Publication Date: 17th Mar 2022
Written By: Monolith.
Image Work: Douglas Mangum.

BIOGRAPHY - page 1

Not much is known about the history of Marshall Evan Stone III. As a young man, his mutant powers developed, causing him to break down into a state of fluid protoplasm. While his new body could be shaped by his thoughts, it was initially a challenge to even hold himself in a solid state, much less a humanoid one. He came to the attention of the Dark Beast, refugee from the Age of Apocalypse, who performed experiments on Marshall. McCoy valued Marshall as a test subject, but he also helped Marshall stabilize his physical form, and earned the young man’s gratitude. Marshall was let loose by McCoy with much greater control over his power than before, but also with a vivid warning about the debt he would one day need to repay.

[Note: A man roughly matching Random’s description was seen as a mugger attacking Charlie Ronalds’ parents twenty years ago in X-Factor Annual #8. Despite appearances, it seems unlikely that the young Random could’ve been active so long ago. Perhaps it’s possible Dark Beast held his protoplasmic form in stasis for years, but this hasn’t been confirmed.]

Operating out of Albany, New York, Marshall decided to use his powers as a bounty hunter, specializing in mutant and other super-powered quarry. Thanks to his fluid protoplasmic form, Marshall was able to make himself appear older and larger than he actually was. He adopted the identity of Random, a gruff and heartless mercenary dedicated to nothing more than his next paycheck. Despite his tough talk, Random developed a good relationship with the authorities. He employed lethal force only when innocent lives were on the line and it was absolutely necessary, earning him commendations from the police. At home, Random maintained an expensive house filled with the purchases he made from his earnings, hoping to make himself feel normal by surrounding himself with normal things. Marshall’s affairs were managed by a woman named Vera. Neither mother nor housekeeper, the true nature of their association was never fully disclosed. In fact, Vera herself was apparently not “real” but just an extension of Random’s protoplasm operating remotely from him – someone to talk to, or just an “echo” of a real person who might have meant something to him, once upon a time.

Random first came to the attention of the government-sponsored mutant team X-Factor when he was hired to deal with a hostage crisis. The Genoshan mutate refugees called the X-Patriots had seized control of Cedar Sinai Hospital when their member Taylor was attacked on the street. The mayor wanted Random to clear the X-Patriots out with minimal damage to the hospital or its patients. Random’s ability to counteract mutant abilities made him ideal for the assignment, and one-by-one he neutralized the ringleaders Pirouette, Lukas and Prodigal before X-Factor arrived on scene. Having vouched for the X-Patriots previously, Havok and his team felt responsible for the situation. The uncouth Random was on the clock, though, and wasn’t willing just to walk away. In order to avoid escalating the situation, Havok took out his checkbook and paid Random for his time using X-Factor’s expense account. Random considered the matter instantly settled, and walked away without any further violence. [X-Factor (1st series) #88]

Random surfaced again when X-Factor’s government liaison Val Cooper hired him to accompany her and Quicksilver to the military base Camp Hayden, where the Acolytes reportedly intended to strike. Far from its sleepy exterior, Camp Hayden was actually the staging ground for Project: Wideawake and the government-funded Sentinel program. The rest of X-Factor followed Val to Hayden against her orders, and joined forces with Random when the Acolytes made their appearance. Random was hardly willing to take orders from Havok, but as a one-man wrecking crew he gave a good accounting for himself in the battle that followed. [X-Factor (1st series) #92]

As part of the Magneto Protocols, the U.S. government had long term interests in the magnetic member of X-Factor named Polaris. However, Colonel Jefferson Malone of “the Department” was far more aggressive than his superiors. He hired Random to do his best to kill Polaris. If she survived, she could be useful for future activity under the Protocols; if she died, she wouldn’t have been effective against Magneto anyway. Random took the job from Malone and the Department, especially since they dangled the notion of a steady gig for him if things worked out. During his surveillance of Polaris, however, Random began to appreciate Lorna’s guts and determination, and was reluctant to go through with killing her.

A job’s a job, though, and Random reached out to Polaris through their shared government contacts, getting her to meet him alone. He took advantage of her trust and opened fire, starting a battle in the streets of Washington D.C. Polaris took his measure and returned the favor, smashing Random repeatedly with his own Lamborghini to add insult to injury. She adjusted to his mutant counteracting ability on the fly, learning to magnetically attract him when she wanted him repelled and vice versa. Random enjoyed the workout and even let it slip he was hired by “Uncle Sam” for this job. In the end, even Lorna suspected Random was holding back when she finally beat him. [X-Factor (1st series) #94-95]

Malone and the Department were not happy with Random’s performance. As Random pointed out, however, they had only hired him to TRY to kill Polaris – the fact that she survived just showed how powerful she was, and how beneficial she could be to their long-term agenda. Malone was still suspicious and withdrew the Department’s offer of an extended contract for Random’s services. For good measure, he sent a strike team to Random’s house in Albany to eliminate the bounty hunter as a loose end. The team failed, and a fighting-mad Random decided not to let Malone get away with double-crossing him. [X-Factor (1st series) #96-97]

Back in Washington, Random made contact with X-Factor about the Department. Havok, more than anyone, was pissed to see the bounty hunter after his attack on Polaris, but Havok’s plasma blast barely got Random’s attention. Forge, X-Factor’s new government liaison, took Random up on his offer. He paid Random for the information involving the contract against Polaris, and hired Random to join X-Factor for their upcoming battle with the forces of Haven. Polaris confronted Random with her suspicions that he let her win in the end when they dueled, but Random refused to give credit to the idea, and maintained that Lorna beat him fair and square. [X-Factor (1st series) #98-99]

Out in the California desert, Random and X-Factor located Haven’s secret base. Random jumped the gun and opened fire on Haven’s brother, Monsoon, when he emerged with her private army. Havok managed to get his people back under control, but Haven only confirmed the government’s suspicions about her running a terrorist organization to cause chaos the world over. When they refused to join her cause, she cast X-Factor through a pocket dimension to the edge of oblivion and back. Random’s self-control couldn’t survive the journey, temporarily reducing him to a puddle of protoplasm. Marshall was embarrassed that X-Factor had to see him forcibly reassume his chosen shape. Polaris was concerned, but Random shook off her sympathy without letting Lorna in to see his vulnerabilities. The battle with Haven was renewed, and her schemes were defeated, but Multiple Man of X-Factor died in the struggle that followed. [X-Factor (1st series) #99-100]

Random stuck around Georgetown and X-Factor for a few days after that. He allowed X-Factor to mourn their fallen teammate before pressing to fulfill the second half of his contract and lead Polaris to the Department. Forge even offered Random full-time employment with X-Factor, but the bounty hunter refused. Random remained prickly when Lorna pressed him about his physical breakdown in Haven’s citadel, and outright refused to discuss the matter further. Before storming off completely, though, he did take a moment to express his condolences about Madrox’s death. [X-Factor (1st series) #101]

Polaris and Forge both became suspicious about the true depths of Random’s character, and did a deep dive into the government’s intelligence reports about his activities. When the time came, Random brought the two of them to Beltway Travel, the Department’s front business. Colonel Malone had requisitioned Avalanche and Commando (formerly of Freedom Force) as muscle to defend himself from Random’s retaliation. As Random and Polaris battled the enforcers, Forge chased down Malone, who ultimately killed himself rather than be brought before a Congressional investigation to answer for his overreach. Random did one more mission with X-Factor after that, but he still chose not to remain with the team full-time. Havok had run off to Hawaii, blaming himself for Multiple Man’s death, and Polaris was set to follow him. After giving her a ride to the airport, Random insinuated that Polaris might be able to find a better guy than Summers if she looked, but Lorna confirmed Alex was the only man for her. And that was that. [X-Factor (1st series) #102-103, Annual #9]

Random returned to his life in Albany for several months. He was eventually contacted by the Dark Beast, who called in his marker on Random’s debt. Marshall’s simulated life of privilege was over after that. He reabsorbed Vera and left behind the trappings of a heartless bounty hunter he had assembled to disguise his true nature. Back with McCoy, Random was reduced to a fluid state and subjected to more experiments at the doctor’s hands. It wasn’t entirely clear what the Dark Beast was holding over Random at this juncture – whether it was merely a debt of honor for stabilizing Random’s powers in the past, a threat of de-stabilizing him again if he didn’t follow orders, or a promise to grant Random greater control or normalcy that he couldn’t pass up. What is clear is that Random felt compelled to obey McCoy, despite the genuine respect he had for the members of X-Factor. Especially Lorna. [X-Factor (1st series) #112-116]

[Note: McCoy occasionally made claims that he literally created Random, set him up as a bounty hunter, and orchestrated his involvement with X-Factor from the beginning, all so that he could one day betray them, but these claims seem too far-fetched to take as credible.]

In the Age of Apocalypse, Havok had been known as Prelate Summers, a shining example of Apocalypse’s rule that Dark Beast wanted to claim for his own purposes. McCoy’s associate Fatale arranged to isolate Havok from the rest of X-Factor, giving Random the opportunity to capture him for the doctor. Random openly approached Havok and sincerely apologized for what was about to happen, but he claimed he just had no choice but to follow McCoy. To Havok, this only justified his own negative impression of Random, despite Lorna’s feelings otherwise. The two men fought bitterly as Alex tried to use his powers on Random indirectly to avoid triggering the bounty hunter’s countering ability. In the end, Havok brought a building down on both of them, but it was Random who walked away. Marshall summoned Fatale to take Havok in, completing his betrayal of X-Factor regardless of his feelings otherwise. [X-Factor (1st series) #117-118]

McCoy took his time modifying Havok’s mind and powers, leaving Random waiting for his next instructions. He tried apologizing again to the unconscious Havok, only to be mocked by Fatale for being weak. At Dark Beast’s command, Random was sent to infiltrate X-Factor. Marshall still had strong feelings for Polaris, and hated the idea of betraying her to her face, but felt he had no choice. He reassumed his crass bounty hunter persona and approached Lorna outside of X-Factor’s base at Fall’s Edge. McCoy and Fatale had faked a letter from Alex explaining his abrupt disappearance, leaving Lorna feeling abandoned. Random was put in the position of offering Lorna a shoulder to cry on while also gathering intelligence about X-Factor for McCoy. [X-Factor (1st series) #124]

McCoy’s own plans were co-opted when he was forced into serving the entity known as Onslaught. On their new master’s behalf, Fatale overtly retrieved a training Sentinel from Fall’s Edge, drawing X-Factor’s attention to their activities. Random accompanied X-Factor as their “houseguest” as they traveled to the Brand Corporation to prevent Onslaught and his Dark Descendants from claiming control of the nation’s Sentinels. Fatale confronted X-Factor with the newly brainwashed Prelate Summers, turning Havok against Polaris and outing Random as their spy. Left exposed, Random turned his gun-arms on Polaris and Wild Child. He promised not to hurt Polaris, provided she stayed out of the Descendants’ way. Fatale had other ideas, though, and ordered Havok to kill X-Factor, despite Random’s protestations. Random fought back against X-Factor, but he refused to let Havok hurt Polaris and was shot by Alex’s plasma bolt. It seemed whatever changes Dark Beast had made to their abilities rendered Random more vulnerable to Havok’s blasts, as his body started to destabilize under the assault.

Random and Havok were captured by X-Factor while Forge worked to regain control of the Sentinels. Polaris and Shard guarded the prisoners, giving Lorna time with her two betrayers. Random tried to explain his actions to Lorna, even confessing he was in love with her, but Polaris felt she could never trust him again. Havok was more successful, and convinced Lorna he had shaken off McCoy’s mind control to coerce her into freeing his restraints. Random broke his own cuffs to protect Lorna, because he was sure Havok was lying. He was right, but Havok’s plasma bolt left Random completely destabilized this time. Marshall’s body broke apart and flowed down into the sewers, leaving the people he had betrayed behind him. [X-Factor (1st series) #125-126]