‘Leave me be, Lorna Dane! Leave me be - or so help me, I’ll tear yuir throat out and hand it back t’ye!’ Rahne “Wolfsbane” Sinclair screams at Polaris from where she scowls in the shadows. The Mistress of Magnetism flies nearby and points out that Rahne is only sixteen years old, so she cannot let her take X-Factor’s jet and attempt to pilot it across the Atlantic all by herself. Rahne tells Lorna that if she truly cared about her, then she would not have made he return to this hateful, horrible place. Polaris replies that they all knew coming back to Genosha would be hard for her, as the former government was responsible for nearly destroying Rahne’s mind and altering her body forever.
Polaris reminds Wolfsbane that Doc Samson thought it was better for her to confront her past. ‘There’s no way he - any of us - could have known what we just learned about your connection to Havok’ Lorna assures Rahne. ‘Muh, “connection”?’ Rahne snarls. ‘That’s a fine way to put it! Until half an hour ago, I thought I was in love with Alex Summers. Now I find out I never had a choice in the matter!’ she declares. Polaris tells Rahne that she is hurt and confused, that she must feel like no one understands what she is going through. ‘But instead of talking about it, you want to get away…hoping you can get far enough that -’ she begins, before Rahne lashes out at Polaris, shrieking ‘Stop telling me how I FEEL!’
Polaris brings a magnetic shield up to deflect Wolfsbane’s attack. ‘Don’t you see - from the moment I first left this place…muh every thought - every dream - every desire is suspect!’ Rahne exclaims. Polaris hates seeing Rahne like this, but supposes that it is good she is venting. ‘If I can magnetically protect myself with my metal costume long enough to survive - we might have a breakthrough here!’ Lorna tells herself, while Wolfsbane exclaims that the original Genegineer bonded her mind when he changed her into a mutate. ‘I was bound - in every way - to Alex! I’ve no way of knowing what’s real anymore. Muh entire life might as well be a lie!’ Rahne exclaims, declaring that she doesn’t need Polaris, or anyone, telling her what she feels when she doesn’t even know herself.
Suddenly, Rahne’s deadly claws strike Polaris’ bare upper arm, causing three bloody scratches to appear. Lorna looks surprised, before muttering ‘Fine. We’ll play it your way. I’ll speak for myself’. Rahne apologizes to Lorna, but Polaris traps Wolfsbane in some metal cables and wiring. ‘You think you’re the only one who’s ever been through this? Where would you like me to start?!’ Lorna exclaims, before declaring ‘How about Mesmero, who had a robot convince me I was Magneto’s daughter? Or “Eric the Red” who made me think I was a warrior of the Shi’ar Empire? Malice didn’t even leave me use of my personality, just suppressed my mind completely so she could use my body as she saw fit!’
Polaris tells Rahne that they both know what it is like to have their heart and soul violated. ‘Starting today you’re going to learn what it means to fight back’ Lorna declares. ‘To make your life your own again. I know this, because - I’m going to teach you!’ Polaris exclaims, dropping Wolfsbane to the ground. Wolfsbane replies that Polaris has always been so together. ‘I never knew ye carried around so much hurt in yer heart’. ‘Yeah, well…’ Lorna mutters. ‘Cut me and I bleed’ she exclaims, touching her wounds. Rahne shifts her form to a less feral version, ‘Ach - what have I done?’ she asks, telling Polaris that she did not mean to harm her.
‘Any more than I meant to hurt you, Rahne - by ignoring all the signs for help’ Lorna replies. ‘The obsessive “crush” on Alex…the wild flirtations with Jamie…your reluctance to assume human form…’ she remarks, before suggesting they try something real radical for once. ‘Let’s worry about you for the moment’ Polaris suggests as she sits down on a chair, and hugs Rahne, who sits at her feet. ‘Has…has anyone told Alex yet?’ Rahne asks, crying. ‘Yes…’Polaris replies, also crying. ‘…he didn’t take it very well’.
‘LIARS!’ the handsome Alex “Havok” Summers shouts as he uses his powers to cause damage in the gardens of the Genoshan parliament. ‘For months I worked with the new administration - tried to rebuild this country and the people of Genosha! I sold the mutates a bill of goods - even convinced the X-Patriots to return…and now I learn the government still doesn’t care!’. Guido Carosella a.k.a. Strong Guy tells James Madrox the Multiple Man that he has never seen Havok so upset. ‘I’ve never seen anyone beat up a garden. Such…’ Jamie begins. ‘Enthusiasm?’ Guido suggests. ‘I was going to say vim’ Jamie remarks. ‘Or is it vigor?’
‘You’re not looking at the bigger picture, Mister Summers!’ Madame President of Genosha exclaims as she shields herself from Alex’s attack. ‘At the moment, there are more pressing concerns than the rehabilitation of a few unfortunates’ she exclaims. Alex grits his teeth as he tells the President to save her euphemisms for CNN, and declares that “unfortunate” implies that the mutates were the victims of a random act of fate. ‘The truth is, your government turned these people into slaves - and I see little evidence you’re doing all you can to free them!’ Havok declares, as he uses his power to shred large bushes away, revealing strange devices.
‘Are you going to tell me these monitoring devices weaved into your garden of “earthly delights…” are here for any other reason than to provide your scientists with information needed to create a new strain of mutates?’ Havok demands. Madrox suggests to Strong Guy that they should try to calm Alex down just a little. ‘Fine, little buddy. You first’ Strong Guy replies. Havok narrows his eyes and continues to grit his teeth as he exclaims ‘As a former Magistrate - mind control notwithstanding - I have a responsibility to the mutates’. Havok uses his powers to destroy the monitoring devices, telling the President that if she thinks he is going to leave Genosha - what’s more, leave it standing - then she has got him confused with another Summers.
Suddenly, from the rubble of the monitoring devices, a shape begins to form - a mutate, number 416 - who exclaims ‘You mean there are more at home like you?’. The mutate with black, white and pink hair smirks as he reveals that there are some mutates who enjoy the new administration. ‘We don’t need some PC Geecee acting in his version of our own best interests!’ Mutate 416 declares. Havok replies that not every mutate is lucky enough to land a gig as a presidential bodyguard. ‘Your own people are being oppressed while you -’ Alex begins, but the mutate lunges at him: ‘While I do my job!’ he exclaims, telling Havok to save the “holier than thou” line. ‘We’re both government schleps just trying to make a living’ he exclaims.
Havok defends himself by unleashing his power against the mutate - splitting his liquid-like form in two. ‘Speak for yourself! The only reason I work for my government - the only reason - is to serve and protect - to be a voice for mutants who are victims of a society that fears and hates them!’ Alex explains, adding that he did not agree to lead X-Factor because he wanted to do it, but because he has to. Alex hangs his head, while Mutate 416 reforms behind him. Grinning, the mutate announces that he forget to introduce himself in all the excitement. ‘You reformed!?’ Alex exclaims, turning around.
The mutate reveals that he is code-named Piecemeal, and that as an energy-based mutant, he can use Havok’s plasma burst to his shape-shifting advantage. Piecemeal boasts that he can absorb all the technological refuse that Havok created with his tantrum, and bio-sonically command the refuse to crush Havok’s lackies to a mutant pulp. Multiple Man and Strong Guy are bound inside the rubble, while Madrox asks ‘Who are you calling “lackies”?’, to which Guido remarks ‘Since he was speaking in the plural…it’s fairly obvious he was referring to you’.
Piecemeal’s form shifts as he spins around and exclaims that he had nothing before he took this job, of his own free will. ‘Why should I care if every other mutate on this island falls off into the ocean and drowns like the mindless lemmings they are?’ he asks Alex. ‘You shouldn’t’ Alex tells him. ‘Fortunately for you…I care enough for both of us!’ Alex exclaims as he punches Piecemeal in the face, which solidifies and shatters him, the resulting action releasing Guido and Madrox from their prison.
‘I don’t get it. Your plasma burst didn’t do zip - but you managed to take the guy out in one punch?’ Guido exclaims. ‘You weren’t paying attention as per usual’ Havok replies, explaining that Piecemeal said his power was energy-based, so he assumed that meant the mutate was still impact sensitive. ‘I knew there was a reason Uncle Sam tapped you to be team leader’ Madrox remarks. ‘I mean -’ he begins, to which Alex replies, as he stands over Piecemeal, ‘No problem, Multiple Man. Sometimes I wonder myself’ Suddenly, a voice booms ‘All right, mutants - cease and desist!’. ‘Lookee here. The cavalry’ Guido remarks. ‘You’re kidding, right?’ Madrox exclaims. ‘We’ll show - who’s kidding!’ one of the magistrates exclaims. ‘No. We owe them the truth’ the President declares as the magistrates flank her. ‘Even if it means the end of our great nation!’ she exclaims.
Elsewhere, in the President’s home, ‘You’re sure?’ Pietro “Quicksilver” Maximoff asks over a video-monitor. ‘Positive’ Dr Valerie Cooper, X-Factor’s Government Liaison tells him. ‘It’s obvious that your “getaway” didn’t go very well’ Val points out. Valerie smiles oddly as she tells Quicksilver that there is no shame in taking a little downtime. ‘Believe me, everything in Genosha is fine - a virtual island paradise’ Valerie tells Quicksilver that the truth of the matter is he would only get in the way over here. ‘It seems I’m as little use to my “teammates” as I am to my wife and daughter’ Pietro mutters.
‘They just don’t appreciate you the way -’ Valerie begins, before Multiple Man enters the room. ‘Quicksilver? This is great! We could really -’ Jamie exclaims, before Valerie shoves her hand against his mouth, preventing him from talking. The slap against Madrox’s face creates a dupe, as Valerie exclaims ‘Multiple Man - Quicksilver is just signing off’. ‘But -’, ‘But -’ Multiple Man and the dupe exclaim. ‘Say “good night”, Jamie!’ Valerie exclaims. ‘Good night, Jamie’ Pietro remarks, before the monitor turns off.
‘Why didn’t you tell him?’ Madrox and his dupe ask. ‘I told him everything he needed to know…the exception being that you’re an idiot!’ Valerie shouts, before grabbing Madrox and the dupe by the collars of their jackets and shaking them, shouting ‘A clown! A complete waste of a mutated gene!’. Madrox begins to reply ‘In some cultures, clowns are considered -’, but Valerie interrupts him, declaring that the only reason he is on this team is to prevent him from doing more damage to human / mutant relations than he already does just by breathing!
Valerie begins bashing Madrox against the ground, while Jamie asks her iof this is a caffeine thing. Valerie spins around and begins to storm away, leaving Multiple Man and several dupes wondering what was going on. ‘Was it something we said?’ one of them asks. ‘Shh’ another exclaims. ‘Quiet’ another of them remarks. ‘Don’t call attention to ourselves!’ another declares. ‘Contradict me again - question my authority - mock me in front of another member of X-Factor - you’re HISTORY!’ she shouts.
Later, Havok, Polaris Multiple Man, Strong Guy, Wolfsbane, and Valerie meet the President and Dr Sasha Ryan. ‘This is the best olive branch you could find? Another closed door meeting to discuss another problem that directly affects the mutates?’ Strong Guy asks. ‘It’s clear you people don’t have this “democracy” riff down pat yet’ Madrox declares. Havok agrees and asks why the X-Patriots have not been invited. ‘Or do you intend to let all your genetically altered citizens continue to think they’re acting of their own free will?’ Havok asks.
Dr Ryan announces that the more immediate problems, which by necessity demand all their resources, is a matter of national security. ‘Personally, I’m against discussing the matter with you - but this isn’t my decision’ ‘ she exclaims. ‘I get it - good diplomat / bad diplomat’ Guido remarks. Havok exclaims that this is not about politics, but respecting the civil rights of the people of Genosha, regardless of race, creed or DNA structure. ‘I can’t believe I just said that, but you know what I mean’ Havok adds. The President tells Havok that these are trying times for all of them. ‘Believe me when I say we want nothing more than to continue dedicating all our time and energy to fulfilling our responsibilities…as drafted by the UN Council at the end of the X-Tinction Agenda’.
The President continues, pointing out that if they do not resolve the more prominent threat to the mutate population. ‘The possibility exists that their mental conditioning, the so far irreparable “bonding” process, will become a non-issue’ she explains. Guido exclaims ‘”Mutate population”?’, ”non-issue”? can you be a little more vauge - for a fraction of a second it sounded like you were talking about real people!’. This annoys Sasha who shouts ‘I’m not going to stand here and by judged by a group of…of “mutants” - and foreigners at that!’. The President addresses Dr Ryan as “Genegineer” as she tries to calm her down.
‘You want to pass judgment?’ Dr Ryan asks, pressing a button, which results in a circular barrier appear out of the floor, as a series of panels separate, revealing the workspace beneath. ‘Whoa!’ Guido exclaims. ‘At least find out what it is your condemning’ Dr Ryan declares, explaining that, right now, they are standing in the observation theatre overlooking the intensive care quarantine unit at Genosha Mercy Hospital. Havok points out that according to Genoshan news broadcasts, this hospital was shut down due to budget cuts. ‘It’s supposed to be abandoned’ he exclaims. Dr Ryan replies that, officially, it is.
Madame President explains that for reasons they are about to reveal, it was important no one outside of the immediate medical personnel, led jointly by Sasha Ryan and Moira MacTaggert, knew of the horrors which necessitated such an extreme deception. ‘Welcome to our nightmare, X-Factor. Twenty-four hours a day. Every day for the past three weeks. We’ve had three teams of our most brilliant scientists working on a single problem. How to keep the mutates alive!’ the President exclaims as Alex, Lorna, Jamie, Guido, Rahne and Valerie look down into the hospital below, where scientists scurry about as mutates are hooked up to life-support machines.
‘You’re saying those people down there are dying? How? Why?’ Alex asks. The President replies that she wished they knew. ‘We’ve lost five mutates in as many weeks’ she reveals, adding that what started as little more than a ‘flu’ epidemic seems not to be a rapidly deteriorating genetic disorder targeting mutates. ‘Please - don’t let me die -’ one of the mutates below pleads. ‘We’re doing all we can, son. Try to get some rest’ one of the scientists exclaims. Guido turns away from the viewing platform: ‘Puh-leaze and a half! We’re supposed to believe Genosha has turned into some great humanitarian state! You think we’re not gonna realize you’re only concerned with the impact this news would have on the country’s economy and tourist industry?’
Suddenly, ‘Speaking for muhself, Mister Carosella, I’m not half as interested in their motives as in their commitment to finding a cure!’ a voice exclaims. Everyone turns to the sound of the new arrival. ‘Well, if they’ve managed to make a believer out of you…who am I to argue with my old boss?’ Multiple Man asks as someone in a quarantine suit emerges from the hospital. ‘That was a long time ago, Jamie Madrox - but I don’t doubt I could make use of yuir old skills as muh lab assistant’. She adds that their current theory is that the disorder is unique to mutates because of their accelerated DNA structures - a deadly side-effect of the process which turned them into slaves in the first place. ‘The only thing we know for sure is that, whatever is happening to these poor people - it is, at this point, untreatable!’ Dr Moira MacTaggert exclaims, removing the quarantine suit helmet.
Strong Guy asks if it affects mutates what will happen to Wolfsbane and to Pirouette. Moira replies that she cannot answer that, as they have no idea why it is affecting some people and not others. ‘There have yet to be any solid clues as to how this “disease” is transmitted’ Moira explains. Moira remarks that the technology here in Genosha is without par, she is leaving Genosha tonight to confer with an expert on genetics - Professor Charles Xavier. X-Factor play coy as Havok replies ‘Yes, we’re familiar with his work’, while thinking to himself that Moira knows the general public does not know about the Professor’s ties to the X-Men.
‘Are you telling me you’re flying back to the United States just to bat around ideas with Xavier?’ Valerie exclaims. ‘Not that ye need be concerned with muh travel arrangements, Doctor Cooper…but if ye must know, the Professor will be in France on related business’ Moira reveals. Moira begins to leave the room, announcing that she will be meeting Xavier in Paris in the morning. ‘Wish me Godspeed, X-Factor. I’ll need it!’ Moira tells them.
As Moira makes her way down a corridor, Wolfsbane runs after her. ‘I cannae believe what I’m seeing!’ Rahne exclaims. ‘I don’t expect ye to understand, child’ Moira replies. ‘Understand WHAT?’ Wolfsbane shouts. ‘That yuir leaving me - turning yuir back on me - again?’ Rahne asks. Moira turns and tells Rahne that she has to look at the bigger picture. ‘Acchh! What about ME!’ Wolfsbane exclaims. ‘I need someone to tell me muh life is not the mess it seems!’ Rahne declares. ‘I need a muther who’s supposed to love me!’ she shouts. Moira places a hand on Rahne’s forehead and replies ‘This isnae about muh love for ye. It’s about muh responsibilities as a scientist. I have to -’, but Rahne interrupts: ‘Ye dinnae have to do anything!’ she shouts, knocking Moira’s hand away.
‘Yuir choosing to leave me at a time I need ye most of all!’ Wolfsbane exclaims, adding that she has her own need of Moira’s “services” as a scientist. ‘Muh mind has been turned inside out, and silly me - I was hoping ye could help me make it right!’ Wolfsbane exclaims, deciding that she should have known better, after the mess that Moira made out of Proteus’s and Magneto’s minds. ’Ye finally realized ye are as bad a scientist as ye are a PARENT!’ Wolfsbane shouts. Rahne declares that if Moira could not help her own flesh and blood, Proteus, ‘Why should I expect you t’help an adopted waif like me?’
Silence falls, and Moira and Wolfsbane just look at each other for a time, before Moira turns around. ‘I have to get going’ she whispers as she leaves Wolfsbane behind. Rahne hangs her head and growls.
At that moment, in the intensive care unit, the scientists go about their business, as a frightened, lonely, dying mutate makes a desperate decision. Mutate 24601 looks at the life support system his withered body is hooked up to, and tells himself that he does not want to die here, even if the scientists are trying to help him, they are still the same people who turned him into a mutate originally. The mutate sits up while the scientists are changing shifts. He tells himself that he can escape, for if these are his last few hours, he would rather die as a man - he would rather die free, and he rips the wires from his body.
Madrox sees this, and exclaims that he doesn’t know what time “check-out” is around this place, but that it looks like one of the patients has opted for a room with a better view. The mutate has no delusions about escape. As he leaps into the disposal unit, he knows it leads to a series of tunnels below Genosha, and that those tunnels lead out to the sea. An alarm sounds, and Dr Ryan tells X-Factor that there is no need to be concerned, as a squad of magistrates has already mobilized to terminate the threat - to prevent the mutate from infecting others.
‘No one is “terminating” anyone - not while we’re here!’ Havok exclaims. ‘That’s a human being down in those tunnels - and we’re not going to let you track him down and kill him like some wild animal!’ Alex declares. With Lorna, Jamie, Guido and Rahne at his side, Alex leads his team into action: ‘X-Factor is going to bring him back…and to blazes with anyone who gets in our way!’ he boasts. ‘“Blazes”?’ Lorna whispers. ‘You know what I mean’ Alex tells her.