The scenes is a futuristic building of concrete and glass, with sweeping, curved edges, all overlooking a reflecting pool with a giant column of crystal rising from its center. “Hero hall,” a voice proclaims. Their headquarters. In Norse mythology, dead heroes have Valhalla, an eternal paradise for mighty warriors, fallen in battle. In the real world, the Fantastic Four have had the Baxter Building and Four Freedoms Plaza. Hero Hall is all theirs. Or at least will be as soon as they have renovating the old coat factory on the edge of town.
With that, the hand of a helmeted and costumed man motions to the screen on his laptop showing the image of the proposed headquarters. Asked how they are going about getting the money, the man replies that they’ve started a campaign on Kixstart. They only need a hundred grand and they’re already up over two thousand bucks. People there in Seattle believe in them. They believe in… The X-Ceptionals, mutant heroes for justice!
When he’s then asked that in the meantime they’re in his mother’s partly renovated basement, the helmeted man clarifies that he owns the house and it’s his basement. She’s just been living there since dad and her split up. He’s being generous. The X-Ceptionals are all about generosity, and that started at home. Chiming in, a likewise costumed man with a turban and a mystic themed arraignments notes that he’s sensitive about the whole “mother’s basement thing,” to which the helmeted man tells “Far Sight” to shut up. He’s not.
Addressing the helmeted man as “Defender,” (which is corrected as Lord Defender, as they actually have British royalty in their blood, at least that’s what his mom says), Lord Defender’s audience asks if they are actually mutants. The third of the X-Ceptionals group, a mohawked man wearing bug-eyed sunglasses, frowns that their mutant genes are recessive They have a problem with that? Told no, the man replies good and then asks where the hell are Chrome Dome, E-Vac and the Hook? They need a quorum to get the meeting started. Nearby, Far Sight replies that he foresees they will not be coming… ever. They no longer wish to be a part of the group. He is aware of this because he knows… “Stuff?” he is asked. “…things” Far Sight corrects.
To this, Lord Defender replies that, sadly, he’s not surprised. What with the recent unpleasantness. Lord Defender then turns to his audience and announces that they both are in. Star Face... Multitask… Welcome to the X-Ceptionals. Duly thanked, Lord Defender then offers one word of advice, though… their super hero costumes are kinda lame. Sitting on a collapsible chair and flanked by Shatterstar, a mask-wearing Jamie Madrox apologizes with a grin and responds that they’ll try to do better. When Shatterstar, wearing his old faceguard from his early days with X-Force, announces that he was thinking of adding shoulder pads, he’s told by Lord Defender that it’d be a good start.
a week earlier:
In X-Factor’s headquarters in New York, Mrs. Santanna tells Madrox, Shatterstar and Havok of her son, Barry. A boy of good heart and a good life ahead of him, he got caught up in the insanity of costumed vigilantism. Eventually, it led to him showing up on her doorstep, still in his costume and bloodied, dying after barely being able to knock on her door. He dragged himself all the way home… even bleeding as he was. And no one helped him. He cared about helping others and no one gave a damn about…
Gesturing to the satchel at her side, Mrs. Santanna tells the group that he was trying to get it to her. He wanted people to see… he wanted them to know what happened. She thought maybe they could use it. Track down the… the monsters that killed her boy. Opening the satchel, she shows the group a video camera, explaining that she couldn’t bring herself to watch it. Asked by Havok if she showed it to the police, Mrs. Santanna scowls. Those idiots? All they did was hold Barry and his friends in contempt. Snicker about them, call them names… To hell with the police.
Apologetically, Havok notes that, though he understands her feelings, the video footage is evidence from an ongoing murder investigation. However, before he can suggest that she turn it over to the police, Madrox intervenes, opining that police don’t do well with things out of their comfort zone. Snatching up the satchel, he remarks that, if super heroes are being attacked, then she needs super hero detectives to get the job done. Chiming in, Shatterstar tells Mrs. Santanna that her son was clearly a warrior and he will be avenged as a warrior should be. Taking his hand in hers, Mrs. Stantanna thanks him.
Meanwhile, out in the hallway, Havok chases after Madrox calling for him. Dismissing him, Madrox calls out to Guido to fire up the TV. Red hot evidence! Rictor, grab some video transfer cables! Undeterred, Havok stops him and reminds Madrox that their job is to step in when other options have been used up. Or, Madrox retorts, when Val Cooper or Wolverine pulls their leash? When the scowling Havok asks if they have a problem here, Madrox rejoins that it depends if he’s going to honor their agreement. Havok takes point when one of the X-Men come calling and leaves the rest to him. Raising an eyebrow, Havok sarcastically asks when they made that agreement. Just now, Madrox smiles. He then notes to Havok that he’s been out of the game for awhile… but try to keep up. Rolling his eyes, Havok voices a memo to himself: build a time machine, go back in time… and pass on the X-Factor gig.
Shortly, in the TV room, Theresa and Rahne speak with Guido while Rictor sets up the video recorder to the TV. As Rictor works, Theresa asks if this “Shutterbug” was part of a team of mutant wannabes. When Rahne asks who wants to be a mutant, Guido quips that it’s the worst name for a game show… ever. Just as Madrox joins the group, Rictor announces that they’re good to go. Warning the group before they begin, Madrox notes that from what the kid’s mother said, this isn’t going to be pretty. He’s sure they can take it, Rictor replies. With that, the team sits on the couch, as Guido leans over it from behind. Moments later, the sitting foursome cringe in horror as a bloodcurdling scream fills the room.
Covering her face, Rahne exclaims that that it was horrible. Having seemed nonplussed by the footage, Guido agrees. Where’s the shot composition? And with all that blood on the lens, ya can hardly see the disemboweling. When the four turn to him in disbelief, Guido shrugs his shoulders and asks if he can’t critique films now without getting’ the hairy eyeball. When an angry Rahne asks that he knows this is real and not some horror movie or something, Guido asks back if documentaries can’t be held to some standards?
Returning their attention to the screen, Rictor remarks to Madrox that there’s not a ton to work with there. Guido may be tactless, soulless, whatever… but he’s right. The blood makes it impossible to see what happened. Considering this, Madrox silently agrees that it makes it trickier, but not impossible. Not when you have a member of your crew that can get psychic readings off inanimate objects.
In short order, Madrox and Havok wait as Longshot “reads” the video recorder. When Madrox asks what he’s got, Longshot tells him not to rush him. He’s on it. As Longshot continues, Havok opines to Madrox that this is a bad idea. It’s a tragedy, no question, but it’s a non-mutant local matter… Interrupting, Madrox tells Havok that, out of respect for the old days, he’s trying to make this work. But if he starts channeling his brother, they’re gonna have a probl…
Suddenly, the two stop their argument as their eyes go wide. Asked by Havok if that’s normal, Madrox replies not at all. Before them stands a panicked Longshot, whose flashing left eye is illuminated more brightly than is normal. Acting quickly, Havok and Madrox try their best to pry the video recorder away from Longshot, who is clutching it close to his chest. When Havok remarks that he didn’t know that Longshot was super strong, Madrox rejoins that he’s not. Almost ignoring the two, Longshot begins to speak haltingly, remarking that it wasn’t… it… so cold… and hot… and… A moment later, Longshot’s voice becomes a booming one. YOUR EYE OFFENDS ME. I SHALL HAVE IT OUT. With that, the light becomes a thing of force, propelling Havok and Madrox away and off of their feet.
When the light subsides, Longshot begins to collapse, only to be caught by Madrox. They are quickly joined by Theresa and Shatterstar, who ask what happened and if Longshot is all right. Now cradling Longshot in his arms, Madrox asks if he looks all right. He then orders them to get Monet. Told that she’s out shopping, he tells them to call AmEx and shut down her platinum card. That’ll get her back there, pronto. Turning back to Havok, Madrox angrily asks if he still thinks this is just a police matter. Still think this isn’t any of their business?
Storming out of the room, Madrox silently notes that he yelled at Havok to make himself feel better, but this is all his fault. However, before he has gone even a short distance, he hears Havok yell out to him, telling him it wasn’t his fault. Who asks him? Madrox asks back, followed by him wondering if he’s been thinking too loud.
Sometime later, Madrox watches as Monet places her hand upon Longshot’s forehead and tries to probe him. Waiting for a verdict, Madrox is reminded of an old story that Yogi Berra was once hit in the head by a beanball and rushed to the hospital. The doctor’s report supposedly read “X-rays of inside of Berra’s head show nothing.”
“Nothing,” Monet reports. Asked for clarification, Monet explains that she’s saying Longshot’s withdrawn into himself so completely that she can’t reach him. Asked by Havok how deep did she go, an annoyed Monet replies as deep as she cares to. He’s not human, she reminds Havok. She means, more not human than most of them. Closing her eyes, she then adds that she’s just not digging him out, all right? If he wants to surface, he’ll do it on his own.
Fine, the irritated Madrox replies, then he’s dealing with this on his own. As Madrox storms out, Havok follows asking if he’d mind telling him what he’s doing. There’s a cluster of would-be heroes in Seattle who have been targeted by some sort of… something or someone, Madrox explains. That’s bad enough. Now one of their own people is down. Asked what his plan is – go to Seattle and be bait – Madrox confirms. Does he have a problem with that? At first Havok begins to argue but Polaris steps in and notes that if they show up in force it might scare whatever it is away. Madrox is a one-man force. It’s a good plan.
Interjecting himself into the discussion, Shatterstar proclaims that Madrox is not going alone. Unsheathing the twin blades of his right arm, Shatterstar notes that this is personal and he’s coming along. Live with it.
Walking along the streets of the city, “Multitask” asks Lord Defender how long he has been doing this. When Lord Defender replies that he got the call six years ago, Madrox asks who called. No, he replies, he means the call to help people. To make this a better world. Why else would anyone do this? He has no idea, Madrox replies.
At that moment, a passerby greets Lord Defender, giving him a high-five. Identifying the man as Alfonse, Lord Defender asks if he’s staying out of trouble. You know it, he replies. As he and Madrox continue on their way, Lord Defender informs Madrox that he’s a good kid. Alfonse was on the wrong path but he set him straight. Asked if he really did, Lord Defender confirms, adding that that’s what the X-Ceptionals do. When “Multitask” then notes that someone’s trying to kill them for it, Lord Defender remarks that it’s why they lost members. They didn’t want to be next. Asked if it bothers him, Lord Defender replies that he doesn’t want to die but he’s not going to run. You run from evil… and all it does is follow you.
Elsewhere in the city, a hulking and armed figure looks down from a rooftop with red eyes. Below, Shatterstar walks with his assigned teammate, Buzzkill, who continues to wear his insect-themed attire. Curious, Shatterstar asks if Far Sight didn’t care to join them on patrol. He never goes on patrol. He just sits in the headquarters and makes predictions to “guide” them. Personally, he doesn’t get the point of Far Sight’s shtick. To this, “Star Face” replies that, actually, such a person can be of use, provided she… he means he… knows what he’s talking about. Does he? In reply, Buzzkill notes that he tends to stay pretty vague so that, whatever happens, he can say he called it. Under his breath, Shatterstar notes that it sounds kind of like having good luck power…
Not hearing him clearly, Buzzkill asks his new teammate what he said. However, instead of responding, Shatterstar tells his teammate to wait. They’re being… followed? Glancing up to a rooftop, Shatterstar notes that that’s strange. He could’ve sworn there was… Stopping in midsentence, Shatterstar notices that Buzzkill is gone and wonders aloud where he went.
In a nearby alley, Buzzkill accosts Alfonse, pinning him up against a wall. Up to his old tricks, he asks Alfonse. When the man tries to play dumb, Buzzkill produces a bag of drugs from Alfonse’s person, asking him to allow him to guess: he was holding it for a friend. No, for his sister, Alfonse defends. Asked what he told him about dealing, Alfonse tells Buzzkill never to do it from the bottom of the deck. Angrily, Buzzkill slams Alfonse against the wall, asking what Lord Defender would do if he knew about this. That guy’s a joke, Alfonse replies. He knows it. Everybody knows it… Lord Defender doesn’t know it, an increasingly angry Buzzkill proclaims. And they’re gonna keep it that way. If he catches him dealing again, he tells Alfonse, he’s caving in his freaking face. To this, Alfonse asks if he shouldn’t be helping a little lady cross the…
Suddenly, a blinding light fills the alley, followed by a bloodcurdling scream. A few moments later, Shatterstar races into the alley to find Buzzkill dead, splayed on the ground with his blood spattered across the alley and a horrified Alfonse. To the only one left standing, Shatterstar asks Alfonse what happened. Pointing upward, Alfonse announcesThere it is! There it is!. Glancing to where Alfonse is pointing, Shatterstar spies a hulking figure clinging to the wall, held up by the powerful grip on the brickwork. With purple skin, red eyes and wearing his white hair in a ponytail, the massive man points a futuristic-looking handgun at Shatterstar. “You heard him,” the warrior grins, “There I is.”
Stoic in his reply, Shatterstar extends the twin blades of his right arm. He… is dead. To this, the warrior retorts that he is on. With that, the two warriors propel themselves at each other. However, in the end, the mystery warrior gains the first blow, kicking Shatterstar hard enough to knock off his protective headpiece. As Shatterstar reels from the blow, the mysterious warrior stands over him, pointing his weapon at Shatterstar. “What else you got?” he asks.