In the instant the car under which he was hiding is lifted off of him, Madrox takes stock of his seemingly impending death. Though he has shared the last moments of his dupes which have died, Madrox has never seen any bright light or heard any angelic hosannas or the voice of God welcoming him home. He always wondered what it would be like to witness any of that, though he never imagined that when he did see the light right before his death, it wouldn’t be coming from heaven… but from the front of a gigantic Iron Man.
Towering above Madrox, the Sentinel-like Iron Man shines a blinding light from its chest to its target below. It’s booming electronic voice reports its scanning results: reading responds to mutant designation “Multiple Man,” categorized as “terminated” a few minutes ago, apparently categorization premature. “No worries though,” the Iron Man announces. “I’ll tend to him.”
With that, Madrox tries in vain to prepare for his impending death, lamenting that he will now never find out if the future version of Mr. Tryp whom he saw in the other reality has anything to do with his current predicament. Then again, he thinks, if he dies now maybe he’ll be punted to another reality… but maybe not. Maybe this is it.
“Hold on…” the giant Iron Man suddenly says. It then informs the other giant Iron Man that it’s getting readings off him. Something’s not right. The second Iron Man scoffs at this, declaring Madrox a regular old mutant, but the first is sure of itself. The mutant’s out of phase, the interdimensional equivalent of being a square peg in a round hole. To this, the second Iron Man Sentinel asks, if the mutant shouldn’t be there at all, isn’t that another reason just to kill him? As the two take to the sky, the first Iron Man Sentinel remarks maybe… but the boss’ll be interested to know how he got there in the first place.
Sometime later at Avengers Tower, Madrox finds himself in cuffs, being led along a hallway by heavily armed men. To the one to his left, Madrox asks if it’s a bad time to tell him he’s got an itch, huh? When the guard orders him to be quiet, Madrox supposes aloud that a potty emergency is right out. Still not amused, the guard tells Madrox that no one thinks he’s funny except him. “Hah!” Madrox laughs. “That’s how much you know. I don’t think I’m that funny either.” Having arrived at a reception desk, a blonde woman informs Madrox that she thought he was funny. Nice to meet a fan, he replies.
Ignoring the receptionist, the guard points Madrox toward a set of glass doors, which slide apart at their presence. Mocking them, Madros notes that something as high tech as doors opening by themselves is usually something found at your local K-Mart. Finally moved to anger, the guard shoves Madrox through the open entranceway. He knows this isn’t a democracy, he tells “Mr. Stark,” but if he’s taking a poll, he votes he cap this guy.
Replying “so noted,” Stark informs the men that they can take off. He’s fairly sure he can handle him. Sitting from behind the desk, Stark addresses Madrox directly, noting that he’s to understand that he’s not from around there. When Madrox replies that he could say that, Stark counters that, actually, he’s more interested in what he can say. For instance, he continues, as he moves around the desk, he can say how he got there… and who sent him. “Don’t know and no one,” Madrox replies. “Can I go now?”
To this, Stark backhands Madrox, informing him that he’ll tell him when he can go. As Madrox recovers from being knocked to the ground, Stark asks if he’s wondering why he didn’t duplicate now. His manacles, Stark continues, are made from vibranium, which absorbed the impact. He has the tech to neutralize just about any power on Earth. He could beat him senseless without generating more of him.
Noting Stark pouring himself a drink, Madrox says that he heard that he and alcohol don’t exactly see “eye to rye.” Considering the world they live in? Stark asks. This is the only escape he has. Indulge him his one excess. As Stark takes a pull, Madrox asks what happened to him. He means, he knows he was in the government’s pocket during the whole war over the Registration Act… but jeez… Turning the city into some totalitarian state with… Interrupting, Stark asks if he thinks this is fallout from the Reg Act? He really isn’t from around here. So tell him, Stark then asks: Did Wanda destroy his world as well?
Taken aback, Madrox asks if he means the Scarlet Witch, to which Stark sarcastically remarks no, the dog-faced boy. Of course, the Scarlet Witch. When Madrox replies he doesn’t understand, Stark replies he didn’t at first either. He was out in space when it happened. He and a handful of others. He figured that’s why they were spared. Her power, her… spell… it was confined to Earth. The results were waiting for them when they returned. As Stark pours another drink, Madrox asks what results. What did Wanda do?
Took him a while to piece it together, Stark answers somberly. Something involving Magneto, a world transformed and then her changing it back, but with three little words… three magic words… “No more humans.” Madrox’s mind reels as he considers the implications. “No more mutants” was what she said in his world and, just like that, there were barely two hundred mutants left.
Unseen by both Stark and Madrox, two figures watch through the window from outside. One of the two figures, a man in a red cloak, hangs from a rope attached to the tower’s roof. The other is Damien Tryp the Elder, who floats effortless behind him. He’s the key to all of this, Damien tells the man in the red cloak. The key to a better world. Asked how he knows this, Tryp cryptically replies that he “knows stuff”.
In his office, Stark continues. Humanity didn’t disappear overnight, he explains. No, that would be too simple. Instead, those who already had powers became monstrous shadows of themselves… while most just became straight-up monsters. Barely ten percent of humanity remained intact. What Madrox describes as totalitarianism… he calls survival. He’s been fighting the good fight for the last dregs of humanity. And he’s tired of fighting alone. With that, Stark presses a button on a small remote, which releases Madrox’s manacles. This done, Stark says he’s tired of answering Madrox questions and asks to be told about the world he comes from and how he got there.
Though reeling from being free, Madrox asks Stark why. Does he want to bail on this one? Tossing the remote to the table, Stark asks what part of “I’m tired” was unclear? Every day feels like a week. Every week, an age. A smart general knows when he’s in a losing battle and a retreat is called for. He could spend the rest of his life in a bottle… or back out in space. Or in another realm completely. Him, he votes for…
Stark suddenly stops in mid-sentence as he spies a reflection in his bottle: a single red light. At first, Madrox begins to ask what’s wrong but then he sees him, or rather sees it... at the window, though he can’t make it out. A moment later, it makes its presence known, shattering the window. While the figure in red cloak steps through, Damien Tryp is already by Madrox’s side, instructing him to stay down. This is a rescue. Exclaiming Tryp’s name, Madrox tells him he knew he was tied into this. And… is… is that…? Answering Madrox’s half-finished question, Tryp tells him that he calls himself “Deathlok…” but he used to go by another name. Standing before the hole which was once Stark’s window is what was once Steve Rogers, now a cybernetic creature more machine than man.
Nonchalantly, Stark greets him old friend as “Steve,” noting that it’s been a while. Replying with Tony’s given name as well, the once-Captain America tells his old friend that he doesn’t have any more “whiles.” Maybe not, Stark rejoins, but he still has some wiles. With that, he places his hand on his briefcase, which instantaneously flashes with a brilliant light.
Just before the flash, Tryp warns Madrox to cover his eyes, but the warning comes a moment too late and Madrox finds himself partly flashblinded. However, through his partial sight, Madrox sees Tony Stark is transformed, now completely encompassed in his Iron Man armor. Addressing Deathlok Cap, Iron Man tells him he shouldn’t have come back. And he shouldn’t have let him get armored up. Is he kidding? Deathlok Cap asks. What fun would it be otherwise?
With that, Iron Man unleashes a repulsor blast from his gauntlet, which Deathlok Cap easily deflects with his mini, wrist shield. As his other arm transforms into a weapon, Deathlok Cap tells Tony that he has some pretty good toys there for a human. His are better. So declared, the once-Steve fires his arm cannon at his former, knocking him backward violently. A perfect synthesis of Stark technology… and eldritch power, he notes.
Walking calmly after his prey, Deathlok Cap walks through the now-shattered door into the reception area. Spying the blonde receptionist, he proclaims “no more humans” and fires another blast. However, a moment later, Deathlok Cap is forced back himself, as the now decapitated receptionist fires back with two arms cannons of her own. “No more humans?” the headless robotic receptionist asks, “Not an issue.” The receptionist continues to fire at Deathlok Cap, but finds the agility of its target too quick to hit. Cute, Tony, he proclaims, veerrrrrry cute… but it won’t save him. With that, Deathlok Cap deflects a blast back at the robot receptionist, destroying it. However, before Deathlok Cap can press its advantage, Tony launches himself at him, striking him in the chest.
Back in Stark’s office, Tryp asks Madrox if he can see. Shadows, outlines, he replies, it’s getting better. He then asks Tryp what the hell is going on. Why is he there? As some sort of disembodied Jiminy Cricket? Sidestepping the reference, noting that he doesn’t know who that is, Tryp remarks that what he knows is that there are separations between worlds, and the separations are going to get thinner. And, for whatever reason, Madrox is getting a preview of it.
Repeating “whatever reason,” Madrox asks if Tryp is not claiming he’s not behind it, is he? So who is? And what is he getting a preview of? Leaning in toward Madrox, Tryp tells him “Of when the skies start to bleed.” As for who… he doesn’t know. God. Gods. Layla Miller. Take his pick. Unconvinced, Madrox eyes Tryp suspiciously and replies that he thinks he knows more than he’s telling. He’s there to save him? Fine. Then they should get with the…
Suddenly, Deathlok Cap and Iron Man, both propelled by the latter’s jet boots, impacts Madrox, knocking him and his immediately created dupe out of the broken window and into the elevated world outside. As he plummets to his death, Madrox yells back to Tryp if he calls this a rescue? Back in Stark’s office, Deathlock Cap fires an arm-cannon at Iron Man, much to the annoyance of Tryp, who points out that Iron Man can save Madrox. Grinning slightly, the once-Steve Rogers replies that he’d rather see a mutant die than be indebted to a human. Besides… Madrox always pissed him off anyway.
Continuing his acceleration toward certain death, Madrox can only think three words: Worst. Rescue. Ever. However, long before he reaches the pavement below, Madrox finds himself carried aloft by the dupe created moments before. Taking in the situation, Madrox asks the dupe if his dupes have their own powers in this world too. Asked he the ones in his do not, Madrox tells the dupe no. His world sucks. Then asked why he’s so anxious to return to it, Madrox replies that the others suck worse.
As the pair descend to a nearby rooftop, Madrox asks why not the street. He can fly him down there, right? Technically yes, the dupe replies, but there’s a drawback. In this world, the dupes don’t last longer than twenty seconds… sometimes as little as fi… With that, the dupe discorporates, leaving Madrox once again in freefall.
As he continues on his descent to the ground below, Madrox hopes to himself that the “third times the charm.” Each time he’s died, he’s been catapulted from one world to another. Maybe the third one will be the one that bring him home. Or maybe this time he’ll just die. Right now it’s a coin flip as to which one would be preferab…
The world first turns red as Jamie Madrox reaches the ground, then black. Then, out of the darkness comes a spectral voice. Mocking that the “disciple” stirs, the voice remarks that he thought he was dead for sure. Once again alive, Madrox finds himself next to the smoldering remains of another Jamie Madrox. Yeah, well, he quips, not so easy these days. “I see,” says the owner of the voice from across the chamber, which is filled with candles, braziers and assorted mystic paraphernalia. Spying the man across the chamber, who is wearing the cloak of Doctor Strange, Madrox immediately assumes it to be he, thus meaning that the Jamie Madrox of this world is his disciple.
Well, then, the man replies in his spectral voice. Obviously, they’re going to have to do something about that. Such as, for instance… killing him again. And this time… permanently. With that, the Dread Dormammu turns around, his devilish grin visible through his flaming skull.