questions’ Legion explains. ‘Very well. We’ll try it your way’ Doctor Nemesis mutters, before asking the Delphic the first question: ‘It appears that one of Legion’s sub-selves has been de-powered. Is this the case?’ The Delphic, though Legion, replies’ No. This is not the case’.
‘Interesting. Let’s try another tack, then. Is Time-Sink resisting us in some way?’ Doctor Nemesis asks. ‘Yes. He resists you. He will not be a genie in your lamp. A slave toiling in your sunless fields’ the Delphic responds. ‘Won’t he, now? And what’s his -’ Doctor Nemesis replies, until Kavita interrupts him, ‘There’s only one question left. Don’t waste it!’ she tells him. Kavita turns Delphic, ‘Assuming that you meant your previous answers literally, that this is some kind of rebellion - are others of Legion’s personas involved in it? Please tell us their names’ Kavita asks. The Delphic replies that he will do more than tell. ‘I will show you!’ he announces as Legion uses the Delphic’s power to reveal six images of the personas involved - Endgame, Susan in Sunshine, Time-Sink, Chain and the Bleeding Image, as well as one other.
‘And Styx. Styx is leading them’ Legion announces as he loses control over Delphic’s power, and collapses, asking ‘Call my father. Please. Call my father’.
Epilogue: Black Revisited
Rogue tells her self that she thought about it a long time - and maybe that was the problem right there. “When it comes to live”, she remembers Remy saying. “Reasons for and reasons against - they should just fall away”. Rogue supposes that Gambit was right, and supposes that they do.
In his quarters, Magneto removes his helmet, then cape, when the door opens. ‘Ah got so many reasons to hate you’ Rogue tells him as she stands in the doorway. ‘Hate? I’d prefer you stayed away from me out of fear’ Magneto replies, adding that would be more flattering to his ego. Rogue replies that it doesn’t tend to work that way, pointing out that most people want things that know are gonna turn out bad for them. Stern-faced, Rogue states that she is too big to be afraid of the dark. ‘And Ah’m not promising you one damn thing…beyond tonight’ she announces as she puts her fingers to Magneto’s mouth so that he cannot reply, and instant later, they are locked in passionate embrace….