Marvel Girl’s dream / flashback:
Her name is Jean Grey and she is about to “die” again. Once more, she pilots a crippled space shuttle through a solar storm. Again, her telekinetic shields give way and she is about to die, when an alien force of infinite magnitude joins her. The being offers her the gift of life. Its energies envelop her, as she hasn’t the strength to resist. Again, Jean sees the entity take her form, become the Phoenix, while she is put into stasis. And all she can do is scream.
With the scream still on her lips, Jean awakes from her nightmare, finding herself at X-Factor headquarters and praying for it to be over. She wonders how many more nights this nightmare is going to haunt her. As she gets up, she admits to herself how lost she feels. Phoenix took everything from her, living her life. Sometimes, she feels so angry, she thinks she’ll go crazy. And what’s worse, so much has changed since then. Professor Xavier, her mentor, is gone. And Scott … she can only imagine what he is going through, but she also realizes that there is something about him the others aren’t telling her.
She was so happy at first, seeing Warren and Scott. She believed everything could go back to the way it used to be. But she was wrong. Mutant hysteria is running rampant and Professor Xavier’s school is now in the hands of Magneto. Jean couldn’t accept that and felt it was more important than ever that the original X-Men continue Xavier’s work. But Scott hesitated in joining them. The only time he seemed like the old Scott was in combat.
Their cover of operating publicly as mutant bounty hunters, while they are actually looking of mutants to help them, has been largely successful so far, Jean muses. And, as X-Factor, they are continuing Xavier’s dream. So why does she feel so alone?
Meanwhile, in another part of the building, Angel and Cyclops are having a talk. Angel tells Scott he knows that his friend is in a tough situation, while Scott asks him to butt out. Angel urges him that it is time for him to speak to Madelyne. He has a family in Alaska. He knows that, Scott snaps. Madelyne and the baby are constantly on his mind but his life’s been turned upside down since Jean’s return. He doesn’t know what to do.
Angel reminds Scott of his commitment to Maddie and insists that he has to tell both women the truth. He doesn’t even know what to explain, Scott fumes, as he doesn’t understand the situation himself. Jean was his first love. She gave his life meaning. And Madelyne… he breaks off, claiming that a playboy like Warren wouldn’t understand. Warren angrily walks off, excusing himself with some administrative duties.
Outside, he meets their PR director and his college buddy, Cameron Hodge. Hodge reports that Bobby and Hank haven’t returned yet. Apartment hunting in New York is akin to a second career. He wanted to speak to Warren about these reports, though. They are getting an extraordinary response to their X-Factor toll-free number, but about 46 percent of them are like this… Warren peruses the report sheets with examples like Ronald Reagan is a mutant and I can prove it. It’s going to be a pain in the butt, sorting out the cranks, Warren realizes. That’s what he’s here for, Hodge tells Warren, assuring him that X-Factor will accomplish what they set out to do.
Iceman and Beast, in the meantime, make their way through the rain soaked streets of New York’s East Village on the hunt for an affordable apartment. Neither of them is interested in living in the X-Factor complex. No chance of a private life there. Neither of them is aware of them being watched by a blond man in a trenchcoat either. When Bobby asks what they’re doing in this street, anyway, Hank explains that his old girlfriend, Vera, is back in town and they are paying her a visit. As they enter the building, Bobby wonders what Hank is seeing in that conservative librarian type anyway.
The Vera who expects them is anything but conservative, though. With her hair half-shaved off and dressed in baggy, bohemian clothes Vera is utterly transformed She greets Beast, who has no idea what has happened to her, while Bobby decides that he is going to enjoy this. Vera cheerfully tells them she recently enrolled in some classes at Columbia in popular culture and, ever since… Serving them some tea, she confides in “Hanky-poo” that Elvis Costello has changed her life.
Back at X-Factor headquarters, Marvel Girl and Cyclops, dressed in safety suits, are trying to instruct their new charge, Rusty Collins, in the use of his pyrokinetic powers. Jean orders the nervous youth to concentrate on one of the pylons and cause it to combust. Eager to please, Jean Rusty focuses and succeeds. Jean commends him and wants him to start the next exercise: she levitates the second pylon and asks him to build a bridge between them. Rusty’s unsure but, at Jean’s urging, he complies. Only this time, he misses and burns the computer consoles instead. Cyclops extinguishes the fire while Jean assures the boy that no harm’s done, but his self-confidence is shot. He shouts that he’s never going to get it right and walks away. Scott tells Jean that she’s driving Rusty too hard and the fact that he has a tremendous crush on her isn’t helping. Professor Xavier always stressed patience. Jean asks Scott if they can talk. She wants to know what’s wrong. Now it’s Scott’s turn to walk away. He excuses himself, claiming he has to check on Rusty.
Meanwhile, outside Vera’s apartment, the mysterious stranger makes his move. He enters the building, suddenly shrinks and enters Vera’s apartment in his diminished size.
Vera, in the meantime, is telling the boys about her new bookstore on St. Mark’s Street. It specializes in left-wing music and literature from South America. She’s sure it will catch on very soon now. Loving his buddy’s obvious discomfort, Bobby asks Vera if she’s got any Mercedes Sosa albums. She’s terrific at expressing the plight of the peasant underclass under totalitarian oppression. Hank decides he’s going insane, while Vera promises Bobby that he’ll get a discount. Bobby suggests they check out the store when, suddenly, the ground is shaking.
The stranger now grows to giant size smashes the wall and attacks, introducing himself as “Tower.” Hank asks Bobby to protect Vera while he deals with Tower. Tower topples the couch Vera and Bobby are sitting on and Hank attacks him from the back. The battle is brutal but short and Tower wins, taking his prize – the unconscious Beast - with him, after covering him with a sheet. Outside, a car is waiting for him and Towers stows Beast away in the back of the car. The sour driver warns Tower to pray that he has not done McCoy any permanent injury. If all goes well, he adds ominously, Tower will get what’s coming to him.
Back at X-Factor HQ, Scott broods on his mistakes. He didn’t mean to leave Jean like that. He didn’t mean to snap at Warren either. Face it, he tells himself caustically, he doesn’t mean to do a lot of things, but he always seems to end up hurting the ones he loves. He decides that Warren was right. He has to call Maddy. But he finds that Madelyne's number has been disconnected. Shocked, he wonders what he has done. He has lost her and his son. Was he really so stupid to think that she’d wait for him? It’s his fault! His and his stupid, mutant power always keeping him from living a normal life and he hates it, he shouts, as he lashes out with his optic blast at the telephone. A moment later, Angel calls all team members to report to the garage. He hates it, Cyclops repeats quietly.
An hour later at Vera’s apartment building, Scott, Jean and Warren have arrived in their X-Factor togs. While Scott debriefs Vera and Bobby, Warren and Jean ask the neighbor for more information. No real luck, though, as none of them have seen Tower either walk in or out. They all turn to Scott, asking what their next move is. Cyclops decides that they’ll start monitoring police reports and the like and pray for a lead.
Outside Atlanta, Georgia, stands Ryan bio-chemical laboratories, a top-security research facility. Deep below the surface lies a maximum-security research lab. Today, it serves as home to a hostage mutant and his incarcerator. Impatiently, the bald man asks his prisoner to wake up. It’s time they had a little chat. The shackled Hank exclaims, as he sees his captor, “Isn’t he dead?” The other man, Maddicks, is satisfied that Hank remembers him from the days they both worked at the Brand Corporation. Fortunately, he continues, the reports of his death have been greatly exaggerated. He needs Hank’s help in a monumental project. He is one of the finest bio-chemical scientists he’s ever worked with. Impatiently, Hank tells Maddicks to come of it. There are hundreds of eminently qualified biochemists in the field. Why kidnap him?
His reasons are twofold, Maddicks admits. Years ago, Hank successfully isolated the chemical source of mutation. His present physical state is a result of that experiment. The other reason will be revealed in time.
Hank coolly points out that Maddicks has never been he epitome of scientific ethics. Not to mention hat he is partially responsible for Hank’s current state. He doesn’t really expect him to cooperate, does he? Besides, he has associates who will save him. Maddicks laughs and tells Hank that they will never find him, as he is about to eliminate the last clue to his whereabouts.
Maddicks enters his study. The only danger of discovery lies with the mutant mercenary, Tower. He might talk if McCoy’s friends find him, so he needs to be eliminated. Maddicks takes the receiver and makes a call to a certain mutant hunting operation.
Two hours later on the X-Factor jet, the team discuss the anonymous phone call. It seems too convenient, Warren argues. Cyclops points out that the description matched Bobby’s exactly. It’s obviously Tower. Iceman adds that it might be a trap and Jean worries if the caller is aware of the connection between X-Factor and the X-Men. Warren reassuringly pats her shoulder, reminding her that they are not going in as X-Factor. If it is a trap, their cover won’t be blown. Jean agrees but she’s so worried about Hank …
In the meantime, Hank suggests Maddicks release him and they can forget about this. Maddicks replies that he thought Hank might get a little bored, so he brought him something to pass the time – the notes on his experiment. Hank tells him to go to hell. Unimpressed, Maddicks leaves and calls out the name Arthur, referring to a young boy with a grotesquely huge head- obviously a mutant and Maddicks’s son. His father tells him that he needs his help and kindly adds that this will all be over soon.
Later that evening, the X-Factor members station themselves across a rundown bungalow in an Atlanta suburb. They finally see Tower in one of the rooms, busying himself with packing. Cyclops orders them into battle togs; they are going in.
Meanwhile, Hank is reading Maddicks’ notes, mentally making corrections. His erstwhile colleague has never been much of a mathematician, he scoffs. He is unaware that in the next room, Arthur is using his mutant power to pick Hank’s brain and project his thoughts, enabling his father to complete the experiment. A little while later, he tells his son to stop. They have now obtained the means of removing Arthur’s genetic curse. All they need is a test subject.
At that moment, X-Factor attacks Tower. The surprised mercenary shoots up to his fifteen-foot size and makes the heroes fall by stomping and thus sending shockwaves through the ground.
Maddicks goes to Hank’s cell, thanking him for his services rendered. Confused, Hank asks what he is talking about, as Maddicks continues that there is one last duty to perform. He takes a gun and fires.
In the meantime, the members of X-Factor are trying to keep the furious giant off-balance. However, he manages to take out Iceman and Marvel Girl. Cyclops has had it. Calmly, he orders Tower to tell him what has happened to Beast or he’ll take his head off. Tower yells at him to blow it out of his visor. Exactly his intention, Cyclops retorts and hits him with an optic blast to his face. It’s enough to knock the villain out and the others soon revive. Warren asks Cyclops what he’s been thinking. An unconscious man can’t give them information. Cyclops secretly agrees, wondering why he’s let his emotions take over.
Some distance away, Maddicks has fastened McCoy to a table. Hank stutters that he’s feeling sick. A side effect of the chemotherapy, Maddicks explain. Unfortunate but necessary, if the radiation treatment is to be effective. Why is he doing this, Hank demands. He has his reasons, Maddicks retorts and adds that they are going to make medical history. If he survives, Hank will be the first mutant in history to make he regression from Homo Superior to a normal human being. Radiation floods the chamber and Hank begins to scream.
In the meantime, Tower is regaining his senses and, this time, he’s more amenable. He is getting the picture now; he’s been set up to take a fall. He knows Cyclops and the others are not cops, so, if they want Beast, they are going to have to make a deal…
It may be too late for that, though, as Hank is going into cardiac arrest and Maddicks is desperately trying to revive him.