“Harold, no!” Infectia cries, rushing through the doorway of her lab. Harold radiates and crackles with luminous energy, as lifts a huge safe over his head. He is Infectia’s creation. Once a normal human, Infectia used her mutant ability to alter genetic structures to transform him, giving him superhuman strength and a monstrous appearance.
She warns him that he’s not really a mutant. He says that he’s like a mutant, though, and he’s doing what mutants do. She reminds him not to squander the power she’s given him, but it’s too late. His muscular form starts to deteriorate; his skin becomes gray and decomposes before her eyes. “Do you think giving people powers takes no thought. . . no effort at all?” she asks as he blinks out of existence completely. The safe crashes to the ground and she laments the waste of good designer genes.
Kneeling down with dustpan and brush in hand she sweeps up a pile of dust, all that remains of Harold. She warned him that his power wouldn’t last forever; she just neglected to tell him that he wouldn’t, either. She complains about having to make another one and wonders why everybody wants to do what they want, never thinking of her.
Later, just a few blocks away, reporters crowd onto a run-down pier to hold a press conference with X-Factor outside their ship. They ask all kinds of questions: can they guarantee that nothing like the recent bomb incident will happen again? Is it true that the city threatened to sue for damages? How do you respond to suggestions that X-Factor means well, but mutants cause more harm than good?
Bobby takes the spotlight, enjoying the attention. He says that X-Factor can’t be blamed for the actions of a few evil mutants any more than the law-abiding reporters can be blamed for the actions of a mad subway sniper. With Cyclops over his shoulder, scowling, Iceman says with a sincere smile that X-Factor’s mission is “to reflect the brotherhood of man and protect both humans and mutants from harm.” A reporter asks why insurance rates have shot sky high if X-Factor just wants to protect people. Another says that they will remain high as long as that ship is around.
Suddenly, the pier collapses and chaos ensues as men and women are dumped into the river. A chunk of wood is about to fall on a reporter, but Cyclops zaps it with an optic blast. Marvel Girl then lifts her out of the water, along with some other unfortunate reporters. As she floats them to safety, one asks another if he’s getting this down, wanting to borrow a waterproof pen. Marvel Girl asks Iceman if there are any more. “He says he can handle it, sculpting a boat out of ice. Beast tosses the boat into the water and they rescue the rest of the reporters.
One of the reporters takes to berating Iceman, saying that the ship destroyed Manhattan, sunk a tug, swamped the shoreline and almost destroyed the city with a hidden bomb. He wonders how he can be sure the ship wasn’t responsible for destroying the pier. The ship answers for itself, saying that all those actions were involuntary and took place while it was under the control of Apocalypse. But now it is under the control of X-Factor and serves humanity’s interests. All the while, it says this, the ship is retrieving the pier’s columns from the river and hammering them into place. Continuing, it tells the reporters that the pier had been condemned, and their own weight caused it to collapse.
The reporters are amazed, one of them saying that, if he knew the ship would talk to them, he would’ve spent his time interviewing it! The ship says it is aware of the nervousness it is causing, and reassures everyone that X-Factor will move it to a new position over the Atlantic Ocean.
Infectia watches all of this on TV from a bar, standing angrily with her arms crossed. She insists they can’t move it yet. A middle-aged man sitting next to her says, “Those mutants got more power than the electric company, honey. They can do whatever they want!” He asks why a “cute little thing like you” would care if they moved the ship. She tells him bluntly that she wants it. . . needs it. He asks what she would want with the ship, and she answers with a question of her own: “What would you do if you had all those mutants’ powers?” He says, if he had those powers, he’d go out and get her that ship! She moves in close and casts an alluring gaze into his eyes. He looks back at her nervously. She asks him to come home with her so they can discuss it in private.
Meanwhile, X-Factor continues their press conference. Jean faces a barrage of questions: Is that a new costume? Who does your hair? Have you accepted any film offers? Will you endorse No Excuses Jeans? Scott whispers to her, wondering why they bother to answer these insulting questions. He stomps off, leaving Jean to fend for herself. She gives a curt answer: “Yes, me, no and no way!” She then excuses herself. As she enters the ship, a force field is activated, keeping the reporters out. The ship reminds them that no human can enter, and then to Mr. Murphy, “Were you a card carrying mutant. . . you would still be excluded. I saw what you wrote about me in the New York Post!”
X-Factor’s students watch the press conference from inside the ship. They laugh at the cold, wet reporters stuck on the outside while they’re inside. Then they overhear Scott and Jean arguing. Scott is upset because Hank and Bobby are still outside, talking to the reporters. Rictor says that Scott is turning into a grouch; Rusty wonders what’s wrong with him.
Back outside the ship, Hank tries to answer the reporters’ questions. One asks where he got his acrobatic training. He looks up, thinking, rubbing the back of his head. He stutters, but Bobby answers for him. “He went to school.” Another asks how strong he is. He looks confused and can only answer, “I. . . uh. . . dunno. Iceman’ll tell ya. . .” Trish watches with a tear in her eye, as the formerly brilliant and articulate Hank McCoy stutters, unable to form a coherent sentence. Hank runs from the reporters and she calls out to him. He brushes her off, saying that she shouldn’t have said on TV that he lost his mind. She tries to defend herself, saying that she never identified him as the member of X-Factor who lost his mind.
While they talk at the edge of the pier, Iceman listens warily. When a reporter asks about Cameron Hodge, Iceman quickly returns to putting on an act for the reporters, making a top hat out of ice. He says they fired Hodge because his advertising campaign was having a negative effect on mutants’ public image. When asked if Hodge was left in control of the Worthington fortune, he says the stock market took its toll and the ship destroyed the rest. A photographer says the top hat makes him look distinguished — like Frosty the Showman — and asks for a picture.
Elsewhere, Infectia escorts the man she picked up in the bar back to her apartment. He asks how she can afford those New York prices. “Even in Omaha we heard about New York prices,” he says. At that moment, she realizes he is from out of town. He tells her that he’s in New York for an Elk’s convention; his wife isn’t expecting him home until Friday. He asks where her apartment is, and she tells him he owns the building. “Wait’ll I tell the guys. I hooked myself up with a bloomin’ million-heiress!”
They step into a room filled with all sorts of futuristic-looking equipment and computers. She says her father was a geneticist and that she picked up all sorts of stuff hanging around the lab. When he died, she inherited the townhouse, lab, and all his money. She moves in close, arching her back, running her fingers down his chest. His facial expression is one of stupid delight. “Of course, I dropped right out of high school,” she says. His mind on other things, she slowly backs him under a cage. “High school? How old did you say you were?” She reassures him that that was ages ago, as she pulls the cage down from the ceiling and traps him.
She talks about being lucky, but the man is confused, asks her what is going on. She explains: her background in genetics allowed her to understand her power, and what being able to alter things on a molecular level could mean. The man still doesn’t know what’s going on. “Why do I meet all the kinky millionairess maniacs. . .” She sticks her head between the bars, frowning, and he pulls his back in fear. She tells him she’s not kinky and pulls him toward her. “Let me show you why they call me Infectia.”
Their lips meet, creating golden bursts of energy. He screams in pain and more golden coruscations emanate from his mouth. “What have you done to me?” he cries, his face turning white. I just gave you what you wanted, so you can give me what I want, she says with a hand on her hip. His body begins to swell, filling the cage, bending the bars. His whitened face takes on a monstrous appearance, forehead sloped, mouth lined with elongated fangs. His hands, gripping the bars of the cage, become massive white claws. “Honestly,” Infectia says, “why did you think I brought you here?”
Meanwhile, at X-Factor’s press conference, Bobby (still wearing his icy top hat) smiles and waves to the reporters. They’ve got to get the ship moving. He says goodbye, borrowing an expression from Porky Pig: “Th-th-th-that’s all folks.” Scott and Jean watch it all on a TV inside the ship. Once Bobby is finished, the press conference cuts to a news anchor. He reports that the mystery woman who disappeared with the X-Men has yet to be identified. Once again, they play the tape of her making her final plea, imploring Scott to find their son and take care of him.
Scott fumbles with a suitcase, almost in a rage because they keep playing that tape. Jean, standing behind him, asks him why he keeps listening to it. She tries to explain why the press conferences are important, that it was his idea to move the ship, that it was he who insisted they warn the city about it. But he doesn’t listen. He continues to battle the suitcase, finally opening it with a controlled beam from his visor. Jean tells him that they’ve decided that, once the ship is moved, the whole team will look for his son, together. She gets his attention by turning him around with her telekinesis, yelling, “So what’s the matter with you?”
He explains that he’s upset because he and Jean were in each other’s arms as Madelyne was dying with the X-Men. She refutes his argument, saying that they thought she’d already been dead for months, that she made no effort to contact him. With his hands on the ship’s controls, he tells Jean he loves her, and has since they were kids. But he feels guilty every time he looks at her. He’s just found out that his son is alive, but he has no idea where to begin his search.
At that moment, Bobby enters the room, all smiles and jokes. Scott asks if he actually likes talking to “those fool reporters.” He says he does, and it’s good that someone in the group does. He says that Hank made a mess of his interview, and that they’ll have to get someone to restore his intelligence, maybe Reed Richards could manage it… He rambles on, saying that a few extra brains would help his romance with Trish. Scott snaps his head around and screams, “Oh shut up!” He then turns his anger on the ship, commanding it to get moving.
Atop a warehouse near the pier, Infectia watches the ship cast off, surrounded by three mutated cronies. One has pointed ears and a crazed smile on his oversized mouth. Another has bone-white skin and two tusks protruding from a skull-like face. The third has a gaunt, purple face and a row of fangs hanging out of his mouth. They’re all dressed in suits, like normal men who’ve just come from a day at the office; one even wears a bow tie. She lays out her plan to them: she’s given them powers that makes each one of them “King for a Day,” but the faster they use that power, the faster it wears off. She’s counting on them to get that ship; they won’t get a second chance, either. “So make each moment count!”
With the ship still at rest, Bobby instructs Hank, Trish and the kids to disembark, as things might get dangerous on the ship. They all walk down an ice bridge from the ship to the pier. “You and Trish keep those hooligans out of trouble,” Bobby says. Hank asks the kids if they want to join him and Trish to watch the ship cast off. Rusty declines, saying they have a good view right where they are. He then tells Scott that everyone is ashore. Scott acknowledges and commands the ship to cast off.
Hank climbs the side of a building with Trish tucked under his arm, her arms around his neck. He tells her that he had to get off of the ship because he’s dumb and they thought he’d mess something up, again blaming Trish for mentioning on TV that he had lost his intelligence. She tries to explain to him exactly what she said. “Read my lips – my exact words were –” Before she could explain herself, Hank interrupts, saying that if he wasn’t so dumb, he could think of something better to do with her lips.
In the ship’s control center, the video of Madelyne’s last words plays once again on TV. Jean gets mad at Scott for watching it again, asking him why he’s torturing both of them by listening to it. She mocks Madelyne’s words, “I wish you the best – I love you.” She would have contacted him sensibly if she really loved him or their baby, Jean says. She calls Madelyne a hypocrite and says that their baby could be anywhere in the world. Scott just listens in silence, frowning. Finally, Jean gets fed up. “You make me sick!” she yells, and launches the television into the wall with her telekinesis. Before Scott can respond, she storms out of the room onto the deck of the ship.
She walks past a smiling Bobby, who spins his top hat made of ice on his finger. He makes a remark about it being quite a day for lover’s quarrels. She stomps past him, tells him to shut up. Suddenly, two of Infectia’s Anti-Bodies drop down on Bobby and Jean. Bobby asks Scott if he registers “those plug-uglies.” “I’m scanning ‘em,” he replies, “But I’m not sure I believe ‘em!”
Jean telekinetically tosses one into the river. She thinks she’s taken care of him, but he comes right back, soaring out of the water and through the air, lunging for Jean. “The water is my element… as much as the air!” he yells. Iceman intercepts him. “So try a little ice water,” he says, freezing him in mid-air. He’s then attacked from behind by one of the other creatures. “Back off!” the creature says, “Fred’s m’main man! He’s part of the Anti-Body team!” As Iceman is hit with a surge of energy from the creature’s hands, he wonders what kind of a monster’s name is Fred, what kind of costumes are those, and what’s an Anti-Body?
Cyclops emerges from the control center, answering Iceman’s question. “It’s what you almost managed to become yourself, mister!” He sends Iceman’s attacker flying with an optic blast. “Now cut the wisecracks and stick to business!” From the background, Iceman simply mutters, “Grouch.”
While the mayhem unfolds on the deck of the ship, Warren soars overhead, watching the ship leave harbor. Though X-Factor is beset by villains, none of them is the villain he seeks. He spots Trish and Hank on a rooftop, thinking that Trish might be of some help. Just as she points out to Hank that someone is attacking the ship, Warren swoops down and flies away with her, landing on another rooftop. She recognizes him as Death, Fourth Horseman of Apocalypse. He interrogates her about Candy Southern, who contacted Trish for information on The Right and Cameron Hodge.
Trish refuses to divulge any information because, as Death, he helped Apocalypse in his attack on Manhattan. He grabs her by the lapels and demands she tell him everything she knows. She says there’s nothing more to tell – only that “Hodge was linked with an un-named anti-mutant organization.” Before Candy could meet with Trish to tell her more, she disappeared. Warren/Death suggests that Candy may have fallen into The Right’s hands.
“Stop!” Beast yells, gripping the ledge. As he springs over and onto the roof, he tells Warren he’s hurting Trish. Warren lets his wing fletchettes reply, temporarily paralyzing his former teammate. Trish cradles him in her arms. Overcome by fear, she decides to tell him everything. She tells him that Cameron Hodge died in a plane crash in the North Atlantic. As Trish and Beast watch him fly away, he says, “Crashes can be faked. Though it would have a certain ironic symmetry… wouldn’t it, Ms. Tilby?”
Beast says he was dumb for attempting to fight Warren. “If you’re dumb, then the rest of the world should try it for a while,” Trish replies. “You shoulda seen me… when I was smart!” he says.
On a nearby rooftop, Infectia looks through a small telescope, watching her Anti-Bodies battle X-Factor. She’s confident that her mutated creatures will win and gives them directions though they can’t hear her.
Marvel Girl watches Cyclops fight. In her thoughts, she calls him the perfect warrior, trained and twisted by Xavier’s ambition. As an orphan, he never learned to be close. He only learned how to fight. As a telepath, she could see the real Scott. She chastises herself for attacking and berating him, acting as bad as Madelyne did. Even with all these thoughts and emotions raging inside her, she’s still able to thump an Anti-Body with her telekinesis.
Cyclops and Iceman stand side by side as one of the Anti-Bodies rushes them. “Just look at ‘em,” Iceman says. “Dressed for success monsters. Who the heck are these guys?” Cyclops hits one of them with an optic blast. He shrugs it off, says he’s invulnerable, king for a day. “And I got more power than the electric company, too!” He lunges at Cyclops, snapping at him with massive teeth. At such close proximity, Cyclops can smell booze on his breath. A drunk monster! Iceman puts a barrier of ice between Cyclops and the monster, offering his usual brand of comic relief: “So what say we serve him up on the rocks!”
Much to Cyclops’s surprise, the monster smashes his way out of Iceman’s trap. With Cyclops under his arm, he creates an ice slide to provide a quick escape route, but their foe destroys it and sends them flying.
As her teammates struggle with monsters, Marvel Girl still struggles with her thoughts, her back turned to the fight. She knows Scott is miserable, knowing that his son could be anywhere, even in the hands of villains. She turns around to find two of the monsters bearing down on Cyclops. “Get away from him!” she yells, tightening her fists and unleashing on one of their attackers. She sends him flying into one of the ship’s towers before pounding him into the deck.
All the while, she’s still thinking about Scott, Madelyne, and their son. She remembers her surprise resurrection… how Scott was drawn to her, his first and oldest love… how Madelyne didn’t even fight to keep him. “I would’ve fought,” she tells herself. “I’m Xavier’s construct, too!” Scott tried to go back to Madelyne, but all he found was evidence of her death; in reality, Madelyne was adventuring with the X-Men.
In a frightening evocation of her former persona – the Phoenix – Marvel Girl floats in mid-air, arms and legs splayed, red hair waving wildly, and releases the full power of her telekinesis on Infectia’s unfortunate henchmen. Cyclops and Iceman can only watch in awe. Her body and mind seem to be acting independent of each other, though, as she is still lost in thought. She thinks that Madelyne “let the man she ‘loves’ to be driven mad by fake evidence,” planted by villains like the ones they’re fighting. “I’m starting to hate all this!” she thinks, and ends the battle.
The three monsters first return to their original, human forms, then disintegrate into piles of dust. Marvel Girl is horrified to learn that she had just killed ordinary people. She puts her face in her hands and cries. Cyclops tries to tell her that it wasn’t her fault; they were under some sort of spell. She tells him that he’s a wonderful man – the best – and asks him how Madelyne could let their son be taken away rather than come to him for help. She offers to help him find his son, tells him not to let Madelyne drive him crazy from beyond the grave. They kiss and make up. The ship tells Iceman that they’ve reached their destination, asks if he should tell the others. “The best thing we both can do is shut up,” Iceman answers.
Meanwhile, Infectia continues to observe the ship through a small telescope, disappointed in the failure of her creations. “They simply don’t have any… staying power.” She comes to the conclusion that if she wants the ship, she’ll have to take it herself. “And I know just how I’ll do it,” she says, focusing on the smiling face of Iceman.