On the Strip in Las Vegas, Longshot finds himself lifted off of his feet by a hulking, undead Norse warrior. Snarling through his necrotic teeth (lacking lips to cover them), the Viking informs Longshot that his activities have interested their mistress. He’s to consider himself duly honored and to come without delay.
Not panicked, Longshot produces two handfuls of his throwing knives and retorts to the undead warrior that he doesn’t appreciate the tone of his voice…or the stench of his breath. So, he’d prefer a little distance from both! With that, he slashes at the Viking’s hand, severing it and causing the zombie to release him. Before Longshot can return to his feet and press his advantage, he’s held back by Madrox, who informs him that they’ve got reinforcements coming. Then turning his voice to a whisper, Madrox adds that, besides, they want the Vikings to take them with them, remember?
A short distance away, the undead Viking nonchalantly reattaches his severed hand. Noting to Longshot that that was a very foolish thing to do, he then adds that there was some bravery to it as well. When the warrior then states that he applauds his foe’s courage, Longshot quips that it’s hard to applaud with one hand. Lowering his voice even further, Madrox tells Longshot not to get cute. Just be appreciative. Besides, the warrior continues, their mistress ordered them not to harm him. Still… some penalty must be invoked. So they’ll settle for killing Longshot’s companions. Grinning at this, Longshot retorts that he appreciates that. Standing just behind Longshot, Madrox raises his hand to his face in exasperation.
The time for words passed, the Viking warrior orders his cohort to dispose of the fallen one, to which the subordinate replies “with pleasure.” However, as he lifts his massive hammer to deal the killing blow to the unconscious Shatterstar, Madrox yells for him to wait. When the warrior seems to ignore the request, Madrox yells it again, followed by Longshot’s sarcastic quip that they’d
“appreciate it” if he did.
However, just as the hammer comes crashing down, the very conscious Shatterstar rolls out of the way. Within a heartbeat, Shatterstar is back on his feet, the dual blades under each of his sleeves unsheathed and slicing off the legs of his attacker. Unfortunately for Shatterstar, the other Viking leaps into action, kicking him off of his feet before Shatterstar can move. The ensuing blow knocks Shatterstar into Madrox, creating several dupes. Rather than surprise or anger, the two other Vikings rejoice at the odds of six against two, thanking Odin that the odds are remotely interesting.
Watching all of this with frustration, Madrox silently notes that all this is just to find one weirdo troll who they met for five minutes. He hopes when they find hin, he appreciates everything they’re going through.
Elsewhere, Pip the Trollk curses Madrox, hoping that he burns in hell. Hearing this, a voice orders him not to let his thoughts wander. He’s supposed to be a jester. One year to spend in his old, non-trollish body, there in Las Vegas. In exchange for which he would be her jester permanently. But it wasn’t enough, she then yells when he begins to object. Who enchanted the pendant, she demands. Who arranged it so that, in addition to maintaining his more pleasing form… it hid him from her. And what did he want in exchange? When Pip replies “nothing,” swearing to God, he is told by Hela, Norse goddess of the dead, that she is the only god he should be swearing to.
With this, Pip – who is hanging upside down – finds the flames from the brazier below growing higher and higher toward him. However, it is the iron poker held by another troll which causes Pip to scream and to curse. Reclining on a couch a short distance away, Hela is paradoxically clad in both her resplendently elaborate mask but in green wrappings which cover very little of her skin. Noting Pip’s cursing, Hela reminds him that she said “swearing to” not “swearing at.” When Pip then demands to be let down, calling her a “frigid floozy,” Hela quips that the two terms would seem to contradict each other. Still… “frigid” is indeed the clime in which she spent more than her share of lifetimes, but she’s come to prefer the desert warmth, thank you. She then adds that Pip should be relieved that she’s being this generous. She could be flaying the skin from his body right now and…
Spying a raven flying through the stone window, Hela stops in midsentence and greets it. As it lands on her finger, she asks it what distresses it so? Inaudibly to the rest of the room, the bird seems to whisper into the ear of Hela, who asks “You don’t say? You don’t say? You don’t say!” Still hanging above the brazier, Pip asks for her to let him guess: he didn’t say. Ignoring the attempt at humor, Hela replies that, oh no, he was quite forthcoming. Mr. Madrox and his associates, whom Pip has to thank for his return to her, is proving an impediment to her will. She’ll just have to see to it that her will is enforced. Asked by Pip if she’s gonna kill him, Hela replies of course. “Good,” Pip grins devilishly.
Back on the Las Vegas Strip, one of the undead Viking warriors finds himself accosted by five Madri, all of which hack away at his rotting flesh. Asking what madness is this, the warrior notes that there keeps being more of them! And more! To this, the dupes retort, each in a differing personality: “What part of Multiple Man doesn’t he get?” “Ew! Ew! He’s all slimy and stuff!” “I simple wish you’d listen to reason over the lack of efficacy of your approach.” “Lie down and die, zombie freak!”
Watching all of this from a safe distance, the prime Madrox notes to himself that this is rapidly spinning out of control. Maybe that Doctor Foster was right. Getting Hela’s attention here in Vegas was about the last thing they wanted to do. Turning his attention next to Shatterstar, who is fighting one-on-one against the other standing zombie, his twin wrist blades trading blows against the broadsword of the Viking, Madrox cannot help but note that it looks like he’s having the time of his life.
However, from behind, Shatterstar’s previously felled foe comes running, announcing that he has managed to pull himself back together. Luckily for Shatterstar, help arrives in the form of a sonic scream, which shatters the zombie warrior’s weapon. The source of the scream is the airborne Banshee, who is followed by the running Guido and Darwin.
A safe distance away, an onlooker asks Layla what’s going on down there. Street performers or something, his wife guesses. Standing with her arms crossed and working on blowing a bubble gum bubble, Layla replies more in the “on something” category, actually. Then asked when the volcano is supposed to go off, she replies pretty soon, she thinks. The man continues to talk about the volcano show and its recent renovations but finds himself interrupted by Layla, who tells him to get close to her. Very close. Incredulous, the baby-holding wife asks Layla if she’s hitting on her husband; she’s standing right there. To this, Layla instructs her to get close too. Now. A moment later, the volcano erupts and the woman clutches her baby even closer as flames strike and ignite the baby’s empty stroller.
Clutching at the husband and wife, Layla brings them closer to her. A moment later, the foursome is surrounded by a spherical forcefield, which protects its occupants from the volcano’s ejecta and magma. At the eye of the volcanic storm, Layla laments the things you have to do to save people’s lives sometimes. When the cowering couple wonders what is happening, Layla ask if they ever read “the Last Unicorn.” Receiving a negative, she tells them never to run from something immortal. It attracts their attention; so stay perfectly still no matter what they see.
As if on cue, a cadre if undead Viking warriors emerge from the newly created volcano. For Hela! For Niffleheim! As they depart, the husband asks what Niffleheim is, to which Layla replies a Swedish black metal band. When the wife notes that it was real lava and that they could have been killed, Layla shrugs and suggests they go argue with Swedes.
Back at the fight, Shatterstar finds that his Viking foe is more than a match. Snarling as he backhands his foe, the Viking mocks that, while Shatterstar fights well for a soon-to-be corpse, he has centuries more experience and that he’ll find that…
Aw shaddup! Guido quips as he shoves a palm into the face of the zombie, shattering its whole head. Towering over the now-inert corpse, Guido quips that that’s so much for dead guys telling no tales. This one wouldn’t shut up. Shatterstar begins to object that he needed no help to dispatch his adversary, however a rumbling draws his attention, as well as the attention of Madrox. To the horror of all, they see a horde of heavily armed undead Viking warriors marching toward them. Man, Madrox thinks to himself, we’re gonna need a lot more dupes.
“Get ready!” Madrox yells. All smiles, Shatterstar proclaims that he was born ready. When Guido notes that he may die ready too, Shatterstsar quips “not today.” Nearby, Banshee surprises Madrox by taking his hand into hers. A look of regret on her face, she tells him that she’s sorry about the finger. The one she broke, she means. Madrox immediately accepts, adding that she could have broken worse. She considered it, she retorts. Steeling himself as well, Darwin instructs Shatterstar to take the five hundred on the right. To this, Shatterstar counters that there’s three-hundred ninety-one on the right. Greaaaaaat, Darwin sarcastically replies.
Just as the horde is almost in striking distance, Madrox decides to gamble. Yelling at the top of his lungs, he proclaims a warning for the warriors to lay down their arms before they kick them back to hell! To the surprise of all, the host of undead stops in its tracks and suddenly all fall to one knee. Just as Madrox thinks to himself that he can’t believe it worked, Guido voices the same thought. Rather than admit it, Madrox crosses his arms and states that he never doubted it for a second.
However, the reason for the Vikings’ actions makes more sense when X-Factor spies the arrival of the mighty Thor, who is descending from above. Noting the majesty of his arrival, Madrox recalls that, for the longest time, he wondered how Thor and his pals, in this day and age, could possibly be considered “gods.” After all, they live in a world filled with being who are immortal, or have godlike powers, so how do they rate? That’s what you think right up until the presence of one of them. They you totally get it.
Once more with his boots on the ground, Thor addresses Madrox and asks what passing strange have they here? What transgression have you committed, he asks Madrox, that the hordes of Hela are taking issue him. Ignoring the immediate question, Madrox notes to Thor that he’s not saying “thee” or “thou” and wonders what’s with that. He is a moody god, a scowling Thor replies. It depends upon his mood. Attempting to interject, a smiling Shatterstar begins to introduce himself, only to be pushed away by Madrox, who tells him not to start.
Returning to Thor, Madrox explains that Hela’s got a guy prisoner and he’s there partially because of them. Actually, Longshot interjects, entirely because of Madrox. Whatever, Madrox rejoins. The point is, they could use Thor’s help in springing him. Is he in? Much to the surprise of Madrox, however, Thor replies that he hasn’t decided yet. Glancing over to Theresa, Madrox silently conveys his exasperation. Fantastic.