In the smoking ruins of what was once the headquarters of X-Factor Investigations, Darwin regains consciousness and struggles to recall where he is. Before he can completely recover, however, he is yanked off the ground literally by Monet, demanding to be told where they are. Confused as to her meaning, she emphasizes again, where?!
He doesn’t know, okay? Darwin defends himself. He barely knows where he is. Referring to the flaming ruins around them, Monet tells him that this happened because of him! Rather than cowed by her rage, Darwin warns Monet that, while she’s stronger than him, he swears to God, if she doesn’t stop yanking him around… LOOK! she yells, pointing at the world around them. Finally seeing her meaning, Darwin’s eyes go wide and he mutters a curse. Yeah, that’s right, Monet rejoins. Keeping in mind that all her stuff was in there… and keeping in mind that she sets great store by her stuff… she’d start talking fast if she were him.
Rather than talking, however, Darwin delivers a left hook, knocking the surprised Monet to the ground and yelling for her to get out of his face. Doesn’t she understand? he asks. He could kill her. Where she stands. With no problem. After touching Hela, he became a death god. He can see how to take her apart, dissect her into pieces. So he would strongly suggest that she keep her distance and stop threatening him. Because otherwise… He’ll what? Monet asks, launching herself to Darwin and pushing him to the ground. C’mon, what’ll he do? Impress her! Frighten her! She dares him to do his worst!
Devil’s Tower, Wyoming:
Beneath the protective force field dome of Layla’s gauntlet, the members of X-Factor – Madrox, Polaris, Shatterstar, Rictor, Longshot, Rahne and her son Tier - stand assembled. Outside the sphere, towering over the heroes below are the lords of Hell – Mephisto, Hela, Asmodeus, Satanish, Pluto and Satana. To their sides, also watching X-Factor, is the grinning Guido and a scowling Jezebel.
From beneath the protective dome, Madrox addresses the lords of Hell, telling them all just to hold it. No one is killing anybody! He doesn’t care how big or ominous they are. Because, hey, they can talk about killing Tier all they want, but while they’re inside this shield… Before Madrox can finish his sentence, Pluto, the Greek god of the underworld, snaps his finger, shattering the dome instantly. As if one with the dome, Layla cries out in pain and falls backwards, luckily caught by the nearby Rictor.
Now then… Pluto proclaims and steps toward Tier, only to be pushed aside by the likewise advancing Hela. Down below, Madrox clasps Tier on the shoulders and tells him to get ready to go. Asked to where, Madrox replies with action, rather than words. Instantly a dozen dupes blink into existence and scatter. While Mephisto and the others consider what to do next, Shatterstar takes advantage of the situation and leaps, wrist blades unsheathed, at Pluto and Hela. However, the gigantic Pluto simply swats away his foe with a swipe of his immense sword. Likewise, Asmodeus swats Polaris out of the way, proclaiming that the boy is his to destroy.
As the lords of Hell mêlée with each other and X-Factor, Madrox Prime and tier race away in the confusion. However, even as it seems they might escape, Mephisto appears before them in an explosion of brimstone. Give the boy to him, Mephisto bellows. Bite him, Madrox rejoins, producing his pistol. Madrox opens fire, but his bullets pass through Mephisto as if he were not there. It’s his last chance, Mephisto warns. No! Rahne replies, transforming into her full wolf form. It’s yours!!
Though slightly bloodied by her assault, Mephisto nevertheless swats Wolfsbane away and grabs Tier by his coat. Yes, this ends now, Mephisto proclaims, his demonic triple-bladed spear at the ready. However, it much to his surprise and agony when the blade of a sword suddenly emerges through his chest, impaled through Mephisto from behind. As the rest of the lords of Hell realize what has happened and react in shock, Jezebel pulls out her sword and apologizes to her father.
Clutching his chest and fallen to his knees, Mephisto mutters through gritted teeth that he thought it was coincidence that she was with them. He believed she was trying to soften them up. But he was wrong. She and Guido… they’ve turned against him… Interrupting, Guido defensively holds up his hands and tells Mephisto to hold the phone. He was hanging with her ‘cause she was the boss’ daughter. He’s still on his side!
Still clutching his chest, Mephisto raises his spear and channels a blast through it, which Jezebel avoids by taking to the air. To Madrox and Tier, she announces that they have to go. Now! Madrox begins to protest, asking about his crew, but Jezebel grabs him and Tier and takes to the sky. However, it is not under the power of her wings that the trio depart, but a luminous spell of teleportation, which also transports the nearby Wolfsbane and the rest of the distant X-Factor crew. Blood and thunder! exclaims Satannish. Clearly enraged, Pluto roars to Mephisto that this is his daughter’s doing! Still clutching his chest, Mephisto replies by asking if Pluto thinks for a moment that he is unaware of that? They must find them! And! Especially her!
Elsewhere, Jezebel and all of X-Factor coalesce in a flash of light. While Madrox is clearly confused as to where they are, Polaris recognizes it instantly and curses aloud. This was their HQ, right? Before Madrox can reply, his attention is drawn by Jezebel’s coughing and turns to see her leaning against a bent lamppost. Grabbing her by the shoulder, he instructs her to tell them why this is happening, or God help him… She tried to stop this! she defends. Tried to end this war before it began, but she failed and now all they can do is try to get away. Away? Madrox asks. From whom? The guy she stuck her sword into? Yes, okay? Jezebel defends, pushing Madrox away. Her dad, the Hell Lord who wants to kill that kid over there! They all want to kill that kid and there’s nothing he’ll be able to do to stop it!
The escalating tension between the two is suddenly put on hold as Monet appears, casually noting that they’re back. What the hell happened? Thanking God for her being there, Madrox asks where Darwin is. Hands on her hips, Monet glances over to the stop on the ground where a battered Darwin lies unconscious. He’s what she occupied herself with while waiting for them to come back. She then notes that she hears sirens in the distance. It’d probably be better for them not to be there when they arrive.
They’ll talk about this later, Madrox tells her. Seeing Layla kneeling next to Darwin, Madrox asks her if he’s okay to travel. As she begins to check with her gauntlet, Darwin stirs, weakly asking Monet if she knows. When Layla seems not to understand, Darwin asks if she knows… that she’s dying. He stopped attacking her when he felt it. Let her pound away on him. Does she know? About her? Lowering her head and closing her eyes, Layla replies simply, “yes.”
Unable to hear the exchange but still able to hear the approaching sirens, Madrox yells Layla’s name, at which point Layla confirms that he can travel. They’re coming. Only question is: where are they going to go?
A moment later, the group finds themselves on the stage of Central Park’s Naumburg bandshell. This is nice, Rictor remarks, when do Peter, Paul and Mary get there? Told by Polaris that Mary’s dead, Rictor laments that that sucks. Ignoring the quips as she protects her son, Rahne focusses on Darwin, asking what’s wrong. Not ready to take another try at her son? Save the sarcasm, Darwin replies. He was trying to save the world. If he’d killed Tier before the hell gods assembled, he could have forestalled… maybe ended… the apocalypse. But now it’s too late. He’s right, interjects Jezebel. The war is happening whether they want it to or not. They’ll fight over who kills Tier… Asked why by Rahne, Jezebel replies that it’s simple, really.
For century upon century, she begins, in the early days of the world, the hell lords fought, battling each other for dominance. They amassed demonic armies to battle one another… collected souls that would give them power. Power that would enable them… so they thought… to become the dominant hell lord in the universe. On and on it went with no end in sight. And then… certain highly placed individuals… grew tired of the battle. Realizing the costly war would wage on without end, a higher power intervened and an edict was issues. It was quite simple, really. When the seven billionth person walked the Earth, then – and only then – would the hell lords enter into their final battle. The resolution of that battle would be simple: whoever killed the seven billionth individual on Earth would be the winner. The varied hell lords would hold onto their individual domains, but only one would be in the charge of all of them. His or her or its rule would be supreme, and all others would now to him. Or her. Or it.
Now pointing to Tier, Jezebel informs them that the seven billionth person now walks the Earth… and someone’s going to kill him so they can rule over all the hells. That’s absurd! Rahne proclaims, releasing her son so that she can attack Jezebel However, before she can get in arm’s length, Jezebel produces her immense, demonic sword. Pointing it at Rahne’s nose, she reminds her that she drove it through her father. He survived. Rahne won’t be so lucky. Before either can act, Madrox thrusts himself between the two and, calling them Thelma and Louise, declares it’s enough. Neutral corners. Now!
As they comply, Madrox turns to the rest of the team. Clearly they are in over their heads, he admits. They need help. They need to get the Avengers. Oh, right, Monet rejoins. They always have the answer. To this, Polaris opines that the ones they really need are the X-Men. Wolverine and his crew. Right, Rictor mocks, because calling the Avengers would mean calling Alex, and they couldn’t have that. Visibly annoyed, Polaris points her finger at Rictor, telling him that it has nothing to do with Alex. She just… They’re mutants. So they should go to mutants for help.
Wherever they should go to, Longshot chimes in, they should do it quickly. He means… these are hell lords, yes? And it’s not as if they’re under any protective spells. So how long will it take the hell lords to find them if they are looking? Probably not long, Madrox admits. When Madrox then asks Layla her thoughts, she answers that it depends, really. If they combined their efforts, it could take a while to get organized. On the other hand, if they’re doing it separately…
Suddenly, the entire stone bandshell shatters under the gargantuan sword of Pluto, who happily announces “there they are.” Without hesitation, Shatterstar races to intercept, his blades extended for combat. However, proclaiming him a fool, the towering Pluto grabs Shatterstar’s arms with his immense hands and then body slams him by the shoulders into the stage of the once-bandshell. Then, with a callous order of “away,” he tosses Shatterstar aside. Luckily for him, Polaris magnetically catches Shatterstar, who announces that Pluto broke his arm.
His attention now on the rest of the group, and flanked by numerous infernal creatures with flaming heads, Pluto announces to the assembled group of X-Factor below that the longer they stand up for the boy the more incidents such as this will occur. Give him the boy. Now.