“Where are you?!” he yells over the roar of the flames. While most of the building is of concrete and steel, everything else has erupted into a fiery blaze, billowing black smoke and deadly orange flames. The man’s name is Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man. Mutant-turned-private-detective. As a sideline, he sends his dupes into the world to learn things and then rejoin with him so their knowledge is his. That way, he can experience… well… everything. In this case, though, when it comes to learning first hand whether going up in flames is absolutely the worst way to die… it’s one thing that he has no burning desire to experience.
Over the roar of the flames, Madrox calls out, beckoning an unseen party to come on. They’ve got to get out of there! Rather than hearing a shout back, another noise is heard. A gunshot? Was that…? With so much wood breaking, it might have been… Madrox’s eyes turn upwards, as he hears the sound of more wood breaking from above him. Moments later, before he can even complete a swear, timber falls upon him trapping him.
The impact of the timber, while trapping Madrox, also creates a duplicate, who is very confused. Looking around and finding himself alone – unable to see the original Madrox beneath the timber – he asks aloud to no one in particular what he is doing there. Explanation comes from the still conscious original Madrox, who explains unseen that he is one of his dupes, created from the impact from the beam. Madrox then tells his dupe to pull him out from under the timber, but the dupe is still panicked. Seeing the fire around, he exclaims that there’s no time, and runs off.
Wonderful, he thinks to himself. He must have made a dupe who’s the incarnation of his sense of self-preservation… and naturally all he cares about is saving his own butt. Now alone again, Madrox resigns himself to creating a new dupe… but he can’t focus. Can’t hit anything… needs… Helllllp…, he mutters, as he slips into unconsciousness. A few hours ago, this wouldn’t have been where he would have pictured himself around now. A few hours ago…
(a few hours ago)
Madrox is in the study of Ed Vance, one of the richest, and most criminally connected, men in Chicago. Vance, who had been talking to some guy in Russian about his “mutant problem.” Nearby is his fiancée, Sheila, with whom he, or at least a dupe of his, had had some sort of relationship. He’d determined this through his keen detective training… and the fact that she’d run up to him naked and stuck her tongue in her mouth. Also there are some henchmen of Vance’s… a guy called “Clay,” whom he’s just met… but seems to be familiar somehow. And most bizarrely of all… a dupe of his, who, apparently…
Shoved me back under! Madrox accuses the dupe, who is sitting calmly in a chair, idly quaffing down his recently poured drink. It was you, Madrox then continues. Wasn’t it? At the pool. The dupe confirms with an unenthusiastic “yeah,” then rejoining that Madrox broke his freakin’ fingers. Holding up the recently splinted two fingers, the dupe tells Madrox that if he hadn’t passed out just when it happened, at least he’d’ve shared in the pain.
Sorry to disappoint you, Madrox quips back. Ignoring this, the dupe rises from his chair, moving into Madrox’s face. The dupe explains that he was made when Madrox thumped against the bottom of the pool, to which a slightly surprised Madrox remembers that the dupe had tried to drown him – he had thought he was imagining it. Imagining it, the dupe replies angrily. He had it coming! Fortunately, he continues, he convinced Mr. Vance there that he hates him almost as much as he does. Taking this in, Madrox crosses his arms in speculation. The dupe’s his, what?, self-loathing? To this, he adds that he must be the only detective who should’ve been issued a psychiatrist’s couch along with his license.
Angered even more by the jest, the duplicate spits back to Madrox that not everything’s about him. The fact is, he should never have gotten involved with her! And, deep down, he knows why! He just can’t face it. Hearing this, Eddie turns to Sheila, grabbing her arm and asking just how involved is she. What’s going on with the two of them? Sheila begins to protest, telling him that he’s hurting her, but Madrox interrupts, telling Eddie that there’s nothing going on between them. Noth… We’re married, Sheila shouts, interrupting him in turn. This exclamation startles Madrox for a moment and then, in his confusion, he asks “We… who, exactly?”
As Eddie turns away from her, rubbing his temple, Sheila explains to him that it was when he was out of town. She met James… He swept her off of her feet… It was… She never felt that way with anyone. Anyone. She knew it was insane, but when he suggested they drive to Maryland, get married, she just… she did it. She… Having had enough, Eddie turns back to Sheila and tells her to shut up. Shut. Up.
After a moment, Eddie stares down to the ground, while speaking to Clay. He tells the assassin to give “mirror boy” there a gun. When asked why, he replies that, if he shoots Madrox, it’s murder. If Madrox kills Madrox, it’s suicide. Without another word, Clay hands the dupe a revolver, instructing him not to get any ideas. If he aims it at anybody other than Madrox, he’s going down faster than a buck-an-hour floozy. Asked by Clay if he’s clear, the dupe replies crystal.
As ordered, the dupe raises the pistol to Madrox, who quickly points out that he really doesn’t want to do this. No, the dupe rejoins, he really does. ‘Cause, on some level, his level, he does too. And as long as he’s way over there, he can’t reabsorb him to stop him.
Once upon a time, what the duplicate says was true. But things have changed. More than he might realize. When Madrox absorbed the Shaolin dupe… a certain amount of… enlightenment… came with it. The Tao. The teachings. The understanding and acceptance of Yin and Yang. The following of the eightfold path. “Be your own light… your own refuge.” Thinking of all of these things, while looking at the barrel of the gun pointed at him, Madrox hears the dupe say, Good-bye, “dad.”, just as he begins to squeeze the trigger.
Before the trigger can be completely pulled, reality begins to unravel for the duplicate. His body begins to distort and elongate, much to the surprise of the dupe. Like a piece of taffy, the dupe’s body is stretched, its head extending the distance from where he stands to Madrox’s chest, even while the dupe’s feet remain in place. A moment later, the feet snap like a rubber band, also to Madrox’s chest, whereupon it has been summarily reabsorbed.
Completing his memory of the teachings learned by the Shaolin dupe, Madrox thinks of how he is his own light… and has shut himself off… and taken refuge within himself.
The dupe reabsorbing of the dupe having taken place in less than a second, the revolver it held immediately drops to the floor, where the half-cocked firearm discharges from the impact, ironically shooting Eddie Vance. As Eddie reels from this, Madrox takes advantage of the confusion, grabbing Sheila and running for the large windows. Over her protests, he announced that it’s time for the honeymoon and crashes through the window, falling to the ground over a story below.
The impact against the window having created a new duplicate – who didn’t have time to consider killing him – Madrox positions himself atop the recently created doppelganger, and uses him as a cushion for his and Sheila’s fall. Their subsequent trip down the steep hill is likewise cushioned with the duplicate create by the impact on the ground, then the impact from the bounce, and then the next one, and so on.
After a short few seconds, the two finally come to a rest. Rising to her feet, Sheila looks back at the few dozen Madrox duplicates, all in various states of injury from acting as cushions. As she begins to state that she’s going to be sick, Madrox tells her to save it. When she begins to speak again nonetheless, he reiterates coldly and then rises to face his small battalion of dupes. Just as he had done in the house, Madrox reaches out with his mind and reabsorbs the dupes, all at once and all from a distance. The feat is disorienting for Madrox, having never reabsorbed that many dpues in one shot before. It was like looking in a hundred different directions at once.
The effort causes Madrox to fall from his feet, but he is quickly picked back up by Sheila. Grabbing her hand, he leads her through the woods, hoping aloud that nobody has towed his rental car. Once they get some distance from the house, they’ll have a talk, he tells her.
(Mutant Town, New York)
Rahne, in her lycanthrope form, leaping from one rooftop to another. Over the phone headset she wears, she responds to the voice of Jamie Madrox, asking it is the original or…? Apologizing, the Madrox on the other end sarcastically laments that it’s just the dupe covering for him while he’s in Chicago. Changing the subject to his recent encounter with the local law enforcement, the dupe explains that Bishop is grilling them about the guy who took a shot at him. Give the guy a badge, the dupe snipes, he thinks he’s a cop.
Playing devil’s advocate, Rahne replies that it was not without reason, to which the dupe replies with a whatever. Now turning the subject to her, he asks if she’s still tracking their astral-projecting adulterer. Rahne replies with an aye. She had thought the Mrs. Campbell was daft… thinkin’ her paralyzed husband was astrally cheatin’ on her ‘cause her was callin’ out the name “Kim” in his sleep. But he really did send out some sorta ghost, so now she’s wonderin’…
Wait, Rahne suddenly states, interrupting her train of thought. “I think he’s comin’ t’roost.” Watching intently, Rahne sees the luminescent form of Mr. Campbell stop at one building and enter. “Yup!” she continues. He’s in. Which means his beloved “Kim” may be inside… Hearing this, the Madrox dupe tells her to check it out. Or, he jibes, is spying on a couple boinking going to be too much for a girl with her strict religious upbringing? Jesting back in kind, Rahne replies that he hasn’t spent a lot of time with her recently. Things change. All the while talking, Rahne shimmies down the side of the apartment building, along a pipe. Unaware of her precarious position, the dupe replies to Rahne’s statement that she doesn’t change. Not her. She’ll always be the sweet, repressed, virginal girl he remembers…
Bloody hell! the dupe hears over the phone, interrupting him. Asked by him what it is, Rahne can scarcely reply. Staring through the window into the bedroom inside, she sees the astral form of Mr. Campell, hovering over someone else in bed. Both individuals are highly aroused by their presence and proximity to each other. The general reason, however, for Rahne’s astonishment, is the fact that the person in the bed is a male. In the throes of passion, the man moans out Mr. Campell’s name, Ned.
Reporting back, Rahne tells the dupe that he’s with another guy. The “Kim” is a guy. Asked if she is sure, Rahne retorts that she could be more virginal than Mother Mary and she thinks she’d still know a man! Rahne’s shock turns into another type, as she realizes that she has been seen by Mr. Campbell. The dupe, however, tells her not to sweat it. He’s like a ghost, right? He can’t touch her or anyth…
Rahne doesn’t hear the end of the sentence, however, as the astral form of Ned Campbell accelerates at her, shooting through the window and knocking her off of the side of the building. Luckily, Rahne lands on her feet and immediately tries to make good her escape. Following closely behind, however, is Ned Campbell. Trying desperately to outrace him, Rahne sarcastically fires back at the Madrox dupe that there is a problem. A wee one!
Madrox – the original one – drives his non-towed rental car down a wooded back road still outside the city. Look, “Mrs. Madrox,” he starts to Sheila, before things get out of hand… Stopping at his own words, Madrox starts again. Okay… more things get out of hand than it already is… there’s something she should know. Before he can even say the words, Sheila speaks them. I married a dupe of yours, didn’t I?, she asks.
Taken aback, Madrox fumbles a question as to how she knew. Sheila explains that, when she kissed him, he seemed surprised. He wouldn’t have been. Madrox compliments Sheila on her deduction, and then asks why she lied to Vance. She didn’t, she replies. She married James Madrox. That’s him. She…
Trailing off, she then states that she doesn’t pretend to understand how his power works, but… can he produce the… the man who loved her? Romanced her…? Replying simply yet coldly, Madrox informs Sheila that the man she married is dead. Somebody stabbed him. He dies in his… arms. His… mind. It’s hard to explain. Wide-eyed in horror, Sheila manages to mutter stabbed! Continuing, Madrox explains that his last memories led him to there… to her. He wants to find his killer.
Sheila replies that her guess would be Clay. He does all of Eddie’s dirty work. Eddie must have found out about them… Interrupting, Madrox asks, if that were true, then why was he acting surprised? He had no reason to pretend. Turning her head, Sheila replies that, yes, he did. Nowadays, he plays everything close to the vest… keeps trying to confuse everybody. When Madrox asks her if it has anything to do with his “mutant problem,” she replies that it does. Everything.
Asked to elaborate, Sheila says that he’s had sources telling him that, for the past year, a mutant’s been trying to clear out all the Chicago bosses so he, the mutants, could take over. Sources who have since disappeared, so Eddie’s taking it seriously. And other bosses have been going down the chute recently. Eddie blames this “mystery mutant.” He says it’s like the guy reads minds, knowing what everybody’s up to…
Madrox’s face changes, a realization having crossed his mind. Sheila asks what it is, and then asks why they are stopping at a motel. Pulling into the Sun N’ Sand motel, Madrox replies that it’s where he’s staying. She should go in and ask for a room key. He’s checked in under the name “Legion.” She’ll be safe enough there, he tells her. Repeating the word “Legion” and saying that she doesn’t understand, Madrox tells her not to sweat it.
Borrowing her cell phone, he makes a call to his friend, Stringer. Reaching him, Madrox informs him that he’s got to meet somewhere private. Now. He’s got a major story for him. Another Pulitzer, he swears. Hearing the response, Madrox replies no. Not at his place. Somebody might be watching. Hearing directions, Madrox repeats: Newspaper warehouse at the intersection of Ogden and Cermak? Yeah, he states, he can find that. He’s just to make sure nobody follows him.
Handed back her phone, Sheila asks what it’s all about. Replying vaguely, Madrox tells her that he’s having a few suspicions. Changing the subject back to her, her tells her to just stay tucked away. When he gets back, they’ll sort it all out. He swears. With that, he drives off, leaving Sheila in the parking lot, alone. Much later, Madrox would chastise himself for being such an idiot. So naïve. As if anything in his life could have been that simple.
(Mutant Town, New York)
Rahne races down the street, bounding over mailboxes and still pursued by the astral form of Ned Campbell. Snarling in anger, Mr. Campbell arms his arm around at Rahne. Though missing, it cleaves a lamppost, which he then proceeds it pick up and use it as a weapon. Rahne, meanwhile, is too panicked at escape to respond to the pleas of the Madrox dupe over her phone headset, asking her what is happening and for her to give him her location.
Rahne’s flight is given pause as she dodges the thrown lamppost. Effortlessly, she then turns the flight into fight, swiping at the unsuspecting Ned Campbell with her claws and a bloodthirsty-sounding roar. The swipe connects with Ned’s astral form, causing him to reel in pain. The luminescent form then begins to loose cohesion, morphing into a yellow, cloud, all the while screaming in pain.
Elsewhere, the sleeping form of Ned Campbell screams out in pain. Awakened by his side is his wife, who pleads with him to tell her what is wrong. Her fear turns to panic, as Ned suddenly is silenced and now immobile. Trying in vain to wake her now deceased husband, Mrs. Campbell cries out his name in vain.
Back on the street, Rahne watches as the luminescent cloud completely dissipates. More in astonishment than in the removal of the threat, Rahne returns from her lycanthrope form, back to her human one. As the realization of what just happened dawns on her, she mutters a quiet, uh-oh…
At the newspaper warehouse at the intersection of Ogden and Cermak, Stringer tells Madrox that this had better be a spectacular story to make it worth his while. Oh, it’s a terrific story, Stringer, Madrox replies incredulously. It’s the story of a reporter who can read minds. And secretly used that power to great effect. Except nobody suspected that while he was using it to shut down criminal operations of guys like one “Mr. Carpetti”… he was really clearing the decks so that he could take over. What?! Stringer replies. Undeterred, Madrox points his finger in Stringer’s face and continues. So how were you going to get rid of Vance? Madrox asks him. Was Sheila there?
Having heard enough, Stringer asks Madrox is this is why he dragged him out of bed for. Some half-wit confrontation scene like out of one of his “noir” movies?! Yeah, he admits, he uses his mind-reading power to write about crime bosses! And crooked politicians and landlords and whoever else! But why would he want to take over the rackets? Asked by Madrox to tell him, Stringer spits back that it isn’t his theory, half-wit. Not receiving a response, Stringer presses, asking Madrox to explain it to him.
Up until this moment, when Stringer had said this, in some ways it had all still been a game to Madrox. Jamie Madrox, P.I., dodging death while dodging clues. Right up until the “fwooosh” from an unseen flare gun hit the rolls of blank newsprint. More “fwoooshes” follow, with more ignited rolls. And presto… instant death trap. Rolls of newsprints fall between Madrox and Stringer, separating them.
Idiot, Madrox thinks to himself. Putting his neck on the line is one thing… but no he’s dragged Stringer into this. Someone’s trying to kill them both, probably one of Vance’s people. Have to figure it out later, he tells himself.
A moment later, Madrox tries to see through the fire. “Where are you?!” he yells over the roar of the flames. While most of the building is of concrete and steel, everything else has erupted into a fiery blaze, billowing black smoke and deadly orange flames. Over the roar of the flames, Madrox calls out, beckoning the now-unseen Stringer to come on. They’ve got to get out of there!
Nearby, Stringer makes his way through the flames and black smoke. All the while, he continues to mutter bile at Madrox, swearing to God that he’ll kill him. Suddenly, Stringer is stopped in his tracks by another. Calling out to the person, Stringer tells them to stay back. The gun he pulls to defend himself is of no use. Though he is able to fire two shots, Stringer is stabbed in the chest by a blade-like talon. Stringer immediately collapses in a pool of his own blood.
The person at the other end of the talon – a woman – buttons her shirt back. The blade which she had used is now gone. From behind her, someone else – a man – tells her that it was nicely done. Her shirt now rebuttoned, Sheila thanks Clay for his compliment, and then orders him to go and find Madrox, and finish him. Before he can depart, however, Sheila gives him a parting thought: Please… try not to screw it up this time.