One hour ago, Forge and Mystique’s vehicle crashed into the Potomac River. Within fifteen minutes, half a dozen response teams were searching the wreckage for signs of life… or death. Forge has just handed in X-Factor’s resignation to Val Cooper’s boss, Bowser, and Bowser’s keen to discover exactly what happened here.
He is concerned because his superiors want answers, and Val Cooper isn’t helping matters by denying any knowledge of this. An agent informs Val that her transport has arrived to take her to Fall’s Edge, to survey the damage there. She asks if the armed troopers she requested are ready. They are. Two of them stand nearby, waiting for Val. She tells Bowser that she’s heading off while he supervises the dragging of the river, but Bowser seems to sense her urgency to leave, and decides to tag along.
A short time later, their craft approaches Fall’s Edge, where an explosion recently vaporized the place; taking several members of X-Factor with it. Bowser didn’t realize Forge kept the place so secluded. Val explains that he liked to keep it away from prying eyes for safety reasons. Looks like it wasn’t enough, replies Bowser. He asks who they lost in the explosion. Val informs him that Sabretooth, Polaris and Wildchild were lost; her friends. Bowser regrets that the government lost a valuable fighting force. Val reminds him they were people. Bowser just thinks of them as mutants. Val’s apparent emotional attachment to the team isn’t lost on Bowser, but he simply doesn’t care.
Bowser asks where the surveillance team is, which was present when the explosion occurred. Two guys appear, and show him their I.D. They show him footage of the explosion, explaining that, when it happened, X-Factor were barely inside. No one could have survived that. Val says they will decide that.
She asks if a forensics team has been on the scene yet. The surveillance guy replies that they were there within fifteen minutes of the explosion. “Any, er… remains?” asks Val. He tells her there were none. Right now they’re trying to locate the source of the explosion. Bowser cuts in and asks if anyone has ventured into the rest of the compound. They haven’t. They were ordered only to secure the area and determine the cause of the blast. Bowser informs him that their orders have been changed. He should assemble a recon team. They’re going in!
Val doesn’t think it’s such a good idea, but Bowser is intent on securing Forge’s technology immediately. Delays are unacceptable. Val suggests suiting up in protective gear. There’s no knowing what they’re going to find in there.
At a small government hospital located on the outskirts of the city, two Jamie Madrox dupes have arrived to see Guido Carosella, better known as Strong Guy. The receptionist informs them that no visitors are allowed, so the Jamie’s launch into an argument that distracts the receptionist long enough for the real Jamie to slip past. He reckons Beavis and Butthead couldn’t have done better.
Jamie opens a door, and finds his buddy lying in a coma. He is in some kind of advanced recuperative pod filled with condensation. Jamie makes light of the situation in the only way he knows how. He settles beside Guido, and begins to talk, knowing that he’s not going to get a response. He asks if Guido’s telling him a guy can’t die without his best friend going off and having a heart-attack. And he did it saving the world from aliens. Come on! Jamie adds. Did you really think they’d be able to keep him down? Not the Multiple Man. Lives are like jokes to him. He bows his head, and tells Guido he has a million of ‘em. But best friends - he’s only got one of those. He asks what’s happened to them both.
Suddenly, a voice from behind disturbs Jamie. It’s Havok, and he’s in costume. “The same thing that’s happened to us all, Jamie… life.” Jamie’s expression turns to one of anger, and he slams his fist down to create another dupe. Alex asks him not to do that. He’d rather keep this between him and just one of Jamie. He saved Jamie’s life once, he reminds him. He owes him.
A team of six agents, all covered from head to toe in their protective costumes, lead Bowser and Val Cooper into the sprawling complex. Bowser seems surprised that Val appears to be so afraid to be coming to the home of her old mutant friends. Val replies that it’s with good reason. It’s because she’s frightened. Under the best of circumstances, Forge was an extremely suspicious and thoroughly security-conscious individual. From the way he broke his ties to the government, she’d say that these aren’t the best of circumstances.
She asks Bowser to leave. She and the troops can handle this. Bowser replies nonsense! He was a field operative long before he was stuck behind a desk. He will be the one who puts his hands on Forge’s technology. From out of nowhere, one of the guards is caught from behind by a booby-trap. Several spikes shoot from the floor and pierce him, killing him instantly. As blood drips out of the costume, Val turns to Bowser and asks if that’s what he wants. The man just lost his life! Forge was prepared for this kind of intrusion. They’re turning back now. Bowser laughs it off, clearly not caring less for the men in his command. He says the agent laid down his life in the service of his country. It’s what he signed up to do. This only whets his appetite, and he relishes any further surprises that Forge might have in store.
The next one isn’t long in coming, as a second agent disappears down an opening in the floor. They fall into a dark pit, screaming. Val says it’s suicide to continue, but Bowser is only thinking of the rewards. He reminds Val that for years, Forge has refused to share his new inventions with their government. They shall be theirs. He orders her to lead on. One of the agents opens a doorway and informs Bowser that they’ve found the lab; but, there is what appears to be a sophisticated bomb in the middle of the room. Bowser orders them to neutralize it, and before Val can rescind the order, an explosion vaporizes one of them and leaves only the boots of the second.
Once again, Val tells Bowser that this insanity is over. She points her weapon at Bowser’s head. Bowser tells his troopers that if Doctor Cooper does not immediately regain her composure and lower her weapon, they can take her out. Val submits for now, and leads on. They enter a vast chamber filled with myriad pipes and machinery. Bowser is pleased that both they and two troopers arrived unscathed. Now, he can explore all the little deadly treasures Forge left behind - treasures that will be used by responsible people in their country in the interests of national security. “Don’t make me vomit,” replies Val.
Bowser notices his two troopers checking out a control panel nearby. He asks what they’re doing. One of them informs him that they’re containing a potentially hazardous situation. There are several canisters marked with biohazard labels. One of them appears to have a small leak, but they believe they have it under control. Suddenly, a green gas hisses out of the pipe, and Bowser shouts at them, asking what they’ve done. One of the guards’ costumes begins to melt away, and their skin begins to bubble and corrode from contact with the gas. “Help…me…” they cry. Bowser is horrified, and Val tells him she warned him not to do this. How many more have to die before he’s satisfied? The troopers need instant medical attention.
Bowser replies that she’s insane. As the trooper’s face becomes nothing more than a skeleton, the second loses his hand. Bowser says there’s nothing more they can do for them now. He orders Val to get him to safety. Ushering him out of the room, Val tells him they can’t just leave him there, but Bowser says that the toxins will escape. They have no choice. Val gets on the radio and puts out a biohazard level seven emergency. She orders all units pulled back from the compound and an electrostatic dome set up immediately. They’re shutting the place down; and God help them all.
Three Jamie’s surround Havok. He can’t believe Alex feels he owes him. “You tried to save my life?” he asks, incredulously. “That’s not the way I remember it, Havok.” His recollection is that Alex turned him over to Haven and let her kill him. Alex replies that Jamie was dying. The Legacy Virus had taken him to death’s door. As leader of X-Factor, he felt responsible for Jamie. Haven offered Alex a possibility of saving him. He took a chance. Jamie asks to be forgiven for not getting down on his knees right now.
Alex doesn’t need the attitude just now. He didn’t come here to talk about the past. He’s spent way too much time there recently. He needs Jamie for the future. “The Brotherhood needs you!” Jamie asks if ‘Evil Mutants’ was copyrighted or something. Alex tries to continue and explain, but Jamie is having none of it. Suddenly, two guards crash through the door bearing weapons. Alex wishes Jamie would have listened to him.
The machinery that operates the electrostatic dome is in place, and Val only needs to give the order for it to be switched on. Through the green mists steps one of the guards; the one whose hand dropped off earlier. He calls for help, and Val orders a team in to retrieve him. Bowser then steps up and rescinds the order, and commands Val to hit the switch. An electrostatic dome sizzles into life, covering the entire Fall’s Edge compound in a wall of energy, impermeable to the gas inside.
Inside the dome, all is not quite what it seems. The skeleton comes back to life, and grabs the other trooper’s boot. The skeleton is Mystique, making full use of her morphing abilities. The trooper with the missing hand is Forge, who had simply dropped his bionic hand from his arm to give off the right effect. She asks what all the ‘walking dead’ garbage was. What was he thinking? What if they had tried getting him out? Forge replies that he was simply pushing the envelope. He knew they would not enter the dome under any circumstances. Val was aware of what he had planned. She knew Bowser wouldn’t let her come after him. Now, he adds, at least X-Factor can operate, for a little while anyway, without the government looking over their shoulders.
The rest of the troopers arrive through the ‘harmless’ green mist. It’s Sabretooth, Wildchild, Shard and Polaris. Sabretooth asks why they went through all this. Polaris tells him they needed a low profile, and they’ve got exactly that. They can start moving on operations of their own. Kyle wonders how, if they’re outlaws, does that separate them from the Brotherhood. Shard replies that it’s a temporary situation at best. She and Forge have already begun drawing up plans to model X-Factor after the X.S.E. They’ll be operating with government sanction soon enough. They’re going to welcome them back with open arms and let them call their own shots. They just don’t know that yet.
Forge tells them that Shard’s right. He has no intention of keeping them underground for long - but they’re not going outlaw. They have an opportunity to show the world that mutants can police their own, and he hopes they can live up to the task laid out before them. Polaris asks if they’re going to track down Trevor Chase first. Forge replies that they are. He wants to know who kidnapped him, and why. He’s seen too many mutants get killed and too many others kill. It’s up to them to put an end to it all.
Alex has floored the guards with one of his blasts. Jamie looks around, and asks Alex what he’s done. “And you wonder why I won’t join your little Brotherhood?” Alex explains that they’re not dead; just unconscious. Jamie tells him to leave. He’s making him sick. Alex asks Fatale to open a portal, and a circular hole appears in space behind him with Fatale and Dark Beast peering through, grinning. Before Alex departs, he tells Jamie he’s going to have to make a choice sooner or later. The time is coming when mutants are going to be on one side or the other. He hopes when is does, Jamie will stand with the Brotherhood - and not against it.
All Jamie wants is a chance at a normal life. He doesn’t want to be part of any super group. He just wants to be left alone. He leaves Guido’s side, and asks him to take care of himself, hoping he gets around to waking up real soon. That goes for the rest of them.
In the darkness, Guido’s fingers make the subtlest of movements.