The snow falls on a cemetery, where fresh flowers have been placed on a new headstone - marking the grave of Jamie Madrox the Multiple Man, with “gone too soon” inscribed under the mutant hero’s name. Near the cemetery, Alex “Havok” Summers, leader of X-Factor, looks out over the cemetery, and thinks to himself that he wanted to go to the funeral this morning, but could not bear the idea of looking at Jamie lying there in that coffin. Alex thinks to himself that they try to disguise the whole idea of death - put a little rouge on the corpses cheeks so that everyone can say how “lifelike” he looks, then dance around their pain with kind words and poetic eulogies. ‘But the cold fact is: Jamie Madrox is dead. Haven killed him. And I just stood there and let her do it’.
The sky grows dark and a very sullen Alex approaches a diner, wondering how he could have been such an idiot, believing that Haven could cure Jamie of the Legacy Virus. Alex reminds himself that Professor Xavier has been wrestling with the disease for months now - and hasn’t been able to do a thing to slow it down, let alone stop it. Taking a seat in a booth, Alex recalls how he took the word of a terrorist - a murderer - who claimed she can do what Xavier cannot. ‘You’ve made some lousy command decisions in your day, Alex Summers…but this one…is gonna follow you to your grave’ Alex tells himself, slumping forward and resting his head in his hands.
A waitress walks over to Alex: ‘What’ll it be?’ she asks, but gets no response. ‘Yo - tall, blond and handsome - you gonna order or what?’ the waitress calls out. Forlorn, Alex looks up with his blue eyes and replies ‘Just a cup of coffee’. The waitress looks concerned and asks Alex if he is okay, that he looks like he just lost his best friend.
Elsewhere, ‘Where is he?’ Lorna “Polaris” Dane wonders as she stands on a snow-covered street corner. Wearing a glamorous long black coat with a white fur trim on the collar, cuffs and end, with matching hat. Lorna tells herself that they have been back from the service for two hours and cannot find Alex anywhere. Approaching the Brownstone, headquarters of X-Factor, Lorna hopes that Alex came home while she was out looking for him, and notes that since they returned from California, Alex has shut himself off from everyone, even her, which is something that he never does.
Lorna tells herself that no matter what they may be going through, no matter what pain or confusion of loss, they have always been there for each other, and now, to have him turn away from her like this, to watch him these past few days, so helpless and alone - is tearing Lorna apart. Lorna reminds herself that they have all been walking wounded since it happened, all wondering what they could have done differently - whether some action on our part could have prevented it and saved Jamie’s life. Lorna recalls that she knew Jamie had the virus before the others did, and wonders if she should have packed him off to see Charles immediately. ‘Maybe I should’ve - should’ve. Would’ve. They’re pretty useless now, aren’t they? All we can do is feel the loss and -’ Lorna tells herself, but her train of thought is interrupted as she enters X-Factor HQ.
‘What in -?’ Polaris gaps, wide-eyed, gazing around at what is supposed to be the foyer to X-Factor’s Brownstone, not to mention the dead of winter, instead she is standing in a field under a summer sun, smelling the sweet scent of grass and feeling the warm breeze on her skin. ‘Lovely, is it not?’ a voice calls out. Lorna turns and sees Ororo “Storm” Munroe standing amidst the strange garden. ‘I thought you were leaving right after the funeral?’ Lorna asks, but Ororo replies that a few remained behind, and asks Lorna what she thinks of X-Factor’s new defense system. Lorna sits down by a stream as Storm approaches her, explaining that Forge finished installing it a little while ago, and that it is a holographic imaging network with sensory augmentation. Ororo adds that it is also capable of creating environments for team-training and a host of other purposes.
‘Amazing. The water’s cold. Wet…there are fish swimming around in there’ Lorna exclaims as she puts her hand in the water. Storm explains that Forge thought this would provide a calming atmosphere, something to ease the pain of Jamie’s passing. Hugging herself, Lorna replies that it doesn’t change anything, it is just an illusion, a dream. ‘Who is to say what is the dream - and what is the reality?’ Ororo replies as she sits down next to her friend. Lorna replies that she is not much for philosophy. ‘Not philosophy, Lorna - fact’ Storm declares, announcing that there are times when she is riding the wind, spiralling through the heart of nature - when she feels as if she has pierced the core of creation.
Storm continues, remarking that everything she has ever taken to be real seems transparent, somehow, as much as an illusion as this meadow, and yet, behind it all, within it all, is something far greater, something huge and sacred. Ororo tells Lorna that she cannot explain it, cannot describe it, but that she believes it is something they are all a part of before they are born, and long after they die. Lorna gets up and turns away from her friend, declaring that she wishes she could believe that, but this world feels all too read to her, and that it doesn’t feel like Jamie has passed into something “huge and sacred”. ‘It just feels like he’s gone’ Lorna declares, tears streaming down her face. ‘He’s gone…and I miss him’.
‘I miss him so much’ Rahne “Wolfsbane” Sinclair thinks to herself as she sits on a park bench, with Guido Carosella a.k.a. Strong Guy at her side, people playing in the snow covered park nearby as the snow continues to fall around them. Solemnly, Rahne tells Guido that it is all her fault. Smiling, Strong Guy asks her what she is talking about, ‘How could it be your fault?’ Rahne reminds Guido that he was there, and that she practically begged Alex to let Haven save Jamie. ‘Maybe he wouldna done it if -’ Rahne begins, but Strong Guy cuts her off, pointing out that they all thought it would work. ‘After all, she cured you, didn’t she?’ Guido reminds Rahne, while joking that he was getting ready to ask Haven to whip him up a hair weave.
Teary-eyed, Rahne swears to God that she would take it all back - the cure and everything - if it meant they could have Jamie here right now. Guido smiles and tells Rahne that she is way too down, and what she needs is a little pick me up. Strong Guy then lefts the park bench Rahne is sitting on up into the air. ‘Well, technically it’s a pick you up - but why quibble’ Guido jokes. The surprised Rahne asks Guido what he is doing, before she transforms into a wolfen state, asking him if he thinks this is funny and if he must make everything into a joke. ‘Can’t ye ever just stop and let yourself feel?’ she asks him, pointing out that even at the memorial service that morning he kept making one stupid crack after another.
‘Yuir friend is dead - yuir very best friend - and all ye can do is stand around acting like - A BLOODY FOOL!’ Rahne shrieks angrily. Guido suddenly goes silent, and frowns. Rahne quickly reverts to her human form, and looks forlorn. ‘What’s the matter with me? He’s hurting enough without me pouring salt in the wound’ she tells herself, knowing that Guido is doing his best to get through this, the only way he knows how. Rahne goes over to him and gives him a hug, telling Guido that she is sorry and that she had no right. ‘don’t worry about it, kiddo. No harm done’ Guido assures her.
Suddenly, a small voice calls out ‘Scuse me!’, and Guido looks over: ‘Okay…you’re excused!’ he calls back, while Rahne looks at the girl and asks her what they can do for her. Several other children gather around, as the girl exclaims ‘You’re…ah…super heroes, aren’t you? Real super heroes? I…I seen you on “Oprah”, right?’ she asks. Gudio grins and replies ‘Correcto-mundo’ as he introduces himself as America’s greatest champion, “Captain Capitalism”, and Rahne as his dumb-but-loyal sidekick, “Plucky the Girl Wonder”. He claims that they have both been in suspended animation since 1908 but are feeling much better now. ‘He never stops, does he’ Rahne thinks to herself. Guido tells the children that they may recall his famous battle cry, which gave hope to freedom-lovers everywhere during the dark days of the Grenada Invasion: ‘For mother-country and the Dow Jones industrialists!’ Gudio calls out, pumping a first into the air. ‘Nope. Never stops. And God bless him for it’ Rahne tells herself.
Back at the diner, Alex wishes that Guido was with him, for if anyone could lift his spirits right now, it would be Guido. ‘Gimme it!’ a voice calls out. Alex tells himself that he always rides Guido for being such a goof-ball, but he would hate for X-Factor to have a day without him. His train of thought is broken when the voice calls out ‘Gimme the freakin’ money - before I blow yer brains all over the room!’ a thug exclaims as he holds his gun to the waitress’s head. The waitress calls out to Herbie, the man behind the counter, asking him to please hand over the money.
‘So lost in self-pity, I didn’t even notice. Another young idiot with a gun. No respect for life. His own - or anyone else’s’ Ale thinks to himself, while deciding that because he is a mutant, born with power cursing through him, it is up to he to teach the thug respect. ‘Let her go, kid. You don’t wanna do this. You don’t wanna hurt anybody’ Alex exclaims. ‘How do you know what I want, jerk?’ the thug retorts. ‘Y’think I won’t do it, huh? Well, make one more move in any direction - an’ you’ll watch her brains go flying across the room!’ the thug exclaims, while the waitress asks Alex not to try and be a hero, that it is not worth it. Alex’s powers surge around him, before he suddenly remembers Jamie Madrox lying in Haven’s arms.
‘You’re right. It’s not’ Alex declares as he powers down, knowing that all it will take is one mistake in judgment on his part, and that girl will be as dead as Jamie. ‘Good move. And now that I got the money - I’ll be on my way’ the thug declares. ‘Fine. Just let the girl go’ Alex tells him. But the thug asks Alex if he thinks he is stupid or something. ‘The babe’s my insurance’ he declares. ‘You don’t need her! No one’s going to try and stop you!’ Alex exclaims as he remembers he and his teammates looking down over Jamie’s body as the rain beat down on them. ‘Freakin’ right they’re not!’ the thug declares, while Alex tells himself that he cannot just let the thug walk out of here with the girl, and wonders if he can chance trying to stop him. ‘Blast it…I’ve got no choice’ Alex decides, and unleashes a small plasma blast, which knocks the thug back against the door, casing him to release the waitress, who scurries to safety, and drop his weapon.
‘Why’d you do it? Why’d you have to put me in this position?’ Alex shouts as he grabs the thug and shakes him about. ‘You think I want to be a hero? You think I want the responsibility?’ he asks, angrily, before shouting ‘I never wanted it! NEVER!’ and declaring that no matter how many times he tries to walk away, people like this thug keep dragging him back. ‘Back to the violence and the hatred and the death!’ Furious, Alex shouts that he is sick of it. But then he wonders what he is doing, as he has built up enough of a plasma charge to blow the thug to pieces. ‘If I don’t release it…fast -!’ Alex tells himself, while wondering again what he is doing, and who he is angry at. ‘Haven, for what she did to Jamie? Xavier, for pulling me into this madness in the first place? Myself for letting them manipulate me? How about all of the above?’ and suddenly, Alex releases his power, causing the diner window to blow out, shattering glass everywhere.
Alex stands up and looks through the broken window, knowing that Forge is going to pitch a fit when he gets the bill for the window. ‘But better some glass than that kid’s life. Nobody else is dying on my watch. Nobody. Ever again’ Alex tells himself.
Back at the Brownstone, Forge thinks to himself that it is called blood-money, and realizes that, in this case, it really is. But X-Factor’s government liaison knows that Random did what he hired him to do, so it is not his fault Jamie is dead. Sitting at his desk, perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the stream and meadow below, at least in the false imagery, inside X-Factor’s Brownstone, Forge writes Marshall Evan Stone the Third his first part of the payment, pointing out that he does not get the balance, or his new car, until he leads them to the men who set up Polaris. ‘Yeah, Forge, sure - whatever you say’ Random replies, before asking Forge if he would mind turning off the imager-thing, and making the place normal again. ‘Being up here like this…all out in the open - gives mean the #$@% willies!’
‘Computer - cancel imaging’ Forge states, restoring the Brownstone to its true form. ‘Better?’ Forge asks. Random gets to his feet and replies that it is, before telling Forge to give him the check, and announcing that he will be at the hotel when they are ready to go after the slime-buckets. ‘One more thing, Random’ Forge remarks, announcing that with Madrox gone, the team is going to need extra manpower - full time. ‘I can offer you a regular pay check, benefits and -’ Forge offers, before Random tells him to forget it, that an occasional big-money job is one thing, but he doesn’t want to spend anymore time with the losers in X-Factor than he has to.
Random adds that he doesn’t get the way everyone is taking this Madrox thing. ‘Yer soldiers, aren’t ya? Yer fighting a war, right? You did Vietnam, Forge. You should know better than most that when y’go into battle, y’take yer chances - an’ ya pay yer price’. Random turns and walks away, telling Forge that he will see him around, and slams the door behind him. Forge looks to the side, and tells himself ‘I’m a soldier, all right. And I’ve paid the price one time too many’.
Out in the corridor, Random and Polaris walk towards each other. ‘You’re leaving?’ Lorna asks. ‘Yeah. What’s it to ya?’ Random replies. Lorna asks Random if he had a moment to talk. ‘About what?’ Marshall asks. ‘About what happened to you - when we were in Haven’s fortress. I was concerned about -’ Lorna begins, but Random turns and starts walking away, telling Polaris not to ever ask him that question again, or else she will regret it to her dying day. Lorna watches Random as he strides down the corridor, when Random suddenly turns back and remarks ‘And…uh…about yer friend Madrox…I - ah -’, Lorna frowns and thanks him.
Polaris tells herself that the more she sees of Random, the more his one-dimensional tough-guy image seems like a façade. Lorna realizes that there is something deep inside him that he is hiding - protecting, and it is the same “something” that stopped him from killing her a few weeks ago and she wants to know what it is. ‘I agree, Lorna - there’s more to this man than meets the eye. I sense a depth of spirit…and a depth of pain…worthy of further investigation’ Professor Charles Xavier announces as he appears in the corridor, accompanied by Dr Moira MacTaggert. ‘Charles…Moira. I thought you’d gone’ Lorna exclaims. Charles explains that they have some unfinished business. ‘Our home is yours’ Lorna replies. ‘If there’s anything you need. Anything at all -’ Lorna begins as she and Charles touch hands. ‘Just some time - in his room’ Charles replies.
Soon, Charles and Moira enters Jamie’s room. Hanging her head, Moira announces that she does not want to do this. She walks around his room and touches various things, while Xavier remarks that he can feel all the conflicting emotions rolling through her psyche, and her struggle to contain them. ‘But you can’t contain them, Moira. They’ll just eat away at you until -’ Xavier remarks, while Moira declares that she feels so sick, and so sad. ‘He was like a son t’me. But…I dinna remember the last time we spoke’ Moira admits. ‘We were both so busy. Busy with what? Tell me that. What was so important that we couldna take a moment - just to say hello’.
Moira continues, remarking that you always think “well, tomorrow we’ll have the chance to catch up” - only tomorrow’s gone. Suddenly, Xavier touches Moira’s hand, and telepathically tells her ‘Maybe not. Every living soul leaves behind psychic traces…echoes of his joys, his struggles, his frustrations, his triumphs. They leave them in the hearts of those who loved them’. Moira looks around as projections of Jamie appear - playing his guitar, reading a book, painting a picture and lying on the floor. ‘What - what are ye doing? Where’s this coming from?’ Moira asks. ‘From inside you, Moira’ Charles tells his dear friend, adding that Jamie is still alive inside Moira, more deeply, more vibrantly alive than she could imagine.
Dr MacTaggert looks around at the projections of Jamie, ‘Ach, Jamie…look at ye’ she thinks to herself, noting that he was always happiest when he was a lone - painting, reading, studying or playing guitar. Moira remembers that Jamie used to tell her that he was his own best friend, even before his mutant powers manifested themselves, he was the a multiple man, living a thousand lives inside his own head. Moira tells herself that she knew Jamie better than most though, how lonely he was, too - so afraid to let other people get close to him, only he let her, and for that she will always be grateful.
Moira suddenly breaks down in tears, telling Charles that she cannot take this any more. Charles assures Moira that it was not his intention to overwhelm her. ‘I know’ Moira remarks, sitting on the edge of Jamie’s bed, clutching his pillow, before telling Charles that what she needs it to just sit here alone for a while, and feel Jamie in her own way. Charles leaves, and the pillow drops to the floor, as Moira’s tear-streamed face falls into her hands.
Back in his office, Forge stares out his window, the snow still falls, and he thinks to himself that Random was right, recalling that in Vietnam, young men like Jamie died by the thousands, as he saw comrades fall every day. Forge supposes that he should be numb to it by now, that he should just accept it as the inevitability of war - only he can’t - and prays with all his soul that he never can. Storm enters and puts a hand on her ex-lover’s shoulder. ‘She knows’ Forge thinks to himself.
Forge knows that he doesn’t have to say a word, as in the silence between them Ororo just knows all that he is feeling, thinking - every secret of his heart. Forge realizes that Ororo’s presence nurtures him, sustains him - and he feels so blessed to have her in his life. In grateful response, Forge gives Ororo spring - he gives her hope - he gives her Africa. The office indeed transforms into Africa, and Storm walks around on the orange colored grass. Forge tells himself that it is an augmented image, the technological equivelant of a rabbit pulled out of a magician’s hat - but he knows it fills Ororo’s soul, as fully as it fills his. So they walk across the veldt - and the silence between them deepens - it is a profound silence, a glorious silence, that speaks far more eloquently than words. Storm looks at Forge and puts her hands to his face. They move closer - and kiss passionately as the technological sun beats down on them.
But outside, the snow still falls, covering Jamie’s grave. A shadow falls over Jamie’s grave as Alex stands over it, telling himself that he couldn’t stay away after all, that he had to come and say goodbye. ‘I don’t know if I believe in an after-life, Jamie. I don’t even know if I believe in God. But I hope my thoughts are reaching your somehow’ Alex thinks to himself. ‘I hope you know how much you meant to me. When they threw us all together. We were so uncomfortable with each other. So edgy and nervous that all we could do half the time was joke. But X-Factor got past that, didn’t we? We came to know each other, respect each other, love each other…like family. And I let me family down’.
Alex frowns, and pauses as he looks ahead through the snow. His thoughts continue, ‘I know you, Madrox. If you were here you’d make some joke…a real groaner…and then tell me it wasn’t my fault. And it’d be so easy to believe that. I could just blame Haven for everything and go off on some insane revenge trip. At the very least, it’d be a great way qto distract myself from the truth. But we both know the truth, don’t we, old buddy? If anybody’s got to pay for what happened to you…it’s me’. Alex tells himself that he never wanted this gig, blowing a bugle and leading the troops off to war, it just isn’t his style - only he believed X-Factor could make a difference in the world - he believed in the dream. Alex reaches into his jacket and pulls a card from his pocket.
‘It’s a good dream, I think. I hope Charles and the others keep trying to make it a reality. But, as far as I’m concerned…the dream is over’. Alex drops the card down onto Jamie’s grave - it’s Alex’s X-Factor ID card. Alex turns and walks away from Jamie’s grave, thinking that if God does exist, he hopes Jamie is with him, he hopes Jamie is at peace. ‘And I hope the two of you can find it in your hearts to forgive me for what I’ve done…because I never will’. And as Alex walks away, a gust of wind picks up his ID card, blowing it into the falling snow….