Annapolis, Maryland, in the middle of the night. A handsome man is dressed in a suit and sits in a chair as he talks to someone on the phone, telling them that with Quicksilver gone and Madrox dead, the whole team has been thrown off balance, so if there is ever a time to hit those two, it is now. ‘But we can’t let Random just walk away. He knows too much. And Polaris - yes, I know, we botched it with her twice before, but - of course. If any of this comes out, I was working alone…without the Department’s knowledge or consent’ the man declares, before standing up and exclaiming ‘Don’t talk to me about duty, Connors! I know my duty! I’ve dedicated my life to this country! I’ve done more in the name of duty than - hello? Hello?’ he calls out, but gets no response. He stares at the phone, before sitting down. ‘Good-bye - Colonel Malone’ an elderly woman remarks as she hangs her phone up.
Elsewhere, in Washington DC, ‘Why are you doing this to me? What have I done wrong? I thought you loved me?’ the purple-gray mass of muck resembling Random exclaims as he slowly takes form: ‘Why are you doing this to me? It’s not fair! I…I’ve been good, haven’t I? Please don’t treat me like this - like - like I’m not even human! I am human! I AM!’ he exclaims before reverting back to a pile of muck - but suddenly, Random wakes from his dream and sits p in bed. ‘I AM!’ he shouts. ‘I am!’
In Georgetown, District of Columbia, Professor Charles Xavier, Dr Moira MacTaggert, Guido Carosella a.k.a. Strong Guy and Rahne “Wolfsbane” Sinclair watch the sky, as lightning crackles and rain pours down. ‘Amazing, isn’t it? A few moments ago, the sky was clear - and now’ Moira begins. ‘Cool’ Guido declares. ‘Aye. That’s one way o’ putting it’ Moira agrees. Rahne remarks that she has heard it said that the rain is a blessing, that it can cleanse the soul and wash away the pain of the past. Guido tells his X-Factor teammate that he is a card-carrying cynic, that he doesn’t go in for mystical mumbo-jumbo, but when he watches her up in the air, even he can believe it.
The “her” that Strong Guy refers to is Ororo “Storm” Munroe, who soars into view as the lightning fades away. Ororo lands by Charles, who remarks that he is neither a mystic, nor a cynic, but he thinks that considering the grief they have been carrying in their hearts, a cleansing rain was what they all needed. He then thanks Ororo, who appears to stare blankly off into space, before replying that there is a larger consciousness that she touches when she becomes one with the elements, and detaching herself from it - reintegrating herself into a more mundane way of seeing - can sometimes prove difficult. ‘Mundane? Ye call a morning like this - mundane!’ Rahne asks as the rain stops, and the sun shines brightly around them, she begins dancing in puddles of rainwater.
Wolfsbane declares that this is as large a consciousness as she could ever want. Moira watches her adopted daughter, whom Guido lifts into the air, as she asks him if he is glad she woke him up and made him some walking in the park with them. ‘What do you mean woke me up? I hadn’t even gone to bed yet!’ Guido replies, before asking if he can get in on this display of happy feet, he throws Rahne onto his shoulders and dances about himself in the mud, ‘I mean, you can’t have a “Ginger” without a “Fred”!’ Guido exclaims. ‘Are ye talking about Fred Astaire, laddie - or Fred Flintstone?’ Rahne asks, before they both burst into laughter, and fall into the mud. ‘Hey - wait a minute - are you insinuating that I’m some kind of…cartoon character?’ Guido asks.
Moira watches and tells her daughter that it is good to see her laughing again. Mud on her face, Rahne looks up and smiles, asking what else she can do. ‘After so many days of weeping - I haven’t got any tears left’ she exclaims. Moira and Rahne walk side-by-side, following Xavier, Storm and Guido, as Moira tells Rahne that she has missed her. ‘How could ye - after the way I spoke t’ye the last time we were together?’ Rahne asks. Guido grins as he thinks to himself ‘I can’t believe it: me…hanging out with Charles Xavier - and I can’t think of a single witty thing to say’.
‘Ye said what was in yuir heart’ Moira tells Rahne, who replies that she had no right to talk to her like that. ‘What I said…it wasn’t even true! I -’ she begins, before Moira interrupts, admitting that Rahne may have overstated things a wee bit, but that truth is truth. ‘And love is love. And I love ye, child - maybe now…more than ever’ Moira remarks, placing a kiss on Rahne’s forehead. ‘And I love ye, Moira MacTaggert - with all muh heart’ Rahne replies.
The rain continues to fall outside the Georgetown home and headquarters of X-Factor. Lorna Dane a.k.a. Polaris is dressed in pyjamas and a dressing gown as she reads some information on a laptop - information about Random and the assignments he has been on. Suddenly, there is a knock at the door. ‘Come on in’ Lorna calls out, and Forge enters, telling Lorna that he does not mean to intrude, but that Random should be here in a few minutes. ‘Today’s the big day, you know’ he reminds her. ‘Uhu-huh. Today we find out who hired him to assassinate me’ Lorna remarks. Forge points out that Lorna doesn’t sound very enthusiastic, to which Polaris replies that she is a little distracted, as she has been doing some checking on their friend the bounty-hunter. ‘Interesting stuff’ she declares.
Forge replies that he knows, as he has seen the files. ‘Then you know Random’s not the stone killer he pretends to be. In all his hunts, he’s only killed three times - and in every case, there was an innocent bystander’s life on the line. The police not only cleared him - they commended his actions’ Lorna remarks, before getting up and gazing out the window, explaining that aside from those incidents, he has taken his prey in quickly, efficiently and with a minimum of violence. Forge asks Lorna how she defined a “a minimum of violence”, and tells her to face it, for if it was her in Random’s place, no lives would have been lost. ‘Maybe’ Lorna replies, before declaring that all he knows is that there is more to Random than what he pretends to be.
‘If you’d seen him there, in Haven’s fortress, so desperate…so afraid. For all this tough talk…he’s wounded. Hiding some deep pain that he’s walled up and hidden away’ Lorna remarks. ‘Aren’t we all’ Forge replies. “Aren’t we all what?” Random asks as he enters the room. ‘You’re late, Random!’ Forge exclaims. ‘What’re you talking about? I said nine-thirty’ Random replies, to which Forge quickly points out that it is nine-thirty-two, adding ‘And how dare you walk into a lady’s room without knocking?’ Random ignores the comment, instead asking Forge what is with him today? ‘Pentagon cut their pony-tail budget or something?’ he jokes, referring to Forge’s pony-tail. Random notices the laptop on Lorna’s desk, ‘Hey check it out: You got one ‘them power books, huh? Mind if I take a -’ he begins, before Lorna walks over and closes the laptop, telling him that she does mind.
‘How come everybody’s so $%&# cheerful around here?’ Random mutters, to which Forge reminds him that it was he who set the rules - that his involvement X-Factor is strictly for the money, and tells him that today it is time to earn. ‘No problem. Before the day’s out, we’ll nail those maggots’ butts to the wall’ Random boasts, but Forge tells him that he will do no such thing, as all he wants is the information, and after that, Congress will initiate a full investigation. ‘Forget it!’ Random declares. ‘I wanna throw the fear of God into those manipulative jerks, and I’m betting Polaris does to’ Random adds. ‘You bet right’ Lorna declares, reminding Forge that these people tried to kill her, so she thinks she deserves the chance to look them in the eyes and tell them what she thinks of them.
‘Fine’ Forge mutters, announcing that he is going with them, as he doesn’t want it turning ugly. ‘Perish the thought’ Random mutters as he and Forge leave the room, while Lorna grabs her uniform. Forge tells Random that he means it, that if he turns this into a mindless slug fest, he gets no cash. Random replies that money isn’t everything, to which Forge adds ‘And no new car’. ‘Now wait a minute’ Random begins, while Lorna announces that she will change and be right there. Cigar in his mouth, Random tells Lorna not to change, to never change, as she is perfect the way she is.
At that moment, thirty-five thousand feet above the Pacific, ‘I don’t know if I did the right thing’ Alex “Havok” Summers thinks to himself as he sits in a commercial plane. ‘Taking off like this…writing Lorna a note…not even talking it over with her…but what is there to talk over? It’s all very simple: Jamie’s dead…and I’m responsible’. Alex tells himself that quitting X-Factor and leaving Washington is for the best - or so he thinks, so he hopes. But the truth is, Alex doesn’t know - which is why he need some quiet time, alone, to sort all of this through. He hopes that Lorna understands, because he is not sure that he understands. With that, a flight attendant announces that they are beginning their descent into Honolulu.
Back in Washington, Random, Forge and Polaris approach their destination as Forge reminds Random that if he so much as sneezes without his say so, he will have that new car crushed into scrap-metal. Random mutters that Forge is starting to sound more like Havok each day, before asking ‘Where is that stiff, anyway’. Lorna explains that Alex is away on personal business, before declaring ‘And mister - you’ll be lucky if the day arrives when you’re half the man that “stiff” is’. Random mutters that Polaris is beautiful when she is angry, before they come to a stop outside a door. ‘This it? “Beltway Travel”?’ Lorna asks. Random replies that it is just a front, that these guys are so top secret that their department has not even got a name, and all he knows about them was that they had something to do with human-mutant affairs. ‘Didn’t you even think to ask?’ Lorna queries.
‘What for?’ Random replies as they enter the office and approach a door marked “president”. Random explains that the only that mattered to him was getting paid. ‘Well, whoever they were, it looks like they’ve deserted ship’ Lorna points out as she looks around the empty office. Random replies that he should have known they would do that, and suggests there may be something in the back office - but before he even opens the door, there is an explosion which knocks them back. ‘Welcome to “Beltway Travel, X-Factor. It’ll be our pleasure to book you a one-way ticket - to your graves!’ Colonel Malone exclaims as he appears through the fire, standing with Avalanche and Commando!
Lorna recognizes the two mutant villains from their days with Freedom Force, X-Factor’s predecessor team, while Random introduces Lorna and Forge to Colonel Jefferson Malone, Avalanche and Commando’s boss, and the man who ordered the “hit” on Polaris. Forge tells Random to back off, as he will handle this. Random protests, but Forge orders him again to back off. Colonel Malone greets Forge and tells him that it has been a while. Forge replies that he is sorry it could not have been longer. ‘You know this jerk?’ Random asks. Forge explains that everyone in the intelligence community knows Colonel Malone - the man who will bend any rule and break any law in the name of “freedom”.
Malone smirks and announces that he will make this simple, ‘I want you three to drop this investigation now. This is a national security matter. It’s none of your concern’ he declares. ‘None of my CONCERN?’ Lorna shouts as she slams Malone into a wall. ‘You tried to KILL me, you animal!’ Polaris reminds him. Malone tells Lorna that he is not at liberty to discuss any of this with her, but that he can assure her that her death was the furthest thing from their minds, before announcing that, at any rate, their project has been shut down. Colonel Malone suggests to Lorna that she unhand him, otherwise his friend Commando, who unlike Random is an extremely loyal employee of the department, will do exactly what she has accused them of wanting to do.
Commando places his weapon against Lorna’s head: ‘Believe me, woman - I wouldn’t hesitate for a second’ he tells her. Forge, Polaris and Random turn and leave the office, with Forge announcing that Malone wins this one, but that the day is coming when he is going to fall - and hard - and no one is going to be able to pick up the pieces. Forge stops and turns around: ‘Y’know, come to think of it - that day’s today!’ he declares as he punches Colonel Malone in the face, knocking him backwards. Random unleashes a blast that knocks Avalanche back, while Polaris magnetically lifts Commando into the air. But Malone kicks Forge in the face and runs off through the gaping hole in the wall: ‘Not now, Forge - not ever!’ he shouts. Random calls Polaris “Baby-Doll” and tells her that it looks like they are going to have the chance to kick some tail after all. Facing Avalanche and Commando, Lorna tells Random that if he calls her “Baby-Doll” one more time, and she will kick his tail as well.
At x-Factor’s Brownstone, Moira and Wolfsbane stand in a holographic representation of Scotland, and Moira exclaims that Forge’s system is amazing, that it makes her feel like she is back home. Rahne asks Moira if this means she won’t have to be going, and that anytime she gets home sick, they can just programme Muir Island. The imaging disappears, and Moira tells Rahne that there is nothing on earth she would like more than to stay here with her, but the Legacy Virus is not taking any time off so neither can she. ‘I canna stop searching for a cure’ Moira declares. Rahne replies that she wouldn’t want her to, and they hug, while Moira points out that there is no law that says she cannot come and visit Muir Isle. ‘First chance I get’ Rahne replies, to which Moira asks her not to take too long.
Outside, Guido is throwing a snow ball between his hands, and is telling Xavier and Storm a joke: ‘And then he says -”that was no evil mutant…that was my wife”!’ Guido bursts into laughter, and sees that neither Storm nor the Professor is laughing. ‘Okay. I’ve got another one’ he announces. ‘Goddess preserve us -!’ Storm mutters, when suddenly, Strong Guy hears a voice in his head: ‘Mister Carosella - please - calm down!’ Guido asks the Professor if that is him, to which Charles replies it is, and he had to do something to stop him. Guido replies, in one quick breath, that he is nervous being around the Professor.
Charles remarks that when Guido first joined X-Factor, he was an unknown commodity, but since studying his contribution to the team these past few months, and spending time with him over the painful last few days, he admits that he is deeply impressed, and that Guido is a fine young man. ‘I am?’ Strong Guy grins. Xavier adds that he is quite proud to have Guido working for his cause and fighting for his dream. ‘You are?’ Strong Guy exclaims. Wolfsbane asks what is not to be proud of as she and Moira join the others outside. ‘Yeah. I guess so. I mean, you ‘n’ me, Professor - we’re two of a kind - handsome, dynamic, bald’. Guido exclaims, while the Professor telepathically shushes him once again. ‘Uh…sorry, sir’ Guido mutters.
Back at “Beltway Travel”, Avalanche rides a “wave” up from the floor to Polaris, telling her that he is sorry about this, but she knows how it is - they are just following orders. ‘Spoken like a true Nazi’ Lorna remarks, while Random approaches Commando: ‘C’mon, punk - let’s do it!’ Random boasts. Commando asks Random whether he watches old Clint Eastwood movies in his spare time, and tells him that the tough talk will not work with him. Commando reveals he read up on Random, and knows how his power only works against other mutants. ‘I may be a mutant, but my ammo isn’t’ Commando explains - but at close range, Random unleashes a blast at Commando, telling him that he hates Eastwood, and is more of a Capra fan. Random punches Commando in the face, adding that the day he needs his “randomizing” power to take out a worthless wimp like Commando is the day he turns in his bandana and retires to the old bounty-hunters home.
There is a massive crash as Avalanche busts through a window, telling Polaris that they should take this outside, as he needs more room to finish her off. Lorna tells Avalanche that she doesn’t understand he and Commando: ‘Following orders of a little tin dictator like Malone - and for what?’ Avalanche replies that it is a weekly pay check, benefits, insurance and a hefty pension, and tells Lorna not to act superior, as they are working for the same government she is. ‘You know bloody well that if Uncle Sam gave you the order to take me out - you’d jump!’ Avalanche exclaims, while Random pushes Commando outside and exclaims ‘Wrong! This babe’s got integrity! Something you two jerks wouldn’t recognize if it bit ya on yer butts!’ ‘Oh…and you would?’ Commando asks, before pointing out that Random would nuke his own grandmother if the price was right.
Avalanche creates a massive hand out of rock and reaches out for Lorna, who surrounds herself in a magnetic force field, while Avalanche declares that as much as he would like to spend hours debating the morality of what they are doing, he is a busy man. ‘So I hope you don’t mind if I bury you beneath a ton of rock and get on with the rest of my day’ he adds, while Lorna tells him that he is certainly welcome to try. Lorna forces the rock back, and tells Avalanche that there is something he doesn’t understand, something Random learned when he tried to take her down - and something those armoured goons Malone sent after her will never forget - that she has had her mind violated and her body possessed, that she has been used and abused with the bet of them - and she keeps coming back.
‘Uh-oh’ Avalanche utters as shards of metal objects begin racing past Polaris, and he is knocked to the ground, pinned down by metal, while Lorna hovers over him, ‘Now what chance do you think a pathetic nobody like you has of beating me?’ Polaris demands. ‘Nice going, Polaris. Using your magnetic powers to pin me down…but once I get myself free of this junk…and we’ll just see!’ he exclaims, when suddenly, a helicopter flies low overhead, and a voice booms ‘Commando…Avalanche…this is Connors…cease and desist! I repeat - cease and desist!’ and everyone turns their attention to the chopper.
Nearby ‘Where are you running to, Malone? There’s no place to go!’ Forge exclaims as he chases Jefferson across a rooftop. Forge points out that with Random’s testimony, thee congressional investigation will go ahead with or without him - ‘But your department’s going down!’ Forge declares as he lunges and grabs Malone around his ankles, tackling him, Forge then grabs Malone by his wrists, and tells Malone to be a man, to face the investigation. ‘You’re many things, Colonel - but you’re no coward’ Forge declares. ‘You’re right. I’m not. You can let go of me, Forge. I’m done running’ Malone replies. Forge complies and releases Malone, who stares out over the city,
Malone declares that he has given his life for this city, to this nation, and no matter what Forge - or anyone - may think of him, he is not ashamed of anything he has done. ‘I’m proud’ Jefferson exclaims, announcing that if he bent the rules, he did it for the right reasons - for his country. Jefferson pulls out a gun from his jacket and declares that things are changing. ‘New world order and all that - and maybe the time for me like me - has passed’. ‘Malone - NO!’ Forge shouts, but he’s too late, as Malone shoots himself, and collapses.
Suddenly, the chopper arrives overhead, and Polaris calls out to Forge, asking him if he is okay. Forge replies that he has been better and asks Lorna what is going on, while Random, Avalanche and Commando follow her. ‘Who’s that in the chopper?’ Random asks as the helicopter lands, and Commando helps out an elderly woman, who introduces herself as Beatrice Connors, and announces that she runs the department. ‘The Polaris Project was my responsibility…and so was he’ she remarks, referring to Malone. “The Polaris Project”? Forge asks. Connors explains that it was all part of the Magneto Protocols, that it was decided, by her superiors, that they needed a fail-safe device against Magnus - in case their other lines of defense failed. ‘And that device -’ she begins. ‘- was me’ Lorna concludes. ‘Exactly’ the old woman confirms.
Connors claims that it was their intention to approach Polaris directly, to work with her, as partners, on a plan, only the Colonel, as usual, had other ideas. Beatrice explains that Malone was a mutant-hater, that he was sure Polaris couldn’t be trusted, as his plan was first to use Random, to test the limits of Lorna’s powers, and then to capture her, brainwash her and literally turn her into a mindless weapon which he could use however he saw fit. ‘But you found him out?’ Lorna asks. The chopper pilots place Malone’s body into the helicopter, while Beatrice confirms that, eventually, Malone as found out, and this was one time Malone’s friends-in-high-places were not going to be able to save him. ‘He was looking at prison…disgrace. And he snapped’ Beatrice explains.
Beatrice touches Polaris on her arm and tells her that she is appalled and sickened by the way that she was used. ‘I know that nothing I can say can ever make up for the pain Colonel Malone caused you. But I promise that the department will cooperate in every way with the congressional investigation’ she declares. Connors calls out to Avalanche and Commando, telling them to come with her. ‘Wait a minute! They just…walk away?’ Lorna asks. Avalanche replies that, like he said before, they were just doing their jobs, and it was nothing personal. ‘Nothing personal’ Lorna mutters as the chopper takes off.
Two days later, Random, in his new car, pulls up outside an airport, and Lorna, in the passenger seat, thanks Random for helping them out with the SHIELD assignment. Random replies that it was a chance to make a few extra bucks. ‘And taking me to the airport tonight’ Lorna adds. Random tells her that he figures he can bill Forge for the gas money, before asking Lorna if she is sure she wants to go running after the boy scout. ‘I mean, there’s gotta be a few dozen guys lining up for a chance with you -’ Random begins, but Lorna declares that a few hundred guys would not matter.
Lorna tells Random that she loves Alex, that he is the finest man she has ever known. ‘And I think you respect him almost as much as I do’ Lorna adds. ‘Yeah, right. I’ve got half a mind to take Forge up on his offer to join the team - just to pout that yutz Summers in his place’. ‘So why don’t you?’ Polaris asks. ‘What?’ Random replies. ‘Join the team’ Lorna tells him. Random blows smoke rings and looks sideways, telling Polaris that there is not enough money in Fort Knox to get him to sign on for a regular gig with the losers in X-Factor.
‘When are you going to admit it, Random?’ Lorna asks. ‘Admit what?’ Random declares. ‘That you’re not just in this for the money. That, in your own way, you’re as decent…as much a “boy scout” as Alex’. But Random tells her that she is nuts. Lorna gets out and stands outside the car, before Random admits to her that he didn’t just do it for the money. ‘I did it for the car too!’ he boasts, grinning. ‘Whatever you say’ Lorna mutters as she leans back into the car, and kisses Random on the cheek, causing him to smile even more. Lorna turns away, ‘Thanks for the lift, sailor. See you around’ Lorna calls out as she walks to the terminal. ‘You can count on it - baby-doll’ Random replies.
An announcement comes over the loud-speaker, informing passengers of the next flight to Honolulu, while Lorna hurries off to the gate, and Random fades from her mind, her thoughts are focused now on Alex, and she doesn’t notice the matronly woman sitting in the corner, studying her ever move - hiding behind the latest edition of the Washington Post, it’s front page a feature on the Polaris Plot. Beatrice Connors looks away from the paper and nervously fingers the strange, choker-like old necklace with an odd pendant she wears - and it vibrates - like a living thing - in response. It vibrates with anger…vibrates with spite…vibrates with…Malice….