In his ice fortress, Josef Huber asks the horned woman to clarify just so they’re clear: she’s referring to bringing about the event the apocalypse and not… Not the individual, no, she affirms. Having dropped her coat, the horned woman stretches her immense wings which spring from her back, the ebony color of which matches her shoulder length hair, and surveys the throne chamber.
How does he survive out there in the middle of nowhere? she asks. Does he eat? Does he even need food? Nonchalantly raising a glowing hand, Huber replies that he has means. A moment later, a wheeled table appears, filled with various steaming dishes. Remarking how nice, she surveys the spread and asks if he has any of those little hot dogs in rolls?
Suddenly, the horned woman notices something out of the corner of her eye. Before she can react, however, Huber has struck, grabbing her by the neck and smashing her face onto the ice floor. Through gritted teeth, he asks if she thinks she could just walk in there, talking of ending the world? Raising false hope within him? Who in the hell does she think she is? Grimacing slightly, her eyes glowing with infernal flame, the horned woman replies that, in Hell, she is called Jezebel! Daughter of above and below!
With that, Jebezel throws a right hook, powered by hellfire energy, knocking Huber off of her. Rising to her feet, Jezebel spreads her wings and points at Huber, telling him he would be well advised not to piss her off! Smiling slightly, Huber musingly concedes that perhaps he reacted too hastily. That’s a mistake, Jezebel replies. Even in the frozen wasteland… one should take time to smell the roses.
Far from the frozen wasteland, Polaris leans down to a rose and smells it. As she straightens back up, she hears Alex, calling her by her given name. Lorna acknowledges her lover but continues walking though the park. He asks if she knows she jumped out of the chopper, right? When she confirms with a simple “yup,” he reminds her that they were over Central Park and it was a long way down. Pausing to take in some foliage, she reminds him that it’s easy enough to float on magnetic waves. How’d he get down? Banshee gave him a lift, he explains. That was a scream. The point being, he continues, she kind of drew attention to herself. Lorna replies that he’s exaggerating, at which point Alex draws her attention to a crowd of gawking park patrons, most of which are pointing cameras and camera phones at them. Not so much as she thinks, he tells her.
Duly corrected, Lorna begins jogging the opposite direction, accompanied by Alex. She just saw all the green and… Her hair felt drawn to it? Alex quips. Disapproving, Lorna comments that if making stupid jokes is required for being head of X-Factor, he and she are going to have a problem. Receiving an apology of sorts, Lorna continues. They were just off in space for so long, and then they had to hit the ground running there. She just felt like she couldn’t wait another minute to get, you know, down to earth. When Alex replies that he totally understands, she asks “really?” Absolutely, don’t sweat it, he tells her. He’s sure there’s nothing so shocking back at HQ that it can’t wait an hour.
Back at X-Factor HQ, the rest of the team stands in abject shock. The sole exception is Guido, who tells the others he doesn’t get them. Why does anyone even act surprised anymore when stuff like this happens. Standing before the thunderstruck group are a smiling Layla Miller and a visibly uneasy and very alive Jamie Madrox. Speaking first, Layla tells the group that she knows what they are thinking and no, it’s not a dupe. It’s really him. Yeah, Madrox confirms. Funny story about where he’s been…
YOU!!! an enraged Monet proclaims. With that, she propels herself toward Layla, yelling that she had to do it, didn’t she? Jamie tries to stop Monet but Layla tells him it’s okay, a statement which further enrages Monet. As she rams Layla into the wall, Monet proclaims that it’s a long way from okay. It’s not even in the same country as okay! Immediately, Theresa leaps to Layla’s defense, but Monte tells her to forget it. She’d just take Layla’s side, since she won’t be happy until she brings back daddy dearest, hungering for brains!
A short distance away, a wide-eyed Longshot asks Guido if he shouldn’t get in there to separate them. He’s the strongest. To this, Guido asks if he’s kidding. It’s chick on chick action. No way he’d breaking that up.
Back at the fight, Madrox interjects himself physically, declaring it to be enough. Still enraged, Monett replies that she’ll say when it’s enough, and they’re not even close to it! With that, she grabs Layla and takes to the sky. Left behind and panicked, Madrox orders Theresa to go after them, only for her to replies that, if Monet really wanted t’hurt her, she could’ve caved her face in right there. They should let them be. When Madrox asks if she’s kidding, Theresa furrows her brow and asks if she looks like she’s kidding.
Taking a different tact, Theresa asks Madrox if Layla brought him back from the dead, to which Madrox declines. Then Monet’ll figure that out, Theresa rejoins. It’ll be fine. By the way… With that, There’s punches Madrox in the shoulder, generating both a dupe and an “ow!” from Madrox. That’s for dying and worrying them. This expression of emotion made, Theresa follows it with a heartfelt hug and a “welcome back.” The sentiment is shared by the rest of the group, who joins the hug in one giant group hug. A few moments later, Madrox’s smile is replaced by a worried demeanor, as he asks Terry if she’s grabbing his butt. Told no, he asks to be told it’s not Shatterstar, at which point Shatterstar replies that he’s actually pretty sure it’s his dupe. Okay, that’s just disturbing, he bemuses.
A man in a homemade costume, stands before a camera. His face is covered with a yellow mask and a green helmet covers his head. Matching his mask is a yellow cape and on his green shirt is an exclamation mark in quotations. Motioning toward the camera, the costumed man tells the cameraman to let him know if he’s walking too far in front of him. And make sure he keeps him in focus.
To this, the cameraman, who likewise is clad in a homemade costume resembling an insect, rejoins defensively that he’s Shutterbug remember? Videoing super heroes is, y’know, his whole power. So don’t tell him how to do his job, okay Insignia? To this, subject of Shutterbug’s camera replies that it’s not Insignia. It’s the Insignia. It sounds cooler. Scoffing at this, Shutterbug asks if he’s supposed to call him “the Insignia” in conversation and it’s cool? Seriously? “How’s it going, the Insignia? Catch any bad guys, the Insignia?”
Point taken, Insignia replies with a wave. With that, Insignia pauses a moment, at which point Shutterbug returns to his camera lens and notes that the light isn’t great. It’s cloudy, Insignia replies, rain’s rolling in. Big shock, Shutterbug replies, it’s Seattle. Ignoring the slight on their city, Insignia returns on his way, noting that they’ll make it a short patrol then. He’s still hoping to catch a lead on the case. Asked if he means catching the serial groper, Insignia rises to the prompting. His chest out, he proclaims that the women of Seattle should be able to go about their business without worrying that some guy’s gonna jump out and grab their…
Insignia’s words trail as he spies something out of the corner of her eye. He only has a moment to swear aloud before he disappears from sight, replaced by a spatter of blood which covers the Shutterbug’s camera. The lens now blocked, the camera only records the blood-curdling screams of its owner.
In angry silence, Monet flies Layla toward the Empire State Building and unceremoniously deposits her on the observation deck. Before the shocked tourists can respond, Monet angrily addresses them while floating above them. She’s their worst nightmare, she tells them. She’s a superstrong Muslim mutant with PMS! So back the hell off! As the crowd hastily departs en mass, Monet floats to the deck ground, mocking that they’d better run.
Smirking at Monet, Layla tells her that she’s always liked that about her. She’s such a people person. Shut up, Monet rejoins. How could she do it? How could she turn Madrox into another soulless thing? Well? Go nothing to say for herself? To this, Layla smirks again, noting that Monet just told her to shut up. If she wants answers, she should really be more consistent with her expecta…
Shut up! Monet yells, only for her to immediately realize the irony of her order. Fine, she then adds with icy demeanor. Talk. Shrugging her shoulders, Layla begins to ask precisely what Monet wants to talk about, only for Monet to interrupt. She knows what. She always knows what. No, Layla replies, her eyes downcast. She wishes to God she did. Turning away to face to city beyond, Layla explains that she didn’t revive him. She told them all she couldn’t. That wasn’t a lie. Asked how does she know, Layla suggests that Monet read her mind. Or she could just take her word for it.
Changing subject, Layla places her hands on a coin-operated telescope and asks Monet if she ever used one of them. Replying negatively, Monet explains that she never carries small change. Her treat, Layla replies, producing a coin. Asked if it’s a “trick,” jesting on Layla’s use of the word “treat,” Layla replies that it’s not Halloween. Tricks and treats don’t always come together. With a sigh, Monet looks through the telescope and asks what she’s supposed to see. Anything in particular? Or is she just trying to put off the pummeling she so richly deserves.
To this, Layla explains that she just wanted her to understand what it’s like. Asked what what’s like, Layla walks down the observation deck and asks Monet to swivel the telescope around and turn it toward her. Growing more annoyed, Monet does as instructed but notes that there sure better be a point to all this. Asked what she sees, Monet replies “you.” Then asked if she looks clear and in focus, Monet replies “pretty much.” At this point, Layla begins to walk toward Monet and the telescope’s location, asking how about now. Complying, Monet replies that she’s getting blurry, since it’s a fixed lens. She then remarks a moment later that the quarter ran out. It’s just black. As Monet looks up to her as she stands just before the telescope, Layla replies “Welcome to my world.”
Taking this in, Monet asks if Layla is saying that the closer in time she gets to people… events… The harder it is to see, yeah, Layla finishes. And now… recently… it’s like a big black curtain was drawn over certain parts. Asked why, Layla explains that Madrox wasn’t supposed to die. Guido was. But she didn’t want to lose him. She wanted to take charge of fate and she wanted… When Layla’s words trail, Monet asks what she wanted. She wanted to spare her, Layla tells the visibly startled Monet.
Her? What is she talking about? Monet asks. Because she blamed herself for Guido’s death, Layla explains. Because she restored Ballistique’s memories and she shot him. And she was going to spend the next year destroying herself over it, and it was awful, a slow-motion train wreck, and she… Taking Monet’s hands in hers, Layla continues that she wanted to avoid that, because eventually she’ll be her best friend in the world. And she took a chance on sparing her that pain. Sparing them both. And fate bit her on the ass. Holding up her glowing gauntlet, Layla notes that she could have tossed up her force field when Monet grabbed her earlier. She could’ve stopped her. But she’s tired of…
Okay, fine, Monet interrupts. She gets it. She believes her. Layla didn’t bring him back. It’s a miracle. Whatever. With that, Monet takes to the air, informing Layla that she can find her own way home. Layla tries her best to suggest they talk further but Monet cuts her off. They’re done. Distance is a good thing, she then adds. Familiarity breeds contempt… and germs. And insanity. Don’t knock distance. Sometimes it’s all they have. With that, Monet takes to the sky, leaving Layla behind. As Layla takes in what just happened in silence, a sheepish voice reluctantly catches her attention. Glancing down the observation deck, Layla sees the group of frightened tourists peering around a corner. Among them is a young girl who asks if the scary lady is coming back.
Back at X-Factor HQ, Havok ask Madrox when Monet and Layla are coming back. When Madrox replies that he doesn’t know, since Monet isn’t exactly forthcoming when she’s throwing a hissy, Havok directs his attention to Theresa, noting that she didn’t go after him. Her arms crossed in resolution, Theresa confirms and adds that she told him why and doesn’t appreciate being second-guessed. She’s done a wee bit of leading herself, and she knows when to give teammates some space. In agreement, Polaris leans into Havok and suggests that they need to trust Terry on this. “Et tu, Lorna?” he asks.
Stepping forward, Madrox remarks that if Havok wants to blame somebody, he should blame him. Oh believe him he does, Havok replies, narrowing his eyes. He then rises to his feet and, pointing a finger at Madrox, remarks that he had this team running like a well-oiled machine – then Madrox shows up for half an hour and everything’s in disarray. That’s him, Madrox quips back, the sand in the oil. The fly in the ointment. The monkey in the wrench.
Side-stepping the joke, Havok asks what happens now? He takes back leadership of the group? Hell, he could be a dupe. Even an evil dupe. They’ve had to deal with a few of those. When Theresa notes that Layla vouched for him, Havok seems dismissive, noting that Layla might currently have her remains smeared all over SoHo by now. That’s just great. Interrupting, Madrox replies that a dupe wouldn’t have this. In demonstration, to the shock of both Theresa and Alex, Madrox lifts his shirt to reveal the wound which killed him, now stapled-closed. When Alex voices “ouch,” Madrox replies “you bet’cher life, ouch.” He then tells Havok that he doesn’t have all the answers. Not for his return, not for X-Factor’s status. All he knows is this… they’re stronger together than apart.
(Huber’s ice fortress)
Yes, yes, Huber smiles to Jezebel. He supposes they are stronger together than apart. After shaking her hand, Huber returns his attention to the feast laid before them. So, this apocalypse, he remarks, this plan she intends to set into motion… it involves destroying all the mutants? Smiling at this and calling him her “dear Isolationist, Jezebel remarks that he’s thinking too small. They intend to destroy every single mutant… every super hero… everyone who has ever put on a costume and attempted to make the world a better place. As for the plan itself, she then adds, setting an apple aflame in her hand, it’s already been set into motion. Now it’s just a matter of holding on for the ride.
Meanwhile, in Seattle, a rain shower washes away the pool of blood surrounding a fallen video camera.