Washington DC, a corpse has been found. The area is cordoned off and reporter Ariel O’Hare is covering the story. She announces that at 9:30 neighbors at the Ritz Arms reported hearing shouts and gunfire in the apartment of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Rosenfeld, both of whom are presently in Europe. An unidentified friend had reportedly been apartment-sitting for them. That unidentified friend is now believed to be lying here, the victim from multiple gunshot wounds and a five story fall that killed him instantly.
The camera turns to the covered body. One of the policemen has had enough and shoves the camera away. He tells the reporters that the man lying here is wormfood and he doesn’t need leeches crawling over him as well… even if they have two legs and a presspass. He deserves that at least even if nobody knows who he is.
Madrox! Val Copper shouts horrified as she watches the news. The Rosenbergs are the people Jamie Madrox is house sitting for! Quicksilver comes running, announcing he heard her scream Madrox’s name. Did he leave a rubber snake in her coffee cup or was she simply having an erotic nightmare about him? He’s dead, she replies shocked, it was on the news! Must have been a slow news night, Quicksilver remarks. That’s cold, she replies disgusted. It’s a cold world, he replies. Madrox was a fool and he does not suffer fools gladly, but if his candor bothers her, he apologizes. They had best notify the others.
Said others are training in Guido’s private gym. He’s lying on his stomach while a pretty petite trainer walks on his back to massage his muscles. He tells his teammates that his parents were very wealthy. Collected green stamps, never went on vacation, scrimped, saved every nickel. Spent their whole lives denying themselves, saving for their old age. They told him to learn from them and watch their example. When they weren’t busy insulting him, they were saying he should deny himself useless luxuries and value thriftiness and self-deprivation.
They still feel that way? Alex Summers asks. No, comes the reply. What changed their minds? Nothing. They got crushed by a falling satellite. He settled with the owners out of court for a considerable sum. Lived fast. Bought this place. Learned to appreciate the finer things in life. Every time he ordered the best wine or had his car valet-parked, he thought of his folks. And laughed. But they laughed last. Some bad investments almost wiped him out. That’s why he took the bonebreaker job for Lila Cheney. Paid good, Lila did, but that dried up and he couldn’t stand the thought of giving up those finer things… Like Babette. He refers to the masseuse and asks her to get the small of his back. She jumps up and down with all her strength. That’s good, he sighs and resumes his tale. The considerable check X-Factor promises should keep him in good stead for some time to come.
He invites Alex and Lorna to stay if they like. Plenty of room. Alex thanks him but he thinks he’ll be wanting to get a place of his own. Doesn’t he mean their own? Lorna stresses. Alex uhms. Trouble in paradise? Guido mocks. Lorna and ‘Lex disagreeing about their potential future together? Mercy me, what will happen next? As if on cue Lockjaw teleports in Quicksilver and Val who gets thrown forward and lands on her butt. Oh, good, the comedic relief is here, Guido states. Juh… Juh… Jamie! Val sputters. What about Jamie? the team asks.
Moments later, Lockjaw has them teleported to the scene of the crime where the body is about to be loaded into the ambulance. The reporter asks Alex if they are connected. Get out of his way, Alex orders curtly and Lorna back it up by magnetically shoving her and other people nearby away. He could have handled that! Alex snaps at her. Sure, fine, she replies curtly. Trouble in paradise? Pietro inquires. Dry up! Lorna snaps.
Alex kneels down next to the body and announces it’s Jamie all right. Does he know this guy? someone asks. No Einstein, Alex snaps back, it’s his hobby to look at random corpses and say “it’s Jamie all right.” Beats collecting comics, the guy shrugs. Stop joking! Lorna shouts. He was her friend! And they are going to find whoever did this and nail him to the wall for killing Jamie! Even Quicksilver agrees. The crime is more brutal than he’d have thought. He will do whatever he can. Jamie Madrox will not go unavenged, Val agrees. Absolutely, the creeps must pay for this, Jamie states. You bet they—Val begins, then sees who is standing next to her. Jamie, she screams, you are supposed to be dead! “Sorry,” Jamie apologizes sheepishly.
Elsewhere, a study full of exotic machines and devices. A deathly pale man angrily announces that they are all over his TV screen. Mutants. The green hair-do, that popping right out of thin air and, most of all, one of them is apparently dead and comes right back to life. Yeah, they’re mutants, all right! He’s had it with mutants but when he’s through with them, there won’t be a single mutant left anywhere in the world. None of them will be match for him… Professor Vic Chalker! None of them!
Back at the scene of the crime Val stutters helplessly, looking back and forth between alive Jamie and the body. Let her handle this, Lorna orders. She grabs Jamie by the jacket and shouts at him to never ever do anything like that again! Of all the stupid jokes--! What is she yelling at him for? Jamie protests. Joke, his Aunt Sadie! That could just as easily have been him. Someone tried to kill him!
Flashback: Jamie’s narration:
Someone came to the door and he wasn’t expecting anyone. And nowadays you can’t be too careful. So he created a dupe to answer the door in his place and then stood to one side, hidden from view. And suddenly he was watching someone from a Brian DePalma film, as the dupe was shot several times and fell out of the window.
He heard footsteps running from his door and sent another dupe after it to see if the coast was clear. After all he had more than enough proof that whoever had been at the door didn’t have his best interest at heart. But there was no sign of the gunman.
End of narration
He’s been hiding in the crowd all this time until they showed up. He was worried the shooter might still be hanging around. So he wanted to wait until they were here to draw fire, Alex summarizes. Jamie agrees and announces he has to pick up after himself. He kneels down next to the dupe on the stretcher. Come to poppa, he starts. What the devil?! he swears. What’s the matter? Alex asks. He’s not rejoining him, a confused Jamie replies. That can’t be! It’s not real! He should be able to just reabsorb it!
He’s never had one of his dupes killed? Alex asks. Proteus stole one once and he never had the chance to reabsorb it but he assumed he could. He shakes the corpse: it can’t die! he protests. It doesn’t have a life of its own to lose. It can’t be separate from him at any time. Snap out of it! he orders! It is as independent as a toenail clipping. Wake up! Be alive!
Alex gently draws him back and tells him to get a grip. There are people all around, just suck it up. Suck it up yourself! Jamie snarls. Oh God, he’s really dead! He produced a corpse out of himself! That’s him lying there. Ohhh God! Madrox should really try and pull himself together, Quicksilver reprimands. He thinks that’s what he was trying to do, Guido points out.
Val is keeping the reporter Ariel O’Hare busy, explaining those are members of an elite organization the government is assembling called X-Factor. A fighting and investigative force brought in to handle certain odd or special cases. So, the government believes there is more to this than simple murder? Ariel presses. Far more, Val agrees. Ariel asks why one “elite” member reacted so violently upon seeing a dead body. His behavior bordered on hysterical. He wasn’t hysterical, Val corrects her, he was beside himself.
In a darkened office, a shady individual watches the interview and laughs at Val’s spin. Another man joins him. The first individual states he did not succeed as well as he should have. They must be thorough. First Quicksilver, then Madrox, then the rest. And he’s more than willing to help him for his own reasons or not? Of course, the other agrees, so what does he suggest he do now? Now they wait for them to make the next move, comes the reply. He doesn’t like sitting around, the second man states. Patience, the first individual soothes him and changes channels where a cartoon appears. In the words of the philosopher: “Don’t have a cow, man!”
We’re going to have a press conference, Val announces to the team in the townhouse. Sounds great, Guido agrees while playing pool with Lorna. Let’s conference. He can press twenty tons. How about Lorna? She can press pants, she enumerates, or press an attack or press a point or…
Hey ‘Silver, Guido addresses Quicksilver who in another part of the room is reading books at superspeed, he thought anytime he used his speed it made him age faster? Or is he just getting senile? Fortunately, reading requires the most minimal effort, comes his reply. He has to do something at an accelerated rate. Otherwise he’d be ordinary and would probably want to kill himself. Don’t let them stop him, Guido suggests. Very droll, he replies, not amused.
What does he think about the conference? Val asks Alex who is playing darts. He doesn’t, comes the reply. He dreaded the thought of this. Getting up in public, being the nice smiling government mutie. Count him out! He’s counted back in, Val replies. For better or worse, word is out about them. There’ll be a lot of questions. After the Freedom Force debacle it’s important they head off any possible negative press.
Lorna turns to Guido. He’ll need a super-type codename. It’s expected. They can’t just say: “here’s X-Factor: Havok, Polaris, Wolfsbane, Multiple Man and Guido!” It doesn’t fit. What about him? Quicksilver protests. He slipped her mind, she replies and turns back to Guido. He should pick a name that would sum him up, strike fear into the hearts of criminals and, most important, would look good on T-shirts and slurpee cups. Slipped her mind? Quicksilver repeats in disbelief.
Let him think about it, Alex offers and walks out. Lorna follows outside. Call her crazy but she thinks he’s been trying to avoid her ever since he came back. She’s crazy, he replies. So what’s it going be with them? she presses, Friends? Lovers? What? He’s not sure, he admits. How does she feel about it? Like they practically have to start building from scratch. She means, they’ve been through so much, had their minds so mucked with, that it’s almost impossible to remember what they used to be like in the first place. She feels like they have to learn about each other all over again!
Okay, he begins, what’s her favorite author? Emiliy Bronte. His? Stephen King. What’s his favorite movie? West Side Story. Hers? Inherit the wind? What’s that about? Alex asks. Sequel to “Gone with the Wind.” They are unaware that from a rooftop Wolfsbane is watching them. Suddenly they hear sirens.
Back in the townhouse Madrox is sitting in a darkened room. Val asks if he is okay. People sometimes think of soldiers in numbers, he begins unexpectedly. Or euphemisms. “Acceptable losses,” “casualties.” There’s a good word. Die casually. That way, when you hear about slaughter and death, you don’t have to think about lives being lost. He never thought about his multiples as anything other than footsoldiers. Maybe he never really understood their nature. But the dupe lying in the street… he was a separate individual. His life was gone and he wasn’t a part of him anymore. What if he never was? What if they have their own souls? Their own feelings….
This is getting a little metaphysical, Val replies helplessly. She thought the dupes were just extension of him. So did he. But if they are separate, they are going to have their own world view, even if it’s only by a couple of feet. What if they are people like the two of them? And he created one to die on his behalf without thinking…
He couldn’t know, she tries to calm him. There’s no way he could have. Great, so now that he knows, what should he do about it?
Help! a panicked woman shouts out of the window of a burning building. The firemen are helpless as she is too high up for the ladders to reach. Havok holds on to Polaris as she flies up along the ladder. Lorna grabs the woman to get her down, but her children are still in there. Yeah, they would be Alex sighs and tells Lorna to get her clear, then come back for him.
He climbs inside, blasts away a door and finds two kids behind it. Is he an angel? one of them asks. No, an expo. A burning wall is about to fall on them. He blasts it away and tells the kids to grab on. They are going to go straight out the wall and hope their ride is there waiting for them, because if they stay one more second, they are toast. He blasts a hole and jumps outside, holding onto the kids, cynically thinking Val is going to love how this will look on the evening news. He hopes he will still be around to see it. He hopes Lorna can see him through the smoke. If not, he’ll have to catch up with her next life time.
Lorna magnetically grabs one of the fire department’s safety nets and levitates it to the right place to catch Havok and the kids. He knew he wasn’t going to die, Havok claims as he and Loran kiss. He kept waiting for his life to flash before his eyes and all he got were reruns of “Mr. Belvedere”. Oh, he is so calm and cool, she smiles and they’ll just ignore that he is shaking like a leaf… That took a lot of confidence in her… Leap of faith, lover, he replies. Having eavesdropped, Rahne is very displeased, when he calls her that.
Later at the press conference, Val Cooper explains that Freedom Force has been disbanded. While the group had laudable goals, they ultimately proved too unstable to function well. However, the government still feels that a special task force is required to deal with those assignments needing mutant expertise and also capable of aiding in dire situations such as last night’s fire. The name of this new task force – endorsed by the president - is X-Factor! She’d like to introduce them now, using the codenames given them to assure the security and safety of friends and relatives.
The team appears, all wearing individual dark blue and golden outfits (save for Quicksilver who is wearing his standard suit). Val introduces Multiple Man, Polaris, Havok, Wolfsbane, Quicksilver and… uh. Guido has stayed behind the curtain, refusing to come out. He looks ridiculous, he insists. He does not, Lorna assures him. She thinks he looks sexy. Convinced, Guido steps out. Wow, he must be the strong guy! a journalist exclaims. Every super group has a strong guy! That’s right Val agrees, and his name is… uh… Strong Guy, Guido finishes. He can’t call himself that! Havok snarls. “Strong Guy” is ridiculous. Sounds like a cartoon character! “You got a problem with that, shorty?” Guido asks, towering over him. Alex finds it is no problem, after all.
Val begins taking questions. A journalist in a tacky green jacket asks why Quicksilver isn’t wearing an X-Factor costume. How come his jacket is ugly? Quicksilver shoots back. Uniforms are optional, Val explains. Now she tells him? Guido remarks. Another journalist asks for their reasons for getting involved. He’s doing it for the money, Guido explains helpfully.
Havok takes over, explaining that it fills a need. To let the public know that, yes, there are antisocial mutants. But also those who want to achieve positive ends. Just as there are good and bad humans.
Another question: There are some who say that mutants are “freaks” but claim they are “Homo superior” to mask their own insecurity. How do they respond to that? Hath not a mutant eyes, sir? Rahne asks rhetorically. Hath not a mutant hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a human is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us… do we not die?
Well, actually no, they don’t, a journalist points out. They keep coming back and-- Rahne jumps in front of him, angrily snarling that her first love is rotting under the ground, so don’t talk to her about death not being real! Yes, miss, he replies convinced.
Any other question? Yeah, he has a question, a question for the Multiple Man. Because, the young man who looks like Madrox claims, he happens to be Multiple Man and he wants to now just who that impostor thinks he is!