Flanked by his flame-headed minions, Pluto – the Greek god of the underworld – towers high above the group of mutants known as X-Factor… and scowls. This is their one and only chance, mortals, he proclaims pointing his gargantuan sword to them. Even now his fellow hell lords have spread out looking for them. But he found them first, so before any of them show up to try and horn in…
Suddenly, Pluto’s sword pulls itself free of his grip, giving him pause both in actions and speech. Pluto’s eyes follow as the sword descends toward a green-haired mortal, the mutant woman known as Polaris. Nice sword, she quips. Metal. Mine. With that, she inquisitively speaks the name of their leader, Madrox, who replies with the simple imperative to his whole group. GET THEM!!
So ordered, the other members of X-Factor attack in unison against Pluto’s army of demon creatures. Without being ordered, Wolfsbane pauses long enough to push down her son, Tier, telling him to stay down. That said, Wolfsbane joins the fray, decapitating one flame-headed creature with one swipe. Left behind, Tier can only watch in amazement as X-Factor works. Madrox’s army of dupes. Rictor using his earthquake powers to rip open the earth. Longshot flinging every knife of his with hyper-accuracy. Though he’d likely say it’s just luck, Tier thinks everyone knows it’s more than that. Naturally for Monet, he notes, seeing her aloft and laying blows on Pluto himself, she naturally goes straight for the main man… or whatever he is. Tier then glances toward his own mother. Still a child herself, he notes, she’s cutting through any and everything that’s in her w…
Tier’s thoughts trail as he sees a halberd-wielding flame-head comes up from behind her. From behind his kidding place, Tier yells for his mom to watch out, but it’s too late. Luckily for Wolfsbane, however, the flame-head’s head explodes before it can strike. When Wolfsbane then turns, she sees the source of the shot that killed it: Darwin. It’s like he told her, Dawin notes, there’s no stopping it now. So the only thing she has left is trying to help. Wolfsbane tries to object that it can’t be that simple, but a luminous explosion interrupts their conversation.
Looking up, they both spy an incensed Pluto, unleashing luminous bolts of energy at Monet. Poor little girl, he proclaims, thinking she could take on a hell lord. She may think she’s not human, but really she’s merely a step or two above her station… and she should really not be exchanging blows… with her betters. In punctuation, Pluto slams Monet into the ground.
PLUTO!!!! a mortal voice then bellows. Turning to her, Pluto sees Polaris reaching out with her magnetic powers holding an arsenal of bladed weapons. Got some stuff for ya! she proclaims, just before launching them all at the Greek god. With but a grin, Pluto grabs his own sword and uses it to deflect the rest. Now, he begins, let them put an end to this. The only reason they help on to this unearthly metal is because lady St. Croix distracted him for as long as she did. Without her contributions… they’re much easier to deal with. Again, punctuating his statement, Pluto hurls a halberd at Polaris, who is knocked out after being struck in the head with its handle.
Quickly, Madrox yells for the team to regroup, but it’s no use. Pluto yells “Enough!” and unleashes his power, seemingly incinerating Madrox and Jezebel with his first blow. With berserker fury, his power throws around the rest of the team like lemmings. From his hiding place, Tier laments that none of them can slow or stop him in any way. Where is the boy? Pluto demands. Only his death will settle this! He must…
Hearing no more, Tier snaps. Unable to stand it any longer, he realizes he cannot accept the deaths of others in order to try and save himself. It has to stop. As he races into action, bridging the gap between them, Tier sees that Pluto spots him, his mouth twisting back into a smile. Somewhere behind him, Tier hears his mother scream his name. Somewhere off to the side, Polaris shouts it as well, telling him to back off. He ignores them both.
Tier leaps at Pluto, managing to evade Pluto’s sword, which he hears hissing by as it passes him. A moment later, Pluto is within the reach of Tier, who slashes at Pluto’s throat. Clutching with one hand at his wound, holding back the blood, Pluto uses his sword hand to knock aside his attacker. It’s a desperate move, Tier thinks, realizing the god was lucky to make contact. Instantly, Tier renews his attacks, leaping upon Pluto’s chest and forcing him to the ground. Before Pluto can react, Tier tears rips off his chest plate and then keeps ripping. Tier’s mind goes blank and he doesn’t remember anything that happens for the next few minutes. Before he knows it, Tier stands over the bloody corpse of the Greek god of the underworld and, in his victory, howls at the moon. His red eyes glowing in the night, Tier glares at what is left of Pluto’s minions. After considering for a moment, the demonic creatures turn heel and flee.
The crisis passed, the night is once again silent. Slowly, Wolfsbane and Polaris walk toward the inert Pluto, on whose bloody chest stands Tier… who promptly faints. Well, that was a helluva thing, Polaris voices, her eyes still wide in response.
From the edge of the park, the rest of the lords of hell look on in astonishment. Speaking first, Hela voices the obvious. Pluto is… dead. Dead at the hands of… Tier. It is true then, Satannish affirms. To this, Mephisto adds that the seven billionth person walking this world can kill them. So it would appear, Hela replies. “Appear” is the important word, Satana interjects. Pluto, even now, is rematerializing down in his world, none the worse. Except, Asmodius, notes, that his participation in this contest is over. All he can do for no is watch from the sidelines. “For now,” Mephisto adds. He doesn’t trust him for “later” any more than he trusts any of them. It is relatively obvious what must be done. Asked by Satannish what exactly that would be, Mephisto grins slightly. They unleash the gates of hell upon them… and each other! With that, Mephisto slashes with his tri-bladed spear at the other hell lords, dealing infernal flames at them all. The time for gamesmanship is past! Mephisto proclaims. The boy isn’t cooperating! Neither then, is he! And none of them should be as well! Their final war has now truly begun!
From the ruins of Central Park Naumburg bandshell stage, the rest of X-Factor spies the flames. Look sharp, the airborne Polaris declares. They can’t stay there. Get ready to move! At Pluto’s corpse, Tier finally begins to stir, taking in his surroundings for the first time since snapping. At his side is his mother, who tries her best to console him. A short distance away, Shatterstar crosses his arms and begins to generate a portal. Remembering that Shatterstar’s arm was broken, Rictor asks if he’s sure he can… It will be fine, Shatterstar interrupts. Hold on!
A moment later, a luminous X-shaped portal opens up and Polaris yells for them all to move out. Where’s Jamie, Layla asks. They can’t leave without him. Pausing briefly at the portal’s aperture, Wolfsbane glances back and curses. The skies, she mutters. They’re… It’s… It’s bleeding. High above, what appears to be open wounds crisscross the night sky, blood dripping from them.
As the last of them appear through the other side of the portal, Polaris asks if everyone is okay. Sound off! They’re fine, Shatterstar announces, calm down. However, Layla disagrees. Through her tears, Layla demands to know where he is. They can’t leave him behind! Launching herself at him, Layla yells to Shatterstar that they have to go back. Not for an hour, at least, Shatterstar defends. He doesn’t have the energy to… Lack them back! she demands again. He can’t! he replies. JAMIE!!! she yells through her tears.
Elsewhere, the demonic Jezebel returns to consciousness, only to find her arms, legs and ankles bound. Even as she tries to take stock of where she is, Mephisto welcomes his “dear sweet little girl.” So much to talk about, he continues. Unfortunately, he has hell lords to destroy. But in the meantime… he has someone to keep an eye on her. With a grin, Mephisto waves his hands at the transformed Jamie Madrox, who no longer appears human. His face resembling that of a demon, Madrox lacks either a mouth or nose, but now sports horns growing from the side of his head and back of his neck, along with spikes erupting through his jacket.